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Great rock ‘n’ roll moments in the movies: ‘Mean Streets’
09.19.2012
06:57 pm

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There are certain directors who have a real gift for using rock ‘n’ roll in their movies. Martin Scorsese is a master at it. In Mean Streets, Scorsese relies heavily on The Rolling Stones to add a certain magic in scenes (“Jumping Jack Flash” and “Tell Me” are put to great use), but it is The Chips’ “Rubber Biscuit” that really energizes the moment when Harvey Keitel gets shit-faced in a bar. The combination of the woozy fish-eye lens and surreal doo-wop manages to replicate the kind of drunken disorientation and euphoria that usually proceeds blacking out. You can see Keitel struggling to get a grip on things as the song pummels him into oblivion.

This is the first in a series of great rock ‘n’ roll moments in the movies. You got a few?

The fun starts at the 58 second mark.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Charles Bronson’s sexy world of body odor
09.19.2012
03:20 pm

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It’s likely some of you have already seen this. But even after being on YouTube for six years, I managed to miss it. I saw the 1970s Mandom commercial featuring Charles Bronson for the first time the other night at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. It was part of a reel of short subjects the theater screens in lieu of the kind of gag-inducing “real” ads shown in most movie theaters. Watching a vintage Japanese commercial in which Bronson slathers himself with deodorant while making sexy talk is lighyears better than one of those shitty Fandango ads.

The doorman is played by the wonderful character actor Percy Helton.
 

 
Enjoy the Mandom theme song (“Lovers Of The World”) by Jerry Wallace after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel
09.19.2012
03:07 pm

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Photograph: Horst P. Horst, 1979

“Red is the great clarifier - bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can’t imagine being bored with it - it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden - but it had to be a garden in hell.”
—Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland was the fabled editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine with the big personality. She followed Vogue with a stint curating the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s famed costume collection. Vreeland single-handily created the stereotype of the extravagantly impulsive fashion mag editrix. She is rightfully celebrated as a genius whose passion and intellect—and unerring eye for style, both high and low—shaped the world of fashion for five decades.

This weekend a new documentary about her life is being released by Samuel Goldwyn FIlms, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the fashion icon’s granddaughter in-law and it looks really good.

Diana Vreeland was known for making quips like “As you know, the French like the French very much,” and she wrote a fabulously witty anecdotal autobiography titled D.V. (the greatest gift for both highly intelligent women and gay men alike). What makes this film seem unmissable to me is that it utilizes audiotapes of Vreeland speaking that George Plimpton recorded when he interviewed her for D.V., which she co-wrote with him. So her story is told in part by Vreeland herself in her own words and via interviews with photographer David Bailey, Polly Mellen, Diane von Furstenberg, Vanity Fair’s Bob Colacello and Oscar de la Renta.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Steve McQueen’s 1964 Driving License
09.19.2012
09:24 am

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Steve McQueen had a passion for cars, bikes and speed. Aside from his most iconic vehicle, the Highland Green Mustang GT from Bullitt, McQueen’s vehicle of choice was his 1957 Jaguar D-type XK-SS.

He first saw the car on a Studio lot off Sunset Blvd., in 1958. He was instantly smitten and paid the owner $5,0000 for it. His love of cars and bikes carried on throughout his life (hence Le Mans), though surprisingly he only carried out a tenth of the driving seen in the famous car chase in Bullitt.

After his success with The Towering Inferno in 1974, McQueen took time out to travel around the country in a motorhome, riding motorcycles across different parts of the country.

McQueen had been the ideal casting for John Frankenheimer’s classic film Grand Prix, until he clashed with Frankenheimer’s business partner, and the role went to James Garner.

In fact there were a lot of roles McQueen knocked back during his career,  including Dirty Harry, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (lawyers and agents couldn’t agreeing on who got top billing, McQueen or Newman), The Driver (another obvious choice); The French Connection, and even Close Encounters of the Third Kind (he told Spielberg he couldn’t cry on cue). Sadly, one of his best performances in the adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play, An Enemy of the People (1978), was barely released and has languished ever since. Producers hated the way McQueen looked in the title role - he was bearded and overweight. Tragically McQueen died too soon in 1980 - he was just fifty - and in 1984, his beloved XK-SS was sold at auction for a reported for $148,000.
 
Via Retronaut
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
More Sugar: Firesign Theatre’s ‘High School Madness’ visualized
09.18.2012
03:22 pm

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Firesign Theatre fans will be delighted by this. I certainly was!

Video by Andre Perkowski who writes:

In this excerpt from that most paranoid of Paranoid Pictures, “High School Madness,” lovable Peorgie and Mudhead find themselves in a heapin’ pile of trouble at Morse Science High.

Eight minutes of The Firesign Theatre’s “High School Madness” set to the Henry Aldrich films they were riffing on. Don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the cut-ups!

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Copycat Effect: Meet the man who predicted the Aurora shooting
09.17.2012
05:50 pm

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Loren Coleman may well be a modern-day Cassandra, but when I first happened upon his Twilight Language blog in July – via Christopher Knowles’s frequently fascinating The Secret Sun – I considered it an example of conspiratorial “synchromystic” navel-gazing par excellence. Instantly apparent, for instance, was the seemingly obligatory preoccupation with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, in this case The Dark Knight Rises. I saw Coleman had done three consecutive posts on the movie – due for its US release the next day – and I browsed through them with a slightly superior air.

Essentially, it seemed to have caught Coleman’s eye for the same reason it had Rush Limbaugh’s – the “Bane” (as in, the villain) and “Bain” (as in Mitt Romney’s villainous company) homonym. While Coleman had no truck with Limbaugh’s widely ridiculed conspiracy theory that the correspondence was a Democrat propaganda ploy, he appeared to think that the “coincidence” (ahem) warranted scrutiny to an extent that I initially found idiotic.

So, Coleman examined the etymology of the two words, looked into the character called “Bane” and detailed the filming locations for the movie (these included a Romanian Masonic temple, wouldn’t ya know?). For the last in the short series – posted that morning (07/19/12) – he looked into the significance of the following day’s date, noting that it was historically associated with space exploration and assassinations. Finally, he moved on to events that had occurred on the release dates of the previous Dark Knight films (including Al Qaeda raids and a crane disaster), and observed that, almost exactly a year ago, Anders Breivik had embarked on his infamous killing spree on a day that also saw the release of Captain America, a movie that reportedly kicks off to the sound of Nazi rapid fire in Norway.

It was becoming obvious that Coleman’s analysis was not piecemeal, but cumulative – the assembled “data,” which meant next to nothing to me, had aroused his foreboding enough for him to describe the release of The Dark Knight Rises as “rushing towards us.” The very last words he would post prior to the Aurora massacre where these:

“What will happen on July 20, 2012?”

It ain’t often you seem to read tomorrow’s news today, and I certainly experienced an otherworldly chill when I learned of the shootings the following afternoon. And there was more…
                      
Something I didn’t realize when I first came upon Twilight Language was that the blog’s founding and enduring purpose was to promote and elaborate upon Coleman’s 2004 book The Copycat Effect, an entirely sober work of behavioral science examining the media’s role in causing and exacerbating outbreaks of violence through sensationalistic wall-to-wall news coverage of suicidal and homicidal acts, as well as through violent film and music.

Funnily enough, it was in this precise context that Coleman had previously written of Nolan’s films, having predicted and then documented the emergence of copycats inspired by Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. James Holmes, of course, would shed his gas mask, body armor, and fatigues to reveal that beneath his distinctly Bain-reminiscent exterior, he was himself a self-proclaimed Joker copycat.

Coleman’s ongoing analysis of Aurora’s aftermath has almost been as impressive as his anticipation of it. There has been, for example, the extensive copycat incidents that have proceeded it (you may have noticed the high number of mass shootings over recent months), not to mention the surrounding coincidences that connect them – ranging from the Sikh Temple shooter’s living on Holmes Street, to the name of the Quebec shooter being Richard Henry Bane.

In the immediate wake of the Aurora killings, Coleman observed that Aurora means “dawn” in Latin, while Colorado translates as “red”: red dawn, a traditional warning. He showed that related symbolism occurred everywhere, implicit in both the film’s title The Dark Knight Rises, and its subtitle, A Fire Will Rise. In The Dark Knight, character Harvey Dent voices the following line “The night is darkest just before the dawn, and I promise you, the dawn is coming.” Obama, referring to the Aurora survivors: “It reminds you that even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong. Out of this darkness, a brighter day is going to come.” Aurora is a hub of strangeness, what Coleman describes as a “complex ‘occult’ (as in the original meaning of the word, ‘hidden,’ not ‘paranormal’) synchronicity story of which more and more is being revealed daily.”

In recent correspondence with Coleman, I asked about his other predictions. There have been a fair few, many of them similarly ghoulish (homicidal and suicidal acts being an area of especial expertise). My asking inspired him to write up a selection of them, which you can read here. His acumen has previously led to attention from CNN, among others, but such coverage tends to emphasize his use of behavioral science and “pure psychology.” He encourages this, stressing that there’s “no magic here.” But there is a bit of madness in his method, to be sure.

I mean it as a compliment: that he seems to be able to make use of a Fortean/Jungian worldview of rippling relationships to peer into tomorrow’s news is riveting.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Ken Taylor’s dynamite artwork for the Tarantino Blu-ray boxset
09.17.2012
04:55 pm

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Ken Taylor’s artwork for the cover of the upcoming Quentin Tarantino Blu-ray boxset is a stunner. Will the folks at Austin’s Mondo Gallery (who collaborate with Taylor) print a poster of this? I hope so.

Lionsgate is releasing a Blu-ray boxset of all of Tarantino’s films on November 20th. “Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection” will include Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Inglourious Basterds, True Romance (screenplay by Quentin) and Death Proof.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Chantal Akerman’s cinematic tone poem to Manhattan in the mid-70s
09.17.2012
03:48 pm

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The films of Chantal Akerman are meditations on space, interior and exterior, and the emptiness within the clutter of both. There is a sense of alienation and distance in her films that can be chilly and desolate. The rhythms of her film are moored to the urbanscapes and architecture she examines and what drama exists is that which occurs in the day to day pace of life as lived, rarely pumped up by any narrative or cinematic devices. Many lives, particularly solitary ones, are free of of drama. Things are quite ordinary. But the ordinary examined can be quite marvelous.

In Akerman’s experimental film News From Home , the main character is New York City. As Akerman reads from letters she wrote and sent to her mother in Belgium, we watch Manhattan in constant movement, a breathing living thing. But even among the people, buildings, automobiles and streets of the city, there is the quiet, vagabond soul who observes and feels apart from it all. Akerman’s letters are not merely messages from home, they are signs of life. It’s as though she writes to reassure herself that she exists.

Shot in 1977, News From Home , captures New York at a time when many artists, like Akerman, were coming to the city to tap into the energy and to be challenged by the prospects of living in the belly of the beast. It was a wonderful time, but it was also a dark time. In these images, you see a city on the cusp of transformation…for the good and the bad. From a purely historical point of view, to see 90 uninterrupted minutes of Manhattan in the mid-70s is a treat for my eyes. Rich with memories.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Like A Spiritual Orgasm’: Miles Davis plays the Isle of Wight Festival
09.17.2012
01:56 pm

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When Billy Eckstine came to St. Louis, with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Miles Davis went to see them play.

Davis was playing trumpet with Eddie Randle’s Rhumboogie Orchestra, and one day, after rehearsal, he went round to the theater to see Gillespie and Parker perform.

Davis arrived with his trumpet slung over his shoulder, dreaming of how one day he might be up there playing along with the likes of his idols Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker. Just as he reached the theater, Gillespie appeared, noted Davis’ trumpet and rushed over to the young musician.

‘You play?’ Gillespie asked.

Davis told him he did.

‘We lost our trumpeter, and we need one fast. You got a card?’

Davis nodded ‘Yes’.

‘Then you’re in.’

Davis played with Gillespie and Parker for the next 2 weeks, and this was the start of Mile Davis’ incredible career.

In 1970, Miles Davis played to a 600,000 audience at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was the largest pop festival in history. At the time, many questioned why Davis had agreed to perform at it, as man of his success and talent was middle of the bill, sandwiched between Tiny Tim and Ten Years After.

Davis had just released his double album, Bitches Brew, which proved to be a game-changing moment in Modern Jazz. The album divided critics. Some reviled it, claiming Davis had sold out, and was no longer relevant. But the audience loved it. And Bitches Brew became Davis’ biggest success, going gold within weeks.

In August 1970, Davis decided to play Bitches Brew at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was a myth-making appearance, where Davis improvised much of his performance.

That festival, and Davis’ role in it, are revisited here in Murray Lerner’s documentary Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, which inter-cuts Miles’ astounding performance together with members of his band and those who knew the great man.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Mondo Hollywood’: When the world went from B&W to color
09.17.2012
12:58 pm

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Mondo Hollywood, Robert Carl Cohen’s poetic 1967 documentary, begins not as you might expect, with shots of LA’s tie-died hippies but rather with a John Birch Society-type anti-Communist meeting attended by, among others, Glenn Beck’s idol, W. Cleon Skousen, the kooky Mormon “historian,” FBI agent, crackpot conspiracy theorist, and slavery apologist. (Mitt Romney studied under Tea party icon Skousen while in college at Brigham Young University).

Without meaning to, Cohen’s time-capsule film begins by pointing out to viewers how, in some respects, so very little has changed since the 1960s—these folks are the Teabaggers of 1965, they’re even reading the very same batshit crazy Cleon Skousen books—and then he shows how much they did change, or at least the beginnings of that change to come.

Mondo Hollywood uses what appears to have been a lot of silent (very well shot) 16mm footage, and interviews and voice overs done at different times, to create a fascinating time capsule of life in Los Angeles during the very year when the culture went from black and white to vivid psychedelic color. Along the way, we’re introduced to poets, dreamers, acid eaters, trust fund kids, body painters, strippers, proto-hippies (or “freaks” as the Los Angeles variety of hippie was known in 1965-66), transsexuals, avant-garde artists and—this being Los Angeles—plenty of movie stars, a young Frank and Gail Zappa seen at a wild party and even then governor Ronald Reagan, who rails against “filthy speech advocates” at UC campuses. Spookily, future Manson murderer Bobby Beausoleil as well as future Manson Family victim, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, both appear in the film.

It’s interesting to note that Mondo Hollywood was set to open the Avignon Film Festival in 1967 but was banned by French government censors who stated:

“This film, in the opinion of certain experts of the Commission [of Control], presents an apology for a certain number of perversities, including drugs and homosexuality, and constitutes a danger to the mental health of the public by its visual aggressivity and the psychology of its editing. The Commission proposes, therefore, its total interdiction.”

Not much in the film would raise an eyebrow today, these “perversions” have all been mainstreamed. I still can’t get over the vintage Tea party crowd at the beginning, myself.

Although I didn’t actually see Mondo Hollywood until many years later, I used to have a huge square poster, similar to the album cover pictured above, hanging over the bed in my first NYC apartment in the 80s. I really wish I still had it!
 

 
There is a better, sharper version on Hulu, but it is rife with commercials that you can’t skip. so be warmed. Here’s a nice long interview with Mondo Hollywood director Robert Carl Cohen.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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