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Joe Strummer’s bizarre film ‘Hell W10’ starring The Clash, from 1983

The Clash’s Joe Strummer wrote and directed this rather strange gangster filck, Hell W10, which stars fellow bandmates, Paul Simonon as Earl, and Mick Jones as kingpin gangster, Socrates. The film centers around a tale of rivalry and ambition, murder and violence, mixing the style of 1930’s gangster movies with 1980’s London. It’s a reminiscent of something Alex Cox might have made (who later directed Strummer in the punk spaghetti western Straight to Hell), and while the film self-consciously meanders, it holds interest, and is aided by a superb soundtrack from The Clash. Watch out for Strummer as a mustachioed cop.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Streetwise’ - excellent 1984 documentary about homeless kids

Last week I posted about a new series of videos by the band In Flagranti, one of which (”On The Fringe”) features some great footage of street kids from the 1980s. Well, thanks to commenters Mister D and Steve Lafreniere I now know what that film is - not only that but I know it’s on YouTube and I have seen it. And so should you. It’s brilliant.

It’s called Streetwise. Directed by Martin Bell and shot by his wife Mary Ellen Mark, it was inspired by an article on homeless youth from Life magazine written by Cheryl McCall. At times it’s harrowing, but it’s really very good, and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1984.

It follows the exploits of a few different children living on the streets of Seattle, at that point apparently the States’ “most livable city”. There’s the tough, smart Rat and his older mentor Jack, who live in an abandoned hotel, sell drugs, scam pizzas and raid dumpsters. There’s teenage prostitutes Kim and Erin, waiting to get picked up off the kerb by older johns and discussing which local pimp is better to work for. Erin is also known as “Tiny” and has a troubled relationship with her alcoholic mother, who knows she is a prostitute but describes it as a “phase”. She thinks she may be pregnant after having unprotected sex with a john - that’s her in the picture above. Like Paris Is Burning this film deals with people society regards as the lowest of the low - and what on paper looks like being a major celluloid bummer is actually funny, insightful, tender and at times uplifting. Surprisingly a lot of these kids are still alive, though not kids anymore.

Mary Ellen Mark was also the photographer for the original Life magazine article, and has built up a large portfolio of stunning photographs of these kids, like the one above. She and her husband still see them occasionally too. From Steve Lafreniere’s excellent interview with Mark for Viceland (well worth reading as she’s a brilliant photographer who’s had an extraordinary career):

I’m still in contact with Tiny. A few years ago, Martin and I went back to Seattle and we updated her life. And I’ve been photographing her—I haven’t been back there in three years—but I have been photographing her. I photographed her after she had her ninth baby but we couldn’t make it out there for her tenth.

Here is part one of Streetwise:

Streetwise parts 2-11 after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Director cameos in their own and others’ films

Alfred Hitchcock made a habit of appearing in his own films, it became such a distraction that the great director ensured his trade-mark profile appeared soon after the opening titles, so audiences could concentrate on the intricacies of the plot rather than play Where’s Alfie?.

Over the years, other directors have adopted the Hitchcockian cameo (M Night Shyamalan being the most irritating), or turned it into a memorable scene - Martin Scorsese’s creepy cameo as a cuckolded husband in Taxi Driver is a small film all of its own. There have also been the directors who give cameos to the film-makers who influenced or inspired their careers - Jean-Luc Goddard’s homage to the genius Sam Fuller in Pierre le Fou, where the legendary director of The Steel Helmet, Underworld USA, The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor expounds on cinema:

“Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word . . . emotion.”

Here is just a small selection of some notable cameos by directors in their own and in other director’s films.

Legendary director Sam Fuller appears in this party scene from Jean-Luc Goddard’s ‘Pierrot le Fou’ (1965)
More directors in front of the camera, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Joan Crawford’s bizarre screen-tests for ‘Strait-Jacket’, 1964

The legendary actress Joan Crawford died today in 1977. While now best remembered through Faye Dunaway’s incredible interpretation of the actress (‘No wire hangers!’) in Mommie Dearest, we tend to forget that Crawford was a talented, Oscar winning actress, who had one of the longest and most successful careers in Hollywood. No mean feat, no matter what her adopted daughter later wrote.

Joan worked damned hard to maintain her career and independence and if she’d been a man, we’d remember her as fondly as Errol Flynn or Robert Mitchum. What is also impressive about Crawford was her ability to make the most of the roles offered, no matter how trashy the role. Her performance in Trog should have won her a medal for perseverance beyond the call of duty.

In 1964, Joan Crawford starred in B-movie genius William Castle’s classic Strait-Jacket, where she gave a brilliantly bizarre performance. Here is Ms Crawford trying out her make-up for the role of suspected ax-murderer Lucy Harbin.

Bonus trailers of Joan Crawford in ‘Strait-Jacket’ and ‘Trog’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Ennio Morricone’s noise ensemble: Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza

This is a guest post by writer and musician Dave Madden. Take it, Dave:

What lingers in the closets of the Brass Ring of recent film composers? James Horner scored Robert Conrad’s kinda-crappy cult classic The Lady in Red. James Newton Howard did session work for Ringo and arranged songs for Olivia Newton-John.  And then you have Ennio Morricone whose wardrobe contains enough oddity to match the awards on his mantle.

During the mid ‘60s, while Morricone was securing his role as the Spaghetti Western king via Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, he became a member of Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a revolving collective of musicians dedicated to “anti-musical systems and noise techniques” (note: he was part of the band even throughout his days with Dario Argento and his first academy award nomination for the 1979 Days of Heaven). 

GDIDNC loosely labeled their technique “Instant Composition”, as everything went direct to tape, not staff paper. They merged a collage of the previous 50 years – Webern-like serialistic pointillism, free jazz, spectralism, Musique concrète – with extra-musical philosophies and disciplines; not to be confused with aleatoricism, they crafted their works not by emptying their preconceptions to get to zero, but incorporating myriad ideas and exercises to guide themselves to zero. While that reads as par for the course for improvising musicians today, there are a few things that separate them from your average non-musician – and placed the crew in the flagship ranks of AMM and Musica Elettronica Viva, and turned them into idols for a young John Zorn (he wrote the liner notes to their 2006 box set, Azioni) . 

First, each of the tenuous group was a fantastic musician, respected sound artist and/or scientist: a friend and collaborator of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono (who, together, established the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio in Warsaw), Gruppo founder and pianist Franco Evangelisti was involved with the Studio of Experimental Electroacoustics of UNESCO, focusing on the biophysics of brain impulses as sonic vibrations; Mario Bertoncini (percussion, piano) made his living as a music educator and, for decades, a concert pianist; Roland Kayn’s (Hammond organ, vibraphone, marimba) “monumental graphic scores” for orchestra were performed by Pierre Boulez, though he later devoted his life to “Cybernetic Music”, a sonic renewing process that became the focus of his ten-hour long Scanning. And so on with all eighteen-and-counting purported contributors.

More importantly, as former Down Beat editor Art Lange points out, they were all known for their compositional savvy:

The key words here, however, are “composers” and “organized.” Evangelisti insisted on a performing ensemble that consisted solely of composers in part because of the inherent (even if intuitive) sense of formal logic they would bring to the performance, but also to avoid any taint of instrumental virtuosity for its own sake.

Lastly, when they performed, the disparate personalities combined into a single, flailing behemoth that did not understand the concept of “lull” or “wandering” as it pursued its artistic objective. 

Observe part of “Strings Quartet”:

Wait for the percussive bombast near 7:20

Morricone after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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I have seen the future of rock and roll and there’s nothing there

Borders Books, Austin. R.I.P.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this 1978 newscast on movie piracy, we encounter the same wariness that greeted video cassette recorders three decades ago as we’ve seen in recent years with black boxes, CD and DVD recorders, Internet downloading and Youtube. E-books are next.

As art becomes increasingly inexpensive or free to own does it lose its value? Do we start to take it for granted? I know I do. I’m surrounded by CDs of music I’ve downloaded and burned and haven’t even listened to yet. I remember when buying a vinyl record was a big event.

Not only has music and movies become available at little or no cost, the devices we use to record and store them have become dirt cheap. In 1978, VCRs were selling for $1000. Videos, blank or pre-recorded, were ridiculously expensive. I remember buying Road Warrior back in the early 1980s on Betamax for $89.00. It wasn’t that long ago when blank CDs sold for $20, same with DVDs. Now you can pick up a dozen for less than the cost of the New York Times print edition…if you’re still buying newspapers. The cost of duplicating music and movies at home has gone from the absurdly expensive to the fatally cheap.

So now, with music, movies, and eventually books, available online for the cost of a 25 cent blank digital disc how does this work out for the creative community and the future of pop culture?  Free everything is terrific for the consumer (as distinguished from buyer), but what happens to the people creating the music, movies and books? What happens to the people working in record stores, video stores and bookstores?

In my hometown of Austin, three Borders bookstores have closed in the past two months. People have lost jobs. Large buildings are now empty, impossible to lease. Publishing houses are quietly freaking out. There’s no place for them to ship their books, other than, and they’re still very much in the business of selling books you can hold in your hands made by printing machines operated by actual human beings. How many people does it take to make a Kindle versus the publishers, printers, graphic designers etc. involved in the publication of a book?

As indie record stores close, the big chains aren’t picking up the slack. Hell no. They’re devoting less and less retail space to CDs and DVDs and will sure as shit eliminate them entirely soon enough. More people laid off. Blockbuster is bankrupt (as much a victim of their shitty customer as changing technologies) and Movie Gallery is dead and buried. More jobs lost.

In the next few years, I predict we’ll see the death of Barnes and Noble and what’s left of the independent book, record and video stores. There will no longer be neighborhood gathering places for lovers of literature, film and music. The artsy oasis in the shopping mall, that little bit of Bohemia that exists in culturally starved suburbs across America will be a thing of the past. The kids you see hanging out at Borders talking about the latest vampire books will end up congregating in front of Hot Topics sniffing screen-print instead of book ink. And there is a fucking difference!

In the midst of the death throes of the brick and mortar store, artists creating the “product” are left with fewer and fewer outlets that SELL what they create.

I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But this shit is real. A society that fucks its artists, is a culture that is destroying its soul. Download to your little heart’s desire, but one day the source of all this goodness will have been sucked dry and there won’t be anybody left who can afford to replenish it. And I don’t believe for a moment that there’s a wave of new young bands, film makers and writers on the brink of creating world class art for the sheer beauty of it. Deep down everybody wants to make a living doing what they love.

As art gets cheaper, the cheaper the art. While everybody was busy celebrating the Internet for providing a free outlet for aspiring rockers to get their music out there, did anyone stop to notice just how much garbage was being created in the name of rock and roll?  Far from being music’s savior, the Internet has become its sewage system.

Video killed the radio star. The Internet killed the rest of us. And yes, I’m part of the process.

Even the good old reliable adult video store is dying and “C.J., the video machine owner” (now in his 60s) is pulling his pud watching Youporn.

When did we collectively arrive at the point at which art was determined to be worthless?

Bootlegging, pirating, porn and the dawning of free art as reported on Cleveland TV in 1978:

The corpse of a bookstore after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The Films of Priit Pärn
04:46 pm


Priit P

Another anthologizing of an obscure yet highly worthy of attention animated film maker from our friends at Network Awesome. This time the subject is Estonian director Priit Pärn.

To be sure, these are powerful films.  Parn uses a style that’s inspired many other animators, most notably, the Klasky Csupo animation studio, creators of Rugrats and Ahh Real Monsters. Stylistically, it’s sometimes jarring and unnerving; ragged drawings with intense colors and often mind-bending instrumental music, that all serves to create an incredible experience.  There is very little in the way of dialogue, and far less in the way of context; there is no real immediately discernable narrative.  In fact, a cursory viewing of Pärn’s work, might just appear to be a collage of ideas, loosely strung together in the hopes of creating a story.  However, one must dig in deeper to see the true, haunting beauty of Parn’s work.

Video playlist:

Hotel E (1992)
Time Out
Breakfast On The Grass (1987)
The Triangle (1982)
a short interview with Priit Pärn
Frank & Wendy (latest film, still being completed)


Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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The wonderful world of fake rock bands

Here’s the third installment of MoPapparani’s ambitious video tribute to fictional rock bands in film and television.

Featured in compilation three are:

01 - A. D. D. (The Rocker)
02 - Infant Sorrow (Get Him to the Greek)
03 - Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers
(The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension)
04 - Hard Core Logo (Hard Core Logo)
05 - Eddie and the Cruisers (Eddie and the Cruisers)
06 - The Commitments (The Commitments)
07 - Cherry Bomb (Howard the Duck)
08 - Strange Fruit (Still Crazy)
09 - Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
10 - El Mariachi (Desperado)
11 - Bad Blake (Crazy Heart)
12 - B-Rabbit (8 Mile)
13 - Young Caesar (Get Rich or Die Tryin’)
14 - DJay (Hustle & Flow)
15 - Yonica Babyyeah (War, Inc.)
16 - Sexual Chocolate (Coming to America)
17 - Lili Von Shtupp (Blazing Saddles)
18 - Freddy Fredrickson (That Thing You Do!)
19 - Willie Scott (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)
20 - Breathless Mahoney (Dick Tracy)
21 - Emma Murdoch (Dark City)
22 - The Chantrellines (That Thing You Do!)
23 - Du Jour (Josie and the Pussycats)
24 - Rex Manning (Empire Records)
25 - PoP (Music and Lyrics)
26 - Reverend Cleophus James & the Triple Rock Baptist Church Choir
(The Blues Brothers)
27 - The Muses (Disney’s Hercules)
28 - Curtis Salgado (The Blues Brothers)
29 - Rachel Marron (The Bodyguard)
30 - The Beets (Doug)
31 - Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band (Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids)
32 - The Banana Splits (The Banana Splits)
33 - The Blowholes (The Adventures of Pete & Pete)
34 - Stephen and the Colberts (The Colbert Report)
35 - Chef (South Park)
36 - The Archies (The Archie Show)
37 - Zack Attack (Saved by the Bell)
38 - Titannica (Mr. Show with Bob and David)
39 - Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld (South Park)
40 - Dethklok (Metalocalypse)


Compilation one and two after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘Rectuma’: Goatseilla, Goatseilla!
08:27 pm


Mark Pirro

Mark Pirro’s 2004 epic Rectuma is the best giant asshole movie I’ve ever seen.

Waldo Williams returns from his Tijuana vacation to find out that he had become infected by the Notorious Mexican Butt Humping Bullfrog. After being diagnosed by his proctologist with just days to live, Waldo seeks the help of the mysterious Japanese specialist, Dr. Wansamsaki, who treats Waldo with his unorthodox methods, which involve a long nuclear rod. The next day, Waldo’s rear end starts glowing a bright green - and that’s only the beginning. Within days, Waldo’s rear end develops a mind of its own, becoming capable of breaking away in the middle of the night, committing a mur­der or two and then returning before morning, leaving a fecal trail that leads right to Waldo’s bedroom.

After his wife and her lover are murdered, Waldo’s DNA is discovered at the scene of the crime, and an arrest is made. While in custody, Waldo’s rear end breaks away, attacks one of the detectives and begins a destructive rampage throughout Los Angeles. As the butt’s metabolism races, it becomes larger and lar­ger, swallowing up citizens left and right. Eventually Dr. Wansamsaki calls his cousin Tashira, who is an expert in fighting giant creatures. Having battled the likes of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, ToeCheeseula, Pus-ula, and Schmegmala, Tashira now has to match wits with possibly his greatest adver­sary …RECTUMA.

Rectuma is available from Mark Pirro’s website.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Nick Cave sings Disney

Hal Willner’s “Forest of No Return: Music from Vintage Disney Films” was performed live at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2007. An impressive line-up of musicians, including Jarvis Cocker (who hosted the event), Shane MacGowan, Grace Jones, David Thomas and Beth Orton, covered tunes from the Disney songbook.

In the clip below, Nick Cave sounds like a drunken sailor on ¨Hi Diddle Dee Dee¨ from Pincocchio . Good fun.

In related news, a new filmed version of Pinocchio is being produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) and Nick Cave has been brought on board to compose an original score for the movie. This I gotta see.

Cave meets Disney:

Nick does KC and The Sunshine Band after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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