Monday, February 29, 2016

Congratulations, Kira, plus Lynn Lowry comes to Vancouver

So here I am at 5am, awake without really wanting to be. The cat is asleep beside me on the couch - snoring, even, in these cute little whimpers - and hopefully my girl has fallen back asleep in the bedroom. I can't get back to sleep, have given up until my girl is off to work. I have the start of some weird illness, I think - muscle aches, foot pain, and a cold sweat with shivers.  It's not good, whatever is going on.

Anyhow, turning to the internet I see that Kira Roessler, formerly of Black Flag and (presently?) in DOS, with Mike Watt, has won an Oscar for best sound editing for Mad Max: Fury Road. I had no clue she was even involved in the film. I've always enjoyed her playing (check out the bassline for "The Bars," maybe my favourite Rollins-era Black Flag song); and I've admired her gumption to stick with it in a band as masculine, and at times as misogynist, as Black Flag. I don't really care about the Oscars, but it's nice to see nonetheless. Congratulations, Kira!

Not sure if it's down to my girlfriend or not, but I actually saw and admired most of the major contenders this year; Spotlight is really good, one of the best, most serious "workings of journalism" movies that I've seen, somewhere between All the President's Men and uhhh, Zodiac (or perhaps Ron Howard's rather under-appreciated film The Paper, which, like Spotlight, features Michael Keaton as a reporter). Mark Ruffalo has really blossomed as an actor, so it's nice to see him in a winning film, tho of course it is also, um, nice that Leonardo DiCaprio has been acknowledged by the Academy, given the apparent ordeal he went through in The Revenant, and that Fury Road got the "quantity" of Oscars, if not the quality ones. (I actually wasn't that excited by it - AMAZING production design but it seemed kinda slight on story; maybe a second viewing will teach me the error of my ways but I haven't gotten around to revisiting it). Truth is, I usually don't have much time for the Academy's "Best Picture" choices, having little use for, I dunno, stuff like 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen's least film, and nowhere as interesting as, say, Nightjohn or Mandingo, the best films about slavery I've seen; presumably it won, like Mississippi Burning some time ago, because of the politics of it, not because of the quality of the filmmaking). There's also painfully boring "respectable spectacle" films like Gladiator, or sheer self-fellating crap like fucking Argo (quoting myself: "a sub-cinematic liberal wank, an act of Hollywood self-congratulation, and yet another attempt by Ben Affleck to sell us on how soulful, deep, and caring he is.") It's kinda cool to have a year where I don't find myself objecting to any of the academy's choices.

(I will stay out of the "Oscars So White" debate, save to say that there have been so many years that the Best Picture award apparently went to films to reward their progressive politics, as opposed to their cinematic qualities, that I am not really that bothered by the issue much).

But in terms of cool women, it's very, very exciting that Ms. Lynn Lowry will be coming to Vancouver for the Northwest Horror Show. She's actually still active as an actress, which I did not know, and she's even directed a short, The Whole Town's Sleeping, back in 2014. Her filmography includes, of course, major roles in David Cronenberg's Shivers and George A. Romero's The Crazies, tho' she also did a (mostly) softcore, bisexually-themed, partner-swappin' Radley Metzger film, Score. It's definitely an unusual film, and quite queer-friendly; who knows what audiences at the time made of the man-on-man sex in the film - maybe there was a place for Utopian bisexual swingers' cinema back in the early '70s? It seems like a definite niche market now...

In any event, Lynn Lowry's cred would be established indelibly by her star turns in those three movies alone, but she also apparently has an appearance in the grim 1970 cult classic I Drink Your Blood, which actually makes plausible the premise of acid-tripping Satanic bikers, INFECTED WITH RABIES, menacing a small town, if I recall. (No idea where she is in the film, she's uncredited and presumably only on screen briefly). She's also in Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People, which I haven't seen since the days of VHS, and in an early Jonathan Demme film called Fighting Mad, starring Peter Fonda as a farmer fighting off land developers. I don't think I have seen that film, but boy now do I want to! Host of other films in her filmography, none of which I have seen, at least a few of which seem to be Troma/ Lloyd Kaufman related. I'm actually not a big Troma fan, but again, this is a cult movie actress to be reckoned with!

The movie that Miss Lowry will be doing a Q&A for has not yet been formally announced (tho' there was a hint at Badass that apparently no longer applies; there are still changes happening to the schedule).  The films already confirmed for the Northwest Horror Show include Salo: the 120 Days of Sodom - a serious, depressing, and very hard to watch film - and Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (a frivolous, depressing, and also hard to watch film, though totally enjoyable as far as sleaze goes, and arguably less hypocritical and misanthropic than Cannibal Holocaust. Both films, alas, have scenes of animal deaths, though they're a little less "eww, look at the turtle's guts" in Cannibal Ferox). And then there's Night of the Creeps, which I have not seen; it is the only film in the fest that will not be projected from 35mm, I gather. There's more to come - I already have done the first part of an interview with Shane Burzynski, the organizer, and will be expanding on that and publishing it once the rest of the films are formally announced, which presumably will be soon.

But jeez, Shane, I never would have thought I'd get to meet Lynn Lowry; thank you so much for inviting her! I'll be definitely standing in line hopin' to get my DVD of Shivers signed...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bowie Tribute Night, Vancouver: a brief review, and a sex dream

(Bad cellphone photos by Allan MacInnis, pro photo by bev davies)

Well, that was a fun night. There were issues, of course - most serious among them being that the first hour ran so smoothly, changeover-wise, that the lineup got ahead of itself, leading to long delays later, as organizers patrolled the venue, trying to find performers who weren't expecting to go on half an hour early, and musicians began to appear out of sequence, based on an apparent logic of "who is actually here now and ready to play." Eventually things got, uh, caught down (ie, the opposite of "caught up"), but the delays later and the late night meant that, yes folks, with a forty minute commute ahead of us and the start of a cold brewing in both our throats, my girl and I ducked out just before the Vampire Bats were due to go on, and, sin of sins, missed Ron Reyes.

I got to say hi to him in the bathroom - he had a sore throat, too! Hope he acquitted himself well - I really, really would have liked to see what Ron's fearsome (if virus-laden) pipes would have done, faced with the challenge of singin' songs by a remarkably different singer.

In any event, understanding that I only caught 3/4's of the night - because we had to duck out for a bit in the middle, too - the highlights of the night by me boiled down to three bands. With apologies to Tim Chan, none were bands he was in; I like Tim a lot and wish China Syndrome a fantastic "first full gig of the year" at the Princeton later tonight. I *did* enjoy Pill Squad and China Syndrome, but the three bands that blew me away were:

a) Eddy D and the Sex Bombs, left, who, I gotta confess, I did not expect would be as polished and perfect as they were; dunno why, but I expected something loose and slightly under-rehearsed, maybe akin to Sister DJ's Radio Band (who I also like a lot, don't get me wrong). But no, they were slick and tight, and I still have their take on  "Sound and Vision" echoing in my head as I type this. Not bad for a guy who didn't like Bowie!

b) TrailerHawk. I like Tony Balony - Tony Walker - from what I've seen of him, having caught him at the Vancouver Complication reunion gig maybe ten years ago, with Rude Norton and otherwise, and having watched him survive being the guy called in to take over for Art Bergmann on guitar for Art's comeback show at Richards a few years ago. I know he's a fixture of the local scene, but for some reason, I was still ill-prepared for TrailerHawk, who did a terrific country-roots-rockabilly interpretation of three Bowie songs. The first two didn't get caught in the memory-sieve, alas, being overshadowed by Tony's shockingly Dylanesque vocal on Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes," one of a few songs from the Bowie penumbra not actually performed by Bowie (Left Spine Down also did a version of "Some Weird Sin," and Jim Cummins, later in the night, sang a song that he wrote for Bowie, not a Bowie song, before commencing to do a live painting at side-stage, but "All the Young Dudes" was a truly inspired choice. Somehow coverin' Iggy felt like a bit of a cheat tho' - Bert Man sang "China Girl" at some point, too, tho' since Bowie actually covered that song himself it felt more okay). For the record, I actually think the women in TrailerHawk did better, smoother, easier to listen to readings of the Bowie songs they sang, but Tony still kind of upstaged them. I'm not sure if I like what he did but to hear Ian Hunter done by way of Bob was just so startling...)!

TrailerHawk by bev davies, with Jim Cummins in the background, not to be reused without permission

By the by, Jack "Fucking" Keating told me that TrailerHawk have a full on gig on March 11th, which is alas the date of a different gig I'm committed to (Devil in the Woodshack and Still Spirits - also roots music of a sort). I have no idea what the venue was supposed to be, tho').

Oh, and since I mentioned Art Bergmann, people realize that Art is going to play the Commodore in May with Gerry Hannah and the New Questioning Coyote Brigade opening? More on that later, maybe.
Anyhow, though, the third band - c) - that blew me away was one of a long line of local bands that I have been allowing myself to neglect: Orchard Pinkish. (His backup band were not "his Horny Hands" but "the Old Canadians," ha, ha). Haven't seen Richie since I last caught him, I assume with the Little Guitar Army in Maple Ridge in 2012, unless he wasn't in the band at that point; I don't recognize him in my photos of the night, but they're not very good). Again, I don't know why, but I expected nothin' that impressive, nothing that stood out and ruled the night. But oh, boy, was I wrong: the band's readings of "Heroes," "Young Canadians," and "Fame" - with Cass King taking over vocal duties - were astonishing, beautifully arranged and delightfully performed, the real "let's get this party started" moment of the night. Orchard's voice was perfect for Bowie covers and Cass King was just amazingly charismatic. If I feel a bit sheepish about not having seen Orchard Pinkish before, I feel shocked at never having heard of Cass King, before she started weighing in on Facebook on the burlesque kerfuffle, now deleted; she has some associations with burlesque, I gather, but despite a low-cut top, it was her charisma and singin' that stood out. Shot video of that, the only vid I took of the night besides a little bit of footage of David M. busking; it will hae to wait a bit before I upload it, tho'.

Anyhow, those were the three best bands of the fifteen-to-twenty acts I took on, but there wasn't a thing I didn't enjoy. Great night. Had a lot of fun watching Jim Cummins paint, too.

Oddly, I had a dream that seems to relate to it all, and the whole "music versus burlesque" issue, just before I sat down to blog: that I was in a school (or something), and conspiring to organize a secret orgy in one of the unused classrooms (I should note that the school was not the one I actually teach in!). There was a room across the way where someone - actually Joey Shithead, I think - was instructing some inquisitive fella in Vancouver punk history, playing him records from a stack that I had previously perused (not a single band in the pile was an actual Vancouver band, as I recall; my brain just made shit up, as it often does, fudging details in dreams). I pitched in a bit, but then snuck across the hall, with a group of six or seven others, where we had been told by someone that we could probably get away with covert sex on a bunch of cots that were in the room. There were some Mexicans in the hallway, sitting on a bench, who could figure out what was going on through the semi-translucent glass wall (!), but they were kinda keeping it down, maybe because they wanted to see what we did. But just as we all quietly slipped out of our clothes, getting onto the cots and such - tho' I was curled up on the floor - some OTHER naked guy walked in, not associated with our group, and proceeded to lie down on one of the cots with one or two of the girls, almost like nothing was happening. We all pretended to be asleep, but his presence was definitely disconcerting - we were apparently in someone's dormitory or such!

That's all I remember of the dream, though I think right at the end I was being "discovered," caught out, naked in the corner as people came toward me. Then I woke up.

Distressing news re: Michael Gira

This makes me sad. Michael Gira, who I have interviewed and met on a couple of occasions, is now admitting to at least part of what he has been accused of by Larkin Grimm; he disagrees in the interpretation of events and the issue of consent and mutuality, but his new statement is different enough from the initial "slanderous lie" reaction that it seems to put him on a slippery slope, and his reputation is going to get damaged from this regardless of whatever actually happened. Larkin Grimm's response is also sobering, and included on that link. I don't want to say more just yet, but this one hurts.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A reason to show up early to the David Bowie tribute!

So David M. is considering doing his "small salute" to David Bowie, a 35 minute set, as a busked, pre-show addition to the night at the Rickshaw Bowie Tribute Night, tonight. All proceeds will go to the charity in question, it's not about money. I've seen the set and it's great. Not sure if it's going to happen or not, but it might be worth showing up a bit early - say, at 6:10 - in case it goes ahead... if not, you can always go get some Chinese food or somethin'...

Of course, the event has drawn some controversy on Facebook, a whiff of which was below - one band has had a problem with sharing a bill with burlesque performers. But that seems to have settled down, with the controversial post disappearing sometime overnight, and with the alleged web manager of weighing in on the side of the burlesque performers... it was nasty, it was interesting, and it was very, very Vancouver.

Apologies to Tom Charity, but I don't think I'm going to be at The Reflecting Skin tonight...

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Reflecting Skin on Friday

The Reflecting Skin is a genuinely disturbing movie, one of those strange little films where you can't quite figure where it's coming from or going to, that nonetheless manages to compel you throughout its length, while still ultimately leaving you scratching your head. It plays like a heat-baked prairie Lynch film, a twisted foray into the imagination of a young, damaged boy; it's probably the best kinda-horror film to come out of the Canadian prairies since Nightbreed, and it's about as disturbing a vision of childhood as Terry Gilliam's Tideland (tho' considerably more elegant). It comes complete with exploding frogs, pedophilia, self-immolation, and radiation sickness... There are skeletal babies that get mistaken for angels; there's a lonely woman in black who gets mistaken for a vampire (or is that a metaphor?); and probably the most attractive characters in the movie are a bunch of greaser child-killers who zip about in leather and a hot rod. (Believe me, when you grow up in a small Canadian town, it doesn't take a lot to make someone look glamorous). It's a strange film; you almost want to write it off as pretentious, except it kind of gets under your skin. AND Viggo Mortensen is in  it, in a very early role. In addition to writing the screenplay for the previous movie about the Krays - not the Tom Hardy one, coming out - UK director Philip Ridley went on to make two other features, The Passion of Darkly Noon and Heartless, but in my opinion, this is his best film. 

Anyhow, I haven't much to say about The Reflecting Skin, but I admire it. It screens one time only on Friday at the Vancity Theatre, and this may be an opportunity worth seizing, because it very rarely shows. (For some reason or other, it even took a long time to make it onto digital media in North America, even after Viggo became a name; my copy of it is still a DVD I bought at the long-gone Vancouver location of the Japanese book chain Book Off, complete with Japanese subtitles).

Incidentally, I'm told that this article in Filmmaker Magazine is quite good, if you want more...! And again, thanks to Tom Charity for booking films like this (get out and support them, folks!).

Bowie Tribute Night at the Rickshaw: interviews!

 David Bowie by bev davies, Coliseum 1983, not to be re-used without permission!

Everyone has their own version of David Bowie, their own associations. A few odd songs aside - "Ashes to Ashes," "Diamond Dogs" - I most enjoy him for his performance in The Man Who Fell To Earth, perhaps the most perfectly-cast rockstar-as-actor in history up until Henry Rollins took on the role of a bingo-playing cannibal (tho' Mick Jagger deserves a nod, too, for Performance). I don't geek out over Bowie's Eno or Iggy collaborations like some people do, don't presently own Heroes or Low or The Lodger (though I do have The Idiot and Lust for Life, of course). I don't presently own The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, either (though I've been meaning to pick up a vinyl reissue for awhile now, since long before he died). As I said before, I always kinda felt that Bowie was for people with pointier shoes than me. Feelin' the pressure, tho', I bought Blackstar a few days after the news broke, listened to it three times through in the following week, and acknowledge that it's a great album even outside of the context, but of course it's particularly interesting that he used his final year this way. It's a helluva thing, kind of (as David M has observed) unprecedented - though the aura of mortality hangs so heavy around the album that it isn't exactly a comfortable listen.

I mean, we're all going to die too, right? Eek.

The Bowie tribute at the Rickshaw this upcoming Friday is another matter entirely, starting at 7:15 and lasting til late. At present count, there's a lucky 23 of local bands gathering, each playing a couple of Bowie songs; it's an excellent way to get a glimpse of the Vancouver music scene, viewed through a particular Bowie-coloured prism (a "Bowie lens," maybe?), and hopefully will be more of a celebration of life than a meditation on death). I interviewed a few people about it via email, asking three questions:

1. What Bowie songs did you choose and why? 
 2. What was your history with his music? Ever see him live? What's the most important Bowie album to you? 
3. Of the other people playing, who are you most excited/ curious to see?

Rather than do something fancy, I'm going to just cut and past their answers below, in the order that I received them. First up (tho' not first at the Rickshaw), we have Tim Chan, who will be fronting China Syndrome, who used to front 64 Funnycars, and who will also be playing guitar with Pill Squad during their set. Tim's a veteran of the Victoria power pop scene, collaborating with people like Tom Holliston (in a band called Hathead) and even popping up on the All Your Ears Can Hear Victoria scene compilation, with his early band the Ryvals. Tim's also worked with Seattle producer Conrad Uno due to his connection with that most under-appreciated of Seattle bands, the (great!) Young Fresh Fellows. China Syndrome has put out two LPs that I have heard, both totally enjoyable (I have not heard their first, from 2007). They will be gigging the very next night at the Princeton, for the first full China Syndrome gig of 2016, also featuring Bubble 11 (who are also on the Bowie roster!).
China Syndrome by lildrammerboy Not to be reused without permission

Here's Tim:

1. What Bowie songs did you choose and why?

China Syndrome is playing "Let's Dance," "Cracked Actor" and "Ashes to Ashes." "Let's Dance" has actually been part of our repertoire for several years -- we learned it to play at a wedding and we like to throw it into a set every once in a while for fun. "Cracked Actor" is just a powerful, rockin' song from Aladdin Sane, one of my favourite Bowie albums; it's a perfect encapsulation of Hollywood decadence in the early 70s. As for "Ashes to Ashes," it's definitely one of his absolute classics: the melody, the lyrics, the chord progression, the video, the sequel to "Space Oddity"... I just hope we can do it justice.

2. What was your history with his music?
I've been a huge fan of Bowie since high school, when a friend gave me The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars LP for Christmas. Before that I was always intrigued, though kinda intimidated by him; when I was younger I listened to AM radio constantly and songs like "Fame" and "Golden Years" were so different from anything else--a bit alien and scary. Seeing the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth on TV around that time added to that mystique--hard to believe they ran it on TV and I was allowed to watch it! But I really got into the Ziggy Stardust LP, with its vague sci-fi concept, amazing songs and fantastic playing. Every album he released has something interesting to offer--I love it all! Though I had many opportunities, sadly, I never saw him live.   

3. Of the other people playing, who are you most excited/ curious to see?

I look forward to seeing everyone's Bowie interpretations. There are a lot of interesting choices from his entire career; I'm pleased to see a few bands playing songs from Blackstar

Next up: Eddy D. and the Sex Bombs by Corinne Kuan, not to be reused without permission

No excuses: I don't know Eddy Dutchman's history half as well as I should. I was startled when reading about the early days of Vancouver in Chris Walter's band bio of the Real McKenzies to learn that Eddy D., like Paul McKenzie himself, goes back to the very, very roots of the Vancouver punk scene. I'd only ever seen him singing for the Liquor Kings (RIP). Haven't yet caught an eddyD. and the Sex Bombs performance, either (their Facebook page promises "the sweet and salty sounds of lounge bliss") - which is one of the reasons I'm excited to see them on Friday. Here's Eddy:

1. What Bowie songs did  you choose and why?

We chose 'Sound and Vision'.
we thought this was one of his more passed over tunes which never really got the appreciation and attention it deserved...
we fell in love its hypnotic groove and its contagious feel.
we wanted to make sure this catchy little gem got played...
we also chose 'Golden Years' because it has such a silky smooth vibe and such reflective lyrics.
plus, we saw this song as a personal band challenge because of all the many layers of background vocals.
there is just so much going on with the back ups which just rest so comfortably under the main vocals.
this song sets a very high standard for our singers.
last and not least. we chose 'Stay.'
 have you listened to this song? .
it is insanely funky and has that real 'drugged out' club feel that reflected the times of when it was written..
plus it is such weird tune that we knew no one else would pick it and we felt the song should also be part of this reflection on Bowie.

2-my history?
well other than when Mick Ronson was his guitarist i never really got all that deep into Bowie.
i always kinda viewed him as a 'chick musician' and only kinda heard him when i was with the girls...
ha ha ha.
.no i never saw him live but, i did date a girl once that claimed to have slept with him, but i guess every girl wanted to sleep with him...
he did have it all.
now which album was most important and why...
i did like the later albums he did in Berlin with Iggy..
they were very cool.
and of course..
Ziggy Stardust...
killer album.. and we can't over look its importance as it was early 70's British rock that influenced and inspired an entire generation of fans and musicians.
but the album that was most important to me would have to be Hunky Dory...
of course it stayed true to Bowie's talent and knack to work with the best but it was the first album with Mick Ronson and Tony Visconti...
so not only is it a breakthrough album but has some great history.
like how Ronson was a city worker in Hull and was offered the gig to back up Bowie as he was painting lines on a rugby pitch...
ha ha ha..
or how they all dressed like super heroes...
well done rock stars...

3-the other bands on the bill?
i am eager to see Tony Walker's band Trailerhawk because i heard they have some great female vocals...
and that always catches my interest...
and of course The Pretty's cause i still like the energy and enthusiasm of when kids rock out and because they do it so well...
and Mark with the Vampire Bats and Bloody Betty..
always top notch, thrill seeking entertainment...
but what i am most excited about is the closing number with Space Junk.
i don't want to give to much away but i hear it is going to be a massive, all performer sing along with pyrotechnics and all sorts of visual Bowie insanity.
not to be missed...

Tracy of Pill Squad, by Sharon Steele, not to be reused without permission

Next up: Tracy of Pill Squad

Oh, horrors: now that I've written a decent brief blurb about Tim Chan and at least half of an asses' worth of a bio on eddyD, I feel like I've gotta do one about Pill Squad, and, ummmm, I don't know Tracy from Eve, and I've never seen'm live. I know: I'm supposed to have, by now. Everyone says they're great, and I like their songs on their bandcamp just fine (great riffage from Tim, downbeat/ deadpan vocals from Tracy, witty lyrics: "Mommy was a hostess/ Daddy was a drunk/ 'cause they didn't love me then/ I turned out a punk"). I don't think that I've seen Scott Beadle drum yet, either, tho' of course, we know as a Vancouver punk historian, record geek extraordinaire, and from our arguments on Facebook about the merits of the Chavez regime in Venezuela. We will let you guess which one of us was a fan of Chavez; it's not the one who has met and spoken to several Venezuelans, all of whom thought he was a monster

(Oh, wait, I've gone and given away the answer, haven't I?). 

Here's Tracy, short 'n' sweet (her answers, that is):

1. What Bowie songs are you covering and why?

Tim chose the songs, although I now feel I was born to sing "Queen Bitch." Note: we already had "Diamond Dogs" in our set. 

2. What's your history with Bowie? Ever see him live? What are your favourite albums?

I never saw him live. The first time I saw him was on Don Kirshner or Midnight Special, which I watched religiously. I love Diamond Dogs, it's still subversive, and the Berlin albums.

 3. What other performances are you most looking forward to?

It's all going to be interesting, except the burley-Q [burlesque]. What the fuck does that have to do with David Bowie? 

EDIT: Scott Beadle adds: "I don't know if you edit blogs after posting, but when you mention you don't think you've seen me drum before -- I was the drummer for Ron Reyes Band at his birthday show at the Rickshaw. It's totally not important, but since Ron's piece comes right after ours, it makes a nice tie-in, and illustrates how so many of the bands in are inter-related. And also on that note, Pill Squad's new bassist is Ed Hurrell, formerly of the Liquor Kings, since they are mentioned too in the EddyD piece."

Thanks, Scott!
Of course, Tracy's last answer would naturally suggest I contact Bloody Betty, but I haven't done, because I only just Googled now what the "Burley Q" was. Frankly, before that, I thought it was some sort of barbeque. Come to think of it, "Bloody Betty's Barbeque" sounds like it COULD be a restaurant name; it's no more disturbing, say, than "House of Ribs," which always makes me think of a chest cavity, y'know? And I'm not even a vegetarian!

Speaking of Ron Reyes, tho' - a man whom I hope needs no introduction in Vancouver - he will be doing something in league, I believe, with the Vampire Bats (though the Facebook page makes it seem like it'll be a separate thing; unclarity prevails as always). I know how fierce Ron's roar can be, having actually seen Ron sing a few Black Flag songs at his birthday party a few years ago (before that ill-fated Black Flag reunion thingy). I also quite like Piggy, however, his current project, for whom he plays guitar, and reviewed their album for the Straight, here (whoever wrote the title for it online almost totally ignored my review and gave a negative spin to the article, but I really enjoyed the album and have liked Piggy every time I've seen them, though, um, Alexa Bardach - Tony's daughter - was the vocalist back then, so you get a sense of how long it's been).

Ron Reyes singing, by Stewart Dean Ebersole, not to be reused without permission

Ron Reyes' answers are a little different, because my question was a bit different. Seeing that he wasn't gigging with Piggy, I was all, like, "has Piggy broken up? Where's Piggy?"). And I asked him the same questions as above. Ron writes:
Piggy was asked to perform but at the time I could not  get confirmation fom all members so we had to pass. I was then asked to sing with the Vampire Bats so I said sure. I've sang with them before and it was fun. By that time most of the songs I would have chosen had been grabbed so I went for a couple that are some of my favorites from the Ziggy album. "5 Years" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide." I have always wanted to sing "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide." I did it for the first time at karaoke not long ago and that was fun so... Of course Bowie and the whole Glam movement in general played a HUGE part in what was Hollywood Punk. So much of what we came to know and love as punk would not have been if not for Bowie so yeah his music means the world to me. I have been wanting to cover Scary Monsters in Piggy for years.

I am excited and nervous about the evening. everyone is taking such a HUGE risk in touching this material. Who will shine through is anyones guess but I am excited about Space Junk as I understand they will be taking "Lazarus". NOW THAT TAKES BALLS!!!! BTW things like this and the occasional Karaoke laughs are the only chance you will ever get to see me sing again as I am FINISHED with fronting a band as vocalist.

BTW. Piggy has NOT broken up. we have a couple shows in Washington (our second home) in March and then we may lie low for a while while we re-tool some things.
Unless Jim Cummins answers my message belatedly, that's all I have for this. Show is Friday, doors are at 7pm. As of today, the lineup (and the number of songs each band is playing):

7:15 The Burnettes (3)
7:30 Pill Squad (3)
7:45 Tarleks (3)
8:00 Martian Flytrap (2)
8:15 China Syndrome (2)
8:30 Eddy D and the Sexbombs (2)
8:45 Bubble 11 (3)
9:00 Crummy (3)
9:15 Toxiks (2)
9:30 Left Spine Down (3)
9:45 Timecopz/Nervous Talk (2)
10:00 Dtrevlon (1)
10:05 Shiloh Lindsey (1)
10:15 Trailerhawk (3)
10:35 Orchard Pinkish and the Old Canadians (3)
10:55 : (TBA)
11:15 I, Braineater (1)
11:20 The Prettys (2)
11:40 rebel valentine
11:45 Vampire Bats/ Bloody Betty (3)
12:05 Ron Reyes (2)
12:25 voodoo pixie
12:30 The Judys (3)
12:50 Space Junk feat. Joseph Blood/Cobra Ramone (2)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Seijun Suzuki: an interview with Chris D.

Cultural heroes of mine don't loom much larger than Chris Desjardins, better known as Chris D. For one thing, there's really no way to measure the impact or importance of those early Flesh Eaters albums on me. I was actively shopping for punk rock when A Hard Road to Follow first came out, snagging it in 1983 at Odyssey Imports based on the name of the band and the cover photo alone. It was a great call on the part of my 15 year old self: songs like "Eyes Without a Face" and "Life's a Dirty Rat" are etched about as deep into the soundtrack of my life as it's possible to get (or check out the death's head pulp rock video for "The Wedding Dice," which you can see as an extra on the Criterion release of Border Radio, which Chris stars in). I suspect what some people get from the Misfits, I get from the Flesh Eaters, whose horror-rock elements are taken several steps further by Chris D's taste for all manner of pulp culture and his craft as a poet and writer. Hell, there are tons of films that I now love that I heard of first through Flesh Eaters song lyrics, not even realizing for years that they were the titles of movies - including, of course, A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die, but also, say, lesser known gems like Tomorrow Never Comes (song here).

Anyhow: I had the privilege to interview Mr. Desjardins a couple of times last year (for Big Takeover online and two print issues). This focused mostly on his time in the Flesh Eaters, but there's a lot else that he's done - including writing novels (one of which I reviewed here). And of course, Chris is also a film scholar and Yakuza movie expert, with commentaries on several Japanese films out there. I own one book of his film criticism, Outlaw Masters of Japanese Cinema, and am presently waiting for his authoritative, illustrated, 800-page Gun and Sword: an Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films, 1955-1980 to arrive in the mail.

So with a hefty Seijun Suzuki retrospective starting tonight at the Cinematheque, it seemed appropriate to ask Chris for some tips to orient me in the world of Suzuki, which I'm a relative noob to. (I have seen Branded to Kill and bits of a couple of other Suzuki films, but I can't say I understood what I was watching or how to appreciate it).

AM: How does one approach Seijun Suzuki, as a filmmaker, and what's a good entry point? Is there a "wrong way" to take in his films?

CD: I don't know if there's a "wrong way". The first one I saw was BRANDED TO KILL, which is in B&W. I viewed it in the early-'90s on VHS without subtitles. I knew its reputation as a mindblowing work, and it fully lived up to my expectations, a tragi-comic masterpiece about a hitman going insane after botching a job when a butterfly settles on his gunsight. A good entry point for those not worried about a consistently coherent narrative. There are some great examples of his visual humor in it (much akin to David Lynch or Luis Bunuel), beautiful, scarily surreal images, too, but still the requisite action setpieces for those looking for those kinds of thrills.

What's your personal favourite Suzuki film and why? Where does he rank for you in the pantheon of Japanese action filmmakers (or is he best regarded as "something else," an outsider or eccentric or...?)

That is so difficult to say, because there are a number I love equally: the early SATAN'S TOWN, CLANDESTINE ZERO LINE (aka SMASHING THE 0 LINE), EVERYTHING GOES WRONG (wild youth film, near the top of my faves, surpassing anything the French or Czech filmmakers were doing at the time and equal to some of the Angry Young Men pix coming from the UK, though shorter and more action-oriented), YOUTH OF THE BEAST, GATE OF FLESH, BRANDED TO KILL (probably my top favorite). Also among his later films, the non-genre TALE OF SORROW AND SADNESS and the abstract, oblique – and very long – ghost story, ZIGEUNERWEISEN. Where does he rank? Well, much akin to American "genre" auteurs like Anthony Mann, Robert Siodmak and Sam Fuller, Suzuki, along with Kinji Fukasaku, was not recognized right away. Akira Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi, even Imamura and Oshima were always regarded as masters in Japan and the west, virtually from their first films. Not so with filmmakers such as Suzuki, Kinji Fukasaku, Kenji Misumi and Teruo Ishii, all of whom worked almost exclusively in genre films and did not begin to receive critical reappraisal until the mid-1990s, not only in Japan, but also in the UK and Europe.

My copy of your book, Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film, is in storage, so remind me - did you ever meet/ interview Suzuki? If so, what was that like? Were there any questions that went unasked - that you ended up wishing you could ask him? Were there any particularly surprising revelations?

Yes, there's an interview with Suzuki in the book, but it was the first interview I did [for the book; Chris had previously interviewed American notables like Sam Fuller during his time with Slash Magazine]  in the mid-1990s and was conducted in a very noisy restaurant a few blocks from the Nuart Theatre, which was doing one of the first Suzuki retrospectives in Los Angeles at the time. Suzuki answered in short sentences, I didn't get to ask as many questions as I would have liked, especially about BRANDED TO KILL and I got the feeling he was kind of sick of talking about his films (something he had in common with Teruo Ishii when I interviewed Ishii in Japan in 1997 – funny to me, because Ishii has a similar reputation to Suzuki for making eccentric films; some are as good as Suzuki's, but Ishii also made scores more of movies, quite often fluctuating in quality from good-to-mediocre and was very successful for a long time at a big studio). One revelation, something that I think Suzuki had made previously to UK film historian, Tony Rayns, was that his use of colors in different sequences (particularly his 1960s pictures) were meant to signify or emphasize emotions or general atmosphere. One thing I believe is true of Suzuki, he is the equivalent of filmmakers like Mario Bava, Fellini, Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock for his orchestration of colors as signifiers in his cinema.
Image: Gate of Flesh 
Do you ever find your viewing of Japanese cinema is affected by being from a different culture? (Do you ever interpret a film or a scene differently from how a Japanese viewer might, or how the filmmaker intended it?

Not too much, I think. But, of course, I'm not Japanese, so it is hard to judge! Suzuki is very much like David Lynch in that he doesn't like to explain his films. What you see is what you get, and it is up to the viewer to connect the dots. That being said, I've always felt a tremendous affinity to Japanese culture as represented in their cinema (at least their cinema from 1945 – 1980).
What treatment of Suzuki/his cinema is there in Gun and Sword, your Yakuza film encyclopedia?

I include synopsis/critiques of a huge number of his films in Gun and Sword, including his hard-to-see more straight-ahead noirs and yakuza films from the late 1950s (SATAN'S TOWN, INN OF FLOATING WEEDS, NUDE WITH A GUN, UNDERWORLD BEAUTY, BLOOD RED WATER IN THE CHANNEL, PASSPORT TO DARKNESS, EIGHT HOURS OF TERROR, SLEEP OF THE BEAST and CLANDESTINE ZERO LINE (aka SMASHING THE 0 LINE) through his early 60s pix like the juvenile delinquent masterpiece EVERYTHING GOES WRONG, yakuza pix like YOUTH OF THE BEAST, GATE OF FLESH, KANTO WANDERER, TATTOOED LIFE, TOKYO DRIFTER through his last Nikkatsu studio film BRANDED TO KILL (1967), plus several more.

If you, meaning YOU, were able to only go to one double bill of the Vancouver Suzuki screenings, which night would it be? If a relative noob (like me, say) - interested but on the outside of Suzuki's cinema were to go - which night would you recommend?
 I think they're running a bill of BRANDED TO KILL and CALL OF BLOOD (aka OUR BLOOD WON'T ALLOW IT) which is a good one, but equally a favorite is the double bill of YOUTH OF THE BEAST and GATE OF FLESH. Down here in L.A., they are actually showing a longer retrospective with some of his late fifties/early sixties B&W noirs like PASSPORT TO DARKNESS, CLANDESTINE ZERO LINE (aka SMASHING THE 0 LINE) and SLEEP OF THE BEAST which are more straight-ahead without as many surrealistic flourishes/images, though still visually memorable. CLANDESTINE ZERO LINE is akin to if Seijun Suzuki made a more conventional version of the recent NIIGHTCRAWLER (the controversial film with Jake Gyllenhaal), 56 years ago!
 Image: Youth of the Beast, above; below, Branded to Kill

Thanks to Chris D. for answering my questions! (Complete listings for the Cinematheque's Seijun Suzuki retrospective here, and check out Chris D's book Gun and Sword: an Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films, 1955-1980). 

Vancouver Badass Film Festival This Sunday!

Check out the various entries - shorts and two features - for the Vancouver Badass Film Festival here! A mere $10 for a whole Sunday's worth of gory, violent movie entertainment - event starts at 3pm Sunday at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour at Davie), and lasts until late. Click for trailers for the features, The Evil In Us (in which friends take drugs and turn into ravenous cannibal killers!) and Atroz, pictured above (Ruggero "Cannibal Holocaust" Deodato presenting a Mexican serial killer film! Looks pretty grim, though I personally never watch trailers for a film if I've already decided I want to see it, which certainly applies in this case).

Thanks tons to Danny Nowak for reminding me about this! See y'all there! (And note, if this seems interesting to you, you probably are a natural for the Northwest Horror Show coming up at the same location in April).

Friday, February 19, 2016

Southbound and the renaissance of anthology horror

I'm not sure why I ever turned against anthology horror. Somewhere around the time of Creepshow and Cat's Eye, I began to think of it as an inferior form, where the stories tended to be under-developed sketches, little cinema snacks that, eaten in sequence, usually failed to produce the experience of having taken in a full meal. In fact, Creepshow and Cat's Eye, both of which I've revisited in the last few years, are pretty enjoyable movies; and there are also some true classics of the form, like the Amicus releases Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, both of which I highly recommend, or the very fun John Carpenter/ Tobe Hooper film Body Bags. Catching up with films like these, thanks to their excellent Scream Factory Blu-Ray releases, has definitely gone a long way to reversing my bad attitude to anthology horror.

Nothing that I've seen come close to V/H/S 1 and 2, however, in getting my excitement up about omnibus films. Of course, it helps that I actually still like found footage films; I think in an age where everyone can make movies on their phone, the found footage subgenre is highly, perhaps permanently, relevant. Plus, as tired as everyone says it is, I keep seeing new and interesting things being done with it.

By me, by far the most exciting segment of either of the first two V/H/S films is David Bruckner's "Amateur Night," wherein a group of fratboy types get one amongst them to don a pair of video-enabled eyeglasses so that, when they pick up and fuck some drunk girls, they can film the transaction for posterity, bragging rights, and who knows, maybe a little cash. Bruckner has said that the segement was designed as a "joke about the male gaze" and the prevalence of porn. It's certainly funny, in a very dark way: one of the girls the three guys pick up proves to be far too much for them to handle, and the guys are so gross about what they're doing that you can't help but side with her entirely, no matter how weird the evening gets; she's gotta be the most feminist-friendly monstrous female in cinema history. About my only criticism of the film would be that it would have been stronger if (spoiler!) when she goes down on the survivor, bleeding in the stairwell, as her face cracks open and the monster within starts to come out, it would have been far, far more interesting if Bruckner had gone full-on-pornographic, leaving nothing to the imagination, showing his cock going into her (monstrous) mouth and failing to get hard. It would have pushed the episode beyond it's status as one the coolest little horror films I've seen in decades to an eternal, unforgettable boundary-pushing classic, which is almost what it is, anyhow. Too bad we live in a film culture where such things - explicit representations of sex on screen -  don't happen, generally speaking, the odd arthouse film (and, of course, actual porn) aside...

Southbound, opening Friday at the Vancity Theatre, is not a found footage film, from what I've seen. It IS an anthology horror film, and has in common with V/H/S both director David Bruckner (who directs the segment "The Accident," about the aftermath of a car accident; he discusses it with Fangoria here), as well as the collective Radio Silence, who did the closing story of the first V/H/S, about an exorcism gone awry. V/H/S and V/H/S 2 co-producer Roxanne Benjamin, on hand as producer here as well, also directs her first film in Southbound, the segment "Siren," about a girl group stranded on the highway. There are other familiar names - like Larry Fessenden, who is not entirely unexpected to pop up in such a context, and, weirdly, Jesus Lizard/ Scratch Acid frontman David Yow (pretext to insert link to fave Jesus Lizard song here). Everything about the film sounds promising, in fact, from the terrific poster to the initial critical buzz (81% on R/T). It's particularly intriguing to read in the press release that while "filmmakers tend to work separately on most anthology films, Benjamin's team of directors worked together to form a larger story, and even pitched in on the production of each others' segments." Nice to see EC Comics (inspiration for both Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, mentioned above) and The Twilight Zone also getting nods in said release. All the right notes are being struck, and I am now salivating to see this movie.

And jeez, Tom, thanks for programming it theatrically, eh? How often do good, gory horror anthologies pop up on the screens in town? Even the V/H/S films, I caught up on DVD. I'm really keen to see this on the screen.

Alas, all my attempts to preview the film beyond the first fifteen minutes have gone awry. I would have, the better to plug it. All I can say is that it has a suitably WTF framing narrative, with some charming and gory practical effects, but that's really all I got to see - there had been some complication acquiring a working link to an online screener, which was further complicated by my failing attempts to set up my new smart Blu-Ray player (a Samsung that, it turns out, is nowhere near as smart as is claimed, beyond a few presets like Youtube and Netflix) so I wouldn't have to watch it on a computer monitor. Technology ultimately failed, and I finally reconciled myself to watching the film on my girl's laptop this morning, but I had gotten about fifteen minutes in when I was called in to work. Since I'm visiting my Mom tonight, I thought I would pick my viewing up here, on my old PC desktop, but alas, the image was so jerky and stuttery when I loaded it as to be unwatchable, even after letting it buffer, switching browsers, and so forth (blame my shitty PC, which, I remember now, was why I sort of stopped watching online screeners in the first place). I COULD hurry back to Burnaby tomorrow afternoon to finish it on my girl's vastly superior laptop, but at this rate, by the time I finished watching it and writing about it, the film would ALREADY BE PLAYING AT THE THEATRE. And I'd much rather watch it there myself, tomorrow, than race around, cut my visit with Mom short, and/or struggle with inferior technology.

So here, folks: if you like horror movies, you should go see Southbound this weekend at the Vancity Theatre. It surely will be worth your while (and mine). There's only three screenings, so don't miss the chance. Facebook site for the film here, if you're looking for more.

Wonder if they'll use Thin Lizzy over the end credits? I sure would.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the radar: Kid Congo Powers

Photo: Ilse Lambert

I noticed the last time that Kid Congo Powers was coming through town, just about a year ago, but I didn't do anything about it. I think I was busy that month.

I'm not so busy now.

Other people in the same predicament should start with his music, obviously. I'm already assuming you know he played with the Gun Club, the Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, among others (ooh, Divine Horsemen, you say?). This is a great little video of Kid Congo playing live in the studio. Dunno about you, but as soon as that opening bit of effects-laden noise clears and he starts actually playing, I'm like, "oh. I would enjoy seeing this live." (And thankfully, "and so would my girlfriend" follows immediately thereon). There's a surf quality to it that makes perfect sense, that I immediately caught myself kickin' myself for not having expected.

Where next? There's Kid's blog, and would you look at that - he's using the same blog template that I just changed up from! (I wonder if he realizes that the new templates are in fact a painless switchover - I lost zero content, it seems; formatting on old pieces changed, but I can live with that, and it's handy that the blog does obvious things now like provide Facebook "like" links, which his blog, like mine a week or so ago, lacks).

...Or if you would rather something briefer, there are a couple of Straight articles praising him, written over the years, here and here say. Seems like Adrian Mack is the official Kid man there, and there's a few high-end Mackisms to be found; dude can turn a phrase. Wonder how Kid felt to have his lips described as "child-bearing?" I get jealous of phrases like that, or, say, the observation that Kid looked "alternately like a grinning hit man and a bit player from a porno remake of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." It's almost hard for me to read writing that good!

And by the way, the line of Mack's likening Kid to the last queer beat poet standing? See here, if, like me, you had no idea that Kid was gay.

Guess the next step is to buy his most recent record, then go to the show, maybe with my own interview with him somewhere in-between there...? Let's see about that, anyhow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Black Wizard Feb 27, then again in April

I've seen Black Wizard at least a couple of times, now - once at the Interurban Gallery in 2011, for Johnny De Courcy's final show with them, with bev davies in attendance, and once opening for Bison a few years ago at the Rickshaw, I believe it was. Both were really solid and enjoyable shows, but they kinda seemed like two different bands: the first was a bunch of skinny hip kids, the second was a bunch of shaggy, sweaty, vaguely intimidating men. The first band seemed like they had potential, the second seemed like they were well on their way to realizing it, and their music was considerably tougher, like they'd been spending their off hours chopping wood or something. They had almost (I thought at the time) added a bit of a Southern-fried quality to what they did (Skynyrd, Outlaws, what-have-you, but heavy and muscular. Maybe it's just that they kinda had hair that reminded me of the Allman Brothers?).

Anyhow, I'm totally excited about their upcoming show at the Rickshaw, though it looks like I won't be doing much beyond this to plug it... Still, every band on the bill sounds pretty damned good to me: Man the Wolf, Mos Generator, Anciients and Waingro, plus, fuckin' hell, check out New Waste by Black Wizard... It's like these guys are all informed by a single thought: "what kind of music do people actually want to own on vinyl these days? Let's make some!" 

Photo: Black Wizard, April 2011 at the Interurban, by bev davies 

Plus hey, it looks like Black Wizard and Bison will be opening for Red Fang their next time up here, at the Venue... That could be a must-see, too (and don't you just love the gig poster?). Much as I like the Venue - especially now that they seemed to have toned down their coplike security vibe a bit - it sure seems like an incongruous place for a band as, shall we say, earthy-looking as Bison to play. But now that I think of it, the first ever Bison gig I went to, back when their new album was still Earthbound (!), was at the Plaza, which BECAME the Venue! (Bearing in mind that it will be a completely different rhythm section this time out, though it's interesting to note that while the Venue has gotten much prettier, Bison, uh, has kinda gone in the opposite direction...). That was where I bought my first of many Bison t-shirts, with a crude cartoon of some corpsey-looking guy riding a bison and brandishing a sword. It looks like something drawn by a high school student in the back of his textbook... I still have that shirt in my closet...

Anyhow, couple of gigs to be excited about... Maybe I'll actually attend them...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Sleep vs. Mom, plus Nightjohn

So it's 12:42 at night and I'm awakened by my mother putting a blanket on me.

This is not a childhood reminiscence. This is about two hours ago, three by the time I post this. I was asleep on her couch - this seven foot long giant that my parents have had since I was a child, which they even had reupholstered once, because they liked the length of it; it's practically a family heirloom at this point, and will likely prove to be a point of contention with my girlfriend, when my Mom passes and we're left with the question of what to do with the thing. Erika doesn't much want it - she's had to sit on it a few times when visiting to watch a movie with Mom, and she knows it's not much of a comfort to sit on; but understand, my father used to sleep on this couch - mouth open, snoring, TV on in the living room in the middle of the afternoon, so I have some sentimental attachment to it, feel like I'm participating in family tradition when I lie on it. And though the hide-a-bed inside is practically a medieval torture device, I must concur with my father: if you just stretch out on it as a couch, it's not half-bad for sleeping. Now that I live with Erika - now that I've given up my apartment in Maple Ridge - I end up on this couch every time I overnight here. I sleep okay, usually. When I don't, it's not the fault of the couch.

Sometimes it's the fault of an 85 year old woman, deep into her second innocence, spreading a blanket on me: in part because it's cold, and she's taking care of me, but mostly because she's failed to fall asleep and is hoping I will wake up so she can ask if I want to watch a movie.

She does this occasionally, lately. Tonight, since I don't have to work tomorrow, I took her up on it. I scanned the DVDs I have stashed here to see what might be fitting: something not too long, not too violent, and not too morally complex, because Mom does not care for moral complexity, likes clear good guys and bad guys and unambiguous endings. Something with simple, stirring emotions and a story that will engage her, and hopefully, if possible, me.

I selected Charles Burnett's adaptation of Gary Paulsen's Young Adult novel Nightjohn. It's been sitting on the shelf for a year or so, but it's not an impressive package, so I've tended to pass it over. It's a Disney Channel made-for-TV movie on a cheapie DVD label, which declares its indifference to the product it is distributing through its lazy, misguided box art: a film dealing with slavery and racism, the package itself partakes in a sort of half-assed racism, pronouncing Beau Bridges the star and putting his towering, white image in a prominent place in the art, whereas the actual stars of the film are all black, and the key audience for the film will be African American. Maybe Beau Bridges is a big selling point for American blacks - he does do fine work here, in a supporting role as the plantation owner - but I kind of doubt it. Bill Cobbs was the most recognizable African-American star of the film, for me, but he's not even mentioned on the box; at least the superb Lorraine Toussaint is.

There's a reason that I bought the DVD, though - at a thrift store, for $1: that being the strength of Burnett's rep as a director (he's best known for Killer of Sheep). And once I got it home from the thrift store, I kept it around because a quick online consultation offers that Jonathan Rosenbaum has rated it a materpiece. Turns out I have to agree with him wholeheartedly; this is a superb representation of life on the plantation, dealing with a young girl, born into slavery, who becomes empowered when a rebellious, proud slave named John teaches her to read. The thrift store also had the Johnny Cash vehicle The Pride of Jesse Hallam, which also deals with literacy, so I suspect whoever donated them to the store was an adult who had learned to read late in life. The Pride of Jesse Hallam feels like a TV movie, though - condescending, oversimplified, and visually bland, worth very little as cinema, besides the pleasure of watching Johnny Cash work with Eli Wallach; Nightjohn, on the other hand, is beautifully filmed, and moving without being insulting to the intellgence.

Mom's in bed now, and sleep beckons, so that's about all I will say about it, save to recommend it, if you happen to stumble across it. Mr. Rosenbaum's review will be far more revealing than anything I might write, though you might also be amused to follow up by reading the views of a school class in Iowa who were apparently assigned to a) read the book then b) watch the movie and review it on IMDB. Quote: "I did not like the movie because the movie was extremely different than the book and it sucked."

Take that, Jonathan Rosenbaum!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hope you like change...

...because I've gone and changed the template for my blog. It was well past time - I've been using the same template since 2004, so my blog was missing all sorts of obviously useful things like "Facebook Like" buttons and such. Turned out that there was some really fun customization options - the background I'm using is Pollock's "Full Fathom Five," which I had the honour of standing in front of for almost an hour at a travelling MOMA show in Tokyo. Anyhow, with the changed template I'm thinking I might take blogging here a bit more seriously, putting major articles up here instead on other websites that don't pay me. Why work for free to make other people look good when I can work for free for my own benefit? (I still have no plans to monetize, though. It's nice to have an advertising-free zone). Anyhow, hope you like it. Suggestions or comments are welcome.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Digital film festival at the Scotiabank Theatre

Erika and I went to see The Finest Hours, the other day, at Scotiabank Theatre. It's a good film - a moving, involving, nicely made, and VERY old-fashioned movie about one of the most daring small boat rescues in maritime history. But I almost never go to the Scotiabank Theatre, and was somewhat surprised to see that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was playing in one of the next auditoriums over. Turns out the theatre is hosting a somewhat poorly-promoted series of cult movie screenings this week, described as a "digital film festival," presumably since they're all done via DCP. There are a few that I'm actually tempted to go to, like Big Trouble In Little China, on Wednesday; I've never seen it on the screen, Erika's never seen it period, and admission is only $6.99 (tho' staying home and watching the Blu-Ray is free, so...). Some other fun films, too: Labyrinth, Looper, The Dark Crystal, Ghostbusters, The Thing, Dirty Harry, The Road Warrior, True Romance, From Dusk Til Dawn, even Runaway Train, which is a bit of an oddball choice, considering the generally crowd-pleasing nature of the series. More here.

The CBC and Fake News

(Okay, Aaron, I'm blogging this just for you, because I don't want to type it in a little Facebook window. I doubt you care much but it required more than a few words for me to get clear with myself on this)

There's been a teeny (teeny) discussion on Facebook of why I am not happy to learn that the CBC is participating in the whole "fake news" thing, trying to be the Onion or whatnot; I had not realized until recently that they were. I have no problem with the Onion, or certain other "fake news" sites (like, which publishes fake news pertaining to the punk scene. I mean, "Vegan Checks Record Insert for Dairy?" Another favourite here); but that's because these sites are obviously humorous, and as soon as you see the URL and know where it's coming from, you know it's a joke. Even if you somehow end up on the site not realizing where you are, it's usually obvious within a minute that you're being pranked, since the articles are actually amusing. (My favourite from the Onion, here).

That's not always the case, though. The "World News Daily Report" article on Yoko Ono having had an affair with Hilary Clinton would be the best example that I've seen; it was taken seriously enough that it inspired a piece of Snopes debunking. That particular article doesn't seem written with an attempt at humour in mind, seems actually to be a piece of disinformation. I'm not sure what their actual purpose on putting it out into the world is (or if they're an offshoot of sincere, right-wing conspiracy site World Net Daily - I suspect they might be) but to the extent that you can infer a political motivation, it seems malign, an attempt to throw some dirt on Clinton. It also seems entirely believable, on first blush; there's certainly nothing funny about it, and I was unclear myself when I saw it: what, is this real?

And then, unless you're a gullible, credulous dope, you do the work to determine that no, it isn't. Yes, I guess there's some sort of Darwinian value to having to learn to do that sort of work, to separate the fact from the crap, but the easiest survival strategy to keep yourself from being duped by sites like this is to carry around a little internal list of URL's that you can immediately recognize are going to be a source of crap. The Onion, The Hard Times, World News Daily Report: you see the outrageous headline, check where it's from, and you know it's crap without having to think further on it. 

And that's the first point: I would just as soon not add the to that list. 

I can and will, of course, but it makes me kind of sad that the CBC is putting themselves in that position. I can only assume they're doing so because this kind of "humour" actually does generate attention. And that's the second reason I'm not happy: that the CBC is cheapening its brand in the name of clickbait.

But whatever. It's like Harry Dean Stanton in the Twin Peaks movie: it's just more shit I gotta do. This is That may actually prove funny (I see now that I've read the thing on artisanal firewood before. Maybe I'm just a gullible, credulous dope myself, because I'm not sure I realized it was a joke).

Friday, February 05, 2016

An outsider's obit for Brad Kent

I didn't know Brad Kent. I never saw him play live. I don't believe he's on any of the DOA recordings I have, and I don't own any Avengers (except maybe one live song on Rat Music for Rat People), so the only thing I have that I know for sure he's on is Randy Rampage's solo album, where any and all of his guitar contributions (and pretty much anything anyone else on that album does, including Rampage himself) is overshadowed by Benny Doro's momentous solo on "Livin' on Borrowed Time." I don't have a "top ten favourite guitar solos" list that I carry around in my head, but if I tried to write one, that solo of Doro's would be the first that came to mind...

...but I digress. That I know of, Brad Kent and I were briefly in the same room only once, when Scott Beadle gave a presentation on the history of Vancouver punk. I may have been introduced, honestly can't remember. I was happy to hear that he and Mary of the Modernettes were an item and playing music together; I gave serious consideration to seeing Monster Baby, their band, when they were scheduled to play last week at Funky's, though I didn't end up going out that night at all.

And then I heard that Monster Baby had cancelled, because he was seriously ill; and now I learn through Facebook that he has died.

My condolences and sympathies to those who knew him better than I did, which is pretty much everyone on the first generation Vancouver punk scene, I imagine... but especially Mary, who, after Bloodied But Unbowed, was someone you really wanted to see have nothin' but good things come to; I was very happy to hear she was making music again, and now...

But I'm an outsider, and I won't intrude on her. It seemed wrong not to write something, though.

He Never Died: dumb fun for smart people, plus, bingo!

I'm not sure whether He Never Died is supposed to be regarded as a comedy, but it sure played that way for me. It came out on video this week - bizarrely being stocked at HMV in DVD-only format, like it's somehow unworthy of bringing in the Blu. I've been waiting for it, so I grabbed it, watched it, and liked it (and laughed) a lot.

It's probably not possible to write about the film without including spoilers, but I'll briefly try, just to sell you on the premise: the draw here is Henry Rollins, in his biggest and best film role yet (fans of Rollins should read my piece on Morgan's Ferry, here. Based on He Never Died, I hereby take back my comment that "Hank can't act," though, you know, after having seen Johnny Mnemonic, The Devil's Tomb, and Morgan's Ferry, it wasn't exactly unjustified). Henry plays Jack, a man with a serious case of world weariness, who sighs, naps a lot, and plays bingo to kill time. He doesn't have a job or friends or any apparent purpose in life. He has scars from what is, apparently, the removal of angel wings on his back (the DVD box art actually features angel wings, and you see the scars three minutes into the movie, so I guess it's no spoiler to mention them). Also, he has a bad habit that requires him to clandestinely buy certain items, the nature of which the film does not immediately give away, from an intern at a hospital. Somewhere he runs afoul of some mobster types and ends up at war with them. Various secrets are revealed, getting gradually more ridiculous as the film gets progressively more violent. Before you know it (spoiler! Skip the rest of this paragraph to protect your purity of experience!), he's pulling bullets out of his forehead with pliers and snacking on human fingers, none of which entirely prepares you for the "big reveal," which is his true identity. 
The trailers I've seen all contain spoilers a bit bigger than that, so I don't really recommend watching them, if you haven't already. If you'll trust me, that's really all you need to know to enjoy the film. I sure did. It's the perfect vehicle for Henry, one of the more intense humans out there, playing someone desperately trying to keep his intensity under control. The ideal audience will be amused by the very premise of Henry Rollins playing bingo; surely this film has the best use of bingo as a plot device since Bruce McDonald's Highway 61...? With a nod to Uwe Boll's Rampage, of course, except that bingo is far more incidental to that film's story - though it warmed my heart that Boll revisited the bingo hall for the Rampage sequel, mourning that it was now closed. (It's about three blocks from where I now write this).

(That very bingo hall is now a film studio, by the way; I actually inquired of Mr. Boll whether it was he who bought it, but no, it is not. Is it weird that I wrote about Uwe Boll's use of the bingo hall in Maple Ridge in the same post where I reviewed Morgan's Ferry, linked above? Some sort of psychic foreshadowing of Rollins' future involvement in a bingo movie?)

I only have two caveats, both minor: the director, a relative noob named Jason Krawczyk, hasn't quite mastered the craft of thinking in pictures - the grammar of cinema, if you will - so occasionally, scenes that should make perfect sense are momentarily - but only momentarily - confusing because a shot that should have been included isn't; you need to extend him a little goodwill and accept that you can "see what he was thinking" even if he didn't quite get it onto the screen. But that's a minor quibble: I mean, the Soska sisters, bless'em, are even worse than he is at this sort of thing, and everyone loves them, including me, so what the hell. Hopefully he will continue to grow as a filmmaker; he's certainly got the ideas to be a lasting player. This is one of the most entertaing "obvious cult hits" I've watched in years.

The second caveat is that, while more or less satisfying on its own, the film obviously is a set up for a miniseries or TV programme or film franchise or something; it leaves a LOT of story left unexplained, and has a resolution that, while perfect, is clearly designed to leave you wanting more. But that's fine with me, because, yes, I do want more; the premise is so goofy and unique and likeable that I for one would LOVE a series based on this character (but of course only if Rollins plays him; this is the film role that he was born for, folks).

The hell didn't HMV get this in on Blu-Ray? 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Ip Man: superb Chinese bullshit

...Well, actually, it's superb Hong Kong bullshit, but it really doesn't matter. With Ip Man 3 in the theatres now, and a friend whose opinions I respect recommending the original film (at first highly, and then backpedalling a little when he discovered I had actually gone out and bought the DVD), it seemed a good time to catch up with Ip Man. I have not seen Wong-Kar Wai's story of the life of real life martial arts instructor Ip Man, The Grandmaster, and come to the story in a state of some purity (which is to say, ignorance), because I do not consider myself versed in either Chinese or Hong Kong cinema, even kung fu films, let alone the lives of famed martial arts instructors. All I know of the actual Ip Man is that he taught Bruce Lee, full stop. But I keep seeing the DVD for Ip Man everywhere, usually on the cheap, and, with at least one recommendation having come my way, temptation finally overcame me.

Enter it without any regard for historical fact, and, as storytelling, Ip Man is just superb. (Even my 85 year old Mom loved it). It's about a respected martial artist, played terrifically by Donnie Yen - an affable, charismatic, and rather restrained actor with a knack for communicating through his facial expressions a gleeful, indulging bemusement at the absurdities of life - who defends and supports his community and sticks to his principles in a time of great hardship. Loshan, his town, is famed for its martial arts academies (and yes, the fight scenes are expertly staged by Sammo Hung, and are plentiful indeed), but when the Japanese invade in 1937, everyone is driven into either poverty or collaboration, and Ip Man, his family starving, turns to work in the coal mines. A Japanese general and martial arts enthusiast, Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) learns of his talents and - it's a bit more complex than this, of course - ultimately accepts a challenge to fight Ip Man, which is the climactic battle of the movie. You can imagine the suspense generated (mild spoilers follow): will the Japanese behave honourably and allow a fair fight, when one possible outcome is the shame of losing? Will Ip Man prove the indomitable strength of character of the Chinese over the ruthless, sadistic invaders? How will the film possibly have a happy ending, when Ip Man will surely be shot if he wins, and, uh, lose if he loses?
If you don't get the sense that there's at least some potential for patriotic bullshit going on here - tapping into and exploiting  lasting Chinese/ Hong Kong hatreds towards the Japanese, inviting audiences to rally around the film as if it were a flag - then the end titles will probably clue you in, for instance when (if the English subtitles are accurate) they talk about the Chinese victory in WWII, after the Japanese surrendered. Someone completely ignorant of history (which sometimes seems to me to be "anyone under 30") would assume that the implication is that the Japanese surrendered TO CHINA, which is not, um, exactly the case. I mean, nice try, but...

Then there's the "historical inaccuracy" section of the Wiki on the film (knew there was going to be one, didn't I?). Turns out that the wealthy Ip Man was never forced into work, let alone in a coal mine; and of course, he never fought a Japanese general. The climax of the film is wholly fictional. If there's anything accurate at all about the first half of the film, it's completely effaced by the second half, which basically offers a complete falsification of a real, historical figure in the service of a flag-waving team building exercise. Propaganda, I say! Utter crap!

But what great crap! This is a wholly engaging and entertaining film, no less so when you discover what it is. Having seen so many mendacious bits of falsified American flag waving in cinema, it's actually pretty amusing to see the Hong Kong/ Chinese equivalent: think Rocky IV for the kung-fu crowd. I can't wait to see part two, tomorrow, also with Mom. My only misgiving about dragging her along on my Ip Man explorations is that we can't watch the film in its original language, since she cannot begin to process subtitles (I have to read them aloud to her, line for line); the dubbing is, thankfully, not the worst I've encountered. You can get the first two Ip Man films at HMV, if you're so inclined, along with a third unrelated film about Ip Man, as part of a DVD box set that sells as one of their 2/ $20 packages. Not a bad deal at all!

Here's hoping Ip Man 3 lingers long enough in the cinemas for me to get around to it...