December 30, 2007
There Will Be Blood
Yes, yes, it’s really that good. There Will Be Blood might be the best American film I’ve seen since Boogie Nights which makes Paul Thomas Anderson the best young director alive in my book. It’s a meticulously crafted sweeping epic with huge, charged-up emotions that never once descends into sentimentality or panders to audience expectations. In fact, just about every turn of the plot was a surprise. The movie is physically direct, shockingly so sometimes, but left me feeling incredibly ambiguous.
There Will Be Blood is the latest in a trio (or more) of utterly pessimistic 2007 films that feature compelling, sociopathic protagonists. We’re invited to sympathize at least a little with these men and, in Sweeney Todd especially, take some joy in their perverse hatred of other people. (I know I could relate!) Even the killer in No Country For Old Men has moments in which his logic seems convincing. All three films seem like perfect products of their political time. Made in another era Sweeney would have been a jolly romp and Old Men would have had a happy ending. Not now. In happier timed this film probably wouldn't have been made at all It's keenly observed look at the beginning of an industry that now shapes our country’s foreign policy—and at Capitalism in general, really—is literally stunning.
Everyone’s great in it, though when the amazing Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview is onscreen—nearly always—who’s looking at anyone else? Paul Dano is wonderful again as the Sunday twins. Adorable Dillon Freasier is really affecting as young H.W. Plainview, definitely his father’s son until the inevitable happens. Russell Harvard as the grown-up H.W. is really cute. There are some hot oil workers, too, but there is so much else to look at I barely noticed them.
The music is weird as hell and makes some scenes really unnerving. Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood composed it and it's great. Longtime P.T. Anderson collaborator Robert Elswit’s cinematography is fluid, beautiful and always appropriate but not always pretty. The incredible combination of music, sound, lighting, editing, cinematography and acting in the dialogue-free opening sequence had me gripping the arms of my seat. It even references the opening ape sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and it means something without seeming at all contrived. Really. There’s some juicy Citizen Kane-type business later on, too. The dialogue, once it starts, is simply beautiful, again intelligence without pandering. There are no cheap laughs here.
I have to say I was lead to believe the ending would be more physically violent than it actually was. This was a surprise but not a disappointment. It’s plenty emotionally violent, quite baroque, acceptably over-the-top and certainly as satisfying as this particular story will allow. It's practically Bambi next to Sweeney’s Grand Guignol gushers. The only gushers in this film are black gold, Texas Tea.
Anderson’s obsessions are all here: family, especially father-son relationships; work and emotional sickness being passed through the generations. They are handled in much more subtle and refined ways now, somehow more direct and more complex at the same time. He credits his work with Robert Altman on A Prarie Home Companion with some of that change. I would say he’s gained some political insight, too, but Boogie Nights was, to me, a political film. Blood is obviously a P.T. Anderson picture and at the same time something different in almost every way. And it’s brilliant.
My favorite line: I’d like it better if you didn’t think of me as stupid.
I hate to care about such things but if this film doesn’t sweep every award possible, I’m giving up. It’s an American Classic and it’s Dedicated to Robert Altman. That choked me up some and I’m glad I sat through the credits to see it.
I’m listening to “In Bloom” from Nevermind by Nirvana.
December 27, 2007
Belated Holiday Greetings
I’m listening to “Stravinsky-Blasting Off” from Blind Idiot God by Blind Idiot God.
December 15, 2007
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
I haven’t been to the TLA since 1991 when I saw then newly-reformed Television there so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, especially since it’s now apparently part of a chain of Fillmores. (“The Fillmore at the TLA.” Gag me.) Well, not much has changed except for a couple of cheesy chandeliers and the addition of a bar. The tiny bathrooms are still in the lobby but the graffiti isn’t as interesting as it was when they showed movies. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember if the balcony is new or not. Also there were seats at the Television show and tonight there were no seats anywhere.
Before it was sold to Electric Factory Concerts, the TLA was a great repertory movie theater and there’s nothing like it in Philly anymore. I really miss it. Just about everything they showed is now available on DVD but it’s just not the same as seeing movies on a big screen with an audience. Nothing can replace that. Just as importantly, the TLA programmers were curators of sorts. Their film choices and program notes helped guide people and teach them about film history. It’s a lost art. Check out the wallpaper made out of old TLA programs just inside the Locust St. TLA Video store to see what I’m talking about. They still have the best video stores in the country, sponsor a film festival and distribute independent films and I completely understand why they’ve moved on. (Oh, thanks for all the porn, too!)
Anyway, I had a great time. The opening act was The Budos Band, another Daptone Records act. I was able to saunter all the way to the front during their first song and secure a good spot for the evening with no trouble at all. I’m really short, so people pretty much let me stand in front of them because they can see over me. I took lots of pictures which I’ll post of flickr sometime in the next day or so.
The Budos Band were terrific. They’re an eleven-piece who, like everyone on Daptone, sound like they just dropped in from 1968. Their specialty is instrumental Afro-Soul and if you don’t know what that sounds like you can find out here. I liked them a lot and realized by the second song that I was swaying in exactly the same way the band were. One of the great things about Daptone artists, in my opinion, is that they're not exaggerated or ironic. they just play great original music in styles from another era. These guys didn’t wear silly wigs or wear costumes. In fact, their visual ordinariness is remarkable.
As much as I liked them, I have to say they were a little lifeless. The compositions didn’t have enough to distinguish them from one another and the playing was kind of rote. They all had good moments but there was too much soloing for me. Despite that, they were still fun and I’d see them again.
At 10:30 The Dap-Kings took the stage. They were wearing suits. It would have been pretentious but they looked really cool. Even the bass player with the fu-manchu and shades looked great. They did a few songs on their own and they were fucking phenomenal. I swear these guys could have played with James Brown. Their love for what they do was really obvious. They were grinning through the entire show. So was I. The horn section had steps!
After two songs without a singer Sharon Jones came onstage. She was instantly compelling. She’s really tiny—like five feet maybe—but what an incredibly commanding presence. I really wanted to pay more attention to the musicians but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She never stopped moving either. She had almost constant eye-contact with the audience, sometimes singing directly to a specific person. Sharon Jones, I’ll say again, is the real thing. There is no beehive hairdo or drug addiction needed. There’s nothing ironic or insincere about this woman. She’s simply great. The crowd loved her. As great as she is, she’s a completely friendly and welcoming presence. She brought audience members onstage to dance and sing with her and they were instantly at ease. The woman is amazing. And she sang wonderfully all night. I can’t imagine how this show could have been any better. I was sad to see the show end. I would still be there if I could and I’m sure most of the audience would be there with me.
This was their third time playing in Philly and the first time they’ve had more than 30 people in the audience. I’m sure the situation is no different in other places they’ve played. I don’t know what they did to finally get the word out but it worked. They must feel very gratified. If these guys are playing anywhere near you anytime soon, do not miss them.
I’m listening to “Kidney Bingos (Original Mix)” from Coatings by Wire.
I’m listening to “Nervously” from Behaviour by Pet Shop Boys.
December 11, 2007
Someone has complained to me—and endlessly to many others so I’m told—about how he has been portrayed here. He “formally requested” that my entry about him and his picture be deleted. I won’t delete anything but this incident has made me think about sensible “Fair Use” policies and in the tension between Art and the online profile. It, in fact, inspired me to create the first in a potential series of “reimaginings” of online profile pictures.
I’m listening to “Kiss Me Black” from Junkyard by The Birthday Party.
December 1, 2007
From gay.com chat: The man who accuses everyone else of sniping once again sticks his colossal proboscis where it has no business. At least the other guys are funny.
Buster214: any masculine, stocky, hairy guys here?? 28 here
rickw82: buster are you athletic and masculine or just masculine?
Buster214: masculine and semi athletic
rickw82: i want big strong muscular guys to start a softball team with or little skinny puney fem ones as long as they are good at softball and they need to be reliable
Buster214: gay and reliable?
rickw82: i’m gay and reliable
bioman85: that only makes me semi-hard
rickw82: the rest he can make up for with technique
Buster214: semi athletic means i dont play any sports but go to the gym
rickw82: i’m not in very good shape but i’m pretty athletic
bioman85: semi-hard means i dont have a full erection
rickw82: you give me half of your gym muscles and i’ll give you 1/4 of my athleticisim
howardn: why dont you just get your own gym muscles then
rickw82: takes work
howardn: so you are opposed to work?
howardn: why would anyone want to be on a softball team with you then
rickw82: well some types of work are more motivating than others. i’ll go hit softballs for an hour but i don’t want to spend an hour lifting weights
howardn: but you expect others to do it. hmmmmmm
rickw82: they wouldn’t play softball if they didn’t want to, because i expected them to
howardn: not talking about playing softball. you said “you give me half of your gym muscles and i’ll give you 1/4 of my athleticisim”
rickw82: firstly it was a joke. it’s not like you can even strike deals like that
howardn: but you want gym muscles on others
rickw82: if we are going to quote me.....
howardn: but dont want to do a 1/4 of the work yourself to get them you said “i want big strong muscular guys to start a softball team with or little skinny puney fem ones as long as they are good at softball” but then you didnt say give me your puney femness and I will give you 1/4 of my athleticism did you?
rickw82: well the puney fem would make the deal. he’ll give 1/4 of his athelticism for 1/2 the muscle
howardn: keep trying to backtalk yourself out of it
rickw82: i’ll argue all night. i’m good for that
howardn: why dont you just get offline and start working on your own gym muscles
rickw82: especially if it’s something silly like this
howardn: if you think your fat outofshapeness is silly, sobeit
rickw82: you’re obviously more concerned with it than i am
howardn: someone should be. the growing obesity of America is frightening
rickw82: i mean lets be fair, i’m not 500 pounds. i’m not 180 or 190 like i should be but i’m not so bad off
howardn: have you seen your pics?
rickw82: i’d say they are as good as yours.
howardn: you have breasts bigger than half the models on PROJECT RUNWAY
rickw82: and i find you equally unattractive
yngphillywrestler: howard reminds me of vincent price playing egghead on the old 60s batman tv show.
howardn: and I would love to see his “athleticism” in action. going up a flight of stairs without becoming winded doesnt quite count
rickw82: what would the challenge be? i mean i can’t rock climb or run marathons but i can hit softballs and catch
howardn: and eat the most hotdogs in 5 minutes
rickw82: what’s your talent?
southphilhottie: wait! time out! what started this feud?
rickw82: some off-hand comment i made