Sunday, February 27, 2005

Back from Vietnam... crazy place, feel shell-shocked coming back, maybe it's because people don't harass me to buy something the moment I leave the front door. Too much to do right now, a mountain of work to conquer, What Is Music? festival to attend, people to bore with travel stories, etc. Bought a stupid number of bootleg CDs and DVDs whilst I was away, so maybe I'll tackle them one day. Until then, gimme a break...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I’m off to Vietnam for 3 weeks this Thursday, and between now and then, I doubt I’ll have any time to write anything else here, and I further doubt I’ll have any time (or access) to be able to contribute to the blog whilst I’m over there. Hence, this’ll be the last entry for a while. I have no idea what the internet-cafĂ© situation is like over in ‘Nam, and I’m trying to imagine myself waxing lyrical about a Vietnamese Pere Ubu bootleg in the sweaty, crowded confines of a student-run internet outlet in Saigon, but for some reason I doubt that fantasy will materialise. Anyway, part of the reason for the trip is to get as far away as possible from the music scene for a brief while and enjoy life without it. So, if in the next three weeks you happen to stumble across some rare Hungarian prog album in a ltd. edition of 23 and really wish to tell me about it, don’t bother. Anything else, try here: lexdev@yahoo.com.au

But first! The Tar Babies CD on Lexicon Devil is finally out and about… sort of. The dunderheads at the printers screwed up the cover and cut the front a mm. or two too short, so it’s getting reprinted at no expense to me. It’s a major pain in the ass, to say the least, though promo copies have just been sent off to various outlets (I’m using the slightly dud ones for that), the only hitch being that “commercial” copies won’t be ready ‘til I get back late February. Anyone care? I doubt it.

There was a bit of a response to my cheeseball movie round-up from last week, even a blatant case of one-upmanship from a certain somebody (take a wild guess) in blogger world who cried foul at my high-falutin’, beret-wearing, above-it-all selection of “arthouse” snob-o-rama flicks not fit for the burger-eatin’ Common Man (said person has obviously not seen the likes of Urban Cowboy, Hiding Out or Halloween 3), but that’s OK by me, coz the “common man” can go fuck himself. The “common man”, so far as my experience in the Real World for the last 15 years has taught me, is a brainless slob, and any lectures I hear of the Average Joe being a salt-of-the-earth saint whose dick is rubbed in the dirt by “intellectual elites” rings hollow. You think otherwise? That’s OK: I’m not a fundamentalist or absolutist on anything, but if you do disagree, I’d like to know why you’re currently reading a site which covers absolutely nothing which would interest the “common man”.

On that note, there’s a few more films here…

1) TRIGGER EFFECT (1996)
If I was to tell you there was a really good thriller from the ‘90s starring Kyle MacLachlan and Elizabeth Shue, and made by one of the people behind the script for Jurassic Park, would you believe me? I didn’t think so. That’s your loss. Despite all those negative factors (and I’ll be the first to admit that’s some serious baggage there), this is a terrific film. I saw a review for this on the Sunday program at the time and Peter Thompson gave it an excellent review. He also noted that it would only play for two nights in Melbourne the following weekend, so the Mrs. and I got to the cinema (Valhalla back then, now the Westgarth) early to queue up. We needn’t have bothered. We watched the movie with approximately 3 other people present, so I figure that few people have ever seen Trigger Effect. The scenario: what would happen if the entire power grid in LA went out for a week? This is no disaster-of-the-week telemovie, but instead approaches the dilemma with a maturity and intelligence one rarely gets from a mainstream flick. Liz Shue is a painful presence throughout, though, so you have been warned.

2) THE SWEET HEREAFTER (1997)
Yeah, OK, this is a genuine arthouse number, but since my taste in movies is far more populist than my musical tastes, I make no apologies. One hell of a depressing film, with the plot revolving around a bus crash in a small town which wipes out most of the town's children, you’ve probably seen it and requires little explanation from me. Again, I saw this in the cinemas when it first came out and have revisited it down at the local DVD outlet many times since. It holds up well, despite the Tragically Hip soundtrack. Please tell me they’re not still huge in Canada…

3) ELECTION (1999)
One of the best American films of the last decade, apparently this was a classic case of a critics’ fave which the audience stayed away from in droves. Kind of similar, yet vastly superior, to the thoroughly over-rated mess that was American Beauty, I'm trying right now to think of a better American high school movie, yet can't.

4) BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)
Have I written about this before? I’m not sure. I saw this as a midday movie whilst I was on school holidays when I was 14. For some reason it clicked and I kept it stored in the back of my brain. I didn’t revisit it again until last year when I finally found a crusty old copy for rent at the Video Ezy store in Brunswick. Starring Spencer Tracy as a one-armed WW2 veteran who goes back to Black Rock, a small Midwestern desert town, to visit an old Japanese-American friend and soon finds himself bullied by the local toughs when enquiring about said friend (I won’t give it away), this was a pretty brave film (given the liberal theme) to make in the just-post-McCarthy period, and an excellent movie in its own right.

5) THE THING (1982)
The John Carpenter version, and easily one of the best horror films of the ‘80s. Again, I saw this in the cinemas when it came out, on a double bill with Poltergeist. The Thing was up first and made me into such a nervous wreck (gimme a break, I was only 10) that Poltergeist, which followed, was like a romantic comedy in comparison. Well, actually, having seen Poltergeist in subsequent years, it’s a lame film in any context, but The Thing surely isn’t. Eye-popping effects, ham-fisted performances and one of the most awesomely paranoid, claustrophobic atmospheres ever caught on film, it’s a sign of a great horror movie that one can still get tense watching it for the 100th time. Purists claim this version contains none of the mystery and intensity of the 1951 original, instead coating the film in a sea of unnecessary gore. Such purists and fuddy-duddies need their goddamn heads read. I’ve seen the 1951 version and, whilst it might have been a scarefest by 1950s standards, it’s lame and tame enough to send one into a coma in this day and age.


FIVE FILMS WHICH BLOW, NO MATTER WHAT MY FRIENDS SAY:

Magnolia
Donnie Darko
Scarface
Bad Santa
Punch Drunk Love

A LAST HIGH FIVE, AND LET’S FILL SOME SPACE…

1) DOG FACED HERMANS – Hum of Life LP
2) SYL JOHNSON – Is It Because I’m Black? LP
(excellent early ‘70s soul; thanks to Neil & Oren for alerting me to this)
3) SUN RA – The Night of the Purple Moon LP (out on semi-legit LP, it’s a killer)
4) VIBRACATHEDRAL ORCHESTRA – a whole bunch of live CD-Rs I only just rediscovered down the back of a shelf whilst cleaning up.
5) WHAT IS MUSIC? Festival line-up for 2005. It’ll be nice to come back to Melbourne at the start of March, only to be greeted with a week-long bill containing the Residents, SunnO))), Growing, Pan Sonic, Gang Gang Dance, Dead C., Richard Bishop, Black Dice and possibly even the Boredoms. Yeah, I can handle that.