Saturday, July 09, 2011
The above clip is taken from the new(ish) cable TV series, Portlandia. I can't vouch for it as a show per se, but if it's as good as this clip (and others on Youtube), then it's worth a viewing. Its co-creator is none other than Carrie Brownstein from defunct '90s indie-rockers, Sleater-Kinney. That band was essentially out of my bounds of interest at the time, and still is today, though I do recall being converted to the virtues of one of their albums whilst being dealt a heavy-rotation blow of its wares in the Shock Records warehouse back in the '90s. In some cases, conversion via osmosis can truly work. But anyway, the show itself appears to be a mockery of not only contemporary hipster culture, but the nostalgia some feel for the heady days of Grunge-Era America. I was there, too. It was a fun time, but life is like that when you're young, if you're at all lucky. I was born in 1972, and I can vouch for having had a blast throughout most of that decade. Actually, I thought the entire grunge phenomenon was a complete joke at the time, an opportunistic grab by the corporate culture industry trying to hedge its bets on some sort of faux counter-culture in the hope of a quick buck, and... I'm starting to sound like myself ca. 1993. Nowadays I find it a joke I can actually laugh about. It's easy, as you get older, to get misty-eyed about life when it wasn't so complicated, burdened by responsibilities and life's options seemed endless, so have a laugh at yourself.
Speaking of laughing, William Friedkin's To Live And Die In LA is always good for a hoot. Director Friedkin made his name w/ great films in the early '70s such as The French Connection and The Exorcist. He then destroyed his career by remaking the Francophile classic, Wages Of Fear, as Sorcerer in 1977. I've never seen it, but apparently everyone who did hated it and he never made another hit again. His personality, grating and harsh enough to peel paint, probably didn'thelp either when it came to trying to get projects off the ground. In 1990 he made the schlock-horror, The Guardian. I skipped a class at uni to see it. My greatest memory of the experience remains the fact that I sat through the screening seated next to Nick Cave. It was that good. There was Cruising in 1980, but that was more controversial than successful (or liked, for that matter), and in my book is probably only notable because of the number of Germs songs especially recorded for the soundtrack. If the history books are to be believed, Freidkin dug the band and turned up to the Jack Nitzche-helmed recordings to pogo in the studio. 5 years later he requested none other than Wang Chung to score To Live And Die In LA. The '80s were rough for a lot of people. Despite Wang Chung's negligible contributions to the world of sound in general, their music suits the film well. It's a bombastic synth monstrosity which perfectly mirrors the morally bankrupt landscape of the film. It stars William Peterson as the main protagonist - you may know him from CSI commercials - and the oft-watchable Willem Dafoe as his arch nemesis. Peterson is a can't-live-by-the-rules Secret Service agent (and full-time insufferable asshole) dead set on avenging the death of his partner, a death caused by the bad-assed and shamelessly pretentious counterfeiter played by Dafoe. To catch Dafoe in an unauthorised sting, Peterson has to raise some cash in an attempt to lure Dafoe to the bait. To do this, Peterson rips off what he believes is a crook involved in jewel smuggling and has him accidentally killed, only to discover that the victim was in fact an undercover FBI man who was being tailed by his fellow agents. Mayhem and car chases ensue. Freidkin was a man of allegedly hyper-heterosexual impulses in his heyday, so I can't figure out why some of his films are so blatantly homoerotic. Pederson swaggers around (and dresses) like he just staggered out of a gay bar throughout, and the butt-slapping comraderie displayed throughout the film emits belly laughter from friends of mine. I'm not saying the film isn't ridiculous, low-rent or indeed flat-out fucking terrible in certain scenes, but it's still a fast-paced and gripping piece of '80s cheese, and the car chases above are some of the best ever filmed.