Thursday, September 28, 2006

This can't be a good thing

A new CD features Ray Charles singing with the Count Basie orchestra. The only problem is they never recorded together...

I assumed that it was some classic collaboration from the 1960s I'd never heard about. A couple of weeks later I came across the press release and discovered that Charles and Basie had never recorded together. They both toured Europe around the same time, some of the recorded gigs ended up in the same boxes. It was the tantalising juxtaposition of the two names that set A&R man John Burk thinking when he found the tapes. The sound of Charles's backing band was not good enough for release, he claims, but the vocals and keyboards were.

So Burk hit on the idea of using modern technology to replace the band with the Count Basie Orchestra - a marriage made in digital heaven. It's a weird idea... maybe a desperate one. And yet... it sounds pretty good. Despite knowing it's the result of long hours hunched over a computer, it actually sounds like Ray Charles ad libbing and emoting with a powerful jazz band at his elbows. Except that it didn't happen. This is a new (and extreme) example of what I once termed "bluescreen jazz"


I guess if they could make Fred Astaire dance with a vacuum cleaner...


The MPAA introduces its latest agents of movie pirate doom: Lucky and Flo, the two cutest, DVD-sniffing black Labs you've ever seen! The pups can't distinguish between pirated and legitimate disks, and can also be thrown off the trail by traffickers clever enough to pack dummy boxes full of frisbees in the same shipment as their contraband product.


Nice try ye scruvy dogs!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stop it!

No more computer-animated animal cartoons. Seriously, just stop it.

DiCaprio's Top Ten

1. The Bicycle Thieves

2. Taxi Driver

3. Lawrence of Arabia

4. 8 1/2

5. Third Man

6. Yojimbo

7. Manhattan

8. Sunset Boulevard

9. The Shining

10. East of Eden


Oh no, they're not obvious enough. Not at all. Dick, did you hear that?

Rule Britannia

British Film Institute Makes its Archive Available Online

The first forays into film by directors including Tony and Ridley Scott and Stephen Frears are to be made available for download, as the British Film Institute puts its massive archive online.

For a charge of a few pounds, works that are rarely seen as well as more famous movie releases such as Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract will be made accessible to fans.

There are 230,000 films, short films and documentaries in the National Film and Television Archive which the BFI administers, in addition to 675,000 television programmes.


The only downside is that budget constraints are going to make it slow-going. Only 35 titles will be available to start...

Tortured Surfaces

BFF Tim Bullard has updated his website with new pieces. I've updated the link over there under "Pals" so pay him a visit and enjoy his wonderful work...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Get This - NOW

So what is this? This is the 30th anniversary edition of Horses. And what's so great about the 30th anniversary edition? Well, yes, the recording has been remixed and remastered. But note that the name is Horses/Horses...

That's because there is a second CD in there - a live concert CD recorded in London just last year - of Patti and the boys doing the entire Horses album on-stage. The boys include Lenny Kaye (guitar), Jay Dee Daugherty (drums), Tony Shanahan (bass), Tom Verlaine (guitar) and featuring Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Gloria and Free Money will pin your ears back. Land will burn your freakin' hair off...

Oh boy, can't you show me nuthin' but surrender?


House: Fox Network at 8p

Smith: CBS at 10p

The bigger the better...

Premiere Week Wrapup - part 2

Shark: In classic braindead fashion, the network didn't even bother to publicize that the opening ep of James Woods' new legal show was directed by Spike Lee. What the heck were they thinking? The show was great - Woods was dynamite, surrounding cast was good enough. Jeri Ryan didn't have much to do but maybe they'll write her in more as things progress.

Spike actually got Jimmie to tear up on-screen! Yes, I know, Bette Davis said that all you need to do to cry on-screen was pluck a nose hair. What's noteworthy about it is that Woods didn't just laugh in Spike's face at the idea. CBS, Thursdays at 10p, following CSI...

...which BTW, ended its first of two parts season opener with a one-two gut-punch. In a mind-twisting intercutting of two scenes we are introduced to the work of a new, sadistic, freako killer along with the shocking and sad and not totally unexpected destination to Willow's long-running ride on the Hellbound Train. Girl, you are not 22 years old anymore...but God help the perp - in an unbelievably nervy performance, Marg Helgenberger shows us in no uncertain terms Willow's iron will - the one thing that has saved her from her spotty judgement.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Say again?

I open my mouth and stuff comes out. It's really neato!

It was bad enough when the only black family they could find to include in the Family Edition of Amazing Race was named...Black...but last nite, host Phil actually asked Sarah - an amputee since childhood - how she felt about being in the second "leg" of the race.

Being the trooper she is - Iron Man champion, etc. etc. - she pretty much ignored the gaff and commented about the grueling day that was behind her. Also, she's pretty much had it with her "recently dating" partner so I'm thinking she was preoccupied with figuring out how to ditch the jerk and still be eligible for the race...

Noted in passing...Waffles

Waffles was the beloved cat of the proprietor of the political/comedy site, The Poor Man Institute. Waffles was attacked by a stray dog last week and had been in a coma for several days...

Waffles appreciates the extremely generous offers to pay for his vet bills, but every veterinarian in town takes one look at Waffles and insists on working pro bono. That’s how it works when you are the Most Charming Cat Ever.

...Waffles went to sleep last night. The injuries to his brain were too extensive. He was one year and three months old. He was a very, very good boy, and I was proud to have known him.


Monday Random Ten

Lipstick Vogue - Elvis Costello

Baby, I Love You - Aretha Franklin

Good Morning Little Schoolgirl - Taj Mahal

A Rolling Stone - Grace Jones

Live and Learn - Joe Public

New Age - Velvet Underground

Prince of Darkness - John Carpenter

3/5s of a Mile in Ten Seconds (Live) - Jefferson Airplane

Caught in a Dream - Alice Cooper

UPDATE: You know, I picked this particular graphic because the Velvet Underground song is about Shelley Winters and even mentions her kissing Mitchum. But once I posted the graphic and the list of songs - chosen randomly by iPod Party Shuffle - it freaked me out how all of them fit - except maybe the Jefferson Airplane...

UPDATE 2: Whoa - here's some lyrics from the Airplane song:

do away with people blowing my mind
do away with people wasting my precious time
take me to a simple place
where I can easily see my face
baby, baby I can see that you're fine
know I love you baby, yes I do
know I love you baby, yes I do

do away with people laughing at my hair
do away with people climbing on my precious prayers
take me to a circus tent
where I can easily pay my rent
and all the other freaks can share my cares
know I love you baby, yes I do
know I love you baby, yes I do

Party Shuffle is definitely working overtime today!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Premiere Week Wrapup - part 1

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip: Behind the scenes at a fading Saturday Nite Live type of show on a fictional network. Opens with the producer of the show doing a Peter Finch meltdown live on the air. While Network went for amusement and entertainment with their meltdown, Sorkin stages this as intense and troubling - Judd Hirsch pinning our ears back with his pent-up rage. Overall Studio 60 is very entertaining, classic Sorkin, large cast bouncing off each other and generating sparks. NBC, Mondays at 10p.

House: There has some suggestion that House has jumped the shark - particularly with the alien abduction episode. Total nonsense foisted by Insufferable Television Snobs because the show is catching on to a wider audience - they hate it when that happens. Fox, Tuesdays - still at 8p for now...

The Unit: Lotsa GI Joe testosterone on display here. I get tired of the super macho depiction of American fighting men as if that's the only type of male personality that can do this type of work. I think our experience in World War II puts that particular fantasy to rest.

Interestingly, in the years after WWII the military researched how the troops did under fire - discovering that only a small percentage of them actually engaged when under fire on the battlefield. There was a conscious decision to change basic training and recruitment to bring in and develop a more gruntish type of soldier just in time for Vietnam. It continues today. We can all see how well that has worked for us...

Smith: Good stuff - not fall-down great, but pretty good. Opened with the climax of the caper, flash-back one hour to the start of the caper, then flash-back three weeks to the planning of the caper to get a chance to meet all the characters. Then we get the entire caper, uncut with all the details. As rumored, the caper was great, the production values are pretty good but a little too much "enhancing the action" with shaky hand-held camera. Virginia Madsen - Liotta's wife - is just so suspicious of him but this criminal mastermind who can smell trouble coming from a mile away doesn't pick up on her frowny faces and cold kisses. Like I said - good, but not great. CBS, Tuesdays at 10p.

Jericho: Haven't watched it yet - stay tuned...

Kidnapped: Oh baby, this was great, very good. Highly recommended. To correct my earlier overview, the story does NOT take place in real time like 24, but this will be the one case for the season. They basically covered the first day on the first ep. Jeremy Sisto runs a shadowy busiess of retrieving rich kidnap victims without the distractions of worrying about catching and prosecuting the kidnappers - killing them if provoked is good enough as far as he is concerned. He really wants to keep the FBI out of the picture but of course that doesn't happen. Again, very highly recommended. NBC, Wednesdays at 10p.

Shark: Haven't watched it yet - stay tuned...

Watch more TV...

Friday, September 22, 2006

I got nuthin'

Have a good weekend...thekeez

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Noted in passing...Sven Nykvist

Someone once said that in the process of filmmaking "if the film is the baby, the director the mother, the screenwriter the father, then the cinematographer is the midwife." The Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who has died aged 83, helped bring about the birth of a number of masterpieces, most of them by Ingmar Bergman, his most intimate collaborator.

For many years, Nykvist and Bergman resisted colour, considering it a source of superficial beauty. In 1964 Bergman responded to the critical reaction to his "morbid" films by making a farce, Now About These Women, in colour to bring out the prettiness of the ornate sets and flamboyant 1920s costumes. But neither man was satisfied with the result, citing its lack of atmosphere and excessive lighting.

It was back to stunning black-and-white with the powerful close-ups in Persona (1966) and the haunting images of Hour of the Wolf (1967), before embarking on their second colour film, A Passion (1969), which used more muted tones. But it was with Cries and Whispers (1972) - for which Nykvist won an Academy Award - that the real breakthrough came.

In the 1970s Nykvist took advantage of the easing of union regulations in the US which allowed Europeans to work in the American film industry, and by the mid-80s he was filming more in Hollywood than elsewhere. He shot four films for Bergman-lover Woody Allen, the best being Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989), although Nykvist was unhappy with Allen's need for a "dark look". As Nykvist said, "the actors' faces look like tomatoes!"

Other American films which benefited from his skills were Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978), Bob Rafelson's The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Phil Kaufmann's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and fellow Swede Lasse Hallstrom's What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993).


Thursday Nite Tube

CSI new season opener - CBS, 9p. John Mayer appears performing two new songs. Did I see Stokes sportin' the Kojak look in the tv spot last nite?

Shark grand premiere - CBS, 10p.

NBC releases the hounds - new season openers for My Name is Earl, 8p / The Office, 8:30pm / ER, 10p. Joining the ER cast this season - (drum roll) - John Stamos...

Part 2 of the American Masters Warhol doc runs on PBS, 9p.

TNT is running both volumes of Kill Bill back to back starting at 9p. So after they edit the language and the gore the whole deal should last about 24 minutes...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday Nite Tube - Update

Whoa! Forgive me for not including this earlier in the post below. PBS premieres the first of a two-part American Masters on the man himself - Andy Warhol - 9 to 11p.

And here's one of my few "Brush with Greatness" stories: The first time I went to NYC was in the late 70s. I had a friend living up there who agreed to put me up and serve as tour guide. Arrived in the afternoon, got settled in, then we went out and about for a first taste. We went through Gramercy Park - you know, the park with the cast iron fence Woody Allen runs through at the end of Manhattan, the park that is used in just about every movie that gets shot in NYC - came across a film crew and saw Lee Strasberg in a production van getting his make-up applied for a scene.

We went through the park and within a minute we were upon Max's Kansas City. And as cliche as it possibly could be, there was Andy Warhol standing in front of Max's, a stack of the latest Interviews under his arm, waiting for his ride. We approached, said hello, he was very open and friendly, and gave us each a copy of the new mag hot off the press.

And there you go...

Wednesday Nite Tube

CBS launches Jericho at 8p. From the CBS website...

Jericho is a drama about what happens when a nuclear mushroom cloud suddenly appears on the horizon, plunging the residents of a small, peaceful Kansas town into chaos, leaving them completely isolated and wondering if they're the only Americans left alive. Fear of the unknown propels Jericho into social, psychological and physical mayhem when all communication and power is shut down. The town starts to come apart at the seams as terror, anger and confusion bring out the very worst in some residents.

Hmmm, is it me or does that sound familiar...

What Not to Wear at 9p on BBC America...

There was buzz that Trinny and Suzanne were going to be replaced but there is no evidence to support that on the web site. Unfortunately, the BBC America web site is designed in such a thick-headed way you can't find out what season or episode is running tonight. And do avoid the miserable American version that runs on TLC...

Most buzz-worthy premiere tonite is Kidnapped, 10p on NBC...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Just Released on DVD

10th and Wolf: A man returns home to Philadelphia to find his brother and cousin have become mobsters.

They live in Philly - what did he expect?

Hard Candy: A man in his 30s gets more than he bargained for when he picks up a teenager in a coffee shop.

Yeah - he gets featured on the latest Dateline NBC.

The Proposition: A violent, gritty Australian Western penned by rock legend Nick Cave.

Rock legend Nick who?

Stay Alive: A group of friends play a video game inspired by the 17th century noblewoman called The Blood Countess. Soon, they start being murdered in ways that mirror the murders in the game.

Starring Frankie Muniz!

Sheesh! You know, I have been seriously considering cancelling my "DVD-rental-in-the-mail-thing" and shifting that money to the monthly fee for a dual tuner DVR. There's lotsa good stuff on TV these days if you can just keep up with it and find it when it's on. The DVR makes that much, much easier...

Tuesday Nite Tube

New House tonite - runs early again at 8p...

Former President Palmer cranks up The Unit for tonight's season premiere. Didn't watch this last year but reviews were very good. 9p on CBS - leading in to...

Ray Liotta's new show, Smith premieres at 10p on CBS...

Get a life.

An exhibition by headline-grabbing UK artist Banksy has been criticised for including a live painted elephant.

The animal, called Tai, was covered in pink and gold paint and placed in a mocked-up house to represent how world poverty is widely ignored.

Officials from the Los Angeles Animal Services Department told the Associated Press they would never again issue permits for such a "frivolous" purpose.

The elephant's owner said the dye was non-toxic and welfare was paramount.

Ed Boks, head of Animal Services in Los Angeles, said: "I think it sends a very wrong message that abusing animals is not only OK, it's an art form.

"We find it no longer acceptable to dye baby chicks at Easter, but it's OK to dye an elephant."


It's clearly time to start abusing folks like Ed Boks...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Zappa Lives

Thirteen years after his death, there seems to be a struggle going on for the soul of Frank Zappa. The composer-bandleader-guitarist continues to inspire re-interpretations by all manner of performers, from rock, jazz and classical musicians. But who are the true keepers of the flame? Are they rockers such as the Muffin Men or the Grandmothers or contemporary bands like Ensemble Modern and the Britten Sinfonia? Or his own family, with the "heir-tight" Zappa Plays Zappa project.

For the moment, the big bands are ahead; in recent months we've had Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (Cuneiform) by the New York-based Ed Palermo Big Band, and Frank Zappa's Hot Licks (and Funny Smells) (Provocateur) by Colin Towns and the NDR Big Band.

On the Towns album, recorded live at the Moers festival, the German radio band adds both orchestral pomp and self-deprecating humour to tunes such as Be-Bop Tango and King Kong. The US band has a crisper, brasher sound, with a confident, distinctly American drive in the rhythm section, but the keyboards are a tad cheesy (check out Dwarf Nebula).

Meanwhile, in the classical corner, last week's Late Junction featured an extended-techniques adaptation of Zappa's How Could I Be Such a Fool (from Cruising With Ruben & the Jets) performed by violinist Alexei Algui and pianist Dietmar Bonnen. David Greenberg and David McGuinness with Concerto Caledonia, who play the music of "18th century Scotland and elsewhere", put Zappa's Echidna's Arf (of You) alongside psalms and hymns for baroque violin and harpsichord. Zappa repertoire turns up everywhere, from the distinctly underwhelming Banned From Utopia to the Gotan Project, whose version of Chunga's Revenge was played to death several years ago as the interstitial "sting" at the BBC World Music Awards.


I don't listen to a lot of FZ anymore. I can say I still like most of the recordings from the early Mothers up through the Roxy/Elsewhere band and era. The later bands were souless technicians. They were as close as you could get to human synclaviers...

...which delighted Frank to no end. He didn't want the humanity of the players to get in the way of the notes. But the latter day bands did a lot of snappy tunes that had no real personality. The early bands were packed with personality and the music benefitted from it.

As for this...

Dweezil and Ahmet should be taken out and shot.

MediBlog - Latest

Surgeon: Incision healing well - come back in a month.

Lung Guy: Chest sounds okay - we'll take a CT Scan in a month and see if there's any pneumonia left in there.

Who Cares?

There were several times this week that I had an opportunity to watch an ep of Carnivale season 2. But I never really felt like it. This morning I put the discs in the mail to return them.

Carnivale seems to have fallen prey to X-Files disease - and after only one season. If you remember, X-Files had that dual plotting going on - there were the weekly stories, strange mysteries and creatures and events, usually unrelated to other episodes. But you also had the "big story" - the alien invasion story that would pop up every few eps. A continuing plot line, connected to past episodes and referencing them.

The trap X-Files fell into was their attempt to keep the "big story" so vague. While it was amusing for the first couple years to watch a "big story" episode and marvel at how you ended up knowing even less than when you started, that was an awfully big challenge for the writers and when they had painted themselves into an insane corner, there was no getting out of it with any grace or style.

Carnivale had the same dual plotting going on. There were the individual Twilight Zonish episodes concerning life on the road with a carnival in the 1940s. Some of these were very, very good. You also had that "big story" of good vs. evil in the guise of Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin. The problem is that Season 2 opens with everything focused on the big story. And in the end, who cares? I mean, where can they go with this ultimate struggle? It doesn't matter who eventually triumphs because it is so obviously a fiction that you just can't get too wrapped up in it.

And hey, Ben Hawkins has Ruthie the snake charmer throwing herself at him and he just blankly keeps turning away. This guy is going to turn his back on Adrienne Barbeau?