Just saw “Hail Caesar!” … Absolutely loved it! If the Coen Brothers’ brilliant, but ultra-bleak 2009 film “A Serious Man” was about an absent, or indifferent God, “Hail Caesar!” concerns the opposite. Easily their sunniest, most upbeat film … “Caesar” could be the first Coen Brothers film that could be screened in churches. Of course, it won’t be, because it’s the Coen Brothers and it’s highly irreverent, off-kilter, and weird. But … it’s the first film in their 32-year filmography that indicates their hearts are not as black as they’ve always implied. I’m a religious skeptic these days, but if there is a God, you could do a lot worse than Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix character. Trust me, this is a VERY deep film if you analyze it, but it’s done with such a light, goofy touch, it’s incredibly entertaining and fun even if you don’t dig deeper. There’s even some affectionate digs at Hollywood liberalism gone amok … with George Clooney front and center gleefully sending himself up. Critics and audiences have been lukewarm about “Caesar,” but you need to remember that “The Big Lebowski” had the same reaction when it first came out and is now one of the Coen’s most beloved films. Mark my words, “Caesar” is one for the ages.
Can two people have a physically intimate relationship and just “be friends”? This is a situation multiple “friends” have attempted over time with each other, often with disastrous results. I’m sure there’s a handful of these relationships where both parties feel mutually satisfied with the arrangement and want nothing more than casual sex from each other. But most of the time, these “friendships” are doomed because one party always likes their friend more than the other one does. If you’ve ever been in an arrangement like this that you feel was/is successful, can you say with all certainty the other party didn’t want something more?
This premise has been played out endlessly in romantic comedies, but Nate Wilson’s short film “F–k Buddies” may be the first film to explore this notion in the genre of horror. Imagine if David Cronenberg or David Lynch were hired to direct “No Strings Attached” or “Friends with Benefits” and they burned the scripts prior to shooting.
“F–k Buddies” is not what I’d call pornographic, but it’s very explicit and extremely disturbing. To say this film is not safe for work is an understatement. But I seriously love Wilson’s original take on this premise. “F–k Buddies” has gotten a lot of attention on the festival circuit recently and I’m afraid some Hollywood studio will produce a mega-budget “remake” which will not only add useless subplots to pad out the running time to feature-length, but will tone down the more disturbing elements to get a commercially viable “R” … or God forbid … “PG-13” rating.
If you’re an aspiring filmmaker looking to cut their creative teeth making a short film, “F–k Buddies” is a textbook example on how to execute an idea brilliantly in just 19 minutes. The acting by Sharon Belle and Alex Plouffe as the leads is terrific.
The entire film can be watched at the link / clip above.
Thanks to the Onion’s A.V. Club for alerting me to this film.
“The Best of Times” is a truly awful television pilot from 1981 that only aired once (to the best of my knowledge) and never continued past its first episode. Co-produced by “Laugh-In”‘s George Schlatter, “Times” (I imagine) was supposed to be a lighthearted, albeit sensitive look at the struggles of being a teenager, though it’s executed in the most ass-backwards, tasteless early 1980s corporate TV manner. It’s a truly weird WTF hybrid of lowest common denominator sitcom humor, occasional drama, and … yes … musical numbers. Imagine “Freaks & Geeks” had it been produced by Sid & Marty Krofft and you’ll get the picture.
So why am I even talking about this? Yes this is partly due to “Times” being truly one of those god-awful train wrecks that’s worth watching for its sheer cluelessness. But mainly because the stars are Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage … sorry Coppola … before they became famous. And they’re playing characters called Crispin and Nicholas, respectively.
I don’t feel too bad ripping on this because I’m sure Glover and Cage would gleefully agree this is not their finest hour. But what makes this particularly an odd watch is seeing a 17-year old Glover struggling to play a “normal” early 1980s-era sitcom teenager. It’s simultaneously painful and fascinating to watch and arguably stranger than Glover’s legendary appearances in “River’s Edge” and “Wild at Heart.”
Now here’s the really weird part … I totally remember watching this when I was 11 years old. While my tastes back then were not as evolved as they are now, I remember being totally baffled by “Times” … and not in a good way. This was so memorably bizarre that I actually thought about the show the other day, but not remembering the title or who was in it. Thanks to Glover’s appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast today, I looked the show up on YouTube and much to my shock, I realized “So, THIS was that odd and terrible show I remember seeing when I was 11!”
If you have a strong stomach, are a fan of really bad TV pilots, or want to see what certain stars did before they became famous, “Times” is a must-watch.
Some good news … at least for now … I’m staying on the air for the time being as the new rates don’t appear as formidable as I was originally led to believe. This may possibly change in the next month or two as my carrier has not completed negotiations yet with the various entities that collect royalties, but for the time being, we’re still here! Thanks for all your support. Hopefully, once all rates are finally negotiated, it’s something I can manage.
I’ve loved the Eagles of Death Metal since I first heard them on Sirius Underground Garage back in 2005. They’ve always been a band that’s deserved more recognition than they’ve gotten over the years and I’m sad to see that the most attention they’ve ever received was due to their inadvertent role in the Paris terrorist attacks (they were the band playing at Bataclan when terrorists attacked and multiple people were killed). I hope these unfortunate events don’t sour people on one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of the last 20 years.
Yes, the Golden Earrings are the same band that later became Golden Earring who had huge hits with “Radar Love” in 1974 and “Twilight Zone” in 1982. However, the band has been around since 1961, and are one of the few bands from that era that’s still around and still basically intact. Formed in Holland, Golden Earring is one of that country’s most popular bands, with a consistent stream of huge hits / albums for nearly 50 years.
“Just a Little Bit of Peace in My Heart” is from 1968 and it’s a stunner. A terrific slice of baroque pop, a genre that the Bee Gees (of the late 1960s) had the most success with, “Heart” is a magnificent 5-minute pop epic about a difficult break-up. Yes, much of this may seem overdone, but I love it. This was a huge hit in Holland and almost no where else. But it should’ve been a huge hit and a staple on Oldies stations worldwide.
I’m not sure what’s going on with this video with female go-go dancers jumping up and down on a trampoline. Let’s just say it’s in line with the other odd European pop music shows of the era, but the frolicking is in direct contradiction to the sad lyrics and baroque instrumentation. Anyway, try to appreciate this first with your eyes closed … and then drink in the clueless visuals, which are funny in a retro way, but unfortunately diminish the power of “Heart” slightly.
Sorry to disagree with my lovely wife, but Aerosmith never moved mountains for me. Don’t get me wrong. I liked them, but never loved them. Except … there are 4 songs that make me doubt my position: “Sweet Emotion,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Cryin’,” … and “Chip Away the Stone.” I actually didn’t hear “Stone” until a month or so ago and I WAS COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY! Seriously, “Stone” needs to be the song in constant rotation on radio, instead of “Rag Doll,” “Angel,” or any of the other 12 songs that need to be buried like a dead horse that’s too worn for the glue factory. This is, in my opinion, their best song. Why this never raised a bigger ruckus, I’ll never know. If you think you’re tired of Aerosmith (and I seriously bitched about their omnipresence on at least 10 Sirius Satellite radio stations months ago), check this sucker out! I’m not quite ready to join the Aeroforce, but I’m considering …
Man Fighting Bear is a hard band to categorize. In many of the songs on their 2015 album “Waiting,” you hear the influence of artists as diverse as Joy Division, Deep Purple, Brian Eno, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, King Crimson, the Rotary Connection and Leonard Cohen, sometimes within the same song. But the one band that comes to mind the most when I hear “Waiting” is the Velvet Underground, especially the legendary post-John Cale concerts they recorded at the Matrix in San Francisco that eventually were released as the classic “1969 Velvet Underground Live” album in 1974.
“Waiting” is one of those wonderfully cool albums where you can never tell where the band is going to go next. For example, the song “Into the Light” starts off as a beautiful Leonard Cohen-inspired hymn and then, approximately 2-minutes in, a wonderfully dirty-sounding organ kicks the church door open like a drunken interloper, though its inclusion is actually more seamless and organic than the opening shock would indicate. And this is why the Velvets come to mind: Man Fighting Bear blend the sacred with the profane brilliantly to produce a complex sound full of sonic surprises.
Another standout track is “Jupiter” which starts out sounding like a loose, funky Booker T. and the MG homage and then segues into a wonderfully transcendent organ driven-jam that sounds like, yes you guessed it, the climax of the Velvet’s amazing “What Goes On” and “Ocean” from the “1969 Velvet Underground Live” album.
“Breathe” sounds like Brian Eno producing a Nick Cave cover of a Joy Division song, which is musical heaven by any stretch of my imagination:
If you want to hear the rest of the album, please check it out at the link below and more importantly, if you dig what you hear, you are strongly encouraged to purchase this from iTunes or Amazon.
This is a stand-out album that is eccentric in the best sense of the word. It’s music like this that inspired me to start not only my blog, but Dave’s Strange Radio. Many kudos to Bill Beach, Chris Beach, and Erik Fagrelius for one of my favorite albums of this year.
All suburban white boy skateboarders from the 1980s remember the infamous Suicidal Tendencies’ song “Institutionalized,” the one about the teenager who just wanted a Pepsi, but whose parents just wouldn’t listen and wanted to stick him in a mental institution. Well, Ice-T and his band Body Count have brought the song up to date to 2015 adulthood. And damn, if this update doesn’t resonate. This may not be safe for work, but nothing has made me laugh harder in the last several days. Except … apologies to Ice-T and his anger issues in this video, I would choose having sex with the wife featured in this video than playing X Box.
I first became aware of the Coen Brothers when their debut film “Blood Simple” was making the rounds and creating a buzz. I was 15 at the time and saw it at the Circle 6 in Norfolk, VA during the (then) theatrical no-man’s land between February and May of 1985. These were the days when if you looked vaguely 17 years old, they would sell you a ticket … or not. To be fair, even from the age of 13, I was never refused a ticket for an R-rated film. At the time, I thought it was because I looked super-old. In reality, I don’t think the theaters gave a s–t. Seriously, I was able to buy a ticket for “9 1/2 Weeks” at the same theater during the same period and no one even remotely asked me if I was of age. But I digress …
Anyway, I didn’t think much of “Blood Simple” back then. It was interesting and weird for sure, but I left the theater thinking “Eh …” In subsequent years, I’ve rewatched “Bood Simple” and think it’s amazing, but as a 15-year old, it didn’t do much for me. Neither did “9 1/2 Weeks” for that matter. But by that point, I had already seen “Deep Throat” uncut, along with several porn classics on the Playboy Channel, which … while heavily edited … were still much more explicit than the antics in the allegedly “saucy” “9 1/2 Weeks.” But again, I digress …
Cut to the Spring of 1987. I’m listening to NPR (the station my Mom listened to back in the day before she discovered Rush Limbaugh … another sad digression … ARRGH!) and the NPR commentators are discussing this amazingly weird film “Raising Arizona.” I’m intrigued, but not making the connection it’s by the same people who made “Blood Simple.” When I visited my Dad in the Washington D.C. area for Spring Break, “Raising Arizona” was the film I chose to see. That was a great visit, because I also discovered Tower Records near George Washington University and picked up the following albums: “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” “For Your Pleasure” by Roxy Music, “London Calling” by the Clash, and “The Best of Elvis Costello” during the same visit, which all changed my life in significant ways.
Anyway, back to “Raising Arizona.” My thoughts at the time? It was a fantastically weird aberration / revelation along the lines of Alex Cox’s “Repo Man,” David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” and Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild.” It was a film that … on the surface … seemed to follow traditional movie conventions, but went off the rails in several key areas. On one level, it was one of many Yuppie “we’re having a baby” films that were popular at the time (“Baby Boom,” “She’s Having a Baby”). But it also injected some really dark 1940s-era film noir elements (kidnapping, escaped convicts) that the filmmakers kept just dark enough to keep it interesting, but always pulled back at crucial moments before the film became truly disturbing. It many ways, it was simultaneously the perfect and most perverse major studio debut for resoundingly indie filmmakers.
Watching it now, “Raising Arizona” seems simultaneously like the most perverse and perfect major studio debut for decidedly indie filmmakers. It rides the line between conventional comedy and truly twisted cinema better than most allegedly “edgy” studio films. And the fact that it does all of this within the confines of a then PG-13 rating seems even more bizarre. In many ways, you can see elements of the Coen Brothers’ future masterpieces, from “Fargo” to “No Country for Old Men” here. And oddly, unlike most Coen Brothers films, “Raising Arizona” manages to eke out a happy ending, though not in the ways you would normally expect. The happy ending is a dream. And while it may be a dream, unlike the endings of “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” where the happy endings may actually be the delusions of the twisted anti-heroes, the dream ending in “Raising Arizona” seems plausible. And that’s one of the reasons this is arguably the most beloved of the Coen Brothers’ films.