KISS Live in Japan 1977

You wanted the best, you got the best!  It’s KISS!  At the height of their powers in 1977!  With all four original members! Performing live in Japan!  .. (exclamation points officially ending here) … This was recorded for HBO and I remember seeing this very concert during the summer of 1979 when me and my brother went to visit my Dad in Northern Virginia.   Two of my Dad’s female neighbors in their early 20s invited us all over to watch the concert on their TV since they had HBO.   I can’t imagine my Dad’s neighbors were particularly interested in KISS … or my brother and me, for that matter … but I’m not going to complain that they used my interest in KISS to get to know my Dad better.  It was doubly cool because I was now able to see my favorite band at the time life, I also got to check out this thing called HBO that I had seen advertised on TV, but wouldn’t be available in my neighborhood for two more years.  As always, Paul Stanley doesn’t disappoint with his stage raps here.

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A love song from Sam Kinison (from the 1987 comedy special “Breaking the Rules”)

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Post-breakup songs can sometimes be mature and beautiful. “If You See Her Say Hello” by Bob Dylan and “I Remember You” by Steve Earle are probably the best of the “mature and beautiful” part of this genre.

And then  … there’s this song by Sam Kinison … recorded for the conclusion of his legendary and infamous 1987 HBO comedy special “Breaking the Rules.” As you can imagine, not safe for work or little ones. But hysterically funny.

“Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession” (2004) dir. Alexandra Cassevetes

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Z Channel was a Los Angeles-based cable-TV movie channel that was active during the 1970s and 1980s. What made Z Channel different from HBO, Showtime, and other popular movie channels at the time was their eclectic programming and willingness to show films no one else was showing on television, cable or otherwise. The programmer, a man by the name of Jerry Harvey, was a hardcore cinephile and was diligent about tracking down the most obscure cinematic gems.  His intelligence, intensity, and diligence impressed (and sometimes annoyed) a lot of filmmakers, studio executives, and other creative types in Hollywood.

Z Channel was incredibly popular with the creative community in Hollywood.  Harvey was so well-respected, he was able to get the rights to show Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” during the 1977 Oscar season (while it was still in many theaters) which arguably led to its multiple Oscar nominations and wins.  He also championed Oliver Stone’s “Salvador,” which also led to its critical resurgence and subsequent Oscar nominations in 1986.  However, Harvey’s most important legacy was the promotion of the so-called “director’s cut” and “letterboxing,” which preserved the widescreen composition of films for viewing on non-widescreen TVs.  In 1983, he showed the original director’s cut version of Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate,” a film many considered a notorious flop, but a film that Harvey felt was a great film undermined by studio tinkering and the director’s own insecurity after the original director’s cut was severely criticized.  This led to premiering Bernardo Bertolucci’s 5 1/2 hour European (and in America, X-rated) director’s cut of his classic “1900,” as well as the European cut of Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece “The Leopard.”

Despite the professional respect he won by many in the creative community, Harvey was a very, very troubled man.  He eventually shot and killed his second wife, before committing suicide in 1988.

“Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession” is a great documentary not only about Z Channel and the early days of cable TV, but of Harvey himself.  It was directed by John Cassevetes’ daughter Alexandra Cassevetes and contains interviews with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Altman, Paul Verhoeven, Vilmos Zsigmond, Henry Jaglom, Jacqueline Bisset, Alexander Payne, Jim Jarmusch, Theresa Russell, James Woods, Penelope Spheeris and many, many other directors, screenwriters, and actors who testify about the importance and influence of Z Channel.

While a lot of it is sad, the documentary is an orgy for film buffs, with lots of great clips and interviews.  This is one of my desert island films.

“Cruisin'” – Michael Nesmith

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Michael Nesmith is a true Renaissance man who has never completely gotten his due. In addition to being one of the original Monkees, Nesmith is a superlative singer-songwriter (he wrote Linda Ronstadt’s hit “Different Drum”), music video pioneer, film producer (he financed “Repo Man”), and media mogul.

“Cruisin’” was one of the first (if not THE first) music video I remember seeing, around 1981 or so. I saw this on HBO of all places (yes, HBO used to play music videos, usually between movies, but also on a 30-minute show called “Video Jukebox”). Very funny and weird song/video.