Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Movie Week: Les Cahiers du Tom Green (An Early Clue to the New Direction)

Okay, this is just too funny. An inspired wiseguy named RJ White has got a website at which he he posts mock-up fake DVD box cover art for Criterion Collection editions of movies you wouldn' Criterion to actually put out.

My favorite?

Ah, Freddy Got Fingered. I actually got decent money to review it over at the TVGuide website in 2001, although in retrospect I probably should have put in for combat pay.

As I wrote at the time this little number hit the multiplexes, how you might respond to a film by then fashionable MTV irritant/auteur Tom Green is, shall we say, a matter of taste, although using the word taste in a discussion of Green obviously requires several leaps of faith. In any event, when I saw FGF at a screening, I seemed to be surrounded by two basic demographic types -- people who laughed uproariously every time its star fondled the penis of a large animal, and people who headed for the theater doors with a speed usually associated with pursuit by the Hounds of Hell.

It's also occurred to me since that Freddy Got Fingered is, on one level, positively inspirational; if you've ever wondered whether you could write and direct a big-budget feature film that could be deemed worthy of release by a major studio, one viewing of this exercise in willful stupidity would be a world-class confidence builder. Amazingly enough, it has a plot; aspiring cartoonist named Gord Brody (Green) labors mightily to convince his blustering father (Rip Torn) that he's not the slacker moron everyone — including the audience — quite correctly assumes him to be. The obligatory subplots include one involving Gord's handicapped girlfriend, Betty (Marisa Coughlan), a rocket scientist (really!) obsessed with fellating her unrealistically unwilling swain, and another about Gord's younger brother, the titular Freddy (American Pie's Eddie Kaye Thomas) and false charges of sexual abuse (this is where the fingering part comes in). Really now, could anything be more hilarious?

To be scrupulously fair, this is not perhaps the worst gross-out comedy ever made, although it's hard to ignore the strain of gratuitous cruelty that runs through it (a running gag features a little kid getting the crap whacked out of him repeatedly). Also: Green deserves numerous demerits, above and beyond the awfulness of the film, for restaging the classic Buster Keaton falling house gag without its visual punchline (i.e., you never see Gord standing, unhurt, amidst the rubble).

I should add that the estimable A.O. Scott -- who's pretty much my favorite critic in any field -- actually made a case for the film as some kind of genius avant-garde performance art in his New York Times review back in the day. I've forgiven him for it, although I still find it baffling.

I should also add that a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who guesses its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Cinema Listomania.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Beatles Karaoke

Okay, I lied about Movie Week resuming today -- the scheduled big DVD round-up proved too time consuming for my active, now, a go-go lifestyle, i.e. I flaked.

But in its stead, please enjoy the Fab Four and the astonishing backing track (sans vocals or that famous McCartney bass line) of their 1966 masterpiece "Rain."

Words fail me. Truly.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Stay Classy, Republicans!

Our brethren and, uh, cistern on the right got caught stealing again.

“NBC News: @TomPetty unhappy with Michele Bachmann’s use of ‘American Girl’ and in process of issuing [a cease and desist] letter,” Matt Ortega reported on Twitter only hours after hours after Bachmann used the popular song to kick off her campaign.

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell confirmed that report Monday night.

“And details matter, and when Bachmann left the stage here, her campaign played the Tom Petty hit song, ‘American Girl,’” O’Donnell said. “Turns out petty isn’t pleased. His manager says they will ask the Bachmann campaign not to use that song.”

Petty also issued a cease and desist letter to then-Governor George W. Bush for illegally using “I won’t back down” at his rallies.

Look, dudes, it's not our fault all you got is Ted Nugent. Run the country on "Wango Tango": it's a more reasonable platform than you have now.

We Interrupt This Movie Week for a Special Tuesday Essay Question

Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973).

1. This is the greatest single rock track ever recorded. Seriously -- name a better one.

2. This is what prog would have sounded like if anybody in any of those prog bands had, in fact, a scintilla of soul.


[Movie Week resumes tomorrow]

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Movie Week: Last Exit to Hong Fat

As promised, and forty years in the making -- here's the digital version of Party. The 1970 student film starring my then Jefferson Airplane-influenced rock band as well as just about every hippie at C.W. Post College at the time.

Written and directed by Jeff Alan Gross, and unseen by sentient mammalian eyes anywhere until a couple of weeks ago.

Occasional technical crudities notwithstanding, if you want to know what it felt like to be a 20-something at a liberal arts college around the time of Kent State and the subsequent curdling of the 60s counter-culture, you could do a lot worse than check this out.

BTW, you can also watch it, in a slightly bigger sized frame but the same resolution, over here. And special thanks to W. Sachs Gore for uploading it, a technical feat beyond my poor abilities.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Arizona, Take Off Your Rainbow Shades

No Listomania today, as I'm taking a well-deserved break after a couple of very exhausting weeks. The List will return next Friday, however, and in fact all of next week is going to be a kind of special programming deal, so stay tuned: In the immortal words of Edith Prickley, "Could be a hot one!!!"

In the meantime, my old college chum J.D. Gath, seen below in a still from that 1970 college film I've been bending your ear about for the last several weeks...

...has a very cool contest for you. And since it's in the service of a terrific cause, I thought I'd share.


That’s right! You can win an all-expense paid, three-day, two-night trip for two to the Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary in Cave Creek, Arizona.

The winner and guest will be staying at the Spur Cross Inn, a lovely spirit-of-the-west bed & breakfast in historic Cave Creek. The Saguaro Casita features a king-sized bed, a built-in daybed, a fireplace and a garden tub with Jacuzzi-type jets, as well as a kitchenette, cable TV and wireless internet. The picture window views of the mountains to the north are unmatched in the Sonoran Desert.

You can visit their website at Spur Cross B&B.

A full breakfast will be served daily in the main house.

Plus there are two horses on the premises -– a rescued ex-polo pony and her two-year old son. And they’re friendly, too.

Transportation will be provided by Tierra Madre and our winner and guest are welcome to spend as much time here on the ranch as they desire.

One evening will feature a cook-out here at the ranch and one night we’ll have dinner at one of the top restaurants in Cave Creek. Also, the quaint little town of Cave Creek is a terrific place to shop for all things western and features dozens of mom and pop stores within a short walking distance of each other.

This is your chance to come and hang out with the Horses of Tierra Madre and to be a living part of the day-to-day workings of the ranch.

The winner will have the choice of two weekends: either Friday, Saturday & Sunday, October 7, 8 & 9 or October 14, 15 & 16.

The winner will be chosen on Saturday, July 30th and will be notified immediately.

As always, raffle tickets are available at $10 for one ticket and 3 tickets for $25.

Entry donations can be sent via the PayPal function on our website, at How to Donate, or check or money orders can be mailed to:

Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary
27115 N. 45th St.
Cave Creek, AZ 85331

The value of this prize is estimated at about $2,000.

And -- if you live in the Phoenix area, don’t hesitate to enter. Everybody can use a weekend away from home. And we’ll throw in two airline tickets to either Los Angeles or Las Vegas!

This is the best raffle we’ve ever done; if I were you, I’d enter early and often.

The Horses of Tierra Madre can’t wait to meet and hang out with you!

Oh - & we’ll provide the treats.

Sounds fantastic -- a chance to see the American West AND help out a guy doing really wonderful stuff simply because he's a mensch.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Stones Karaoke

From late 1966 or early '67, please enjoy The Rolling Stones, with (presumably) Nicky Hopkins on keyboard(s), and an alternate instrumental backing track for what became perhaps my favorite song on their underrated Satanic Majesties album -- the haunting sci-fi romance "2000 Man."

Well, my name is a number
A piece of plastic film
And I'm growin' funny flowers
In my little window sill

Dont you know I'm a 2,000 man
And my kids, they just don't understand me at all

Well my wife still respects me
I really misused her
I am having an affair
With the random computer

Don't you know I'm a 2,000 man
And my kids, they just don't understand me at all

Oh daddy, proud of your planet
Oh mummy, proud of your sun
Oh daddy, proud of your planet
Oh mummy. proud of your sun
Oh daddy, your brain's still flashin'
Like it did when you were young
Or do you come down crashin'
Seeing all the things you'd done
All was a big put on

Oh daddy, proud of your planet
Oh mummy. proud of your son
Oh daddy, proud of your planet
Oh mummy. proud of your sun

Oh daddy, proud of your planet
Oh mummy. proud of your sun
Oh daddy, proud of your planet
Oh mummy. proud of your sun

And you know who's the 2000 man
And your kids they just won't understand you at all

One of Jagger's niftier lyrics, IMHO, but of course this track is unedited and considerably longer than the finished version, so good luck matching the words if you're trying to sing along.

I should add that while the electric guitar riffage Keith provides on the opening is perfectly serviceable, I nonetheless miss the gorgeous acoustic picking he replaced it with on the album. On the other hand, even in the sort of sloppy and untogether shape this is in, it's still light years better than the late 70s cover by Kiss.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Lovin' Spoonful Karaoke

From October 1966, please enjoy the seriously and inexplicably underrated Lovin Spoonful and the instrumental track to their gorgeous folk-pop ballad hit "Rain on the Roof." Featuring some of the loveliest fingerpicking ever heard by sentient mammalian ears and Zal Yanovsky's brilliant fuzz-guitar imitation of the sound of a French Horn.

At this point I would usually post the song's lyrics and encourage you to sing along, but I don't think I will today, given that the track is simply perfect without any vocals at all.

Seriously -- this is like a great little piece of chamber music, just as it is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Roosevelt Island Mon Amour

So, as I may have mentioned, last week's screening of the unseen for four decades 1970 student film Party -- featuring my then band God (don't ask) and just about every other hippie at C.W. Post College at the time -- was an absolute joy.

All sorts of old friends who either worked on, acted in, or just were buds with the people involved in the production showed up, including the film's co-stars Frank McGrath and Linda Megna --

...and even though most of us hadn't seen each other since the mid-70s, the years fell away almost magically. I can't remember when I've had a lovelier afternoon.

Fortunately, the great Jefferico Alano Grosso, celebrated Italian director of films and flicks, was on hand to record the occasion in a charming mini-documentary.

If the last 30 seconds of this don't bring a tear to your eyes...

I should add that Party itself will be available for viewing online sometime in the next week or so. I don't want to oversell the thing, but time capsules of what it was like to be in your early 20s at a liberal arts college circa Kent State and the curdling of the counter-culture don't come any more evocative.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Big Man 1942-2011

Oh hell, this is just such sad news: Clarence Clemons, the legend-in-his-own-right saxophone player of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band (and probably the greatest stage foil/second banana in rock history) died over the weekend at the (too young) age of 69.

Of course, in recent years, as the jazz and r&b influences almost completely disappeared from Springsteen's music (for whatever reason), Clemons, alas, had less and less to do, both on record or onstage. In fact, by 2007 and Bruce's Magic album, which I actually love, you could barely hear CC playing the glam-rock/ersatz Phil Spector horn lines buried in the mix of the wonderful "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"...

Bruce Springsteen - Girls In Their Summer Clothes .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

..and as a result, it has become fashionable of late in certain critical circles to say that the guy was in fact a rather mediocre player.

Of course, to the people who say that, I can only reply -- Clarence wailed the passionate, soaring and gloriously melodic extended sax solo on "Jungleland"...

...and just out of curiosity, what have you ever done that's remotely as memorable and moving? Or likely to be of as much interest to anybody fifty or one hundred years hence?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Those Rumors About Andrew Breitbart and Syphilis Just Won't Go Away!

I, for one, hope conservative provocateur Breitbart really didn't f**k and infect a defenseless goat, but until he he lays these stories to rest, people can't help but speculate.

Will no one think of the kids?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special The Man Can't Bust Our Music! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental prop jet mechanic Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to Tinseltown, i.e. fabulous Hollywood California, for a weekend story conference about the most eagerly awaited Marvel Comics superhero film adaptation of them all. Yes, the X-Men's Iceman is finally getting his own movie, and frankly there has never been a better High Concept than the one genius creator Stan Lee came up with back in 1963: A man is bitten by a radioactive ice cube. Who amongst us does not remember where we were when we first read his origin story.....

In any case, and because things will be relatively quiet around here for a couple of days, here's a fun and not particularly relevant to anything in particular little project to help us wile away the hours till we return:

Best or Worst Pre-Punk or Post-Punk Politically Themed Rock Record!!!

Just in case you don't see where I'm going with this, I'm specifically excluding first generation punk bands like the Sex Pistols or the Clash because they're just a little obvious. And I'm insisting that we limit the discussion specifically to rock records, for sort of the same reason -- all that early Dylan or Phil Ochs folkie protest stuff is way too obvious.

And yes, I'm sure we've done something more or less similar to this in the past, but I've been kind of obsessing on the awfulness of our national discourse of late, so indulge me.

And with all that stuff out of the way, my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. Vince Vance and the Valiants -- Bomb Iran

This is so offensive in so many ways that it's hard to enumerate, and it has been ever since it first appeared in 1980. I should add that John McCain's reintroduction of it to the American public during the 2008 campaign is yet one more reason that there's a special mavericky Circle of Hell awaiting him.

4. The Beach Boys -- Student Demonstration Time

I suspect that rewriting the Leiber and Stoller prison classic to reflect the political turmoil of the early 70s seemed like a good idea at the time, and in fairness what resulted is a terrific performance and production. Unfortunately, it sounds crassly opportunistic and condescending to contemporary ears (or at least mine) and I've got to say it comes damn close to ruining the otherwise wonderful Surfs Up album for me.

3. Tonio K. -- La Bomba

Words fail me. In this case, words in Spanish.

2. Randy Newman -- A Few Words in Defense of Our Country

"Let's turn history's pages, shall we?" Okay, this isn't a rock record, but Newman's a genius and his own category, so I'm making an exception. Besides, this characteristically ironic rumination on the USA in the waning days of the unimaginable catastrophe that was the Bush-Cheney era is perhaps the profoundest thing the guy has ever written. Certainly it's the most depressing.

And the Numero Uno "Up Against the Wall, Running-Dog Lackey of the Bourgeoisie" rockers of them all clearly have to be....

1. Rage Against the Machine -- Bullet in Your Head

I basically think these guys hearts are in the right place, and Tom Morello is a pretty cool guitarist, if not particularly my cuppa tea, stylistically. But gimme a break, RATM -- the revolution will most definitely not be televised. More to the point, it will not be marketed by Epic Records and the Sony Corporation, the capitalist megaliths for whom you toil. For money.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Surprisingly Cool Unsolicited Song of the Week (An Occasional Series)

From the City of Brotherly Love (and also Frank Rizzo, but that's another story) please enjoy Philadelphia combo Venice Sunlight and "Annabel," the utterly charming lead single off their just released EP Vs. the Rabid Rabbits

Hey -- terrific pop/punk guitars, winsome vocals and the song's put together like a charm; what more could anybody want?

Seriously, for reasons I don't need to get into at the moment, it's been a very long time since I've been in the front seat of a convertible, roaring down the turnpike on a sunny day with the car stereo blasting. Let's just say, then, that if I was to be doing such a thing in the near future, this is precisely the kind of song I'd want to be hearing.

You can find out lots more about the band over at their Facebook page; if you leave a comment, tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gold's Jim

That's Jim as in McGuinn; not my cleverest pun, but what the hey.

In any case, from 1996, doing business -- in a very Dukes of Stratosphear kind of way -- as The Fraternal Order of the All, here's clearly way underrated singer/guitarist Andrew Gold and the very Byrds-ish "Somewhere in Space in Time."

Seriously, if you're any kind of serious fan of the original Byrds circa 1965-67, this is going to make you wet your pants.

For those keeping score at home, this is an all but perfect mash-up of "She Don't Care About Time," "The World Turns All Around Her" and "Eight Miles High." Plus the backwards guitars from Younger Than Yesterday. And whoever is doing the rhythm guitar and drums is replicating David Crosby and Michael Clarke from the Turn! Turn! Turn! album in a way I frankly hadn't thought possible.

My old bandmate Andy "Folk-Rock" Pasternack, who sent me this, put it better than I ever could:
"I am completely speechless. As amazingly great as this is (again, if you haven’t already heard it), wait for the solo at 2:16. This is like the most breathtakingly great homage ever. "
.Have I mentioned that if you're a serious Byrds fan this will make you wet your pants?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Slacker Monday

Sunday's big college reunion and movie screening -- I'm too tired to even post a link -- was an absolute gas.

Here's how I dressed for the occasion, for those who weren't there.

Anyway, I'm still recovering, and a certain shady dame has given me an amazing early birthday present: We're going to see Brian Wilson at a small club tonight.

Regular posting will resume tomorrow, is what I'm trying to say.

Friday, June 10, 2011

God and Man at C.W. Post: Part Deux

No Listomania -- musical or cinematic -- this weekend, mostly because I'm approaching burnout from anticipating, organizing and co-hosting a de-facto college reunion happening on Sunday. Which, as you may recall from an earlier self-indulgent essay, will feature the first screening in decades of an artsy 16mm student film from 1970 -- Party -- in which my then band (we were called God, don't ask) performs absolutely live in a concert sequence.

Nobody involved with this flick -- including the two stars, who have a nude love scene -- has seen the damn thing since the middle of the 70s, so apart from the whole catching up with 30 people I haven't laid eyes on in years, this is going to be an interesting afternoon, I'll tell you that for free.

Here are two more screen caps director Jeff Alan thoughtfully sent me -- it's from a concluding bit where my bandmate Tony Forte smashes a cheap Japanese guitar (bought specially for the occasion) in an homage of some sort to Pete Townshend. Or possibly Jeff Beck in Blow Up.

Wny I'm shaking my fist at Tony is beyond me; frankly, I don't remember much about the filming.

In any event, I'll let you know how the soiree shakes out. And the movie is going up on YouTube as soon as I can figure out how to do it.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thursday Monkees Karaoke

From 1967, and the sessions for their masterpiece Headquarters, here's the pre-fab four and the final instrumental track of Mike Nesmith's glorious folk-rock classic "You Just May Be the One."

By the way, there are no non-Monkees or session musicians playing on that track. It's really them. All of it. Peter Tork on bass and Mickey Dolenz on drums (Nesmith is on the 12-string, obviously). And you should start singing the thoughtfully included lyrics below at the :09 seconds mark.
All men must have someone, have someone
Who'd never take advantage
Of a love bright as the sun.
Someone to understand them,
And you just may be the one.

All men must have someone, have someone
Who'd never take for granted
All the pleasures and the fun.
Someone to stand beside them
And you just may be the one.

I saw when you walked by
The lovelight in your eye
And I knew I must try
To win you more than just a friend,
I'm starting near the end,
And here I go again.

All men must have someone, have someone
Who'd never take advantage
Of a love bright as the sun.
Someone to stand beside them
And you just may be the one.
Someone to understand them,
And you just may be the one.
And just to add a little note of obnoxious self-aggrandizement, here's a live cover version of the song by The Floor Models -- featuring a bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels -- at the Other End in Greenwich Village, circa 1982.

The harmonies aren't stellar, and the recording is crappy, but boy, the band really cooks IMHO.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wednesday Bruce Springsteen Karaoke

From the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions (1978), here's The Boss and the E-Street Band with the instrumental track for Springsteen's 60s r&b-influenced knockout "Talk to Me." One of many great songs that huge putz/producer Jon Landau kept off the final Darkness album, but which is now one of Southside Johnny's signature tunes, thanks to its appearance on the Asbury Jukes' masterpiece Hearts of Stone (also from 1978).

The intro ends approximately 25 seconds into the track; start singing the thoughtfully supplied lyrics below at that point. There's a hole later on where the sax solo is supposed to go, but you can find that on your own.
Well every night I see a light up in your window
But every night you won't answer your door
But although you won't ever let me in
From the street I can see your silhouette sittin' close to him

What must I do?
What does it take?
To get you to
Talk to me
Until the night is over
Come on, baby
Talk to me
Well until the night is over

I got a full week's pay
And, baby, I've been working hard each day
I'm not asking for the world you see
I'm just asking, girl
Talk to me

Well late at night I hear the music that you're playing soft and low
Yes and late at night I see the two of you swayin' so close
I don't understand, darling, what was my sin?
Why am I down here below while you're up there with him?

What did I do?
What did I say?
What must I pay?
To get you to
Talk to me
Until the night is over
Little darling, won't you
Talk to me
Well until the night is over
Yea yea yea
I got a full week's pay
And baby I've been working hard each day
I'm not asking for the world you see
I'm just asking girl
Talk to me

I don't understand, darling, what was my sin?
Why am I down here below while you're up there with him?

What did I do?
What did I say?
What must I pay?
To get you to
Talk to me
Until the night is over
Come on, baby
Talk to me
Well until the night is over
Yea yea yea
I got a full week's pay
And baby
I've been working hard each day
I'm not asking for the world you see
I'm down on my bended knees
I'm just asking darling please won't you
Talk to me
Until the night is over
Come on talk to me
Until the night is over
Talk to me
Till the sun comes up

You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Andrew Gold 1951-2011: A Final Postscript

From the 2006 Buffalo Springfield tribute album Five Way Street, here's a pretty damned impressive live version of "Bluebird," with Andrew doing business as Byrds of a Feather.

Because Gold was a member of the Peter Asher/Linda Ronstandt L.A. soft-rock Mafia in the 70s, a lot of critics with a punk and post-punk axe to grind have tended to sell his artistic contributions short; frankly, I may have done it myself from time to time. But the guy was clearly a hell of a musician, and I think the world would be a poorer place without some of the records he played on and arranged. "You're No Good" immediately springs to mind....

...especially that Beatles-ish minor key riffy guitar breakdown solo section after titular star Ronsztadt temporarily shuts her not as soulful as it should be yap.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Happy Birthday: TWILLEY Edition!

Many happy returns to Dwight Twilley, who's been kicking ass and taking names for close to 40 years, keeping the pop flame alive when no one else was. Thanks, man!

Buy Twilley and yourself a present! The reviews were great! (And Kid C totally recommends.)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Andrew Gold: Possibly Still Not Dead

So apparently there may be a whole Mark Twain-ish "The rumors of my death have been greatly exagerrated" kind of deal going on for Linda Ronstadt guitarist Andrew Gold.

Which is to say all sorts of bloggers have been posting obits for the guy, even though there's no mention of his passing over at his official website and I can't find any definitive news at more traditional outlets like the NY Times.

Hopefully the estimable craftsman is still with us; I'll keep you posted as this shakes out.

I should also add that I once got into a great deal of trouble with certain readers of Stereo Review when I allowed in a column at the time how Gold's "Lonely Boy" -- his big hit, as seen in the above clip -- was actually a quite delightfully winsome and melodic piece of post-Beatles pop/rock. I remember in particular one letter to the editor in which I was told "Shoes, the Sneetches, and [some other then current indie fave] are pop. 'Lonely Boy' is pap. You should learn the difference."

Behold, I thought to myself when I read it, the perils of being insufficiently cynical for some people.

POSTSCRIPT: The June 6 2011 Los Angeles Times made it official. Apparently, Gold had been fighting cancer for some time; although he was supposedly making progress, he died of a heart attack in his sleep. He leaves three children, and -- even more heartbreaking -- his mother Marni Nixon.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen! Edition)

Video event of the week: Might Summit Entertainment's DVD of the latest Nicolas Cage piece of action crap Drive Angy by any chance be what we're talking about? Are HBO's respective disc version box sets of the vampire soap opera True Blood: The Complete Third season, conceivably in the sanguinary running? Or is it by any chance possible that Paramount's Blu-ray update of Sergio Leone's fabulous Once Upon a Time in the West is, in fact, The One?

All worthy (except for the Cage movie, obviously) but for my money it simply has to be Warner Home Video's release of MGM's unseen for decades and quite spectacular version of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic novel Night Flight, directed by Clarence Brown.

By unseen, we mean that it was pulled from circulation in 1943, although the reasons are unclear; presumably, some sort of copyright dispute with the publisher's of the book. In any case, the film -- the story of heroic aviators trying against desperate odds to deliver polio serum while the women they love bite their nails -- is a sort of action-adventure version of one of Metro's all-star parlor dramas a la Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight, which is to say that Clark Gable, John and Lionel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy try their damndest not to be upstaged by some extremely impressive aerial photography of rickety biplanes in the South American skies. As you might expect, it's something of a curio; Brown's direction is alternately ahead of its time (very impressive relentlessly moving camerawork) and old-fashioned (the actors mostly declaim as if they're in a Victorian melodrama), and the aforementioned quite breathtaking aerial photography is interrupted by a lot of surprisingly unconvincing process shots. Still, as vault exhumations go, this one is a doozy, and it's nice to have the picture available finally, especially in WHV's razor sharp transfer (the print itself is in mostly first-rate shape).

In any case, you can -- and I think it would be a good idea -- pre-order Night Flight over at Amazon here.

And with that out of the way, and because things are doubtless going to be a trifle quiet around here for a while, here's a fun and clearly relevant little project to help us wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Aviation-Themed Feature Film!!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. Millenium (Michael Anderson, 1989)

Former Charlie's Angels pin-up Cheryl Ladd stars as one of a group of cops from the far future who comes to our present to stage plane crashes in order to avert a holocaust that has rendered the human race genetically impotent in the 30th century. Or something. Not as bad as it sounds, actually, and who knew Ladd could act? Not so sure about frequently mistaken for a 2X4 co-star Kris Kristofferson, though.

4. Snakes on a Plane (David R. Ellis, 2006)

I'm sorry -- that's motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane. Motherfucker.

3. The Fighting Devil Dogs (William Witney and John English, 1938)

Vintage Republic serial nonsense, with a villain -- The Lightning -- who is pretty obviously the inspiration for Darth Vader, and whose villainy mostly takes place aboard his fabulous Flying Wing, a giant futuristic aircraft-carrier-in-the-sky recycled with great glee from an earlier (less amusing) Dick Tracy serial.

2. Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939)

Great flying scenes, an amazing cast including Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, and typically snappy Howard Hawks-ian dialogue and action, and yet Angels has always left me cold. I mean, I like Hawks as much as the next auteurist, but in this case all that macho romantic fatalism and bravado seems kind of creepy. IMHO.

And the Numero Uno "up, up and away!" epic of them all simply has to be...

1. Flying Down to Rio (Thornton Freeland, 1933)

For obvious reasons (NOT Fred and Ginger). And also for one immortal line, when a WASP-ish socialite, upset that star Delores del Rio seems to be getting all the guys, asks "What do Latin girls have south of the border that we don't?"

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Future Events Such as These Will Affect You in the Future

I know what you're thinking -- what the world really needs right now is a tribute album for pioneering first generation British punk bands The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.

Well, gosh darn it -- you're in luck, because now there is one!!!

The short version (from the press release):
There are 18 tracks on the album, with 6 tracks each dedicated to the Pistols, the Clash and the Damned. All the bands were tasked with providing covers of a high standard. Expectations were high, and yet the artists managed to create something new & radically different.

The bands featured are The Sex Pistols Experience, Leatherface, Terry Edwards (Serious Drinking, Higsons, Tindersticks), Steve Drewett (Newtown Neurotics), Attila the Stockbroker, The Blaggers ITA, Bleach, Anhrefn, The Price, Red Letter Day, The Bolsheviks, Identity, Exit Condition, Robb Johnson and The Urchin String Quartet!

Having now listened to it, I can report that while No Future is as patchy as most tribute albums tend to be, there's nothing on it that dishonors the originals. I can also report that I find it perhaps overly amusing that the Sex Pistols Experience is billed here as "the UK's top Sex Pistols tribute band"; I'm assuming this means that there's more than one. Heh.

In any case, not being a huge Damned fan, I was surprised that the Leatherface cover of "Melody Lee" below... under my skin in very short order. I should also add that Steve Drewett's version of "Capital Radio" is the bees knees, as today's kids say.

Bottom line: You can -- and on balance, I would say you should -- order it over at Amazon here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I Hate to Break It to Ann Althouse, But Posting Stuff on a Free Service Is Not a Guarantee of Immortality

Our Down Under blogging pal Peter Scott informs us that during the recent unpleasantness with Blogger, his old -- and invaluable -- site was disappeared.

To his credit,Peter did not -- unlike a certain box wine drinker and law professor -- have some crazy relative start a Facebook page devoted to the lunatic theory that this was done deliberately because of his political views.

Instead, Pete did the sensible thing and resumed business at a new address.

So -- get over to Peter's Power Pop and give our antipodean buddy some love.

Thank you.

Records? What are Records?

From the just released second EP by Stag, please enjoy the infectious ode to vinyl (and 70s pop culture cheese in general, at least in the video) "Love Her Records."

I am informed that Stag are a bunch of Seattle club band veterans, except for the lead singer, who used to be the frontman of That Petrol Emotion, an apparently well-regarded 80s/early 90s (mostly) Brit act that I managed to miss entirely back in the day. I am also informed that their influences include The Who and Cheap Trick. I'm hearing a bit of The Raspberries and a little Todd Rundgren in the above clip as well, unless my ears deceive me.

Actually, I'm at the point lately where I don't trust my immediate judgement on bands like this. I sometimes get the feeling there's a bit of the Dancing Bear thing going on, which is to say I may enjoy what they're doing not because it's being done particularly well, but out of gratitude that it's being done at all.

I haven't made up my mind about Stag, is what I'm saying, but I'm going to check 'em out some more. If you're similarly inclined, you can start over at their Facebook page.