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The First (Real) Post – “This kind of has me nervous…”

anxious

This is my first post back, here are some things I’ve watched and listened to in this few days since I posted that initial return post.

Weekly Listenings

Monuments album
Monuments – The Amanuensis (2013)

This is an album I’ve been listening to for several months now. I wasn’t sold on it initially when I first listened to it but it’s been on non-stop rotation since January-ish. Djenty, super rhythmic metal but with Chris Barretto’s vocals stealing the show. Super catchy. Songs like Horcrux and Saga City have not left my head for months. I just think it’s fun and with the weather outside getting warmer, this is definitely something I’ll be driving around listening to a lot more as well.

Slipknot_Iowa
Slipknot – Iowa (2001)

I read Metalsucks’ article about Corey Taylor ranking Slipknot’s discography in his opinion and then Noisey’s interview with the man himself and decided to give this album a listen since it’s been YEARS since I listened to it. I’ll always have affection for the self-titled, which in my opinion still comes across as one of the most genuinely pissed-off sounding records to come out in that period of time, but I really don’t listen to any of the band’s albums all that frequently to give an honest assessment of them. But anyway, I went back and listened to this one because – hey, every article and review I’ve ever read say this is the most pissed-off sounding Slipknot ever got. I will say, yes, they certainly still sound pissed-off on here, but the songs on here, aside from tracks like People = Shit, Diseasterpiece, or The Heretic Anthem most of the songs on here don’t stick with me the way tracks from the self-titled did. It’s fine, I don’t hate it, but it’s certainly not something I expect to return to any time soon.

Bowie
David Bowie – Station to Station (1976) / Reality (2003)

Station to Station is one of my favorite Bowie albums and as per usual, whenever I decide to listen to him, I wind up listening to that record. The album is just 6 straight songs of perfection. One after another, with Golden Years being amongst his most popular and well known songs (and for good reason –  that song is catchy as fuck!). Along with other greats like the epic title-track, the dirty swagger of Stay, and the breezy melancholic closer Wild Is The Wind. It’s a great record – not sure what else needs to be said. So inevitably, whenever I decide to listen to David Bowie, I always tell myself that I should listen to one of his albums that I don’t always play (Young Americans, Station to Station, Heroes, Let’s Dance) so this time I went and listened to Reality from 2003. From what I hear, this album isn’t held too highly in the category of more recent releases from Bowie, but honestly, I like it quite a bit. Yes, it’s certainly not perfect, but there are a handful of songs on here that are some of my favorite from this period in his career. I hadn’t listened to this record in several months but even from the first listen, closer Bring Me The Disco King was a song that stood out to me. But I’d say the highlight(s) here are the trio of tracks – Looking for Water, She’ll Drive The Big Car, and Days – that occur in the middle of the album. I think it’s an overlooked release that does deserve to be given another look.

MI0003237416
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Certainly not the most obscure of choices here but whatever, this record is another classic for a reason. The songs on here are some of the best PF ever wrote. This is one of the easiest albums I’ve ever heard to listen to – in the sense that it feels like the time (pun not intended) just flies by. It’s impossible not to get songs like Breathe, Money, or Us and Them stuck in your head – if they aren’t already on constant rotation in there. It’s not my favorite PF record (which remains Wish You Were Here), but it’s still fantastic and well worth a listen if you’re one of the few people out there who hasn’t yet fallen under its spell.

Weekly Watchings

Dirty Dancing
Dirty Dancing (1987)

Yes, I had never seen Dirty Dancing before this week. It’s one of those films I just wanted to cross off the ol’ watch list. It’s fine, I guess – I didn’t hate it, but… it’s just one of those things where if I’m going to watch an 80s dance movie – I’d rather watch Kevin Bacon as opposed to Patrick Swayze. As lame as that probably is to say. I also wasn’t as engaged with the film as I wished I was, the dancing didn’t really do much for me either. It was an altogether mediocre watch to be honest.

MatsumotoTerayama
Toshio Matsumoto / Shuji Terayama

One of my goals in terms of watching movies for this year is to try and make it through as many of the Japanese New Wave director’s filmographies as I can. I have already gone through Hiroshi Teshigahara, Nagisa Oshima, and Shohei Imamura (those 3 I guess you could consider the figureheads of the movement) and this week I finished up the filmographies of two directors who started making waves near the end of the movement. Both Toshio Matsumoto (left) and Shuji Terayama (right) established themselves as extremely cerebral and surrealistic filmmakers early on. Both of them started in the late 60s by making experimental short films (most of which you can find on youtube). They weren’t narrative based pieces and worked more with imagery and symbolism. But both made waves through their respective first features. For Matsumoto, it was his 1969 film Funeral Parade of Roses – an extremely surreal take on the Oedipus Rex myth that is set in Tokyo’s gay underground – and for Terayama it was 1971’s Throw Away Your Books, Rally In The Streets – a piece that follows a young man’s disillusionment with the world around him as he tries to make something of his life while struggling against poverty and reality. It probably isn’t fair to say this but both films are most likely both director’s most well known films, with little talk about their later work from what I’ve found.

funeral parade
Funeral Parade of Roses

While I would say that Funeral Parade of Roses is Matsumoto’s masterpiece, the three features that he made later in his career are all worthy of your attention as well. 1971’s Pandemonium is a creepy and extremely dark ghostly samurai drama. It’s a fascinating piece that I found genuinely quite unnerving. The surrealist tones are certainly not as strong here as they were in Matsumoto’s debut feature but instead we get a picture that is just filled with dread and unease. 1973’s The War of the 16 Year Olds is a more straightforward dramatic piece about a young man trying to come to terms with his place in the world. It sounds like a pretty traditional kind of story but Matsumoto’s unique take brings a dreamy quality to the story so that the piece actually has some semblance of mystery and ambiguity in the character’s existence and motives. His last feature was 1988’s Dogra Magra, which is a film set in an asylum. The protagonist awakens to find himself locked inside the asylum with no memory of how he got there – with the rest of the film having him unlocking those memories. Once again, this sounds like a fairly tried and true kind of genre piece, but once again Matsumoto’s unique take on the genre in question is what makes this worth watching. Though it is probably my least favorite of his four features, the entire picture is shrouded in this hazy atmosphere for the majority of it’s running time that I found rather interesting.

funeral parade
Pastoral: To Die in the Country

Terayama on the other hand, I think, delivered his masterpiece with his second feature, 1974’s Pastoral: To Die in the Country. A surrealist semi-autobiographical piece that explores things that may or may not have occurred in some shape or form in Terayama’s past, his (at that time) current struggle, as some weird in-between world. It’s an extremely thought provoking piece that I really need to watch again to really even attempt to formulate my thoughts on it in a semi-coherent way. Then came 1977’s The Boxer, which, if I’m being rather reductive towards it, is essentially Terayama’s version of Rocky. Only it’s incredibly dull and straight-faced in a way that I found rather boring. I had a similar feeling towards his 1981 feature Les fruits de la passion, which is this odd mixture of erotica and surrealistic psycho-drama that never really gels together and has the weirdest of performances from Klaus Kinski. His attempt at blending his own style with the erotica genre was realized in a far more ambitious and interesting way in his 1979 short Grass Labyrinth. Once again taking place in something that appeared, to me, to be between past, present, and some other time – it’s easily one of the best things in Terayama’s career. Unfortunately it was included as a part of Collections Privées anthology film – which along with the aforementioned short also included two other shorts by Walerian Borowczyk (which is funny in a cheesy sort of way) and Just Jaeckin (which is really pretentious and bad). 1984’s Farewell to the Ark was his last feature (released posthumously) and was adapted from the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez. While still very strange and surreal (I am aware I am using this word a lot in this write out) it is perhaps his most immediately accessible film if only because the narrative is a bit easier to grasp than some of his earlier surrealist films. With tons of crazy towns people, memory/personality shifts, and erectile disfunction in it – how could you not want to see this?

I should also not fail to mention two more experimental “features” Terayama did – 1971’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup and and 1983’s Video Letter. The former is a semi-narrative based piece about a dystopian world where kids have taken control of society away from the adults. The latter is a compilation of video diaries and letters from Terayama and fellow poet Shuntaro Tanikawa in the months before Terayama’s death. Personally, the latter is incredibly moving but visually not that engaging (in my opinion) while the former is visually interesting but actually quite dull to sit through.

Both are directors I would strongly recommend checking out if you’re into experimental and/or surrealist films.

john
Mad Dog and Glory (1993) / The Harvest (2013)

The other films I’ll post about here this week will be the two John McNaughton films I recently watched. I actually watched 2013’s The Harvest with Michael Shannon, Samantha Morton, Charlie Tahan, and Natasha Calis. This film has apparently been on the shelf for a while and was only recently released, and to a certain extent I can see why. This is very much a B-movie and even with some very committed performances from the cast (Morton chews the scenery as the lunatic mother), it never really transcends it’s genre trappings. But having said that, I found it a lot of fun. The script is really cringe-worthy at times and for some reason Peter Fonda is in this (he seriously doesn’t do anything here – he’s the kindly grandpa) – but as I said, the performances are so committed and are delivered in such a way that it came across as more of a dark comedy than any sort of horror-thriller. The other film was 1993’s Mad Dog and Glory with Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, and Uma Thurman. This one, a sort of blend of romantic-drama and a gangster movie is interesting. Once again the performances are solid, with De Niro and Murray playing against type here as the meek and weak cop and the calm gangster (respectively). It’s pure entertainment, again, and I’m not sure there’s a whole lot under the surface but I was never bored watching it.

McNaughton is a director most well known for his first feature, 1986’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but in both these films (and in the other films I’ve seen from him) he doesn’t really put a whole lot of himself into – in the sense that he doesn’t really have a directorial stamp or style to him. I would say that the man knows how to work within genre and knows how to make B-movies fun to watch. In an age when people who make B-movies are trying to make it look like they’re doing something amazing and transcend whatever they’re actually doing, I think that McNaughton keeps things as they are. For the people who actually saw 1998’s Wild Things (and liked it for more than the tits), you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say he knows how to make B-movie trash look like fun.

Hopefully I can keep this going on a weekly basis for at least a little while. I know this is different from my previous blog but hopefully some people will find it interesting. I’d love to actually converse with others about these albums or films or whatever so feel free to leave a comment!

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