Sat Dec 05 2020 14:03 November Film Roundup:
And we're back to Youtube presentations of plays that were once shown in theaters by Fathom Events. It seems like these days, I just can't Fathom Events, you know?
- "Being Shakespeare" (2011): Drama doesn't need a reason to exist, but it feels like this one-man show has a reason that I don't understand. This New York Times review says it's putting forth the case that Shakespeare authored his own damn plays, which, okay, but I already believed that. The biographical reconstruction was pretty interesting.
- "Macbeth" (2010): I remember seeing that Patrick Stewart was doing Macbeth on Broadway, and not going for it because the tickets were too expensive. Now, thanks to a global health disaster, he comes to my living room! We thought this was really solid and the staging gave it a real The Death of Stalin vibe.
BTW when you look up Patrick Stewart on IMDB, his top "Known For" item is Logan (2017). I give you this information to do with what you will. (Probably nothing)
- Happiest Season (2020): I don't watch many recent holiday rom-coms, and I will say this speaks more to today's issues than, say, Christmas in Connecticut, but I liked the "com" more than the "rom". Daniel Levy's comic relief was both welcome and massively oversold by his over-prominent presence in the opening credits.
For the first ten minutes of this movie I was really tense, because it opens almost exactly the same as Get Out. Maybe this is less a fact about Happiest Season and more a reflection on how effectively Get Out evoked the rom-com feeling before subverting it.
As the days get shorter we've gone back to one of our old online-video hobbies, a hobby that deserves (and will get) its own blog post. But I do have a Television Spotlight for you, albeit one I forgot to mention a couple months ago when we watched it: Raw Craft with Anthony Bourdain. It's the most blatant Sponsored Content ever, but it's got the late Anthony Bourdain interviewing and appreciating a lot of interesting craftspeople like Elizabeth Brim and Raul Ojeda.
(3) Sun Dec 06 2020 16:20 Music Video Roundup:
Since our concentration is sometimes fragmented these days, Sumana and I will sometimes watch old music videos instead of something more demanding like a movie. By mutual agreement, we've been focusing on the 1980s, especially pop and new wave music. It's amazing how accessible most of this stuff is these days; we've basically been going through the Billboard charts and almost all of it is on Youtube, gated only by geolocation gates and stupid commercials. (We did get some "not available in your country" for some of the British videos, so presumably mutatis mutandis elsewhere.)
Here are some of our favorites from the past few months, in an easy-to-click list format. Share your favorites in the comments!
- I believe this tradition started with Sumana showing me the 2001 Spike Jonze video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice". If you like this (and why wouldn't you), I've found an officially-posted clip of Christopher Walken's striptease from Pennies from Heaven (1981), twenty years before Weapon of Choice. I think there's a straight line between these two videos.
- "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel, a video I'd heard of through MST3K references but... wow, it's amazing. Pretty much every Peter Gabriel video is inventive and fun, but the other really great one has to be "Big Time".
- "King of Wishful Thinking" by Go West, another great example of the "put everything in there" school of music video making. I also want to point out that these guys are surprisingly buff for pop musicians, who judging from other videos tend to be on the scrawny side.
- The Cars have a number of wacky videos, including "You Might Think" and the John Waters-directed sci-fi comedy "You Are The Girl", the video which proves that Ric Ocasek should have played a Vorta on DS9 alongside Iggy Pop.
- Huey Lewis and the News do a lot of fun rom-com music videos like "Stuck With You", but also things like the drumstick POV shots of "Hip to be Square" and the 2020 frontline-workers tribute "I Am There For You".
- Hall and Oates are a group I never really heard songs from or thought about, but "Possession Obsession" and "Method of Modern Love" are both really fun, and they have a number of other good songs that I'm not mentioning because they don't have great videos.
- "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon, feat. Chevy Chase. My mom used to say that when she was single and living in LA in the 1970s, one of her friends had tried to set her up with Paul Simon. Assuming this actually happened (never a safe bet with my mother's stories), it would have been after his 1975 divorce. Simon went on to have relationships with Shelly Duval and Carrie Fisher, and Frances Whitney in 1975 would have fit that type, so who knows?
- Lionel Richie's glorious "Dancing on the Ceiling", which ends with a gratuitious '80s camero and led me to another great song I'd never heard before, "Nightshift" by Richie's former band The Commodores. The video for "Nightshift" isn't terribly memorable, so here's Richie's Technicolor West Side Story-esque video for "All Night Long". At the end of the video someone goes "through" a door and has to just stay behind the door, because it doesn't really lead anywhere and the door won't close! The music video equivalent of just singing softer and softer rather than fading out.
- Through this process we discovered British band ABC, who I only knew from "When Smokey Sings". They have a bunch of playful videos including "The Night You Murdered Love", in which the lead singer is hunted by a female assassin on a skateboard; and "Poison Arrow", in which the lead singer is hunted by a female assassin without a skateboard. They also made a fun animated video for "How To Be A Millionaire" which has a cool Batman: The Animated Series feel, but the only copy I could find on Youtube plays the video in reverse, presumably to avoid the eye of Content ID. This reverses the meaning of the video, showing the band members leading less extravagant lives and returning items to store shelves.
- Thomas Dolby, of science-blinded fame, is to me the archetypal "weird 80s music video" maker; see also his "Hyperactive".
- "Think" by Information Society... unlike the other links here, I don't like this song, but the music video is an incredible taste of the '90s. Anyone can rip off Brazil, but it takes a true Gilliam-phile to also collect Time Bandits.
- "Pop Musik" by M - Super-low-budget work that I feel was really influential in the language of music videos just from having come out so early (1979).
- Berlin's "Metro" has a similar look, as if Rainer Werner Fassbender directed it right after making Kamikaze '89.
- I'm not really into the Pet Shop Boys, but the second music video for Opportunities is great, and director Zbigniew Rybczyński has a solid body of work, including Rush's "Time Stand Still" video.
- Pat Benetar specialized in big female-empowerment action-movie videos, like the Sweet Charity-esque "Love is a Battlefield" and the Nazi-punching adventure "Shadows of the Night"
- Annie Lennox has a number of fun videos, my favorite being "Would I Lie To You?"
- Steve Winwood's "While You See A Chance" illustrates the dichotomy of the '80s pop video. Steve himself is well-dressed and presentable, playing the keyboard in a sound stage where two Suliban are crawling over a giant pyramid! What's going on? Never explained. Steve doesn't seem to mind. Did they go to high school together?
- Two great videos from Men At Work: "It's A Mistake" and "Who Can It Be Now?"
- Dire Straits's "Walk of Life" is a glimpse back into a time when you couldn't just see a bunch of sports bloopers whenever you wanted, it had to be a special thing. Also on Youtube is the Walk of Life Project, which shows the ending of various movies redone with "Walk of Life" as the closing song.
- "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters also includes sports highlights—plus potentially dangerous jumping in high heels.
- "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz is the perfect example of the appeal of this project to me. I've probably heard this song twenty times in my life without ever paying attention, and only remembered it because of the catchy hook. But it's got a wacky, surreal music video with corny 1986 CGI effects. The song is fun! It was a big hit! People put a lot of work into this video! But it's just been sitting around in the back of our collective cultural unconciousness, not giving us the enjoyment it could give in a new context.
- The Human League's video for "Don't You Want Me" is nice and metafictional.
- Scandal's "The Warrior" has learned the lessons of Cats. Relatedly, Hall and Oates's "Maneater" and Heart's "Nothing at All" both use a panther to represent the feminine. In fact I'm gonna assume it's the same panther; how many trained panthers are there who can stalk through a music video?
- "No One is to Blame" (melancholy) and "Everlasting Love" (cute) by Howard Jones.
- Calloway's "I Wanna Be Rich"
- Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out" and "Down to London", which is kind of the same video twice.
- Finally, some videos that make me homesick for Manhattan: Bananarama's "Cruel Summer", Glenn Frey's "You Belong To The City", and (again), "Possession Obsession"
Mon Dec 14 2020 13:33 Situation Normal:
Situation Normal is out! You can now buy DRM-free direct from the publisher, and we got purchase links galore on the book's webpage.
We got the first two chapters free to read in HTML or PDF. We got great reviews from Booklist ("A fast-paced romp"), Library Journal ("will have readers laughing one minute and wanting to cry the next"), and Cory Doctorow ("a novel so brilliantly conceived that it runs like precision clockwork"). We got a "The Big Idea" essay on John Scalzi's blog. We're going all out!
I've written my author commentary essays and after giving you a couple of weeks to read this huge book, I'll start posting them occasionally here, so stick around and subscribe to the RSS feed. Hope you enjoy the book!
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