Friday, October 16, 2009

Desert Island Movies, Part One

Musician/Voodoo Crankshaft
for Boss Hog/Honeymoon Killers/The Chrome Cranks/Knoxville Girls/Jerry Teel & The Big City Stompers/Chicken Snake...
Jerry Teel has splattered more dixie-fried guitar & bass hoodoo across more outsider underground recordings than almost anyone. He stands in a rarefied league with James Luther Dickinson, Alex Chilton, Tav Falco, Jon Spencer, The Cramps, Ross Johnson, Kid Congo Powers, The Gun Club & Don Howland. If it's raw, unreconstructed & primal as fuck, Jerry Teel has probably had a hand in it. Dig. 
Musician/Voodoo Crankshaft
for Boss Hog/Honeymoon Killers/The Chrome Cranks/Knoxville Girls/Jerry Teel & The Big City Stompers...

Jerry Teel has splattered more dixie-fried guitar & bass hoodoo across more outsider underground recordings than almost anyone. He stands in a rarefied league with James Luther Dickinson, Alex Chilton, Tav Falco, Jon Spencer, The Cramps, Ross Johnson, Kid Congo Powers, The Gun Club & Don Howland. If it's raw, unreconstructed & primal as fuck, Jerry Teel has probably had a hand in it. Dig. 

If I had known that this was more than a 3-hour tour, I would have smuggled a couple more DVDs in my lifejacket, but if I only have 5...
1. The Night of the Iguana (John Huston, 1964)
With Tennessee Williams as the writer & John Huston as the director, of course this is brilliant as well as beautiful. This film asks all the basic questions of existence and is an excellent choice for a desert island -- very tropical with palm trees and all. It's like lying in a hammock, reading a good book & drinking a rum coco. 
2. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
As a kid growing up in a small town in the South, this is one that made me want to move to New York. It's also one that could make me happy to be warm on a desert island. Loneliness is the theme - easy to relate...

3. The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

Another film that starts in a small town in the South and stays there. Loneliness is the main theme. Hank Williams is on the radio, just like when I was growin' up - very reflective. I met Clu Gulager once. It was a thrill.

4. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)

This one also made me want to move to NYC, live in the Dakota & worship Satan. I saw Ruth Gordon on the street once, 5th Avenue & 59th Street. Another thrill of my life.

5. Performance (Nicholas Roeg/Donald Cammell, 1970)

Sex, drugs, gangsters & rock'n'roll in 60s London, with Mick Jagger & Anita Pallenberg. Great soundtrack. Enough to make me want to send up the smoke signals for a record player & a copy of Exile on Main Street.

Guitarist, Vocalist & Songwriter
Brimstone Howl 

Brimstone Howl are the ragged, manger-raised progeny of The Gun Club, The Oblivians & bluesmen on murderous benders from time immemorial. Every bone-rattling Nebraska country road, coon dog yelp & boozy midnight hunch towards home is engraved into their sound like black ice on a serpent's tongue. After a deluge of great press, the Howl are currently touring Europe, where NME called them "Beatles-headed psych-nerds with a taste for razor sharp snake-rock," (pretty hard to know where to place the hyphens in that sentence...) & MAGNET magazine called their new CD, Guts of Steel (Alive Records), an "unholy hot-wiring of The Sonics, The Damned & The Blues Explosion." Oh, and Ziegler's also one helluva writer...

1. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)

Not much of an explanation needed here. Mostly subtle hints at the worst kind of danger and then unassailable waves of black horror. And I do mean the worst kind of danger, so it’s good that it would be handled somewhat delicately, (delicately enough), before the green vomit and congress of the crucifix occurs. The flash of the face on stove, the display of total Catholic stoicism in the face of the enemy of mankind… But maybe it wouldn’t be that fun to watch alone over and over again on a desert island. The next would, I think.

2. RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Paul Verhoeven's hilarious vision of a future where Detroit (a halo of wealth surrounding a flush hole of poverty) topples on the verge of economic breakdown, necessitating a new set of police SOP's. He even goes so far as to say that the mayor, ridiculously, might be implicated in all of the brutish miscarriages of public trust. The only thing separating this movie from reality is robots, faces melting from toxic waste burns, and stop-action sequences of robot police malfunctioning. Probably, if not already, prophetic in a sad-but-not-remarkable way. But that’s not why I’d take it to the island. I like the dialogue.

3. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970)

Written by Roger Ebert and directed by Russ Meyer. It's a cautionary tale, they say, but mostly a funny diatribe against false-prophet party favorers like Z-man. And it also has a lot of great songs written for the band, which are maybe the most sincere elements of the film. Really, the music is beautiful and doesn’t laugh at itself at all, unless with tears streaming down its face at the same time. This film maybe shouldn't occupy any list of top 5 movies on a desert island, and would be mostly worthless after 2 or 3 viewings.

4. Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)

For sure, this movie would have received much higher acclaim had it not been for the director’s unfortunate tiff with police. I think this movie is paced perfectly, with a near perfect balance of action. And nothing, not the subtitles or the heavy-handed foreshadowing and symbolism, can really take away from the total effect. Spear-chucking, head rolling, face eating, rape, murder, celebratory human sacrifice. It’s bizarre enough that I think you can forgive the obvious lesson to be learned from the small armada of conquistadors’ boats pulling to shore in the final scenes.

5. The Boys from Brazil (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1978)

Another comedy here. This is a list about movies and presumably their directors, but it'd be hard not to trace some of the great discomfort I felt watching this movie to the same felt at watching Rosemary's Baby, partially to the credit of the author of both novels, Ira Levin. (It comes from the word first). In this one about Hitler cloning, the young American Hitler clone is about as ready for the shoes that his cloner has prepared for him as Dolores Haze is to fulfill Humbert Humbert's vision of love. Basically, manipulative American brats who just aren't ready for any adult’s plan for transcendental love or biblical evil, in spite of their predilection at a young age for sex and violence, depending on which we’re talking about. Of course that’s not all it’s about. The British Hitler has his faults as well.
Austin Improv Comedian - The Smoking Arm/Ratliff & Jackson
Keyboard Player - The Diamond Smugglers 
Freelance Writer - Esquire, SPIN, Blender

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)

A screwball comedy, yes, but also a political satire, a melodrama, a thriller, a farce, and a how-to instructional film for aspiring journalists. Possibly the fastest dialogue ever recorded in a Hollywood movie, but if the sound goes out you can follow what's going on by paying attention to the cigarettes. The awesome Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are backed by an equally awesome supporting cast, including a comic named Billy Gilbert who almost steals the whole movie during his three minutes onscreen.

Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)

Yeah, yeah, yeah: the toast scene in the diner. I love that scene too, but now I wish it had wound up on the cutting-room floor instead of reducing the entirety of Five Easy Pieces to a clip shoehorned between "You can't handle the truth!" and "Here's Johnny!" in Jack Nicholson montages. What you can't tell from that snippet is that in this movie he was actually acting, instead of whatever it is he does these days. Screenwriter Carole Eastman's smart, dark meditation on self-imposed alienation refuses to tell you how to feel about the complex characters -- though for some reason she does give them all hilarious names. (For starters: Rayette Dipesto, Catherine Van Oost, Partita Dupea, Palm Apodaca, Samia Glavia.)

Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne, 1996)

IMHO, a perfect political satire, anchored by a perfect performance. (Ohmigod, I am so in love with Laura Dern I could plotz, mostly because of this movie.) Both sides of the abortion debate are lovingly, rigorously reduced to smoking junk piece by piece, but thanks to a brilliant cast almost nobody comes off as an easy caricature. Like all great satire, CR gradually escalates a real-world scenario to a completely illogical place, but the heightening always makes perfect sense in context. Also, some interesting parallels to Terry Gilliam's Brazil, but I don't want to spoil it for you. (Confidential to LD: Ben Harper? REALLY? You're killing me, just killing me.)

Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)

In addition to an Oscar-nominated script by Scott Frank and a righteous David Holmes soundtrack, I make the following claims for OoS:

1. Best film version of an Elmore Leonard novel. (Okay, maybe a tie with Jackie Brown.)
2. Best hybrid of chick movie (extremely hot couple star-crossed by their respective careers of U.S. Marshal and fugitive bank robber) and guy movie (bank robbery; jailbreak; jewel heist; violent attacks with pistol, shiv, collapsible police baton, fireman's hatchet, flower planter, and large reference book).
3. Best supporting cast: Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Dennis Farina, Isaiah Washington, Catherine Keener, and Luis Guzman, plus a few uncredited cameos I won't ruin for you. And J-Lo brings it, for reals.
4. Best stoner in American film history: Steve Zahn. I would say this standing on Sean Penn's coffee table in a Hawaiian shirt.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I know this is supposed to be a list of movies, but I feel like this is a good place to say something that needs to be said: if you love the movie The Princess Bride, you REALLY NEED TO READ THE BOOK. I'm not knocking the movie, I'm just saying, the book completely blows it out of the water. You get back story for the Turk and Inigo and the Prince, plus it's a book within a book where William Goldman makes himself a character, except that you think he's not . . . it's fantastic. I used to read this book aloud to my girlfriends and then I found out that Bill Hicks used to do the same thing to his girlfriends and if Bill Hicks and me combined are not enough reason to make you want to read this book then I don't know what.

Also, just read more books in general. Thank you.

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