I wasn’t thinking of anything when I rewatched Mulholland Dr. the same week we saw La La Land, another movie with great songs in which a girl follows her dreams to Hollywood. Emma Stone’s Mia eventually becomes the star that Betty only dreams of being, after a casting agent sees her one-woman show. Her man Ryan Gosling sets aside his own dreams of running a jazz club to tour with his friend John Legend’s band Jazzhammer. Everyone acts like this is a tragic move on Ryan’s part, but he was broke, so how was he gonna afford his own club without building up cash from those lucrative Jazzhammer tours? Either way, Emma thinks he’s selling out his dreams, and their jobs mean they have to spend months apart, and there’s a fight, and suddenly it’s five years later and Emma and her husband duck into Ryan’s successful new club for a bittersweet Umbrellas of Cherbourg-style ending (noticed a suspicious Parapluies shop on the studio backlot, too), but not before indulging in a (shared?) musical fantasy of how their relationship might have worked out.

Nice to see a strong musical with dancing and singing and Rebel Without a Cause references on the big scope-letterboxed cinema screen. Katy thinks all couples should always end up together at the end of movies, but otherwise she liked it.

J. Rosenbaum:

If the movie’s opening and closing production numbers are by far the most impressive and powerful, this is because they’re both responses to realities perceived as unbearable — which becomes all the more unbearable in the latter case by being disguised as a phony happy ending … La La Land is far more about the death of cinema and the death of jazz than it is about their rebirth or survival. It’s about boarded-up movie houses, antiquated analog recordings, and artistic aspirations that can only be fulfilled (as well as fueled) by fantasy.

I’ve already given up on the ratings system I established in the previous entry. Just can’t start giving number ratings to movies on the blog. I have another, less specific idea, that I’ll unveil soon.


The Color of Noise (2015, Eric Robel)

Been listening to Boss Hog and Melvins lately, so here I am checking out another record label doc right after hating the K Records one. This is two hours on Amphetamine Reptile Records and its founder Tom Hazelmyer, which sounded like it’d be punishing, so I planned to watch it in pieces. But it turned out to be everything I’ve been looking for in a rock doc, full of great music and stories, giving valuable info on AmRep bands I’ve never listened to (and making me wish used CD stores still existed so I could go on a shopping spree). And it’s great looking – slickly designed, with a ton of great visual material (oh, those posters!) from the defunct label’s history. Watched on streaming then immediately bought the blu-ray to check out extra features. This is the movie I’ll be recommending as the apex rock doc. Bonus: the director is from Nebraska.

The guy from God Bullies, I think:

Boss Hog:

Hazelmyer:


Sabbath In Paradise (1998, Claudia Heuermann)

I guess I’ve given rock docs a bad rap, because this was great also. Another John Zorn-and-gang doc, talking about their unique methods of making Jewish music. Got me thinking about how many of the musicians I love the most – Robbie Fulks, Ted Leo, Yo La Tengo, lately Zorn – are enthusiastic, omnivorous music fans themselves, curating specific music histories through their own performances (and references, collaborators, cover songs), but this thought feels like it requires a book-length exploration, so I’ll stop there.

This guy sits in a movie theater, reading from a holy book as if to narrate the action.


Shield Around The K (2000, Heather Rose Dominic)

Pretty amateur-looking… for a while I pretended that this was on purpose, intended to be charmingly lo-fi-looking to match the spirit of the music, but nah. Not as informative as I’d hoped either, spending the entire first hour discussing the origins and career of flagship band Beat Happening, which I’ve already covered in Our Band Could Be Your Life and the Crashing Through box set.

Halo Benders are seen but not mentioned. Dub Narcotic and the Disco Plate series: not mentioned. Cassette culture is covered, but there’s little about the twee-pop vs. riot-grrl mini-scenes. I look at a list of K artists and wonder who ARE these groups… and there are an interesting few that I’ve heard (The Make-Up, Microphones, Lync, that one Beck album) which seem to have little in common, so I was hoping for some kinda artistic overview of the roster, but maybe that’s not possible in 90 minutes. At least we got significant attention paid to the great Mecca Normal.

Mecca Normal:

Lois:

Musically decent, with some good concert footage and songs (usually music videos) played all the way through.

IMDB says the director played a crackhead in Schrader’s Light Sleeper.


Jammin’ the Blues (1944, Gjon Mili)

“This… is a jam session.”
Beautifully lit, with singer Marie Bryant.
Oscar-nominated, but a comedy short about talking animals took the prize.


JATP (1950, Gjon Mili)

This appears to be the movie called Improvisation on imdb. Lackadaisically spoken cast credits come five minutes in. Overall tinnier, compressed-sounding audio on my copy, and far less slickly produced than the 1944 short. On the other hand, this one I’d actually believe is a documentary of a jam session, simply recorded, gradually adding more players until Ella Fitzgerald caps it off. Not being a jazz follower I’m not getting the chills from seeing all these big names in person – Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Buddy Rich – just a pleasant 15 minutes of music.


Burn to Shine – Atlanta, GA – 7.29.2007

I remember reading in Stomp & Stammer that this was being filmed, and have been waiting the past decade to finally see it. A very nice time capsule of the Atlanta rock scene, from approx. the year I was paying the most attention, taping local bands and buying all their 7″ singles.

The Selmanaires:

Delia Gartrell:

Coathangers:


Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane – Santiago, Chile 2011

I love how sometimes, when Mike smiles, you can tell that he’s the devil.
Had to re-sync the audio a few times, but otherwise this show is the greatest.


Deerhunter at Coachella 2016


Tortoise at Primavera Sound 2016


Wolf Parade at Best Kept Secret Fest 2016


Animal Collective on KCRW 2016

Wildly multilayered movie, both in its ideas and plot elements and its visuals, with great use of dissolves and multiple exposures. Clark says the look was inspired by jazz record covers. Fantastic color (fades to red or blue instead of black) and clarity, using Japanese 16mm film stock. Jazz music guides the plot and the film’s own style. Some of the story elements don’t come together perfectly, but there are so many ideas that the movie feels revolutionary, so being a slave to plot wasn’t Clark’s top concern.

Warmack gets out of jail, hitches a ride home from Maya, a disillusioned designer who soon quits her job and hangs out with Warmack instead. He returns to his friends in a jazz group but can’t find his mentor Pops, tries to track him down. I had a hard time telling which characters were blood relatives and which were close friends or surrogate families. If Pops is the grandfather of Warmack, why does Warmack only find out about his death and funeral from a tarot card reader?

Warmack finds the music industry even more hopelessly corrupt than when he left it. His buddies are happy scraping by with the money the label boss gives them while he gets filthy rich selling their music. One guy snitches for the boss, another gets hooked on drugs and overdoses. Warmack was originally locked up for killing a dude who blinded bandmate Skeeter, later kills the label boss and his toughs for killing Skeeter. Poor Skeeter. Maya goes full-on revolutionary, helps with the murder revenge plot. Movie is interested in purity of expression, the black experience, the Attica riot and other recent events, and Africa and its leaders.

Cowriter Ted Lang became a TV director and Love Boat actor. Pops was played by Hollywood veteran Clarence Muse. Julie Dash did sound, Charles Burnett was a cameraman, and Pat O’Neill provided optical effects. Legend goes the film was studied by future Spike Lee cinematographers Arthur Jafa and Ernest Dickerson until they wore out their university’s print.

I got a collection of the Screening Room series, in which Robert Gardner (a great filmmaker himself) interviews creators of avant-garde, animated and short films and shows their work. The plan is to watch some of these and supplement them with other shorts by the filmmakers. In the Hubleys’ case I’ve got plenty, since I bought all their DVDs when they were in print – probably watched most of the films a decade ago but now I can’t remember one from the other, so need to see again. Since I already had all these movies (except possibly Children of the Sun) I would’ve appreciated more time spent in conversation with Gardner, but when this aired I’m sure it was more important to show the work itself.

Eggs (1970)

Birth and Death share a car, drive through civilization debating (over)population. Then Quetzalcoatl shows up and sends them both to a new planet, announcing that the old one is on its own. The dialogue recording is a little too beatnik, but it’s a nice film, good one to start the program. John mentions to Garner that an advantage of animation is being able to tackle huge social issues in the abstract.

The Hat (1964)

One of my favorites, with Dizzy Gillespie and Dudley Moore as two border guards riffing on the idea of war and artificial boundaries after one drops his hat onto the wrong side of the line.

I also flipped through their book adaptation of The Hat, an attempt to turn the rambling dialogue into written form (with illustrations)… doesn’t seem to have worked as well.

Children of the Sun (1960)

Child play and fantasies (accurate to a fault), ending with a weird string-music motion child collage.

Zuckerkandl (1968)

Opening narrator sounds like WC Fields. An illustrated speech given by Robert Maynard Hutchins about Freud student Dr. Zuckerkandl, who is animated as a tiny man with an amusing accent. Mostly I distracted myself watching him and thinking about animation and missed the part where he’s supposed to be the father of modern times. Oh nevermind, internet says it’s a fiction/parody of psychology, which I suppose accounts for all the laughter during Hutchins’ speech. Regardless, another weird choice for an animated film.

Moonbird (1959)

The cutest of their children-voices movies that I’ve seen – Mark and Hampy dig a hole, lay bait (candy) and set a trap to catch the elusive moonbird. Won the oscar over a Speedy Gonzalez, a biblical Disney and an Ernest Pintoff musical short.

The Adventures of * (1957)

Fun, visually exciting short about how aging crushes your imagination and sense of fun – but with a happy ending.

Urbanissimo (1967)

Another favorite. A farmer is startled by a giant, resource-scarfing mobile city that steals his fruits and spits out canned fruit. Entranced by the music of the city (a nice jazz score by Benny Carter) he drops everything and runs after it. Presented by the National Housing Agency of Canada.

Dig (1972)

Educational short about geology. Adam is going to the store for milk when he falls deep into the earth’s crust. Guided by a talking rock (Jack Warden, the president in Being There) he learns about quakes, salt, stalactites, different kinds of rock, fossils, volcanoes. Songs ensue, including “So Sedimentary,” which Dump has covered. Blacklisted actor Morris Carnovsky protects “the tomb of the earth,” through which they go back through prehistoric eras. Finally Jack returns to his mom (Maureen Stapleton, Emma Goldman in Reds) with his new pet rock (and no milk).

A kid called Akira (Tamio Kawaji of Tokyo Drifter, Youth of the Beast) buys a Max Roach record called Black Sun, bumps into a woman outside who smashes the record by accident, so he steals their car and sells it. Gets “home” to the crumbling church tower he illegally occupies with his dog Thelonious Monk and finds the cops are searching it for a murderous American GI.

It’s a reasonable setup – we learn a little about Akira (a carefree criminal who loves jazz) and are prepped for a meeting between Akira and the GI. Good jazzy score, and high-energy filmmaking (plus a weird fisheye effect when the camera moves). But it soon gets much crazier than expected.

Turns out Gill, the shell-shocked American (Chico Roland, who I just saw as a disgraced pastor in Gate of Flesh), doesn’t care for jazz – or dogs. Akira is honored beyond belief to have an actual black man at his place, but Gill trashes it and kills the dog. They go back and forth with the machine gun threatening each other, then Akira steals an idea from a jazz record sleeve so they can go out in public – puts himself in blackface and Gill in clownface.

Gill is badly hurt from a bullet he caught before we met him, starts raving that he wants to visit the sea. Akira’s tower gets torn down, all his remaining jazz records and paraphenalia destroyed, so with nothing to lose, he helps Gill (who has never been nice to him, really) get to the shore. And if you’d have told me a few minutes into this movie that it would end with Gill floating away over the ocean tied to a giant balloon while Akira holds off the cops with a machine gun, I wouldn’t have believed you.