The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005, Jeff Feuerzeig)

RIP Daniel. This was jaw-dropping, I had no idea.

“He spent some time in Bellevue, a day or two, was released through a clerical error, and actually opened for Firehose at CBGB that night.” It all sounds perfectly unbelievable, “print the legend,” larger-than-life biography, but Daniel is real and wonderful, so you follow along from his humble beginnings as the stories get wilder. I kept pausing the movie to tell Katy stories until she asked if I was Forgotten Silvering her. Then Daniel wrestles control of his dad’s plane, cuts the engine and throws the keys out the window, and you’ve entered new ground for a rock doc.


Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records (2018, Julia Nash)

Katy overheard me watching this, said it seems like there’s a lot of talk and not much music, and she’s not wrong. Wax Trax! was started by a gay couple in the 1970’s, and this is very much their story, with the colorful rock & roll stories as decoration. In fact it could’ve used more WT! music – when the label starts taking off with some Ministry singles, we hear “To Hell With Poverty” instead of Ministry. Nice touch: we hear someone say “Nine Inch Nails was a terrible catalyst,” before showing the heretic speaking the words (it’s Reznor). The label was said to be popular in the bible belt (“It almost seemed the more conservative a small town you were in, the more you needed a Revolting Cocks record”), and in fact one of the label cofounders left it all behind and moved to Arkansas in the mid-90’s, right about when I was in Arkansas discovering all this music for the first time. The Amphetamine Reptile movie was 100x better, but this one is more emotional.


MC5: A True Testimonial (2002, David Thomas)

I watched this despite having listened to the group’s “Kick Out The Jams” album this summer and thinking it was just okay… and after watching, it turns out the MC5 is the greatest band in the history of rock & roll. One of the most unconventionally affectionate rock docs I’ve seen, with not a single celebrity testimonial, just the surviving band members and their friends and family, making the band seem smaller than they were, which lets the music (and there’s lots of it!) speak for itself.

MC5 faced down the police, constantly got arrested for obscenity, faced down the US fuckin’ Army, and formed the White Panther movement because they wished they could be as cool as the Black Panthers.

The internet says Wayne Kramer suppressed the movie for 15+ years, boooo.


Apocalypse: A Bill Callahan Tour Film (2012, Hanly Banks)

Between songs, some very short interviews, scraps of wisdom and insight. Grab all you can from the Apocalypse man. A few short years later in 2019, Bill is healthy and happy, wide open, chatty and content, touring on another consecutive masterpiece record. Back in 2012, this was more than we expected, and it was good, each song with its own visual scheme, as in the best concert films.


Also watched some live Malkmus/Jicks

Some reunion-era Ween

Yo La Tengo with Jad Fair

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

and Courtney Barnett

Tao catches up with his old buddy Dong, a former photographer who’s figuring out what to do next while being needled by his family, wishing he could just stay drunk and hang out with his friends and listen to punk rock, dreaming of returning to his pastoral home town far to the north. Dong’s mom works with fabric, dad sells flutes, and Dong is coerced into starting a jade business. This doesn’t work out – Tao films Dong listening to a jade dealer explain what kinds of stones to buy and how to convince customers into spending more than a piece is worth, then venting into the camera later about this business being an elaborate scam, and that’s the end of the jade story. Dong has lived his whole life in Post-Mao China but still can’t adjust to capitalism.

I’m not always clear on chronology or location. We’re in Kunming in 2011 on Dong’s 30th birthday talking about taking a trip to Hailar, then “Spring arrived in 2013,” and Dong is on a train, pointing to cities on the schedule, talking about his parents and his childhood in Hailar. So, we assumed it’s 2013 and the trip has begun, before realizing a few scenes later that it’s still Dong’s 30th birthday and they’ve gone nowhere, will go nowhere (except for the jade expo) until the final minutes of the movie.

Watched because of a specific interest in China this year, to be further explored soon. Kunming is in the far (central) south of the country, and Guangdong (the jade expo, and the beach where the promo stills were shot) is far to the east, on the south side near Hong Kong. Beijing is in the northeast of the country, but Hailar is even further northeast, around the eastern tip of Mongolia, a stone’s throw from Russia. According to the description of his previous film, post-earthquake survival semi-doc On the Way to the Sea, Tao Gu and his family are from Wenchuan, just northwest of Chengdu and not near any of his Taming the Horse locations. I haven’t figured out the part where drunk, crying Dong says he wants to kill himself in Yanjiang where he first saw the sea, since Yanjiang appears to be just on the other side of Chengdu from Gu’s hometown, 15 hours from the nearest ocean.

Punk Rock tells the Truth:

The original Faces Places, displaying and discussing L.A.’s murals with the artists and residents.

No onscreen text – she introduces the artists verbally, and when the camera shows a new piece (constantly), a whispered voiceover says the name of the painter.

The Illegals perform probably the best-ever punk song in a Varda film.

Agnès talks about the sky with a hare krishna holding an Alice Coltrane record. Juliet Berto shows up regularly, just wandering through. Street artists (and punk bands) sure didn’t dress very cool in 1980.

This is from Varda’s second Los Angeles relocation, the first a decade earlier represented by Uncle Yanco, Black Panthers and Lions Love.

Punk band witnesses the aftermath of a murder when playing a hastily-booked gig at a nazi skinhead joint, is locked in the green room while the Patrick Stewart-led thugs arrange the band members’ “accidental” deaths, band members decide to fight back.

Good use of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” and brilliant use of Creedence over the closing titles. The band members’ position (fighting for survival) is clear, but I liked how the movie doesn’t portray everyone else as pure evil. Some younger dudes will gladly slay for their master, but there’s also hesitation and horror and betrayal. Blue Ruin‘s Dwight as the club manager represents the morally-torn middle ground. Anton Yelchin (Ian in Only Lovers Left Alive – shouldn’t I be able to recognize him by now?) and Imogen Poots (She’s Funny That Way) are survivors, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat and the others not so lucky.

Remake of a Truffaut film. Played Cannes last year in the “Director’s Fortnight” with Embrace of the Serpent and Arabian Nights.

Matt Singer:

The brilliance is all in the execution, which is just about perfect … More importantly, Saulnier’s screenplay puts a premium on logically sound decisions; this is not one of those movies where you sit in your seat moaning at the characters for going up the stairs when they should be heading for the exit. Every choice is reasonable. Every action makes sense, up to and including some of the second and third act twists. That makes the escalating body count that much sadder.

This post has been released under the Movie Journal Amnesty Act of March 2011, which states that blog entries may be short and crappy, since I am too busy to write up proper ones.

Machete (2010, Robert Rodriguez)

I loved the Machete fake trailer in Grindhouse, but felt R.R. was stretching the joke too far by making this. It didn’t get stellar reviews, so I skipped it in theaters. Oops. So wonderful, probably better than Planet Terror. Baddies Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal and Jeff Fahey all get brutally killed, along with Cheech Marin and about two hundred others. I don’t know how Rodriguez stays on the cool/fun side of the campy comic-action tightrope, instead of stumbling like Sukiyaki Western Django or falling clear off like Tokyo Gore Police. Dude is good.

Hatchet 2 (2010, Adam Green)

Ugh, a boring waste of time. Good for you if you make a self-aware, post-Scream horror movie full of fun references, movie veterans and tons of humor and gore. But boo on you for throwing away all accumulated goodwill on an obvious rehash sequel. Boooooo.

Frozen (2010, Adam Green)

Watched to give Green another chance after Hatchet II. Full of “why don’t they try…” and “why wouldn’t they just…” moments, and I thought the cinematography was boring, but the story and acting are undeniable… quite a good little horror flick.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, John Carpenter)

When bad horror gets me down, I like to watch this again. It’s clunky at times and likes to montage itself (each cool shot is shown three times or more) but Sam Neill is great, and it’s one of few horrors I’ve seen that takes its Lovecraftian apocalyptic premise all the way to a satisfying conclusion.

Barres (1984, Luc Moullet)

A whole movie about dodging payment in the Paris subway – only 15 minutes long with no spoken dialogue. Cute and instructive. Told myself I’d finally check out Moullet but this is all I’ve gotten to so far.

Barres:

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

Watched with Katy. What’s this new cleaning song doing in here? Must all Disney movies have a cleaning/work song?

The Clash: Westway to the World (2000, Don Letts)

A member of Big Audio Dynamite makes an interview film with some concert footage about The Clash. Very conventional, would’ve rather read The Clash’s wikipedia page and watched a full concert DVD.

Marty (1953, Delbert Mann)

The TV version from that rad Criterion DVD. I enjoyed Mann’s smooth Jimmy Stewart voice on the DVD commentary. He died two years before the DVD came out. A big shot in television through the early 50’s, he started working in cinema beginning with the film version of Marty, reaching the heights of a Cary Grant/Doris Day rom-com in ’62, then by the early 80’s he came back full-time to TV. Written by Paddy Chayefsky, acclaimed for this and Network, and also surprisingly the author of Altered States.

I’m still not clear on the kinescope process – so it was a camera aimed at a TV screen during broadcast? And this was done by the network, not by some enthusiast at home with a proto-VCR setup? And it was set up for time-shifting to the west coast? How did they get the film developed and send it to LA in an hour? Is the kinescope the reason why lateral camera moves make the movie suddenly looks like I’m watching it inside a cylinder?

“Girls: Dance with the man who asks you. Remember men have feelings too.” Marty is bored, has no luck with ladies, finally meets one who is his own speed. Meanwhile his mother is worrying over him and his aunt is moving in and his friends are telling him to forget the girl. Will love conquer all? Yes. A very small-scale but wonderful movie.

Rod Steiger would go on to star in Run of the Arrow and In The Heat of the Night, and more importantly, as the warmongering general of Mars Attacks!. He was recast as Borgnine in the feature film, but his mother and aunt made the cinema transition – the mother (Esther Minciotti) also played mother to Cornel Wilde and Henry Fonda in Shockproof and The Wrong Man, respectively. I had to subtitle her thick accent at times on the DVD here.

Parks & Recreation season 1

Now maybe I’ll be able to remember who Amy Poehler is, even though I’ve seen her in four movies. Also good to see Aziz again after Human Giant, but this was surprisingly not too funny/brilliant a season. Things have already picked up at the start of s2, so hopes are high.

Lars/Real Girl’s well-meaning brother Paul Schneider is low-key ladies’ man Mark. Nick Offerman of The Men Who Stare at Goats is mustachioed manager Ron. Bored receptionist April is Aubrey Plaza, a minor hostile character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Poehler’s new friend Ann is Rashida Jones, the lawyer (?) who talks to Mark Zuckerberg after-hours in The Social Network, and her boyfriend Andy is Chris Pratt of nothing I’ve seen yet.

Saxondale season 1

Steve Coogan plays less of a buffoon than usual, actually kind of a bright and capable guy. He’s not super classy though, an ex-roadie for various rock groups turned independent exterminator with anger management issues, with a new young assistant whom he and his wife Mags (Ruth Jones of Little Britain and Nighty Night) somewhat adopt. Not a masterpiece of a show, but a happy diversion with some sharp comic bits.

Stella (2005)

The only season of Michael & Michael & David Wain’s show. Once I learned to tolerate how awful and stupid it is, I started to appreciate its stupid, awful, brilliant sense of humor. Or maybe I’m just stupid. Still to see: Michael & Michael Have Issues and rival series Wainy Days. Plus I never watched Reno 911, and maybe Viva Variety will come out on DVD some day.

Flight of the Conchords season 2
The Mighty Boosh season 2

These two are currently competing for best musical comedy series of the decade. Metalocalypse doesn’t stand a chance. Conchords may have the edge, because the music in Boosh season 2 was less prominent and awesome than in its first season.

Better musicians have died from car accidents than from drugs, guns or suicide. The Minutemen… Silkworm… Brainiac… think about it.

Minutemen

Cool movie. Learned a lot. Forgot most of it by now, a month later, but what can you do? The band I admire most is now either the Minutemen or Half Japanese, depending on whose documentary I watched most recently. Their chapter in “Our Band Could Be Your Life” was exactly the same as this documentary, except without all the celebrity interviews.