Failed folk musician goes decades without realizing his records became a bootleg sensation in South Africa, flies there for massive concerts then returns to his humble Detroit life. “It remains too strange to be true.” Archive footage, some of it just vintage mood stuff, bit of rotoscoping, some fun jump cuts. Repetition or rambling in the interviews is preferable to the dodgy dialogue editing we usually get in these things. This won an oscar (vs. three govt/military stories and an AIDS activism doc) and Rodriguez has now played a bunch of live shows, for which he hopefully got paid, since he’s getting nothing from the oscars or those album sales.
Barbarian (2022, Zach Cregger)
Really does every hotel and rental in Detroit fill up when “there’s a convention in town?” That’s how two strangers, jobseeker Georgina Campbell (Hang the DJ) and jazzman Bill Skarsgård (Atomic Blonde), end up in the same airbnb on an abandoned block. Good writing as they assess the situation, but the movie isn’t about their suspicions at being unwilling roommates, it’s about the mole people they discover in the basement, which immediately kill Bill and capture Georgina.
Shock cut to Justin Long, canceled rich guy retreating to the rental house he owns. He will prove at every point to be a despicable person, but after she escapes and the cops are total dicks to her, she still tries to rescue him. Big actiony ending ensues, the basement-bound incest-mom proving surprisingly athletic. Pretty fun but I should’ve given Don’t Breathe 2 a shot instead. Richard Brake (The Munsters‘ Count Orlock) plays the suburban perv who built the catacombs.
I haven’t seen an FPS perspective like this outside a Nintendo 64 game:
Don’t Breathe (2016, Fede Alvarez)
Another movie about criminals doing One Last Job before they retire on their earnings, but this time it’s young, disorganized burglars trying to leave Detroit. Rocky is Jane Levy, star of Evil Dead Remake, casing a house with her partners, tough Daniel Zovatto (It Follows) and meek Dylan Minnette (Let Me In). Unfortunately, the house is occupied by dangerous blind army vet Stephen Lang (VFW) who keeps a kidnapped impregnated girl in his basement, a killer dog in his yard, and a few million bucks in his safe.
Fortunately there’s not much dialogue – the two guys sparring over the girl was unconvincing, and I think there were three appearances of “Let’s Do This.” Better is the camera, which finchers around, between walls and under furniture. It’s a good looking movie, especially considering it’s mostly set within a decrepit house. The girl escapes with the money and sees a news story saying the old man lived, which explains the existence of Don’t Breathe 2.
mini-Cujo at the end:
No Sudden Move (2021, Steven Soderbergh)
A few guys get a job to camp out menacingly in a family man’s house until he retrieves some documents from his workplace, but the documents aren’t so easily retrieved, and somebody dies, and who’s really working for who? It’s that sort of movie, and I could do a whole plot rundown but it’s twisty and fun so I’d rather just forget the particulars and watch it again in a few years. I’ll say that everyone’s sleeping around, all the women are dangerous, the documents are about the auto industry wanting to avoid pollution regulation, and Soderbergh shoots the action with a widescreen lens that perversely distorts everything on the sides.
Besides the superstars, we’ve got family man David Harbour (star of the Hellboy remake which I accidentally bought on blu-ray for a few bucks thinking it was the original, dammit)… his wife, hostage Amy Seimetz (director of last year’s finest film)… and Ray Liotta’s wife is Julia Fox (Uncut Gems).
Not how you want to meet Don Cheadle:
You do not impress Bill Duke:
You don’t want Brendan Fraser pointing his napkin at you:
Rock Docs and Concerts, part 5
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