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A Post So Lazy It’s Not Even Lazy Anymore

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-Philadelphyinz ‘Bar Mitzvah’ Mixtape
I’m late on this one but I listened to this all weekend (and right now as I type this) and it’s really great. Apt One and Skinny Friedman bring it; there are hundreds of cool, weird moments throughout this mix worth talking about. Both are great but Apt One is a little smoother but less daring, so I prefer Friedman’s mixes which have a way of building and building and getting seemingly caught-up in chaos and then they bust-out like Jonathan Brandis flying on Falcor or something-NUTS! One example of this would be on Friedman’s 11pm mix where ‘Too Close’ by Next comes-in and it feels PERFECT.

-Ten More Non-Essential Jazz Platters (from Floodwatch always kills it but I enjoyed this post particularly, especially the mention of Bobby Hutcherson. For more Hutcherson, I’d suggest his work on Eric Dolphy’s ‘Out to Lunch’ and his 60s solo records ‘Happenings’ and ‘Dialogue’.

-Frequent commenters to this blog Josephlovesit and Christopher have relatively new blogs well worth checking out.

-A Little DMX Under a Full Moon: This blog is consistently great. Just concise, smart entries about a good rap song.

-Doc Zeus’s Not a Blogger: You probably know about this one, but if not, check it out. Extra credit for being one of the only hater-ish type commenters who puts his money where his mouth is…covering at-length both new Wu songs, appropriately mocking XXL’s ‘Leaders of the New School’ cover story (it’s a good read but NONE of these guys will be anybody)…and more!

-This Month’s XXL: Very Good
After that pretty pointless 10th anniversary issue (maybe they’re saving the good stuff for #100?), the axing of ‘Scratch’, and Elliot Wilson’s ‘Rolling Stone’ bitchfit, stuff’s been a little annoying with XXL (I won’t get into their lazy-ass bloggers again…). Anyways- this issue’s great. There’s a photo-essay type thingy about rappers and their tats and something about independently released music that shouts-out some indie Three-Six released over the years. The cover story is interesting; it’s nearly-overwhelming to take-in but at the same time, it feels hollow because none of these guys are going to be stars. The girls of Crime Mob get a deserved notice in the ‘Honorable Mentions’, which is good. Anyways, it’s worth picking up and it’s only like 4 bucks.

-New Season of American Gangster!
For those not aware, there’s a new season of BET’s ‘American Gangster’ that just began. It’s on Wednesday nights at 10PM; I only caught about 15 minutes of last week’s episode but it seems like more of the same: a smart mix of sensationalism and intelligence. Here’s what I said about it last season, I’m sure it still applies:

“Despite the somewhat sensationalistic aspects of the commercials and the website (take the ‘How Gangster Are You?’ Quiz…), as well as the in-print tendency to call it “BET’s controversial new series”, BET’s ‘American Gangster’ is not the trashy, tabloid crime show it might look like. The most impressive part of the show may be that it could be trashy and still get me and millions of others to watch but is instead, a very smart series. It is in the style of A & E’s ‘American Justice’ or ‘Notorious’ but with a smarter point of view that wavers between reverie and disdain while being ethically concerned. The show is wise enough not to take an extreme stance that treats these criminals like animals. Instead, it tries to show them as realistically as possible. It doesn’t always succeed but that is part of the show’s appeal. As I watched a few episodes, I got the feeling that each episode had a distinctly different attitude and style. I found this chat transcript with executive producer Nelson George, where he says that “each show had its own set of writers”. That’s a smart move because it makes the show less predictable from week-to-week and exposes viewers to more than one point of view. It makes the series, when taken as a whole, a lot more complicated and contradictory. For example, the show’s position towards drug-dealing can be mixed-up. Fat Cat Nichols’ adding to the destruction of his neighborhood through crack sales is addressed, but in a conventional “give the bad-stuff a few minutes” way. However, the effect on Nichols’ family is made palpable by interviews with his incarcerated son and younger son who never got caught up in it all. In contrast, the Nicky Barnes episode seems very critical. I can’t help but wonder if Barnes is taken to task because he was ultimately “a snitch” and because he sold heroin which is idiotically perceived as “worse” than selling crack. The episode about ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross focuses less on Ross’ life and more on the bigger picture, you know, CIA conspiracies, crack being placed in the black community, all the good stuff. In that episode, just by seeing home video footage of Ross in regular clothes, bouncing around his neighborhood like Mac Dre, you get a sense of how insignificant he really was compared to the drug trade, “the drug war,” and the CIA.

If the show does sensationalize or celebrate these gangsters even as it shows their downfall, that’s positive too. For too long, there’s been a ridiculous racial divide in true-crime writing, where the mafia is called “organized crime” while Nicky Barnes is still referred to as a “drug kingpin” or drug dealer. Mafia members are never called “extortionists” or “murderers”. Just equating these black criminals, just calling them “gangsters” instead of “gangstas” is a good move towards making people’s perceptions more balanced. And balance is what makes the show incredibly honest and realistic. It never devolves into making these dealers completely victims of society or poverty but does not shy away from the economic conditions that made them think dealing was a good way out. If you read that transcript of Nelson George (who has always been a balanced, realistic writer), he’s incredibly sober about Tookie Williams, saying he doesn’t think he should have won a Nobel prize and doesn’t think he should have been spared the death penalty. In the ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross episode, there’s plenty of evidence that Ross really was totally fucked-over in the end, but the show reminds us that he wouldn’t have been fucked-over had he not decided on a life of crime and it says that ‘Sesame Street’-simple message in a way that never feels preachy. The show is just really well-done. Aesthetically, it all fits together in a way that isn’t corny or melodramatic. Ving Rhames’ narration serves its purpose, the interviews are well-done and the show is well-edited. The most impressive production aspect of the show may be all the amazing old footage they intercut with interviews. This amazing, old Super-8 footage of late 60s Harlem, what often looks like personal home video, or disturbing footage of twitching junkies and crack casualties. Where did they find all of this? There aren’t a lot of good black filmmakers that get support (Spike Lee doesn’t count), but the existence of ‘American Gangster’, reminds me of Stanley Nelson’s excellent ‘Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple’, another film with a sober but sympathetic outlook. Sixteen million people tuned-in to watch ‘American Gangster’ while ‘Jonestown…’ played in one theater in my whole state for two weeks; let’s hope BET or somebody notices the audience for this well-made show and gives some others opportunities to make something good.”

-For some other good television on BET…
‘In Living Color’ re-runs are worth watching not only for Head Detective skits, but the occasional, great performance by a rapper at the end of the show. Last weekend at like 3am, kinda lit, between ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ commercial breaks, I happened to catch this:

-Beanie Sigel wants to play Biggie!
Oh man, how great of a casting choice would this be? Hollywood doesn’t have the balls and rap fans are too stupid to accept this, but this would be sooooo amazing. Beans’ is a really great actor, he shines in all of those Dame Dash straight-to-videos flicks and he’s got the right sense of menace and looks close enough. Only idiots are concerned with actors playing real people and looking just like the people (or sounding like them!) anyways…At the same time, this wouldn’t be a bunch of artsy-fartsy, self-congratulatory pomo bullshit like that Dylan/Todd Haynes movie. Perhaps, it could lead to my dream-project of making a movie about Charlie Parker starring Beans as Bird…I’ve got a script and everything…a boy can dream, no?

-Trailer for ‘Lake of Fire’ by Tony Kaye
I found ‘American History X’ to be pretty goofy and generally terrible (especially the ending) and I don’t think Tony Kaye can blame the studios for it entirely but nevertheless, he’s an interesting guy. I recall reading interviews around the time of ‘American History X’ wherein Kaye was hyping a movie to star Brando, adapting the really-great Tennessee Williams story ‘One-Arm’ and some epic movie about abortion. I expected neither to be made, so it’s pretty amazing that this is coming-out. It seems appropriately muddled and contradictory…

-Official Unofficial ‘The Fountain’ Commentary by Darren Aronofsky
I don’t know how to fuck with torrents, so I haven’t heard this yet but I’m quite excited about it. Pretentious and self-serious as this movie may be, it’s one of the best and most underrated movies of the decade. Much more self-important, self-serious movies get a free ride, why not this one? I fear the same thing is happening to ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ because that shit has yet to show up in Baltimore…it seems like once a year, critics decide to be falsely discerning and anti-intellectual and demolish some well-meaning, epic-ish art movie…

I did this once before but didn’t want it to be it’s own entry this time, so it’s among this clusterfuck of links and youtube videos…I had some free-time and rented a couple of movies, here are my thoughts:

‘A Boy and His Dog’ (1975)

Okay…you know how on ‘Miami Vice’ Don Johnson had a crocodile named Elvis that he talked to? Well, imagine if you put Sonny Crockett in a post-apocalyptic future and turned his crocodile into a dog and allowed that dog to communicate with Crockett telepathically…that would be ‘A Boy and His Dog’. Directed by Peckinpah character actor LQ Jones and based on a Harlan Ellison short story, ‘A Boy and His Dog’ takes place after World War IV and due to presumably some kind of mutation (it’s never explained) Don Johnson’s dog can talk to him. I shouldn’t really have to explain it anymore, you should already be racing to your local video store but if you’re still on the fence, it’s actually a very good movie and not the crap/camp-fest it could be. Don Johnson gives a great performance; it’s particularly impressive once you realize that for much of the movie, he’s talking to a dog!

-‘Blue Collar’ (1978)

Another great 70s movie that has been relegated to being a “minor” work but is way better than most “major” movies of that decade. If Godard actually cared about the politics his movies espoused, he might make something like this. Other than the a bit too-obvious (and quite Godardian) end, this movie’s perfect. Yaphet Kotto, Richard Pryor, and Harvey Keitel as pissed-off Detroit factory workers with a half-assed plan to rob their own union. It’s really sympathetic towards them but doesn’t treat them as complete pawns (until they actually become pawns). You know it has good acting when Harvey Keitel gives the least-engaging performance! The black-black-white dynamic is smart too because it prevents the black characters from falling into a sidekick or confidante character roles and allows for everyone to act realistically; they all come-off as both good and bad, just like real people- they’re never symbols, which would be very easy to do in a near-Marxist movie.

-‘Pixote’ (1981)

I sort of hated this movie. On paper it sounded great but it’s too caught-up in its sociological good deeds to really penetrate. I think any movie that deals with some kind of under-discussed subculture, needs to get a little too close and drop the anthropology. ‘Pixote’ is about the millions of delinquent youths in Brazil and the corrupt institutions that are supposed to help them and yeah, it’s about that but it’s never about that, you know? It feels too sorry for these kids and is too proud that it is exposing the horrible reality of their lives to ever do anything else. Even something as stupidly shocking as ‘Kids’ has an unhealthy obsession with the kids’ activities that sort of underscores the moralizing. A “good” movie rather than a “good” movie…but don’t trust me, you can watch the whole thing on Youtube, below is Pt. 1:

‘Shottas’ (2002)

For some reason, no movie places around me had this for the longest time but finally, a place got it in and of course, it’s not that good. I LOVE LOVE LOVE straight-to-video “hip-hop” movies like this. ‘Choices: The Movie’ is an underrated classic and ‘Killa Season’ is seriously, When Cassavetes Comes to Harlem. There’s just something great about these movies because the low-budget adds a great reality to it all, the gangsters never look too-cool or smooth and the acting, even when poor, has a naturalistic edge. ‘Shottas’ has all of that, the clothes in particular are very-real and very uncool, and the plot is really minor-league in the sense that this isn’t Tony Montana’s ascent but overall, there’s too much crap; it doesn’t even use music that well! Still, it’s smarter and more political than most crime movies, it reminds me of ‘ATL’ a little bit, in that it’s doing a lot of smart, subtle stuff even as it fumbles around in melodrama. Small stuff like the corrupt white politician having a Jamaican wife earns extra points because it doesn’t need to be in there.

-‘Ruslan and Ludmila’ (1972)

I saw this movie at Baltimore’s The Charles theater as part of a revival series called ‘Russian Fantastik Cinema’. It’s pretty straight-forward: Ruslan marries Ludmila, other suitors grumble, Ludmila is kidnapped by some beast-like creature, Ruslan and the suitors are on a race to save her. The main attraction here are some really crazy, still-impressive special effects and set-pieces: A giant talking head, living statues, upside-down fountains, etc. It’s like one of those Ray Harryhausen movies but a little smarter. For example, none of the suitors even come close to saving Ludmila, instead they puss-out and one essentially becomes enlightened and isn’t interested in forcing a women to marry him anymore. It’s like 2 and a half hours long and never moves slow but even in actions scenes, takes it time. It gets caught-up in its own spectacle which I find great because it’s legitimately impressive trick photography and wire-work and not like, super-clean Computer graphics. You can watch it for free, without subtitles here if you’ve got that kind of patience!

“beat chicks and whack sneaks”: Monique’s comment on this very-entertaining and problematic Dallas Penn post…and “IFuxHoes” dropped this gem “the white meat got niggas in a daze! look at homey in background with the owl eyes and shit. brawd bout to get gangbanged out that mug. i wish i was there”…

-AND FINALLY…does anyone know how to fix whatever it is on blogger that changes the spacing and font-size once anything is block-quoted or a youtube video is posted? It’s killing me!

Written by Brandon

October 8th, 2007 at 4:58 am

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