Thursday, August 30, 2012

That Upcoming Rolling Stones Documentary Now Has a Title



Back in March
, Rolling Stones, Inc., announced plans to release the first feature-documentary on the band since 1990's 25x5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones. Five months later, the film finally has a title. I know what you're thinking, and no, it isn't going to be called Gomper: The Movie! Instead, it will have the slightly more tasteful title Crossfire Hurricane, and if you need to ask why it will have that title, then you really, really, really need to see this movie.

Morgen has described the film not as an "academic history lesson" but as "an aural and visual roller coaster ride," which sounds to me like we should expect it to be less like The Beatles Anthology and more like The Kids are Alright. According to Rolling Stones.com, the film "combines extensive historical footage, much of it widely unseen, with contemporary commentaries by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood and former Stones Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor."

The film will receive a theatrical release in October in the UK, and make it to DVD in the U.S. in November. It will also air on BBC Two and HBO later this year. No matter how I see it, you can expect a review of Crossfire Hurricane here on Psychobabble this fall.

20 Things You May Not Have Known About Mary Shelley

215 years ago today, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley was born. 19 years later she’d give birth to horror’s most notorious or should I say beloved? monster. We all know that much, but here are twenty other things you may not have known about Mary Shelley.

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1. Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was an extremely early pioneer of the feminist movement, publishing the key text A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792.

2. The second edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s children’s book Original Stories was illustrated by a little-known artist named William Blake, who would eventually gain much greater fame as the poet behind such major works as Songs of Innocence and Experience. Some conspiratorial readers have noted the similarity between one of Blake’s illustrations in Original Stories and a certain yet-to-be-created monster:
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3. Mary Shelley had a lifelong love of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

4. Percy Bysshe Shelley met his future wife after writing a mash note to her father, William Godwin, whose book Political Justice impressed the young poet profoundly. Godwin gladly became mentor to Shelley. Shelley agreed to financially support the struggling Godwin.

5. Percy’s pet names for Mary: Maie, Pecksie (possibly inspired by a character in Sarah Trimmer’s History of the Robins), and Dormouse (inspired by Mary’s weakness during a difficult pregnancy).

6. On July 22, 1816, Mary, her step sister Claire Clairmont, and Percy were exploring the Alps when they got sight of the vast glacier Mary would later use as a pivotal location in Frankenstein. At that moment, an avalanche tore away part of the mountain they were scaling.

Psychobabble’s 150 Essential Horror Movies Part 10: The 2010s (So far...)

In this feature, Psychobabble creeps through more than 90 years of horror cinema to assemble a highly personal list of the genre’s 150 most monstrous works, decade by decade.
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146. Black Swan (2010- dir. Darren Aronofsky)

The sweeping horror resurgence of the ‘00s remained strong at the start of the next decade. After ten years of retro monster movies, zombie comedies, torture pornos, found-footage thrillers, animated chillers, political petrifiers, and scary musicals, one might assume there was nowhere left for the genre to go. Darren Aronofsky, a filmmaker never afraid to take daring chances that might end with him flat on his face, was the right guy to uncover roads still waiting to be traveled. Black Swan is both a film about and a loose adaptation of Swan Lake. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a dancer chosen to star as the Swan Queen in a major production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Sayers’s path to success is jagged with obstacles. She must contend with the knowledge that her role came at the expense of former star Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder), who lapses into alcoholism and ends up getting disabled in a car crash. Her colleague and new friend Lily (Mila Kunis) not-so-secretly covets the role and schemes to put Nina out of commission. Her director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), places demands on her that challenge the prudish influence of her domineering mother (Barbara Hershey). Nina also suffers internal obstacles. Her body begins displaying strange rashes and sores. Her mind is beset with paranoid visions of her doppelgänger.

The surreal aspects of Black Swan function as an allegory for the fears and absurd physical demands dancers face in the competitive ballet world, but the film works best as a stylistically radical and really disturbing horror movie. And don’t be fooled by all the critical praise and Portman’s Oscar; this is a horror movie. Aronofsky certainly doesn’t present his material traditionally, but inside the belly of Black Swan lies decades of horror tradition. The presence of a nefarious doppelgänger bears the unsettling tang of David Lynch, and a sex scene in which Nina sees that she isn’t copulating with the person she thought she was could be an outtake from Fire Walk With Me. The fixation on grotesque physical transformation and deterioration is pure David Cronenberg, particularly recalling The Fly. When Nina stands before a mirror, tears off her own skin, then finds herself perfectly intact, one can’t be faulted for remembering a nearly identical scene in Poltergeist. Nina’s relationship with a mother who infantilizes her and demonizes her sexuality is straight out of Carrie. The apartment setting evokes Polanski’s horror films. Nina’s paranoid visions are strongly reminiscent of The Tenant. Her sexual repression brings to mind Carole Ledoux in Repulsion, and traveling further back, Cat People, which also tied repression to physical transformation into an animal. Sexual desire and beastly transformation are also close associates in The Wolf Man, and Aronofsky has even described Nina as a “were swan.” Then back to the very birth of sound horror when Dr. Jekyll, who, much like Nina, allowed his dark side to emerge and consume himself all in the name of his work. Back to when a movement from Swan Lake served as the theme music for Dracula and The Mummy, forever linking that composition with monster movies in the minds of horror fanatics. Back further to the silent era when Phantom of the Opera placed horror in the lush interior of a theater. Elsewhere, Black Swan conjures the ballet-themed Suspiria, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (and what is Barbara Hershey’s role if not a nod to “hagsploitation” pictures), The Shining, and every horror movie that ever exploited mirrors to get a cheap shock.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Aronofsky takes all of these well-traveled tropes and transforms them into a film that is wholly original, wholly personal, wholly a work of art. In doing so, he enters the realm reserved for cinema’s finest, most distinct artists, a place populated by Hitchcock and Polanski and Kubrick and Lynch. Like those filmmakers, Aronofsky takes outrageous risks, perhaps doesn’t always succeed. But Black Swan thrives on that audacity. It is reverent of horror traditions but disdainful of the rules, which leaves us viewers perpetually uneasy because we know its creator is capable of throwing anything at us at any time. Scary, humorous, wonderfully acted, imaginatively written and directed, thoughtfully metaphorical, respectful and irreverent, Black Swan packs the complete essence of what makes a horror movie truly essential.

147. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010- dir. Jalmari Helander)

Jusso (Jorma Tommila) is incensed to learn the reindeer he planned to harvest are already dead, because someone cut a hole in the fence intended to keep wolves from the herd. Just a short while earlier, Jusso’s young son Pietari (Onni Tommila) had cut that hole to spy on a local excavation site. Very naughty. Pietari is worried, not because his family just lost their livelihood, but because Christmas is approaching, and we all know what happens to naughty boys on Christmas. Or do we? Pietari would probably heave a massive sigh of relief if he suffered the traditional lump of coal in his stocking. However, the real Santa Claus ain’t your merry, ho-ho-ho-ing Santa. Rather, he’s a giant horned beast who tortures bad kids come December 25th. And guess what’s just been unearthed in a Godzilla-sized block of ice at that excavation site? Jalmari Helander delights in playing with horror and action-movie clichés in the aggressively original Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. An ominous advent calendar ticks off the days to Christmas like the date cards in The Shining. Pietari thumbs through terrifying pictures of Demon Santa like Roy Scheider poring over shark attack photos in Jaws. A creepy, face-biting old man arrives naked as The Terminator. The frozen beast evokes The Thing. That’s all fine and clever, but Helander does not merely use his retro references to please genre fans with recognizable images. He uses them to orient viewers as we navigate a world beyond anything we recognize; where Christmas elves are full-frontally naked old men with murder on their minds and a small child leads his elders into battle and resigns himself to suicidal self-sacrifice and the heroes end the picture as slavers and our main monster is used as a great, big shaggy dog. That last matter leaves Rare Exports with a slightly disappointing aftertaste, but it remains an innovative item essential for horror fans tired of the usual slicing and dicing and desperate for a seasonal alternative to Miracle on 34th Street.

148. The Skin I Live In (2011- dir. Pedro Almodóvar)

Themes of sexuality and identity have always been integral to the films of Pedro Almodóvar. In La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In), he plumbs them once again from Thierry Jonquet’s novel Tarantula. The results are far more twisted than even the earlier dark comedies and dramas for which Almodóvar is known. The film takes both the transgressions of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and Antonio Banderas’s unsettling intensity way, way beyond the pale. Banderas is Dr. Robert Ledgard, a scientist developing a form of indestructible artificial skin. The gorgeous Vera (Elena Anaya) is his seemingly willing, yet existentially despairing, guinea pig. Their relationship seems like a conscious echo of the father and daughter of Eyes without a Face. It is hardly so clear cut, much like the chronologically choppy first half of the film, which leaves the viewer bewildered but anticipative of how the jigsaw pieces will fit together. When they do, they do vengefully, and we realize the horrific extent of Ledgard’s madness and the even more horrific cause of it. The film’s scenes of physical violence are not as shocking as the psychological implications. Almodóvar forces us to empathize with both a mad scientist capable of particularly demented vengeance and the vile, misogynist/rapist who wreaked havoc on his life and complicates matters further by presenting a completely unexpected—and seriously unhealthy— relationship between the two. Most viewers will find this material very difficult to digest, but Almodóvar’s fearlessness in tackling it is heroic, as are Banderas and Anaya’s performances. The director called The Skin I Live In “a horror story without screams or frights.” While that may be true, it will haunt and disturb viewers more profoundly than most typical horror fare ever could.

149. The Woman in Black (2012- dir. James Watkins)

Fans of Britain’s most venerated house of horrors couldn’t help but be thrilled by news of its return in the late ‘00s. That excitement may have quickly turned to disenchantment, because like so many resurrected corpses, Hammer came back wrong. The new generation of producers didn’t quite seem to know what to do with the valuable property. Following a toe-in-the-water web series called “Beyond the Rave”, the first new Hammer feature to see release was a stalker picture set in hipster Brooklyn called The Resident. Aside from the winking presence of Christopher Lee, this hackneyed piece of lint couldn’t have been more out of step with the Hammers of old. The folk horror throw back Wake Wood was closer to the mark, though slight. A remake of Let the Right One In was well made, but pointless when the body of the superior original wasn’t even cold yet. After five years of trial and error, Hammer finally returned with a picture that would have made the Carreras family proud. James Watkins’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story The Woman in Black is a return to the creep shows of old. While the lack of dime-store blood and heaving bosoms is decidedly un-Hammer-like, the period setting, Gothic desiccation, and Daniel Radcliffe’s fey performance ably fill all the baggage that comes with the studio’s name. Radcliffe is a solicitor charged with settling the paperwork of the unappetizingly christened Eel Marsh House. His arrival at the crumbling old manor sets off an extended sequence that recreates the sensation of walking through a really scary carnival spook house more accurately than perhaps any other film— right down to the ghosts that slide out of the darkness as if on tracks. Watkins does not let a cheap trick pass him by, from faces that materialize out of the shadows to rocking chairs and doors that swing of their own volition to loud bangs to close ups of the creepiest antique doll collection in the world. We let him have his clichés because they all work so marvelously well. That nerve-wracking passage alone would make the film essential. However, The Woman in Black is also bolstered by a strong central mystery that doesn’t cop out on its specter’s malevolence and what may be the most macabre happy ending in ghost story history. Welcome back, old friend!

150. The Cabin in the Woods (2012- dir. Drew Goddard)

Even those familiar with Joss Whedon’s penchant for yanking the carpet from beneath his viewers will be sent loopy by The Cabin in the Woods. In the quite brilliant script he co-wrote with director Drew Goddard, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other cult T.V. favorites establishes the usual slasher movie clichés only to draw attention to and subvert them. I know, I know; Scream did that very same thing some fifteen years earlier. But it didn’t do it like The Cabin in the Woods does it. Scream was clever because it finally acknowledged the silly decisions and sillier archetypes common to slasher pictures. The Cabin in the Woods is genius because it explains why those clichés exist, and the explanation is a stroke of such unfettered imagination that it makes the appearances of massive force fields, a merman-fixated scientist, a murderous unicorn, and a universe-annihilating god fist completely logical. Like the Evil Dead films, which it references often and lovingly (keep an eye out for that “angry molesting tree”!), The Cabin in the Woods works as both incisive parody and visceral horror. The one thing it lacks—and this is highly unusual for a Whedon creation—is empathy. The writer is usually a master of manipulating his viewers into caring about his daffy characters. The ones in this film are stereotypes by nature: the stoner, the slut (well, sort of), the jock (well, maybe), the virgin (ummm, not quite, but for all intents and purposes…). The thinness of these characters certainly serves a plot function, but it also makes the film feel a little hollow since we don’t get quite as broken up when they’re dispatched as when, say, Buffy died that one time, or when she died that other time, or when she died all those other times. What The Cabin in the Woods lacks in emotional depth, it more than makes up for in intellect, originality, and a menagerie of geek-pleasing references to 90 years of Horror cinema.


Flee Back to the 2000s…

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rolling Stones' "Charlie Is My Darling" Coming to DVD, Blu-ray, and the New York Film Festival! (Updated with Pre-Order Info)

In 1966, Peter Whitehead’s documentary of The Rolling Stones' Irish tour of the previous year received scant exposure, screening a few times before disappearing into Stones lore (and the bootleg circuit). This is unfortunate, since Charlie Is My Darling provides a rare sustained glimpse at the guys just when they'd become international superstars and started giving The Beatles a serious run for their money. In fact, one hilarious sequence in the film finds Jagger stone drunk and making fun of the riff from “I Feel Fine”. Elsewhere, there's some wistful pontification from Brian Jones, cool footage of Keith Richards picking his guitar backstage, and much mumbling from title character Charlie Watts. Don't Look Back this isn't, but it's still a fairly important piece in The Stones' cinematic jigsaw puzzle.

On Saturday, September 29, at 7PM, Charlie Is My Darling will receive a rare revival as part of the 50th New York Festival. A second screening will take place on Wednesday, October 3, at 8:30PM. Both showings will be at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street: between Broadway and Amsterdam, upper level).

On November 6, ABKCO Films will be releasing this restored and expanded-with-additional-footage version of the film on DVD, Blu-ray, and as a "Super Deluxe" box set including "the director's cut, the producer's cut, and this new 2012 version." See ABKCO's official press release here.

Pre-order your choice from Amazon.com here:







The Psychobabble Movie Challenge: 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me' (1992)

Mike:

While running Psychobabble from 2009 through 2011, I occasionally moonlighted over at my good friend Jeffrey Dinsmore’s site Awkward Press.com. Together we played amateur Siskels and Eberts, sifting through classic and not-so-classic movies in a feature we called The Awkward Movie Challenge. Precisely 16 months after our farewell analysis of The Lost Boys, Jeffrey and I are resuming the challenge here on Psychobabble to take a twentieth anniversary look at David Lynch’s big screen prequel to his small screen cult classic “Twin Peaks”.

One of the reasons I called on Jeffrey’s help for this piece is because I’ve written about Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me quite a lot on this site, particularly in last year’s 120 150 Essential Horror Movies. Since Jeffrey has not pored over this movie as much as I have, I figured he’d bring a fresh perspective to it and save me a lot of typing. I also figured that if he hates the movie, which is one of my favorites, I’d finally have a concrete excuse to murder him, which is something I’ve been plotting for a good decade or so.

So I now hand you faithful Psychobabble readers over to Jeffrey Dinsmore. Take it, Jeffrey:

Jeffrey:

“Twin Peaks”, the TV series, debuted a week before my 15th birthday. At that age, Blue Velvet had already knocked A Clockwork Orange out of the top spot on my all-time favorite movies list, a position it retains to this day. Yes, my parents should be in jail, and at least half of them already are. But that’s a discussion topic for another time.

Point being, when I heard David Lynch was doing a TV series, it was as exciting to me as some dumb sporto thing would have been to a normal 14 year-old boy. I was hooked from episode one: the gorgeous visuals, the otherworldly dialogue, the absurd humor, the terror, the mystery: everything I loved about Lynch’s movies had been distilled into one magnificent package for the small screen. And better yet, it was going to be there every single week!

During the initial run of “Twin Peaks”, I only missed a single episode, due to an eighth grade school band “concert” in which I was one of eight “drummers” smashing the same cacophonous rhythm on a snare (I'm pretty sure everyone involved probably would have been better off if I’d just stayed home and watched “TP”). I read and loved The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. And when the movie was released, I was one of approximately seventeen people in the state of Michigan who rushed out to see it.
I had not revisited the film until Mr. Psychobabble asked me to lend some street cred to this cash grab he calls a website. Let me start by acknowledging that, although I consider myself a fan, I am not the expert on “Twin Peaks” that our beloved host is. I have seen the entire series through maybe twice, the first season maybe a couple more times than that. I haven’t watched any of it in about three years, and when I rewatched the film, I was hoping to approach it as a stand-alone film without letting my knowledge of the series intrude upon my analysis.

Sadly, I set myself up for an impossible task. Fire Walk With Me simply doesn’t work as a self-contained film. It wasn’t made for the fans, although true fans will certainly find a lot to enjoy about it. It wasn’t made to convert any new fans to the “Twin Peaks” franchise (although it probably did its part to repel a few). This movie was made for one reason and one reason only: because David Lynch wanted to spend more time in the world of Twin Peaks.

In fact, from the very first moment of the film, Lynch does everything he can to poke fun at the fair-weather fans and critics who initially embraced and then quickly turned against his groundbreaking, if occasionally meandering series. The opening credits play over fuzzed-out TV static. When the credits are over, we pull out of the static to reveal a TV … which is immediately smashed with an ax. Although I realize it can be a fool’s errand to assign specific intention to Lynch’s films, I can’t help but see this sequence as a great, big, glorious "fuck you" to anyone who came to the theater expecting to have all their “Twin Peaks” questions answered. The picture seems fuzzy? How does it look after I smash the TV?
A few minutes later, Lynch further mocks the need for answers that fueled the series backlash. Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak) is called in by Lynch’s character Gordon Cole to investigate the murder of one Teresa Banks. In a hilarious sequence, Cole introduces Desmond to his “mother’s sister’s girl,” Lil, who does a bizarre chicken-legged dance. In the following scene, Desmond describes the symbolic meaning of every aspect of Lil’s dance and appearance, from her “sour face” to her hand movements to her clothing. Desmond becomes the pre-Internet “Twin Peaks” fan boy who parses every frame of his videotape to find the answers to mysteries that Lynch always intended to remain unsolved.

The remainder of the film opening is both entirely memorable and totally incomprehensible. Harry Dean Stanton shows up as the owner of a trailer park where Banks used to live; soon after that, Desmond finds a mysterious ring and disappears. Kyle McLachlan’s Agent Cooper makes a brief appearance in a strange sequence featuring David Bowie. Aside from two recurring characters, the entire opening forty minutes of the film have so little to do with the TV show that it seems as if Lynch is doing everything in his power to push the audience out of the theater. Mystery is piled upon mystery, until we flash forward one year later to (finally!) spend some time with America’s sweetheart, Laura Palmer.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Psychobabble’s Fourteen Greatest Albums of 1977

This is it. The year a youth numbed by corporate rockers and disco diversions got a stiff arm shot by punk at the peak of its vitality. In actuality, the movement only appealed to a very small portion of the populace (particularly in the U.S.) and the first wave was over almost as soon as it began. Still, the detritus remains staggering. Not all of 1977’s great records were made by punks, but almost all of them were infused with the fresh spirit mined from this controversial new form of expression. Many of Rock & Roll’s greatest records were released in 1977 (as well as what may be its most overrated one. You’ll know the one I mean by its absence from the following list). Certainly it is an unchallenged year for great debuts. On the 60th anniversary of Joe Strummer’s birth, let’s look at fourteen of the best releases from one of Rock’s most crucial years.


14. Another Music in a Different Kitchen by Buzzcocks 

History has embalmed British punk as political (The Clash), mindlessly nihilistic (The Sex Pistols), and just plain loony (The Damned!). One doesn’t usually think of it as romantic, but Buzzcocks were as concerned with the heart and its innumerable hurdles as The Ramones were across the ocean. Like The Ramones, Buzzcocks also maximized speed and sugary tunefulness. We can forgive Buzzcocks for arguably inspiring pop-punk singlehandedly when they did it so spectacularly on brokenhearted anthems such as “No Reply” and “Fiction Romance”. Even when a hookup manages to go down on things like “Sixteen”, “I Don’t Mind”, and “You Tear Me Up”, it just leads to disappointment, or worse, sexual revulsion… though “Love Battery” manages to keep the image of the tirelessly randy punk alive. Pete Shelley’s complex views of sex and love, and the band’s willingness to embrace machine-like cacophony, imply that Buzzcocks aren’t some mindless pop-punk horde, and when Pete Shelley ruminates on the annoyance and dangerousness of racing (“Fast Cars”), the frustration of idiotic consumerism (“I Need”), the confusing allure of autonomy (“Autonomy”), and—Gasp! This from a punk band?!?—the pleasures of maturity (“Moving Away from the Pulsebeat”), he really highlights the brain above that wilted Buzzcocks heart.

13. “Heroes” by David Bowie

David Bowie’s second collaboration with Brian Eno found him working his urge to make purposely-difficult music out of his system and recapturing his love of the pop song. Low was atmospheric, experimental, and well, pretty turgid for those who prefer melody to frigid soundscapes. “Heroes” seems designed to either please both factions of Bowie’s fans or to ease himself back into his former song craft. Side A comprises his finest run of vocal numbers since Aladdin Sane. “Beauty and the Beast” gets things off to a pounding start, as menacing as anything on Low, as fatally contagious as any of his past hits (though it flopped when released as the album’s second single). Bowie heads out into the Berlin nightlife, steely eyed, ready for his beastly indulgences to overtake him like Larry Talbot. The all-nighter is underway on “Joe the Lion”, both an urgently danceable call to shake off his Low insularity and a tribute to decadent performance artist Chris Burden, indicating the unwholesome means by which he would reconnect with the world. Then the breath-stealing, romantic bliss amidst political chaos of the title track— quite possibly the man’s most miraculous creation— and “Sons of the Silent Age”. The only way to bring an end to all the physical, personal, and social turmoil is extreme overindulgence and “Blackout”. When Bowie comes to on Side B, he and Eno indulge themselves with a series of atmosphere pieces that are harder rocking (“V-2 Schneider”), more dramatic (“Sense of Doubt”), and prettier (“Moss Garden”) than the mass of Low. Our hero caps off the side with its sole vocal-driven track. This funky return to the Station to Station dance floor called “The Secret Life of Arabia” segues seamlessly to the capper of Bowie and Eno’s trilogy, the even more accessible Lodger.

12. Pink Flag by Wire

The press painted the punks as nothing more than yobbos bashing out two chords while gobbing on their audience. The reality was a lot more complex. As Wire displayed on their remarkable debut, punk could be raw and intellectual. Pink Flag is a veritable art piece, its 21 glass shards rarely clearing the two-minute mark. On first listen, it all flashes by in a sustained howl. Subsequent listens reveal diversity and extraordinary song craft, from the atmospheric opener “Reuters” to the blinding 2/4 bounce of “Field Day for the Sundays” to the robotic riffing of “Three Girl Rhumba” to the indescribably infectious “Ex Lion Tamer” right through “12 X U”, the archetypal punk thrash that ends the album with a dead bang. The lyricism is as provocative as the album’s fragmented structure, swinging past the simplistic politics of the U.K. punks and the comic strip partying of the U.S. ones for neurotic tales of the media constantly closing in like some all-devouring monster. Pink Flag is all the more fascinating for its own uniqueness in Wire’s catalogue. The band would follow it up with longer pieces on the more psychedelic Chairs Missing before descending into the synthesized atmospherics of 154 and never looking back from then on out. Wire were so disdainful of their past that they’d eventually refuse to perform any of their early material on stage, actually hiring a Wire cover band to open for them so fans could get their dose of Pink Flag-era punk! Consequently, Pink Flag may feel a little like the work of punk dilettantes in retrospect, but anyone really listening realizes how far beyond the genre’s clichés Wire had already moved on their debut.

11. In the City by The Jam

Hearing In the City today, it’s kind of hilarious to think The Jam’s U.K. punk peers once sneered at them for being sanitized or overly indebted to ‘60s pop. Sure, they professed fealty to The Who circa-’65 (so did most punks, mind you). Sure, they wore sharp Mod suits. Sure, Paul Weller flicked his pick-up to coax Townshend-style telegraph noises out of his Rickenbacker. Those are mostly matters of image. In matters of sound, In the City is speed-freak fast, lean, and sweaty; all the things punk was supposed to be, all things The Sex Pistols weren’t. The Jam’s decision not to play the punk game was very punk too. The genre’s reputation for nonconformity may have held water in the States, but the U.K. punk scene was notoriously dogmatic. The Jam flouted conventions with their style and Weller’s questionable though highly unconvincing Conservatism. Songs like “In the City”, a vicious indictment of police brutality, “Bricks and Mortar”, a swipe at corporate expansion, and “Away from the Numbers”, a sincere plea for nonconformity, tell a different tale. Though “Time for Truth” is known as the group’s most notoriously conservative screed, Weller explicitly painting Labour Party Prime Minister James Callaghan Communist red, the target of the track’s anger is once again the cops, specifically the six swine who beat Liddle Towers to death in his cell. Tellingly, the incident inspired similar outrage from such far-left leaning groups as the Tom Robinson Band and Angelic Upstarts. Of course, In the City is not all provocative politics. “Nonstop Dancing” is a joyous ode to the title pursuit. The band pays homage to their favorite era with covers of the “Batman Theme” and Larry-Williams-by-way-of-The Beatles’ “Slow Down”. Soon The Jam would appropriate the lighter touch of the power pop and soul groups of that era, and like so many other members of the class of ’77, they’d leave basic punk behind. However, “In the City” is one of the genre’s most legitimate articles.

10. Talking Heads: ‘77 by Talking Heads

Thursday, August 23, 2012

'The Who Live in Texas '75' Coming to DVD This October

In 1975, The Who was at a troubled crossroads. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey's hard-fought truce of the '60s was collapsing. Keith Moon was deteriorating just as quickly, and Pete confounded some fans with his near-suicide-letters that made up The Who by Numbers. Amidst all this turmoil, The Who still managed some peak performances on stage. On October 9, Eagle Rock Entertainment will be releasing one such show on DVD and digital download. The Who Live in Texas '75 captures The Who's gig at The Summit in Houston on November 20, where they showcased a couple of new tracks, classic singles, and a big hunk of Tommy.

Stay tuned for my review this autumn. Until then, you can pre-order The Who Live in Texas '75 at Amazon.com right now here:


Track Listing
1) Substitute
2) I Can’t Explain
3) Squeeze Box
4) Baba O’Riley
5) Boris The Spider
6) Drowned
7) However Much I Booze
8) Dreaming From The Waist
9) Behind Blue Eyes
10) Amazing Journey
11) Sparks
12) Acid Queen
13) Fiddle About
14) Pinball Wizard
15) I’m Free
16) Tommy’s Holiday Camp
17) We’re Not Going To Take It / See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You
18) Summertime Blues
19) My Generation
20) Join Together
21) Naked Eye
22) Roadrunner
23) Won’t Get Fooled Again
24) Magic Bus
25) My Generation Blues

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's Official: Restored 'Magical Mystery Tour' Coming in October, Plus Pre-Order and Extras Info.

A couple of days ago, Psychobabble recirculated rumors of the impending DVD/Blu-ray release of Magical Mystery Tour. Turns out, it's all true. October 9th, The Beatles' fun psychedelic folly will see release with a bus-load of extras. It can now be pre-ordered on Amazon here:


Here's more detailed information on the extras than I had on Monday. For those who still can't dig the movie, these ample bonuses might be enough to entice you to purchase it anyway:

Content:
Original Film restored Running time 53 minutes
8 page booklet
Packaged in an amaray case

+ SPECIAL FEATURES

Director's Commentary by Paul McCartney

The Making of Magical Mystery Tour (19:05)

- Features interviews with Paul and Ringo, along with other cast members and crew. Includes unseen footage.

Ringo the actor
(2:30)
- Ringo reflecting on his role in the film.

Meet The Supporting Cast
(11:27)
- A feature on the background and careers of Nat Jackley, Jessie Robins, Ivor Cutler, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Victor Spinetti, George Claydon, and Derek Royle.

Three new edits of these performances all featuring footage not seen in the original film.

'Your Mother Should Know' (2:35)
'Blue Jay Way' (3:53)
'The Fool On The Hill' (3:05)

'Hello Goodbye' (3:24), as featured in Top of the Pops 1967
- The Beatles allowed the BBC to film them in the edit suite where they were working on Magical Mystery Tour. This was then turned into a promo by the BBC, who shot their own additional footage. It was then broadcast on Top of the Pops to mark the 'Hello Goodbye' single going to No 1 in December 1967.

Nat's Dream (2:50)
- A scene directed by John featuring Nat Jackley. Not included in the original film.

Ivor Cutler 'I'm Going In A Field' (2:35)
- Ivor performs 'I'm Going In A Field', in a field. Not included in the original film.

Traffic 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush'
(1:53)
- The filming of Traffic acting out their 1967 hit single 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' was commissioned by The Beatles for possible inclusion in Magical Mystery Tour but was not used in the final edit.

TECHNICAL SPEC
Aspect ratio - 1.33:1
Frame rate - 1080i 59.94

Audio Options:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital for DVD

Subtitle language options for feature, extras and commentary:

English
Français
Deutsch
Español
Italiano
Português
Nederlande
Svenska
Norsk
Dansk
Suomi

Magical Mystery Tour can also be ordered from Beatles.com for an extra 60 bucks in a collector's box, which the site describes as follows:

This limited edition deluxe version comes in a 10" x 10" box, which contains the DVD & Blu-ray, as well as a 60 page book with background information, photographs and documentation from the production and also a faithful reproduction of the mono double 7" vinyl EP of the films six new Beatles songs, originally issued in the uk to complement the films 1967 release.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: 'A Very Irregular Head: The Life of Syd Barrett'

Syd Barrett fans tend to fall into one of two camps. There are those who have a genuine appreciation for the innovative, imaginative music he created as both the short-lived leader of Pink Floyd and an even more impulsive solo artist. Then there are those who worship him as some sort of loony-toony acid guru known to hail airplanes as if they were checkered cabs and mash a homemade tonic of Brylcreem and Mandrax into his obligatory Hendrix perm. The latter fan will likely be disappointed by A Very Irregular Head: The Life of Syd Barrett. Despite its title, Rob Chapman’s biography is anything but a sensationalized trot through crazy old Syd’s craziest moments. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a fan who has absolutely nothing but respect for Syd-the-artist, Chapman makes his goal to debunk the most outrageous Syd myths, including the infamous Brylcreem and Mandrax tall tale, which despite being completely devoid of evidence, has been repeated so many times it is taken as face-value truth by many biographers.

Chapman’s Syd is a human being, not an acid-guzzling comic book character. He is a serious painter with serious talent, who also displayed a flair for music, had a go at it while it suited his interests, and largely walked away because he couldn’t deal with pop stardom any longer. Yes, our author acknowledges that his subject developed mental problems, and he discusses them with neutrality that does not make any sweeping, doomed-to-fail diagnoses about the cause. Was Syd the textbook “acid casualty?” Was he schizophrenic? Chapman doesn’t pretend to know because, well, no one does. He sticks to the facts, which he researched with precision and a knack for weeding out the bullshit. The end result is a story that may not produce a bunch of wild new tales to titillate the ghouls but may comfort the true fans because Syd’s life was not quite as sad or tragic as the most sensational biographers would have us believe.

A Very Irregular Head: The Life of Syd Barrett was originally published in 2010 and is now being reprinted in paperback by Da Capo press. Order it from Amazon.com here:

The Mystery of 'Magical Mystery Tour'

About ten months ago, Psychobabble repeated a rumor that The Beatles' charmingly shambling critical-pariah Magical Mystery Tour might be coming to Blu-ray and DVD in 2012. The rumor was sparked by director Michael Lindsey Hogg, who let this detail slip while announcing that a Blu-ray/DVD release of that other most controversial celluloid look at the Fabs, Let It Be, was also in the works.

We Beatles fans have been known to spin an album or two backwards to uncover secreted clues, so recent evidence that bears out Hogg's claim is causing a bit of a stir. Exhibit A: on October 2, the British Film Institute will be screening the original film plus an all-knew documentary called "Magical Mystery Tour Revisited". Before you deem this less a clue and more an announcement because such a documentary seems to scream "DVD extra," the doc is actually part of the BBC's series "Arena". Considering that the 45th anniversary of Magical Mystery Tour is approaching, it makes further sense that such a documentary might be produced with or without an accompanying DVD release.
More convincing is Exhibit B: the <i>Examiner</i>'s report that the Blu-ray briefly appeared on Amazon.com due to some sort of slip up. However, the page, which revealed an October 9th release date to coincide with Lennon's birthday, was quickly pulled. Amazon Japan has been a bit slower to correct the mistake.

Then there's Exhibit C,  the British Board of Film Classification's Magical Mystery Tour page, which actually lists a menu and features:

 MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (FEATURE)
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (FEATURE WITH DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY BY PAUL MCCARTNEY)
YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW
 BLUE JAY WAY
THE FOOL ON THE HILL
NAT'S DREAM
I'M GOING IN A FIELD - IVOR CUTLER
HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH - TRAFFIC
THE MAKING OF MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
RINGO THE ACTOR
THE CAST
HELLO GOODBYE
(CREDITS)

This is surely a lot of enticing information, but until Capitol decides to put out an official press release, the mystery of the  Magical Mystery Tour DVD/Blu-ray release will remain magically mysterious.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Psychobabble’s 20 Greatest Singles of 1957!

The training wheels were off Rock & Roll for good by 1957. Parents, teachers, priests, and politicians deemed Rock & Roll dangerous enough to inspire its most impassioned defenses. It started developing beyond its blues base into fascinating new territory. And all the founding fathers were in full swing: Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Larry, Jerry Lee, and Little all making some of their definitive records. 1957 is Rock & Roll, and these are 20 of its rockingest rockers.
Photobucket
20. “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent” by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers

By 1957, Rock & Roll had its grip on America’s youth sufficiently enough that its supposed detrimental effects had become common knowledge. It made kids horny, violent, disrespectful little criminals. A nation of teenage werewolves. With that came some impassioned defenses from the Rock & Rollers who bashed out this heinous new form of “music.” In the case of “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent” by 15-year old Frankie Lymon, it came from an actual teen too. His call for his fellow youngsters to “stay out of trouble” is weepily sincere, but Lymon’s tragic true story told a different tale.


19. “The Monster” by Billy Ford and the Thunderbirds

Frankie Lymon’s doo-wop plea is lovely, but it’s not the most defiant stance. Billy Ford and the Thunderbird’s (soon to transform into the soul duo Billy & Lillie) “The Monster” is another beast entirely. “I’m the monster Rock & Roll” he growls, threatening that everything you moms and dads fear about your kids’ music is true, true, true. The louder the critics complain, the harder he rocks. Try cutting off his head, and two will grow in its place. As his young fans grow up, they’ll still love him and worship him as a king. That every one of Ford’s monstrous assertions would come true shows that parents really did have something to fear in Rock & Roll. Hail, hail the monster!


18. “Pink Champagne” by The Tyrones

Rock & Roll is dumb, inarticulate, a bad influence that appeals to its fans’ basest instincts. Yeah, so what’s your point? Down some booze, whip your hair and hips to the out-of-control, endlessly modulating mania of The Tyrones’ “Pink Champagne”. “Wine! Wine! Wine!” the boys shout in unison to a raunch-o-la sax wail. The track may begin with a list of all the ways pink champagne wrecked the singers’ lives, but their cheery delivery and chug-a-lug chant speaks a lot louder. Get drunk, get crazy. Rock & Roll’s essence served up in long-stemmed crystal.


17. “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pre-Order and Track info for Super Deluxe 'Velvet Underground and Nico' Box Set

Last month Psychobabble announced the upcoming release of a six-disc, Super Deluxe, 45th Anniversary edition of The Velvet Underground and Nico. The bad news is it looks as though the release date has been bumped from October 1st to October 30th. The good news is that the set is now available to pre-order at Amazon.com here:


Here's the track listing as revealed on Pitchfork last month:

Disc One:

The Velvet Underground & Nico [Stereo Version]:

01 Sunday Morning
02 I'm Waiting for the Man
03 Femme Fatale
04 Venus in Furs
05 Run Run Run
06 All Tomorrow's Parties
07 Heroin
08 There She Goes Again
09 I'll Be Your Mirror
10 The Black Angel's Death Song
11 European Son

Alternate Versions:

12 All Tomorrow's Parties [Alternate Single Voice Version]
13 European Son [Alternate Version]
14 Heroin [Alternate Version]
15 All Tomorrow's Parties [Alternate Instrumental Mix]
16 I'll Be Your Mirror [Alternate Mix]

Disc Two:

The Velvet Underground & Nico [Mono Version]:

01 Sunday Morning
02 I'm Waiting for the Man
03 Femme Fatale
04 Venus in Furs
05 Run Run Run
06 All Tomorrow's Parties
07 Heroin
08 There She Goes Again
09 I'll Be Your Mirror
10 The Black Angel's Death Song
11 European Son

The Singles [Mono]:

12 All Tomorrow's Parties [July 1966]
13 I'll Be Your Mirror [Alternate Ending, July 1966]
14 Sunday Morning [Alternate Mix, December 1966]
15 Femme Fatale [December 1966]

Disc Three:

Nico's Chelsea Girl:

01 The Fairest of the Seasons
02 These Days
03 Little Sister
04 Winter Song
05 It Was a Pleasure Then
06 Chelsea Girls
07 I'll Keep It With Mine
08 Somewhere There's a Feather
09 Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
10 Eulogy to Lenny Bruce

Disc Four:

Scepter Studios Sessions:

01 European Son [Alternate Version] *
02 The Black Angel's Death Song [Alternate Mix] *
03 All Tomorrow's Parties [Alternate Version] *
04 I'll Be Your Mirror [Alternate Version] ^
05 Heroin [Alternate Version] *
06 Femme Fatale [Alternate mix] ^
07 Venus in Furs [Alternate Version] ^
08 Waiting for the Man [Alternate Version] ^
09 Run Run Run [Alternate Mix] ^

* from tape
^ from acetate

The Factory Rehearsals [January 1966]:

10 Walk Alone
11 Cracking Up / Venus in Furs
12 Miss Joanie Lee
13 Heroin
14 There She Goes Again [with Nico]
15 There She Goes Again

Disc Five:

Live at Valleydale Ballroom, Columbus, Ohio:

01 Melody Laughter
02 Femme Fatale
03 Venus in Furs
04 The Black Angel's Death Song
05 All Tomorrow's Parties [Lou Reed]

Disc Six:

Live at Valleydale Ballroom, Columbus, Ohio:

01 Waiting for the Man
02 Heroin
03 Run Run Run
04 The Nothing Song

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reissues of 12 Beach Boys Classics Coming This September: Updated with Pre-Order info

On September 25, Capitol/EMI will be reissuing a remastered selection of twelve Beach Boys L.P.s. All of the '60s-era discs will be presented in mono and stereo, though it seems anyone looking for bonus tracks or exclusive singles such as "The Little Girl I Once Knew" is out of luck. The choice of albums is pretty questionable, too, considering that such essential platters as Wild Honey, Friends, and Holland are not in the line-up, which is as follows:


Capitol also has two new compilations, the single disc 50 Anniversary Greatest Hits set and a double disc box set called Greatest Hits: 50 Big Ones, scheduled for October 9.



Here are the track listings of the Single Disc Greatest Hits:

1. That's Why God Made The Radio
2. California Girls
3. Sloop John B
4. Wouldn't It Be Nice
5. Surfer Girl
6. Do It Again
7. Surfin' Safari
8. Surfin' U.S.A.
9. Don't Worry Baby
10. Little Deuce Coupe
11. I Get Around
12. Fun, Fun, Fun
13. Be True To Your School
14. Dance, Dance, Dance
15. All Summer Long
16. Help Me, Rhonda
17. Rock And Roll Music
18. God Only Knows
19. Good Vibrations
20. Kokomo

...and the box set...

Disc: 1
1. California Girls
2. Do It Again
3. Surfin' Safari
4. Catch a Wave
5. Little Honda
6. Surfin' U.S.A.
7. Surfer Girl
8. Don't Worry Baby
9. Little Deuce Coupe
10. Shut Down
11. I Get Around
12. The Warmth of the Sun
13. Please Let Me Wonder
14. Wendy
15. Getcha Back
16. The Little Girl I Once Knew
17. When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)
18. It's OK
19. Dance, Dance, Dance
20. Do You Wanna Dance
21. Rock And Roll Music
22. Barbara Ann
23. All Summer Long
24. Help Me, Rhonda
25. Fun, Fun, Fun
Disc: 2
1. Kokomo
2. You're So Good To Me
3. Wild Honey
4. Darlin'
5. In My Room
6. All This Is That
7. This Whole World
8. Add Some Music To Your Day
9. Cotton Fields
10. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
11. Sail on, Sailor
12. Surf's Up
13. Friends
14. Heroes and Villains
15. I Can Hear Music
16. Good Timin'
17. California Saga (On My Way to Sunny Californ-I-A)
18. Isn't It Time (single version)
19. Kiss Me, Baby
20. That's Why God Made The Radio
21. Forever
22. God Only Knows
23. Sloop John B
24. Wouldn't It Be Nice
25. Good Vibrations

All Three Surviving Monkees to Tour U.S. this Fall

On the heels of the death of Davy Jones this past February, remaining Monkees Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith--that's right, Mike Nesmith-- have announced plans for a U.S. tour to begin this November. This is big news, as it will be Nesmith's first tour with the group since 1997, when the wool-hatted one booked early during the U.K. leg.
In an interview posted on Rolling Stone.com today, Nesmith revealed that the tour will focus on Headquarters, the only album The Monkees recorded without outside help (assuming we consider bassist/producer Chip Douglas an unofficial Monkee). Mike, Micky, and Peter will be the only musicians on stage during the Headquarters set and will receive help from additional players, including Nesmith's son Christian, on the other numbers.

Nesmith also announced his plans for a solo tour to begin next spring and his first memoir.

Dates:

11/8 Escondido, CA - California Center for the Arts
11/9 Santa Barbara, CA - The Arlington Theatre
11/10 Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre
11/11 Cupertino, CA - Flint Center for the Performing Arts
11/15 Minneapolis, MN - State Theatre
11/16 Chicago, IL - The Chicago Theatre
11/17 Cleveland, OH - Lakewood Civic Auditorium
11/18 Buffalo, NY - The Center For The Arts
11/29 Philadelphia, PA - Keswick Theatre
11/30 New Brunswick, NJ - State Theatre Regional Arts Center
12/1 Huntington, NY - The Paramount
12/2 New York, NY - The Beacon Theatre

10 Non-Horror Movies That Think They're Horror Movies

We expect monsters and suspense and shocks and disturbing images when we watch horror movies. They’re all part of the gravestone-littered territory. But what happens when such elements creep into dramas and crime pictures and kiddie-flicks and musicals and sci-fi spectaculars and pseudo documentaries? They may get under our skin even more assuredly because they don’t belong; they’re wrong, and horror has always drawn much of its power from showing us very wrong things. Thus some of the scariest movies are not horror movies at all, but movies that apparently think they’re horror movies. Here are ten of the most horrifying.
1. The Curse of the Cat People (1944 – dir. Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch)

We begin with an exception to the rules delineated above. Val Lewton may be horror’s most renowned producer, yet most of his films could just as easily have found a place on this list because he so emphatically avoided commitment to the supernatural. RKO pictures handed Lewton goofy titles like I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man, and Cat People, expecting him to make cheapo monster flicks to turn a quick profit. He in turn paid as little lip service to standard horror as possible, mining these pictures for unsettling psychological insight and allowing his stock company of directors— Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise— to realize them with artful light and shadow. RKO wasn’t getting exactly what it asked for, but it was getting hit films. Cat People was one of the biggest, so a sequel was a natural demand. Not only did Lewton barely bother to tie The Curse of the Cat People to its predecessor, but he made almost no effort to imbue it with anything recognizably horrifying. There is a ghost—former cat person Irena (Simone Simon)—but she is probably just a figment of little Amy’s (Ann Carter) imagination, and she is hardly an entity of horror. Rather, the once murderous monster has been totally rewritten as a benevolent presence, a beautiful and gentle playmate for a lonely girl whose parents (Kent Smith and Jane Randolph from the previous picture) don’t like her wasting her young years daydreaming. The Curse of the Cat People is a truly lovely piece of work—beautifully filmed and bittersweet—that was Lewton’s first to really give horror the heave ho. However, RKO was still able to market it as such because of its lurid title, its ghost, and a single scary sequence in which a local Miss Havisham (Julia Dean) tells Amy a story about the headless horseman that pitches the girl’s overactive imagination into hyperactive mode. There’s also a slight danger that the old lady’s daughter (Elizabeth Russell) is going to wring the kid’s neck in a fit of daughterly jealousy, but come on, that obviously isn’t going to happen in such a sweet film that really only thinks it’s horror.

2. Sunset Boulevard (1950 – dir. Billy Wilder)

When horror fell out of favor in the ‘50s, it immediately began assimilating into other genres. This is clearest in the decade’s sci-fi pictures that exuded fear more readily than the celestial and technological wonder at the heart of the genre. Horror also worked its way into noirs such as Kiss Me Deadly, with its apocalyptic finale, and The Night of the Hunter, a true genre straddler with a villain who is equal parts swindler archetype and boogeyman. In his 1950 noir Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder absorbed horror in subtler ways. Dimming star Norma Desmond (silent film legend Gloria Swanson) skulks through a Gothic old dark house replete with rat-infested swimming pool, Chas Addams-style dead chimp, and wheezy pipe organ on which the grim butler (one-time silent filmmaker and later-day horror character actor Erich von Stroheim) plays the classic horror signifier “Toccata and Fugue”. Norma, herself, is both beautiful and eerily possessed; a dead ringer for Gloria Holden’s Dracula’s Daughter. In his book American Gothic, Jonathan Rigby draws numerous fascinating parallels between Norma and Dracula senior, and her thrall over Joe Gillis (William Holden) is easily comparable to that of the Count over Mina or Renfield, even if the reason is more economic than supernatural. Though Rigby’s treatment of Sunset Boulevard as true horror is a stretch, there is no question that its final image of Norma— now completely insane, floating toward the camera, her eyes ablaze with madness, her predatory, claw-like fingers reaching for the audience—is among cinema’s most terrifying.

3. Vertigo (1958 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classic Universal Horrors Coming to Your Neighborhood in TCM's Event Series

In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Universal Studios, Turner Classic Movies is hosting a country-wide series of screenings of four classics this autumn. First up is The Birds on Wednesday, September 19, followed by a double feature of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in a perfect pre-Halloween slot: Wednesday, October 24. Finally, To Kill a Mockingbird runs on Thursday, November 15 (not particularly relevant to this site, perhaps, but it is a terrific movie and does feature a nifty Halloween sequence in which Scout dresses up as a terrifying baked ham).
The Fathom Events site gives a full rundown of all theaters that will be participating in this event. Check these links for details on The Birds, The Frankensteins, and To Kill a Mockingbird. You can find the theater closest to you by entering your zipcode in the window at the bottom of each page.

 Or if you prefer watching these films in an environment where you don't have to endure shrieking babies and idiots farting around with their cell phones, pre-order these titles on Blu-ray at Amazon.com here:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lucifer Sams and Satanic Majesties: Cult Sects of Rock Gods

Who is Pink Floyd? Cold experiments and saxophones. Twenty minute opuses and barren atmosphere. Faceless, immobile, serious musicians. Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.

Who are The Rolling Stones? Sleazy sex and heroin. Mick’s lips and strutting. Blues, booze, and Berry. Exile on Main Street and Some Girls.

Who are The Beach Boys? Surf and sun. Hot rods and bikinis. Prancing old Reaganites in Hawaiian shirts. “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Surfin’ Safari”.

Who are The Who? Rock operas and ponderous proto-metal. Bluster and bashing. Classic Rock radio staples and Broadway bounders. Tommy and Who’s Next.
Four of Rock’s institutions as they’re understood by the masses. When their congregations file into the hallowed halls of their local stadiums to hear the hits, the hits are what they most often receive. A sacrament of the familiar, fulfilling essential stereotypes, banishing the obscurities to torchlit basement gatherings where the freaks and obsessives huddle around turntables to spin gouged copies of Their Satanic Majesties Request and fifth generation bootlegs of SMiLE. Bruce Johnston calls them “the one percenters”: the one-percent of The Beach Boys’ fans who hope to never hear “Kokomo” again but cannot get enough of “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” and “Do You Like Worms?”

Classifying these acts as cult bands is a far-fetched stretch. They are among the most enduringly popular in Rock history. The Beach Boys were the biggest white American Rock band of the ‘60s, scoring three number one hits in their hey day and another some 25 years after their debut. Pink Floyd are responsible for one of Rock’s all-time bestselling and most iconic records. The Stones and The Who may only fall behind The Beatles and Led Zeppelin in the British Rock race. Yet within each of those band’s expansive histories lay genuine cult items; recordings that the majority of their fans and the bands, themselves, generally ignore. The cultists these oddities have attracted feel decidedly stronger about SMiLE, Their Satanic Majesties Request, The Who Sell Out, and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. We are the one percent.

Cult items are natural products of any long and fruitful career. Perhaps The Beatles and Zeppelin are the only top Rock bands of the classic era who don’t really have any, which is likely because both had relatively short careers that produced relatively few records. Had The Beatles continued making music for another decade, it is possible that at least one of them might have dipped through the cracks. It was inevitable that The Beach Boys and The Stones would make their cult records, because they both created tremendous bodies of work (as of this writing, The Beach Boys have made 30 albums; The Stones made 22 and are apparently at work on another) and are both confined by most people into tight compartments. Those people include the artists, themselves. Brian and Dennis Wilson were the only Beach Boys who really seemed to recognize the genius of the stereotype-defying SMiLE, with its fragmented structures, whimsical humor, and stoned avant gardism. Mike Love famously (perhaps apocryphally) warned Brian to not “fuck with the formula” of surf and hot rod songs. He hated Van Dyke Parks’s poetic, cryptic lyrics and most of the guys claimed they felt degraded by being forced to simulate barnyard noises and orgasms by a giggling, LSD-infused Brian during the sessions. Keith Richards is similarly embarrassed by the blues-eschewing, psychedelic onslaught Their Satanic Majesties Request, dismissing it as “flimflam” in his autobiography. Mick’s embarrassment seems to cloak a genuine affection for the record, constantly vacillating between deeming it “nonsense” and “lovely” throughout the years.
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