If You’ve Ever Wanted to Cry in a Dark Room, This Movie’s for You

Certainly not to take anything away from the very excellent Not a Photograph:The Mission of Burma Story that I was pleased to see this past Saturday evening at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the “Play It Loud: Rock Docs ’06” festival (btw the second – and last – screening is this Thursday at 9:15 PM – don’t miss it!), but You’re Gonna Miss Me, the documentary on former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson, is just about the most harrowing thing I’ve seen since, well, the Mavs’ NBA Finals meltdown. No, seriously, this movie is one of the most emotionally riveting things I’ve ever seen, and I was glued to my seat. The tale of Roky’s return from the near dead, thanks to his very weird but talented younger brother Sumner Erickson has to be seen to be believed.

New York viewers will be sad to note that tonight’s showing is the last one in the festival, but I’m sure it’ll be screening again sometime very soon. Additionally, those of you not living in the film capital of these United States should be sure to visit the news page on the You’re Gonna Miss Me web site for updated screening information.


Fetishizing US black pop culture is something of a given when it comes to blogging – especially for us Europeans, who pre-internet would probably never have come across Texas rap’s preoccupation with cough syrup and DJ Screw, hyphy, ghostriding etc.

The Diplomats are another one of those things I probably would have not had that much exposure to were it not for blogs. They never seemed to get any special attention on hip-hop radio in England before the Byrd Gang mixtapes, but on the internet, they were superstars. All of this is a precursor to the fact that I finally got around to seeing the film made by Diplomats head honcho Cam’Ron, ‘Killa Season‘. Now, theres a lot of valid discussion about the veiled racism involved in justifying some of the more objectionable aspects of The Diplomats’ lyrics (amounting to ‘The funny way that black people talk entertains me, therefore it is not real’), but Cam’Ron specifically is at his best when he’s too surreal to be taken seriously. When he drops the flights of fancy and just does standard trap-music, detailing street life, he’s eloquent, but kinda dull. Sadly, ‘Killa Season’ is a whole lot of the latter.

To be fair, the odds were stacked against this one from the start. For the film to be a true representation of Cam’Ron and Dipset, ‘Killa Season’ would have to have been directed by Michael Bay, and involve a 50ft tall Cam’Ron crushing anyone ‘rocking sandals with jeans’, repeatedly telling us of his new album’s release date, and boasting about his sexual prowess. Of course, Hollywood was never going to be ready for Cam’s vision, so he funded and directed it himself. And if you think his mixtape cuts are interminably long self-aggrandising mythology, you’ll marvel at how well he’s managed to bring that to the silver screen. I won’t lie, I fell asleep. I mean, it starts off well – Cam gets in a scuffle at a dice game, breaks a bottle over someone’s head and then urinates on him while repeating ‘No homo, no homo’ for what seems like forever….it’s bizarrely paced and pretty funny. Unfortunately, the film is two and a half hours long, and at least two hours of that is Cam scowling in a badly-lit shop. To be fair, there is a montage of him wearing different fur coats at one point, and a gloriously surreal moment where Cam murders somebody on his bicycle, which almost slips by your WTF-ometer cause it’s played so straight. His acting skills are twofold: looking like he’s trying to figure out a sudoku puzzle (anger, fear, upset) and immense arrogance (everything else). His next filmic work is a documentary in which he beats up paedophiles, which sounds better in practically every way to ‘Killa Season’, but I’m still glad I saw it – if nothing else, I’ve seen Cam’Ron do a drive-by on a bike. So that’s something.

Mann’s Ruin : ‘Vice Is Nice (If You Ignore Colin Farrell)

I was begining to feel a little guilty about the totally gratuitious jibes aimed at thespian/cretin Colin Farrell in the latest edition of the Matador News Update. I mean, for one thing, we should be totally grateful that the producers of “Miami Vice” have chosen to showcase one of our fledgling artists (in this case, Mogwai) on a major label soundtrack album (one that features the former vocalist of the Vatican Commandos, too!). But no, I had to fuck things up for everyone by focusing on something completely besides the point — How Much Colin Farrell Sucks.

Well, I’m not the only one. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott, while hailing Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” as “an action picture for people who dig experimental art films, and vice versa,” also choose to single out one of the film’s stars for special praise. Colin Farrell isn’t one of them.

Mr. Farrell, however, is a movie star only in the sense that Richard Gephardt is president of the United States. He’s always looked good on paper, and he’s picked up some endorsements along the way — from Oliver Stone, Joel Schumacher and Terrence Malick, among others — but somehow it has never quite happened. Here he squints and twitches to suggest emotion and slackens his lower lip to suggest lust, concern or deep contemplation, but despite his good looks he lacks that mysterious quality we call presence.

Mr. Mann’s script has its share of silly, overwrought lines, but they only really sound that way in Mr. Farrell’s mouth. (Did he really say, “I’m a fiend for mojitos”? ¡Dios mío!) When he’s not on screen, you don’t miss him, and when he is, you find yourself, before long, looking at someone or something else. Gong Li. A boat. A lightning bolt illuminating the humid summer sky.

Mission of Burma Invade Genteel Lincoln Center, Hold Audience Captive

Well, we’re actually kidding about the invasion part, and maybe “genteel” doesn’t really describe what’s going on there these days (what with all that wacky “modern art”), but formal attire is not required for the upcoming awesome event at the Film Society of Lincoln Center:
If you haven’t had a chance to see Mission of Burma on their current, amp-smokin’-hot tour across the East Coast/Midwest, and you live in New York City, check this out:



Series: Play It Loud: RockDocs [Aug 2 – 10 2006]
Director: David Kleiler, Jr. & Jeff Iwanicki, Country: USA, Release: 2006, Runtime: 73

NY Premiere
In 1979 a group of young, smart artist/musicians formed a post-punk band The New Yorker would later dub “the most criminally undersung band of the 80s.” Mission of Burma — Roger Miller, Clint Conley, and Peter Prescott mainly — could have been considered ahead of their time, and this film proves that, although they were only together until 1983, their reach was wide: inspiring REM, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, as well as Moby, Nirvana, Blur, Yo La Tengo and Spoon, among others. Influential but not famous, a critical but not a commercial success, this sometimes-quartet (including the mysterious Martin Swope and later Bob Weston as “tape manipulator”) gets its kudos 20 years later when they reunite and play venues they would have never seen decades earlier. Why wouldn’t they reunite, cites one observer, “they all still have good hair.” Filmmakers Kleiler and Iwanicki give us the lowdown and treat us to an unforgettable onstage jam at Irving Plaza, featuring a who’s who line up of Miller, Conley, Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Moby, Richard Baluyut of Versus, Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, and Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four drumming alongside Prescott — a testimony indeed to the “best band you’ve never heard of.”

Not a Photograph is playing as part of the Film Society’s “Play It Loud: RockDocs06″ fest, which has many other films that are worth checking out, as well (I for one will be getting teary watching Roky Erickson tear it up). Screening dates and times for Not a Photograph are:

Saturday, August 5 at 6 PM
Thursday, Aug 10 at 9 PM

You can buy tickets by following that link up top. You might also notice that same picture of Burma on the front page of the Film Society’s site, as well. Not bad for “the best band you’ve never heard of” – though I think such a description might better describe the Endtables or somebody else a little more obscure.

For Paramount Pictures, Marketing 9/11 Is No Joke

Turning the greatest domestic tragedy of our time into cold hard cash is no walk in the park. Just ask Dick Cheney! But seriously folks, yesterday’s New York Times told the tale of Paramount Pictures employing WWE-hating morality maven L. Brent Bozell and Creative Response Concepts — the same folks who worked as paid advisers to Swift Boat Veterans For Truth — in their marketing of Oliver Stone’s forthcoming “World Trade Center”.

Rob Moore, president of worldwide marketing, distribution and home entertainment for Paramount, said he would have hired the firm regardless of who had directed the movie, because of its strong elements of Christian faith and its depiction of men sacrificing themselves for one another: “the definition of patriotism,” he said.

That’s not actually a definition of patriotism, but perhaps Moore meant to say “unselfishness”. In any event, Thursday’s Los Angeles Times outlined Paramount’s plans to promote the group to a slightly different demographic.

“Every generation has a defining moment,” says the voice-over of a 30-second TV spot aimed at the under-25 crowd that began airing this week. The melodic “Fix You” by rock group Coldplay plays as the screen goes black and three words appear in stark white letters: “This Was Ours.”

Though that must be one heck of a commercial, it sounds suspiciously like an idea I proposed to Paramount’s marketing department several years ago when we were making plans for the “Brain Candy” soundtrack. Of course, Coldplay didn’t exist at that point, but that’s part of what made the concept so daring for that day and age.