Stephen King, Christine (RE-READ): Quarantine reading--I sort of liked this book when I was 16, and still had my old copy laying around, but given my rather underwhelming experience re-reading The Shining I didn't think I was going to enjoy this too much. It's not a great book, but I actually enjoyed it a little more than TS, if not by that much. It can't stand ANY chance of scaring me or generating any suspense (an evil car is possessed by the ghost of its dickhead of an owner, and is turning a nerdy teenager evil! Oh noes!) but I did remember a lot of it, and it doesn't contain as many glaringly awful turns of phrase as, say, It. The main problem is that there's maybe 230 pages of plot and the book is 503. Oh well. At least it reads fast.
Obsession: In 1976, Brian De Palma directed his best film, Carrie. That same year, Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver, probably *his* best work. Also that same year, the two of them teamed up to write a cheesy Vertigo knockoff, probably the most obvious dream project for the two of them. So why isn't it terribly good? Because it's all leading up to a twist that manages to be simultaneously guessable and embarrassingly disgusting. Also, I'm no fan of Cliff Robertson as an actor, and he's the hero. Whether or not De Palma's usual stylistic junk (he even got Bernard Herrmann to do the music) makes up for that is up to you, but I think it's probably the weakest film of his classic era and will likely never revisit it.
Leaving Neverland: I really have no stake in the Michael Jackson controversy--I like a few of his songs, I think that the idea of trying to erase him from history because of what a freak he was is an unfruitful idea, but I also probably carelessly joined in on making fun of him like everyone else in the world did starting in 1993. I didn't really care for watching this much, though, mostly because it's four hours long and hardly merits it. Did he do it? God only knows. If the two kids are telling the truth I guess there are a few fascinating morsels of lore about the guy's insane level of fame, not to mention the insane level of permissiveness the kids' parents had regarding the guy. But that's it. And even though I just got done saying that trying to erase Whacko Jacko from history probably isn't a very smart idea, I will say that I hope this is the last I ever hear about his controversies or personal life. But you know it won't be.
Hustlers: Scorsese lite. We've all had enough of that in recent years and this is just some more. Critics and feminists I suppose lauded this film for its girl-power bonding stuff and a lot of people seem to think it's a "fascinating look back" at the dreadful days of the 2008 financial disaster (I guess), whereas I guess most other viewers just wanted to see Jennifer Lopez's butt cheeks again. The film's lead isn't J. Lo anyway, it's some boring woman named Constance Wu who basically hands ol' Jenny the movie. I guess she is pretty good playing the leader of the pack--I don't have much to compare it to, because I haven't seen a single film she's appeared in since about 1999 (and I lost count of the number of reviews I skimmed that used the phrase "her best work since Out Of Sight"...which was 22 years ago!) There are no surprises in where the movie is going, though. Mostly it just made me feel old.
Lucas: Another quarantine view, a film I found in an older brother's collection. Hey, Corey Haim could actually act when he was that young! What happened? This hasn't aged well and that whole football scene debacle at the end is one of the most painful movie scenes ever. I think what prompted me to watch this is a combination of HBO memories and Ebert writing a GUSHER of a review back when it came out. I doubt anyone here has even seen it, but I'm not recommending it.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service: This movie has the weirdest reputation ever. Almost everyone agrees George Lazenby was the worst Bond actor, but his lone Bond film is regarded by such an UNGODLY, UNCOUNTABLE number of people as either the most underrated Bond film, the best Bond film, the most adult and mature Bond film, or a miserably blown opportunity. Those people certainly outnumber me--I think it's a mixture of things that work and things that bomb utterly, some of which are baffling. Connery being replaced I can understand, but why has Donald Pleasance lost his cat, suit, squished eyeball, ability to recognize James Bond, and gained an AMERICAN ACCENT so he can be played by Telly Savalas? Why is the best thing about the film--Diana Rigg, probably the best Bond girl ever--missing from so much of it? Why is the plot such an uninteresting afterthought in a film that runs 140 minutes? Why are THREE action sequences (ski chase! car crash! second ski chase?) layered one after the other? Why are the fight sequences so obnoxiously choppily edited in a manner that actually predicts [gag] Quantum Of Solace, of all things? How did Lazenby luck out to get the biggest movie role in the world with the biggest shoes to fill, to give a mediocre performance, except at the very end, when his lacking acting style somehow works in his FAVOR in easily the most tragic Bond-movie scene, a scene that Connery, admittedly, probably wouldn't have been able to pull off for the life of him? (And God, what an AWKWARD scene--I mean, it works as a gut punch, but it's SO awkward!) And HOW did that guy getting chopped up by the snowplow and turned into a big waterfall of blood make it into a movie in 1969?
Porky's: Another quarantine viewing. This movie sucks. No good characters, no good lines, no funny scenes, just a dumb teen romp that made $111 million in theaters (which would be what, $700 million today?) while Blade Runner had to tank. Screw you, 1982! Guess those shower scenes were just that titillating to kids back in those pre-DVD days? Kim Cattrall almost has a good scene, but blows it by having it last about five minutes longer than it should've. She plays a teacher, and also looks younger than most of the actors playing the kids, and she was, let's see here, 26.
The Virgin Queen Of St. Francis High: Possibly the most obscure film I've ever watched, this zero-budget 1987 teen film is on a DVD compilation I bought for like $3 called "Dangerous Babes," which I bought because it contained a 1970s movie called Sextette that Roland Fratzl recommended to me because Alice Cooper was in it. Thanks, quarantine! It's about a guy who tries to impress a girl by winning a game of chicken. The girl speaks with an American accent, the bad guy who challenges the game of chicken sounds British, and the main kid, one of the worst actors of all time, sounds like he's speaking Afrikaner through a tube that slows people's voices down and makes them sound retarded. WORTHLESS!
Queen, News Of The World: A slight improvement over their previous three or four, but still not a great album. Somehow that Live Aid footage has made me really like "We Are The Champions," but I still hate "We Will Rock You." I dunno--something about the creeping overblown melodrama of WATC appeals to me now? "Sheer Heart Attack" is Queen doing punk for real, but it's actually from 1974! What gives?!? I like "It's Too Late" and "All Dead, All Dead" but not "Get Down, Make Love" or the stupid nightclubby album closer; so much of this band's deep cuts seem like mediocre melodies dressed up by the production, which they actually dialed back a notch for 1977. They still have about six chances left to impress me. Let's see if I can finish them before the end of the year...
The Flaming Lips, King's Mouth: A bit better than Oczy Mlody, but not by much--the Lips are weirdly regressing instead of innovating like they usually do, a shame for one of the most reliable and consistent bands ever to have a long career. This is the Soft Bulletin and/or Yoshimi wide-eyed style mixed with a dumb kiddie story/art installation of Wayne's (and it's always "Wayne's" when I read about it--isn't Drozd supposed to be the real musical genius?) The kiddie feel amounts to a dilution of their 1999-era style, and it doesn't help that I swore I heard a couple of "Waiting On A Superman" rewrites in there. The best songs are the two wide-eyed superballads at the end there, which IS a remarkable consistency for the band, you'd think they would have run out of ways to do those kinds of songs well in their old age. Oh also for no reason Mick Jones from the Clash narrates the "story."
The Arcade Fire, Reflektor: You know what's longer than this overlong, 80 minute album? The reviews for the album. And so many of them are novel-length dissections of the band's lyrics, which is a shame because music is always more important to me than lyrics and the dance-y style of this album, while not shitty, is a bit of a drop off from The Suburbs, by now the clear contender for their best album IMO. Hey, I get it--they'd done the Funeral bombast as well as they could for three albums and had to change. But 25 minutes of this could be chopped easily. Oh well--lots of people probably feel that way about Disintegration, name dropped by more than a few people in the aforementioned lengthy reviews. Me, I only loved "Supersymmetry" and a handful of others--"Afterlife," "Reflektor," "Joan Of Arc." For the third time in a row I've bombed on the supposed best song--with Neon Bible it was "No Cars Go," with Suburbs it was "Suburban War," and in this case most reviews seem to zero in on the pair of songs about Orpheus and Eurydice, which just sounded like updated 1983 Talking Heads to me. I missed the boat! Now let's get on to that fifth album that seemingly nobody likes and be done with this bombastic band, I'm moving on to the National!
The Beach Boys, 15 Big Ones: I sure am glad I heard "Just Once In My Life," a lush beautiful epic that closes a fake bullcrap publicity stunt of an album full of lame nostalgic jingles made for drive-in burger joint TV ads. I'm not going to be as hard on the mid-70s production slop as most reviews were--I'm barely hearing "synths," but I also couldn't hear the squeaky drum pedal on "Needles & Pins," remember? I guess I liked "Had To Phone Ya" and "Talk To Me," but all those needless covers and songs about the Maharishi can go jump off a cliff and die. A very easy album to hate, predictably enough.
Van Der Graaf Generator, H To He Who Am The Only One: Geez, a lot of long winded reviews wanted to talk about the lyrics to this one, too--oh, I get it! "Killer" is about a shark, a metaphor for being a lonely artist! And I only think that song is okay, and it's their best known song (I guess--has ANYONE here ever heard a VDGG song on the radio or in public?) which means I really don't care for this band much and stand a chance of getting through their catalogue only liking parts of "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" and those pastoral hippie tunes on their debut album. I sort of liked the alternate take of "The Emperor In His War Room" because of the sad minor key atmosphere, but...I'm into very little about this band. Peter Hammill moans and dramatizes on every song in seemingly the same way about God knows what and I'm rarely into it. I don't pay attention to the weird lyrics and the grinding sax/organ/medieval sound is often ugly to me, with instrumental passages that sometimes call to mind a dumbed down version of Soft Machine Volume 2. I don't get into the go-anywhere structures of these songs either. Why am I so negative these days?
The Kinks, Everybody's In Show-Biz: The end of their golden era my rosy red ass--it ended with the previous album. This is "Celluloid Heroes," "Sitting In My Hotel" and a bunch of second-rate crap, including several songs which seem to be painfully obvious rewrites of Muswell Hillbillies ditties such as "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues." I also didn't bother with the live album. I'm really going to be sorry that I'm trying the rest of this band's catalogue, aren't I? It's going to be Jethro Tull all over again, isn't it?
NP: Ry Cooder - "Mexican Divorce"