WEIRDLAND: June 2019

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cheerfulness, Marilyn Monroe & Frank Sinatra

Like with most of the men in her life, Marilyn Monroe had a complicated relationship with Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra. Following their divorces from Joe DiMaggio and Ava Gardner, Marilyn and Sinatra found consolation together and commiserated over their shared troubles with insomnia, loneliness and insecurity. “He has always been very kind to me,” Marilyn told gossip columnist Louella Parsons, when asked about their affair. Indeed, some say that Frank became so intent on saving Marilyn from her demons that he asked her to marry him. 

“Her beauty and her vulnerability made her seem like a soft little pussycat that needed to be protected,” actress Ruta Lee exclusively told Closer Weekly—in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now—at the Edwards-Lowell Gallery and the Andrew Weiss Gallery Present Marilyn Monroe: 17 Years in the Making opening night. Marilyn and Frank began seeing each other casually in the late 1950s—her maid Lena Pepitone says the star even moved into Frank’s L.A. home briefly to recover after her split from Joe—but their romance really heated up in 1961. “They spent a lot of nights together,” said Jimmy Whiting, a Sinatra friend. “They took bubble baths together.” Out of deference to her ex-husband, Frank tried to keep the relationship a secret. “He didn’t want Joe to get pissed off,” Jim White explained.

That August, Frank and Marilyn hosted friends on the singer’s yacht, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. “[Marilyn] was giving him a hard time…taking a lot of drugs and drinking,” and insider revealed in Sinatra: Behind the Legend by J. Randy Taraborrelli. “Marilyn was real dependent on Frank,” explained Jim White. “She used to say, ‘If I have any problem, there’s only one person I know can help: Frankie.'” Though Sinatra loved her, in February 1962, he announced his engagement to dancer Juliet Prowse—surprising even his closest friends. Not surprisingly, Frank’s new romance ended in just six weeks. That August, Frank invited Marilyn to Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. 

“When Frank saw Marilyn, he was alarmed at how depressed she seemed,” Joe Langford, a security guard, recalled. Frank had special meals sent to Marilyn’s room and worried about her well-being. “I think he proposed to her,” manager Milt Ebbins said. “He loved her and he would have done anything to save her.” But Marilyn couldn’t be saved and died one week later of an apparent drug overdose. “Frank was totally in shock for weeks,” said his valet George Jacobs. It grew worse when he arrived at Westwood Memorial Park and discovered that Joe DiMaggio had barred him from her funeral. “I loved her too,” a distraught Frank told a pal. “No one can say I didn’t love her too.” Source: www.closerweekly.com

Americans weren't cheery people in the beginning, argues Communication and cultural studies scholar Christina Kotchemidova. She writes that in the early eighteenth century, Americans, like Europeans, were more interested in melancholy. Many novels and plays aimed to evoke sadness. Both Catholic and Protestant traditions saw suffering as a means to virtue, and people who had been wronged were more likely to express sorrow than anger. Public crying was socially acceptable. But as the economy modernized, Americans became more individualistic and focused on controlling their own destinies. Sadness, an essentially passive emotion, fell out of favor. Around the time of the American Revolution, the emerging middle class began embracing emotional control as a key to success. In this view, being cheerful, even in the face of bad luck, allowed merchants to retain a necessary rational approach to their business. 

Starting in the early twentieth century, companies implemented personality testing and psychological experiments designed to promote emotional control and interpersonal harmony. “Foremen and managers typically came from middle class homes where they had been brought up in a family culture of cheerfulness,” Kotchemidova writes. “Victorian women’s culture was bearing fruit. Meanwhile, a growing consumer culture called for salesmen who were able to ingratiate themselves with potential customers. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie’s massively successful 1936 self-help guide, codified the need for pleasant behavior in the business world. The twentieth century also brought a general reduction of emotional intensity. Strong romantic love, fear, and anger all began to look like violations of rationality and self-restraint. 

Cheerfulness, on the other hand, was a mild emotion that meshed perfectly with good social and economic performance. U.S. companies are certainly not unique in demanding that workers comport themselves in ways that increase collegiality and, it follows, productivity. But Kotchemidova argues that, compared with Europe, the nation’s lack of a formal social hierarchy means that Americans are more anxious about their social status, leading to “a constant need to lubricate social relations” with continual smiles and pleasantries, which unsettles some visitors. Source: daily.jstor.org

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Buddy Holly Historical Recordings, Under the Silver Lake (Songwriter Scene)

The fire that swept across the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood on Sunday, June 1, 2008, began early that morning, in New England. Eventually the flames reached a 22,320-square-foot warehouse that sat near the King Kong Encounter. The warehouse was nondescript, a hulking edifice of corrugated metal, but it was one of the most important buildings on the 400-acre lot. Its official name was Building 6197. The scope of this calamity is laid out in litigation and company documents, thousands of pages of depositions and internal UMG files that were obtained. UMG’s accounting of its losses, detailed in a March 2009 document marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” put the number of “assets destroyed” at 118,230. Randy Aronson considers that estimate low: The real number, he surmises, was “in the 175,000 range.” If you extrapolate from either figure, tallying songs on album and singles masters, the number of destroyed recordings stretches into the hundreds of thousands. In another confidential report, issued later in 2009, UMG asserted that “an estimated 500K song titles” were lost. Among the incinerated Decca masters were recordings by titanic figures in American music: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland. The tape masters for Billie Holiday’s Decca catalog were most likely lost in total. 


Virtually all of Buddy Holly’s masters were lost in the fire. Most of John Coltrane’s Impulse masters were lost, as were masters for treasured Impulse releases by Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz greats. The vault fire was not, as UMG suggested, a minor mishap, a matter of a few tapes stuck in a musty warehouse. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business. UMG’s internal assessment of the event stands in contrast to its public statements. In a document prepared for a March 2009 “Vault Loss Meeting,” the company described the damage in apocalyptic terms. “The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety,” the document read. “Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.” Source: www.nytimes.com

It's hard to comprehend that the master tape for Nevermind, a huge album from my college days, possibly doesn't exist anymore along with those beautiful sounding Buddy Holly tapes. Along with an unthinkable amount of other important and interesting music. Just heartbreaking. It is unknown exactly which master tapes were held by Universal, it they were the ones still kept in Clovis. Norman Petty did send master tapes to Universal and to Steve Hoffman in the 80s and didn't get them all back. What Petty received back were duplicates. So this whole thing is still a bit of a mystery. According to one official source, the Analogue Productions (2017) issue of the 1958 self-titled album "Buddy Holly" was taken from the original master reel. Supposedly it had both tape splices between songs and Norman Petty's notes. If we are to assume the N.Y. Times story is correct, and all the "true analogue tape masters" were destroyed, the new question becomes the storage location of the digital transfers made by Steve Hoffman in the mid 1980's. Hopefully they were not in the same facility. 

One point I'm not sure whether the Buddy Holly LP masters would have contained the actual masters as recorded by Norman Petty, or if they would have been copies made by Decca. My impression was that Decca did not receive the first generation masters, and thus those LP tapes would have been copies of some sort. Steve Hoffman probably knows, but he's probably not in a position to discuss the matter. The second part of the question is: other than the 20 tracks on the 1986 compilation CD, how many other tracks in the entire catalog were transferred to digital at that time, and did Hoffman keep a digital copy of the entire catalog for safety, as many recording engineers do? Due to circumstances around the departure of Hoffman from the employ of MCA, and the dispute between Maria Elena Holly and MCA over increased royalties paid to Norman Petty for making the first master tapes available, much of what we would like to hear is still cloaked in fog. It would be great if new high quality reissues were made available, in time for the grand opening of the fabulous Buddy Holly Center for the Performing Arts. Source: www.voy.com


Under the Silver Lake (Songwriter Scene): The piano man says that “I am the voice of your generation, your grandparents, your parents and all the young people...”. The songwriter appears to be very old, around 80 years old. That means the piano man would have been 16-18 when he wrote the songs he claims which seems pretty unlikely; if he was around 30 when he did, that would make his actual age closer to 100, which seems unlikely considering how well he plays the piano. Or, he’s not the one who wrote the songs. Again, it’s pretty speculative but in the same context he states "I wrote this" and begins to play Beethoven - Ode to Joy, written in 1824. Which is impossible. Then he plays a litany of popular hit songs: Earth Angel by The Penguins, La Bamba by Ritchie Valens, I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett, Where is My Mind by The Pixies, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, etc. 

The piano man might have become senile, and is mistaken about what music he wrote - I’d buy this rationale. He seems decided to destroy Sam's illusions, telling him bluntly: "I don't care what's fashionable or cool. It's all silly and meaningless. I've created so many of the things that you care about... the songs that give your life purpose and joy. When you were fifteen and rebelling... you did that to my music. There's no rebellion." When Sam kills him, the shot of the mans head basically reveals an empty skull. Another explanation is the piano man is in fact not the first one to falsify the pop culture songs. Because he speaks in first person about himself and his predecessors, it obfuscates the fact he is not the first. Possibly he is a demonic archon whose role is to deceive na├»ve people like Sam. In Dictionary of Gnosticism (2009)Andrew Phillip Smith defines the Archons as: "The archons have a negative role, restraining the spiritual impulses of humanity and direct human affairs for the Demiurge, being responsible for the flood of destruction and the crucifixion of Jesus."

I asked one of my musician pals to help me decipher the decorative sheet music on the Songwriter's fence. The notes are: A♭ A C B E E E. The sharp on the second note is apparently cancelled out by the flat on the first, according to music theory, and the last three notes are all E, the first being low, the latter two being high. The original theme is: C C# E E♭ G# G# (last G# note 1 octave higher). It is the same as A♭ A C B E E only 3 tones higher. I think in a more general way the songwriter scene shows us the inner destruction of a society, made by this symbolic personification of "modernism" combined with a failed capitalist system. I think the scene isn't meant to be perceived literally. The Songwriter is the personification of the entire pop-culture facade spun around by the "elites" (whoever they are). As such, his skull is empty because the message is empty (and disingenuous). It's also a metaphor that the elites themselves are empty, as Sam discovers at the end of the film when he solves the riddle. I think the reason Ode To Joy is thrown into the mix is done so precisely to point to the Songwriter being a figurative/metaphorical/fantastical being that transcends time. And the make-up isn't meant to look human, he's mean to look human/monster-like. 

Several years ago a series of blog posts (later expanded into a book called Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, by LA researcher David McGowan) was published postulating that the popular hippie music of the 1960s was in fact designed by a government conspiracy to derail and discredit leftist movements. For no discernable reason musicians with spooky, government and military-connected backgrounds and parentage began to congregate in LA's Laurel Canyon in 1965. People like Frank Zappa, whose father was a chemical and biological weapons researcher for the defense industry, and Jim Morrison, whose father was a Navy admiral in charge of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. I have no doubt that the director of the film is aware of this conspiracy research, and is referencing it all in the songwriter scene.

The climax of the film takes place in the Hollywood Hills. Sarah says "There's no getting out now, so I may as well make the best of it". Andrew Garfield then replies "Yeah", there is a cut to the Hollywood sign, then a cut back to Sam and he says "Same here". Why would he say that? There's the desire for immortality and living forever - the tombs under the Hollywood Hills - a common trope/desire of being a Hollywood star is being immortalized on the silver screen. The rich can hide underground while awaiting ascension - avoiding what’s to come for the rest of citizens - but Sam functions like a Holy Fool witness to a technocratic dystopia that is ready to plan its demise. The sad state of late stage capitalism is also exposed by the contrasting of the old glamour of Hollywood (the old movies and stars his mother adores) with the new Hollywood (where everything seems shallow and meaningless). The subtheme of the futility of looking for order amidst chaos is compensated with a subtle commentary of how meaning only comes through love (trite maybe, but a timeless theme), which is shown in the scene when we see Sam entertaining the possible idea of suicide, and minutes later looking touched by Janet Gaynor's performance. 

Starting with one classic motivation—the sudden disappearance of a beautiful girl—Under The Silver Lake evolves into a sprawling adventure that updates the neo-noir for the millennial generation. We go down the rabbit hole with Sam, as he sets off on an increasingly weird and mysterious adventure across the City of Dreams. Mitchell pitches us into the full-on weirdness of a Los Angeles filled with drugs, violence, deception, conspiracy theories, cults, underground societies, odd-ball characters, an incomprehensible parrot (it seems to howl 'Hollywood' or 'I Love Her') - and there’s also a dog killer on the loose. Sam bumbles along from one event to the next, somehow finding his way towards the end of his journey. There’s puzzling games (involving a map on the back of a vintage cereal box), codebreaking, and plenty of symbols to examine, keeping Sam attentive to his journey, which also includes imagery of actress Janet Gaynor. Sam contacts with an underground comic books author who reveals him hidden conspiracies and lives in fear of the Owl Woman, as he feels that the secret he possesses has marked him for death. The Owl Woman is Hollywood incarnated, she kills whomever doesn't pay reverence to her.  

Andrew Garfield is often disaffected as the central character, none too bright but deeply inquisitive, perhaps the most unspectacular sleuth of the millennium. He’s a pretty unlikeable character but Garfield gives him just enough playfulness to negate the selfish side of his personality. Eventually, Sam approaches the truth—not just about what happened to Sarah, but about the entire fabric of modern society and his miserably inconsequential place within it. Formally, Under The Silver Lake is unmistakably Lynchian (with a particular debt to Mulholland Drive), even including a courier (The Homeless King) who leads Sam into underground tunnels which in his first incursion connect to a convenience store’s refrigerator room. You really don’t get to know what makes Sam tick, why he is so oblivious to his own personal situation, and why given the crises in his life he would rather devote all of his time in the pursuit of someone he only met once. But maybe that is the point of the film. Perhaps Sam is just another comic book character and living in reality is the last thing he would want to do. Source: www.avclub.com

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Deciphering the Mystery of "Under the Silver Lake", Against civilization (Thomas Sowell)

Deciphering Under the Silver Lake: There are two graffitis that can be seen in the toilets and on a wall and which are coded with the Copial Cypher. The 'Copiale Code' is a weird manuscript from the 18th century found in Berlin at the end of the Cold War, with 105 pages full of encrypted messages. A computer scientist created in 2011 a program to translate the Copiale Cypher, and who was it? Kevin Knight, who works for the USC Information Sciences Institute and Department of Linguistics and Philology (Marina del Rey, CA). 

If you translate the code in the toilets and on the wall, you will find same two words: COFFEE MENU. Therefore the copial cypher indicate us a coffee menu. This one can be seen at the beginning of the film, in the background. On the bottom of the menu board, you can see a morse code that can be translated by: XJVO OJRY XERSW. It is a cypher with a key that we have found in the artist's house. With this key, it gives: WHAT THRE WORDS. And using another key, E=EE from the "I can see clearly now" billboard, we found: WHAT THREE WORDS. What3words is a geocoding system for the communication of locations, encoding geographic coordinates into three dictionary words that are linked to a three metres square on the world map. Something really interesting is that the logo of the app is the hobo code for "this is not a safe place", which can be seen in the film. 

On Sarah's room, we can see three dolls: Betty, Marilyn and Lauren, It's a reference to How to marry a millionaire, the film that Sarah is watching on this scene and she's got a poster on. Below their name, we can see a cypher, which is the Zodiac Killer cypher and which has been decyphered by Kevin Knight. Here his work about Zodiac killer cypher in 2010: Bayesian Inference for Zodiac and Other Homophonic Ciphers (Information Sciences Institute from University of Southern California) http://aclweb.org/anthology/P11-1025. So if we translate it according with Knight's decoder, it gives us: BETTY MARILYN LAUREN / TOMBSTONE SHERIFF ENTRIES. It is important to say that it is the second time we "meet" Kevin Knight in the film. 

More over he is credited on the generic as Cryptography Consultant. Well, then the three words we found can lead to two positions depending on whether we put them, in the order of the dolls or the film that Sarah is watching. It gives us: 36°42'36"N 118°35'30"W for the dolls position and 25°52'21"S 129°29'10"E for the position of the actresses in the scene we see from How to Marry a Millionaire. I think the location is clearly the entrance to an ascension chamber that is inside Barton's Peak. If you look at the location on Google Maps and 3D view, and spin around a little, the coordinates are perfectly at the base of Barton's Peak. Here's a weird synchronicity, the position of the location is at the base of Barton Peak which was named after the stockman James Barton. Another person I could find a conection to was James R Barton, who was the 2nd Sheriff of Los Angeles, and the first to be shot on duty dead. He was also the treasurer of the very first Masonic lodge of LA, Lodge 42. There was also a famous architect named Barton that lived in Silver Lake.

The coordinates could belong to the entrance to an ascension chamber which is buried beneath Barton Peak. If you look at the geography of Barton Peak, it is pyramid shaped. It's also located in King's Canyon. Sphinx Lakes are just near there as well as Deadman's Canyon. In the old times, the druids liked to do their rituals in the area of Redwood Groves. Bohemian Grove is in the thick old Redwoods of California which is where an actual real cult may be located. —"Biggest discovery of the UTSL mystery." Source: aclweb.org

“Millennials are the first generation to experience in a full-throttled way the social and economic problems of our time,” said David Grusky, professor of sociology and director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. As millennials tried to enter the job market during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, they also had to deal with rising inequality and declining economic mobility. This made it an especially difficult period, Grusky said. “We can think of Millenials as canaries in the coalmine who reveal just how toxic those problems are.” Mortality rates among young adults have also increased substantially, according to the report’s analyses of health, written by Stanford economist Mark Duggan. Despite their progressive views, Millennials are also equally likely as Gen Xers to believe that blacks are lazier than whites, according to analyses by sociologist Aliya Saperstein. 

Between 2008 and 2016, mortality rates among those between 25 and 34 years old increased by more than 20 percent. These deaths were mainly driven by a rise in suicides and drug overdoses, Duggan and Li found. The mortality rate among non-Hispanic whites, aged 20 through 34, saw the highest jump – 27 percent – in comparison to a 9 percent increase for blacks and a 6 percent increase for the Hispanic population, according to their analyses of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These findings are in juxtaposition with the fact that more millennials were covered by health insurance. Duggan and Li found that because of the Affordable Care Act, the share of adults in their 20s without health insurance fell by more than half from 2009 to 2017. Source: news.standford.edu

Thomas Hazlett: What about the transference of bad ideas? You argue that the gangster rapper in contemporary America is living in dysfunctional families, disdaining education, and proving their manhood by fits of rage.

Thomas Sowell: Unfortunately, that has been encouraged since the 1960s on both sides of the Atlantic. I'm struck by how Britain has followed the same pattern as the United States, even though the British underclass is white and much of the underclass in America is nonwhite. Really, it's what people do when they go against civilization.

Thomas Hazlett: You worked at the United States Department of Labor. What turned you away from Marxism?

Thomas Sowell: The first thing I ever published was an article in the American Economic Review in March 1960 on Marxian economics. I realized what I would have been taught had I studied under [public choice economist] James Buchanan. Institutions, including government agencies, have their own agendas. So the whole left-wing vision began to unravel. 

Thomas Hazlett: You wrote: "While virtually anyone could name a list of medical, scientific or technological things that have made the lives of today's generation better than that of people in the past, it would be a challenge for even a highly informed person to name three ways in which our lives today are better as a result of the ideas of sociologists or deconstructionists." I guess you are not asked to serve on many committees at Stanford. You express deep doubt in the faith that academic research inevitably helps the world.

Thomas Sowell: The fact that we don't have people who are educated to be able to analyze arguments but who are swept along by rhetoric is one of the reasons that allows people to get away with these kinds of things. Take the 1920s, which was a great period of great progress in the world—but not in the intellectual sphere. You would never gather from reading most histories that the 1920s was a pivotal decade in the economic rise of most Americans, when families got electric lights, radios, automobiles and much more. I really should be very upbeat, but I must confess I am certainly no less pessimistic today than I was in 1980. In 1980 we did not have any country that would dare to publicly announce that they would consider bombing the United States of America and who apparently have the technology to do it. We did not have a school system that was turning out people who have no conception of thought, but only of repeating slogans and images. Source: reason.com

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Tarantino's philosophy and nods to a bygone era

Tarantino is at his best when he’s motivated by affection, and for that reason, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ranks among his finest; the serrated bitterness of his last picture, The Hateful Eight, has vanished. This is a tender, rapturous film, both joyous and melancholy, a reverie for a lost past and a door that opens to myriad imagined possibilities. It’s a stunning elegy for a lost Hollywood. It’s the most fun the director seems to have had in years, but it’s also, oddly, his most compassionate picture. And there’s a lilting sadness at the film’s heart. Like all of Tarantino’s movies, it’s filled with references you may or may not get: There are woolly, rambunctious Jack Davis caricatures from MAD magazine, nods to blond dream girls like Joey Heatherton and Anne Francis, allusions to a bygone era. 

Nor is it the first time he has made the outrageous suggestion that cinema, as both an art and an industry, can make up for some of life’s most grievous imperfections in ways that nothing else can. At the Cannes press conference, one reporter asked Tarantino why Sharon Tate had so little dialogue. “I just reject your hypothesis,” he said.  Tarantino did not approach Polanski, he admitted at the press conference. But Tarantino asked for and received help from Sharon Tate’s sister Debra, who is thanked in the credits. “There was a little bit more of her; everybody lost sequences. And she is an angelic presence throughout the movie, she’s an angelic ghost on earth, to some degree, she’s not in the movie, she’s in our hearts,” Tarantino explained. He too addressed the crumbling state of the Hollywood industry in the late 60s: "Sharon Tate and Polanski represent the new Hollywood, and Rick is notably not part of it. He doesn’t understand it. He was taught that the way to be a leading man was the audience had to like you. If he was offered Joe Buck [Jon Voight in ‘Midnight Cowboy’], he would turn it down. He’d walk out of ‘Easy Rider’ in the first 10 minutes!'” Source: www.indiewire.com

The complex narrative organization of 'Pulp Fiction' plays with temporal sequence, so that it is difficult to understand the causal connection between events. Most jarringly, Vincent, a leading character, is killed halfway through, only to reappear and play a significant role later in the film—but earlier in the temporal sequence of events. What is common to all the Tarantino films is that there are glimpses of compassion and morality among the tough, cruel, and immoral people that populate them. In Reservoir Dogs Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) takes pity on Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) when Orange is shot. He holds Orange’s hand and comforts him. When they arrive to the warehouse, Mr. White holds Mr. Orange in his arms.

After a night out on the town with Marsellus’s girlfriend Mia (Uma Thurman), Vincent Vega (John Travolta), one of the “low-rent hitmen” in Pulp Fiction, tells himself in her bathroom that he must have just one drink and then go home because he is facing a moral test involving loyalty and “being loyal is important.” As for what influences the movie's action, the episode in which Vincent is tempted by Marcellus' wife, Mia (Thurman), whom he's been asked to ''look after'', echoes the vintage noir 'Out of the Past', in which Robert Mitchum falls for a bad guy's girl. In Pulp Fiction, Jules Winnfield spares the couple who try to rob the restaurant, and its patrons, in the coffee shop where he is having breakfast with Vincent Vega. In Kill Bill Volume 1, Bill tells Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) not to kill “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) because to “sneak into her room in the night like a filthy rat and kill her in her sleep” would “lower us.” And The Bride and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) postpone their fight to the death when Vernita’s daughter comes home from school so the daughter won’t be traumatized. 

The “good guys” also sometimes show great courage and a strong moral sense in Tarantino’s films. In Pulp Fiction, Butch goes back to save Marsellus, the crime boss who is trying to kill him, from some perverts who want to rape and torture him. Butch does this because he thinks it is the right thing to do and even though he thereby puts himself back at risk. When Pulp Fiction's Butch takes a payoff to throw a fight and then doesn't, Tarantino nods to director Robert Wise's engrossing The Set-Up, in which the apostate pugilist (Robert Ryan) tries to flee from mobsters after failing to take a dive. In Reservoir Dogs the cop that Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) has captured refuses to disclose that Mr. Orange is the undercover cop that tipped off the police, even under severe torture and when facing the prospect of immolation. So within a sea of brutality and immorality, Tarantino still depicts some people acting admirably and displaying admirable human emotions. -"Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy: How to Philosophize With a Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch" (2007) by Richard Greene

Tarantino: I never went to film school. I studied acting for about six years. My first teacher was James Best, who starred in Sam Fuller’s Verboten! [1959]. He’s the Confederate soldier in Fuller’s Shock Corridor [1963] and Jerry Lewis’s partner in Three on a Couch [1966]. And the other one was Pauline Kael. I got her book, When the Lights Go Down [1980], when I was sixteen. I’ve learned as much from her as I have from filmmakers. She taught me a sense of how to be dramatically engaging, how to make a connection with the audience. She was my professor, although I never met her. In the film school of my own making, she was like my Kingsfield in The Paper Chase [James Bridges, 1973]. The Killing [Kubrick, 1956] is my favorite heist film, and I was definitely influenced by it when I directed Reservoir Dogs. Before, my first script I ever did was True Romance.

What do you say when people say that movies like Reservoir Dogs do nothing to discourage violence?

Tarantino: Nine out of ten of the (crime, horror) films are going to be more graphically violent than Reservoir Dogs. I’m just trying to be disturbing. There are ramifications and consequences to the violence. With movies as an art form, I think 20 percent of that art form is supplied by the audience. I like things to be ambiguous. Constantly people will ask me, “Why did Mr. Orange tell Mr. White that he was a cop at the end of Reservoir Dogs?” And my answer to that is, “If you have to ask that question, you didn’t get the movie.”

Tarantino: I doubt Oliver Stone (in Natural Born Killers) would ever let a question like that be asked about one of his movies. He wants you to know exactly where he’s coming from, and his movies are making big points. He doesn’t want ambiguity. He twists emotions entirely and he’s hammering his nails in. He wants to make an impact. He wants to punch you in the face with this stuff. I’m more interested in telling the story. To me, Oliver Stone’s films are very similar to the kind of films that Stanley Kramer used to make in the fifties and sixties, the big difference being that Stanley Kramer was kind of a clumsy filmmaker and Oliver Stone is cinematically brilliant.

What about earlier writers? Is your script for Pulp Fiction modeled on Cain, Chandler, and Hammett?

Tarantino: I don’t know how much I am actually influenced by those guys, but I have read them all and I like them. The idea behind Pulp Fiction was to do a Black Mask movie—like that old detective story magazine. Two other writers I’m crazy about are Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, both as playwrights and as screenwriters. In fact, on the first page of Pulp Fiction, I describe two characters talking in “rapid-fire motion, like in His Girl Friday [Howard Hawks, 1940].” I wanted Bruce Willis as the boxer Butch to be basically like Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer in [Robert] Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly [1955]. I wanted him to be a jerk, except that when he’s with his girlfriend, Fabienne [Maria de Medeiros], he’s a sweetheart. The jumping-off point—besides asshole here, sweet guy with her—was that Bruce has the look of a fifties actor. I can’t think of any other star that has that look. He reminds me of Aldo Ray in Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall [1957] in particular. I told him I could imagine Aldo Ray being great as Butch and Willis said, “Yeah, I like Aldo Ray.” So I said, “Let’s go for that whole look. Let’s get a buzz cut.” I like mixing things up: for example that golden watch story begins in the spirit of Body and Soul [Robert Rossen, 1947] and then unexpectedly ends up in the climate of Deliverance [John Boorman, 1972]. What I most enjoy are space-time distortions, jumps from one world to another. 

Why does Schultz [in Django Unchained] makes the decision to sacrifice himself? He’s won [against Candie]. They’ve given [Candie] $12,000 ransom money. Schultz is going to shake hands [with Candie]—But he decides, “I’m going to blow you up away!”

Tarantino: I think one of the definite reasons, though, is Schultz had to put on this facade in dealing with this inhuman depravity that he’s witnessing. Now that he’s on the other side of it, it’s all raining down on him. He’s haunted by these memories. What he was working hard not to allow himself to feel is now permeating him. I think he’s actually realizing inadvertently he and Django caused D’Artagnan’s death. Without their presence, I don’t think Candie at that moment would have actually killed D’Artagnan, just for running away. I’m just saying it wasn’t Candie’s plan to destroy him at that moment.

So why did he destroy him?

Tarantino: To test Django. Because when Schultz offered to buy D’Artagnan all of the sudden—'Whoa, what the hell?' Candie knew it wasn’t right: “This is weird. These guys are up to something. Why would [Schultz] care? He’s getting into Mandingo fighting; why should he care about this guy?” Why did Django let this man be sacrificed? Django has got one mission and one mission only: extract his wife from this hell. Nothing else means a damn compared to that. There’s that moment [at the end] where Django turns to Broomhilda and has that kind of punky smile that Jamie does. If I’ve done my job right, modulating this movie the right way, then the audience will burst into applause. They’ll clap with Broomhilda. -"Quentin Tarantino: Interviews, Revised and Updated" (2013) by Gerald Peary

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Rocketman (Elton John), Bob Dylan, Lou Reed

Rocketman (2019) is an absolutely electrifying movie in how it deconstructs the typical rags-to-riches, sex-drugs-and-rock’n’-roll story: it starts with the downfall and uses the comeback path as its map for exploring how it all came to be. Recovery and redemption mirror rise and fall. The film opens with its damaged hero—a stunningly good Taron Egerton— stalking into rehab in full “Elton John” regalia: a jumpsuit in tangerine sparkle-flames, devil horns, feathered wings, “electric boots.” And as he tells the tale, in extended flashbacks, about how he came to sink so low as to be taken over by drugs and alcohol even as his career and renown skyrocketed, he strips away the fantasy persona to get back to the Reggie Dwight he was born as. It’s group therapy, literally in the context of the film, and figuratively with us as his confessors. The terrific script is by Lee Hall, who wrote the in some ways similarly themed, and definitely fictional, Billy Elliot. As a vision Elton has of his beloved grandmother (Gemma Jones) tells him during his stint in rehab, “You write songs millions of people love, and that’s what’s important.” Source: www.flickfilosopher.com

The first-look photos from Martin Scorsese’s new Bob Dylan film Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese have been released. The eagerly anticipated film, which has been give a summer release date, will hit streaming platform Netflix on June 12th and will also be premiered in a select number of cinemas. The film will follow the 1975-1976 tour that saw Dylan work with a handpicked group of collaborators such as Joan Baez, T-Bone Burnett, Mick Ronson, Scarlet Riviera, Patti Smith and many more. Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, ‘Rolling Thunder’ is a one of a kind experience, from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Scorsese’s previous Dylan documentary No Direction Home, was released in 2005 and won a Grammy Award for best long-form video. Source: faroutmagazine.co.uk


The rise of streaming through websites like Soundcloud have without a doubt changed the nature of the music industry. It is becoming less and less of a possibility for bands and individual musicians to receive widespread recognition. The culture of rock music had a large role in society's culture  and was at its peak in the mid to late 20th century. With electronic and hip hop basically taking over the mainstream, record labels are unlikely to sign rock bands in the current music climate. I believe there will always be young people starting rock bands, and they may even tour, but never again will a rock band achieve the level of fame and recognition they did throughout the 20th century like The Beatles or Nirvana. There will never be another group like The Beatles for the same reason there will never be another Beethoven.


The genre has been perfected through its evolution and it's virtually impossible to surpass its peaks. So irrelevant is rock in the music industry at large that the Grammys didn’t even bother to air its rock category awards at this year’s ceremony. The metal band Avenged Sevenfold, seemingly through some sort of unfortunate clerical error, was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Rock Song” but had the good sense not to show up for the untelevised award presentation. But even though things look grim for rock, here’s the bright side: The genre has always best served as the underdog. It's not seen as cool music now because of its association with (mostly white male) guitar theatrics. All of the young kids that had a rebellious spirit and didn't "fit in" in the grunge era were put on Ritalin and turned kids into zombies. If you ask me there is a deliberate effort to rid the mainstream of rebellious attitudes and push people towards materialism and submission to the system. Source: www.vice.com

It was 50 years ago since the release of the Velvet Underground’s 1969 LP. It’s also been just over half a decade since the death of the band’s lead singer, songwriter, and creative visionary: Lou Reed. Throughout his life and work, Lou Reed constructed and deconstructed his own masculinity. Panic attacks, anxiety, and depression plagued his teenage years. His condition only worsened during his freshman year at NYU, when his parents  made the ill-advised decision to pursue electroshock therapy and brought him home in a shell-shocked state. Reed would feel the results of the treatment throughout his life, including short-term memory loss. After graduation, Reed moved to New York to be an in-house songwriter for Pickwick Records. Reed’s innovative spirit was present long before he met John Cale and Warhol’s Factory. Heroin featured just two chords played ad infinitum. In lieu of harmonic change, the tempo mimics a user’s heart rate while shooting up: speeding up, slowing down, on the brink of emotional collapse. Cale’s screeching electric viola punctuates the final segment, one of the gnarliest sound ever put to tape. You have to remind Heroin was written in 1964. In ’64, the Beatles were singing “Can’t Buy Me Love” in suits on The Ed Sullivan Show. Years before the Summer of Love, Reed was face down in a gutter.


“Pale Blue Eyes,” off 1969’s Velvet Underground LP, covers more traditional rock ’n’ roll material: a classic affair-with-a-married-woman confessional. Drawn from a real relationship, “Pale Blue Eyes” is neither regretful nor celebratory of its affair. It is modest, painful, and candid. Absent is the machismo of the “Back Door Man” of Jim Morrison from The Doors. Love was not a conquest to Reed, even when it was a sin. Reed treated relationships, sex, and masculinity with a sense of simultaneous distance and intimacy. Just as femininity, sex clubs, and drugs were something to look at, so was masculinity. Reed’s explorations of identity  evolved  from rocker to strung-out junkie to effeminate songster to middle-aged intellectual. Reed was actually a doofus from Long Island who also happened to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Reed’s version of love, of life, and of masculinity was devoid of any sense of machismo. He was never Robert Plant, linen-shirt open, on stage soaking the crowd with a flick of his wrist. When The Velvet Underground closed up shop in 1970, he had to move back in with his parents. Reed was never a cavalier perusing the New York nightlife with a sense of empowered aloofness, he became that world. He lived what he sang about: drug addiction, free love, hopeless love, botched medical experiments, and being a sad sap washed up rocker living in his parents’ basement at 28 years old. The understated beauty of his lyrics, the ceaseless boundary-pushing of his compositions, reflect a dialectic vision of the world: beautiful and ugly, infinite and claustrophobic. Source: www.yaleherald.com