The Player

I last watched this 1992 film way back in 2008, having watched it one time before that.

Even though this is now the third time I have seen this I had forgotten most of the story and even who was in it apart from Tim Robbins. Along with Tim, the main cast included Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Brion James, Dean Stockwell, and a very funny Lyle Lovett.

There was also quite a cast of cameos, which unsurprisingly holds the record for the most in one film. It included people like Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Burt Reynolds, Leeza Gibbons, Jeff Goldblum, Jack Lemmon, Bruce Willis, Lily Tomlin, Harry Belafonte, and James Coburn. There were 40 in all, so it was fun spotting them all, with many were just in the background for a few seconds.

The story was pretty good, it never slowed down and there were no dull moments. Tim was most excellent in his role, and he was pretty much in every scene. There were plenty of references and in-jokes throughout the film, this website lists some of them.

So this is well worth a watch, especially for films buffs, although it would help if you are familiar with eighties and nineties actors, and films in general.

I may just watch it again some day.

Date watched: May 26th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 35

Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways

I was just expecting this to be a run-of-the-mill rock documentary about all things rock and roll, but it turned out to be quite a bit more…mostly tragic rock ‘n’ roll.

The Runaways were an all-female band formed in 1975 by drummer Sandy West (16 years old) and guitarist Joan Jett (17 years old), and they were then produced by a Malcolm McLaren-type character by the name of Kim Fowley (a much worse character than McLaren). From there three more girls joined the band including bassist Jackie Fox (14 years old), Lita Ford and Cherie Currie (both 17). So, they were all young, but reasonably proficient musicians.

The film was directed by Vicky Blue who replaced Jackie Fox after she quit, but lasted less than two years. She did a reasonably good job at directing, which was rough and ready, much like the band itself. Unfortunately though she chose to have music playing constantly throughout the whole film, basically with music in the left channel, and the interview audio in the right channel which got very annoying quickly.

The interviews with the band members were raw and delved deep into their past, with occasional breakdowns on camera as the members remembered some of the things that happened…or in Lita Fords case lots of cussin’ and bad attitude. The young bassist in particular survived some terrible things. In the years after the Runaways broke up the drummer had a very hard life and died in 2006 from cancer.

There were also interviews with Tim Fowley. This excerpt from Wikipedia gives you an idea of what he was like…

Kim Fowley, the band’s original manager, originally asked for $10,000 appearance fee in order to appear in the film, but eventually agreed to appear for free if he could sing his answers to questions, with a guitarist accompanying him. Vicki Blue agreed and this is how his appearance was originally shot. However, he then informed her that each of his answers was a song that would require a separate license. Fowley was shooting a segment for VH1 at about that time, so Blue sent her questions to the VH1 folks, who agreed to let her use their footage.

Yep, he was quite a manipulator, nutjob, and overall scumbag it appears. Lita Ford wanted to see him dead, which he did in 2015 from cancer, six years after this documentary was made.

It is a pity Joan Jett wanted no part in this, but she had her reasons. From Wikipedia:

“To me, the Runaways is my baby, so you have to understand my perspective. If there’s gonna be a Runaways movie, it should be about what we accomplished, the tours we did, the bands we played with, the people we inspired. I’m not gonna participate in a Jerry Springer fest, bottom line. With any band, you’re gonna have interpersonal conflicts, but if that’s what they thought the Runaways were about—about breaking a bass or putting on make-up—well, it’s very disappointing. Very, very disappointing. I wanted nothing to do with it because that’s not the band I was in. [The film] was a totally different take on what went down.”

I can’t really say I got into their music, which was pretty standard stuff. But they were reasonably big in the day (not superstars though), and were definitely big in Japan.

So it was a story of success completely over-shadowed by rock ‘n’ roll excess, abuse, and manipulation.

A biographical drama film was released in 2010 based on the Runaways story, and starred Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. I will have to look out for that.

Date watched: May 13th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 34

Page of Fame: Lux Interior

I realised just a few seconds ago that the MBMS Page Of Fame has so far not included any musicians, so I decided to remedy this glaring omission. My first choice for MBMS Page Of Fame musician was an easy one, if not slightly random.

Lux Interior (his name came from an “old car commercial”) as we all know, was the frontman of The Cramps, the king of all garage punk bands. No need to say much more really, except that losing him to death in 2009 was a huge loss for music-kind.

Gary Numan: Android In La La Land

This is a 2016 documentary mostly about Gary Numan’s (real name Gary Webb) career, problems, his move from the U.K. to L.A., and the release of his 2013 album “Splinter: Songs from a Broken Mind”.

The thing we learn the most about Gazza is that he is nothing like his music persona. He is a shy dude who does not like social interactions and heavily relies on his wife when out in public for events etc. He also has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome. He is a family man, but for a few years fell-out with his parents for reasons that were not clearly explained in the documentary, but all seems good now.

And we learned that he loves making music, which for quite some time he lost interest in, especially when he became depressed. But again, thanks to his wife by playing him a Nine Inch Nails album, and her encouragement, he got himself together and started making music again. He was in such a bad way that record companies would not even sign him, so he released some albums himself. We also learned that Dave Grohl, Trent Raznor, and Marilyn Manson all consider Gazza to be an influence. There was some footage of him joining Nine Inch Nails on stage to sing one of his songs.

So he seems like your typical musical genius really; troubled to some extent, kind of a recluse, and obsessive. But he is also just a very nice guy who loves his family and drinking Coca-Cola…we saw a lot of that throughout the film.

Recommended watching for music lovers.

Here he is at Amoeba…

Next: Another music documentary about the Runaways…more learning about bands that I know little about.

Date watched: May 12th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 33

Until the Light Takes Us

This is a 2009 documentary about the beginnings of Black Metal in Norway, available free to watch on YouTube.

While I do like my metal, I am not into black metal at all, it just don’t grab me. But, I was intrigued enough to want to learn more about it, so when I came across this on YouTube I gave it a go.

It turned out to be quite an eye-opener as the fellows interviewed in this were very interesting, and not what I was expecting. The main interviewee was “Fenriz”, one of the OG’s of black metal and a very friendly guy with some interesting things to say. He is basically the John Jydon of black metal, he doesn’t like the direction black metal took as punk did in the 80’s, especially how it became satanic, but he is very mellow and not angry at all, unlike Mr Lydon.

Things get nutty though when we meet Varg Vikernes, aka Count Grishnackh, the sole member his influential band “Burzum”. He was tried for the murder of his friend “Euronymous”, another black metal musician in 1993, with the interviews taking place inside his very nice looking prison cell (curtains over the windows and a computer on a desk). He was released from prison on bail not long after actually, he served only 14 years of his 21 year sentence. At one point he very matter of factly describes the murder which up to a point seemed to be in self-defense. But, the description takes a dark turn when he describes the actual stabbing, and well, from then he seemed more than just a bit odd. He is though a very well-spoken and obviously intelligent guy with strong convictions. He now lives in France with his wife and son, and has a regular YouTube channel. I watched one and was again impressed by his intelligence, and he seems very like-able. However, his nonchalant way of saying “After I had killed Euronymous…” (2:51) it makes you wonder if releasing him was a good idea. He was also convicted for burning three churches back in the day.

Varg reacting to his guilty sentence.

A lot of the film is quite dark as it was filmed in the Norwegian winter, I don’t know if I could stand that. I guess the constant darkness partly explains how black metal came about, but there are obviously other factors. Norway seems to be a very conservative place.

There is some criticism that the film makers did not question or push their interviewees on why they did what they did which is fair, it was all very one-sided really. But even so, it was a very fascinating look at a genre of music that I still have little interest in, but at least I know a little more about.

Next up: a documentary about Gary Numan.

Date watched: May 11th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 32

The General

It had been a while since I last watched a Buster Keaton film, so I remedied that last night.

This was made in 1926, a year before the switch over to sound, and it was also the last film that Buster had complete control over as he ended up making the most expensive silent film ever. In the day it did not get good reviews and was considered a flop, although it did make a profit. It actually premièred in Tokyo.

It is a very funny film though, very entertaining from beginning to end with some typical Buster stunts, some of which were obviously very dangerous. According to Wikipedia he was knocked unconscious in one scene, and there were numerous on-set accidents. There were a lot of fires too.

The story was based on an actual event in the U.S. Civil War where a train was stolen by a group of raiders who did as much damage as they could on the line while being pursued by two other trains, quite a nutty story.

Some of the stunts Buster did were a marvel to behold, the way he can run and jump around with that rubber-bendy body of his was entertainment enough. The poor actress that worked with him though seemed to have quite a rough time, especially when she was stuffed into a big sack and thrown around (the shot did not cut after she got into the sack).

Another great thing about Buster was his facial expressions which for most of the film was very typically deadpan, but his looks of surprise or astonishment were even funnier. Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin were also good with facial expressions, but Buster was the absolute master.

It wasn’t a perfect film though, it lost steam occasionally, and some gags were a bit flat, but it is still a whole lot of fun to watch.

Date watched: May 9th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 31

Golden Discs

This week was Golden Week in Japan, a week that has three public holidays (The previous Emperor’s birthday, Constitution Memorial Day, and Greenery Day) with many people taking the in-between days off. I worked on Tuesday and Wednesday however, and kids still have to go to school on those days. Anyway, it was my intention this week to buy one CD per day and while it did not work out I almost got there. My previous post documented three CDs I got in Toyama, and I have three more to natter about.

U2 – War
I like early U2, and this album which is their third is one of the best in my opinion. I remember “Two Hearts Beat As One” being a fave song of mine back when I was 10 or so, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” are other memorable songs. The rest of the songs are quite forgettable, but not terrible or anything.

The boy who was on the cover (and the cover of “Boy”) is a photographer now and still close to the band. His website is pretty good.

Annie Lennox – Diva
I was in Mandai, a fave place to get used CDs, and was having trouble finding something. I was about to give up when I spotted this and thought “What the heck, it is only 108 yen, and Annie has a damn good singing voice, plus this has the songs “Why” and “Walking On Broken Glass” which I heard so much on the radio while I was working back in the day (1992) that they are permanently imprinted on my brain, which is not a bad thing as they are good songs. Besides, nostalgia is a good thing.”

Well, the deal was sweetened even more as I got a discount, probably because it was Golden Week, and it ended up costing only 80 yen. I walked out of Mandai with a big smile on my face.

And indeed, this is a good album, hearing those familiar old tunes again is good tonic. The filler songs are nothing stand-out, but don’t ruin the album at all. I shall be returning to this again some day.

Graham Coxon – Happiness In Magazines
Yesterday, I picked James up from tennis practice, and his request on the way home was to go to Book Off because there was 20 percent off all books (not CDs which miffed me a bit). The selection of used CDs was a bit on the anemic side, but I struck gold when I found this for 500 yen (a bit more than what I am used to paying, but I knew it would be worth it). I have not listened to this yet, but I am quite certain it is most excellent, my mind is not blurred on that at all.

Click on the following album covers to download from FMA…

Broke For Free – Gold Can Stay
This is a free download from the excellent Free Music Archive website. I already have several of this guy’s other releases, so I went back for more. Splendid.

Dask – Abiogenesis and Liquid Decimation
Whilst on FMA I came across this ambient/downtempo band and liked what I heard, so I downloaded both of this chap’s albums. I have not had a good listen, but one night I will load this up on my smartphone, get a bevvie, put on my bluetooth headphones, turn the lights off, and have a good listen.

I was thinking yesterday that it would be darn good to go and blow ten grand (yen that is, but jeez, imagine spending $10,000 on music…that would be pure bliss, and I would do it here) on vinyl at a used record shop in the central city. There is some pretty decent stuff there, and priced very reasonably, so I may do that after saving up for it. I plan to get a few old blues albums.

Music count 2018: 50

One of my fave YouTube channels at the moment…