Reviews written by registered user
|95 reviews in total|
The Plastic Ono Band comes on stage near, if not at the end of a night
of 100% rock and roll at the Toronto Rock And Roll Revival Festival
featuring performances by Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo
Diddley among others. The fact that The Plastic Ono band seems to be
headlining this event must be due to John Lennon's enormous draw
because the band is a far cry from headlining material. Playing a
generic and slow set of Blue Suede Shoes, Money (That's What I Want),
Dizzy Miss Lizzy and ending with a few Beatles songs and then Yoko's
"thing," it's understandable why some of the audience left as the band
performed their final song of the evening. Had the band ended with
their covers of the Beatles' tracks, the night might have been
overlooked as a small footnote in Lennon, Clapton, Voorman and White's
long and lauded musical career, however it is Ono's eight minute opus
which closes the performance that draws the most attention and
At the beginning, Ono curiously chose to hide herself under a white sheet in the middle of the stage as the band kicked off their set, though she had walked out on stage with the band. When she appeared again, her only musical contribution was to wail and moan under and sometimes over the vocals of John Lennon. What was obviously musical experimentation must have horrified the rock and rollers who had just sat through the phenomenal sets of Little Richard and Bo Diddley, etc, for Ono is truly not a rock and roll singer. As she sings, the cameramen and women of the film lock in on the face of Lennon. In what must be the most interesting editing choices in a music film, we watch, or appear to watch Lennon react to Ono's performance. It's hard to tell what he's thinking as we observe his often emotionless face. We the audience can interject anything we want into his psyche as the film presents us with the glancing eyes of Lennon juxtaposed to Ono's squealing. What was he thinking? Was he accepting of Ono's singing or did those eyes reveal some condescension? A follow-up interview to this performance with some of the band members would have been great.
The final song of the performance presents the audience with the biggest set of challenges. Lennon basically gives the stage over to Yoko who begins another series of wails with the band backing her up. Musically it begins generically enough, with Clapton and Lennon playing a slide guitar riff, but about five minutes in Lennon edges closer and closer to the amps and begins to adjust his guitar to generate feedback. What some might say quickly devolves into noise is actually a fascinating duet between Lennon and Ono. Matching each other with their own forms of noise, the two banter back and forth, experimenting with different pickups and amp settings in the case of Lennon, and Ono adjusting her vowels to make new noises. It is understandable why many many people found this too much and left or turned off their television set, and I must admit I too wanted at times to shut it all off, but what held me to the screen was Lennon and Ono's relationship and play. Here we see John Lennon, a man who claimed more popularity than Jesus seemingly slumming it up with an average band and a crazy woman singer. And yet he sticks with it to the very end. And not only does he stick with it, he encourages it as he hands the stage over to Ono for the final song of the night.
Sweet Toronto is an engaging film by a talented filmmaker that gives a unique perspective to an effervescent musical group. I highly recommend the film to all Lennon and Ono fans and to experimental music fans.
For those of you fortunate enough to have been in a situation where Les Blank personally showed his private copy of this film to a group of non-profits, you might get the title joke. Easily Les's least seen film for legal reasons, it is nevertheless one of his best. The film documents the recording period of musician Leon Russell in his Oklahoma recording studio from 1972-1974. The film alternates between vignettes of Leon at his sprawling studio, such as the painting of the mural in his pool, and scenes of local Oklahoma flair, like the great goose flight. While oftentimes it features persons who seem to be there to do nothing but lounge and generally disagree, there are those moments when Leon and his crew actually play music, and those moments are wonderful. It's a shame that Leon refuses to release this film, because it exists as a document of a person in a time that can't be gotten back, yet must be understood. Les is an aging man who may never show his film again so if you come across a situation where it will be shown, go out of your way to see it.
This guy has an energy that makes you feel good. Despite the barrages of countless prank phone calls, he still shows up to make 50+ episodes of himself running, sweating, getting dirty, painting, blending terrible drinks, and having guests so bizarre they push the show into a new level of curious. That plus the green screen keying and wild camera work and editing make for a fantastic collision of everything fun. Hilarious, spontaneous, ridiculous; these are only a few adjectives to describe the show. I highly recommend it to internet junkies and other people looking for something off-the-wall and scatterbrained. Call in sometime too and encourage him to run faster.
I saw this film in Austin, Texas accompanied by five distinct varieties of teas to drink, most actually coming from the Hoffman estate. Before seeing this film, drinking those teas would have meant little to me. But after seeing the film and learning about the tea making process, from plant to package, I became more aware of the effort it takes to enjoy a quality tea. Les follows tea exporter David Hoffman around China as he talks to everybody, from politicians and businessmen down to the farmers about buying good quality organic tea. The term organic, says Hoffman, is a recent term. Seventy five years ago, all tea was organic. Before chemical fertilizers were touted as the solution to the mass production of tea, centuries old methods of tea growing was the only way of production. Today, Hoffman battles Chinese bureaucracy and stubbornness to sway the government away from vast modernization and to buy traditional tea directly from the farmer for a good price. The battle is long and hard and filled with potholes and bumpy roads. China believes that the chemical fertilizers will increase production and exports. Hoffman argues that the farmers won't even drink the teas grown with chemical fertilizers. The teas I drank from the Hoffman estate were exquisite. Much better than any Lipton or Bigelow tea. After seeing this film I can rest assured that I won't be poisoning myself anymore with chemically grown teas. I now know what to look for, thanks to Les.
The film is a good look into the excesses of lawn care as it talks to the people who make, distribute, and use the lawn care products that keep America's lawns green. The film strikes them in a light that one might call oblivious: there are the sod manufacturers who go about their business as cameras roll, the chemlawn representatives who skirt claims of their product's toxicity to humans by waxing rhetoric about what the definition of "safe" actually is, and then there are the half dozen or so interviewed homeowners whose obsessions with their lawns lends their compulsions to comedy. We also see those people who are taking an alternative stance to the world of sod lawns with synthetic lawns made out of plastic. We see their plastic spinning machines whir out huge blankets of turf and meet the landscaping companies in the drier parts of the States who are paying their clients dollars per square foot to replace their old grass lawn with new turf. And the opinions vary from enthusiastic reception to city council skepticism on the new turf. But everything is blended together in this film without distinction. The opinions of those people who trim their tiny lawns using the largest John Deere mower they make do not seem that much different from those people who replaced their whole lawn with synthetic turf. Both sects seem ignorant of the environmental consequences inherent in both products, and the filmmakers, either in an attempt to stay true to their subjects or maybe in ignorance themselves, never discuss environmentally friendly solutions to lawn care with anyone. All I can tell from this film is that Americans love of their lawn and they will do anything they can to keep it looking green.
Yum, Yum, Yum! seems to have been made as a supplementary piece to "J'ai été au bal," Les Blank's film about the Cajun singing duo Marc and Ann Savoy. Though "J'ai été au bal" adequately covers the musical aspect of Marc and Ann's lives, it only touches briefly on their private life and the food they cook, a topic Les Blank loves to cover. What is so unique about Les Blank's films is his ability to embed himself into the mindset of his subjects. In the beginning of Yum, Yum, Yum, we are placed in the back woods of Louisianna with Marc and friends as they begin a fish stew. The questions posed by Les and company are never intrusive, never really asking personal questions, but the answers he receives to questions such as "have you ever used a cookbook" give them more personality than any sit-down interview could possibly do. Lying just below the movie's definite subject of Cajun cooking is the desire of Marc and Ann to see their culture and heritage represented fairly throughout the rest of the country and the world. All too often Cajun people and Cajun cooking have been given a bad name simply because it has been misunderstood. This movie serves as a visual plea for solidarity among the United States and the world for the Cajun people. It's refreshing to see in this movie the kind of survivalist traditions of catching, growing, cleaning, and cooking one's own food that seems to have been all but lost with today's consumerism. This movie shows how even after hundreds of years of living off the land and the ease of pre-packaged foods dangled in front of their eyes, these people still choose to do things the way their parents and their parent's parents did it. This is a great film by America's greatest documentarian.
I get the feeling with all of the recap shows on every Hollywood wannabe channel that go over the minutest happening in Ventura County, somebody thought a cartoon would be a fresh take on a dying fad. Apparently, nobody told them that's been tried before and that none of them succeeded. I'm referring particularly to the show starring Robert Evans, former President of Paramount Pictures as a Hollywood mogul disguised as a social butterfly and able to swing with the A-list of Hollywood. This show however places two comedians in the bodies of mutts and throws them into Hollywood circumstances where they behave as flies on walls to the private conversations of the biggest stars. The problem of this show lies in the comedians' inability to write original material that successfully satirizes events of which we are more than familiar with. The animation style is overdone and basically a rip-off of many different styles without any of the excitement those original styles once had. The caricatures of celebrities in this show seems to have been where the majority of time was spent, and even then they aren't very good. Add to the fact the show is full of dumb premises and situations, and you get one huge flop of a show.
I watched this as a part of the Open Apperutre Short Film Festival and was surprised to see the level of technical skill that was put into making this short. Shot on 16mm, there are helicopter shots, slow-mo shots, tracking shots, frame by frame animations, and a nice running theme. The images play well against the backdrop of the opera, especially those spectacular slow-motion shots of the two females performing backflips down the sidewalk. At times I felt the artsyness of the whole thing was pushed a little too far. For instance, as the leading lady is dressed in her cowgirl outfit, the way the director played with the rising heat waves and low angle 'through the legs' shots felt overdone. These kinds of shots have been done before. What I wanted to see was what the director was going to do to subvert the genre. Overall I liked the movie. It was definitely a few steps above and beyond your average student film.
Wim Wenders heads to Cuba with country music guitarist Ry Cooder to produce an album about traditional Cuban music as played and sung by those artists still alive to play the songs. With most of the artist's ages topping the 80's, the power with which they sing and play will knock your socks off. Each person has a story. One didn't sing for ten years before this because there was no money in singing in Cuba. Another worked with a blind bandleader who would get uproariously drunk and chase after people in a blind, drunken rage. The movie was about more than just the music. The people themselves are the reason why the movie and the music is still around. True that can be said about all different kinds of music, but it's these people's spice to life that make their form of music all the more interesting. Would the Beatles be the Beatles today had Paul and John not been in fierce competition with each other? They all had the music in them, but sometimes it's the people that make the music interesting. After the album, "The Buena Vista Social Club" reached popular success in the States, Cooder took the group on a worldwide tour to play in Amsterdam and finally in Carnegie Hall in New York City. Some of the movie takes place during these concerts, showcasing each artist's particular addition to the band. This is then paralleled by a personal showcase of the artist playing their instrument as the camera swirls around their bodies, examining every part of them in an attempt to uncover and find out what makes them so great. This is probably my favorite Wim Wenders film as the topic is so nostalgic it fills my heart with grief to think of pre-50's Havana as gone. And I was born in 1985. Picked this up at the University library on VHS. Would like to see Wim Wenders' commentary on the film on DVD.
German filmmaker Wim Wenders and his company Road Movies Produktion need to make a movie or else they will go bankrupt. Wenders decides he wants to set a movie in Berlin that tells the story of the people of Berlin. The movie follows the existence of angels as they follow humans around and influence what they think, how they react, and sometimes what they do. The angels are able to listen in to people's thoughts through an ingenious cinematic trick where they merely lean their head against a man or woman's and the thoughts begin to flow like rain. We hear their internal pleas for help, their self-doubts, their inner monologue, anything they might be thinking at the moment. Wenders shoots the majority of the film in black and white, but when an especially touching moment occurs, the movie switches to a beautiful and vibrant full color, almost Technicolor with extremely strong emphasis on reds and yellows. His camera is in constant motion, a sort of camera entfesselte or literally unfastened camera that moves about space without hinges or blockades. This unfastened style of cinematography seems to stick with Wenders throughout his career and becomes somewhat of a trademark for his films. Overall I thought the idea of this movie and its angels and people of Berlin was excellent, but there was something unsettling in the lack of focus in this movie. Picked this up at the University library.
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