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Friends Forever (2001)
Best Rock and Roll Documentary Ever
This is one of my personal favorites. Nate and Josh saddle up for a tour of the West Coast in their orange Volkswagen Van with their three dogs and hilariously spaced out light girl Jenn. Here's the hook though. When they get to the club, they don't load the equipment out of the van and onto the stage, they simply throw open the side door to the van and start rockin'.
This is the ultimate rock and roll road movie about what being on the road is really like. Friends Forever are poor, young, and passionate, but also self deprecating bozos. As they travel from town to town, setting up in parking lots and on the street, we meet a ridiculous cast of truly eccentric characters that act as a support network for the band.
Incredibly enjoyable and totally quotable, you'll find yourself spouting lines from it to your friends and the opening music will haunt your dreams.
This band (and documentary) single handedly brought the word awesome back into fashion without anybody realizing. And that's how I would describe this documentary, AWESOME!
1991: The Year Punk Broke (1992)
Some Great Performances
This was an often watched video tape for my friends and I back in the very early nineties. I'd already seen Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana when this came out and found it an enjoyable way to relive those memories as well as catch a glimpse of songs I hadn't seen performed yet.
The film starts with Thurston's occasionally amusing psychobabble while members of SY, Nirvana, and Don Fleming dance and twirl on the edge of what looks to be a set of train tracks. Then it breaks into an awesome version of Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia." Note perfect and even more expansive than the album version, I would have to say this is my favorite version of this song ever!
While there is no need for me to go on a song by song breakdown of this film (mostly cause I don't think I could do it from memory anyway), I'll mention some highlights for my own amusement.
First off, this was SY right after their first major label record and before they had their arsenal of beat to s**t guitars stolen. There was something beautiful about their old, broken Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters that seemed fitting for the band. They were like something out of "The Road Warrior," survivors of the apocalypse who found a bomb blasted old guitar store and pieced together the best of what survived into the most futuristic weapons they could possibly wield and use them to decimate armies of Eric Claptons and any other ridiculous, bloated "Best Guitarists in the World" with their crisp, clean, ten-thousand dollar vintage guitars.
It's especially nice, if retrospect, to see Kurt Cobain in moments of sublime happiness as he tours with (SY) what was no doubt one of his favorite bands. Although his on-stage theatrics were edgy and masochistic, when he was present backstage, he seemed loose and happy. One particularly funny segment had one very drunken Kurt being dragged across the floor by any number of people as Christ Noveselic quips, "My man's a high roller. High roller!"
Another particularly touching moment is during a Dinosaur Jr. performance of "Freak Scene." J. Mascis is pedal hopping and firing off wild liquid mercury geysers of single note leads when he gets to the final chorus of the song. Instead of singing it, he drops the line completely and lets the enormous crowd of English Dinosaur fans finish the lyric in a community chant the word "cool" was invented to describe.
Occasionally Thurston's constant stream of conscious narration can be a little much, but it does provide some clue into the minds of all these rockers (and many, many others): these guys are dorks, music dorks, guitar dorks, record collecting dorks, and it's not about the d*mn autographs, or star obsession and idol worship, it was and is about music, and that's what punk's about.
Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982)
Never Forget TotGM
This morning I woke up with the title in my head. Obviously some of you have too.
This was the show to tune into when my friends and I were in third grade. The next day's lessons were always secondary to the discussions of Jake, the Goose, and all the adventures contained within the world of the show.
I too was initially surprised that it only lasted one season, but I quickly remembered tuning in to it's normal time slot the following fall (I believe it was Tuesdays at 8?) and being disappointed. So sad. The show was awesome. Our little eight and nine year old minds were just overdriven by the by it.
The War of the Roses (1989)
Brilliant Black Comedy
I will not summarize this brilliant Danny DeVito Film except to say that it was a funny, savage, and often sinister look at one dissolving marriage and the insanity of two people holding on to the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
Douglas and Turner start out so perfectly. The audience can't help but fall for them as they themselves fall in love. Turner's selflessness and constant good intentions make her character's later bitterness understandable. Douglas' ambition towards the goal of outwardly perfect and upwardly mobile blind him to the growing chasms in his marriage. Yet you can't help but feel for him. He seems to love his wife, despite his inability to accept her for who she truly is.
This is truly a cautionary tale about both marriage and divorce.
I wish that Danny DeVito would produce this kind of quality work on a yearly basis. The state of American cinema would be much better for it.
Willard's Dark Basement (may contain spoilers)
*May Contain Spoilers*
"Willard" surprised me and exceeded my expectations. I hadn't read the novel or seen the original, but was familiar with the Willard character in the same way everyone knows about "soylent green" without having seen the film, through pop culture oral tradition.
I'd intended to see "Willard" in the theaters, but, for whatever reason did not. Finally, almost a year after it's release, I watch the DVD whilst home sick from work.
I was suitably impressed with Crispin Glover's character arc as Willard Stiles. Willard is a shy young man ill equipped for most social situations who lives his life in the shadow of his father's death and his mother's overbearing neediness. I feared that the script would push Glover into areas of self-parody (like 2 hours of Wild at Heart's Jingle Dell). Instead I found that Glover played Willard's emotional dysfunction with sensitivity and honesty. Glover's character has an emotional kinship with Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle. A lonely, down- trodden wastrel who explodes when his world finally collapses around him.
Speaking of self-parody, I was also afraid R. Lee Ermey would pull his D.I. routine throughout the whole film, but he too made intelligent choices as an actor. Although he does chew up quite a bit of scenery, his portrayal of Frank Martin was blustery and mean, but full of conscious manipulative glee.
I do feel that Laura Harring's character was lost to underdevelopment and sweeping editorial cuts to get the film a PG-13 rating and speed up a story progression that was probably best left alone.
Many of you have wondered why Willard hated Ben so much. My take on it is that Ben represented the larger, horrible secrets in Willard's life that he couldn't deal with or accept. For Willard to wake up every morning and find that Ben, the grotesque manifestation of his own personal demons, had forced his way into Willard's room and perched at the foot of the bed, was just too much for Willard to take. Willard was much too sensitive to have the unsettling denizens of his own dark basement in plain sight in the cold light of day.
With the deaths of his mother and Socrates, there was no more reason for Willard to maintain appearances nor to hide the rats or the savage and angry aspects of his quickly degrading psychological condition. Without the past (mother, father, family home and business) or Socrates to live for, Willard became a tool of destruction (including his own). This, if for no other reason, do I believe the filmmaker's original choice in Willard's outcome to be the most honest.
Although I do like sorta happy endings and little white mice.