Quick cuts: recent films, music, TVPosted: December 8, 2012
Here’s to better Christmas music, some Chicago blues, and a few films, including two special foreign ones.
The Pogues’ “A Fairytale of New York.” Are you sick of the constant din of soapy, sappy, sentimental Christmas songs? I have come to loathe all Christmas music. Except for this one. I love the Pogues and their Celtic punk music (think Sex Pistols married to the Chieftains) and this song is perfect if you’re sick of holiday schlock music. In fact, it’s the 25th anniversary of the release of this Christmas classic. The Guardian features a story about the creation of the song http://bit.ly/UpYjra and also describes the great video version. Here’s a link to the “A Fairytale of New York” video described there. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1nxmt_the-pogues-a-fairytale-of-new-york_music#.UMQTsTlQT8h
(Image is the album cover for my CD of Essential Pogues.)
The band is great and the melody infectious, but be sure to listen to the words. The lyrics are priceless. Here’s how the song starts, and remember, it’s a story of young love.
It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
And I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
Lincoln. This has been reviewed everywhere and many critics have commented on the performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. My favorite comment was in the New York Review of Books, which called Day-Lewis’ performance “wholesale inhabitation” of the character of Lincoln. The strongest aspect of the film was the realistic depiction of the legislative process to get the 13th Amendment passed in 1865, abolishing slavery, before the Confederacy surrendered and came back into the fold. The horse trading, legislative bribery and gamesmanship — all legal — showed an interesting side of the president we often put on a pedestal.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Meh. Good, charming, but too sweet.
Muddy Waters & the Rolling Stones at the Checkerboard Lounge. (DVD and PBS presentation.) What a night! It was November 1981 and the Stones were in town for three nights at the Rosemont Horizon. Muddy was playing at Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge and the Stones arrived to pay homage to their blues hero. The gig was filmed at the time but has only existed in bootleg form up until now. Now the film has been reedited and the sound remixed and remastered and the result is a barn burner. It’s a very spontaneous night. Muddy calls on the Stones one by one and they all end up on stage, along with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Lefty Dizz, all playing Muddy’s classics like “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Mannish Boy.”
Unfortunately, the PBS presentation on WTTW Chicago was ruined by too-frequent and too-long pledge drive begging sessions, which kind of ruined it. But I’m buying the DVD and I’m going to watch it on my new flat screen TV with the sound cranked WAY UP.
Dave Brubeck. The jazz genius and pianist died this week just before his 92nd birthday. I found my only Brubeck CD, which fortunately is Time Out including “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo”, two of his most famous tracks. I had several albums of Brubeck on vinyl but those have disappeared in my many moves. The Paul Desmond alto solo on “Take Five” still sends chills up my spine.
The Spirit of the Beehive. This 1973 film is set in a Castilian village in the post-Spanish Civil War era, probably about 1940. Director Victor Erice filmed this late in the Franco era when criticism of the regime was still dangerous. This beautiful allegorical film has many attributes that could be considered anti-Franco; you could write a master’s thesis on its symbolism alone. It’s a poetic, quiet film about a child’s fears and fantasies and how she reacts after watching the 1931 James Whale film, Frankenstein, in a village screening. The gaps in the plot and in character motivations were probably caused by self-censorship. This is not a film for those who prefer rapid action and CGI but it is a beautiful, thought-provoking film with gorgeous cinematography and vistas of the Castilian plains. The stories and their poetry reminded me of the two films set during the Spanish Civil War by Guillermo del Toro — Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Devil’s Backbone (2001, with Pedro and Agustin Almodovar). Both explore the lives of children during that horrific period in Spain’s history. (See my September post “Me and the Spanish Civil War,” for my insights on this period.)
Veronika Voss. Part 1 of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BRD trilogy. My comments to come.
Coming soon: My comments on the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy. Starring Bruce Springsteen and a few other people you might have heard of, including Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Jon Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, Sir Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Eddie Vedder, Kanye West and the Who! It will be a four-hour concert shown on many TV networks and streaming live online.