Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Shawshank Redemption of Mainstream Cinema: Home For The Holidays (1995)

I have been busy all day and have not yet had the pleasure of watching the only Thanksgiving movie that matters: Jodie Foster's 1995 film, "Home For The Holidays."

I truly appreciate this film. I just came back from a Thanksgiving gathering that periodically swung from screaming madness to crushing boredom and back again. Real-life family gatherings are often placed on the pain scale just two rungs below 'root canal' yet movies often refuse to acknowledge this. I believe this is from the false Hollywood belief that viewers aren't entertained by grim reality; they go to movies to escape it. To me, nothing is more entertaining than acknowledging that you can't stand your estranged sister's judgment of your entire life, from your sexual orientation to your job (or lack thereof), you fear your aging mother's increasing dottiness (that'll be you someday), and no, I don't have a job right now, thank you very much. I'm fine, Mom. Don't make me wear the puffy coat.

There is so much that is genius to this film, from the quietly brilliant screenplay, to the relaxed, believable and often incredibly funny actors, especially my boy Robert Downey, Jr. As we all know, Robert Downey, Jr. is a man who will climb in your window and curl up in bed next to you, if given enough barbituates. But he's also a man who can make me laugh so hard one minute, then I'm tearing up the next. So he can stay. Tommy, Holly Hunter's gay brother, is one of Downey's best roles, IMHO. It is such a finely tuned performance, it almost doesn't seem like acting, it just feels like Downey playing around. But Tommy is a terrific role that calls for him to externalize the conflict within a beloved and entertaining, but misunderstood gay peg in a (very) straight family. He's just utterly human, not the cliche of the gay family member in alot of movies. I look forward to seeing his hilariously touching performance every time I pop in this film.

I don't want to downplay the other great performances in this film, including Holly Hunter, who is great as the put-upon single Mom who is still hot enough to hook up with a totally dishy Dylan McDermott in her parent's house like it was 1978; the late, great Anne Bancroft and her lovely wig; Cynthia Stevenson, who is spot-on as the prissy, uptight and angry-as-hell conservative sister who resents her siblings' less-structured, more bohemian lifestyles. I roll every time they pour the stuffing of the turkey on her head. Even Steve Guttenberg puts in a nice appearance as Cynthia Stevenson's stuffy but generally good husband for whom "cash is king." Claire Danes was at the height of her "My So-Called Life"-fueled hotness; I would watch this girl in anything back then. I was glued to the screen as she spent half her screen time dying a slow death in 1994's 'Little Women." She was not as good as we all thought, but she is very 90's, being Angela Chase and all, so part of me loves her.

Enough talk. Watch this film every Thanksgiving from now on. You're welcome.

(If yr at work, beware of cursing dysfunctional family members. Keep the volume of the clip low.)

I love when they pour the stuffing on her head. Really.

The Flaming Lips - Christmas on Mars November 11 Flux Cinema Tuesdays Screening Review

I have to interrupt Thanksgiving for a moment to talk about Christmas...ON MARS! If you weren't aware, The Flaming Lips is still a band. "She Don't Use Jelly" is NOT their only song, and Wayne Coyne, the suave and savvy frontman of the group, has been making a film for the past 5 years or so, and it's done. Yayyy!! I was lucky enough to go to the Flux Cinema Tuesdays November 11 screening of the film at The Montalban theater on Vine St. in Los Angeles, in celebration of the DVD release that same day.

This screening was like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: it was beyond my imagination. It was a wonderland of arrested development and I loved it. Want a party done right? Ask the Flaming Lips to plan it for you. Not only did a buncha folks come decked out in the themes of the film (y'know...Christmas, Mars, Christmas, M--you get the idea), but once we surmounted the very long line to get in, it was an orgy of free candy, popcorn, soda, and booze. Perfect for a sugar-addicted, cheapo woman-child like me.

I mean, look at these costumes! They're absolutely fabulous. It is a real testament to how devoted Flaming Lips fans are. You know that boring bit of time you have to waste before a movie screening starts? The excruciating forced eavesdropping on insipid conversations? Gnawing on that flavorless, stale gum you found at the bottom of your bag? Mindless flipping through the latest Entertainment Weekly with the cast of "High School Musical 3" on the cover? This was not a problem at this shindig.

Even Wayne was like, dang, you guys went all out.

Now on to what you really want to know: is "Christmas on Mars" any good? Your 90's-ologist readily admits a jaundiced film school-trained eye that loves to pierce newbie celebrity filmmakers where the sun doesn't shine for making me sit through their indulgent cinematic torments. But that won't be happening today. Especially since Scott or Rick may read this, and I really want an interview with the band, you guys, if you're reading. Hi. No really, I was definitely charmed and even moved by Wayne Coyne's screenwriting and directorial debut.

There's Christmas, and y'know, Mars, but there's also birth, death, the existential question ("why are we here?" not "what's good on TV tonight?"), and other assorted Big Themes. I am a sucker for the Big Themes, and I loved the way Wayne executes a delightful melding of "Logan's Run"-ish sci-fi camp, experimental techniques, and good old-fashioned Kubrickian dread. Alot of this is possible with the help of great cinematography by Brad Beesley, who also directed the awesome 2005 documentary about The Lips, "The Fearless Freaks." See that film if you know nothing about the band, it's illuminating.

I won't ruin this review by telling you exactly what goes on in this weird and gooey little film, especially since half the pleasure of watching it is talking back to the screen at the action, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. I will tell you that Wayne Coyne appeared at the screening for a Q&A, which he gracefully conducted in that room full of freaky fans, and once again reaffirming my love for gentlemen with salt-and-pepper hair:

I highly recommend checking this DVD out if you are a Lips fan. Though not required, mind-altering substances are encouraged for viewing:

Santa approves.

Bye now!

HAPPY TURKEY DAY!! Grandma Take Me Home!!

I am a little loopy since I just spent almost four hours in the car with my mother, father and brother in the holiday traffic coming from my Grandma's house in Far Rockaway. Oh, the horror.

I know I seem very enthusiastic about pretty much everything here at Damn The Man; I am a fan of the exclamation point. This, however, is a clever illusion: I actually like very little, besides the 90's, and turkeys. I love turkeys. They are an extremely funny-looking, yet oddly beautiful animal, and they taste great too. I watch them walking around with the deer at my parent's house when I make it back here. It's like National Geographic.

One 90's tune that I think of when I think of Thanksgiving is Nirvana's 1990 single "Sliver," which can be found on their 1992 compilation record, "Incesticide." This song was to me a really accurate and poignant summation of what it's like to be a little kid and forced to attend awkward family gatherings or get dropped off at a relative's house against your will. As someone with a very large and loud extended family who regularly met at Grandma's, it seemed, to torture me and my brother (we're not the most extroverted folks), I could totally relate. Enjoy your second helping of Thanksgiving dinner:

Nirvana - Sliver (1990)

Speaking of Nirvana, please be sure to check out The Foo Fighters on the Thanksgiving episode of "Top Chef" on Bravo! Dave Grohl provides my new favorite quote on this show: "Did someone offend the S'mores guy? Because I think he spit on mine."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Soundtrack of Your Life: Madder Rose - "Panic On"

I am super-thankful for being on vacay on the East Coast at my parent's house, and one of the primary reasons I tore myself away from L.A. was to come back and go through all the stuff I left in my parent's basement. It's been there three years and counting, and since I'm getting married soon, I may become an adult any day now and have my own house to store crap in soon. Hence, the dig.

Well, the dig went really well, and there's TONS of 90's fodder for you Damn The Man! fans!! One blessing that fell upon me is the wonder of my CD collection. All of my music in California is MP3s, because, as we all know, you don't buy CDs anymore unless you're someone who really can't let go. But, lemme tell ya, CDs are great. Or really, MY CDs are great.

Madder Rose's "Panic On" (1994) glared out at me from a mix CD a very loving and organized friend of mine gave me once upon a time, from a computer-printed playlist neatly folded in the case. "Panic On" is the type of song that the bygone MTV show "120 Minutes" was created for, and for which I stealthily sat up until midnight to watch on Sunday nights before school. I was always groggy as hell the next day, but as a budding music geek, I was very happy. Madder Rose kind of shared a sound with other "120 Minutes"-friendly bands like Helium, Lush, Velocity Girl and My Bloody Valentine; that shoegazer, fuzz-pop sound that I am terribly fond of.

Madder Rose was a NYC band, and I unfortunately never got the chance to get as familiar with the rest of their catalog back then like I did Mazzy Star's or The Sundays or some band like that, but "Panic On" is perennial. It had the female-fronted goodness of those bands, but it plays like the tear in the throat of every skinny geek-boy and girl who ever crushed on someone they could never really have, like Brian Krakow did over Angela Chase on "My So-Called Life." My nascent love life was full of these crushes, so I needed these songs to soothe my bruised little heart every time a boy with a guitar or greasy hipster haircut ignored me. Or used me. Enjoy:

Madder Rose - "Panic On" from the 1994 album, Panic On

By the way, Madder Rose broke up in 1999, and frontwoman Mary Lorson went on to form the band Saint Low, which was also on the aforementioned thoughtfully organized mixtape, and you should also check it out. This video's from September 2007, Saint Low opening for Nanci Griffith in Ithaca, NY:

Mary Lorson & Saint Low - State Theater, Ithaca, NY - September 11, 2007

See You At The Show: The Breeders at the Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA - November 17, 2008


First things first: Kim and Kelley Deal are twins, and they're cute. Like rilly, RILLY cute. When I looked up some of the Breeders' videos on YouTube, someone left a comment saying that he never realized how incredibly attracted he was to Kim Deal, and how she kind of became a template for what he thought was hot in a girl. Not a bad template when these ladies are funny, smart and can totally rock out.

They played nearly every great song in their catalog, heavy on 1993's "Last Splash" album, including "Cannonball" right up front, the third or fourth song of the set. Kim's gained a little weight, so she looks like someone's really MILF-y lookin' Midwestern mommy rocking on her guitar while the kids are at practice. And if you wanted to remember what she looked like in the 90's, you just looked over at Kelley, who still looks pretty much the same. It was pretty funny.

What also hasn't changed is the dynamic of the band: the men and tangential woman (Jose Medeles on drums, Mando Lopez on bass, and Cheryl Lyndsey on the excellent third guitar attack) hold down the fort, while the Deal twins beguile with their lovely girly-woman voices, persistent sibling rivalry-flavored banter, and guitar (and a one-time violin) un-skills. In fact, I love that Kim is still, ostensibly, the talented one, while Kelley is kind of along for the ride and only knows how to play their songs on whatever her instrument might be, like the violin she bravely plucked on for "Driving on 9," one of my faves from Last Splash. "Divine Hammer" was sublime; it almost made me cry for my lost Nineties youth. What was really incredible was the kind of aural power that the band still holds, the loud-soft-loud-soft technique kind of proving why it was so in vogue in the 90's. It's really effective, and seeing The Breeders made me wish I had the chance to see every band I loved back then.

"Cannonball" was performed perfectly, including the "AAA-UURRGGHHH!!!" megaphone call at the beginning of the song, and the only thing left would have been to have the video cheesily playing along in the background. But this was not that kind of show. In fact, Kim Deal asked at one point if there was anyone in the hall that was NOT a personal friend of theirs, since it seems like there were an awful lot of people on the guest list...not exactly a comeback tour, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

They also played their "classy" cover of The Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun," (Kim: "We know a Beatles song, so we're classy...") which mesmerized, especially with Kelley on the lead vocal intoning "happiness is a warm gun," over and over in that awesome pretty/creepy baby voice, and "Iris," off of the 1993 compilation, "No Alternative," which I was really psyched to see them play, since I nearly broke the cassette tape of that comp back in the day (a post will be forthcoming on that). Overall, a wonderfully 90's evening it was for all of us.

The Breeders - Cannonball (1993)

They performed this song too. I love this song and video. Why are music video directors (not to mention the bands) so boring these days?

The Breeders - Saints (1993)

This is like a very weird incomplete clip of "Iris," but it's kind of cool because it shows Kim talking, she's really young here...this song is originally from their 1990 record "Pod," when Tanya Donnelly (of Throwing Muses and, later on, the immensely popular 90's band Belly) was still in the band. There she is, the blonde. This is fun, I've never seen it before:

Awesome Pavement Contest in Celebration of Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Expanded Edition Reissue on December 9

Matador Records is reissuing the seminal 90's indie-rock band Pavement's 1997 album, "Brighten The Corners," and in honor of this momentous occasion they're having what seems like a lame contest at the outset, but then you think about it, and then it's kinda rad: A $500 giftcard from IKEA and a shopping trip to the Swedish furniture mavens near you with a member of Pavement! Get excited!! This is a very cool offer, especially for those indie-rock loving, broke-arsed college students that you know. All you have to do is submit a photo of your hovel that needs an extreme makeover, as well as an essay describing why the muck and mire of said hovel has got to go, to the Pavement fans group on imeem. The deadline is December 6, and the winner will be announced on December 9, the day that "Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition" is issued. Good luck with that!

I leave you with the tune "Date With IKEA," off Brighten The Corners, that gave Matador and imeem this big contest idea:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Protest 8 in LA: Nov 15th

Protest 8 in LA: Nov 15th

Those of you who do check in to my blog may have noticed that the content often turns toward the political. I try not to browbeat anyone, because to each his own, and this blog is about having fun and remembering good times, but if there's anything the 90's instilled in me, it's that it's important not to be apathetic about the way that your world is being formed. If the Powers That Be are handing down some truly irrational, and, not to mention, unconstitutional nonsense in your community, speak up! It is your right to be heard by those that are given the power to determine YOUR rights. Democracy now!

If you were also kinda bummed out inside the day that the Obama Nation was born because of the seemingly imminent passage of Prop 8 (which will amend the state constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to that between a man and a woman, overturning the current legality of homosexual marriage in CA), never fear! Protest is here!! Please join the National No 0n Prop 8 Protest tomorrow, Saturday, November 15. I'm just hearing about this myself, but we're just in time. I love a good protest in the morning, so I will be down at L.A. City Hall at 10:30 am with bells on!! Here is some national info on a No on Prop 8 protest near you, and here is some State of California-oriented info. I believe that Prop 8 is a hateful, deplorable initiative, now with the extra-crunchy flavor against those damn churchgoin', homophobic black people that voted yes. It certainly couldn't have been the 22 million funded by the Mormon Church that was spent on Yes on 8 propaganda that could have swayed votes, could it? But finger-pointing gets us nowhere. This is about equality under the law. That should be enough to pull us away from our breakfast cereal tomorrow morning and on our feet for the cause. I hope I see you there!

Upcoming Show: The Breeders at The Wiltern, Los Angeles, November 17, 2008

Hey there 90's fans!! Some of you may have noticed the lag in activity at Ye Olde Nineties blog, and for that I'm sorry. I haven't left you guys hanging though; in fact, I am very happy to alert you guys to The Breeders' show at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on Monday. If you are anywhere approaching the age of 30, you remember 1993. And more importantly, you remember when the single "Cannonball" from their 1993 album "Last Splash" blew up. That video with the rad cutaways to Jim Macpherson wailing on the drum kit (sadly, he is no longer the drummer...his path eventually led him to one of my true 90's obsessions, Ohio indie-rock stalwarts Guided By Voices), the weird yet beautiful twin sisters, Kim and Kelley Deal, and "the bong in this reggae song." You loved it. I know it's totally not cool to fixate on the commercially successful record from a band with indie roots, but whatevs. I love Last Splash, especially for one of the most heart-achingly poignant summer songs ever written, "Divine Hammer." Please enjoy them with me on Monday if you will be in the L.A. Metro area.

The Breeders - "Divine Hammer" (1993)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I'm sorry to the two of my friends that were McCain supporters, but I just finished watching Barack Obama give his first speech as President-Elect, and all I have to say is: PSYCHED. I am truly psyched and shocked and grateful and speechless at this smashing victory for Barack Obama, the Democratic Party, and the citizens of the United States of America. The ideals of freedom and liberty that Obama mentioned in his speech are ones that I also share deeply. I am the child of a U.S. History and Economics teacher, and I learned to respect and aim for the excellence that is outlined in the ideals in the Constitution from when I was in diapers. Barack Obama is the face of a new America, one that is not hampered by stale notions of ability based on color, creed, or political association, but unites us all together as Americans under the same want: to freely achieve the Dream of a life lived in pursuit of peace and prosperity. I'm just jazzed. That is all.


Happy Election Day! The 90's wants you to Rock The Vote!

In the 90's, it was all about "Rock The Vote..." If you love this country like I do, and value your role as an upstanding citizen in a democratic society, then indulge in your right to vote!! And this being the United States of America, there is no better incentive than free ice cream and coffee! If you bring your "I Voted" sticker to Ben and Jerry's and Starbucks today, they'll give you a free scoop of ice cream and a tall order of coffee, respectively. For more information you ice cream addicts, click here. Coffeeholics, click here.

Please also check out the wonderful site Ballotpedia which will help you sort out all those damn propositions and judicial nominees on your ballot. I, poli sci geek that I am, was totally jazzed to find out about this site, so I hope that it helps you.

Check out the polling site for electoral projections. This will come in handy if you are anything like me, and will be having tiny little heart attacks all day checking for the election results. The website Real Clear Politics is good for obsessive poll checking too.

Full disclosure: I have a Political Science degree, and elections are like the Super Bowl for me, and with this election, considering its incredible historical implications, today is Christmas Day in my mind. I hope that you enjoy the day like I will, regardless of whom you choose to be your next President!

BARACK THE VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See You At The Show: Cypress Hill's Haunted Hill Halloween Concert at the Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA - October 31, 2008

There are those of you who have been wanting to know what I thought of the Cypress Halloween show at the Wiltern this past Friday. Since I'm already a tad preoccupied with thoughts of the election dancing in my head, I can sum up my reaction in one image:

If this is not enough, I can say that I was duly impressed, especially since I expected something far more cartoonish and pop out of these guys. Cypress is hardcore, so let's just get that out of the way. Second, they're consummate performers. They reminded me quite a bit of Public Enemy actually, a thought affirmed once Sen Dog busted out a bit of Public Enemy (I'm sorry, I did not note which song, because I was not myself, let's just say), sounding just like Chuck D. All the members of Cypress Hill are terrific drummers as well; they routinely broke down songs on the bongos and drum set, which was highly visually and aurally entertaining.

They did every song that you expected to hear, including "Insane in the Membrane," "How I Could Just Kill a Man," "Cock The Hammer," "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That," "Hits From The Bong," and "Rock Superstar," the last of which was enhanced by the very rad audience with someone down front unfurling a flag and waving it to and fro, "Les Miserables" style. Believe me, if you've heard the song and were on a totally different planet like the entire audience was, this was very dramatic, like we were leading the troops into the battle for kush.

In fact, I shall leave you with the video of Velvet Revolver and Cypress Hill busting out "Rock Superstar," please enjoy: