Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson- Promoter Statement. Official Ticketmaster Site

Here's some info on future ticket refund for the "This Is It" Michael Jackson concerts that were scheduled for London, England's O2 Arena next month, for those of you who jumped on tickets to what would have surely been phenomenal shows.

Michael Jackson- Promoter Statement. Official Ticketmaster Site

Been continuing to rock out to MJ at various points all throughout this weekend. Here are some more 90's joints from Mike's catalogue, starting with the 1995 R. Kelly-penned ballad "You Are Not Alone" from the album HIStory (featuring ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley!):

"They Don't Care About Us" is another single from the HIStory record that generated some controversy over allegedly antisemitic lyrics contained in the virulent social commentary song, prompting rancor from critics and Jewish community leaders, including film director and friend Steven Spielberg. The lyrics were later edited after a public apology by Jackson.

The song is accompanied by two videos by director Spike Lee: one based in the favela of Salvador Bahia, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the other set in a prison. Spike Lee and Jackson faced opposition from the Brazilian government in preparation to shoot the video, charging that the singer was exploiting their poor and projecting an image of Brazil's seeming social failings would be bad for tourism. They eventually shot the video and were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by the community that lived there. I think that the video is an earthy and defiant slice of life and an uncommonly down-to-earth appearance by jeans, no less:

I really like both these videos. I think they are strong collaborations between Lee and Jackson. They really focus Jackson's righteous indignation in the song into very authentic and artful visuals reminiscent of the insurgence of Lee's earlier films, especially 1989's "Do The Right Thing."

The 1997 Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix album is an interesting musical re-discovery in the midst of the hoopla surrounding Jackson's death. A collection of remixes of the then-new Disc Two songs from the 1995 double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, it's a fascinatingly dark and funky carnival ride through Jackson's paranoia about media scrutiny and the perils of being a crazy-talented dancing machine:

"Ghosts" is a weird little morsel from the same album. WARNING: This is almost for Michael Jackson mega-fans and 90's completists only. It is, in its entirety, an almost forty-minute long music video that tells the story (co-written by Jackson with Stephen King) of a character called "The Maestro" who is chased out of town by angry residents, illustrating how Jackson felt in the wake of child sexual abuse charges he incurred in 1993. It is the longest music video ever produced to date, and was directed by Hollywood special effects/makeup wizard Stan Winston, who himself passed away June of last year.

This is something I didn't really get to the first time around in the 90's, so this is pretty interesting's a shorter version:

The choreography at the beginning of this is actually pretty badass, despite all the creepy tomfoolery with the harlequins later on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson, King of Pop, 1958 - 2009


Man, I have totally been avoiding this post like a muthafunka since I heard the news yesterday afternoon. I'm so mad at the world that I can't get in to see his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and discarded disrespectful signs calling people who visit the other MJ star "morons" because it's the wrong star, as if this guy doesn't understand why they're leaving memorials there (same name, guys). This thing is crazy.

Michael Jackson's story is so prolific and filled with incredible innovation and artistry, as well as stomach-wrenching lows, that it's almost too much to cover in a blog post, and anyway, we all know the story at this point:

Gary, Indiana. Poppa Joe Jackson and his brood. The Jackson 5. Michael goes solo. Michael goes solo in a BIG way with the 1982 Thriller album. Awesome John Landis-directed video. Motown 25 and the moonwalk. Hair-raising Pepsi commercial. Paul McCartney and the Beatles catalogue. "We Are The World." Bubbles. Neverland Ranch. Bad. Awesome Martin Scorsese-directed video. "Black or White" with Macauley, and Michael smashing up a perfectly good car. Superbowl XXVII. Lisa Marie Presley. Child molestation allegations. HIStory. Deborah Rowe. Prince Michael I. Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Prince Michael II (Blanket). More child sexual abuse allegations. The trial. Mounting debt. Neverland Ranch auction. 50 sold-out "comeback" concerts in London, England. Jackson suffers cardiac arrest and dies at age 50 in Los Angeles, California on June 25, 2009.

Since Damn The Man is focused on 90's pop culture, I'd like to zoom in on Michael Jackson's 90's output, which, while not as momentous and earthshaking as his 70's and 80's work, is of just as high quality. I love not only his work, but work by other 90's artists inspired by Michael Jackson's awesome ebullience and generosity in his music and stage performance. I miss the guy like crazy, and it probably goes without saying you miss him too.

First video up is his single "Remember The Time" from his 1991 album Dangerous:

MJ performs with Slash (former guitarist of rock juggernauts Guns 'N'Roses) on his hit single "Black or White," also off of the Dangerous album:

Here is the full official (though not original uncut) music video for "Black and White," including the controversial second half. This video debuted in its entirety on FOX and MTV on November 14, 1991, and the latter "panther" half of the video was so divisive that it was subsequently deleted so that it was able to air on MTV regularly. This version here also lacks the "violent" smashing of car windows by Jackson that caused much of the controversy.

"In The Closet" is a song from the 1991 Dangerous album co-written by the R&B singer/musician/producer Teddy Riley (Guy, Blackstreet), and it's underrated and great, in my opinion. It was originally conceived as a duet between Jackson and Madonna, but their collaboration on the song came to an end due to creative differences. The beautiful video features 90's supermodel Naomi Campbell and was directed by incredible fashion photographer Herb Ritts, who made both Campbell and Jackson look like glowing gods of the Mexican ghost town, if I do say so myself:

Michael Jackson's 1995 single "Scream" from the double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I is a collaboration with his sister Janet Jackson, and is notable for its very 90's, very expensive video directed by visionary and Satellite Films director Mark Romanek, at that point sought-after in the music video world for his dark, intense videos such as Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way."

"Scream" was and still remains one of the most expensive videos in music video history, with a budget of approximately $7 million. Here is an interview that Entertainment Weekly conducted with Mark Romanek about his memories of making this amazing video and working with Michael.

Please enjoy the video:

Here are a couple of special 90's treats associated with MJ that I just love. First up is the 1993 number-one hit single "Right Here/Human Nature" by R&B group SWV. It stayed at the top position on the Billboard R&B chart for ten weeks, making it the longest run at number one of any R&B single in 1993. It samples Michael Jackson's 1983 single "Human Nature" from his blockbuster album, Thriller, which was co-written by Steve Porcaro of popular 80's band, Toto (I love the song "Africa" with a passion).

SWV is one of my favorite R&B groups from the 90's and I absolutely adore this song, both versions. The video for the SWV track is lovely as well, featuring the band looking quite pretty with their own hair (no lace fronts) and riding pants with white shirts. This song in all forms is a breath of fresh air, which is why I'm including a clip of MJ busting it on his 1987 Bad tour after the SWV clip:

The second thing I wanted to throw at you is one of my very favorite movie scenes ever, which came to my mind when thinking about the joy that MJ's music brought to so many different people. The wonderful 2006 film "Clerks 2," directed by Kevin Smith as a kind of sequel to his cult hit 1994 film "Clerks," contains a lovely scene in which his main character Dante finally realizes that he has fallen in love with his boss/friend Becky to the tune of The Jackson Five's 1970 number-one hit single, "ABC." It is as simple and heartwarming as that sounds:

I could go on and on, but the only thing left to say is Michael, we miss you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Variety Review of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"

I don't know about you, but as a diehard Tarantino fan, I am curious as hell about his upcoming film, "Inglourious Basterds," due out in theaters on August 21, 2009. Click here for a review of the film by Variety.

I realize I'm slow on the uptake in posting this, but the review is pretty detailed, and hell, the movie isn't out for another two months. I loved his segment "Death Proof" from 2007's "Grindhouse," but this is a whole 'nother animal.

Take a break from chewing down your fingernails waiting for this thing and enjoy the trailer:

"And I want my scalps!" That line makes me lose it every time I watch this trailer. A German friend of mine ( he was the director of my short film, "Spent," which you can find in the Blogroll in the sidebar) is actually working on the German subtitles of the film, and intimates that the film is quite good, though he won't give me details. I sure hope so.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Shawshank Redemption of Mainstream Cinema: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)


No matter how old I get, or how old he gets, John Cusack is the cure for what ails me. I was in a totally hellacious mood last night, so I took in a viewing of the fantabulous late-90's cult comedy "Grosse Pointe Blank" via Netflix's extremely handy "Watch Now" feature. Mood uplifted!

As I researched the film, the most-pondered question on the Internet was, "Is this the most perfect movie ever made?" The answer, of course, is no. But damned if Johnny, Minnie and the gang don't make it feel like it is.

The story, for those too young or indifferent to have been completely consumed with love for Cusack through multiple viewings of Cameron Crowe's 1989 classic film "Say Anything" is this:

An emotionally bereft hit man, Martin Q. Blank (Cusack), decides it's time to quit the business. His decision comes at an inopportune time, since his nemesis, a fellow hit man named Grocer (played rather brilliantly by Dan Aykroyd), is tired of all the snafus in scheduling hits, and wants to form an assassins' union, including Blank. Martin Blank makes it clear to Grocer that this is not going to happen. Because of Blank's increasing stress, he fouls up a very important hit.

To make amends, he has to perform one last job in his native Detroit, Michigan. It just so happens that his 10-year high school reunion is happening at the same time, giving him a reason to go back and find Debi, the girl he left behind in her prom dress all those years ago to join the army and start killing people, and resolve the true source of his anxiety.

Blank also forces his therapist, Dr. Oatman, into treating him. Don't forget the two wisecracking government spooks who follow him back to the lush greenery of Grosse Pointe, a rich suburb of Detroit.

Absurd, I know. But absurd is kind of the point of "Grosse Pointe Blank," and it does it very well (further underlined by the overwhelmingly over-the-top nature of Grosse Pointe Blank's unofficial sequel, 2008's "War Inc."). The script is delightfully witty and strikes a delicate balance between upbeat optimism and dour cynicism. The direction, in my opinion, is not always technically competent, but maintains a consistently funny and offbeat tone, helped in large part by the impeccably curated soundtrack featuring 80's punk, ska and New Wave such as The Clash, The Specials and Violent Femmes (The latter's "Blister In The Sun" is kind of an unofficial theme for Martin's return to Grosse Pointe).

The cast is the biggest reason to keep coming back to "Grosse Pointe Blank." John Cusack is at his Cusack-y best here: young, cute, manly yet sensitive, wonderfully dark. Yum.

Minnie Driver is terrific as Debi Newberry, a very cool chick who has a hip radio show and burning hate/love for the long-lost Martin Blank. After the "airplane" scene (if yr a girl, you will love the airplane scene, trust me), it is no wonder why they briefly dated in real life. They have a naturally zesty and sexy chemistry that is simply fun to watch.

Jeremy Piven as Blank's best friend from high school, Paul, is as hyperkinetic and hilarious as ever, almost as if this is how Droz ended up after he finally graduated "PCU" (1994).

Dan Aykroyd, as previously mentioned, is comedy gold and a welcome addition to the film. All the rest of the supporting actors all round out a very appealing and top-notch cast.

This film brings back a lot of memories, good and bad, of transitioning into young adulthood from adolescence, and it fits where I'm at now, what with my 10-year college reunion coming up next summer. I can see watching it through painful life transitions for years to come. It may just be the perfect movie after all.

Click here to see a short but awesome interview with young John Cusack promoting the film on "Access Hollywood" back in the day.

More videos! Yay!!!

I love this fight scene. John Cusack is an avid kickboxer, and actually trained with the fellow he's kicking on in this scene, master martial artist Benny "The Jet" Urquidez. Apparently Urquidez has also trained Dave Mustaine of Megadeth in martial arts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Show Tonight! Swing Out Sister at B.B. King's, NY, NY


80's & 90's Euro-pop sensations Swing Out Sister (singer Corinne Drewery and keyboardist Andy Connell) perform tonight in support of their 2008 album "Beautiful Mess" at B.B. King's in NYC. If you are on the East Coast and in a dancing kind of mood, do me a favor and check this out. I am incredibly jealous of you.

Being naturally drawn to loud, gritty, hate-and-frustration-driven music, it is somewhat incongruous that I would love a sophisticated, jazzy band like Swing Out Sister, but deep in my heart, I am a dancing queen, and there is nothing like a clean, bouncy pop track to purge the need to shake that thing. Swing Out Sister's exuberant songs, especially their 1986 breakthrough single "Breakout" and 1992's cover of the 1969 Barbara Acklin soul classic "Am I The Same Girl?," are a great pick-me-up when life gets you down. These songs live on my top-down convertible mixes in my car!

And now for some interesting videos:

Swing Out Sister - "Breakout" (Live 1989 The Prince's Trust Rock in Concert - National Exhibition Centre Birmingham, UK - July 18th and 19th)

Swing Out Sister - "Am I The Same Girl?" (Live 1993 at The Jazz Cafe)