Friday, April 01, 2005

Film Review: Sin City

my mind is still trying to process the raw slab of tainted meat it has been beaten with for the last 2 hours. after it's all over, it can't wait to go back for seconds.

Sin City is a movie that explodes with life and death, a gorgeous oxymoron in that a black and white film had so much color in it. not just from the dabs of technicolor eyes, dresses, and blood, but from the characters that inhabit a world to stark to be captured by any kind of film set or reels. it doesn't pay homage to film noir, it inhales it, digests it, and coughs back up the ugly remains; without kitsch. without irony. there is no sarcasm, no playful winks or nudges. and it's waiting with a lead pipe and a loaded shotgun for anyone who writes it off as such.

visually it's the most stunning piece of digital work since Fight Club. about 5 minutes into the film i forgot that it was all a green screen. the way the actors interact with the scenery will make you all forget as well. however it wasn't the effects that won me over; it was the brilliance almost every actor used to capture the essence of their respective characters, becoming their flesh and blood incarnates.

the 3 main stories of Sin City have 3 protagonists as the focus, and each one at the core is dealing with a similar scenario; protecting the loves of their lives from the sleaze and scum that pour out of the city like sweat. I won't get into breakdowns of each character, but i will say that Mickey Rourke damn near steals this one, playing the anti-social golden hearted misanthrope Marv. his narrative foams at the mouth with the pulpy poetics of a mutated Travis Bickle, killing his way through cops, priests, and one creepy farm boy "in the name of a dead hooker". Bruce Willis also plays his best role in a long time, that of Hartigan, playing it with a quiet Harry Callahan intensity that never veers into knock-off territory. Clive Owen's Dwight isn't quite as defined as Marv and Hartigan, but that creates and aura of mystery that makes him intriguing in his own way.

the women of Sin City are the orgasmic affection of every wet dream and the deadly sexy amazons of a he-man woman haters worst nightmare. like angels getting ready for a gunfight, they'll get you hard just to castrate you, and love you if you do the same to someone else. Jamie King (as Goldie) truly captures the essence of a celestial call girl that no warm blooded heterosexual male could resist in anyway, while Devon Aoki (as Miho) destroys the notion of the docile Asian woman, dicing it up with swastika shaped throwing stars. Carla Guigino is simply mouth watering as Marv's very naked parole officer Lucille. Rosario Dawson and Jessica Alba are in their too, with an Uzi and lasso respectively.

the villains share the same mold as the villains of Dick Tracy; ugly as sin...but they take their evil to more perverse despicable levels, never hestitaitng to beat a woman, molest a child, or even eat the meat right off their victims. Elijah Wood's Kevin is genuinely unnerving, his eyes hidden from the glare of his glasses as he quietly pounces and slices. Benico DelToro plays Jack Rafferty with a nauseating charm, even (perhaps especially) when he's being drown in a toilet, getting his hand sliced off, and all the other horrible stuff that happens to him. Nick Stahl's Yellow Bastard is disgusting no matter the skin tone or size of his nose. smaller evil roles are occupied brilliantly by Michael Clarke Duncan (playing Manute the way he should have played the Kingpin in Daredevil), Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Roark, and Powers Boothe as his equally evil brother the Senator.

people will complain about the acting, the dialogue, the violence, the sexism, the nihilism...but those people are either dumb or PC sissies. the acting and the dialogue match Frank Miller's world perfectly, as does the violence and gleeful fascism and nihilism. Sin City not a family film or a moral tale. it's an acidic shock to the senses. not a wake up call but a blood soaked dream. it's not designed to be some pretentious blowhard's piece of social commentary but a vessel for every sexual fantasy, every revenge fantasy any of us insecure males have had in our life and will continue to have, creating within our own minds a city of sin. this movie not only realized that dream, it gave it veins so it could mainline all the booze, broads, and bullets imaginable into its system.

Sin City is the most perfectly actualized comic book film ever made, beating out every super-hero film made by a director with a Jesus fetish that has come out in the last 5 years. if there is any justice this film will create some stars and make us remember some old ones that never really lost their step, we just all forgot they were dancing. if there is any further justice it will make other people involved in comic book films step up their game and create something truly memorable and eventful (producers of Watchmen, take notice). I hope we see more from Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and the rest.

I thank them from the bottom of my nerdy little heart.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

"It's not that i hate women it's that i don't understand how to love them correctly."

-JR Hayes.
"I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long."

Mitch Hedberg: 1968-2005.
as i was crowning my mandible with brozned skeleton heads a crippled spider with megalodon jaws drags it's legs into a trail of neverending clawmarks that walk me to the wormhole where the rabbit scratches it's one working foot into the soil, trying to dig it's way back to the vapor black spotlights of your eyes. like a crecent moon being inhaled and digested by the darkness they attack the red skies like a fallen angel's rays of light.

-"Vapor Black" by me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A NY Times article from 2002;

Tom Waits: A Poet of Outcasts Who's Come Inside

SAN FRANCISCO -- SUNLIGHT wouldn't seem to be Tom Waits's element. His songs tend to take place in rainy nocturnal realms filled with outcasts and freaks, where his slurred gargle of a voice and his junkyard assortment of sounds won't upset passers-by. Yet there Mr. Waits was on a bucolic northern California afternoon a few weeks ago, lunching on minestrone soup in a small-town restaurant near his home, and talking affably about how he has created and maintained his own peculiar zone - more like a back room or a bunker full of debris - in American music.

"I just try to walk my own path," he said. "You have to believe in yourself and you have to ride out the seasons. Everybody wants it to be summer all the time, in relationships and with their career. And when the weather starts to turn, they think they better get out. So it takes a certain amount of persistence."

Mr. Waits, 52, is a family man now, getting up early in the morning to be with his wife and musical collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, and two of his three children. (His 18-year-old daughter is attending college.)

He hasn't taken a drink, he said, in nine years, and his self-destructive alcoholic patches are two decades behind him. But from his first album, "Closing Time" (Asylum) in 1973, to the two new ones being released simultaneously on Tuesday, "Blood Money" and "Alice"(1) (both on Anti), he has peered into dank recesses and populated his songs with drunks, hobos, prostitutes, carnies, transvestites, suicides and a few stray politicians.

In the songs, true love collides with callous fate and close observation dissolves into surrealism. The music drags hymns and parlor songs, blues and ballads into a sonic menagerie that, on the new albums, includes Swiss hand bells, calliope and a four-foot-long Indonesian seed pod, which is "as wide as a Bible," he said, and has "seeds as big as CD's."

The tunes hold some Stephen Foster, some Kurt Weill, some Louis Armstrong, some Lightnin' Hopkins, some Harry Partch(2), some Captain Beefheart and some circus music - clear points that Mr. Waits has connected into his own constellation. He doesn't mind that his influences show. "Most songwriters, you can trace back what they've been listening to," he said. "It's like you can go through the entrails of any animal and tell what the last three days were like. How do you reconcile your irreconcilable musical desires and dreams and wishes and memories? You may not be able to make one thing out of it. I think I feel more comfortable trying to visit different places. I don't know if I have anything that I've made that's a synthesis of the things I love. I don't think I leave it in the blender long enough."

There has been enough straightforward melody and romance to let some of Mr. Waits's songs, like "Ol' `55" and "Downtown Train," be shined up and turned into pop hits by the Eagles or Rod Stewart. But others never will be. "Blood Money" starts with songs called "Misery Is the River of the World" and "Everything Goes to Hell"; "Alice," a collection of songs written for a music-theater collaboration with Robert Wilson in 1992, is haunted by solitude and death. But both albums are bipolar, with deep-seated misanthropy and pessimism sitting alongside pure, un-ironic love songs like "Coney Island Baby" from "Blood Money," on which he rasps, "All the stars make their wishes on her eyes."

"I'm an old softie," Mr. Waits said. "Most songwriters are probably writing one or two songs over and over again in one way or another. Kathleen said that with me, it's either Grand Weepers or Grim Reapers. Yeah, I run hot and cold. I like melody, and I like dissonance. I guess maybe it's an alcoholic personality. I get mad, and I cry."

Outside the restaurant window, a truck rolled by from a company called Tight Access Excavation, and Mr. Waits grinned at the name. "That's what I do," he said. "It's hard to get in there. You're either not wanted or it's too dark, and there's not a lot of room, and it's never comfortable. So those are good places to look. You do give voice to people who don't have songs written about them or don't have a chance to tell their story, and it's actually good to get all those people out of my head. Download and make room for some other stuff."

The grit in Mr. Waits's voice - "I'm the sand in the sandwich," he said - suits his lowlife characters and keeps his lovelorn narrators from getting too sentimental. But in the first phase of his career, when he was recording for Asylum (later Elektra-Asylum) in the 1970's, his singing cut against his relatively conventional backup.

When he married Ms. Brennan in 1980, she urged him to be his own producer. "I like my music with lumps and rind and pits and pulp," he said. "Until that time, I felt like I was being photographed with my head on somebody else's body. Kathleen said: `Look, we can find musicians. We'll find the engineer. We can get money from the record company. We have 12 songs here. Let's go, we'll do it ourselves. You don't have to give six points to a producer.' "

What resulted was Mr. Waits's 1983 album, "Swordfishtrombones," with arrangements that lurched and sputtered and plinked, as they would through Mr. Waits's next two decades of work. "There's certain sounds that I am attracted to," Mr. Waits said. "I always like things that sound like they're trying to reach you from far away, so I feel like I need to lean in and give them some help. I like clank and I like boom and I like steam. I thought that would be a good title for a record: `Clank, Boom and Steam.' Clank, boom, pssssst! There's something kind of locomotive about it, coal-driven."

Mr. Waits brought the "Swordfishtrombones" songs to the president of Elektra-Asylum. "And he said: `You'll get no new fans and you'll lose all the ones you used to have. We're not interested,' " Mr. Waits recalled. But Island Records picked up the album and kept releasing albums as the songs grew more angular and apocalyptic. By the time his Island contract ended, however, the company had been bought by Polygram, which was later absorbed by the Universal Music conglomerate. "The big companies are more like countries than companies," he said. "Or they are like jellyfish. They have no anatomy. But they sting."

"Record companies are no longer interested in maintaining or nurturing or supporting the growth of an artist," he continued. "They want you as a cash cow on the day you get there. And then, when you stop making milk they want you on the barbecue right away."

Mr. Waits eventually moved to the independent company Epitaph and its Anti label, on a roster that includes the punk band Bad Religion and the country legend Merle Haggard. After a six-year gap between albums, Mr. Waits's twangy "Mule Variations" (Anti), 1999, sold a million copies, as alternative-rock fans embraced a fellow misfit.

"Alice" and "Blood Money" were recorded concurrently. "It's such a big deal to crank up a band and the whole bit," Mr. Waits said. "Once you crank up the machine, it seems a shame just to make one pancake." But the albums are as different as sleepwalking and chronic insomnia. "Alice," which was very loosely inspired by "Alice in Wonderland," is full of lyrics about dreaming, and many of the songs proceed in a haze of brushed drums and breathy horns. "Blood Money" is more hardnosed, veering from warped carnival oom-pah to ominous lullabies.

Both albums largely avoid using guitar. a deliberate gambit. "Kathleen said, `Let's try and solve some of these problems without guitar,' " Mr. Waits said. "The guitar is so versatile. There's so many times when you hear a guitar that it pulls your focus, and there's a certain normality to it. I like to hear things that are a little more conflicted sometimes. So it's like a little tease or a challenge for yourself. It's like, let me see if you can walk to the corner with a blindfold."

Mr. Waits is likely to tour this summer(3). "I worry sometimes about recording, because it feels like you're eating the feathers and you're throwing away the bird," he said. Performing live is different, "because I really ran away and joined the circus," he said.

"That's what everybody did who got into music. You went to a show somewhere and you said, `Man, that's it.' Maybe it's kind of like alligator wrestling, because you're dealing with something that's alive. And you might be thrown by it and you might be gored by it, and it's bigger than you, but you may get to ride it."

Meanwhile, he's working on songs. "Sometimes they're coming so fast there's not enough to catch them in," he said. "And other days you have to do a rain dance for it. You wait. I've got tape recorders all over the house. I can scribble notes on a napkin. But what I've really done is learn to exercise my memory. If I have a melody in my head, my challenge is to keep it in my head all day. And then try to sit down to dinner, forget it and then go back in the car and see if I can remember it again. I think if this is a really good melody it'll never leave me. Some you lose. A lot of them get away. Those are the best songs, the ones that got away.(4)"