Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The Punk Singer is a documentary about Kathleen Hanna, singer of feminist punk rock band Bikini Kill. It details her life in music and art up to the present day. Inside the first 25 minutes I was already acting like a shitty, bullish man- taking ownership of the feminist punk narrative in my own mind, shaming this documentary for lack of historical perspective in regards to this riot girl revolt; Anti-Scrunti Faction, Frightwig, The Neo Boys, Lydia Lunch, M99, The Gits, The Slits, Delta 5, The Raincoats, X Ray Spex, Diamanda Galas- just to name a few. All feminist artists- some far more extreme and bold than any in the Riot Girl Movement. I was chaffed at the very notion that the film begins it's narrative as if that stuff had never existed- that the only historical perspective they offer is the way back 60s Gloria Steinem connect. The cover for Patti Smith's Horses LP did as much for freeing young women's (and men's) ideas about sexuality as a dozen fanzines.

Once I had gotten this out of my brain space, I sat back, shut the fuck up and realized that this is one person's story that explodes into a thousand, maybe a million, other people's stories. That it is a story we can all relate to makes it that much more endearing. The struggle to be heard above the din, to escape our childhood dramas, to be loved, to give love, to create, to help, to force the world to see our vision of ourselves rather than the one assigned to us at birth. The documentary itself is not as stunning and deep as you may want- lacking fluidity, style, a cohesive story telling directive that could have expressed more the explosive, thrilling, intoxicating magic of this time period, the riot girl movement, the pulse and throb of the music. It misses this opportunity entirely. It has a flat, matter of fact vibe- one that engages, but never engrosses. The film also feels one sided- no women from any other scene are represented, or comment on the riot girl movement and how it may have affected them during this period. It would have been nice to see a wider perspective.

As you come to the reason Kathleen Hanna retired from performance in 2005, it becomes a fragile, human drama, and the entirety of the film and all of it's attendant problems are rendered moot, as you see this woman reach to become herself again. The final frame is given to our subject matter- still tough, still energized, still ready to remind those who forget, you don't need anybody but yourself and those who got your back. The rest is just bullshit hype.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Unlike Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors, the new film about the now legendary CBGB club is a complete piece of shit. The Doors film- as bad and inaccurate as that was- has at least taken on a camp value that is mostly hilarious and fun to watch unravel before your eyes; This CBGB film is so devoid of intelligence or art or plotted pose the only emotion left is contempt, which quickly melts into a sad hypothesis that it may be a propaganda film created by establishment conservatives, to confuse and confound any one interested in the actual ideas and environment from whence this music came.

I could start by picking on the shit bag film making- the flat cinematography, the poor costuming, the hideous make up,  the way in which the film makers seem to disregard any sense of congruency in favor of squeezing out enough of a commercial to sell this era to a new generation of know nothings. This film plays like an extended GAP advertisement for punk. Considering that Taylor Hawkins- the drummer for mall rock stalwarts Foo Fighters- plays Iggy Pop- terribly, mind you- should be a dead give away that this is not a serious film made by anyone who wants to make great entertainment- rather, it seems to have leaked from the bowels of business interests hell bent on draining any sense of danger or excitement, in order to produce a nice, neat, clean package of yesterday nostalgia. The marketing department must be having an orgasm.

Not all is lost, however. The music itself is wonderful-  imaginative, fantastic, galvanizing- it is no mystery as to why the filmmakers have wallpapered this visual calamity with great songs of the era- even if many of them are totally out of synch with timeline and incident. Alan Rickman, as CBGB proprietor Hilly Kristal, brings the only true acting weight to the proceedings, the only performance compelling enough to watch. Donal Logue- playing Kristal's partner- is passable- but the rest of this cast is much like the dog shit that littered the CBGB floor. Much of the cast renders their famous counterparts nothing more than Mickey Mouse teeny boppers with quaint directives rather than the mutant rejects of a society too pretty to tolerate such ugliness. Malin Ackerman as Debbie Harry is particularly awful, avoiding Harry's sweet, adorable sexuality in favor of grinding like a strip club slut. Mickey Summer as Patti Smith is also particularly bad- yet, Justin Bartha as Stiv Bators may be one of the worst portrayals of a known entity I have witnessed.

The story itself is interesting enough to be told, absolutely. Yet, a dramatization such as this- artless, colorless, mediocre- is the wrong way in which to present such a thrilling tale. There is a joy attached to knowing that this music has become part of the fabric of American Pop culture, finally- that all of those sick, crazy, disgusting, strange, weird ideas have made it to the mainstream- but at what cost? When it all gets muddled and mashed into this modern day hybrid of robotic dialogue and ready made trend bait, it tends to cancel out the importance of the thing itself. And even if it is mere entertainment in the end, a film made about it should be equally entertaining. This CBGB movie is not.   

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


One of the single greatest teenage drug movies ever made, The Death Of Richie (titled "Richie" on the original Prism video box) follows a young Robbie Benson on his hell ride through teenage drug addiction, as he cruises around with his wastoid friends popping pills, smoking grass, doing angel dust and LSD and all sorts of goodies that get you good and gone against the grind of the demands of being young and white in the suburbs. Ben Gazzara is masterful in his role as the tightly wound, overly concerned, angry father who desires to have the father son relationship he once had when Richie was younger, now replaced by high school concerns that don't include Mom and Dad. As Richie falls deeper and deeper into his drug fueled, anti social fast lane, the parental concerns become more threatening, intense, and ultimately, tragic. Eileen Brennen plays Richie's mother- bitten lip, furrowed brow, worried eyes- she is in a perpetual state of anguish over her son's behavior as well as the tension between father and son- a tension the typically results in shouting matches and loud threats, followed by Richie's retreat into his secret drug crawl space, where he turns on and stares at the flashing lights and zones out of his problems completely. It is a fantastic, groovy, way out little space. Originally a TV Movie Of The Week, the cast is flawless- 70s child superstar Lance Kerwin plays Richie's brother, with the ever solid Clint Howard and the one of a kind comedian Charles Fleischer as Richie's drug buddies. And the 1976 visuals are wonderful- the pinball arcade, the parks, the clothes, the hair, the cars, the restaurants- it's all there, in glorious, gritty color. Exploitative realism at it's finest.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


The teen movie ruled the roost in the not so distant 1980s, so much so that many great ones fell through the cracks. Seven Minutes In Heaven is a much sweeter, more innocent affair than the more bawdy, colorful hits of the day, but nails high school melodrama superbly. Three best friends move about their lives together- one boy, two girls. Natalie is only interested in her future political ambitions, Jeff is into Polly, and Polly is distressed over not having a boyfriend, until she falls in love with baseball player Zoo Knudsen. Jeff has trouble at home- a child of divorce, a demanding stepfather- so he moves in with Natalie temporarily while her father is out of town. Natalie starts dating Jeff's friend James, who is not as faithful as she thinks. Seven Minutes In Heaven specializes in gentle, warm vibrations- it does not avoid the pitfalls of teen life- bullying, parental problems, teacher difficulties, first crush fever- rather presents these issues in a less vulgar, ridiculous, comical way than many of it's contemporaries. The film captures the aching, longing, bittersweet emotional impact of life at 16- how every incident, every crush, every moment is a monumental experience to be held in awe, the newness of living on this planet still a fresh idea, before the realities of experience spin us in directions in and out of our control.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


A gritty, glamorous street story of two 14 year old girls- one the quiet daughter of a politician, the other a loudmouth rock n' roll runaway, hip to the downtown vibe- who meet under compromised circumstances, only to escape into the wild nights and begging days of New York City, when such things ran the smashed up kids of lost teenage desire. The girls spend their days creating and dreaming of a universe where they- The Sleaze Sisters- will set the youth free through music and madness, away from the stronghold of adult directives.  The girls become entangled with a midnight DJ- who spends his airtime baiting the kids who listen to his show, dishing out observations on the nasty nights of New York City night crawlers, reading aloud desperate letters from his minions, doling out suggestion in a sinister, self righteous tone. The girls perform on his show, and become a hot sensation- eventually putting on an event in Times Square that attracts all form of teenage malcontent, dressed in garbage bags and dark make up. Roxy Music, The Ramones, The Pretenders, Suzi Quatro,  and Gary Numan are among the many cool as a motherfucker rock n' roll bands featured on the soundtrack, and The Sleaze Sisters themselves produce one of the film's best bits- where they perform a great little punk song "Damn Dog," at a strip club, also included on the record. Time's Square captures a time and place far since washed away from today's preconditioned hard sell, the days when finding yourself was a common commodity- a way of being so important you'd runaway from home just to do it, fuck conformity and projection- freedom is the only cause worth a dollar or dime.      

Saturday, February 2, 2013


This is a bleak, minimalist, harsh tale of an English skinhead, hell bent on creating criminal chaos at every turn- malcontent, sneering- a constant threat written on his face, daring everyone and anyone in his sight lines to challenge his rage. After being tossed around various juvenile facilities, our protagonist is sent to the last place before Borstal- a sort of half way house, in which councilors try to reach these kids before a full on meltdown occurs, directing them towards a life away from the streets and into the more quiet, steady hum of working Britain.  Yet Trevor, the skinhead in question- so full of anger, so mad at the world, so disgusted by the authority figures and rules and regulations, lashes out in retaliation of his right to do just that. Time and time again Trevor is told how best to save himself, and time and time again Trevor punches straight through, refusing to play by any rules but his own. There is a prickly, nattering violence underscoring this film, as Trevor draws the viewer into his feral confrontations- an obstinate brat, a loudmouth, a brutish, bludgeoning teenage nasty- the manifestation of a dystopian world view, a cynicism and hubris of volcanic proportions. Made In Britain is not so much fun, nor should it be- the pleasure in watching something of such callous extremity the ride itself- a full throttle, scream at the world youth movie, overflowing with the confusion and emotional misery only life at 16 provides.   

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Gritty, grotesque, and just plain mean, this whacked out revenge flick is sick and savage, as we find a gang of bruisers hassle, deal, steal, drink, rob, beat, fuck, and drug their way through their High School years on the sleazoid boulevard, taking and grabbing whatever they want. Their main focus becomes a group of equally raunchy- less criminal, hot mamas out for kicks and cocks, led with a bitch's nerve by Linda Blair- foul mouthed, feisty, and overprotective of her deaf sister. When the hard punks decide to gang rape the deaf girl, it sets in motion one of the single most outlandish, vulgar, ridiculous revenge motifs a fan of exploitation could dream for. The dark, permissive violence is a whiz bang thrill ride brimming with ugly dialogue- evil, crass, and amazingly humorous. Nobody in this movie likes each other much, everyone talks shit to each other- even the adults have no time for these nihilistic predators (the principle, played with exaggerated menace by the always awesome John Vernon, proclaims "Why don't you get your faggot asses out of here before I feed them to the cops!") The fun had here is of a cathartic nature, a way to see the bad side of things in such a way as to feel the disgust and displeasure of every wrong move these scumbags make- igniting a furor within the viewer that allows for the ultimate payback pleasure.  

Friday, January 18, 2013


The movie you are about to witness tonight is a grand, vulgar, grotesque little comedy brought to you by the Director who made the now legendary Rock N Roll High School, Mr. Alan Arkush. It has all of the same attributes- gross out comedy, great music, colorful fun, and a villain hell bent on destroying true rock n roll music. In this case the enemy is a corporate devil named Colin Beverly, who wants to blow up one of the finest concert halls- The Saturn Theater- and replace it with a high priced, arena cum entertainment multi-plex. The Saturn Theater's owner, Max, refuses to sell out to the almighty dollar, stating "I put on shows at the Saturn so kids can see the stage, afford the tickets, and hear the music- so screw stadiums!"   Greedy industrialist Beverly retorts "This building is coming down and 88 stories are going up- So fuck you, and fuck rock n' roll!" This sets the scene, and off we go into a wild, wacky, wonderful night of new wave, punk, and hard rocking New Year's Eve fun, as romances flourish, drugs are taken, and the battle for salt of the earth, soulful entertainment versus crass commercialism rages onward. The movie is top heavy with rock stars- John Densmore, Lee Ving, Lou Reed- playing some parody of themselves, or other rock n roll stereotypes. Malcom McDowell does one of the single greatest Mick Jagger parodies you may ever see, the general vibe pure definition of what makes a great rock n roll experience- community, adventure, curiosity, and a willingness to have fun, enjoy the moment, and meet those who share this desire. Stadium shows represent the most commercialized, conformist wing of the entertainment business- they exist to maximize profit and diminish the living, breathing, feeling closeness of a theater- or club, show. Which is something entirely different, an institution that thankfully will never go away- no matter what money is on offer.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's new brutal shoes, make for an intriguing walk through 1850's Southern plantation life. Having not been a great fan of his previous, well adored film Inglorious Basterds, this surprised and excited me. I had an issue or two, however- namely Tarantino needs to stop using pop music in these things- the movie doesn't need it and it's a distraction. Second, the end revenge bit is slightly redundant (let us not be naive, all Taratino films resolve in this manor)- it should have figured in the last bit amending to the first shoot em' up where Django surrenders, avoiding the needless demonstration of Samuel Jackson's Stephen as the ultimate power whip on the plantation- we got that in the first scene in which he was introduced, clucking about the place as if he were the main man all down the line. Leonardo Di Caprio does some of his best work here- a cruel, mean, vicious man. The issues brought up about slavery, how this film addresses such, may be an empty suit. This is just a really good action flick, like all of his pictures. A great action director creates an environment that hyper activates the suspense- drawing you into the tension of the moment, and Tarantino does this very well here. Using the slave trade as back drop, a near master stroke in creating that vile place in which we cannot wait to get out of- like Nazi Germany, or a warehouse with a dead cop. The movie gets to say some things about slavery, demonstrating a gross, inhuman violence, used for both purposes of revulsion and cranking up the tension. While everybody was crowing about the importance of the story, they forgot to plainly understand that within a truly great action film- The Running Man, Terminator, French Connection- you have always been given a compelling, nasty gutter to swim through in order to make the catharsis work more for your brain than complete bloody nothing. I nearly agree with Spike Lee that this may just be a Slave Auction Spaghetti Western, but that would be missing out on a thrill ride of a film that says no less about racism than Do The Right Thing did- except Tarantino chooses to pick at the past in an effort to show the horrors of chattel slavery, and the revenge fantasy that plays out. As a grand statement on the slave trade itself it would be a failure in total, due to it's reduction of scope, depth, and complete perspective of the thing itself- it's almost too big a moral enterprise to have your cake and eat it too. While Spike Lee used humor and neighborhood characters eating at each other on the hottest day of the year to create his tension, Tarantino does what he knows best- how to kill the bad guys with an honest to goodness, righteous reasoning that is immune to objection of motive.