Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Andy Kaufman: World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion

When I first heard of the new DVD, Andy Kaufman: World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion, my first question was, "How is this different from I'm from Hollywood?" -- the documentary about Kaufman's wrestling career.

Where I'm from Hollywood is a documentary, Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion is a collection of home video tapes of Andy Kaufman's wrestling bouts, usually unedited, poorly lit, and accompanied by some really annoying songs from S.S. Bumblebee and some repetitive crowd sound effects.

Directed by Lynne Margulies -- a co-director of I'm from Hollywood, Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion feels like a garage sale of a film. It's like Ms. Margulies had a lot of tapes she transferred willy-nilly to a DVD and called the end product Andy Kaufman: World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion. This and the accompanying book, Andy Kaufman: I Hate Your Guts feel like Ms. Margulies trying to make some quick cash off the name of her dead friend. Pretty fucking tacky.

Do yourself a favor and stick to I'm from Hollywood instead.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tales from the Script

We all know that being a screenwriter is a lonely, thankless job. There have been myriad narrative movies that tell us so (The Player, Sunset Boulevard, Barton Fink, etc).

It's a rarity when we get the straight poop right from the writers' mouths but Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman's Tales from the Script provides a soap box for dozens of writers to share their war stories. Some folks, like William Goldman, take to the task with relish, unloading with both barrels and sparing no one from his wrath. Meanwhile, less-established writers shy away from dishing too much dirt, their next paycheck depending on still "playing the game" in Hollywood. Between the two extremes, subdivided by level of jadedness, there's a central theme to the entire talking-head documentary--writers aren't appreciated. This isn't news to just about anyone but perhaps this film will be viewed and taken to heart by young scribes with stars in their eyes.

If you get off on hearing the dirt about someone's profession (as I do) then Tales from the Script will bring a smile to your face. I highly recommend checking out this DVD, especially the extra "The Gospel According to Bill", a solid twelve minutes of golden curmudgeon William Goldman.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bastard Pop - Play the Funky Mashup, White Boy

Without knowing it, I’ve been a fan of so-called Bastard Pop for years. As a kid, I loved Dickie Goodman’s “Mr. Jaws”—my lazy music teacher in Elementary School would throw that on whenever she needed a break. Later, I was tolerant of the “Stars on 45” albums (including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Hooked on Classics). This paved the way for years of enjoyment from Weird Al Yankovic’s obligatory polkapalooza of current hits that he’s done since his premiere album.

Creative sampling in hip hop put a smile on my face; the more layered and diverse the samples, the better. Groups like Pop Will Eat Itself, with its wide range of The Osmonds, The Warriors, and Run D.M.C., delighted me with a hodgepodge of riffs, drum tracks, and movie quotes used as building blocks to create a new wall of sound. However, other than the occasional clever remix, there was little to satiate my love of recycled sounds or bastardized songs for about fifteen years.

Everything changed when I heard The Kleptones.

My first exposure to the “mash-up” musical movement, The Kleptones stand at the top of a very large heap of artists (and hacks) who take two or more songs and marry them together to create something totally new. Their albums—Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots, A Night at the Hip-Hopera, 24 Hours, Uptime/Downtime—are mash-up essentials. With Yoshimi, The Kleptones re-envision the Flaming Lips’s 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots via the removal of Wayne Coyne’s vocals and the addition of vocal tracks from The Beastie Boys, 50 Cent, Missy Elliot, Public Enemy, and more.

If Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots was a “simple” subtraction and addition, then A Night at the Hip-Hopera is a quadratic equation. The Kleptones pilfer a wide array of music by Queen while blending in multiple rap tracks, extra percussion, and sound clips from interviews, music videos, commercials, films, and television shows. In any given track one can hear Calvert DeForest, Meat Loaf, Old Dirty Bastard, Raymond Scott, Detroit Grand Pubahs, Tyler Durden, Brittany Spears, the Mooninites, Jeffrey Lebowski, or Jethro Tull; all the while without missing a beat. Just about every track is a winner with standouts being “Ride” (a mix of “My Name Is” by Eminem with “Bicycle Race” by Queen) and “Jazz” (which skillfully lays lyrics from Queen’s “We Will Rock You” over their tune “More of that Jazz” between bits of “Tears on my Pillowcase” by Task Force).

The Kleptones’ magnum opus, 24 Hours, continues the group’s eclectic journey. Using the framework of a day, the album tells the story of a person’s life through music.

Another great use of Queen is The Silence Xperiment’s Q-Unit: Greatest Hits, a collision of 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre with some of Queen’s greatest hits. Like Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots, this collection is more of a one-to-one mixing and matching of complimentary tracks. In this way it’s similar to works like “Smells Like Bootylicious” which pairs Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious”) or The Grey Album by D.J. Danger Mouse (Brian Joseph Burton), a meeting of the Beatles’ eponymous work (commonly known as The White Album) and Jay-Z’s The Black Album.

Pairings of two disparate artists (the “A vs. B” subgenre of mash-ups) can be fun but I find more pleasure in albums like A Night at the Hip-Hopera which take from a multitude of sources. The other best example of this is Dean Gray’s American Edit, a complete makeover of Green Day’s American Idiot. Working from a Green Day backbone, Dean Gray (artists Party Ben and team9) layers on and mixes in impossible musical fits. No song is left untouched. Some of the more jaw-dropping tracks include “Greenday Massacre” which seamlessly crosses between Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” The Eagles’ “Lying Eyes” and several more tracks. Another, “American Jesus,” crosses genre chasms between Green Day, Bryan Adams, Smokey Robinson, and Johnny Cash, to name a few.

With the release of the Kleptones’s latest,Uptime/Downtime, HKIC Eric Kleptone took a few minutes to answer a few of my burning questions:

Cashiers du Cinemart What is your day job?
Eric Klepton Being a Kleptone is, right now! Although I do/have done many other things, but I have a history of sound/lighting work, IT stuff and now lecturing both of those - I’m going to be doing some Ableton Live workshops with BBC Blast (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/) over the coming months, which should be excellent!

CdC: How did you get involved in the “Mashup Biz”?
EK: Well, like a lot of peeps, the idea of sampling stuff and cutting and pasting came before someone gave it a catchy title - I’ve been hooked since I was a teenager, when a friend of my older brother started giving me pause-button edit tapes of mixes he’d made. I got really inspired by the journey you could take people on linking and overdubbing clips together, so inspired by him I started to make my own. Not long after that I heard The Art Of Noise and early UK cut-up dance tracks alongside more experimental stuff by artists like Negativland. All I had to do then was wait for samplers to get cheap enough to allow me to join in. On top of that I’d started DJing, which meant throwing entire tunes on top of each other, and not being limited by the memory of the sampler -- for example, play Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” on two decks -- probably the first genuine “mashup” I ever chanced upon; still sounds great!

CdC How on earth do you get your inspiration? I picture you like John Travolta in Blow Out with a thousand strips of sounds around.
EK: That’s pretty accurate. I spend a lot of time assembling source material - When I do put a track together, I like it to happen pretty quickly, so I’m pretty OCD about filing stuff right, but that means when I have a brainwave, I can check it out right then! Having said that, there’s also an element of “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” - Everything gets filtered through my own taste buds though, which are pretty particular, as evidenced by what ends up on the album.

CdC: How have video games such as Rock Band / Guitar Hero changed the mashup game? It seems that so much of The Best of Bootie 2010 had bits of songs from those games since the tracks have been released.
EK: Well it certainly gave the mashup biz quite a shot in the arm...Personally I’m delighted as I love those sort of tunes! Freebird!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Evening with Timothy Carey


About thirty five minutes into Tweet's Ladies of Pasadena I felt as if I'd had a psychotic break. The story of a bizarre man-child, Tweet Twig (Timothy Carey)--the only male member of the "Don't Drop a Stitch Knitting Club"--the film apparently combines a score of episodes for a television show that never happened. With most shots running less than a second, characters speaking in tandem, and things occurring on screen that come close to being a plot without actually adhering to anything close to a coherent narrative, Tweet's confounded the audience.

You could say that Tweet's was akin to a car crash but where that analogy works for compelling disasters, Tweet's drove several folks out of the theater. I was tempted to leave as my head was pounding but couldn't imagine that the breakneck pace could continue unabated and that the film would never return to some of the items that passed by winkquick as it unfolded. What about the people covered in roses? How about the dog that came back to life? Would Tweet ever find a job? Why did his wife not appear for the first third of the film and then appear to be different woman for the final third? Would those South American ants play a part in anything?

I've had drug trips that are more lucid than Tweet's Ladies of Pasadena.

Overall, I'm glad I saw it but it may take me a while to recover from it.

After the screening Timothy Carey's son, Romeo, gave a brief Q&A where he said Tweet's was shot over a period of roughly seven years, as if it had been a show that the elder Carey worked on despite it never being picked up by a network. And, despite the wild programming that populated the TV landscape in the '70s, I could never see such a show playing. It's still not clear if the 70+ minutes of Tweet's shown was one show or several cut together. The print screened appeared to be some kind of work print that had been edited to within an inch of its life.

I was hoping for some more information about Tweet's in the documentary about Timothy Carey, Making Sinner. However, this seemed to focus on Carey's early career up to and including The World's Greatest Sinner (1962).

Directed by Romeo Carey, I fear that Carey's son may be too close to the project when it comes to presenting a complete portrait of his father. Instead of being behind the camera, the eloquent Romeo would be better in front of the lens, relating the untold tales of his father's passion and wild life. As it stands, the rough cut of Making Sinner was a rather disjointed assembly of a handful of interviews and abrupt clips punctuated with stock photos. I'm not sure if these pictures were meant to be funny but I couldn't help but laugh when something mentioned by an interviewee always came accompanied by a loosely-related image. Someone would say "Jesus" and we'd see "Jesus". Or, a rather happy Latino fellow wearing a sombrero appeared whenever Mexico was mentioned.

There's not enough about The World's Greatest Sinner in Making Sinner to truly qualify it as a documentary of the film. Yes, there's some interesting behind-the-scenes footage including takes of scenes that go on for far longer than in the final film (at one point cameraman Ray Dennis Steckler discusses a scene that was taken twice -- once at ten minutes and another at eight -- while the scene runs only thirty seconds in the final cut. Seeing these outtakes makes me wonder what World's Greatest Sinner would look like without the disjointed editing; or is that what gives the film so much of its charm?

Making Sinner demonstrates the need for the definitive documentary of Timothy Carey. This needs to happen soon, while people that worked with him are still alive. In Making Sinner the interviews with Carey's youngest brother and Ray Dennis Steckler are great, yes, but a Carey doc needs interviews with people like Peter Falk, Bob Rafelson, Robert Blake, and Ben Gazarra (to name a few). As it stands, Making Sinner is an ambitious idea that isn't quite ambitious enough in its scope (and not cohesive in its presentation).

Between Making Sinner and Tweet's Ladies of Pasadena the audience was treated to Cinema Justice, a single scene in which an unhinged Carey steamrolls fellow actor Michael C. Gwynne, and The World's Greatest Sinner -- always a treat.

Was the evening worth a 10 hour drive, $20 parking and a $109 speeding ticket?. Yes. I don't know if or when Tweet's will ever play again and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have my mind blown so thoroughly. Toodeloo!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Gimme Some Money

When my book comes out sometime this year (knock wood), there's not going to be boffo money for advertising.

To that end, I'm hitting the streets with my tin cup and some pencils, shilling for dollars via the website "IndieGoGo" in hopes of drumming up a couple bucks to help spread the word once Impossibly Funky hits the streets.

Got a couple extra bucks to throw into the pot? Click here.