This week the FAR attempts to speak in the vernacular of the day but, having absorbed all knowledge and culture, find it difficult to stick to a timeline. Attempts have resulted in the FAR sounding like a modern take on 60s pulp, a 30s screwball, a 21st century celebrity chef, an 70s experiment in music and video, sometimes a cartoon mascot from the 80s. A timeless voice is rare, and it sounds a lot like Elmyra Duff.
Thanks to Miller for lending his voice this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
At WBUR, Sean Burns watches Roadrunner and finds it does not honor the curiosity and spirit of subject Anthony Bourdain:
Produced by his former employers at CNN, “Roadrunner” is an odd and unseemly movie, preoccupied with his death from its opening moments — old b-roll of Bourdain on a Bergman-esque beach saying he doesn’t want a funeral — and larded over with doomy foreshadowing at every edit. The film curiously skips the first 43 years of its subject’s life, jumping in after the triumph of Bourdain’s screamingly funny memoir “Kitchen Confidential” and focusing almost exclusively on the travel shows he hosted for the husband-and-wife team of Christopher Collins and Lydia Tenaglia (both billed as “consulting producers” on this film), who never miss an on-camera opportunity to lavish themselves with credit for his success. Increasingly petty and distasteful as it wears on, “Roadrunner” becomes less a portrait of a troubled genius and more a snippy tell-all about a television crew getting fed up with their mercurial star.
Sheila O’Malley shares her Criterion essay on Bringing Up Baby and considers why a film now considered a classic flopped in its own time:
In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Hawks theorized about the film’s “great fault”: “There were no normal people in it. Everyone you met was a screwball . . . I think it would have done better at the box office if there had been a few sane folks in it.” Perhaps, but the issue could run deeper: surrendering to chaos without the reassurance of a rebuilt world at the end may not have been what audiences wanted in 1938, exhausted by a decade of financial ruin and looking with anxiety at the clouds of war darkening over Europe yet again.
Nick Hallett describes experiments with early video technology and music performed at the Kitchen arts space in the 70s. See the link for pictures:
On March 5, 1973, The Kitchen presented Alvin Lucier’s The Queen of the South, a loose gathering of a concert that demonstrates the findings of 19th-century physicist Ernst Chladni: visible particles like salt or sawdust scattered onto a vibrating plate will form intricate floral patterns relative to the harmonic series of each sound, as if blown into place by the wind. Video cameras hung above three 4’ x 4′ tables with attached transistors, as subsonic bass tones quietly shook piles of colorful sand into an array of cymatic sculptures. The steady, electrical flow of sound allowed for precise control over the audio spectrum, giving the Chladni figures extraordinary depth. Monitors were spread out in groups of three. One could see what was happening by looking at the monitors or walking over to the tables. Twelve channels of audio surrounded the room with acoustic beats.
For Reverse Shot, Gavin Smith reviews Quentin Tarantino’s pulp novel version of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, with a deeper look at the character of Cliff as the author’s mouthpiece for film criticism:
Cliff’s lengthy layman’s evaluation of I Am Curious (Yellow) and its meta-cinematic twists and turns is initially rendered in his own words. But as the analysis progresses, it abandons Cliff to deliver a dry recitation of the film’s history. Cliff loves Kurosawa, but with his innate bullshit detector he “knew enough to know Hiroshima Mon Amour [sic] was a piece of crap. He knew enough to know Antonioni was a fraud.” And a little later, “He tried Bergman but wasn’t interested (too boring). He tried Fellini and really responded at first. He could have done without all his wife’s Chaplin bullshit… He tried Truffaut twice but he didn’t respond… The 400 Blows left him cold.” In the slippage and confusion between the strict point of view of the fictional character and the all-bets-are-off authorial voice, unmistakable rifts open up in which Quentin the polemicist takes over from Cliff: “American film critics embalmed Kurosawa in praise early, elevating his melodramas into high art, partly because they didn’t understand them…. [Cliff] understood Kurosawa’s films far better than any critic he ever read.” And in a section on Polanski, Repulsion is compared favorably to what are puzzlingly described as “the amateur-night-in-Paris fumblings of the so-called Truffaut-Hitchcock films.”
Dan McQuade at Defector goes deep on mascot for anti-drug scolding McGruff The Crime Dog and his surprisingly good anti-drug album that rips off — and improves??? — popular music styles:
McGruff was voiced by Jack Keil himself. And instead of getting a singer to do the actual singing—Garfield’s singing voice at the time was Lou Rawls—it appears Keil did all the singing here himself. @bloodberry_tart says this track sounds like New Order, and I agree, but I also think the intro sounds like Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time.” This album’s 1984 release date predates Murphy’s hit song, so perhaps Eddie Murphy and producer Rick James copied McGruff. We can’t rule it out.
And finally, a voice to span the generations as Marah Eakin does a Random Roles interviews with Cree Summer and her animated and live-action career from Inspector Gadget and A Different World to Rugrats and the green M&M:
CS: [Primetime drama] Courthouse was groundbreaking because Jenifer Lewis and I—Jenifer Lewis, who’s now the grandmother on black-ish—Jennifer Lewis and I were the very first lesbian couple on primetime television. We went to the GLAAD awards for those characters and boy, things have changed. It was so uptight, man. We weren’t even allowed to have a real kiss. I remember it was a big deal that we slow danced. We played live-in lovers and life partners, and the network was like, “Well, slow dance, but don’t put your leg on her leg. Don’t grind like that and don’t do this.” It was quite absurd, but it was the baby steps that got us to where we are now.
AVC: It was important that it existed so that then the next time it happened, they didn’t have to talk about slow dancing. They could start at holding hands, or whatever’s next.
CS: You could start in the bedroom, for the love of Jesus.