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EAR PLUGS/FILM FLAM
Here's an in-depth review of Almost Famous from degenerate SW:
It is difficult, if not impossible, to separate movies from music. In this era of music-video-directors-cum-feature-film-directors, you see one influencing the other more and more. There is a growing demand for the new musical; from the Barenaked Ladies rocumentary to the Meat Loaf movie of the week on VH1. The genre owes much to MTV (when they played music videos) and reality TV for priming the pump of audiences who want to know what it's really like to be a rock star. Or in the case of a certain new release, what it's like to be a groupie or what it's like to write about rock stars. Of course I'm talking about "Almost Famous."
One of the most frequently used words to describe "Almost Famous" is endearing and the term aptly illustrates the mood of Cameron Crowe's latest film. An endearing coming-of-age story; an endearing look at the 70s; an endearing love story; yet it manages all this without being sappy. But more than anything else, it's a rock-n-roll movie. I've been a fan of Mr. Crowe's since "Say Anything..." and have watched his career and style develop over the past decade. You'd be hard pressed to find another filmmaker today who utilizes rock-n-roll music in film so well. Remember that scene in "Say Anything..." where John Cusack holds aloft a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel's serenade "In Your Eyes"? You were right there with Lloyd Dobler. There is another memorable movie music scene in "Almost Famous" where the band & entourage sing-a-long to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." It's a moment we all identify with; the inseparable soundtrack of our lives. Mr. Crowe is obviously a huge rock fan and "Almost Famous" is his ode to rock enthusiasts everywhere.
Whatever you've read, heard or preordained "Almost Famous" to be, it's probably the best mainstream movie in theaters right now and I recommend seeing it.
Here's your editor's reaction:
Sunday we hit the theater to see Almost Famous, a movie based on Russel Crowe's experiences as a writer for Rolling Stone as a young teenager in the early 70's. This position got him on tour with some of the biggest acts of the day, including the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and even Yes. For the sake of telling a good story, he's avoided art-rock keyboard-doodling meditating vegetarians like Yes in this picture and told the tales as if they were all one long tour of one band, "Stillwater", a fictional up-and-coming hard rock band. In addition, he's represented himself as the character William Miller, a 15 year old who befriends Lester Bangs, infamous rock critic. In general, the movie is well acted and well written and is a lot more fun as a work of fiction than it could have been if he'd tried to make it a documentary. It's a cute film worth seeing. But I'd rather talk about what it meant to me personally. If you want even more about the film check out their web site at http://www.almost-famous.com/
William is warned by Lester Bangs not to make friends with the bands and to maintain an "honest, unmerciful" style. Instead, William befriends the band members, the groupies, the road managers and anyone that will give him the time of day. He struggles briefly from time to time to maintain his journalistic integrity, but his friendship with the band gets in the way. Eventually the childish, self-centered band members piss him off and he writes the article the way it should have been written. The band denies the truth behind it so the Rolling Stone won't run it. Ah, the joys of working for big business.
(Did anyone read the article in the Loafing about how they may sell some of their ownership to Cox, the owners of the incredibly shitty Atlanta Journal/Constitution? )
I could identify with William's struggles. (Skip this paragraph if you're already familiar with your editor's journalistic career history.) I started out doing my own paper and electronic broadcasts under the Degenerate Press "organization" I created. These got the attention of the local print media and soon I was writing for the small monthly paper INsite Magazine. Eventually I worked my way up to the local version of the big time, Creative Loafing. After a year or so they took on a new editor for the music section and he didn't care too much for my style. Too honest and unmerciful. His writing reads like it came straight from the bands' press kits. My ideas for big articles were rejected, and when he sent out email asking for folks to select from his pre-fab lists of things he wanted covered I found that no matter how fast I responded "someone already had that covered." So I jumped ship to Atlanta Press, a better, if not as widespread, paper. The Loafing music editor wrote to me asking me why I'd chosen AP over the Loaf. I didn't bother with a response. A year or so later Atlanta Press folded and I understand their editor and some of the staff are working in some capacity for the Loafing. Add them to the two dozen or more writers they seem to have in the music section and it's impossible for any individual's voice to be heard. All the more reason for a loudmouth like me to stay away.
Fortunately, I always maintained my own broadcasts. I don't have to compete with a horde of up-and-coming writers who are living off financial aid and have plenty of spare time and late nights they can use to cover the scene. I don't have to answer to an editor who is scared to piss off some crappy band from Marietta. I don't have to worry about scaring off advertisers when I go off on their deceitful marketing and cancer-causing products. I don't have to get my quotes confirmed by a fact checker, then denied by the band who was too drunk at the time to remember it, or too worried about their rep after the fact. Instead, all I have to do is struggle to maintain the friends I have who happen to be in bands I may review.
I've noticed there are few honest and unmerciful writers in this town. It seems there are some who take on a grumpy old man persona, consistently writing a well-written acidic reviews guaranteed to piss off the bands, while endlessly doting on a (VERY) few personal faves. On the other end of the spectrum are those trying to befriend all the bands, the ones who write nothing but fluff pieces and avoiding bashing even those who ask for it. Neither end of the spectrum gets much respect from the bands themselves. They loathe the grumpy old men. They know the other end of the spectrum is almost as useless since nobody can take their reviews seriously. But let's face it, who likes to have their own work criticized?
"Critc - 1. One who writes judgements of books, plays, music, etc. professionally 2. One who finds fault"
from Webster's New World Dictionary
The problem is definition 2 is often confused with definition 1. The grumpy old man brigade seems to think that finding fault IS the job. And as a reaction to this, you end up with the other end of the spectrum.
We here at Degenerate Press strive to support the local scene. We want it to stay vibrant, alive, and important, at least for us if nobody else. But like any ecosystem the weak must fall, the diseased must die, the species must evolve. Ear Plugs will not function as a life support for the weak. We will not aid the wounded. We will not sell a sow's ear as a silk purse.
Which is where we've actually gotten an occasional compliment for our honest, unmerciful approach. "He's not scared to stick it to his friends" a local musician once pointed out. I can only hope that my fearless approach maintains the respect of those genuine friends out there. And for those that are friendly purely for the sake of a good review, or unfriendly to me as the result of a bad review - I don't care if I have your respect or not.
But regardless, take heart in something my sculpture professor once told the class. "It shouldn't matter what kind of grade I give you. If I give you a bad grade and you decide it's just not worth it and you quit your artistic career, you weren't meant to be an artist in the first place. If your art is what is important to you, you're gonna do it anyway, regardless."
"If you're in the audience and like what we do
Well, we want you to know that we like you all too
But as for the sucker who will write the review
If his mind is prehensile
He'll put down his pencil
And have himself a squat
On the Cosmic Utensil
Go give it all you got
On the Cosmic Utensil
Sit 'n spin until you rot
On the Cosmic Utensil
He really needs to squat
On the Cosmic Utensil "
Frank Zappa, from Joe's Garage
On the other hand, if it's your career that comes first and the art that comes second you might care what I and other critics have to say. And if I think your art sucks, I'm gonna make a point to say so in the hopes that you don't get to HAVE a career with it so I don't have to put up with another shitty band that gets constant airplay and press. 'Cause I don't HAVE a career in this field to put first. I don't have an editor to review my work. I don't advertisers to appease. I don't have any competition.
All I have is the art, and I'm putting that first.
In other film/music news, "Benjamin Smoke", the documentary about one of our local fallen heroes, is due to run late November at the Plaza. As soon as we have details on this we'll let you know, or check out http://www.benjaminsmoke.com
In other local media news, there's a new rag around town, Prick, "Atlanta's only tattoo and peircing lifestyle publication." It features a lot of folks you'll recognize if your a local subscriber to Degenerate Press efforts. Lots of cool tattoos, cute girls, old cars, good bands, etc. It's free, and worth every penny. Besides, someone's got to fill the media vacuum we have in Atlanta with the demise of Atlanta Press, Atlanta Sideshow, and the absorption of the Loaf by Cox. No, Degenerate Press can't fill that void alone. Speaking of, subscriber-participation is dropping again. Ain't anybody out there got anything to say??
Anyone watch the debate (debacle) last night? Was it as gripping (catatonia-inducingly dull) as expected? I'm afraid I missed it. Even if I hadn't found something better to do (pick my toenails) I probably couldn't have sat through it. Dick/Bush are two sides of the same (antichrist) coin, and Gore/Lieberman lean so far to the right that it's impossible for a leftist (rebel) such as your editor to tell the difference between the moderates and the moderates (the Republicans and the Democrats).
It reminds me of Kodos and Kang from The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror VII:
Homer: America, take a good look at your beloved candidates. They're nothing but hideous space reptiles.
[audience gasps in terror]
Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
Man1: He's right, this is a two-party system.
Man2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
[Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]
[Ross Perot smashes his "Perot 96" hat]
The next day, Kodos announces the result: "All hail, President Kang."
[The field in front of the Capitol has now become a working ground where humans are whipped by aliens and used to carry materials. The Simpsons family is working too, with Homer and the kids carrying wood, and Marge pushing a wheelbarrow of cinderblocks with Maggie on top.]
Marge: I don't understand why we have to build a ray gun to aim at a planet I never even heard of.
Homer: Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.
(Thanks to The Simpsons Archive at http://www.snpp.com/ )
Meanwhile, Ralph Nader is gaining some small ground in the race to be a legitimate third party choice. Regardless of the pointlessness of trying to beat the system, he does have the some of the best merchandise, such as a t-shirt with the slogan "Bush and Gore make me want to Ralph."
So come November I'm going to be throwing my vote away!
Camille Paglia doesn't agree with the label "wasted vote" put on folks like me. She has an interesting article about why you should vote for any outsider, perhaps specifically Nader: http://www.salon.com/people/col/pagl/2000/10/04/pop_and_politics/print.html
By the way, the deadline to vote in Georgia is October 10 so get off your ass and go do it if you ain't already.
Meahwhile, back at the ranch, Atlanta's traffic just keeps getting worse. There's an interesting article on cnn.com about it:
My favorite part is the quote:
"Over the last 20, 30 years, Atlanta has grown faster than any human settlement physically in history," says Christopher Leinberger, a real estate developer and consultant who writes and lectures on growth.
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