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The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis, producer of Power of Nightmares
The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis, producer of Power of Nightmares
DVD ~ Adam Curtis

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary, not great quality, August 1, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Adam Curtis 4-part documentary on Edward Bernays, S. and A. Freud, Wilhelm Reich and their influences is fantastic. I have shown it to college-level students, and while they're quite familiar with Freud, they can't believe the degree of undue influence Bernays had in bringing FREUD'S texts and theories to America, let alone his dastardly work in public relations. This aspect of the doc (along with the nearly as destructive influence of Anna Freud) is fascinating and especially well-constructed (with just the hint of trademark-Curtis sensationalism).

The segment on Reich is a little too unkind and dismissive, although it does justifiably go to great lengths to demonstrate how his legacy became grotesquely distorted during the "Me Generation," something we're still entangled in today. Reagan and his ilk never looked so demonic.

The final segment, primarily on political rhetoric, is probably the least essential, but it does tie the themes together nicely.

The DVD is less-than-stellar quality, only a hair better than what you can get on the Internet (at least of this writing; it seems it's been getting pulled down all over the place). It definitely needs and deserves a proper mastering, but I'd still highly recommend this compromised release.


Kisses on the Bottom
Kisses on the Bottom
Price: $10.25
98 used & new from $2.44

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great. Shut up., February 14, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Kisses on the Bottom (Audio CD)
Just listened all the way through, and I don't get what all the criticism is about. It's exceptionally tasteful - considerately chosen songs (very few "usual suspects"), two fantastic originals (Stevie Wonder's harmonica accompaniment on "Only Our Hearts" is signature), Paul's vintage vocals front and center, spare and mature arrangements throughout, and Diana Krall's top-notch band underneath it all.

Unlike the recent series of Rod Stewart songbook atrocities, there's nothing gimmicky here, and very little schmaltz.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2012 7:23 PM PDT


Laurel & Hardy:  The Essential Collection
Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection
DVD ~ Stan Laurel
Price: $60.98
18 used & new from $53.94

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Film by Film, The Greatest Comedies Ever Made, November 25, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Quite possibly the two funniest people ever to walk the Earth, with a chemistry that was cosmic and peerless. I do hope the silent films eventually get the same treatment.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2012 6:12 PM PST


Electric Arguments
Electric Arguments
Offered by POETS CORNER
Price: $9.99
87 used & new from $0.01

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gemini Fusion, January 8, 2009
This review is from: Electric Arguments (Audio CD)
I'm the first to admit McCartney is often difficult to defend. Just when he produces something amazing (and I would consider every album he's put out since "Flaming Pie" amazing), he says or does something dopey that undermines his creative efforts.

He is a true Gemini, persistently torn by oppositional tendencies. It's not an exaggeration for me to state that I think he is the greatest composer and musician (or at least bassist) of any musical form of the past 50 years. Even though much of his solo and Wings-era work embarrassingly strains to retain the middlebrow sensibility that made the Beatles so commercially successful (which of course was only one component of their appeal), there is a certain genius even in his most seemingly conventional songs (I'm thinking "Let 'em In," or "My Love," songs I love in spite of their reputations).

But, because he possesses (or used to possess) a finely tuned ear for what appeals commercially, he's been terribly stigmatized as a lightweight (thanks in no small part to unbearable, pseudo-elitist and pompous critics like Robert Christgau...what a jerk...) to the extent that the "other half" of McCartney is constantly ignored or at least overlooked, often by McCartney himself.

That's why it's such a relief to finally see the critics and the public at least begin to acknowledge McCartney's "other side," and that he is fully capable of producing a work that is so thoroughly resistant to convention. There was always a weirdness to McCartney's mid- to late Beatles work that doesn't get enough attention, and he delves into those long thought lost peculiarities here with a vitality that is peerless.

McCartney's two sides are fused here, really. "Sing the Changes" and "Dance til We're High," for instance, are beautifully textured works of ambient nuance that simultaneously, with very their McCartney-esque melodic hooks, could and should be massive hits.

Of course, considerable credit should be afforded Youth. Their chemistry is such that I hope the collaboration expands into still-greater territories.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2009 1:40 PM PST


Wacky Packages
Wacky Packages
by The Topps Company
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.61
81 used & new from $4.00

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wormy, June 29, 2008
This review is from: Wacky Packages (Hardcover)
This is (at least one of) the logical extensions of Warhol, to the extent that the representation and/or the "idea" of the product is theoretically no different than the product itself. Actually, it's more interesting than Warhol; it's satire that is automatic, mass produced, and not the least bit funny.

Yes, the reproductions are unreasonably beautiful, and I'm not just saying that because I had a Wacky Packages fetish when I was a kid. "Hawaiian Punks" has always been my favorite. There is something about the red and green mushed-up glob of a former human being, as he seems to ooze off the sticker, that is just as transfixing to my adult eye as it was to my far less discriminating 10-year-old self.

This is cultural detritus raised to an utterly undeserved level. I feel like tearing all of the pages out and framing them properly. The apocalypse will be arriving when?


Popeye
Popeye
DVD ~ Robin Williams
Offered by Phase 3, LLC
Price: $8.15
64 used & new from $0.26

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love It or Hate It...Who Cares?, June 13, 2008
This review is from: Popeye (DVD)
Sure, POPEYE doesn't fulfill conventional expectations, but Altman chose (perhaps as a snarky contrarian to Disney and Paramount, his financiers) to deliberately produce a film that retained the context of the original Segar cartoons and the Dada antics of the Fleischer cartoons at the expense of making a fun, forgetful, and irrelevant cookie-cutter film for the whole family.

Jules Feiffer, the film's screenwriter and one of the great keepers of the Segar/Popeye flame (and someone who understands the iconic value of Popeye better than anyone I can think of), thought Altman restored the spirit of Segar's original strips, saving it, effectively, from the decades of mainstream mediocrity that Popeye suffered from, largely as a result of the patriotic exploitation of the character in the wake of World War II.

I watch and greatly appreciate this film for what Altman is doing with the Popeye "legend,'" and not for its (lack of) entertainment value (which, ipso facto, makes me an "Altman apologist." Yeah, right. Whatever).

Let's put one ignorant myth to rest, shall we? POPEYE was not a bomb. This tall tale was promulgated by a few egomaniacs in the industry who wanted to bury both the film and Altman's career. It did have a problematic production history, as did dozens of films from this era, a time when the studios were going through a major upheaval and wound up playing it extremely safe in the 1980s. Altman (along with nearly all of the great or at least interesting auteurs of the 1970s) became persona non grata practically overnight.

But let's not let history get in the way of opinion...


Thriller, 25th Anniversary Edition
Thriller, 25th Anniversary Edition
Price: $15.99
103 used & new from $0.98

1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Few Thoughts, May 29, 2008
Someone once told me this is the biggest selling album ever.

The sequencing is pretty screwy. The song "Thriller" should have ended side 2.

I believe Billie Jean's side of the story.

Why didn't they include "Stranger in Moscow"?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2008 8:10 PM PDT


Beatles for Sale (1990)
Beatles for Sale (1990)
Offered by Digital Wax
Price: $16.29
176 used & new from $0.10

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Beatles Album...Cover..., May 28, 2008
This review is from: Beatles for Sale (1990) (Audio CD)
First, the album cover itself is probably my favorite image of the Beatles. Very impressionistic, it reveals the first concentrated inkling of maturity. Image-wise, it's as big a leap from the A HARD DAY'S NIGHT album cover as the WHITE ALBUM'S "blankness" was from the density of the more iconic SGT. PEPPER cover.

This is important, given the image-consciousness of the Beatles. They really were making a definitive statement of what it meant to be a Beatle, a year or so into full-blown Beatlemania. It was their first declarative turn away from the youthful vigor of their first mass-marketed image. Pretty daring.

The originally-penned songs on the album sonically express the exhaustion and disillusionment displayed visually. Both Lennon's and McCartney's songs are profoundly confessional, in a way I think that matches the similar subjects and sensibilities of RUBBER SOUL a year later. One of the major revelations regarding the depth of the Beatles I've ever had was when I discovered just how dark an album RUBBER SOUL truly is (nearly every song is pessimistic about romance and relationships), while the second great revelation was to discover just how dark BEATLES FOR SALE is. Critics tend to position the Beatles as naive idealists (especially McCartney...get over it..wrong!), but these two albums reveal otherwise (okay, "Eight Days A Week" is relatively cheery).

Perhaps the one minor drawback is the reliance on cover versions, of which there are several. Nothing wrong with them, but the original tunes would make for an exceptional 9-song EP on their own (if EPs could run that long). Is "Mr. Moonlight" a joke? I've been listening for 30 years, and I still can't tell, which is at least partially what makes it so interesting.

Best song? "I'll Follow the Sun." Second best? "No Reply."


Help!
Help!
DVD ~ The Beatles
Price: $25.06
43 used & new from $16.89

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sleepwalking Beatles, April 29, 2008
This review is from: Help! (DVD)
In spite of being in the right place at the right time, Richard Lester never was (and still isn't, I suppose) all that great of a director. He has ruined many a possibly good film with cornball theatrics.

While it is extremely important culturally (and a far superior film than HELP!), I'm not much of an avid fan of A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, either (the Beatles movies don't really get good until MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR - yes, that one is flawed too, but it's still a fascinating, psychedelic home movie). When Lester just allows the Beatles to be the Beatles in both films, they are pretty sublime. When he actually makes them do stuff, they come off as really stilted. The best moment in HELP! comes early, when the Beatles are just hanging out in their one-room/four-bed flat, or later when they are hanging out in Buckingham Palace, somewhat sordidly talking about chopping Ringo's finger off.

In contrast with these fleeting moments, the cheap parody of James Bond action and iconography that comprises the rest of the film is joylessly uninspired. To see the Beatles at the mercy of a half-baked romp just feels like a massively wasted opportunity. The great cast (especially Eleanor Bron) is similarly stranded with little to do. The Monkees did a much better job with this kind of mediocre material.

After having seen the film on this recently restored dvd (and the film does look great, especially all the musical numbers, which make viewing/owning the dvd worthwhile), I was struck by the near-paranoid anti-Indian xenophobia of the film. This is only months before George Harrison began embracing Indian music and philosophy; of the four bandmates, I imagine he hated this film most of all.


The Company
The Company
DVD ~ Neve Campbell
Price: $9.99
95 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sublime Altman Film Nobody Has Seen..., April 22, 2008
This review is from: The Company (DVD)
...and those who did saw it for the wrong reasons.

I prefer to consider this Altman's truly final film and therefore his final statement (PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, while quaintly amusing, is pretty anemic, not surprising given Altman's health during production). It has all the markings of an artist coming to terms with his Muse and/or Moloch. The melodrama, while sufficiently engaging, plays more like a fading illusion, relegated to the backdrop of Altman's preferences for the blurred, interrelated, and dream-like fantasia of the stage and the cinema.

To only judge this on dance and not on Altman's penchant for avant-garde narrative is entirely too reductive.


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