21 October 2007

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Honesty's the only thing that matters, right? People like Johnston 'cause he lays out all his vulnerability and romance and sadness and doesn't hold anything back. His proto-Oberst quivering and ham-fisted chord strums are charming, but the fact he had no choice but to sit in a basement and record hours and hours and hours of naive mash notes made the cool kids swoon and lecture their friends about genius, goddamnit.

Or maybe they just like the mental illness, demonophobia, and XXXL sweatpants.

14 October 2007

You're Gonna Miss Me

Reviews were never the intention of the Highland Cinema. What came to mind, now that was the intention. So here's a few thoughts I had during this one:

(1) There's no reason you should listen to shitty music. None. You have no excuse. I'm not here to convince you Roky Erickson is some genius or visionary or that he's the reason you shouldn't listen to shitty music, but in this sad and beautiful world where there's so many fucking bands out there you're a real idiot if you're gonna listen to junk like "Ridin' With the King." See, here at the Highland Cinema we thought we knew everything we needed to know about the cool and angry post-punk rock music of the 1980s. We had all the Big Black and Butthole Surfers records. We knew the names of the guys in the Birthday Party and the Swans. But you know what? We found out there was a whole shitload of music we didn't know anything about! Nothing. Turns that before Reagan took office there was a whole lot of fucked up proto-industrial noise and weird rock bands out there. Whitehouse, NON, Helios Creed, Chrome, Throbbing Gristle...the list goes on and on and on and on. And how about Jandek or Can or Keiji Haino? Guys who've been putting out wicked strange records for a long long time. There's a TON of really really really interesting music out there, music you may not like or get, but music that you might as well expose yourself to since you're just gonna die pretty soon and no one wants to hear you complain about Nickelback all day. Lucky for you, this modern age has rendered your musical pretension only a few clicks away! Why, just look at me! Thanks to Mark Prindle, Electrical Audio, and Steve I listen to all kinds of stuff I never would've found on Clear Channel. In just the past few months alone I bought a super-girlified pop record, the Pig Destroyer catalog, and sat through two hours of shrieking bass feedback. I might just pick up some more ambient drone before I listen to even more black metal. Keep in mind that all this stuff is completely new to me and I didn't think I'd ever dig any of it. It's all stuff I found out about as an adult and then really enjoyed as an adult. There's no reason to grow out of anything.

(2) Just like Crumb, this Erickson family is fucked up. If you just peruse Roky's bio you'll see a big ol' tragedy of mental illness, but when I sat here and watched this thing I had a hard time getting past the fact that Mama Erickson has some serious problems of her own what with her hoarding and religious fanaticism and vehement distrust of the medical industry. And then there's younger brother Sumner Erickson, a guy who seems so noble the way he fought a court battle to get custody of the middle-aged Roky just so he could get the guy's schizophrenia under control and turn him into a productive citizen. Looks like it all worked out so well, right? Not three months back Roky played right down the street at Bumbershoot like a real functional music-makin' adult would. But watch You're Gonna Miss Me's bonus feature and catch how Sumner talks about how mental illness is a way of acting rather than a chemical imbalance. Wait, what? Are you serious? His story's just as much documentary fodder as Roky's is, no doubt. Picture it: younger brother of nutcase cult rocker rises out of his dysfunctional family to become wealthy Philharmonic tuba player and New Age devotee. Wow! Sign me up!

(3) This movie was really good. It's always nice to know that you started a movie feeling like you didn't know shit about someone and by the end feel like you truly got it. All of it. Why the music was important. Why the story was important. Why Thurston Moore, Byron Coley, and the fucking Austin City Limits give two shits about the guy. Bravo.

09 October 2007


Zombies and yakuza! Yakuza and zombies! Man, what a sales pitch! Has anything ever sounded so cool? Of course not! Fortunately for us, Versus is a pretty darn good flick, a great story of an escaped convict as he's chased by legitimate businessmen through a forest that both brings the dead back to life and is a portal to the netherworld. Yeah! Here at the Cinema, we found the extended sequence of the undead rising from their arboreal graves to terrorize their mafioso killers to be as outstanding as anything to ever come out of Japan. And the Peter Jackson-styled comedy and even more Peter Jackson-styled blood flow?!?!? Unbelievable!

07 October 2007


There's this guy on the Electrical Audio forum who has the Pixote poster as his signature. That means that three or four or (most likely) five times each and every day I see that weird lookin' movie pic with the even weirder lookin' kid staring at me. Eventually I figure, shit, I oughta look up this Pixote flick to see what the deal is, and thanks to the magic of these here Internets I find out it's a critically acclaimed picture about Brazilian street kids! Real life kids plucked right off the street and told to play fictionalized versions of themselves just for your viewing pleasure. "Whoa, sign me up!" I said.

Unfortunately, the US of A has yet to make this one available on the home market.

But, hey, that's no prob, right? Resourceful guy that I am, I decide all I need to satiate my filmic favela fever is some of them other flicks directed by Hector Babenco. Surely he'd have something else (and something easier to find) that'd help me pass my time. So I click on them imdb hyperlinks and settled on 2003's Carandiru, a picture that I thought would be all about the 1992 Sao Paolo prison riot so famous Sepultura wrote a song about it. Problem is, this movie is more a fictionalized account of fictionalized accounts of some of the inmates and their woeful stories of poor heat of the moment decision making. Turns out only the last half-hour involves the Policia, the rest of the thing is the noble tale of a doctor who wants to quell the HIV wildfire, the sweet tale of a guy who marries a drag queen, and the sad tale of a nice kid who shot some guys that messed with his sister.

So, yeah, I was a bit disappointed. I mean, wouldn't you be? Keep in mind that Carandiru is still a pleasant way to spend your IFC-viewing time. It's got lots of over-saturated lighting and sweaty overcrowding, and with all its dingy prison stuff and subtitles you're bound to feel better about yourself, like you're real smart and liberal and you actually care about the plight of foreign peoples and the charisma of their not-so-different-from-us cultures. And as an added bonus, this flick is tame with the brutality so you won't feel like a total scumbag!

03 October 2007

Cannibal Holocaust

Holy shit, this movie is so fucked up the DVD player broke for two days when we tried to watch the bonus disc. The goddamn bonus disc! The one with the interviews and biographies and making-ofs. We're still scared about what may have happened had we popped in the regular feature disc, the one with all the grotesque animal slaughter, impalement, castration, dismemberment, ethnocentrism, bludgeoning, and bloody misogyny that made Cannibal Holocaust the deplorable exploitation classic it is today. Nope, before we could even push play on any of that stuff our Bose 321 took five and stepped out for a smoke. We hope he'll recover.