27 April 2008

"Whoever You Are -- I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers."

Given the 1939 film Gone With The Wind's impact on American culture, it is almost reflexive to assume Scarlett O'Hara was Vivien Leigh's greatest American film role. But not by me, baby. I'll take Ms. Leigh as Blanche Dubois in the film adaptation, by director Elia Kazan, of Tennessee Williams' masterwork A Streetcar Named Desire any day.

A Pulitzer Prize winning play, a landmark film -- and Ms. Leigh, on the verge of cracking from her bipolar disorder, bringing insights from her illness to her performance. She earned an Oscar for this performance, the hard way. Tennessee Williams himself stated that Ms. Leigh brought to the role "everything that I intended, and much that I had never dreamed of". Ms. Leigh would later say that playing this role, both extensively on the London stage and also in the film, "tipped me over into madness." (See Holden, A., Olivier, 1989, pp. 312-313.)

And I haven't even mentioned this is Marlon Brando's breakout film role, co-starring as Stanley Kowalski.

This film has it all: delicacy, fragility, brutality, cruelty -- honor lost and honor never found, love blinded by passion -- smashing early 1950's conventions, all on stage sets of a working class section of New Orleans' French Quarter. It all adds up to more talent successfully converging than the law should allow.

A Streetcar Named Desire is an essential, must-see film.

22 April 2008

"Adam Raised a Cain", Bruce Springsteen: Stockholm 1993 (acoustic)


Bruce Springsteen's studio version of this 1978 song -- and live versions from the supporting Darkness on the Edge of Town tour -- are absolute audio fire. Here's a fine, acoustic live version that cools things down without diminishing the power of the song or performance.

16 April 2008

Career Cultural Contribution Pulitzer for Dylan This Year

Bob Dylan, cover photo for Blonde on Blonde (1966)

In the Arts category for 2008 Pulitzer Prizes, Bob Dylan won recognition "for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

Well and truly stated. For anyone asking themselves "why?" right now, check out Martin Scorsese's documentary No Director Home. Filled with archival footage and great interview clips, including Dylan himself, this film covers Dylan's career from his youth growing up in small town Minnesota to his motorcycle accident in 1966. And that's only the beginning of the story. Bob Dylan has continued his cultural contribution for more than 45 years and is still tearing up the rock and folk highways.

The Pulitzer committee's way of describing Dylan's contribution is well-crafted but bland English. Let's translate it into the language of rock 'n roll. Bruce Springsteen described the first time he heard Dylan's groundbreaking single, Like a Rolling Stone: "that snare shot sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind… I knew that I was listening to the toughest voice that I had ever heard."

11 April 2008

"Shine a Light": To IMAX or not to IMAX

Buddy Guy (left) and Keith Richards trade licks in Shine A Light (2008)

I saw Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film Shine a Light last night, in IMAX format. I'll have more to say about this great rock film later. Right now I just want to get this news flash up.

Los Angeles Times film critic Glenn Whipp starts his review out just fine, but he and I part company on a technical point quickly. Whipp writes:
Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert documentary "Shine a Light" is a blast of fresh air blowing through the staleness of what has been, up till now, an abysmal movie year. Powerful in its energy, sparkling in its intimacy, the film captures the self-proclaimed world's greatest rock 'n' roll band still at the height of its performance powers during a two-night stint at Manhattan's small Beacon Theater in late 2006. ....
Mr. Whipp and I agree that a big screen theater is the ideal format to see this film. Unlike Whipp, however, I recommend against seeing it in IMAX format. Almost everything Scorsese adds to the film is neutralized by the overly large display format. Scorsese shot it to be seen on a rectangular wide screen with a great sound system. See it that way. If you're an old fan like me, you'll fall in love with the Stones all over again.

I can't wait to see it again in a regular theater.

07 April 2008

John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana: "The Healer"


This is the kind of musical chemistry that keeps my world turning.

Thanks to The Agitator for posting it and my colleague at Carnal Reason for turning me on to it.

Now sit back and roll with the groove.

02 April 2008

Pride (In The Name of Love)

Last year on April 4th, I put up a short post about the meaning of this day to me. Here's the music that goes with that post.

U2, Pride (In The Name of Love), 1984