Friday, June 08, 2007

Best of the Week - June 8, 2007

Best Movie: Two words. El Topo. If you've seen El Topo, then you know what I'm talking about. If not, then here goes. This is a mystical western of-sorts. It's about spirituality and illumination and violence and destruction and love and fear. This film has only been available in the form of expensive European and Japanese imports for all my life, thanks to a feud between the writer/director/star, Alejandro Jodorowsky and the producer Allen Klein. However, they have made peace and now a remastered print of the film (along with Jodorowsky's other films, Fando y Lis and Holy Mountain) has been released on DVD in America for the first time.

The print is exquisite. I've seen the European import version and this tops it for clarity and vividness of color (the skies are pure blue and the blood is a shocking red). And there are no annoying fuzzed-out boxes covering the exposed genitalia like in the Japanese import. It's quite simply a gorgeous film, filled with image after image that I wish I could lay claim to as my own. The film is one continuous series of symbols and metaphors for the spiritual quest for transcendence. Everyone should see this, especially if one has a love of the more experimental westerns to come out of Italy in the mid to late sixties. This isn't Italian, but it really does take the tropes to come from those films (I'm thinking Django, and Django Kill -- If It Lives, Shoot!, especially) to a whole new level. It's brilliant and beautiful. If you like this, you should also try out some of his comics (Jodorowsky has written a number of fantastic comics, many of which are available in English translations. My personal favorites are Metabarons, Son of the Gun, and White Lama). They cover a wide variety of genres but all have a distinctly Jodorowsky-an exploration of spirituality, mysticism, and violence.

Best TV: Death Note continues to be excellent. I've finished the first season (which apparently corresponds to the first 6 volumes of the 12 volume manga series) and it ended with a pretty extreme shift to the status quo of the series. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but I wasn't expecting it to end the way it did, that's for sure. That's a plus in my book, so good on 'em. The first few episodes of season 2 have been interesting, again, taking the series in a different direction from where it started, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I miss Ryuk, though. He hasn't been seen since a few episode before season 1 wrapped, and I worry about the big lug. Hopefully I'll get to watch the next 7 episodes over the next week or so.

Anyway, this week's Doctor Who ("Family of Blood" - the second part to last week's outstanding "Human Nature") was unquestionably the best thing on the tube (or the "tubes" as I have to download it to watch). I'm not too proud to say that even without alcoholic enhancement, this episode brought a tear to my eye. It was that good. Great character work continued this week, and what the Doctor did to the baddies was brilliantly personalized and devastating. The Doctor is a bad-ass, no question about it.

Best Book: Notice the change in category? That's because I shifted the comics talk to its own entry this week. I haven't done a lot of reading outside of comics this time around, but I'm now about to begin the third and final part of Charles Stross' Accelerando. It's still holding up to be as good as I said it was last week (although the latest section I read wasn't as absorbing as what's come before. This could be the story itself, or the fact that I've been reading it in 5 and 10 minute installments during my breaks at work. Hmmmm. Probably the latter.), but there's still a ways to go. Hopefully I'll have it finished by next week.

Best Music: I'm giving three things a listen this week. The new Queens of the Stone Age CD Era Vulgaris, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, and Klaxons' Myth of the Near Future.

My impressions so far: QOTSA - not bad, but nothing really stands out as more than superficially interesting, although I dig the single "Sick Sick Sick" for some reason. It's more experimental than the rest of the album, maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. Something about the overall project just doesn't click with me. Just like their last CD. I really want to like this, and the band as a whole, but in the end, I'm just kind of indifferent to them. Don't dislike them, but they just don't make any impression at all on me.

Amy Winehouse -- What fucking year is it? Heh heh. Sorry about that. That was Mike Patton's response during a video interview at Lallapalooza last year when he suddenly heard Wolfmother playing. Still makes me laugh. But seriously, what fucking year is it? For retro cool it scores full marks. For embracing pure hedonism the CD also scores highly. But in the end it just seems like a novelty act. It reminds me most of The Squirrel Nut Zippers. I loved them when I first heard them, but after a while the experience of listening to them just became an empty one. I still enjoy them if a song shows up randomly on my MP3 player, but I've reached a point in my listening tastes where if I want to listen to retro music, it's easy enough to track down original work instead of contemporary bands copping classic styles. That said, this isn't bad. I just don't ever imagine being in the mood to listen to it. Maybe some songs will end up in a mix.

Klaxons -- I know, I mentioned them last week, but I'm still listening to them and really enjoying it. Although I will admit that they're not for everyone. They may be a little too light for some people, but to me, the light poppy elements are usually offset with a noisy undercurrent and lyrical references to subjects as varied as William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pyncheon. That and it just makes me happy listening to them. There are a few moments where I'm also reminded of the peak moments of Prince Charming-era Adam and the Ants. Yes, I have a weakness for that kind of stuff right alongside my fondness for classic metal, classic punk, and almost anything off of the Ipecac label. Go figure.

No comments:

Post a Comment