Categories
Watching

Who Is Harry Nilsson?

Just watched this doc­u­men­tary. Only a hand­ful of artists meet a trag­ic end like this, where their fame endures long after their tal­ent burns out. My old boss at TLA Video, Adri­an Hick­man, used to play Nils­son often at the store. I did­n’t have an ear for it then, but lis­ten­ing to his voice com­plete­ly blew me away. Nils­son was­n’t just a great pop singer/songwriter; the guy was an auteur like Orson Welles, craft­ing a work so dense and poet­ic only to have it undo him.

My favorite part of the doc­u­men­tary? See­ing Nils­son at the height of his fame, par­ty­ing with the Bea­t­les and Elton John. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pho­to mon­tage as thrilling, laugh­ing mani­a­cal­ly at pho­tos that would make fans of The Hang­over blanch. Watch­ing inter­views with guys like Bri­an Wil­son and Van Dyke Parks gave me a sense that Nils­son was­n’t just some maudlin pop singer, but a guy who was liv­ing every moment to the fullest. Equal­ly impor­tant, he set lofty goals and achieved them. He did it all. He did it fast.

Maybe it’s because I’m get­ting old­er, but artists like Har­ry Nils­son appeal to me more now, just as I find myself appre­ci­at­ing vet­er­an ballplay­ers who are still giv­ing it a go long after they’ve been writ­ten off by con­ven­tion­al wis­dom. Makes you won­der how any artist made it through the ’70s alive. Did­n’t mat­ter if you were punk or posh, chances are you were doing things that did con­sid­er­able harm to your per­son.

Come clean and admit your favorite ’70s rock­ers here. And, yes, you can like the Adverts and X‑Ray Spex and still be total­ly smit­ten with Elton John.

Categories
Watching

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Helen and I have had a hell of a time watch­ing movies late­ly. Between work and rais­ing a very active 17-month-old baby, it’s hard to watch any­thing more than a few sit­coms before pass­ing out on the couch. We ral­lied last night to watch a full-length fea­ture for the first time in months and watched the inter­na­tion­al hit, The Girl With the Drag­on Tat­too. What bet­ter way to cel­e­brat­ing scal­ing back on our Net­flix sub­scrip­tion than by stream­ing a movie, right?

You’ll have to for­give me for not read­ing the books, but when my Dan­ish host mom rec­om­mend­ed them to Helen and me back when we vis­it­ed them in ’09, I had a hunch they’d be here soon. It’s a grue­some sto­ry poor­ly told; Helen, who has read the book, explained that they real­ly took lib­er­ties with it and I can’t right­ly say it was for the best, but where it does­n’t suc­ceed as an adap­ta­tion, it works as a thriller.

Lis­beth Salan­der reads like a more emo­tion­al­ly tor­ment­ed Jason Bourne, with even less insight into her trou­bled past. She’s a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter who’s absolute­ly cap­ti­vat­ing onscreen. The main prob­lem with the movie is that the sto­ry can’t seem to get out of its own way at times. The ham­fist­ed direc­tor ham­mers home in every pos­si­ble frame just how atro­cious and psy­chot­ic these crimes are, as if the audi­ence had­n’t ascer­tained that already. Hope­ful­ly that improves in future install­ments.

My biggest wor­ry about The Girl With the Drag­on Tat­too? That peo­ple will over­state the influ­ence of the Swedish Nazi Par­ty. The Swedes have their faults, but being Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers isn’t one of them.

Categories
Watching

In Praise of Step Brothers

It goes with­out say­ing that this is the sec­ond com­ing of Office Space. It’s the kind of movie that does­n’t scream at you to see it in the the­ater, but once you give it a shot on the ol’ boob tube, you can’t help but be sucked in by its silli­ness. I have a great love of many seri­ous movies and direc­tors, but I may have seen this movie more in the past year and a half than any oth­er movie in my life.

I hat­ed Tal­lade­ga Nights. Thought it was stu­pid. Could­n’t fin­ish it. Put the same cast — minus Borat — in a dif­fer­ent set­ting: com­e­dy gold. You can watch my favorite scene above. (It con­tains some strong lan­guage, so, fair warn­ing.) I think I just love the bonkers premise that these two man-chil­dren might become step broth­ers and then real­ize that they’re soul mates. I think it’s so sim­ple that it cre­ates an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the actors to real­ly flesh out just how dement­ed their char­ac­ters are and the dys­func­tion is a delight.

You haven’t seen it? What are you doing!? It’s been on on-demand for, like, over a year!

I’m sad­dened that there will be no Step Broth­ers 2. I had a treat­ment for a sequel. I’m seri­ous! Adam McK­ay, if you ever Google your­self — and I’m sure you do — be in touch. I know Para­mount shot you down, but if that doc­u­men­tary Entourage is any indi­ca­tion, Hol­ly­wood’s just loaded with sec­ond chances. You’re total­ly bet­ter than Vin­nie Chase, man. Call me.

Categories
Watching

I Saw Get Low

Well, I sort of saw Get Low. There were a few spots where I closed my eyes just for a minute. Yeah, even the Ritzes get bad movies in August. It just did­n’t hang togeth­er very well. And I was sleepy after that deli­cious din­ner at Zahav.

I will say that Robert Duvall was great and it’s already evi­dent that Bill Mur­ray could be the most under­rat­ed star of my life­time.

Categories
Watching

Crazy Heart

What an affect­ing film. Worth watch­ing twice, trust me. It has an inter­est­ing back­sto­ry, too. Orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed for a direct-to-video release, before Fox Search­light gave it a shot at the­atri­cal release. Hard to believe a movie with Jeff Bridges, Mag­gie Gyl­len­haal, Col­in Far­rell, and Robert Duvall would go direct-to-video. It’s the stuff the movie busi­ness eats up! It’s a music biopic! Remem­ber Walk the Line and Ray?

Bet­ter than either of those movies, Crazy Heart does­n’t bite off more than it can chew. We don’t get Bad Blake’s life sto­ry; rather, we see him in his twi­light years, fall down drunk and at the end of his rope. His songs are proof that he once had a career worth talk­ing about. He’s Hag­gard and Jen­nings and Kristof­fer­son and it’s amaz­ing to watch unrav­el. Shame that Bridges won the Oscar for a com­pos­ite char­ac­ter, but he chan­nels the Out­law ethos so per­fect­ly.

The music’s not half bad either, and I have his­tor­i­cal­ly hat­ed any­thing T‑Bone Bur­nett touch­es.