Saturday, June 19, 2010

101 Reasons Not To Watch This Movie?

In your lifetime, you'll discover a film about something so intriguing that it'll call your attention, only to discover that it,
unfortunately, suffers from many unnecessary issues; whether they be technical (like poor sound/image quality) or philosophical (the point behind the film, is it fully addressed?). There's a great, American documentary in this film. However, it suffers from so many issues that it will either turn you away or leave you wondering if what you just witnessed was completely uninspired.

The latter issue isn't warranted, because it is inspired. It's inspired by the brutality and seemingly idiotic nature of Professional Wrestling. A world often misunderstood and ridiculed. The mere idea that one would go out of their way to damage their bodies in a non- competitive arena for little to no pay, all in the pursuit of glory, is enough of a reason to witness any film on the subject. Its history and prevalence in society, how it reflects social norms and taboos, and the hierarchy and culture within that world are all subjects worthy of their own, independently made films. With 101 Reasons Not To Be a Pro Wrestler, your expectations are high. The director, Michael Moody, is one of the rare individuals "outside" of the professional wrestling world who has the ability to infiltrate and relay details of the secrets of that world; ignoring the obvious clichés ("It's FAKE!"). Unfortunately, he stumbles where he should triumph. A veritable, self-inflicted wound, not unlike the bumps that many of his subjects take on a regular basis (without the artistry and finesse of said performers).

The main issue with the film is its structure. There's a structure, but it's loose and often meanders. At times, the interviewer (Moody) asks the same question, or a similar one, from a few scenes earlier, completely negating the flow and evolution of the story. Some interview sections run too long, which could have benefited from some simple, solid, good editing. It almost seems like Moody wants to keep going back to the same topics/problems of the world of professional wrestling, like a friend who is supposedly "over" some indiscretions of the past, only to continuously bring them up years later. He wants to keep exploring these questions without limiting them into one area of the film. On the one hand, it's an admirable trait, seeing as though so
much can go unexplored by limiting your content. Yet, on the other hand, it's often the same thing; never adding anything new to the conversation. Thus, it's redundant and it ends up weighing the film down.

The technical issues run rampant, as well. I suppose he shot this film on his own, which, again, is noble. However, you really have to have a good idea of what you want (with talent to back it up) to pull off a successful solo mission, and this doesn't reflect that. He could have benefited from some serious help, like a small crew or even just a boom operator. His questions are hard to hear and he often fumbles on his words, indicating an unpreparedness and slight nervousness. That may not be his fault, but if he knew what he was getting into, then he could have been more poised and articulate. The image quality is inconsistent, with lighting being a major factor in it. It was probably difficult to fix the lighting issues in areas like bars and parking lots, but if you're making a film, why not pull all the stops?

Now, those are big issues and they devalue the film, but there is a potentially great film within. Moments of the film really pull you back in, and the "cinema verité-like" technique utilized in those moments are exceptionally interesting. In one scene, professional wrestlers New Jack and Vampiro, alongside members of the Insane Clown Posse, are filming a commercial. They have to set up a spot where Vampiro will power-bomb New Jack onto the back of a fake wood fence and onto a picnic table. Vampiro begins to fumble while trying to lift New Jack, and he enlists the help of various set members. It's a great scene in that it harshly jux-ta-poses the ability of the professional wrestler from what you see on television. On TV, the power-bomb is seamlessly executed. In this spot, it requires the help of 4 extra hands, then 8, then 12 and so on. It's a painful reminder that "being at your peak" is a relatively short-lived part of ones life, and that is considerably true in the world of professional wrestling. However, that scene is ruined by the interview that comes after, in which Vampiro explains that his leg, which was previously broken, couldn't sustain New Jack's weight. The beauty of the scene was what you were witnessing, and to evaluate it later only tarnishes it.

Another seemingly great scene is where Joanie Laurer, better remembered as Chyna, is celebrating with a few friends out on the parking lot. The sadness and naive, but pained joy of these characters are fully expressed in their actions. However, it, too, is tarnished by Moody interjecting and asking interview questions. Maybe that scene is also indicative of Moody's involvement with these people. I mean, he's there; he's the one who's holding a camera. But it doesn't illicit anything important or intriguing. Rather, it comes off as unnecessary and annoying.

However, the true great moment of this film is the scene in which New Jack and an unidentified (and painfully old) wrestler grapple in-ring. The lighting: harsh. The crowd: small but rowdy. The security: pathetic. The moves: stilted. The immediate exhaustion: prevalent. It has the makings of something reminiscent from the Maysles Brothers. It's beautiful in its painful exhibition of days gone by. The lonely and almost disgusting nature of it almost clues you in to what these people (both the crowd and the wrestlers) might be thinking on an average day, "Why keep going on?" It's such a masterful scene that I wish Moody had the insight and audacity to shape his entire film off of such moments. I'm glad it's the only one, however, as it serves to be the main attraction of this film and helps elucidate the message embedded in the title of the film, 101 Reasons Not To Be a Pro Wrestler.

There are other nice moments scattered throughout the film, like a small backstage segment and a trainer tending to a wrestler's (Rikishi) sprained ankle. But they're few and far in between. The greatest moment is the aforementioned match.

What Moody could have learned from this experience (and maybe from some training in film, although that's not entirely necessary or even warranted) is that his best moments are the moments when he's not speaking; when he's letting the camera point to what he's witnessing and allowing it to exist on its own merits. This isn't to say that the interview sections aren't important, or that we shouldn't hear him ask questions, but they didn't have to be the entire film. And if they were better executed (especially the sound), that they would have brought this film to an apex of sorts. I guess it's a trait of many "shoots," where wrestlers are interviewed on various topics (with no edits, whatsoever). They usually don't regard technical issues seriously and quality is not an issue. There's definitely something admirable about it, in which the harsh reality of the overall situation is emphasized. However, in a documentary film, it doesn't really serve to aid the film. There would have had to have been some form of artful rendering of such a nuance, but it's just not there.

101 Reasons Not To Be a Pro Wrestler is an interesting film, and it could have been a great film, but it falls flat almost entirely, if it were not for a few select scenes. I'd recommend this only to die-hard wrestling fanatics who vehemently support so-called shoot videos. But for cinephiles, it might not be worth it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

DAY 2: REVIEW 2: Action Packed: The Best of Jonathan Richman

A lot has been said about Jonathan Richman, from all the praises in the world to all the criticisms one can dish at the guy. Whether or not they're well-deserved is another issue, altogether. Personally? I don't know the guy, what he's like, but musically, he's pretty proficient, that's for sure.

I know that's too "neutral" for a review, and you'd probably like it if I used some sort of scathing adjective, but I'm not gonna. I just don't know that much about his personality. If anything, he reminds me of a friend of mine, who one day loves a certain "type" of music and will play it incessantly, only to change his mind a week or two later and head down a new path. Sure, it's a little erratic, but some of the greatest minds were, and if Richman isn't a great musical mind, then, what else could he be?

Richman left his original Modern Lovers in the dust, proclaiming he hated that kind of music and that he wanted to return to a more earthy, older sound, like Doo Wop or 50's Rock 'n Roll. His intentions were unknown to anyone but himself, but hey, is that really that important? He touched a natural nerve, and he really came into place with that sound.

This album is a collection; a greatest hits. I must confess that I don't own any of his true albums, aside from his stuff from the Modern Lovers, but that's mostly because I'm not such a big fan of his Doo Wop sound. I like Doo Wop, and I like this greatest hits album, but I'm not crazy about it. I just won't invest much more than I already have, basically.

As far this album goes: it's pretty nice. Catchy, heartfelt, soulful, simple, pretty, fun, sincere. I could go on, but it wouldn't be anything new from what could be said, already. He taps into that old-school, carefree world of a teenager whose biggest gripes are girls, love and rocking out. However, he openly talks about his wife and his married life within the context of a lovelorn teenager. It's that sort of small complexity that really gains depth and a sense of sincerity that only Richman can deliver.

Songs like "Closer" and "Everyday Clothes" put his concept into perspective. In "Closer," he talks about how he gets all tingly and mushy when he rubs up against his wife in bed. Spooning? Perhaps, but there's something so innocent about his emotional state that it diminishes the amount of dirtiness involved. Of course, that dirt is there. It wouldn't be Jonathan Richman without it. But the simple fact that he twists it into this adolescent fantasy really changes the shape of things. "Reno," a song about, you guessed it, partying it up in Reno, brings that out to a tee.

It starts to get grittier, however, by the "You're Crazy For Taking the Bus," in which he talks about traveling with outcasts and vile rednecks while heading to Salt Lake City. Yet, he's down for the ride, without any concern about those folks.

"The Neighbors," about a possible cheating Jonathan Richman (in the eyes of the community) is another mature song, that begins to transcend the fine line of well-intended innocence and his struggle dealing with the accusations of fellow adults. He must know that he's playing a dangerous card by flaunting a close, but platonic friendship with an attractive woman, but he understands the possible scandal, involved. See what I'm talking about? This shit is pretty dramatic, but he keeps that immature drawl and carelessness that comes with that territory. He's like the guy who's still a kid, with a nerdy sense of humor that almost everyone loves, except for his girl.

I could delve into each song, but it would be overkill. This album jumps back and forth between the much-maligned mature side of Jonathan Richman, and his beloved teenager inner self. The positioning of the tracks, hopefully, is meant to showcase that inner struggle, because they really leap from one to the other. It puts you inside his head, and although he hates being an adult, somewhat ("When I say Wife/ It sounds like a mortgage," in "When I Say Wife"), he can't help but love the fact that he's on his own, doing his own thing. It's nothing inspirational, but it's fun. You'd hang out with him, you'd be rockin', you'd be drinking cappuccino and you'd be partying in the U.S.A.

This album is pretty much an: A.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Okay, so apparently, magazines sometimes gave away rare and limited editions of vinyl LPs along with a particular issue of the magazine, itself. Sounds totally rad and, of course, painfully hard to obtain, right? Yes, both are absolutely true.

In this case, I came across this by accident. Illegally downloaded? Yes, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. I was originally looking for some stuff by an old band by the name of, Magazine. While I browsed the results of my search, I came across something that seemed peculiar, and in the interest of a good mystery, decided to download it. It turned out to be a super-rare compilation album that was released by the label, Sweatbox, along with a magazine entitled, Abstract Magazine Nº5. The LP contains 11 tracks (10 listed, 1 hidden) of underground music from the mid-to-late '80s, although two sources claim the LP and magazine, themselves, were released either in the Spring of 1995 or the Spring of 1985. Either way, it adds to the allure of its obscurity.

The first track of the album is by the band, Test Dept., with the track, Fuel Foundation of The Nation. It begins with a long speech by what seems to be a Scottish man who is a bit enraged by the youth of the day. It's a rather long intro to the actual song, which is a traditional bagpipe marching song. It, like any bagpipe music, elicits the feeling of a bittersweet, victorious sentiment. It also has a sort of "funeral-esque" element to it, which the drone of the bagpipes definitely helps to elevate. In many ways, it's a proper opening to this particular album. I'm going to assume, since most of the bands are from England, this is an English release, and thus the opening track really adds more depth to the coming experience.

This is followed by, Fire Eater (remix), by the band, The Wolfgang Press. This particular track is more of a minimalist, experimental piece. It's heavily drenched in percussive instruments with a bold, plucky bass to add an accent, along with a few moments of quiet noise splashed throughout. The vocals are quiet and submerged, which adds to the image that's being portrayed by the lyrics, "Who's out there/In the murky water." Midway through the song, an electric organ and what appears to be synthesized brass instrument appear, really pulling in a new dimension to the song. Seriously, this track is really impressive for its time. I mean, it sort of sounds like the Liars à la Drums Not Dead. By the end of the track, the noise begins to really pick up and a vibraphone quietly makes its way into the track before ending abruptly, which is reminiscent of the last gulp of life from the throat of a drowning victim (not that I know what that's like, though). A great track, indeed.

Next is the song, Fire and Water, by a band called, 400 Blows (Truffaut, anyone?). This is a much more experimental piece, laden in the clanks of large, metallic objects, the haunting repetitions of a ghostly woman, static and a pulsating, melodic heartbeat of a synth. It's really an eerie piece of music, following the water theme that was begun by the track before it. I feel like I'm in a cabin on a very rainy day in some remote part of a marsh while noises constantly echo through the woods, ensuring my insomnia to remain. I sense an early, but perhaps unknown, abstract noise pioneer in this band.

Up on the block is the song, Sealed in Skin, by Swans. They're actually a really influential American band, which helped progress the noise and post-punk movements; in other words, No Wave. This particular track is much harsher than the last two, with an emphasis on a repetitive piano stab and the heavy beats of the snare and tom, accented with a wrenching guitar. This sort of puts me on a slave ship or something, rowing away while the row master keeps time with his dreaded drums. Along with the instrumentation, the song is accompanied with vocals that resemble the throat singing of groups like Huun Huur Tu, although the song is far more creepy than anything I've heard from those guys. It gives off a sense of helplessness and discomfort that I could only imagine the experience of being sealed in skin would be like. Wait, aren't we all? Fuck it, I'm getting creeped out.

Up next is the song, Playtime, by the band, Cindytalk. This time, I don't think they were basing it on a French director, Tati. No, this track is far too unsettling to remind anyone of that pleasant romp. The song fades in with the droning of a bevy of noises, almost like smoke slowly rising from an unearthly, evil source. Added to that are the minimal drops of a wooden block, the crazed, sad shrieks of a wailing saxophone and, of course, a wrenching guitar. Underneath the noise, but over the sax, are the mumblings of a man and woman, who do not appear to be in a conversation, but rather tossing sentences at each other in a whisper. Schizophrenia seems to have taken center stage on this comp, so far.

The next track would have been, Manic (Remix), by Colourbox, but I don't seem to have it. I've searched, but it's not coming up. Therefore, I'll skip it until I can find it, and then I'll edit this review to include it in the future.

Following that track is Gene Loves Jezebel, with the song, Flame. Now, this song is a definite change of pace for the compilation, in that it's much more of a pop track than the experimental creepiness of the earlier tracks. It's a goth-dance-rock sort of track, and it doesn't skimp on the catchiness. It starts off with the stomping, driving beat of the drums along with a twangy guitar and a driving bass that really pulls you into it, immediately. And, they don't sound like The Cure! I love The Cure, but way too many bands sound almost like them, and this band does not. In fact, I have more of their stuff which will show up in future reviews. As far as this particular song goes, it's really well constructed and enthralling. It has elements of funk, bubblegum pop, soul, new wave, dance-punk, you know, generally good music from the 80s underground. The main guitar riff sort of has a jangly sound that's reminiscent of a harpsichord, which adds a layer of uncertainty and mystery to the track. Overall, probably the best track on the album.

Next is the song Maps In Her Wrists and Arms, by, And Also The Trees. It has a "quiet-loud-quiet" thing that a lot of modern post-rock and emotional indie rock utilizes, and it's not really a remarkable track, by any means. But it's thoroughly enjoyable, especially the chorus, which hits hard and heavy. Of course, it's going for the whole "mysterious/dark" thing that a lot of 80s bands at the time strived for, but so what? That shit rules. The band name is also pretty cool, although I would have thought it to be some noise-folk band from today under difference circumstances.

Following that track is, This Is The Place, by a band called, Nyam Nyam. This song is really well crafted. It's got the sort of emotion and power that really could have been a major hit, especially with the relatable lyrics of a relationship gone sour. Of course, the band was hit by the dreaded obscurity threatening any band that doesn't escape the throes of musics cemetery of indifference. The song is pulled in with a quiet, shimmering intro which drops us into a blast of jangly guitars, a breathing bass, a competent drum pattern and the obviously heart-wrenching lyrics on display, especially when the singer proclaims at the end, "I'm not sad, at all." You know, the sort of thing that you say to lie to yourself about how you really feel about that wretched, heartbreaking, bitc... Uhh, err, you know. A fantastic track, if sadly, an unrecognized one.

The Jazz Butcher follows it up with the song, Leaving It Up. This track is pretty rad. It showcases its influences pretty readily, in bands like Richard Hell and The Voidoids and The Fall. The swaying guitar really adds a nice touch to the song, and the vocalist really emotes, a bit like Robert Smith or Ian Curtis, but you know, can't blame them for that. Admittedly, the song could probably be a minute shorter, but it really keeps you up with the catchy chorus. I especially like the line, "We'll be safe like Sharon Tate/Get it on!/Get it on!" It's got the snarky, snarly confidence and the dark, brooding atmosphere that works with the other tracks, and that we all know and love.

Finally, the hidden track, Sentiment, by The Nursery. This is a return to form from the first few tracks, in that it's heavily percussive with the vocals drowned out. The difference is that the guitar drives the track forward along the percussion, with a high-pitched drone in the background. It's actually not that interesting of a song, but it really helps bring the album together, at the end, because it represents the pop-stylings of the later tracks and the noise-oriented atmosphere of the earlier tracks. A fitting end to a great compilation.

All in all, this compilation really helped me discover some new bands that I've never heard of, and allowed me to witness the possible influences of today's music in full. It's a great find, if a really rare one, and if I could ever get my hands on an actual copy, you know I'd definitely jump to the opportunity. I'd really recommend this if you're into goth rock or any form of underground music from the 1980s, especially the stuff coming out of places like England or New York City, at the time. It's a dark and brooding experience, but in the end, you'll feel slightly lifted.

Ch-ch-ch-check it out.


Sunday, January 3, 2010


I've decided that, for a while, I'm going to change things up here for a bit. I'm going to begin doing something that will take a very long time to complete, and it'll definitely be a courageous, trying at times, expedition.

Take a breath. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Just one more second. And... Let it go.

I will listen to every album on my itunes and then report what I thought of the album. I may even make a video to go with each post.


That's how long it'll take me to listen to everything, apparently.

See, I've realized two important things:

1.) I have a ton of music that I hardly listen to, if ever. What's the point of having all of that music if I'm just going to forget about it? I keep rediscovering stuff I had forgotten about, and stuff that I don't even remember obtaining. I could either delete the files or actually, you know, listen to them.

2.) I also feel that I've been listening to the same shit a lot, recently. Most of the time, I'll put my itunes on shuffle, but it always seems like it plays a lot of the same stuff. So, this will force me to listen to new stuff, and that's pretty rad.

Okay, so I'll begin tomorrow, and it'll be a fantastic voyage into the recesses of my musical interests. It'll be fascinating, confusing and all around fucking dope.

I hope you enjoy it and even check out tunes that you may have never heard. You know, really good music. There, I said it.