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Showing posts from May, 2017

Handle with Care

Sometimes you can't understand a song until you're the right age to really hear it. Grooving to the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle with Care" as a kid, I felt the loneliness, the wistful regret, and the tentative yet powerful sense of hope in its lyrics, but I didn't understand any of it. That would come later.
That's what happens once you live for a while: you get beaten down and battered 'round, you've been uptight and made a mess more often than you care to recall. If you're lucky, you find people you can lean on that will not only accept but also return your love. Most importantly, they'll handle you with care.
The song is such a nakedly honest declaration of loneliness, about feeling like a screw up, while reflecting on the various messes that make up a life. It's universal. Who hasn't been sent up and shot down? That's every day for most of us. We're all yearning for a way out of the loneliness, though: I still have som…

Writing Roundup: Movie and Music Reviews

I reviewed Christine (2016) recently for The After Movie Diner.

Wow. A few weeks since seeing it and I'm still processing my feelings. Even though I knew what was coming, it was still a gut-punch of epic proportions. That's because everything leading up to Christine's on-air suicide is so thoughtfully portrayed. It's a compassionately crafted film centered around one absolutely transcendent performance by Rebcecca Hall. In nearly every scene of the film, Hall is riveting, unforgettable, and heartbreaking. I haven't seen a better performance in years.

John Carpenter's classic Escape from New York is my latest Cult Classics Review at the Diner, and you can check that out here. Writing that review made me realize there are at least five Carpenter films that could each make my list of all-time top five films: Escape, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China. Very few filmmakers have ever equaled that quality. I sense an essay on…

Reading It, Part 3

It's been awhile since I've checked in here about It, but I've made my way to page 870 (less than 300 more to go!). I'd always heard that after a fast start things drag a bit in the second half; so far, that's been partly true. As a King fan, I'm more than happy to read his dialogue or narration and just get lost in his writing, which is always so immediate and forthright, but also at times reveals great depth. Even if things have gotten a bit bogged down in recent chapters—did we really need that many pages to reveal that Eddie's asthma is all in his head?—King is always able to right the ship, usually with an assist by another appearance from the ancient evil, Pennywise, which reminds us exactly how much danger lurks around every corner for these kids.

But it's the emotional beats in the relationships between the kids that's really drawn me in and made me care about them. Taking so many pages to tell their storie allows King to paint extremely ri…

RIP Chris Cornell

He was Louder Than Love.
When we were younger and knew nothing, people like Chris Cornell were our mentors, leading us down some interesting paths. They didn't have answers and they made that clear; they just made incredible, invigorating, heartbreaking, and memorable music that helped us get through most anything. "My Wave" was like a mantra:  Don't come over here
Piss on my gate
Save it just keep it off my wave I used to scour liner notes back then and when I discovered Cornell's music publishing name was "You Make Me Sick I Make Music" I thought, that's perfect. Take your defiance, your anger, your disgust with how cruel the world can be and channel it into something. Music, art, your friends and family, anything productive.

His death is devastating. To me, my friends, the world. Every time someone of his stature dies, people ask "You didn't know him personally, why do you care?" And I feel anger and a fury inside well up because t…

Desperate for Divinyls: Introduction

This is the introductory post in a series where I'll focus on songs from one band or musical artist, typically featuring one song per post. First band up? Australian rock royalty, Divinyls. The essays might vary in style and length, some might even focus on some aspect of the band and not just a song, but the plan is to simply get at the heart of why Divinyls' were a truly great band.

Divinyls were the first Aussie band to sign their initial deal with an American record company right out of the gate. Their career spanned nearly two decades and five studio albums and contained countless Australian hit singles and several international ones as well. Still, while the band is rightly revered in Australia, they're not nearly as popular in the U.S., where a lot of people know them mostly for the international mega-hit, "I Touch Myself." I've already written about when that song was ubiquitous on early 1990s radio and MTV as a way to explore generational conflicts …

An Appreciation: Shelley Duvall in The Shining

Admit it: it's nice to have our opinions validated. Those moments are usually uplifting, even invigorating. Recently reading this precise, critical analysis of Shelley Duvall's performance in one of my favorite films, The Shining, was one such moment.

I've always found Duvall to be astonishingly good as Wendy Torrance in The Shining. She breathes life into a thankless role, giving an absolutely heartbreaking performance as an abused spouse. In the annals of horror, few actors have expressed real, palpable terror any better than Duvall does in the chaotic final act, when tidal waves of blood gush from elevator doors, a man wearing a dog costume suddenly appears, and Jack is maniacally axing his way through the hotel towards her and Danny. That she claws her way out of that timidity and fear to be the hero of the story, fighting for her son's life with every last gasp, is all you need to know, really.
Yet over and over again, for decades, Duvall's been slagged off a…

It Came From the '90s: Polly Jean Meets Ze Monsta

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

In 1995, Polly Jean Harvey released her third studio album, and first proper solo outing, To Bring You My Love. It received near-universal praise and, while Harvey was already a star, helped elevate her into even greater worldwide stardom. This exceptional album retained elements of the awesomely heavy alt-blues rock sound of Dry and Rid of Me while adding more musical and lyrical textures to the mix. Its songs are about desire and loss, with many of them loaded with Biblical references and imagery. The album felt like a major artistic statement from Harvey at the time and hasn't lost any of its urgency over the years.

During the '95 tour supporting the album, Harvey elevated her live act to new heights as well. She exploded out of her shell, unleashing a new style, charisma, and electricity to her performances that only broadened her appeal. For proof, surf You…

It Came From the '90s: Falling Down

Joel Schumacher's 1992 film Falling Down has been on my mind a lot lately. It seems to have predicted a certain white-male-as-victim narrative that's playing out all over the United States today. April Wolfe looked back at the film recently for LA Weekly. It's a terrific article, examining both why the film works so well and how that may have contributed to audiences cheering on the main character ("D-Fens," played by a buzz-cut, bespectacled Michael Douglas). Yet, as Wolfe writes, he's clearly the villain, and that's only become more evident over the past twenty-five years.

What I didn't know before reading Wolfe's article was that Schumacher was filming Falling Down concurrently with the L.A. riots, in April '92. The smog in the opening traffic jam sequence? That's actually smoke from the raging fires less than a mile from where cast and crew were filming. Wolfe eloquently notes:
That Falling Down was filmed in L.A. amid the riots is both …