Monday, August 20, 2007

Prolegomenon // Only entertainment: "Superbad" and "No End in Sight" // Drum and brass, continued

god, i've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: the longer i wait between posts, the more daunting this damn blog is. i've concluded that it's more stressful to not have an editor than to have one. if i'm writing for a magazine, i know i'm going to have to focus. if i'm on here, i've got this dangerous freedom. i feel this crazy obligation to cover every little thing i'm checking out.

which is impossible. it only leads to the problem of perceived unfinished business. i guess i'd sum it up by saying: don't expect any continuity from me. if i promise a series, i might not deliver. serial posts are hard b/c i'm already on to the next interest by the time i'm ready to continue. that's sort of my nature--ADD. it annoys me sometimes, but i can't really fight it.

anyway sorry to Fred Erskine for leaving him in the lurch, but that is how it's going to be right now...


i'd highly recommend that you see both "Superbad" and "No End in Sight." both are great summer fun.

ok, that's a joke, but is it that far from the truth? is a topical, even grave documentary any less entertaining or diverting on a fundamental level than a teen sex comedy? it's still "going to the movies," after all. i can't be sure, but i think i remember scarfing popcorn during "No End."

anyway, "Superbad" first. i laughed my ass off, as did my companions Laal and Joe. we had some really good nachos too. but anyway, yeah, there are too many funny scenes to count. i found it way funnier than "Knocked Up," which i thought was pretty overrated. "Superbad" just flowed right along, and the sentimental stuff felt totally natural; i felt that "Knocked Up" got too much credit for being "sweet"--really it was just sort of confused.

ANYWAY, wanted to point out something interesting about "Superbad." after the movie, Joe gave voice to something i'd been thinking while watching it--it's true! i'm not just trying to steal my friend's thunder--which is how pivotal the inscrutable, irreducible funniness of the name "McLovin" is to the movie's success. it's fucking unbelievable how many jokes in that movie boil down to the simple utterance of that word. my favorite is this part when Seth Rogen, playing a cop, just shakes his head and goes, "McLovin, McLovin, McLovin...." see? it's not even a fucking joke! there's just something about that name that's so goddamn funny. you're probably not laughing at it now, but just you wait... i just wish i could have been at the brainstorming sesh that yielded that name. i said to Joe that maybe that's why the damn movie was in the works for so long, because they just needed to find the perfect name.

ok, as for "No End in Sight", i LOVED this too. if you haven't heard of it, it's basically a step by step indictment of the Iraq War efforts, all based on interviews w/ government and military whistleblowers. i'm not sure if reviewers were copying each other, but tons of write-ups contained lines like "this is not a leftist screed" or "no left-wing harangue...." whoever's mimicking who, there's an important point there, which is that all the testimony is from the mouths of people who are not against the war per se but against the incompetence with which it has been handled.

anyway, the testimony is devastating. i've gotta just put this out there: i am very ignorant when it comes to current events. i hold a fundamental belief that this war is bullshit, but i didn't know half of the stuff presented in this movie. if you follow the news, you probably do. but to see it presented in such a clearheaded fashion and with such a mountain of evidence--not to mention with the supercool Campbell Scott narrating--is pretty overwhelming. this film is really the ultimate expression of patriotic disillusionment. time and time again you hear from men and women who wanted desperately to serve their country, but were stymied by bureaucratic incompetence. (for more on that, check out this insane article that Laal dug up on General Antonio Taguba's ill-fated investigations into the Abu Ghraib scandal.)

i feel stupid admitting this, but i said to Laal afterwards that if all news were that riveting, i'd be a lot better informed. of course you're not going to get a cogent, striking-looking documentary summing up every day's worth of news, but i wish i knew where i could go to find current events presented in an accessible, engaging way. maybe it's too much to ask? maybe facts can only be presented as a pointed argument when they become part of the bigger picture. but it's that bigger picture that i miss when i read the daily paper. anyway, thank god for this film.

note: did not report it on here, but Laal and i recently finished Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point." i really enjoyed a lot of the research, though at times i got freaked that i was reading nothing more than a business manual. the thing about a social-theory type book of that nature is that you start seeing its applications everywhere. Joe brought up its direct relevance to "No End in Sight" and he's dead-on. Gladwell speaks of the "broken window" theory, or essentially the idea that general cleanliness and orderliness of surroundings is a deterrent to crime. you see in "No End in Sight" how the first step in Iraq's descent into lawlessness was that the Americans did nothing to stop the looting in Baghdad--they just let the citizens wreak havoc on the city and thus the society itself started crumbling.


ok, i want to just quickly tip my hat to trumpet (or cornet) and drums duets, which have been striking my fancy of late. Taylor got the ball rolling here in style a little while back, discussing the Olu Dara and Phillip Wilson duo record "Esoteric" in a Destination Out guest post. missed those damn mp3s though--can someone repost?

a bit later, i commented on the scarcity of the format relative to the sax-drums phenomenon in a Time Out piece on Taylor himself and Tomas Fujiwara.

so my interest in this configuration was rekindled yesterday when i came across "Bugle Boy Bop," a really nice 1977 duo LP on Muse by Lester Bowie and Charles "Bobo" Shaw, an on-record cementing of the Chicago/St. Louis axis that was such a big part of '70s jazz. here's a really strong track from that session, which features some gorgeous tranced-out vamping from Shaw, in a kind of frenzied, constantly recombinant odd-time, cyclical mode. i think his basic pulse is a five-beat figure, but he's constantly shifting the center, adding and subtracting beats. Bowie leaves gaping spaces and just rides the spiral...

Lester Bowie and Charles "Bobo" Shaw - Cootie's Caravan Fan
(from "Bugle Boy Bop" on Muse, rec. 2/5/77)

fortunately there's a Max Roach parallel, i.e. the duo records he made with Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie (not sure if both are ALL duo, but i know there are at least some pieces on each with just the two dudes in question). i unfortunately do not own these, but just hearing the samples on Amazon, i'm blown away. Taylor was not kidding when he said in the aforementioned D:O post that Max and Diz were playing free on the later. this is some masterful, wide-open shit.

the next one i need to dig into is this Lester Bowie/Phillip Wilson duet from '78. actually here is a track from that one, the brief opener, entitled simply "Duet"

Lester Bowie and Phillip Wilson - Duet
(from "Duet," on Improvising Artists, rec. 1/19/78; actually it looks as though you can still order this on CD from the label here.)

Wilson is on to some seriously hip and sublimated funk here. this is basically a warm-up, but it's simmering. Bowie's just wading in and testing out the water. and it seems that it feels really, really good. can't wait to dig into the rest of this beast...


johnnn said...

the relatively sharp division in bropinions on Superbad v Knocked Up is kind of weirding me out! I swear to god, I laughed probably 3x as often and 2x as hard on average during Knocked Up, I was significantly underwhelmed, even a little bummed out by Superbad! and it seems totally obvious to me, like, KU has Paul Rudd and a million hilarious supporting roles, neither the leads nor the minor characters were as funny in SB, or so it clearly seems to me. Aron and basement roomie Todd agrees, but Judd and Jeff and apparently you are convinced of the opposite? we can talk about this tonight maybe if it isn't too divisive

Peter Breslin said...

Hi- many thanks for the wonderful uploads of drum/brass duets.