Movies »The Servant

directed by Joseph Losey (1963)

The quietly strange film The Servant grabbed my attention with subtle and indefinable tension. For an hour or so, I couldn’t quite tell why I was so intrigued.

This complex take on class struggle based on the novel by Robin Maugham, written by Harold Pinter, concerns an oblivious upper class young man named tony who has vague plans to make lots of money clearing Brazilian rain forests but can’t pour his own brandy.

Enter Hugo Barrett, a seemingly devoted manservant who slowly becomes integral to Tony’s existence. Bogarde’s performance is key to the movies success. he plays a soft spoken servant hiding the cruelty of a master manipulator. He’s both creepy in his surprising viciousness and alluring in his brazenness. Even naked in silhouette he’s fascinating to watch.

Inventive Cinematography, great use of music (“All Gone”, sung by Cleo Laine), and constant visual and palpable tension make this movie more than a mere social class allegory. It’s also quite beautiful, quietly homoerotic (though this might only be my interpretation) and one of those films that really gets under your skin.

On Netflix instant.

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Posted on October 12, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: The Playboy Club

on NBC, but not for Long

The success of Mad Men, which let’s face it, is the only reason this thing exists, yielded many lessons.

To name a few: people appreciate a fine attention to period detail, audiences can deal with deliberate paced and unconventional plot lines, that characters don’t have to be stereotypes to be interesting.

The only thing The Playboy Club seemed to gleam from it though was to get someone who sounds exactly like Don Draper. Close your eyes and listen – that guy must have listened to nothing but those Mercedes Benz ads for weeks to prepare for the role.

Otherwise, this is drivel. Young girl with big dreams, mobsters, a narration by Hugh Hefner from beyond the grave. No doubt the creators saw Scorsese in their ideas. More accurately, they brought Burlesque to the small screen without the camp and wagon wheel watusi. Which is a truly boring thing to see.

Van turned it off several times. Even babies aren’t impressed and they light up when a Pillow Pets commercial comes on.

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Posted on September 23, 2011

Albums »See What Tomorrow Brings

by Peter Paul and Mary (1965)

Peter Paul and Mary are mostly known for their hits Leaving on a Jet Plane (yay) and Puff the Magic Dragon (ehh) but See What Tomorrow Brings displays the trio’s diversity and their signature beautiful harmonizing.

From the bluesy lament of forbidden love in Tryin’ to Win to the medieval awesomeness of one of my favorites (obviously), Hangman (which of course makes me think of this gallows folk song) SWTB shows range.

I am also happy to find that it’s all refreshingly new to me. Even songs I am familiar with and associate with other singers (like The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face which belongs to Roberta Flack) are fun to hear in a new way.

In a prolific 50 year career, this album seems to have almost been forgotten but it is a fine folk experience that deserves to be remebered.

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Posted on August 30, 2011

Albums,Style Icons: Female »Comme à la Radio and Brigitte Fontaine

by Brigitte Fontaine (1969)

The strange and beautiful album Comme à la Radio by Brigitte Fontaine is like a marvelous magical mash up of some of my favorite things:

Take the sultry french vocals of Francois Hardy, add the discord of Morricone‘s jazzier scores, throw in the baritone tones of Nico at her most avant-garde and toss in the bizarre moodiness of Amon Duul II and you’ve got one album I simply cant resist getting excited about.

That such an interesting talent is not more well known is both a surprise and a fact that makes me happy with the world. If someone as cool and amazing as Fontaine was unknown to me, just imagine how many more gems are out there for my discovering.

This is another find I have my Pandora app to thank for. Le Goudron, one of the albums most universally listenable and fantastic tracks came on during a Quick Mix and I was beside myself.
Fontaine herself is fascinating. Not only was she a major figure in the French underground art scene of the 70’s, she’s relevant and active today incorporating electronic sounds into her music and collaborating with such artists as Sonic Youth, Jarvis Cocker and Grace Jones.

I might just be in love.

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Posted on August 19, 2011

Movies »The Endless Summer

directed by Bruce Brown (1966)

During this heatwave, nothing has been better to have playing in the background than the 1960’s surfer documentary, The Endless Summer.

The narration is dated and has the innocence and tone of a Disney movie, but in that way it’s quite charming.

Filmmaker Bruce Brown follows two friendly, handsome surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel the globe in search of perfect waves. In one quite amazing scene, they teach local African villagers how to surf.

It’s goofy and far from modern, but Endless Summer does a great job of romantisicing the nomadic, amiable, and free life of a surfer.

The cinematography, of which Roger Ebert said “almost makes you wonder if Hollywood hasn’t been trying too hard” is often beautiful and it’s always a fun era to see footage of.

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Posted on July 24, 2011

Songs »She Was Born To Be My Unicorn

by Tyrannosaurus Rex (1969)

We all know and love Marc Bolan and T Rex as a glam band but I was pleasantly surprised when Pandora offered up some early folky stuff.

It’s stunning how contemporary this song sounds, and with a title like She Was Born To Be My Unicorn, echoing the rebirth of the kind of new, wealthy, witchy hippiedom that draws pretty girls to maxi skirts and tarot readings, I’d be less than shocked if this ends up playing the next time I am at a hip coffee shop/cocktail bar/tapas place.

It happened with Pentagle and I never expected to hear that outside our apartment.

Sadly I’ve found the album not easily available.

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Posted on July 19, 2011

Movies »I Start Counting

directed by David Greene (1969)

If I Start Counting were remade, I know exactly the kind of rote crap it would become: it would star some slutty looking not-quite teen and be slick, boring, and lifeless.

This largely forgotten original however, is none of these things. It’s a bit messy, sure, and definitely unpolished but features a great performance by its actual teen star (who you may recognize from An American Werewolf in London) and really effectively creates an eerie tone.

It might remind one of the tenser quiet moments of Black Swan meets a late 60’s after school movie.

When women are being murdered near an abandoned suburb, a young girl, hopelessly in love with her adopted much older brother begins to come to the chilling conclusion that he may be responsible. Hovering between a world of romantic innocence and the violent, dirty, and painful world of adults, she tries to come to terms with her sexuality and her emotions while trying to disprove her suspicions.

I pretty much live to find overlooked treasures like this and am thrilled that Netflix streaming has embraced the discarded films of the past as much as the newest releases.

And even though (as noted) a remake would probably only be junk, if someone with a sense of mood and style were to remake it, Peter Sarsgaard would rule as the older creepy brother and like almost everything I re-cast in my mind, Juliette Lewis would find herself in the role of a mysterious lady he goes to visit. As for the teen, I’d cast an unknown.

Click here for the rest of I Start Counting

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Posted on June 26, 2011

Books »The Cricket in Times Square

by George Selden (1960)

I feel like I have to confess something. I began the season, continuing my attempt to do things I’ve always meant to by reading Dune. After getting through more than half, I found I was just not into it. Humorless messiah science fiction has never been up my ally but I do feel like I failed some level of nerdom… alas.

But, in an equally nerdy move, I went on to read another classic I missed the first time round, The Cricket in Times Square.

I love to crack open a young adult novel now and then, but this is for even younger audiences, so I’ll probably be reading to Van in a few years. (Now, how to do the Chinese accents without sounding, er, disrespectful…)

The story of a cricket who makes a splash in the subways below Times Square with his musical talents is thoroughly charming and only takes a couple hours to read. The illustrations by Garth Williams are cute and the characters are endearing.

I was even inspired by it to write a couple children’s books myself.

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Posted on June 10, 2011

Albums »Gal Costa

by Gal Costa (1969)

Gal Costa’s self titled album begins like a sunny afternoon:

you’re resting your feet and eyes swaying in a hammock in your backyard, the scent of tropical flowers lulling you to day dream.

Quickly, though it turns into the same afternoon once your lover has returned from a walk along Ipanema carrying ingredients for mojitos with half the tanned, good looking population from the beach trailing behind him for an impromptu party…

Perhaps even an impromptu party where some hallucinogens might be passed around as stuff does get pretty psychedelic.

Have Fun!


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Posted on June 3, 2011

Songs »Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer

by Nat King Cole (1963)

OK, so the official start of Summer isn’t for a couple more weeks, but as well all know, Fall and Spring hardly exist in New York, and several days of temperatures above 80 means summer to me.

So as Nat King Cole says in his jazzy, fun time tune:

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Those days of soda and pretzels and beer”

Sounds like a plan to me! And I really want my summer to look like the cover of this album, don’t you?

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Posted on June 2, 2011

Songs »Swinging Doors

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Twenty Nine: Best Song Request at Donn’s Depot:

Swinging Doors by Merle Haggard (1965)

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Posted on May 29, 2011

Albums »Soundway Records Presents Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & The Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72

Various Artist (1962-1972)

If you were to play Cartagena! Curro Fuentes and the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia album outside your window on a rainy, dark afternoon, the sun would come out and people in the streets would be compelled to start dancing.

Definitely on the short list of the greatest things I have recommended this year, this compilation is joyous, unusual, and all around awesome.

I have been a huge cumbia fan since I was in Jr High, when I used to listen to an album called Cumbia Cumbia Dos. It was never easy finding an equally interesting compilation of the Colombian genre – that was influenced by Africa and Spain.

Soundway Records, described as “a UK-based label, dedicated to re-releasing lost and forgotten recordings from the world’s most vibrant musical cultures” has found some absolute gems. I found them on emusic, which is a great site for discovering the obscure, particularly (non-lame) world music.

Every track is excellent, you could easily put this one on a loop for any margarita filled party and not worry about things slowing down.

Soundway has a slew of other releases I look forward to hearing including Afro-Psychedelia and the sounds of Siam. If small indie labels finding old, out of print amazing music is a new trend (see the fantastic Numero Group and their soul catalog), then I am one happy lady.

Below are images of the original albums of some of the artists included.

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Posted on May 26, 2011

Songs »Is That All There Is?

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Twenty One: Best Song for the Latest End of the World:

Is That All There Is? by Peggy Lee (1969)


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Posted on May 21, 2011

Songs »Bluette

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Eighteen: Best Song to Put on When You Have to Smoke a Cigarette and Think About a Dame:

Bluette by Dave Brubeck (1961)

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Posted on May 18, 2011

Albums »Sleepwalk

by Santo and Johnny

Slide guitar reminds me of two things: Hawaii – to which I’ve never been and High School Proms – well, OK, not MY prom where I had just broken up with my date and Toad the Wet Sprocket still ruled, but you know, the fluffy dress, Enchantment Under the Seas kind of prom.

No one was as prolific on the instrument as the Brooklyn born duo Santo and Johnny, whose collection Sleepwalk, Vol 1 has been brightening my days lately.

They lend their musical styling to a variety of songs, so that in the end, you’ll be taken on a slide guitar journey that goes beyond Hawaii and Proms while still making a stop at each with Sweet Lelani and the excellent title song respectively.

You’ll hear hints of the Old West in one of my favorites, The Wandering Sea, and be able in envision a David Lynchian scene with another favorite, You Belong To Me.

You’ll be whisked away to a groovy party via Watermelon Man, think you’ve just turned on a 1970’s variety show with the musak-y glitz of Volare and even say hello to a sunshiny Christmas with Twistin’ Bells (Van’s current favorite – the boy loves Christmas music).

This just seems like the perfect music to be listening now during the fresh air days of May.

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Posted on May 12, 2011

Songs »Countdown at 6

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Nine: Best Use of Baby Babble:

Countdown at 6 by Perrey and Kingsley

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Posted on May 9, 2011

Songs »Itchycoo Park

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Seven: Best Song for A Bunch of Nice Kids to Get High To:

Itchycoo Park by Small Faces (1967)

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Posted on May 7, 2011