Thursday, July 16, 2009

Goth's New Pin-up?

In spite of my earlier assertion that Helena Bonham Carter is the reigning Goth queen, the upcoming princess is none other than Harry Potter castmate Emma Watson. According to reports, Watson will appear in the title role as a goth-inspired version of Cinderella - and at the project's helm is Marilyn Manson. As long as he doesn't have to play Prince Charming, I don't see why it can't break out of genre, especially if it follows the traditional, pre-Disney "Aschenputtel" version the Grimms brought us the first time around.

As for Emma, it's not too far a stretch to go from this:
To this artist rendition:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Through a Crystal Ball, Darkly

My mother once told me about a long, long ago parent-teacher conference at my grade school where Sister Mary Eva confided her frustrations with me, as a student in her reading class. She was peeved that when we all took turns in reading out loud, I always appeared to be staring out the window, "daydreaming," throughout. What irked her most was my ability to be at the right spot in the story every time I was called upon to read.

Like it's that difficult to skip ahead and around a group of 3rd graders vocalizing Dick & Jane's slightly older cousins without losing place.

Remembering that, it's easy to sympathize with David Yates and Steve Kloves, who have the choice gig of bringing home JK Rowling's monster of a series franchise, but also have that much more a hurdle than most, in trying to keep us readers from letting our minds wander too far ahead. We want their movie to resemble Rowling’s book - even if knowing it so well makes it difficult to remain caught up in their take on the tale.

Yates and Kloves’ answer to Sister Mary Eva's conundrum was to add two new particular scenes, one of which neither adds nor detracts from the story (although it does give reference to the true event that closed London's Millennium Bridge upon its opening day), another I must suspect hints at a whole chunk of side-plot that will go missing in the final installment of the Harry Potter movie series, as its precursor does in Half Blood Prince.

More effectively than those surprises, it's the film details and cues, the changes in the aging cast that keep us from rushing too far ahead and wandering.

In this installment, Hogwart's headmaster Professor Dumbledore takes a more active involvement than ever in Harry Potter's tutoring, though not for Harry's schoolwork as much as the future battle he'll wage against his nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Harry needs to find Voldemort's weakness and for that they need the help of the latest UK A-lister on the roster, Jim Broadbent. While all this is going on, Harry's less deadly foe, Draco Malfoy, has been taken under Voldemort's wing and has his own tasks to complete. Laying underneath is the mysterious and brilliant Half Blood Prince, the original owner and margin scribbler of one of Harry's not-so-gently used textbooks.

Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry, reminds me of a soap opera heroine. While he plays straight, sincere, and sympathetic, everyone else around him gets to have all the fun. Michael Gambon's Dumbledore is more urgent and more biting than ever; Rupert Grint’s comedic skills come to the forefront while Helena Bonham Carter, as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange, pretty much walks away owning every scene she’s in, she brings that much zeal to the role. (Move over Elvira, we now have a new, beyond disputing, Queen of the Night.) Scenery chewer extraordinaire Alan Rickman, aka Professor Snape, actually tones things down for a change.

The two revelations in HP-HBP’s acting department this time around are contributed by newcomer Broadbent, and longtime player Tom Felton, as Malfoy. The surprise in Broadbent's case is the pathos brought to a character whose surname, in part, rhymes with "smug." In previous movies, Felton was never given much to do beyond stand around and sneer at his social inferiors, what makes his stretch the more startling. Both show surprising, deep vulnerability in their roles but Felton, particularly, ups the ante by bringing a dominating physicality on-screen that hints he may become the dark horse to watch out for, post-Potter, of the younger cast.

The warmth and cheer of Hogwarts started draining in The Order of the Phoenix, also under Yates’ watch; whatever was left is more or less extinguished here, and most of the film takes on an ethereal rendering as a reminder of the supernatural aspect in the continuing saga. The only off note is the cheerful energy of so much of the Nicholas Hooper compositions. Balancing that, the mostly-scrapped John Williams theme from the first four movies does make an elegiac reprise in a 'goodbye to innocence and adolescence' scene for Hermoine (Emma Watson) and Harry.

By the end of HP&HBP, it’s all too clear childhood has been left in the dust for its protagonists. The only trouble I think the movies are having, no matter what pains are taken with the details, is in taking the final leap into adulthood along with them and being a movie for grown-ups. Until then, if my attention should wander from the bigger picture in favor of the details, I hope its admirers would be more forgiving than Sister Mary Eva.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Those Red Hot Darlins'

Murfreesboro's Those Darlins go out of their way to point out they aren't "of Nashville" on their official website bio, but that's not stopping anyone here from claiming the Carter-Family-meets-Ramones-styled urchins. The ladies have come a long way from their 2006 beginnings, and playing with a headlamp for illumination at 2007's Mucklewain:

and are gaining good press everywhere, from the tepid applause of the NY Times to the more openly admiring Washington Post; even Mother Jones stopped saving the world long enough to groove.

Enjoy a treat from the Lightning 100 crew at Bonnaroo 2009 -

Monday, July 13, 2009

Commander Plant

Robert Plant, the former Zep singer who made Nashville's day, week, year when he teamed up with Alison Krauss got pinned with a Commander of the British Empire medal over the weekend.

Best photo caption goes to the Guardian, UK, hands down.

Sidenote: as a young DJ at WQBK-FM in Albany, my second greatest nightmare was the idea of playing "Whole Lotta Love" and going into a Geritol commercial.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Getting a Rise Out of the Lehning Brothers

Hey Hollywood! Hey NY! Hey indie film distributors anywhere! Get wise, already.

I didn't get to see Make-Out With Violence during the Nashville Film Fest because I just can't stay up that late, all right? Lucky for me The Non-Commissioned Officers, the band formed by the film-makers in order to provide a cheap soundtrack, is playing a showcase with us Saturday night at the Exit, thus creating a good excuse to plea for a screener ("don't you wanna come in on my show ...?") and get a live in-studio performance from some of the band/company members.

Eric Lehning gives the run-down of the plot in the interview's sound file, below, but basically it's boy meets girl, boy doesn't get girl, girl dies, boy gets girl's zombie and assumes care-taking duties. All, narrated by boy's younger brother as we watch the fall-out and the toll it takes on everyone involved.

It's not really a movie you can make a typical sort of judgment call on, like "great" or "good." "Highly memorable" would work. It has flaws; it's probably 20-30 minutes longer, and with one or two characters more, than there needs to be. What the story, the story-telling, the visual style and images bring to the table, however, rises so far above those flaws that it's impossible to believe Make-Out With Violence isn't destined to at least become some sort of cult classic.

Lehning, who wrote the script along with Cody DeVos and others, doesn't want to say "zombie." Instead he reaches for "the z-word." I can't blame him, because there's a bit more going on than some creature stumbling around with a vacant stare and outstretched arms. If Make-Out has to be filed under "horror," it could sit well on a shelf right next to Let the Right One In. Like Eli, in that movie, the undead in question doesn't have to go in search of her own food; she has a willing accomplice. Unlike Eli, she has nothing to offer her keeper in return.

Anyway, you can listen into the interview and two songs from the soundtrack, in acoustic performance: