Be careful for the danger there, you just might just be unprepared

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Like a lot of people that devote themselves to inordinate amounts of time spent in movie theaters, I have a tendency to equate novelty with accomplishment. Though I maintain a thick enough strain of cynicism to avoid knee-jerk genuflection before hollow material tricked up with self-congratulatory narrative gimmicks (this is where I’d link to a review of Fight Club if I had one), I am absolutely more prone to fall for movies that do something decidedly different, filling the screen before me with something that I’ve never quite seen before. I’d naturally assumed that predilection came from an altogether commonplace impulse to favor originality over all else in evaluating works of art. The new movie Brooklyn suggests a different theory. Maybe I’m less enamored of more familiar cinematic stories because so few modern filmmakers have the discipline and insight to tell them really, really well. Brooklyn effectively makes the case that classically structured cinematic narrative can be just as dazzling as any meta-inflected storytelling loop-de-loops.

Based on a novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn follows an Irishwoman named Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) who emigrates to the New York borough of the title, early in the nineteen-fifties. Youthful and gentle-souled, Ellis is tagged by her family as worthy of a greater life than her dreary hometown can provide, but the transition to the United States is hardly without its own challenges and miseries. But unlike, say, James Gray’s The Immigrant, the movie refrains from piling on the grotesque abuses until it swells into melodrama. Instead, Brooklyn is focused on the small, far more universal setbacks: homesickness, interpersonal annoyances, feeling uncertain in a dizzying new workplace. Even when the film moves its attention to romance, and then a love triangle, it does so with gentleness, positing that while these things happen they do so largely without blaring fanfare. It is the way lives are lived. Observing it with care is enough to find meaning and craft a story that is deeply moving.

From start to finish, Brooklyn is a lovely piece of filmmaking. Nick Hornby previously wrote the screenplays for An Education and Wild, and this new outing finally proves his skill as an adapter is unassailable. He has a cunning way of finding the soul of a story and investing the characters with wellsprings of unfussy personality. His writing is a gift to actors and those here are sure not to squander it. Ronan is wonderful, showing how Ellis shifts from timid to capable to fully in charge by small but noticeable degrees. There are fine supporting turns throughout, led by Emory Cohen as a genial, adorable suitor and Jessica Walter, snapping off the sort of colorful, brassy, powerful older quasi-matriarch role that’s been her mastered domain since at least 2000’s Billy Elliot. Director John Crowley captures it all with a shrewd balance of tone, an elegant eye, and a lively spirit. His accomplishment isn’t in boldness, but in masterful merging of story and emotion. Brooklyn doesn’t change anything about the way cinema is made. Indeed, it offers evidence that drastic deviation from the classic narrative approach is overrated.

College Countdown: The Gavin Report Top 20 Alternative Chart, October 1992, 17 – 14

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17. The Darling Buds, Erotica

I don’t really remember if the Darling Buds ever had a college radio hit, the sort that commands such broad-based and intense affection from kids in broadcast booths coast to coast that it feels intrinsic to the era. They were one of the bands that defined my personal haul as a student deejay, thanks in part to the convenience of the calendar. Their debut release, the glistening Pop Said…, arrived when I was a freshman, and their final effort, Erotica, hit the Heavy Rotation shelf as I embarked on my last year in college, grumpily resigned to the fact that I couldn’t drag my feet on the dreaded launch into the so-called real world all that much longer. At the time, of course, we didn’t know Erotica was destined to be the band’s last album. The most notable thing about the record was that it shared a title with almost concurrently dropped Madonna release, which was sucking up all the entertainment world hype that fall, thanks in no small part to the corresponding book of dirty pictures that helped announce it to the world.

The album presumably also got us talking about the evolution of the band’s sound that took place on it. Their previous records were populated with bright, sharp, brisk pop songs. That shifted a little on their sophomore release, Crawdaddy, but Erotica delivered the most sonically expansive version of the Darling Buds yet. Opening track “One Thing Leads to Another” signals what’s to come: there’s a dandy hook in there, but every time the songs seem to be tightening in around it, the layers of sound push outward instead, swelling with cascading guitars. There are several tracks that hew closer to the established sound of the band, like the single “Sure Thing,” which manages to be both punchy and gently languid, and the firm “Please Yourself.” And much of the music that shifts the band’s footing is plenty strong, such as the slightly intoxicating “Long Day in the Universe” and “Isolation,” which almost sounds like a Belly castoff with its rubbery guitar lines and piercing female vocals singing of embittered discomfort (“Why do you have to be so cruel/ You know what I’m going through/ Can’t think straight these days/ And everything is very strange”). Still, Erotica overall wears the compromise of a transitional record. It just happens the dissolution of the band that recorded it denied listeners the pay-off of a fully-formed new sound the next time out.

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16. Morrissey, Your Arsenal

Only Morrissey should be allowed to begin an album with the lyric “With the world’s fate resting on your shoulders.” The undisputed master of tuneful misery was still fairly early in his solo career in 1992, though he’d already been admirably prolific. Your Arsenal was his third full-length release since the formal dissolution of the Smiths five years earlier. Wonderfully, he was already approaching gentle self-parody, as demonstrated by song titles such as “Seasick, Yet Still Docked,” “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday,” and, best of all, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.” Lest it seem like there’s not quite enough undercutting happening on the album, Morrissey is sure to coo, “Oh…and the songs we sing/ They’re not supposed to mean a thing.” Later in that same song, “We’ll Let You Know,” he sings, “We may seem cold/ Or we may even be/ The most depressing people you’ve ever known.” It’s a mark of how clearly Morrissey was at the peak of his creative powers that the repeated variations of sour appraisals of life miraculously transformed into melodic mission statements of romanticized self-regard never grow old across the album. This can surely be attributed somewhat to the musical variety spread across the album by Alain Whyte, Morrissey’s regular collaborator, but ol’ Stephen Patrick proves equally adept at shrewdly, playfully working variations on a theme. There’s no evident calculation to the album, but it does seem like this was one of the last instances when Morrissey was simultaneously entirely earnest and charmingly in on the joke.

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15. The Sundays, Blind

In my time at the college radio station, I don’t know if there was another instance of so dramatic a let down between a debut release and a sophomore effort as happened with the Sundays. The English band’s 1990 debut, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, was one of the great albums of that year, practically inspirational in its ability to sound fresh and enlivening. The follow-up was beset by a series of little problems that led up to creative cataclysm. The band’s original label, Rough Trade Records, went bankrupt, and the starburst of success that followed their debut dramatically outpaced the ability of band leaders Harriet Wheeler and David Gavurin to continue handling all management of the Sundays on their own, something they insisted upon doing. Even with those challenges, it was hardly a Chinese Democracy-level delay on the band’s second outing, with Blind arriving around two-and-a-half years after the debut. The whole album feels arduous, though. The singles, “Love” and “Goodbye,” are inert when compared against the earlier gems. These days, their cover of a Rolling Stones classic is probably the only track that most remember, if only because it seems as if it were chemically perfected to accompany lovelorn supercut videos of teen-centric television shows. So at least the Sundays were forward-thinking in that respect. The band came out with one more album, 1997’s Static & Silence, before calling it quits, largely so Wheeler and Gavurin could concentrate on being parents.

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14. Television, Television

I’d like to report that I understood the full significance of a new album from the band Television showing up in 1992, but I’m confident I did not. I certainly knew of the band. The eager devotion of Rolling Stone magazine to Television’s 1977 debut, Marquee Moon, saw to that. But I’m betting I hadn’t actually heard a note of their music until I slipped their brand new self-titled effort, the band’s belated third release, into the radio station CD player. At the time, I thought the moody, guitar-driven songs on the album were top-notch, though Television still didn’t become an album that I fully fell for. Now that I’ve got the glorious ins and outs of Marquee Moon practically memorized, Television seems like a mere curiosity, best seen as a reminder to revisit the sounds of the true glory days once again. There have been no further albums, but the band does still play live from time to time.

Previously…
An Introduction
–20-18: Mutiny, Dirty, and Overwhelming Colorfast

From the Archive: Look Who’s Talking Too

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Kirstie Alley’s attitude there seems about right to me. I was thinking about typing out a lament over how much terrible fare came dribbling out during holiday movie seasons of old, but it has always been a mix of the great, fine, and dreadful at this time of the year. The very same weekend Look Who’s Talking Too arrived, so to did the magical Edward Scissorhands and the solidly entertaining Mermaids. I don’t remember a bit of this movie, but I find it a little disconcerting that I offered praise — genuine, unguarded praise at that — for the portion involving Mr. Toilet Man.

Last year, director Amy Heckerling took a TV star, a washed up film star, and cute baby, and Bruce Willis’s voice and created one of the biggest surprise hits of the year: LOOK WHO’S TALKING. No time has been wasted in trying to pull some more money from Mikey’s faithful followers as the sequel, LOOK WHO’S TALKING TOO, has hit theaters. The gag of LOOK WHO’S TALKING TOO is that Mikey has gotten a little older and is now  big brother. Mikey still has the voice of Bruce Willis, and his new little sister has picked up the vocal cords of Roseanne Barr. The two of them are learning to deal with each other and also have to try help themselves and each other through some family difficulties as the marriage between John Travolta and Kirstie Alley is becoming increasingly strained.

In fact, fans of the first film had best prepare themselves for a somewhat darker effort this time out from director Heckerling. There’s family strife and a misguided attempt to derive humor from a birth complicated by the umbilical cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck. Trying to create jokes to go with that situation was not a wise move on the part of Heckerling. As if trying to make up for these darker moments, the filmmakers make several attempts at pushing the cute levels into the stratosphere. Mikey has acquired a new best friend in a baby voiced by Damon Wayans and there’s a scene of Travolta pulling out his best Saturday Night Fever dance moves with an entire group of kids.

LOOK WHO’S TALKING TOO has its clever moments, such as the glimpses of Mikey’s overactive imagination, especially one that brings us Mel Brooks as Mr. Toilet Man, and some funny bits of dialogue for the kids. Bruce Willis is again about to provide a terrific voice characterization for Mikey, Roseanne Barr does a respectable job as baby Julie, and both Travolta and Alley manage to be quite charming. The chief problem is the script. It’s a meandering movie that spends too much time rattling along pointlessly, adding characters like Kirstie Alley’s right wing, gun-toting brother who only gets i the way of the film’s thin plot. The film tries to build toward a thrilling ending with a cute, sentimental moral, but it all seems very anti-climactic, as if they’re holding back for a third installment.

There are some questionable directing choices as well, chiefly one that involves some of the older toddlers apparently trying to lip sync what is being said by the actor alter egos. Little children don’t just walk around moving their mouths and seeing them do it in this movie becomes very grating very quickly. There’s also the feeling that it’s less a movie and more a showcase for Heckerling’s music collection. It seems like almost every scene has a big hit song connected with it. It all seems like padding to make the film last long enough, but all the padding in the world can’t protect this film from it’s own blandness.

1 and 1/2 stars, out of 4.

One for Friday: Venison, “Forward”

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I am still adjusting in my return to my native state of Wisconsin. Certainly spending a day indulging in gluttony while the wind blew briskly outside was a helpful reminder of the cultural terrain of the dairyland to which I’ve boomeranged, especially since we managed to place ourselves within a restaurant that is most accurately reviewed with the phrase “Lots of meat!” There were plenty of things giving me that seems-like-old-times feeling yesterday, from a glass of beer at The Great Dane to Brett Favre in Lambeau Field. And then there’s the blaze orange I’ve seen out an about the past couple weeks, a handy reminder that the real holiday in this state at this time of year is deer season. Living in this state requires at least a little bit of affection for venison. One might even name their punk band after it.

Though Venison was still a going concern the last time I lived in Wisconsin’s state capital, I’ll admit that I wasn’t familiar with them back then (or at least don’t remember them from that overstuffed era of my life). It was only recently that I had cause to learn about them, as part of the most recently completed College Countdown. Fortuitously, the post that required some research into the nineties-era Wisconsin band came out just as the whirlwind of pending move was spinning to life, my brain only beginning the process of wrapping around the significant change that would somehow feel oh so familiar. As if offering a comforting mosh pit press of reassurance, here came a punk band bounding out of my modest speakers, snarl-singing about toiling in Wisconsin. The song “Forward,” an immediate favorite, even borrowed the state motto. Just like that, I had a much-needed anthem. “Cuz in Wisconsin, we say, ‘Forward.'” Sounds right to me.

Listen or download –>  Venison, “Forward”

(Disclaimer: As best as I can tell, the Venison album Hate is no longer in print as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. Some of the band’s music does seem to be available digitally, so please take the sharing of this track as impetus and encouragement to go and snap some of it up. Hell, the sound quality on this transfer isn’t so hot, which should be additional enticement to find some more material on your own. But go to the record store today. There’s good stuff there, and they need your dollars more than the Walton family.)

You know what everything’s about, you had to have a white hot spotlight

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The title of the new film Spotlight refers to a special investigative journalism team at The Boston Globe. Treated as a somewhat separate and fairly autonomous entity within the culture of the venerable newspaper, the reporters in the Spotlight unit take on major stories and dig unimaginably deep into them before a single word is pressed onto newsprint. The film, directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy, depicts this group’s efforts, beginning in 2001, to expose the machinations undertaken by the Catholic Church to harbor child-molesting priests and cover up their own culpability in the scandal, then still dismissed by too many as the despicable actions of a few bad individuals instead of a pervasive culture of accepted abuse.

The cinematic precedent to which McCarthy clearly aspires is All the President’s Men. The film is measured, serious-minded, and committed to quietly celebrating the noble rigor of reporters striving to unearth the truth, especially in the face of monumental institutional opposition. While Alan J. Pakula benefited from the freshness of the national betrayal in his consideration of the Washington Post‘s Watergate reporting, McCarthy dramatically articulates exactly why confronting the Catholic power structure carried so much weight in the city of Boston. Church structures loom through the film, and there’s a strong sense of the ways in which the specific religion in woven inextricably into the souls of every character that crosses the screen, whether they’re actively practicing or not. It is a news story — timely, troubling, and important — but also a swing at the very foundation of the city’s being. McCarthy makes it clear just how bold it was for the Spotlight crew to pursue their investigation.

Across the board, the actors meet the smartly controlled tone of the film, underplaying their characters, whether they are in pursuit of the story or grappling with the ramifications of it in their personal lives. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci all turn in admirable work, fully resisting any impulse to showboat, to puff up their talky parts with emotionally boisterous maneuvers. Two actors taking different approaches in deep character work epitomize the strength of the film: Mark Ruffalo plays reporter Mike Rezendes with a brutish eagerness that has some echoes of his turns in Zodiac and Foxcatcher, and Liev Schreiber is brilliantly contained as Marty Baron, the editor new to the paper who offers the needed encouragement to dig for the bigger, greater, uglier truths of the story. There’s not a vast divide between the volume levels of the two performances, but taken together they do demonstrate the surprising range that can be found within a deliberately low-key level.

Tempting as it might be to see Spotlight as offering one last desperate celebration of an era of print journalism that could and would expend the time and resources to get a major story perfectly correct rather than rushing forward with frantic clickbait accusations, I don’t think McCarthy is trying to be an aggressive advocate in his filmmaking. Instead, he’s simply following the key mandate of a storyteller: find a tale worth sharing and relay it with integrity.

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Five

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#5 — Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)

I wouldn’t necessarily term Out of the Past the best film ever made that clearly qualifies as film noir (at least one film above it on this personal tally fits squarely into that cinematic subcategory), but it is without question the work of art that I would project onto a wall to answer any questions about what makes that amazing convergence of shadow, cynicism, and fang-sharp dialogue so enthralling. It slaloms expertly around every last milestone of the form, formulating into a picture that could have been used as a template. It’s sharp enough that even pallid imitators would wind up looking borderline ingenious. The movie itself strides with an amused swagger.

The thrill of it begins with the dialogue. The screenplay was credited to Daniel Mainwaring, adapting his novel with the amazing title Build My Gallows High (which was the name given to the film in some territories outside the United States), and it is a procession of hard-boiled wonders. When I first saw it, I felt the only method available to properly convey the immense pleasures of the film was an eager transcription of some of the devilishly good dialogue, a tactic I’ll cave into again. When Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum, because a film noir cannot be quintessential without Robert Mitchum in it), the former private eye who’s trying to escape the seedy world in which he once ran by serving as the proprietor of an out-of-the way-filling station relates his new chosen lot in life, he explains, “I sell gasoline, I make a small profit. With that I buy groceries. The grocer makes a profit. We call it earning a living. You may have heard of it somewhere.” He dismisses a disingenuous claim of helplessness by saying, “You can never help anything, can you? You’re like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another.” And then there’s the exchange in the film that remains my favorite: when Ann Miller (Virginia Huston), the woman Jeff’s been courting, meekly stands up for someone by arguing, “She can’t be all bad. No one is,” Jeff’s quick retort is “Well, she comes the closest.” This isn’t how people actually talk, but it damn well should be.

Jacques Tourneur directs the film with a unerring feel for using the shadows to enrich every element of the story: the sexual allure, the threat, the encroaching gloom of bad men doing bad things for bad reasons. Every bit of inky artistry he mastered as one of the most gifted members of horror producer Val Lewton’s stable comes through in the film, with the added heft of the danger coming from the corrosiveness of human nature. It’s hard to argue with the pithy pointedness of the novel’s original title, but the comparatively bland Out of the Past — a title that’s as clear a case of studio timidness as anyone is likely to find — actually works quite well, offering the simple, clear reminder that the most troubling parts of an individual’s history aren’t likely to stay distant and contained. Shadows shift in size and direction, but they’re never fully gone.

I stand alone and watch the clock I only wait for it to stop

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I will occasionally prepare for the release of a film adapted from a novel by reading the original source material. As a rule, I make every effort to view the resulting film as a separate entity, using my experience with the book as a way to help further identify what went right and wrong with the cinematic work, or even to consider the choices in adaptation in an almost academic sense. I greatly respect that what’s projected onto a screen has different needs than what is printed onto a page and admire the skill of an artful transference as much as some piece of pure invention. All that is precursor to this acknowledged dilemma in assessing the new film Room: I don’t think I’ve ever experienced another instance in which my familiarity with a novel so complicated my view of its adaptation.

I think Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel, Room, is a wondrous feat. In some ways, the basic premise is simple, if harrowing. It begins with a woman and her five year old son, Jack, confined against their will (well, against her will, since he’s never known anything but a boxed-in life) in a tiny shed that’s been repurposed into a rudimentary living space. The woman was abducted years earlier and has been repeatedly raped by her captor, an assault against her very being that has yielded the son, who basically has given her threads of humanity, purpose, and hope to pull her through the misery of her situation. Donoghue’s most striking inspiration is to tell the story through the narrative voice of the boy, convincingly and consistently shaping the various situations of the novel through his more innocent perspective. It’s a vital conceit that was likely impossible to properly replicate in the film version. While there are a handful of moments that the film turns over to narration delivered by the boy (played by Jacob Tremblay), it mostly carries over the plot without the unique perspective.

With that shift, Room retains much of its emotional wallop, but some of the ingenuity. More worrisomely, many of the overt complications of the book are set aside. Donoghue also wrote the screenplay (besides her literary accomplishments, Donoghue is an accomplished playwright), so presumably the alterations are deemed acceptable by the original. Still, I couldn’t quite help but mentally catalog all the elements that were shorn away, leaving a work that is ultimately less ambivalent about its characters, less invested in depicting the internal messiness of human beings. The novel Room is never pat. The film Room isn’t either, but it flirts with it.

There is an unqualified success within the film, though, and that’s the central performance by Brie Larson, playing the mother. Named in the movie, but really known only as “Ma” in the book, the character is understandably the most complicated figure in the story: strong and resilient but simultaneously defeated, a survivor that’s shimmying thanks to a thousand hairline cracks. She’s warm and protective but prone to snappish authority, needful but defiant of help. Larson — already receiving the greatest attention of her career, though she’s already proven that this is her talent level — masters those contradictions, further signaling the desperate, angry thought process of the character as she strains to find her way back to her self. Director Lenny Abrahamson has a nice eye and a astute sense of pacing (and any time there’s a child performance in a film as strong as the one Tremblay give here, a sizable amount of the credit must be given to the director), but his best, shrewdest decision is giving Larson the space and attention required to deliver the kind of powerful, layered work that can make all the difference for a film. This Room loses some of Jack, but the emergent primacy of Ma almost makes up for that, in large part because of the riveting way Larson embodies all of the prickly difficulties that would otherwise be lost in translation.

College Countdown: The Gavin Report Top 20 Alternative Chart, October 1992, 20 – 18

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20. Too Much Joy, Mutiny

As I’ve noted before, Too Much Joy was our band. To the degree that every college radio station has a single artist that most clearly represents them — preferably an artist that is woefully underappreciated elsewhere, upping the sense of special discovery — the quartet out of Scarsdale, New York were the beer-loving, smart-alecky, boisterous, and endearingly cunning mascots of Stevens Point’s WWSP-FM. The bond began with their 1988 release, Son of Sam I Am, and was cemented one album later, with 1991’s Cereal Killers. By the time Mutiny landed in the mailroom, Too Much Joy might as well have been U2 as far as many of our deejays were concerned.

Mutiny wasn’t the band’s swan song, but it’s close to it. And it definitely represents either the end of their commercial upswing or the beginning of the downswing, depending on the angle. It was their third effort released as part of the Warner Bros. galaxy of stars and the second that was recorded with that unique mix of comfort and buzzing pressure that come with being connected to a major label. The album is definitely awash in studio polish, heard clearly on tracks like the swirly “What It Is” and the thickly layered “Magic.” That can sound like a band becoming indulgent, but Too Much Joy is too earnestly committed to the resounding purity of rock ‘n’ roll for that. Instead, it sounds like a group taking full advantage of what they have in front of them, upending the coffee pot to get every last drop.

I’ll admit that Mutiny wasn’t as dominant or exciting of a Too Much Joy album for me and my immediate noncommercial broadcasting kin. It has as good of a single as the band ever concocted, in the blazing ode of romantic and sexual obsession “Donna Everywhere,” but when we explored the deeper tracks, fewer of them on the album locked in for us. We found a half dozen anthems of prior releases. With Mutiny, it felt more like just another fine record instead of our shared manifesto of permanently maintained youth, in all its dopey glory. It’s definitely fun to hear the band reimagine the stellar the Records song “Starry Eyes” so that it recounts their more notorious happenings from the prior couple of years, such as getting arrested for performing the same songs that landed 2 Live Crew in jail, but that also feels like another form of putting the past behind them. Too Much Joy was growing up, and we weren’t quite ready to be taken along for the ride over that particular cliff.

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19. Sonic Youth, Dirty

I wonder if 1992 felt a little strange to Sonic Youth, like they’d been throwing dangerous darts expertly and yet slightly off-target, and then Nirvana strode right up to the line and threw a bullseye casually, over their shoulders. I don’t actually think the music Sonic Youth was creating at around that time was all that similar to what Kurt Cobain and company cranked out, save a certain abrasiveness that wasn’t supposed to work with a broader audience (although, that quality looms pretty large in figuring out the discrepancy in the wider acceptance of the bands’ records). But Sonic Youth were the sound of aural rebellion for college radio in the late summer of 1990, when Goo was released and dominated the charts, at least those determined by airplay choices made by kids hovering around the age of twenty. One year later, Nevermind arrived to the same reception. They simply found that the door to other parts of the radio landscape weren’t barred for them.

Though Sonic Youth maintained they weren’t courting the same level of success, they did opt to work with some of the same key personnel that helped make Nevermind a colossal seller: producer Butch Vig and mixer Andy Wallace. For Dirty, Vig reportedly pressed the band to tighten up their songs, keeping the intensity but avoiding the kind of sprawl that could turn their rough edges into a sort of endurance test for the less adventurous listener. That influence is evident across the album, as with “Sugar Kane,” which keeps threatening to become raucously expansive, but always manages to coil back to the sturdy spine of the song. Sonic Youth wasn’t tamed, but they were directed. If that lessened the likelihood of stretches of near-genius that could be found on Daydream Nation and Goo, it also lent a newfound sense of purpose that would arguably pay its greatest dividends a decade later, when the band had the developed discipline to come up with a string of fantastically accomplished albums, beginning with Murray Street, in 2002.

Realistically, though it was decidedly uncool to say so, I think back then Dirty was my favorite Sonic Youth album up to that point. I appreciated that honing of their creative sensibilities, probably heard best on lead single “100%,” a mournful lament with feedback pulsing through its veins, as only Sonic Youth could create. (Though I’ll note that, knowing what I know now, it’s a little odd to hear Thurston Moore sing “I’ve been around the world a million times/ And all you men are slime.”) Similarly the fierce feminism of Kim Gordon was made more pointed thanks to the streamlining, with “Swimsuit Issue” and “Drunken Butterfly” (lyrically comprised entirely of lyrics and song title, albeit sometimes warped versions of such, from the band Heart) as only two pieces of thrashing evidence. There are enough instances of the band unleashing full-on punk aggression (“Orange Rolls, Angel’s Spit,” the cover of the Untouchables’ “Nic Fit”) to forestall any accusation of favoring accessibility over staying true to their combat-booted muse, but the album’s entryways made it easier to embrace. I can say with certainty that I felt a little bit better about playing this album on the radio in the fairly staid patch of geography where my station’s transmitter tower stood, even as I understand that for many that’s not viewed a compliment.

61WLqnf8UfL._AC_UL160_SR160,160_18. Overwhelming Colorfast, Overwhelming Colorfast

And here’s Vig again, serving as producer for the self-titled debut of the San Francisco Bay area band Overwhelming Colorfast. The band was largely the creative outlet for lead singer and guitarist Bob Reed, who had a little Bob Mould to his voice. Sticking with that comparison, Overwhelming Colorfast swerved a little closer to the shiny pop pile-driving of Sugar than the surging assaults of Hüsker Dü. The band’s debut was assembled with all the trimmings of a early-nineties album meant to storm the college charts, including the inclusion of an obligatory cover, taking on no less than the Beatles. The band released a total of three albums before calling it quits. Reed is evidently still out there, fighting the rock ‘n’ roll fight.

Previously…
An Introduction

From the Archive: “And we begin, as always, with the latest in movie news….”

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For this dip into the archive, I need to credit a different writer. Every episode of our radio show kicked off with a rundown of movie news, which was far more impressive back then, a time when only Entertainment Tonight and CNN’s Showbiz Today were providing that sort of information outside of the Hollywood trade publications. While we pulled an item or two from the radio station’s Associated Press wire, most of it was pulled together and written for air by my esteemed colleague on the program. He culled the material from all over the place, including, at least for a time, The Hollywood Reporter. He was presumably the sole resident of Plover, Wisconsin with an active subscription. Call him the first aggregator. If only he’d thought to monetize it. The box office results help me pinpoint this particular newscast to Monday, November 19th, so almost precisely twenty-five years ago as this goes up to the web. To illustrate the dramatic changes in box office dynamics since, this was the first of an amazing twelve straight weeks as the #1 film in the country for Home Alone (it was unseated by Sleeping with the Enemy in early February of the following year), and of course Ghost is conspicuously still in the Top 5 some four months after its mid-July release. 

These particular script pages were typed up on the back of some Orion Pictures press releases, hence the image above that shares the marketing department’s spectacularly groan-worthy headline announcing the release of the Mermaids, home of a very strong Winona Ryder starring performance. It’s so very tempting to aggressively annotate the news items, but I’ll leave the old words to stand for themselves, except for one freshly added hyperlink that I simply couldn’t resist. I also note that my cohort’s rumor-slinging about films in trouble was spot-on accurate. Every one of those four films was a dud, in one way or another. Valkenvania was renamed Nothing But Trouble, one of the most damningly accurate titles in film history.          

A proposed ordinance in the city of Kissimmee, Florida would make it illegal to sell tickets to minors for NC-17 movies and would carry a fine of $500 for convicted theatre owners. City commissioner voted 3-2 to consider the proposal further at a hearing this week. The rating was created in September by the Motion Picture Association of America to replace the X rating for films with adult themes.

The only cinematic victim of the Universal Studios fire, the Sylvester Stallone picture “Oscar,” will be completed in Orlando at Universal Studios Florida and Disney/MGM Studios. The movie, which stars Stallone as a gangster, was in the final days of filming when the fire hit and destroyed its sets. The film is directed by John Landis.

Jessica Hahn will be making her acting debut in the film “Stiletto,” to begin filming in January, with actor Ray Sharkey; she’ll play an agent. Word is that it’s loosely based on the Billy Joel song of the same name.

A number of upcoming motion pictures in various degrees of trouble tonight…

  1. Seems like “The Godfather Part III” isn’t the only picture racing against the clock to meet a Christmas Day premiere; word is that a major “casting” change has taken place in the production of “Look Who’s Talking Too.” Due to negative testing, Richard Pryor’s voice will be dropped from one of the film’s infants and be replaced with the voice of Damon Wayans of “In Living Color.” Early promotional artwork had featured Pryor’s face and will now have to be changed.
  2. “Valkenvania,” the directorial debut of Dan Aykroyd, is reported to be a dog, and has been pushed back to a February release at the earliest. The comedy, starring Chevy Chase and Demi Moore, was originally slated for a Christmas debut.
  3. Another holiday release that has its studio worried is the Sydney Pollack/Robert Redford film “Havana,” a romantic drama set in 1958 during the Cuban revolution and opening on December 14th. One Universal Studios source describes the project as “stillborn,” industry terminology for an early box-office death. There have been no test screenings for the film, once touted as having OScar potential for Redford.
  4. And, event thought the summer of 1991 is a ways off, that season’s first budget-buster is already shaping up. The new Bruce Willis flick “Hudson Hawk” is already reported to be $15 million over its original $40 million budget and has gone five weeks behind schedule. The special-effects laden feature is the big-budget debut of “Heathers” director Michael Lehmann.

A concept (though not a title) has been chosen for the sequel to the 1989 sleeper hit “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” In it, Rick Moranis inadvertently zaps his new baby boy with an enlarging contraption, and the gargantuan toddler sets off on the loose. The original title of “Honey, I Blew Up the Baby” has been rejected as “too violent.”

A few of the future features that began filming last week…

  1. “Dying Young,” in which Julia Roberts falls in love with a cancer patient — directed by Joel Schumacher (“Flatliners,” “Cousins,” “The Lost Boys”).
  2. “Doc Hollywood,” a romantic comedy starring Michael J. Fox and directed by Michael Caton-Jones (“Memphis Belle,” “Scandal”).
  3. “The Doctor” — in a project originally designed for Warren Beatty, William Hurt now stars as a heart surgeon forced to cope with his own fatal heart condition.
  4. “Nudist Colony of the Dead.” ‘Nuff said.

NC-17 Watch The reissue of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “1900,” and of course “Midnight Woman” and “Peepshow”

The top five films at the box office:

5) Ghost, with $3 million

4) The Rescuers Down Under, with $3.4 million

3) Child’s Play 2, with $5 million

2) Rocky V, with $14 million

1) Home Alone, with $17 million