Monday, November 25, 2019

Unknown house megamix c. 1990

I finally have the capacity to transfer audio cassettes to mp3s. And my first project is this unknown megamix most likely from 1990 given the preponderance of hits from that year in the mix. I taped it from a friend's vinyl copy and don't recall anything about the label or disc itself except that it looked like a white label bootleg. I definitely don't recall if a DJ's name appeared anywhere on the package. It's an incredible megamix I've listened to dozens of times, still intimate with its every turn. One thing I've always wanted to know, though, is the name of the raw track that starts at 4:40 immediately after a sample of Public Enemy's "Bring that beat back!" and plays under the vocal from Black Riot: "Just Make That Move." What is it?!?!?!?

Also, as the "Just Make That Move" vocal continues, that beat cuts to another beat at 4:56 that I DO know but cannot place. "Ba. Ba da-dum dum dum-dum." And if I remember correctly, a male vocalist sings along to the beat in the original track. Help?

Here's a Dropbox link to the mix.

Warning: The sound quality is rough but perfectly listenable.

And here are the tracks/samples I've been able to identify to coax more info from the interwebs about this megamix. 

Logic: "The Warning"
"The music just turns me on" from Mike Dread: "Industrial Spy"
Black Box: "Everybody Everybody"
2 in a Room: "Wiggle It"
Madonna: "Vogue"
Masters at Work: "The Ha Dance"
Mellow Man Ace: "Mentirosa"
Peech Boys: "Don't Make Me Wait"
Concept of One featuring Tony Moran: "Dance With Me"
Royal House: "Can You Party"
Liz Torres: "If U Keep It Up"
The It: "Donnie"
Technotronic: "Pump Up the Jam"
Vision Masters and Tony King featuring Kylie Minogue: "Keep On Pumpin' It Up"
Jay Williams: "Sweat"
Adventures of Stevie V.: "Dirty Cash"
Lil Louis: "French Kiss"
Black Riot: "Just Make That Move"
Deee-Lite: "What is Love?"
Black Riot: "Just Make That Move" 
"Bring that beat back!" from Public Enemy: "Rebel Without a Pause"
Black Riot: "Just Make That Move" 
Corina: "Loving You Like Crazy (The Todd Mix)"
Royal House: "Can You Party" 
Black Box: "Ride on Time"
Royal House: "I Can't Quite Understand"
Coro: "Can't Let You Go"
2 in a Room: "Take Me Away"
Royal House: "Can You Party" 
Sinnamon: "I Need You Now"
Ram Jam: "Black Betty"
Total Madness: "The Sounds in the Air"
A Guy Called Gerald: "Voodoo Ray"
Orbit: "The Beat Goes On" (I think)
New Order: "World in Motion"
Tony Toni Toné: "It Feels Good"
Mr. Lee: "Pump That Body"
Queen Latifah: "Come Into My House"
Fingers Inc. featuring Chuck Roberts: "My House (a cappella)" 
Dopestyle: "I'll Bass You"
"Bass!" from Public Enemy: "Bring the Noise"
Sinnamon: "I Need You Now"

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer et al., 2018)

I went in expecting heterowashing and was roundly gifted with exactly that. Instead of getting grumpy, though, I focused on Mercury's unrelenting fabulosity and had a grand time. It was a high simply witnessing Mercury flit in and out of scenes with a "dahling" or "sweetheart." And has anyone noticed how much he sounds like Tallulah Bankhead?!? Best scene (whether true or not): forcing Roger Taylor to do ever-higher Galileos during the recording of the title song. Best effect: a deep dive into Queen's music since, gosh, my teens. People, "Death on Two Legs" and, especially, "The Prophet's Song" are as jaw-dropping as "Bohemian Rhapsody" (and they're off the same album)! And like "1999" and "Rock the Casbah," "Killer Queen" is a song I thought I knew inside out but I now hear as a goddamn masterpiece!

Song to Song (Terence Malick, 2017)

I find it difficult to resist films as obnoxious as Song to Song (Terence Malick, 2017). As always, I have my form/content problems with Malick. On one level, it’s a repulsive orgy of access and privilege. But on another, it can’t pay attention to its rich, white, beautiful, self-absorbed characters for more than a few seconds at a time. So the film is all drift and discontinuity and movement including a clip from Von Stroheim’s Greed and not one but two (2!) Plasmatics songs! To quote I forget who, this is the work of a free man. What’s not to love?


Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda, 2017)

You know how writers can get clunky and expositional with introducing information about a character's past? Now imagine 98 minutes (980 minutes in psychological time) of that because the near-future concept calls for it! Argh! And Almereyda does little to ventilate the play on which the film is based. Maybe a miscalculated fusion of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Interiors will lead to Oscar glory (the performances *are* uniformly fine). But it gave me a welcome view of the inside of my eyelids. 


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

New York Film Festival 57 Screenings 4

Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello)
Before exegesis, there is observation. Or, rather, there should be observation. Not only my students and select family members but critics and scholars want to jump to that second-order reality of attaching meaning to a work of art before appreciating or even perceiving the first-order reality of observing (never disinterested or free of power differentials) the qualities of a thing. So many of the reviewers of Bertrand Bonello's new film Zombi Child trip over themselves trying to delineate what the film means. Of course, it's a disquisition on colonialism and the nature of historical memory. An early appearance by historian Patrick Boucheron, essentially playing himself, makes that clear. But can we just take a step back and observe?

Zombi Child recounts the maybe-true story of Clairvius Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou), a Haitian man who died in 1962 only to be disinterred and rendered a zombified slave via regular doses of tetrodotoxin, the somnabulating venom in pufferfish, and Datura, a poisonous species of plants. After his master's death and thus the cessation of dosing, Narcisse regained human consciousness and returned to his family years later, dying again in 1994.

Bonello alternates this tale with present-day scenes at the Maison d’Education of the Legion of Honor in Saint-Denis, "a state school intended for the daughters, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters of French and foreign recipients of the Legion of Honor, the Military Medal, and the National Order of Merit"* founded by Napoleon around the time Haiti achieved independence in 1804. We come to learn that Narcisse's granddaughter Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat) attends the school and must contend with the rituals promising acceptance from a group of cool girls.

The most remarkable aspect of Zombi Child is how Bonello approaches these latter scenes with just as much ethnographic fascination as the Narcisse story. For Haitian audiences and, indeed, anyone not of such lofty birthright, the traditions and practices at the Maison d’Education are foreign, not some hegemonic balcony from which to observe. Just as bizarre as any of the zombie folklore is an apparently real routine (according to Bonello at the Q & A) in which a group of students all lean back together as if to say "whoa!" in the presence of a high Maison official. And, as always with Bonello, the routine is conveyed through the musical - Voudou drumming, a rendition of "Silent Night," a school report on Rihanna, the Haitian blues rock of Moonlight Benjamin, French rappers Damso and Kalash, and Gerry & The Pacemakers' overripe but now, thanks to Bonello, devastating take on "You'll Never Walk Alone" which, I've just discovered, is the theme song for the Liverpool Football Club (talk about foreign rituals!).

What does it all mean? We'll get to that. But first, let's connect with this absolutely exquisite film.
Grade: A
*Quoted from the press kit. 


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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

New York Film Festival 57 Screenings 2

Liberté (Albert Serra)
My favorite film at NYFF 57, Albert Serra's Liberté recalls my favorite film of the century, Jacques Nolot's La chatte à deux têtes (aka Porn Theatre, 2002). Based on a play Serra mounted for a controversial performance at Berlin's Volksbühne last year (according to an Artforum review by Dennis Lim, patrons shouted “Louder!” and “Some acting please!”), Liberté's central presentational mode is cruising: a dozen of so 18th-century libertines roam a German forest at night and engage in a variety of polymorphously perverse acts with one another. The first scene teases us with a story. But it's best not to recount it here (although I'll paste the official one below for posterity's sake) because Serra soon jettisons any narrative niceties for a frame drowned in darkness and a soundtrack dominated by half-heard whispers and mumbling. As they cruise, characters remain nameless and even faceless for the remainder of the running time. They move in and out of sedan chairs, lean against trees, prostrate themselves in the soil to give and receive pleasures. The pleasures offer urine, blood, hole, and promise more. If the overall structure is directionless, then Serra gathers directions, vectors, energies, and flows under its aegis. Liberté is without purpose, without moral, without justification, and I cannot think of a film that better earns its title. 
Grade: A+

The Q & A deserves special mention. Apparently, Serra has the reputation of being a jerk and he didn't disappoint, reserving particular bile for actors. But he also delivered the most intelligent commentary I've ever heard at a Q & A. Some paraphrased insights:
The film is set at night because night is not progressive. We often can't remember what we did last night which makes it perfect for implementing pleasures.

Utopia is paradoxical because you impose your good(s) on others. It's not natural.

Cruising concerns giving of yourself rather than only seeking out what you desire.

The crowds visible in Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970) were not as in control of their image as we are now with social media.

Actors don't control the image as much as they think. The camera in Liberté was often far away and they cannot control what the camera sees. Thus, Serra reported that some actors didn't even recognize themselves when they saw the film. He was quite preoccupied with this gap between what actors think they're giving off and what the camera records.

According to Dominique Païni's review of the film for Art Critique, the following was "officially outlined" as the plot:
“Mrs de Dumeval, the Duke of Tesis and the Duke of Wand, exiled libertarians from the puritanical court of Louis XVI, seek support from the legendary Duke of Walchen*, a German seducer and free thinker who finds himself lonely in a country ruled by false virtue and hypocrisy. Their mission was not only to export libertarianism and Enlightenment philosophy founded on the rejection of morality and authority to Germany but also to find a safe place to indulge in their roguish games. Will the nuns from the convent next door be drawn into in this wild night where the pursuit of pleasure is no longer subject to any other laws than those dictated by their unfulfilled desires?”
*Helmut Berger!

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Monday, October 07, 2019

New York Film Festival 57 Screenings 6

Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa)
In the Q & A after last night's screening of Vitalina Varela, Pedro Costa's first film since 2014's Horse Money,  Costa invoked Andy Warhol's Beauty #2 as an influence. On the surface, it would be difficult to imagine two more different films - the former featuring denizens of the Warhol Factory lounging in bed with plenty of leisure time to spare; the latter, Vitalina Varela, a performer in Horse Money here playing some sort of version of herself as a Cape Verdean woman returning to the shantytown of Cova da Moura* near Lisbon to bury the husband who abandoned her 25 years ago. And yet both films have the uncanny knack of insinuating themselves into your experience bank.

I cannot tell a lie. Sitting through Vitalina Varela was a chore. But the moment the end credits appeared, a sense of longing washed over me, the feeling of wanting time spent with loved ones to continue. And the more I read about the film, the more I miss it. That longing derives from how Costa avoids the temptation of portraiture. This is no bite-sized exposé on bombed-out poverty. Instead, he approaches Cova da Moura* via the liminal - between extremes of light and dark, whisper and declamation, stasis and movement. And thus the film becomes less a box to check for raised consciousness than a constellation of moments we half-remember through feeling rather than fact. We quite literally spend time with Varela in a radical act of connectedness.
Grade: A
* Not Fontainhas as I originally had it. Thank you, Andy Wrong Rector. 

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Sunday, October 06, 2019

New York Film Festival 57 Screenings 5

Wasp Network (Olivier Assayas)
Wasp Network tells the true story of the Cuban Five, a group of intelligence agents who infiltrated anti-Castro groups in Miami during the 1990s. The story is a bit unwieldy for Assayas who has trouble delineating the large cast of characters. But several gut-wrenching moments convey the tension between political and personal responsibilities all brought off with winning commitment from Édgar Ramírez,  Penélope Cruz, Wagner Moura, and future ex-husband Gael García Bernal. It's all such a respectable effort that you feel cretinous for saying anything negative about it. And yet there's little indication of why *Assayas* filmed this project and what *his* relationship is to it. In fact, it's so indifferently filmed that it's difficult to find anything of Assays in it at all.
Grade: B+

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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

New York Film Festival 57 Screenings 3

Still mulling over Day 2 but I can dispatch with Day 3 quickly.

Oh Mercy! (Arnaud Desplechin)
Two disappointments from two fave directors, first Reichardt with First Cow and now Desplechin with this curious policier (French title: Roubaix, une lumière). I should state right away that Esther Kahn was on my Aughts Top Ten list and I've adored every other Desplechin I've seen making the conventionality (that word again!) of this one rather a shock. An elegy for Desplechin's decaying Northern France home town of Roubaix, Oh Mercy! cannot sit still for its first half as it picks up bits of stories concerning various law enforcement officials and impoverished residents. The goal here, as Desplechin made clear in the Q & A, is to delineate the structural inequalities that contributed to Roubaix's decline as a whole. But the clipped narratives do little to illuminate that context since they remain at the level of the individual rather than the structural or institutional. Even worse, the second half settles into a straightforward murder investigation meant to unsettle the viewer's sympathy for two primary characters rather than allow us to ponder larger structures of inequity. Desplechin likened his film to Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956) in the Q & A. But he's achieved an ever so mildly arty episode of Law & Order instead.
Grade: B.

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