Thursday, July 28, 2011

26 soundtracks: Tjenare Kungen

Loosely translated as ‘God Save the King ‘Tjenare Kungen[1] is one of those films that I got to see at a film festival, but hasn’t made it to home video in the states. It’s the story of young punks in Gothenberg Sweden in the early 80s who form a band and … this is about the soundtrack, which features not only the music of the fictional band, but also the kind of music that young punks would have been listening to at the time in Sweden. First off you get the UK and American New Wave and NYC punks groups like; Blondie, The Prentenders, Alphaville, The Vapors and Roxy Music. These tracks work well in the context of the film and is a reminder to the viewer that we don’t all start out listening to the underground classics of the time. We all really have to start somewhere and with some more commercial bands and songs.

     The Swedish bands include thee Swedish punk band Ebba Grön with the killer 800 Grader. The rest of the Swedish tracks are ok, but really haven’t stuck with me as songs that I listen to. The tracks credited the band which the film follows, Tjenare Kungen, were written for the film and keep to the spirit of the time and the music in the film. I espically like 1x2x3x4 by the title band, it has a kick and a power to it, which still being infectious and poppy enough.

     Of course both the soundtrack and the film have yet to have any kind of release in the States. The only reason that I even have a copy is that I have visited Sweden since seeing the film and was able to pick up at copy of the soundtrack then… which is all too bad, because I have a feeling that the film and the album would find a small but loyal following if it got even a hint of a release in the States. I recommend both the soundtrack and the film if you run across copies.

Track list:
1. Solglasögon by Docent Död
2. 1x2x3x4 by Tjenare Kungen
3. Man ska vara som ett vilddjur i år by Kai Martin & Stick    
4. More Than This by Roxy Music
5. Turning Japanese by The Vapors
6. Berlin Berlin by Happy Gigolos
7. Perfect Skin by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
8. Bara för mycket by Tjenare Kungen
9. 800 grader by Ebba Grön
10.         Dancing With Tears In My Eyes by Ultravox
11.         Middle Of The Road by The Pretenders
12.         Livin' Thing by Elo
13.         Diamanter (är en flickas bästa vän)by Lustans Lakejer
14.         Samarin     Atentát by Tjenare Kungen    
15.         Hanging On The Telephone by Blondie
16.         The Freaks by Cortex    
17.         Dunkar Varmt by Tant Strul    
18.         Forever Young by Alphaville

[1] MY Swedish tells me that the direct translation is really ‘hello to the king’

Monday, July 25, 2011

26 films: Love and Other Catastrophes

Love and Other Catastrophes
79 Minutes

“Love is always Dangerous”

     Set in and around Melbourne University, Love and Other Catastrophes tells the story of a small group of students as they try to figure out their lives. Michael (Matt Day) is looking for a new place to live and for a girl. Mia (Frances O'Connor, who also stared with Day in Kiss or Kill) is trying to switch departments to follow a professor, all the while breaking up with her girl friend (Radha Mitchell).  Ari is a the campus stud, when we first meet him he is have sex for money with a woman who’s face we never see, later he is reading James Ellroy’s America Tabloid. Alice, Mia’s roommate, is trying to finish her thesis on Doris Day Feminist Class Warrior and looking for love. She only has three requirements for the boy she is looking for he must; Be left handed, like the same films she likes, and be honest… what do you think is going to happen.

It’s not the what’s going to happen that matters, it’s what co-writer and Director Emma-Kate Croghan does with the set it that matters. It’s fast, fun, free and a classic example of doing the best with what you have. There are several great shots, some very fun moments and a lot of illusions to other films, styles and moments. No attempt is made to hide the homage’s and in some moments outright lifting from others work. For me that’s part of the fun, part of the mixing of Croghan seeming to say this is where I am coming from. It’s a great début, and Croghan followed it up with a film called Strange Planet, which really did nothing for me.

The other element that makes the film rise above the 90s indie fray is the cast. Given a lot of self important, I’m so smart, cool or whatever dialog they sell it in a way that never made it to precious to me. It’s O’Connor who gives the best of these, playing drama, comedy and portraying Mia as not only a narcissist, but as a manipulator while at the same time caring about her friends and girlfriend…. Despite what she might say. Matt Day is one of my favorite presences on screen, most of the time, and here he is likable and fun, he gets several of the best comedic moments and plays them well. Alice Garner as Alice and Matthew Dyktynski as Ari are fun and fresh, and I wish that they were in more films that got some play in the states.

Overall I do have to admit that there is an element of enjoyment of the film as it captures a moment in time for my generation, that being the college years of the mid 1990s. Like Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming and the Ben Affleck flick Glory Daze, Love and Other Catastrophes reflects a world, a time and a mindset that I recall with some fondness. I have the film on VHS, along with a Australian DVD (which I can’t play due to the fact that I don’t have a region free player), but I still want some sort of US release for the film on DVD. I would love to see a Criterion release of the film, I think it would sit nicely along side Kicking and Screaming in the collection, but unless it was to end up in an eclipse set of some sort, I don’t think that’s going to happen. At this point the best we can hope for is that it pops up streaming somewhere, or if someone was to put it out on the cheap… it’s too bad because it’s a favorite of mine and it’s well worth checking out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

FFB: The 100 Best Movies that you’ve NEVER seen by Richard Crouse

In these days of the Internet guidebooks for films, books, and music might are often obsolete. Most of the basic info on almost anything you are looking for can be found on line somewhere, along with plenty of opinions about what every you are looking for. … that said the place for the ‘guide’ book these days is in either documenting a scene (see Swedishsensatinsfilms ), films that are off the radar, and then there is the guide for films that have been overlooked and that’s what we have here, a book that gives you 100 films that you may never have heard anything about.

Covering a lot of ground from the early horror of Island of Lost Souls (1933, and slated for a Criterion Collection release this October) to Here Comes Mr. Jordan to The Krays (1990) Crouse covers a lot of ground and provides enough varied material to make this a nice selection of film in general. Two films that I really love and recommend, CQ and The Dish are included along with many that I had never heard of. I have to admit that there are a number of films in the book that I have yet to check out, but in an age of Leonard Maltin’s best film’s you’ve never seen and 101 of the best action films you must see before you die, Crouse seems to have been ahead of the pack. This is also a perfect gift (which is how I got my copy) for the budding film fan in your life.

more forgotten books HERE

Thursday, July 14, 2011

26 soundtracks: Border Radio

Border Radio the first feature film from Alison Anders (Food, Gas and Lodging) the plot (from Wiki)
      … in which two musicians and a roadie who haven't been paid rob money from a club and one flees to Mexico leaving his wife and daughter behind. 

The film starts LA punk stalwarts Chris D. (of The Flesh Eaters and The Divine Horsemen) and John Doe (of X and now has a very nice solo career going)
 Along with an appearance by Dave Alvin (of the Blasters and who also has a Solo career)… so it’s should be no surprise that the music used in the film is largely drawn from the participants. I have to admit that I was already a big fan of several of the bands, and a couple of the songs used in the film.  The music is largely in that Cowpunk, dusty, C&W mode. The title track is a Balsters song as covered by Tony Kinman of The Dils and pioneering Cowpunkers Rank’n’File. The Green on Red track, Sixteen Ways, is one of those overlooked LA punk classics and I am a sucker for the Divine Horsemen, who are the third of my holy trinity of LA/ Southwest Cowpunk bands (Rank’n’File and Blood on the Saddle are the other two). The rest of the tracks didn’t really stand out to me, but fit the mood and film and sit well with the rest of the tracks. I am not sure if the record is in print, but the film has been issued on DVD by Criterion and is nicely packaged. I hope that if they are going to up grade it to Bluray (which I don’t think is really going to make it look any better) that they add a download of the soundtrack to the package. If you can find a copy of the LP and you like that rootsy, cowpunk, alt country sound I would say pick it up.

The Tonys – Border Radio
Dave Alvin – La Frontera I
The Lazy Cowgirl,– Drugs
Dave Alvin – Burning Guitar
Dave Alvin – Mi Vida Loca
Dave Alvin & John Doe – Little Honey
Divine Horsemen – Mother's Worry
Green On Red – Sixteen Ways
Dave Alvin – La Frontera II
Chris D. – Lilly White Hands
Dave Alvin – Driving To Mexico
Dave Alvin – Mi Vida Loca

Monday, July 11, 2011

26 Films: Bandits

“They Always Wanted to be Famous… They never knew they would be wanted!”
1997  110 Minutes German

As I have noted one of the great things about the VHS world of the 90s was that it was open of foreign films much more so than in the 80s. I don’t know if it was that most of the Hollywood back catalog of note had been mined, or that the indie boom (which was really in a lot of ways like the director driven films of the 70s) opened peoples eyes and wallets to films from other places… but luckily a lot of films made their way into our VCRs.

            Bandits, from Germany was one of those films. The plot is about a band formed in prison that finally gels and when sent out to play a gig at the policeman’s ball manages to escape. After seeing a news report about escaped male prisoners and up set about nothing being said about their escape they call up Blitz TV (a German MTV like channel… I’d watch it) and perform for a camera crew on top of a parking structure and give an interview before fading into the city. This of course brings them to the attention of not only the police who have been looking for them, but the public at large and they find an audience for their alt rock sounds.

 The band is made of up of strong women, most of whom are in prison for standing up to, conning, or fighting back against abusive men in their lives. They each have their own creative side and their own issues, which leads to a dynamic of conflict, but also of creative inspiration. They are not easy people to like and the film never asks the viewers to forgive them for their crimes, or makes them out to be victims of those they committed their acts against.

            Once out of prison and on the run they make plans to escape the country, but have to wait for their boat to leave, and during that time they have a series of adventures which also give them an excuse to play music live, and have musical numbers similar to what was found in classic musicals of the 40s and 50s. It’s worth noting that like Altman’s Nashville the actresses created a large number of the songs they sing and perform in the film.

 I recall liking the film a lot when I saw it back in the 90s and have looked for it on DVD since. Re-watching it now I didn’t love it as much, but I suspect that was due to my own distractions while trying to watch it. I think it’s a solid film and one that I wish more people had latched onto and discovered. It’s a film that really should sit along side Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Ladies and Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains (and the Running Kind, but we are going to get to that) in showcasing that women can and always have been able to rock, and portraying flawed strong women making their way in a hostile world.

Here is another look at the film over at  Prison Movies  and one from Beyond Hollywood.

Friday, July 8, 2011

FFB: What of Terry Conniston? by Brian Garfield

This is another Echo FFB, which was originally covered by Cullen Gallagher over at his blog this past May (

What of Terry Conniston? is a masterfully told story of a kidnapping, a ransom and the disintegration of parallel ad hoc families. Told in a non-linear format, the book is fast and furiously paced with tough smart driving prose. We start with a pair of men surveying the spot where the kidnappee was held; they mention finding two bodies and wonder what has happened to the rest of the gang and what happened to our Kidnappee.

As plots go the Kidnapping thriller is one of the more common, and what makes this book stand out is how Garfield tells the story and what he adds to the mix with the group dynamics of the two afore mentioned ‘Families’. I don’t want to go into too much detail, only because I do highly recommend this book, and I think it would make a great Hard Case Crime or Stark House Reprint. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent UK film The Disappearance of Alice Creed, which shares some elements with the book, but is not an adaptation as far as I can tell.

Thanks to Cullen Gallagher for the heads up on not only this book, but Brian Garfield, whose work I had not heard of, but will check out further in the future.

More Friday Forgotten Books can be Found over at Patti Abbotts Blog Here… and also check out my review of Megan Abbotts new book from yesterday HERE.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

    Like Megan Abbott I grew up in Southeast Michigan during the 70s and 80s, we lived in the wake of the Oakland County Child Murders, and the disappearance of Adam Walsh. There were very bad things happening to young people, stranger danger, the crack wars, and then there were people who were doing bad things to kids at school, in day care and of course in Church. In The End of Everything, Abbott explores the all too common threat to young Generation X teenage girls of the early 80s, the sexual predator.  

The novel follows Lizzie, a 13-year-old girl about to enter high school. She plays soccer and is learning field hockey, she spend her time with her best friend Evie and her older sister. Evie disappears after school one day after refusing a ride with Lizzy and her mom. In the hours following it becomes clear that Lizzy isn’t anywhere to be found, and in come the police.  As things move on Lizzie finds that she holds clues and some answers about what has happened and why, and just maybe she is going to start putting together some answers to what is going on in her neighborhood.

            Abbott drives the story forward in a whispered running pace.  It’s like she is tell you a gossipy secret in the lunchroom. She accesses the confusion, uncertainty, and the emerging truths of becoming an adult, in a way that is honest and very real. Set right at the end of the school year as the spring is making way for summer, the book also manages to bring in a humid sticky feel that isn’t sexual, but more dream like and buzzing with a realization that just hasn’t been put together.  While the time and place of the story is never spelled out I have a strong feeling that it is the

            This is another winner from Abbott, who is blazing her own path through the world of crime fiction. She consistently seems to write what she wants; never pandering to what the market seems to be selling. I don’t expect for her to give us another series detective, or some sort of tough anti-hero vigilante character.  Simply I think she stands along side; Victor GischlerDuane SwierczynskiJason Starr and Christa Faust as thee cutting edge voice of crime fiction today….. which is to say that I do highly recommend The End of Everything, it’s a book that I know I am going to revisit.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Books June 2011

Lawrence Block book of the Month: The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling
This is a paperback that I have owned for years and until now have never gotten around to reading. I think that I picked it up in the late 80s or early 90s when I read my first Block books. This time around Bernie is running a bookshop, trying to make it the legit way... only there is always another score. Bernie been hired to pick up a rare book, only there are bodies and Bernie finds himself in the middle of it all again. At this point I read these books because Bernie is fun to read about, and I enjoyed this book... and am sure I'll enjoy the next one when I get around to it.
Stark House Press novel of the Month: One for Hell by Jada M. Davis
Willa Ree is a bad man, and when he hits a booming oil town in the backwaters of Texas he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. Co-oppted by the town leaders to work on the police force to take over the action and line everyone wallet, Willa runs wild and takes what he wants, using his badge when needed.  This was a solid noir from the early 50s and one has to wonder what Davis would have produced if he written a few more.

Ian Dury : the definitive biography by Will Birch
The title pretty much says it all… aside from the fact that this was very solid biography that moved along well and at the same time gave insight to Ian Dury. There was no soft-pedaling of his shortcomings and issues, at the same time the uplifting parts of his life story are explored. Very good, and recommended.

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliot Chaze
One of the Holy Grails of Gold Medal paperback fiction, the story is about a ex con and the woman he meets and their descent into the blackness of greed. I really don’t want to say anything more because I really don’t want to give the story away, but I will say that there is a heist. I will say that it works on many levels and echo’s many of the great themes of Noir, but spins them in a direction that is more David Goodis than Richard Stark. I just finished it and I am still taking it in, but I can add only that it really deserves to be back in print (Hard Case Crime or Stark House Press would be thee candidates for a reissue). While looking for info on it I did note that a film version has been in development for almost half a decade, well shall see if it makes it way to the screen and if that also triggers a reissue.