Random Thoughts In The Face of Chaos…

I’ve been weary and angry about the job situation (and it’s only just begun!). Further, I’m angry that I’m so angry about it. Why should I let an impersonal twist of fate bring me down? It was making me crazy, and not crazy enough at that.

Went to a Bogart double feature Monday night at the Brattle: The Desperate Hours and High Sierra. I thought I’d only seen two other Bogie flicks (The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen) until R. reminded me of a certain little gem called Casablanca.

The Desperate Hours (which I believe was somehow transmogrified into the Denis Leary/Kevin Spacey (sounds like Dirty Larry, Crazy Mary?!) Ted Demme-directed comedy The Ref). In the Bogie film, Humphrey leads a trio of escaped convicts who take an all American/suburban Father Knows Best family hostage. Of course it’s dated, but for a ‘50s suspense melodrama, pretty sparse and effectively suspenseful. I wish Fredric March (as the family’s father) could’ve bypassed that rigid, ever-souring frown he wore throughout the entire film, but Bogie is grand as a weathered scoundrel. He was a damn bastard, but I couldn’t help feeling for him just a bit when his number was up.

As for High Sierra, which was made 14 years earlier, it was jolting to see Bogart instantaneously much younger and more handsome. This was made pre-Falcon, so Ida Lupino has top billing. It’s easy to see why the Brattle paired this with The Desperate Hours—here, Bogie is another escaped convict, only a somewhat kinder, gentler one who offers to pay for a young woman’s leg operation instead of taking her family (headed by Henry Travers (Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life) hostage. The climactic chase anticipates the ending of North By Northwest. There’s also googly-eyed Algernon (oh, those early ‘40s and their racist stereotypes!) and Pard (not Pod) the dog. It’s all a glorified B-movie (especially considering Lupino's presence), but again, Bogart makes it all worth watching.


Also caught Tom Dowd: The Language of Music, a fascinating documentary about a music engineer who has recorded Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers, Derek and the Dominoes, and (with incredible archival footage), Aretha Franklin in her absolute prime. Dowd has a friendly, energetic persona, and his particular story (which also involves, um, The Manhattan Project) is a must-see for anyone captivated by contemporary music and the recording process.


Belle and Sebastian were once the most notoriously shy and elusive of indie-pop collectives, rarely touring, never appearing in photos on their CDs, releasing only 1,000 copies of their first album, Tigermilk (on vinyl!). So the new Fans Only DVD is a revelatory shock. Incorporating videos, concert footage, interviews and miscellany in a feature-length documentary format, what emerges is a collage/portrait of a truly unique band more interested in being themselves and simply making music as good as Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile” than being rock gods or appearing on Top of The Pops (although a performance from that show is included.) Despite the title, I can’t imagine a more perfect introduction to the band (that is, apart from their immortal second LP, If You’re Feeling Sinister).


Finally, it’s happened again. I’ve found a new candidate for album of the year after the year has passed. In 2001, I thought it was Steve Wynn’s Here Comes The Miracles until I heard The Avalanche’s Since I Left You months into 2002. Despite a few good records here and there, 2003 was pretty subpar, with only Rufus Wainwright’s Want One and The White Stripes’ Elephant serious contenders. Now, I think Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism (which I purchased this week) could easily knock Rufus off the top. I need more time to absorb it before I attempt a full review, but for now, it’s gorgeous, exquisite, lush rock with all the crucial elements gloriously in place, highlighted by Ben Gibbard’s angelic, yearning, elastic voice. It’s even better than The Postal Service, his electro-pop side project. And in these tough times, it’s like a gift from the heavens, like watching Rushmore over and over again and finding more solace and joy and beauty in it with each viewing.