Friday, March 24, 2006

The Specter of Spector

Every few months we are treated to the specter of Phil Spector, a guy so totally whacked, he thinks this is a good look for him. Now there are many things I could say about Phil and his long, and for the most part, illustrious career, but when I see this picture I don't think about that Phil. I think about the album National Lampoon's Radio Dinner, a compilation of the best of the once nationally syndicated National Lampoon Radio Hour.

The album has a lot of funny bits, all written by the late, great, Michael O'Donoghue and the still great Tony Hendra, but interspersed with them are bits of what is called Teenyrap. Teenyrap was written by the terrific Christopher Guest and it features the sounds of two teenagers in conversation at a party.

They speak to one another of the new era of peace coming to the planet and how the cosmic forces are being aligned for peace by George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh album. Their pretentiousness knows no bounds.

Fade in to the sounds of clinking glasses and bottles and background conversations...

Girl: Hey, you know, if we got this thing together, you know, everybody started buying the album, man, we could probably get rid of Nixon and his whole pig trip, man. We could get somebody in there man, like...

Man: Oh, that would be really far out, man. You know, like, incredible...

Girl: Oh, it'd be great. You know...

Man: We could get Robbie Robertson to be Secretary of War. You know, that would be so far out!

Girl: Yeah, he'd make everybody wear undershirts though, man...

Man: I know, but he could...

Girl: I know, man. People like Garcia. Like, Jerry Garcia, like, and have him in charge of giving out downs, man...

Man: Or, you know, Phil Spector. He could , you know... I don't know, he could lower the net.

Girl (not so sure): Lower the net? That sounds OK...

Man: Well, somebody has to do it. Not me.

Fade out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Red Rock West

One of the films I have on auto-record on my TiVo is John Dahl's Red Rock West, which is a great introduction to the work of writer/director John Dahl and modern film noir. I can't think of another modern writer/director who better understands the technical, visual, and literal concepts of film noir, than John Dahl. He assembles a great cast of wonderful actors, places them in a unique small Texas town set, films mainly at night, and adds in just the right amount of murder, double-crossing, lust, mistaken identities, secret pasts, hidden agendas, sex, danger, violence, and humor. The result is a magic film about what happens when the honest meet the dishonest and what really matters most in life to some people.

Michael (Nicolas Cage) is a truly nice guy, an honest man, who through a case of mistaken identity gets involved with a murder plot. He has a chance early on to get out of town with some money that is not his, but that there is no way he could give back. If he just takes the money and runs, he is fine, but he can't; he can't because he is a nice guy and he has to try and set at least some of this mess right before he blows town. In doing so, things get bad, then they get worse, and then they get even worse. As the plot propels you along, every time you think things could not possibly get worse, they do as Michael gets deeper and deeper involved in a web of murderers and thieves. All Cage really wants to do is get out of the town of Red Rock, but no matter how often he leaves, he keeps getting pulled back.

Cage is wonderful; you can see the weight of every pained decision on his face, his heavy-lidded eyes. Also fine is the late, great J.T. Walsh as Wayne, the bar owner who wants his wife killed. Wayne is open and honest about his shortcomings, a different type of bad guy than you are used to seeing. Laura Flynn Boyle plays wife Suzanne with great style. She runs from hot to cold with ease; one minute you think she needs protecting, the next you need protection from her. You don't know till the end what is really important to her.

Dennis Hopper plays hired hit man Lyle with his usual intensity and adds a stiff-necked, jerky movement physicality to the character that makes him creepier than your average Hopper lunatic.

Like most noir films, Red Rock West deals with the people who populate the ugly underside of society. This story of an innocent stumbling into the morass of lies, deceits, and double-crosses that these people inhabit will grab you, and keep you guessing until the very end. The film also speaks of the inevitability of some acts, of how once you start down a path, you can't get off of it until you reach the end. Sometimes doing the right thing, may not have been the right thing to do.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

We'll Remember You Forever Eddie....

But not like this!

Wow, none of us are quite what we used to be physically, but when did Eddie Van Halen turn into a toothless old homeless man who has spent too many years in the sun? This is almost as shocking as the Nick Nolte mugshot from a few years back.

Is Valerie Bertinelli a succubus, 'cause it looks like she sucked the life force right out of Eddie before she left?

Seriously Eddie, you need to take better care of yourself, you look really stressed. I know David Lee Roth is going to be looking for a new job soon; is that what's bothering you bunkie?

(Special No Prize for those who can identify the source of this item's title without resorting to an Internet search!)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Help Save Air America Phoenix

On March 1, 2006, the Air America Phoenix station was taken off the air by a Christian broadcasting company. This was a “dark” day for progressive talk radio in America. I would not be the least surprised if this is the beginning of a overall strategy by the religious right to get progressive stations that they don't like off the air.

The former staff of Air America Phoenix has negotiated a deal to resurrect operations at a new home effective April 3, 2006 but they need your help! They must immediately raise money to cover their operating expenses out of the gate. Their goal of $500,000 will guarantee them a home for years to come.

You can donate to the “Save Air America Phoenix” fund online directly by going to their website and clicking on one of the donation buttons. Each person or business who donates can have their business logo or personal message permanently displayed on their new web site,, that will commemorate you, the true patriots who rallied to their cause. This is like “buying a brick” and having your name and message inscribed on it. Instead their “building” is the web page and the “bricks” are the pixels.

They are also accepting just straight donations.

This is just another attempt by the pro-Bush forces to silence opposing views. Don't let it happen. If you can afford it, donate today. If you can't afford it, we all understand what it is like trying to get by in Bush's decimated economy and you have our sympathy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Blues

I've got the Oscar blues this year. Normally the night of the Academy Awards is a big one at the Keller house, but not this year. There are a couple of reasons for my melancholy feelings this year.

First, I always pride myself in going into the Awards show, not as a "guy in a diner" who has an opinion based on here say, but as a well informed member of the public. We see all the movies that are nominated in the major categories, so we know based on fact who we are rooting for, who we would have voted for. But this year, this year it just didn't happen. There are 19 films nominated in the major categories, 19! And the sorry truth is we have seen only five of them.

We saw Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, Capote, War of the Worlds, and Syriana. Not a very impressive showing on our part. As for the others...

Well, we tried to see Brokeback Mountain, but twice it was sold out on us. Memoirs of a Geisha had some pretty impressive bad word-of-mouth and it is a film I had little interest in to begin with. Munich just sounded too depressing and I was never really that hot to see Walk the Line. I might try to catch The Constant Gardener on VOD before the show, so that one might be added to my list. King Kong got some really bad word-of-mouth in the crowd I run with (like I run with a crowd), and you couldn't pay me to sit through The Chronicles of Narnia. I had about as much interest in seeing Pride and Prejudice as I did in seeing Geisha. I would love to see A History of Violence, Mrs. Henderson Presents, North Country, and Transamerica, but all of them have been hard to near impossible to see, all being pretty small films in relatively small, short releases.

So, I like to have an opinion but tonight I'm gonna be that "guy in a diner" who can spout off all he wants but has no facts to back up what he says (sort of like Republicans when the bitch and whine about the latest Michael Moore movie they have never seen). I think that is why the ratings will be pretty bad for the show tonight; not enough people in the home audience will have seen enough of the nominated films to have an informed opinion. And who wants that?

The second reason for my Oscar blues is that for the first time in 21 years I will watch the show without my wife beside me to commiserate with. My wife took an interim job up north about 400 miles from here and though she has been down for the weekend, I have to put her on a plane at 5:30 for the trek back. Who am I going to complain to if Philip Seymour Hoffman does not win (as he should in my uninformed opinion)? It just takes all the fun out of it!