As a serious pop-culture playa, I do more than consume movies. I’ve also been known to eat up music as well. It’s simply by coincidence that the latest batch of discs to hit my desk are related to film in one way or another, directly or indirectly. Like what, you ask? Like ...
The year’s best movie gives us the year’s best soundtrack, anchored by a damn fine score from Cliff Martinez, whose work I’ve admired since his sparse guitar on “sex, lies, and videotape” in 1989. Here, Martinez proves himself a master of mood, with 14 down-tempo cuts that exist in the shadows but pulse with tension and excitement. His beats are very much a character in the film, but they work well on their own, especially as a soundtrack to your own zooming about town. Where else will such menacing titles (“Skull Crushing,” “They Broke His Pelvis,” “Kick Your Teeth”) belie their come-down content?
I also cannot discount the disc’s first five tracks, mostly synth-driven, ’80s-influenced numbers by under-the-radar acts Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx, Desire, College and Chromatics. The show may be stolen, by Italian composer Riz Ortolani’s “Oh My Love,” a 1971 ballad showcasing the beautiful, seductive voice of Katyna Ranieri, which ironically provides the sonic background to cinema’s grisliest elevator encounter.
Soundtracks to video games are no longer a novelty, and “Batman: Arkham City — The Album” is among the most heavily promoted I’ve ever seen. No matter how the game turns out — quite awesome, if its predecessor is any indication — the disc offers 11 tracks of songs (some original) that’s surprisingly cohesive for a “various artists” effort. I’ve no idea if these actually appear in the game, but all would fit (Daughtry excepted), being various shades of dark and grimy. Immediate standouts for me were †††’s “The Years” and Panic! At the Disco’s “Mercenary,” which is the closest thing to joy the compilation dares reach.
A better-than-usual Black Rebel Motorcycle Club recalls Stone Roses on “Shadow on the Run,” while The Raveonettes dish out their brand of gloom-pop with “Oh, Stranger.” While I’m no fan of the over-the-top style of Coheed and Cambria (here with “Deranged”), I admit to digging the over-the-top of vocals of System of the Down’s Serj Tankian, who’s solo here with “Total Paranoia.” Also among the rogue’s gallery of groups: The Duke Spirit, The Damned Things and The Boxer Rebellion. Perhaps its spirit of all things Gotham will tie you over until “The Dark Knight Rises” lands in theaters.
The title holds double meaning, because not only is comedian Doug Benson’s act decidedly R-rated, but the man loves his marijuana. I know this because he won’t stop talking about it in this live act, not to mention in his podcast, “Doug Loves Movies,” which currently is something to live for (and justifies me including his disc here). Culled from two consecutive shows, “Potty Mouth” finds Benson doing his usual stand-up, which isn’t usual in the stand-up world. Rather than follow the standard set-up/punch-line formula, he just seems to talk from the top of his head (he’s well-noted for his lack of being able to remember anything without writing it down).
Thus, we get seemingly random observations on Twitter (including him calling out audience members tweeting about the show during the show, marijuana, dirty words, more marijuana, the Black Eyed Peas, and even more marijuana. A highlight has him telling him the world’s cleanest joke and the world’s dirtiest joke simultaneously, alternating between the two line by line. It makes sense when you hear it, and I hope you do. Bonus: The non-digital, physical-CD version includes a DVD of his now-canceled Comedy Central series, “The Benson Interruption.”
Yes, folks, that Robert Davi: the character actor with the poor complexion who’s memorable in such ’80s blockbusters as “The Goonies,” “Die Hard” and “License to Kill.” Often the bad guy on the screen, the guy’s got good pipes on stage, as demonstrated throughout this 12-song covers album of Frank Sinatra hits. You’d assume this album to be some half-assed vanity project, but nope! It’s produced by the legendary, 14-time Grammy winner Phil Ramone, who’s worked his studio magic with the likes of Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Madonna and Elton John, not to mention the Chairman of the Board himself.
Plus, Davi doesn’t go for all of Sinatra standards. No “Theme from New York, New York,” no “My Way,” no “Fly Me to the Moon,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Strangers in the Night,” “It Had to Be You” and all that. He sings “Witchcraft” and “I’ve Got the World on a String,” and that’s about it for the greatest hits. Admirably, he opts for the lesser-known tunes (“Mam’selle,” anyone?), which forces listeners to hone in on his voice, rather than let their brains recite lyrics they’ve committed to memory. Quite simply, Davi does good; Frank would approve.
That said, it’s not really my thing. But rest assured, my mom is gonna love it. —Rod Lott
Watch the state’s reigning alt-jazz act play FreeTulsa!
I don’t know who’s behind underthebelfry.com, but they’ve shot a couple of really terrific, multi-camera videos of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s FreeTulsa! performance, as well as other local bands Desi & Cody, Low Litas and the awesomely named Manhammer. I strongly recommend you jaunt over to their neck of the Internet woods and watch the beautiful stuff posted there. I’d especially like to point out the pair of tracks from JFJO’s excellent, latest LP, “Race Riot Suite.” Watch “The Return” for a lengthy, impressive Chris Combs lap guitar solo, and “Grandfather’s Gun” for the signature raucous, high-energy performance you expect from the band.
More yoga, Butterfingers, hairy bikers, Mick Jagger and walruses than your peepers can handle.
Lotsa local film and TV happenings are on the immediate horizon, so let’s run through them on the record so I can say, “I told you so!”
• Yo’ go see “Yogawoman,” a documentary on — wait for it — yoga and its influence on the modern woman. Narrated by three-time Oscar loser Annette Bening, the film screens Oct. 20 at Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery, 706 W. Sheridan. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.; drinks, appetizers and live music will be provided before the 8 p.m. showing. A recommended donation of $10 at the door will benefit the YWCA, and the screening is hosted by Yoga Room OKC. For more info, call Laura Lester at 823-7838. Check out the trailer or skip to the next item, about candy bars and serial killers.
• Fathom Events Presents “Fathom Thriller Thursdays” on Oct. 13 and Oct. 27. This is a fancy-sounding name for a double feature, one of which is a commercial directed by Rob Lowe, and the other like something my dad would watch on History Channel. At 7:30 p.m. both nights, see the horror-comedy featurette “Butterfinger the 13th,” followed by the documentary “Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Story.” You can see them at Cinemark Tinseltown USA, 6001 N. Martin Luther King, and Hollywood Spotlight 14, 1100 N. Interstate Drive in Norman. It’s not quite “The Exorcist,” but hey, it’s more Halloween-y than Fathom’s opera lineup.
• Speaking of History Channel, it debuts the reality show “Hairy Bikers” on Oct. 14, in which two guys on motorcycles (spoiler alert: the “Hairy Bikers” of the title) trek around the U.S., fueled by their passion for good food. On Friday’s very first episode, they visit Okahoma — specifically, Meers Restaurant, the Choc Beer Company and the Stroh Family Wheat Farm — all while you’re on your couch, eating a Hungry-Man Dinner. Again. (I should note that the bikers are British, but they do like hot chocolate.
• Speaking of Fathom Events, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 brings “The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas” to the aforementioned Hollywood Spotlight 14. The concert film was shot in Fort Worth on July 18, 1978, but has been digitally remastered in HD and features a new, 20-minute interview with Mick Jagger.
• For those who like their music less with less swagger, check out Lang Lang with the Philadelphia Orchestra for “Lang Lang Live on Franz Liszt’s 200th Birthday,” showing live at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 (with a replay Oct. 24), at Cinemark Tinseltown USA, 6001 N. Martin Luther King, and AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W. Memorial. At 200 years old, don’t you think Liszt is starting to look a lot like Jagger? We shall see. ‘
• Finally, local filmmaker par excellence Mickey Reece debuts his latest way-out effort, “Walrus,” Oct. 22 at City Arts Center, with a live music performance by Samantha Crain. It’s about underground arm wrestling, and Reece promises his “most alienating movie” yet, so take that as a gotta-attend! Your trailer awaits below, and look for my review in the Oct. 19 issue of Oklahoma Gazette. —Rod Lott
On Tuesday night, Syracuse indie-pop mini-orchestra Ra Ra Riot (or “the not-so-dancey Passion Pit,” as my old boss once so aptly described it) stopped by the big city to play “Shadowcasting” for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
We’re less than a month away from the band’s Nov. 2 appearance at ACM@UCO, and I couldn’t be more excited. Its first record, “The Rhumb Line,” was somehow tender, vulnerable and catchy all at the same time, and one of my favorites from 2008. Watch:
In the Oklahoma music scene, few are eerier than Norman's Magnificent Bird, and just last week, the band posted an odd, alluring video to YouTube, to go with the song “Nowhere to Hide.” All rainy and black-and-white, a pretty, pale ghost haunts a depressed English major around the University of Oklahoma's campus. Watch it below.
You can stream their album “Superdark Can Happen to Anyone” at their Bandcamp page for free, or purchase it for $9.99. Also, the track “Cowboys are Blue Because of What They Have to Do” is available for free download.
Watch a sliver of the glory that is the new M83 album.
M83’s excellent, acclaimed, new double-LP, “Hurry Up, We're Dreaming,” is out now, and this weird, stunning video surfaced online recently to promote it.
Watch as some very gifted students escape their very Charles Xavier-inspired school to run around, experiment with their powers, watch the sun set, and get creepy glowing alien eyes. Bizarre story for sure, but it’s a perfect complement to the explosive synth-driven soundtrack that is “Midnight City.”
The album is also still available for streaming, if you’re afraid to commit to spending $12.99 on it. Hit that up at Disco Naivete.
Catch two of indie’s biggest players giving live-in studio performances on ‘Later with Jools Holland.’
Wisconsin soft-rockers Bon Iver (whose live show I was lucky enough to catch in Kansas City about two months back) and Canadian chanteuse Feist both played “Later with Jools Holland” last week, and additional videos from those sessions have surfaced, now totaling six in all.
I share because they’ve released two of this year’s most terrific albums and each has an absolute all-star supporting cast behind their live shows. Watch for Colin Stetson and his big, groaning bass sax behind Justin Vernon (dude smashes on “Perth”) and mom jeans-sportin’ vocal trio Mountain Man bolstering Feist’s choruses. It’s a good thing those ladies’ voices are better than their haircuts.
My picks are “Perth” and “How Come You Never Go There,” but all six are posted below, for your perusal.
OCU professor reveals how he harvested ‘Children of the Corn.’
Oklahoma City University clearly is in the Halloween spirit. It’ll screen 2001’s remake of “Children of the Corn” for free at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. tonight in the United Methodist Hall dorm theater room. Despite that strange-sounding setting, the public is invited.
What makes this interesting is that Fritz Kiersch, chairman of OCU’s Moving Image Arts Program, will discuss “Corn” between the showings, because he directed the 1984 original.
Five years ago, I interviewed Kiersch about making that minor horror classic — spawning a franchise that’s now up to part eight, with the brand-new “Children of the Corn: Genesis” — so why not yank it out of the Gazette archives to share it with you? Here goes!
FRITZ KIERSCH: ‘CORN’ FARMER Just think: Had economics graduate Fritz Kiersch not stood on Wall Street wearing the same blue seersucker suit as everyone else, the world may never have experienced the cinematic pleasure of seeing kids murder all the adults in their town and promptly establish a Satanic cult in the Nebraskan cornfields.
Today a department chair and artist-in-residence for Oklahoma City University’s Moving Image Arts Program, the Texas-born Kiersch was all set to embark on a career as an international banker when he was struck by the realization of how dull it would be and thought, “This is stupid. I’m outta here.”
One coastal switch later, Kiersch pursued a love of filmmaking that eventually would lead to his directorial debut on 1984’s “Children of the Corn.” Based on the short story by Stephen King (the first of his short fiction to make the jump to screen), the low-budget shocker starring a pre-fame Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton proved a sizable box-office hit — one that still enjoys a healthy cult following more than two decades later and spurred a profitable (if uninspired) franchise, currently six sequels strong.
Kiersch cut his artistic teeth making TV commercials. He got along well with an assistant director he hired, who went on to become an executive in charge of production for New World Pictures.
“One day he called and said, ‘Because you put all this ice cream in my freezer, I’m going to give you guys a chance to make a movie,’” Kiersch recalled.
Scripts followed; Kiersch declined. A couple months later, his friend pressed on with a script for “Children of the Corn,” telling Kiersch, “This is right up your alley.” Kiersch went in to talk and left with a green light; he was off scouting locations in Iowa the next day.
“I’ve never had such an easy motion-picture hire,” he said. “It was out of a fairy tale. People wait their lifetime for this kind of stuff.”
According to Kiersch, New World saw a lot of potential in King’s story “about children in an environment of terror.” Kiersch himself was game, seeing the trappings of the movie’s low budget as an opportunity for “a world of creativity and imagination and innovation.”
“The script was specific to a certain level of generality: corn fields, isolation, abandonment,” he said. “We had to fulfill those requirements … at a time when harvest was going on and the corn was turning from green — the good color — to dead yellow, which did not photograph very nicely. One day, we’d shoot, and return the next day and the corn would be gone or dead. So the invention came with ‘What do we do? How do we fix this?’ We took scissors (to the script) and literally cut around scenes to make things happen.”
Another challenge: The monster — known as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” — was never described in George Goldsmith’s script.
“So I invented everything,” said Kiersch. “I said, ‘On a dark country road when we were 12, every sound made us wet our pants. Over the wind! Let’s use those influences and do an homage to the horror movie on the B level.’”
This entailed a conscious decision to let the acting be stiff, the characters cardboard, the threats obvious and the monster intangible. Its terrifying menace would have to be suggested, via moving corn and upturned soil — effects creatively gained through no-nonsense use of fishing line and an upside-down wheelbarrow.
When it came time to blow up the monster at the end of the movie, “we were going to be able to make a 10-story fireball twice. The second time, it went off incorrectly,” Kiersch said. “The guy who loaded the gas pumps was drunk.”
With only one take to use, the new director realized it wasn’t visual enough … until a friend later let him crib some clouds from a Kawasaki ad to add in to up the ominous factor. Admitted Kiersch, “Luck played a tremendous element in the success of the film, but so did inventiveness and gut feeling and just the idea of honest filmmaking. We weren’t trying to be slick and cool; it was to be rough and pay tribute.”
It paid off. Shot over four weeks, “Children of the Corn” took in more than $10 million upon its release in spring 1984 — not bad on an investment that didn’t quite clear $1 million. Its true fortunes would be found on home video, first on VHS and then in DVD editions from Anchor Bay.
Critics were unkind — not surprising, given the genre.
“I was called ‘the hack’s hack,’” Kiersch remembered. “People looked at its value and said, ‘Here’s a story about children killing adults. This is not good!’ That was a big lesson for me. When you make a film, you don’t think globally about what you make, but when it’s released, it goes all over the world. You have to accept responsibility for it. I was completely naïve to that at the time.”
Said Gray Frederickson, a friend and collaborator of Kiersch, “Other than maybe ‘The Bad Seed,’ I don’t think there was a movie where the kids were the bad guys. It was a very unusual first experience for people to see kids doing bad things.”
One of the harshest critics was King himself. Perhaps already indisposed to like the film since his own screenplay had been jettisoned — Kiersch said King was “not a competent screenwriter at the time” — the best-selling author penned a savage letter to the director and studio, claiming they “destroyed” his source material. Said Kiersch, “He was somewhat angered and frustrated.”
Because of “Corn”’s success, Kiersch fielded numerous offers for more spook shows — “Howling II,” “Nightflyers” and, he said, “movies about worms and Native American shape shifters.” Instead, he turned them all down and went on to direct several movies involving kids and teens — though far less homicidal — like “Tuff Turf” with James Spader and Robert Downey Jr.
“I just didn’t want anything to do with horror, because I felt that was not where I was strong,” he said. “But what I’ve realized retrospectively over the years is horror is a form of storytelling where you can do things outside the norm and play around.”
Eventually, he returned to deal in dread. And all it took was a move to Oklahoma City. In 2000, he was recruited by Frederickson — an Oscar-winning producer of “The Godfather” films and “Apocalypse Now” — to make movies in Oklahoma for Graymark Productions.
Lensed in Meridian, Norman and Oklahoma City, “The Hunt” is the first result of that partnership, about a group of hunters having the tables turned on them. “Surveillance,” a Penn Square Mall-shot thriller with horror elements, soon followed with star Armand Assante.
“We love the pictures he’s done for us,” said Frederickson. “He doesn’t subscribe to the new slasher school of horror, like ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel.’ He’s more of the Kubrick/Hitchcock guy, and he’s very good at it.”
“Suggestion is far better,” agreed Kiersch. “I think it’s cool to manipulate an audience, to sucker punch them. I love watching an audience that talks back to the screen.”
He said he will “try my best” to make all his films from here on out. “I’m very proud to be a part of this community. Our creative energies are terrific here.”
Odds are, none will have the shelf life of “Corn,” but that’s OK by him.
“It’s nice,” he said of its enduring legacy. “It’s just one of those things in your life that, for whatever reason, sticks around. I’m proud of it. I came up with something that has generated a particular reference in American pop culture. Even though it’s not a positive reference, it’s cool.”
Told of recent whispers that Hollywood has eyes on remaking his baby, Kiersch sighed, “Oh, my. Life is getting boring if they want to redo this.” —Rod Lott
The ‘Boardwalk Empire’ actor talks shop and Superman, which gives him ‘the shivers.’
Michael Shannon made his motion-picture debut alongside Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” but his career really didn’t take off until 2008, when his supporting performance as the mentally unstable acquaintance of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in “Revolutionary Road” was honored with an Academy Award nomination.
The roles have grown in size ever since, from “Jonah Hex” to two films with the legendarily idiosyncratic director Werner Herzog in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.” The most notable, however, has been his good-guy role as Agent Nelson Van Alden on HBO’s Emmy-winning “Boardwalk Empire.”
Earlier this week, Shannon talked to Gazette about “Boardwalk,” now airing its second season, and the project that threatens to take his star into the stratosphere: the Superman reboot in which he plays the Man of Steel’s Kryptonian nemesis, General Zod.
R&R: “Boardwalk Empire” is really the first time you've worked on a TV series other than a guest shot. Does it feel completely different than being on a movie set or is the level of quality so high that there's no difference?
Shannon: The structure of it's very different. I mean, when you do a movie, you get one script — unless there are going to be sequels or something — but you get the one script and it has a beginning, middle and an end, and you go shoot it and that's that.
But this is ... it's not like you're telling a story. It's like you're creating a whole other world, you know, that moves in every direction. And the story just keeps getting more and more twisted and complicated. I walk away from the end of the season and I have absolutely no idea what to expect. It's very mysterious.
R&R: This is sort of your time right now. I mean, “Boardwalk” is airing, “Take Shelter” is out, “13” is finally coming out on DVD. It's like Michael Shannon week! Did you ever think you would be at this point? I mean, you've worked a long time, but it's only since “Revolutionary Road” that the industry as a whole took notice. Shannon: I've always been happy just to be working, you know. It doesn't really matter for me how many people are familiar with my name or my picture or whatever. I enjoyed living in Chicago and doing plays for little or no money. And I never actually thought that I would leave Chicago originally. I wasn't one of these people that had a plan to pack up the van and drive out to Hollywood. I didn't want to. I knew other people that did that and a lot of them wound up kind of unhappy, so it kind of frightened me.
So the fact that I got to ... I guess to get to this point kind of surreptitiously is really incredibly fortunate for me, because I kind of got this without even necessarily chasing after it. I just kept doing work that I believed in and it kind of led me to this place, but I'm always very reticent to buy into any of the hype, because it goes away in the blink of any eye, you know. And you make one wrong move, you can find yourself back in obscurity.
But it's not something I'm really keeping a lot of attention to. I'm not looking at my star meter or something, you know, how many people are talking about me or something. I just keep working on things I like and hope for the best, hope people enjoy them.
R&R: Then are you prepared for the onslaught with “Man of Steel”? The press on that is going to be outrageous.
Shannon: Honestly, no. I'm not prepared for that in any way, shape or form. It gives me shivers. I'll do the best I can, but ... it's funny because it used to just be that you do the work and the work just spoke for itself. R&R: Right.
Shannon: But when you get on a project like that, obviously, it's almost like half the job is being a cheerleader for the team. You got to go around, stirring up the pot, as it were. But it's hard to do that when they tell you, "Oh, and by the way, you can't say anything about it. And the only thing you should say is, “It's really great. It's really great. I'm having such a great time and everybody's great.” That gets a little frustrating after a while.
I find it kind of funny actually, because if I didn't tell you anything about Superman, but I asked you, “Tell me what happens in Superman,” I bet you could probably tell me the whole story. I mean, it's kind of like saying, “I'm not supposed to talk about the Pledge of Allegiance.” It's kind of silly.
R&R: Has Agent Nelson Van Alden become a favorite character of yours because you've worked with him so long or do you have another that stands out for you more?
Shannon: Well, I get pretty attached to the majority of the characters I play. I mean, I can't help myself, but the thing with Van Alden is, I always look forward to seeing what's going to be next, and that's a very different experience than anything else I've done.
But I do have a lot of sympathy for him. I think Van Alden has a very hard life and I feel for him. And a lot of people will stop me and say, “Oh, I watch ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ I love the show, you're good on it, but I hate your character. He's such as asshole." It’s a little upsetting, so I say, "Why do you think he's a bad guy?" I mean, is it so hard to understand what happened to him or is he too opaque or something?
Because when I look at him, he makes me really sad. He tried really hard to do the right thing and he failed, and then he kind of went off the tracks. But, yes, the character seems to illicit some really negative feelings from people, which makes me a little defensive sometimes.
R&R: What’s next for you?
Shannon: Let's see, I've got the two films out right now, “Take Shelter” and “Machine Gun Preacher,” and “Take Shelter,” I'm really excited about people seeing that, because I think it's pretty good. “Machine Gun Preacher” is all right, too.
Let's see, I did a movie called “Premium Rush” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which I think is coming out next summer. But right now, I'm just shooting “Man of Steel” all the way up until February, and then (season three of) “Boardwalk Empire” starts in February, so there's not a lot of downtime there. —Rod Lott