Archive for December, 2008

Best of 2008: Movies

December 30, 2008

I should probably, in good conscience, amend the name of this category to read Best of 2008: Movies (That I’ve Seen). I am notoriously slow at getting around to seeing newly released films in theaters. It’s not just because I hate crowds, and hate crowded theaters even more, but that there just isn’t enough time to get out there and see them all. Especially films rush-released late in the year in order to qualify for the Oscars, which I despise. To expect anyone to get out there during the madness of the holiday crunch and see four or five deadly serious films, all starring Kate Winslet, that they can critically consider the merits of is pure, indefensible madness. And they wonder why no one takes the Academy Awards seriously anymore.

Luckily, there may or may not be such a thing as a Screener Copy, which may or may not be made available to interested parties. Not that I have any idea where such things come from or how one might be able to aquire a copy of such a thing, should it actually exist but, well. They might be a helpful thing for a guy becoming more and more psychotically adverse to leaving his heavily fortified bunker. I’m just saying.

Anyway, here are my top five films for 2008 (that I’ve bothered to watch).

5. Tropic Thunder

Full credit to Ben Stiller on this one. His career choices have not always been brilliant of late (though the list of actors unmanned by a Jennifer Aniston date movie is long and illustrious) but I’ve always believed that this was a guy who understood The Funny. Tropic Thunder, in the way it mercilessly and hilariously skewers Stiller’s own habitat and livelihood, is as whippingly good as it gets for a film of that high a profile. Robert Downey Jr. is pure, scene-gobbling goodness as the self-important Kirk Lazarus but it’s the script that really earns the rewards here. Crude, daring and spot on, it’s an impressive comedy in all aspects and, one has to admit, genuine laughs can be very hard to find on the big screen sometimes with the fluff and drivel Hollywood regularly produces. Stiller obviously understands that notion quite well, thankfully, and this film is the gleeful result.

4. Iron Man

I enjoyed the hell out of this one, I fully admit it. It’s not Godfather II, I know, it’s popcorn fare but it’s just done so well and, especially in the eyes of comic book lovers, it hits the mark that so many other superhero films have missed. I’m someone who counts the David Micheline/John Romita Jr./Bob Layton run on Iron Man as not only a defining take on the character but an important building block in the evolution of serious, adult comic book storytelling. Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr.’s effort here seems to bring out the same feel of those stories, giving us a deeply flawed yet brilliant, self-confident hero who operates the gold and red suit like it’s a ferrari. It’s the right approach and it wasn’t until I saw Favreau on Iconoclasts with Tony Hawk and heard some of his thoughts about making the film that I really appreciated what he did. He understood his responsibilities to the character and the fans implicity, as well as the importance of the film’s success to the viability of Marvel’s film studio. With all that in tow, he delivered a fantastic, funny, entertaining, can’t take your eyes off it movie experience. No easy task but it is accomplished here with style.

3. Burn After Reading

This is very much an essential Coen Brothers film, if not quite exactly in the same way last year’s much heralded, and completely brilliant, No Country For Old Men was. It may, in fact, have more in common with a film like Fargo in that it sneaks up on you in some very subtle ways. You think at first that you’re watching a rather broad, almost light comedy effort, something you might excuse the Coens for considering some of the weighty elements in their previous film. Brad Pitt and John Malkovitch’s characters embody polar opposites and the scenes in which they interact with one another are utterly hilarious. It isn’t until late in the film, when things take a decidedly dark turn, that the viewer realizes they have been watching something more than they thought all along. Within the increasingly black comedy there is woven a thread that implores us to examine the very human motivations of these characters, the weaknessed and faults that bring them to the completion of their respective journeys. When you start to really see just what it is that drives George Clooney’s obsessive, paranoid philanderer, you almost feel dirty for him. In the end, the film is another subtle and sublime commentary on the human condition, warts and all, and, as such, is about as entertaining as can be in the process. Should we expect any less from the Coens at this point? I think not.

2. Religulous

Bill Maher’s anti-religion documentary is not actually as bitter and scathing as I thought it might be, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The topic of religion is a difficult one, especially in America, as can be seen in one of the opening scenes when an angry truck-driver, just clueing in to the potential direction of the film he’s agreed to be in, angrily stands up and leaves, shaking a fist at the notion anyone might doubt “his god”. Maher responds quietly to the remaining group, almost apologetically, “I’m just asking questions.” That sort of sets the tone for the rest of the film as he goes from place to place, simply asking questions that force people to actually think about and defend some of the more absurd notions proposed by religion and accepted as fact by so many. There is much insight gained on the journey and there are laughs aplenty. Highlights being the moral disrobing of an wealthy televangelist claiming that Jesus never spoke against the rich, an adorably odd Vatican priest who seems to be throwing up his hands with Catholic heirarchy and the way the church operates. There’s also a nice bit where Bill gets high with a stoner in Amsterdam who accidentally sets his own hair on fire, but I digress. The final scenes in the film are powerful and incisive as Maher makes the essential connection between religion’s fatal obsession with apocalypse and the ability that has, when infused into an unthinking populace, to allow humanity to resign itself to it’s doomed fate without any effort to avert it. “Religion must die for mankind to live,” he tells us. Amen to that, brother.

1. The Dark Knight

What more can really be said about this masterpeice that hasn’t been already? Surely anyone reading this has seen it, possibly multiple times, and understands what a profound peice of filmmaking this is. From the amazing IMAX photography, to the breakneck pace and the razor sharp script, the amazing sound design elements and Heath Ledger’s life defining performance, it’s all in place and placed perfectly. This is a film that will last forever and will sustain viewing after viewing over the years and hold up easily under future scrutinization. This is filmmaking on a grand, awe-inspiring scope that also contains enough subtle human elements and sheer intelligence to make it something truly profound to watch. It’s epic, it’s essential, it’s iconic. All that and more and that’s why it’s the Best of 2008.

Word.

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Christmas at the Compound

December 24, 2008

Well, ’tis the day before the day, here, and preparations are well under way for the Making of Some Serious Merriment. I’ve decided this year, in lieu of the usual KSWNO Christmas Party, which is always fun, admittedly, to host a more traditional, rural gathering here at my snowed-in Northeast Compound.

Meaning, it’s cheaper and I don’t have to drive anywhere.

So me and the Valkyries have been cooking since yesterday morning to get ready to host tonight’s festivities. Mostly, it’s Italian food, the traditional fare for a Socrates family Christmas Eve (which, considering my French, Irish, Scots, German mongerel ancestry, makes perfect sense). Chicken Parm, Stuffed Shells, Lasagna, Meatballs, Sausages, Pasta and Garlic Bread. Tons of hors d’oeurves, shrimp, calzones, pepperoni and pepper jack cheese. Deserts piled high, cookies, candies, cakes and “special brownies“.

Maybe a cheerful beverage or two, who knows.

Everyone is invited, of course. Some have already arrived and have been here for days enjoying the snowy country ambiance and the free drinks. Ozzy McGurt showed up last friday and, thanks to his presence alone, the local food delivery service guy, Tim Brainbooth, has made enough money in tips alone to finally buy all new amps for his death-metal band, Sludge Parade. I’m going to need some sort of crime scene clean-up specialists to clean out the room he’s sleeping in.

Gonz O’Lager and his “friends” have been sleeping out in Garage #4 for two weeks, which is no surprise. I shouldn’t even mention that in case any federal authorities might be reading this. After the plane he was on had to make that emergency landing in Buffalo when the Pilot was alerted to the fact that a good two thirds of the passengers were naked and frolicking in the aisles, many of them screaming incoherently. God himself only knows what he slipped into the complimentary coffee they served.

Chippy McGuinness, in Boston for the last little bit covering the resurgent, magnificent Bruins, is due to head up here today. I’m not sure if she’ll be bringing the four or five B’s rookies that she’s been entertaining in her hotel room nights. No one gives a 22 year-old hockey player more Life Lessons than Chippy. And you guys thought a body check from Dion Phaneuf left you bruised and sore…

I’m still trying to reach Joe Hawaii & Gaylord “Ra” Fondue but they’re not answering their phone. I hope they won’t use the weather as an excuse again. These warm climate guys think anything north of the Carolina’s is pure Arctic Tundra. C’mon guys. you don’t want to miss out on this year’s Yankee Swap. I bought all my stuff at an Adult Novelty Store this year.

Darkfaulker will arrive after Midnight, as usual, slipping in through some crack in the nether realms. I’m told he doesn’t celebrate Christmas as we do but that, after a long, drawn out battle with some rampaging Frost Giants in Luxembourg, he might need a little break to relax. He does like to leave some very interesting things in our stockings before he slips out just prior to dawn. The talisman he gave me last year worked wonders on that nagging lower back problem I had.

I guess Dave The Bodyguard won’t make it thanks to those half dozen broken ribs. And the strained biceps, cracked vertebrae, dislocated shoulder, windburn and frostbite he suffered on his fingers, toes, nose, ears and eyelids during that recent snowstorm at his house. Also, apparently, he has family over there for Christmas Eve , too. Whatever.

Most of the rest of the usual cast of irregulars should be on hand, though. Gorman Moloko will be here late tonight, driving up after hosting some sort of corporate holiday wine-tasting event at The Four Seasons. What fun, Gorm. Melma Frankengibson is coming down from Quebec City where she was investigating that Celine Dion Pact With Satan thing. Pimplton will show up in a limo, I’m sure, so drunk on Chivas we’ll need to wheel him on on a dolly. Shalla, the Edgy Intern is riding up with Stig Marmoset, if he can get a jump start for his El Camino. Just watch his hands at all times, Shalla. Willie T. Sherman, I’m told, just got his pardon from W. for those obscenity charges so theres a chance he might show. Dwight Cooter won’t, thanks to that all night, all you can eat buffet at the Corn & Chicken Hole.

Hopefully, there will be other friends and borderline enemies dropping in for a pop and a laugh. Crispin Glover, George “The Animal” Steele, Wanko The Pornographic Contortionist, Mike Eruzione, Dave Sim, Michio Kaku, The Stedgie Brothers, Grandma “The Blizzard” Cakestandish, Ivan and Kelly from the Rosebuds (who will be performing in Cambridge, MA at the Middle East on January 17th. Hope to see you there). Maybe a Baldwin brother or two will stop in, so there’s a good chance to see a fight, if you like that sort of thing. I think Melma will be channeling Carl Sagan to say a few words at some point, so you won’t want to miss that.

All in all, it promises to be a wonderful evening here. Friends, family, celebration and madness of many sorts. It’s an open house policy for the night and all are welcome, which is unusual for the Compound, so if you’re curious about what lurks behind the electrified fences, sandbags and watch-dogs, this is your chance to see.

Come on over, folks.

And, hey.

Merry Fuckin’ Christmas!

Don’t Taunt The Weather Gods

December 21, 2008

This Just In: Mother Nature Tells Ken, “Shut Your Fucking Face, Bitch“.

After hearing my haughty rant about snowstorm hysteria, the powers that be in the pantheon of weather deities apparently want me to, as they say, put my money where my mouth is. Since approximately 2 p.m. on Friday, shortly after my last post, it has snowed nonstop throughout the Northeast, dumping inch after inch on the area, completely burying folks from Cape Cod to Bar Harbor.

I’ve been getting texts from my simple but steadfast bodyguard Dave from his home on the coast south of Boston who, despite several cracked ribs, has been shoveling snow for about 48 hours straight, with just a few short breaks to eat and sleep mixed in. The last message looked like this:

    “no more. no more. can’t lift arms to comb hair.
    bury me in the cold, cold ground. please…”

Of course, it’s been hammering us up here today, with areas in New Hamphire getting up to 18 inches or so over the weekend. Here at The Compound, we don’t worry too much. We’ve got three separates sub-basements full of supplies and a couple back-up generators for power. A neighbor down the road, homing pigeon trainer Gus McDolenz, has somehow mounted a snow plow on the end of a 1984 Ford Country Squire station wagon and will plow out our access roads for a 30 pack. So we don’t worry too much, we just stoke up the fires, grab some beverages and bust out the naughty board games and sit tight.

Not so easy for everyone else, I know.

The latest development, for example, is a flash freeze tonight that will take all the heavy, wet snow that’s fallen today and turn it into granite right where it sits as winds of up to 50 mph pound already debilitated residents, some of whom are still without power from the last round of ice storms two weeks ago. The morning looks hellishly arctic and the local population is feeling pretty beat up, that’s for sure.

I promise, folks. From now on, I keep my mouth shut.

Really.

Mass Hysteria

December 19, 2008

Snowfall on Boston Common.

Snowblindness is defined as a “painful eye condition, caused by exposure of unprotected eyes to the ultraviolet rays in bright sunlight reflected from snow or ice”.

I have a different definition for it, however. I use it to describe the near-psychotic sense of hysteria that infects the local population in the days and hours prior to an oncoming snowstorm. Crowds of tense, panic-stricken people, their eyes blank with paralyzing terror, crowding grocery stores to stock up on milk, bread, water and cheese flavored puffy snacks. Lines at gas stations that stretch out blocks, causing even more congestion to what are already gridlocked roads and streets as everyone desperately tries to drive their cars as much as humanly possible before a single horrifyingly individualistic flake can hit the ground.

This behaviours is, quite literally, utterly mindless. We do live in the Northeast, after all. We have seen snow before.

So it is, as I happened to be visiting my dumb but loyal bodyguard Dave, who is laid up recovering from a half dozen cracked ribs thanks to an unfortunate run in with a family of Moose last weekend on a KSWNO hiking expedition near the Compound, at his home in a coastal town just south of Boston, that I was witness this deplorable sort of group cowardice people there tend to exhibit when a wee bit of snow is in the forecast.

Granted, there is about 8-12 inches forecast, the worst accumulation and winds spot on at Dave’s location, but, really, is that any reason to start organizing mass suicides?

So what drives people to this state?

Is it the likelyhood that this will initiate another Ice Age and the glaciers will move down across Canada with such swiftness that homes will be ground beneath encroaching walls of ice before we could even get our boots tied?

Is the the packs of feral polar bears sure to take over our cities, feeding on the last remnants of a humanity fallen towards frozen extinction?

Maybe. Or maybe folks just remember the Blizzard of ’78 too well, where an admittedly unprepared populace was buried under two feet of snow for a week or so. Granted, folks did get burned during that one but that sort of thing is once in a millennium and meteorolgy has advanced far enough at this point that I’m fairly certain we could prepare ourselves well enough before something like that hit.

Regardless, the streets are now filled with crazed lunatics, eyes glazed and empty, fingers clutched white-knuckled on steering wheels, pushing and shoving at the check-out counters, barking animalistic gibberish into their cell phones to confused and terrified loved ones screaming at them to get home before the apocalypse hits.

At this point, I may just join the suicide crowd. Maybe self-immolation is the only way out now.

Hell, at least I’ll be warm.

Alright, Then…(Pt. 2)

December 18, 2008

File this one under “How In The Name Of Fuck Can This Not Be A Joke”?

Yes, it’s Flame, the new male body spray from Burger King, which claims to be “the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat”.

What, L’eau de Lard was already taken?

This begs many questions, most notably about the mental stability of anyone taking this seriously. I’m really hoping, just for the sake of human evolution, this is little more than a wink-wink advertising strategy (which I am currently playing into the hands of by giving it pub, of course) intended to whip up some buzz but I can’t see how even that will be effective. No matter what happens, the laughs will be at the expense of whatever upper management donkeytards gave the go ahead for this one. It’s one thing to mock yourself and seem hip in the process. It’s another to become the actual joke without understanding why.

And to those gentlemen who actually purchase this product and wear it…

I just hope you boys like some junk in your trunk because the ladies you will be attracting with this scent will not be of the peitite fleur variety, my friends. Make sure you’ve got reinforced floors in your bedrooms and a shitload of Little Debbie snacks for afterwards.

It only makes sense. You go out smelling like a greasy burger, you’re going to bring home a Whopper.

Best of 2008: Music

December 17, 2008

You guys know how I totally loathe all those Top 10 lists that come out at the end of every year, somehow trying to quantify and define the quality of art that has been released to the public during the most recent arbitrarily chosen allotment of time that we call a calendar year.

That’s why I do a Top 5.

Plus, it’s a lot less work. In truth, I don’t think that much greatness is released each year in any medium. Take tonight’s topic, Music. Pitchfork always likes to do it’s Top 50 albums of each year but, I’m sorry, there just aren’t 50 decent ablums released each year. You’re lucky sometimes if there are three, unless you’re living through some of the great ages of music. For me, those would be the early eighties post-punk era (from Joy Division to 4AD) and the late eighties, early nineties shoegaze era (from MBV to Slowdive). The turn of the millennium post-rock scene would have made it too, perhaps, if Godspeed You! Black Emperor hadn’t dropped the ball with Yanqui U.X.O.

In any case, that’s why I’ll be presenting only 5 albums for you for 2008 here. Luckily enough, as it happens, they’re all absolutely exceptional and utterly deserving of this year’s highest accolades.

5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Mute Records

I was delighted when I heard rumblings that the new Nick Cave album would be more in the vein of Grinderman than his previous effort with the Bad Seeds, Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. I wasn’t disappointed. More raw, more raunchy to some degree, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is not filled with absolute classics but it has it’s share of keepers and those keepers are a brilliant cross-section of what has made Cave one of the most relevant musicians/performers/artists/writers of my generation. The title song fulfills the promise of the more gritty sound approach and We Call Upon The Author to Explain is the sublimely lyrical Cave at his best. I could listen the irresistable More News From Nowhere all day long in just the same way I could Straight To You. In any case, any concept album with the theme of transporting the Biblical character of Lazarus to modern New York City and transforming him into a Houdini-like escape artist is worth unearthing to take a look.

4. De La Mancha – Atlas
Crying Bob Records

I’ve never liked the term nu-gaze. The truth is there are now a lot of bands inspired by the works of the seminal artists of the british shoegaze movement, which faded away about 15 years ago now, who produce rather watery echoings of those amazing sounds. So it’s not necessarily impressive to hear someone brandishing those influences. What is impressive is someone who can take that sound and build on it with strong songwriting, instrumentation and atmosphere that does justice to the original source. Atlas does just that, with surprising deftness and resonance. Songs like Release All Light take that spiralling, epic guitar sound to the grand heights that we remember so well from those bygone days and do it with style. Meanwhile, a song like So Let’s Blow Up Our Heads And Leave evokes some of the emotional post-rock moments of Explosions in the Sky. From the epic to the artfully soundscaped, it is a thoroughly excellent work for those who have not forgotten how music can be made to soar.

3. Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
Type Records

This one quietly stunned me when I first heard it, in a subtle and profound way. The gorgeous, barely there melody of the opening track Disengage drew me in like a ghostly apparition wandering through some strange dreamscape, at once beautiful and fascinating. Liz Harris’ voice is wispy and alluring, one moment seeming to echo from some dark and delicate miniature enviroment, the next from a windblown, mountainous landscape. I’ve heard the sound called midnight shoegaze and seen references to 4AD, which are appropriate. However, it is not the Cocteaus or This Mortal Coil that I hear here but the earliest offerings from His Name is Alive, specifically Home is In Your Head. With that sort of intricate, beautiful mystery embedded within it, the album takes hold of you, draws you into it’s unique perspective and never lets go. A journey worth taking, for certain.

2. The Rosebuds – Life Like
Merge Records

I’ll admit it right off the top. I’m completely in love with Ivan and Kelly from The Rosebuds. Not just because of their consistently brilliant songwriting, smart, evolving sound and the lyrical romance of what they do. Not even because they’re both so damned good looking, either. No, it’s something to do with the obvious love in the couple (they’re married) which seems to permeate everything they do. At the same time, they understand the dark side, too, and bring that to their music, but always with the ever-present, underlying sense that love can make a difference, no matter how dark things get. The Rosebuds are, quite simply, the most romantic band alive right now and, possibly, the most real. So it’s no surprise that anything they do will end up amongst any favorites list I do. Life Like is no exception. Musically, it’s a diverse album, moving on from the dancy elements of Night of the Furies without getting completely organic in the process. Though there are acoustic elements, it’s the sophisticated pop sounds of the album that work best. It begins with the infectious, beat heavy title track that seems to be about a renegade wolf-man of some sort and wanders down various paths from the pensive Border Guards to the catchy synth beat of Another Way In, which would have been an utter smash on alternative radio in the mid-eighties. The two songs that close out the album, the lushly orchestrated, beautific Black Hole and a re-release of In The Backyard (already a long-time favorite of mine), may be the best songs on the album. Meaning, that when you’re done listening to this one, you feel so damn good you’re ready to listen to it again immediately. This album reminds me once again why, when I go to bed each night, I stop and pray that these kids are going to be making music with each other forever.

1. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
Rough Trade

If I go a bit over the top describing this album, please note that it is entirley deserving. This is a gigantic album, epic in scope and execution, powerful and anthemic while easily livingup to the “rock” moniker that resides in it’s title. There are dashes of The Skids circa Absolute Game, but with far more genuine hipness. The driving rhythms of The Chameleons are in there. Then there’s that spiralling guitar sound that made GYBE’s Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven such an epochal work, thanks to the production contributions of Mr. Efrim Manuck himself. Mix it all together with the unique, historical slant BSP have always brought to their work, including the consistent design elements, and you have yourself someting of a musical monolith. Inspiring, reaching ever heavenwards and pretty fucking hard to ignore. Now and forever, if I feel the need to “rock out”, this will be the first album I reach for. And it will not disappoint me.

Ken Trivia: What do the last two albums have in common, for me at least? Well, as it happens, I saw both British Sea Power and The Rosebuds together on the same ticket at The Paradise in Boston last May in what was the most profoundly entertaining double bill in recent memory. I must admit, despite BSP’s head standing, shoulder climbing, chaotic antics to end the show and the power of their live sound, the ‘buds managed to outshine them with a bit more energy, audience conectivity (hell, I was having a vodka and cran right next to Ivan at the bar while Jeffrey Lewis was onstage) and the absolute, pure romance of what they do. All in all a truly unforgettable evening.

‘Nuff said for now.

You Heel, You!

December 14, 2008

It wasn’t your usual boring Presidential Press Conference today in Iraq as a native journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi, turned things into an exciting episode of Dodge My Footwear! when he decided to stand up and hurl his shoes at the visiting conqueror, one George W. Bush.

As he threw the shoes he yelled in Arabic, “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!”

What lessons can be learned from this? Well, perhaps a smug, glad handing, photo-op tour of a country that you’ve invaded, who’s cities you have levelled, who’s people you have slaughtered and tortured and humiliated, is not the greatest idea your Press Secratary and PR people ever came up with.

And Muntadar? Dude, you have lead low in that situation. Aim for his chest and when he ducks, wham! Right in the melon.

Nice try, though.

Moloko Plus

December 12, 2008

I mentioned when I began this blog that, in order to devote more time to various writing projects, I would be taking a short step backward from my positions at the KSWNO, taking less of a hands-on editorial role there. In my place, I have named my great friend and journalistic compadre Gorman Moloko as Managing Editor to run the show. Against the wishes of certain factions within the Organization, I might add. To hell with them. Gorm is a good man, a man with a conscience, and, so he believes, a man with great vision. I’ve known him for nearly 30 years and I trust him more than any man alive to have the best interests of the KSWNO at heart.

So I put him in charge of the thing.

Apparently, it didn’t take long for the power to go to his head. Not that I mind that much, and believe me, I’ll be watching and, if needed, will step in to knock some heads, but ol’ Gorman seems to have some grand ideas for the website and the Organization that he seems to want to implement right away. As soon as he gets back from waiting in line to see The Day The Earth Stood Still, anyways.

So, if you’re curious about what’s going on over there while I’m preoccupied with other things, check out Gorman’s State of the Site Address to hear what he’s planning.

Then check in on the main site from time to time to see if it actually develops.

I know I’ll be paying close attention, that’s for damn sure.

Ken On Film Vol. 1: The Killing Joke

December 11, 2008

I’m not sure how aware you are of the fact that I’m a fairly serious movie buff. Not obsessed, like some people I know, but a lover of the art of movie making in general. There is a good sized home theater here in the Compound that we regularly use for screenings of new releases and the annual replaying of old favorites.

Showings of Casablanca or The Third Man have been just as popular as Sin City or Children of Men. We have annual festivals like Woody Allen Week and Krazy For Kubrick. This year we started the Punkathon which featured all night consecutive showings of The Filth and the Fury, Sid and Nancy, Control and 24 Hour Party People, amongst others. That 2007 documentary Joy Division was a monumental, profound experience for all, with all the newly presented archive material alongside new interviews with all the key (still living) people who were involved.

So this week has been Dark Knight week, as the blu-ray version of the film has made it’s way to our modestly sized high-def screens.

Astonishing film, of course. That’s not news to anyone. What has been a revelation, after watching the film itself, has been the extra material included on the discs.

Now, it’s very rare that I ever watch DVD extras. Not that there isn’t sometimes interesting stuff there, it’s just that there is barely enough time in my day-to-day world for me to watch a film or two let alone hours worth of behind the scenes stuff. In this case, however, I made an exception and was well rewarded.

I’ll not go into it all but suffice to say there is some amazing insight into what was a brilliant production, brilliant approach to filming by Christopher Nolan and company. For example, all of the live, in camera affects in the film. The destruction of Gotham General was the most impressive as they decided, hey, what the hell, let’s blow up an entire building. As Heath Ledger is walking out of it. It’s an absolutley incredible sequence. Obviously they had one chance to get it right and Ledger, the composure of his performance, is astonishing to see when you consider the pressure of that moment. A nice treat in that segment was a look at a scene not included in the film’s final release, of the Joker riding away in the bus as the building goes down live behind him.

And Ledger never even glances back.

Gives you the fucking shivers, it does.

The other aspect of it that I enjoyed immensely was a segment on the score and the sound design. I was well aware from my first viewing that something unusual and fascinating was going on there, especially during the Joker sequences. What I didn’t know was that Hans Zimmer and associates had submerged themselves into that mental landscape so utterly in order to produce a sound that would so unnervingly mirror Ledger’s performance. The high pitched whine you hear from moment one, designed to put the audience right on edge, drawing them into the madness slowly but inexorably. Sounds of razor blades on strings (literally) and all manner of disturbing found sound, warped and mixed just right to suit the tone.

Zimmer even references a punk approach to the sound, which I had not considered. Is there something of John Lydon, in his prime, in the Joker? The tattered style, the love of anarchy, the mocking derision of the facade of normalcy most people wear to give themselves the illusion of control. Certainly, there is something of Jaz Coleman there, as well.

Another man who liked to paint his face and wanted to watch the world burn.

All in all, a truly rewarding experience on many levels. I don’t think I need to recommend it to anyone because I know you’re all aware of the masterpiece that has been produced here. I simply would like to recommend you watch it very closely and repeatedly to appreciate the level of craft and creation that went into it.

Seriously.

The High-Stick Chick

December 8, 2008

Sports has always been an important element of the Ken Socrates World News Organization. A lot of so called serious media outlets spend little or no time on the subject apart from the most blatant references to those athletic stories that have crossover appeal in the “human interest” arena. I’m sorry, but Brian Williams introducing yet another fluff piece about Michael Phelps’ diet is to sports journalism what Mary Hart asking Barack Obama for his Oscar predictions is to the political beat. The same could be said for the watery offerings we get from what are perceived as respectable sources like Sports Illustrated, HBO Sports or even ESPN. Often it’s just more sensationalist, sychophantic, tabloid reporting that panders to the uninformed viewer/reader and glorifies the diva-like nature of professional atheletes.

In other words, fresh, steaming crap.

Here at the KSNWO we like things a little bit harder. Thankfully, we have a woman on staff who does, too. Her name is Chippy McGuinness and she recently claimed the spot of Editor and Head Writer of our Sports Department. Honestly, there were other candidates, but Chippy simply was not to be denied. I still recall how, during our initial interview for the position, she grabbed me by the lapels, dragged me to an open window and dangled me out, four stories above the pavement, until I took back what I said about Bobby Clarke being a cheap shot artist. But that’s how it works around here. You want a spot on the team, you better be prepared to drop the gloves in the preseason a couple times and show us you mean business.

So, yeah, Chippy is indeed a Flyer’s “fan”. I use parentheses because that term, though derived from the word “fanatic”, doesn’t do adequate justice to the level if devotion she has for the team. Simple “fans” don’t attempt to attach car bombs to Eric Lindros’ BMW when he demands a trade out of town. They don’t spend four months wandering hopelessly through Amsterdam after the team makes an early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And though it may color her perceptions to some degree, it does nothing to impinge upon her resume and unquestionable expertise when it comes to all things puck. Chippy knows the NHL like Roger Clemens knows hypodermic needle etiquette and brings the sort of fearlessness to her work that Rick Tocchet brought to the right wing position. So it’s a good bet that her stuff will always be hard-hitting, tough and edgy.

What a shock that an old school Boston Bruins fan would want someone like that around, eh?

So here’s the latest from the Sassy Lass Behind The Glass, an editorial on the hottest topic in the NHL right now, entitled Sean Avery – Victim. As you’d expect, her take on the most recent exploits of The Mouth That Roared are almost as controversial as Mr. Avery’s own perspective on the subject of carnal knowledge in the modern NHL.

Enjoy it as we did but remember, with Chippy’s stuff, as always, you have to keep your head up when you’re crossing the blue line. Or you will end up like Eric Lindros, getting coloring books for Christmas for the rest of your life and loving it.

More on our Chippy right here.