Friday, June 13, 2008


Currently at The Chicago Tribunes site:

Also: Do you believe you can touch the sky?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


My review of a Larry Norman best-of collection Rebel Poet, Jukebox Balladeer ran today. It's the kind of longer music history piece I love writing and don't get to do as often as I like. (I've got another one, a review of Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue running next week, too.) I'd never heard of Norman until he died at 60 earlier this year. He was billed as the "Father of Christian rock," which didn't much entice me. But his stuff is pretty incredible. He was a forceful, eccentric voice perfectly in tune with the confusing time of the early-'70s. I can't recommend the collection highly enough, or the material I've heard apart from that album. Here's one of many cuts warning of a loom apocalypse that he seemed to feel was close at hand:


In the past couple of days I saw a pair of soon-to-open major movies. I officially shouldn't talk about either of them so let's just call them Film X and Film Y. You can pretty easily figure out the rest. Film X is an action film, a sequel to a box office disappointment that promises to distance itself from its predecessor. It was the subject of a very public feud between the company that made it and a key player on the creative side. It is the essence of corporate product, filled with moments of what's generally known as fan service.

Film Y is the work of a visionary filmmaker who came seemingly out of nowhere earlier this decade and has pursued a singular vision to diminishing commercial and critical returns. This latest is no exception. It could only be made by one director.

Film X works. It gets the job done. It's not great. In fact, it's pretty far from great, but it's a solid piece of fast-moving entertainment in the mold of, and related to, another film made by the same company earlier this year. It's not as good. But it's not bad.

Film Y fails. Sometimes dully and sometimes spectacularly. The vision's still there in some breathtaking sequences filled with the director's signature touches. But the novelty's gone even from these and the stuff that surrounds them... Oh the stuff that surrounds them. There's one moment involving an iPhone, you'll know it when you get to it, that would do Ed Wood proud. A lot of people will blame the failings on the premise, which isn't yet general knowledge, but it's really no sillier than the premise behind The Mist, and that movie's scary as hell, not a reliable source for unintended laughs.

Great films are generally the products of powerful visions but the evidence isn't always on the side of the visionaries. There's something to be said for the churn-them-out Hollywood factory when it works, if only because it provides the visionaries something to rebel against. Even if that rebellion sometimes does them in.