Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Andy Kaufman: I'm From Hollywood at the Brooks

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 11:20 AM

andykaufman.jpg
One of the oddest and most compelling moments in the long, rich, twisty history of Memphis culture had to be the stretch in the early ’80s when comedian and television star Andy Kaufman came to Memphis to be a professional wrestler.

Arriving as an emissary from distant Hollywood at the very peak of Memphis wresting, Kaufman became a fixture at Monday Night Wrestling cards at the Mid-South Coliseum and on the Saturday morning wrestling broadcasts on WMC, Channel 5, first challenging women to matches and then getting into a feud with Jerry Lawler that the pair eventually took national via a notorious appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

I remember watching all of this play out in real time as a grade-schooler living in Eastern Arkansas and a dedicated Saturday morning wrestling watcher. At the time, I only knew Kaufman as the guy on wrestling. Apparently lots of adult Memphis wrestling fans were similarly in the dark.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

New Release: Overnight Lows

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 1:35 PM

overnight_lows.jpg

Goner Records' first offering from an ambitious 2010 release schedule (which includes new albums from Ty Segall, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and Harlan T. Bobo, just to name a few) comes in the form of the debut recording by Jackson, Mississippi punk heroes, Overnight Lows.

The album, City of Rotten Eyes, is a classic example of what you'd expect from a Goner release: Blazing guitar riffs, shouted choruses, in-and-out, done. With 12 bombastic songs clocking in at just under 22 minutes, Overnight Lows are clearly not here to waste anybody's time.

The band (definitely NOT to be confused with with utterly generic alternative pop group from Los Angeles of the same name, by the way), is fronted by the husband/wife duo of Marsh and Daphne Nabors, both formerly of the Comas and Lover! (Fat Possum Records). The two trade off lead vocal duties, and their frantic back-and-forth delivery is a signature part of the Overnight Lows' sound, as is the relentless drumming of Paul Artigues. Artigues, a chef who was once featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, pounds the drums with reckless precision, matching (if not exceeding) the aggression of his counterparts at every turn. The end result of this combination is a frenetic brand of punk rock akin to the Angry Samoans, Circle Jerks, and Ramones.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Yo Gotti & Lil Wayne Team-Up

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Here's the new video for "Women Lie, Men Lie," the second single from Memphis rapper Yo Gotti's upcoming major-label debut album Live From the Kitchen, which is due for release March 23rd. It feature Gotti alongside hip-hop megastar Lil Wayne:

Herrington and Akers on the Oscars, Part 5: Director and Picture

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Alright, we wrap up our week of movie talk with the two big awards, Best Director and Best Picture.

Best Director
The Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, James Cameron for Avatar, Lee Daniels for Precious, Jason Reitman for Up in the Air, and Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds.

Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow: A good bet to become the first female Best Director Oscar winner.
  • Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow: A good bet to become the first female Best Director Oscar winner.
CHRIS HERRINGTON: Okay, I'm not going to spend much time with this category as it dovetails too much with the Best Picture race, but there are three legit contenders: Bigelow and Cameron at the forefront, with Tarantino as a sleeper. Bigelow and Cameron are former spouses and it's certainly interesting to see them competing here with Bigelow helming a low-budget, modest box-office underdog against Cameron's mega-budget all-time box-office champ. This storyline would be juicier if there was bad blood between the two, which there doesn't seem to be. So I think the more interesting and more meaningful storyline here is that Bigelow has a shot to become the first woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar. Unless I'm missing something, only three women have previously been nominated: Sofia Coppola in 2003 (Lost in Translation), Jane Campion in 1993 (The Piano), and Lina Wertmuller in 1973 (Seven Beauties). Is it meaningful that in an awards ceremony that is overwhelmingly American, half of the meager four female best director nominees are non-American? You bet it is. This is an enormous indictment of the American film industry generally and the Oscars specifically. (Lee Daniels, as an African-American filmmaker, is in even sparser company, but has no chance of winning. Did you know Spike Lee has never gotten a Best Director nomination? Screw you, Academy Awards.) Anyway, Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow. YES WE CAN.

Should Win: I care much more about the filmmaking basics of shot placement, duration, and editing than I do about CGI and 3-D breakthroughs or marshaling mega-budget movies that double as marketing plans, so this is easy — Kathryn Bigelow. Tarantino would be my second choice, but as much as I like Inglourious Basterds, I think it's his least successful film since Reservoir Dogs.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beale Street Music Festival: The Full Lineup (Annotated)

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 1:48 PM

The full lineup is out for this year's Beale Street Music Festival, which takes place Friday, April 30th - Sunday, May 2nd at Tom Lee Park. There is probably less contemporary star power than usual in this year's lineup, but a healthy selection of vital current bands who should be good fits for the live outdoor setting, most notably The Flaming Lips, The Drive-By Truckers, and Band of Horses. Set times have not been announced, but we do have the initial lineups for each stage on each day.

Friday:

Guitar god Jeff Beck continues his recent comeback with a Friday night slot at the Beale Street Music Fest.
  • Guitar god Jeff Beck continues his recent comeback with a Friday night slot at the Beale Street Music Fest.
Cellular South Stage: Neon Trees, Mutemath, 30 Seconds to Mars, Limp Bizkit.
Early Read: Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) will rap-rock like its 1998 and Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars) will look pretty, but Utah-based Neon Trees, whose polished, poppy modern rock is somewhat similar to fellow Westerners The Killers, might be the most interesting bet here.

Sam's Town Stage: Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck, Widespread Panic.
Early Read: The guitar/jam-band fan's haven. Jeff Beck, who paired up with Rod Stewart in the Jeff Beck Group and also served a stint as lead guitarist with the Yardbirds, is a legit classic-rock guitar god, though he never found a strong a vehicle for his talents as contemporaries such as Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Beck just released his first studio album in nearly a decade with Emotion & Commotion. His strong riffs should be a welcome respite in-between the more expansive jamming of Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic.

Budweiser Stage: Al Kapone, The B-52s, The Goo Goo Dolls.
Early Read: This gets the "Most Schizophrenic Lineup" Award. Local fave Kapone is better live than most rappers of his ilk. The B-52s are former new-wave underdogs who have ossified into a party-band institution. The Goo Goo Dolls are modern-rock hitmakers a few years past their peak.

Blues Tent: Joanne Shaw Taylor, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Kenny Neal & Band, Coco Montoya.
Early Read: Kenny Neal, the leading light of a prominent New Orleans blues family, might be the best bet here.

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On the Record: Brief reviews of Johnny Cash, Pink Sexies, The Vacant, and Joe Lapsley.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 11:54 AM

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Pink Sexies
Pink Sexies
Wrecked 'Em Wreckords

It's been a good week. Not only did a re-issue of Wrecked 'Em Wreckords eponymous Pink Sexies EP show up in my my mailbox, the eight song epic by my favorite Knoxville punks has been pressed onto sexy pink vinyl. Oh yeah. It made me want to leave the office immediately and buy a gallon of PGA and some strawberry Kool-Aid on the way home.

This is straight up blotto music: smart primitive noise like The Pagans and Pere Ubu used to make. But it's sweatier with plenty of double-feature horrorshow imagery. Like Frankenhookers. Seriously. And when Sexies frontman Hamo Banham lets out a snotty, “Bye-bye zombie baby, bye-bye” it's not hard to imagine Johnny Thunders ooching around in his grave a little.


Do the Dance

“Tease Kiss,” is a grimy wannabe punk standard with David Johansen's lipstick smeared all over it. It's a post-rockabilly strutter about girls (I guess, could be wrong) with dirty minds who can kill you with a little sweet kiss. Gospel, rockabilly and pop art converge in a sticky lo-fi muddle as the Sexies invite us to step back in time to “Do the Dance.” And so it goes.

This was one of my favorite CDs of 2001. It looks a whole lot prettier in pink.

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Flaming Lips, Drive-By Truckers part of Beale Street Music Fest Lineup

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 9:06 AM

The Flaming Lips
  • The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips and the Drive-By Truckers are among the most interesting names on the line-up for this year's Beale Street Music Festival lineup, which also features local rappers Al Kapone and Yo Gotti, Memphis legends Booker T. & the MGs and Jerry Lee Lewis, classic artists Earth, Wind & Fire and Hall & Oates, and bluegrass heroine Alison Krauss.

The full lineup is embargoed until the official announcement at 2 p.m. Check back here at that time for the full schedule.

Herrington and Akers on the Oscars, Part 4: The Lead Actors

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 9:05 AM

Up for debate today: The talent. The beautiful people. The stars. Without further uh-doo.

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart: We expect him to win because everyone says he will.
  • Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart: We expect him to win because everyone says he will.
Best Actor
Nominees: Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, George Clooney in Up in the Air, Colin Firth in A Single Man, Morgan Freeman in Invictus, Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

AKERS: Will Win: No point in debating this, even interior monologue-y. This is Jeff Bridges' to lose, and he ain't gonna.

Should Win: This is only a little more intriguing a question. I'm going Jeff Bridges again. Bad Blake is a great character and a career highlight for Bridges, who doesn't treat the role as a victory lap. He pours himself in and totally inhabits the character. Clooney is excellent in Up in the Air and worthy of plaudits. I didn't see A Single Man, so I'm going to just assume Colin Firth acted all British in it. "Morgan Freeman IS Nelson Mandela" went according to plan and, though a solid bit of work and honorable and distinguished, didn't cause much of a blip in my pulse.

Renner is good, but I didn't care for his character's treatment at the hands of the script and my overall impression of him took a hit because of it. Is this a good time to bring this up? Probably should've mentioned this when we were actually talking about screenplays. Well, I just didn't like it when his character takes off his protective suit and keeps it off in the rest of the missions in the movie and does dumb, reckless stuff. That skewed the movie's efficacy for me, however slightly. Because its inaccuracies are disrespectful to the soldiers, as this WaPo story indicates is a common complaint? Nope. To be honest, when it comes to the movie, I could care less about how the soldiers are portrayed. It's a fictional movie, not a documentary, people. (And you might say the same thing to me in a minute.) Yet, I felt my intelligence insulted by the laborious paces the script puts the character through. I get it: This is a dangerous place and these people have the most dangerous job on the planet. I'm on board. I'm all in, baby. So don't go and artificially ramp up the dramatic tension as if you haven't done enough already. Trust me as a viewer to figure the danger out for myself. Especially when you're insinuating that this story is straight outta Baghdad. It's either ripped from the headline obituaries or it's a fantasy war movie. Can't be both. Sorry, Jeremy Renner, that you got some of that on you. (I cannot wait to see your response to this left-field rant, Herrington.)

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Film Clips: Big Night at Brooks, Oscar Party at Minglewood

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 11:24 AM

News and notes related from the local film scene:

Big Night at the Brooks: The Brooks Museum of Art screens the much-beloved 1996 film Big Night Thursday as part of a special event at the museum's Brushmark Restaurant. The 1996 film about two brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub) trying to save their family’s struggling Italian restaurant with one “big night” is arguably the gold standard of foodie cinema. It will screen in the restaurant with local chefs Wally Joe and Andrew Adams replicating the menu from the movie. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the screening starting at 7 p.m. Prices range from $8 to $18. For more information, go here.

Local Oscar-Watch Party: There are sure to be many Oscar-watching parties going on across the city Sunday night, but only one of them will be an official Academy Awards event. Minglewood Hall will host Memphis Oscar Night America party, one of 50 such events around the country, benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis. The party starts at 6 p.m., Sunday, March 7th. Tickets are $100 and are now on sale online at www.rmhmemphis.org or by calling (901) 312-7479. The broadcast will be shown on large screens and attendees will receive the same official program given to those at the actual awards ceremony in Hollywood. Food will be provided by more than a dozen area restaurants and Stax greats the Bar-Kays will provide live entertainment.

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Herrington and Akers on the Oscars, Part 3

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 9:12 AM

At the mid-point of our week-long Oscars dialogue, we're going to take a quick look at some of the "secondary" categories before picking back up with the Big Four categories tomorrow and Friday.

Up: The obvious favorite for Best Animated Feature
  • Up: The obvious favorite for Best Animated Feature
Best Animated Feature
The Nominees: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up.

CHRIS HERRINGTON: Still a relatively new category for the Academy Awards and one that seems to be growing up a little as the Academy seems to be finally expanding its definition beyond movies with fast-food tie-ins and we seem to be in a new golden age for animated features. (This is only the second time in nine years of giving the award that there have been a full five nominees.) Still, despite the growing diversity in the field, this award has so-far seemed pretty much designed to recognize the union of art and commerce that is Pixar, the studio that accounts for a full half of the eight winners in this category since it began in 2001 (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL*E). This year, Pixar makes it five of nine. Will Win: Up.

Should Win: I haven't seen two of these nominees: The Princess and the Frog, which was surprisingly tagged the year's best film by Time magazine, and which my normally Disney-hating wife thought was pretty decent, and the obscurity The Secret of Kells, which did not screen locally. The other three — all of which made my 15-film Top Ten list for 2009 — are all films I really like, but I'll give my nod here to the underdog of the bunch, Coraline, Henry Selick's stop-motion animation story of a young girl who finds an alternate universe via a path through the wall of her new house. Not only are the visuals beautiful, but the characterizations are surprisingly detailed and perceptive, and the film's feel for the emotional and psychological terrain of childhood makes it every bit the girls' answer to Where the Wild Things Are.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Herrington and Akers on the Oscars, Part 2: The Supporting Actors

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Up today, day two of this week-long Oscar revelry: the Supporting Actors. Here we go.

Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent, from Inglourious Basterds: One will win an Oscar, the other deserved a shot.
  • Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent, from Inglourious Basterds: One will win an Oscar, the other deserved a shot.
Best Supporting Actress
The Nominees: Penelope Cruz in Nine, Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air, Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart, Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air, Mo'Nique in Precious.

GREG AKERS: Will Win: It would shock my socks off if Mo'Nique doesn't win for her magnificently memorable role as the victimizing, victimized mother in Precious. The rest of the nominees shouldn't even bother preparing an acceptance speech.

Should Win: I'm going to agree with the Academy here and give it up for Mo'Nique. I don't necessarily ever want to watch Precious again, but I will never ever forget her performance. Terrifying, and bringing in the sympathy late in the movie. I didn't see Nine, so shame on me. Maggie Gyllenhaal was okay in Crazy Heart but seemed a bit miscast and benefited much by star Jeff Bridges five-tool performance. Actually, I'm not sure how much I like Gyllenhaal as an actress. I find myself underwhelmed, again and again. Does that mean I'm broken? (Oh, except for Stranger Than Fiction, where I thought she was excellent.) That brings us to the Up in the Air actresses, Farmiga and Kendrick. Farmiga was excellent and held her own and then some against the George Clooney blitzkrieg of charm. Just about any other year, she'd be my favorite in this race. Kendrick kind of got lost in the shuffle for me amid the grown ups.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Herrington and Akers on the Oscars, Part 1: The Screenplays

Posted By on Mon, Mar 1, 2010 at 8:39 AM

Last year, Flyer film writers Chris Herrington and Greg Akers had a back-and-forth exchange leading up to the Academy Awards broadcast. This not only let us geek-out on a cultural event we both tend to obsess over, but also gave us one last chance to sing the praises of some lesser-known films the Oscars may have overlooked.

We predicit Quention Tarantino will leave the red carpet happy, with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
  • We predicit Quention Tarantino will leave the red carpet happy, with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
This year, we're back at it, and will divide our conversation into five parts, one each morning this week, leading up to Sunday's Oscar broadcast. We start today with the screenplay categories.

Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger, A Serious Man, Up

CHRIS HERRINGTON: The Messenger seems to be the only selection here incapable of actually winning. Of the rest, my guess is that The Hurt Locker is — correctly — perceived as more of a director's movie and the Coens' star-free, low-box-office A Serious Man simply too obscure. So I'm betting that this comes down to Up and Inglourious Basterds. Given all those long, talky scenes, the inventiveness of re-writing WWII, and the film's success both at the box-office and with Oscar noms, I think this is where Quentin Tarantino gets recognized. Will Win — Inglourious Basterds.

Should Win — I actually like all of these movies, but do think Inglourious Basterds was too disjointed, The Messenger perhaps a little too schematic, and wish Up hadn't devolved into standard-issue cartoon action down the stretch. I think The Hurt Locker is the best movie of the bunch, but I think the best screenplay here comes from my old nemeses, Joel and Ethan Coen. A Serious Man might be the first Coen movie more concerned with real life than with some kind of cinematic or literary source material, and I found it to be a very serious, very personal, fascinatingly prickly, and darkly comic look at religious belief and culture (which just happens to be Jewish because they are) from the perspective of an alienated insider.

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