I just don’t have time to put any real thought into writing about “cultural” stuff these days. The no-look-hand-pass mp3 blog thing is incredibly easy – post the song, write some inane text and boom, there you go. Yet here’s an attempt to provide a bit of a peek into some films I watched over the past month. Perhaps there are some titles that you recognize. Perhaps, like me, there are some that you will enjoy. Please allow me to continue:

DESPERATE MAN BLUES – I was so excited to find a DVD documentary about legendary record collector Joe Bussard that I bought this thing without knowing a thing about it, & after watching it I’m glad I had the gumption to do so. The DVD’s actually two docs in one – one made by an Australian crew a few years ago about Joe & his foibles, and another similar one made by heroic archivists Dust-to-Digital just last year. If you have a place in your heart for the thrill that comes from rescuing some incredible pre-WWII musical artifact from oblivian (which Bussard has built an entire life on) or from hearing it, then this snapshot of a true American giant is for you. A-

THE DEPARTED – Watched this the night before it took the Oscar for best picture so I could say I’d seen at least a couple of the films that were up for the award…..like just about everyone, I dug it. For a 2 and 1/2-hour movie, it moved quickly & played like a great thriller, and I thought the concept of setting up the two different “rats” in the Boston police force and playing them against each other was pretty clever. Even Leonardo DiCaprio was great. Good one, Martin. I’m not sure that guy’s even made a movie I can remember since “GoodFellas”, and the only thing I remember about that one was the whole funny-like-a-clown bit….. B.

PAN’S LABYRINTH – Believe the hype – very enjoyable, fantastic dazzler about a young girl who escapes her mother’s shacking up with a sadastic fascist military commander during the encroaching Spanish civil war by inventing an alternate-but-parallel below-ground reality, full of spooks both comforting and terrifying. Much more violent and creepy than I’d anticipated, which was all well & good. Very well done, just don’t take yer little ones. B+.

DEATH OF A CYCLIST – I ventured to a historic San Francisco theater to watch the revival of this 1955 Spanish film directed by Juan Antonio Bardem, about an adulteress and her lover who mow down a cyclist on a back road, and then spend the rest of the movie writhing with guilt. I was a little taken aback by the horrifyingly moralistic way the film wraps up, and the syrupy strings & weeping melodies that came up during every dramatic moment made me feel like the film was more 1945 than it was 1965, if you know what I mean. I guess I was a little disappointed, but that Lucia Bose was quite a dish. C.

THIS IS NOT A PHOTOGRAPH – THE MISSION OF BURMA STORY – For Burma fans only, is what I’m recommending. A documentary on how the band made their way back to live & recorded action a few years ago, very well done & with some outstanding archival footage as well, but maybe lacking any sort of broader theme beyond “Mission of Burma are back and isn’t that great?”. B-.
TALLADEGA NIGHTS – Absolute garbage, full of clunking jokes and bizarre non-sequiters that go nowhere. Only thing I laughed at were “Ricky Bobby’s” redneck kids, but this one was snapped off about two-thirds of the way in. Excruciating. D-.

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