Monday, April 30, 2012
Five Things That Are Rad
I, like many other kids raised on old movies, have a fondest for the 1920s. As a teenager, I found myself profoundly interested in everything from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Al Capone. Alcohol was a celebration and a secret, gangsters were ruthless and classy and the country went through its only decade of severe moral high ground, which of course led into low points and rock bottoms. But there was a reason they called it "The Roaring '20s." So, an entire television show about the whiskey trade at the base of Coney Island, that promise land of pinball machines and roller coasters, is like a homecoming for me. It hits every bit of me: the kid who wanted to see the sights, the teenager who discovered jazz and the adult who can't kick the habit. The actors are flawless, the writing is perfect and the story is mesmerizing. And it takes its sweet time to tell it, as if it's savoring the flavor and smiling at its taste.
I've never read anything so culturally involved while still being so out of genre. The noir mystery unravels against the backdrop of a fake Jewish history out in the umbrella top of America. Let's say that Berlin was nuked at the end of World War II and Jewish refugees were given a territory in Alaska. But, now, 60 years later, the deal the U.S. government struck up with the world and the chosen race is up. Jewish residents are facing reversion and the territory will be up for grabs. One down-on-his-luck Jewish detective finds a dead man in his hotel and it turns the murdered Jew might have been the partial divine, a once in a generation miracle when the equivalent of Jesus's second cousin comes about. Something's wrong in Sitka and the cold landscape shakes as the trail of blood heats up. It's the best noir I've ever read and it's slung together with swear words and Jewish slang. It's a serious read, but Jewish writers always have a sly grin tucked away somewhere.
I can't imagine a duo that would be more fun to hang out with. They skateboard, mosh and put on free concerts in Brooklyn parks with a tiny keyboard and a drum kit made from cardboard boxes and random metals. Somewhere in the archives of this blog, there's a post called "I Wish It Was Matt & Kim & Jake," written some years ago when I first heard the song "Daylight." Well, a few weeks ago, I bought their latest release, Sidewalks, and it's just as fun as ever and it hasn't strayed far from my car stereo. It's straight up indie pop for twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings that want to ride bikes and hustle bars forever (and who have a fondness for peppy synth sounds poised against a modern interpretation of punk drums). There isn't any strange depths of lyrics or personal reproaches. They're the musical equivalent of meeting friends for lunch on a Saturday afternoon.
There are few films that continue to impress me. But Singin' In The Rain blows me away every time with its perfect grasp of joy. It handles love, friendship, work ethic and artistic integrity with as much silliness as it does earnestness. Nevermind the showmanship of tap dancers and sultry voices. This movie was made for every possible stunning glow a person can find radiating within themselves. Sure, that sounds like a lot, but, come on, this movie put me in the best mood as a kid (when all I wanted was anything and everything) and it still does as an adult (when I'm not ever truly sure what I want). I've watched this movie in all kinds of weather, including a tremendous Midwestern thunderstorm, and it's spectacular every single time, but it's perfect on a rainy night.
Look how goddamn ominous this thing is. "Heaven's Gate" is the nickname given to the water-eroded cave with the highest elevation in the world. In 263, the massive cliff of China's Songliang Mountain (now Tianmen Mountain) broke open and gave the world what looked like a door to the heavens. And now it sits there...waiting.