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music thursday

A special day-early version of Music Friday. J.B. Lenoir recorded this in the 50s ... he died at 38, apparently from injuries suffered in a car crash.

Like "Taxman", "Sunny Afternoon" was a well-to-do rock star whining about paying his taxes. Ray Davies was a better songwriter than George, though.

Pentangle was something of an early supergroup of British folk. Bert Jansch and John Renbourn were well-established, and everyone brought diverse musical tastes to create an unusual blend. That's Jacqui McShee on vocals.

Jesse Fuller was a one-man band, born in the 19th century, who influenced the early Bob Dylan.

"River Deep, Mountain High" is one of the fundamental tracks of soul. Tina Turner's performance is the greatest of her career ... hell, it's the greatest of anyone's career. Knowing that Phil Spector basically abused her into that performance matters, but when you listen, and you hear Tina hit that screeching high note near the end, it's hard to get too pissed at Spector.

geezer cinema: night of the living dead (george a. romero, 1968)

It has been 9 years since I re-watched Night of the Living Dead. At that time, I wrote:

I think I underestimated this in its early years. It was so cheap-looking, especially on the crappy versions shown on crappy TVs during the Creature Feature days, that I assumed the amateurish quality overcame the intentions of George A. Romero. When Dawn of the Dead came out in 1978, I thought the real classic had arrived: in color, lots more gore, much funnier than the original. And course, since those times, Romero’s films have become a franchise full of sequels and remakes, while an entire industry of movies influenced by Night keeps on coming. Compared to the rush of 28 Days LaterNight of the Living Dead is almost tame, not because of the different level of gore, but because of the amphetamine rush of Danny Boyle’s film. Finally, it is impossible in 2014 to watch Night of the Living Dead without carrying the baggage of the past 45 years. So I’ll never really know if I think this movie is the classic everyone else sees. I’ve grown more appreciative of the acting over the years, and it’s impressive how much Romero and team are in control, considering how little experience they had.

The occasion this time was a 4k Blu-ray from Criterion. You wouldn't think there was much you can do to improve the picture of a 55-year-old black-and-white movie made for $114,000, but in fact, the movie looks great. Sounds great, too. If I was feeling more appreciative back in 2014, I'm even more inclined now to call this a classic.

african-american directors series: friday (f. gary gray, 1995)

This is the twenty-seventh film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 27 is called "Hip-Hop Week":

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen hip-hop movie.

I saw the sequel to this movie many years ago when my son gifted me a copy. Didn't like it much, although it was so long ago I don't remember why. I suspect it was just my usual aversion to modern comedies. Watching the original, being more aware now of my tendency towards a shrug of the shoulders at such movies, I thought of working a bit at liking it. But the best thing about Friday is its casual nature. It would almost be an insult to the movie to actively react to it. Best to just let it wash over me, so I could enjoy the better parts and sit quietly during the frequent dull parts.

Much of the movie consists of Ice Cube and Chris Tucker sitting around talking. It's like My Dinner with Andre, if that movie took place in South Central L.A. and if the two main characters got high. Chris Tucker can't help but inject energy into his scenes, but he's erratic at best (and I like him). He and Ice Cube make a nice team, at least. There's a real authenticity to the setting ... Ice Cube knows the area like the back of his hand, as does first-time director F. Gary Gray (he made music videos before branching out here). The supporting cast is full of wonderful names: Nia Long, John Witherspoon, a 24-year-old Regina King (playing Ice Cube's sister), Faizon Love, DJ Pooh, Bernie Mac, and the immortal LaWanda Page.

I rarely laughed ... put that on me. The low-key mood in Friday is such that even a drive-by shooting is played for comedy. I've spent worse times watching movies. Gray's next movie was the much-better Set It Off.

taste of cherry (abbas kiarostami, 1997)

Roger Ebert famously hated Taste of Cherry:

A case can be made for the movie, but it would involve transforming the experience of viewing the film (which is excruciatingly boring) into something more interesting, a fable about life and death. Just as a bad novel can be made into a good movie, so can a boring movie be made into a fascinating movie review.

This is my fifth Kiarostami film. I have liked the others I have seen, most particularly Close-Up, which I thought was remarkable. I didn't connect with Taste of Cherry. I'm not sure I cared enough to work up the bile that infected Ebert. The film is repetitive, and the cast is comprised of non-professionals mostly improvising (in fairness, the lead actor, Homayoun Ershadi, went on to a long career).

Taste of Cherry is highly regarded, turning up on many lists of the best films of all time (it tied for #243 in the recent Sight and Sound poll). I'm disappointed that I didn't love it ... I'm disappointed that I didn't hate it the way Roger Ebert did. I suspect it deserves a second viewing at some point, at least to see if I would feel more inspired a second time around.