Thursday, July 31, 2008

This Is Sooo Not Me

Once? I chuckle at it. Twice? Okay...weird. But three times in the last week or so, I've been on the receiving end of e-mails intended for this guy. Once about donating some autographed CDs to charity and two booking inquiries. While I briefly considered sending my prospective bookers a lengthy and lurid contract rider demanding a dressing room stocked with midget porn, every lubricant known to man, and a 55-gallon drum of pure grain alcohol, I ended up shooting them back a politely worded "You got the wrong Mike Holcomb" missive. I can only wonder if Gospel Mike ever gets e-mails ragging him about being a pro-wrestling fan and urging him to update his damn blog every once in a while.

Friday, July 25, 2008

50 Random Thoughts On "The Dark Knight"

After refusing to wade into the record-breaking opening weekend crowds and being severe thunderstormed-out on two previous attempts earlier this week, I finally saw The Dark Knight last night. Multiple geekgasms. Twenty-four hours later, there are so many ideas and impressions spinning around in my head that I don't think I'd be able to write a coherent proper review. So I turn to the blogger's best friend...the big honkin' list. Most of these items are positive...but there are a few nitpicks and one or two actual complaints. (WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND...Don't read this if you haven't seen TDK and you want to be unspoiled. Fair warning.) Let's get after it:

1. A week of reading glowing reviews and talking to friends who had seen it left me wondering if The Dark Knight could live up to the hype and if it had any surprises for me left in it. Well, it blew past the hype and...yes...there were plenty of surprises.

2. It is easily the best comic book hero movie ever made (moving past, for my money, Spider-Man 2 and X2: X-Men United).

3. TDK is also one of the very best crime dramas I've ever seen. It is very densely plotted and features many lengthy procedural segments. It's nice to see The World's Greatest Detective doing some actual detective work.

4. Heath Ledger created a Joker who had audience members visibly squirming every time he got within arm's length of another onscreen character. If you thought Jack Nicholson was more clown than Clown Prince of Crime, then TDK's (and Ledger's) Joker is good for what ails you.

5. Aaron Eckhart comes close to stealing the movie as Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent. This is a Batman movie featuring Harvey which you end up rooting for him to not become Two-Face. It's a heartbreaking character arc and a terrific performance from Eckhart.

6. Director Christopher Nolan, showing off his flair for verisimilitude and realism, leaves the origin of The Joker up in the air (no vat of acid) and gives Harvey Dent pre-scarring references to his lucky coin and the nickname "Two-Face." Very well-done.

7. A recurring notion for me throughout TDK was the film's many callbacks and seeming homages to the work of legendary director John Ford. For instance, the memorial service for Harvey Dent and the covering up of his misdeeds echoed the ceremony and cover-up for Henry Fonda's Lt. Col. Owen Thursday at the end of Ford's Fort Apache. Both characters were buried as "heroes" in the interest of maintaining morale.

8. TDK's composers, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard came up with a great recurring musical motif for The Joker. Whenever Joker goes into his "Wanna know how I got these scars?" routine, a cacophony of strings begins buzzing like an insect...growing louder and increasingly high-pitched as his tirade continues. It's evocative of Bernard Herrmann's classic work on Psycho.

9. Commissioner Fucking Gordon just rules all. Up until Nolan took over the Batman film franchise, it was infuriating to see what directors Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher had done to of the most vital and interesting characters in the Batman mythology. Gary Oldman's Gordon gets it so right...kicking ass on his own and serving as Batman's closest battlefield ally.

10. I also love Nolan and Christian Bale's fresh take on Bruce Wayne...making him a raging, narcissistic asshole. This schmuck is the last guy in Gotham you'd suspect of being Batman.

11. Lucius Fox's response to Bruce's request for a new cowl: "You want to be able to turn your head, don't you?" I know that Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney...none of whom were able to turn their heads even an inch in their a laugh out of that line.

12. That said...I wasn't nuts about the new, helmet-style cowl. Or the new suit in general.

13. More John Ford: The debate over who was the better choice for handling lawlessness, the lawyer or the vigilante?...was also a prevalent theme in Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

14. As much as I admired Zimmer and Howard's work, I'm bugged that Nolan's films don't feature an instantly recognizable "Batman Theme." Danny Elfman's Batman theme (from the Burton films) is one of my all-time favorite pieces of movie music.

15. In the acting department, I guess Maggie Gyllenhaal is a step or two up from Katie Holmes in Batman Begins. In the looks department? Many, many steps down.

16. The Bat-Pod, while cool, was impractically designed. One of these days, Batman is going to get his cape caught in the back tire. Put a fender on that thing before your neck gets snapped, Bruce!

17. Michael Caine = Best. Alfred. Ever.

18. More John Ford: The skyscrapers of Gotham and the streets below served to frame the film's action every bit as much as the ever-present mesas and valleys in Ford's films.

19. Eric Roberts. I'm just always happy to see Eric Roberts in anything. One of the immortal hambones of modern cinema. Refer to The Pope of Greenwich Village for further proof.

20. So many reviewers have referred to TDK's ending as bleak and hopeless. The people of Gotham defied The Joker. They didn't "eat each other" when given the opportunity, as he predicted they would. That's a very hopeful ending.

21. I would've loved more Cillian Murphy...but even bringing back Scarecrow for just a cameo was a nice touch.

22. Looks like Gotham didn't rebuild that ultra mack daddy elevated train system from Batman Begins.

23. The mayor of Gotham was a total dink. Aren't all mayors in movies dinks? Who was the last heroic or even sympathetic mayor in a movie?

24. And the mayor was played by Nestor Carbonell...who played Batman knockoff "Bat Manuel" in the live-action TV version of The Tick. Ha, ha!

25. The opening bank heist reminded me of Heat.

26. Having William Fichtner on hand as the badass, shotgun-wielding, mob bank manager reminded me of Heat.

27. Batman and The Joker ending up across a table from each other reminded me of Heat.

28. I loved the film's emphasis on real-time practical special effects. (Of course, when the DVD comes out, I'll probably learn that most of it was actually CGI...)

29. More John Ford: The decision to cover-up Harvey Dent's crimes was, I thought, a callback to the famous "Print the legend" ending of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

30. I didn't think the Coleman Reese subplot was fleshed out properly. I've seen speculation online that Reese's character might become The Riddler. Ehhh...I don't see it.

31. While watching TDK, I never really thought about Ledger's death until The Joker's line to Batman near the end of the film: "I think you and I are destined to do this forever." If only...

32. I have to give credit to Ain't It Cool News Talkbacker "antonphd" for coming up with the idea originally...but, fuck yes, Aaron Eckhart for Captain America. That movie's already on the books...sign Eckhart up for it, taco pronto.

33. Batman = The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent = "Gotham's White Knight." Again...good stuff.

34. Spontaneous audience applause when Gordon turns up alive and nabs The Joker. I can't remember the last time I heard that kind of reaction in a theater.

35. Why does the Batmobile always have to get destroyed? And they totaled a Lamborghini! My inner gearhead was crying...

36. After Batman saved Rachel from falling...he didn't seem too concerned about Bruce Wayne's guests still being terrorized upstairs by The Joker and his gang, did he?

37. Memo to Christopher Nolan: Listen. No Robin. Ever. This is non-negotiable.

38. Another intriguing online discussion/controversy: Is Harvey Dent dead? Or was he shipped out to Arkham Asylum while Gotham was told he was dead? We know Commissioner Gordon has no qualms about conspiracies and cover-ups. Hell, we thought he was dead for half the movie...

39. Heath Ledger will win that posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Etch it in stone.

40. And I won't be surprised if Aaron Eckhart is nominated for the same award. Hell, I'll be disappointed if he isn't.

41. I can't believe Wal-Mart and Target are chockablock with TDK toys. You are nuts...NUTS...if you take a child under the age of 13 or so to this flick. This sucker is a hard PG-13.

42. "Watch me make this pencil disappear."

43. There's never been a comic book hero movie with TDK's body count. The stakes are raised every time The Joker strikes and there is a genuine feeling of helplessness at the film's end with the bomb-rigged ferryboats and the hostages in the high-rise.

44. Having a morally uncompromised character like Lucius Fox (and a universally beloved actor like Morgan Freeman), clash with Bruce/Batman over the ethics of his methodology gave that particular conflict a ton of credibility.

45. Another memo to Nolan: Don't even think of re-casting The Joker at some point. Heath Ledger retired the jersey. Maybe a decade or so down the road...if a movie adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel is ever made...maybe then I'd accept another actor as an aged Joker.

46. I get serious Patrick Bateman/American Psycho (a movie I love, BTW) flashbacks whenever Bale goes into "asshole Bruce Wayne" mode. Fire up some Huey Lewis and The News..."Is that a raincoat you're wearing?"

47. As much as I loved TDK, I actually think the mental image I'll carry most vividly from that night at the movies is the little kid on Ben Stiller's shoulders, stabbing him repeatedly in the neck, from the Tropic Thunder trailer. That movie looks piss-yourself hilarious.

48. Nice character-establishment moment: Bruce Wayne dumping his drink off the side of the building at the Harvey Dent fundraiser. Bruce knows he could be eye-to-eye with rough trade at any time of any night. He can't be impaired.

49. One more shout-out for Aaron Eckhart before signing off. I, too, believe in Harvey Dent.

50. If you haven't seen The Dark Knight yet, do so at your earliest convenience.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Heard Any Good "Knock Knock" Jokes Lately?

Stone-cold serious question. Lately, Zoe's been all about the "knock knock" jokes. She's four now....and she's experiencing the zazz of a well-delivered punch line for the first time. I have no doubt that she's well on the way to becoming Winterville Elementary Pre-K's Ralph Malph when she starts in a couple of weeks. Like all good raconteurs, Zoe is down with the classics. Here are the hot "knock knock"-ers in her rotation right now:

- "Dwayne." "Dwayne who?" "Dwayne the bathtub...I'm dwowning!"

- "Boo." "Boo who?" "Don't cry. It's just a silly 'knock knock' joke."

- "Little old lady." "Little old lady who?" "I didn't know you could yodel."

- And the meta zinger: "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?"

So, back to the question...Anybody heard any good "knock knock" jokes lately? Give me some fresh material while Zoe still has time to work on it before Pre-K starts. Remember, she's only four years don't be suggesting the blue stuff. That means you, "Dick Hertz." (Pic courtesy of The Rip Post)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: My Picks

The main "official" criteria for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame eligibility is the 25-year rule. It has to be 25 years since your first record was released. Bearing that in mind and looking at the acts becoming eligible this year, I see three no-brainer, mortal locks for induction:

- Stevie Ray Vaughn

- Run-D.M.C.

- The Smiths

Since that's kind of a tiny class, why not use this year's ballot as an opportunity to correct a couple of semi-glaring omissions? Taking into account the 25-year rule, and factoring in the additional qualifications of influence and popularity (not to mention the amazing longevity of one of these two acts), I would close out my 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot with:

- The Cars

- Cheap Trick

The Cars were by far the biggest-selling New Wave/skinny-tie band. And they didn't wear out their welcome...six albums and out. "Just What I Needed" still jumps out of the radio at you today just like it did the day it was released. Heartbeat City was one of the essential albums of the eighties. They managed to make some of the most innovative and enjoyable videos of MTV's heyday despite not having a thimble of charisma between all five members of the band combined. The dudes from Fountains of Wayne (hey, "Stacy's Mom" sounds like it came straight from side two of The Cars' Candy-O) could handle the induction duties.

Cheap Trick would have to take a rare night off to be inducted. They're still out there...playing 200-plus nights a year just as they have for the past three decades. They are responsible for "Surrender," the most underrated rock anthem of all time. They had that amazing run of Heaven Tonight, Live At Budokan, and Dream Police. They were glam. They were New Wave. They were metal. They were pop. They oughtta be in the Hall. I'm sure die-hard Trickster Billy Corgan would be pleased to deliver a few induction remarks on their behalf.

My Little Lizard King

Looks like Gabriel just checked into the Morrison Hotel:

And, much like Morrison, Gabe is prone to whipping his penis
out at the most unexpected and inopportune of moments. I'll
also be shocked if his first complete sentence is anything other

Saturday, July 19, 2008

In Defense of St. Anger

The last entry here at HYH, in which I listed my favorite albums for each year of my life, prompted the following comment from Jamie:

You gotta be kidding about St. Anger... You know I'm down with Metallica but I hated that album with a fucking passion... Listened to it once and shelved it.

I know that a defense of Metallica's 2003 album, St. Anger, will probably be met with the kind of skepticism usually reserved for articles with titles like "Charles Manson, Misunderstood Sweetie" and "The Crucifixion: Why Not One More Nail Through The Forehead?" Given that, it's important to note that...despite what you may read on Metallica fanboy message boards...St. Anger was not universally reviled upon its release. Far from it, in fact. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album 4-out-of-5 stars. Entertainment Weekly called it Metallica's best record since 1991's "The Black Album." The UK's New Musical Express says it's "an immense statement of superiority." The problem, according to so many of the Metallica faithful, was that it wasn't the desperately-hoped-for return to Kill 'Em All/Ride The Lightning-style thrash. Instead, it was a document of a breakdown and a damn-near breakup. It was Metallica, warts and all.

And, to be perfectly honest, it's an album Jamie...I wasn't nuts about at all upon first listen. Just like I wasn't nuts about the first Ramones album the first time I heard it. Or The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat. Or the first Clash album. Or any other number of classic albums that took time to "get." I didn't "get" St. Anger until I saw the acclaimed Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster. "Frantic," a song that reads like a postcard from rehab, didn't resonate with me until I learned first hand about James Hetfield's nine-month exile from Metallica, during which he finally confronted his alcoholism. Watching James go nose-to-nose with drummer Lars Ulrich brought home the line about being "madly in anger with you" from the title track. I don't want to say the movie and the album are indispensable from each other...but, much like The Beatles' Let It Be movie and album, they each fill in a lot of the other's blanks.

Granted, there are plenty of things to dislike about St. Anger. Jamie and I haven't talked about this...but I know that with Jamie being a drummer, he is rightly and very much correctly dismayed about the album's drum sound. Holy's like Lars is pounding on coffee cans. There's an audible "PING" with every snare shot that is downright headache-inducing. Then, there's the lack of guitar solos...on a METALLICA album. Come on, not even I was down with that. Producer Bob Rock filling in on bass? Fucking yikes! Here's what I would recommend to Jamie, and anyone else willing to give St. Anger another listen: Take the DVD of rehearsals that was included with the CD release and rip the sound from it. I swear the songs come to life like a sumbitch. You get for-real drums. You get new bassist Rob Trujillo thumping his fingers off. Kirk Hammett improvises a few solos. The soundtrack from the rehearsals DVD is the real St. Anger, as far as I'm concerned.

And, you know what? I didn't even buy that many albums in 2003. So there.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Official Yearly Record(s)

All the cool bloggers are doing why not me? An album from each year of my existence on this planet. Other folks may have their own criteria...mine was simple. First, I had to own it...and I did find, to my kinda surprise, that I actually do own albums from every year since my birth...and I had to like it a lot. I went back and perused critics' favorites lists from 1961-on and picked the highest-ranked album that I listened to the most. Simple as that. Be forewarned...I won't be fronting about how much I love hip-hop or pimping the indie flavor of that year. In fact, I'm pretty sure you'll find my tastes to be almost aggressively middlebrow. So...with all that in we go:

1961 - Sinatra's Swingin' Session (Frank Sinatra)
1962 - Sinatra and Strings (Frank Sinatra)
1963 - The Concert Sinatra (Frank Sinatra)
1964 - A Hard Day's Night (The Beatles)
1965 - Rubber Soul (The Beatles)
1966 - Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys)
1967 - The Velvet Underground and Nico (Velvet Underground)
1968 - The Beatles [aka The White Album] (The Beatles)
1969 - Tommy (The Who)
1970 - Deja Vu (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)
1971 - Who's Next (The Who)
1972 - Harvest (Neil Young)
1973 - The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
1974 - Walls and Bridges (John Lennon)
1975 - Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)
1976 - Ramones (The Ramones)
1977 - Rocket To Russia (The Ramones)
1978 - Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen)
1979 - The Wall (Pink Floyd)
1980 - The River (Bruce Springsteen)
1981 - Beauty and the Beat (The Go-Go's)
1982 - Under the Big Black Sun (X)
1983 - Murmur (REM)
1984 - Purple Rain (Prince and The Revolution)
1985 - Tales of the New West (The Beat Farmers)
1986 - Life's Rich Pageant (REM)
1987 - The Joshua Tree (U2)
1988 - ...And Justice For All (Metallica)
1989 - New York (Lou Reed)
1990 - Ragged Glory (Neil Young)
1991 - Metallica (Metallica)
1992 - Automatic for the People (REM)
1993 - Siamese Dream (Smashing Pumpkins)
1994 - Definitely Maybe (Oasis)
1995 - And Out Come the Wolves (Rancid)
1996 - Fountains of Wayne (Fountains of Wayne)
1997 - OK Computer (Radiohead)
1998 - Hey! Album (Marvelous 3)
1999 - From Here To Eternity Live (The Clash)
2000 - In The Flesh (Roger Waters)
2001 - Is This It (The Strokes)
2002 - The Rising (Bruce Springsteen)
2003 - St. Anger (Metallica)
2004 - Smile (Brian Wilson)
2005 - Devils and Dust (Bruce Springsteen)
2006 - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Bruce Springsteen)
2007 - Magic (Bruce Springsteen)
2008 (so far) - Flight of the Conchords (Flight of the Conchords)