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Agenda Bender
 
Friday, July 04, 2003  

Proof Through the Night



Carpe Noctem.

Happy Independence Night.

11:01 AM

 

The Pocket is Fat


My niece revealed a kid secret to me. We were watching MTV and she was doing the Jay-Z rap in the middle of the excellent new Beyonce Knowles' song, Crazy In Love. A song so good even a Jay Z rap in the middle can't ruin it. Later she was listening to her walkman while she was on the computer, but she wanted to keep on top of the MTV action too so she switched the close captioning on. I had no idea that the videos were close captioned. I managed to get her attention by pantomiming my amazement. She took pity and focused on me long enough to explain that she often used the close captioning to learn the tricky lines in a rap that she couldn't catch from listening. It's cheating to refer to close captioning at the start. You should only turn it on is you are truly stumped by a line. She told me she couldn't get a key part of the Jay-Z rap in Beyonce's song because there was a line break between Tony and Soprano:

Ol' G, big homie, the one and only,
Stick bony, but the pocket is fat like Tony,
Soprano The ROC handle like Van Axel


The video for Beyonce's song points to a formula flaw in music videos. It's a flaw that has become institutionalized, as any episode of Making the Video will show you. Beyonce's video begins with her on a loading dock. She looks fantastic--stripped down and in high heels. She does the best high-heeled dancing I've ever seen, especially on a loading dock, though she does have to sit down to do some of it. She does the best sitting down dancing I've ever see. Period.

But then the reigning video formulaics kick in. Instead of staying with a look and locale that work, we switch to outfit two and setting two. We are on our way to 3 more costume and scene changes before the video ends. No one has the confidence to stick with one look for an entire video. When Herb Ritts died MTV and everyone else noted Ritts' contribution to the art of music videos, but nobody seems to have learned the lesson of Ritts' artistry. A single great visual concept can sustain an entire video all by itself. You can actually watch beautiful people in an interesting setting go through their moves for long stretches of time, yes, even as long as 4 minutes and 23 seconds, and not be bored by the endless sameness of it all.

10:51 AM

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
 

The Big Goatshead


I'm watching the best movie about New York City that I know. I've watched it all, or big parts of it, a dozen times. Oh, lets call it an even 13. Or an evener 23.

I was trying to think what other movies come close to distilling the Manhattan quintessence as purely. I came up with Dead End and Rear Window. Both made on beautifully artificial sets constructed inside California soundstages.

It's Rosemary's Baby that gets that city down cold though. Mia Farrow lays on the Sandy Dennis giddy neuroticism a little too heavily, especially early on, but if there's any other flaw in the movie beyond that I've never spotted it.

Among its glories:

The greatest non-score in movie history. Except for the nightmare sequence midway through (though, as Mia notes, "This is no dream, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING") all the music in the movie is the overheard music of the city. A grand piano being played down the hall, the happy couple putting on a dinnertime record, and always the muffled car horns from the streets below.

Charles Grodin, whose movie doctor turn is low key perfection. Even the reality of present day Grodin can't detract from what he did here.

That first image of the Castevets as they come strolling up the Dakota sidewalk. Her op art dress and feather shower cap. His sherbet suit. The new York City night the ground that sets these streetlit colors off.

The young mothers' kitchen intervention scene.

Patsy Kelly

Elisha Cook Jr.

The black cathedral bassinet.

Roman, oh Roman, I'd pardon you in a Manhattan minute. I'm sure it was all a misunderstanding. And even if it wasn't you made a punishment downpayment that should have earned you a lifetime get out of jail card.

A godawful shame that John Lennon had to be the blood sacrifice that exorcised the Dakota, but I guess the mojo was just that strong.

Update: There's a composed musical overlay to Rosemary's escape to the city streets scene as well. And now to the Rosemary eats the raw liver scene too! Roman's discipline seems to be breaking down in the second half. I wonder if the studio intervened. Roman's autobio has been staring at me from the shelf for years. Perhaps it holds the answer.

Update II: Yeah, music is breaking out all over the second half. Acid Gregorian chants, scary jazz and orchestral weirdness alternate. But they seem to serve opposite the usual purpose here. They don't work as terror heighteners, they make the scenes less horrific, more conventionally scary and thus less really scary. The Rosemary sedation scene would have been unwatchably brutal without the music.

2:44 AM