Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Plantation System in Southern Life (1950) Reviewed

I am worried that this is becoming "just some blog" since i started talk9ng about myself and posting stuff from Youtube. But this isn't just some blog, this is a forum for reviewing whatever obscure artifacts I can lay my eyes on, a mission articulated in the first post. So let me fulfill the promise i made that day, to review an educational documentary on the slave system from 1950.

To be honest, with part one of this doc I was a little disappointed to find a neutral portrayal of the slave system intended for post WWII fifth graders. It was described to me as an anachronistic endorsement of that system, a last ditch effort to bring slavery back in the mid twentieth century. Toward the end of part one, however, I did notice that they slave owners were getting off pretty easy.
"The planter and slaves were part of an unusual class system." Says the narrator in his now iconic neutral tone. Why yes, that class system was very unusual now that I think of it. Not oppressive or tragic, just unusual, thanks for pointing out that little nuance.

so anyway, part 2 kicks up the weird. The narrator poses the question "Did this plantation life influence the modern south?" Did the Beatles influence the Monkeys? He then begins to make his case "The land cultivated for generations, remained. The source of labor, great numbers of negros, remained." And here's where he blows your mind. You probably assumed the civil war ended the plantation system, maybe you weren't aware that land and great supplies of negros remained. I cannot even describe the frisson that the announcer gives the word remained. You get the point, the plantation system is still going in 1950. Now go read the synopsis of Lars Von Triers second installment in his (aborted) America is bad trilogy, Manderlay (2005).
Eerie, huh?
Notice how the documentary filmmakers mirror shots from part one and part 2 in which the landowner walks straight back into the house while 2 laborers walk diagonally back toward the field.
"Economic and social patterns have left a lasting influence throughout the South." i thought this this shot should have been followed up with a shot of separate water fountains, but what the narrator says next is even better as they cut to a barbecue of impeccably dressed white folk. "Today if we visit a social gathering in the south we will see some of these influences." I'll bet. southern hospitality, "The gentle manners and courtesy, the separation of society into distinct groups." I shit you not, following that line the only black person at the party walks across the screen carrying a tray of food. "These are some things the plantation system has contributed into southern life."
Were the filmmakers aware that they were making a subversive documentary on race relations and commerce? I think the neutrality had to mask some contempt but I can only imagin the elementary school kids watching this in 1950, learning about how the south had different social groups, glad that they weren't in the group that carried the trays.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mess with me, see what happens

And now, the Danial Dushane attack ad:

Danial Dushane Reviewed

The main reason this site exists is that Danial Dushane wouldn't let me make a documentary about him so I had to do this for a class project instead. My resentment has had proper time to fester, and while I wont go into the history of Mr Dushane being a pupil of mine before crossing over to the non cooperative hipster side, I did make this little feature....

Actually, that isn't finished processing in Youtube, but to stimulate your interest in synthesizers look at this:

Monday, April 28, 2008

APPLETON RADIO, for reals?

So, this exists.


Apparently it's a streaming radio station the plays ONLY Maine hip hop and electronic.

Who knew?

Just Because

Virgina Tech, NPR, Brendan Cassidy Media Sensation!

I almost forgot! I fulfilled my life long dream of hearing my voice on National Public Radio. Ideally i would have been speaking to Terry Gross about my innovations in hip hop and screenwriting, but Tom Porter is no slack. I helped organize the April 16 Lie In at USM to commemorate the Virgina Tech shootings and stepped in to create the impression that the student body is really really emphatically concerned about regulating the sale of firearms at gun shows.
I spoke directly to Tom Porter and I cant lie to you, it was really gay. He pointed a huge phallic microphone at me and talked in this fake British accent, everything you would expect from an NPR reporter. Mr. Porter was actually at Virginia Tech when the shit went down last year so our interaction went something like this:
Tom Porter: Thank you Brendan Cassidy, for organizing this symbolic and under attended demonstration. For exactly one year I lived in fear of all college campuses, but now academia is safe again, thanks to you.
Brendan "Oral-B" Cassidy: Don't thank me Tom Porter of NPR. Thank, actually me is good, I like being thanked.
Nevermind that the demonstration was part of my service learning practicum and my enthusiasm was actually being graded, as far as Maine Things Considered is concerned, I am just a really passionate guy who makes hilarious analogies about ping pong and handguns. So those guys might live off of our support, but they are totally the ones who are suckers.

One More thing: the teaser trailer to the movie we're making of the demonstration. The Frisson of Iconoclasm.

State of the Union

So lets have a serious chat here, shall we? What are we doing here, I mean, what do you hope to get out of this? I tell you that I am going to do a writeup of everything I view or listen to, but c'mon, it's so obvious, I am not a superman. My bones are too brittle to type up all the shit I expose myself to, and what is "viewing" anyway. Am I too say that I "viewed" Imaginary Heroes on Saturday because I watched the first half of it, intermittently leaving to smoke cigarettes on my porch and rehearsing the three guitar chords I know (Incidentally, I am up to 3 chords! I can start a punk band now!)?
I am tired of making promises I can not keep. where is the review of the southern plantation documentary? I am sure as hell not doing a write up of the Mathnet episodes I found on youtube. This just isn't fair to you that I keep setting expectations and setting back into my old ways. I wanted to even tell you about the video of Prince performing Radiohead's Creep at Coachella this weekend but I am not even sure I am up to that. Actually, here it is:

wow, I don't even like Prince but that made me wish Scorcese had thought of filming Shine A Light on his camera phone.

I have posted some links to the sites that were the clear inspiration to this erratic writing and viewing style of Later Haters. One I love, one I hate, one I should view more and be smarter. Let's start with hate; Aititcool news is a bunch of wannabe movie insiders who can't get a screenplay made and feel that because their childhoods were so based around watching movies that the studio system somehow owes them and should cater to their needs. They cannot write a simple proffessional review without first talking about their uninteresting selves for 1500 words, infact they pride themselves on this. They are geeks though and through and the sites founder, Harry Knowles, cannot survive much longer at his current weight. I have viewed this sight ewvery day for the past 7 years because they collect and post reviews from test screenings and I fucking love hearing about movies months befor ethey are released. sadly, very few of the pople who send in these reviews can write very well, and they have probably affected me a great deal. I could have been reading Faulkner in that time. Faulk them.
The Onion AV Club is similarly self indulgent except that their writers are witty, insightful, and clearly have honed their crafts. Whatsmore, I have to go through the main Onion sight to get to it, of which I am very fond. I find Nathan Rabin to be a kindred soul, all though if I remember correctly he was featured on a movie panel show a couple of years back, the commercials for which touted him as the depressive cynic of the bunch. Like I said, a kindred soul, his Year In Flops feature was just about the best thing since sliced banana bread and faulk him for ending it just because the year did.
Listening Post I don't really read at all, but I heard this guy talk to Terry Gross on Fresh air last month and he is seriously faulking smart. Music, I guess, is digital now, like wrist watches except that while time is money, music is now faulking free free free. Mr. Eliot Van Buskirk has the whole changing if the guard of the music industry figured out. Listen to him, I'm going to.

so the point I started out with is that I am terrible at maintaining Later haters with any sense of continual theme. Did you get that I was framing the issue as though were were having a discussion at the end of a bad relationship? Good, I'm glad you got that. But now I have helped you move on to better sites and I am sure we will meet on the street one day and choke on the poignancy that comes when old lovers meet.

Oh, also: what's with this shit of having to go through Later Haters now is a register domain, so as soon as I figure out how to transfer this night template thing to my own site, I will. This is how Diablo Cody did it, right? she just started typing nonsense one day and then she had a book and an Oscar winning screenplay? I hope being interesting and smart wasn't a prerequisite for that.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So here is the deal my loving public: I just accidentally deleted most of my review of the novelty hit Cloverfield. I am biiter, hungover, and hate this concept of reviewing everything media related I view. Whatsmore, Im already cheating because I didn’t write up the NPR I listened to yesterday and it pains me to admit I watched, let alone have to recap, viewing Wild Hogs. Yes Wild Hogs, sorry, I am a Ray Liotta completionist.

So Cloverfield, I will try to evoke the energy and enthusiasm I had writing this review the first time but I apologize, that comes but ones in a hungover lifetime.

Cloverfield opens with camcorder footage of someone looking down from a Manhattten skyrise in the wee hours of the morning. He goes on to toss strawberries in the mouth of his Victoria Secret looking friend, of whom he has just acquired the benefits of, and it is immediately clear to the audiecne that this mother must die. But here’s the catch, it takes 80 minutes plus a Lovecraft inspired monster for this dude to bite the big one. He could have just slipped on something!

I guess its verite week at Later Haters because cloverfield definitely meets the Wikipedia definition.
“a style of filmmaking, combining naturalistic techniques that originated in documentary filmmaking, with stylized cinematic devices of editing and camerawork, staged set-ups, and the use of the camera to provoke subjects.”
Yup, check, check, check. So lets take that up a notch and say that this is 9-11 inspired vertite. That’s right folk, you don’t make a movie about towers falling in NY city, people fleeing city blocks as clouds of smoky debris follow them in clip, and, uh, the triump of the human spirit? Any way, that’s right, the Cloverfield monster, with its endless reproduction of insect like splinter organisms, reckless hatred for america, and lack of a clear identity, is Al Queda. Duh.
But here is where forces collide. You are making a Blair Witch inspired movie, filmed in the first person, a giant monster is an abvious metaphore for the 9-11 attacks, and in which the camera operator keeps filming through the most dire situations and constantly reassures us “I’ve got to document this, people are going to want to know what happened.” All good, sort of, here’s the thing: no one grabbed a camera and filmed everything on 9/11. Nobody was really concerned about capturing the moment for posterity as towers were falling. It’s all wack.

Cloverfielf relies on the motivation that the guy filming from the skyrise on the opening scene was so incensed that his one time fling girlfriend brough another dude to his going away party -even though they hadn’t spoken since they fucked- that he had to journey back into the falling city. All good, except who fucking cares what happens to some flustered Abercrombie models? By films end I was sorry to see the awesome monster be killed by the totally egregious military…or was he? There is a sequel in the works, let’s not go and plant a tree instead.
My bitterness is revoked, I just found out Mathnet is on youtube and will be reviwed shortly. Here’s a teaser:

Friday, April 25, 2008

United 93 Reviewed

September 11 was a day that will live in infamy. It revealed the tru character of a nation and gave us iconic heros and the wake of crushing defeat. It is a day that we simply must never forget. That Kanye West was declared the winner in the sales competition with Fifty Cent, without even taking into account internet downloads or bootlegs is simply a disgrace, of the utmost proportions. There was a September 11 six years before that that people talk about as well, in fact, they made a movie about it, United 93. Now I know what your thinking, but don’t worry, they did get at least one cast member from the infamously bad mid eighties era Saturday Night Live. Without the participation of Dennie Dillon, and to a lesser extent David “Sledehammer” Rashe, it might seem, I don’t know, inappropriate to document this event on film after less than five years.

United 93 confounded the 2005 Oscars in that it won every critics award fro best picture but did not receive a nomination because folks in Hollywood didn’t bother to see it. So the people that actually watch every single movie deemed it the best, but there vote doesn’t count because they aren’t the ones throwing the annual midwinter circle jerk. To be fair, folks in Hollywood are busy, they cant be expected to see every film. There are important things to be done on their behalf, like ensure that the Bratz movie made it into production. I mean, if that hadn’t worked out we would know the true meaning of tragedy.

All that being said, I cried at United 93. Not a full on sob, but a lone tear did run down my face toward the end of the film. The verite style employed by writer director Paul Greengrass effectively side steps the “too soon?” question. Yes, it would be too soon to lionize the passengers who (probably) overthrew their hijackers and prevented the flight from crashing in any populated area. This film is light on the characterizations, The most we get for backstories is in snippets of overheard conversations that really do sound as mundane as real life, even if we do know early on that the guy who is talking about rugby might be tackling some terrorists by the third act.

What the film gets so very right is the confusion of the situation and how humbling it was to all parties. A few hours after this film takes place the country would be in the full grips of the rall round the flag syndrome, but in these moments what was happening was simply outside of the collective imagination. Greengrass casts many of the real life airtraffic controllers and military officers to play themselves. No alpha male emerges to lead the pack, no speeches are made to underscore the events, it’s all just a testament to how unsettling it was to encounter a situation that went beyond any protocol.

As the passengers are violently escorted to the back of the plane, they fight through confusion fear to realize that the hostages are the stronger party than their captors, it’s difficult not to feel the frisson of being there. Paul Greengrass was onto something, employing a similar style and structure to Bloody Sunday (2002), but that film had a more traditional first act in which we get a real back story for most of the characters. The people on this flight didn’t know each other, so why should we. This film could be shown alongside The Battle of Algiers in film courses as an example of why verite exists.

Oliver Stone certainly captured the right tone with world Trade Center, but something seemed oddly off in the way he employed special effects to portray the fall of the towers. Was it really appropriate to invest all that money in a tribute to the only two survivors to emerge from the rubble when that could have just been given directly to the widows of the firemen?
United 93, on the other hand is spare and minimal. I have no idea how much money went into making it but it the perfect level of production for the perfect testemant those passed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lords of Dogtown Reviewed

The newly articulated mission of this blog is to review any and all media I view. Lately I have felt a great sense of loneliness and despair, and while this feeling has haunted me since those first moments of adolescence when I developed self awareness and with it the frisson on ennui, I am lately thinking it it because of the prolonged hours of sonic assault and glossy eyed gazing at screens.

The idea is that perhaps I will think twice about the media i consume if I know I am going to have to do a write up for every Late night with Conan O;Brian episode I self medicate with to pass the tedium of life. First up is the 2005 film The Lords of Dogtown, the true true true story of the the volatile Zephyr team and the rise of competitive skateboarding in Southern California. In no way did I enthusiastically seek out this feature, it just meandered its way up my Netflix queue until the darn thing found its way to my mailbox yesterday. The film didn't make much of a splash when it came out in June of 2005, but now one of its' stars, Heath ledger, is dead. So how fucking sorry do we feel as a nation for not appreciating him when we could? Huh America?
At one point Mitch Hedburg enters to deliver the fateful polyurethane wheels that will set the skate movement in motion, pun intended. At this point I literally yelled "Oh my god, everyone in the shot is dead now! This particular shot is cursed! Oh wait, there is a guy in the background, two thirds of this shot is cursed! " If I remember correctly, Mitch Hedburg died in January of that year, so he had already passed upon the film's release. The fact that this is his only scene makes me think that this is actually his ghost, returned from the other side to deliver this film's all too mind blowing catalyst. Then perhaps his ghost hung around the craft service table, doling out his trademark dry irreverence. "So I like supposed to say polyurethanes, but every time I say Polly, I just feel the need to say 'wanna cracker.'" Pause for laughter. "Call that a force of habit." Of course I'm wrong, he actually died in March 2005.
So anyway, those guys are dead, so lets appreciate the time we have left with Emile Hirsche before he is claimed by The Lords of Dogtown Curse, because this young man is off the hiz-ook.
I don't know if he skated before this but he is 100% effective in convincing me that he is both one of the worlds best skaters, and his agility is the manifestation of a brooding intensity to rival Brando in a street car named desire. The kid's got it I tell ya!

So anyway, the movie tells the story of how these young, troubled street urchin/surfer kids formed the Zephyr skate team and transformed competitive skating from something resembling figure skating on a board to something resembling awesome. As their coach, Heath Ledger flips out and punches so many people that I assume he just did this as a nervous tick every time he would forget a line. Remember when Courtney Love was pretty good as a drug addicted whore in The People Vs. Larry Flynt but then every was like, hey, but she really is a drug addicted whore, that doesn't count. Lords of Dogtown sort of validates the idea floating around that Ledger OD'd because he couldn't deal with his own intensity. He's edgy I tell ya!

So anyway, the sole writing credit goes to Stacy Peralta, and while I'm sure there were no script doctors involved, kudos to him for making his character the whiniest, prettiest of the bunch who never got the love he deserved. Actually that was sort of annoying, kudos revoked.

Obviously the guys become dicks and use their money to indulge in the most cliched fashions and drugs of the era. The film ends with an old school reunification where the guys decide they still like each other. The film doesn't go as far as the era in which their aerial, surf inspired style of skating would go out of popularity in favor of a grittier street style but it does foreshadow this in the most heavy handed way possible; the guys are walking down the street, fighting or something, when a punk band literally blasts through the wall of their concert and spill out into the street. If your smart like me, you know that they didn't just rock so hard they knocked down a wall, they actually punked straight through the fabric of time because the guitarist is wearing a Black Flag t-shirt, brace yourself, 4 years before Black Flag existed! That's some anachronistics for your ass.
So, if Jar Jar Binks is a 1 and Boba Fett is a 10, I would rank Lords of Dogtown about a Lando Calrisian. I think it got a bad rap for not being as good as the documentary on the same subject, Dogtown and Z Boys, that came out a couple years earlier. It makes a nice companion piece to Point Break as an example of a female director trying, and for the most part succeeding, to prove that she can make a film more testosterone soaked than most male directors, and using extreme sports and Southern California as her pallet.
Oh and did I mention Tony Hawk plays an astronaut? High-liarious.

Monday, April 21, 2008

In which The Onion AV Club Gives me Desparately Saught Clarity

Noel Murray posted a very interesting response to a letter in Ask the AV Club.
A young man, much like myself, poses the question of how to precede with his career if his ultimate goal is to be a paid writer. Mr. Murray notes the inverse relationship number of paid writing positions and the ease of distributing ones work online and that it took him 14 from graduating college the the time that he could consider criticism his full time job. Oh, and without a masters you wont even make any money in the meaningless job.
So that's a relief, despite dilly dallying the past few years, I'm in the same position as anyone else. I simply have to dismiss the idea that i am going to get anywhere in the next few years and just do the work that I so love to procrastinate from. And even then the odds are heavily stacked against any real success so I suppose I'll have to develop one of those "Work is its own reward" type attitudes. Thank you Mr. Murray, I feel much better now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Later Haters: Lets Blog This Shit Up!

My overextended run at USM is drawing to a thankful close (of sorts) and the real world becons. The real world is what I am calling a temp job, waiting only on the weekends, and awkward dinners in which my fathers feigns patience for my lack of ambition.
The near three years at USM could also be measured as 150 consecutive weeks that I considered walking into the student paper with something I had written but opted not to, instead passing my days in increasingly isolated states of self obsessed, alcoholic recovery.
I aint no joiner, fool.
A media studies degree isn't exactly something I can walk into any employer with and stand there waiting for there jaws to drop, squinting toward me as the halo above my head casts off a near blinding light. It's not like I was proving my merit these years by studying organic physics and proving that I had the drive to carry myself through anything I set out to do. I was skimming Marshal McCluhan and doing in depth analysis' of How I Met Your Mother in this time.
Meandering through life's wayside, I call it. Oh yeah, I am so a poet.
Toward the end of this experience I came to realize that the problem is that this stuff actually does interest me. So while I cringe to sit in classrooms while folks discuss whether Mylie Cyrus might one day develop an identity crisis, that same idea, written in a tongue in cheek fashion on the OnionAVClub, would make my friggin day. I suppose lots of people study something in college because it interests them, knowing they will have to persue other stuff when they graduate. Those people tend to graduate in four years though. They probably pursue decent internships and make the right connections for when school comes to an end.
I'm sort of adrift here.
I've dilly dalleyed into my mid twenties, soooooo, I guess I'll just have to write my own ticket from here on out. Anyone reading this, send me whatever obscure media artifact you can find and I will review the shit out of it.
Ill use my degree in media studies
To beat it up Bloody
The media critics
Will defeat all the cynics
And you can't dodge my blows cause I dont come at you rythmic

did I mention I rap as well?

First up in the coming days: I review a piece of old school propaganda promoting the southern plantation system.

Sha-zam, it is on!