...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

If you are flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit.

Thank you Mitch Hedberg for today's title.

Yes we are moving, very soon. Signing the lease tomorrow. The apartment is full of boxes. More every day. Won't miss the neighbors. Or the noisy park. I really need to stop writing in short sentences now because that is really not my style and only works best to punctuate action.

An earthquake hit the LA area yesterday. I thought I'd just let you know that in case you missed the media over-covering the event. On the fifth floor of a 12-story building in Burbank, I was discussing data entry procedure with my office-mate when we heard what sounded like something really big slamming down onto the floor. Twice. Someone said, "What the hell was that?" Then things starting shaking in crazy jazz rhythmic patterns. I stood in the doorway. Everyone else who wasn't frozen in her seat filled the other doorways. Once I realized that I was going to live through this, a crazy adrenaline joy ran through me and I may have laughed. Then the shaking stopped. And the building started swaying. I didn't care for that. Standing in the middle of a swaying 200-ft. building felt like being on a boat in the ocean. For a full minute. And not one of those supposed "minutes" everyone references when something seems to happen for a long time. I checked my watch after a while. In a building made of bricks, steel, and glass, the hearts beating inside filled with hormonal panic. Breakfasts churned and may have threatened to escape. I saw no puke but heard much discussion of it. But all was over quickly, and Los Angeles went on its way again within minutes, though the TV reporting tried to stretch it out all day. "There have been no reports of damage or serious injury, BUT THIS MAY CHANGE!" Thanks Shepard Smith. You're an ace.

KP and I watched The Lady Eve this weekend. Barb Stanwyck gleamed in the black and white while Hank Fonda played a total fool. For the sake of men everywhere I was embarrassed by his character, but simultaneously saw the truth in it. The script was structured so strangely that only Preston Sturges's brilliance made it work.

I'm also still absorbing Velvet Underground's Loaded. It's taken about eight listens, but I think I'm finally getting it. In any case, "Sweet Jane" is a fantastic song. And I dreamt (really) to "Oh! Sweet Nothing". I like Lou Reed's pop-structured music but it's still so shocking to listen to after having enjoyed Velvet's first album for 7 years.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rethinking our favorites

I've just seen a film so beautiful that it has caused me to rethink the way we rank our favorite pieces of art, music, and film.

When we're young and impressionable, or being introduced to or happening upon a new art form, I think we set the standard to which all future forms of that medium are judged. And I'm not sure how often we break that standard. Think of your favorite rock albums EVER. Think of your favorite movies EVER. If you're like me, you probably have dozens of "Greatest" lists. I know my top 10 lists are often established at the start.

For instance, best rock albums? I'm pretty sure that 80% of my top ten were all discovered within the first 4 years of rock 'n roll worship. Best rock band? The Who, of course. They taught me the many definitions and basic themes. Favorite bluesman? John Lee Hooker. Same story with him. My three favorite electronica albums were all discovered within my first year of listening.

And I don't think it's just me. Only recently has Rolling Stone let any recent albums into their top 500. Their top 25 has only two that were released within the last 25 years. Their top 30 songs only have two from the last 30 years.

When compiling their top 10 films lists every 10 years from 250 filmmakers and critics, Sight and Sound seems to have a similar issue.

In 1992, none of the critics' top 9 were from within the previous 34 years. The directors' list has only 3 of the top 12 were from the same time period.

In 2002? Here are the years for the critics' top 10 list:

1941, 1958, 1939, 1972-4, 1953, 1968, 1925, 1927, 1963, 1952

Directors' list:

1941, 1972-1974, 1963, 1962, 1963, 1946, 1980, 1958, 1950, 1939, 1954

And to be honest the critics' list never changes over the years. And you will always know who's going to be no. 1.

Are we getting worse at our art? One would think that we'd be getting better with practice. Were the early works better because they came first? We were younger then, more impressionable. Awe came easier. Are we being unknowingly unfair to new creations?

I feel like this is related to our own individual lists of favorites. (Exceptions to this rule being those who think each new Michael Bay film is the best movie ever.) Those early ones, the first ones which introduced us to new emotional experiences, seem to get priority over all others.

Watching Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was electrifying. For the first half hour, I felt as if I was witnessing something more important than cinema. By the time the film finished, I'd realized that, no, this was actual cinema. I'd forgotten that feeling, which had last materialized about 8 years ago during Kusturica's Underground.

If you have been reading my blog posts for a bit you may think that every movie I watch is at the top of my list. This is untrue, I just love film that much. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors could break The Top Baker's Dozen (I don't have a top ten) but I wouldn't know who to kick out or why. I won't name names because I won't spill the whole list, but I'll reference when a flick has made the list (like Underground).

To sum up Shadows -- it's a magical realist lovers tale set in the Carpathian mountains. Though the film was shot in 1964, it could take place at any time since language was born. The editing is lightning fast and brilliant; apparently the Russians paid more attention to Eisenstein than the Americans did. Surprise. The acting is delightful because all but the leads were non-professional locals. And then there's the whirling, spinning, flying cinematography. Apparently Sergei Parajanov found an impatient winged forest spirit to operate the camera. The result can be exhilarating or nauseating, like the lives of the dancing, singing, loving, drinking characters. Those who are happy avoid sorrow by never stopping to mourn. Those who mourn are those who suffer. I think I'll move beyond the past too and find a place in the list for this one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gettin' it done

Just saw The Hustler (1961) last night and it was such a pleasant surprise that I had to tell someone. So I'm telling you. It was sitting on my overflowing media shelf as part of a Paul Newman set that I bought only to obtain Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. If I knew that The Hustler was going to be so strong, it would not have remained lonely and unopened for so long. But that solitude was appropriate. The film is so much harsher than Scorsese's 1986 sequel. It's a 135 minute descent into separate private hells for all of its characters. Not a single cuss word, no nudity, and the only acts of physical violence are hidden, but the end result is brutal. Newman carves out a brooding layered performance. Piper Laurie is a constantly unsettling disorienting presence. George C. Scott could possibly be playing the devil as his character is completely bereft of a soul. And Jackie Gleason is so graceful that I want to dig up more of his movies. Anyway, it's a film about a pool hustler, possibly the best there is. And at the end it may leave you pondering the definition of "winner" and "loser".

Since I referenced Scorsese, I've realised that I forgot to mention that KP and I have watched The Last Waltz (or at least parts of it) 3 times in two weeks. Definitely a nominee for top concert film ever. And I'm really excited that Kristen liked the music. The Band is awesome. Might need to add their first 3 albums to my list of art to get.

Speaking of great rock, I downloaded Shadows of Knight's other album, Back Door Men (1967). Not a disappointment at all. Right now it's playing for the fourth time today. I don't listen to anything four times a day except maybe my work computer restarting. Anyway, besides using one of the best blues double entendres ever as a title, they pummel out the music. The tunes are threatening and propulsive. They burn through Hey Joe as if on amphetamines. They even drop a couple of jazzy instrumentals.

On the exact opposite side of the music universe, I had KIIS-FM playing a bit today too. Finally heard "Lollipop" which seems to have taken over the charts for some time. It's a solid club song. Has a good beat, but the lyrics are largely unintelligible because every 5th word is blanked out. I wish they still beeped swear words instead instead of cutting them out. It may have provided this song an additional track. Someone should try that. Also heard "American Boy" which sounds like a quality dance tune. Made me wish I was back in London. And I heard the gory "Bleeding Love" which apparently is either a romance for murders/taxidermists/surgeons or it's just terrible symbolism. "You cut me open"? Could it be the worst pop music metaphor ever?

Hardly. Pop music records are made to be broken.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Post without a Theme, Vol. 2

I'm back with another post without any specific thematic goal. Let's see if I can keep it tight.


I've given the The Zombies' Decca Stereo Anthology 2-CD set a week of traffic listening. Technically they only released one sorta-album "Begin Here" that was cobbled together by the label when they had their first successful single, "She's Not There". "Odessey and Oracle" remains their only intentional album. The Decca Anthology scoops together most of their efforts in the studio between 1964 and 1966 and remixes them from mono to stereo. The result is interesting but not as impressive as I'd hoped. "Odessey and Oracle" is amazing, everything before is generally OK. In their early stuff I find little sign of what was to come.

CD 1, chronologically earlier tunes, sounds like a bit like early-Beatles-lite, albeit a little more jazzy. A lot of harmonizing about kissy-poo things. "She's Not There" stands out because it's trippier and crazier. Their other hit "Tell Her No" can be taken as really demeaning to women since the girlfriend in the song is treated like a mentally-disabled child. The theme is, paraphrased, "If she tries to f--- you, tell her no because she's supposed to be f---ing me."

CD 2 is much better. Though the songs are generally about smoochy subjects, The Zombies seem to be ironing out their own sound. My favorite tracks on the album are actually the final four, which are just the instrumental backing tracks for some of their songs. The tunes are very cinematic.

Alas, "Odessey" stands alone. But that's okay, at least it exists.


"Une Femme Est Une Femme" - Saw it, love it. Godard wins this round as well. I really enjoy his early cinema -- a lot of playing with expectations, music, archetypes, and cliches. This one is almost pure bliss, though both intelligence and a lack of directorial modesty hide well behind all of the antics. The film belongs not to Godard, but rather Anna Karina (whom he scooped up for himself around this time). If one were to edit out all of her mugging for the camera, all that would remain would be 5 minutes of Jean-Paul Belmondo smoking.

"Antonio Gaudi" -- Hiroshi Teshigahara's documentary on this Spanish artist is mostly a head-scratcher. The art and architecture are shot and edited beautifully. I gained an appreciation for Gaudi's creations. That's about all of the positivity that I can dig up. Teshigahara chooses to have no narration whatsoever, which in theory is a great thing. Documentary talking heads can be the equivalent of radio's dead air. But the lack of non-visual information forces the viewer to focus on the rest of the sound, which is uneven at best. Moody eerie music alternates with symphonic pieces, neither of which really influences the visuals. Rather than highlighting the potential multiple reads that one can get from Gaudi's art, they instead clash in a more irritatingly drawing too much attention. Also, there's about 60 seconds of spoken information and on top of being largely irrelevant, one doesn't know who the talking head is or why that information is chosen. I'm left wanting to know more about Gaudi, but not in a good way. I'd rather start fresh, ignoring that I ever actually watched this movie.

"Iron Man" -- Enjoyed it. Was exactly what I'd expected, which is a good thing since I expected a lot. It's not Jean Vigo, but it's the perfect summer movie. Casting against type worked very well. Good call Favs. Robert Downey Jr.'s screen presence did not wane for a moment and Jeffrey Lebowski was really creepy as Obidia whatshisname. And Gwenyth Paltrow was smart and gorgeous. Here are some pictures of Gwenyth Paltrow:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Post without a Theme Vol. 1

I really have no theme in mind today, but I must catch up. This will help me get some perspective too.

Kristen and I have settled on a new apartment and will be moving there during the first week of August. We'll be living on the Hollywood side of the Beverly Hills border (also known as South San Vicente Boulevard). To be honest, we can't stand the current neighborhood and hate the neighboring family. I know 'hate' is a strong word, but if a person's very existance makes my life worse --> then you take three of those persons and shove them into a 1 bedroom apartment next to mine --> 'hate' begins to seem too soft a word. And the cute little park across the street is the source of more noise than a freeway. I'm too embarrassed to read my original post about this place.

So it's movin' time again. KP and I are much too used to this. My place of work will be moving to the correct side of the hill in September, about 1.5 miles away from the new apartment. If I'm still working there, my commute will be on foot.

Baseball has been relatively benign. The All-Star festivities illustrated for the rest of the country what a sicko pathetic idea it was to level Yankee Stadium for the new complex. Josh Hamilton's first round of the Home Run Derby was beautiful to witness, though the SEVEN superlative slinging ESPN mouths almost ruined it. The sports media is doing their darnedest to try to keep Alex Rodriguez from reaching his destiny. It's none of my business and it's none of your business why, how, or if his wife is leaving him. He just needs to make his run at the home run and OPS leaderboard this year and then for another 7.

On a particularly down weekend I dipped into a little retail therapy and bought 4 CDs and 11 DVDs. Okay technically 5 DVD things, most with multiple discs. I feel no guilt about it yet, especially since it feels like my life has gained visual art from the purchases.

2001 was among these discs. I love that movie. It's best in a big theater of course. But it's a must-own because it's one of the few popular American classics that directly (or indirectly, depending on your read) addresses existence, higher powers, and the soul. And I just noticed that there's something going on thematically with the color red. Let me know if you have any ideas, and I'll think on it too. Anyway, Kristen viewed 2001 with me for the first and only time. Ever. She does not share my enthusiasm for that film.

We did agree, though, on Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog's latest documentary. I'm game for anything he does. He could release a single two-hour un-edited take of the CVS pharmacy line and I'd pay to see it, though Encounters is much better than that. Once again, Herzog has found a group of eccentrics in the middle of the wild, this time it's Antarctica instead of the Amazon. Unsurprisingly, he was loathe to film anything penguin related, but he ultimately did and the result can be profound in its implications if you think on it long enough. I, of course, have. While driving. Anyway, KP and I both recommend the film.

The Velvet Underground continues to blow my mind in completion. Velvet Underground and Nico has always been one of my favorite albums. But last week I lived on the White Light, White Heat and The Velvet Underground diet. The former is 42 minutes of avant-garde dissonance about amphetamines. The latter is a whisper about love, regret, and solitude. The transition from 'Sister Ray' to 'Candy Says' has caused some sort of damage in my brain. I cannot reconcile that the human mind created such polar-opposite soundscapes, let alone the same group! Let alone ending one album and beginning the next in the same year! I'm left wondering, did Lou Reed ever find his mainline? Have you?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Big Music Post

Firing up the post machine one more time. Don't know how much I'll be able to post until next weekend...

I've rediscovered my love of music now that I'm back out here in LA. Is it because of the traffic? Probably not. Is it because this town is groovier than The District? More likely. Or maybe I've just been yearning for some new sound. Either way, I feel better inside when my life's soundtrack is awesome. Here's a quick recap of my recent album purchases in the past two months:

Moby - Last Night - I was one of those who hopped on the Moby Train when Play came out. And then like most folks, I got Play-ed out. There was too much Moby everywhere. I also started noticing too many recurring sounds and repeated structures in his songs. Moby has said that Last Night is a journey of a full night of partying scaled down to 60+ minutes. And it's at its best when the sound doesn't sound like Moby. There are some interesting tracks like "Alice" that have international vocalists/rappers joining the party and these are always the highlights. Plus I always support concept albums. There's actually a 10-minute free mashup that he did of the entire album that, due to brevity, is better than the album itself. It's available here.

Portishead - Third - Awesome, terrifying, brilliant, and occasionally creepy. I haven't listened this one as much as the others on this list because it's such an intense experience. It doesn't help me get through the workday.

Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely - Just as freaking sweet as was stated in my less sober entry from a previous month. First track and last track are just as good on the 20th pass as on the 1st. Better perhaps. A good go-to when I have to rock.

Foxboro Hottubs - Stop Drop and Roll!!! - So yeah, these chaps may sound familiar as soon as the first song starts. A terribly kept Internet secret: it's Green Day's new album. The question arose, how does a band followup a bold rock-opera-esque statement album that was not only smart but really catchy? Plus American Idiot called the out the current administration as fools and fascists before it was fashionable to do so. How do you follow up a cultural phenomenon? With 12 tracks of nothing but '60s Pop, of course. One can dissect the lyrics of course, but the sound is so contagious that I haven't even attempted it.
Shadows of Knight - Gloria - I may have discovered a potential top 5 band. This 1965 release is as good as all of the snobby critics say. Yes, I realize that I'd said in a previous post that I hate white guys covering blues standards. But these kids are really good. Of course their original lineup only released one other album which I'll be snatching up later this month.

James - Laid - With Lanois and Eno on board, James sounds like they were trying to make their Joshua Tree. And the result is really good. "Laid" of course was the one single that folks remember but it sounds nothing like the remaining tracks. Most of the music centers around quiet meditations on spirituality, fractured relationships, and fear. U2 fans would probably like this -- songs like "Sometimes" "Say Something" and "Five-O" are broad, epic, and catchy enough to remind said fans of U2's earlier work.

The Kinks - Face to Face - My intention was to fall into bliss over The Kinks. I always assumed I would someday. But I haven't. Face to Face is a good album, but is so specifically about British society in the early 60s (every song is about money or class) that it's difficult for a Yank like me to relate. It's impressive as a social or cultural artifact. I'm really enjoying two of the songs. "Holiday in Waikiki" makes fun of Hawaii as a commercialised vacation place where everything (including the hula skirts) is made of plastic and no one actually is Hawaiian. "Rainy Day in June" creates an intense state of dread from start to finish.

The Kinks - Something Else by the Kinks - But I do like this album much better. "Waterloo Sunset" is a lovely as everyone says and has the best replay value of all of their songs. "Hairy Rag" and "Death of a Clown" are fantastic too. This one's recommended over Face to Face unless you're British and find more meaning in the earlier album that I have.

I've saved the best for last. The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle. I listen to it in my sleep. I listen to it at work. I'm listening to it right now. It's the 1968 psychedelic rock album by a bunch of guys who didn't drop acid. Every single song is good. It has zipped right up to my Top 10 Ever in two weeks. Of course, like Shadows of Knight, The Zombies only had two albums. Pisser. Anyway, some of the songs remind me of images from my childhood, others of my dreams, others of my lover. Plus it has an intense anti-war piece and the sexed-up "Time of the Season", their only successful single (wherein Colin Blunstone purrs "What's your name? Who's your daddy?"), all in about 36 minutes. I don't know how I happened upon this album, so I think it happened upon me.

On tap for the rest of the summer: The rest of the The Zombies' catalogue, ditto for Shadows of Knight, and two more Velvet Underground albums.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Three movies in one day!

I can't remember the last time I got in three flickers in one day. Whether back-to-back or spacing it out, it's easier when you're in high school or college. But, as time goes on, it gets more and more difficult to put away three movies in 14 hours. No matter what vitamins one may take.

I'll list these three in reverse viewing order.

Just finished The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. Kristen and I saw this in the theatre as soon as it hit LA in late 2007. In a year full of surprisingly good films, Diving Bell was a full head above the rest. It was my favorite artistically, literally, visually, spiritually, emotionally, and the soundtrack is just fantastic. There are moments in it where I feel like I'm watching the rebirth of cinema. And it reminds me why I feel like cinema is the great art with so many artists and artisans struggling together to make each heartbeat work. There is no exaggeration of recommendation that would be inappropriate for this. No only is it great art, but it is simultaneously deeply sad and joyous, insanely erotic, and humbling. Schnabel is a genius.

In the afternoon I watched John Turturro's Romance & Cigarettes. It was unfortunate that he had such trouble getting this picked up for distribution, though I do understand why. I mean, what American company wants to release a musical about a miserable blue-collar family? James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, and Kate Winslet are the leads while Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Mandy Moore, Amy Sedaris, Eddie Izzard, and Mary Louise-Parker are supporting. Yeah, awesome cast. And the fact that this movie is so bluntly sexual is why I can't help but recommend it. I mean every scene is about rutting and every other line of dialogue fashions graphic descriptions of the act. If you're a Kate Winslet fan, yeah, you're going to want to watch this. Unless of course you'd rather not listen to her spout lasciviously about what she wants to do with specific parts of her/your body, in a British accent. And I still have something for Susan Sarandon (62 years hot, yeah believe it). Enough about the cast, how's the actual filmmaking? The musical idea is bold and works most of the time. The actual emotional journeys of the characters aren't holding up so well under deep reflection, but the general insanity that ensues in the process is refreshing and unique enough to hold its own.

I started my morning with A Clockwork Orange. That idea I don't recommend. I also would not suggest watching this movie with a loved one. The film is cold, cruel, bitter, and disturbing. It's one of the few movies that I'd rather wasn't made, but will defend to the death Kubrick's right to make it. The focus on rape and the destruction of the feminine can be a little overwhelming. This was my second pass at the Burgess-adapted experience. The first round, while in film school, elicited a blindingly negative response from some angry serotonin alcove of mine. I wanted to give it another pass when I could watch it on my own with pauses for hydration and walks in the sun.

When it was released, Ebert hated it while Vincent Camby loved it. I'm somewhere in the middle. Kubrick is brilliant and I'm fascinated in this divide that I've found in his career. I will defend his work pre-Clockwork every time, but post-Clockwork...well...it takes more effort to find the positives, let alone brilliance. Some sort of split happened in his filmmaking and the work seems more uneven -- Barry Lyndon, Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut -- and entirely lacking brevity. Clockwork's satire reaches for so many targets, striking some better than others, that it seems like a different filmmaker was left it its wake. Maybe it had to do with the public and legal response. Needless to say, it still strikes a raw nerve. I can't imagine a film with that much sexual violence and nihilism getting distributed in America today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Baseball Motivation, Pt. 2

As promised, I'm checking back in with you about those new-contract-year players and their possible plummeting motivation. Click here for the original post. I did say that I'd revisit this at the end of the year, but the anticipation was killing me. Okay, maybe I was just a little bit curious.

The batters' charts are below:
41 games through the season on the left; 81 games through the season on the right --

The pitchers' charts are below:
41 through the season on the left; 81 through the season on the right --

2008 estimates courtesy of ESPN.

Here's the color key again:

Red = Large decline in production or serious injury during season.

Pink = Small, but noticeable decline in production and/or minor injury.

Gray = Generally equal to previous year.

Light Blue = Small, but noticeable increase in production.

Blue = Large increase in production

At the quarter mark -- Pitchers: 2 had a large increase, 1 had a small increase, 6 remained similar, 3 had a small decline, while 11 had a large decline. 48% large decrease, 61% noticeable or worse decrease.

Batters: 0 had a large increase in production, 3 had a small increase, 2 remained similar, 3 had a small decline, 14 had a large decrease. 64% experienced a large decrease, 77% experienced at least a noticeable decrease.

Now at the halfway point -- Pitchers: 2 had a large increase, 3 had a small increase, 5 remained similar, 5 had a small decline, while 8 had a large decline. 35% large decrease, 56% noticeable or worse decrease.

Batters: 1 had a large increase, 1 had a small increase, 5 remained similar, 4 had a small decline, 11 had a large decline. 50% had a large decrease, 68% had at least a noticeable increase.

So despite the larger sample of games, there isn't a large change, though there is a noticeable trend towards the center, see below for another color-coded example of the results:

Pitchers 1/4 mark: 2 - 1 - 6 - 3 - 11
Pitchers 1/2 mark: 2 - 3 - 5 - 5 - 8

Batters 1/4 mark: 0 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 14
Batters 1/2 mark: 1 - 1 - 5 - 4 - 11

If you look at each set of the three center (light blue, gray, and pink) numbers, the non-extreme categories, the pitcher total went from 43% to 57%, while the batter total went from 36% to 45%. My bet is that it continues to trend towards the middle like reliable larger samples should.

Still, GMs are only getting a positive (increased) return on their investments 15% of the time while they're seeing a decline 62% of the time.

It will also be interesting to see what happens in terms of injuries to these players. At the moment exactly 1/3rd of them have been hurt during the season. If one of my crap theories from before is true, then we should see a lot of injuries due to an adjustment in many of the players' supplements. Also the injury factor should play a large role if another of my crap theories is true: overpaying for older players.

Here are some other thoughts......Robinson Cano hits like Luis Castillo every first half, then hits like Lance Berkman every second half, so he'll likely be able to pull up to .280-ish and about 20 HRs by year end. Unless he gets hurt. Miguel Cabrera is making me sad. I really thought that he and Pujols would be racing to 3000 hits and 700 HRs 15 years from now. Ryan Howard also has great second halfs (halves?). Unless he gets hurt. Holliday will never catch up to last year's numbers. Halladay will. Again and again. Unless he gets hurt. Despite the Tigers' recent run, MAN did they do a bunch of bad signings. K-Rod, Nathan, and Mo Rivera are studs, and deserve their dough. I cannot prove anything that I just typed in this paragraph. Yet.

"A Black Ave Maria for you"

Just watched Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. This kinetic firecracker with a core of powerful sexuality, starring (and I quote) The Black Community, is a piece of almost pure cinema. Shot on the very very very cheap, there's little sync sound which lets the camera go anywhere and everywhere. So the movie never stops moving, like Sweetback himself.

You see, Sweetback's on the run from Whitey after he smacks two cops around with his handcuffs. Melvin Van Peebles (as Sweetback, the director, producer, editor, writer, caterer, grip, and Lord) fashions an indie Odyssey as our hero makes his run from central L.A. to Mexico. The best Greek Chorus in cinema urges him on with "Run Mother----er Run!" Okay, henceforth and evermore it shall be referred to as the Sweetback Chorus instead.

There's a sequence of note that ends in a cop car bursting into flames. I know we've all seen this happen hundreds of times in movies and TV shows, but never is it as therapeutic as it is here. It meant a lot to me and I'm a 2008 Caucasian.

One doesn't need to be Huey Newton to appreciate S.S.B.S.'s strengths -- and there can be (and has been) much discussion about emancipation via a good shtup -- but as a piece of filmmaking it's crisp and alive so I recommend this one to anyone with an open mind or has "had enough of the Man".