After watching this movie, I’m convinced more than ever that society depends on being systemically risk adverse. Watching the lead in this movie survive their last days of middle school, while recalling my own youth, made me wonder how much we dampen the intellect growth of youth simply because we don’t want to be bothered. What was worse for me was that the lead - Elsie Fisher - reminded me of a close friend’s child and I was thinking, oh, shit, is this what they have to look forward too? How do we help them?
You know what? Those are the right questions to be asking because this movie is a flashing red light on what a deadly jungle it is out there. The film reminds you that from school shootings to sexual assault, suicide, and a student’s wrong move, can have the worse of consequences.
We get lost in our own orbits of jobs, housing, social circles, and it is easy to abdicate our responsibility to help the next generation navigate their way in life. We have lessons and wisdom to pass on and often they need us. But it takes time, and effort, to step into that role. Sure it is exhausting and yes, we will often fail. But we have to try even it means sacrificing things we personally care about. Those kids are more important. They just are.
If you stop and think, how many times has a relative or a stranger helped you through what seemed like an impossible situation? How many people do you know still walk this planet because someone aided them in an hour of need? It was a sacrifice on their part. And no one will ever give them an award except maybe in the afterlife because when you consider the ripple effects of those acts of kindness, few acts are as important to the greater good. That kindness changes the world. You may not be able to see it now - or ever - but a generation or two from now, that kindness still reaps benefits. That is more than you can say for your job, social status, or the retirement fund you leave in your will.
This movie, written and directed by Bo Burnham, was nominated for major awards (over 50 according to IMDB) and won several including the WGA award for best screenplay, AFI Picture Of The Year, and Director’s Guild for Best First Picture. You don’t do a whole lot better than that on the award circuit. And after watching it, I say each award was well-deserved.
The script is tight and even as I write, I’m still laughing about the banana scene. Cracked me up. I’m also still contemplating the burning of those hopes and dreams on the fire for the sake of moving on. And I got a new favorite line - thanks Bo Burnham - in “You can’t be brave without being scared”. As Joseph Campbell might say, how many people never found their bliss because they were scared?
This typically isn’t my type of movie but I am so glad I watched. Elsie Fisher is the focus of this movie and she pulls it off. The writing and directing is spot on. There are some points in the directing where I went, ‘oh, yeah… awesome choice …’ because it brought an angle to a thought you may have known to a different light. This movie is easily 5/5 on the rating scale.
It is a damning indictment on our society that success rests not on how smart your child is but rather if they have a piece of paper on the wall from the right institution. It is the paper that determines your child’s future, not their intellect or achievements. A whole segment of our society thrives on the graft and delusion of being successful by way of what money buys you.
The 50 people arrested yesterday in the largest admissions scandal in the history of the U.S.A., are only the tip of the iceberg. But they are emblematic of how the elite in the country think it is okay, because they are rich, for them to operate on one level while everyone else struggles.
In every aspect of our society, inequality has taken hold. 99% of the population can’t make a living wage, homeless rates among full-time workers is at a record high, but at the same time the 1% get a golden parachute if they run a business into the ground or squander the savings of that other 99%. Get arrested for defrauding banks for millions of dollars? No problem. Throw cash out there and you’ll get a lighter sentence than a drug offender. After all, its a white collar crime. Now we find out if your kid knows everything about ComicCon but nothing about science or math, you can get them into the best schools, guarantee a diploma, and have them come off as Einstein to the world. Meanwhile, the person from the 99% who actually possesses the intellect to change the world for the better struggles to be accepted and pay the tuition at the local community college.
The L.A. Times did a profile of all 50 people in the scandal. It is a cross-section of the business and academic elite. The two actresses who were arrested garnered the most attention only because they had the most famous faces. Truth is, the corruption runs deep.
I’m sorry, if you have to spend $500,000 to get your kid into a good college, or bump their SAT scores by 40%, then maybe college isn’t for them. How about spending that money on scholarships for kids whose parents are working two shifts at Walmart?
A lot of these kids had no clue what their parents were up to - which probably shows you just how dumb they are. They know they can’t pass those tests. That they’re only there because of the parent’s money and if pressed, they’d flunk out. But they don’t see that as a stain because there is such a sense of entitlement they simply think that is the way it should be.
Most of these cases involved USC and UCLA. But I’m confident if you started turning over the files at other schools, you’d find the same story. No one on the street is surprised that it was happening, only in the amount of money being spent. Until the 1% are made to reckon for their actions, the system won’t change. Lets hope this is a start.
This book arrived via a friend as a Christmas gift this past year. She is a teacher in Europe and uses it - like many teachers - as a textbook for her students when teaching the Holocaust. Maus is written, (or should I say drawn?) by Art Spiegelman and was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize.
The book is different on many levels, beginning with the fact it is presented as a cartoon. Jews are mice. Poles pigs. French frogs. Germans dogs. And it does succeed in telling the story of the Holocaust, as seen through the eyes of Spiegelman’s dad. Both of Spiegelman’s parents were Auschwitz survivors.
It is this relationship with his dad, that runs as a common thread throughout the book. For this is a story of a son trying to understand the complexities of their relationship and to learn more about his mother, and how the pair survived the Nazis.
If you think the relationship between Spiegelman and his father is portrayed as all lovey dubby then think again. It is a very real, difficult relationship that Freud would’ve held up as an example in a classroom for his students. They are mean, short-tempered, dismissive, demanding, callous, and yes, loving. It is a very real depiction.
The Holocaust is shown in all its brutality and horror. We see the dead and dying. We see the illness, the desperation, and the betrayal by Poles and other groups, including Jews looking out for themselves. It is an excellent introduction into the life of this era, from a Jewish perspective.
The reader is also exposed to the aftermath of the Holocaust and what it means to be a survivor. Like any trauma victim, Holocaust survivors suffered by and large from psychological scars that played out in their everyday lives after the war.
This was a great gift because it is a great book. The fact, a special friend connected me to it makes this literary work an invaluable prize on my bookshelf. The rating on this book is easily 5 of 5. Share it with your own kids or someone who needs to learn about the era.
I wish I could forgive myself for being hoodwinked into seeing this movie. I didn’t like it and will only be giving it a 3 of 5 on the rating scale. It isn’t that movie is badly made, it isn’t. I didn’t like it because there’s nothing to like about it.
One rule in writing is to make sure that your hero - when they do something horrible - doesn’t come across as a tyrant without redeeming qualities. By the time I got to the end of this movie, the lead character of Lee Israel, portrayed by Melissa McCarthy, still had no redeeming qualities to me. I was glad to be rid of her off my screen as I am sure people were to be rid of her in real life.
Lee Israel was a real writer who wrote those scandal type biographies of celebs and did okay for herself until the booze became more important than the blank page waiting on her to put something down. She apparently had zero friends because she hated people, treated them like dirt, and was a drunk.
When she went broke, she stumbled upon a scheme to forge literary letters and sell them to collectors. She even stole documents from archives. (Tell me when you find a redeeming quality here). Enlisted to help her was a homeless drug addict who she befriended - sorta - more out of necessity than friendship. After being arrested, she wrote a book about her crime spree and made a bunch of money off it. Thus, this movie.
By the time this movie got to the part where the lead character is facing the judge, I was wanting the judge to throw her into solitary confinement for life and toss the key. The acting is the only thing that carries this movie - thus the 3 of 5 and not a lower rating - but it isn’t enough. If you have an option, just rent something else. Plenty of better movies out there so choose something else.
On recommendation of a friend, I binged Netflix’s Umbrella Academy this past week. Based on a comic series, the story is about a group of kids, all conceived and born in 24 hours on the same date, who have super powers that use for various, and sometimes selfish, purposes. However, the premise is they are brought back together to stop an apocalypse.
The show reminds me a lot of the old hit series, Heroes. It just has that feel to it. And I was surprised, once I started viewing, to discover Ellen Page has a major role in the show (I won’t give it away). She typically does good work and is no disappointed in this series.
There are mixed views on Umbrella Academy. Overall, I like it but I do feel at times the plot is sacrificed for the sake of being off-the-wall simply because the show can be. There are also a couple major plot holes I’d like to point.
First, is a real simple thing but it just seems weird to me. In almost every episode, someone uses a pay phone or land line. The story takes place in the now so let me ask, when was the last time you saw a working pay phone or was some place where everyone had a land line? And yet the use of a cell is far and between, in fact, I am saying that thinking a cell was used a couple times but not really sure during what point in the show. Why?
My second point falls in purview of time travel. One of the characters can time travel. And he comes back to the future, having destroyed an adversary in the future. That adversary sees changes in the timeline. Well, if you go back in time (the killing having taken place in the future) then the adversary would presumably still be alive and able to detect a change in events and know something was up. But in shows dealing with time travel, a measure of leeway is always there because it is such a pandora’s box. However, the writers never addressed the issue as to explain or dismiss it or establish ‘rules’.
Overall, the show is entertaining and interesting. Certainly well done and the acting is on the mark. If you like these sorta of shows then you in all likelihood will get into this one. I rate it 4 of 5 on the scale.
For the first time ever, the differing guilds (WGA, Directors etc) all picked a different set of award winners. This means, handicapping the Oscars this year is a lot more difficult than usual. And to me, the acting and writing categories are really up in the air. But hey, the show without a host is airing this weekend so here are my picks:
BEST PICTURE: Roma
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
ACTRESS LEADING ROLE: Olivia Colman (The Favorite)
ACTOR LEADING ROLE: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS; Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mahershala Ali (Though secretly, I’m rooting for Sam Elliot)
ANIMATED FEATURE: Spider Man
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lukasz Zal (Cold War)
COSTUME DESIGN: Ruth Carter (Black Panther)
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Black Sheep
EDITING: Yorgos Mavropsaridis (The Favorite)
FOREIGN FILM: Roma
ORIGINAL SCORE: Black Panther
SONG: Shallow (Star Is Born) - Probably the only sure pick of the night
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Black Panther
SHORT - LIVE: Marguerite
SOUND EDITING: Black Panther
SOUND MIX: Black Panther
VISUAL EFFECTS: Avengers: Infinity War
WRITING (ORIGINAL): Vice
WRITING ADAPTED: Blackkklansman
The upheaval in Haiti has reached a point where something has to give. Petrol is almost impossible to obtain. Food is scarce. And while the airport is still open, roads around the capital city and into rural areas are closed. Foreigners trying to reach the airport have had to hire helicopters for the ride. But they are cutting back due to lack of fuel.
This raises the question of why it is now that we see the level of unrest being raised to the point that the current government is teetering on the brink? Could it be that the Trump regime is stirring the pot? Consider these events:
*There is a lot of off-shore oil and gold that American businesses have been trying to get to for a long time. American corporations have a long history of basically looting the region.
*Elliot Abrams, the man who helped bring you Iran-Contra and the WMD Iraq debacle, has just been put in charge of the region
*John Bolton, who has never seen a government he doesn’t want overthrown, is making the policy
*Fighters, apparently smuggling weapons into the country, were just arrested. Westerners (including Americans) were among them. This actually speaks of really poor planning as it isn’t like Haiti has a booming covert agency of any type. Then again, since Trump became President, there has been a serious of high casualty and failed military missions. Planning isn’t exactly their strong suit.
*This whole crisis exploded over missing money tied to the Venezuela oil deal with Haiti, which basically stated that Haiti was holding bad Venezuela debt in exchange for really cheap oil. As the Venezuela economy collapsed, the Haitian President was ‘advised’ to break the deal. That exposed the missing money (in the billions and some speculate that the President and his cronies got a large share of it) and created the petrol crisis. Yet, it was the Trump regime - which once referred to Haiti as a shithole country - that wanted Haiti to back off the deal because they’re going after Venezuela. (See the John Bolton comment)
*Embassies are closed. The Americans have left. The Canadians left after 100 Canadian tourist had to be rescued from beach hotels. An American group from Flint had to be saved by Navy Seals. If you think you should travel to Haiti, think again.
*The Haitian President just fired his American, French and Canadian Ambassadors. He probably thought they’d been compromised.
*The Haitian President is sending a special envoy to meet with Bolton this week. Expect an ultimatum, followed by a coup. Even with a coup it will be chaotic and no one will really control the streets.
All this has been since the first of the year. Coincidence? Don’t count on it. Thus, this begs the question is the Trump regime behind Haitian unrest and if so, to what end? Personally, to quote a congresswoman, I think its all about the Benjamins.
Last night I watched a documentary by Spanish writer/director, Paco Ignacio Taibo II. On Netflix, the title is simply, El Che. I specify Netflix (where I watched it) because it appears to have various other titles overseas.
Taibo is definitely a fan of Che, who remains one of the most iconic figures of the late 20th century and Che is still an inspiration to many people. I like the way Taibo starts this film, by explaining that every people need a myth. This is part of being human and every society is entitled. I think Joseph Campbell would agree.
Taibo follows the paths that Che took in his life, in the order he took them. Basically, he followed in Che’s footsteps. And what is revealed is a wanderer, an adventurer, who somewhere along the way, discovered a greater purpose in life.
We see the actual room where Che and Castro first met. The sites of Che’s great military victories and of course the place where he was ambushed and captured. We see where his body was sprawled out for villagers after he was executed at behest of the C.I.A. I was reminded that the world changes course in some very obscure places.
During the film, we are exposed to Che’s family life. The subject of mistresses isn’t touched on (probably should’ve been) or what his relationship was with his children and wives. I suspect Taibo would’ve been pushing his luck to try and obtain that kind of cooperation. However, it was the one area where I wish I knew more. Fortunately, both his wives wrote books.
As it is, we are introduced to leading figures who fought alongside Che during the revolution. We also meet boyhood and school friends and see rare photos. You do walk away from this movie with a greater sense of who Che was as a person.
There is a lot of pro and con about Che out there. Sometimes, you have to look at the source. Yeah, Cuban exiles probably don’t have a lot of good things to say. On the other hand, many of those families had a stake in the dictatorship that was overthrown by the revolution. Did Che really have those people executed in the Cuban political prison? Those in the movie who probably had first-hand knowledge say he didn’t. Those who hate him, say he did. We may never know for sure.
What we do know is that Che was a doctor dedicated to the poor. He actually lived with and treated a leper colony. He believed in manual labor, even after ascending to power he spent time among laborers erecting schools. He was one of those rare leaders who lived as the people he served. Maybe because of this, his legend, more than just about anyone else’s from this period, will be sustained.
While there were some subjects I wish the movie had delved deeper into, this film is definitely worth the time. It gives you a chance to hear from those who participated in events and to get a glimpse of the era that forged one of the greatest historical figures of the modern age. Definite 5 of 5 on the rating scale.
This past week, my brother who does work in Haiti found himself trapped on a compound there by anti-government protests. He eventually was able to seize a lull in the violence as an opportunity to reach the airport, where JetBlue was kind enough to put him on the next flight out of the country.
He got out just in time as protester’s barricades were moved up right in front of his compound the next day. However, a church group from Flint was not so lucky. They flew into the country on Friday with apparently little awareness of what was happening on the ground there.
The group has been trapped in their hotel ever since Friday. However, American soldiers were due to escort them to the airport this morning so that they too could fly home. Whatever goodwill mission they were on will go unfulfilled.
There is little coverage of the unrest in Haiti. A major failing of American news media is to pick one or two topics - usually some idiotic Trump tweet or the like - and make that the sole focus of reporting cycles, as though nothing else is happening in the world. And as the group from Flint discovered, American embassies are of little use for vital information. The whole time my brother was in the country, he never received a single update from the embassy even though they had his contact detail and knew where he was.
Unrest in Haiti is spurred on by Aristide, a corrupt ex-President, who is in the pocket of several outside parties. Aristide and his allies pay for local gangs/militias to cut off roads, loot and burn businesses with owners allied with current President Moise, and basically try to get Aristide thrust back in power by any means possible.
I won’t say that everything Moise does is right. Probably not. He is a politician after all. Political power plays center or enrichment, not democracy. It is hard for third world countries to progress forward when opposing forces are bent on throwing the country into chaos and destroying progress for the sake of personal profit and power.
While Haiti runs on graft - as do most third world countries - such graft is often fueled by business interests from first world countries. And there can be few things as destructive as a first world corporation, whether it be Bank of America, Exxon, or Google and Facebook. First world countries need to start taking some accountability.
My advice to you is not to travel to Haiti for awhile. A lot of good changes have occurred there but until the country finds some stabilization, the casual traveler is wise to make a detour to another destination.
The trouble with Avon LLC starts in their tagline which is as misleading as it comes, ‘A company for women’. If it reflected truth, it would read, ‘A company for women ran by men’ because if you go to their distribution center, you’ll discover almost every area supervisor is a male, while every floor leader beneath them is female. This even when the women often have been there far longer.
Recently, there was a big ado on the financial markets about Avon possibly recovering from near bankruptcy. Yeah, don’t count on it. Because activity in their distribution center tells a different story. Here are some points to consider:
*They closed their distribution center in California in 2018. That leaves only one for the whole country, located in Ohio.
*That distribution center doesn’t field enough orders to keep its single shift working 40 hours a week this time of year. Many employees are encouraged to take unpaid time off.
*Holiday sale results meant that many promotional items, like their ‘A’ boxes, had to be broken down and used as excess.
*Tech and equipment is dated. There are constant jams and breakdowns. Many functions aren’t automated (in the current sense).
*They rely on temp workers for much of their employee base but have trouble attracting workers since the pay was until recently, under $10 an hour. Currently, it is at $11 which is still not a livable wage. At some point, if they want to stay competitive, they’ll have to really raise them.
So if you want to rely on Avon, you do so at your own peril. The health of a company can often be judged by its own internal infrastructure. And even though it imports many goods from places like China, Avon here in the States doesn’t rate too well.
Imagine being on the battlefields of Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. Imagine being wounded and losing an eye or watching friends be killed. Now, imagine doing all that even though you aren’t a soldier but rather a reporter.
A Private War is the story of Marie Colvin who did all those things and more, including broadcasting live from Homs, Syria where she exposed the lies of the Assad regime. Her reporting from Homs is what caused the Assad regime to kill her there.
The acting in this movie is superb. Rosamund Pike has this part nailed. Her mannerisms give you a good clue what Colvin must’ve been like in real life. And her co-star, Jamie Dornan proves her equal in a much quieter role, that of her photographer Paul Conroy, who survived the Homs attack. Tom Hollander does a good job as her editor though I wish the script had filled his character out a bit more.
In fact, if there is a shortcoming with this movie, it is the script. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad. Rather it has some jerky transitions that get in the way of the storytelling. I will add that I thought the first five minutes of the movie were the most disappointing part of it.
There could’ve been better transitions into the war zones. Viewers are left to figure out what is going on there or why Colvin went, all on their own. Also, Colvin’s PTSD could’ve used a little more clarity. We know why she got it but her recognizing it creeping into her life is a bit of mystery. She went to rehab but apparently it didn’t take though the movie never explores when or why she moved beyond treatment.
I’ve been waiting to see this movie ever since it was released. Having said that, it wasn’t released in too many towns so I ended up streaming it on Redbox. Despite the shortcomings with the script, this is a worthy movie. It scores 4 of 5 on my rating scale.
Dog-tired on a Friday night, and I stumbled across this film on Netflix. I knew of it from a couple years ago but was one of those critically acclaimed movies that seems to evade wide-release. For instance, 2018’s A Private War falls into that pattern. I’m having to wait for the DVD release.
Thanks to Netflix, I didn’t have to rent Personal Shopper. And what a unique story this was from the director of Clouds Of Sils Maria, which also starred Kristen Stewart and made her the first American to win France’s highest acting honor for her supporting role.
In Personal Shopper, Stewart plays a … well, you guessed it …. personal shopper. Living in Paris, she has put her life on hold because her twin brother recently died from a rare heart ailment. He was a medium and she’s waiting for a sign from him. Along the way, we see how her brother’s friends are reacting and what kind of boss she has. And if that isn’t enough, a murder occurs to add a little psychological edge.
This is part ghost story. It is part mystery. Mostly, it is coming to terms with death and the twists that life throws in your path. This is a drama, low-key on the action, but it is intense. Very much Stewart’s vehicle, she holds your attention from start to finish.
I was wondering why watching this why I’ve always liked Stewart as an actress. And I think I boiled it down to two items. First, she deftly handles emotional range. It is almost like she changes gears in a slight of hand fashion. Secondly, she reminds you of someone you run into everyday. She is your co-worker. Your neighbor. A cousin. There isn’t that gulf that typically separates you from the Hollywood type. Hopefully, you get what I am saying.
One question though, can Stewart really text as fast as she does in this movie? I was impressed.
For a movie a bit off the beaten path, Personal Shopper, is worth the view. I give it a strong 4 of 5 on the rating scale.
This book by Ivan Krastev came to me by way of a holiday present. It isn’t a lengthy work at around 120 pages, but Krastev is a well-respected international analyst out of Bulgaria who makes the most of each page to drive home his assessment about the European - and the world-at-large - situation.
I took away four key points from this book:
Migration Is The New Form Of Revolution - I’d never viewed migration in these terms. People are changing their world with their feet rather than by force of arms. There is strong logic behind this point.
Tech Is Another Form Of Revolution - Krastev hints at this but I think it is a natural conclusion. How many apps do you have on your phone that were created because someone didn’t like the political or economic system they were faced with?
Elites Relate More To Other Elites Instead of Other Classes - Elites view themselves more as a citizen of a class rather than place. A one-percenter or politico has more in common with another one-percenter or politico on the other side of the planet than they do with someone on the poorer side of their town.
Sacrifice Is A Lost Art - Toward the end of the book, Krastev talks about how a person use to have to sacrifice to climb up the professional or economic ladder. That’s not true anymore and one reason people feel elites are out of touch (and they are) is because elites never sacrifice. They have no real skin in the game.
I found these four points to be the ones that will stick with me the most over time. Like I said, this isn’t a lengthy read but a compelling one. Thanks to my friend for this gift that rates 5 of 5 on the rating scale.
This may be a world first. A hotel in Japan has laid-off or fired over 100 robots and replaced them with humans. It seems that the robots couldn’t answer basic questions, pass each other in hallways, and constantly needed humans to complete their tasks.
Make no mistake- robots are coming hard and fast and humans in the next decade are going to find out how vulnerable their jobs really are to artificial intelligence. So, we should probably savor this early moment of irony in the new economic reality hitting us. I know I did. And I had to share. FULL STORY IS HERE.
I finished binging Babylon Berlin. This has instantly become one of my all-time fav shows. I loved this. Based on literary novels, this production is the most expensive non-English project on Netflix’s slate. Don’t worry though, its dubbed in English and so there are no subtitles. The action will keep you riveted.
The story starts in 1929. If you don’t know anything about Germany in this period let me throw in a few elements that weave their way into the dozen story lines: WW1 was lost and there were tons of disenfranchised vets; the Great Depression was underway; political parties constantly staged street battles; jazz and sex clubs were a thing as was morphine addiction.
What I loved about this was the writing. The characters are so vivid and different and yet they meld together in a way that brings the city to life. You see people protecting their interests in dire times. You see the poverty (Want a bath? Rent one for 15 minutes at the public baths) and people trying to survive. And yet there are great story lines of mystery, murder, political intrigue, good cops and bad cops, and wannabe cops. And of course romance. This show has it all and trust me, there isn’t one boring episode. No one is pure and there are no obvious outs.
Netflix in the States has both seasons (in Germany) listed as Season One. And there will be a Season Three. Don’t expect characters to survive and don’t be surprised when hearts are broken. But by all means stream this show. The cast is great. The sets marvelous. Really, they stand out whether it is a club for the elite or a slum flat where a half-dozen people are crammed into two rooms. In case you haven’t guessed, for the record, this is a 5/5 on the rating scale.
I started watching ‘Babylon Berlin’. This is the trailer but the song and dance sequence is from the second episode and I loved it so much I had to share. The drum solo and audience dance about half the way through is the best part.
Berlin in the 20s and early 30s was the wildest city in Europe. Everything was a go. For instance, I learned at a seminar one time that in the early 30s there were 400 gay clubs just in Berlin. You wanted to forget the war, the depression, the shit of life, there was a way to do it. This reminded me of Margaret Mitchell (Gone With The Wind) who caused a scandal by dancing the Apache, which she learned in Europe, at a social event in the States. I’ve only watched two episodes but I’m hooked on the show. Now streaming on Netflix.
Welcome to my first blog post of 2019! Hope the New Year is off to a good start for you. First a couple housekeeping notes. Posts on this blog from previous years have been placed on separate page. You can scroll/search for them there. The same is true of book and film ratings. I will be adding pages and making changes to the site over the next month. Time permitting that is.
Over the holiday I FINALLY got around to watching the Oscar-winning documentary, Searching For Sugar Man, about the singer Rodriguez. For those of you who don’t know the story, he was a singer from the late 60’s, early 70’s, that big-time producers thought was on the same level as Dylan. His style and lyrics are of that caliber. Trouble was, he was a Latino man trying to sell records in a country that didn’t want to listen to Latino men. However, while he was shunned in America, unbeknownst to him or anyone else, he became literally bigger than Elvis in South Africa, selling millions of records. Everyone there thought he was dead until a couple music fans in the 1990’s started digging around and discovered to their shock he wasn’t. They brought the singer to South Africa for sold-out concerts and basically the man who worked hard labor all his life because his music career had been derailed, found second life as a singer.
Rodriguez’ first album was Cold Fact. After seeing the movie, I ordered it. Turns out his works are still hard to purchase and when you can, it may be on the pricey side. This probably has to do with the fact initial record companies are defunct and there were lawsuits about what exactly happened to all that moola from South Africa.
The singer has lived and grown up in the inner-cities of America and does it ever show on this album. The lyrics are haunting, reflecting the desperation of surviving a country that doesn’t give merde about anything but money. This Is Not A Song, It’s An Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues echoes Dylan but on a deeper level. Rodriguez’ voice has such a distinctive sound that its almost as though he’s a cry of what he’s writing about as he effortlessly moves through the hollow scenery of life.
I Wonder could’ve easily been a radio hit. Actually, there are at least three songs on this album where that could be true. But this song is catchy, sticks in your mind (in a good way) and always reminds me of something Elliot Smith might have wrote years later.
Whether its about lost souls searching for one last glimmer of hope or a fix to remind them there isn’t one, this album is totally worth adding to your music library. It is only a half-hour long but you’ll find yourself learning the songs on here. Rodriguez’ music sounds even more relevant and fresh than it did when first released. Cold Fact inspired anti-Apartheid bands in South Africa for good reason. With a rating of 5/5, let it inspire you.