Friday, December 15, 2006

Recent Media Consumption

Inside Man
Well, finally, Spike Lee has tackled a straight-ahead commercial film and proven he can bat it out of the park. This is not a great movie, but it's a darned good one. I've always admired Lee's prowess as a director in the way he can tell a story via camera movement, editing, etc. But his topics have usually left me ambivalent because they're ham-handed diatribes about race - though sometimes uses sexual politics as a guise. Now maybe She's Gotta Have It and Malcolm X can escape that generalization, but not may others until this film.

Another first for this film is that Jodie Foster plays a completely unlikable character; a first, I think, for her.

Inside Man is worth the rental and the viewing time, imvho, and will make for a nice evening. Let's hope Lee gets more regular gigs in between his after school specials.

TLD: Let me say this, though. I understand why Lee made a lot of the movies he did, and I think he achieved a lot of his goals. He accomplished substantive changes in Hollywood that were sorely needed. However, the movies themselves don't often stand on their own as good entertainments unto themselves. That's all I'm saying.

The Police - Everyone Stares
Stewart Copeland, the drummer extraordinaire for the famed demised band, bought himself a Super 8mm camera in the band's early days and started filming when the mood struck, eventually amassing an interesting document about the genesis of a major rock group from touring holiday inns to headlining arenas. It really does give you the feel for the change in their surroundings as he captures the first time they're mobbed by fans (when up to that point they've only been timidly approached by fans during record signings in stores) to when they essentially live in a bubble away from most of the rest of the world.

Highlights are Copeland's brief and to-the-point summaries and bon-mots. For instance, the one about such quandaries regarding band member roles in music videos that are not set on a stage during a performance. See, the singer has the job of mouthing the words, the guitarist can pretend to play the guitar, but what does the drummer do? "Jerk around a bit and mostly look like a dick," according to Stewart.

For music fans this is a must-see. Copeland remixed and in some cases re-imagined old Police tracks, so the music side of the movie is intriguing and something that you've not quite heard before. I hope there's a soundtrack someday. (For now, their live set that contains a concert from their early days and one from their height of fame days will have to suffice; one of my favorite live sets ever.)

For folks looking for a riveting movie experience, this is not the entertainment for you. (See "Stop Making Sense" by the Talking Heads for that.) But, for those who want a peek into what it's like to become a huge rock band through the intimate device of home movies, you'll walk away happy.

R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987

If you like R.E.M., 'specially the early years, this set should be a wet dream. The song selection achieves the perfect balance between the actual "hits", the fan favorites, and the band favorites. A rare feat for a hits package. On top of that, this one of the best remastering jobs I've come across.

There is no entire career retrospective in one set from these guys, yet (but you can bet it's forthcoming if they're remastering, more on that in a bit), so if you want all their hits, you have to buy "In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003", too.

"R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987" replaces the previous early hits compilation "Eponymous."

Fans should purchase this immediately.

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