Gutbrain Records

Friday, 13 January 2006

Friday the 13th today, and even as I write this our cat, Gracie, is at the vet's for surgery. They're removing some of her teeth and one of her eyes, perhaps at this very moment.

That's Gracie in more relaxed circumstances, doing what she does best, communing with our couch. This couch, too, underwent a startling transformation this week.

The couch used to belong to the editor of The Source magazine, believe it or not. Very few people who live in New York City need as many as six degrees of separation between them and any other person. At the time the couch entered my life, there were only two or three degrees of separation between me and the editor of The Source magazine.

Anyway, he and his family upgraded to a new couch and I got their old one. Alice and I really loved this couch and had been trying to prolong its life over the last few years by making rough repairs with cloth, foam and tape.

We bought a new couch and put the old one out on the street on Tuesday night. We hoped that this was not the end of the couch's very successful run. It wasn't in good enough shape to give to Goodwill or anything. It needed work. But we thought it likely that somebody would recognize its potential and take care of it.

The next morning. Not exactly what we had in mind.

Tuesday, 03 January 2006

I made a mistake below calculating which actors I saw the most of in 2005. I watched 7 of the Sherlock Holmes movies which star Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This means that Basil Rathbone deserves to be in the runners up category, with 7 movies to his credit.

Nigel Bruce, on the other hand, is tied with Robert Mitchum at 9 movies, as he was in The Two Mrs. Carrolls (with Barbara Stanwyck) and Lassie Come Home in addition to the Holmes movies.

A few years ago I saw a Japanese movie called Bayside Shakedown. It was spin-off from a Japanese television show which apparently was hugely popular in Japan. It was about the cops at a small Tokyo police precinct. The movie was funny, exciting and touching and its plot hinged on a reference to Akira Kurosawa's High and Low, one of my favorite movies.

I found English-subtitled copies of the TV show on ebay and watched and enjoyed those, too. In 2005 I saw Bayside Shakedown 2. This started out really well, with three promising parallel plots — vampire, pickpockets, sadistic avengers — but lost steam near the end. There wasn't enough fresh material and too many reprises of scenes from the first movie and the TV series.

Then I found out that they've been making spin-off movies about individual characters from the show. With some trepidation I ordered the DVD of Negotiator Mashita Masayoshi from CD Japan. I'm pleased to report that this movie is more satisfying than the first Bayside Shakedown sequel.

The plot concerns a mysterious terrorist who has taken control of a new computerized subway train and is using it to wreak havoc in the Tokyo subway. The villain seems to have a special grudge against Mashita Masayoshi, head of the new negotiation unit of the Metropolitan Police Department. Whoever is controlling the train has also set a series of bombs to explode, each one more powerful and destructive than the last.

Negotiator Mashita Masayoshi
hinges on a reference to Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much and the phantom train is like the truck in Spielberg's Duel: a really good character, lively and menacing. Considering that it hasn't been many years since an actual terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway, this element of the movie gave me some real chills.

Hi, Mr. Dorgon! How's the weather? Mr. Dorgon has a new CD out that's really great, one of his best. Ambient nightmares is the phrase that came to my mind. It's Mr Dorgon vs Greg Kelley: "Three Occasions". It should be available at his site, if not now, then soon. Buy it!

Sunday, 01 January 2006

Happy New Year!

Starting now and continuing over the next couple of weeks, here are some of the movies I saw for the first time and liked best of the more than 200 films I saw in 2005.

The favorite actors of 2005 were Barbara Stanwyck, who was in 11 of the movies I saw, and Robert Mitchum, who was in 9. Peter Lorre (8 movies), Joan Crawford (7 movies) and Lee Van Cleef (7 movies) were the runners up. Bernard Herrmann was the favorite soundtrack composer (8 movies), no surprise. The favorite director was Hayao Miyazaki (7 movies). Edith Head was the favorite costume designer (12 movies).

The Notorious Sophie Lang is a pre-code feature from 1934, the first of three films which star Gertrude Michael as the title character, the world's most accomplished jewel thief. I've wanted to see these movies for years, and it was a pleasure finally to track down one of them. Sophie Lang is the creation of short-story writer Frederick Irving Anderson, one of my favorites, who also created The Infallible Godahl, another master criminal. In this scene, Sophie is ditching her Rolls Royce and getting into an ambulance as part of her escape plan after robbing a diamond importer's shop.

An enjoyable surprise was the Spanish horror movie, Who Can Kill a Child? (1976). I wouldn't recommend this to most people who have young children, and certainly not to anybody who's pregnant. Basically, it's The Birds but with children instead of birds. With the exception of a very wrong choice of opening-credits sequence, which unnecessarily belabors a point and borders on the offensive, it's very well done. It's unusual to see a horror movie which almost exclusively takes place in daylight. The Birds did this too, as did The Wicker Man, but neither of them is so relentlessly sunny as Who Can Kill a Child?

On Dangerous Ground (1952) has one of my favorite Bernard Herrmann soundtracks. In fact one of the cues, "Solitude", has found its way into the repertoire of my quartet with Ellery Eskelin, Trevor Dunn and Jim Black. Robert Ryan is, as usual, a psycho, but this time he's a psycho cop. His feelings about New York City and its denizens are such that he and Travis Bickle would get along famously. Worried that he may snap and kill somebody, his boss sends him out of town to a rural area upstate where a psycho killer is hiding somewhere in the snowy mountains. He meets Ida Lupino, the blind sister of the killer and runs into vengeful locals whose bloodlust disturbs even him. Great cinematography — note the cross — enhances some of Lupino's and Ryan's best work. One of the cues Herrmann wrote for this film turned up again in North By Northwest.