By Ahsan Sajid
Tom Waits' album Blood Money was written for a Robert Wilson stage production of Georg Büchner's unfinished 1836 play 'Woyzeck,' which would explain the overly theatrical nature of the songs, but when has Tom ever released anything not theatrical? Blood Money's 13 songs were co-written by Tom Waits and long time collaborator and wife Kathleen Brennan and is Tom's most depressing, yet grandiose, album by a long shot.
The story of the album, since it is intimately related with the play, is about a Kafkaesque German soldier who goes crazy after doing medical experiments for money and kills his girlfriend after witnessing a perceived infidelity. Given the plot and setting, the album's worldview is, very necessarily, bleak. The lyrics are pained, misanthropic, occasionally hallucinatory, but always top-notch word-smithery as per Tom Waits. The album's manifesto is to be found in the title track itself, as Waits proclaims in his gravel-y voice "If there's one thing you can say about mankind / There's nothing kind about man / You can drive out nature with a pitch fork / But it always comes roaring back again."
Tom Waits is a man of many voices but on Blood Money he summons an unusual cast of characters. Gone is the little of his tenderness for waltz, on this album pessimism and depression pervade. The few waltzes there are, are used in a different fashion, from the sinister carousel-from-hell interlude in the opening track to the denial of tenderness in Another Man's Vine and The Part You Throw Away. There is depth here one will find anew with each listening.
Waits is never afraid to take a keen look into the soul of man, and in there he finds deceit, dishonesty, lust, depression, jealousy, regret. Musically, Blood Money is a mixture of jazz and blues- the kind of stuff you'd hear in a smoky sawdust sprinkled bar (the likes of which TS Eliot's poem Preludes describe) after hours. And in many ways, Blood Money is arguably a musical manifestation of that poem.
The only way this reviewer would describe the entire album together would be, sexy circus music over gorgeously heart-tugging lullabies over woozy, drunken, incoherent zigzag bluesy romps. Imagine a midlife crisis having Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac going to watch a Godard film together, getting hammered and stoned, and singing Christmas songs in the middle of summer, joyriding through New York City and running over a group of carnival freaks. Blood Money is even more than that.
Requiem from the darkness
By Saqiba Aziz
One of the best memories about my childhood was sleeping over at my cousin's place so we could stay up late and tell each other ghost stories. Of course, the side effect of this memory still lingers in my mind and I have a pathological fear of sleeping alone in the dark. Do you want to know another random fact about me? I'll tell you even if you don't. One of my best memories is watching 'Neon Genesis Evangelion' because it was the show that made me realize how much I love anime. How are these memories connected? The truth is that they aren't but I suppose that the sum of these recollections led me to find a series that would keep awake for many nights to come. This series is known as 'Requiem from the darkness' also known as 100 Stories
'100 Stories' is a series about how a man, finds a trio of exorcists on a cold night. He begins travelling with them so that he can write about his experiences and gain fame as a novelist. To say that '100 Stories' showcases one of my favourite works of art is probably an understatement. From the first episode, you will see a show that is visually intriguing and as it is suspenseful in storytelling. 'Requiem from the darkness' has some impressive ink work. If you see the vibrant colours of isolated objects creating a sharp contrast with the watercolour in the scenery, you will probably think that the artwork was done by an amateur. This idea will linger in your mind until the moment that you discover how significant a lone willow tree is to the tale that is being told. The CGI is a little choppy and it feels out of place but it can be overlooked. The drawing of the characters is also a little unusual to say the least. While some of the characters look like normal people, some of the other characters resemble foxes and monkeys. The irony is of course, that in the series the normal looking people sometimes turn out to be the most sinister.
The writers of the show are economic with their storytelling so if you're looking for a series that is well paced, this is it. Within the 13 episodes of the show, some of the scariest stories are told. Exciting Japanese folklore is explored and you should probably have know about Japanese myths beforehand to increase your viewing pleasure. There are frightening thrillers in the series about spirits who suffer unrest and there are some truly cool twists at the end of some of the episodes. '100 stories' conveys the intelligent message that more often than not, man is worse than any other monster and someone who sunk to the depths of depravity and insanity are worse than the idea of any demon that your mind can conjure.
There is a lot of violence in the show and it is not for the weak of the heart and the stomach. I will spoil you all a little by letting you know this show deals with cannibalism, necrophilia and some other bad kinds of 'philia'.
However, if you can stomach the gruesome, then you'll also be pleased to know that the show features a likable cast of characters. By the end of the series, I found myself wanting to know more about the trio of exorcists, however my favourite group retains their charm because of their enigma. The leader of the trio, a monk, in particular, says this pretty awesome line in every episode and it never gets old. I also really like the protagonist, because he is the everyman we can all relate to. I don't want to spoil you all too much, but he has moments when he questions his morality after seeing all the ugliness around him. If anyone here has ever had a crisis of faith, than you can understand his character and his decisions. The series also has its moments of lightness along with some wickedly funny dialogue.
So if you're old enough, go ahead, watch 'Requiem from the darkness' and experience the nostalgia as you remember the first time you learned to fear the unknown. After you're done watching the series, be sure close your eyes at night when you hear something unfamiliar. You know, just in case ;).
By The Anarchist Kitten
I must beseech forgiveness off my readers for having disappeared without so much as a word for a while. You all may be interested to know, or not, that this hiatus involved Mexico, sunrise, beach and more than just piñita colada. However, The Anarchist Kitten is back rejuvenated, and will in this issue of Rising Star review a movie that should have been reviewed already. I beg your pardon again. Let us get right to it. Public Enemies.
Our introduction to the anti-hero John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) leaves something to be desired. There's a lot you want to know that the movie does not give you. But then he meets his romantic interest and he introduces himself formally for the first time; "I was raised on a farm in Morrisville, Indiana. My mama ran out on us when I was three. My daddy beat the hell out of me cause he didn't know no better way to raise me. I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars, whiskey, and you ... so what else you need to know?" And that is about as much back stage story as we will get about John Dillinger off the movie.
Off the bat, Public Enemies is a gangster flick; director Michael Mann's return to crime, and possibly his most visually experimental movie. However, it's more than just a gangster flick. There is enough shoot-em-up scenes to keep the regular fan of the genre enthralled, but Mann puts a lot more emphasis here on mood, setting and an exploration of the criminal psyche. The Mercury-fast minutes genuinely fly by; Mann crafts a highly atmospheric and emotionally charged movie experience that is sure to be remembered as a touchstone release of 2009, despite this year's near to legendary summer.
For fans looking for historical accuracy, please run a google search and find yourself a nice documentary to watch on Dillinger, or the ensuing boom in crime during the Great Depression. The director cares about historical details in his use of cars, costume, props, realistic radio broadcasts, but in many instances, major historical occurrences are altered all together to fit the narrative.
However, as earlier stated, the one hundred and forty odd hours still beg the question, who is John Dillinger? The criminal psyche is explored in top-notch fashion. But enthusiasts of the character want to know who John Dillinger was, rather than just what he did. In character study, this movie fails. Even Dillinger's predator-in-chief, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), is a mystery in director Mann's hands. Did he care about justice at all, or was he just a fascist on a personal crusade? Was he competent in the least or was he just a bumbling idiot? And, dear Christian Bale, try and remember for your next action flick that Clint Eastwood is the no-questions-asked master of squinting eyes, and you do yourself no merit knocking off his trademark. You only hold a candle in the sunlight.
Public Enemies is a solid crime drama and a good film to watch with a group of friends. Understandably, expectations were through the roof, but that's a tad much to ask for. It's a really good film, but slightly shy of being a great one. Of course, it suffices to say, the movie is definitely worth watching. Reasons to not miss the movie- fun action, interesting story, and masterful portrayal of trigger-happy ruthless Baby Face Nelson, great fashion sense.