Amoeblog

Backwoods (Bosque de sombras) 2006 Spanish-English-French co-production

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 14, 2008 07:46pm | Post a Comment


BackWoods is set in 1978 and depicts two English couples on vacation in a remote community in Navarre/Nafarroa, Spain. The locals have bad style, are ugly and probably smell bad. They're also suspicious of and rude to the well-meaning and rather annoying city slickers. When you see Gary Oldman's character loading a shotgun you can see clearly all the way to the credits. If a gun shows up in a movie, it's never just to look at.

At first the film treats us to a bit of heavy-handed character development. Oldman's character, Paul, is a know-it-all and yet strangely likeable due to Oldman's considerable charisma. Paddy Considine as Norman is whiney and unsympathetic.  Paul's wife, played by Virginie Ledoyen, is extremely unpleasant and nonsensical (women!) and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon as Oldman's wife is pretty unmemorable. They all bicker and snipe constantly till you're begging the locals to kick their spoiled asses already. One morning, Paul takes Norman on a hunting trip into the beautiful countryside. Norman is too soft to shoot a bunny. Paul says something like, "There's two kinds of things in this word: the hunters and the hunted." Deep. Things take an obvious turn when the two discover a girl with crab hands (Helpful Heloise, what's the proper name for this deformity -ed.) chained up in a shack. They do the sensible thing and abscond with her. When the backward, angered villagers catch on, it's Norman who will have to find his inner hardman if he's going to survive. Did you see that one coming? You did? Good.

If this all sounds terribly familiar and predictable, it's (of course) because it is. The film makes no efforts to disguise its exceedingly well-worn story and debt to its inspirations. It's content to get by on the adequateness of the cast and crew and by the story's sticking to tried-and-tested formula. I reckon it's set in the '70s simply because it's a particularly '70s genre. There are exactly zero surprises to be experienced. When one of the country folk attempts to rape a character, my reaction was, "I was wondering when the leering, greasy one was going to do that!" Because, you know, people in the country just sit around all year round just picking their rotten teeth... waiting for vacationing dudes and their womenfolk so that they can get their rape on.

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Spacesynth (after a brief bit about Space Disco)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 14, 2008 04:00pm | Post a Comment

 

When you like a lot of the sci-fi movies from the mid-to-late 1970s, you frequently are treated to Rubellian utopias populated by horned-up hedonists, robots who are polished like (coke) mirrors and multi-racial aliens all getting together at the space disco/cantina/casino. As with almost all science fiction, it's more a reflection of the time of it's conception than any like future. This stuff was heavily indebted to the sexual revolution that preceeded it and was wholly clueless about the AIDS epidemic lying around the corner. In the tense, cold-war-fearing 80s, just a few years later, sci-fi frequently fell into two camps. On the one hand you have bands of marauders roaming the post-apocalyptic wastelands in churched-up dune buggies out to terrorize the few remaining civilized humans, who are attempting in a harsh world to preserve culture and science and maybe the knowledge of how to grow food. On the other you have gritty near-futures where market economics and technology have exploded into fearsome things, exploited by crusties who can access the internet through datajacks in their skulls. And they live in cities called Neo Tokyo and the like. But, for now, back to the 70s...

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East Turkestan / Xinjiang/ Uyghurstan/ شىنجاڭ

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 10, 2008 06:58pm | Post a Comment


East Turkestan is the English name for an occasionally independent region occupied by China since it invaded in 1949. In Manchu Chinese it is known as Xinjiang, which means "new frontier", a phrase which belies its extrinsic nature to China. For the Turkic peoples that live beyond this "new frontier", the country is known as "Sharqi Turkistan" which translates to "Eastern Land of the Turks." The country is largely desert with towns built around oasises that were, in ancient times, important stops on the Silk Road.


The population of the region is mainly made up of Turkic peoples, the largest group being the Uyghurs (less commonly spelled Uighur, Uighur, Uygur or Uigu). Most Uyghurs feel more culturally aligned with their Turkic brethren to the West than the Beijing goverment of the East which currently controls the region. However, as with Tibet, China is attempting to dilute the region's culture and ethnicity by inundating it with Han immigrants lured by economic incentives and an apartheid system that favors them over the indigenous population. In 1949, when China invaded, the region was 75% Uyghur. As of 2003 it had been diluted to 45%. Ironically, identity in the region was largely based on the particular oasis communities and a strong coalescence based on a common, Turkic identity only really began in response to Chinese repression and occupation.

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Eazy-E Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 7, 2008 01:10pm | Post a Comment
Happy Eazy-E Day, a holiday observed over in Compton by order of the mayor. I'm not sure what customs are attached to the day so I'll just share my Eazy-E story.



I first heard Eazy-E back in 1988 when I was in junior high. Even before I heard him, I'd heard of him. Back then, new music was still mostly disseminated by word of mouth and the trade of mixtapes. Our computers were Apple ][es and the internet was still just one of Al Gore's fantasies. The only rap they played on the radio was harmless (but fun) stuff like Whodini, UTFO and the Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff. But just looking around the school hallways it was obvious that there was more to the hip-hop world than what got played on the air. Kids wore enormous clocks around their necks like Flava Flav of the airplay-denied Public Enemy. When teachers distinguished me from another Eric by referring to me as "Eric B.," the question "where's Rakim?" often followed-- uttered by a savvy classmate. The rap that most people listened to as far as I know (with the exception of Ice-T, Too $hort ) was either from the East or South Coasts. Then, seemingly overnight, kids started wearing Raiders and Kings gear. A wind picked up from the west...



One day around that time, my younger brother Evan and I were out riding bikes down past Bill Wolf's property. Bill Wolf was kind of a big man out in the country who built a lot of homes, owned a lot of land and used to shoot copperheads-- plus he claimed to have seen panthers in the woods behind our house, long before they were officially verified to have returned to the area. I remember the tar on Old Mill Creek Road used to bubble in the heat and pop under my Schwinn's deliberately swerving tires. There was probably the loud buzz of cicadas in the air. Down by Mill Creek (where I used to try to catch crawdads) Evan (riding our sister's orange 3-speed) found a chewed up, discarded cassette by the bridge. He said that the tape was unraveled and draped across some weeds. It was labeled "Eazy Duz It." I got excited at the opportunity suddenly afforded us to listen to something we probably wouldn't otherwise hear. Evan wound the tape back up with his finger and took it back to the house.

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Sissy Rappers - Tell me what a sissy know

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 3, 2008 04:42pm | Post a Comment
In hip-hop circles, you often encounter self-appointed arbiters of hip-hop taste who decry certain supposed negative trends in hip-hop. One frequent target for these musical Taliban is the prevalence of "bling," which is regarded as a new corruption of the scene (conveniently ignoring Gucci-clad, Rolls Royce-flaunting, "paid in full"-singing Eric B and Rakim or the massive gold ropes that adorned every rapper from Big Daddy Kane down the alphabet to Yella.) These paternal advocates of fiscal responsibility feel that rappers should be saving their money, I suppose, and not spending on ostentatious jewelry.

These conservative cultural watchdogs usually then go into an oft-repeated, well-rehearsed diatribe about meaningless, party-centric lyrics, the lack of reliance on DJing, the importance of being real and other things that place them ideologically in the traditionalist camp alongside their trad jazz forebears that griped when jazz moved beyond its Dixieland roots, the guy that yelled "Judas" when Dylan plugged in and prog-rock fans who decried the lack of humorless, showy, technical proficiency when glam began took over the charts and hearts of rock fans in the 70s.

But music evolves, regardless (and sometimes in defiance) of the griping and sniping of those stodgy snobs who stand scowling and motionless with arms folded whilst the masses keep on getting down. In 1968 Nik Cohn virtually created rock criticism with his book Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of RockAs the title suggests, Cohn viewed the meaningless, shallow, fun music of rock's dawn in higher regard than the pretentious progressive rock of his day.  Another genre of music that haters love to hate is Bounce music. I felt like my love of this despised genre was validated, in a way, when the same Nik Cohn moved to New Orleans and worked with Choppa, an under-rated rapper from Algiers on the West Bank who had a big regional hit with "Choppa Style." Choppa dubbed Cohn "Nik the Trik" and Cohn wrote another book of criticism about his experiences, Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap.

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