The most interesting points in the movie for me were the moments where Dylan's self creation was discussed. He's long been known as something of a shape shifter and it was interesting to think about the concept of home through his eyes -- where it is and how one gets there. I still wouldn't call Dylan a straight shooter or anything after watching the documentary, but my interest was piqued by both his comments and those of his many friends and collegues who were interviewed for the project, among them: Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Mark Spoelstra, Al Kooper, Liam Clancy, Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples and Suze Rotolo.
Dylan says he was "born a long way from where [he was] supposed to be" and that he's been looking for his home, forging his own version of it ever since -- and he definitely doesn't look back. He's been inventing his own truth, his own identity throughout his career, allowing no one to pin him down at any one moment. Even his last name is an invention, purely his way of creating an identity for himself. Dylan believes he had no past, and totally seperated himself from his Hibbing, MN upbringing. He only looked to the present moment, and did what pleased him then. This goes a long way toward explaining his career and its diversity as well as the period in the mid-60s where he took a lot of heat for "going electric." The film covers this period with dynamic energy, interviewing those who were on the side of Dylan's "authentic" folk music/protest songs and those whose eyes were fixed on the future of rock in 1965. It's thrilling to watch the portion of the film where the audacious 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance is discussed, but then again, I always seem to find this a thrilling moment in musical history.
Trolling around on the internet looking for choice nuggets of info on the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka, a four CD set which prompts listeners to play all four discs simultaneously with meticulous attention paid to track numbers and accompanying instructions, I came across a really awful review from respectable online music publication. Now, Zaireeka comes with a fat warning label on the front that is unique to its creation in that it is not a parental advisory sticker or, in the case of Guitar Wolf's Jet Generation, a label suggesting that your speakers might blow when played at normal volume levels (Jet Generation is, or at least was at the time of its release, the loudest album ever recorded), but a simple statement that attempts to convey the lengths one must go to merely try to listen to the thing properly-- that is to say, the way the Flaming Lips intend for their audience to hear it. I, for one, like to think of the act of listening to music as an effortless pleasure that requires little more than pressing 'play.' The thought of puzzling out four walls of sound via four audio components, for me, is tired from the get go. I guess I could spread out on my bedroom floor with four boom boxes all loaded with all four Zaireeka discs at finger's and toe's length, but I own only one boom box and I don't think I'm coordinated enough to seriously consider contorting my free time just to check out a silly little alt-rainbow-rock record made in 1997. Anyone can see how an album like Zaireeka may be doomed to less-than-stellar reviews from folks who frankly can't be bothered to give a damn about properly experiencing it, folks who don't have friends (and the necessary extra boom boxes) who unconditionally love music.
Amoeba Music and Phil Blankenship are proud to present some of our film favorites at Los Angeles’ last full-time revival movie theater. See movies the way they're meant to be seen - on the big screen and with an audience!
Tony Danza & Ami Dolenz in
She's Out Of Control
New Beverly Cinema
7165 W Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Midnight, All Tickets $7
The host is Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, a W.E.B. DuBois professor of the Humanities and the Chair of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. I’d seen Gates in Wonders of the African World where he seemed to feign ignorance about everything he learned about through his travels in Africa. I mean, he’s got some pretty big credentials and yet he’d continually act like he had no idea about the realities of his chosen subject of expertise until his interviewees revealed it to him. It seemed like he felt that pretending that everything was new to him would make him more identifiable to us, the presumably ignorant viewers. In this documentary, unfortunately, he does the same schtik which is just about its only shortcoming, although it can be sort of funny. For example, he “guesses” that, given his appearance, his ancestors came from the East African kingdom of Nubia (huh?!), despite the fact that nearly all slaves in the U.S. came from the West Coast slave centers built centuries earlier, not by Europeans, but by other Africans. Of course it turns out that 0% of slaves were Nubian. His surprise at his DNA results seems genuine though when they reveal that his matrilineal line goes back to Ireland.
And race gets complicated for others too. The documentary points out that the vast majority of African-Americans have substantial genetic ties to Europe through slave owners and, far less often, voluntary miscegenation. Realizing that more blacks are descended from slave owners than whites was something I’d never thought about before. Chris Tucker is the only participant to go back to his African roots, in his case to modern Angola, revealing a sedate and emotional side quite unlike his hysterical, shrieking film persona. South Africa-obsessed Oprah Winfrey seems positively gutted to find out that her ancestors came from, you guessed it, West Africa and not the out-of-the-way Zulu homeland she was clearly rooting for. Dr. Mae Jemison (the first African American Woman in space) finds out that she has Chinese relatives whereas her physical appearance had always been passed down as having been owed to that old stand-by, Native Americans. Everyone’s results are interesting and frequently revelatory and show how all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, preconceptions and physical appearance, can find out a lot about who our ancestors were, and that it often won’t bear much similarity to what we’d thought was the truth.