Amoeblog

More Funky Than Too Funky? (supermodels, shock and a new movie from Katsuhito Ishii)

Posted by Kelly Sweeney Osato, October 9, 2008 07:30pm | Post a Comment
Thierry Mugler's motorbike dress in George Michael's Too Funky music video 
I'll never forget the first time I witnessed the awesome spectacle of George Michael's "Too Funky" video. I was already borderline obsessed with fashion in the mid-1990's and thought highly of Michael's supermodel-laden "Freedom 90" video, but the visual candy of "Too Funky" as designed, styled and directed by then notorious fashion designer Thierry Mugler made the voyeuristic appeal and "freeing" acts of destruction that comprise the "Freedom 90" video seem trite by comparison. I don't care how precious and pretty Linda Evangelista looked as she lip synched inside her sweater, I'd rather see her (along with Christy Turlington, Tyra Banks, Eva Herzgovina and, my favorite, Nadja Auermann, to name a few) strutting her actual supermodel stuff on an actual catwalk, flaunting actual fashion while George Michael repeats, "everybody wants a lover like that," which is precisely what the "Too Funky" music video delivers, and in such a fabulous manner that it cannot possibly be copied -- sorry En Vogue.

So, how about that "Motorbike" dress? Pretty amazing isn't it? Certainly not for everyday wear, but a girl's gotta have options. I remember thinking this playful ensemble shocking, in a good way. Actually, after having just viewed the 'director's cut' of the "Too Funky" video, I got to thinking about what the definition of shocking was a little over ten years ago as far as the mainstream media is concerned. Of course, I got to thinking about everything Madonna: her "Lucky Star" midriff beginnings, her metal-bound Sex book, Erotica, the "Justify My Love" video and a particular scene from her Blonde Ambition tour documentary Madonna - Truth or Dare where Madge is informed by Canadian police that she'll be arrested if she touches herself suggestively during her performance of "Like A Virgin." With Madonna the list goes on and on, but if one were to judge her overall shock value by the percentage of the audience that sings along to her tune, counting both lovers and haters alike, I bet there wouldn't be any shocking findings at all, at any point in her career. Perhaps she really has done it all. And if that be the case, what in the world can be deemed shocking today? For my part, I'd like to submit Katsuhito Ishii's film Funky Forest: the First Contact (two disc DVD now out from Viz Media) for review, as it's the most shocking thing I've seen recently.
Asano Tadanobu and Susumu Terajima in Katsuhito Ishii's Funky Forest
So far, I love all the Ishii films I've been able to lock my sights on: Sharkskin Man and the Peach Hip Girl, Party 7, Taste of Tea -- I love them so much I cannot pick a favorite; they're like candy. One of the main reasons I felt shock when I watched Funky Forest for the first time is that it fulfilled all my expectations while successfully deflating them at the same time. It's like when someone decides to give you a 'sexy' cake for your birthday. Of course you didn't expect to get a cake shaped like giant genitals, but you did expect cake and there is no question about whether or not you're gonna eat it. But is it tasty? Funky Forest is a tasty cake of a movie diguised as disjointed, patchwork quilt handstiched by your reclusive little Edie Beale looking, ex-showgirl aunt who happens to moonlight as a Chris Cunningham mutant who watches too much TV Carnage. Threads of several stories are woven loosely with only a few coinciding; however, belly laughs and nervous giggles abound as situations break off, start up and proceed to get weirder and weirder. It's unlike any of his previous films; it's certainly funky and totally fun.

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A Little Patience: New folk-rock by Nagisa Ni Te and Karl Blau out now!

Posted by Kelly Sweeney Osato, October 1, 2008 03:06pm | Post a Comment
Earlier this week while I was walking home from a night out with friends I was surprised by a stranger who randomly yelled out to me across an intersection, “How do you do this all the time?” I assumed by the question and the incredulous affectation that colored his shoAxel Rose and his Skateboardut that this fellow had to be the sort of out-of-towner used to strolling casually along level sidewalks, not straining to climb them. Living in San Francisco’s Chinatown for eleven years has provided me with plenty of street-side entertainment in the form of visitors struggling to get from point A to point B and these hapless pedestrians have become common fodder for egregious porchfront commentary among my friends and I, especially the drunk ones falling uphill. I offered the winded tourist no reply, but I began to sing to myself a song that hadn’t invaded my head space for some time, “all we need is just a little patience...

 

What W. Axel Rose and his Guns N’ Roses showed the world with their slowest, most patient song, "Patience," was a sensitive vulnerability, unrestrained by the tired power ballad format, that balanced out all the hollyweird, small-man anger their sleazier hits that flaunted to the top of the charts. "Patience" made it to number four in the US and I know for a fact that it continues to enjoy slurred and spirited karaoke renditions the world over, though, as a choice cut, it bodes ill for the novice due to its length and monotony (Kimberly Starling of The Karaoke Informer says it's one of the top 5 songs that tends to bomb: "It just eludes the average ear and when you get off key on this one it sounds to the ear like a turd in a punch bowl looks to the eye.") However, with "Patience" in mindYosuga by Nagisa Ni Te, I am reminded of two recent, overlooked releases that guild a gentle acoustic sound that is characteristically rock while also spiritually folk: Nagisa Ni Te’s Yosuga and Karl Blau’s Nature's Got A Way.

 

Something Old, Something New: Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh's self-titled CD/LP out now on Drag City!

Posted by Kelly Sweeney Osato, September 18, 2008 12:39pm | Post a Comment

Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh

 

When I first learned that Masaki Batoh, enigmatic frontman of the wondrously magical avant-psych band Ghost, and Swedish-born Helena Espvall, vocalist, guitarist and cellist of the equally magical folk-rock outfit Espers, were to release a record of their collaborative efforts, a wave of excitement swept me out of my shoes and into a frenzy of inspired musings that lead to an impulse purchase of a bottle of Framboise Lambic. After many repeat listenings of Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh, their simply self-titled releaseI can safely say that not only does the record pair well with the sweet, frothy drink, but also complements those early Halloween  decoration displays that are beginning to pop up all over town. The record and the drink spurred a flip through my battered old D&D Monster’s Compendium which led me to conjure a mental picture of a romantic tapestry woven by two modern day minstrels who, after recognizing their great esteem for one another, slipped away from their bands’ respective gypsy caravans silently in the night, running away together to the far reaches of the northern wilderness, making beautiful music together all the way. 

Candy Coated Life Lessons: Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre

Posted by Kelly Sweeney Osato, September 12, 2008 11:25am | Post a Comment
Faeire Tale Theatre DVD


Growing up a latch-key kid in the mid-eighties meant that I spent many hours every day after school in front of the tv. Adding up all that time well spent I estimate that had my pre-adolescent life been stripped of my cable network companions I might be a very different person indeed. That said, I’d like to direct a hearty “thank you” to Shelley Duvall and her quality family program Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre for instilling in me a healthy dose of common sense and propriety by way of deliciously thrilling fantasy entertainment. I’ll never forget my first viewing of this stellar program: Rapunzel starring Duvall herself as the o’er tressed damsel and Jeff Bridges displaying raw and regal sexual appeal in his portrayal as the ill-fated prince who happens upon Rapunzel’s secluded tower. I know that I squandered countless innocent daydreams pondering the exemplary portrait of Bridges’ male beauty while also wondering what the heck chocolate dipped radishes might taste like and why pregnant women risked the lives of their loved ones to procure them. I began to seriously consider future career paths ripe for the treading as a witch or princess or mermaid. Thanks to cable tv,  a VHS recorder and an insatiable appetite for all things fantastical, my life took on a weekly cycle of significance, punctuated at the ends by my favorite show. 

Hot August Nights: dog-days are the new spring break

Posted by Kelly Sweeney Osato, August 28, 2008 02:52pm | Post a Comment

August currently occupies the number one spot on my top twelve list of favorite months of the year. Surely it has something to do with the fact that I’ve only just returned from a much-needed three week vacation; the dog days of summer are the new spring break. Also there’s something about the word “august” that really floats my boat. Really there is no other word that conveys a true and simultaneous sense of majesty and wisdom like the word august does: for example, “the jellyfish regulates its deepness by augustly changing the amount of gas in its float”-- how lovely. Still, with Autumn closing in on San Francisco with nary a thunderstorm nor scent of burning leaves wafting on the wind, the month of August has got me stunned, obsessed with the notion of slowing time until it stops. The easiest way to do this is to let the music take you to that magical spot where time stands still. 


I spent the last three weeks at home ---all three of them: the Atlantic coast of South Florida, North Carolina’s Outer Banks and my hometown, Richmond, Virginia. Each leg of the journey enjoyed its own specific soundtrack comprised of songs chosen because they serve to soften the blow of the kind of going home it is oft said one can never do, or, contrariwise, songs that heightened the potency of the nostalgia I felt at times like I was happily drowning in. These are essentially comfort songs, great candidates for the secret cache of music no one but you ever knows you have. Last night, for example, I caught a fellow coworker pouring over the inner sleeve of his new MC Hammer CD while waiting for the bus---not that I was looking to catch him looking at anything--- and yet he made at least two excuses for having it in his hands before I had enough time to inquire, “What’s up?” We shared a laugh and bonded over our so-called “guilty” listening pleasures. 

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