Sunday, March 27, 2011

Introducing Gangstagrass

I've got a treat for anyone with true musical taste. I heard about the FX show Justified last year, and was able to catch up on it when its first season came out on DVD a few months ago. It's now one of my personal faves, and I got amazingly lucky when FX was added to my cable package in February at no additional charge just before the start of Season 2. The show is good enough that I could blog about it, but it's actually the theme song and the band who sings it that I want to give some Amens to. The band is Gangstagrass, a group of musicians that combine authentic bluegrass (which is a natural fit with the show's Kentucky setting), and... wait for it... rap (!) into a new genre. It sounds like a potential disaster, but I dig it. This particular video is the full-length version of the song, with clips from the show interspersed. Elmore Leonard, the fiction writer who wrote the short story on which Justified is based, (and who is now 85 years old), says it best: "Rench (the vocalist and producer) and his friends have done nothing short of creating a new form of music. Gangstagrass takes two types of music that are opposites and mixes them together brilliantly in a way that is natural and enjoyable". I've heard several of their songs and have to tip my hat to people who are willing to think waaaaay outside the box. I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ode to the B movies

Time got away from me again. I was pretty sick for most of last week. This post is not going to be a masterpiece, but it's an entry I've been meaning to write for a while. I've run across a lot of B movies in the past few weeks, and not only that, but read a book by Bruce Campbell, the modern-day king of B movies, and saw a couple of movies about B movies and the people who love them. It's given me a new appreciation for not only the craft, but the people involved in bringing us their low-budget, sometimes trashy, but often brilliant and always resourceful visions.

A couple of months ago, I got a documentary from my Netflix called Best Worst Movie, about the cult following of the infamous Troll 2, culminating in a reunion almost 20 years later, and reflections from those associated with it. The real-life characters who were involved in that movie are as bizarre as those in any scripted film, and I had a ton of fun with it. The Italian director to this day clings to the delusion that he made a good film, and the actors today lead lives ranging from a pretty functional and well-loved dentist in Alabama to an old man who feels he's wasted his life to a couple of others with clear mental health issues who almost seem too weird to be real. If you are interested in a fairly lighthearted documentary about a subject that has no real importance, I'd put Best Worst Movie in the ole queue.

A few weeks later, I saw Bubba Ho-Tep on cable, featuring Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness (also played Brisco County Jr. and several small parts in more mainstream movies, for those of you who are too highbrow for Sam Raimi's early days), and loved its strange storyline of an aging Elvis and an old black man who claims to be JFK facing off against an ancient Egyptian mummy who is terrorizing their nursing home. I can't really add a whole lot to that summary. It's every bit as strange as it sounds, but the outhouse humor and performances hit me perfectly. I checked out Campbell's best-selling autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, a few weeks ago, and it was just as entertaining.

Last but not least, Ed Wood. Yes, that is Johnny Depp in drag, missing his front teeth. This is one of Depp's best performances, in the least-seen but by far the best of his collaborations with Tim Burton. Wood was the creator of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, and a host of others that have gotten the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. But his own story is even more outrageous, and I'd consider Ed Wood something of a hidden gem.

At any rate, that's largely what's been on my mind. Likely at some point I'll have the energy to say something important, but I don't much want to burn energy on that right now. I hope my readers are all well. Once again, toodles.