I've always loved the the incredibly varied musical performances in Christopher Guest's films. As an example, here is a scene from Guest and Rob Reiner's 80s metal film Spinal Tap; the titular band – played by Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Guest himself – plays “Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight”.
What's really special is how Guest and Reiner run down the history of music between the inception of modern rock and roll from blues, country and R&B in the 50s, to the "present", which at that point was the glammy, technically proficient heavy metal of the 1980s. And now here's a scene from earlier in the movie showcasing the Thamesmen, the skiffle band which would eventually become Spinal Tap. Skiffle was a style of American country music which became very popular in the UK during the 50s. Notably, the Beatles were born from the Quarrymen, John Lennon's skiffle band - Guest takes this fact to heart, as you can see.
Later on, the film encounters Spinal Tap, now carrying their name, in a different configuration. Most likely this is directly referencing the psychedelic/blues group Earth, which eventually became the seminal heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Of course, it is also a great parody/pastiche of the popularity and subsequent de-weirdening of 60s psychedelic music.
Roughly 20 years later,Chrristopher Guest directed a folk music mockumentary entitled A Mighty Wind. One of the featured groups, The Folksmen, bore a striking similarity to Spinal Tap.
Yep. That is, once again, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, reunited in a wholly different style. In fact, during Spinal Tap's reunion tour, the Folksmen would play as the opening band.
I rode the wrong train home, adding an eight block-long walk to my odyssey from Brooklyn's hip north end. As I plugged away at retaining consciousness on the preceding line, a headful of red wine shifted my attention away from the conductor's garbled announcements and toward the bored young blond sitting across from me. My shirking faculties robbed me of heed for the proper transfer and I boarded my second-choice train, which arrived with a merciful expedience.
It was the wrong end of five in the morning when I came to and debarked – staggered off – at the correct stop in my neighborhood. This was a laudable accomplishment in itself; I was afraid that enjoying a drink and living in Brooklyn's southern boondocks would, yet again, add up to a firm rise-and-shine prodding, indelicately administered by a police officer walking the graveyard terminus beat at Coney Island. I had originally planned to sit out the night, made timid by the radio's apocalyptic pronouncements of the upcoming weather. Fortuitously, the snow had lingered long enough for my night to resolve itself, and lazily tumbled from the stars as I plodded home through the orange silence which descends hand-in-glove with every nocturnal snowfall.
Parenthetical Girls - This Regrettable End
When, at age 20, I first started working at Freaks – the punk boutique formerly found on the East Village's renowned St. Mark's Place – my manager and I got into a conversation regarding embarrassment of one's own taste in music. Rob, who was in his 30s, told me he enjoyed the first wave of emo. I immediately responded “and you … openly admit that?” He explained that no one with a sense of self-worth should ever be ashamed of owning up to their taste. Who is anyone else to judge what you receive enjoyment from? Who worth knowing would peg an individual as a worthwhile human being based on how they like their pop music?
I can't say that conversation miraculously cleansed me of prejudice. I still harshly judge people based on their preferred genres (along with just about anything else), but I now have a little voice in the back of my head rendering me unable to ignore my own snobbery and constantly reminding me of my own guilty pleasures. I try to remember that someone who listens to – in my opinion – disposable trash may have tastes which are, for whatever reason, unrefined. Not everyone makes the time or the effort to sort through the reams of mediocre music out there. Or, god forbid, music might not be particularly important to them. I find my own habits an unreliable yardstick because I'm an obsessive, at best. If they have made conscious choices that do not meld with my own, I try to keep in mind that doing so is a respectable act in and of itself.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: listen to whatever you want and enjoy it all the same. And if you genuinely love music, feel absolutely free to be a snob! But a respectful snob. Turn your nose up at the music, not the individual inflicting it upon you.
As a sort of act of contrition for my by-gone days of judgmental prickdom (which some would say I am still smack in the middle of; all the more for writing the above) I present a guilty pleasure of which I can't get enough:
jandrewedits is a collaborative project between Jan Van Den Hemel and Andrew Hussie (who is also responsible for MS Paint Adventures.) Decontextualizing and melding clips from film and television – all rotating around Star Trek: The Next Generation – they create brand-new absurdities that are a pleasure to watch, especially if you are a Star Trek fan. It's amazing to think what editing just a few facial expressions and glances can do, and a few seconds of credits may serve as a punchline. Here are a few of my favorites:
One of my favorite comics-based television series was the Justice League Unlimited. Its roots were the the serious-but-still-fun 1990s Batman: The Animated Series and meant as a sequel to the Justice League. JLU focused on expanding the standard, comics-DC Universe into the DC Animated Universe. While revolving mainly around the standard JL team (Superman, Batman, et. al.) each episode had guest stars and cameos ranging from the obvious (Aquaman) to the obscure-ca.-2004 (the Crimson Avenger). Again, it balanced good old fashioned superheroics – there was a drag-out fight almost guaranteed in each episode – with surprisingly consistent and three-dimensional characterization and an evolving continuity. While the episodes stood on their own, there was an overall arc which was very clearly plotted out from the beginning and expanded on within each episode.
Img. co DCAU Wiki.
The Justice League Unlimited episode “Ultimatum" presented a team of superpowered individuals named the Ultimen. Pictured above, the Ultimen consisted of , from left to right: Wind Dragon, Juice, Long Shadow, Downpour and Shifter. The Ultimen were a the face of a secret project meant to discredit the Justice League, who were growing too powerful for the shadow government's comfort.
If the character designs seem a little familiar, that's because these are all rehashed versions of the superheroes created by Hanna Barbera. Invented for the numerous incarnations of the 1970s and 80s DC comics cartoon Super Friends, they were an attempt to insert some multiculturalism an viewer-identification (the previous characters meant for the latter purpose were the unpowered Wendy and Marvin and fit in about as well as it sounds.) Wind Dragon was based on Samurai, Juice on Black Vulcan, Long Shadow on Apache Chief, and Downpour and Shifter on Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins. One of the numerous in-jokes about the Ultimen was that they reflected the mores of the Superfriends era. In contrast to the secretive Justice League, the Ultimen were publicly-oriented and unnaturally wholesome; even Superman, the invulnerable boy scout, had trouble withstanding their wholesomeness.
One of the other major alterations to the series was the updating of Aquaman's incarnation to that of the 1990s Peter David version. No longer the useless-on-land hero of yesteryear, Aquaman became the warrior-king of 70% of Earth's surface. It is the conflict between Aquaman and the Ultimen that is the meat of this post, referenced way the hell up at the beginning. It is also my absolute favorite scene in Justice League Unlimited. Context-wise, the Ultimen and the Justice League got into the requisite battle and Aquaman has just taken out Downpour's sibling Shifter. (It should start playing at 2:03 into the video.)
Having grown up watching Superfriends - thanks Cartoon Network - I have to say that was a long time coming.
Today, take a quick tour of the Technology Wing of the War on Artistic Constraints Memorial Museum
Roy Lichtenstein wields the nigh-unstoppable Image Duplicator...
...while the Dead Boys pack the mighty Sonic Reducer.