Tuesday, January 22, 2019

54 in 60

Hadn't ever seen this 1978 60 Minutes story with a very charming, Dan Ratherish Dan Rather look at the disco biz. It's great!

Favorite feature might be the elements coming to life within studio recordings of Peter Brown's "Dance with Me." Also John Ferrara mixing Desiree's "Mi Amore."

Sunday, January 20, 2019

happy as lazzaro

The world, even out in bucolic Italian hillsides, is too messy to handle a soul like Lazzaro's. The titular character (played by Adriano Tardiolo)--wide-eyed, relentlessly quiet, helpful and kind--is a beautiful new cinematic creation from Writer / Director Alice Rohrwacher. We see Lazzaro in two distinct chapters broken in half by fever. In the first, we are introduced to a clan of sharecroppers, a "pack" of sorts, working with little to no pay. Above them we see their exploitative employers--the de Luna family, led by matriarch dubbed "The Cigarette Queen" (Nicoletta Braschi); "human beings are like animals," she espouses, "set them free and they realize they are slaves locked in their own misery." In the second half, there is a shared reflection of the injustices inflicted among the sharecroppers, swept up in what the newspapers have described as "The Great Swindle." But society at large hasn't taken care of the former farmhands either, as we see them living "in healthier accommodations," on the fringes of weedy, trash-strewn train-tracks.

In this story of a saint-maybe, religious motifs and iconography are mostly overt, but also cleverly slipped in, like the dirty, stained glass windows of the de Luna shambly estate. The film subverts expectations continuously--will this be a romantic drama? a crime story hanging in the balance of a bloody fingerprint? Rohracher's excellent script seemingly eschews much and still hangs together quite exquisitely, like a well-worn fable. Hélène Louvart's quietly imaginative cinematography makes interesting use of shadows and lighting; the movie starts in darkness and is shattered by the unflattering brightness of a single bulb. The visual contrasts of sunny countryside and the smoky textures of the city are vividly enacted. I also loved the film's attention to the changing light of the hours. Admittedly, it wasn't until several minutes in that I first noticed the use of Super 16 film and its dingy-looking rounded corners. It establishes a dreamy mood--a balance of artifice and grit--like studying a stained glass story in pale palette in an abandoned church. The movie is worth a second viewing, where it becomes even more richly detailed than the first, the hypocrisies of both holy and humankind explored so well. ****

-Jeffery Berg

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019

play with fire

Just discovered Barbara & Ernie. At least I don't think I've heard their songs before. This tune "Play with Fire" really got me. I also like the mix by DJ Spector.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


My new mix Icecastlevania is now on Soundcloud. Inspired by Tonya Harding, Ice Castles, and getting thru winter. Fave tune might be the Dave Bolton edit of Purple Disco Machine x Dee-Lite Mashup.


0:00 Voyager: Alan Parsons Project
1:46 Tonya (Boys Get Hurt Edit): Sufjan
6:15 Till Death Do Us Part (Dubtronic Reconstruction 2013): Madonna
12:59 Theme from 'Ice Castles': Marvin Hamlisch
16:29 Perfect Connection: My Dear
19:59 Aquarius (M.M.Reconstruction Mix): Disco Spectacular
25:07 Dished Is In The Heart (Dave Bolton Mashup): Purple Disco Machine vs. Dee-Lite
31:37 Benadryl (TOKiaMONSTA Remix): Sofi Tukker
34:24 'Jurassic Park' Theme: Two Door Cinema Club
36:55 Pumped Up Baby (G3RSt Mix): Foster the People vs. Vanilla Ice
41:14 Dancing With a Stranger (Saint Ache Mix): Sam Smith x Normani
43:40 A Fifth of Beethoven (Soulwax Edit): Walter Murphy
47:03 Gloria: Laura Branigan
51:40 Finale (from 'Ice Castles'): Marvin Hamlisch
53:45 Goodbye Stranger (Mira Côsta Remix): Supertramp
(Bonus Track) You Saved My Soul: Burton Cummings

Friday, January 11, 2019

the power of style

You wouldn't think that Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" and Madonna's "The Power of Good-Bye" would work as a mash-up, but it does! Good job DJ LUP.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


I had written this poem, "Dick," ten years ago in the early in the months of Obama's first term. I was flooded for the first time in my life with optimism about America. That, of course, would be fleeting. And now "Dick" seems like a relic.


Angler, Darth Vader, Evil Dick,
Tricky Dick, Jr., Puppetmaster,
Fuckoff Lad, Torture King, Dick,
I'm not sorry that I laughed
at the Mr. Potter crack
when you were rolled out
in a wheelchair on Inauguration Day
the day you finally became
a relic.  Many stack you up
to villains, forceful and dark
and yet you are nothing
but a trick, a curt, expressionless
slab of white flab with a sickly heart
determined somehow
to stay within us
forever. In all your stillness,
you have no sense of peace.
You with Bush
on Ulrickson's New Yorker cover
in mimic of Brokeback
the year you shot Whittington,
the year after Katrina.  To think
Michelle Williams was in Dick
the forgotten 1998 comedy
about Watergate, and years later,
the year we'd begin to put you to rest,
she'd be caught
by paparazzi on Smith Street
looking frail, griefstricken
shortly after the death of Heath
her Brokeback co-star,
her ex. How tragic,
in the dearth of ick
surrounding you
and the years of your reign.
In 2000, on the snowy TV,
I watched you debate
with criss-crossed legs
and remembered nothing.
In 2001, I watched Survivor
and contestant Michael Skupkin
breathed smoke, fainted into fire,
burned his hands, and ran
into the ocean, wailing.
The skin peeled-back
off his knuckles. All week,
CBS played commercials:
the most shocking "Survivor" ever.
And I watched Skupkin
evacuated by helicopter,
fifth place contestant Elisabeth Filarski
on the shore, longingly looking up,
bandana round her crown.
Soon she would have a voice
on The View, pointing her finger out
to the side, and defending your war,
your party. In 2006,
the poet polled the class,
Who wants to write political poetry?
No one. In the declaration year 2003,
some poets constructed
an anti-war chapbook
but were soon worn out
by their limitations,
by the years of destruction
and nothing. I watch you now,
in the nine years that have passed
since 2000, the TV
louder, larger,
the graphics bright
and blaring, ticker tape,
and I wish you would just give it up,
fly-fish yourself off in Wyoming.
You look worn,
as if sanded down
by all of us
and what ran through our wires:
the mundane chitchat
of all our hours. 

I find my writing often builds on association and wallows in American glut. Maybe that's why I was engaged with Adam McKay's Vice much more than I thought I would be. Press reviews had been held back by the studio for weeks, and once opened-up, it received some vicious buzz. Prosthetic biopics, swathed in on-the-nose, cheeky comedy, usually isn't for me, but I ended up responding to the messiness, fullness, and ultimate emotional void of McKay's stirring pastiche of Dick Cheney.

The movie hammers hard that Cheney was able to establish power through behind-the-scenes building--his deft, focus group-polled changes of phrase could soften the blows of the most insidious actions. Christian Bale, who can sometimes seem so blindingly actorly--grunting and sweating through transformational machismo--never betrays Cheney's famous mellow-toned reservedness. Bale sells different stages of Cheney's life--from Levis' clad drunken Wyoming lineman lug to green Nixon-era White House startup to Chief of Staff to CEO creep to conniving veep. He is matched well by Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney (though her big opening scene seems strangely off--like a marathon warm-up). She ends up nailing the icy Republican shelled-hair shtick and makes even a badly corny line sing ("We don't burn our bras / we wear them"). Like the worst cinematic villains, these two are callow. hardened, and insular--the lighting in the film seems to get darker and darker, and in its wake, we don't see them lovingly opening themselves to the world, but whispering to one another at a Washington party or trading faux-Shakespearean barbs under a giant paisley comforter. Another wheel is Donald Rumsfeld, whose steely press conference grins while detailing war, are deep in my memory. He's played by Steve Carrell. Having recently seen Beautiful Boy, it's kind of startling how he can blend within a picture in two very different registers. 

Power is the main hook of the picture, of course. And it keeps building and cascading for everyone. Even the identity and fate of our affable narrator (Jesse Plemons), the shaper of our cinematic viewing, is uncertain for most of the film. With someone as soulless as Cheney--under all of the fire and detritus and money--he is just a mortal body. During a time where America has flat-lined once again (I exited this movie to the news of the network-televised border wall push, strands of Bernstein in my head), Vice forcefully reminds us of Bush / Cheney's devastating actions and how everything is still swirling in it. Stupidly, the movie filled me with much more dread and sadness than I predicted--even its silly comedic detours (like mid-way credits) are tinged with despair. Greig Fraser's lensing impressively tightropes around all-sorts of varying mediums--from television footage recreations of Colin Powell's (Tyler Perry) fateful UN speech to Cheney bathed in darkness in the open door of the Oval Office (one of my favorite shots). Hank Corwin's editing is slice-n-dice, which worked OK for me, considering the movie's expressionistic tendencies. I was rooting for McKay's ambition but the movie does however get a bit unwieldy as we clang along towards the end. We are left however with an appropriate wrap-up of sobering statistics and a freezing antithesis of Charlie Chaplin's rousing speech in the denouement of The Great Dictator. ***

-Jeffery Berg

"Dick" originally appeared in Issue 9 of Inertia Magazine.