Monday, April 8, 2002

Big Trouble (Barry Sonnenfeld 2002): An almost complete misfire that illustrates one peril of adaptations: trying to stay too close to the novel. The book put a large group of characters, each with their own backstory, through a Rube-Goldberg-ish plot. For the film this becomes ten minutes of clumsy voice-over narration and then little more than actors jumping through hoops. The whole thing needed to be rethought in film terms, perhaps focusing on three characters and moving all the rest to supporting status. So you can wonder whether the short running time is a blessing or not. (And was the line about 2100 being 10 o'clock a mistake or a set-up for something that never happened?)


On the drive home last night I was flipping through the radio stations when an unfamiliar 60s garage song appeared. I stopped thinking it must be one of the college stations but surprise it turned out to be the big classic rock station. There followed The Sonics, The Knickerbockers and a live Aerosmith track which was far from what they usually consider "classic" and/or "rock." Best I can figure is that this was a syndicated show done by Steven Tyler, hence the Aerosmith and good choices. But it's a shame that it took this to bring such stuff to the station: usually there's a better chance hearing genuine garage on the feel-good oldies station. Three or four years back this classic rock station even went on a genuinely interesting programming binge where one weekend I heard Hatfield & the North and Gentle Giant, on a commercial station! Perhaps that's why this lasted only a few months and they went back to the usual classic rock (ie mainstream white guys from about 1970-85). Give the people what the big money has decided they want. Just as a couple of years ago the music director for WNNX (the local "alternative rock" station) appeared on CNN saying his job was to find new and exciting things to play. How odd, then, that their playlist was practically identical to numerous others across the country; when I checked there were precisely zero songs from indie labels. Presumably the only reason the MD's nose didn't grow is because he really believed he was making discoveries and not panning a washed out vein salted by the major labels. As John Lennon asked, "How do you sleep at night?" But that's probably typical of the mindset. Who needs Big Brother when the otherwise arbitrary rules are considered natural by the players? A couple of other big-time commercial DJs last week got onto the topic of a local college radio station when one wanted to illustrate what they play and groping for the weirdest stuff he could imagine came up with...."Brazillian music." Huh? This is somebody who's supposedly been professionally involved with music for years and he can't come up with anything stranger or more outre than what is on the whole some of the most blatantly commercial pop music on the planet? (Yeah yeah I love Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes and Tom Ze too but you know what I mean.) Or take the student station where I had a couple of shows, WVUA at the University of Alabama. I checked their playlist recently after hearing that they're just a baby commercial station and sadly that's true. Nothing innovative, not even anything non-innovative but at least independent. That Brazillian-music college station (where incidentally I've never actually heard anything Brazillian though they do have an entire Spanish-language show) here has some imaginative, unusual and truly exploratory programming but even if much of that is pretty mediocre at least it's something they discovered and felt worth giving a chance.


The video arcade had a boxing game where the player wears gloves wired to the machine and stands on apparently sensitized footpads to "box" against the video screen. It's the low-end of VR that has always been talked about so perhaps it's only a matter of time before more sophisticated versions become commercially plausible. (This could have had a headpiece with force-feedback though perhaps there's some potential legal problems.) The interesting thing is how the players would quickly start ducking and weaving even though there's no way for the machine to detect such motions.