Jul 102015

OK, so Love & Mercy Week wasn’t the thread-a-day, gripping discussion shot in the arm to Rock Town Hall that I’d hoped it would be. Traffic to the site continues to be down, and Facebook and actual telephone calls continue to be an easy way out for even regulars to discuss threads outside the forum. One Townsman was content to air his objections to my movie review via private messages on Facebook, while E. Pluribus Gergely, the man who accompanied me to the movie felt his daily phone calls with encouragement for my “great work” would do the job. Offlist feedback and deep friendship are much appreciated, but that’s not why any of us drafts a post for public consumption in the Halls of Rock.

Who knows, perhaps enough people haven’t seen the movie to focus on my follow-up piece regarding Dennis Leary’s involvement. Regardless, as too often is the case, life (including work) got in the way of me drafting all the excellent threads I had in mind. In case you’d like to pick up any of the projected threads that I’m not going to have time to flesh out, they are as follows:

  • Friday the 13th: Eugene vs Murray
  • Paul Dano Seals Best Performance in a Terrible Movie Oscar
  • Antisemitism in Love & Mercy
  • Love & Mercy Through the Prism of the Manson Family

The one thread that I will complete this week is the concern I’ve had with Beach Boys worship since the late-’80s. It’s an issue I don’t believe will ever be resolved until my hot mute cavewoman of the prehistoric future drops the needle on “I Get Around” in the Cave of the Forbidden Zone.

Jul 072015
Dennis Leary (far right) as Dennis Wilson.

Dennis Leary (far right) as Dennis Wilson.

There was much to take in during a recent screening of the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, which Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely and I took in over the weekend. My overall critique appeared yesterday and is still open to discussion, but I plan on spending the rest of this week examining some of the finer points of the film. Today I’d like to discuss the troubling casting of a young Dennis Leary as Dennis Wilson as well as the broader issues I had with other casting decisions in regard to the ’60s-era Beach Boys.

I’ve grown to like Dennis Leary over the years, although I found his entire act entirely contrived when he burst on the scene with his MTV faux-chain-smoking rants. (He never looked like he inhaled, did he? Bogus!) Anyhow, Leary grew on me a bit when he followed up his failed fallen cop show with that fallen fireman show, Rescue Me. For the first time he struck me as actually passionate about something: himself playing this character. The show and Leary’s commitment too it were absurdly sincere. Although I rarely appreciated the show at anywhere but chuckling arm’s length, the peak into Leary’s humble freak aspirations helped me appreciate him and his act. It was an impressive run.

Even more impressive is how Leary transformed himself into a young man for his role in Love & Mercy. The problem, however, is twofold:

Jul 062015
Brian plays Melinda his early sketch of "Lick My Love Pump."

Brian plays Melinda his early sketch of “Lick My Love Pump.”

There’s a scene early in Say Anything 2: The Healing of Brian Wilson, in which John Cusack’s Brian attempts to find the condo of his new infatuation and future wife, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) by walking in circles and calling her name up to the dozen balconies overlooking the courtyard of her complex. I kept expecting Cusack to pull out a boombox and serenade his new infatuation with Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” There were some strong scenes in Say Anything 2, when the story inexplicably strayed from the middle-aged exploits of our hero, Lloyd Dobler, and zoomed back to the 1960s, to follow a confusing parallel tale of a brilliant, troubled musician during the creation of his band’s masterpiece, Pet Sounds, but the Dobler-Ledbetter second-chance-at-love scenes, set anachronistically around the same time as the original film’s timeframe, could not have been what any fans of the original Cameron Crowe classic were expecting!

Jun 022015
What's right and wrong about the casting of Paul Dano as Brian Wilson?

What’s right and wrong about the casting of Paul Dano as Young Brian Wilson?

A new biopic on Brian Wilson is coming out, Love & Mercy. I will likely dread seeing this, as is the case with almost any artist biopic, but I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to rock biopics and I do like John Cusack, who I read was set to star as the troubled genius behind the Beach Boys and the puppet for a succession of hangers-on, charlatans, and certainly well-intentioned healthcare professionals and adoring musicians. Then I saw this still from the movie. “That’s not John Cusack,” I exclaimed in my head, “it’s that creepy guy I don’t like!” I had to look him up to be sure: Paul Dano, a talented actor with a knack for playing troubled, annoying guys, but an actor worthy of the shotgun nevertheless.

It turns out Dano plays Young Brian Wilson, which I’m sure he’ll be good at, subtly projecting even Young Brian’s obvious anxieties. The more I studied this still from the movie, however, the more I started thinking about the Pros and Cons of this casting decision. I’ll leave it to you to get inside my head—and to share your thoughts on the casting of Dano and Cusack as one of the greatest songwriters of the 1960s.

Check out the whole cast here. I don’t know who the guy is who’s playing Mike Love, but I’m counting on him to deliver!

Jan 162015

We have a sick boy at home, so that means movie time—and he’s young enough (7) to watch just about anything that shows up on TCM without much complaint. Earlier this week, a movie called Hootenanny Hoot was on—and who pops up but a young Johnny Cash, looking pretty doggone cool.

The movie, which is sort of a cash-in on the early ’60s folk movement, isn’t very good, but does include a couple of great performances by Judy Henske. She kind of steals the show for me because they only have the one Cash song. I’d never heard of her, but she seems like a precursor of Janis and Grace Slick. I guess her most famous song is an early version of “High Flyin’ Bird,” which predates the Jefferson Airplane cover by 3 years or so.

I also like movies that pop in surprises—like Marshall Crenshaw playing Buddy Holly in La Bamba  or Aimee Mann in The Big Lebowski.

What are some of your favorite artist cameos: musical performance or acting?

Jan 062015

My holiday break was fantastic! If yours was even half as good, I’m sure you feel the same. I hope so, but really: my break was even better. Up front we knocked out our holiday stuff, spent quality time with family, then had a couple of days of doing almost nothing before closing out the holiday break with quality time with friends. I got a lot done during the days of doing almost nothing, including tearing through a cool new Beatles/Beach Boys book, entitled Manson. There was a brief interruption of my holiday break, when I had to return to work on Friday, January 2, but before I knew it the weekend was here. I spent the final fews hours of my holiday break catching up on a bunch of rock docs I’d saved in my Netflix queue for months:

  • Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
  • Ain’t in it for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm
  • Twenty Feet From Stardom

My impressions follow. I’m curious to know what recent rock docs you’ve watched that you’d recommend (or not).

Nov 042014

A few years ago the dearly missed Happiness Stan wrote up a piece on an English cult artist I’d never heard about before, Frank Sidebottom. Despite Stan’s typically charming and personal presentation, this artist was hard to swallow. However, I had to give Sidebottom props, at first site, for being annoyingly funny. After that post faded from The Main Stage and after Happiness Stan faded from these Hallowed Halls I never gave Frank Sidebottom another thought…until this past summer, when my wife and I were desperate to see a new movie and came across the description of something called Frank.

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