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Isn't it remarkable how, as the years go by, the world keeps finding reasons to return to the Beatles? This time, of course,
the reason is
especially poignant.

A BACKWARD-LEANING
WEAK-END PLANNER

We Take a Segway Ride Down Memory Lane
"Nostalgia isn't what it used to be," Sam Phillips sang last summer, and at the time she seemed to be on to something. Since then, of course, nostalgia has made a dramatic comeback, as we seek comfort and reassurance in the familiar. That said, we're eager to discover how the gifted filmmaker Steven Soderbergh juxtaposes the romanticized past and the devalued present in his much-anticipated remake of Oceans 11. More tellingly, isn't it remarkable how, as the years go by, the world keeps finding reasons to return to the Beatles? This time, of course, the reason is especially poignant. As the death of George Harrison conjures up issues of mortality, lost innocence and loss in general, for those of us who grew up with this greatest of bands, we find ourselves returning a line from one of the last songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote together: "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead."

EARLY WARNING
Various, I Am Sam (V2, Jan. 8):
This 17-track collection (from what looks to be heartbreaking film starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer), which contains nothing but newly recorded covers of Lennon & McCartney songs, has a lot more on its mind than the typical rock soundtrack. Before the Beatles came along, pop music was almost exclusively an interpretive medium, but the Fab Four were primarily responsible for a sea change, as the songwriter and the performer became one.
          Unlike their Tin Pan Alley precursors, interpreters of the Beatles canon face the double challenge of not only presenting the song but also addressing the song's definitive arrangement. What's fascinating about this project—which doubles as the first truly high-profile tackling of the Beatles songbook—is how each of these contempo acts deals with these two related issues, in what adds up to a general quest for a rock-era interpretive milieu.
          A gratifying number of these efforts bear fruit, from down-to-the-bone acoustic approaches keying on vocal inflection and prevailing guitar figures (Sarah McLachlan's "Blackbird," as pristine as Ella Fitzgerald revisiting Cole Porter; the Wallflowers' rousing "I'm Looking Through You") to obsessively detailed revisitations (Ben Harper's "Strawberry Fields Forever"; the Vines' "I'm Only Sleeping"—and by the way, who are these guys?).
          To my ears, there are two milestones here, one from each methodology: Paul Westerberg absolutely owns "Nowhere Man" in a take that sounds as if his life depended on it, and Ben Folds isolates the intimate power of "Golden Slumbers" from the thrilling climax of Abbey Road with a performance that finds equal resonance in Paul's piano line, Ringo's drum fill and that heart-wrenching McCartney lyric, which opens, "Once there was a way to get back homeward." This is a sublime 1 minute 44 seconds, and I've already earmarked it as the climactic track of my year-end compilation CD.
          We don't live in a perfect world, but if we did, this album would be the O Brother, Where Art Thou? of 2002.
Bud Scoppa

TRAKIN'S PICKS TO FLICK
Ocean's Eleven (Warner Bros.):
Never bet against the house. In its aim to be a modern-day Casblanca, Steve Soderbergh's remake of the famed 1960 Rat Pack flick has a "number" of things going against it, including the unlucky "11" of the title and a 12/7/01 "day of infamy" release date, which, if you add it up individually, comes to 11. Taken together with the post-Sept. 11 malaise towards celebrity in general put the commercial prospects of this all-star George Clooney-led effort into question. After all, the original was essentially an excuse for Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey, et al., to hang out at the Sands during the filming and enjoy their role at the top of the pop culture heap, even entertaining JFK a visitor to the set. This remake tries to tap into all that high-roller bonhomie for a so-far depressed 21st century. Two months ago, a beleaguered public didn't want fantasy; maybe by now we welcome a shiny respite from grim realities with this high-gloss, wise-creacking genre tale. The group's unrelenting shilling has apparently won over the critics, with Soderbergh's handheld cinematography said to create a glistening adult wonderland that is as alluring and glittery as Vegas itself. Brad Pitt plays the wisecracking sidekick to Clooney's Danny Ocean as the two concoct an intricate plan to rob a stronghold containing funds from Andy Garcia's three casinos. The cast is peopled with the likes of Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle and old-timers Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner, while Julia Roberts plays the Angie Dickinson "broad" role, the girl who left Clooney for Garcia. The Warner Sunset soundtrack intersperses producer David Holmes' original score, traditional artists like Percy Faith, Perry Como, Arthur Lyman and Elvis Presley with newcomers Handsome Boy Modeling School. The www.oceans11.net website lays out the film using the Blue Note-style graphics. I'm intrigued, though the movie has to go a ways to top the spirit of '50 Vegas captured by my recent viewing of Reflections of the Rat Pack at the Flamingo Hotel in Laughlin, NV.

The Independent (Arrow Releasing): How can you not love this mockumentary about one-time shlock movie director Morty Fineman, played by none other than Seinfeld and King of Queens star (and father of Ben) Jerry Stiller, whose supposed resume includes such features as The Foxy Chocolate Robot and Heil, Titler? The movie, directed by Stephen Kessler, follows Fineman's ludicrous attempts to avoid his creditors and raise his loyalists for a comeback. The gifted supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo as the supportive daughter, with "fake" testimonials from Ron Howard, Paul Schrader, Peter Bogdonovich, Nick Cassavetes, Roger Corman, Ted Demme and Karen Black as well as clips from Fineman's wacky oeuvre. There are cameos from the likes of Stiller regulars Andy Dick, Ben, wife Anne Meara, footballers Fred Dryer and Fred Williamson, Dr. Katz creator Jonathan Katz as well as one-time Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten. If you caught Stiller's hilarious schmata salesman Maury Ballstein in son Ben's Zoolander and wanted more, here it is.

Last Orders (Sony Pictures Classics): An ensemble piece directed by Aussie Fred Schepisi (I.Q., Roxanne, Plenty, Barbarosa, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith) with Michael Caine, David Hemmings, Helen Mirren, Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins and Sexy Beast's Ray Winstone, based on the prize-winning novel by Graham Swift. The movie features a who's-who of British acting royalty as members of the unsung working class who fought World War II. Marking 40 years of camaraderie—and 70 years of lovingly recreated British history, the surviving buddies make a pilgrimage from South London to the shabby seaside resort of Margate to spread the ashes of their mutual friend, Caine's dead butcher, whose life is gradually revealed through his pals. It's all about the salt of the earth, just like Jagger and Richards sung on the recent Concert for New York City, "Make way for the hard-working people." The film's website is supposedly at www.sonyclassics.com, but darned if I could find it.

The Business of Strangers (IFC Films): Teen screen dream Julia Stiles decides it would be interesting to see how men view sex, which is the initial premise behind this black comic thriller from first-time writer-director Patrick Stettner. In a role reversal from the recent Mel Gibson starrer, What Women Want, Stiles as an amoral assistant to her successful boss, Stockard Channing, offer a man's-eye view of what women think men are thinking. The two embark on a drunken binge after they're stuck in an airport hotel overnight, resulting in an about-face on a dimwitted male colleague (Fred Willard) that sounds like the mirror image of unpleasant macho guy directors like Neil LaBute. Check thebusinessofstrangers.com for a website that allows you to interactively explore the film's sexual tension through a series of Polaroid pics, enter a contest and view the trailer.Roy Trakin

WHAT'S BOTHERING LIZ THIS WEEK?
The following utterances were overheard outside the office of HITS Crossover Editor Liz Montalbano:

"The office smells like shit. Not my office—my office 
          smells, like, nice."
"Someone stole my $20 Starbucks mug that I bought."
"My blinds are disgusting. They have to fix my blinds."
"I hate fucking Los Angeles. I hate everybody in it."
"Men suck. They all suck."
"There's not enough bottled water in my refrigerator."
"It's fucking freezing in here."

SITE OF THE WEEK
Your Ass Ain't Talking Your Way  Out of This Shit:
When all around you is confusion and doubt, when you're reduced to a blubbering mass by an uncertain economy and the venal backstabbers that surround you on all sides, there's nothing quite so invigorating as a pep talk from the cinema's premier badass, Samuel L. Jackson. And since it's hardly convenient for him to have to sit every one of you down and revive your shattered spirits with his rafter-rattling, tough-guy banter, how wondrous that you can piece together your own string of Sam-isms at the Samuel L. Jackson Soundboard. Here's my current set of affirmations: "This is some fucked up repugnant shit. Oh, I'm sorry—did I break you concentration? Well, allow me to retort. You're a smart motherfucker. That's right. You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down? My name's Pit. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop right there. Hold on to your butt. Mmmm Hmmm. Your ass ain't talkin' your way outta this shit. Ah, ah, ah—don't give me attitude, sir. This is a tasty burger." Simon Glickman

GUY WITH THE GOGGLES' NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
Jets +5 over PITTSBURGH

Holy moly, I know I'm gonna wanna K-I-L-L kill kill kill myself for pickin' the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. The Bus is gonna be parked on the sideline this week, the Jets are road dogs and 5 is jest too many points. For the sake of Joe Willie, please cover this here spread.

Chicago +6 over GREEN BAY
Shoot-fire, the Pack will probably win this game cuz they usually do when it's played in Green Bays. But the Bears usually cover the spread in this here game. Besides, Da Bulls suck so bad, somethin' good is bound to happen for the Bears. Besides that, Brian's Song jest played on teevee, and the Bears should win this one for good ol' Brian Piccolo. —Guy W.T. Goggles
(Year-to-date: 9-9)

PS2 GAME OF THE WEEK
Spy Hunter (Midway):
In its first incarnation in 1983, Spy Hunter had me addicted thanks to its simple but fun premise: drive around, get some cool weapons for your car and then blow up as much shit as possible. Nearly 20 years later, Midway gives me another outlet to vent my road rage, with the newly revamped Spy Hunter for PS2. While the G-1655 Interceptor is still the car of choice for this game, don't trip—it's been upgraded to fit the needs of any modern day road warrior. No, there aren't 20-inch wheels, nor TV's in the headrests, but this time around, it transforms into a speedboat, motorcycle and even a jet-ski! Armed with a new first-person driving perspective, even deadlier weapons, and some new tunes to roll to by Saliva, how can you go wrong?
Matt Chong

A NEW YORK MINUTE
Packaged Goods:
For all the boy-watching this weekend, plant yourself at Brownies. Friday night has Enon (John's cute!) and Love as Laughter (oh, that Sam!), Saturday has Turing Machine (that Scott's a looker!) and Sunday features Atom & His Package (damn, that Package is hot!). Sunday also marks the start of Yo La Tengo's eight straight nights of shows at Maxwells. I believe that all the shows may be sold out, but maybe you'll get lucky and someone will give you a ticket for Hanukah (or early Christmas). Heidi Anne-Noel

YOUR WEAK-END WEATHER
Throw Another Duraflame on the Fire: You there in NYC, your false spring had ended. Do you like cloudy weather in the upper 40s and nights in the upper 30s? What if you throw some rain into the mix? How you like me now? Yeah, it sucks doesn't it? The only that would be worse would be I if it got a little windy. Well, there's your weekend. Enjoy. Here in Los Angeles, where winter means nighttime temps in the upper 40s, it's also going to be partly cloudy with some wind. The only difference is temperatures in the 70s and 50s. Ain't that a bitch?
David Simutis, Senior Grumpy Meteorology Correspondent

NEAR TRUTHS: THE KYNCL-LOUSADA DANCE HAS BEGUN
This oughta be interesting... (9/30a)
GRAMMY CHEW:
RAP EDITION
Michael and Kyle find a feast of hip-hop to chew on. (9/30a)
CHART FINAL: VERANO INVADES FALL
Like a broken record... which it is, figuratively speaking. (9/30a)
HITS LIST: COUNTDOWN
TO ECSTASY
We enter the month that was once known as Rocktober. (9/30a)
HIS OWN ARCHITECT:
THE STEVE LACY BUZZ
It was a surprisingly easy "Habit" to break. (9/30a)
GRAMMY SEASON
New categories! New rules! New WTF!
THE BIG DEAL
It's the one you didn't see coming.
RAID AT MAR-A-LAGO
"Who took my passports?"
HITS' 36TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Allow us to apologize in advance.
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