Abraxas by Santana (1970) ** and Headhunter (2011) ***1/2

Abraxas by Santana (1970) ** First Full Listen

I hate George Lopez. He’s not funny. He shoots for the lowest common denominator, easiest jokes. He took a kidney from his wife and then divorced her. He’s the Mexican Jay Leno. Except, he’s also appointed himself America’s Hispanic Comedic Voice. C’mon Latino’s, shoot higher.

And that’s how I feel about Santana. They’re the George Lopez of music. Just because you’ve been around forever, doesn’t make you the king. Oye Como Oy Vey!

I saw Santana at Saturday in the Park. Let’s be more specific, I was in the same outdoor area with Santana. They were lifeless, bland, unengaging and played all that Mexican themed jam rock. So, five songs, forty-five minutes. No impression. I think some people play Santana the way some elevators play music. Outdoor BBQ music for an under attended cook-out. Background.

Abraxas is mostly instrumental in that jam rock way. Jam rock combines, to me, the worst elements of rock with the worst elements of jazz into a song that won’t end. Add the some hispanic spice. Now, it doesn’t end with bongos, because if you’re Santana, everybody in the zillion piece band gets some kind of solo in every song. Every song besides the two hits and two others are an instrumental. With solos. Did I say instrumental, I meant to spell ‘filler.’

Jam Rock takes what should sound like freedom, man, freedom of sound and calculates it down to an everybody gets to play aesthetic. Math rock has less math. The few live tracks at the end of the CD bear this out. They sound like note for note bad remixes of the same overlong songs from earlier in the album. C’mon, in the 18 years since it’s original release and the reissue, you couldn’t find a decent version of Black Magic Woman? Not very rock and roll. Not at all jamming.

The only passable songs are the two hits you know and Hope Your Feeling Better.

Oh, and Carlos Santana, the hat is looking played out. Take it off.

Do It: Stroganoff. It’s good.

Avoid It: Rancid Stroganoff. It’s rancid.

The Tweeter: Did you know grammarians Strunck and White would team up to rape babies and cheat at cards? Not true, but certainly nicer than their real accomplishment. #thatstupisstylebook

The Facing Book: Horrible pun based on picture in post. Repeat.

Bonus Movie Review:

Headhunters (2011) ***1/2 First Viewing

Art thieves make good movie anti-heroes. Yea, they’re bad guys, but who can be that mad at them? They’re stealing from the one percent. Boo, the one percent, go Robin Hood on his ass. Also, to most, art prices seem to be not only inflated, but arbitrary. The targets are seen as shallow status seekers or richer than God with the ego to match. Plus, there’s the whole sexy cat burglar aspect. I think that’s why there’s been more Art heist movies than actual art heists.

Roger is an art thief motivated by the oldest of motivations, the ridiculously hot girlfriend he’s trying to keep. Rogers’s pretty up-front about it, he’s short and not the best looking (think a Swedish Steve Buscemi which is is still pretty good looking, just not for Sweden) and he’s overcompensating.

By day, he’s a CEO headhunter for tech corporations and by other part of the day he’s an art thief. He uses the information he gleams in the recruitment process to find wealthy art owners and how to steal from the. He’s extremely competent at both jobs and likable because he knows his flaws.

Then he meets Jamie Lannister. Ok, the handsome actor who plays Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones. Still, Jamie Lannister. While it’s a cliché of heist movies to ‘have that one last big heist,’ Roger sets up that his goal was always, one big heist and out.

After the first third set up, the movie switches into full forward focused motion, like a shark. Roger gets put into some pretty intense situations and uses his wits to get out of them, believably. For action movies, I have a rule similar to the three stupid moves rule of horror movies, the action hero can benefit from “dumb luck” three times, then he’s out. I counted only one time I thought the hero got dumb lucky, everything else fell into the realm of plausibility and some of it was just downright clever, which is always the hope.

Shaun suggested this Swedish movie to me and it’s a great movie if you’re a fan of the “Things go badly” heist movies, which I am. And don’t be put off by it being a foreign movie with subtitles. There’s a lean American sensibility of the best American heist films in Headhunters. Certainly, if this was in English, it’s make a tidy profit in the USA. I hope it doesn’t get remade. Bigger (more explosions, car chases, etc) would not be better. The movie is intense precisely because it’s not big and dumb. The twists aren’t random or outrageous or crazy, but used to increase the tension and the immediacy of Rogers’s problems.

There’s zero gristle. Everything that is shown is used and not always the way you would expect. It’s crisp and easy to follow with a lead you can root for and damn, are those Swedes a handsome bunch. Although Steve Buscemi would be an ok choice for an American Roger. And Jamie fuckin’ Lannister.

Things I learned from Headhunters:
—If Jamie Lannister wants a job, get him that job.
—Be careful of moles when shaving your head with an old disposable razor. Okay, I knew that, but it’s an ongoing fear.
—Swedes got no problem with nudity which is awesome.
—The main character has a great answer to the question, “What were the worst ten minutes of your life?”

Next Up: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Aftermath (1994), The 400 Blows (1959), or Africa Brasil by Jorge Ben (1976).

200 Motels (1971) ** and Bring Me the Head of Alberto Garcia (1974) ***

200 Motels (1971 ) ** First Full Viewing

In the beginning of the creative process, ‘Yes’ is good word. Say yes to as many ideas as you can. Especially if what your making isn’t heavily plot-driven, if you’re chasing an emotion or abstract idea.

However, there becomes a point where the yes ideas need to have import in the art, the ‘yesses’ should have meaning—-to theme or to emotion or to plot or to pace.

Has Frank Zappa ever had idea he didn’t pursue or throw in there? Just for fun? Because no one, Zappa included, ever said whoa there, think it through.

I had my GFF Shelly also watch 200 Motels with me. Hopefully, she’ll comment. Shelly was to give me another perspective. You see, I should like Frank Zappa. He’s weird, he’s funny, he’s in the underground. I’ve tried in the past to like him, all failed. And while there are some bright spots, generally the more focused comedy pieces, Frank Zappa’s art is busy mess. Say, no to something. All yes makes the yes irrelevant.

Overworked. That’s the word. Sometimes, the best quality of an artist is knowing when the fuck to leave the art alone. To be done. I could be wrong on their motivations, I think Zappa and The Mothers of Invention don’t know when to stop screwing with their movie and some of their songs. So, it’s all (now) dated chroma key tricks ahoy. Just because you can edit and loop video doesn’t mean you should. I always suspect when I see re-used shots, cheap fast/slow rewind, and a general overuse of video tricks as a transparent effort to ‘fix’ missing shots, under shooting and lack of a story.

I don’t know the back story to the production, but here’s my theory:

Hey guys, I got this studio space for a week starting tomorrow. Let’s make a movie. We’ll figure it out while we’re shooting.

The Mothers of Invention have been on the road forever. 200 Motels. They all go more bonkers from being on the road, I dunno, maybe it’s drugs? Songs are sang. Sketch-like flights of fancy are are taken. Ringo Starr plays Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa is barely there. Keith Moon is a nun groupie who dies (?) of an overdose (eewwww, like real life). Everyone knows they’re in a movie and talks about it all the time, that’s kinda neat. 200 Motels is an early example of the now popular meta entertainment trend. Pre-meta, if you will.

Tim and Eric is a good example of the new meta entertainment using a lot of the modern old-timey video tricks to create an overall strange-land effect. The difference is these tricks are used for a purpose. A winking purpose. Zappa may be making some inside jokes about the freak lifestyle, but they no longer stand up. Also, any sketch-based movie is usually, inherently uneven. 200 Motels has more misses than hits.

Also, 200 Motels‘s kitchen sink approach doesn’t build toward much, just noise. Maybe I don’t get it. Early music video? Granted, I liked the last third more than the rest of the film, but I think that’s just Stockholm Syndrome.

Things I Learned?

—The Mothers of Invention really hate Frank Zappa. He’s a dictator and a puppet master who steals their ideas. I’m sure it’s just an extended lame joke.
—This movie has talked directly to my penis more than I ever have. Guess I should talk to my penis more. Seems like our conversation ended years ago.
—I can see why teens might like it, TMOI say a lot naughty words. Funny, naughty words.
—Ringo Starr can actually be not funny or likable. Who knew? First time in his career.
—If you’re going as Frank Zappa for Halloween, just get a weird mustache/goatee and a purple long-sleeved turtleneck sweater.
—Drugs are bad?

Do It: The Fiery Furnaces. Like Zappa, TFF’s music is filled with abrupt tonal shifts, looped lyrics and strange instrumentation. Unlike Zappa, there’s a more of a cohesive feel and weird logic at work.

Avoid It: Season two of The Killing. I now know who killed Rosie Larsen. Blah. Blah. Blah, not worth the time investment. With very little forward motion, the–I’m guessing–series finale could have run after the season one finale. Oh, and the show spent most of the last episode trying to glorify and redeem all the characters that it once needed as suspects. You know, except the killer. Killer bad. The good news, I don’t have to think about The Killing anymore.

The Tweeter: True Blood stole my idea I had for a marketing opportunity for True Blood a week ago. Maker’s Mark Whiskey. A groupie was drinking it tonight. #iwastoolate #makersmarkambassador

The Facing Book: A fun (?) game you can play while out dining. When you’re ease dropping on another table, pick one person. Imagine that everyone else at the table is about to take that person to jail or rehab without their knowledge. The stupid everyday conversation they’re having suddenly seems way more important, way more tension-filled.

Bonus Movie Review:

Bring Me the Head of Alberto Garcia (1974) *** First Viewing

The weather’s been in full summer mode, so I was in the mood for a western. A movie where everyone was miserable from heat. I thought BMTHOAG would be a classic Sam Peckinpah western. Not so much, but it is a classic Pekinpah movie. Morally compromised men. Lots of slow-mo shooting. A story that goes sideways. And everyone is miserable.

Alfredo Garcia is the movie’s MacGuffin, everybody wants him. Actually, like 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Alfredo Garcia’s head is the MacGuffin. A million bucks for said head. It’s a mad, mad, mad head.

Warren Oates is a down on his luck American bartender in Mexico. Think Rockford without the PI badge. He gets his prostitute girlfriend to help him find Al Garcia. And at its heart, the film is a love story. Like Sid and Nancy or Bonnie and Clyde is a love story. Although, for a movie with rape in it, the love story is kind of sweet and an effective motivator.

They drive around third world Mexico in a crappy car. Mexicans in crappier cars chase them. There’s a rape break with Kris Kristopherson. Then, things get weird, go bad. Things get shooty.

Warren Oates is fantastic as he slowly slips off the sanity burrito, wearing big sunglasses, shabby clothes, drinking tequila. That toothy, grim smile. His performance makes the film. The ramshackle, mostly plausible plot is engaging. Surprisingly good, but quick ending.

If you’ve liked any other Peckinpah movie (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs), you should like this unconventional Peckinpah movie.

Things I learned from BMTHOAG:

—Do NOT sleep with El Jeffe’s daughter. He will not like you.
—Pay more to have a pubic lice free hotel room.
—Ice. What can’t it do? Especially in hell.
—You can live on Tequila alone. I’ve always wondered.

Next Up: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Aftermath (1994), The 400 Blows (1959), or Abraxas by Santana (1970).