Africa Brasil (1976) **** and Don’t Go In the Woods (2011) *

Africa Brasil by Jorge Ben (1976) **** First Listen

Wow, what a surprise. I recognized the first song immediately. I listened to it about a hundred times on an old Brazilian music collection put out by David Byrne. Talking Heads are probably my favorite band, so I collect everything the band has put out, plus all the solo stuff. In 1989 Bryne started a record label to highlight Brazilian pop music and the lead track on Africa Brasil and the BPM collection was this track. He even made a video for it. Ponta de Lanca Africano, that’s the name of the grooviest non-Talking Head Talking Head song ever released.

Okay, so I don’t speak Brazilian, so I have no idea what the songs are about. He could be screaming, “Kill the Jews,” over and over, but damn is it funky. Actually, after a little research, most of the songs are about innocuous subjects like sports and love.

My first thought on hearing the album was, “I know where Bryne and band borrowed their mid-period Afro-funk Talking Heads sound.” And that’s my favorite period of Talking Head‘s records.

My second thought was, “Shut up, stupid. Just groove.” This album is all dense Afro-funk groove. Ben’s warm voice is just another element in the tight arraignments balanced against the light, airy backing vocals.

I’m not sure what else to say, except it’s a timeless record I’ll listen to a lot. If you have even a passing interest in Brazilian music or mid-period Talking Heads, give it a listen. And dance.

I did check out a few other Jorge Ben albums and while they were good, leaning more to the Latin mix, Africa Brasil is a bigger and tighter album. James Brown and Fela Kuti would be proud.

Do It: Nap. Tired. Sleep.

Avoid it: The new Smashing Pumpkins CD. I only listened to the first four tracks. Where’s the emotion, Billy? The sound’s feeling old.

The Tweeter: I hope when Abraham Lincoln stakes a black vampire he says, “Now, you’re a free man!” all cool-like. #notinmovieihope

The Facing Book: “No one ever reads my posts. Please post something if you’ve read this,” Every 13 year old girl every on Facing Book.

Bonus Movie Review:

Don’t Go In the Woods (2010) * First Viewing

I was looking for a modest slasher movie to clear my brain after writing last night. Ugh. Directed by and story by semi-famous actor, Vincent D’Onofrio, Don’t Go In the Woods is an extremely generic slasher pic masquerading as an excuse to film some band’s songs. As someone who sees a lot of horror movies, and even likes some musicals, I’d like to write to Vincent directly….

Dear Vincent,

As an actor, I think you’re great. If you’re in a movie, I’ll probably see it. I picked this movie based solely on your name as director. You seem like a smart guy. (I know, here comes the but…sorry)

But Vincent, watch some more horror movies before making another one. Especially the sub-genre of horror that you are trying to do. True horror fans know the genre can be used to say something else, like you tried. A note: even the point about artists and greed and ego and how creativity can be a poison has been done to death in many, many horror movies. As horror fans, we’ll go along with that.

But what is beyond tiresome are the many ‘stuck in the woods with a serial killer’ tropes. You did them all. People unaware of their surroundings. Completely unprepared or even willing to change their plans when trouble starts. People acting completely irrational. The authority figure who’s late, so he dies before anyone knows he’s coming. The parade of dead bodies the female lead runs into as she’s screaming. Oh, she falls down.

And while the reason they didn’t have cell phones was dumb/plausible, every horror fan knew the ending the second you did it.

I get it, you needed to get someone to pay for you to film this band singing songs and wrapping it around a horror movie gets cash, but the songs had only the most tangential relation to the plot. I know you saw the Buffy episode Once More with Feeling, because you cribbed some shots. Did you notice how the songs progressed the plot and the character’s emotion? Not just emotion. Take the songs out and nothing’s changed and we have a 30 minute short. And it’s a thirty minute short horror fans have seen before.

Some good points. When actors direct, they tend to like actor close-ups. This is the best way to go if you have actors who can command the screen. Um, the acting and singing was, politely, uneven. The girls usually did the best, but the boys had the biggest load to carry. You had many innovative shots and each chuck was well directed. Sadly, two back to back songs stop a movie dead.

My favorite part of most serial killer movies is the moment all the teens figure out shit is crazy and start to freak out, it usually happens to start the third act. Your third act hit with 10 minutes left in the movie.

The directing was fine and I’ll check out you next movie. There’s potential. Try a drama, horror’s harder than it looks.

Thanks and have a nice day,
Full Metal Jacket was awesome.


Things I learned from Don’t Go Into the Woods:

—Do not chop up your tennis shoes with an axe just for fun, you will step on broken glass within 30 seconds.
—Never give your cell phone to megalomaniacal indie band leaders. They will chop them up with an axe.
—Axes, great for chopping up stuff.
—If you’re in a crappy indie band in the middle of the woods, hot chicks will appear out on nowhere like in a beer commercial. To par-tay.
—The guy with the two T-shirts, “Let’s Hug It Out” and “I Pee Excellence” really deserved to die.
—This lyric by the blind guy in the band. Yes, the crappy indie band has a blind guy and an Asian guy, “I am blind and I do not want to see.” Most of the lyrics were are these simple verbal negations. Tiresome.
—The movie does the stupid blind joke, “Hey, I hear something, nah, it’s nothing.” Twice. And then don’t pay off the set-up later.
—Watered down Wilco mixed with screaming Emo lyrics is not good.
—Oh, Eric Bogosian, you’re Vincent’s best friend for showing up for 10 seconds at the end.

Ack, taking a day off. Post not up to my mediocre standards…..

Next Up: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Alien (1979), screenThe 400 Blows (1959), or After the Gold Rush by Neil Young (1970).

2 thoughts on “Africa Brasil (1976) **** and Don’t Go In the Woods (2011) *

  1. shells June 22, 2012 / 12:50 pm

    Dear Bryan,
    Thank you for your letter, I appreciate your input. You brought up some good points and I will take them into consideration next time. I’m glad to hear you liked Full Metal Jacket, it’s one of my favorites.
    By the way, did you know that I am on your girlfriend’s Celebrity Freebie list? It’s true, I’m up there with Penn Jillette, Worf, and Nick Kroll as El Chupacabra. After Todd Glass went on Marc Maron, I got bumped up. Just thought you’d like to know.
    She doesn’t care what you thought of Don’t Go Into The Woods. She’d still do me.
    Love, Vincent


  2. gebryan June 22, 2012 / 12:54 pm

    Well Vincent,
    I’ll have her watch the movie and give Todd Glass another chance.
    Gay or not.


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