Archive for April, 2009

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Alive 1991 vs. Alive 2009

April 14, 2009

When you tamper with an album as awesome as Ten, it begs the question: legitimate remix or self-serving desecration?

Upon first listen of my favorite Pearl Jam track, Alive, I noticed how much louder it seemed. I immediately put on the original. Definitely subdued by comparison. But, also recognizable, correct. I couldn’t tell.

A few sleepless nights later, I decided to look at the waveform.

alive_original

Original 1991 Tim Palmer Mix - looks good to me

2009 Brendan O'Brien Remix

2009 Brendan O'Brien Remix - Um...that can't be good, can it?

I listened again, unsure of whether these images were influencing me the wrong way. The new mix now seemed too loud, while the original mix, which the band themselves seem to regard as amateur, nonetheless used its effects to enhance Vedder’s secrets and snarls, and it sounded more evenly distributed. I listened back and forth a few more times, my frustration growing…

There’s only one way to get to the bottom of this and know once and for all whether this re-release is the real deal. A side-by-side listen to both tracks.

I rigged this up in Final Cut Pro. The top tracks represent the original 1991 version from Ten while the lower tracks are from the 2009 remix.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Personally, while I may feel guilty losing some of the bassline and all of the vocal effects, (mainly out of nostalgic loyalty for every last nuance of the original), there’s no denying that the new cut delivers more of what made the track a classic in the first place: Vedder’s powerful command of the vocals which (unfairly) draw comparisons to Robert Plant and the dynamic interplay between guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. These elements are stripped of any “produced” sound,  brought front and center and made loud. As you listen to the side-by-side you can literally hear the band’s balls disappearing every time it switches back to the original mix. When Gossard’s epic solo kicked off, it laid whatever was left of my skepticism to rest.

It almost seems unfair that this new offering could become the definitive version. I’ve since heard the rest of the album and can say it’s a pretty sweet improvement that seemed totally unwarranted. Double surprise!

Winner: Alive (2009)

I know there are bound to be purists who’d have me burned for saying so…

What do you think of the new remix?

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Double Feature: Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday

April 9, 2009

Just in time for Easter! If you’re hard up for something to do this weekend after all the church and chocolate eggs, why not kick back and take in two amazing British films starring one of the most talented, criminally neglected actors still going. The inimitable Bob Hoskins. Best known for his performance as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, here’s your chance to catch up with a few of his star-making turns that lead up to that role.

I’ve been struggling to decide which film to recommend watching first. Both films represent the best examples of solid gangster pictures and yet, they couldn’t be more different, nor could the performances given by Bob Hoskins be any more diametrically opposed. Best to start with a bang I suppose.

The Long Good Friday

“I’m not a politician. I’m a businessman.”

If you grew up idolizing Tony Montana and Michael Corleone, just wait until you meet Harry Shand. Bob Hoskins’ pit bull of a mob boss finds himself on the cusp of a huge international land deal that will see East London’s Docklands become his very own empire. However, just as he’s wining and dining his American backers for the last time a series of bombs and murders threatens his enterprise and kills off several of his loyal crew. What makes this film so impressive is that it spoon-feeds us nothing. We are as clueless as Harry as to what’s happening and more importantly, why. A whodunit this complex just begs to fail, but TLGF hangs in there effortlessly on the strength of its performances from a variety of familiar faces including Helen Mirren, Eddie Constantine and a young Pierce Brosnan in his first film role.

But in the end, it’s Harry’s sheer brute magnetism that keeps us rooting for him when we know full well he’s as big a bastard as the ones trying to destroy him. Director Peter Mackenzie does a wonderful job keeping up the pace in a film with more questions than answers while DP Phil Meheux comes up with more than a handful of truly impressive camera setups which never call attention away from the plot. Make no mistake, this isn’t one of Guy Ritchie’s hyperkinetic, dub-fuelled bits of British eye candy. This is an authentic gangster film the likes of Mean Streets or Eastern Promises. It doesn’t need to demand your attention with flashy gimmicks; within the first few minutes you know had best give it over or find something else to watch. So please, take my advice and make the effort. By the time you reach TLGF’s brilliant, brave ending you’ll have been amply rewarded on your investment.

Make this Good Friday a long one!

Mona Lisa

Same setting, same decade, same underworld, completely different experience. Where Bob Hoskins’ Harry Shand was virtually devoid of any emotion except rage and desire, his Oscar-nominated performance as George, an ex-con struggling to find his place in a criminal enterprise that’s moved on without him, is rife with sentiment.

After being turned away by his ex-wife and daughter, George reconnects with his old friend Thomas (a pre-Cracker Robbie Coltrane) and takes a job driving for Cathy, a high-end prostitute operating in London’s West End. Though clearly at odds when they first meet, Cathy eventually enlists George to help her find a young prostitute she once suffered with under the hands of a brutal pimp. Neil Jordan plays tour guide through the seedy underground clubs and porno shops that George is drawn to in his search for the young girl. Hoskins plays the role brilliantly as a character almost completely clueless as to how to behave in his surroundings. He’s more than rough around the edges, no doubt a result of his being incarcerated for seven years. There’s a wonderful gag when George is first introduced to the technological wonder that is the pager. But what he lacks in intelligence, he more than makes up for with heart. Simply put, this has got to be one the most endearing portraits of a criminal ever committed to film. George is a decent man, clearly evidenced by the way he swaps detective stories with Thomas as well as his unyielding efforts to reintroduce himself to his estranged daughter (who reminds him a little too much of the prostitute he’s looking for).  But it’s more than just that, Hoskins really manages to break your heart several times over when trying to introduce the same decency to Cathy and criminal lord Mortwell (as played by a menacing, mean-spirited Michael Caine). I promise you will feel his frustrations and his helplessness and the violent ending might just bring you to tears as we see a man teetering on the edge of emotional collapse.

Just how bleak is this film? Consider the exchange when George asks Cathy why a pimp would run one of his girls from a church.

“It’s the only place no one ever goes,” she coolly replies.

Bob Hoskins has seen his profile lowered to supporting roles in films like Maid in Manhattan and Son of the Mask. This Easter, lets pray he can resurrect his career one last time with a performance to rival either of these.

Happy Easter from Filmpunk!

(PS. I’ve not included trailers for either of these as I felt they gave away too much).