Music Video Of The Day: God’s Gonna Cut You Down (2006, dir by Tony Kaye)


This is a case where I like the song more than the music video.  This video was actually filmed three years after Johnny Cash’s death.  As far as “official” music videos are concerned, I always feel like a musician should have some sort of say into how their music is visually interpreted.  Obviously, Johnny Cash wasn’t around to have anything to say about the video for God’s Gonna Cut You Down.

Since Cash wasn’t available, director Tony Kaye filled the video with cameos from other actors and musicians, a few of whom (though not many) were previous Cash collaborators.  Among the celebs who make an appearance in this video: David Allan Coe, Patricia Arquette, Travis Barker, Peter Blake, Bono, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Depp, the Dixie Chicks, Flea, Billy Gibbons, Whoopi Goldberg, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Hopper, Terrence Howard, Jay-Z, Mick Jones, Kid Rock, Anthony Kiedis, Kris Kristofferson, Amy Lee, Adam Levine, Shelby Lynne, Chris Martin, Kate Moss, Graham Nash, Busy Philipps, Iggy Pop, Lisa Marie Presley, Q-Tip, Corinne Bailey Rae, Keith Richards, Chris Rock, Rick Rubin, Patti Smith, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Brian Wilson, and Owen Wilson.  Some of the celebs — like Dennis Hopper and Kris Kristofferson — seem like they naturally belong there.  Others seem so out-of-place that you’ll want to throw something.  You know how that works,

God’s Gonna Cut You Down is a traditional folk song.  I’ve heard countless versions of it.  I prefer Cash’s version to the more traditional gospel arrangement but, then again, I tend to find gospel music to be dull in general.  Cash’s arrangement brought new life to an old song.

Enjoy!

Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)


Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

For Your Consideration #5: Begin Again (dir by John Carney)


Begin_Again_film_poster_2014

Continuing my look at ten films that deserve just as much awards consideration as Birdman, Selma, and The Theory of Everything, we now turn our attention to Begin Again.  Begin Again came out this summer and did pretty well both with audiences and critics.  While everyone seems to agree that Begin Again will probably get at least a nomination for Best Original Song, I think that it’s actually worthy of even more consideration.

Begin Again is the latest film from John Carney, who previously directed one of my favorite films of all time, Once.  Admittedly, Begin Again is nowhere near as good as Once but it’s still a charming film when taken on its own terms.

Mark Ruffalo plays Dan Mulligan, a record label executive who, at the start of the film, has definitely seen better days.  His marriage is collapsing, he’s struggling to connect with his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld),  and he’s just recently been fired from the company that he helped to found.  After a day of binge drinking, Dan finds himself in a bar where he hears Gretta James (Keira Knightley) sing a song.

Dan is immediately taken with Gretta’s music but she has issues of her own.  She had just broken up with her boyfriend and songwriting partner, Dave (Adam Levine, in his film acting debut). Though initially reluctant, Gretta eventually allows Dan to attempt to sign her to his former label.  However, Dan’s former partner (played by Mos Def) refuses to sign her which leads to Dan and Gretta independently producing an album together, with the gimmick that the album will be recorded at various public locations across New York.

There’s really not that much plot to Begin Again but that’s actually a huge part of the film’s appeal.  The film rejects melodrama and easy sentimentality and instead, it focuses on the characters.  (That said, Begin Again is definitely a sentimental movie but it’s sentimental in the best possible way.)  The movie is about how two different people come together and, for their own individual reasons, create something special.  Ruffalo and Knightley have a lot of chemistry, Levine is hilariously dorky, and Mos Def is entertaining as the epitome of everything that’s wrong with the music industry.  Best of all, Begin Again — much like Once before it — perfectly captures the thrill of artistic collaboration.  The scenes of Knightley and Ruffalo recording their album are exuberant celebrations of everything that’s wonderful about performance and expression.

And, of course, the music is great!