Author: Janson Jinnistan

Statler and Waldorf

The Crisis of Criticism and Film Culture

It probably isn’t much of a shock that Americans, especially students, have declined in their critical thinking skills over the last 30 years or so. Of course, this observation tends to get shrugged off (uncritically, natch) as your typical brand of “these kids today”, except that, in fact, this decline has been studied and demonstrated, both culturally and in terms of education policy. The reaction to these facts tend to mirror the problem, with some people in confident denial and others in an unaffected apathy. Some suggest school uniforms, because knee-jerk, and uncritical, habits die hard. But it’s in the realm of culture that I want to focus on because critical thinking, in the popular form of media criticism, seems particularly damaging in the Information Age – a time when the process and digestion of information has become absolutely necessary to avoid the overwhelming absorption into the rudderless noise of the internet. When combating against niche echo chambers and some of the more ludicrous lengths people feel entitled to their opinion regardless of any qualitative …

DylanSmaller[1]

Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait Vs. The Basement Box

Bob Dylan has long been a dusty bitch, and, indeed, it’s one of his more enduring qualities. So it’s not out of character that Dylan will be releasing a new box set devoted to his maligned Self Portrait double album, which has historically been considered one of the worst records in his career. To add insult to injury, it has also been revealed that far more anticipated box sets, covering the Blonde on Blonde sessions (conversely, considered one of Dylan’s very best records, if not one of the very best in rock history) and a long awaited release of the full Basement Tapes, sit in wait for future release, each of which is apparently not as urgent as what’s being promoted as a “correction” to one of Dylan’s least interesting eras. And just to salt the wound a little more, the Another Self Portrait release will include a Basement-era surprise, “Minstrel Boy,” a recording that has eluded bootleggers, and, as Dylan aficionado Greil Marcus points out, “was never even rumored.” Marcus reviewed the original Self …

pacific-rim-monster-2[1]

Kaiju and Kikaiju: The Strange Beasts of Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro’s long awaited sci/fi epic, Pacific Rim, is soon upon us, and to prepare, we should take a look at the inspirations beneath it that run decades deep.  For those heathens unaware, Pacific Rim can be swiftly described as Giant Robots Vs. Giant Monsters.  Essentially, del Toro, having named the alien enemies in his film “Kaiju” is following the classic elements of Kaiju vs. Kikaiju, the two legendary boughs of Japanese action fantasy. The roots inevitably lead us to Nippon in the post-war 1950s.  Kaiju (literally “strange beasts”), best represented by the mighty Gojira (Godzilla) first spawned in 1954 from the Toho studios and former Kurosawa assistant Ishiro Honda, who was inspired by the American monster film from Ray Harryhausen, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), in which a reawakened Rhedosaurus from the Arctic wrecks havoc.  Gojira would become successful enough in Japan to launch the entire Kaiju genre, and with the re-edited American version, it would become an international sensation.  Many strange beasts followed – Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah and Gamera.  From the …

Richard Pryor

Pryor Restraint: Logic Omitted

It’s probably not the word the right word to call Richard Pryor an “underdog”, is it? One of the most financially successful stand-up comedians of all time, as well as celebrated – recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 1998; named the #1 Greatest Stand Up Comedian by Comedy Central in 2004. So what is it about the man that still compels fans to defend and protect his legacy? Is it that every fourth slob you meet who only knows him as “the black guy in that Superman movie”? Or is it because Pryor’s endearing and enduring genius was in his frequently honest and vulnerable revelation of pain? His stand up, at its best, was of an intensely intimate expression – chronicling his beloved banes of women and cocaine, but frankly, confessionally, showing the raw roots of these desires in his own emotional traumas, guilts, jealousies, shames and insecurities. But never self-pity. Like a great jazz or blues musician, he was capable of conveying a palpable inner pain, but with a dignity …