Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is a magnificent first film by Xan Cassevetes, with which I'm magnificently obsessed. This 2004 doc tells the tales of both the Z Channel, a groundbreaking pay-cable channel in Los Angeles in the '70s and '80s, and Jerry Harvey, who was Z's programming head for most of its existence. Is it a groundbreaking film of the kind you've never before seen? Nope, but with subject matter this fascinating, it doesn't particularly need to be. Z was the first place that Michael Cimino's director's cut of Heaven's Gate as shown in the U.S. Same with Bertolucci's 1900 [thanks Alfred], Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America, and the original 6-hour German TV miniseries of Das Boot, and, and... But Z also showed Purple Rain, and Silver Streak, and The Empire Strikes Back. It if was good, and they (largely meaning Harvey) liked it, it aired, uncut and commercial free, (unfortunately for the rest of the country) only in L.A. Its influence on legions of filmmakers (Quentin Tarantino and Alexander Payne, come on down!) can't be overstated. Legions of filmmakers, including Tarantino and Payne, along with Robert Altman, Paul Verhoeven, and Jim Jarmusch, share reminiscences of Z here, along with actors (Jacqueline Bissett, James Woods), former Z employees, and many others, explicating just what Z Channel so important, so revolutionary in its time. As if that weren't enough to hold your interest, Harvey was a paranoid (likely manic) depressive who killed his wife and then committed suicide one night in 1988; his story, as sad as it is at points, is as compelling as that of his beloved Z Channel. The DVD release has a bonus disc of material that further enlightens; every film buff and fan should see this film.

Other things I'm loving at the moment:
-The photos of "Hip Hop Kings and Queens" and, separately, Hurricane Katrina survivors in the new Vanity Fair.
-New Order's Singles (currently only available as a London UK import in the U.S.), which is the about-damned-time long-needed double-disc retrospective on the Mancunian giants (the single-disc comps don't dig deep enough, and the Retro box is too messily sprawling; sure, 4 tracks from Sirens' Call is a bit of overkill, but for the rest of what you get, I'll take it). Warning, though: it's truth in advertising; these are single edits and mixes, which may disconcert some.
-"Jimmy Lee" (#2 R&B/#28 pop), the first single from Aretha Franklin's 1986 album Aretha (a/k/a 'After Who's Zoomin' Who, How Ya Like Me Now?'). This is blindingly, simply, good, in spite of (really, in large part because of, as much as it pains me) Narada Michael Walden. The chorus is so sweet, so Aretha-perfect, it can't not get you, unless you have a cold, metal heart. Why reading credits is fun: Acoustic Bass: Randy Jackson, as in Paula's pal.
-The Amazing Race: The First Season makes for damned fine DVD viewing, especially if (like me) you've not seen it (I started watching during the season of the Reichip). It's certainly better than the current "Family Edition," which I'm about one more flat episode from abandoning.
-His prose is as good as his songs, that asshole: Chronicles, Volume One definitively proves that Bob Dylan is just a fucking genius, and we (meaning the rest of the non-Bob Dylan world) just have to deal with it.

How does "Singles" stack up next to "Substance", though?
Disc one of 'Singles' includes most all of disc one of 'Substance.' Since disc two of the latter was largely b-sides, they don't show up on the former (save for '1963' and 'Touched By the Hand of God').
Yeah, but I really like those extended 12' mixes. "Touched By The Hand Of God" is too recent for Substance, which is really too bad. So I really am torn - the good latter day songs, or better versions of the old ones?
Well, since Substance will never get remastered, hold on to your copy of that, and pick of Singles in addition to (rather than instead of) it.
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