R&B and Soul legend Bobby Womack has passed away at the age of 70. One of the classic “middleweights” of the African-American music scene in the 1960s & 70s, Womack made hugely popular singles that, like Tyrone Davis and Johnny Taylor, charted big time in R&B but did not have the crossover appeal of a Marvin Gaye or Al Green as radio was becoming more & more re-segregated.
Mentored by the legendary Sam Cooke, Womack followed a similar trajectory by emerging from strong Gospel roots to perform “profane” secular music. That connection was further cemented when Womack married Cooke’s widow not long after the latter’s shooting death, a move which many found distastefully opportunistic and led to de facto blacklisting by the music industry. But, as Womack always maintained, it was probably just a case of two people devastated by the loss of the most important person in their lives who found solace with each other.
Womack stayed busy and relevent to the end, recording with the Rolling Stones, The Roots, Mos Def and Gorillaz among many others. But it is for his special run of 1960s and 70s hits that he will be best remembered. One thing’s for sure: ain’t nobody gonna forget about Bobby Womack.
There are annoying ads and then there are really annoying ads. The campaign for used car subscription database CARFAX.com has gone from the former, when it used to feature skeezy dealers with a fox puppet trying to dupe buyers, to the latter, with the agency doubling down on the creepy talking Car Fox spokesthingy and introducing a managerie of other critters to help uncover the true condition of potential used car purchases. Because nothing says “reliable detailed research” like a terrifying drop into the Car Fox’s secret high tech lair so talking CGI animals can report back to him about used cars. Or something. Wes Anderson this ain’t, folks.
I guess you could say it’s a little like a Disney movie with the customers being the nice humans transported into a magic world and the not-very-cute animals reporting on crash history instead of bursting into song. Uh, oh. I hope I haven’t given the creative team a new idea of where to take this damn campaign next. Because if there’s one rule of thumb I have for ads it’s that, along with omniscient talking babies, yappity animals are the worst sort of cheap trick used to obfuscate the lack of a clear, creative message with a cloyingly cutesy mnemonic device. Look, I admit the Carfax-Carfox ploy is so stupid it works on the most annoying level of simple association. But if those helpful little beasties start bursting into elaborate musical numbers I just may throw my flatscreen out the window.
Got another rare watch on offer this month, this time a classic vintage Breitling sports chronograph with a twist. This one is an unusual Co-Pilot model all kitted out for yacht regatta timing. With fantastic added colors to the unique 15-minute register and a color-coded silver elapsed time bezel this reference 7650 has got “late 1960s funky” written all over it. Add to that the very large and chunky 43mm wide case, the distinctive mint green luminous on the dial and the Dayglow-orange hour, minute and counter hands and you’ve got pop art on the wrist.
Breitling was a pioneer in oversized special purpose tool watches back in the day, a trend they also helped revive in the modern era, and this Co-Pilot “Yachting” chrono is one of their most distinctive and hard-to-find designs — chances are, you won’t see another on anyone else’s wrist.
Formula 1 returns to Austria for the first time in over a decade at the newly-christened Red Bull Ring. Would the namesake’s team uphold Red Bull pride on Qualifying day amidst the short and tricky track in the Alps? Or would the German Mercedes team continue their overpowering display of prowess? Come with me below the fold to find out… Continue reading →
The Stanley Cup Playoffs may be over (proud of you Rangers, congrats LA) but Slap Shot is forever (clips definitely NSFW).
Sure, 1977 was one of the all-time great years in cinema history with the release of Star Wars, Close Encounters, Saturday Night Fever and Annie Hall, not to mention such crowd pleasers as The Spy Who Loved Me and Smokey and the Bandit. But it also saw the premiere of the best, most profane and funniest hockey film ever.
The late, great Paul Newman, Strother Martin, one of the finest character actors of the 60s & 70s, and director George Roy Hill of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and The Sting fame team up to create not just an uproarious sports comedy but a great movie with the backdrop of the Recession in the Rust Belt grounding the hijinks in place and time and giving the rollicking plot a desperate, melancholy undertone. And for the hockey-oriented, the film serves as a knowing commentary on the eternal existential dilemma of the sport: goonism vs. skillful clean play.
Yes, ’77 was a landmark year for Hollywood where popular entertainment also achieved incredible quality and originality. And Slap Shot is a part of that magical run, a little gem among that year’s remarkable cinematic treasure trove.
Lucy Liu has had a pretty long run as one of the sexiest women on the planet. The Chinese-American beauty first burst onto the scene back in the late 90s as the ultra-hot, ultra-nasty Ling Woo on David E. Kelley’s Ally McBeal. Despite deliberately trading on a lot of stereotypes surrounding the cruel yet sensual “dragon lady”, Liu’s character was one of the first Asian females to be featured as a principal character in American television.
From there it was a one-way ticket to the top, as Ms. Liu was immediately tapped for big budget Hollywood features in 2000 like the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson vehicle Shanghai Noon and, more importantly, the Charlie’s Angelsreboot alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, a huge popular success. She had a key supporting part in the Oscar-winning Chicago in 2002 and then reprised her role as Alex Munday in 2003’s sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
2003 also saw her work for auteur Quentin Tarantino on his cult revenge epic Kill Bill (Volume I & II) as samurai sword wielding yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii, the first killer to be crossed off Uma Thurman’s list. Beautiful and lethal, O-Ren’s snowy duel with the Bride is a coup de cinema in a major work that deserves to be revisited. A pale imitation like 2012’s The Man with the Iron Fists, in which she also starred alongside Russell Crowe, shows just how good a movie Kill Bill was in retrospect.
Seeming to get lovelier by the year, Ms. Liu is now an ageless 46 and continues to do important work, returning to television for the critically acclaimed cop drama Southland and the highly entertaining CBS hit series Elementary, where she plays an unconventional Watson to Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes in New York City. She is also an accomplished visual artist and active in several charities, including as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. Beautiful, accomplished, pioneering and whip-smart: Lucy Liu is the total package and definitely a MFL kind of woman. In fact, why she hasn’t been a Bond girl is beyond us. Better yet, we think she’d make a killer 008. You’re welcome, Eon Productions.
Got a very cool one on offer this month: a rare original early 1960s Hamilton Ventura. This solid 14k gold watch is one of the iconic designs in the vintage watch world, so much so that the modern incarnation of Hamilton, part of the Hydra-like Swatch Group, makes about a million homage versions. But accept no substitutes — this here Ventura is the real deal with it’s then-cutting edge caliber 505 electrical movement inside the gorgeous body, an innovation that prefigured the tuning fork and quartz revolutions to come.
Ironically, betting the future on their proprietary electrical movement and largely ceasing conventional mechanical watch production essentially doomed the historic watchmaking company from Lancaster, PA. The electric movement, never a particularly precise timekeeper, was quickly rendered obsolete by the Bulova Accutron and the coming of the quartz age and by 1969 the company had ceased all US operations. But they remain one of the legendary names in horology history and the Ventura is a timeless classic. You might say it’s fit for a King.
Jack White has only himself to blame. I thought admitting I’ve got mixed feelings about Jack White’s latest record would be a good, or at least honest, way to start a review. Of course that blame I put on his shoulders assumes Jack White cares one fig about whether or not I’m conflicted about his newest album, “Lazaretto”, which I am, and which I’m certain he does not, but c’est la vie. Here I go anyway…
Among the greatest of war movies, 1970’s Patton features a mind-blowingly good performance by George C. Scott as the famously colorful WWII general that serves to catapult this epic far above the standard military biopic. The film is not only remarkable for the vivid on-screen portrait of a gifted but notoriously impolitic and ambitious American general helping to turn the tide of war in the United States’ favor but also for the off-screen context of being made at the height of rampant anti-war sentiment in the US and abroad due to the Vietnam War. You would have expected the film to be a hatchet job on an unrepentant warrior from the gung ho past and to reflect the anti-authoritarian zeitgeist of the time. You would also have expected a war-weary public to reject yet another nostalgic World War II movie released at the end of the 60s. Instead, it’s a straightforward yet nuanced portrayal of a seriously flawed but undoubtedly great military leader that earned popular and critical success from the get go with an unapologetically pro-US message. And through the movie we come to see that a man like Patton, a true lover of war who believed himself reincarnated from Roman Legionnaires and Napoleon’s soldiers, should probably be kept in a glass case that says “Break Open in Time of War”. But we also see that it’s surely good to have old soldiers like George S. Patton handy when the stuff hits the fan.
The famous opening sequence, a stylized and also sanitized version of Patton’s famously profane speech to the Third Army, remains one of the movies’ best “grabbers”, as well as one of the most iconic 6 minutes in the history of cinema. And despite Scott’s misgivings that starting with the speech would overwhelm subsequent scenes, that acts as a preamble and the movie gets better from there. It really starts with Patton’s arrival in North Africa to take command of a green and badly demoralized US II Corps after their mauling by Rommel’s Afrika Korps at Kasserine Pass, quickly whipping them into a cohesive fighting unit ready to take on the seasoned and highly accomplished German troops. By utilizing Rommel’s own tank tactics against him, we see the revitalized Americans fight back via impressive large scale armored tank battles thundering from the oversized 65mm widescreen print.