Saturday, May 29, 2010

British Actor of the Month--First Pretend Scottish Boyfriend Edition

I know, I know. I skipped April. But, really, things got a little crazy, and there's really no point in going back. So, anyway, May's British actor is a bit of a unique case in that I think I developed a crush on him before I'd even seen him in a movie. I just knew that he was sexy and Scottish, and that was enough for my sixteen or seventeen-year-old self. And that's how

Ewan McGregor

became my first pretend Scottish boyfriend. Luckily, I have had occasion enough since then to see one or two or fifteen of his movies. Now, the films he's in tend to range in quality from the enjoyable likes of Emma or Black Hawk Down to those that make you wish you could donate your corneas while still living--I'm thinking of Miss Potter and especially The Island right now. But he usually makes as good as he can out of the material. Here's a list of some of my favorite points in his career:

  • Trainspotting, otherwise known as my favorite movie. In it, McGregor plays a Scottish heroine addict who has to decide whether he should stay on the margins with his friends or "choose life" and leave them behind for a more ordinary existence. In addition to the dark, surreal humor and the great soundtrack, you get to hear those natural Scottish accents.
  • Velvet Goldmine, in which he plays the Iggy Pop-like proto-punk singer Curt Wild. This ode to glam rock has many perks for his fans like watching him make out with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and expose not-so-little Ewan--um, I mean, getting to hear him sing. Yeah. *coughs*
  • And of course, for those of you with less prurient interests who still want to see him sing, there's always Moulin Rouge! (It's basically VG minus the gay stuff. Well, sort-of.) Now, for many years, owing to a "dispute" with a former roommate, I refused to watch this movie, but the appeal of Ewan (and the stupid master's exams) finally wore me down. I've got to say, it wasn't half-bad. Especially since, as Satine would put it, he's got an enormous talent.
  • Star Wars Episode I-III. Now, like any self-respecting sci-fi geek, I hate the prequel trilogy. But I think it's kind of cool that McGregor was in them. Because, you see, ever since his uncle had a bit part in the original (and better) trilogy, Ewan had always wanted to be in Star Wars. So, much like last December's British Actor (a.k.a. my current pretend Scottish boyfrined), this would suggest that he's a bit of a nerd.
  • Shallow Grave. Oh my God! Doctor Who's trying to kill Obi-Wan!!! But seriously, this is the film that first brought McGregor and future 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston--as well as Scottish cinema--international attention. A thriller about three flatmates who make a very bad decision that gets even worse, it's a small film, but it's size just makes it all the more tense.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Album Face Off

I've always wanted to write music reviews, but, sadly, I tend to be not all that objective when it comes to music. I fear that they would only consist of three words: "Dude, that rocked/sucked." However, I'm rather good at comparing and ranking things (just look in the back entries for that time I decided to use my living room floor to put all my CDs in order of preference), so I've decided to start a feature in which I pit two or more albums against each other to determine, if possible, which is the greater(est). For this first match up, I present to you

Raw Power versus... Raw Power?

I know, some of you may be confused. Is there another Raw Power besides the one by Iggy and the Stooges, you ask. Well, gather 'round, children, it's story time. See, the original 1973 version was mixed by David Bowie, but by the time of the CD re-release in 1997, Iggy Pop had decided that he didn't wanna be perceived as Bowie's dog anymore (I think that joke might be stolen from The Venture Brothers, at least in spirit), so he remixed it. Thus, there are two different versions of the album available.

I kind of prefer the Iggy Pop mix. Bowie's version mixes the instruments much lower than the vocals, making them harder to hear. In the later version there's a more even distribution of volume. However, the original mix does have some very strong merits. For one thing, if you listen carefully, there's some musical parts in this one that get lost on the second mix. For another, to paraphrase some guy at Rolling Stone, the necessity of having to turn it up to hear it properly gave the record an aggressive quality, thus cementing the bands reputation as Godfathers of punk. Historical value aside, the recently re-released Bowie mix, while a bit more expensive, comes with a bonus disc of an Atlanta performance. It's not the best live recording ever, but it does contain some excellent audience abuse.

Basically, though, the differences between the two mixes are subtle enough that unless you're a character from the film High Fidelity, you're not really going to find them that big of a deal. Either way, it's a damn good record, and rightly deserves its place on most top 100 (or whatever) album lists. (See? What did I tell you--no objectivity whatsoever.) So some advice to the consumer: If you're a casual fan or just curious, you'll probably want to get the Iggy mix--most places have it for under $10, so it's the right price. The more hard-core music lover may want to shell out extra for the "new" version of the old mix, though. Devout Stooges fans, however, probably have both.

Note to my readers: I could really use some feedback. Was my little foray into the world of music criticism successful, and if so, what should I match up next? Let It Be v. Let It Be... Naked? V. The Replacement's Let It Be? Stereo v. Mono Pet Sounds? Brandenburg Concerto #2 v. #3? Suggestions are welcome, as long as they don't suck.