What better place for escaping the hot LA summer than a visit to our neighbors in the North? I got to find out all sorts of cool facts about Canada during my trip. For instance, how many of you know that K-Tel was founded in Winnipeg? Even better, the company not only hawked recycled compilations of one-hit wonders on late-night TV but sold all kinds of useless gizmos in their native land. For instance, dig the Burger-o-Matic, a must-have device that allows users to make perfectly round (i.e. “American Style!”) meat patties.  You can find out more about the company’s saga in the explosive documentary “The K-Tel Story,” narrated by SCTV alum Dave Thomas.

Anyway, I had invitations from NXNE (Canada’s answer to you-know-what in Austin) and Blue Sunshine (underground venue in Montreal) to screen and lecture on the work of J.X. Williams. Despite our differences, I have continued my shoestring globetrot to preserve the director’s cinematic legacy. Along the way, I also had a chance to rustle up some festival coverage for y’all.

Celebrating its tenth year, NXNE’s film section offered a tasty selection of music docs and other bits, curated by fest programmer Ambrose Roche. Some highlights:


"Noise And Resistance"

Directed by DIY dynamo Julia Ostertag and Francesca Andrade, NOISE AND RESISTANCE takes a look at the contemporary European punk scene from anti-fascists in Moscow to England’s direct-action Crass collective. In a world dominated by cocooned consumerist kiddies hooked to their iPods like IV’s dispensing morphine, it’s refreshing to see how punk remains a vital expression of resistance against dominant cultural paradigms.

Speaking of morphine, this documentary on the “pope of dope” delves into several unexplored areas of a life that has already undergone a great deal of examination. Without reference to by-the-numbers doc chronology, the film immediately hones in on the author’s psychological life. Behind the legend, his friends reveal a brilliant but tragic soul. The film also presents a fascinating study of Burroughs’ cultural influence on the punk movement through interviews with Patti Smith, Jello Biafra, and Iggy Pop (e.g. did you know “Gimme Some Skin” had lyrical references to “Naked Lunch”?). Oscilloscope picked up this pic so let’s hope it gets some theatrical play outside NYC.


Kevin Triplett

“Born in a tree house, killed in a friend’s living room, and 86’d from his own funeral” reads the tagline for this little gem. To be filed under the brilliant-musician-who-never-quite-made-it genre, the film looks at the career of country music outsider Blaze Foley. Eschewing the celebrity interview technique of most music docs, director Kevin Triplett hews closer to Blaze’s circle of friends and collaborators. I want to nominate Triplett as Film Threat of The Week for wearing a duct tape suit jacket with a poster about his film sewn on to the back. Given the most un-Canadian heat wave in Toronto that week, anyone who swelters in that outfit to promote his film deserves an audience.

PLAYER HATING follows hip-hop artist Half-a-Mill and his posse as they try to escape the Albany Housing Projects of Brooklyn by attaining musical stardom. While this picture easily could have fallen into all sorts of MTV-style, blinged-out tropes and montages, director Maggie Hadleigh-West has created a surprisingly personal and challenging film. Though it would not be quite accurate to label the film as direct cinema, it achieves the same result, offering an intimate glimpse into the very closed society that few of us will ever see except in reruns of “The Wire.”

I would be remiss in my journalistic duties if I did not give a shout-out to the folks at Blue Sunshine. Tucked away in a trendy university neighborhood in Montreal, this underground cinematheque offers a very refined program of psychotronic and arthouse fare. I’m particularly bummed to miss their K-Tel themed night of film programming later this summer. Rumor has it that they will be dusting off a mint-condition Burger-o-Matic for the BBQ.

Posted on July 4, 2011 in Blogs by

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