Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nicholas Ray

I've gone to Film Forum every day this week for the Nicholas Ray retrospective. If anything, seeing a few of his films in a row has caused me to think about the patterns in his casting--loner pretty boys like Farley Granger and James Dean; blacklist Leftists like Sterling Hayden and Robert Ryan; strong willed, feral leading ladies like Joan Crawford, Gloria Grahame and Ida Lupino; and lots of sad-eyed P.Y.T.'s with interesting faces. These are all actors of great character, many of whom led fascinating, offbeat lives offscreen. And if good direction can be attributed to expert decision-making, Ray's eye for people only makes me admire him more.

I first checked out Johnny Guitar, just to see it again, on a nice 35mm print. It remains one of my favorite films, and certainly my favorite Crawford performance. Too much to say about that one, so I'll just stop here before I start rambling.

Next up was On Dangerous Ground-I went in to that one assuming from the get-go that I'd like it because it stars Robert Ryan (see above), but as it turned out Ryan's perfectly reticent, devastating performance was only the tip of the iceberg. The film was incredible; pretty much blindsided me. You know how The Asphalt Jungle ends suddenly out in the countryside, where Sterling Hayden goes to die out on the farm with the horses? That was always my favorite part of that movie, how it shifted abruptly from the setting of a "gritty" urban noir--down in the sewers, even--to the bright open space of a farm. Well, you get a similarly jolting change of setting here, with the first half of On Dangerous Ground taking place in the dingy city, with Ryan playing a hot-headed, nihilistic detective in a cop-hating town. Then he's given a slap on the wrist and sent out to the mountains on an assignment--to help the even more hot-headed Ward Bond track down his daughter's handicapped teenage killer, in the snow with a rifle. The outdoor photography here is beautiful and crisp, and very different from the back projection that makes Johnny Guitar so (wonderfully) hokey. The cinematography is really inventive, both in the mountains and in the city--some really exciting (and unique) handheld camerawork, and a few weird but perfect shots taken from inside cars, plus a couple of moody superimpositions as the characters drive hopelessly through the city and in the snow. The same can be said for They Live By Night, which I saw yesterday--it was surprisingly well shot, considering that it was Ray's first film. One moment in particular was so impressive that my friend, usually a quiet film-watcher, let out an uncharacteristic "wow." (At least it was a quiet "wow").

I have to say, the romance works in They Live By Night, too. Even knowing that Farley Granger was gayer than a 3 dollar bill in the real world, I was surprisingly able to suspend my disbelief and fall for his pretty face. I think it was the storyline that swayed me, because normally I'm not attracted to pretty men at all. I think the lovers-on-the-run genre has a lot going for it, because the general premise is chaotic and absurd enough to float a convincing romance. One just doesn't have the time to slip into the boring routine of everyday life; of running out of things to talk about, deciding what to make for dinner and watching TV together--when you're living a life of crime. Nicholas Ray draws attention to this, while offering us a character study of the type of people who are eager to drop everything and run off--people who are both survivalist and admirably naive, who don't own anything worth holding onto and so depend on each other as a means of substantive living. Up until the end of They Live By Night, the couple operates on the assumption that eventually they'll hit a safezone, work out their legal issues and live in comfortable amnesty. But their rotating fantasies are clearly untenable, and Ray lets us know ahead of the curve that the couple wouldn't be happy living in the "real world" anyway--they don't like to dance, they think sports are stupid, and they feel out of place in social situations. It's not so much that they're running away from a broken and irreparable past as they haven't really lived yet. They're constructing a new way of life in transit that's pretty exciting and unlike anything I've ever experienced. The whole scenario befits the movies well, and I like it!

I haven't written much here about Nicholas Ray in particular, but it should go almost without saying that I'm now hooked on him. None of the internal details that I've mentioned, like character development, acting and story would be at all effective if his direction wasn't on point. Especially with a genre as tiresome as the melodrama, the direction needs to be tight to keep me awake, let alone interested, and so far he's really impressed me. I'm going to see this series at Film Forum through.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Pussyfooting this week

After it aired, my show disappeared for a few days this week while the station fiddled with the new stream. The new website, if you haven't noticed, has some kinks, but it's still very promising. My show is back on the air so stream it now if you feel like it. I'm posting the playlist here because I wasn't able to upload it to my show page.

By the way, does anyone know why the Zombies misspelled "Odyssey" on their "Odessey & Oracle" album? I suppose I could just go to google.... Anybody know?

playlist for 7/19/09
1. Robert Lester Folsom "April Suzanne" (Music and Dreams)
2. Caravan "Winter Wine" (Land of the Grey and the Pink)
3. George Edwards "La Jolla" (38:38)
4. Faust "Just a Second (Starts Like That!)" (IV)
5. Cos "Fanfan la Tulipe" (Viva Bomma)
6. The Music Emporium "Velvet Sunsets" (s/t)
7. McDonald & Sherby "Space Beam" (s/t)
8. The Idle Race "Hurry Up John" (s/t)
9. Arcadium "Poor Lady" (Breathe Awhile)
10. Comus "The Prisoner" (First Utterance)
11. Mandrake Memorial "House of Mirrors" (s/t)
12. Eroc "Sternchen" (Eroc Eins)
13. "The Feedback"-- anyone know what this is? I found it on my computer.
14. Os Mutantes "Jogo de Calcada" (A Divina Comedia)
15. Axis "Materializing the Unlimited" (II)
16. Joe Tex "I Gotcha" (I Gotcha)
17. Iron Knowledge "Show Stopper" (Chains & Black Exhaust)
18. Morricone Youth "The Black Forest" (Silenzio Violento)
19. I.d. Company "Bhagavad Gita" (s/t)
20. Gong "Radio Gnome/You Can't Kill Me" (Camembert Electrique)
21. Jack Bruce "Victoria Sage" (s/t)
22. Flower Travellin' Band "Intro" (Made in Japan)
23. Fairport Convention "Some Sweet Day" (Heyday)
24. Igor Wakhevitch "Ritual de Guerre" (Hathor)
25. Les Rita Mitsouko "La Jalousie" (s/t)
26. Ejwuusl Wessahqqan "Passaceety" (s/t)
27. Zombies "Beechwood Park" (Odessey & Oracle)



Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Prog + fashion? Kind of. I'm dj'ing at Arlo & Esme's tonight, at 42 east 1st, to celebrate the launch of Greg Armas's clothing line. Greg is a long time follower of No Pussyfooting, and a purveyor of great taste. His shop, Assembly New York, is right around the corner, below Houston. This should be a lot of fun. I plan on playing a lot of danceable, heavy tunes. Believe me, "danceable" and "heavy" can intersect, under the right circumstances. I'm going on second, after "AZY Soundsystems" and before "Jordan Schroom," around 10:30 or 11. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


"He's got a girl, I've got a cat" (The Long Goodbye)

As most of you probably know already, I made a mix recently of easy pop tunes, too light for my radio show (although I still slip them in just about every week.) A handful of people have (surprisingly) asked me for a track listing, so I figured I'll post it on here, along with a special link for those interested. Turns out I wrote about my love of light tunes two and a half years ago, on this very blog. I even titled the entry "smooth sailing," before I even heard of this "yacht rock" craze. How about that? I wouldn't characterize this mix as yacht-rock, though. It's easy pop.

Beware: this can be classified as easy listening. But don't let that deter you from trying it out!
track listing:
1. Daryl Hall & John Oates "When The Morning Comes" (Abandoned Luncheonette)
2. Keith Cross & Peter Ross "Can You Believe It" (Bored Civilians)
3. Shaun Harris "I'll Cry Out" (s/t)
4. The Smoke [US] "Odyssey" (s/t)
5.Terry Jacks "It's Been There from the Start" (Seasons in the Sun)
6. Kayak "I Want You to Be Mine" (Starlight Dancer)
7. 10cc "Wall Street Shuffle" (Sheet Music)
8. Steely Dan "Charlie Freak" (Pretzel Logic)
9. Dennis Wilson "Lady" (Bamboo)
10. West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band "She May Call You Up Tonight" (Volume One)
11. Gilbert O'Sullivan "Alone Again (Naturally)" (Himself)
12. Bobby Weinstein & Jon Stroll "The Cat Was a Junkie" (Cook Me Up Your Taste)
13. Shuggie Otis "Strawberry Letter 23" (Freedom Flight)
14. John Ylvisaker "Who Cares for the City" (Cool Livin')
15. Shaun Harris "Color of Your Eyes" (s/t)
16. Daryl Hall & John Oates "I'm Just A Kid (Don't Make Me Feel Like A Man)" (Abandoned Luncheonette)
17. Four Seasons "Goodbye Girl" (Off Seasons: Critically Ignored B-Sides of the Four Seasons)
18. Fleetwood Mac "The Ledge" (Tusk)
19. Larry Carlton "I Cry Mercy" (Singing/Playing)

link in the comments.

Back on the Blog

Hi, I'm back. Let's see, since I was last here I've continued with No Pussyfooting on East Village Radio for over a year now, while the blog has been taking a nap. Currently, my show airs late Sunday night/Monday mornings from 4 to 6a.m., but you can stream it any time. I'm at the top of the schedule, and my buddy Jeff is at the bottom with his show "Bring Out Your Dead." What fitting bookends! Check in at for updates, because we're about to shift over to a new website shortly. It's pretty exciting.

But what exactly have I been up to? I don't know. I finished my Master's at NYU a while back, and spent a year in Pittsburgh working towards a Ph.D. Now I'm on a leave of absence for at least a year, back in New York. Those are the highlights. I've also been writing things here and there, and now that I'm unemployed I'm trying to step that up a little bit. I just wrote a short biographical piece on Sue Lyon (the female lead in Kubrick's Lolita) for the next issue of Stop Smiling. I also translated an article from Spanish on a top-secret file sharing website that's in the current issue of Film Comment that looks like this:

I've also got a teeny review in there of the new DVD of Cassavetes's Husbands, which Sony is going to release in mid-August, finally. Here's a summary of my already short review: This movie is great. The performances are incredible, the cinematography is beautiful, buy the DVD.

That's it for now. I think I might check back in later with my thoughts on The Hurt Locker.

blog on,