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Book Review: 1001 Movies

by Lang Reid

The photo on the cover of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (Cassell Illustrated, 2003, ISBN 1-84403-044-X) caught my eye. Michael Caine in the character of one of my favourite movies, Get Carter, released in 1971. At almost 1000 pages this book has the potential to be the moviegoers bible.

The book covers the century from 1902-2002, and I must admit that many of the early movies were not only well before my time, but also well outside my ken. To be included in what must always be a very subjective listing, the editor of the book, Steven Jay Schneider, co-opted the assistance of 58 reviewers, all of whom are listed at the front of the book, and all have good credentials. But it should never be forgotten that it is still subjective, so if your favourite film was Zulu, and it’s not there (which it isn’t), this does not mean that you have a lousy taste in movies, it just means the majority of the reviewers didn’t vote for it. I was personally disappointed that Billy Liar and A Man and a Woman didn’t make the final cut, but the 58 reviewers must be given the final choice.

Each movie reviewed has a side box with the names of the directors and producers, screenplay credits, music and photography, as well as the actors and any film awards won by the movie or the actors themselves. There is also at least one still from the movie with each entry.

Even a brief glance at the list of directors soon shows the names that crop up several times in the 1001 titles. Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Francis Ford Coppola, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorcese, Steven Spielberg and Orson Welles. Your favourites will be there.

This is a weighty tome (over 2 kg in fact), and undoubtedly will remain one of the best listing reference books on film for many years. It is very thorough in the way it indexes the movies by genre at the front of the book (Drama, Humour and Romance being three of the major categories in the 1001), as well as an alphabetic listing at the back of the book. The book itself catalogues the films by year. This way of listing the movies I found a little perplexing, and in fact, at times, annoying. Think of your favourite movie (let’s say Get Carter), then you have to go to the back, look up G in the alphabetic listing to get a page number (544) which then takes you to 1971, the year of the general release of this movie. The next movie you want to look up means that once again it is off to the listing at the back before you can find it in the book proper. Back and forwards, back and forwards, while if the films were listed in the book alphabetically it would have been so much simpler.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine, with an RRP of 1,295 baht, and should be available in all good bookstores with sturdy shelves!

Mott's CD Reviews: Robert Plant - Dreamland

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

2 Stars **

Do you remember your old school reports? Believe it or not some of the rock ‘n’ roll animals, who read these snippets of purported wisdom in the hallowed pages of Chiang Mai’s leading weekly tome, are actually young enough to still get school reports. (When are we going to get a review of ‘Linkin Park’?) However, I must admit there are more who actually write the reports, than receive them. Anyway, Mott always used to get his saying things like ‘Could do better, if only he paid more attention’ or ‘Underachieves due to lack of concentration’, or the one I always dreaded, the one word review ‘Lazy’. Still, it was better than the report that said ‘Tries very hard, but does not make much progress’.

Robert Plant’s ‘Dreamland’ (2002) album would receive one of the former reports, as this collection of songs seems to have no focal point, but rather feels like thrown together. I find Mr. Robert (Percy to his friends, for obvious reasons) Plant rather caught between two stools. He had just come off the back of a couple of albums and a worldwide tour with old running mate Jimmy Page, which had been the biggest thing in the rock ‘n’ roll world that year. Enjoying the habit of touring, Jimmy Page had gathered up ‘The Black Crowes’ and continued touring, leaving Robert Plant behind to contemplate his future. After a brief hiatus he put a new band together and came out of the recording studio with this collection of songs. Unfortunately for everybody the high expectations were soon shattered.

What you get is an album of some covers (a la David Bowie with ‘Pin Ups’ and Brian Ferry with ‘Those Foolish Things’ in the seventies) and some originals. Well, it’s a bit more difficult than that. To be more precise there are definitely six covers and two originals with the originals being average songs. Nothing awful, but certainly nothing to make you gasp as in the days of Led Zeppelin. Two of the songs have writing credits for the band, but one of them, opening song ‘Funny in My Mind’, has the chorus of ‘The Country Joe and the Fish’ song ‘I’m Fixin to Die’.

‘Win My Train Fare Home’ actually credits all the band with songwriting as well as acknowledging elements of Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Brown for ‘If I Ever Get Lucky’ and ‘That’s Alright Mama’, Robert Johnson for ‘Milk Cow’s Calf Blues’, and John Lee Hooker for ‘Crawlin’ King Snake’. Now that is a lot of elements to get into six minutes of an original song.

The trouble with the six covers is that although they are not bad, it would be an achievement indeed to completely ruin songs of this caliber. All of these songs have been played better by both the original artists and other musicians, who have already given definitive versions. ‘Morning Dew’ by Tim Rose has been turned into a staple of Nazareth’s live act and recorded on their debut album; ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’ by Bob Dylan has been given a wonderful new spin by ‘Nutz’ on their third album ‘Hard Nutz’; ‘Song to the Siren’ by Tim Buckley was magnificently covered live by his own son Jeff Buckley as well as countless other artists; and ‘Darkness Darkness’ by Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods has been set in the stone of rock by ‘Mott the Hoople’ on their ‘Brain Capers’ album. As for ‘Hey Joe’ by William Roberts, well, you just cannot play that song without being compared to Jimi Hendrix’s first single and coming off second best. Final song on the album is Alexander Lee Spence’s ‘Skip’s Song’, originally recorded by his band ‘Moby Grape’. Now this is a song that just shouldn’t be messed with. And mess with it is what Robert Plant and his band of cohorts do. It leaves a very bad ‘taste’ in your ears, encompassing these songs.

It’s not all bad, the band is competent throughout. Porl Thompson (ex ‘The Cure’) should be singled out for some fine axe work. Coming in to work with Robert Plant after Jimmy Page is always going to be a thankless task (or Robert Plant’s ex-solo guitarist Robbie Blunt for that matter). But Porl pulls it off adequately while not exactly setting the world on fire with his version of reverb and fuzz tone.

Robert Plant himself whines and groans his way through every song. This method of oohs and ahhs was satisfactory, even groundbreaking in its quieter moments with Led Zeppelin, except then they were able to follow that up with a musical one-two to your jaw and stomach. Here there is no light, no shade - perhaps a few belting rockers might have shaken off the lethargy ... But certainly as a whole this album is difficult to listen to twice.

Oh well, back to school reports. I think we will just mark this one ‘disappointing’.

Robert Plant - Vocals
Justin Adams - Guitars, Gimbri, and Darbuka
John Baggat - Keyboards
Charlie Jones - Bass
Porl Thompson - Guitar
Clive Deamer - Drums, and Percussion.
Funny In My Mind
Morning Dew
One More Cup Of Coffee
Last Time I Saw Her
Song To The Siren
Win My Train Fare Home
Darkness Darkness
Hey Joe
Skip’s Song

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