Saturday, January 09, 2010

Turn The Page

Today is the 66th birthday of James Patrick Page. Jimmy Page is, in my mind, the greatest of the great Rock guitarists. Not the soloist that Jeff Beck is, lacking a bit of Hendrix' inventiveness, less disciplined than David Gilmour, Page is still the one to beat. Nobody has had such an influence on a genre than he did with Hard Rock. From the Hyper Blues of the debut album, to the riff-rock on the follow up, the acoustic stylings on Led Zeppelin III and the culmination of those branches into the classic Led Zeppelin IV, Page opened doors that guitar players and other musicians are still exploring.

The definitive interview from the Led Zeppelin heyday is Steven Rosen's Guitar Player feature.

Utilizing electric, acoustic, 12-string, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, and bottleneck slide in standard and various tunings, Page added colors to the guitarist's palette in his beautiful arrangements and set musical showcases... while always leaving room for the virtuoso bass guitar and unmatched drumming of John Paul Jones and John Bonham. Live, he did it all with a single guitar, even if that guitar sometimes had two necks.

Happy Birthday Jimmy!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Pandora's Box Office

James Cameron's "Avatar" reportedly cost $300 million to make and in two weeks has grossed $600 million. Some of that $600M came from my brother and nephew, who have seen it three times each on the 3-D Imax screen. I went with them on their third time a couple of days ago.

I don't care what reviews you may have read or whether or not you think Avatar is your kind of movie. It doesn't really matter what you think before you see it. You just have to see it for yourself first, then you can have an opinion. The usual accounting for taste is not an option when the movie in question does what this one attempts to do. And succeeds in doing.

I suppose someday we'll talk about Avatar fondly... but admonish ourselves over our eagerness to marvel at the CGI effects, at our amazement of the detail on the screen, over the many man-hours it took to create such a work. By then, Avatar will be seen like a Ray Harryhausen special effects film seems to us today...historically significant, but primitive by contemporary standards.

James Cameron

But until that day, whether it's 5 or 10 or 20 years in the future, this movie is a state-of-the-art tour-de-force masterpiece of technology and storytelling. It's the cinematic singularity that was hinted ever more explicitly in Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings and King Kong. To my eyes, once you accept your role as observer of the events, and not simply assume your normal role as a watcher of a recorded version of the events, the movie never lets you down. Everything looks believable, even the most fantastic creatures, landscape and technology.

I won't be giving anything away, I'm not going to recommend you keep your eyes open for this or that plot point or visual treat. Just go see it. For $15, become part of those to first witness a landmark event in film making that will forever change our expectations of virtual reality depictions. Even if you hate it, you will be enriched by having participated.

Cameron took the technology of his times, married it to his genius as a film maker and offers it for your entertainment. You are certain to be entertained.