Tag Archives: Iggy Pop


The Dead Don’t Die

by Hope Madden

Indie god and native Ohioan Jim Jarmusch made a zombie movie.

If you don’t know the filmmaker (Down by Law, Ghost Dog, Only Lovers Left Alive, Paterson and so many more jewels), you might only have noticed this cast and wondered what would have drawn Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, RZA, Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez to a zombie movie.

It’s because Jim Jarmusch made it.

Jarmusch is an auteur of peculiar vision, and his latest, The Dead Don’t Die, with its insanely magnificent cast and its remarkably marketable concept, is the first ever in his nearly 30 years behind the camera to receive a national release.

Not everybody is going to love it, but it will attain cult status faster than any other Jarmusch film, and that’s saying something.

He sets his zombie epidemic in Centerville, Pennsylvania (Romero territory). It’s a small town with just a trio of local police, a gas station/comic book store, one motel (run by Larry Fassenden, first-time Jarmusch actor, longtime horror staple), one diner, and one funeral home, the Ever After.

Newscaster Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez – nice!) informs of the unusual animal behavior, discusses the “polar fracking” issue that’s sent the earth off its rotation, and notes that the recent deaths appear to be caused by a wild animal. Maybe multiple wild animals.

The film never loses its deadpan humor or its sleepy, small town pace, which is one of its greatest charms. Another is the string of in-jokes that horror fans will revisit with countless re-viewings.

But let’s be honest, the cast is the thing. Murray and Driver’s onscreen chemistry is a joy. In fact, Murray’s onscreen chemistry with everyone—Sevigny, Swinton, Glover, even Carol Kane, who’s dead the entire film—delivers the tender heart of the movie.

Driver out-deadpans everyone in the film with comedic delivery I honestly did not know he could muster. Landry Jones also shines, as does The Tilda. (Why can’t she be in every movie?)

And as the film moseys toward its finale, which Driver’s Officer Ronnie Paterson believes won’t end well, you realize this is probably not the hardest Jim Jarmusch and crew have ever worked. Not that the revelation diminishes the fun one iota.

Though it’s tempting to see this narrative as some kind of metaphor for our current global political dystopia, in fairness, it’s more of a mildly cynical love letter to horror and populist entertainment.

Mainly, it’s a low-key laugh riot, an in-joke that feels inclusive and the most quotable movie of the year.

Sounds of America

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

by Rachel Willis

The history of indigenous people in America is one of erasure. Their contributions are overlooked, rewritten, or simply forgotten. In Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, Catherine Bainbridge (and co-director Alfonso Maiorana) seeks to shed light on the American Indian musicians who helped form the sound of American music.

The documentary explores many aspects of indigenous influence in American music. It profiles individual artists, including Link Wray, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Charlie Patton, among others, but also examines how traditional Indian music, specifically the music of the Mississippi delta, shaped rock and roll, blues, and the big band sound of the 1930’s.

With each artist profiled, there is a shift in narrative style. In some ways, this works as many of the musicians represent different genres of music. The shifts help to better highlight the hand indigenous peoples have had in multiple areas of American music. However, it also gives the film an episodic feel. One wonders if the material would have been better served as a multi-part television documentary.

Interviews with music historians and ethnologists help explain the evolution of traditional indigenous music into different aspects of rock and roll and blues. Vocal styles heard in recordings from 1907 can be heard again in the early blues of Charlie Patton. Many Americans consider these sounds to be the traditional sounds of African music, but the reality is more complex. The true history is one that blends cultures, with a heavy emphasis on American indigenous music. When one hears the comparison, it’s hard not to hear the traditional music of the American Indian in the blues.

Musicians like Iggy Pop, George Clinton, and Steve Van Zandt are also interviewed. They provide a context in which the early American Indian musicians influenced scores of famous bands and musicians. At times, it feels they’re revealing a secret that many in the music world know to the rest of us. They’ve known all along where the indigenous musicians fit into the history of music and they’re finally opening the eyes of the rest of us.

While the music history is interesting, the most important aspect of the film is what it gives to indigenous communities. It emphasizes their role in American history. It gives Indian kids heroes to emulate. It shows the rest of us that the culture of the American Indian exists within the fabric of what makes us all Americans. It’s the kind of documentary that deserves a wide audience.

Gonna Break Into Your Heart

American Valhalla

by Hope Madden

An aging musical icon wants to end his career on a fresh note and reaches out to an esteemed industry powerhouse to help him.

A modern master gets a text from his childhood hero, reminding him in a rush of all that informed the direction of his life.

In what could easily have been a simple marketing tool – a documentary to support Iggy Pop’s last album, Post Pop DepressionAmerican Valhalla instead offers a look at the creative process. But, more than that, it’s a glimpse into the kind of rock star adoration we’ve all felt, and an image of the all-too-human object of that worship.

In this case, the adored is punk rock godfather Iggy Pop; the adoring, Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme, (who also co-directs).

Reading directly from their own journals written during the planning, recording and touring process, Homme, Pop and the rest of the band narrate the clashing emotions, nerves and anxieties that fueled this partnership and the ensuing album and tour.

Pop, now in his late sixties, is a small, crooked, humble guy, and still every bit a spectacle. His raw, unpredictable humanity is etched in the deep lines and huge eyes that haunt his famous face.

Homme – every inch Pop’s physical opposite, tall, sleek and handsome – opens himself up on camera in a way that’s disarming. Between Pop’s honest humility and Homme’s almost paralyzing adoration, the film somehow strikes a deeply sweet note. It’s validation for the overwhelming awe your own personal heroes can inspire. At the same time, it’s a touching reminder that even our heroes are deeply human.

Homme, directing with Andreas Neumann, shows great instincts visually. The documentarians cut between live footage, portraits and stills, creatively framed talking heads, and lonesome vistas. The pieces weave together to create an image that’s simultaneously haunting and energetic.

The music also happens to be outstanding.

Most surprising may be the film’s sweet, open heart. It’s a mash note for fans – all fans, but particularly Iggy Pop fans. If this is, indeed, to be Pop’s final hurrah, it is a lovely way to go out.


Shiver and Sing

Gimme Danger

by Hope Madden

Quick, who said this: “I went to Detroit with a tab of mescaline and a shovel.”

Who but Iggy Pop?

Effortlessly odd and forever fascinating, Pop and his band, the seminal punks The Stooges, are the subject of Jim Jarmusch’s new documentary, Gimme Danger.

Rock docs forever champion their subjects, frequently making a case for someone’s misunderstood and underappreciated genius. The fact that this kind of treatment could possibly be needed for arguably the first ever punk band, a group who influenced The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, David Bowie and dozens of others – well, it’s just disheartening, isn’t it?

While the story – from Ann Arbor trailer park to punk stardom to Ann Arbor trailer park – fits with the traditional “Behind the Music” approach, it’s never wise to expect the expected with Jarmusch.

Sure, the filmmaker pieces together vintage Stooges performances with interviews, but Gimme Danger is awash in the kind of wry cinematic mastery that has become Jarmusch’s trademark. Interviews with Pop take place in his home, the singer sometimes perched on a golden throne bedecked by skulls, sometimes barefoot in the laundry room in front of a washer/dryer set.

Likewise, on-again, off-again Stooge guitarist James Williamson sits through his interviews, guitar in hand, in a public men’s room.

Why? Why not?

Jarmusch has always brought an unusual perspective to his films, and The Stooges are an unusual subject. The pairing works, and for all Jarmusch’s droll use of animation, Three Stooges bits and vintage advertising as backdrop to Stooge insanity, his own affection and respect for the band is always evident.

Indeed, very early in the film, he proclaims The Stooges, “The greatest rock and roll band of all time.”

Jim Jarmusch is a native Ohioan who loves The Stooges.

Oh my God – we have so much in common!

His relationship with Pop goes back decades, since the singer co-starred in Jarmusch’s Dead Man and an early Coffee and Cigarettes short. In both, Pop (billed here as Jim Osterberg as Iggy Pop) haunts and bewilders with his sinewy frame and enormous eyes.

Oddly enough, Gimme Danger neglects some of the more jarring and lurid details of the Pop life. Jarmusch remains reverent throughout the film, focusing exclusively on The Stooges’ musical history. Almost quizzically missing is detail of Pop and crew’s self-destructive behavior, Pop’s infamous stage antics, or any mention of his solo musical or dramatic career.

Nope, Jarmusch wants you to realize that the world’s first punk band – as infamous record scout Danny Fields notes – reinvented music as we know it.




Just Breathe


by Hope Madden

A bruised, muscular romanticism – a nostalgia for a hipper, more rebellious and gorgeous reality – informs Jake Hoffman’s Asthma.

The beautifully damaged Gus (Benedict Samuel) can’t claim a place in the generic uniformity of the modern world. He longs for the grittier and richer reality he believes came and went before his time. So he steals a Rolls, picks up the girl he admires, and attempts the kind of tragically restless road trip you might find in a Godard film.

All of which would feel precious were it not for erratic but solid performances, and a revelation that unveils Gus as the poseur we knew he was. Surprisingly, Hoffman and Samuel are able to mine that late-film revelation to connect the lead with the ordinary Joe in the audience, and still make his troubles resonate because of the genuine pain in the performance.

For all the film’s showy quirks – Nick Nolte, for instance, is the voice of Gus’s Guardian Angel/Wolfman – Hoffman’s abrupt manner with both camera and soundtrack keep things from feeling frivolous or pretentious.

The slew of peculiar folk Gus meets along his journey nearly chokes any hint of authenticity from Asthma, although the great (and appropriate) Iggy Pop is like a needed and timely punch in the gut to a film just about to topple over with its own quirkiness.

For a hyper-masculine road-type-picture, Asthma boasts a surprisingly nuanced female lead. Yes, Krysten Ritter’s Ruby looks like the typical off-beat beauty, and her character is certainly the right combination of naughty and nice to fit the bill, but Ritter never lets the character off too easy. She makes poor decisions, kicks herself for them, hardens, and moves on – all with a grace that feels of this time and of another.

There’s an addiction theme that threatens to hold the film together, give it purpose and drive, but often feels like the least authentic piece of the movie. Without it, though, Asthma too often comes off as a nostalgic riff on another era’s nostalgic riffs.

Hoffman’s a confident first time filmmaker with a product that is great to look if purposeless – kind of like Gus.



Depp and Hammer at Home on the Range

The Lone Ranger

by Hope Madden

Back in 1995, I watched Johnny Depp in a Western of sorts that paired a supposedly dead white man with an outcast Indian on a journey through the wild west. There were trains and bad men. Iggy Pop co-starred. I’m not sure what else a person could want in a film.

This was Jim Jarmusch’s wondrous Dead Man, and I was reminded of the film repeatedly as I watched its super-mainstream Disney counterpart The Lone Ranger. In case you’ve missed the typhoon of advertising, Depp plays Tonto to Armie Hammer’s masked do-gooder.

Iggy Pop is nowhere to be seen. Pity.

The  handsome pair (although one is caked in mud the entire running time – if it’s not giant teeth or Eddie Munster make up it’s mud with this one) are flung together quite against either’s will, but a shared desire to bring down Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) binds them.

This is the Lone Ranger’s origin story, told mostly for laughs, but director Gore Verbinski and his team of writers hope to stir a bit of historical context into the mix.

If you’re going to resurrect the culturally insensitive figure of Tonto for a modern film, it’ll be important to address the racism of the time head on. But, if you’re bringing the Lone Ranger back to life, clip-clopping action and fun are requirements. How to balance?

Well, for the fun and excitement, Verbinski reteams with the writers of his other Depp adventures, the Pirates of the Carribbean franchise (Ted Elliott and Terry Rosio). Indeed, The Lone Ranger has far too much in common with Verbinski’s Pirates series – down to one sparsely blond outlaw sporting a parasol.

For the serious underpinnings of genocide –  a tough topic for a family adventure film – Verbinski nabbed Justin Haythe, who’s penned two pretentious dramas (The Clearing, Revolutionary Road) and a Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson film (Snitch).

The socio-political context is mishandled, is what I’m saying, and the drama feels wildly out of place in a film that puts a hat-wearing horse on a tree limb.

The tonal mishmash hampers everything about the film. In fact, though he tried for a full 2 ½ hours (good lord, Verbinski, give it a break!), the director simply cannot find an acceptable tone. Depp and Hammer generate an immediately likeable odd couple chemistry, buoyed immeasurably by Fichtner’s gleefully unseemly bad guy, but the movie remains a slapped together mess.

Plus, no Iggy Pop.