Hanna (2011) a (mildly belated) review

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a film that has all the ingredients to be a major success (great actors, a decent budget, an intriguing concept) fall flat on its face.

I read the reviews of Hanna when it was first released and was impressed with the positives. I liked the plot idea, too, of a young teen bred for warfare going up against the people who created her. It was an edgy concept, not all that different in concept from the intro material in my very own novel Mechanic (shameless plug!).

But, upon finally seeing the film yesterday, my disappointment was great. You had a great cast, a decent budget, but a film that was directed, alas, by someone who seemed intent on creating an arty Euro-tinged fable rather than a gripping/gritty action thriller.  Mind you, there are plenty of “arty Euro-tinged fables” I happen to enjoy quite immensely (One of my three all time favorite films is Orpheus, which one could describe as exactly that!).  Hanna, however, was screaming for something more in your face.  The movie was soft where it should have been hard, introspective when it should have been explosive, and heavy handed when it should have been sure footed and sleek.

Worse, some of the action scenes, in particular the sequence where Erik (Eric Bana) takes on four CIA killers in a Berlin subway, looked like the actors were in the early stages of doing rehearsals rather than actually filming what should have been a crushing fight to the death. Oh what circa 1984-90 James Cameron would have done with this material!

Interestingly, this is the second film in as many months that I’ve seen where I get the feeling the original script/story was probably darker and more complex than what we eventually saw in theaters. The first such film was Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol (I re-posted the original review here and haven’t changed my mind regarding where I believe it was originally going).

For Hanna, I began to feel the story was changed toward the movie’s last third. When the character of Erik (Hanna’s “father”) is fleshed out and Hanna’s identity/background is revealed, I figured for sure the movie would move into much darker territory. After all, her “father” is an agent betrayed. Why make his and Hanna’s survival made known to their most moral enemies?  What purpose could doing so, other than draw out his enemy, serve?  And once he makes Hanna announce herself, why split up with his daughter at that point and send her to get his revenge?  In the (theoretical) original story, was he less than the seemingly caring father he seemed?  Likewise, is Hanna herself in that possible original story perhaps more of a Frankenstein monster, whose outward emotions are about to be exposed as a sham?  She is, after all, designed to be a soldier.  She is, in the words of one of the characters, less emotional, more calculating.  Deadly.  And what of CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett)? Could it turn out, in the end, that despite her seeming evil in the movie’s early going, she in actuality is trying to do good and stop a potential monster from being unleashed onto an unknowing public?

Perhaps I’m over thinking things and all these story ideas that did not materialize within the movie were never a part of what Hanna was about. Regardless, this is a film that despite much good, is ultimately too slow, too frustrating, and too pointless to recommend.

Pass.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) a (right on time!) review

I’m re-posting this review here (it was in my original, now defunct blog that used to be in this place).  I’ve revised it a bit for clarity, but it is essentially all here:

Short review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a fun, exciting action film with some truly great action sequences that will have viewers -especially those who went to see the film in IMAX- on the edge of their seat.  Only real minus: the villain, Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), isn’t terribly well developed.  He’s just “there”, a deadly threat who is being chased throughout the film but, in the end, a character who isn’t defined much beyond being a bad guy who wants to start a nuclear war between the Soviets and the USA.   I would even recommend the movie to those who may have had their fill of Tom Cruise.  Set those feelings aside.  He’s awfully good in this movie, as is the “team” around him.

SPOILER-filled review follows!

Have you ever seen a film that, upon exiting the theaters, you could tell it underwent some major revisions in the story it was trying to tell?

Note, for example, how the original Lethal Weapon began:  The movie starts with a pretty young (and topless!) woman very graphically falling to her death from a ten story building.  We then switch over to a mentally damaged Vietnam vet (Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs) who is doubly traumatized by the war and the recent death of the love of his life.   He’s a man who wanders naked in his trailer home, drinking heavily while building up the courage to -quite literally- blow his brains out.  After this very heavy and melodramatic start, what should happen?   The film makes a very sudden shift in tone and becomes a slapstick action/comedy, with Riggs acting more and more like a missing member of the three stooges!  The most incredible thing?  Despite that R-rated “grindhouse”-type start, the shift worked!   To this day, I suspect the original script of the film was more in line with those first ten or so minutes of the movie, but the director and actors decided to move into other territory, eschewing the script in the process.

But changing a film on the fly doesn’t always work quite as well.  I was so excited when the original Tim Burton-directed Batman was about to be released that I purchased and read the film’s novelization before the movie’s release.  Upon seeing the film, I was surprised to find the second half of the novel and the second half of the movie were completely different.  The differences between the novel and what appeared on the screen, I could only guess, were the result of the novel’s author going by the film’s screenplay while Mr. Burton and company deciding while filming to eschew the screenplay and go their own way.  This, in turn, explains why the second half of the movie was so…out there.  Note, however, that what was in the novel was not all that much better.  The original Batman film was cursed with a great opening but a weak conclusion.

In a very roundabout way, this leads us back to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.  Upon seeing the film, I was satisfied with the experience, as mentioned above, but I immediately suspected there were some big changes made to the movie’s script, changes that made a darker, more labyrinthine story far more simple.  For if there is one thing anyone who sees the movie should realize is that the film presents numerous very, very strong hints that someone within the Impossible Missions group (IMF for short) is a traitor.  And yet, despite all those very clear indications early on, by the time the film ends, that element is completely discarded and ignored!

Allow me to present my case.

In the film, we begin with a botched mission involving Josh Hollaway’s Hanaway, Paula Patton’s Jane, and Simon Pegg’s Benji.  In a train station Hanaway pilfers a file and is immediately (indeed, almost too quickly) identified by the bad guys and is given chase.  Hanaway eludes the bad guys, but just when he thinks he’s gotten away, he is confronted by Sabine Moreau (Lea Seydoux) a beautiful female blond assassin who shoots him and steals the prized file.

Jane, Hanaway’s teammate and (we find) girlfriend, arrives just as he draws his last breaths.  Tears are shed for the lost teammate/boyfriend and the story proper then begins.  Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) joins the remains of that original team and continues their mission.

They’re off, with only four or so hours to spare, to infiltrate the Kremlin and steal some nuclear missile codes that, in conjunction with the now lost file Hanaway had, will allow the big bad guy the ability to launch a nuclear weapon.  As it turns out, the big bad guy, Hendricks, is already in the Kremlin, stealing the files right under the nose of Ethan Hunt and his group (or is he?  More on that in a second).  Not only that, Hendricks knows the IMF is there, and makes a fake radio message on their radio frequency (which the Russians hear) implicating them for what follows: a massive bomb that takes out a section of the Kremlin.

Thus, in very short order our bad guy has had the jump on the IMF team not once, but twice.  But how would he know what they’re doing in such a short period of time?  There is only one possibility, of course:  Someone in that group is a mole and tipped him off.

Later in the film, the team is in Dubai.  The female blonde assassin, Sabine, is selling the file she took from Hanaway to Hendricks.  The IMF team is forced to separate the buyer from the seller because a key piece of their tech malfunctioned (as presented in the final cut of the film, this is just an innocent thing.  But if we are to assume one of the IMF members is a mole…).  Because of the malfunction in the equipment, the big bad, or rather his henchman, has to be given the actual nuclear codes because he brought along someone who can verify them.

The teams separate, in a clever set piece where buyers and sellers and their files/pay is swapped.   The upside to all this is that Ethan is forced to chase after Hendricks’ henchman while Jane, still nursing extreme hatred toward Sabine for what she did to her boyfriend, has to guard the blonde assassin.   Before this, Ethan Hunt had drilled into the team the need to keep Sabine alive.   She is an “asset”, he says, and Jane can get her revenge on Sabine AFTER they have gotten intel from her.

But what does Jane do with Sabine?

She has Benji guard her while she blows off steam in the bathroom.  She leaves a deadly killer who -incredibly!- hasn’t been subdued or handcuffed, to be guarded by the team member who is least qualified to take care of her!  Of course, Sabine busts loose.  Belatedly Jane jumps into action, fighting Sabine and eventually kicking her out of the building and to her death.  Dead men/women, as they say, tell no tales.

Meanwhile, Ethan Hunt chases Hendricks’ henchman through Dubai.  In the course of the chase, Ethan grabs at the henchman’s face, ripping off a piece of it.  Ethan is shocked to realize the henchman is wearing an IMF face mask disguise!

It was precisely at that point in the film that (I thought!) the movie’s plot became crystal clear.   The “henchman,” I was certain, was in actuality Josh Holloway’s Hanaway.  He wasn’t really killed by Sabine after all.  And because it was his girlfriend, Jane, at his side when he supposedly “died”, that meant she too knew he was still alive.

Things fell into place.

Which of the IMF people was outside the Kremlin when the explosion went off?  Jane.  Of the three members of the IMF, she was in the safest place when the explosion occurred -on purpose!- and she was the one that made sure the IMF people were right where they needed to be.  She set the trap.

Backing up a little, it was now clear Hanaway and Jane had also subcontracted Sabine to get the file and fake Hanaway’s death.  That in turn explained why the IMF equipment malfunctioned (Jane sabotaged it) and also explained why Jane mysteriously left Sabine alone with the inexperienced Benji.  Sabine likely thought Jane was giving her an opportunity to escape while in reality Jane was setting up another double cross to plausibly be “forced” to kill the blonde assassin despite Ethan Hunt’s repeated instructions she be kept alive.  Returning to Hendricks’ appearance within the Kremlin:  Clearly it was Hanaway disguised as Hendricks who was actually there.  After all, wasn’t it odd how he almost made himself be seen by Ethan Hunt?

Now, I was certain, as Ethan Hunt grasped the piece of facial disguise, he was aware of this subterfuge.   He knew Hanaway was alive.  After all, who but an IMF agent would use such a disguise?  For all we knew, the supposed big bad guy, Michael Nyqvist’s Hendricks, may not have even been alive anymore.  The bad guys, all along, were Hanaway and Jane.  It all made so much sense.

And then the movie proceeded.

Ethan Hunt looks up at the henchman, whom he had just ripped part of his disguise off of.  The bad guy is in the back of a truck, quickly moving away from Ethan Hunt’s reach.   The bad guy rips the rest of the mask off, revealing he’s… Hendricks.

HUH!?!

As the movie continued to its end, this little reveal made increasingly less sense.   First off, why would Hendricks go to Dubai disguised as his own henchman?   Later in the film, when the actual henchman appears at his side, we find the man is in complete lock step with his boss…to the point where he’s very willing to die for their shared beliefs.  Again, why would Hendricks show up personally in Dubai, dressed as his own henchman when the guy is so clearly loyal to him?   It made no sense.  When the film was over, I was more convinced than ever that the original story had Josh Holloway’s Hanaway and Paula Patton’s Jane as the “big bads”.   But maybe during production of the film all those double crosses were considered a little too much and the decision was made to streamline the story.

Thus, Hanaway dies at the start of the film, period.  Jane is one of the good guys, period.   Hendricks is the bad guy, period.  Despite mountains of evidence, there is no mole.  Hendricks has the jump on the IMF force several times because…well…because he’s a very smart bad guy.  No more explanation offered or needed.

Much simpler.  Yet not nearly as satisfying.  Still, it didn’t destroy the film and I continue to recommend it.  However, I do think the film could/should have been even better, if indeed it originally had these concepts.

10 Shocking Movie Deaths

Interesting article from Entertainment Weekly regarding the above…movies featuring the “shocking” demise of someone.  Beware considerable SPOILERS:

http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/01/08/steven-soderbergh-good-to-kill-movie-stars/

The one common denominator on all the movies mentioned is the idea of taking a memorable character played by a “big” star and, well short of the movie’s finale, having that character meet his/her end.

Without giving too much away, I suspect the granddaddy of all “shocking” movie deaths is the one that occurs some 40 minutes or so into Psycho.

I’ll say no more!

Fringe renewal?

It seems every year we go through a “will they or won’t they?” renewal question regarding the TV show Fringe.  Those who have read my previous comments regarding the show know that I generally like the series…sometimes quite a bit.  Nonetheless, the show frustrates me at times for various reasons (I thought, for example, the start of this season dragged the whole “Where is Peter” concept a little too much).  Further, I’ve noted that the show’s first season bears little resemblance to what/where the series eventually went, a sure fire sign of the networks rushing it to air before it was at least a little more fully thought through (Btw, I expect there to be evolutions of story concepts in all and any series.  However, if you look at the Fringe’s evolution, you see things like the Fringe division tasked to “scientific” crimes/terrorism -the whole scientific terrorist angle pretty much disappeared after season one-, where the lead character has her boyfriend’s mind within hers, no hint at all that Walter and Olivia share some history, and Olivia’s sister and sister’s daughter, who were there a while with hints of an abusive ex-husband lurking in the bushes…all of which were eventually discarded).

Anyway, the renewal game has begun again, in public, as noted in this posting on Entertainment Weekly:

http://insidetv.ew.com/2012/01/08/fox-on-fringe-renewal/?hpt=hp_t3

Reading between the lines, it strikes me Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly is starting the process of negotiating for the show’s next season.  His statement is pretty simple: Allow us to purchase the show for less money and it will have another season.  Don’t and the show is done.

Like many things, we’ll see what happens…

David Bowie – The Latest Works

The day’s getting long and it’s time to wrap things up.  Here, then, is the conclusion of my look back at David Bowie’s albums, and my favorite two songs from each.

After the release of Never Let Me Down, David Bowie spent a few years in the hard rock Tin Machine band, releasing two albums of material plus a “live” album.  When that was played out and the band disbanded in 1992, Mr. Bowie released his first “new” solo album, Black Tie White Noise.  As with many things David Bowie, it was another change in direction.  While he had spend the past few years doing heavy metal, Black Tie White Noise presented softer, dance oriented music that bordered on electronica.  My favorite track from that album is The Wedding Song.

Runner up is Nite Flights.

In 1995 David Bowie released 1. Outside.  Done in collaboration with Brian Eno, the album was very long, taking up almost an entire CD (remember those?!) and was filled with so many different music styles.  It was a concept album, a story involving the turn of the century and an “art crime”.  It was thick, it was heavy, and it took a few listens for me to get it.

But when I did, I was hooked.

To me, 1. Outside is without a doubt Mr. Bowie’s greatest “modern” album.  Most critics and audiences, alas, thought otherwise and the album didn’t do all that well.  Too bad.  To this day I think it may be one of the best musical releases of the 1990’s.

My favorite track on the album is the haunting re-working of Strangers When We Meet.  The original version of the song appeared on Mr. Bowie’s Buddha of Suburbia soundtrack from 1993 (I was very tempted to include it in this list, but it is a soundtrack).

My next favorite track is I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, a variation of which wound up appearing in the film Starship Troopers.

When 1. Outside was about to be released, Mr. Bowie noted in interviews it was part of a trilogy (I believe) of albums, and that there was plenty of recorded work to be released.  Mr. Bowie is nothing if not practical.  The failure of 1. Outside meant a quick change of directions and no sequel albums would appear.  Instead, Mr. Bowie followed the album with 1997’s electronica-centric Earthling.  This is a very high energy dance album that is quite enjoyable if not as ambitious as 1. Outside.  My favorite song on it is Dead Man Walking.

Second favorite is I’m Afraid of Americans.

After the high energy of Earthling, Mr. Bowie slowed things down quite a bit for 1999’s hours….  The album, like Scary Monsters before it, appeared to find Mr. Bowie in a reflective mood once again as songs made reference to earlier periods in his life.  Alas, it was an album that while it had some pretty good songs, had a pretty bleak tone to it and was hard to build enthusiasm for.  However, there are good songs within and, unlike Never Let Me Down, Mr. Bowie is obviously putting an effort into his work, even if the overall the product never really grabbed me.

My favorite song on the album is The Pretty Things Go To Hell (a direct reference to Oh! You Pretty Things from Hunky Dory).

Runner up: Thursday’s Child.

Released in 2002, Heathen had critics singing its praises and talking of the “return” of David Bowie.  It did well in terms of sales and featured some good music.  Like hours…, it was a generally mellow and introspective album.  Alas, like hours… it was another work that didn’t connect with me as well as some other David Bowie albums.

My favorite song on the album wound up being his magnificent reworking of his 1969 song Conversation Piece, included on a bonus disc on the deluxe release of the album.  Mr. Bowie really hits this song out of the ballpark, making it an absolute masterpiece.

Runner up: Slow Burn.

It’s hard to believe David Bowie’s last full album, Reality, was released in 2003, nearly a decade ago.  The album was a decent effort, far more upbeat and “rocking” than the previous two albums.  My favorite track on it is New Killer Star.

Runner up: Days.

Throughout his career, Mr. Bowie has produced roughly an album a year, but following the release of Reality and the subsequent tour, he’s slowed down considerably.

Perhaps it was to be expected.  Mr. Bowie has faced open heart surgery for an acutely blocked artery and, given his age, perhaps has decided it was time to slow things down a bit.  Nonetheless, there was word that he was working on a new album…in Berlin.

As a David Bowie fan(atic), I hope to have the album in my hands soon.  Until then, Happy Birthday Mr. Bowie.  Like many others, I’ve spend many pleasant hours listening to your music.  I hope to do so for many more years to come.

Thank you.  Thank you very much.

David Bowie – New Wave (Pop) Success and Failure

Album after album David Bowie managed to create new and wonderful works, yet despite the great changes in style and substance, he remained a force in an industry that sometimes shies away from experimentation…especially when an artist radically changes his or her sound.

Yet David Bowie kept making changes, and following his very successful Berlin Trilogy, he would release in 1980 what some (again!) consider his absolutely best work, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.  The album was more “commercial” in design than the previous Berlin albums.  It was also reflective in, as it turns out, my two favorite songs on the album.  While Fashion may be the song that received the most radio play from the album, my favorite track is Teenage Wildlife, a song about new and upcoming (young) artists.  Terrific work.

My second favorite song is also reflective, in this case a look back by Mr. Bowie at his life via reference to his first hit song, Space OddityAshes to Ashes follows Major Tom, who shares more than a casual similarity to David Bowie himself…

Just as there was a Berlin Trilogy, so too do I believe 1983’s Let’s Dance, 1984’s Tonight, and 1987’s Never Let Me Down were something of a trilogy as well.  One could look at them as David Bowie’s “Pop” albums, or perhaps “New Wave” works.  Alas, they were a trilogy that, unlike the Berlin Trilogy, wound up giving diminishing results.

But let’s start with the good: Let’s Dance is, to me and contrary to many other’s opinions, a great album.  I happen to love its energy and bounce…David Bowie, after years of hard work, drugs, and torment (self-inflicted or not), sounded genuinely happy on this album.  The music is so upbeat and positive and its hard not to smile while listening.  My favorite song on the album is Modern Love.

My runner up favorite is Mr. Bowie’s reworking of Cat People (Putting Out Fire).  I absolutely love the original version of the song from the Cat People movie, but this version is equally great, in my opinion.

Let’s Dance proved to be one of Mr. Bowie’s most successful releases, even managing to dislodge Michael Jackson’s Thriller from the charts…though briefly.  But after so many years of working in the music industry and after the success of that album, it appeared Mr. Bowie was slowing down, at least creatively.  Tonight, the follow up to Let’s Dance, was a decent album, but one that a critic at Rolling Stone magazine appropriately noted appeared to be a tennis “lob” rather than a smash.  In other words, even while the critic liked the album, s/he felt Mr. Bowie wasn’t trying as hard with this album as he had with his others.  There was an insinuation, alas, that Mr. Bowie was resting a bit on his laurels instead of pressing the envelope.

I believe they were right.

Nonetheless, the album delivered some great songs, including Loving the Alien, which had a seriously strange music video…

My runner up favorite from the album is Tonight, which features a great duet with Tina Turner.

There is a certain perverse irony to the fact that what many consider Mr. Bowie’s “worst” album is named Never Let Me Down.  Yet that’s the fact’s ma’am.  Released in 1987, it was the first album that I listened to of Mr. Bowie’s that I thought something was off.  It appeared, to me, that Mr. Bowie was trying -too hard- to make another “hit” album.  The songs weren’t terrible, per se, but the whole thing just seemed artificial, overly contrived.

So, yes, I would agree with those -including Mr. Bowie himself!- that feel this is the artist’s nadir.

Yet having said that, there are some pretty good songs within the album worth a listen.  My favorite is Time Will Crawl.

Runner up…I guess I’d go with Day-In Day-Out.

Next: David Bowie – The Latest Works

David Bowie – Post Glam Soul & The Berlin Trilogy

Today being David Bowie’s 65th Birthday, might as well continue with my own personal list of “best of” songs from each of his albums.  I’ve pointed out my favorite songs from his early years and the justifiably famous Glam Rock era.  Now, the Soul & Berlin Trilogy…

Following the release of Diamond Dogs, David Bowie was clearly a man in transition.  He announced the end of Ziggy Stardust in a concert (his announcement being so complete people could be forgiven for wondering if he was retiring from music altogether!), he jettisoned his band, and, in 1975, moved toward…soul.  The result was Young Americans, another very successful release.  My two favorite works on the album are probably the two “safest” picks I could make:  The spectacular Young Americans and the John Lennon co-written Fame.

Things were going well for David Bowie.  His music was successful and he took the lead role in critically well received The Man Who Fell To Earth, perhaps his single best movie.  However, during this time Mr. Bowie was also becoming more and more dependent on drugs.  His 1976 album Station To Station, considered one of his stronger overall efforts, nonetheless is an album that allegedly Mr. Bowie hardly remembers recording, so heavily was his drug use at the time.

Nonetheless, the album is spectacular.  The title track is one of my favorites…

Once again, I find it hard to consider what my second favorite track on the album is.  The album featured only 6 songs.  Being forced to choose, I’ll go with Golden Years, the song that Mr. Bowie supposedly wrote intending to offer to…Elvis Presley!

Following Station to Station, David Bowie moved back to Europe and began the painful process of kicking his cocaine addiction.  While there, he worked on and released a set of three albums, beginning with 1977’s Low, which were done in collaboration with Brian Eno.  These three albums became known as Mr. Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, and there are those that consider them the three best albums Mr. Bowie ever created.  My favorite track on Low is Sound and Vision.

Next favorite is Be My Wife.

The second album in the Berlin Trilogy is 1977’s Heroes.  And I absolutely love the album’s title track, which Mr. Bowie used so movingly at the Concert For New York following the horrific events of 9/11.

Runner up favorite is V2 Schneider.

The final of the Berlin Trilogy albums is 1979’s Lodger.  Another of those albums it’s very tough to single out two tracks as your favorite.  At this moment and at this time, I’d have to pick Look Back In Anger as my favorite.

The next favorite track would be (again, very difficult choice!)…Red Sails.

Next up: New Wave David Bowie…and the lean years.

SHADOWS AT DAWN free eBook offer is over…

..but the end results, again, were incredible.

I hope everyone who took advantage of the offer reads the material.

Those who didn’t and are interested, the eBook is available at the below link for only 0.99 cents.  You can read almost the entire first story, Dreams Do Come True, if you click the link to look inside the book (all that’s missing is a few words at the tail end of the story).

Again, thanks for your continued interest!

http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-At-Dawn-ebook/dp/B0063NGIUE/ref=ntt_at_ep_edition_2_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

SHADOWS AT DAWN free eBook offer ends today!

Just a quick note to everyone interested:  Shadows at Dawn, my short story collection, has been available for free from Amazon.com in the Kindle eBook format.

This offer, however, ends today, January the 6th.

Thus, if you have a Kindle or read books via your computer or mobile device, please take advantage of this offer.  If you like what you read (and I hope everyone does!), please provide comments…I welcome them!  Please click on the image below or link below to reach the Kindle download page:

http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-At-Dawn-ebook/dp/B0063NGIUE/ref=ntt_at_ep_edition_2_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

David Bowie – The Glam Years

Continuing my list, we move from David Bowie’s early albums to the ones that made him, justifiably, very famous.  First up is the album many consider David Bowie’s masterpiece:

In 1972 David Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars.  It was a concept album whose underlying story was the rise and eventual fall of a fictional music superstar.  As many have noted, it could well have been David Bowie willing himself to superstardom.  Focusing on this album, I’m presented with a genuine problem.  Given I’m looking back at Mr. Bowie’s albums and taking one song I consider the “best” of the particular album and one that is a close runner up, with Ziggy Stardust there are just so many great songs.  How to chose one as your favorite and one as your second favorite?  To me, its far easier to pick the one song I think is my least favorite on the album (the cover of Ron Davies’ It Ain’t Easy, while not a terrible song, is simply not as strong as the other songs on this album, IMHO).

Ok, enough quibbling.  What is my favorite song on Ziggy Stardust?  At this point in time, it may well be Lady Stardust.

There’s something magical about this song, which focuses on a star struck fan’s reaction to the Ziggy Stardust “show”.  Yes, there are definite homosexual overtones, but idol worship has never been presented in such a startling, heartbreaking fashion.

My runner up?  Again a very hard choice.  And, again, at this time I’ll go with Rock and Roll Suicide.

Another very touching song.  Despite its depressing sounding title, the song is uplifting, encouraging.  A great, great conclusion to an equally great album.

Following the smash success of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s followed it up with Aladdin Sane, an album more than one critic noted was “Ziggy Stardust goes to America”.  While this album wasn’t quite as good from start to end as Ziggy Stardust, it is nonetheless one of my all time favorite Bowie albums.  Two songs stick out.  First, the incredible Panic In Detroit.

My runner up favorite is the album’s final song, the mesmerizing Lady Grinning Soul.

Pin Ups, an album composed entirely of covers of songs, proved to be the last full album David Bowie would do with guitarist Mick Ronson and the rest of the “Spiders From Mars”.  There are many who consider this an inferior work, given that it is composed of covers and features absolutely no new David Bowie material.  I’m on the fence with the album.  I think there are some great tunes there, particularly Sorrow.

Runner up?  How about a cover of Pink Floyd’s See Emily Play?

Having moved on from the “Spiders From Mars”, David Bowie decided his next album would be another rock “opera”, this one telling the story of George Orwell’s famous novel 1984.  However, Mr. Orwell’s widow refused to allow his work be used, thus David Bowie had to switch gears and released, in 1973, what would be his “glam rock” swan song, Diamond Dogs.  While there remained two songs that were obviously inspired by 1984, the album had enough other material, I suppose, to avoid a lawsuit.  My favorite song on this album is one of David Bowie’s absolutely best rockers, a song that features Mr. Bowie himself on guitar!  The song?  Rebel Rebel.

I’m going to cheat with my second favorite track from this album.  For this song was never a part of the original album’s release.  In fact, this song languished in the vaults unheard until a special edition of Diamond Dogs was released on CD in 1990.  But it is so damn good.  Behold…the alternate version of Candidate.

Next up: Soul and the Berlin trilogy

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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