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JEFF The Brotherhood

Behold Nashville’s local rock royalty in a true clash of the titans! JEFF the Brotherhood, arguably Music City’s most beloved brotherly grunge duo, and Diarrhea Planet, another local six-pack of guitar-wielding punks, have been playing together since Glenn Danzig’s house was the primo place for house shows, fueling one of the country’s most thrilling, restless rock scenes since way before Jack White even built his Third Man Records compound down the street. Besides releasing five original LPs via Infinity Cat Recordings (which they founded with their dad, songwriter Robert Orall in 2002) and putting out countless works by other artists (Be Your Own Pet, Diarrhea Planet, PUJOL, Heavy Cream, Ed Schraeder’s Music Beat) on the same label, JEFF just released their new EP Dig the Classics in September via Warner Brothers, which features covers of the Pixies, Beck, Colleen Green, My Bloody Valentine, The Wipers and Teenage Fanclub. In a shit-storm of flying beer cans, mystic shredding and long hair, their live show will be a chance for outsiders to crowd surf on a gnarly greenwave and catch a rare glimpse of some underground Nashville magic.

Sun., Oct. 12, 8 p.m., 2014

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JEFF The Brotherhood

Behold Nashville’s local rock royalty in a true clash of the titans! JEFF the Brotherhood, arguably Music City’s most beloved brotherly grunge duo, and Diarrhea Planet, another local six-pack of guitar-wielding punks, have been playing together since Glenn Danzig’s house was the primo place for house shows, fueling one of the country’s most thrilling, restless rock scenes since way before Jack White even built his Third Man Records compound down the street. Besides releasing five original LPs via Infinity Cat Recordings (which they founded with their dad, songwriter Robert Orall in 2002) and putting out countless works by other artists (Be Your Own Pet, Diarrhea Planet, PUJOL, Heavy Cream, Ed Schraeder’s Music Beat) on the same label, JEFF just released their new EP Dig the Classics in September via Warner Brothers, which features covers of the Pixies, Beck, Colleen Green, My Bloody Valentine, The Wipers and Teenage Fanclub. In a shit-storm of flying beer cans, mystic shredding and long hair, their live show will be a chance for outsiders to crowd surf on a gnarly greenwave and catch a rare glimpse of some underground Nashville magic.

Mon., Oct. 13, 8 p.m., 2014

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Chuck Jones’ Wisecracking Menagerie and Blithe Postmodernism

In the early 1950s, animation director Chuck Jones was idly sketching a bull when a Warner Bros. producer walked by and said, “I don’t want any bullfights — bullfights aren’t funny.” Jones, like Warner’s most popular animated star, was always ready to oppose those who presumed to give orders, and later told an interviewer, “Now, I had no intention of making a bullfight picture, but after he said that, I went ahead.” “Bully for Bugs” (1953) opens with Bugs Bunny popping out of a burrow in a Spanish bullring — “I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!” — followed by six minutes of pas-de-deux mayhem, including a Rube Goldbergian sequence featuring axle grease, sandpaper, a match, a long fuse, a flying bull, and a keg of TNT.

The Museum of the Moving Image’s retrospective of Jones’s protean output features expressive character sketches, layered acetate animation cels, storyboards, annotated scripts, layout drawings, background paintings by Jones’s collaborators, and other artifacts from Hollywood’s golden age of animation. Additionally, MOMI has scheduled various slates of cartoons to project on its big screen in all their original, Technicolor glory.

Jones (1912-2002) believed an animator was “an actor with a pencil,” and the lively model sheets he drew to conduct his small army of draftsmen through the gestures, postures, and facial expressions of Bugs, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, and other studio stalwarts can be viewed as method acting, graphite-style. “I felt that somebody should always try to impose his will on Bugs,” Jones once explained. “That gave him a reason to act, and I couldn’t understand the character unless he had a reason for what he did.”

Jones’s lithe draftsmanship formed the figurative backbone of the more than 300 cartoons he directed over his career, including the wisecracking menagerie at Warner Bros. (1938-1962), the poignant grouch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), and Milo, the intrepid hero of The Phantom Tollbooth (1970). Although his oeuvre has been regularly rerun on television since the 1960s, Jones generally dismissed cartoons designed specifically for the small screen: “For Saturday morning, they make a full radio track and then use as few drawings as possible to put in front of it. . . . If you can turn off the picture and know what’s going on, that’s illustrated radio. But if you can turn off the sound and know what’s going on, that’s animation.”

Still, Jones valued talented writers, and many of his classic cartoons pivot on sprightly wordplay. In “Rabbit Seasoning” (1952), Bugs bamboozles the ever-volatile Daffy Duck by substituting “you” for “me” and “he” for “I,” prompting Elmer to blast Daffy instead of Bugs. Daffy reattaches his beak, calmly asks Bugs to run through the dialogue again, then turns to the camera and sagely proclaims, “Pronoun trouble.”

When not practicing blithe postmodernism, Jones cribbed from earlier artworks, as in “One Froggy Evening” (1955), which includes a briefly seen background derived from Van Gogh’s painting of his own bedroom in Arles. Noting that Degas drew ballerinas “with one leg so securely grounded, the other could be in any position without suggesting instability,” Jones grafted this equipoise onto Bugs’s body language. Such source material might also explain why the rascally rabbit often dressed in drag to outwit all manner of rabid adversaries.

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Although Jones did not create Bugs or Elmer, he did oversee a number of definitive productions, such as the Daffy vehicle “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century” (1953). A background panorama featuring X-shaped fauna on “Planet X,” crafted by Jones’s scenic designer Maurice Noble and painted by Philip DeGuard, illustrates the industrial-scale teamwork necessary to get these seven-minute epics onto movie screens around the world. Noble brought a stripped-down graphic modernism to his designs, which befitted the existential hijinks of the two most famous characters Jones did invent, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Coyote’s eternal quest to capture and eat the scrawny bird was codified by Jones through a set of nine specific rules, including “No dialogue ever, except ‘Beep-Beep!’ ” and “The coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: ‘A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.’ —George Santayana).” The insanely complicated contraptions Coyote cobbled together from catapults, rocket-powered roller skates, and other Acme Corporation products can be seen as accoutrements to Cold War nuclear testing in the American West, while there’s a Jackson Pollock–like panache to Road Runner as he zooms from frame edge to frame edge, his jet-age acceleration levitating parabolas of blacktop.

Jones appreciated Noble’s abstract layout style, even if others didn’t grasp its graphic verve. When he saw “What’s Opera, Doc?” (1957), a senior animation director reportedly snarled, “What kind of shit is this?” — but Noble’s jigsaw-puzzle clouds, collapsing shadows, and clawing “smog” smartly complement Elmer Fudd’s demigod hunter clad in a sort of golden artillery shell. Bugs temporarily dodges Elmer’s stabbing spear by donning pigtails and descending sidesaddle on an obese horse — Jones wrote in his autobiography that the animators gave the horse the “operatic curves we couldn’t give Bugs.” Noble also supplied dynamic, triangular compositions, such as a dress floating above a flowered staircase and a cone of elegiac light, which visually propel the narrative well beyond the spare dialogue.

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Museum visitors can listen to a tape of Jones and his voice actors repeating ersatz lyrics to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Arthur Q. Bryan, who sang the part of Elmer, laments at one point, “I don’t think I’m right yet on ‘I’m going to kill the wabbit!’ am I?” But he was, and this sui generis satire continues to top lists of great animated cartoons year after year because Jones respected the emotional complexity and bombastic thrill of the original while simultaneously skewering its pretensions to immortality. A beautiful colored-pencil sketch by Jones, translated by Noble and DeGuard into the cartoon’s dramatic closing set, frames a sobbing, remorseful Elmer Fudd as he carries the limp bunny toward a radiant Valhalla. Streetwise Bugs (given a Brooklyn/Bronx accent by vocal wizard Mel Blanc) then lifts his head and shreds the fourth wall once more, declaring, “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?”

What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones
Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria
718-777-6888, movingimage.us
Through January 19, 2015
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THIRTY YEARS OF RAIN

The Purple One has been making a comeback in a major way this year, and to help highlight his legacy, Prince fans can catch a screening of Purple Rain to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary. Held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the free event features a screening with a conversation to follow, and afterward, a garden party. The film originally grossed $80 million in box office sales, but seeing it with a crowd of fellow diehard Prince fans makes this event unmissable. For those who need to relive the magic in their own home, Warner Bros. is also releasing a deluxe, remastered version of the Purple Rain soundtrack.

Wed., June 25, 6:30 p.m., 2014

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STEREOSCOPIC HITCHCOCK

In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Alfred Hitchcock filmed only one movie in 3D: Dial M for Murder in 1954. Notorious for deploying voyeuristic themes in his films, such as Rear Window and Psycho, Hitchcock practically puts you in the room—alongside Grace Kelly’s electric blond locks and dazzling red dress—where you play witness to a husband’s murder plot that is all the more lucid in three dimensions. Now catch Warner Bros.’ new digital restoration of this classic in a rare screening at Film Forum.

March 29-April 4, 1:10, 3:20, 5:30, 7:40 & 9:50 p.m., 2013

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Curren$y’s High Productivity

Every rapper has a signature adlib they utter prior to kicking their rhyme, and Curren$y the Hot Spitta is no different. “The ‘Y’ is silent,” he says about the smoked-out syllable that prefaces his verses. “It sounds more like ‘eah.’ “

That adlib has appeared on a slew of tracks in 2011; Curren$y is fresh off putting out his second major-label release of the year, Weekend at Burnie’s (Jet Life/Warner Bros.), and he has at least three more scheduled to come out before you say “Happy 2012!” Which means you’re going to hear plenty of Spitta’s nasal, lazy drawl spitting a neverending barrage of references to cars, clothes, women, and the copious amounts of marijuana he and and his Jet Set burn through. Though his subject matter is pretty one-dimensional, when he attacks a beat, he leaves no part of it unused, sometimes seeming to have no regard for couplets or even rhyming. Combine that with his ear for spacey, soulful soundscapes, and you’ve got a sound that gives classic hip-hop stylings a millennial edge.

He may fly slightly below the radar—he has yet to make much of a dent in radio playlists—but he still manages to be arguably the most prolific rapper in the game. How does this kid do it?

After leaving Young Money in 2007, Curren$y went on a rampage, mercilessly ripping classic beats on mixtape after mixtape. He released his debut, This Ain’t No Mixtape, on Amalgam Records in 2009 and started tearing up the chitlin’ circuit. Last year’s Pilot Talk 1 and 2, however, put him in a higher (pun intended) echelon; young listeners appreciated his ferocious approach, while vets like Raekwon, Ski Beatz, and Dame Dash noticed that there was an old soul under the snapback and Diamond Supply T-shirt. Breaking into the majors seemed inevitable.

Enter Warner Bros., which signed him and his Jet Life Records imprint earlier this year.

“I was so anti-suit for a while,” chuckles Curren$y. “See, I started getting responses just from the mixtapes alone. But all the suits at the labels that we were taking these meetings with had all kinds of ideas and changes they wanted to make. It was frustrating, and I became pretty anti-suit. But at WBR, when I took a meeting with Joie Manda and Todd Moscowitz, they just wanted to get my material to a broader audience. They didn’t want to change anything.

“Plus, Joie wears sweatpants every day to the office. So I felt right at home.”

Lots of rappers spend big chunks of time in the studio, but in most cases a minuscule percentage of that work sees the light of day. What’s different about Curren$y? Is it his music-biz acumen? Bonding over a particular idea of “business casual”? Or is it his fans, the loyal and almost creepily devoted Jets, who rush to Best Buy and then gleefully Tweet pictures of the CD in their grubby little hands (Burnie’s moved 23,000 copies in its first week), who buy “Jet Life” billboards, who wear clothing from streetwear lines that have released Curren$y-inspired material? Does their demonstrated willingness to spend money on their idol spur the suits to keep on giving them things to buy?

Warner Bros. is taking a cue from what Def Jam/Universal didn’t do when the Pilot Talk series came out last year; the label didn’t make note of his diehard fans’ dedication and as a result Pilot Talk was severely undershipped, selling out faster than two-for-$5 jums on 119th Street in 1987.

“Well, I hoped they learned their lesson, but I’m not mad,” he says of that time. “On paper, I guess I don’t appear to be in such high demand. But those that know how to assess popularity nowadays see it. Trust.”

It doesn’t take an industry veteran to see how Curren$y stays on the masses’ minds. “I rarely go more than two or three weeks without putting out something online,” he notes. “You have to make yourself easy to find. Stay accessible.”

That accessibility has resulted in him honing in on the younger generation’s affinities: snapbacks over fitteds, papers over blunts, Chevrolets over Benzes. It’s debatable if he dresses like his demographic or they dress like him. It doesn’t matter, really; either way, they all relate to one another.

“My nephews put me on to him,” says DD172/ Blu Roc Records head Dame Dash, who signed Curren$y before he landed at Warner and maintains a working relationship with him. “I asked them flat-out, ‘Which one of these new kids should I fuck with?’ They didn’t even have to contemplate the question, really. There’s just something about him that people just gravitate to.”

Curren$y provides further insight into his success. “I’m big on observing. And it was definitely, shall we say, educational to see certain artists going about building their empires, building their own movements: Pharrell with Star Trak, Cam’ron with Dipset. Fans would hear a beat and be like, ‘That sounds like a Neptunes beat,’ or ‘That sounds like a Dipset joint.’ That’s how I engineered Jet Life to be. I want it to be branded in a way, so the people know what it is.”

The way Curren$y sees it, having a certain aesthetic both helps turn casual listeners into hardcore fans and makes working with producers a lot easier. On April 20 of this year, he released Covert Coup, a collaboration with Alchemist, veteran producer of Mobb Deep and Nas. What started an impromptu session to record one song turned into a recording marathon.

“I met Al in L.A. to record a song for the Net,” says Curren$y. “I hadn’t had anything out for a little while. So Al says he has some beats for me that he produced with me in mind. So we knock out one joint. It was so hot neither of us wanted to give it away. So we knock out another one. Again, too hot to give away. After we did about four or five songs, we were just like, ‘Fuck it. Might as well do a whole fucking album.’ “

With Weekend at Burnie’s, produced almost exclusively by longtime collaborator Monsta Beatz, Curren$y is on an incline with no peak in sight. He is flooding the block like Weezy circa 2006, and he’s showing no signs of letting up.

“This has all gotten bigger than I thought it was ever gonna get,” he says slowly. “But I always knew it was going to work out for me. Does that make any sense?”

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Five Star Final

Dir. Mervyn LeRoy (1931).
Tabloid filmmaking meets tab journalism in this 1931 terminally hard-boiled Warner Bros. production, the peoples’ studio at its best. Taking a break from gangster roles, a convincingly cynical Edward G. Robinson stars as a self-loathing editor chained to the scummiest of newspapers.

Sun., April 11, 1:30, 5:30 & 9:30 p.m., 2010

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Jackie Chan’s Shinjuku Incident

Fresh after his painful buffoonery in The Spy Next Door, Jackie Chan tacks the opposite direction in this tough yet conventional Tokyo-set crime melodrama. Star as well as producer, he plays a destitute Chinese peasant called “Steelhead” who washes ashore with other unwanted boat people during Japan’s booming ’90s. These undocumented outcasts fill a vital role—cleaning sewers, etc.—but they’re also squeezed by the yakuza and the cops, permanently relegated to the black market economy. When it turns out that Steelhead’s ex has married into the mob, he reluctantly agrees to become an assassin in order to secure a work permit and spread the wealth among his fellow immigrants. Chan, unwilling to muss his screen image too much, casts himself as a principled protector (“How can I take advantage of my own people?”) who’s betrayed by his greedy gang and feckless younger brother. It’s a mostly reactive role, well suited to Chan’s tired stoicism—or call it “limited acting range,” if you prefer. At 55, Chan wisely eschews elaborate stunts or choreographed fight scenes. The killing and the brawling between rival Japanese and Chinese gang factions are spasmodic and unruly; there’s no glamour to this mobster’s rise and fall. Despite its Hong Kong pedigree (veteran Derek Yee directs), Shinjuku Incident forgoes flashy action scenes in favor of old-fashioned moralism. Warner Bros. could have made it in the 1930s, and that’s a compliment.

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The Marriage Circle

Dir. Ernst Lubitsch (1924)
Lubitsch’s second Hollywood film made for a relatively new and still minor studio called Warner Bros. is a sophisticated comedy, acknowledged by him to have been greatly influenced by Chaplin’s “A Woman of Paris.” It was a turning point in the director’s career–from now on he would abandon lavish spectacle and casts of thousands to concentrate on an intimate view of a handful of people and a witty examination of their love affairs.

Fri., Feb. 5, 1:30 p.m., 2010

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The Ditty Bops

Only in America could a lesbian ragtime duo get signed to a major label (i.e. Warner Brothers). The Ditty Bops’ success story, scored to an old-timey soundtrack that mixes Django Reinhardt and Blossom Dearie, began when guitarist Abby DeWald and mandolin player Amanda Barrett met over their search for a lost cat in New York, and were encouraged by a stranger to start a band. Fittingly, they fell in love. While their union sounds like a P.C. Nora Ephron rom-com, the band’s sunny swing (approved by Garrison Keillor) accompanies both heartbreak pangs and love-happy sighs, not to mention an L-Word appearance.

Fri., Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m., 2009