Legendary New York music mogul Marty Thau has died at the age of 75. Thau, who discovered and managed the New York Dolls and Suicide, suffered renal failure and passed away in Petersburg, Virginia on Thursday (13Feb14).
The New York City native started his music career as singer Tony Orlando's manager before he was signed to Neil Bogart's Cameo-Parkway Records label in Pennsylvania as a promotion executive.
He stuck with Bogart when the music legend sold the label to Allen Klein in 1968, and created Buddah Records, which boasted the Ohio Express, the Isley Brothers and Melanie and Edwin Hawkins Singers among a roster of talent.
Thau went on to become a partner in Inherit Productions, a management/ production/publishing company that represented Van Morrison and John Cale, but it was during his tenure as head of A&R at Paramount Records that his managing career really took off after catching an early New York Dolls gig.
As New York's punk scene took off in the mid-1970s, Thau launched Red Star Records and signed Suicide, The Real Kids, the Fleshtones and Richard Hell. He also produced early demos for Blondie and the Ramones.
Most of the Hunger Games mania has been focused on its kick-ass heroine, the love triangle, and what it says about our relationship to reality television. With the plethora of zombie-style apocalypse stories out there lately, true dystopia, about a society that has regressed to a pre-20th century state, has fallen by the wayside. But readers and fans of the films often forget that Collins is writing about a dystopian world. The government may use advanced surveilliance equipment to keep its citizens scared, but the tactics are centuries old — pitting small groups of citizens against one another in hopes that their hate keeps them from unifying. In a way, the Districts are almost like feudal manors, all loyal to the same central power but in no way loyal to one another.
And like that old-fashioned system of government, Panem has some other, darker practices at its core. We don't get to see much from every District, but what we do see is actually only glanced on in the series. Panem is a funhouse mirror version of the U.S., with Katniss' District 12 a clear model on Appalachian mining towns in rural Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is reflected in the first film, which went even further and built the town to look like a mining town from the 1920s or '30s. There are also the Avoxes, mute household servants who are made to do domestic work after breaking the strict Panem laws. This could be inspired by a number of real-life analogues, from European indentured servitude to strict punishments in ancient Middle Eastern cultures. Collins pulls from historical injustices rather than inventing new ones.
But in District 11, the agricultural farm district, there are some clear parallels being made to the American antebellum South. The District is full of fields that the citizens work through grueling hours, even into the night (where, in a modern twist, they are forced to work in the dark with night vision goggles). The fence around their District is always electrified in order to prevent escapes, and even the younger children, like Rue (who's only 12) have to work instead of going to school. And we don't meet too many people from District 11 throughout the series (only Rue, Thresh, and Chaff come to mind), but all of them are described in contrast to the other characters as dark skinned and dark eyed. And Katniss, who's only ever seen people from other Districts on television in the Hunger Games, can easily recognize all of them because of this.
The punishment for stealing, running away, or breaking any rules at all is being publicly whipped. Again, there's no problem with Katniss not understanding the subtext of this moment, but how on Earth did readers so easily gloss over these details and allusions to slavery? And why doesn't anybody (even Collins) care to call it out?
In the film, they had the chance to show the people of District 11, and while they did not cast all black actors (and cast Lenny Kravitz in a role of a Capitol citizen, hinting at more diversity among the haves as well as the have nots), they did at least try to show the destituion of the people and picked a location that could pass for a Southern plantation. In Catching Fire, Katniss has the chance to see District 11 for the first time. While she obviously doesn't know American history, she is taken aback by the cruelty of the guards. It will be interesting to see how the rebellion in District 11 is treated at the start of the film. We've seen a lot of American slave imagery this year, with 12 Years a Slave still fresh in many people's minds. Maybe this will shock people into realizing the comparisions Collins was making when she wrote the book. But they're dealing with difficult territory.
But if only Collins had dug into those themes a little more. If racial harmony has regressed that much, how are women treated? Religion isn't even mentioned in these books, and it's often a powerful tool in the hands of an oppressive government. Instead, the books don't really address many social issues. Mockingjay is primarily focused on the rebellion and the cost of war. But there are two movies being made out of one pretty short book. Maybe there's space to go outside of Katniss' head a little bit and explore Panem. Glancing over imagery that loaded is shallow for an otherwise pretty astute dystopian satire.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.