Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Smoothest Voice of the West

Californian singer Nate Dogg passed away in his home city of Long Beach, CA yesterday. I am not sure what the cause was and I don't really care (probably a stroke). Nate Dogg's solo career wasn't a strong one, but his collaborations with the world's biggest hip-hop artists always guaranteed a hit. When I was a young wigger not in the hood, Nate Dogg's voice seemed to epitomize the westcoast rap scene, especially during the g-funk era with his work on Dr Dre's landmark album The Chronic and Snoop Dogg's misogynistic and fun Doggystyle (how can an album named Doggystyle not be good).

Nate Dogg was then resurrected at the dawn of the millennium on Dr Dre's futuristic 2001. Among many collaborations throughout his career, his closest seemed to be Warren G. Their work on the song Regulate has become a hip hop classic. Nate Dogg's wonderfully deep, low voice helped develop a style of his own that was undeniably marketable across the world. His voice also made it easier for women to be degraded to such a fantastic level  so "just lay back and open your moooouuuutttthhhh!"

Here are what I believe to be some of Nate Dogg's best pieces of work:

Monday, March 14, 2011


Rango can easily stand up against any western past or present when it comes to narrative, style, character, emotion and convention. It is the best movie I have seen so far in 2011 for many reasons. The night before I watched Kim Ji-woon's I Saw the Devil, which was a sadistic, bloody revenge tale that is basically torture porn. Don't get me wrong, I liked the film and it was excellently made (check the stabbing frenzy in the taxi). However by the end the protagonist and the audience are left unsatisfied by the havoc of bloodthirsty revenge. Lets say compared to Tarantino's climax of Kill Bill Vol. 2, where we get a different glance at revenge through long dialogue rather than violence overload. Even though the idea that revenge never really works the way you want it to was the aim of I Saw the Devil, that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it.

Back to Rango, a movie that also reflects Tarantino and his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, I found a much more stronger film in its characters and narrative. I love South Korean cinema, but I find it funny how the audience that also love it find it refreshing from Hollywood cinema when in fact much of the style, humor and themes are beginning to be used quite frequently. Although Rango obviously contains no bloody violence that might be seen in a Tarantino film it does provide the love of cinema and homage that is present in say Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds. Rango not only is a dedication to the classic Hollywood western and the Spaghetti western, but its story also pays respect to one of America's greatest film noir tales: Chinatown.

Some films that play as a reference book to older films sometimes do not contain the emotional drive or attraction to their own characters, but Rango doesn't slip up here. This movie really gets you involved where you care about the characters and not just who they have parodied. The scene where an all too convincing Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) confronts Rango (Johnny Depp) is intimidating and the sequence that follows where Rango shamefully departs the town and walks through the moon-lit desert is very moving and looks amazing. The scene where Rango meets the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant) is very clever and pays great tribute to Clint Eastwood's icon, the man with no name.

Even though I knew that the ending would be a classic western happy resolution, the Chinatown references had me wondering if John Huston/Mayor character was gonna reveal his daughter to be his lover...Incest in the West? But fortunately it ended with the John Wayne tribute, walking off into the sunset with the girl.