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Thread started 04/26/17 1:04pm

1duke

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DEBATE: Prince's Sign O The Times Movie VS David Byrne / Talking Heads Stop Making Sense Concert Film

A few days ago, Critic Armond White joined MTV Movie Critic Amy Nicholson on her The Canon podcast on the Earwolf Podcast Network to debate Prince's Sign O The Times Movie vs the heralded David Byrne / Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense, as directed by Film Director Jonathan Demme (R.I.P).

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The description for the episode explains, "Amy and Armond discuss what makes a great movie musical, the potency of a strong-willed auteur, and each films’ respective generosity towards showcasing talent. Plus, they assess the evolving means by which we associate music and images before leaving it to a final vote. Which film will enter the Canon? Head to the Earwolf forums to cast your vote!"

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Here is the link to this interesting podcast episode: http://www.earwolf.com/ep...ing-sense/

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Reply #1 posted 04/26/17 1:42pm

peedub

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oh, man, that sounds like a good listen...

i think 'stop making sense' is definitely the better of the 2...

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Reply #2 posted 04/26/17 1:55pm

jaawwnn

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Stop Making Sense wins hands down. Although reigniting the Talking Heads wars by saying David Byrne is to the Talking Heads as Prince was to the Sign o the Times band is a bit much.
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Reply #3 posted 04/26/17 1:55pm

jaawwnn

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Sigh, double post, thanks Obama
[Edited 4/26/17 13:58pm]
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Reply #4 posted 04/26/17 2:32pm

robertgeorge

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I was watching a Bruce Springsteen DVD last night, turned it off half-way through and put in Sign O the Times. The right decision. To answer the topic, I see Sign O the Times being as a galaxy ahead of Stop Making Sense. Talking Heads are a white gateway drug to better funk acts. They would be so much less without Bernie Worrell's contributions such as in girlfriend is better. My opinion and I'm adhering to it.

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Reply #5 posted 04/26/17 2:51pm

peedub

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robertgeorge said:

I was watching a Bruce Springsteen DVD last night, turned it off half-way through and put in Sign O the Times. The right decision. To answer the topic, I see Sign O the Times being as a galaxy ahead of Stop Making Sense. Talking Heads are a white gateway drug to better funk acts. They would be so much less without Bernie Worrell's contributions such as in girlfriend is better. My opinion and I'm adhering to it.



a very poorly informed one, it would seem; but by all means...

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Reply #6 posted 04/26/17 2:54pm

Genesia

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A concert film is not the same thing as a "movie musical."

We don’t mourn artists because we knew them. We mourn them because they helped us know ourselves.
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Reply #7 posted 04/26/17 3:27pm

jaawwnn

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robertgeorge said:

I was watching a Bruce Springsteen DVD last night, turned it off half-way through and put in Sign O the Times. The right decision. To answer the topic, I see Sign O the Times being as a galaxy ahead of Stop Making Sense. Talking Heads are a white gateway drug to better funk acts. They would be so much less without Bernie Worrell's contributions such as in girlfriend is better. My opinion and I'm adhering to it.


If funk music is some kind of endpoint that all music is trying to reach then you have a point. It's a one dimensional way of viewing what Talking Heads were doing but hey, its just your opinion.
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Reply #8 posted 04/27/17 1:44am

robertgeorge

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peedub said:

robertgeorge said:

I was watching a Bruce Springsteen DVD last night, turned it off half-way through and put in Sign O the Times. The right decision. To answer the topic, I see Sign O the Times being as a galaxy ahead of Stop Making Sense. Talking Heads are a white gateway drug to better funk acts. They would be so much less without Bernie Worrell's contributions such as in girlfriend is better. My opinion and I'm adhering to it.



a very poorly informed one, it would seem; but by all means...


I always held Stop Making Sense to be one of the most singularly overrated "classics." I wanted to offer a counter opinion as the initial posts seemed to accept the superiority of the Talking Heads film and that it was a "truth universally acknowledged that a hipster in possession" of a baggy suit was more artistically and conceptually fulfilling than a certain Paisley funkster.

On watching Stop making sense, I get the overwhelming feeling that the performance (dancing is awful, no it is not art), the harsh white use of lighting at times is cribbed from Bowie's thin white duke era concerts, and while the band performs well and presents some classic songs (acknowledged by myself mainly and by most people generally). The big suit is a novelty of a Tiny Tim level caliber hokeyness but I am certain your richly informed opinions and genius like insight would see the myriad of nuanced intricacies working that I never could.

I just find SMS lifeless and uninvolving. I would be very intrigued to know what other people see in this film. To be succinct (which now be too late) I find SOTT to be richer in color, dancing, staging, band performance (not considering the mimed or overdubbing issues). Both performances have tunes, but I would consider performances such as seen in Forever in my life, gonna be a beautiful night, SOTT to be superior. I find the non-Camile voiced If I was your girlfriend or the band performance of Nows the time to be amazing. The costumes are on point. It is the show I would like to see.

So I have given some reasons, I just wanted to express my opinion. I am curious about why SMS is so well regarded. I may have been clumsy in my description of Talking Heads, and I would acknowledge they had talent, with even side projects having contributed to music. However, I feel that SMS is overrated and other than the first few albums and the Hits talking heads was never my thing.

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Reply #9 posted 04/27/17 2:57am

jaawwnn

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robertgeorge said:

peedub said:



a very poorly informed one, it would seem; but by all means...


I always held Stop Making Sense to be one of the most singularly overrated "classics." I wanted to offer a counter opinion as the initial posts seemed to accept the superiority of the Talking Heads film and that it was a "truth universally acknowledged that a hipster in possession" of a baggy suit was more artistically and conceptually fulfilling than a certain Paisley funkster.

On watching Stop making sense, I get the overwhelming feeling that the performance (dancing is awful, no it is not art), the harsh white use of lighting at times is cribbed from Bowie's thin white duke era concerts, and while the band performs well and presents some classic songs (acknowledged by myself mainly and by most people generally). The big suit is a novelty of a Tiny Tim level caliber hokeyness but I am certain your richly informed opinions and genius like insight would see the myriad of nuanced intricacies working that I never could.

I just find SMS lifeless and uninvolving. I would be very intrigued to know what other people see in this film. To be succinct (which now be too late) I find SOTT to be richer in color, dancing, staging, band performance (not considering the mimed or overdubbing issues). Both performances have tunes, but I would consider performances such as seen in Forever in my life, gonna be a beautiful night, SOTT to be superior. I find the non-Camile voiced If I was your girlfriend or the band performance of Nows the time to be amazing. The costumes are on point. It is the show I would like to see.

So I have given some reasons, I just wanted to express my opinion. I am curious about why SMS is so well regarded. I may have been clumsy in my description of Talking Heads, and I would acknowledge they had talent, with even side projects having contributed to music. However, I feel that SMS is overrated and other than the first few albums and the Hits talking heads was never my thing.

Good post Rob, I suspect a lot of it does seem to be down to personal taste and that's cool. I'm gonna go into a lot of detail below, apologies if anyone thinks i'm being pretentious, that's not what i'm going for:

The "story", such as it is, of Stop Making Sense is of a miserable uptight white guy. In the first song he's all alone onstage, thinks insane thoughts about killing other people and looks and moves like a robot. He's very far from human. Then, throughout the film, he slowly gets looser and looser as he interacts with more people, awkwardly trying out highly choreographed, strange dances that don't quite work (but are entertaining nonetheless) as he tries to understand how to be a person. Finally he has a religious experience of sorts in Once in A Lifetime. This leads him to disappear for a bit to thinks about where he came from (The Tom Tom Club play a song during this interlude) and when he returns he's trying to combine his new found love of dance/humanity with that of the world where he started off... and he gets it all wrong, ballooning up into this ridiculous version of himself (that's him in the massive suit). By pushing everything too far all at the same time he kind of overloads himself, explodes his senses and realises that you don't become a human by thinking yourself into being one, you have to just go with it (Stop Making Sense!). He then emerges as a functioning human; in the final two songs he first embraces the band (literally thanking them one by one) and then the audience (who are pretty much never filmed until the final song), all of whom helped him on his journey.

Obviously it's not as literal as above, and certainly there's a lot more to the film than just that narrative (thank god!), but that's kind of the bones of what it's built on.

We'll just have to disagree on whether it's lifeless and uninvolving or not, I find it energetic and thought provoking while still being danceable. I believe the white lights and long shots were chosen deliberately to contrast with the high colour, quick shots of most 80's videos (Duran Duran's Arena comes to mind but really think of any 80's live video). Maybe it's influenced by Bowie, most things in pop music are in fairness, but I wouldn't go as far as a direct rip off. There's a lot more to the stage show than just white lights, there's the fact that the band grows slowly from one person on stage, bigger and bigger before exploding with the full extended band for Burning Down the House. After that, having reached the full amount of people on stage they start doing more with the dancing, slides going on in the background, specific light shots etc. so that every song is quite different.

As for Sign O the Times, I like bits of it quite a lot, other bits not so much. I'd rather those acted out bits just weren't there at all, I mostly laugh at them. I think it's hugely hampered by the re-recording and lip synching recreation in Paisley Park, for me that's what I would call lifeless and uninvolving and, well, phony. I get more energy from watching a bootleg recording of an actual live show, mistakes and all, than from I do from the film.

The one thing I do think SOTT does better is the costumes. In SMS they purposely dress in grey clothes in an attempt to avoid being stuck in a certain time period and in this they fail. There's more to the 80's than colourful clothing and so much of the clothes scream 80's purely by their tailoring. Sign o the Times on the other hand embraces its time period and is all the better for it; one man's dated is another's of its time and there's no shame in being of your time, especially if you're the best at it!

As for the "show i'd like to see" I don't feel I get the idea of what being at the show is like in the SOTT film that I do get from SMS. In SOTT I feel like i'm watching a show on video while in SMS I feel like i'm at it (to a degree, obviously I don't go insane and think i'm actually there). I'd be of the opinion that the U Got the Look video segment captures the feel and excitment of being at a show better in its 4 odd minutes than the entire rest of the film because its not pretending to be what it's not.

but like I said, I'm happy to agree to disagree about this, there's no right answer. I'd rather have both than just one but for me SMS works better as a narrative (i.e. a cinema release rather than just a home video) because it's all happening through the songs and performance as we watch it rather than in SOTT which goes from song to awkward narrative bit, all stitched together pretty poorly.

[Edited 4/27/17 3:14am]

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Reply #10 posted 04/27/17 5:03am

kaine

It's so funny until recently I always thought that it was just a given that everyone thought Sign o the times was a classic. It has always been my go to when someone asks why I love Prince. For i love Sign and the energy is incredible from beginning to end but I guess as always even in our community there are loads who do not feel that way. But basically Sign wins over all concert films no matter how much better technically they may be as Prince is my all time favorite live performer so at the end of the day that wins out. And I have a pretty good concert film collection as I do love live music. But yeah it's a personal taste thing all the way. And taste always go Purple! Party Up!
1980-Present
First album bought: Controversy
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Reply #11 posted 04/27/17 5:33am

imtbone

This thread right here is why I love Prince.org! Great discussion of two of my fav concert films!

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Reply #12 posted 04/27/17 8:45am

peedub

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robertgeorge said:

peedub said:



a very poorly informed one, it would seem; but by all means...


I may have been clumsy in my description of Talking Heads, and I would acknowledge they had talent, with even side projects having contributed to music. However, I feel that SMS is overrated and other than the first few albums and the Hits talking heads was never my thing.



that's all i'm getting at...i was a talking heads fan before i was a prince fan, and i can honestly tell you that what drew me to prince was the influence of the talking heads/new wave sound and brian eno's production style that i heard throughout his music at the time...it's undeniable.

they did sort of follow that seemingly incongruous trajectory from punk to funk (a la the clash, john lydon from sex pistol to PiL), but like jaawwnn said, i don't think that was calculated. you can see it play out further and beyond in 'naked' and david byrne's solo material.

as to the topic at hand, i pretty much agree with everything jaawwnn said. i think 'stop making sense' is just a better film and a better representation of the experience. sott, to me, seems too staged; as in 'trying to be a movie'...i still love it, but i love 'stop making sense' more.

anyway, i fell asleep listening to the podcast last night. i maybe made it halfway through...that dude came off as kind of a douche. by the time i fell asleep, sott had hardly been mentioned. he seemed to want to talk about prince more than the film. strange to hear them talk about him like he's just another deceased pop star, too. it's the first time i've heard a conversation about him since he died that made little to no mention of his 'recent death' or the drama surrounding it...

[Edited 4/27/17 8:55am]

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Reply #13 posted 04/27/17 1:16pm

robertgeorge

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Thank you, Jaawwn for a very thoughtful post. I can see it came from a fan with a passion for SMS, and it made me think more about the film. As a huge Prince and Bowie fan, the post-punk era is fascinating. With both Prince and Bowie, it is as interesting to see their influence on the scene as it is to see how the scene influenced them. For example learning how much Gary Numan sparked Prince when he first came out. With my other two fav bands being the Beatles and the Cure, I did a double take when Morris Day name dropped the Cure when talking about synth based ballads in regards to ice cream castles (no it does not sound like the cure, but it showed an awareness that Minneapolis had of other sounds)

Also, thank you peedub for the response about Talking Heads it was interesting. Very few bands can be popular, influential and have a unique sound. I would say that Talking Heads qualified in that regard. We need to talk about our favorite artists as much as possible on the org, so I am glad this thread was started. Prince may be our musical commonality but it is great to have this forum as a musical community for any other artist we love or are interested in.

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Reply #14 posted 04/27/17 1:54pm

Dini

Jonathan Demme has passed a way. Very sad.

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