90 Movies in 90 Days: Chircales (1972)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Brickmakers
Release Date: 25 November 1972
Director: Marta Rodríguez ans Jorge Silva
Production Company: Fundación Cine Documental

Filmed over several years in the late 60s and early 70s, Chircales depicts the everyday lives of the Castañeda who spend their days making bricks on the outskirts of Bogotá. Forced to rent the land they work on an produce a large number of bricks for the boss each day, the essentially work from dawn to dusk in all conditions.  The filmmakers definitely have a socialist perspective in the framing of this documentary.  But I think if you can watch barefoot children working in the mud with heavy tools all day just to survive and don’t find yourself thinking “socialist” thoughts, there’s probably something wrong with you.

Rating:  ****

Book Review: The Number Ones by Tom Breihan

Author: Tom Breihan
Title: The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music
Publication Info: Hachette Books, November 2002

The Billboard Hot 100 is a strange beast and the history of the Number One songs is a weird and fascinating story.  Artists like Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bruce Springsteen never had a Number One song and some of the most beloved songs of all time have been held out of the top spot by songs that have aged poorly.  Also, some very strange songs by the likes of The Chipmunks, The Singing Nun, Rick Dees, and Los Del Rio hit Number One.  You could say that these are bad songs, but at one point in history the music buying public of the United States found these songs to be their favorite in a particular moment of time.

Two of my favorite podcasts focus on pop music history – Chris Molanphy’s Hit Parade which focuses on the charts and Andrew Hickey’s A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs which goes deeper into the weeds of rock music history. In the past few years I’ve also become a fan of Tom Breihan’s The Number Ones column on Stereogum.  Breihan is reviewing every single Number One song on the Billboard Hot 100 starting from 1958 and as of this writing has made it as far as 2005.  Breihan does an excellent job of researching the histories of the artists, songwriters, producers, et al behind a song and the circumstances that lead it be the most popular song in the USA in a particular moment of time.  Some of my least favorite songs have the most interesting stories.  Be warned though, Breihan can be pretty abrasive about trashing the songs that he doesn’t like (the column on Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was particularly cruel).

This book is a spinoff of the Stereogum column focusing on “twenty chart-topping hits that reveal the history of pop music.”  The book is more professional than the column (no f-bombs castigating songs that Breihan hates).  The songs chosen are ones that changed the face of pop music in the U.S.  “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Dynamite” introduced the pop music of another country into the American mainstream.  New  musical technologies powered “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Good Vibrations,” and “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” to the top.  While “Rock Your Baby,” “Don’t You Want Me,” and “Black Beatles” introduced new genres to chart success.

The Number Ones probably doesn’t offer anything new to anyone knowledgeable of pop music history.  But it does frame it in interesting ways and shows how many different ways there are to make a number one hit.  I also like Breihans historical approach to the background of a song.  This is a good book that fans of music will love.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2