Sunday, December 31, 2006

MY BEST AND WORST MOVIE LIST, 2006




THE BEST




10. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu)

This long, real-time movie shows the inanity, insanity and humanity of health care service. Somehow it breezed by for me...not so for Mr. Lazarescu.



9. Heading South (Laurent Cantet)

Three western women get maternal on the developing world.
A unique look at the good and bad of inter-cultural influence.


8. Don't Come Knocking (Wim Wenders)

Wim Wenders, with his loving and honest eyes, continues to capture America better than most of our own filmmakers.


7. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman)

A great ending for a great artist. In the film, a crew member asks Garrison Keillor "Don't you want to be remembered when you die?", and Keillor answers "I don't want people to be told to remember me." No doubt that Altman was speaking through that dialogue, and no doubt that people will remember him.


6. The Promise (Chen Kaige)

Epic film making shoved into a hour and a half. As light as a childrens storybook, Kaige creates a believable fantasy world that's part video game, part Kurosawa.


5. Clean (Olivier Assayas)

Out of tragedy, Emily is shaken into responsibility. Her transformation is a real life acceptance of of past mistakes, and turning those mistakes into gifts.


4. Akeelah and the Bee (Doug Atchison)

The scene where Akeelah jump ropes her way around town, learning new words with the help of her fellow citizens, is the most socially aware film moment of the year.


3. World Trade Center (Oliver Stone)

Like Bruce Springsteen on The Rising, Oliver Stone narrows his focus and unleashes his emotions. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello are great in two of the toughest roles of the year.


2. L'Enfant (Dardenne Bros.)

Children of absent parents having children while they still act like children.
The Dardennes make their 4th straight, great socially probing film and they make it seem so easy.


1. The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry)

Again, Michel Gondry tries to connect imagery to the complexity of human emotions. He comes as close to pulling it off as anyone I've seen in a long time.


---

5 THAT WERE UNDERRATED AND/OR UNAPPRECIATED

Art School Confidential
Ask the Dust
Lady in the Water
Nacho Libre
She's The Man

---

THE WORST

1. Hard Candy
2. Borat
3. Babel
4. The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things
5. I Am a Sex Addict
6. The Road to Guantanamo
7. The Proposition
8. Bubble
9. The Hills Have Eyes
10. Deja Vu

---
UPDATE

My friends Bryan & Ryan have also posted their Top Ten Films of 2006.
A TALE OF TWO VISIONS





The best parts of We Are Marshall are about the town of Huntington, West Virginia. A female narrator opens the movie with: "There's the Ohio River, next to that is the factory, next to that is Marshall University". It's a moment, in a sweeping camera shot, that gives you a quick chain link introduction to a tight community. This is something that Friday Night Lights (the movie) failed to do, and the filmmakers ended up bastardizing the town of Odessa, Texas.

Sadly, the rest of We Are Marshall is pretty limp. Director McG can't get a hold of the cliches, and give them new life, like he did with the two Charlies Angels movies. He made those two franchise films pop off the screen. Audiences didn't care about the plot, they had enough fun watching the hard rock candy visuals. But We Are Marshall is a different animal, it's a true story. It needed McG to treat it with kid gloves, and to be fair, he tried...it just didn't work.


Now, flip on over to Chen Kaige's The Promise, and you have a film that does blow back the audience with it's special effects. The Promise, like last years great Kung-Fu Hustle, uses CGI to exaggerate life, not to duplicate it. Kaige gives this fantastical morality tale the visuals to equal its storybook grandeur. The result is something so outrageous and ridiculous (and in an odd way, similar to the overlooked, scuzz punk, movie-as-video game Crank), that all lines are crossed and all rules are tossed out. Men run with bulls...a slave jumps 30 feet in the air for a piece of chicken...a woman cloaked in bird feathers flies through the air like a kite. The Promise takes you out of the typical movie going experience, just to put you back in.

You know how people say, "That story is unfilmable"? Well, Chen Kaige proves that that idiom is false.
PLATINUM BLONDE



















One of my current favorite songs is Gwen Stefani's "Early Winter".
I don't know if it's scheduled to be a single, but it should be.
It has one of those runaway choruses...

...like The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee"
...like The La's "There She Goes"
...like The Stone Poney's "Different Drum"

It has that classic type of bridge that prepares you for one last chorus.
The type of bridge that slowly cranks you up, like a climbing rollercoaster,
and when the chorus comes back, you flap your arms and get all goosebumpy.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

SUMNER LUV
























I was playing the new Nas in my car tonight.
I stopped at a red light.
A black SUV, with black tinted windows, rolled
down it's driver side window and gave me a nod.

Was my bass booming that loud?
It was definitely a "yo, that's pretty tight" look the driver gave me.
Well, maybe not "tight"...maybe it was a "yo, that's ai'ight" look.
I'm sure my cred wasn't assisted in any way by my Ford Focus with two hubcaps missing.

I knew I listened to my music loud, but...
Have I been cruising like that my whole driving life?

---
p.s. dammit....the Minnesota Gophers just blew a 24 point lead to Texas Tech in the 4th quarter!! nice going guys....I had money riding on you!!

Friday, December 29, 2006

BRUTAL YOUTH



Come on kids...
When your parents told you to put down the Playstation 2 and go outside, this isn't what they meant: "Ghost Riding" goes mainstream.


"It's a fantastic waste of time, and it's really funny," says Andy Shields, a college student from the Chicago area who tried ghost-riding with some classmates this month. The stunt was in an empty school parking lot in Casey, Ill., during a recent road trip. As a buddy rolled tape, Shields car-surfed at about 3 mph atop a friend's Chevy Suburban. Shields enjoyed the ride so much he's hoping to repeat it -- on a combine or a cement mixer.

Ummm.....what?!?!

Can't we bring back four square or marbles or something?
Even some "mailbox baseball" would be better than this!

Sadly, this new trend has claimed two lives .

Thursday, December 28, 2006

PARANNOYING
















A Scanner Darkly is another hiccup (or burp) in the curious career of Richard Linklater. It's no secret that Linklater is somewhat of a conspiracy theorist. He's often seen on PrisonPlanet.com, Alex Jones has interviewed him etc. (In A Scanner Darkly, Mr. Jones's police state fantasy is finally played out in a scene where a riot van pulls up, police tazer him, and then he's drug away). The film relies on the paranoia generated from this type of thinking. A Scanner Darkly argues that it's a vicious circle we're in (or will be, in 7 years): the drug companies, the police, the government....all the usual suspects, all the typical cynicism.

The film fails because Linklater can't think beyond the stoners and slackers that too often muddle up his art house films. Their fears aren't reliable ones. Hopped up, hooked on pus*y, and huddled over in psychobabble, these characters keep themselves isolated because there is an air of elitism above their heads. How are we to relate to the worries of such silly characters?

Think about Francis Coppola's The Conversation. Gene Hackman plays a surveillance expert who becomes isolated, and afraid of human contact, as a result of his work. Hackman's curiosity takes over his professionalism, and he winds up in a compromising situation. Coppola makes the paranoia and loneliness relatable through Hackman's humanity and sympathetic moves. Not relatable directly of course (surveillance expertise is foreign to 99% of us),but by connecting us, and making us sympathize, with Hackman's universal emotions. Linklater just shows us groovy grazing amongst a group of fellas who couldn't care, or want, to be related too.

A Scanner Darkly is the indie Enemy of the State.
LUST WILL FIND A WAY

















Never underestimate the resilience of the human spirit.
Man will always find a way to beat "The Man".
...especially if boobies are involved.
HE'S A MOVER

























Happy Birthday to Alex Chilton.
He turns 56 today.
He's only 2 years younger than my dad.
That's very weird to me.

I'm sure his rabid and loyal following will toast to him at some point today.
I do it know with my big cup of coffee!
(Cheers!)

Peter Buck once said that he saw Alex Chilton sweeping the floors of a restaurant in Mississippi. If I remember correctly, Buck approached him and Chilton said something like: "hey, I'm trying to work here, man." Now, with reunion tours and such, he's probably not sweeping any more floors, but for some reason, it makes perfect since that he once did.

He wrote some of my favorite, all-timer songs while in Big Star:

"Life is White"
"Back of a Car"
"September Gurls"
"O, Dana"
"Stroke It Noel"
"Blue Moon"
"Jesus Christ"

Enjoy your special day, Alex Chilton.
Treat yourself to some Coldstone, or a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.
RADIO SILENCE


















Most of the time you find songs, they don't find you.
Remember in Better off Dead when John Cusack can't avoid love songs on the radio? It was a comic depiction of our egos taking over.

I chose Phoenix's "One Time Too Many" to be my song this evening.
And like Cusack, it was an accident.
I knowingly put on the cd, but my reaction, at the time, was unknown.
The kick drum was like a medium-paced heartbeat after a good cry.
The guitar chords were lilting. They were my best friend that agreed with everything I said.

"There it goes/Your tears again/This is no fun...Then it's hard to tell what kind, they do look alike"
My ears were awake and now everything that followed related to me:

" Always trying to fall asleep/To make my way out..."

&

"Your man is willing to cooperate...Then it's hard/To tell you kindly/That ain't what I'm like"

Of course, reading the lyrics alone, away from my drama, I interpret something completely different. But from 9:13 to 9:30 it was about me. So quit your fact checking....leave it alone! Go get your own damn song!.....

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

AN INDIRECT THANK YOU























I'm not familiar with enough of James Brown's music to write him an appropriate 2-minute obit. I know his songs the way everyone who is alive knows his songs, but I won't kid myself through some thoughts on his music or influence.

His impact on me was felt secondarily, through hip-hop.
GangStarr, Public Enemy, Pharcyde, Ice Cube, Ice-T, A Tribe Called Quest - and literally hundreds of others - made danceable beats & squeaks off the sweat of James Brown's (and his band's) music.

So thank you sir. You deserve more than that, and no doubt you'll get it from all of the great music writers out there.

Monday, December 25, 2006

MERRY DAY, ALL DAY LONG












































































































































Sunday, December 24, 2006

LET'S STAY TOGETHER


















Nice, nice, nice.
Sweet, sweet, sweet.
One of my favorite "Americana" movies is on TV right now.
Meet Me In St. Louis.
It must be on TMC b/c it's commercial free.
Bless TMC for doing that.

I went and watched The Holiday today with my two sisters.
The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it's extended for good reason. Director Nancy Meyers could have made a brief RomCom, but she decided to insert a subplot about her love and frustration with Hollywood.

Eli Wallach plays Arthur Abbott, a retired screenwriter that lives next door to Amanda (Diaz) but becomes friends with Iris (Winslet) when the two women swap houses for Christmas. Arthur is not a cynical man. He lives well off his successes, and he is proud, but he misses the old Hollywood. ("I counted. 9 movies come out this Friday. 9 movies came out in a month when I was working"). He gives Iris a list of movies to watch - including Cukor's Holiday, The Lady Eve, and some Irene Dunne films. Meyers understands the double opportunity she has here. She gives a nod to some classic cinema, while also letting Iris discover the beauty & "gumption" of the strong women (Hepburn, Stanwyck, Dunne) represented in these relationship comedies.

Arthur also tells Iris about "meet-cutes" - a film term for when two love interests first meet -, how he wrote every female role as if it were his wife, and mentions - in passing - his friendship with Cary Grant. There's also film posters throughout, Jack Black's monologue on film composers, and Amanda keeps daydreaming her life in made-up movie trailers (not a very good joke, though).























These moments aren't insider name drops, nor is Nancy Meyers making this a wink-wink, "film-about-film" subplot. This is unique. Meyers steps outside of her big shoes and shows the connection (...or lack thereof) between film and us, pop and us, stardom and us. She argues that Hollywood could be a culture leader once again if it would just shake itself.

One can imagine a studio exec asking Nancy Meyers to cut the length of her film to make it a tighter, more accessible, shorter product. And, truth be told, the exec would've been right. The Holiday is overlong & sloppy, but that's an easy sacrifice when the reward is a film director empathizing with the audience instead of preaching to them. Kudos to Meyers for showing some gumption.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

INSIDE-OUT BABOON




I thought this was Christmas?
So why is AMC playing The Fly,
and TMC playing Dementia 13?
Not that I mind, I haven't seen either on in awhile.

I don't care how risky David Cronenberg makes teleportation seem, I'll take my chances if they ever figure out a way to zap me from one city to another in order to avoid the travel.
And just think, no security checks!
Right now is the scene where Seth Brundle explores his new strength and agility. He's running around his studio doing muscle stunts. I can't help but think of Kevin Bacon's barn dancing in Footloose.
Uh oh!...
Jeff Goldblum just planted the seed (literally) inside Geena Davis for The Fly II. Ooof...now he's getting dressed and leaving, just like real men...this ain't science fiction!!


Dementia 13. Now this movie is just odd.
I have the volume turned way down so I can't tell what's happening.
That's ok though, I didn't understand it the first time I saw it.
It was Francis Coppola's first flick, and it shows.
Very student filmy (and flimsy), but the photography is pretty great.
Oops...did he just edit in the same reaction shot twice within 10 seconds?
(like in Night of the Living Dead when the barricaded clan is watching TV, and George Romero uses the same reaction shots like 3 times).

Ahh...home for the holidays.
Square meals, dogs, and cable TV.

Friday, December 22, 2006

SUZANNE SOMERS



















I got in trouble a few weeks back - and have many times before - for writing on here that "women aren't funny". Now, being ever so timely, Christopher Hitchens has written an article in Vanity Fair about this very topic.

----------> Hitchens on the ladies.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

MY GRANDMA AND YOUR GRANDMA




I just went on my daily, midday walk.
On the home stretch, I heard some music coming out of a yellow Camaro.
It was Soul II Soul's "Back To Life".
SWOOSH......dwiggle, dwiggle.....memory flash!!............

Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" hits me in the right cortex.....SMACK!


"Iko Iko" from the Rain Man soundtrack came at me from the left.....MMMPH!

And then Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" from the Beaches soundrtrack nailed me right smack dab in my frontal lobe.....ding ding ding KNOCKOUT!

8th grade....1988.....Tracy Festervand....3 year crush....pink bikini....on Friday she could wear the cheerleader uniform to class....calve muscles....softball....phone calls....nervous....girls....Pizza Hut....pool party....notes....CCE....lunchroom....cute shoes....

WHA?!?! Oh, it's the front door. Back to life, back to reality.

Tracy, can you hear me??????

OH, THE DRAMA....I LOVE U GERARD

PHEW AND FAR BETWEEN


















I was a deer-in-headlights this morning.

I was trying to accomplish more than my two hands could handle as I went up the stairs to work. I had my bag over my left shoulder, my coffee in my right hand, my cd case in my left hand, and - here was the mistake - my cell phone ALSO in my left hand, but up to my ear listening to a message.

I forgot to mention that to get into the building I have to scan my badge. I had hoped there would have been enough human traffic coming in and out of the door so I could just scoot in. But nope. So I tried to grab my badge with my coffee hand. I made it, but there were casualties...five tan dots on my blue shirt. But at least I was in. Phew...

(I realized at this point that I was one those people that people roll their eyes at)

...no!! no!! no PHEW! not PHEW at all!!
My pants started to slide down! I wasn't wearing a belt.
OK, that's it, bye-bye cell phone. I shoved it in my pocket (apologies to anyone I accidentally called) and pulled my trousers up. OK....now phew.

Lesson learned: to remain phew, do few.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

OH EM, NOT AGAIN!



Not a good year for Eminem.
First his best friend Proof was murdered, now he gets divorced from Kim...for the second time.

Sometimes I wish I could talk to the guy.
I know it sounds silly, but I think we could be friends.
We have little in common besides our love for hip-hop,
but...like, I just know that we would connect and stuff...you know?

Whoa...I sound like "Stan", don't I?

Em's heart breaks again.
THE POWER OF MYTH







Remember those Hallmark cards that would jingle "Happy Birthday" or "Silent Night" when you would open them up? Well, the dvd case for Mark Wahlberg's new movie Invincible should play the guitar chords of "Baba O'Reilly" (with the Keith Moon drum fills) when you open it. In fact, including the opening salvo "Out here in the fields/I fight for my meals" would be perfect too, relating it to the working class struggles in the film.

I don't know much about The Simpsons, but I remember the episode where Lisa is ready to debunk the myth about a local historical figure, but then realizes that sometimes myths are good for the conscience of the community. The story of Vince Papale in Invincible is a true one, but director Ericson Core gives it a mythic quality for big screen consumption.

Before the credits role, Core shows on-field footage of the real life Papale. One of the clips corresponds with a big scene late in the film. The real footage is exciting, but it's also a strong example of how movie magic can lift an actual event into the sky (the scene in the film is ten times more emotional).


The characters in Invincible also express their own benefits gained from myths. "That touchdown got me through 30 years of working in the factory", says Vince's father. Janet (Vince's girlfriend) says she works in a bar because it makes her feel like she's back home with her brothers. Vince recalls his mother's death, then laments "but we always had the Eagles" before going into a sports story his father used to tell.

It's no wonder that sports films do so well. These are films of modern day gladiators, trekking through the mud, getting up off both knees to take on "the beast". The story archs may seem overly familiar to audiences by now, but we'll keep going back because everyone needs a little pumping up sometimes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

WHEN ARE Y'ALL HAVING A BABY?




Over the past two weeks one song kept popping up in movies that I'd rent:
"Que Sera Sera"

The odd thing is that the movies are all from different eras:

Almanac of Fall (70's)
In The Cut (00's)
The Barefoot Contessa (50's)

Hmm....is there some mystical reason why these three came together???? Nah. I think it's just a weird coincidence, but weird coincidences are fun to mull over!

Here are the lyrics:

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said.

(CHORUS)

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.

(CHORUS)


The song has it's place in each movie.
In The Barefoot Contessa, it rides along with the tragedy of Maria.
In Almanac of Fall, it rides along with the silly existential questions of the family. In In The Cut, it rides along - actually, in opposition too - the dark cynicism on screen.

So am I anxious about my future?
Well yeah, but almost everybody is.
Do I need to calm down about most things?
Most definitely, probably.
Maybe my wife secretly & subliminally made me rent these movies.
She is taking yoga class afterall.
And that's all warped, and mystical, and stuff.
Maybe Professor New Age is teaching her mind games while they stretch.

Or maybe the loooong work day is closing and I'm kind of mental right now. That's probably, definitely it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

WE'VE NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD





The angels must have realized they made a mistake by allowing Josef Stalin to be born on this day back in 1878 (side note: maybe Target will start making Stalin cd wallets now! - hat tip to Hobbes for the scoop), because they made up for it in 1946 when Steven Spielberg was born.

Spielberg's # 1 achievement is that his work has carried on the loving, humanistic tradition started by (among others) Jean Renoir, Roberto Rosselini & Vittorio De Sica. What Spielberg offered up was a humanity wrapped in a blockbuster package, given to a wide audience, on a grand stage.

Look at the huge successes of The Color Purple & Empire of the Sun, and then struggle (like I am...) to think of 2 other 1980's Hollywood spectacles that so wonderfully portrayed the importance of human contact & interaction.




Spielberg pushed it further in the 1990's with Schindler's List, Amistad, and Saving Private Ryan, and ever further in this decade with A.I., The Terminal, War of the Worlds, and Munich. In fact, it would be fun to have a debate on whether Spielberg's current work (2001-2005) is the best he's ever done. (I'm not a fan of Minority Report myself, but I know some people who will make good arguments for it.)

Let's see....1946....that means he's 60. If he lives until 100...OK 90, then that means Speilberg is only at his halfway point. If he continues his climb, he may be the best ever.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

TOMATO FACE (part 2)




Yes, yes! Another film survey.
Print it out and do it for yourself if you'd like.
(Just like a junior high worksheet assignment!)
When you finish, take it to your family's Christmas dinner pass it out and discuss.....

------

1) Does film best tell the truth (Godard) or tell lies (De Palma) at 24 frames per second? (Thanks, Peet) Lies, but it can help you with truths.

2) Ideal pairing of actors/actresses to play on-screen siblings
Adam Sandler & Anna Farris.

3) Favorite special effects moment
The end of Kung-Fu Hustle.

4) Matt Damon or George Clooney?
George Clooney.

5) What is the movie you’ve encouraged more people to see than any other?
The Red Shoes.

6) Favorite film of 1934
The Lost Patrol.

7) Your favorite movie theater*
Paramount in Austin,TX.

8) Jean Arthur or Irene Dunne?
Irene Dunne

9) Favorite film made for children
E.T.

10) Favorite Martin Scorsese Movie
oh lord.....either The King of Comedy or Cape Fear or Age of Innocence?

11) Favorite film about children
The Long Day Closes.

12) Favorite film of 1954
On The Waterfront.

13) Favorite screenplay written by a writer more famous for literature than screenplays
mmmm...good question!.....I don't know...

14) Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon?
Jack Lemmon

15) Favorite character name
Hatchet Face in Cry Baby.

16) Favorite screenplay adapted from a work of great literature, either by the author himself or by someone else
To Have and Have Not.

17) Favorite film of 1974
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

18) Joan Severance or Shannon Tweed?
I don't know who they are.

19) jackass: the movie-- yes or no?
no.

20) Favorite John Cassavetes Movie
Husbands.

21) First R-rated movie you ever saw
Conan The Barbarian.

22) Favorite X-rated film (remember that, while your answer may well be a famous or not-so-famous hard-core film, the "X" rating was once also a legitimate rating that did not necessarily connote pornography)
Chasey Loves Rocco.

23) Best film of 1994
Ed Wood.

24) Describe a moment in a movie that made you weep
When Maggie Gyllenhal's character finds out her husband is alive in World Trade Center.


25) Ewan McGregor or Ewan Bremner?
Ewan McGregor

26) One of your favorite line readings (not necessarily one of your favorite lines) from this or any year.
I don't know what this means.

27) What, if any, element in a film, upon your hearing of its inclusion beforehand, would most likely prejudice you against seeing that film or keeping an open mind about it?
directed by Rob Zombie.

28) Favorite Terry Gilliam Movie
Time Bandits.

29) Jean Smart or Annie Potts?
neither.

30) Is it possible to know with any certainty if you could like or love someone based partially on their taste in movies? If so, what film might be a potential relationship deal-breaker for you, or the one that might just seal that deal?
no, nothing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

CUT IT UP




Is In The Cut the worst movie ever made?
Okay...I'll back away from that.
I wanna save that declaration for another day.
But this movie needs to be tagged!
I wear these bullsh*t detection goggles for a reason.
I wear them for you!
I'm like the little biblical David,
slinging rocks at the piling heaps coming off our silver screens.

Frannie (Meg Ryan) is a writer/teacher. She's fascinated by urban slang (does Campion know what "cut" means?). A murder takes place outside her apartment building. Enter sexy detective. He (Mark Ruffalo) asks her some questions...then finds her g-spot. More murders occur. Is the detective the killer? Doesn't matter, cuz the sex keeps getting better!



In the end, Frannie - covered in blood - curls up to the detective (he wasn't the killer after all...yippee!) on a wet floor, while he's handcuffed to a water pipe. Ewww...how proto-feminist of Jane Campion. It would be accurate to call her a misanthrope if she wasn't so busy being a misogynist.
(critics kiss Campion's butt, while Brian "the misogynist" DePalma can't catch a break)

What the hell is going on?
This passes for art?!?
In The Cut is a movie where Meg Ryan murmurs Dante on a subway, looks up, sees a torn woman in a torn wedding dress and we're not supposed to laugh?

(Campion juxtaposed the below shot with a shot of "oral love". It's ok to laugh...please do.)


Never rent this movie, rent anything else instead.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

CLEAN IT UP













Last week I wrote off pop-music producers The Neptunes as being kaput. The music gods told me to “SHUT UP!!”, and dropped Gwen Stefani’s “Wind It Up” in my lap.

The rhythm is an electronic, horsey sounding, clippity-clop, which is fitting, because with this new single Gwen rides into town, pulls out her six-shooters and plants some in the heads of Fergie & Peaches. Those two equal opportunity skanks had been urinating (a favorite pastime for Fergie) on the Miami Booty Bass sub-genre for too long!

Musical cleansing. I love when this happens.
And welcome back Neptunes, I’m sorry I doubted you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING HUMAN

















The first image in World Trade Center is an out of focus glob of blue & red. These colors of America stamp an immediate tone in the same way Wim Wenders did in Paris,TX and Don't Come Knocking. It's intentions are plain: this is where we are, this is who we are, this is the beginning.

I've now seen World Trade Center and United 93. Both films caused physical reactions in me. My heart rate increased out of anxiety and anger. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how World Trade Center exposes the perversion in United 93. There is no denying the on screen power in it, but in hindsight, United 93's intentions are artificial and kind of snuffy. The contrast in humanity between the two films is drastic. Oliver Stone wants to show human kindness, sacrifice, and good, while Paul Greengrass - I think unintentionally - shows desperation, selfishness, and bad. Critics will argue, "But it's real!" What is real? Do you want "real" or do you want to be healed?

I was a delivery driver on September 11th, 2001. I remember sitting at my desk, preparing my daily route, when the boss came over the loud speaker and said, "The Pentagon has been attacked, and so has The White House...". The day nobody was prepared for created misinformation, not out of incompetence, but out of fear & anxiety. This experience is represented in World Trade Center when we hear nervous talk of "...did you hear? Israel's been nuked, it's gone...", "...only one tower was hit, that's smoke from tower 1...", "I think they got everyone out...".

What really gives World Trade Center its power is Stone's refusal to back away from direct contact with his audience, by using human reaction shots that are universally understood: a gulping throat, a sobbing woman, fear on a father's face, shifty eyes. The film is also unguarded in its use of iconic imagery : a cross, an upright marine, Jesus. These are images that typically spark a positive or negative reaction. Oliver Stone escapes this dichotomy because he knows that these images, on that day, provided comfort. 9/11 was not a day for debates or for being offended, it was a day when everyone just wanted to find some safe ground again.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

MR. UNIVERSE



Today is Yasujiro Ozu's birthday.
It's also the day he died.
He lived exactly 60 years.
That's a nice, full, round number for
a director whose films were perfectly intact.

Ozu loved family & friends.
He used both a microscope & a magnifying glass to examine them.
Some say if you've seen one Ozu film, you've seen them all.
That's an insult, and also a symptom of the
desire to be entertained without having to feel.
You won't have a choice once you put on one of his films.



Maybe he was aware of his own death.
The titles of his last 3 films make it seem so:

Late Autumn
The End of Summer
An Autumn Afternoon

I like to think he died smiling, or carving an apple.

Friday, December 08, 2006

2006 MUSIC AWARDS


Welcome.
This is when I announce my favorite albums & singles of the year.





10. It’s Never Been Like That - Phoenix

This French trio must have taken the common “French pop music sucks” insult personally, because they came out blazing with this 10 track, non-stop rock cookie. Cookie? Ok, so it’s more “rock-lite” than rock, but the tunes are definitely rock solid. The singer just had a baby with Sofia Coppola. It’s hard not to imagine her as the subject in many of these songs.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Rally”, “One Time Too Many”





9. The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living – The Streets

Mike Skinner’s “boo hoo celebrity is hard" album. Sounds instantly like a turn off, but it’s not. Skinner has one of the most unique writing styles in pop history, so he’s privy to rewriting all of the clich├ęs and making them sound fresh. To give the listener a breather, he saves his best stuff for a couple of personal songs (“All Goes Out The Window” & “Never Went to Church”).

HIGHLIGHTS: “All Goes Out The Window”, “Two Nations”



8. The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance

Not as tight as it needs to be (it’s a little too sprawling), but any doubters that thought MyChemRom were a flash that wouldn’t get past the 2 hit wonders of “Helena” & “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” are wrong. Hey, if you’re not a fan, you’re not fan. I understand. But if you are, the progression of songwriting on this album means pudgy little Gerard is here for the long haul. Power ballads haven’t sounded this good in years.

HIGHLIGHTS: “I Don’t Love You”, “Disenchanted”, “Famous Last Words”




7. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys

With MySpace and the blogworld being such a dominant force in our pop culture, the life of an “it band” can be even shorter than when the NME rollercoaster was the ultimate gauge. It’s interesting, how the bloggies kind of serve as a briar patch for new artists. If you can get through with only minor injuries, then you’re set to be a major player for years to come. The Arctic Monkeys survived the hype because of Alex Turner's spot on social observations and wit (he reminds me of Morrissey mixed with Mike Skinner) and because the band can actually play well! I really like their drummer.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Still Take You Home”, “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure”, “From the Ritz to the Rubble”



6. B’Day - Beyonce

Cheers to everyone who collaborated on this one. And cheers to Beyonce for avoiding two errors that commonly befall the hip-hop/r&b album: skits and song quantity. B’Day gets in and gets out so quickly, you don’t even mind the duds. Speaking of duds, The Neptunes sound lifeless on their 2 tracks (Is their run over?). But newbie Rich Harrison (he of Amerie’s “1 Thing” and Beyonce’s previous “Crazy In Love”) takes control and makes B’Day some of the most danceable 38 minutes of the year.

HIGHLIGHTS : “Upgrade U”, “Freakum Dress”, “Irreplaceable”



5. Rubies - Destroyer


The sometimes tedious theatrics of Destroyer’s Your Blues are gone, just leaving these great songs in all their glory. 10 tracks, and not a skipper (man, I LOVE albums that have 10 songs. It’s so symmetrical!). Supposedly there's been entire blog-a-thons and sleepovers dedicated to figuring out the subtext of Dan Bejar’s lyrics. I don’t get that. He’s not Nabokov! His lyrics are great because you can choose your own adventure (they remind me of the style of Beck and Stephen Malkmus). Bejar is also shaping into a pretty nice guitar player.

HIGHLIGHTS : “European Oils”, “3000 Flowers”, “Watercolors Into the Ocean”


4. Boys and Girls of America – The Hold Steady

I don’t mean this as an insult to the players in THS, but Craig Finn could front a klezmer band and it would be brilliant. I thought this album had a shot at much wider commercial appeal, but it appears not. It’s a shame because Finn is so tuned into the kids. Now if only the kids would tune him in, their worlds would explode. He could be their savior. Maybe he’s too shlubby. Maybe he’s really for adults that still wanna be kids. But I know he gives lots of good people some good feelings, and that’s awesome.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Hot Soft Light”, “First Night”, “Citrus”, “Chillout Tent”



3. Fundamental – Pet Shop Boys

Quietly, The Pet Shop Boys unleashed a megaton of an album this year, but nobody (at least in the U.S.) seemed to care. Everything they’re great at – social commentary, love/life through the eyes of a gay man, humor, protest, sadness – is in top form here. It should serve as a companion album to their great Very.

HIGHLIGHTS: “I Made My Excuses and Left”, “Twentieth Century”, “Indefinite Leave to Remain”, “Integral”






2. Night Ripper – Girl Talk

This album has so much cross-over potential. I passed it to my cube mate and she was into it. It’s the ultimate DJ accomplishment. Back in Brooklyn, in the 70’s, DJ Kool Herc used to throw block parties. With his mixes he brought conflicting neighborhoods together. DJ Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) should throw a world party! Bring conflicting nations together! Ok, so that may seem a little lofty at this point. Gillis is probably still wringing his hands, hoping some lawyer doesn't nail him for illegal sampling. Come on Mr. pirate DJ. Move to another city and crank out another mix. The world is waiting!

HIGHLIGHTS: The whole album.

1. Rather Ripped – Sonic Youth

I never thought this would happen. Never, ever, ever, never, ever, ever, ever! I really liked the atmosphere of Sister and Daydream Nation - I thought those were great albums. Sonic Youth were sound sculptors. But in 1990, with Goo, they tried to start writing “songs”. This failed attempt lasted until Washing Machine. Then from 1995 to 2002 they crawled up their butts, started hanging out with the boring Jim O’Rourke, and looked like they were lost forever in self-indulgent experimental rock land (one note: They did release a really good album in A Thousand Leaves during this period).

But then 2004’s Nurse came out. What was this?? Had they found a happy medium between their sound sculpting and their songwriting? Was it luck? Whatever it was, it was great. One of the greatest albums of the year, in fact. When I heard that Rather Ripped was “a return to their straightforward song albums” I was bummed.

It was a return to their straightforward song albums alright, but with the newly refined approach they achieved on Nurse. There were no extended jams on Rather Ripped. There were no extended noise fests. There were jams and noise fests, but they were controlled. They made sense, they had context, finally. The guitars are crisp, the grooves are locked, they’re listening to each other, Kim Gordon finally knows how to ride a melody…after 25 years, Sonic Youth are at their peak. Rather Ripped is their greatest album.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Reena”, “Incinerate”, “What a Waste”, “Jams Run Free”, “Lights Out”, “The Neutral”, “Pink Steam”




20 GREAT SINGLES FROM 2006

“S.O.S. (Rescue Me)” – Rhianna

“Check Up On It” – Beyonce

“Be Without You” – Mary J Blige

“Funny Little Frog” – Belle and Sebastian

“Temperature” – Sean Paul

"The Funeral" - Band of Horses

“What You Know” – T.I.

"You Only Live Once" - The Strokes

“Hips Don’t Lie” – Shakira

"Adventure" - Be Your Own Pet

"Steady as She Goes" - The Raconteurs

"My Love" - Justin Timberlake

"Back Like That" - Ghostface Killah

"Call Me When You're Sober" - Evanescence

"When You Were Young" - The Killers

"Morris Brown" - OutKast

"Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" - We Are Scientists

"Take Me Back To Your House" - Basement Jaxx

"Leave The Pieces" - The Wreckers

"Show Me What You Got" - Jay-Z

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UPDATE:

Here is my friend Mandy's Top 10 (and stuff) list.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

TOMATO FACE



I stole this quiz from Sheila O'Malley.
Heck, it makes for any easy morning post, so I'm gonna drink my coffee and take a rip!


1) What was the last movie you saw, either in a theater or on DVD, and why?
Pulse (US version).
because I wanted to.

2) Name the cinematographer whose work you most look forward to seeing, and an example of one of his/her finest achievements.
Tak Fujimoto.
Badlands, Pretty in Pink, Married To the Mob,The Silence of the Lambs

3) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson?
Joe Don Baker.

4) Name a moment from a movie that made you gasp (in horror, surprise, revelation…)
The zombie mom climbing the stairs at the end of Dead Alive.

5) Your favorite movie about the movies.
Mulholland Drive

6) Your Favorite Fritz Lang movie.
Fury

7) Describe the first time you ever recognized yourself in a movie.
I have no idea. I don't even like this question.

8) Carole Bouquet or Angela Molina?
I don't who know they are. I'll go with Carol Burnett.

9) Name a movie that redeems the notion of nostalgia as something more than a bankable commodity.
What? Gimme a break......what kind of survey is this?

10) Favorite appearance by an athlete in an acting role.
I can't think of one. That # 9 question really annoyed me for some reason.

11) Favorite Hal Ashby movie.
I haven't liked a Hal Ashby movie yet.

12) Name the first double feature you’d program for opening night of your own revival theater.
Distant Voices, Still Lives & The Long Day Closes.....no doubt about it!

13) What’s the name of your revival theater? no idea

14) Humphrey Bogart or Elliot Gould?
Humphrey Bogart

15) Favorite Robert Stevenson movie. nothing.

16) Describe your favorite moment in a movie that is memorable because of its use of sound. Max Fisher (in Rushmore) walking out of the elevator & putting his gum on the wall while The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away" is ripping. It always gives me goosebumps!

17) Pink Flamingoes-- yes or no?
never seen it.

18) Your favorite movie soundtrack score.
Days of Being Wild

19) Fay Wray or Naomi Watts?
Naomi Watts

20) Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it? I question the judgement of 98% of the film critics already.

21) Pick a new category for the Oscars and its first deserving winner.
Best Poster

22) Favorite Paul Verhoeven movie.
Total Recall.

23) What is it that you think movies do better than any other art form?
Use moving images.

24) Peter Ustinov or Albert Finney? Albert Finney.

25) Favorite movie studio logo, as it appears before a theatrical feature. For some reason I've always liked NewLine's.

26) Name the single most important book about the movies for you personally. "For Keeps" - Pauline Kael.

27) Name the movie that features the best twist ending. (Please note the use of any “spoilers” in your answer.) I have to admit that I was pretty thrown by the end of Primal Fear.

28) Favorite Francois Truffaut movie.
Shoot The Piano Player

29) Olivia Hussey or Claire Danes?
Claire Danes


30) Your most memorable celebrity encounter.
making out with Jessica Alba

31) When did you first realize that films were directed? probably when I discovered Woody Allen

FREE TO BE



















I was a lucky child.
I am a lucky child.
I had a great childhood.
I have great parents.
I don't know how painful it is to be abandoned.

I like to think that I gain just a little bit of understanding when I listen to "Father of Mine" by Everclear. One of the evening DJs at local rock station 101x has been playing it lately. Maybe she grew up on the unlucky side.

What is immediately refreshing about "Father of Mine" is the look-you-in-the-eyes straight talk of Art Alexaxis' lyrics (same goes for Everclear's other single "I Will Buy You a New Life"). And credit should go to Everclear for pulling this off. "Here is the money that I owe you/So you can pay the bills/I will give you more/When I get paid again" doesn't look too great on paper, but with the music, it pops of the page.

In the first verse of "Father of Mine":

"I remember blue skies/Walking the block/I loved it when you held me high/I loved to hear you talk/You would take me to the movie/You would take me to the beach/You would take me to a place inside/That is so hard to reach"
What does it say about current culture if we laugh at this? It may not be poetic, but it's one of the most honest things a son can say to his father.

"Father of Mine" is a perfect song. It does for latchkey kids what "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" did for the sexually ambiguous. Was there really a better chorus in the 90's for the parentally unwanted to shout than "My daddy gave me a name/Then he walked away", over chunky, hooky chords? What's doubly good about it, is that it's sung in a way where the singer owns it. This is no 30 Seconds To Mars defeatism. This is anger and acceptance and making a good out of a former deed done bad.

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From a reader:

"in regards to your latest blog entry, I always really liked that Everclear song. I always thought it was really sad and sincere. I always kinda thought that about all their songs. I really liked "I will buy you a new life" too. I like his details. In that song, I like when he says, "Yes I know all about that other guy/the handsome man with athletic thighs." I like that he chose that aspect to highlight, and just the way it phonetically rolls off the tongue."