February 24, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

A sweet, pleasant, and silly comedy. A hundred years ago, movies were born in New Jersey as a series of short and crude slapstick novelties. Fast forward to 2008, somewhere under the Eastern Spur of the New Jersey Turnpike, a video store's entire collection of VHS tapes is magically de-magged. The shop clerk (Mos Def) and his manic, garrulous layabout friend (Jack Black, love him or hate him, playing himself) remake the movies onto the old tapes, in a pleasantly lo-fi and inventive funky-junk DIY showcase, kind of like Mystery Science Theater 3000. The tapes become a cult hit around the neighborhood, and soon, the entire community is taking pleasure in entertaining themselves via moviemaking. Why pay The Big Studios to make entertainment for you?
French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) has a knack for making fables which lie just outside our reality, but we still buy into it. The ending is a little saccharine, and I am a little tired of Danny Glover and his soft-spoken earnestness routine. Jack Black has been funnier and more focused in other movies- he is a loose and frayed brand of crazy in this movie, it's hard to pin down any character other than the generic JB identity. I still found the whole experience fun and heartwarming. (Regal Fenway Stadium 13 with Em, George, and Mandy)

February 17, 2008

116: Soup Du Jour

I don't know why I haven't called a mix "Soup of the Day" before?
The Cover: A collage of snaps from our digital camera, including a view of New York City, me playing guitar at this very desk, our cat Max and his needlepoint doppleganger, and our infant friend Isaac.
The Tracks: Only six of the songs are from the 20th century:
  1. "Oh Well" - Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon (a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song)
  2. "Smile" (Mark Ronson Remix) - Lily Allen
  3. "Pressure Drop" - Keith Richards and Toots & The Maytals (free? on iTunes)
  4. "Tenderness" (Live at the Channel 1984) - I really like this modern soul song from General Public. Too much of the soul music of the Eighties has aged poorly, but this track still sounds good. I found this live recording on a cancer benefit record called LIVE! for LIFE, which we had in the library of my high school radio station, WBMT 88.3 FM. In those days, I had a negative bias against live recordings, but now I am totally into finding rare live records like this. I also like the idea that this was recorded in Boston, a mere 28 miles from where I was living my 12-year-old existence, playing air guitar along with "Footloose" and dreaming of seeing Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium.
  5. "Union, Jack" - Big Audio Dynamite (I only heard this song once before: when I was interning for Neal Robert at WFNX in 1993, he played this track, whose drum track sounds like a sample from "Honky Tonk Women". Fast forward 14 years, and I buy a used vinyl copy of Megatop Phoenix at a record shop in Red Bank, NJ, for $2, and here we are...)
  6. "You Only Live Once" - The Strokes (I think I found this song while listening to the Adult Alternative channel on my cable TV.)
  7. "Hollywood" - Collective Soul (I heard this shameless Cars style-ripoff on WXRV and I knew it would make it onto a mix someday.)
  8. "If You're Into It" - Flight of the Conchords
  9. "The Way I Am" - Ingrid Michaelson (I am only a little embarrassed when I include songs from iTunes commercials on my mixes.)
  10. "Dark Horse" - The title track from the George Harrison LP best known for George's rough, laryngitis-damaged vocals.
  11. "Everywhere I Go" - I really like the chorus of Shawn Mullins's almost-hit.
  12. "Fair" - This piano arrangement on this recording-- from Ben Folds's 1990 solo demo tape-- sounds like "Virtual Insanity", which never ceases to amuse me.
  13. "Make It Easier" - My high school radio station, WBMT 88.3 FM, was on the mailing list of only a few select record labels. Because we had nearly no budget for buying music, we ended up playing a lot of music from artists whose music we got for free. One of those labels who sent us free records was Epic, home of Living Coloür and Indigo Girls, along others. That's the long story of where I got to know Indigo Girls's music from the very beginning.
  14. "Ride" - The Vines
  15. "Fell In Love with A Boy" - Joss Stone
  16. "Long Limbed Girl" - Nick Lowe (from his latest album "At My Age")
  17. "To Know Him Is To Love Him" (Napster live session) - Amy Winehouse
  18. "Someone To Love" - Fountains of Wayne
  19. "Yellow Ledbetter" - A great Pearl Jam B-side from the Versus era. This song always reminds me of my old friend Meg (Goldstein) Chapman, who was the biggest PJ fan in the world back then.
  20. "September Gurls" - From The Bangles second LP, Different Light, which I got for a penny from the RCA record club.
  21. "Wake Up" - Rage Against The Machine (aka the closing credits song from The Matrix.)

115: Eye In The Sky

#115 and 116 were composed simultaneously. The Cover: My wife's new commute route takes her past this monstrosity on a hill every day- that's her woodsy pondside road cutting diagonally through this Microsoft Visual Earth photo.
This disc is very current-heavy: over half the tracks are from the last five years, and seven of them are from 2007:
  1. Tears Dry On Their Own - Amy Winehouse
  2. Winning Ways - The Vines (I found this song on Music Choice channel 414.)
  3. Hero Takes a Fall (Live in London 1986) - The Bangles
  4. Robots (Live in NYC 2007) - Flight of the Conchords
  5. LDN - Lily Allen
  6. Our Town - Marshall Crenshaw
  7. Traffic and Weather - Fountains of Wayne
  8. Don't You Evah - Spoon
  9. A Life Without You (Is No Life at All) - John C. Reilly (Reilly as Dewey Cox, singing a Roy Orbison-style torch song.)
  10. Eye In The Sky - Jonatha Brooke (an interesting cover song, discovered on iTunes while looking for songs for my "1982" mix. I actually met Ms. Brooke circa 1992, when her former folk duo The Story visited WERS-FM.)
  11. The Breakup Song - Greg Kihn (heard on the PA system before a New Pornographers concert.)
  12. Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens (My wife included this song on a mix. Possibly the saddest song of the year!)
  13. Uncle Walter - Ben Folds Five
  14. Seen The Doctor - Michael Penn
  15. All In My Head - Shawn Mullins
  16. Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  17. Getting Better (Live 2002) - Paul McCartney (I only bought this song because I remember liking the newly-arranged ending when I saw this show at the Meadowlands with my friend Robert.)
  18. Happier (Live In Portland 2003) - Guster
  19. Are We Ourselves? - The Fixx
  20. Radio Nowhere - Bruce Springsteen
  21. The Melee - Beastie Boys

February 15, 2008

In Bruges

The movies I've seen lately all fit into a couple of categories. I have seen a bunch of movies which are Important films nominated for Best Picture. I have seen movies which could charitably be called Old Fashioned Melodramas, but more accurately called Shameless Trophy Bait Which Your Grandmother Will Love; I have seen movies where some or all of the lead characters die, and you knew they were doomed from the moment the lights went down. When I was making Friday-After-Valentine's date plans for my wife and I, I wanted to go see a movie, but I was a little weary of this recent trend. I wanted a clever crime caper with funny violence, entertaining curses, and sharp dialog. Comedy at the expense of people's physical characteristics a plus. I got all that and more from In Bruges (pronounced BRoooSH).

inbrugesColin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are Irish hitmen, stuck in literal purgatory, hiding out in the best-preserved Medieval city in Belgium. It turns out that lots of people die at the end, but I knew that going in, and I didn't care if they all died, as long as I was entertained along the way. Colin Farrell can actually act, it turns out. Added bonus! Farrell became a "movie star" long before anyone actually cared about him. I had to review his filmography to find a good movie I had seen him in. The only movie he's made which I can recommend 100% is Minority Report, and that was five long years ago. In my mind, he's now starting to become someone who would persuade me to see a movie. (Landmark Kendall Cinema)

CASTING NOTE: In Bruges is a mini-reunion of Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire: Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), playing a man named "Harry", and Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour).

February 14, 2008

This is Not a Valentine's Post

February 14th? This must be the space where the Stub Hubby chronicles their annual St. Valentine's Day viewing of Casablanca, right? Well, not so much. We have grown weary of the juvenile, possibly stoned audience at the Brattle- they tend to giggle at every romantic line, and giggle some more at every slightly antiquated line in the sixty-year-old film. For a change, we decided to watch Casablanca on TV with some friends this year. Ingrid Bergman isn't as magical on my 35" TV as she is on the silver screen, but the champagne we drank made up for it.

February 2, 2008

Cloverfield

A clever experiment well executed,
Cloverfield = Blair Witch Project x Godzilla / September 11th.

In the opening 10 minutes, we meet a circle of twenty-something friends at a party in New York City. At first, I found these characters dumb, shallow, and boring, and as the minutes ticked away, I was itching for the movie to proceed to the promised monstrous destruction. I underestimated the influence these characters' stories would have on the plot. Once the monster arrives in Manhattan and everything goes to s***, five of the young beautiful people try to escape the city, but Rob's would-be girlfriend Beth is trapped, like Dana Barrett, in a penthouse high above Columbus Circle.

cloverfieldIn a pre-9/11 world, the would-be heroics of these kids might seem totally foolish and implausible. Only Rob cares enough to risk his life to save Beth, but in 2008, it only seems a bit implausible and slightly foolish for them all to join him.

Somehow, writer Drew Goddard (Lost, Alias, Buffy) director Matt Reeves (Felicity) and producer/mastermind J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) made me root for these kids to survive until the end of the movie. I certainly recommend this novel film experiment, but I might not go see it again.

THEATER NOTES: Under certain circumstances, the Entertainment Cinemas Fresh Pond is not a horrible place to see a movie. I was seated in Theater 10, which is a strangely shaped theater with a decent-sized screen:

SCREEN
SSSSSSASSSSSS
SSSSSSISSSSSS
SSSSSSSSSSSSS
SSSSSSLSSSSSS
SSSSSSESSS
SSSSSme SSS
SSSSSSSSS
←Entrance SSS

However, when the trailers started, the framing was completely off, so the top half of the image was projected on the bottom half of the screen. The "projectionist" spent a second tweaking the framing, but didn't get it fixed completely. There was still at least two feet of the frame missing off the bottom of the screen. I decided not to wait for the movie to start. I popped out into the lobby for help. Thankfully, a concessionaire had befriended me at the candy counter, so I buttonholed her and passed along my news. By the time I returned to my seat, the projectionist stopped the projector and fixed the framing. All was not perfect, however- the projector's image was slightly blocked by the bottom of the booth window, so there was a ragged edge along the bottom of the image. I think the image was also 1 or 2 degrees crooked. I cannot swear to this: it may be a optical illusion caused by the ragged framing, but I think it was a little crooked. The good news is, none of this had any effect on a movie which is completely hand-held, and almost completely shot at night.