September 27, 2008

Sharon's Birthday Dance Party

Here's a playlist I assembled in preparation for a four-hour birthday dance party for my friends Sharon and Marc. Of course, there's no way to play 100 songs in four hours, so many of these songs didn't get played that night, but this was my roadmap for the night's voyage. Instrumental Background Music: these ten instrumentals were set aside for the first hour when the guests were arriving.
  1. Groove Holmes • Beastie Boys
  2. Mick's Up • Style Council
  3. Cantaloupe Island
  4. Guero Canelo • Calexico
  5. The Staunton Lick • Lemon Jelly
  6. Untitled Instrumental • Bo Diddley
  7. Flying • The Beatles
  8. Homage to Patagonia • Lemon Jelly
  9. S'il vous Plait • Fantastic Plastic Machine
  10. Rodney Yates • David Holmes
Swing & Soul: It's important to play some golden oldies at the outset, to give the older early birds (parents, grandparents) something easy to dance to before they split.
  1. A String of Pearls • Glenn Miller
  2. Flip, Flop, and Fly • Big Joe Turner
  3. Jump, Jive, and Wail • Louis Prima
  4. Rock Around The Clock • Bill Haley & His Comets
  5. Mustang Sally • Wilson Pickett
  6. Lonely Teardrops • Jackie Wilson
  7. Tequila • The Champs
  8. Diner • Martin Sexton
  9. Little Bitty Pretty One • Clyde McPhatter
  10. Let's Stay Together • Al Green
  11. Mr. Big Stuff • Jean Knight
  12. Ruby Baby • The Drifters
  13. Sweet Soul Music • Arthur Conley
  14. Tears Dry on Their Own • Amy Winehouse
  15. Birthday • The Beatles
  16. Let's Get This Party Started • Black-Eyed Peas
  17. Mr. Blue Sky • ELO
  18. History Repeating • The Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey
  19. My Sharona • The Knack
  20. You Dropped a Bomb On Me • The Gap Band
  21. Best of My Love • Emotions
  22. I'm Coming Out • Diana Ross
  23. What I Like About You • The Romantics
  24. September • Earth, Wind, and Fire
  25. Atomic Dog • George Clinton
  26. If You Don't Know Me By Now • Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  27. Take a Chance On Me • ABBA
  28. Like A Virgin [ext dance mix] • Madonna
  29. Faith • George Michael
Totally Eighties: Alternative & New Wave
  1. Kiss Me On The Bus • The Replacements
  2. This Charming Man • Smiths
  3. Just Can't Get Enough • Depeche Mode
  4. Bizarre Love Triangle • New Order
  5. Tainted Love • Soft Cell
  6. Don't You Want Me • Human League
  7. The Safety Dance • Men Without Hats
  8. Don't Bring Me Down • ELO
  9. Borderline [new mix] • Madonna
  10. Don't Stop Til You Get Enough • Michael Jackson
  11. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go • Wham!
  12. Love Shack • The B-52's
Hip Hop
  1. Hey Ladies • The Beastie Boys
  2. Bust A Move • Young MC
  3. Me Myself and I • De La Soul
  4. Fantastic Voyage • Coolio
  5. Cantaloop • US3
  6. Connected • Stereo MC's
  1. Dashboard • Modest Mouse
  2. Jackie Wilson Said • Van Morrison
  3. The Underdog • Spoon
  4. Everyday People • Sly & The Family Stone
  5. Sly • The Cat Empire
  6. Short Skirt, Long Jacket • Cake
  7. Tenderness • General Public
  8. Close To Me • The Cure
  9. When The Stars Go Blue • Blake Lewis
  10. Sexx Laws • Beck
  11. Groove Is In The Heart • Deeee-Lite
  12. Shotgun • Junior Walker & The All-Stars
  13. Do You Love Me? • The Contours
  14. Good Times • Chic
  15. Come On Eileen • Dexy's Midnight Runners
  16. Private Eyes • Hall & Oates
  17. Soul Finger • The Bar-Kays
  18. Night Fever • The Bee Gees
  19. Waterloo • ABBA
  20. Signed, Sealed, Delivered • Stevie Wonder
  21. Hey Ya! • Outkast
  22. Raspberry Beret • Prince & The Revolution
  23. I Wanna Dance With Somebody • Whitney Houston
  24. Machine Gun • Kool & The Gang
  25. Superstition • Stevie Wonder
  26. It Wouldnt Have Made Any Difference • Todd Rundgren
  27. Ain't Too Proud To Beg • The Temptations
  28. I Got Ants In My Pants • James Brown
  29. Tears of A Clown • Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  30. Good Lovin' • The Rascals
  31. You Can Call Me Al/Late In The Evening • Paul Simon
  32. Suspicious Minds • Elvis Presley
  33. Poison • Bel Biv Devoe
  34. Creep • TLC
Last Call: The Party Wraps Up. Because I knew that I had over-scheduled the playlist, I set aside 10 songs for the end of the night. I went to this section when I discovered the "last gasp" of the party about to arrive.
  1. Been Caught Stealing [12" remix] • Jane's Addiction
  2. Love Rollercoaster • The Ohio Players
  3. Rock Your Body • Justin Timberlake
  4. Smile • Lily Allen
  5. The Sweet Escape • Gwen Stefani
  6. Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex • CSS
  7. Get Ur Freak On • Missy Elliott
  8. Dancing Queen • ABBA
  9. Dancing With Myself • Billy Idol
  10. Let's Go Crazy • Prince & The Revolution

September 21, 2008

Burn After Reading

burnafterreadingBest case scenario, this movie would be nearly as funny as Raising Arizona. Brad Pitt and John Malkovich's performances comes close to that kind of lunacy. Pitt is a personal trainer/eager puppy, who gets himself all torqued up over a stray CD-ROM found in a locker room- this is his chance to be in his own spy thriller, and he's going to make the most of it. Malkovich is the oil to Pitt's water- a career intelligence analyst, beset on all sides by morons and mediocrity. He's an actual CIA spook, and Pitt's moron has got him over a barrel. Put the two of them together and you've got the only truly funny scenes in this movie.

Oh, I forgot J.K. Simmons- casting him as a CIA director is almost too easy! The Coen brothers are the true heirs to Alfred Hitchcock. They understand human emotions, they know what makes their audiences tick, but they don't feel these same feelings for their characters. In fact, the Coens punish us for growing to like their characters. About halfway through, I thought this movie still had some potential, but then the bloodletting began. There was too much explicit violence, and too many of our favorite characters end up dead. By the last scene, you're meant to feel nothing for these people. As a result, the Coen brothers have made a screwball-style spy-thriller parody which no one will recommend to a friend. The audience walks out feeling abused and insulted, and only a little entertained.

September 1, 2008

Hamlet 2

hamlet2A rough and silly comedy in the mold of School of Rock, Hamlet 2 is the story of a talent-free but enthusiastic drama teacher (Steve Coogan) who fights the closing of his drama department by staging a ridiculous musical Hamlet 2.

I have begun to like Steve Coogan in a few roles (he's barely in Tropic Thunder) and he tries very hard to make this part funny. One of the problems is that I never really believed that Coogan is a fool. Other Brit actors like Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson can play the fool or the smartest guy in the room equally effectively, but Coogan never quite achieves the "talentless AND foolish" perfection.

Co-writer-director Andrew Fleming (Dick and The In-Laws remake) throws everything at the wall to try and make some jokes stick: there's a wise thespian voice-over, there's chapter title cards (like in Clerks), there's recurring physical comedy (Coogan rides rollerskates to work), funny costumes (Coogan wears a caftan at one point), but half the jokes fall flat. The musical-within-the-movie is great: Hamlet and Jesus Christ go back in a time machine to save everyone who dies in Hamlet 1, including a slo-mo dash across stage to stop Queen Gertrude from drinking the poisoned wine. Hamlet and Laertes duel with lightsabers in midair, until they call a truce and start kissing. The music is a mix of Grease-style fluff ("Rock Me Sexy Jesus") and Rent-style sentimento-rock: the conclusion of the musical is set to the Gay Men's Choir of Tuscon singing "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." The original music was quite good but there wasn't enough of it.

Catherine Keener is starting to grate on me- she seems to have only one mode, and it's all too dull to cast her as the bitchy wife. It's a shame, because she was so subtle and sympathetic in The Forty-Year-Old Virgin. Inexplicably, David Arquette was cast in a part with only two lines: the lodger whom Keener runs away with. The adorable Melonie Diaz has become the mascot of underwhelming high-concept art-house comedies- she plays a student in Hamlet 2 and a girlfriend to Mos Def in Be Kind Rewind. Somewhat randomly, Elisabeth Shue plays herself as a Hollywood actress who got off the merry-go-round and became a nurse. When asked "what do you miss most about acting", she reminisces about how great it was to make out with her co-stars, which is funny by itself- how many times do we need to hear actors saying "love scenes are not fun"? But what takes the joke to a whole meta-level is that she ends the movie making big sloppy French kisses with Coogan- is she the only one who knows this is a movie?

There were also two appearances by classic "Hey it's that guy" veterans. Marshall Bell as the principal- I remember him best for having the Martian revolution leader growing out of his chest in Total Recall. He was Wil Wheaton's dad in Stand By Me and a crazy officer in Starship Troopers. Marco Rodríguez plays the father of one of the students. He hasn't had an iconic movie role, but he's been on every big TV drama of the last 25 years, including recurring characters on Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Star Trek: The Next Generation, L.A. Law, Nash Bridges, NYPD Blue, JAG, CSI, and Cold Case.

Oh, I almost forgot the funniest moment in the movie- Coogan is planted in front of his keyboard trying to write his HAMLET 2 script. He has been at it for 46 hours straight. He is strung out, exhausted, wired, and desperate. His housecat is sitting on his computer printer, purring. Slowly he turns to the cat, and growls "What the f**k is YOUR problem?" (At the Landmark Embassy in Waltham with Amy)