Monday, September 28, 2009

Hitler's favorite band is Wavves

This is great.
I guffawed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Girls "Album"

"Album," the debut by San Fransisco band Girls comes out today. And it appears my pre-ordered copy wont arrive in the mail until tomorrow. So, to make the wait for my copy of the instantly catchy jangle-psychedelia more bearable, I'll be listening to these on repeat:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater: Wattstax, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, X-Men Origins

Wattstax (1973)
Seven years after the Watts riots burned blocks of Los Angeles, a documentary film crew set out to record the annual festival that sought to bring the neighborhood together for an afternoon of healing through music and comedy. The film serves as an artifact, preserving what it was like to be black in America in the 1970s for the rest of us. It's a fantastic document of the slang, fashion, music and personality that converged at the LA Coliseum for a day of music, performed by Stax Records' roster. An aging Rufus Thomas (the prince of dance) slays in a hilarious pink get-up, asking the crowd "Don't I Look Cleaaaaaan?" The Bar-Kays nearly funk themselves to death (honestly, they create unearthly, unhealthy amounts of funk.) And Black Moses, Mr. Isaac Hayes himself, closes the night with an iconic performance. The film is cut to edit back and forth between the music, and interviews with normal folks in barber shops and street corners, allowing them to riff on relationships, racial dynamics and whatever else. This occasionally slides into seemingly pre-determined opinions and almost stereotypical or manufactured dialogue, but mostly it seams to ring true. In perhaps the biggest highlight, Richard Prior absolutely kills during snippets of him improvising at a bar (and he name drops Peoria, woot.) For fans of the Memphis soul label Stax Records, I would have liked to see more of the full performances, and it's a shame that the label was more into it's funk phase than the earlier, classic soul sounds of Otis Redding (who was dead years before this documentary) and Sam and Dave. B+

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (2002)
I avoided seeing this for seven years, out of fear that its viewing would cause me to dislike members of a favorite band, plus I'm generally not interested in any Some-Kind-of-Monster-ish therapy moments. But, I am interested in the creative process and how a combination of certain personalities lead to the creation of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," one of the decade's greatest rock 'n' roll achievements. The film is famous for chronicling two things that occurred during the making of YHF: the dissolution of friendship between lead singer/band leader Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist/annoying genius Jay Bennett, and the band's fight against their label (Reprise) who refused to release YHF after Wilco nearly broke itself recording it. The tale goes that the label wanted it to be Wilco's commercial breakthrough, and instead Tweedy and Co. turned in a occasionally difficult record that is probably loved for the very reason the suit-wearing monkeys rejected it. Reprise eventually gave the band full rights to the record, and the Wilco ended up selling the album to Nonesuch for a good chunk of change. Of course, YHF went on to be one of the best reviewed albums of the decade, and one of Wilco's few records to go gold. [Also famously, both Reprise and Nonesuch are subsidiaries of Warner Bros. (idiots!) Some cynics think the whole mess was suspiciously beneficial to Wilco's career, but I don't believe there was anything manufactured about it.]

The film is shot in grainy and gorgeous b/w, interspersing haunting shots of Chicago with the band live in the studio. For fans of YHF, the film is a goldmine, showcasing early and alternate versions of beloved songs and some full live clips of the band in concert and Jeff Tweedy on his solo tour. Best of all, I didn't come away hating Tweedy or Bennett. I mostly felt sad for Jay, a feeling only compounded by his death this year. On film, he is obviously insecure about his contributions to the band, and no matter what Tweedy and the other band mates say, he never feels like he gets confirmation that his ideas are working, which leads him to continue to half-argue and plea for acceptance. Of course, his contributions were substantial, writing the music to "Jesus, Etc," among other songs, and creating all the ambient, tension-building sounds that linger like ghosts in soundscape's background. And, in the film's most grimace-inducing scene, getting the drum sound just right on "Heavy Metal Drummer (If you want a headache, watch Bennett try to explain his mixing ideas for the song to his band mates). Bennett was booted from the band shortly after recording the album, and he he died a poor, sad and presumably lonely man living in Champaign, Il. Without Jay Bennett, Wilco has put out one good record and two (by their standards) mediocre ones. What "I Am Trying to break Your Heart" does best is capture — with stunning photography and crisp sound — a band at the height of its creative powers, cutting tracks that have stood the test of time, and there is clearly nothing to dislike about that. A

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Pretty dumb, but with some sweet action scenes. Liev Schreiber steals the show as Sabretooth, who for once doesn't look like a WWF sideshow freak (long gone are the outrageous fake eyebrows and scene stealing mane that made him look more like the Cowardly Lion than villain in the first X-Men movie). He is legitimately scary and unstable, killing for pleasure, murdering for fun. And Hugh Jackman is still perfectly cast as Wolverine. Also, shout-out to the opening credit montage showing Wolverine and Sabretooth kicking ass in every American conflict from the Civil War to the present. I wish that would have been the whole movie. C+

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix theater: Westworld, I Love You Man, Milk, Breathless

Westworld (1973)
Westworld works because the premise is so goddamn fun. I want to go to Westworld. And I'm sure every other 13-29 (?) year old male, dropped off at the theater by mom in 1973 still wanted to go to Westworld after the credits rolled, too, even after seeing a bunch of androids go all Cyberdyne in the Wild West. The film is set in an unidentified future year (thank god, writers need to stop setting sci-fi just 15 years in the future), when the most popular new amusement park allows adults to enter Westworld, Romanworld or Medievalworld — fully realized recreations of each time, place and setting.

The twist is the worlds are populated by robots, indistinguishable from humans with the naked eye. Even the horses are animatronic devices designed to make the experience seem as authentic as possible. You can romance a damsel in Medivilworld or a lady of disrepute in Westworld. You can break your friend out of the county lockup and shoot the (android) sheriff (with a real revolver), before heading to the saloon and having a draw with a stranger. Every night the maintenance crew picks up the mangled robots and brings them back to the shop for repair. But the robots go rogue (Palin must have escaped from Westworld), and the second half follows effete Chicago lawyer Richard Benjamen as he tries to elude the menacing Gunslinger (Yul Brenner) and escape the park. The final chase ends the film on a disappointing note (not to mention Benjamin has the daintiest fairy run in the history of cinema), but the rest is inspired, and holds up surprisingly well for a 35+ year sci-fi film. B

I Love You Man (2009)
The premise: Paul Rudd doesn't have any dude friends 'cause he's always focused on one romantic relationship after another, a problem he doesn't realize until he needs a best man for his wedding to Rashida Jones (The Office). I don't know where to begin. Paul Rudd plays against his strengths here, instead of being nonchalant, funny and easy going, he labors as a mommy's boy who can't make conversation and feels out of place hangin' with the dudes. Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) also seems out of place, playing a duderino take on the MPDG role (Natalie Portman in Garden State) sent from hey-look-I'm-wacky land to pull the stick out of Rudd's ass. Only fitfully funny, I Love You Man also suffers from a reliance on trying-too-hard trend words, introducing the audience to "man dates" and "bromance" for the bajillionth time. (Note: I apologize for using MPDG so loosely and often, but once you're introduced to the term you start seeing it - or variations of it - everywhere.) C

Milk (2008)
Mickey Rourke was great in "The Wrestler," but Sean Penn fully deserves his Oscar for his work in the titular role here. Josh Brolin should also get a high five or at least a gift certificate to the mini-golf course for his sad and believable portrayal of Milk's rival city council member. "Milk" is a bit uncomfortable at times for those of us not used to watching gay intimacy, but the central focus is on the adversity faced by a movement still fighting injustice in the Sunshine state. Director Gus Van Sant does an amazing job incorporating archival footage and new shots, made to look archival, into the story without dipping into documentary territory. It's still a Hollywood production, but it feels believable, even when the sentimentality nearly becomes unbearable near end. B+

Breathless (1960)
Along with Truffaut's 400 Blows, this debut feature by Jean-Luc Godard kick started the French "new wave." But while Truffaut's first two films (and his only two I've seen) lived up to its billing as timeless artwork that reinvented French cinema, Godard's heavier reliance on jump cuts and stylistic flourishes lend more of a amateurish, bratty personality to a film that feels much more dated and confined to its '60s setting of burgeoning baby-boomerdom. The plot follows the modest crime spree of Michel, as he jumps from hot wired car to petty cash grab, all the while dragging his American lady friend around for the ride. Most of his lines consist of "Awhawhaw American birdyy, you are so prettyyy, lets a make love again." Then she argues for a bit and then eventually they go under the sheets. Occasionally Michel's snide comments and total lack of concern for those around him creates some sharp humor. But, considering the impact this film had on audiences and the cinema world in France and in America, I was a little more than disappointed. C+

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Boondock Saints 2: All Taint's Day

Remember how awesome "The Boondock Saints" was when we were 15?

Remember how awesomely crappy (aside from two or three scenes) and unintentionally hilarious the film became once you were about five years older? Anywho, I still have a weird attachment to this film, against my better judgment. It formed some sort of invinci-fuax-Irish bond with my adolescent brain.

Well, Troy Duffy finally emerged from being one of the biggest douche bags in Hollywood and secured funding to make his sequel, about four years too late. And everyone thought he was toast.

Saying that, this sequel looks absolutely awful, none of the accidental charm of the first, with plenty of recast and rehashed ideas thrown in with ridiculous guns-pointed-at-the-camera machismo. You see that when they pop out of the shipping crate? Surprise! hahaha.

This will still be a big hit.

I wish I was 16.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wayne Coyne always says exactly what he wants, and doesn't think anyone should care

Despite rescinding his comments after making them, he made them again.
In another moment in the indie feud followed by seven people on the internet, and cared about by even less, Wayne Coyne still does not like the people in the Arcade Fire. But he likes their music, he said in an interview conducted by three fans at the Flaming Lips appearance at Pitchfork Fest.

"They're dicks."

Wayne Coyne is great.
Let the word-slap saga continue! Your suspenders-clad move, Win Butler.