Sunday, June 30, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Highlighting Moments

I started re-reading my copy of About a Boy by Nick Hornby. I haven't read it in a couple of years but as I read it I keep finding random passages in the book that I've highlighted. It's a strange thing to see what I found important to highlight many years ago.

What I don't understand why I bothered highlighting things. It's not likely I'd ever need to grab my copy of the book and read a passage to someone.

So I'm left to wonder what I highlighted these passages for (mostly a few quotes between Will and Marcus about love and friendship) and this is the best I can come up with.

I highlight to show my respect and jealousy to Mr. Hornby. As if my highlight somehow sends a message to his desk and says 'I agree with this statement' or 'I wish I had thought to write that'.

As a writer I find that more and more in my days I will hear a quote or see a moment that makes me angry that I didn't write it. This week I decided to revisit Dead Like Me. I did this for two reasons... one of them being that it's an amazing show that I haven't watched in a few years and the other reason being that I'm working on a new screenplay that's got similar themes so I was making sure I wasn't ripping off any jokes accidentally.

Instead I heard about 5 quotes that'd fit so beautifully in the new script and just felt rage that they won't be in my script.

What I'm trying to say is... check out Dead Like Me, it's quite good.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 32. Chasing Amy

32. Chasing Amy

In the summer of 2000 my friend Jesse and I discovered Kevin Smith. Within a week we exposed to all of his films at that point. We all agreed that of the 4 that we saw (Clerks - Dogma) Chasing Amy was all our least favorite. It remained my least favorite until my junior year of high school when I had my first serious girlfriend. Perhaps it was my first experience of being in love but Chasing Amy suddenly went from my least favorite of Smith’s movies to my second favorite a location it has remained in (surprisingly Cop Out and Red State didn’t dethrone it).

Chasing Amy tells the story of Holden McNeil and his best friend Banky Edwards. The two are the authors and artists for their hit comic series Bluntman & Chronic (inspired by Jay and Silent Bob). At a comic convention Holden meets indie comic writer Alyssa Jones and quickly falls in love. There’s only one small problem, Alyssa is gay. However after hanging out for a few months Holden confesses his love and Alyssa and him end up a couple.

Banky doesn’t like or trust Alyssa and digs up her sexual past of having a threesome with two dudes in high school. Holden is disturbed by this and confronts her about it. The two break up. Holden proposes that if him, Banky and Alyssa have a threesome then he’d feel better about everything. Alyssa leaves and Banky and Holden’s friends crumbles ending their popular comic series.

Banky and Alyssa don’t see Holden again until a convention the next year where he arrives to promote his new comic book Chasing Amy based on the love triangle.

Chasing Amy is easily the best script Kevin Smith has ever written. Much like Dogma and Clerks, you can feel a real passion in this script. Kevin has said that the script was inspired by his relationship with Joey Lauren Adams (who plays Alyssa Jones) and feeling inadequate sexually compared to her. Watching the film you can really hear the sincerity of the dialogue including the films best monologue when Holden confesses his love to Alyssa.

This movie helped expose the world to Ben Affleck (although he had appeared in films and TV shows like Dazed and Confused, Mallrats and The Voyage of the Mimi) and still stands as one of his best performances ever. Kevin Smith has reportedly claimed that it was on the set of Chasing Amy that Ben and Matt Damon (who has a small cameo) first showed him their script for Good Will Hunting which he gave to the Weinstein Brothers. 

I wish there was more I had to say about this particular film but saying I love it seems to do enough justice in my mind. If you’ve never seen this film or you’re just not a fan of Kevin Smith, you should give this one a chance. I think it’ll surprise you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Latest Obsession: Barenaked Ladies - Grinning Streak

I wanted to introduce a new weekly posting on Wednesday. My Latest Obsession will discuss something I've been obsessing over in the last week. It can either be a new album, book, movie, app, etc or something I've revisited for the first time in years. Enjoy!

Barenaked Ladies: Grinning Streak

Barenaked Ladies is one of those bands the world has always loved. In fact their breakthrough album Stunt was #36 on my list of Albums That Made Me Love Music. A few years ago singer (and suspected coke-addict) Steven Page quit the band. Fans didn't know what to anticipate or expect from the Steven Page-less Barenaked Ladies.

The first album without Page was All in Good Time. It was a decent enough album BNL's newest release Grinning Streak is the solid evidence that the fun-loving alt-rock group from Canada is just as great as a foursome as they were as a fivesome.

I went into this album excepting something very moderate, instead by the third track I was already falling in love with this album. In my mind there are two versions of the Barenaked Ladies. There was the band that existed between Gordon and Stunt. That BNL was acoustic and goofy. Filled with random raps and lighthearted fun. The other band began on Maroon and lasted until Steven Page's departure. This version was focused on a more synth drive New Wave sound. All in Good Time felt like it was trying to return to the BNL roots but Grinning Streak beautifully melds both of these versions of BNL into one perfect sound.

If you wrote off the group after Page left, you're going to find yourself falling in love with this BNL

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 32. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads

32. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads

For years all I knew by Nick Cave was Red Right Hand. It’s a perfectly good song and I was a fan but I never bothered to look into his career until one day I heard a song from the 50’s called stagger lee.

Lloyd Price’s dance-y #1 came on the oldies station and I fell in love with it. Back then Limewire was still a thing so I downloaded the song, while searching for it I also found a song called Stagger Lee by Nick Cave. Curiousity got the best of me and I downloaded. The song was eye opening to what I’ve been missing. There was a funky bassline; dark lyrics and some of the weirdest noises in Alternative rock (if you can even classify it as that).

Murder Ballads is an album that’s exactly what it sounds like, a collection of songs about Murder. There’s not a bad song on the record but there are a few songs that explode in ways that other tracks simply can’t, be it the slow eerie Song of Joy or the 14 minute long O’Malley’s Bar. 

Cave’s songwriting truly shines on this record as he powerfully details settlings and emotions in ways that put you in the boots of the character... sometimes you’re the murderer sometimes you’re the victim and sometimes you’re the cop witnessing it all go down.

If you only know Nick Cave as “that guy who’s song is in every Scream movie” it’s time to pick up Murder Ballads.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: A'int Anger

So Metallica's Saint Anger is 10 years old this year. The album was arguably one of the biggest letdowns in Rock Music (before Chinese Democracy a few years later). Years of building towards this release was met with immediate confusion. It's not just considered Metallica's worst album but one of the worst albums ever produced.

All I knew about this album was that I hated the title track and there was a documentary about the making of it. While I'm not a huge Metallica fan I decided to pick up the album (it was only $2 at a used CD store) out of curiosity.

Here's the thing. I didn't hate it.

I mean the album is awful. But the potential level for this to be amazing is compelling. The way I see if, if a band got into a studio and recorded this properly this would be an amazing album. There's three things that need to be fixed, they're the issues with the whole album.

1) The Lyrics
2) The Song Length
3) The Music

Now the issue is that without those 3 things you just have an album of complete silence. I think if you fix #2 that will indirectly fix #1. If you were to cut the song length down and make the average song length 4-5 minutes long (as opposed to the current average of 6-8) you won't be repeating the truly awful lyrics over and over again (drawing more attention to how bad they truly are).

As for the music. The things that you want from a Metallica song are there. It's just that the great riffs are buried under tin pan sounding drums and awful mixing.

What I'm saying the album is terrible .... but no reason to not relisten to it and wish that it was recorded differently.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 33. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

33. Monty Python & the Holy Grail

Funded by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon sales Monty Python decided that their 2nd film should be more traditional and completely original as opposed to their first feature length film …And now for something completely different which was just a collection of their funniest skits from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. What they ended up creating is one of the most-praised and well-loved comedies of all time. 

Monty Python & the Holy Grail is loosely based on the legend of King Arthur. While Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his assistant Patsy (Terry Gilliam) search for recruits for his Knights of the Round Table; they are visited by God (an animated photograph of 19th century cricket player W.G. Grace) who gives them the mission to find the Holy Grail. They are led to a castle controlled by the French they are taunted and defeated. Arthur decides the best plan is to split up.

Suddenly the 4th wall is broken as a modern-day historian begins to explain the legend of King Arthur, his speech is cut short though when he is killed by a knight on horseback which triggers a police investigation.

Each Knight goes on their own bizarre (and unsuccessful) journey. Arthur and Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones) encounter the knights who say Ni. Sir Robin (Eric Idle) cowardly runs away from a three-headed giant. Else where Sir Lancealot (John Cleese) murders an entire wedding party. Finally Sir Galahad (Michael Palin) finds Castle Anthrax where he’s greeted by permiscious women who want to please him sexually until he is “saved” by Sir Lancealot. 
The Knights reunite and travel to find Tim the Enchanter (after a tip from the Old man from scene 24) who points them to the caves where on the walls are written the Grails’ location. To enter the cave they must fight the terrible Rabbit of Caerbannog using the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Once entering the cave they are attacked by the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrggggh, they run from him only escaping death when the Black beast’s animator has a fatal heart attack. 

Leaving the cave the find their last Peril the Bridge of Death. One can only cross if they answer the bridge keepers three questions. Lancelot crosses the bridge but is separated from the rest (he ends up getting arrested by the police for the murder of the historian). Sir Robin and Sir Galahad fail the test of the bridge and die. Arthur and Bedevere manages to outsmart the bridge keeper and cross safely only to find the Grails castle to have already been taken over by the French. They gather a large army to attack the castle but are stopped the police arrive, arrest Arthur & Bedevere and put an end to the filming of the movie.

My first experience with Holy grail and well… Monty Python in general was during junior high. I was just flipping through the channels and saw a bunny rabbit jumping up and bit off a knight’s head. Needless to say I had to watch the rest of the movie and between seeing a poorly animated monster chasing bizarre animated knights and then a bridge-keeper who wouldn’t let you cross the bridge unless you answered three questions and suddenly the movie ends with a bizarre police raid I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to see this from start to finish.

I was pulled in completely to the extremely bizarre moments of it that have no become infamous moments of cinema history. The multiple opening credit sequences, the coconaut discussion, the Bring out Your Dead gag and countless other classic scenes. I didn’t have many friends in high school (as I’m fairly certain I’ve already said before in this blog) but the few people I did hang out with I quickly introduced the movie to. We became obsessed with the film and started quoting it constantly.

I think there are two very distinctly different people in high school. There were the cool kids who became obsessed with movies like Dumb & Dumber but then there were kids who became the Monty Python fans who admittedly were slightly pretencious. We thought that we discovered a comedy that no one else understood, much like we felt misunderstood. Monty Python was one of the major reasons I felt like I didn’t have to be ashamed of who I was anymore.

My friends and I started to really be ourselves and stopped caring about how the rest of school saw us. I remember one time my friend Dan brought in two hallowed out coconauts to school. As each one of us went from class to class he’d stand behind us clapping the coconauts while we pretended to ride an invisible horse.

The influence of this film (and Python’s humor in general) is still alive today with groups like Lonely Island but also influenced famous sketch comedy groups like Kids in the hall, the State and Mr. Show

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 33. Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde

33. The Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde

Kanye West calls this the best rap album of all time. He might not be too far from the truth. Personally I’m surprised he didn’t name one of his own albums the greatest of all time but whatever I’ll just be happy that I agree with the man on at least one thing.

While East Coast groups like De La Soul where creating upbeat and happy hip-hop most of the west coast was filled with a much more gangsta rap style of hip-hop. Then came Pharcyde. These 4 MCs (and the incredible production of J-Swift) helped to create a style of alternative hip hop that allowed groups like Jurassic 5 or Del the Funkee Homo-Sapian to exploded. It blended jazzy beats and good humored satirical lyrics to create an album that’s hilarious, strange and also very sincere.

You have songs like “Oh Shit” (my personal favorite song) or “On the DL” where members SlimKid 3, Imani, Fatlip and Bootie Brown rap about the embarressing drunken hook-ups and events in their life they want to kept from their friends. Then you have a song like Ya Mama which literally involves the group swapping your mama jokes. The strangest moment on the album comes in For Better, For Worse in which rapper Fatlip’s verse is in the style of a harassing prank phone call. The only person besides Fatlip that could have ever pulled off a verse like this and come off funny and awesome would be the late great Ol Dirty Bastard.

The album received mixed reviews when it was first released but has since become a classic appearing in The Source Magazines 100 greatest rap albums list and the list of 1001 albums to hear before you die. Despite the praise the album only sold moderately and all their subsequential albums didn’t receive nearly the same level of praise.

The album still managed to go gold based on the single Passin’ Me By which is one of the most sincere and honest loves songs in hip-hop history. On the track each MC tells a story of their failure to get the girl of the dreams, containing lines like ‘Sometimes a twinkle in her eye is just a twinkle in her eye’ and ‘My Dear, My Dear, My Dear, you do not know me by I know you very well’. The group shamelessly discusses their failures at love, a topic most other rappers would never discuss.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Pop Goes the Music!

So two weeks ago I had to DJ two parties. I had to DJ a sweet sixteen party and a high school graduation. For a few years I've really crapped on how awful music is now, but I have a confession... there were a lot of songs I ended up enjoying finally hearing them and seeing them fill a dance floor.

Here's the thing, I'm not saying that these are incredible ground breaking songs. I just think that I've been really scrutinizing kids for listening to music not of the quality of what I grew up with. While today's modern music isn't better than the 90's music (because despite what people will have you to believe 90's radio was the best time of radio).

What I've noticed is that in the 90's we had these completely upbeat songs. The 5 most popular songs from 1999 are songs like Mambo #5, Baby One More Time and Blue

In the 2000's we suddenly had more music like Staind, Nickelback and Creed in the top 10. There was still pop songs that did well but angry and dark music really started to blow up on the radio. I genuinely believe that this drastic shift all occurred because of September 11th. You can seen the difference in music video imagery. Before that point almost all the music videos were bright colors and clean images.  Even bands like Limp Bizkit and KoRn's videos from the 90's have an overwhelming glow to them. From 2001 until roughly the end of MTV videos took a darker and minimalistic appearance.

Here's what I discovered I loved that weekend. Artists like Ke$ha (We R Who We R) and Owl City (Good Time) or even LMFAO (Party Rock Anthem) are not amazing musicians, songwriters or even singers ... but what they do provide is a very positive and optimistic style of song. I didn't want to like these songs, I fought against their charms with all my might but I can't deny their infectious upbeat vibes when I hear the songs!

I'm ashamed to admit liking these songs, but I'll never deny that I do enjoy them.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 34. Rushmore

34. Rushmore

I will never totally understand why my parents EVER rented this movie. It’s definitely not their type of movie at all. All I can assume is that they saw Bill Murray was in it and figured why not. Either way I remember they watched it, hated it and recommended it to me. I was confused by it.

You see when I saw Rushmore I was in Junior High. The film didn’t make me laugh, but I didn’t hate it... I just couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t until I was in High School and I watched Royal Tenenbaums that I started to understand the movie. Still I didn’t revisit Rushmore throughout my high school career, nor most my college career. In fact it was during my last semester of college when I was working at a video store when I finally rewatched it, almost 10 years after it’s release.

I suddenly loved it and it immediately became my favorite Wes Anderson film. I understand why this is one of his most praised films (if not his best). This is where you truly see what we’ve come to know as ‘Wes Anderson’s Style’. While Bottle Rocket contained elements of his style it mostly felt like a typical indie film, Rushmore began his ‘Movies that feel like Plays’ style of filmmaking. 

In that year of rediscovery I must have watched this film damn near 50 times. I can quote it by memory at this point and frequently reference in my day to day life. It’s a must see for the Indie Film Kid.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 34. The Ergs - dorkrockcorkrod

34. The Ergs: Dorkrockcorkrod

I remember going through a break-up in late 2008 when a friend told me that this was his favorite break-up album. He offered to send me the whole album but I requested he just send me a track or two that would convince me to buy it from the band (I don’t like getting free albums weird I know). So he sent me Pray For Rain and Everything Falls Apart ... And More. I really dug both songs and decided I did want to pick up the record.

The Ergs made their full length debut with this fun pop punk concept album. The album follows the process of a relationship. The album kicks off (First Song, Side One & A Very Pretty Song For A Very Special Young Lady) with lead singer Mikey Erg confessing his love to an unnamed girl. However the album reaches Pray For Rain where Mikey explains that since falling in love his songwriting has suffered. He begins hoping for the eventual break-up so he can write an incredible break up album.

Eventually he writes his songs but misses his lady.

The concept is a weird and straight but is also an insightful look at the world of Pop Punk and songwriting in general. If you’re a fan of quick old school pop punk like MxPx this album is a necessary record to have in your collection.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: ReSTARTed

So this is going to be a short one and has less to do with myself and more to be a rant about me calling bullshit on a band.

So with Describing the Moon being complete and moving into pre-production I've been doing some research on Kickstarter to see if this is a decent way to fund the movie or not. I discovered there is a page of the top funded projects. So I went to music in order to see where Five Iron Frenzy (my all time favorite band) fell as I knew they went well above their requested funds. That's when I saw this:

I don't care that Mindless Self Indulgence raised about 15k more than Five Iron Frenzy. What bothers me is the difference in percentage. MSI's $225,045 funding was only 150% over their goal ($150,000) while Five Iron's $207,980 is 693% over (only requesting $30,000).  

I can't wrap my head around that. How does it cost $30,000 for an 8 piece band that lives scattered across the US to record a full length (who haven't been active for 9 years mind you) but a band that's still together with just 4 bands (and mostly just recorded by 1 dude) cause Five Times that? 

The worst part is while Five Iron's page gives you a detailed explanation of what the money will be used for, the Mindless Self Indulgence page basically is just 2 minutes of people saying "I want my Mindless Self Indulgence album" and lead singer Jimmy Urine saying "Well then you gotta pay us to do it." And idiots threw money at them. I almost guarantee that $20,000 went to record the album and Jimmy Urine walked off with $130,000 in pocket.

Kickstarter Research Conclusion: People are idiots and there's no correct way to get people to give you money.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 35. Star Wars

35. Star Wars: A New Hope

Before I say anything about this movie I will state that I full acknowledge Empire to be the best of the trilogy. That being said, I love A New Hope. There’s something charming about the low-budget film that no one knew what to expect from. The effects don’t hold up sometimes (but still look better than any addition CGI bullshit) and as you grow up you realize Luke is SUPER whiny it doesn’t make the movie any less impressive or important.

However more than any other reason I love this movie for nostalgia sake. The film reminds me of spending time with my dad. This was one of the few films that we both equally loved. Being that my dad was quite the athlete while I was not we rarely had things to bond over. But I remember the day he showed me Star Wars.

When I was very young (about 4) we were at my aunt and uncle’s house. Everyone was watching Spaceballs. I wandered upstairs and started watching it, suddenly there was an alien exploding out of a guys stomach. Yes this was a PG-13 comedy making fun of the infamous and gory sequence from Alien, but to 4 year old me it was some of the scariest shit I’d ever seen. I immediately ran from the room crying.

A few months later my dad decided he wanted to show me Star Wars, at first I wanted nothing to do with the movie. The second I saw Darth Vader I thought I was going to see an alien explode out of someone’s stomach. He promised me that doesn’t happen and I sat and watched it.

The next week, we watched it again. And the following week, again. Every Friday night my dad and I would cook some burgers, make a milkshake and watch Star Wars. Eventually I watched the whole series and he’d tell me the stories of ‘how Vader got burnt up’ and lots of other backstories. To this day I don’t know how he knew these things because my dad isn’t the kind of person to read or do research, however he would have been 18 when A New Hope came out... I’d love to hear his story of seeing it for the first time. 

It’s these moments of childhood nostalgia, the fairy tale quality of the film, the charm, the moral and overwhelming good triumphs over evil aspect that makes me love this film. Future films got darker, with better dialogue and more elaborate special effects and creatures but A New Hope will always hold a special place in my heart.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 35. Five Iron Frenzy - Our Newest Album Ever!

35. Five Iron Frenzy: Our Newest Album Ever

Five Iron Frenzy is my absolute favorite band ever. Since the first time I saw them live I knew I was experiencing a very different band. I saw them at my first concert. I was there to see the Supertones (who at the time I only knew 1 song by). It was the SkaMania 98 tour featuring Insyderz and Five Iron Frenzy. While Insyderz and Supertones took the stage as very serious christian bands who while having fun definitely had a message to send Five Iron took the stage in Star Trek costumes and had a lot of fun making pop culture references.

I hate that I didn’t know who they were at the time so I was unable to sing along with their songs but the performance always stuck with me. Later that same year I heard One Girl Army, These Are Not My Pants and Dandelions (all from Quantity is Job 1) and picked up that album. It was okay, but nothing to write up about.

It wasn’t until I picked up Our Newest Album Ever a few months later that I saw what made this band so special. This album in 13 tracks perfectly covered both the silly to the beautifully poetic. While their career has always been filled with interesting moments ONAE was/is/will always be their masterpiece and the fan favorite. The album is so well loved by the band and fans that both of their live albums contain more songs off of it than any other FIF album.

Their silly songs are at their silliest (Suckerpunch, Oh Canada), their satirical songs are at their must lyrically intelligent (Litmus, Handbook for the Sellout) and of course it contains their Free Bird, Every New Day. 

Even in the documentary The Rise & Fall of Five Iron Frenzy the band talks about how it’s undisputedly the most popular song in their history (by both the fans and the band). They talk about how every performance has a magical effect on audiences where they all sing as one. Having seen Five Iron live multiple times I can speak of the immense power this song has when heard/seen live.

This is simply a great record. Regardless of christian or not there’s plenty to love on this album.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: You Can't Handle the Bluth

So Arrested Development is back. Arguably one of the best TV shows of all time and undisputedly one of the best comedy shows of all time the show's life was cut short in 2006 when FOX choose to not reunion it for a 4th season. The shortened 3rd season however was full of tongue-in-cheek in jokes related to it's pending cancellation. Since it's last episode aired rumors have kept fans on their toes about the possibility for a new season or at least a movie.

After a 7 year wait, it's here.

The response has been quite split. Some fans were painfully disappointed and others praised it for it's brilliance. Both sides are technically right.

The season started off a little rough. While I wouldn't say they were "bad" something was off. It wasn't the same Arrested Development. I couldn't help but think of the most recent season of Community. Once again the show wasn't "bad" but it didn't feel the same. However a few of my friends who were further along promised me that "when you get to the Tobias episode it improves".

It was also that the Tobias Episode that I realized what I was watching. Mitchell Hurwitz wrote the same episode 15 times from each characters perspective. To use and overused word, it's genius.

What my biggest issue ended up being was the lack of closure. This was until someone told me Hurwitz said this season was "Act 1" to either another season or a movie. I certainly hope I get one of those things because I can't not know what happened to........


Lucille 2