Thursday, August 29, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 23. Ed Wood

23. Ed Wood

I remember the first time I watched Ed Wood was with my dad. We both thought it was the worst movie ever made. I don’t remember the circumstances of why I ever saw this movie for a second time but suddenly I was in love with it. 

The film is a beautiful depiction of a struggling director, not just any director though, Ed Wood the worst director ever. It’s up for debate how accurate the film actually is but regardless it makes me want to believe that Wood was always smiley and upbeat.

The film follows Ed Wood throughout the making of his 3 most infamous movies. We start with his sex-change drama Glen or Glenda. Shortly after this he attempts to make his friend Bela Legusi into a star again with Bride of the Monster. It concludes on Wood’s masterpiece of terrible Plan 9 From Outer Space (arguably the worst movie ever made).

Johnny Depp’s performance of the tortured director is one of his finest (and most understated) roles. Every line of dialogue shines with charm and love, simple lines like “no he’s very much alive” become hilarious by the sincerity of his smile and tone. Of all of the Depp/Burton collaborations (of which there are MANY) this is their best effort.

If only they made more of this and a little less Sweeney Todd.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Latest Obsession: The First Time

My co-writer and friend Jeff brought this DVD over when we were working on our script. All he told me about it was "It's from the writer of In The Land of Women" which doesn't mean much to anyone except us as we love the shit out of that movie.

I loved this movie. But it was a weird movie for me to love. It's not a comedy, it's not a drama if it's anything it's a straight up romance story but it's so dialogue heavy that I couldn't help to not fall in love with both characters. More so the movie has inspired another script idea for Jeff and I.

There's no much to say about the movie however. I wanted to do this "Latest Obsession" to get people to actually know it exists. Go rent it!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 23. MC Chris Goes To Hell

23. mc chris: MC Chris Goes to Hell

Back in 2010 I wrote a blog about this album where I called it the best hip-hop album of the year. I still stand by that statement. mc chris is one of only two rappers I can think of who have had a perfect track record never releasing a subpar album (the other rapper is Atmosphere who appeared at both 63 and 27 on this list). While I’d like to say this could have been any mc chris album, it’d be a lie. While I love every record the man has ever put out, 2010’s MC Chris Goes to Hell is his undisputed masterpiece.

MC Chris Goes to Hell is the final part of a trilogy of albums. Sometimes you can listen to such trilogies out of order (like the Kanye West trilogy of College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation) but you’re missing out if you listen to MC Chris Goes to Hell before Dungeon Master of Ceremonies and MC Chris is Dead. So before I can break this album down, I have to start with those previous records.

Dungeon Master of Ceremonies begins the trilogy. It’s important to note the fact that this marks the first record after mc decided to start touring full time. In doing so he returned to the mc chris character from his debut release Life’s a Bitch and I’m her Pimp (The follow-up record Knowing is Half the Hassle he played a kid being bullied and Eatings not Cheating contained no skits). In Life’s a Bitch and I’m her Pimp mc chris was a struggling rapper easily pushed around by his mentor and agent Mr. Chanlen. However by Dungeon Master of Ceremonies he's a big celebrity, party animal and asshole. Mr. Chanlen keeps suggesting that mc goes back to the basics and write more songs about star wars bounty hunters, when mc chris refuses mr. chanlen hires and assassin who kills mc chris at the end of the record.

In MC Chris is Dead, our favorite rapper returns from the grave as a zombie and seeks vengence (as well as a more commercial sound). A group of nerds however summon mc back to hell. At the end of the album he begins going through the various circles of hell. Three EPs were released before MC Chris Goes to Hell featuring the original versions of many of the songs (including a ska-influenced version of Neville). In hell mc chris is forced to write the songs that Mr. Chanlen requested back on Dungeon Master of Ceremonies. This is where MC Chris Goes to Hell begins.

The opening track is a skit called Sam-E. MC Chris meets with Mr. Chanlen and is disappointed to find out that despite doing everything that was requested of him Chanlen still hates his new album. MC Chris has always had hilarious skits on his album (which is rare in hip-hop) but this skit strikes extra funny chords as well as emotional ones. You can tell that mc is poking fun at negative criticisms in the comments he makes towards Mr. Chanlen. The biggest key however to mc chris’ skits is his past experiences voice acting for adult swim. He’s familiar with the final art of comedic delivery which most rappers don’t have. You could close your eyes and imagine two animated characters having a conversation, I’d love to one day see someone create animations for all of mc’s sketchs (specifically the closing skit on MC Chris Goes to Hell Race Wars).

The first track on the album is IG-88’s 57 Chevy, the first of 3 bounty hunter automobile songs, it’s also the best of the three. mc’s ear for a hook is pretty evident on this track, but it’s even more evident on the following track Drinking Blunts. 

Drinking Blunts is possibly the best song of mc chris’ career. While Hoodie Ninja has become his biggest hit (or second biggest according to some die-hard Fette’s Vette fans), Drinking Blunts is an upbeat party song that should be on the soundtrack to every teen flick. The horns parts and catchy chorus will get stuck in your brain for days on end but you won’t complain, it’s just that good.
Next on the record is Awesome Fucker. The song is about exactly what you think it’s about, how amazing mc chris is at fucking. What would normally be an obnoxious braggadocious rap song is made hilarious but a super vulgar chorus and purposefully over the top abuse of auto-tune.

However, my love for Drinking Blunts and Awesome Fucker have nothing on the amount of joy I get whenever I listen to 006. mc chris’ take on James Bond involves fighting a Hitler head. mc chris’ narration and characters sound like a child on the playground making up a story as he tells it. If you doubt that it’s intentional then I recommend you check out mc chris’ follow up album Marshmellow Playground. Chris knows how kids on a playground think and act, the child-like dialogue inbetween verses is 100% intentional.

Harry Potter fans will love Neville, a song praising one of the most underrated but beloved characters in the Potter universe. mc chris is the Neville Longbottom of Underground Hip-Hop. MC Chris Goes to Hell is a perfect album, but sadly the first 6 tracks are so superior that the rest of the album feels underwhelming after Neville. That being said chris still hits the right notes til the very end, whether it’s the sexist vulgarism of Japanese Maid, the heart-breaking teenage love song Potato Cakes or the mock-dance single Smackababy. MC Chris Goes To Hell is one of the best rap albums no one has ever heard and the highest ranked rap album on my list (although people might argue that when I post #3 in a few months).

The first time I heard this album was in late November. I had just purchased the album and was driving to work while listening to it. I instantly loved the record, so much so that I did three things that I rarely do when I hear a new album. 

First, I listened to it three more times in a row. I played it for everyone that entered my car. I become completely obesessed with the record. I memorized every lyric and every line of dialogue in the skits. I always was a fan of mc chris, but now I was  a super fan.

Second, I outwardly searched out for the next time I could see mc chris live. By the time I was 23 I was done with going to concerts. I liked going to a local show for $7 or $8 but I was done with dropping $20+ to see 2 or 3 groups playing in a real venue. mc chris became the only exception, I couldn’t wait to see him live. If you’ve never seen mc chris live before, you’re getting more than just a rap show, you get a stand up routine aimed specifically at geeks.

Finally, I wrote a blog entry praising the record. I went as far as to call out Eminem and Kanye West for making lazy and lackluster albums (despite them being two of the best selling records of 2010). I even contacted mc on facebook and twitter just to tell him how life changing the record is.

I should be embarrassed for calling this record life changing. The next 22 records that are coming up on the list are albums about heartbreak, life, growing up. Their well produced, well loved and critically praised albums. MC Chris Goes to Hell would be a novelty hip-hop to most people. To me, it’s the best rap has ever sounded.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 24. 500 Days of Summer

24. (500) Days of Summer

I remember the first time I saw (500) Days of Summer it touched my heart in places that needed it the most. Almost a year after my bad break-up, this was the film I needed to calm any feelings of rejection or hurt I may have still been feeling.

500 Days of Summer tell the story of Tom Hansen, a wanna be archetict turned greeting cards writer. One day he meets the new secretary Summer and immediately falls in love. The two bond over their music tastes and begin hanging out frequently outside of work.

From the beginning of their ‘relationship’ Summer is very upfront with Tom about her desire to not be in a relationship. Regardless Tom falls in love. 

What makes (500) Days of Summer such an interesting film is that it jumps around in the relationship. The titular 500 days are from the day they met to the day Tom is ready to move on with his life. The film will show you day 75 where they are both happy and then immediately jump to day 305 with Tom miserable and Summer no longer working at the office.

There are many moments that are up for debate on if they’re real or Tom’s imagination. Not since Forgetting Sarah Marshall & Annie Hall has a break-up been depicted so honestly. All of the emotions are there. The confidence you’ll get back together, the loneliness, the point where you go mute, the point where you never shut up about it. It’s all there.

The film is also interesting in that it’s written in a way where you don’t completely hate Summer. The writers of the film Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber both discuss how divided men and women are about the relationship. Men see Summer as a bitch who used Tom while women see Tom as someone who ignored the fact that Summer repeatedly stated she didn’t want to be in a relationship.

It’s easily one of the most interesting deconstructions of a break-up ever to grace the silver screen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Latest Obsession: Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

The first time I ever heard Brand New was when I saw the music video for The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows. I immediately liked what I heard but for whatever reason I didn't immediately run out and purchase Deja Entendu like everyone else. In fact I didn't buy anything by Brand New until my freshmen year of college when I found a used copy of Your Favorite Weapon for $3. I didn't know any tracks on it but I heard lots of great things about it. I fell head over heels with it.

I still didn't pick up Deja Entendu until about two years ago. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it quite like YFW. However one night at a bar with my friend Sarah she told me I absolutely HAVE to check out The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. I finally took her advice and immediately loved everything about this record.

Not only did I listen to it in one siting... about two days later Sarah went for a drive with me and we listened to it again. In that second listen I found even more to love about the record. It truly is one of the finest albums I've ever heard. It doesn't seem to get the same praise as their previous records and that's quite unfair because I genuinely prefer it over Deja Entendu

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 24. Thursday - Full Collapse

24. Thursday: Full Collapse

When I first heard Thursday on MTV2 I wasn’t a huge fan of it. Something about the vocals really bothered me. So I immediately wrote the band off the first time I heard them. Then a year later I had a girlfriend.

Thursday started to get big when I was in 10th grade, in 11th grade I started dating a girl who was a college freshmen. Once a month I’d spend a weekend at her dorm in Drexel. It was on one of these visits that we were playing Mario Kart and listening to her iTunes. Understanding in a Car Crash came on and suddenly I didn’t hate it, in fact... I fucking loved it.

When I walked back to the train station to head back home I stopped by the small record shop and picked up Full Collapse and listened to it on the train ride home. Lead singer Geoff RIckley can only really described as ‘nasily and off-key’ yet the lyrics and music was so powerful that you looked past it. 

It’s almost mind blowing that a band with a vocalist who can hardly sing would become as popular as Thursday was for a brief moment. Now Obviously they weren’t at a Blink 182 level and not even at a Dashboard level of popularity but in the Fall of 2001 people knew who Thursday was when you mentioned the band.

The band became even more popular with their follow-up album War All The Time which I loved equally to Full Collapse (although I know lots of people who saw it as the beginning of the end of Thursday).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 25. Labyrinth

25. Labyrinth

When I was a kid I loved this movie. I would watch it constantly. I never owned it but my uncle did, so whenever I’d visit him I’d put it on. What’s ironic is I really didn’t remember much of the movie by the time I was in Junior High. 

I didn’t rewatch Labyrinth until I was a freshmen in college. My friend Nate came over with a copy of it and we watched it. It was an eye opening moment. I mean obviously the first thing you notice is David Bowie’s obscene crotch bulge, but what impressed me the most was how innovative the film was in both story and visually.

Labyrinth is a story about responsiblity and growing up. Our main character Sarah hates her little brother and is jealous of all the attention he gets from her parents. She wants to just go out and play, instead she has to stay in a babysit.

She wishes the Goblin king comes and takes her brother away. Then Sarah’s wish comes true, she has a few hours to save her brother or he will be turned into a goblin and gone forever, in order to save him she must work her way through tricky and deceitful Labyrinth. 

The puppetry is beyond impressive. Henson really went all out on this film and created a unique atmosphere (that Gene Siskel hated so fuck him). Sadly the film did poorly in the box office but before he died Henson said he recognized and appreciated that the film had found a fanbase.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Latest Obsession: Jaws 5 - Cruel Jaws

Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is the reason I fair the ocean and to a slightly lesser extent water in general. I love the franchise so badly that I even own the shitty sequels (including the unspeakably terrible Jaws the Revenge) and I've watched all 4 movies a ton of times (at least once a year). I thought I owned it all... until I heard of Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws... the unofficial sequel.

Jaws 5 is hardly a real film. It's an Italian horror film that kept it's budget low but never building a shark and instead stealing the shark footage from Jaws 1-3 and the terrible Great White (The Last Shark). It's fucking TERRIBLE... but it's a special kind of terrible that's absolutely unreal. Let's take a look at this majestic shark that they stole from Great White

The whole movie is available on YouTube (for the time being). Go check it out before they take it down. Maybe have some friends with you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 25. Catch 22 - Keasbey Nights

25. Catch 22: Keasbey Nights

When I was part of the TV studio different people could bring in music for us to play over the morning announcements. One day I was setting up the cameras and I heard the catchiest chorus I’d ever heard. I immediately had to figure out who picked the song. It was that moment I discovered Catch 22 and the song Kesabey Nights.

I didn’t even hesitate to purchase the CD right away and fell in love with the album. When I have to think of albums that represented high school for me, that’s one of the top albums that come to mind.

In the mid-2000’s lead singer Tomas Kalnoky’s new band Streetlight Manifesto re-recorded the entire album. While the album was more polished and highlighted the horn parts as well as the lyrics it certainly took away part of the greatness of the grungey low-budget recording.

It’s most evident in the song As the Footsteps Fade Away. In 1998 when Tom screams “Don’t Take My Mother Away” it stabs you in the gut and forces you to deal with the emotions you’re feeling. In the rerecording it simply sounds like a man singing a song.

My favorite track on the album has always been the closing track 1,2,3,4. There was a good period of time where you couldn’t go to a local show in my town and NOT hear a band cover it. 

IF you were a 90’s ska/punk kid. This was in your album collection.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 26. Wet Hot American Summer

26. Wet Hot American Summer

I have no clue why I put this movie on my netflix queue. I don’t remember where I heard of it, or what actor would have made me interested in. Perhaps someone told me I’d like it? I absolutely have no fucking clue.

I put the movie on with no clue what I’d see and I remember in the first 5 minutes thinking that I was in serious trouble. I realize now that’s part of the parody. The film is a parody of 80’s hard-R camp comedies (like Meatballs)

At the start of the film the humor is awful (much like many of those films), you get introduced to most of the characters, however the tables turn around the point where our main character Cooper yells “I want you inside me” to the girl he’s in love with. 

Once that happens the film becomes increasingly more bizarre and features brilliant moments like a chase scene between a motorcycle and a camper that ends at “dead end” (aka a single tuffle of hay in the road) and an awkward trading of clothes under the guise of a romantic moment.

The film has the bare minimum of plot, instead focusing on various sketches playing off of different teen flicks all very loosely tied together by multiple story lines. Specifically Cooper trying to get the girl of his dreams and another counslers quest to lose his virginity to the sluttiest girl at camp.

The day after I got this on netflix I purchased a copy online. When it arrive I brought it into my school and we watched it during our lunch one day. It started with just 3 of us, the next day we watched it agian and there were 6 of us. Eventually by that week’s end we rented out a room in Student Life and screened it for about 30 students. 

The fandom for this movie on my campus was intense. We quoted this film constantly, started tracking down anything these guys were in. This was the film that introduced me to the State since it was a little before my time.  Never has irreverent humor worked so well.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Latest Obsession: The Cramps/Rock-a-billy/Psycho-Billy

So I've always kinda dug the little bit of Rock-A-Billy I've heard. I was into Stray Cats, I loved 50's rock and I used to always listen to Reverend Horton Heat's greatest hits album. Then came the Cramps.

My knowledge of the Cramps until about a month ago was limited to the fact that they had a song called Surfin' Dead in the movie Return of the Living Dead. I recently purchased a bunch of their albums and I immediately fell head over heels. I've rocked my way through their entire discography and I can't get enough.

This is a short My Latest Obsession because I more so want people to tell me other bands to check out if I dig The Cramps.... so um, let me know!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 26. Weston - Got Beat Up


This is not the first time Weston has appeared on this list (#52 - Matinee). However I could practically be writing about two different bands, the Weston that recorded Got Beat Up and the Weston that recorded Matinee were two very different bands. I’ll try not repeat too much of what I said on my Matinee write-up but simple version is this. By the time they recorded and released Matinee guitarist/vocalist Jim Snyder had pretty much taken over the lead vocals and song-writing role of the band and brought them into a more Indie Rock style reminiscent of Pinkerton era Weezer. Before that they were the punk band with the best harmonies around.

I once read a review on a blog that said ‘Modern punk music owes more to Weston than they’ll ever get credit for’. I don’t know if I 100% agree with that statement but I will say that Got Beat Up is one of the most flawless pieces of 90’s punk music. Much like their debut full length Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion the CD has a slight ‘concept’ album style from the perspective of a high school student. However unlike RLSOTR every single track fits the concept.

The album opens with the un-PC love song Retarded, one of the few songs sang by titular member Dave Weston. The song declares ‘You are so retarded, I must be retarded too, I can’t believe it, I’m still in love with you’. This catchy track could never be recorded in this day-in-age where Robert Downey Jr can be completely in black-face but controversy is him saying ‘go full retard.’

The theme of the stupid things that love can make us do is continued in the following track Me and Rene. This is the first (but certainly not the last) time we hear guitarist Jim Snyder singing. He speaks of his love for someone who consistantly makes his life difficult declaring ‘Sometimes it’s hard to be in love with you’. It’s not the worst song on the album but it’s far from the best.

Bassist Chuck Saltern ‘s first vocal track on the album is one of the stand out tracks. No Kind of Superstar is a goofy song dedicated to the outkast geeks in high school. He sings about Star wars, Dungeons and Dragons and being picked up by bullies on the bus. In the extremely catchy chorus he belts out ‘I know I’ll never be the cool kid that everyone wants to talk to, I know I’ll always be the fat kid on the bus everybody’s a jerk too’. I know within my circle of geeky punk kids this song is a semi-anthem proclaiming how little we care about being 26 and still playing D&D when we get a chance. 

If there were a song that Weston was known for, it’d be the next two tracks the super short New Shirt that leads immediately into the pop punk sing-along Heather Lewis. These songs were my first introduction to Weston, but I’ll discuss that further later.

My best friend Shrop has always said that if Weston was smart they would have released Your Summer Dresses Bore Me as a single. I can’t disagree with him. The song is a nice little Alternative track the reminds me of a Gin Blossoms b-side. The song sounds insanely out of place on this record, but makes perfect sense when you consider every album that came after this. 

The rest of Got Beat Up is short songs about high school crushes (Teenage Love Affair, Varsity Sweater) and being bullied (Got Beat Up, Running Stupid) finally ending on Heartbreak Sandwich, my least favorite song on the album. However seeing this song performed live is always a treat. During it’s live performance it feels just ridiculous enough to be funny, recorded it just sounds like really poorly written lyrics trying to sound witty.

My favorite song is Clumsy Shy. It’s also the song that made me track down this album. This I will cover in just a second, first let me talk about New Shirt/Heather Lewis as I promised.

In the early 2000’s I was in high school, but most of my close friends had already graduated. One of my friends (Mike) had formed a band with a group of guys named Begin to End. They would always cover New Shirt/Heather Lewis at shows. When I first saw them live, I assumed it was them. Mike was the one that told me otherwise. New Shirt is goofy and hilarious, it’s like a G-rated song you’d hear Blink 182 play in between songs during a concert. The song immediately leads into Heather Lewis a song about a girl going away to college and never visiting or calling. Since the song only has about 5 lyrics it’s an easy to learn sing-a long song. Both times I saw Weston live the closed with this song and both times the crowd lost their shit and took to the stage grabbing microphones and singing along. For those of you too young to experience something like that, that’s what punk music used to be like.

What’s ironic about Begin to End is that a few years after they broke up, I became closer friends with the other 3 members than I was with Mike (who introduced me to them all). One summer a bunch of us went on a vacation in the Mountains. Ant (The bassist of Begin to End) was one of the people who went up. While we were driving he was flipping through his iPod and turned on Clumsy Shy. I immediately fell in love with the song. With my next paycheck I purchased the whole album. Since I’m willing to doubt any of my readers have heard this album before, I’m going to post Clumsy Shy here now in the hopes it leads you to purchase the album.

Pretty fucking great right? Now buy all their albums.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Defending ICP

So it's no secret that I'm a fan of Insane Clown Posse. I'd never call myself a Juggalo but I've enjoyed the band for as long as I've known of them (roughly around the release of Halls of Illusion). I even once defended them on my old Guilty Pleasures column for Geekscape.

Now most of my opinions on the band are covered in that particular article. The reason I bring them up right now is I recently read an article from GQ where Rob Tannenbaum (cowriter of I Want My MTV) ranked the 25 worst rappers of all time. Rob is already getting a negative response for some of his inclusions and for the most part it feels like "easy targets", Including artists like Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer is basically just going "Remember we only ironically like these guys now so they must be terrible rappers" when they're half decent. However the biggest broken record is calling Insane Clown Posse the #1 worst rappers of all time, beyond the fact that this is incorrect... it's not even original.

Everyone wants to gang-up on ICP when they're not even serious rappers. It'd be like putting Lonely Island or "Weird Al" on the list. Comedy Rap should instantly get a pass, it's not about being a good rapper, it's just about being funny and lyrically ICP is fucking hilarious.

If we want to put anyone on the "Worst Rappers List" I don't know... the first thing that comes to my mind is BrokenCyde remember those assholes?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 27. Playing Mona Lisa

27. Playing Mona Lisa

One day after coming home from school I turned on the TV and there was this weird movie on. It was about 10 minute into the film so I decided to watch it. The film turned out to be Playing Mona Lisa. It intended to leave it on as a background noise and instead I got sucked into the film. I immediately purchased a VHS of that movie that week.

Unlike many of the films on this list, I didn’t show this movie to friends. I kept it to myself as a secret. Mostly because every time I mentioned the film people assumed I meant Mona Lisa Smile and would call me gay.

The movie opens with Claire Goldstein frantically trying to smoke out of a bong in a bridesmaids dress. She stumbles out of the closet in front of all of her family to which hear aunt yells ‘What happened to her? She used to be such a nice girl’. 

The film jumps to three months earlier. Claire has just graduated music school and is playing a recital that could lead to bigger and better auditions. However her entire class is rejected. Claire begins hanging out with her party animal friends Sabrina, Arthur and Barry. 

Instead of focusing on her music she begins partying, dating a weird guy named Eddie and starting to indulge in drugs like Acid. She remains friends with her music teacher Bennett (played brilliantly by Harvey Fierstein). 

The film is a great story of an artist struggling with rejection. Furthermore it’s packed with plenty of great inspirational quotes. My favorite being ‘Great Things Happened After Splat”. I will not explain this one however, you have to just watch the movie to hear it.