Thursday, November 28, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film - 15. Empire Records

15. Empire Records

When I was about to start high school, I discovered Clerks and it immediately became my favorite movie at the time. As a freshmen I was a nerdy TV Studio/Stage Crew kid and I never really expanded outside of that (except the occasional newspaper meeting). While working stage crew my freshmen year I was talking to another movie nerd in the school’s production of Anything Goes. His name was David Edwards and I don’t think I ever had another conversation with him but in our brief conversation of favorite movies he said ‘Clerks is pretty good, but believe me when I say Empire Records is the greatest movie ever made.’ Based on that recommendation, I rented it over the weekend.

Empire Records is not the greatest movie ever made, it’s not even a particularly good movie from a stand point of story, camera work or even acting. But all of that is a moot point, it’s all about fun. Empire Records is Clerks in a record shop, however unlike Clerks which looks like a miserable filming schedule, Empire Records looks like a group of young unknown actors/actresses (and Liv Tyler) having the time of their lives.

The whole movie is told within 24 hours. Late at night Empire Records employee Lucas is closing up the store. While fooling around he discovers plans to turn the mom and pops record store into a corporate MegaRecords store. Lucas decides to take matters into his own hands and drives to Atlantic City to gamble the profits of that night in order to save the records shop. Instead he loses everything.

The next morning store manager Joe has to deal with the owner Mitch screaming and yelling about the money, shoplifters and all the crazy anti-authority antics of the employees. Lucas turns into a philosophical spouting prophet, punker Mark wants to form a band, A.J. wants to tell Corey that he loves her, but Corey wants to have sex with pop superstar Rex Manning who’s doing a signing in the store that day. Meanwhile Debra is suicidal and picking fights with Berko and Gina (the slutty employee and Corey’s best friend).

The true star of the movie however is good old fashion rock and roll. Empire Records (much like Singles) is packed with songs that all represent the 90’s. The 90’s was a time period were one radio station could play a rap song, an acoustic song, a heavy metal song and a punk song back to back and no one said anything. Empire Records acts as a music time capisle. Sadly the soundtrack is filled with the most forgettable songs from the movie.

The dialogue is funny and quick and despite some really awful acting here and there every character is likable. Lucas and Mark easily becoming the best characters however with one liner after one liner.

Empire Records is an incredible film. Incredible in the sense that within a mere 100 minutes the film manages to represent an entire season of Beverly Hills 90210. There’s drug addiction, family issues, thief, sex, love and rock and roll. 

Be warned, avoid the ‘Special Edition Directors Cut’ if you can. It alters some of the best scenes in the original with less than stellar versions.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 15. Steel Train

15. Steel Train

The first time I heard of Steel Train my friends were making fun of them for being signed to Drive-Thru and with good reason. At the time Drive-Thru was all pop punk bands and then suddenly they book a indie-folk duo. While I enjoyed the band it was definitely a misplaced choice. I really didn’t pay them much attention and neither did Drive Thru.

In 2010 when I went to Los Angeles for San Diego Comic Con and Jonathan London played me this self-titled record. It was like hearing a completely new band. Perhaps it was Jack being a member of fun. or just a natural progression but the acoustic duo was now a full fledged indie rock outfit. 

The opening song Bullet I once read get described as “making you nostalgic for summer events that hadn’t happened”. I can’t think of a better phrase to describe the entire record really. Each song is filled with so much personality and unique musical style that you’re drawn in and you wish you experienced Jack Antonoff’s life.

Songs like You and I Undercover and Behavior belong on movie soundtracks. The entire record is the most have album that almost no one even took notice of. It’s a shame.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 16. Say Anything ...

16. Say Anything

For years and years I knew the Say Anything poster. A man standing outside with a Stereo over his head. I knew the scene, I knew the song and I knew literally nothing else. People would constantly tell me how great the movie was and how much I’d love it. So when I finally bought a DVD player (about 2 years later than the rest of the world) and saw it for $6 on DVD at Target I decided to buy it without knowing much about it.

I fell in love with this movie almost immediately.

I completely and utterly understood exactly why so many people loved this movie. I became obsessed with this film and watched it repeatedly and obsessively. There’s so few things to dislike about this film. It’s an 80’s film that excluding a few outfits doesn’t look or feel 80’s, it’s a teen flick that’s far deeper and more emotionally driven than most teen flicks and the acting is far better than most films of it’s kind.

John Cusack is so amazingly perfect in this film that I completely understand why Chuck Klosterman dedicated an entire chapter in his book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs based on it. Cusack’s Lloyd Dubler is the person I wish I could be and Diane Court is the girl I wish I could have. I could never understand why I never found Ione Skye attractive in anything else but yet in this she is the end all and be all of sexual perfection.

This is an amazing movie plain and simple. Go see it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

100 Albums That Made Me Love Music - 16. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

16. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

This album is frequently debated as being one of (if not the) greatest albums ever made. I don’t argue that for a second. There’s debate also on if it’s the best Beatles album (frequently picking fights with The White Album, Revolver or Rubber Soul). This one is an easy answer for me... yes this is the best beatles album.

I don’t have any issues with the previous or later albums by the Beatles but this is in my mind their undisputed masterpiece. While all their records are classic and are filled with memorable (and culturally significant) songs there’s always a few songs that just don’t work for me. Sgt. Pepper’s is one of those rare Beatles records where every single song works. It was a lightening in a bottle moment where every one of the Fab Four’s ideas worked out.

This is the album that made me appreciate the Beatles. I always liked them and my dad had all their records. I rarely listened to full records though, just individual songs. However a few years ago I decided to purchase all the Beatles albums. The first one I got was Let it Be because Across the Universe is my favorite Beatles song. I had a very mixed reaction to the record as a whole. I can hear their fighting and completely understand why it ended up being their last record.

However when I heard Sgt. Pepper’s I understood why they are the greatest band of all time. That’s not just nostalgia or over-hyping... they genuinely are the greatest band of all time (writer Chuck Klosterman calls them one of the most accurately rated bands in history). Why are they so beloved and incredible? Look no further than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They cover so many various genres of song in 12 tracks and do each one justice.

Be it the kinda punky/metal sounds of Sgt. Pepper’s, the circusy acid trip sounds of Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite or the Indian sounds of Within You Without You they are successful in every song. 

However there are two songs in particular that I adore. One is a cheesy little love song from McCartney called When I’m Sixty-Four. It’s a throwback to dixieland style love songs and while it occasionally gets flake for being lame and hookey, I adore it. 

The other song, however, is arguably the greatest song in music history and definitely the best song in the Beatles Catalogue (although across the universe is still my favorite beatles song). That song of course is A Day in the Life.

It’s hardly even a song. It’s an experience. You see two people’s lives through the lyrics, the song changes styles and tempos and builds to a final bang of a E chord on the piano. Quite possibly the most famous final note of any piece of rock music the album comes to a close (if you don’t include the last like 10 seconds for weird trippy noises)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 17. Swingers

17. Swingers

I don’t know what I thought this movie was about but I’ve always known of the poster and the title. However it wasn’t until my freshmen year of college that I finally watched it. I still don’t know why I wanted it in the first place, but I’m glad i did.

The story is follows Mickey a down and out actor who just broke up with his girlfriend of six years. His various friends try their best to pull him out of his funk by taking him to vegas, going golfing and hitting up clubs. The film is mostly plotless; focusing more on Mickey and his friends than a general plot. However the film is drawn from Jon Favreau’s own experiences with his best friend Vince Vaughn. 

While it’s basically just a collection of random comedic moments from his life it manages to be relatable to most people. It helped with the mainstream swing revival, was the launchpad for it’s cast, writers and director and put phrases like “you’re money” into the every day conversation of many people (including myself).

Simple, funny and well done, Swingers is a film to watch again and again and again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 17. Further Seems Forever: The Moon is Down

17. Further Seems Forever: The Moon is Down

I didn’t know who Chris Carrabba was when Further Seems Forever first came out. At the time all I knew about them was their logo on the Tooth & Nail website was a parody of the Back to the Future logo.

Then Dashboard Confessional happened and everyone knew who Chris Carrabba was, but I still didn’t really care. It wasn’t until I heard Snowbirds and Townies on a comp. I immediately went out and purchased the album based on that song alone. In the end it turned out to be the worst song on the album.

I immediately was drawn to every element of this record. The lyrics are gorgeous and more incredibly the music is a beautiful compliment to the words. The stand out tracks for me are New Years Project and Just Until Sundown. After all these years it continues to be the best vocal performance in Carrabba’s career and the best music the band ever produced.

After his successful solo career blew up Carrabba left the band for a decade while they tried various other singers. A few years ago the band’s original lineup returned and while I’ve yet to hear their new music I’ve heard good things.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 18. Freaked

18. Freaked

When I was a kid my cousin Dave and I used to hang out at my grandfather’s house for at least a week every year. We’d watch movies, go to the CD store and just talk about forming a band (Dave played the drums). One day I showed up and we had the TV on cinemax, that day we saw the trailer for Freaked, a film neither one of us had ever heard of. We decided we NEEDED to see that movie when he aired that night.

There we were at 10:30 at night sitting on the couch, exciting but not fully prepared for what we were about to witness. It starts off with an insane claymation opening credits sequence followed by one of the most confusing opening lines in cinema “We repeat, the flying gimp has been destroyed, you may return to your homes”.

The film just gets weirder and more bizarre from there. When the movie concluded Dave and I were speechless. Neither of us had laughed so hard at a movie as we did at that point. We both knew this was already one of our favorite films ever made. Packed with more weird creations than Jabba’s Palace the film is an eye-opening slapstick comedy.

I appeared on an episode of the Greatest Movie Ever! Podcast where I was forced to defend this movie. It’s hard to defend any comedy (specifically something as anti-comedy as this film) beyond ‘well I laughed’. I can’t put my finger on what makes this particular movie better or worse than another movie, there’s something about the “I Don’t Give a Fuck” style of humor. This film knew it was going to be a cult classic before a single camera started filming. Alex Winter and Tom Stern brought their demented sense of humor found on their MTV show Idiot Box to the big screen, sadly 20th Century Fox wanted nothing to do with this movie and quickly squished it.

Both Stern and Winter became obscure writers/directors until recently, Winter never really came out into the spotlight until the recent few years with some directing projects and discussing Bill & Ted 3 while Tom Stern wrote two scripts that were totally rewritten to his displeasure (Pinnochio’s Revenge & An American Werewolf in Paris) before getting work with The Man Show and Andy Milonakis Show. 

Few films have had this level of Anarchy. It’s only comparable to films you’d find in the Troma library. The film remains one of my all time favorite films. When I meet someone who also is familar with the song and can quote with me I have an immediate bond with them.

Styrofoam Cup

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 18. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News

18. Modest Mouse: Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Modest Mouse was mentioned earlier on the list at #59. The fact that their two newest albums are the only Modest Mouse entries is sure to piss off multiple Modest Mouse fans. While I love their early work (specifically The Lonesome Crowded West) it was their later more pop-ier sound that I prefer.

By 2004 I had all but given up on the radio preferring to just listen to CDs. So unlike people who discovered Modest Mouse when they heard Float On on the radio I had no idea that song existed until one day after work. In high school and college I worked at an old folks home called Lima Estates, since at least half the employees all came from the same high school we’d car pool to save gas. It was while I was in my friend Holly’s car that i heard Modest Mouse for the first time.

When she picked me up she was blasting Bury Me With It and I instantly fell in love with the quirkiness of the song. I immediately went out and purchased the album with my next paycheck and quickly fell in love with the album. 

The CD begins with a horn introduction that we will hear again later in the album on the song The Devil’s Workday. The horns lead into The World At Large, a simple song strung around different repeatetive guitar parts and random percussion instruments. The atmospheric and relaxed sound leads into their unstoppable hit single Float On. Lead Vocalist Isaac Brock said the song stemmed from his desire to write at least one upbeat song.

Float On is followed by the albums second single Ocean Breathes Salty which was always my least favorite song on the album. It is a catchy song in it’s own way but of all the songs on the record it definitely wouldn’t have been my pick for the follow up single. The song does lead into Dig Your Grave, which is a twelve second sound clip that we’ll hear again in Satin in a Coffin later in the album.

The next song is Dance Hall, it’s what I would have picked as the second single. It’s the fasted and craziest song on the album, but it’s repeatetive chorus and musical refrain would have definitely lead to radio gold. As for what the song is about, I haven’t the slightest clue.

The album begins to slow down a little with the song Bukowski. I’m not an atheist and typically find most atheists as unbearable as any fundimentalist Christian. I typically find “atheist comedians” and overly “atheist themed” songs as annoying as must christian music. That being said, I adore Bukowski. Isaac Brock actually tries to understand how a God could allow things to happen and questions things that happen in society. It is the perfect campaign piece to the next track Devil’s Workday.

The album closes with The Good Times Are Killing Me which I like to describe as a ‘demented beach boys’ sound. Is nice closer to the album.

I purposely skipped over a few tracks near the end including my two favorite songs. Here’s why. Track 10 is a Song called The View, somehow it took me 6 years to actually HEAR this song. I remember I was driving home from work one day listening to the album and noticed an incredible hook that I some how missed. “As life gets longer, awful feels softer, it feels pretty soft to me. If it takes shit to make bliss well I feel, pretty blissfully.” This lyric just hypnotized me and i kept listening to this song and singing it over and over again. 

The only other song on this album to captivate me like that was track 12 Blame it On the Tetons. This is where I’ve always felt the album should have ended. while I like the three tacks after it “Black Cadillacs”, “One Chance” and “The Good Times Are Killing Me”. Blame it on the Tetons has everyone you want out of a closing track, including a beautiful piano piece while the song fades out.

Unlike many of the other records on this list I don’t have any MAJOR memories that attach to this album behind driving home from work like I mentioned earlier. Regardless this album I’ve listened to hundreds of times and it has yet to feel old or dated. Definitely an album to pick up if you’re new to Modest Mouse.