Thursday, May 30, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 36. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

36. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

This movie scare the shit out of me as a kid. For years I thought I was the only one but the internet has shown me I was far from alone. It seems that many kids lives were ruined when Christopher Lloyd went from “actor” to “cartoon” near the end of this film. Regardless of how scarring the film may have been, I’ve still always loved it.

Who framed Roger Rabbit is arguably one of the most impressive movies of all time. It has great animation sequences, a tight script and some of the best special effects of all time. The interaction between humans and cartoons throughout the film have yet to be topped in the last 20+ years. Furthermore the movie’s script is a wonderful send off to Chinatown.

Bob Hopskins performance was so perfect that it wasn’t until years later when I saw an interview with him that I realized he wasn’t American. The charming ‘old-timey’ look of this wacky period piece wouldn’t be the same without his down on his lucky P.I. performance.

There’s not a single second of this movie that doesn’t captivate me whether it’s the Eddie trying to solve the case, cartoon characters from different companies interacting or Roger interacting with Eddie. Everything is fantastic and still holds up.

They don’t make kids films like this anymore (unless of course you’re Pixar). It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s dark and it’s full of adult situations. I can watch this a million times and never lose interest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 36. Barenaked Ladies - Stunt

36. Barenaked Ladies: Stunt

When I first heard Barenaked Ladies it was through the song Old Apartment. It used to come on the Box occasionally. I felt nothing towards the song (years later I’d love it) but beyond having a funny name I really didn’t pay mind to Barenaked Ladies. That was until the pop-culture packed hip-hop/alt-rock fuse song One Week exploded onto the radio. Suddenly I (as well as all my classmates) cared very much who they were.

Beyond the fact that One Week was a slam-dunk smash hit; it didn’t hurt that the singles It’s All Been Done and Alcohol had moderate radio success as well leading Stunt to be a massive moment in Barenaked Ladies career. The album was a beautiful combination of upbeat sing-alongs (Never is Enough, Some Fantastic) and sincere acoustic tracks (Light Up My Room, When You Dream). I’m sure plenty of BNL fans will scoff and tell me how wrong I am but while I loved their early music and enjoy the later records (include the most recent album without Steven Page) this is their best record (at least in my opinion). 

I remember the album was original a hard-sell for my young brain. I wanted 13 songs that sounded like One Week because I was a kid and kids are stupid and don’t like different things. I think the only other song I loved when I first bought the cassette (yes I was still rocking the occasional cassette in those days) was Who Needs Sleep? As I grew older the occasional song would grow on me or grab my attention but it was 2003 when I got my drivers license that I really loved the album. 

I waited until 18 to get a license. No particular reason except lack of motivation I suppose. My first car (and my favorite car still) was a Buick that I got from my grandmother. The car only had a tape deck so despite having well over 1,000 CDs at that point (I’m a compulsive buyer and an obsessive collector, it’s a bad combination) I was forced to listen to a few mix tapes and cassettes I owned. Stunt rarely wasn’t playing in that car. I listened to it forwards and backwards until I had memorized it word for word and fell in love with every track.

My favorite track was (and still is) Never is Enough. At the time that song complete defined my slacker confusion of the future. I was living the moment, about to graduate high school with no college plans as of yet. I just wanted to make movies, hang out with my friends and drive around listening to music. I wish I could say that 9 years later I’m a different person, but I’m not. I still love that song over all other tracks and I’m still as confused as before. The only difference is I have the Barenaked Ladies backing me up now. Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty sweet band to have in your corner.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Rewriting Your Life

In about 2 weeks I will be completing my screenplay Describing the Moon. For long time friends and followers you will know that I began working on Describing the Moon in 2004. The script was originally called Evaporated (after my favorite Ben Folds Five song) and it was a very different whiny story.

It stemmed from a statement I made that it was possible to do a Romantic Comedy that ended with the main character not getting the girl but also not be depressing. While I still think this to be true, Evaporated was not the film to prove it. As far the scripts quality there was none to be found. It's hard to really call it the original "Describing the Moon" except for the last 20 pages which was frankly the only good thing in the script.

Next came a Script actually called Describing the Moon. It was written as a short film that stemmed from those last 20 pages. I quickly wanted to expand the story however and created yet another draft which was heavily influenced by Kevin Smith's Clerks and Mallrats. This script found the lead character working at a shop in the local Mall the day before it's officially closing. Once again the last 20 pages was the only decent scene.

The first draft that holds any similarity to script that I'm close to completing wasn't written until 2006. After years of rewrites, at least two false production starts and 8 drafts We finally have a script (co-written with my best friend Jeffery Shropshire) which we are hoping to film in the next year (Get excited for the Kickstarter).

The biggest influence on writing this latest draft was after we joined a local writer's group. Despite 10 years of writing a movie script this was both of our experiences dealing with notes and rewrites. While I used to fear negative opinions and notes on my work I found the experience quite exciting. Besides what is script writing beyond rewriting life?

There's a quote I hear attributed to Alfred Hitchcock that goes long the lines of "Movies are life without the boring parts". To expand on that the appeal to screenplay writing is that it gives me an opportunity to rewrite my own life. I'm able to make it funnier, wittier and end the way I wish it would.

I look forward to being able to let you in on a few things about production as we eventually begin pre-production (probably sometime in July/August).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 37. Pink Flamingos

37. Pink Flamingos

I genuinely don’t remember where I first heard of Pink Flamingos. All I know is that when I heard about it (possibly from my mom) it was that it was (a) disgusting (b) crude and (c) someone ate dog shit. If I force myself to search my memory banks I think it would tell me that what happened was I saw a picture of Divine while looking through a magazine of “rare movies” you could purchase. A few weeks later I saw it at the local mom and pops shop with a giant sign on it that said “Absolutely no one under 17 may rent”.

This most likely lead to me asking my mom about it. She openly stated she had never seen it but knew that it contained lots of gross stuff and that I was forbidden from seeing it. I followed through with her wish until my freshmen year of college. While living at my grandmother’s house I signed up for Netflix and this was one of hte first things I put on my queue. Years of curiousity had gotten the best of me.

I remember watching it in bewilderment, moments of the film (Specifically the singing asshole) genuinely made me sick. I could not look away from the screen though. You see the plot to Pink Flamingos is paper thin. Two families battle for being the Filthiest person alive. In their constant battle for this title you have incest, people sitting in boxes and a sequence in which two people fuck while killing a chicken (yes a Chicken is genuinely killed on screen). 

The film ends with Divine bending down and picking up a fresh piece of dog shit and chewing on it while giving a “shit-eating grin” to the camera. 

Immediately when this film ended I ejected it from my DVD player, put it in the Netflix Envelope, sealed it and put it in my mailbox. I was DISGUSTED and angry. How could I waste my time on something so stupid and disturbing.  Then something weird happened... I started to chuckle to myself. I’d find myself thinking about moments in the movie and laughing... suddenly I was angry that i had sealed that DVD so quickly... because I wanted to watch it again. I did the only logical thing. I went on Amazon and immediately bought it on DVD

The second it arrived I showed it to my friend Dan. He went out and bought a copy and we watched it at a party. The movie just kept getting handed down. We found ourselves yelling things like “Someone has sent me a bowel movement” while wandering the hallway. 

It’s strange that a movie so depraved and demented could become a bonding film for a group of us. Sadly I rarely speak to the original crowd that loved this movie, but whenever I watch it I’m immediately reminded of them. 

This film is not for the weak-stomached but if you want to see what is considered one of the greatest cult films ever made, this is worth tracking down.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 37. Nirvana: In Utero

37. Nirvana: In Utero

I will always remember when I first heard that Kurt Cobain died. I was insanely late to the game. It was only about 4 months after I discovered who Nirvana was (also because my family had JUST gotten MTV). My first exposure to Nirvana was when Wayne’s World 2 was coming out. MTV did a special in which Wayne and Garth would introduce various music videos and they played the music video for Heart-Shaped Box. They thought Kurt was screaming “Hey Wayne”. 

About a month later my family got MTV and I heard smells like teen spirit for the first time. I really dug it. I think it was about 2 weeks later MTV was gearing up for the MTV Video Music Awards and they were doing a recap of the year. That’s when I heard Kurt Cobain was gone. Like I said, very very late to the game.

Whenever I did finally hear In Utero I loved it. I have always liked it more than Nevermind. When I was 10 this was strictly because I liked more songs on In Utero but as I’ve gotten older I appreciate it because I find it an impressive collection of emotions, anti-music/nosie rock and as rock critic Chuck Klosterman once described it Guilt Rock.

Kurt mostly focused on writing about books instead of his life (although some songs are very clearly about it) but as Klosterman pointed out. Even just by singing about books it let’s people into his world regardless. My favorite tracks are the opening track Serve the Servants and Milk It. While Nevermind was written in the studio and the lyrics mean nothing In Utero kicks off with Kurt expressing how short-lived the grunge movement was “Teenage Angst Has Paid Off Well/Now I’m Bored and Old” and then a few lyrics about the presses perspective of Courtney Love (“If she floats than she is not a witch like we thought”).

The other song (“Milk It”) used to be one of my least favorite songs, it doesn’t mean much of anything as I can tell but I absolutely love it. It’s one of the more interesting pieces of noise rock on the record. 

This album is worth checking out and better (but not as commercially successful) as their album Nevermind.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Warrior Dash

Yesterday I ran the Warrior Dash for the second time in a row. As I did last year I was blasting some motivation cock rock during the run. Here is the playlist

1. "And Now We Cue The Music" - Jay And Silent Bob Strikes Back
2. Keep Yourself Alive - Queen
3. You're The Best - Joe Esposito
4. Nothing But a Good Time - Poison
5. Anyway You Want It - Journey
6. To Be The Best - Tenacious D
7. The Touch - Stan Bush
8. Raise Your Hands - Bon Jovi
9. Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down
10. Scat Man - Scatman John
11. "Put Me In Coach" - Ace Ventura
12. Lit Up - Buckcherry
13. Thubthumping - Chumbawamba
14. Song 2 - Blur
15. Scary Monster and Nice Spirits - Crowdburn
16. Higher and Higher - Wet Hot American Summer
17. If You Want Blood (You Got it) - AC/DC
18. Semi Charmed Call (Third Eye Blind & Carly Rae Jepson Mash Up) - Chambland
19. I Believe in a Thing Called Love - The Darkness
20. Youth Gone Wild - Skid Row
21. "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" - Galaxy Quest
22. I Wanna Rock - Twisted Sister
23. Black Betty - Big City Rock
24. God Gave Rock and Roll To You - Kiss
25. I'm Awesome - Spose

In the end we didn't beat our previous time, this however didn't have much do with our ability to run the course as much as the one obstacle had a 20 minute wait. I had a blast running last year with Ed but having a group of 6 people to run with was MUCH better. I look forward to next years dash.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 38. Pee Wee's Big Adventure

38. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

I feel a little bad for the fact my mother can probably recite this movie as well as I can. When I was a kid this and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice were my two favorite movies. I guess I was a big Tim Burton fan before I knew who he was. I’d watch this movie daily.

One of the weirdest debut films from a Hollywood director Pee Wee’s Big Adventure tells the story of Pee Wee Herman a man child who goes on a search for his missing bike. The Film is basically shot for shot The Bicycle Thief.

This is too weird of a movie to really discuss. If you’ve seen it you know why people love it (or maybe not) but if you haven’t seen it than you really must fix that immediately.

Possibly my shortest write up ever? Sure

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 38. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

38. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit!

Truer words have ever been said. In 12 tracks the brooklyn rap groups debut managed to terrify parents, blow up the radio and give a nerdy white kid like myself more than a healthy dose of geek references. 

36 Chambers uses simplistic beats, audio clips from the Clan’s favorite kung-fu flicks and each members unique rapping styles to create a sound entirely their own. Easily one of the greatest rap albums ever made and undeniably one of the greatest debuts in hip-hop (racking along Straight outta Compton and Ready to Die) the Clan have never been able to top the insanity of their first album.

I don’t want to sound like their follow-ups were bad, they certainly weren’t but they always had elements that definitely took away what made this first record so perfect. The beats were less sloppy in future releases, Ol Dirty Bastard had passed away and at least 3 of the members became mini-actors. 

I remember the first time I ever heard this was shortly after it’s release. My cousin was spending the weekend at my house and we went to the used CD store behind my house (side note: that CD store was only there a year or so but I have many memories of it. I’ll discuss it in a future Self Observation Sunday). He walked over and picked up this as well as the Insane in the Brain single from Cypress Hill. I remember listening to it on his walkman and not knowing what to think of it. As a pretty sheltered kid who rarely cursed I felt like at any second my mom was going to appear and scold me.

It wasn’t until many years later listening to X-Games Volume 2 (which contained Protect Ya Neck) that began to appreciate the Wu and decided to pick up the album. It’s impossible to pick a favorite track as every song has it’s own unique appeal but I will say that Protect Ya Neck and Method Man were hit singles for good reasons. 

One of my favorite things about Wu-Tang Clan as a kid in his 20’s was the realization that despite being able to kick the living shit out of most people they were pretty geeky. References to Marvel superheroes, Kung-fu films, Voltron and other nerdy things are scattered throughout. My favorite ‘non-gangsta’ element is in the song Method Man. Not only is the chorus a reference to a Hall & Oates song but the first line is a Rolling Stones reference. How fucking awesome is that?

There will never be another record like Enter the Wu-Tang and frankly, I’m okay with that.

Wu Tang Killa Bees, we on a-swarm!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Paint in my Ass Part 1

One of my personal heroes Joe Whiteford started something on his blog a few months ago in which he'd take old TMNT toys and repaint them.  I decided to buy some paints and go to the flea market and purchase some toys to do paint jobs on.

This first toy seems to be a weird Burger King toy. I have no clue what it is or what it was promoting but I did a simple paint job. I forgot to take a before picture so you'll have to believe me that the entire figure was just a brownish color

Here's his new look:

This was my first ever paint job that I did with no assistance beyond Joe Whiteford, and my friend Matt  and Ed giving me some tips on what type of paints to buy. There's elements of sloppiness in there but in general I'm happy with the final product.

Next I started working on this toy of Sauron 

Since I only have a few colors to choose from I went with a torquiest for the new skin tone. I didn't have enough Dark Green to completely cover the underwear so it's a blackish-green and some red for the eyes and tongue. It came out looking like this

I have a few more that I've purchased to do paint jobs on. One of which was NoZone from the Toxic Crusaders toyline. But look at how bad-ass this guy looks. I can't get myself to paint it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film - 39. Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

39. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Willie Wonka is the film that gave decades worth of kids nightmares. That is the kids who could make it through the slow first half. I love this movie, I mean I love it but GOD the first hour could be 30 minutes shorter and it’d change NOTHING about the plotline. We get introduced to the various characters, the villains and the lovable Charlie Bucket.

It’s got occasionally good moments but other points (like the song about Charlie) just drag the movie down. However everything that you might dislike about this movie disappears the second Gene Wilder appears on screen and begins performing his greatest and most iconic role.

Gene Wilder shines as the wacky eccentric. He’s wonderful with his bizarre dialogue and charm. I will never understand why Ronald Dahl didn’t like this adaptation of his book but if he were alive to see Tim Burton’s version he might appreciate it more.

Once we enter Wonka’s factory we endure some of the most horrifying things our childhood minds could imagine (boat ride anyone?) as well as some of the most uplifting and touching moments (Pure Imagination).

The film will always be beloved for it’s second act, even now that it’s 40 years old the movie still has a rabid cult following for it’s off beat comedic musical style.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 39. The Suicide Machines: Destruction by Definition

39. The Suicide Machines: Destruction by Definition

So before MTV2 existed there was The Box. People who remember The Box definitely see it through rose tinted memories. Let’s be honest, yes there was a lot of cool stuff about the box. You could order music videos and more importantly they exposed you to some great bands you probably wouldn’t have ever heard of earlier (we’ll get to that soon) but you also had to sit through MMMBop, Wannabe and various R Kelly singles for hours. 

That was the issue of giving power to a bunch of kids. Most kids are idiots who want to hear the same song over and over again. Every once and a while someone out there would order something like MxPx or The Suicide Machines. I don’t know who the Suicide Machines fan was that ordered No Face and SOS on the box when I was a kid but I’m eternally thankful to them for it.

In the summertime I’d spend a week at my grandfather’s house every year with my cousin Dave. Dave is the person who got me into music when he gave me his old Green Day and Offspring albums. So as part of our tradition we’d go to the local record store by my grandfather and pick up some music. Thanks to recently hearing No Face I decided to pick up the bands debut Destruction by Definition. I’ve never regretted this purchase.

In 38 minutes this four piece punk/ska group from Detroit pile drive through 17 songs about racism, violence and skateboarding. I can’t even pick a favorite song because I literally have loved every song at one point or another. 

Have you never heard The Suicide Machines? Then you must pick up this album. Do it. Come on. Give in to peer pressure.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Self Observational Sunday: Kane Kong

In this day and age every site does a list. However since the second places started doing lists of Greatest movies, greatest songs, greatest albums, greatest bands, etc it almost always ends up with the same number 1.

Songs - Stairway to Heaven, Satisfaction (I can't get no), I wanna hold your hand or Smells like Teen Spirit
Albums - Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Nevermind, 
Bands - The Beatles or Rolling Stones
Movies - Casablanca and Citizen Kane

There's always a great debate between music and film geeks over which thing deserves to be number 1.  For years and years I've been of the mind that Casablanca was leaps and bounds over Citizen Kane. However I finally realized why these films are of equal importance.

Casablanca is an excellent script (I believe in Adaptation it's referred to as the greatest script ever written), it's only made more impressive by the fact that the script was being written as the filmed. It's a bittersweet love story with likable characters.

Citizen Kane however is more of an technical achievement. It has a good story but based on the fact that your main character is an unlikable prick it's quite difficult to care about him the same way you do towards Rick.

Now this isn't anything knew. I've always understood the importance of Citizen Kane's technical advances for film and Casablanca's incredible story. What recently changed my mind on Citizen Kane and made it more than just 'a classic movie I respect' into a 'classic movie I enjoy' can be found in minor elements of camera movement/special effects (for lack of better term) and the overlying theme provided by Rosebud (which is mostly a Red Herring).

When watching Citizen Kane for a second and third time you catch things in the camera work that was easily missed before. The way a camera tracks through signs and tables, the extreme angles, the symbolic location of items. While it's certainly not a film for everyone (the word Overrated gets used a lot towards it), I think that if you're a fan of camerawork in film you have to appreciate how groundbreaking Welles techniques were.

As for the story it all revolves around the greatest gimmick in cinema. In case you haven't seen the movie I'm about to sort of spoil it (although you probably already know) Rosebud was Charles Fraser Kane's sled. This is not a spoiler however. The movie has little to do with Rosebud. It's the plot device to moves the film from interview to interview (the search for a famous man's bizarre final word) but the movie is simply about a small country boy who after being sold by his family to a rich mogul eventually turns into an miserable and at times evil egotistical tyrant.

The symbolism of Rosebud isn't simply that it's a sled. It's the longing for the childhood he was denied. It's such a wonderfully sad statement that even the most awful human being is still a child deep down.

I realize I'm not breaking new ground in this whatsoever but I figured fuck it. Nothing exciting happened in my life this week so let's not talk about a classic movie. This will probably become more and more frequent on Self Observational Sundays.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 40. Fame (1980)

40. Fame

So I always knew of Fame or at the very least, the song. But I never had an interest in seeing it. Much like Hairspray I had many assumptions of what the film was about. However I became interested after Kevin Smith spent an entire episode talking about the movie on an episode of SModcast discussing the (then) upcoming remake.

Everything about this movie actually sounded pretty awesome. So I added it on netflix. It was delightful. I guess technically it’s a musical, however the movie only has about 4-5 songs in the 2 hours and 15 minutes running time, and when the movie takes place at a music school the musical numbers seem way more organic.

The film follows a group of students at music/acting/dance school in New York. Each one over their four years struggle with different things. Homosexuality, drugs, or stage fright. 

It’s fun to follow the struggles of these likable characters as well as to see the craziest that is attending these types of schools. Only made more interesting by beautiful camera work and lovely speeches.

It’s rare to make a movie this long and with this many characters that still allows you to fall in love with each one of them and holds your attention from start to finish.