Thursday, February 27, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film - 6. Jaws

6. Jaws

In my Texas Chainsaw Massacre write up I referred to the film as the scariest movie ever made. That being said I Could also argue Jaws for that title, so let’s just call it a tie. I think it’s safe to say this film has affected my life more than anything else because since seeing it at 10 I’ve been unable to go into most bodies of water (specifically the ocean).

I’m pretty sure everyone and their mom has seen the movie so there’s no point talking plot-lines. Shark terrorizes town, 3 guys go on a boat to find shark. That’s the movie

The story of the making of Jaws is almost as entertaining as the film itself, The book Jaws Logs is a far more entertaining read the the book the film is based on. 

That being said this film and Jurassic Park seem to strongly defend the concept that Spielberg is the only person who can make movies better than their novel counterpart.

What’s sad is that before I saw Jaws... I saw Jaws 3D and Jaws the Revenge. Perhaps the movie just feels that much better because I started with the crap. That being said I own all 4 movies and watch them yearly.

There are a few film moments in my life where I distinctly remember running from the television screaming. Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Toxic Avenger I’ve already discussed, Jaws is another such film. The sequence in question involves the first appearance of the shark. After a fin is spotted in the local pond a lifeguard paddles out to a raft of boys and tries to warn them they should get back on land. Suddenly a shark flips the boats and we see the Shark in all it’s glory munching on the young man. The film suddenly cuts to a severed leg sinking to the ocean floor.

It wasn’t until three weeks later when my dad watched the movie with me that I was able to see it through til the very end. Since that day it’s been one of my all-time favorite movies. 

The last thing I want to say about this film is that I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times, but there are still 2 moments that make me jump every time. The first is when Matt Hooper is examining a boat and a severed head falls into frame. This is a typical jump for most people, the second one not as much. It takes place when Quint’s boat is sinking. Chief Brody is all alone and suddenly the shark explodes through the side of the ship and just stares at Brody. That moment still wrecks me at 28 the way it did at 10.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 6. Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About

6. The Get Up Kids: Something to Write Home About

It was 2000 and my friend Mike was driving me to YoungLife. He was working on forming a new band and he was trying to explain to me what the band would sound like. Since I didn’t know most of the bands he named at the time (TwoThirtyEight, Cool Hand Luke, etc) he finally decided to play me a song that sounded like what he wanted, actually he played me two songs. Out of Reach and My Apology off Something to Write Home About.

I could not stop thinking about it shortly after that. There were these simple and catchy hooks (specifically in My Apology) but they were true ear-worms. Later that year I went out and bought the album for myself and it became the soundtrack to most of high school. It was one of those records that everyone in my cliche owned, loved and memorized.

I remember our school having “field day” every year near the end of the school year. It involved all the school punk bands performing an outdoor shows while kids played volleyball and kickball (this sounds cool and it was but this is not representative of the rest of the school year at all). I remember hanging out in the “backstage” area with the other bands and hearing a group of kids playing Out of Reach. I think it was one of those moments where you truly start to appreciate that power of music. 

The five guys perfected rocking out on this album on songs like Holiday and Red Letter Day as well as the ballad on songs like Valentine and I’ll Catch You. Regardless of volume, the lyrics are powerful and cut straight to the basic elements of growing up.  There are select records that speak to a generation of kids and The Get Up Kids’ sophomore album managed to be that album. It’s without a doubt one of the pop punk/emo essentials. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 7. Adventureland

7. Adventureland

Advertising can make or break a movie. Nothing is more frustrating than a trailer that gives away the entire film. Or so I thought. Then I saw Adventureland. I wasn’t looking forward to it, assume it was exactly as what it was advertised as “Waiting and Superbad in an Amusement Park.” Instead a got a brilliant coming of age film in the same vein as Dazed & Confused or Garden State.

When I left the theater in 2009, I knew I had just seen a movie that was going to stick with me. The movie was funny, touching and most importantly spoke to me.

The movie follows James Brennan, who is preparing to go to Columbia in the fall. His parents however can not afford to send him so James must take a job at the local amusement park in order to afford his grad school.

He finds the job quite tedious but becomes friends with the smart and sarcastic Joel, Part time musician Mike and the seductive Emily. James slowly falls in love with Em, who is secretly sleeping with the married Mike. 

I loved almost everything in this movie but elements like the 1987 setting and writer/director Greg Mottola’s ability  to make us not despise Mike are what make it one of my all-time favorite movies. 

Mottola has pulled much of the script from his own childhood and that makes the whole film ring true and honest. The film touches on social aspects (like Joel getting turned down from a date because his Jewish), the frustration of work (hearing Amadeus repeatedly) and having a degree that means nothing to the world.

The film did terribly do (in part) to the awful advertising campaign. If you were someone who felt like this was going to be a juvenile gross-out comedy, I beg you to give the movie a chance. Odds are high that this was a movie written specifically for you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 7. Eels: Electro-Shock Blues

7. Eels: Electro-Shock Blues

When I first heard Eels it was in 1996. It was for the song Novocaine For the Soul. It took me a few until I truly learned to appreciate the song. Even when I finally got to appreciate the song I still wasn’t a fan of the Beautiful Freak album. It wasn’t until a few years later when I picked up their follow-up album Electro-Shock Blues.

I don’t even remember why I purchased the album to be honest. I can’t remember if it was on a list of greatest albums or just a general recommendation from someone, regardless I’m glad that I bought it.

Electro-Shock Blues is one of the most personal records I’ve ever listened too. This is mostly do to lead singer/songwriter Mark Oilver Everett coming to terms with being the last living member of his family. In 1982 his father died of a heart attack (Everett found the body), while on tour for Beautiful Freak his sister committed suicide and then his mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

This album could be dark (and at times it certainly is) but Everett instead took these horrible moments in his life to create an uplifting album about coping with the dark points of life. 

The album opens with Elizabeth on the Floor which is composed of Elizabeth’s last diary entry and dives into the darker elements of his mom’s kemo (Dead of Winter), going to his sister’s funeral (Going to your Funeral Part 1) and visiting his sister in the hospital (Climbing to the Moon). 

However two songs stand out to me as the best examples of this album. On the sadder side of things you have 3 Speed. The song repeatedly questions ‘Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?’ The song juxtaposes E’s reflections to moments of his childhood and the harsh reality of his life now.

The stand out track is the closing song P.S. You Rock My World however when Everett humorously reflects back on random events on the day of the funeral. It ends with the hopeful message ‘now that everyone is dead, maybe it’s time to live’. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 8. Singing In The Rain

8. Singing In the Rain

I realize it’s cliche’ to say this but they don’t make them like this anymore.

There are hundreds of movies that make me think of my grandfather. Sadly most of them I never got a chance to watch with him. When I was a kid I couldn’t be bothered with Musicals and old Black & White films. It wouldn’t be until college when I’d start to give the films a chance.

All I knew about Singing in the Rain was the infamous titular song/sequence. Until college I didn’t even know it was a comedy. However in 2004 I took a film class where we watched a sequence from the movie and I couldn’t stop laughing. I immediately netflixed the film.

The film follows Donald Lockwood and his best friend Cosmo Brown during the 1920s. Donald is the biggest name in silent films but with the release of The Jazz Singer they need to make a talkie. While Donald is a talented actor his co-star Lina Lamont has one of the most obnoxious  voices in hollywood. 

Donald, Cosmo and Donald’s girlfriend Kathy write a lovely little musical. The studio takes advantage of Kathy’s beautiful singing/speaking voice and hires her to dub over Lina’s unbearable voice. 

It genuinely is the type of films I love. I miss this era of film making. The stars are so charming specifically the irresistible Debbie Reynolds and the hilarious Rita Moreno as the Zip Girl Zelda Zanders. Incredible dance sequences and just an all round feel good experience. In 2004 watching this for the first time I was just as captivated as ever.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 8. Mewithoutyou - A ----> B Life

8. Mewithoutyou: A--->B Life

I’m pretty sure I’ve given the details of how I discovered MeWithoutYou in a previous write up but to quickly sum up. I heard their song Gentleman on a comp and fell in love with it. I immediately picked up a copy of their debut album A--->B Life

Lead singer Aaron Weiss is upset. I’ve never figured out what has him so upset but I know it’s most likely about a woman. Now was this woman an ex-fiance or simply a girl he obsessed over but throughout the 12 tracks (linked together as one long song) we follow the steady breakdown of man all the way to the eventual closing track with the acceptance to that pain.

Weiss is a fantastic songwriter and lyrics throughout A-->B Life are undefinably his greatest work of art. He paints a picture of an obsessed and potentially dangerous person in the song Gentleman as well as a depressed and fragile woman in Silencer.

It’s hard to discuss this record though, it’s an emotional experience that words don’t do justice for. MeWithoutYou isn’t for everyone but they people who will like this stuff will LOVE it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 9. Purple Rose of Ciaro

9. Purple Rose of Cairo

Purple Rose of Cairo was a film I stumbled upon while attempting to watch every Woody Allen film. I didn’t expect that not only would I love it, but it’d be my all time favorite Woody Allen movie. The film affected me so deeply that when I took a class on Woman in Film I wrote my final paper on it. So instead of a regular right up... here is that final paper.

It’s been said that the best writer/directors are people who appreciate film and know the history of film. If this is true than Woody Allen is one of the best writers in the business and the evidence is Purple Rose of Cairo. Written around the same time as Radio Days (his ode to Radio celebrities) and Crimes and Misdemeanors (his ode to the theater) Purple Rose of Cairo is a tribute to the world of film during the Great Depression. 
The film follows Cecilia, a waitress during the great depression who is obsessed with movies. The only way she can get through work is by talking to her sister about the movies she watched the night prior and the only way she can escape her bad home life is by going to the movies every night.  It’s when she attends her fifth viewing of Purple Rose of Cairo that one of the film’s side characters Tom Baxter notices her from the screen and in a homage to Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. he walks off the screen and into her life.
The plot line gets a more complicated when the studio that produced Purple Rose of Cairo decides that they need to stop Tom Baxter from destroying the studio’s reputation so they send Gil Shepard (the actor who played Tom Baxter) to talk some sense into his creation. Gil agrees to go out of fear that this will destroy his career, which is just starting to rise.
The film falls perfectly in between 1955’s Sullivan’s Travels and 1998’s Pleasantville. All three of these films have the same underlying message which is that film provides great escapism and in Sullivan’s Travels and Purple Rose of Cairo the message is that the movie doesn’t necessarily need to be good. 
In Sullivan’s Travels the filmmaker Sullivan is sick of writing and directing slapstick comedies during the Great Depression. He goes out and attempts to “know” what it’s like to be poor and struggling so he can write a serious drama about the depression. While he lives as a homeless guy and even winds up in prison at one point he discovers that while everyone is upset their one source of entertainment is watching slapstick movies (specifically a Disney cartoon). It’s made very clear throughout the movie that Sullivan’s “slapstick comedy” isn’t necessarily good. Even Sullivan admits that, but it’s the perfect escape.
In the movie Purple Rose of Cairo the movie that Cecilia watches (also called Purple Rose of Cairo) isn’t a very good movie. The jokes are quite lame and the plot is absolutely directionless and random. The dialogue and storyline is also lacking but because of the times and living condition neither Cecilia or anyone else really cared about that, they just wanted to be entertained.
When Tom Baxter first walks off the screen the movie’s tone changes from very realistic into a world of fantasy. This is also where the drama of the film becomes a comedy because as Tom Baxter is off the screen all the other characters in the film need to discuss how they can continue the movie without Tom Baxter. The people in the audience however either don’t understand that they’re no longer watching a movie or others just don’t care. One woman complains to the theater owner that she “saw this movie last night and this wasn’t how it happened last night” and says that she wants to “see the movie she saw last night again.”
             Later on in the film though the theater has various people in the audience just watching the characters interact. The characters in the movie are confused by this and even ask audience members why they’re still there and one man says, “we find this very interesting”. It’s safe to say that the reason they find it interesting is because they’re watching characters that aren’t suffering through the depression. 
              While all this is going on Cecilia and Tom go out on the town and while out for dinner they have a very insightful conversation about the importance of film as escapism. Cecilia tries to explain to Tom about the suffering of the Great Depression and realizes that he’s never heard of the Depression or the Great War. She goes on a list about the problems in the world about people being homeless, poor, sick and suffering to which Tom says, “That doesn’t happen in my world, in my world we never disappoint.” Which very well may be the most crucial line in the whole movie because it really explains why we go to movies. We go to see the happy ending that we don’t normally get in real life.
This is quite an ironic line at the same time because it is a red herring to the way the movie actually ends. In the end Cecilia has fallen in love with both Tom Baxter the Character and Gil Shepard the actor. The three of them are standing inside the movie theater in front of the screen and Cecilia has to choose between going onto the screen with Tom or running away to Hollywood with Gil. In the end she chooses Gil and Tom very sadly walks away and goes back into the screen. Gil tells Cecilia to quickly grab her things from her home and meet him at the theater in an hour. 
Cecilia goes to her home and begins packing her things when her husband arrives and tries to stop her. Cecilia stands up to her cheating, alcoholic and abusive husband telling him that she’s fallen for an actor and she’s going to live the good life. With that she locks up her suitcases and goes running out the door. 
Cecilia is waiting outside the theater when the owner comes out and asks her what she’s doing. Cecilia says that she’s waiting for Gil Shepard and the owner says that he already left “as soon as Tom Baxter got back onto the screen.” Cecilia gets really depressed and begins to slowly walk into the movie theater holding her luggage. She slowly sits down in the seat and stares at the screen. She’s watching Top Hat an old musical starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She walks in as he sings the song “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”. The film continues to cut to Cecilia and then cut closer to the screen and then cuts closer to Cecilia’s face. As the camera gets closer to her face she slowly smiles and becomes really focused on the film.
After Woody Allen had made the movie he was told if he “slapped a happy ending on the end then he’d have himself a hit” to which Woody Allen replied, “ It is a happy ending.” At the end Cecilia stands up to her husband and gets out of a bad marriage and while she’s now homeless and jobless, she can still escape into the world of film. 
Woody Allen has stated many times that this is one of his favorite movies that he’s ever written. Of all of his movies he said that this as well as Stardust Memories and Manhattan came out exactly the way that he envisioned them to look and feel.
In the end Purple Rose of Cairo is a movie that the viewer can relate to while watching because you’re watching someone “escape” into film while you, yourself are escaping into the world of film.

There are few films that sum up the importance of the film making experience quite like Purple Rose of Cairo.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 9. Ben Folds Five: Whatever & Ever Amen

9. Ben Folds Five: Whatever and Ever Amen

When I first heard Ben Folds Five I was a kid listening to the radio. This strange song came on and I guess I kinda liked it... but I wouldn’t admit it. I liked ROCK this was just a weird piano ballad which a strangely high pitched vocalist. I kinda liked Song for the Dumped when it was released a few weeks later and then promptly forgot the band existed. 

Suddenly my Junior year of High School, I randomly started to think about Song for the Dumped. This was in the years of Napster so I looked the song up and downloaded it, I no longer kind liked it... i straight up fucking LOVED it. I downloaded more and more Ben Folds Five and became increasingly obsessed with them. Finally I bought Whatever and Ever Amen (as well as all their other albums). I hope that some people could understand this... I chose to NOT download the full album. After falling in love with 4 or 5 songs I just bought all their albums. This is why I don’t mind file sharing programs.

Anyway as for Whatever and Ever Amen the record quickly became one of my favorite and most played albums. Folds has called the band “Punk Rock for Wusses” which is pretty fucking accurate. They’re very much in the vein of the 90’s Elvis Costello (by which I mean they’re better than the ACTUAL Elvis Costello in the 90s).

One of the biggest stand out tracks is the closing number Evaporated. The slow ballad is a beautiful, sad song about broken hearts and moving on. To this day I want to write a movie that ends with this song.

If the only thing you know by Ben Folds is Brick trust me check out this album. It’s very different than what you’re familiar with. I’ll throw the opening track One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn faces here for you to enjoy