Thursday, January 30, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 10. Wizard of Oz

10. The Wizard of Oz

Is there anyone who doesn’t absolutely love Wizard of Oz as a kid? There are so few films that have the same level of magic that this classic film contains. Rewatching it you catch little problems with the movie (specifically how Judy Garland is far too old for the role) but you forgive them because the film is just saturated with good feelings.

I don’t think many people will argue over the statement that Somewhere Over the Rainbow is the most iconic song in cinema history. Judy Garland’s lovely singing voice and the beautiful lyrics really invoke something in everyone of us when we hear it played.

There’s not a single moment of this sugary sweet film that doesn’t tug at your heart strings. Be it Dorothy’s genuine kindness, her love of her dog or the love she has for her friends. You can’t help but wonder if the world would be a better place if more people were like Dorothy instead of idolizing Jersey Shore cast members.

There’s honestly no point in running down the entire plot line as everyone has seen this movie a million times, people have written books, songs and comic books about the film and it’s symbolism. There will probably never be another film as perfect as it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 10. Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell

10. Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell

There’s a point where you discover that there is music outside of what your parents like. For me it was when I was about 10 years old and my cousin played me Green Day. Before that the only music I knew of was Bruce Springsteen, California Raisins and Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell. I still find California Raisins entertaining enough, I hate Bruce Springsteen but Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell has and will always be one of my favorite albums ever recorded.

It’s one of those rare records where everything works out perfectly. Not a single one of the seven tracks contains a wasted moment. Every song off this was a hit in it’s own right. The most famous being Paradise By The Dashboard Light a song that still is a most play at Weddings (despite it lyrically being about a guy promising to marry a girl in order to get into her pants).

Let’s start with my two favorite tracks though, because they couldn’t be more different but yet helps explain the wide range of this album. The first is opening & title track Bat out of Hell (the longest track on the album) which tells the story of a motorcyclist who doesn’t see a sharp turn in time and dies. It contains some of the craziest piano work ever recorded in the beginning of the song and ends with the greatest guitar solo of all time (in my opinion) by Todd Rudgren. 

On the opposite side of the musical spectrum is my other favorite track off this album Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. This song is a sad piano ballad of talking of love lost due the inability to say those three magic worlds. It’s sad, humorous and nostalgic deducing all at once. 

Those two songs represent both sides of Jim Steinbeck’s songwriting styles. He knows how to rock but he also knows how to create a sentimental side. In 7 songs you’ve got 4 songs that will rock your face off and 3 songs that will get you laid if you play your cards right. 

Meat Loaf has never been able to create an album as beautiful and fantastic as this album. Now that him and Jim Steinbeck are no longer on friendly terms it’s even less likely he’d make a record this incredible.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 11. Beetlejuice

11. Beetlejuice

I can’t think of any film I was obsessed with to the level I was obsessed with Beetlejuice. The only film that possibly comes close is Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (which I already discussed). When I was a kid I watched this movie EVERY WEEKEND, I owned every toy, I had it memorized, I even memorized that commercial for the soundtrack. There’s very little to not love about this movie.

Rarely have a seen a movie in which every joke hits, the energy never runs out and can be enjoyed as many times as this film can be. I’ve probably seen this film over 100 times and I still laugh at Michael Keaton’s frantic performance of our titular character.

The film opens with a beautiful pan across a model town finally revealing our main characters Barbara and Adam Maitland. Adam has been working on this model for a while and needs to grab some supplies from his store. On the way home Barbara swerves to avoid hitting a dog and the couple plunge into the water below and drown.

It impresses me that in 5 minutes we are introduced to our main characters and they’re so well written that we’re saddened by their deaths despite how little we know them. We are as annoyed as they are when the Deetz move into their beautiful home and start messing with their lives. 

The couple turn to Bio-Exorcist (an undead con man) to haunt their house and force the Deetz to move away. They don’t expect Beetlejuice to be quit as evil and malicious as he turns out to be. He takes great pride in torturing the Deetz in various forms (including an impressive stop motion snake). 

Watching this movie reminds me why I still love Tim Burton. While the man has been making some pretty terrible films the last few years, Beetlejuice represents a young director with a real vision for quirk. 

It’s also the funniest film he’s ever made. While future films like Edward Scissorhands and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory relied on the weird characters to be the comedy. It’s his films like Beetlejuice (as well as the previously reviewed Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Ed Wood) that contain well crafted jokes and one liners. 

It’s truly one of the finest films of the 80’s and definitely the best film in Tim Burton’s career.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 11. Reel Big Fish - Turn The Radio Off

11. Reel Big Fish: Turn the Radio Off

For many years this was my favorite album. Now 10 albums have climbed the ranks past it. That doesn’t mean this album got any worse just that I discovered a world outside of ska music.

When I first got my car it had a tape deck and this was one of maybe 3 cassette tapes that I owned, so I listened to this ALOT. I remember being angry and blasting Nothing and screaming the “I don’t fucking care” part until my throat was sore. However I also remember singing along to stuff like I’ll Never Be and Trendy over and over again.

Turn the Radio Off will never go down in history as an important record. By all accounts Sublime’s self-titled album from last week is far more important and iconic. That doesn’t matter though, this album means more to me for the reasons stated above.

Simply put Turn the Radio Off is a great pop album wit nothing but catchy sing-a-long songs. That’s an important thing to me. I enjoy just rocking out to catchy pop songs, that’s what this all about.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 12. Dummy

12. Dummy

This film really flew under the radar due to The Pianist coming out shortly after this and Adrien Brody became a huge star. It (like many of the films on this list) was recommended to me by my high school film teacher. He had randomly rented it at the video store and loved it. I think Milla Jovovich had a huge factor in his love but regardless I’m glad he recommended it because it really hit me in a good place.

Unlike when I saw Playing Mona Lisa, this film I immediately wanted to share with everyone. Adrien Brody plays a very socially awkward man who’s only friend is the foul-mouthed wanna-be punk rocker Fangora. Meanwhile his parents are bizarre and his sister Heidi is mean spirited.

Like most indie films Steven’s random decision (to become a ventriloquist) causes a major change in everyone’s lives. Steven develops a second personality in his dummy but unlike films like Magic. He doesn’t become a psychopath, it just allows him to say the things he wouldn’t have the confidence to say otherwise. 

The theme song “Years” is such a beautiful song that I could almost argue that it’s the biggest reason I love the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the entire film is charming, quirky and funny but that song sums up the message of the movie. The song kicks off with “You don’t get those years back/The times you wasted sleeping late”. That is basically the entire point of the movie throughout it Steven keeps saying he’s following his bliss.

Life is short, follow your dreams. Steven has always loved puppeteering but was too afraid to learn. Finally he’s inspired one night to quit his job and follow that dream. Through it he helps his sister’s company, his friend’s band and finds love, as well as a moderately successful puppeteering job. 

It’s a typical message but an important one none the less and while many have shared this message, Dummy does it in just the right way.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 12. Sublime

12. Sublime

I honestly can’t remember how I heard Sublime. I’m fairly confident it was What I Got on the Box, and I remember loving the other singles that came out (Santeria, Wrong Way & Doin’ Time). I remember that this was the first album I owned with a parental advisory. And I remember at the time I absolutely loved it. This makes sense because in 1996/1997 I was a hardcore ska kid.

This doesn’t exactly sound like the opening to an article about to praise the CD as one of his 15 favorite records, but it is. Just give me a second to get there. 

The reason I’m confused about this album now as I write this is that while other ska albums I love (Five Iron, Reel Big Fish, Suicide Machines) don’t confuse me because they feel like the cliche ska albums I always loved as a kid. But Sublime’s self-titled album (and sadly their last real album before becoming Sublime With Rome) is so artistically fantastic and better than any of ska albums out there (ironically there is at least one more ska album still to appear on this list).

This bizarre masterpiece blends Ska, Hardcore Punk, Funk and Jam into 17 incredible tracks. It’s been said that this whole album is now a classic and that arguably every track can be heard on mainstream radio since damn near every kid in the 90’s owned this record. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film - 13. The Monster Squad

13. Monster Squad

Instead of a normal write-up I’m going to ask you to consult an article I wrote last year for in honor of Monster Squad’s 25th anniversary

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 13. Kate Micucci: E.P. Phone Home

13. Kate Micucci: E.P. Phone Home

From the second I saw Kate Micucci on youtube I immediately had a crush. She was quirky, cute and vulgar. About 3 weeks later I saw her on Scrubs (my all time favorite TV show) and it just sealed my affections for her. Regardless of that, I never picked up either of her solo albums until the summer of 2011. 

Her first EP Songs EP has some beautiful songs specifically Walking in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the album but it was her follow-up E.P. Phone Home that blew my mind. It was easily the best album of 2011 and one of the top 5 best releases of the last five years. 

The album is short even by EP Standards clocking in about 12 minutes. However each song is beautiful in every possible way. 

The shortest track Happy Song has become a standard at Saint Mort and Meg & Matt shows. I try to work the 45 second sing-a-long song into every set I play specifically for the extra catchy ‘chugga chugga choo choo” part.

Jack’s Song is an adorable song about her dog’s 6th birthday party, if you’re a dog lover (or any pet owner) you’ll appreciate this song. 

Kate’s beautiful reflections on her past shine in songs like Soup in the Woods but when she shines the most is on her opening and closing tracks. Taking Chances is one of the most motivational songs I’ve ever heard. In Kate’s sweet and simple way she reminds you that you have to take a chance once and a while.

However my favorite song on the album is I Have a Crush on My Teacher. This song should have been a huge single. it is without a doubt one of the catchiest toe tapping songs I’ve ever heard. Kudos to you Kate. Here’s the song for your enjoyment.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love FIlm: 14. Pleaseantville

14. Pleasantville

I remember the first time I saw Pleasantville I thought it was okay but weird and too long. I only watched it because I was obsessed with Fiona Apple’s Across the Universe cover from the soundtrack (as well as the gorgeous music video that accompanied it). 

It wasn’t until many years later that I found myself thinking of the movie again. I eventually rewatched it and loved it. I suddenly started to see all the elements about it that made it so wonderful. Using the backdrop of a Leave it to Beaver style TV show writer/director Gary Ross brilliantly creates a metaphor for the 60’s revolution.

Few films from the 90’s had the amount of symbolism that Ross packed into this 2 hour masterpiece.

There’s not much more I want to say. If you’ve never seen this, you should change that as soon as possible.