Friday, June 29, 2007

More Amusement

OWR: Party Monster

34: Draggy

Unyielding Commissioning Getting Excited

I guess that's settled. Pitchfork fest is sold out. If you didn't get a ticket yet, shame on you. 35 bucks for two days with a ton of great bands. As I mentioned in this space previously, I am now vastly more excited for Pitchfork as a complete festival than I am for Lollapalooza. And it was about one sixth the cost. The schedule has been revealed as well. The cool thing about Pitchfork festival is that there are really only two stages to choose from (the two main stages are on different sides of one big field). So you don't have the dilemmas or the speedwalking required for Lolla. I need to research a few more of these acts, but here's what my general plan is for the two days as of right now:

The Twilight Sad
Grizzly Bear
Fujiya & Miyagi (if I can catch the tail end of their set)
Professor Murder
Oxford Collapse
Dan Deacon
Girl Talk

Fred Lonberg-Holm's Lightbox Orchestra
The Ponys
The Sea and Cake
The Cool Kids
Cadence Weapon
Of Montreal
De La Soul

See - isn't that more appealing as a complete entity than Lollapalooza? Granted, I am super-excited to see The Stooges as well as a couple of the other Lolla acts, but I know that these two days will be (a) more comfortable, (b) a better way to check out some new bands, and (c) easily a better value.

Consider me reticent. Does anyone else think that this Transformers movie is going to completely suck? Apparently not if you read the internets. But I'm not eager to race out and see it. Die Hard 4 is getting high marks from most reviewers, but after that third one, I'm still skeptical on that as well. Sicko, I'm sure will deliver what it promises - high quality family entertainment...

Here there be tygers...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Roundup, Part I

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders above. Note – there will always be spoilers.

I am sorry to announce that for reasons that will soon be obvious, we’ve gone through our 2007 allotment of Schwarzenegger films. I certainly wanted to tackle Kindergarten Cop, Red Heat, Last Action Hero and of course Jingle All the Way, but unfortunately we have to wrap things up for now. However, the good thing about taking a break at this time is that we can review what we’ve accomplished so far. We have eleven movies under our Sunday belt. Let’s see how things break down.

We’ll start with our standard categories and determine which movie is the leader on each one.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: We’ve seen a ton of wonderful Arnold quips. Here are some of the best ones:
“Conan! What is best in life?” “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!”
“Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last?” “That’s right Matrix, you did promise!” “I lied.” … “Wadja do with Sully?” “I let him go.”
“The most satisfying feeling you can get in a gym is ‘the pump.’ It’s as satisfying to me as coming is.”
“I drink no milk. Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.”
“This is Vincent’s car, can I help you please?” … “I’ve only been driving an hour!”
“You’re fired!”
“Hey light-head! Hey Christmas tree!”
“You should not drink and bake.”
“Consider that a divorce.”
And of course, “Hasta la vista, baby.”

In what can only be described as a shocking upset, Terminator 2 ekes out a win over Commando for this category. I call it an upset because he’s a friggin’ robot and is supposed to be stoic and not the least bit cheeky. However, Arnold was at the peak of his career and the scripted lines found the right notes between subtle sarcasm and deadpan humor. The only line that really fails is towards the end when Arnold improvised a Kindergarten Cop reference, blurting out, “I need a vacation.”

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Some of the films were clearly overstuffed with lines and not all of them worked. Here are the lousy, corny, or just plain stupid lines:
“Why don’t they just call him Girl George? It will cut down on the confusion I think.”
“Just trying to get a closer look at Beavis and Butthead.”
“You bastard! Drop dead!” “I don’t do requests.”
“Now when I was a boy and Rock N Roll came to East Germany, the communists said it was subversive. Maybe they were right…”
“What a hothead.”
"This must be what they mean by 'poetic justice.'"
“OK, Marines. It’s time to kick ass.”
“Here lies Subzero. Now, plain zero!”
“Yeah, he was a real pain in the neck!”
"Do you own a calendar, Max? I bet it's a Jewish holiday."
“I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now I’m very hungry.”
"Max, if you're the best there is, the wheel would've never been invented."
“Let off some steam, Bennett.”
Goodness are those terrible. But this category isn’t about “lousy” lines, it’s about which movie stuffs the most of them into its script. And in that case, Commando is the clear winner. Raw Deal came close, with nearly all the lines being horrendous, but at times Commando has Arnold practically doing standup while he hunts down his enemies. Even though he’s tossing those lines about, his expression remains taught and determined throughout.

“I’ll be back.”: We’re going with the originator here, The Terminator. Though Commando and The Running Man both have brief back and forth between Arnold and an adversary. You just can’t beat this: Smarmy Villain: Oh what an array of jerks we’ve had. It’s an extremely difficult decision here as to who is the smarmiest and the most villainous. I’m going to have to go with Thulsa Doom over Milos Cohaagen. Man, this is a tough call. Both men are after power and indulgence. Cohaagen seems to enjoy it less, but I’m not going to count that against him. He gets major points for trying to kill off an entire sector of Mars solely for the sake of sending “a good lesson to the others.” However, not only is Thulsa Doom engaged in cannibalism, he decapitates Conan’s mother to satisfy his bloodlust, he tries to murder his own fiancée after she is kidnapped just for the sake of appeasing his anger, and he has a woman throw herself off a cliff to show Conan how powerful he is. He is pure evil, but a conniving, self-interested evil. The same could be said of Cohaagen, but he just didn’t have as much of an opportunity to show his sinister side. An honorable mention goes to Richard Dawson as Damon Killian, but he’s not on par with these two. Rough and Tumble Henchman: Here we have another incredibly difficult call, and it’s between the same two movies again. In Conan, there are two featured henchmen, both of whom are gigantic men, ready to do anything for their master’s bidding. Total Recall sports Michael Ironside’s Richter who is insubordinate, but carries his own bloodlust towards Arnold’s character. I’m going with Richter here. He’s not as terrifying as Rexor or Thorgrim, but his passion for the destruction of Quaid is unmatched. The yell he gives after Quaid escapes on the subway is destined to be in the top ten of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Angry Shouts retrospective next summer. We must give honorable mention to Robert Davi as he was the only remotely quality thing about Raw Deal. Diminutive Sidekick: It is hard to be more diminutive than Danny Devito. It’s hard to be more of a sidekick than Vincent is to Julius. With all due respect to Edward Furlong and the fact that he is a child in T2, Danny takes this one in a runaway. Rejected hot love interest: This was the only category which was wrapped up as soon as it was defined. Yes, Conan throws the witch played by Cassandra Gava into a fireplace, but she’s not as hot as Sharon Stone, and she is not shot through the forehead before being told, “Consider that a divorce.” Just an astonishing turn of events, no matter how much they were messing with his brain. Not nearly hot enough love interest: I feel like I may have underrated Sandahl Bergman’s Valeria. And by underrated, I mean that I didn’t give her fair credit for not being hot enough. I’m sure she’s upset. But somehow, Valeria seems right for Conan. He should be with someone who can kill with impunity and Valeria certainly fits the bill there. So the winner here is Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies. Part of the issue is that she’s opposing Tia Carrere at the end of her prime. And yes, she does a superb job on her strip tease, but I still can’t get over that grandma underwear photo. It’s unforgivable.

Arnold yelling: Total Recall wins this in a romp. The category was really meant to highlight a specific moment in a movie where Arnold lets out a yell. If you want to talk about one, single yell, it’s hard to beat the one in Predator where he calls his adversary to battle. However, that is not a spontaneous outburst, and that’s really what we’re seeking. He yells throughout Total Recall, but no moment in the history of cinema has a more profound, intense, and hilarious yell than when Quaid uses a mechanical drill to impale his former cab driver while hollering, “SCREWWWWWW YOUUUUUU!!!”

Arnold cursing: Remember that we’re looking for a poignant expletive here, and nothing beats the end of Predator when the alien hunter takes off his helmet to reveal his disgusting face. Dutch immediately blurts out, “You’re one….ugly motherfucker.”

Arnold crazyface: The shocking winner here is Twins. I can’t believe it. However, his expression when he lifts a car to shut its alarm off barely beats out the Total Recall reprogramming scene and my personal favorite, the Conan showdown battle scene. But feel free to judge amongst the three for yourself. Superfluous Explosions: Wow. This category really delivered. I mean a ton of kaboom. Nearly every movie we reviewed has potential to win this category. But the champion has to be Terminator 2. Commando and True Lies gave valiant efforts, but none of those movies blew up as much stuff as big as T2. In fact, I didn’t even include the shots of the Judgment Day nuclear fest in my recap. Just incredibly over the top. Director: Special thanks to James Cameron for helming three of the films reviewed. I'm sure he's reading this. It’s time for him to start making real movies again…

Franco Columbu: Franco didn’t show up as many times as I hoped he would, but he did have a somewhat starring role in Pumping Iron. It would be fair to call him the costar of that movie. Plus, he picks up a car and moves it out of a tight parking spot and has a ridiculously wide lapel. Sven Ole-Thorsen: This is another tough decision. The fact that his character in The Running Man is called "Sven" and the fact that he has an acutal line are compelling. However, in Conan, he raises gigantic snakes and hits people in the head with a gigantic hammer. So we're going with Thorgrim. Shirtless Arnold: We had three tens and a nine in this category. Clearly Arnold is averse to wearing a shirt. Unfortunately, in many of these films he was also somewhat averse to wearing pants. While he’s often oiled up in Pumping Iron, he’s actually shirtless for almost the entirety of Conan. So it’s Conan by an areola.

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: There is no question that this is Total Recall. Richter's arms are ripped off before he falls to his demise from an elevator in an alien mine. That’s awfully brutal.

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: Again, Total Recall wins this severely brutal category. Paul Verhoven really turned things up in that movie. Cohaagen’s bloating-to-death sequence was some gross-ass shit.

Plausibly implausible plot: I’m tempted to give Total Recall the threepeat, but the original Terminator has to take this one. Seriously, Skynet takes things over and people are reduced to human cockroaches, scurrying around, wishing for minor victories in armed combat versus machines? I don’t see how humans stand a chance. Then there’s the time-travel thing, and all the rules contained therein. It’s a lot to accept. But we buy in to that movie better than any Arnold’s ever starred in. As previously mentioned, Michael Biehn deserves much of the credit for the success in this category.

Ambiguous ending: While many of the films are intentionally ambiguous at the end, none are as overtly undecided as Total Recall. We don’t even know if any of the movie actually happened or merely occurred within Douglas Quaid’s head because of a problem at Rekall. The decision to toe the line between fantasy and reality is a brilliant one – even if I may have gathered enough evidence to determine that he was lobotomized and never left Rekall to begin with.

Whew. Is that everything? Well, not exactly. All of these categories were determined ahead of time, but in viewing all of these films, there were a few categories that probably should have been included.

“Trust me.”: Arnold throws this one out frequently. I can’t remember off the top of my head how many of his movies include this line, but I think it’s about half of the eleven we’ve Sundayed. For some reason, this doesn’t get the renown that “I’ll be back” does, and possibly with good reason, but whether he's promising John Connor that he won't kill any people, or convincing Vincent that their mom wants to see them, it's a brief sentence he's relied upon many times.

Arnold running: He is “The Running Man”, after all. In almost every non-terminator movie, there is at least one scene featuring an Arnold run, whether it’s sprinting away from the explosives he set off in Commando, fleeing the self-destructing Predator, or jogging to a random house trying to find his mother in Twins. Who knew he was so into cardio?

Arnold painting his skin: In at least Commando, Predator, and Conan (twice), Schwarzenegger paints himself to prepare for battle. One could argue all that baby oil used in Pumping Iron would qualify as well. This probably should have been tracked and rated.

Tune in tomorrow when we will finish the SS roundup, giving you the raw data I know you desire as well as addressing previously unanswerable questions. Note that while this is the last real Schwarzenegger Sunday of 2007, we'll be doing a very special one in a week and a half. It should be very fun, but I'm not tipping my hand yet...

All the Schwarzenegger Sundays:
The Terminator
Raw Deal
The Running Man
True Lies
Pumping Iron
Conan The Barbarian
Total Recall
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Last Action Hero
Roundup, Part II
The George W. Bush Administration

Thursday Youtube

Thought you'd enjoy this one. Turn it up!

Schwarzenegger Sunday posting later today. I promise!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

OWR: Syriana

72: Recondite

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

And you might ask yourself... did I get here?

One of the more entertaining things about having your own blog is that you can see what google searches people are using to stop by. Since this site has been up (around late January sometime), there have been plenty of surfers to stumble in here via various keywords. Some of these will be notable, but others will be absolutely shocking. I've broken the various searches down to four categories. Read on for fun:

Sensible/Notable These are searches that just kept coming up:
Imitosis definition There are a ton of people trying to track down the meaning of Andrew Bird's song title. He made it up, people! Because it's basically a cover of his previous song. Hopefully I was able to help these poor souls
Arnold Shirtless Let's just hope they weren't looking for Gary Coleman. Assuming this is Schwarzenegger, they came the right place (unless they want photos).
Rachel McAdams I find it hard to believe that I'm the foremost McAdams expert on the internet. I just sat next to her at once concert and that was it...
Smashing Pumpkins Taranchula One way to garner a lot of hits is apparently to misspell a word that people will commonly search for. I referenced the Strong Bad e-mail where he comes up with band names, and folks keep arriving here because they can't spell Tarantula. I get a lot of "Electrane" hits as well, but that's my fault since I misspelled it in my review. Nobody's prefect...

Bizarre These speak for themselves:
Maria Conchita Alonso facelift
Gittes manipulated sight and knowledge
Final countdown worst song ever
Kelly Preston death scenes
Fighting Bodybuilders

Tommy Chong daughter hot
Lasers for mustaches and unibrows and their side effects
Jim Jones rap instrumental from conan the barbarian soundtrack
How to convince your band director that your good enough to march snare
Silversun Pickups road manager
Starsky and Hutch bodybuilders fight
Arnold Schwarzenegger nude
What to do when something gets stuck in your throat
Brad starting as best boy which meant what oscar awards
Sven Thorsen bodybuilding photos

How much is the polyfuze method worth? That depends if you need a coaster
Arnold commando boobie scene
Nick Tortelli + women, isn't it enough that we have to sleep with them
Shirtless weightlifter
Andy's female fighting

Zack Starkey phone #

Disappointed These are people who came here only to find me ripping on whatever they were looking for - or perhaps that they were really just in the wrong place
Melissa Etheridge oscar
Sunday Morning Chameleon
The Syllable Section
Fighting songs of the 80s
Slings and arrows chicago
Why did creed drop there lead singer
Do you want the long answer or the short answer?
Linedance go grease lightning
moe- ok- all right
Cheeseburger in paradies + chord progression

Creepy If you're eating, you might want to finish up quickly. Yes, people search for this stuff and they end up here. I don't want to try to explain it.
Zachary Knighton shirtless
Preteen prostitues
Youth cage fighting

Alyissa milano nude
Twin brothers shirtless
Athletic and sleazy
Orgasm sound
Youth bodybuilding contestants 2007
Kids - shirtless and fighting
Preteen prostitutes 2007
Fighting youth underwear
Jamie Curtis crotch shot photo
Sean Yseult nude

Homemade plastique Just creepy that people are looking around for this stuff online.

Finally, I give you the absolutely creepiest thing I can imagine. Seriously. I don't get this search at all. And I'm afraid of the internet going forward. I don't have a joke here or anything. I'm speechless:
Judge Reinhold Nude

Monday, June 25, 2007

OWR: Capote

74: Intimate

Unyielding Commissioning Asks Frances to Lighten Up

The World is a Vampire. Our friends at Pitchfork are all fired up and pissed off about the fact that the new Smashing Pumpkins release will come with additional bonus tracks if you purchase it at Best Buy or Target or iTunes. The rub is that the bonus tracks are different at each retailer. Pitchfork's reaction is that this is a big FU to the fans and to indie record stores. I want to know where this fury was when Feist did the same exact thing two months ago. Because Feist is an up-and-coming indie darling, she is exempt from such indignation? Obviously, this trend will continue with more and more artists. And I highly doubt this is the band's idea. In the era of piracy, they are trying new things to get customers to actually purchase albums instead of stealing them. In my opinion, nobody has done this better than Tool, whose latest release had brilliant 3D artwork. Pitchfork's take is that the band's decision to do this "fully support(s) the extinction of the American independent record store at the hand of large, faceless, little-guy crushing big boxes." However, it's important to remember that this is a band whose last album was released via their website for free. If anything, they have given the fans plenty. I fail to see how giving fans extra tracks, again for free, is remotely close to waving a middle finger in their collective face. Nobody is going to buy three versions of the album because we live in the era of piracy. Can fans be blamed for sharing free songs? Anyone who really wants these songs will get them without spending a dime. I hearken back to a Smashing Pumpkins show at Metro back in 1993 when Billy Corgan directed the audience thusly: "Next time we release an album, you don't all have to buy it. Just have one person get it and copy it onto a tape and then pass it around amongst all of you." That may not be a verbatim quote, but the gist is accurate. Needless to say, I'm not boycotting this release over free tracks...

Do Bloated Ships Sink Faster? I was all prepared to see the typical Monday box office review exalting Evan Almighty for "winning the weekend." But much to my shock and amazement, the AP is taking the film to task for not besting its predecessor. Of course, I didn't watch the local news last night. If I had, I'm sure their headline would have been, "Even Mightier," or something equally insipid. For a film that infamously cost $175 MM to produce, a $32.1 MM box office in the opening weekend is not what they were hoping for. Despite the bad reviews, it's currently cruising along at a 6.9 on the IMDb, so perhaps they will get some decent word of mouth. But I would imagine Universal is already planning the tax writeoff... My take? Is this any different than Summer Rental? I mean, aside from the neighbor with the breast implants.

Speaking of Lousy Direction Jobs. Check out this feature in The A.V. Club. Ten Directors You Didn't Know you Hated. I guess since he's not listed, this must mean that everyone already knows they hate Brian DePalma?

Schwarzenegger Sunday Caught in Traffic

Sorry folks, we're going to be a bit delayed this week. Expect something special in the Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday range... In the meantime, this will have to tide you over:

Friday, June 22, 2007

OWR: Bringing Up Baby

57: Batty

Guest Blogger: Kyle Rants

Today I open up Fighting the Youth to frequent commenter Kyle so he can go off on whatever topic he chooses. Let's see what he has to say:

I recently attended a BBQ hosted by a friend. There are only so many times I can hear how G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S Fergie is, or what Justin Timberlake is bringing in an one hour period, so I asked if I could let my MP3 player do the talking at the BBQ. Really, a selfish suggestion on my part since my MP3 player is sans Fergie and JT. I was told in the most polite way, “No, your taste in music is too weird.” This is not the first time I have heard this. People think it’s weird not because I am listening to a cd of two ferrets fighting inside a snare drum, but because I am listening to a band unfamiliar to most people.

Weird…wow…crap, I don’t want to be the weird guy. I wouldn’t ever want to be the uniform, straight out of the mold, typical dude, but I definitely don’t want to be the weird guy. Before I know it, I’ll be the creepy guy, too and won’t even be invited to the BBQ in the first place. Defending myself from myself, I went with the typical weirdo excuse, “I am not weird, everyone else is weird!” I really think this is true!

Now, let me provide a little insight into my “weird taste.” I love music. I want to expand my musical library to the point where there is not a mood or urge that I cannot satisfy by consulting my catalogue. It’s the search. It’s the thrill of discovering a new band you dig. It’s the hours I spend reading about new bands on the internet or playing the “Oh yea, have you ever heard…” game with my friends. I pride myself in my taste in music. I am a music seeker.

Is it weird listen to a band very few people know of? Or is it weird to be so closed minded that you are unwilling to seek out a new band and try it on for size, or heck, even listen to a band once that you never heard of? The answer is the latter. I think it is infinitely weird for someone who claims to “love music”, but won’t listen to anything not on the radio. These people are music followers. They don’t truly love music; they are just following the trends. When I was 8, I wore bicycle pants all the time – whether I was actually biking or not. I didn’t actually like them; I just wore them because they were cool! Now it’s clear that I had horrible taste in pantwear. I know the music industry has become a popularity contest, rather than a true display of talent, but if you dig deep into the chasms, there are some great bands out there! Don’t let the selection at Best Buy or what everyone else is listening to determine who your favorite band is. I recently went to Best Buy to purchase the new Modest Mouse cd only to find out they didn’t stock it. Yet, there were enough copies of American Idol loser Elliot Yamin, for every man, woman, and child in Chicago to buy 3 copies.

The other day, my roommate (and sadly a self-proclaimed music follower) asked me if I had any suggestions for him. I told him to go to my CD collection and grab Silversun Pickups or maybe Explosions in the Sky. A few minutes later and commented that my CD collection looked like 500 different responses to a mad lib of the form adjective, noun, noun, asked me if I had the latest Silly Monkey Jump album, and left empty handed. I laughed, but I also pitied his ignorance. Here, my friend was asking for a suggestion. I will often offer up unprompted suggestions which are frequently disregarded or even derided outside my indie friends because it’s so obvious I’ll suggest a band so off the wall that no one could possibly like them except me and their mothers.

Attention all music followers, my weird taste is your saving grace! I do not suggest bands you don’t know to be pushy or snobby, but to merely expose you to a band that you haven’t even have an opportunity to dig yet. These aren’t blind, totally random suggestions. I really put a lot of mental effort through cross referencing band suggestions with your musical tastes. It’s an awesome feeling to be the one that turned someone onto their new favorite band!

Come to think of it, a synonym for weird is unusual. The music followers are in the large majority in this word, so that puts me in the minority, the unusual. I guess I do have a weird taste in music. Next time someone tells me I have a weird taste in music; I am just going to shoot them a confused dog sneer and tell them to go back to their Nickelback CD. But inside, I am going to feel a little bit sorry for them because there is so much musical beauty out there that they’ll never hear.

First of all, I have to say I like how fired up Kyle is about this. I should note that the friend who was hosting the barbecue is someone VERY close to Kyle, so his request was not unreasonable. Nor is his irritation with being called weird.

There's a wonderful scene in the book High Fidelity which didn't make it into the movie. Rob and Laura have reconciled a bit and they have dinner with a couple who Laura knows from work. They have a fantastic evening and really hit it off. Laura says to Rob, "Check out their record collection." He proceeds to find the worst array of music he can fathom. I believe there was Barry Manilow and other such dreck (possibly even
YMCA). Rob finds himself in a personal dilemma. He wants simultaneously to love and hate these people. In the end, his "music snobbery" side wins out and he finds it difficult to spend time with the couple.

I'm a somewhat proud, self-proclaimed music snob, but Kyle raises a worthwhile issue. What of the music snobs who not only know nothing about music, but are generally not interested in hearing new songs until they're already accustomed to them? What should we call these people?

I'm going to go with "nostalgists" because that's really the way they approach music, whether they know it or not. They want music to be their personal soundtrack, and when they hear a song they like, it's because it reminds them an era in their life that they like - even if that era was two weeks ago at Pablo McFlannigan's. Part of the reason Kyle gets called "weird" is because a person with a deeper understanding of the subject is likely somewhat threatening to a nostalgist. I long got over my "Rob Gordon" phase where I condemn someone for what I consider to be uninformed taste (note that Kyle has never had such a phase). It's totally unfair to judge someone on something they have every right not to care about. I just get excited when I meet someone who shares a passion for music.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Unyielding Commissioning Will Now Flog Self with The Quickness

Asleep at the switch. There's a new Bad Brains album coming out and nobody told me?!? Hot damn! The album, called Build a Nation, is due out this Tuesday. Their last effort at a reunion way back in 1995 was basically a disaster. God of Love, the album they released, was easily their worst. Frontman H.R. decked their tour manager. The remaining tourdates were canceled, and the band was done. However, checking out the "sample cuts" (each about 30 seconds long) on their myspace page, things sound extremely promising. Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys handled production - not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I am excited. It appears that they only have four shows scheduled, but hopefully they will add more. Hey Dr. Know - there's still one TBD slot at Lollapalooza! Not holding my breath on that one. It's a small shame they couldn't have made their re-debut at CBGB, but I s'pose they were just a bit too late. In any event, in this era where everyone outside of the speed metal outfits appears afraid to rock hard, we need Bad Brains more than ever.

AFI loves lists! For the last nine years, the American Film Institute has been putting out High Fidelity style top 100 lists. They started with the 100 greatest films. Then they covered: Laughs, Stars, Thrills, Passions, Heroes & Villains, Songs, Movie Quotes... Now they're moving on to......the initial, 100 best movies list. Considering there are only three films released in the last ten years that made the list, I can't help but question whether this was necessary. The new list features a lot of changes, which also makes no sense. Yes, I realize it's a poll and the esteem of certain pictures can change over time, but seeing as there are some major incongruencies between the original list and this one, doesn't that harm the credibility of the entire endeavor? Obviously any lists such as these are "just for fun" and only a complete idiot would try to call one of them "definitive" or something like that. But couldn't they have done AFI's 100 Greatest Explosions? Or AFI's 100 Greatest Gunshot Wounds? Or AFI's 100 Greatest Money Shots? What? Those are films, too...

Thursday Youtube: Speaking of the want for real rock these days....

Here there be tygers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

OWR: The Fountain

77: Challenging

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Most Important Album Ever Made

Do you like music? Do you appreciate music built on passion? Do you believe music is art? Do you like to dance? Do you like to think that musicians get to make a least a few decisions regarding what happens to their music? Do you think music can make statements? Do you love music with a message? Do you have soul? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then let me inform you that the most important album in your life is What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. I’ll explain.

Throughout the 1960s, Marvin Gaye sang on some of the most catchy, memorable, and poetic pop music we’ve ever smiled to. Working his way up Berry Gordy’s Motown Records roster, he became one of the most bankable stars in the music business. However, as the decade came to a close, Marvin found himself dealing with a series of tribulations which forced him to withdraw from his colleagues and friends. His singing partner, Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor after collapsing in his arms on stage. His marriage to Gordy’s sister, Anna, featured ever more frequent arguments and mistrust. His brother Frankie’s return from Vietnam fostered Marvin’s guilt over not writing him during his absence. And of course, he continued to suffer from a strained relationship with his father. Partly due to stress and depression from all these concerns, and partly from defiance, he chose to shun the Motown machine, preferring to work only from his home. In talking with Frankie and the Four Tops' Obie Benson, Marvin and Benson came up with an idea for a song that would be different from anything he’d ever recorded. That song was the single, “What’s Going On.”

We all know that song now. It’s an amazing piece of work. It begins with friends talking, greeting one another at a party giving the song a setting. That is followed by a soaring sax solo played by Eli Fountain. Then we get a plea for peace unlike any heard before. In his third and fourth lines, Marvin – who had sung about “love” his entire career – pleads, “You know we’ve got to find a way, to bring some loving here today.” The song goes on to address the major concerns of the era in a way that only Marvin’s soulful supplication could have. He passionately demands understanding and love in hopes of healing the wounds that were open all over the country. It probably was called a protest song, but in actuality, it’s one of the most thoughtful songs ever written. Upon being presented this work, Berry Gordy immediately vowed never to release it. From his perspective, it was too avant garde both lyrically and musically to sell as a single. He was after more “dancing in the streets” and certainly not anything that would shake people up. He was selling to young, white America and he believed he knew what it wanted. Possibly more out of defiance than conviction, Marvin said he would not record another note until Gordy released “What’s Going On” as a single. After several months, Gordy relented, and published the song.

Of course, it was immediately a tremendous hit (ah, to be living in the days when DJs could play what they wanted…), and Marvin was allowed to record an album to be fit around the single. He had won a battle which forever changed the rights of the artist at Motown. And because Motown was considered the model for success in the music industry, his determination caused a ripple across the musical world. Musicians were now able to control their work like never before. Because Marvin held out and the gamble paid off, others were able to follow his example. Stevie Wonder quickly took advantage of Motown's new freedoms, going on the most prolific five-album run of any pop music artist in history.

Marvin had always been put in the role of the crooning pop star, a sex symbol who sang sweet love songs. Because of what he was seeing in the world around him, he no longer found this position tenable. He had to grow into a full-fledged adult, and nothing would hold him back. The rest of the songs he created covered such social concerns as drugs, the environment, faith, poverty, and the future we're leaving for our children. In sum, it was a stunning turn for an artist whose previous album was titled, "That's the Way Love Is." For a star on Marvin's level, this shift to songs of social consciousness was totally unprecedented.

But this album isn't amazing simply because of musician rights or political statements. Put simply, it's so damn good. Marvin's vocals are at their most passionate throughout the album because he is truly singing from his heart. The songs are so well constructed that they sound original, no matter when you hear them for the first time. Not only that, the work was innovative. Always a fan of harmonies, Marvin was the first major artist to overdub his vocals so he could both harmonize with himself and do his own call-response. This technique continues to influence music we hear every day. Stevie Wonder seized on this concept on his very next album, Music of My Mind. Stevie didn't simply overdub his vocals, but started playing all the instruments on his albums. Even U2's The Edge plays guitar the way Marvin sang. His "unique" innovations owe a debt of gratitude to Marvin's creation. I could cite various other examples, but you get the picture.

If you don't own this album, or perhaps only know the title track, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on it and fully digest every bit of it. People often say how they value artists approaching their work with integrity or passion, and there's no better example than What's Going On. It's an album to be revered, but also enjoyed. There are few pieces of music as moving. And if, by chance, you were not totally sure about how to answer the last question I posed at the outset: "Do you have soul?", play this album a couple-two-three times. You can't help but pick some up.

For more about the album What's Going On, I recommend this book by Ben Edmonds. If you are curious about Marvin himself, you absolutely must read Divided Soul by David Ritz. It's not only an in-depth look at Marvin's life, it's one of the best books I’ve read.

Monday, June 18, 2007

OWR: Once Upon a Time in Mexico

57: Stuffed

Unyielding Commissioning Doesn't Fear the MSM

It's not just me anymore. In February, I ranted about my disdain for the current trend regarding horror flicks (the trend being that we have three new ones each week). The Trib's Michael Phillips says this week that the box office for such pictures is starting to drop precipitously. Perhaps everyone else is getting worn out as well. Let's hope.

It's also not just me anymore. A while back I was planning to write a posting titled, "I'm sick of going to the movies," but then I had a couple better experiences and backed off. Mark Caro addresses some of the issues moviegoers are forced to face every time they watch a film. My biggest problem is all the other a-holes who you have to deal with. Perhaps I'll get to this eventually. I actually haven't gone to the theaters since March. Netflix and a good stereo system tend to keep me in and on the couch...

Acting! Thankyouuu! Spinner has put together their list of ten rules for proper concert etiquette. Instead of simply writing them out, they have some dudes acting out what not to do. It's at least amusing, but they missed a bunch. Like don't tell people "I deserve to see this band more than you!" Or perhaps don't "Take the tray from the waitress and menacingly threaten to smash her over the head with it." Or the favorite, "Don't try to shoehorn a mosh pit at shows where it's clearly not gonna happen." And of course, "Don't sit there yammering away with your friends during the slower songs." I've had to deal with all of these issues this spring at shows. I'm working on a longer posting about this issue, but if you dig improv humor, check it out.

Greg Kot a few months behind. In early spring, it seemed like coming out with lists of the "best covers" was all the rage. USA Today had a feature, as well as various other publications. The Trib's Greg Kot has made is own list, and I have to say that it's easily the most accurate and impressive I've seen. Kot knows what he's talking about and probably gave this a lot more thought than most people. I certainly agree with his criteria: "They radically reinterpret a song and improve on it, or they draw attention to the previously underappreciated original." He's also put his e-mail address on there in case you want to chime in to him. Any list of this kind is inherently an exercise in personal preference as there's no way to judge "better" when talking about music (unless Jimmy Buffet is involved - everyone else is better). My quick, from the gut list of recorded covers:

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Marvin Gaye - I Heard it Through the Grapevine (Gladys Knight & the Pips)
Aretha Franklin - Respect (Otis Redding)
Quicksand - How Soon is Now? (The Smiths)
Dinosaur Jr. - Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
Alkaline Trio - Exploding Boy (The Cure)
Fishbone - Freddy's Dead (Curtis Mayfield)

My list of covers I've seen performed live:
Anthrax w/ Al Jorgensen - Supernaut (Black Sabbath)
J. Mascis + The Fog w/ Mike Watt on vocals - T.V. Eye (Stooges) there are a ton more, but I'm going to have to give this a longer think.

Friday, June 15, 2007

OWR: The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

88: Potent

Unyielding Commissioning Knee Deep in Schadenfreude

What goes around comes around. Lou Pearlman has been expelled from Indonesia and arrested in Guam. Who is Lou Pearlman? Apparently, he is first and foremost a con artist who has run ponzi schemes and cheated people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that's all pretty bad. But more importantly, he's the man who provided us not only N-Sync and The Backstreet Boys, but also O-Town, LFO, and scads of other grating pop acts. See, the charter jet company he owned once flew New Kids on the Block somewhere and he decided that boy bands were the über shit. Not only would they make him a ton of money, they're really young, so he can rip them off, too. Now, I don't think Justin Timberlake is starving these days, but his claim that he was "monetarily raped by a Svengali" seems to be par for the course for Pearlman.

It's just a shame that they couldn't parlay this into a very special Dateline NBC To Catch a Predator with Chris Hansen. Pearlman looks the every bit the depraved lecher. I could see him coming over to a random house to meet a young, blonde boy who likes to dance. But instead of bringing a six pack, he'd have a recording contract which he had no intention of honoring. Hansen would pop out and say, "Hi! Have a seat. Siddown. Please. Take a seat."
"Oh, I was just checking on this kid. He was alone and I wanted to make sure he was OK."
"We have the e-mails, we know what you were here for. It says here you promised him, 'Lots of money and girls and appearances on MTV.' Then why do you have this contract with all kinds of loopholes?"
"Oh, no. This, uh. This is just - I just had this with me."
"You said in your e-mail, 'It doesn't matter if you can't sing - just dance. I'll dress you and get four other guys. We'll have your songs on every radio station in the country.' Is that true?"
"Er, well, you know. Girls want to hear that stuff."
"So it's OK to inflict it on the rest of us? It's not bad enough that you're going to rip off some kid, but you're going to make us watch while you do it? Pretty sick, dontcha think?"
Pearlman pulls his shirt up over his face. "Look, I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. I was stupid. Please don't arrest me."
Here's hoping his ass lands in jail for a loooong time. I tried to come up with a boy-band pun, but I (thankfully) can't remember any of those songs right now. Someone want to jump in? Add a comment...

Triumphant Return! Triumph the insult comic dog is back. I was concerned that maybe he hung up his bow tie, but he went to the Tonys on Sunday (hat tip: Adamriff).

Here there be tygers.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bingo Bango Bongo

I'm afraid this is fast becoming a Thursday tradition as I am once again busy as all get out. First, it's Feist appearing on Conan Tuesday night w/ various friends including Grizzly Bear.

Then here's some footage from very early in Terry Bradshaw's broadcasting career.

And finally, here is an article which you probably don't want to read. It involves a domestic dispute between a couple who are probably too far apart in age, a Liverpool house party, and the phrase:

Doctors were unable to reattach the organ.
My apologies in advance in case you're eating or something.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

OWR: Nashville

59: Tedious

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Unyielding Commissioning Can't Quite Win Today

Almost made it. The Lollapalooza schedule is up today. Now begins the hierarchical ranking of bands you want to see. I was going along just fine - no real conflicts on the first day. It's all crappy and/or hippie bands playing at the same time as the best rawkers. Day 2 features only one challenging decision - The Roots at the same time as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I'm more into The Roots, but I've seen them before in a much smaller environment. At this point, I was feeling great about my chances to catch everyone I wanted. Day 3 is not cooperating, though. Kings of Leon is playing at the exact same time as The Stooges. To me this seems like horrendous planning. It boggles the mind that the organizers wouldn't think that there would be crossover between these two bands. Between the two, it's an easy call as I've not seen The Stooges and no matter who they were opposite, they would win for me. But I'm greatly displeased with having to make this choice. My initial, gut reaction plan for the three days:

Day 1
The Fratellis, Ghostland Observatory, Ted Leo, Polyphonic Spree, Against Me!, Silversun Pickups, The Black Keys, LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk

Day 2
Tokyo Police Club, Tapes 'n Tapes, Cold War Kids, The Roots (again, a tough call - leaning that way), Roky Erickson & The Explosives, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, Interpol

Day 3 The Cribs, Heartless Bastards, Amy Winehouse, Annuals/Paulo Nutini, The Stooges, Peter Bjorn and John, Modest Mouse, TV on the Radio, maybe a little Pearl Jam out of curiosity

Those who don't study their history are doomed to repeat it. Another quirk in the schedule is that one of the more promising acts is getting only 45 minutes because they're across the field from the main headliner. Last year, Broken Social Scene put on the best performance of the entire festival - even though they had fifteen minutes less than everyone else. This year, TV on the Radio is in that same slot. This is baffling to me. I don't see why (A) they can't make this slot an hour like all the others or at least (B) put some crappy band no one is excited to see in there.

There've been a lot of changes in the law. Joshua Jackson is set to be cast as Iwrin F Fletcher in the upcoming prequel, Fletch Won. This project has been kicking around Hollywood for quite a while, and many others have been mentioned in the title role. Looking at Jackson's resume, I don't see any comedy. Unless you count The Skulls. Kevin Smith was originally going to write and direct, but he is off the project now. Steve Pink is directing - he wrote the screenplay for both High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank, but so far has only directed Accepted (yeah, the one with the I-Mac dude). Things do not look promising. Fletch Lives, the sequel to the original, gets a really bad rap, particularly by fervent Fletch fans, but I found it to be decent. It's nowhere near on par with the original, to be sure, but it has its moments. All signs on this project point to an absolute disaster. Using the whole fist, Doc?

Monday, June 11, 2007

OWR: Sin City

84: Colorful

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Terminator 2 Judgment Day

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders above. Note – there will always be spoilers.

For the second time his career, Arnold was literally back, playing the same character in a sequel. Well, kind of the same character. I’ll explain. After nuclear war wipes out nearly all of humanity, machines have entered a battle versus the remaining humans in an attempt to eradicate the earth of people. Much like in the previous film, a killing machine called a Terminator (in this case, a T-1000) has been sent from the future to murder the leader of the human forces, John Connor. Again as in the inital installment, the humans have also sent a protector back through time – however, that protector is a reprogrammed T-101, played by Schwarzenegger. The T-101 is barely able to intercept Connor before the T-1000. Connor and the T-101 then help Sarah Connor escape from the maximum security mental hospital where she’s imprisoned, again narrowly escaping the T-1000. They then proceed to blow up Cyberdyne Systems, the entity that will eventually lead to the rise of the machines. Finally, they are chased by the T-1000 to a steel mill where they battle it out until finally the T-1000 falls into a vat of molten metal, killing it. The T-101 is then destroyed in the same manner to ensure that its parts will never be utilized for research. We see the road stretched in front of the Connors as Sarah tells us she has, for the first time, hope for the future.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: The first Terminator film played everything extremely straight. There were few quips or lighthearted moments. However, Arnold drops some great deadpan here, mostly in response to comments by others. These are lines that have been entered the vernacular, and here are but a few of them: 9
“I have to go to my house to pick up some things.” “Negative. The T-1000 would definitely try to reacquire you there.” “Are you sure?” “I would.
“Help! Help! Help!” “This does not help our mission.
“Jesus, you were gonna kill that guy!” “Of course, I’m a terminator.
I swear I will not kill anyone.
“I thought you weren’t going to kill people!” “He’ll live.
Come with me if you want to live.
Hasta la vista… baby.

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Even though I knew that there were some classic quotes, I did not expect the sheer number of Arnold lines. He has little dialogue in general, but much of time he is going for wry humor or an ironic counterbalance to the chaos around him. There are some hokier moments including: 9
What’s wrong with your eyes?” [seriously - they didn't tell terminators about the fact that humans can cry?]
“I need written authorization.” “I insist.
“My personal entry code from the lab…is no good.” “Let me try mine.” (he shoots through the door.)
I need a vacation.

“I’ll be back.”: Given that this is the sequel to the film that birthed the line, you would think that we’d get an easy 10/10 on this dimension. However, Arnold says, “Stay here, I’ll be back,” in a very flat and unemotional way. Yes, I realize he’s a robot and all, but it is not up to par with my expectations. He does manage to injure a baker’s dozen worth of cops and then drive a police van through the lobby in order to rescue the Connors. So that's something. 7

Smarmy Villain: Robert Patrick plays the T-1000 as a driven, fierce killing machine. He’s really part villain, part henchman. Even when people encounter him in his police persona, they do not appear to trust him, sensing that something amiss about him. Patrick claims to have mimicked the head-movements of the bald eagle for his persona. He is even more determined a foe than Schwarzenegger was in the first movie, and every bit as unstoppable. Through a great leap in special effects, they were able to have the T-1000 “morph” into anything it contacts. It is made of liquid metal and can reform into anything as long as it is roughly the same size. When not applying their state of the art CGI, the filmmakers utilize God’s special effects – twins (utilized at two different points). He’s not quite smarmy because he doesn’t seem to take any pleasure in his goals. Still, he’s manufactured evil. 9

Rough and Tumble Henchman: n/a

Diminutive Sidekick: Edward Furlong was not even trying to become an actor before being cast as John Connor, a role that must have been coveted by all of underage Hollywood at the time. His performance signaled what most thought to be the beginning of a long and fruitful career. He furthered his promise in American History X, but then of course got into some drugs and gained weight. There are “rumors” that he will appear as John Connor in Terminator 4. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea as I thought Nick Stahl was pretty much the only good thing in the last one. In any event, he is superb in this film, despite the frequently hammy dialogue. He and Arnold are together for nearly the entire film, and he’s a kid so he’s like, really short and stuff. 10

Rejected hot love interest: In the SS review of Terminator, I stated that Linda Hamilton was “pretty enough, but not a stunning beauty.” While that assessment still applies, she worked herself into ridiculous, kickass shape for this movie. When I first saw the film (July 3, 1991), I found her somewhat terrifying. But I was barely 16 and easily intimated. Or something. She’s vastly removed herself from the mousy waitress we meet at the beginning of the first movie. I have to say she’s far more attractive here. She has ideas about the terminator becoming John’s “father” and protecting him. Instead, he demands they lower him into the molten metal as well. While that’s a rejection, it’s not from a “love interest” perspective, so this is n/a.

Not nearly hot enough love interest: n/a

Arnold yelling: He’s a robot. The loudest thing he probably says is “Get down” or something like that - and not in a Curtis Mayfield kind of way. n/a

Arnold cursing: While most of the characters liberally toss around the F-word and other swears, curse words must not be part of the T-101’s protocol because the closest he comes to cursing is when he says “Chill out, dickwad.” 2

Arnold crazyface: This robot thing is really taking the fun out of Schwarzenegger Sunday… But these two are decent. 4 Superfluous Explosions: I recalled the office building they blow way the hell up, but there are explosions throughout every bit of this film. Lots of them and big ones. Now, you could claim that there’s nothing superfluous about the office building explosion because they had to make sure they’d eradicate Cyberdyne Systems once and for all. Apparently, they built a fake couple of floors on an already freestanding building, and that building is still in use today. Even though I omitted a ton of possible shots, here are way too many photos of all the kabooms. 10
Director: This is our third visit from James Cameron here on Schwarzenegger Sunday. He also helmed True Lies and the first Terminator. He is such a tremendously successful filmmaker (Titanic, The Abyss, and Aliens are also his), you almost have to wonder what he’d be doing if he wasn’t making movies. He has two “futuristic” films in the works right now – Avatar and Battle Angel. He hasn’t tried to make a major narrative film since Titanic ten years ago. We’ll see in 2009 if he’s still got it (my guess would be “yeah”).

Franco Columbu: n/a
Sven Ole-Thorsen: Also n/a, however. We do get to see Nikki Cox in her first theatrical speaking role. Yeah, I realize she’s pretty much a TV actress, but she’s in there for a second sporting a very dated haircut.
Shirtless Arnold: The T-101 is sent through time nude, just like in the first movie. He then enters a biker bar and says “I need your clothes, boots, and your motorcycle.” Unfortunately, we also get a nude Robert Patrick who looks fit in the sense that he could probably run a marathon. It’s all rather scrawny and unsexy. 8

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: n/a

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: The T-1000 seemingly is killed repeatedly throughout the film. He’s almost like the agents in the Matrix. Even though they apparently kill him, he continues on, undeterred in his mission. When finally destroyed in the vat of molten metal, he screams, contorts, and goes through various of the characters he copied during the film. It’s hard for a machine to die brutally, despite the screams. 3

Plausibly implausible plot: On its face, this is a pretty ludicrous story. However, if you buy into the plot of the first one, it all makes pretty perfect sense. When I reviewed Terminator, I said that Michael Biehn was the one who held everything together, plotwise. In this case, it’s Linda Hamilton. She so perfectly embodies the new Sarah Connor, it greatly heightens the verisimilitude of the movie. I have no idea how long she trained for this role, but considering she was married to the director, it’s possible that for several months every waking second of her life was about Sarah Ann Connor. Without her performance, I think the whole thing falls apart. All the facts of the T-1000 are so technical, and there are loopholes galore, but he’s just scary enough that we buy it all (for instance, since metal can not be sent through time unless it is covered by organic material, how did a liquid metal guy go through – even if he appears to be organic?). My biggest question is how Sarah’s able to have clean-shaven armpits. If she’s in a maximum security mental hospital, I have to think that razors would be kept away from her. Look what she was able to do with just a paper clip! Perhaps some questions are better left unacknowledged. I apologize. 9

Ambiguous ending: We know what happened to the two terminators, but we are left to wonder about the future along with the two main characters. They actually filmed an ending taking place in the far-off future, well past the Judgment Day date where John Connor is a senator or something, and an elderly Sarah sits in the park wearing really lousy old-age makeup. But Cameron wisely avoided using that ending instead giving us Sarah’s comments about hope and a shot of freeway miles passing by. Terminator 3 has been released so we know Judgment Day is not avoided, though it was delayed. But at the conclusion of this film, anything could happen. 9

Terminator 2 was the crowning achievement in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. The movie grossed over $200 MM domestically, and over $300 MM outside of the US (in 1991 dollars). According to the IMDb, it’s his highest rated film, and easily the one with the most user votes, and it ranks as their 81st best movie of all time. There was a colossal amount of hype upon its release. The biggest music video of the summer entailed Arnold dressed as the terminator, going to a Guns N Roses concert as they performed You Could Be Mine, the themesong for the movie. Not only did the release live up to the hype, it still does today. There are moments when the film gets a bit too campy, like when Arnold leaves the biker bar to the tune of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.” Or at one point where John sees two kids arguing and says, “We’re not gonna make it, are we?” The T-101 responds, “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.” John says, “Yeah, major drag, huh?” But this is a movie that holds up and can be watched repeatedly. One of its great strengths are all of the action sequences. I could go on, talking about how video games were clearly terrible in 1991, and how even though it was his greatest success, it was probably Arnold’s easiest role. But I’ll just close by saying that they pulled out all the stops, and they pretty much all worked. Watch this again if it’s been a while.

Friday, June 8, 2007

OWR: Garden State

64: Harebrained