Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cue the hold music

Hello regular readers, whoever ye may be.

As you probably noticed, last week was kinda sparse. This one's going to be even worse, and so will the next one! My work-life has had a spurt of busyness which has landed me in Brazil. So that's kinda cool. Hopefully this trip will in no way resemble City of God. Anyway, there are plenty of postings in the works including an insightful and entertaining new A to B Back and Forth Review. In the meantime, I recommend you head over to Scene Stealers or /film for the latest in movie fun, and Hear Ya or Stereogum for those musically inclined.

See you back here after Easter. And thanks to everyone who stops by and reads a little somethin-somethin.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Youtube: How to make an indie trailer edition

New movie. Beloved childhood classic. Arcade Fire soundtrack. Smells like a winner:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

One Word Review: Layer Cake

68: Undisciplined

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Youtube: Back to the Well

I don't mean to link the Onion's work ever week, but, well, the diagrams on this one make it worthwhile on their own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Huge Pile Of Unyielding Commissioning

So it's been a while since we linked to anything. You're getting a boatload today, people. Dig in!

Even the losers get lucky sometimes - Scene Stealers drops another great list: Top Ten Oscar Nominated Movies With Zero Wins.

Take the test - In the lead-up to the Oscars, the gang over at Mental Floss did a series of movie quizzes. Try Gone With the Wind (I got 7/16), The Good the Bad and the Ugly (10/15), Quiz Show (9/16), or The Big Lebowski (do you have to ask? - wait a sec - 10/12 - whaaaa?)

OK, there's some TV we actually like around here - More quizzes! From Arrested Development, name all the Bluths in four minutes. I forgot about one and forgot the name for another. It hasn't even been that long! Simpsons Guest Star quiz (13/15 - rats!). A Mr. Burns Quiz (8/15 - hard!). I hope that leaves you quizzed out.

Still waiting for the real version - The Onioin's AV Club does an in-depth review of Eyes Wide Shut. I haven't seen this film since the theaters, but I still believe it's underrated. Great job by Scott Tobias in this trip down memory lane.

Two Thumbs Up - Roger Ebert looks back on his memories of his old friend Gene Siskel. That one's a great read. Another strong one is his recent declaration that he's done with snark. Good luck with that, Rog. Wait a sec, that was kinda snarky. I apologize.

A Small Victory - Holy Crap! Faith No More is back together and playing a show in Europe. It appears that this reunion will be without guitarist Jim Martin, but that's hardly a surprise. The other bands at this festival generally suck ass, and I have to think that they are only there for the paycheck. Sharing a stage with Korn and Slipknot? It just seems so beneath them. I should note that FNM was always much bigger in Europe than in the US. Their performance headlining the 1995 Phoenix Festival in Stratford on Avon, England remains one of the greatest shows I've ever seen, thanks in no small part to a gigantic field full of insane fans. Also, one of the first things I ever wrote in this here blog was a defense of the band against claims that they spawned all the horrendous bands that, uhhhh, appear to be playing this same festival.

He solves problems - Want some new tunes? Having a party and in need of some jams? Head over to Mister Wolf's Mixtape Mania for a frequent update of the latest rock and roll for your soul. Seriously, check these mixes out. Here's hoping Mr. Wolf keeps turning it up!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

AtoB Back and Forth Revew: The Wrestler, Part II

Yesterday, Kozy and I started with our analysis of The Wrestler, posting Part I of our back and forth conversation. Today we conclude with Part II.


Hola Brad-O,

I sincerely hope we're not going to be discussing Rocky on every single one of these AtoBs or we'll have to make the name of this feature even longer. Rock was supposed to be killed off at the end of Rocky V, but the script was altered in that one, too. Actually, now that I think about it, he basically was killed in that it took 16 years for anyone to be able to stomach the idea of another Rocky movie. Anyway, I think there's a clear difference here (aside from the oblique video-game meme the two movies share). There aren't a whole lot of boxers who die in their 30s, but in professional wrestling, it's practically the norm. Because of the steroids and continuous demands placed on their bodies, the career is a perilous one. Also, while Rocky has always played the underdog (think about it - in all six movies that's his role), The Ram went from being the alfa dog to simply the old, broken hound that is still trying to chase rabbits because he doesn't know what else to do with himself.

I'm glad to hear that you haven't written off the older ladies entirely. After your stern warning regarding Kathleen Turner Overdrive last time around, Ms. Tomei's "performance" is a reminder that the flip-side to that coin is all the more impressive. They clearly put no makeup on her during the shopping scene in order to "ugly her up", but it didn't work. I did think the most unrealistic part of the film was when the 20-something delta bravos complained about how old she looked. That probably played better in the script, and was an important scene, but just didn't fly with someone as stunning as Marisa Tomei.
I mean wow

I'm dying to discuss the ending but am afraid of giving away any spoilers. So I'll try to be careful here. Just know this paragraph may contain spoilers. The ending seems like a cliffhanger, but we all know what the result is going to be, maybe not right away, but some day soon. One could argue that it's not tragic because The Ram is making his own choice, but it is most certainly sad. The Ram is clearly a stubborn man, and his stubbornness has cost him every relationship he's ever had. The biggest takeaway here is that we all have a shelf life, but if we keep friends and family with us, at least we can reminisce without killing ourselves in the process. End of potential spoilers.

Speaking of washed up heavy metal acts, I saw a photo of the dudes from Spinal Tap the other day, without the wigs and leather. Man, do they look decrepit. Sometimes you hear people say, "then you wake up one day and you're 55 and you're suddenly an old man." But of course it doesn't work that way. Life is a long, gradual process. Already at 33, I'm feeling my age bit. The Ram knows he's well past his prime, but presses on because it's the only thing that gives him any value in life. At least the fans appreciate him.
Looking like they were around to help build Stonehenge

And now, I kick it on back to you my friend.


Yo Reed,
Also speaking of washed up heavy metal acts, Judas Priest is playing Amsterdam in a few weeks. my wife saw a tour promo picture and said it looked like any one of them could die on stage at any moment, or at the very least break a hip. What do you think?
I mean wow

This paragraph may contain spoilers. I agree with you that the ending to The Wrestler is a bit of a cliffhanger, even though I knew in my own heart, from post-hospital scene on, that The Ram’s heart would not beat past the end of the film. Even with this sad truth staring me down, I sat contorted and tortured in my seat watching the final scene hoping and praying The Ram would realize that Marisa Tomei loved him and that he had something to live for. End of spoilers.

So far, we're 2 for 2 on agreeing with one another. Maybe we need to start watching films that are more controversial? Or perhaps you can force me to sit through 2001 again. Certainly The Wrestler will be a film I watch again on video sometime soon, and you know I'm not into watching movies more than once unless they're exceptional.

See you next time for another film, you old broken down piece of meat!
- Kozy

Thursday Youtbe: You've Got Crabs Edition

It's sad how allegorical this is to our mainstream media. Sad but funny.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

AtoB Back and Forth Review: The Wrestler, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or when head out to the video store. Our second review - The Wrestler.


Hiya Brad,
We found ourselves pretty much in agreement over Slumdog Millionaire, but I am definitely curious to see if we align as closely for Darren Aronofsky's latest output. The Wrestler stars Mickey Rourke in a comeback performance as an aging professional wrestler who finds himself grappling against time and his personal history as much as anything else.

I have approached this one a few different ways, trying to stay coy and keep my opinion a bit close to the vest, but I'm going to just come right out and say it. I thought this was an amazing movie. I could've taken a light approach and simply say that the wrestling scenes appear scarily real (Rourke even intentionally cut his forehead with a razor blade in one of them), as does the life of Randy "The Ram" Robinson. But there are both deeper meanings and artistry to be found throughout this picture.

Right from the beginning, Aronofsky gets us on The Ram's side. The film is shot from behind him for the first ten minutes, not even showing his face. Fans call him a "nice guy." This puts us figuratively in his corner. During his first match I found myself rooting for him like I did for Kerry Von Erich when I was eight years old. So for about an hour or so, I was back into wrestling. We soon get all the relevant hot-button issues like hair dye, tanning beds and steroids. Rourke is phenomenal, and doesn't even look like himself. Or rather, I don't really know what Mickey Rourke looks like anymore, but he sure doesn't look like Mickey Rourke.
You think he really took the 'roids? Must've, right?

That's the initial setup, but the film is only getting started. After we get to know The Ram, the story inserts Marisa Tomei as an aging stripper. As Aronofsky prepares to take us to more cerebral levels, he begins with Tomei, the chair beaten over the head that starts to drive the point home. The human existence is a fragile thing. We all have a shelf-life. A nude dancer can't go on past her prime, even one in as phenomenal shape as Tomei. The parallels between the two characters are obvious, and the really sad thing is, they know it. Their conversation about 80s Rock N Roll, lamenting how things changed in the 90s seems a bit obvious, but I couldn't help thinking, "Man they're wrong. 90s music was the best! It's this 2000s stuff that has turned it all to crap." In ten years, will I be facing down "over the hill?" I'd not thought about it that way before, but now I think I do. Oddly enough, Guns N Roses and Metallica, the two most popular metal bands in history, are also trying for major comebacks this year.

Much has been made of Aronofsky going mainstream with this film, but in reality, he's only one step removed from his previous ones. This is still about the bleak state of human existence. It's not as fantastic as his other efforts, but it is still a quest for meaning in life and the personal foibles we all must overcome to survive that quest.

OK, so I've started off deep and not too fun. What do you think about my profound comments?


Hey Reed-O,
It is funny that you mention GnR's comeback. This week I was at my Bulgarian friend Milena's house for her birthday dinner. She secretly popped in Chinese Democracy as background music and I spent the next 30 minutes scratching my head, wondering if what I was listening to was Guns n Roses. Then unexpectedly she squealed, "Oh this is my favorite track on the new album!" With my suspicion confirmed, I thought back to your First Blush article and just how 90's this album sounded, no longer mainstream, but nostalgic in a way that is probably a decade too early for the return of the 90's as a retro fad. Anyways, enough about Axl. Let's move on to another person that no longer looks like himself, Mickey Rourke.
Rocker who believes he can wrestle.

I don't think you'll be surprised to read that I also loved the film and that I happen to agree with you on your synopsis and main points. From a writing, directing, cinematography, story telling and acting level this movie was superb. Aronofsky returns to his strength in this tragedy, telling the story of good people who are hopelessly flawed. He did this with great success in Pi and Requiem for a Dream and takes it to the next level in The Wrestler.

As far as Aronofsky going mainstream with this picture, I guess I don't really get it? How has he gone mainstream with The Wrestler? This was a low budget movie shot in less than a month that grossed $21 million in the US - and that was with Oscar hype. Only now, with the success of The Wrestler does Aronofsky appear interested in gaining a broader audience, with his next pictures listed as RoboCop and The Fighter.

But speaking of mainstream, perhaps I was the only one thinking this, but couldn't you see the script for The Wrestler working nearly perfectly in place of the Rocky Balboa script? Seriously, all it would take is some minor editing - move the story to Philadelphia, boxer for wrestler, son for daughter and hoo-haa!! I read that the original Rocky Balboa script penned by Sly had Rock dying at the end, but studio execs put the kibosh on it. I honestly think Aronofsky's story would be incredibly perfect - a gritty, realistic end to a tired franchise. My mind races thinking of Rock shooting-up steroids onscreen. It would have been the best Part 6 ever (except arguably Star Wars III) and would have won Sly an Oscar.

Close your eyes. Can you visualize it?
Kathleen Turner - just 'cause Brad was mean to her last time.

Actually, now that my eyes are closed, I am starting to visualize Marisa Tomei. Can you believe she was born December 4, 1964? That makes her 44 years old. And in The Wrestler she is scorching hot. And older ladies are not even my thing, you know that about me.
- Kozy

We'll be back with Part II tomorrow.

One Word Review: Birthday Girl

64: Dodgy

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

5-4-T: Underrecognized Gangster Movies

We try not to be negative here on Tuesdays, but a few weeks ago, we went with the downer approach of noting five overrated gangster films. At Josh's suggestion, today we're flipping the coin and going for the underrecognized. As mentioned here previously, "underrated" is always hard to measure, so we have to instead opt for films that people may never have heard of or at least not lauded frequently enough. So, without further ado, let's get on with today's Five For Tuesday. Honorable Mention:
Miller's Crossing - the too oft forgotten Coen Bros. masterpiece is just a little too recognized to make this list, but it's a damn fine film.

5) Killer's Kiss
The first movie directed by Stanley Kubrick rarely gets the attention of his later work as it plays more like a straight crime drama than the creative and bizarre stories he would give us further down the road. Yet it's an excellent straight crime drama told in flashback and centered on a young boxer who gets entangled with some bad characters. Someone has put the entire thing up on Youtube, which is surely illegal, but worth your time nonetheless.

4) Thief
The first thing Michael Mann ever did to be released in movie theaters plays like a a character study in advance of his wildly successful film, Heat. James Caan is a talented jewel thief who has his sights set on retirement and a lifestyle closer to Ozzie and Harriet. He's just going to do one last heist for the mob. That may sound cliche, but Mann presents the scores with great detail and clarity, and Caan gives one of the best performances of his career.

3) Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Jim Jarmusch films can only be taken so seriously. That this movie makes no realistic sense is one of its charms. The mobsters are intentionally ridiculous, and Ghost Dog's existence in New York City appears completely surreal. But the overarching themes of honor and responsibility, tied perfectly in with the Samurai warrior's ethic give the movie a unique center. There's a lot of meat to sink your teeth into, even if the bone tying it all together is fragile. Besides, watching an aging Cliff Gorman throw down some of Flavor Flav's best rhymes in his bathrobe is a scene impossible to forget.

2) True Romance
That one scene gets all the pub, but the rest of this movie is equally sparkly, and absolutely loaded with top notch actors and performances. The Quentin Tarantino penned script is one of his most quotable, with loads of memorable scenes and snappy dialogue. Yet, I feel like thsi one has slipped through the cracks. That could be because Christian Slater's star has ceased to shine, or because Patricia Arquette hit the wall. Or perhaps it's because Tony Scott's output keeps getting cheesier (yes, the man who directed Top Gun). But either way, this is a chestnut worth digging up if you haven't yet had the pleasure.

1) Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
I would have never heard of this movie if it weren't for its inclusion in Roger Ebert's Great Movies. Well, that and Fletch drops Alfredo's name at one point, but that's a movie for another Tuesday. This film is far to over the top to be made these days. It has a little bit of everything, but mostly a whole lot of every kind of violence. In sum, I will never forget this movie.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The 2008 Kaelin Award

The year was 2008. People actually seemed to care about what was going on in the world, taking its problems to heart and doing their part to speak out. Perhaps because the Bush administration was finally nearing its end and because we had an election that was as entertaining as it was important, the public gave a damn. Our usual contenders for this award, given to the most worthless publicity hound in the country, were barely heard from. Heck, Paris Hilton even did something remotely worthwhile, volleying back a mildly amusing video after John McCain tried to use her sullied name for his own political exploits. That left us facing the prospect of no valid Kaelin Award this year. Honestly, we would have been more than happy to take a year off. But just as the election seemed to protect us from vapid, self-serving media whores appearing on all of our favorite programs and being discussed at water coolers across the country, they provided us with our top two candidates anyway. Politicians had been universally absolved from winning the Kaelin, but we have no choice but to make an exception this year. Just for review, here is the award criteria:
The Kaelin is bestowed upon the individual who, having no discernible talent or ability, accomplishing nothing to society’s benefit, and lacking any connection to any true art form or even remotely positive endeavor has been nonetheless repeatedly shoved down our ever-loving throats. We didn’t ask for these people. They have been forced upon us. And no matter who we are, we have been unable to avoid their media blitzing.
I cannot think of anything that better embodies those ideals than the vice presidential candidacy of Sarah Louise Palin.Do I believe that Sarah Palin is truly worthless, along the lines of a Paris Hilton or Ashley Simpson? I don't know. She can apparently play the flute. Let's be honest - of course she is! Holed up in my Buenos Aires hotel, my only method for watching the Republican convention this year was on Fox News. After her "speech", an oratory which consisted entirely of reading invective and untruths written by other people, the right-wing cheerleaders eagerly declared, "A star is born." I realized it was Fox, but was still appalled by the fact that they found this person to be remotely presidential (or even vice-presidential). What followed was a media assault reminiscent of, well, the last eight years or so. Every day, someone new came around to defend her as "tough" or "a pit bull." Armed with ludicrous claims like "nobody knows more about special needs children than she does" and "her state is the closest to Russia, therefore she has a lot of experience with foreign policy," we were continually bombarded with the postulated image of a "hockey mom" who could soon run the entire country.This is a controversial choice to be sure. Normally, we have to endure birdbrained fools discussing their meaningless existence with Conan O'Brien and Harry Smith. Instead, we had agents of worthlessness discussing someone else's imbecilic existence for her. This is equally bad. Meanwhile, this hootenanny of a human being went around the country raising the collective level of hatred and animosity. Somehow she largely got away with it, believing even at the end that if she could have just been let off the leash a bit more, the Republicans would carry the day.

Thankfully, 55% of the American people weren't buying what Palin and her media cohorts were selling. But for six months, it was all Sarah, all the time. Like many of our candidates, this award isn't really her doing. None of our Kaelin winners get there on their own. Maybe she's not worthless. In the end, she did help keep John McCain from getting elected president. But in a weak year, you sometimes have to accept a flawed champion.
I leave you with the below salient commentary. This video that will surely make no sense in a few years, but for now, it does a fair job summing up the ridiculousness that was Sarah Palin, VP Candidate. NOTE - definitely not safe for work, or late at night with the lights off. This little lady may haunt your dreams.

Related posts:
The history of the Kaelin
Last year's Kaelin winner
A personal rant against the Palin nomination

One Word Reviews: Murder on the Orient Express

81: Delightful

Friday, March 6, 2009

One Word Review: Rope

75: Framed

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One Word Review: Woo

33: Errant

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

5-4-T: Permanent Pod Selections

My I-pod doesn't have the capacity it really needs. 20 gig is about 5,000 songs, but many times I find myself lacking the space for a new album or other recent acquisition. Removing tunes from the I-pod is always a moment of minor anguish. What if I need those songs when I'm out of the house sometime??? In today's Five For Tuesday, we look at five tracks that will be with me wherever I go, no matter what I need to add. These are live versions, but you know what to do. Get the heck down!

5) Stevie Wonder - Superstition

4) Toots and the Maytals - Funky Kingston

3) Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

2) The Stooges - Loose

1) Modest Mouse - Float On

Monday, March 2, 2009

This Week at the Movies

Sometimes we see a bounce in the level of filmgoing the week after the Oscars. People run out to see the latest lauded pictures. Slumdog Millionaire received a big boost, raking in 12.2 million bucks over the weekend. But have you seen the other top 9? My goodness. Here's the list:
Madea Goes to Jail
Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience
He's Just Not That Into You
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Fired Up!

What the heck is going on in the USofA? Supposedly, Taken and Coraline are both worthwhile, but the rest is straight up crap. But that got me wondering. I remember a few years back that I ranted about the movie Wild Hogs making 40 million dollars at the box office in its opening weekend. Turns out, that was almost exactly the same time of year. So while Oscar wins may help the "champion" of the evening, it seems that hardly any other worthwhile films get the benefit. Last week, Scene Stealers unveiled a Top Ten Oscar Nominated Films that Didn't Win list. It's a thorough and quality effort, and almost shocking that the wide array of movies didn't get a single win. Look to the comments section for 14 more that were, perhaps unfairly, unrecognized. We'll cover The Wrestler in deep detail in the coming days, but Frost/Nixon may still be playing and plenty of others that didn't get a little statue. Go forth and represent the brainy folks. I know times are tough. Skip the popcorn or something.

One Word Review: Slumdog Millionaire

74: Written