Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seen and Heard: NEW Patrick Wolf



Mad-eclectic old favorite Patrick Wolf has recently released the video for his track "Vulture" off upcoming album The Bachelor. A note, the video has some S&M themes in it and may not be safe for work (this is, of course, depending on where you work...).

As per usual, Wolf is dipping into about a dozen genres at once, taking cues from 80's new wave, death metal, industrial, synth pop, and electronica. He's slowly establishing himself as quite the musical chameleon. Wolf's music can be jarring at first, but I've always loved the way he creates densely layered (almost cinematic) soundscapes blended with a performance art aesthetic and have found that his music is the sort that slowly reveals itself as something rather beautiful. Not for everyone, but if you're appreciating it, i'd definitely recommend going back and taking a look at the dark electro-fairy folk of his sophomore album, The Wind in the Wires.

one day you're in (court/prison/trouble)... and the next day you're out.


Incredibly obnoxious (and backstabbing) Project Runway finalist Kenley Collins has responded to the assault charges filed against her by ex-fiance Zak Penley that led to her March 17th arrest.

Collins admits to "gently" throwing her cat during a dispute (with Penley, not the feline) but that's it. Penley claims otherwise and then some, saying the "initial toss was followed by a laptop, three apples, and some water" [source].

The charge has been reportedly reduced to a misdemeanor, and reads as absolutely ridiculous, if you ask me. But hilarious. Hilarious ridiculous. Hilarious, ridiculous, and likely quite accurate. Based on her back and forth behavior on reality TV, this sort of temperamental flair doesn't strike me as surprising.

Collins, known for her retro pin-up girl style and grating personality, made it to Bryant Park in Project Runway season 5, and was rightly defeated by Leanne Marshall.

Bias. I gots it.

[Source]

Another One Bites the Dust...

Print media continues its slow decline as Alpha Media Group announced today that the April issue will be the last for music magazine Blender. For Alpha Media, this means laying off about 30 people and integrating others into what is now the company's sole interest: Maxim.

Blender was known for its definitive lists, provocative celebrity cover shots (Kelly Clarkson not included), and being the first magazine released in a digital CD-Rom format in the mid-90's. This year would mark the 10th anniversary of Blender's print version.

[Source]

Casting: Three Stooges

Variety is reporting that the Farrelly Brothers are close to finalizing the cast for their Three Stooges project. Sean Penn is set to play Larry, while Jim Carrey is supposedly moments away from signing on to play Curly (and gain 40 pounds, at that). Meanwhile, the duo is eyeing Benicio Del Toro for the role of Moe.

They're either completely brilliant, or utterly mad. I'm veering towards the former, and this is an impressive line-up for a project that is supposedly not a biopic prestige project, but rather a straightforward comedy "built around the antics of the three characters that Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and [Jerome "Curly"] Howard played in the Columbia Pictures shorts".

[Source]

Trailer Double Header



Here's a duo of trailers that have a few things in common. Big name Oscar favored directors, oddly pieced together casts, and a surprising amount of comedy for their respected directors. That was sort of confusing. Anyway, above is the trailer for Sam Mendes' (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) Away We Go starring SNL's Maya Rudolph, The Office's Jon Krasinski and a host of others. Below is a first look at Ang Lee's (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) Taking Woodstock with comedian Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Imelda Staunton, etc. See? For directors who could likely have their pick of the A-List, they're taking some chances that could definitely open up a few careers.

Both films are slated for summer release.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trailer: Where the Wild Things Are

The trailer for Spike Jonze's long-awaited Where the Wild Things Are is finally here and it looks gorgeous. Watch it below, or check out the high def version at Apple.com.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Antichrist

First peek at Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Sold. I'm intrigued.

Click for the full image.

Miyazaki Returns



Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's film Ponyo (On A Cliff by the Sea) has found an American release date (via Disney, as per usual) and a very strange cast for its English dubbing. Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman, and Betty White will lend their vocal talents to what early estimates are claiming will be Miyazaki's biggest hit stateside. From the Japanese trailer, i'm not so sure about this one. Looks a little too kid friendly. Ponyo is apparently a baby fish who wishes to be human, which is cool, but ...

Never mind. We'll see.

Novelty Treat: Tinted Windows

Take a close look at that picture. Recognize anyone? Yeah you do. If you were a young folk in the 90's...yeah, really, you do. This is a photo of the band Tinted Windows who will also be known as one of the most random assortments of musicians ever collected. From left to right: James Iha (formerly of Smashing Pumpkins), Taylor Hanson (mmmBop, self-explanatory), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), and Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick). You're smiling right now, aren't you? Because it's so ridiculous and you've secretly been rooting for a Hanson brother to take on something new for years. I know. It's your deep dark secret.

Tinted Windows are a high energy pop rock band. Simple and straightforward. Not exactly a thrilling collaboration, but hey, now you can tell your friends.

Listen to them here.

Slumming It.




Remember that song that won the Oscar this year? "Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)" from Slumdog Millionaire as written/performed by A.R. Rahman? Guess what? The Pussycat Dolls have covered it in English for you. Complete with a video in which Nicole Scherzinger pretends to be current it-girl Freida Pinto. Yes, Rahman himself is involved with this project. Yes, it sounds just like Disney filtered UK-pop circa 2000. Yes, supposedly Scherzinger was asked to rewrite/format the lyrics herself. Yes, i am counting this as another reason why Slumdog Millionaire shouldn't have won best picture. Yes, i hear this song and it reminds me of stuff like this....

Hey Hey You You....


The New York Times has casually dropped a small irrelevant bombshell that i would rather ignore, but am quite surprised by. In an article on YouTube rights, they pointed out that the video site's #1 most viewed video of ALL TIME is the music vid for Avril Lavigne's school-yard pop song "Girlfriend" (NO, don't sing it! Don't.) with over 117 million hits. Wha....? It reigns supreme a good million over the ridiculously lame Evolution of Dance and roughly 20 million hits over all others.

Color me surprised.

Perhaps we should have believed her when she said she was "the muthafucking princess"


Saturday, March 21, 2009



So this is what's become of Lindsay Lohan's career. She worked her way up to Altman, and slipped into rapid decline. After I Know Who Killed Me comes a job pimping foreign trend brands while handling magical triangles and repeating one syllable words. Fine job Lindsay, fine job.

I can't help but be reminded of this...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RIP



English actress Natasha Richardson has died this evening after being removed from life support. The 45-year old Tony winner was hospitalized this past Monday as a result of injuries sustained during a beginner's ski lesson in Montreal. She was transported to New York's Lenox Hill Hospital yesterday where she was declared brain dead.

Richardson is survived by her husband (Liam Neeson), two sons, and mother (actress Vanessa Redgrave) all of whom are reported to be (as expected) "shocked and devastated" by E!Online. Richardson was a major player on the stage and has numerous film credits to her name.

This is completely tragic. I can honestly say that i'm really upset by this. I can also say that i am officially never going skiing. Ever.

[Source]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seen & Heard: NEW Bat for Lashes!



One of my favorite artists, Brighton-based Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan), just released a video for "Daniel", the first single off her forthcoming album Two Suns. How excited are we? Very. Looks great and sounds consistent.

Two Suns drops April 7. Until then, i highly recommend the first album, Fur & Gold and checking out the cover art for the "Daniel" single. What's up Ralph Macchio body paint?

Guest-Listology: Shookster of Nerd Synthesis Gives Us His Top 10 Movies of Influence


In the first of what will (hopefully) be many guest appearances at Pop Candy Arcade, i've invited one of my blogosphere .compatriots to compile a list of the 10 movies that influenced them the most. This first one is by Shookster of Nerd Synthesis, who, as a person self-proclaimed to be 'too ADD to be a movie person' has nailed down a list of the films that have helped make him the person he is. If you knew him...you'd probably know why this is awesome.

Hit the jump and check it out.


"Well, since my blog has a theme of video games and comic books I decided to stick with the theme. Here is my list of the top 10 video game/comic book movies that influenced my life."


10. DOOM: Gun toting Sarge (yes, that's the name of the main character, he doesn’t get a real name), played by The Rock, must shoot everything in sight to save humanity. This is a straightforward, campy film that is an embarrassment to all movies and its only saving grace is an ending filmed from a first person shooter perspective. On the bright side, like any good horror movie, taking bets on who will survive can be very lucrative.




9. DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE: I can’t give this movie enough glowing praise. Flying ninjas that jump of mountains, an Australian pop singer doing her best rendition of acting while in a towel, and the most contrived excuse for everyone to strip down and play a game of volleyball in movie history...RIDICULOUS! These are just some of the reasons why DOA is amazingly bad, yet soooooooo good at the same time.

8. MORTAL KOMBAT: Down, forward, high punch!!! You know that’s what you were thinking when Sub Zero started shooting ice beams. Corny lines peppered this film, but after watching the movie I did want to play some Mortal Kombat. The movie based on a video game that made mothers cringe could have been a lot gorier for my taste, but I’ll let that slide since it was actually decent.

7. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: Who didn’t love TMNT, or, have a least one of their action figures when they were a kid? Seeing my favorite cartoon come to life was a dream come true. Highlights of the movie included fights with Tokka and Rahzar and an appearance by our favorite 90‘s rapper wannabe: Vanilla Ice. Even though my first memory of the the Ninja Turtles was their 80’s cartoon, they were originally created as comic book heroes and that’s how they were able to make the list.

6. FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILREN: I really liked the animation in this movie and that’s a lot coming from me. I’m a firm believer that CGI movies killed the classically animated cartoon movies that I love so much and if Final Fantasy made this list it did something right. The fight scenes were amazingly choreographed, the dialogue felt like it was pulled straight from the game (whether that’s good or bad is up for debate), and seeing how the pixilated heroes had aged was a great treat.

5. SPAWN: Scared the crap out of me! Assassins, war, and HELL!!!! To this day I don’t know how my underage self got into the theaters to see it. I’m sure there were many other plot points to Spawn, but my brain did its best to forget the movie so the nightmares would go away. Even now, all I really remember are green eyes, brimstone, and John Leguizamo running around as an obese psychotic clown.




4. SPIDER-MAN 2: Spider-man is my favorite comic book hero and I’d been waiting for him to swing onto the silver screen since I saw the original batman movie in the early 90’s. Spider-man 1 was good, but the second installment did everything better with fluid animation, dramatic cut scenes, and a gripping story.

3. THE DARK KNIGHT: It’s sooooo incredibly long, but the story was good enough to keep this ADD kid in his seat through the entire movie. What made me fall in love with the Dark Knight was the theme of chaos (the Joker) vs. order (Batman) and how both sides played off each other. Plus, who didn’t like learning a new magic trick: “How to make a pencil disappear”

2. V FOR VENDETTA: This is one of the rare movies that I actually really liked and would place in the top 3 of my list of favorite movies of all time. The music, the art direction, the plot, and themes all worked seamlessly to present a world deprived of individuality and asked what is required create change in any society. Truly inspiring.



1. SUPER MARIO BROS.: This is the movie that started it all for video game and comic book movies alike. Quite frankly, it was a terrible movie that took a lot of liberty with the Super Mario franchise. But it was the first, so something has to be said about that. Despite it being terrible the movie did answer the burning question, “Why are they called the Mario Bros.???” Luigi played by John Leguizamo said it all, “He’s Mario Mario and I’m Luigi Mario.”


And that’s my top 10 video game/comic book movies. If you liked what you read check out my blog Nerdsynthesis.blogspot.com.
Shookster

Back in the Day #6: Spiller ft. Sophie Ellis Bextor



Dude. I am not even kidding, i went to the Virgin Megastore and bought some Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi discs just because of this song. Yeah. I started blindly snatching up on sale compilation albums just because they featured Spiller. It was crazy. And guess what? I was always disappointed, because a straight instrumental version of Groovejet doesn't cut it. You need to have the vocal stylings of UK popster Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who has no further collaborations with Spiller (as far as i know). But i was a slow learner back then, and now i have a small collection of useless house albums that i never really listened to (though i may have to dig them up from the basement now and see whether or not there's anything on there worth salvaging).


This was a fun summer song, though. Smooth, slick, next generation disco with an old school vibe. It makes me want to hop a plane to somewhere with a few palm trees, invest in a gold
lamé swimsuit, and drink daiquiris in a lounge chair. Possibly while wearing a large hat.


Sidenote: I still love the packaging of those Hed Kandi albums (illustrated by Jason Brooks). I know they're pretty much made for people who vacation to Ibiza and landlocked toolbags with gelled hair and a great admiration for DJ Tiesto, but damn they're snazzy.



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seen and Heard: Janelle Monae

I feel like a gigantic dunce cap for not checking out Janelle Monae ages ago. She's had Grammy nominations and been around for a few years, but somehow she always slipped just under my radar. Well, i picked up a copy of Spin in a waiting room a few days ago and decided that maybe it's actually time to listen. Wise choice. 24-year old Monae is like the style child of Prince and Grace Jones who was given up for adoption and raised by OutKast. Her new album is said to be inspired by Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis and she counts any number of eclectic influences including Bjork and Radiohead. The video for "Many Moons" (the Grammy nominated track) is a must see and even though it's a little late....i've decided i need to share.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Listology: 50 Greatest Active Directors pt. V, 10-1

At last, the conclusion of this epic response list. The winners, as i see them:


10. HAYAO MIYAZAKI - He's been called the Japanese Walt Disney, and from what i've seen, this is certainly the case. Miyazaki has stayed true to 2D animation, and builds spectacular dreamscapes for the sorts of honest stories and fables that don't require gimmicks and self-referential or topical humor. Each one is timeless in presentation and method, and each is magical. We get them a little delayed in America, and frequently dubbed, but even so...they hold their own. Don't judge Japanese animation until you've seen Princess Mononoke, Sprited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and My Neighbor Totoro.

9. WOODY ALLEN - As a human being, you may find him a terrible creep. That's fine, we can all understand that, but don't pretend he hasn't left a huge mark on cinema in the 5 decades he's been a part of it. Allen's known for neurotic, self-absorbed sex comedies (really, most should are technically 'dramedies') and human dramas whose high strung characters have shaped the formation of the comedic character as well as the way we envision New York City. Allen makes a movie about once a year, and while there have been rough patches and unsuccessful experiments, for the most part he has a pretty high number of critical successes. His 'earlier' work: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleeper, Bananas, etc. is generally considered his best, but he's still managing to surprise with films like last year's stellar Vicky Christina Barcelona.

8. TERRY GILLIAM - Gilliam's a former Monty Python trouper (he directed, wrote, acted, and animated) and a visionary who frequently tackles massively complex fantasy projects and is notorious for encountering bad luck production problems and turning into an overstressed basket case on set. While several of his project attempts will never come to be, the ones that have (Brazil, Time Bandits, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Twelve Monkeys, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas) are frequently dazzling pieces only Gilliam could have made.

7. STEVEN SPIELBERG - Though he's widely considered to be incredibly influential and successful, i'll be honest with you, i'm not the biggest Spielberg fan. Yes, his films are largely runaway box office successes and impacting pieces of movie magic, but i've always found him a little bit dull. Spielberg is a great director, undoubtedly, and my opinion matters little in the face of mass appeal. But i would argue that while Spielberg makes technically good films, they aren't infused with enough of any special flavor...and he's lost a lot of the fearlessness he had in the days of Jaws and Close Encounters. But for those works, the Indiana Jones films, the war epics, and the sci-fi action flicks, Spielberg is your man for traditional, old school Hollywood movie movies.

6. TIM BURTON - That's right, bitches, I put Tim Burton ahead of Spielberg. You know why? Because where Spielberg distances himself from his own films, Burton throws himself into them. You know a Tim Burton film when you see one, and they splice genres and mix cult sensibility with slick modern fantasy in a way that's so precisely just south of mainstream it's almost uncanny. Musical costume drama slasher flicks (Sweeney Todd), sci-fi/horror/suburban satire romances (Edward Scissorhands), nostalgic fantasy dramedy adventures (Big Fish).... everything under the sun and then some.

5. WES ANDERSON - This Anderson involves himself in almost every aspect of his films. He writes, directs, produces, controls cinematography as well as his own advertising, and carefully selects the perfect soundtracks. All of Anderson's films (love them or hate them) are intricate in their presentation of themes that have become a trademark of Anderson's milieu. Family dysfunction, damaged characters, emotional distance and time-warped prep style feature heavily in films like Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, and the Life Aquatic, but in spite of the barriers created by the frequently deadpan characters, we always get a sympathetic light and a humorously beautiful film from Wes Anderson.

4. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON - Unrelated, PT Anderson makes massive sweeping films with heady themes and hypnotic cinematography. He paces himself and builds up dense narratives that allow for an interconnectivity between his diverse, frequently unhinged characters and their environment/culture. His films have serious staying power (i.e. Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood), and as his career continues his powers may only increase.

3. DAVID LYNCH - Lynch, like Fellini, has his own commonly used adjective to describe things that are frequently surreally screwed up. Things are 'Lynchian', many things. Things like severed body parts in lawns, dancing little people, FBI agents eating pie, loud white noise, stories that tear apart the illusions of Americana and open up a gate to hell. Those things. Lynch's films are the sort you can't shake because you've never seen anything quite like them. He's got a huge cult following of Lynch-mobber art house freaks has attempted things with narrative structure and complexity no sane man would. His movies often seem like puzzles, and while the answers may be completely inaccessible to us, they're always worth the attempt. See: Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire and TV series Twin Peaks.

2. QUENTIN TARANTINO - Tarantino is a great director because he lives and breathes cinema. He's channeled an obsessive love of film and transformed it into a successful career (like Scorsese) by mastering the art of the cut-up homage and a form of visual (play)giarism. He swipes from the best of every underappreciated cult genre and re-packages it all into highly original storylines with his own personal flair. He redefined independent cinema in the mid-90's with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs and has created his own mashed up genre of ultraviolence. This man takes on an active, hyper-excited role in the films he makes and is involved at almost every level.

1. MARTIN SCORSESE - Equally, (if not even more) in love with film than Tarantino, is the too-often Oscar-snubbed Scorsese (he's actually a film historian). Scorsese's tackled nearly every genre (yes, even musicals, costume dramas, religious pseudo-histories and documentaries), and done so largely with much success. He is the crime film (Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Casino, The Departed, Taxi Driver). He is the biopic (Raging Bull, The Aviator). His films are cast perfectly, and no one has ever used DeNiro as well. Do you need any more evidence? No. Come on. I don't think you do. Scorsese, unlike Spielberg, never stopped taking major chances.

Ruining Things: Iron Man 2


You may or may not be aware of the endless casting rumors and negotiations surrounding Iron Man 2. First, somebody found out that the next part of Mickey Rourke's resurgence would be alongside Sam Rockwell as villains Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo. Then the Sam Rockwell rumors completely disappeared and we were left with a denial of Rourke's appearance in the film. Emily Blunt was lined up for the role of 'Soviet'-spy villain Black Widow, but that fell through and opened up new options. In between all of this, Don Cheadle replaced divo-extraordinaire Terence Howard (likely for the better) as 'Rhodey'.

Now E!Online is reporting that deals have officially been signed, and the good news is that Mickey Rourke will indeed be playing Whiplash. The maybe not-so-good news? Scarlett Johansson is your new Black Widow.

Oh dear. Don't get me wrong, for all practical purposes i like ScarJo. She's been in a couple films that i absolutely loved (Lost in Translation, for one, of course), but she's not really a great actress and tends to clamp up. Granted, as a summer action flick, Iron Man 2 doesn't necessarily require a 'great actress', but i'm just saying...she made The Spirit worse than it already was...and in this film she's gonna have to do a Russian accent. She could be to Iron Man what Katie Holmes was to Batman Begins, that piece that doesn't quite fit.

What do you think?

Ricky Gervais Meets Elmo

Elmo is pretty much my least favorite Muppet. I mean, let's face it, he sort of took over Sesame Street and runs it with the iron fist of a toddler tyrant. Every time i've seen snippets of episodes from the last several years, Elmo's always there. Staring. Whining. Cutting the air time of the other Muppets and making them stand in breadlines in front of Hooper's. Yeah. I know your game Elmo. I know about the coup you staged to undermine Big Bird.

That said, though Elmo may be evil, this video is pretty damn great. The Associated Press has a little on-set 'interview' from Ricky Gervais's visit to the neighborhood. The actual episode will air in November, when Sesame Street starts up it's 40th year. Good times.

What Would Andy Do?

Quake with fear, ye mortals. The ZEfron is the future. All those who have not surrendered to HSM will be punished with a lifetime of listening to Vanessa Hudgens squeak out "Sneakernight" on an endlessly repeated loop.

Actually it's unclear as to whether ZEfron is our future, or Interview's future. Since he's the cover boy for the celebrity-infused mag's April issue and therefore the one specially chosen to lead you boldly into Interview's new layout as designed by M/M Paris.

Pixies Tour!

One week after lamenting that i had yet to see The Pixies perform live, the band has announced on their MySpace that they're going on tour in 2009! Amazing. There's only one date up so far, and it's a kick off at the UK's Isle of Wight festival. Perhaps we can hope for a return to Lollapalooza?

The band reunited in 2004 and has been playing a few intermittent shows since. None, however, that i'd had the privilege of seeing. NOW IS THE TIME. That said, just watch, they won't come to Chicago just to spite me.

Equally Random: Man vs. Beast


This has almost nothing to do with anything, but it's completely absurd. In what may be one of the greatest news blurbs of all time, Sky News got this quote from 42-year old Australian home invasion victim Beat Ettlin:

"I just saw this black thing. I thought it was a lunatic ninja, an intruder. It just fell on top of us on the bed. A couple of seconds later I realised it was a kangaroo."

When you're shaken from your sleep and immediately jump into ninja attack mode, that makes you an awesome person. You don't mess with Beat Ettlin or his family though, because he pummeled that 6ft beastie after it wandered into his son's room:

"When I got in there, it was against the wall by the window, trying to get out I think, so I just jumped on top of it. I got him in a headlock and pressed him to the ground."

Read the article here.


Random: UroClub....ew.

I'm sorry, old golf men, but if they advertise it on TV and it says UroClub on it in big letters...isn't it no longer discreet? Or do we not care about discretion on the golf course. I don't know. Is taking a piss next to the sand trap a fairly common occurrence? Maybe. But if it is, wouldn't you rather just man up and not carry your urine all day in a fairly obvious (and probably not so fun to clean) plastic cup? Also, call me crazy, but if i saw some dude staring down at a towel over his crotch i'd think something was up. That just looks sketchy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Seen and Heard: Yeah Yeah Yeahs



The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back again and the new single "Zero" is actually pretty catchy. Karen O. seems to be doing some serious Chrissie Hynde channeling.

Listology: 50 Greatest Active Directors pt. IV, 20-11



The penultimate addition to my response to Entertainment Weekly's bogus list of the 50 Greatest Active Directors. We're getting close now.

20. SPIKE JONZE - Jonze has helped transform the music video into an art form and has worked magic on off-beat Charlie Kaufman scripts. He's a busy guy with too few film credits to his name and who's slowly establishing himself as a detail-oriented force to be wreckoned with. He's been working on his upcoming release, Where the Wild Things Are, since 2006.

19. STEVEN SODERBERGH - In 1989, Soderbergh became a major influence on the re-calibrated independent scene of the 90's with sex, lies, and videotape. Since, he's translated indie sensibilities to major movies with films like Traffic, Ocean's 11, Erin Brockovich, and the (currently) hard to track down Che.

18. RICHARD LINKLATER - He's had some mainstream based successes (School of Rock, oddly enough), but for the most part Linklater finds recognition for philosophy steeped, conversational narratives such as Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Slacker, and Waking Life (yeah, he's also the guy that brought rotoscoping into the public eye). He can also lay claim to a little movie called Dazed & Confused.

17. DAVID FINCHER - Fincher's movies are so slick that 15 years later you can watch them as though they were brand new. His stylish approach to projects like Se7en, Fight Club, and The Game make him a darling of Hollywood and film geeks alike (though Benjamin Button has received a major backlash).

16. SOFIA COPPOLA - As an actress, she was something of a failure. As a director, she's proven a worthy match for the best of them (including her own father) with films like Lost in Translation and extravagant Marie Antoinette. This Coppola's films are tableaux vivants that simply improve & unfold with repeat viewings and are always beautiful to look at.


15. JOEL & ETHAN COEN - They've had their share of major critical successes, and tremendous failures (Ladykillers, anyone?). Even as the hype surrounding them has become heavily contested, the Coen brothers have left a sizable imprint on dark comedy and the modern crime film. There are few who will argue against works like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country For Old Men belonging in the film canon.

14. PEDRO ALMODOVAR - It's pretty safe to say, i think, that Almodovar makes vibrant films on three things: passion, women, and family. Often all together. Often involving folks in drag. Never in quite the format you'd expect. In signature bold colors, All About My Mother, Volver, Talk to Her, and all of Pedro's movies are a celebration of life & culture.

13. WONG KAR-WAI -Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai's offbeat culture-blending love stories and color saturated cinematographic style have allowed him to become internationally recognized as an auteur. With a penchant for meandering narratives and using American pop music standards as framing devices (i.e. California Dreamin' in Chungking Express, Nat King Cole in In the Mood for Love), it seems strange, but Wong Kar-Wai may be the most romantic filmmaker around (if you're so inclined).

12. DARREN ARONOFSKY -Aronofsky makes a movie and film students geek out. Each film has packed an emotional wallop, and he hasn't done the same thing twice. He's already made one of the best damn drug movies (and best drug deterrants) with Requiem for a Dream, veered into a dangerous metaphysical tearjerker terrain with the underrated The Fountain, and made strippers and body stapling poetic in The Wrestler. Soon, he'll supposedly be tackling Robocop.

11. DAVID CRONENBERG - In the early days, Cronenberg managed to interweave all sorts of psychological sci-fi and horror themes into surreal physical manifestations. This is fairly common in literature, but not on the screen, especially when not played solely for shock value. Not that his films aren't fairly shocking. With their fair share of oddly distinct visual effects, bodily focus, gore, nudity, and mindfuckery, Cronenberg never ceases to amaze. He does what he wants. Proof: he's shot from Videodrome to The Fly to Dead Ringers to Crash (the sex in cars one, not the racism business) to Eastern Promises. Range. He's got it. He's even been directing the opera version of The Fly, live on stage, ladies & gents.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Back in the Day #5: Groove Armada


About 10 years ago (holy crap, i'm getting old) i became completely obsessed with the Fatboy Slim remix of Groove Armada's "I See You Baby". It exploded onto the scene as one of those tracks sampled in everything from commercials to episodes of "Popular" and i bought their album Vertigo the first time i happened upon it in stores. That song spawned many instantaneous dance parties. It's safe to say, in fact, that in any dj-involved situation for the next year (and that includes Y2K NYE, thank you) i was the annoying little girl harassing the rent-a-dj until he played it (that and, inexplicably, "Incense and Peppermints"). Edited versions were not appreciated.

Of course, while "I See You Baby" was the dance single, my favorite track off the album is undoubtedly "At the River", a downtempo number that samples Patti Page's "Old Cape Cod". "At the River" has had a longer life in my music collection, perhaps because i burned out on the other, perhaps because it's just a lovely song. Either way, i can't mention one without the other. Thus, i present to you a music video double feature of my gateway drug into a brief teenage flirtation with house and a love affair with chill.

Viva Goth

Advocates of fashion as art have found a new dark prince in English designer Gareth Pugh. Pugh's got an avant garde performative aspect (that might be an understatement) and creates uncompromising, almost unwearable experimental designs that seem near impossible to adapt for ready-to-wear. You've gotta love that. At Fashion Week, he eschewed the live catwalk for a stunning video that actually sort of gives me the creeps (i'm blaming the music). The video is simultaneously extremely impressive, and so serious it seems almost laughable in that high art way. Watch it below. Decide for yourself.

Listology: 50 Greatest Living Directors pt. III, 30-21

And again! Only two more installments to go...


30. GUS VAN SANT - Mainstream audiences remember Van Sant for Oscar fare like 2008's Milk or Good Will Hunting. The indie crowd loves him for adding making quiet little movies with a sharp edge. From My Own Private Idaho to Elephant, Mala Noche to Gerry, Drugstore Cowboy to To Die For, Van Sant has turned in his fair share of interesting films.

29. ALFONSO CUARON - Needs to make more films. Cuaron has taken a strange route in establishing his name. With his palette of saturated colors (he seems to favor green)he made Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a thing of real wonder, showed us a dystopian world in Children of Men, transformed Y Tu Mama Tambien's road movie format into an electrically charged spectacle, and attempted a bold reworking of Great Expectations.

28. TERRENCE MALICK - In a career spanning decades, Malick has only made a handful of films. Of those few pieces however, most are considered critical masterpieces (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line). Malick is a meditator and his films unfold before the viewer.

27. CLINT EASTWOOD - As an actor, Clint's was already a legend and Hollywood royalty. As a director, he established himself as worth far more than any of those two bit stars. Eastwood, particularly within the last decade, has established himself as a perfectionist and a major threat with films like Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, and Letters from Iwo Jima. He directs, acts, and frequently composes music for his films...and whenever he makes one the Academy seems to take notice.

26. MIKE NICHOLS - Nichols started out on-stage, and that theatrical sensibility carries over to his films (not merely because plays seem to be his favorite items to adapt). Nichols is character and dialogue driven, he allows the actors to work without (for the most part) distraction or visual trickery. It's served him well since the 60's when he started with films like The Graduate & Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

25. SAM MENDES - He's not just Mr. Winslet, thank you very much. Mendes is good at breaking through the surface of things to reveal their disturbed underbelly in a way quite different from David Lynch. He doesn't shoot for surreal and strange, but goes for hyperreal neatly tied fables. He shattered suburbia in American Beauty, the Gulf War in Jarhead, and the pleasantville surface of the 50's in Revolutionary Road.

24. DANNY BOYLE - Boyle, now a household name for Slumdog Millionaire, has deserved recognition for a long while now. Even before his Oscar success he was doing just fine, with a steady stream of vastly different gently-bent, vividly shot, high energy films that (even when they aren't entirely successful) are consistently entertaining (28 Days Later, Millions, A Life Less Ordinary, Sunshine). Say what you will about Slumdog, but I'd argue Trainspotting is undoubtedly his best work.

23. RIDLEY SCOTT - Ridley is claustrophobic. Is it too much to guess that maybe that has something to do with why he frequently shoots for the epic? Probably. No matter, Ridley (just like his brother Tony) has got high style visuals and an eye for detail. He makes big pictures, popcorn flicks and such, but he makes them damn well. Alien and Blade Runner stand at the top of science fiction. No doubt.

22. MICHEL GONDRY - With Gondry, filmmaking is a form of play. He's got a creative flair and an unmistakable style that has served him well in music videos as well as cinema (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep). He also manages to frequently polarize audiences, who love or hate his games and on-camera experimentation.

21. CHRISTOPHER NOLAN - I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt in placing him this high. He's successfully lifted the comic book genre into the good graces of average American citizens and critics alike, with Dark Knight and Batman Begins. He's also made a standard film school classic with Memento. I generally trust Nolan's sensibility, despite some of the continuity errors and glitches i now see in the Dark Knight.

Defense: ANTM & Bloodlust

As I've mentioned previously, my one major crap reality TV weakness is America's Next Top Model. It's terrible, i know, a big campy lovefest of superficiality and bitchiness starring Tyra Banks and her Oprah-eclipsing ego. I can't resist, even when i sit through whole episodes shaking my head, and even though i know the one girl who actually looks like s high-fashion model (and not a Cover Girl recruit) never wins. Anyway, this season's premier brought the crazy. Big time. There were the girls who (after 11 cycles) don't understand that showing up to set with ridiculous acrylic nails and distracting clothes is not acceptable. There was a street- preaching Jesus freak. There was your girl who talks about herself in the third person as the champion, and picks fights with her roommates on the first night. There were burn victims, epileptics, people who thought they were so great they didn't have to walk to the end of the runway, and Kyra Sedgwick look-a-likes.

But, undoubtedly, the one that was painted as perhaps being the most unstable was the Gollum-eyed girl pictured above: Allison Harvard, 20. Now, Allison's got a pretty good shot at showing up on this week's serving of The Soup (she also has a good shot at making it to the top 3). Not because she had a horrible attitude or seemed particularly ditzy, but because she immediately separated herself from the other girls as being "weird". First, there there was her appearance. Her eyes are gigantic. Seriously, you haven't seen eyes like this. Her new peers noted that she looked like a possessed porcelain doll. True story. Second, there was her first appearance before the judges. If you didn't see it, let me run it down for you. Allison stands up there, like a Wednesday Addams in the headlights, and tells Tyra Banks that she "has a really big fascination with blood" and thinks nosebleeds are beautiful. She's upset that she's never had one. She's also, naturally, "really interested in hemophilia".

Me too. I love nosebleeds. I used to have them all the time. I haven't had one since i was 15, and while that one was epic, i'm kind of upset. I love that Sally Mann photo of her son's nosebleed (can't find it now). I even did a photo series for art class in which one sequence featured me with corn syrup blood streaming from my nose.

And why not? Why shouldn't we all be fascinated with blood? It's part of what makes us who we are, what keeps us alive. When the internal becomes external, it leaves an impact. Hemorrhaging, in some oddly poetic way, is an arresting concept...even if just thinking about it makes you feel lightheaded. Sure when it's the first thing you say to an audience of millions, it sounds a little off, but if the other girls are allowed to present themselves as loud obnoxious brats, let Allison fly her freak flag. Darkness, in my experience, is something that adds a bit of depth. You need it (in one form or another) to create art.

We should all be asking: in the wake of the bad behavior of the other girls, why do we attach a stigma to "weird"? Seriously, why is being weird treated as more shocking/socially unacceptable than most reality tv fodder?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Listology: 50 Greatest Active Directors pt. II, 40-31


It's here, Part II of my response to Entertainment Weekly's 50 Greatest Active Directors list.

Hit the jump.


40. SPIKE LEE - Spike Lee makes movies that tackle social issues head on with Brooklyn attitude. He's carved out his place in history with movies like Do the Right Thing and She's Gotta Have It while also producing standout award winning documentaries such as When the Levees Broke. Like Woody Allen, Lee has formed the way we envision New York City.

39.[TIE] FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA / GEORGE LUCAS - They're alive and active, it's true. And while their projects in the last decade or so have been disappointments, it would be foolish to exclude either one of these directors from the list as their trilogies (Godfather and Star Wars IV-VI, respectively) are the textbook examples of filmmaking in their genres and almost always fall near the top of every greatest films list. Don't count them out yet.

38. NOAH BAUMBACH - There was a long while between Kicking & Screaming and Squid & the Whale, but the latter established Baumbach firmly as a writer/director to watch. Baumbach tackles East Coast America with a distinct voice and finds focus in the little day to day eccentricities and actions that create fully-formed, unique characters.

37. JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET - French director Jeunet delivers darkly whimsical visions and fantastic cinematic confections that hold their own in any film student's collection. Amelie, Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, A Very Long Engagement? Beautiful, each in their own right.



36. BAZ LUHRMANN - If Luhrmann had been making pictures 50 years ago, he would have been the king of Technicolor. Each of his four films is a sweeping romantic epic, boldly filmed with a frenetic energy and a madcap, over-the-top risk taking style belonging distinctly to him. Luhrmann is a DJ, taking your expectations and mixing them up with elements that span centuries. Consequently, you either love him or hate him. Moulin Rouge! though contested at its release, has settled into its place amongst the contemporary masterpieces.

35. JIM JARMUSCH - Another love/hate director? Jim Jarmusch, one of the high priests of independent cinema whose landmark works include Stranger Than Paradise and Dead Man. Jarmusch frequently makes philosophical road movies, stories driven by offbeat meandering characters who lead you wherever they're going without compromise, never the other way around. Also, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was pretty bad ass.

34. GUILLERMO DEL TORO - Del Toro makes artsy creature features with bite. He has an eye for surreal fantasy, a knack for horror, and (most importantly) he isn't afraid to kill the kid. I'd vote he avoids future Hellboy follow-ups, however, and sticks to fare along the lines of Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. Del Toro's next project is one of the ultimate fantasy projects: The Hobbit. Which leads us to...

33. PETER JACKSON - Peter Jackson successfully helmed Lord of the Rings. No, really. Think about that. That shit is huge. And he directed and wrote the adapted screenplays for all three films WITHOUT angering millions of fans. Add to that the fact that everything Jackson did up to that point was gleefully deranged (Dead Alive, Meet the Feebles, even Heavenly Creatures) and you will learn not to write off Jackson as just another blockbuster director.

32. ANG LEE - Lee is recognized for making strong, literate period dramas. He's pretty good at it, though in my opinion Brokeback Mountain is his weakest work. The Ice Storm. That one was good. So was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

31. LARS VON TRIER - Lars von Trier is an asshole. No, really. I'm pretty sure he's a gigantic douchebag who makes some of the most ridiculously pretentious films you could imagine. That said, however, he's also a serious auteur who makes movies like people write literature. These are the films you analyze and write papers on. Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, a thesis on those would write itself. Monochrome, heavy, depressingly austere, and hypnotically slow i respect Lars von Trier though i do not love him.




I Don't Like It: Lauren Conrad Writes A Novel


Lauren Conrad, celebutard extraordinaire whose insanely bland California "life" is filmed for MTV's contribution to the decline of Western civilization (otherwise known as The Hills), has 'written' a novel. L.A. Candy will be the first installment of a three book young adult series published by HarperCollins. Quelle Surprise, it's about a young girl whose life is magically transformed when she becomes the star of a reality TV series. Way to go, Lauren, your ghostwriter plays it close to home.

Thank you, HarperCollins, for really working hard to bring the world valid, literary literature. Clearly, you have a real passion for books. Clearly.

I've just decided, i'm going to start writing young adult novels under a pseudonym. You may not take my art, New York publishing houses, but i bet you'll take my trash.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who Did it Better?

Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Jason Segel as shot by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, in "tribute" to her 2006 cover seen below. The boys are featured in the mag as some of the New Legends of Comedy.

Jimmy Fallon Returns


Jimmy Fallon takes over "Late Night" tonight at 12:35/11:35C on NBC with Robert DeNiro, Van Morrison, and (supposedly) Justin Timberlake. Let the griping begin.

Honestly, i rarely watch late night talk shows, or talk shows in general, so none of this really disrupts reality as i know it. However, i do actually like Jimmy Fallon (shush) and may tune in to check out whether or not he can hold it together for a full show (you know, without slipping into the giggle loop). You know, they should really consider sticking Horatio Sanz in there as a wingman. They could film them exchanging glances and struggling to contain the laughter It would be like Jared's Room all over again.

Here's the rumored first week line-up if you need to decide which evening to check it out. I think i'll go with the Weekend Update reunion on Tuesday:

Tu 3/3: Tina Fey, Jon Bon Jovi, Santigold

We 3/4: Cameron Diaz, Billy Crudup

Th 3/5: Donald Trump, Serena Williams, Ludacris

Fr 3/6: Drew Barrymore, Mario Batali

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