Monday, August 31, 2009
According to a statement on their website, the Disney corporation is acquiring Marvel Entertainment for approximately $4 billion. This means that Disney has just accumulated an extended library of some 5,000 additional characters. Marvel's chief executive officer Ike Perlmutter claims, "Disney is the perfect home for Marvel's fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses...This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney's tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world." Yeah. Probably true...but still, what does this mean for Marvel's future? In terms of film, different franchises have long been allied with studios like 20th Century Fox and Sony while rival DC is a holding of Time Warner. What can we expect from future X-Men and Spider-Man installments? Plus, $4 billion? A ton of money to be sure, but considering the virtual monopoly Disney holds over family based entertainment, that seems like something of a steal for them. Personally, i'm hoping this means massive Marvel upgrades to Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios. [Source]
Now, we have to ask some follow-up questions. Namely, why is this happening? For some, this is most certainly a sign of the apocalypse and suggests the music of eternal damnation. While i'll admit it's a tad more palatable than expected, i'm not going to completely disagree. I will say, however, that this is less about a Michael Bolton resurgence and more about Lady Gaga testing the limits of her power. The woman has lately been written up and debated on all sides of the press. She's a tastemaker, an overnight icon, a shooting star of mainstream weird. She can wear suits made of Muppets and sound dazed and confused in interviews without consequence. Basically: she's untouchable. Even public obscenity laws can't hold her down. If we're told that she contacted Michael Bolton, i feel that she has an ulterior motive. She doesn't necessarily want to work with Bolton, she wants to work with the idea of someone like Bolton. She wants to take an entertainer with a specified, generally unhip audience and bring them up to her level. She's doubling Michael Bolton's 15-minutes and altering his reputation. Now, when a 13-year old turns her nose up at her mother's album of Bolton covering Sinatra, the mother can retort, "well, Lady Gaga appreciates him". Argument over. 85% of the under 17 population are too floored by Lady Gaga's hijinks to effectively interpret her as anything other than the most ridiculously awesome individual on the planet. * I think she has a bet going with Grizzly Bear to see who can make elevator music cool first. If you didn't know, Grizzly Bear released their single "While You Wait for the Others" on iTunes with a B-Side that includes the same track with vocals recorded by Michael McDonald. Yes, the Michael McDonald who's concert they play on repeat and mock without rest in 40-Year Old Virgin. True story. Who will win the bet? Gaga with the Top 40 crowd, Grizzly Bear with the college radio elitists. Nice divide.
*I have no evidence that this is true. That doesn't mean it isn't.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Reports are coming in that celebrity-spinner DJ AM was found dead today in his New York City apartment at age 36. AM, real name Adam Goldstein, narrowly escaped death last September when he survived a plane crash that proved fatal for four others. Goldstein was a constant presence at Hollywood parties and famously dated Nicole Richie and Mandy Moore. TMZ and the Associated Press are reporting that drug paraphernalia was found at the apartment, though there is no sign of foul play. He had not been seen or heard from for several days.
Who's in your entourage?
So, Natalie Portman is one of those actresses (like Scarlett Johansson) who i've grown accustomed to feeling disappointed about in cinematic roles while otherwise liking well enough. She has a tendency to seemingly over think things and play parts with little or no emotion at a rate of about 3 out of 5 of the movies she stars in. Not just Padmé Amidala. Typically, my argument is that she was more keyed in to her profession at age 12, and post-grad from Harvard, she should possibly consider branching her career options further away from Hollywood. But, you know, critical uncertainty and "meh" movies like Other Boleyn Girl aside, i think Natalie Portman is probably pretty cool. Like, we could hang out and stuff and she could proof my paper for panel discussion. This is, of course, all stemming from that unsettling way we have of "knowing celebrities" without knowing them at all. Something which we all suffer from, and which magazine interviews exploit mercilessly. Which brings me to what i'm really getting at, which is: Natalie Portman's interview in the September issue of Interview only furthers the belief of everyone who has attended college with any modicum of seriousness that they too could be BFF with Natalie Portman. Jake Gyllenhaal conducts the interview, and while he too reveals a certain geekiness, i'm not as sold on him. There's just something about the way he keeps talking about the "wonderful" things Portman has done that reminds me of the way my father always said all actors are capable of doing is patting each other on the back...moving on. Read as Portman discusses 80's toys, planetariums, Carvel ice cream cake, and how she pitches a giggle fit at dirty rap lyrics.
"GYLLENHAAL: So, then, let me ask you this: If you could get into a time machine, to what place and period would you travel?
PORTMAN: Well, right now, I’m very fascinated with 1920s Berlin. I mean, probably the more interesting thing would be to go to the beginning of civilization or precivilization—like polytheistic times. It would be interesting to see what came before modern religion and culture—what circumstances created the environment or the need for it. I actually felt like I was in a time machine last week when I went with Jay-Z to the Laserium in Los Angeles (click here to learn more about the Laserium). Have you been there?
GYLLENHAAL: Is that the laser show that was at the Griffith Observatory?
PORTMAN: There’s a new one now at Hollywood and Vine. I think it’s the one that was at the observatory and it moved down there. But, dude, watching this display is like you’re in the ’70s. There were all these lasers, and out of the lasers, this man emerged with a noose. The lights were just going up and down, and side to side . . . It was like a Zeppelin show. You could just see how these lasers were once the peak of technology and why everyone was so stoked about them."
"PORTMAN: My current state . . . I’m trying to think of a song that feels like sleepwalking. [laughs] I don’t know. I’ve mostly been listening to dirty rap lately. That’s sort of my scene.
GYLLENHAAL: Your affection for dirty rap is something that people really don’t know about you, which I think is fascinating. You do incredible things for the world, and then you listen to just completely obscene hip-hop music.
PORTMAN: Really, really obscene hip-hop. I love it so much. It makes me laugh and then it makes me want to dance. Those are like my two favorite things, so combined . . . I’ve been listening a lot lately to “Wait (The Whisper Song)” by the Ying Yang Twins, where the lyrics are like, “Wait ’til you see my dick”—which is just amazing because it’s whispered. [whispers] “Wait ’til you see my dick . . . ” [laughs] Crazy. So I just listen to it like I’m a five-year-old, like, “Oh my god! I can’t believe he just said that!”
GYLLENHAAL: It’s interesting that you think the lyric “Wait ’til you see my dick” describes your current state. I think people are learning more about you right now then they ever have in an interview. I’m proud of that." [Source]
Really, you knew this had to come from somewhere:
Don't be surprised, either. It's a well kept secret outside of academia that the only form of music generally agreed upon by academics (particularly in creative/literary fields) is hip-hop and gangster rap. True story.
We've got a trailer for Grant Heslov's oddly titled dark political comedy The Men Who Stare At Goats. The film is scheduled for a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and will be slipping into theaters nationwide come November if all goes according to plan. Based on Jon Robinson's supposedly true tale of a reporter (Ewan McGregor) following a U.S. Army soldier (George Clooney) who claims to be trained for psychic (read: paranormal) warfare, the film rounds out its solid cast with Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, and the always present J.K. Simmons.
Yes, Fruit Gushers. The gel filled gummy candy that you hold a special place for in your heart and your parents still find repulsive. Apparently out of ideas as to how to market this product, General Mills has gone the weird, semi-ironic, viral direction. The website has singing pickles and possums, but this fake German kiddy show looks to me like it's the crown jewel in the nonsense campaign. Now is the time on Sprockets where we dance (after we stop at American Apparel)!! I'm amused even as i fail to comprehend. But, you know, whatever. At least they're not pretending candy is good for you.
01 "Splitting The Atom" (Feat. The 3D, Daddy G, and Horace Andy)
02 "Pray For Rain" (Feat. Tunde Adebimpe)
03 "Psyche (Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid Remix)" (Feat. Martina Topley Bird)
04 "Bulletproof Love (Christoff Berg Remix)" (Feat. Guy Garvey)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
For the most part, the old folks on "Breakfast at Sulimay's" don't dig Radiohead. Watch as the senior trio reviews the recently leaked single "These Are My Twisted Words" and becomes angered when there, well, just aren't enough words. But they do enjoy the Philly sound of Amanda Blank's sexualized pseudo-rap. I'd never seen the Sulimay's crew before, but i am enjoying watching their old school reactions to modern music. Check out this past episode, in which Bill claims it's all good until the kids open their fucking mouths.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Inception @ Yahoo! Video
Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's film Inception may not be due until Summer 2010, but the teaser trailer already here and i have this feeling viral marketing may not be far behind. Apparently a sort of sci-fi thriller, Inception has a ridiculously strong cast featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe. Add it to the list.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of a million Brits wondering why Americans can't come up with their own unique concepts for television pilots. The crash that followed was the sound of me banging my head against my desk once for good measure. Why am i self-harming? Oh, I don't know, it could have something to do with the fact that MTV has acquired the rights to develop a bastardized version of my favorite teen-trash guilty pleasure "Skins", and since MTV can't get away with half the things the original pulled off, it will most certainly be poor shock value with a Degrassi moral crap cast with the run-off from "The Hills" featuring a guest appearance by dead-behind the eyes Audrina Patridge. You know what you could try instead, MTV? Airing the censored originals and keeping it Bristol-based instead of sending it to Baltimore. Good lord. Is nothing sacred? Remember that NBC version of "Coupling"? Yeah, that's what we're facing here. [Source]
Jenkins was found hanging by his belt in a closet, an apparent suicide. It is believed that he walked across the border into Canada. Fiore, who has inspired a Black Dahlia level of intrigue in the media, was discovered outside of Los Angeles on August 15 folded into suitcase similar to one Jenkins was seen with in a video surveillance tape. Her body was mutilated to the point that a positive identification could only be made via the serial numbers on her breast implants. The investigation is ongoing.
Surreality, ladies and gentlemen.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The reason? Revisionist history, of course. In Basterds, Tarantino doesn't bother with incidents as they occurred, but instead presents them the way they should have occurred. The result is a surprisingly emotional saga that manages to say as much about the tyrannical injustices brought about by the Nazi party as Spielberg ever has on the matter, while at the same time creating an experience that delivers what the truth never can: pure, unadulterated vengeance. If all you've ever really wanted from a war film was to see the Third Reich bludgeoned to a pulp and gleefully dismembered...your wish has been granted. And then some. Fuck your facts, figures, names and dates, I'll take Tarantino's military strategy, thank you very much.
While I have no doubt that in the days to come I will meet a fair share of those with split views on the eye for an eye brutality of the story, for cinephiles, this is a rare and irresistible film that effectively blends Tarantino's genre-hodgepodge with a thrilling bloodlusting frenzy and the inspired thematic use of cinema as backbone. While Brad Pitt is the stand-out celebrity presence in the film, his character: Lt. Aldo Raine, the hillbilly Clark Gable-esque leader of a team of Nazi-destroying covert G.I.'s, is hardly the story's protagonist. traditional Tarantino style, the story contains multiple chapters and jumps between stories involving the Basterds, the Germans, and a Parisian theater owner named Shosanna. While Raine and his Basterds act as a power generator for the subtitled slow burn of the other plots, their actions are perhaps obstructed from hero status by moral complications. The hero here is actually Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish woman whose family was killed mercilessly by "The Jew Hunter" Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) when she was just a teenager.
Waltz makes for a formidable villain with an unsettling charisma. He's vile and smarmy, prone to maniacal outbursts while smirking like a James Bond megalomaniac. You can't help but eagerly await the moment he encounters the American troops and hope that Eli Roth's baseball bat wielding "Bear Jew" comes loping along to detach his smug skull from his spinal column. Clear off. With the unmistakably heavy sound of blunt force connecting with flesh running simultaneously with cracking bone. But, ahem, enough about that. Back to the subject at hand.
Inglourious Basterds is a complicated film plagued by small issues even as it seeks to correct others. It's at times jumpy and encroached upon by outside elements of a mysterious source. Certain characters are poorly developed while others are presented to us in excess. We don't get enough of the titular band of brothers, though their efforts are the driving force of the action. It's an exploitation style film that shoots for cheap thrills even as it delivers haunting, beautifully effective images. Yet, unlike other war actioners (last year's absurd Valkyrie, anyone?), Tarantino is a mature enough filmmaker to know how to mask tiny issues with cues taken from earlier works of successful cinema. The film may be loosely influenced by an Italian B-movie from 1978, but as far as i can tell, it owes very little to it apart from the title. Sergio Leone certainly has a presence here, but the French and German scenes (notably delivered in French and German, for once) speak to an obvious understanding of the canon from Jean Renoir to Leni Riefenstahl to Fassbinder effectively assimilated and incorporated into something consumable and accessible.
There's something remarkably beautiful about Inglourious Basterds that exists between the instances of rampant sadism and the postmodern non-diegetic elements that seek to perpetually remind the viewer this is a work of, well, pulp fiction. The film triggers a primal catharsis in its audience, at least it did in me, an immediate empathy with its vigilantes and a frenzied desire for swift retribution. It's wholly engrossing and impressive in its scope and relentless bravura, retaining the smart meandering dialogue of Tarantino co-mingled with with a foreign blend of Wagnerian epic poetry. A delight speckled in brain matter and with real blood coursing through its veins. Trust me, i'll be seeing this again. Several times.
5 out of 5.
See all of Wilde.Dash's reviews at Love & Squalor.
Michael Cera gets on dark comedy duty in the film adaptation of the C.D. Payne novel, Youth in Revolt. I read the book years ago, and vaguely recall enjoying it, though the details are fuzzy. Either way, I'm totally digging Cera in this role. He might play himself in everything, but that doesn't mean he isn't hilarious.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
So, People magazine is reporting that the multi-talented Jason Schwartzman went super stealth and got married a few days back at his home in the San Fernando Valley. He married his girlfriend of three years, designer Brady Cunningham who, as you can see, is perfectly cute and adorable.
Unfortunately, this totally throws off the imaginary life plan that was decided for me by friends back in college. In that reality, see, it was my job to marry Mr. Schwartzman so that my friends could move into my California basement and have bit parts in Sofia Coppola films. So, you know, this rift in the space time continuum will clearly be problematic and could potentially throw the balance of the cosmos completely out of whack. I'll have to consult with these same false prophets and see if they can formulate a back-up life plan perhaps not involving celebrities that i've never technically met. Until then, i'm clearly forced to live solely in the present and excise the word 'tomorrow' from my vocabulary. Pfft.
We finally have a teaser trailer for James Cameron's December release Avatar (AKA: the movie that's supposedly going to melt everyone's faces with its awesomeness), and well, as of right now you can sort of color me unimpressed. Yes, it looks like it's chock-full of technical feats, but am i the only one who finds the Na'vi aliens sort of absurd looking in a remarkably cartoonish, awkward CGI sort of way? It just looks like the wrong aesthetic to me, for some reason. I don't find it appealing. That said, i'm still not convinced, Cameron, of the glory of this movie. It looks a little bit too much like about a dozen video games I've played before. Thoughts?
Monday, August 17, 2009
When it comes to artistry in animation, Hayao Miyazaki cannot fail. The Japanese anime master can work wonders with 2D in an age when Pixar reigns supreme and Disney tends to veer away further and further away from their heyday under Walt. His latest release to make it to America is Ponyo, a sort of retelling of the Little Mermaid chock full of childlike wonder and exuberant joy. The title character (voiced by Miley's 9-year old sister Noah Cyrus) is a sort of human faced goldfish princess who is saved by a little boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, naturally). They form a bond, and upon being retrieved by her magical father, Ponyo rebelliously upsets the natural order by becoming a human girl and escaping to be with her new playmate. So long as you can keep your doubting adult in check, Ponyo is a beautiful, innocent little story that manages to be relentlessly cheerful and retain its optimism even in its bleakest moments.
Of course, if you look for it, there's a lot of tragedy in the story. Reality and imagination, as with all Miyazaki's work, run parallel courses, and Ponyo's exuberant liberation is tied directly to chaos and loss. When nature is disrupted, destruction inevitably follows. A child watching the film, however, would never notice this as there are enough bright colors, adorable moments, and humorous lines to keep chaos at bay. This unflinching sense of wonder is where the film is perhaps most magical. Miyazaki's other works frequently dip into a darker terrain. In fact, they're frequently quite dark; haunted by a nightmarish unpredictability like Alice's bad trip. Even My Neighbor Totoro is plagued by the horrifying incomprehension of children grappling with a mother's illness and conjuring up giant beasts in the dark. Ponyo is almost without a doubt the brightest, most child-specific of Miyazaki's works. There are no real villains, no true threats, only the restraint of a cautious wizard father (Liam Neeson). At the core of the story is a test of love and the bright, effervescence of Sosuke's point of view. He sees things more clearly than the adults, and considers them without judgment. There is a simplicity and wisdom in the interactions between the children that makes them simultaneously remarkable and ultimately believable. Their reactions and naivete make them far more perfect renderings of youth than any live action film in recent memory.
While Ponyo put a smile on my face and delivered a few lines i will be repeating in excess over the next few weeks ("HAAAAMMMMM!"), I will own up to feeling just the slightest twinge of self-serving disappointment. Let me restate: this is a film best suited for small children. There's something for everyone, of course, but the bright palette and cutesy high-pitched characters seem like a sort of Miyazaki primer for those not yet mature enough for the thematic depth and winding labyrinths of films like Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle. It's like watching Sesame Street after you've fully comprehended the Muppets: you'll still see the humor, but the content might not be intended for you. I couldn't help but take note of the oddly timed laughter of the small children in the vicinity, or feel that the film didn't hold a candle to what I loved so intensely about Princess Mononoke. That's not to say you shouldn't watch it. No, no, please do. If you're already a devoted Miyazaki fan, or if you're a newcomer with a young ward, this is a must see gem of a film with an overall positive vibe and a remarkably infectious theme song. Just, you know, don't drag your friend or relative who's stubbornly convinced cartoons are just for kids...this won't help your case.
4 out of 5.
See Wilde.Dash's reviews and more at Love & Squalor.
Quentin Tarantino counts down his top 20 films of the last 17 years (since he himself became a filmmaker), an interesting list, though at times i wish he had gone into detail. Personally, i found Battle Royale a tremendous disappointment given the rollicking subject matter. Extended cut?
Saturday, August 15, 2009
An alien race, derogatorily referred to as "Prawns" arrives over Johannesburg and becomes stranded on Earth. Malnourished and suffering, humans step in and set up a refugee camp for them, which soon becomes the shanty town District 9. Twenty years later, the Prawns are still here and a private corporation called Multi-National United oversees the creatures in an attempt to steal the alien's biotechnologically advanced weaponry. MNU is, of course, completely uninterested the welfare of the Prawns, and they subsequently live in squalor as their friends and loved ones are taken hostage for top secret experimentation. The film is structured in a familiar way: as a loose documentary that mixes interviews and news footage with the narrative events. It works, and the attention to detail is phenomenal. After an extended stay amongst humans, the Prawns are grasshopper-esque slum dwellers. Their mannerisms and interactions with the MNU agents assigned to evict them from District 9 and transport them to the death camp District 10 are remarkably believable. They're morally reprehensible and ugly, but it's easy to envision the Prawns as CGI people replacements as our protagonist, vainglorious chicken-shit Wikus Van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), heads up the task force and roots through their limited possessions declaring them illegal.
Don't worry though, there are a lot of twists in District 9, and the brilliantly rendered opening scenes of life in chaos flow easily into an action packed second act. Wikus, you see, accidentally stumbles upon something he shouldn't have, and so begins a chain of events that has him turning his deep "racism" into understanding. For some, the film will fall into a gray area. It is, as previously stated, far too fully realized and smart to be a brainless good time, and too invested in rollicking action to necessarily capture the audience who might be more inclined to fully appreciate it. The comical scenes are juxtaposed with familiar strains of human tragedy, and as the story continues its emotional intensity becomes more and more severe.
As we become more involved in the going-ons in District 9, we find ourselves invested in the well-being of a Prawn named Christopher Johnson and his young son. Christopher is highly intelligent, much moreso than the humans who restrain him. He's worked diligently for two decades attempting to find a way to fly back up to the hovering mothership, fix the missing pieces, and return home while his peers barter for cat food and engage in interspecies prostitution. In Christopher's seamless integration, Blomkamp triumphs. The turning points are natural, the human qualities are flawlessly realized. It's rare to find a sci-fi film that delivers this sort of poignant blend of tragedy and drama while never losing its machine gun stride. If you don't become upset and militantly political while watching this movie, you should really check to make sure you aren't a cyborg. Seriously. Make a neat incision somewhere and start looking for wires.
District 9 is a low-budget triumph in a summer dominated by overbudget, ham-fisted achievements in mediocrity. As sci-fi films go, i can stamp this one as an immediate cult gem. For others: I can't guarantee you'll like it, but don't judge based solely on appearances, still waters and alien exoskeletons run deep.
4.5 out of 5.
See all of Wilde.Dash's reviews at Love & Squalor.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Fox Searchlight has finally released a glimpse of what Gentlemen Broncos, a new film by Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess will look like. The trailer is available on Apple.com, and while the aesthetic is similar, the subject matter and cast give us something a little different. The film follows a home-schooled teenager (Michael Angarano) whose love of writing leads him to a fantasy convention at which his manuscript is ripped off by a well-known novelist (Flight of the Conchord's Jemaine Clement). Also starring Sam Rockwell and Jennifer Coolidge, have enough years passed for me to describe the outlook for this movie as 'sweet'?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Day One got off to a shaky start as the ponchos came out and Portland-based popsters Hockey found themselves crippled by a power surge 3.5 songs into an otherwise crowd-pleasing set. The band countered with free cans of beer and an acoustic drum session that lead smoothly into me sneaking off for a drizzly dance session with local Lupe Fiasco-signed Hey Champ! a group you will most certainly be hearing a lot more about in the future. The rains increased and so did the crowds as the day wore on, with quiet swaying provided by the Fleet Foxes countered by the 8-bit rave scene at Crystal Castles where Alice Glass donned black leather and howled into the microphone while i stood at the end of a mud pit and rolled my eyes as an exhibitionist exposed himself and took what seemed like a 5-minute piss as a good 150 people looked the other way. Ah, music festivals. The evening saw the rain begin to slow for DJ-duo Thievery Corporation's massive set with smooth sitars and a host of guest vocalists. Though the downtempo trip-hop of Thievery seems custom made for Brazilian beaches and sun soaked weather, they made the best of it and inspired a slow-grinding hippie mud orgy stage left.
The real stars of Friday, however, were headliners Depeche Mode, who shirked the rain and transported their audience with roughly two hours of nostalgia (though technically, i'm too young to get nostalgic). Lead singer Dave Gahan is a bonafide rock star, plain and simple, with a stage presence that leaks charisma and a voice that incites riotous frenzy. Seriously. In line for the porta potties before finding a place in the crowd, a very drunk man informed the ladies in the vicinity that we had to see Depeche Mode as they were "the sexiest thing [we] will ever see". While the drunk man had reached the point of no return, and fumbled with the plastic porta potty door for several minutes before managing to close it, in his claim he was correct. Depeche Mode's music has always been relatively sexy; dark, decadent, and loaded with sado-masochistic themes. Their live performance does the music justice, and the crowd went wild as Gahan slithered like a male stripper and the Mode ripped into tracks like "Enjoy the Silence" and mixed them effortlessly with new songs from their album "Sounds of the Universe". "Wrong" was a standout, a song that i'd half-appreciated on my iPod, but that resonated with raw power when seen live. By the time they launched into an encore with "Stripped" (a personal favorite song), M. and I were quite literally squealing like we were suffering a bout of Beatlemania.
Day Two saw a shift in the weather towards hot and excessively humid. Thus continuing a trend in which the whole weekend was a pretty consistent bad hair day. Arctic Monkeys cemented their status as a success story on this side of the pond, Chairlift lulled a confused crowd who stood patiently waiting for them to play "Bruises", Santigold brought out the backup dancers and an (unfortunately) douchebaggy crowd, and Lykke Li found a way to amp up her otherwise low-key brand of Swedish pop rock. Li's a stellar performer, if Lady Gaga represents pop art in the pop world, Lykke Li is her minimalist combatant in both style and sound. But if you've got your ear to the ground, that's neither here nor there, the talk of the interwebs has been the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who slipped into their role as the Beastie Boys' replacement surprisingly well. Say what you will about Karen O., but in a weekend of multi-generational star performers with more attitude and charisma than you can shake a stick at, she was the perfect representative from the current generation. The woman is a holdover from another time, arriving with a giant neon headdress (she brings the sartorial edge, even broke out the KO studded jacket for "Zero") to run and shake, scream and howl, deep throat the microphone, prance and pose through high energy song after song until it seemed she might collapse. She survived however, sweat soaked and out of breath, she managed to forget the words to their most popular song "Maps" and relieve the burden of the ballad on a fawning, overjoyed crowd.
Day Three was all dry ground and bright sunlight as Lollapalooza got wound up to close down. It was hot. Not merely figuratively. Literally. The Chicago Fire Department set up a simulated rainfall near the Budweiser stage and festival employees were liberally spraying down overheated crowds and occasionally handing out bottles of Aquafina. As i forked over a couple bucks for Vitamin Water the folks working the bar were taking bets on who in the passing crowd was going to make it through the day. "The kids on drugs are gonna drop like flies," one told me. True enough, i'm sure, though i saw little evidence when compared to last year. British chanteuse Natasha Khan's Bat for Lashes was one of my most anticipated acts at the fest, and she delivered an even helping of tracks off her two albums that proved her unearthly, layered sound can be translated even to the most sweltering of outdoor concert situations. All while wearing a sequined leotard, no less. Meanwhile, The Raveonettes played new songs off their next album (slated for an October release), though their sound was perfect, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo themselves were remarkably low energy, standing glued in place on stage as hyped guards below ran back and forth splashing the crowd and offering to soak hats in ice water. The low key performative aspect forced this ADD kid to head south and catch the second half of the noise corridor (but not before hearing the swirling sounds of "Twilight"), in which Gang Gang Dance and Dan Deacon where playing literally about 100 feet from one another. Vampire Weekend dedicated "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" to the recently departed John Hughes, Passion Pit's act made me understand why Bob Boilen raves about the blissful, soaring joy of their music, and veteran Lou Reed played the part of aging, temperamental diva. Seriously. It was an entirely eccentric performance. Love him to death, but he and his band started late, finished late, switched instruments nearly every song (sometimes mid-song), and carried out a 10 minute + distortion loop that seemed to confuse the audience while simultaneously reminding everyone that the man does whatever the hell he wants. He made more noise than Dan Deacon and his marching band. But that distortion loop blended smoothly into the intro for "Waiting for the Man" which certainly was enough to pacify yours truly.
Somewhere in between this and twin headliners The Killers and the reunited Jane's Addiction, rather amusing (and likely inebriated) nitwits scaled Buckingham Fountain (by the way, the girl got arrested, her partner in crime (see below) somehow managed to escape and/or is lying face down in the top tier of the fountain) and a police horse got punched in the face, but that's neither here nor there. The Killers were a big draw, with a glorious light show and swaggering glamour. Call me crazy, however, but Brandon Flowers just didn't sound quite right. I'm not the biggest Killers fan, so after taking in the flash of the stage show for awhile, i opted to indulge in some Jane's Addiction. It was a wise decision. Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, and co. are pros at what they do, which is, namely, hitting the perfect blend of slime and polish. Though it was outside with the skyline as a backdrop, their set seemed fit for an extended run in a Las Vegas hotel...complete with showgirls mimicking the Nothing's Shocking album art in pasties, a guest spot by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, plenty of banter, and even a touch of human interest voyeurism as the band brought a man onstage to propose to his long-term girlfriend. I'll admit i've always been a little bit ignorant when it came to Jane's Addiction, but their show turned me around and i've found an interest.
It was a good year and certainly a reminder of Lollapalooza's place amongst the larger American festivals. Here's hoping for Massive Attack at Lolla 2010!
Guitar innovator and legend Les Paul died today at age 94 from complications with pneumonia. Paul invented the solid body electric guitar and facilitated the rise of rock with multitrack recording, overdubbing, and other processes that have allowed him to be credited as "the father of modern music".
In 1941, Paul built 'The Log', a four by four block of wood fitted with steel strings that was part of an experiment in guitar amplification. When it proved functional, Paul outfitted it with a guitar shape and the concept took off. Gibson Guitars began production on the Les Paul guitar in 1952, and the iconic instrument has since become the weapon of choice for artists like Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Beautiful, non? Clips have been leaking online since Cannes, but we finally have the official trailer for Terry Gilliam's latest completed project and Heath Ledger's last. At long last, a sense of plot and a look at the integration of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law into Ledger's unfinished character. Plus, a glimpse at the worlds Gilliam can create with CGI.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Be back on Monday...
Straight up, E!Online is reporting that Paula Abdul will not be returning to judge the ninth season of nonsense factory American Idol. The performer announced the news on her twitter late Tuesday, saying: "With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to #IDOL. I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all...being a part of a show that I helped from day1 become an international phenomenon".
In case you had doubts as to Twitter's accountability, Fox and reps for 19 and Fremantle media have confirmed the news. I don't watch Idol, but I can't imagine this is that big of a shock. The woman has been slowly taking the crazy crazy insane train off into the sunset for awhile. Idol fans, can anyone tell me whether or not she's done anything other than anchor herself to the judging table with heavy jewelry and spout inane nonsensical remarks as fodder for Joel McHale?
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Sandler plays George Simmons, a stand-up comedian turned ridiculous high-concept Hollywood star. George receives his death knell early on in the film, he has a rare form of leukemia. Without close friends or family, all of whom he shed with his increasing fame, Simmons starts taking experimental medication and embarking on a voyage of depressive narcissism. On a whim, he jumps back on the stand-up circuit and meets struggling starstruck comedian Ira Wright (a slimmed down and adorable Seth Rogen), who he picks up as an assistant and hired confidante. For the first half of the film, we are shown the growth of an accidental friendship between the two as Simmons attempts to come to terms with his own mortality and Wright deals with being a little fish camping out on a pull out couch suddenly confronted with tremendous potential. The interactions are a humorous blend of Sandler/Apatow comedy that works surprisingly well. There's a whole lotta scatological crudity and Sandler theatrics that manage to find tolerable footing in something very real and human.
This is the half of the film that works the best. The progression is steady, the writing is sharp, the characters well-drawn portraits of actor folk trying their damndest at every level. Everyone Ira knows is working on becoming famous somehow. His roommates, two guys who go out of their way to remind Ira of their marginal success (mostly on an unbearable sitcom called Yo, Teach!), are played believably by an especially smug Jason Schwartzman and a toned-down Jonah Hill. The girl Ira has a crush on (the amusingly dry Aubrey Plaza) is a stand-up comic girl next door. Everyone's an actor. Everyone's got a sense of entitlement. No one is particularly likeable, but that's where the comedy comes from. Simmons is, for the most part, capable of being an unapologetic asshole at any time. He admits it. He takes the money, the free stuff, and the women who throw themselves at him. We're reminded of this on multiple occasions, the most memorable perhaps being a scene in which puppy dog Ira sits on the couch at George's house, watching TV while just down the hall, a groupie who minutes earlier claimed she had a boyfriend takes it from behind. There are several points where, even if we know otherwise, George reminds Ira that he's an employee, not a friend. But that's the point, isn't it? Comedy is hard. Being 'on' all the time is tough. Funny people aren't so funny when you're the one dealing with their under pressure egos. George, as he learns he's got a fair shot at recovery, doesn't become a magically better person....just a more determined one.
This is where, for some, the film's issues begin. The first and second halves of Funny People could essentially belong to two different movies. In the first we have friendship in Hollywood, in the second we have a desperate attempt on George's part to recover the former love of his life, Laura (Leslie Mann, aka, Mrs. Apatow). The problem? Laura's a married woman with two children (played by Apatow & Mann's daughters). The plot thickens. Basically, if you were uncertain as to George's personality issues before, the second act will have that cleared up for you in a jiffy. Moral complexity aside, each scene remains entertaining and deftly rendered. Laura's Aussie husband is played by a delightfully comic Eric Bana, and the girls have clearly learned a thing or two about being precocious from their parents. It's just a little hard to escape that feeling that maybe they never had to wander back to Laura in the first place. After extended periods of stand-up and industry insight, the weight of melodramatic affairs and marital disruptions brings with it something starkly unpleasant. For people accustomed to the brightness of Sandler's slapstick, this is something of an unwelcome turn of events that seems imperfect in the world of happy endings.
Yet, I'd say that's why it works. Funny People is about just that. It's an incredibly human comedy that manages to touch on what it actually takes to be funny and how difficult and awkward that can be. There's something very real about it, even as it's hitting you with joke after joke about masturbation and male genitalia. Each actor turns in a solid and believable performance, no matter how small the role. Every cameo (and there are dozens) is a success, the laughs rarely miss, and Sandler's never been better. So while the run time is daunting, think of it as getting more for your money.
4 out of 5.
See all of Wilde.Dash's reviews at Love & Squalor.