Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coup de grâce!

That's it. I'm absolutely fucking sick of publications like the New York Times, Pitchfork Media, and probably countless others using French phrases in their writing. I don't understand. It's written snobbery, and it's condescending. "Hm, let's see, nothing in English really expresses what I'm trying to say here. Ah, of course, éminence grise does the trick."

And it's not like I'm a stupid person, either. I mean, I can be dumb, sure. But when you've written an article on Heath Ledger in "I'm Not There," going to great lengths to describe the fucking jeans he's wearing, don't relegate me to a lower tier of erudition by turning to your "French Phrases for Insecure Assholes Compendium."

Don't get me wrong, I love the New York Times, but get over yourselves. I saw "Margot at the Wedding," you New York intelligentsia types are mean.

Related note: does anyone remember how Bugs Bunny used to say "coop da grace-y?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dance like Ian Curtis

"Control" is one of my favorite films from this year. It's a film with both a terse protagonist and terse visuals; it aims to strip away any layer of legend behind Joy Division, but not really. Anton Corbijn, whom I know as a director of music videos (specifically "Heart-Shaped Box" by Nirvana), presents the events in a very flattened way. Take the scene where Ian tells his wife (played by Samantha Morton, whom I always confuse with Emily Watson) that he's been cheating on her. They shoot the scene with a telephoto lens, flattening any sense of depth -- the houses on the hill in the background are very striking, as are the cars lining the road in the foreground. In between these images are Ian and his wife, essentially walking in place as he tells her, in stark black and white. It's very beautiful.

Another aspect of the film I loved was the depiction of music. Normally, and many films are incredibly guilty of this, music is out of sync with what's on screen. Drummers hit anything but the correct drums in accordance with the music heard, guitarists feebly strum the strings for no reason. Here, the actors-as-band-members all perform the songs live, essentially, and it brings this immediacy and sense of honesty to the portrayal of the band. It doesn't feel like we're watching Joaquin Phoenix do his best Johnny Cash. We're watching Joy Division.

Sam Reilly's performance as Ian Curtis embodies what is legendary about the frontman. His energy, the feeling that he was actually giving every ounce of his life into performing. He relates in the film that people don't understand how much of himself he gives each concert. It's this that makes you understand the band's legacy, that he wasn't just some idle genius. The band's formation is, again, presented as quietly and matter-of-factly as possible. It was how bare and personal his performance was, and we see it every time the band is drenched in sweat.

To tie this film with another film based on an English band, Joe Anderson plays the bass guitarist here with his native accent. In "Across the Universe," he's Max, a fast-talking, Ivy League student turned hippie, where his acting style is somewhere between Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell. And he looks like Jared Leto (the actual guitarist of 30 Seconds to Mars [which brings up another point I think Julian and I talked about: why do all celebrity bands have space-themed names? Dog Star with Keanu Reeves, 30 Seconds to Mars, Phantom Planet with Jason Schwartzman, the Bacon Brothers...]).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here's to bronchitis!

Why are children's coughs so cute sounding?

Google aides sanity

So even if I tried my hardest to scrape my brain of every bit of info I could remember, I probably would never have been able to look up the old shows still lodged in my from childhood without Google. But because of I remember "cartoon" and "koala" and "archeologist," I found the show "Noozles."

Thanks also goes to Wikipedia. I have images in my head of a man with an acoustic guitar singing in a cozy meadow with puppets. That's a bit harder to Google, but since they have an enormous list of every show ever put on Nickelodeon, I found "Fred Penner's Place." He also sang "The Cat Came Back," which I LOVED as a kid.

Finally, my mom has always told me that my favorite cartoon had an animated dog named "Belle." Again, the list provided an answer, though I have no memories of the show. It's called "Belle and Sebastian," and it's an anime based on a French book. Here I thought all along Belle and Sebastian were the band members' real names.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One baby to another says, I'm lucky to meet you

It started when I heard Dave Grohl interviewed on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross. The conversation inevitably began with Foo Fighters and boring boring boring. Foo Fighters haven't been good for a long time, and you could really tell that Gross was not interested in the new record.

When she veered discussion towards Nirvana, that's when it suddenly became alive and intriguing. Grohl had very funny stories to tell, and it actually introduced some depth to Foo Fighters' songs, "Friend of a Friend" in particular (apparently written about Kurt Cobain when Grohl lived with him). Everything revolving around Nirvana had this veil of legacy and legend; Grohl felt like a relic of a bygone era, sharing his perspective and detailing what it was like in Seattle circa 1990 as a struggling, talented musician in a ragtag band.

This spawned a sudden curiosity for me. I've never really listened to Nirvana, aside from myriad singles and Unplugged recordings. I was surprised by how accessible "Nevermind" really is -- it's basically a pop album. As Cobain said, they kind of rip off the Pixies. Lots of the songs focus on loud guitar sections and quiet passages with bass and drums. But it all sounds so great. It's a terrific album.

Aside from this, Nirvana seems to be popping up more and more. The Unplugged session is coming out on DVD, and there's a new doc called About a Son, featuring interviews with Cobain and goes over his life.

On a related note, I just saw "Control," another film about a short-lived, high-rise frontman who killed himself. I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sounding stupid

Everytime, for the past week or so, that I've tried to update this blog, I end up not doing it. I deem whatever I was thinking no worth writing about or worry that were I to read it in the future, I would appear stupid. Today, I decided to go back and perform the now-typical masochistic act of reading old blog entries. Like really old. I went to read my Xanga.

At first it was painful, realizing how stupid you could sound. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize I was actually pretty typical. I liked bad music (still do), I wrote bad poetry that progressed to sorta bad poetry, and I had an ideological bent with religion and modern art. My reasons were always very extreme -- "Best movie ever!" -- and I was actually a pretty bad speller. I was pretty much an average, loud-mouth high schooler with plenty of recycled opinions and a few of my own. And among the many lists of bullshit, because prioritizing and reprioritizing your life or figuring out 5 things to do with your life is always amusing, one caught my eye: "I wish I could watch movies for a living."

It made me smile reading that. It's something I've been saying lately, and it wasn't part of remembering some mantra from adolescence. I thought it was something fairly recent, this resurgence of movie watching. It was nice to find that parallel, to see that this really is something that I have loved for a long time.

I really was out to find evidence that I'm more dumb than not, but my old posts did make me laugh a little bit and cringe a lot. But so do old pictures of hairdos. Kids like ranting and pontificating about big ideas. The most troubling thing I read was a post from when I was really depressed. It was just this monstrous rambling diatribe that was a big plea for help. Nothing about it sounded stupid.

Monday, November 5, 2007