Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
For lots of folks, nothing gets those endorphins pumping like a good ol’ horrible scary movie. Here are a few essential elements:
This is pretty much a given, but for me, the “otherworld” has to be involved somehow. Call me a prude, but torture porn and slashers generally just aren’t fun for me. Nope, I need the reassurance that the evil presence close by is more than just a socially dysfunctional stalker...an uncontrollable, restless spirit is good, but demonic possession is ideal. And, of course, a creepy little kid should be a part of this.
You know what demonic possession leads to…spider-walking down the stairs, 360 degree head rotation, climbing on the ceiling, all that good stuff. Something about humans making nonhuman movements is really awful, as evidenced in the jerkiness of the girl’s walk in The Ring (through the TV into your house! to kill you!), the back-and-forth head shaking of Jacob’s Ladder, and lots of other movies since.
I’m not a claustrophobe, but The Descent, about a spelunking trip gone terribly wrong, nearly turned me into one. It’s what makes scenes in The Shining (trapped in a hotel with your deranged dad), Alien (trapped on a spaceship with a deranged monster), 2001 (trapped on a spaceship with a deranged computer), and countless ghost and zombie movies (trapped in a house with deranged baddies after you) so effective. And, if you haven’t seen the ultimate example, The Vanishing, don’t worry – I won’t ruin the traumatic surprise.
In a similar vein, places that were once (especially recently) inhabited, but are now abandoned, are good. This has been used a lot – empty carnivals, old mental institutions or factories, ghost towns, am-I-the-last-person-alive? scenarios – but there’s a reason.
Gotta have a clown in there. It and Poltergeist scarred me for life as a kid.
Not an exhaustive list, but a good start. So, what would be included in your ultimate horror film? Let me know what I’m missing.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Whether the picture comes up with anything substantive in its search, however, is debatable. At this point, one thing is unequivocally clear: Anderson is a master of creating iconic scenes and characters – even if, beneath his trademark aesthetics, they can feel hollow. As always, the film is unmistakably cool, and looks great, with a lush color pallet and longtime Anderson collaborater Robert Yeoman's photography at its best. But as discussed earlier, Anderson has found himself in a bit of a rut. You’d think following two of the most beloved dramedies of the last ten years with The Life Aquatic, an undersea “adventure” with animated seahorses, would’ve allowed him to break some new ground (he deserves credit for trying something unusual), but he doesn’t seem to show much interest in moving beyond the formula of emotionally crippled white men who deliver deadpanned one-liners, experience a revelation, and end up changed.
Which is fine, I guess – it’s more or less your basic story arc. Darjeeling doesn't stray from that convention, but in more ways than one, it ventures into uncharted territory for Wes Anderson, and the combination of the (now nearly claustrophobic) atmosphere of an Anderson story and the chaotic energy of India certainly makes for an interesting movie. It feels as if he knew that would be the case, and wanted to shake things up by relenting some control and just letting things happen…which is also the moral of this story. Spiritual enlightenment and relationships don’t come through planned itineraries, learn the brothers, but rather through how we choose to deal with unexpected events which come our way.
Like Aquatic, Darjeeling doesn’t feel fully formed enough to warrant the story’s resolution, although, unique among Anderson’s films, its power stems from its simplicity. The movie’s tragic turning point comes, for the most part, with no pop soundtrack (Jack’s iPod, which he carries with him in order to convey the appropriate atmosphere of the scene – itself perhaps a commentary on Andersonian techniques – is, again, symbolically destroyed when the Whitmans’ journey doesn’t go as planned) or dialogue, and for Anderson, it feels like a revelation. Still, the nature of the story’s climax follows a troubling Anderson thematic thread of peripheral, usually minority, characters who arguably exist solely to help the protagonists on their way to becoming happy.
Anderson’s latest couple of pictures aren’t as satisfying as his breakthrough couple, but the viewer is made aware of the fact that, even within his structured framework, he is growing. Which is more than plenty of filmmakers can say. (Also, it turns out Hotel Chevalier, Darjeeling's "prologue" short, is actually a helpful seperate piece.)
The Darjeeling Limited opens in wide release tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Everything sounded and looked (killer light show) great, even if the audience was clearly waiting for the songs they knew so well. And why wouldn't they? Given their dominance of "alternative rock" throughout pretty much the entirety of the '90s, Corgan & Co. have an arsenal of popular songs, and they certainly delivered the goods. From the pop bombast of "Tonight, Tonight" and "Disarm" to the metal frenzy of "Today," "Zero," and "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," the band was tight, and their sound benefited from the bigness of the theater tour production they perfected with this summer's festival circuit. But, almost as if he can't help himself, Corgan seems to say, "You want to hear my hits? Well, you'll also have to endure my craziness."
There's the rub of the Genius. The same creative force that birthed two of the '90s greatest albums wound up releasing 2005's TheFutureEmbrace, Corgan's decent if overindulgent and pretensious solo LP. As a cynic might see things, when Embrace sold only about 70,000 copies, and Corgan/Chamberlin's new project, Zwan, fizzled, Corgan decided he wanted people to like him again, and is now enjoying both the glory of playing songs people love to massive crowds, and the rock star satisfaction of doing what he wants because he can. Those who might've tried to harness or focus that genius (former Pumpkins James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky, or even temporary Pumpkin Melissa Auf der Mar, some might argue) are out of the picture, and Billy's ego is free to reign.
Still, does it really matter? Sure, Corgan and Chamberlin exclusively performed all the instruments on Zeitgeist, this year's Pumpkins comeback record, but, as everyone knows, that was the case for most of the band's albums, anyway. And on Friday night, they sounded as great as ever. So, if it's Corgan's show, let him have it. Aside from the years of shifts in band personnel since their tumultous Infinite Sadness tour in 1996, it's not entirely clear why every album following Mellen Collie has been half-great and half-mediocre, but Corgan seems pretty aware of what's great, and highlighted those songs Friday.
Chamberlin's monster drumming powers are at an all-time high, and when performing encore opener "Cherub Rock" or Zeitgeist's powerful, ten minute freakout "United States," it was evident that he's truly a force to be reckoned with. Corgan remains an excellent guitar player, as displayed in many solos, including an irony-free, different-from-Hendrix's (still, who has the balls to do that? oh, right - Billy Corgan) "Star-Spangled Banner." Other seemingly unironic moves included closing the first encore with a singalong of "I Love Rock N' Roll," though it should be pointed out that it was the Smashing Pumpkins-focused episode of The Simpsons which answered the question, "Are you being sarcastic, dude?" with, "I don't even know anymore," so who's to say?
For every inexplicable, meandering hybrid of "Heavy Metal Machine" and Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," there were nice surprises, like an acoustic set - including a lovely "1979," performed solo by Corgan - or some lighthearted, goofy banter, like a rambly song dedication to the Phillies by the Cubs freak himself. And after two hours and two encores, Corgan alone lingered on stage, greeting fans who had rushed to the front. He seemed genuninely happy, as did everyone else…and isn't that what it's all about?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
With lots of echo-y vocals, compelling melodies, and big builds to string-enhanced finishes, more than anything, In Rainbows is pretty. Pretty…but creepy – a fairly standard Radiohead description. Whether or not you’re happy with their progression from melody-driven noisy guitars to more stark, electronic terrain, the band’s musical path has had a clear trajectory, and both In Rainbows and their last LP, 2003's Hail to the Thief, feel like a culmination of all the sounds they’ve experimented with.
The record opens strong with the percussive, “Idioteque”esque beats of “15 Step,” which incorporates its slinky guitars and bass with shouting children. Danceable album standout “Bodysnatchers” is next, and with its wailing background vocals and crunchy guitar buildup into a feedback explosion, the song would feel equally at home on OK Computer or The Bends. From there on out, In Rainbows is generally more subdued, and although it all sounds great, a couple more rockers would’ve been welcome (maybe we’ll have to wait for the 8 bonus tracks accompanying the album’s December release in “discbox” form).
As Rolling Stone points out in their album preview, the band played the slow, funky “Nude” regularly on their OK Computer tour, and it shows: its eerie sampled choir and sense of foreboding (“You’ll go to hell /for what your dirty mind /is thinking”) recall “Karma Police.”
In Rainbows also has a strong finish, with the head-nodder “Jigsaw Falling into Place” leading into closer “Videotape,” a sad and beautiful piano ballad with just enough weird percussion to keep it sinister.
With their new set of songs, Radiohead retain their status as one of the Very Best Bands in the World by both staying solidly rooted in the sound they know they do well and continually being unafraid to explore new territory.
In Rainbows will be released to stores in traditional CD from in early 2008.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
I, for one, have thought it's sounded like a cool idea since day one, if for no other reason than to see Smith attempt to move beyond the View Askewniverse...y'know, in a way that doesn't result in Jersey Girl. You even had to hand it to him for Jersey Girl, with its flaws, for tackling something different. Although Clerks 2 proved to be reasonably critically and commercially successful, it was a little disappointing to see him running back to the same characters he'd started his career with - some might call it a return to form; I call it redundant - especially after closing the book with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (literally, if you watched the credits).
So, a Kevin Smith horror movie? ...Yeah, why not? Maybe the script is too risky for the Weinsteins in a good way. A filmmaker who takes risks is much more interesting than one who becomes stagnant. But please, Kevin, leave Jay and Silent Bob out of it.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Thursday, October 4, 2007
In that regard, Hotel Chavalier, the 13-minute "prequel" to Darjeeling, certainly doesn't disappoint. Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman's performances are subdued, the dialogue is sparse but powerful, the music is great, the atmosphere is sadly beautiful...and it's decidedly pretentious. We've seen lots of these shots lots of times in other Anderson films, and Chevalier is unmistakably Andersonian. Which is fine.
Hey, it's great - like any good Anderson fan, two of my all-time favorites are The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore, but more than a few of us felt The Life Aquatic was just a little too derivative of his own work to be taken as seriously as it wanted. It's a tricky, nearly "damned if you do, damned if you don't" spot to be in when you make your name on an identifiable, praised style with very successful work early in your career. Even if it does feel like he's nearly exhausted this shtick, it's much more interesting than a lot of stuff out there. No doubt Life Aquatic would be more well liked if everyone hadn't seen his earlier movies.
Darjeeling - co-written by Anderson, Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola - looks like it'll be, at the very least, another interesting film. And Chevalier, at the very least, is an interesting marketing ploy (it's availble via download, for free, on iTunes...which is cool, but you still might be asking yourself what the point of the whole thing is).
More encouraging is that Anderson has chosen to adapt Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox as his next project. Shot using stop-motion animation, one could fairly safely assume he'll be going in a different direction with that family film...which sounds good to me.
The Darjeeling Limited opens tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
“How and when did society fail you that you would choose to write such filth?” asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) of MCs in general. Yes, it has been a while since the “music causes drugs and violence” card has been played, hasn’t it? It’s not that the drug and violence-riddled neighborhoods in which some rappers live might be the reason that some of their subjects are drug and violence, right?
As familiar with the No Limit catalogue as I’m sure the Congresswoman is, anyone who knows anything about real hip hop should be thankful Banner was there to talk some sense to the pols. “I can admit that there are some problems in hip hop," he said. "But it is only a reflection of what is taking place in our society. Hip hop is sick because America is sick.”
In their eye-rollingly headlined, "Hip-hop hearings are no rapper's delight," The Politico whined, "That’s when the hearing began to sound familiar, with artists and executives bemoaning the sad state of urban culture but offering no plan for change."
Why is it the job of rappers to offer plans for change? And why is Congress’ job worrying about lyrics, as opposed to working on legislation that could reverse some of the conditions they’re so offended by when rapped about?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Their new record, In Rainbows, will be released to the public on October 10. Before you even finish freaking out about the fact that that's, like, in a couple days, there's also this: it will inititally be available exclusively via download from their site - for a price you set.
That they have chosen this route for the distribution of their seventh (and first label-less) LP elicits two immediate reactions: 1.) When you're one of the biggest bands in the world, you can pull off this kind of thing; 2.) Can you believe that one of the biggest bands in the world is so willing to try and pull off this kind of thing? Well, yeah. The reason they are one of the biggest bands in the world is their willingness to explore new territory - now, they're testing the bounds of the music industry in their most explicit way yet.
Oh, Thom & Co., what will you do next?