Tuesday, August 26, 2008

But you've lost your way, you've been lead astray. Are there better days for my fallen dreamer?

New songs on the Billboard Top 50 Singles Chart.

#2 (new): David Archuleta, "Crush"
Good job, handlers! Nick Lachey would have killed for this song. Jon Secada too.

#10 (new): Taylor Swift, "Change"
Uh oh. Overblown platitudes after a refreshingly literal debut. Not a good sign. Hope it's more indicative of the AT&T TEAM USA soundtrack than her new album.

#16 (new): Chris Brown, "Dreamer"
Uh oh. Incoherent bullshit after a steady stream of incoherent bullshit. I bet in six weeks we'll find out he recorded it for Finish Line.

#41 (new): Kenny Chesney, "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven"
A light reggae track about how the church should grant Kenny indulgences due to his massive wealth.

#43 (debut): Demi Lovato, "Get Back"
Because the kids need their own Morningwood.

#50 (from #48, missed it last week): Keith Anderson, "I Still Miss You"
From Wikipedia: According to Anderson, the song is intentionally open-ended in regards to whom the narrator is missing: "Some people have attached their own meaning to it by other losses in their lives—losing a loved one, families being split up." Anderson also co-wrote "Lost In This Moment" with Big & Rich, which I would have sworn they did with Dianne Warren.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Went to Rye Playland on Saturday, where I was introduced to this mind-numbing future techno classic. Sadly, the track stopped before I could get in my go-kart and give it a proper "Night At The Roxbury"-style headbanging. NSFW, in the sense that it will either crush your skull or inspire you to dance. That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby! That's just the music talking to you, baby!

P.S. fuck a 6' height limit to ride the bumper cars. Why? Were they worried I could reach other people's steering wheels? Don't tell me I'll never get to step in one again!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh, Garfield is over. Try co-opting this whimsical critique, Jim Davis!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eat this black music and tell me how it taste now.

Songs new to last week's Billboard Top 50 singles chart.

#11 (debut): Jonas Brothers, "A Little Bit Longer"
A tender ballad about how no one understands the pain of Jiminy Jonas' diabetes. Sounds like Coldplay's "Yellow" sung by Prince's Camille. Their best song yet.

#21 (debut): The Game feat. Lil' Wayne, "My Life"
"Take me away like a bullet from Kurt Cobain." "I'm from a block close to where Biggie was crucified." "And you wonder why Kanye wears Jesus pieces?" "Hated on so much, Passion Of The Christ needs a sequel. Yeah, like Roc-a-Fella needed Sigel!" "Why did John Lennon leave the Beatles?" "Fuck Jesse Jackson, cuz it's ain't about race now!" "I see my sons and put on that Kanye smile." "Shooting at pictures of Don Imus for target practice." When his starfucking is this colorful (Kanye can share his mama now), I'm actually disappointed that he can't make it swing.

#46 (from #57): Jazmine Sullivan, "Need U Bad"
Dub no Keyshia Cole mon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Battle Of Algiers
Unflinchingly shows the horror of torture and terrorism, and suggests they are the inevitable outcome of colonialism. You can see why they announce the lack of any documentary footage, both for honesty's sake and to show off the realism. You can also see why the film has been accused of inspiring political violence, and why it was shown at the Pentagon in 2003.

The movie ignores the near-decade between his first and second killings (when he was flashing and fondling teens at state fairs) and the straight dude who got creeped out by his advances and called the cops is turned into a trusting twink, so it's tempting to accuse the film of pushing a "straight society made him into a murderer" platform. But the movie doesn't hide his monstrosity - we see him put his hand in a victim's chest cavity - so much as avoid the pious "no, you should NOT sympathize" moment most films on the subject matter soothe the audience with.

Dahmer may gloss over the depth and the duration of his sex criminality to make his sexual frustration more sympathetic, but the reason I feel conflicted about the streamlining and alterations is that it succeeds. Jeremy Renner's Dahmer is both yearning and sociopathic, while director David Jacobson plays up the homoerotic satisfaction of the murders, daring to lose the audience in order to show how Dahmer may have seen them. Anti-heroic trash like Hannibal should be more offensive to any viewer, but fictional amorality is treated differently than a film (especially a biopic) that aims for something other than nasty kicks. The proof of Dahmer's greatness may be how hesitant I am to call it great - that I'm searching for a reason to disqualify its effect.

Modern Times
Artful - if episodic - slapstick that's easy to overrate for its flagrant socialism. Paulette Godard's lively "Gamin" helps things from getting as saccharine as they can with Chaplin, but for 2008, this is still pretty sappy.

Neil Young: In Berlin
The last concert of Neil's Trans tour, and the last time he'd stomp around the stage with a voice modifier - instead of a guitar - miming to "Transformer Man." As for the old school chestnuts, the band isn't Crazy Horse, but Neil is still Neil, even with the new wave necktie. The movie also doubles as Nils Lofgren's E Street Band audition tape - has anyone done high kicks on Young's stage since?

The Good: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Don Cheadle. The Bad: Every troubled youth cliche you can think of. The Ugly: Shaky-cam close-ups and nothing but.

The Pope Of Greenwich Village
'80s Mickey Rourke is such a magnetic douche (the missing link between early Marlon Brando and early Bruce Willis) that you have to forgive Eric Roberts for swallowing the scenery whole. After all, shouldn't the Johnny Boy in a Mean Streets knock-off be more attention-grabbing than the Charlie? Their nuttiness must have been contagious - Mean Streets knockoffs usually don't end with Burt Young doing somersaults, let alone "The Summer Wind."

The Laughing Policeman
A Dirty Harry movie without a right-wing hero, just two bickering cops wandering through a lurid maze. It's morbidly fascinating, but Walter Matthau is more fun in Charley Varrick and The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, the crime films he made immediately before and after (after this crass trilogy, it's no wonder he stuck to Neil Simon and kids' movies for years after). The real star of the movie is Bruce Dern, who seems like he's trying to piss off anyone who dares to share the screen with him.

Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine play murder mystery mind games and scream about British social class for over two hours. Possibly entertaining if you also need forty-five minutes to figure out each thuddingly obvious twist.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Like I said, ain’t nothin to the pain. We can change that last name. What's happenin'?

Songs new to last week's Billboard Top 50 Singles chart.

#8 (debut): Jonas Brothers, "Tonight"
Monday was day one of Jonas Brothers Week on TRL, and girls screamed for five hours straight outside the building. It's not a sound a person is supposed to hear - I'm pretty sure it's used in audio torture. This is part of why it pisses me off that for all their high chart debuts, they've yet to release a halfway decent bubblegum track. It's unconscionable that they can't even work up a "The Right Stuff." Follow along, guys: "oh, oh, oh-oh-oh." It's easy.

#29 (debut): T-Pain feat. Lil' Wayne, "I Can't Believe It"
After the robot vomit of "Got Money," I'm shocked at how pleasant a Roger Troutman giggle this second collabo is. Pain sounds like he's phrasing his vocal to exploit the quirks of autotune, rather than just flipping it on out of fashion. Lil' Wayne sounds stoned and amused enough to play along.

#42 (from #55): Rick Ross feat. Nelly & Avery Storm, "Here I Am"
His best bad Biggie, proof that he can ride a spry beat with his oafish kingpin b.s. Guaranteed to be overpraised by folks who think it's mandatory to indulge this shit.

#44 (from #48, missed it last week): Keith Urban, "You Look Good In My Shirt"
Wow, the fruity enthusiasm of Tom Cruise and the faceless enthusiasm of Lenny Kravitz combined with authentic Australian twang.

#49 (from #59): Yung Berg feat. Casha, "The Business"
Imagine cheap CGI robot porn. Now imagine that the droids won't shut up.

#50 (from #61): Leona Lewis, "Better In Time"
Whitney Houston cries "My daughter! My sister! My daughter! My sister!" while Grandpa Clive grins demonically.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

LOL Homoeroticism

"Using women (and not only women) as plot functions may be a clue as to the shallowness of many movies, even of much better movies." - Pauline Kael, in her review of American Graffiti, which I coincidentally read a few hours before seeing Pineapple Express.

Pineapple Express is the shallowest of the better Judd Apatow productions, and not just because of Amber Heard's negligibility (solely representing the lead's irresponsibility is one step above solely representing his heterosexuality). Seth Rogen has praised test screening, but I wonder if extended time spent in that process (LA resident and long-time buddy TJ saw the movie many months ago, well before the red band trailer leaked) secured non-stop laughs at the expense of tone; the film seems more wanton than intended.

'Non-stop laughs' is part of why I feel a little bad about complaining. Rogen frequently gives interview love to Adam Sandler, and he may be doing that as a defense against high expectations, similar to Chris Rock's "hey, I think Eddie Murphy is funny" quotes. Compared to Opera Man's ouvre, or the cinematic output of any SNL class, Apatow's productions are regularly remarkable, with only two Jake Kasdan-directed turkeys and some Frat Pack b.s. mussing up his post-Freaks & Geeks track record. But as his improv-based style of joke packing is normalized, they'll either have to risk seriousness or find new ways to be zany. Walk Hard was bad Zucker, and the upcoming Year One sounds like bad Python, so Pineapple Express should be commended for taking on action comedy and not sucking outright. But the bumbling, surreal violence is only fitfully transcendent (David Gordon Green may be more of a visual stylist than former Undeclared writers, but his movies are still static and talky), and James Franco's beaming dealer - the kind of manchild you'd neither want nor expect to mature - is the only truly fresh character in the film.

As the comedy posse's gifts become familiar, their weaknesses become more grating. The second act bro-squabble, Superbad's sole groan, is tiredly reprised, and the LOL homoeroticism is getting pathological. Bystanders don't "eww" when characters accidentally imitate gay sex anymore, but the notion of two men being physically or emotionally intimate is still played purely for laughs. Superbad actually dealt with the emotions in a close male friendship and Jonah Hill has a career-wide subtext of repression (at the very least, his character should come out in the sequel). But in Express, the eyebrow-lifting insinuations seem like easy gags. None of these guys would say homosexuality is wrong, but there's no sense of whether they're mocking straight unease with gay specifics or coasting on it.

It's also distressing is that, for the first time, excellent comic actors are used as props. The hotel staff in Forgetting Sarah Marshall were all given great comic personas, so why cast Ken Jeong and Bobby Lee, possibly the two most recognizable Asian-American comedians not named John Cho, and then use them as Renny Harlin extras? Rogen told Hill to stay away from Transformers 2, but Michael Bay would have pulled a little more panache out of Gary Cole and Rosie Perez if they were his villains. Why hire them otherwise, right? It's possible the DVD bonus features will be chock full of supporting shines cut for time, but to see the atmosphere of comic generosity decrease around the edges is disheartening - I don't want Rogen to wind up riffing into a black hole like Chevy Chase in Fletch and beyond. The fifth or sixth best Apatow film (there is Talladega Nights...) is nothing to avoid, but I hope we haven't completed the canon.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I signed my name on your left boob. Now go get that tattooed, I'll be back soon.

Songs new to the Billboard Top 50 Singles Chart over the last two weeks, if they didn't fall off after the first (sorry, Jonas Brothers).

#26 (debut): Shwayze feat. Cisco Adler, "Corona And Lime"
Cisco Adler compares a lucky lady to booze while Shwayze lists regional female stereotypes and announces his sexual availability. They tour frequently, you see.

#34 (from #39): Jordin Sparks, "One Step At A Time"
Empowerment theme from Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2.

#36 (from #55): MIA, "Paper Planes"
MIA isn't merely a Global Gangsta exhibit at the Tate Modern: her music is now being used as catchy hip-hop violence in a popular action comedy trailer. So the question is whether she can make her exceptionally catchy art piece cross over outside of an action comedy trailer.

#38 (from #52): Kid Rock, "All Summer Long"
Lyrically he's a bore ("we were trying different things/ and we were smoking funny things"), but his best track in years updates the Licensed To Ill aesthetic by stealing chestnuts to recall - rather than embody - the glory of youth. Sadly, his memories of 1989 fail to include his high-top fade.

#46 (from #93): Shwayze feat. Cisco Adler, "Buzzin'"
Shwayze describes the mix of love and resentment he feels for a groupie trying to "cage him in" while Cisco Adler nods and strums sympathetically. They tour frequently, you see.

Friday, August 01, 2008

"Formula 409"

Electric Six, Flashy. October 21.

1. Gay Bar Part Two
2. Formula 409
3. We Were Witchy Witchy White Women
4. Dirty Ball
5. Lovers Beware
6. Your Heat is Rising
7. Face Cuts
8. Heavy Woman
9. Flashy Man
10. Watching Evil Empires Fall Apart
11. Graphic Desginer
12. Transatlantic Flight
13. Making Progress