Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scared, Not Out Of Here

I'm half-surprised that Matthew Perpetua's Q&A with Michael Stipe on his PopSongs blog hasn't gotten more attention (I hope fan boards are burning up over it at least). Stipe is remarkably candid (this couldn't have happened in 1994) and Matthew doesn't waste the unexpected access. That his comprehensive song review blog could achieve such a grand finale is proof that music blogging of the non-commercial variety is still a worthwhile thing.

But I'm only half-surprised, because REM hasn't made more than a handful of worthwhile songs in the last decade. As much as I enjoy a track like "Imitation Of Life" or "Hope," I'd happily give them up if it meant history could be altered - if the band had stuck to their oft-repeated promise that if anybody left the group, they were done. What could have been remembered as the college rock Led Zeppelin is now an amalgam of the worst aspects of late XTC and late Rolling Stones. Imagine if their reunion for the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame had been their first performance since 1996! We might not have minded Michael Stipe over-enunciating "Gardening At Night!"

In that alternate reality, Matt and Michael's dialogue could be a highly publicized book. It could probably still get published in this one, too. If you are now or have ever been a die-hard REM fan, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fellini sucks.

Woody Allen, in New York:

I have shown some very good films—Bergman, Fellini—to kids from good schools like Yale. Bright kids. And they were not impressed. You know, it wasn’t as though I picked out some kid from the Midwest who’s a churchgoing barbarian. Those same kids that you see in the movie house doubled over with laughter over fraternity toilet jokes are very often kids from Columbia and Yale. We might also still be feeling the fallout from the sexual revolution, when everybody just ran amok talking dirty and doing things that were forbidden and it became the mark of drama and comedy to be simply outrageous. Not necessarily dramatically interesting or particularly comic, but just outrageous.

STFU, Woody Allen. Sorry we don't all wish we were European. Sorry we aren't blown away by the pretentious fantasies of an Italian Spielberg. Sorry our comedies are "just outrageous."

I'll probably see Vicky Christina Barcelona on DVD (it will be the first of his films I've seen since Deconstructing Harry), but it sounds like a European "love vs. sex" name-dropping thesis film directed by Woody Allen. You know what's really disturbing, Wood-man? That the culturally aspirant of America today have to vicariously admire your vicarious admiration of gentile European cinema. "Oh, to have been a stand-up comic in NYC when Juliet Of The Spirits came out!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama Is Funny

It looks like the media's reaction to SNL's clumsy Obama-McCain debate sketch is going to be "hey, did you see Tina Fey as Palin again?" Darrell Hammond plays McCain well enough (Dana Carvey's Bush in a squat body), but with Obama set to win, they need to spend the next two weeks figuring out what Barack Obama's "game" is (my girlfriend is in a UCB-taught sketch comedy group so I've been learning the lexicon).

Obama's "game" is not the Chicago politics no one cares about (if the sketch inspires McCain's campaign to start yammering about Rezko, it's going to be, at worst, annoying, but still...), and it sure as fuck isn't "playing the race card." The latter bit was so off-key that they're either flailing perilously or acceding too much ground to "Ann Coulter pal" Jim Downey, with the show since 1976. "Fair and balanced" doesn't mean they have make up negative qualities. But the problem with mocking Obama is that what makes him such a promising and heroic figure in America isn't something you really want to mock unless you don't like him. For fans (which I assume most of SNL consists of), it's almost like trying to do a parody of Martin Luther King. What they need to realize is that he's not Martin Luther King.

Nothing on the show makes me laugh harder than his Nicholas Fehn, but Fred Armisen is all wrong for Obama. Obama is a nerd (remember Ellen's dance party?), but for a nerd, he's got some swagger. Those smooth Diddy-esque shots of Obama leaving planes in a great suit and sunglasses are probably the best source of comedy material about him (the Scarlett Johannsen joke got closest to it), but Armisen doesn't incorporate that stylishness into his caricature. Instead, he gives us with a halting, closed-off wonk.

SNL needs someone who can come off confident and unflappable. Someone who can hop from serious expressions to bright grins. Someone who can capture Obama's charm in a slightly oversized way, and make us laugh from the recognition. They need Tim Meadows.

So why not let Armisen off the hook and call him up? I'm sure he's got less to do these days than Tina Fey! And btw, Michelle Obama's going to be the first lady soon. Let's not give make-up artists a migraine trying to make Kristen Wiig presentable for the role.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Too Great For Two Terms

As pundits get over the shock of John McCain not soiling himself - and polls reveal that "middle class" means more than "surge," the question as far as historic parallels are concerned is going to shift from which Democratic candidate does Obama resemble to which Democratic president. McCain recalled the elder George Bush (grumpy old man unenthusiastically pushing a two-termer's tired philosophy) enough that you wondered whether Obama was Clinton or Dukakis. Unless McCain is actually Aaron Burr, I think we got this one locked.

To sooth my remaining history-based concern, I really want to read up on the Carter administration, and see if there are some flagrant differences between his and Obama's sensibilities and practices. I'd love to stop imagining Obama competing for the title of Most Admirable One-Termer, with Romney as Reagan.

Separated At Birth?

Built To Spill, "Twin Falls" (1994)

Biz Markie, "Let Me Turn You On" (1993)

Did Doug steal Biz's failed high note, or did they both stumble onto this great off-key hook?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Think about it, won't you? Thank you.

Edit: UMG appears to be pulling every YouTube of The Killers' "Human" despite the song's availability on their MySpace page. Probably because it sucks. Edit 2: Let's try it again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Now we're just dancing for the boys in the Coast Guard. Nobody knows that we were witches in love!

I met you on a Monday, it was Friday night
You were doing all right, cuz it was Saturday night
And we were night bitches, white witches
We lived under the city, we were doing all right

I like all five of the new tracks on Electric Six's MySpace page to varying degrees (Flashy, out October 21st!), but the track I loved immediately - the one I have to play on repeat for a half-hour if I play it once, is "We Were Witchy White Women." Crunkier Roxy Music than even "Mr. Woman," the band races unflaggingly through a single chord progression as Dick Valentine tells a first person narrative about two lesbian witches just trying to get by. The closing guitar solo isn't quite Peter Laughner on "Final Solution," but when I wear headphones I only hear the left channel, full of Allen Ravenstine synth swoosh. Sometimes it pays to have monaural hearing!

Go to the store now, get us something good to eat, baby
Microwave the sashimi
Cuz it takes blood sugar and lots of energy
To shuffle your feet and go dancing with me

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Burn After Reading Addendum

It's quite a trip to see two characters walk into the same Manhattan movie theater you're watching them in, especially when they're allegedly in DC. Now I know how Toronto feels.

The Belated Return Of Johnny Suede

Burn After Reading details the mid-life crises of a handful of DC residents who flail so obnoxiously that the CIA puts them under surveillance and cleans up the aftermath. The actors are clearly having a gas playing their ids (and their age), and it's great to see a Coen Brothers movie where the oddity emanates from the main characters rather than a cartoon environment. (Aside from a minor visual lift or two - most blatantly the hatchet attack from Fargo, the film doesn't trade in on auteurist familiarity.)

For all these pleasures, it's the ending that's most striking. Rather than show a couple dancing happily on a faraway island, or establish an air of collective misery, we arbitrarily cut to a CIA agent reporting the character statuses to his superior, who decides nobody knows what these people were doing - let alone why they were doing it - and that the CIA no longer gives a crap. With the story's lack of importance confirmed, the camera says "fuck it" and floats back up to space the same way it came during the opening credits. It's a giddy nihilism worthy of '60s Kubrick, with JK Simmons as the obelisk.

That this frequently puerile display of aging rubes striving for greatness is so much more cutting than the inflated pulp of No Country For Old Men makes me want to check out The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty just to see if this is really the first great Coen comedy of its kind. The brothers supposedly wrote the script for Burn at the same time as No Country, and its encouraging that they were driven towards this farce while completing the dour retread/earnest adaptation the middlebrow had been dying for. By treating desperate quests for grandeur and meaning so irreverently (it's noteworthy that everyone seems to be childless), the Coens keep from indulging their own.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A licky boom boom down!

Washington Post:

McCain even seems to have forgotten what saved his greatest legislative achievement, which is campaign finance reform. When he was asked during the Saddleback Church debate which Supreme Court justices he would not have nominated, he named Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. It happens that those are four of the five justices who voted in 2003 to uphold the McCain-Feingold law.

Reformer, you know say daddy Rove you gonna blame...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry As Distortions

Why did the NYT pick such an awkward way to report that people are disgusted by McCain's misleading ads? Is McCain barbing the stirring outcry, or are his barbs stirring the outcry?

I guess they can't say his distorting ("misleading" implying too much willfulness on his part) barbs ("smears" doing likewise) are "stirring outcry" - it wouldn't be "objective" to confirm what his campaign is doing. Instead, they announce that others are calling him on his lies, and phrase it so poorly that no one can accuse them of writing the kind of damning headline McCain is asking for.

The only thing at this point that could make me really worry about the outcome of this election is if McCain started attacking Obama on something that wasn't categorically nonsense. Running on loudly debunked lies and lies alone in September does not bode well for a campaign.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Exciting Rob Thomas News!

From Billboard:
We started off with the idea of doing a newer version of (Paul Simon's) 'The Rhythm of the Saints, and that kinda carried us a long way through. It gave us a whole new bed to work with, like 'How do I get my pop sensibility around this and work it into that?' It was a lot of fun. But you go through different phases when you're writing; it took a different turn, and I just followed it, too.

Follow your bliss, Rob! The only thing missing from "This Is How A Heart Breaks" was a "world music" conga break.

So intense. Your move now, Vampire Weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If I was a film professor, I would assign students to make Electric Six videos.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Eight months in, I've seen 25 movies released in 2008 (some late December '07 films are also included). Here they are, in order of preference.

1. Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay
2. Teeth
3. Tropic Thunder
4. The Dark Knight
5. Iron Man
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
7. Doomsday
8. Pineapple Express
9. The Signal
10. The Ruins
11. Hamlet 2
12. Cloverfield
13. Charlie Wilson’s War
14. Rambo
15. Untraceable
16. Step Up 2: The Streets
17. The Happening
18. Get Smart
19. Be Kind Rewind
20. There Will Be Blood
21. Juno
22. Semi-Pro
23. Redbelt
24. 88 Minutes
25. 21

I've got four months to improve the crap out of this list. Charlie Wilson's War cannot be in my final top 20 (or 30, God willing). Recommendations?

Neil Young, "Love/Art Blues (live in Amsterdam, 2008)"