Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rewind #11

Bats For Lashes: Fur And Gold (2007)

Natasha Khan is sexy. Her voice, her music, her sense of the world, her entity. When I first heard the song "What's A Girl To Do?", I thought to myself, this song either really sucks or it's amazing! Well, after subsequent listenings (about five hundred at this point), I've come to the conclusion that Khan is a genius. Her music is haunting and ethereal and celestial and it's within my weather, soft and brooding. I really love singers who have a deep pleasurable presence to their voices, the kind that drag me down into a morphine haze as I wallow in the thoughtless realm of my inner soul, a place where I've always felt an extreme sense of comfort. Ever since I could remember, I've found outlets that allow me to escape from the world, into fantasies that blossom in my mind. That's why I've always loved books and movies and stories and art and music. These avenues of creative input take us into otherworldly places, transcending our mundane lives in beautiful and philosophical ways. Bats For Lashes does all of this very effectively for me. I read about her album in some obscure songwriting magazine and the description made me want to go out and get it right away. There will always be rays of light that descend from on high, which are meant for your eyes and when you see them, you must take a moment to give thanks to the universe. This one is mine.

Cache/Funny Games: Michael Haneke (2005/2008)

Michael Haneke is evil. That's the thought that I had after watching the movie Funny Games (the remake with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). But then I started to think about the the director and his whole perspective on film. Earlier in the year, we watched another Haneke film called Cache (Hidden), which is about guilt, the type of guilt that rises up from some deep bellowness place and the way that it makes you act. It was a surreal minimal film that forced the audience to think about the nature of their lives long after they left the theater. It was the type of movie that I ultimately come to appreciate for all of the underhanded subtle techniques that make it stick to your hide. I love stuff like that when it's done supremely well, and xtimu and I spent days having dialogue about it. Well, with this in mind, I began to digest what was happening in Funny Games. I realized that Haneke was making a commentary about the type of film-goer who loves to watch movies like Scream or Saw, the type of movie-watchers who need to see breasts during a rape scene, the type of people who want their movies to stay inside the theater, the type of people who want to regale you with morbidity just to see the reaction on your face. I understand these type of people because I used to seek out those types of films as well. They're people who can't escape their miserableness and unconsciously search out for more shit to make their lives even more miserable. It's a vicious cycle and we all know that there are film-makers, musicians, politicians, corporations and just people out there who will take advantage of the lower nature of human beings. Well, not Michael Haneke. He doesn't want you to feel comfortable with your lesser self. He wants you to look through that viewfinder where you've always found sick pleasure and he hopes that when you see it through his filter, there will be a big fat middle finger stuck in your face saying "Fuck You!". I highly recommend his movies.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

52 Months

So, apparently by ensconcing Lucas in a world of books we have guided him into the wonderful world of reading. We often find him sitting alone checking out one of his favorite stories. Both Xtimu and I were avid readers when we were younger, mostly because each of us had a great desire to escape from our lives. Now, hopefully that isn't the main reason Lucas loves reading so much and eventually I only want him to find a healthy balance between escapism and reality, our attitude toward the type of environment our children will inhabit always seems to resemble a library.

Many times a day Lucas will very politely ask if you would like to read a book with him. It's one of his favorite activities and most of the time we indulge him. Reading aloud has been a new experience for me and at first I couldn't grock the cadence required of the task. The sound inside your head is always different than what actually comes out. But now that I've had four years to practice, I've really come to enjoy sharing a story to the world with my voice and as a writer myself, who may be required to read before an audience in the future, it makes for great training.

Lately we've been expanding our repertoire. A few months ago we found the book, The Hobbit, at Xtimu's parents house and on a whim I started reading it to him. It was very easy to read and he actually seemed to be interested in the story. I remember trying to read this novel as young teen and being completely flustered by it. It seemed very complicated and intricately written but now, as I began to read it to my son, the words were flowing like water over river rocks. We read a few pages then put the book down and I figured that would be the end of it, but Lucas had other ideas. He began to ask me about the Hobbit and Bilbo Baggins and suggested that we continue to read the fantastic tale. After taking a moment to think about if it was appropriate for a four-year-old, I decided that it might be interesting to read an entire novel aloud to my son.

Well, now we are over halfway finished with the book and Lucas absolutely loves it. There have been a few moments (just try to describe trolls and goblins and gollum without scaring the crap out of a child) but we've yet to have a terrified boy waking in the middle of the night from wicked dreams. He's really adapted to the tenor of the book and has fully become engrossed in the characters and story. He tells others about Bilbo Baggins or Gandalf and constantly asks me questions about the Lonely Mountain or the dwarves. It's all super cool and I'm excited about this new adventure we've undertaken, even contemplating what we should read next. Although Lucas often tells me during our time together that when we finish the book, he wants to start over and read it again!

Another aspect of the book that Lucas totally digs is the map Tolkien inserted at the beginning of the book. Lucas often wants to check the map to see exactly how far they've come in their quest. I try to imagine the world that he sees inside his brain and the wonder of it must be amazing. Children's brains are so massive, the stuff they can think of and store for a rainy day, and this adventure that we're following must bring a fantastic cacophony of sights and sounds into it. Xtimu and I just decided that we need to get a globe for him and Quinn. Becoming aware of the grand scale of the world that we inhabit is an important aspect of growing and since Lucas is so eager to learn about it, we may as well indulge him.

As a father, I never imagined how certain behaviors or experiences would really touch me and the beauty in sharing a moment with your child can't truly be described. I hope that as Lucas grows, we can share many moments like those we are having reading The Hobbit. The amazing part of intimacy is in the way that we communicate so serenely. To eliminate the barriers that rise up between us and be honestly open to the awe of another human being is incredibly special and creates a sense of joy. That's why we get married, have children, seek out the companionship of others, develop civilization. That's why humanity has thrived. It's not a ruthless spirit that's enterprising but a jubilant one that keeps us going.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Rewind #12

Samantha Crain: The Confiscation (2008)

Samantha Crain has a voice that's full of ethereal magic. You hear it and the first thought is that it belongs to someone you know or you've heard it somewhere but can't quite place it. Once you realize it's Crain who's wooing you with her precious chemistry, everything begins to blend into a comfortable room that you never want to leave. That's because she weaves right down through your soul as if her voice has resonated for ages, across the cosmos and finally has reached your lovely brain. It's timeless and will never be forgotten once it crosses the threshold. I find myself constantly putting The Confiscation into every playlist that I conjure for my listening pleasure and I've yet to have it disappoint. In these endless days that spread beyond tomorrow, let's hope that Samantha Crain has discovered a path into our consciousness because the world will never be the same once her presence is known. Here's to seeking that light of truth.

Berkeley Square: Lesley Manning (1998)

Berkeley Square is a mini-series (or a seriously long-ass movie) from our friends across the atlantic, the BBC. The story follows three nannies who, near the beginning of the twentieth century, move into upscale Berkeley Square to watch over the children of posh families. It has terrible production values, looks like it was shot on video and completely lacks the beautiful faces of today's media outlook, but this film is simply wonderful to watch. The way the film-makers weave the story through the households, creating remarkable characters struggling with the wickedness of classism and every other natural desire and temptation that comes with the territory. Each nanny's tale is engaging and completely honest and the actors work magic with a script that is flawless, pulling us back into the world of old that is slowly beginning to crumble beneath the modern era that is rapidly blossoming with the turn of the century. What I truly loved about this series is that everyone is so completely human that it almost feels like someone went back in time with a video camera and recorded it for posterity, finding a way to sneak into the intimacy of these people's lives. No one jumps off the screen with a larger than life persona or movie-star credentials but everyone is absolutely wonderful in their roles, outperforming all of the pompous asses who grace the silver-screens on this side of the water. Hats off to everyone involved. I didn't want it to end.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rewind #13

Tapes 'N Tapes: Walk It Off (2008)

Walk It Off was deeply anticipated ever since Tapes 'N Tapes left their mark with their first album, The Loon, which absolutely blew the roof. Many people hoped that they could follow with an equally impressive display of raw nerve and stone shuddering strength but there were others who imagined a fall off from these guys. Quite often, through the annals of music history, we've seen the faltering of bands after flashing like a supernova right from the beginning and from the look of all the lists from the respectable crowds out there, Walk It Off didn't measure up. Well, I'm here to say that I like it a lot. It has many of the great elements we've heard before with Tapes 'N Tapes, from the blasting genius of "Headshock" to the cool wanderings of the song "Anvil". It's a blissful package they delivered to my ears this year and just about what I was expecting. I remember standing around a ringed light underneath the stars near the breath of midnight almost a year ago whilst listening to the first Tapes 'N Tapes album. It was a magical moment and a friend of mine asked me what I thought would come from these guys in the future. He was unsure that they'd give us more of what we were searching for, but I looked deep into the flames and listened to the blood pumping from the speakers. Then, in a moment, I knew that, even though everything shifts with change, we were in for a pleasant journey.

Earth: Deepa Mehta (1998)

Earth is the second of her elemental trilogy and, as with her movie "Fire" which I saw a couple of years ago, Deepa Mehta has made an astounding film that touches something vitally human and brutally honest. It's about the partition of India, a difficult time of transition for a nation that grew up never knowing independence. What are Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, even Christians going to do about this new-found reach for power? That's exactly what a group of friends, all hailing from a different theological background, must come to face as their world quickly begins to crumble around them. Told through the eyes of a young girl, Lenny, as she watches her nanny try to navigate the carnage of love and violence that envelopes all of them, we are witness to the tragedy of ideologies that will kill at will and the ripple effect that each death leaves in its wake. Friends who once loved each other dearly, turn into enemies and no one is left unharmed by the entire ordeal. Even Lenny must ultimately come to terms with a choice that she makes, which appears innocent to her but eventually burns with betrayal after everything is said and done. We've seen a few movies about the partition era in India here in America but even "Ghandi", which garnished such acclaim, doesn't delve deep into the truth of how humanity viciously tore out its own heart. Today, we still catch glimpses of the Indian world and the fighting that has ceased to quiet. Deepa Mehta has gorgeously revealed the roots of that struggle and effectively points out that if we can't even love those who are sitting at our table, family, friends, then all we will ever have is a world full of suffering.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rewind #14

Immortal Technique: The Third World (2008)

Welcome to the underground. Welcome to the third world. Immortal Technique invites you into a realm that exposes the American Hierarchy and its true purpose; EMPIRE! He quickly disseminates the nefarious activities propagated in the name of freedom and reveals the roots of anti-amerikanism from the oppressed around the world. I often hear many voices around my community; at work, on the radio or blogosphere, even in my own family; espousing the great virtues of this country and though I truly believe in the ideals of our forefathers (flawed though they may be), I know that we still have a lot of work to do. The one refrain that I often get regarding America's fabulousness is that it's the best country in the world or the best system of governance our world has ever known. First of all, probably most of the people shouting out this thought, have never known another system and ignorance rears its ugly head when we speak of that which we don't understand. How can you possibly resolutely claim to know something is the best without experiencing something else? But the true fault with these kind of statements lives in the idea that we need look no further beyond what is already great. It discourages self-reflection. Even if America were the greatest country ever (but how would I really know that), that doesn't mean that we can't be greater, right? The one thing I do understand is that there is a lot of suffering in this country and in the world. For my entire life I have met very few people who truly understand happiness. Isn't that the entire purpose for living? To become happy? How can we appreciate the world that we live in when so much of humanity suffers on a daily basis. It's our responsibility as human citizens of the world to create an environment where everyone may find a path of discovery that leads them to find a wonderful existence full of physical and spiritual blessings. Right now that world doesn't exist and has never existed. America is a powerful presence in the world today and it has become very apparent that our influence isn't leading down a path of enlightenment. Immortal Technique uses his voice to shout out that very truth and even though it may be a message that is hard to listen to, it is vital that we hear it because the only way that we can change the future is if we change ourselves for the better. It's what we must do.

P.S. On that note, there is something I would like to say to Immortal Technique. You have power in your voice and in your lyrics but you diminish that power when you don't recognize the oppression of women in your message. Your mission loses strength when you fall back on hip-hop cliches with regards to women. They've lived in the third world for generations upon generations and they understand what it means to be dispossessed. There's great power in the struggle when we unite together as human beings first and foremost, and we treat everyone with respect.

Encounters At The End Of The World: Werner Herzog (2008)

Werner Herzog makes films that don't fit into any known category and live on the fringes of the film community. So it isn't surprising to find him making a movie about the most remote community on this planet. Encounters is a documentary film about McMurdo Station, the largest human enclave in Antartica, which is based on an island in the middle of the Ross Sea, a frozen body of water the size of Texas. As the camera descends, we discover a world of immense beauty underneath a "frozen sky". The images from beneath ice are worth every second, incredibly evocative and magical. But it takes those with a strong constitution and a strange soul to inhabit a place at the end of the world. Many of the people that Herzog interviews are the types of people who don't fit into the everyday societies of our cities around the planet. These human pariahs seem to need a place where they can perceive the universe through a unique lens. Herzog knows exactly where they're coming from and where they want to go. From scientists studying single-cell lifeforms that show evidence of intelligence, to volcanologists studying one of the most remote and most active volcanoes on the planet, to a man who communicates with penguins better than he does with humans, to a scientist studying the spiritual aspects of the beginnings of life by perceiving neutrinos, to many others who simply need to exist somewhere off the map, all of these people are extraordinary individuals and Herzog brings them and their environment to us with great clarity.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rewind #15

Yelle: Pop Up (2008)

Shout it out! That about sums up the energy of Yelle. Anything that you might want to do that requires notching it up to the next level? Well, pop this into your headphones and bounce. French kick-ass dance club euphoria grooves right along with the shake in your leg, hums right with the roll of your step, thrives deep down in the teenage love of rattling the windows at full volume. Julie Budet is a self-made genius as she rose from the MySpace world into pop heaven and I, for one, am so grateful. I need this stuff every once and awhile. We all need it. No matter how much it feels good to relax with our drugs of choice listening to the greatest down-tempo lounge rhythm or space out to hazy mellow atmosphere of ambient culture or cruise with the casual sounds of indie music bliss, there will always be a place in our lives for the type of music that makes you grab the person right next to you and dance with abandonment. I often find myself screaming at Lucas to "TURN IT UP PAPA!" (he tells me it hurts his ears if it's not loud enough, go figure), throw Quinita up into my arms and bounce off the walls! Yelle's music embodies that spirit, just try it out and watch the smile grow upon your face.

The Passenger: Michelangelo Antonioni (1975)

Michelangelo Antonioni is a freak. About a year ago we watched this movie called "L'avventura" and I did not know what to make of it. I'm usually into movies that don't seem to make sense but resting beneath the surface is a wicked snake that can reach out and sink it's fangs, secreting an undue pleasure. On the other hand, I really don't like films made about complete assholes. So the entire time that we watched it I was conflicted. I knew that I was supposed to like it but I kept thinking to myself, "Fuck this prick!" The dialogue Xtimu and I had afterwards made me realize that I missed all of the cool shit Antonioni does on film simply because I hated his main character. Well, once we watched "The Passenger", I got it. Antonioni creates vistas, magical landscapes visually with the eye of the camera. It's a meditation of sorts and as you wander through his movies you discover a world that is elevated beyond the mundane. Even though the stories and characters of the films aren't very complex, they're interesting enough to hold you and pull you into his world. He's very much into revealing the architecture of the universe, man's version as it meshes with the natural one and in "The Passenger" it's dramatic and grandiose at times, while also very subtle as well. By the end of this tale that follows a man who adopts the identity of a dead man in order to escape his own life, I was completely haunted by Antonioni's witchery. I actually rewound the final scene of the day vanishing outside a ramshackle desert town just so I could feel the essence of that moment. It was incredibly stunning and the movie couldn't possibly have ended any other way. I think that there was a moment in 1975 when this movie called "The Passenger" saw through to the other side. It was absolutely in rhythm with everything.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rewind #16

13 Ghosts: The Strangest Colored Lights (2008)

Every year it seems like a band comes to me through vacant force, like there's an empty spot inside me that needs to be filled. A good wind blows through town and suddenly there they are, smiling at me like someone who knew me in another life. 13 Ghosts slumbered into my consciousness and, like a dream that lingers, never gave me up to the wanderings. I've become completely devoted to them. They don't have a specific sound that can be categorized within one precise genre. From the spacey time traveling opening "The Lonely Death Of Space Avenger", through the gorgeous horns of "Riverside", onto the hushed intimacy of "Soon When I'm Gone"and plunging with the gravity of "Beyond the Door", they traverse the poetic ache of Uncle Walt, live off the land like HDT. Through all of the pain and hope they exhibit in their creative spirit, these guys are reaching out to touch life, searching for the thrum that pulses under the surface. I hope to find it along with them because there's beautiful gems in this country and discovering 13 Ghosts this year has been like digging up something priceless from right out of my own backyard.

My Family And Other Animals: Sheree Folkson (2005)

A film made for Masterpiece Theatre, it reveals the tale of Gerald Durrell when he was a ten-year-old and the family moved to Greece during the thirties. From the book of the same title that Durrell wrote in 1956, we follow the clan on their comical wanderings around the island as they try to find a place that suites their eccentricities. Gerald slowly morphs into a boy out of Lord Of The Flies as he wanders the landscape obsessing about the wildlife. While his brother Larry, who later became a famous author, imagines himself a genius and annoys everyone with his pompous attitudes about everything. Then his sister Margo hunts for men and his other brother Leslie simply hunts, killing the wildlife almost as fast as Gerald can adopt it. It's all held together by his widowed mother who accomodates the lot of them with her guidance and wisdom. The great joy about My Family And Other Animals is that, throughout the entire film, it cherishes a sense of discovery. Even though they are all flawed people in many ways, they all are totally embracing this fantastic new world around them with such an open devouring spirit. And their mother has the warmest heart that every parent should give to their children. It's no surprise that these kids grew up to be famous authors. They were allowed to follow their hearts to the fullest. It's a sweet movie that gives a glimpse of a time when the world still held some innocence before the second world war.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rewind #17

Ida: Lover's Prayers (2008)

Ida has been a perennial favorite of mine but for some reason it often takes quite a long while for each album to register in my conscience. I first fell in love when I heard the song "Maybelle" off their album "Will You Find Me". They have a beautiful soft sound that lulls you into a pleasant state of euphoria. Bordering on dream folk chasing the blues, Ida weaves a blessing upon the ears and I don't think I've ever heard something by them that I didn't appreciate. The albums all have the same feel to them and I suppose that's why it takes so long to really love them after first dropping them in your stereo. But it's a relentless sound that you can't quite shake and after a few months of constant listening, you've realized that they've moved in and have been sleeping on your couch for awhile. It's all good though because they are wonderful housemates that always produce wonderful background music for sitting around, drinking a good beer and indulging in conversation that elevates your soul. In the end, it's simply an exquisite sound.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly: Julian Schnabel (2007)

What an imaginative film! I am a huge Julian Schnabel fan. His repertoire isn't very long but it's so obvious that he's only interested in making good artistic movies. "Before Night Falls" absolutely blew me away and I was so excited to see "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" that I was almost shocked by it, the reason being that it isn't a very accessible film. The movie starts out from the point of view of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a popular journalist and editor of Elle magazine, who has suffered a massive stroke that paralyzes his entire body except for his left eye. His brain is entirely aware but he's completely locked-in to his body. Eventually the movie expands outside his body and mind but the movie holds you enrapt within Bauby's perspective for so long that you become a bit claustrophobic. The imagery that Schnabel uses to reveal Bauby's POV is unique and interesting and the running commentary keeps the viewer locked-in to Bauby's pain and frustration and wit. The story of his life isn't so dramatic but what he does after the stroke is amazing. Narrating his life through an interpreter, he writes an autobiography simply by blinking his left eye. Eventually we fall back to his life before the incident and his superficial existence that all gets wiped out in an instant. What becomes of the person after falling through the rabbit hole is a strange and disconcerting examination to watch. Yet, Bauby manages to discover hope and beauty within this new world and Julian Schnabel is the perfect person to help show us that world up on the screen.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Quinn Noodle

When Lucas was born four years ago we eventually sent out compact discs of a mix that, we thought, embodied our joy at creating such a wonderful life. Quinn has just turned one-year-old
and since we never sent out an announcement or a music mix of any kind, I thought I would make one here.

1. Beautiful Night-Ani DiFranco
2. In The Morning-Norah Jones
3. Heroine-Blonde Redhead
4. Moon Child-M83
5. How We Breathe-Pinback
6. Miss Q'n-Zap Mama
7. Special-Mew
8. Sweet Thing-Van Morrison
9. You Are My Face-Wilco
10. Clean Heart-Sade
11. Happiness-Goldfrapp
12. Long Life To You My Friend-Bliss

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Rewind #18

The Ting Tings: We Started Nothing (2008)

Pop perfection! Every time a song from We Started Nothing pops up on my stereo, I'm transported back through time into a culture vacuum of teenage pop pleasure coursing through my sugary veins. The days are full of sundrenched chlorinated bodies splashing in crystal cool water. The nights are full of kids in shorts chasing moths under the street light as the shadows swallow them in massive games of hide and seek. It's basketball courts full of boys with muscle shirts and painted chalk lines in the cul-de-sac that play out fantasies of major league dreams. It's bouncing on the beds after parents have gone asleep and sleepovers with revelations of junior high crushes and locker gossip. It's full of summer and blinding with the washed out hues of the seventies and eighties. It's the scent of grass lying in the breathe of nostrils as we find time for dozing in the middle of the afternoon. I've always been attracted to this type of pop music. The kid in me wants to bounce off the walls and scream the lyrics at the stars, totally pulled into its vortex with each hook and snag. They create a pleasant nostalgia that entraps my soul.

Stranger Than Fiction: Marc Forster (2006)

Each movie that is made has a certain pace. Depending on who they're marketed toward or simply due to the person who made it, the energy that moves the film is so important in showing its personality. The pacing isn't just based on the flow of the story either. Movies have so many other elements that make them a compound whole entirely. Just the visual structure of a film has an enormous affect on it. How quickly do we cut within scenes? What type of shots are used? Are we close, far away, moving, zooming? Everything gives the movie a certain feel. The sound of a film is dramatic at creating what type of emotion the audience will feel. Are we being manipulated by soaring dramatic sound or does it take a more minimalist approached? The color of the film. Some film-makers even continue to use black-and-white so that their film will carry a sense of nostalgia to the viewer. Films are broad majestic strokes of art that require intense attention to detail in order to speak with a language that makes it unique. Maybe that's why Xtimu and I are so annoyed when we watch a movie that reverts to generic concepts or simplistic ploys to tell the story. It's a lazy artistic eye that cannot think for itself. Marc Foster is not lazy and Stranger Than Fiction actually is a wonderfully paced film. Every time that I thought the movie was going to slip down useless terrain, it ultimately never crossed the line (the DVD box itself had some cheesy ass photos on it, so it was a pleasant surprise to miss all of that). Even Will Farrell, who can go off the deep end sometimes, completely immersed himself in the role and was charming, funny and a delight. In fact, though the movie was star-studded, which quite often terrifies me as well (too many egos in one room can make for a very crowded environment), everyone excelled in their role. And the story of an uptight man who has never followed his heart until he hears a voice navigating his life to him inside his head from an author who always kills her main character and that's how he discovers that he's going to die so what better time than now to live your dreams is such a great concept that, with the right pace, it all comes together very well.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rewind #19

Invincible: Shapeshifters (2008)

Over the past few years I have been trying to shift my perspective about this American Culture that raised me and molded me with clay fingers. One of the most profound inequities in our culture (and in life for that matter) is the way that women are treated. Long perceived as the inferior sex who need a man to protect them(wasn't Eve actually created from the rib of Adam?), we imagine that everything has changed in our enlightened land of prosperity. But did you know that the way that the Constitution is worded doesn't actually allow women the same rights as men in this country. Sure, they have the Nineteenth Amendment and the right to vote, but there is no amendment that gives all rights to people regardless sex, race or creed. In fact, the Declaration of Independence doesn't even include women in its glorious vision of freedom (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness). So it isn't hardly surprising to notice that the majority of musical acts out there getting big play just happen to be male dominated. For every Feist that busts the scene there are ten Ryan Adams getting just as much airtime. Because of this I have made it my mission to create a more balanced listening experience for myself and with this countdown, for you, as well. It makes for great discoveries, like Invincible, who may have slipped below the radar otherwise and because of a focused drive mixed with incredible talent, Ilana Weaver, who is Invincible in more ways than one, is making it work despite the oppressive culture around her. Turning down record contracts from major labels and clashing with studios, Invincible pushes back against mainstream culture with a discordant rush that refuses to recognize the status quo. Until the world makes a seismic shift regarding the most savage inequality ever known to the human community, voices like Weaver's must continue in their fight for truth. But the most profound truth to come from all of it, is that the creative spirit is always more powerful when it comes from an independent part of the artist, free from the culture of money that corrupts everything that it touches. There's a reason we still refer to certain music as independent or underground (even though that moniker has also been co-opted too), it's something that feels genuine, feels like it actually came from the heart.

Salt Of The Earth: Herbert J. Biberman (1954)

Salt Of The Earth was a movie made by blacklisted film-makers who wanted to create a vision of a better America. In a way, they may have been allowed to make a much more real movie because of their banishment from the studio system. Addressing issues like worker's rights, racism, sexism all in one motion picture in 1954 would have been impossible in Hollywood. But Biberman and company accomplished an amazing feat and it has now become a cherished iconic landmark in American film. The movie follows the plight of a group of zinc miners as they go on strike and shows how they and their family react to the ordeal. Amazingly, many of the themes in the film are absolutely relevant to the modern life of today. When Esperanza, the narrator of the film, must have a new radio bought on credit, her husband bemoans credit as the downfall of the working man. Over fifty years later our economy is crumbling under the weight of extensive credit and financial industries the world over, built entirely on credit, are crashing. Not surprisingly, the working class is suffering the most. Another moment in the film, the wives of the miners must stand up and demand an equal voice in the direction of the strike and when it looks like the strike is going to be silenced because of a court injunction, the women step into the picket line to carry on the fight. A powerful feminist image during a time when the movement was trying to regain its footing in American culture, a similar problem for the feminist agenda today as the Supreme Court gradually removes the basic fundamental right of a woman to own her own person. Salt Of The Earth was a powerful film back in the fifties when nobody saw it and it's even more powerful today because people now have the opportunity to learn something about our culture and hopefully do something about changing it.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rewind #20

Deerhunter: Microcastle (2008)

A denizen of my favorite local rag once spoke about "snap", a little something that bands have when they make music that just clicks. Sometimes the music is just amazing and there's no getting around it, but other times there's something about it that you can't quite put your finger on. I, mean, it's good music but nothing that upon listening differentiates it from so many other bands gracing the halls of the underground. That's when you realize that it's beyond reasoning and it's flirting in-between the ordinary lines of the sound waves crushing at your ears. It's buried deeper and that means it has to go deeper within to register. It goes further than conscious thought. It's "snap" and Deerhunter has it. It's big and vital and it has an energy that comes right through the floor. Some bands have it when they start, crashing upon the scene with an enormous creative spark only to fade into apathy as the need for "snap" demands too much. Others take some time to develop it, learning as they go, blasting and flaunting their souls with age. Deerhunter feels new, fresh and though they've been around for a few years, it seems like they've finally crashed the party. They're playing with an epic sound, lasting and effortless. They've got that "snap".

Margot At The Wedding: Noah Baumbach (2007)

Noah Baumbach is a writer and that's why I probably like his movies so much. They have the heart of a literary geek. His movies, which he both writes and directs, are full of characters who are multi-faceted and raw. Watching his movies, I often think about all of the times I've loved the intricate content that you find in a book; the nuances of character's thoughts and emotions that spring off the page with poetic insight. Well, Baumbach's movies have all of that stuff in them. They are little blessings in disguise. Not to say that his movie are all pleasing and joyful. In fact, he often portrays the aspects of human nature that tend to make us digress in life. Yet, even though so many of his movies have characters that can only be described as "shits", they're still so engrossing. Nicole Kidman plays one of these people in Margot At The Wedding. In fact, she plays Margot who drags her eleven-year-old son along to the wedding of her free-spirited sister. All of the adults in the film are neurotic or psychotic or delusional or simply assholes. The only sane person aboard seems to be Margot's son, Claude. When we look at the grand culture of film-making, there are certain actors who are gigantic personalities and who never seem to escape the celebrity that has surrounded them. Well, I always put Nicole Kidman in that category, especially over the past ten years or so when she couldn't make a movie without the word, oscar, being attached to the back of her name with a hyphen, like she married the damn statue. Not to say that she's a bad actor because I used to be enamored with her after watching "Dead Calm" when I was still a teen but she'd just grown larger than any role that she played. She was never simply the character but Nicole Kidman playing the character. Anyway, by the time I was thoroughly immersed in Margot At The Wedding, I had completely forgotten that Nicole Kidman was playing this person. She ceased to be Nicole Kidman and had evolved into this crazy person named Margot. So, after all of those years lugging around (and eventually grabbing) that oscar burden, I think that she's finally played a role that deserves it. We can thank Noah Baumbach for writing and directing a character that was larger than Nicole Kidman.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rewind #21

Beach House: Devotion (2008)

Dreamy devotion to the softness of the universe. Xtimu once told me that the essence of the universe is compassion. We were lost on the northern coast of California and the ocean gods were crashing the shore and the mountain gods were swallowing the sea and the river gods were speaking to us in a torrent of frogs. But standing there in that wind, with my arms around her, holding onto her warmth, it wasn't very difficult to perceive the heart of the ages. Everyday is a witness to a great order and Beach House is the soundtrack. Victoria Legrand's voice lingers like the touch of an angel. Lounging on a Sunday afternoon, Along with Alex Scally, Beach House is the center of the universe. For our entire lives, we've heard stories of paradise, free from the burden of our lives. I don't know if that place exists beyond the few special times that I've been blessed enough to cherish this very life that I'm living, but I can hear it in these songs. With a tiny bit of magic, Beach House has found a way to show us eden.

Atonement: Joe Wright (2007)

From a stupid mistake, twisted around the jealous heart of a juvenile comes a tale that aches with tragedy. I didn't want to like this movie. I'm not a big fan of the writer and I don't especially enjoy watching Keira Knightley pout up on the screen, but there was a soaring song that this film captured with its exceptional vision. With a crisp tone and a beautiful look, we follow the story through the eyes of a young girl as her sister discovers and loses love all in a confusing afternoon. Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis, embodied by Saoirse Ronan in an incredible performance, condemns Robbie Turner for a crime that he didn't commit. Exiled to the vast landscape of France during WWII, we find Robbie desperately trying to get home to his love, Cecilia Tallis, but alas, all because of Briony's mistake, they were never destined to remain together. Briony must spend the rest of her life atoning for this crime and thus we have the title of our film. It really was a gorgeous movie and watching the actors fly and swoon and cry and die upon the screen was so wonderful. Everyone carried the hearts of their characters (Keira not so much) and opened them for us to see. I didn't want to give them my full attention but by the end of the film, I was completely enthralled. Every time I thought that I was about ready to get bored with the way that they were telling the story, it shifted in a totally unexpected direction and though Briony could never atone for what she did, her tale did provide for a great movie.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rewind #22

Human Highway: Moody Motorcycle (2008)

Some music is like the roll of the hills, the smooth of the road, the surge of the waves, melodic and flowing with the heartbeat of a universal perception. You slap on the headphones and the music consumes everything that blazes before it. It's like when you look at something that is in motion, could be anything, big as the world or minuscule like the trail of an ant. Well, as you watch it, you begin to see it as a larger purpose. This moment begins to grow within you. It's a swelling, pulsating organic bloom that opens your mind to this ever-wondrous rhythm in the universe. You can feel the voice of the cosmos buzzing inside your head and no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, nothing could be more perfect. It's the voice of a dream, the one that you've been searching for your whole life. Yeah, sometime it comes at the strangest times. There's a message hidden there, in that music. It's saying, "Whafa, take a moment,sit the fuck down and notice yer life already."

Offside: Jafar Panahi (2006)

Take a moment to think about your perspective on the country Iran. Personally, I don't know much beyond what I've seen in a few movies and heard from the fanatical hateful perspective by the far right. Yeah, they seem to have a delusional president who thinks that his view is the only one of value and who tends to spout nonsense in the form of global dialogue. But I know another president, a lot closer to home, who shares those same attributes. Watching Offside allowed me to witness a crucial point regarding this grand human experiment. When we look at a country and try to understand the society that governs it, it is wrong to condemn the people of that country when we don't like what we see. The majority of the people living in the society are simply trying to live productive lives within the structures that have confined them. With Offside we witness this truth at the 2006 World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain. Filmed at the actual game, the movie follows the plight of Iranian women who must disguise themselves as men in order to get in to attend the match because the leaders of Iran have deemed the environment unsuitable for women. Most of the people don't really agree with this ridiculous law but they're stuck under the oppressive umbrella of the ruling class. The film is basically an extended dialogue about the divisive tenants of Iranian society and whether or not they're relevant for a greater human understanding, exactly what every society on the planet should be continuously asking itself. The entire ordeal blossoms with the national elation of their country's victory and as everyone cascades into the streets, there is no longer any separation between the classes. There's no us and them, no soldier and prisoner, no man and women. There is only an ecstatic explosion of joy that they can all revel in, because in the end we all have that one human trait in common. We all want to feel the type of happiness that brings an infectious smile upon our faces. We all want that lovely virus to spread through the heart of our communities.

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One Year (12 Months)

One of the most endearing moments in a parent's life comes when their baby turns to toddler. They still have this tiny little baby body but they've become upright and begin to waddle all over the place. It's one of the most adorable things to see, this little tiny person walking around. It's really brought a smile on our faces over here at CasaWex lately. Quinn is a dynamic little one-year-old and even though she hasn't started walking beyond a step or two, she simply knows how to go.

You know that the first year is officially over when your baby can keep up with you. I'll hop up off the sofa to grab something from the fridge and by the time that I turn around, there she is scootching into the kitchen after me with a big smile on her face. She zips about the room almost as fast as the conversation. She's always on a quest to discover all the nooks and crannies in our little castle. She chases after her brother with keen intensity and they madly make haste when they've done something they know we won't like. All of it is just about the cutest thing in the world.

So here's what she did to me the other day. Since the days are growing cold, I finally opened up the fireplace and we built ourselves a glorious fire. Quinn was eager to find out about this new activity and get right in there to help. I was excited to show her this vital element and see her reaction but I didn't want her to get too close because babies also have a tendency to be a little ignorant of certain dangers. One of those dangers that she was very curious about was the lighter that I was using to ignite the fire. I had to snatch it away every time that I put it down because she'd reach for it in two seconds flat. Finally I put the damn thing in my mouth (uh, lead by example you idiot!) and though she kept grabbing for it, I was able to keep it from her. Eventually she gave up with that hopeless game and went back to investigating the pieces of wood and the hearth and pretty much left me alone. Well, that's what I thought as I became more consumed with my task. A few minutes later, all I heard was a loud shriek of delight coming from my daughter's mouth. I didn't know what was happening so I turned to see what was up and she was hightailing it away from me as quickly as she could possibly move. I jumped up as quickly as I could and tracked her down before it even dawned on me the reason that she wanted to get away from me so fast (because that's what parents do, instinct tells you to move, so you move as quickly as you can). well, sure enough she had the lighter in her hand and a smile on her face as wide as could be. She was laughing at me!

But that's the type of spirit embodied in this little one. It's ginormous! Ginormous when she laughs. Ginormous when she greets people at the door. Ginormous when she wants something. Ginormous when she's pissed! Ginormous when she loves you. She really is a little bundle of joy and every day, as she advances further, I am blown away by her potential. This little girl is going to expand the possibilities of our world, I just know it.

Who wouldn't want to feel that way about their children. Isn't that the greatest feeling in life? To hold them and see such a brilliant tomorrow. Being a parent completely empowers you with hope. You grow like a balloon but it isn't air that fills you, it's wonder and awe. It's the blessing of seeing life unfold in an amazing way. There is so much outside our windows that reeks of despair and it's been around for as long as I can remember. But all I have to do is sit down with one of my kids and read a story. Everything immediately vanishes and all I know is the feel of a small heartbeat close to mine as they devour every word. How can you not get strength from such a notion?

Only hugs, people, that's what our global soul is lacking...and maybe a bedtime story or two.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rewind #23

JoAnn Kelly: JoAnn Kelly (1969)

"A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a lost gem! I was randomly traveling the interspace and discovered JoAnn Kelly. I haven't delved very deeply inside the blues but Kelly's sound is simply amazing. It's strange that music this profound and wonderful could fall so below the radar of our cultural iconography. I know that our culture doesn't cherish anything that might be deemed too obscure or that doesn't conform to the standard accepted practices of "excellence". I know that there was a great war between the women's progressive movement and the grand patriarchal agenda during the seventies. I understand that corporate elements tend to dilute any type of art that carries the potential of power. I get all of that but come on people, let's get this fucking American Culture Experiment back on track! Everyone should know about JoAnn Kelly in the vast understanding of our musical heritage, much in the same way that we know of Muddy Waters or Bob Dylan. I'm so glad that, today, we have the opportunity to indulge in a broader expanse of art and culture. The world is growing so large, so fast but it's also shrinking at the exact same time. We can see and hear and learn about so much of it. It's so wonderful to turn on my computer and discover bands that I would've never had the opportunity to hear two decades ago, or open a copy of Bitch magazine and find an amazing voice or finally stumble upon the aural prosperity of Ms. Kelly.

Cries & Whispers: Ingmar Bergman (1972)

There are a few moments in life when everyone contemplates the meaning of it all on a deeper more profound level. Even if you are the most shallow person in the world, things like birth and death have to bring out some type of reflection. Ingmar Bergman, the master of Swedish cinema, spent his entire life making movies that explored these precious moments. Cries and Whispers was nominated for an Oscar in the best picture category when I was two years old and it languishes in a surreal landscape as two sister's, Karin and Maria, await their other sister Agnes' death with Anna, her caregiver, lingering close by. Very emotionally open and full of anguish, the film is shot almost entirely inside a mansion with bright red walls engulfing the torment and pain of the four women involved. With a few flashbacks to help with the narrative, it is the type of movie that is revealed rather than told. Much of the story is expressed through the stark visual aura of the film or through heated and expressive acting. The women bury themselves in their waiting and spiral from despair into delusion and the entire ordeal begins to turn nightmarish as Agnes finally lays her burden down. This is my first Bergman film and it was an incredibly different movie experience for me. Though I enjoy deeply emotional films like this that really pull the viewer in with tender fingers, Bergman is definitely diving way down below the surface. It's become so difficult for American film-goers to hold our breath for such a long time before needing some sort of plot device or transition to provide air. But I must admit that I was intrigued by the film long after it was finished and I'm completely curious about what drives this famous auteur (check out the clip below for more insight). So I'm already searching for more of his films and because his repertoire is so long and diverse, it looks like we'll be sharing his company for awhile.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Rewind #24

Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree (2008)

I've been listening to Seventh Tree for almost a year now and the magic in the air continues to permeate my life. I've always liked Goldfrapp's sound whether they put down obscure wonky beats or douse it in the glitter of the dance beat or wallow in dreamy atmospheric beats. Plus Alison Goldfrapp has the type of voice that you want to spend some time with, reminisce of pop sensibilities from the past as you slowly age. Not a lot of people liked this album, especially after the smashing success of Supernature, which made everyone's top ten back in 2006. Little did the critics know but both Xtimu and I really love the downtempo lush landscape of electronic music; bands like Everything But The Girl, Purple Penguin, Buckminster Fuzeboard, FourTet and Nightmares On Wax. So when they all started to whine about the soft atmosphere being unbecoming to the Goldfrapp mantra, I actually got so excited that I went and found the album right away. Their loss, I say, because it's a wonderful album that perpetuates in a musical environment where it's becoming increasingly easy to discard lousy electronic music. Goldfrapp is here to stay through all of their many alterations.

No Country For Old Men: Joel & Ethan Coen (2007)

Ah yes, the Oscar award winning film by the notorious Coen Brothers, who've been making films for over two decades now and were finally given the proper acknowledgment. Though this movie wasn't my favorite by the Coens (see my Coen Country analysis), there is always one truth in the film-making business; the Coen team is one of those who simply know how to make movies better. No Country For Old Men is the type of film that we've seen many times before. A typical white man type of hero comes into a large cache of money and sets out for the good life, but hot on his trails are the authorities and a mad man who brings destruction in his wake. What makes this one different, besides the Coen connection, is that it was written by Cormac McCarthy, the illegitimate son of Hemingway. It's a beautiful film with exquisite pacing along the Texas border that reveals broad open drama with a gorgeous cinematic eye. Joel & Ethan Coen know when to be vicious and when to take it slow and where to turn the eye and when to hold onto a moment and when to end. For instance, during a crucial but apparently mundane moment in the film when our hero tells a young woman that he's lookin for what's comin, she tells him simply, "Yeah, but no one ever sees that". What follows is so completely Coenesque that you'll find yourself saying, "Yeah, why didn't I see that comin." But you know why and that's why you keep coming back for more of the Coen Brother magic.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rewind #25

Beirut: The Flying Cup Club (2007)

Beirut is a band that only a good gypsy could love. They have a distinct sound, one that quickly becomes familiar, kind-of-like if you've heard one of their songs then you pretty much know what they all sound like. You know, it usually starts out with a soft mandolin or ukulele or accordion intro that is just the right pitch for Zach's voice to drift over with his branded unique Zach voice and obscure lilting lyrics, then pick up the tempo a little until it's time for the horns to explode into a rhythmic swinging blast that rockets up into the atmosphere and continue on in that vein for about three minutes or slow it back down to a shudder, much the way that it began. There you have it but then, after a few listens, it all begins to grow more clear. There's a spirit in this music that you cannot find anywhere else. The songs creep down inside you with their beauty and you begin to evolve, you begin to embrace life with a bigger hug. You start to hear nuances in the songs that take you beyond this simple frantic modern world and you evolve some more, you begin to grow inside. There's a world all around us that is fantastical, an amazing labyrinth that we travel and so often we miss the wonders of the universe that exist somewhere deeper than the pandemonium. When I spend some time with Beirut, I begin to notice the wonder all around me and I want to bury myself in it until I'm cold to this life we lead. I want to breathe the fresh ancient cure that I find in their music. I want to evolve.

Serenity (Firefly): Joss Whedon (2005)

Serenity is a movie that came about because of a television show that failed but the true failure that came of it, is that we were forced to depreciate a wonderful conception. Firefly was the original series created by Joss Whedon that was never allowed to fully materialize. It's a shame because what they did with the show was very unique and creative. A diverse group of opportunists, living on the edges of the civilized territories, take on a doctor and his sister as passengers aboard the firefly vessel dubbed Serenity. The brother and sister aren't whom they seem and before they know what is happening, the alliance is hot on their trail. Luckily the captain just happens to hate the alliance and would do anything to keep the prize out of their hands. The show works so well because this initial underlying story is allowed to evolve naturally as the transport ship jumps across the solar system conducting various other adventures in the process. Many devout followers were quite upset when the show was canceled so quickly and they had a fair gripe. There was so much that could have been done with the original concept that it probably would have turned into one of the best shows ever. Yet, because it was canceled, they were forced to condense everything into two hours of entertainment, which naturally caused it to devolve into cliches and generic film-making. So the movie didn't live up to the hype of the series and we're stuck with a dilemma. I was completely enthralled through the first eight to nine hours of entertainment and totally annoyed with the last hour or so. I just have to say right here and now that if I ever see another scene where the hero stumbles upon an incident of destruction and the only person who happens to still be alive amongst the wreckage is the one person who has something completely profound to say to our hero, then I am going to get up and walk out right then and there. That scene has been done five-hundred-million-times in the history of film! Every action movie ever made has that scene in it! It just isn't thoughtful or emotional or creative anymore. Now, on the other hand, Chiwetel Ejiofor is a very wonderful presence on the screen. I think he should be in more films. Hmmmm, maybe he could pull off that dying-in-your-arms-while-handing-you-the-keys-to-the-universe moment.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rewind #26

Ladytron: Velocifero (2008)

For a few months, Ladytron became a sheepish obsession of mine. I didn't want to admit that I was drawn to their music. I used to always dig through the used CDs at the local music stores and I would often come across this album that would cause me to react with only one thought in my head, "I really oughtta buy that CD." I never did, of course, because I'd like to think that I listen to music because of the music and not because of the cover art. That's what I tell myself, anyway. Eventually I found one of their albums whose cover art allowed me no confusion about the need to want it, even though, in the back of my mind, there was always that little insistent voice that reminded me that, not only did these girls rock, but they were sexy too. The surprising part about all of it is that after awhile I really did like the music simply for the music. Their full-bodied-digital-goth-rock-wall-of-sound is loud, it's energetic, it's fun and it's dark. An interesting combination that is uniquely Ladytron. Velocifero stuck in my brain long after I thought it should have left and here we have it, still making tracks, sexy as ever.

Killer Of Sheep: Charles Burnett (1977)

I read about this movie and I thought I'd found a wonderful treasure. Killer Of Sheep was exactly the type of film I'm constantly searching for in the archive of cinematic memory; a beautiful, honest work of art that quietly reveals the nature of our lives. Charles Burnett managed to capture that feeling exactly, with his portrayal of a young family living in Watts during the seventies. With its stark vision of the slaughterhouse where the patriarch works to the ever-so-lonely need for attention in his wife as she waits for him to release the naked dead aura he brings home every day after his shift to the lost days of the kids as they wander the broken neighborhood, ramshackle homes lingering in the rubble of long-forgotten promise. I truly appreciated the time I shared with these people from an era when I was only just perceiving the world around me. So often we watch movies that are a complete waste of time and I'm not only talking about the big budget gas-bags that conglomerate on movie screens by the thousands every weekend. Even small budget films of distinguished pedigree will leave us wondering whether the past 100 minutes was time well spent. Killer Of Sheep was a slow beautiful waltz that was worth every minute.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Rewind #27

CSS: Donkey (2008)

Okay, let's go. Let's move. Let's dance and shake your butt. Let's reverberate inside your brain. Let's shooka-shaaka. Let's twirl with the stars and feel the sweat on your body. Let's move. Let's groove. I remember eagerly grasping at bands with the type of energy that CSS flaunts. Fun and full of pop/groove/slash/reggae, vital and slammin! I love to hear a sound like this purge my brain of thought. It doesn't matter how important my perception of the world has become now that I'm reaching for the downside of thirty. Yeah, I'm more aware, more knowledgeable, hopefully have more wisdom and compassion. Yeah, I care about the presidential election and all of its possibilities, even though the only thing that matters is who will be anointing supreme court justices. Yeah, I have the ability to discern universal ideas with better clarity but goddammnit, sometimes it's so damn fun to lose yourself in the dance. Sometimes we need to find a dark room somewhere that doesn't give a damn about how well you dance, just dancing is enough. It's a place that most of us know in our eighteen-year-old hearts and you know what? Sometimes it's good to find a place where I feel like I'm eighteen again, even though I'm twice that age! Well, I found it with these spunkalicious brazilians and where else can I find it? Maybe, the beauty bar? Ohhhhhhhohoho, that's where CSS should play if they ever come to San Diego! Perfect!

Into The Wild: Sean Penn (2007)

Into The Wild is about a young man who rejects the plan. Graduating from college, society, along with his parents, have already decided the direction he must travel. Get a job, a new car, go to work, get in debt, buy a house, find a mate, start a family, get in debt, pay into the plan for the rest of your life and even though the plan offers promises of opportunity, idealistic dreams and riches galore, part of the plan's agenda is to keep you just short enough to never reach so high. Christopher McCandless decides that he really doesn't like that plan, so he drops out, vanishes into the wilderness, clinging to the natural world and its incredible view. He canvases the United States, keeping afloat with small work so that he can savor the experiential existence. Along the way, he connects with a few people honestly and sincerely but can never stay long enough to leave a lasting impression. Eventually he ends up dead in Alaska and thus, we have the makings of a remarkable story. Whereas, if he made it out alive to tell about it, no one would've read the book and made a movie about him. McCandless spends his entire life running away from the putrid hell his parents ensconced him in as a child. He hates them and what they represent with such a passion that he can't acknowledge their existence in any way. Yet, the way that he shields himself from human connection is an exact reflection of how he was raised. He acts exactly like his father in so many ways that it doesn't really feel like he's trying to embrace the life around him with extreme vitality, as much as push himself off a cliff. It's actually pretty hard to feel empathy for the guy. One of the reasons I like this movie is because Sean Penn did a great job reflecting all of it. The joy and the anguish, the selfishness and the earnestness. It wasn't simply a sympathetic view of what McCandless went through. It was an honest film, made extremely well, with beautiful cinematography and good performances all around. I like Sean Penn's movies. I think he has a perspective that meshes with the way my cinematic mind works. I remember watching him in a movie called State Of Grace, which was this really cool film about Irish gangsters in Hell's Kitchen made by Phil Joanou. That movie has much of the same style that Penn portrays in his films, so I think that he must've been learning a thing or two a couple of decades ago. Phil Joanou also made a movie called Heaven's Prisoners with Alec Baldwin that Xtimu and I saw in the theaters the first year we met. It wasn't a very good movie but in the middle of it, both Xtimu and I turned to each other and realized that it was one of the greatest movies ever made simply because we were sitting next to each other feeling the butterflies in our stomachs that rose up every time our hands touched. So I guess that must mean something in the grand scheme of it all, right?

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rewind #28

Calexico: Carried To Dust (2008)

Calexico has been a favorite for some time now. Through all of their extensive work, since near the turn of the century to their collaborations with Iron & Wine and Neko Case to their beautiful work on the soundtrack to I'm Not There, I've been a devoted fan. Carried To Dust conjures forth all the appreciation I initially felt when I heard Calexico for the first time. They combine a soft country sound with mariachi horns to create a pleasant sound that traverses the length of the border. It embodies the beauty of a heated desert night as the illusion of the stars feather down upon your loving soul, crisply clear and full of epic stories told to a rhythmic drum. It blasts across the open highway, a tale of the road and finding redemption wherever it may lie, sometimes even in death. It's a down-home sound played on the back porch with learned hands and merry hearts. It's a the type of music that I've always held close, within a precious place that helps me perceive and love the world with a little bit more imagination, a little bit more strength.

Goodbye Lenin: Wolfgang Becker (2003)

When his mother falls into a coma during the time when the wall is coming down in Berlin, Alex must pretend that communism still reigns supreme in order to protect her fragile heart. Another movie that perfectly explores the nature of humanity during the later days of the communist era in East Germany, Goodbye Berlin looks into the hearts of human beings and shows the way that the politics of division affect each of us. Alex is a young man who truly wants change to occur in Germany but has to hold onto the old ways in order to help his ailing mother. Yet, in the end he comes to find that his mother wasn't so trapped by an aged agenda as much as held captive with fear and only wanting to protect her family as well. They aren't very different though he always imagined another history as he grew up. Everything in life changes and those who openly grasp that hand as it flees forward in time seem to cherish their lives a little bit more. That's the message that I saw in this charming film and I wholeheartedly agree with it.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Rewind #29

Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles (2008)

Here's some real good chic techno music that descends into complete chaos at times. I want to call it technopunk, even, but don't know if it actually can carry the moniker. After punk flashed through the pan in the late seventies/early eighties, we were subjected to an endless array of bands being labeled as punk. None of them could truly be called punk because punk was always something different that you could never find on the radio. Even some of the punk bands from the early days that somehow found airtime, like the Ramones and the Replacements, had lost their punk edge by the time they found the ears of the masses. Punk is madness, angrified. It is a shout beyond the idea of control. It can't be bottled or labeled or embraced by a structured society. It's very purpose is meant to break down walls, so it will always be a fringe wave...then, every once in awhile it magnifies into something tidal. So yeah, I don't think I can call the Crystal Castles technopunk but there are moments when their sound bleeds through the headphones, causing my functioning brain to cease its banal analysis of life. No...don't...think...only...listen!

Tideland: Terry Gilliam (2005)

Waited to see this movie for a long time because it got such bad reviews. Normally that doesn't phase us when it comes to a Terry Gilliam film because, well, he's an absolute genius, after all. But there really was nothing good coming from the atmosphere regarding Tideland. It's a shame actually, because Gilliam made a good movie. I know that he falls back on some of his typical wierdness but dammnit, I'd rather watch his weird crap than other typical shite constantly being shoved down our throats. I'd rather watch Jeff Bridges decay in a barcalounger for an hour then mummified by an ex-girlfriend who is an accomplished taxidermist. I'd rather look into the mind of a young girl as she tries to navigate a world where she has to shoot up her junkie parents. I'd rather follow down the rabbit hole of surreal imagination than watch part four of some dumb action movie series that has no imagination whatsoever. Gilliam toils where few directors will tread and he has the insight to confuse audiences just enough to wonder what they are watching. In Tideland, so many of the comments that we read on this here bolgosphere questioned Gilliam's sanity regarding the inappropriate relationship between Jeliza Rose, our unlikely hero, and Dickens, a young man with severe brain damage. Every moment of this relationship, as it is portrayed upon the screen, develops completely naturally and the innocence of their game never crosses the line. Those who were offended probably need to look at the deviance in their own hearts to discover the real offense. Terry Gilliam takes these uncharted paths to alter the perception of average viewers, to make them uncomfortable with the way that they watch movies. That's what he's been doing in this business for thirty-odd years and I don't want him to change a thing.

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