Monday, July 26, 2010





Sunday, March 7, 2010

I call the Oscars.

Tonight, the 82nd Academy Awards will happen, and it surely be an interesting one as indie filmmaking will battle it out against that "$500 million" movie. So I'll call most of the awards, as I have no idea who will win Short Subject Documentary.

Looking for that prize...

Best Picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

The Winner: It's a race between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. The Hurt Locker has been experiencing some Slumdog Millionaire type backlash, probably instigated by Harvey Weinstein, and there's that controversy with the e-mail one of the producers sent out. Then again Avatar is a fantasy, which has historically had bad luck at winning Best Picture Oscars, and not only that, the plot is pretty fucking mediocre. I know some films in the past that won in the past have won this award (Crash, Shakespeare in Love) with some weak stories, but Avatar really didn't try. It's a pretty film, and that's about it. So I say The Hurt Locker will bring home the Oscar. I won't be surprised if Avatar wins thought.
The Wild Card: Up in the Air. Or Precious. Inglorious Basterds has no chance though; it's too post-modern of a film to win the gold.
Best Director

Kathryn BigelowThe Hurt Locker
James CameronAvatar
Lee DanielsPrecious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
Jason ReitmanUp in the Air
Quentin TarantinoInglourious Basterds

The Winner: Kathryn Bigelow. No analysis here. Hurt Locker is also a better directed film, compared the relatively average direction of Avatar (I'm sorry if I have an Avatar-bias. It's an average film). Also, it's 2010 and a woman has never won the Oscar for Best Picture. I think the Academy should change that.
The Wild Card: Jason Reitman, though I don't see it happen. He's pretty young, and Oscar has a habit of not awarding the director prize to young directors.

Best Actor
Jeff BridgesCrazy Heart as Bad Blake
George ClooneyUp in the Air as Ryan Bingham
Colin FirthA Single Man as George Falconer
Morgan FreemanInvictus as Nelson Mandela
Jeremy RennerThe Hurt Locker as Sgt. William James

The Winner: Jeff Bridges. It's Bridgesmania right now and rightfully so. He's had a long and great career, and when you think about, he's a pretty under appreciated actor, Lebowski fans aside.
The Wild Card: Clooney, Firth and Renner. Let's be serious though. They don't have a chance.

Best Actress
Sandra BullockThe Blind Side as Leigh Anne Tuohy
Helen MirrenThe Last Station as Sofya Tolstoy
Carey MulliganAn Education as Jenny Miller
Gabourey SidibePrecious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire as Claireece "Precious" Jones
Meryl StreepJulie & Julia as Julia Child

The Winner: Sandra Bullock. For some reason she's had a "comeback" year. I'll dispute this considering Bullock has had a pretty mediocre career, and her 2009 was not just The Blind Side, but All About Steve, the disastrous comedy that has racked up several Razzies nods.
Wild Card: Carey Mulligan. She better win. That is all. Also, Gabourey Sidibe. The early favorite this year is a contendah.

Best Supporting Actor
Matt DamonInvictus as François Pienaar
Woody HarrelsonThe Messenger as Capt. Tony Stone
Christopher PlummerThe Last Station as Leo Tolstoy
Stanley TucciThe Lovely Bones as George Harvey
Christoph WaltzInglourious Basterds as Col. Hans Landa

The Winner: Christopher Waltz. Duh. For a relatively unknown actor who has appeared in little films, his performance is an impressive one in an otherwise pretentious film (yeah, I said it).
The Wild Card: None. Maybe Woody Harrelson, but I highly doubt it.
Best Supporting Actress
Penélope CruzNine as Carla Albanese
Vera FarmigaUp in the Air as Alex Goran
Maggie GyllenhaalCrazy Heart as Jean Craddock
Anna KendrickUp in the Air as Natalie Keener
Mo'NiquePrecious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire as Mary Lee Johnston

The Winner: Mo'Nique.
The Wild Card: Maggie Gyllenhall, but it's unlikely she will.
Best Original Screenplay
The Hurt LockerMark Boal
Inglourious BasterdsQuentin Tarantino
The MessengerAlessandro Camon and Oren Moverman
A Serious ManJoel Coen and Ethan Coen
UpTom McCarthy, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter
The Winner: The Hurt Locker. To be frank, it's a serious war film, compared to the highly original zaniness that is Inglorious Basterds.
The Wild Card: Inglourious Basterds, obviously. A Serious Man is too, but it has a small chance.

Best Adapted Screenplay
District 9Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell from Alive in Joburg by Blomkamp
An EducationNick Hornby from An Education by Lynn Barber
In the LoopJesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche from The Thick of It created by Iannucci
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by SapphireGeoffrey Fletcher from Push by Sapphire
Up in the AirJason Reitman and Sheldon Turner from Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
The Winner: It's a close one. Too close too call, in fact. It'll be between An Education, Precious, and Up in the Air. Let's do some Oscar politics. Precious will win an Oscar for Supporting Actress, so that gives it a third place. Up in the Air has more momentum than An Education, so expect Up in the Air to get the gold.
The Wild Card: Eh... District 9 and In the Loop, but let's be serious.

Best Animated Feature
CoralineHenry Selick
Fantastic Mr. FoxWes Anderson
The Princess and the FrogRon Clements and John Musker
The Secret of KellsTomm Moore
UpPete Docter

The Winner: Up. It's Pixar. It has a Best Picture nod. It's gonna win.
The Wild Card: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Coraline, but hell will freeze over first if they beat Up.

Best Foreign Language Film
Ajami (Israel) in Arabic and Hebrew – Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani
El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina) in SpanishJuan José Campanella
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru) in Spanish and QuechuaClaudia Llosa
Un Prophète (France) in French, Corsican and ArabicJacques Audiard
The White Ribbon (Germany) in GermanMichael Haneke
The Winner: It's a race between A Prophet and The White Ribbon. One of them is directed by the Austrian master Michael Haneke, who could use an Oscar for his distinguished, if not confrontational career. Cache is one of the best movies of the past decade, and the Oscar might give him the award as a Lifetime Achievement Award of sorts. A Prophet is being hailed as a modern crime classic, and it's hype has been growing in momentum. It's too close too call to be honest, but I'll have to say The White Ribbon, since it has won tons of award already.
The Wild Card: Foreign Language film is known for being a pretty fucked up category. Politics and the like can cause a film to not even get nominated. The three other films are pretty standard fare, and they could win if the voters find A Prophet and The White Ribbon too much for their tastes.
Best Documentary Feature
Burma VJAnders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
The CoveLouie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
Food, Inc.Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon PapersJudith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
Which Way HomeRebecca Cammisa

The Winner: Food, Inc. It's the biggest one out of the five. But...
The Wild Card: ...there's been rumours that Food, Inc. royally pissed off some lobbyists, so the other films are wild cards.
Best Editing
AvatarJames Cameron, John Refoua and Stephen E. Rivkin
District 9 – Julian Clarke
The Hurt LockerChris Innis and Bob Murawski
Inglourious BasterdsSally Menke
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire – Joe Klotz

The Winner: The Hurt Locker. Blah Blah Blah tension, blah blah blah good, blah blah blah pacing.
The Wild Card: Inglorious Basterds. It'll be it's token award, and because it's fucking wacky.

Best Visual Effects
Avatar District 9 Star Trek
The Winner: Avatar. James Cameron will commit seppuku if it doesn't.
The Wild Card:

Since I'm lazy here's the ones I don't feel like writing about, but I know who'll win.

Best Original Score - Eh... Avatar?
Best Original Song - "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart. Randy Newman can suck it.
Best Sound Editing - The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Mixing - The Hurt Locker
Best Art Direction - Avatar
Best Cinematography - Avatar
Best Makeup - The Young Victoria
Best Costume Design - I'll say Coco Before Chanel, or The Young Victoria, or Bright Star. Okay, this one doesn't count.

So, The Hurt Locker will win 6, while Avatar will win 4. There will be sparks tonight, so you better watch.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Various Music Reviews

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th music review for new music in 2010! WHAT. I know crazy. Here goes nothing.

Hot Chip
One Life Stand ***1/2
Our favorite nerd-dance-rockers are back with their low-key, soulful disc. Doesn't have "that" song to represent the album, you know, something like "Ready for the Floor" or "Over and Over, but the songs are smooth and relaxing. "One Life Stand" and the closer "Take It In" are good songs, but don't have the same hookiness to them. Other songs work well, too, but as mentioned before they lack those heavy, jerky beats that made us love them in the first place. Then again, I've noticed nobody really likes a new Hot Chip album when it first comes up. Maybe by the end of this year, I'll learn to love it.

These New Puritans
Hidden ****
Hailing from England, These New Puritans combine punk, electronic and hip-hop on their compelling second album. I can't really write anything else about it, though. Lotta stomping beats, chanting about war, and an orchestra of woodwinds. It's a pretty great album that's something of the hip-hop post punk album. I guess. I still recommend it despite this relatively unexciting review.

Titus Andronicus
The Monitor ****
The second album from these Jersey punks is a whopper. If you thought their modern classic from 2008 The Airing of Grievances was epic, then you'll probably be blown away by this one. A concept album of sorts about the Civil War parrelling modern times, the album is certainly one of the year's most interesting releases. At 65 minutes, with the average song lasting more than 6 minutes, The Monitor is a sloppy album, but goddammit that's what makes it great. For a band like Titus Andronicus, technical precision or sounding focused is the least of their worries. What they do best is that they manage to capture the anger and ferocity of the best rock songs. From the new "Your Life is Over"chants of "The Enemy is Everywhere" and "You Will Always be a Loser" to astonishingly epic closer "The Battle of Hampton Roads", The Monitor is fucking ferocious and like Grievances, god damn inspiring. They're too compelling to criticize; if you do, you probably have no soul.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do I smell a new rick roll?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: Overnight

Overnight (2004)
Directed by Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith
Starring Troy Duffy

In 1997, a virtually unknown bartender from Boston managed to sell his script, The Boondock Saints, to Miramax, hungover and in overalls, and got a real cushy deal from it. Overnight, he became the talk of Tinseltown. "How'd he do it?" is a common question to the surprise success of the man with no experience in film.

Overnight chronicles Duffy's rise. But it's not all smiles and sunshine in this movie, as matter of fact, Miramax axes Duffy and the film, and Duffy has to fend for himself now, and the rest of this movie chronicles his ego-driven fall. The film shows Duffy as he negotiates his way in the cutthroat world of film so he can make his movie. He does, with half the budget of the Miramax deal and gets an incredibly limited release. The film does become a (questionable) cult classic on DVD, but Duffy received no royalty payments from it until recently.

Overnight isn't the best documentary. It's a little confusing in the beginning but once you understand everything that goes around it's a entertaining watch, as we see Duffy make outrageous claims (such as claiming that "Harvey Weinstien is afraid of me".), insult film students, and becoming outright paranoid (he was involved in a hit and run; he believed that Weinstein was involved and subsequently locked himself in his apartment and armed himself to the teeth). The documentary is a great on how egos can destroy people in Hollywood. The film is not only a message from Duffy's friends to him, but it should be viewed by any young filmmaker who wants to make it in Hollywood.

However, while at the end Overnight, it seems that Duffy may have lost, he may have the last laugh: Miramax has gone under, Weinstien's new company isn't doing too well, and he finally made the sequel to Boondock Saints last year, making a modest gross despite horrible reviews. It seems that Duffy learned his lesson.


3 out of 4 Stars

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


As a way to make up for breaking my "review a week promise" I'm just going to condense four movies in four paragraphs. Also, all of them are positive reviews! Yay! :3. Everyone's a winner.

First off...

Little Children (2006)
Directed by Todd Field
Starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connolley, and Jackie Earle Haley

In drama, there's a post-American Beauty sub-genre where suburbia comes apart. Little Children is an excellent addition to the deconstructionism of suburbia genre. Directed by Todd Field and excellently photographed by Antonio Calvache, Little Children is a gorgeous film, and thanks to an excellent script by Field and Tom Perrotta, is humorously tense film, filled with sex and deception. Kate Winslet is great as Sarah Price, a former feminist unceremoniously living in a Massachusetts suburb, trapped in a sexless marriage and without any connection to her young daughter. Pressured on a bet by the local Stepford wives, she meets Brad, the so called "Prom King" of the playground. He's trapped in a loveless marriage with a controlling documentary filmmaker, and while Sarah does get his number, she also manages to get a kiss from him. And the plot is set in motion. Other plotlines include Larry, a disgraced former cop who frequently bullies Ronnie, a sex offender living with his mother, play excellently by Jackie Earle Haley. While I did enjoy this film from start to finish, the film ain't perfect. I loved the narration in the film, which is reminiscent of the Danish short, The Perfect Human, as it turns suburbia into the Serengeti. Perfect example of this animal theme: when Ronnie makes his first appearance, it's at the community pool, and the minute people realize who's in the pool with, they scour like animal running away from a lion. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the plot is full of twist and turns that it'll make your head spin. However, I felt the movie was a little long, and could have cut some fat off the script. I'm mixed with the character of Ronnie, who, as mentioned before, is played excellently by Haley, but I feel his presence as a character is rather unnecessary until the third act, and works better as a mysterious, never-seen character in the first half of the film. Overall, it's a terrific film nonetheless.

3 1/2 out of 4 stars


Dark City (1998)
Directed by Alex Proyas
Starring Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Jennifer Connolley and Kiefer Sutherland

Before there was The Matrix and The Dark Knight, there was Dark City, a Blade Runner for the 90s. Waking up in a bath tub without an ounce of memory and a dead woman in his hotel room, John Murdoch tries to piece his life together, and then, saves humanity from the mysterious Strangers. While a sci-fi noir film with a twisting plot and wonderful effects and cinematography, Dark City at it's core is a film full of existential themes. Entertaining at every minute, Dark City feels incredibly grand for an 100 minute film that cost $27 mil (cheap, considering the effects, sets, etc.). It's truly an experience that everyone must experience.


4 out of 4 stars

Roadgames (1981)
Directed by Richard Franklin
Starring Stacey Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis

My friends referred to it as "Osploitation", but it really isn't. Sure, it's from Down Under, but there's nothing 'ploitation about it. Instead we have Stacey Keach one-lining his way on the Australian highway in this tense psychological thriller about sanity. Keach is Quid, an American working as a freelance truck driver. Carrying meat across Australia, encounters strange Aussie characters, Jamie Lee Curtis as an ambassador's daughter and a mysterious man in a green van, burying something in the middle of nowhere. While the film is tense, it does have a tendency to rely too much on Keach's lonely riffing, so that's kind of a put off. But it's still a fun film to watch anyways.

3 out of 4 Stars.

and last, but not least...

Cache (2005)
Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche

A chilling film from the Austrian master Haneke, Cache is a deceptively simple film about the complexity of post-colonial guilt. Really. Georges Laurent is a TV presenter in France, and starts getting mysterious videos his home. Just a single shot of his suave, bourgeois home. Accompanied with unsettling drawings, we learn that Georges has a secret, that threatens to tear his family apart. What that secret is, I won't tell. This film is too intense and captivating to miss. A terrific film from a true film genius.


4 out of 4 Stars.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bonnie & Clyde is on TCM right now, and while it's a terrific film on it's own accord, I just have to say that Faye Dunaway is absolutely gorgeous in the film - just stunning. And it wasn't just looks; She was a terrific actress in the 60s and 70s. She was fantastic in Network as the soul-crushing tv exec, a role that earned her an Oscar. Too bad the 80s and 90s didn't fare for her too well. I blame Mommy Dearest.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pazz and Jop Poll.

AnCo unsurprisingly take the Best album honors.

While Jay-Z gets best song honors for the terrific "Empire State of Mind".

Read the full lists here.

Though I only did a quick scan of the list, some things were weird for. Well, only two:
  • Wild Beasts' Two Dancers placed at 147, getting beaten by the likes of Julian Casablancas and Ida Maria. Fail.
  • Health's "Die Slow" only at 71. Did I forget to get the memo?
Also, the list has a decidely Pitchforkesque style to it, leading some to wonder how far indie has come. (via the Alt Report at Hipster Runoff)

Viva La Phoenix!

Phoenix deservedly winning the Best Alternative Album at the 52nd Grammy Awards (to be exact, the half empty, pre-award show telecast). Considering who was nominated (I'll let It's Blitz slide, even if I thought there were many other better albums last year), Phoenix rightfully won against the band that stopped being good some years ago(DCFC), an irrelevant band (Depeche Mode) and wasn't that album released in the middle of 2008, but was still good anyways (Brian Eno & David Byrne)?

Pop open a bottle of champagne, eat some foie gras and join me as we salute Phoenix! C'est magnifique!

Happy Birthday Philip Glass

Stay repetitive, Mr. Glass. I know I'm an hour off, but you're not gonna read this. EVER!. I think that's called being a Knight of Resignation.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

RIP Miramax; 1979-2010

Yesterday, Disney decided to shutter long running indie film studio Miramax. While using "indie" to describe the relatively big studio, back in the day it was the indie studio, essentially helping make independent filmmaking more mainstream. So for that, I salute thee Miramax films! To Harvey and Bob Weinstein's creation!

Here are some of the studios most notable films that it produced or distributed.

sex lies and videotape (1989)
You can say this is the movie that started it all for the studio. While it only distributed the film, without it and it winning the Palme D'or at Cannes in '89, the American indie movement would be less nascent in the cultural, Steven Soderbergh would have been the anonymous director of a Yes live concert, and Miramax would have probably died a while back. Who knows.

My Left Foot (1989)
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, the film was the first film that Miramax was associated with to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Also, Day-Lewis won his first Best Actor award.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The film that introduced the film world to potty-mouthed, bad boy director Quentin Tarantino.

The Crying Game (1992)
Thanks to smart marketing involving the film's twist (you know, girl turns out to be a dude), it became a big hit and garnered 6 Oscar nods.

The Piano (1993)
An art house classic, the Piano helped the studio earn even more awards and helped bolster it's already positive reputation.

Clerks (1994)
While Kevin Smith has certainly lost his groove as a director, Clerks is arguably the cult film of the 90s and at one point was the hottest young director in America. You can thank Miramax for finding hope in the low-budget comedy.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
A film that needs no introduction, Pulp Fiction was a big hit in '94 and is a defining film of the decade. Lines from the movie have entered the cultural lexicon and the film help solidify Quentin Tarantino as a top director.

Kids (1995)
Content wise, Kids reminded us of Miramax's indie roots, despite the fact it only distributed it. The film introduced Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny and art house director Harmony Korine wrote the script.

Trainspotting (1996)
Another film that needs no introduction, Trainspotting is another modern classic distributed by the studio. The film made Ewan MacGregor a star and is considered to be one of Britain's best films ever.

The English Patient (1996)
After years of having it's filmed showered with awards around the world, Miramax finally got the coveted Best Picture prize at the 1996 Oscars, winning a whopping 9 nine Oscars that year.

Good Will Hunting (1997)
While we can the discuss the film's reputation (Patton Oswalt, in one bit, said it would be recited by Avril Lavigne during the Apocalypse) the film nonetheless won a screenplay Oscar Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. While Affleck's career may have floundered, Damon's is still strong. It can be also be seen as the film Gus Van Sant finally earned mainstream vindication, after years of working hard as one of the leading voice of indie filmmaking in the 90s.

Life is Beautiful (1998)
While Il Postino (1995), Miramax's other big foreign film that it distributed was nominated for Best Picture, Life is Beautiful was a bigger hit and Roberto Benigni won an Oscar and became a household name.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Another film where we may have to question it's artistic merits, Shakespeare in Love gave Miramax it's second Best Picture win, beating some movie called Saving Private Ryan.

Amelie (2001)
Miramax, already known for marketing foreign films into unexepected hits, unleashed the inconic cuteness of Amelie on the American populace in 2001. It raked in $33 million at the box office (IMDB), earned 5 Oscar nods and turned Audrey Tatou into an international star.

Chicago (2002)
The Miramax produced musical brought in $170 million dollars, won 6 Oscars (including Best Picture) and help bring back the musical, the genre that had been dormant for about 30 years.

Gangs of New York (2002)
The film that started Martin Scorsese's Best Director Oscar putsch, the film only brought Daniel Day-Lewis out of retirement, and help transform Leonardo DiCaprio from baby faced teen heartthrob into a serious leading man.

Kill Bill (2003/2004)
The ambitious two part epic revived Tarantino's flagging career and reignited interest in kung-fu and spaghetti western films. It also reminded audiences that David Carradine is awesome.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
While not officially a Miramax film, Michael Moore's controversial documentary was financed by the Weinstein brothers and was almost distributed by the studio. Disney got in the way, and it was released through another studio. Disney proved to be on the wrong side of the argument as Farenheit 9/11 became the highest grossing documentary ever and earned Michael Moore another Oscar for Best Documentary.

The Aviator (2004)
I almost decided not to include this one, due to the fact that this movie had many studios financing and distributing it. But it is notable, as it brought Scorsese closer to the Best Director Oscar that had so eluded him for many years (He lost to Clint Eastwood though).

The Queen (2006)
Stephen Frears docudrama featured Helen Mirren's Oscar winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II and her handling of the aftermath of Princess Diana's sudden death.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen Brothers' dark neo-western is probably the best movie of the last ten years, winning 4 Oscars and Javier Bardem's brooding performance as mysterious hit man Anton Chigurh has become a part of pop culture's "fucking scary" sector.

There Will Be Blood (2007)
I'll explain later why Miramax died, even if in 2007 it released two masterpieces that have entered the cultural conciseness. There Will Be Blood earned a second Oscar for Daniel Day-Lewis and changed the way we look at milkshakes.

Doubt (2008)
Continuing Miramax's history as an the premier art house studio, 2008 saw the release of the acclaimed Doubt. It can be seen as Miramax's last important film considering that 2008 and 2009 saw the release of forgettable films like Smart People, Blindness, and Everybody's Fine.

Once the big "indie" studio in the country, Miramax is another casualty to the many Indiewood production houses that have been shuttered up in the past few years. Without these studios bringing challenging films to the American populace, the next few years are gonna suck.

Friday, January 29, 2010

JD Salinger 1919-2010

Well, that 1% chance of me interviewing/meeting/successfully stalking him have now shrunk to 0%. Good Night Sweet Prince.

Stupid Fucking White Man

Listening to Neil Young's booming soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's acid western Dead Man. Featuring the greatest line of all time, as delivered by Gary Farmer: "Stupid Fucking White Man"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fever Ray acceptance Speech

Mrs. Karin Dreijer Andersson, aka Fever Ray and one half of the brother-sister duo The Knife, delivers a bizarre acceptance speech that'll put Lady Gaga and Marlon Brando to shame. Looking like she's an apparition from Ingmar Bergman's wet dream, Karin delivers one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever:

"aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah......mmmmmh....mmmmmmmmmmmmmh" - Fever Ray

But under all that melted makeup lies one of my all-time musical crushes. That cold, so frightening, yet so goddamned beautiful.

PBR Coffin

Thankfully, no Hipsters appear in this photo to further the stereotype, but I'm expecting a bunch of hipsters furiously writing a will on a napkin, preparing a speedball, and hoping to live the rest of eternity in irony.

Monday, January 25, 2010

James Murphy having fun making new LCD album

clip 1 from lcd soundsystem on Vimeo.

Public Enemy - "Fear of a Black Planet"

I'm keeping my promise of a review every week of pretty much anything... without further ado.

Public Enemy
Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

Public Enemy's 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is probably my favorite hip-hop album ever. It's full of unbridled anger and energy, the Bomb Squad's production is groundbreaking, and Chuck D's is not only a great rapper, weaving rhymes like it's second nature to him, he also has a great voice. Full of power and masculine anger, the words will definitely come out in a different context if it's spoken from another rapper. While Millions may have been a breakthrough for hip-hop as a whole (it was named best album of 1988 in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll), their follow-up, 1990's Fear of a Black Planet is equally as great.

Artists usually have a different mindset on each of their album. Public Enemy are the exception to the rule, as each album is essentially about a political apocalypse. They only get angrier with each subsequent album and Fear of a Black Planet is their angriest. Black Planet is the sound of a band at war and with nothing to lose. The album came out after Professor Griff's alleged anti-Semitic comments caused controversy, and Chuck D's rhymes as if he's protecting not only Griff's life, but the well being of Public Enemy itself.

The album is like being beaten nonstop from start to finish. From the opening collage of "Contract on the World Love Jam" to the classic closer, "Fight the Power", Black Planet is a hip-hop album with the soul of a punk rock album. The Bomb Squad production is relentless, mixing funk samples with the sounds of sirens and alarms, splicing Chuck D's rhymes and it creates a mood of panic. While released in 1990 (ancient history in hip-hop years), the production sounded like no other, futuristic and it hasn't aged a day, giving the album a greater immediacy, even in this era of hip-hop with it's auto-tune and dance samples.

The other sticking point for the album's greatness is Chuck D. As mentioned before, D is one part great rapper and another part great singer. Acting as a mouthpiece for the frustrations of Black American Men in the 80s, if Millions made him great, then Black Planet turned him into a legend. There are too many great moments from him, that I can only list a few examples of his lyric work from an endless list of greatness:

"Crucifixion ain't no fiction/So called chosen frozen/Apology made to who ever pleases/Still they got me like Jesus" - "Welcome to the Terrordome"

"Burn Hollywood burn I smell a riot/Goin' on first they're guilty now they're gone/Yeah I'll check out a movie/But it'll take a Black one to move me" - "Burn Hollywood Burn"

"Cause I'm Black and I'm proud/I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped/Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps/Sample a look back you look and find/Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check" - "Fight the Power"

Probably the best lyrical album of the last 20 years, hands down.

Thematically, Fear of a Black Planet is easy to understand. This album isn't meant for metaphors. Chuck D, Flava Flav, Terminator X and The Bomb Squad don't have time for memories. They go for the arteries on this album and launch an experience on this unforgettable album. Keep fighting the power, guys.

5 out of 5 Stars

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review of "Contra"

Vampire Weekend

Let’s first talk about the influence on the album. From reggae, to afropop, to even M.I.A.! The album is full of influences from the world of music. Now on to the title, Contra, definitely a sly nod The Clash’s epic Sandinista!, an ambitious triple-album bonanza that covered the bases from reggae to even good ol’ rock ‘n roll. The irony with Contra in retrospect to Sandinista are the references in the music and title. Sandinistas were the communists rebel group in Nicaragua in the 80s. The Contras were their right wing enemies. Whereas Sandinista! was full of political messages sprawled over three records, Contra is 36 minutes and full of safe, uninteresting music.

It’s unfair of me to compare Vampire Weekend to the Clash. Both bands obviously came from different backgrounds, different eras and had/have different aspirations for their music. If anything, Contra is a benign follow-up to their excellent self-title debut from a few years back. Full of life and rich boy cleverness, Vampire Weekend was a wonderful work, despite the overtly hip style of the band. Contra makes them into a rather hateful band, fulfilling that stereotype of them being the WASPY rich boys that they’ve essentially hidden for the most part.

Now not all is lost on Contra. There are some decent songs on the record. The opener “Horchata” is a delightful, tropical pop song, as Ezra Koenig sings about relaxing and sipping on the aforementioned alcoholic beverage, as a bouncy synth line shows us during the song. “Run” is a great too, punctuated by a catchy trumpet line. And of course, “Cousins” is a bright spot on the album, probably the most excitement brought into the album is from this song, full of crunchy riffing and something about something about their cousins or something. There some cool moments in parts on the album, such as the previously mentioned “Cousins” or the M.I.A. sampling “Diplomat’s Son”.

But all in all, the album is relatively bland and uninteresting, not necessarily bad. The songs are good here, good on paper and whatnot, but on this album they come out flat. Imagine if “Oxford Comma” could only get more whiter, that’s essentially what Contra is all about. “California English” is kind of annoying, as is “White Sky”, as it’s the kind of catchy that will invade your head, but not in the good way - note that I said “invade” and not “allowed in”. Not only that, the album runs flat. It doesn’t have a that climatic moment like “Walcott” or “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” on the last album, nor does it vary that much. So the album is essentially the musical equivalent spending the evening sipping on Horchata and doing nothing. Talk about rich boy stereotypes.

But Contra doesn’t mean the band has entered a creative slump, no. Contra is more like a portrait of a band stepping off the gas pedal after hitting youthful highs on their previous work. While the songs can be good in some other form, the band seems to have entered the world of Jimmy Buffest-esque ignorant bliss, and that’s a painfully uncool place to be.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Norm's Warning

"It's stunning how Jay Leno outfoxed you again. Everybody's like "oh, I'm Jay Leno", they do the voice, and everything? Meanwhile he's the shrewdest guy... he outfoxed... you're in good company... he outfoxed Johnny Carson... David Letterman... every 10 years some redheaded rube shows up..." - Norm MacDonald