Friday, April 30, 2010

First Heard in April 2010 - "raisin' heck"


I have been listening to the same music since college, so I devised a little project that will spur me to actively pursue new jams. Each month, I will post a mix of the best songs that I heard for the first time within those 30 or so days. Won't you follow me on this journey? Thrill to the futuresounds? Mock me for being late to the party?

VOL 1.:

I couldn't stay away. I heard way too much good stuff this month and I have way too much fun making these mixes. So after a three-month hiatus, "First Heard in..." is back for 2010. Turn this one up loud.


001 Rafter - No Fucking Around
002 Cults - Most Wanted
003 Slothbear - Don't Taunt a Tiger
004 Secret Cities - Pink City
005 Deer Tick - 20 Miles
006 Dom - Burn Bridges
007 Deerhoof - Hitch Hike
008 Stars - Fixed
009 Big Boi - Shutterbug
010 Miike Snow - Animal
011 Sleigh Bells - Tell 'Em
012 The New Pornographers - Valkyrie in The Roller Disco
013 Fang Island - Daisy
014 Local Natives - Airplanes
015 MGMT - Someone's Missing
016 The Mynabirds - Numbers Don't Lie
017 Gayngs - The Gaudy Side of Town

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Film Gauge - Fletch, The Archers and Orson Welles Kick Cinema's Ass

I watch too many movies, and I want to write about all of them. This impulse usually results in me feeling overwhelmed, and by the time I have sorted out my feelings on new releases like Kick-Ass I'm worried that the national conversation has moved on (or stalled completely).

Suffice to say, I feel that Kick-Ass tried to have its cake and eat it, too, and ended up betraying the spirit of the comic with a boring action climax that squandered the movie's pretty strong start. I like Christopher Mintz-Plasse a lot, and the Hit Girl character plays to my affinity for angry but resilient fictional kids who are awesome in spite of a cruel adult world that is trying to destroy them at every turn. I just would have liked it had the movie not shied away from the sociopathy of Nicolas Cage's character, and Hit Girl's by proxy. Nicolas Cage was certainly playing Big Daddy as a kook, in yet another amazing feat of scenery-chewing. I just wish the script would have followed suit.

Anyway, from now on I'm going to narrow my focus and write up three movies a week. I'll try to keep it balanced between mainstream fare (depending on the release schedule) and one of the "film school" movies that I slept on and that are currently clogging up my Netflix queue. Finally, I'll round off the week with a left-field genre surprise like Christopher Smith's mindfreak thriller Triangle, which I loved and will write up soon. It's on Netflix Instant right now.

In the meantime, I'm catching up on the classics:


I gave this movie a spin recently, flush with goodwill for Chevy Chase from his creative resurgence on NBC's Community and after reading an Entertainment Weekly article about the Fletch reboot currently languishing in development hell. Wow. A major studio nowadays wouldn't allow a movie of this kind to be so unfunny for such long stretches. I was surprised by how straightforwardly hardboiled this movie was, as it is mostly remembered for Chevy Chase concocting ridiculous aliases and daydreaming about playing for the Lakers. That's how I remember it from my childhood, anyway. If this were a Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller vehicle, Fletch would be a fucking moron much more often than a competent reporter. That being said, Fletch doesn't quite work for me. It's cool that Chevy Chase is often revealed to be the smartest guy in the room, but why is he also such an incompetent master of disguise? Is it just because he's an unrepentant smart-ass? But why would he endanger his investigation by hiding behind such a thin ruse? Why am I looking for verisimilitude in a Chevy Chase movie? It was interesting to watch this movie as an adult. I kind of respect it, but I can't really say that I liked it very much. Its disdainful view of the rich scores big points with me, of course. Put it on the Underhills' account!

I Know Where I'm Going

Watching I Know Where I'm Going, I was shocked to realize that this movie could very well represent the nexus point and pinnacle for modern opposites-attract romantic comedies as we know them. It bears a striking thematic resemblance to 2009's Leap Year, in particular. The film, an early effort from The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger), follows a goal-oriented, upwardly-mobile young woman on course to marry a wealthy industrialist only to find love with a Naval Officer in a magical land called Scotland. Sure, that kind of plot was around long before The Archers made this movie in 1945. Furthermore, it's not exactly high-praise to compare it to an Amy Adams vehicle (which most likely traffics in regressive gender stereotypes staler than those on display here). The point is that 65 years later I Know Where I'm Going still feels fresh, infinitely fresher than the latest iteration of Katherine Heigl as a plucky single gal who falls down a lot. Powell & Pressburger were so ahead of their time both visually and in the way they directed actors that I Know Where I'm Going transcends the formal disconnect modern audiences feel when watching old movies. In many ways, it presages the "indie-quirk" of the post-Wes Anderson landscape. Again, I'm damning this movie while trying to praise it. Basically, it feels not like a product of 1945 but rather some sort of elaborate, Steven Soderbergh-ian pastiche. Star Wendy Hiller resembles Michelle Williams in period garb. I can't recommend Powell & Pressburger enough. Seeing The Red Shoes at Film Forum recently was a landmark movie-going experience, and Black Narcissus is next on my list.

F for Fake

What a delightful and, like much of The Archers' oeuvre, oddly prescient movie. F for Fake is a surprisingly ahead-of-its-time meta-essay film. Orson Welles re-edits and re-contextualizes documentary footage of famed art forger Elmyr de Hory and biographer Clifford Irving shot as Irving's exclusive biography of Howard Hughes was very publicly revealed to be a hoax. Welles paints Elmyr and Irving as magicians, charlatans, and the filmmaker spins this examination of fakery outward to include Welles' film itself, classifying film editing as a form of sleight-of-hand. Welles imposes himself upon the narrative, casting himself as a rogue-ish conman wandering the streets in a long, black overcoat. He discusses his own career as a cinematic charlatan in lightly egotistical fashion, but he is ultimately a charming and ingratiating host. He's like a fascinating, if overbearing party guest. Turning the camera on himself, Welles animatedly recounts to his dining companions the tale of Irving's meticulously-crafted hoax, occasionally stopping mid-sentence to ask the waiter to clear away some dishes. Bits of obviously-staged reality like these, while amusing, also subtly remind us that we're watching a movie, cleverly skewering the presumed veracity of documentary film. Unfortunately, the movie's lightning-paced editing and florid narration is so entertaining that it may have accidentally given birth to the lightweight pop-documentary bullshit of people like Morgan Spurlock.

Monday, April 26, 2010

TV Tweets: April 5 - 25

So, yeah. I've been slacking. Hope to be back on track again, so here's three weeks worth of tweets for ya. I'll try to make it snappy.
April 7th [Breaking Bad, Lost, Parenthood]
Has there ever been a show with more intentionally self-destructive people than #BreakingBad? No, #AsTheWorldTurns does not count.
Breaking Bad -- home to bald bad-asses.
Skylar is the obvious one to hate for what she's been up to...but Hank! Hank, who seemed so disposable the first time he appeared on screen as the annoying brother-in-law in season one is such a brilliantly complex character. I don't think it'd be possible to predict what has happened to him. This show blows my mind each week, and I'm particularly enjoying how they've given us some flashbacks this season to fill in the blanks, however minor they might ultimately prove to be.

Is it possible not to love the Desmond episodes? Toss in some Daniel Faraday, and it becomes a sure-fire, can't miss 45 minutes.
There can never be too much Desmond, which is why they don't give us enough of him.
Desmond getting his awesome on.

After the jump, I discuss the uncomfortable sexual chemistry going on in Parenthood, what not to do during an episode of Fringe, the vampires, werewolves and ghosts (oh my!) on Being Human, why you can sue me over Glee, and add to the praise already hailed upon Treme.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Longbox Special: Under Siege

Instead of book tie-ins this week Marvel graced comic stands with three one shot books, each focusing on different players in the siege on Asgard.

Siege: Loki #1 was the most story expanding book of the three this week.  From the beginning it was known that Loki was pulling the strings, pushing Osborn to take down Asgard.  However, there was always the questions of how and why he would see it through.
We see Loki speaking to Osborn through the Goblin mask, creating the initial cracks in Norman’s already tenuous hold on his sanity.  Loki then moves on to secure the service of the Disir, monsters just recently seen in New Mutants.  With proof of the Disir, Loki moves to strike a deal with Hela, which he seals in a three-way agreement between the two two gods and Mephisto.  To what end?  Why, absolute freedom from destiny of course.
Siege: Captain America #1 dealt with Bucky and Steve and just how long it takes to resolve the Captain America issue.  Ever since Steve Rogers came back there’s been some argument over who should wear the mantle of Captain America.
The thing I had to keep reminding myself of was that Steve has only been back for a short amount of time relative to the whole Siege event, but it just feels like Bucky has been going on and on about the whole thing for forever.  However, this time around it is all internal dialogue as Bucky and Steve are called to help a man whose family is trapped in the rubble of Asgard.  Both Captains and their points of view are juxtaposed by their responses to the crisis at hand and how they handle the addition of a super villain to the situation.
Siege: Young Avengers #1 takes a look at a group of unseasoned heroes and how they’re reacting in the dust of Asgard’s fall.  In the wake of the destruction, the team of Young Avengers has been separated and a rescue effort has begun.  Two are trapped, two face off against the Wrecking Crew, and another is working his ass off to be a hero.
Wiccan and Hulkling survey the destruction and Wiccan opens up a bit to his alien boyfriend about his Norse fanboy history and why it is the siege has wounded him a bit deeper than one would think.  While searching the ruins come across the Wrecking Crew looting the place and the obligatory beat down begins.  Elsewhere, Patriot and Hawkeye (the non-Bullseye, female version) are trapped under tons of rubble with little air and lots of hormones.  Finally, Speed is out and about trying to rescue as many as he can while looking for his buried teammates.  His efforts are only hindered by his own need to overdo himself.  In the end, he receives some encouraging words from Ronin.
I was surprised that I enjoyed these three books as much as I did.  However, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the books are well written, pulling the talents of some good writers.  These feel like they could have been easy, throw away chapters written over a weekend by a staff intern.  Mind you, they weren’t excellent works of staggering genius, but they certainly add to the Siege experience.  I’ll just be happy when the whole Captains America thing gets resolved.

Friday, April 16, 2010

First Heard in Spring 2010 - "Spring Hopes"

Winter is over. It's no longer so cold as to burn your face off, and not yet hot enough to burn your face off. That means it's time to take to the streets and strut around with your headphones, making grand plans and basking in the renewing world. This mix went through a few drafts. The first was a non-stop compilation of strutting songs, the aural equivalent of sunshine on your face and piss and vinegar in your veins. Then I got more abstract in my definition of spring and started thinking about driving at night and the act's simultaneous mix of exhilarating intimacy and melancholic isolation. Then I saw an arc. I decided to structure this mix as a spring day. Big Star is like a rooster's crow transposed onto acoustic guitar leading into Sam Prekop's "C+F," an early morning pump-up song as delicate as a breeze. Neko Case is an afternoon nap, Bibio captures the feeling of heading out on the town. "Pablo and Andrea" is perhaps the quintessential soundtrack for end-of-the-party reflection. And then you're alone again with your thoughts, and with Karen Dalton before she was homeless.

001 Big Star - Watch The Sunrise
002 Sam Prekop - C+F
003 Wilco - I'm Always In Love
004 Emitt Rhodes - Fresh As A Daisy
005 The Modern Lovers - Modern World
006 Darwin Deez - DNA
007 Neko Case - Knock Loud
008 Love - Wonder People (I Do Wonder)
009 Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
010 Savoir Adore - Space Travel
011 Todd Rundgren - Wolfman Jack
012 Goldfrapp - Rocket
013 Salem - It's Only You (Part II)
014 Yo La Tengo - Pablo And Andrea
015 Karen Dalton - Something On Your Mind


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Longbox Special: Under Siege

Hey everyone!  Miss me?  I took a bit of a holiday last week what with Easter and the light reading week that it was for Siege.  All the same, I started working on an entry for this thread but it never came to fruition.  So here I am to assault your eyes and good sense with an abuse of the English language.  It’s almost like it’s..

Last week’s entries were both of the indirect tie-in nature and were both of the character piece trends.
New Mutants #11 is kind of a confusing entry into the fray of this event simply because it really is only serving as a filler book to go between the Necrosha event and Second Coming.  It’s another character piece that doesn’t much advance the story of the book itself and plays as a stand alone episode.
Way back during the Dark Reign/Utopia fiascos, Dani Moonstar went to Hela, the Norse goddess of death, to regain her powers as a Valkyrie to fight off Norman Osborn’s forces that were threatening the new mutant homeland.  Well, this issue, Hela calls in the favor owed her and sends Dani out to gather the dead at the siege of Asgard.  What Dani doesn’t know is that Hela is sending her there for a reason; to protect the fallen from Disir, Norse demons that feast on the souls of the dead.  During the conflict, we learn that Tyr isn’t as dead as we were lead to believe and that Hela isn’t the bad guy she’s usually portrayed to be.
All in all, this was a nice stand alone piece but still one that is not essential to the larger picture of the Siege event.  Dani is the only one of the New Mutants that sees any action here and so it might have just served them to do a Moonstar one shot book but this was probably more cost effective and didn’t burden the writer with having to come up with something for just one issue with Second Coming set to occupy the X-Books for a bit.
Dark Wolverine #84 wraps up Daken’s involvement with the Norns and the title’s tie-in with Siege.  Previously we’ve seen that the Norns have been trying to manipulate Daken for their own needs and to lead him to being an engine for Ragnarok.  Most of what’s been at stake has been Daken’s sense of agency, his own free will.
This books plays itself out pretty well within the context of the conflict and puts Daken at odds with another psychopath, Bullseye.  Daken is inserted into a reality where his forces are burning and he plays at being a hero-type to little effectiveness.  The read itself is a little hard to follow but is presented in a brilliant fashion with some well written dialogue and gorgeous art.  I have to admit, I also really liked the scene where Daken gives Bullseye a pretty intense kiss.
Again, this book was a good read albeit a hard one to follow at times.  This issue also wraps up things with the title’s involvement with Siege.  I’m wondering if they’ll be turning the book back over to Wolverine proper once things have settled after Siege of if they’ll continue to follow Daken.  He certainly has enough to carry himself for a bit in a limited series at least.

Monday, April 05, 2010

TV Tweets: March 29 - April 4

As always, you can follow me at LowBrowJon to get my digital declarations, as well as other LBM updates.
April 3rd [Fringe]
Thank you, sir; may I have another? JJ must've decided to get involved in TV again; first Richard Alpert & now Walter-nate Bishop. #Fringe
I think it's safe to say this week was the best episode thus far of Fringe. Many of the same aspects that made Lost so fantastic two weeks ago were accomplished here as well, primarily getting real answers about these great characters. The main difference being that these answers have laid the foundation for many more plotlines since we now have a concrete history base to move forward upon instead of being a piece to wrap up the massive narrative puzzle of Lost. I wish they'd have given us some of that info earlier, but we're getting it now. And John Noble certainly was at the top of his game this time out.

After the jump, read up on the dreamers and schemers of How To Make It In America and the new crew for Doctor Who.