Saturday, November 28, 2009


Despite an iPod and a CD wallet stuffed with CDs, fifteen-plus hours of driving down those Texas highways have been soundtracked solely by three cassette tapes:

Willie Nelson- Redheaded Stranger
Brian Eno: Before and After Science
The Stanley Brothers: Old-Time Favorites

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Between a few computer meltdowns, looming projects, and some family stuff, turning my attentions away for a moment. Thanks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


A few weeks back, I posted here how I attended a Q&A with Pedro Almodovar as part of the New York Film Festival. During the interview, it came out that Almodovar worshipped at the altar of John Cassavetes. Which was uncanny, as the man who fathered American independent film isn't necessarily the first person to spring to mind when I think of films like Live Flesh and Bad Education (though I did parse that a scene from Opening Night was appropriated for Almodovar's All About My Mother).
Anyhow, in the interim, I have had Cassavetes' name invoked time and time again. First is in a recent NY Times fluff piece feature about Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. In my review of the film for Paste, I bemoaned the film's "infantile dialogue" and "plot devoid of conflict," spurring a reader to comment that I needed to "read Eggers' adaptation prior to seeing the movie...(so as) to pick up on a lot more of the subplot." Which I uh...geez, really? I need to read an adaptation of a children's book (but not the original book itself) in order to understand a movie that children (and or immature adults) will go see? Per the Times piece, it says that Spike Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers modeled such inanity on the films of Cassavetes.
Not even a few weeks on, I came across Richard Brody's fluff piece feature on Wes Anderson's new film, an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book Fantastic Mr. Fox, in the New Yorker. While we are fellow UT alums, Anderson is not my favorite director of the past generation. In my review of The Darjeeling Unlimited, I unpacked my distaste for his previous efforts:
Anderson’s men still behave like petulant children in the throes of arrested development, while the women—be they Margot Tenenbaum or Eleanor Zissou—are chilly and hastily sketched, serving mainly as objects of desire for the male leads to place on pedestals. All of Anderson’s characters blindly stumble about, emotionally estranged from family, relationships, themselves, and ultimately reality. And yet for all of their personal tumult, they exist in a cute, stylized world as tidy as any play or book.
Needless to say, Darjeeling did little to alleviate such concerns, existing in a bubble outside of modern-day concerns. (And Slate's grousing about Anderson's films and "the clumsy, discomfiting way he stages ineractions between white protagonists --typically upper-class élites-- and nonwhite foils" is dead-on but a whole other can of worms.) The piece asks if Anderson's films are apolitical, to which he responds: "The politics in them is the politics among the characters."

The Brody piece then reveals that a big influence on The Darjeeling Limited is Cassavetes' 1970 film, Husbands, about three grieving friends who go on the bender to end all benders: "'They're all on the cusp or in the middle of some kind of meltdown," Anderson said. "(We) watched 'Husbands' together and we really felt connected to it.'" For a director hellbent on lazily falling back on clichés: this stylized Louis Vuitton baggage made by Marc Jacobs explicitly for me represents "emotional baggage"; my female leads should be seen and not heard; these bandages mean he's emotionally injured, too; "rather than have my characters engage in agonizing yet crucial dialouge, I'm going to deploy a Elliott Smith Kinks song instead," this is unfathomable. I'm hard-pressed to think of a director less interested in what actually goes on between his characters and aesthetically unwilling (or wholly incapable) of deploying language and dialogue to chart or capture inchoate emotions to unearth said politics. Save for maybe Spike Jonze.
For two directors that trade in cleverness, stylishness, and neat'n'tidy characterizations, not to mention eternal childishness, can they be more any more opposed to the femme-centered, mentally-messy, confounding, irrational, uneasy, emotionally-draining, raw, yet totally mature and adult films of Cassavetes?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


While I didn't vote for Paste Magazine's 50 Best Movies of the Decade (Almost Famous? Really? I know I should be pulling for more films about hookers with a heart of gold who secretly love music critics, but still...), I did pen entries for a few of the films: Pan's LabyrinthUpNo Country For Old Men, and City of God.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Finland 5

I know I know, every picture from Finland so far has been of Moomins, but isn't a peroxide blond bad boy also a beloved character from your childhood?

On to the bands...

Astrid Swan and the Drunken Lovers- First band I saw of the festival. Tart and catchy new wave-laced pop, but Ms. Swan's sparkly dress got diminished considerably by the dudes in her band wearing bowler hats. It set an unfortunate trend for mis-matched band outfits.

Downstairs- Blame it on the lead singer's beard, but this band reminded me of Les Savy Fav. Their band blurb though references: "The Fall or early Bad Seeds with a sound that has been compared to NWA and Shellac."

Miss Saana and the Missionaries- Retro throwback from a 15-person ensemble. Miss Saana had the pipes (think Bassey and Staton) to not get lost in the string quartets, backing singers, horn section and a dreadlocked organist, but how can she pay all these folks though?

Cosmobile- An oi band before they got broadband, allowing them to download their new influences: Green Day, Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend. Another friend made a game out of guessing what their influences were for each and every song. He heard lots of Paul Simon.

Plain Ride- Was told that this band was the Smog of Finland and they do have roots in Circle, which should've been a good thing. But Finnish dudes singing about "the bayou" is not a good thing. Lead singer is draped in Jeff Tweedy's flannel, there's a total long-hair hesher guitarist, and a keyboardist in a black turtleneck, but in the end, they sound like George Thorogood: "B-b-b-b-bad."

Joensuu 1685- Every single person I encountered at the Lost in Music Festival, locals and international guests alike, insisted that I catch this trio, who were billed as being along the lines of Jesus & Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, meaning pouty, trance-inducing psych noise cloaked in heavy reverb. Such word of mouth also guaranteed that the entire city was seemingly packed into the club for their performance. The androgynous look of their lead singer had me hoping that a woman might be unleashing such a roar, but alas. A decent enough band, but when they blew a fuse onstage, it broke the spell for me and I missed their cover of "I'm On Fire." Which leads to the Catch-22 of the music scene here, or anywhere up and coming. If you sing in your native tongue, you run the risk of remaining only in your niche market. But if you switch to English, you are then a third-tier simulacra of bigger bands, like, JAMC and S3.

Regina- Seeing this trio gave me great hope that there might be something good brewing here. Solid grooves and well-crafted breaks inform their sleek dance-pop. Even singing in their native tongue (save for one song which had Indian war whoops, which I did understand) couldn't stop them from being the most intriguing and catchy band I caught all weekend.

Reckless Love- For as much as Finland's indie rock scene would like to forget, the biggest rock band to come out of Finland remains Hanoi Rocks. While most of the delegates attention is turned elsewhere, one night we decide to dabble in the heavy metal showcases, meaning we are the only men in a room full of hot Finnish women squeezed into black leather, spandex and sparkles, hip-swaying to Reckless Love.
Clad in similar outfits themselves, the band sang "I Love Rock'n'Roll" in Finnish and then proceeded to made eye contact with every woman in the room during "Beautiful Woman." It's as if Use Your Illusion never came out and Brett Michaels never had to resort to doing Rock of Love, as Poison still ruled the airwaves. It's as if Nirvana, hip-hop, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Radiohead never happened, or at least, never reached Finland. Wait, is that a bad thing?