Archive: June, 2009
The song was recorded April 24 - April 25 at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia with Producer Quentin Stoltzfus and engineers Amy Morrissey and Brian McTear. It's available for FREE DOWNLOAD by gonig to Weathervane's projects page. You need to enter your e-mail address and then they send you the download link. The song's a scrappy little piano ditty paying tribute to Philly's most continually burgeoning neighborhood.
The entire project is non-profit (check out that impressive staff and board) and is funded by donations, which is why you should throw some change in the PayPal tip jar if you like what you hear, and especially if you want to hear more.
Listen and love!
Whoa, Marty, whoa! Taking a break from gritty realism and heading into the supernatural, Martin Scorsese takes on an adaptation of the novel by Dennis Lehane ' my second favorite writer from the The Wire's opening credits. Ok, here's why this movie is gonna be awesome. 1) Scorsese is one of the few directors who is still rockin' it in his later years. While his '70s Brat Pack buddies seemed to have lost their spark, Scorsese is one of few directors that seems to actually still like movies and he's even trying new things with this one instead of resting on his laurels. 2) Ben Kingsley is AWESOME when he gets to be down, dirty and villainous (if you have not seen Sexy Beast, you need to immediately stop what you are doing and watch it. I don't care if you are performing surgery, saving kittens from trees or negotiating a hostage situation. You need to see this movie). 3) Dennis Lehane's books translate incredibly well to film. While Richard Price may take the cake as my fave Wire head honcho, the Price adaptations are never as good as his books (Spike Lee's Clockers is alright and definitely a cool visually but he ruins the dynamic between the two main characters, which is what made the book fucking fantastic in the first place). While Price writes dialogue that would make Hemingway jealous, Lehane writes cinematically, with his plots and characters lending themselves to film without feeling like it was written solely for the screen credit cash grab. Both Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone (don't you dare let Ben Affleck fool you. Kid's got a great visual sense for an actor-turned-director) are both worth seeing and loving. 4) Patricia Clarkson. 5) Max Von Sydow.
But here's why I'm worried. Scorsese made a name for himself in the aforementioned gritty realism and, as far as my memory takes me right, he's largely stayed away from special effects-driven pictures and the supernatural in general. This trailer has horror implications and while ghosts and mental institutions from the criminally insane are scary and all, hasn't Scorsese proved that real life is even scarier?
So what do you guys think? Psyched? Not psyched? Think Lehane is a hack? Let's discuss in the comments, shall we?
Shutter Island hits theater Oct. 2.
They sent me a Kindle 2 to try out. It's due back in 10 days. This is gonna be just like Before Sunrise.
When Amazon finally mailed me a loaner Kindle 2, I couldn't help but walk it around the office holding it up like the staff of Ra. Why was I so excited? I dunno. I like reading. I like technology. I like to see them get along, I guess. And it's kind of pretty.
My co-workers were non-plussed. Drew Lazor was particularly blas'. "So. What does it do? It just holds a lot of books? How much are the books?"
The Kindle ' a white rectangle basically the size and shape of a DVD box, but heavier ' is Amazon's portable reading device. They want you to do all your non-Internet reading on it. Magazines, newspapers, books, whatever. They want it to do for their online virtual book sales what the iPod did for iTunes. Of course, on iTunes songs all cost either $.99 or $1.29, at least for the time being (plus you can get a lot of free content, like podcasts). So once you buy the device you know the music is cheap, plus you can load it up with the music you already own.
The Kindle's a different animal. You will never convert your paperback copy of Infinite Jest into a format this thing can handle. You have to buy the Kindle for $359, then download the book for $9.99 which is not bad, if you don't already own it: A 1,000 page book for the price of one album. Plus, and you can't say this about all books, the Kindle is way lighter. (Which could come in handy if you're planning to take part in the Infinite Summer challenge.) Other books will cost other prices, and there's nobody looking to make that uniform.
But how's the reading experience? Let's talk about that tomorrow when I figure out how to put some actual content on the damn thing. So far everything I've tried hasn't worked.
Will I learn to love this Kindle? We just met but I feel maybe a little smitten. Even though it's a little smudged from whichever reporter had it before me. You animal.
I don't want to create a riff traffic jam.
By the time Mystery Science Theater 3000 turned off the lights in 1999, Joel Hodgson had already been long-retired from the world of B-movie riffing. He went on to write for TV shows, like Space Ghost and Jimmy Kimmel. These days Hodgson's back in the game, having gathered a bunch of his old MST3K pals (Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) for Cinematic Titanic, a series of DVDs and live shows that once again feature his silhouette over bad movies. (Meanwhile, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and other MST3K alums are doing RiffTracks ' mp3s full of jokes to accompany big Hollywood blockbusters.) Cinematic Titanic will be at the Trocadero on Friday with Alien Factor and Saturday with Danger on Tiki Island.
City Paper: What's special about these two movies?
Joel Hodgson: It's funny, you just try to find these perfect, forgotten, orphaned films that you hope people have never seen before and work well with what we do. We try to build a show on the back of these movies. We have different criteria for what we like and it's just usually gotta be a play that you wanna spend, that you're willing to spend, 90 minutes at along with us. That's kind of it.
Alien Factor is really interesting in that it's got a kind of high concept where there's a zoological expedition from outer space crash lands outside of Baltimore and the monsters get loose and start terrorizing the town.
And Tiki Island is really nice looking movie and it's well made but they have the worst monster, probably, in movie history.
CP: What makes it the worst monster?
JH: It just was poorly constructed and not well thought out. He looks like the Michelin Man if he got in a fiery car crash.
|Danger on Tiki Island|
It's just usually those elements that's funny. You know people think we just' riff on bad movies, or cheesy movies, but the movies do have to have a certain amount of structure to carry the thing. They do have to be able to tell a story. There are some movies that are so bad we can't use them.
CP: Do you find that your movie standards/requirements are different for Cinematic Titanic than they were for MST3K?
JH: Yeah absolutely because we perform it live, so it's really about entertaining an audience for 90 minutes. And we're a bit more strict about it.
You know, we just kind of were rollin' 'em off. When we did Mystery Science Theater, we did like 22 shows a year. And we didn't have to really answer to anybody. Fortunately it worked out great, I'm super proud of Mystery Science Theater, really happy that people still know about it and care about it 20 years after.
But we have to be a little more particular.
CP: This is more like theater, right?
JH: It's a movie and a play kind of put together. Cause we're on stage performing it. We're kinda sandwiched between this movie and the audience. So you have to go in feeling confident that you can make it work and that the audience will have fun.
CP: Is there room for improv?
JH: Oh yeah, it's funny but we've learned that the most satisfying experiences for people are when we're having fun too. So we're trying to do two things, which is amuse the audience and amuse each other. That means you have to surprise each other occasionally and throw in stuff.
CP: Does that knock the timing off?
JH: You just have a certain amount of time so you have to be alert to that. You have to be thinking: I don't want to create a riff traffic jam. If you're gonna start to plow into other people's lines, you have to feel like you got something really good.
CP: How many times would you say you've seen these particular movies?
JH: We go through them several times while we're writing them. Your first pass is the joke pass or a riff pass. And then we kind of divvy up, we all write them separately. And then we decide who is supervising a section. So I might get a 15 minute or 20 minute segment. And it's my job to go through everybody's riffs and my riffs and kinda marry everything together. We each do a section and then we go through it again and do a joke polish.
We have our scripts but we each have about 150 jokes, each person, so you have to figure out there they land and where all the jokes go in the body of the movie.
CP: If things aren't tight, that's part of the fun, I guess.
JH: Yeah. You have to leave room for error. It's live and were doing a lot. For instance let's say Trace is delivering a line ahead of me and gets a huge laugh it could eclipse the set-up to my joke. We're constantly in the mode of moving material around and shuffling it back in if we can't say it somewhere.
CP: How are the DVDs selling?
JH: Great. ' We were kind of an instant hit.
It was kind of motivated by just seeing' You know, from Mystery Science Theater I get royalty checks and it keeps going up every year, which really was surprising to me. And I kinda felt like man it's time to refresh it. All these shows are at least 10 years old so I felt like now would be a good time to refresh it and do new movies for that fanbase.
The Mystery Science Theater fanbase is really organized and they always have been, and so that makes it very easy to distribute our product directly to the people who want it.
CP: In the old days the episodes would end with 'Keep Circulating the Tapes' and I guess now that's even easier.
JH: That was our way of saying I Want My MTV. The show was only on in certain markets and we were learning that people were making VHS's and sending them to their friends who couldn't get it.
Almost every time we go somewhere is people come up and go oh yeah our cousins lived in a place that got it and at Thanksgiving they'd bring all the tapes and we'd watch the tapes or at Christmas time after we opened presents we'd put in the Mystery Science Theater tapes.
So we realized oh yeah we should encourage people to. Since we had already been paid, you know we made the show, we felt like we should encourage people to do that,
CP: What's your relationship with your fellow MST3K alums over at RiffTrax?
JH: Well, pretty good. We saw them last summer, you know we did the 20th anniversary thing at Comic-Con. I think it's good. You know, they're obviously talented. [Patton Oswalt moderated the reunion. Start watching the shaky YouTube video here.]
CP: When you were thinking about rekindling everything, did you consider dusting off the robots?
JH: Yeah we kind of started that way. We started working with Jim Mallon, who was my ex-partner who was the guy, you know we were fighting that's why I left the show.
I had found a movie and we started to work on it. And it all fell apart, we just couldn't make a deal with Jim. The next day I called Trace to tell him and he said oh man we should just do this. We should just present it.
We started earnestly looking at it like how will we do this? What's the easiest and the most direct way to present what we do? I kind of cued off of Phillip Glass, you know, watching Phillip Glass perform. And it's just so deliberate, it's a concert and the idea of us just standing there presenting what we do.
And we kind of earned it because it's been 20 years. We don't have to dress up anymore.
You know, you change as a performer and as a person over 20 years, you become different. I don't even know how I'd get back into that in a way. So after thinking about it, when it didn't work out, it was kinda like how do you do that? And what if it's not as good? What if you screw up the brand because you thought we'd do it again and it wasn't as good or didn't feel the same.
Everybody's pretty happy with how it worked out.
Fri.-Sat., June 12-13, 7 p.m., $38, Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-LIVE, thetroc.com, CinematicTitanic.
China High: My Fast Times In The 010, A Beijing Memoir
St. Martin's Press
Fired from the high-powered American law firm that brought him back to China, pseudonymous author ZZ spends most of his time in Sanlitun, a squalid yet trendy Beijing club and caf' district that seems like the jumping off point for nothing but Bright Lights, Big City-style hedonism. There's the endless party nights, the long list of women at the ready, as well as ZZ's Patrick Bateman-esque attention to fashion and his eight-pack. Further contributing to his escapist tendencies is his immigration status. This is his second stint as a FOB (fresh off the boat) ' he moved to the U.S. as an adolescent but left shortly after obtaining a law degree. But through the haze of da ma, or big numb (marijuana or hashish) that he rolls into what he deems Zigarettes, we're given a first hand account of an emerging and ever changing China.
Early on, ZZ sets up most of his past through stories told to nameless, white foreigner, fresh to the Sanlitun scene. This faceless listener is a ready double for ZZ, as the novel presents a complex struggle for identity, on par with Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor. The new set of ideals acquired in the U.S. causes him to question not only China, but himself. He tells us, 'Thanks to nature and nurture, even I have trouble figuring out my own nationality sometimes.' While his outsider status is an asset ' merely speaking English is regarded as a get out jail free card ' he also is aware of how much he clashes with Chinese cultural differences. But in this latter regard, he sees himself as a force for change. Everything from his high-charged illegal motorcycle to his casual hash habit are bold declarative statements calling for a loosening of outdated strictures. And as proof that he's not simply there to enjoy China's hedonistic side, there's the innovations he bring to the country. He starts a law firm that prosecutes a state-sponsored company, a rare and unpopular task. In addition, ZZ starts a food delivery business called Foodiez that not only offers unprecedented standards of service, but also seeks to alter the way Beijingers' value their free-time. These fledgling enterprises, however, are secondary to the author's simple enjoyment of life.
While ZZ's appreciation of differences between cultures builds with the memoir's progression, the catharsis doesn't come until he's thrown in prison for his habit. Apparently, those Zigarette's stuffed with opium-looking hashish actually had opium in them. And ' oops, his American Visa expires. So he's sent off to jail, with the possibility of a lengthy stay in forced rehab. Imprisonment proves a humbling foil for revisiting past assessments. He reconsiders relationships perhaps tainted by his escapist persona and his inability to devote to anything requiring effort ' with so many names in his Nokia there was never a need to exert himself.
With the clarity of feverish self-discovery, ZZ's evocative prose tightens immensely. Our vicarious thrill-ride through China comes to its highest point while ZZ dissects the very basis of freedom, an endeavor requisite for forward thinking nations everywhere. 'It's as if I'm a FOB again,' he says on seeing the world anew.
On Bitte Orca, The Dirty Projectors swirl more pop charm than usual into their erratic sound. Orca is more approachable than the Projectors' previous works, with the outcome landing somewhere between Flleetwood Mac and Deerhoof. The band is still honing their chutes-and-ladders vocal technique, with leader David Longsteth and his accompanying female singers quickly climbing up and down intricate melodies with precision. On some of their previous releases, particularly Rise Above, it was easy for the sky-high vocal play to become cumbersome, taking attention away from the actual songs ' even becoming irritating at points. But on this album, such chaos is endearing, complementing arrangements pieced from simple indie pop ('Cannibal Resource') to folk ballads ('The Bride') and sweeping string numbers ('Two Doves'). Orca is cleaner and more skillfully arranged than what we've previously heard from the Projectors. It's a breakthrough for an art-rock band on the fringe of massive exposure.
Wed., June 17, 8:30pm, $13, with Vieux Farka Toure and Skeletons, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., r5productions.com
Anyone watch Nurse Jackie on Monday night? I don't have Showtime but I love Edie Falco so I watched the full ep on YouTube. In less capable hands, this show could have sucked (or ended up looking like TNT's upcoming and uncompelling HawthoRNe, which I have a screener for but can't bring myself to watch just yet).
Falco is one tough broad and she's never be afraid to play unlikable. A major theme throughout the episode (and I figure the series) is the idea that all good people have some bad in them. So, Jackie can advocate for patients or help a pregnant girl whose boyfriend was accidentally killed by a doctor, but she's still a philandering, pill-popping bitch. Falco loves and revels in her character's duality ' from the way she talks ("Quiet and mean, those are my people. I don't do chatty," she tells student nurse Zoey in her great, accented deadpan) to her haircut to the way she stalks down the hallways. The success of this first episode is a testament to Falco's talent. My favorite scene last one only seconds: Jackie is yelling at a hot-shot doc (Peter Facinelli) and he grabs her tit as a nervous tic. She doesn't burst out screaming. Instead, her eyes drop to his hand; his mouth is agape, her stare is full of loathing. He starts to apologize and she brushes him off. It's short, but it's a scene only an actress of her caliber could truly pull off.
Showtime seems to be making a name for itself with these quirky, half-hour dramedies like Weeds and The United States of Tara (which I haven't seen yet, but it's already on my Netflix queue), just as HBO did with its hour-long dramas (everyone rightfully sings the praises of The Wire and The Sopranos, but go watch Deadwood now). Heather Havrilesky, who writes the amazingly funny I Like to Watch column for Salon, notes all of this in her review and brings up the interesting point that while the half-hour dramedy is of recent vintage, it doesn't lend itself to the type of character development necessary for a truly compelling drama. Because Havrilesky is a TV critic, she gets a look at the full season (I got only a sense of the characters arcs forming in the first half hour), but her points are salient nonetheless:
Obviously if "Nurse Jackie" were more of a comedy and less of a drama, it might not feel like a problem. It's not as if we demand to understand the motivations and inner workings of Jack Donaghy of "30 Rock" or Michael Scott of "The Office." But a dramedy faces the unfortunate challenge of having to walk a line between believability and farce.
This makes me wary for the rest of the season, especially because I think Weeds has this problem. Every season saves itself because it's not simply a character study, but I'll still probably watch the rest when it comes out on DVD. Any of you guys watch it? What did you think?
God Help The Girl is the new project by Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian). More info here.
The new album drops today. It's the story of a boy and his goldfish.
Last night Philly band Illinois held what must have been their one millionth record release show for The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe, the kickass new album they've been putting out in pieces, along with chapters of the accompanying film. This was the first time I'd seen the film in its entirety. It's the trippy, funny story of love and loss between a guy and his goldfish. Good stuff. The complete album is now available and I heartily recommend it. Especially after seeing them bring it at National Mechanics. Fun, fiery rock 'n' roll, with touches of Beck and banjo. There was a lot of tipsy singing along in the crowd and people saying woo. Either these guys have actual fans or they've got about 20 girlfriends between them.
|Photos by Patrick Rapa|
|photo by Brion Shreffler|
The Doves ' Jimi Goodwin and brothers Andy and Jezz Williams ' took to the stage and the ready expectation of the swelling crowd by adjusting the pulse, their opening single "Jetstream" ' a nod to their days as the electronic group Sub Sub, with the composition and Jezz's brilliant vocals evoking Radiohead's "Underworld" influenced tracks, a cool stream charged to take us off as we stood gazing in peace.
Lead singer Jim Goodwin then took over, his vocals on the track "Snowden" as drifting and alluring as the melody, with the line 'Oh why should I care,' so invigorating despite the deceptively blithe delivery. "Winter Hill" was a tethered drop from a bridge, my smile stretched by the Who-like guitar accompaniment. Pounding, the second single from The Last Broadcast, was by far their best of the night; Andy's drum work sounded like artillery firing in rapid succession, while Jimi's voice swam off with, 'so why is it so hard to get by,' before the drums came in once again to punctuate the immediacy of 'this don't last forever.'
Unfortunately, the rest of the set didn't possess the same energy. "Caught By The River" was lacking in the atmospheric depth that been reached for "Snowden," and "Black And White Town" and the closing tune, "There Goes The Fear," didn't quite romp as they usually do. Perhaps I was seeing the effects of a long tour or maybe the sound was off. But we're talking gradations. "Here It Comes," one of several tracks brought out for the encore, was elevated by Andy's harmonica play and lulling vocals, as well as Jimi's hypnotic play on the kit and backing vocals; 'the call to arms,' mentioned in the intro carried us out into the streets, with many a new fan enthralled despite the Manc trio being a notch down from their best.
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