Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Valley Girl (1983)

Nicholas Cage rocks an inexplicable V-shaped chest hair and still pulls off sexy.

Frederick Elmes rocks the suburbs with some beautiful lensing.

The film would've rocked more if the "punk" club band was less The Plimsouls and more Black Flag. 6 V-shaped chests out of 10.

Monday, October 4, 2010

urbantunes: "Questionnaire"

This song was written while I was playing guitar and singing in Clue Junior earlier this year and only performed once at some weird bar / freak show in Studio City. Here's a recorded version that I did in my room. Enjoi?

Review: The Social Network (2010)

While watching The Social Network this past friday night, I was in awe (much like I was watching the beautiful trailer). In awe of how pitch-perfect everything was. In awe of the breakneck pace that was still clear and powerful. In awe of Jesse Eisenberg and how much I sympathized with his conceited, brilliant billionaire. There's a unique swagger to his Mark Zuckerberg. The kind of swagger that comes with being unimaginably wealthy and blindingly intelligent. And yet those traits don't bury him in unlikeability. Eisenberg, Fincher and Sorkin humanize Zuckerberg by making him a really smart kid with a crush. And a helluva revenge streak.

Fincher lends the Facebook story his signature low-light visuals in beautiful widescreen. Whereas Oliver Stone's auteur visuals sometimes felt slapped on with scotch tape to Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, Fincher's tone is fully realized and executed with an astounding precision. Though there are more delightful visual surprises in WS2:MNS, I preferred The Social Network's commitment and cohesion. (Also, that rowing sequence? Beautiful use of tilt-shift photography turning this sport of affluence into a spectacle of tiny, plastic toys)

But, Eisenberg. This is his show. He rarely smiles and instead emotes through his eyes, eybrows and jaw. You can see his wheels turning, burning at high speeds. You're impressed with his wit and geeky charm. You realize that although his mind is running on a high-end processor, his emotions and social skills run on a floppy disk. The only thing he ever claims to have interest in is being cool. Which makes the casting of his mentor, Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker, all the more perfect. Parker is cool in large part because the bravado that Timberlake brings to the role. He knows fine food and the names of the waitresses who bring it. He flirts with ease. He has no respect for the authoritative "Man". He is smooth. He wears hoodies. Zuckerberg's relationship with Parker is reminiscent of a high school crush on an upperclassmen. Zuckerberg wants to BE Parker. This is echoed by the casting of Timberlake who looks like the Hollywood version of Eisenberg - his Jewish curls cut stylishly short.

The emotional core of the film lies in the relationship between Zuckerberg and co-founder, wealthy Brazilian kid, Eduardo Saverin (played by soon-to-be Spiderman2.0, Andrew Garfield). Filled with half-truths and jealousy, love and dependency, it's their story that makes the drama in The Social Network so captivating. Due in large part to the fact that these are surely to be two of the defining actors of a generation.

The Social Network is an incredible ride about the personally disconnected kid who connected the world impersonally. Made with the same type of confidence and smarts that Zuckerberg owns onscreen, it's an underdog tale where the underdog just happens to be the youngest billionaire in the world. And by the end, you're rooting for him.

"Critical" Bits:

Class struggle. Harvard sucks. Fraternities suck. Bros suck. Armie Hammer rules.

The things boys do trying to win a girl. i.e. Invent Facebook.

Trent Reznor's score is haunting and helps propel the film forward, forward, forward.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Slasher (2004)

John Landis has made a handful of capital-G Great films. Animal House, Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf In London (one of my personal favorites)... But he also has the unfortunate (though deserved?) reputation for being reckless and cavalier. He's responsible (though not solely) for one of the most horrific accidents on a film shoot in the last century. During a night shoot for a scene in the 1985 Twight Zone: The Movie there was some miscommunication between a helicopter pilot, a special effects supervisor and Landis. Three actors (including two children) died when either the explosives went off prematurely and nicked the helicopter's blade or Landis' hassling of the pilot to go "Lower! Lower!" caused the helicopter to fall out of control. It's a pretty haunting story and it's trial received quite a bit of attention. The families of the deceased eventually settled out of court and Landis went on to direct some more classic films (Three Amigos!, Coming To America, and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video).

Personally, I can't help but look for insensitive traits when I watched Slasher last night, a documentary Landis made in 2004. It's about one of the oldest and most beloved American professions, selling cars. The film follows Michael Bennett, the "Slasher", a special salesman who is brought in to struggling car dealerships across the country to help them move their inventory with a special "Slasher" sale. Bennett is a wiry and wired figure who has a reputation for being the best salesman in the country, once selling "400 cars in four days!" exclaims an employee at the used car dealership where the film takes place. But Memphis in 2004 is a tough sell and the film shows what appears to be one of the toughest weekends for the "Slasher."

Landis humanizes Bennett by showing his departure from his wife and two kids at the beginning of the film and spending time in Bennett's hotel room at night as he tries to cope with being away from them so often. But Landis also fuels the "Slasher" fire by filming him on many a drunken rave, one in particular the night before the sale in a parking structure where he yells up and down like a madman as his drunk friends and associates just sit back and watch. In fact, Bennett is drunk pretty much the moment that he steps off the lot. And there's a couple of scenes at night that seem like Landis is pushing him a little too much with the drinking and the confessing. But maybe Bennett is just happy to have someone actually listening.

This glimpse into the life of a car salesman - in particular, Bennett - is interesting, funny and at times very affecting. Landis follows a couple of the buyers off the lot and one girl who won a raffle for an $88 car gets the thing home only to have it fall apart in her driveway. We linger with her as she watches her brother and father try and figure out what's wrong with it, her face a thousand miles away from the huge shocked smile she had when her raffle number was called. And Bennett's closing monologue about how a line from Tombstone has really hit home is especially moving. But along the way, we get lied to. By Landis and his editors and by Bennett. So maybe Landis was clever to start the film off with television clips of Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II lying directly into the camera. It's part of the American experience to lie to the public. Some people just make a living doing it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

It's lame to have this announced as "Neil Simon's The Heartbreak Kid" as the film starts because it really belongs to Elaine May. Her improvisational style gives the film it's life and makes even the more routine gags feel real and organic. But it also belongs to Charles Grodin, who's anxious energy and unabashed selfishness is remarkable to watch (especially since I really only knew him as Beethoven's dad prior to this).

Grodin stars as Lenny Cantrow, a young, sports novelties salesman in NYC who falls in love with a girl, Lila (played by May's daughter Jeannie Berlin) in a bar. All they say to each other is "hello" before a short montage moves them straight to the altar. The words of the priest fade in and out as if Lenny is only half listening. But then their honeymoon! And the long drive down to Miami Beach. Needless to say, on their trip he finds his wife to be much more than the late night impression he got one evening in New York City. She can't sing. She eats a lot of junk food. She's childishly naive and stubborn and ends up with a debilitating sunburn their first day on the beach. All of this may sound broad and rather contrived but it's Grodin's suppressed annoyance and disbelief in all these tiny revelations that make it genuinely hilarious as opposed to Farrelly Bros. "HILARIOUS!!!!"

At the Miami resort Lenny finds (or rather she finds him) manic pixie dream girl of the 70's Cybill Shephard. Their flirtation becomes an obsession for Lenny and his complete neglect of his wife becomes a sad/funny interlude to their budding relationship.

Funny, painfully pathetic and often beautifully real, The Heartbreak Kid is something special. Something to remember. But then why would I choose to share it with you lot?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Numb3rs! (demo1)

a beat that i've been meaning to put to use for a while. inspired by an amazing Prince song (the beat is, i mean).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Inescapable Eavesdropping: Subway After Midnight

Subway at one in the morning. Wanted Chanos but there were too many people. Begin ordering my sandwich as the loud voices of what i assume to be two fraternity brothers disrupt the gentle quiet that usually settles in these 24-hour fast food joints at this time. But alas, it was thursday night. Run over from the club across the street. Here we go:

BROSEF: If they left already and we don't get home then ... then we're just gonna beat the fuck out of them and then break their - break their shit!

BROBRO: Yeah! Its in everyone's best interest that we don't break their shit ... and that we get home.

Brosef raises his phone to his ear.

BROSEF: Fuckin' mother fucker better pick up ... Oh Shit


BROSEF: Its going to voicemail! AHH SHIT! OK, Listen up. You didn't pick up your phone. Do you understand what that means? I hope you realize how FUCKED you are right now. You are so FUCKED. I hope its setting in further and further that you are so fucked right now. Because we're gonna fuck you. You don't NOT pick up your phone when i call. And you are so fucked. With each passing second I hope you get just how fucked you are. Because you are so fucked. You need to back here.

BROBRO: (laughing) Its in your best interest!

BROSEF: Its in your BEST interest that you come back here. You don't just leave and then not answer when i call. ... You're fucked, man. So FUCKED. and i just hope you realize how fucked you are...

He hangs up. They laugh. "They are so fucked! They don't even know how fucked they are!" Later when they get up to order their sandwiches they are told that the ATM connected to the cash register doesn't seem to be working so they'll have to pay in cash.

BROSEF: WHAT? You have both. I want like a discount.

SUBWAY EMPLOYEE: The machines broken. I'm sorry.

BROSEF: It says that you have both. I should get a discount because it says that you have both. I can pay with cash but it says you have both and if one isn't working then ... I should get a discount. This is bullshit.

BROBRO: Its not their fault, really.

BROSEF: No ... i guess. No! It is their fault. Fuck it. Could you just toast the bread a little bit. I don't want it super toasted, just do it a little bit. Its kind of a weird request but its better that way.

The line was backed up because the handful of people in front of me had to go out to the ATM in order to pay. Thus i was subjected to the loud complaints of two metro-bros in the first of many installments of Inescapable Eavesdropping!