Friday, December 2, 2011

Favorite Music of 2011

Its that time of year again so you all know the drill...

Here's a little list of what I've been listening to and what I deem as my favorite records of the year.

Overall it was a pretty solid year for music, with a bunch of artists finally having their breakout records, and some old favorites remind us again why we loved them in the first place. Also, there was a new Tom Waits record, know, is always good.

The records are in no real order unless noted otherwise.

Top Ten
Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Favorite record of the year)
Wye Oak- Civilian
Yuck- Yuck
Tom Waits- Bad as Me
m83- Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
The War on Drugs- Slave Ambient
Childish Gambino- Camp
Future Islands- On the Water
Wild Beasts- Smother
Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring for My Halo

Wild Flag- Wild Flag
Iron & Wine- Kiss Each Other Clean
Beirut- The Riptide
James Blake- James Blake
The Antlers- Burst Apart
Kanye West & Jay-Z- Watch the Throne
Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost
TV on the Radio- Nine Types of Light
Feist- Metals
Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues

Favorite Song of the Year: Civilian by Wye Oak
Favorite Non-albums: Pearl Jam 20 Soundtrack, Drive Soundtrack

Lots of great music came out this year, if you have a moment and need some new tunes--any of the above should do the trick!

Monday, June 20, 2011

What We Feel When We Go To The Movies...

Last night I was involved in a conversation with family about how we all look at movies and then, in turn, how they affect us. The typical inaccurate stereotypes were thrown around "Men can't understand this...","Women aren't entertained by that..." and of course "You'll understand when you're older." All of which, of course, are wildly inaccurate blanket statements that simply are not true. Not about men, not about women, not about young people, and not about older people. But perhaps the more interesting part came when my mother-in-law said (and I'm paraphrasing a bit) "David looks at things from an artistic standpoint, direction, writing, least from what I have read on facebook."

At the moment the comment didnt really bother me. In the context of the conversation, she was saying that the way I percieve violence and language in film is from an artistic standpoint and not a parental one--which is certainly true. I am not a parent therefore I watch films for my own enjoyment and entertainment--not to screen them for children (although I do think I could do it if you asked me to). And while I may be more careful about what I bring into the house when a young David or a young Lia is in the house, I would like to think that my fundamental beliefs on movies and music will not be changed when that day (far off as it is) may come.

But it got me to thinking about how I, and in turn we as a people, look at movies. Do I look at films differently than other people? My first instinct was to say Yes, of course, I've taken film classes, I know more about the way a film is made than the average person on the street. But what exactly does that mean? Just because I know a little bit more about how a film is made than the average person doesn't mean that my film-going experience is different than other people (also, that was quite the conceited thought you just had there, self, cool your jets). Are cinephiles so caught up in the technical aspects of films that we can't look at films in any other way? Of course not. In fact, I think it is impossible for anyone to step foot in a theater and not watch a film from a personal, emotional, or cultural standpoint. It is impossible not to take a film and look at how aspects relate to us or affect us. Movies do this to us without us even knowing (at least good movies do this to us without even knowing).The basic question, and the reason why we as a people love going to movies is because in some way or another we have an emotional or cognitive response to what is happening on screen. We all feel movies.

For instance, last year Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan was released. It was a wonderfully made film, superbly acted, and impeccably written. However, and this is not necessarily a knock on the film as I think it was intentional by the filmmakers, it left me emotionally cold. I understood and could see why it was a well made movie based on what was happening on the screen, and I certainly went home and had long conversations about it with my wife and my friends--yet I cannot say that the film affected me emotionally. Black Swan was a much more cognitive film. It was a thinking film and really is meant to be a head-trip rather than an emotional journey--which it succeeds wildly in being.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, Aronofky's film The Wrestler (an equally well made film) does not have the trippy psychological plot that Black Swan has. However, it is very similar. It is about a physical performer, who loves his craft so much he is willing to give anything to it. A rather basic premise, yet it is one that The Wrestler and Black Swan share, perhaps on purpose. What makes the films different is how we relate to what is on screen. The Wrestler is much more of an emotional journey than Black Swan is. Perhaps because while Black Swan was very much a journey into the head of it's main character, The Wrestler is very much a journey into the heart of it's protagonist.

We all bring our own baggage with us into the movie theater. However our baggage does not necessarily mean that we are able to comprehend a film more-so or less-so than others. Say a person does not come from a broken home and watches the film Kramer vs. Kramer. Is he or she still able to understand the emotional complications of the film? Of course they are. Of course they can see the hardships and feel the heartache. Why? Because it is a well-made effective movie. The only difference between a person watching the film who has come from a broken home and a person who hasn't is one will be able to say: yes, that is an accurate portrayal and that is how it feels. They both feel what is on the screen, one just might be able to say whether or not it was they way it was for them.

Movies are a part of our culture for good reason.They connect us. They bridge the gaps that are created by life and help us to understand each other better. This is not only true about film, but any kind of craft.So, I guess in a way, we all look at film from a technical and artistic standpoint--we just don't necessarily realize it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Paris, Texas: A Love Affair Between A Boy And A Movie...And A Boy And A Girl

When I was a sophomore in college I saw the film Paris, Texas (1984). It quickly became my favorite film (tied with Blade Runner (1982)) of all time.The movie is directed by German New Wave pioneer, Wim Wenders and stars Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, and Nastassja Kinski. The film opens with a wandering wide-shot of the vast, craggy landscape. The camera wanders along until it finds our main character, Travis (Stanton). Travis' clothes are raggedy, his face sunburned and wrinkled. Travis is walking towards, or away from, something--we just don't know what. Soon after, Travis passes out near a doctors office and his brother Walt (Stockwell) is called to pick him up. It's been four years since the brothers have seen each other. From that point on the film follows Travis as he pieces back together his life.

I stumbled upon Paris, Texas in a bit of a peculiar way. I was bored one night and I was watching interviews with my favorite musicians, in this case The Hold Steady. The bassist listed his favorite films, two of which I loved (A History of Violence (2005) and Videodrome (1983)). Then he mentioned that his favorite film was Paris, Texas, so I casually put it at the top of my netflix queue. When it came in the mail, I invited this girl, Lia (you all know the one) over to my apartment to watch it. We had planned to watch the movie in my living room, but alas, my roommate Quinn was watching Alien 3 (1992), so Lia and I had to change to my bedroom. If this sounds like a sly trick, you would be wrong.

Let me take the time to explain what consisted of my apartment bedroom. There was a mattress on the floor in the corner, a dog house with a two year-old Dalmatian-Lab mix inside, a desk with a crappy laptop, and a crappy TV sitting on a barely standing crappy table, oh and a beach chair. Not exactly ideal conditions for wooing. We started the film, regardless the conditions, as well as my dog's insistence that she lay on the bed and watch as well.

We were transfixed, something in the film clicked in both me and Lia's brains. We both got it and talked all night (after she went home of course) about what we loved about it.

Fast forward a year. Lia and I are dating, she is studying in France and I am juggling a few summer jobs. Because of the time difference we only get to talk on the phone at really odd hours--so of course communication was limited. She did however tell me that she had a surprise for me when she gets home and that I wasn't going to believe it. She had found, at a random used record store in Athens, Greece, the Paris, Texas soundtrack. What are the odds? (By the way, I consider the score to Paris, Texas to be the ABSOLUTE best score to a movie ever--this is including all of John Williams' stuff)

Today, Lia and I are married, and we have two copies of Paris, Texas, one on DVD and one on Blu-Ray. It truly has become a part of our lives. I've always felt that art can change you. And I mean this in the most literal sense. What if we had watched the film in the living room, perhaps a better, but certainly less intimate location? What if I had never caught the interview with the bassist from The Hold Steady? Would our lives be the same? Maybe, but who knows. I always thought the connections we make through movies are important, I just never thought (though maybe I should have) that they would lead me to the most beautiful and important person in my life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Favorite Flicks of 2010

I'm a little late on posting this one--mainly because of the late surge of really great movies. It really turned out to be a great year for cinema. Things were looking rather dismal mid-year, but then awards season kicked in and we got a flurry of really great stuff. Here are my favorites (in no real order as usual):

The Social Network
127 Hours
The Fighter
Toy Story 3
Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Town
Never Let Me Go
Shutter Island

Best Direction: David Fincher for The Social Network

Best Writing: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network

Most Underrated Movie: Tie, Never Let Me Go and Shutter Island

Most Overrated Movie: The Kids Are All Right (I thought it was a good movie, just didnt understand the hype)

Worst Movie: Sex and the City 2 (only because I was too scared to see The Last Airbender)

Best Cinematography: True Grit

Best Original Score: The Social Network

Best Documentary: Restrepo

If you havent seen these films, all of them are worth checking out (except, of course, the worst movie of the year). Here's to another great year of cinema!!