Saturday, April 30, 2011
After All of the Press Coverage That I Afforded for This Shindig, I do not Warrant An Invite or Even the Opportunity to be Best Man? Weak.
The most anticipated wedding in recent memory has come and went. No, I am not talking about the holy union of Walter and Eunice Marshall of Yankton, South Dakota... Yes, yes, I am speaking about little Willy and Duchess von Scowly. While I have criticized the level of media coverage here in the states, the sound of derision (obviously out in the open) comes from my lack of an invitation.
It seems that not everyone enjoyed by my article about the magical jelly bean bearing the visage of the aforementioned perpetually frowning noble. Regardless of the motivation, I am disappointed that the invitation never arrived. Perhaps, it was lost in the mail or they could not remember how to spell "Funkowitz" (It is spelled exactly as it sounds).
I guess it is my fault for expecting to be invited considering I am a fourth tier journalist with a moderate following (fourteen people). Anyway, the date has come and gone... I waited on pins and needles for its arrival. Who cares that I purchased a snazzy suit, arranged hotel accommodations and was able to get the necessary time with my task master of a boss. You might ask why I did not simply take a much needed holiday to the United Kingdom in spite of this snub... Who would want to endure this circus if they were not involved. Thanks, Monarchy... You dashed this poor gents' spirits.
We have a birthday to celebrate today, none other than Mr. Funkowitz himself. A god amongst men Mr. Funkowitz or "Manfred" to his contemporaries has lived a life only heard of in legends, and thanks to all of you his voice can be heard across the lands from here to Russia. So this very special installment of Nerdlert is all about some of the coolest nerd gifts I could find.
1. Venture Bros Action Figures.
Much like the show itself these figures are inspired by a time gone past. Each figure is poseable and comes with old school cloth clothes, just like the old gi joes.
The Venture Whoozits you say?
If you belong to this group then forget about the action figures and run out and buy the dvds immediately. Easily one of the funniest shows on TV, tells the story of Dr. Venture, a super scientist living in the shadow of his incredibly heroic and succesful father, who lives with his two boys as they have adventures with their sociopathic bodyguard and fight against his arch nemesis a man dressed like a butterfly.
The show riffs on classics of geek culture like johnny quest and spy movies and gadgets and superman. My favorite homage is the shows take on the Fantastic Four, which sees Reed reimagined as a self centered douche, the invisible woman only able to turn her skin invisible leaving the muscle exposed, a mentalle challenged the thing, and my favorite the human torch. In this iteration the human torch must spend his life in a containment unit otherwise his body bursts into flames and causes him great agony, often times he simply runs around screaming in the background of episodes.
For those of you who enjoy the show know how awesome it would be to have a nice Rusty Venture on your mantle, or Doc Samson watching over you with his buoy knife. For those of you that don't, you are about to experience nerd bliss.
2. Marvel by Tokidoki
For the nerd with a bit of fashion sense. Who wouldn't want Spiderman dunking a basketball, or Cap enjoying a value meal riding on a skateboard. Possibly the one tshirt that's super nerdy, yet super on trend. You'd think the two would cancel each other out but no, they combine and give the wearer amazing powers of awesome.
3. Fallout 3
Yah its a bit older, but you can find goty editions for 19 dollars. That makes it a whole lot cheaper than New Vegas and sadly 3 is a much more solid game than Vegas.
That being said this is easily the best "game" to money ratio around. The story follows a young man who has grown up inside a fallout shelter his whole life, until his father escapes. The young man decides to search out his father and at that point your game begins. Aside from the main quest there is so much you can do or choose to do which affects the outcome of the game. Some of my highlights include saving a girls family and water supply only to nuke the town so I could get a kickass condo, I organized a truce between a sect of vampires and humans where the humans donate blood and the vamps protect/don't bother the humans, I'm in the process of retrieving the declaration of independence, and at some point I wandered into virtual suburbia and managed to break up a married couple. Definitely worth a look, and definitely worth the price.
4. Holy Mountain and El Topo Blu Rays.
These two films from Jodorowsky are cinematic explosions of surrealism. Any good cinema nerd worth their salt would do well to seek these out if they haven't already, and to have them in HD is just amazing.
El Topo is a "spaghetti western" at the loosest interpretation. It is an ultra violent spin on the man with no name. Like any good surrealist it is filled with scathing religious undertones and sexuality. Holy Mountain is an even crazier experience as we follow a Christlike figure the alchemist, and people representing the planets through various religious experiences in his search for divinity. Holy Mountain transforms celluloid into a canvas with amazing and shocking imagery. I'm thinking Holy Mountain, Salo, and Dust Devil would be a pretty amazing Movie Night...hmmmm
5. Incarnations of Immortality - On a Pale Horse
This series of novels by Piers Anthony follows various incarnations, Death, Fate, Time, War, Nature, Evil. This is the first book and we follow a young man who kills death only to discover in doing so he signs up for being deaths successor. For any fan of the fantasy sci fi genre this series is a definite must read.
Piers Anthony crafts this first tale with a fine wit and shoves his world full of interesting characters and setting. The world that "death" inhabits is fully realized complete with his own mansion, rules for his position, a special watch and charms, and even a newscast specifically for purgatory.
Not the most challenging book but any time you have Satan throwing demon sluts at death in order to convince him to keep killing you got my vote.
Happy Birthday Mr Funkowitz. Hope your birthday went by swell and please remember this post when yearly reviews come around.
One last thought - now THESE are the ultimate nerd gift.
For those of you who don't know "The Gonz", somethings you should know about him are the following:
-He enjoys Mildly Fast Cars
-He thinks your favorite rapper sucks
-He is a recovering Peanut Butter Addict
-And he sometimes talks about him self....in the 3rd person....riiight.
Most importantly he (sorry..I) was born in New York City and subsequently is a New York Knicks fan. So you can imagine my delight when the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e. Finally! We'd be relevant. We'd be on cable channels and most importantly we would have celebrity douche nozzles fill the Garden again. I'd be able to wear blue and orange in public again and not be ridiculed by Suns fans with all of their team's championships and whatnot.
But alas, we had a slightly above average season and was forced to face a team in the playoffs that resides higher on the evolutionary chart. We were swept. And in the mean time teams from Oklahoma and Tennessee destroyed established teams with a smile. New Yorkers however, for another year could not give a shit about the NBA.
Wake me up in October.
So where did we leave off? Oh yes, Marley was dead, as dead as a doorknob. Wait, let's start again, Railroad Revival Tour...I figure about this point, if you started reading Part 1 of this as soon as I posted it, you should be finishing up reading it just about...now. So without further interruption, I bring you to the final two acts (the first of which, Old Crow Medicine Show, was covered in part I) of the Railroad Revival Tour's stop in San Pedro. I might of, kinda, spoiled the rest already having said Old Crow stole the show, but whatever, read on, friends...
Band Two - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros: What will this almost infamous Edward Sharpe band bring to the table I wonder? My mind quickly fades into a blur of “WTF’s?” when he arrives on stage and the band almost mumbles it’s way through “Up from Below,” never finding it’s groove as lead singer Alex Ebert continually stops the jamming in between verses to ramble his way through a story of learning he would one day die when he was "only" five years old. Wow, congratulations, you're officially human. Just when the band seems to find a groove, Ebert stops to ramble some more, waving his arms around like a deranged lunatic on the run from a rehab clinic. He seems high as a kite in Mary Poppins, yet at one point exclaims “You don’t need to be drunk or high to have fun!” Apparantly he says this, but doesn’t believe it. Maybe he'd be a better at politics than being a frontman...
It seems Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have basically been playing the same ten songs for the past two years, not exactly the most prolific group in rock n roll. This, despite the fact they pretend to sort of “come up on a whim” what song to play next live on stage, well, it’s not exactly like they’re digging into much of a back catalogue. When the White Stripes decided to tour without setlists (which they did for ever show past 2001 or so) and randomly segued into another song, or Jack ran over to yell out what song to play next, it felt real, and it added to the almost train running of the track (pun fully intended, friends) but never coming off the rail feel. When, after putting up with my constant shouting of "Chicken Scratch!" after every song, Jimmy Vaughan (at the Rhythm Room in summer 2010) turned to his band and said "I guess we should do 'Scatchin'", you know it was unrehearsed and off the cuff. Here it just feels fake and forced because of the fact that when it comes down to it, they only have that many songs, you’re going to hear the same ones every night, maybe just in different order. That being said the fans really loved this guy and got into his music. This, despite the fact that he constantly rambled into stories in between verses, belittled the crowd and consistently found time to yell into the microphone at his sound guy (in between songs, during songs, it didn’t matter) to fix the feedback, fix his monitor mix, fix his hair, whatever. His cult following of hipster yuppies from the mystical land of Doucheganistan ate up every word he spit out including such tunes as “Desert Song,” “40 Day Dream,” “Carry On,” and “Om Nashi Me.”
From what I understand his performance in Tempe was better, less rambling and more concentrated energy, which both can be infectious for the crowd as well as not be such a detraction from the all-together "family of musicians" style playing these dozen or so folks try to be. To be honest, while I appreciated the variations and different aspects unique to each band, Edward Sharpe really felt out of place with the two other groups. The Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, David Rawlings, there are a number of other groups that would have been better suited for that second spot.
Highlight of the Night & Final Score: The highlight was when Alex jokingly asked if there were any kids in the audience, he laughed and said “of course not.” Then suddenly just a few people in front of us a father raises his 11 or so year old daughter in the air. Ebert becomes shocked, and for a second his arrogance fades: “Do you want to come sing a song with us?” He brings her up on stage and she sings “Janglin’” with them…I mean sings. Every word, she knew it. Wonderful moment.
For his energy he puts out there, these guys certainly get an A+. The actual show? 2.5/5
As roadies prepared for the next set, one of the many cops patrolling on segway’s suddenly decided to plow through the crowd, I have no idea if he had a reason or was just being a jerk, for this, I’ll assume the latter…
Band Three - Mumford & Sons: Ah, the band all the hipsters came to see. They opened up with “Sigh No More,” appropriate with how the song starts slow and builds to a strong climax (mind out of the gutter, kids, we're talking songwriting 101). That type of style is typical for many of their songs, utilizing acts of the song almost like acts in a movie, slow burn, kicking it up into another cyclinder, slowing back down to fade it out into nothing. Also, themes of love, especially loss and faith gained and faith lost are the most typical ones their songs tackle, and they utilize them as themes all men must come to face. Their setlist was mainly derived of the songs on their debut LP “Sigh No More,” however they did bring out three new songs, the highlight possibly being “Lovers Eyes.” Unlike Edward Sharpe, Mumford showed they’re capable of filling up an hours time based on not only a number of songs, not endless jamming and psych spreads across just a handful, but also that they’re already churning out new numbers shows they don’t plan on living on “Little Lion Man’s” success (once again, success despite it's use of the F-Bomn - in a non-derogitorry manner) forever. Speaking of that tune, it was fun to hear live (listen to a recording below), and while it’s enjoyable to sing along, with so many deciding to do so, it did take away from the band’s performance.
Speaking of that, the biggest problem with Mumford at this point live is they sound so much like their CD…luckily it’s a great CD. This is understood being they’re a young band and have limited touring together. Hopefully as they play and write more they will let loose more on stage, letting a song taking a new direction, or Lord forbid, maybe even changing up arrangements occasionally. So while I say part of their live act was disappointing, it’s only due to them following up an act (Old Crow, not Edward Sharpe) that can and is willing to go in a number of different directions and truly let different players loose at times on stage. Another reason while Mumford, despite their massive uprising of success the past 9 or 10 months, shouldn’t have been the closing band.
Finally for an encore of sorts, Old Crow Medicine Show & Edward Sharpe (and all 37 of it’s respective members) join the stage for a raucous hootenanny of Woody Guthrie’s “This Train is Bound for Glory.” HIGHLIGHT of the night, friends, highlight of the night…
Highlight of the Night & Final Score: “This Train is Bound for Glory” is obvious, and their brief dry British humor coming through in between songs was great. For instance one member saying we’re all welcome to climb aboard the train to join the next show, then another member chiming (after massive cheers for this) with: “It’s a joke, you f**ckin’ morons.” (Say that in an British accent, it’s funny, in American? Makes you sound like a jerk). Also, a couple songs in, a fat lady grabs her husband and starts to lead him out of the venue: “Mumford & Dads? What the f**k is this s**t?” My guess? She wasn't impressed.
I’d really like to seem them live again in a couple years, when they’ve matured as a live act. For now it’s a solid 3.5/5
So overall, the Railroad Revival Tour was quite a different experience, and one I don’t think I’ll be forgetting soon. Despite one of the worst crowd experiences ever, the concert itself was surely one of the most unique to hit the road in sometime. If you were lucky enough to catch one of the six shows, well, lucky you. If not, well, you missed out. As the train pulls out, Hawk naps...
Tuneful of Sugar: For those who find pics and reviews to not be enough…
Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man Railroad Revival Tour San Pedro by Hudson-Hawk This Train is Bound for Glory Old Crow (Guthrie) Mumford Railroad Revival San Pedro by Hudson-Hawk
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Greetings and Salutations,
I figured it's time for this closet eccentric to earn his pay check here at the offices of PORTEmaus. So I have devised a Top 5 list of things to do to pass time while PSN remains DOA. Why not a Top 10 list? Listen...I said earn my paycheck...not look for a promotion...let's take it down a notch. So without further ado..
5. Finally watch that deluxe double disc Blu Ray set that you bought on Black Friday but never watched - There's something about a blu ray sale that our conglomerate can't resist. It's like the film nerd version of the Semi Annual Victoria's Secret Sale.
4. Call your XBOX 360 at Gamestop and try to convince it to take you back - I hear playing Peter Gabriel out of a boombox works well.
3. Wishfully anticipate a class action lawsuit settlement payout - I just hope it's enough to buy a preowned copy of Disney Sing it! Pop Hits
2. Play Password Roulette - It's like Chat Roulette except without all of the Male Genitalia. There is nothing better than trying to figure out creative new passwords that adhere to each website's individual requirements and aren't the name of grandmother's poodle.
1. Portal 2 - It has been quite sometime since I've been so stumped that I've want to smash my controller to bits. But with this game you can't, because the puzzles are fair and just as you think about smashing your controller you realize that you probably should finished that 1000 piece puzzle in middle school instead of playing another round of Street Fighter II. Plus, what's not to like about voice-over work by Stephen Merchant?
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Note: All audio posted recorded by Hudson Hawk, all pictures by Miranda Jane. This one will probably be quite long (rivaling the books posted by Sir Bence) since it features three main acts. I apologize in advance.
The Show - Railroad Revival Tour: Certainly the most interesting tour to come about in years. Three unique bands: Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros travel by railroad, in vintage train cars, up from Northern California down through Arizona, Texas and finally ending up in New Orleans for six shows. Only thing it’s reminiscent off of the top of my head is the 1970 “Festival Express” tour by train in Canada featuring The Band, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, or maybe the 1975-76 Rolling Thunder Revue featuring Bob Dylan, Bob Neuwirth, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, T Bone Burnett, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and others.
The Venue - San Pedro, California: I've only been near San Pedro before, in Costa Mesa (also for a concert). It was easy to see it’s an area dominated by the fishing industry and I enjoyed both walking up and down the various ports and docks, visiting little shops and even a fish farmers market of sorts. We also took a trip up 6th street into more shops and an interesting record store, interesting in that it had records, clothes and was complete with…exotic fish and turtles? Okay, nothing much was to be found in it’s un-organized bin save for a Joy Division John Peel Sessions OOP record. We then traveled past the train tracks the bands would soon be arriving on to find the venue...
Not exactly an arena or amphitheatre, no, they really stick to the train theme here. The train they ride on travels right through the fishing/port town of San Pedro, so they stopped the train right next to a parking lot, right next to some docks, and set up shop for somewhere around 5-7,000 folks. If the smell of fish didn’t bother you, the sight of the hipster tools from the unholy land of Doucheganistan surely will. Wherever the eyes peered they were covered in a sea of plaid and rayban wayfarers both legit and of knock-off brands (let it be said I started wearing Wayfarers back in 2005, long before they became the newest hipster fad). Some conversations I heard? Two hipsters let their girlfriends play a game of who could use the word “like” the most while they talked about starting to work out, one bragging about the 20lb weights he has in his garage. Sad, strange little men. The only saving grace was getting a glimpse of Mumford & Sons doing their sound check.
Easily the worst crowd I’ve ever been in for MANY reasons. While I was glad San Pedro was the only RRT to allow you to bring in your own water bottles (there were about 9 different chuck-wagons with variations of food and drink in the gaited venue to fulfill your needs as well) they also allowed you to bring in your own lawnchairs. This leads to the two 35-year old tools who get as close to the stage they can, and basically set up camp. Now, in a GA show, there’s not a lot of room to begin with, then you have these two genius’ roasting marshmallows and posting on their blackberries in their space that could have fit easily 9 people. Luckily, including my fiance (and no, that term does not get any less gay when it applies to you) I was surrounded by girls. I'll be honest, if I'm going to be surrounded by not only lots of people but lots of tools, I'd hope that most of them be of the female persuasion. At least two of the girls next to us were fairly cool, and were obviously into Mumford before they became radio and grammy darlings.
Speaking of that, there’s the sad realization most people are here because they know “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons off of the radio, great. I once had the chance to see them in a dive bar in Phoenix called the Rhythm Room with about 150 other people. I had to work (the same reason I went to the San Pedro show instead of Tempe) and soon there after “Lion Man” is a radio hit (despite it’s use of the F-Bomb, which, in context to the song it’s not a derogative use but simply a level of screwing up extremely bad) and they’re playing on the Grammies with Bob Dylan. I’m glad for their success (the TRUE indie rock darlings of the year, not Arcade Fire) however it sucks when it comes to ruining the crowd for a show. Pushy, scratching, hipsters from hell…
Band One – Old Crow Medicine Show: So Old Crow Medicine Show (who I’ve seen live before and know what to expect) come and after an improvised version of the folk classic “16 Coaches Long,” lead into “Hard to Love,” and they split their audience. You have half who immediately got it, and half who sort of have dumb-founded looks on their faces, and some who make fun of them doing little jig dances because, hey, these guys have a banjo and fiddle (nevermind Ketch Secor plays the fiddle like Jimi Hendrix plays a guitar) in their band (these same idiots would be hoopin’ and hollerin’ for the same instruments by Mumford later). It annoys me because Old Crow’s energetic mix of acoustic rock n roll, bluegrass, pre-World War II folk/blues songs and loos alt-country sound is a fusion like few in music, and one to be enjoyed best by a live crowd. By the way, some other bands/artists who use such instruments as the fiddle, mandolin, stand-up bass and have been influenced by bluegrass/country? Hmm…Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Raconteurs, Flogging Molly, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The White Stripes, The Black Keys and countless others.
However, most fans were won over soon, and if not soon, when the opening chords to “Wagon Wheel” began to play they surely were (“Oh hey, they do ‘Wagon Wheel,’ holy crap”!). I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, an artist releasing an unreleased Dylan song, no biggie (dime a dozen in the 60’ and 70’s) however, an artist (even past that an artist unknown at the time) completing an unfinished sketch of a Dylan song, and Dylan himself passing on it being released, well, it’s the only time it’s happened.
The opening act SHOULDN’T steal the show, it’s just an unwritten rule of rock n roll. However, this wasn’t your typical rock show, and Old Crow was head above water of the other two acts this night. All in all Old Crow mixed it up pretty evenly in their setlist from their respective three “major” LP releases, including favorites like “I Hear them All,” “Alabama High Test,” as well as older folk and blues covers such as "CC Rider," "Down Home Girl" (Stones fans may know that one) and “Tell it to Me.” If you like songs about women who screwed you over, women who make you feel better after getting screwed over by said women, cocaine and various addictions taking all your friends away, drug pushing fugitives, redemption, booze, salvation, and parties where right-wingers aren’t allowed (they're a bit unclear on the subject of left-wingers being allowed or not), you’d enjoy a set by Old Crow Medicine Show. Just don't judge or criticize until you've actually seen one...
Highlight of the Night & Final Score: “Wagon Wheel” is an obvious highlight from any Old Crow Show, however the jam band (“We’d like to bring out some of them “Mumford Boys” and the “Mag-ah-na-etic Zero’s” out here for this one”) version of “Raise a Ruckus” was fun one, though both brands brought out had a bit of a hard time keeping up with the Old Crow guys. This is what happens when two young un-seasoned bands step up to the plate with a group of seasoned touring veterans of over a decade.
Also, the 40-or-so year old man, three songs into the setlist, yelling out “F**K THIS! I came to see rock n roll with electric guitars!” then pushing and shoving his way out was hilarious. Especially when he pushed the wrong guy and found himself apologizing VERY quickly…
The set could have been longer but the show was a definite 4.25/5
“It’s hard to know if you’re on the railroad tour adventure of a lifetime getting to hang out and play alongside two of the best bands in the world or you're just in a dream bound to wake up back home. But I look over there and see her, in all her sixteen coaches of silver glory. (Crowd Cheers) Oh, don’t blush sweet thing, but they’re talkin’ about you!” – Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show
As the roadies continue to break down from Old Crow and set-up for Edward Sharpe, this large man begins to sound check the drums. His idea of soundchecking the drums meant sitting there and bashing the same cymbal over and over again. He reminded me of those little ape toys where he bashes the drums, but, you be the judge…
Now, realizing what a book this concert review is becoming (three major acts is hard to cover without rivaling the size of a dictionary) so for now I'll be leaving you with that beautiful image in your head and dreams of that prince of a Roadie. We'll be back in Part 2 (as long as Manny doesn't fire me in the meantime) with more pics, more audio and I'll be covering Jim Morrison re-incarnated as an even more funked out psychede..., er, I mean Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as well as Mumford & sons. Until then, Hawk naps.
Tuneful of Sugar: For those who find pics and reviews to not be enough…
Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show Railroad Revival Tour San Pedro by Hudson-Hawk
I suppose I must begin by explaining that I had previously avoided this movie like the plague. The reviews were awful and they noted that the film had no redeeming value. I wish I could say that I sat down and watched it because the Dawn of the Dead remake proved that remaking a film could lead to something just as good as the original (Of course, it also make us believe that Zack Snyder could direct a film but we all know that is not true... Watchman being the exception). I could easily end this review by saying this film was awful... Downright dreadful and practically unwatchable.
Oddly enough, a good time was had by all when we watched it. I guess it had a lot to do with the fact that a friend and I sat making fun of it while our significant others sat angry at our continued interruption of this cinematic gem. When I think back to the movie, there is not one redeemable aspect to it. Seriously, for a movie call Day of the Dead, you would at least expect it to take place during the day. Some would say that would be the first clue to a movie chugging... The second would be good old Nick Cannon, the forerunner for this generation's worst actor award.
I understand that for a horror film that some of the violence and "scares" would take place off camera but 98% of it? Perhaps, it was because not one of the people playing a zombie were convincing as one. In particular, was the Stark Sands character who exists on screen like a zombie but once his character turns into one... Well, then he looks like a two bit hick. One would argue that he mixed up his characters but anyone who has seen Generation Kill knows that the guy can act... Although, I concede that I have not seen him act in anything else so that might have been a fluke.
I do not want to sound negative but the film misfired on all cylinders. The story was tepid and the dialogue was piss poor. None of the actors playing soldiers knew anything about military hierarchy or how soldiers conduct themselves. Then again, when you have Mena Suvari staring as a badass corporal, you know you have a problem. I was overjoyed when Ian McNiece (Anyone watch Chef?) showed up but he was basically there to play an idiotic fat man. In the end, if I were the producers of this film, I would have had the actors to sign confidentiality agreements(to never mention the film), remove the links/ information from IMDB and collect all footage, work prints/ final cuts and burn them. Thereby, keeping it from becoming part of the collective human memory... Now, I need to find a way to get it out of my mind.
Movie Night #5 Logically if you can go backwards you can go forwards. STOP ARGUING WITH ME ABOUT THIS!
Here again with another installment of Movie Night. Life is beginning to get back to normal but each day brings new emotions. That being said my family and friends have been so supportive I could not ask for more. The other thing that keeps me grounded is my passion for films. Being able to lose myself in cinematic bliss is a welcome change from sitting with my thoughts, and the opportunity I have here at Portemaus definitely necessitates that my blu ray player is spinning discs constantly.
Ok on to the task at hand. Today I want to talk about science fiction. I recently mentioned that my dad was the reason I read comics, well my dad is definitely the reason I like sci fi. Just like comics, we would watch star wars together and then grab flashlights and play lightsabers for hours. As I got older he showed me aliens, and predator and blade runner and so on...we began to talk about the "truth" behind the science fiction presented before us. We would watch shows about space and advancements in alien research even now when "the universe" is on, he calls me so we can geek out about the latest episode. I know I'm being nostalgic again so bear with me a bit more.
This piece is about exploring indie sci fi. These movies are not big budget spectacles like star wars or star trek, they don't take place on crazy planets and have multiple alien races with complicated languages. They all take place on earth most of them in a reality just like ours, except in these luck is a superpower, or time travel is possible. Each of these films takes a simple yet serious approach to sci fi and the directors manage to craft some superbly entertaining and engaging films exploring the "what ifs" of our reality.
Here are the films
Intacto - Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Time Crimes - Nacho Vigalondo
Primer - Shane Carruth
Fresnadillo develops this subculture so well without beating the audience over the head with this "luck as a superpower" theme, rather he takes us deeper into this world as we experience it through the eyes of Tomas with Federico as our guide. The further down we go the more intense the games get, what begins as a molasses game culminates in the craziest battle of Russian Roulette I've seen. There's also subplot involving a detective dealing with tragedy of her own as she chases after our two heroes.
I've never seen a film like this. Not that it is perfect or even anywhere near my top ten of all time, but the story and where it went caught me completely off guard. He takes a theme such as luck and approaches it in this way with subtle supernatural undertones to create an intelligent film that challenges the viewer to stay engaged and experience something completely different. He pays close attention to setting, the further along we go in t he plot the farther away we are from society. Beginning in a city and ending in the middle of the dessert, he uses this to parallel the state of our character. In the beginning we're in a city with tons of people but as we progress and we see how special Tomas is, the further away he is from society and the rest of the world ending with a nice chat on a rock.
Much like Demo by Brian Wood i don't want to get into too much detail with this one because i want you all to experience this for yourself. I urge you search out this film, if anything google the trailer and you get a sense for the type of style Fresnadillo utilizes. He keeps the tension high throughout as each game becomes more dangerous the closer we get to Max Von Sydow and his "lair" in the basement of a casino.
Time Crimes by Nacho Vigalondo is a low budget riff on an old theme. Time travel will only lead to problems, and using time travel to go back and fix what went wrong the first time will only make things worse. I have been recommending this film for years, ever since I saw it, and here I am urging all of you to see it and share it with your friends.
This story definitely takes place in the real world. The characters are normal people and we begin by seeing Hector drive home from the grocery store with his trunk not closed all the way, groceries falling out as he makes his way home. We gather that his wife and himself are in a country home fixing it up. The film really only has a few locations, the house, the woods behind the house, a road, and a structure at the top of a hill. These are connected together by probably less than a mile of distance.
The main character, Hector, witnesses what he thinks is a crime in the forest. Upon investigating it he begins to be chased by a man with a bandage wrapped around his head. He runs away and finds himself in a strange structure at the top of a hill, the worker there instructs him to hide in a weird looking machine at which point Hector wakes up out of the machine and its the beginning of the day we just saw. Needless to say this process keeps repeating as Hector tries to find out what happened and set everything straight, but no matter how hard he tries he ends up having to go back around again to fix something.
I'm not going to talk about plot anymore because the fun of this film is figuring out all the connections for yourself or seeing the film multiple times with the new knowledge that you've learned. Vigalondo lays it all out for you and after you have the answers you can go back and see just how complex his story is. His steady direction is amazing. For this subject matter he never tries to be flashy, instead he shoots very straightforward using the camera to give the viewer clues as to what's really going on. Sometimes he will hold a shot a few seconds longer only to reveal later on what that item means in the story.
I love the opening scene to this movie. I mentioned that Hector drives home with his trunk open and groceries spilling out. As arbitrary as the scene seems it sets up the theme of what we will see for the viewer and Hector. Hector keeps driving oblivious to the fact that by continuing to drive he keeps making things worse, just like his continued use of the machine only draws him further into trouble of never setting time right. For us the viewer it foreshadows the necessity for observation. We see everything and as long as we pay attention we could figure out Hector's problems before he does. This is a very simple approach to opening a movie and it shows us just how simple of a film we are about to see, but underneath how the complexity builds and builds. Unlike the following film which demands to be seen over and over to understand what is going on, this film you'll be dying to put it back in your dvd player so you can see all the clues and interactions you missed before.
The last film on here is Primer which won the Sundance film festival a few years back. This is another low budget tale of time travel. Unlike Time Crimes which is relatively straight forward as long as you keep up and pay attention, this film DEMANDS you pay the utmost attention at all times. It is as low budget as you can get with one of the main locations a garage and the other a storage unit. The script from first time director Shane Carruth is very heavy in its scientific lingo. Don't let that deter you though, because with hard work will come a reward in the form of a new take on time travel and what people might use it for if it were stumbled upon.
The film follows two young entrepreneurs starting a business which through their experiments they discover that their machine can create "time loops." They then begin experimenting with the machine themselves and from there the film just explodes with complexity and doubles and lies and deception. I would venture to say this film necessitates watching it over and over.
I'm fairly certain the first two films will be enjoyed by most everyone as they create compelling stories with a sci fi backbone. This film will be the hardest sell to the masses since an interest in science is a necessity for enjoyment. If you have no desire to hear the theoretical science behind time travel then you probably won't enjoy the film at all as it is very dense.
Personally though I love it. If you couldn't tell I have a thing for time travel, especially those that use time travel in the real world and not huge Star Trek like films. So Time Crimes and Primer resonate with me quite a bit. Again like Time Crimes, Carruth uses the mundane as a backdrop to his story so that the complexity of his science can shine. The story really is just about two friends who upon success discover there is no trust between them.
There is a definite "homemade" quality to the film, which at times can turn some people off but I feel it adds to the charm of the film. The director is very intelligent and speaks often of how he wanted to show what happens when innovation occurs to the inexperienced. He was smart in having his story not exist beyond his reach, here his homemade film pieced together from whatever bits of 16mm he could find reflects these young businessman embarking on their first big discovery. We get a sense that the young men don't know what they're doing and the director speaks about learning the process of film-making as he went along. Again this is definitely the film on here that is not for everyone but the subject matter and the way it was made makes it a fascinating film and one I've revisited time and time again.
Like I said before I love time travel especially time travel in the real world and not in crazy space operas. Although there is a place in my heart for those as well. As always I urge you to check out these films, take a chance on something, that's how I find gems like Intacto. So this post was definitely inspired a bit by my father and his never ending speeches about teleportation becoming a reality, my last post was obviously a dedication to my mother(love you mama bence), and I'm not sure yet what my next will be. I have an article about Watchmen that I've been working on, and excitedly I've received my first request from my brother Jacob which is definitely on the horizon. Thanks for reading especially all you new people out there we appreciate your readership. Be sure to follow us on facebook to get the inside scoop on everything PORTEmaus.
One last thought - Fresnadillo went on to direct 28 Weeks Later, which for me was a worthy follow up to Boyles already awesome take on zombies. In fact 28 weeks later, Dawn of the Dead, and Zombi 2 would be an awesome movie night of good zombie sequels.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Bence with a new column that I'd like to bring to the offices of portemaus. I've really enjoyed myself these past few months writing about movies and hopefully sparking some discussion among the masses. Now movie night will continue to be my primary focus, but I wanted to branch out a bit so here I am with "nerdlert".
In case you couldn't tell, I'm a nerd. A big one, and if for whatever reason that wasn't apparent to you so far my next column is about "watchmen" and then after that I have a movie night about indie sci fi. Now I'm not saying I love me some d and d or mmorpgs but I know what those are and I DEFINITELY played magic in my youth. I love comics, and toys and sci fi and fantasy and super heros and "stuff" and things that blink. This column will be a place where I can geek out about silly nerd things. Ill probably only spend a few paragraphs if that on each thing and I imagine ill talk about a few things per article with no real connection between much more free form and random thoughts than the brilliant structure of "movie night"
So two things really inspired me to want to write this column. One was the new footage/trailer for Green Lantern, and the other was a graphic novel by Brian Wood called "Demo."
I mentioned that I love comics. Ok well I LOVE comics, my dad is definitely responsible for this. He used to take me to the comic book store and I would buy 2 or 3 and wed go home and read them together and talk about them and then play superhero or whatever. This obviously didn't last forever but I still kept collecting....I'd fall off for a few years but I've always come back. Comics are the mythology of our time and when you have someone like Morrison tackle batman or the x-men he creates classic LITERATURE. Fables, ex-machina, unwritten should all be taught in school.
Ok so that brings me to Brian Wood and "Demo". I discovered Brian Wood after reading his run on DV8..far different than anything Warren Ellis was doing with the property. I loved how different Wood's take on superpowers was, I then sought out DMZ which is by far his most successful endeavor as we follow matty the photojournalist through war torn manhattan. For whatever reason I never paid much attention to "demo", but when I finally picked it up and read the description about him writing short stories about youths with power I became intrigued. After reading some of the reviews describing it as an amazing modern day version of xmen I knew I had to but it. So as much as I agree that this book is the best version of xmen since morrison, its kind of misleading. For one there's no team...also each story is self contained. What he does is paint a picture of youth better than anyone in recent years and he injects all the drama and yearning to belong and emotion that comes with growing up and represents that with power. His stories always come to some conclusion on what it means to have power or control over your life. In some stories it is quite literal such as super strength or invulnerability, in other stories it is much more obtuse such as photographic memory or amazing observational skills.
The best xmen stories always mixed the fantastic with the real giving us an amazing story about youth overcoming intolerance and dealing with the extreme emotions involved with being young and different. When you look at "demo" with this filter you can see how he has created something that carries on this spirit. I don't want to go in to as much depth as I usually would with films because each story unfolds so beautifully and sometimes horrifically that they should all be experienced with fresh eyes. Instead I'll leave you with some ideas that are presented in this volume. What would photographic memory mean to a relationship, what if the best marksman in the world hated war, and lastly if your neighborhood hated your family for being different would you bring animals back from the dead to slaughter a city block. So once again I urge you all to check out Demo from Brian Wood, his examination of youth in the modern age is honest, intriguing and packs an unexpected emotional punch that is all too absent from stories of "powered youths."
The second item that really got the nerd juices flowing was the newest Green Lantern trailer. I'm a bit of an optimist in general and I always had hope for this film. Green Lantern, Batman, X-men and spider-man probably had the highest rotation for me growing up and I never thought I would ever see a GL movie come to fruition. Alas even I was a little worried after seeing the first trailer. Don't get me wrong sinestro looked amazing and the few seconds of oa looked cool but everything was such a tease that I was afraid it might not deliver on the epic scale it needed to. That has all changed with this 4 minute clip from wondercon. HOLY SHIT they made a frakking Green Lantern movie. If this new trailer is how the movie is going to be then they nailed the tone and look of the film. Abin sur crashing to earth looks brilliant, Mark Strong's voice rules....and Oa, the home of the lanterns, looks to be one of the most amazing easter egg filled scenes I've seen. As the camera pans over we get glimpses of Stel, Salaak, Boodika, Kilowog and more. If Campbell has put this much effort into the whole movie then the world is about to get smacked on its ass by the overwhelming cool that is Hal Jordan and the frakking Corps......like I said....big nerd. So if you have any sort of nerd in you or maybe you just like Mr Reynolds wearing skin tight CGI...go to Apple's trailer website check out this trailer and get ready for DC to have another hero alongside Bale and crew.
That's it for this first installment of Nerdlert. Hope you get as much enjoyment out of these two pieces of nerd culture as I do. Don't let the word comic deter you from missing out on some amazing literature.
Ill keep posting more and more but if you are at all curious about "good" comics here's some authors to begin with
Morrison, Vaughn, Spencer(he's new but his first volume of "Morning Glories" is the closest thing to a succesor to lost that I've seen)
Most anything from these guys is amazing.
One last thought - I'm going to go ahead and say it if you don't like Kick Ass then you don't "get it"
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This entry comes by way of a recommendation from a coworker of my wife's (His second recommendation was one of the worst documentaries that I have ever had the displeasure to view). There is much conjecture as to the veracity of this film as a documentary. Whether the events are true or not is quite irrelevant to what is ultimately "good" about the film.
I tend to disagree with reviewers who considered the film to "jaw-dropping" but at the very least it is thought provoking. The film is a case of Occam's Razor and it is quite easy for the viewer to make simple observations that ultimately turn out to be correct. For those unaware of the premise of the film, it follows a photographer as he virtually a seemingly perfect woman (the sister of a eight year old painting "prodigy") on Facebook while his brother and his collaborator document the experience.
Call me a cynic but there is a reason the old adage "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is" has persisted. Lo and behold, the film reinforces this statement... It seems that with the perfect woman on Facebook, nothing is what it seems. While the film documents the psychology behind virtual relationships, most reviews have refused to highlight something that has personally stuck in my craw. How can somebody be so woefully naive?
I understand the concept of desperation but from the beginning when the art of the eight year old arrives that something is amiss. The focus of the story is that this is a virtual relationship but really it is a tale of psychosis on both the part of Nev (the photographer) and virtual woman Megan (or rather the person who really was Megan). Both have blatantly lost touch with reality, one with the belief that online persona people exhibit are completely truthful and the other resides in a world of her own creation.
As I mentioned earlier, I am less concerned with whether the film is real or fake... I thought that its portrayal of what constitutes a person virtually was interesting but overall I found the film to be simplistic. It was not difficult to see where it was going and I am kind of shocked that a viewer would take this at face value. This would make the viewer no better than Nev in the grand scheme of things. Overall, it was interesting to witness the ugly side of Facebook besides the chucking of virtual livestock, poking or the feuding between fourteen year olds.
Out of the ashes of the PORTEmaus Book Club comes the PORTEmaus Literature Society... Basically, it will be basically be the same model as the Film Foray Cavalcade in that it will review books that have been read with out all of the mishegas of having to write updates that nobody reads. With that being sad, I hope to have the first entry up soon since classes are winding down thereby allowing me to pursue other hobbies.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I'm sure all of you have been wondering why it's been so long since my last post. I know how much you all look forward to the insights given in each installment of Movie Night and i apologize for the extended period of time between my last post. Alas tragedy has struck the house of Bence. So be forewarned the fun and fancy free journey through the contemporary film landscape you are all so accustomed to must be put on hiatus. With this i will venture into the melancholy in an effort to honor the deceased.
Quick tour through my personal life(dont worry wont be here too long). Mama Bence has recently passed away. It was a sudden and horrible shock to my family and after a beautiful ceremony the wifey, our little guy and myself are back on the east coast to sit and ruminate about our feelings. Now without wanting to get into too many details i want to make a quick point before i get into the "bulk" of this article. My mom, although proud of me, never really understood what i do for a living or even what im passionate about. She knew i liked films and reading, but i know she never understood just how important they were to my life. Along with that i know she knew that i enjoyed writing but again i know she never really understood what that meant for me as a person. One of the true regrets i have that im willing to share with the world at large is that she was never able to read my humble posts that i have provided to the offices of portemaus and through these posts maybe get an insight into one of the greatest passions of my life.. Frivolous as they may seem they definitely represent myself and my stance on film and they exist as pieces of writing that im relatively proud of. Aside from my work in college, i haven't had an output for any structured thoughts on film until Mr Funkowitz provided me with the chance earlier this year. So as i sit here dealing with various stages of grief and to be honest rather powerless to do anything of meaning i know that my mom would never want me to stop doing what i love. Aside from my family, film is one of the most important passions i have and one i was never able to share with mama bence. So without further ado i am writing this special installment of movie night for my mom. I am going to only look at one film.
"Never Let Me Go" - Mark Romanek.
Im going to be referring back to my mom here and there throughout the article, but aside from that it is back to pure film analysis from here on out.
First and foremost this film is amazing. Whether it is the subject matter and its proximity to certain events in my personal life or not the film blew me away. It is a gorgeous poetic story on mortality exploring what it means to live a full or important life. Im going to say it right now...this belongs at number 3 for 2010...although i dont know if i could knock number 10 off. It oddly enough shares some themes with Toy Story 3(my previous number 3) but thats another essay on its own.
The story follows three students at Hailsham a seemingly idyllic prep school in the English countryside, we soon learn the horrifying truth that the students are all clones being raised solely for the purposes of organ harvesting once each child has matured. The three students we follow are Ruth, Kat and Tommy and like any good story about youth there is a tragic love triangle between them. Kat and Tommy are truly in love, yet in their early years Ruth steps in and decides she will take Tommy for her own. We follow these characters through three points in their lives as children, young adults venturing out into the world and then finally in their last years as they begin the donation process.
Mark Romanek keeps his camerawork very subtle, utilizing slow camera movements and focus pulls to allow us to absorb the beauty of each image. Every scene has a timeless dreamlike quality to it. He gives you dates of when the events take place but the locales he chooses and the costume design give you a sense that these events could occur at any point in time. For a film with such a strong basis in science fiction he shoots nature very beautifully. We get shots of the children playing in forests or running down a pier or playing on a lonely beach. By doing this he strips these characters down to an almost primal existence. We see them grow up only having each other and little to no contact with the outside world. They grow up alone from the rest of the world yet we see desire and passion and ambition germinate within each of them like any other youth would experience.. Which is one of the big questions of the film...What does it mean to be human? The film seems to take the stance that humanity is defined by ones sense of importance and fulfillment. Whether it is experiencing love, achieving forgiveness, or being a supporter to other lives. The life we lead is ours to lead and however little time we have is arbitrary as long as we take advantage of it and stay true to our heart. I could go on and on about this but im going to focus in on the three characters and discuss how they all end up living full lives and when it comes time to "complete"(a very apt term given the themes of the film) as tragic as their early deaths are they all achieve something in their lifetimes that is everlasting.
Lets begin with Ruth. Ruth "stole" Tommy away from Kat early on in the film. She spends the middle part of the film essentially poking at Kat that she missed out on her chance with Tommy even though we can see through Keira's subtle performance that Ruth does not quite believe the love that tommy and her share. Ruth's actions in the third act are as heartbreaking as anything else. What we think is a last trip with her best friends is actually her chance at redemption. She knows that she stole time away from Kat by pursuing Tommy so long ago and that with what little time these characters have on earth this is sin that is sure to damn her. She has since realized the error of her ways and as her health dwindles she searches out the fabled "deferral" that they once heard stories about. She gives Tommy and Kat the chance to be together and apply for this deferral so they can enjoy the love they should have had so long ago. We see Keira disappear before our eyes and she knows that with her next donation she will likely "complete," so with tears in her eyes she begs for forgiveness because she knows that this was her great purpose in life. She needed to fix the wrong that she had incurred upon Tommy and Kat so long ago.
Next up is Tommy. Tommy is played to perfection by Andrew Garfield, the innocence and immaturity regarding emotions within him is all over his face. Tommy is hope personified. As he grows up he begins to realize that legacy is important and he begins to paint. Something that every other kid did at Hailsham he realizes he missed out on a chance to leave a bit of his soul behind so he throws himself into his art. When he finds himself with his two best friends from his youth the love he felt for Kat comes roaring back, and with the opportunity that Ruth gives them to go profess their love in the hopes that it will get them a deferral he puts his all into that. So when the sad truth about deferrals comes to light his breakdown is a harrowing performance. It is with the same innocence as a child that Tommy as an adult doesnt realize at first that he had achieved importance. Not only was he able to experience true love, as a donor he was content that he was helping people. His line fits perfectly, "who knew that kat would end up a great carer and me a great donor. And he is good at it, he is at the same amount of donations as Ruth and he is strong as ever. Not only is he the most hopeful and optimistic character in the film it is through his donations that he gives hope to others.
Then we come to Kat. She is our guide through the film and the film unfolds from her point of view. I've mentioned the love story between the three characters plenty so with Kat I want to discuss her work as a "carer." A carer is about as literal as it sounds, they provide care to those going through the donation process. Kat in understanding her role in life has decided to spend what little time she has as an adult helping others go through her own inevitable fate. For kat this was her purpose, she had so much love that she had to share it with everyone. In the middle part of the film she confuses these feelings for lust and searches out her "original" in porn magazines.
It is in this latter part of the film that Kat is shown to be the strongest of them all. She has perservered through everything by understanding who she is and choosing to take the path that gives her the most satisfaction despite knowing her ultimate fate.
It is this idea that each of these characters lives a full life albeit far too short that inspires me and what reminds me of my mom. Each of these characters finds redemption, or love, or purpose and accomplishes that before their time comes to "complete." My mom was far too young, but in her short time here she touched so many lives much like Kat. Most of her adult life was spent trying to help and inspire others to achieve their full potential, and in her death i have received countless messages each telling me the same thing. That my mom is the reason they went to college, or became a teacher, or whatever dream they might have had. Like these characters my mom had a purpose that she followed and she excelled at what she did. No one can say she wasnt a success, and even though she was taken from all of us far too soon she led a full life with what time she had. Not only did she live a life full of purpose she lived long enough to see her son begin his life with his own family. Something these characters were never destined to do. I'm sure i'll continue to see parallels between any film dealing with mortality for quite some time but this film resonated with me on such a powerful level. As it is purpose and passion are huge themes for me(see any article ive written on Aronofsky) so to see them presented in such a simplistic and beautiful way as it is here seemed like the perfect film to analyze in dedication to Mama Bence.
I want to talk about one specific shot before i finish up. Towards the end of the film the characters are on the beach and we see an old ship that has been washed ashore for what looks like years. The image itself is beautiful, a single decaying boat alone against the backdrop of the beach, but in analyzing the image i feel it is a strong metaphor for the theme of the movie. Here we have a boat out of its natural element, yet so close to where it belongs and its just falling apart piece by piece as the years pass by. Our young characters live the same way, just outside of society yearning to be a part of "normalcy" and again falling apart piece by piece with each passing year. Who knows perhaps im reading far too into it.
I know i talked a lot about the film but i still urge you to check it out, Romanek really stepped up his game from One Hour Photo and showed us just how amazing a filmmaker he is.
DEDICATED TO MARIA DE LA CRUZ ROMO
one last thought:
Top Ten Films From Mama Bence(rough estimate)
10. Iron Man(i was just as surprised but we saw BOTH together)
9. Anything with Johnny Depp(thats my mom)
8. The Talented Mr Ripley
7. Stand and Deliver
6. Desperado(she always had a thing for Banderas)
5. American Me
4. Toy Story 3(thanks to RC)
3. Mi Vida Loca
1. Mi Familia - Anytime there was any confusion on what to watch she would always choose this film. Not only did it a tell a story chronicling the lives of an immigrant Mexican family, it starred Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos, and Jimmy Smits. I'm pretty sure this film was made with my mom in mind. Don't worry mom Riley will definitely be forced to watch this as often as you forced me to see this.