Friday, June 29, 2012

Movie Night: WTF is Mumblecore?

Film movements are an intriguing result of a collective consciousness manifesting itself on the screen. Whether it be born from a rebellious nature to shrug off the ways of the past such as Nouvelle Vogue, or Dogme 95, or something more organic such as Poetic Realism or the American independents of the 70s. Some of them are defined by manifestos and beliefs, while others simple exist together and history labels them later. Either way, film movements capture a moment and give us an insight into the cultural landscape of the time. So that brings us to today, and seriously WTF is mumble core?

I had known about the Duplass brothers and some of their contemporaries for awhile now. I knew this group of friends revelled in low budget filmmaking with loose scripts that seemed to tell small intimate stories. I had no idea there was this whole movement around it. Whether they label themselves or not their films fit into this movement of the modern age.

Mumblecore began with Funny Ha Ha by Andrew Bujalski, the films are defined by the improvisational dialogue which is the reason behind "mumble". Most of the characters deliver lines in a naturalistic way, often by amateur actors. It is movement of realism for the most part, relying on minimal lighting and low budget digital filmmaking. So these are all the aesthetic and technical aspects of the films. The movement goes deeper and while neorealism examined the working class, mumblecore examines the apathetic and directionless 20 and 30 something's of the new millennium. The films are filled with characters who are educated, from middle class families, but with little to no drive. Or if there is drive there is a lack of conviction. It is the age of entitlement and we see layabouts and dreamers who feel success will come to them.

So if you're following me so far, the you realize the films are often filled with douchebags. Not only that but douchebags who can't act. I know that sounds harsh, but it more or less is the reality. I'm sure you know it's hard to make a douchebag likable, and when we get into the films it's one of the biggest problems I have with the movies, but some can get it right as we will see shortly. Now before we get started, none of these directors would ever come out and say oh I made a mumblecore film, especially Lena Dunham who vehemently hates the connection between her film and the movement, but these films share the thematic elements and aesthetic approach that make up this idiosyncratic movement in film.

Ok so I want to look at a few films, but while before I spent a lot of time analyzing the film, I am going to focus on one or two key elements and how it relates back to this movement. First off I want to start with Baghead from the Duplass brothers. The Duplass have said this is their response to the overly gory horror films from the first decade of the millennium. Mentioning Hostel and Saw as gory films but never creating scares. So apparently they thought a man with a bag over his head staring through your widow would be scary. The film follows four struggling actor/writers as they go to a cabin for a weekends worth of writing. As they begin to tell the story of a man with a bag over his head terrorizing some campers, their nightmares become reality and so on.

Is there any greater hopeless profession than an actor/writer struggling to make it? Well the Duplass brothers fill these characters with just the right amount of entitlement you'd be sure to find as waiters in any high class Los Angeles restaurant. There's a weak love story in there as well about what else? But unrequited love of course. The film actually has a decent twist at the end that could have made for an interesting film if they had played that angle more. The problem is the inherent opportunity with this type of film. For some reason indie DIY films insist on filling the screen with unlikable characters who can't deliver lines or create tension. I was there and when the actual scenes of tension start they are actually promising, the problem is too little too late. By then I didn't really care what happened to the characters or if there was some over arching theme on the merits of indie film and how to make brilliance out of nothing. I can accept that these brothers want to make films by their own rules, but if you're doing a film so dialogue heavy then use people who can deliver it. Ti West, who has his own set of problems, nailed the dialogue in his last film, and that film was full of tension.

I know this is not a conscious film movement, but the dedication to layabouts is confusing. Now when you look at a film like Cold Weather, you see the same themes explored, but we also see how world shattering it is once out character begins to grow. Cold Weather tells the story of a recent graduate with a degree in forensics, as he returns home with no prospects and an awkward desire to work at an ice factory. He begins to renew his relationship with his high school sweetheart, and then she goes missing and the film becomes this modern day hard boiled detective film as him and his friend search for the lost girl.

Now this is mumblecore used to explore themes in an interesting and unique way. The genre shifts the movie takes are so drastic, they parallel the character development perfectly as we see our hero grow as he begins to find his passion again. The spark in his eyes as he moves through the film with purpose give us a relatable character. Anyone can relate to not knowing what to do after college, and while working at an ice factory is a bit on the nose symbolism, it represents what these films are trying to portray very well. These films celebrate the youth of a new generation, but more than that what happens when that generation becomes an adult. Ours was a generation that never knew poverty the way our parents did. The middle class grew exponentially and thus there is a whole generation of kids who never knew the types our parents did. So there was never a reason for us to grow up, sure there are always the less fortunate who had to scrape together and work from a young age just to help the family pay bills, but these films dont look at that. This is why Cold Weather is such a great example for mumblecore, because it takes this entitled youth and juxtaposes our heros lackadaisical attitude with the powerful drive of his less than fortunate friend.

Even the low budget aesthetic has a purpose with this film, since the film becomes about a man becoming an amateur detective, the low budget film is a great mirror to his life. It doesn't hurt that the actors deliver their lines much better, but more than that everyone here has depth and every character has changed from when we met them.

I want to look at Tiny Furniture from the extremely popular right now Lena Dunham. Dunham's HBO show, Girls, has been called everything from the voice of a generation to a huge step back for feminism. She has openly rejected the label that her film, Tiny Furniture, is a mumble core film. Whether it is or not it might be the greatest example of the movements favorite hero. Dunham plays a recent college graduate as she moves back in with her artist mother and struggles to find her place in life. Along the way she faces disappointment, humiliation, and a sexual encounter in a pipe. What really separates her film is the quality of writing and acting. Like Dunham or not she is an extremely clever writer, and her film is hilariously awkward, and as an actress she has no fear of putting herself on display for all to see and laugh at. Her movie captures the aimless nature of our late twenties as those around us succeed and move on, we are trapped in arrested development with no hope to move on. The film is able to have the same naturalistic dialogue but this delivered with talent and timing. Like anything else, even if you are trying something different , if you can't do basic things well, like acting, you can't have a good film.

So seriously WTF is mumblecore? Well after spending some time with these films, it is a film movement for the new generation. In this day and age almost anyone has the tools to make a film. Between cellphones, and Flip cameras, to digital, filmmaking is accessible to anyone with some time on their hands. The result is this DIY style of filmmaking, and unfortunately a strong side effect is some poor acting, but that changes from film to film. It would make sense that the characters involved are representations of the directors themselves, so what else than a group of apathetic, educated,entitled and hopeless individuals floating through life. While there are some great examples like Cold Weather that are absolutely mumblecore, but ultimately transcend the genre, there are plenty like Baghead, filled with douchebags.


One last thought - so does this apply to everything, because Adam Wingard, and Ti West seem close to playing in this sandbox, but on the horror side.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Disrupting Gonzi's Food Situation = Not the best idea

So I have a few jobs. I've got a few neglected jobs here at PORTEmaus and then there is my support my family jobby job. Every now and then I get into adventures there that I rarely get into on our site. While I wouldn't call the following an adventure, more like a miniscule event that caused Gonzi to snowball a rant that would make Mr. Rooney proud. At least I hope.

So none of this actually took place at my job or with other employees but at a nearby food spot while on lunch break. I went in to get a sandwich. Went through the motions and of telling them what I wanted to order, what toppings, etc. And when it came time to pay I thought "Oh yeah. This place gives discounts to people who work for the company I work for...I should show my badge and get on that." So I did. And the girl behind the register says:

'Oh. We don't offer discounts for *Blank* employees anymore."

Me: 'Oh ok. No problem'

Girl: 'Yeah the owner stopped offering it because you guys weren't coming in as much as *other blank* employees.

Me: '...ok'

Other Girl: 'Yeah. Maybe if you tell people over there to start coming in more we can talk to the owner and get the discount back for you guys.'

Me: '......................ok...'

So I left with my food and at first this didn't bother me. Then I started to think about it. Let me break down the logistics and facts to you to help you understand what sparked my rage snowball:

-This food joint's clientele is about 98.9% employees from surrounding businesses as it is built no where near residential or other retail shops.

-There was a competitor across the street that sold ideally the same type of sandwiches,  done the same type of way, for the same prices that went out of business. So it has the sub market cornered.

-When it opened, this place offered discounts to the two surrounding LARGE companies. It now only offers discounts to the one I don't work for.

-The subs are average at best.

So let me get this straight....This place feels like it's not getting enough business from one of the companies it offers a discount to. So it's solution is to take away the discount privileges and let the employees know that maybe....JUST MAYBE....if we start to frequent the establishment more, we will get the discount reinstated. Interesting.

Sandwich making me at Camera 2.....

First turkey club twat....don't give me an ultimatum. Show some respect for your elders. I was playing with Micro Machines while you were just a glimmer in your high school dropout douche bag of a father's eye.

Secondly.....tell your scumbag of a boss that he has no idea how to keep people coming back. Has he considered that maybe the reason we stop coming is because the bread is stale...the lettuce looks old and decrepit, and it's almost impossible to get out of that place without spending 10 bucks on lunch.

Thirdly....just as easy as I can spread the word about how we need to go to this place in the hopes of possibly getting a discount back that we previously had.....I can easily tell everyone "Guess what those scumbags at that Sub Place did? Took away our discount and insulted me for asking for it. DON'T EVER GO THERE AGAIN."

Got it? Now go back to texting your stupid friends about how you can't wait for the new Katy Perry movie.

Look, revoking the discount in the face of what should be an easy corner of the market to me seems like an act of desperation. Clearly, he was already feeling the pressure of declining business and had to resort to recouping losses however possible. It's just a shame that it had to go down like this.

On the positive side.....I wrote another Haiku! Check it:

Cheap Sub Shop Owner
Took my miniscule discount
Fire Turkey Twats!

I'm still working on this poetry Make sure you follow me on twitter. I've even got a fancy domain that takes you straight there:


Weekly Wish List 6/26 Art and Sound

Quite the eclectic mix this week. So yes I will definitely be making a trip to the store this week.

The Artist - Michel Hazanivicius
Best picture winner is now out on blu. Hazanivicius makes his films with such passion and reverence for the history of cinema. I strongly urge you all to check out his OSS films as they do for the spy genre what The Artist does with silent film. This is a wonderfully enjoyable ode to old Hollywood with Dujardin at his charming best as he plays a silent film star who's light begins to fade as sound is introduced into film. Here's my original thoughts.

The 39 Steps - Alfred Hitchcock
So you think Hitchcock only filmed thrillers? Well maybe not especially if the articles on this site interest you. This is an amazing spy film about a simple man caught up in a web of international espionage. After taking a woman home, Robert Donat wakes up to find himself being chased by her pursues. The chase takes him to Scotland as we discover the secret of the 39 steps. Criterions new release on Blu should blow us away.

The Sound of Noise - Johannes Stillson
Finally! After a one week engagement in New York I finally get to see this film. I've been waiting for years to get a chance to check out what hopefully will turn out to be one of the most unique films on this list. Don't worry I won't set my expectations too high. But how can you go wrong with a group of musicians turned bank robbers who turn robberies into performance pieces.


One last thought - eh why not?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Movie Preview UPDATE Extraterrestrial

Time Crimes is one of my favorite movies in the past ten years. It manages to tell a story with huge consequences, yet remain intimately focused on just a few characters. This kind of juxtaposition between the grandiose(time travel) and the intimate( a man running from a pursuer.) is played again here in his latest film. Extraterrestrial tells the story of Julio and Julia waking up after a night of serious partying, only to find out giant space ships have invaded the city. They don't know each other and we soon find out Julia has a boyfriend with a serious hero complex. The film is an amazing balance of comedy played against themes of paranoia and what it means to be an "alien" in the metaphorical sense. It's a wonderfully charming film and Vigalondo continues to be one of my favorite directors working . With a much lighter tone, he shows that he is far from a one trick pony, mastering romantic comedy and mixing in some science fiction for good measure he creates a layered film that is enjoyable from start to finish.

The theme of invasion is woven throughout the film. The aliens are here yes, but if you're expecting to see these people pull together a rag tag group of people ready to stand up, well this isn't that movie. Julio represents the chaos that occurs when an unknown force invades ones life, he is the true alien in the film. He comes in and literally turns Julia's life upside down. He exposes just how crazy their neighbor Angel is, played wonderfully by Carlos Areces. Angel is the nosy neighbor obsessed with Julia, and what Julio does to him in the means of self preservation is hilarious and dark all at once.

The way Julio plays with Carlos, Julia's boyfriend, is incredibly smart. Taking advantage of Carlos' desire to be a hero and making up stories all about the aliens and their different ships and mind control, Julio weaves a story that begins to become true as the film progresses. By the end we know everything is up in the air as a big lie, but by then there are so many threads we begin to wonder if the stories are true. Was Julio right? Are aliens taking over are bodies? Why would Carlos leave by himself when he was the one who insisted everyone stay together. As with all the characters Julio is the catalyst that allows the audience to see who they really are

Vigalondo makes the plot dance along a fine thread with just enough absurdity and screwball comedy, you can bet he loved Howard Hawks. The interplay between the three main actors is a treasure trove of miscommunication and misdirection. Lies are thrown about like juggling balls and the audience is left to marvel at the characters juggling the lies until the balls begin to fall an people begin to be hurt. Just when you think we will continue with this sitcom for a while, Vigalondo decides to blow up some buildings and take over a television station. It is an unexpected ride that never takes you where you think it will end

This is such a unique film and fits perfectly with how unique Time Crimes was. This is a great film and I urge you all to seek this out. Vigalondo was a great discovery for me, and I'm happy to share with you all how awesome a filmmaker he is. So please go check it out, then come back here and let me know what you think.


One last thought - the whole time I kept thinking this is pretty close to the setup for Skyline, was Vigalondo just trying to show them how to properly shoot this movie?

Spring Preview UPDATE Moonrise Kingdom

Charm and whimsy. Wes Anderson brings them in spades in all he does, and with his newest feature he has settled into his style and that effortless perfection is felt through each vintage tinged frame of this story of young love. I suppose if you're not a fan of Anderson's particular style, then this won't change your mind, but this is a swift moving wonderful example of how far he's come. After much deliberation and a few physical arguments I've come to the conclusion that The Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favorite of his films, and while this film doesn't reach those heights of brilliance it's a welcome addition to his ouevre.

Anderson's style is felt in every aspect of his films. His camera movements manage to evoke a sense of wit that surpasses most actors. He moves his camera on a track through locations highlighting small little moments and giving you a nice wink all the while. It's a strong visual style that makes his films feel like moving paintings of Americana. He is also a fan of center framing his actors. It's a technique not widely used, since it gives an awkward sense of framing to the viewer. It always works in his films since he revels in stories of the dysfunctional, the dreamers, the outcasts, and the damaged. His films are about the charmingly awkward nature of the human condition. He tells stories of real relationships with all their complexity and uncomfortableness, and he does it with an extremely stylized sense of dialogue. All this comes together with his warm color palette(felt ever so strongly in The Darjeeling Limited) to create a tone and an atmosphere that is undeniably his.

His films vary in success, and his dedication to certain techniques aren't always perfect. I love The Royal Tenenbaums, but my favorite of his is The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I feel is sheer brilliance. So where does Moonrise Kingdom land? Well it marks the first time for me that his style feels absolutely effortless. There is an ease to the picture that makes it move so smoothly from scene to scene. Everything about it is done with the utmost sincerity and you can sense that Anderson is so comfortable in his abilities as a director. This story of finding love might be his most uplifting film after Fox.

Here we have two young kids falling in love and running away together. Is there anything more awkward than discovering love? The material is perfect for Anderson and he handles some heavy themes with such a light touch that will allow it to expand beyond the art house. He bathes the film with his typical sense of whimsy, including a smoking scout master who has super jump abilities, search squads of little boys with bats full of nails, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand going head to head as an unhappy married couple, and Bruce Willis reminding everyone he can act outside of action films. Oh yah and Harvey Keitel of course.

The film moves a long at a brisk pace and if you're along for the ride the whole thing will envelop you in its loving look at finding love in all stages of life. It's a wonderful story with some knock out performances from all included. Like I said if his movies have turned you off in the past for being too "clever" or too awkward this isn't going to change your mind. This is Anderson growing in his abilities and perfecting a style that he's been fine tuning since the beginning. Still like Fox better, but this is a wonderfully heart warming film and a great alternative to your blockbuster fare.


One last thought - I like Schwarzman but its amazing how Anderson get the most hilarious performances out of him.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"My life has become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles:" Some Night with Fun

PORTEmaus LISTENING-post Concert Review

Oddly enough, in the time of yesteryear, I used to write many a blog about my concert adventures with our resident music guru, Hudson Hawk. Many of them still exist in the graveyard that is MySpace. Time to shake of rust, crack my knuckles, it looks like Manfred Funkowitz is returning to the realm of music. With that being said, low expectations were held by all.

The Venue: There are very few reasons why I would ever venture out to Mesa, Arizona short of just passing through. Maybe it is the hour or so drive from Phoenix or the fragrant aroma of manure wafting in the summer breeze but for some reason, I am not the huge fan of Mesa. Downtown Mesa was interesting with its comic shop and haunted house restaurant flooded with several men in a fez and another who looked like he was dressed for Nazi Germany.

The Haunted House Restaurant

Anyway, the Mesa Art Center is a pretty slick venue sitting in a massive art complex. It is quite the impressive set-up for a city that one does not associate with such things. From where our seats were, it looked like there were no "bad" seats in the house (no sight lines obstructed) and the sound system was better than expected.

Opening Act: Now, Now

Contrary to popular belief, I enjoy opening acts for two reasons. The first is that I am being exposed (for the most part) to a band that I have never heard of and may enjoy listening to them in the future. The second is that if they suck then I am going to make fun of them mercilessly with whomever I am attending the concert.

For those wondering, Now, Now falls within the latter of those points. I do not know which was worse, the fact that they obviously chose not to perform a sound check prior to taking the stage or the fact that the lead singer's MacBook constantly chimed with errors. So, in between such pithy banter as "Boy, it sure is hot here" and puns referencing Fun there was nothing but noise coming from the stage. I could not even tell you a word from a song and tool searching the Internet (at the concert) to find out their name.

Main Attraction: Fun.

As seen in Hawk's New Tune Tuesday, I am not the world's biggest fan of Some Nights. In fact, I did not like it too much, it was over produced and highly self-indulgent. If I had listened to the album prior to buying the tickets, I probably would not have gone to the concert. However, my love for The Format and the first Fun. album (Aim and Ignite) was able to get the better of me and so, Lady Funkowitz and I headed to the land of cattle and hipsters.

As one might imagine, the best part of this concert was the material from their debut album (although, they did not play Benson Hedges or Be Calm, which was disappointing.) I had hoped that the live versions of certain songs would e devoid of the loud drum machines and auto-tune but sadly, they kept that in. At the very least, the song selection was split evenly down the middle (between the two albums) with a cover of the Rolling Stone's You Can't Always Get What You Want towards the end of the set.

I have always wondered why The Format broke up and watching Nate Ruess prancing about on stage wearing a Fun. jersey, I think I have my answer. While I enjoyed the enthusiasm and stage presence of Ruess, I was disappointed by the amount of F words in his interactions with the audience (It was literally every other word, he is quite the wordsmith, you know). While I enjoy utilizing a swear word now and then, I certainly would not do so with an audience chock full of teens (as you know, those hipster kids are faint of heart) or parents taking their children. In spite of these complaints, even I, Manny Funkowitz had fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nerdlert: Some late thoughts on E3

E3 happened a few weeks ago and I wanted to make sure I chimed in with some of the exciting prospects we would be seeing in the comings months. But then something happened. While last year had the excitement of potential for Vita, and the amazing announcement of Wii U, as well as games like Mass Effect 3, this year seemed far more lackluster. With Vita not being able to generate any sort of interest after launch, and some odd presentation choices by all involved the whole show seemed a bit off. Thats not to say there weren't any highlights, because there's plenty to be excited about. Unlike last year there was no trouble picking out my highlights of the show.

Before we get into that as a die hard Nintendo fan, they really need to get their act together. The potential they've been describing for the Wii U is enormous and could be game changing in a more impact full way than the Wii, but they need to show us. This was a huge opportunity to steal some major market share by pushing their new toy tk the limit to get us all excited for November. But instead we get Nintendoland, Pikmin and Rayman? I'm sure the games are fine but where is the title I'm going to wait 8 hours in line for? These all seemed to take advantage of the new system but I want true innovation. Remember how simple Wii Sports was but how much it represented what the system could do? Where is that? I'm worried for the plumber and his crew.

5. Playstation All -Stars Battle Royale - PS3
Look I'm a sucker for Super Smash, and this is the Playstation clone. Excited to be Drake, or Big Daddy, or Sweet Tooth? If anything I'm sure this will be a fun diversion and party game. The play control seems really thought out, watching the demos Sweet Tooth almost completely relies on bombs and shotguns, quite a departure from the melee style you would expect.

4. Project P-100 - Wii U
Showcasing some true innovation, this game puts you in control of a group of people with special powers. You can combine them together to help you defeat enemies and solve puzzles. Some examples are transforming your group into a large hand to turn cranks, or to create a large sword to swing at enemies. The play control all seems pretty intuitive and fast paced. This could be the saving grace for the Wii U, except for the fact that I don't see what the use of the pad controller is here. I'm sure it has a purpose, but so far I don't see why you couldn't play this with a standard controller, and for me that's a problem.

3. The Unfinished Swan - PSN
Never seen a game like this. The creator describes it as a first person painting game. You are presented with a white screen and must throw paint balls at the screen to reveal the layout of the space. You do this as you search for a swan, the whole thing sounds completely original and seems to offer up a new experience which has me super excited.

2. Watch Dogs - PS3/PC/XBOX 360
Cities are completely controlled by computers, and you star as an expert hacker able to bring down the system. You can crash cell phones, control traffic lights, listen in on conversations, or download information about everyone around you. It's a great idea that if executed in an organic manner will be extremely brilliant. The demo shows promise, but I felt the controls were a bit stilted and wanted them to be a bit smoother. Once the action kicked in it seemed to flow a bit better, but the hacking and the surveillance I wish felt more natural, again this is all from demos. Could be something special here,

The Last of Us - PS3
Post apocalyptic city and you are traveling through with a young girl trying to survive. Does the play control resemble Uncharted? Absolutely, but I'm not sure why that's a problem. Aside from the fact that there seemed to be enough details that separate itself, such as looking in your backpack for items(Molotov cocktail?), being able to crush guys faces into walls and taking people hostage, you can imagine that the game moves as smoothly as it does in this demo. This is Naught Dog perfecting everything they've learned and providing you with a complete immersive experience. There was a legitimate sense of tension as our two heroes were sneaking through this house, and we see what happens when they're found out. The way the game moves in and out of shooting and sneaking and hand to hand is as fluid as possible, this will be one of the most satisfying games of the year. I can't wait to get my hands on this.


One last thought - New Super Mario U and Zombi U? Honestly these seem cool, but are they really offering something new? Zombi shows a different approach to gaming for Nintendo, but really again what does the Wii U offer this game that wouldn't make it work on another system? Come on Nintendo, you're breaking my heart.

Weekly Wish List 6/19 Monologues, Military, and Paul Rudd

Criterion continues to blow my mind, I can't begin to describe how excite I am that they just announced Les Visiteurs du Soir by Marcel Carne. Between him and Jean Renoir poetic realism became the precursor to Bresson and ultimately the New Wave. But that's in a few months let's get down to business

Everything is Going Fine and Grays Anatomy - Steven Soderbergh
Soderbergh takes the life of Spalding Gray and weaves a narrative through it in this documentary examining the late theater mans life. I honestly have never heard of this project. But Soderbergh is always intriguing, even in his misfires. Pieces together from footage of Gray and various monologues he was known for Soderbergh puts his stamp on the documentary.

The second is the adaptation of one of Gray's monologues in which he chronicles the diagnose of a rare condition. This sounds incredibly unique and daring from one of cinemas most fearless directors.

Empire of the Sun - Steven Spielberg
Spielberg and Bale? Yah it's as awesome as it should be. This tale of a young boy in an internment camp during WWII is an underrated gem from the catalog of Spielberg. With gorgeous cinematography and Bale showing everyone just how awesome he is, the movie captured the magic Spielberg was known for in the 70s and 80s and transferred it to this war film not about War. This has always been one of my favorites from Spielberg and such a better film than War Horse and Ryan.

Wanderlust - David Wain
If I had my way Wain would continue making films like The Ten and Wet Hot American Summer. But after the success of Role Models I imagine we will get more of this type of fare from the man. That's not to say I didn't like Role Models are that this won't be funny, I miss the insanity present in his first two films. I am a longstanding fan of The State and was so happy the day the series was released on DVD. Needless to say I'm excited the man is working and that he continues to bring his pals along for the ride. Still really hoping for something completely out there, like Justin Theroux walking on water as he seduces a lonely wife with his Jesus powers.


One last thought - So they're done with mumble core? Or they just are taking mumblecore mainstream? Duplass brothers are a mixed bag for me. As is the genre itself. I'm trying to write an article on it but I keep getting stuck trying to watch enough of this quarter life crisis entitled drivel. Although Cold Weather is absolutely worth checking out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I'm a complex man full of ideas...flub...and Haikus.

So as you know I'm still trying to get back into the groove of things here in the PORTEmaus offices. Pondering ideas, reviewing previous missteps, and brushing up on my wastebasket crumbled paperball hook shot. One of the things I've been brainstorming is how to channel my mental energy into productive posts for our followers.

It's definitely a challenge because I'm constantly coming up with ideas and things that anger me. Unfortunately, most of the ideas don't materialize into post worthy material. Which is why I think so many people who think they are funny post on twitter. I'm too complex for twitter. My ideas generally fall into that category of more than 140 characters but not more than a paragraph.

So where does that leave me? I'll tell you where that leaves me.....Poetry. A harness for the creativity. But a comfortable harness. A spandex like harness. A method to create magic out of the cluster fuck that are my ideas.

With that I submit to you the first installment of "Gonzi's Rhymically Intuitive Touting'S" or GRITS.

I call this one: "Fat F*cks Run On"'s a haiku.


Fat Fucks in Pickups
Go Nuts for Dunkin' Donuts
Juicy Zombie Food

*Snaps fingers*

More to come......

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New Tune Tuesday (6.12.12): The fidelity of Regina Spektor plus The Hives, Beach Boys, Edward Sharpe, Neil Young and more...

Another week, and for once a New Tune Tuesday out on...a Tuesday. Sort of anyhow, I'll also be tackling a couple releases from last week. So anyhow, let's see what's worth a trip to the record store for those of us in need of some fresh ear bud...

RELEASE OF THE WEEK (even though it was released last week - 6.12.12): 
What we saw from the Cheap Seats, Regina Spektor
I'm thankful for being a fan of Spektor before her catchy tune "Fidelity" became a bit of a unexpected hit back in 2006. Not proud in the sense of just to be pretentious about the matter, I'm just proud to have watched from afar as an artist with as much artistic integrity as Spektor got a bit of her due in a larger public eye. She never exploded, but that's probably a good thing, and she has enjoyed seeing her stuff out there a bit more, such as doing a song for one of the Chronicles of Narnia films as well as her tune "Us" being brilliantly used in an 8mm credit sequence at the beginning of 500 Days of Summer. Besides the fact I edited a similar piece a couple years prior and they totally ripped me off (that's right Manny, I'm still pissed about it) it's still a brilliant piece of montage editing. I saw Regina perform live at the Orpheum in downtown Phoenix in the fall of 2007, in a performance I gave one of my rare 5-star reviews to. She mixed in pop, rock, blues and classical music together in a performance where she had the audience from the opening moments through the end - all on her own, without ever need ing a band, heck she could have done the whole show a Capella and we would have been eating out of her palm. She didn't do that, but she did find unique ways to find her music backdrop - thumping a microphone as the only source of back-up music to her vocals, thumping a chair with a drumstick, playing her piano or even strapping on a guitar, Spektor gave, for me, the best concert I saw that year. Throughout her career in fact, Spektor has lived up to the song title of "Fidelity." Through her self-produced, self released albums Songs and 11:11, through more major label releases like Soviet Kitsch and her live LP Live in London, Spektor has remained faithful. Faithful to her fans, faithful to her style and to herself, faithful to her art, and most importantly, faithfully releasing a great album every couple of years.

Spektor performing live at the Orpheum in Phoenix - November 2007

In their review for What we saw from the Cheap Seats, Rolling Stone, in another sign they're so out of the loop they're not even on the roller coaster track, called Regina Spektor the Joni Mitchell of her generation. That's doing Spektor a disservice, they're completely different types of artists beyond being female singer-songwriters. Spektor is the Warren Zevon of her generation: A classically trained pianist with a penchant for catchy pop hooks and some very unique, often even strange, lyrics with their own brand of humor. With this album, I think Spektor has crafted maybe her most well-rounded LP of all her "major" label releases. Far was a solid outing, but here she goes against what that records biggest problem was: too many producers. This album has one producer throughout (besides Spektor's own self-producing co credit) and while all the songs don't sound the same, there's a cohesive sound going throughout. It's appropriately titled, Spektor is a people watcher. Her past lyrics, whether delving into the teenage trying to find a mate rituals and hangouts or the people of New York most people try to ignore, show a person watching the world around her and willing to write stories about them. This album is no different, a canvas where fictional and non-fictional people and events collide and form something new underneath Spektor's beautifully played piano. Speaking French in "Don't Leave Me," taking the old classic "Don't Let Me be Misunderstood" and throwing it into a Mafia tale in "Oh Marcello," making recent pop songs archaic in their often over-produced sound and calling museums mausoleums, it's all par for the course here. What makes her so unique is her ability to take serious subjects (facing death in "Firewood," political corruption in "Ballad of a Politician" finding a sharp knife of satire) and seeming so light about it. Sometimes funny, but even when being heartbreaking there's a warmth into what she says and how she says it you can't help but feel the world is going to be alright tomorrow, even if you're not around to see it. 
Available on: CD, Deluxe-CD Set, Vinyl w/ CD (In July), MP3 Download

Other Notable Recent Releases (6.12.12)
That's why God made the Radio, The Beach Boys
The first Beach Boys LP in 16 years, and let's be honest, probably the last at this point. It's notable for the fact that Brian Wilson is here, back with the rest. Is it the best new release from the group in many decades? Sure. Is it cotton candy pop filled with a Titanic load of harmonies? You bet. Is it great? No. This isn't Pet Sounds, that's the album they'll be known by, while their strange soap opera esque relationship together else where will be how they're remembered elsewhere. But not-great doesn't mean not really good, this is a Beach Boys album and it nails what you want it to. I think the title is almost genius and I think "Pacific Coast Highway" is a great tune. "Sunlight is fading, and there's not much left to say" is a lyric that echoes Dylan's "The parties over, and theres less and less to say" from Time out of Mind, but that doesn't mean it means less here. It might not be a classic, but it's certainly better than the last (to date) records by say the Rolling Stones, Who or Paul McCartney. To celebrate 50 years of this band with this record, well, that's why God made CD players. Pop it in.  
Available On: Vinyl, CD, Mp3 Download
Lex Hives, The Hives
When it came to the garage rock revival from a few years back, the Hives were always the B-team to the White Stripes starting lineup. That's not to discount them, and anyone who's seen them live knows that when it come to frontmen, they have one of the best at doing what a great frontman is supposed to do with a live show/audience. With influences from The New York Dolls, The Ramones, even to ELO and the power-chords of Joan Jett, the album tries to have that spark that their fans not only want, but expect. The album does stumble a bit with some repetitiveness but I even that out since they actually use audio EQ effects right, and not just for the hip auto-tune fad that everyone makes fun of but still listens to. It's an above average effort, if you're not a fan of the band it's not likely to change your mind, but if you dig them you'll like it, even if you don't love it. 
Available on: Vinyl, CD, Deluxe CD, MP3 Download
Americana, Neil Young & Crazy Horse
I'm just gonna say it, Neil Young has lost it. He's been steadily putting out albums these past few years, and songs I dig are few and far between. Whether eating an apple on badly filmed webcam video or shoveling his giant box set to us, I just can't understand what he's doing anymore. Most of his contemporaries have tried covers of old folk songs, their own form of Americana. Springsteen did We Shall Overcome, Dylan did World Gone Wrong and Good as I been to You, and Young shouldn't be faulting for trying. This is a really mixed bag for me, all the songs on here are songs I love. Some of his interpretations I ended up liking, some, not so much. For instance "Jesus Chariot" (also known as "She'll be coming around the mountain") sounds like a bad parody from an 80's hair metal band. 
Available on: CD, MP3 Download with Video Bonus, Vinyl (in July)
All Fall Down, Shawn Colvin
Remembe "Sunny came home?" Well, if you lived in the 90's You undoubtedly heard that tune. Here Colvin returns for the first time since 2006, and tackles some dark themes such as failure, love, loss and depression along her lyric journey. There's some good storytelling here, but the album is missing something, maybe it's a little too slow too often, but it's still worth checking out. You might not want to listen to all 11 tracks in one listen, and it's not exactly what I'd call a road trip album. "All Fall Down," the title track, is the closest thing you'll find to a "Sunny Came Home" type radio pop hit. "American Jerusalem" is a unique take on New York City that will ring more than true to those who've found themselves lost and hating that city. 
Available on: CD, MP3 Download
Here, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
Some of you might remember my chastising of Edward Sharpe's performance at a 2011 Railroad Revival Tour show I saw in San Pedro. If you don't remember my re-telling of lead singer Alex Ebert's seemingly drunken, caricature of Jim Morrison mess, well you can read about it HERE. A problem came from Ebert continually stopping songs to go into rambles about learning to die and waving his arms around like a deranged lunatic. They, like all their shows during this couple year period, played the same ten songs over and over yet pretending to have an "on the fly" type stage presence. The problem came from the fact that their LP of the time (which has some rather good tunes, "Janglin'," "Home") built them up as a psychedelic trip back to a band on a trip in 1969. They just lived up to that whole Manson hair, hippie love image. Here on, uh, Here, they've toned that side down, a lot. The funky side of old still drives the band, but it seems like the band has learned what worked from their first LP, and built this record around that type of choral beauty that actually works. From the opening track "Man on Fire," it's obvious the band knows what their fans loved the best, and are giving them a more laid back folk and bit of funk effort. On "All Wash Out" they take the basic melody and feeling of Dylan's "It's All Over Now baby Blue" and add a little more production in between verses, and take a little venom out of the bite. With the folk revival still in full swing, this album might end up looking like a real good decision on the bands part. Also, the fact that I overall enjoyed this release should be a reminder that, contrary to popular belief, I don't hold grudges. 
Available on: Vinyl, CD, MP3 Download
Banga, Patti Smith
Patti Smith once gave up her role as rocks poet queen to live a life with the man she loved. He died and while she came back, she never really came back all the way. Part of that is because she's never released an album that can rival Horses, and more than that she's been more interested in dealing out her prose poetry with music as the background than get another "Because the Night" on the radio. Trampin' was a good album, and 8 years later this one is good but different. Less rock (though it's still here) and more spoken word poetry, and fans of this type of lyrical prowess will enjoy it. If you'd rather read Rimbaud in the original French than watch the MTV Movie Awards, this may be your ticket. Where Lou Reed fails in his modern day spoken word type of singing, Smith shines. 
Available on: Vinyl, CD, MP3 Download