Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top Film for Each Year of My Life – 1998


“You think I got kicked out because of just the aquarium? Nah, it was the handjob. And you know what else? It was worth it.”

“These are O.R. scrubs.”
“O R they?”

The movie that introduced me to Wes Anderson. This is a bit of a cheat because Rushmore wasn’t released wide until 1999, but my desire to see it was planted back in ’98. There aren’t many instances in which I was more anxious to see a film than this one. Mostly because I love Bill Murray and heard he gives an incredible performance. Rushmore also seemed like few other movies I’d ever seen. I’ve always loved movies (I’ll always remember an incident in church, when I was around 8-10 years old, when a friend asked me, “don’t you ever stop talking about movies?”) but I hadn’t really scratched the surface in terms of what I’d seen. I was all about Mel Brooks, Monty Python, Adam Sandler (and the other SNL contemporaries), and Leslie Nielson at this time. My VHS collection explains a lot about who I was in my formative years.
I remember trying to gather friends to check Rushmore out with me, but for one reason or another, no one ever could. Until one day, on what turned out to be the last week it was in theaters, a friend agreed to go. The problem was I think she thought it was a date and it made the experience a bit awkward (in her defense, I definitely led her on several times, not thinking about it then, but feeling awful about it now). Once the movie started, though, the awkwardness washed away. My eyes transfixed to the screen and I took it all in and loved it. What’s weird is I remember how I felt walking into the theater and walking away from the theater, but not how I felt inside. It’s like I was hypnotized into feeling elated after the movie was over.

Anderson gets a lot of flack for being overly quirky, having a pretentious visual style (or being pretentious in general), and for his music choices. I’ve never had a problem with any of these complaints. Rushmore is a quirky movie, but not in an annoying, overly written way. The humor is dry, subtle, and witty. The set design and photography are always stunning. And the use of music fits the tone perfectly. People complain that the music is used against what the song is about, but music is about feeling as much as content. Anyway, it’s our right to interpret art however we like, intention-be-damned. And we must not forget Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh contributions to the soundtrack, which fits Anderson's films so well that they have become inseparable.
I love the interaction between Murray and Jason Schwartman (in his first film role). The battle of “wits” and its escalation is endlessly hilarious and I could watch an entire film of just that. Much like their characters, I developed, and still harbor, a crush on Olivia Williams. And I don’t know who wouldn’t want to live in Max Fischer’s world of extracurriculars.

Owen Wilson and Anderson wrote a perfect movie, it has a perfect cast, perfect music, and perfect visuals. In short, Rushmore is perfect. I still think it’s a crime that Bill Murray wasn’t nominated for the Supporting Actor Oscar. To me, everyone nominated in that category in 1999 was expendable. Does anyone even remember James Coburn’s performance in Affliction (that years winner)?

I feel I need to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is The Big Lebowski, which also has a story to go along with it, but I won’t tell it. It’s a fantastic movie and deserves its enormous cult, but it simply doesn’t hit me in the same resonant way that Rushmore does. Also of note is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which is simply a fun and wacky ride. 1998 was just a great year for some of my favorite directors.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Albums vs. Songs

When The Decemberists most recent album, The Hazards of Love, was released not long ago, I read many reviews that wondered if the songs would work out of the context of the album. Much was made of The Hazards of Love being a concept album (something my metal-enthusiast friends are quite familiar with). Metal aside, concept albums went out with prog-rock in the late-70s, early-80s (don’t point out exceptions… I know there are exceptions).

While the jury is still out as to whether the songs work individually or not, my reaction is, who cares if the songs don’t work outside of the album context? It’s an album and should be listened to all at one time. There is nothing wrong with creating something that works only as one unit. There are thousands of albums released that people can pick and choose tracks from, but there should be room in the industry for aberrations such as this. And reviewers should review it on how it was designed, not how they want to listen to it.

I’ve recently put a moratorium on the random song setting on my iPod, instead choosing random album. I believe that the bulk of the bands I listen to are concerned with how the album works as a whole. The sort of moods song transitions build and which song goes best where. It’s my way of stepping away from the singles culture we are returning to.

Perhaps the best example I can give is listening to “You Never Give Me Your Money” – “Sun King” – “Mean Mister Mustard” – “Polythene Pam” - “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” – “Golden Slumbers” – “Carry That Weight” – “The End” on The Beatles’ Abbey Road. You simply cannot listen to them out of order, and why would you want to? Each song makes the others that much better. I think it’s fair to say that few would want to break these songs up. So why can’t an entire album have the same consideration? There are plenty of songs in The Decemberists library and in the world that can stand alone.

There is nothing wrong with listening to songs whimsically and making track lists and such. You bought the music (or maybe not) and it’s your right to do what you like with it. I’m just glad that someone is trying to keep the album alive.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Video of the Day

Yet another reason I'm proud to be from Pennsylvania.

However, what happens when he gets on base? You have to pinch run for him, right?

Video of the Day

What may seem boring is actually a delight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Video of the Day

This is the baddest-assedest song ever. Nick Cave is not just the man, he is the uber-man. Everyone should by "Murder Ballads" now!!! And if you do, buy me a copy because mine has gone mysteriously missing.

Video of the Day

Michael & Michael Have IssuesPremieres Wed, July 15, 10:30pm / 9:30c
Preview - The Farting Butterfly Sketch
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

This show cannot air soon enough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Video of the Day

Mountain Goats - Woke Up New (Directed by Rian Johnson) from rcjohnso on Vimeo.

Ridiculously cool Mountain Goats video directed by Rian Johnson (director of Brick). All effects done in camera.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Question of the Day

What is your initial reaction to hearing the bells of an ice cream truck?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Question of the Day

Why is it funnier when men dress up like women than when women dress up like men?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Short One -- Escalators

Why is it that the minute people see stairs that move they automatically think, "Yay! A ride!"? They are there to make going up and down more efficient. By not walking on them, people are actually going slower than it takes to walk up a regular staircase. Is walking that taxing that people need to take a breather? Don't people like the the feeling of ascending and descending quickly? It makes you feel like you are a superfast superhero, if only briefly.

There are circumstances to not walk on an escalator. If you are old or injured. If you have a heavy or unwieldy object to carry. That's about it. The worst is at sporting events where massive human traffic congestion is epidemic. The faster people move up the escalator, the less standing around in a crowd.

Sadly, I'm in the minority on this. So, at the very least, if you see me on an escalator, have the decency to stand to the side and let me pass. I've got places to be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Question of the Day

Do fire drills prepare us for what to do in case of a fire or do they make us not take fire alarms seriously?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Question of the Day

What is the funniest real name you've ever heard? My nomination: Cornelius Peaches.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Question of the Day

How much money do you think is unaccounted for in the world (lost, buried, hidden in walls, etc)???

Monday, April 6, 2009

Question of the Day

Can it be called a "ride" if you don't move from the position you are in (example: do you ride an exercise bike)?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Top Film for Each Year of My Life – 1997

Waiting for Guffman

“And another thing. Once you go into that circle, the weather never changes. It is always 67 degrees with a 40% chance of rain.”

“And I'll tell you why I can't put up with you people: because you're BASTARD people! That's what you are! You're just bastard people! And I'm goin' home and I'm gonna... I'm gonna BITE MY PILLOW, is what I'm gonna do!”

My first introduction to Waiting for Guffman was on the TV Guide channel when it first started showing on HBO or Showtime. I remember the auditions being highlighted in the trailer, namely the guy who juggles balls with his mouth (get you minds out of the gutter) and the couple singing “Midnight at the Oasis” slightly off-key (who I would later learn to be Fred Ward and Catherine O’Hara). My initial impression from these brief clips: “that looks weird.” And not being involved in school or Community Theater made it less likely that I would seek out the film.
Flash forward about two years to a time when I was a far more mature 17 (maybe I was 16. Damn having a birthday in the middle of the year!!!) and I have now experienced the brilliance of This Is Spinal Tap (forgive the lack of umlauts). While not directed by Christopher Guest, Spinal Tap acquainted me with the comic stylings of the “mockumentary.” Along with the discovery of the form came some enthusiastic praise from friends. I don’t know why they were watching movies without me, but I’m glad they passed on the good word. Yes, Waiting for Guffman is weird, but in the best possible ways.

The Guest repertory company is filled with unbelievably funny people. I don’t typically find comedienne’s all that funny (I know, I’m such a sexist), but the women who populate these films do so much to make them as great as they are. Parker Posey and Catherine O’Hara have both done incredible work outside Guest’s world, but I don’t think they are ever better than in these movies. Larry Miller, Fred Willard, and Eugene Levy are perennial “that guys” and all apparently have the inability to say “no” to bad comedies. I’ll let them slide since they are typically the best part of those movies. Bob Balaban is one of my favorite actors ever. Just seeing him on screen makes me happy (and he’s by far the best part of Lady in the Water). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention David Cross’ brief appearance delivering one of the film’s best monologues (partially excerpted above).

1997 didn’t offer much competition for the best film of the year. I know the rebuttal is Boogie Nights, which is great, but doesn’t give me the same sort of feeling that Guffman does. I find it mildly interesting that my top two for ’97 are both behind the scenes look at (completely different) acting worlds. And of all the films from the year that I still need to see, I know that none of them will mean nearly as much to me as Waiting for Guffman. In a way, it’s kind of not fair asking movies you haven’t seen before to compete with movies firmly entrenched in nostalgia, but what are you going to do? I’ll just fantasize about being on the set while the Guest repertory players do their thing.
I am a little worried that Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy are out of ideas, though. They’ve already done two films about behind the scenes of acting and two about bands (well, Levy has only done the one). This group has only done five films together. That’s not a favorable percentage. Though, in the end, the films are funny, and that’s all that matters.

Question of the Day

At what point, if ever, should one get rid of his or her childhood stuffed animals?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Question of the Day

If you had to fight any animal in the world, which one would you fight?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Living Will

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a few weeks now, but recent news from my mom inspired me to finally get to it. My parents put me in charge of the “Do Not Resuscitate” portion of their wills (obviously implying that I’m an emotional robot, a la Michael Bluth, and will have no problem ending their lives, if need be). I’m a big fan of the idea behind wills, probably because I like having control of my situation and who gets my stuff. Also, my feelings about funerals are much the same as my feelings about weddings: unnecessary waste of money. In light of how practical I think wills are, why do we all wait so long to make one?
I can’t be the only person who has though about what would happen to my stuff in case of sudden death. I’m sure, by default, it would go to my parents, but I have very specific ideas about who I want to have what (I won’t go into that here because I don’t want to make friends jealous/feel unloved. You are all loved, indeed). Being a packrat and obsessive purchaser of books, CDs, and DVDs, there are certain people I feel have the correct respect for those certain categories. Then there are my guitars. I’m not going to let just anyone have them. And my various technologies. There’s at lot at stake. And no offense to my parents, but they wouldn’t know the first thing about how I’d want it distributed (actually, I’m giving one directive. Addison gets all of my horror movies so he can finally get over his fears and enjoy life. Only after he has watched them all can he pass any on he no longer wants [to the person of my choice]).

Perhaps one of the big issues here is that, though I don’t believe in an afterlife, I still would like to lord over something after my death. Those who know me know how territorial I can be (don’t mess with my food). Plus, I need to make sure that people aren’t just taking things because they want to have them and not for real enjoyment. I can only assume that everyone wants a piece of me. I’ll allocate a grab bag pile of stuff to be culled from for those who feel slighted.

Some may feel it’s morbid to discuss this. Some may even feel they are jinxing themselves if they make a will at such a young age. I view it as both practical and a fun thought exercise (and I do love my thought exercises). The only thing really stopping me from doing it is the annoyance of going to a lawyer to get it all settled. Who has the time for that sort of thing?
This image came up in an image search for "living will." I don't know why, but it seems somewhat appropriate.

Question of the Day

Has anyone ever counted straight through to 1000?