Archive | February, 2013

Doc Gobbler

27 Feb

I love watching docs, and learning about their subject matter. I love how people express themselves and communicate their message through film. It is rewarding to see a narrative develop out of the chaos of the uncontrolled unscripted real world. There are so many docs out there it is hard to sift out the fun ones. Especially when the only docs that get any press are about historical, political, or foreign issues. Maybe that’s the reason so many people view docs as boring, biased, or preachy.

There were a couple last year that in my stupid poorly written opinion got overlooked by moviegoers and were just more fun than historical, political, or foreign docs.

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TORNADO ALLEY: This one had a lot of things going for it. It was an IMAX release and the giant screen was perfect for showing the spread out landscapes that comprise Tornado Alley. Obviously, the appeal is seeing one of the most destructive, fascinating, and elusive natural phenomenon in a huge format, which doesn’t disappoint. It climaxes with the Stormchasers attempting to get a shot inside a tornado. What really impressed me were the epic time-lapse shots of Supercells sweeping over the great plains, crackling with lightning as the sun sets. What makes it fun is how serious these guys take themselves, playing up their contribution to science, it was unintentionally funny. In a custom-built tank car that gets the gas mileage of a freighter ship in the Sahara desert, these guys drive hundreds of miles a day “for science.” Luckily, they happen to get some amazing footage along the way.

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SIDE BY SIDE: Keanu Reeves examines the progressive replacement and rapid acceptance of digitally made movies over traditional film technology. I had a bias on this subject; having invested a great deal of time, money, and education perfecting my photography and darkroom skills before the digital revolution hit. Remember that Paul Simon song that went “Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”? Well they took it away, in 2009 Kodachrome stopped being made and a little part inside me died. So I was really impressed at the unbiased stance the doc took. Instead of touting digital’s superiority it gave a history of the technological advancements in digital movie making. Not just image capturing but also editing, distribution, projection, viewing, and archiving. Leaving the debate over supremacy to be argued by Hollywood’s bigwigs. Directors, producers, editors, actors, and cinematographers all discuss their pros and cons of old school film vs new school ones and zeros. With lots of clips from your favorite flicks used as examples it is nostalgic while still looking toward the future.

SAMSARA: So I need to say that SAMSARA was my favorite movie of 2012. No contest! Trying to express the sheer magnitude of this movie is a challenge. Centuries from now there will be a school child assigned a paper on humanity at the dawn of the 21st century. But he never opened the book and the night before cheats by watching SAMSARA, he will get an A. Shooting in the highest quality format to capture images, 70mm FILM. They travel to 25 countries and show places, people, and events you’ve never seen. Without words the supreme cinematography reveals the essence of the subject matter but in a way that is non-judgmental. Gorgeously vivid and lifelike scenes delight and appall, from time lapses of desert sunrises to factory farm animal processing plants. Without any dialog it is a masterpiece of visual storytelling and evokes so many thoughts and feelings about the time we live in. The bewitching music and editing create a fluid pacing that pulls you through until the end. This movie deserved better. It got no advertising or press and in my city played on one screen for just 3 days. Worthy of Oscar wins in Best editing, Cinematography, Original Score, and Best Feature Documentary. It got zero nominations. This movie isn’t just entertaining it is important.

There is something for everyone in the non-fiction film genre it just takes a little more effort to find it.

-Carl Wells

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Stars, Seoul Show Review – Friday February 22nd

25 Feb

Seoul isn’t known for it’s concerts, there aren’t exactly shirts being sold at Hot Topics in the States with phrases like “I’m big in the Republic of Korea.” There are admittedly more shows than their once were, but still Seoul isn’t exactly on the Silk Road of Asian tour stops for bands. So, when a band, even one I consider a guilty pleasure has an ad pop up on thefacebook in Hangul, I take note. Last Friday, one of my guilty pleasures came to Seoul and I paid upper-deck-Springfield prices to check them out in a mid-sized venue. The band is Canada’s own Stars.

They’re touring for the 2012 release The North, an album that is full of their trademark melodramatic catchy pop with a touch of New Order sprinkled in. It’s a good album, and after enjoying the majority of their last five albums, I really have to reconsider their status as guilty pleasure. On principle I’m against the kind of music they’re making, but I enjoy it so much I must to be for it on some level. This is a band where my first impression of their albums is always, “Why did I listen to that?” each new album I quietly rejoice that my interest in The Stars is done with. Then maybe later that week or a few months later, I find myself really pondering one of their songs and I give the album another listen. The second time around, I have slightly more appreciation for it, and this cycle goes on and on until I know every word to every song by heart. Something very true that I take no pride in.

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The show started off with the curtain lowered, then Aretha Franklin’s Who’s Zooming Who demanded everyone’s attention as the curtain inched it’s way up. Amy Milan was dancing, Torquil Campbell was praising Aretha and midway through their first song I realized what it was that drew me to Stars; this has to be some of the funnest music to make in the world. It’s just pure dance pop music, that forces a smile on my face whenever I hear it. No matter how red my face may get while talking about the band.

By the time the show was really rolling I was on my third Jack and coke and I was having a great time. Then I had this strange thought, partially related to how I bi-annually remember that I secretly like the Stars and partially since the venue wasn’t as full as the Beach House show I saw last month on a Wednesday night was. The thought was how will history treat bands like Stars? How will any band middling in popularity be remembered 20 years in the future? I’m very interested to know how which band will be the equivalent of The Talking Heads or The Velvet Underground. I would really be interested to see the ratio of popularity of bands in 70s and bands today. However, I don’t think that really matters all that much anyway since there seem to be about a million more bands now and a million and one more ways to promote music and build a fan base. Will current bands in the future just end up playing private shows at 20th wedding anniversary parties to pay the bills or will they just pray that someone will use one of their songs when they raise the future curtain on some mid-sized venue in some emerging market megacity?

So, in conclusion, I guess this is my coming out party. I like the Stars. I’m dropping the guilty pleasure and will actively admit to enjoying them. Although, this may be the end of my interest in the Stars. I guess only time will tell. If I write another review about this show in 2 months you’ll know what I’ve chose.

-C. Charles

The Most Pointless Collection of Links on the Internet

22 Feb

This week I rediscovered an old email account that was connected to some abandoned project that I was confident would be the rage of the internet. Upon finding this account I discovered over a thousand emails set up to alert me to the daily coming and goings on the webpage. And lo and behold after clicking through a random sampling it turned out that the most popular day of that world shattering collection was. . . eight.

So, now I’m convinced that nobody reads anything on the internet if it isn’t on Grantland. This week I’m giving you a collection of links that are guaranteed to continue to rot away in anonymity while the rest of the world is tracking daily content of the crossroads between pop culture and sports brought to the world by the Disney Sports arm of the internet.

Everyone knows Busta, but nobody will ever know unless someone uses the Hollywood Prospectus to compare Busta to Buddy Lembeck.

I wonder if Bill Simmons is really like Truman Show-esque person adopted by Disney as an infant and they’ve implanted every Boston Celtics memory in his head.

Well, if you disagree that nothing is read on the internet, and fear someone reading something you don’t want seen. Here’s a good compilation of how to get read of an online identity.

Here’s an excellent story about an excellent DJ who got everyone interested in something that never existed, the exact opposite problem I’m having

Re-reading Bukowski

22 Feb

As a hardly sober college student who had delusions of being a writer, reading Charles Bukowski was perfect. Post Office and Ham On Rye was everything that I wanted to be rolled up in a nice little package. In hindsight, I had probably the easiest childhood, adolescence, early college, mid-college dropout, and finally dragging myself across the graduation finish line as anyone who’s ever live, but I still wanted to cast my lot with Henry Chinaski. I imagined my life after college as nothing more than a few lucid moments between inebriated episodes. I got a typewriter and drunk myself into debt within three months of graduation. I didn’t sell any pieces of writing, nor did I try, and actually, I didn’t really even write that much. The lucid moments between inebriation were filled with dreams of being a writer or filmmaker or sex artist. The more practical realizations that the coupon of my dreams was only redeemable at the house of hard work, was possibly the farthest thing from my thoughts. . I didn’t really even consider that if the bus ride to the house of hard work was one too many transfers, I could start out in the shanty town any-fucking-work-even-half-assed-work would put me in a better position, but that was too much to ask. I just aspired to become the lesser noble parts of Bukowski’s noble drunk.

Now I wish I could say that I read Pulp and I moved on from my Bukowski-loving ways, but that wasn’t the case. I followed the trail of who to read in his books and moved to Fante and Celine, then I followed their trail until I was slogging my way through William T. Vollmann’s The Royal Family. That was where I thought the Bukowski trail died out. I moved on and would only bring up Bukowski in reference to saving his bungalow or to defend him against claims of of misogyny. I basically forgot his artistic merit and just remembered the author as a character. Then a friend allowed me to go through his book collection before he left town. I grabbed Woman with the sole purpose of reselling it. I remembered how much I liked Bukowski and how few of his books I found used, I thought Women would be right up there in terms of top re-sale value for a paperback with slight water damage on the cover. And then it sat on my shelf waiting for me to have a reason to sell books. At this point, I truly considered myself out of the Bukowski woods, I figured he was just a building block in my Great Wall of taste designed to keep out the mediocrity, the exploitive, the calculated and the cliché.

Then through circumstances beyond my control, I got caught up in a reading cycle of nothing but Young Adult fiction and it seemed that even my “adult” fiction was just an extension of the Young Adult genre, I’m looking in your direction Silver Lining Playbook. It got to the point where I needed some serious amounts of sex, drugs and adult themes in fiction or I was dangerously close to abandoning the whole idea of bettering myself through the written word and seek other paths to enlightenment, like pornography. I looked on the bookshelf and the pinkish-slightly-water-damaged cover of Women was my salvation. I knew Bukowski’s content and it seemed like the perfect answer for my problem. So, I went ahead and started reading an author I hadn’t read since I’ve been considered an employable individual.

While I freely admit that I haven’t read nearly enough poetry to form valid opinions of the genre, during the interim, I began to understand the currency of words and how they were used in poetry. This along with the realization that Bukowski was known for his poetry and not his prose, I went into Women with a different point of view. Not only do I have much more respect of for his actual prose, how he’s able to write in such a casual style, but care huge amounts of emotion with it. It’s a true feat. But the main thing is that Bukowski is writing a G-D poem every fucking second of his life. He’s lost in the wilderness, he stops to write a poem. Every woman in Women is at some point concerned that they are going to interrupt his writing. So without saying it, Bukowski is a gawddamn workaholic. Alcoholic is right there on the surface, but my impression of this book is that he’s written fifteen poems for every drink he takes in the book. Of course this was totally lost on the young version of myself, I just romanticized the drinking and just assumed that the writing was a byproduct of the drinking, instead of the drinking being byproduct of writing so much he need a break from his own head. I have a completely different opinion of the man now. I agree with Modest Mouse, even when I first read Bukowski, “Who would want to be such an asshole?” but I don’t think he was an asshole for drinking, but because he was working too hard, and making it look so easy. Thanks a lot, Chinaski.

If the NBA was on TV

18 Feb

NBA All-Star weekend just wrapped up, and while everyone was busy claiming that despite it’s flaws the weekend is some of the best TV has to offer. Well, I spent this last month catching up on some quality produced television, and I can say that the All-Star game has nothing on the current golden age of television. However, the claim did put the stupid opinion engine in motion and generated plenty of stupid opinions. The stupidest of them all is this post. Right here, in the very post you are reading now.  Here’s the gimmick: What NBA All-Star embodies what TV show.

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LeBron James has to be Game of Thrones. LeBron is playing the best basketball of his career right now, and the last year he erased all doubts about his legitimacy as the best player alive. Nobody can even question it right now, in the same way everyone is watching Game of Thrones. Even people living in homeless shelters without premium cable have found ways to illegally download the show at the city library. Everyone watches it cause it has it all. Game of Thrones is the Pearl Harbor of spoiled latchkey kids, everyone can rally around that show. In both cases, the fans know how both will end, GoT because of the books and LeBron because he’s four steps ahead on the evolutionary timeline and has already crushed every implausible ceiling artificially created for him. It doesn’t matter that people know what is going to happen, everyone is happy to tune in to enjoy the ride.

Tim Duncan and Mad Men. . . He started playing in the 60’s, right?

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MVP Chris Paul is like Lena Dunham’s GIRLS. Both are do-everything-fucking-awesome team players that just make whatever they touch turn to gold.  And both owe a tremendous amount to their location and circumstances: CP3 for forcing a trade out of NOLA only to get lucky enough to miss the sinking ship known as the Lakers and end up as a seaworthy Clipper, and as brilliant as Dunham is I really wonder if Tiny Furniture would have been such an indie darling if Aura’s mother was an artist working in the Santa Fe art scene. Would middle America rise up against the girls of GIRLS if it was set in middle America, or is there something sort of cathartic about watching these flawed characters stumble through life in NYC?

Speaking of NYC, the Most Selfish Player in the NBA is Kourtney and Kim Take New York. It’s a shitty show about selfish people who want attention, he’s a shitty, selfish person that wanted to be in a bigger market.

Kevin Durant is like Louie. Where Kevin Durant may have originally looked just like your average run of the mill super scorer, he’s become, to the chagrin of everyone in Seattle, the special once in a lifetime player that defines a team, a city, an era, someone who will change the way the game is played. Louie CK seemed to be on the same career path as one of the non-Amy Poehler members of The Upright Citizens Brigade when he directed Pooty-Tang, but now he’s in his own world. Louie is the do-it-all great television show that transcends the label sitcom and is elevated to, as corny and dopey as this sounds, art. I can totally see a world where high school seniors will be required to watch season two of Louie in there new media class. Durant and Louie are generational treasures.

KG and The Walking Dead. Well, Kevin Garnett just isn’t as good as he used to be and really shouldn’t have been starting in the All-Star game, but massively popular things have a way of riding that popularity wave, just like John McClane surfed on that dump truck in Die Hard: With a Vengeance. The same goes for the extremely popular The Walking Dead, but instead of riding the same quality wave that KG built up over 18 years in the L, The Walking Dead is just riding the current pop obsession with zombies.  The show is proving pop cultures favorite hobby is over-saturating and killing anything with cult appeal, while KG spent the weekend honoring the game and humbly enjoying the last All-Star game of his career. You should have never spent 15 weeks on that farm, Walking Dead, you’ve lost me forever.

James Harden and Justified, I just feel that there has to be someone on that show that has a similar beard.

Dwight Howard and Breaking Bad. If there has ever been a real life equivalent to Walter White, other than that meth dealer named Walter White in Florida, it has to be Dwight Howard. He’s completely broke bad. In one year, Walter White went from beloved husband, father and chemistry teacher to Heisenberg. Now Dwight may have taken longer break bad, but he went from being on the cover a Xian magazine to knocking up and walking out on then Magic dancer and future Basketball Wife, to getting his coach fired, burning his legacy as he whined his way out of town and is now the anchor that is dragging the once proud Lakers franchise to the ocean floor. I have the feeling that Kobe is Pinkman, Nash is Mike, and Bill Simmons is Hank. We won’t know how Breaking Bad turns out for another few months, but no matter what happens in the last 8 episodes; Dwight Howard is a dick.

C.Charles

Stupid Opinions Discussed Poorly – Episode 1: Prepare for Disappointment

17 Feb

In our initial episode, we meet our heroes, Chris and Caitie. They have an elaborate plan to hold lofty, intellectual discussions on all sorts of wonderful and interesting topics from the stimulating world of pop culture, but that quickly devolves into amateur competition of the “have you seen?” game.

Quite possibly, the longest twenty-minute podcast in the history of podcasts, and without a doubt the most boring of all-time.

Enjoy!

There’s Some Not Good Parts in This, But Just Keep Reading

15 Feb

Stevie So-dee-berg is retiring because he thinks the time for the medium of cinema has past. Quentin Unchained thinks that digital projection is the same as watching TV in public. An Entourage movie is in the works. There is so much negativity toward movies, and the main culprit is brilliant television. The megaplexes have been abandoned by thinking adults and the tweens have gotten the keys to the kingdom and converted it to an asylum. Every film made today will ultimately ask at some point in the process, “Will fans of Selena Gomez pay to see this movie?” The future of cinema does not look bright, but is this the death rattle or just the darkest moment right before dawn?

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Here’s my stupid opinion about the whole thing; TV is great now, yes, but it’s a different medium. In the same way that a short story is a different medium than a novel or a poem. And I think those same distinctions may need to apply to the current age of visual entertainment. Television Series are like novels, movies are like short stories and short films then must be like poems (but nobody reads poetry and fewer people watch short films, so I have no obligation to talk about either of them). So, television shows are the perfect place to examine character(s) and deal with broader, far-reaching concepts. A place where there can be a ton of details and subplots and show creators can really do a lot of things. A movie is a better place to look at a specific event and how it affects a main character. And just like the difference between a novel and short story, the short story doesn’t allow for sub par bits, everything has to be perfect to be effective, but novels and TV shows can go full seasons where people will say, “Season X wasn’t that good, but get through that and it gets really good again.” Can you imagine someone saying the equivalent about a movie? No way, they’d just say it was a bad movie.

It’s harder to make a good movie than it is to make a good TV show. And that isn’t meant to take away anything from the all of the brilliant work people are doing with television, but the medium makes it easier to build characters over a ten-hour long episodes, than the first twenty minutes of hundred minute film. For the longest time becoming a filmmaker meant a lot of learning what was important and vital to telling a story. Everyone in film wants to, or should want to, tell personal honest stories, and those types of stories require a lot of information to build enough of a connection with the audience. Now with the full potential of television, and not television, HBO, allow the telling of the stories in more expanded form the artist doesn’t need to adapt to the medium, the medium has adapted to the artist. The craft of filmmaking is being replaced by the Marvel, and soon enough Star Wars, universes, which in all fairness are really just very expensive hundred-twenty minute serials with occasional cross overs.  Yes, TV is changing movies and the capitalist geniuses in the Disney head office trying to make movies just bigger versions of television, but there is still room for movies

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On the surface, TV looks closer to the artist’s vision that movie ever could be, and there was a whole generation of filmmakers whose goal was to write and make movies with the novel as inspiration. All they people that they inspired are now making amazing novel-esque television shows. Cinema still has life, but what it needs right now is the creator of a brilliant TV show to make a brilliant, stand-alone, non-franchise, original film and all the magic will be restored to cinema. Come on show creators, don’t concede cinema to calculated gloss of Christopher Nolan and David Fincher.

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-C. Charles