Archive | June, 2013

Stupid Opinion About Yeezus

24 Jun

I hate reviewing albums. It’s the worst. Music is so primal, and takes so many skills that I lack like motherfucker, I feel absolutely like a boob every time I attempt it. And that was before I read Outliers and had all the hard-bound second-hand coffee-stained facts about how people can’t really tell good music apart from familiar music presented in such an easy to digest way. (The music that middle America and tweens call “good” is really just stuff they don’t have to think about) I’m basically paralyzed when it comes to writing about music. One tip I was given was to listen to an album seven times before making an effort to review it. I’m not sure if this is to combat or co-conspire with the familiarity principle or not, but it is slightly better than forming an opinion after the first listen.

Kanye-Yeezus

The first listening of Yeezus had more questions that anything resembled a stupid or otherwise opinion about it. The album felt important, seemed unique and had just a hint of genius behind it, but it was nothing like the powder-keg blast of excitement from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. After that album my jaw was on the floor over the creative explosion my ear drums witnessed. I couldn’t hit the loop button fast enough. Everyone that crossed my path for the next two months was subjected to high praise and hyperbole about it. It was my main topic of conversation from everything from job interviews to opening remarks at my grand-aunt wake. Going in to the first play of Yeezus I knew I didn’t want the same thing as MBDTF, but I wanted something that I could at least wrap my head around. I took my time to dwell on it and figured I’d give it a few days before returning to it and forming a stupid opinion about it, but then a text message in the middle of the night from a family member asking me with sincere concern if I still liked Kanye made me cranked up the iPod to put in the next six listens.

The second time through the beats didn’t seem as abrasive to me and I warmed up to the jumps in thematic tone from the beginning of one song to end of it.  I thought about the idea of this being an album that could be appreciated, but not played regularly. It didn’t hold much weight though. Music needs to be heard to be appreciated, and pop music is no place for a John Cage think-piece concert. The more I listened to it the more I appreciated it, now was this due to familiarity or genuine appreciation of the music? I couldn’t say. It was somewhere around the fifth listen it was announced that Kim and Kanye had named their baby North. I tried to look at it with a fresh perspective of fatherhood and hoped the whole thing would suddenly snap into perfect sense, but it didn’t. The revelations through the next few spins didn’t open any doorways to understanding either. By this point well after my seven listens, I just kept thinking about it even after the record was off. Where’s the Rick Rubin’s influences? Is Kanye shying away from the spotlight? Did he burn too bright? Does he hold place a higher price on growth as an artist than he does on making popular music? I couldn’t tell what it was with the album. I still can’t.

So, ten plus listens later and I’m still full of questions. I do know that Kanye still has a god-complex and loves challenging himself artistically.  He could love challenging his audience too. Yeezus may be an attempt to offend people in the most post-post modern way possible, by challenging people to think about their music. It isn’t easy, and I’m sure the last thing people need is an album that will challenge them to think when all they really wanted was another summer album to dance to in the club, but my first impression stands; The album feels important, seems unique and has just a hint of genius behind it. If you allow me a stupid analogy as my parting thought, if Kanye West albums are like Charlie Kaufman movies, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is The Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind, while Yeezus is Synecdoche, New York.

-C. Charles

A Stupid Opinion about Man of Steel

17 Jun

Battle of Algiers used cinema verite techniques to build up the atmosphere and bring the events of the film to more personal level for the audience. But everyone involved with the film thought, “We really aren’t making the most out of this format. We can really go further.”

Flash forward to Denmark circa 1995, a film collective gets together and tries to create a cinematic movement that will finally be able to use cinema to its fullest ability. But even after their ten-year run that launched/fostered the careers of Lars Von Tier, Harmony Korine and Anthony Dod Mantle, they realized that what they were doing with the medium was still falling short of its potential.

Then in 2002 director Doug Liman and cinematographer Oliver Wood were saddled with an action heavy script and an A-list star who’s most physically active role to-date had been walking around a golf course with Will Smith. They knew they were going to really have to reinvent the wheel to justify their bid for a new product placement franchise. And re-invent they did. They were able to shoot scenes in such a way that they were able to convince people a drama kid could take out a guy with a machine gun using nothing more than a magazine. Even with the mountains of success, they still realize that it wasn’t enough.

Then the mix of Zack Snyder, a billion and one videos posted to YouTube, and the most iconic superhero of all-time, and we finally get the most realistic handheld camera work in the history of cinema. It was just such a pleasure to watch as a man flying across the sky and sliding across pavement and up the side of buildings in the gritty way that cinema verite really aspired to be all those years ago. Finally, everyone can bask in the full potential of movies.

Man-o_Steel_SWOP

That the was the longest most hyperbolic introduction to any Man of Steel review you will read. The movie was a good film, and as Carl correctly predicted there were some cheesy and unnecessary pop songs, it was a tight film that looked pretty good. I can’t remember a second of slow motion footage in an action sequence, and there were plenty of action sequences in the film. As far as comic book movies go, it was of the highest quality. But my stupid opinion about the film goes beyond the confusing choice to give the movie the raw handheld look, I just wonder how long this formula will continue to work for comic book films.  And I can’t even add “spoiler alert” to this because it is in every single blockbuster tentpole film, the equations can vary for the first 40-ish minutes of the movie, but it always ALWAYS ends with the good guy and the bad guy in hand-to-hand close proximity combat at the center of massive amounts of collateral damage.

These films have become the equivalent to the dumb action movies from the eighties and nineties with just tighter fitting clothes. I equate comic book movies to the Doritos of the cinema world. There’s an old suburban legend that Doritos have been so carefully engineered that the taste is supposed to vanish in a matter of seconds after it is registered on the brain, therefore making it so easy to eat an entire bag in one sitting by ourselves. This is what these comic book movies are they keep upping the ante, the effects get bigger, the characters and villains more outlandish and unbelievable, but the story just stays the same. And you can’t just have one, Iron Man 3 broke all kinds of records and Man of Steel is on the same path. There are going to be comic books every summer every year for as long as I can imagine. All I’m asking is can’t there be a different ending to one of them?

When I was growing up, I loved it when people asked what my favorite movie was. I’d think about it and mull over the movies that I’d seen, and I’d finally come to the conclusion that my favorite movie was the last movie I’d seen. Just because that was the way my kid brain worked. I loved going to the movies, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized there was more to films than just the latest thing, and that films were not necessarily better the flashier and more polished they were. As I grew up and narrowed down the films I’d seen I was able to finally name a favorite film just about the same time that comic book movies really began to take off. Can you imagine trying to pick a favorite comic book movie? Well, you’ve got a pretty solid Batman sequel that is slightly ahead over of everything else, but after that. . . their all the same fucking movie. And that’s even before Warner Brothers began to emulate Disney with their plans for a Justice League film.  The Dark Knight is the only comic book film that is coming to mind where the climax isn’t this battle of mass destruction and instead this small battle philosophical battle between hero and villain. I get it, endings are hard, and having a lot of stuff explode is a good way to make people think they’ve got a good ending, when really all it was was a loud ending.

I know that I’m not saying anything new here, Steve and Steve have recently both been claimed the sky is falling when it comes to making movies. I can see a Heaven’s Gate of comic book movies coming right around the corner, but the sad thing is that this film will probably bomb because it tries to do something that is different. I would have loved to see The Avengers by Robert Altman, Fantastic Four by Soderberg, a Wes Anderson version of Aquaman, or a French New-Wave homage to Superman, but I favorite-movied myself right out of the studios key demographic. They have no interest in making movies for me anymore, or really any interest in making any type of movie that is different at this point.

-C. Charles

A Stupid Comeback

13 Jun

The good news about writing for a pop culture blog that nobody reads is that when you go into a self-induced-procrastination-coma fueled by unrealistic expectations and crushing personal pressure/guilt about choosing the least practical major in the modern era is that you won’t really be letting anyone down when a time-wasting side-project is temporarily completed and then abandoned. The bad news is that while I was out of the loop, and despite my lack of commentary, pop culture continued to spark all kinds of opinions, stupid and otherwise. I know there is nothing I can do to appease all of the people who don’t read this blog, but at least I can try to get a few truncated stupid opinions up to make up for my unnoticed sabbatical.

Ricky

Carl Wells’ response to Fritz Godard’s piece about new pop gods, was right on, for the most part, but I do take issue with his slamming of Ricky Gervais. Judging the man on cashing paychecks for something he created and because he made Jennifer Garner an “icy bitch” does not diminish his contributions to comedy, and doing so is really just playing the role of spoiled consumer demanding creative perfection while conveniently forgetting about past glory. In part because I had zero interest in how the American Office ended, and part because of Learning Guitar with David Brent was starting up, I returned to The Office in Slough, and so the damming of Ricky Gervais hurt all the more. The man is comic gold and the spiritual grandfather to virtually every half hour sitcom on television worth anything. The Original Office was so brilliant that people weren’t even sure if the comic awkwardness was intentional or not. Now entire careers have been constructed around aiming for the same situation. Any sitcom that isn’t bound to a sound stage, three cameras and a laugh track can thank Ricky Gervais. (It’s shocking to remember that even Seinfeld had a laugh track and a three camera setup) And the miserable end to the American Office could have been avoided if TV executives followed Gervais’ lead on keeping the run to a concise two series and a Christmas Special. The Office UK is still better than 80% of sitcoms on the air today, and if it wasn’t for this show it would be better than 100% of the sitcoms on today. It is slightly true that not everyone can readily watch his shows, but with a little patience and/or searching his shows demonstrate his comic talent and absolutely justify his fame.

AD_pic

While lamenting my inability to defeat my own desire to do nothing instead of something productive with fellow stupid opinion haver, Caitie, we broached the subject of the new Arrested Development. She is of the mind that season 4 is just awful and anyone saying any differently is only doing so because they longed for the show for so long that they can’t actually admit to themselves that the show is not good. While I’m in the opposite boat where I think people think that the new season is bad because their expectations were tied too tightly to their memory of the first three seasons and the expectations are too high to give it a fair chance. Either way, the fourth season of Arrested Development is nearly impossible to judge on merit alone. It might be genius or a rippling puddle of bile, we may never really know.

One thing that is certain of the fourth season is it severed whatever connection to reality that was at least hinted at on the FOX run. I liked how in the first episode the guys from Workaholics made a cameo and kind of set the perspective for this new world the Bluth’s inhabited. The majority of the fourth season reminds me of the third season when Tobias dressed up as a giant mole, ransacked a cardboard village only to be thwarted by a flying George Michael. That’s the kind of world the whole season takes place in.  There is much more Wee Britain than there is Banana Stand. I’m not opposed to that choice, but after season three of the show I thought to myself, “maybe it’s for the best that that’s how it ended.”  The failure to draw an audience of the first two seasons, wasn’t because of lack of quality, but the third season and FOX’s apparent hands-off approach letting the show beg for an audience led to the silliest of gags of the whole series. Which makes me wonder if maybe TV executives aren’t the assholes we all assume they are, and that some of their notes can actually increase the quality instead of squash creativity as so many creative types are wont to claim.

Either way, it’s impressive that Netflix’s desire to bring back Arrested Development was so complete it didn’t forget to bring back the trademarked under-appreciated status of the show too.

Spoiler

Everyone hates spoilers. But with modern entertainment they are virtually unavoidable. Here’s the thing, do you ever think there were spoilers about the latest Mark Twain novel or Emily Dickinson poetry collection? Maybe, but probably not on such a wide and curse-able scale, because no fraction of human interaction was a permanent, easily-referenced digital record which dictated how many people heard what you said nor measured and judged what was said by stars and page views. And half of the people talking about Dickinson and Twain didn’t rely on their opinion being heard to put food on their table. It sucks that the internet’s main currency is information, and it sucks that promptness can be mistaken for thought, and that things that warrant attention are usually forgot in less than a fortnight. Any conversation about posting spoilers is really a zero sum game. Which is why I make it a point of avoiding anything that could be considered similar taste with anyone who would be willing to talk to me.

-C. Charles

NOW YOU SEE ME AND IT SUCKED

12 Jun

I was looking forward to the movie Now You See Me. It has a superior cast and is kind of an alternative to the rest of the movies in theaters right now. But be warned, to use a word that the movie overuses, it is all “misdirection”. I think the term also applies to how the director managed this movie. Here are some of the thoughts I had while sitting in the theater.

Woody Harrelson looks really weird with a full head of long flowing hair.

Jesse Eisenberg shouldn’t attempt to grow facial hair unless it is for comedic effect.

Isla Fisher is doing a really weird American accent.

Did James Franco get a face lift to be in this movie?

When Michael Caine speaks his own name it sounds like he is saying “my cocaine”.

The movie tells us about a great magic trick that happened 20 years ago where a magician was doing one of those “Is this your card” tricks in central park. They cut down an old growth tree in Central Park and the card is inside the tree, the wood has grown around it. So first of all they don’t cut down old trees in Central Park because of magic. The worse part comes later…

Morgan Freeman plays someone who makes a career out of revealing the secrets to how magicians do their tricks. That’s really easy seeing as how the magicians left all their special props and sets just as they are when they’re done with the show and anyone is allowed to just walk backstage the next day and see for themselves. Morgan Freeman is only there to provide exposition which makes for just awful dialog, at least he’s a good guy and won’t end up in jail like he has in at least 5 other movies.

A cop is not a good profession for the Hulk cause Mark Ruffalo is pissed off in every frame of this movie. Despite being partnered up with a blonde French woman from Interpol who clearly has the hots for him.

Wait why is Interpol even concerned about American magicians? Oh right, they robbed a bank to give the audience back the money they lost in the financial collapse. But rather than rob say an American Bank that caused the problem, they rob an unrelated French bank that was holding Swiss francs. Obvious problems with this; wouldn’t it make more sense if a French bank had Euros in the vault instead of Swiss Francs? Additionally, what good are Swiss Francs or Euros to an American audience? I know you can have them exchanged but it just seems like if you have “magic” you could do better.

Literally in every shot the camera is moving, not panning not tilting, moving like on tracks, handheld, or on a dolly, I guess a tripod wasn’t around. It is very distracting and like most everything else in this movie, very unnecessary.

Mark Ruffalo/angry cop is holding a loaded gun at one of the magicians who decides to battle a firearm with, wait for it… cards. The best part is magicman screams “Wait!” and Mark actually waits while he breaks out a deck of cards and proceeds to throw one card at a time toward the cop…and wins, the lesson is the 7 of hearts beats a pistol.

Part of the magic show involved hypnotizing people to believe they’re football players and to tackle anyone who says “Freeze”. Cop/Mark is in the audience so he watches this happen. Then decides to run on stage to make an arrest shouting “Freeze!” dickhead gets slammed to the ground, and team magic escapes, well duh. As a cop, he sucks.

The final act is a huge theft from a safe where the cash rains down on the audience. But it’s fake money with pictures of the magicians on it. So let’s review: the point of this movie is magicians rob banks to redistribute through the audience. How many actual dollars in total did these audiences get? ZERO!

The magicians are actually robbing banks to get into a secret society called “The Eye” in doing so they send Morgan Freeman to jail, he was framed. Sorry that’s 6 movies with jail time.

“The Eye” tells team magic to go to the tree that had the card in it. The movie had said earlier that tree had been cut down. Well not only is the tree still alive but it is a famous commemorative tree to that old magician with a plaque and the card is not inside the tree just recessed into the bark a little.

Mark meets them there he’s not a cop after all, he was the mastermind and he’s here to accept them into “The Eye” club. They all walk over and we all find out that this super secret club that has existed for thousands of years consists of riding on a merry-go-round and then just vanishing off the horses.

Mark confronts the Interpol officer in Paris and reveals that his dad was a magician who died after being locked in a safe and dropped into a river and that the safe nor body was ever recovered. That’s why he did it, to get back at the safe company. Because the metal had warped in the water and killed his dad. How do you know the metal warped? You just said they never found the safe. Anyway the Interpol chick isn’t going to arrest him because now they’re in love for some reason.

Normally I wouldn’t spoil the ending for a movie but this one was so bad I had to prevent as many people as seeing it as I can and this way even if you’re mad at me for ruining the surprise you still hopefully won’t ever see it. Mission accomplished. If you want to see a great movie about magicians that also has Michael Caine (my cocaine) watch THE PRESTIGE.

Carl Wells