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Archive for the ‘Short Films’ Category

[WATCHED: October 11, 2013] Pearl Jam interviews

lightning bowlToday is the release date for Pearl jam’s new album, Lightning Bolt. I have heard two songs from it (the fast and furious “Mind Your Manners” and the gorgeous “Sirens”) and I’m quite excited to hear the whole thing.  For the release of the album, Pearl Jam has decided to do some interviews.  But not with the usual suspects.  Rather, they have done four exclusive interviews with surfer Mark Richards, NFL player Steve Gleason, all around awesome lady Carrie Brownstein and director Judd Apatow.

The Mark Richards interview is available in excerpted form here.  I’m not sure how long the whole interview is.  But from the edited down video, we see that he interviewed all five of them for a bit (and then Stone, Jeff and Mike) and then Eddie.  A surfer seems like a reasonable person t ask them about their music and they clearly feel very comfortable with him.  (The video above is about 5 minutes). (more…)

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cadaverSOUNDTRACK: TAVI GEVINSON-“Heart of Gold” and “Heart” (2013).

taviBoth of these songs were recorded for the release of the film Cadaver (see below).  Neither song appears in the film, although Gevinson herself is the main character.  I admit to being awed and repulsed by Gevinson [insert standard issue comments about fashion, young fame and blogging here].  But I am glad she’s using her fame to write feminist theory instead of fashion anymore.  And I enjoyed her article in The Believer recently.

As for the film, she does a very good job as the voice in the movie.  But let’s hope she doesn’t pursue her singing career any further.

She has the kind of flat delivery that Zooey Deschanel does, but Deschaenl’s voice has a gravitas that Gevinson doesn’t (sure, you can say she’s only 16 or whatever, but there are tons of teenagers who can sing amazingly).  Her take on “Heart of Gold” is fine.  She enunciates very clearly, but there’s very little passion in the song.  Her take on Pet Shop Boys’ “Heart” (a song I know very well, but didn’t know that was the title) is a little better.  Primarily because she takes the very discoy song and turns it into a slow acoustic number.  The instrumentation is a little bland (not her fault) but she puts moments of excitement into the singing.  In both cases I’d much rather hear the original, and in fact I am going to listen to the Pet Shop Boys version right now.

And before you yell at me for picking on a teenager, she is far more successful than I will ever be, so just assume this is all sour grapes.

[READ: August 31, 2013] Cadaver

This book came across my desk and I was intrigued because it was a comic book about cadavers.  It’s shaped like a comic strip book (reminding me of early Far Side books) and it turns out to be a comic book adaptation of a short film which was originally a poem.  In the introduction, Jonah Ansell explains that his (baby) sister was going off to medical school so he wrote her a (funny) poem.  Eventually, the poem was turned into an animated short film.  And after being made into a short film it was made into this book.

The story is told in rhyme and is quite funny, until it gets rather touching.  In the introduction, Ansell also explains that there was more to the story than medial school–it’s about love and loss and cynicism vs romanticism.  Not bad for a 7 minute film.

An unnamed med student is handed a scalpel by the scary professor.  She is told to make the first incision into the cadaver.  She does so, but as she removes the heart (nicely shaped like a cartoon heart), the cadaver sits up and says that he needs it back.  The student’s partner passes out.  The man says he’s not read to die, he has a heart to give someone. (more…)

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[WATCHED: August 19, 2013] New Boy

new boyWikipedia leads me to find things about authors that I don’t know.  Some things lead you to unfindable items (see yesterday’s Douglas Coupland post).  But this time, the post about Roddy Doyle has led me to a number of things I wouldn’t have otherwise known about,

Like this short film.

New Boy is based on his short story “New Boy.”  I read the story a while ago.  I remembered the basic premise, but not the details.  And I was delighted by this short film.  It is about 11 minutes long and it really captures the story very well.

The story is about Joseph, an African refugee, who is starting school in Ireland.  He is not the only black student, but he really does stand out.  And when the mean boy behind his calls him “Live Aid” you know that things aren’t going to go all that well.

But then we flash back to the boy’s past (in an unnamed African country).  We see him in school there and then we see why he is a refugee (there’s nothing explicit either visually or narratively, but a lot is hinted at). (more…)

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artofmcSOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-“Helpless” single (1992).

helplessI loved that first Sugar album and even bought the single for “Helpless” (back then singles were ways for record labels to get more money out of fans of a band rather than for people to pay for one song).  In addition to “Helpless,” the single contains three songs.  “Needle Hits E” is a poppy song–very Mould, very Sugar.  The song is a bright and vibrant addition and would fit nicely on Copper Blue.

The second track is an acoustic version of “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” which sounds wonderful.  Mould really knows how to record a 12 string guitar to make it sound huge.  “Try Again” is the final track.  It reminds me of The Who, especially the bass line at the end of each verse.  It’s a darker song (especially for his single which is so up).  But I love the way the acoustic guitar seems to make it build and build.  Then, some time around the two and a half minute mark, a feedback squall starts building.  It’s way in the background (and actually sounds a bit like squealing balloons).  It continues until the last thirty seconds just degenerate into full blown feedback noise–just so you know Sugar aren’t all pop sweetness.  All three songs were later released on Sugar’s Besides collection.

[READ: May 10, 2013] The Art of McSweeney’s

Sarah got this book for me for my birthday and I devoured it.  It answers every question I’ve had about McSweeney’s and many more that I didn’t.  It provides behind the scenes information, previously unseen pieces and all kinds of interviews with the authors and creators of the issues as well as The Believer, Wholphin and some of the novels.

The real treasure troves come from the earliest issues, when there was very little information available about the journal.  So there’s some great stories about how those early covers were designed (ostensibly the book is about the artwork, but it talks about a lot more), how the content was acquired and how the books were publicized (book parties where Arthur Bradford smashed his guitar after singing songs!).

The cover of the book has a very elaborate series of very short stories by Eggers (these same stories appeared on the inside cover of McSweeney’s 23).  For reasons I’m unclear about, the rings of stories have been rotated somewhat so it is does not look exactly the same–although the stories are the same.  The inside photo of the book also gives the origin of the phrase “Impossible, you say? Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus.”

The opening pages show the original letters that Dave Eggers sent out to various writers seeking stories and ideas that were rejected by other publications (and interesting idea for a journal). (more…)

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[WATCHED: August 22, 2011] “The Calamity Song”

I woke yesterday to the news that one of my favorite bands had made a music video which was a tribute to one of my favorite books, Infinite Jest. Colin Meloy was a reader during the Infinite Summer project (one of the more high profile readers, although he didn’t really contribute beyond the first week).  When I saw him at BEA, I asked him if he finished the book and he said that indeed he had. Weill according to this story from The New York Times, Colin liked the book so much that he wanted to use one of the great scenes from the book as the basis of a music video.  And since The Calamity Song has the line “In the Year of the Chewable Ambien Tab” which is an allusion to Infinite Jest‘s Subsidized Time, well why not use that as the song.

The video was directed by Michael Schur (a huge Infinite Jest fan) who is a major figure behind Parks and Recreation. The video is a bare-bones retelling of the Eschaton sequence from the novel. For those who have not gotten to that scene yet, Eschaton is a game of global annihilation played on a tennis court. There are strategic places you are supposed to hit from across the court (so it’s a physical game, not just an academic one) with your 5 megaton tennis balls.   The scene is challenging to read because there’s so much going on, but the video does a very good job of giving you the essence.

Sure, diehards will have lots to quibble about (it’s raining, not snowing; Ann Kittenplan (the girl who gets hit with the ball) is totally hot–not so much in the book; and the scene doesn’t end with someone’s head crashing through a computer monitor).  Most of the quibbles are addressed in the Times article but some are easily answered anyhow–it was filmed in two days, it’s a flat screen monitor (you can’t put your head through that), and why not have a hot Ann Kittenplan, it’s a music video, right?   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PORTLANDIA: “Dream of the 90’s” (2011).

This is song that I think of as the theme song for the show Portlandia. (I’ve only seen the one episode so far so I don’t know if it is or not, but if it isn’t, it should be!).  This song is so indicative of the show that, if you like the video, you’ll likely enjoy the show too.  Portlandia is written by and stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney).

Although this song is meant to be evocative of the 90s (the chorus is “The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland”), musically, it’s not a 90s-era song (despite the comment that flannel still looks good in Portland).  It is actually a keyboard-only song, kind of discoey (dare I say Pet Shop Boysish?).  It’s a simple musical motif, with a catchy chorus and spoken verse, but really you listen for the lyrics:

Remember the 90s when they encouraged you to be weird?

Portland is the city where young people go to retire.

It’s like Gore won, the Bush administration never happened….  Portland’s almost an alternative universe.

It’s all tongue-in-cheek (with a surprisingly catchy chorus).  But, oh to dream.  Sleep ’til eleven…

Watch the video here.

[READ: January 24, 2011] “Always Raining, Somewhere, Said Jim Johnson”

This second Harper’s story suffered from a similar problem as the previous one.  This story felt like several snippets that never tied together.  In any way.

We see a student at the Iowa writer’s program (this sent up red flags immediately for me–not a story about being in  writing program).  And we read a lengthy section about rain.  Except it’s not really about rain, it’s about a pub in Iowa City.  And the concreteness of it is very cool.  You can really see and smell the bar.   The bartender’s routine is so exact you can win bets on when he’ll finish.   He ensues that everything is tidy and that everyone gets the hell out.  Cool, I’m with you.

Then there’s more rain and the narrator and a guy named Rich crash at Rich’s place.  Rich’s wife, Liz is also there and we learn a word or three about her.  And then the narrator starts really checking out Liz, who is completely naked on the bed with Rich.  And there’s some interesting intense moments where he thinks he’s caught.

Then we jump to another bar scene and some pretty funny comparisons between Liz and Gayle Sayers.  These come from the titular Jim Johnson who is apparently dead by the above scene.  (You don’t have to know who Gayle Sayers is to get the joke, I don’t think.  But if you don’t know who he is, he was a football player).

(more…)

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[WATCHED: September 5, 2010] I’m Here

I’m Here is the new short film that Spike Jonze directed.  (You can read more about the story behind the film at my post about the accompanying book There Are Many Of Us.) And you can see the whole film and much more at the official site.

The film is 30 minutes long and it is surprisingly touching.  Surprisingly especially because the main characters are robots.  The robots are wonderfully designed (they’re not animated, they are people with plastic coverings and fantastic heads–the main male robot’s head is made from an old Macintosh computer).  I assume there is CGI for the mouths (they look too fluid to be anything else), but the rest of the movie is very old school.

As the film opens, we see Sheldon, who works in a library (as a shelver) who seems content and who seems to be making the best of things.  The other robots that we see live in what seems like a kind of narcotic state (plugging themselves in to recharge at night).  One morning, while he’s waiting for the bus (because robots can’t drive), he sees a robot driving a car.  She is a beautiful robot, and we see them share a moment across the busy street.  And since this is short film, you know they are destined to be together.

The robots share tender moments (their substitute for kissing is very sweet) as well as rocking moments (they go to a Lost Trees concert together).  We get to see a bit of their inner lives as well.  And the two form an intense bond.   (more…)

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