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Archive for the ‘Short Films’ Category

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).

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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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SOUNDTRACK: Soundtrack to “I’m Here” (2010).

This soundtrack comes with the book mentioned above and below.  It is the soundtrack to the film “I’m Here” which also comes with the book mentioned above and below.

I haven’t watched the film yet, so I don’t know how well the music works.  But the book explains how many of these songs came to be in the film.  And the organic nature of the compositions sounds like they are very suitable.

The first track (and “theme” of the movie is by Aska & The Lost Trees.  The Lost Trees are a factious band made up for the film.  Aska wrote the song (and there’s sheet music for it in the book).  She has a second song called “Y.O.U.” later on the soundtrack.  It’s a synthy dreamy song.

Gui Borrato’s “Beautiful Life” is an 8 minute techno song.  It seems like an instrumental, but there are eventually lyrics.  And it is rather catchy.

Then there’s a number of bands who I have heard of but don’t know these songs: Sleigh Bells: “A/B Machines” (which is on their debut Treats–a loudly mixed, increasingly noisier and noisier dance track, which is strangely addictive); Animal Collective: “Did You See The Worlds” (which is on Feels and gets better with each listen); Girls: “Hellhole Ratrace” (which is on their debut Album and which sounds like a distortion-free Jesus and Mary Chain) and Of Montreal who remixed “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” from Hissing Fauna… so that The Lost Trees could “cover” it in the film.  I don’t know the original but this has punky abandon and distortion and rocks pretty hard.

The final two tracks are by Sam Spiegel: “Lonesome Robot Theme” and “There Are Many of Us (Electric Dream Reprise).”  They are both slow keyboard washes–delicate songs that close the disc nicely.

It’s an enjoyable soundtrack, a little heavy on the electronics–which makes sense for a movie  about robots, right?

[READ: September 2, 2010] There Are Many of Us

[UPDATE: September 6, 2010] Just watched the film….  Reading the book first will definitely lessen the emotional impact of the film.  So, be sure to watch the DVD, then read the  book.

This book came the other day in the mail as part of my McSweeney’s Book Club.  It’s funny to get a book that is a companion piece to a film you’ve never heard of and which you will likely never see.  And that’s why it’s great that the book includes the film on DVD!  (Along with several bonus features).

I really enjoy short films. And that’s why I like the Wholphin Series as well as the DVDs of Academy Award winning shorts.  I only wish there was more access to them.   I mean, frankly, where would I ever be able to see this film but here?

As I write this I haven’t had the chance to watch the film, so maybe it’s awful.  But I have liked everything that Spike Jonze has done, so I don’t expect to be disappointed.

The stills in the book are fantastic, and the robots look incredibly lifelike.  I’m not sure if it’s better to read the book or watch the film first.  The book doesn’t really give much away about the story (except that it says that the film is inspired by The Giving Tree).  And whether or not I should have watched the film first, the book has me really excited to watch the film soon. (more…)

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Our friend Paula (no not that Paula, another Paula) told Sarah about this show.  And they were able to watch an episode together at a conference.  When Sarah came home, we TiVo’d a bunch of episode and we have probably not stopped laughing since.

The premise of Tosh.0 is very simple: Tosh, the host, shows clips that were posted on YouTube and then he makes fun of them.  The clips are certainly lowest common denominator (dumb people doing dumb things), and frankly, it’s not really much of a step above America’s Funniest Home Videos. However, Tosh (real name Daniel Tosh) is a snappy, witty and brutal humorist.  He says things that you only think of about the clips, and then goes one step further to say things that you can’t believe he would say out loud.

In fact, Sarah and I have often wondered if the show isn’t racist. Of course, it is.  And it’s also completely sexist.  Tosh makes many jokes about women’s inability to do things, but they are such patently ridiculous stereotypes that Sarah for one has never been offended by them.  So, we assume that people of the mocked races (which includes whites, lest we forget) are not offended either (or at least they have a good enough sense of humor to be in the audience). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Other Truths [CST062] (2009).

I’ve always enjoyed Do Make Say Think’s CDs.  They play instrumentals that are always intriguing and which never get dull.

But this CD far exceeds anything they have done so far (and  they’ve done some great work).   There are only four tracks, and they range from 8 to 12 minutes long.  Each track is named for a word in the band’s name: Do, Make, Say, Think.  And each one is a fully realized mini epic.

“Do” sounds like a gorgeous Mogwai track.  While “Make” has wonderfully diverse elements: a cool percussion midsection and a horn-fueled end section that works perfectly with the maniacal drumming.  “Say” is another Mogwai-like exploration, although it is nicely complemented by horns.  It also ends with a slow jazzy section that works in context but is somewhat unexpected. Finally, “Think” closes the disc with a delightful denouement.  It’s the slowest (and shortest) track, and it shows that even slowing down their instrumentals doesn’t make them dull.

It’s a fantastic record from start to finish.  This is hands down my favorite Constellation release in quite some time.

[READ: December 2009 – January 13, 2010] McSweeney’s #33.

The ever-evolving McSweeney’s has set out to do the unlikely: they printed Issue #33 as a Sunday Newspaper.  It is called The San Francisco Panorama and, indeed, it is just like a huge Sunday newspaper. It has real news in (it is meant to be current as of December 7, 2009).  As well as a Sports section, a magazine section and even comics!

[DIGRESSION] I stopped reading newspapers quite some time ago.  I worked for one in college and have long been aware that the news is just something to fill the space between ads.  I do like newspapers in theory, and certainly hope they don’t all go away but print issues are a dying breed.  When I think about the waste that accompanies a newspaper, I’m horrified.  Sarah and I even did a Sunday New York Times subscription for a while, but there were half a dozen sections that we would simply discard unopened.  And, realistically that’s understandable.  Given how long it took me  to read all of the Panorama, if you actually tried to read the whole Sunday paper, you’d be finished the following Sunday (or even two Sundays later).

Their lofty goal here was to show what print journalism can still do. And with that I concur heartily.  Even if I don’t read the newspaper, the newspapers as entities are worth saving.  Because it is pretty much only print journalism that finds real, honest to God, worthy news stories.  TV news is a joke.  There is virtually nothing of value on network TV.  Fox News is beyond a joke.  CNBC is sad (although Rachel Maddow is awesome!) and even CNN, the originator of all of this 24 hour news nonsense still can’t fill their airtime with non-sensationalized news.

Obviously, there are some decent internet sites, but for the most part they don’t have the budget to support real news investigation.  You either get sensationalized crap like Drudge or rebroadcasts of real news.

So, print is the last bastion of news.  And you can see that in journalistic pieces in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Walrus, Prospect and, yes, in newspapers.

But enough.  What about THIS newspaper?  Oh and unlike other McSweeney’s reviews I’ve done, there is NO WAY that I am writing a thorough comment on everything in here.  There’s just way too much.  Plus, there are many sections that are just news blurbs.  Larger articles and familiar authors will be addressed, however.  [UPDATE: January 18]: If, however, like Alia Malek below, you bring it to my attention that I’ve left you out (or gotten something wrong!) drop me a line, and I’ll correct things.

There is in fact a Panorama Information Pamphlet which answers a lot of basic questions, like why, how and how often (just this once, they promise!). There’s also a Numbers section which details the size, scope and cost of making this (it shows that with an initial start up, anyone could make a newspaper if they talked enough about what the readers were interested in). (more…)

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17Many many years ago, I discovered Might magazine.  It was a funny, silly magazine that spoofed everything (but had a serious backbone, too).  (You can order back issues here).  And so, I subscribed around issue 13.  When the magazine folded (with issue 16–and you can read a little bit about that in the intro to Shiny Adidas Track Suits) it somehow morphed into McSweeney‘s, and much of the creative team behind Might went with them.

The early volumes (1-5 are reviewed in these pages, and the rest will come one of these days) are a more literary enterprise than Might was.  There’s still a lot of the same humor (and a lot of silliness), but there are also lengthy non-fiction pieces.  The big difference is that McSweeney’s was bound as a softcover book rather than as a magazine. And, I guess technically it is called Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern as opposed to Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. (more…)

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inf sum

Okay, now that I’ve had time to digest the book (and to cope with the ending) I wanted to give some final thoughts on the book.  I also wanted to tie up some loose ends by posting my original response to the Salon.com questions as well as my letter to the posted article (keeping all my IJ stuff in one place).  I also found a map of Enfield that places things nicely in context.  I’ve included that at the bottom of the page.

But on to the book:

My previous post ended with what feels like a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth.  And yet I the disappointment I felt at the end of the book was not so much at what was said, but was actually a sort of disappointment that the book is over.

The book, the world, these characters became a part of my life.  I know for a fact that I have never spent this much time and effort on a book before (I didn’t even spend as much time on Ulysses, which I’ve read twice for a class).  And I think having the book left so open keeps the characters floating around in my head without actually letting them rest.  (Wraith-like if you will).

When I finished the book, the first thing I did was to go back to the beginning and re-read the Year of Glad section (now, for the third time!) [And I now I’m not the only person to have done so….just how many posts will say that that’s what they did?]. And I know that’s sort of the set-up of the book, like Finnegans Wake or even Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  And, in re-reading, even more gaps were filled in.  And that is, of course, why people read it multiple times.  And yet, do any of the multiple-times readers come any close to filing in the gaps of that lost year, or do they just find more and more awesome details to obsess over (or both)?

But before I get wrapped up in trying to “figure out what happened” I have to mention just how much I enjoyed the book.  I’ve never read anything like it.  The details, the quotes, the laughs, the pain.  It all sounds so trite (“It was better than Cats!”)  And yet, whether it’s the work itself or the amount of time spent on it, these characters are now with me.

So, I had read IJ when it came out.  And sometime in 1997 or 1998 after DFW published A Supposedly Fun Thing… he did a promotional tour stop in Boston.  And I recall getting up there and getting his autograph and saying how much I loved IJ and how it has stayed with me two years later. And that was true then (of course, if you’ve read me fumbling around and not remembering anything, you’ll know the details didn’t stay with me for 13 years, but that’s okay…the writing and the imagery stayed there somewhere.)

I think also, given the amount of time I spent on the book, and the amount of effort I expended keeping track of things, having this vacancy (both in the fact that the book is over and in the gap of one year) is really weird.  I’ve since read a bunch of reviews of IJ and the one thing I cannot imagine is how anyone with an advanced readers copy of this book could hope to read it in a few days (typical reviewer turnover time) and actually have something useful to say about it in time for a slated book review date?  I would think that if you weren’t following quite so closely you wouldn’t feel the sense of loss at the end of the book.

But enough pontificating.

Let’s think about what happened from 11/20 YDAU to Whataburger in late November, Year of Glad. (more…)

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