Tokyo! - Movie Review


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Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Surprisingly, with Tokyo!'s "triptych" collection of three different films by directors Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho (respectively), there isn't a whole lot of bad to be found here. Each one of these films are very watchable, distinctive, and enjoyable. Their matter of effectiveness however is debatable, as each one has their pros and cons. Really, it's a matter of taste.

Let's first tackle Michel Gondry's film "Interior Design," arguably the most recognizable director on the ballot. The story of a young Japanese couple moving to the capital and working hard to make it big, or even just to work, is immediately relatable. The characters have very realistic qualities, they're likable, friendly, and like most, they're just trying to find their place, even if that happens to be as a prop.

Next up is "Merde" by Leos Carax. This one was my favorite, but possibly only because of its first ten minutes. See it and you'll know why. The film's title is in regards to the central character; a "monster" from Tokyo's sewers who resembles more of a deranged leprechaun. It's very funny, and then becomes perhaps a tad too dark as it takes a legal tangent that's interesting, but probably not as fun as what could have been. In any case, the film is worth viewing simply for the performances, especially that of Denis Lavant in the title role.

Finally, there's "Shaking Tokyo" by Bong Joon-ho, the director of the acclaimed The Host. This one introduces a modern hermit who finds a reason to enter the outside world after a brief run-in with a comatose pizza delivery woman. It's beautifully filmed, but thematically the weakest of the bunch.

Like every film to be found in Tokyo!, there are statements being made here left and right, ones that balance themselves on the brink of keen observation. "Interior Design" encounters the status of women within the Japanese culture, but also the status of each participant within a relationship, especially a creative one. The following short "Merde" (with a title which immediately draws attention to those who are acquainted with its French definition), has messages regarding the clashing of differing cultures, moral relativism, and perhaps even thoughts regarding the death penalty abounding left and right. Finally, there's "Shaking Tokyo" which encounters the Japanese cultural sense of separation. Some of these statements are enlightening or revealing, others are lofty or presupposed to the point of redundancy.

Think of it like a Chili's appetizer sampler platter. Gondry's "Interior Design" is the fried mozzarella that everyone likes, "Merde" is the hot wings which you might especially love if you're up for it, and "Shaking Tokyo" is the decent yet still satisfying bunch of celery sticks in the corner. Take your pick, they're here for you. Enjoy.

Of Montreal and Jon Brion - Show Recap

Of Montreal
Jon Brion
Oakland, CA 7/24/09

Of Montreal draws a crowd, and that crowd can be comprised of anyone from middle schoolers to middle-aged cross-dressers. Luckily, Beth and I got to stand behind both when we attended their show at the beautiful Fox theater in Oakland. It's a bit hard for me to classify the band for those who never heard of them. Eventually I just digress to saying "they did the Outback Steakhouse theme song," which often only results in a confused "ohhhh, hmmm." But maybe what's so great about Of Montreal is that their music somehow flutters above description like a mischievous butterfly. Their show won me over and now takes a dominant placement on my mantle as one of the best performances I've ever seen, one that was complete with projected animations, costumed performers, dancers, a wonderful array of lights, a guitar player with wings, and simply fantastic music.

Their opener was Jon Brion, a performer who I must admit was one of the biggest reasons for me to purchase the tickets. After his beautiful work composing the music for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I (heart) Huckabees, Punch Drunk Love, and so many more, I have no doubt in my mind that the man will be receiving an oscar in short time. As a band, I had no idea he could be so incredibly captivating.

Taking the stage solo Brion began slowly with a few songs on his guitar. When he wandered towards the back of the stage and began beating the drums it could have been assumed the man was just fooling around with the time he was provided with, but once the realization sank in that his drumming was being recorded for the purpose of a background loop the show suddenly took on a whole new dimension. Quickly wandering between each instrument, making a quick recording, and then returning to center stage to take hold of the mike and his guitar, Jon Brion created an entire orchestrated song within minutes.

Then he started taking requests, and of songs you wouldn't even guess he'd know. Within minutes he had orchestrated a new version of Helter Skelter all on his own. It wasn't just a musical performance, it was a magic act.

Check out his remix of Of Montreal's First Time High.

First TIme High (Of Chicago Acoustic Version) - Jon Brion

Gallery Piece - Jon Brion Remix (via stereogum)

pics from paigekparsons


Blindness - Movie Review


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A tad too much raping for my taste. In fact, there's a lot of raping. Apparently that's what happens when people go blind, a least as far as the film Blindness is concerned. It took a glance over to my girlfriend to realize I had a look of disgusted horror plastered across my face, as I lurched my head forward rhythmically in expectation of projectile vomit. Had I been able to get past all that rape business perhaps I would have added an extra asterisk for the film, but Blindness is the kind of movie that really hates you.

Blindness is based off of a novel that I read two chapters of and then set back down on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, probably because I thought it would work better as a movie. As far as I can tell, the beginning of the film was more or less loyal to the little sample I read. A man goes blind, suddenly and without reason, but instead of being thrown into darkness his world is covered in a sea of white. He's helped by a very sketchy good samaritan, who after snatching the man's car, also goes blind. And so the pandemic goes the way of a zombie virus, it spreads fast, has absolutely no explanation, and really doesn't need one. Eventually the virus, or whatever it is, makes it's way to an eye-doctor and his wife Julianne Moore. Sure, she has a character name, but Julianne Moore will always be Julianne Moore, boyish and kind of annoying.

For another unexplained reason she doesn't go blind, but she sticks with her husband as the initial crew of infected individuals are rushed off to a quarantined facility.

Now, I didn't question the blindness as a disease, but I did find myself questioning the prospect of a quarantined facility with no doctors, scientists, or guards of any type within the facility itself to keep an eye on what's going on. This place seems to only exist because the storyteller wanted these characters to be there, and apparently only because this is where terrible things can happen to them. The only difference between this film and most common horror films is that these characters show very little motivation to act out against their aggressors, as a matter of fact, they volunteer themselves to the abuse.

Most of these troubles come from the "king" of Ward 3 (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) who holds the rations hostage in exchange for goods of incrementally disturbing wealth. We don't really know why he's so bad, and I suppose that doesn't really matter either. The film places little value on whys, or hows. No one really cares about that, nobody really cares that much at all, and without the value of the humanity of these characters the film becomes rather worthless. The world-view portrayed is that of all humanity being in the dark, with the only thing separating ourselves from the animals being that we can see the looks of disappointment from our fellow man. There is little confidence here in the goodness of people.

Technically, the film has a unique look, if not an altogether pleasant one. The cinematography is disorienting, often framed with characters just too far off the screen or far too close, or far too dark or far too light. To be honest, at times I actually liked it. The director Fernando Meirelles knows grit and shows it well. The story, on the other hand, is a mess.

Perhaps it was too loyal to the source material. With poor structuring and even worse pacing, the film feels like it runs two hours past its two hour running-time, with an ending that arrives an hour after the film actually ended. The story spends too long within the confines of a facility when there's an entire world of fascinating sights just outside of the door. It's a shame the film is so blind.
Skip it.


Natalie Portman's Shaved Head - Show Recap

Natalie Portman's Shaved Head
Spaceland - 7/13/09

I'll admit to the fact that the majority of my reasoning to go see the band Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (titled after her appearance in the film V for Vendetta) was really mostly due to their name. That and, after viewing their delectably frantic music video for Sophisticated Side Ponytail, to see how they carried that overwhelming sensory overload to a live performance. Well, I must say, if there's one word to describe Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, it must be overload, as their incredibly loud, colorful, and frantic show left me standing in a defensive state resembling a somewhat mentally handicapped individual for it's entire duration. There's a lot going on here, and I must be honest, it's a tad too much for me. I was drooling.

What Natalie Portman's Shaved Head has going for it is their sense of humor. Lyrically the band reminds me of Liam Lynch who came on the scene with United States of Whatever, the shortest song to ever make the UK's top ten hit list.

But Liam Lynch didn't carry with him an ensemble cast and crew. This band does, doubly so, with a lead vocalist who, although spirited, relied more upon that spirit than his musical abilities, acting as a showman perhaps a tad more than a performer. With a few microphone mishaps (not their fault) I did find myself questioning the necessity of certain cogs in the band's construction as it didn't really seem to matter with the blasting back-up players whether the vocalist was making noises or not. I found the experience to overwhelm what I like most about their music; their personality. Maybe they just need to adjust the levels, but I wanted to hear the crew work in synch rather than compete to make the most noise.

Sophisticated Side Ponytail still serves as a pinnacle of their work so far, and considering how much I enjoy the band's personality and attitude I want to hear more.


My Little Documentary Update

I'm submitting myself to film festivals left and right. This is an expensive process, which makes it twice as depressing when I get rejected. It's basically like paying a girl fifty bucks to go out with you but still getting stood-up because you're not pretty enough. Such is life.

If you'd like to see what the judges of the DC Shorts film festival thought of my movie you should check it out here. Fun!
I'm afraid I don't think the Paralegal was that much into it, but we'll see how much he's into that flaming bag of dog-poo I left on his front porch last night. MWAHAHA.

On the other hand, Shooting Blind is now on IMDB. What that means? I don't know. I'm not a doctor. But it's there. So feel free to check that one out too.

Please feel free to also accept this music video from Men Without Hats.


Drag Me To Hell - Movie Review


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Drag Me To Hell

There's something terrifying in realizing that you're in line to see The Hannah Montana Movie, when in fact you're just trying to get to Drag Me To Hell, a film that swings so far away on the pendulum that it hits the other side. Especially if you've arrived during the trailers, then you'll find yourself shoving kids with their Montana lunch-boxes "the hell out of the way" just so you can get your fill of hellish mayhem. Well, if that's what your looking for, I found that Drag Me To Hell lives up to it's name. What we have here is a genre movie that has itself firmly rooted in retro values. It exists to thrill, scare, and simply to play upon that which viewers are already afraid of by throwing it up on the screen suddenly and with accompanying sound effects. This film really manages to remove all boundaries, and it does so while keeping up that PG-13 rating, a feat that in and of itself deserves the highest of praise.

How amazing it is to realize that in a world filled with Hostel's and Saw's a film called Drag Me To Hell is the most sensible of the bunch. Not that it's wholesome by any sense of the word. The leading lady will literally have mouthfuls of mud, worms, flies, green corpse goo and so much more by the end of this journey. It's more of a thrill-ride. The scares lie mostly on the border of one of those online videos, where the viewer studies a vacant scene just long enough for an image from the Exorcist to suddenly appear and release an ear-piercing scream. It doesn't take long to realize that at just about any moment something can, and will, pop-up to rattle your bones.

The film is centered around Christine Brown (played by Alison Lohman), a simple country girl turned city-folk who's struggling to make a name for herself while slaving away at the bank. She's aiming for an assistant managerial position but is up against some rotten competition. When a sad (but quite sickly) old woman appears for a third extension on her loan, Christine is given the chance to either give the lady a pass, or prove her worth by kicking her to the curb. Her choice earns the films title as the old woman pays her back with the gift of a horrid curse. If Christine can't manage to save herself after three days of torture a demon known as the Lamia will rag her away to the underworld.

The film is keenly self-aware. Christine is not presented as a "bad person," but rather a good person who is flawed by simply being human. What the film understand is that this is the case with just about everyone. There is a great illustration here in which the question is posed, "who would you really want to send to hell?" Well, no one, not even your worst enemy, but goodness isn't the defining factor as far as humans are concerned. Even further, no sacrifice on your part is going to quell that fire. Christine learns this through some highly questionable (and oddly hilarious) choices regarding household pets.

From a religious standpoint perhaps this film could be regarded as an illustration of the turmoils associated with living under the Biblical old covenant. It could even provide insight into what ran through the mind of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he pleaded to have the burden of his descent into hell removed from him, in any way possible.

Yeah, that's right, I just connected Drag Me To Hell with Christian values. They're there, but Drag Me To Hell really doesn't give them much acknowledgement. It might be aware of them, maybe, but the movie has more pressing matters at hand. In the universe of Drag Me To Hell there's only two realities: those who are alive, those who are in hell, and those who are in the process of being dragged to hell. There's not a single mention of heaven to be found. That's just how it is, and what it results in is something that's simply entertaining and undeniably fun.

Director Sam Raimi knows what he's doing, and he has clearly learned what entertains audiences with a career that spanned from the Evil Dead to Spiderman. The violence is often comical, cartoonish even (at one point actually involving an anvil), and is made all the better for that. Notice the music too. Was that jazz I heard during that battle in the car? I believe so, and it was just perfect.

Was it worth dragging my girlfriend to Drag Me To Hell. I say yes, she might admit yes, and if you can, I say you should too.


as an aside note.

Take notice of some of those new-age references in here too. Christine gets help from a mystic by the name of Rham Jas, not too far from Ram Das the Harvard professor turned LSD experimentalist who authored Be Here Now. I don't think it's a coincidence, and the fact that it's in there personally makes the film just that much more entertaining.

The Chicken Sees


Miniature Tigers - Show Recap

Just before heading over to Spaceland for their weekly Monday night free concert, Beth and I made a stop to grab some Thai food at a local shanty. We couldn't help but listen to the table behind us populated by a group (who we first assumed to just be a couple local hipsters) planning to "rock out" that evening. Asking them what band they were from, they took a break from the pad thai to inform us that they were the Miniature Tigers. With no idea of what to expect, we went to the show anyways, and I'm pleased to report that the Miniature Tigers not only delivered a show well worth paying for, but are a downright fun and musically gifted collection of individuals that I'll be listening to again and again.

Often using a simple chorus rephrase and catchy melodies, Miniature Tigers delivers a sound I want to place between Vampire Weekend and Phantom Planet, maybe with a little Beach Boys mixed in (just enough I'd say). That combo doesn't do them justice, as their upbeat tempo and enchanting lyrics deliver a charming sound with a sense of humor that ranges from singing about a Japanese girl in their closet to their sometimes coarsely rendered cover art. Maybe I've just been a little desperate lately to hear a band who's catchy and not utterly depressing. In any case, Miniature Tigers deliver a sound that's refreshing to hear.

Cannibal Queen - Miniature Tigers (via: kentucky)

Mamma Mia (ABBA cover) - Miniature Tigers (via: papercup)


Geisha Is Robot

Geisha Dance, Geisha Transform, Geisha Chainsaw, Handicap Gun. What else could you want?

Nothing. That's what. This trailer alone qualifies as one of the finest films ever made.

On behalf of America I want to thank you Japan. Just when I thought you couldn't get any more crazier, you go ahead and do something like this. Allow me to take a moment to give you a slow clap of approval. Well played. Well played indeed.

Although next time I'd appreciate a little less butt-stabbing.
Too far is too far, even for you.


Posts I Steal From Beth's Blog

Beth's new apartment complex has a variety of fancy trappings that really brighten up the place. Things like fountains, rock gardens and trees that grow huge banana-shaped objects that aren't really bananas (trust me).
Strangely, whoever decorated the place decided that all rocks should be placed in pairs directly next to each other.

Hence, the Butt-rock was born.

I embrace the butt-rock.


Now I Am 22

Yesterday was my Birthday, hooray!!!

I am officially now 22, an age that is only notable for being one year above 21, for now at least.

a pretty b-day picture by beth

a not so pretty b-day picture by beth

a very pretty picture of Beff

A picture of us both on Beth's birthday

In a message I'm not entirely sure how to take, my parents sent me a wonderful set of knives and a hair-cutting kit as my gift, further pressuring me into a career as an insane barber not unlike Sweeney Todd.

me, after my birthday.

Beth and I meanwhile celebrated with delishi crepes. They were fantastic. One of the many gifts she gave me was a wallet, which means I no longer have to flip through a wad of napkins and loose change every time I make a purchase. In some ways I'll miss that, but man do I look great. Then we ventured to various vintage stores until collapsing into a deep sleep/nap on my couch.

I woke up to find that Anthony, Jon and Sarah had arrived as a birthday surprise. We toasted to my 22 years of being alive, and to having 22 more, and, as Anthony emphasized, only 22 more.

I have to say, being with my friends was the best gift I could have ever wanted. It was a great night.