Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best of 2008 - Movie Edition

Time for HLS to jump into the fray and add to the ever growing population of "Bests of the Year" lists.  The catch here, for my Movies edition, is a refreshing bout of honesty: I've only seen a handful of the films released this calendar year.  The list, alphabetically, is below.  Bear in mind that I am married, and have kids, which will explain several of the items on the list:

The Dark Knight
Kung Fu Panda
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
Step Brothers
Tropic Thunder
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Get Smart
Pineapple Express
Mamma Mia!
Zack and Miri Make A Porno
The Love Guru
Baby Mama
Meet Dave

Best Actor:
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Seth Rogen, Zack & Miri
James Franco, Pineapple Express
Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Tough call, but Legder (whom I'm considering as a lead actor, since his presence and role was paramount to the success of the film) gets the nod here as the pathological Joker.  It's a shame we'll never see a follow-up, but that will undoubtedly only add to the legend.

Best Actress:
Mila Kunis, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Angelina Jolie, Wanted
Tina Fey, Baby Mama
Elizabeth Banks, Zack & Miri
Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!

Jolie was the type of mysterious woman who can kick your ass that she's been in several other films, and though she was great, I can't give her the choice.  Streep did all her own singing, which gets my vote in a pretty weak field.

Best Supporting Actor:
Neal Patrick Harris, Harold & Kumar
Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder

Craig Robinson, Zack & Miri
Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Man, what a tough choice here - all awesome.  Robinson nearly steals the film in Zack & Miri, while Brand never fails to get laughs.  I'm going to cop out and call it a tie between Cruise's nearly unrecognizable turn in Tropic Thunder and NPH's tour-de-force in Harold & Kumar.  Remember, the P stands for "Poon Hound".

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, Get Smart
Amy Poehler, Baby Mama

Poeler gets the nod for playing funny, at which she is a pro, but also being able to dial it down when needed.  Hathaway did a nice job as the ass-kicking Agent 99, and always lights up whatever film in which she appears.

Best Cameo:
Justin Long, Zack & Miri

No contest, Long's extended High School Reuinion scene as the gay porn star who ultimately provides the inspiration to the main character was absolutely brilliant.  After seeing this guy as the unassuming "Mac" for the past few years, it was easy to forget what he could do.

Best Kids Movie:
Kung Fu Panda
Well paced, no pop culture references, just a really good story, well told, with good characters.  Oh, and it's funny.  Maybe Hollywood will learn a lesson here, but I doubt it.

Best Movie:
Tropic Thunder
The Dark Knight
Forgetting Sarah Marshall

All were stellar, but for an overall great movie, start to finish, I'm giving the edge to Tropic Thunder.  I was thoroughy surprised at how much I enjoyed this film, which was pushed to the top thanks to the great turns put in by Tom Cruise and Robert Downey, Jr.  The Dark Knight is a very close second.

Most Questionable Decision:
Pierce Brosnan sings (Mamma Mia!)
Male full frontal (Zack & Miri)
Male Full Frontal(Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
Putting "Porno" in the Title (Zack & Miri)

Brosnan gave it his best shot, and wasn't terrible, which is saying something.  I questioned why Kevin Smith saw the need to show Jason Mewes' junk in what seemed to be a gratoitous manner.  Segel being naked while being dumped by Sarah Marshall had a poignancy to it which fit into the story, but Mewes doing the full monty didn't seem to make sense, story wise.

Best Guy Who Shows Up In Every Movie:
Bill Hader - Turned up in Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and better yet, was funny in each.  In 2009, may he see bigger roles.

That's it for 2008, as far as I was concerned.  See this space for Music picks soon...

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

..that saw the birth of the incredible, awesome, Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I came late to the party, but through the magic of reruns and later, the beauty of YouTube have been able to catch many of the complete episodes. The show is still as funny as ever, and even when you know the lines that are coming it's hard not to laugh.

The good news, other than the availability of virtually the entire catalog on YouTube, isn that the main participants are still actively displaying their riffing prowess with two current projects:

RiffTrax - Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett put together downloadable audio of riffs to current and recent films for your enjoyment. The advantage is obvious (no rights fees to pay, plus the ability to be relatively current) and the results are wonderful.

Cinematic Titanic - Headed by MST3K creator Joel Hodgson, this is more like the original show, as Joel, plus Frank Coniff, Trace Beaulieu, Mary Jo Pehl and J. Elvis Weinstien frame more awesomely bad B-movie schlock with witty banter. You can either download the video, or buy it on DVD direct form their site.

Both projects are well worth checking out, as well as perusing the back catalog. Long may they riff.

Monday, November 17, 2008

And You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?

There is little that be said about the image shown here. It's taken from something called the Spirit One Christian Center, located in Wichita, Kansas. That said, I can't resist asking a few questions....

1.) Since, as far as I know, according to the Bible there is no such thing as "America", or "Muslims", I'm unclear how having a "Muslim President" constitutes a Sin Against The Lord.

2.) The wording of your sign suggests we have a Muslim President. Dubya? Really? Shit, he really did out one over on all of us!

3.) The Constitution of the United States makes no reference to the office of the President restricted to a certain religious belief, gender, or anything of that nature. How exactly is having a Muslim President a violation? Or is the Constitution only of value when you feel you're rights are threatened?

4.) I looked up the Bible passage cited - Exodus 20:3, which states "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me". Okay, but do you really think the voters were voting for God? Methinks the pool of candiates would have been a bit larger. Show of hands, guys, how many Obama voters think he's a messiah?

5.) You do know that Barack Obama is Christian, right? Granted, he might not subscribe to the special brand practiced at your place (frankly I'm a little scared of anyone who does), but he is an avowed Christian. Perhaps you recall the Right Wing outrage all summer about one Rev. Jeremiah Wright? Which is it - radical preacher follower or secret Muslim?

6.) Are you really this ignorant, or are you just trying to incite your flock, who might not be inquisitive enough to make two mouse clicks to find out you're being intellectually dishonest?

Honestly, it's somewhat amusing to see the hand wringing and panties-in-a-bunch behavior in the aftermath of the election, but stuff like this is just plain crazy. Do these people ever read the Bible? Particularly the part about not bearing false witness (you know, your sign).

Ignorance is nothing of which to be proud, nor is knowngly spreading outright misinformation from your pulpit. Please skim a bit of money from your collection basket and buy yourselves a clue.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let's Get To Work

One week later, I still have to repeat quietly to myself that Barack Obama was elected our 44th President. As inevitable as it seemed during the closing weeks of the campaign, it was still stunning to hear the announcement we all knew was coming on Tuesday night.

History making? No doubt, but had the Republicans won we could have said the same thing, albeit for different reasons. Some random thoughts from Election night and the aftermath, and the campaign:

John McCain, during his concession speech, looked like the most relieved man on the planet. Something about his demeanor suggested to this observer that perhaps he was never comfortable with the way his campaign was run, and was just glad the whole thing was over. Perhaps the respected Senator can get back whatever credibility he may have lost during the past few months and return to being a prodcutive, bipartisan member of the Senate. I hope so.

It will be fascinating to read the multitude of books that will undoubtedly be published about the 2008 election. Newsweek's upcoming article is just the tip of the iceberg, and provides wonderful insight. The books will dig deeper, and will be a great read for political junkies everywhere.

What was soundly defeated this night? Rovian style polictics, for one. Maybe it was because the dirt kicked up by the GOP was already scraped up by the Clintons during the primaries, or maybe since the accusations were quickly refuted/explained by Obama, or simply beacuse people saw them for what they were - desperation ploys by a sinking campaign. Whatever the voter rationale, one thing was certain - the tactics were a complete failure, and for that, America should be grateful. Consider our collective bullshit detector finely tuned.

Also, more importantly, Fear had its ass kicked. Try as they did to make voters afraid of the scary Secrct Muslim/Terrorist "Paller Arounder"/Socialist/Commie and oh yeah, black guy, America called bullshit. If only there were some kind of saying I could quote, from a famous person, regarding how the only thing we should ever be afraid of would be being afraid, or something like that.......

I can not for the life of me recall ever seeing worldwide reaction to a Presdiential election. I guess there was never anything to show in prior years. Seeing how the world reacted spoke volumes about a.) how America's stock instantly rose throughout the world, and b.) how much it had fallen over the past eight years. (Though I'm still trying to figure out why the town of Obama, Japan was so excited - "Yay, the guy with the same name as out town won! We rule!")

I listened to people all around me tell me how they couldn't support Obama's candidacy. reasons varied, from his stance on taxes (folks who enjoy not paying them aren't generally happy about knowing they'll soon be paying more) to his Pro-Choice stance (please don't get me started on single issue voters - they get the government they deserve). One person I know started by telling me he just didn't think Obama "cared about America". I couldn't let that one go - no person crazy enough to run for President, and expose himself, his family, etc. to all that goes along with it could not be accused of not having some crazy America love. Later this person mentioned he was "tired of Barack Obama"....which made sense since the guy was in the news virtually every day from January. Eventually it struck me, and I never wanted to think so, but race had to play a factor for voters like this. People simply looking for a reason to not vote for him. Thankfully these voters were not much of a factor.

As for someone else I knew who was on the fence, I simply said "Two words: President Palin". I think this person flipped for Obama.

Wither Governor Palin? Well, for starters, it looks like the candidate who wasn't allowed to talk to the media now can't stop giving interviews. It would not be a surprise to see her continue her political career on the national stage (or try to , anyway), or end up hosting a morning talk show. Neither would surprise me. Keep talking, Governor, as you provide an endless source of material for Olbermann, Stewart and Colbert. Oh, and give back those clothes.

The amount of whining from the right wing noise machine of Hannity, Limbaugh, et al. is to be expected, and it will not be a shock to see these vile and loathesome demagogues (thanks to Al Franken for that line) flourish during a Democratic Presidential administration. Hate and fear still sells to a narrow (and narrow-minded) segment of the population, unfortunately, and these folks always choose the loudest, uglist path to follow, as opposed to rational, factual debate. A descent into obscurity and irrelevance would be most welcome.

...and what about President Bush and what's left of his cronies? If nothing else this vote was a resounding condemnation of this Presdient's two terms. He too looked to be relieved as he realized his time was just about up. I know he feels he will somehow be vindicated by history, but I don't see how. Rather, the last eight years will be studied by historians and used as a primer on how not to run government. The next four years pose an enormous challenge for Persident-Elect Obama, but the American people have spoken, and decided that he is just the person for the job.

Let's go, we've got work to do.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin Wins Debate! Palin Wins Debate!

(Thanks to Hobodeluxe from Fark for the image.)
Stunning, really. No other words can be used to describe the perfromance of Sarah Palin during last night's VP debate. By not falling flat on her face, not going awkwardly silent when facing a question, and generally not imploding, the Alaskan Governor far exceeded any and all expectations.
The only problem? When the bar is set as low as it was based on her recent train wreck interviews, it was not nearly enough. Substance? Not much from Ms. Palin. Talking Points, endlessly regurgitated, regardless of the question in play or the context of what was being discussed? Plenty of that.
Laying on the Hooterville act about as thick as she could without auditioning for a guest spot on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Palin came across disingenuous and rehearsed. Refusing to answer direct questions (maybe she doesn't understand what an Achilles Heel refers to?), but instead drifitng off to blather on about "up in Alaska, we blah blah blah", "Barack Obama is bad, Maverick, Hackey Mahm, Joe Sixpack, etc." gave one the impression of a kid who'd been up all week studying for an exam, and reflexively spat out talking points whenever triggering words were uttered. Further, winking at the camera and the "shout outs"? Seriously? Can you imagine if Barack Obama pulled crap like this?
Except for a few suspect sourced polls (Drudge, I'm looking at you), Joe Biden was generally considered to be the winner of the debate. Looks like, for the most part, America's Bullshit Detector is operating efficiently.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's Showtime....

As of right now, tonight's VP debate is still on, though it would not be at all surprising if some last minute "emergency" forces the GOP to withdraw Sarah Palin and get the hell out of dodge.

The Republicans have tried numerous devices to frame this debate, haven't they? Expectations have been lowered to the point where if Palin simply shows up, doesn't bite the head off of a pigeon and flash the crowd, it will be considered a good showing. By accusing the moderator, Gwen Ifill, of being "in the tank" for Obama because she wrote a book about the recent rise of Black politicians - despite the fact the book was announced in August, and both sides agreed to use Ms. Ifill weeks ago, they've constructed another excuse for a poor performance by Palin. Today, McCain uncorked the latest in his ever increasing line of verbal gems - when asked why Obama's poll number were rising during the economic crisis, he responded that "beacuse life isn't fair". Wow.

The format should be helpful to Palin, since it won't involve a lot of back and forth between the candidates. However, given her recent cringe inducing interviews with Kaitie Couric, Palin has to be considered dangerous whenever she's near an open microphone and is posed a direct question. Joe Biden should simply answer the questions posed, using his breadth of knowledge on whatever topic is brought up, and the difference between the candidates will be readily apparent. It should not be difficult to allow Palin enough rope with which to hang herself.

Perhaps the most refreshing effect of the handling of Palin is that the media, and much of the country, doesn't seem to be buying the Rovian bullshit this time. Every excuse is treated with figurative eye rolling by the press, and even conservatives are calling shenanigans on the Palin pick in particular, and McCain's candidacy in general.
Should be an entertaining evening no matter what. Grab some popcorn, kiddies!

Monday, September 29, 2008

McCain Clearly Wants To Lose

How else can anyone explain the bizarre behavior of the man and his campaign over the past few days?

Suspending his campaign, only not really (here's a tip, John. Continuing to raise money, appear on TV, run ads, etc. means you're still campaigning.)

Threatening to stay away from the debate, putting "Country First"...then not leaving to Washington, after telling David Letterman you had to leave town, stat.

Continuing the media blackout of Sarah Palin, which does nothing but allow bitter media members (you know, the guys you used to call "my base"), pore over the meager amaount of interview footiage and tear it apart. Here's a tip, John, if she talks more without being forced to regurgitate Karl Rove's Talking Points, she might come off a little better. As it is now, she's looking like a poorly programmed Stepford Veep. Only the soft bigotry of low expectations, whcih your party has gone to great lengths to foster, can allow her to come out unscathed after Thursday's debate - unless, of course, your guys are already crafting an escape plan for that too.

The lates: blaming the failure of the $700 Billion bailout packge from passing on, you guessed it, Barack Obama. Yep, it's all his fault, as he controls the votes of all those opposed (including, it should be noted, a significant number of Republicans). After putting himself front and center regarding this issue, he made it his own, and now that it is failing he deflects the blame to his opponent and thinks we're too stupid to notice. Un-flipping-believeable.

Changing positions almost hourly, unaware that in the age of YouTube nothing ios ever forgotten. Honestly, people, do you want this guy in the Oval Office, particularly with Caribou Barbie a heartbeat away?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Your Favorite Band Sucks, And So Does Mine

Oh no, I can hear you saying, another dumbass blogger music snob post about how much band X is so much better than band Y because blah blah blah.

Is this going to go that way? Maybe not. Stay with me. Just because I don't like what you like does not make me a music snob, honest. It is a little tale about a certain band, enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity, which is loathed by your humble blogger.

Let's set this up with a little story.....

Recently, I was at a charity walk in my town. The festive atmosphere had food, activities, a DJ spinning the most common songs one could imagine, and even a live band. The band, whose name escapes me, was a local outfit of older guys (I'm guessing late 40's and up), played a variety, if one could call it that, of early 70's soft rock. (Think "A Horse With No Name", "Ventura Highway" etc.) Funny that they and the DJ seemed incredulous that the crowd wasn't responding as they would have hoped. Call me crazy, but I don't think America (the original artists of the songs mentioned) got that much of an enthusiastic response when they did that song in 1972, so I'm not sure these guys got an atypical reaction. Anyway, the band wrapped up their brief set, thanked the crowd, and was rewarded with polite, if scattered, applause. At this point, Mr. DJ picked up the mic to fill the air, and this is where our story really begins.

A friend of mine and I were chatting as the raffle finished, while in the background the DJ had just finished spinning that perennial crowd fave "Cotton Eyed Joe" [imagine my eyes rolling right now, as yours might be]. It was at this point we heard the unmistakable intro to a song everyone knew, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'".

"Finally", my friend said, "some real music!", and he looked at me in the way you would when you expect a certain unconditional approval, maybe an agreeing nod of the head, perhaps even a "Hell Yeah!". My response was somewhat different.

"Oh man", I said "I fucking hate Journey".

As soon as the words left my lips I looked around anxiously. Not because of the sentiment I'd expressed, but because the event was loaded with kids, parents, grandparents, etc. It would be pretty embarrassing to have had some little kids hear that. Luckily, none did.

My friend was taken aback slightly, and asked why I thought the way I did. "They represent everything that is bad about music" was my response (which I have to admit was said through almost clenched teeth), and we moved on to other topics. Upon reflection, it led me to thinking though. Why do I have such vitriol for this band in particular?

I began to think about my opinions on Journey, and music in general. One thing I've noticed is that when it comes to music, there seem to be two kinds of people:

Group A - Listen to the radio, absorbs whatever is played, might make a purchase or two on occasion, but rarely ventures outside the "mainstream". Music is an important part of their life, but functions as a background to their lives as other things are going on. Doesn't read any type of music press, either online or in print. Rejects most new trends until they are assimilated into the mainstream. Think "I hate that rap garbage....but that 'Bust A Move' is sure a fun tune!" Most of these people really enjoy stuff like Journey, Bon Jovi, and Carrie Underwood.

Group B - Listens to what is popular, but seeks out other options, and is not averse to looking beyond the mainstream. Might buy an album or download a song despite never having heard it provided there is a good buzz around it. Keeps up on developments in music (maybe not quite as much as they age). It's safe to assume these folks are into old school stuff like The Ramones, Run-DMC, or R.E.M. while keeping abreast of newer bands like Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend. Investigates a new trend before rejecting it outright.

Belonging to either group isn't absolute, nor is there any problem with it. It just boggles my mind sometimes how, when I'm surrounded by a bunch of people who fall into the first group (you probably noticed by now that I consider myself to be firmly in the second) I am forced to defend my opinions as if I was some psycho radical hippie junkie dirtbag punk. Explaining to people that you don't particularly have any care whatsoever for Bon Jovi can elicit a dumbfounded reaction. I can almost hear them thinking, "Jeez, Bon Jovi is nice and popular. Why wouldn't you like them?" (For the record, I don't dislike Bon Jovi, and recall having a really great time signing "Livin' On A Prayer" while drunk and dancing in a bar one night...., but let the record show that I do not own anything the band has ever produced.)

Which brings me back to Journey. I've always had a particular distaste for what Rolling Stone dubbed "Faceless" rock back in the late 70's/early 80's, referring to the era where bands like Journey, Toto, Foreigner, Kansas, Styx, etc. ruled the roost without any particular distinguishing characteristics. To me, Journey was the worst of this bunch - a bunch of clearly talented musicians who resorted to playing bland, generic, risk-free Rock (tm) aimed for the masses. While obviously not the first, nor the last group, to be guilty of aiming for success without artistic merit, they were easily the most egregious example of the era. Throw in the ridiculous album cover art and the cheesy ballads, and it was enough to make me want to scream.

Thankfully, the group faded away as musical trends evolved. Unfortunately, in the age of instant nostalgia, the band is hot again (thanks in part to "Don't Stop Believin'" being prominently featured in The Sopranos finale), with a new lead singer pulled from a cover band (I'm not making this up) and a new CD, and here we go again.

What also grinds my gears is that I've never run into anyone who claims Journey is a great band, you know? It's always along the lines of "They're good, they had those songs I liked back in the day", but never have I run into anyone who would passionately defend the group. To me, that speaks volumes. Perhpas the comments to this post will attract some defenders. I say bring 'em on.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five Years On....

......since "Mission: Accomplished". Where are we now?:

3900 dead American soldiers

Countless dead Iraqi civilians

Gas headed for $4 per gallon

An economy in free fall

No WMD's

No connnection between Iraq and 9/11

Squandered post-9/11 goodwill toward the US

No end in sight.

Heckuva job, Georgie.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This Sums It Up

Not to tip my politictal hand, but this quote from a poster on dailykos today pretty much hits the nail squarely on the head:

Saying that Hillary has Executive Branch experience is like saying Yoko Ono was
a Beatle.



Rock And Roll (TM) Hall Of Fame Inducts Madonna; Heads Explode

As you've no doubt heard by now, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame turned a few heads with the announcement of the 2008 inductees. Let's review them now:

Farm Aid-er John Mellancamp (no word as to whether or not he lets them use the whole "Cougar" thing on his bust)

Philly Soul producers Kenny Gamble andf Leon Huff

Leonard Cohen

The Dave Clark Five

The Ventures


What?! Madonna?! She's not a rocker, dammit! There was a fair degree of outrage from forum posters and some critics regarding this offense against all that is rock. MAdonna is a freakin' pop star, who got played on Top 40 Radio, and was liked by teenaged girls! (Kinda like The Beatles?)

Everyone is missing the point: The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame is a total joke!

Come on, this is supposed to be about Rock and Roll! What does the name mean if not anti-establishment, non-conforming, piss off your parents rebellion? Can anything be more staid ans stuffy than an officvail Hall of Fame, with only worthy inductees each year, along with the accompanying "controversy" when your favorite band didn't make the cut? What a crock. I know that the ship of integrity sailed quite some time ago for most of the music business, but seeing these bloated egos get together every year and pat themselves on the back is simply something that can't be tolerated.

The "museum" section of the Hall is a neat thing to have - I'm all for preserving artifacts from bygone eras to give people some kind of perspective on past history, but the whole bust and plaque garbage is uneeded and unnecessary.

Congraulations Material Girl!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Classic Album Corner

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

If ever there was a candidate for the One Hit Wonder file, it should have been the Beastie Boys. The novelty of being three White Jewish rappers who took the music scene by storm in 1986-87 by combining hard rock riffs over alternating whiny raps seemed destined to play itself out quickly. The lack of a quick follow-up record ensured that the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately music public would soon remove the boys from consciousness and move on to the next Big Thing. “Fight For You Right (To Party)” was destined to become a drunken idiot anthem for the ages, and Licensed To Ill becoming a quirky historical footnote.

In the aftermath of supporting Ill, the Beastie Boys relocated to Los Angeles and hooked up with the Dust Brothers production team. The resulting sessions produced an album that was such a departure from Ill that it alienated many fans, who were expecting Licensed To Ill 2. The sales of Boutique paled in comparison, with no radio ready single nor any breakthrough wacky video to pump it. Despite that, the record was a perfect evolutionary step for the maturing Boys, and remains not only one of the best hip hop records ever made, but one of the best, period. It slowly became a sort of an unsing favorite of many Beastie Boys fans, and now takes it's place among the group's bets work.

The record simply could not be made today – the multitude of samples, taken before each had to be cleared, is staggering. (Click here for a listing of every sample used for details). The Boys love of funky soul 70’s era music is immediately apparent as the album opens (and closes) with “To All The Girls…”, a dedication to the females of the world, and a nod to the horny boy attitude they were known for (but eventually grew out of). The rat-a-tat drums sound pounds in as "Shake Your Rump" opens, kicking off the record in force, and sets the tone as the boys blend alternating raps with funky samples. "Johnny Ryall" tells the story of a now-homeless one time blues legend (fictional), while "Egg Man" blends the familiar shower scene music from Psycho with the theme from Jaws, while at the same time featuring one of the first solcially conscious rhymes the Beasties ever dropped - "You make a mistake/ you judge a man by his race/you go through life/with egg on your face".

One important side note: during the three years on inactivity, the Beasties became embroiled in a dispute with Def Jam, their original label. At one point, it was alleged that DJ head Russell Simmons was going to put out his own "Beastie Boys" record, comprised of studio demos and assorted items, until Public Enemy's Chuck D set him straiught by informing him that the stuff prepared for Paul's was some of the hottest hip hop he'd ever heard. Simmons backed off, as the group signed on with Capitol records, who ended up viewing this record as a disappointment, clearly expecting Ill level sales.

"Hey Ladies", "High Plains Drifter", "Car Thief" and "Looking Down The Barrell Of A Gun" all utilized the variety of samples to perfection, but the real masterpiece of the record is the 12 minute epic "B-Boy Bouillabaise". Less like one song than an amalgamation of several disconnected ideas, the song works, as the varied tempos and individual raps conmbine to make a tune the likes of which hip hop had never seen. A personal fave of mine is the "A Year And A Day" which features a knockout sample of The Isley Brothers' "Who's That Lady".

The record has stood the test of time, and is all the more unique when listened to today when you take inot account the sheer volume of samples, and the outstanding work done by the Dust Brithers and Mario Caldato in weaving all the elements together to produce such a memorable album.

The group took things to another level on later releases, playing all their own instruments and hitting it big with Check Your Head and Ill Communication. Their latest release, The Mix-up, eschews rap altogether in favor of instrumentals, and recently won a Grammy.

Beastie Boys official site
Paul's Boutique Samples and References List

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Journey To The Center Of My DVR - Idiocracy

Idiocracy (2006)
Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard

Directed by MIke Judge

Rated R

Now this one was easy to miss - Fox did all it could to ensure nobody would ever see this film. The release was confined to a small number of screens on both coasts, and quickly disappeared. Only via its appearance on cable has it been able to reach a wide audience, and quickly reach cult status.

It's not exactly clear why the studio would not put any effort behind this movie - it's a Mike Judge project. Judge, best known for TV shows Beavis and Butt-head, King Of The Hill, as well as the great cult film Office Space, seemingly has enough name recognition and credibility to get behind. Could it be that the film, a brilliant science fiction piece whereby stupid people, via pure volume breeding, totally take over the country, just might go completely over the heads of their audiences? Pandering to the lowest common denominator is something Fox specializes in, and they might have been thinking that this movie would have sailed right over the heads of the movie going crowd.

The film details how low level career military man Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) is chosen to take part in an experiment whereby he is placed in a state of suspended animation, and revived at a later date, with the idea of creating super soldiers of the future. As this is a movie, Something Goes Wrong, and Wilson (along with local hooker Rita, played by Maya Rudolph) remains "frozen" for 500 years. They awaken to a world which has been overrun by stupidity, making the terminal underachiever and the hooker the de facto smartest people in the country. The opening of the film, which explains how the country (and presumably the world) ended up in this state is hilarious, and somewhat disturbing as one can totally see the scenario happening.
Navigating his way through an endless supply of utter morons who speak "hybrid of hillbilly, Valley girl, and inner-city slang" (and who tell him on more than one occasion after hearing him speak in full sentences that he "talks like a fag"), Wilson manages to get one man, Frito (Dax Shepard) to tell him of a Time Machine. Bauers obviously assumes that technology has advanced to the point where time travel is a reality, but, alas, runs into many obstacles trying to find his way back home. I won’t give any spoilers here, but suffice it to say Joe and Rita don’t have a lot of smooth sailing in trying to succeed in 2505, or return to the present.

The film is smart, funny, and a relatively short 84 minutes. Judge, as he has in his other projects, doesn’t lay it on too thick and mock the future Americans for their stupidity. Indeed, it seems as if he has pity on them, since they can’t be held accountable for their IQ, and Judge sort of celebrates their stupidity rather than mock them for it.
See this movie. Aside form the things mentioned above, it’s funny, and that alone should be enough to merit killing an hour and a half. The fact that the movie makes you think a little, or perhaps makes you just a wee bit uneasy, is just a bonus.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"A Failure Pile In A Sadness Bowl"

Patton Oswalt is the man responsible for the above quote, uttered during his brilliant routine found on his latest CD Werewolves and Lollipops. He has proven himself to be one of the best stand-ups working today, injecting some actual intelligence into his routines, which is refreshing in a world which makes Larry The Cable Guy a star (come on, I can understand Ron White, but Larry The Freaking Cable Guy?). In the bit sampled above, he is referring to the KFC Famous Bowl, and the bizarre thought process which led to its invention. The Famous Bowl, for the uninitiated, is simply a combination of an entire KFC meal, dumped in a single bowl as opposed to say, being served in a more traditional manner, like on a plate. Basically, the fat lazy underbelly of America demanded this, and KFC was more than happy to deliver the goods, and it quickly became their best selling item. Oswalt's full take is hilarious, as he goes on to mock, in his consistently funny way, how one would arrive at this wonder of fast food goodness.

The Onion recently decided to ask Oswalt to do something radical - actually try and eat one of these monstrosities. His take on this can be found here, and is well worth checking out.

Patton Oswalt
The Onion A.V. Club Taste Test Special
KFC famous bowls

Journey To The Center of the DVR

Here's the deal: This past summer, I changed television providers from Comcast to AT&T U-Verse. Part of the deal, other than the cost savings, was the inclusion of a DVR, which quickly went straight to cell phone status as the invention-I-wonder-how-I-ever-did-without.

Even better, for the first two months I was given the full channel lineup (except Playboy, which is never free). Combine 20 movie channels with a brand new DVR and you've got a recipe for a gathering of films heretofore unseen!

The goal was to grab movies that fit the following criteria:

  1. Recent Hit movies which I didn't catch in the theater
  2. Movies the kids wanted to see
  3. Other movies which had somehow eluded me over the past few years

I grabbed a boatload. What will follow, on a periodic basis, is my review of said films. It might be a bit surprising to you to see some of the movies I've managed to avoid seeing. Like this one:

Kingpin (1996)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray
Directed by The Farrelly Brothers

Case in point: damn, how in the hell did I ever miss this movie? It was released in 1996, and I do recall several half hearted attempts a renting it a few years back. ("Honey, what about Kingpin? It's supposed to be pretty funny? No? Okay" [sheepishly puts it back on rack])

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that just about everyone in the world who wanted to see this has already done so, so anything written after this point can't really qualify as a "spoiler", agree? Good, let's proceed.

This gem from The Farrelly Brothers explores a topic not often seen on the big screen: the cutthroat world of pro bowling. Blend in Randy Quaid's Amish character and you've got a combination that nobody would ever touch again, and with good reason. Woody Harrelson is perfect for the role of Roy Munson, and in the early scenes as an earnest, supremely gifted young bowler you can see a hint of Woody Boyd. Once tragedy strikes (sorry, bad bowling pun, of which I cannot guarantee there will not be more) and the years go by, he becomes a bitter, pot bellied, balding man with a hook for a left hand (when it's not covered by one of the worst prosthetic hands ever seen, which leads to numerous sight gags, all of which are great). There are just the right amount of hook gags as well, and the bulk are done early in the movie.

Bill Murray is great as well, especially when you consider that he improvised just about all of his dialog. He was given the script, decided to wing it using the basic framework, and the Farrelly's later said it was the right thing to do since Murray's stuff was funnier. Every scene he is in is gold, and crucial to the plot since he basically ruins Roy's career by leaving him high and dry (resulting in the hook), then meets his one time protege again in the climatic winner take all million dollar bowling tournament. Vanessa Angel, whom I remembered most fondly from her non-English speaking bra related scenes in Spies Like Us, plays the "stereotypical arm candy of the mid-movie protagonist who defects to the side of the heroes with less than good intentions only to fall in love with the main character by the end and ride off into the sunset", and does it well.

The movie works for one basic reason: it's damn funny. Sight gags abound, but don't overwhelm, and in 1996 tapping into the Amish lifestyle for jokes was still relatively fresh. You can catch this on cable from time to time, and if possible you should see the uncut version as opposed to what Comedy Central would show - I can't imagine how they would handle the sex with his landlord scene.

Phew, only about 30 more movies to go.....

Kingpin (