Sunday, December 30, 2007

'07 films (more or less) that I saw in '07

in approximate order of preference

The top tier:

and the rest:

GRINDHOUSE finished dead last (behind the lowly MR. BROOKS) and thus doesn't get a still :p

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This list is as half-hearted as the guy from LCD Soundsystem's vocals

Here they are, my favorite Hott Traxx and Jammz(z) -- accompanied by YOUR least-favorite weak quips -- of '07:

1. Amy Winehouse - "Rehab;" even though this song was a lot more fun before she turned into Shane McGowan with a beehive.

2. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – "Rappaport's Testament: I Never Gave Up;" In a typical example of my denseness, I still don't know the story behind this song. Also, I normally don't place cover songs at the top of my best-of lists, unless the tune in question was originally done by Roxette. Nevertheless, TL really stomps some ass on this Chumbawumba cover. He also made the only (non-comedy) album I was really crazy about this year, which is why there's no albums list yet. I know, where else can you possibly get your fix of year-end listmaking?!?

3. Jay Reatard – "I Know a Place;" I typed out a little ironic routine about this song title answering the previous sentence, but after a bit of reflection I think the prudent course is to acknowledge the coincidence and move on.

4. Feist – "1234;" I already accepted a couple of years ago that commercials are the new radio. I'm sure there's no shortage of people hating on this cathcy song with simple lyrics as they trip over themselves trying to find the next forgettable indie-prog sensation ("They have the pretension of Yes, but none of the competence!")

5. Von Sudenfed – "The Rhinohead;" Mark E. Smith's trademark mutterings seem weirdly suited to dance music. I bet his presence would've even improved that Fatboy Slim concert film (!) I caught a portion of on Starz the other day. At the very least, he'd look better in a Hawaiian shirt than Norman Cook.

6. Radiohead – "All I Need;" Since this was my favorite song on In Rainbows, and my least favorite moment was the sputtering percussion that opens the album, I'm sure I've lost whatever sliver of acerbic credibility I had somewhere.

7. The Black Lips – "O Katrina;" Unless I've completely misinterpreted this song's meaning, I believe it's also about the guy from "Rappaport's Testament," except told from a female perspective. Imagine that subject turning up twice in one year!

8. Heavy Trash - "They Were Kings;" Jon Spencer dispenses with tired rock canon reverence and pays tribute to unsung bands like the Cheater Slicks and Destination Lonely for a change. Can a Doo Rag biopic be far behind?

9. Robert Wyatt – "Just as You Are;" A great duet between Wyatt and his wife Alfreda Benge. Almost as touching as Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg's "Lemon Incest."

10. Iron & Wine – "Boy With a Coin," Loved his homemade debut a few years ago, but that wispy voice doesn't always grab me in a more produced setting. This song did.

Reads 2007

I made some progress this year in turning around my unprecedentedly lazy (for me) reading habits of 2006. I resolved to push dvds (tough), internet (ok) and social events (piece of cake) aside long enough to finish at least one book per month. Some of these were finished as quickly as one day and the longest took three months. This coming year I’m upping the ante to an average of two per month (please, temper your incredulity). That’s right, Tree of Smoke and Brothers Karamazov, prepare to be consumed by a reader of above-average voraciousness. These are in rough order of preference:

The Violent Bear It Away – Flannery O’Connor
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Immortality - Milan Kundera
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
In Persuasion Nation – George Saunders
Herzog on Herzog - Paul Cronin and Werner Herzog
The Optimist’s Daughter – Eudora Welty
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
*about ½ of the Studs Terkel Reader
The Zanzibar Chest – Aidan Hartley
No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy
The Areas of My Expertise – John Hodgman
The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse
A Man Without a Country - Kurt Vonnegut
The Moviegoer – Walker Percy
Slapstick – Kurt Vonnegut
Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock n Roll – Nick Tosches
33 1/3: Loveless – Mike McGonical

Also read a couple of chapters of William Vollman’s Rising Up, Rising Down. I should finish a couple more by the time I retire. Currently reading: The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

Monday, December 10, 2007

Please see "Mr. Brooks" for a real-life version of this game

A few months ago I went through a couple rounds of the "Build-a-Movie Game" on the Friends of Tom board, which as usual only a couple of people participated in (what, does everyone have jobs or something? Pheh). This is where you're given three names and you have to devise a plot for a movie starring all three. Here's what I came up with for my suggestions:

Jim Brown, James Dean, Charo:

Jim Brown and James Dean star in this landmark drama as two men who overcome their racial differences and become closer than brothers, only to have their bond shattered by a pair of ferociously gyrating hips. While researching his family tree, Brown discovers that he and rival construction worker Dean are both direct descendents of the brutal King Leopold II of Belgium, who raped and/or artificially inseminated Congolese slaves and Belgian peasants alike. Stunned by a blood relation they didn't think possible, the two of them steal Dean's father's convertible and embark on a spiritual quest to Mexico, all the while brawling with rednecks and flouting society's corrupt rules. Once they arrive, however, both are tempted by vivacious nightclub singer Charo, who's also married to a famous bandleader/powerful, ruthless gangster (Xavier Cugat as himself). Soon Dean and Brown are rivals again and engage in a knockdown, drag out fight, after which Brown is gunned down in the street by Cugat's henchmen. Dean, overcome with guilt, swears revenge and trails the tuneful thug to his sprawling mansion. There he enacts deadly revenge upon Cugat, only to be coldbloodedly shot and killed by Charo while fleeing the premises (and possibly the premise). The only film ever made by director Brendan Fraser Sr. broke racial barriers across the nation upon its initial release and still has the power to shock today. Don't miss Black Heart, White Pout.

Jay-Z, Betty White, Martin Short:

Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter makes his surprising acting debut in this quirky, sensitive comedy drama from the people who brought you Otters Holding Hands (2009). Jigga plays Norman Westphal, a lonely Tae Bo instructor who spends all his free time collecting 78 RPM records and playing virtual world games like Third Life and Cyber Topeka. The course of his life irrevocably changes when he befriends two fellow eccentrics: Mabel Balducci (Betty White), a crotchety yet lovable ex-Broadway hoofer with Tourette's whose private press records Norman discovers at a friend's garage sale; and neighbor Zazz Gunnerson (Martin Short), a jittery, anxious, facially scarred bus driver who never got over his wife's death in a freak spelunking accident and is also obsessed with 60's French pop. The three of them decide to break out of their shells and embark on an epic cross country trip to New York, where Mabel hopes to nail one last Broadway audition. Due to a series of quirky circumstances, however, they must use a beat-up old jet pack that belonged to Zazz's uncle as their mode of transportation. Watch them hold on for emotional and physical life as they jet pack their way through a hilariously melancholy emotional journey that culminates in Norman's Mabel-inspired decision to cut a rap demo, which he performs in French as a tribute to Zazz. The film will inexplicably be named Boys and Girls in America after the Hold Steady album, and Craig Finn will have a cameo as a Davy Crockett hat-wearing street poet.

Eminem, James Garner, Dabney Coleman:

Marshall Mathers had reitred from the rap game and was enjoying a life of luxury, going so far as to sell his massive white t-shirt collection on eBay and remodel his home studio into a doggie day care center. But his peaceful existence is shattered by the return of a dangerous foe he thought was gone forever: his obsessed “biggest fan,” Stan. Turns out the rapper’s hit single was more autobiographical than he let on, and that the real Stan wasn’t actually in the car that went off the bridge at the end of the song. Instead, it was Stan’s brother Matthew, who was “an even bigger fan” of the rapper and thus had to be eliminated via the old brick-on-the-accelerator trick (NOTE: the authorities were never able to properly identify the bodies of Matthew or Stan’s girlfriend because gaseous pollution from a nearby power plant caused their bones to melt). Now Eminem once again finds himself on the receiving end of threatening letters like this one:

Dear Slim,
Writing a song about my story was in questionable taste
So I’m going to turn you into a form of edible paste.
I saw you last weekend at the Zach Galifianakis show
Now I’ll have to stab your atlantoaxialis lateralis slow

And so on.

Slim Shady becomes even more alarmed after hearing about the grisly murder of Sir Elton John (James Garner, in a taut-yet-flamboyant cameo), with whom he performed “Stan” on the Grammy awards a few years ago. One night, in an elaborate set-piece, Elton is lured to a dinosaur museum where he believes he’ll be performing a benefit show for the Duke of Gloucester. Instead, he finds a hooded Stan waiting for him with a variety of crude but effective weapons fashioned from pterodactyl bones. An elaborate game of cat and mouse follows, culminating in Stan cornering Elton on the roof of the museum. Stan, whose face we never clearly see, pulls a gun and gravely intones “It’s only fitting that one dinosaur should kill another,” before shooting the skylight glass out from under Elton’s feet. The former Rocket Man plunges to the floor, where he’s impaled on a triceratops horn just before impact. Stan looks down at his well-predicted handiwork and spits out a terse “Goodbye English chode” before swiftly fleeing the scene.

Determined not to end up like Elton in any way, Eminem seeks out the one man he believes can help: Phil Collins (played by Dabney Coleman), whose song “In the Air Tonight” Eminem briefly referenced in “Stan” and who he becomes convinced is the disturbed fan’s next target. Having murdered a stalker in self-defense in the early 80’s (an incident which formed the basis of Genesis’ hit “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,”) Collins is widely considered to be a grizzled, deadly expert in such matters. He reluctantly agrees to go along with Eminem’s plan to lure Stan to Collins’ mansion, knock him unconscious, pose him funny, and then call the authorities. While laying in wait in his office for Stan one fateful, stormy night, and with Eminem waiting in the next room, Collins absentmindedly fiddles with some unopened mail, until a certain suspicious envelope catches his eye. He slowly opens it and reads the letter inside, which is printed on Dr. Dre “Chronic 2001” stationary and reveals the movie’s shocking plot twist…




…that Eminem is actually Stan and always has been!!! The letter from Eminem unfurls the whole sick plot: that the stalker Phil murdered was Eminem’s real biological father (who Em repeatedly claimed he never knew); that the rapper’s entire career, the “In the Air Tonight” reference in “Stan,” and the Elton John murder were all just elaborate ploys to gain him access to the scene of his father’s murder (i.e. Phil’s house); that Matthew was actually Eminem’s brother and that Stan’s girlfriend who died was actually Eminem’s ex-wife Kim Mathers, who was later replaced in public appearances by a Russian-born look-a-like paid to go along with the ruse. A sheet-white Collins looks up to see Eminem standing behind him holding the instrument that killed his father: a self-defense drumstick with a retractable blade protruding from the thick end. Eminem maces Collins and rushes at him with the drumstick, but the English rocker instinctually dodges him and the blade becomes lodged in Collins’ desk. While Eminem struggles to free the drumstick from its temporary mahogany jail, a blinded Collins runs through the halls of his sprawling mansion in a desperate attempt to escape. As Eminem stalks him through the house, Collins must also endure the rapper’s newfound love of sinister quips, such as: “Hey Phil, since you can’t see anything does that mean you have an… invisible touch, lol?” (and yes, he pronounces “el-oh-el” out loud to enhance his evilness)

Thankfully, a diversion is provided during the melee by the sudden arrival of R&B singer Phillip Bailey, who dueted with Collins on the #1 hit “Easy Lover” in 1984. Bailey senses that Collins is in danger via some unspecified psychic ability, but almost immediately upon entering the house he’s stabbed with an axe that Eminem finds laying around in the pantry. Collins, having regained sufficient eyesight, seizes this opportunity to sneak up behind Eminem, grab the drumstick, and stab him in the neck in the exact same spot where his father died. As Phil thrusts the blade deeper, he turns the tables on Eminem pun-wise and growls “I’m sending you to ‘another green world,’ which is also a Brian Eno album I played drums on,” just before dropping the rap superstar to the floor in a lifeless heap.

An exhausted Collins then collapses on the floor as we fade to black. When we fade back in, three months have passed and we see Phil sitting in his garden, soaking up sunshine as his maid brings him the mail. A particularly ominous envelope causes him to freeze, and as he slowly opens it we see the letter inside is printed on Dr. Dre “Chronic 2012” stationary. He drops the envelope to the ground in terror and the camera pans in on the return address, which belongs to Eminem’s daughter, Hailie (NOTE: it’ll just say “Hailie,” and in the final cut we realized we didn’t explain that’s his daughter’s name, so I’m telling you now so you’ll know).