June 27, 2012

SLM Mixtape #20: HELL YES

Shiva-Loka - Alice Coltrane
Malik - The Lafayette Afro Rock Band
Still as the Night - Crystal Stilts
Over and Over Again - Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - dreamdecay
The Sea Of Providence - Richard Youngs
A Star over Pureland - Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
The Black Rabbit - The Cosmic Dead

June 26, 2012

It Might Get Loud (2009)

Hey kiddos, I'm back with a short series on some documentaries I've seen recently that I enjoyed.
Simul-posted here: The Movie Advocate

It Might Get Loud
Who is this movie for? We have Jack White, Led Zepplin man, and that man from U2 who thinks he's cool because he's renamed himself an edgy word.  This is a movie for people who don't really have a deep interest in music.  Their favorite type of music is "whatever is on the radio, played at a reasonable level."  They only go to concerts twice a year, and even then it's only because their friends are going.  They also think they have deep appreciation for music because they are apt air guitar players (which is not to diminish the work of people who actually are apt air guitar players).  They recognize Led Zepplin man, U2 guy, and Jack White, and probably own a few CD's featuring these men, but couldn't really tell you anything about them.  If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm not a huge fan of Zep or U2.  I'm going to just put it out there and say that their music bores me.  This does not speak to the merit of their work, but simply to an opinion I hold. Even if I enjoyed these bands, this gathering of these three men makes no sense.  I get that they are all considered "guitar gods," but this whole thing seems like a creepy Harry Potter/Toph Beifong slashfic.  Good characters on their own, and in their own universe, but bringing them together is just a manipulative cash grab.

It appears that no one knows this more so then Jack White.  The movie is split into several chapters, each chapter spending the same amount of time on each person.  The chapters explore the roots of their inspiration, their equipment, their playing style, their personal and musical history, and maybe a few other things.  Each chapter starts with Jack, then goes to Zepman, then U2guy, repeat.  It culminates with the three of them meeting in some warehouse with their guitars set up, and they "jam."  After suffering through the first 2 segments about Zep and U2, I skipped the rest of their parts, and watched just the Jack White parts, finally finding myself at the end of the movie, watching the most awkward three guitar jam session ever.

Jack White knew what he was doing.  If I remember correctly, during his segments that he filmed for the movie, he is rarely even holding a guitar.  This is an affront to the concept of the movie, and no one seemed to notice.  On top of all that, the first scene in the documentary has Jack White making a slide guitar, and simply saying "who says you need to buy a guitar."  He starts the movie with an action that stands in complete opposition to the playing styles of Zep2Men.  And I think he's right.  He is arguing that it is never the equipment, but the person behind the equipment that makes good music.  He talks about how one of his favorite songs is recording of Son House clapping and singing.  This is a documentary about guitars and guitar players, and he is essentially saying that you don't need guitars.

...Who is this movie for?

It sure isn't for me, that's for dang sure.

June 21, 2012

SLM Mixtape #19: Cry Like a Man

It's Your Voodoo Working - Charles Sheffield
One Day In Paradise - Andrew Wartts and the Gospel Storytellers
Tears On My Pillow - Little Anthony and The Imperials
Is the Life of a Man Any More Than the Leaves? - Andrew Sisk
Foul Owl - Boomer and Travis
Hurry Hurry - Whistle Peak
Elizabeth and Elizabeth - Hop Along, Queen Ansleis
With Tomorrow/I’m On Fire - Ólöf Arnalds

For Reference:

June 19, 2012

Helvetica (2007)

Hey kiddos, I'm back with a short series on some documentaries I've seen recently that I enjoyed.
Simul-posted here: The Movie Advocate

I have a few friends who are professional graphic designers.  These people really know how to make an image with words over it grab your attention.  Their abilities, I feel, are fairly under-appreciated.  Helvetica, the first in a trilogy of documentaries focused on design, is for people who feel guilty about not fully appreciating graphic designers.  There is a lot of information about that font, and the history of it, and the history of other fonts.

There's is some drama about the usage of Helvetica as opposed to other fonts, but other than that, there isn't a whole lot going on in this documentary.  I feel a little more enriched for having learned a little bit more about the history of graphic design, and the most popular of fonts, but unless this is your goal, then I'd say you can skip this one.

June 15, 2012

Anthony Ruptak, Debut Album release show, 6/21/2012

Hey kiddos,

A friend of a friend is having an album release show next week. Plus he's local, so that doesn't hurt ;).  Luckily, he's fairly talented, with a sort of Tallest Man In The World, neo-High-and-Lonesome sound whose popularity ebbs and flows every couple years, and if the few songs I've heard so far are half as good as the rest of the album, this is looking like it'll be a pretty good show.

Here's a track from his new EP "C'est La Vie":
Anthony Ruptak - Grassy Grave

Check out his other stuff:

June 13, 2012

SLM Mixtape #18: Let's make some noise, let's make some noise.

Food For My Soul - The Dragons
Orchestral Music (edit) - Raghunath Seth
Got My Egusi - Jimi Tenor/Tony Allen
Funky Abbey Road - Original Tropicana Steel Band
Hikky-Burr (Featuring Bill Cosby) - Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby
Jigoky No Tenshi Akai Bakuon M-4A - Tadashi Kinoshita 
Get Ur Freak On - Quantic y su Conjunto Los Míticos Del Ritmo
Professional Super Bantous - Super Negro Bantous

June 12, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Luke here, with a one off review of a movie I've been putting off seeing (in the context of how much I adore the director, that means that I didn't go see it opening night).  I'd like to point out I still haven't read any other reviews or synopses yet.
Simul-posted here: The Movie Advocate

As the beginning credits began, a slow building fear sped up, my subconscious barely able to subdue it.  This fear had been building since I saw the first trailers for The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  From what I've heard from a great deal of other people, I was alone in feeling this way.  But I couldn't deny, nor help my fear that Wes Anderson had lost his touch.

I shudder when I think those words, because for me, as well as many of my contemporaries, Wes Anderson was one of the first magicians to teach me that not only was film still alive, but that life was still cinematic.  I've written my fair share of love notes to the man, so I won't get too deep into it, but Rushmore ruled my younger years, and I'll stand by it forever.

I adored Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and The Darjeeling Limited.  I felt like TDL was his most perfect movie.  That's a conversation for another day, so let's just say it had everything in it that makes movies great.  As soon as those end credits rolled I was elated, but felt worried for the future of my man Anderson.  How could he top TDL?  Then the trailers for The Fantastic Mr. Fox came out.  And, yeah, they story looked cute, and it looked brilliantly stop-motion-animated.  But something was  off.  And when watching it, I couldn't help but feel a little put off, like I wasn't watching actual characters, but inanimate objects move and scurry about.  In short: The Fantastic Mr. Fox felt dead.  I hadn't really come to terms with the fact that I felt this way prior to seeing Moonrise Kingdom.

But come those first credits, I felt my stomach sink, fear taking over.  I floated through the viewing, unsure as to what to think or feel about anything that was happening.  When it ended, I got up, rode home, and went to sleep, still uneasy about the whole experience.  Then, today, it dawned on me.

Wes Anderson is a genius.

I did not read anything about the movie or see anything more than the first trailer before seeing Moonrise Kingdom, and I fully recommend you do the same, because I don't want to ruin the moment when you figure out what makes Moonrise Kingdom so different.  If you've not seen it, go see it, and come back.  If you've seen it, read on.

[Read on, if you dare]

While watching Moonrise Kingdom I felt the same dead, uncanny feeling I felt while watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox, something I didn't quite process until today.  The characters are stiff and weird, the narrator is both a part of and apart from the story, Tilda Swinton's character's name is seriously Social Services, everything seems larger than life but more basic than something larger than life ought to seem.  No one reacts the way they ought to, even when compared to previous Wes Anderson movies, which are known for odd reactions from distinct characters.

Boom, that's what hit me first.  Distinct Characters.  The characters of Moonrise Kingdom are quirky, but ultimately fairly one-dimensional.

After a series of epiphanic connections, it came to me:
Moonrise Kingdom is a traditional Young Adult Novel, made film.

The adults are needlessly bumbling and easily fooled, the dialogue is simple, but with large vocabulary words, the land is easily traversed, and emotions are pure.  A kiss is the unadulterated method of showing one's love for another, heroic acts are easily executed so long as you believe in yourself, your enemies are your arch-enemies, and the nameless government agent is literally nameless.

Adapting a YA Novel into a movie is all the rage at the moment (I suppose these adaptations have been in full swing since J.K. Rowling's accountant needed an accountant), and, depending on the material and the established audience, you could do pretty well for yourself.  Heck, even the Percy Jackson movie and the abomination that is the I Am Number Four movie made money (seriously, if you don't hate IANF, read up on how it came to fruition).

But there is something that makes Moonrise Kingdom stand apart from adaptations of Harry Potter, Twilight (hate), and The Hunger Games.  The difference is that they don't feel like YA novels anymore. They just feel like movies.

Now, there's nothing wrong with movies feeling like movies, but there's something amazing about a movie just dripping with style, panache, and YA Novelishness.  Moonrise Kingdom doesn't have a story you'd find in a YA Novel.  The language and types of characters in MK aren't necessarily familiar either.  These things, however, are irrelevant.  These are things that are never relevant.  What matters in a story like this is the approach.  It's understanding how to evoke, on the screen, that same magic found in books like The Phantom Tollbooth*, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and the Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.

This is not an easy task.  One needs a perfect, pure cast, a serene, ethereal setting, and an adventure that is both larger than life and easily imagined.  Simply understanding all the minutia required in building this systematic and tottery world is hard enough, but to pull it off seems nearly impossible

Who better to defy the impossible than a true magician?
-Luke Hunter James-Erickson

*The Phantom Tollbooth has a great animated adaptation, and it's a great example of one of the last YA Novel->movie adaptations that got that feeling right.  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was also spot on.

June 5, 2012

The Art of the Steal (2009)

Hey kiddos, I'm back with a short series on some documentaries I've seen recently that I enjoyed.
Simul-posted here: The Movie Advocate

The Art of the Steal
I enjoy art.  All of it.  Art art art.  I can't say I know more than a little about most forms, but I can say I stand firmly behind all of them.  But this movie isn't, as far as I can tell, really about art.  It's about a power struggle.  It's about a little guy who is blessed with the powers of foresight, and is able to cheaply purchase a bunch of things (that happen to be paintings) that he knows will someday be incredibly valuable, monetarily or otherwise.  Then, when these purchases pan out, and he'd be able to just rake in millions of dollars, because he is already independently wealthy, he uses the purchases to enrich people's lives instead of getting greedy.  You couldn't fabricate a better "good guy."

But hidden in the shadows, growing ever more aware of this veritable gold mine, is our Big Business Bad Guy, who see the opportunity to really cash in on these purchases.  Now, they don't want to go to prison, so they can't just outright steal the paintings.  But they can infiltrate and undermine the good guy, and steal it out from under him.  This is the story of The Art of the Steal.  It feels so American, really from either perspective.  I rather enjoyed the movie.