Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review

The next-to-last book review I wrote is ready for viewing. You can check it out here. It was a pretty good book, especially if you like short stories. And as a fun aside, the author's brother is Colin Meloy from The Decemberists. They're a pretty literary band, so it seems that literature runs in the family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So it's summertime, right? Or it will be officially next week. That means it's time for, among other things, summer music festivals. Yes, sunburn, agoraphobia, two-dollar bottles of water, and the feeling that--for now, anyway--you're still able to hold on to your youth. I have to confess that I haven't been to many festivals. ACL (anterior cruciate ligament?), Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, these have all escaped me. But I'm fully expecting DFest to be awesome this year.

Speaking of festivals, I found these guys on the BBC news site. Glastonbury, a British summer festival, is hosting them this year. Two Door Cinema Club. Here's their MySpace page. That single is catchy, yeah?

Monday, June 15, 2009

That Kind of Summer

Jon tipped me off to this band: Matt & Kim. (They're featured in a Bacardi ad right now, apparently. I haven't seen it.) And I think I have decided to adopt this song as the theme song of the summer. It has a live-in-the-moment ethic to it. And frankly, that's the kind of summer I want to have this year.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

YouTube is awesome, sometimes unintentionally

I was going to post something else. A link to The Fray's cover of Kanye's "Heartless," to be specific. But then my eyes tripped on a comment near the bottom of the page on YouTube, and I had to share it. It's just ... wow. I present it herewith:

1. Cover you mouth with your hand
2. Make a wish into it.
3. Close hand (make a fist)
4. Place hand (fist) over heart for 5 seconds
5. send this to 3 vidios
6. tomarrow will be the best day of your life

Am I going to hell for laughing at this person?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Marriage of Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson

My cinematic education is sort of stunted; there are a lot of movies that I simply haven’t seen. And so sometimes, to broaden my horizon of movies from the 90s and 2000s, I pick a director or writer and add that person’s stuff to my Netflix queue. This is how I have come to watch most of the Noah Baumbach that I have. And at this point, I think I’ve seen every movie he’s written that managed to work its way outside the indie community. This to say: I think I’ve seen more than half the movies he has made that were watched by more than twenty people, including:

  • 1995’s Kicking and Screaming. Follows a quartet of recent college grads as they navigate life outside academia. Much dialogue, not so much action.
  • 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Bill Murray, in a role that makes up part of his 21st-century comic renaissance, plays an oceanographer in the twilight of his career and possibly his life.
  • 2005’s The Squid and the Whale. A family of only semi-functional intellectuals copes with the dissolution of the parents’ marriage.
  • 2007’s Margot at the Wedding. Nicole Kidman’s Margot arrives at her childhood home for her sister’s wedding. Familial angst ensues.
Now, Baumbach wrote a couple of other screenplays around 1997, movies I haven’t seen. But I’m wondering if watching them would confirm my suspicion that Life Aquatic (which I adored, by the way) represents a definitive shift in Noah Baumbach’s career. Life Aquatic is the first movie he made with Wes Anderson, and both the movies that followed have a distinctly Andersonian flavor. Kicking and Screaming and Margot at the Wedding have similar structures—they’re both carried along primarily by pastiches of placid conversation—but completely different aesthetics. Margot at the Wedding looks decidedly indie; Kicking and Screaming looks exactly like Reality Bites.

And maybe this is just a symptom of what might be called virulent Wes Andersonification. This guy argues that everything from films (lots and lots of films) to TV to commercials to your dog’s activities at the park are starting to look like they came straight from Wes Anderson’s brain. You know what I mean: it’s a quirkiness, a sense of ironic detachment, a twee moment appliqu├ęd on top of a dark and dramatic storyline. The titles are set in block letters, and I think there’s even an Andersonian color palette, one with a lot of retro browns and pale blues and pink and orange. Juno had it, and Napoleon Dynamite had it.

Also, cloudiness. Cloudy skies are important to Wes Anderson. It was even cloudy in that commercial he made for American Express.

The question is, are Noah Baumbach movies better under the Wes Anderson school of filmmaking—do his subject matter and worldview lend themselves better to those 90s rom-coms that wanted to be more, or to the quirky comedies of the late 2000s? It’s hard to say. Maybe we ought to just call it six in one. Kicking and Screaming wouldn’t have made measurably more sense if visually treated like Juno. And I’m pretty sure I would not have enjoyed Life Aquatic as much under a different director (or with a different score).

So maybe Noah Baumbach is writing movies to fit a certain cinematic zeitgeist. And maybe another director will become as popular as quickly as Wes Anderson, and all movies—Baumbach’s included—will start to look like that guy’s. (Or girl’s.)

I guess any actor, director, or screenwriter’s body of work is going to be a series of hits and misses. That’s what’s fun about following one artist for a while: you get to trace their development—and anticipate what they might do next.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Call It a Comeback?

I know, I know. I slacked off for a while there. The blog gods are probably all frowny.

Anyway. Let's begin. So I’m going to have to take a book back to the library. I’m sure it’s great; I just haven’t been able to get into it, and it's already overdue. It’s Leap Over a Wall by Eugene Peterson. Fans of the Bible paraphrase The Message will recognize the name.

It’s been a while since I read any contemporary spirituality, actually. Although I did like Blue Like Jazz. And a few weeks ago I needed to skim Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis for work purposes, if that counts as spiritual reading. The thing is, I found that exercise to be a little bit disorienting. Lewis is very thinky. And that’s great and everything. But that cerebral quality made me feel like I was chasing intellectual rabbits all over the place long after I'd put the book down. I didn’t feel like I’d absorbed anything.

My priest once closed an e-mail with a quote from an early church father. I can’t remember it exactly—and my Googling turned up nothing—but it said something like, “The mark of true wisdom is that it leads you to stillness and quiet in your mind.” I’m not ready to write off all modern spiritual writing. I’m sure there’s some great stuff out there I don’t know about, and I'm probably just too immature or too easily led into overthinking to really benefit from most spiritual authors. But a lot of what I read feels busy and jumpy; it feels like it’s on shaky ground. It doesn’t feel very peaceful, and it doesn’t feel very true.

Maybe I’ll return to spiritual books someday soon. But for right now, I think a sojourn away from modern authors isn’t such a bad thing. Keep it simple.

Sorry to get a little heavy on you my first day back. I'll post about Adam Lambert or something soon to make up for it.

Peace out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Calling All Big Bang Theory Fans

On Monday nights starting at 7:00, I watch an hour of TV: The Big Bang Theory followed by How I Met Your Mother. For a long time I didn't watch any shows on CBS. But they're doing me right with these two sitcoms. (But not the two after. Those look terrible.)

BBT offers genuine chuckles and truly unique characters. What's perhaps most interesting about my involvement in this show, however, is that I have some level of a crush on this guy:

What does that mean about me? I don't know. Maybe it's as simple as the fact that I like nerds. Or maybe I find social awkwardness endearing. What's weird, though, is that Sheldon is possibly the least datable character in the history of celluloid. Because it's not just that he's nerdy or awkward; it's that in certain aspects, he's completely socially removed. You could date him, but he wouldn't date you.

His particular social makeup contributes heavily to the premise for the show: four brilliant scientists struggle to perform very basic human interactions, as displayed in their interplay with their "normal" neighbor, Penny. And it also has people asking if the writers intended Sheldon to have Asperger's syndrome.

I like it that "Aspies" have a sympathetic character on mainstream TV. And I like Sheldon. And I like nerds. So, yeah, I enjoy this show.

Anyway, here's some video featuring an interview with Jim Parsons, the actor who plays Mr. Sheldon. I think he was also in Garden State: "By the way, it says 'balls' on your face." That's a key line.