Friday, February 26, 2010

Name That Tune

As MB and MT can attest, my knowledge of Pop Music is virtually peerless. So you could imagine my glee when I came across this little number this afternoon. It's the 100 Song Clip Challenge, and it's pretty self-explanatory. A track consisting of 100 4-second song clips is played, and you have 20 minutes to desperately reallocate childhood memories and other respectable things in your brain to try and uncover the title of each song. You simply type the song title in the box, and if correct, the website will accept it into the correct spot on the list. This is the song here, but you're better off clicking the link above and going to the website directly.

Music Clip Challenge II sound bite
A couple of helpful hints:

No, you can't just type the artist (I tried this an embarrassing amount of times before realizing), but you can pause and restart the song from any point. The total length of the song is 6 minutes and 40 seconds, which gives you approximately 12 seconds per song. Sounds like plenty of time. It's not.

I'd recommend that you try and find some personal space or some headphones for two reasons:

1. Most of the songs are AWFUL and you don't want anyone within earshot to mistakenly assume that you are listening to them for pleasure.

2. More importantly, you'll inevitably find yourself frantically singing (and butchering) the words out loud to try and hotwire your hypothalamus.

I got 64. And am darned proud of it. And if it weren't for my dusty Backstreet Boys recollection it would be a  cool 65. Anyone who beats that is probably cheating.

And if that isn't enough to satisfy your pop-music cortex, there are two more variations, which I will play and destroy as soon as I complete this blog post. They are here and here.

Edit: 58 on #2

Edit 2: 72 on #3

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Week in Indie Heresy

The image above, with the swimming lads and the tambourine headed lady is the cover for Neutral Milk Hotel's 1998 album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, probably my favorite album of all time. It is beautifully strange yet completely accessible and melodic. I have played every song on my guitar so many times that the chord imprints are permanently emboldened on my fingers. The lyrics and melodies have permeated so far into my consciousness that they regularly bleed into memories and thoughts they have no business existing in. I can extrapolate the origin of most complex emotions back to a verse in one of the songs. If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's because I am. I'll save a complete review for a day when I have a firmer grasp on what makes these eleven songs tick. What this blog post is about is the audacious 17-year-old Madeline Ava, who had the gall to cover the entire album on a ukulele. This is the indie equivalent to remaking Mona Lisa with burger grease. Or Cups of Coffee. Or Legos. The sacrilege is just too much to bear.

All kidding aside, it's pretty neat. Ava completely strips the songs of the orchestration and minutiae we are familiar with, leaving only the lyrics, her wispy voice and some gentle plucking. Its a worthy cover, and from someone who has heard several renditions of these songs, that is not an easy compliment to bestow. 

Download it here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cats Rule, Dogs Drool

Truer words were never spoken Sassy.

Dogs are cool, but for my money, cats are the cats ass, as they say (well, as JS says*). Dogs are loyal and eager to please, but you know what dogs, it's not always about you. Sometimes I just want to chill and have a beer and don't need your fat wet head in my lap. And yes, I was planning on eating all of that, and I don't appreciate you making me feel selfish about it. Sometimes (most times) that person at the door is not a homicidal maniac and doesn't warrant 15 minutes of howling and general spazzy behavior. Dogs are clingy, dogs are dumb, and dogs are obnoxious. No one is ever mauled by a cat, and no one ever steps on cat poop on a walk. Cat's also have no interest in crotch identification or indiscriminate humping. Cat's never drag their butts along the floor or shred shoes and furniture with startling efficiency.

Cats are relaxed, cats are calm, cats do whatever the hell they want, and will NOT apologize for it. Sometimes that means you'll step on a hairball and sometimes that means you'll discover a decapitated chipmunk carcass on your front stoop, but them's the breaks. Most times it seems like cats don't care if you live or die, so long as their food bowl is topped off, but then they hop into your lap and purr like a '62 Chevy** and, well, I just go all to mush. Cats can fetch, cat's can be potty trained, cats have class. Cats are as self-sufficient as an ant farm, but have the personality of a primate. They are smart, they are agile, and they are mischievous. Rather than the obnoxious curiosity of dogs that involves peeing on interesting things and doing a butt-sniff doe-si-doe with other dogs, cats can be distracted by a laser pointer for over an hour. Have you ever seen a cat with a fresh sprig of catnip? Probably, it's similar to what a dog does when it encounters another animals fresh feces. Whatever drug is human equivalent to catnip, I need to get me some***.

The best empirical evidence as to the awesomeness of cats is how cats interact with dogs. Sure, most dogs have a solid 60lbs on any cat, but my money is always on the cat. Cats are scrappy. Take this gif for example:


Unassuming stupid dog has no idea what hit him. Now maybe he simply didn't care that the cat was about to maim him, but cats thrive on that shit. I can't tell you how many times I've casually walked through a doorway only to have Maui**** launch at my feet with reckless abandon. Not so much now, since he's old and frail, but in his prime, I had borderline PTSD from his covert ops.

I know the connotation that cat people get (damn you eccentric old women who give other cat lovers a bad name), but I really don't care. When I have my own apartment, I will get a cat, and any girls who give me sideways glances will have to check themselves lest they wreck themselves. For my final piece of evidence, please refer to the gifs below, that I have been spamming SS with over the last week. Case Closed.


*Sorry Janet, I still don't get it.

**That sounds like a loud, muscle-y car to me.

***Probably crack.

****Maui Jumanji Dunn

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Repeat: Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene are the word 'dense' personified. They waver from 6 to 19 members at any given time, and while this distinction rings of self-indulgence and brings to mind the cult-like imagery associated with the Polyphonic Spree* and other nonsense, the difference is that the members of Broken Social Scene have no interest in grand orchestral pieces or 12 part harmonies. I'm not saying they don't crank out their fair share of melodies, but theirs are just as likely to come from a looped guitar riff or a cymbal crash as they are to come from the sleepy muddy vocals. If pressed, I would call them Sigur Ros with a stuck accelerator**. Peaks crash as quickly as they are built and careen wildly from one idea to the next with rarely a bridge between them, but never feel disjointed.

It's been 5 long years since Broken Social Scene released their self-titled 3rd LP and during this respite, almost every member has released solo material, from Feist, to Emily Haines, to BSS brainchildren Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. While each foray had its merits, BSS are truly a band whose sum is greater than its parts, so I was thrilled to hear they would be releasing a new album in 2010. Late last week, the first song off the new album entitled 'World Sick' began popping up around the blogosphere, and within the first 45 seconds of the nearly seven minute opus any rust-related grumbles were soundly extinguished.

Sounding like a distant carnival coming into focus, World Sick establishes its own world quickly with tribal drums and a smooth guitar riff before vocals and another squeaky guitar part pop in. A fierce drum breakdown resets everything, only to cycle through once again, familiar guitar parts surfacing for a moment and then washing away. Much is drenched in reverb but never fails to catch you off guard with a chorus that whallops out of nowhere. So many disparate ideas are crammed into this song, but its a testament to the musicians at hand that it never feels out of control or superfluous. If I may be so bold, a good Broken Social Scene track is like a good Arrested Development episode, never failing to unveil new tricks with every listen. Check 'World Sick' out below (or here).

*Gee Willikers they need to make more horror movies that revolve around cults.

**From a defective floormat, not an electrical problem of course.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I like Curling. That is to say, I think I like curling. I know next-to-nothing about the rules, how one scores points, or if they're even called points. I liken it to a mid-morning walk through Chinatown. Things smell good and look good, but you want a little more information before you start stuffing your face. Unless it's Dim Sum, because in that case who cares.

I'd be lying if I waxed poetically about the grace and athletic vigor that first drew me into curling. The fact of the matter is, curlers are some of the most fetching athletes at these Olympic games. Maybe it's because they are the only athletes not wearing helmets and pads (figure skaters don't count either, they move too fast and look like they raided a Sears makeup counter).

SS and I watched about an hour of a US vs. England female curling match Saturday evening, and I'll be darned if I didn't make a mental note to google if curling calendars existed (yes, they do). For clarification purposes, that last sentence was facetious, although I just searched for 'curling calendar' to find that link, so which is creepier? I also made a mental note to look up the rules and strategy for curling, which I conveniently found here.

The graphic above is pilfered directly from the link above, but goes a long way in clarifying what had previously seemed to be 'glorified shuffleboard', something I'm sure curlers would give you dirty looks for suggesting. Here is what I learned.

-The stone is made from granite, not marble as I theorized, and not concrete (SS). It weighs between 17-20kg (that's 37-44lbs for you yanks). It makes bowling look like pick-up sticks. Or jacks (no, not those). Or something else effeminate.

-The term 'curling' comes from the 'curl' that the stone's path endures during rotation.

-Teams consist of 4 people. One who 'throws' and three who sweep. The sweepers furiously brush ice away from the stone to control its trajectory. I still have no idea why there are two different colored brushes. I would bet that a lot of retired curlers open up car washes.

-Much like the beloved Bocce' ball that you get drunk and play with Grandpa, only the team closest to the center target scores points, receiving one point for each stone that is closer to the 'button' than the nearest opponents stone.

-The final throw is called 'The Hammer' and is probably just as obnoxious here as it is in shuffleboard. While I'm sure it has finesse up the wazoo, this usually consists of rocketing the stone down the ice and obliterating everyone in the way.

-The game lasts 10 ends (rounds), at which point a winner is called or in the event of a tie, the game heads to 'extra-ends' (c'mon curlers, have a sense of humor, 'dead-ends' is the only logical term).

-Apparently there's a ton of strategy involved and it's very difficult, so SS and my idea of becoming curling sharks or somehow becoming walk-on Olympians may be a bit far-fetched. See the video below (don't mind the terrifying screaming, that's how they communicate).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Most Anticipated Films of 2010

Winter is a dreary time. A time made considerably drearier by the barren film landscape during the first few months of a new year. The much celebrated Oscar season (October-December) gives way to the major studio hemorrhage that is January-March, a dark period where I lose most of my faith in humanity. This is the time when I shack up in my apartment and resolve to watch all the movie's I've been meaning to see. I don't even bother looking at the marquee at the Capitol theatre until Mid-March, it's that bad.

This year is no exception, with abominations like Tooth Fairy* and Dear John** raking in OBSCENE profits, the only glimmer of hope on the horizon coming in the form of the trailers that proceed them. Miraculously, Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island came out this weekend, and it was 50 degrees yesterday, so we may be on the homestretch of this whole winter thing (knock on wood). To celebrate, I'm going to list a few of my most-anticipated films of 2010, in order of release date. Unless otherwise stated, click on the film title to watch the trailer, as I don't want to weigh down the whole blog post with embeds.

Cop Out (trailer may be NSFW) - February 26th

Formerly known as 'A Couple of Dicks'***, this film features Tracy Morgan being Tracy Morgan for 90 minutes. From what I can tell, Bruce Willis plays the straight cop to Tracy's comic foil, with a plot revolving around a missing baseball card, but suffice to say I don't really care. What I do know, is that Tracy will take his shirt off and say some cooky things, and that I will pay for that.

Date Night - April 9th
Tina Fey and Steve Carell are almost certainly the two funniest people on TV, so any film that pairs them as husband and wife is a comedy goldmine. They both have such hilarious deadpan deliveries and awkwardness that will play well in an action-comedy like this.

Iron Man 2 - May 7th
Anyone who says they don't have a crush on Robert Downey Jr, male or female, is a bald-faced liar. He has a playful sarcasm shtick that only he (and maybe Clooney****) can get away with, and just exudes indifference. The first Iron Man was deserving of its critical and box-office success, and with Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sam Rockwell rounding out the cast, it will likely rival The Dark Knight in number of characters crammed into a film. Looks great.

Inception - July 16th
From Christopher Nolan (director of The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Memento) and featuring Leonardo Dicaprio, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page, Inception is a Sci-Fi Thriller whose plot has been shrouded in secrecy thus far. The teaser trailer does little to answer any questions, showing snippets of Matrix-inspired gravity-defying stunts and Leo looking rattled. Nolan is one of the best directors working today, so I've seen all I need to see.

Toy Story 3 - July 23rd
I'm not a fan of sequels generally, and I may be in the minority in not being a huge fan of Toy Story 2, but I trust that Pixar has a plot worthy of taking Woody and Buzz out of the toy box for a 3rd go-round. This time, Andy's going to college***** and the toys get donated to a preschool. Chaos ensues, they meet new toys, and formulate an escape plan. The trailer has me a little nervous, but Pixar's trailers are always disappointing. I'm sure it will be awesome and make $300,000,000.

The Social Network - October 15th
The Facebook movie. I should be rolling my eyes through the back of my skull right now, but I'm not. Here's why. The screenplay is written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing), and it's being directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac, Seven). It has Jesse Eisenberg (the Jewish Michael Cera), Justin Timberlake and Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation). There's no trailer, there's no poster. Sorry. I have no idea what David Fincher is thinking getting involved in something so bubbly (although it's a foregone conclusion that someone will be murdered (or poked to death, lol)), but I can't wait to find out.

The Green Hornet - December 22nd
Again, no trailer or poster. I blogged about this movie a while ago, and while I haven't learned anything more about it in the months since, I am still incredibly excited to see what Michel Gondry does with a superhero film and a superhero budget. Seth Rogen lost a ton of weight to play the Green Hornet, and Christoph Waltz (Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds) signed on to play another creepy villain, so everything's in it's right place.

Honorable Mentions:
Hot Tub Time Machine -2010's Hangover. Done deal.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - Michael Cera in a beloved comic book adaptation
The Last Airbender (for you SS)

*You're Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson for christ sakes! You've spent the past 5 years delicately modifying your name from The Rock to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, finally graduating to Dwayne Johnson and what's the first thing you do? You cash in and you are The Rock all over again. If I wanted to see a muscle-y man doing effeminate things, I'd watch The Pacifier with Vin Diesel.

** I swear, checking today lists Dear John, Valentine's Day, and When In Rome ALL in the Top 10. What is it about European romance that makes otherwise sane women turn their purses upside down? Is it because it's near Valentine's Day and they want to live vicariously through Kristen Bell and Julia Roberts? Tell me what we men need to do to keep these movies from being made. I'll do it.

*** Seriously MPAA? I understand you wanting to shelter our young folks from growing up too fast, but you're barking up the wrong tree editing risque' movie titles. I guess this is to be expected since Kevin Smith's last movie (Zack and Miri Make A Porno) experienced similar censoring with their 'racy' poster.

****Actually this is Clooney's forte. He is the original cool cucumber. RDJ needs to get on his level.

***** Andy going to college??! I don't think so Pixar. I was 10 when Toy Story came out, and Andy was at LEAST 12, which would make him 27 in 2010. I'm sure Andy getting married or Andy filing for unemployment isn't nearly as enticing as a plot device, but shame on you. I'm going to pretend Andy's just dumb and he's a 27 year old freshman. That would also explain why he still plays with his toys.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Old Song Review: Big Star - Thirteen

Time for another great of song review . . .

I actually hadn't heard this song before tonight* but it moved me enough to want to write a post for 'yall. As you might remember, I reviewed Operator, by Jim Croce last time. I got a little guff from the too-trendy-hipster-emo-pants administer of this blog and he sarcastically wondered if I as going to review James Taylor next. I happen to absolutely love the collaboration of Ray Charles and James Taylor on Sweet Potato Pie but I'll save my James Taylor review for another time.

No, this song struck me as I was cleaning dishes and really got to something. I think what really gets me is the teenage angst**. A kid (presumably of thirteen years***) is speaking to this girl he's in love with. It's implied that he's young but I'm not sure whether it's that he's actually talking to her or if the song is more of a soliloquy.

The boy is asking the girl to give him a chance. Maybe they could go to the movies or a dance. Maybe she could stand up to her dad a little more for him****? The song is short and it pretty quickly goes from his entreaties and proclamations to him saying that if it's over he'll leave her alone.

I also think part of the appeal is the vocals and instruments. As far as I can tell Big Star only uses a few guitars and some harmony/backup singing. The effect is lovely and melancholy. The lead singers voice has this sound that's somewhere between a cry and a plea and gives away how hopeless his situation is without evening listening to the message of the lyrics.

The thing that really gets me about the song is the unrequitedness of it. I've read the lyrics a number of times and I agree that it isn't necessarily so such a melancholy song, it doesn't have to end with her rebuffing him that is, but I think between his voice and he ending it's implied. I think that melancholy (there's that word again) feeling is what also got me about Operator so maybe there's a pattern*****. Maybe I'm a sucker for the unrequited love story. I dunno, it's incredibly common but incredibly moving. Maybe we're all little boys in love with girls who don't necessarily share the feeling. Just listen because it's a great old song.

*It's currently 11:15pm (way past my bedtime) and I'm writing this post because this song moved me so much. I was up so late because I was cleaning for some guests who are coming tomorrow. One of the guests writes this hilarious blog. This song moved me so much that I grabbed KK and danced in our living room to it.

**The first time I spelled angst A-N-X-T because I'm wicked smaaht.

***I say presumably because the name of the song is "Thirteen." Some of the themes in this song are pretty strong for a thirteen year old. "shake you," "outlaw for my love"? All fairly adult themes for a kid of thirteen. But then again, what do I know about love. Did anyone feel like this about anyone else at thirteen?

****I have definitely been in this situation on numerous ocasions. The parents don't want the kid (your lover) to do something/go somewhere/think something/say something that you really want your lover to do/go/say/think.

*****I'll try to review a more upbeat song next time but the whole point of these posts is to review songs that move me. Hopefully I'm also moved by some old upbeat songs soon.

Notoriety - The Toast Mixtape EP

A few friends of mine have been recording tracks for a few months under the name Notoriety, and after sharing tidbit after tidbit, they finally cobbled 10 tracks together for The Toast EP, which they released Monday evening. Now I've never been one to shamelessly plug the music of a friend for that reason alone, but Notoriety certainly do enough here to rise above the ranks of the Mixtape scrapheap.

The most striking element on the mixtape is the inspired production that culls influence from all over the musical landscape. The heavy bass of the opening bars of Gaining Control are standard hip-hop fare, but the flighty strings and chopped vocals draw favorable comparisons to master samplers The Avalanches. From here, Notoriety shrug off standard hip-hop orchestration and prove that a good beat can inspire from anywhere. Roughnecks features furious organ chords that give things a rock throwback feeling, Reasons Why has an undeniable Motown-inspired groove and some of the strongest lyrical performances of the whole mixtape. These are great, but the song that really had me floored was Under My Thumb that cops the Rolling Stones chorus as the beat, and maintains the playful xylophone and snappy electric guitar. Three fantastic, breakneck verses do justice to an otherwise untouchable song, a serious compliment.

While some verses strain and stretch to follow the beat, the wordplay and delivery is consistently strong throughout, and it's impressive to see how effortlessly each voice adjusts to match the eclectic production. In addition, many of the soul-influenced choruses stand head and shoulders above typical throwaway R&B garbage. With so many mixtapes that shine in a single capacity but disappoint everywhere else, it's refreshing to hear something that feels so polished across the board.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


In an effort to clear up an earlier disagreement, I consolidated snacks into a simple Venn Diagram. Click for full size. Cheez-its are crackers. And fried cookies are gross. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Repeat: Editors

I know I did an On Repeat post on Thursday, but get over it. While Brit group Editors have existed since 2002 (so says their Wiki), and I was already in possession of one of their earlier albums, they've never sounded like THIS before. Papillon, the debut single off 2009's In This Light and On This Evening, is a pulsing, undeniable morsel of synth-pop, that sounds like something that sprung forth from 1983's time capsule. The New Order parallels are plentiful, with Editors flaunting an irresistable synth riff that seems tailor-made for a laser-infested night club of brooding teens. Just as the riff starts to get a bit tired, things shift into a higher gear by layering yet another synth line, this one engineered to make you lose any trace of inhibition and class. The chorus simply serves to buffer between these screaming synth lines, and to allow things to build from scratch yet again, but I can't help but turn my Zune into eardrum-puncturing (sorry mom) levels when I sense the synths on the horizon again.

While Papillon is a 180 from the post-punk roots of their earlier works, singer Tom Smith has a flexible, measured baritone that can snarl and coo in the same breath, allowing him to slither effortlessly into this change of scenery. While Editors may be over their heads trying to reinvent themselves 7 years and three albums into a career, Papillon makes it quite clear that they have the chops for it. At least for 3 minutes and 56 seconds. 

Monday, February 15, 2010


From the brilliant minds that brought you a subway that closes at 12:30, a Red line that is a "danger to life and limb", and a bus system that rivals Toyota's brakes in reliability comes the MBTA's newest way to foster disappointment and resentment: The T-Tracker!

The T-Tracker offers GPS-based arrival times for customers riding the MBTA bus routes. Currently only available on five of the busiest bus lines, the T-Tracker offers "real-time arrival time predictions" for stranded customers, eliminating the emotional rollercoaster associated with waiting for any sort of public transportation. When you are waiting for a bus with a friend, a conversation of this mold is inevitable.

"Is that a 7 or a 1?"

"I can't tell, but I just saw a flock of 77's go up Mass Ave, so we probably have another hour."

"It says every 10-12 minutes here, but it's been like 40, easy."

"Why didn't you tell me to wear a hat?"

I have this conversation with JL on a weekly basis. Sometimes I resort to putting a plastic bag on my head as a windshield, but most times I try to fashion a burqa out of my scarf and compose angry emails in my head to MBTA authorities.

With the T-Tracker, you only need your stop number (which is conveniently nowhere to be found at any bust stop I've ever waited at) and a cell phone. Simply call 617-517-3917 from your touch tone phone, and a friendly humanoid will impatiently prompt you for your stop number. Key it in, and said male voice will gently approximate the arrival times for the two closest buses. If you've listened to a children's book on tape in your life, you will recognize this man's voice. He has a cool, steady diction, one that could easily lure you to your death in a sci-fi movie, until he pronounces the word 'inbound' like a cyborg and the jig is up. Not quite there yet, but a far cry from the Red-Line automaton that butchers 'ASHMONT' 500 times a day.

I'm afraid I can't speak to the accuracy of the T-Tracker, as it is only in use on a few lines (and I'm not interested in taking a field trip), but I did a little investigating, and here's what I found. An alarming amount of times, the T-Tracker sadly informed me that it had "No Current Predictions" for me. To me, this either meant that the bus is SO FAR away, that the complex algorithm that determines wait times is insufficient, or the MBTA bus somehow chewed off its GPS tracker like an angry dog and left it in a gutter. Both are equally disconcerting. More often than not, the wait time ranged from 10-20 minutes. However, if you've ever waited for an MBTA bus, this should be your first red flag.

I think the T-Tracker is an interesting idea, but will inevitably be the cause of more frustration and grumblings than it alleviates. Anytime you try to affix a schedule to something that sits in traffic and is 30 feet long, you introduce a certain amount of error. What the MBTA should have done was remove all bus schedules entirely and adapted a new slogan. MBTA: We'll get there when we get there.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top 10 Films of 2009: 5-1

It's been over a week since I vowed to finish my Top 10 Films of 2009 list over the weekend (here are Honorable mentions and Films 10-6). The masses haven't breached riot-level anticipation (yet), but I feel an obligation to round it out as soon as possible. This week found me distracted with Lil Wayne and a Soup-Off, but now that Wayne is presumably resting comfortably after his dental work today, and the Soup Champion has been crowned (don't get me started), I can move on to bigger/better things. Namely, this. Here are my Top 5 films of 2009.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox - Wes Anderson
(Note: I originally reviewed this back in December, you can read that review here.) Fantastic Mr. Fox feels like such a natural progression in Wes Anderson's catalogue, it's a wonder he didn't dabble in animation before. Since 1996's Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson films have carved out a genre all their own, one that has threatened to become a parody of itself in recent efforts, but still retains a fair amount of charm. Whimsical soundtracks, meticulous sets, cartoonish characters with a deadpan delivery. If you've ever watched a Wes Anderson movie and found yourself turned off by the quirk or the mawkish behavior, you'll be relieved that the same dialogue is exponentially more palpable when delivered by furry puppets in sport coats. Much like Spike Jonze in Where The Wild Things Are, Anderson delicately expands the beloved Roald Dahl story to absorb some wider themes, but still leaves the core and the heart in tact. For my money, this rivals Avatar in terms of eye candy, but with 1/100th the budget.

4. District 9 - Neil Blomkamp

Adapted from Blomkamp's 2005 short film, District 9 brilliantly deconstructs the science fiction genre, and turned a meager 30 million dollar investment into a 200 million dollar blockbuster. Utilizing cinema verite style camerawork and seamlessly meshing live action and CGI, District 9 packages some serious themes here, ranging from Xenophobia and Apartheid. Refreshingly these are never administered in a preachy fashion, and we as viewers are completely duped into engaging in the same though processes as the protagonists when forced to come face to face with an unfamiliar creature. Thematic elements aside, District 9 is first and foremost an effective Science Fiction film that features mutations, mysterious liquids and assorted high-tech weaponry. The action scenes are compelling and engaging, and buck any well-worn cliches whenever it appears they will be tempted to do so. Not since Primer have I seen a Sci-Fi film that is so satisfying in every capacity.

3. Moon - Duncan Jones

Oops, did I say not since Primer? I meant not since Moon. Moon is Duncan Jones' (son of David Bowie) feature film debut, and tells the story of Sam Bell, a lunar contractor wrapping up a three year stint on the Moon, harvesting energy in the form of Helium 3 for those back on earth. Sam is the only 'human' on the lunar base save for his robotic assistant GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey. If you haven't already noticed from the above still, Sam is played by the incredible Sam Rockwell, whom is asked to carry the entire film, and delivers. Sam Rockwell has always had an uneasy, loose-cannon quality about him. He's showed glimpses of it in 2007's TAOJJBTCRF and 2002's Confessions of A Dangerous Mind, and with no costars to keep it in check, he is allowed to soak into it here. It is this quality that makes the paranoia and hostility his character feels after coming into contact with his clone ring true. The plot develops from a chance encounter to outright conspiracy ingeniously and tactfully, but the real sight to behold is Sam Rockwell.

2. Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino
I've been a huge Tarantino fan ever since I first saw Pulp Fiction almost ten years ago. His peerless dialogue, memorable characters and unapologetic love of cinema is infectious, and even in his lesser projects (From Dusk Til Dawn, Four Rooms) he manages to make an impression. I have been hearing about Inglourious Basterds for most of the 21st century, and it wasn't until a script popped up online that I ever considered it would come to fruition. Well here we are, and I'm sorry for ever doubting you Quentin. While Tarantino is often dismissed as stylish or indulgent, he has an incredible talent for dramatic tension, wringing every pause and piece of body language out of a scene until it reaches a boil. Inglourious Basterds has no less than 3 of these scenes, each masterfully executed and each rendering the audience completely rapt. And I haven't even mentioned the stellar performances of Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa and Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark, the roaring soundtrack, and the 'so crazy it's brilliant' plot. Tarantino may seem unfocused to the uninitiated, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding and Inglourious Basterds is delicious.

1. A Serious Man - The Coen Brothers
Before No Country For Old Men, I struggled to understand the unanimous approval of the Coen Brothers. Their lighter fare felt completely forgettable and their serious works felt slight and unsatisfying. It wasn't until they adapted McCarthy's novel that I finally experienced a clicking sensation. So you can imagine how disappointed I was with 2008's Burn After Reading. The credibility that they developed with NCFOM evaporated and I was back to square one. I had heard great thing after great thing about A Serious Man, but it wasn't until a rave review on my beloved Filmspotting that I felt compelled to give it a shot. This movie and the resulting conundrums it has shackled me with make me want to rewatch their entire catalog. I don't believe I missed a layer of nuance in Brad Pitt's Chad Feldheimer in Burn After Reading, but after A Serious Man, who knows.

Opening with an unsettling scene that sets the tone for those to follow, A Serious Man is the story of Larry Gopnik, a Minneapolis physics professor in 1967. He is mild-mannered and unassuming, and despite his efforts to lead a just life, he is a lightning rod for trouble. I've heard that if you put a frog in a pot of water and bring it to a boil, the frog will stay in the water and die, but if you put it directly into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately. Such is the case for Larry Gopnik. His troubles begin as annoyances; a pot-head son, a few dollars missing from his wallet, a deadbeat brother sleeping on his couch, and grow into larger and larger problems and he is either too weak or too taken aback to respond with the incredulity you would expect. He is a man that desperately believes in karmic principles, and is simply biding his time until his karma boat comes in. The thing is, how do you know when it does?

Longtime Coen Brother collaborator Roger Deacon does great work here with the camera, and the Coen Brothers do an admirable job in reigning in the quirk that plague some of their other comedies, and ask some uncertain questions that I am still grappling with. I know very little about Jewish culture and religion, but the film remains accessible because of its universal themes. While decidedly bleak, the film ends with typical Coen Brothers ambiguity, but this time it feels completely appropriate. Larry doesn't understand why things happen, why should we?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On Repeat: The Delta Mirror

Despite the nu-metal inspired album art, Los Angeles' The Delta Mirror are a pretty tame affair, or at least they start out that way. On 'He Was Worse Than The Needle He Gave You', the opening shoegazy bars swirl like an Explosions in the Sky song, but the red herring is complete when an 8-bit scratchy drumbeat joins the party. From here the song graduates from an ambient snooze to a glitchy lullaby, complete with uncanny Interpol-inspired vocals that drip with pained indifference. The song bounces around in the margins of lo-fi electronica, layering harmonies and frantic synths, but is smart enough to pull the plug before things get too muddled. I'm curious to find out which direction the rest of the album leans. Machines That Listen is out March 16th on Lefse Records.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mulligatawny Noms

I had every intention of of writing an honest-to-goodness blog entry today, but then I got a wild hair up my bum and decided to get my hair did. This proved to be a waste of nearly 2 hours of my life. Miraculously I brought a book to read or I would have hopped into a chair and sheared myself. Actually I probably would have just fiddled around on my cellphone and tried to tell myself my hair isn't THAT long. When I got home, I still had vague blog aspirations that fizzled completely when I remembered I had to make soup for a Soup-Off on Friday at work. From this momentary desperation was birthed this cooking themed blog entry. I made an African Peanut Soup on Saturday, and after eating it all (CMM and BSC helped), I had to put all of my eggs in this Mulligatawny basket. Mulligatawny soup translates to 'Pepper Water' in Tamil, and that's about all the wiki says. I found a neat recipe on and fired up the Panasonic TZ5.

The first step was deciding what size pot to use. This sounds simple, but without every time I chose a pot, I find myself getting exponentially more nervous with every new ingredient until I inevitably find myself pouring a scalding soup into a incrementally larger container. I spill, I splash myself in the face, I futilely try to use a ladle with my teeth, and eternally vow to opt for the larger pot. I did no such thing today. I found a hearty pot and set it a-cooking. I love gas ranges by the way (as I know SS does, not to rub it in) but that's another blog entry for another time. I can tell you're getting bored, so here's a 10 megapixel morsel to whet your appetite.

Onion, prepare to meet your maker. I read about some cool way to cut an onion on lifehacker a while back, so now I would put dicing an onion in my Top 5 cooking skills list. Right above cracking an egg and below good safety practices.

See. I told you, poor guy didn't stand a chance. 

Joined by his vegetable brethren (carrot and some leftover celery), we have Ireland's flag as imagined by a dyslexic vegetarian (JB). These will be saute'ed in a healthy amount of butter (shhh).

This is me sauteeing (how the hell is that spelled). I actually used the front burner, but the back burned had better lighting. This is not important to the story or to the finished product, but for some reason I felt guilty about it and wanted to come clean.
Flour and Curry are added to the veggies. Interesting side note. My roommate JL has lots of spice baggies in our spice cabinet, none of which my roommate RH has gotten to yet, meaning they have no labels or distinguishing characteristics to speak of. I know JL has Curry, but he also has Cayenne pepper in a baggie, I don't think they are interchangeable, and once you irreparably burn your mouth trying to taste one to figure out what it is, you get very confused very quickly. Thankfully, my other roommate LK had yellow curry that he graciously allowed me to pillage. 
Chicken stock is added to this mixture, and brought to a simmer for 30 mins. Don't be dainty with the heat. Crank it. I can't imagine how long this would take on an electric range, but suffice to say I'd still be cooking right now. In the meantime you can cook your chicken and dice/core your apples. "Apples?", you say? "Yes. Apples", I say.

Chicken browning beautifully. This is about the time LK yells "SMELLS GOOD!" from the living room. I derive a strange satisfaction from this, even though I have done nothing to warrant it. 

Broth veggie mixture has reached a simmer as you can see from the Starry Night-esque heat trails in the picture. 
Apples are chopped and cored. The bowl is solely for display purposes because I felt they looked sad on the cutting board. When I poured the apples into the soup I put the plate right back into the cupboard without washing it (SHH...).
 When the chicken is cooked, you want to "cube" it. I just chopped it into chunks, because cubing proved difficult. Maybe you are supposed to cube it before you cook it? Or maybe cube is a fancy way of saying "cut up so you don't look like a damn fool trying to eat this".
Also add some white rice. Look at those cuticles. You could eat off them. Wait, what are cuticles? I just looked it up in Google Image. Don't look it up in Google Image.

Throw all that jazz into the pot and boil until the rice is cooked. Then ladle it into a bowl and stir in a bit of cream (I used half+half because I'm a healthy boy) before serving. This is what it should look like:
Delicious is what it should taste like. And it does. The broth is surprisingly rich and flavorful, and the curry adds a unique taste without being spicy. The apples almost have the consistency of potatoes but have a distinctly sweet finish. I gobbled it up. I will edit this blog post with pictures of my trophy Friday afternoon.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Well folks, it appears that the 3 goats I sacrificed last night to save Lil Wayne from prison did the trick, as today it was announced that Mr. Carter will undergo dental surgery February 12th. His new sentencing date is March 2nd. Crazy, but unsurprising from the guy who pushed back his album Rebirth 6 times. I hope he spits (or drools) a few verses immediately after his surgery, I doubt we'll even be able to tell the difference.

On another note, see the nifty artwork above? Yeah, I made that. It's currently in the final stages of approval at MoMA. Actually, it's just my mouse handiwork from yesterday afternoon. This neat little program follows your mouse cursor around the screen and traces it's path. When you leave the mouse idle, it will make a little bloop. The size of the bloop is proportional to the length of time left stationary. The upper right bloop was probably dinner (African Peanut Soup, YUM), and the massive bloop to the left was when I watched Days of Heaven (beautiful film). I went for a run, showered and did some reading too, but damned if I know which bloops those are. Eating and movies is a pretty fair summation of my evening activities on a daily basis. And people say surfing the internet is lazy! Look at that mouse go!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Everyone Loves A Good Montage

While I've already blogged today, I feel compelled to share this incredibly edited video montage for the films of the 2000's. Prepare to spend the next 7 minutes and 11 seconds smiling or terribly confused (depending on your level of film snobbery).

the films of the 2000s from Paul Proulx on Vimeo.

Day of Reckoning

Tomorrow promises to be a dark day if you consider yourself a fan of one Weezy F. Baby. If you don't recall, tomorrow Dwayne Carter, Jr (Lil Wayne) will be formally sentenced after pleading guilty to a 2007 felony gun possession charge and is expected to proceed directly to jail to begin serving his term. The general legal consensus is that Wayne will be sentenced to a year in prison. Some speculate that Wayne could be out in as little as 8 months with good behavior. In the hip-hop community, 8 months is an eternity. Poor Weezy is going to feel (and look) like Rip Van Winkle when he gets out.

With Lil' Wayne and Gucci Mane in jail, winter just got a whole lot colder. What are we to do as Wayne disciples in this hour of uncertainty? I can't speak for anyone else, but my grief has taken the shape of a killer Weezy playlist and a little Vegas oddsmaking.

Chances Lil Wayne is able to smuggle weed into prison: 6:5

Chances Lil Wayne is able to smuggle Promethazine into prison: 5:2

Chances Lil Wayne escapes prison: 50:1

Chances Lil Wayne gets a new teardrop tattoo in prison: 50%

Chances Lil Wayne releases an album while in prison: 90%

Number of words Lil Wayne finds rhyme with prison: 94

Chances Lil Wayne engages in a conjugal orgy: 3:1

Chances Lil Wayne cuts his dreads off in prison: 10,000:1

Chances Lil Wayne has his grill confiscated, only to have it returned after autographing a copy of Tha Carter III for the Warden's grand-daughter: 40%

Chances Lil Wayne regrets releasing Rebirth: 100%

Friday, February 5, 2010

On Repeat: Thao With The Get Down Stay Down

Believe it or not, cranking out 5 movie reviews in an afternoon is more taxing than you'd expect. Even when I've already reviewed them! We here at Lollipops and Crisps have a commitment to quality blogging, and every post goes through rigorous spell-checking and data cross-checking before it is released to the masses. I am accepting applications for unpaid interns, and offer unlimited DVD rentals and a bottomless bag of Jax as compensation. Until that glorious day, my Friday posts may be lacking the usual flair. To save my precious Top 5 Films from this sad fate, I'm going to finish that blog tangent this weekend, and offer a fresh installment of ON REPEAT. The song this week is 'Cool Yourself' by Thao With The Get Down Stay Down (heretofore abbreviated TWTGDST).

TWTGDST is a three-piece San Francisco 'alternative-folk' group, featuring lead singer and guitarist Thao Nguyen (go figure!), bassist Adam Thompson and drummer Willis Thompson. The aforementioned 'Cool Yourself' has been in heavy rotation on my Zune HD for the better part of a week since first hearing it on Sirius XMU. It's a short little diddy, clocking in just over 2 and a half minutes, so it wastes no time on verses or build-up, thrashing into a chorus within the first line. That's not to say it doesn't go anywhere. The second 'verse' leans on a jangly piano part that sounds torn from of a Billy Joel B-side and a full-fledged brass section. They both play quiet nicely with the electric guitar part, and give the breakdowns and the brief interlude an added heft. I can't imagine what they would have thrown in if there was a third verse. Glockenspiel? Sitar? Glass Harmonica? Fortunately, they know when to stop and end the song on a high of piano solos, bouncy tubas and Thao's adorable voice.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Top 10 Films of 2009: 10-6

2009 was a mixed year for movies. A lot of terrible movies made obscene amounts of money (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Transformers 2, TWILIGHT), several small budget films made a killing (Paranormal Activity, The Hangover, District 9), and Hollywood pulled out all the stops in a desperate attempt to stay relevant in an era where HDTVs and instant streaming threaten to turn the theater experience into a niche. The solution to this conundrum? 3-D of course. Nearly 20 films got the 3-D treatment this year, with even more slated for 2010, forcing old theaters to scramble and update their projection technology (even my beloved Capitol Theatre). I saw 3 of them, (Avatar, Coraline, Christmas Carol), and with the exception of Avatar, the gimmick was clear. Pay $12, wear goofy glasses, get disoriented, steal glasses and tell usher you need them for real-life. 3D is not new, and while the technology has improved, it will remain a novelty. Avatar may have changed the game and broadened its appeal, but the fact remains; story comes first. But what do I know, Avatar just made 2 billion dollars. Here's my favorite films of 2009.

10. The Hurt Locker - Kathryn Bigelow
The directorial debut from Kathryn Bigelow masterfully portrays the paranoia and suspense associated with fighting a modern war in hostile territory. Roadside bombs and suicide bombers kill with alarmingly simple efficiency and further rattle already shell-shocked soldiers. Any unattended vehicle or suspicious glance elicits a rush of adrenaline and a wave of panic, making diplomacy almost impossible. Bigelow does a fantastic job of putting us into the middle of this war and is still able to give the film a heart in the form of lead Jeremy Renner. The intensity that Bigelow and Renner are able to create in the scenes here is never wasted, and is almost matched by those outside the combat zone.

9. Two Lovers - James Gray
I reviewed this film about a month ago, but I keep coming back to Joaquin Phoenix's performance here. The desperate longing, naivete and vulnerability that he brings to the role really impressed me. I loved how Gray was able to make such deeply flawed characters so likable and sympathetic, despite the cruel things they do to one another. Each thinks they know what they want and are blind to everything else. Such are the ways love can ensnare the soul.

8. Where The Wild Things Are - Spike Jonze
I reviewed WTWTA in detail a few months ago, but I am still in awe of how effortlessly Jonze was able to expand the story and retain original dialogue and themes. I don't envy the pressure and sense of obligation he surely felt, but I certainly can appreciate the care and attention in the finished product.

7. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: Werner Herzog
I also reviewed Bad Lieutenant in my Movie Round Up pt. 1 about a month ago, and time has been kind to this film and Cage's performance. I still think Cage should have been nominated for his performance, and I hope he tackles more roles like these, even though he's $14 million in debt. While the plot itself is about as straightforward as they come, Cage's Terrence more than makes up for it. His despicable, drug-inspired actions are sprinkled with heroic behavior, but he is so messed up it's hard to tell whether his motivation is fueled by his drug-habit or his devotion to the case. I'm still not sure.

6. An Education - Lone Sherfig

An Education is a challenging film. It challenges you to watch a high school senior throw away years of study and hard work and say that you wouldn't be seduced by the charms of an older, worldly lover. The fact is you can't. No one is immune to the allure of a shortcut to their dreams, regardless of the repercussions and unanswered questions that may remain. Carey Mulligan and Peter Saarsgard are both fantastic here, hitting all the right notes. Their relationship never appears illicit, and you can't help but feel a paternal attachment to Mulligan's Jenny, hoping that she is making the right choice despite mounting evidence to the contrary. The film is operating on well-worn territory, but it never comes across as stale or familiar, due in large part to the performances.