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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Little-Late Film Review: World's Greatest Dad

World's Greatest Dad.  2009 Magnolia Pictures. Photo:

Robin Williams has been on somewhat of a losing streak for the last decade (with the exception of One Hour Photo he hasn’t been in a truly good movie since Good Will Hunting), with a laundry list of really bad comedies and a few inept dramas, he has proven to be one of the most consistently bad good-actors working today.  Williams has been good before, and he can be funny as well, the problem is he almost never plays the role to fit the tone of the movie.  He’s either overly hyper, to the point of insanity, or so melodramatic and down you’d think he just lost his dog.

Williams’ character in World’s Greatest Dad is an example of a performance without a character.  That meaning his role as Lance is so twisted between emotional states that it seems more like it was written for two different parts, and merged into one.   He approaches each scene as if the last one didn’t happen, despite the script attempting to tie the film together in a cohesive manner. 

World’s Greatest Dad’s despicable excuse for a plot involves a language arts teacher and aspiring writer who is struggling to pen a new story and to maintain a relationship with his estranged son,  Kyle.  Kyle hates everything, and says so.  The only thing on Kyle’s mind is sex, as he shamelessly and consistently reveals himself to be a complete pervert to his only friend Andrew and even directly to his father.  Lance is trying everything to reach out to his son, but nothing seems to be enough.  One night, his son is accidentally killed while trying to asphyxiate himself for his own arousal, something he has done before.  It is here where the movie goes from immature and boring to insanely hateful, and this is also the point where we lose all respect for Lance.  After a long drawn out montage where Lance is screaming in mourning next to his son’s corpse, he stages his room to make it look like Kyle committed suicide, and then proceeds to write a beautifully-penned note and plants it on the boy. 

Despite everyone at his high school hating Kyle when he was alive (mainly because he was an insufferable jerk to everyone), they all rally in mourning after the word of his apparent suicide gets out.  A student finds a copy of the note on the Internet and proceeds to share it to the student body and faculty, which includes Lance.  The note becomes so popular that students are lining up to join Lance’s class and are aspiring to write themselves.  Lance begins to enjoy the attention his son’s death as brought upon him.

He proceeds to write a journal and claims that it belonged to Kyle.  It quickly becomes a national hit, and even lands him a spot on a day time talk show.  It is here that Lance begins to realize that he is trying to capitalize on his son’s sudden death.  The film ends at an honors ceremony for Lance where he admits the truth about his son’s death.  The school is shocked and angry, so Lance runs into the school’s pool, strips and dives off the diving board.  He then appears to take Kyle’s friend Andrew under his wing.  The end.

I’ll keep this brief as the above paragraphs should reveal all you need to know about this movie.  The film is really just mediocre artistically, not good or bad.  The problem is the only two characters we really examine in depth are Lance and Kyle, and the screenplay makes it impossible to like either of them.  In the first act, Kyle is so hateful, so negative that it is impossible to make a connection to him, and you feel as distant from him as his father does.  Lance is such a buffoon and his actions after his son’s death are so despicable that it is impossible to find a point of connection to him as well.  So the audience is locked out of the story, never connecting to the characters on screen.  The movie tries to make up for this by inserting every single social stereotype from high school in the film, but this is a cheap stunt as none of these characters (with the exception of Kyle and Andrew) are even given more than a distinct face. 

There’s a rule to writing.  The reader/audience has to connect to the story or else they lose interest.  If you make all of the leads as vile as these, it is hard to find a point of association.  The film was written by former “funny”-man Bobcat Goldthwait, and you can see he tried, but there is no escape form Lance’s hateful actions and no voice of reason to balance them out.  I sat there with a look of disgust as this was one of the most hateful displays I’ve seen in a film.  Not in the same way that 2012 was, where it was people being killed by the millions for our entertainment, but instead we see a very realistic (albeit bizarre) death exploited by the father of the deceased for his own adulation and financial gain.  This movie is sickening.

A Little-Late Film Review: Depth Charge

Depth Charge.  2008 RHI Productions.  Photo:

Depth Charge is an insanely stupid action thriller about an evil commander who takes over a US Naval sub with the threat of firing nuclear weapons if a one-billion-dollar ransom is not met.  Commander Krieg, played by Eric Roberts, is a cookie-cutter villain who is angry about being passed up for promotion time and again.  It is also noted that he is in debt (aren’t we all?) and is taking meds for a brain tumor that cause him to exhibit psychotic behavior.  It is up to a doctor named… well, Doc, and a young electrical officer named James Piersall to fight of an entire crew of generic terrorists and save the day. 

I tried to find something about this movie I liked but I really couldn’t.  This is an example of a film that should not have made it to release.  Though it was a straight-to-TV title that did not get a wide release, it is amazing that this film had an obviously bigger budget than a smaller film like Once, but remains a joke in comparison.  It is a shoddy movie filled with clichés and some of the silliest dialogue I have heard in a very, very long time.

To start, the hero is a mind-numbing bore.  Jason Gedrick’s performance is expressionless, emotionless, forgettable and just plain dull.  Seriously, this guy makes Steven Seagal look like freaking Laurence Olivier.  Every scene where he contacts the bad guys he opens with what just might be the silliest catchphrases of the year: “Get off my sub!”  That this is a blatant rip-off of Harrison Ford’s line from Air Force One is one thing, the fact that it is used three times is utterly unbearable.  It’s up to the screenplay (more on that in a moment) to guide the story along and provide the lines that keep the film entertaining, but when the best catchphrase you can come up with is “Get off my sub”, maybe you aren’t trying.  Judging by this performance alone, Gendrick appears to be an utterly amateur actor as he mumbles his lines and squints and grunts his way through the film.

The villain, Kreig, does not fare much better.  Eric Roberts has been around a long time, he even grabbed an Oscar nomination back in 1985, but today he is more or less a C-Grade star.  He isn’t a bad actor really, he just picks the most unfortunate screenplays.  He’s cashing a check here as he passively reads his villain lines that would have been dated in 1995, just filling in a reason to show violence on screen.  The biggest problem with Krieg is that his motives are only speculated on and are never really examined, which just makes this movie violence for violence’s sake.  For that matter, it is poorly done violence, with brings me to one of the most important part of an action movie, the action.

Each fight scene is extremely brief (about six to eight seconds at a time), uninteresting and chaotically filmed.  The shot is framed on the backs of the actors on  in the shot or off to the side while one actor is pinned off screen.  These scenes share similar cinematography with the popular amateur backyard wrestling videos you would find on YouTube.  The gunfights are similarly obscured by poor direction.  The camera still focusing on the backs and backs of the heads of the shooters or targets, obscuring what is going on further down in the shot.  Also, the stupidity of these scenes is just laughable, people can’t seem to hit each other when they are about four to six feet away. 

The film closes out with a very anticlimactic shootout, which goes back to the 6-8 second action scenes this movie is using, and all of the sudden this doctor who joined the Navy knows everything about driving a submarine and knows how to use all of its functions to stop a nuclear warhead.  Ok so the doctor is a turbo-fighting action star and knows how to drive a submarine?!?  Who the hell is this guy?!?  I believe we are supposed to be asking ourselves those questions but the movie never really explains why this guy is the Macguyver of the Navy.  This leaves Doc’s talents to be less plot-point and head towards the realm of convenient-plot-contrivance.

As I was watching Depth Charge (yes, I intentionally chose a 1-star recommendation) for this review, I thought “Well, it’s not that bad.  It is loaded with clichés and silly dialogue but I have definitely seen worse.”  Around the end of the second act, we are introduced to characters pretending to write on a touch-screen monitor with a stylus, when they’re really writing on a standard monitor (CRT for my fellow nerds out there) with a red colored pencil. At this point I found myself in awe of the ineptitude of this film.  For the most part, it’s the little things that trained movie fans would get while casual watchers wouldn’t (going back to the cinematography), but it’s also the choppy editing, which seems a little borrowed from Michael Bay, and the cheap props and absurd plot devices.  There’s also the poor sound mixing that has the music so loud that you actually cannot hear the actors at times, which is kind of a good thing because the dialogue is horrible.  All of these problems come together to form a laughably stupid, poorly filmed disaster that ranks among the worst made-for-TV movies ever released. 

Congratulations Depth Charge, you’re my first 0/5!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Little-Late Film Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop, 2010 Paranoid Pictures

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fascinating documentary focusing on an compulsive videographer named Thierry Guetta who, after a traumatizing life event, began filming everything all of the time.  He turns his camera towards underground graffiti artists and begins to follow them around as they scale buildings, spray or paste their art, and even evade or confront the police.  We see him meet a few artists, one called Space Invader, as they leave their marks around their city.  The artists are interviewed with their faces obscured, fearing they may be identified by the authorities.

As his quest continues, Guetta hears of a legendary and very secretive artist named Banksy, who after being confronted by the eccentric cameraman is told is the subject of a documentary he wishes to make; a documentary that, at that time, did not exist.  This all seemed to be some sort of strange plan to get deeper inside the artist community as Guetta admits he himself is also an aspiring member, and through this we get to see something strange about Guetta.  Something just seems off.

As we begin to examine Guetta more deeply in the film we see some of his other recordings, some of friends and family, and one deeply disturbing shot of a room in his abode where there are literally hundreds of tapes stacked everywhere.  Guetta’s madness seems to be becoming the center of the film, not the artists, and as we soon find out, this is where Guetta’s deception of the artists becomes truth, as he admits he will be compiling the footage of the artists into a single film. 

As the story continues, Guetta and Banksy meet through connections after finding the artist is in the city and ultimately become friends.  Guetta avidly follows Banksy around, filming his process of creating the art in a studio apartment, blowing up the art at a copy shop to a much greater size, then stenciling or pasting it that night.  This part is truly interesting, as you see that this is not just a hobby for some graffitists, it is their job or even their life, as it consumes their day. 

One day, Guetta travels with Banksy to a Disney park where the artist decides to throw out some guerilla art in view of one of the rides as it passes by.  This intentionally controversial piece leads the park to stop the ride as it is being removed and alerts the authorities to the artist and the filmmaker.  Banksy gets away, but never receives a call from his ally.  Guetta is caught by park security and questioned, but is eventually released.  This is a shock to Guetta and leads him to settle things down a bit.  It is here that we get our last glimpse of the strange fantasy Guetta seems to be building in his head. 

Banksy begins to work with Thierra to become a street artist.  Guetta takes on the alias MBW, which strands for “Mr. Brainwash”, and begins to lay down some truly odd works resembling pop icons or common objects that are greatly distorted.  MBW becomes poplar, though many of the established artists are perplexed by this as they consider his art unimpressive.  Guetta then decides he will put together a massive exhibition, with an excessive number of works, and auction them to the public shoppers.  In the end the auction brings in just over one million dollars.

After the showing Banksy is back on the camera and he admits that his support for MBW might have been a mistake.  Other artists seem baffled by the success and admit that they are not particularly good or original.  It’s difficult to tell if this is natural jealousy, or if they feel as though they where used by a manipulative artist to get exposure.  We then learn that this film was never actually to be, but instead, the artists turn the cameras on Guetta to reveal his methods and his journey through their culture. 

Exit Through the Gift Shop takes a twist towards the bizarre and it is difficult to tell what the film’s attitude is towards any of the characters in particular.  It is completely impartial.  This is, in fact, a good thing as a documentary should generally show us how something is, not how it is interpreted to be.  The film is not without controversy, however, as some critics have claimed it to be a fabrication, though the film’s director, Banksy, defends its authenticity.  Is it too real?  Is it too strange to be real?  One thing is for sure, Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the most engaging documentaries of the year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Little-Late Film Review: 2012

2012, 2009 Columbia Pictures.  Photo Credit:
One positive thing I can say about 2012 is that it isn’t anywhere near as bad as I had expected it to be.  That said, it is a disaster of a disaster movie.  First off, the special effects aren’t half as good as those from the Day After Tomorrow, and seeing as how they weren’t that good then, that says a lot.  Scenes that are meant to seem exciting are overdone, overlong and unintentionally funny at times with occasionally really bad CGI moments that are eye-rollingly bad.  This is all set to a poorly paced film where we are meant to watch in enjoyment as millions of people die horrible deaths.  Yay!  So it’s an entertaining movie!

Roland Emmerich has destroyed the world so many times, that he had to figure out a way to do it bigger and “better” than before.  In The Day After Tomorrow the Earth was destroyed by a devastating meteorological event, so to one-up this, he had to incorporate every possible geological disaster he could think of in a series of ridiculous scenes where the apparently sentient disasters seem to either target and follow our protagonists, or conveniently miss them repeatedly so they can escape.  The first two major scenes involve a massive earthquake that sinks southern California into the Pacific Ocean followed by an absurdly large volcanic eruption that if were real, would have produced a pyroclastic flow possibly hundreds miles in diameter that would have done massive damage to everything and everyone hit by it, but that wouldn’t have let the good guys narrowly escape (Both of the preceding occur in the first hour of this roughly two-hour and forty minute movie).  The eruption does, however, result in a massive cloud of toxic ash that is sweeping across the country which forces the plot to move forward. 

Okay, so what about the positives?  Well… the film has a good cast including John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Olver Platt.  When they are actually in the story, some of their scenes are good.  The problem is the screenplay is irrelevant to this movie, and therefore how it is executed has little impact on the scenes.  The really good actors in the film like Platt and Ejiofor are rarely given screen time, and when they are they are spouting out the obligatory clichés that are so common in this genre.  The dialogue scenes are few and far between but when the characters aren’t fleeing the wrath of mother nature the dialogue is contrived and manipulative; a shallow attempt to give the characters the illusion of depth. 

This illusion is irrelevant however, as 2012 is a sadistic exercise.  We are meant to find scenes with buildings toppling and bodies falling from the sky exciting?  This is an action flick right?  Not a Greek tragedy?  I only ask because in scene after scene millions of fictional people are being wiped off the map so that we can focus our cheers on a small cast of characters because their representative actors on screen are near the top of the film’s IMDB page.  The willingness to care about these characters is made even more difficult by the fact that they all fit neatly into a series of convenient clichés.  Cusack’s Jackson is a distant workaholic father, now divorced, struggling to rebuild a relationship with his children (Emmerich used that one in the Day After Tomorrow too), the ex-wife who reestablishes a relationship with the protagonist (from Emmerich’s Godzilla), the crazy scientist guy (played by the likable Woody Harrleson, used in the Day After Tomorrow AND Independence Day AND Godzilla ) who nobody believes until it’s too late and the corrupt politician that willingly kept an important secret until it was too late to save anyone (Emmerich used that in Independence Day).

Aside from the clichés, contrivances and utter impossibilities this movie passes off as plot points, there is just this issue of pacing.  The film, despite being almost three hours long seems rushed and scenes are recycled.  Characters arrive at a destination and are chased by the disaster and the debris as they narrowly escape in a vehicle.  This pattern occurs multiple times in the film until the start of the third act where the main characters arrive at a series of ships that are scheduled to take the wealthy and influential to a safery so they can return to safely populate the world with the optimal gene pool.  Pretty offensive, but the offensiveness of the eugenic approach here is negated by how stupid it is.  Let’s analyze this.  So they do not have to train for the years that astronauts and cosmonauts do to prepare their bodies for the rigors of space flight because the ships are “special” or something?  Well, it turns out, despite all plot points saying otherwise that the ships are actually just that, ships.  Arks to be exact.  Cool.  So that was... explained.  What about the flaw where the ship is crashing through icebergs to get to safety.  Those big hunks of ice aren't made of Styrofoam.  This scene is just silly.

That flaw, however, is not the biggest problem I had with 2012.  The overlying problem is it is a “Big-Budget Blockbuster” produced to entertain with flashy special effects yet it is a hateful film, as we watch millions die over and over.  The film pretends to have a heart by showing some characters upset by the fact that people are dying and being left behind.  This is a weak cop out, however, because the movie doesn’t give a crap about any of the victims the CG lava, earthquakes and tidal waves have claimed.  We are expected to be in awe of the effects as we witness the death of families as the camera sickeningly lingers on their final huddle as a massive wave rushes in from the background.  This is not entertaining if you aren’t a psychopath and I try to think of myself rational, and able to suspend belief, but there is nothing entertaining about millions upon millions, ultimately billions of deaths, all for my entertainment.  Roland Emmerich has done this time and again, however never before have we been forced to stare named characters in the eyes as they meet a horrible fate, especially when those eyes belong to children.  On a production level, 2012 is not a bad movie, on an entertainment level it is an insufferable mistake that should be ignored if you haven’t already seen it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My 15 Favorite Actors and Actresses Working Today

With all the stars working today, not many of them have given That One Performance.  The one role that defines them as stars and will live with them forever.  Bogart had Casablanca, Pacino had the Godfather, but what does Ryan Reynolds have?  Really?  So I thought out who has given that career-defining, masterful performance in the last ten years and who is also a consistently good actor, even if the movie they are in isn't always a winner.  So without further ado here is my 15 favorite actors working today:

15.  Tom Wilkinson
Best Performance of the Decade: Benjamin Franklin - John Adams (2008)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Sir Knolte - Black Knight (2001)

14.  Ellen Page
Best Performance of the Decade: Juno - Juno MacGuff (2007)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Kitty Pride - X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

13.  Ralph Fiennes
Best Performance of the Decade: Justin Quayle - The Constant Gardener (2005)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Hades - Clash of the Titans (2010)

12.  George Clooney
Best Performance of the Decade: Tie: Ryan Bingham - Up In The Air (2009) & Michael Clayton (2007)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Devlin - Spy Kids 3D: Game Over

11.  John Malkovich
Best Performance of the Decade: Osborne Cox - Burn After Reading (2008)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Galbatorix - Eragon (2006)

10.  Amy Adams
Best Performance of the Decade: Sister James - Doubt (2008)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Rose Lorkowski - Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

9.  Kevin Spacey
Best Performance of the Decade: Bobby Darrin - Beyond the Sea (2004)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Clyde - Fred Claus

8.  Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Performance of the Decade: Howard Hughes - The Aviator (2004)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Teddy Daniels - Shutter Island (2010)

7.  Kate Winslett
Best Performance of the Decade: April Wheeler - Revolutionary Road (2008)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Voice of Rita - Flushed Away (2006)

6.  Meryl Streep
Best Performance of the Decade: Julia Child - Julie & Julia (2009)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Donna - Mamma Mia! (2008)

5.  Don Cheadle
Best Performance of the Decade: Paul Rusesabagina - Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Luke - Mission to Mars (2000)

4.  Phillip Seymore Hoffman
Best Performance of the Decade: Truman Capote - Capote (2005)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: The Count - Pirate Radio (2008)

 3.  Paul Giamatti
Best Performance of the Decade:  John Adams - John Adams (2008)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Hertz - Shoot 'Em Up (2007)

2.  Hellen Mirren
Best Performance of the Decade: The Queen (2006)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Victoria - Red (2010)

 1.  Russell Crowe
Best Performance of the Decade: John Nash - A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Grounds For Firing Your Agent?: Robin Longstride - Robin Hood (2010)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Little-Late Review - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Okay, when I heard Hideo Kojima's crew was working on a Castlevania game, I was skeptical, not only because I'm cynical, but because the phrase “3D Castlevania game” just never sat with me.  One's first impression upon popping in Lords of Shadow is that it has a completely generic opening, familiar to anyone who has ever played a game.  Little did I know thus would be the case with the entire game.

To start on a high note, the environment graphics are quite good.  The environments are filled with lush foliage and well-detailed ruins.  The levels are pretty to look at, and that always helps in keeping the player engaged.  This brings me to an important question: Why the hell do the character models look so bad?

The models look like characters from a PS2 game.  The human models are a little freaky looking, they are stiff and often resemble mannequins during the cutscenes.  With games like Uncharted 2 and, to a lesser extent, Final Fantasy XIII pushing the standards for character models in games it's pretty sad to see a game like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow try so little.  The enemies don't elevate things much either, they are completely uninspired, coming straight from the “Generic Fantasy Bad Guys Guidebook.”  So, are they fun to fight?

No.  Another point against this game.  Wait for the enemy to execute an obvious attack, dodge roll, combo until he is about to do the same attack again.  Just do that over and over.  You win!  Other, larger, bosses are shallow rip offs of those from Shadow of the Colossus.  The difference being, this game holds your hand and tells you everything you need to do, so just imaging Shadow of the Colossus if all the battles where just a series of quick-time events and there you go.

So a hero fighting monsters with combos using a flailing weapon, bosses that require the execution of quick time events...  This is God of War!  Ok, ok, I won't slander God of War anymore by comparing this piece of crap to it, but it's definitely trying to rip the series off.  In fact, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is unsuccessfully ripping off almost every popular action game from the last ten years except Castlevania, which, to the game's credit, has been pretty consistently terrible ever since the release of the phenomenal Symphony of the Night way back in the 1997. 

So, last but certainly least, what about the music?  The Castlevania series is known for it's great soundtrack right?  So is it good?  No!  It's generic orchestral chords that hum in the background and occasionally swell to a climactic phrase.  The music is just like the rest of the game.  It's boring.  Not everything in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is really disastrous, it's just boring.  The developers didn't even try to make an interesting game, they just recycled an already overused formula to make another conventional beat-'em-up disguised as a next-gen title.  If you play a lot of games, you have played this before.  Hell, I'd say even if you don't play a lot of games you've played this before because it works so hard to be like everything else.  It's sad too because this game had a lot of promise behind it.  It had a time-tested pedigree working to revitalize the series, a new look and a new feel.  It's just too bad that this game is so mediocre, it's actually so mediocre it's bad because it doesn't have any excuse to be such a bare-bones, uninspired mess.  I'm holding this one to a higher standard because it could have been so much more.  Sorry Kojima productions, Diz Wonizza fail!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Top 10 News Stories of 2010 – No, I Don't Have Anything About Lady Gaga.

10 – Chilean Miners Emerge
After 69 days, 33 Chilean miners where rescued from a stocked safe room.  The miners were feed supplies through a small shaft while rescuers attempted to devise a plan to get the men out alive.  The world watched the news as the story became front-page news.  After more than two months in the cramped chamber, the men where rescued in front of millions of eyes on national television.  Florencio Avalos was the first of the 33 men to emerge and he was greeted by his wife and son. 

9 - Wikileaks
Julian Assange is really freaking proud of himself.  The plan: to publish leaked government cables provided by a disenfranchised private to gain much wanted public attention.  He's getting all of the attention in the world now, so I guess the world is giving him what he wants.  Some have argued he is a big time America-hater.  Okay?  But shouldn't we be focusing on any possible diplomatic damage that may come from bad blood boiled by the content of the cables?
8   - Washington Rallies
On August, 28, Glenn Beck hosted the Restoring Honor Rally which had one the largest turnouts of any mass gathering in America's history.  The focuses of the rally where the founding principles of our country, but that didn't stop some from holding counter rallies.  I'm not really sure who you explain being against faith, hope and charity (the buzzwords at Beck's rallies) but the first counter-rally, hosted by John Stewart, was a far-left comedy romp that lacked any honesty and seriousness, the second was a multi-union-funded rally that either paid or forced their members to attend to boost numbers and included more than a few radicals in the form of communists and other revolutionaries. 

7 - TSA Security “Procedures”
“Don't touch my junk” is probably the catch phrase of the year, and thanks the good ole' TSA, it has  serious undertones.  The invasive security process, which includes the choice between a graphic 3D image that can see through your clothes or an extremely invasive pat-down which includes the touching of every square inch of a passenger's body, have been the center of a lot of controversy, mostly involving the debate between those who believe it is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment and those who just “don't mind because it's better than getting blown up”.
6 - The Ground Zero Mosque
“It's not a mosque!” I'm sick of the argument about this.  It is funny that this “community center” was a mosque UNTIL being a mosque was a problem.  The story of questionably sincere Imam Abdul Rauf's pet project (a Muslim Community Center and MOSQUE built on the site of a building that was struck with debris on 9/11) was a volatile subject on both sides and was the center of large number of smaller stories surrounding this major one.  My favorite smaller headline centering around this is the famous View Walk-Off, where, in a display of attempted moral superiority, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar leave the set of the show during a shouting match with Bill O'Reilly because he said “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”  Because he did not specifically identify these Muslims as “extremists” he was bad and needed to be interrupted and ignored.  Really, from my view it looked like a show; a shameless act of self-aggrandizement.
5 - Tea Party/Republican Victories in the Midterm Elections
For better or for worse, the Elephant People picked up a huge victory this past year.  It was also a big win for female candidates as almost all of the major races involved a woman who is either just starting like O'Donnell, or a long-time insider, like Murkouski.  I'm an Independent myself, more of a Constitutional purist (almost a Libertarian, but not quite), so the fact that a lot of blue states turned red really doesn't phase me much, I know that no one party is more corrupt than the other and I will believe this Tea Party Change when I see it.  But then again, I think that some new blood in Washington is a good thing.  It's time for term limits people!!!!
4 - Health Care Passes
I'm not happy about this at all.  This massive power grab by Washington is an overreach in every definition of the word.  It's time for people to go back and read our founding documents, because when it lists what rights we have, health care is not one of them.  “But we have the 'Right to life'...”  Ok, yeah, nobody is saying die.  In fact, before this health care nightmare launched, America already had the most readily available health care system in the world and people where not regularly denied care if they really needed it, despite what John McCain (Who, suddenly, is against the bill?  Or something... I just don't like that guy) and Anthony Weiner say.
3 - The Gulf Oil Spill
The worst man-made environmental disaster since Chernobyl, and Tony Hayward just wants his life back.  The oil spill in the Gulf destroyed sea life, land life, plant life and businesses all up and down the Gulf Coast.  It went on for what seemed like an eternity and both BP and the US government seemed to drag their heels.  A number of other countries offered their resources to us and the Obama Administration turned their aid down.  Try explaining that one away with a straight face.  Still, the one to blame here is definitely BP and the incompetence of Hayward and his minimalist efforts.  The Deepwater Horizon was not sufficiently inspected and did not meet the safety standards it should have.  BP really screwed the pooch on this one.
2 - North Korea Attacks Yeonpyeong Island
I've thought for a long time that Kim Jong-Il is one of the most dangerous people on the planet.  He proved that he is as nuts as I thought he was by launching artillery strikes on the South Korean disputed territory Yeonpyeong Island, which is an obvious test of South Korean and American forces to see how far they can press before we fire back.  The most egregious thing is, North Korea issued a warning telling South Korea not to retaliate or defend itself.  Amazing.
1 - The Earthquake in Haiti
The 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th is one of the most devastating natural disasters in history, and the most powerful earthquake recorded in the last two centuries.  The nation's limited infrastructure and impoverished state exasperated the death toll and destruction even more.  I commend all of the people who are working day and night to continue to rebuild the nation and supply funds to aid the devastated victims of this horrendous disaster.

30 Clever, Funny, Scary and Just Plain Entertaining Music Videos: Part 3

10 - Foo Fighters - Everlong
Foo Fighters are back for the last time with what is arguably their best song and easily their best video.  Dave and Taylor play husband and... wife?  When Dave gets the hint that his wife may be in danger in her dreams, he fights to get back to sleep to get in there and save her from the other two band members.  It’s very strange, very chaotic, and very fun.

09 - Weezer - Buddy Holly
Who doesn’t like the things Spike Jonze has done behind the camera.  What could be his greatest masterpiece is Buddy Holly.  He seamlessly integrates geek rockers Weezer into an episode of Happy Days.  It is so seamless that it actually seems real.  A flawless execution.

08 - Jet - Look What You’ve Done
Cute little animated animals get viciously slaughtered by an unseen evil in this video.  You never see too much in the form of a violent kill, but it’s what you don’t see that is truly scary.  Also, it’s over a poppy, cheery little song, which makes you wonder what the guys who where behind this bizarre display where smoking.

07 - Beck - Girl
At the end of every Mad Magazine was a page with strange art you could fold over to reveal a sort of subliminal image when the center of the picture is cut out.  Yeah, so Beck did a whole video on that concept.  Shelves, tables and entire buildings fold to reveal sardonic messages about what is on screen.

06 - Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
This COULD be the greatest drug-induced hallucination in the history of music.  Peter Gabriel’s stop motion clay fest is so out there and filled with insanity, that you’re waiting to wake up in a place that is normal by comparison.. like Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

05 - Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
Soundgarden is awesome, this video: equally awesome... and a little scary.  The suburbs meet all kinds of crazy when the band rocks out and a molten Unicron shows up to make everyone’s face stretch out of shape.. or something.  But hey!  There’s a creepy woman putting on make-up while she’s on a belt machine and a much younger, overly-tanned guy doing push ups in the same room.  Yeah!  Um... Wait...  Wow this video is weird!

04 - Beastie Boys - Sabotage
I’m not a fan of hip-hop to be honest.  I don’t like it much.  But that’s not to say that some hits stand don't out as awesome.  There were a few runners up in my list that almost made it too, including Busta Rhymes and Tupac, but this video is probably my all time favorite hip hop video.  The Beastie Boys are dressed as 1970’s cops and act out an over-the-top action show's opening credits.  It’s funny and brilliant.

03 - Pearl Jam - Jeremy
This video is dead serious, and so is the subject matter.  But the disturbing imagery, epic tune and shocking ending makes this one one of the greatest videos of all time... EVER!

02 - A-Ha - Take on Me
This brilliantly executed video mixes animation with live action seamlessly and is arguably the first video to use modern special effects so well not only to match the song, but to tell a story.  It’s easily the one best videos of the 80’s and also one of the best songs.  It’s a shame they never had another hit.

01 - Michael Jackson - Thriller
Here it is.  Was there ever a question really?  This extremely long, horror movie/music video has one of the most famous and recognizable dance numbers in music history and the King of Pop’s haunting and really fun tune goes perfect with the ghoulish theme.  It’s just wonderful.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

30 Clever, Funny, Scary and Just Plain Entertaining Music Videos: Part 2

20 - Tool - Parabola
This is another one of those that may make you turn your head sideways.  A black dude with tentacles for eyebrows, a little stop-motion creature that dies and gets dissected by the aforementioned black guy and a big amorphous ball that floats in the air.  It’s so nuts that I love it.  I especially love the long version which opens with the prologue tune Parabol played over deformed businessmen who float over a table and vomit black paint, spinning slowly to paint a circle.

19 - Beck - Loser
Like Foo Fighters and Tool, Beck makes multiple appearances on this list because his brilliantly insane videos match perfectly with his delightfully strange lyrics.  The death theme in the video is presented in such an odd way )a coffin moving on its own across the ground, cheerleaders dancing in a graveyard and the grim reaper washing a car window with blood) that you can’t help but love this one.

18 - Switchfoot - We Are One Tonight
On a lighter side, We Are One Tonight, in my opinion, is one of the most brilliant videos ever conceived, and it would probably make my top 100 videos of all time.  The video shows the band’s motions matching perfectly with the motions of various people in a number of different scenarios, from work to gymnastics, to swinging.  The way the scenes and movements flow perfectly into each other is so seamless that it seems like a single sweeping motion, which is the idea.  Good stuff!

17 - Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly
What do you get when Tenacious D hides drugs in the coffee maker on board a commercial flight?  An utter disaster on board an airplane and the only people who can save the flight are the band members, who skipped the drugged coffee and went with good old alcohol, so they’re about at the same level of sobriety as any other commercial pilot.  The band members return pulling off the multiple roles thing and some of them are so funny that you might forget that it’s a band member you’re laughing at.

16 - Blur - Coffee & TV
LOL!  I love this one.  Remember Song 2?  You know?  The song that’s on every action movie trailer ever made?  Well, this is NOT that song.  Blur’s Coffee & TV is a poppy, simple rock song with vocal harmonies and a nice bouncy rhythm.  The video follows a milk carton trying to find the missing band member on his side, so the mini milk carton walks around town, hitchhikes and even meets a pink, strawberry milk carton, and they fall in love.  They both die by the end.  It’s okay though, because we get to watch their spirits take flight as the milk carton angles make towards Heaven.


15 - Interpol - Evil
A car accident, a tragedy, a really freaking scary puppet.  I love this one a lot.  Another that would rank amongst my favorite videos ever.

14 - Genesis - Land of Confusion

13 - Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice
The premise of this video is simple.  Christopher Walken dances... and... um... flies around a hotel lobby.  Win guys!  Epic win!

12 - Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight
This video, which resembles a Vaudeville stage show is another one of the greatest ever made.  The song fits perfectly with the protagonists’ amazing journey from the sky to the sea to the moon and results in one of the most delightful music videos ever conceived.


11 - Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence
Aside from being one of my favorite songs from the 80s, Enjoy the Silence is a very interesting video.  A king without a kingdom you could say.  He wanders beautiful landscapes attempting to stake his claim, nothing seems to fulfill him, however.

Friday, December 17, 2010

30 Clever, Funny, Scary and Just Plain Entertaining Music Videos: Part 1

Introduction - Some music videos will be remembered as clever, fun, exciting and flat out genius. Most, however, are just forgettable. Usually they are vanity projects designed to show us how awesome, sexy, silly or normal the artist is. These videos are among those that stand out as especially clever, and while there are some that are left out, I know, these are MY personal favorites. Enjoy!

30 - Beck - New Pollution -
Like most videos by solo funnyman/musical prodigy Beck, this one is a chaotic barrage of strange imagery and seemingly clashing visual suggestions. It goes from a happy 50’s style sitcom intro to a psychedelic cavalcade that mocks go go videos, the Beatles and so much more. Very clever.

29 - Foo Fighters - Big Me
Foo Fighters’ members are known for appearing in their videos as multiple characters... and genders. This one is one of their best, a series of spoofs of popular Mentos ads replacing The Fresh Fighter’s label with Footos: the Fresh Fighter. This is one video that’s often overlooked in video lists, which is sad, because I really enjoy this one.

28 - Tool - Schism
What can I say about Tool. I love these guys. These unconventional rockers take rock beyond just a song and more towards a composition. The non-linear way in which their songs flow keeps things interesting, as do their utterly insane music videos, which never seem to feature the band. Schism is somewhat of an exception as the members appear in blurry flashes at the start, but from there we see freaky gray people with red things sticking out of their bodies. It’s nuts, and I love it!

27 - Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
They don’t even care. They really don’t. That’s why this seemingly normal night for a group of teenagers goes from fun romps to defiant displays to delinquency. The progression of the characters in the video is part of what makes it so great. Well, that and the moving song.

26 - Ok Go - This Too Shall Pass (Rube Goldberg Version)
Ok Go isn’t exactly my favorite band. They don’t suck, but they just don’t have a huge, unique sound to me. Still, this video, featuring a giant Rube Goldberg Contraption that runs the length of the entire song right on time is stunning and clever. I will give it up to this band, they do come up with some clever stuff!

25 - Pearl Jam - Do The Evolution
Todd McFarlane. In the 90s it seemed like he did everything. Aside from directing some animation for Korn, he also did this very overlooked video for grunge icons Pearl Jam. The video which focuses on evolution up to a point, then devolves into a series of disturbing visuals showing the darkest sides of man. The song is also very intense, pushing an energy that goes beyond what you normally heard from grunge rockers.

24 - Weezer - Pork & Beans
You Tube is huge, Weezer are talented nerds, put those two things together and you get Pork & Beans, a strange mash-up featuring a massive list of Internet “celebrities” made famous for their viral antics. It’s very funny. A reminder to me of how much I truly love Weezer.

23 - Green Day - Redundant
What better to do for a song called Redundant than to have a growing cast of people repeat the same thing over and over again until there is so much going on on screen it’s a little hard to keep up? Redundant is not one of Green Day’s singles that comes right off the tip of the tongue. But I will admit I do like the video a lot. It’s one of their best.

22 - Mutemath - Typical
The video for Typical was acted out backwards, then played in reverse. I kid you not. They played the song backwards. Well, they acted it out backwards, but it’s still pretty awesome. The song is great, the band is amazing and this is one epically awesome music video.

21 - Apex Twin - Come To Daddy
Did you bring a change of shorts? You may need one. I’m not sure what’s wrong with this guy, but he likes to put his face on other people’s heads. In this one, his face is stamped on kids. Which makes them creepy, flat out scary actually, and they chase a frightened old lady and other seeming normal patrons around an abandoned lot and an apartment building straight out of Chernobyl, or at least straight out of an Orson Welles movie.