18 August 2009

10 August 2009

'The Conversation': an underrated classic

The Conversation has to be one of the most underrated movies of all time.

Featuring the direction of Francis Ford Coppola, acting of Gene Hackman, general moral ambiguity, remarkably tight filmmaking, a thriller/espionage intrigue and a plethora of beautiful shots, it's certainly a classic.

So why aren't more people talking about this film?

It's not as flashy as The Godfather and Gene Hackman's not as "cool" as Marlon Brando, but Hackman's lovable-loser status and the film's apparent simplicity combine with its moral complexity to create a modest film about epic things.

Plus, it features a young, strapping Harrison Ford.

05 August 2009

Radio is a sound salvation

Later this month my hometown's latest and only attempt at a decent alternative/indie radio station, Radio X 96.1, will go the way of the dodo. It will become one of two sports-dedicated stations on Grand Rapids' musically bankrupt FM dial.

But rather than wallow in that town's musical depravity, I'd prefer to praise my temporary residence, Columbus, for its excellent alternative radio station. Offering a diverse selection of current and nostalgic indie/alternatively inclined songs and artists, CD 101 is a bastion of difference in a modern world of radio monotony.

I realize FM radio - like most media forms we grew up with - is probably a dying breed, but it is stations like this that remind me why we should love FM radio. Sure you can find almost any song you want on-demand on iTunes or YouTube or Deezer, or listen to an individualized radio statio via Pandora, but nothing beats the excitement and the haphazardness of live radio. It's exciting not knowing what will be played next and seeing how songs are juxtaposed. Plus, FM radio represents a shared, class-cutting experience that can't be beat by modern alternatives.

So, thank you CD 101 for renewing my faith in the power of good ole FM radio.

Sample songs from CD 101's playlist:
"Walking on a Dream" Empire of the Sun
"Bittersweet Symphony" The Verve
"No You Girls" Franz Ferdinand
"Bohemian Like You" Dandy Warhols
"L.E.S. Artistes" Santigold
"One Armed Scissor" The Mars Volta
"The Black Keys" Strange Times

But don't take my word for it, listen live here.

01 August 2009

Public Transit Woes

Compared to public transit in Paris, most American public transportation options are bound to disappoint. I was expecting this.

When I hopped on a COTA bus for the first time last night, I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the air-conditioned bus and its fancy electronic ticker denoting the stops as we passed. This was on the way to my destination.

My opinion of the busing system changed on the way home. After leaving the fun, outdoor screening of Raising Arizona early to catch the one bus per hour that was running on a Friday night, I had to wait nearly a half hour for said bus, which was late. Plus, I had no way of knowing where the bus was or when/if it would arrive. Their wasn't even a bus schedule posted at the stop to let me confirm what I had thought I'd seen earlier online.

In the meantime, I had to suffer weird looks from bar-going passerbys and drivers because apparently it's weird to be waiting for a bus in this country?

Finally, a bus came by, but it was demarcated with a bizarre letter-number combo, while my bus carried a simpler, more reasonable moniker: 2. Luckily, the bus driver was helpful enough to pull over at my wave and inform me that bus 2 should be coming behind her. After a few more minutes, I was successfully on my bus, headed home, after a long and frustrating wait.

To top it all off, I had to walk an extra three blocks home when the bus driver, failing apparently to note that "Stop Requested" was flashing across his electronic ticker, neglected to let me off at my stop.

In the end, I got home and it only cost me $3. As far as public-transit related snafus go, my night was pretty minor, but it was enough to make me never want to ride the COTA again.

22 July 2009

Weird Advert

Upon returning from work, I've been watching a lot of late-night TV recently (mostly Conan and Jimmy Fallon), and I've frequently been seeing these weird Palm Pre ads:

This girl is extremely creepy. I mean, why is she so pale? Why does she move so stiltedly? What is up with that hair? Why does she speak in that weird subdued voice? And on what distant planet is she?

The commercial really raises more questions than it answers and certainly doesn't make me want to buy a Palm Pre despite the fact that the phone looked pretty sweet when Jimmy Fallon was pimping it on his show.

Also, I was digging this earlier ad campaign (or at least the song, "Doorway" by IO Echo):

I guess I'm just trying to figure out where Sprint's going with albino girl on tranquilizers...

21 July 2009

Brüno ich not funny

I saw Sacha Baren Cohen’s new film Brüno last week, and I was sorely disappointed.

There’s already been a lot of
media/blogger hoopla surrounding the movie, but I wanted to add my take.

Obviously, it was not as good as Borat, for a number of reason, only one of which being that he'd already done the same schtick successfully in that film. I was prepared for Brüno to be less innovatively funny, but I was surprised by a movie that was utterly childish and mostly unfunny.

Sure there are a few laugh-worthy moments (a bit with all-too-eager stage parents and another where a preacher tells us what music not to listen to if we’re trying to be straight – Indigo Girls, the Village People, I’m talking about you!), but the film is horribly uneven and, worse, often offensive.

Watching it was an overall uncomfortable and painful experience more so than a humorous one (Borat, too, had those moments, but Brüno is constructed almost entirely of them).

For me, most of the humor in Borat came from poking fun at the xenophobic/anti-Semitic/generally bigoted people he encountered along the way. Brüno really has less of that than you would expect. Sure there are some homophobes – it’s hard, however, to laugh at them when many of the jokes themselves are founded upon the "gag" of Brüno’s flamboyant homosexuality – but mostly there are just people who end up uncomfortable around Brüno; not because he is gay, but because he decides to talk about (and often act out) sex acts in a very explicit and inappropriate fashion. (I suppose this, in and of itself, is supposed to be funny, but I'm not a 12-year-old so it’s not). It’s hard to blame, or label as homophobic, the people who are weirded out by Brüno and his in-your-face behavior – behavior that would be equally frowned upon from a straight man.

Obviously, one could counter that this pointing out homophobia business wasn’t
Cohen’s goal (although I think it at least partly was), but without that element, the film really falls flat. An endless stream of gross-out jokes and shock-jock humor, that, in the end, isn't very funny (sauf a few aforementioned skits).

And still on that point, if it was at all – anywhere, even a little bit deep down – Cohen’s goal to point out homophobia, I think Brüno is an utter failure and a homophobic film unto itself. I realize there is a certain amount of satire involved, but the Brüno image of a kinky-sex-crazed gay man that will aggressively proposition every male in sight is not something the gay community needs, especially when many already hold that view in their hearts.

Here’s to hoping that Cohen comes up with something better the next time around.

Musique: "Closer to Fine" Indigo Girls

20 July 2009

Daylight and catching air

Very much in love with this song and video:

Also, the end of the clip reminds me of the artwork of Robin Rhode
, (perfect segue) whose first major solo exhibit, Catch Air: Robin Rhode, I just saw and enjoyed at the Wexner Center for the Arts, a really cool music, film and contemporary art venue on OSU's campus.

He's an innovated South African artist who works with photography, video and performance art, to touch on issues of poverty and materialism and mess with perception. The majority of his works involve two-dimensional paintings or chalkings in which he or another subject interacts to create three-dimensional scenes, defying perception and telling a unique story.

Robin Rhode, "Untitled, Dream House," 2005. (Photo courtesy of ICA Boston via flickr)

He's definitely worth checking out – as are Matt and Kim.