Archive for the ‘MovieGeek’ Category

Wes Anderson flexes musical muscle in The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson, film director known best for emergent classics like The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore clearly knows what he’s doing with film — but can we say the same about the use of music in his films?

The Royal Tenenbaums proved definitive in capturing the feel of music in a Wes Anderson film; by now, it has become a trait of his cinematic auteur theory. The overarching style — especially as it’s exercised in the film — is most crisply defined by the Mutato Muzika Orchestra’s rendition of the Paul McCartney-penned classic, “Hey Jude.” Replete with harpsichord, the track defines the mood and feel of the film as a whole.

While we may be able to attribute much of the musical consistency across Anderson films to the use of the Mutato Muzika Orchestra — the Mark Mothersbaugh-helmed production company has also made at least some appearance on Anderson’s Bottle RocketRushmore, and The Life Aquatic — we can pinpoint some other important attributes of Anderson films that extend beyond Mutato Muzika.


Music Geek: Woody Allen’s Manhattan and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” combine for engaging musical perspective

That famed, prolific director Woody Allen — the auteur behind greats like Annie HallInteriors, and, of course, the subject at hand, 1979’s Manhattan, the three of which were released over a three-year period from 1977 to 1979 — has always displayed a penchant for musical ingenuity.

So when the black-and-white, self-affirming Manhattan opens with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” a musical masterpiece said by some to be a portrait or tribute to New York City, we aren’t really surprised. When Allen, with his wry wit and self-deprecating demeanor, juxtapositions his opening narration, a stop-start, neurotic monologue serving as the opening to the equally neurotic Isaac Davis, even obliquely mentioning Gershwin, we’re given a distinct image of the film to come.


Matteah Baim’s sophomore offering ‘Laughing Boy’ welcomes the spring

Ex-Metallic Falcon Matteah Baim follows her debut ‘Death of the Sun’ with ‘Laughing Boy’ this spring, an album that shows her moving away from longtime influence Devendra Banhart as well as into a more earthy folk tilt than the lipstick metal she and ex-CocoRosie Sierra Casady practiced with the Falcons. These songs are a bit more spiritual in tone, but Baim also manages to inject subtleties of variety that seemed to be lacking with ‘Death’. The progression of style suits her well, and portends an intriguing future of musical exploration.

Baim opens with “Pagoda”, a subtle acoustic track that sounds like an extension of the closing “Up is North” from her 2007 debut. I expect a repeat performance based on that opening; but Baim hits her stride full-on with the trance-laden “he turned my mind around”, an acoustic folksy tune that turns the corner with heavy psych guitar and lusciously hypnotic percussion. The lyrics appear to be inspired by an old Seneca Native American poem titled loosely “A Poem About a Wolf, and Maybe Two Wolves”, but the intimacy of sound is what makes this the most memorable composition on the album.

Elsewhere Baim delivers a delightfully surprising acoustic rendition of the prophetic and rather obscure Jim Morrison poem “Bird of Prey”, transforming it with harmonized backing into a rather charming modern Americana folk vignette ala the Roche sisters, but without the subtle East Coast quirky pretensions.

Baim is accompanied in the studio by an eclectic collection of friends, including Robert A.A. Lowe from one of my favorite math-rock bands 90 Day Men and more recently of Lichens; Japanese composer and multimedia artist Leyna Marika Papach (her eerie violin work is breathtaking, especially toward the end of the record); jazz experimentalist Butchy Fuego and several others. The blend of influences give a lift to Baim’s introspective and mildly dark singer-songwriter sensibilities and help to sprinkle this musical foray into something that causes the listener to happily spend nearly an hour of their irretrievable life cocooned in a blanket of soothing and thought-provoking sound.

And stretching the cocoon analogy a bit further, ‘Laughing Boy’ also shows Matteah Baim blossoming into a noteworthy force on the modern experimental folk landscape. Find this CD and rip it onto your iPod immediately – spring is coming and Baim’s musical wanderings provide a ready soundtrack to a new season and all its possibilities. Highly recommended.

Matteah Baim

Movie Review: (1997) A Better Place

Ryan and Barret talk while walking down a roadA Better Place
Directed by Vincent Pereira
1997, View Askew Productions

If you can’t remember, high school was painfully awkward for most parties; it was rife with fighting and bickering, especially between differing social classes. At least, that’s the image put forward in A Better Place, a 1997 film directed by one-time director Vincent Pereira.

Produced in association with Kevin Smith’s View Askew, A Better Place isn’t always visually dazzling, but its simplicity allows more subtle elements to fall into place. The vibrancy of some of the colors used and the straightforward editing and cinematography combine to create memorable imagery that strongly supports the film’s most vital asset: dialogue. (more…)

Movie Review: (1996) Drawing Flies

The lead cast, less Jason Lee, of Drawing FliesDrawing Flies
Directed and written by Matthew Gissing and Malcolm Ingram

Drawing Flies, 1996 release from View Askew Productions, may feature several actors from Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Mallrats, but expecting a romp with the same cinematic quality as either is slightly off the mark.

A tale of some slackers attempting to make do on welfare, Drawing Flies tells a story of social abandonment from a perspective akin to other View Askew films, strangely with the setting of a search for the infamous Sasquatch. (more…)

Movie Review: (2008) Made Of Honor

Made Of HonorI must admit that I am biased towards this movie, I have a big crush on Michelle Monaghan. That being said, this is your standard romantic comedy. A guy drunkenly gets into bed with the wrong girl in college, they end up forming a friendship. Ten years later the girl goes to Europe for six weeks, during that time the guy realizes how much he loves her, she comes back engaged to be married to an Irishman. The guy of course accepts her request to be the maid of honor. The usual shenanigans take place over the next few weeks, at the last minute she changes her mind and decides that he’s the right guy. They apparently live happily ever after. Your standard fare romantic comedy. I’m not saying that there weren’t laughs, there were plenty of laughs. Patrick Dempsey is believable as the ladies man turned devoted friend. Michelle Monaghan is lovely as the confused bride to be. If you enjoy romantic comedies then you will probably enjoy this movie.

I’ll give it a B- Personally I enjoyed it quite a bit, because I have a thing for these sappy movies.

Movie Review: (2006) The Sasquatch Gang

The Sasquatch GangThe Sasquatch Gang is a comedy akin to Napoleon Dynamite in that it is quirky and awkward. The execution of such a comedy can be challenging, this group pulls it off well. The cast, composed mainly of unknown actors, does an excellent job selling their respective characters. The way the story is told is interesting, it unfolds somewhat like a comic book being told from the perspective of many characters. Each chapter is one character’s view of roughly the same time line. Justin Long is terrific as the prototypical redneck American with a wicked mullet drinking PBR and hanging out with his buddy that doesn’t wear a shirt. The movie centers around three nerdy friends who, among other things, participate in live role-playing with foam swords and other weapons. This results in some humorous moments between the protagonists and antagonists at various points in the movie. The portrayal of the teenage nerd coming of age is spot on, awkward romance and all. All of this makes for a pleasurable viewing experience, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite and other similar films.

I give it an A-

Movie Review: (2004) Primer

PrimerPrimer is an interesting independent film with a strange and hard to follow plot. After watching the first 10 minutes or so I found myself somewhat bored yet I couldn’t look away. There are very strange time-travel themes in the plot with many a paradox. Even now, after watching the entire film, I don’t completely understand everything that happened. I found the movie enjoyable because it made me think. At the same time I was left feeling unfulfilled at the ending. Without giving away too much of the plot I will try to outline things. Four friends help each other build machines in a garage, trying to invent something that will bring in some venture capital. Two of the friends decide to build something without the other two knowing and accidentally end up building some sort of time machine. From that point on the plot becomes fairly confusing and never entirely clears up. If you enjoy a movie without all of the flashy special effects of the standard sci-fi and/or a movie that will get your brain moving then this is a good choice.

Overall I will give it a C+ It was interesting, but in the end it didn’t make much sense and left me feeling like there was no reason to watch in the first place.