The Audacity of Rock: Part 17

Do not put that in a more comfortable key.

I'm not sure what the appeal of listening to people strain to hit notes is, but it apparently never gets old for some people. And I'm not talking about gritty straining, but barely and weakly hitting high notes. I can usually handle it for a while, but I love good vocals, and listening singing too high is just annoying after a while.

"Life During Wartime" by Talking Heads (1979/1983)

Oh, David Byrne. I want to love you, but I have to be in the mood to handle your vocals. Seriously. Here's "Life During Wartime" from Stop Making Sense live in all its out of range glory. Also, dancing.

"Sleepyhead" by Passion Pit (2008)

This is one of the more extreme examples I could think of, but I could have easily used Arcade Fire or some other recent indie band I haven't heard of because I probably wouldn't listen to more than two of their songs because their vocals grate on my nerves. However, the saving grace of "Sleepyhead" is the beat and harmonies. You can almost ignore the ridiculous wailing.

Questions to ponder:
1. Why don't they just buy a capo?


Medley of the Day: Senorita Love edition

"My Maria" by BW Stevenson

I'm working under the assumption this is about a woman of Hispanic descent mostly off the pseudo-Spanish guitar work and the name Maria. However, the use of the phrase "gypsy lady" is somewhat confusing. Whatever. This is the original version which has a less ridiculous chorus than the Brooks & Dunn version (those mariIIIIIiiiiiaaa's get out of control). Please enjoy some traditional dancing (probably?) in addition to this great song.

"Rio Bravo" by Dean Martin

This is from the only John Wayne movie I've ever seen, Rio Bravo (1959). I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to see another one because they probably don't have Dean Martin crooning about some lost love.

"El Paso" by Marty Robbins

This is a great example of how country songs can reel you in--you've got to know what happens next! This topped the charts in 1960, and those scoopy vocals are most likely the reason why.


Two late-90s British Romantic Comedies

I own Sliding Doors (1998) mostly because it was in a $5 dollar bin. It's one of the better films you can get in one of those bins because, while it's no cinematic masterpiece, it's quite enjoyable. It's the perfect movie to put on when you're cleaning or packing or doing laundry. You don't have to pay very much attention except to the parts that are delightful.

Still in her non-British British actress stage, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a PR expert who gets fired from her job. On her way home after her unpleasant sacking, she misses the train home.But wait! This is a romantic comedy so we also see her barely catch the train (which is helpfully accompanied by magical chimes). From here we see the two paths her life could take: one where she gets home early to find her boyfriend Gerry having sex with another woman, the other where she has to find another, longer way home and misses catching her boyfriend cheating. This moment is also where I tend to either tune out/fast forward through one half of the film. Believe me when I say that the storyline that involves Helen being oblivious to her idiotic boyfriend's antics is 3/4 unbearable. I can't think of a more loathsome character than Gerry; he can't decide which woman he wants and then feels bad about it. We have to hear him talk to himself in the mirror, to his unsympathetic friend, and his lover about it. Kill me now.

The film is really saved by the other half of the film where Helen meets the kind and persistent James (John Hannah). It's a sweet relationship that you get to see build through drinking milkshakes and sculling competitions. And we are even treated to two delightful montages in this story, one of them being a makeover montage where Helen gets a sassy haircut and blonde hair (which is quite helpful thing when they keep switching between Helens).

Sliding Doors
is a good fluff film that's at least half decent. And fairly short (99 minutes), so perfect for deep cleaning the refrigerator.

I happened upon Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence* (1998) while perusing Netflix. I ended up watching this because of my love of Joseph Fiennes and Rufus Sewell. But mostly of Joseph Fiennes. Ahem. Anyway, it's a breezy (88 minutes) romcom that involves three childhood friends and the girl who they all fall for.

Martha (Monica Potter) is an American who decides to up and move to England. On plane there, she meets a music producer or something Daniel (Tom Hollander) who is instantly smitten by her, and he tries to woo her through bumping her to first class (through ridiculous means I might add). Daniel tells his friends Frank (Rufus Sewell) and Laurence (Joseph Fiennes) about the girl, and Frank, the drunken, unemployed actor blaggard that he is, discovers her in a park and decides to try to get with her himself she's so lovely. Little do either of them know, Laurence encountered her in the airport and was bullied into giving her a ride into London. This time Martha is the one that's smitten, although Laurence likes her soon enough. The conflict? Martha doesn't know they're all friends! And Daniel and Frank are ignorant of Laurence's involvement since they're both self-centered bastards!

But wait! It's a romantic comedy, so Laurence is obviously telling his psychiatrist neighbor about this whole mess early in the morning!

Whatever. It's an amusing enough movie. Honestly, this is the first time I've probably ever seen Rufus Sewell not play a scorned lover/nobleman. He's quite funny actually. And of course we get to see Joseph Fiennes with his love-stricken look that he does so well. Yes, I'm swooning. So really, it's a movie to watch for the people in it, not necessarily for it's ground breaking cinematic quality.

And as with both of these movies, they at least avoid the most painful romcom tropes (to me): the woman pining after some jerk of a man (Rufus Sewell in The Holiday) and the drunken escape paving the way to love (every other romantic comedy). So good things all around. Plus, it's already been a decade since they've been released, so you can laugh at some of the styles and musical choices while reveling in the fantastic UK accents.

1998 Joseph Fiennes. Wonderful. Oh, and Monica Potter is pretty charming too.

*or, as it was released in the US, The Very Thought of You. What's up with the name change? Does every romantic comedy really need to be named after a song? I'm looking at you Simply Irresistable, Someone Like You, It Could Happen to You, et al. Or was that just the 90s?



So, because I am both a TV whore during the summer and I have a new-found crush in Zachary Quinto, I decided to watch all three seasons on Heroes in about three weeks. It turned out to be better than I thought it would be considering that so many people told me that post-season one Heroes was awful. Here are some thoughts (kind of spoilery/probably won't make sense if you haven't kept up):

Season 1:
Solid story telling. This show's strength is in plot and not character development, so having a clear overall story arc for season one was its biggest strength. While there are a few loose ends by the end of the season, it wraps up nicely with goals accomplished and several of the main characters meeting.

Clair is one of my favorite characters since she remains skeptical and manages to mostly pull off any pseudo-romances they throw at her. Also, Noah--way to go with the complex motivations.

Season 2:
The biggest problem I had with this season was that it was cut short (thanks, writers' strike). I'm not sure what the point of this season was since no real end goal was accomplished.

Lowlights: the wonder twins, Hiro in ancient Japan, and ditching that poor Irish girl in time.

Highlights: David Anders (aka my favorite non-British British actor) saved Hiro's story line from making me commit harakiri. Peter's hair is finally cut and Sylar's hilariously creepy attempts to be seductive. Matt and Mohinder and a little girl--it was like a sitcom (PS what happened to her? She's probably lost with Irish girl).

Sylar in his Gabriel Gray cardigan talking to Hiro. Adorable.

Season 3:
The first half of this season is rough. Like I mentioned before, this show is kind of terrible at character development, and unfortunately they tried to develop characters. In this case, the big loser was Mohinder. Not only did he make some weirdly rash decision to inject himself with worst-character-ever-Maya's adrenaline and somehow fall in love with worst-character-ever-Maya, he also gets these weird scales all over his beautiful face. In my head, I called his plot Mohinder Suresh and the Order of the Phoenix, his emo coveting of powers was so out of place. And then Matt falls in love with Daphne, which was weirdly fast (like her--zing!). The only strength of this part of the season is the Sylar/Elle (yay Kristen Bell) story where Sylar is humanized quite a bit you start to root for him. I love my villains to be complex.

How do you ruin this face? With terrible character development. Glad you're back to being pretty, Mohinder.

Anyway, once Volume 3 closed and Daddy Pattrelli dies, then we get at new story line that I thought was interesting and pretty good with some heavy political overtones: terrorism, stripping constitutional rights, internment camps, and torture all in one story! Plus, it's got some great Sylar moments. The only bad thing is that I'm still confused about the virus and what it did to some of the characters' powers. Hurrah for loose ends.At least they brough Micah back (that Rebel storyline ia lot of fun). And shoutout Ali Larter who seems to only play fairly loathsome characters on this show, but does a great job at it. At least she finally got rid of The Three Faces of Eve story for a character slightly more in control of her life in this season.


Overall, I think the show is at its best when the characters have a goal and they're working toward it. When it skips a few months into the future to start a new part of the story is great for the show since it gives the audience something to wonder about and doesn't force us to watch awkward hook-ups. But my absolute favorite episodes are the ones that take place years in the future and years in the past and we get to see how the characters change. It's fun to see how certain elements began or how things might turn out. The only downfall is that time travel isn't strictly defined in the Heroesverse. It doesn't look like time travel or precognition does any good except cause confusion and depression. Whatever. It's a pretty good fluff show that's only annoying when you have to read subtitles during a Hiro/Ando story.

As long as they do brilliant stuff like set Sylar's father issues to Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," I'll probably keep tabs on the show in the fall.

Zachary Quinto should get awards for pulling off ridiculous lines so well. Love it.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 16

Singing with the accent.

Shocker: I love British accents. It just makes anything sound funnier and/or more delightful and/or more condescending. Did I mention hot? Anyway, what's even more awesome than someone speaking with a British accent is someone singing with one.

"Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits (1965)

Apparently the band didn't really like this song/Peter Noone was forced to emphasize his accent/it was a pretty common song in Britain/this was aimed for a specifically American audience and never released as a single in Britain (via/via). However, this does not decrease my love of this song. It's been a favorite since I was kid who regularly listened to the oldies station. Anyway, I find it completely charming, and seriously, look at Pete's smile right before the 2 minute mark.

"Sway" by The Kooks (2008)

At least half the reason I love this band is because of their accents. The way they regularly replace a /t/ with a /ʔ/* is so urban and lovely.

Questions to ponder:
1. Why do people lose their accents when they sing?
2. Is an American accent really the best one to sing in?
3. Which accents are the hottest?

*That's a glottal stop, for those of you not nerdy enough to have IPA symbols memorized.


Links in honor of all things awful

And on that note, in honor of me watching all three seasons of Heroes in less than three weeks*, here's a terrible shipper video featuring Claire and Sylar. Admittedly, this pair is strangely alluring, although this video is awful:

And because I have a little bit of shame, I will only link to the most horrifying Heroes shipper idea made by people who don't understand incest.

*I'm bored and working less than full time. I really have nothing else to do. I kind of hate summer. Anyway, I'm going to do a write-up sometime this week.

Some great glasses

I few weeks ago, I expressed how a pair of rolled-up sleeves make any guy more attractive. This time I'm expressing my love for the more hit-or-miss attraction-builder glasses. In any case, it certainly makes a hot guy hotter or a dumb guy smarter, which is an overwhelming win for everyone. Here are some good examples:

1. Rodrigo Santoro as Karl in Love Actually (2003). No explanation needed.

2. Sendhil Ramamurthy as Dr. Mohinder Suresh on Heroes. In one of the many episodes that deal with a potential future, my TV lover Mohinder sports a more grown out beard in addition to some fetching professorial glasses when he consults the President.

3. Alec Baldwin as Adam Maitland in Beetle Juice (1988). Not only is young Alec quite a looker, he seems unsuspectedingly everyman with these glasses. Adorable.

4. Takeshi Kaneshiro as Lin Jian-dong in Perhaps Love (2005) is the highlight of the movie. I have no idea what is going on for at least half of the movie, but Mr. Kaneshiro in the mid-nineties flashbacks in those big glasses is the best thing that could happen.

5. Speaking of mid-nineties glasses, Harrison rocks a pair as Linus Larrabee in Sabrina (1995). I think they were trying to make him appear more serious and less attractive, but in conjunction with Mr. Ford's regular use of a bow tie in the film, it just makes him more lovable.

6. Matthew McConaughey as Steve in The Wedding Planner (2001) is the best example of glasses making a guy look smart. While M-squared is still slightly smarmy in this movie, this is the only movie I've ever been attracted to him, and I think it has everything to do with those glasses.


Lost in Austen: Pride and Prejudice once again

Recommended for it's ridiculous value by faithful reader Emmy, tonight I viewed the television miniseries Lost in Austen (2008). A young woman, Amanda, who loves Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice mostly for the perfect romance between Elizabeth and Darcy finds herself in the setting of that very book sans Elizabeth (they switched times, obvs). She disturbs the path that everyone should have been on to love, and takes turn making things worse and making things fit the Pride and Prejudice plot line. Many meta-hijinx ensue.

The best way I can express how I feel about Lost in Austen is that it's basically Kate & Leopold but longer and about 9234877 times worse because it uses the beloved characters of Jane Austen. Almost every character turns out to be worse and/or the exact opposite of the ones that you find in the book. Why, you may ask? I have no idea, but it never failed to make my roommate and I scream in delight and/or terror at every reveal.

But I think my biggest problem with this miniseries is that it can't decide what it's about. Is it about discovering that what we fantasize about isn't as great as it we dream it to be? Is it about discovering that what you have is good enough? Is it about helping others find their destiny? Or is it about falling in love with ideas and those ideas coming true? And why is there a secret door between a modern London flat and the Pride & Prejudice Longbourn attic? There are too many mixed messages for Lost in Austen to be taken as even a decent made for TV movie. So basically He's Just Not that Into You. At the end of Lost in Austen, it's completely unsatisfying and you end up wondering why you spent the last 3 hours staying up way too late watching it.

But that's not to say my night was completely wasted. I got some good roommate bonding in, mostly in the form of mutual yelling at the TV and writhing in pain. There were also some ridiculous moments that perhaps made me sympathize more with the lead character more than I would like. Case in point (spoiler warning, if you care to watch this), compare this past post to this scene:

I like to pretend I love the dip in the lake scene of the BBC adaptation because it in no way resembles the book and the awkwardness is so palpable, but let's be honest, wet-shirted Darcy = awesome.

Although, what makes Pride and Prejudice so satisfying in the first place is the slow building relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy. It's satisfying and organic. This was just a mess where I didn't know who to root for and who was supposed to be good or bad. For what it's worth, I would have taken this rendition's Wickham. He turns out to be the Rhett Butler of the whole affair (that is to say, very self aware and honest about his own faults and those of others).

Hey, look! It's Mr. Wickham, and he's both adorable and awesome, so stop glaring, Amanda. (via)

So, if you have few hours to spare and don't mind great literature being perverted for mediocre purposed, give Lost in Austen a watch. I would just recommend watching it with Jane Austen loving friends. You don't want to watch this alone; that would just be depressing and as pathetic as the leading lady.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 15

Out of place at the discotech.

I adore disco: it's super white, but kind of funky in the baseline, with a lot of quick guitar riffs. Can't beat it. Anyway, what's even better than just disco itself, is disco played by a band/performer that probably shouldn't be playing disco. The ridiculousness of the musical genre is amplified to a new state of awesome that makes me love it even more.

"The Stranger" by Billy Joel (1977)

This song is completely ridiculous. According to the wiki it's very Freudian (the stranger is the id? whatever), but all I know is that it certainly starts out lovely and jazzy and then out of nowhere disco! I don't think anything else Billy Joel wrote is quite this funky and/or cynical, and I find that hilarious.

Enjoy him performing "The Stranger" live in 1977 (if that's him whistling live, impressive):

"Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven (2007)

Finger Eleven is one of those bands that I could find out are actually singing Christian rock, and I wouldn't be surprised. They play polite pseudo-hardrock that isn't particularly good, but not bad enough to hurt my soul. This is just to say the "Paralyzer" is kind of a surprise--a good surprise because I kind of love this song*, but a surprise nonetheless.

Just enjoy the funky beat and guitar riffs. Then try to forget that this is by the same band who did this.

Questions to ponder:
1. Can disco make a comeback? Please? At least white people can dance to it.
2. Is anything quite as charming and jarring as disco coming from an unexpected source?

*My liking the song even survived being one of my roommates' ring tones. That's tough to do, because people called her a lot.


Band of Brothers

It took me a while to get around to Band of Brothers (2001), but I did, and I loved it. It's a solidly made miniseries that captures the hardships and camaraderie of Easy Company during World War II. This was a group of paratroopers who began their war experience on D-Day and continued on until Japan surrendered. We follow them from their training in Toccoa, Georgia to the end of the war.

1. While I'm not military aficionado, I managed to understand what was happening through well-scripted episodes that make things easy to follow. The way the characters interact, the authority with which they demand in situations, and they way the respond to events make it very clear how things are working militaristically speaking. More than once, Easy is set up with incompetent leaders (Captain Sobel played by David Schwimmer is a perfect combination of ineptitude and assholery), and I was able to follow the subtle acts of defiance and how dangerous that might be. This is just to say, as a woman and a rare viewer of war movies, it was easy to follow.

2. Band of Brothers emphasizes the humanness of these soldiers. They've probably never seen war, and we see them experience it for the first time. We see the seasoned soldiers grow to be hardened and contrasted with the naive replacements. We also see these men faking it in the worst places to be faking something, war.

One of the most bizarre events as far as a new perspective for me goes, was the one in which the company finds a concentration camp in Landsberg. None of them know what it is or what it's for. They just see men grotesquely thin and pale in baggy stripped uniforms looking out from a fenced area. For some reason Band of Brothers brings an almost surreal perspective to this scene, as the soldiers stare in wonder and meet the men in the camp. It's a reminder that this was a bizarre concept: starving people and working them to death in these camps. Seeing people learning of this for the first time is weird and frightening.

3. Within the structure of a ton of men, you get to know and love several of the colorful characters of the company. The by-the-books but awesome Richard Winters (Damian Lewis) and alcoholically awesome Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston) are the first to really be highlighted, and will be easy to spot throughout, not only because of their rank, but because of their personalities; Ron Livingston is hilarious as Nixon, and the interactions between best friends Winters and Nixon are always a bright spot in even the bleakest episode.

A tougher job is getting the privates some screentime. I recognized a few from other shows/movies, but many of them were new faces to me, which I think worked to the series benefit. While it would probably take me another viewing to really get a handle on a lot of these characters, I was able to identify quite a few, if not by name, by face and dialect because they were featured in an episode.

4. The most harrowing episodes for me took place in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Secluded in a wooded area, undersupplied and underdressed for the winter cold, Easy company tries to hold their line, spending a lot of time in foxholes waiting for the next barrage of bullets/explosives. A couple of my favorite characters get highlighted in these episodes, the first of which is "Doc" Roe in episode 6, "Bastogne." Eugene Roe (Shane Taylor) was the medic of Easy Company, and was put through hell in this environment. He had limited supplies, forcing him to mooch morphine surettes and scissors from the soldiers just to fill his supply box. He tries to keep himself at a certain objective distance from the men of the company, only calling them by their last names, never by their nicknames, as he helps the men stay as healthy as they can. Obviously, this is tough work. Roe also meets a Belgian nurse a few miles back from the front lines where the seriously wounded are taken care of. This is one of the only places you see a woman in the whole miniseries, and she is a strong woman. She's sick of caring for the wounded and dying, and tells Doc Roe as much, but goes back and does her job well as she always will. It was refreshing to see a new perspective, both from a medic and a nurse, just to see another aspect of the war. By the end, you began to sympathize with the poor Doc Roe every time another man yells "Medic!"

5. The other man highlighted in Bastogne is Lipton in episode 7 "The Breaking Point." This character is around since the beginning, consistently competent and calm. I recognized Donnie Wahlberg instantly in the role, but he blends in well here. Lipton has such a quiet and strong presence throughout, and this episode where he narrates is a tough watch. The head leadership in the company is crap at this point, and he's left to look after everyone in the midst of a lot of death, wounds, and psychological issues within the company. This episode mostly just highlights what a good leader Lipton was, and how beaten down the company gets here.

6. The non-combat scenes take place in long takes with smooth camera movement, which contrasts with the chaotic handheld camera and editing during battle. I think this, more than anything, makes the battles come to life. It gives enough confusion to give a sense of how a soldier might feel in the midst of a gunshots. And the filming itself is done mostly in bleak neutrals, only bringing in colors at Toccoa at the beginning and Austria at the end, when the dirt can be removed and there isn't imminent danger. While this makes things realistic, it makes it hard tell who is who in the midst of the army green; you have to try to listen their voice and hope that you can recognize their face underneath their helmets.

7. It's am miniseries that take a certain amount of mental preparation to watch. I'm rarely in the mood to see likable men die in horrible ways (is anyone?), but it's a good watch that shows some true stories brought to life. The real men of Easy company are interviewed and shown at the beginning of each episode. We're not sure of who they are until the end of the series, but their presence and reflections give the series even more weight, seeing these older men get emotional decades after the war. It again brings the personal effects of war to the forefront. And when the series ends during a company baseball game a la The Sandlot, you treasure knowing what these guys did after the war, knowing that not everyone made it back.

The best thing I can say about this series is that it feels like a loss when it is over. Characters you liked died. You grew attached to certain mannerisms and how the company interacted. It felt like the end of an ordeal. Part of that has to do with the length (10 one hour episodes), but also because it was a well done character driven series. It's a bitter sweet end, and that stays with you.


Kids these days

Let's get one thing straight: every batch of tween/teenagers have their own stupid idols. I like to pretend I wasn't into the corny stuff that was popular when I was in middle/high school, but some stuff is irresistible: I will straight-faced tell you that the Backstreet Boys were the best out of all the late 90s boy bands. But for the most part, the bad rap that the teen-aimed music gets is deserved.

Yet it still comes back every few years, just in new incarnations. While we haven't really seen a return of the boy band, here are some new versions of some of the stuff I grew up with.

Part One: The Studio Produced Large Group

S Club 7 was a group that had 7(!) members singing in unison. Apparently the guys singing an octave lower = harmony? Whatever. A studio produced group (from Spice Girls producer Simon Fuller--awesome), they had success with their dorky children's sitcom S Club 7 in Miami. They were the masters of cheesy pop songs that you were forced to line dance to in middle school choir. Here's "Bring it All Back" from 1999:

Remember belly shirts?

Hey, sound familiar?

"We're All Into This Together" (2006)

The High School kids are basically the new S Club 7, hand-picked by a producer, really bad at acting, and singing cliche filled lyrics. And if I was in middle school when this came out, I'd probably watch just like I watched the S Club 7 series--knowing it was kind of dumb, but enjoying it anyway because I'm 12.

Part two: The Brother Band

Oh, Hanson. I still kind of love this trio of brothers. They were actually competent pop music writers (who are apparently still doing good stuff). Too bad they couldn't break away from being teen idols. Here's "Weird" from 1998:

Prepubescent or whiny-teen voice? Which one is better/worse?

At least we can say this for Hanson: they never did a terrible TV show, and all of them play instruments. Unlike the Jonas Brothers who are participating this year in Provo's annual Apocalypse. Admittedly, I think the Jonas Brothers' songwriting, though cheesy, is getting better comparing the two songs of theirs I've heard.

Anyway, here's their newest release, "Paranoid" (2009):

Can I admit that I don't hate this song? I'm such a pop music whore.

Part Three: Disney Punk

Avril Lavigne encompassed everything I hated about the early 00s "punk" renaissance. It was poppy and involved calling people skaters and preppies--and then saying that labels were dumb. Kill me now.

Anyway, the hardest birthday gift I've ever received was Avril's Let Go album because how do you thank someone for that? I listened to the album a couple times, and the straight ballad-pop songs were okay, but her "punk" songs were unbearable. Here's "Sk8er Boi" (2002) in all it's yearbook spelling glory:

I feel like I'm on the school bus and in 9th grade right now.

Miley Cyrus'* career was a result of her show Hannah Montana. She's the benficiary of the rockin' teenage girl demographic with her apparently still going recording career or something. Thanks, studio execs.

Here's last year's "7 Things," where she harnesses all her country/punk powers into one song:

Did you see her angry face?

Part Four: The Mediocre but Mostly Naked Girl

A few months ago, someone randomly put Britney Spears' debut album on in their car, and I realized the horrifying truth: I knew all the words to at least half of those songs. I don't even remember liking her when she first came out and was almost normal/clothed. While she was never a great musician, she was pretty good performer who could actually dance.

Anyway, here's 1999's "(You Drive Me) Crazy" when she was still kind of cute, had decent pop songwriters and Melissa Joan Hart had a career:

I totally wore my hair in pigtails when I was 12...sigh.

It blows my mind that Lady Gaga isn't even a year older than me. It makes me sad in fact, even though she's actually getting a ton of money for wearing ridiculous outfits and singing in her limited range. But how long is someone who fully embraces 80s style, white-girl raps, and has a high dependancy on computer remixes really stick around? Probably forever, if Britney and Madonna are any indication. Damnit.

Anyway, despite myself, "Poker Face" (released 2008) gets stuck in my head all the time. That chorus is so hook-y:

I'm so sorry.

*Who was part of last year's Apocalypse


Two movies about grown men and tweenage girls

Probably because I watched these fairly close together, there seem to be striking similarities between The Professional (1994) and The City of Lost Children (1995).

In The Professional, Leon (Jean Reno) is a hitman who saves Mathilda (Natalie Portman) from the men that killed her family. Mathilda then convinces Leon to help her avenge her brother's death. She asks to be "cleaner" just like Leon. Leon reluctantly agrees to train her.

In The City of Lost Children, One (Ron Perlman) is a performing strong man who loses his little brother Denree to a man who steals children and their dreams. One recruits the help of the crafty Miette (Judith Vittet) to help save Denree.

These films are both pretty grim children's stories. Let's face it, the best children's stories involve orphans where grown-ups don't really have a place in these movies, except as the enemy. These two films have that down.

The Professional just so happens to bring along a ton of violence, lots of guns, and the DEA, with a dash of budding sexuality. For content so adult, the film feels awfully naive--it's pretty much a straight forward kid's movie: a kid's family just doesn't understand, and when something comes into their life and/or something goes wrong, they latch onto fellow kids to save the day. In this case, Mathilda latches on to fellow kid Leon, who just so happens to kill people for a living. He avenges her brother's death--problem solved.

While it's easier to see the little kid in Ron Perlman's performance, with his short sweater and goofy haircut, Jean Reno also brings a kid-like perspective to his performance with his constant milk drinking and attachment to his plant. Oddly enough, these two actors perform in films where they're the only ones who aren't native speakers of the film's language. It adds to their awkwardness and innocence. And both Perlman and Reno are both quite large, and in the presence of lovely young actresses, they seem clumsy--except, of course, when they're kicking some ass. It's also a pleasure to watch these older actors give the younger actresses control in many of the scenes, completing the illusion that these are strictly child-filled duos.

Although, I find The City of Lost Children to be in some ways much grimmer than The Professional. It's a bizarre world full of bugs who poison, music that causes violence, machines that steal dreams, and a brain with a case of ennui. It even has some freak show like qualities in the siamese twins (kind of the Fagin/Bill Sikes of the tale), the four henchmen clones (all played by the fantastic Dominique Pinon), and One the strongman (La Strada flashbacks galore). None of the evil is straight forward violence, but complicated and twisted, caused by loneliness and genius. I find that much more disturbing than a corrupt government agency.

I'm just saying that this:
is way creepier than this:
Although I wouldn't watch either one of these right before bed. I don't think any one would want to steal my dreams the night I watched either of these two films.


I want to shoot Mary Murphey every time she speaks

But the dancing sure is good.

Thus begins my yearly love/hate relationship with So You Think You Can Dance. My favorite dance of last night was by the adorably short Randi and Evan. It's super sexy to musical stylings of Jamie Cullum. The dancing starts at about 2 minutes in.

Best show ever*.

*Well, the dancing at least.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 14

It's been 20 years. It's cool again, right?

Nothing has the ability to be more lame than referencing pop culture. It really is an art to do it well. Sometimes it can be subtle and delightful, or obvious and awkward. Part 14 of The Audacity of Rock is dedicated to the more obvious and awkward.

"Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money (1986)

The beauty of this song is that Eddie is very pointed with his reference to "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes by making it a simile. He even gets Ronnie Spector of the Ronnettes to sing the reference, creating the bizarre combination of very 60s vocals and very 80s instrumentals.

"1985" by Bowling for Soup (2004)

I didn't think I could hate this song or this band more, and then I watched the music video. Mostly, this song came out during the great 80s nostalgia of the oos, which by 2004 was already getting old (VH1 had already done 2 "I love the 80s" specials). The saddest part is that it's a cover. I have to give it to the original: it's bad, but not nearly as nasally or annoying.

But the big problem with this song though is that it's basically what Billy Joel did, yet only about the 80s and even more painful. I don't even know how that's possible. So congrats BFS. Quite the accomplishment.

Questions to ponder:
1. What's your favorite pop culture allusion?
2. When do you predict the 80s to go out of style for the second time?
3. How old are the members of Bowling for Soup? Shouldn't "acting like 19-year-olds who only know about the 80s from VH1" be on their Murtaugh list?

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If the BBC did camp...

...it would be the 2004 miniseries He Knew He Was Right. Adapted by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones' Diary, Daniel Deronda), he chose to use Ferris Beuller-esque, talk to the camera soliloquies to get into the character's inner thoughts. The effect is rather fun and often times hilarious.

Although I would never want to read the book because, quite simply, the main characters, the Trevelyans, are both kind of idiotic. The first paragraph of the wikipedia article is quite accurate:
He Knew He Was Right is a 1869 novel written by Anthony Trollope which describes the failure of a marriage caused by the unreasonable jealousy of a husband exacerbated by the stubbornness of a willful wife. As is common with Trollope's works, there are also several substantial subplots. Trollope considered this work to be a failure; he viewed the main character as unsympathetic, and the secondary characters and plots much more lively and interesting. It was adapted in 2004 by Andrew Davies as He Knew He Was Right.

Mr. Trollope was right: the secondary characters are fabulous and extremely entertaining. Here is a run-down of my favorites, some of them played by actors whom I recognize:

1. Bill Nighy plays the trouble mongering Colonel Osborne whose visits to Mrs. Trevelyan cause all the trouble in the first place. Bill Nighy is perfect in a role where his motivations can never really be known since his words and reputation conflict with each other. When he turns to the camera to justify his actions, it's a pleasure and absolutely hilarious.

2. The romance between Nora Rowly and Hugh Stanbury is adorable. Nora is the sister to the Mrs. Trevelyan, but remains gorgeous and calm through the whole ordeal. Probably because Hugh is so awesome and clear-minded as well. They fail to see that the other person is as into them as they are, but that resolves itself quickly enough. One of my favorite moments is when Hugh is trying to flirt with Nora, and Nora won't have any of it, and he starts his own sililoquy with "Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn." Said by a man with a cane is quite endearing.

3. Mr. Glascock is Nora's spurned lover. Well, he politely proposes, is politely refused, and goes on living a rather polite life. He sports a fantastic mustache, and eventually falls in love with an American girl with an implacable accent (is she supposed to be from the South or Midwest, I can't tell). Mostly, any character with any degree of common senese is preferable to the main characters and are automatically a favorite.

4. Mr. Gibson, played by David Tennant, is a town vicar who is initially taken by Dorothy Stanbury, but is rejected. In order for his reputation to be saved, a Mrs. French forces him into an engagemnet to one of the Misses French who he has flirted with for seven years, and both of whom are in love with him. Hilarity between awkward characters ensues, including one of my favorite turn-to-the-camera moments.

5. Jemima Stanbury is the spinster aunt of Hugh and Dorothy, and, much like Diana's spinster aunt in Anne of Green Gables, she is rich and convinced any one who comes near her only loves her for her money. However, she grows fond of the very good and very kind Dorothy, and enjoys the pleasant Brooke Burgess. Adorable.

6. Last are my two favorites, Dorothy Stanbury and Brooke Burgess. They have to be the most amiable characters ever written. Brooke is played by the charismatic Matthew Goode (who I fell in love with here, and am shocked when he's awful). Anyway, Dorothy and Brooke fall in love very quickly and sweetly with plenty of good humor.

In fact, all you really need to see of this miniseries is the following, which only features scenes in which Matthew Goode shows up. It misses some of the pseudo-obstacles for Brooke and Dorothy's relationship (letters written, objections given), but that was all ridiculous anyway:


Medley of the Day: Desperate love song edition

I don't know what it is, but I love depressing love songs where the people are just grasping for a few minutes of love or something they can pretend is love. And it's almost all about the vocal performance in these songs that makes them so awesome. Here's a trifecta of great ones:

1. "I Want to Know What Love Is" -Foreigner
The kicker of this song for me is the bridge. It's in a minor key and so heart wrenching. And then the gospel choir comes in and just makes it hilarious.

2. "I Can't Make You Love Me" - Bonnie Raitt
Ms. Raitt's raw alto voice at its finest.

3. "We've Got Tonight"* - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Sexy desperation. Hard to pull off, but Bob does it.

*Originally "We've Got Tonite." Awesome.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 13

Euro-centric gaze and obsession with the far east.

A form of racial fascination that seems out of place in this day in age. Weird.

"China Girl" by David Bowie (1983--popular release)

David Bowie singing about his "little" Chinese lover in the weirdest terms possible. Example lyric: I stumble into town just like a sacred cow/Visions of swastikas in my head...??? I think someone's getting off on interracial love. Weirdly.

And probably because I view Ziggy Stardust as asexual, this video is even more disturbing than it needs to be.

"Rich Girl" by Gwen Stefani (2005)

Not only is Gwen "I used to be in a legit band" Stefani bastardizing a great song from a great musical, this video features her 4-person Asian entourage, the Harajuku Girls. They're like little dolls to be displayed in the background of the blonde-haired star. Weird, weird, creepy.

"Walking on a Dream" by Empire of the Sun (2008)

This one is less disturbing since it just uses the setting of Shanghai and has Chinese inspired costuming/make-up for the band members. But shirtless-open-jacket guy is super creepy and therefore makes it just as awful.

Questions to ponder:
1. WTF?

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