Friday, January 23, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman...Oscar!

A few days ago the Oscar nominations were announced and I thought I would share my picks for this year. Unfortunately I haven't seen all of the movies up for awards this year (I plan to see a few more) so my picks are based only on the films I have seen and what I have heard about the ones I have not.

* This means I have not seen this film

Best Motion Picture of the Year:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Ceán Chaffin, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall
*Frost/Nixon (2008): Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Eric Fellner
Milk (2008): Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks
*The Reader (2008): Nominees to be determined
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Christian Colson

I think it will be between Milk and Slumdog. I hope that Milk wins but based on how well it did at the Golden Globes, I think that Slumdog will win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:

*Richard Jenkins for The Visitor (2007)
*Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon (2008)
Sean Penn for Milk (2008)
Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (2008)

I think it will be a close call between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke but I think Rourke will go home with the gold. Almost anyone who has seen the film will agree that he deserves it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:

*Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married (2008)
*Angelina Jolie for Changeling (2008)
*Melissa Leo for Frozen River (2008)
*Meryl Streep for Doubt (2008/I)
*Kate Winslet for The Reader (2008)

I have not seen any of these films yet this year but I think it will be between Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep. My decision for this one is based on previous roles and the Golden Globes. Meryl Streep has been around for a while and has won a lot of awards and she usually turns out solid work. Kate Winslet also has many good performances under her belt and considering her sweep at the Golden Globes, I think she might take the win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:

Josh Brolin for Milk (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder (2008)
*Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (2008/I)
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008)
Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road (2008)

First I must say how funny it is that Robert Downy Junior is nominated. He is an awesome actor, he seems like a cool guy, he's making a huge comeback right now and his role in Tropic Thunder was hilarious. However, I don't think his character had enough power to go up against such names as Josh Brolin, Heath Ledger and Phil Hoffman. I think the award will probably go to either Ledger or Brolin. They both turned out a very good work this year and I think everyone knew it but you also can't count Phil Hoffman out of the running considering all the great work he's done. I recently saw Revolutionary Road and I didn't even realize who Michael Shannon was in the film but I mentioned to my friend that the actor who played John should be nominated. He was absolutely fantastic! He was possibly one of the best characters in the film but I think regardless of how good he was, I'm not sure he had enough screen time to win in a category with such talented actors.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:

*Amy Adams for Doubt (2008/I)
*Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
*Viola Davis for Doubt (2008/I)
Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler (2008)

I don't really have much of an opinion on this category. I think that both Marisa Tomei and Taraji P. Henson did good jobs but I have heard great things about Amy Adams and Penelope Cruz

Best Achievement in Directing:

Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
*Stephen Daldry for The Reader (2008)
David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
*Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon (2008)
Gus Van Sant for Milk (2008)

Now this is a seriously good list of directors. All of them have turned out a lot of good work over the course of their careers and these films are nothing to scoff at. I love Danny Boyle, especially his early work, and I think he did a great job and he may win it. However, I am very partial to David Fincher considering he is one of my favorite directors. He may have a good shot but unfortunately, I don't think he'll be sharing a ride home with oscar. Gus Van Sant did an excellent job on MILK, and I don't mean to offend him or his work when I say this, but I think the film could have survived with another director unlike a film like Slumdog. Ron Howard also has other great work under his belt so he may be a contender. I haven't heard much about Daldry's work but I hear the film is fantastic.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:

*Frozen River (2008): Courtney Hunt
*Happy-Go-Lucky (2008): Mike Leigh
*In Bruges (2008): Martin McDonagh
Milk (2008): Dustin Lance Black
WALL·E (2008): Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon

I hear Happy-Go-Lucky is great and very funny and after the Golden Globes, I think In Bruges could be a serious contender. I haven't heard anything about Frozen River so I can't say much about it but I think MILK had a great screenplay and that it played a huge part in the quality of the film. WALL·E was great and I loved the movie but I don't really think it will win this award.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Eric Roth, Robin Swicord
*Doubt (2008/I): John Patrick Shanley
*Frost/Nixon (2008): Peter Morgan
*The Reader (2008): David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Simon Beaufoy

I loved both of the movies that I did see in this category but I wasn't in love with their screenplays. Benjamin Button was nice and heart warming and inspirational but a little cheesy, however don't count Eric Roth out considering he was nominated for Munich and The Insider and won for Forrest Gump. Even though I haven't seen it, I predict this one going to Doubt. I just have a feeling. I must say though that I'm a little disappointed that Revolutionary Road wasn't nominated.

Best Achievement in Cinematography:

*Changeling (2008): Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight (2008): Wally Pfister
*The Reader (2008): Roger Deakins, Chris Menges
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Anthony Dod Mantle

Slumdog Millionaire. Hands down.

Best Achievement in Editing:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter
The Dark Knight (2008): Lee Smith
*Frost/Nixon (2008): Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
Milk (2008): Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Chris Dickens

Again, I have to give it to Slumdog but don't count Benjamin Button or MILK out.

Best Achievement in Costume Design:

*Australia (2008): Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Jacqueline West
*The Duchess (2008): Michael O'Connor
Milk (2008): Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road (2008): Albert Wolsky

I really liked the costumes in Revolutionary Road because I really like the styles from that era but I think the Duchess will win just because it's a victorian piece.

Best Achievement in Makeup:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Greg Cannom
The Dark Knight (2008): John Caglione Jr., Conor O'Sullivan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008): Mike Elizalde, Thomas Floutz

Benjamin Button had great make up and I thought Brad Pitt looked amazing but most of what looked like incredible make up was actually special effects, so I don't think it will win. The Joker looked awesome in The Dark Knight and so did Two Face but I don't think those two characters are enough to win. I give the win to Hellboy II because as always, Guillermo del Toro showed the world some of the most incredible creatures ever thought up and this team brought them to life, so I say Hellboy all the way.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song:

Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A.R. Rahman, Gulzar("Jai Ho")
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A.R. Rahman, Maya Arulpragasam("O Saya")
WALL·E (2008): Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman("Down to Earth")

I wish the Boss was nominated for The Wrestler because then he would win another award for the song but since I have to choose from these three, I give it to one of the Slumdog songs. People loved the music in the film and I don't blame them, I just liked the Peter Gabriel song better.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
The Dark Knight (2008): Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Timothy Webber, Paul J. Franklin
Iron Man (2008): John Nelson, Ben Snow, Daniel Sudick, Shane Mahan

Even if you hated Benjamin Button, I'm betting you loved the special effects. They were fantastic! I was amazed at how great they were and I really hope it wins.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year:

*Bolt (2008): Chris Williams, Byron Howard
Kung Fu Panda (2008): John Stevenson, Mark Osborne
WALL·E (2008): Andrew Stanton

I will be very surprised if WALL·E doesn't win. They were planning on giving it a Best Picture Nomination for Christ's sake!

So those are my predictions and I hope I am right. If I see any more of the nominated films before the Oscars, which I plan on doing, I will update my prediction if necessary.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bon Iver...Why Are You So Good?

Today, January 20th could have been one of the best days in new music in a long time. First of all, Andrew Bird came out with a new album and it is AWESOME. SOOOOO good!!!! I love it and you must buy it now but the highlight for me today was the release of Bon Iver's new EP, Blood Bank. These four incredible songs has completely changed not only the way I look at Bon Iver's music, but music as a whole. It is in every sense of the word, perfect. Bon Iver has taken all of his talent from his first album and has added tons of energy. Every second of this album is strong, powerful, beautiful, fragile, and tight. Unlike For Emma, Forever Ago, the EP was produced at a much higher quality and it really shows through. Every sound is heard clearly and it doesn't have any rough edges.

The first song on the EP is Blood Bank, a very strong song with a lot of great components. The dull guitar reminds me a little of Neil Young and it is solid like a rock. It really flows but hits hard. Vernon's vocals come in next and they are haunting as ever. His voice is just perfect and it blends right in with the rest of the song. The lyrics are also fantastic, painting a beautiful picture but at the same is a little scary.

The next song is Beach Baby, a throw back ( I guess its not much of a throw back since For Emma came out last year but...) to For Emma, Forever Ago. It's a very kind and gentle song that really slows everything down. The lyrics as well bring a calming effect to your body.

The third track, Babys, is awesome and heart pounding. The high pitch piano is great and really hits your ears in a very nice way. It's very intense and really energetic. The lyrics make me think he's running from something but running with someone. All the high pitches in this song come together in an erie, melodious, beautiful, Bon Iver-y way and is very good.

Now on to the real gem of the EP, Woods. I can say little about this song except for...WOW! This song is fantastic and his best song yet. It sounds as though it came to him in a dream and the thoughts and tune could not escape him. I love that he didn't add any instruments so that we can really focus on the lyrics, which are fantastic. They really capture the essence of the song and I think what his music is all about. He only sings one verse the entire song but he sings it over and over again, adding and subtracting layers of vocals each time and each verse, sounds like a new song. The high pitch wails scream power and passion, the extremely low, almost indecipherable blows go straight to the soul and pulls at the strings of my heart. Together, each part of the song is perfect and nearly brings me to tears each time I listen to it (9 to be exact). If you're going to buy this EP, the main reason should be to hear this one song that may change your ears forever.

In the end, this is the first must hear album of 09 and I think it will stay at the top of my list for a long time. I give it 5/5 stars and I only wish I could personally thank Justin Vernon myself for writing such beautiful music. So I leave you with a quote I came across that was said by Jagjaguwar, the record label that Bon Iver is signed to, about the new EP that I feel is very true.

"As much as Emma is about the cold, the Blood Bank collection is about the warmth that gets you through it. You can feel the air move. Like a fire you've been stoking for hours and finally got to sustain itself, the heat blisters your face while your back is frozen solid."

500 Days of Summer

The film 500 Days of Summer is written by my friend's cousin and screened at Sundance the other day. It is getting a HUGE amount of press and by the looks of the trailer, it deserves it. The film stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zoe Deschanel. It appears to be the next big indie hit, following in the footsteps of other Fox Searchlight films such as, Garden State, Juno, and Slumdog Millionaire. This trailer is definitely worth checking out and I will be counting the days till it's release.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cute as Heck

I'm just waiting for the disney movie to be made.

Che: Part One

The other night I went to see part one of Steven Soderbergh's Che. The film was extraordinary to say the least. Very powerful and very well thought out. I really felt as though Che had come to life on the screen and we were seeing his every movement and that I was able to understand his every thought and decision. The film gives a lot of insight into the behind the scenes work that he did throughout the revolution and makes you really think about the love and the passion that these men had for their country and their cause.

The characters are all well developed, even the ones you meet briefly. Soderbergh does an excellent job of making each character as real as possible and although some are doing terrible things to other people, you see and know the cause that they are fighting for. There is a lot of historical significance and even though I have not read his diary which the film is based on, I have heard that it stays very true to what actually happened.

One of the highlights of the film was the acting. Benicio del Toro is as the reviewers are saying, "flawless." His portrayal is great and very believable. He does not slip up once the entire film which is remarkable considering he is in almost every scene. He is great to watch because he really captures the screen and the essence of the moment. I hope that he is at least nominated for an Oscar this year. The supporting actors in the film were great as well. The actor who played Fidel is especially notable as was the actor who played Alejandro Ramirez. Another great aspect of the film was the cinematography. They really used the background and the landscape to bring the movie to life and used the harsh and unforgiving jungles to their advantage. It makes for a beautiful film and the vivid colors really pop out making it very exciting. I also enjoyed the fact that almost the entire film is in spanish, except for the parts where there are english speaking characters. It added a deep level of authenticity thus making it not seem so hollywood even though it may look it at points. One of the best parts of the film however is the brief moments of humor including a conversation with Senator McCarthy among other very funny moments. There are also a lot of great and powerful quotes from Che that are very cool and suave. My only major complaint was the music. Sometimes it was very good and had a latin theme to it, but other times it just felt like a very American score which was disappointing.

Over all the film is fantastic, a definite must see of this season. I highly recommend it to anyone. I give it 4/5 stars and a promise that I will see part two in theaters before it goes to DVD.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Movie

Hey everyone!

I recently made a movie for school and I thought I might share it with all of you. Check it out and tell me what you think. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Favorite Soundtracks

I recently made a short film from school and used the original score from the film Solaris and after screening it, someone said, "the music choice is perfect. How did you find it?" Now something you must know about me is that I love original scores and compilation soundtracks. I think that without them, every single movie ever made would become completely ordinary. They add an enormous amount of emotion and can completely change the mood of any film. I find that many people don't really like original scores but in this post, I will first list my top 10 favorite compilation soundtracks and then my top 10 favorite original scores, all along with a brief explanation. Each entry on the list is there because of how important they are to the over all mood of the film and it's enjoyment value outside of the film. Enjoy!


10. Stubbs the Zombie - Now even though this is a video game, the soundtrack is AWESOME! It's got a bunch of great bands including Death Cab for Cutie, The Flaming Lips, Rogue Wave, Ben Kweller and a bunch more all doing covers of songs from the 50's. Definitely worth buying.

9. High Fidelity - First of all, this movie is great and should be seen by every music fan and not to mention, every guy. The soundtrack has a lot of fun stuff but also a lot of emotion. There are some sad break up songs and some happy break up songs. It ranges all over the place and really comes together in a strong way.

8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - This is the first of a few Wes Anderson soundtracks and although great, only comes in at number 8. The movie is a lot of fun and so is the soundtrack. It's got a good mix of various bands such as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The Zombies and not to mention some great Bowie covers by Portuguese musician Seu Jroge.

7. I'm Not There - For a long time I didn't love Bob Dylan. I appreciated his work but couldn't really get into him until a little before this soundtrack came out. However great his music is, this CD really showed how great it could be in a totally different way. There are a lot of awesome bands on this album from Jeff Tweedy, Yo La Tengo and The Black Keys to Karen O, Sonic Youth and Stephen Malkmus. It's a lot of fun and really deep. Some artists really go somewhere new with their songs and some stay on a similar track as the original. The highlight for me is Marcus Carl Franklin, a 15 year old black kid who plays Bob Dylan in the film,doing a rendition of When the Ship Comes In.

6. Rushmore - The 2nd Wes Anderson soundtrack on the list and the first one I ever heard. There's a lot of happy peppy songs on here and like all of Anderson's films, they plays a key roll in the film. Mark Mothersbaugh's score is interspersed throughout the album and there are a lot of great old songs on here, my favorite being Ooh La La by the Faces.

5. The Pianist - For anyone who has seen the film, which is incredible, the music is something that really sticks out. Adrian Brody's characters does a phenomenal job bringing emotion to the movie but the music brings the mood. Each song chosen by director Roman Polanski himself is truly beautiful and powerful. Every time I listen to it, it makes me remember how heavy and deep the film is.

4.I Am Sam - I haven't seen this film since it first came out on DVD but it's a great film and again, the music plays a huge role in the plot. Each song is a cover of a Beatles song by many contemporary artists such as Ben Harper, Ben Folds, Eddie Vedder and tons more. It's a lot of fun to listen to even if you haven't seen the movie and brings a lot of new energy to old favorites.

3. Almost Famous - Anyone who has ever seen a Cameron Crowe movie always remembers the music and this film is all about the music. The film is incredible and the soundtrack is just as good. It's got a bunch of great classic rock songs and is packed with energy. The highlights of the album for me are America by Simon and Garfunkel and Sparks by The Who. The images in the film go along perfectly with the music and having the soundtrack is a great way to relive the film.

2. Garden Sate - This is a soundtrack that I think almost every single person has. It's awesome and really opened up the indie world to the mainstream. The songs are really fun, relaxing and fresh. It all goes very well together and the film does a great job of incorporating them. It's an awesome album and could possibly one of the best soundtracks of all time, not just for its music but also for its impact on the music world. One of my favorites is Don't Panic by Coldplay and New Slang by The Shins.

1. The Royal Tenenbaums - As well as my favorite soundtrack, this is also my favorite movie. It packs in a lot of great tunes and really takes you through a journey, the same way the film does. It's filled with great bands like the Ramones, the Clash, and the Velvet Underground but also has an awesome score by Mark Mothersbaugh. The most memorable songs from the movie and the soundtrack would have to be Needle in the Hay by Elliot Smith, Fly by Nick Drake and These Days by Nico. This is a Wes Anderson soundtrack at it's finest and should be owned by everyone.

Other Notable Compilations:

Blow, Children of Men, The Darjeeling Limited, Dazed and Confused, Easy Rider, Jerry Maguire, Little Miss Sunshine, Zodiac

10. Bottle Rocket - Bottle Rocket is Wes Anderson's first film and also a great one. It's a very playful, light and cool movie. Fun to watch and easily enjoyable. The soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh is not utilized very well throughout the film but is still pretty good. It's got some jazz on it and some very fun tracks that just make you happy, my favorite being 75 Year Plan. This is a pretty hard to find CD but if you're as a big a fan of Wes Anderson as I am, you wont want to miss this one.

9. Christmas on Mars - This is an awesome movie and I don't understand a minute of it. The film was a project by the Flaming Lips and was made over five years. It's a total trip and if you're a big Lips fan, you'll love it. The soundtrack really captures the weirdness of the film and is totally crazy! There is no singing on the entire CD, only sounds and mixed to be compatible with 5.1 surround sounds systems, this CD is sure to blow your mind.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - As I said before, this was one of my favorite films of the year. It was a truly touching and beautiful film. The images are put together like a work of art and flow brilliantly. Alexander Desplat's score is beautiful and haunting at times. It is very powerful, but not over emotional. It added a lot of feeling to the film and is a nice album to relax to. My only complaint is that there are audio clips from the film throughout the CD which is a little strange but I can deal.

7. MILK - I LOVED this film and I LOVE this soundtrack. I believe it to be one of Danny Elfman's best scores and is extremely moving. The songs move like a good opera and is just as powerful as one. The CD reminds me a lot of Harvey's character in the film. Sometimes very calm and loving but sometimes sad and overwhelmed by the world around him. My favorite tracks on the album is Main Theme and Harvey's Theme. This is a great score for anyone to buy and I highly recommend it as a first original score in anyone's collection.

6. Chelsea Walls - This movie, unfortunately, flew way below the radar when it came out in 2002. Ethan Hawkes directorial debut, the movie tells stories of various characters living in the famous Chelsea Hotel. It is a beautiful and poetic film and is something everyone should see at least once. The score is done by two of my favorite people in the world Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy and drummer Glenn Kotche (pronounced Kot-chee) and it is great! It is sometimes very haunting and eerie but sometimes very beautiful and calm. The soundtrack could stand alone without the film but the film really gives it meaning. There are also two songs on the album by actors Steve Zahn (yes that Steve Zahn) and Robert Sean Leonard, from house. One song is a cover of Wilco's Lonely One and the other is a little folk ditty. If you are a big Wilco fan, you will want to get this and I think after seeing the movie, everyone will want to buy it. Key tracks include The Wallman and Finale.

5. Solaris - Solaris is Steven Soderberg's remake of a 1970's Russian Sci-Fi film and is a beautiful masterpiece. The movie is presented like a delicate piece of art. Both haunting and human yet very distanced and alien. There is minimal dialogue in the film so you hear a lot of the soundtrack and it is exceptional. Cliff Martinez wrote a great score using mainly xylophones and various electronic sounds. The score goes perfectly with the film and is great to chill out to.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Hands down, one of my favorite movies of all time. Anyone who has seen it knows exactly how great it is and it's immense beauty. The soundtrack utilizes a lot of sounds which goes perfectly with the tone of the film. At times the songs can get a little scary but it's all part of the film. Kubrick hand chose every song on this soundtrack and personally supervised the score. The original songs are great and perfect for any fan of the film. Songs such as Blue Danube Waltz and Also Sprach Zarathustra are used in very memorable moments in the film and are parts of some the greatest moments in cinematic history.

3. The Fountain - An Incredible film by prodigy director Darren Aronofsky. The film is a work of art to be marveled at. It is as inspiring as it is beautiful. Clint Mansell and Aronofsky have collaborated before on Requiem for a Dream, in which the score was a little less coherent. This album is extremely deep and powerful. The heavy strings really bring a ton of emotion to the film. This album is definitely worth buying.

2. Into the Wild - This is one of my favorite films to come out in the past few years. It is really truly, an excellent film from every single angle and Eddie Vedder's original soundtrack is nothing short of phenomenal. It is raw and powerful and an awesome album to listen to. It's got really upbeat and hard hitting tracks such as Hard Sun and very emotional songs such as Guaranteed. It rarely happens that an original soundtrack can really stand out alone as an album as well as go perfectly with the film. Everyone should own this album, I give it 5/5 stars and recommend everyone to see the film.

1. There Will Be Blood - This film was also one of my favorites to come out within the past few years. It is an absolute masterpiece and I think it will go down as one of the greatest films of the decade. This score was written by Radiohead guitarist, Johnny Greenwood as a solo project before the film was made. When he started to win all kinds of awards for his work, it attracted Paul Thomas Anderson's attention. P.T. Anderson then incorporated into his turn of the century, oil tycoon film, filled with dark and ominous themes. The score is perfect for the film and if you didn't know any better, you would think that Greenwood worked closely with Anderson to create a perfect accompaniment. The film is fantastic and the score is also great, however I do recommend seeing the film before buying the album, but this album is phenomenal from start to finish.

If you are a fan of older Scores, I highly recommend buy The Essential Hollywood, a compilation of memorable scores throughout film history.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This Warm December

This Warm December is a collection of holiday songs by artists on Jack Johnson's record label, Brushfire Records. The label is made up of many great artists including Jack Johnson, ALO, G. Love, Matt Costa, Mason Jennings and the newly added Rogue Wave.

Jack Johnson kicks off the album with a Stevie Wonder cover, Someday at Christmas. It's a pretty classic example of the Jack Johnson mellow sound but is not my personal favorite on the album. Next on the album is Santa Clause is Coming to Town covered by Mason Jennings. I love Mason Jennings, I think he's got a great voice and really sticks out in the folk world. This cover is a lot of fun and although he doesn't really make song his own, his guitar playing makes it a really nice tune. After that is All I Want for Christmas is You by Matt Costa. This song is a bit of a disappointment because I think Matt Costa has a lot to offer but this song is kind of depressing and a little lame. The next song is No Christmas for Me by a new comer by the name of Zee Avi. She's got a really nice voice and the song has good lyrics which add up to a nice light song that is fun and easy to listen to. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything else by her but I look forward to some future records. The next track is Stuck at the Airport by Money Mark. I'm not very familiar with his work but this song, although VERY repetitive is pretty good, not my favorite but good. The next song is Christmas Baby by G. Love. A cool song and quintessential G. Love. It's got a cool harmonica and fun guitar to back it up. Next is Christmas Time by ALO and it's pretty good. ALO does a good job of making this one their own and will have you tapping your foot in no time. The song ends on a strange note but does not ruin it. The next song is The Man in the Santa Suit by Neil Halstead which sounds a lot like a Bruce Springsteen song and is nice to listen to. Not your typical christmas song but good nonetheless. After that is Christmas by Rogue Wave. When I saw that they had signed to Brushfire Records, I was surprised but I think it'll be a good expansion for the label. The song is pretty good and is reminiscent of early Rogue Wave with a lo-fi recording and and light voice. Next is one of the better songs on the album, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer by Jack Johnson. This is a very peppy song and fun to listen to. Excellent for all fans of the mellow folk genre and definitely great for Jack Johnson fans. The album ends with a version of Silent Night by ALO lead singer Zach Gill. It is very nice and relaxing. He doesn't try to go out of his range and make it too complicated and is a good song to fall asleep to.

Over all i give the album 3.5/5 stars. I am big fan of the Brushfire Record catalogue and even if you're not, I think you would like this album. It's a lot of fun and is nice to chill out to. Since this is volume 1, I look forward to volume 2 and can't wait to hear what comes next for Brushfire.

Sky Blue Sky

From time to time I will search through my library and post on a personal favorite. Today I will be discussing on of my all time favorite albums Sky Blue Sky by my favorite band Wilco.

Sky Blue Sky is Wilco's 6th studio album and arguably one of their best. Released May 15th, 2007, it sold 87,000 copies in it's first week making it Wilco's best selling record. Recorded at their Loft in Downtown Chicago, this was the first album with Multi-Instrumentalists Nels Cline as a full time member and Pat Sansone. It received mostly positive reviews except from sources such as Pitchfork Media, criticizing it's "dad-sound." 

The band wanted to create a much more mellow sound, therefore took a more relaxed approach to the recording process compared to their previous album, A Ghost is Born. Tweedy took inspiration from bands such as The Byrds and Fairport Convention and looked to make a sound similar to The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and The Beatles. 

The album starts off with the mellow Either Way and a great guitar to begin the record. The song has a little bit of a folky start but gets a bit experimental with a crisp guitar solo towards the middle. The next song, You Are My Face, is a nice picture and features more of Jeff Tweddy's poetic lyricism. In the middle of the song, there is a great solo featuring a very cool raspy guitar played by Nels Cline. Tweedy's vocals become stronger and have more emotion at this point and thus the song becomes more powerful. The next song is my favorite on the album, the jazzy, Impossible Germany. This song utilizes both Tweedy's beautiful lyrics and Nels Cline's awesome guitar abilities. It ends with one of the best guitar solos on any Wilco song. Next is the title track Sky Blue Sky, a country song that would sound a little more appropriate on their second album, Being There, but is still a good song. After that is Side with the Seeds, a bluesy song with Tweedy belting out his vocals against a cool guitar part. The middle of the song gets a little hectic but will be enjoyed by any Wilco fan. Next is the funk influenced Shake it Off with a great bass line by Jon Stirrait. Then is the very deep and emotional love song Please Be Patient With Me, which is done entirely solo by Jeff Tweedy. The next track is the blues song, Hate It Here, a great ballad to a missing woman. The song has great guitar parts interspersed throughout and of course fantastic belting vocals. The next song, Leave me (Like You Found Me), is a bit plain and would also easily fit into Being There but is still a good song. Then there is Walken, one of the better tracks on the album with a very fun slide guitar by Nels Cline and some great guitar playing by Jeff (the song may sound familiar from the Volkswagen commercial). Then the album's single, What Light, which is a country song about being your own person, a nice moral to come away with. It is a good song and reminiscent of the Mermaid Avenue collaborations with Billy Bragg. The final song on the album On and On and On is the weakest song in the collection with very mediocre and shallow lyrics, possibly written by Tweedy's sons Spencer (13) and Sam (10).

This album gets a 4/5 stars. It is a near masterpiece and comes together in a very strong way and is the bands most mature work to date. They have announced an album coming out some time this spring so keep your eyes out for that. This is an album every collection should have so if you don't already own it, go out and buy it now.

Strange Weirdos

Strange Weirdos is Loudon Wainwright III's most recent album and is also the soundtrack to the film Knocked Up. No this album does not contain songs like Shimmy Shimmy Ya or Rock Lobster but is rather songs from and inspired by the film (mostly inspired by). There are a few songs that were featured in the movie such as Daughter and Grey in L.A. but this album rings very true to Loudon's usual work. 

The album is great and of course Wainwright's voice is perfect as always. There are a lot of great fun songs on here such as X or Y, Feel So Good, and Passion Play but he also takes some breaks to slow down and relax on Lullaby and Final Frontier. Most of the songs are some sort of love song in one way or another. Some are more personal than others and some sadder than others. I'm not sure if it's his voice or if what the songs are about actually happened to him, but he sings each song with a lot of passion and a lot emotion. 

My personal favorite song on the album is X or Y. It's a fun song with a lot of bluesy influence and you can really feel Loudon's voice and energy come through on the track. The background vocals are a nice touch and the twangy guitar is a nice accompaniment. So whether your new to Wainwright III's work or your veteran, this is a good purchase. There are a few songs I could live without so maybe you want to pick and choose on iTunes but it's worth checking out.

The Wrestler

One movie that everyone has been talking about this year is The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Critics have been calling it the "resurection of Mickey Rourke" and "an unqualified triumph" so I knew I had to see it. Fortunately I was lent the For Your Consideration DVD and was able to watch it at home but that did not take away from the power of the film.

The film opens with news clippings talking about Randy "The Ram" Robinson behind the opening credits while a song likening to Guns and Roses plays in the background. Then over a black screen, we hear a man coughing and wheezing and it sounds as though he may die in a matter of moments but then we see Mickey, sitting in a chair with his back to the camera. He has long bleached hair, a fake tan and black tights on. Although we cannot see his face we can tell that he is old, broken down and tired. He then leaves the locker room to greet a few fans asking for an autograph but we still cannot see his face. The next scene is one of my favorites in the entire film. He enters a room filled with men all wearing ridiculous outfits and with enormous muscles. They are all a very happy bunch and besides their size are seemingly harmless. When Rourke walks in the door, he is treated like a celebrity and we finally see his face. It is completely torn up, scared and broken. He is completely different from his pretty boy looks of the mid eighties and you're not sure if its the make up or if it's actually him. The scene continues as a man reads the order of fights for that night. Rourke is sitting in a room putting on his pads when his opponent, Tommy Rotten, walks in the door. If you were to see this man on the street you would most likely run the other way but when he talks to Rourke, he is actually very nice and tender. They then begin to talk about their routine in detail and so does every other wrestler in the room. The scene is actually quite comical but when the fighting starts there is nothing comical about it. Even though the fight is choreographed between the two wrestkers, the pain seems extremely real and I was cringing with every hit.

That is all the detail I will go into but what I can't go without talking about is the acting. Every performance is perfect. Mickey Rourke is fawless as the washed up "Ram". He absolutely believable from start to finish. His stripper girlfriend Marrisa Tomei does a great job. She took on a very hard role, filled with deep emotion and exotic dancing but pulls it off with grace. Rourke's daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood is very good. She brings a lot of youth to the film and she is by far the prettiest person in the movie. Director Darren Aronofsky does an excellent job, taking what could have been an almost ordinary film and making it into something incredible. One review compared him to a young Scorsese, and I completely agree. I seriously admire his versatility having recently directed ultra experimental Sci-Fi Romance, The Fountain.

Every scene is phenomenal and unmissable, do not get up to go to the bathroom during this one! You don't want to miss a second. I give this a 4.5/5 and Rourke is a serious contender for Best Actor and may steal it from Sean Penn. Aronofsky will definitely get a nomination for Best Director and most likely a Best Picture nod. Bruce Springsteen will probably win Best Original Song for "The Wrestler" and possibly some other random nominations. Definitely see this movie before it's too late. 


With the Oscars coming soon and so many great films out, for the next few weeks I will be putting some focus on what appear to be the movies that will be on the academy's mind.

One of the first films I saw this season was MILK. An incredible story about gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man ever to be elected to major office. The film is written by Dustin Lance Black, a relatively unknown writer and is Directed by Gus Van Sant (Good WIll Hunting). The story is told by Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, as he narrates throughout.

Now I have always been a fan of good opening credit sequences and this one is very good. It features black and white videos and news clippings talking about the abuse of gay men by police and the government accompanied by a great score by Danny Elfman. It then opens on Sean Penn sitting down at his kitchen table and recording his will with interspersed clips of actual news coverage of Milk's assassination. We are then showed the beginning of Milk's career in 1970 when he meets his lover-to-be Scott, played by James Franco. The two of them make an excellent and believable couple but the age difference makes it a little strange to see.

I wont go much further into the plot because this is a movie everyone should see. Sean Penn is absolutely perfect and doesn't make a single mistake. Emille Hirsch is very funny and also very good proving that his talent will not be wasted on another Speed Racer. Josh Brolin as the famous Dan White, is excellent but I personally would like to have seen him receive a little more character development. James Franco is also great adding to a nice touch to very real story. Those are the big names featured in this movie but nevertheless, the rest of the cast does not disappoint! They do a superb job of backing up the already fantastic jobs of the better known actors. 

So far this is my number one pick for 2008. The story is very touching and heartbreaking and the acting is fantastic, near flawless. The writing is very good. The dialogue feels very true and is usually kept light and comical but does not take away from the seriousness of the subject matter and plot. The directing and cinematography are nice. It is well done and very tight. Not an expendable shot in the entire movie. I give this film 4.5/5 stars and my picks for Best Actor-Sean Penn, Best Original Score-Danny Elfman, definite nomination for Best Picture and Best Director-Gus Van Sant and maybe some technical awards will be thrown in there. To wrap it up, if there is a movie out there to see this season, see MILK. And bring tissues, this ones a crier.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Over vacation I tried to see as many of the possible Oscar contending movies as I could, including Milk, Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler (hopefully I will see more in the weeks to come) but for a long time, my eye has been on the release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Something you should know is that I am a huge fan of David Fincher and would argue that he is one of the best directors to emerge over the past 20 years. The other day, I read an article in the New York Times saying that Fincher would be interviewed at Lincoln Center and I immediately got tickets but then realized I hadn't yet seen the movie so I went to go see it the night before the interview. I went into the movie unsure as to how I would feel. I knew this would not be a typical Fincher thriller and I had heard from various sources that the movies was either just okay, or great but I figured I would enjoy it. 


The film begins a little slow with a seemingly out of place story about an elderly woman in what appears to be her death bed, being comforted by her daughter. The woman begins to tell the story about a clock maker who builds a clock which goes backwards. At this point I was still unsure how this all related but it seemed like it went with the theme so my attention span had not been lost. As the story continues, the daughter begins to read through a diary written by Benjamin Button and narrated by Brad Pitt. I wont go into the details too much further but I will say that the story is very nice and heart warming. It is a relatively cliche story but told in an unconventional way. Admittedly the film seems like a perfect mix between Big Fish and Forest Gump (which has the same screenwriter as Button) but it is given beautiful imagery by Fincher.

Brad Pitt does an excellent job of playing the New Orleans born Benjamin Button putting a very convincing southern bayou accent on. His acting has never been better and his fellow cast members including, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Jared Harris and Tilda Swinton all do an outstanding job of supporting him. However, as good a job as the actors do, what really stuck out to me was the special effects used on Pitt's aging process and in various scenes throughout. I found the effects to be extremely realistic and used in very imaginative ways.

Overall, the film is fantastic. It comes together from every possible angle in all the right places. My only real complaint is it's length. I did not have a problem with it, but I could see how many people might. However, the film does end with a very nice moral and managed to get me a little choked up. I give it 4/5 stars and a major round of applause to David Fincher for transforming what could have been a very ordinary fairy tale into a tale of grand proportions. He never ceases to amaze me and I look forward to what he comes out with next.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Morning Jacket New Years Eve 2008

Now I know this is a little late but I think it's something that must be shared with the world. On new years eve 2008, my girlfriend and I went to see My Morning Jacket at Madison Square Garden and it was one of the best nights of my life. We took the subway down there and as we got closer to the garden, we started to see people dressed up in the most bizarre outfits,  ranging from tuxedos and party gowns, to long curly wigs and tie die shirts. We immediately felt under dressed in our regular clothes. 
We were sitting there for about an hour as the arena began to fill up with more of the same crowd and at about 9:15, the band went on. They opened with a cover version of Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield and although most of the crowd did not know the words (myself included), we all went crazy. Next they played the title track from their new album Evil Urges but this time, the crowd went crazier. Both the audience and the band were filled with tons of energy and we knew we were in for a wild night.

They continued to play until 11:40, playing mostly their own songs but they pulled out a few covers by Marvin Gaye, Charles Wright and Dion. All funk songs and all packed with enthusiasm. They ended their first set with Mahgeetah, a personal favorite and promised the hungry crowd they'd be back in 20 minutes, just in time to ring in the new year. 

Surely enough, at precisely 11:59 and with 20 seconds to go, they started the countdown and at midnight, they dropped a huge projection screen down from in front of the band to reveal that they had changed into white tuxedos, equipped with matching top hats and canes. They played Celebration by Kool & the Gang, a major crowd pleaser, and Get Down On It, also by Kool. Their second set was just as good as their first possibly even better. The crowd was completely psyched up and was dancing like there wasn't anyone watching. 

Definitely one of the best concerts I have ever been to and probably the most fun. They put on a great show and played almost all of their best songs. If you have the means to see them, I highly recommend it.

First Post

Hi everyone! This is my inaugural post and I've never done this before so please bare with me as I learn the ins and outs of blogging. In posts to come I will be sharing my favorite music and movies, concerts and films I have seen and that are upcoming, and more! Please feel free to write me a comment about anything I write or even suggestions on what to write about. I'm happy to hear from you!