Monthly Archives: February 2011

Oscar thoughts

Here is my obligatory review of last night’s Academy Awards… yawn. The opening bit was funny but nothing spectacular and then it was all down hill from there. I found the whole thing unfortunately boring and predictable. That being said I was thrilled to see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross win the award for best original score for “The Social Network.” The have already agreed to do the music for David Fincher’s next film which is an english version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” should be really interesting.

I was able to see 8 of the 10 best picture nominations (sorry 127 Hours and Winter’s Bone) and would have given my vote to Black Swan. Granted I’m a huge Darren Aronofsky fan and have always had a leaning toward the dark and twisted. I thought that as a film it was the most complete and developed of all the nominees. King’s Speech was good but I felt was severely lacking in original score and cinematography… great performances and screenplay but not up to the level as Black Swan as a complete work. Of all the movies I saw I was most surprised by The Fighter. I had pretty low expectations and was completely blown away by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo as well as how raw the film felt. Here is how I would have ranked the movies (that I saw):

1. Black Swan
2. The Fighter
3. The Social Network
4. True Grit
5. The Kings Speech
6. Toy Story 3 (did anyone else have an extreme emotional connection to this one?)
7. Inception
8. The Kids are Alright

Now that the awards are over I’m still going to try and see those movies I didn’t get to as well as the documentary Waste Land. Overall I thought it was a very strong year for movies and I wish that the award show would have lived up to the work it honored.


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heart of a heartless world

We started exploring some interesting territory this morning in my Theology, Art and Film class brought on by the life and work of Frida Kahlo. Most of the conversation revolved around issues of reconciling socialism and Christianity because of her political views and those of her husband Diego Rivera. What really peaked my interest was when Barry put up a quote from Karl Marx from Engels’ “The Condition” that is widely used but rarely in it’s entire context. Maybe the most famous Marx quote about religion is that “Religion is the opium of the people” but here is the entire quote in context;

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of the real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people, the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which need illusions.”

I’m not here to defend Marxism or even support it’s core ideology but point out that it may have some fair critique of religion as a social construct. It’s not as much an assault on the content of belief but a critique of the function of religion in society. I think there is part of his critique that religion keeps people numb to the current situation they are living in and so those that are oppressed and exploited are ignored. The development of liberation theology, especially in South and Latin America, is an attempt to reconcile Marxism with the Christian mission and the preferential treatment of the poor. I think there is an interesting conversation to be had here especially because issues and language of socialism have been reintroduced into our current landscape and the political script. Some pretty deep waters to be swimming around in at 8 am on a Monday morning but very much worth the time and effort.

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Is Radiohead messing with us?

There are plenty of reviews of the new album “The King of Limbs” so I don’t feel like I need to rehash what’s been said.  If you want you can check out the reviews of Rolling Stone, the Telegraph, and my friend Barry.  I love what they are doing on these songs and there is a lot to listen to but I think they might be teasing us for something to come.  The album itself doesn’t really sound like a comprehensive work like their previous releases.  The first 5 tracks have a similar sound to them but then the final 3 stand alone as unique one off tunes.  Maybe they are teasing us for something to come… I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist but it wouldn’t surprise me by any means.

On Feb 11. Radiohead posted something on twitter that was a link to what they called an “office chart” which looks a lot like a track list of working titles.  The list of 10 names is:

1.Fog (Jamie xx Remix) Nosaj Thing Drift (Remixed)
2.Tripped Up Ramadanman Re-Edit Shortstuff Mickey Pearce
3. Sun Days Macc & dgoHn
4. Keep Time Shed
5. Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903: Fantasia Christophe Rousset Bach: Harpsichord Works
6. SP Morgan Zarate
7. Chazm Julio Bashmore
8. Seamonkey (Untold Remix) Moderat
9. Stereo Freeze Untold
10. 7c 1020 Macc & dgoHn

None of these titles look to be on the new release not to mention there are only 8 tracks on King of Limbs.  We’ll see what happens over the next couple weeks to see if Radiohead continues to blow our mind but until something happens I am perfectly happy listening to the new stuff.

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Banksy in LA

When I found out that street artist Banksy had created this artwork in Westwood village this morning I immediately cleared time in my schedule to go check it out. The work, which is being called “Crayola Shooter”, is amazing! The colors are incredibly vivd and the detail of the spray paint work is absolutely astounding. It’s so cool to be able to get right up next to a piece of artwork like this and be able to see where the stencils he used line up and then see the different textures of the flowers and birds. If you live in LA it’s absolutely worth checking out… it’s located in an alley behind an Urban Outfitters off of Kinross avenue between Westwood and Glendon.

The “Crayola Shooter” isn’t the only work that Banksy had done over the past couple days with images and billboards popping up all over LA. If you want to check out what he’s done you can see them on his website. I’m hoping this means that the guerrilla artist will stay in LA for a while and is planning something, a celebration if you will, for the Academy Awards next Sunday in honor of his film “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Keep your eyes out for new art!

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Grammy Review

Ever since the Grammys gave album of the year to the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack in 2002 I’ve been skeptical of the show as nothing more than rewarding the best selling artists of the year. Never the less I found myself sitting on my couch last night ready to see the best, or worst, of what the music world had to offer. Here are my thoughts:

– Why on earth did it start at 8pm on the west coast? For goodness sakes I drove past where it was taking place on my way home from dinner but had to wait another hour for it to start. 11:30 is way too late for a show to end on a Sunday night… wow that made me sound like a crotchety old fellow.

– How is Lady Antebellum still winning awards for “Need You Now”? The song was released on August 24th, 2009 and they even played it on last year’s Grammys! I guess since the album it came out on was released last January it technically fits in the calendar year, but still, that song is now up there with Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment” as things I wish to never hear again.

– Cee Lo Green is fantastic. I loved everything about his performance (see my post below) and it brought a perfect kind of weird to what were otherwise un-memorable performances… I’m talking about you Streisand.

– It proved that there is good music out there if you’re willing to dig a little bit. I think the one of the big winners had to be Arcade Fire for their Grammy wins but also for their performances. I loved how they decided to play “Ready to Start” after winning album of the year and how Win Butler couldn’t keep the smile off of his face while singing. The other winner was Mumford and Sons for the way they ripped through “The Cave” and won over just about anyone who saw it. They were a great find at the start of the year and I’m glad they are finally getting the attention they deserve.

Other highlights of the show were:
Muse absolutely crushing “Uprising” and showing why they have been quietly taking over the world.
B.O.B’s monocle
Will and Jada cheering on Jaden Smith like they were two proud parents at a middle school talent show.
The pug dog puppet in a diaper that was dressed like Cee Lo and danced next to his piano.
Keith Urban, John Mayer and Norah Jones doing a cool version of “Jolene”
Following my friends sarcastic comments on Twitter. I think my favorite was from @lemdavely “It’s not a pancake hat. I was born this way.”

Other low lights for me were:
The Diva scream-off at the end of the Aretha tribute
Everything about Bruno Mars
B.O.B’s terrible fake guitar playing
The creepy Usher/Bieber bromance that included the line; “If it was meant to be…”
Dylan’s harmonica playing
All the unnecessary things during the performances e.g. the protesters during Muse, the bonfire on stage for Rihanna and the BMX riders during Arcade Fire.

Over all I was entertained and happy to see some credible musicians win. I do wish they would have given more credit to all the awards given out earlier in the night and if you care you can read about them here. So there you go, food for thought if nothing else. Now I’m off to go see Everest at Spaceland… hooray for free live music.

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Cee Lo + Elton John

I thought that Cee Lo Green stole the show last night at the Grammys (my thoughts on the entire show will be up later today). That song still hasn’t gotten old and I couldn’t stop smiling while watching the absurdity and hilarity of the whole thing. You can take a look at all of last nights performances here if you want. The Muppets and Cee Lo rocking out together was a great moment of nostalgia for me because I absolutely loved the Muppet Show growing up and all the musical numbers they would do. I attribute a lot of my appreciation for John Denver to the Muppets, especially their Christmas album. So here is the performance Elton John did in 1977 of Crocodile Rock that Cee Lo channeled for last night’s highlight, enjoy!

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Grammy interest?

This time of year I’m usually lamenting the misery that is the anual Grammy awards. I think they have lost all credibility in rewarding the best of the music industry and have carved a niche somewhere between America’s top 40 and a life time achievement ceremony. For goodness sakes last year’s big winners were Taylor Swift, Black Eyed Peas and Kings of Leon; teenagers around the country rejoiced, actual fans of music hung their heads. One thing I will give the Grammys credit for is how they have shifted the focus of the actual show away from the presentation of the awards and to focusing on live performances by the nominated artists. Sure there are still the terrible colaborations (i.e. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus) but there have been some really good performances over the past couple years. Which leads me to this year’s show and why I’m actually interested in watching it; Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Dr. Dre and the Arcade Fire.

I can’t hide my excitement about the Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons and Avett Brothers performance… and Dylan is rumored to be on Mandolin! This migh be the most excited I’ve been to watch the Grammys since Radiohead performed 15 Step (see below). The other three performers should provide a breath of fresh air between snack breaks by Bieber and Katy Perry. I’ll have my thoughts on it after the show on Sunday but at least there is potential this year.

Radiohead Live at the 2009 Grammy Awards from cinserrajr on Vimeo.

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