Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Kleeb’s 10 Best Films of 2010

February 27, 2011

Tonight is Oscar Night, which means I’ve been holed up watching all of the nominees. I have to say, I’m not really impressed with a lot of the front runners. Since we’re betting on the winners tonight, I’ll make my own predictions of the winners. However, I’m also going to list my favorite 10 films of the year, regardless of the Academy.

First off, I want to talk about films that didn’t make my list. I enjoyed The Fighter but it didn’t make my list. I still think Christian Bale is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo has a good shot at Best Supporting Actress. I don’t think Russell will win Director, but he might have a shot at Original Screenplay.

127 Hours is the story of Aron Ralson (James Franco), who gets trapped while mountain climbing and is forced to cut off his own arm. While Franco was great, and I love Danny Boyle, I think the only person that has a shot here is AR Rahman, the guy who won all the Original Score awards for Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle brings him back for 127 Hours and I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll do it again. He may even edge out Randy Newman for Original Song for “If I Rise.”

I enjoyed The Kids Are Alright and Blue Valentine but I don’t think they really have a shot. Man, Blue Valentine is a depressing watch. Also, if you’re looking for a crazy mind-fuck of a film, go watch Enter The Void. I have a feeling I’ll like that one a lot more if I watch it a second time.

Okay, let’s get to the list:

10. The King’s Speech

Here’s everyone’s favorite period piece about King George VI’s speech impediment and his plebeian speech therapist. I’m not usually one for dramatic historical films, but I can’t deny that Colin Firth deserves the Best Actor award, hands-down. If, for some reason, Christian Bale doesn’t win, Geoffrey Rush might also scoop up Best Supporting Actor. I know this is one of the front-runners is every category, but it should only really get Original Screenplay and possibly Costume Design. I’ll be angry if this takes home Best Picture or Director.

9. Kick-Ass


Kick-Ass rules. It’s not an Oscar movie, but it’s more fun to watch than a lot of them. You’ve got a nerdy kid who wants to be a half-assed superhero, and also a weapons-crazed Nicholas Cage and his deadly daughter (Chloe Moretz). Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong make for a deadly and hilarious Father-son team as the evil villains. For a comic-book movie, it’s pretty violent. This is also one of the few films where I don’t hate Nicholas Cage with a burning passion. He’s actually pretty awesome.

8. True Grit


Joel and Ethan Coen have me by the balls. I think they’re the best directors of our time, and will watch any film they make, whether it’s a mystery, comedy, or western. True Grit is a modern western done in the dry wit of the Coen style. Hailee Steinfeld should really take home Best Supporting Actress, but I think it’s a long shot. I’ve also got a place in my heart for Jeff Bridges as Best Actor, since his character is a cross between The Dude and Bad Blake. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are great as well. This is just an all-around amazing cast and if I was a little more into westerns, I might have liked it a bit more.

7. Toy Story 3


We watched all three Toy Story movies in a row, making it more like an epic Star Wars trilogy than an animated Pixar film. I have to say, I enjoyed Part Three the most, as Andy goes off to college and the toys struggle to stay relevant as donations to a nursery. Pixar has a way of tugging at your heartstrings, and while Toy Story 3 wasn’t as tear-jerking as Up, it has its moments (trash compactor, anyone?). This is definitely going to snag Best Animated Feature and most likely Best Original Song for Randy Newman’s “We Belong Together.” Also, for anyone who saw this in theatres, the short Day & Night is probably going to take Best Animated Short

6. Winter’s Bone


Here’s the surprise film of the year. Based on the synopsis, we put Winter’s Bone off until last, watching all of the other Best Picture nominees first. It’s the story of a young Ozarks girl raising her dysfunctional family’s two children because her mom is unresponsive and her father is missing due to involvement with a brutal drug ring. In order to keep her house and her family together, she has to figure out what happened to her father by probing some of the most dangerous mountain people in her area. Jennifer Lawrence deserves Best Actress for this breakout performance, but I doubt she’ll win over the big names in this category. John Hawkes is also intense as her dangerous, yet protective uncle.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World


A video game movie? Complete with extra lives, bosses, and 8-bit music? Oh man, you can imagine how many times I re-watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, vying for the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to win her over, he has to battle all of her ex-boyfriends (and girlfriends), while simultaneously playing with his punk rock band, Sex Bob-omb. His battles become increasingly difficult, until he reaches the final boss, record producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Not really an Oscar contender, but it rules nonetheless.

4. Exit Through The Gift Shop


Mysterious street artist Banksy produces this hilarious documentary about graffiti, centered around French filmmaker Thierry Guetta. As Thierry follows around artists like Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Andre, it becomes pretty evident that he’s not really a filmmaker, and more like a guy with a camera. Whether or not this entire film is just an elaborate prank setup by Banksy, it still resulted in a moderately successful art career for Thierry, as well as an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature. I haven’t really seen any of the other docs, so it’s hard to make my own judgment call, but I love this film and would love to see how Banksy accepts an award while not revealing his identity.

3. The Social Network


David Fincher’s depiction of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power is dark, intelligent, and ruthless. Jessie Eisenberg is fantastic as a young, opportunity-driven Zuckerberg, first cultivating his idea at Harvard, then moving out to California with the help of Napster founder Sean Parker (a hilarious Justin Timberlake). This is probably going to win Best Picture, and I bet Fincher takes home Best Director as well. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is also a sure win for Best Adapted Screenplay. If it’s between Social Network and King’s Speech, I’m hoping Social Network cleans house. It’s a modern story of betrayal, ruthlessness, and power. It would be sweet to see Trent Reznor also take home Best Original Score but that might be a long shot.

2. Black Swan

If the Coen Brothers are the best directors of our time, Darren Aronofsky isn’t far behind. The fast-paced psychological thrillers Pi and Requiem For A Dream started him off on the path to make the sprawling The Fountain and 2008’s The Wrestler, where Mickey Rourke’s performance as an aging wrestler earned him an Oscar nod and put Aronofsky in league with names like Scorsese, Lynch, and Tarantino. Black Swan has a similar plotline to The Wrestler, in which an emaciated Natalie Portman plays a ballet dancer who will do anything to achieve the lead role in the Swan Lake musical, regardless of the tole it exerts on her body and her mind. Portman is a favorite for Best Actress and I’m sure Aronofsky’s creepy and disturbing imagery and fast-paced editing will earn him Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. I look forward to anything Aronofsky has planned for the future, especially now that he is a household name.

1. Inception


I know, I know, you’re all thinking really??. It’s true, I’m a sucker for Christopher Nolan’s inner maze of the human mind. I saw Inception while I was in the midst of reading Godel, Escher, and Bach, a dense book about the “strange loops” involved in contemporary music, MC Escher’s artwork, and mathematics. While watching the “nested dream worlds” of Inception, I couldn’t help thinking I was in familiar territory. The plot was complex, but laid out in such a way that you couldn’t possibly get lost in the theory. Immediately, we are thrust into DiCaprio’s dream world as he applies for a job with Saito (Ken Watanabe). Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Dileep Rao fill out his crack team of mind-spies. Inception is a roller coaster ride through layers of action, as the team drives deeper and deeper into the mind of Cillian Murphy. While no one here is up for an Oscar, and it sure as hell doesn’t have a shot at Best Picture, I’m sure Inception will bring home Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It may even take Best Visual Effects or Best CInematography. Of course, most action films sweep the categories of special effects and sound. It’s rare that an action film has the complexity and intelligence of Inception, though.

25 Events That Helped Shape the Past 25 Years

October 3, 2010

Now that I’ve hit a quarter century, I’ve decided to look back and pick a few turning points in my life that helped shape where I am today. Rather than go year-by-year (because I can’t remember anything before 1990), I just picked 25 things that stand out in my mind. Here you go!

    Baby Kleeb and Daddy Kleeb

    Baby Kleeb and Daddy Kleeb at Christmas


    1. 100 Warsaw Street: My Childhood
    You can’t make a list of influential things without parents, and without mine drilling things like education and success into my brain, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. Since my mom was a teacher, school was always at the forefront of my life. I was forced to do homework and wouldn’t settle for anything less than an A in every class. They pushed me to start reading at an early age, and before Kindergarten I was able to read a few books cover to cover without any help. They love family vacations to the beach, theme parks, and cruises, and I was able to see a lot of different places when I was very young. My dad volunteered to coach my baseball and soccer team when I was young, and also showed me how to use tools when I was young. I remember working on a club house in my backyard when I was around 7 years old with a set of mini tools. Because of their motivation and high expectations, I excelled in high school and finished in the top of my class. They also didn’t mind having the band practice in their basement, which says a lot for their level of patience compared to most people. Now with an empty nest, they just got a puppy to keep them company. You’d think they’d want to relax a little bit now.

    Super Nintendo

    Super Nintendo, 1991


    2. Super Nintendo
    Okay, I admit, I was a huge video game geek when I was a kid and it started around age 8 when the Super NES was released. Street Fighter, Zelda, Mario Bros, I played them all. I eventually graduated to a Nintendo 64 and a Playstation, and it wasn’t until recently that I shut out video games to try and be a little bit more productive. Of course, now and then something will creep up and pull me back to those good old days when I just played Zelda all day long and didn’t care about the world. There’s a reason we have a Wii set up in the living room. Every so often, you just need some Mario Kart.

    Matt Pinfield

    Matt Pinfield, host of 120 Minutes


    3. Matt Pinfield and 120 Minutes
    Every weekend before soccer practice or whatever my 11-year-old self had planned, I would wake up and watch the episode of 120 Minutes that I had taped the night before. I was so obsessed with music videos in those days that I would make lists of my top 20 songs for the week and hope that they’d make it on to MTV’s top 20 list. Through this show, I was introduced to Radiohead, Green Day, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and most of the other mid-90’s alt-rock bands that I loved. Unfortunately, music videos would soon cease to exist on the Music Television channel, and the end of 120 Minutes signaled the end of my relationship with MTV.

    Playing Sax with Electric Lemonade Stand

    Playing Sax with Electric Lemonade Stand

    4. Learning to Play the Saxophone
    My first musical instrument stuck with me to the present day. At age 25 now, I’ve been playing the saxophone on and off for about ten years. The most indispensable aspect of this was learning to read sheet music and understanding music theory behind scales, major and minor keys, and tempo. I played one-on-one until I was in the 7th grade, and also took private lessons on the side. Then I joined the marching band where I lasted for 3 years until the parades and football games almost drove me crazy. Concert band was a different story, and was much more relaxed, and when the jazz band was created in my junior year, I learned to appreciate the instrument all over again, as well as explore the genre of jazz, something I had never really listened to before. After high school, I didn’t play the saxophone for a while, until my last semester of college when I started writing sax parts for a friend’s band. Though it was short lived, I learned how much I loved the horn, and wish I could get back to the level I was at in high school.

    Rehearsal for Rumors

    Rehearsal for Neil Simon's Rumors

    5. Mrs. Bullions and the WA Drama Club
    The most time-intensive extra curricular activity in high school had to be the Drama Club. I had roles in the school play from 8th grade to 11th grade, and also had an active role in set building. Our high school had some of the biggest productions in the Wyoming Valley, and musicals like Bye Bye Birdie and South Pacific had giant casts of over 50 people, as well as elaborate sets that all rotated on moving platforms. I learned a lot about carpentry in those days, and often spent my weekends building, painting, or just helping with whatever needed to be done at the school. As an actor, my favorite roles were in Rumors by Neil Simon and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met in the Drama Club, and they came to be my closest friends throughout high school. Mrs. Bullions, the former director, was a great teacher, and I still see her time to time when I visit my parents.

    An Albatross

    An Albatross plays Cafe Metropolis in 2007, photo courtesy of Elliott Elliott

    6. My First Show at Cafe Metropolis
    Almost every day of my high school life was spent at Cafe Metropolis, Homebase, the Church, the Zoo, or any of the other live music venues that popped up around Wilkes-Barre, PA. When I was younger, local bands like Bedford, Wonderdog, True Identity, and 8 oz. Joe were some of my favorites, and I remember carpooling to go see their shows in minivans. When I got older, these venues provided places for us to play shows, and supported the local musicians immensely. I watched Homebase and the Zoo shut their doors as the Murry Complex was bought out. I remember when Mike had to stop hosting shows at the Church. Finally, Cafe Metro shut its doors on September 18th, 2010 after 14 years of live music. It was by far the most important place in my adolescent life, and I hope someone else opens a venue to keep live music alive in that destitute town.

    Tama Swingstar Drum Set

    My kit, after stripping the shells and clear-coating


    7. Getting a Drum Set
    When the time came for me to take on a second instrument, I realized it had to be the drums. I found myself to be more rhythmic than melodic, and after learning on Jeff Brown’s backup kit for a few months, I went to pick out a kit of my own. In 2001, I settled on a Tama Swingstar, and I’ve been playing it ever since. It played in my first two bands, Subject to Change and Courage is for Cowards. It somehow survived the destruction of Kill The Lights! even after a guitar burst through the bass drum at the last show. Making it to State College, my drums looked like they’d been through a war zone. Finally, when I got to New York, I stripped the shells, clear coated the natural wood finish, and tuned them with new heads and hardware. After 8 years, they sound better than they ever have before. The drum kit is still my favorite instrument, and I look forward to playing with groups well into the future.

    8. The Of All Days DVD: Learning to Edit Video

    It came as a surprise to everyone that I would be doing my senior high school project in video editing. I had never really owned a video camera before, but I started bringing one with me almost everywhere I went and taping my friend’s band Of All Days at all of their shows. I spent a majority of my senior year learning Adobe Premiere, and I owe a lot of thanks to Mark Favata and Jerry Zezza for showing me the ropes. Subsequently, I kept that camera when I played in Kill The Lights! and taped every one of our shows as well. I still have boxes and boxes of Mini DV tapes with all of my footage from high school, but that camera (and the Mini DV technology) died a few years back. Judging from the fidelity of the video compared to what’s out there today, that’s probably a good thing. I recently acquired Adobe Premiere again, as well as a decent Sony camcorder, and have been planning to get back into some video work. It’s a fun, but expensive hobby.

    The Vista

    Drew, Nogic, and I at the Vista, 2004


    9. The Vista
    Taking a 45 minute drive on Suscon Road and turning down an unlabeled dirt road, then parking and walking another two miles down a path leads to one of the most beautiful locations in northeast Pennsylvania. What we called “The Vista” in high school was the end of a trail in the Lackawanna State Park. The place we discovered was a raised platform at the top of a clearing that overlooked the mountains and suburbia of the Wyoming Valley. Underneath the structure was a fire pit, and the whole area was basically unmonitored. There were countless nights we would carpool to Wendy’s, park, and just hike that trail for the hell of it. Some nights we would camp up there, or just have a fire pit. One night, we had a few bands play by dragging some generators to the top and powering the amps from a car battery. The notion that my high school life was filled with random exploratory journeys, whether through nature or abandoned industrial wasteland, and not filled with parties, alcohol, and drugs, is a unique experience that can only be fulfilled by a dead city like Wilkes-Barre. I came to regard my adolescence with a sort of nostalgia that I may never experience again, now that I’ve been absorbed into the free-flowing bar scene of urban nightlife.

    Eternal Sunshine

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


    10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Though I wanted to exclude any type of media from this list like music, books, and films, the implications of this specific film resonated with recent events in my high school life. The relationship between the two characters in Eternal Sunshine were almost identical to my first relationship, and to say this didn’t have an impact on my life is just ignorant. Without getting into details, I’ll simply say that I’m glad I learned what I did, and it changed the course of my life drastically. This film, on the other hand, has been one of my favorite films ever since, and every time I watch it, it brings back a wave of nostalgia that brings me back to 2004.

    11. Playing in Kill The Lights!

    I’d been playing in bands long before Kill The Lights! was conceived in 2003. However, nothing could match the insanity, the destruction, and mayhem that this band would incur. Playing this renegade show out of our van was the most memorable show, as we were escorted away by security. Also selling sno-cones at Ted Leo, flipping tables at Club HP, and going to the hospital because I punched my cymbal too hard were other pretty notable events. We were punk kids, and we just wanted to play loud music and break shit. So we did.

    Hotel Sterling

    Hotel Sterling, before it was demolished


    12. Exploring the Abandoned Hotel Sterling
    Every night I drove into center city Wilkes-Barre, the Hotel Sterling loomed on the other side of the bridge. It was a dark, abandoned edifice that embodied the former prosperity of the old coal mining city. For a group of underage high school kids without any place to go at night, it was just asking to be explored. Climbing into a second story window, we entered the hotel from the backside and into the huge lobby, complete with all of the abandoned furniture, television sets, and mattresses that couldn’t be hauled out when everyone was evicted. Every floor was covered with graffiti, and REDRUM was written all over the creepy walls of the kitchen. The roof was one of the best vantage points in the city, and I remember sitting inside the “O” on the sign and looking out over Wilkes-Barre. It was truly one of the best memories I have of the city, which is why I’m making screen-printed shirts as a memorial of this landmark.

    Bullet Parade plays on Halloween

    The Bullet Parade plays at the Hookah Lounge on Halloween


    13. Roustabout, The Bullet Parade, and the Hookah Lounge
    I was a punk kid when I started college. I wasn’t playing music, and I was pretty much convinced that bands weren’t good unless they threw drums off the stage and punched bouncers in the face. When I met Jeff Van Fossan and Eric Myers and was absorbed into the local Roustabout scene in State College, I matured quickly. Playing music with more seasoned musicians helped me to expand my taste and stop being so narrow-minded. Drumming in the Bullet Parade offered the opportunity to play shows all over the northeast, from Baltimore, to DC, to Pittsburgh. I met a lot of great people, and it’s the closest thing to a touring band that I’ve ever had. In addition, having the Hookah Lounge nearby gave me a place to hangout that was quiet, full of friends, and was one of the few places in State College that wasn’t a bar. Jeff was also an indirect influence on the following few points in my life, and was a great mentor to have around during my college life.

    Cooking with Kleeb

    Tofu with a mushroom sauce over rice and roasted potatoes - my own recipe

    14. Turning Vegetarian
    Halting the intake of meat didn’t shape my life as much as the new awareness caused by my limited diet. I decided to stop eating meat after I read an article in Rolling Stone about the ecological problems caused by industrial pig farms, including groundwater and air pollution. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the food industry from books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and documentaries like Super Size Me. I started cooking a lot, and developed a sort of affinity for the kitchen. I started gardening (something I had to abandon recently) and buying from farmer’s markets instead of supermarkets. Next season, I plan to enroll in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and getting my produce from local farmers outside of NYC. While my diet is still less than ideal, and I still enjoy indulging time to time, I’ve made great improvements from where I was five years ago.

    Breadboard, Amp, and Power Supply

    My breadboard, amplifier, and power supply, 2010

    15. Changing Majors to Electrical Engineering
    Coming into college as a Chemical Engineering major had mostly to do with my grades in high school and what I thought I’d be successful with. While I loved chemistry on paper, I found myself discontent with lab work. Combined with my acquisition of an old analog Moog synthesizer, meeting Sean Byrne, and opening myself up to the world of DIY circuit design and Maker culture, I decided Electrical Engineering was where I belonged. I concentrated in Digital Signal Processing and focused mainly on audio, a recurring theme of my life. I figured, why not be a professional in the field I love the most? Now I find myself looking into a graduate program at NYU that combines electronic design with art and new media technologies. It’s the perfect combination of art and science that I’ve been looking for my whole life.

    ALT Magazine

    ALT Magazine, 2008


    16. ALT Magazine
    When I looked for a writing outlet at Penn State, I didn’t expect to inherit the Editor-in-Chief position after one semester. That is exactly what happened at ALT Magazine, a zine about politics, culture, art, and music. With only Jen, the graphic designer, left from the previous year, we attempted to rebuild the staff in time to put out an issue for the next year. This proved to be more difficult than I imagined, and it was more work that I ever thought it would be. After putting out two issues, I felt relieved to hand over my position, and proud of the work we had done. I had always toyed with the idea of releasing a zine, and after this trial run in college, I now know how much time, money, and work is involved. It was a great experience, and I’m glad the magazine is still running to this day.

    DJing at Christmastime

    Marko and I DJ at a formal Christmas soiree

    17. Kleeb Parties: How I Became a DJ
    Throwing parties in college went from being a fun weekend activity to a refined art. I remember looking up to some of the other State College DJs that played good music and following them around as a freshman. When I got my own place, I started hosting parties of my own. They became more and more elaborate, the sound systems got bigger, we got lighting and fog machines, and eventually I started offering my DJ services out to other people, and throwing parties all over town. Though I never got into DJing using anything more than an iPod, it made my setup quite compact and easy to setup and break down. Halloween 2008 signaled the end of my DJ career as my Macbook and iPod were both ripped off after the party. However, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting up again in New York. I wonder where I put that 2 channel iPod mixer…

    My Panasonic Beater Bike, 2009

    18. Getting a Road Bike and Freeze/Thaw Cycle Clinics
    Before 2007, I was not a bike rider. I knew how to ride a bike, and a shitty Huffy mountain bike collected dust in my parents’ garage, but the prospect of a bike as transportation hadn’t yet crossed my mind. When Alex Katos called me and asked if I wanted his old Panasonic road bike because he wasn’t using it, it opened up a world that I hardly knew existed: bike commuting. I rode that bike to class every day, and over the next two years, visited Freeze/Thaw cycles to modify the bike and upgrade the brakes, gears, wheels, and pedals. From their clinics, I learned to true a wheel, replace brake cables, pack the bearings in a hub, remove a crank, and the basics of a bike tune up. As my NYC beater bike, the Panasonic still rides to this day, and I continue to tune it up often, because I have a certain attachment to my first road bike.

    Music Mart

    Music Mart, 2008


    19. Working at the Music Mart
    In my junior year of college, I landed my first job that didn’t involve the food industry. The Music Mart was a small musical instrument shop on the main drag of downtown State College. When I first started working, I knew about drums and sheet music, but had little knowledge about the inner workings of guitars or amplifiers, let alone sound systems. Combined with my major, my weekend stints DJing, and a young guitar phenom named Taylor, I learned everything there is to know about guitars, microphones, speakers, cables, mixers, tubes, strings, recording interfaces, and even lighting to an extent. A few times, Tom even hired me to work with him running sound at large concert events, and I learned how to run a sound board and EQ a mix. At the time I was building my own home recording studio, and got a lot of my gear from the Music Mart. When I left, Tom had just hired a new manager to whip the store into shape, and now they have a pretty great web presence that didn’t exist when I was there.

    Roof Above the Army/Navy

    The roof above the Army/Navy


    20. Living Above the Army/Navy
    Most of my collegiate career was spent living in bland, cookie-cutter dorms or apartments. It wasn’t until I ventured out to a party in a decrepit old place above an Army/Navy surplus store that I discovered my appreciation for urban decay and a rustic living atmosphere. No, my apartment above the Army/Navy was not glamorous, but I discovered that it had a personality and a history, and many of the former tenants would come back and share their stories and experiences about living there. Climb through one of the bedroom windows, and you find yourself on a vast rooftop, as big as the apartment itself. Over the winter, I built my first home recording studio. I bought a Macbook, learned Logic Pro, and started recording music for film students. In the summer, I would DJ late nights after the bar closed in the same living room. I was sure after I moved out, the slumlord that owned the building would have some incentive to enforce a set of rules to encourage people to be quiet and stay off the roof. However, one night I wandered past and noticed a few people peering over the edge of my old apartment rooftop. I called up to them and they invited me up to share the stories of what life was like when I lived in that place. There aren’t many living spaces that invite that kind of history with the tenants.

    Sorority House

    Halloween at the Cat House


    21. The Sorority House
    Little did I know my last 4 months in State College would be one of the greatest and weirdest times of my life. Looking for a fall sublet, my good friend Rich and I stumbled upon a large house with three floors, a basement, a back yard, and a porch. When we went to look at it, we were surprised to find that many of the tenants were part of the same sorority, and we’d be living in, pretty much, a female frat house. When I first entered the dingy basement, I was sold. I spent most of my time down there, cleaning up and making it into my recording/practice space. I first started giving drum lessons in the basement, and hosting house shows with a few local State College and Scranton bands. Living with 14 other people also took some getting used to, but it was a great experience and brought me close to people I probably would not have otherwise known. Of course, the craziness didn’t stop after I left. When I returned, I found a chicken farm in the backyard, and a ritualistic slaughter was conducted that night – something I never thought I’d experience. At this point in my life, I was ready to leave that town and get on with my life, but I’m glad my last semester was spent in the company of such a diverse group.

    Sequencer Using Doorbells

    Sequencer Using Doorbells


    22. Bent Festival
    In April 2009, I attended the Bent Festival in New York City for the first time. In a tiny Midtown performance space called The Tank, circuit-benders, tweakers, musicians, and electronic artists crammed together to show off their work. I saw noise-making robots, infrared hand sensors wired to speakers, sequencers that used various doorbells, and musicians that played on switchboxes and motion sensors. I purchased the book Handmade Electronic Music and started playing around with sequencer chips, piezo sensors, and small handmade amps. This single book would launch me on a fascination with handmade amps and guitar pedals that was only accelerated by the event that happened to me one month later…

    Hanging out above Death By Audio

    23. Moving Into Death By Audio
    Trying to figure out my post-college life in a jobless world and wondering why the hell I moved to New York City in the first place brought me a world of confusion in 2009. With my best friends moving home, I was hopelessly alone in the big city. With a stroke of luck, I found the artists’ collective I’ve always dreamed of building for myself. They were into diy electronics, had a live music venue, and a huge warehouse space where almost anything could be built, from almost any material, and then subsequently destroyed if it suited your fancy. After almost two years living here, I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself and my ambitions, and it’s time to take the next step.

    Roland SPD-S

    Roland SPD-S Sample Pad


    24. Sample Pads and Electronic Drums
    Something I had dreamed of doing, long before moving into DBA, was an electric drum sample triggered by hitting the bass drum. Had I known that these had existed for decades, I may have acted on it sooner. I learned how to install a Piezo transducer in my bass drum, and was soon playing with trigger inputs on synths and guitar pedals. When I learned about the Roland SPD-S sample pad, and found one on eBay, my world of drumming was turned upside down. I could record samples, download samples, alter them on my computer, and load them on to a memory card to be used live. I could also wire my bass drum to hit these samples as well. The possibilities were now endless. I downloaded Ableton Live and started building drum kits out of Battery. Next stop: Max For Live and light triggers

    The DBA Ventilation Pipe

    What remained of the pipe, the day we cut it out


    25. Broken Ankle Summer: Cutting Out the Pipe
    One event that is still in process is one that began at the beginning of June, 2010. After my west coast adventure in San Francisco, I came home and promptly stepped in a pothole, breaking my ankle and rendering me pretty much immobile for the entire summer. With lots of time on my hands, and lots of help from my roommate Alex, I decided to remove the ventilation pipe from my bedroom, something that had been in my way since I moved into Death By Audio and represented a huge obstacle against my comfortable living environment, as well as my indecisiveness about staying in the warehouse space. Removing the pipe cemented my stay in New York, and prompted me to apply for grad school. It also sparked a summer of building, which involved making a closet out of the remaining pipe, building a bed, building a large workspace and soldering station, learning to wire electrical outlets, dry wall, and insulate a room, and transform my door into a hidden bookcase. With one last obstacle in my path – installing a window in the hole where the pipe had been – my room will be completely finished. It’s been a really motivating experience, and I’ve been stimulated both creatively and emotionally from the whole ordeal.

April Showers

April 26, 2010

I haven’t been posting a lot lately, and here are a few reasons why:

DW 5000 drum pedal

I’ve been drumming a lot lately. This DW 5000 bass drum pedal has really been one of the greatest things I’ve purchased for my kit. In addition, I finally got a front bass drum head, revamped my snare, and tuned everything to prepare for a recording session with Jay and Kunal.

We recorded first through a Universal Audio Tube Preamp, and then through a Tascam 4-Track in the living room of DBA. The drums sound better than they ever have before, and after some minor problems with the tapes, we got 5 tracks recorded. Once they’re finished, I’ll post a link here. It’s exciting to finally be playing with a solid band again.

I got the Adobe Creative Suite. Finally, I have a real version of Photoshop, and I’m using Adobe Premiere for the first time in about 5 years, so I have to relearn all of my video editing skills. I’m upgrading my Macbook to 4 GB of ram, so I’ll be able to run all of this stuff seamlessly.

Which ties in with my next acquisition:

My boss is loaning me his Sony DCR SR-100 digital video camera, since he’s not using it, and I’m overjoyed to finally be able to record video again. Since my Canon died in high school, I haven’t had the opportunity to do any video work. This camera has a hard drive, so I can just upload directly to my computer from its internal drive.

Last but not least:

The Roland SPD-S is a programmable sample pad for drummers. It takes flash memory, so you can plug in a guitar, microphone, computer, etc, and store up to 512 MB of samples. It can also be triggered using piezos on acoustic drums. It pretty much eliminates the need for my Moog synth, since I can record all of the parts and just play them back by hitting a pad. This thing should arrive today.

With that said, does anyone want to come over and make digital music/make some movies/screen print? It’s going to be tough to leave the house this summer.

10 Best Films of 2009

February 22, 2010

Around February last year, I posted a 2009 Movie Preview, which took 10 upcoming films that looked the most promising for the upcoming year. I wrote a short review on each one, and except for Shutter Island, all were released to a wide range of expectations. Some were extremely impressive, some were terribly mediocre, and others were downright terrible (I’m looking at you Peter Jackson).

As the Academy Awards approach, I’ve been watching as many of the nominees as I can. Some were pretty great, others didn’t impress me very much. Though I did not get to see all of the movies I previewed last year (The Road, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Nine, Taking Woodstock), there were a lot of surprises this year. Also, I wasn’t so much a fan of Avatar as everyone else on the planet. It was entertaining to watch in 3-D, but I felt like the story lacked something. It gets an honorable mention here.

Honorable Mentions for 2009:
Avatar
Drag Me To Hell
The Hangover
The Hurt Locker
9
Up In The Air
Where The Wild Things Are

Here are my favorite ten films from 2009. Many of these won’t even get recognized at the Oscars, but I think they are all worth watching for one reason or another.

10. A Serious Man

A Serious Man

The latest Coen Brothers film, loosely based on the Biblical story of Job, follows Jewish professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) through a particularly horrible streak of bad luck. He fails to achieve tenure he’s been seeking, while dealing with a rocky divorce, and an unemployed brother who is under investigation for gambling fraud. Simultaneously, his son is approaching his bar mitzvah while habitually smoking weed, and his daughter complains constantly about her looks. As Larry seeks advice from three rabbis, he is frustrated that there is no meaning behind his run of bad luck. The film leaves off in pure Coen Brothers fashion, abruptly and with no resolve. It’s not my favorite Coen Brothers film, but it was better than a lot of the other films from this year.

9. Thirst

Thirst

One of the biggest tragedies in recent years is the downfall of the vampire film. Twilight has turned the entire genre into a teenage soap opera, and films like Underworld have done nothing but keep the goth subculture from dying. In 2009, Korean director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) brings us a twisted vampire saga worthy of revitalizing the genre. Thirst follows an infected doctor who deals with his “disease” by drinking the blood every night from one of his comatose patients. When his girlfriend learns of his plight, she sees an opportunity for revenge, and things start to spiral out of control.

8. Star Trek

Star Trek

Wow, I never saw this coming. I avidly avoided Star Trek as a kid, disinterested in the campy costumes and any association with Vulcan language or gestures. I even put off watching the 2009 film for the same reasons, until we were left with no other options. I’ve now seen the film 3 times and it is one of my favorite action films of the year. J.J. Abrams reinvents the series, with a reckless Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, and a respectable Zachary Quinto as Spock. The special effects aren’t distracting, and the plot is engaging. Who knew? Maybe I’m a Star Trek fan after all.

7. The Informant!

The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh latest film, based on the true story of ADM and the lysine price-fixing scandal of 1992, couldn’t have been a bigger surprise. Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a pathological liar acting in his own delusional self-interests while working with the FBI and bringing down the heads of his own company. Whitacre’s fantasy is his downfall, as more and more scandals are revealed during his stint with the FBI. The audience benefits from his short attention span, and many times throughout the movie, a serious business meeting will switch to a Whitacre voiceover about polar bears or avocados. This was one of the funniest movies of the year, and Damon is brilliant in his fat, mustachioed role.

6. District 9

District 9

Half mockumentary, half sci-fi action movie, District 9 has a relatively unknown South African cast, led by Sharlto Copley as the bumbling alien correspondent for the local government. As he tries to relocate over a million alien “prawns,” he finds himself exposed to a strange fluid that begins to transform his body. While not a groundbreaking film, it’s a novel concept and an accurate parallel to the way our own government treats immigration today in some places. It also splices some entertaining action scenes between formal interviews of government officials and family members of the protagonist.

5. Moon

Moon

A little-known release by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, Moon starts as a 2001-esque story set in the future, where Sam Rockwell is a lone astronaut mining an important resource. His computer is voiced by Kevin Spacey, and he is approaching the end of his 3-year expedition. Before he can go home, he learns about a dark secret surrounding his mission, and not even his lighthearted robotic companion will tell him the truth.

 

4. The Cove

The Cove

My documentary choice of the year, The Cove tracks Ric O’Barry, former dolphin trainer on the set of Flipper and subsequent activist against the methods used to capture dolphins, due to the popularity of his own show, as he works to shut down a dolphin slaughterhouse in Taiji, Japan. Working undercover, against the local law enforcement, and using cameras hidden in rocks, he is able to show the graphic deaths of over 2,000 dolphins. Two months after the film was released, Taiji was actually shut down.

3. Up

Up

Pixar’s latest film has one of the most depressing moments in any animated film since Mufasa died in The Lion King.
Our abandoned protagonist Carl Frederickson departs all alone in his floating balloon house for South America. Or so he thinks. Annoying boy scouts, talking dogs, and exotic birds seem to be holding him back (in some cases literally) from reaching his destination. It’s such a feel-good film, and I said this after Wall-E, that I trust Pixar to tug at my heartstrings and make a damn good family film every year.

2. Zombieland

Zombieland

I know what you’re thinking. Number 2? The premise was a pretty basic archetype and the characters weren’t that deep, but damn this movie was fun to watch! Zombie movies get points for creativity, and Zombieland had some of the most creative kills I’ve ever seen: Banjo, hedge clippers, hammer, not to mention a variety of amusement park rides. It’s like someone proposed the idea of zombies in an amusement park, and they wrote a movie around that concept. The addition of Woody Harrelson as a disgruntled twinkie addict helps the plot, as well as a timid Jesse Eisenberg for Woody to rip into the whole time. Oh yeah, and there’s that cameo too.

1. Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

Ah, refreshing Tarantino. After the pile of garbage called Grindhouse, he comes back and hits us with a witty rendition of the German occupancy of France. And who needs accuracy? Tarantino writes his own ending, the way everyone wants to see it. Brad Pitt plays another stellar role with Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a Tennessean with a drawl looking for one thing: Nazi scalps. He’s known as “Aldo the Apache” to the Germans. On the other side, Christoph Waltz plays an Oscar-caliber Hans Landa, the general of the Nazi regime. They call him the “Jew Hunter.” Simultaneously, Melanie Laurent is a fugitive Jew working in a movie theatre that plans to show a German propaganda film. As the stories converge in a mix of violence, witty dialogue, and a self-indulgent tribute to cinephilia (did you know that old nitrate film reels can be used to ignite a building?), the explosive ending is a triumphant end to the war – Tarantino style.

50 Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

January 18, 2010

As the Oscars approach in 2010, and I furiously watch the remaining films from 2009 that may or may not be nominated, I realized that we’ve just closed out a decade of filmmaking, and it was one that has shaped my high school, college, and beginning of my adult life. I decided to compile 50 films that influenced this era of my life in some way or another.

50. Shaun of the Dead

The best comedic zombie movie until Zomieland decided to steal its thunder. Simon Pegg discovers a zombie invasion halfway through the film, and his first instinct is to use old records to fight them off. I still can’t listen to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen without thinking of bludgeoning zombies with a pool cue.

 

 

49. Hotel Rwanda


One of the most intense films I’ve ever seen, Hotel Rwanda follows Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) through war-ravaged Rwanda as he struggles to save the lives of fugitives in his hotel.

 

 

 

48. Slumdog Millionaire

Bridging the gap between Hollywood and Bollywood, Slumdog Millionaire is part gameshow, part love story, and part coincidental luck for our young hero, Dev Patel.

 

 

 

47. The Ring

Before you die, you see the ring. I was terrified of this film in high school, and it was one of the first mainstream techno-horror movies. Also, it set the bar for creepy kids with Samara’s waterlogged hair-in-the-face look. This was the last movie that gave me nightmares, and I love it for that.

 

 


46. 28 Days Later


I guess if you don’t call them zombies, and call it a disease (The Rage), then the infected can be freakin fast! A new zombie movie for a new generation, and a killer soundtrack to boot. The English are doing it right.

 

 


45. The Wrestler


Micky Rourke’s comeback film. An agonizing story about loss, aging, and passion. I think I even shed a tear during his final scene, with “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” playing in the background. Never thought Axl Rose would trigger that emotion.

 

 

 
44. Ratatouille

Pixar, you can do no wrong. A fun tale about fine dining involving an inept teenager and his beloved pet mouse (Patton Oswalt). I never thought a movie that showed rats cooking food in an expensive restaurant would be not only accepted, but loved among children and adults alike.

 

 
43. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


Before Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. was a washed up drug addict. His return to cinema was sparked by this film, a witty murder mystery costarring Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. Just Downey’s narration alone is enough to make this movie worthwhile.

 

 

42. Requiem For A Dream

Here’s an uplifting tale. Whether it’s cocaine, heroin, or pills, we see the effect drugs have on four individuals in a depressing downward spiral. Seeing this one time is all you really need to get the picture.

 

 

 

41. The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson does it again with a journey through India by train. Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody are the three brothers trying to reconcile their differences in a quirky, colorful landscape. And yes, most of the soundtrack is played through Schwartzman’s iPod dock.

 

 
40. Closer

A cast of only four: Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen. This is what happens when relationships fail. I found myself disgusted with all four by the end, but I could relate to all of their actions.

 

 

 

39. V For Vendetta

A graphic novel adaptation that actually worked (yes, this is a jab at The Watchmen). Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman (I know, this is the third Portman film in a row) take on an Orwellian Great Britain in this dystopian story, packed with mystery, action, and lots of cool masks.

 

 

38. 24 Hour Party People

Manchester: the birthplace of Factory Records (Joy Divison, New Order, Happy Mondays) and rave culture. We follow Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) as he spearheads a musical revolution, while maintaining his role as a complete douchebag to his wife, friends, and bands on his label.

 

 

37. The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson’s break into the mainstream, this colorful family is filled with big name actors, great music, and outrageous costumes (how about Ben Stiller’s jumpsuit?). It even makes things like incest, attempted suicide, and terrible parenting come across as light speed bumps in an outrageously wild family.

 

 

36. Wall-E

Sugar-coated in a cute garbage-sorting robot, Pixar subtly shows us what the world is going to look like in a few hundred years (Earth covered in garbage, and obese Americans living on space cruise ships). I don’t know how they do it, but I even thought the robot romance was cute.

 

 

35. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2


An epic revenge tale, Tarantino delves into his martial arts passion. Uma Thurman has it out for David Carradine, and won’t let any of his assassins stand in her way. Lots of swordfighting, hand-to-hand combat, and arterial spray.

 

 

34. Adaptation

Charlie Kaufman’s autobiographical tale, showcasing an insecure Nicolas Cage writing himself into his own script, while also playing his more outgoing and successful brother. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are a superb supporting cast in hunt of the white orchid.

 

 

33. Almost Famous


As a teenager, Cameron Crowe had a stint following the Allman Brothers and writing for Rolling Stone. This is his story, a unique coming-of-age tale about rock and roll journalism and life on the road. And man, Penny Lane. Every teenager’s dream girl.

 

 
32. Man on Wire

A wacky French tightrope walker gets it into his head that he’s going to walk from the top of one of the World Trade Center tower to the other. This documentary is almost too outrageous to be real, and encourages you to follow your dreams, no matter how crazy they might be.

 

 
31. Into The Wild

Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) is an idealistic college grad who donates all of his money to charity and departs with no possessions across the country determined to live apart from society. His idealism leads to his tragic demise in the Alaskan wilderness. I even gained some respect for Eddie Vedder for his awesome soundtrack.

 

 
30. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

A tribute to Jacques Cousteau’s marine archeology films of the 1950’s, this dry comedy showcases Bill Murray at his finest: an aging, sarcastic and depressed explorer struggling with a son he never knew he had. As with all of Anderson’s work, it’s loaded with colorful costumes, family relationships, and a great soundtrack (Portuguese David Bowie?)

 

 
29. The Motorcycle Diaries

Before Benicio del Toro showed the rise and fall of Che Guevara in his bland 5 hour epic, Gael Garcia Bernal played Guevara in his pre-guerrilla On The Road phase. A compassionate doctor, Guevara travels across South America by motorcycle, driven by the urge to revolutionize the way the governments treat poverty.

 

 
28. Up

Pixar, pixar, pixar. Move aside Disney, because we have a new champion of family-oriented stories. In Up, a widowed man (Ed Asner) decides to follow his dream to travel to Peru by tying thousands of balloons to his house and flying there. Talking dogs, rare giant birds, and an annoyingly cute boy scout fill the supporting roles.

 

 
27. Zombieland

Woody Harrelson kills zombies with a banjo, drives a huge hummer, and is driven by a terrible Twinkie addiction. This film is a blast to watch, and the cameo is one of the best I’ve ever seen in modern cinema. Also, fighting zombies in an amusement park? Amazing.

 

 
26. Waking Life

Richard Linklater tackles lucid dreaming in various animated philosophy lectures. The main character jumps from topic to topic, each one an independent outlook on the concept of lucid dreaming, while trying to wake himself from a seemingly neverending unconsciousness. I’ve also heard theories that this entire film takes place in the seconds before death.

 

 
25. The Departed

Scorsese’s triumphant Best Picture, with a star-studded cast (Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg). This police vs. mob story shows the double-edged sword of undercover infiltration on both sides of the law. Action-packed, and full of surprises.

 

 
24. No Country For Old Men

Javier Bardem is the most sinister assassin portrayed on film, with the terrible haircut to boot. The Coen Brothers adapt this Cormac McCarthy book into a cat-and-mouse chase through Texas and Mexico, while Tommy Lee Jones proves to us what the film’s title means in his hopeless effort to bring justice.

 

 
23. Mystic River

Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins are three childhood friends haunted by a horrible event from their past. After the death of his daughter, Penn is determined to catch the killer, even if it deteriorates his relationships with his old friends in the process. Clint Eastwood (directing) and Dennis Lehane (writing) are a powerful team.

 

 
22. Gangs of New York

Daniel Day-Lewis is Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, a native New Yorker who puts the Irish immigrants in their place in nineteenth century America. Leo DiCaprio becomes Scorsese’s new golden boy as Bill’s apprentice. The brutality of the gangs is accentuated by the absence of guns. So yeah, knives, maces, axes, you name it. That’s why they call him The Butcher.

 

 
21. Battle Royale

Imagine a 9th grade class in a futuristic Japan that must pay for their bad behavior with a fight to the death on an isolated island. Everyone is given a random weapon, from a crossbow to a taser to a pair of binoculars. Last one left alive wins. Okay, good luck!

 

 
20. Children of Men

For an unstated reason, the future of the human race has been halted due to the infertility of every woman on Earth. When Clive Owen finds a pregnant woman, he must protect her at all costs from the violent warfare going on all around him, as well as the militant government. There are two shots in this film that last for 15 minutes without cutting away. Watch the special features about them. It’s unbelievable.

 

 
19. Inglourious Basterds

In Quentin Tarantino’s rendition of history, Hitler is taken down by a group of Nazi scalpers led by Aldo the Apache (Brad Pitt). His nemesis is Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a hilarious Nazi general with a penchant for sniffing out Jews. It’s self-indulgent, violent, and the funniest film Tarantino has ever made.

 

 
18. Snatch

Brad Pitt again, this time as Mickey, the Irish boxer. Guy Ritchie’s finest film has interwoven storylines involving hoards of characters centered around a diamond heist. The humor and action are a step above his debut, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Pitt’s indiscernible dialogue makes him one of the most colorful characters I’ve seen on screen.

 

 
17. The Dark Knight

A decade list wouldn’t be complete without The Dark Knight. It set the bar for superhero films, with the late Heath Ledger playing a believable and sinister Joker. A psychopath with no fear of death, his tongue snakes around his lips as he describes how he got the scars on his face. Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart are superb costars. It’s going to be hard to make another Batman film after this masterpiece.

 

 
16. Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Nerds unite! As an avid fan of the books, I’m pretty equally obsessed with the films. It would be unfair to rank one of the films above the others, so all three hold their place as the fantasy epic of the decade, equivalent in popularity and production to the original Star Wars trilogy. As I write this list, I’m watching an annual LOTR marathon in the freezing rain of January. Endless replay value.

 

 
15. Dig!

My favorite documentary of all time, Dig! follows the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre on their respective paths of success and self-destruction. Entertaining and ultimately heartbreaking, this is what happens when drugs, success, and creative control collide.

 

 

14. Sin City

Frank Miller’s graphic novel is brought to life by Robert Rodriguez and an unbelievable cast (Bruce Willis, Micky Rourke, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, etc). Three different storylines, all shot in black, white, and red, cast a noir-esque feel over everything. It’s even more powerful with whispery internal dialogue.

 

 

13. Pan’s Labyrinth

When reality is bleak (a violent Spanish civil war), a young girl (Ivana Baquero) retreats into a fantasy world filled with giant frogs, talking faunas, and creepy hairless cannibals with no eyes. A strict dichotomy between what is real and what is fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth is the escape everyone would wish for when confronted with the reality of totalitarian violence.

 

 
12. Donnie Darko

The trendy Jake Gyllenhaal flick that made room for Tears for Fears and Frank the giant bunny in indie pop culture. Skewing reality and time travel, the storyline of Donnie Darko can be interpreted in many different ways. The dream sequences with Frank are super creepy, and the supporting cast of teachers and self-help promoters (Patrick Swayze included!) seem eerily out of touch with Donnie and his troubles.

 

 
11. Milk

Gus Van Sant’s biography of Harvey Milk is a revolutionary true story of the struggle for gay rights in San Francisco. Starting on a small scale, Milk manages to establish the gay community in the Castro district of the city. He eventually gains enough power to be the first openly gay elected official. His tragic death makes him a martyr for his cause, and an inspiration for gay rights in America.

 

 

10. Vanilla Sky

The Tom Cruise film everyone loves to hate. Vanilla Sky (an adaptation of the Spanish Abre Los Ojos) is an insightful look into the future of technology, and what can be perceived as reality or fabrication. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot without revealing the twist, but there’s a good amount of Sigur Ros and Tom Cruise with a deformed face. What more could you want?

 

 
9. Amelie

Amelie (Audrey Tautou) is the innocent girl that every guy is in love with and every girl wants to imitate. She plans out an intricate puzzle to win the heart of a photo collector after finding his lost album. She’s creative, warm-hearted, and selfless. The film has not only a great soundtrack and colorful cinematography, but also interesting characters like the “glass man” and the brutish grocer. I’m also fairly sure this film started the “roaming gnome” trend.

 

 
8. Let The Right One In

In the frigid snows of Sweden, a strange young girl moves in next door to Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) who has a peculiar habit of staying in during the day and drinking blood to survive. It’s the story of how a vampire would survive in today’s society, trapped in the body of a twelve year old girl. As Eli (Lina Leandersson) and Oskar become close friends, he learns about the hardships of her lifestyle and what that means for their relationship.

 

 
7. The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky’s fantasy epic is one of the most underrated sci-fi films ever made. It follows Hugh Jackman as a botanical doctor struggling to find a cure for his ailing wife (Rachel Weisz). Within this storyline, Weisz is writing a novel about a hero’s quest to find the Tree of Life (also played by Jackman) in ancient Mexico. In a third parallel, Jackman is a futuristic space traveler (or is this his “infinite” self?) catapulting to a nebula in order to save a tree he is studying. All three storylines struggle with the prospect of death, while Weisz encourages Jackman to accept death as an inevitable state of being. It is beautifully written, visually amazing, and Clint Mansell’s soundtrack is grandiose. Too many people have written this film off for the wrong reasons. It’s absolutely stunning.

 

 
6. Big Fish

When Tim Burton stepped out of his dark, pseudo-horror mold to make Big Fish, he created a colorful world full of giants, Siamese twins, and towns with grass instead of roads. Albert Finney plays the elder Edward Bloom, an old man on his deathbed trying to reconcile his relationship with his son (Billy Crudup). His younger persona is Ewan McGregor, involved in unbelievable tall tales. At the end of the film, when Crudup comes to realize his father had been telling (mostly) the truth all the time, there is a tear-jerking tale, told this time by Crudup, in the style of his father. Big Fish is a beautiful movie, and I think it’s Burton’s best work.

 

 
5. Memento

The groundbreaking film by Christopher Nolan that follows Guy Pearce backwards as he tries to seek revenge while living with short-term memory loss. He tattoos clues on his body about locations and names, searching for his wife’s killer. Joe Pantoliano is the cop trying to help him, but can he be trusted? The ending has a superb twist that trumps most other surprise endings I’ve ever seen.

 

 
4. Mulholland Dr.

What a weird movie. When I first saw David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. I didn’t know what had just happened. Was it a dream? What’s with the cube? Who is that cowboy? What’s with the guy behind the dumpster? Scenes in this film are downright creepy, and there’s a loose plot involving an aspiring Hollywood actress (Naomi Watts) and the sinister inner workings of the industry. Like many movies already listed, there is a struggle between what is reality and what isn’t. Are we sensing a theme yet?

 

 
3. There Will Be Blood

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an oil tycoon in early 20th century America. He knows how to turn a profit, and has no moral qualms about using his son, religion, or innocent landowners to do so. Paul Dano plays the naive young preacher Eli, trying convince Daniel to turn to religion. Without seeing the big picture, Eli is abused by Plainview’s greed, along with most of the other townsfolk. This is the portrayal of the ultimate villain. Daniel Day-Lewis shows absolutely no compassion or sympathy for other human beings. He calculates his action so that every move he makes will result in profit. The very last scene shows the length Plainview will go to simply get his point across.

 

 
2. City of God

The gangs in City of God, based on a true story in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, make Scorsese’s gangs pale in comparison. We follow Rocket, a young photographer, as he grows up watching his brother rob milk trucks in the village. When his childhood friend Lil Ze starts killing at a young age and takes over the local coke ring, tensions rise in the city. Though stylized, the characters are based on real people, and the fighting is still going on in the slums to this day. We can only find solace that our beloved narrator has had the chance to live through this horror and document it in photo journalism. There aren’t many more films out there that are this intense.

 

 
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This masterpiece by writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondrey is the most realistic look at a relationship I’ve ever seen depicted on film. Jim Carrey is an insecure Joel Barish, wallowing in his loneliness and sporadically writing in his journal. Kate Winslet is the spontaneous Clementine Kruczynsky, bringing unpredictable flair to Joel’s life. In a unique twist, Clementine has the memory of Joel erased after their relationship ends, so Joel decides to do the same. In Joel’s unconscious mind, we follow their relationship backward, through the breakup, the building tension, the arguments, and nights out. We see Joel pine for Clementine as his best memories of her are wiped away. In a world where this concept is not so far fetched, it calls into questions the substance behind a relationship, and what it would mean to simply cut someone completely out of your life in an instant. Seeing this film right after the end of a rocky relationship made it that much more meaningful, and I haven’t seen a movie since that I loved this much.

The Many Faces of Nicolas Cage (Including John Travolta’s)

January 9, 2010

Look at that face


I just finished watching Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans by Werner Herzog. It stars Nick Cage as a strung out cop addicted to crack, heroin, and gambling. While not a groundbreaking film, I think this is one of my favorite Nick Cage roles I’ve seen lately. I usually hate the guy, probably because he’s cast as an action hero when he should be a neurotic, cracked-out single dad. This film has restored my faith in Nicolas Cage as an actor, but not my faith that he won’t keep accepting roles like Ghost Rider.

Let’s look at some of his recent work and see both the brilliant and downright horrid roles he’s played over the years:


National Treasure (2004)

Nicolas Cage finds a dead body in the Lourve in Paris and traces an action-packed path back to….wait, wait no, no that was The Da Vinci Code. I don’t buy Cage as a history whiz that can solve puzzles in his head in seconds, let alone a map that is embedded in the Declaration of Independence. This movie is atrocious, and I hate Cage even more for making a sequel. Although I haven’t seen Book of Secrets…maybe he redeemed himself?

OCD neurotic single dad Nick Cage


Matchstick Men (2003)

As an OCD con artist, Cage discovers a daughter he’s never met who has her father’s penchant for scams. The father-daughter duo make a lucrative business of ripping people off, while Cage spends his weekend scrubbing his carpet with a toothbrush. This is one of my favorite Cage movies. I think he needs a nervous tic to accentuate his twitchy personality.

double the Cage, double the awkward


Adaptation (2002)
Charlie Kaufman’s autobiographical film stars Nicolas Cage as Kaufman and Nicolas Cage as Kaufman’s brother Donald. In pure Kaufman style, Cage gets wrapped up writing a film about a novel which turns into a film about a writer writing a screenplay about a film about a novel. Yeah, you get the idea. Socially awkward and slightly hunched over, Cage’s fat, balding Kaufman is fantastic. In a pretty unique storyline, this works really well. One of my favorite movies.

Steal 50 cars in one night? Psh! Easy


Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Fuck yes! Nick Cage is “Memphis” Raines, a retired master car thief, who gets back into the business to save the life of his little brother, who hangs by his hands above a trash compactor or something. This is action hero Nick Cage, with a leather jacket and sunglasses. It has car chases, explosions, and Cage in a wife beater. He plays it cool throughout, lighting cigarettes while driving at 80 mph through a parking garage. This film is garbage, and Memphis is one of those one-dimensional characters that Cage loves to play. Somehow, Angelina Jolie even thinks he’s attractive.

Travolta. Cage. Faces.


Face/Off (1997)
In Face/Off, Nick Cage and John Travolta undergo surgical operations to graft their rival’s face over their own. Yes, this is actually the plot.

Cage with flowing golden mane


Con Air (1997)
This is only better than the previous two because it’s almost a parody of itself. Yes, Cage is a convict with a heart of gold (“Put down the bunny”). Yes, he plays devil’s advocate between the suave detective (John Cusack) and the world’s most dangerous criminals trapped on a renegade plane. The cast includes Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, and John Malkovich as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom. Hilariously bad, which is at least better than pathetically bad.

While I have yet to see Raising Arizona, it still looks like Cage’s terrible roles far outnumber the good ones. I even omitted Snake Eyes, City of Angels, The Rock, and Wicker Man. With Ghost Rider 2 on the horizon, all hope may be lost for Nicolas Cage.

A Place To Bury Strangers – Keep Slipping Away

January 7, 2010

12/22/09

Directed by Brendan Bellomo and Greg Wilson. Partly filmed at Death By Audio. This video f’n rules:


A Place To Bury Strangers – Keep Slipping Away

A Place To Bury Strangers | MySpace Music Videos

Tim Burton at the MOMA

January 7, 2010

12/3/09

Rarely is there an artist buried in his own niche that is able to achieve commercial success in any genre. Someone that can enchant children and terrify adults. His films range from Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Nightmare Before Christmas and Mars Attacks!. He’s had tear-jerkers (Big Fish), biographies (Ed Wood), and musicals (Sweeny Todd). At only 51, Tim Burton already solidified himself as one of the most visionary, imaginative, and horrifying directors of all time.



His work is on display at the Museum of Modern Art from November 18th to April 26th. In addition to half a floor dedicated to his early sketches and short films, all of Burton’s films, in addition to all of his influences, are playing during that same timeframe in the MOMA theatre.

I recently visited the museum for the exhibit and was blown away by the amount of early sketches on display. There were doodles from grade school, high school poetry, and his early short films he made with his friends. There were children’s books, storyboards, and even a version of Hansel and Gretel playing in its entirety. Many of the sculptures on display were of monsters he had created in some of his sketches. Some of them were smaller than action figures, while others stretched across the room. Most had multiple eyeballs and a mouthful of razor sharp teeth. Everywhere we looked were tentacles.

From his films, we saw storyboards, sketches of characters, and even props used in the film. Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands towered above the props with footlong blades for fingers. In a glass container lay the straight razors from a recent throat-slicing barber film. The headless horseman’s cape from Sleepy Hollow was draped over a far wall, ten feet tall.

Though we had been in the exhibit for quite some time, I felt like I could have absorbed much more. Instead, we decided to stroll through the rest of the MOMA, stumbling upon The Persistence of Memory, The Three Musicians, Starry Night, Christina’s World, and Sleeping Gypsy. I was also introduced to a few great artists like Gustav Klimt and Sol LeWitt. On the top floor, there was an exhibit called Bauhaus, centered around a German design school. I think I’ll go back and revisit this one, since it was almost as enthralling as Burton.

If you plan to visit New York and are looking for something to do, the Burton exhibit is on display until April. Get tickets in advance, because it’s going to be crowded. Try to pick a day that’s not the weekend, I’m sure it will be easier to walk around. And hell, if you’re looking for someone to go with, contact me. I’d go see this again.

Bohemibot

January 7, 2010

11/1/09

Over the last few days, my house has been turning into the set of a video shoot for A Place To Bury Strangers. Director Brendan Bellomo and Oliver have been working together to construct a sci-fi virtual reality simulation using a wall of televisions, a variety of Oliver’s pedals and homemade instruments, and a metal bowl attached to some cables.

(I took the pictures down, for the courtesy of Brendan’s artistic vision, but I’ll post the final video when it’s done editing.)

As awesome as this set looks, I’m more excited for the finished product and future endeavors by Brendan. We watched his 2009 Student Academy Award Winning film, Bohemibot, a futuristic sci-fi story about a man that loses his wife and child, as well as his hands, in a totalitarian takeover. Working in a sort of concentration camp in space, he copes with the absolute helplessness of this lifestyle and the grief of losing his family. When he meets a child prisoner sentenced to death, he works out a method of escape. Here is the trailer:

The music video will be for the song “Keep Slipping Away” off of Exploding Head. I can’t wait to see the final video.

2012

January 7, 2010

10/2/09

This post is about the movie, not the Inca/Nostradamus prediction

Everyone seems to be getting really excited for the upcoming Roland Emmerich movie 2012.

This movie bothers me on many, many levels. First of all, the limited knowledge I have about the prophecy of “2012” is not of global annihilation, but the end of an era of human consciousness and the beginning of a new era. It’s a mass shift in thinking, and from what I can see, it may be away from materialistic and monetary values and toward human values and community. Goals that are driven by happiness and helping others rather than money and fame.

But enough about that, the real problem with this movie is Roland Emmerich’s track record. Give Michael Bay some credit, even he doesn’t have such a terrible line of movies:

Independence Day

By far the best movie Emmerich has made. Aliens invade. They destroy famous landmarks like the capital building and the Washington Monument. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum fight them off. Most memorable quote: “Welcome to Earth.” I may be biased since I can’t stand Will Smith’s sense of humor, but this one is actually tolerable. Since it won the Oscar for best visual effects, this may have fueled Emmerich’s “artform” of making a movie solely based on special effects and lacking any sort of plot.

Godzilla (1998)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS A BAD MOVIE. Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno take on gigantic lizard as it attacks Manhattan. Tanks and helicopters are decimated by said fire-breathing lizard. Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page capitalize with hit single “Come With Me.” Creators of original Japanese Godzilla roll in their graves

The Patriot

Mel Gibson, enraged over the death of his son, leads an army of farmers and peasants to overthrow the king in 13th century Scotland….er 18th century colonial America. What’s the difference? This is practically a remake of Braveheart. I’ve only seen an hour of this movie, but it was enough to get the point across.

The Day After Tomorrow

I will go on the record saying this movie is the worst movie I have ever seen. Every natural disaster teams up to finally take down the world as Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhall battle hurricanes, hail storms, floods, tornadoes, and infectious viruses. I wrote papers in college about how bad this movie is. A cruise liner sails through Manhattan. Wolves hunt the characters in a scene almost identical to the raptors in the kitchen from Jurassic Park. They run from the frost, as if it travels in a straight line, chasing them through the city and into buildings. The plot is SO horrible, I vowed to never watch another Emmerich film again.

10,000 B.C.

Didn’t see this one. Do I really have to elaborate? See paragraph above.

I think the main focus is, don’t be fooled by the media hype. 2012 is probably going to be a painfully terrible movie. Roland Emmerich should cease directing and stick to special effects.