Movies »Femme Fatale

directed by Brian De Palma (2002)

While I have to admit on second viewing, Femme Fatale is far less clever and more cheesy than I remember, it’s still a great noirish guilty pleasure that marked Brian De Palma’s return to over the top form – mirroring some of my favorites of his career: the Hitchcock inspired Sisters, Blow Out, and the best, Body Double.

It’s hard not to have a soft spot for a film that opens with an epic heist set to classical music involving a bra made of diamonds and lesbian bathroom stall groping. Or maybe not… It was a box office bomb and most people seem to hate this movie.

But despite porny dialogue, bad acting (Romijn playing French speaking English, whew!), and a ludacris, off the rails plot about fate and a paparazzo – or maybe because of all that, I have loads of fun watching.

Just don’t take it too seriously or have lofty expectations.

See more: Movies

Posted on February 21, 2011

Albums »Grinderman

by Grinderman (2007)

Grinderman’s self titled debut swaggers. It sways and struts around the stage in tight pants while extravagantly yanking the mic around thrusting its hips. It is pretty much the embodiment of most of the rock and roll fantasies of most of the men I know.

It’s racous, simple rock and roll and the world absolutely loved it when it was released. I enjoy it too, though if I had to pick, I am more partial to the weirder, genre bending stuff from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

It’s interesting seeing this other side to these musicians though. Grinderman is made up of Cave plus various “Bad Seeds” and it sounds like they’re having fun; leaving behind some of the signature gloom while still retaining enough to set this apart from other rock albums out there.

Now that I’ve finally got caught up with this release, I need to look into Grinderman 2, released last year.

See more: Albums

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on February 17, 2011

Songs »Empire State of Mind Part II

by Alicia Keys (2009)

One good thing about winter isolation is that I rarely have to inadvertently listen to the radio playing in stores, that plus an ability to fast forward commercials? I’ve heard nary a Sugar Ray or an American Idol winner song in months and months.

The down side is that once and a while an uplifting gem slips through my radar, like Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind Part 2.

I am not sure if it makes me lame to the broader world that I didn’t know this song (when I asked the manicurist who sang it, she was polite enough to not give me an “are you serious?” look, yet I could tell that something had been decided for her about me right then and there). It was, as I’ve since learned, all the rage almost two years ago.

But then again, among the I-only-listen-to-radio-for-NPR crowd, it might make me just as lame to be so in love with such a popular hit – after all, it played right after the Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy”.

But lame or not – this sounds like modern day Donna Summer and there’s not a thing wrong with that. It makes one feel all alive with excitement, teaming with the hope of Diana Ross’ Mahogany stepping out to make her dreams come true in a huge shawl and a maxi skirt.

It reminds me of the initial thrill of coming to New York, when it felt as exciting in it’s vast energy as it was intimidating. And while I don’t walk down a street in Soho with the same dreamy eyes I had back in those days, the city can still amaze: when you drive back home during dusk and the skyline welcomes you, when snow first starts falling in the night time street lights, when… see look at me. I am super sentimental and it’s all because of this song.

But not the original Jay-Z version, I get less emotional to raps about Robert DeNiro.

See more: Songs

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on February 8, 2011

TV Shows »Iron Chef Japan

Re-Airing on Cooking Channel

I vividly remember when my family and I first watched Iron Chef. It was so flamboyantly dramatic, with a concept so unusual we – along with many Americans – were floored. There had just never been anything quite like it. I’ve been having a grand old time revisiting this epic show thanks to nightly reruns on Cooking Channel.

Chairman Kaga, with his glittering bejeweled capes, relish for biting into bell peppers and grand gestures sets the cinematic tone. It’s as emotional sometimes as it is campy. I was truly moved to amazement during the historic foie gras battle. I was swept up in the spectacle when, driven away from a French castle by dark horse drawn carraige (!), Sakai ventured off to gather his own ingredients in 24 hours throughout France.

It’s interesting how the world has changed since the show first aired. It seems people are so much more adventurous and knowledgeable about world cuisines. Once confounding dishes which we couldn’t even imagine what they tasted like, are now more approachable.

Sure I can’t exactly imagine crisp eel on chocolate ice cream – but with bacon topping ice cream these days, I have a better idea. As for fried fish bone chips – a dish that the younger me would question – now I’ve actually had and loved these at a neighborhood restaurant.

The U.S. attempted two remakes – if anyone else can remember the woefully off putting William Shatner number and the currently airing Iron Chef America – that I find too obnoxious to watch – something delicate and special got lost in the translation.

And for the record I have small crushes on all of the Iron Chefs, particularly the wise and mysterious Michiba.

See more: TV Shows

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on January 21, 2011

Songs »America’s Boy

by Broadcast (2005)

I have to admit, as a person generally wary of indie rock, I was not completely familiar with the complete works of the band Broadcast when I learned that the lovely and talented lead singer Trish Keenan died from pneumonia complications.

It’s such a tragedy to lose anyone so young, but particularly sad when you realize they had so much more surely to offer the world with their talents.

Over the years a few of their songs have made my itunes library thanks to friends’ mix CD’s etc and one of my favorites is the beautiful political pop song, America’s Boy.

See more: Songs

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on January 15, 2011

Movies,TV Shows »Hysterical Blindness

directed by Mira Nair

Hysterical Blindness, a 1980’s set HBO version of a Lifetime movie could have been nothing but hairspray and bad accents, but to every one’s credit involved, it’s a surprisingly nuanced, and touching portrayal of two party girls past their prime, standing guard at a local dive bar, waiting desperately for romance to change their Bayonne, New Jersey lives.

Uma Thurman is transforming as Debby, a character interestingly enough portrayed by the great Amy Ryan in the original 1997 Laura Cahill theatrical production. She contorts her exceptional beauty into a woman so needy and spastic that you wince as she awkwardly rockets around the screen between cigarettes, tears, freak outs and blow jobs. Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands, and Ben Gazzara all of whom are always, without exception, excellent round out the dream cast.

While it all ends a little too much on the cute side, it’s nice to see these women, icons of ironic tackiness and stereotype get a little happiness, whether in the form of new living room furniture or front yard parties all summer. And speaking of ironic tackiness, there is much here for thrift store shopping hipsters to get excited about: Shredded heavy metal tees, acid washed paint on jeans, spandex mini skirts, and lots of cheap rings.

I saw this when it first aired several years ago but recently felt the urge to revisit. I’m glad I did.

Click here for the rest of Hysterical Blindness

See more: Movies,TV Shows

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on January 10, 2011

Books »World Made By Hand

by James Howard Kunstler (2008)

Among the many post apocalyptic novels, James Howard Kunstler‘s World Made By Hand is relatively tame in the fear department – that is if you are used to baby eating and zombies. The story centers around a former exec turned homesteader after the modern world ends as we know it.

Set in Upstate New York, he and others are learning to survive despite severe tragedy in a comparatively calm corner of a world gone wrong (major catastrophes in the major cities are hinted at). Nearby a tribe of nere do wells control commerce and a cult of religious folk come to town with a mind to take things over.

Jim, glancing over my shoulder, assumed that I would be having a hard time with the book when he saw some Bible quotes and olde timey talk. And, yes I would think this take on the end of the world wouldn’t work for me, but reading it was kind of like being at a party and getting stuck in a serious conversation while watching people get silly drunk out of the corner of your eye… ultimately becoming so engrossed in the conversation so that you don’t care.

It’s a bit pedantic, and hopeful in an almost golly-gee sort of way but it paints a very vivid picture of a possible future without modern technology (for good and bad) that will make you think and enjoy it.

See more: Books

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on January 8, 2011

TV Shows »Skins

Aired on BBC

When I tell people I’ve been watching Skins (available on Netflix instant) and they ask “Oh, is that any good” I always say, “Well, I like it…” The reason for the qualification is because it depends on your threshold for teenage drama. My threshold is extremely high – I will watch tween Disney Channel movies made for eight year olds with glee, so for me, Skins is on the sophisticated end of the spectrum.

If you like the new generation of Degrassi but didn’t think it went far enough with the dirty bits, this British show is for you. Foul mouthed and extreme – it’s an exaggerated take on wild adolescence. Almost cartoonish at times – with adults and foreigners getting the brunt of stereotypes – it focuses on partying and sexual adventures but doesn’t skirt the serious stuff either (mental illness, abandonment, etc…)

I was enjoying it fine, but became more of a die hard fan by the end of season one, which ends with a bang and a musical number… Heart!

Am on to season two now and can’t wait to see what Sid, my favorite character, and all his friends are up to.

MTV is doing an American version, but because I like the way things sound with British accents, I am sure it is going to suck.

See more: TV Shows

One Comment →
Posted on December 12, 2010

Books »Running With Scissors

by Augusten Burroughs (2002)

So, I am about a decade late in reading the hippest book to have on the train, Running With Scissors, but being behind the times doesn’t hinder the enjoyment of this twisted memoir. Augusten Burroughs‘ story is right up my ally, as I could listen to people gossip about their crazy families all day. I even had a friend who, though I am on bad terms with, I am sometimes tempted to contact just so I can hear the latest on his aunt and uncle hi-jinx.

Very few people, though, can claim a childhood quite as wildly messed up as this one (though I know a few that are at least tied). “Raised” to a very limited degree by an insane poetess mother, given over to en equally nuts Doctor and his unhinged family, having an affair as a preteen with a pedophile, this is a sad tale of adolescence without boundaries, which is no where near as fun as it might sound to an adolescent.

Still, Burroughs manages to make what could be almost unbearable to read pretty hilarious. Looking back with wise and sarcastic wit of an adult, he reminds us that he did, in fact, survive all the madness and has, to the joy of all his readers, lived to tell the tale.

The book was adapted into a movie recently by Glee creator, Ryan Murphy, but was considered to be one of the worst of the year. I can kind of see how the subject matter, always verging on or full on disturbing could be tough to bring to the screen without a really gentle touch (which, from watching Glee is unlikely Murphy’s m.o.).

See more: Books

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on December 7, 2010

TV Shows »Damages

Aired on FX, Available on Netflix Instant

I know! I had absolutely no interest in watching Damages either. Single plot dramas on FX can be hard to get motivated to watch, especially if you can’t jump in mid-season or miss an episode, but with the highly critically acclaimed show on netflix instant, it’s given new life for viewers (like me). Life it desperately needs, as their ratings have fallen significantly the past (third) season.

With a first rate class cast led by Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, Damages seems to be the network’s attempt at a more serious, female driven drama to its roster of other dramas I don’t watch (The Shield, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy). From the fully satisfactory first season, I can say that maybe those shows should get a second look from me to0.

I don’t want to give too much plot away. It’s about lawyers, but far from a Law and Order type courtroom drama, it focuses more on the behind the scenes manipulation, double crossing and even murder that happens before a trial, specifically a trial against Mr. Frobisher, a corporate giant that, through insider trading, stole the savings and livelihood of his employees while becoming richer and richer.

It’s an appropriate bad guy for our times with real life corporate greed making headlines daily, but it’s played with an almost naive complexity by Ted Danson, who I am just liking more and more these days (he even outshines Galifianakis in the middle of the road Bored to Death). Instead of a bloated caricature, he’s very human with his confused ego, though no less terrible. Close, similarly complex, is more of an anti hero than the good guy. Even if her motivations are for the right side, she’s more capable of evil than anyone.

We’re going to start season two soon which continues the tradition of good actors featuring Timothy Olyphant, William Hurt, and Marcia Gay Harden.

See more: TV Shows

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on October 23, 2010

TV Shows »Signe Chanel

Aired on Sundance

The fashion world is often viewed as a most glamorous one and there is certainly no shortage of glamour in the behind the scenes documentary, Signe Chanel: the Chanel head quarters in Paris house bright, incredible work spaces, the clothes themselves are almost inexplicably gorgeous (a wedding dress that will in particular make you gasp), and the mastermind himself Karl Lagerfeld is bejewelled and sunglassed at the height of impeccable style. However, it’s the true labor, care and dedicated hard work that goes into this collection (a memorably exquisite Fall 2004 collection) that film maker Loic Prigent, who also made the Day Before series I previously recommended, is most intrigued by. The seamstresses are every bit as important as Karl at the house of Chanel and to watch them interpret his free form, beautiful sketches into three dimensional pieces of couturier art is absolutely fascinating.

One of the most interesting characters revealed in the show is Madame Pouzieux , an elderly farmer who also creates the signature Chanel braids on her remote farm on a loom she invented herself over forty years ago. A local shoe maker with his made to order cobble shop and a beading house where women tirelessly bead one garment for days and nights with little rest are also given rare center stage in an industry obsessed with the rich, famous and showy. The humble awe he treats these tailors, seamstresses, shoe makers, beaders and braiders makes for a most intimate and slightly heart stopping look at fashion. It’s certainly one of the most interesting things I have seen on TV recently and a must for fashion fanatics – though just as recommended to those that turn their nose at fashion as art (isn’t it curious that those people often have no problem appreciating other art forms?).

Shot simply and beautifully on video, this feels intimate and you become involved in the arduous process of making a collection. It aired on Sundance during NY fashion week but is unfortunately not listed to be airing again soon but you can watch via youtube or on DVD from Amazon UK if you have a region 2 player. It’d worth seeking out this joyous ode to haute couture.

Click here for the rest of Signe Chanel

See more: TV Shows

Posted on October 5, 2010

Movies »The Square

directed by Nash Edgerton (2008)

Lofty comparisons to Coen Brothers or the noir great (and recent Brix Pick) Body Heat are given out generously but rarely to a movie that actually deserves it. Australia’s neo-noir The Square comes pretty close. Set in a suburban town among thugs and working men, the script seems interested in seeing just how very wrong plans can go when they involve taking a bag full of money.

Actor David Roberts plays Ray, a man desperate enough to go to greats lengths usually preserved for characters in just this kind of movie for a woman he loves with iron jawed realism. The rest of the cast is notable too for their believable portrayals, particularly Joel Edgerton (who also wrote the film – brother Nash directed) as a criminal for hire. After all, as film like as the plot is, with hired killers, black mail, and affairs, I’ve seen enough true crime shows in my life to know that normal people do bad things like this all the time. Though presumably without as much bad luck as Ray.

Can’t reveal too much without giving away the enjoyable suspense, but there are enough twists and surprises delivered with gritty, bleak gravitas to forgive that it doesn’t exactly live up to the comparisons its garnered. In a  drought of decent new movies to watch on DVD (Marmaduke or Tooth Fairy anyone?) this lesser known thriller is a godsend.

I look forward to following the Edgerton brothers future directing projects (Nash is also a stunt coordinator on movies like Knight and Day that are less intriguing).

See more: Movies

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on September 18, 2010

Albums »Blood Visions

by Jay Reatard (2005)

From the tragic drug related death at age 26 of Jay Reatard, aka Jimmy Lee Lindsey, it would seem he lived as he made music: short and hard. His energetic, agitated Blood Visions squeezes life out of the pop punk quick song tradition with a critically adored album that calls to mind Operation Ivy and The Ramones with a modern wave that almost sounds like Wire-like.

It’s not the genre of music I usually go to first, but I’ve found myself mysteriously drawn to the spastic album lately that lends a sense of urgency to any project you happen to be working on while listening to it. It’s not revolutionary but for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, it’s far more interesting and worthy of repeat listens than other similar takes on pop punk. It’s a shame we won’t be hearing any more from this talented showman.

See more: Albums

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on September 18, 2010

Movies »Mulholland Drive

directed by David Lynch (2001)

With such a unique point of view and mind, a David Lynch project is always worthy of excitement, even if the results are extremely uneven and sometimes downright unbearable (see Inland Empire). It’s a pleasure then to revisit Mulholland Drive, even if it loses some of it’s stunning effect upon second viewing – there are just so many odd surprises first time round, it’s hard to recapture. By all means this should have been a confusing mess, and with dropped plot points, characters and strange twists, it nearly is – but somehow it all manages to work beautifully if not confoundedly.

It’s not surprising that the project was cobbled together from a pilot for a much larger television series. The fact that ABC, in a climate of prudence, rejected the pilot is a shame. While elements like the monster behind the diner, the hunk lover Billy Ray Cyrus, the cryptic cowboy, the appearance of both Lost’s Jacob and Robert Forster, the blue box, and the magic performance are all effective in the film, I’d love for all the ideas to have had a chance to flourish over time and we all would benefit from a new Twin Peaks style series to become obsessed with.

Click here for the rest of Mulholland Drive

See more: Movies

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on August 22, 2010

Albums »The Life of Clutchy Hopkins

by Clutchy Hopkins (2006)

The neighborhood corner Aussie gem, Five Leaves has much to recommend it (a brilliant chicken sandwich, pavlova, muesli, gravlax, and excellent coffee to name a few) but aside from the food and an affable staff, there’s always good tunes playing. I am usually familiar with what their spinning, and sometimes pleasantly surprised (True Stories by Talking Heads is woefully forgotten and underplayed). This morning though, a music I was thoroughly enjoying was unknown to me. It ended up being a one Clutchy Hopkins, a man whose very identity in in question and the stuff of mystery and legend.

Considered a dj, his music is an amalgamation of styles and sounds and as far from the monotonous stuff that inspires squatting, hoola hooping in McCarren Park (anyone else privy to that display Saturday?) that I usually associate with the term “dj”.

The album is self produced and likely to become the soundtrack to the rest of my summer. Very lovely stuff.

See more: Albums

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on August 15, 2010

Albums »Dengue Fever

by Dengue Fever (2003)

We’re big fans of the psychedelic Cambodian pop band Dengue Fever and I have previously recommended their slightly more modern release Venus on Earth. Their exploration of authentic classic Cambodian pop – the fun, danceable and energetic tracks make this debut album, Dengue Fever remarkably enjoyable. Not only are Los Angelians Zac and Ethan Holtzman bringing a genre that was sadly demolished with the rise of Pol Pot back to audiences, the incomparable Chhom Nimol (aside from giving Jim hot pants) brings the classic songs to vivid life. I love when songs from this album come up randomly on my ipod, they add a bit of the 1960’s cinematics to your day. Many of the songs make me feel like I should be in a wild set piece for a Seijun Suzuki movie (which is a great way to feel). They are also pretty spectacular to see live and do so in California often for those that live on the West Coast.

See more: Albums

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on July 25, 2010

Books »Lunar Park

by Bret Easton Ellis (2005)

I can kind of understand why some Bret Easton Ellis fans told me not to bother with Lunar Park. It’s a love it or leave it (The Boston Globe said it may be the worst novel I’ve ever read) book that really depends on how much you’re willing to go with him on a journey, not fueled by sexy young things, drugs and privilege (well, OK there is a bit of that) but on a journey that most closely resembles Poltergeist meets faux self loathing. Yes, Ellis has pretty much created a straight up horror summer reading book with loads of meta meta meta.

The main character is Bret Easton Ellis, and while most of his life story and persona are true, the skyrocketing fame and parties of the real Ellis are well known, much of the biography of this “Bret Easton Ellis” is purely made up. (I was one of the clueless who looked up the book version of Bret Easton Ellis’ girlfriend, Jayne Dennis to see if she was real – she’s as real as Dorsia – which I also looked up). He is a world famous, controversial author now living the suburban life with his wife, her daughter, and his estranged son while reluctantly teaching at his alma mater and trying to carry on affairs with his students.

There’s cocaine, there’s alcohol, there’s clever cynicism.. even Jay McInerney shows up – but the book takes on something entirely new for Ellis when the McMansion he lives in starts to show signs of being possessed. Lights begin to flicker, footsteps burn themselves into the carpeting, a Furby like doll turns animals inside out, and a hairy creature crawls up the stairs. Patrick Bateman , the serial killer from American Psycho also makes an appearance – killing locals based on the novel and young neighborhood boys are (willfully?) disappearing. I’m not surprised that he says the book was an homage to Stephen King because it shares much more with those genre books than I think most fans were interested in.

It’s sometimes complicated, sometimes melodramatic, often cinematic (you can easily see many of the scenes played out in a movie) and definitely surreal but it’s mostly about the pain of bad father and son relationships. Well, that and violent ghosts.

Best to enter this one without expectations and a love for the horror book genre.

See more: Books

Be the first to leave a comment →
Posted on July 18, 2010