Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prick Tunes: Charlie Parr "Ain't No Grave"

As the text at its Vimeo page says, this performance was the inspiration for the filmmakers behind the upcoming film Meeting Charlie Parr. Visit the website for the film if interested. If you weren't already into Charlie Parr, this'll get its hooks in you. For more info on the film, I'm sure our old pal biblioburro/word mule will keep us posted, just like he did here. They also have a Euro-Kickstarter page here, and could use your donations to put the finishing touches on the film.

Charlie Parr - Ain't no grave - Paris from meetingcharlieparr on Vimeo.

Man on Film: Spring Breakers

I'll open with the obligatory apology for lack of activity on the blog. Sorry.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, Spring Breakers was kind of a mess. It was ridiculous, James Franco was great, and there were plenty of moments to like*, but ultimately Harmony Korine's new film never really congeals into a cohesive vision, or at least not a cohesive film.

*If you're broken, like I am.

At various points throughout the film, it feels like Harmony Korine is attempting to make a point, to speak to the state that American society finds itself in. Somewhere in the mix, it felt as though he was going to highlight how the bacchanal that is the spring break phenomenon was metaphorically related to Rome at the fall of the Empire, in his own cold, idiosyncratic, exploitative way. There were moments where it felt like that point was going to be furthered, but that path was abandoned without warning.

There were times where it felt like Spring Breakers was trying to represent some sort of truth, a scripted riff on cinéma vérité-informed filmmaking, but then the moments of truth were undercut by moments of absurd, over-the-top acts by characters that tore you from associating the film with the reality that was being established moments earlier. The establishment of the girls' mundane college existence seemed to be an attempt to ground the film. Then they rob "the chicken shack" in a turn that seems to abruptly point the film in the direction of the good girls gone bad exploitation flick, only to go back to roughly half an hour of montage heavy spring breaking, with next-to-zero nudity from the principal cast (the only non-partial nudity is of Rachel Korine, guys and gals) no less. At many points in the film, it feels like Harmony Korine is going to take this film to the next level, advancing and peddling his bizarre brand of shock-and-awe exploitation masquerading as art-house fodder, but then he pulls back.

In the end, Spring Breakers never gets past feeling like a Harmony Korine film was smashed together with an after school special, party scenes from Girls Gone Wild series, and a salvaged but incomplete Michael Mann film. This makes for a particularly schizophrenic viewing experience, one made all the worse by the fact that only Franco and Gucci Mane distinguish themselves as capable actors in the film, while the girls (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Selena Gomez round out the cast) are simply present while the camera is rolling, hoping that these were the roles that freed them from the ranks of type-cast "good girls." If the film was just James Franco tickling the ivories and singing with the girls, it would have been great, but instead Korine's attempt at inserting himself into the crime drama game is a total clusterfuck. It is fun at times, but that fun is mitigated at least in part by the aimlessness of its auteur.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tube Steak: You Need to Think More About Roseanne

Be honest. You never think about Roseanne. This comedy or that comedy is better. Blah, blah, blah.

Pull your head out of your ass. Watch this episode to the end--all the way--and get your head straight. Recognize the greatness of John Goodman. I'm dead serious.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Man on Film: Boy Friends and Hundredaires

Today I get to toss some cyber-love out to two of my pals who have projects coming your way in some way, shape, or form.

First up is my friend and collaborator (on a project that I'm waiting to talk about until it's a little more real), Hugo Vargas-Zesati. Hugo's debut as a writer-director has been accepted to SXSW. It's a deliciously demented short film entitled Boy Friends. Hugo is also the dashing gent on crutches. Showtimes during the festival can be found here.

Then there is long-time friend Sean McGrath, who some of you may know/recognize from his work on Twilight or Everyman's War or as a writer/on-air personality on Oregon Public Radio's variety show Live Wire. Why we've never completed any collaborative project likely boils down to my laziness and/or relative unease in the screenwriting medium. He is writing on Hundredaires, one of new bits of original programming that the French Kiss Records video site FKR.TV and one on which David Cross is an Executive Producer. Hundredaires is one of the projects featured in this trailer. Be sure to subscribe to keep up to the minute on FKR.TV updates.

Prick Tunes: NPR Presents: Josh Ritter

My brother who posts here from time to time posted this link on my Facebook page, so it makes a bit of sense to just embed the video here.

Josh Ritter just played at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on March 4, 2013 in support of his new album, The Beast In Its Tracks, which was just released this week on Yep Roc Records. As NPR does from time to time (like with Spiritualized, Yo La Tengo, David Byrne & St. Vincent, and many more), they post the concert on the web for all to take in. I haven't had the time to listen to the new album yet, and it's apparently dealing with picking up the pieces after divorce. Maybe this is his Tunnel of Love or slightly less depressing Sea Change, albums I adore. Regardless, this set seems to offer a pretty comprehensive look at The Beast In Its Tracks, albeit in a live setting. Have at it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Man on Film: Tar [U.S. Premiere]

Tar--the James Franco-produced project featuring twelve of his NYU grad students'* collected and re-edited short films based on poems found in C.K. Williams titular collection--is an interesting filmic experience. Functioning largely as an elegiac meditation on innocence, both a fond remembrance and a lamentation on the loss of it, Tar is enriched with a lyrical, image-driven presentation of ideas and themes.

*It only seems right to give them their due. In credited order: Edna Luise Biesold, Sarah-Violet Bliss, Gabrielle Demeestere, Alexis Gambis, Brooke Goldfinch, Shripriya Mahesh, Pamela Romanowsky, Bruce Thierry Cheung, Tine Thomasen, Virginia Urreiztieta, and Omar Zúñiga Hidalgo are all writers and directors; Shruti Ganguly is an additional screenwriter.

Much like the film that obviously inspired its look and feel--Franco said as much in the introductory presentation--The Tree of Life, Tar is not a film featuring a traditional, linear, three-act structure. For someone who loved The Tree of Life, this is a style of filmmaking that is at least in part appealing. Now there is an element of feeling a bit reductive, and while it is impossible to not be entirely enamored with Jessica Chastain, it is a bit on the nose to cast her as the identical character that she was in the film that so heavily influenced it. There is not anyone better suited to play the part, so one cannot fault the filmmakers responsible for the scenes of Williams's adolescence for jumping at the chance to let Chastain ply her trade. It does, however, make it feel as though they are shouting the influence from the rooftops.

Largely, though, this is a series of connected short films by grad students from a storied program with a star-studded cast including Franco, Chastain, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Bruce Campbell, and Henry Hopper. The near-final product--Franco stated that this was not quite finished, though one has to imagine that it is close to done--works for the most part. Tar is evocative, serving the image and C.K. Williams's words well. It is ultimately 75 minutes culled from roughly three hours worth of short films, feeling mostly like a film with a cohesive vision and having averted the potential trap of clashing styles by establishing a visual style beforehand and employing just two cinematographers to better align the shorts to be better able to synthesize a cohesive film from the shorts. As a film, it is captivating if occasionally disjointed. Tar is much better than one would expect for when faced with the prospect of undertaking the viewing of more than an hour of student films. It certainly has its merits, and coming out of the film, there was an interest in seeing how the separate shorts played themselves out on their own merits, leaving me interested in an eventual DVD/Bluray release. Then again, this is coming from someone who minored in film studies while majoring in English lit.

James Franco also fielded questions immediately following the screening, first from the Alamo Drafthouse's moderator and film programmer, Sam Prime, and then from the crowd. Most of the questions pertained to the film we had just seen, and it was interesting to hear how the experience was for the actors (who were getting back to a purer form (read: non-commercial) of filmmaking with these burgeoning directors) and for the directors (who were actually getting to work with accomplished actors for the first time). I didn't take notes because I'm not "that guy," but he seemed to really love having taught the class, and Tar looks to be the first of many of these projects, the next one being done through the UCLA MFA film program, if I remember correctly.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Prick Tunes: Hayes Carll "KMAG YOYO"

Sorry about the relative lack of inactivity in these here parts. I've been pretty sidetracked with some writing that isn't going to be found on the internet. As a result, I'm a bit behind here. I've got a slew of Man on Film entries that I have to get caught up on, not to mention some Reading Rainbow entries and a piece that's been in on the back burner for quite some time.

Enough excuses though; I'm not going to feel bad for working on other stuff that may conceivably pay.

Here's a sweet in-studio performance of Hayes Carll's "KMAG YOYO" recorded at KEXP. I found it while digging up tracks for a playlist and figured this was as good a time and place as any for that.

Come get some.
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