Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Major Lazer

Diplo + Switch = Major Lazer

Picked up 'Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do,' the collabortion/concept album by djs Diplo and Switch (going by the name Major Lazer). A crazy fresh fusion of dancehall, reggae, electro and even some punk riffs, the album is just what is needed to kick start the summer. The cd features vocals by Santigold, Mr. Vegas, Nina Sky, Amanda Blank and a whole crew of people I don't recognize.
As far as the concept goes, Major Lazer is a vampire and zombie-fighting Jamaican cartoon commando with a laser for an arm. See the animated video for the first single "hold the line" below to get a sense of the whole tacky, zany aesthetic:

The animated concept reminds me of what Daft Punk did with their 'Discovery' album, going for that whole anime thing. But I personally like the style of Major Lazer's animation better.
For whatever reason, one of the best tracks is unfortunately left off the album! Download 'zumbi.'

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gregg Araki Post #2- 'Nowhere'

Described as 'Beverly Hills 90210 on acid,' 'Nowhere' (1997) marks the conclusion of Gregg Araki's Teen Apocalypse Trilogy, a trio of films dissecting teen angst. Inspired by and directly riffing off of Bret Easton Ellis' novel 'Less Than Zero' (hilarious dialogue from the scene featuring cameos by Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowen and Traci Lords as Valley Chicks, seems to be ripped directly from the pages of Ellis' book), 'Nowhere' satirizes and explores pop culture with scenes of sex, disturbing violence, drug taking and an ending that would have Kafka cumming in his pants- or rolling in his grave. Surreal, frenetic, awash in flashy, neon/pop art colours, shot + edited in an MTV style, and featuring a large ensemble cast, 'Nowhere' is at first overwhelming and hard to digest.
Of all the characters in 'Nowhere,' the film follows the doe eyed, sensitive and naive Dark (James Duval), a dead ringer for Araki, as he deals with the alienation, disillusionment, sexual awakening/confusion and pressures of coming of age. Throughout the film he interacts with his bisexual, polyamorous girlfriend, Mel (Rachel True), Mel's bitchy girlfriend Lucifer (Kathleen Robertson) and the shy, stuttering boy he has developing feelings for, Montgomery (Nathan Bexton) as well as characters played by: Chiara Mastroianni, Debi Mazar, Jordan Ladd, Christina Applegate, Guillermo Díaz, Jeremy Jordan, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham and Mena Suvari, just to name a few. For the most part, the acting veers into campy, stilted, caricature territory and I wish I had asked Araki if this was purposeful. Like 'The Doom Generation' (1995), 'Nowhere' also features numerous celebrity cameos such as John Ritter as a televangelist, 'My So Called Life's' Devon Odessa and 'Step By Step's' Stacy Keenan as two girls whose respective names are What and Ever, 'The Brady Bunch's' Christopher Knight and Eve Plumb, Charlotte Rae as a fortune teller, Denise Richards as Lucifer's sister, David Leisure, video director Stephane Sednaoui as a photographer, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and more. All of these interconnected characters flit in and out of each other's lives while careening towards a climactic party at Jujyfruit's house which turns out to be a post modern Sodom or Gomorrah. Oh yeah, and there is an alien that is laser beaming and abducting people that only Dark seems able to see.
Though criticized for being nihilistic and superficial, 'Nowhere' is more than simple entertainment laced with a near overdose of shock value. The film is outlandishly stylish and cool but it does not sacrifice substance as it ruthlessly confronts themes of unrequited love, suppressed homosexual desires, and the empty, soul sucking commercialization and commodification of spirituality.

As with any Araki film, the soundtrack is awesome. Songs to download/check out:
Radiohead- how can you be sure?
Elastica- In the city
The Chemical brothers- Life is sweet (Daft punk remix)
Coco and the bean- Killing time (qureysh- eh? 1 remix)
Catherine wheel- intravenous
Curve- Nowhere
The London Suede- Trash
Slowdive- avalyn II
Stacey Q- two of hearts
The Verve- grey skies
Nine Inch Nails- memorabilia
Portishead- mourning air
The The- love is stronger than death

Unfortunately the dvd has yet to be released in the US or Canada so you'll have to hunt down a VHS copy like me or watch it on youtube.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fritzmania contd.

Here are some pics I took of the Fritz Helder and the Phantoms show Platinum (Live):

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gregg Araki post #1- 'Mysterious Skin'

Rewatched one of my fav films, Gregg Araki's 'Mysterious Skin' (2004) the other night and thought I would not only post about it, but do a series of posts about Araki and his work in general.

I saw my first film directed by Araki, 'Nowhere' (1997), when I was a young teen. I hadn't seen anything like it before and it made a huge impact and imprint on me. I discovered a world of music through the soundtrack and the film has influenced and inspired my own work. I had the pleasure of meeting Araki at the 07 Toronto Film Fest when he brought the unfortunate 'Smiley Face.' He was funny, charming and humble. We talked about Ladytron and how much he liked them.
Below is an awkward pic of us (hello Casper with bad hair):

Based on the novel by Scott Heim, 'Mysterious Skin' is a powerful and heartbreaking film about the everlasting effects of sexual abuse and how the past forever haunts us, no matter how hard we may try to outrun it. I first saw the film at Inside Out (04?) and actually didn't love it. I think this was due to the stupid audience with whom I didn't want to share the intense, visceral reaction the film evokes. Only when I rented it on my own was I able to let it hit me with full force and appreciate how strong and well crafted it is.
'Mysterious Skin' stars Brady Corbet as Brian Lackey and the hot Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil McCormick, two teenagers who were sexually abused by their baseball coach when they were young boys. Whereas Neil has grown up to be a sexually outgoing prostitute, fetishizing older men/father figures, the geeky, introverted Brian blocked out the abuse and is convinced he was instead kidnapped by aliens and experimented on. The film forks into two story threads, following Neil as he moves to NYC with his friend Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Brian as he desperately tries to discover the truth about his past by tracking down Neil. Once they meet and their stories converge, the boys confront the dark secretes of their childhood in an incredibly wrenching climax with a symbolic final image as Neil narrates the molestation he and Brian experienced.

Subtle, nuanced, restrained and introspective, 'Mysterious Skin' feels like it is told through the eyes of a child, with all the mystery that entails. The cinematography is beautiful with interesting direct address shots, dreamy lighting and many appearances of the classic Araki shot pictured below:

Araki masterfully handles the difficult subject matter with an unsentimental, matter of fact approach and even manages to infuse an innocent sense of humor. Abandoning some of the campier aspects and bad boy rebelliousness of his previous work, he appears to have distilled his preoccupations and predilections for 'Mysterious Skin.'
Most of the performances are good, including Elisabeth Shue as Neil's mom but especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil. I was blown away by all the intricacies and minute mannerisms of this character and Levitt does a way better job of the brooding, mumbling, clenched jaw, small town gay than Heath Ledger in 'Brokeback Mountain' (2005). The only performance that sticks out for me as artificial is that of Michelle Trachtenberg as Wendy. I had the opportunity to meet and work beside her on the film 'Ice Princess' (2005)- I was an extra. She seemed like a cool, laid back girl but I don't think she possesses the chops this film required.
As always, Araki selected pitch perfect music for the soundtrack. This time around enlisting Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd who create a haunting tonal score.
Check out an example of the music here:
The film also features these amazing tracks worth downloading/exploring:
Slowdive- "golden hair," "catch the breeze" and "dagger"
Sigur Ros- "samskeyti"
Curve- "galaxy"
Cocteau Twins- "crushed"

Go rent this film.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Poster Boy

Was flipping through a magazine today and discovered the work of Poster Boy, a New York based street artist.
Brandishing only a razor or exacto knife, Poster Boy cuts up sections of advertisement posters in the platforms of New York City subway stations and pastes them back in different positions, creating collages that are satirical, political and hilarious.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Art #1

Here are some examples of my sketchy sketches:

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