Monday, July 30, 2007

Arcade Fire + Neon Bible + The Woodlands + Church

Alright, I give up:

Can someone explain Arcade Fire's Neon Bible album to me? It's one of my favorite albums of the year, especially since a) I live in The Woodlands and b) I work at a church.

You see, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, Win Butler, grew up in The Woodlands (and went to high school at Phillip Exeter in NH, interestingly). I ran into Andy Osenga shortly after he bought the album, and he suggested to me that the whole Neon Bible album was probably about church in the Woodlands. "It makes sense," he noted. "I've never met anyone from the Woodlands who didn't work at a church."

Butler eventually packed up bags from The Woodlands, moved to Montreal and started Arcade Fire. On one of his first albums, he wrote a song called "The Woodlands National Anthem," which I don't pretend to understand but I've included lyrics for those curious.

But Neon Bible is several steps beyond just one cryptic song. Filled with accusatory tunes like "Neon Bible" and "Intervention," which includes the chorus "working for the church while your family dies," it's tough for someone in my position not to listen to the album with a careful ear. The band recorded the whole album in a church (how's that for symbolism?), and their tour is decked out with religious symbols - in neon, appropriately.

So, I've done the Google search in the title in several different variations without any real success, though I have uncovered a lot of people who feel the whole thing is a grand metaphor for Bush. Surprise.* And so this is my plea: could someone who comes across this post through web searches or linkings or what have you please explain to me what this whole album is about, and what The Woodlands has to do with any of it?

And now I play the waiting game.

*By the way, if this post is found by one of those grand-metaphor-for-Bush people, could you please not leave messages like "anyone who doesn't think this album is about Bush has his f---ing head in the sand," or "it's such a f---ing cop out to think that this album isn't about Bush," etc. You may in fact be right - I'm willing to listen to such theories - but I've just read enough abrasiveness for right now. Make your case in the Queen's English, please.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Landlord

Perhaps you wondered what it would be like to have Will Ferrell as your father.

Now you know:

The Landlord

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Things I Learned

I learned some things yesterday:

1. If you put dish soap in a dishwasher, it foams right up.

2. Dishwashers have a vent at the bottom that allows this foam to exit the dishwasher.

3. If you put a lot of dish soap in (say, filling both soap trays) a lot of suds will form (say, filling the room with bubbles).

4. If you do these things in the break room at work, you will never, ever, ever hear the end of it.

Ignore these things at your own peril.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Britney Spears News

Far be it from me to post news about Britney Spears, or to link to a People article, but this little piece of info has cropped up across the net and everyone needs to know about it: Britney has announced that she's letting her fans vote for her new album title. Click here to see the 5 options.

April and I both feel that the Lindsay Lohan one is probably her best option.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Transformers and Schindler's List

Watch Transformers in theaters or not at all. Loads of fun, but the silliest thing I have ever seen. If you watch it at home, you'll end up spending half the movie saying "hey, this movie doesn't have a plot. Hey! Do you see this? This movie actually has no plot whatsoever! I've never seen that before."

It's funny to me to hear Michael Bay talk about this movie, because he says things like "all my friends want to know why I'd do a silly movie like this, and I don't know what to tell them," and "this is just the most ridiculous thing I've been involved in," etc., etc.

Let me refresh your memory, Mr. Bay. You are Michael Bay. You made Armageddon, you made Pearl Harbor, you made a second Bad Boys movie eleven years after you made the first one. Frankly, it could be argued this is the most serious thing you've ever done, that's how ridiculous your career is. Do not, for a moment, try to give us your "auteur director" b.s. We see through your web of lies.

On the complete flip side, I watched Schindler's List for the first time last night. A lot of the shock was gone for me since the film has become so entrenched in our film conscious that most of the stunning, blood-run-cold bits were a bit dulled, in the same way it would be if I'd watched Empire Strikes Back for the first time tonight while still having lived in pop culture for the past 23 years ("oh, look, Darth Vader is Luke's father. Shocker.").

Still, that's a film of some real raw power, isn't it? The best parts were whenever I got to a bit that I didn't know anything about - that Auschwitz shower scene, for example, I knew nothing about - and all of a sudden my stomach clenched with a "what's going to happen? How terrible is this going to end? I can't take it!" type of suspense, which I imagine is what it would've been like for people who saw the film when it came out. I wish I'd seen it then.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

A Bit of Fry & Laurie

I was surfing through TV Links - the greatest site in the world, if you haven't seen it yet - and I stumbled across a show called "A Bit of Fry & Laurie." I said to myself, "Geez, that sounds to me like a show where famed British character actors Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry clown around and make understated British jokes and do random sketches. Wouldn't that be funny if that's what it was? I bet it's just some random cartoon, though." I clicked on it.

I'll be damned, it was a 25-year old BBC show where famed British character actors Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry clown around and make understated British jokes and do random sketches. Simply marvelous. Here's a link to the show.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tristram Shandy, "Greek," and a new Arthur.

I'm here watching Tristram Shandy, a complicated Spinal Tap-meets-Shakespeare In Love mockumentary, waiting to fall in love with it. So far, more clever than funny, bewildering, and a little dull.

Oh, hell, it's over. No, I can't recommend it. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are doing Al Pacino impersonations over the end credits and I have no idea why. This is actually pretty similar to how I feel about the last two hours of the movie.

I watched the pilot for "Greek" today, a new "college kids getting crazy while fitting into pre-existing stereotypes" show on ABC Family. It's unremarkable, a simple knockoff on Animal House, "Undeclared," and John Hughes movies, but I got attached to the main two actors: the geek-turned-Greek main character's played by a likeable no-name, Jakob Zachar, and his social climing sister is Spencer Grammer, who is Kelsey Grammer's daughter. She's good anyway.

Here's a link to the latest Arthur The Intern. You can't read the graphics, but if you've got Facebook, trek to my page and look at it there. I just discovered it, but Facebook video is the best looking free video available on the web by a large margin. I wish everyone had Facebook.

I gotta go. This Tristram Shandy DVD menu has been looping an annoying little fife-and-accordion tune for what seems like centuries.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Review: Evening (2007)

Last Friday night, I was behind on my work, and while everyone at the office trekked down to Houston to catch a very expensive Police reunion show, I stayed behind and got several extra hours of video editing done. At about 10:30, I had about had it with staring at computer screens, so I wandered over to the little theater across the street to watch a movie. The only movie I hadn't seen that I had any interest in was Evening, a 'looking back on your past', period drama-type movie so middle-aged-woman-oriented that it made On Golden Pond look like Mean Girls. I grabbed a coffee and bought a ticket from the automated teller so that I wouldn't have to face an actual person.

I filed into the theater with about 47 middle aged women, maybe six of which had managed to drag their husbands, as well as two young teen girls who I could only imagine were die-hard Claire Danes fans. I had somehow had the foresight to carry a newspaper into the theater with me, and since I was getting some bewildered looks from the people around me, I spent most of my time before the movie started looking around the theater and pretending to make copious note on an imaginary pad of paper inside the paper. I figured at least some people would buy that I was a local movie reviewer, at any rate, people stopped looking over at me, possibly because they figured it impolite to stare at a lone man pretending to make notes in a newspaper.

Since I spend so much time faking, I might as well review the film for real: It's good but unremarkable. It's directed by first-time Hungarian director Lajos Koltai, who's spent the last 40 years of his life as a European director of photography, and the mastery of his visual craft is apparent; the film's rocky oceanside location is breathtaking, and Koltai gets all Days of Heaven on us as often as possible, a good many scenes (generally the unimportant ones that have no other purpose) are shot at golden hour. But I read him as a first-time-out-director during the first reel of this movie. You could just see it.

The movie is written as a performance piece, and the actors rise to the challenge as best they can, but the script never really makes that much sense, and there's a bewildering disconnect to their actions from scene to scene. Fortunately, the actors involved are pros without comparison: Danes, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Eileen Atkins, etc. You can't shake this crew, they can make you believe anything. And so you buy the whole movie, even though there's no real reason to.

Amidst the steady and cautiously emotional performances are two actors who unequivocally give their roles everything they possibly can. The first, Hugh Dancy, fills his role of the alcoholic little brother with tragic pathos and a decidedly Quixotic passion for greatness. He played the best drunk I've ever seen, sweating and swearing his desperate way through each scene, stealing every single one them.

The other is Mamie Gummer, who as far as I can tell was cast purely because she's Meryl Streep's daughter and is therefore capable of playing her younger version in a story that jumps back and forth through time. But Gummer turns out to be the real star of the show, bringing a refreshing earnest joy to every moment she's on screen. I'll be very disappointed of this film doesn't land her a lot of very good roles. She needs to be in more movies.

I mentioned to Kate that I'd gone out and seen Evening all by myself, and mentioned that I spent a good deal of the time wondering if doing so was the gayest thing I'd ever done.

"I don't know anything about it. Who's in it?"

"Uh... Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgr-"

Kate cut me off. "Short of actually having sex with another man, that's the gayest thing you could ever possibly have done."

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

We all love history, don't we?

I was in Kroger tonight, picking up milk and eggs and a few other things that I needed, and was fortunate enough to find a wide open register, so I didn't have to go through self-checkout like I normally do. The cashier, a woman in her sixties, rang up all my items and glanced at the total as it up. "Nineteen twenty-seven," she said, then looked over at me thoughtfully. "A very good year."

"Mmm," I nodded, since as far as I could remember the only memorable event taking place in 1927 was Babe Ruth hitting 60 homers on his way to leading one of the great Yankee teams of all time to a World Series title, and I was fairly certain that wasn't what she referring to, and I didn't want to ask "was that the year you were born?" Instead, I swiped my Kroger card, which dropped the price to $18.66.

"Eighteen sixty-six," I said conversationally. "Not a very good year." I meant, of course, that 1866 was the beginning of a long Reconstructionist period under Andrew Johnson, and not a very good time for America. Actually, what I really meant was "I feel I am socially obligated to comment on the year in relation to whatever monetary unit comes up next, and since $18.66 is the total, I guess I'm forced to stand here in this supermarket line at midnight and comment on Reconstruction." But her reaction was a little startling, as she looked me forbiddingly straight in the eye and replied "No. It wasn't. Not for us."

This sent me into a moment of quiet panic, as I realized I had somehow made a sudden miscalculation and brought up some terrible event from the past that I didn't remember. Who was "us?" What had happened in 1866? Perhaps there was some significant event I had forgotten? Or was I missing some major piece of Texas history? I stood there in silence, open-mouthed, when suddenly I was saved as the woman launched into this paragraph that I found so breathtaking I memorized it immediately:

"Yeah, 1866 with the Pony Express. What do you call it? Y'know, Paul Revere. When we threw all the tea overboard into the water because of the Queen. Because the Queen sent all the prisoners to America and Australia."

She stopped abruptly and considered this. "No, that's not right. That was back in the 1600's." We paused for a moment, together, and considered this new piece of information.

"1700's," I offered, as if I had just thought of it. She mulled this suggestion over for a moment.

"1700's," she murmured, as if tasting it. "1700's. Mmmm." Suddenly, she smiled and looked at me. "1776!"

"Hey, that's right!" I replied, as if she had unlocked some long-forgotten tidbit of information from my brain, like the guy who played Bond for one movie, or who sat behind me in 4th grade.

She smiled modestly and inclined her head. "I watch a lot of History Channel," she explained, refusing to take credit for the breakthrough. We chatted for a moment about the wonders available on the History Channel as I paid up and packed my groceries in the cart.

I started to push the cart away when the lady sighed loudly and quite longingly behind me. I stopped and turned around. She smiled at me again. "I love history," she said earnestly, clearly glad to have found a person of similar number-based mindset. Then she turned away and went back to work.

1866, by the way, is the year of the invention of root beer, and the year the urinal was patented. So if I go through a supermarket line and that number ever comes up again, I'll finally have something to say.