My 2015 Yearbook (will you sign it?)

chris and travis after seeing death grips

JUNE: Chris and Travis survived Death Grips. No small feat.

2015 was my quietest year in terms of blogging since Todd and I started Music or Space Shuttle? in late 2011, but it’s not for lack of outstanding experiences around music. The blogging part of my brain just got really lazy.

But after the holidays ran their course, I looked back at the great music that came out in ’15, and the various photos and videos I shot at concerts big and small, and decided I should package it all together. Even if no one else looks at this, it will serve to remind myself just how much fun it is to stay up late for a weeknight show in Iowa City or drive a few hours to St. Louis for a wonderful night at the Pageant or join up with my Riot crew to make Chicago our home for a few days to do a proper festival.

January 20
Bjork, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, and Sleater-Kinney all decide to drop new music on us. The Bjork album is beautiful; the Viet Cong release is brutal (in a great way); the Sleater-Kinney album didn’t suck as I feared it might and landed on my top 10 of 2015 at #7.

February 10
I did not like Fleet Foxes. At all. But I kinda like what this Father John Misty guy is doing on his own. Yeah. His latest LP, I Love You, Honeybear, held much more than the SiriusXMU staple “Bored in the USA.” “Chateau Lobby #4” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “The Ideal Husband” are personal favorites, but really it’s an album you can enjoy front to back (even the electronic song grew on me). By year’s end, I rated it #3 among 2015 releases.

 

sleater kinney in concert

Once they went on hiatus, Sleater-Kinney was one of those “never saw ’em live” bands. Until 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

February 13
You know those lists you make if you’re a nerd? One of those lists is “Bands I Never Got to See, Goddammit” and mine is painful to read. (The Nirvana entry is the worst.) But here’s the thing: in 2015, I got to cross off a couple of names. The first one: Sleater-Kinney, who played a pretty-close-to-dream setlist at the Slowdown (a pretty cool club in Omaha). Janet pounded her kit, Carrie punctuated her riffs with amazing high leg kicks, and Corin’s voice was in good form. To my surprise they played one of my favorite S-K songs (“Oh!”), and the songs that sounded so good on the new album also sounded great live. And “Dig Me Out” was so great.

March 16
Kendrick Lamar drops To Pimp a Butterfly. I immediately liked “Alright,” and also found plenty to like throughout the lenghty LP. Is it OK that I prefer good kid m.A.A.d city, though? Not trying to take a hipster stance here; I just find myself listening to more songs from the previous album when I want to queue up some Kendrick. (Tobias Jesso Jr. put out Goon a day later. Not as good as TPAB, but good all the same.)

March 19(ish)
Jenny Death, the second part of Death Grips’ double album The Powers That B, leaks online. I’m sure I waited until the album was officially released at month’s end to obtain these songs. Anyway, I put Jenny Death at #10 on my top albums of 2015 list.

March 24
Courtney Barnett will be a 2016 entry in the “From the MoSS? Pit” series; Sam, Travis, and our friend Ian from the Riot Fest crew are joining me at First Avenue in April 2016 to see her do her thing. (I swear I’m going to get better about timely posts about concerts.) We will all be enjoying songs from the album she put out on this day, which ended up at #4 on my top albums of 2015 list.

April 2
Mission Creek show #1: Real Estate. I’d seen them the year before at Pitchfork, and the venue (outdoors, summer) and the time of day (late afternoon, sun lazily going down) were perfect for the band’s aesthetic. But they put on a nice nighttime show in the Englert Theatre, as it turns out. Their sound is so clean, so pure. Nice way to open my trifecta of 2015 Mission Creek shows, and it was the lone show of the festival that brought together me, my MoSS? boys Todd and Sam, and our honorary MoSS? brother Travis.

April 3
Mission Creek show #2: Shovels & Rope. This was year 2 of what might be an annual tradition, if Mission Creek keeps up its booking pattern: me and my bestie Sondra taking in the Friday night Englert show. (She went to Sleigh Bells while 8.5 months pregnant…that’s concert cred I don’t think I could attain even if I had the proper lady parts.) The first year it was The Head and the Heart, which we both looked forward to with crazy anticipation. This time around, though, neither of us were all that familiar with S&R (read: I glanced at their bio, listened to a couple of tracks online, figured Sondra would like them, bought the tickets). I think I can speak for the both of us in saying that S&R cleared the high bar set by Head/Heart. Those two are pure joy on stage (and, as we plunged into their discography, on record, too) and clearly enjoy making music together (and human beings, as it was announced that Cary Ann Hearst was pregnant). It might take a reunited Civil Wars to raise the stakes in 2016…

April 5
Mission Creek show #3: Father John Misty with opener King Tuff. OK, so the opening act set off the fire alarm when the singer’s leather jacket met up with the stage pyrotechnics, and yet King Tuff was easily the SECOND-hottest act to grace the Englert stage that night. Josh Tillman has it goin’ on, folks. He pretty much owned the room with his soulful vocals, slinky moves, and damn great songs. Even the cheesy neon backdrop worked. I was comfortably seated about halfway back, which was probably good because his magnetic charm had quite the effect on fans closer to the stage. My ancedotal evidence: one of my former work colleagues ended up burying her face into his shirt. It’s funny, partly because this is totally a Brittany B move, but also because it conjured up imagery of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face, and is it any surprise that a Father John Misty moment would relate to religion somehow? Anyway, a great way to close 2015 Mission Creek; I think I would rate this show as my favorite MC show so far, ever.

May 29
Jamie xx releases In Colour, which, after much internal debate, emerged as my favorite album of 2015. For most of the final third of the year, I had Beach House’s Depression Cherry in the top spot, but in the end, I found myself more satisfied with the front-to-back listening experience In Colour provides. “Girl” and “Seesaw” are my two clear favorites, but there’s not a song on here that I feel like skipping when I put on the album. (Sure, I wouldn’t include the instrumental interludes if I were curating a mixtape, but within the context of the album, they too are fantastic.) I am aware that Jamie xx has been involved in my album of the year three times in the past seven (2009 and 2012 with the xx), and what can I say? They are absolutely genius, and Jamie perhaps stepped up as the mastermind behind the magic with this solo-branded effort.

 

tame impala in concert

Tame Impala was fuckin groovy live. Another killer show at the Pageant in STL. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

June 1
Tame Impala turns the Pageant in St. Louis into the coolest kaleidoscope ever. We (Travis and I) had nice seats in the center balcony, and we enjoyed some good pizza and beer across the street before the show. Every time I go to the Pageant, I leave wishing such a venue existed in Iowa City (its capacity of 2300 surpasses the Englert’s 725, and the Pageant sound is immaculate in my experiences) and, more importantly, that such a venue could receive proper support in Iowa City. Would 2,000 people show up for Tame Impala in Iowa City, especially if the show weren’t scheduled during the week of Mission Creek?

But this isn’t about the fact that I often have to drive more than 100 miles, sometimes 250, to see the bands I like. It’s about Tame Impala previewing tunes from its forthcoming third album and playing just about every one of my favorite songs from the first two LPs. Travis and I did have to snicker a bit about how seemingly all of Kevin’s lyrics reflect his inability to talk to/score with chicks, which we find highly suspect.

June 23
Kacey Musgraves releases Pageant Material, which lands at #5 on my best of 2015 list, and I nearly flipped a coin between this and Courtney Barnett for #4. The title track lyrics are arguably the most entertaining I heard all year. “Somebody to Love” is a very moving tune that sheds any cowgirl texture and replaces the vibe with a cool drone. And she puts on a hell of a show, which I got to experience later in 2015.

 

June 28
TRIPLE SIX FIVE FORKED TONGUE GET GET GET GET GOT GOT GOT GOT BORN WITH A SKI MASK ON MY FACE I’VE SEEN FOOTAGE I STAY NOIDED HUSTLE BONES COMING OUT MY MOUTH GRAB YOUR FUCKIN CHAIN AND DRAG YOU THROUGH THE PARKING LANE WHILE EVERYONE’S LIKE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO VISITED TESLA’S GRAVE FOR THE NINTH TIME TODAY SPREAD EAGLE CROSS THE BLAWWWWWWCK UP MY SLEEVES UP MY SLEEVES I BREAK MIRRORS WITH MY FACE IN THE UNITED STATES HALF COCKED FULL TILT RABID DOG FILTH ARRRRGH KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING (FUCK IT) ANKLES TIED TO CINDER BLOCKS AYE AYE I’M BOUNCING IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES GUILLOTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE YUH! YOU’RE FIT TO LEARN ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BEATDOWN MADNESS CHAOS IN THE BRAIN I WANT IT I NEED IT NEED IT TO MAKE ME FEEL HEATED

Yep. Death Grips showed up for a concert and atoned for any previous misses we’d experienced over the past three years. I’m usually too old to get in the mix these days, but yours truly turned back the years (and wore flip-flops like a dumbass…thankfully all my toes survived). Travis also attempted to bring beers into the chaos and I ended up wearing about 89% of my beverage…but it’s all good. Need to do it again soon.

July 16
Wilco puts out a free album that I download and never listen to, not once.

August 28
Beach House releases Depression Cherry, which nearly crossed the finish line in the lead but ended up settling for my #2 album of 2015. All the same, this album and the band’s impeccable back catalog did entice me into an all-nighter trip to STL to see the band live…more on that later.

 

big guitarist

I thought Prop Joe was back from the grave when I attended the Iowa Soul Festival. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

That night, I attend the Iowa Soul Festival in Iowa City to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s raining pretty hard. I saw one act with a very large and very talented guitarist, and I heard the Dap-Kings do about five minutes before lightning decided to take over the Iowa skies. No Sharon Jones show for me. Drove home in torrential downpour. Can’t win ’em all.

 

kacey musgraves in concert

Usually I can’t take my real camera to concerts. River Roots Live…not a problem. I love this shot, almost as much as I like Kacey’s music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

August 29
Family concert night! My better half and our son pile into our friends’ truck and hit River Roots Live over in the Quad Cities. It was $10 to get in (and I think the kids were free?), and Kacey Musgraves was headlining. BBQ stands lined the walkway, and our friends’ two children joined our boy in bouncy house tomfoolery before we all snagged good seats to see Kacey. She was on point, running through the lion’s share of the songs on her two albums. The beer prices actually weren’t bad compared with Riot Fest or Lolla, and the QC has a decent local craft beer selection that was available here. I probably exploited the relatively cheap beer prices to the point of being a bit off-kilter. The evidence of such inebriation existed in a video file (since erased, too bad) where you could clearly hear me “singing” along. Oh god, it was bad. And if you’ve ever seen me participate in karaoke night at the Red Lion in Cedar Rapids, you would know I have no shame.

But I did feel like my photo game was still on point. A photo similar to the one you see above currently sits framed in my basement, awaiting my eventual arrangement of a pop culture-themed room. Seeing as I’m putting out a 2015-in-review piece nearly a month into 2016, you can imagine how soon that room will come together.

 

four dorks at riot fest

My Riot Fest crew. We’re doing it again in 2016. Counting the days. (Photo by Ian Hall)

September 11-13
RIOT FEST. I loved the 2014 version, primarily because I was so excited to see one of the big bands each of the three nights (Slayer, Descendents, The Cure). But this year I found myself looking at three days packed with intriguing artists, rather than playing the waiting game until the headliners finally took the stage. The new location was a vast improvement on the 2014 park. Plus, our crew ended up renting a place that had a rooftop patio, a grill, and a hot tub. Much better than your typical hotel room, especially with six humans sharing the quarters.

DAY ONE: We start with Death, the stars of recent documentary A Band Called Death. These guys still got it, as do the next group we caught, Fishbone. I had seen them twenty-some years before, but I think the intensity level is the same. Angelo Moore was in fine form. Caught Living Colour from a distance, made sure to catch the obligatory “Cult of Personality” before moving along. I split off from the group at some point to catch Anthrax rather than seeing Faith No More. Mistake? If you ask Ian and Travis, yeah, as FNM topped their festival highlights. Instead, I got “Caught in a Mosh”…

IMG_0548While the rest of the crew caught Motorhead (R.I.P. Lemmy), I went over to see Ice Cube, who was reuniting with Ren and Yella to do some classic Straight Outta Compton tunes as part of his set. It was OK, I guess. They cut the songs short to eliminate Eazy’s verses rather than have someone else stand in. I think my favorite part of the set was getting this watercolor-looking photo of a dude’s mohawk standing tall among the smoke wafting through the crowd.

We tried in vain to get a cab. At one point we were outside a prison, so we asked one of the guards entering the facility if she knew if cabs trafficked this area. Her response: “You don’t want to get a cab around here.” Um, Uber? Can you come get us? (And within a minute, our Uber arrived. Nice.) The hot tub felt awesome.

DAY TWO: Was pleased to discover FIDLAR at this fest. They were a lot of fun, especially the part where one of the band members crowd-surfed and then upon returning to the stage was pretty much tackled by security, much to the puzzlement/anger of his bandmates. To be fair he did look like your average Riot Fest whippersnapper.

Travis and I checked out Swervedriver, although it was a tad depressing when we got there, like two minutes before the band was scheduled to go on, and yet we were able to get within a row of the front rail. I did think they were an odd booking compared with the rest of the bill, and it was an early set, but come on. Thankfully the place filled up to a respectable level once they started playing. I was happy with the music, anyway.

the damned

Captain Sensible (left) looking good as one would expect. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

Ran over to the other side of the park to catch Captain Sensible and the Damned. I kinda get Swervedriver being forced to play an early slot, but I really thought the Damned at Riot Fest would land a later, more high-profile spot. But oh well, I found myself a good spot on Sensible’s side of the stage and pogo’d around for an hour. Neat neat neat!

Then it was back to the other side again to meet up with the crew at Thurston Moore Band. It was cool to see Deb Googe play live again (not nearly as magical as the My Bloody Valentine show, but still…) as well as Thurston’s apparent hetero life partner Steve Shelley. Thurston got himself off for 45 minutes to mixed reviews (in other words, Rog hated it, Ian loved it, Trav liked/loved it, I was good with it).

fans young and old at Echo and the Bunnymen

Fans young and old dig Echo and the Bunnymen. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

After getting a bite to eat, we all watched Echo and the Bunnymen, which was fun for the whole family. Then Roger and I camped out on the Rancid side of the park, and got up in the mix when it was time for …And Out Come the Wolves, played in its entirety. It was a lot of fun to shout along with “Olympia, WA” and “Timebomb” and “Alleyways and Avenues” and “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radical” and all the rest. And wouldn’t you know it, I once again ended up running into the Brothers Warden at a concert/festival. They also enjoyed the glory that is a Rancid pit.

I watched Iggy Pop and his hot dog skin from a distance to close out the night.

DAY THREE: After all the joking we’d done about bees at Riot Fest this year and the year previous, it finally came back to bite me…well, sting me, I guess. I caught a jab in the back during the De La Soul set. Pos, Dove, and Mace had us moving like crazy, which stirred up the bees, and one flew up the back of my shirt and couldn’t get out, so STING. I put on a brave face and didn’t complain about it (much).

Roger and I endured a horrible set by Kongos in order to sprint to the gate when the Kongos crowd dispersed. We had different motives, to a degree: I desperately wanted to be up close and personal for Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Rog was dead-set on front-and-center action for THE D (which I was excited about as well). We got up to the second row of people, and then a guy asked who was here to see Rod y Gab, and when I shouted “ME” he traded me his spot on the rail. And after some Kongos fans got picks and setlists or whatever, they vacated the rail and Rog was in. We were dead-fucking-center, and both Rod y Gab and THE D delivered. So worth sitting through that Kongos crap. We did pass the time high-fiving the crowd surfers who had been pulled over the rail one stage over during the Andrew WK set. I found a new way to amuse myself: every time I extended my hand for the five, I also yelled out, “YOU DID IT!” About half the time the person on the other end of the handslap was like “FUCK YEAH I DID DO IT!”; about 30 percent of the time, the person was all like “Um, thanks, wait, what?”; the other 20 percent were pretty much all “FUCK YOU, DICK.” It was fun.

rodrigo y gabriela

Two thrashers on acoustic guitars easily won over the Riot Fest crowd. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

If you’re not familiar with this duo, but you watched Breaking Bad, then you sorta know their music. Go listen to “Diablo Rojo” or “Vikingman” or their cover of Metallica’s “Orion”…or better yet, just go to YouTube and search for some of their live work. They like to cover thrash metal in their flamenco-inspired way, and they did just that at Riot Fest, with a medley of Metallica and Megadeth tunes. At one point, as Rodrigo took up a stance to give his strings a good workout, I yelled from the front row, “YEAH RODRRRRRRRRIGO!” and he looked down at me, gave me a slight nod, turned back to his fretboard, and went to town. I AM A FUCKING NERD BUT SO WHAT RODRIGO GAVE ME THE NOD!!!!!

tenacious d

KG and Jack in all their glory. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

So yeah, we had prime spots for Tenacious D, right next to a guy who pulled a Chris move (me in the third person, yep) and had been on the rail for eight hours waiting for The D. (I did that for the Cure in 2014.) It was a lot of fun, kicking off with “Tribute” and getting most every song you’d expect to hear, I suppose, although I really could have used a rendition of “Lee” somewhere in the set. And I had another interactive moment a la Rodrigo, this time with Jables. Song gets over, we’re all clapping, Jack looks down at the crowd, locks eyes with me. Now with Rodrigo, it all went smoothly, but I initiated that one. This time, I was put on the spot. And like a deer in headlights, I got run over.

I gave him a dorky smile and a big ol’ thumbs-up.

And he furrowed his brow, shrugged, made a face that you can only interpret as “um, okaaaayyyy,” and our moment ended. #isuck

tenacious d guitar pick

The pick of destiny, right?

But after The D played their final note and left the stage, one of the security staff, with whom we made conversation throughout the afternoon/evening between sets, scooped up a guitar pick KG had attempted to throw the crowd. The fans were losing their shit trying to get it, but he told the adoring masses, “Nope, I gotta hook up my guy right here,” and handed me the pick. He must have recognized me from Lolla 2013 and Riot 2014; I honestly did recognize him. The guy who had waited eight hours on the rail was choking back tears of agony when he saw the pick enter my grasp; it must have KILLED him to see me then give it to Rog, the true D disciple.

Then the Prodigy played to close out the night and we all went back to the pad and the next day we returned to our miserable lives. Although my co-workers couldn’t help but notice the post-Riot Fest mood enhancement, at least for a few days. I could tell they liked my stories a lot; I should be sure to nag them to read Music or Space Shuttle?!

September 25
Chvrches releases Every Open Eye, a solid follow-up to the beloved The Bones of What You Believe. Didn’t instantly grab me the way the debut did, but it was a “grower” that settled in at #8 on my best of 2015 list. I would go on to see them twice in the span of 15 days…with mixed results.

But the bigger news from this day…

ride performing live

Another “I’ll never see this band” band crossed off the list. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

RIDE. Todd and I trekked over to Chicago to see the shoegazers do their thing at the Riviera. To actually hear songs from Nowhere was a dream come true. “Seagull” might be the best live song I’ve ever experienced. So intense. Mixed in some great tracks from Going Blank Again and Chelsea Girl, along with the one really cool song from Tarantula. Blissfully shoegazed, Todd and I retreated to the ‘burbs and found a bar with like a zillion beers from which to choose, along with the 10+% Not Your Father’s Root Beer (aka Headache in a Goblet). Kinda wish I’d stayed in Chicago another night, as Alcest played on the 26th, but alas, it was not to be. But I did have another concert to attend this weekend…

 

beach house in concert

Beach House. The visuals are as dreamy as the music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

September 27
I shared a FB photo of Beach House that had been posted by the Pageant, one of those deals where “share this and you’ll be entered into a drawing for 2 free tix!!!!1” which, of course, I didn’t win. But Sam saw my share and was like, “Hey, I know the show’s on a Sunday night and it’s all the way down in STL and you have to work at 8 am on Monday morning but if you really want to go I’d probably be down with that.”

Red Bull was purchased. I drove to Sam’s place. Sam drove us to STL. We hit the pizza/beer place across the street. Jessica Pratt provided some decent opener tunes. And then Beach House rewarded our all-nighter trip with that special band of intense chill that I love so much. Kinda cool that they opened with a couple of tunes from their first album, including “Master of None,” which the Weeknd used masterfully on his first mixtape. And of course we got “Sparks” and “Levitation” and “Space Song” from Depression Cherry and “Wild” and “Wishes” from Bloom and it was all pretty much beautiful. Then Sam drove us home, with me catching ZZZZZs from probably about Canton until Iowa City. Then I drove home, got another three hours of sleep, and went to work. (And probably got home from work that evening and went straight to bed.)

October 2
Deafheaven releases New Bermuda. When they released Sunbather, I thought it was pretty cool from a musical standpoint but wasn’t big on the vocals. But then I saw them at Pitchfork in 2014, and was converted. I looked forward to the new album, and was not disappointed. I put it at #9 on my best of 2015 list.

 

October 9
Usually the University of Iowa Homecoming concert elicits yawns. Not this year. Chvrches played a free show on the Pentacrest. Thankfully the Soul Festival weather didn’t ruin this Pentacrest show. Will and I had tickets to see the band two weeks later in Kansas City, but we decided to hit this show as well, seeing as it was free and all. (Glad we did, as you’ll read in the October 23 entry.) The new songs sounded great, and they played a good deal of the first album, saving “The Mother We Share” for the end. Will was fading fast toward the end of the show, but that song perked him up. I hope to see them at an indoor venue not named the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

bully in concert

Bully pretty much owned the Mill. (Photo by Todd Larsen)

October 10
Bully at the Mill. I know it was Homecoming weekend at the UI and there were a lot of stupid things happening in town that night, but there should have been WAAAAAAY more people at the Bully concert. Thankfully me, Todd, and Jess weren’t among the poor saps who missed out on a great rock show. I must admit I don’t listen to the Bully album all that often but man did those songs work in a live setting.

One of the opening bands was called Heat. Not The Heat. Not El Heat, like what the Miami Heat put on their jerseys to celebrate Latino culture. Just…Heat. Like the De Niro/Pacino(/Kilmer?) movie. And that’s all I have to say about that.

October 16
Neon Indian releases VEGA INTL. Night School. Worth the four-year wait? Well, it was really good. “The Glitzy Hive” should have been the biggest song in the world, and tunes such as “Smut!” and “Slumlord” were top-notch. I’ve got this at #6 on the best of 2015 list.

 

chvrches in kansas city

Chvrches in Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre: It looks way better than it sounded. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

October 23
Will and I go see Chvrches for the second time in two weeks. It might seem funny that a band like Chvrches could possibly be too loud, but it was unbearable. And of course I forgot to bring earplugs for Will, so imagine the agony he was enduring if I thought it was too loud. We stuck it out for maybe five or six songs before we left. Even out in the parking lot across the street, we were physically assaulted by the sound. You could feel the vibrations. This theatre was maybe a little bigger than the Englert; no need to have the shit that loud. If nothing else, Will did get a sweet poster from the merch table. I told him to consider it a souvenir from the Iowa City show, and that we’d never speak of the Uptown Theatre ever again. On the plus side, the family enjoyed the rest of the weekend in KC, hitting the Plaza, eating Jack Stack BBQ, and taking in Science City at Union Station.

small black in concert

Small Black returns to Iowa City as headliners. Deserved headliners, I should say. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 3
Small Black returns to Iowa City, playing a show at the Mill. Last time they were in town, they opened for Washed Out; this time, they topped the bill. They did quite well as the headliner. The most recent album, Best Blues, is pretty great, right up there with Limits of Desire, in my book. We even had a chance to chat briefly with Josh Kolenik. Cool guy. Hope he experiences bigger and better things in the future.

 

the bright light social hour in concert

The Bright Light Social Hour provided yet another reason to hang out at the Mill during the autumn of 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 15
The Bright Light Social Hour met arguably their biggest fan (Ian, from my Riot Fest crew) in Iowa City on this night. I’m sure they made a few more diehard fans with their scorching performance.

 

st louis symphony

St. Louis Symphony prepares to perform works by John Williams. It was really cool.

December 12
Six days before Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened, I had the pleasure of watching/hearing the St. Louis Symphony perform selected works by John Williams. So we got to hear some tunes from Jurassic Park, Home Alone, the Harry Potter films, Catch Me If You Can, The Cowboys, Superman, and, of course, the Star Wars saga. Probably the coolest moment for me, aside from the main Star Wars theme, was a song from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, believe it or not. It was from the Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel scene; the symphony was joined by a choir that provided the vocal portion of the score. It was incredible, that song, the whole concert. The conductor was an absolute showman; his between-song banter was outstanding. An interesting way to close out my 2015 live music calendar.

And The Force Awakens lived up to, nay, surpassed my expectations. Can’t wait to see Episode VIII, but that’s something like 18 months away! Guess I’ll have to go see some more concerts in the meantime. Already got tickets for Courtney Barnett, The Cure, and Riot Fest 2016…

To recap, my top 10 albums of 2015:

Jamie xx, In Colour

Beach House, Depression Cherry

Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think…

Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

Neon Indian, VEGA INTL. Night School

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

Chvrches, Every Open Eye

Deafheaven, New Bermuda

Death Grips, Jenny Death

Advertisements

Exploring the ’80s Movie Montage: The “Get Your Learn On” Montage

80s_clicksAhh…the movie montage. It’s the perfect way to show a lot of action in a short period of time. This was a very popular movie making technique in the 80’s.

There were many different versions, but this time around I’m going to focus on “The Get Your Learn On”  Montage.

There are 4 basic parts:

1.         The kick ass 80’s song.

2.         Let’s get serious now, we’re really dumb.

3.         Sexual tension helps the learning process.

4.         After a tough 2-3 minutes we got smarts real good!

Real Genius

Reason for studying – Super smart wiz-kids need to get a top secret laser operational.toxic

1.         Kick ass ’80s song- Comsat Angels, “Falling.”

2.         Distractions from creepy closet guy, Lazlo, and brace face jerk-off, Kent, won’t stop newbie wiz-kid Mitch from reaching his goals.

3.         Mitch’s nerdy hyper-active hottie neighbor comes over with her newest invention, an automatic page turner! Very handy tool for a stressed out dork in study mode. Unfortunately for Mitch, she doesn’t offer him any form of physical release.

4.         After hours of studying and frequent failures, we finally have a breakthrough. The laser burns a hole in his block of wood! I’m guessing that in celebration, Mitch will run to his neighbor girl’s room and try to put his burning wood in her hole. (Wow! That’s pretty graphic. Sorry guys.)

Back to School

Reason for studying – Rodney Dangerfield partied too much and now needs to learn a semesters worth of material or he will flunk out of college.

1.         Kick ass ’80s song- Danny Elfman, the aptly titled, “Study Montage.”back to school

2.         Rodney hasn’t read a book in 40 years so he gets right to work. He’s at the library before the librarian and stays past closing time to read by the light of his zippo. He even multitasks with the help of his personality-less son and goofy roommate Robert Downey Jr.

3.         This type of dedication leads to massive sleep deprivation. With his future at the school in doubt, they try some books on tape so Rodney can sleep and learn. His (probably used to be super hot) Poetry teacher even implements a new sexy subliminal learning technique, whispering poetry into his ear while he rests his head on her formerly delightful bosom. Let’s just hope that he can control any subliminally hidden lustful urges during his exam.

4.         A beaten Rodney shows up for his exam. With all that studying he manages to pass his classes with all D’s and one A. I’m sure you can guess which teacher gave him the A. I guess they don’t have any rules against fraternization at that school. Well done Rodney!

Summer School

Reason for studying – Loser kids have to pass summer school or risk flunking out and getting their favorite teacher fired.

1.         Scholarly classical non-’80s song – “Study Buddy Serenade in D Major.”summer school

2.         The band of summer school idiots finally decides to stop screwing around and convince their teacher to come back for one more shot at academic mediocrity. They study at totally distraction free places like at work, the park and the beach. Hey, they’re in summer school for a reason.

3.         One of the kids has a brief “Hot for Teacher” moment with a young and attractive-ish Kirstie Alley. (Her sex symbol status is always up for debate in my book. I was never attracted to her even when she was young and supposedly hot. Like Top Gun leading lady Kelly McGillis, maybe Kirstie was just hot for the ‘80s.)

4.         After days of pseudo-studying, the gang takes their tests. Of course, most don’t actually pass but teachers and parents are wowed by their marked improvement. The kids get to stay in school and their teacher keeps his job! I guess when you set the bar extremely low, anything resembling effort will be rewarded. Yeah school!

Check out some previous ’80s montage exploration:

The “We Can Fix It Up” Montage

The “Dance Training” Montage

And the Academy Award goes to… Jonah Hill? Again?

imagesJonah Hill received another Academy Award nomination this week for his supporting role in The Wolf of Wall Street.  I guess this isn’t as much of a surprise as it was last time. I havent seen The Wolf of Wall Street yet but from all reports I’ve heard Jonah was great in it. To commemorate his latest nomination, I thought I would share a couple more of Jonah’s past roles that I felt deserve some recognition as well.

Jonah Hill from This is the End

Jonah had a lot of great scenes in the movie This is the End, but my favorite is “The Exorcism of Jonah Hill.” Throughout most of the movie Jonah portrays himself as an easy-going sensitive guy even though he is secretly jealous of Jay Baruchel and his relationship with Seth Rogen. His jealousy leads to an unfortunate sexual encounter with a horned and horny demon. After the forced sodomization, Jonah becomes possessed and his true colors come out.

Bag Head #2 from Django Unchained

This whole scene is just genius. Thank you Mr. Tarantino. A lynch mob, lead by another scene stealer Don Johnson, is getting ready to storm over a hill to murder the lead character  Django. As the mob is about to leave, they get into an argument over the bags they are supposed to wear over their heads. Hurtful words are exchanged and feelings get hurt. My favorite part is at the 2:10 mark of this clip where one of the mob tries to smooth things over. Some coarse language here folks so be advised.

Congratulations again to Jonah for being nominated for such a high profile acting award. I just hope he doesn’t go the route of other some other comedic actors and do only dramatic roles from now on. Robin Williams won his Oscar and all we saw from him afterwards was crap like Patch Adams and Jakob the Liar.

Stay true to your comedic roots Jonah and we the fans will always ask you about your wiener.

The Search for My Personal Soundtrack: “The Pink Room”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how cool it would be to have your own theme song or soundtrack. I was sort of inspired by Peter Griffin from The Family Guy.

But what song would I use? You could go a lot of different routes. If it’s going to play in the background all day long, you better like it. Also, I don’t think it should be some epic arena rock song that has multiple style and tempo changes throughout. No, the simpler the better. Sometimes while playing my guitar  I come across a chord progression that I enjoy so much I want to play it for hours on end. That’s what I think my personal soundtrack should be. Simple. Repetitive. Kinda bad-ass.

Today I came across a perfect soundtrack song candidate, Angelo Badalamenti’s “The Pink Room”. A weird little instrumental that was used on the crazy-cool TV show Twin Peaks and also in the awful follow up movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. It meets all of my soundtrack song requirements. Cool guitar riffs, it repeats over and over and I never get sick of it. The song title is cool too. “The Pink Room”. I’m guessing it’s a euphemism for “lady parts” like the Sheena Easton song “Sugar Walls”. I do love a good euphemism.

WARNING: Massive euphemism overload coming up.

I’d like to “paint” the “sugar walls” in your “pink room”.

Let’s get back on track here. Listen to the song below.

Having a song this cool playing in the background all day would have to change your life. This is what I imagine would happen if this song was my soundtrack:

My bald head would instantly grow a perfectly primped pompadour. My vehicle would turn into a classic 1950’s era motorcycle. Wherever I went women would be both frightened and titillated. Knowing they should keep their distance, they try to ignore me but the attraction is too overpowering. I’d shoot them a knowing glance. They would turn away blushing. Men would look suspiciously at me as I light up an unfiltered cigarette. That’s right. With this song as your soundtrack you can smoke anywhere you damn well please. Who’s gonna stop me? The local sheriff approaches.

Sheriff: “Where were you last night Johnny?”(My name would now be Johnny. Todd is not an appropriate name with this song as your soundtrack)

Me: “Nowhere. Everywhere. What’s it to ya Copper?”

Sheriff: “Laura Palmers’  body washed up at the lake this morning. The Log Lady said she saw you two together last night and The Backwards Talking Dwarf corroborated her story.”

Me: “Laura who? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hey man, I’m married.”

Sheriff: “You’re going away for a long time Johnny. Cuff him boys”

Me: “Uhhhh…There’s been a big mistake. I don’t know any Log Ladies and that backward talking dwarf always freaked me out. My name is Todd. This was just supposed to be a fantasy about having a song as the soundtrack for your day. Does anyone know how to turn this song off?”

So apparently I’m not cool enough to pull this song off as my personal theme song. I’ll keep looking though. Until then I guess I’ll have to stick with whatever songs happen to be on the radio. It’s probably safer that way. I’m way too pretty to go to jail.

Today’s (Not-So-) Random Song in My Head: “Axel F”

record lodged in headRemember that time Todd and I went to the shitbag Union Bar in Iowa City to go see Neon Indian, and had to endure a couple of opening acts, one of which being Kreayshawn? (The oft-repeated Senior Picture Incident happened that night.)

The other opener, according to our crack research team (read: me Googling “neon indian kreayshawn union bar iowa city other guy”), was a rapper who goes by the moniker Probcause. In between incredible blasts of bass (the Union’s sound guy was struggling to equalize that night), he threw some stage banter at us. Now, granted, this is paraphrased, but Todd can verify the following quote is pretty much on point:

“Yo, yo, Iowa City! Yo, for realz, tho, for realz, Iowa fuckin’ City, yo! Shit, this is the shit right up in this bitch, Iowa City, yo! I be all walkin’ around, you got fuckin’ pianos on the sidewalks and shit, yo! Anyone can play ’em. This place is crazy, yo! People aks me where I want to be livin’, like Hawaii or some shit, I be all like, Iowa City, yo! They got pianos and shit!”

First, Probcause was WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better than Kreayshawn.

Second, let me affirm what Probcause is preachin’: Iowa City has pianos and shit.

And people do play them. Sometimes it’s just someone fucking around playing “Chopsticks” or “Heart and Soul”; other times people are laying down some really great stuff; occasionally some individual of lesser fortune uses them as Porta-Potties. (I’m kidding: no one plays “Chopsticks.”)

This afternoon, however, as I was walking back to my office, someone decided to bust out one of my old stand-bys when tickling the ivories: “Axel F,” the famous instrumental by Harold Faltermeyer (born Harald Faltermeier) from Beverly Hills Cop. Hear it below; ignore the unrelated images.

First reaction: Who’s throwing down the Faltermeyer?

I look over and see three kids, more or less, by the piano. The one who was playing followed my playbook to a T: play the popular synth line twice, and then get the hell out. They giggled after finishing the second part, running off to presumably find the sheet music to the Fletch score to further their Harold Faltermeyer repertoire.

Harold FSecond reaction: Kids know “Axel F”? Maybe from that ringtone years ago?

Third: I didn’t get to see that movie in the theater.

This was devastating to me. Some of my friends were allowed to go, but not me. I was told the F-word was used too often, so I couldn’t go see it. I couldn’t believe my parents were being such hardliners; I was 10 years old, for fuck’s sake! Certainly old enough to enjoy the comedic leanings of Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold! And if my folks feared I would be exposed to subpar cinema, consider that Jonathan Banks, who plays the lovable Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad, was doing his thing as the hired muscle in this film. And the script was up for Best Original Screenplay! (The dialogue for Axel’s Detroit boss, Inspector Todd, probably sealed the nomination.)

My mom did offer me one option: go see the movie, then go to confession at St. Pat’s. Whether it was a bluff or not, I’ll never know; Catholic guilt kicked in and I ended up waiting for home rental from the local video store. That would have been one interesting confessional conversation…

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been however long it’s been since the Catholic grade school I attend forced me to admit to you a small sample of my transgressions.

Tell me your sins, my son.

Well, I said “Jesus Christ” once or twice while playing kickball at recess. I lied to my parents about eating Twinkies for breakfast the other day. And I saw that fucking Beverly Hills Cop movie.

Judge Reinhold was hilarious as Billy Rosewood, wasn’t he?

I know! And that soundtrack?

Indeed. Five Hail Marys.

Fourth thought: “Axel F” wasn’t even the best Harold Faltermeyer song in the movie. That would be “Shootout,” the B-side on the “Axel F” 45-RPM record. Feel the synthesized tension…

Side note: “Axel F” was not the lone instrumental theme song in my collection of 45s. I also had the Jan Hammer “Theme from Miami Vice” platter, but it paled in comparison to either side of the “Axel F” vinyl.

Fifth thought: Linda Cohn’s got all sorts of Crazy Eyes going on tonight. (Sorry, I have SportsCenter on while I’m typing this.)

Actual fifth thought: I made an omission in my post about my famous pretend girlfriends. I should have included Lisa Eilbacher—or more specifically, her BHC character, Jenny Summers—somewhere in the 1985-1986 period. She was blonde, living in California, cool enough to be pals with dudes like Axel Foley, and she could wear that 1980s-sweat-clothes look as well as anyone.

jenny summers and axel foley

Jenny Yummers, er, Summers, Axel Foley’s ’80s-hot friend in Beverly Hills Cop.

So yeah, I guess I went back to work at some point. But not before laughing about Catholic guilt and daydreaming about Jenny Summers. All because of Iowa City, with its pianos and shit.

From the MoSS? Pit: The Dark Knight Rises

First off, what can be said about what happened in Aurora, Colorado? Jesus.

On a much lighter note, a quick snapshot of the MoSS? crew’s night out at the movies…

beers

Any excuse to go to BWW for some beers and wings (two and twelve, respectively).

About 10:50, we figured it was time to head to the theater, the legendary…

galaxy 16 cine exterior

(whispering) WEH-REN-BERG! WEH-REN-BERG! WEH-REN-BERG!

Parking lot was packed, but, well, you know, the new Madea movie was playing, so no surprise.

Once inside, on my way to the Fandango kiosk, I see a hero in line. I have to get my photo taken with him.

batman and an awesome writer

Batman (left) and Chris

As you might have assessed by the results of the pic, I skipped the asking permission part of the photo op. I put my arm around the dude, put the camera at arm’s length, and fired. I did say “thanks” though.

That is not Todd behind the mask, if you were wondering. Todd could never pull off that look.

We got there at 11, and still had to sit all the way in the second row from the front. My neck is killing me.

That is my only complaint from the night out. Solid movie. Satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Especially the part where The Flash ran really fast through the streets of Smallville. That was unexpected.

3:05 a.m.

Old guys shouldn’t be out this late.

The Seattle soundtrack that starred Smashing Pumpkins turns 20

Singles soundtrack cover imageWhen you visit the homes of people my age and take a peek at their CD shelves (only people my age still have CD shelves), you’ll likely find some common denominators in the soundtrack section*: Pulp Fiction, The Crow, Pump Up the Volume, Judgment Night (right?), Wayne’s World (for those who’ve never heard of Disc-Go-Round), and arguably the best soundtrack of that time, Singles.

(* I’m assuming everyone follows my lead and files their soundtracks separately, in ABC order, after the regular albums sorted A-Z by artist; those regular albums are sorted chronologically within the artist, with singles sorted outside of the full-length albums, and any bootlegs toward the end of the artist sort…)

We all owned the Singles soundtrack because it was 1992 and the movie was set in Seattle and had a lot of Seattle bands on the tracklist (despite no Nirvana). But now, as the soundtrack turns 20, we should ask “What was really so great about it?”

There are certainly good things here:

  • Two exclusive (and great, not throwaway) Pearl Jam songs*
  • A song from Alice in Chains upcoming masterpiece
  • An exclusive Soundgarden song
  • An acoustic solo jam by Chris Cornell
  • An underrated Hendrix song from Are You Experienced?

(* more on Pearl Jam later)

It also features:

  • An interesting Led Zep cover by the girls from Heart
  • A revered track by Mother Love Bone that I find boring
  • A by-the-numbers early ’90s song by Screaming Trees
  • A Mudhoney song that I always skipped because I never understood what everyone liked about Mudhoney
  • Two cheeseball suckfest tunes by Paul Westerberg

These bulleted lists don’t exactly support any statement about Singles being the best soundtrack of its era, but the next paragraph—which will consist of just one word—is all you need to make the case.

“Drown”

Smashing Pumpkins, more or less a one-man band (well, two, as Jimmy Chamberlin could not be sidelined in the studio by Billy Corgan like James Iha and D’Arcy were) from Chicago, fresh off the impressive debut album, Gish, dropped one of its three truly epic songs from the early days (“Silverfuck” and “Starla” being the other lengthy moments of genius) to close out the album. As someone who spent his senior year of high school listening to Gish on repeat and writing “Smashing Pumpkins” on desks throughout Waukon Senior High (especially in pre-calculus class; sorry about that, Mr. Strike), I was excited for new material.

And this was eight minutes of the Billy Fucking Corgan Experience. A nice groove, laid-back vocals, quiet-loud dynamics, killer drum fills, and then four minutes of feedback bliss, layered many times over. (One of the funniest Guitar World transcriptions ever was this song; I’m barely paraphrasing the annotations for the last four minutes: “Guitar 1-8: droning feedback for the next 60 measures”.) And as a result, the Windy City stole the show from the home team (even though many people back then probably lumped SP in with the “Seattle Scene”).

And because Pumpkins fans were somewhat obsessive even at this early stage, the entire soundtrack was a must-have. BECAUSE BACK IN MY DAY, WE DIDN’T HAVE NO FANCY iTUNES/BUY ONE SONG AT A TIME ON THE INTERWEBS ARRANGEMENT. WE COULDN’T SHARE MUSIC VIA NAPSTER OR GNUTELLA OR WHATEVER ELSE. WE DIDN’T HAVE SHINY CD-Rs AND 2x WRITE SPEED CD BURNERS! WE WENT TO MUSICLAND OR SAM GOODY OR BEST BUY AND GRABBED THOSE LONGBOX-PACKAGED CDs AND WE PAID MORE THAN WE SHOULD HAVE AND WE LIKED IT!

Anyway, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, Singles. Despite my dislike for a few tracks, this remains my favorite motion picture soundtrack from the flannel-adorned era. But while considering the merits of this soundtrack, I found myself admitting some truths, some that I couldn’t see back in the grunge days.

Namely, the movie really isn’t all that great. Certainly nowhere near as good as the soundtrack.

The Cameron Crowe flick about young pathetic adults in Seattle trying to figure out the method of modern love (an area of expertise for Hall & Oates) featured a long-haired Matt Dillon as a rocker dude in Seattle who DOESNT use heroin (what?!?); a boob-conscious Bridget Fonda who likes long-haired Matt Dillon but wishes the shiftless layabout would say “bless you” or “gesundheit” every time she spreads her vocal-crippling germs; an Xavier McDaniel-loving wussy (played by Campbell Scott) who wants to build trains all over the city so that he can continue to play with model trains in his apartment; and a “she’s kind of hot, I guess” Kyra Sedgwick, who doesn’t like Xavier McDaniel but likes to deliver and receive lines like “I was just nowhere near your neighborhood” as a prelude to sex romps with guys who do like Xavier McDaniel. (So far I might be overemphasizing Xavier McDaniel’s importance to the central plot.)

Initially it was easy to look past these lame lead characters because of all the musician cameos: Eddie, Jeff, and Stone from PJ as Dillon’s bandmates; Chris Cornell walking into the glass-shattering car stereo scene; live shots of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. But once that novelty wears off, you have to deal with the uber-wuss Campbell Scott character and his convoluted road toward the improbable ensnaring of Mrs. Kevin Bacon, and the boring Matt Dillon-Bridget Fonda relationship, which finally coalesces once rocker boy finally says “bless you” after a sneeze*. The movie comes off feeling kind of corny now rather than cool or hip.

(* That specific aspect, the “I want a guy who says ‘bless you’ when I sneeze,” I really took that to heart. For my entire collegiate career, I found myself hoping to meet up with some hot chick, preferably one who suffers from hay fever, so I could drop the bless you line on them and then enjoy the acceleration into Intimacytown. Instead I got weird looks or perhaps a “thanks” and that was that. This movie made “bless you” out to be some sort of love hypnotism! Damn you, Crowe!)

Poor Pearl Jam.

Another crime committed by this movie: setting Pearl Jam up for a fall. The crew formerly known as Mookie Blaylock chipped in two solid tunes for the soundtrack, on the heels of its breakthrough debut album. The sky’s the limit, I said. But while Smashing Pumpkins rode the wave to new heights in the summer of 1993 with Siamese Dream, Pearl Jam would soon suffer some setbacks, one of which was completely out of the band’s control…

My entire freshman year at UNI, rooms up and down my corner of Rider Hall were blaring Ten, which wasn’t exactly a new album at this point but still a big deal. I remember one night where we feared one of our buddies had overindulged in the beer department, only to have him spring to life from the couch (or floor, who can remember) to join Eddie for the chorus of “Alive”. I remember the group sing-alongs we would have to the verses of “Even Flow” (“REEEEE-SAYYYYYYYY NUMMA NUMMA NUMMA NUMMA NUMMA MADE OF CONCRETE!”) Each Friday, as many students would grab their suitcases and head for their cars, someone would blare “Why Go” and crack open another 12-ounce container of Milwaukee’s Best Light. It was great, the soundtrack to life in the dorms.

But when I returned in the fall of 1993 for my sophomore year, some dudes were still playing it. All. The. Time.

I’m as guilty as the next guy of overkill. My roommate that year told me I ruined Siamese Dream for him because of how frequently I played it. But at least it was fresh! Before long, Ten became unlistenable by choice, dropping PJ a notch or two below the lofty altitudes cruised by the Pumpkins and Nirvana.

And then PJ put out Vs., an album I actually pre-purchased at Sam Goody. I was soon longing for another 638 listens to Ten, as Vs. was pretty much ZZZZZZZ for me. (Did Pearl Jam ever pull out of this tailspin? I heard they kept making records despite my disapproval…)

Yes, the soundtrack is good, but No Alternative is the better ’90s time capsule.

cover from no alternativeIt’s not apples to apples, since one is a soundtrack and the other is a fundraising compilation, and one basically limits itself to Seattle while the other can pick and choose from the entire “alternative” genre. But if I’m going to take an early ’90s nostalgia trip via a prepackaged CD, I’m going to choose No Alternative over Singles. The 1993 compilation has “Glynis,” an exclusive track from the Pumpkins (not on the same level as “Drown,” but it’s one of Billy’s nice quiet moments). We get an oral history of R.E.M. courtesy of Pavement’s “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence.” We get a nice track from Sarah McLachlan before she became synonymous with mistreated animals and the largest-ever synchronized ovulation. Bob Mould’s song is heartfelt. Urge Overkill’s 15 minutes of fame happened around this time; as such, we get a song from them. Soundgarden and Sonic Youth make an appearance. The Breeders and the Beastie Boys offer live tracks (the latter is really interesting, a great run-through of a Licensed to Ill gem).

And this time, we get Nirvana. We didn’t know this (or at least I didn’t know this) when we grabbed the CD, as the song wasn’t listed on the back cover. But once the last listed track (a cool Patti Smith performance) runs out, we are greeted by clean chords and Kurt’s voice, followed quickly by the click of a distortion pedal and Nirvana’s wonderful mix of fuzz and pop. This song rivals some of their most enjoyable pop, right up there with “About a Girl” and “Lithium.”

Yeah, there are some tracks I skip (that would be you, Soul Asylum). But at least no one sings about having a dyslexic heart here.

Exploring the ’80s Movie Montage: The “We Can Fix It Up” Montage

We all love the movie montage. It’s the perfect way to show a lot of action in a short period of time. This was a very popular movie making technique in the ’80s. There were many different versions, but this time around I’m going to focus on the “We Can Fix It Up” montage.

 

There are 4 basic parts

  1. The kick ass ’80s song.
  2. Let’s assess the damage or What did we get ourselves into?
  3. We gotta get to work. This house/mill/boat ain’t gonna fix itself and we need a place to live/dance/win a regatta.
  4. Bask in our own awesomeness. After a tough 2-3 minutes we have ourselves a brand new house/mill/boat!

Revenge of the Nerds

Those lovable nerds need a place to live after those asshole jocks boot them out of the dorms. Of course, all they can find is this former crack den of a fixer upper.

1. Kick Ass ’80s Song: Bone Symphony, “One Foot in Front of the Other”

2. The group gathers in front of their future home and and try to choose between getting to work or murdering their super nerd leader Lewis.

3. The nerd gang hitch up their slacks even further and get to work. Things get fixed despite the use of child labor, blind painters, and Booger getting everyone high.

4. Check it out. Meth Lab to Nerd Lair in less that 5 minutes! If only those dickhead jocks would leave them alone.

[After a long legal battle with FOX Entertainment, they pulled the clip. Jerks. – Todd]

Footloose

Footloose is chock full of montage goodness (See previous post on the Dance Training Montage). This time Kevin Bacon and his crew of backup dancers need to get the old mill ready for the big dance.

1. Kick Ass ’80s Song:  Kenny Loggins, “I’m Free (Heaven Helps The Man)”

2. Sensing that they can conquer any obstacle put in front of them, the kids skip the assessment phase and practice some synchronized dirt biking.

3. The gang ditches the bikes and gets to work. Chris Penn huffs helium while everyone else sweep-dances the place clean.

4. Finally, Lori Singer finds the light switch. When she flips it on everyone erupts with glee as they realize the movie set crew already spent 2 weeks decorating for them.

One Crazy Summer / Summer Rental

Two very similar themed movies. In both movies, the lead character visits an east coast summer vacation town and quickly has a run in with the local rich dude asshole. Also in both movies, they decide to resolve their differences by facing off in a sailing regatta. Of course, the rich dude asshole has the best boat in town and has dominated the regatta for the last 200 years or so. And of course, the new guy in town has to scrape up a boat that was either once a floating restaurant or had been lying sideways on a beach.

1. Kick Ass ’80s Songs: “Unknown Instrumental Boat Building Boogie” / Jimmy Buffet, “Turning Around”

2. Both boats are either full of holes or covered in barnacles but we can’t stop now. There’s a guy I barely know mad at me. I’ll be leaving in a day and I will never see him again, but I have to prove to him and the town that I’m the better man.

3. Both crews get to work. Once again, things get fixed despite the use of child labor, inept workers, and another Booger sighting.

4. After a little scraping, a coat of paint, and some chewing gum, the boats are ready to go up against the rich dude asshole. Oh hey, don’t worry about the other 50 boats entered in the race. Just focus on the rich dude asshole. Now, let’s win that regatta!

The Oscars: Silence is deafening

The Artist posterAs of this moment, I’ve seen zero 2011 Best Picture nominees. All year long, I said to myself and anyone who would listen, “Seems like no good movies are coming out this year.” I changed my tune after seeing the trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and it lived up to expectations, but then I found myself saying, “Seems like no good movies are coming out this year that weren’t already done spectacularly in Swedish.”

After watching the Academy Awards last night (with a break to watch The Walking Dead), I see I didn’t miss anything.

The ArtistThe Artist?!??!?!!?

THE ARTIST??????

No.

I should have known something was amiss when the Academy proved it couldn’t count, nominating only nine films for Best Picture rather than 10. Even more confusing: Dragon Tattoo was absent from the list. Straight-up confounding: The Tree of Life WAS on it.

And then…this. Not only do I doubt that The Artist is better than half the 2011 nominees (I’d bet on Descendants, Moneyball, Hugo, The Help, and Midnight in Paris), but I’d be willing to bet that The Artist falls short of some non-nominees, and not just TGWTDT50/50Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Muppets, Drive, The Ides of March, Warrior, Contagion, The Debt, Crazy Stupid Love, Super 8, Beginners, Bridesmaids (which I did see and didn’t like all that much, but still…), Rio, Meek’s Cutoff, Super, Source Code, I Saw the Devil, The Adjustment Bureau…

Remember 2010? You can’t tell me with a straight face that The Artist would have even cracked the nominee list last year. Seriously, what would it have bumped? The only argument I’ll even listen to is The King’s Speech…which, of course, won the big award last year.

This leads to the question…

Which is the bigger travesty: that The Artist wins Best Picture in a weak year, or that The King’s Speech took the crown in a year full of royalty?

To me, it’s the latter. 2010 was the latest “I’ll never watch again moment.” Earlier moments included:

  • 1994: Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption lose to Gump (which isn’t a bad film, but I really, REALLY like PF).
  • 1998: Shakespeare in Love prevails over Saving Private Ryan.
  • (And if I had really paid attention back then, 1990when Jimmy “Two Times” lost to Smiles A Lot.)

2010 saw Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, True Grit, Winter’s Bone, and two other films I’ve been meaning to see but haven’t (127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right) lose to something that bore more resemblance to “bad after-school special” than “transcending cinematic achievement.” (And bore it did; I was nearly sawing logs at the halfway point.) I felt The Fighter told a much better story of overcoming obstacles/long odds. I thought Black Swan and Inception were far more fascinating exercises in storytelling. I felt more connection to a cotton-stuffed cowboy as he made his way toward an incinerator than I did to some blubbering Brit.

So as annoying as I found last night’s ceremony, I’ve dealt with greater feelings of disappointment. And as I stated up front, I haven’t seen any of the Best Pic noms from 2011. Until I’ve seen the films, maybe I should just sit here in silence…

That would make one hell of a movie, wouldn’t it?

And the Academy Award goes to… Jonah Hill?

Jonah Hill received a surprise Academy Award nomination this week for his supporting role in Moneyball.   Not bad for his first attempt at a dramatic role. I really liked Moneyball and thought Jonah was great in it, but he’s had way better roles in the past that I feel deserve recognition.

Schrader from Accepted

Jonah had a lot of great lines in the movie Accepted, but my favorite is “I hope you guys have Hobo Stab Insurance.”(Go to the 45 second mark on the Accepted movie trailer) The use of the word hobo kills me. Before the movie no one had regularly used the word hobo since the 1940’s and even then it was usually in reference to the obligatory hobo Halloween costume. Since the movie I use the term almost daily. “I would kill a hobo for a piece of pizza” is thrown around a lot in my house. The idea of  “stab insurance” is funny in itself.  I might get stabbed but I’m covered, I have insurance. I wonder if you get that through Aflac or Geico? I hear Geico has the better Hobo Stab Insurance premiums.

Confused We Sell Your Crap On Ebay Store Shopper

In The 40 Year Old Virgin, Jonah shows up in the We Sell Your Crap On Ebay Store. He can’t seem to grasp the idea of a store where you can go inside, browse through merchandise, but can’t actually purchase anything unless you go home and bid on it. Now that I think about it, I’m a bit confused too. I also love the item he wants to buy.  Go-Go boots with gold fish in the heel. Not just for fun but to actually take home and wear.

Seth from Superbad

My favorite comedy of all time. Jonah was great throughout as the wisecracking high school kid Seth. Whether he is forecasting his future porn tastes or making fun of nerdy friend McLovin, his scenes are comedic home runs. My favorite scene by far is The Dick Treasure Chest. Seth admits a deep dark secret to his best friend. Apparently, he used to sit around all day and compulsively draw pictures of dicks. That’s right, Man Dick. It’s OK though, something like 8% of kids does it. So, nothing to worry about.

Congratulations to  Jonah for being nominated for such a high profile acting award. I just hope he doesn’t go the route of other some other comedic actors and do only dramatic roles from now on. Robin Williams won his Oscar and all we saw from him afterwards was crap like Patch Adams and Jakob the Liar.

Stay true to your comedic roots Jonah and we the fans will always ask you about your weiner.