Monthly Archives: August 2008

Review: Persepolis

Persepolis is a biopic of sorts, about an Iranian girl, Marjane, during the Iraq/Iran war and the conflicts of the Shah regime and their control of the Iranian citizens. A very heavy subject matter for a film that is animated, but it is done beautifully, with the nuance and charm needed to perfectly meld animation with the devastation of war. The film begins in 1979, with a precocious Marjane filled with optimism, striving to one day become a prophet. She is filled with such hope and innocence, she tells her grandmother in one scene that in the future, pain and suffering for the elderly will be illegal, when her grandmother asks how, Marjane simply replies, “it will be banished.” The first Act of this film is filled with these cute and sincere moments, and it is not until her uncle, Anoosh, is released from prison, when the dark nature really starts to come through.

The western influence in Iranian culture is evident throughout the film, and while illegal, you see teens trying to rebel by buying black market cassette tapes of Michael Jackson and Iron Maiden, wearing “punk shoes” Nike sneakers, and even wearing the sewn adage “punk is not ded” on the back of a denim jacket. Marjane becomes enthralled with western culture, as one scene shows her head-banging to Iron Maiden in her room. As any concerned parent would do, Marjane’s parents send her away to Austria once danger becomes all too real when a bomb strikes down a family friend in the adjacent apartment building.

The film takes on many dark subjects, from unqualified “leaders”, to hypocrisy within the public perception of men and women, and Marjane’s realization that the rest of the world takes their freedoms for granted. For the most part, the animation is black and white, to portray the arbitrary outlook of the Iranian regime. It is a shame that the Iranian government boycotted this film. There must be too much truth for them to handle. The film succeeds in showing you the loving and nurturing side of the Iranian people, and how they only want to protect their families and change the situation they are in, but what can you do when you have others to think about? Do what you are told, and conform; happens every day. You can’t change where you were brought up, or what nationality you were born into, but you CAN create your own future.

– Ant

[Persepolis is available on DVD.]

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Who Will Save Rock Music… Guitar Hero?

We all know the music industry hes been fledgling for some time, and unless their distribution method changes quickly, things will not look any better. Radiohead shocked the industry by self releasing their new album, In Rainbows,  as a “pay for what it’s worth to you” type mentality, and even more recently Nine Inch Nails gave away their new album The Slip totally free as a high quality download. The industry is changing has changed; in the course of the last 10 years, the general public has discovered illegal downloading, and even with the RIAA peeking their ugly heads in the form of litigation, downloading is here to stay. Having said all that, there is a new music money-maker in town, luckily not in the form of boy bands and Hannah Montana, no, it is a video game: Guitar Hero/Rock Band. A game almost everyone between the ages of 5-65 are undoubtedly familiar with, I don’t think you realize this; the music industry is pulling a fast one:

“But “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” have prompted kids born in the ’90s to discover artists from the ’70s and ’80s such as Aerosmith, Twisted Sister and Pat Benatar. The games’ amazing popularity — last year, the two brought in more than $935 million in revenue, according to the NPD Group market research company — has helped create success in other markets, according to observers.”

Actually, I love the fact that kids are finding out about these great bands early on in life. It’s a win-win; the record industry get their kickbacks from licensing, and kids (and adults alike) are being introduced/reacquainted to some of the best bands/artists in history (David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Pixies, The Smashing Pumpkins, Black Sabbath, Cream, The Ramones, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the list could go on forever). Not only are they promoting great rock bands, but they are putting instruments in their hands. You say, “sure, but they are fake instruments”, but I don’t think you realize the mind of a child. They are going to want to learn to play guitar like Jimi, bass like Flea, and drums like Neil Pert (drum solo of life? anyone?). Yes, the potential for big business ruling music again is daunting, but this is different, this is making people excited about music again. I choose to think this is making a difference, for the sake of my ears, because if I have to see one more white kid in his lowered Cavalier on 20’s blasting the latest Three Six Mafia album, I may just spontaneously combust.

“The results have played out at such places as Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles, where most teens have grown up on a steady diet of hip-hop and R&B. Recently, heavy metal blared from the school’s darkened auditorium as it sponsored a three-day “Guitar Hero Face-Off.” Spotlights illuminated the competitors, and an audience full of enthusiasts screamed wildly at the end of each song.”

If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, dear God it should.

– Ant

How Do You Create Buzz For Spiderman 4?

What do you do get people thinking about Spiderman again after the abysmal third instalment of the lucrative franchise? You set up an eBay auction for a meet and greet with the cast, an invitation to the premier, and a chance to be in the movie. Let’s add the cherry on this preemptive viral sundae, it’s for charity. Sony Pictures, you sly dog you; creating buzz before Spiderman 4 is even greenlit, and showing you have heart, how precious. Frankly, they need to do all they can to wipe that taste from my mouth about the dancing emo Peter scene in Spiderman 3, which was probably one of the worst movie-going experiences I have had in the last five years. /Film found a nifty stipulation:

“Slyly, included in the fine print is “If experience cannot be fulfilled, Sony Pictures will provide alternative set visits/premieres based on the provider’s availability”. How pissed would you be if you spent tens of thousands of dollars and they changed the film to the Goosebumps movie? The current high bid (as of this writing) is $5,000 and the auction ends on September 5th.”

How much would you pay?

– Ant

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen does Latin. Yes, that’s right Latin — no more geriatric New York, no more contemporary London — but enthralls the audience with Gotti churches, gothic cathedrals, and a hint of Spanish guitar. Woody has arrived in the breathtaking lushness of Barcelona. Of course, the film opens up in the trademarked black and white credits, but Woody does the new location with such conviction that the only sense of Barcelona the audience is neglected is its smell.

Two American girls, Vicky (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige), and Christina (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation) travel to Barcelona for the summer to shack up with their friends, Mark (Kevin Dunn, Transformers), and Judy (Patricia Clarkson, Good Night, and Good Luck), spanish estate. Vicky — engaged, conservative — is there to pursue her education, while Cristina — single, creative — is soaking up in Spanish wine and culture. It’s not too long before they are approached by, the ever studly, seductive painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men) at dinner who proposes a threesome within seconds of hello. Typical Woody Allen so far. The real brilliance starts to unravel with the introduction of Juan Antonio’s ex- wife, Marie Elena (Penelope Cruz, Volver), who possesses a lightning bolt of love and hate for Juan Antonio — she tried to stab him. New relationships are made, and old relationships are jolted.

The film isn’t shy of Allen’s witicisms, and notorious one-liners. To see the luscious Cruz transition from delivering such moronic lines from spanish to english is absolutely superb. Throw in the most sensual actress of today, Scarlett, literally in the middle of it — can you say threesome? With Bardem, the god of seduction and spanish charm — guys will be envious for months — Allen created something new, even for him. An absolute homage to Barcelona, Allen conveys it beautifully.

Joe

Listen Up!

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins in stores 9/9/08.

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins in stores 9/9/08.

Okkervil River has been busy; with three albums in the last four years, you may think there has to be a drop in quality, but alas, they deliver the goods again on their new album, The Stand Ins. I will not waste any of my trademark alliteration and clever quips on this modest description (hint: full album review soon), but do not expect another Black Sheep Boy, they bring more of the pseudo upbeat alt-country/rock of last years effort, The Stage Names, almost serving as an extension. Brash and brutally honest lyrics galore. Perhaps we can cross our fingers for a new 2009 release.

Brendan Canning - Something For All Of Us... is available now.

BSS Presents: Brendan Canning - Something For All Of Us... is available now.

Broken Social Scene is an oddity. They have had more branch-off solo albums than the Wu-Tang Clan. OK, we won’t be ridiculous, but the release of BSS Presents: Brendan Canning’s Something For All Of Us… marks the third album in two years released by one of the super-groups masterminds (see also: BSS Presents: Keven Drew – Spirit If…, also recommended, also loving the use of “…”, and breakout alum Feist – The Reminder). Brendan does not stray from what he knows, and you can expect more of the arrangements you would hear from a normal any BSS release. Now if only we could get a proper follow-up to BSS’ self-titled 2005 masterpiece.

The Avett Brothers - The Second Gleam EP is out now.

The Avett Brothers - The Second Gleam EP is out now.

Never being one for conventionalism, I am throwing in The Avett Brothers for the second time in this weeks Listen Up! They released The Second Gleam EP somewhat under the radar, with the brothers new album soon on the horizon. It is a stripped effort, most likely some B-sides from their critically acclaimed 2007 album Emotionalism. All of the songs here contain simple guitar/banjo and vocals only, beautiful ditties about lost childhood, murder of a loved one, and unbridled love (you know, the usual). Following these ‘gents has been a fantastic ride, to see how much they have grown since their humble beginnings; they have really found their stride.

– Ant

[Listen Up! is a weekly feature.]

No One Wants the Worlds Largest Record Collection for Even 6% of Its Value

A bit of depressing news for a vinyl/record collector, a man is trying to sell his personal record collection, which was appraised for $50 million, for a mere $3 million. He could not even find any luck on eBay, where people can successfully sell a freaking burnt piece of toast with the Virgin Mary for thousands of dollars. In the midst of the digital age, it seems that the lore of record collecting has lost it’s luster (though it seems there has been a recent re-birth). It IS an expensive hobby, but for those who have collections of their own, it’s a sense of pride, and it used to be a sense of investment in the future. I am sure if he hired a broker of sorts, he could unload most of his gems for a hefty sum, but who do you know that has an extra 3 mil lying around to buy 3 million records. Hell, if you do, give me $3 million, and I will give you a swift and abrupt kick to the crotchal region. Although, you have to feel for the poor guy.

“Paul’s been building his collection for most of his life. He used to run a record store, and while running it he never sold the last copy of any album or single, instead keeping it for his archives. Over the years, those really added up. Now, at an advancing age, stricken with diabetes and legally blind, Paul wants to sell the collection.”

Which begs the question, do people have time for records anymore when you can have your entire catalog in your pocket via iPod?

– Ant

Ben Folds new album “leaked”

You have to love a musician these days that is totally self-aware and has a sense of humor to accurately reflect the state of the music industry. Ben Folds has done the unthinkable, he has leaked his own album. Well, yes, it resembles the new album, but he recorded a joke album just to screw with all of us music pirates connoisseurs.

“Singer-songwriter Ben Folds responded to the inevitable leak of his forthcoming album Way To Normal in a unique way: he leaked it himself. Only the songs weren’t real — he spent eight hours recording “fake” versions of six tracks during a late-night Dublin, Ireland session in early July, then let friends work their magic on the Web … “I just think that we all need to remember how to have fun.”

Brilliant. Ben Folds’ sense of humor is of no surprise to any of his fans (umm, “Ben Folds – Bitches Aint Shit“, for one.) Check out clips of some of the fake songs as compared to the real songs.

– Ant

[Ben Folds’ REAL album, Way To Normal, is in stores September 30, 2008.]