Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Guilty Pleasure - Part II

And yes, here it is. The list of movies that I don’t recommend to people or friends.  The guilty pleasure movies that I love, but don’t openly admit. In many ways, this list is more embarrassing  than my list of top 5 Guilty Pleasure Songs.
 So, let’s dissect this list…

#5. The Matrix Reloaded
    This one is always hard to admit. Damn near everyone loves the first Matrix movie, as do I. But nearly everyone hates the last two movies, (and with fairly good reason - Matrix Revolutions is terrible).
    But why do I like this one? Well, because half of this movie lived up to my expectations. Half of this movie had some good ideas. For instance, the freeway action sequence is still pretty cool-looking  and, (in my opinion), just as good as anything in the first movie. While it’s plot is hindered by some extraneous side notes - (i.e. the odd rave/orgy sequence in Zion, any of the scenes including Persephone and the Merovingian) - the plot is at least average and no worse than any other huge-budget Hollywood movie, (with cheese ball lines included).
    And while there are some ill-conceived CGI, (the Neo versus a million Agent Smiths, comes to mind), most of the special effects are pretty solid.
    Though I enjoy this movie, I will admit that the cliffhanger ending is especially irritating - given that the movie that followed was a much bigger steaming pile of crap.
    Now on to the next one!

#4. Welcome to Woop Woop
    Ah….This one.
    There’s a bit of pride in this Australian B-movie. By that, I mean that very few people have seen this movie, (probably for good reason).
    The plot is straight-forward and simple:
    Guy is on the run. Guy meets girl. Girl insists on marrying/kidnapping guy and taking him back to a creepy, middle-of-nowhere outback town inhabited by super-crazy, Rodgers & Hammerstein-obsessed locals. Guy tries to escape…Etc…
    This movie directed by Stephan Elliott, subsequently after the success of “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” - (which nearly made this list, by the way), is hilarious in a disturbed sort of way. I mean, with lines like “Part me beef curtains” and an awesome soundtrack made up of late 90’s artists covering Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes, you can’t ask for a more insane movie.
(and for all you B-movie aficionados - the plot is oddly similar to the movie “A Boy and His Dog”)

#3. Bad Education  or  La Mala Educacion
    First of all, this is not a B-movie. It is an absolutely perfectly done film, in a strange Hitchcock-esque vein, (think a transgender Vertigo, in Spanish - that flirts with the idea of metafiction).
    While that description doesn’t do it justice, suffice to say that this movie is one of the first Pedro Almodovar films that I saw, and I immediately had to go out and watch his other movies.
    So why is this one on the list? Well, to begin with, it’s initial release was rated NC-17, (which in many ways immediately puts it at some form of cult status). And with it’s depiction of transsexuality, drug abuse, and other taboo topics - it would probably make a lot of right-wing folks uncomfortable, (presumably, that’s why this film got the rating it did - when in reality it has nothing worse than what can fit under an R-rating anyway).
    Which is a shame really, because this is definitely one of the best films of the decade, and it proves that Almodovar is a master at the art of cinema.

#2. Love Actually
    I know I’m going to catch havoc for this one, but nonetheless, I love this movie.
    Basically, it’s an ensemble of every reasonably good British actor in the early 2000’s. While this movie is so sickeningly sweet that it’s likely to cause diabetes within the first viewing, it’s also the over-the-top king of the British romantic-comedy fold.
    Yes. It’s embarrassing to admit that I love this movie. But even it’s detractors would have to admit that it’s got some great moments of dry British humor. And for me, there is nothing funnier than hearing Bill Nighy’s washed-up rockstar character say “Now let’s get pissed, and watch porn!”

And finally…

#1. Southland Tales
    I don’t know anyone who likes this movie. And if you’ve seen it, you probably have numerous valid points as to why this is a terrible movie.
    It could be the completely near-incomprehensible plot - or the blatantly weird music throughout with oddball references to song lyrics and Robert Frost poems within the dialogue - or the bizarre casting, (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson? Really?) - You could say “It doesn’t make any sense.” - And you would be right.
    Coming off the success of “Donnie Darko”, Richard Kelly wrote and directed this insane movie…. And it was panned by damn near every film critic, and was a box-office disaster.
    I really do like this movie. The whole thing is a mess, but it’s kind of interesting to see a director try to fit way too many ideas into nearly 2 ½ hours. Yes, it’s a train wreck - but it’s hard to look away.
    It’s like listening to the Clash’s “Sandinista” album. It’s basically the sound of a band throwing in everything and the kitchen sink into a triple-LP. In the end, you end up with a sprawling album that has moments of brilliance, and it’s equal share of utter failure.
    Well, that basically sums up this movie. It’s trying to be a comedy, a dystopian-end-of-the-world film, a cool-looking music video, and a thriller - all at once.
    Likewise, it does have moments of brilliance: the eccentric lip-syncing of the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” by none other than Justin Timberlake, or it’s strange ruminations on time-travel, or the long panning room-shot inside the blimp that moves at the pace of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Howl”….
    There are reasons to like this movie. You just have to work with it a bit.

    So, yes…. These are the movies that I don’t readily recommend to casual friends, (or even some of my close friends), for fear of them thinking I’m crazy and having the worst taste in movies.
    Now, your turn.
    What’s your top 5? I promise not to laugh…

Song of the Week:

"Hounds of Love"  -   by The Futureheads

A pretty freakin' sweet cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" by these guys from England, and awesome backing vocals in a sort of call-and-response pattern. Go out and buy their self-titled album from back in 2004 for blissful harmony-soaked pop songs with odd post-punk tendencies....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Creative Process?

This will be one of those blog entries that is specifically  tailored  to people who listen to/know about my band Hutson. So, for all others, beware....The following is a semi-extensive description of how the next Hutson album will come to exist.
    To begin with, every band is different, and their process of conceiving  songs is equally as diversified. But here is how we're doing it.

    In the early years of the band, it was usually me bringing a fully-structured song to the band, and everyone adding their parts around it. And even still, that method still remains - although it has been altered significantly.
    Part 1:   I'll record a basic song structure, (with or without lyrics), choose an approximate tempo, (ex. 135 bpm), and then upload the this file and recording to a folder, (i.e. "Demo Song #1"), on the server we're using.  Tony and Andy then take a listen and start constructing their individual parts, (bass and percussion, respectively - although keyboards and/or other instruments are encouraged).  By the time we end up at practice the next week, we've got a rough idea of the song idea.
   Part 2:    At this point, the song structure may go through numerous alterations. Verses and/or choruses may be added or deleted, dynamic changes may be moved around, and then discussion occurs regarding "the Feel" of the song.
   Part 3:    Yes, as retarded and cliche as it sounds, we actually spend quite a lot of time discussing this. For me, "the Feel" goes hand in hand with  whatever influence I'm coming from with the initial song idea - and as anyone who knows me is aware, most of my songs end up being a game of "Name the Influence."  I don't intentionally go in with that mindset, but it's just part of my own creative process.
   Part 4:    We manage to get a demo song idea in a working format, and record our practice in order to remember what version of the song we were most pleased with. Then, we move on to the next recorded demo song idea. This allows us not to get too attached to each individual song as we continue gleaning through our material.
   At this point, our overall plan is to get 20 demo songs to this stage in the next 2 months. We currently have 8 songs uploaded/recorded, and about 5 more ideas not recorded yet, so we're moving along at a good rate.
   After we've got our 20 songs, we'll sit down and choose which 11 or 12 songs we want for the full-length album. After we've picked the specific songs, we'll truly start organizing song structures and "feel" in order to to make the album cohesive.
    Then the recording sessions start.

   That is the basic outline of the process we've chosen to use for the song-writing for the new songs. Now, bear in mind that if Tony comes up with an idea for a bassline, (or Andy with a drum part),  the process works inherently the same way - Tony uploads the recorded bass part and Andy and I start work on complimentary  parts, (for those of you interested, "Shallow Grave" was created this way).
   I'm not going to go into lyric-writing here, because there is nothing more mind-numbing than listening to me talk about how my lyrics are written or where they come from. Besides, most questions regarding lyric-writing end up with either pretentious or completely retarded answers. Thus, I'm not going to get into that here.
   Now, this may not seem like the most spontaneous method of creating music between three people. But then again, we're not exactly the Grateful Dead.
   Don't get me wrong - jam sessions are helpful, but for our three-piece, a clear method of organization is needed to construct the songs.
   And that's how the songs are being made for the next Hutson LP. When we get around to the recording stage, I'll go in-depth on how we'll be going about it, but that's a story for another blog.

  And this week's Album of the Week  is:

"High Times: Singles 1992-2006"     -     Jamiroquai

     While I'm not admittedly a big fan of this band, there is a lot to like in this basic collection of singles. Like nearly everyone I know, I was only aware of "Virtual Insanity" and "Canned Heat" from this band. And not that those aren't great songs, they simply require me to be in a specific mood to listen to them.
      At any rate, I picked this CD up for about 10 bucks, because I was curious about the time frame. 1992? I vaguely remember "Virtual Insanity" coming out in 1996, but otherwise I was unaware of this band.
     Turns out, Jamiroquai is pretty big in the UK, (which is where they're from)... And their first few albums represent a band associated with "the London-based "acid-jazz" movement in the early 90's"... Who knew?
     While the later albums since 1996 appear to delve deeper into 70's disco/funk and electronica, this collection pretty much sounds great and has gotten plenty of repeat listens from me over the past week since I got it.
      Like I said, I'm not a huge fan, but as a collection to show off what this band is capable of, this CD really hits all the marks.... It could even make me more than just a casual fan.
     Besides, a white guy who sounds like Stevie Wonder?  Awesome.