East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer movies: Iron Man

Bill Clinton Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr*) begins the movie as your typical neoliberal billionaire playboy-weapons dealer. It's only when, in Afghanistan, he gets blown up by one of his own bombs that he realises the awesome power of Irony. Executing his Second Amendment rights to build a fireball-shooting flight suit, he becomes Irony Man. He fights the evil foreigner the Mandarin Raza (Berkeley grad Faran Tahir) and his crew of henchmen gathered from Hungary, Mongolia and other countries without Second Amendments by using the power of pure Irony. When they shoot at him, their bullets bounce off and hit themselves! One of them tries to catapult a rock at him, but it falls on himself! But the real enemy is bald neoconservative Dick Cheney Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who builds an even more Ironic suit. They fight, and ironically, because Stane is much more powerful, he loses. He deserves to, because he blows shit up for money. Irony Man only blows shit up for public approval. B PLUS

*Ghostface Killah was busy filming Speed Racer.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Top ten: Hook of the dead

1. The Roy Campbell Ensemble, "Akhenaten (Amenophis, Amenhotep IV)": This is bookended by some highly melodic, pseudo-Egyptian unison playing between Campbell and Billy Bang. In between, Campbell's flugelhorn solo is distinct yet downhome. Bang, probably the finest jazz violinist ever, is more amped-up. Surprisngly useful: vibe player Bryan Carrott.
2. Colombiafrica: The Mystic Orchestra, "Sambangole/Tres Golpes Na' Mas": Yeah, you know I have a soft spot for out-of-tune vocals. Parisian Lucas Silva mashes up Colombian funeral singers ("The Happy Ambulances") with soukous guitar to which Vampire Weekend can only aspire. Incongruous and maybe unsettling, but it's some kind of celebration.
3. Randy Newman, "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country": Newman would never say "God damn America", not just because he's too ironic, but because he loves the damned country, as much as the current adminstration would disavow the form his love takes. Me, I came here by choice, that's how much I love the place. But respect is pretty much out of the question.

4. Big Boi ft. Andre 3000 & Raekwon, "Royal Flush": Yeah, you know I have a soft spot for Three Stacks. Dre gets most of the airtime, and he responds by staying somewhere near the rhythm for once. He posits a metaphorical hokey pokey ("one foot in and one foot out") as a way of keeping up with the kids with Wiis. Call me a Swede, but I note that a decent student allowance scheme would make this unnecessary.

5. Kleerup ft. Titiyo, "Longing for Lullabies": You can also call him a Swede, because he is. Kleerup's first single was one of the greatest ever recorded, so I can't blame him for making his second the same basic song, only dreamier. The song describes what happens if you don't follow Robyn's example, and look back. The distance may be such that it only hurts with every third or fourth heartbeat, but the pain is still there.

6. Toumast, "Ikalane Walegh (These Countries That Are Not Mine)": Ishumar, the album by these Tuaregs, is coloured by French producer Dan Levy's multi-instrumental contributions, and again, unusally, the Western tinkering helps matters, on this track particularly through Levy's bass funking up the guitar of unrepentant former insurgent Moussa Ag Keyna. US tour schedules for September; good luck with those visas.

7. Amy LaVere, "Pointless Drinking": Yeah, you know I have a soft spot for drinking songs. Of course, even the Eagles knew almost all drinking has a point. Some drink to remember! Some drink to forget!

8. Kate Nash, "Mariella": Loud, weird young woman sings about silent, weirder little girl.

9. Los Campesinos, "You! Me! Dancing!": "If there's one thing that I could never confess, it's that I can't dance a single step" -- identification!

10. Vampire Weekend, "M79": I started the backlash; I might as well be first to call it off. It doesn't matter if they'd be laughed off the stage in Kinshasa if they can write this concisely.

Fifteen more: Mary J. Blige, "Just Fine" and "Grown Woman" (ft. Ludacris); Colombiafrica, "Jaloux Jaloux"; Daft Punk, "Around the World/Harder Better Faster Stronger"; Dear Jayne, "Rain"; Drive-By Truckers, "A Ghost to Most"; Holy Fuck, "Super Inuit"; Amy LaVere, "Killing Him"; Lykke Li, "Little Bit"; Nas ft. Jay-Z, "Black Republican"; Kate Nash, "Foundations" and "Birds"; T2 ft. Jodie Aysha, "Heartbroken"; Vampire Weekend, "One (Blake's Got a New Face)".


Thursday, May 08, 2008

The middle of everyone

I've spent far too much time this week defining and calculating the centre of the world's population. This is my answer; as far as I know I'm the first person in history to get an accurate answer for this (but how accurate?) (and that's assuming I didn't mess up).

This brings me 0.00% closer to completing my thesis.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

SFIFF seen

In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, 2007): As swoonful a tourist promo for Strasbourg as Before Sunrise was for Vienna: those trams, how kawaii! Our handsome Old Romantic hero stalks a woman across town, as sources of light and sound shift around her (aside: why is subjective lighting inevitably realist, while foley effects are more psychological? Somebody must've thought about this). He glances from face to face -- is that his Sylvie? But something rises to compete with his loneliness: as extras are shot like protagonists, we get to take them in, in a way it's hard to do in real life (because it's rude to stare). Lonely as you are? The city never is. A

The Toe Tactic (Emily Hubley, 2008): Let's hope the New Niceness becomes a movement (humblecore? M. July is lovely, but I never thought of her as humble.) The draw is Hubley's metamorphosing animations, in the spirit of her visualisation of capital-P Platonic soul-mating in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while the cameo-filled live sequences are just personal and eccentric enough to hold the movie together. Nepotists Yo La Tengo help a lot with a soundtrack that includes, and largely sounds like, "Daphnia". B PLUS

Pitcher of Colored Light (Robert Beavers, 2007): Beavers shoots his mother's house and garden as an extension of herself, his curious camera fading out from one object and into another. Mom's possessions will survive her, as will this film. The best segment of the In a Lonely Place programme of emergent cinema, though I also like Katharin McInnis's Woodward's Gardens, a record of the decarnivalisation of 14th and Mission -- in 3D! B PLUS

Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrera, 2007): For one thing, an Altman flick would have more than one developed character (Willem Dafoe in a generally affable mood as the strip club owner); for another, decent dialogue. But many of the ensemble nail their shining moments, two involving dogs: Asia Argento tongue-kisses hers, while Matthew Modine merely mimes on a toy piano for his. B MINUS

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