Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Favorite Films of the Year

Giant, Cloverfield-monster-sized disclaimer: Okay, so I'm basically a Music Writer. I'm hardly a Film Expert, and what's worse, I'm basically a total geek, which means my choices are, well, kind of nerdy. Also, I have an eight-year-old, meaning I see a lot of Non-Adult Films as well. But even though I was kind of tempted to put Stardust on my list (It's Neil Friggin' Gaiman, okay? Its way darker and more cynical than you'd ever think it would be!!!) I held back and tried to just put shit on there that I actually *loved*. Okay?

So let us commence.

1. Juno. Um, so, yeah. Let me just say officially, for the record, that even if I *hadn't* been previously attached to the screenwriter? I would still adore the living shit out of Juno. It's just a god-damned good film, full stop. The script is funny as hell (duh!), Jason Reitman's direction is sharp, clever, and stylish, and there isn't a single performance in there that rings even remotely false. The one I think the awards are missing is J.K. Simmons as Mac McGuff -- he's the absolute heart and soul of the film, and his gruff-but-lovable dad is exactly the kind of father I wanna be -- kind and sweet-hearted but kind of a hardass, like a hipper Red from "That 70s Show," yknow? I mean, and yeah, Reitman throwing in Kinks and Velvets on the soundtrack is so designed to tweak my hipster sensibilities, and it so does. Bravo, all 'round.

2. No Country For Old Men. I can't remember the last time I was this bowled over by a film. You know how shitty critics describe films sometimes as "edge of your seat enjoyment?" I was seriously literally sitting on the very edge of my seat, clutching my armrests until the knuckles turned white and fell asleep, until the credits rolled. I had no idea where it was going, and just when I thought I knew I realized I really didn't. Brutal, terrifying, and just perfectly written and directed in every sense. And Javier Bardem haunts my nightmares -- I had one a few nights ago where he was stalking me in an abandoned amusement park. Fucking crazy performance.

3. Hot Fuzz. I'm sorry -- if there's one comedy film (I guess it's a comedy, though it sort of transcends the genre by also being fucking cool and terrifying as hell) that deserved way the fuck more awards consideration this year than it got, it is this one. Edgar Wright is a director's director -- he's such a dab-hand at scene-framing and pacing, and can you fucking fathom how much footage he shot for all those crazy fast-edit transitions?? Brilliant. The script's a goddamn riot (*possibly* more laughs-per-minute than any other film this year), and if you don't love the Pegg/Frost team you have no fucking soul. The perfect example of how so-called "genre" films get woefully neglected because they're not (ahem ahem) Se-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-rious enough. Hogwash.

4. The Darjeeling Limited. And talk about underrated -- when was it collectively decided that Wes Anderson, like, wasn't cool anymore? Fuck that. This film was beautiful from top to bottom -- not only does it boast the best cinematography of the year (in a year with No Country that's a pretty fucking amazing honor, frankly) but it also boasts, I think, the best ensemble performance as well -- the combination of Messrs. Schwartzman, Wilson and Brody as three contentious, completely insane brothers was magnificent. I was, y'know, moved and shit. And yet, what I've described as the "Yawn-more-brilliance-from-Wes-Anderson-how-boring phenomenon continues apace.

5. and 6. (tie) Planet Terror (Grindhouse) and Death Proof (Grindhouse). Okay, apart from the critically lauded films at the top of the list, I guess I'm all about the underrated films this year, aren't I? Everybody, from your Uncle Ted to Roger Ebert, missed the point of this/these films. Are they deliberately shitty? Tongue-in-cheek or not? Are we supposed to love them or laugh at them? And what the fuck with Tarantino's thing, which is like a bunch of awesome conversations with horrible deaths in between? The point is they're all of the above like all great Grindhouse cinema, and excuse me, Death Proof is fucking too a magnificent film, which is about two things: a) fucking knock-out stunts and killer performances and b) Quentin's foot fetish, which to me makes for an astonishing 1.5 hours of cinema. Extra points for the trailers: my neighbor Danny Trejo is awesome in "Machete," Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" is hilarious and awesome (I had a dream on Thanksgiving night about watching a Grindhouse-style horror film called "Kill-Sumption") and Edgar's "Don't" is utterly accurate and what-the-fuck. Just a righteous thing top to bottom, this.

7. Superbad. Every year has a Pure Comedy that I love. Last year, it was so Clerks 2, and this year belongs to Superbad. I know everybody loved McLovin', and props to that performance, but for me, it was all about Jonah Hill as Seth, all bluster and false confidence and selfish assholeness. That was everybody I knew in high school. *I*, of course, was more Michael Cera-y, so I totally got his thing too, only if it was my life back then? Not a chance I would have ended up with any manner of hot chick at the end. Note: I am convinced that Judd Apatow, brilliant though he is, is actually advancing the cause of Closeted Gay Men. That glance at the end? Uh huh. See also: the MAIN relationship in Knocked Up, between Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd and, er, the MAIN relationship in 40 Year Old Virgin, also, er, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd.

8. Zodiac. The Serious Critic's Sleeper Film of the Year (see: Hollywood Elsewhere for some serious Zodiac drum beating. It's essentially a three-hour procedural, and there's so many false leads and weird turns and twists that you end up a bit confused, but fucking two million points for whipping up a serious atmospheric froth, and Jake Gyllenhaal is, like, note perfect as a nebbishy editorial cartoonist-cum-obsessed amateur detective (god, not to mention Robert Downey Jr. as a crazy-ass drunk reporter). About twenty minutes too long, but weirdly, at the end, I wanted another twenty minutes, I was enjoying myself so much. Fincher = awesome. That equation continues to hold absolutely true.

9. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. An obscure Canadian (I think?) twist on Heathers, I watched this sucker as part of Diablo research for her forthcoming horror film, and kinda fell in love with it, as sick and disturbing and totally warped as it is. Popular girl goes on camping trip with friends, who start getting picked off one by freaking one in the most brutal ways imaginable. It sounds mundane but a witty script, some very dark direction, and some totally clever performances elevate it far above its subject matter. And there's a twist ending you'll see coming a mile off but still stand up and cheer when it actually happens, 'cause it rules. Its soul is black as hell, this one; if yours is too (like mine) you'll love the shit out of it.

10. Transformers. Okay, look. You go into a film expecting something, and so frequently you get something totally else and you come away thinking "man, I kinda wish I had my seven bucks back." I went into Transformers being promised GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER. And what did I get? GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER. So, like, I totally felt like my seven dollars were well spent. Value for money. Exact return on investment. The film sucked fucking balls, but I feel like I need to call it out for that alone. Oh, and the weirdest performance by the actor and actress playing Shia LeBeouf's mom and dad -- they were flown in from fucking 16 Candles or something. Fucking bizarre.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Entire SILVERGIRL Album. Free. Now.

NOW! With additional song and album artwork!!!

So: two years ago. I had it in my mind to write and record a group of songs as sort of a love letter to the country-flecked "canyon rock" I was listening to at the time (y'know, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds-circa-"Notorious Byrds Brothers," and most importantly THE MONKEES, the group that has perhaps loomed largest over my life, and country-rock pioneers whether you wanna admit it or not -- as well as 70s stuff like Bread and America that generally sends critics into paroxysms of agony).

I wrote and played the whole thing myself, for the most part -- the guitars, basses, drums, keyboards, and whatever other nib-nobs you hear in there are most likely me. I was helped by the fabulous Michael Gray of Minneapolis electro-rockers Mercurial Rage (on low harmonies) and of course Diablo Cody (on high harmonies), who made it sound less like I was a giant chorus of clones.

I had always intended to put together a band to record these songs, but instead joined the Autumn Leaves for one last hurrah before moving out to Los Angeles. Two of them are gonna appear on the forthcoming (and awesome) Autumn Leaves record in entirely superior form, so watch for that -- these are really demos. And now they've been supplanted by an entirely new group of somewhat more lyrically relevant songs (ha!) which I think are even better than these in a lotta ways (less deliberately derivative, certainly), and the chances that the Silvergirl album is ever gonna make it in front of people is slim to none.

So here you go. I'm even including a couple outtakes from the "sessions" -- including a nasty, stomping, Mud-like cover of The Archies' "S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O."

Peace Like A River
I wanted to open the album Brian Wilson-style with a little snippet of an old Presbyterian hymn that I used to sing in choir. I'm also kinda deliberately aping the a capella countriness of the Dillards on "Wheatstraw Suite," where they start with a lovely version of "I'll Fly Away," an equally reverent little hymn.

Feels Like Rain / The Melancholy Train Whistle Blows
The first half of this omnibus opener is "Feels Like Rain," which is a cross between the Monkees and the ever-present Dillards, sung in my very best twang. The little cascading "raindrops" in the chorus make me especially happy. Again: watch for an even better version on the forthcoming Autumn Leaves record. The second half is a song called "The Melancholy Train Whistle Blows." Its kind of a "Notorious Byrds Brothers" David Crosby-esque little thing. I've always loved "train songs" -- written a scad of 'em in my time even though I've ridden a total of one train. And I've always loved Crosby's cool droney modal tunes that broke into gorgeous country choruses. Go Cros.

Topeka's Trying
Okay, this one is pure Nez -- Michael Nesmith has always been one of my very favorite songwriters, and I think he's never really given his due as a country rock pioneer -- some of the stuff he did on the first couple Monkees records is as Cosmic and American as anything Gram Parsons ever mustered. Kind of a silly lyric, but again, written in kind of the light-hearted song-storyin' favored by Mr. Wool Cap.

Lady Michelle
This song is about, to be very oblique, two girls who have always been incredibly important to me, in different ways at different times. Very oblique, eh? At the time I wrote this, one of them was in Los Angeles and one of them was in New York, and I missed them both -- and they happened to share a name, kind of, so I wrote a very Stones-circa-'66 madrigal ballad with harpsichord and mellotron strings for them. Michelle #1 takes vs. 1, and Michele #2 takes vs. 2, and the chorus covers 'em both. THEY know who they are.

Laurel Canyon Drive
I've always been obsessed with Laurel Canyon, as any Los Angeles-in-the-sixties fan oughta be. There's something so cool about the juxtaposition of this rustic setting and the hustle-and-bustle of West Hollywood, and I used to take comfort in thinking about it. This jazzy song rips off both Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and, yes, another song by the Dillards which shall remain nameless. It also, as many songs on the album do, has a certain Crosbyness to it.

NEW!Spaceship Races
A cover of the amazing Carole King's "Spaceship Races," a surprisingly rocking tune found on her first solo album, "Writer." I figured: if the Monkees did Carole so well ("Pleasant Valley Sunday," which I think we can all agree is one of the finest moments in pop history) then why not me? You'll forgive me the fake horns -- I tried re-doing them with real ones and I actually liked the sort of muddy mass-horn-section-sounding sound of the synth. Weird.

My daughter's favorite song. Ironically: not one of mine.

Western Sky
Another Monkees-style tune -- you could slip this sucker onto "Headquarters" quite neatly and nobody'd ever notice any difference. That jangle-guitar riff up atop is one of my favorite things I've ever written.

Lonesome Man
What country album would be complete without a boozy, swingy, whiskey soaked song about a breakup? The real star of this song is the harmonies -- Mike in left channel and Diablo's Emmylou Harris-like soprano in right. And the word "ass" sung with deliberate emphasis always makes for a good laff.

Summer Sunshine Girl
Okay, this sucker is pure Bread -- by way of Glen Campbell if that makes any sense (it's those tuned-down vibrato licks during the riff! Jim Webb would be proud). You'll see this one on the Autumn Leaves record transformed into a Hollies-esque pop tune, but in its original form it was very much a Canyon Rock tune in its purest form. I think its my favorite song on the album, probably.

Waltz For Diablo
Pretty self-explanatory. Worth mentioning, however, that there was not at the time, nor has there ever been, an actual fireplace at the house -- it's called poetic license. That sort of bugged the song's subject somewhat, but, y'know, "by the glow of the ugly lamp in the living room" doesn't sound as cool.

Girl From Wyoming
This song is a sort of prescient tune about people changing, and about trying to get back to a beautiful time that's just a memory, but never being able to quite do it. It's based around a one-chord organ drone, with an awesome Roger McGuinn-ish backwards guitar solo, and listen all the way to the end, okay? There's kind of a special surprise there. Another one I've always been really proud of.


Ellie Nash
Before I wrote "Summer Sunshine Girl," I was kind of reaching for one more perfect pop tune that would complete the album. So I wrote this little ditty in tribute to Degrassi hottie Ellie Nash, played by the awesome Stacey Farber (yeah -- I watch Degrassi. Wanna make something of it?). It sounds a lot (too much!) like "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere," and the verse melody is ripped off WHOLESALE from a song called "Going Nowhere" by my Shatterproof compatriot Jay Hurley that appeared as a b-side on a single we put out. So he shares songwriting credit on this one, as its almost an exact lift.

Feel So Fine (S.K.O.O.B.Y.D.O.O.)
At one point just after the album's recording, I became obsessed with the music of the Archies. Rightly so -- the amazing Jeff Barry (whom Diablo just met -- jellus) penned for them an astonishing collection of songs that should be heralded as pop classics. This was their first single, if I'm not mistaken, and I've sort of morphed it into a neo-glam rocker that sounds halfway to Mud or Slade or something. I always intended to record an entire album, or at least EP, of Archies covers, but like most of my projects, I never really get around to it.

So there you go, folks. Enjoy. Trade amongst your friends.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I just want to say THANK YOU to everybody I know for the incredible outpouring of sympathy and love. Seriously. I am literally overwhelmed by the love I've gotten from people. I cannot say how much I appreciate it.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

I just wanted to say:

Just noticed that two albums I was on, Landing Gear's "Breakup Songs For Relationships That Never Happened," and Shatterproof's "Splinter Queen" are now on iTunes.

The latter was the great Long Lost Masterpiece that me and Jay Hurley spent months demo-ing in our practice space, just the two of us, arranging everything carefully and wonderfully until we had what we THOUGHT was a genius frickin' album. The Big Major Label wanted to know why it didn't sound more like REM. Sigh.

I'm so proud of this music, though. That Shatterproof thing is maybe the thing I'm proudest of in the world. You folks should head over to iTunes and give 'er a download.

Just a brief note

Me and STEVE MARSH, WHO WRITES FOR MPLS./ST. PAUL MAGAZINE (enjoy the Google hits, man!) are all good. After an exchange of email, comparing each others' facial hair, mostly (my beard is fuller and richer, but I'm about to shave it off) it was decided that yes, he was joking when he asked the question in question, and yes, perhaps certain nuances get lost on a telephone conversation, and yes, the majority of folks on MNSpeak are assclowns (isn't that a great word? Assclowns?). And yes, perhaps (or not perhaps, definitely) I over-reacted. But hey, at least I *reacted*. At least I have that much passion and joie de vivre. Y'know?

In the meantime, enjoy this list of adjectives I was called in that thread!

- Simpering
- crying!
- naive
- emo
- insecure
- sissy-baby
- thin-skinned
- whiny
- stupid
- weak
- fugly

I like the last one best. Yes, I'm fugly. I've always known I'm fugly. I actually revel in my fugliness -- shit, I grew a fucking BEARD to EMPHASISE my fugliness, because as you know, fugliness = hipness. I'm so fucking fugly I'm hot.

Nelson's article, on the other hand, still blows.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today's Recommendation

Lori Cullen, aka Buttercup Bugle, does exactly the same kind of jazz-inflected soft pop that the Free Design did years ago. And guess why? Yup -- stuff was arranged and produced by Free Design GENIUS Chris Dedrick. Go here and check out her frickin' BRILLIANT cover of "I Found Love," a Free Design lost classic, arranged and co-sung by the man himself. And the rest of the songs are gorgeous too. Phenomenal stuff.

More soft people, people. You need more soft pop in your lives.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Happy damn anniversary to my hot, hot, hot wife.

(Hee! Anytime anybody says "Anniversary" I think of this!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

My soul-brotha David from the Autumn Leaves, the band I was in when I lived in Minneapolis (and sadly had to leave when I moved -- sob!!) points out that there's a NEW SONG on MySpace from the FORTHCOMING ALBUM we recorded this last summer with Gary from the Monks!

SO GO LISTEN! What are you waiting for??? It's a hell of a song!
I'll tell you what -- if anybody ever says a bad thing about John Denver in my presence ever again, it will result in fisticuffs.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

By the way, in reaction to the news on Diablo's blog about "Jennifer's Body" -- the odd description of "Heathers meets Beetlejuice" doesn't quite get across how freaking twisted, and how freaking *hysterical*, this script is. Its really an animal that hasn't been made -- a smart supernatural thriller that manages to be completely funny AND completely horrifying and scary, sacrificing not one jot of either. We're both serious horror nuts ourselves, and when I read it for the first time, I proclaimed it to be *as good as Juno in every way* -- possibly even better. And yeah -- Megan Fox is the perfect choice for Jennifer. You'll see. This is the one I was most excited about, of all her projects, and I'm really glad its gonna get made. You *will* be blown away. Trust me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Certain Minneapolis Writer Who Shall Remain Nameless interviewed my wife this weekend for an Unnamed Local Publication and asked her what I think is possibly the most offensive question anybody's ever asked her -- a kind of personal slap in the face to yours truly, who ALREADY suffers from occasional bouts of low self-esteem.

The question, phrased exactly thus: "Now that you're big in Hollywood, is it bye-bye Jonny?"

Our Miss Cody's response: "That's possibly the stupidest question I've ever been asked. Bye-bye Jonny, are you kidding? Absolutely not. Everything we do, we do together. We're partners."

His follow-up: "Well, people around here are wondering."

REALLY? People in Minneapolis are WONDERING? You'll forgive me if I don't understand -- what is it about Minnesota where people there assume that they're morally superior to the rest of the country, and everybody else -- especially in, sneer, California -- are a bunch of amoral, spouse-ditching douchebags? Is the divorce rate lower in Minneapolis than anywhere else? I don't think so. There's as much adultery and cheating and fucking crazy-ass lame-ass drama in Minneapolis as anywhere else.

Maybe his point was to insult me, to basically say "The guy's not good enough for you, when are you gonna find someone better?" Listen. I may not have ripped abs or be tall or attractive or even particularly thrilling (let alone "sexy"), but I'm not exactly a useless lump, dig? For one thing, I might not be in the movies but I'm a pretty kickass music writer and graphic designer (I do movie one-sheets, that's a cooler job than most people have!) and musician, and that means I'm kinda creatively up to dating someone excelling in a creative field. And for another, I'm a kind, supportive, friendly guy that gets pretty big ups out here for being kind of generally a guileless, kind, decent human being. In some circles, believe it or not, I'm even seen as kind of a catch. I know -- quelle shock.

Or maybe the question just belies a total ignorance of how it works out here in Hollywood. Maybe he views people out here as shallow automatons from lack of real-world experience and the distortion of seeing life via tabloids and magazines. Maybe rather than seeing them as humans with lives and souls and real-life cares and concerns, he ascribes to them motives which are atypical of human beings in general; i.e. that they're completely, 100% motivated by greed and are incapable of love and affection. In which case I can tell you -- apart from a few asshole actors who continually make the press and ruin it for the non-dramatic, non-dickhead majority out here, the people we've met out here are kind, affectionate, normal folks. Some of them are even in standard-fare, Minnesota-style long-term marriages. I know! Shocking!

In any event, IN CASE PEOPLE IN MINNEAPOLIS WERE WONDERING, we're doing just fine. Out here in Hollywood, despite what you have have heard, people don't always ditch each other randomly when they get successful, okay?

(And to Another Minneapolis Writer Who Shall Remain Nameless -- calling out Diablo's "impressively chunky thighs" belies some fairly blatant sexism. And before you crow that because she was a stripper that her "body is now part of the dialog," ask yourself how many times you mentioned Peter Jackson's weight in your articles about Lord of the Rings, even though his weight loss, being a matter of public record AND his occasional commentary, is also therefore "part of the dialog," and even though he -- as opposed to Diablo's completely normal, average-range physique -- has actually had weight problems? Yeah -- exactly. I call bullshit.

MEH. Seriously, Minnesota is the sour-grapesiest, resent-their-favorite-children-i-est state in the god-damn universe.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

You know what sucks?

Absinthe hangover. Just saying.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm sorry I haven't been around, but here's the deal. As of -- well, a month ago or so, I'm writing about music for The Daily Mole, which is the still-in-Beta forthcoming news-and-entertainment website from Steve Perry, the guy that formerly brought you, well, CITY PAGES, for a lot of years. Its really kind of been a blast to a) get recognized for music writing, which I've been doing on SUCH an underground/unofficial level for years, ever since I decided (perhaps foolishly) after college that I didn't really wanna be writing about music so much as MAKING it (we see how far that went!) and b) actually get in there and WRITE about some stuff I care about. I have a feeling I'm gonna be the crusty Christgau to whoever-else-is-cooler's Lester Bangs, but we'll see how it all pans out.

In the meantime: sign up for the beta and join me. I'll still be writing over HERE, but time is really at a premium these days!!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Morrissey observations.

(I'm a-postin' this in a couple places 'cause I find it so interesting).

So. For my birthday this last weekend, my wife took me to the Morrissey show at the Palladium here in LA. There were a few phenomenons at the show that I found very intriguing.

1. First off, who do you think is the main demographic for Morrissey fans? If you said "30-something ex-losers who, in high school, wore cardigan sweaters and horn rimmed glasses" (aka ME) you would be 100% WRONG. About 80% of Morrissey's audience at the show on Saturday night were under-30 *hispanics*. Specifically, under-30 hispanic ROCKABILLY KIDS with pompadours and vintage tuxedo coats. And I'm not talking about 40, 50 of 'em -- I'm taking HUNDREDS. The place was packed, and it's a pretty large venue -- and it was 80% hispanic, and around 80% *young people*.

2. The place was elbow-to-elbow JAM PACKED despite it being one of TEN shows the man is doing in Los Angeles.

3. Here's the most interesting thing. His set consisted of about 80% material from his last two albums, "Ringleader of the Tormentors" and "You Are The Quarry." He threw in a few key older songs and one or two Smiths songs as well. But oddly? The majority of fans seemed most interested in the NEWER material! They sang along to every song, LOUDLY, even the very newest ones (well -- not the BRAND newest ones that aren't on an album yet, but you know what I mean). Is that true of any other 80s act, where if they showed up and played a completely non-nostalgic show, the people would go the most nuts for his MOST RECENT STUFF?

4. Also: it was an INCREDIBLE show. Clean livin's probably to answer for it, but the man has lost not *one iota* of vocal power. He still sounds exactly like he did when he was in his 20s. *BETTER*, in fact. And apparently he's on Letterman or one of, as he said, "your talk shows" this week playing his new single which is absolutely phenomenal. It was also the only show I've seen in a long long LONG time where the girls literally SCREAMED for him. SCREAMED.

5. Didn't much miss Johnny Marr. Boz Boorer, his guitarist, is remarkable, and plays with wit and verve, which is more than I can say for the Oasis-obsessed Marr these days. Plah!

Anyway -- it was kinda awesome, as a fan, to see him operating at such a high level AND to see that he's somehow found a completely new crowd who loves and adores him!

Happy Birthday to MEEE

I had the Hollywoodiest last few days EVAH.

1. Thursday, as I mentioned, I went to the premiere of The Darjeeling Limited. It was star-studded affair -- I'm sure you heard that Owen Wilson was there, and indeed he was, and looked very sad, I thought. Something in his eyes -- heck, its in his performance in this one too, you'll love the film but he looks rather haunted. After the movie, I saw who I *thought * was Wallace Shawn -- you know, from the Princess Bride? But in fact, it was one of my acting idols, BUD CORT from Harold and Maude, who has sorta morphed into Wallace Shawn. I shoulda known considering he was in Life Aquatic, but, y'know, its a disconnect.

2. Afterwards, we went to the Rolling Stone "HOT PARTY" -- dunno if you noticed but our dear Diablo is in the "Hot Issue" as "Hot Screenwriter," and indeed I think she's rather hot, myself. There were celebs there, but I only recognized a few -- both Ando and Hiro from "Heroes" were there (Ando was getting his grind on with a very hot chick, Hiro was chatting with friends), and Juliette Lewis, and Perez Hilton, and apparently Ja'net from "Good Times," wonder what she's accomplished since? But my favorite was actually getting to meet and talk with one of my heroes, Billy Duffy of The Cult. Now, understand -- I was a goth, right? I had a black leather biker jacket, and on the back was painted THE CULT, because they were my absolute favorite band in the late 80s and early 90s. I was too chickenshit to talk to him, but Diablo knows no fear, and dragged me over to meet him. And he was absolutely 100% sweet, friendly and gracious.

3. Saturday night, as a day-early birthday present, Diablo got me tix to Morrissey, who's doing a ten-night residency at the Palladium. It was absolutely great. I have some observations about the show which I'll post under a seperate entry. Afterwards we hit an LA strip club, the Body Shop on Sunset. Lemme just say: compared to a few great Minneapolis strip clubs, the LA clubs are LAAAAAME. Sure, the girls are cute, but its all about who can throw the most dollars down on the tip rail, and that honor is usually held by rich, flashy middle-eastern men. I can't compete without the oil dollars, so we got ignored mostly.

4. Last night we got to view the incredible private art collection of one David Gersh, head of the Gersh agency who represents our Ms. Cody. It absolutely blew me away to see this stuff up close -- he had Lichtensteins, Johns, Stellas, Currans -- utterly amazing, a remarkable collection. It was incredibly kind of him to let us look around, and even kinder for he and his lovely wife to act as tour guides for us.

So yeah -- it was a BLAST. Great birthday weekend. Heck, I don't even FEEL 30! (heh heh)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I heart Wes Anderson, and am not afraid to say so.

Tonight, I get to go to the premiere of "The Darjeeling Limited," the new Wes Anderson film.

Now, see, I frickin' LOVE Wes Anderson. He's a young(ish) filmmaker with an extremely distinctive voice, one of just a few (Charlie Kaufman, him, Sofia Coppola, Jason Reitman, Michel Gondry, and of course our Ms. Cody) who are making films which stamp themselves with an actual, notable, interesting *style*. There's plenty of great films out there, but only a very few where the voice of the filmmaker or writer -- visual or written word, doesn't matter, both are equally important -- actually matters.

And that freaks people out, and brings out the haters. It's easy to like a generically GOOD film. It's harder to like a film that drips with the filmmaker's STYLE. People's complaints about Wes are usually the following:

1. He's just "stringing together hip songs and trying to be hip and being all hip and shit." Now, listen -- if you're not actually an artist yourself you won't get it, quite, but nobody makes art to try to be hip. Seriously: nobody. If you're at the level where you're making a film -- a TREMENDOUS EFFORT -- you are making that bastard because you give a shit about the characters and believe deeply that what you're doing is art. Or else you're going for the pure commercial and wanting to make money. But nobody's just "doing it to try to be hip." Believe me -- that's such a hollow victory that its not worth the effort.

2. "Yawn! More genius from Wes Anderson." This happens any time an artist has more than one great film/record/book in a row. See, right now, Michael Chabon -- his new novel, following the exquisite "Yiddish Policeman's Union," has folks yawning in boredom because it's just more greatness. What people WANT is spectacular failure. When artists don't give 'em that, and are consistently awesome, people get bored and find someone else who's gonna do what they want, i.e. fail miserably.

3. "He's repeating himself." Plah. Peter Travers tackles this complaint in his excellent and VERY POSITIVE review, here.

He gets it, does Travers. He understands that a filmmaker can spend a LIFETIME exploring certain themes, see also: Woody Allen, or, as he says, Alfred Hitchcock, and never run out of ideas.

I mean, it's one thing to not like his style. That's fine and dandy -- if you don't like it, you don't like it. The fact that it HAS a style means its not for everybody. But it drives me bananas when people use one of the above excuses as a reason for justifying disliking the style. It's nonsense.

Anyway: will report back. I've yet to dislike an Anderson film yet -- I even enjoyed "The Life Aquatic" quite a lot, even though I'll admit its probably my 4th favorite of his 4 great films (that ain't a bad thing -- and let me just say up front that "Royal Tenenbaums" is my favorite film of all time).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


...I've never been a huge Springsteen fan. Not 'cause I hate him, not at all -- in fact, I respect the shit out of the guy, he is clearly amazing. I've just never taken the time, which is probably my own failing, but there it is.

But I'm gonna call it: Magic is the album of the year. No question. Even to a non-fan, this thing is a stunning, stunning, stunning thing. Five songs in and it has brought me to tears five times. Almost perfection. Almost perfection, folks.

YOU ALL NEED TO GO OUT AND BUY THIS ALBUM. Even if you think "oh, shit, I hate Springsteen and his whole faux-retro-saxophone-thing" it doesn't matter. You honest to god need this album right now.

I'll write a full review later. I'm really just too blown away right now to deal.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bearded Jonny? Or DAVE GROHL. You decide.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

So in case any of you were wondering where I am -- yes, I know, THRONGS of you, armed with cameras and a chance at a lock of my hair! -- I *am* in fact back in Los Angeles, "workin' it" and continuing in my attempt to wrestle this city to the ground, throttle it, and then tongue-kiss its corpse. Today, in a freak of nature that has the hale and hearty Angeleans scattering like cockroaches into their million-dollar abodes, it is raining. What's so frickin' big about rain, you ask? I didn't know either, but when they shut my work down a couple hours earlyyesterday it struck me that the rain in Los Angeles is a lot like the Oobleck in the Dr. Seuss book "Bartholomew and the Oobleck," in which a bunch of wizards summon forth green gloppy stuff from the skies to please a bored king. In other words: they ain't got a clue how to deal with it. It's kind of funny. I stood up at work and screamed at the top of my lungs "YOU ARE ALL A BUNCH OF PUSSIES." My co-workers looked genuinely hurt. "Hey -- I'm not a pussy," one of them said, with a slightly hangdog expression. Note to self: do not call the workers at your new job "pussies." Even if its true. YOU ARE ALL PUSSIES, LOS ANGELES.

Listening to: the sound of rain.

Watching: rain. Pissing down from all angles. I moved here to escape this nonsense.

Reading: these words as I'm typing them to you. If I could read "rain," I probably would have to.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh, NO!

First Charles Nelson Reilly, now Brett Somers!

I guess it figures, since they were such foils of each other on "Match Game," huh? One goes and then sends for the other from the great beyond so they can snark with God. Or possibly about God.

"When Jesus was on the cross, the Roman soldiers stared at his huge BLANK. His huge BLANK."

(Charles Nelson and Brett scribble furiously)

Metal Machine Musings

This here is a kind of loveable interview with the famously prickly Lou Reed who seems to be getting kinda sweet in his dotage, har har (as if someone as intrinsically brainy and with-it as Lou could ever have a "dotage"). Nevertheless, its interesting to hear his perspective -- what sounds like maybe its his honest perspective, too, minus any myth or bullshit -- on "Metal Machine Music," an album I admire the hell out of but, like probably the rest of you, have never made it all the way through.

Scratch that -- I should say most of you. I have one friend who adores MMM, and listens to it constantly. To him I say: power to the people, brother, I feel that way about a lot of supposedly "unlistenable" music (I play Steven Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" weekly), but for some reason the cascades of feedback on MMM have never sat right with me. Maybe ten years from now -- music like that has a way of sneaking up on me. I'm still waiting for those last few John Zorn things to sit with me (the ones where Mike Patton goes GHRHGHRMFJERKHWERLKSDJLKJDF:KJELKJKLSDFJKJDHF really loud over some pretty awesome thrash-jazz-metal-crunge-funk-fuck).

Supposedly, if you listen close, you can here vaguaries and subtleties and light and dark and chiaroscuro and such in MMM -- to me its always just sounded like one loud SKRONK, but I'm willing to very much admit that I'm wrong. Perhaps this live performance that's just out is a way for me to rediscover it. Dunno. I'm willing to stand behind the bleak, Grand Guignol-ish-ness of "Berlin," or even the sweet pop of "Coney Island Baby" but in much the same way the noise disc on Neil Young's "Arc/Weld" failed to sit with me, to quote Juno, to me, "It's just noise, man."

That said: Sorry, Juno. I finally was in the right place to enjoy "Daydream Nation," 20 years after the rest of the universe acknowledged its awesomeness. Let's just say its the perfect example of me playing against type.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Songs that make me well up with tears, no matter when I hear them, #25456:

"America" by Simon and Garfunkel. Never fails.

Furthermore, how is it possible that Paul Simon isn't recognized as one of the great poets of the 60s rock era? I think their image as "the group your fuddy-duddy folks liked" killed 'em during the punk era, or something -- of course that's hoo-ha, your parents liked 'em but that doesn't mean they, like, suck or something. They liked 'em because, like the Beatles, Paul Simon's songwriting spoke and continues to speak to a massive swath of people. There's something for everyone -- astonishing melodies, clever turns of phrase, gorgeous, soaring singing, interesting song structure, just exactly the kind of thing nobody's doing anymore. Okay, yeah, that makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy, but where *are* our poets? Who's writing lyrics that bowl you over? There's plenty of bands I like but nobody where I'd go "I'd stack this guy up against Paul Simon or Bob Dylan." Feh.

Someone help me across the street, will ya?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I get to blog it first!

Official Juno Trailer!

So, I'm listening to a download of Brian Wilson's remarkable new song-suite "Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)."

On first listening, I have to say that about 90% of the stuff knocks me out completely. It strikes me that FINALLY, AT LAST, Brian is making the kind of music he should be making at this stage of his career -- mature sounding stuff with bigger thoughts behind it and some thought given to structure and arrangement rather then just a random toss-off of odds'n'ends; very much like an evolution of the best of his 60s and 70s work rather than the odd digression something like "Imagination" sounded like. Its quirky enough that it contains the soul of the man that made "Love You" and "BW88" but polished enough that it sounds like the guy who made Pet Sounds and Smile, too. Much like "Smile" itself, it contains the distillation of BOTH of Brian's personalities, and I think that's what makes it special. Whereas a lot of Brian's later works don't necessarily contain either of them.

It does work best as a whole, but so does Smile, in a way, no matter what your "whole" was (even if it was just your home mix !), and that's kind of the beauty of this kind of music. It has a THING behind it and tying it all down which says to me that some real heavy thought has gone into it. I get the feeling that this is the kind of thing Brian MEANT to do with Smile and stuff like the Fairy Tale, but now he's finally in a place where if he TRIES, and works his ass off, he can pull that stuff off the way he means to.

In a lot of ways it strikes me that this is Brian's answer to "Orange Crate Art." That album has always struck me as Van Dyke's paen to California, sort of a sepia-tinged, nostalgic look at kind of a plummy, comfortable California, the kind of place occupied by a kind of country charmer like Van Dyke. "Lucky Old Sun" is a different animal, but related -- the sepia-tinging is replaced by a 1960s saturated color television set, and its not quite the same California, really -- its very much the California of "Surfin' Safari" but looked back upon from a later period, which is really kind of a neat perspective, in the same way it was great to hear Brian at three-score-and-five years old singing "Heroes and Villains."

Specific songs are gonna have to wait for later, the more I get to involve myself in it. On first blush I adore every incident of the ol' Shortenin' Bread riff, 'cause that's so the heart of Brian Wilson in a lot of ways. And I think "California Roll" kicks my ass in a certain way. There was nothing that struck me as unpleasant or wrong and the narration rang true as well. Oh -- and there's not a question in my mind that these songs are Brian Wilson-penned -- they absolutely contain all the hallmarks of Brian Wilson compositions, and that is as distinctive as a fingerprint. Even his best imitators can't find that THING, that distinctive BRIAN WILSON THING that only Brian can wield. These songs have that in spades. I think even the most paranoid "Brian Doesn't Write His Own Songs Anymore" detractor can hear that.

First blush: not counting Smile, this is the best work he's done since "Brian Wilson 1988," or, if one's being particularly generous (or hates the farting synths on that one), since "Love You" or even since something like "Friends" which was the last time Brian tried a sort of loose "suite" of related sounds and songs. Its certainly the most coherent and striking piece he's attempted since any of his comebacks, and the man who's writing these songs sounds more confident and cocksure than the guy who's been touring for a while. He knows he rules. That's beautiful to see.

Cannot WAIT for a full album of this work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

So, back in Minneapolis. PHEW. That was one hell of a shit of a deal. My report doesn't even do it justice. My stony little heart is swollen with pride!

So, "Graduation." If you're like me, and the other 200000000 people in the world, you probably picked up a copy of this today (unless you're sans taste, in which case maybe you picked up the 50 Cent record instead? For shame!) I'm still digesting but it sounds slicker and less baroque than last time, probably because of the lack of Jon Brion presence on there, but there's still enough awesome batshit crazy stuff to interest me, like the fucking cool Can sample here and the Mountain sample there, and there, and there. Plus, the guy's flow is smooth as butter, as always. Gimme a few more listens and I promise I'll give you a decent review. My initial impression: very positive, but maybe not quite as floored as last time -- but then again, I was REEEEALLLLY floored last time, so if we've got, y'know, "Magical Mystery Tour" instead of "Sgt. Pepper" or whatever, to hyperbolize the FUCK out of it (Kanye ain't no Beatle, I'm just drawing a comparison level-wise) that's still not bad at all.

Dude, I'm really MORE psyched about the initial reports of the new Brian Wilson suite "Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)" coming out of the UK. Advance word from even some of the more cynical critics is that this is indeed "Smile" part deux, or at least "Orange Crate Art" part deux, which, considering that was 90% a Van Dyke success, is not fucking bad at all, is it? On there's a couple preview tracks, the best of which is "Midnight's Another Day," a staggeringly magnificent song equal to anything the man did in his heyday and I do NOT say that lightly. And a Gershwin-esque track called "Live Let Live" snuck out on the "Arctic Tale" soundtrack too, and that song garnered twenty, thirty plays from me and Deebs. Again, more as I hear more.

GLAD AS HELL to be with the kiddo this week. There was a four-foot-tall hole in my heart these weeks in LA -- as much as I adore it there, it just ain't the same without her. We picked up a pop-up book of "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon," which I read on the plane and absolutely fell in love with. I understand its not well-regarded as King books go, proving once again that people have NO TASTE WHATSOEVER. I was in tears at the end. Honest.

Monday, September 10, 2007


So, uh, I'm back. Um --

You want the goods on the Toronto Film Festival, no?

Like most probably the most awesome time of my life. Even though "Juno" isn't MY success per se (although seeing Jason Bateman play a slightly more skeezy but no less, um, arrested version of myself is pretty awesome) I'm still thrilled sick at all the buzz and craziness that's been going on around here. I mean, seriously, BUZZ. CRAZINESS. A buzz as loud as the swarming of hundreds of buzzing honeybees slowly dying from that weird hive sickness thing. That loud. Man, I'm proud of that girl.

- Meeting all the Juno actors was mind-bogglingly cool. Diablo and I are both rabid Arrested Development fanatics (TOO LATE -- its our fault, like exactly our two people's fault, that the show was canceled because we only watched sporadically, curse us forever!) and meeting the Bluths (both of whom are awesome human beings AND hysterical actors) made my geek head spin around like that little kid from the Exorcist who was hot in all those prison movies. Also rad: J.K. Simmons, who didn't at all seem to mind me telling him how killer awesome he was in Spider-Man. Well, he was. There's no denying, is there? Can you imagine another human being as J. Jonah? Alison Janney was gracious and kind and sweet, Ellen Page is fucking HARD FUCKING CORE and Olivia Thirlby is kind of the surprise awesome actress from the film, when you see it you'll go "wow, ELLEN IS GREAT and wow, MICHAEL CERA --" and suddenly you'll go "and holy shit, Olivia Thirlby is tearing the living shit out of that part," but she's so effortless at doing so you almost don't notice until of course you suddenly do. I say she's channeling my wife -- you folks who know her personally will have to decide.

- Got to talk at length to Edgar Wright, who made my favorite film this year, Hot Fuzz. I told him "I thought "Hot Fuzz" was the best film of the year*," and I'm sure he thought "wow, this guy is blowing smoke up my arse," except those were my exact words upon leaving the theater -- Diablo will attest! -- "Holy shit, that was the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR." And it is, too, and Shaun of the Dead was the best movie of whatever the year was THAT bastard came out, and I'm sure whatever his next project will be the best movie of whatever year it comes out, too, especially if, as rumored, he adapts the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. White fucking hot, that. Plus: He's a PAUL WILLIAMS FAN. Just when you think "this guy cannot get any cooler," he turns around and is a Paul Williams fan. You guys know how I feel about "Someday Man."

- I get a little starstruck around actors (example: Anne Hathaway thinks I'm a total douchebag because I was so dumbstruck I babbled inanely at her about what a great improviser she was!). And I always find that I have nothing to say unless I've had a few (at which point I probably have too MUCH to say). But the one time I got really, really, really starstruck was when I rode an elevator with Jim Broadbent. If you don't recognize the name, he's in *every British movie ever made*. He's in Hot Fuzz, for one, and is about to be in the new Indy Jones for another, and he's AMAZING in Art School Confidential, and Gangs of New York, and about 2000000 other movies as well. I wanted to say "wow, you're so awesome, I loved you in Hot Fuzz -- oh, and by the way, I know Edgar!" But all I said was "". That's the sound of me sweating profusely, looking around nervously, and finally getting off the elevator.

- Ben Affleck is TALL, and Jennifer Garner is STUNNING in real life. She said to me "Oh, I've heard all about you," and I thought "wow, Jennifer Garner knows who I am," which, for a dorky nerd from Minneapolis, is pretty amazing. Take that, Cooper High School Football Team**.

- I have seen, other than Juno, exactly zero films at the festival. Zero. Tonight I'm told we may get to see one, I'll tell y'all how it is. I would have liked to have seen the Cronenberg thing (which J. Reitman nicknamed "Dick Shower Knife Fight" -- when you see it, you'll know) and the Coen Brothers thing. Also, today I tried to find a movie theater NOT showing festival movies so I could see "3:10 To Yuma," but there aren't any.

- Best party: last night we went to the party for "Joy Division," the documentary about the band of the same name (duh) which we didn't get to see (duh duh) -- but dude, PETER FUCKING HOOK was there, DJ'ing a set. You don't understand. When I was in college, I bought a leather biker jaket (it was that era -- I was goth, okay?) and unlike everybody else, who painted "BAUHAUS" on the back of their jacket, I painted my favorite fucking band of the era -- NEW ORDER. Not even Joy Division, but NEW ORDER. To this day, I worship them, and seeing Hookie three feet in front of me spinning a buncha Joy Division/New Order remixes made my sixteen-year-old self freak the fuck out and jump up and down. I danced. Those of you who know me know that I'm too self-conscious and nervous to dance but you better believe I danced to Peter Fucking Hook.

- Seen: Rob Zombie, getting out of a black sedan, looking cool as shit.

- Eaten: a 100 dollar breakfast brunch which seriously was worth the entire hundred dollars, and DELICIOUS sausages from the street vendors. Yes -- I *am* a Vegan, but I swore to myself when I became one that I would always be flexible enough to still allow for cultural experiences that involve meat. If I'm in another country and there's a hot shit meat product like the fucking spicy sausages here, you're damn tootin' I'm gonna eat them. Sorry, pigs and cows. I love you all very much and I don't even wear leather anymore but listen -- I'm also all about discovering cultures from the inside, and sometimes that involves meat.

- Product Review: The Cinnamon Twix. Seriously, folks, the best candy bar ever made by anybody ever. It tastes like that delicious mexican cocoa. You know the stuff. You should DEMAND they start making it in the US, because its seriously *that good*.

More later -- howdy!

* Besides Juno of course!
** Yeah, I still hold a grudge. Almost twenty years and I still hold a freakin' grudge.