Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts - Ten Years Later

I wasn’t really going to say anything. Then, I was in the room when someone flipped on World News Tonight, they started showing clips, and a ton of emotions came up. Well, to be fair, I’d already decided to write about it before then, but the tone of what I had to say changed a bit.

Everyone old enough to remember it knows exactly where they were and what they were doing 10 years ago. I do not need to tell you about mine. You have your own.

Sometimes it feels like 10 years have passed, and, other times, it just doesn’t. The one thing that I think just about everyone on the planet has in common in their recollections of that day is that that was the day that we entered a new world, and we knew exactly what was happening.

I don’t mean that we knew all of the ramifications. We didn’t. We didn’t know that Afghanistan would claim 1,562 of America’s best and brightest and wound 11,191 more. We didn’t know about the 4,466 of our own dead, the 33,080 wounded, and over half a million dead civilians that would lose all in one blinded group of people’s headlong rush into an Iraqi conflict that was at once horribly unnecessary and entirely unsustainable. Did you hear me? I said over half a million people. Gone forever. And for what?

We didn’t know that we’d never again be able to travel simply and easily through the airport, or that we would no longer be able to meet our sleepy-eyed loved ones at the gate. We didn’t know the hatred that our own countrymen and women were capable of toward people who seemed to look “like” those who’d attacked us.

We didn’t know that the president who was an emotional lifeline so soon after the attack would soon be so deep over his head that he’d never find his way out. We didn’t know the way that the world that rallied behind us would turn on us so quickly because of the decisions he made. We didn’t know.

So, what did we know? We knew that the world we’d been living in was gone. We knew that America would never be invincible again, and the words “things like that can’t happen here” were now meaningless.

We knew our neighbors weren’t so different than we were, and that the oft-hated New York Yankees were just a bunch of guys who were a huge part of a wounded city’s attempt to heal. We knew we were living in a new world, and that we’d have to find a way to pick up the pieces of the old one.

We knew that much.

Now, our country seems to be divided more than ever. Elected representatives seem to be more interested in fighting with each other than trying to get anything done to help people who desperately need it. Pundits point fingers and scream endlessly. Money’s tight, and people hold on to jobs that are below the pay grade and comfort level they’ve spent a lifetime establishing because they know too well the hard times of unemployment checks and fruitless searches.

But you know something? I think we’re going to be all right.

I believe this because in our hearts, we share one thing. It may be simplistic/idealistic of me to say, but it's something that I desperately want to believe to be true.

We’re Americans, and the things that bind us together are stronger than the things that push us apart.

Shantih shantih shantih.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Such Sweet Sorrow - Part 1

For an outwardly gregarious person, I don’t make the best partier.

Seriously, partying tends to make me feel contemplative, restless, and incredibly introverted. You know, just the kind of things that you'd look for in a night on the town. I’m talking about all kinds of parties too, not just the BOOM-KA-KA-BOOM club to-dos. If I had a dime for every time I went to a social event in high school, came home and contemplated my life, I would be a rich, rich person.

So, why so serious? I think there’s a few reasons why.

The Set-UP

I took to alcohol later than a lot of people. That sounds awkward. I’m not an alcoholic here! I only mean that I hadn’t really touched the stuff until a few years ago due to a lack of interest (and a serious aversion to fizzy drinks). Furthermore, I didn’t take to partying until around the same time I decided that drinking was fun.

My job. I work with a film festival with a couple of major booze sponsors, so, once a year, I’m able to drink as much as I’d like every night for about a week straight. FOR FREE. Then, when I go out to other festivals . . . same deal. FREE hooch. (unless you count tipping the bartender, which I try to get out of doing if I possibly can)

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to go out and actually have to pay for a drink when you’re used to getting it for free? It’s kinda tough.

And going to a party every night means that there’s 8 days of (mostly) good food, (hopefully) good music, and (usually/maybe) good company. So, for one concentrated period every year, I can drink, dance, eat, hang out, and have a good time. This would be pretty perfect except that I have to stay aware of the next day’s events/screenings/general mayhem and try to be cognizant of the fact that I not only have to be functional then, but want to get home before 2:30 AM.

But most importantly, I really enjoy the chance to talk to people about the things that I think actually matter. So, rather than go out and shake it until dawn, I’d much prefer sitting in the corner with somebody interesting and finding out what makes him/her tick. It’s fascinating.

The Breakdown

Partying, in general, makes that kind of interaction really hard. Instead, it’s all “WHOOOOO!!!!!”, trying to stop thinking about how much you’re actually paying for the drink you think you’ve asked for, and making a half-hearted attempt to groove to a song that you know in the 30 seconds that it’s played before the song changes abruptly to something you’ve never heard before and hopefully will never hear again.

And did I mention that I think over-crowded dance floors are a kind of slow DEATH to a party?

Besides, when you’re the dyad/small group specialist that I am, partying just seems so . . . shallow. It’s that kind of “Why am I here again?” feeling. Sometimes, I don’t even really know the people I’m with. The party atmosphere is deceptive too. It’s so high-energy that you think that all of these cool people you meet are your buddies, which isn’t entirely untrue, but in the cold light of day, they’re not there, you know? Again, if I had the proverbial dime for the folks who’ve said, “oh, Adam, we’ve GOT to hang out when this whole thing is done!” and actually MEANT it . . . I’d be a pretty poor guy. Which I kinda am already. Dangnabit.

I don’t want to seem like I don’t like parties at all. I’ve been to some AWESOME leg-shakers in my day, and it’s not that I want to suddenly see all of my options for going out on a Saturday night dry up.

I suppose that I’d just like to find the balance between the frivolous and the profound.

That sounds easy enough, right?


P.S. I'm going to post something about the new Noel Gallagher single really soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

If I Had A Gun

Sometimes, most times, ok, ALL THE TIME, Oasis songs are the soundtrack of my life. They're relentlessly singable for a guy who spends most of his time with some kind of song in his head, and probably coming out his mouth to the endless joy of those within his blast radius.

When they split up a few years ago, a part of me was kinda gutted. Since then, they've gone their separate ways. Liam and the rest of the band are doing the Beady Eye thing, which, let's face it, is just ok. I mean, it's not bad, but a lot of Different Gear, Still Speeding sounds like a bunch of subpar Oasis B-sides. Do love The Beat Goes On though.

Noel, on the other hand, has been biding his time, prepping his songs and putting them out a little at a time. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is due to drop October 17, and I liked the first single, The Death of You and Me, even if it did seem a bit like a knockoff of The Importance of Being Idle.

Today, it all changed.

Today, he dropped a doozy.

One of the next singles is going to be this little song called If I Had A Gun. It's been around for a while and has enjoyed some popularity online, mostly through this bootleg someone recorded at a soundcheck. It's a nice tease, but left me utterly unprepared for the glory that is the final track. I sat on the couch, getting in some iNet time before heading off to work, and found myself drinking it in through my headphones, wondering if I was going to cry. It's the kind of song someone would sing after just realizing that the person they were with was someone with whom they wanted to spend a forever.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

If you will it, Dude, it is no dream

I haven’t blogged much here, and, while a lot of it has to do with laziness, I wonder if one reason might be the tremendous amount of societal interconnection that seems to be inescapable. I’d really like to come here and say exactly what I think about certain things, but can’t get away from the fact that people know that I’m the guy writing things. I mean, what if I get on and really say what I think about that horrible person I used to know? The odds are decent that it might get back to him/her, and, while I’m not ashamed of the way I feel about STUFF, I’m not terribly interested in antagonizing folks.

Despite that, I want to use this forum a little more honestly. That’s a funny way of putting it, but maybe there’s something to online journaling. I’ve been inspired a bit by Your Wishcake, my friend’s blog. Kerri seems to have the definitive handle on how to express oneself honestly and openly. It makes me want to use this site to chronicle my life experience. Of course, if I can keep this up, and you keep up on it, AND we ever end up at a party together, this will spoil all of the perfectly charming stories I’ll want to tell you.

Whatever, man. Whatever.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse - (1983-2011)

When I heard the news that Amy Winehouse had been found dead in her London home yesterday, I immediately wondered and hoped that it was a mistake. That it wasn’t is heartrending and provides the most tragic possible conclusion to an already terribly sad story.

What I have a tough time understanding is how this moment hadn’t been seen as more of a foregone conclusion. Her decline has been so absolute that I wonder why more of an effort wasn’t made to try and help her. Then again, maybe there were countless attempts made that I’m just not aware of. I don’t know.

It seemed a few months ago like 2011 might be Amy’s year to come back triumphantly into the spotlight. She’d played some strong shows in Brazil and there was finally talk about her third album actually being tinkered with. Then, she played a disastrous show in Belgrade where she was clearly intoxicated and things were suddenly in doubt all over again.

There’s a terrible public fascination with celebrity screw-ups, particularly female celebrity screw-ups. The Lindsey Lohans, Britney Spears, and Paris Hiltons become a strange kind of twisted diversion where ordinary people with ordinary problems can look out and say, “My life may be messed up, but I’m not nearly as messed up as she is.” It’s due in no small part to people eating things like that up that they continue. Public frenzy + demand for pictures/info = an insane amount of media attention. These poor people are hounded wherever they go and whatever they do. If you knew that you were being watched when you got drive-thru, not to mention when you went out on a Saturday night, how do you think you’d react? Do you think it’d be terribly conducive to helping you make better decisions about an already unstable life?

I hope that people will look back at her short 27 years of life and see more than the hopelessly lost woman who made headlines. Amy Winehouse was a fabulous musician with tremendous talent for vocal phrasing that made one of the finest soul albums in modern memory. That album, Back to Black, is full of songs that sound like they could have been at home on an Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin record. One of the things about Amy that I’ve always appreciated was the fact that she wrote her own material. She wasn’t the figurehead at the head of a publicity stunt to make a “star” a la the Spice Girls or the American Idol media machine. No, these fabulous soul songs were hers. She wasn’t just serving as a mouthpiece for what someone else had to say. They were HER thoughts and her emotions that she was trying to communicate. In an age of so many talented singers who seem to value technical skill more than an honest communication of emotion, Amy was a rarity.

And her voice . . . what do I say? If you sat in a dark room having no clue who she was or what she looked like, I’d have thought that she was a bodacious, curvaceous black woman from Brooklyn, not a skinny, white Jewish girl from London with a beehive. That’s the one of the beautiful things about first impressions. They’re only shadows and possibilities of what might be. The truth is often so much more exciting than that.

In conclusion, I’m grateful for the impact that Amy Winehouse has had on popular music. Would someone like Adele be 2011’s top seller to date without Amy having gone before her? I have my doubts. More importantly, I’m grateful for the impact that Amy Winehouse has had on my record collection.

My thoughts go out to her family and friends in this time of sadness.

Goodbye, love.

My favorite AW song.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is passion always a good thing?

This bit from Lady Gaga made me think about a few things.

“I have attention. Is it that you believe that I am attention-seeking or shock for shock's sake, or is it just that it's been a long time since someone has embraced the art form the way that I have? Perhaps it's been a couple of decades since there's been an artist that's been as vocal about culture, religion, human rights, politics. I'm so passionate about what I do, every bass line, every EQ. Why is it that you don't want more from the artist, why is it that you expect so little, so when I give and give, you assume it's narcissistic?"

Is she right? Is the general public/media hypocritical where she’s concerned? Do we only want recording artists to be bigger and better in a way defined by the box we’ve created in our consciousness for art to go into?

I’ve often criticized Gaga. I really like her music, but find her continuous attempts to surprise/shock the public with her crazy costumes tiresome.

My usual line goes something like this.

  • Lady Gaga’s mistake is in thinking that she’s the second coming of Andy Warhol when she’s really just an entertainer.
  • Her material isn’t as cutting-edge as she thinks. It’s just really good dance pop music, but that’s OK. We need more really good dance pop music.

Now, I’m wondering if I’m the one in the box.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Night 2011: Welcome to the Big Dance

Hello, Oscar night. It seems like an eternity since last year’s ceremony, but here we are again. Changes? We still have 10 nominees for Best Picture, unfortunately. Can’t win ‘em all.

I have to admit that I have a good feeling about James Franco & Anne Hathaway as hosts. I think they’ll be charmingly, disarmingly cute, but here’s hoping they take a risk or two.

Here are my predictions in each category, with the “Big 6” getting some extra time. If you win big in your Oscar pool, message me, and I'll tell you where to send my share of the winnings.

Best Picture

· “Black Swan”

· “The Fighter”

· “Inception”

· “The Kids Are All Right”

· “The King's Speech”

· “127 Hours”

· “The Social Network”

· “Toy Story 3”

· “True Grit”

· “Winter's Bone"

Predicted winner: The King’s Speech
If I was voting: True Grit
Possible upsets: The Social Network

Analysis: The change in momentum that’s occurred over the last month has been almost dizzying. The Social Network had a full head of steam behind it and was the clear picture to beat. Then . . . The King’s Speech . . . happened. After winning almost all of the major “Best Film” awards (with the exception of the Golden Globe – Drama), it’s practically vaulted over the competition to the top. Look for it to pick up the big one on Oscar night, with a very strong possibility that The Social Network could swoop in, flip back the clock and take what lots of folks thought it was going to get anyway.


· “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky

· “The Fighter” David O. Russell

· “The King's Speech” Tom Hooper

· “The Social Network” David Fincher

· “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Predicted winner: David Fincher
If I was voting: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Possible upsets: Tom Hooper

Analysis: I know that Tom Hooper’s won the Director’s Guild Award. I know that that’s an almost frighteningly accurate indicator of who’s going to walk off with Oscar. I still think that the Academy’s going to see this as David Fincher’s “time” and reward his second nomination with the win. Besides, Hooper’s young, British, and probably not going anywhere. He’ll have other chances. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Christopher Nolan should be one of the nominees. While I’m not a big fan of his film, he did a very gutsy thing in making a $160 million art movie. I’d give him Russell’s spot.

Actor in a Leading Role

· Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”

· Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”

· Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”

· Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”

· James Franco in “127 Hours”

Predicted winner: Colin Firth
If I was voting: Jeff Bridges
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: Colin Firth will win. Period. I think the Academy ought to pull a Tom Hanks and give it to Jeff Bridges for his outstanding work in True Grit, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Actress in a Leading Role

· Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”

· Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”

· Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”

· Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”

· Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Predicted winner: Natalie Portman
If I was voting: Natalie Portman
Possible upsets: Annette Bening

Analysis: Lesley Manville should be nominated in this category, and she should win. Her performance in Another Year was that good. Silly Academy. (sighs back into reality) Black Swan was the first occasion that Natalie Portman’s ever blown me away, and I think she’s a strong favorite. While I’d be very surprised if she didn’t win, Annette Bening might challenge her here. She’s lost a couple of times previously, and some might say that this is her last, best chance to win. I still don’t think it’s going to happen. Besides, if you’re going to nominate someone from The Kids Are All Right, it should have been Julianne Moore.

Actor in a Supporting Role

· Christian Bale in “The Fighter”

· John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”

· Jeremy Renner in “The Town”

· Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”

· Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”

Predicted winner: Christian Bale
If I was voting: Christian Bale
Possible upsets: Geoffrey Rush

Analysis: The Fighter is a film that’s really lucked out this year. It’s decently entertaining, but never takes flight in the way that it could. Christian Bale’s outstanding performance is the finest thing about the film, and I think it’s going to be rewarded. However, if Geoffrey Rush pulls off an upset in one of the first prizes of the telecast, get ready for a British avalanche of The King’s Speech winning everything under the sun.

Actress in a Supporting Role

· Amy Adams in “The Fighter”

· Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”

· Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”

· Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”

· Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Predicted winner: Melissa Leo
If I was voting: Helena Bonham Carter
Possible upsets: Hailee Steinfeld, Helena Bonham Cater

Analysis: This is the trickiest of the 6 majors to call. Hailee Steinfeld is the fresh, young face that impressed a lot of people with her plucky (LEAD) performance in True Grit. Helena Bonham Carter has the good fortune to be attached to The King’s Speech(and had a nice turn to boot). However, I think Melissa Leo’s got the momentum, and might squeak out the victory. This is a very tough category. Could go to any of the aforementioned 3.

  • Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3
  • Art Direction: The King’s Speech
  • Cinematography: Roger Deakins – True Grit
  • Costume Design: Alice In Wonderland
  • Documentary (Feature): Exit Through The Gift Shop
  • Documentary (Short Subject): Strangers No More
  • Film Editing: The Social Network
  • Foreign Language Film: In A Better World
  • Makeup: The Wolfman
  • Music (Original Score): Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – The Social Network
  • Music (Original Song): “We Belong Together” – Randy Newman (Toy Story 3)
  • Short Film (Animated): Day & Night
  • Short Film (Live Action): Wish 143
  • Sound Editing: Inception
  • Sound Mixing: Inception
  • Visual Effects: Inception
  • Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Aaron Sorkin The Social Network
  • Writing (Original Screenplay): David Seidler – The King’s Speech

Happy Superbowl Sunday to all!