Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Short Film: "The Reaper"

Look, classes are ending, assignments are due, I'm busy. Sorry. There will be more real content in the future. In the meantime, you still might enjoy this short film I produced a few months ago. (And you might recognize the protagonist from an earlier short I posted.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Flight of the Conchords: Live at BU!

I've been affectionately critical of the Flight of the Conchords HBO show, but I've always had nothing but admiration for their live performances. That admiration was reinforced by their appearance at Agganis Arena, the stadium-size venue at my home school of Boston University [insert reference to Terriers hockey here], so much so that I may end up sounding like Mel in this post. I apologize in advance.

The Conchords took the stage in charmingly awful robot costumes (to perform "Too Many Dicks On The Dance Floor" rather than "Robots," oddly enough), then ditched the Daft Punk getup and settled down for the rest of the set. They both played acoustic guitar for many of the songs, but also included a variety of other instruments, such as a drum kit, keyboards and a glockenspiel.

Jemaine rocks the glock

About a third of the way through the show, starting with the song "Jenny," Bret and Jemaine were joined onstage by "the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra," a.k.a. a cellist named Nigel. Nigel remained onstage for the rest of the concert, providing a nice, unobstrusive musical accompaniment.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

The set list covered a nice range of Conchords material, from electronic club bangers to bouncy acoustic ditties. It generally avoided songs based heavily in the plot of the TV show and included a few numbers which have never been on the show at all, including one of my personal favorites, "Bus Driver Song." (Which almost makes up for that song's absence in the "New Zealand Town" episode... Almost.) The Conchords even managed to perform one song I had never heard before, "The Ballad of Stana," about an incredibly evil cowboy who meets a clone of himself. Very long and very weird. I loved it. I tried to get a video clip of it (in blatant violation of the show's camera policies), but the audio quality came out nasty, so if you're interested, there's a pretty crisp version of the song (being played in DC) here.

However, even the songs I had heard a million times before were kept fresh by the Conchords' nimble, improvisational performance style. The band never plays a song the same way twice--rather, they'll add brilliantly awkward quips into the lyrics, or even switch up the instrumental arrangements. And while most bands drop witty banter into the spaces between songs, Bret and Jemaine take the concept to a whole new level, discussing human pyramids, why whales don't use cell phones, and possible nicknames for the city they happen to be in. ("Boston Space"? "Boston Powers"? Bret insisted on "Boston City.")

And the icing on this concert's cake was the fact that the audio was mixed so well that I could almost always understand what the Conchords were saying. It's a quality one takes for granted, but the last time I saw the band live (at the Gramercy in New York--another great show notwithstanding this complaint) I got lost in a vocal muddle during any song I wasn't familiar with. Not so this time.

Eugene Mirman, the landlord on the HBO show, opened the show with enjoyable standup about Linens 'N Things, Delta Airlines and Detroit. ("Detroit has bears returning to the city. When your city is being gentrified by bears, that's a very poor city.")

Mirman was followed by Kristen Schaal, TV's Mel, who also did a good job. This picture isn't all that clear, but she was wearing glittering golden pants which she claimed to have "killed a genie" for.

Schaal ended her set by putting on costumes and assuming a few offbeat characters, such as a used mattress which wondered, "If you sent a werewolf to the moon, would he be a werewolf permanently?"

And here's the Conchords' set list for the evening. Underneath a few of the song titles I've included choice examples of improvisationary additions to the lyrics.

1. "Too Many Dicks On The Dance Floor"
2. "Hurt Feelings"
3. "The Ballad Of Stana"
--What would you do if you came face to face with yourself?... You'd become lovers, touching one another the way that you once touched yourself, but without the guilt, and without that feeling of, "I should probably be doing some work."
4. "Carol Brown"
5. "The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)"
--You could read the news on Fox.
6. "Jenny"
--Jemaine: It was something like but not necessarily Schindler's List.
Bret: It was Weekend at Bernie's Part 2.
Jemaine: I knew it was about ways different people deal with death.
7. "Business Time"
--When it's with me you only need about two minutes, 'cause I'm so intense. It's like love concentrate. It's like Tang.
8. "Mutha'uckas"
9. "Think About It"
--If you've got AIDS, think about what you did before you got AIDS and then don't do that again.
10. "Bowie"
11. "We're Both In Love With A Sexy Lady"
12. "Sugalumps"
13. "Demon Woman"
14. "Bus Driver Song"
15. "If You're Into It"

There are plenty of clips of the concert floating around YouTube, but here's a brief sample:

Good on ya, mates.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Short Film: "Red Light Green Light"

Yes, once again I am too busy/lazy to write a real post. Instead, here's another short film I produced last semester. Hope you like it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Eminem Single: It Sucks!

Yes, this is my second Eminem-related article in two weeks. Sorry.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (like, since the first post), then you know I’m a big Eminem fan. I’ve even spread my adoration to other blogs. I even got the underground shit that he did with Skam. So you can imagine the anticipation I felt for this morning’s premiere of “We Made You,” the first single from Slim’s first album in five years.

Anticipation and anxiety, that is. Despite a few decent songs, 2004’s Encore was a solidly awful record, the central theme of which being that Eminem had absolutely nothing left to say. (Seriously, one of the songs ends with the line, “I just did a whole song and I didn’t say shit.”) Still, it’s been five years, right? That should be enough time to get an artist’s creative juices flowing again.

Well, here’s the video:

So yeah.

Let’s start out with the positive: This is some seriously nice flow. Eminem’s rhyming ability was never really in question, but still, in the era of Lil Wayne, it’s nice to have a working rapper who will go to the trouble of constructing lines like “Look at all the massive masses in the stands/Shady, man, no, don’t massacre the fans.” Internal rhyme, alliteration, assonance—these are the things that made Em great on a technical level, and they’re all here in abundance.

I was going to name this post “New Eminem Single: It’s… Okay…” on the basis of the wordplay alone, but the more I listen to the song, the more disappointing it seems. First of all, it’s easy to get distracted from the flow when every word is delivered in the inexplicable, irritating accent that first appeared on Encore. And while the beat isn’t terrible, one sort of expects better from Dr. Dre.

But the main problem with this song is the utter shallowness of the subject matter. The sole purpose of the lyrics is to make fun of washed-up celebrities and reality-TV stars. Celeb-bashing was a part of Em’s act from the very beginning, but even the silly first singles used to mix personal confessions and social commentary with the schoolyard insults. And besides, Britney Spears and N*Sync were genuinely popular back in the day, so when Eminem made fun of them, it actually meant something. Bret Michaels and Lindsay Lohan, on the other hand, are basically famous for the sole purpose of being made fun of, so “We Made You” is about as insightful and caustic as an episode of The Soup. The Sarah Palin gag is obvious and a few months past relevance, but at least it might actually offend someone, somewhere. MTV is already trying to grab publicity through the supposed controversy inherent in Eminem’s lyrics, but I doubt anyone will care about this song enough to get mad at it.

I still want to believe that Relapse can be good, but at this point it seems unlikely. Sorry, Marshall. It’s because we love you that we expect so much of you.

UPDATE: Remember how I said that the Sarah Palin reference "might... offend someone, somewhere"? Apparently that someone is Bill O'Reilly, who claimed that the lack of a general outcry against the Palin parody in "We Made You" proves that the liberal media is hypocritically willing to accept misogyny as long as it's directed towards a conservative politician.

O'Reilly says too many stupid things in this video for me to go through them all, but to begin with, perhaps the reason that liberal groups aren't rising in protest against this song is not because they're brainwashed Democrat loyalists (party cohesion being a well-known liberal characteristic, of course) but because the song's just dumb, and not worth commenting on. Now, I could make fun of O'Reilly for inadvertently helping Eminem, since this type of "controversy" has always been the rapper's best source of publicity. But that would assume that O'Reilly actually believes in or cares about the issue he's bringing up, and isn't just making a mountain out of a molehill to boost his own ratings.

Also, Eminem has threatened to rip Hillary Clinton's tonsils out in "Role Model" and screamed "Fuck you, Tipper Gore!" in "White America." So he's at least a non-partisan misogynist.

2ND UPDATE: Why is this type so small? Fuck you, Blogger!