It seemed like a promising idea to make a documentary film of the breakout best seller Freakonomics. Furthermore, a team of the best documentary filmmakers around were brought together to translate the film to the screen: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp), Alex Gibney (Taxi To The Darkside), Seth Gordon (King of Kong), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me). However, the execution of the idea did not match the potential. It was disjointed and didn't flow smoothly-perhaps too many talking heads throughout the film. Focusing on one subject for a full-length feature might have been a better idea. The best episode was "Pure Corruption" which looked at cheating in sumo wrestling. Gibney found a way to make it compelling by inter cutting footage from around Tokyo with some talking head interviews with various authorities and former sumo wrestlers.
A while back I was marvelling at all the good music that came out in 1987 and one of the lost albums from that era for me was The Yong Fresh Fellow's album, The Men Who Loved Music. It has two of my favorite YFF songs of all-time: "My Friend Ringo" and "Amy Grant." There are lots of other good songs as well: "When The Girls Get Here," "Ant Farm," "Get Out Of My Cave," and there is a bonus Refreshments EP is included with this album.They were one of my truly favorite live acts of all time I must have seen them more than 10 times over the years and I could never understand why they didn't get as big as The Replacements-a band that they frequently toured with. I guess Scott McCaughey had his brush with fame as 5th member of the touring REM band in the 90s.
This led to me ripping their solid first two albums, Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest/Topsy Turvy that were released on one CD. There are also many great songs like: "The Young Fresh Fellow's Theme," "Think Better of Me," "The Sharing Patrol Theme," "Hang Out Right," and "Where Is Groovy Town."
Taking another trip down memory lane inspied by Dean Wareham's memoir about indie life in an indie rock and roll band (Luna and Galaxie 500), Black Postcards, I wanted to go back and listen to his first band Galaxie 500. So I've been listening to On Fire, which has a haunting cover of George Harrison's "Isn't It A Pity?", and some other fine tunes like "Strange," "When Will You Come Home," and "Decomposing Tress."
The other Galaxie 500 album I've been listening to is Today. This album has one of their best known tunes, "Tugboat." I also like "Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste," "Temperature's Rising," and "Oblivious."
There was a contemporary album that also got a lot of play this month, Arcade Fire's latest album The Suburbs which is another strong album that has lots of great songs like: "Sprawl II," "City Without Children," and "The Month Of May."
Exit Through The Gift Shop is one of those films that created low expectations because the written descriptions I read led to some perconceived ideas of what the was about. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film during the actual experience. It raises many issues and can be seen as a multi-faceted film. It is the story of the creation of a new art scene player in the guise of Mr Brainwash(MBW)-the graffiti name of Thierry Guetta, who started out documenting the burgeoning graffiti scene through the art of his cousin-Space Invader. From there he befriends other graffiti artists including Stephen Fiarey (best known for being sued by the AP for his Obama Hope poster), and eventually, perhaps the most celebrated street artist Banksy himself. Banksy encourages Guetta to make a documentary film chronicling the movement, but the result is a sprawling mess without a narrative and Banksy takes over and encourages Guetta to do some of his own street art and then do a show. Guetta mortgages his house and sells his consignment shop in order to create his own Warhol-like factory to churn out pieces for his first show in a massive warehouse. the art is derivative of artists like Warhol, Harring, Fairey, and Banksy himself. He creates a massive amount of hype and sells over $1 million total for pieces from the show. Banksy and many others are somewhat chagrined by the rapid success of Mr. Brainwash.
Art has always been sort of an Emperor's Clothes enterprise for me as this film depicts it. What is th relative value of art of graffiti artists/ This happened before in the early 80s art scene as graffiti artist began selling canvases for $20,000. A lot of it seems to be based on hype and self-promotion and the sense that each individual viewer can judge the merits of a piecee of art with a "good/bad" dichotomy. It seems much harder to fake a good film or novel. But art shows are participatory and a buyer can buy a slice of the limelight buy purchasing a piece. I have witness similar real life examples where a mediocre artist with relatively little training was able to create a hype and a buzz and get ignorant dupes with too much money to purchase works of art, going as far as to get patrons to commission portraits of themselves or with their significant other. The pretensions of the art scene can often bee extremely unpalatable. Mr. Brainwash is shockingly inarticulate about the meaning and inspirations for his work-it doesn't always have to be so. I truly do admire and respect he art of Banksy-but Mr. Brainwash could be a telling metaphor of the celebrity culture and perhaps L.A. itself which is all about perception and image rather than substance.
I have always enjoyed Robert D. Kaplan's entertaining blend of journalism, history, travel writing, and political analysis. Monsoon:The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power is largely a return to form after the somewhat inevitable pandering journalist's description of war in Imperial Grunts. I'm not sure I buy his analysis about the importance and potential troubles that he predicts will emerge from the Indian Ocean and the surrounding areas. That being said he has lots of great descriptions of his travels throughout the region and presents many interesting historical anecdotes about events that took place in the region. I have been to several of the countries he reports about and would like to visit the many I haven't. The unifying theme might be a stretch, but the enjoyment lies in the detailed reporting, descriptions, and summations of the region.
Days of Being Wild is generally considered to be Wong Kar-wai's first masterpiece. Despite being critically acclaimed-it was a box office failure. Stephen Teo in his book on Wong Kar-wai explains that this is a kind of a tribute to Cantonese genre movie called "Ah Fei" (something like rebellious youths) that was popular after A Rebel Without A Cause. The setting is in the 60s and the characters dress American, Yuddy (Leslie Chung) drives an American car, and they eat cheese burgers and fries and drink cokes. As in many Wong films there is a second subplot about unrequited love between maggie Cheung and a cop played by Andy Lau. As with all, Wong films it is very much about the atmosphere/mood and characters rather than story. I find it interesting that Teo evokes T.S. Eliot's poetry and Giorgio De Chirico art as counterparts to Wong's spiritual wasteland-but not sure if I buy that. Teo's assertion that Wong drew inspiration from Manuel Puig's novel about a seductive consumptive who seduces several women in his hometown before succumbing to the disease in Heartbreak Tango is more likely.
There is a great romantic scene when Yuddy is courting So Lai-chen (Maggie Cheung) and tells here that he will always remember her as his one minute friend after making her look at his watch at 3 pm on April 16th 1960. Thus time becomes a sort of theme even after he leaves her for Lulu (Carina Lau). I find this deposition of a relationship of a wild girl tamed by the alpha male very believable and true to life. The cinematography, editing, and use of music in this film are exceptional and will become trademarks of the films of Wong. This marks the first collaboration between Wong and the talented cinematographer Chris Doyle. There is a recurring scene that suggest tropical torpor of Philippines forest of coconut oil and palm trees awash in aquamarine tint, swaying in the wind accompanied by the musical coda "Always In My Heart" made famous by the Brazilian Indian duo, Los Indios Tabajaras. Patrick Tam who did the editing chores here, was also a frequent collaborator as film editor in subsequent films. Wong was planning on making a companion film and the final scene was to act as a prologue for his next film and depicts Tony Leung meticulously preparing for a night out on the town. Unfortunately that film never got made.
Not long ago I went to On The Corner Cafe No. 9 in Shibuya and came across a card advertising 202 Market, a cafe in Sasazuka where I live. I was surprised I didn't know it, but I realized it was in a building in front of the station and I overlooked it due to the narrow space, concrete walls, and exposed air ducts. However, it has the same attention to detail design-wise as On The Corner No. 9 with stylish tables and chairs, glassware, utensils, lighting, and wall art. In addition, they have free wi-fi, so I will definitely be back to work there sometime soon. It seems this group also has cafes in Kichijoji and Nakameguro as well.
The food's pretty good as well-I had the "Healthy Plate" lunch-it was minced tofu with spinach, rice, salad, dessert, and a drink for 950 yen.
I haven't been keeping up with new music as much as I would like to have, but I found some great new music.
1. Band of Horses-"Infinite Arms"
2. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists-"The Burtalist Bricks"
3. The National-"High Violet"
4. Arcade Fire-"The Suburbs"
5. LCD Soundsystem-"This Is Happening"
6. Vampire Weekend-"Contra"
7. Gorillaz-"Plastic Beach"
8. Drive By Truckers-"The Big To Do"
10. Massive Attack-"Heligoland"
There are several new albums that were released in 2010 that I still haven't heard-Old 97s "The Grand Theater Vol.1", New Pornographers "Together", Ginderman "Grinderman II",Belle And Sebastian "Write About Love", and God Help The Girl.
I have started reading Stephen Teo’s book length study on the films of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, one of my favorite contemporary directors. After reading each chapter on the film in question I have decided to re-watch the said film. The first up is his debut, As Tears Go By. My first impression was that it was more conventional than the films that followed and that parts of it looked amateurish. And while, it might be his most conventional film-it is by no means amateurish. The one fight scene in particular that I remember the most from my first viewing is a bit garish, but I was impressed that he had already discovered some of his best visual techniques. There is the opening sequence where the tittles are shown alongside a row of TV monitors that is very modern and sleek. These include slow motion fight scenes, neon night scenes, scenery shots and fluid editing and effective use of music to score particular scenes. Teo points out that Wong’s film was inspired by Scorsese's Mean Streets and unexpectedly Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. The relationship between the veteran triad brother, Andy Lau, and the mess up-Jacky Cheung-mirrors that of Scorsese’s first success. The romantic story, which introduces Maggie Cheung to the film industry, is based on Jarmusch’s film, where the cousin comes to visit. This film is strongly character based-a trend that becomes a recurring motif in the work of Wong. In addition, there is the romantic gesture made by Maggie Cheung to Andy Lau when she leaves she says she has bought him new glasses, but has hid one glass knowing that he will eventually need it. And that he will need to call her to find it. This becomes a sort of inside joke between the eventual lovers and is a gesture that is repeated in subsequent films. This is not his best film, but it is a surprisingly mature work masquerading as a mere genre film.