31 December 2010

Black Swan (2010)

So I finally saw this movie and can officially conclude my 2010 year of movie watching. Before Black Swan came out, I had really really wanted to watch it, not the least because it was a dance movie featuring Natalie Portman. But as I kept missing it, the reviews from friends started rolling in. Equal parts love and hate, Black Swan was the polarizing film experience of the year.

I finally ended up watching it the other night, with eight of us altogether. Two of the eight had seen it before. Afterwards we had quite the discussions. I'll spare you the details but basically I enjoyed Black Swan more than I thought I did, and thought this was the perfect adult-ish Portman role. Everyone involved was mostly brilliant, except for Winona Ryder.

There were some legitimately great parts of the movie. However, there were also some not so good parts of the movie and everything seemed a little ham fisted. There was no surprise or newness to any of the things the film was saying, or how it said it. When my friend told me beforehand that the movie was "very literal," I was confused but after seeing it, I now understand. Black Swan was literal and lacked much imagination. The good news is we have now been inspired to create a Black Swan series of dance moves. Given the time and energy, we'll be creating a video complete with a how-to. Prepare your limbs.

This article about our forever Winona crush is fun. And apparently it's way cliche to have Natalie Portman as your number one. Oh well, so be it.

[Update] Also, read this Mirrorfilm.org article about Black Swan and Bathrooms by the always great Kartina Richardson.

29 December 2010

'Tis the Season

Currently pushing: Rex Sorgatz of Fimoculous.com always does a year end List of Lists. 2010's version is huger than ever. It's hard to scan through any list of lists for longer than five minutes but this one caught my eye: Cryptomundo's Top 10 Cryptozoology Stories. Rex also does a 30 Best Blogs of each year, and here's last year's list.

It's Oscar time! Well actually it's not but close enough. Over the winter break I've been trying to watch a lot of movies, mostly to no avail, because my friends can't really sit long enough to movie hop and I refuse to pay full price just to watch a Tron: Legacy or a How Do You Know. I've been trying to watch Black Swan but haven't been able to yet. Instead I've carved out time during the few brief hours I've been awake over the past two weeks to watch a trio of movies that will surely provide lots of Academy Award nominations: The Fighter, The King's Speech, and True Grit.

Best (Supporting) Actor/Actress: Colin Firth is being hyped as the man to beat for his turn as a stammering King George VI. While I did enjoy his performance, it's not better or worse than his other roles. Firth is consistently good to great and it seems like he's getting the attention now because we have a weak crop of best actors this year. His co-star, Geoffrey Rush, is being pushed into the Supporting Actor race, to give them both chances to win. Award marketing and strategery will probably work for at least one of them.

One person who won't be getting an Oscar nomination is Mark Wahlberg, who is the weak link in The Fighter. Wahlberg isn't bad but next to Christian Bale and Amy Adams he's sort of just the meat that drives the story along. Adams has been on my list of favorite actresses for awhile and I bet Nicole Kidman is kind of jealous of Adams' acting skills and fun career. Here's hoping she gets the critical cred necessary to make Enchanted 2. Christian Bale's transformation into a cracked out Dicky Enklund is amazing and reiterates how great Bale is. His severe weight loss and body tics alone should win Bale a few awards.

Similar to Firth, Helena Bonham Carter is getting Oscar buzz for her role in The King's Speech. Everyone already loves Bonham Carter so giving her this award would put action to words but it seems lame that she'd win here versus for anything else she's done -- she was nominated for an Oscar a long time ago. Basically it seems like you gain Oscar momentum/pity once you've been around for awhile and then do a movie that goes a little against type -- or in Bonham-Carter's case, return to an earlier type.

Hailee Steinfeld, who plays the fourteen year old Mattie Ross in True Grit, is being hailed as an acting revelation. Her overly precocious character is the focus of the movie but I don't think Steinfeld was necessarily better than say, Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider. Natalie Portman is gonna sweep both Bonham Carter and Steinfeld out of here unless they go to Best Supporting Actress. Fun fact: Hailee's uncle is the Body by Jake guy.

Actually, who cares about the Oscars, they always select the worst movies and stuff anyway. I basically pay attention at this point for future trivia usage.

Overall, these three movies were all disappointing in some major way. Totally weak if any of them wins Best Picture -- which means one of them will. The Fighter was the most entertaining, True Grit the least surprising, and The King's Speech the most interesting because afterward you want to go scouring Wikipedia for the history involved. My word for all three movies would be "competent" but I'd have a hard time recommending them for more than rentals.

I'm trying to cram in a post about all the movies I've seen in 2010 but I want to wait until I've seen Black Swan -- regardless of whether it's great or terrible, it needs to be seen.

For people who've seen The Fighter: Here's the clip of Dicky Enklund "knocking down" Sugar Ray Leonard. Clearly a trip. I don't really watch much boxing but I also spent some time watching Micky Ward because well, you kind of get curious after watching the movie right?

20 December 2010

In the night I hear'em talk, the coldest story ever told

Listening to: Ben Taylor, "Nothing Compares to You." I guess I'm in a covers mood. I just found out this weekend that this was originally a Prince song. Whoops. And apparently Ben Taylor is the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon. Of course he is.

Currently pushing: Dropbox. Shared folders have totally been done, but not quite with this much ease. You sign up for the Dbox service, you install a little mini-program, and you get two gigs of space to easily drag stuff in and out of. I originally used Dropbox to shuttle files between my various computers, as I found myself constantly plugging Flash drives back and forth. Since I've started with Dropbox, I don't even carry an USB thing anymore. Although if I could get my hands on a horcrux one, I'd wear it with me everywhere.

For the past year or so, my friends and I have been using Dropbox to share music with each other. Since you can make any folder shareable in Dbox, you just invite everyone in and then people upload a few tracks they like, or a whole album if it's good. Once in awhile requests come in ("Who's got the new Glee!") but it's mostly just whatever you feel like sharing. It's so great and if you feel like trying out Dropbox, use my reference link because then I get extra space! Which I'll use for good, I promise.

My hours this week have been more ridiculous than normal. Sleep at eight am, wake up at five pm, go out till morning, somehow still be awake through noon, up again for something in the evening. Mother would not approve. I guess it's been fun, but this is clearly not a pattern to (re-)establish. I'm supposed to be in New York to learn how to live like a normal person. That's the plan anyway. Many of my friends have been asking me how I like New York so far. "Do you love it?"

I dunno yet. It's hard to answer because I'm living the charmed life of a new person to the city, and until winter and work hits, I can't really say I love it without having a false experience. Basically me and New York have had a great first series of dates. On with the relationship!

So instead of focusing on how I feel about being here, I'll focus on things that are different. For example, my relationship with music has changed. I'm back to listening to music on the go. Walking around the city, I've constantly got the volume turned up high to drown out surrounding chatter. This habit will likely lead me to an untimely death by misstep into manhole or body crumpling by taxi but so far so good.

Oftentimes I'll force my mood by selecting a specific artist or particular playlist, and then try something entirely opposite the next time around. It's been different than listening to music on my computer or my car, where the environment stays pretty static and uniform. Even if I'm walking around the same few blocks, I feel like I'm able to take things in differently depending on the song selection. And then I can stamp in/out emotions that aren't even supposed to be there.

By the way, how cool would it be if the city had certain tracks that you could access via Wifi or something whenever you're in a particular area? And then that would fade into the next track as you moved onto another part of the city? An audio tour sorta thing. Answer: very cool.

My relationship with pizza has changed. San Francisco made me detest high end pizza, and San Diego's pizza is just mostly sub-par. Pizza however, is the perfect New York food. Nobody looks at you funny if you're eating alone, a slice is easy to handle while moving and eating, pizza is available at any time of the night, and if you're nutritious and into your body like me, there are many combinations and flavors that integrate all four food groups.

My current go to two piece is a caesar salad slice and a hawaiian slice. Ham, chicken, vegetables, red sauce, white sauce, two kinds of cheeses, pineapple, doughy crust! In related news, I've somehow magically lost five to seven pounds, which could be dangerous as the winter wind picks up. It's good for fitting extra thermals into my jeans though. And if I do get hit by a car as I'm listening to my iPod and munching on my breakfast/lunch/dinner slices, at least I'll make less of a dent.

I also haven't read a single book in six weeks of riding the subways. I think it's because I lack a commute. Last time I lived via subway, I read tons of stuff at a furious pace, so I was hoping my reading intake would go up with all this waiting around in the underground. So far no dice. If only I had a drudgerous commute in which to read. Please Santa, please?

"Drudgerous" is not a real word, I just triple checked.

Tonight I watched a play that was sort of about a woman losing her senses. The first to go was her sense of taste, then her sight, and finally her hearing. Incredibly, she never quite lost her sanity. The play was really great and it really made you wonder what it would be like to lose any of your senses, much less three in short succession. It also showed me that taste is clearly the most underrated sense, as it can alert you of danger, screw around with your memory, and send you to the shower five times a day as you fear that people are recoiling from your stench. Well I guess that last one would be a good thing.

Senses I'd rather retain if I had to jettison one of the major five: sense of humor, sense of compassion, common sense.

16 December 2010

The Zinester’s Guide to New York City

Ayun Halliday is the author of a number of books, from The Big Rumpus, which chronicles the real life adventures of her family, to Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, a children's book featuring the art work of a personal favorite of mine, Dan Santat. One of her many books, Job Hopper, is about her "diligent avoidance of hard work, regular paychecks, and anything remotely resembling a dress code." That is clearly something that speaks to me and I'll be referring to it often for inspiration.

For her most recent magic act, Ayun edited The Zinester's Guide to NYC, which I picked up a few weeks ago at one of the readings she set up around the city. The guide is an amazing piece of work as it features contributions from a variety of long time New York zines makers, and shines a light on tons of spots that a non-local like me would never even know about. The ZG2NYC covers so many things, and a small listing includes: museums, walking tours, classes, craft fairs, bookstores, 99 cent stores, flea markets, parks, scenic views, and even tips on the best public restrooms. Is this a book after my own heart or what? There's even a section that features anecdotes about the grossest things the book's resident correspondents have experienced in the city. I carry the ZG2NYC with me everywhere and it's been like having a personal guide through the city. Reading all the entries are fun and did I mention the illustrations? This Zinester's Guide is just 250+ pages of incredible stuff.

Along with all of that, Ayun's also been writing The East Village Inky, a zine about living in New York, and it's up to issue number forty five and features the type of witty, engaging, and hilarious writing that I absolutely adore. Ayun was kind enough to stop by for an interview with me, and I'm super grateful because I think she's just absolutely the coolest and I've yet to even actually meet her in person -- which will just double my admiration I'm sure! So thanks to Ayun for taking the time out to be interviewed and go scoop up a copy of The Zinester’s Guide to New York City like right now. Okay, maybe after the interview. Then go.

(1) I read that you started the East Village Inky about twelve years ago because you needed an additional outlet for your creative side, as you were raising your first child, and still performing with the Neo-Futurists. Why did you choose the zine format and what other zines were you a fan of at the time? And was that initial issue your first zine ever?

That's the origin story, all right. I chose the zine format because it's cheap, has a quick turnaround, doesn't cost much to give away and/or promote, and is far better suited to my meager talents than anything involving music, film, dance, or the sort of visual art that isn't easily photocopied. Back then, I wasn't too well versed in what zines were out there... Some of my early faves were Global Mail by Ashley Parker Owens, the Assassin and the Whiner by Carrie McNinch, and of course, Fact Sheet Five, which I pored over, amazed by the quantity of listings!

East Village Inky #1 could probably be legitimately described as my first zine, though back when I used to write letters instead of emails, I had a habit of illustrating whatever I'd been up to, and tuck that in all outgoing personal correspondence. I'd also made about twenty copies of a one-shot about my time in a deserted writer's colony in New Hampshire, a two week period in which I was freaked out by everything from the wind in the pines to the dead baby bunnies and bats my absent benefactor's cat kept dragging in. It was called "Nature".

(2) I'd love to hear how you transitioned from writing zines to writing books, and what sorts of things you feel like you'd separate out for the zine and what things you'd save for the books. Clearly you've done all sorts of books, so I guess I'm talking a bit more about the personal anecdotes and stories that fill your earlier stuff. What's the line -- either subject matter or even process -- that separates zine writing and memoir writing for you?

It's all pretty improvisational to tell the truth. The zine has a more immediate turn around and no editor. The books have more pages.

I don't have much of a hold on what sells in 'today's competitive marketplace', to use the phrase of a condescending, British publishing professional who called on a long ago birthday to say she had no interest in publishing an anthology of my 'rather darling little pamphlets'. I go through manic periods where I throw all sorts of book ideas at my agent. I was all het up to write an autobiography that would tie periods of my life to whatever costume I happened to have been wearing at the time. My agent's response was, "I think we need to find ways to make you MORE accessible to the mainstream, rather than less."

The zine is the place where I get to be the mainstream. Microcosm-wise, I'm practically the boeurgoisie compared, but they gave me near total reign over content. It was refreshing to not have my stranger edges sanded off for mass consumption. (That said, I do hope the book will be consumed on massive levels!)

(3) Since I am always pushing my friends and associates to blog, even going so far as to physically sit them down in front of a computer and making them one, I was curious what your take on blogging was, especially as it's grown over the years. Do you think a lot of the people who would have made zines before have now turned to the internet and blogging? Also, were you ever tempted to go entirely online with the East Village Inky?

I've blogged about food and traveling in the former Yugoslavia with my family, but I'm far more inclined to make something that ends in a tangible artifact.

I buy into that belief that one writes differently on a keyboard than in longhand, and the East Village Inky is entirely hand written. It's nice to have a written project that doesn't involve the computer, a device which exerts an unwholesome, addictive power over me. I get a bit jangly and snappish when I've overindulged. Whereas the East Village Inky is often a pain in the ass to get started, but once I'm in the groove, I find myself able to focus in a much more meaningful way. I'm not driven to check my email every five minutes. Also, any editing of the East Village Inky involves white-out, an interesting creative challenge in and of itself. What phrase can I come up with that is approximately the same length as the one I just blooped out?

There are a lot of blogs I enjoy reading, but I am repulsed by the way the comment sections so easily turn unnecessarily mean. Why provide another forum for people who don't know me personally to say nasty, inaccurate things about me (and/or my kids) when Amazon's already doing such a great job of that with its Customer Review section for No Touch Monkey? Readers who give feedback on the East Village Inky tend to write letters, which is wonderful. I love getting actual mail. I love it when it seems as if they picked out the stationery especially with me in mind, or when one of their kids draws one of my kids the way I draw them in the zine.
(4) When did your kids start reading the writing about themselves? Was there a concerted effort to show them -- or to keep it away for awhile? I'm curious because I feel like having all this literature and work about them must be the coolest thing ever, like a personalized history. And have they expressed interest in making their own spin off zine?

They've grown up with it laying around. There's really no hiding anything in this cramped little apartment, and even if there was, Inky, in particular, is now of the age where snooping the adults' bookshelves is both educational and appropriate, a necessary rite of passage. Whether or not people realize it, I've always tried to be mindful of the children's feelings when depicting them. It's helpful that their father, Greg, is an essentially private person. If I feel like I'm about to cross a line, I just imagine him frowning in disapproval. Sometimes that expression eggs me on, but never when I'm about to write something too personal about our children. Then it's a good safety to have in place.

Still, there are misfires. Milo has recently started to that certain things in recent issues were insulting. They're almost always in the Advice to the Fathers comics Greg writes and I illustrate... Milo really loves comics so this is possibly the only part of the zine he reads in depth. Usually the part he's taking issue with turns out to be a verbatim quote in a word bubble issuing from his own mouth. We're like, "Milo, that is an absolutely accurate depiction of the point of view you so passionately argue!" And usually, he'll be like, "...Oh." Mystifying.

Ultimately, I think both of them are pleased to be the main characters in this ongoing serial, or they are 85% of the time. Hopefully the percentages will grow. You really made my day with your comment about the personal history aspect being the coolest thing ever. I leave it to them to correct the parts I didn't get quite right, and fill in all the private blanks.

As far as making zines of their own, Inky is a wonderful artist. Her style is far more developed and satirical than mine. She has amazing stuff in her notebooks. Hopefully someday soon, she will choose to share some of it with the public in some sort of organized way. She's in a playwriting workshop, and recently completing a Moth storytelling workshop for teens. She is definitely exploring her options as far as ways to get her creativity out there in front of people.

Milo has a mule's iron will when insisting that he hates to write. On the other hand, he is an awesome storyteller, and a huge fan of graphic novels. The jury's still out, but I would not be surprised if he eventually gravitates to some sort of public, creative enterprise.

(5) What do you use to write and organize all your projects? Just a word processing program, something more special? I can only imagine the amount of organization and detail that had to go into ZG2NYC, how'd you keep it all straight?!

Straight up text edit, son, but only because Microsoft Word crashes every time I open my laptop. The Zinester's Guide to NYC was a hornet's nest of emails, all of which were lost to history in last month's desktop crash. (It's okay -- that sucker's published now!) The East Village Inky's bookstore accounts are all in a little yellow notebook decorated with this character named Cong Cong, who looks a lot like Inky did when she was younger.

15 December 2010

Some day, when I'm awfully low

Listening to: Colbie Caillat, "I Want You Back." Jackson 5 covers are overdone and any highly ranked amateur can crank out a decent version. But this is one by Colbie Caillat caught my attention and it stuck with me so I had to rip it since I couldn't find the correct mp3 anywhere. It sounds like Christmas to me for some reason, how about you?

Is Facebook cool again? I feel like The Social Network gave it some cool points. I mean, if Zuckerberg can be Time's Man of the Year, then anything is possible for FB right? One of our friends, who is so against social media of any type, hopped onto Facebook and people responded like it was the second coming -- and/or the apocalypse. Facebook should add a feature where you can park a spot for your friend and then if enough people vote them in, the profile gets made, with or without their permission. Actually I'd like to just make an alternate site, Slam Book, where people talk all sorts of realness about each other and get it over with.

Then again, maybe it's only in my mind that Facebook has regained some cachet, as clearly Tweetage Wasteland's "Confession #89: 100 People I Hate on Facebook" is still one hundred thousand percent accurate. It's still fun talking about Facebook though right? I read this article from Pop Matters, "Facebook and the New Narcissism" and the whole thing is interesting, but the last paragraph rings so right.
"One of my many suspicions is that social media uses our guilt about our self-centeredness and our narcissism against us to provoke us to give them more free content. I can feel less an egomaniac by sharing, by liking, by reading others’ comments and adding my own. Interacting in these prescribed ways can feel therapeutic and benevolent without becoming overwhelming. Thus sites like Facebook play both ends against the middle, intimating that our sharing will somehow negate our inner megalomaniac while simultaneously giving it full play. It whispers to us, "No one cares about you; everyone cares about you.'"
The other night I was up until eight in the morning, and I'd inadvertently converted over to the new profile -- which I kinda hated. But you can't go back, because Facebook pushes you forward, even against your will. Especially against your will.

Unable to return to my sentimental "whatever I can get" status, I saw Alexandre Oudin's profile page featured on Europe Tech Crunch and thought it was kinda great. Seeing as I was nowhere near tired even as the sun was rising, I set off to find a wide enough photo to slice and dice ala Oudin. Turned out some person had already made a web app that creates the appropriately sized images automatically. No Photoshopping needed. This was like less than a day after Alexandre had his up. That's insane right? I didn't end up using the app, but the how-to provides both a PDF and plenty of directions.

An hour of trial and error later and voila, me dunking on my Facebook page. My friend and I both agreed: so not worth the time spent. When I woke up a full half day later to random people FBing me, I had no idea what happened. My room gets no cell phone service or Wifi, which makes it a bit of a cave. Texts, missed calls, and emails come rushing in when I roll to the living room area. It kind of gives me anxiety when I wake up in the middle of the night (day) and sometimes I feel like I should go see if I'm missing anything important. Then I roll over because hey, I'm still sleepy.

Anyway, what do you know, my lame basketball picture somehow ended up on Mashable under "10 Creative Uses for the New Facebook Profile." They even called me their favorite! So boom, my allotted fifteen minutes came and went. I read Mashable all the time but I had hoped I'd be on it for selling a start up for bazillions of dollars or something. But nope, this was it. Called "creative" by essentially stealing someone else's idea.

Shit, whatever, I'll take it. But if you want to invest or angel fund slambook.com or something, feel free to contact me so I can make Mashable again. Let's build something great to tear friendships apart shall we?

Oh and I'm not engaged to be married, despite my displayed relationship status. It's a long story but I forget that Facebook is the truthsayer, and I should be more responsible and have it reflect reality as that's how societal norms are now. Screwing around on your FB page is generally thought of as being either juvenile or criminal these days. But really, as anyone who knows me can attest, the idea that someone would willingly/publicly bind themselves legally to me for real is laughable.

14 December 2010

You Got Served (2004)

I'm back with number five in my dance movie series. This time around it's a movie that's close and dear to my heart. I don't even have to add a little section about where and how and why I watched this movie as I have the thing on DVD and like to throw it on as background noise every once in awhile. It's not a guilty pleasure, it's the truth.

Tagline: "If You Want Respect, You've Got to Take It."

Plot (6)
Nothing could be more ho-hum. Two friends are in the best dance crew but then experience a falling out and eventual reunion. Nothing innovative here. Throw in some backstabbing, a drug related side story, some “you’re in love with my baby sister!” drama, a troubled kid saved by dance bit, and You Got Served hits every average mark on the block. I’m throwing in a bonus point for an utter lack of originality. It’s hard to be this predictable.

Can the lead characters dance? (9)
Considering Marques Houston and Omarion are legit boy band members and did all of their own dance scenes, their work here has to be held in high regard. Of the two, Omarion is clearly the better dancer but Houston also blows every other dance movie lead out of the water. They also have a rain dance practice scene, separate but together.

The other three members of B2K are in the lineup too, and they are clearly just as dance talented. Also the non-Omarion members of B2K's went by Raz-B, Lil Fizz, and J-Boog. Wild guess here but those aren't their real names. Who else knew that Marques Houston wasn’t actually in B2K? Not me. Turns out he’s from Immature, and had terrible hair to boot.

How’re the dance scenes? (10)
I’ve been teasing in my earlier dance reviews that the high mark for hip hop dance scenes was set by You Got Served. Right from the beginning, the choreography is awesome, the energy outstanding, and there’s one move where they switch jackets between individuals that had me and my friends rising out of our seats when we saw it on the big screen. Because the many dance scenes are battle style, there’s an extra element of competition as two crews face off against each other. If there actually existed a place like this venue, I’d be there like every night.

Any movie that spins off a successful DVD instructional video must have good dancing right? Nobody was trying to produce a Honey how-to video for example. And don’t think I didn’t buy You Got Served: Take It to the Streets as soon as I found out about it. The movie special features also include all the dance scenes but with uncut camera angles. It's a gem.

Best dance scene? Probably the opening piece, which throws you right into the action and makes you go "Oh shit, this is going to be great!" I'm also partial to the ending, which is just all kinds of craziness.

For your viewing pleasure, here are all the dance clips I could find on Youtube: Trailer, opening dance, dance scene 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, ending dance. Conceivably you just watch these and skip the bad movie bits in-between. But where's the fun in that?

How’s the love story? (3)
Omarion’s character hasn’t seen Marques Houston’s sister in quite some time. Over the years, she’s blossomed into a cutie and Omarion is rightly sprung. The two fall for each other when Omarion walks her to her job -- what a gentleman. Of course, Marques is less than pleased and knows that his friend is really a dog. When Omarion skips out on a drug deal to hang out with lil’sis, the friendship between the guys fall apart. Yawn.

Rate the sidekicks (9)
Easily taking the crown for the best best friend ever, Marques’ sister’s friend (played by the black Megan Fox, Meagan Goode) wears shirts with her own face screenprinted on them, and tells everyone that the correct spelling of her name is “Beautiful with two ‘L’s’” She doesn’t get to do much besides be sassy but Beautiful is a great character and possibly deserving of a spin off. Oh wait, she also comforts the sister, Liyah, in an emotional scene by bringing her a mug of hot chocolate and declaring, “You know what they say, hot chocolatey make the pain go away.” Profound.

The other prominent side character is Mr. Rad, played by Steve Harvey, who is the organizer and arbiter of the dance club. Harvey brings his dramatic weight to the role and his character spreads a message of positivity and non-violence. No seriously. Watch the DVD extras. Harvey insisted that his character be rewritten to accommodate some Bill Cosby type righteousness. Everyone needs a Mr. Rad in his life, especially if you’re battle dancing for cash.

Shout out to Lil’Kim for the worst celebrity cameo of all time. She manages to kill all her lines and audience members’ vision in about two minutes of screen time. And by “kill” I mean “butcher hilariously.”

Best line (8)
I’m partial to all of Beautifull’s lines. Each one is a golden nugget of quotability. Listen to her describe how to say her name: “And that's with two L’s. You gotta accentuate the L’s. You know, let it roll off your tongue.” Love her.

But the prize here goes to Elgin, Marques Houston’s character, who tells his sister the following: “Liyah go home and stop acting like a ho!” Damn. If I said that to my sister I hope someone would smite me immediately. Actually I’m pretty excited to use this line during our next argument, I’ve been saving it for years.

Music (9)
For a movie featuring several prominent boy band members, the soundtrack is obviously quite good. Okay calling B2K “prominent” is a bit of a stretch. But they are all over the soundtrack and most of the songs are good. In fact, the entire soundtrack is a must download. I especially like the opening and closing numbers: Timbaland’s “Drop” and Joe Budden’s “Pump It Up.”

Fashion (4)
Strangely, nothing stands out here. Maintaining an authentic look at the faux underground dance scene, all the characters dress like any normal hip hoppers you might see walking the streets. Baggy pants, sports jerseys, broad rimmed hats, and sweat band accessories galore. The only standout piece was Beautifull’s t-shirt, which I’ve already glorified before. I enjoyed seeing dance crews that didn’t costume up for each engagement, even if I would have preferred something slightly flashier for the last scene, which featured the teams in matching track suits. Guess the budget ran out. Such a strong part of hip hop dancing is personality, and making each member wear uni-colored outfits seemed a bit lame. Also if you didn't know, more bandanas/sweatbands is the more cowbell of the dance world.

Cultural Impact (6)
For a movie with such inspired dancing, You Got Served didn’t spawn any sequels or score big at the box office. I want to go ahead and say that part of the reason could be because the movie was targeted toward an urban audience and didn’t feature a pair of white leads. And don’t tell me the world wasn’t ready for dance movies yet. Three years earlier, Save the Last Dance grossed ninety million and even Honey, released two months before You Got Served, grossed thirty million. You Got Served cleared forty million, and made less worldwide despite being a far superior movie. Of course, You Got Served was made on an eight million dollar budget so it profited big time. So why no sequel? You say bad plot and cheesy lines? I say racism! Who's with me?

On another note, the movie’s title did insert “you got served” into our cultural lexicon, which instantly became ubiquitous and lame at the same time. Try saying that phrase in the heat of verbal battle, or after dunking on someone, and immediately get laughed off the court. Served, served, served!

Miscellaneous (8)
Director Christopher B. Stokes not only wrote the film but was also the manager of B2K and Immature. While we applaud Stokes' vision and Renaissance man skills, there have been some allegations about his sheparding of the boys under his stewardship. Actually there's a lot of craziness that I won't really go into here, but it involves some distateful things not appropriate for a PG-13 audience. High marks for the drama though.

You Got Served features a ton of dancers that are famous in the community. For example, Shane Sparks was a choreographer, my ABDC faves, The Beat Nuts are in there, Wade Robson makes a cameo, there's a lot of SYTYCD people, and of course Harry Shum Jr. MTV personality Lala hosts the Big Bounce competition. Funkmaster Flex is on the wheels of steel or whatever. There's a lot of semi-celebs in this thing if you know who you're looking at.

I won't lie, You Got Served is one of my favorite dance movies. So how did it only get a 72, a mere nine points higher than the original Step Up? Well, a better way to look at it is that You Got Served was only five points lower than Centerstage, which is inarguably a more well rounded movie. You Got Served suffers from some horrific acting, terrible cheesy scenes, and a weak plot. However, the dancing is great and it absolutely still holds up. In a way, this awkward combination makes it the seminal craptastic dance movie. Remember, we're grading these movies on a curve here, so really a 72 could be interpreted as nearly a solid A right? If you want me to bring this movie over to your house so we can watch it together, I will. And then we can do the how-to video afterward. Aren't you excited?

08 December 2010

Turn the drums up, turn my vocals up too

Listening to: Biggies Smalls freestyling at age seventeen. I'll explain below. The clip is from a 2000 film, "Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme."

I'd been anticipating going to the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival for awhile and even though I rolled out of bed super late, I got there mostly on time because it was literally a block down from my apartment. So far one of the very best things about living in Williamsburg is how close I am to the L train station. You exit out of the underground, go down a block, cross one unbusy street, and there's my sublet. It's absolutely lovely.

Ignorant New Yorker that I am, I thought that since I was in Brooklyn, and got off at the Bedford stop, I was living near where Biggie, Mos, and Jay-Z grew up. Yes I know Williamsburg is now the hipster capital of gentrification but I thought maybe I was within hailing distance of the streets these legends grew up on. Haha, how wrong I was. Their Bed-Stuy is actually not that close to where I live. I mean, at my stop all the white people get off and all the other people stay on to parts unknown.

Cured of that particular ignorance, I still can't help reciting Common's line from The 6th Sense in my head as I wait for the train: "Somedays I take the L to gel with the real world." Yes I know he was talking about the L train in Chicago, but I gotta have something you know?

Anyway so I stroll down a block to the church where the festival is being held and inside are mustachioed young men and eclectically dressed young women. Actually, everyone was eclectically dressed, it's Williamsburg. This was the second year of the festival and it was absolutely packed. A lesser man would have turned away but I was intrigued by all the artwork and books and zines. I had hoped to watch/listen to some of the programming events but the audio was kind of poor. The last festival I went to with panels and readings had poor acoustics too, which seems like something that should be a priority to have working well for these types of things.

The upstairs area was filled with vendors and there were some seriously famous people in there. Apparently the exhibitors are curated and that made the quality of the work super high. I'm not that familiar with too many names and faces in this comics world, but my friend knew like everyone. This was to her what a Comic Con would be to me. I was tasked with taking photos that would last a lifetime.

Actually I was also tasked with being a wingman on a meet and greet, but that mission absolutely failed. There was someone my friend was really excited to meet, but as it turned out, this young artist neither looked like advertised (/imagined) nor talked much. The person in question does really witty and well done work, but as hard as we tried to engage him, he gave only perfunctory answers. And then he signed her book without asking for her name, or saying much of anything, and his print was in a tiny scrawl.

Look, I'm no expert on signing things but when someone brings my work for me to sign, I'm super nice, appreciative, and I at least ask them who I can address the message to. Give it some thought and personalization if I can. This dude did none of the above. For the rest of our time I'd glance over at his table occasionally from across the room to see if he made efforts to talk to other people. I needed to know if it was personal or if he was just anti-social. Neither are forgivable.

Other than that, the festival was awesome -- and including that deflating experience made it additionally memorable. Since I was cashless, I borrowed a few bucks to purchase "Hey, 4-Eyes #3: A Zine About Glasses" and "DHarbin's Diary Comics #1". If I had a million dollars I would have spent it all in that room so it's probably good that my wallet was empty. I wrote down a whole bunch of new comic creators I need to become fans of, I got inspired to one day make one, and I also got to see Adrian Tomine and Julia Wertz, who were both super nice and friendly. I was pushing Wertz's stuff last month, so I hope you listened to me.

All in all, quite the successful day. And then later that night I stayed out real late, mostly sitting around watching a room of people dance and karaoke like crazy. Then I took the train home as the sun came out so I could again represent BK to the fullest. Word.

05 December 2010

Love and Other Drugs (2010)

Does this movie have the greatest title or what? Love is a drug! Ah! Based on title alone I needed to watch this movie. Having just come from an hour long discussion with my friend about the romantic comedy genre, I needed this movie to be great. And for the most part it was. Screw the reviews, Love and Other Drugs is the best romantic comedy of the year. For one, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are great together and while I can't say this often, Gyllenhaal should do more romantic comedies.

I've noticed that recent rom coms have tended to feature women who want to keep sex separate from a friendship, and they set up these safety walls around them. The guy then chases them down to declare their love. I don't know if this is just the reaction to gender politics of the day, but my guess is that these "women just want to sleep with you but don't want a commitment" fantasies are written by males. Exhibit B: check out the trailer for Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher's upcoming romantic comedy, No Strings Attached. I'd love to hear someone else's perspective on this. Anyway, that's kind of the plot here, with Hathaway unwilling to let Jake into her emotional whirlpool.

What I liked about Love and Other Drugs was that it didn't feel like I was watching a typical romantic comedy. The plot beats were different, the themes went deeper, and while there was the inclusion of lots of humor (and an over the top brother character), this wasn't a movie that washed away as soon as the credits were over. While the film did take a bit of a nosedive for me around the three-fourths mark, I think I just need to concede that in the end, this was still a movie about love. Go watch Love and Other Drugs, you won't be disappointed.

Director Edward Zwick and writer Marshall Herskovitz's production company have been responsible for stuff like thirtysomething, Shakespeare in Love, Legends of the Fall, My So Called Life, Once and Again, and the web series Quarterlife. It's pretty interesting what they did with the book the movie is based on, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, which I haven't read but doubt was so focused on the protagonist's romance. I want to be Zwick and Herskovitz's intern.

02 December 2010

Modern Age (Live)

Currently pushing: The Lefsetz Letter. I've had a new email friend for the past two weeks. His name is Bob Lefsetz and he writes to me about the music and entertainment industry. Bob doesn't know I exist but that's quite alright. He's a busy guy and according to his Wikipedia, Bob used to be the majordomo of a music company. The only major domo I knew of before was an android one that works for a fictional X-Villain, so this is quite exciting.

You can read more about Bob and his letter here but I'd recommend subscribing because getting his multiple emails a day has quickly become a highlight. I guess in theory you could just RSS his new blog, but it doesn't feel as personal.

I found out about The Leftsetz Letter by following Stephen Elliot's The Daily Rumpus, which has no RSS feed and is a must subscribe. So now I have two friends who email me on the regular, ain't that great?

I used to try to read reviews about things before I went to them. Food places, bars, clubs, and especially movies, books, and music. For awhile, having that extra knowledge allowed me to hedge my bets about what would be a decent time or not.

Recently however, I've had to give up the habit because reading reviews is getting useless. Take Yelp for example. Once you aggregate enough opinions, you'll pretty much just end up with three or four stars across the board. With no authority or expertise, these people's opinions are worthless to me. I mean, I can't trust Deborah S.'s review of the Japanese restaurant without knowing how much experience she's had with sushi. One schmo's "amazing onion rings" could just be limp and greasy to me. Even trusting friend's opinions on food has gotten dicier over the years.

Very recently, as of last week, I've been questioning the opinions of professional reviewers a lot. For example, we went to see Time Stands Still, starring Laura Linney and Christina Ricci. It's the story of a photo journalist and her recovery from a land mine blast. It addressed some timely topics, it has a smooth and sometimes witty script, and it has Laura Linney. Sadly, after two hours, both my friend and I were underwhelmed. She felt the timing of everything felt sitcommy, I felt the story went nowhere, and we both agreed that it was capable but hardly memorable.

Then I got to reading the reviews. There were more than a few gushing ones, with stuff like, "[this] quietly powerful drama illustrates just how much pain and trauma are involved in the everyday business of two people creating a life together, one that accommodates the mistakes of the past, the reality of the present and the changes that the future may bring."

Um, I didn't get any of that. Or I did but it was way over the top and there was hardly anything "quiet" about the drama or the themes. I felt bludgeoned. So what am I missing here? Am I not well versed enough in plays to appreciate this fine work? Am I too lowbrow to understand what's going on? Or am I not the audience this work was intended for? At their best, professional reviewers can lend perspective to a place or a piece, but I'm not sure how well they can help you answer "will I like it?"

For movies I exclusively consult James Berardelli's Reelviews.net. I don't necessarily agree with his reviews, but I got to understand his taste and could figure out which movies I could like based on my knowledge of our shared likes/dislikes. That works well for me, and I'd recommend finding one or two critics who you can learn to stand by. Going with the wisdom of the crowds is inane. I have a friend who only watches movies rated 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes. I think it's the dumbest way of deciding what to watch because the "a lot of people can't all be wrong" philosophy is the direct path toward entertainment doom.

Listening to friends should be the way to go, but as the recent shut down of Netflix's movie share feature shows, maybe that's not something people care about either. While I never used the feature that much, I do have a small list of trusted movie friends from whom I'll take recommendations, because I know the things they recommend will have some value, and even if we disagree, they're open to talking about it. I hate watching a movie and then the other person has nothing to say about it. Booooring.

Having said all that, who wants to watch Love and Other Drugs with me?!