Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of Filmmakers, Writers, Musicians & Artists:

February 1, 2011

My friend and colleague, Shane Tea French, posted the following note on his Facebook page recently. I felt it should be shared.

An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of Filmmakers, Writers, Musicians & Artists:

SO . . . .

Most of you know me. What do I do? In my eyes? I am a FILM MAKER. Above all else. All I do leads down the path to making  films that better the world, change lives, express emotions, transform the human tapestry. To me. That’s what I want to achieve and strive to be in my LIFE. While you all get to get married, something I have forgone in the goal of MY ART, and have children….I make movies, videos, etc. (My children.) And everyone VERBALLY supports me. “Shane, you are so talented.” Thank you.

I worked on a film called BURNING INSIDE, an amazing film I am proud to have been involved with. More than the shitty MAIN STREAM crap I suffered through in L.A. (GARFIELD, FLICKA, THE CAT IN THE HAT, etc…) and sold my soul to SCUM who would soon turn the theater experience to an utter lack of originality in remakes and 3-D that you see today. Everything that that place represented disgusted me to such a degree, I like so many others, some call us “THE LOSERS,” could not take it and came back to the EAST coast. Now I live with my Mom (like a slightly more social Norman Bates) who supports me unconditionally and try to make films on the weekends when not literally wiping butts at my day job.

I EXIST FOR ONE REASON: TO BE INVOLVED WITH AND MAKE FILMS. NOTHING ELSE. NOTHING ELSE WILL SATISFY ME. NOTHING ELSE TAKES PRECEDENCE. I AM AN ARTIST AND THAT IS MY ART. I CHOOSE MY LOVE OF FILM OVER HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP. HENCE: MY LACK OF WIFE OR CHILDREN. BUT: THE FILMS I DO MAKE ARE MY CHILDREN.

So, please. Acknowledge them. (Unless your kid is in dire need of braces?)

This is what I want to do with my life and have wanted since I was 14. I am 38 years old and still haven’t let this world BEAT ME DOWN. Me and my friends in CT made a film (“BURNING INSIDE”) that is one of the coolest and most proud I have ever been to work on. Would I recommend it to any of my relatives? Honestly. No. To my college friends? Most likely yes. To a film student. Definitely. (And I think you would LOVE it.) But whether you like it IS NOT the point. What I need to continue, WHAT WE NEED, as independent film makers, people who do this out of a GUT WRENCHING PAIN OF NEED, something you can’t control, something that pushes, punches, guides, destroys you, makes you move, gets you out of bed when there is NO reason to move: WE NEED SUPPORT! Whether you like what we do or not. IF you are a friEND or RELATIVE, I need you to donate $20 (if you can spare it) to BUY the movies we make so we can continue to get the funding for our next films we plan to make. $20 bucks? Is that a lot? Imagine it is a birthday gift? Imagine you are coming out to see a show. WE NEED THIS TO CONTINUE TO DO WHAT WE DO AND NOT BE CRUSHED BY THE HOLLYWOOD MACHINE THAT GRANTS YOU WITH FODDER THAT CHURNS YOUR BRAIN TO MUSH AND MAKES YOU FORGET WHAT YOU SAW IN A HALF HOUR???! Most of you want to come home and dissolve into your couch. I DEMAND TO BE PUNCHED IN THE CEREBRAL CORTEX AND LEAVE A FILM STILL THINKING. THIS IS ART!

I was granted unlimited access to the behind the scenes making of this movie and shot an HOUR LONG documentary which is featured on the DVD. I made my OWN movie to go along with the feature film. THIS IS A BIG DEAL FOR ME! THIS IS MY ARTWORK, the ARTWORK I CHOOSE to do in this world! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE!!!! COULD YOU PLEASE SUPPORT ME AND PURCHASE A DVD SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO MAKE FILMS THAT DON’T COW-TOE TO THE MAINSTREAM WHETHER YOU WANT TO WATCH THE CONTENT OR NOT?! At the very least, my contribution/behind the scenes documentary  will show you that hard work, dedication, sweat, sacrifice, and the amazing people who go after their dreams and attain what should be unattainable by shear force of never giving in is a sight to see……And we have FUN doing it.

PLEASE SUPPORT ME. I DO NOT have the $$$$$ for advertising and I need to feel like what I am doing is not being ignored. If my friENDs and FAMILY don’t want any part of my achievement, then WHY would someone who doesn’t know me care either? THIS IS WHAT I’VE DONE WITH MY LIFE.

Very Sincerely, Shane Tea French

BUY THE DVD: http://channelmidnight.com/


A Clockwork Sleigh Bells

July 28, 2010

I could never be a reviewer of films or music. I have a great deal of trouble sitting down to write something negatively about a piece of work. That doesn’t mean that I would write a good review of a bad piece, instead I would prefer to write nothing. I would ultimately only write about the work that I like. Time and energy to write is a precious commodity to me and I don’t want to waste it on negativity. I do, however, appreciate a good conversational debate and will gladly discuss my disappointments face to face (or through the occasional 140 character “tweet”).

With that being said my disappointment with Sleigh Bells’ “live” show that I attended at Boston’s Royale last week (where they played with Die Antwoord) has weighed on me heavily enough that I have to write about it. It wasn’t that the performance was “bad” outright, if that was the case I would have forgotten about it and felt no need to rant. Instead it was my disappointment that Sleigh Bells have so much potential to put on an amazing show and it felt squandered. Sleigh Bells’ debut CD “Treats” has been on heavy rotation in my life since it was released a few months ago. I like their tunes, my favorite tracks are “Tell ‘em”, “Treats”, “Infinity Guitars”, I can do without “A/B Machines” but overall it’s really, really good, full of energy, motivation and inspiration inducing. In fact listening to it in my car during my daily commute I’ve envisioned a conceptual, non-linear, short-film, full album music video that I would love to make. Bottom line is I really like what they do.

In a prefatory note to A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music, Anthony Burgess wrote that the title “A Clockwork Orange” is a metaphor for “…an organic entity, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odour, being turned into an automaton.” Unfortunately, that’s ultimately what Sleigh Bells’ “live” show is. For those not aware, Sleigh Bells is “noise pop” duo Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss. Miller composed and recorded all of Sleigh Bells’ music and Krauss does all of the vocals. Sleigh Bells’ music is loud, densely layered guitars, drums, tambourines, sirens, backing vocals and samples. For their live shows Miller plays the lead guitar parts of the songs and Krauss handles lead vocals. All other instrumentation is handled by a pre-recorded background track. Essentially, in basest terms Miller and Krauss play along with the CD.

Which is the root of my disappointment in their “live” show. When I see a live band play I expect and hope to be able to see and hear something that is different, more organic and unpredictable than what I hear when I play songs on my iPod, that is, to me, the point of seeing live music. The Sleigh Bells’ live performance is held captive by the uncompromising timing of the backing track. When the pre-recorded song ends, THE SONG ENDS. There is no room for fluctuation or improvisation or extending or variations. For example, during their last song of the night Alexis Krauss dove in and was crowd surfing. The crowd was going wild! The music was pumping, Miller was jamming on guitar and then… it ended. Period. Silence. That was it. Krauss was left stranded in the middle of the crowd, with no music to accompany her ride back to the stage. It’s really an unfortunate situation because Krauss clearly has the stage presence and energy to command a killer live show, instead she’s a slave to the pre-recorded backing track (in actuality the backing track is about 90% of the song, Miller’s guitar is about 5% and Krauss’s live lead vocals the other 5%). She also falls prey to having to compete with her own previously, perfectly recorded backing vocals, which makes her live vocals sound poor by comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Krauss has a great voice for the genre but competing against herself just isn’t a fair fight, and makes her sound worse than she should, by comparison. At least we know she isn’t lip-syncing, but if most of the music is pre-recorded anyway, would it really matter? Could someone really, legitimately complain that she was lip-syncing, but be okay with a previously recorded background music track?

During the show I had occasion to think about ways Sleigh Bells’ could improve upon what I was experiencing.

Touring Musicians: The conventional approach would be to hire musicians for support during the tour. I understand that Sleigh Bells are a new band and might not have the funds to hire a pack of touring musicians to support them. Make no mistake, they will need to at some point or risk simply being a loud karaoke show. Nine Inch Nails did it, Ministry did it, Sleigh Bells will have to also. At this point, there may be a few ways around outright hiring.

On-Stage DJ: Put a DJ on stage with all of the elements at his/her finger tips. This would allow the songs to organically move with the show. When Krauss is out crowd surfing the song could continue until she gets back to the stage. If Miller plays a solo the elements could be adjusted, and so on. Of course Miller might be wary about letting someone twiddle with his compositions.

Fan Support: Sleigh Bells’ songs are very heavy on the percussion side of the spectrum, what if they selected 10 fans attending the show to come on stage and handle percussion duties. Fans that know the songs would certainly be able to drum, tambourine and jingle bells. That kind of interactivity could be pretty awesome. Or Fans (or local musicians) could sign up on-line ahead of time and “audition” to join the band on stage when Sleigh Bells play their town. I’m sure there are plenty of fans that would jump at that opportunity.

Sleigh Bells’ well-deserved hype went into overdrive last year when they blew audiences (and reporters and critics and everyone else) away with their live show during the CMJ Music Festival in Brooklyn. It is easy to understand how seeing them in a cramped venue in Brooklyn before hearing any of their music could be a transcendental experience. For them to bring that experience to larger venues and bigger audiences they are going to need to expand their live show to become something more than a reordering of pre-recorded tracks from the CD played loud. I truly hope the hype and popularity of this band continues to rise so that they have the opportunity to grow. I know I’m looking forward to seeing their evolution and will be sure to catch them every time they’re in town.

I should make sure to point out that my wife, Kim, was very reluctant to go to the show but I dragged her anyway. About 15 seconds into the first song she was enthralled and energized by Sleigh Bells. Kim is generally not a fan of female vocalists but Krauss’ energy and stage presence won her over immediately and her new-found fandom was reinforced when she had the opportunity to meet the very charming singer at the merch table while Die Antwoord finished up their set.

House of Usher Update.

July 15, 2010

Some of you may have noticed that William Beckett has removed his blog post mentioning “The Fall of the House of Usher”. And that the Kickstarter Campaign associated with the project has been cancelled. Not to worry, the project is still on but I’ll let William explain:

“Due to the overwhelmingly positive response received after announcing Nathan Wrann’s new short film adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, those involved in production have decided to take the method of funding in a different direction.  I’d like to thank everyone on here that made contributions and showed support, and I will be keeping you in the loop regarding updates and events connected with the project.  My involvement in the film has not changed, and I am as excited as ever to be a part of this.  A lot of exciting things are on the horizon for the film, so stay tuned!” -William Beckett

Please stay in touch with us by either joining the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fall-of-the-House-of-Usher/140579825955524 or join the mailing list at http://www.thefallofthehouseofusher.com

Hello, I’m Henry.

March 30, 2010

Once again Bad Lit finds the coolest damn videos.

In Mike Everleth’s latest post he writes about a screening of Nosferatu (1922) at an upcoming film fest. The twist is that the silent film will be accompanied by a live dj (from Evolution Control Committee) spinning vinyl soundtracks from other movies. Mike writes up a more in depth description (complete with date and time) and embeds a sampling of the movie with the soundtrack that you should check out here. Although I have to say that some of the music is a little too on-the-nose (the James Bond theme from Dr. No as Harker escapes out a window using sheets) it is, ultimately, a really neat idea.

Coincidentally I was thinking about ways of enhancing potential screenings of a future project (possibly related to my “Light Reading” post the other day) by having live accompaniment of a minimalist soundtrack. (Potentially subconsciously inspired by the on-stage musicians in Ethan Hawke’s incredible recent Off-Broadway revival of Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of The Mind“?)

You might hear more about this later.

Nosferatu (1922)

“You Might Have Noticed”

February 8, 2010

Brand new interview with me up at Colonel’s Crypt

Check it out if you have 20 minutes to spare (I’m typically long winded).

The Spirit of Pure Disaster

February 7, 2010

Last night I went to Never Ending Books in New Haven, CT, to see acoustic singer-songwriter, folk-noirist and friend Shandy Lawson play his penultimate solo show. Shandy’s set was a great mix of tunes alternating between somber songs about death and upbeat songs about death. I’ve been a fan of his for about ten years now and his songs have been a great influence on my recent projects (especially Burning Inside) not only in the subject matter (one of his songs in particular I want to adapt to the ‘big screen’) but also stylistically in the way that he tells dark stories about not-so-bigger-than-life characters.

It’s a dreadful march as we approach his final solo show, his annual “Songs From the Sofa” birthday performance, March 26th at Books & Co in Hamden, CT. After that date his guitar and voice will be gone and missed from the singer-songwriter music scene. Fortunately we can continue to listen to his recordings, but any lover of live music will agree, it’s just not the same. I urge anyone in the Hamden, CT area to check out his final show. You won’t be disappointed.

Although he won’t be playing live anymore Shandy won’t simply be disappearing into the ether. He’s a great writer who has turned his attention and dark stylings to writing novels. Hopefully it won’t be long before these are published and begin finding an audience. He’s also formed a non-profit organization to fill a gaping whole in the Volunteer workflow. Volunteer Transport was created to provide assistance to people wanting to travel to perform hands-on volunteer work but were hindered by the cost of transportation to the affected areas. It’s a great and desperately needed service.

If you’re looking for something a little different than what you’re used to, or if you already appreciate singer-songwriter music I recommend that you check out Shandy Lawson’s work, all of his albums are available on iTUNES.

I highly suggest:

Elias The Blaster

Die Before You Sin

Threads of Jacke Dupree

Shandy Lawson at Never Ending Books 02/06/2010

Shandy Lawson at Never Ending Books 02/06/2010

“I’m sorry I’m not the man with the mega-phone, but this is what I do.”

February 4, 2009

Entertainment round up for the week of January 29th – February 4th 2009.

Movies: 

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist: Kim and I saw this enjoyable little teen romantic comedy in the theater and Kim made sure to buy it when it came out on DVD this Tuesday. It’s a story about a guy and a girl (played by Michael Cera and Kat Dennings) meeting for the first time who spend a night traveling around NYC in his Yugo looking for a super-cool indie band called “Where’s Fluffy” (A reference to Metallica’s “Breadfan” cover maybe?). Exes, gay band mates and the travails of a disgusting piece of gum all figure in along the way, eventually the young duo realize that they’re perfect for each other. If I go into too much analysis of this flick it might lose some of its charm (Like how Norah’s character arc is reliant upon her walking away from her boyfriend who isn’t really her boyfriend, who is so obviously a real dick it’s amazing that we’re supposed to believe that there might be a reason that she’s with him.) So I won’t analyze it. The movie succeeds most when it is sweet, fun and genuinely awkward (Michael Cera has a deep well to draw from). Where it most obviously lacks is the (thankfully few) Juno-esque passages of dialogue and when it tries to get too “deep” like when Thom tries to explain what “it’s all about” by using The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” for reference, or when Norah mentions her favorite aspect of Judaism. Overall It’s worth a watch, but don’t expect it to change your life. The movie was very effective at making NYC a character involved in the story and really made me miss the city, it’s been far too long since my last trip in. I wonder how people that don’t live near NY react to it. Do they think the portrayal of the city is bullshit or do they believe in the representation?

Across The Universe: Speaking of NYC Nick & Norah… wasn’t the only NY based movie I saw this week. Although Across the Universe isn’t solely set in NY the bulk of it takes place among artists, musicians and anti-war “revolutionaries” during the combustible times of the late 60’s. If you’re not familiar with Across the Universe it’s a musical that tells the story of Jude and Lucy who fall in love during a tumultuous and highly romanticized time in America’s recent history.  The story is advanced and characters deepened by weaving 33 of The Beatles’ songs throughout the picture. Julie Taymor directs this movie musical with her usual flair for visual extravagance, stylized excess and, in places, her usual heavy handedness. Taymor’s rise to prominence began and, really, peaked with her direction of the groundbreaking musical, The Lion King on Broadway. When she moved into feature films she began with Titus, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” arguably the most poorly written and least meaningful of his plays. I say ‘arguably’ because in college I fought to get this play included in our 1998 season. “Titus Andronicus” exists mostly as an excuse for excessive gore with one shocking and disturbing set-piece after another. I lost. Taymor established herself as a very indulgent director who preferred to focus on spectacle rather than true human relationships and conditions. Titus, like blood soaked cotton candy, ultimately leaves the viewer feeling empty. It appears that Taymor considered improving upon this flaw with Universe because at times she attempts to focus on the human relationships at the center of this movie. Instead, she can’t help but to either turn the emotional aspects into big musical numbers (“Let it Be” during the funerals for Jojo’s brother and Daniel) or practically skip past them with a line of dialogue (Max being “messed up”). But it’s unlikely that Taymor wanted to make emotionally deep, realistic small indie films and this movie does have some great things going for it. The integration of The Beatles’ music is spot on and enhances the experience, and that’s really what Across the Universe is, it’s an experience, a very theatrical experience. Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess turn in great performances as Lucy and Jude respectively.  Taymor does a good job of showing the many sides of the “revolutionary” story. And she opens the movie with one of the most beautiful opening shots I’ve seen. Across the Universe is very much a musical, very stylized and very much not for everyone but I enjoyed it. 

Taken: Basically, Taken is an intense thriller about a guy (Liam Neeson) whose daughter (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped in Paris for servitude in the international sex trade. Liam Neeson just happens to be the last person on earth whose daughter you want to kidnap because, as he puts it, he has “a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you” and a nightmare he makes. The Bourne Supremacy does better in the action department but Taken wins in the intensity department, probably because the personal stakes are well established. It’s worth seeing if you don’t mind sitting on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t stop thinking about Natalie Holloway.

 

Music:  

The ASOALS: Caught some excellent local music this week when The ASOALS (American Society Of American Lyricists Society), played at Frank Critelli’s Songs From The Sofa at Books & Co. in Hamden, CT. The ASOALS are a singer/songwriter collective(?) that meet once a month to individually create songs based on a central assigned theme, critique each other and improve upon the creative process overall. The members are Shandy Lawson, James Velvet, The Sawtelles, Eric Parradine, Mike Lasala and Russell Shaddox (who missed the show due to a broken ankle). Good stuff, if you live in the Connecticut area seek these guys out when they’re out and about playing around. It’s good times and great people.

 

That’s it for this week!

 

Jim Sturgess in Across The Universe

Jim Sturgess in Across The Universe

“I know very well what you represent. You represent the idiocy of today. “

January 28, 2009

It’s getting late, these’ll be quick, so here’s my Weekly Entertainment Roundup for 01-22-2009 through 01-28-2009

These are the things that entertained me:

TV: 

Extras: I suddenly found that I liked Ricky Gervais so I went ahead and got the Extras: Season 1 DVDs from Netflix and loved pretty much every minute of it. Extras is a sitcom about  a couple of film and tv extras and the hilarious hijinks that ensue when they dig themselves into a hole with their (usually) accidentally inappropriate conduct. And nobody digs themselves into a hole better than Andy (Gervais) and Maggie (Ashley Jenson) and when they do manage to pull themselves out of it it’s usually in the most awkward way. It’s so funny it’ll make you cringe. It made Kim cringe so much she had to leave the room. Great stuff. Can’t wait to see season two.

God, The Universe and Everything Else: A made for TV roundtable discussion of exactly what the title says. Want a full on discussion about it, check out my previous blog.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff sitting in my DVR now that I’m looking forward to getting around to watching, including: Fringe, Lost, Numbers, Burn Notice and a few I probably forgot.

Movies

Without a Paddle 2: Nature’s Calling: #1) Aside from the title this has nothing to do with Without a Paddle (which I liked). #2) It sucked. We shut it off halfway through. Boring, unfunny, pointless. Skip it. Rent Without a Paddle

Burn After Reading: Absolutely hilarious. Malkovich stole the show in this Coen brothers movie. Joel and Ethan Coen have a tendency to flip flop good and bad movies. One excellent movie followed up by one that is sub-par. After No Country For Old Men was such a smash with the critics and audience as well as the “Academy” (I was on the edge of my seat until the end left me feeling a bit cold) I was expecting this to be one of their duds. I’m pretty sure it performed poorly at the box office and it certainly didn’t seem to get much love. But I gotta wonder, what were people thinking?? Populated with the kooky characters we’ve come to expect in Joel and Ethan Coen’s movies I think this pic was on-par with some of their best, including Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The dialogue was excellent with memorable 1 liners such as: “I thought you might be worried about the security of your shit” and “Whose ass didn’t I kiss!” also “You’re a Mormon, everyone has a drinking problem next to you.”  frankly, there’s too many to list here. The Coens made sure to get top-notch talent to fill out their characters and cast John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins. I had a good laugh with this movie, especially every time Malkovich opened his mouth.

My Best Friend’s Girl: Undoubtedly Dane Cook’s best movie (aside from Waiting). It’s the first time that I’ve seen the “Dane Cook” from his stand-up act actually come through in a flick. He seems comfortable. The story is what it is, no great shakes there but I enjoyed, worth a rental.

Gran Torino:  Clint Eastwood lives up to his Living Legend status with what will probably be his last starring role. This is the second movie he’s directed this year so there probably won’t be any chance of him slowing down there, thankfully. Gran Torino is the story of a hard-ass, old-school American bigot accepting that the Vietnamese moving into his neighborhood are human beings struggling to survive, just like himself. Must see.

Music

Mold Monkies: Kim and I went to see The Mold Monkies play live at the Spring Glen Church in Hamden on Friday night. It was a great show. I had never seen MM play live and they really did rock. plus Russell Shaddox (who helped out on Hunting Season and Burning Inside) sported a really cool limited edition Burning Inside t-shirt. Good fun, great music, Excellent food (pot-luck!) lotsa friends. And the gig also happened to raise a ton of money for Habitat For Humanity!

 

Well that’s about it for this week. The theme in TV/Movie viewing seems to have shifted from horror to misanthropes making fools of themselves. Anyway, I’m not sure what next week has in store but we shall see. 

p.s. I’ll put some links into this when I get a chance.