Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just Chutes And Ladders

It occurs to me that sometimes life just happens. And in a comical sort of way we're all just trying to not be bored all the time. So we find things to worry about. We invent woes for ourselves and make poor decisions just out of that boredom. I was watching Changing Lanes (which I don't hate) and found myself sort of laughing at how many times Sam Jackson and Ben Affleck could have fixed all of their problems... but instead they escalate the negativity because they can't stand to just let it go. I don't mean to make more of a popcorn movie than I should, but there is a pretty solid metaphor on the surface of that flick. At one point Ben says "God puts two people in a bag and shakes it up." Like it's all a game. That's just how he thinks. That's how a lot of us think. Everything's a bit of a game. We play along until it hurts. And then we run home crying saying "it wasn't fair" "they were cheating". But when we don't establish rules for everyone to follow, or when someone finds a way to break those rules without having to take responsibility for their actions, things tend to fall apart.

I like games. I like sitting with some close friends and shooting people on a plasma screen in the comfort of my home, where there are no consequences. If I get into a one on one duel with my roommate and he shoots me in the head with a shotgun I don't come back at him with real life aggression, because it's just a game. I disconnect. I don't feel true pain or hate. But in the real world, in far less extreme situations, people tend to find reasons to hate and spite and be angry. And it gets to me, because I can't stand to watch little bits of nothing turn into extremized hate spats. Sometimes (usually) it's okay to just smile and let things go. It can be easy to get along, if we let it.

I think it's better to talk it out and allow both sides to reflect and understand, than to let things marinate poorly in our minds until they don't resemble the actual facts of a situation. I like getting along.

Life's just Chutes And Ladders:

1. Back In The Day - The Good, The Bad & The Queen
2. I Surrender Dear - Louis Armstrong
3. Faust - Gorillaz
4. Innocence Again - Switchfoot
5. Song For The Fields - Fields
6. One More Cup Of Coffee - Bob Dylan
7. All The Little Pieces - Louis XIV
8. Neukoln - David Bowie
9. Darkness - Third Eye Blind
10. Indra - Thievery Corporation
11. Song For A Friend - Jason Mraz
12. Fake The Aroma - Massive Attack
13. Firefly - Tortoise
14. Volcano - Beck

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LA Extra: Runyon v Fryman

This article is for the new to LA... or anyone just looking for something else to do.

Thanks to sprawl, the average Angeleno spends about a sixth of their day on their ass in traffic (often more). No wonder this state decided Restless Leg Syndrome was an actual ailment... If you live in LA you better be sure to find a regular source of exercise. Luckily, there are options depending on mood and location:
Runyon Canyon is the hotspot. If you're interested in really feeling your walk and not coming home to find you still need to stand up and move about for another hour or two I suggest going here. Now there are a number of different routes you can manage here. There's the easy easy, for beginners. Just walk up the long path and turn around... then come back down. Too easy. Try the regular, walking down the path to your right, turn left and follow the dusty trail up the side of a mountain and up the stairs. That guy can be fun. And you can always mix it up at the turn around.  But my personal favorite is the hard hard, for experienced mountain goats interested in a quick endurance test. Once you pass the gate, immediately turn left up the side of a mountain. This is only a path because people have walked it so many times. Make your way up and up and up... there are about five humps as big as the single hump on the regular side, but without stairs. Then choose your way back. You can even turn around and manage those five humps back down which can be a lot of fun. That's how I like to do it. Just make sure you come with shoes that can grip... trust me, you don't want to slip.
Fryman Canyon, on the other hand, is casual. If you want a workout here, you've gotta make it up yourself. Sprint if you can. Or maybe just come here if you have a dog, though Runyon can suffice just as well (if not better). It's nice for a quick stroll, and has a great deal more greenery and excess trails to enjoy. The biggest plus about Fryman is the lack of traffic. Though, if you like pretty sights (Ladies and Cities) I suggest Runyon. The options are far superior there.

So again, if parking is a big issue for you, Fryman's a lot easier. But if you want the full experience including a built in workout, hit up Runyon. It's pretty obvious which one I prefer.

Runyon can be found on Franklin a few streets down from Highland in Los Angeles.

Fryman can be found just off Laurel Canyon in Studio City.

I hear there's a track by the La Brea Tar Pits, though I admit I don't have much of an interest in going there. I think it's just for jogging and I'm more interested in the elevation and the view.
Well have fun out there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Favorite Films: Brazil

Brazil is a complex film. It collects themes from the novel 1984 (also the year Brazil came out) and the film 8 1/2, but manages to throw these ideas through a loop and make an insane kind of sense out of them. I'd be remiss not to mention the absolute brilliance of this film. In fact, one could argue its poignancy comes from a recognition of the current state of things... this feeling has carried on into nearly four decades already. More than thirty years of honest correlation to current events in the world around us. Now that's a movie worth noting!

At this most recent screening (my third time ever watching) of the film (at New Beverly Cinema) there was presented a note from Terry Gilliam, the man behind the madness. In it he stated, (and I'm paraphrasing here) "It's a shame George Bush and Dick Cheney have left office, as I was in the process of filing a law suit against this particular presidency for the unabashed, illegal remake of my film, Brazil." And if you watch the flick, you'll see what he meant. Now this is all in jest, but it almost seems frightening to see some of the parallels between the world of Central Services and the current state of our country... and other countries around the world. I mean, how hard is it to get the government to do something?

*And I'm a fan of the current administration.*

But politics aside, this movie is beautiful in scope, camera work, design, performance, score... basically anything you can think of to make a film perfect. Jonathan Pryce, as Sam Lowry, is superb. Robert De Niro as Tuttle is one of the more surprisingly fun roles I can recall seeing him perform. And with a supporting cast like Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins (that's right Ian Holm and Bob Hoskins featured in the same movie!! Brain! exploding! now!), and Michael Palin who could ask for anything more?
If ever a dream (or nightmare) came to life on screen, it's in Brazil!

The List So Far:
1927 - Metropolis - Fritz Lang
1928 - Steamboat Willie - Ub Iwerks
1931 - M - Fritz Lang
1932 - Tarzan, The Ape Man - W. S. Van Dyke
1933 - King Kong - Merian C. Cooper +
1934 - It Happened One Night - Frank Capra
1957 - Funny Face - Stanley Donen
1984 - Brazil - Terry Gilliam
1986 - Labyrinth - Jim Henson

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Quick Note

I know I ramble a great deal on here. It's difficult to find structure in moments of excitement. And that's basically what this blog is for, when I have to talk about a given thing whether it be in film or life... or whatever topic really gets me going. You know. But mark it now. This year I intend to write posts with more structure. It will be a long process for me as I don't usually plan ahead the things I put on here. But I think it will make a difference. Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope you find it worth your time, I intend to make it so.


Something To Sing About

Yes, yes. I'm thinking about those truly great musicals... the ones you can't get out of your mind.
I've written about Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and Funny Face, Labyrinth, Beauty and the Beast, and mentioned several others in random posts here and there. But I've never really laid out exactly how I feel about the genre as a whole. My love for the musical genre is without bounds. Musicals translate to magic, and it's sad how long we go sometimes without a truly great one to make our hearts kind of burst out with that wonderful song that is just too memorable not to sing.

Okay, that came off a little flamboyant... but one runs that risk when discussing the genre in the first place. I don't care. If someone thinks musicals are prissy, they never had a childhood. Cause more than half the movies I remember from my youth were musical in some way shape or form.

The Disney Renaissance hit at the perfect time for me and my generation. I used to get a new musical every year! Man that would be exciting. So it's sad for me to watch the genre wain and fall away like it seems to do every couple years since Paint Your Wagon
gosh that seems like a terrible idea. I couldn't even get through the thing.

But I don't want to talk about the failures of the genre. I want to talk about it's numerous and unflinching masterpieces. Movies like My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Grease (yes Grease!), Top Hat, and Singin' In The Rain to name a few.

My Favorites:

Funny Face


Little Shop Of Horrors
I prefer it to the stage version. It's so charming and it's probably responsible for my entire childhood. Alan Menken wrote the music and was quickly pulled into the Disney system where he then cranked out hit after hit: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Pocahontas.

But he didn't do my personal favorite of the Disney flicks...

The Lion King
You know it. We all love it. It's magical. It opens with tragedy. And so what if it's a glorified animal version of Hamlet? That's actually really damn cool!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
More fun than most movies I can think of... and a serious twist on what the genre is capable of.

Earth Girls Are Easy
Yes it's a musical! And it's so damn fun to watch.

So powerful and yet so... it's almost not even a musical... but it is... Thanks Fosse. Thanks for being a friend and giving us something even better...

All That Jazz
So painful and wonderful and intriguing all at the same time.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
is a real influence on my vision of what is good and bad. The movie's not quite as good as the play, but it's still crazy and entertaining.

Living It Up

Buffy the musical... or Once More With Feeling!

I know it's a television episode, but oh so great.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut!

A Goofy Movie

I could honestly spend hours listing these, but I guess I really just want to say, "Watch these movies. I think you will feel the same way that I feel." There's a whole world of magic in movies that is being ignored. It's been proven that musicals can be very very successful... but there's so much preparation. More so I think than studios are used to. And it's hard to get people on board because we no longer have Fred Astaire or a true studio system. Most actors, understandably, want to do many different things, rather than being typecast. But no one who has done a musical recently has been thusly typecast as a musical actor... in fact, I think it's very hard for an actor to be typecast these days. Granted some comedians can't break away from comedy, but musicals can be ANYTHING.

There's no really convincing reason to ignore the genre. It would be nice to see musicals in theaters more than once a year. In the last decade we had Tangled and The Princess And The Frog and Enchanted, Chicago, Moulin Rouge!, a bad Phantom Of The Opera, an apocryphal Rent, a sadly misled Nine, and The Producers (which I personally like, against popular opinion). Maybe a few more, but those are honestly all I can remember from the naughts ('00s).

While it's impossible to return to the lower budget, charm-filled era of the studio system I don't think it's impossible to step back, find a musical that works, and put it together smartly, responsibly, and affectionately. A good musical is a beautiful thing. We can watch it over and over again because there is so much to enjoy. In the right hands, good music, good actors, good writing, good choreography can brighten our day like nothing else. Broadway's still alive. But it's seriously drained. I'd love to see a future for the musical genre in movies. I already know there's an audience out there. The success of Glee pretty much proves that (though I don't watch the show)...

People want to see musicals. So please give them what they want, Hollywood!!