Friday, September 26, 2008

Bromance and the 'Barely Were'

So I know I usually talk about movies, but after immersing myself into the world of Carrie Brownstein's NPR Music blog, Monitor Mix, I would like to spend a minute giving props to NPR and their music coverage.

I have been an on-and-off listener of Bob Boilen's amazing podcast, All Songs Considered, for some time and after Brownstein's appearances on the podcast, I checked her out.
In her entries, she refreshingly connects the music nerd/NPR nerd in her to her daily life and gets non-music buffs to feel welcome. Yes, she name drops like crazy, but her youthful approach is never condescending nor pedagogic.

In a blog, and perhaps in all criticsm, I'm not looking for a teacher, but an expert-of-a-friend to tell me what her/his experienced self thinks about a topic. Knowledge of the subject (and the reader's education) is inherent in the review. If you read her stuff you'll certainly see what I mean. She makes no apologies for her knowledge, dropping obscure or off-the-radar artists at will, yet brings all these references and reviews within a more general, approachable, topic such as iTunes Genius' effect on the playlist or what makes a good cover song.

Maybe for the true Rob Gordon's out there, her blog is not erudite enough, but for someone just delving into the world of music on a serious level, she's a great stepping stone.


And as a side note, I'd really like to push the aforementioned podcast, All Songs Considered, as well. Bob Boilen is a wealth of knowledge on music, and with guests, interviews, and fun topics, this soothing yet truly educational podcast is a great way to learn about new artists. Note- most of the music is of the indie-rock/folk/altrock/eclectic won't find much hip hop, pop, or country here.

Also, Rob Gordon is the fantastically neurotic and music-obsessed character John Cusack plays in High Fidelity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Freshmen Seemed To Like It...
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

While watching Peter Sollett's sophomore release, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, I realized that the Me of five years ago would have loved this film. But alas, the present day version of myself is perhaps too jaded or is finally over the youthful fancy the high school romance genre once brought.

Even after living in New York for over a year now, I'm still excited when places I know and frequent are featured in films, so watching Michael Cera and Kat Dennings run around the East Village, Noho, and the Lower East Side in search of a drunk friend all the while falling for one another was definitely entertaining. But the film just was kind of "blah." It didn't leave me feeling anything in particular at all. Except the wish to be 16 again...almost.

Michael Cera offers his same old thing, but I didn't mind that. It was the directing choices and the story that fell a little flat for me. One slow-mo or dragged out scene of matching eyes is enough in a film, Sollet gave us at least three. Other directorial decisions were due to the rating of PG-13, but the "love scene" was really cheesy and almost unnecessary. Part of a random story-line tacked on in the middle of the plot, the scene is too quick, too predictable, and out of place for the story.

Additionally, as Allie C. pointed out, NYC is a character all its own in the film, and it could hinder the audience's connection with it. With lingo like "Bridge and Tunnel," Sollett stays true to his style we first saw in Raising Victor Vargas - a story of young people in NYC, as heavily connected to their environment as their real-life counterparts actually are.

Recently, this description has come up to describe the CW hit, Gossip Girl, in comparison to its counterpart- the revival of Beverly Hills: 90210. Unlike the latter, Gossip Girl is just as much about the city and its role in characters' lives as it is about the characters themselves. If it works for the show, could Sollett's film reach out to the mid-west too? Doubt it. If it looked more like the fashion magazines, probably. But instead, it refreshingly presents a downtown NYC. One without designer labels.

Just one quick note on the music, which seems appropriate given the title is about a playlist. The musical score is done by Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of Devo and the man behind the music of numerous films and television shows, most notably Wes Anderson's oeuvre. His work is incredible, and while the music highlighted in Nick and Norah is that of bands and mix CDs that bond the characters and jump start the plot, Mothersbaugh's music is a great accompaniment and pleasure to listen to throughout.

All in all, its a cute premise, and has a good cast of younger actors - the oldest main character is 29, most are under 24. There are conventions in the teen romance it certainly bends and plays with, but overall, its wanting. I think more than anything, its wanting a pre-teen audience.