Monday, April 18, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, looking at, watching?

More R. Crumb
The NYTimes has an account of the artist's recent appearance and q/a at the New York Public Library.

Worst moment in lyric-writing ever?
At least the worst one that nevertheless can get stuck in my head in a seemingly endless loop.
"My heart's on fire-uh, for Elvi-ra"
An Oak Ridge Boy was being interviewed on local TV at 6:30 this morning and even though they didn't play any music, my deranged brain still started playing the damn song and hasn't stopped. I don't know which part of my cortex houses that sort of self-on-self crime (maybe the same that brands Coke), but I wish I could starve it to death sometimes.

Is there a worse moment I'm forgetting? Submissions accepted.

Project Greenlight
Not much to say about the specifics of last episode except that it's difficult to watch. The poor guy is so honest in front of the camera ("I'm not really good with, uh, human interaction."), and lacks some essential communication abilities apparently behind the camera (we don't see as much of this as we do hear people complain about it) that I can imagine his name coming to signify a prototype. This guy's really the Gulager of the bunch. Or even the prestigious verb-form. He Gulagered his way through that presentation.

This episode does highlight for me what must be the essential artistic difficulty in making a studio film. It's not the collaborative aspect, thought that can clearly be the source of trouble; it's the fact that by the time you can actually sample some of the work (like when John finally saw a rough cut of some of the dailies edited together) for pacing and whatever, alot of it is already done. Those scenes are shot and have gone by.

I would think any artist can identify with him when he's having to watch that cut for the first time and feels like a complete failure. It's not his failure at working with other people that has him depressed by episode's end; it's his sense that his work here may in fact stink. There is an inner revulsion that knows this is not what he had in mind. Though hardly an artist myself, it is exactly the feeling I've had upon hearing every piece of music I've ever written performed for the first time on its proper instruments, and all the way through; and, for that matter, the same upon reading for the first time any essay (or even many blog posts!) I've written: a voice that says "how could I have really written those things, in that order, and thought it would make any sense??" At least with music and essays --though I rarely take the kind of proper time with blog posts-- there is time to re-work and edit. That is where the real artistry comes in, in my opinion.

Convincing my composition students to get notes and rhythms down on paper so we can edit them later once we have a sense of the timing and unfolding and effect of it all together would seem to be one of the hardest lessons to learn. They approach writing as if they really should be able to--or indeed have to--make all of the right decisions as they compose. But I don't think I've written anything of substance in any medium that I didn't have to at some point rip apart, rearrange, add to, or delete from--or all of the above.

So, the fact that Gulager was turned off by the first cut of his work tells me that he is his own harshest critic and knows what the timing and look of the finished product should (not) be. And that is the best, most hopeful sign I've seen yet. I'm just not sure how you fix that in a film, now that so many scenes have already been shot. All indication from those involved is that he does find a way.

Attention Marylanders!
And I know there are some of you out there. Elvis Costello is playing a show with Los Lobos' David Hidalgo at the Rams Head on April 24. I would bet this will be a fabulous show. I've been to the Rams Head once before and remember it being quite small. An intimate night with Elvis Costello and the Pick-ups! I expect a full report.

Another positive review for Aimee Mann's "The Forgotten Arm"
This one from Paste Magazine. It's tempered with this strange warning about the concept album:
Mann has time over the course of the record to develop nuance and believability. This freedom is a blessing and a curse: while the emotional payoff of the album proves more satisfying than anything she’s done so far, the individual tracks don’t stand alone as well.
The album's great but the songs are only so-so? I haven't heard it "The Forgotten Arm" yet, but this seems like a nonsense argument.

The Liberal Media
What the hell is wrong with NBC? Revelations? More anti-science religious propaganda masquerading as family entertainment. (free Salon pass -or subscrip.- required). Did anyone watch?

Weekend Box Office

1. The Amityville Horror
2. Sahara
3. Fever Pitch
4. Sin City
5. Guess Who

I didn't expect Sahara to drop off already; I thought the word-of-mouth was pretty decent. On the other hand, have heard nothing but pans for the Amityville remake. Summer blockbusters on the way, including Hitchiker's Guide which opens before the month is up.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Melinda and Melinda ************** (14 out of 19)
I caught the new Woody Allen film over the weekend. It's an interesting idea, exploring the comedic and tragic approaches that can be taken with the same basic story. The funny parts are very funny. But it could have been more ambitious. Will Farrell steals it.

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