Casual Evangelist

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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

“Before the Music Dies”

Posted by Andrew on February 15, 2008

Sometimes, when I’m determined to veg out in front of the tube, I wind up “surfing” TiVo – checking out what’s coming up over the next week or so on a handful of channels I like. This is how I discovered “Before the Music Dies” by filmmaker Andrew Shapter. Not unlike to how I discover music.

On its surface, “Dies” is a doc about the tribulations of the music industry over the last decade or so. Something we’re all at least vaguely familiar about. Consolidation. Napster. Wilco and its label(s). Metalica and its fans. Britney. Cratering sales.

But “Dies” goes deeper, painting a picture of the Western music *world* and the schism that’s currently in full swing. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a major disconnect in music right now between Wall Street and actual music as an art form. One sells, one doesn’t. Which is which? You might be surprised.

There’s always been beautiful people playing music, but music always took the lead. But now, with video, pop culture worship, and technology that can turn any vocalist into a perfect-pitch siren, image has taken over. “Dies” hilariously demonstrates hit creation using a gifted songwriter, a model who can’t sing, and computer wizardry that produces pure candy that fits right into radio or MTV.

“Dies” peeks into focus-group testing, *Artist and Repertoire*, and commerce. It explores why great artists don’t “cut” it (sell hits), how country music can be “too country,” and what it means to be a “band.” Would Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and U2 have made it today? What does the Internet and file-sharing really mean? What happens when the artist takes control of their business?

You see, corporations are throwing good money after bad, and they’re running out of money. But there’s a lot of success to be had in the biz with really good music. And success can mean a lot more than just money.

Heart matters. Improvisation is exciting.

“Dies” includes great live footage of Doyle Bramhall with Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews Band, Calexico, The North Mississippi Allstars, and Erykah Badu.

“Before the Music Dies” is playing on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) on Wednesday, February 20. Record it and watch it.


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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

Posted by Andrew on January 27, 2008

I had no clue as to what The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was about when I sat down in the theater, but it soon became obvious…and very uncomfortable. The movie is told from the point of view of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a high-flying editor of Elle magazine, after suffering from a stroke that resulted in head-to-toe paralysis – something called locked-in syndrome.

Full paralysis has always been one of the scariest conditions I can imagine. I look away if a football player is down on the field, not moving. Stories of paralysis, whether about celebrities like Christopher Reeve or our troops in Walter Reed, grip me with imagination – the kind of imagination I wish I didn’t have.

The Diving Bell’s perspective puts you right there, and it’s awful. Brief flashbacks of a full, vibrant existence give way to claustrophobia and terror. You wince as one eye is sewn shut. You ask yourself how long it will take to go crazy listening to the alphabet repeated over and over, albeit in pleasant female voices. One blink yes, two blinks no. And please, keep the damn television on!

What this movie really is about though, is life, relationships, determination, and communication. And humor. It is at first Bauby’s quick-witted, sarcastic humor that lifts this movie beyond the immediately terrible and elicits feelings of admiration. The determination of those who work with him (sans that evil doctor) is inspiring, as is Bauby’s determination to complete a book, one letter at a time.

The actors are fantastic, notably Mathieu Amalric in the lead role and Max Von Sydow, who nearly steals the movie in a few short scenes as Bauby’s aging father. The uplifting nature of The Diving Bell is always tempered by the reality of the situation, but the overall effect is a powerful one.

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Cloverfield Review

Posted by Andrew on January 19, 2008

Spoiler Alert: If you are intent on wasting your money to see this movie, don’t continue.

Plot: A handful of self-absorbed millennials videoblog about how a 10-story-tall monster demolishing Southern Manhattan is ruining their love lives.

Cinematography: Handheld camcorder style. If you can’t hold the camera steady at a going-away party, you can’t hold it steady when being chased by a bunch of alien crab creatures. Prepare to squint.

Crab Creatures: The writers felt that a 10-story-tall monster wasn’t scary enough. Why not have alien crab creatures sprout from the monster’s skin to add a critical “zombie” element to the movie (with obligatory “bite wound” repercussions)? Zombie movies seem to be hip these days.

The Hiroshima-9/11 Connection. Godzilla was a play on the Japanese’ national “post-nuclear” psyche. Cloverfield’s images play on American’s post 9/11 psyche. Oh, and the lead character was moving to Japan (hence the “going away party”).

What Are They? Who knows…except maybe the federal government. But since the movie is limited strictly to the video blog of the lead characters, we never find out. The quickness with which the army had tanks in position in Manhattan to do battle tells me that the government must be at least somewhat complicit in this awful movie.

The movie clocks in at 80 minutes and feels like 60 minutes.

Conclusion: Shitfield.

I saw the movie with a few social media peeps, including Aaron Brazell, who wrote this review of the movie.

UPDATE #2: As Aaron reminds me, this movie did give us one hell of a term: “Hammerdown Protocol.” I will certainly be using this in business situations in the near future.

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