March 11, 2013

well, the moon is swimming naked and the summer night is fragrant

photo (7)

I sat in my dark living room, watching Take This Waltz flicker on the screen for the second time in as many days, and I kept alternately thinking of people that I wanted to recommend the film to, and simultaneously chastising myself for wishing such piercing torture on anyone. I know that doesn’t sound like an endorsement. Take This Waltz is easily one of the best, and hardest, movies I’ve seen in years.

I’m fascinated by the concept of liminality, liminal spaces, and liminal relationships in our lives. I love movies (like Lost in Translation, or Before Sunrise) that plumb the complicated depths of those spaces in our lives which are neither one thing nor the other. I feel like maybe the final frontier of maturity is getting more-okay with just sitting with the unknown, and being content in the shifting. At least maybe it just is for me.

Take This Waltz is from whipsmart director Sarah Polley, who is about the same age as I am, with wisdom and insight that wows me. One of the most telling lines in the movie is at the beginning when Michelle Williams’ character tells a handsome stranger on a plane, “I’m afraid of connections,” referring to her time in airports, “…wondering if I am going to make it. I don’t like being in-between things. I’m afraid of being afraid.” “That sounds like the most dangerous thing in the world,” the handsome stranger replies, and then –of course– the rest of the movie is spent smashing apart that fear.

Another line that floored me comes towards the end, and stuck with me like a burr under the skin. It’s spoken by Sarah Silverman’s recovering-alcoholic character: “Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it like some kind of lunatic.” Huh.

So….all that relevant rambling to lead us to this song that the movie teases us with, one that perfectly soundtracks a pivotal scene at a sexy, boozy, humid summer house party, all warmly lit by Chinese lanterns. There’s no official version released, so this is a pieced-together (but eminently listenable) mp3 made by some enterprising blogger, no doubt. SO. TERRIFIC.

Closing Time (Leonard Cohen) – Feist

(the Leonard Cohen original from 1992)

Director Sarah Polley tells the story in an interview of how she tried and tried to get Feist to record this song for the soundtrack, but was not having any luck by the time filming commenced in Toronto. “We were shooting on a street in Little Portugal at two in the morning, this tiny little street, and these two people ride by on a bike, and I hear ‘Sarah!’ And I turn around and it’s Leslie Feist and Howie Beck, and they were on their way to play glow-in-the-dark Frisbee at Trinity Bellwoods park. And I was like, ‘Hi! Do you want to cover Closing Time, like, in the next two days?’ And she was like, ‘Sure!’”

And there we have it.

The final thought on all this stuff that stuck with me after viewing the movie was uncovered in the bonus commentary with Polley. “We live in a culture where we feel like if there’s something missing that means there’s something wrong.” She goes on to reflect, “Happily ever after contains all kinds of messes, but nothing in life fully prepares us for that.” The soundtrack throughout this movie is marvelous, and the film is messy, and so worth a careful viewing. Or two.

May 6, 2010

If you need a friend, then call me over


Last weekend as it snowed on the first weekend of May (and really, Colorado, why not?!) I cozied into Denver’s Esquire Theatre to watch Ben Stiller quirkily emote as Greenberg. I rather liked the film, and kept noticing the quality of the songs throughout. I hadn’t known until afterwards that James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem wrote most of the original songs for the film, and when this song queued up over the closing credits, it instantaneously became my new favorite 1-minute-long song.

As director Noah Baumbach said in a recent interview, “I hired the guy from LCD Soundsystem, and I made him sound like solo Paul McCartney” (or this).

If You Need A Friend – James Murphy

Holy heck, this is going on the “Stomp Clap Mix” that Adrian and I are slowly building.

April 24, 2010

Jónsi, sticks and stones, and flying on the backs of night-black dragons

Last weekend, my charming British friend Paul and I donned those uber-stylish 3D glasses and went to see How To Train Your Dragon, unaccompanied by children of any sort — just two adults at the matinee Sunday showing of an animated 3D film about Vikings (one named “Stoic The Vast,” among other delights), misunderstood youth, and whimsical technicolor dragons that soar and wheel in the sky.

Since my favorite dream will always be the one where I rediscover my latent ability to fly untethered, I was not ashamed to giddily enjoy all the 3D flying sequences on the backs of dragons in this film, over crashing ocean waves and fertile canyons. Speechless at the end, Paul just said it was one of the best movies he’s seen in a long time, and I agreed.

As the credits rolled, my heart flew up and away with the unexpected (but flawlessly placed) music of Sigur Ros frontman Jónsi. It’s a new song called “Sticks and Stones,” and it couldn’t fit the feeling of the film any better.

Sticks and Stones – Jónsi

December 13, 2008

Show some restraint: The Notorious Bettie Page

[Originally posted two years ago – a re-up in honor of Bettie, who died in Los Angeles on Thursday]

Last night we settled in with some popcorn and the usual assortment of riding crops and corsets to watch the latest biopic to catch my eye: The Notorious Bettie Page (Picturehouse/HBO Films, 2006). The prurient among us may know of Bettie Page as the woman once named the “Pin-Up Queen Of The Universe” in the ’50s. She was a model, actress, pin-up girl, and is most often remembered from her (now a bit comical looking) bondage photo shoots. You may also think of her in that tigress outfit, or winking as she trims the Christmas tree in the nude (and who among us hasn’t would be my question).

In any case, I found it be a pretty interesting look at the bravery of her life and the depth her dreams — as well as her rationalization (if you will) for the pictures she took (“I figure God gave me a talent for taking pictures and making people happy. Shouldn’t I use that talent?“). After watching the film, I was curious to know what became of her (she became quite reclusive and mostly vanished from the public eye). Her Wikipedia page had a link to a current picture of her at 80 looking about 55 and still glowing. Not bad Bettie.

The film was written and directed by two women (Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner, who both worked together also on “The L Word” and “American Psycho”), and in the same way that Bunny Yeager‘s photographs of the real Bettie Page brought out some of her best moments, I think that having this movie envisioned through the eyes of females lent it a certain depth that I liked.

Bettie Page’s openness and vitality were conveyed well through the acting of Gretchen Mol. There were some interesting bonus features as well, which showed the making of the movie and some original footage of Page. Gretchen Mol is a blonde in real life. This made we wonder if there were merkins involved (Pearl Jam fans might have some idea what I am talking about. When I mused that question aloud last night, I was so proud of myself for ever getting to use that word in a sentence. I mean really.)

There was a nice femino-centric (new word) soundtrack to this film, with era-appropriate innocence and swing. Here are four notable tracks that I enjoyed. The smoldering Julie London track was the closer to the film and absolutely perfectly placed.

Life’s Railway To Heaven – Patsy Cline

It’s A Good Day – Peggy Lee

Sopa de Pichon – Machito & His Afro-Cubans
(mood music for the Miami photo shoots with Bunny Yeager behind the lens)

Gone With The Wind – Julie London

And here’s the trailer:

September 15, 2006

Brand spankin’ new from Paul Westerberg: Open Season Soundtrack

Paul Westerberg‘s re-entry into the world of film soundtracks is greeted ’round these parts with open arms and happy ears. Following his stellar contributions to the Singles soundtrack (Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film about the music scene and dating life in the Emerald City of Seattle, and one of my favorite soundtracks ever) Westerberg has dusted off his movie-musicmaker and done pretty much the whole soundtrack for the new Sony Pictures animated film Open Season.

I’ve read (possibly exaggerated) accounts that for the movie Singles, Westerberg locked himself in a hotel room and emerged twenty minutes later with the classic track “Dyslexic Heart.” Open Season by comparison took quite a bit longer. Westerberg says, “Singles took about two weeks [total], while Cameron Crowe sat there and sorta encouraged me along . . . This project took two-and-a-half years.”

Thanks to the music elves, I’ve got the new song for ya. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a Friday.

I find the new track very enjoyable – the opening is fantastic vintage Westerberg, with a similar feel to tunes like “Be Bad For Me” or the recent ‘Mats track “Message To The Boys.” The lyrics are admittedly a bit simplistic, but I don’t listen to him to discern the meaning of the universe or anything, so this will do just fine. ‘Mats bassist Tommy Stinson adds background vocals and wields the thunderstick for this song, as well as one other track called “Right To Arm Bears” (ha ha).

Love You In The Fall – Paul Westerberg
(Savefile link, open in a new window)

The soundtrack is out on Lost Highway on Sept 26th, and their website has streaming audio for two other tracks: “Meet Me In The Meadow” and “I Belong” (which Pete Yorn also covers as a reprise on the soundtrack). Also, they actually have a MySpace (hey, who doesn’t these days?) where you can stream these tunes as well as the danceable track “I Wanna Lose Control (Uh Oh),” an original composition by the Sacramento (Calif.) band Deathray. The film also includes the Talking Heads song “Wild, Wild Life” – a tune that I’ve found somehow everyone can sing, despite not really knowing what David Byrne is going on about.

Westerberg worked with a variety of old friends and new ones on this project, recording demos of the songs in his home basement studio, as well as in New Hampshire, Los Angeles, and finally finishing up back in Minneapolis. “So you get a little bit of everything on this one,” he says, “The old band feel but we’ve also got the new buddy feel. And the best part is it all sounds like it came out of the same garage.” The tracks were produced by Westerberg friend & collaborator Kevin Bowe, who has the following to say about the experience: “I hesitate to use the word ‘produce’ because you don’t produce this guy. You press record, duck and pray.”

June 3, 2006

Dun dun, duhdun (that’s the Mission Impossible theme song, don’t ya know)

So I finally got to see Tom Cruise save the world (and his Katie-Holmes-lookalike movie wife) in Mission Impossible 3 last night, and I actually thought it was a quite good effort by J.J. Abrams. Dizzying stunts & cool face-duplicating effects, awesome long-shot cinematography, and whole delicious scenes running amok throughout the Vatican and some awesome halls of art.

Since I can’t just GO to a movie without dissecting the soundtrack, well, you know where this is heading. There is something so good about certain movie theme songs. You kind of forget that you know them, but as soon as they cue up, you realize how deeply embedded in your subconscious they are.

Mission Impossible” (classic) – Lalo Schifrin

Mission Impossible Theme” – U2 (Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton)

It said in the credits that Kanye West and Jon Brion collaborated on one of the versions of the Mission: Impossible theme, but I can’t find it. Anyone know if it is any good? (Not talkin’ the Kanye disaster “Impossible” here).

And there are two others that make me feel like a kid inside whenever I hear them. Didn’t know the same guy did both (and apparently a lot more) until recently:

Raiders of the Lost Ark – Raiders March(aka The Indiana Jones song) – John Williams

Superman Theme” – John Williams

Michael Giacchino was the movie music guy for MI3 and somehow they got hip to that GREAT Black Crowes Christmas single, Back Door Santa, that the Crowes posted on their fanboards this past December. As far as I can tell, it has not been released in any official way, but there it was in the movie, during the engagement party scene (not at Christmastime, but who listens to the lyrics anyways?). I was very pleased, it is a killer swaggering tune:

Back Door Santa” – The Black Crowes

I went to the movie with my Dad, who still likes to take each of us kids out on what we have always called Daddy Dates since the beginning of time. It’s been, sheesh, at least a year or so since we’ve gone on one. As I pulled out of the garage at home, my husband yelled from under the car he is restoring (in a laughing way), “Tell your dad he’d better pay!” He did. Popcorn too, even! The large – no skimping here. If we’re gonna die of coronaries from all the butter, we’re gonna do it together, gosh darn it.

After I dropped my dad back off after the movie and drove off down the street, I smiled to myself and realized that no matter how old you get, there is still something really good about knowing that your Dad loves you.

March 22, 2006

The great Elizabethtown road trip

So I finally got around to watching Elizabethtown. I had been hearing about this ever since, oh, last August, all about how Ryan Adams had a bunch of music in it, blah, blah, blah. And then I remembered in a flash of glee that my Uncle Dave used to be the big impressive principal at E-Town High School (as those of us in-the-know call it), so I was doubly excited.

Turns out my anticipation was for no good reason. The movie is tolerable, its salvation largely being the soundtrack, and also because Cameron Crowe just *knows* how to make a movie. I mean, all the elements are there – adversity of mythic proportions, family illness, quirky relatives, and even a perky love interest who shows no end to the depth of her random comments and bed-a-bility. What’s not to like? Well, the low point for me in the movie = Susan Sarandon tap dancing. Well, most of it was really speedy tap-dancing because it was on fast forward. Holy Moses. Did I mention it was at a memorial service? There was some poignant sighing in the crowd, some tears for the exuberant display of LIFE in the face of DEATH — aaaaand we’re done. No.

While most of the movie was drivel, and even a little annoying (his sister in the film was unworthy of the name Heather because she bugged the crap out of me), the best part of the movie was absolutely the last 20 minutes where lead guy sets out on a roadtrip with many CD mixes made by aforementioned perky love interest girl to accompany his every vista and curve in the road. Also included with the CDs is a heavy-handed and, let’s face it, unrealistic handmade “roadmap”/scrapbook that I kept thinking she would have NO time to make, what with the rigors of flight attending, talking to lead guy on the phone at all hours of the night, painting her toenails, apparently knitting her own hats, and just generally being adorable (which is hard work, let me tell you).

But what this roadtrip was really about for me was the glimpse it offered into the always fascinating musical mind of Cameron Crowe, who undoubtedly is THE best soundtracker in the known world. One reviewer referred to it as “Crowe’s gold-standard back catalog tastes,” and that is exactly what he has. I want to be his friend so we can ride around in his car and listen to his iPod on random. That would be fun.

The best part about the last 20 minutes was not just hearing Crowe’s mixes and feeling the flow, but also seeing what images he chose to juxtapose alongside those songs. It tapped into my unfulfilled dormant desire to have an epic road trip with The Perfect Soundtrack to accompany all the amazing things I was seeing. Like I’ve said before, I wish my life had a soundtrack. This is pretty close. Here are a few gems I enjoyed, either played or mentioned in that poetic and sprawling segment:

That’s Life – James Brown
(first song of the journey – I love how it starts out with the trademark James Brown “Hey!” and then a little “Unh!” and a “One more for the road!“)

Don’t I Hold You – Wheat
(“Some music just needs air. Roll down your windows.”)

Words – Ryan Adams
(right after lead guy drives across the Mississippi and there is a mention of Jeff Buckley. Also notable is the use of ‘English Girls Approximately’ at the Farmer’s Market – I absolutely LOVE that song and was stoked to hear it in a movie)

Sugar Blue – Jeff Finlin
(singin’ about stuff like the “raven’s song that breaks the night” – lovely and rough-sounding)

Salvador Sanchez – Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon
(scrawled in the scrapbook list of songs, but I don’t think it was played in the movie itself?)

Now where are my car keys?

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →