Archive for the ‘Spike Jonze’ Category

nola3SOUNDTRACK: BECK-The Information (2006).

infoAfter Guero, Beck released Guerolito, a remix album.  I’ve basically given up on remix albums, so I don’t know anything about that one.

His next proper album was The Information which I have recently read was recorded at the same time as Guero. I remember when it came out that it had a whole bunch of stickers that you could put all over the cover (which was made like graph paper) so that each cover could be personalized.  Sadly I remembered that more than the music.  I hadn’t listened to the album in a long time either.  So when I played it the other day, after the first song I was afraid I didn’t remember any of it.

And even after a few listens, that first song, “Elevator Music” just never grabbed me.  Then came “Think I’m in Love” which was a reasonably big hit (surprisingly, not the first single from the album).  It’s what you expect from Beck–a cool bassline, catchy vocals and a great melody.  This one is a mid-paced song, but the chorus has a lot of bounce.  The next song, “Cellphone’s Dead” sounds a bit like “Hell Yes” with that watery staccato funky bass.  It’s definitely a fun song, and there’s a “sample” that I have to wonder if it’s not a sample at all–a neat idea to have something that sounds like sample but actually not be one).

“Strange Apparition” is a folkie song.  And this is the first song which made me realize what’s wrong with the album.  The sound quality of the whole disc is really flat.  It’s very sleek and smooth, so even though there’s some great guitars on this track, it’s the same loudness as the vocals.  And the drums are kind of lost in the mix too, it renders it really bland.  Which is shocking coming from Beck.  It’s also a shame because with a better mix this would be a great song.  Same with “Soldier Jane.”  The bass line is really fun, but it just gets lost in the muddle of everything else–which is not to say it sounds muddied, it’s just all the same.  “Nausea” was the first single from the album and I can see why–it’s funky and bouncy and has a catchy chorus an a cool bass.  But then it slowly dawns that this is basically a slightly less successful version of “Black Tambourine.”

“New Round” sounds pretty different for a Beck song–there’s layered waves of vocals and a lot of different sounds going on, including an interesting piano.  And I want to like it more, but it also seems to get lost in the washes of sound.  “Dark Star” rises above the washes with its slow and sultry sound.  It’s got a very cool 70s bass sound.  I wish there were a few more peaks on the song, but then it probably wouldn’t be so spacey.  “We Dance Alone” has some great sounds as well–again, that bass is very cool, but it just feels too smooth.

“No Complaints” brings back Beck’s old slightly out of tune guitar sound.  It stands out in this muddy middle of the album and is definitely a highlight.  “1000 BPM” is one of Beck’s weird skittery songs. There’s wild sounds and a seemingly improvised rap.  This would have probably sounded great on Odelay, but it feels odd to me here.  “Motorcade” has more acoustic guitar but by the time the chorus comes in, the only melody is on Beck’s vocals, while the strange music is almost a distraction from the melody.  There’s some cool sounds in “The Information” which is certainly an enjoyable song (and a lengthy end section of weird trippy vocals that foreshadows the very long bonus track).  “Movie Theme” opens with keyboards.  It’s nice, but just sort of meandering.

Which leads to the 10 minute final track “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton.”  This is sort of a recap of the whole album, with samples from different songs, long drawn out instrumental passages and dialogue.  There’s some interesting riffs, especially in the middle section (about 3 minutes in).  The third section of the song is dialogue between Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze, talking about space and other things.  One wonders where Beck got this or if he just asked them to talk for the record.  It’s a weird ending and feels like a bonus track but actually isn’t.

There’s a bonus version of the disc which I do not have.  It has some more songs and a DVD.

So overall this is the first Beck CD that I just didn’t love, especially coming on the heels of the excellent Guero. There’s definitely some good songs here, I just want it to be crisper.

[READ: March 14, 2014] Nolas’ Worlds #3

Nola’s World concludes with this book, which was also translated by Erica Olson Jeffrey and Carol Klio Burrell.

I loved the first two books of this series quiet a lot, but felt like the third one fell a little flat.  The ending felt like it was solved too quickly especially after the hugely lengthy set up.

The first nearly 50 pages are all a way to lead up to the ferrets finally meeting Damiano and Ines (with the inevitable we-can’t-tell-you-everything delays.  Then we finally get the explanation that Alta Donna is a town between the Human World and the Land of Stories.  Since Damiano and Ines escaped from the Land of Stories, they have messed everything up.  We learn all about how the ferrets control Alta Donna (the details of this are quite neat).

But the big thing missing from all of this is Pumpkin.  And Nola knows it, too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: President Obama reading Where the Wild Things Are (2009).

A President who is literate!

Apparently my video won’t fit here unless I space this section out better.

I don’t really have anything to say, except that I enjoyed hearing him read this.

And it’s fun to watch the Secret Service pretend to be invisible.

One more line should do the trick.

See the video here.

[READ: August 24, 2011] Wild Things

Okay, so this is a novel.  It is based on Where the Wild Things Are, the film by Spike Jonze and Where the Wild Things Are, the book by Maurice Sendak.  Obviously, Sendak’s book came first.  But, it’s only got about 60 words in it.  So, how do you make a film based on it?  Eggers and Jonze worked together for a long time to craft a screenplay and then (as Egger’s Acknowledgments explain) Jonze more or less took over the film and Eggers went off to write this book.

Hence, the book is fully titled:

The Wild Things: A Novel by Dave Eggers Adapted from the Illustrated Book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak and Based on the Screenplay “Where the Wild Things Are” co-written by D.E. and Spike Jonze

I had read Egger’s except “Max” that was printed in the New Yorker ages ago and I liked it well enough, but it seemed so much like WTWTA, that I wasn’t sure what the point was (I didn’t realize it was an excerpt and, strangely enough, it’s an excerpt from several sections).  And since I had seen the film not too long ago (and honestly was kind of bored by it) I wasn’t really that excited about reading this.

But since I loved Zeitoun and this fur-covered book has been sitting near my bed for a couple of years now, I decided it was time.  And I really enjoyed it.

Well, here’s the thing.  This book is not a novelization of the film.  You notice that right away because the first chapter (which is awesome) is not in the film at all.  In it, Max rides his bike to his neighbor’s house.  His friend is not home but his mother is and when she sees Max all by himself and on his bike without a helmet she freaks out (even though they live about four houses apart).  His reaction and her overreactions are really very funny.

There are scenes from the movie in the book, of course.  It is adapted after all.  Indeed, it is more or less the same as the book, but there are many scenes which Eggers has added that really help to flesh out the story and give depth to everyone involved.  As a matter of fact, Max doesn’t reach the Wild Things’ Island until page 100 (out of 285 pages). (more…)

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[WATCHED: September 5, 2010] I’m Here

I’m Here is the new short film that Spike Jonze directed.  (You can read more about the story behind the film at my post about the accompanying book There Are Many Of Us.) And you can see the whole film and much more at the official site.

The film is 30 minutes long and it is surprisingly touching.  Surprisingly especially because the main characters are robots.  The robots are wonderfully designed (they’re not animated, they are people with plastic coverings and fantastic heads–the main male robot’s head is made from an old Macintosh computer).  I assume there is CGI for the mouths (they look too fluid to be anything else), but the rest of the movie is very old school.

As the film opens, we see Sheldon, who works in a library (as a shelver) who seems content and who seems to be making the best of things.  The other robots that we see live in what seems like a kind of narcotic state (plugging themselves in to recharge at night).  One morning, while he’s waiting for the bus (because robots can’t drive), he sees a robot driving a car.  She is a beautiful robot, and we see them share a moment across the busy street.  And since this is short film, you know they are destined to be together.

The robots share tender moments (their substitute for kissing is very sweet) as well as rocking moments (they go to a Lost Trees concert together).  We get to see a bit of their inner lives as well.  And the two form an intense bond.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Soundtrack to “I’m Here” (2010).

This soundtrack comes with the book mentioned above and below.  It is the soundtrack to the film “I’m Here” which also comes with the book mentioned above and below.

I haven’t watched the film yet, so I don’t know how well the music works.  But the book explains how many of these songs came to be in the film.  And the organic nature of the compositions sounds like they are very suitable.

The first track (and “theme” of the movie is by Aska & The Lost Trees.  The Lost Trees are a factious band made up for the film.  Aska wrote the song (and there’s sheet music for it in the book).  She has a second song called “Y.O.U.” later on the soundtrack.  It’s a synthy dreamy song.

Gui Borrato’s “Beautiful Life” is an 8 minute techno song.  It seems like an instrumental, but there are eventually lyrics.  And it is rather catchy.

Then there’s a number of bands who I have heard of but don’t know these songs: Sleigh Bells: “A/B Machines” (which is on their debut Treats–a loudly mixed, increasingly noisier and noisier dance track, which is strangely addictive); Animal Collective: “Did You See The Worlds” (which is on Feels and gets better with each listen); Girls: “Hellhole Ratrace” (which is on their debut Album and which sounds like a distortion-free Jesus and Mary Chain) and Of Montreal who remixed “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” from Hissing Fauna… so that The Lost Trees could “cover” it in the film.  I don’t know the original but this has punky abandon and distortion and rocks pretty hard.

The final two tracks are by Sam Spiegel: “Lonesome Robot Theme” and “There Are Many of Us (Electric Dream Reprise).”  They are both slow keyboard washes–delicate songs that close the disc nicely.

It’s an enjoyable soundtrack, a little heavy on the electronics–which makes sense for a movie  about robots, right?

[READ: September 2, 2010] There Are Many of Us

[UPDATE: September 6, 2010] Just watched the film….  Reading the book first will definitely lessen the emotional impact of the film.  So, be sure to watch the DVD, then read the  book.

This book came the other day in the mail as part of my McSweeney’s Book Club.  It’s funny to get a book that is a companion piece to a film you’ve never heard of and which you will likely never see.  And that’s why it’s great that the book includes the film on DVD!  (Along with several bonus features).

I really enjoy short films. And that’s why I like the Wholphin Series as well as the DVDs of Academy Award winning shorts.  I only wish there was more access to them.   I mean, frankly, where would I ever be able to see this film but here?

As I write this I haven’t had the chance to watch the film, so maybe it’s awful.  But I have liked everything that Spike Jonze has done, so I don’t expect to be disappointed.

The stills in the book are fantastic, and the robots look incredibly lifelike.  I’m not sure if it’s better to read the book or watch the film first.  The book doesn’t really give much away about the story (except that it says that the film is inspired by The Giving Tree).  And whether or not I should have watched the film first, the book has me really excited to watch the film soon. (more…)

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nyorkerSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-TV Shit (1993).

tvshitThis is a funny little addition to the SY catalog. It is essentially four covers of a song by Youth Brigade called “No Song II” (which is from Dischord records, Possible EP here).

The original song is one second long, with the band shouting “No”

So, covers of it are obviously absurd.  There are 4 tracks in total on the disc, the last two are each over three minutes long (!)

The band is in full noise/freak out ensemble, complete with maniacal screamer/lunatic  Yamatsuka Eye from the Boredoms (and elsewhere).

Obviously it’s a bit of fun, and little more. It’s only for super-die-hard fans or anyone who might like the Boredoms-style of noise rock.

[READ, August 18, 2009] “Max at Sea”

Since I just finished Eggers’ How We Are Hungry, I was delighted to find a new story by him in the New Yorker. The picture next to it looks like a still from the upcoming film of Where the Wild Things Are (Eggers cowrote the screenplay). So, when the story started and Max put on a bear costume, I thought, huh, that seems very familiar.

As the story progressed, well, it seemed really really familiar. Now, I admit I don’t know Where the Wild Things Are by heart, but I sure recognized a lot of it. And then I confirmed with Sarah that indeed, this short story IS the story of Where the Wild Things Are. Eggers has fleshed it out (presumably for the screenplay) and added some details and things, but the whole plot of the story is Maurice Sendak’s.

And I’m not sure how I feel about releasing it as a short story. It is acknowledged in the Eggers bio in the front of the magazine that it does come from Sendak’s work, but somehow it seems wrong to take up a fiction spot in the New Yorker (that most venerable of fiction locations) with a story that is a retelling of someone else’s story. (more…)

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wholphinThis is a periodical I haven’t mentioned before.  Wholphin is a “DVD Magazine of Rare and Unseen Short Films.”  So yes, the reason I hadn’t mentioned it is because it is a DVD and not a book.  However, as I have been watching Vols 1-8 over the last few months, I have noticed that a few writerly names keep cropping up in the credits.  Plus, it’s got that whole McSweeney’s connection.

So lets look at some of the folks who have turned up on these videos:

  • Spike Jonze with an amazing documentary about Al Gore (that will make you weep all over again about the 2000 election).
  • Miranda July with a short film.
  • David O. Russell (with a post-Three Kings documentary).
  • Bob Odenkirk has several entries on several DVDs
  • A short film by Taika Waititi who did the crazy New Zealand film Eagle vs Shark.
  • There’s a Japanese version of Bewitched with bonus subtitles by Daniel Handler (among others).
  • Daniel Handler also “revoices” a short film Darling Darling starring Michael Cera and a horse-headed man. (John Cleese does another “revoicing”).
  • Michael Chabon’s short story “House Hunting” adapted as a film (starring Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel).
  • Evany Thomas (and others) rescripted the subtitles to Schastlivy Vmeste the Russian Married…With Children.  And hers is extremely enjoyable.  She gives up on the show about ten minutes in and then just starts riffing on all manner of things.  I laughed harder at this than I had any right to.
  • “New Boy” is adapted from a Roddy Doyle short story.
  • “Love You More” an adaptation of the short story “Peter Shelly” by Patrick Marber.
  • “The Discipline of De” is adapted from a William S. Burroughs short story.

There is also (from Vol #1) my favorite short deliciousfilm possibly ever by Scott Prendergast called “The Delicious” which you can watch, and I encourage you to, here.

Although “Stairway at St. Paul” is also awesome, and that’s available here.)

There’s also “Heavy Metal Jr.” a great documentary of a metal band made up of pre-teens–available here.

Oh wait, and there’s an amazing documentary about Rubik’s Cube that will blow your mind (if you haven’t played with a cube in a decade), called “Piece by Piece.”

Oh yeah, and “Sour Death Balls” is hilarious and available here.

Even though these films are available online, it would be best to purchase the DVDs from here at http://www.wholphindvd.com.  There’s even a Best of, which features most of the films I mentioned above.  In fact, you should just subscribe, because that will guarantee that they keep releasing these gems on video.

In addition to the random assortment above there are international animations, short nature films, 45 minutes movies, and everything in between.  It’s a wonderful way to see short films that you never knew existed.

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