Monday, April 19, 2010

Dear Mr. Neeson. Please Stop Dying.

Liam Neeson. The man you may now see in theaters as Zues (his immortality in this is ironic considering the rest of this article) in the newest version of 'Clash of the Titans'. Not necessarily the biggest name in Hollywood. I mean, he's no Brangelina. Whenever I bring his name up in a conversation with my friends, one out of three (ok, I only have three friends. so what?) won't know who he is. I usually have to name a few movies he is in before they can put a face to the name. Despite this, he is one of my favorite actors. In his youth he had small roles in great movies like "The Mission" and "The Bounty". He also starred in the groundbreaking Spielberg Holocaust movie, "Schindler's List" as Oskar Schindler himself. He played Jean Valjean in a great rendition of 'Les Miserables', with a performance that is sure to move you. But I digress. For the true matter that is at hand is that of his mortality. Sure, we all have to die...once. Mr. Neeson has died an unusual amount of 14 times in film. To make matters worse, he is always very likable. He always plays the mentor, the father-figure of the film. The one who bestows his knowledge on our hero. But then, just as we have accepted him and opened our hearts to him, he is 'Taken'(a little actor humor) from us. We don't know if we can ever trust again. The man is addicted to watching himself die. Here are five ideal examples:


Gangs of New York
A great Scorsese masterpiece. The opening fight scene is one for the books. It is a battle between the rival gangs of that of Daniel Day-Lewis aka The Butcher and Liam Neeson's aka Priest. As Liam Neeson gives wisdom to his son (soon to grow up into Leonardo DiCaprio) he then gives him a final speech before going and dying in battle. Neeson's death becomes the driving force behind the whole movie. And his final words to his son are uttered again and again. "The blood stays on the blade"

Kingdom of Heaven
Lets face it. Orlando Bloom strikes everybody as a sissy. Even with a character as cool as Legolas he was hardly able to step out of his sissyness for it. In 'Troy' Orlando showed us his true colors by causing a whole war just for being a pansy. Yet this post is not about him or his girliness. In 'Kingdom of Heaven', Orlando is living in Europe during the Crusades. He is trying his hardest to be cool by killing someone for beheading his dead wife (amazingly not her cause of death) but still comes off looking like a little biatch. Then riding in comes Baron Godfrey (Liam Neeson) and reveals that he is Orlando's father. Immediately Orlando's cool points go up a few notches. Then a lot of stuff happens which i don't have time to get into. Fast forward to a scene in the woods where Godfrey and his badass knights (although one of them has pigtails. Badass nonetheless) have to defend Orlando from the big bad soldiers coming to arrest him (Orlando is probably in the fetal position pissing himself and wishing he was on the set of 'Pirates'). Godfrey becomes mortally wounded defending his son and then precedes to give one of the best knighting speeches ever given.

"Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath. (SLAPS ORLANDO IN THE FACE) And that's so you remember it. Arise a knight and Baron of Ibelin."

Then he dies. And magically, after being knighted by the coolest mentor figure ever, Orlando goes on to not be as much of a girl as he usually is.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Ok, so here Neeson is played by CGI. He voices Aslan, C.S. Lewis' analogy for The Almighty. He is feared in all the land, everyone stands in awe of his every word/roar, and yes, he dies. He is resurrected, but he still dies. And everyone has to go through the grieving that comes with seeing one of the most beloved characters of all time (voice by one of the most beloved film father-figures of all time) for a few minutes before these news are given to us of his resurrection. By this point it is too late. We are already crying and pretending a piece of dust got in our eye (who cries at a kids move for crying out loud!).

Star Wars: Episode 1
Ah the ultimate mentorship. A Jedi Master and his padawan. He mentors Obi-Wan Kenobi and partially Anakin Skywalker, two of the most pivotal characters of the whole series, and he doesn't even make it past one film. After showing you how cool he looks with long hair and a beard, and how he showed amazing patience and restraint by never melting Jar-Jar Binks' face with his lightsaber after sharing more than a minutes' screentime with him, he goes and dies. This was supposed to be the happy film where Darth Vader doesn't exist yet. Nope, bust out the Kleenex, because Neeson is dead again.

Batman Begins
Still doubting his awesomeness? He also effing trained Batman. Trained him. There would be no Heath Ledger Joker or his sympathy Oscar if it was not for this man. Batman would have not just ceased to be, but never would have been in the first place. Bruce Wayne would have died in that prison where those chinese men kept trying to kill him for no reason (plus let's face it, Christian Bale is one handsome man. He wouldn't have lasted much longer in those showers without having to become someone's property). And how does the ol' Dark Knight repay him? By blowing him up in a friggin train (we told you Christian Bale had a temper...)

Mr. Neeson, please stop playing with our heartstrings. We can't bear to watch you die anymore.

A concerned fan

Oh, and he is cast as Honest Abe in the upcoming Lincoln movie by Spielberg. Let's hope he lives through that one...

Other mentionable deaths by Liam:
Seraphim Falls (a surprisingly great western with Pierce Bronsman)
Michael Collins
High Spirits
The Mission

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Script Reads Him

There is something magical about the Englishman Daniel Day-Lewis. His acting is beyond himself. This is what separates him from the Hollywood litter. When even the most famous actors are playing a role, you see them as the actor first, then the character. For example, in amazing performances like Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, you see Hanks first, then Forrest. Or more recently, Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglorious Basterds, on the screen you still see Brad Pitt first, then Lt. Raine. Part of the fault of that falls on the obsession America has to know the details of every celebrity's personal life (Brangelina anyone?). When you know so much about a person's life, it is hard to separate that knowledge from the performance. Even when that feat is conquered, you still are never really convinced of the transformation. Little is known about Daniel Day-Lewis' personal life because he rarely lets us know it. He lives quietly and modestly in a way that it avoids paparazzi from seeking a scandal. As for the transformation, when Day-Lewis puts on his character, he steps outside of himself, completely separating the ties between the two, and makes you forget Daniel Day-Lewis even exists. A new person is born, and using the shell of Daniel Day-Lewis, he is seen in silver screens across the world.

Selective about his roles, he has even waited 5 years between them which is almost unheard of in Hollywood, the town that easily forgets. Famously known as a method actor, most people do not realize the extent and commitment that this entails. He puts his own health and well-being aside, considering the performance as the priority.

Easily earning his first Academy Award for his performance on "My Left Foot", he portrayed a man who was born with cerebral palsy and could only control his left foot. DDL, at the time not the world renown actor he is today, refused to break character long after the cameras stopped rolling. He stayed in his wheelchair (and hunched over position) and the crew resented him for having to lift him and wheel him around, being annoyed by the dedication. DDL learned of his character's embarrassments and sense of being a burden. This gave him the amazing insight to portray the character as marvelously as he did. Oh, and did I mention he broke two ribs from staying in that hunched position in the wheelchair for so many weeks? He just kept on going. Yeah, that's how much of a badass he is.

For his character Hawkeye in "The Last of the Mohicans", he lived in the woods and did intensive physical training. He actually learned to live off of the land where his character lived. He learned to fish and hunt and skin animals using only the primitive techniques of the Indians. He was never seen without his long rifle with which he literally slept with.

He earned his second Oscar nomination for the film, "In The Name Of The Father" in which he was a political prisoner. He spent weeks living inside of a prison cell and instructed the crew to physically and verbally abuse him. Next he played the iconic John Proctor in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" and even went to meet and learn from Miller himself (marrying Miller's daughter shortly after.)

Still, my favorite performance by the greatest actor alive is his role in Scorcese's "Gangs of New York". Having seen this as a teenager I remember being traumatized by the amount of gruesome gore and violence and remembered little of DDL's performance. After growing up a bit, I decided to revisit one of my childhood traumas only for the sake of DDL. I was heavily rewarded. Playing Bill 'The Butcher', he embodied an American Nationalist in the age of America's formation. A villain with principles and honor. A man you hate but understand and somehow respect (not an easy feat to make us hate you and respect you at the same time). For his performance he spoke in his New York accent on and off the set and took lessons as an apprentice butcher. He even was diagnosed with pneumonia during filming but refused to take treatment because it didn't go along with the time period. This earned him another Academy nod.

His most recent Oscar comes from his performance in "There Will Be Blood" where his research involved finding and studying letters written from wealthy oilmen of the era. He assumed the role of a man much older than himself and added an early American accent along with a snarl and a hunched posture. As the film proceeds you grow to hate his greedy character Daniel Plainview who puts his own greediness in front of his own son's well-being.

This chameleon is a modern treasure. He is able to change his voice and body drastically all for the sake of cinema. Accents from all over the world with impeccable diction. Postures and weight varying from film to film. Robert Downy Jr.'s character on 'Tropic Thunder', Kirk Lazarus, is based on him. And in Kirk's hilarious own words, "Man, I don't drop character 'till I done the DVD commentary" and "I don't read the script. The script reads me". Watching him act is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball or TIger Woods play golf. No one has mastered the craft like he has. Brilliance at its finest. Each second on screen is like watching an artist add another stroke to his masterpiece. Daniel Day-Lewis, we are eagerly anticipating your next move.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

7 Artists You Should Be Listening To

This is a list of my current relatively unknown bands. Some have gotten more exposure than others, but I will not assume anything to make sure you don't miss them. All worth checking out. If you're not convinced to buy the album, go on their myspace page or search them on YouTube to give them a preview. You will not be disappointed.

1. Wild Sweet Orange- Maybe they did hit the big time. I mean, they were on Letterman and "The Land of No Return" was featured on a Grey's Anatomy episode (which sadly is today's equivalent of the 'Big Time'). Yet every time I ask someone if they've heard of this band named after a discontinued tea at Starbucks I usually get the same confused look. I saw them on accident as the opening band. They stole the show. I immediately went online and bought all of their released music and have seen them another 4 times in concert. Their only album, "We Have Cause To Be Uneasy" was my favorite album of 2008. Definitely my most listened to. I have given copies of this album to all of my close friends and anyone who will listen really. They recently broke up temporarily only to come back a year later with some new members (and some old loved ones gone). They released a couple of songs on an album called "The Birmingham Tapes" as a new band. I am eager to see what they will provide for us in the future. Their amazing indie-folk sound and haunting poetic lyrics never gets old.

Download: "The Land of No Return" and "Wrestle With God"

2. The Great Book Of John- This band is a product of the previous one, as it was a side project for two of the members of WSO. But when Wild Sweet Orange broke up, their guitarist and their drummer, Taylor Shaw and Chip Kilpatrick, went full-time with this band with Shaw on lead vocals. They took their name from the Hank Williams song "They Angel Of Death". They ran with Wild Sweet Orange's folk sound and took it to the next level stripping aside most electronics and seeking the pure folk that single-handedly caused a revolution in the 60's. I cannot stop listening to them, and after any of their songs are over I immediately want to hear them again. The symphony of heavy harmonica, violin, dead-on background vocals, acoustic driven folk that makes it's way to your ears is nothing short of bliss. Great build-ups that bring the song to the climax. With a heavy and honest style of songwriting, this is a band that I definitely hope to hear more from.

Download: "Political Song" and "James"

3.Ray LaMontagne: Okay, okay, so he was featured on SNL and is played non-stop at Starbucks' across the nation. This still doesnt mean that you have perked up and taken notice. With a raspy, rough, yet beautiful voice, he wins you over after just a few notes. His energy and sensitivity towards music is unmatched. Watch his performance on SNL.

Download: "Empty"

4. Mumford and Sons-This quartet is relatively new on the music scene. I don't have much to say about them except that they will rock your face off. Their whole "Sigh No More" album is relentless from cover to cover.

Download: "Winter Winds" and "Sigh No More"

5. Delta Spirit-This is music that will make your foot stomp. Their music overtakes your body with an overwhelming feeling to dance. Everything you want from an indie band.

Download: "People C'mon"

6. The Tallest Man On Earth: Although he is actually normal sized, TMOE is a stripped down, straight up, reincarnation of Bobby Dylan. Maybe he will never reach the influence or cause the movement that Bob did, but he definitely has the spark. Another similarity is that his voice is not the easiest on the ears at first, yet it's rawness grows on you. This man is singing you the truth.

Download: "The Blizzard's Never Seen The Dessert Sands"

7. The Avett Brothers- This three man band is banjo-driven. They vocals are clear and precise with a harmony that makes your first listen feel like you have been listening to them for years. Unique in their style, they are like the product of what would happen if country and inde-folk got married.

Download: "Die Die Die" and "The Weight of Lies"

There it is. Give me your feedback on what you thought of the bands suggested on the comments section here.

Noting Feet: I like to give credit where credit is due. Thank you to my brother Emiliano for introducing me to 3 of these bands, Christopher Noerr for challenging me to search for music instead of letting it come to you, and Mat Kearny who had a great major label debut album ('Nothing Left To Lose') through whom by a spider-web of trails I have come across several great artists. (Mat, you're follow-up was mediocre at best).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Movies' Biggest Night

With the Oscars a fortnight away, it's time to start making predictions. Now you may be asking, "Junkie, Oscar nominations have been out for weeks now, why did you wait so long to start making predictions?" and the answer to that is simple. I waited til 2 weeks before the ceremony in order to use the word 'fortnight' in my blog. Don't worry, I'm only gonna predict the good ones...

Visual Effects:
Predicted Winner-Avatar
Deserving Winner-Avatar

The film was too groundbreaking in this area to be otherwise although I do wish Star Trek would have come out a year earlier to have given it the proper chance it deserved.

Animated Film:
Predicted Winner-Up
Deserving Winner-Fantastic Mr. Fox

Pixar's submission to this category was great. It just lacked a "wow" factor that Fox possesed. Amazing stop-motion animation and very original. Fantastic job Mr. Wes Anderson.

Original Score:
Predicted Winner-Avatar
Deserving Winner-Sherlock Holmes

Two words: Hans friggin Zimmer

Original Song:
Predicted Winner-either Randy Newman song
Deserving Winner-The Weary Kind (from Crazy Heart)

The Academy looooooves Randy. Its bad enough that U2 got snubbed for their song "Winter"

Predicted Winner-Avatar (sigh)
Deserving Winner-Inglorious Basterds

The amazing retro look that Quentin pleased our eyes with should not go unrewarded.

Screenplay Written for Screen:
Predicted Winner-Inglorious Basterds
Deserving Winner-Inglorious Basterds

Give Tarantino an Oscar for this movie. Please.

Predicted Winner-Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Deserving Winner- Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)

Supporting Actress:
Predicted Winner-Mo'Nique (Precious)
Deserving Winner-Mo'Nique (Precious)

What's that? You don't watch Oprah so you haven't heard of this movie? No, Precious isn't a Lord Of the Rings Spinoff.

Supporting Actor
Predicted Winner-Christopher Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)
Deserving Winner-Christopher Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)

When an unheard can upstage the great Brad Pitt, it must go rewarded. He will go down in the books as one of Tarantino's greatest characters.

Best Actress:
Predicted Winner-Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)
Deserving Winner-Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

The most nominated actress ever.

Best Actor:
Predicted Winner-George Clooney (Up In The Air)
Deserving Winner-Morgan Freeman (Invictus)

Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. You can't ask for better casting. Although I do wish I could create another category for Jeff Bridges who did a great job.

Predicted Winner-The Hurt Locker
Deserving Winner-probably the Hurt Locker, but who i want to win is Inglorious Basterds.

There ya have it. Place your bets at your office pool. March 7th the Academy is in session. If you didn't catch it from the predictions, i think that Avatar is highly overrated and over-hyped. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will be co-hosting the ceremony. Alec Baldwin I am excited about since he showed us with 30 Rock that he has impeccable comedic timing. Steve Martin on the other hand hasn't come up with a decent flick since 'Bowfinger' in 1999, and his last really great performance was 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles' in 1987 (you may be thinkin, "that can't be right", but it is. I dare you to think of a great lead performance by Martin since then.). Let's hope he shows us the stuff that made him a legend and not his lousy Inspector Clouseau impression

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mel's Return

Despite the sad turn that Mel Gibson's personal life has taken in the last few years (the post-Passion days), I believe it is my duty (as is every moviegoer's) to distinguish his personal from professional. He is still a damn fine actor. His most recent film, Edge of Darkness is a must-see. His first major starring role since 2002's "Signs", its a triumphant return.

This film is dark and sometimes gruesome. A suspenseful thriller, that is based on an old BBC television series, of a cop who is trying to solve his daughter's murder. I will not go into the storyline too much because I urge you to watch it for yourself. There are characters a-plenty. Every main character is complex and memorable. The line of right and wrong becomes a nice shade of gray. Mel brought his A-game to this film with top of the line acting. The desperation can be seen in his eyes, sparks of insanity linger on his face, and that deep raspy voice sets the tone. The ensemble that is Mel Gibson comes together to bring you a revenge-driven mystery with twists and turns. Specifically watch for the scenes of Mel Gibon's character, Thomas Craven, trying to really keep himself together and hold back tears. The true work of a veteran. Go see this movie. A superior film than it's box office conquerer "Avatar".

8.5/10 stars

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best of the Decade

I decided to wait a couple of posts between this list and my list of my favorite ones of the year. But since we have reached the end of a decade, its only right that I give the 00s the respect they deserve. Here is my decade in review:


1. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb-U2 (2004)
2. A Rush of Blood to the Head-Coldplay (2002)
3. Funeral-Arcade Fire (2004)
4. I'm Not There official soundtrack-Various (Sufjan, Glen Hansard, Jim James, Jeff Tweedy, Eddie Vedder, Iron & Wine, Cat Power, Karen O, Jack Johnson, Black Keys and Calexico all covering Bob Dylan songs. come on now) (2008)
5. We Have Cause To Be Uneasy-Wild Sweet Orange (2008)
6. All That You Can't Leave Behind-U2 (2001)
7. Viva La Vida and Death to All of His Friends-Coldplay (2008)
8. everything Jason Upton released this decade....all 11 albums
9. The Okonokos Project-My Morning Jacket (2005)
10. For Emma, Forever Ago- Bon Iver (2008)
11. No Line On The Horizon-U2 (2009)
12. Hello Hurricane-Switchfoot (2009)
13. Give Up-Postal Service (2003)
14. Plans-Death Cab For Cutie (2005)
15. Can't Love, Can't Hurt-Augustana (2008)
16. Cease to Begin-Band of Horses (2007)
17. Chutes Too Narrow-The Shins (2003)
18. Public Radio-Mark Mathis (2005)
19. Absolution-Muse (2003)
20. Nothing Left To Lose-Mat Kearney (2006)

Favorite Film of the Decade- Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
runner up: Memento (2000)

Favorite Director-Wes Anderson:Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic, Darjeeling Limited, and Mr Fox. All in a decade's work. Bravo Mr. Anderson. You truly are fantastic.
runner up: Judd Apatow

Favorite Performance- Daniel Day-Lewis as The Butcher in 'Gangs of New York'

Favorite Comedic Performance: Will Ferrell as Mugatu and Ron Burgandy are comedic brilliance.

Television: Arrested Development takes the cake. (2003-2006)
honorable mention: Extras (The Office creator's other, superior show) (2005-2006)
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (our generation's Seinfeld) (2005-???)

TV Host-Colbert and Stewart win. It was a great decade to be a political pundit. So much to work with!
runner up: Conan O'brien. it was a close race.

TV moment-The return of Family Guy to FOX in 2004 after being cancelled in 2001. Although the show has slightly gone downhill since the original 3 seasons, it is very rare that a network accepts a mistake and un-cancels a show (A.D.!!!). It was great to see the little guy win for once.

Hope For Haiti

So although this is usually a lighthearted blog, I feel obliged to at least point your attention towards something. The tragedy in Haiti has been making front page headlines for a couple of weeks now, and the pictures of the situation are not for the faint of heart. There are many ways that you as an individual can help, without having to suck your bank account dry. In regards to pop culture, music's biggest names came together for the "Hope For Haiti" special hosted by George Clooney. Coldplay remixed their x&y song, "The Message" to fit the situation. Their song was 'love', and they had to get that message home. Justin Timberlake sang heartbreaking cover of Cohen's "Hallelujah" with Matt Morris. Dave Matthews and Neil Young teamed up for a track. My favorite track was Jay-Z, Bono, the Edge, and Rihanna singing an original track written for the Haiti disaster called, "Stranded". A great track that speaks volumes on taking action.

"When the sky falls and the earth quakes
We gonna put this back together
We won't break."
Here is a link to the performance:

other performers include Sting, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Sherryl Crowe and The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. You can download the album fully on iTunes for 7.99 and all proceeds go directly to aid for Haiti. Thats 20 songs for 7.99. Help the effort and get some great music while you're at it.

For maximum aid, here is a place that will match your donation dollar for dollar: