Saturday, March 31, 2012

Guest Blog: World Tour Of Bands-Stop 1: Sweden

Today's guest blog comes from Asheem who writes regularly at his own blog Enjoy The Static

Here's Asheem:

Hello everyone (or should I say "Hej")

Let me start with saying a big 'thanks' to Kevin, Matt and Pat for letting me post something on their blog.  I am very excited to share one of my passions with a new group via inter web technology.  Music.  I know that Matty has the market cornered on music awesomeness, but hopefully I can bring some new sounds, bands, etc to your attention.  (or bring back some memories by mentioning a band or two that you haven't heard from in a long time)  Either way, I'm looking forward to this and hope you enjoy.

I was asked by Kevin to provide a guest blog post and while I have heard many great things about Kevin, I have never met him.  I have known Matt and Pat for a while.  (I believe I met Matt in 2001 right after I met Liz...I think our first meeting was a New Years Eve party with a bunch of former JV's)  I credit Matt with getting me back into music while living in the Bay Area.  (I remember quite a few nights of listening to and talking about music with him in Berkeley)  Crazy enough, the conversations began with Radiohead (I know, shocker, right?)  Pat I met a three or four months later during a visit to Boston and have seen him a couple times since.  Like I said, I had heard some great things about Kevin and was very surprised for the guest blog ask, but am thrilled to do so.  So, thanks guys!

So, the next question for me was what to post?  I typically post on my own blog weekly with a set of new songs that hit me during the week, album reviews and 'best of' lists.  I had considered a review, but Kevin challenged me to come up with a list of sorts.  I finally decided to go a different route.  A 'World Tour', if you will.  I am going to give you a list of my favorite bands from a certain country.  The first post is going to be about one of my favorite countries in the world...Sweden.

I was lucky enough to visit Sweden twice in 1999 and 2000 to visit friends I had met while attending college (a commuter school in Dayton, Ohio -- Wright State University).  I was in a class with one of the exchange students and we were placed on a team together.  Once we started talking I realized he had a thick accent and when I asked where he was from, Sweden was the answer.  (funny enough, I thought he was 'American' and he thought I was 'Foreign', so we laughed about it later)  Through him I met a large group of Swedish exchange students and made some lasting friendships.  Those friendships are what took me to Sweden.  To this day, Sweden is a place I would love to live and I hope to go back again someday soon.

I am amazed at the amount of great music that comes out of such a small country as Sweden. (the population is approx. 9.4 million)  There are all types of music that they 'export' (or that I Import).  The styles range from dance, to pop, to alternative, to indie/folk.  I have found some great artists in all the genres mentioned.  Some you will have heard of, some not.  If you like any of the bands/artists mentioned I hope you will check them out some more.  If not, that is cool.  That's what I love about music.  Everyone has a right to listen to what they like.  I will never ridicule one's music taste because as I have said to others in the past, "I might think the music you listen to is crap, but you probably think what I listen to is crap as well."  But, give it a chance...dare I say:

What??  I am writing a blog post about Swedish music and you think I WON'T put something by ABBA?  Come on!!!  (I will say, that I do enjoy ABBA from time to time...sorry)

Ok, now that I have gotten that out of my system, let's shift to some other great bands/artists from Sverige.

Some of you may know of Kent.  This was one of the first bands that I REALLY got into during and after my first visit to Sweden.  Kent is an alt-rock/indie/electropop band that has quite the following in Scandinavia.  I was introduced to them when I walked into a record store in Stockholm and asked a clerk for some good Swedish rock bands.  They actually released most of their first albums in both Swedish and English, which worked out great for me since I do I say this....not good at speaking/understanding Swedish.  (I was dangerous because I do know German and they have similarities)  So, at the recommendation of the record store worker I picked up the album 'Isola'

I remember putting the cd into my cd player (yes, I said CD player) that night while going to bed and while I was tired I actually stayed up for the entire album because I was so taken by it.  There was something about frontman Joakim Berg's vocals that really spoke to me.  And, to top things off, the last track '747' is just amazing.  (to my day it is still one of my all time favorite tracks)  I know Matt can attest to this because one of those nights in Berkeley I brought over a Kent CD and had him take a listen and his words were something like, "That last track rules...I wish it would go on forever."  My thoughts exactly.  Sadly, the released this as a single and cut a lot of the extra music out of it to make it 'fit' onto radio.  (you see, the track is actually 7:47 long...see what they did there?)  Well, I was going to post the 'cut' music video version, but I decided against it.  Below you will hear a YouTube 'still' of the un-cut track.  It's in Swedish, but you don't need to understand the words to get this song.  Seriously, from about the 4:00 mark on it is pure bliss for someone that loves music.  

One of the other things I love about Kent are the layers that they build in their music.  I am a big fan of this type of song writing (it's something that makes Radiohead so awesome)  You can hear it in 747 above and they carry this on with most of their songs.  So, after I bought and listened to Isola, I went back to the same record store the next day and purchased everything from their catalog to that point in time: their self titled debut from 1995, Verkligen from 1996, Isola above from 1997 and Hangsta Hill from 1999.  They have since released 5 additional albums and are set to release a new album this year.  I have had to purchase imports of all the albums since my last visit (in fact, I had to re-purchase Hangsta Hill a few years ago when I stupidly left my cd's on a flight...that was a sad day for me...I lost a hell of a lot of music on that flight.  The only thing that gave me some solace was that someone was able to hopefully listen to some awesome music at my expense.  I could really go on longer about Kent, but I fear I have already bored you, so I will move on.

Jose Gonzalez
Yes, this is a proper Swedish name.  I can't tell you how many people with the last name 'Gonzalaz' I have come across from Sweden.  Actually, Jose is Swedish-Argentinian.  You see, his family moved to Sweden from Argentina in 1976 and Jose was born in 1978.  I came across Jose a couple years ago while listening to 91.9 WFPK (Radio Louisville) and I REALLY liked his stuff.  He is really an indie-folk singer and he has quite a unique voice.  He has released two full length solo albums (Vaneer in 2003 and In Our Nature in 2007)  One of my favorite tracks is 'Down the Line':

In addition to his solo work, Jose is part of another Swedish group....

Junip is a group made up of Jose Gonzalez, Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn.  They released an EP in the mid 2000's and one of my favorite records from 2010 - Fields.  If you like Jose's solo stuff I am pretty sure you will dig Junip.  They have very similar sounds with the only difference being Junip has a bit more 'polished' sound (meaning: it is more than just acoustic as most of Jose's solo stuff is)  The track below made my 'best of' 2010 mix and I still LOVE this song.  Check out 'In Every Direction':

I'm From Barcelona
So, this is a pretty new band (to me).  Have you heard of the term 'Super Group'?  Yeah, well, I'm From Barcelona is a Super Group.  Not because they have members from 'well known' bands joining forces to put out awesomeness.  Instead, they have 29 band members.  Yes...29!!  I am still getting into this band, but I really dig their eclectic sounds.  They have released 4 albums since 2006 (the latest being 'Forever Today' in 2011)  I'm not going to lie, listening to their latest album just makes me happy as it is very upbeat.  I have included the video below for the track 'Battleships'

The Radio Department
This is another band that has been around for a while (2002) that I recently discovered (recently being in 2010)  One of the music blogs I frequent posted a couple songs from them and I really liked what I heard so I checked them out some more.  The track I included on my best of 2010 mix was titled 'The New Improved Hypocrisy' and it is a slam on the Swedish Government.  (this non-album track was released at the time of Swedish government can really tell they are not happy with things if you listen to the lyrics)  They also released a greatest hits collection called 'Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002 - 2010' and I highly recommend it.  The stand out track for me was the very last one titled 'The One'. (I have shared this below)

Shout Out Louds
Together since 2001, the Shout Out Louds are yet another great Indie Swedish band.  They have released a number of albums (three to be exact) and their latest 'Work' (from 2010) was pretty strong.  At times you would think you were listening to the Cure, or the Smiths/Morrissey.  They continue to put out some great indie pop with each release, so are definitely worth a listen (or two)  Take a listen to 'Fall Hard' and try not to think the Cure has released a new single.

Peter, Bjorn and John
Alright, raise your hand if you can't help but whistle along to 'Young Folks'.  Ok, those without your hand raised....LIARS!  I am sure everyone knows of PB&J.  They hit the scene pretty hard when Young Folks was released a few years ago.  It seemed to be on every tv show, commercial, street corner, etc.  It is kind of sad in some respects that that song got so much exposure because I will be honest, I got really sick of the song.  But, it really was a strong song and that particular album was strong as well.  They actually had released two albums prior to that and have since released another three albums. (the latest being 'Gimmie Some' in 2011)  It doesn't hurt that Gimmie Some was one of my favorite albums of 2011.  Below is a track from that album 'Tomorrow Has to Wait':

First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit is a band I just started to get into in January of this year and I will say at this point their album 'The Lion's Roar' is my favorite album of 2012.  First Aid Kit are sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg and they are YOUNG.  (Johanna is 22 and Klara is 19).  One of their influences is the band Fleet Foxes and in fact it was a YouTube video of a Fleet Foxes song that got them noticed and landed them a spot playing the song alongside the Fleet Foxes in a concert.  

I have actually noticed a bunch of different sounds in their songs ranging from the Fleet Foxes to Neko Case and She & Him.  I chose to include two tracks from this amazing album to give you an idea of just how talented these sisters are.  The first is 'The Lion's Roar' and the second is 'Emmylou'  Both are amazing and I am looking forward to hearing more from this band for years to come.  (they are also playing at Bonnaroo this year so that should get them some more exposure)

I know there are WAY more bands/artists that I am missing, but these are the ones that stick out to me and that I really dig.  I look forward to hopefully hearing about others that I have missed, so please leave a comment if there is someone you feel I should check out (I am always looking for new music, or perhaps I just completely blew it and forgot to include an amazing band)


Monday, March 26, 2012

3 Underrated 90's Rap Albums You Should Know About

I don't know why I have been thinking of this lately, but in the land of hip hop, actually with most music, the 90's were both great and terrible. I guess you could pretty much say that about anything in any year of human endeavor, but I figure it was a good way to start things off. On the positive side though, there was a lot of gold there. And when there is a particularly fruitful time for a genre some worthy albums are gonna go by the wayside. When things are overflowing a few things are going to go by the wayside. I have been thinking of these three, although one of them, it could be argued isn't actually all that underrated, but, at least to me it doesn't seem to come in up in conversation all that often. Here you go, in order of when they were released:

The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (released November 24, 1992)
I feel like I might be off base on this one, but I feel in my gut that this is still a pretty underrated album, and influential in it's own right. When it came out there was virtually nothing else out there like it, especially on the West Coast. I mean this was still a time when "gangsta" rap was still dominant out there, and I think to a certain subset found it to be refreshing because of it's jazzy production and it's sense of humor. Along with I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Freestyle Fellowship's To Whom It May Concern.... started a new movement of (I hate this term but for lack of a better one) "alternative" hip hop on the West Coast with crews like Jurassic 5, Hieroglyphics, The Coup, and Lootpack coming up in their footsteps. Although, I guess I never realized that this album went Gold back in the day, largely on the strength of it's second single, "Passing You By"

A couple others that showcase their sense of humor:

Oh Shit. (This is a banger)

And hey, Kanye West recently said that this was his favorite album. And I am really not sure where people stand on it now. I feel like it is sort of a lost classic. Definitely worth it to revisit.

Digable Planets-Blowout Comb (released October 18, 1994)
It definitely wasn't until the 2000's when someone hepped me to the fact that I should check this album out. And to be honest, at the time when people pointed me in it's direction, I might not have even been sure that Digable Planets HAD a second album. This is one that had definitely been lost to the mists of time. Of course their first album Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) has been big largely because of the single Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) was such a big hit (while we're on that subject that albums also worth listening to for the deeper non-famous single cuts) But I am getting away from myself, basically Blowout Comb builds on where Reachin' started, with their heads somewhere in the Black Power movement of the sixties, with some absolutely amazing production. For whatever reason, people don't seem to be going back to this sophomore effort like they eventually did with Paul's Boutique and Pinkerton. Maybe that's because they never properly made anything after they made this, I'm not sure. But it's well worth your time to go back and revisit it. It's a great album for to walk around to on a beautiful day.

This is a weird side story, but my favorite song of this album is one called Black Ego. When I first started REALLY listening to this album it was back sometime in 2004, and I had recently been dumped, and I remember putting on this album and just listening to this song over and over. When you hear it you might wonder why, and really it's a mystery to me, but something about it just grabbed and in an odd way helped me out at that time. Who knows how these things work? It might be the beat in and of itself and check when the drums kick in around 1:12 or so. It's so good. 

Heltah Skeltah-Nocturnal (released June 18, 1996)
So this would fit firmly on the more, shall we say, grimy side of the aisle. This is the debut album featuring Ruck and Rock (which is short for one of the best rap names: Rockness Monster) who, obviously, make up Heltah Skeltah. (BTW, Matt, at least according to what I was reading that definitely is a Beatlres reference, their crew before was even called The Fab 5) They themselves were a part of a larger Brooklyn supergroup called The Boot Camp Clik. And this might just be a wikipedia thing, but they refer to this as 90's underground classic, but to me, yes I do feel like it is a forgotten classic, but I feel like people don't remember it as well as they should. It seems to be me like it has sort of gotten unfairly lost in the shuffle. But, again, that's just me and I could be wrong. So what did I think was so great here? Well, it was simple, their lyrical ability and the dark, (here's this word again) grimy beats from Da Beatminerz. Plus, Rock's voice sounds like it is just this side of Chali 2na's, which, I mean, is awesome.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games (21/50 Movies)

When seeing the adaptation of a popular book on the big screen, particularly a popular book you read, as much as you don't want it to be there, there is always going to be that give-and-take in the back of your head, the subconscious checklist of what the movie left in and left out. In 50 years when the future generations of English teachers start putting this book on the syllabus, students might do okay if they decide to be lazy and seek out the movie (unlike the curveball teachers throw when they assign The Natural). There is, of course, the argument that the film and the book represent separate mediums and thus should be divorced from each other. I get it, but I find it hard to do. So I will say this: I think the movie is both good as an A) adaptation and a B) movie in and of itself though it's hard to say if certain aspects of the book that went by the wayside due to time constraints will become a bigger part of the story in the next two installments. Judging by how much money this thing seems to be making, it is inevitable that the sequels will be made.  It will be interesting to see what details might come back, if at all. There are a few small additions here that I actually enjoyed too, particularly one in the end. This is a pretty streamlined effort with some power to it although movie makers who are not Paul Greengrass (okay not Paul Greengrass making the Bourne films) need to go to some action movie bootcamp to learn how to film fight scenes as the scenes in the arena get so frenetic it was hard to tell what was going on. For the most part, I liked the casting. I was probably most worried about the how the scenes would be played at the Capitol, but overall I didn't find them too cheesy or distracting. People say we get the science fiction that reflects the time we live in.  If that's true, judging by this, that's pretty chilling.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Concert Series - Part V: Justin Roberts

Somewhere at some point in time someone decided that the only kind of music little kids like is the kind with the most annoying singing, the must mundane melodies, and the stupidest motions to go along with the horrible earworms that this music produces.  Sure, a lot of it is educational and relies heavily on the positive side of life and appropriate character development and whatnot, but for the millions of parents and adults out there who are subjected to this incredibly annoying medium, it tends to drive them crazy.  I do not have kids, nor am I anywhere near close to having them at this time in my life.  However, I am an uncle to three of the greatest nieces I suspect any uncle can have and I am treated to several visits to them throughout the year.  My brother Mike is father to two of the older ones who are 6 and 4 years old.  Over the past few years as I have visited his family, I have been introduced to the music of Justin Roberts who for the past 15 years has not only been creating some of the best pop music for kids, but has been writing some of the best straight up pop songs period.

Now I don’t mean to say that I own any his albums or that he’s become a favorite artist of mine, but I will say that when I hear the melodies, harmonies, choruses, and bridges within his songs, it’s nearly impossible for a smile not to come to my face.  There is no way I should like kids’ music this much.  The guy draws from rock, pop, folk, country, punk, and ska and just writes some phenomenal pop songs.  When my brother informed me that he’d be taking the family to see him during my spring break visit, I couldn’t pass it up.

Roberts tours the country and at each venue he plays, he sets up a number of shows in the morning and afternoon.  This particular venue in Vienna, Virginia showcased three shows on a Saturday and we attended the final show which kicked off at 2:30 at the Jammin’ Java.  The stage was small and the floor was filled with fold-up chairs for the adults while a small space was reserved up front for the little kids to form their own mosh pit (which basically consists of them just jumping up and down waving their arms in the air).  The venue appeared to be mainly a coffee shop and I was all ready to get some coffee when my brother suggested that we just get some beers.  We were a little suspect of this since it was a kids’ show and didn’t know if they’d be serving at this time.  When I went up to the bar and asked the bartender if they were serving alcohol, the woman next to me emphatically retorted “Heck yes they’re serving alcohol!”  Evidently, a rock concert put on for scores of little kids is the perfect place to be serving booze.  So yeah, my brother and I got a little tipsy at a Justin Roberts show.  And as I was ordering a second round, I was asked by my sister in law to pick up some apple juice and Goldfish crackers for my niece.  I turned to the bartender and said “I’m about to make an order that I never have before”.

The show itself was a blast.  Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players (one drummer, and one bass player) played about an hour and never lost any energy.  They talked with the kids in the mosh pit, took requests (one from my niece), invited kids to sing and dance along, and even put on a few very funny puppet shows.  They also did an excellent job of throwing in comments about classic rock musicians and songs (Van Morrison, Deep Purple, Bob Dylan to name a few), which I’m sure was a calculated effort to include the adults into the show.  They played very tightly together and their harmonies were spot on.  I kept smiling throughout the show.  No way did I ever think that music for kids could sound this good.

 The show prompted several conversations between Mike and me mainly centered on what makes a great pop song.  In some ways, it’s hard to describe.  It’s not like Roberts was inventing any new chords or chord progressions.  There were no groundbreaking moments in any of the songs.  But there is something about his writing style that although geared for kids, can still hold up amongst other great adult pop songs.  Mike had a lot to say about the bridges of the songs and of pop songs in general and how a great bridge can make a good song great.  I think that’s a fairly true statement, but there is more to Roberts’s songs than just the bridges.  They’re just great all around.  And I don’t think there is any scientific formula you can put to this to distinguish a crappy pop song from a great one.  It’s just another one of those mystifying aspects of music and art in general.  But if I can be certain of anything after leaving this show, it’s that if I ever have kids, there is no doubt that I will expose them to a ton of music by the Beatles and Justin Roberts.  With a foundation like that, the rest will take care of itself. 


25/50: 2 Books and A Movie

Well for once I have more books to talk about in an entry than movies. Will wonders ever cease?

Sundays With Vlad by Paul Bibeau (3/25 Books)
Not that it really matters but I should mention that even though Paul and I have never met, we are Facebook friends and I have been friends with his cousin since high school. That being said, his book is an amazing intersection between pop cultural and historical nerdery. Patton Oswalt once said, and I am paraphrasing here, that everyone is a nerd for something, whether that is someone who is super into sports and sports statistics or maybe you are heavily into jazz, everyone is a nerd for something. Paul's book proves it as he plunges headlong into the connections, if any, between Vlad the Impaler (the historical Dracula, I guess you could day) and the Dracula of literature, and how vampires and vampire lore has spun out in a thousand different directions. Along the way he meets a rogue's gallery of historians, archivists, goths, psychic vampires, to the lady who invented Count Chocula, to the people that used to work at the Castle Dracula attraction in Wildwood, New Jersey, he spends his times with historians and collectors of old letters among stack upon stack of old books and manuscripts. The book is bookended by two trips: in the first he goes, on his honeymoon of all times, and tries to find the "real" Castle Dracula in Romania, the Vlad the Impaler one, and in the second he follows the trail of Jonathan Harker, the protaganist from Bram Stoker's Dracula as he takes the route he took through Hungary and Transylvania to the fictional Dracula's castle. It's really entertaining, like across between Sarah Vowell and Bill Bryson.

One aside: this isn't a big part of the book or anything, but Paul mentions, like I said, going on his honeymoon and trying to find Vlad The Impaler's castle in some small, out-of-the-way place in Romania. This made me think two things: how sometimes the significant other of the history nerd (or otherwise obsessed) always seems to get dragged along on some quest to see something or other. I've done it to my own wife, not out in Romania (yet) but I've done it. When I got my history degree (pause to be impressed) I wrote to my favorite teacher from high school, my history teacher, to tell him thanks for instilling that love of history in me. He wrote me back and in part of the letter described how he had just come back from vacation and had made his wife go see something or other, I want to say Roosevelt's grave but I know he's been there before. On the same note, and my single friends will roll their eyes at this, but I have to say, it is so important, and it is awesome when it happens, when you meet someone who just does not give a shit and will indulge you (and hopefully vice versa) in all the weird (and possibly annoying) stuff that you're into.

Another "It's A Small World" Aside: I actually sent Paul a note about this, but a truly weird thing happened when I was reading his book, but among the chapter talking about the people who deal in old manuscripts and letters and what not is a small half paragraph about someone I actually knew. Well, it has probably been a good twenty years since I had seen him, but judging by where he was located, and, well his name, I figured out it was the same guy. He was a guy who was a neighbor of a good friend's cabin in Truro, Mass who, oddly, we had had beach cookouts with, and he was an interesting storyteller. It was just weird to run across him so many years later even though, sadly, he has passed away probably about 13 years ago.

Oh and you can check out some of Paul's other writing at his blog

Also, I'm not sure if I got a different edition of the book, but when looking for an image to display I happened upon this other cover which is pretty cool.

The Remarkable Intruder by Peter Swanson (4/25 Books)
I'm sure, since everyone who reads this commits everything I write to memory you'll remember that I mentioned when I wrote about Game Change which was a television movie, not a theatrically released movie, I can make up my own rules. That's right! Just try and stop me. Well the same goes here for The Remarkable Intruder which is an online published novella written by friend and coworker Peter Swanson. In his introduction (incidentally that's on his own blog, which is also worth a look) He mentions how he feels that often times the novella is a better vehicle for a mystery story, given it's length, it doesn't allow for the story to get too stretched out over, say, 200 or so, pages (he puts it better but that's sort of the gist) And I have to admit, I see his point. Just from talking to him today, it's nice to have the author work down the hallway from you, he mentioned that he was going for a lightly comic mystery story. I think he achieves it here, it moves at a brisk pace, and I am not sure if he is planning on using these characters again but the two main characters, Miles and Tommy, are really great. They are two best friends whose tastes are sort of "out of time" so to speak, they drink the same drinks as Cary Grant orders in North By Northwest, and they play the sort of Sherlock and Watson archetype. Miles is the brains, and Tommy is sort of the William Powell-esque man-about-town. It's a quick read with a nice twist. I personally would love to see more from Tommy and Miles.  Like I said, check out his blog  and also his website for some more of his short stories and some more of his writing. (In fact he is working on a series of sonnets based on all of Alfred Hitchcock's movies.)

Young Adult (2011) (20/50 movies)
After Juno, which I thoroughly hated, and after fifteen minutes of Jennifer's Body, I thought I was done with Diablo Cody. (Seriously, the only good thing about watching Juno was reminding what a good song "Expectations" by Belle and Sebastian was) And I am prepared to hate her again for her remake of The Evil Dead. But there was always something about Young Adult that made me set aside my prejudice against Diablo Cody, maybe it was the fact that Patton Oswalt was in it, maybe it was the fact that the original movie poster (below) was pretty awesome. There was something about it. And then when it came out people seemed to really enjoy it. Now, having seen it I will say, that, while not a home run, it was waaaay better than I thought it would be given it's pedigree, and it is easily the best thing Diablo Cody has written, although since I hated her before maybe that's damning with faint praise coming from me, but this dark comedy shows a lot more sophistication than what she was putting out before. Charliza Theron plays the titular young adult ghost writer who writes books for a Sweet Valley High type book series, who comes back to her hometown, where she was the popular girl, to try to win back her old flame. I know judging by that description it sounds like a thousand other movies, but it does not go the way you think it is going to go, and, really, the character shows no signs of actually learning anything along the way. This is almost what Friends With Kids could have been if they didn't play it so safe. Oh, and Patton Oswalt is a revelation here has a poor dork who had an unfortunate  accident in high school and himself has never been able to move on himself after an unfortunate accident in high school. Let's just say they become unlikely, I don't friends might be too strong a word, allies? partners? Anyway, it's well worth your time, Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt are really good. Patrick Wilson has made a cottage industry for himself playing harried suburban fathers.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Summer of '82

We are about a week away here on the East Coast until it officially becomes Spring. We've had a mild winter to say, the least, and besides the implications there concerning climate change, it's been a welcome change from last year's epic snow dump. I'll take it. I hope we aren't underwater soon, but I'll take it for now. So the calendar says that it is almost Spring, and then of course the Summer comes. For the movie nerd, or just, you know the general nerd, that means that the Summer movie season, which typically begins during May is also just around the corner. Although some might argue that this year, The Hunger Games is kicking things off early, since it opens next week. I turn 35 next month, and still, two of my most anticipated movies during this season involve superheroes (to say nothing of the aforementioned tween book adaptation.)

It was 1975 when Jaws unwittingly made the Summer blockbuster a thing. (I mean Star Wars also helped two years later) Ever since then the major studios would roll out their biggest popcorn movies, tentpole franchises, and sequels hoping for some of that big big cash that comes from anticipated entertainment and people wanting to escape into some air conditioner. Of course a lot has changed since 1975, people can argue to death about this, how the Summer blockbuster ruined movies etc. etc. I mean it's kind of hard act to follow anyway trying to chase the quality of a Jaws or Star Wars. I mean, a lot of times the don't try....I am getting off track, one thing that has definitely changed is the sheer amount of movies that are not only released in the Summer but throughout the year all over the country.

So where am I going with this? Usually, like in those Summers there might be one either really good movie or really popular movie (sometimes both see : The Dark Knight) but there's usually one or two, nowadays MAYBE more just because the market gets so flooded. But there was one Summer that just might be considered the greatest summer of all just by the shear amount of classics that were released during that Summer, and THIS year is the 30th anniversary of that Summer. That's right (of course) I am talking about the Summer of 1982. The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin is doing a mini-film festival of the 9 gargantuan (their words) classics that were released that Summer (Also, I am using the word classics loosely. I mean it could be argued, and probably will be if all these are really classics, and it's a fair criticism with one or two of them-or all, depending, of course, on your point of view) For a movie nerd, or a just an obsessive nerd in general it really is an embarrassment of riches. (I wish they were doing the same around here at one of the theaters. But it doesn't stop all of us from having our own festivals with friends. Ideas!)

Here is the video the Alamo Drafthouse made for their Summer of 1982 Film Festival

Here they are in order of their release dates:

Conan The Barbarian (May 14, 1982)

While I am at check out this clip of the ridiculous/strangely mesmerizing commentary from the Conan DVD from John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger 

One more fun fact: John Milius was an inspiration, if not THE inspiration for Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski.

The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)(May 21, 1982)

LOL. This was obviously the Americanized version of the trailer for U.S. audiences with all the weird voice dubbing in the trailer. They seemed really scared about Americans not understanding the Australian accent.

Rocky III (May 28, 1982)

This is definitely one that can be argued, but I love this movie. Without a doubt the best Rocky sequel (I know this is damning with faint praise) but it pretty much set the model for nearly every fighting movie that came after it. Plus, you can not front on Mr. T here, in his wide introduction to America, as the ultimate bad ass.

Poltergeist (June 4, 1982)

I know this says it was directed by Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg only produced it. But rumors have persisted for years that Spielberg was very hands on, so to speak, on this one. His hands are all over it. Funny thing too, this movie scared the bejeezus out people (okay me) and now it seems like a more quaint haunted house story, particular to modern day youngsters. The most "shocking" part, and the part that might get it censored at kid's events and parties: Jo Beth Williams and Craig T. Nelson, former hippies, blazing up before they go to bed one night. (I maintain the stuff with the clown is still pretty scary. Clown + Ghosts = nightmare fuel)

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (June 4, 1982)

The best Star Trek sequel. Introduced us (and Quentin Tarantino) to the old Klingon proverb : "Revenge is a dish best served cold".  Plus,  Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner making absolute mincemeat of the scenery. PLUS, a really sad and sort of brave ending. C'mon!

Here's a taste:

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (June 11, 1982)

Speaking of Spielberg and Jaws at the time the master of the Summer blockbuster rears his head again with another classic. Only a sharp tug on my nose hairs will bring me to tears faster than the last part of this movie.

The Thing (June 25, 1982)

"Man Is The Warmest Place To Hide". Amazing. Kurt Russell rules. Kurt Russell and John Carpenter in the early days rule even more.

Blade Runner (June 25, 1982)

Tron (July 9, 1982)

Here is another time when the word classic might be thrown around a bit too loosely. But, hey, I grew up with Tron  and will maybe not a great, or even objectively good, movie it has a certain cheesy charm too it. Plus Jeff Bridges. (Plus Bruce Boxleitner-remember Scarecrow and Mrs. King!?)

Now in case you need a couple of fill-ins or something you can go through what came out the rest of the year, but here is a couple of alternates if need be one a classic comedy and one, to me, a classic action movie.

First Blood ( October 22, 1982)

80's audiences learned a lesson here: never ever harass a Vietnam vet, this might be what happens.

Also, it has an amazing song playing over the closing credits: "It's A Long Road" by Dan Hill. (Sample lyric: "It's a long road, and it's hard as hell..."

Tootsie ( December 17, 1982)

Seriously, it's good. Plus Bill Murray's in it too.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Concert Series - Part IV: The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys

It’s amazing what a year can do for a band.  I first heard of the Black Keys back in 2005 when I saw them play Lollapalooza at the recommendation of Kevin.  As I watched the blues rock duo from about five rows back, I immediately thought that they were a White Stripes knock-off.  But there was still something different about them and they came off as more straight forward than the Stripes.  This was unabashed, dirty, blues guitar rock and they did it very well.  I continued to follow the band over the years, albeit peripherally.  I did not see them again until December, 2010 at the House of Blues in Orlando which could probably hold no more than 2,000 people.  It was a great intimate set that drew equally from their older material and their recently released album Brothers, which would turn out to be their breakthrough album.  Little did I know that would be the last time I would be able to see them in such a small venue. 

I saw them again last summer at Bonnaroo and something had definitely changed in the six months since I last saw them.  They were now playing the main stage, an invitation and honor typically reserved for the biggest and most popular acts of the festival.  This was a much different experience than I had before.  The success of Brothers and most notably the hit “Tighten Up” had launched the band into the stratosphere.  I was never a huge Keys fan, but if I was, I’m sure I would feel some sort of disappointment and sadness.  I would be happy that such a great rock band is so successful (and I actually do feel that way because they are great), but the realization that I would never be able to see them in a small venue again and that the connection I once had with them would never be realized in the same way would be a very sad one.  Granted these two guys who have no doubt struggled to make ends meet for the past decade and are now formidable forces in the music industry deserve all the praise they get, and we should all be happy for them.  But there is something upsetting about this to the true fans and they could have mixed feelings about seeing them play a sold out headlining show at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  This is where I found myself last Friday night, a mere 15 months after I had seen them in Orlando and with a sold out crowd that was ten times the size.  The view from the top before the show really emphasized this stark contrast.  The space just seemed so vast.

What made the concert even more appealing to me was that the opening act was one of my favorites, the Arctic Monkeys.  I had actually seen them in Orlando years ago when the first hit the scene.  Their first two albums are two of the best rock albums I have heard in the last ten years.  They have a great mix of rock and punk and are a breath of fresh air in an era when such music is hard to find.  I think their last two albums have fallen off from their first two, but they drew well from all four albums and they sounded great.  I was pleasantly surprised that they played for about an hour as most opening acts play for 45 minutes tops.  Maybe this happened because they are more prominent than typical openers, but I wasn't complaining.  I was even more excited to see them than the Keys. 

Not everyone was so excited.  As we walked in the venue we overheard the following conversation:

“Who’s the opening act?”

“This band called the Arctic Monkeys, and they kinda suck.”

Wow.  That person is so wrong.  It was also at that point when I noticed how many younger kids were at this show.  Another indication that the Keys have blown up; when you start to see a bunch of 15 year-olds at a concert, chances are that the band is pretty big.  It’s also funny because that conversation almost immediately reminded me of this scene:

Watching the Monkeys from a seat in the back up the upper reserve section, I was able to get a good view of the entire venue, and for a sold out show it was quite clear that the majority of the attendees couldn’t have cared less about the Arctic Monkeys.  It made me wonder about the different approach and mindset an artist must have as an opening act.  The knowledge that the fans are not really there to see you and that you’re there as kind of an afterthought must be very humbling.  But I’m sure that one of the goals is to win over some new fans and broaden that base.  Nonetheless, the band seemed like they were having a good time and enjoyed pumping the crowd up and it ended up being one of the best opening performances I have ever seen.  Although admittedly, I am a bit biased.

The Keys came on about a half hour after the Monkeys finished their set and by this time the crowd had filled in most of the arena.  Like the Monkeys, their set was fairly balanced as they drew from a variety of their albums.  It was also apparent that many of the fans were familiar with their older material which was nice to see.  The Keys have certainly developed into better songwriters and have focused more on creating more complex arrangements and productions of their albums which has proven to be a fairly distinct diversion from their grittier garage rock of their previous albums.  For me, it was good to hear the newer material as I really like their older stuff, but I do think it kinda blends together.  I recognized most of their songs, but couldn’t tell which albums they came from or recall their names.  Granted, I’m not entirely familiar with all their songs and am not a connoisseur, but I’ve heard enough.  It’s just good that when they do bust out the stripped down blues rock, they do it as good as or better than anyone else.

They played for about an hour and a half in total and although both shows in and of themselves were short, combining for 2 ½ hours of music made for a great night.  As we left the packed arena and walked into the streets of D.C. I was again reminded of the times I had seen the Keys in those smaller settings in the past, particularly the one that was just over a year ago.  It reminded me of this clip from the early 60’s of a young woman who lamented the fact that the Beatles had just started to blow up and she had the realization that she would never see them play the tiny Cavern Club in Liverpool like she had before.  It is this selfishness as a fan that I find as one of the most extraordinarily interesting aspects of loving music. 
For the biggest fan, there is nothing better than seeing your favorite artists play a small and intimate setting where you’re sitting just a few yards away from the stage.  These shows can be so energetic and can make one feel very special since it is clear to that fan that he or she knows a secret that few others do.  It becomes personal.  It becomes your band.  And it almost makes you feel like a better music fan for knowing this secret.  It’s childish and selfish, but it’s also incredibly energizing.  It’s how I felt when I first saw the Avett Brothers and I know that I will never be able to see them like that again.  I’ve been trying to be OK with this type of change and more welcoming rather than agitated and though I think I’m getting better, it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s somewhat sad that I’ll never be able to recapture that again.  I would venture to say that many of the old school Black Keys fans were struggling with that very issue last Friday night.  As this fan so poignantly states; "They don't belong to us no more".



Monday, March 12, 2012

25/50: More Movies

Okay, you can't stop the 25/50 train. Sometimes I wonder if I should wait and group more of these together like Pat does, but I feel like I might lose what I was going to say about them in the interim.

Friends With Kids(2012) (18/50 movies)
I was excited for this mostly because of the cast, but I found this to be, overall, a let down. It's the story of two people (Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt) who have been best friends for ages (such good friends they call each other at 4 in the morning with their dates from last night still in bed with them), they are surrounded by married couples who are starting to have kids, and they decide that they should have a kid together and that without the emotional baggage things would work out better for them. From there it becomes really, super predictable. What drove me nuts about this movie is, and I am probably bringing too much outside information in is the night before I saw Jon Hamm on Bill Maher. He has been in a relationship with Jennifer Westfeldt for fifteen years and the two have no plans to get married or have kids. Upon hearing this, I thought, oh man I bet Jennifer Westfeldt could make a really interesting movie which shows that people can be happy in different sorts of situations, they all don't have to be married with children to be happy, they can be single, they can be single parents, whatever combination you might want to think about. And it starts out like they were seriously going to explore these types of ideas, but they don't and it basically, by the end, turns into your run-of-the-mill, predicable romcom And I found that disappointing. But they cast was game, I particular liked Adam Scott, Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph. Kristen Wiig seemed sort of wasted, but Jon Hamm played a good asshole. So there's that, I suppose.

Game Change (2012) (19/50 movies)
I'm cheating a little here because, of course, this wasn't a theatrical release. But like the ads say: it's not TV it's HBO, so there you go. IT'S NOT TV. They did something with this movie that I really like: it is adapted from the best-selling book, Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, but they decided to only adapt a portion of the book rather than the whole thing. Obviously, they decided to adapt the section about the seemingly disastrous choice to have Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. If you are anything like me this movie just proves that she is someone you would rather not be around, to say nothing of having any sort of power in this country. So it definitely depends on which side of the political spectrum you fall on on how you are are going to take this. This is surely a pretty vicious takedown, but it also made me wonder how close to reality it all skews. Which I guess goes without saying for any real life event made into any movie. It also suffers in it's dialogue, every time people talked it sounded like they were talking in pre-recorded soundbites and platitudes, and that was when they were having private conversations. Ed Harris and Julianne Moore do good impressions of John McCain and Sarah Palin respectively, but they don't feel like fully realized people to me (see the dialogue problem for part of it) But some of it is waaaay too on the nose for me, like they way they used top 40 country music every time Sarah Palin was doing something. The only people that really come off feeling like three dimensional people are Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt, on of the campaign managers, and Sarah Paulson, who plays one of the speech writers and one of the army of people that tried to get her ready to talk to actual reporters. It's definitely interesting to say the least, but I am not quite sure how successful it was in the end. Beyond reminding me why Sarah Plain seems unpleasant and shouldn't be anywhere near a national office.

They also should have changed the title from Game Change to Things Done Changed and used this as the theme song. Talk about thinking outside the box:


Look Out Publishers Weekly, You Have Competition, and It Is Someone Who Swears a Lot

Heyo everyone! Once again it's your boy Perspicacious P aka the Vanilla Thrilla aka The Doctor of Decadence. More reviews, this time it's books! I understand most of you are Americans, so you don't really read books, and that being intellectual can be a bad thing (just look at Bush v. Kerry!), but don't worry about it. To paraphrase myself, I read so you don't have to. Now, on to the reviews!

Mockingjay (Book 6 of 25)

This is the final book of the Hunger Games Trilogy and was my favorite of the three. I can’t really write too specifically about it because it will reveal too much, but let’s just say shit gets very real for our hero Katniss Everdeen. I was speaking with Kevin on Da Facebookz the other day and called Katniss a true gangsta. After reading this, you’ll see that she is involved in some tru gangsta shit and has a heart of stone like Al Capone. She would have no trouble holding down the block in Compton or Bed Stuy or wherever, even if she is a scrawny 18-year-old white girl. Game recognize game and I know she would get respect in the hood. She even played out two potential lovers for as long as she could.

When you got it, you got it.

ANYWAY the book was well-written and quickly paced. I could not put it down and stayed up damn near all night trying to finish. Its ending packs such a wallop that it kept me up for a few hours after, even though it was hella late. Katniss Everdeen, ultimate hustla.

Devil in the White City (Book 7 of 25)

Soooooooo…another book on the Victorian era. It took awhile to get into this one, simply because I am Victorianed-out at this point. It’s an era that I don’t particularly enjoy reading about/watching movies about/thinking about. Sadly, had it been a few pages longer, it would have counted for two in my 25/50 challenge, since 500 page books count as two. ANYWAY, once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. Of course the Irish come off as terrible in the book because they were either a) assistants to a mass murderer or b) killing the mayor of Chicago, but let’s not dwell on that.

Chicago has always been a fascinating place to me, largely because of the John Hughes movies that shaped my youth and The Untouchables movie with Kevin Costner. My interest in the city was further piqued when I read one of the greatest graphic novels ever written, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

(As an aside, Stewie from Family Guy was essentially stolen from Jimmy Corrigan. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.)

Devil in the White City explored Chicago in its ascendency, during an American era where there were no limits on ambition. It’s sort of like China today, no feat of human endeavor or engineering was too daunting or dangerous. Chicago’s goal in the World’s Fair of 1893 was to surpass the greatness of a World’s Fair held a few years earlier in Paris, an event that gave us the Eiffel Tower. One part of the book dealt with this challenge, and how the fair was a coming-of-age of sorts for Chicago. Although it had no equivalent to the Eiffel Tower, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 gave us: Cream of Wheat, Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit, Pabst Blue Ribbon, the Ferris Wheel and on top of all this, some of the most gorgeous architecture seen on American soil.

The other part of the book deals with Dr. H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer. Though there’s been no final count, Dr. Holmes body count could be in the hundreds. It’s incredible how inept the Chicago police were in the face of this. Of course, the Chicago police were largely Irish at the time…

Essentially, it was the juxtaposition of one great mind, building up a beautiful city, with another great mind, who was hell-bent (see what I did there?) with tearing it down, or at least the people in it.

By the end, I loved Devil in the White City, which is incredible because I have no real interest in true crime or period pieces. I became enamored with this World’s Fair (official name: World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition, as it was supposed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in the New World and wiping out an entire indigenous civilization in the process, but of course they couldn’t get it done in time so it was 401 years after, but who’s counting?). All this talk of Chicago even got me listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois album on repeat.

ANYWAY, I think the link between the two men was tenuous; they happened to be in the same place at the same time, but there really was no greater overlap. And the author, Erik Larson, is prone to overwriting and being a little too dramatic in many scenes. He framed scenes in such a way that only a person who was in that moment would have known such specific details, which was hard to take at times since it was a piece of non-fiction. For instance, he spoke about how the killer felt while killing someone, how the room smelled, etc etc--really specific minutiae that is truly impossible to know. But his pacing was perfect and there was a ton of great information about American and architectural history. Big up to anyone who can hold my interest in the Victorian era when I was suffering from an acute case of Victorian-era fatigue.

Moving Pictures! I watched them so you don't have to.

Yo yo yo, everyone! This is your boy Perspicacious P aka the Vanilla Thrilla checking in again. I apologize for the long delay, but hustlin is a full-time job, I'm sure you all know about that. Stacking chips and paper can definitely cut into your blogging efficiency. There's a lot to write about, so I'm splitting it into two parts. First, the movies. Let's get our Roger Ebert on:

Act of Valor (Movie 9 of 50)

I thought this was movie was pretty ill, actually. I’ve read that it was originally conceived as a recruitment video for the Navy Seals, and it definitely has that feel. There’s one part where a guy is getting interrogated and the American tells the terrorist dude in the midst of everything, “You will be in a jail the rest of your life, and treated humanely, but you’ll never see the light of day”. It was an overtly self-aware move to prove just how humane these Seals can be. No breaching of the Geneva Convention here, fellas! But on the heels of what happened in Afghanistan, with that American soldier shooting up a bunch of Afghan villagers, we see that war sucks the humanity out of people and/or gives mentally unbalanced folks access to deadly weapons. In war, bad shit is always going to happen.

ANYWAYS I’m way off topic here. The action scenes are top-tier and you get a sense of how good these guys are at their jobs, as well as how much they have to sacrifice to do them. A lot is made of the conflict between being a soldier and having a family. If I was on the front lines, I don’t think I could conscionably have a family. I would hate to leave my loved ones twisting in the wind if I got killed or maimed. I guess all parties involved (well, the husband and wife, at least--the kids, not so much) know the deal going in, but everyone is still taking a huge chance.

The stars are said to be active-duty Navy Seals, and their sense of mission and their ruthless efficiency in carrying it out is transmitted on screen better than any other military movie I have ever seen. And they used live ammunition, w00t!

Although it is rah-rah America to some extent, it’s more an homage to a particular brotherhood (and sisterhood!) of soldiers than an apology or defense of American foreign policy. Say what you will, these guys give up a lot to do what they do and you have to have some respect for it, even if you don’t agree with how they are used.

OK I’m writing too much. Final thought: if you don’t mind a movie with stiff acting, great action and a bit of “America, Fuck Yeah!”, then you’ll like this.  

Safe House (Movie 10 of 50)

Bill Simmons said that Safe House is exactly what you would expect after seeing the trailer. What you see is exactly what you get. It was a solid movie with enough twists and turns to keep you interested throughout. It was well-acted by both Denzel and Ryan Reynolds, with Reynolds even throwing in a bit of Afrikaans in a couple of scenes. I know this is off topic, but am I the only one who thinks that Denzel plays more or less the same character in all his movies? Angry, sullen, incisive and confident. His character in Safe House was not far removed from his role in Training Day, which was not far from his character in Glory.

Now, I’m not hating here, it may be a narrow band of roles but he plays that band perfectly. I’m just saying he has no range, at least none that we’ve seen. He’s kind of like Kobe Bryant. Jason Whitlock wrote a great column this week about Kobe being a truly one-dimensional player. He doesn’t get assists or rebounds and hasn’t been a great defender in years. He doesn’t elevate the players around him in any way, unless being petulant and yelling at teammates when they fuck up counts as inspiration. But he is one of the greatest scorers of all-time. Denzel is like that. He has his thing and sticks with it. He makes it work and is even one of the all-time greats in that one regard, but he isn’t going to be doing comedy any time soon. Game respects game. As I once famously said, “Can’t knock the hustle.”

Morning Glory (Movie 11 of 50)

I live with a 60 year-old woman who told me to watch it because it was “Harrison Ford’s best role.” I thought this was high praise, especially since this is a movie I’ve never even heard of. Rachel McAdams, who I not-so-secretly would like to marry, stars as this neurotic workaholic TV producer in New York who gets fired from her job. Never fear however, she finds redemption through crusty old TV newscaster Harrison Ford. This was the type of movie where, if you know it is 90 minutes long, you keep looking at the clock to see how much of it you have left to watch. Rachel McAdams comes across as a grating, self-absorbed woman who cares way too much about her job for me to really care about her character. And I wish Hollywood would stop with the “super hot chick just can’t find a date” trope. Short, bald, hairy guys who are poor and have no friends can’t get dates. Hot chicks don’t have trouble finding men. The quality of men may be lacking at times, I’ll grant that, but the quantity is surely there. I’m positive my large and loyal hot female readership can attest to this. Anyway, this movie was solidly below average and I hope to never encounter it again. This is the type of movie they show on long bus rides in Spain, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Grosse Point Blank (Movie 12 of 50)

There are fewer holes in my movie-watching resume than this. Let me explain. From about 12 or so, I wanted to be John Cusack. I saw Better Off Dead on TV one day and thought he was the coolest, funniest motherfucker on the planet, plus he got with a hot French chick. I then saw Eight Men Out and thought he brought the heat as one of the Chicago Black Sox, right at the time I was becoming obsessed with baseball. The role that really locked it for me was Say Anything. I wanted to be Lloyd Dobler. Shit, I still want to be Lloyd Dobler. He was smart, sensitive, cool, fun and genuine. He was the vulnerable one in their relationship. But he was a kickboxer, so he still retained masculine street cred. I wanted to be all those things. From that point on, I was down with John Cusack. For some reason, however, I just never got around to seeing Grosse Point Blank. I remember when it came out and saying, “Oh man, I gots to see this!” But I was probably depressed at the time because I was stuck at UMass-Lowell, aka Dante’s 4th circle of hell. It became a 16-year black hole in the John Cusack canon for me.

So, there was a free screening of this movie at a local theater run by the university and off I went. They opened the show with trivia, where I won the Dawes CD by answering a question on how many movies John and Joan Cusack have starred in together. It’s eight, incidentally, but I actually didn’t know and just shouted a random number that happened to be right. BALLER! Then they showed the trailer for Pump Up the Volume(!!!), a movie they’ll be screening next month.

So was it worth waiting 16 years? Well, it was a fucking good movie man. The dialogue was funny in a detached, knowing, ironic way. Cusack is pretty much Lloyd Dobler if he grew up to be a hitman. The film also reminded me that I had a bit of a crush on Minnie Driver around this time, which is convenient since she is the main love interest and all. It also had an excellent soundtrack, which is not surprising because during trivia we found out that Joe Strummer was the one who compiled the songs. It was a nice touch in the high school when you see graffiti that read “The Future Is Unwritten.” The movie was about coming home and making amends for the wrongs you’ve done, and of course getting the girl in the process. Who wouldn’t want that? Well played, Mr. Cusack. Well played.