Nuts and Bolts

A couple of things I want to throw out into the blogosphere without rhyme or reason. First up, I read that Stan Winston died today. For those who don’t know, he’s a special effects pioneer and craftsmen and he’s responsible for some of the coolest things ever put on a movie screen. The very first film festival I ever attended was the 1999 Virginia Film Festival and Winston was a special honoree. I went with my buddy Ray McCoy to a screening of Aliens and wound up sitting right behind Sigourney Weaver’s fat head and it was interesting to watch her watch that film. Afterward we tried to finagle our way into overhearing where Stan and co. were headed for dinner but we succeeded only in getting an autograph each. Resigned, we went to the shittiest, greasiest, hole in the wall diner in Charlottesville and five minutes later, in walked Stan and his whole family. Ray and I got a chance to talk to him for a while that night and he was never anything but kind and witty. His son told us that when he was nine or ten years old, his father would scare the shit out of him by making the animatronic terminator exoskeleten walk into his bedroom while he was sleeping. Can you imagine having a bad dream and waking up to see this thing staring back at you. I’m not sure how much work Winston was doing in recent years, even on the films that bore his name but I know he will be sorely missed by Hollywood and moviegoers everywhere.

Slightly staying on the subject of scary movies, what’s with all the vitriol against The Happening. I went and saw the movie on opening night with Sean McElwee and Kyle Kidwell and it’s a really bad movie, let’s make no mistake about it. But everywhere I turn people are downright angry at how bad it is. Look no further than here or the comments here for a taste of what I’m talking about. Why does only M. Night Shyamalan warrant these kinds of standards? Why isn’t everyone demanding a refund for the awful dialogue in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or for the clunky mishandled suspense in Cloverfield? Personally, I still found things to admire in Shyamalan’s film starting with the fact that he made it. The reason I went in the first place is because I appreciate the fact that he’s almost single-handedly trying to make summer blockbusters out of completely original material. Only Pixar and Adam Sandler can boast the same. Granted, his original material gets worse and worse each time but I give the man credit for his old-fashioned approach to filmmaking and film marketing. Again, I’ll repeat that the movie is terrible. He simply fails on every level to create the film he was aiming to create but this is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Not even the worst in the past year. The score was fantastic, several scenes were genuinely creepy and I love how Shyamalan makes horror movies with high key lighting. I never saw Lady in the Water and I have no interest in his upcoming Nickelodeon adaptation The Last Airbender but I still may show up to an M. Night film in the future.

Switching over to music for a second. The new Coldplay album hits stores tomorrow and since I know how to use the internet, I’ve already heard it quite a few times. I’m an unabashed Coldplay fan and you can read my review of X&Y from when it came out here. My praise for that record has cooled a bit in the past few years but I still think it’s good. As for the new one, I like it. I’m proud of them for making it as only “Lovers in Japan” and “Lost!” fail to show any kind of experimentation or growth, no matter how big or small. “Reign of Love” is as beautiful as anything they’ve ever done and “Chinese Sleep Chant” makes me wish they’d do a whole album of My Bloody Valentine inspired material. Chris Martin’s lyrics are still suspect as he ruminates on life and death and revolutions and such but occasionally he slips into his younger, Parachutes-era optimism with choruses proclaiming, “It’s such a perfect day, wouldn’t want to change a thing.” Using bookends is a bit of an elementary way to suggest you’ve made an “album”, but ironically, I find this to be their most disparate collection of songs yet and can’t hold a candle to the power of A Rush of Blood to the Head played front to back. Some songs hit and some miss but as I listen to it again now I have to say that “Strawberry Swing” is genius. A simple song simply done. Pure genius. The bottom line is that it’s the bare minimum of what Coldplay needed to do. It shows that they want to be more respected and they will be, but only slightly and they won’t lose a single fan by doing it, which is maybe the most impressive thing about the album. How they managed to calculate that might be the most important contribution Brian Eno could have made for them.

Last but not least, another album has leaked and completely captured my attention. The new Sigur Rós record called Með Suð í Eyrum við Spilum Endalaust. I’ve liked their dreamy, saccharine stuff for three previous albums but I was not ready for what they unleashed here. It’s still beautiful music, but it’s music first and beautiful second, which can’t always be said about their previous output. Drums find their way into the equation with some bombast and I felt like I was listening to a band for the first time instead of a group. Do yourself a favor and find a way to check it out and watch the video below for first single “Gobbledigook”. Directed by Arni and Kinski, shot by Christopher Doyle and based on the work of photographer Ryan McGinley, it’s got lots of boobies and weewees so check it out.

Incidently, my old roommate Laci introduced me to Ryan McGinley’s work last year and it reminded me of being in 9th grade and going to Barnes & Noble to inconspicuously flip through the photo books in the Art section trying to find naked ladies. Check out his truly awesome stuff at his website.

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