Monday, January 28, 2008


This is what I find in my inbox this morning:

“She will laugh at your small stick anymore”


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review: Persepolis

To anyone who has the chance to catch Persepolis, I highly recommend this film. I know that many people will dismiss this movie because it’s animated and that the visual style is so simplistic, but I’ve already read several reviews agreeing that the fact that it’s animated heightens the ability to tell such an engaging story.

The film follows Marjane ‘Marji’ Satrapi growing up in Iran during times of massive political and cultural upheaval. The story is able to constantly stay focused on the human element but still manages to keep the audience up to speed with all of the relevant historical events. I could see how the duty of having so much exposition could easily swallow up the intimate story, but the necessary insight never seemed long or dry.

The animation was wonderful and had a clear stylistic direction. It was easy to get immersed in every little detail, from the cigarette smoke to the amorphous black shapes of the oppressive nuns.

It still amazes me how humans can so easily decipher a representation of the human form or face, no matter how simplified or abstracted. Look at the Simpsons who are very simplified, exaggerated caricatures. Yet we can read a sad or mad expression from a simple change in the curve of their giant eye-balls or an added line in their brow. The same goes for the characters in Persepolis. The style is simple but deliberate. Even subtle shifts of mood can be easily interpreted.

Another comparison that comes to mind is Pixar. I love their style and am constantly amazed by their lifelike renderings of backgrounds and objects. But their “actors” are always abstracted in a cartoonish way. You’d think that watching a character with a giant chin and stubby legs standing in a completely life-like setting would seem awkward. But that juxtaposition is what Pixar has established as their visual style, which they do very very well.

In contrast, every element in Persepolis seems perfectly born within it’s world. Everything fits in and looks like it belongs.

But as much as I’m a fan of animation, the story is what really shines in this film. Similar to what makes Pixar so brilliant, this film never loses it’s emotional core. I don’t go into movies looking to have every emotion tapped. I hate hearing commercials where some critic raves “I laughed, I cried...” Still, with this film, I felt as if I was guided through every possible emotion. It was easy to laugh at Marji’s childish innocence and antics, feel the dread of the ever-increasing persecution, relate to the literal floating off the ground in the throes of love, and tense up at the frustrating sense of helplessness as the world seemed to collapse into self-destruction.

The main characters were portrayed as fully fleshed out humans rather than generalized caricatures. The story wasn’t afraid to deviate from the portrayal of the protagonist as infallible. The scene of her as a child convincing her friends to chase down a boy and threatening to stab him with rusty nails was kind of scary if you really think about it. Though it made the story much more acceptable rather than viewing it under rose-colored glasses like some other biographies. Marji was energetic and loving, but also selfish and depressive. She had a fighting spirit but could wither under the rejection of others.

Persepolis looks like it’s limited to select theatres, which is a shame because it should be one that everyone sees. Alas, instead we get to choose from How She Move and National Treasure 2.

I will say that there are some damn good movies out lately. There Will Be Blood was amazing.

Persepolis site and trailer

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rufus Wainwright at the State Theatre, NJ - 01/12/08

This past weekend I had the pleasure to catch Rufus Wainwright perform at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ. It was a smaller venue, which in addition to being a completely solo performance, created an intimate atmosphere for the concert.

His sister, Lucy opened the concert, making it possible for me to say that I’ve seen all of the Wainwright children perform. (Martha opening for Gomez at Webster Hall was an unexpected surprise.) While hearing her sing and play guitar, one could only conclude that there are some serious talent genes in this family.

Although a newcomer to the music business in comparison to her siblings, Lucy seemed completely at ease alone up on stage. Her voice was clean and pure in a way that remind me of a pitch-perfect french horn.

Her music and demeanor lacked the theatrical flair of her brother, and is more entrenched in traditional folk, but everyone enjoyed it nonetheless.

Then came Rufus. Here’s a guy who most likely grew up being told how talented and special he was. Yet he seems to have been able to take it all in stride. He came off as personable and grounded. Easily likable but still awe-inspiring. All the while, his inborn musical ability is impossible to ignore.

Immediately following up his sister, it was evident as to what makes him stand out. Whereas Lucy’s singing was beautiful and soothingly harmonious with the space within the theatre, Rufus seemed to be able to replace the air around the audience with his voice. As if the air were saturated with his singing. I’ve heard powerful, impressive vocals such as Karen O’s eardrum piercing howls, but with Rufus it seemed to effortlessly flow from his mouth.

Since it was a solo show to an audience of devoted fans, Rufus was more willing to deviate into a set-list of b-sides and rarities. While that made it feel all the more special and intimate, it caused a few hiccups during the show. His performance of 11:11 (a favorite of mine) started off as great as I’d imagine but melted down in the end because he couldn’t remember the lyrics.

Still, it was incredibly enjoyable to be able to catch performances of Poses, California and the magnificent cover of Hallelujah. Those were the songs that introduced me to Rufus Wainwright, and it was interesting to hear them again after forgetting about them for a while. I was able to see his progression over the years.

The talent and voice were always there, but it seemed that his early works relied a bit more on elaborately flourished piano playing. Nowadays, his songs tend to be more confident in the vocals and songwriting, infusing his classic music training rather than using it as a crutch. Oh, the flair for the gothic and baroque are still there, but better balanced within the songs as a whole.

There weren’t the usual concert stage divers or obnoxious flailing bodies dancing, but there were still the annoying attendees at the show. Ahem, front-row-standing-ovation-after-every-song guy and multiple-orgasm-during-every-quiet-moment-within-a-song girl.

I seem to gush over every performance I go to lately, but I find it hard to believe that anyone, even those who wouldn’t be fans of his style, could deny that the man has serious talent. It was all the more evident during a solo performance and I’d love to catch a full backing band concert soon. Hopefully I can do just that in this great city I live in. And maybe he’ll play Shadows.

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

Peach Trees


photo credit: hikaru (from the Rufus Wainwright message boards)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Long and Winding...

Today has been a Beatles-on-Shuffle day. I don’t know why; maybe it’s a come-down from the holidays madness that seems to have lasted a lot longer than 2 months.

It’s a brand new year and it feels as if everything in my life has been in flux in the past 12 months. Listening to music that I hadn’t listened to in such a long time but was so familiar with was like hearing from an old, old friend again.

Last ten songs to come up:
All You Need is Love
Thank You Girl
I’ll Follow the Sun
Cry Baby Cry
Rocky Raccoon (Anthology 3 version)
Polythene Pam
Another Girl
Free as a Bird
The Ballad of John and Yoko
Magical Mystery Tour