Thursday, February 19, 2009

Untitled SAL LUPO Project trailer

By James


Sal Lupo is a New York City cab driver and an aspiring filmmaker. Here's the trailer for his upcoming film. It's a work in progress but we wish Sal the best and can't wait to see his stuff on the big screen!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

XXL's 10 Freshmen: Hip-Hop's Class of '09


James dropping by with a short post. Everybody should check out this month's issue of XXL. It's all about this year's ten breakout rappers (Wale, B.o.B., Charles Hamilton, Asher Roth, Cory Gunz, Blu, Mickey Factz, Ace Hood, Kid Cudi, & Curren$y). It's a great introduction for a whole slew of new young rappers that are worth checking out. I've been a Wale supporter for well over a year now and still can't wait for his debut album on Mark Ronson's Allido Records in Spring 2009. Asher Roth's mixtape with DJ Drama is very impressive. As a young white guy, he's getting lots of comparisons to Eminem (they sound a bit alike) but they're very different lyrically. Blu, Mickey Factz, Kid Cudi, Hamilton, and B.o.B. are all doing some cool shit too. Check out Johnson and Johnson (the collaboration between Blu & Mainframe). All of them have great mixtapes out that are worth searching for. Here are links to a few of them:

The Mixtape About Nothing by Wale

100 Miles and Running by Wale

B.o.B.'s Mixtapes

The Greenhouse Effect by Asher Roth (with DJ Cannon & DJ Drama)

Charles Hamilton's put out 8 mixtapes in the past two months!

A Kid Named Cudi by Kid Cudi

The future of hip hop is here!!

-- James

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jon Brion/Punch-Drunk Love

By James


No movie in my DVD collection owes as great a percentage of its success (in my opinion) to its score as Punch-Drunk Love. I'm always a sucker for Jon Brion's minimalist ditties, they have a way of keeping any story upbeat and afloat. Because Brion frequently doesn't use conventional "instruments" or crowd his score with more than one or two sounds at a time, he is able to blur the line between the diegetic and the nondiegetic. Heavy, "traditional" scores can distance me from a story, they reinforce the feeling "this is a movie." But Brion's scores have a feeling of spontaneity and awe, as if he's uncertain of of the sounds he's making even as they are coming out. While most scores feel structured and crafted to elicit a certain feeling, Brion's piece together scattered elements and then almost reluctantly declare, "This is music." Not coincidentally, movies like Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dwell on the intimate, piecing together disparate moments and concluding, "This is life."

Punch-Drunk Love is a movie I was pretty sure I didn't like the first time I saw it, but it's grown to be one of my most frequently watched movies. I guess that means I like it, at least a little. My one hard and fast rule for all my years of movie watching has been not to dwell on whether I like individual "elements" of a movie: score, cinematography, etc. are all irrelevant if you're not wondering what'll happen next (i.e. engaged in the story). And yet, Punch-Drunk Love has such a brilliant score, and cinematography, and staging, that the story's obvious (too obvious?) holes drown in the exquisiteness. I'm never engaged in Punch-Drunk Love's story, but I'm always overwhelmed with feeling, the movie seems to be an experiment in what happens when story "doesn't matter" (relatively, or "conventionally"). The fact that Punch-Drunk Love succeeds for me at this feat is a testament to the overwhelming charm of the score, there are new pleasures and ideas to be uncovered in Brion's scatter every time.

The New Kings of Nonfiction

By James


I'm a sucker for the Best American series that Houghton Mifflin puts out each year so I was interested in the recent collection of essays called The New Kings of Nonfiction, which was edited by This American Life host Ira Glass. Although I think Glass can be very pretentious and annoying (and I skipped through his introduction to the book), he put together a good collection of essays, although "New" does not really fit the title since many of the entries are ten to twenty years old.

Here are links to some of the highlights:

Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities by Michael Lewis (The New York Times Magazine - February 25, 2001)

Toxic Dreams: A California Town Finds Meaning in an Acid Pit by Jack Hitt (Harper's Magazine - July 1995)

Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg by Malcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker - January 11, 1999)

Power Steer by Michael Pollan (The New York Times Magazine - March 31, 2002)

Tales of the Tyrant by Mark Bowden (The Atlantic - May 2002)

Losing the War by Lee Sandlin (The Chicago Reader - May 1997)

I am too lazy to describe each of them so just give them a read.

Where's My DVD!? -- TV Shows Missing in Action on DVD

By James


As a big fan of TV, I think that the best aspect of the DVD revolution over the past ten years has been the increased access to the complete series of TV shows from all eras. On VHS, most TV series received one or two Best-of video compilations, allowing me as a kid to see certain classic episodes of old shows. Now nearly every TV show is on DVD, including many shows that arguably have no fan base (Cathouse: The Complete Series, anyone?) while many classics are still unavailable. The following is a small list of many shows I love that are out of print or unavailable along with several shows I've never seen but would love to catch this time around on DVD.

Get a Life (1990-1992)

This sitcom, starring and created by Chris Elliott, aired on Fox for two seasons before being canceled after a meager 35 episodes. Despite its short run, it became a cult hit and seen as one of the most innovative and absurd sitcoms of all time. (The show revolved around Chris, an early thirties slacker paperboy who still lives with his parents.) In what other sitcom does the main character die in 12 episodes? The show had a notable writing staff including Charlie Kaufman and Bob Odenkirk.

In 2000 and 2002, Rhino Video released Best-of DVDs for the show that only included 8 episodes. The DVDs are currently out of print. Elliott claims that the DVD has been finished but its being held up by legal issues (possibly regarding the show's theme song, "Stand" by R.E.M.) but I say hooey. Let's get this thing out so I can finally see the rest of it. I've only seen the best of DVDs and need more!!

The State (1993-1995)

For a sketch comedy show that has spun off so many great films and shows in the past ten years (Reno 911!, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten), MTV is still yet to release the series, which ran for 26 episodes over three seasons, onto DVD. The DVD release has been postponed and pushed back multiple times. The cast recorded commentaries and bonus features have been finished. Until the DVD release, you can check out the first season streaming for free on

The Tom Green Show (1999-2000)

I want a complete series DVD of all the MTV episodes, including the specials (Monica Lewinsky Special and the Peabody Award nominated Cancer Special). Tom Green is hilarious and that's that.

The Larry Sanders Show -- Seasons Two through Six

Sony Pictures released the first season of the HBO classic in 2002 and rereleased it to coincide with the release of last year's excellent DVD, "Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show" which compiled 23 of the series' best episodes. I've thoroughly enjoyed these two releases but I want whats beyond "Not Just the Best" -- the whole series. The show had so many great episodes throughout its run and its about time it gets a release. Until then, the show is easy to find on YouTube and in decent quality.

Upright Citizens Brigade - Season Three DVD

Comedy Central released season one on DVD in 2003 and season two in 2007. I'm not waiting another four years. I call upon them to release season three along with a Complete Series set (much like the excellent one they put together for Strangers with Candy).

The Adventures of Pete and Pete - Season Three DVD

Much like UCB, the first two seasons of this show are available on DVD but we still need the third and final season.

Now here are two series that although I never saw have always intrigued me.

Fallen Angels (1993 to 1995)

Fallen Angels was a neo-noir Showtime series that ran for two seasons (15 episodes) . Here's a quote from the show's Wikipedia entry: "The television program was produced using top-notch directors, well-known hard-boiled fiction writers, experienced screenplay writers, inventive cinematographers (who recreated the film noir images), and actors. The art direction gave the series the ambiance and historical look required of a show devoted to noir set in Los Angeles."

Episodes were directed by actors like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, & Kiefer Sutherland as well as notable directors like Steven Soderbergh, Alfonso CuarĂ³n, Peter Bogdanovich, & John Dahl. Cineamtographer Emmanuel Lubezki did camera-work on two episodes. Everything about this screams "Why haven't I seen it yet?"

China Beach (1988-1991)

The show revolved around the Vietnam War and was a critically lauded show that suffered poor ratings. I don't know much about it, but have always heard good things.

Links Links Links!

By James


Time for some links to interesting reads from the best in magazines, newspapers, and blogs.

The Shorter, The Longer by Jim Emerson (The Chicago Sun Times' Scanners Blog)

Emerson has many valid criticisms about the pacing and overall experience of The Dark Knight that really resonated with me. I liked the movie but repeated viewings and time have only led me to find more problems behind the film that have continued to keep me from being able to love it.

Malwebolence by Mattathias Schwartz (The New York Times Magazine)

It's two weeks old now, but still worth checking out.

Superbugs by Jerome Groopman

Groopman is one of my favorite staff writers at the New Yorker and always worth reading.

Check It Out!

By James


For my first post here, I thought I could offer some recommendations of the many things I've been enjoying lately.


Mad Men Season 2 - Sundays 10PM on AMC and ON DEMAND
This season has started slow, but the first season didn't really pick up until the last few episodes. Give it time and enjoy the gorgeous eye-candy, Christina Hendricks. Hubba Hubba!

Oz Season One - Available on DVD
Oz is probably one of the more underrated series in HBO's history. It is far more remembered for its shock value, but the show pulls you in right off the bat and is so entertaining. I saw the first season a few years ago and upon revisiting it, I can't wait for my season two DVDs to arrive. The highlight of the show is probably Dean Winters as Ryan O'Reilly, the prison's manipulative and scheming Iago. Winters also deserves credit for his great work on 30 Rock as Dennis Duffy, the on/off boyfriend of Tina Fey.

Veronica Mars - Available on DVD
I am usually hesitant about these shows with cult followings that are on shitty TV networks (ex. any Joss Whedon series) but Veronica Mars deserves its praise. The show is a whole lot of fun.


The Best Show on WFMU - Available on iTunes or
It's the best show on radio and it's a must-hear every week. Tom Scharpling & Jon Wurster are not only the funniest people on radio but perhaps today's best comedy duo.

Gilbert Gottfried Appearances on The Howard Stern Show - Available on
Gottfried is easily Stern's funniest guest ever and responsible for many memorable moments in the show's history. A classic example is a 2002 appearance where New York City real estate magnate Abraham Hirschfeld calls into the show from prison.

The History of Howard Stern - Available on
Sirius Radio produced a 25 hour radio documentary special in December 2007 that covers everything Stern until the mid-1980s. Part two of the special will be aired in December 2008 and will cover Stern's show from 1985 until present day.


Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman


Blackbird by David Harrower
Oleanna by David Mamet
Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan
The Overwhelming by JT Rogers
Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian