Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My 24 favorite songs

Actually, I wouldn't say these are my 24 favorite songs, but it's hard to argue with the fact that they are the songs I listen to most on my I-Pod. Some are favorites, some are surprising -- embarrassing even if I believed in guilty pleasures, but I don't; I believe in pleasures. If you like a song then enjoy it, whether it's cheesy or not.
Two caveats. One, I do not count the song that is far and away the most listened to because it's not really a song; it's some surf sounds and violins I listen to at night to drown out the tinnitus so I can go to sleep. Two, my counts were somehow wiped out a few months ago and reset, so these are only my top recent choices.
2. I Was Made For Sunny Days by the Weepies. (I'll stand by this one. I love that song. And I love the Weepies and their simple, romantic but thoughtful and tuneful songs. I also love sunny days.)
3. Don't Forget Me by Harry Nilsson (Before my wife and I went on our recent trip to Belize, we finally got around to making our wills. Hers was all about property distribution and minor child care. Mine was about what music to play at my funeral. Specifically, this song.)

BTW this song might rank even higher cuz I also listen to Neko Case's cover, which is great but nowhere near Nillson's masterpiece
4. Cornbread and Butter Beans by the Carolina Chocolate Drops (I don't even know what to tell people when they ask me what kind of music I like best. I usually just tell them real country or old-timey or I say like the The Carolina Chocolate Drops.)
5. I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. (Absolute classic, belongs on everybody's playlist)
6. Bad Romance by Lady Gaga (For the most part Lady Gaga's appeal escapes me, particularly her wardrobe evidently picked up at Elton John's yard sale, but I like this song. Even though it makes no sense.)
7. Blame it on the Rain by Milli Vanilli (Yeah, I know this band was a sham, but whoever that is singing and playing on this track made a catchy tune.)
8. Bullet by Steel Train. (Oh yeah, now you're talking. This is my absolute favorite song to listen to driving down the road with the windows down. Steel Train is my second favorite band from the Garden State. Even though they're not on this list, Gaslight Anthem is my favorite.)
9. Yes to Booty by Elizabeth Cook.
10. I'll Drink Cheap by The Fox Hunt. (Another example of my favorite type of music. "Two Yuenglings for me, two Jaeger bombs for you; Darling, I'll drink cheap so you don't have to." Now that's gallant.)

11. Love Thy Will Be Done by Martika.
12. A Little Bit Me by the Monkees (Not sure how that got on there. Not my favorite Monkees song.)
13. Bloodbuzz by The National. (If you're not familiar with this band, do your ears a favor and get familiar with them.)
14. Dancing Barefoot by Patti Smith
15. Let's Just Fall by Reckless Kelly
16. Plundered My Soul by the Rolling Stones (The best of the recently- released outtakes from "Exile on Main Street.")
17. Could I Have This Dance by Anne Murray. (Before they play #3 at my funeral, I intend to dance with Kim to this one at our 50th wedding anniversary.)
18. Black, Brown and White by Big Bill Broonzy. (I was not familiar with Mr. Broonzy until I heard Tom Jones (Yes, that Tom Jones) talking about his desert island discs of which this was one. Thanks, Tom.)
19. White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes (I've always been a sucker for beautiful harmonies.)
20. All the Pretty Girls by fun.
21. Without You by Harry Nilsson. (The only solo artist with two songs on the top 24 -- there's a band with two coming up in a second -- does that mean he's my favorite singer?)
22. Bare Feet on the Dash by Jackson Taylor and the Sinners (Because when I'm driving down the road listening to "Bullet" with the windows down, Kim's bare feet on the dash is what I want to see.)
23. So What if we're Out of Tune (With the Rest of the World)? by Marah.
24. My Heart is the Bums on the Street by Marah. (Criminally underrated band. Search for them on Youtube and you get mostly misspelled Mariah Carey. Before my I-Pod counters got reset I am sure that Marah's "Angels of Destruction" was the song I listened to most.)
25. Kerosene by Miranda Lambert.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Two Movies Today

One category of movie I've been using as a romcom palate cleanser are movies that I always felt like I should have seen but never actually got around to.
Most of them are movies that I've avoided because I didn't think I like them -- I recently watched "Midnight Cowboy" for the first time; I hadn't watched it before because I thought it would be bleak and dark and depressing. It actually turned out to be even worse than I thought -- not only was it bleak and dark and depressing, but Jon Voight's character of Joe Buck was so broadly drawn that he could have fit right into a Snuffy Smith comic strip, I mean, just ridiculous. It was interesting to me cause I couldn't figure out how anybody stayed awake long enough to give this thing an X rating, and because it might be the original bromance, but other than that not much to recommend it.
And there are movies that just slip through the cracks. "The Last of Sheila" which I also saw recently. This originally came out at the one time in my life when I actually saw most movies that came out in the theaters, but somehow I missed this one. I really liked it even though Raquel Welch is in trying to act, one of those mysteries that once it's all explained you want to go back and watch it again just so can kick yourself for missing all those obvious clues.
But I digress. Today's first movie was "Shaft" which must be an important film because In 2000 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Maybe, but it was really just a typical detective story, and could have played out much the same with a white detective (minus all the "jive" and "soul brother" talk) In fact, it was originally conceived with a caucasian lead but after the success of "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" they darkened it up. ("Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song", BTW, had the record for most consecutive esses in a movie title word until 1973 when Sssssss, the story of a mad scientist who turns men into snakes was released. This was during the time when I saw most movies and I saw this one -- maybe this was what I was watching when I should have been watching "The Last of Sheila")
Anyway I thought Shaft was an ass. And I know he's a "sex machine" and all that, but he had the single gayest piece of art over his bed I have ever seen -- a white man in a colorful dress with padded shoulders and hoops at the hips. The only poster that might possibly be gayer would be one of Ratso and Joe Buck strolling New York together. The chicks are crazy about him anyway, and even the police lieutenant must have lusted after him. Why else would he keep supplying Shaft with information and getting nothing from him but attitude? I did enjoy the early 70's background stuff -- the reverse Coppertone poster with the dog pulling down a black girl's bathing suit to expose her white bottom, and the movie theater showing a double feature of "Patton" and "MASH".
Ah, the 70's.
I also watched "The Parking Lot Movie" which I enjoyed. It was great hearing from other people who realize what jerks most people who drive cars are.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Rob's RomComs

I've expanded my movie-watching tastes a bit lately, in that I will occasionally watch something other than a romantic comedy. But it's still by far my favorite genre. I like the envelope-pushing boundary-breaking ones as much as I like the slick by-the-numbers Hollywood pix -- unless Kate Hudson is in it, can't stand her. I have no problem with cliches if they're done with competency and respect. Perfect recent example: "The Switch" It's obvious from the second scene (if not from the poster and the title of the film) exactly where how this is going to end, but Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston and a great supporting cast (Jeff Goldblum is hilarious as the wacky friend who gives dubious advice) just reel me in. (BTW, there are quite a few actresses I like, some I will go see anything they are in, but I haven't had a favorite actor since William Powell (Google him, you young whippersnappers) but I have to say everything I've seen with Jason Bateman in it was better because he was in it.)
Yesterday I watched "Heartbreakers" and I loved this French film, best romcom I've seen in a while. Two things I really like about foreign films (three, if you can't the fact that the DVD will always have subtitles so deafies like me can follow the action, something not always true of American motion pictures -- why do some DVDs have Spanish and Portugese subtitles but not English. The second thing I'm going to do when I become President is make it a law that all movies must be subtitled for the deaf and hearing-impaired) : One, is that most of the time I don't recognize the actors (although I've seen enough French movies that now I do recognize some of l'acteurs) so I don't have the distraction of trying to follow a movie while wondering why nobody points out to the lead character "You know you look just like Robin Williams" or Brad Pitt or (God help us) Kate Hudson. You have to be a pretty good actor to make me forget I've seen you in a dozen or so other films and read about you in People magazine. Two, the actors look like real people. One problem I have with American films and TV (even my favorite show "Bones") is that you have all these cops and lawyers and doctors and people not know for their good looks all looking drop dead gorgeous. Vanessa Paradis, the star of "Heartbreakers" has a humongous gap between her two front teeth and a flat chest, two "flaws" that would have to be "fixed" before she could even get a walk-on role in Hollywood, but she's absolutely stunning (and Johnny Depp evidently agrees, she's his baby mama) and the movie gains verisimilitude because she does look like a real person and and not a botoxed, siliconed Tinseltown cyborg. Same for the male lead Romain Duris, who is handsome but not nearly as studly as he thinks. Instead of playing his part broadly for laughs every second he brings some nuance. I didn't even recognize him as the titular character in "Moliere" until the movie was over. (He was great in that one too, by the way.)
Not that this one wasn't predictable too. Alex and his sister and brother-in-law make their living by breaking up romances. Say you don't like the guy your daughter's about to marry, whip out your checkbook and call the heartbreaker team.
Since Alex is in debt to a mobster he and his team take a case that violates one of their tenets -- never try to break up a happy relationship, only one where one of the partners is unhappy, although maybe not aware of that fact yet. Juliette is in love with her handsome, rich, generous fiancee and she takes an instant dislike (of course) to Alex, who pretends to be her bodyguard. Gradually he comes to care for her -- not just to love her, that's too easy, but to like her and to want to not do anything that could spoil her chance at happiness -- and so even though he knows it means he won't get paid -- and will take one hell of an ass-cutting from the loanshark's goon -- he pulls back just before he succeeds in seducing her, which is when we realize that she has feelings for him too.
I won't say any more about how it gets to where you know it's going, other than to say that I am a connouiseur of those scenes where the guy and the girl realize where they belong and run from an airport or their own wedding back to the girl or guy that seemed so inappropriate 90 minutes ago, and this movie contains my new favorite of said scenes.
I guess I'll use a scale of one to ten stars on my movie review scale, and I have to give Heartbreakers a 10. I wouldn't change a thing. See it now, because Universal Pictures and Working Title have reportedly snapped up English remake rights to "Heartbreakers" and you know they'll mess it up, probably cast Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler to bozo it up.