Everything to do with Werner Herzog gets me excited. His movies, his approach to making movies, his life and his approach to living his life. This idolatry of him has caught on with more of the public in recent months. Case in point: the internet trend of appropriating Chuck Norris hyperbole and inserting a ludicrous Herzog assertion on top of it (Norris knocked out a bear with one punch. Herzog telepathically commanded 400 monkeys to tear it limb from limb. OR: Chuck Norris uses live rattlesnakes for a belt. Herzog uses Chuck Norris).
When he decides to lend his persona to other projects (like playing the Father in Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy) it’s particularly noteworthy. It is very revealing for a man who zigs and zags through life as much as Herzog to support someone else’s project. He is charismatically obtuse about contemporary cinema when discussing it in interviews. Him lending support to a project is as close to a “thumbs-up” as we’re likely to get out of him.
So, his latest piece of chosen material, this fantastic short film about the life of a plastic bag. It follows the bag from the glory days in the grocery store to the down-and-out days thereafter. Ramin Bahrani is the mustache-twirler behind this diabolically tragic (and funny) short. Obviously the hook is that Herzog himself lends his voice to characterize the bag. I never thought a plastic bag would have such a thick, German, accent. After watching it I’ll never think otherwise again.
It’s hard to argue with a statement like that when you’ve had the sort of run that HBO has. With notches on their belt that include The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mr. Show with Bob and David the cable channel could feasibly retire, and ride off into the salt-and-pepper-static sundown of our televised world. They’d be legends.
We could discuss the merit of Taxicab Confessions and G-String Divas some other time.
Some would argue that there has been a quality drop-off in the past couple of years (me and six other people accounted for the scant John From Cincinatti fanbase). Entourage has been their mainstay. True Blood is popular (if not as critically blow-jobbed as The Sopranos and The Wire) and so was Flight of the Conchords. The former will return while the latter will not. Big Love has a rabid following, but none of their shows have broken through with the ferocity of earlier works.
As a whole, they’ve yet to recapture that all-important zeitgeist since The Sopranos, Sex and the City and The Wire finished their runs. People have migrated to Showtime (Dexter, Weeds) and AMC (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) for their “respectable” television.
Well, HBO has gone back to the well. And that’s a good thing. Starting with Allen Ball, who has found success with True Blood (after dominating tear-ducts for six years with Six Feet Under), HBO has rewarded the talent from years prior with more shots at glory.
David Simon, the mad-genius who led a pack of lesser-geniuses in creating The Wire, will return with Treme – a show that adopts New Orleans as it’s principal character.
David Milch, the sailor’s mouth behind Deadwood will voice his current profanity with Luck – the first television role for Dustin Hoffman in a handful of decades. The acid-tongued soliloquies will use a horse-track as principal location.
In addition to the old boys, there is Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones to solidify their line-up. Empire has Martin Scorsese’s name attached and Game of Thrones is an ambitious project wherein they’ll adapt one epic fantasy book per-season for as long as the the HBO executives will allow.
HBO appears to be using a strategy of blending reliance on proven talent and the sort of ambitious risks that helped elevate their name. Fingers crossed for all.
I watch a ton of videos for Portland bands and this is easily one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen in awhile. It helps that the band, Portland-based Portugal the Man puts out music that’s deserving of badass videos. The pacing is superb (my biggest gripe with Portland music videos is that they’re slow as molasses) and the cinematography is glistening. Like the previous Portugal the Man video (which I also fawned over) this was directed by Ryan Rothermel with Michael Ragan as the Director of Photography.
Check out this awesomely psycadelic video for Portland band Au‘s “Ida Walked Away,” off of their new EP “Versions.” It was skillfully animated by Takafumi Tsuchiya, a Tokyo-based video artist and motion graphics designer. How did the band get set up with such a talented dude? Portland Mercury’s End Hits music blog is on the case, read the interview here.
Check out the new track “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler” off of Quasi‘s new album “American Gong.” The album was just released on February 23 by Kill Rock Stars. The video was directed by Clyde Petersen and Forrest Baum.
Check out episode 28 of the Portland music series directed by fellow Truckerspeed author Sean Whiteman, produced by me (Scott) with sound done by our talented friends at Dexterous Productions, plus a couple of other cool dudes, Jov Luke and Matt Huiskamp. We’d been talking to the band Reporter for awhile trying to set up a location. Luckily we were put into contact with some fine people who work for Portland Metro’s Ecoroof program. That’s how it works folks, if you have a great location in Portland feel free to holler at us via the Penny Jam website.
Though the franchise has never been entirely dormant (often appearing online in some very savvy short pieces, and always a perennial television favorite) the Muppet franchise has been a stranger to the silver screen for over a decade. But not for long. Those who seek the rare fusion of high and low-brow comedy will be pleased. Their return is imminent. The inciting incident appears to be 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
In the film, Jason Segal plays a man who eventually uses puppets as his form of art. Segal expresses his inner angst, and the turmoil of the soul, via a puppet version of Dracula that owes heavily to the delightful aesthetic the Muppets have honed over the last couple decades. The first bit of progress has been that Segal has just signed on to be the human-lead in the new film he co-wrote after the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
A principal reason the Muppets have proven to be such enduring favorites to many is their ability to progress with the times. They are actively engaged in pop-culture and grow with society. They aren’t relics of the 70’s, they are keeping up with the times, making silly internet videos and biding their time to be unleashed on the masses once again.
That time has come, and keeping with their tradition of finding great talent to associate themselves with, they have signed James Bobin to direct the next entry in the franchise. Bobin is best known for his work on Flight of the Conchords. That show was very adept at combining music and comedy, a trait held dear by Muppets. The confidence and artistry brought by Bobin coupled with a script co-written by leading-man Segal, should make for a movie loyal to the franchise’s roots and fresh enough to keep pace with an ever-spinning world.
We’re big fans of both Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose (check out our Penny Jam episode with Laura here) so it stands to reason that their new collaborative project, Bridge Carols will please those same mellow, ambient sensibilities. The video is a slow and meditative, but ultimately quite beautiful. Directed by Ryan Jeffery.
Jon Ragel’s one-man-band Boy Eats Drum Machine is in a small group of Portland music that I listen to on repeat. His last album BOOOMBOXXX was killer, and having got my mitts on his new one “Hoop and Wire” I can safely say that it is even better. The video, “ABQ” is full of BEDM’s signature of deep, sticky beats and intensity. Directed by Benjamin Meader also directed the Portland Roller Derby documentary Brutal Beauty, which I blogged about previously.