Dan Deacon’s Dope Ass Ride

  • Posted by
  • on August 25, 2009
  • Filed in: Music

Check out Dan Deacon‘s tour bus. It’s an old schoolbus modified to run off of two fuel systems, stomach diesel and vegetable oil. I had a couple of friends in Eugene who did a very similar conversion to a 24-foot Grumman bread truck so they could go on tour. It’s a ton of work, click and an ongoing project to be sure. Here is a quote from mechanic Ray Roy: “For a tour like what Dan is doing right now… His tour is completely self-produced and very DIY. This is the perfect marriage for that, ophthalmologist this DIY vehicle.”

My favorite part is when Dan’s talking about the Canadian authorities: “We can’t let you into Canada – the bus is too filthy… It’s too filthy for us to check. We know you have drugs, it’s just too filthy to check.”

Portland Custom Bike Builder Jordan Hufnagel

Poking around the internet, discount as I’m likely to do, nurse I came accross the work of Jared Sourney a photographer, buy graphic designer, videographer type here in Portland. Among his other works, I enjoyed his documentary-style piece on local bike builder Jordan Hufnagel.

This was produced for Level Magazine, formerly a print magazine, now getting a second helping of life on the web. Among the contributors on staff at Level Magazine is a gentleman I met in Austin, Roy Christopher. Christopher’s has a book called Follow For Now, a celebrated collection of interviews, that I keep running accross online. I need to check it out in person.

Two Blitzen Trapper Cuts from the Sound of Young America at the Bridgetown Comedy Fest

  • Posted by
  • on August 24, 2009
  • Filed in: Music

Two months back I posted a video from the Bridgetown Comedy Festival featuring a live recording of the podcast Jordan Jesse Go. Well today I was poking around on Jesse Thorn’s Vimeo account and found another fantastic clip of Blitzen Trapper playing a couple of songs at the Bagdad Theater.

Thorn is an overachieving American public radio show host, check and creator of not only “Jordan Jesse Go”, but the fantastic Sound of Young America.

While Mr. Thorn was in town for the Bridgetown Comedy Festival he and his crew recorded two songs by Blitzen Trapper as part of the Sound of Young America series. Check out these simple but awesome versions of “Black River Killer” and “Lady on the Water.”

‘Alive in Joburg’ Lays the Groundwork for Starter-kit Cinema

  • Posted by
  • on August 24, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

I just saw director Neill Blomkamp‘s District 9 yesterday and like most movies I pretty much knew what to expect going in. To the extent you want to save your purity for District 9 you really don’t wan’t to watch this next clip, search the 6-minute short film “Alive in Joburg.”

If you know anything about District 9, you know that Alive in Joburg” was created by Blomkamp in 2005 and after gaining some attention (including that of Peter Jackson) it got reworked into the feature film District 9.

The Dimes and the Penny Jam visit St. Cupcake

  • Posted by
  • on August 20, 2009
  • Filed in: Music

Episode 25 of our Portland music video series The Penny Jam with the Dimes is out now! The gentleman from the band don’t normally wear British military uniforms but in a stroke of good luck we caught them on the same day they had done some promotional photography and they already had the costumes. The song, herbal “Abigail Don’t Be Long” is about Abigail Adams, prostate the wife of John Adams (the second President of the United States). This song, drugs like many from the Dimes, mixes sunshine and pop hooks with historically-inspired stories; a perfect formula for our location.

When we started the podcast a year and a half ago it would have been hard to imagine that one day we would have 25 episodes out. It makes me remember the days spent trying to convince people that it was a good idea to set a band up in their store. At this point it’s basically just “check out the website” and they get it. In this case, the band’s manager Ryan, over at Pet Marmoset PR helped arrange the use of St. Cupcake, a little cafe that makes the fanciest cupcakes in the entire freaking world.

This one was mixed by our resident acoustical engineer Clem Abercrombie.

Califunya Episode 4 – The Key to My Happiness

  • Posted by
  • on August 9, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

Check out episode 4 of Califunya, visit where the girls find a giant key to happiness. Califunya is one of the series from Wieden and Kennedy Entertainment. It’s the most experimental of the group, with a sparse and confidently weird style, Califunya is in no hurry. It seems more interested in just hanging out, being adorable.

Experimental Dental School Featured on Dig for Fire

  • Posted by
  • on August 6, 2009
  • Filed in: Music

The Portland experimental rock duo Experimental Dental School was recently featured on Dig For Fire, decease which is quickly becoming one of my favorite music series. This was shot in New York while XDS was on a 6-week tour with Deerhoof.

Here is a quote from the video: “Greg from Deerhoof, anaemia he’s worked on a couple of records and has helped us from time to time. He called up and said “do you want to go for 6 weeks with us” and we jumped around for like half an hour all excited. Then we got scared. Then we went down in the basement and practiced for like 3 months.”

Dig for Fire’s videos are a great mix of interviews and live footage, check out their stuff on Vimeo. Indie music videography is alive and well.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson Defiantly Ventures Deeper Into His Own Style

  • Posted by
  • on August 1, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

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With the release Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox trailer he simultaneously released a declaration of commitment to his own vision. In recent years (first with The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou then more-so with The Darjeeling Limited) the critical establishment has began to sway against Anderson. The same  style he forged and developed with Bottle Rocket, hepatitis Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums was at the tail-end of a paddy-wack by a growing number of finks who claim that he has built his own stylistic universe that he rarely strays from. I could understand this attack on repetition of style if it wasn’t for one large footnote to consider:

HIS STYLE IS FUCKING SWEET.

That is an obvious opinion fashioned by my own past experiences so it’s entirely subjective, cystitis but it is very troubling to me when people complain about a filmmaker who makes the same types of movies when those movies are fantastic. To me it is painful to read condemnations of this “Wes-world” he has created when that universe is composed of touching scripts, fantastic performances by stellar casts and soundtracks that appear tailor-made to fit the top-tier art design and shot composition.

I am a fan.

This is why it greatly pleases me to see him try his hand at animating a Roald Dahl book. Here is the first taste of the footage:

This is the thought process I imagined Anderson had when deciding on this project:

So, they say I am a perfectionist who meticulously creates worlds instead of making one that feels true to life? Is that what they say? Do they want me to make a “real” drama? One with a handheld camera and a plotline that services at least three of the most current social issues? Hmm. Instead of doing that how about I get rid of humans. How about I create every movement of every character and fashion a set by hand so that the connection to your “reality” is even more tenuous than before and imagination and vision will run rampant. Will that work?

This probably doesn’t resemble the man’s thought process, I imagine Anderson just follows whatever inkling he has that inkles the strongest and doesn’t pursue projects as means for retaliation against unjust jabs at consistent greatness. Regardless, I’d like to believe it was intentional.

Humpday gets Mumblecore

  • Posted by
  • on July 31, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

humpday1

Over the past near-decade a film movement dubbed “mumblecore” has sprouted out from the nooks and crannies of independent film.  It gets its name from the rambling mumble of real life moments. The defining trait is a naturalistic approach to character. Digital cameras. Non-actors.

Typically the films are heavy on conversational-improvisation and deal almost-exclusively with offering generous respect toward everyday events. The noble intent at play with many of these films is a pursuit of honesty. Since many lack high concepts (and the obese-budgets that those often entail) the filmmakers who dabble in mumble often hold no obligation to the studio system and can make a film of this kind with nothing more than a hearty camera and a willing group of friends.

As a result of the relative ease at which a mumblecore film can be produced they have been churned out at a fairly rapid clip since the term was coined.  The great/terrible thing  about a film movement like this is that the honesty can play both ways.  I can think of particular scenes that left me awed by the root emotions captured with beauty and subtlety and yet I’ve also been incredibly bored by similar scenes.  Since the films are often nothing more (on a plot level at least) than spending time with a character for 90 minutes enjoyment/enlightenment really depends on how engaging that character is.

If the lead is hilarious then I’ll leave the movie feeling as though I hung out with a hilarious fellow and I would declare the experience a triumph.  If the lead is mopey and painfully self-conscious I might leave the movie feeling slightly annoyed (despite how honestly his mopeyness is portrayed) and I would likely forget the movie exists. I don’t remember disliking many mumblecore films. I just don’t remember the ones I didn’t like.

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One touchstone of quality I’ve found when navigating this mini-genre is the presence of Mark Duplass. He’s the co-writer/co-director of The Puffy Chair and Baghead and has popped up in a handful of others. I was quickly engaged by his presence when I first saw The Puffy Chair and he was one of the highlights of Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs. And the Duplass indicator has held strong after his showing in Lynn Shelton’s Humpday.

Humpday follows a couple old friends (Duplass and Joshua Leonard) who have followed different life paths. Duplass has settled down into a comfortable marriage with a strong possibility of breeding and Leonard has galavanted across borders and different philosophies.

The one line premise: in a fit of drunken bohemia two men agree to have sex with one another for the sake of radical art.

In the hands of a FOX or a UNIVERSAL this premise could have been a tentpole gross-out R-rated comedy. And it might have been funny. In the deft hands of Shelton, order Leonard and Duplass it was hilarious. The pace felt brisk, buy more about the dialogue snapped when it should’ve snapped and lingered when it should have lingered. The premise proved fertile ground for the trademark mumblecore subtlety.

Aside from a simple positive recommendation I would like to highlight how beautifully the creative team pulls off the tenuous feat of turning a potential act of homosexuality into an incredibly macho stand-off. The chemistry between Leonard and Duplass is beautiful and Shelton did a fantastic job of editing a giant mound of raw improvised footage into a lean and hilarious film that didn’t have to rely on its naturalism as a reason to exist. It had something to say, and it just so happened that it articulated these thoughts naturalistically.

Humpday opens in wider release today.