A monthly feature? Say it ain't so: 5 Things I'm Digging This Month

5 Things I'm Digging in May of 2008

[For fan's of my early LJ work, this might remind some of the monthly "Cool List" I used to do...basically, you're on-the-nose with that one. But back then, Woody Allen, Lou Reed, and David Bowie had permanent joint-residence at the top of my lists. That is no longer true, because this list is only in reference to RECENT pop culture happenings. I'm sorry for any disappointment this may cause any old school fans of my internet ramblings {i.e. Marj}]

5. Wolf Parade - "Grey Estates"/"Kissing the Beehive"
Both of these are tracks from the upcoming Wolf Parade LP, At Mount Zoomer. Krug's stuff tends to catch me quicker than Boekner's contributions, but Boekner's "Grey Estates" was the first song to truly catch my ear on my first listen-through the whole album. Both songs are great, but the whole album strikes me as more of a grower than their debut, so we'll see what my favorites are by December/January come EOY-list-Season. "Grey Estates" is a more familiar-sounding song than "Kissing the Beehive," but both show the growth of the band's songwriters. Spencer Krug always gets the credit between the two, with Dan Boekner's songs usually sidelined. But, for me, Boekner's tendency toward urban epics [I'm thinking "Grey Estates," "This Heart's on Fire," and "Shine a Light", specifically] in conjunction with Krug's freak-pop sensibilities [I'm thinking "Fancy Claps," "I'll Believe in Anything," and his side-project Sunset Rubdown's Shut Up I am Dreaming, among other things] define Wolf Parade's sound and "feel".

4. Iron Man doing so damned well at the box office
Well, Iron Man did better this weekend than (almost certainly) anybody expected. What does this mean for me? Robert Downey Jr. is fucking back for good! Woo! No more "what if he snorts all my coke" from movie execs when his name comes up. Way to go Robby.
Ahem. And, you know...other things excite me about this too. I'm not a huge fan of the comic book, but Marvel's recent Civil War storyline has gotten me somewhat familiar with his paper and ink incarnation. The HUGE financial success of this movie just makes it more likely that The Incredible Hulk will do well, and, regardless of quality, both films' success would make large cinematice comic book cross-overs more likely. You know we've all been waiting for someone to pull this off right, and if Marvel makes the studios enough money, they'll eventually let them cross-over profitable franchises. As I understand it, there are cross-overs between Iron Man, Hulk, and the rumored/upcoming Nick Fury film; what with Tony Stark (IM's alter-ego) appearing in Hulk, Nick Fury (in the form of Samuel L. Jackson) appearing [and firmly introducing the concept of S.H.I.E.L.D. to movie-goers...finally] in Iron Man, and god-knows-what going down during the possible Nick Fury or Avengers flicks.
I think that this creation of a cohesive cinematic Marvel universe is a GREAT move, mostly because it [hopefully] will create a somewhat measurable standard of quality for Marvel's future films (good-bye throwaway shit like Daredevil and Ghost Rider?) and allow for more substantial cinematic adaptations of comic book sagas without having to tie them to specific actors or characters [especially useful in the case of contract/continuance disputes]. If Marvel can get over the hump (and Iron Man's success may indicate that it has) of having to sell specific characters in their films (i.e., running the risk of running out of recognizable/profitable faces), then they can really let the story-telling creativity flow in the future.
Imagine a world in which comic book movie franchises don't have to start with stangnant origin stories, and can instead develop characters already "created" onscreen. We've seen this done woefully with Elektra, but Daredevil isn't much to start with. Hopefully, these theoretical spin-offs would fit into larger, multi-film, intercinematic story arcs. Cross-overs that are not framed simply as X vs. Y, but have complex, involved storylines, could sustain the popularity and creative juices of comic book films as a genre well past this or the next decade.
Of course, Iron Man's success could be more of an indicator of Marvel's newly minted cinematic Brand Name. Maybe I can look forward to having the annual BIG MARVEL MOVIE(S) usher me into old age.

[PS: The only problem with all this is that X-Men: The Last Stand blew so goddamned hard it fucking hurts every-single-time-I-think-about-it...oh God, my eyes are bleeding from sheer X-Men fanboy fury. I know that Magneto and Wolverine spin-offs are lined up for 2009, but the whole franchise seems tainted. I can't trust future films within this franchise after Last Stand ignored almost every character's established traits and personality. And I'm not talking established in the comics, I mean character stuff set up within the first two films. Brett Ratner, the film's director, expects me to accept that Rogue was put through all the henious shit of the first two films only to voluntarily give up her powers cuz she doesn't want to blue ball Iceman? {no pun intended} Really? Thanks, I'm glad that was the character arc of one of comic history's greatest heroines. Don't even get me started on the unnecessary sidelining of Professor X, Magneto, Cyclops {permanently, in this case}, Jean Grey (well, sorta necessary here and in Magneto's case, kinda), and Mystique by film's end. I would have loved to see Rebbecca Romijn's Mystique lead an incarnation of the Brotherhood of Mutants in future spin-offs, or perhaps just generally achieve the same level of canonized awesomeness as her comic counterpart. Not to hate in RR's portrayal in any way; I am a big fan. {Oh, and for the haters, yes, RR was PERFORMING. People get nominated for/win Oscars for playing mutes, and they don't have to communicate through a second skin of make-up. I was more impressed with Rebecca Romijn's performances in the X-Men films and Femme Fatale than either of Charlize Theron or Halle Berry's Oscar-winning de-glams.} I'm hoping that there are more spin-offs of the X-Men franchise coming down the pipe, assuming the success of the not-yet-named Magneto project and the un-cinematically titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine. What's frustrating about those two films is that they are exploring the early years/non-X-Men time for each character, which means that the narrative of the central films will not continue until another, non-Origin spin-off. That is somewhat annoying, considering the heavy/nearly invsible teasing at the very end of Ratner's film {his occasionally successful use of tiny comic book references was his one saving grace as a director, he also, unfortunately, didn't know when to quit} that hints at Xavier surviving Jean's deadly telekinetic-exfoliation and Magneto regaining his powers {though I do wonder where Magnus got the metal chess pieces he was using in the park; I have yet to run into a set of those.})

[PPS: On the subject of Samuel L. Jackson's rumored casting as the titular character in the upcoming Nick Fury film: I am fully in favor of it. Like 100% awesome, in my book. You see, I am actually far more familiar with the "Ultimate" version of Nick Fury than I am with the traditional Fury, who is a crotchety old white man. Some fans are calling shenanigans on the casting, but I don't have any true affection for Caucasian Nick Fury, and Sam Jackson needs an action role that isn't literally written for him to flesh out. My phrasing there is a bit ironic, considering the main reason that I agree with the casting: the Ultimate Marvel version of Nick Fury is visually based on Jackson, and in an issue of The Ultimates {the "Ultimate" Avengers, basically}, Fury says he would want Jackson to play him in a film adaptation of The Ultimates' exploits. This may seem corny, but it is enough to settle the matter for me. Besides, I'm not sure we'll be seeing this Nick Fury film in its current rumored form. I think we're gonna end up with a film adaptation of either The Avengers or The Ultimates. I think Marvel may be wiser to use The Ultimates, and try to tie their new franchises close together, and to their current, fresh line of comics. This way, as Marvel's sales rise, the distinction between the original and Ultimate versions will become public common knowledge, and then the film's may be granted more experimental breathing room with characters. Besides, the cinematic Marvel universe more resembles Ultimate Marvel in its modern origins. Of course, with the retconning of Ang Lee's Hulk with Edward Norton's least-favorite-movie-to-promote-of-all-time, and the possible future retconning of the Spider-Man and X-Men films to explain the absence/change of characters/actors, the cinematic Marvel universe will have more "alternate versions" than the comic book world. Of course, that is not true. NOTHING will ever contain more alternate universes than the Marvel Comics multiverse...except, possibly, the theoretical real-life multiverse, String Theory and whatnot.]

3. Earth's The Bees Make Honey in the Lion's Skull, The Notwist's The Devil, You + Me, & El Guincho's Alegranza!; 3 great essay-writing albums.
Evidently, Earth's earlier albums were heavier and more, you know, lively. Or so says this markedly subpar review of the band's show in Chicago this past Friday. I haven't heard their back catalog (just got a couple of older albums, tho...I am muy, muy siced to listen) but I'm willing to bet that they haven't just decided to start sucking, just for the Hell of it. Either way, their 2008 release, The Bees Make Honey in the Lion's Skull has been played on my iTunes somewhere near 60 times in the past two months; so I'm a big fan of this album. It's melodic, long-winded, and really charming. Out of all the albums I play when people are studying in my room, this one has earned the most fans outside of academia. It's 7 tracks long, but every track is decently long, falling in the middle ground between 5 and 10 minutes, and every note seems to come at just the right moment. It's definitely my favorite Spacey Stoner music of the moment.
However, The Notwist and El Guincho's new albums have also wrapped themselves around my brain, especially due to their heavy rotation during the last month of school, and all the study sessions therein. The Notwist's album isn't particularly ground-breaking, and they don't really show any intentions of adapting their sound based on current fads in music. They still sound a little bit like a more optimistic, organic Radiohead [I am not implying that Radiohead is "inorganic", but their take on a similar mix of rock and electronic influences is a lot colder, less rooted in familiar territory than The Notwist's], but they have not diminished in creativity or listenablity as far as these ears can tell. This album is a lot more guitar/instrument based than Neon Golden, but it maintains the same mood as that earlier album.
El Guincho, according to AllMusic, is Pablo Díaz-Reixa, who ran away from home at age 14 to pursue a career in sports, but ended up an internet success story. Or that's how NBC4 would begin things. It seems that this kid ended up becoming a musician, and joined his cousin's band, Coconut. Díaz-Reixa was "inspired while on tour", code for "saw someone else do it first", to blend samples of psychedelic, calypso and tropilcalia from older South American records with his own percussion. This stuff is like Panda Bear's secret party time side-project, which makes sense, seeing as Person Pitch, the album this most sounds like, was made after Panda Bear moved to Portugal. Whatever cultural appropriation is going on here, it sounds fantastic.
Checking these albums out is a requirement for friends of mine from now on.

02. Studying Angels in America; or just the looming shadow of my future academic work in general
Having studied the play all-too-briefly in my US Lit Since 1960 course this semester, I was immediately taken with the academic dissection of Tony Kushner's play. I already have pages upon pages of notes on this play, and I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER take notes on anything. Long story short, I can see myself becoming a scholar of the play, or at least writing a dissertation on it for a Graduate degree. Maybe I should become a Doctor of American Theater.
Anyways, the play is just brilliant, and every glance I take at its pages just makes me want to write another thirty or forty pages about it. Unfortunately, I have never seen it performed, and have no intentions on doing so until a particular professional production tickles my fancy. Ah well. At least I have a pretty-darned-good (but juuuust shy of great) movie adaptation to fall back on. Besides, I'm not sure any interpretation of the diner scene between Belize and Louis would do justice to my love for Kushner's writing itself.
I hope that I end up writing things that people want to read. New things. New thoughts. Or at least, new angles on things. That would be nice. Kushner's got that down.

01. Academic Journal Articles, especially my access to them through the school
I'm tired, so I won't say much, but I will leave you with a few titles to ponder. Keep in mind, I used 3 out of four of these as sources on my final papers this semester:
Clover - "Her Body, Himself - Gender in the Slasher Film" - 1987
Bishop - "Raising the Dead - Unearthing the non-literary origins of zombie cinema" - 2006
Hesmondhalgh - "Post-Punk's Attempt to Democratise the Music Industry - The Success and Failure of Rough Trade" - 1997
David & Munoz - "Heads and Freaks - Patterns and Meanings of Drug Use Among Hippies" - 1968

My conclusion? I am a nerd. Thank you.


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