Music Video of the Day: Chemistry by Arcade Fire (2018, dir by Ray Tintori)


Oh hell yeah!

I love this video!  A dog tries to romance a cat and ends up getting kicked out of the party by a bunch of sharks.  But he’s not ready to give up!  And, of course, it all leads to arson and space travel.  Because of course it does…

This video was directed by Ray Tintori, who also directed the video for Lindsey Stirling’s Crystallize.

Enjoy!

Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)


Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

Quick Review: “Her” (dir. by Spike Jonze)


her-movie-poster

Before you read this, leonth3duke has a great review for “Her” up as well. Please check it out. It’s a great take on a sweet film.

Technology changes the way we communicate with each other. In a city like New York – well, everywhere, I’d imagine – there are individuals walking around with phones and pads, caught up more in their devices than in the people around them. At dinner tables, you may catch whole groups of people seated that are “checking in”, rather than directly communicating. I myself have done that quite a bit. All of these gadgets give us the ability to connect to tons of people, but at the same time there’s this potential for isolation and/or distance. Are we really connecting deeply with anyone or are people just fitting the bill just to kill off the loneliness?

Spike Jonze’s “Her” doesn’t argue whether or not we should be so digitally social, but it does present the audience with examples of the ways we may reach for connections these days. It’s both beautiful, weird and somewhat eerily familiar.

“Her” focuses on Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix), who works as a letter writer. Though at his job, he creates heartfelt letters for others, in his interactions outside of that he’s somewhat withdrawn (or he’s simply reserved with his words). He’s in the middle of a divorce with his wife (Rooney Mara), and more or less keeps to himself. One day, he decides to pick up a new OS for his computer with an advanced AI. This is how Samantha (Scarlett Johannson) comes into the picture. She helps to organize his day to day tasks and as she’s curious about the world, Theodore explains what he can. As crazy as it sounds, it grows into something more.

The movie was originally done with Samantha Morton (Cosmopolis) as Samantha, but supposedly Jonze felt something was off during the editing and post production. They talked it over and Morton stepped down. There’s nothing at all wrong with Scarlett’s take – it’s sad that she can’t be acknowledged for her performance because of rules – but there’s a part of me that hopes that in the video version there’s a behind the scenes showing what Samantha Morton’s version of the role turned out. I think it would be pretty interesting to see.

Johannson does a wonderful job considering that it’s just her voice. From a bright “hello” to a whispered “Hey.”, as Samantha grows, you can catch subtle changes in her demeanor. Granted, one can say it’s easy to do a voice over, but one only has to look at Julia Roberts’ performance in Charlotte’s Web to know the difference between talking out your lines, and actually conveying them with feeling.

For someone who has to work with a character they can’t see or interact with directly, Phoenix is great here. Coming off of The Master, the role is a complete turn around. He’s the anchor of the film and through him we see all the joys and pains. He conveys this weird sense of curiosity about the world that masks a deeper pain. I rubbed my chin a number of times during this, amazed at how much of myself I saw in the character of Theodore. It was a little jarring, actually. Also coming off The Master is Amy Adams, whose role here reminded me of a guest starring role she had on the tv show “Charmed”.  Playing Theodore’s friend Amy, she acts as a sounding board for Theodore. I have yet to see American Hustle, but I liked her here and personally thought she did far better in this film than she did in Man of Steel.

Overall the casting for “Her” is good. Matt Lescher (The Mask of Zorro) has a humorous part as Amy’s husband. Even Rooney Mara comes across well as Theodore’s wife. Other casting choices include Kristen Wiig (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Portia Doubleday (Carrie), and Olivia Wilde (Rush).

Cinematographer Hoyt Van Hoytema (The Fighter, Inside Llewyn Davis) and Jonze created a near future that isn’t terribly distant from where we are now. It’s bright, sunny, extremely clean in the daytime scenes. The nights are so well lit that it first reminded me of Roger Deakin’s Shanghai sequences in Skyfall. It’s almost a cozy future.  Interfaces with computers are more direct and even funny at times. This is something you’ll notice right from the start. Everyone’s appearance, however, seems a bit frumpy. It’s like everyone just grabbed the first thing in their closet and said “You know what, I’ll go with it.” It caused a bit of a laughter from the audience mostly, which could pull from the story, but it’s hardly unlikely.

The theme of “Her” is loneliness, or at least that’s what I took from it. It was of people looking to connect. Some succeed on different levels, some don’t but there’s a longing there. It comes through as clearly in “Her” as it can, and it’s one of the elements I really enjoyed about the movie. Some of the conversations in the film are deep, those ones you have after you move past all of the small talk about the weather. Sometimes harsh, painful truths come out. At other times, it’s just subtle realizations being voiced.

After the film, I’ve found I’ve spent a little more time interacting with others face to face – something I don’t normally do. I normally don’t feel lonely because there things I can do. Ride my motorcycle, go to the movies, write something. With this, however, it was like someone filmed me, cleaned up the story and presented it better. Though I am somewhat introverted, I also suffer from abandonment issues, and tend not to form too many close friendships of a fear of losing them. I recognized that I do have more moments of loneliness than I ever really noticed before. For me, “Her” is one the best films I’ve seen this year simply because (like “12 Years a Slave”) it felt like it spoke to me directly. It’s humorous in many places, sad in others, but at the end of it all, I left the theatre thinking about the movie and experiencing emotions I hadn’t expected to.

And sometimes, that’s enough to consider a film great. I’m eager to see this again.

Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2012


Continuing my series on the best of 2012, here are ten of my favorite songs from 2012.  Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these were the best songs of 2012.  Some of them aren’t.  But these are ten songs that, in the future, will define 2012 for me personally.  Again, these are my picks and my picks only.  So, if you think my taste in music sucks (and, admittedly, quite a few people do), direct your scorn at me and not at anyone else who writes for the Shattered Lens.

By the way, I was recently asked what my criteria for a good song was.  Honestly, the main thing I look for in a song is 1) can I dance to it and 2) can I get all into singing it while I’m stuck in traffic or in the shower?

Anyway, at the risk of revealing just how much of a dork I truly am, here are ten of my favorite songs of 2012.

10 and 9) Make Bullying Kill Itself and Jacking It In San Diego (Trey Parker and Matt Stone)

These two songs were featured in the classic bullying episode of South Park.  They should be required listening for anyone who thinks that a YouTube video can change human nature.

8) Big Machine (Ryan Miller)

Perhaps not surprisingly, I discovered a lot of my favorite music of 2012 in the films of 2012.  This song was written for the Safety Not Guaranteed soundtrack.

7) Abraham’s Daughter (Arcade Fire)

This is from The Hunger Games soundtrack.

6) The Poison Tree (Moby, feat. Inyang Bassey)

Technically, this song — which is featured on Destroyed —  is from 2011 but it was released, as a single, in 2012.

5) Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)

This is just a fun song.

4) Stronger (Kelly Clarkson)

Kelly Clarkson is always going to have to deal with haters, because she won American Idol and voted for Ron Paul.  She’s one of my favorites, however.

3) Skyfall (Adele)

The minute I heard this song, I knew Skyfall was going to be great.

2) Blow Me (One Last Kiss) (P!nk)

It’s not really a year in music unless I have P!nk somewhere on the list.

1)Razor’s Out (Mike Shinoda featuring Chino Moreno)

This is from the soundtrack of The Raid: Redemption.  Quite simply put, this is a great soundtrack for writing.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look at 2012 with my list of 10 good things that I saw on television last year.