Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Move-ing Time, Time to Say Goodbye and then Hello

Hello, All-Who-Come-By-This-Here-Little-Corner-of-the-Web-to-Read-My-Somewhat-Unconventional-Posts!

I'm moving.

This Blogger-Powered Blog has served very well this past year for what I wanted to do : write "reviews" (of music I heard or movies I saw) in a way that helped others enjoy the art deeper, or even at a more basic level helped others see all musical and cinematic culture as "Art."  If somebody made it, then they made it with a purpose. And just as filmmakers and musicians have a responsibility to make their art well, viewers and listeners should out of respect care enough to watch and listen well too.

That is to say, I don't subscribe to a High Art / Low Art kind of mentality - though I recognize sometimes filmmakers and musicians have a particular audience in mind. But I believe all art can be 'good' art, if we only take the time to care.

And that's what this blog has been about : taking the time to care.

So if you're here, now that I've moved, I hope you'll take the time to look through the posts and see if you find anything interesting. As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have one.

And then, rest assured : My project is not yet done. It has only moved.
So please join me at
We'll continue the discussion there.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time to Talk

Some films just by their very nature are an indictment of a certain kind of living.

Now I'm not saying in these cases the film is always right in its indictment.

I'm just saying the values of the film and the values of those it's portraying are at times somewhat at odds.

Which is to say the arthouse / indie film We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) starring Tilda Swinton (as mother) and Ezra Miller (as son) does depict a few things about life in the American suburbs that are less than a little bit negative. In fact, it depicts the suburbs at (perhaps) its worst.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting [Even] Closer

Article first published (in abbreviated form) as Movie Review: Closer on

Closer isn’t always better.

You know those times when you’re like: “TMI! TMI! Too Much Information!”

Okay, I’m joking. Those times are rarely that serious. But there are times when something happens or something's shared that you just wish had never happened. Either because the incident will just make things awkward or because now things will never be the same. Point is, sharing, being vulnerable, being exposed - it can mean happily growing closer; it can also mean letting in something deadly. And it is that latter point the film Closer (2004) exposes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mac Miller: From the 'Burgh (Pittsburgh)

It never hurts to learn something new, right?
All the better, when you're learning something new about people younger than you.
(It's ultra-fresh.) [Alright, I agree, that was a stupid phrase. I have a lot still to learn.]

Anyway, point is, last week I discovered Mac Miller - the white 19-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh who debuted his first album last November and blew away the competition with the first independently-distributed album to hit No. 1 in sales since 1996.
Yeah. Woah.

How did he do that?
Well, I'm not totally sure, but I'd say it must have been the music videos. He has more than five music videos (and they're not cheaply done) with over 10 million views each!
He's also approaching 2 million Twitter followers.
And he wrote a song called "Donald Trump." which apparently went over very well with the Trump [he called Mac the 'new Eminem' - mostly on skin color].

Did I mention Mr. Miller is only 19?

Understandably, with all this hype, and then a debut album Blue Slide Park (2011) that as a whole is really only so-so, most music critics listening to Mac Miller are a-little-less-than-enthusiastic, hesitant to embrace the phenom. Mac's a young kid with a lot of potential. But will he make good music? Will he change the direction of rap music? Will he blow up the show?

I honestly don't really know. I'm not an expert and I can't read the future.
But like this guy who learned a thing from his 19-year-old niece listening to Mac, I can say I'm learning things from people younger than me [or "I"] - just like the rules of grammar, the rules of music and what works and what's hot and what's not are all changing.
I learned about Mac Miller from one of my students: he said, Check out "Nikes on my Feet" and anything else you like. I did. And I'm happier for it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting Closer

The other day late at night while on vacation I saw the film Closer (2004) a story about relationships and sex and the way adults navigate them (starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen as the film's four protagonists).

I really, really enjoyed it. even while many of the plots, scenes, and themes I found quite unsettling, even disturbing. but I enjoyed it (I think) - besides the fantabulous acting and the superbly written screenplay (composed by the man who'd written the original piece for theatrical performance, Patrick Marber, a wise decision) - because the film in a way confirmed what I'd already come to assume:

When people grow closer, for all the pleasure of intimacy, something toxic springs up too.

Because, as we see in the film, even if you're meeting a stranger, you can form a connection. From that connection can come a friendship can come a relationship can come a romance. And from that romance, blooms an intimacy. And as part of that intimacy, each part exposes him- or herself (in more ways than one) and are vulnerable. And that is where the danger lies.

Because then, because they're so close, they want to be honest. But then they're too honest. So they see the need to deceive. But when deception's exposed, it harms, it hurts. And then there's sadness. And sadness causes pain. But after pain, there's acceptance (no matter whether or not folks stay together), and acceptance means growth. But as we saw earlier, just because it's growing doesn't mean it's good. It might be toxic.

And so watching that sort of toxicity on screen understandably fails to put viewers at ease. Closer functions more to leave viewers not happier, but wiser.
Which helps to explain I think why some reviewers (as with this one for the NYTimes) were put off by the film upon a first viewing.

So yeah: that's what I've come up with so far. You can expect a further thought-out review of the film Closer to come later sometime this week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Things

Hello -
As it happens, none of these guys are me.
And they're actually waving good-bye, not hello.
But, whatever.

It being the new year and all, I've decided to start some things new:

One. I've started writing for !

My first article for them, a film review of The Descendants, will (I'm quite certain) not be my last.

Two. That being said, before January ends, it's my plan to wrap things up here and reincarnate the Media Runner blog elsewhere, as part of a new personal website a friend is kindly piecing together for me. But more on that soon.

3. I have a whole lot else in the works: book-writing, photography, maybe something with theater, and some teaching, and definitely Food!

But as with the coming website and the brand-new writing gig, these new things will be born slowly:
Who knows what 2012 will bring?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Music

I know it can get cliché at times, but I still love Christmas music.

"O, Tannebaum" (from Charlie Brown Xmas).

"Jingle Bells" - gets me every time.

"Over the River and Through the Woods" - not sure what season this goes with, but I think of it every time I go to my grandmother Curry's.

"We Three Ships" - Sufjan Stevens sings this old-school Xmas song as part of his five-CD box set.

and "Silent Night" - aka "Stille Nacht." yeah, that's classic. and it appears in Joyeux Noel (2005) - one of my least mentioned favorite films.

I also really like Zooey Deschanel. (don't really know why, but I do.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Here Come the Newsies, Pt. 2

An Initial Reaction:

Well, I have to admit, it was good.

It was also pretty cheesy,
especially at the beginning.

And yet it was (kinda) inspiring,
if only because the Good Guys won.

Here Come the Newsies, Pt. 1

This here marks the beginning of another adventure
or at the very least, of an experiment:

I'm about to watch Newsies
(not The Newsies, though for whatever reason that title sounds right-er to me)
a 1992 Disney classic.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sharing is Caring

Cliches aside, everybody 'd agree, it's good to share.

And anyway, it being somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the very time of year encourages us to give.

So, here is my gift to you, that's been twice gifted to me: the music of Filligar.
The name's kinda like filigree ....... but different.
(Actually, the band is named after guitarist Johnny Mathias' twin sister's fish, just so that's settled.) The band certainly has something of that classic, old-school style (mixed with a youthful indie vibe).

They're said to sound a bit like Vampire Weekend - their partiality for the words that move, their lyrics often turned to a string of impressionistic non sequiturs. But then these guys have no pretension. They're just there to have fun. and make good music: They've written over 80 original songs, put out six albums, and been touring near continuously since 2008 (graduates of Dartmouth).

Three of them are brothers. The fourth member (Casey Gibson on keyboard) 's a close friend. So yeah: they're tight.

Anyway, when I was first gifted to hear of Filligar, I was on the verge of an adventure: Living Social was giving me opportunity to go on a photo scavenger hunt in Greenwich Village. I was pumped. And there was this party music going on, but it was playing too loud, too bold: I mean, the music wasn't as big a deal as it was being made out to be. and this guy, a staff member there, he directs me where I need to go, which is helpful. but then too he tells me, if he were the DJ, he'd be picking bands like Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, the Black Keys... and I was like, Now you're talking my language. And I told him some other bands he might not have heard of yet. And then he told me, Well, if that's your thing, the new, not-yet-so-well-known band I've been telling people about recently is Filligar. Check out their album, City Tree.

So I did. And following the counsel of this very hip music junky, I bought City Tree (2007) and listened to every song on it many, many times. It's stuff that would inevitably put me in a good mood; the beat hops and bops and rock n rolls all around. And the lyrics never get lost in extreme poetics or sappy, cloying romantics. Instead, the words're straightforwardly ambiguous. which leads you back to the music itself. And the way the piano guides the guitars that drive the drums that keep the other instruments in line with the vocals - it all just makes sense: a green-blue-and-ruby-red harmony of sound. You get lost in it. Or at least I did.

But then, the second gift: I went to Filligar's website and discovered 1. A New Album was coming soon, and 2. Their latest album, The Nerve (2010), had been supported by dedicated touring with, among others, The Black Keys. and the new album wasn't just pop-rock-indie, it's solid-70s-rock. in the 21st century! (I know, it's crazy. and these guys aren't even as old as I am.) Naturally, this earns them comparisons to Wilco, especially as both bands are based out of Chicago.  But, let me tell you, Filligar is doing something different.

The Nerve has some blues-rock, some soft-guitar, some hard-hitting piano, some crooning, some experimenting, and some very real rock. "Health" and the other three songs that start off the album sound the most polished. But my favorite is the last, "Slow Night at the Red Sea," for the way it flares and then carries you like a galloping stallion. You never wanna leave hold. And right then, having followed along for the song's very fun four-minute ride, it sets you down with a flourish of atmospheric sound. And it's done.

As I said, Filligar's got a new album due out early 2012.
Go here for a sneak peek of two of their songs!
And below is my personal favorite from their album City Tree (2007). ENJOY:

08 Yo Hi Hey by Filligar

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Exploring My Musical Tastes (and yours)

There’s this band with old style lyrics and look – but their music, despite expectations, I find super-boring. They're called The Low Anthem - and they sing of lost loves and apothecaries, and they have a retro look. I think their music just moves too slow. Or maybe it's just that their songs just don't have enough at stake - maybe there's not enough emotion behind them?