Posted tagged ‘catchphrase’

When Did Commercials Get Super Weird?

May 12, 2010

Can it be it was all so simple then?

Has anyone else noticed that the average commercial is super friggin’ weird these days? As a product of the 80s, I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side believing that the entire point of a promotional tool was to get the consumer to purchase a product. These days, as the mega-conglomerates would have you believe, not so much. They just want your attention and want you to think it doesn’t matter whether you buy it or not because they’re just that cool. Did it begin with the Quizno’s hideous Sponge-Monkies or Pepsi’s strategy to trap children in their bottles? Regardless, we’ve become a generation who wants whatever weirdness on top of weirdness you can throw at us in order to fork over the hard-earned cash we don’t have for your awful product that we don’t need. Quite frankly, this is why we are all dead on the inside the greatest country in the world. Here’s some example of how far into the abyss we’ve descended.

Pledge “Glass Box”

Beginning our journey is a reminder that modern commercials exist with the rational of the irrational and completely illogistical logistics. Without delving too far into NYUnicorn cultural studies post-modernist “othering” rhetoric, you’ll most often find cleaning products ads targeted toward women. Therefore, what better way to remind them of what they were put on this Earth to do than make the act of cleaning the most demeaning task possible? In a commercial that had to be directed by Sardu, a woman is “trapped” in a glass box and forced to clean it without so much as a protest or a plea. While this isn’t as bad as the one where a woman is screaming to be let out of the box at the end of it (not a joke), which has conveniently vanished from YouTube, the disembodied male voice gives the entire spot a bizarre misogynistic repressive sadomasochist vibe all from cleaning allergens. Did they really need to say the woman was “trapped?” At the risk of sounding oversensitive, when a woman is trapped in a glass house I have to throw stones and ask “Who is this supposed to appeal to?”

The Chicas Project “Sharing”

Whereas the last commercial brought up the possibility of the commercial not having a clear target audience, this one for Mun2’s The Chicas Project appears to be deliberately pursuing the wrong one. I first caught this in the summer of 2008 while channeling surfing and the image of siamese twins caught my attention. Two girls who enjoyed partying enough with each other to SURGICALLY SHARE THE SAME BODY?! This is the stuff that great 70s exploitation films are made of. AND THEY CHOKE EACH OTHER OUT IN FRONT OF THE PIZZA MAN? Sign me up, ring the alarm and sell me a t-shirt – I have a new favorite show. Even the name The Chicas Project gave the whole thing a jovial but morbid edge. Imagine my disappointment when the promo turned out to be just an attention-grabbing one-off for another reality show about two girls trying different crazy things! Im sure for what it is, this show on the youth-orientated Telemundo sister-station is fine, but it’s saddening such a bizarre premise seemingly raised on so much organic free-range awesome has gone to a 30 second waste.

Old Spice “P-P-P-P-P-POWER!”

Just when people thought time-tested deodorant Old Spice couldn’t go any further off the creative deep end than their I’m On A Horse Super Bowl ad comes this series, directed by the ambassadors of absurd Tim Heidecker and Eric Weirheim. Starring one of my Honest-to-Gosh favorite actor’s, Terry Crews AKA President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, Tim and Eric at least want to convey to you that Old Spice’s body wash is a quality product. What’s crazy is, unlike their Absolut ads, this isn’t a viral campaign. This is a nationally prime time syndicated commercial seen by every single demographic. While I love these ads, as does my Father who coincidentally was born a generation before me, I have to wonder if these are really going to catch on with everybody the way a Wasssssup or Can You Hear Me Now did and if so, where do we go from here?

I'm so gaffing the pilot episode for this series.

If anything, my greatest hope is that such outside the box factory thinking can expand beyond commercials into more standard programming. Sometimes cult followings crossover, and when that happens we’ve historically been all the better not only for better art, but the seeds planted for future generations that continue to defy convictions while managing to not suck. Abbbbbbdominals.

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!


Kick Ass – Movie Review

April 19, 2010

Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, Shanghai Nights), an awkward high school senior who, out of sheer teenage impulse, becomes a masked vigilante “superhero” named ‘Kick Ass’ that winds up in the middle of an actual hero’s conflict with New York’s biggest drug cartel. A shot at post-modernist hero lore, the film attempts to posture itself outside of traditional comic book movies by basing the character in a more “realistic” portrayal of New York City. The film’s R-Rating allows it to ground this reality in keeping the action sequences gun-centric and the dialogue four-letter friendly. Bad guys die, good guys get hurt, both sides cuss and the citizens watch it all unfold on YouTube. Yet, for a film so specific on what its aims are, the results are vague, plodding and genuinely unentertaining.

The film’s become something of an internet meme after film critic and Twitter enthusiast Roger Ebert panned it on the inherit morality (or lack thereof) of Kick Ass’ fellow superhero ‘Hit Girl’ (Chloe Moretz, Big Momma’s House 2), an eleven-year-old who exercises her itchy trigger-finger and rapidfire foulmouth just about every time she is onscreen. Raised and trained by her father ‘Big Daddy’ (Nicolas Cage, Face/Off) a framed policeman looking to bring down the corrupt system that sent him to prison and caused his wife’s suicide, at no point is the concept of vigilante justice or its consequences discussed between the two of them. While its absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s still a void that doesn’t explain where they go from wanting retribution to foregoing proper justice to “kill everyone now.” Both performances are great, particularly Cage who seems to be the only one aware of the sheer ludicrousness of the film he’s in and, to coin a phrase, “Cages Out” – maximizing all of his over-the-top acting abilities and holding the audience’s hand as we walk through an otherwise barren cinematic wasteland together.

As someone who grew up on Mortal Kombat and Rap Music, there’s just about nothing I love more than profanity and violence. When either is taken to the extreme in a jovial expression of one-upsmanship, the inherent hilarity is a feast for the senses and a triumph of human achievement. That being said, explicit language and violence is only as strong as the conviction behind it. Even if that conviction is just to be the most violent, profane thing ever, that’s still a valid reason to go to a particular extreme. Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn gives us a preteen girl who jumps, jives and wails a relatively-plausible arsenal and drops s-,f-, and c-bombs without batting a glittery eyelash. I find it painfully disinteresting and not because I’m offended, but rather because I’m underwhelmed. As a New York High School teacher, I’ve seen kids who were more violent and vulgar than anything on-screen in Kick Ass and honestly significantly more entertaining. The problem with Hit Girl is that Vaughn thinks having a cutesy eleven-year-old girl who swears and kills is enough to make a character work and it honestly isn’t*. A good starting point, yes, but for two hours he does nothing with her. Compare that to the three on-screen minutes of Kill Bill‘s “Gogo” and you get everything you would hope for from Hit Girl in a fortieth of the time.

A midst the misfires, the film does reach a few goals exceedingly well. Dave’s pulsating teenage hormones guide the him through the teenage lust for classmate Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and the awkward tension before finally sliding into second base is among the best handled I’ve seen on-screen. Fonseca really nails the subtle aspects of walking the line between “I’m concerned for my boyfriend’s health” and “I’m awesomely hooking-up with the local celebrity” Also shining is Superbad‘s Christopher Mintz-Plasse who shows the darker elements of the rich loner awkward kid, a much-different side of the same roles he and his ilk have been coasting in since their debuts. But such a talented cast firing on all cylinders just makes the flaccid final film all the more frustrating.

"Let's say you're a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in." - Roger Ebert

Vaughn’s biggest misstep with Kick-Ass is that he’s trying to make sure so many elements of the film’s story seem like they could take place in real-life, but attempts to propel the film with a fantasy comic-book energy that, as a result, doesn’t exist. You can’t have your Layer Cake and eat it too. Regardless the source-material or genre, a motion picture requires at least one complete thought, even if that thought is “Let’s have a bunch of stuff blow up so sexy people can look back at it and say something funny.” Kick Ass lacks the momentum to even let me turn my brain off and just revel in the carnage. By trying to define itself so much by what it’s not, Kick Ass forgets to tell us what it is over the course of two un-engaging hours where nothing happens. It’s baffling a film can do so little with so much and as a fan of foul-mouthed on-screen brutalities, I’m offended.

We give Kick Ass a Two out of Five

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*And the fact that she does it to THIS SONG makes it all the more cringe-worthy.

Great Moments in “Edited for Television”

April 16, 2010


You know what’s truly wonderful about Television? Everything. No seriously, from the good things, to the great things, to even the bad things – it’s all awesome. The past decade has seen the medium flourish with premium channels taking cutting edge comedy and the story-archs of episodic drama to new heights. As memorable and culturally enriching as such programming is, the ever increasing demand for content has made countless hours of television an oozing sore awaiting treatment. TV has often cast its dolphin mutilating tuna net into other mediums like a master-of-ceremonies needing to fill time fishes for semi-relevant anecdotes. More often than not, networks will air movies to fill the gap. Seeing as it’s an upstanding respectable arena, these works of art will often be made more palatable for all audiences’ benefit. By removing all the foul language and violence, the films are neutered made better. Here’s some of the worst them .

WARNING: The language in these clips range from explicit to fluffy.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
This was the first real absurd overdubbing I recall seeing. If you’ve ever walked up and down Hennipan Avenue or strolled through Greenwich Village, you’d recognize that every line of this film without question has been memorized by every human being ever born. Surely broadcast television doesn’t need to protect us from ourselves? Well, maybe a little:

Scarface (1980)
As a rap artist, I am legally required to not only like this movie, but reference it ad-nauseum. The way Al Pachino’s character goes from nothing to amassing a fortune* has struck a chord with most of Hip-Hop’s elite including No Limit Soldier Silkk the Shocker who, in an edition of MTV Cribs, showcased his “Scarface Room” which had no less than NINE televisions playing the movie on a loop at different times so if he ever wanted to see a certain part, it would always be coming up.** One could only imagine the horror that Mr. The Shocker would have if he ever sat down and saw his spiritual guide modified to…well…this:

Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Let’s be honest, this entire movie exists for this scene. A joke of a movie that wound up proving how powerful and unimportant the internet truly was, this exhibition of everything wonderfully wrong with Hollywood cared so much about delivering to its loyal fans who perpetuated its phenomenon by reshooting an entire scene to include something people jokingly knew would never be in any movie. Well, when television plays the internet’s movie, the cosmos align to bequeath a series of trump cards turning the simple concept of movie dialogue into complete and utter unintelligible gibberish. Avert your eyes, children:

OK, what was that? Look, we’ve all seen this film so we know SPOILER ALERT that at NO POINT is the concept of snakes, or anyone, fighting monkeys mentioned. The more I think about it, the more it confounds me. Do monkey fighters exist? I’m all too-familiar with monkey knife fighting***, but the participants in those are recognized by the Nevada State Athletic Commission as “fighting monkeys,” NOT “monkey fighters.” To add to that, what possible flight could last Monday-to-Friday? “But Chaz,” you say, and I say “What?” and you say “maybe he means flights that wouldn’t be on the weekends?” No, the term for those is “Weekday Flights.” How dare you.

Die Hard 2 (1990)
Sometimes the dubbing gets so bizarre it just adds numerous entire dimentions to the movie that shouldn’t exist. There are no words:

Pallies (1996)
Probably the cornerstone of unfortunate editing. Or masterpiece. Depending on context:

Alright, I have to go swear now.

Until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Then losing everything, including his life, at the end of the movie proving a wholly hedonistic material lifestyle is unfulfilling and frivolous, but don’t ever tell a rapper that as most of us never made it to the end since it’s really long and once we see he has a huge gun OF COURSE he’s going to be OK so let’s just rewind it and quote along with it, K?


***My Church group holds one in the basement of Immaculate Conception every third Sunday. It’s also tortilla night. You should come.

The NEW Domino’s Pizza – Food Review

April 12, 2010

Domino's Mother!

The American Alligator is known as somewhat of a living fossil as for over 200 Million Years, they’ve remained completely unchanged. While other species have had to evolve in order to survive, alligators simply didn’t need to. Their leathery texture and brackish saltiness is akin to another longstanding entity, Domino’s Pizza. However, the latter will have to bow out of this last-reptilian-standing contest 199 Million Years early as its genetic make-up (recipe) has finally changed. Yes, after 50 years of dependability, the Bob Seger of pizza is finally shaking things up and going back to the drawing board to somehow top their long-standing masterpizza. As the New Coke and The New Adventures of Captain Planet have proven, altering a beloved formula even for the better can be catastrophic in the eyes of the American people. Would this brand new pizza be the final push that makes the mighty Domino’s fall?

At first glance, the concept of Domino’s altering their time-tested breadwinner seems absurd. For fifty years it has helped them dominate an industry while being bombarded with such hardships as “30 Minutes or Less” delivery fatalities and the pillaging plunder of the Noid. One might even call tampering with the heart, soul and backbone of the company a reckless act of playing God. However, the chances the company has taken in recent years, such as the edible Pastabowls and region-based American Legend specialties-pizzas, have proven that playing with hearts can sometime lead to prosperous results. If there was ever a time for the Official Pizza of NASCAR to get a tune-up, it was now.

More like Domiyes!

The marketing campaign has been nothing short of Boombastic. They’ve hit every media outlet from the ubiquitous commercials describing how, in a National taste-test, it beat competitor Papa John’s within an inch of its life, to Facebook where my friends’ name and likenesses have been splattered across my sidebar with the proclamation that they “like” it. Well, if that guy I met once at a party three years ago and had a brief conversation about that Pharcyde video with “likes” the new Domino’s, how could I not? The day after Easter I phoned my homegirl Titly who works at the Upper East Side Domino’s* and told her “I think I’m finally ready. It’s time.” as I placed my order for one large thin-crust pepperoni pizza and prepared myself to forge forward on a new frontier of flavor.

Growing up in Minnesota and having lived in New York for five years, I’ve sampled many of the finest pizzas. While many in recent memory have matched my ever-maturing more contemplative perception of the world, the new Domino’s pizza made me feel eight-years-old again. You would expect the box to include a can of Surge and a VHS of Tommy Boy for how it will flash you back to your youth. The slices are now easier to peal apart, the cheese is more robust and I detect the slightest brush of garlic allowing the pizza to also convey the finest elements of pasta and breadsticks in the same bite. Not since Big Mike replaced Willie D in the Geto Boys had I so instantly been won over by a change-up in make-up.

Like this but in pizza form.

In the interest of making sure this wasn’t just nostalgia talking, I decided I was going to attempt the inhuman feat of eating Domino’s twice in the same week. A few days later I again called-up Titly. “Am I in trouble?” She asked. “Nay,” I replied, “I believe the new Domino’s Pizza may have lightning-in-a-bottle as an ingredient and I have to know if it will strike the same place twice!”** Only THIS time I ordered it “original.” You’re probably thinking “Why would you order anything but the thin-crust from Domino’s, especially while living in New York, the absolute epicenter of culture where fine-dining can be found around every corner including numerous outlets for a style of pizza famously named after the city itself for exactly the same price if-not cheaper?” Well, if this new recipe was going to make me rethink Domino’s, it’s only fitting to give it a bit of a challenge. Surprisingly, it tasted a lot more like the old Domino’s except the cheese was juicer*** and the crust was softer and seasoned with garlic.

Still, a slight improvement is an improvement. While the thin-crust is still the optimal choice, Domino’s has proven you don’t win a race by standing still. Instead of just adding dew-back lizards and changing the color of their previous work, there seemed to be a conscious effort here to at least attempt a better pizza. It’s proof that a multinational mega-conglomerate can not only listen to their customers, but translate their grievances into “let’s throw some garlic on it!” Today is a new day for a new Domino’s and until science engineers some sort of “Super-Noid,” it should maintain its spot at the top of the Pizza Urban Sprawl.

We give The New Domino’s Pizza a Three Out of Five

Until next time… let’s agree to agree!

*Only the best for my site.

**Possibly a paraphrase.

***I bet you didn’t think cheese could be juicy, did you? Well, Domino’s is a chain that will shock your eyelids.

A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell – Movie Review

April 9, 2010

Yes, this exists

New York’s Troma Studios has been a a revolutionary force in the movie industry for almost 40 years. Fiercely independent, they remain America’s oldest non-Union non-Hollywood affiliated film company that has maintained an instantly-recognizible brand identity second only to Disney. A big part of their longevity has been always remaining at the forefront of new technology. They were the FIRST movie studio to have a website, the FIRST movie studio to max out the potential of DVDs (which included fully interactive studio tours, commentaries and extensive trivia games as early as 1997) and have maintained a loyalty and direct communication with their audience that countless upstarts have failed to duplicate. 2010 marks another milestone for them as they’ve become the first entity to come under a tidal wave of controversy for hosting their films on Hulu, namely the astounding success of a film named A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell.

Leave it to Troma to have a movie named A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell in the headline of every major blog and news outlet 20 years after it was released. I first discovered Troma with my late best friend Matt Amundsen in 8th grade and, to make a long story short, we became completely enamored with the brand. From the logo to the always infectious VHS introductions from Troma President Lloyd Kaufman to just the flat out absurdity of every film they released, we felt like we were more than just movie fans, we were part of a movement. This was 2000 when the video industry was going through its final boom period so the two of us would go through the phone book to find every video store we could in efforts to see everything Troma put out. Not a weekend would go by without call-and-response answering machine messages of “Chaz, the Video Update in St. Anthony has Sgt. Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D.,” “Matt, the Hollywood Video in Hiltop has Rabid Grannies,” “Chaz, the Mr. Movies in Stillwater has Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator,” “Matt, Movies-to-Go Video has Video Demons Do Psychotown” etc. The look on our parents’ faces when they overheard the answering machine messages, or those of my teachers in high school when I would bring up movies like Surf Nazis Must Die, Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell and Curse of the Cannibal Confederates as part of a discussion in class were arguably as entertaining as the films themselves.

For a company that thrives predominately on word-of-mouth, having film titles that bear repeating is a tremendous asset. Despite my own feelings on the film, I even named the most popular post in the history of this site after Troma’s Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid. It’s that quotability that has most likely played a big part in A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell’s success. With Hulu basically being a Youtube run by the major networks and film studios, they’ve found a modern-media compromise by offering their content for a limited time with inserted commercial interruptions. While most companies have uploaded content for only two-to-five weeks, Troma has uploaded the bulk of their catalog’s most popular titles and left them online infinitely for everyone (18+) to see. As a result, tags such as “Sex” and “Nudity” have accumulated on the applicable films and A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell has become the site’s third most popular film WITHOUT A SINGLE DOLLAR SPENT ON ADVERTISING!

Yes, this is a thing.

Troma’s promotion of their catalog has always been the stuff of legends, but this is incredible. A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell was filmed in 1990 under the title Lost Fortress. Troma acquired the rights to it in ’91, used outtakes from FIVE of their other films to make an additional opening scene* and changed the title to A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell. Since then, the film has been one of the studio’s most known pickups. It’s been translated into several languages and made a splash in any market it’s ever been released in despite the overwhelming negative opinion of the film shared by just about everyone, including director Brett Piper whose 1998 DVD commentary where he ruthlessly vivisects his own film has become an industry in-joke and hallmark of the medium.

A film dramatically improved by its remorseful creator bemoaning it. A must hear.

The most recent public flogging of A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell came from Slate Magazine’s Chadwick Wilson’s article A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell: Hulu’s Mega-Popular Movie about Child-Molestation. where the author took the film’s trailer tagline “The Prehistoric Meets the Prepubescent” all too literally and “deconstructs” the film as a Jurassic child rape fantasy. As a product of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts myself, I’m all too familiar with the chastising a film for “othering through the masculine gaze of capitalism within the feminine mystique” and how it is largely an excuse for unwashed ugly lonely people to prove how much smarter they are than you. Here, he grabs for whatever straws he can with such language as “the age and sexuality of the lead actress seems deliberately ambiguous” when, to those of us watching the film, she’s CLEARLY in her 20s. This and bits of the films actual content are sprinkled into only about two paragraphs with the bulk of the article expressing outrage that the film not only exists without public protest, but the audacity of Hulu to even let this film be broadcast.

FUN FACT: Troma made up the work Nymphoid just to creep you out!

Realistically, all Chadwick has succeeded in proving is that Troma’s films, including A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell are going to be around forever. While most movies have value solely in what happens from credits-to-credits, A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell has amassed a legacy. It’s a film where very little happens (some great stop-motion animation giant-creature fight scenes in-between what seems like hours of sweaty cloth-laden humans running around with no real legitimate purpose. It’s basically Burning Man with Dinosaurs) but much has been said. It’s a strange piece of cult lore. Even at age 14 when I saw the film’s page full of universally bad reviews, even by Troma standards, I had to order it. I didn’t like the film then, I don’t like it now, but that doesn’t really matter as it’s named A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell and I’m thrilled that it exists. Even in 2010 where every video store Matt and I used to frequent has gone the way of the dinosaur (and nymphoid barbarian) it brings a smile to my face that there’s a whole new generation of teenagers out there saying “Guess what? Hulu has Star Worms II: Attack of the Pleasure Pods,” “Man, you gotta see Fatty Drives the Bus” and “Hey, you wanna come over tonight and watch A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell?” It’s from Troma…of course.

We give A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell a Two Out of Five.

Until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Watch the entire film by clicking HERE or anywhere else in this sentence.

*The only one in the film worth watching.

Mr. Beatz “Spit Therapy” – Album Review

March 30, 2010

"Yes, you've seen me." Mr. Beatz

Few faces are as ubiquitous in the New York underground Hip-Hop scene as Mr. Beatz. Having been seen everywhere from the dead prez “(Bigger Than) Hip Hop” and Homeboy Sandman “Lightning Bolt” videos to being the special guest DJ for all of your five-borough favorites, it’s rare to even open your window without seeing Mr. Beatz somewhere out there supporting Hip-Hop. Whether it be DJing, MCing, or just about any other aspect of the Hip-Hop culture, chances are you’ve seen Beatz do it. Finally, after a decade of being a dependable staple, he’s ready to unleash his debut album Spit Therapy.

Not one to let any of his talents go to waste, Beatz handles the bulk of the album’s rhymes, beats and scratches. Such a rare trait is exactly why the record sounds as cohesive as it does. Being such a Hip-Hop renaissance man has given him a unique ear, finely tuned to know exactly how he wants the album to sound. The strengths of this tremendous advantage extends beyond his own work in to the album’s contributions of others. Like the best Hollywood directors, Beatz knows what outside production fits the soundscape and who would sound the best over it. East Coast favorites such as Homeboy Sandman (“The Cypher”), M-Tri, Niles Davis and Stronghold’s Poison Pen (“Underground’s Finest”) and Solomon Jazz (the album’s title track) all give some of their best guest performances, complimenting the record perfectly.

But Beatz’s solified persona is why the album works. While I’m typically of the belief that a changing man is more interesting than a changed man, the combination of his knowledge-of-self and honesty gives Spit Therapy the strongest portrayal of a New York artist this year. Sounding like something that would feel right at home if released on Fondle ‘Em Records, the dedication here shows a man who attempts to pull out all the stops in order to make the best rap album of 1997 in 2010. With exclusively sample-based production and non-singing repetition-based hooks, he makes it easy to guess what makes up his iPod playlists. Even his vocal performances, while they bear the same vocal inflections as his freestyles that give the album a certain energy and unpredictability, the attention to syllables shows someone who must have racked his brain for hours on end to max out every possible rhyme possibility.

See him live! I'll be there too! Could you pick me up a Diet Pepsi on the way for me? Thanks!

However, it’s these moments of overthinking things where the record comes up short. While many of the East Coast underground singles of the late-90s that most influenced this record had their flaws come from the aspects that didn’t age well, Spit Therapy suffers from the same troubles, only now the wounds are fresh. While it was a nice almost-nostalgic feeling of hearing someone non-ironically using the word “lyrically” as an adverb again, by the end of the album its presence is just a little too much. The same goes for Beatz’s own intros and outros on the songs. While the conversational tone he strikes with his collaborators like The Avid Record Collector (“Plain and Simple”) and Skammadix (“Blues Brothers”) replicates the fun he had making the song in the listening, there are a handful of moments where his post-song rants become him beating the listener over the head with the concept. With an album that defines so clearly who Beatz as a person is, it’s just unnecessary for him to tell us who he isn’t.

Who he is goes beyond the album’s aesthetics and goes as far to break the fourth wall at moments and show, in his words, “not even Mr. Beatz right now, but Randy Wing.” “Above Water” deals with the very real oft-overlooked aspects of maintaining a real life while your nights are spent rapping, “Throw it All Away” chronicles every rappers’ moments of self doubt and the unexpected closer “Pictures and Memories” deals with the dimensions of mourning one goes through at a lost loved one’s wake. These songs elevate the record as Spit Therapy’s primary focus of braggadocios battle rap and boom-bap purity follows a formula that wouldn’t normally lend itself to such intimacy and vulnerability. What results is a very balanced MPC Manifesto of an MC who knows exactly what he wants to do and almost does it perfectly. The album that any number of 90s battle rappers should have released a decade ago, Spit Therapy stands alone as underground rap’s renaissance, requiem and regeneration.

We give Spit Therapy a Three Out of Five.

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

Everywhere Now – Movie Review

March 26, 2010

Where and when?

The relationship between film and miracle technology has long been one based on “what if?” idealism. Documentaries like Who Killed the Electric Car have found an audience in those wishing we weren’t so dependent on fleeting resources and polluting the environment while giving more of our money to rich people. As fun as it is to root for the little guy, the eco-trainwreck of these films often result in the underdog being put to sleep. That’s why it’s refreshing to see the Earth-friendly protagonist succeed in the documentary Everywhere Now.

Singer/songwriter and indie darling Billy Harvey’s first foray into directing, Everywhere Now follows his winter 2008 US tour where he attempted to travel completely using a custom engine that runs on waste vegetable oil. For those of you unfamiliar with the fried food industry that is the heartbeat* of this nation, waste vegetable oil is the excess grease from fry-cookers that is otherwise completely useless and immediately disposed of. Let’s marinate on that for a second: this guy Billy Harvey purchased a 1981 Mercedes and converted it to run on garbage that he could get at any restaurant for free. That’s like saying you’re paying someone to give you a 7,000 mile** piggyback ride and you’re paying them in soiled paper towels and apple-cores***.

The film is shot entirely on Harvey’s own laptop camera. While that in itself sounds almost as unconventional as a mercedes that runs on garbage, it works as it makes the viewer feel as if they’re the sole accompaniment on Harvey’s cross-country road-trip. Harvey’s charismatic enough to carry the bulk of the screentime as the only living entity, and the piercing intimate eye of the laptop camera on this extensive journey slowly unravels him into full blown vulnerability. While there are these jarring moments, the film is kept light through these unique shooting aesthetics. His childlike innocence has him carrying around the laptop in front of him as he enters any number of the country’s all-identical Chinese Restaurants**** and says “Hi, I’m the guy that called about you waste vegetable oil. I use it to run my car. Can I have it, please?”

Being a first time director, there are also moments of him playing with his movie-editing software like a new toy that also make the film endearing. One of the most memorable moments was, after stalling, he fiddles with the engine as a last resort and once it works the screen flashes the obnoxious blue generic “GO GIANTS!” text. While funny moments like that work, some of Harvey’s other choices do not, namely the complete lack of non-diegetic music***** in the film. While I can admire the bold move of a singer-songwriter letting his film-making abilities stand on there own, it just seems like such a waste to not feature a touring artist like him performing any songs until the credits. Unless this was a subtle nod to the 70s feminist revenge film I Spit On Your Grave, this choice is just baffling.

Billy Harvey proves garbage can get you anywhere.

Everywhere Now is an interesting film that stands apart from its contemporaries in the eco-technology genre because (SPOILER ALERT) it’s a success. While his back is against the wall numerous times, Harvey is successful in this endeavor. Throw in the fact that there’s enough waste vegetable oil for everyone in the country to be riding around shining on garbage and you’ll wonder why technology like this isn’t more well known.****** It’s fun, genuine and good insight into the mind of a touring artist. Everywhere Now is the rare example of how one man can turn garbage into gold.

We give Everywhere Now a Three Out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*or heart-clogger.

**For those keeping score at home, that’s 6,000 more miles than Vanessa Carlton will walk.

***Which some struggling singer-songwriters are known to do.

****Sidenote, why do all Chinese Restaurants look alike? I’m not talking the actual sitdown bang-a-gong get-it-on ones, but the styrofoam container takeout ones. Was there a voyager from the Far East who set up shop once he touched down in America, proclaimed “These floors shall be dirty, these walls shall be greasy, these seats shall be absurdly colored to not match the traditional Chinese printed wallpaper, and there will be an oversized fish in a cruelly small fish-tank because that’s the way God intended it!” and set the template for an entire industry?

*****Non-diegetic music is the term for any music in the film not caused by the direct actions of anyone onscreen, including the original score and any songs added for dramatic effect. It’s terms like this you learn from four years of Cinema Studies at NYU and now I’m passing the savings on to you!

******Conspiracy? I think we know who is to blame!