I’m sorry about the shameful blogging absence as of late. I will have a million things to write about very soon when I catch up.
In the meantime, I’m hearing some great buzz about this new documentary film at the Los Angeles Film Festival called PAPER OR PLASTIC? The film follows eight grocery-bagging state champions as they prepare for the national “best bagger” competition held in Las Vegas. The contestants include rural housewives, college students, awkward teens and lower management who all battle be be the best bagger. The last screening of the festival will be today Wednesday, June 25th 4:00pm at the Mann Festival Theatre. Click on the official festival website for ticketing information.
Watch the Trailer!
At the screening today there will also be grocery-bagging champions from the film demonstrating their skills. I hear this film is really charming and a lot of fun so make sure to see it if you get the chance!
FilmRadar recently hit its 6th Year Anniversary and it is time to celebrate!
Come join us:
WHEN: Monday, June 16th at 7:30pm - 11:00pm
The Landmark Theatre Bar
10850 West Pico at Westwood Blvd.
Directly next door to Barnes & Noble
Enter on Westwood Blvd. or Pico
No need to RSVP. Feel free to drop in at any point throughout the evening.
Parking is free and there will be food and drinks available for purchase in the bar.
There will also be a cake and we will be giving away free SWAG courtesy of Fox Searchlight and The Landmark Theatre chain.
Drop by and help us raise a glass in celebration!
I will be wearing a black gown from the 1940s, so I’ll be easy to find. Feel free to come say hello.
Thanks to all of you who have visited the website, attended the field trips and spread the word amongst your friends. Your support means so much to us!
I have been really saddened about the Universal Fire. My initial reaction was sheer terror because I feared that many rare films and negatives might be lost forever. Now I’m hearing that no negatives were burned and that only prints were destroyed. That still upsets me. It costs at least $5,000 to strike a new film print and I’m hearing that tons of them were lost. These prints were also the ones loaned to repertory theatres, revival houses and museums like LACMA. Now it might take a very long time (not to mention a lot of money) before many of these films can be screened for the public again. This is just a terrible loss. Isn’t there any way they can build fire proof vaults? Doesn’t that sort of technology exist?
This LA Times article goes into the history of fires on other studio lots as well. The only good news here seems to be that other studios are now going to take major precautions to prevent this sort of thing from happening to them. I know absolutely nothing about fire fighting, but I wish I could have helped them save those film cannisters!! (LA Times photo below)
I’m a huge fan of Aimee Mann and her music really contributed so much to Magnolia. I got word that she is performing tonight at Amoeba! If you are around, be sure to get over there and check it out.
Aimee Mann (live stream!)
Tonight 6pm - Hollywood
The highly esteemed and always amazing singer-songwriter Aimee Mann returns to Amoeba for a live in-store performance and CD signing in celebration of her new CD “Smilers” - available June 3rd on Superego Records.
Playing live June 2nd & 10th at Largo and June 6th at Anaheim House of Blues.
“I’ve always been fascinated with eccentric personalities,” says Los Angeles singer songwriter Aimee Mann. On Smilers, her seventh solo CD, Mann presents thirteen exquisitely-crafted new songs about the inner life of people living far from the bright lights of success or fame. Some of them are wanderers searching for meaning on the road, others look for it in a shot glass or by losing themselves in the blue trance of a tv set, and still others believe their deliverance will come through money. From the punch drunk characters haunting the twilight world of a dusty downtown boxing gym, to a onetime financial big shot who’s returned home after taking a tumble, Mann paints spare, vivid portraits of people who seem to always wind up with the smallest slice of American pie. The songs are soulful, empathetic and somehow ultimately hopeful and optimistic. Says Mann; “When I write about them - the narcissists, performers, eccentrics, know-it-alls - it helps me recognize some truths about the world and about myself.”
The title Smilers gets its name from a phrase Mann has long used to humorously lampoon the unrelentingly happy, shiny, smiley-faced pop culture that surrounds us all today. “I read an article that said that across all cultures, the single thing that people respond to most is a smiling cartoon face,” says Mann. “A friend of mine and I used to laugh at how there’s always somebody in an office or on the street who smiles all the time and is the first one to say, ‘hey, smile!’ I get that all the time from people who say ‘why can’t you be more smiley? So we jokingly nicknamed them @#%&! Smilers. You can provide your own curse word there. I think everybody knows someone like that.” The record goes behind the smiles to get at something a little deeper and a little more revealing. Smilers reaffirms Mann’s place as one of pop music’s most distinctive songwriters, with an exceptional talent for beautiful melodies and insightful lyrics that go beyond platitudes.
Smilers took shape during the last two years as Mann was releasing her concept album, The
Forgotten Arm (2005) and then her seasonal CD Another Drifter in the Snow (2006). “After doing a
concept album I wanted to go back and just do a set of songs that were not linked quite so tightly,” she
says. “I didn’t have a specific vision I was after so I kept writing and after a while the album began to take on its own sound.” She approached the making of the record almost like a novelist or journalist approaches a story, finding characters, learning what makes them tick, and writing and rewriting until something clear begins to emerge. Many of the songs underwent further evolution in rehearsals in 2007 as she and producer Paul Bryan settled on a sound that they liked.
Where previous Mann albums have frequently tended toward a lonesome, spacious sound, Smilers
sounds fuller and larger, with uncommon touches. “We tried not to echo any previous albums…for
this one we wanted to use a different palate, thus replacing electric guitars with distorted Wurlitzers, Clavinets, and analog synthesizers. We wanted the rhythm section to sound full and organic with detailed, interwoven keyboards on top. We also knew we wanted to have real string sections and horn arrangements for select songs.” The rich arrangements provide a wonderfully captivating counterpoint to the haunting, plainspoken poetry of Mann’s lyrics. For Smilers, she and Bryan preferred to refine their ideas in rehearsals and then keep the studio work brief to unleash a certain spontaneity, keeping takes of each song to one or two apiece. “It keeps the music fresh. It makes it much more of a real musical experience,” says Mann. “It makes it a little closer to something live and real.”
Smilers also reflects a unique creative phase in Mann’s career. After the runaway success of The Magnolia Soundtrack, which received nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, Mann’s music and career took a new direction. “Magnolia got me focused on the idea of music and movies in a different way,” she explains. “I started looking at songwriting from a different angle. Forgotten Arm I wrote as a sort of soundtrack to an imaginary movie. It’s a great way of looking at songwriting. It gets me out of my own head and into the head of another character. I don’t have to write about myself all the time.” That feeling was liberating, and endows much of Manns’ new work with a vivid, almost visual story-telling sense that makes her music jump off the CD.
Smilers opens with “Freeway,” an almost Cars-esque synth-pop song that was inspired by a drug addicted friend who had came to LA in hopes of getting clean and making a break with the past. The track “Stranger into Starman” was spurred by an afternoon crossword puzzle and the memory of an Anne Sexton poem that made an anagram out of the word “rats” - morphing it into “stars.” As Mann describes it, “it’s about glorifying people who don’t deserve the glory.” The song “Looking for Nothing,” as Mann explains, was inspired by a couple of ex-boxers at her gym. The song is about “that
moment in life where you get older and stop chasing after that thing you always thought would make you happy. It’s when you let go of the trapeze bar and nobody’s caught you yet and you don’t know if you’re going to hit the ground.”
“Phoenix” delves into love’s impotence in the face of the world, and the aftermath of a relationship gone sour: “Its hard to know when to cut and run,” the character sings; “You balance heartache with your fun.” The song “Borrowing Time” plays out like a vaguely menacing Snow White-style fairy tale; “The needle has pricked her little finger/She wants the beautiful child the blood will bring her,” but it has echoes of a cautionary tale that could apply to a modern innocent’s path in Hollywood. “31 Today” says Mann, is slightly autobiographical, recalling the feeling of insecurity she had as a young artist living in Boston. “The song captures the anxiety of getting older and feeling that you really should have it together more than you do.” As her character sings: “Drinking Guinness in the afternoon/taking shelter in the black cocoon/I thought my life would be different somehow/I thought my life would be better by now.”
“The Great Beyond” looks at the outdoors and the wilderness not as an adventure but as a dark refuge from society. The track “Columbus Avenue,” a reference to the San Francisco street, plumbs the tale of the sad ambition of an addict, asking “What is Columbus Avenue to you now?/A place where you failed to make your story go over?/A place where you bailed and let the bottom drag you under?” And “Little Tornado” and Ballantines” (named after the classic American beer) are portraits of troubled personalities and the chaos and healing they can provoke. “Medicine Wheel” is based on a poem written by Mann’s sister, the painter and artist Gretchen Seichrist.
Another song on Smilers, “True Believer,” was written with Grant Lee Phillips, a Cafe Largo pal and maverick singer songwriter who toured with Mann for Another Drifter in the Snow. Says Mann, “I had some music and a sketch idea for a chorus for this song and Grant came in with this wonderful idea of how to turn the song into a ghost story.”
Longtime Mann fans will find that Smilers has plenty of the tunefulness they have come to expect from her albums. New fans will be struck by the power of her spare language. Smilers is a welcome return of unparalleled songcraft.
Hollywood can be a very complicated and generally deceptive place. Everything is about appearances and presenting in image to the world. From billboards to commercials to magazines, images and messages are plastered up all over everything. For someone who grew up in another part of America, I see Hollywood through a different set of eyes than say someone who was born and raised here. I notice that many people in this town consider themselves to be the elite and therefore somehow superior to those in the rest of the country. I’ve met a ton of people out here who aren’t even fully aware that there is much more to America than just New York City and Los Angeles. I’ve known many who just condescendingly refer to the rest of America as “the flyover states.”
Having worked in the film industry in particular, I’ve noticed that many people seem to pride themselves on being far more tolerant, educated, hip and open minded than the average person.
From my personal point of view, a certain degree of that belief is pure smoke and mirrors.
For example, I’ve been a bit annoyed in reading all of the coverage about how shocked and surprised Hollywood is about the huge success of the Sex in the City film. Judging by some of the press I’ve read, there seems to be a sense of shock that women go to movies!!!! It seems that most mainstream Hollywood films are made by men and for men, particularly the 18-34 year old demographic. Guess what, women make up half the world’s population. There are very few movies (particularly good ones) that appeal directly to them. The tremendous success of the Sex and the City film hasn’t shocked me in the least. I fully expected it. That show has become a cultural phenomenon that goes far deeper than just the shoes, designer gowns and apartments. The story is about relationships, friendships and life problems, which is something most women can relate to regardless of their income level or age. There simply aren’t enough films that target this audience, but the audience is out there! Take note Hollywood, women DO go to the movies. I also found a very interesting discussion of this film on the Hollywood-Elsewhere website. For my part I totally agree with the comments posted by Kim Voynar.
Not only is Hollywood blind to the fact that there is a female audience, but they tend to forget about the minority audience as well. I found this article about racism in Hollywood, that I thought made some very good points. A while back I read a profile piece in a magazine about Tyler Perry. In the piece it said that often times major film executives and studio heads don’t even know who he is. I’ve also read box office columns that express surprise when his films make money. While the most of the studios have ignored him, Perry has been off building an empire with numerous successful films, television projects and plans for his own network. His name above the title means something to his audience. Again Hollywood often forgets that African-American people attend movies too!
Perhaps the most shocking is that homophobia seems common in Hollywood. I have a friend who works on a major studio lot and the year Brokeback Mountain was released, she talked to several people on the lot (men and women) who said they were disturbed by the subject matter and had no intentions of seeing the film. On Oscar night, I put my money on Brokeback Mountain in any case, as I was certain it would win. My friend said, “I know SO many people in the industry who said they would never vote for that.” I told her that was nonsense and refused to change my bet. As we know Crash pulled off a major upset and took the Best Picture Academy Award. I lost the Oscar pool.
I guess what I’m saying here is that contrary to the image it likes to present, Hollywood can be sexist, racist, homophobic and short sighted on some levels. I’m not saying this applies to everyone, but I’ve seen, heard and read plenty of evidence that it does exist.
I’d also like to point out that America is in fact composed of 50 states and they are NOT just dust bowls full of “rubes”.
Ok, rant finished.