Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oscar watch: The Social Network

Released in October, The Social Network details the the first few years of Facebook's founding by Mark Zuckerberg (Jessie Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). It is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.

The tag line for the film says is all: "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies." Not only does Zuckerberg begin Facebook on a sour note, he steps on a few people along the way. Now, is this the entire story of what happened during Zuckerberg's rise to the top? Maybe not, but that doesn't detract from the sharp storytelling of this film. The opening scene alone gives the viewer an indication of what's in store: a 5 minute single-take, dialogue laden break-up scene. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

There is not a single weak link in the cast. Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg like a slightly socially awkward and obnoxious boy with the brain of a hyper-intelligent man. Justin Timberlake, who plays Sean Parker, could be perceived to be a gamble in a serious role such as this, but he is assured as a paranoid and manipulative mentor to Eisenberg's character. Armie Hammer does double duty as the Winklevoss twins and I think he succeeds at showing the subtle differences between the brothers. Andrew Garfield is the calm inside the storm; he plays the heart, whereas Eisenberg plays the head.

Oscar predictions: Though Jessie Eisenberg is earnest and somewhat sympathetic as Zuckerberg, I don't think he will beat out Colin Firth for Best Actor. Eisenberg is talented and I'm sure we'll see him nominated again. For Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that David Fincher and The Social Network will take home these prizes. The overall consistency of the production, acting, and storytelling is top-notch. (Of course, The King's Speech could take home Best Picture. I've gotta give myself an out here ...)

The Social Network
Find it in the catalog!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Song Obsessions of the Moment

1).  "Eyesore" by Women.
From: Public Strain (2010).
Find it in the catalog!

I loved the song "Black Rice" from Women's 2008 self-titled debut album.  But overall, I'm a bigger fan of the second album by this Canadian rock band.  They have a spare, post-punk sound that reminds me more than a little bit of Wire, and the album's bleak mood is near perfect winter listening.  "Eyesore" is the last track on the album and is nearly six minutes long, but it's probably the catchiest song on Public Strain.  "Eyesore" has some interesting shifts in song structure about midway through, and the harmonies are wonderfully haunting.

2).  "Lost Verses" by Sun Kil Moon.
From: April (2008).
Find it in the catalog!

This is more of a long term obsession for me, but I recently became re-obsessed with it while I was compiling a mix of songs of heartbreak and despair for our Young and Restless Unvalentine's Day Party (you should come!).   It is probably my favorite ever Sun Kil Moon song; though "Light," which immediately follows it on April, would be a close second.  "Lost Verses" is a nine minute epic that is written from the perspective of a ghost.  It manages to be both sorrowful and uplifting.

3).  "Laughing Hieroglyphics" and "Oliver Twist" by Avey Tare.  From: Down There (2010).
Find it in the catalog!

Animal Collective co-mastermind Avey Tare's solo album is one of my favorite records from last year.  The whole album has a swampy, dark vibe that makes it perfect to listen to when you're not in the best of moods, but you can still dance to it.  "Laughing Hieroglyphics" and "Oliver Twist" are my two favorite songs from the album, probably because they both have killer beats. "Laughing Hieroglyphics" show cases Avey's unique and emotional vocals. "Oliver Twist" has a very cool and very danceable mid-song shift.

4). "Say Valley Maker" by Smog.  From: A River Ain't Too Much to Love (2005).
Find it in the catalog!

I love Bill Callahan's use of natural imagery in his songs.  Here he uses a river to describe a person drifting there way through life, and why maybe that's not the best way to live.  I really like the way the song builds up to the closer.

5).  "Monster" by Kanye West. From: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).
Find it in the catalog!   

MBDTF pretty much topped all best of 2010 album lists (well, besides ours), but I didn't really think I would like it.  And besides, with his over the top Twitter feed and award show interrupting, Kanye isn't exactly the most popular or easiest to like celebrity.  However, after listening to it, I found that I enjoyed MBDTF quite a bit.  It's a catchy and showy album, but it still wouldn't make my top ten list for last year (it was a pretty great year for music).  "Monster" was the track that stood out the most for me on the album, mostly because of Nicky Minaj's awesome cameo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Dundees: Our Alternative Oscars

The Oscar nominations this year are kind of a snoozefest. Is there anyone that was nominated that was really a surprise?  Though big yays for Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and John Hawkes, even though none of them will probably win.  Also, Ryan Gosling, Andrew Garfield, and Matt Damon snubbed; the Academy is clearly biased against the dreamy!

So in opposition to the stodgy and predictable Oscars, I created my own alternative Oscars with slightly different categories. Also, some TV awards are thrown in for good measure:

Funniest Movie of the YearThe Other Guys.  If this was best comedy, Easy A would win hands down.  It's a better executed film, but it's hard to resist the silliness of a Will Ferrell and Adam McKay joint. Which is why it's the movie that I laughed the most at this year.  Mark Wahlberg gives a hilarious performance as Will Ferrell's side kick.  And Michael Keaton is straight up awesome in this!

Find it in the catalog!

Best Romantic Comedy: Going the Distance.  Granted there's not a lot of competition for this slot- KillersThe Bounty Hunter?  Come on!  But romantic comedy or not, this is a pretty hilarious movie.  I love the scene with Jim Gaffigan and his sandwich!

Find it in the catalog!

Most Enviable Wardrobe, Female Performance:  Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen on Mad Men.  Secretarial goddess Joan (Christina Hendricks) used to have the wardrobe to envy, but Peggy seemed to have a gotten a makeover between Seasons 2 and 3.  She now has a flirty and fun work wardrobe that seems more modern than Joan's.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Movies playing in February at the Dundee Library

The Other Guys (PG-13)
Wednesday, February 2 at 6 PM

Rebel Without a Cause (PG-13)
Saturday, February 12 at 2 PM
This is our final installment in our series Catch a Classic at the Library: '50s Film Favorites.
Interesting facts: September 30, 2010 marked the 55th anniversary of James Dean's death. February 8 would have been his 80th birthday.

Despicable Me (PG)
Saturday, February 19 at 2 PM

All movies are shown in the downstairs Meeting Room. Free popcorn and refreshments are always served. The door to the Meeting Room opens 30 minutes before the movie's start time. Children under the age of 9 must be accompanied by an adult.

Hope to see you at the movies!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What we're listening to: Glee. Volume 4: The Music

Find it in the catalog!

Glee. Volume 4 includes songs performed by McKinley High glee club New Directions from the first part of season 2, with the exception of songs from the Rocky Horror and Christmas episodes. On this CD you'll find three Britney Spears covers from the "Britney/Brittany" episode: "Me Against The Music," "Stronger," and my favorite, "Toxic." Although I was quite excited for Glee to cover Britney, I thought their versions (and the performances in the episode itself) stuck too close to the originals. I thought that only "Stronger," featuring Kevin McHale on lead vocals, and "Toxic," which utilized the entire cast, did something fun with her songs. The cast also takes on three Bruno Mars songs: "Billionaire," "Marry You," and "Just the Way You Are." Both "Marry You and "Just the Way You Are" are taken from the episode entitled "Furt," where Kurt's father and Finn's mother get married. "Marry You" is one of my favorite Bruno Mars songs, and although I prefer his version, I love the way the song is performed by New Directions as the walk down the aisle at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. Corey Monteith's cover of "Just the Way You Are" had me crying as I watched his character, Finn, sing to his new brother, Kurt. After the past issues between the two characters and Kurt being the target of bullies at school, I thought the performance of "Just the Way You Are" was quite heartfelt and beautiful. I don't know, Glee is often deemed a comedy, but more often than not I'm breaking out the tissues as I watch each week.

But back to the music. More highlights off this CD:
  • Chris Colfer's heartbreaking version of the Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
  • Gwyneth Paltrow covering Cee Lo Green's "Forget You"
  • Darren Criss singing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" -- I've already raved about this performance in my "Great performances in 2010 post".
  • Lea Michele's cover of "The Only Exception" by Paramore -- which also was the only non-Britney Spears song covered in the "Britney/Brittany" episode.
  • Joan Osbourne's "One of Us" performed by the entire cast in the "Grilled Cheesus" episode.

Missing: Jenna Ushkowitz and Amber Riley's awesome take on Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over;" Corey Monteith's cover of REM's "Losing My Religion" from the "Grilled Cheesus" episode.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's Cooking at the Library?!?

There's nothing us librarians love more than food (even more than books!) and now we have our own pseudo kitchen at the library. Even better yet, it's full of cookbooks, which you can check out and make actual delicious food with!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oscar watch: The King's Speech

What might be considered an historically trivial true story enlightens the masses in the The King's Speech, which explores the relationship between Prince Albert "Bertie", later to become King George VI (Colin Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Bertie has had a stammer since childhood, the possible reasons for which are explored beautifully in this film, and through the years he tries to correct his speech impediment which is becoming more embarrassing as his duties as a public figure increase. A sort of last-ditch-effort is attempted when his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) contacts Logue. Bertie and Lionel's relationship begins complicated (don't the best ones always?): in turns Bertie can be condescending and belittling to his "inferior" Logue, and the next be so completely vulnerable to him that he stammers excessively. Eventually a friendship is struck, but not without it's ups and downs-- and doubts.

As a film, the pacing is perfect, the performances top notch and the final scene, where Bertie must address his country on the eve of entering World War II, is exhilarating and a fulfilling conclusion to the flim. It was refreshing to see positive relationships portrayed.

Oscar predictions: Colin Firth will be nominated and win the Oscar for Best Actor. He was nominated last year for The Single Man, but did not win. The Academy often likes to reward careers, not just specific performances (although, in this case, he deserves to win for The King's Speech anyway). Geoffrey Rush will be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I don't think he will take the prize (Christian Bale is getting a lot of buzz for The Fighter this year), but he is a definite contender. Lastly, the screenplay will be nominated in the Best Original category. This is also a tough call; it is a contender but I don't know if it has enough splash to beat out the likes of the complex Inception.

The King's Speech
In theater's now, Rated R for language, 118 minutes

Classic Status: What's Next to the Moon

What's Next to the Moon - Mark Kozelek
Find it in the catalog!

What's Next to the Moon contains ten gorgeously expressive acoustic songs, inexplicably derived from 1970s AC/DC tracks. On this 2001 recording, singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek proves that his unique brand of musical expression is distinctive enough to make any genre of music his own.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wu-Tang at Congress Theater

Saturday night, the mighty Wu-Tang Clan, pride of Staten Island, took to the stage at Chicago's Congress Theater. But fans had to wait, and wait, for the pleasure. Doors opened at 7:30, but there was a long delay before anything happened on stage, and then what felt like a never-ending stream of opening acts made their appearances. First up was DJ Rude One, who was a fairly low-key presence on stage, but played an impeccable selection of records by East Coast hip-hop acts. (The inclusion of "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" by Houston rappers the Geto Boys was something of an anomaly, but it's a classic, so I'm not going to nitpick.) I was particularly impressed with the way he inter-weaved several tracks by Nas, making the unrelated songs into a sort of mini-suite. Next up was Que Billah, an artist I was completely unfamiliar with. The only conclusion I can make is that Billah is some kind of '90s rap revivalist: he took the stage with a posse of over-eager hype-men, one of whom wore a backpack the entire set; Billa himself removed his left shoe at one point to emphasize the importance of sneakers; and at least twenty minutes of his set was devoted to covers of iconic rap recordings by performers far more successful than himself. I don't really know what to make of Billa's placement on the night's roster. Next up was Chicago native and current candidate for 20th ward alderman, Rhymefest. He performed a sampling of songs from his current album El Che and his 2006 debut Blue Collar. Rhymefest was heavy on audience interaction, even bringing an audience member on stage to rap Kanye West's verse for one song. (His version was quite proficient, I thought.) To their credit, the opening acts seemed cognizant of their second-fiddle status. Both Rhymefest and Que-Billa made mention of having seen Wu-Tang perform on that same stage back in 2006, and Mr. Billa candidly posed the question, "Who can open for Wu-Tang?" It was after Rhymefest's set that the video screen onstage lit up with a giant yellow Wu-Tang logo. The crowd took this to mean that the headliners were up next, but no, it was tangential Wu-affiliate LA the Darkman who took the stage. His repeated statement "I'm LA the Darkman and I represent that mighty, mighty Wu-Tang" was cold comfort for many in the audience, myself included. The Darkman was a powerful presence onstage, standing alone in the harsh lights and frequently dropping verses without DJ backing. (He name-checked DJ Muggs, and performed the track "Devil in a Blue Dress" from the now-classic Muggs album Soul Assassins.) His flow was impressive, and many in the audience expressed familiarity with his songs, but no one seemed sorry to see his set come to an end. Anticipation was sky-high at this point, and the chants of "Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang" repeatedly reached crescendo and died away.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Peter Yates: 1928-2011

Peter Yates, director of Breaking Away, Bullitt, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Yates worked as a filmmaker for forty years, and was four times nominated for an Oscar. Of the several dozen films Yates produced and directed throughout his long career, I'll best remember the above-mentioned Steve McQueen film and the underrated classic The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which I have previously rhapsodized about here at the Media Corner.

Obit at

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oscar watch: I Am Love (Io Sono L'amore)

Unfortunately, the plot for I Am Love isn't especially original (a lonely woman, an affair, an unexpected consequence because of the affair, etc.). Sure, there are some underlying themes that are a glimpse at something unique and new, but I don't know that it succeeds. However, there are a few reasons to catch this Italian film.

I Am Love is a pure showcase for Tilda Swinton's talent. She carries the film and if you are a fan of hers, do not miss this. There is a restaurant scene where Swinton's character is immensely enjoying her meal-- a combination of great acting and cinematography. Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux hits the mark with his luminous lighting and the shots of Milan and the Italian countryside instantly make you feel as though you're there. The score, composed by John Adams, is lovely. Minimalism at its best.

Sometimes art for art's sake, or beautiful aesthetics, can be enough. The movie seems like a vacation to Italy; you get a taste of the culture and themes, but are lacking the real depth of habitation. In this instance just sit back and enjoy the view.

Oscar prediction: I Am Love will be nominated for Best Foreign Film, but it is not all around strong enough to win.

I Am Love
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Concert Review: Black Keys at Aragon Ballroom NYE

Dundee Media Corner favorites the Black Keys played three sold out shows last week at Uptown's Aragon Ballroom.  I attended the New Year's Eve concert.  This was my second time seeing the Keys live in 2010, having seen them earlier at the smaller and (vastly) acoustically superior venue Metro. 

The Greenhornes opened for the Keys.  On paper, they seem like the perfect openers.  Both bands have garage rock influenced sounds and hail from Ohio.  However, the Greenhornes' sound was no match for the Aragon's deplorable acoustics, leaving much of their set to sound somewhat indistinguishable, like a musical KFC bowl. From what I could tell, the band seem to be playing with a lot of energy and they are very skilled musicians.  The Greenhornes would sound good at a smaller, better venue. 

This was my first New Year's Eve concert and it was definitely a different atmosphere.  It was sort of a mixture between a concert and a party as concertgoers were chatting away with each other throughout the night. The audience was primarily made up of women all-dolled up for the holiday and men in flannel shirts.  There were quite a bit more ladies at this concert, which may have been why the crowd was less rowdy than at the Metro Keys' concert.

The Keys took the stage a little bit before midnight. Much to my surprise, my doppelganger, Dan Auerbach appeared without his trademark mysteriously orange beard!  Opting instead for a clean shaven look. 
The set list was a mixture of old favorites ("Girl is On My Mind," "I'll Be Your Man") and new hits ("Tighten Up," "Next Girl," "Chop and Change").  There was considerable set list overlap from their Metro show; some of which made sense (I'd be sorely disappointed if they didn't play "I Got Mine") and some not so much (Is "Short Stack Billy" really that loved?).  I give the Black Keys credit for playing songs that are popular and giving the audience what they want; the Keys have to be pretty sick of playing "10 A.M. Automatic" by now. But I like it best when they break away from the expected and play some of their less popular stuff.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find that they added several songs from their first album The Big Come Up to the set and- best of all- a cover of the Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle" from Rubber Factory.