Tuesday, December 27, 2011

20 Seconds of Insane Courage...

This isn't a review as much as it's a reaction to an amazing movie.  Pure inspiration and joy caused this outburst of Jerry Maguire-esqe rambling (I even had The Who's "Getting in Tune" playing in the background)...

So We Bought A Zoo was a knockout. With a Cameron Crowe movie you are guaranteed a couple things...

1) A great soundtrack and perfect music cues  
Only QT and PTA have come close to matching Crowe's perfect ear for using a moment of a song an actor.  His choices for the Vanilla Sky soundtrack alone should have gotten it a supporting actor credit.

2) Great performances from his actors  
Great directors bring out the best in their actors.  Simple.  Everyone he's worked with has seemed to come to the conclusion that they end up seeing a little of Crowe in their final acting product they put on the screen.  His talent and passion is contagious.

3) An amazing script
He has a way with conveying emotion that is more real to me than any other writer/director...ever.  I've always said nobody reads his lines better than Tom Cruise...well Tom might have found some stiff competition with Matt Damon.  The shouting scene between the father and son in We Bought A Zoo is written and acted so well you forget you're watching a movie.  It's as real as anything else you'll see this year.

Here's a couple of my favorite movies...that happen to also be films he wrote and directed...
We Bought A Zoo- See below...an easy Top 10 this year.
Elizabethtown- I enjoyed it the first time I saw it in theaters, but the second viewing was much more enjoyable in the end.  The epic couple hour long phone call between strangers played by Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst will forever bring me back to this movie over and over.
Vanilla Sky- One of my favorite movies of all time.  This is to me a true masterpiece.   I absolutely love everything about this movie.  Every cue of music is perfect.  That final climb in the elevator to David's conscience truth in the climax is perfect on every level (no pun intended...or maybe).
Almost Famous- I need to revisit this one soon, but this movie had me fall in love with Kate Hudson, much like Elizabethtown had me with Kirsten Dunst.  The fact that Cameron basically lived this life at that age is almost as amazing as the way he told it as an adult.
Jerry Maguire- Probably Crowe's greatest achievement overall...and it's all about a sports agent who grew a conscience.  Nobody on the planet could have played Jerry Maguire like Tom Cruise did.  The Oscar should have been his that year, along with Crowe for screenplay, film and director. It's a tie with Vanilla Sky for me for best of Crowe/Cruise.

So...whatever the definition of a soul is, he manages to always grab mine with his movies. His movies are beautiful. Matt Damon also plays the "every-man" better than anyone else around (he did it in Contagion as well this year). Everyone shines in this movie. Crowe engages everyone and infects them with whatever power he has to make everyone leaving his movies feel better about life, because there are already enough movies out there to show how bleak life can be. It's true, all we really need in life is 20 seconds of insane courage to accomplish something great. Crowe has been doing that his whole life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How I became a monster: The unlikely transformation into a Lady GaGa fan

First of all a huge shout out to @SoPoeticPhil, he got me inspired to start writing again, check out his blog (Phil's blog)...


I love music.  It is the one true love of my life when I stop and think about it.  Out of all the albums and bands I admire, there have always been three bands that I consider my cornerstones of music and inspiration to everyday life...

The Beatles


The Boss & the E Street Band

Those bands each build on achieving what I think is the ultimate goal in music and any profession you choose...fearlessness, an un-quenching creative flow that never quite climaxes, because it can't, and always asking the question, "Why not?"...i.e. never settling for the status quo.  ALWAYS pushing the envelope in whatever it is you're doing.

Well to be quite honest there is a part of me that feels disappointed in the music that is being put out nowadays, even though I hate the cynics who repeat that ever so annoying phrase, "Music was so much better in the ____ (fill in your decade of choice)".  So many musicians nowadays just seem to be satisfied with staying put and being safe.  I've been searching for bands and musicians that are striving to achieve that goal mentioned above.  Little did I know that I would find it in the Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga.

Now it was no surprise for my friends to take a collective gasp when I announced that I had finally come to my senses that Lady Gaga is putting music on the right course.  To most people I'm seen as a metalhead, or an old school music lover who could never evolve to the music of today...

Well I surprised myself and my friends.  Now I'm not a huge fan of the meat dresses and the egg arrivals, but when I sat back and read her story, her inspirations (her name was taken from the monster Queen hit, Radio Ga Ga) and her goals I was taken aback.  Especially by this song...

Here's a song that has an amazingly catchy and uplifting chorus...i.e. the first thing that hit me.  I'm a sucker for big sweeping arrangements, and big powerful voices.  Gaga's voice is so on point and strong throughout this song that it forces you to believe every single word that she sings.  Another thing that struck me about this song was her choice of guest musician...THE BIG MAN...Clarence Clemons!  She truly respects the rich history of music and choosing The Big Man to play with her was a stroke of genius and a great treat to us fans of his...especially because of his sudden passing this year.  It makes his solo even more triumphant because this is a song about claiming ownership over your life, so when you are breathing your final breath you can look back and realize that you were the champion of your own fate.  It is impossible not to feel that emotion during this song, and that is hard to accomplish for any musician to achieve.

I also took notice of her as a performer during the VMA's this year.  Dressed as her alter ego (Jo Calderone) and ripping through an thunderous version of You and I.  It also helped that she got guest guitarist Brian May to join her on stage to the delight of myself as well as a very excited Dave Grohl (who the cameraman happened to pick up at the moment of arrival).

Now I'm not calling Lady Gaga the savior of music, because frankly music doesn't need a savior.  There has always been good music out there, no matter how many auto-tuned future has beens arrive, there is always someone waiting in the corner to jump into the spotlight and shake the music industry up, which is what it needs every so often.  And that is what I'm trying to say about Lady Gaga.  I have a long way to go in terms of diving into her music catalog.  I've only really discussed one song, but a huge song none the less in terms of opening my eyes to a performer who is more than the outrageous outfits, more than the tabloids and taboos, more than the magazine covers and interviews, she's 100 percent true to herself and isn't satisfied with limiting her creativity to anyone.

She is fearless.
She pushes the envelope.
She refuses to accept the status quo.

...it also doesn't her she got Clarence Clemons and Brian May to guest on her album.

I've got my eye on you Gaga, but rest assured it is as a budding fan, not a cynic who thinks music's glory years are behind us, if anything we just might be on the edge of music's glory...the best is yet to come....always.