Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Best Music & Films of 2010

Best & Worst of 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that because I was making a documentary on The Replacements, I listened to them probably more than all other musicians combined. I rediscovered SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH, hearing things that I had somehow never heard before (perhaps I previously focused a little too much on LET IT BE, TIM, and PLEASED TO MEET ME). And I probably played IF ONLY YOU WERE LONELY more than any other song. If was like an old friend, whispering over my shoulder, giving me encouragement and at times enlightenment.

That said, here are what I believe to be the best albums of 2010, in order:

1. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses – JUNKY STAR – If his voice doesn’t get you, the song writing certainly will. (Or at least the dirtiest guitar sound I’ve heard in a few years.) It was as if Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams had a kid, Eric Bachman was his older brother, and Paul Westerberg his obnoxious uncle. If that description doesn’t have you opening another browser window to order this damn thing now, then go and listen to HALLELUJAH (No, not the one we’d heard a million times over, another HALLELUJAH). I’ve given this album to a good half dozen people. The first word out of their mouths after one listen: “Hallelujah.” Then something like “wow.” Yeah, “wow,” says it best. This is a fucking great record, without a flaw.

2. Joanna Newsom – HAVE ONE ON ME – A three cd set that really defies description and begs to be heard from start to finish. A modern folk opera. Brilliant, certainly not for everyone, but if you give it a chance.

3. The Whigs – IN THE DARK – My favorite straight out rock album of the year. The closest thing I could find in the purest spirit of the Mats (that was actually worth listening to). KILL ME CAROLYNE is hands down my favorite song of the year.

4. Superchunk – MAJESTY SHREDDING – Shame on Mac and company for making us wait this long for another release, but one of the two best bands of the 90s (you know the Archers of Loaf was the other), returns to solid form with a record that sounds as if it could have been released in their heyday. LEARNED TO SURF is as good as rock gets in this decade.

5. Frightened Rabbit – THE WINTER OF MIXED DRINKS – An album of rousing anthems about drinking and screwing and all the things rock songs should be about. It’s one of those albums that just kept getting better on every listen. And that they can pull off the songs live was an eye-opener.

6. Ida Maria – KATLA – Last year she topped the list EASILY. And while this is nowhere the masterpiece of FORTRESS ROUND MY HEART, the gal from Norway nonetheless delivers 9 sucker punches. For anyone who thinks girls stopped rocking with Bikini Kill, give her a listen. Her lyrics are funny, sexy and the growl will make you weak in the knees.

7. Spoon – TRANSFERENCE – After writing these guys off because of their hideously lame GA GA GA cd from a few years back, Spoon returned to what they do best: catchy rock songs with good guitar licks. I know a bunch of people who wrote off this band after GA, take a chance and revisit them. While not as spectacular as GIRLS CAN TELL or KILL THE MOONLIGHT, still in a year of limp-doodle rock, it was damn refreshing.

8. Titus Andronicus – MONITOR – A concept album that may or may not be about the civil war. But who cares. It’s a rowdy collection of tunes that owe a lot to the spirit of The Replacements, and I can’t give a band higher praise.

9. The Gaslight Anthem – AMERICAN SLANG – Likewise Brian Fallon and company owe a bunch to the spirit of the Mats…with a little Springsteen tossed in. A solid rock album, a perfect summer driving record. Leading to…

10. Bruce Springsteen – THE PROMISE – outtakes from his best rock album (I’ll probably still take NEBRASKA over DARKNESS), his “punk” album if you will, are the sort of songs most rocker would die to write. Sure, it’s like reliving a time when rock music was exciting and vibrant, and it shook our worlds. Hmmm…because of that perhaps this should be in the number one slot.

The best songs of 2010 (in no particular order):
KILL ME CAROLYNE – The Whigs
CLEMENTINE – Sarah Jaffe
HURRICANE J – The Hold Steady
HALLELUJAH – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
LANTERN – Josh Ritter
PRECIOUS STONE – Pete Yorn
THE LONELINESS AND THE SCREAM – Frightened Rabbit
ANYBODY LOOKING FOR GOD – Grandpaboy

The most disappointing album:
THE SUBURBS – Arcade Fire – After the brilliance of NEON BIBLE my expectations were damn high. And at first listen I loved everything about this record. But by the fourth or fifth go around I was getting bored. And within a week it was removed from my playlist. I’ve never gone back. Have never even wanted to. Maybe it’s me.

MOVIES

Best Documentary: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (WAS IT REAL? Who cares? It was entertaining as hell, and Banksy proved himself one of the art geniuses of modern times.)

Best Film: THE TOWN (Riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama from Ben Affleck. BEN AFFLECK! A rare gem in which you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. Rebecca Hall is heartbreakingly great.)

Most Enjoyable Film of 2010:
KICK-ASS (a movie that proved a beautifully foul-mouth 12-year-old girl could quite possibly be the greatest movie super hero of all time)

Guilty Pleasure Film of 2010:
CHLOE (two words: Amanda Seyfried)

Runners Up (In no particular order):
WINTER’S BONE
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

Worst Film of 2010
SOMEWHERE (I truly loved Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION. But I don’t know what happened here. I kept waiting for something to happen. Kept waiting to feel something for any of these characters. Still waiting. So utterly boring.)

That’s my list. It’s subject to change. Having spent most of the year filming and editing, I certainly didn’t get to see everything. I’ll update it as I do…

To a rockin’ Replacements New Year!

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The FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) interview…

Some questions and my answers to a little interview I did recently for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS):

Poster designed by Sarah Hajtol

1. What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this film for the first time, knowing nothing about it?

To please put all preconveived notions about what sex and romance should be, to crank up the volume, and get ready to laugh and be turned-on…

A scene from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) filmed at Cafe 9 in New Haven

2. What was the inspiration for writing the story for this film? Is it autobiographical at all?

Well, yes, back in my college days, I had a few long-term friends with benefits, of course, we called them fuck buddies back then. Which was the original name for the script, when I first penned it back in 1999. But I was finding that none of my actors wanted a film called fuck buddies on their resume. I’ve always felt it was an interesting aspect to any friendship, especially male/female friendships. How can you not want to be with a person with whom you have a lot in common?

A scene from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) filmed at Willoughby's Coffee & Tea in Branford, CT

3. How did the project come together? Was it difficult to get this film off the ground and into production? What were the major challenges?

The biggest challenges are always fund raising and casting. I raised about half the money pretty quickly, based on the script. I found matching funds from a group interested in also putting the film out on DVD. A win-win, until they started giving me script notes. I’m beyond the point of taking script notes from investment bankers and accountants. My feeling is, you want to invest in the film, great. But you have no say. Life is too short to deal with assholes who think because they have money they know anything about story development. So, the minute they brought up script notes, I told them what they could do with their matching funds, and moved on to the lower budget I had already prepared. (I always have backup lower budgets.)

Anne Petersen, Margaret Laney, Lynn Mancinelli

4. How was the casting process? Any surprises in the cast you finally got together?

Well, Margaret Laney was onboard first…she was friends with Jake Alexander…who knew Brendan Bradley…who knew Anne Petersen. Then Jake remembered an old friend from Boston, Alex Brown. So that was 5/6 of our lead cast. It was the final role which took a while, and eventually went to Lynn Mancinelli. The leads rocked. It helped that a number of them knew each other, but it also helped that we rehearsed once a week for going on 6 months because filling shooting. They all seem like good friends. The chemistry is there. I couldn’t ask for more. And likewise, there’s no one else I’d picture in the lead roles. They own them. But, as always, finding supporting players was a lot harder. No real surprises, except for perhaps Tara Stiles, who plays one of the webcam girls. She’s an uber-famous yoga instructor now. She rocked that small part. Wish we had seen more of both her, and the coffee shop girl, played by Rooney Mara.

Alex Brown, Brendan Bradley, Jake Alexander

5. How was Rooney Mara to work with? What do you think of her casting in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

I’ve been friends with Rooney for a long time. I originally cast her as the Ilona, the Daughter of God, in the intended film version of my first novel, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told. In fact you can see her on the cover of the paperback reprint. But when I walked away from $2 million in funding (same reason as above), I moved on to FWB. But Rooney looked too young at the time to play any of the lead roles. I think she’s going to kick ass in Dragon Tattoo. I’m proud of her. Can’t wait to one day get Second Greatest Story off the ground.

The band: START MISSING EVERYBODY

6. Any memorable moments on set?

It was a tough shoot. We had a lot of locations and only 18 days. And there are many times I’m a 20-take director. So we don’t have much down time. Scratch that, we have no down time. But that said, my favorite day of shooting was the, well, without giving away too much, let’s just call it the orgy scene. It was very tight quarters. We shot that in an attic, so the ceiling where we placed the camera and crew was about 3 feet high. It was in the 90s, that day. No A/C. And yet, there’s one particular shot in which that scene all comes together. It wasn’t planned. It was as if the god if indie films was shining down upon us and it all just clicked. But you’ll know it because what you never expect to happen, happens.

Adrian Correia, Gorman Bechard

7. Are there any particular scenes you like the best, or that you’d like audiences to really take note of?

I have two favorite scenes in the movie that still to this day give me goosebumps because they feel so real. Both are between Chloe and Owen. The first is the kiss on up East Rock park, when they first talk about what they want to be when they grow up. The other is the dance at their senior prom, when he puts his jacket around her shoulders. The looks they give each other are beyond perfect. I made the film and yet I believe in those moments they are in love.

A scene from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) filmed at East Rock Park in New Haven, CT

8. How about any scenes that were particularly challenging to shoot?

The East Rock scenes…on those nights it would either be raining, or freezing, or both. NEVER shoot exterior scenes in low budget films. It’s suicide. Also the bar scenes. 21 pages in about 22 hours, with band performances, shooting overnight for two nights while the bar (Cafe Nine, in New Haven) was closed.

Poster used in film.

9. What would you say is the overall message you’d like people to take away from the film?

Sex is something different for everyone. We all have our kinks, whatever they might be. Instead of discriminating against people because of differences, we should learn to embrace and enjoy those differences. It might just turn you on like you’ve never been turned on before.

You can watch FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) now on Fancast or Babelgum. Or you can purchase the DVD (with tons of extras) at Amazon.

Happy Holidays to all…

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The Making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 16

The third day of filming for CMO brought us back to NYC. A really cold day, February 2, 2010. Just me and Adrian making the drive.

We began with someone who’d become one of CMO’s patron saints, Jesse Malin. He was our first official rock star. We shot the interview at his bar Niagra, on Avenue A and 7th Street.

Jesse was great! He told stories that seemed to connect with Jack Rabid’s, of seeing them on their East Coast Whirl back in 1983, of jamming with Paul Westerberg after their set at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. He spoke of how the band seemed like a real gang, nothing phony about them. And when asked what he would tell a younger rock fan to turn them onto The Replacements, he said:

“It’s real. It’s real rock n’ roll. It encompasses everything that rock n’ roll and punk rock should have. Great songs. Great energy. Rebel music. A fuck you. A comradery of the people. A great sense of humor. And a unique style. A unique sound. Fearless. Timeless in a way.”

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 15

Before we continue with the interview process, I want to stress to any people making films out there, or thinking of making a film:

1. You’re out of your freaking mind!

2. You need a poster and a website NOW.

It’s one of the first things I do. Even if nothing has been filmed. Because when you speak about the movie you are planning to make, people will inevitably want to check it (something) out online. Thus, Sarah Hajtol initially set up a simple site for Color Me Obsessed, which was the poster you see below, and a bunch of simple HTML links on the side: what’s new, director’s site, pages for my last film, and the one before it, facebook, twitter, etc., and so on. SOMETHING.

But how exactly did we arrive at the poster? Well, I basically drove Sarah crazy (as I always do), telling her to forget everything she learned in school and go nuts. Now, enjoy this poster while you can, because a new one is in the works (see the plaid one at the bottom of this post).

But in the meantime, let me show you a few of the designs that never made it past their embryonic stage…

Before we went plaid, we were aiming for something based upon the old Let It Be house…

…or a speaker, as in the Bastards Of Young video.

…or a volume knob…

Until one day I thought…plaid pants…and sent Sarah every plaid background I could find…and voila, she made magic:

(P.S. We are missing names from the credits above…but that will be corrected on the new version.)

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The Making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 14

Adrian and I ended the day in Boston back at Q Division Studios, first with an interview with the guys from AM Stereo, who have an amazing Replacements inspired number call “Bob Stinson” then with Bill Janovitz, the lead singer of Buffalo Tom.

The one thing that was becoming very apparent, was that in the grand tradition of the Velvet Underground, The Replacements inspired people to pick up guitars and play. The punk tradition that anyone could do it. But you didn’t even need the uniform. Look I love The Clash. I think they’re one of the five greatest bands of all time. (Live, the second greatest band of all time.) But let’s be real, they wore a uniform. The Mats on the other hand looked as if they’d just rolled out of bed. As if they’d perhaps slept in their clothes. They looked like the guys working the mini-mart or pop in any clichéd job description you want. And they were hardly the greatest musicians when they started. Hell, they were hardly ever in tune. But they inspired such hope and confidence.

They made it look easy. Real talent does that. Makes you believe it’s a cinch. Of course, then you try and write a song like “Unsatisfied” or “Color Me Impressed” or “If Only You Were Lonely,” and you suddenly realize their brilliance. Not only is it harder than it looks. A lot harder. It’s impossible. The proof is that no one would ever do it again quite like The Replacements.

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 13

Next up on that long day in Boston, Mike Gent of the Figgs, another big fan, who of course also backed Tommy Stinson on one of his solo tours. This was the first day interview where we realized we’d have a very pet friendly film on our hands, as I had to make the decision to allow pets (dogs mainly) to roam free, sit on sofas, etc. Or not. Well, anyone who knows me knows my decision.

Mike has this great old black pooch that kept jumping up onto the couch, chewing its Kong, coming over to the camera. Basically being a dog. He would be the first of many such canine cameos in CMO. And I truly believe they add a more human dimension to the film.

Mike told this great story about always searching for a copy of ALL SHOOK DOWN on vinyl. (It was never originally released on vinyl in the states.) Well, when in England on tour he found a copy. He was so excited he actually opened the album on the plane ride home, just to look at the record and insert. He found it a little strange that while there were grooves for six tunes on side one, there were only grooves for five tunes on side two. And ASD had thirteen tracks in all. When he got home he quickly discovered why. While side one was the first six songs of The Replacements’ last album, side two was inside a Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton album. A mistake from the factory where the vinyl was pressed.

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