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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 making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 2

Friends (with benefits) shot for a total of 18 days, beginning on April 18th, 2007.  So, we’ve really been editing it, tweaking it, playing with the song selection, and score, and titles, and color correction, for going on two years now.  (The original assembly was 125 minutes without end credits, the final cut runs 94 minutes complete.)  Doesn’t seem like that long has passed, but then again perhaps it does.  I think once you see the film, you’ll understand why so much time was spent on editing.  We tried to do something a little different here.  (The producers rep who ultimately took on the film called the editing “ground breaking.”  And while I don’t know about that, we’ll certainly take the compliment!)

           

As a novelist (my website, GormanBechard.com has all the info you could possibly need on that), I thought we’d bring a little of that feel to the film, thus in my mind it’s “a novel with moving pictures.”  While all films on DVD are broken into “chapters” I thought we’d take that one step further and actually break the film down into real chapters.  But no one wants to watch a book.  So, how to make it move fast . . . real fast? 

 

Well, originally I wanted the film, especially the dialog, to movie at a breakneck speed, like “His Girl, Friday.”  But there are two truisms in film.  The one that fits here is, and I’m paraphrasing: “There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, and the film you edit.”  Anyone who’s ever directed a film knows they are three very separate beasts, each with a mind of their own.

 

So, while that breakneck pace seemed great in concept (and even in rehearsals), the realities of casting and filming got in the way.  Until editing, that is.  We threw out the rule book.  And decided that we would not allow the audience time to blink (at least for a part of the film…when need be, as a director I am a big believer in giving the performances room to breathe.)  

 

(FYI: I never used the rule book when writing my novels, hell, I flunked English 101 in college, and likewise, for any of you who’ve seen my last feature YOU ARE ALONE, you know I don’t “do” the “master/over-shoulder/over-shoulder reverse” coverage.  It’s boring, it’s lazy, it shows not one iota of originality or belief in your script, or your ability as a director…it’s movie-of-the-week.  Really, just put a bullet in my head and shoot me now.  So, yeah, I certainly wasn’t going to start following the rules now.)

 

The Friends (with benefits) secret weapon?  Split screens.  If two stories were happening concurrently, why not show them?  Adjust the timing here and there, and let the characters on the right answer the characters on the left.  It was just an experiment at first.  Tried it in one bar scene where two male characters are conversing about the same subject as two female characters.  What do you know?  It clicked.  It worked.  Jokes came faster.  You didn’t have time to blink and you were laughing again.  Or in a few cases, the inherent sadness of a friendship perhaps destroyed was given an even greater emotional impact.

 

Watching and using the split screens, co-editor Ashley McGarry and I just knew in our guts this was right for the film. 

 

And that’s what it comes down to for me.  That gut feeling.  Whether holding on someone’s expression for a beat longer than you might think necessary, because in reality sometimes we need that extra moment of reflection.  Or inserting a list of “rules” as a text scroll to make a scene go where it needed it to go.  Or dozens of other little examples in this film.  (Some big examples: cutting a huge emotional scene down to one line because I felt the rest made one character just a hair less likable, cutting scenes because I found an actors blocking distracting, sacrificing a few amazing shots that ultimately did nothing to move the story along, or reducing characters down to a few lines because either the story wasn’t really about them, or I felt their performance distracting.)  You go with your gut.  In the end, as director, it’s your name signed at the bottom of the canvas.  And after a horrible bigger-budget filmmaking experience back in 2002 (read the blog entry titled “Just say no to Billy Zane” from September 2008), I promised myself I would never again sign my name to a film or book I wasn’t proud of. 

 

Well, I’m ready to sign my name to Friends (with benefits).  Come see it at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival on June 12th, and you’ll see why.

 

P.S. An aside.  OK…I did not sign my name to my last novel UNWOUND.  It was published under the pseudonym Jonathan Baine.  But not because I wasn’t proud of the book.  I actually love the book.  The name change was quite simply to trick the computers at Barnes & Noble.  See, the big chains, like B&N, preorder copies of your new book based upon the sales of your last book.  Now, most of my novels have had a first printing of between 5,000 and 20,000 copies.  The first printing for UNWOUND was going to be 146,000 copies. Thus the publisher wanted the B&Ns of the world to order a lot more than what they ordered and sold of my previous titles.  Smile.  You just learned something about the publishing business.

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The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 1

As both the completion of my newest feature, FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) …and the start of its film festival run nears, I thought now would be a good time to turn the main subject of this blog over to the making of my newest film.

 

I start with BRAD’S RULES.  Or at least 99 of them.  The rules were not a part of the original script.  They were born out of necessity, when during the editing process we needed to get from point A to point F in a very long scene that was just slowing down the first act, and do so in a way that was both organic to the script and also funny.  And since Brad, one of the main characters in the film, was always mouthing off about his rules, we thought inserting those rules into the film might just work.  Thus the actual list of 100 rules was born.

 

You’ll have to judge for yourself, but I think they provide one of the biggest laughs in the film. 

 

But here now are the rules…live by them, and life will be good (which I guess is a rule in and of itself):

 

100. Friends don’t let friends fuck ugly people 

99. Try everything twice, the first time you might have been doing it wrong 

98. Fat girls give the best head because they’re always hungry 

97. Cologne: overrated…Deodorant: a must 

96. Blondes are usually too dumb to realize they’re having more fun 

95. After puberty, that’s not “baby fat”

94. ATM = the Holy Grail 

93. All hippie chicks deep throat, but few vegans swallow 

92. Women like shoes. They will look at yours; purchase accordingly 

91. BBBJ or why bother? 

90. Women cannot parallel park 

89. If you wanna fuck it, you’ve got to be willing to lick it

88. Ass, stomach, legs, boobs – in that order 

87. If it’s not dirty, you’re doing something wrong 

86. If a friend’s apartment is running low on toilet paper, you’re required to use it all 

85. Cheerleaders are overrated 

84. Under no circumstance may two men share an umbrella 

83. Never allow a conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her 

82. Other than in February, the 14th of every month is Pizza and Blowjob Night 

81. Dogs are better than cats…period 

80. Bigger is never better when they’re fake 

79. Don’t leave the house if you’re not camera ready

78. A period does not equal a week off from sex 

77. Mustaches and hunting are gay 

76. Sucking your best friend’s dick, that’s priceless 

75. You are not accountable if you bring ugly people home, unless you fuck them again in the

morning 

74. If her mom isn’t a MILF, chances are she won’t be one either 

73. Fake orgasms count, as long as they’re not yours 

72. The G-spot does not exist 

71. There is NOTHING sexy about pregnant women 

70. Persistence gets you laid 

69. Never give yourself a haircut while drunk 

68. No panties = a good night 

67. Drinks hard liquor = a great night 

66. Tongue piercing = God loves you! 

65. Saliva isn’t always the best lubricant, just the most fun to apply 

64. White cotton panties and knee socks.  Enough said!

63. Never lend money to friends 

62. Never lend books, CDs, or DVDs to anyone 

61. The month you finish paying for your car, it will break down 

60. Elvis is not dead 

59. Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone 

58. What’s good for you does not always taste better.  Example: processed peanut butter vs. the all-natural kind 

57. People who don’t use turn signals deserve mandatory prison sentences 

56. Never let a girl shave your balls 

55. Porn saves lives 

54. Republicans are better at…well…nothing 

53. If you’ve never had New Haven brick oven pizza, you’ve never had pizza.  There is no pizza in New York or Chicago.  Don’t argue, you’ll just sound foolish 

52. Old country = cool  Alt-country = really cool  New country = sucks 

51. Condition your hair once a day 

50. Masturbate twice a day 

49. Eat three square meals every day 

48. Women should never cut their hair, unless they’re going to play for the other team 

47. Crying is blackmail 

46. Your choice: spay or neuter your pet…or yourself  

45. If she sleeps in your bed, sex is a given 

44. If a girl leaves her dirty panties lying around, she wants you to sniff them 

43. There’s no such thing as giving 110% 

42. Halloween is the only holiday that matters 

41. Sympathy sex trumps make-up sex 

40. Body hair just gets in the way 

39. Rip bread, don’t slice it 

38. Every man should learn how to dance, but no other man should know he can 

37. Men have no right to speak on the subject of abortion 

36. Every decade gives us only one great double album: The White Album, Exile On Main Street, London Calling, Being There, and Cold Roses. 

35. Chivalry is not dead, but she has to earn it 

34. Watch Carnival Of Souls at least once in your lifetime 

33. If your pubic hair is blond or red, shaving is optional 

32. You can cheat on girls with hairy legs 

31. If they don’t answer, it means yes 

30. Never turn down a chance to sleep with a celebrity 

29. Sex is better in warmer climates 

28. Emo guys = gay; emo gals = easy marks 

27. Never trust people who don’t drink coffee 

26. Springsteen really is The Boss 

25. If there’s a problem, talk it out 

24. If you can’t talk it out: fuck, then try again 

23. Never lease what you can buy 

22. Never break up using a post-it note, her biker friends will hurt you for it 

21. Never say “no” to a green-eyed girl 

20. Live life as if The Catcher In The Rye were your bible 

19. Don’t lie, you will get caught 

18. Admit that the 1986 Mets were the greatest baseball team of all time and life will be easier

17. Know the legal age of consent in every place you visit 

16. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in zoos, fairs, or roadside attractions 

15. Pussy farts are charming 

14. Only wear a bra if you’re going to offend me 

13. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder 

12. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye 

11. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups 

10. When in doubt, mumble 

9. Masturbation is overrated 

8. Small boobs are misunderstood

7. Better to be feared than loved, but even better to have your love feared 

6. Handcuffs are the ultimate sex toy 

5. If you can’t convince them, confuse them 

4. Quiet girls are the most likely to toss your salad 

3.  Women do not understand remote controls, there is no exception to this rule

2. Never overthink 

 

Of course, if you want to know the number one rule, you’re gonna have to watch the film.

 

The official website is: www.FWBmovie.com 

 

Check back often for more stories from the front lines of making FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)…

 

Friends (with benefits) POSTER

Friends (with benefits) POSTER

 

P.S. Remember my horror/comedy PSYCHOS IN LOVE will be released on DVD (complete with a boatload of extras) next Tuesday, April 28th.  You can get it at BestBuy, Netflix, or preorder it here at Amazon.com

 

I guess in a way, PSYCHOS IN LOVE had its own set of rules:

 

I hate grapes.

I can’t stand grapes.

I loathe grapes. 

All kinds of grapes.

I hate purple grapes. 

I hate green grapes. 

I hate grapes with seeds. 

I hate grapes without seeds. 

I hate them peeled and non-peeled. 

I hate grapes in bunches, one at a time, or in groups of twos and threes.

I fucking hate grapes.

 

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List of Extras on the PSYCHOS IN LOVE dvd…

 Just wanted to update everyone on the long awaited US DVD release of my film PSYCHOS IN LOVE. Besides this being a pristine and beautiful transfer of the film, this DVD is LOADED (scream “LOADED” from the rooftops) with extras.

Here is the complete list:

Feature Commentary with Gorman Bechard (from 2009)
Feature Commentary with Gorman Bechard and Carmine Capobianco (from 2005)
Original Trailer
Alternate Opening
Making Psychos in Love
Photo Gallery (make that a HUGE photo gallery)
Extended Scenes
Highlights from Psychos in Love: The Stageplay

As well as three of my short films:
Bartholomew the Strangler, Short Film (1983)
The Only Take, Short Film (1983)
Objects in the Mirror are Further Than They Appear, Short Film (2003)

Trailers from my last two features:
You Are Alone, Trailer (2005)
Friends with Benefits, Trailer (2009)

And a very cool video promo for my last novel:
Unwound, Promo (2007)

Not bad for under twenty bucks!

Pre-Order the film HERE
Visit the offical PSYCHOS IN LOVE website HERE
And please remember: grapes do kill people, because we kill people who eat grapes!
Original promo card.

Original promo card.

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Lily Allen’s cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL by the Clash – a review

OK…first off, the 5 stars are for Lily Allen’s cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL.  And so you know where I am coming from.  I am not a huge fan of Ms. Allen.  Don’t really know her music.  Not my cup of tea.  I am however a huge Clash fan.  Saw them live 15 times from their first US gig to their last tour.  I’d rank them as one of the two greatest bands of all time.  (The other is the Replacements.)  Their music to me is sacred.  It should be respected, never covered.  And STRAIGHT TO HELL is one of my three favorite Clash songs.  Having said all that…

 

Ms. Allen cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL on the WAR CHILD PRESENTS HEROES compilation cd is the best song we will hear this year.  She and Mick Jones have taken his and Strummer’s brilliant melody, riff and lyric and somehow (I don’t know how) taken it to a level where few musicians ever get to even see, let alone attain.

 

From the opening da-da-da-da’s which sound so much like Strummer (I wish I knew for certain if they were, or if it was Jones), through to Ms. Allen’s phrasing, which is Billie Holiday-perfect, as are the production and the instrumentation, the song had been reinvented, re-envisioned.

 

And when Ms. Allen hits the bridge and sings “so mamma-san says” and the da-da-da-da’s start up again, I find the goosebumps coming and the tears welling. 

 

This really is the song she was born to sing.  It will make everything else that follows this year seem unimportant and unoriginal. 

 

As for the rest, well honestly I’d give the cd 2 stars out of 5 at best.  What we have are really bad covers of great songs (The Hold Steady, whom I like, doing injustice to ATLANTIC CITY), just misses (The TV On The Radio cover of HEROES is close, as is Beck doing Dylan), a number of what-were-these-people-thinking (really, you never cover the Ramones or Blondie, not because they’re the greatest songs ever written, but because you sound stupid even trying), a few that make you want to hear the originals and how they’re really done (The Kinks and the Costello songs) and the rest is just who-cares?

 

But all that said, listen to the Lilly Allen/Mick Jones track.  And genuflect in the presence of genius.

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Psychos In Love

Forgot to mention, my crazy cult horror comedy from 1986 — PSYCHOS IN LOVE — is about to get a top notch dvd release from Media-Blasters. Tons of extras, including two commentaries (one I’m doing now, and one from a few years back with me and Carmine). a behind-the-scenes, the original trailer, a huge photo gallery, trailers for my two most recent films (You Are Alone and Friends With Benefits), a promo video I did for my last book UNWOUND (written under the pseudonym Jonathan Baine), and two shorts, one old (The Only Take) and the last short I made (Objects In The Mirror Are Further Than They Appear)…and perhaps even a few other suprises.

Not to mention, this will be a new transfer off the original film…so it should look pristine!

It’ll be available on March 31, 2009…and you can pre-order your copy of the PSYCHOS IN LOVE dvd by clicking HERE!

originalvideoboxcover

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More top ten…and Springsteen (not the rock star)…

First off, after two weeks I can say that Springsteen is doing quite well adjusting to his new home. Likewise Phoebe has become a great big sister to the pup. I’ll post more pix soon. We’re also closing up all the work on the Connecticut State Film Commission Tax Credit we’re receiving for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and I will be posting a long blog explaining how everything went down, a good how-to for other indie filmmakers in the state.

But for now, yet another Top Ten CD list. This time from old friend Rob DeRosa. For the best of CT-based music you can hear Rob’s radio show on Thursdays on WESU FM, which is 88.1FM. It’s called HOMEGROWN. You can also listen to archived shows at: www.myspace.com/thinmanmusiclabel

Here now is his top ten:

The Hold Steady- Stay Positive. How could an ex Springstee fan not like these guys? Way too many words sometimes and chock full arrangements- that’s what drew me to early Bruce and it’s what enthralls me about The Hold Steady. I just hope there is no Nebraska in them to screw it all up.

The Mountain Movers- Why Don’t We open the Chest. This band is a pleasure. While I loved the horns on the first CD, the less is more approach here works even better. If Ric promises to bring extra strings, I’ll hire them for Daffodil Fest so I can hear this stuff live in my own backyard, so to speak.

The Manchurians 5×4, The Minster EP. I know, my label. But if this and my next picks were not worthy, we wouldn’t max out credit putting them out. This one rocks in a different way than the last one- probably due to Dean’s layering of sounds and his co-writing energizing Roger to write more songs than he ever did. Short- liethey like their live sets- but it kicks ass.

Frank Critelli- Watlzing Through Quicksand. Frank’s songs always had room for a full band and this disc shows why. His songs here are expansive and moving- and the tight band behind him propells him to rock star staus instead of simply the best folkie out there.

The Sawtelles- Dime Museum. Previously a either love ’em or leave ’em style- this CD shows incredible growth and cohesion of their rather unothadox style. Shany Lawson produced them the way it should have always been. Peter’s words are intiguing and Julie sings better than ever before.

MGMT- Oracular Spectacular suffice to say that this incredibly popular band was for all intense and purposes, my discovery. Well. not entirely- but the Wesleyan duo got their first off campus gig from me- as well as their first club date at Cafe 9 and their first airplay on my radio show. Then they went on to play every festival in the world this year( Cochella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading, SXSW, Austin City one, two in australia and a few in Japan.) and get on most big music magazines best of lists. They deserve it. It’s a psychedelic dance fest with pithy, ironic and cheeky lyrics. AND the drummer is nailing Kirstin Dunst. Every young rockers dream story.

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