Tag Archives: rock n roll


Sometimes things just come together perfectly.  A year ago, in February, I brought together a group of six extremely talented young women to make a music video for a song on the about-to-be-released Matt Ryan record. Everything about “(I Just Died) Like An Aviator” rocked.  It’s one of my favorite shoots, one of my favorite videos. You can watch it here.

Then, last Wednesday, I read that Matt would soon be releasing an unadorned acoustic version of the same album.  He sent me a copy, and I immediately turned on the acoustic “Aviator” and before the song was over I knew what I had to do.

The texting began. I started with my Matt Ryan-impersonator Chloe Barczak as she would have to carry so much of the idea I had in my head.  She was in.  Then co-producer Charlotte Beatty to handle the organization.  And the first video’s guitarist Carina Begley, as the guitar was (except for a few piano notes at the very end) the lone instrument.  An acoustic version of the same team, so to speak.

Then I told Matt we were again making a music video of “Aviator.”  He never even asked what we were planning, and instead got American Songwriter Magazine to agree to premiere the video sight unseen.  He sent me the chords and even a video for Carina on how to play a few of the guitar parts.

By Friday of last week we had a schedule and a location.  The same location as the original video.  We all met at 8:45 AM on Sunday, loaded up my Jeep with almost all of my gear, and drove the two tenths of a mile to the home of Dean and Shellye.

As Carina got used to the feel of my Martin acoustic, Charlotte and Chloe helped me set up lights and camera.  By 10:30 we were filming, buzzing from a lot of Willoughby’s coffee, Coke-a-Cola, and salted-caramel Orangeside Donuts.

But this time around Chloe and Carina had their work cut out for them.  My concept was to present the video in one long take.  No cuts.  Just a perfect performance and some precise rack focusing. No sweat.

We worked on blocking the first half dozen times through, as Chloe worked on her emotional delivery.  She felt this version of the song was really sad.  Desperate.  Depressing even.  Both Charlotte and Carina agreed.  I was not about to argue.

We got the blocking just right, the lighting perfect.  And by the twelfth take I started noticing tears in Chloe’s eyes.  That was when I knew we had something special.  We knocked off one take after another, with barely a pause between, and she nailed it.  Take sixteen was fucking brilliant.  Take eighteen was perfect.  We did a few more.  I had a B-camera rolling just in case my impossible one-shot idea would not work.  And after the twenty-fourth take we wrapped.

I got home around 1:30 PM.  I copied the footage onto a drive as I put away the gear.  Then I started editing, going back and forth between takes 16, 18, 12 and 24…but ultimately the fucking brilliant won out.  It would be take 16.  I added titles, the slightest color correction, some film grain, and I exported the timeline.  By 4:30 PM I texted Matt, Chloe, Charlotte, and Carina a private viewing link for the video.

This is what Matt Ryan wrote to me after seeing it for the first time: “My god she’s killing me. I seriously have tears in my eyes.  I love it.  Breaks my heart.  It’s beautiful  Please tell them I love it.  Thank you for thinking to do this.”

His appreciation was appreciated.

Matt stripped down a beautiful song, and allowed us to do the same to the original video.  But this video is unadorned in other ways as well: void of ego, attitudes, rude people (unlike most of the rest of my past few weeks, hell, unlike most of the world we live in). It was just four people working together, all doing what they need to do, having fun doing it, turning a beautiful song in a visual work of art.

Thank you to Chloe, Charlotte, and Carina, my brilliant cohorts on this project. Thank you to Dean and Shellye for again letting us invade their home.  Thank you to Matt Ryan and American Songwriter for the blind trust.

And here it is:  American Songwriter Magazine

Sometimes things just come together perfectly.


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Filed under directing, film producing, film school, filmmaking, matthew ryan, music, music video, rock n roll, Uncategorized

A Masterpiece for a post-Hüsker Dü World

As a disclosure, let me state that I am director of the upcoming Grant Hart documentary EVERY EVERYTHING. But that said, if I didn’t truly love this record I would write nothing at all. As even my closest friends know, if they ask for an opinion from me, I will give it to them truthfully. I’m not one to sugar coat, or ever tell people what they want to hear.

Next, so you know where I stand, I believe these to be indisputable facts:

1. Hüsker Dü and The Replacements are the two most important rock bands of the past 32 years. That every single band that picked up a guitar and rocked post 1987 owes everything to these two bands. They saved rock and roll at a time when even punk had completely lost its edge and become new wave. So that is the regard in which I hold the members of these two bands.

2. Just as the Beatles had two great singer/songwriters in Lennon and McCarthey, Hüsker Dü had Mould and Hart. There is no Hüsker Dü without Grant Hart. He is as important to the band as Mould, and just as good a songwriter. As for their post-Hüsker Dü careers, Hart might not have been as prolific, but he delivered “2541” and “The Main,” which for me are the two best post-breakup songs.

Now, onto The Argument.

The Argument
This is a vast, impressive work. Hardly a collection of pop tunes that you can play on your car’s stereo system and listen to at leisure…at least not at first. In taking on a book most of us could not even get through the Cliff Notes on, Hart has given us a true rock opera, about good vs. evil, about heaven vs. hell, about lust and the snake in the garden. This is a post-punk rock bible, a “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” or “Tommy” for our day. But the first half dozen times through you need to listen. To absorb. To take in the grandeur of what he’s accomplished. And only then you will find the pop songs. The rock songs. The songs to break your heart. Then you will begin to see the scope of “The Argument.” Then you will begin to see the influences Hart wears proudly on his sleeves, from an almost polished version of the noise we came to love as Hüsker Dü fans to nods towards Dylan (“For Those Too High Aspiring” is probably my favorite track, sounding like a lost track Bob Dylan contributed to “Zen Arcade”), the Doors (“Golden Chain”), the Faces (“Shine, Shine, Shine”), Buddy Holly (“Letting Me Out”), doo wop (“So Far From Heaven”), anthem rock (“Glorious,” which would make for a perfect very tongue-in-cheek Christian rock anthem), even a Rudy Vallée ukulele ditty (“Underneath the Apple Tree”), and yes, old Bowie (the brilliant title track). Hart is a walking history-of-music encyclopedia, and that knowledge shines through on every track.

The production is masterful. (The use of the beep from Sputnik on “Is the Sky the Limit” is a stroke of genius.) Hart’s voice is powerful when it needs to be. Frail, almost cracked, when he wants to rip out your heart. The instrumentation is at times a cacophony of blessed noise pop and at other times brisk, clean, clear. There are moments when a track ends and you actually wish for a breather before what will assault you next.

To take on Milton’s “Paradise Lost” might have seemed a fool’s game for most musicians. But Grant Hart isn’t like most musicians. He’s probably one of the smartest men in rock & roll. And while this might have been a glorious gamble that ended badly, he’s hit the jackpot. But no more so than the fans who get to experience this work of art.

Should you buy it? Well, I’ll answer that question with a question: would you go see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” if it was in a gallery in your town? If the answer is yes. That you would have to see the genius in Van Gogh’s swirls in person and for yourself. Then, yes, buy “The Argument.”  Masterpieces only come around every so often.


Filed under Grant Hart, Husker Du, new music, punk rock, rock n roll

Record Store Day

When Kristine and I moved to New Haven in 1989 so she could run the about-to-open Sam Goodys on Chapel Street (whose 20% off Saturdays are still legendary), we were on the verge of having seven record shops in a town of roughly 120,000 people. Think about that. We have one now. Most towns this size have none.

But on this national day of celebration (I’m sure many would think of it as a national day of mourning), I prefer to talk about the great majestic record shop of my impressionable years. Of a store that started in a second floor apartment on Bank Street in Waterbury, Connecticut. I’m guessing on the year here, but thinking 1978, give or take. It lasted there for only a year or so, then moved up the block into another second floor apartment over the Thom McCan shoe store on that same street, then after a few years in that location, moved into a sprawling space on the third floor of another Bank Street building that housed a jewelry store on its first floor, and an Arthur Murray dance studio on it’s second. Its original name was Cheapskate Records, and sometime during its run at its third location (yes, there would be a fourth, and now a fifth) became Phoenix Records. But it always remained Cheapskate Records to me.

Cheapskate was started and run by a silver-haired gentleman (gray way before his time), with crazed and brilliant eyes, and the ability to print in 6-point type. He was one of the funniest, most sarcastic people I’ve ever met. The missing Monty Python. His name was Professor Morono. Or simply The Professor to those who knew.

If anyone in my life has deserved the title of “professor” it was this man. He influenced my career, my art, as much as Holy Cross’ Sister Noreen who handed me Vonegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” and Brautigan’s “In Watermelon Sugar” during my Junior year of High School. As much as Donald Spotto who made me marvel at the wonders of Alfred Hitchcock during his course at the New School for Social Research. This Professor would on a weekly basis hand me the vinyl eucharist that would make me believe, make me see, make me into who I was destined to become.

Where should I begin? (Where could I begin!) The “I Will Dare” 12-inch from The Replacements, and later “Let It Be,” all the early Elvis Costello, it was where I bought “London Calling” for Christ’s sake. The first R.E.M. EP, Nick Lowe’s “Jesus of Cool,” The Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys, Pere Ubu, Devo, Siouxsie, Tom Waits, countless picture sleeved import singles, live recordings (that amazing Springsteen boot from the Bottom Line). At one point before moving to New Haven, I had a wall of vinyl that measured about 15 feet wide and 6 feet high, with another few dozen crates in my grandfather’s basement. Don’t know how many albums that is exactly. But it’s a lot. And a good part of them came from Cheapskate.

But it was more than just about vinyl. It was about the friendship. The never-ending dialog. The Professor and his cohort, the lovely Diane. Music was our politics, our religion. And no one was a republican or a democrat. We were Clash fans or Pistol fans. Punks or lovers or modern rock, or even hard core. Hell, even heavy metal, or old time country. We were old school, new school, any school. It was about the music. The music was all that mattered once you walked through that door into the collection of crates packed so tight you had to remove a dozen albums just to be able to flip through. The walls lined with those breathtaking 4×4 posters. Could I possibly fit another on my apartment walls? But how could I resist Paul Simonon smashing that bass in 4-foot-square glory? (Quick answer: I couldn’t. And damn I wish I still owned that now.)

When time came to write my first novel, “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told,” I made The Professor a fictional character (as I did The Replacements), one who would have a profound effect on the Daughter of God during her teen years. Turning her on to what was truly important on this planet: Patti Smith (that opening line to “Gloria” so made her laugh), the aforementioned Costello or The Replacements, and of course Husker Du, and with a song called “Green Eyes” how could they not appeal to our lovely green-eyed savior? The Professor was her John the Baptist. Perhaps he was mine as well.

I miss those days. When traveling around with my Replacements documentary “Color Me Obsessed,” the one stop I always make in any strange town is at a record shop, if one even exists. A couple of them, if I’m lucky. I’ll buy something from a local band. And I’ll think back to the days when I’d walk in to one of those less-than-glorious locations — okay, they were glorious to me, Cheapskate Records was a cathedral. My church of rock ‘n’ roll. I’d be handed a stack of vinyl. It was what The Professor had for me that day. A respite from life. Or perhaps the gift of life. A little salvation. And a whole lot of inspiration.

Thank you, Professor. For everything.


Filed under music, Record Store Day, rock n roll, thoughts

The mix tape you need to make before seeing COLOR ME OBSESSED

For that ride to or from any screeing of Color Me Obsessed, this is the perfect Replacements mix tape (these songs, in this order):

Takin a ride
Kids don’t Follow
Fuck school
Color me impressed
I Will Dare
Black Diamond
Gary’s Got A Boner
Another Girl, Another Planet
No More the Moon Shines on Lorena
Bastards of Young
Kiss Me on the Bus
Left of the Dial
Here Comes a Regular
Shooting Dirty Pool
Can’t Hardly Wait
Achin to Be
I’ll be You
Someone Take the Wheel
All Shook Down
Answering Machine

P.S. Please note, this is NOT a list of my favorite Mats songs. This is a list of songs that very specifically go with the film, in this order. When you see the film, you’ll understand.


Filed under documentaries, independent film, rockumentary, the replacements

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 18

Back to filming COLOR ME OBSESSED. Our third day of shooting.

After Jesse Malin, whom we shot in the East Village, we were scheduled to do an interview on the upper West Side, then two in Brooklyn. Unfortunately Jesse’s interview ran long, so short of my Jeep suddenly morphing into a helicopter, there was just no way.

With only two of us working (me asking questions, Adrian manning two cameras), we couldn’t give the upper west side interviewee a respectable heads up. I called the moment the interview was over, and got voicemail. He was unfortunately on the subway, already headed towards his apartment. We he returned the call, I tried to explain, apologized profusely, but he was pissed, and we lost his interview for good. Lesson learned. We allowed a lot more time between interviews. And Neil, if you’re reading this, once again, sorry. In over 140 interviews, it never did happen again.

Next, Adrian and I scurried to Brooklyn to interview one of our Executive Producers, Diane Welsh and her son Brendan. Now a little backstory, Diane is the queen of outbidding you for rare Mats items on eBay. If you’ve lost an item you thought you had in the bag, mostly likely it’s in Diane’s amazing shrine to the band.

A few years back when I finally found a PLEASE TO MEET ME mobile on eBay, I bid well over what I thought it would sell for, into the hundreds. An hour before the auction it looked like I would have it for $45, give or take. Of course when I checked later, after the auction had closed, I had been outbid, by none other than the woman who would in so many respects become the angel for CMO.

Of course, the next time a PTMM mobile appeared, I put in some crazy high bid of around a thousand dollars, and ended up paying only around $40. There was no Diane to outbid me…

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Filed under Color Me Obsessed, Diane Welsh, documentaries, eBay, friends with benefits, gorman bechard, independent film, indie, rockumentary, the replacements

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):
CLEMENTINE – Sarah Jaffe
HURRICANE J – The Hold Steady
HALLELUJAH – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
LANTERN – Josh Ritter

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.


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):

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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Filed under best albums of 2010, best movies, best music, best of, best of 2010, Color Me Obsessed, documentaries, exit through the gift shop, filmmaking, friends with benefits, gorman bechard, independent film, joanna newsom, kick-ass, paul westerberg, rock n roll, ryan bingham, springsteen, the replacements


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.


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…


Filed under Color Me Obsessed, directing, director's commentary, dvd extras, entertainment, filmmaking, friends with benefits, fuck buddies, gorman bechard, humor, romantic comedy, sarah hajtol, sex, sexfuck buddies, the replacements