Archive for January, 2010

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Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, J.D. Salinger, and Shearwater’s Rook

January 31, 2010

I wanted to write something the other day when I found out that J.D. Salinger passed away.  I was able to squeeze out a few words via Twitter and Facebook, but I didn’t really scratch the surface of what I wanted to say.

Catcher in the Rye is a very dividing book.  Most people worship it, other don’t understands its appeal and deem it overrated.  I fall into the former category, but not for the reason most others connect with it.   I won’t lie…I did not read shit in high school.  I skipped every book they ever made us read in English class (yet never failed a test.  Oh, our educational system) opting instead to spur on class discussion to reveal all the major details I would later need.  Catcher in the Rye was no exception.  Alienated teen, I get.  I wasn’t totally alienated as a youth, but who’s never alienated at all?  That’s why everyone connects with it at that age, I suppose.

Years go by in my life.  I go away to college for one year where I do far too many drugs and never, ever attend class.  I return home, leaving drugs behind in exchange for becoming an alcoholic, I made it to Europe for three months, and then went clean and sober, using my 21st birthday as a last celebration before I started training for a marathon and a new and better life.  And I found something else out shortly after my 21st birthday.  One night I was taking a walk with my good friend Sasha Picado and her large dog when she asked me if I read.   I bulked up the truth and tried to lie about how avid a reader I was.  Sasha saw right through it and said “You know a shit load about movies and a shit load about music.  You need to get into books”.  So, the next day she took me to Borders and bought me a few books.  I upped the ante and spent some of my own money as well, considering this was a rare time that I would actually have some.  Together, we bought me Atlas Shrugged, On the Road, Glue by Irvine Welsh, Brave New World, and a few others that slip my mind.

I’ve been an avid reader slash sometime complete obsessive ever since.  One of the first ten books that I decided to read was my old unused copy of Catcher in the Rye.  I dove in.  I loved the tone and feel, and I found that being older than him, I could sympathize with Holden Caulfield having survived that time in my life.  I think that was part of the reason I didn’t like the book in the first place.

I should pause here to point out that I did try reading these books (and okay, okay, okay, I actually finished To Kill a Mockingbird as a Freshman and I knew Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by heart as well as The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim long before Sasha took me to Borders) but they couldn’t hold my interest.  Keep in mind I hit puberty in 1992 at the height of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs a mainstay in our family VHS player.  I’d still argue that it’s more important for a 12 year old boy to have heard that album and seen that movie as opposed to having read A Separate Peace or Where the Red Fern Grows.  Art is a seduction and only the lucky ones get pulled in by the most challenging aspects of it early.  For me, it went from music, to movie, and then to literature.  I don’t think I could have gone at it any other way.  Music is easily the most approachable artistic form.  Everyone has hummed a tune before.  Next, would be movies or film because ever if you don’t understand what is going on, all you have to do is sacrifice two hours and your eyes.  Books take more effort.  Books take more imagination, for the most part…I’m looking at you Stephanie Meyer.

On to J.D.

Catcher in the Rye isn’t about the tone, plot, characters, or story.  It’s about one epiphany for Holden Caulfield.  One total realization, akin to the moment in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground when its unnamed narrator exclaims “I can’t be good! They won’t let me!” relatively out of nowhere.  The moment comes when Holden visits his sister and tells her the only thing he could ever see himself being happy with his standing in the field of rye, catching children from falling off the cliff.  Man, that’s it.  That’s what that books is about.  Touching our impossible happiness.  At least he knew what his is and that’s what makes the book so important to me.  Holden was getting older, closer to becoming what he deemed a phony every day without even knowing it.  Yet, his remaining innocence allowed him to see past convention and into a world that could never exist.  If he had been fully grown, his answer would have no impact for it would have been something rooted in reality.  Holden Caulfield’s  pain and alienation comes from leaving youth forever.  A pain will all know one day.

I don’t hang on to any part of Holden Caulfield but that one.  He is as flawed of a character that was ever written, but there is truth in his worry.  While he might not be able to accurately put his finger on what upsets him so deeply, he is smart enough to know that something is there disturbing him.

There is magic there in that paragraph in Catcher in the Rye.  I used to have a library of over 1000 books, yet I only have a few things highlighted.  That paragraph is one of them.  Pure magic.  A rarity even through art.

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Daredorm.com, Wild Beasts, Mz. Mary, and the end of the world.

January 30, 2010

This is for the eyes of the 18 years and plus only…

Okay, so I just wrote an entirely inappropriate blog about the soulful merits of pornography, my current state of non-sobriety, and the wonderful Wild Beasts album Two Dancers, of which I just personally connected with tonight.  I really don’t know what to write about it their place, but I have to try something because I think I hit on some TS Elliot like shit about the end of the world.  Oh hell, here’s what I wrote:

I’ve seen the end of the world and it is not ugly or terrifying.  It is beautiful and impossibly unattainable.  It is a youth gone by.  Our own desire to return to better days will be the end of us.  While collectively we will protest, individually we will embrace this end of days.  The end of the world means everyone gets to go home again, to our favorite place, our favorite friends, and our favorite selves.

Yeah, that was based off of watching things I certainly didn’t  illeagally download off of Torrentz after definitely not looking at a site called Daredorm. Make sure you don’t download this.  Especially if your a dude.  God, I almost kind of mean that.  It will ruin your life, maybe just for a moment as it did mine.

Wild Beast didn’t help, or I should say it was the only help I had.  I took my perspective and slathered it in a pensive darkness, making my mind question where there once was only silence and peace.  It turned youth into the end of the world.  I can’t ever go back.  I don’t care in my waking life, but my dreams take me back to youth every single night.  I’m not being figurative.  I have a reaccuring dream about being back in high school, though I am fully aware that I am too old and that I don’t belong there.  It doesn’t matter.  Every time I’m there, I see other kids my age who don’t belong there.  I’m always told that I have to graduate again.  I know it’s a dream, so I try to fly home to 809 Walden Court, but it doesn’t work.  The area changes on me as I fly, preventing me from reaching my destination.  I have this dream so much that I’m told by teachers in it that I’ve actually accumulated enough school days over the past eleven years that I’m about to graduate again.  Jeepers.

Where was I again?  Hmm, it’s Friday night and I’m sitting here looking at these words as they appear on screen.  Somehow, this is actually exciting to me.  I guess that’s why I write.  My weird thoughts earlier seemed less scary knowing that I could write them down and share them.  Hell, it turned into something to do.  At least for a few minutes.

I think it’s time for me to visit the Criterion Collection.  Good night out there.

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I guess I should actually write about Camera at some point

January 25, 2010

This band of ours…

There are a lot of things going on in the world of Camera right now.  Matthew and John (Mudvayne’s Matt McDonough and ambient music mainstay John Strate-Hootman aka Vir Unis…I just had to call them Matthew and John because they’re biblical names and that’s their level of importantance to the Camera family unit) are putting their production magic all over Realpolitik! (or the Sony demos as it is becoming to be known) and reading them to go places I still can’t even imagine.  This is EP has been in the works for 18 months and we are very excited to see whatever the outcome will be, both musically and career-wise.

The recent addition of our manager Brian McGraw has also given the band a huge boost, not just because Brian is a like minded music appreciator and fast friend, but because he has an outlook that we soft artist types lack entirely.  The man has business acumen and when we tell him that we want our band picture to be a puzzle pasted on the side of the Sears Tower, he finds the people we need to carryout our every idea.  He’s a hell of a guy, that Brian.  But if you know him, than you already know that.

Camera are bursting at the seams with creativity these days.  We now have a cadre of live songs that are more than ready to be recorded (Pop Radio 101, The Gathering Storm, Grazed by Bullets, Debris, Buried Alive, No Surprise, The Negotiator, Pierce), songs that have been perfected but aren’t for live performance (The Panic and the Permanence, Heir Apparent, Empty Orchestra, On a Night Like This, Nuclear, Broken Order), songs that are nearly shaped (The Other Artist, a Place I Know, House on Fire), and finally strong song ideas and snippets to build on (The Beehive, Labradford, Good Morning Nightmare, Remember Me, Is it Out There, Dear Matthew).  Now, Camera plan on recording (via Ryan and Steve Ciliak at their studio) our experimental efforts that haven’t had much chance because they solely rely on being playing in a studio.  Some of the songs mentioned above fall into this category, but there are others that are even further out there, such as Crystallized and Out in Space.  The idea behind recording our ‘Kid A’ type tracks is so when things really get moving, we will have demos of these songs of play for the powers that be instead of trying to explain ourselves to professionals.  It is much easier for us to talk through our music.

Our creativity is now overflowing from the music and onto our upcoming work with amazing photographers Andy Keil (http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481287@N07/sets) and Lenny Gilmore (lennygilmore.com).  We are working with very exciting ideas of which I’m not going to share here because the photos that we are talking about will be worth more than a thousand words.  Check out their websites at the links above and you will get the picture, so to say.

Another exciting opportunity on Camera’s horizon is getting to develop several simultaneous concepts with local filmmaker Anthony Scaccia.  We are currently work-shopping ideas for Realpolitik! tracks such as the Evening News and Watching People Meet.  Once we have some actual music videos under our belt, we can team them with the EPK video, Daniel Ryan’s Cinechamber version of Wicked Wicked Games, and Daniel’s video of our live performance to take onto Chicago music showcase JBTV, something that’s we’ve aimed to do for quite some time.

There is plenty more going on at the moment, but I wanted to take time and focus on the artistic aspects of Camera’s latest news.

Come to the EMPTY BOTTLE on WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 3rd for a FREE FREE FREE show all thanks to HEAVEmedia.  Our dear, dear friends Plane will be joining us alongside the wonderful acts Midstates & the Choir of Ghosts and Houses of Normandie.  Make sure you’re there.  You’re on the list.

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January 22, 2010

We hope you all can make it out to the Bottom Lounge tonight! 8pm showtime!
1375 W Lake – Chicago, IL – $5adv, 8door

The Vindits
The Kickback
Land of Lincoln
Camera

http://ping.fm/Io2Gx

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The art of the mixtape/cd/playlist…

January 21, 2010

(Currently playing track 1, Burning – The Whitest Boy Alive)

I’m making my first mix CD for someone outside of my brother in almost a year.  The last one went to the lady friend when we first were a’courtin’ and probably another few shortly thereafter.  This is also a first exchange I am working on right now.  This is the first mix CD I am making for our hard working manager, Sir Brian McGrawlicutty.  The first thing I did was make a preliminary pass through the iPod.  End result, 296 songs.  I then do another pass, listening to snippets of the songs I am most interested in.  After this step, there were only 60 songs left.  Smooth sailing

(Track 2, Stars – Ulrich Schnauss)

The first track was a tricky one.  I was pretty dead on opening with Stars.  I made it all the way to track 9 before going back and changing that first track to Burning, by the Whitest Boy Alive.  While I live for Schnauss work and think Brian will like it, the opening drumbeat to Burning says, “Sit the fuck down, this is a mix CD to reckon with”.  How could I resist that?!?  As Stars plays right now, I am happy with my choice.  I’m skipping to track 3 now.

(Track 3, Numbered Lithograph – John Vanderslice)

Numbered Lithograph might as well be my theme song.  It fits everything that I want to accomplish as an artist into one song.  Creative production, poignant lyrics, catchy melody, unique but approachable instrumentation.  Just a perfect fucking song.  And I’ve never gone out of my way to hear another song of his.  This is all I need for now, though I do hope Vanderslice finds me again.

(Track 4, Le Grande Illusion – The Television Personalities)

Track 4 was orginally track 2, but I had to move them around.  I know that Brian likes punk music, but I’m not sure if he’s experienced the light madness that is Dan Treacy.  I think he’ll like it either way, but it just didn’t work coming off of Stars anymore or the opener as it stands.  The order to these things is so important.  Each track, each note, each transition is crucial to the overall tone and momentum to the mix and must be at least triple checked.

I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m only set on this mix through track 9.  Something could come in last minute and train wreck the whole deal.  I’ve done that more than 10 times in my life.  A lot more.

(Track 5, Wash Off – Deerhunter)

Wash Off, man…it’s the jam out of the decade and yes, the phrase ‘jam out’ makes me want to puke too, but there is no other term for it.  Now that we’re at track 5, we can get a little heavy.  It’s time to impose a little on the listener.  I’ve (hopefully) drawn them into my trust by this point.  Now with Wash Off, I’m going to test that trust…though there never really is a threat, just a threat of a threat.  Wash Off won’t fail me.  That’s why I chose it.  The listener has trusted me, but now I must expose them to the danger I am saving them from.  Man, I’m high!

Wash Off will level the playing field to rubble.  What must come now is even more important.  I must expose safety, that while the world has changed underfoot, it will go on.  What is the song to restore faith?  Slowdive’s Souvlaki Space Station in all its glory.  I’ve never seen an official video for the song, it’s always made me think of flowers blooming in space.  Once you hear the song, that’s not even a ‘far out’ statement.  That’s just what it sounds like.  Such a glorious piece of music.  While it is represents safety in tone, it is our most experimental piece of music up until this point.  Again, this is all intentional.  Regaining the trust of the listener while taking them further out than they’ve been on the mix is a balancing act, but like Wash Off, Space Station will not let me down.  Speaking of…

(Track 6, Souvlaki Space Station – Slowdive)

(Track 7, Map Reference – Wire)

Okay, so after all that hot talk, I skipped Space Station, playing only the last twenty seconds of it to see how it streamed into the next song, Map Reference by Wire.  This song is now the child of the last two, taking both Deerhunter and Slowdive’s sounds and merging them into a child of the new era.  The best part is Map Reference is 30 years old than Wash off and 20 older than Space Station, yet it works.

The mix is at a crucial juncture  now.  It is at risk of becoming boring or it might simply coast on by on its laurels until the finish.  Not on my watch.  Map Ref picks up the pace, gets things moving, and delivers us to the pop kingdom of Stephin Merrit and the Magnetic Fields with their killer track Famous.

(Track 8, Famous – The Magnetic Fields)

Brian and I, along with the rest of Camera, have mutual goals.  Not only are they mutual, but they are symbiont to on another.  Famous isn’t at all what I’m aiming to be, but Merrit’s song isn’t about him becoming famous, but his subject who can sell the world on their ‘look and sound’.  It’s a somewhat jealous, somewhat grateful song that lives in a reality where you can be jealous and not care at the same time without being insincere.  Oh goodie!  I’m up to 11 songs, not 9.  I said ‘oh goodie!’.  Shit.

(Track 9, The Eraser – Thom Yorke)

I was hard on Radiohead’s In Rainbows the other day and here’s the reason why…Thom Yorke’s The Eraser album was and is still waaaaaaaayyyyyy more up my alley.  I know that Brian isn’t the biggest Radiohead lover, but everyone should know this song.  It conveys this amazing emotion that seldom comes across in primarily melancholy song; it offers hope without force of change.  Hell, I liked this song just from Ryan singing it around the house before I heard it.  Like it’s brother, Map Ref, this song is taking that new world outlook and continually making it more of a reality.  Eraser too is a song that is born out of the chaos created by Wash Off and Space Station.  The last minute of the song The Eraser is so amazing, glips, glops, and all.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here in print so everyone can quote me on it, The Eraser is the electronic Pink Moon.  Ever though there is chaos, it still feel like a one man alone kind of album.

Oh shit!

(Track 10, Alan is a Cowboy Killer – McLusky)

This is the perfect example of reintroducing the fire to this mix.  Alan is a Cowboy Killer is done by Irish rock trio McLuskey.  We are now allow a return to the past, such as Le Grande Illusion and Burning, but the intensity has sky rocketed.  Kind of like if Dorthy wished there was no place like home and when she teleported back,  she was immediately on fire.  God, that would have made for such a better ending to that movie.  You can’t go home again, says Thomas Wolfe.

After the fires of old and new have clashed and burned out, what comes next?

(Track 11, Grounded – Pavement)

Grounded by Pavement might be my all time favorite song.  It’s been Bittersweet Symphony for years, but Grounded is like how I actually feel sometimes… like watching an airplane sputter out or a marathon runner collapsing with the finishing line.  Grounded is the only Pavement song that makes me cry like a bastard.  I mean, The Malkatraz often sang of the musical world and, especially in Cut Your Hair, what it’s like to be in a band, to be an artist, to try to do something bigger than yourself but still smaller than real life.  The line “Boys are dying on these streets” makes me think of all my brothers and sisters out there in the artistic community.  My heart breaks every time a band breaks up, or someone retires, or flounders.  This is not just because of my altruistic nature but because it could be me at anytime.  Life is like war in that way.  Dreams can come true, but they shatter just as easy.  So, what is the feeling in the new world?  In a way that only Pavement can convey, it’s guarded optimism and pessimism all at once. Just like life.

What comes next?  I don’t know, but I’m bringing you along for this journey, the final stretch.

I’m going to pause here because I want to point out that while this CD has so much space on it, I never feel the need to continue just because there’s room.  Hahahaha!  Never!  That’s a chump move.  Hey, if I need all the space, I’ll use it, but I can’t lie; I was very tempted to just leave it at 11 songs and let it be.  But, alas, I cannot.  I move on.

(Track 12, Joy! Joy! Joy! – Sufjan Stevens)

Picking up the mood in a much needed way, the title Joy! Joy! Joy! preaches hope and good feeling throughout.  This is the exact way you want to pick up the final stretch; strong, optimistic, and uplifting.  I’m going to leaf through the end of the song and see what should come next, but it shouldn’t be hard at all.  I wanted to go with Guided By Voices’ Gold Star for Robot Boy, but it’s lo-fi sound was too jarring coming off of Sufjan.

This next song has to be…More Lights by Georgie James!  More optimism, and guarded again.  My favorite kind.

(Track 13, More Lights – Georgie James)

This is what I would called the opposite of lullaby, yet just as gentle.  More Lights is a song to wake up to, and not just from sleep, but any kind of slumber.  A perfect piece of pop magic.  Too bad they broke up, the jerks.  Ah, I’m very pleased with how the end of this CD is coming along.  The second half is even better than the first.  This is no accident, but I’m still happy when it comes together as planned.  What an adult like view.  When I was a kid, I would have hoped for better than I had hoped.  Now I’m just happy when things go as planned.

(Track 14, Amos in Ohio – Kyle Andrews)

Gotta save one of the catchiest tunes for this point.  Amos in Ohio is perfect for this.  It’s acoustic and techno-y all at the same time in addition to having a hook like Dr. J.  Man, go find this song right now on Youtube or something.  You know you should.  I’ve been talking about music forever here and I haven’t said ‘go out an listen to it right now’, well…now I am!  Go, rush, run!  I’ll be here.

Hmm, Otto’s Journey by Mylo or Teen Angst by M83.  Both similar, yet comepletely different sides of the coin they share.  I will choose to pick something else entirely.  Mix CDs aren’t about picking the 16 best songs, but find the 16 songs that work best together. Do I come heavy on message with Dear God by Xtc?  Or do I move onto something like Transliterator by Devotchka (which I just learned last night while watching A Clockwork Orange)?  Hmm, I’m stuck.  I’m now locked into the ‘perfect’ song conundrum.  Now that I have rejected so many songs for this penultimate spot the song I pick bares a lot of pressure, at least from my standpoint making this CD.

(Track 15, The Devil Inside Us – Black Devil Disco Club)

The second to last song had to be a throw down.  BDDC bring some Georgio Moroder style synths and all other kinds of dancy darkwave glory to the track.  Perfect.  I have to listen to the entire thing.  What time are we at here, Bob?  Nice.  One hour flat.  I don’t think albums should be longer than an hour.  Hell, my favorites are closer to 45 minutes.  I mean, I loved Sufjan’s Illinois, but I never listened to it all at once, and that’s the truth.  Just watch.  Camera’s full length will either be 45 minutes long or 11 songs.  We don’t have anything laid out like that, but I still believe in the art form of album crafting.

And what does shuffle on my playlist give me?  The answer.  That’s what it gives me.

(Track 16, Across the Wire – Blue States)

This sonic landscape comes to an end with the epic, epic, epic, Across the Wire by Blue States, encapsulating every single thing that I’ve tried to communicate in this mix, and it is a communication.  Looking at this mix, many of these songs came from Joey, Ryan, and other friends that have made me mixes in the past.  But isn’t that what history and civilization are all about?  Stories, legends even, being passed down from one person to another time after time.  That’s what it means to be a true fan of music and art.  Its a communal experience that we can share privately and at will.  It’s a hell of a thing.

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I guess I’m just hard on my heroes…

January 19, 2010

Yeah, I’ve written and erased this blog like seven or eight times, which in my terms means once, but still…

The Royal Tenenbaums is playing in the background and I couldn’t be more pleased.  While I can’t vouch for The Life Aquatic (which I consider a failure) and The Darjeeling Limited (which I haven’t seen), the Royal Tenenbaums remains one of my favorite films of all time, resting respectably at number three only behind Goodfellas at number two and 2001: A Space Odyssey at the top of the list.

This entire mental dissection of Wes Anderson’s work brings to mind something I often think of, but seldom discuss.  I do not accept the work of the people I love at face value.  I will always judge them against the merit of their own work.  I love David Lynch, Radiohead, and Interpol, but I do not like Lost Highway, In Rainbows, or Our Love to Admire.  Maybe it’s unfair, but I’ll never just love something because someone I love made it, nor will I rush to it.  It all comes back to artistic Darwinism mention in my previous post.  It took me three months after Interpol’s Antics was released for me to actually give it a full listen.  It’s now in my top ten albums of all time, a dozen spots ahead of the much more lauded Turn On the Bright Lights (a game changer for sure, for both me personally and the entire movement Camera’s involved in on a whole).

The problem I have with The Life Aquatic is that the emotions that flowed so effortlessly in the Royal Tenenbaums are forced in that film.  Just watch the scene in Tenenbaums where Ben Stiller tells Gene Hackman it’s been a pretty tough year.  Both Ryan and I lost our shit seeing that for the first time at the theater and I still do every time I see it.  Now compare that to the scene in Life Aquatic where Bill Murray and Owen Wilson crash their helicopter into the ocean.  So forced it countered any magic that might have been built up throughout that film.

Phish and Radiohead both fall victim to the same thing.  After Phish’s album Farmhouse, the band retired.  When they returned with Round Room (followed by Undermind and then Joy), they finally started sounding what people who don’t like them think they sounded like.  In Rainbows is the exact same thing.  While I do not dislike In Rainbows in any way, shape, or form, Radiohead finally delivered the album that sounds exactly like what people who make fun of Radiohead think they sound like.  While I can love each and every song on a individual basis, it’s the only album since Pablo Honey that the band has made that has no place in my top 100 records.  Yeah, I make and keep a lot of lists.  There is a hierarchy to my likes and I have to keep track as they change and evolve.  For what I might say about In Rainbows, Kid A is second only to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, beating even Nirvana’s Nevermind, which is a high water mark in my existence  as a human being overall.

I guess I’m just hard on my heroes.  If a new band called Plastic Ding Dong released In Rainbows, I would herald it.  If Lost Highway was a first film, I would own it, and so on and so forth.   If I wasn’t hard on these kids, it wouldn’t be as great when they impress me again, like Lynch has done since Highway and how I’m sure Radiohead will when they release Golden Slumbers on the Face of Strangers.

Going back and revisiting the things I love is just as important to me as revisiting the things I didn’t care for.  I will dig up Lost Highway every couple of years, I’m sure that I’ll do the same with In Rainbows.  Hell, I’ve seen the Virgin Suicides about nine times and I don’t really like it, but there’s something that causes me to reevaluate it any time I get the chance.

Rant, rant, and rant.

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Wings of Desire

January 15, 2010

We’re called Camera.  The relation between our love of music is as strong as our love of film, literature, and most other forms of art…I’m looking at you, mimes!  Up your game, dammit!  We have video games now and people on the moon!

Last night I flipped back and forth through my Netflix instant queue, going past movies I’ve gone past what seems like hundreds of times.  When I landed on Wim Wenders 1987 masterpiece Wings of Desire, I thought, “oh hell” and put it right on.

From the second it started the movie, I was sucked in by the films tone and striking visuals.  The most I knew about Wenders before this was that Million Dollar Hotel was supposed to be awful, he directed a movie called Mystery Train, and he was the topic of a few sentence structuring exercises in my freshman year German workbook.  Minutes into Wings of Desire, I was shocked that I hadn’t had this film recommended to me before as it seemed like a touchstone in the development of modern foreign film.

In fact, I immediately started to recognize the movie because I realised that it had been lampooned countless numbers of times (never as good as in the remake attempt called City of Angels with Nic Cage) in shows I grew up on such as Kids in the Hall, the Simpsons, and Family Guy.  It’s a black and white movie about angels in Berlin reading people’s thoughts and a lot of people seem to think in poetic verses (the film itself was co-written by celebrated poet Peter Handke) .  I loved it, well, because it’s a movie and you’re allowed to do whatever you want as long as it works.  In a black and white movie about angels set in the Berlin wall era Germany, people can think in poetry and it seems normal!  Though, I did think of the scene in Family Guy where the local news anchor says she did some independent film and then it cuts to her smoking in slow motion in a black and white film while a clown flips a pancake as he stares into the camera.

I digress…always.

No description of this film will do it justice because it is truly something that must be seen.  The story itself is too simple to work as a novel or any other of the written mediums.  I think I enjoyed it so much because it had to be a film, and that’s something I respect tremendously, especially in a day and age where books and comics are mined for material on a more than constant basis.

The performances in this film are heart-wrenching.  Bruno Ganz (from Herzog’s Nosferatu and he plays Hitler in the movie Downfall, the clip on the internet where you can watch the furor rant and rave about Avatar or the Cubs or any other number of things) is amazing, delivering one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time.  The best part of his performance is that he barely speaks and no one can see him.  He portrays the angel Damiel like he truly is invisible, without making the character seem lonely or sad.  In fact, he portrays him as delightfully amused, something of an opposite to his partner, Cassiel.  Cassiel carries out his job with passion and care, but it is a distant concern that lacks curiosity.  When a young man leaps to his death, Cassiel is pained greatly, but no part of him wants to understand what it is to be human, something that drives Damiel.

And who helps Ganz along the way?  Peter freakin’ Falk.  And do you know who Peter Falk plays in this arty foreign film?  Peter freakin’ Falk!  And it works!  It more than works!  It becomes a necessity at some point in the film.

Without going on and giving too much away about the film itself, I must say that I really enjoy ‘international’ films. Inglourious Basterds from 2009, Wings of Desire from 1987, and The Grand Illusion from 1937 all include speaking roles in French, German, and English from one to another at any time.  They all include segments where no subtitles are given, intentionally leaving a non-native speaker in the dark in a purely intentional sense.  Even though the first film I listed there is over 70 years old, this truly seems like the wave of the future as the world is drawn closer together via social networking and the internet, giving the world more of an eclectic scope.

In some way, this gentle collision of cultures reminds me of why Gorillaz Demon Days works so well as an album, but that’s another entry entirely…

So, German angels with pony tails in dark trench coats, Peter Falk plays himself, the soundtrack is so amazing, Nick Cave performs not one, but three songs live and in the flesh (having his mind read by an angel as well.  “Only one more song” he thinks on-stage, something I can directly relate to!), and most of all it’s a love story, but not in the cheesy sense we’ve come to perceive that genre. The angel Damiel may have eyes for the trapeze artist Marion, but it is humanity and all the sensations that come with it that he is in love with.

I’ve said a lot here, but again, Wings of Desire is not meant to be broken down as words on a page, but it is something that is meant to be viewed.  I just watched it less than twelve hours ago and I’m ordering the Blu-ray to watch again right now.