Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thank You Drive-By Truckers

I recently bought an excellent album called Go - Go Boots by a great band called Drive-By Truckers.

Drive-By Truckers have garnered quite the reputation as being this dark, intelligent, and story driven band of the South. They're the front runners in the Southern Gothic genre for the musically inclined. I've always been a fan of their brooding darkness with glaring hints of light trying to peel through their black canvas saturated with booze, blood, and tears. They're a really great band to get you in the mood to write, long drives home, and lazy lonely evenings during sultry summer nights.

But, their newest album, Go-Go Boots, is surprisingly... optimistic. It's as if something snapped and Patterson Hood (the brain of the group) said, "Hey. Life ain't so bad after all, is it?" This is evident from the Beatles-esqu "Everybody Needs Love" to the uplifting final song "Mercy Buckets" about the power of friendship and unconditional love.

And I'm glad they did. They still maintain the tone of of someone who has been through something disastrous -- but they emit the emotion that they came out of that disaster better than they were.

It's as if the Phoenix has finally burned the nest.

There are two great things about every DBT album and those are the music (obviously) and the album art. The album art for every DBT album has always been original paintings by artists whom they personally met along the way. One of whom, Bryon Wilkes, has unfortunately passed away recently.

But, one thing that separates Go-Go Boots from all the others is the first page of their liner notes (yes, artists still make albums, with album art and inside these albums they still have liner notes that they pay attention to) Patterson Hood has shared a poem with us:

The Movie Version

It's The Movie Version
Names were changed, storylines simplified, characters unified and plotlines streamlined.
It might have happened. 
Might even be a true story, but we're not calling it that.

It's The Movie Version
Real life might be stranger than fiction.
It's certainly messier.
A fact is a fact (or so I heard).
That might have been a lie.

But the lighting is impeccable and the camera angles sublime
and the Set Director did a stunning job.
The parts were all well cast and the dialogue was snappy.
The Actors all won Oscars and the Director was a sadistic tyrant
but the DP's bloodshot eyes were unfailing
and the audience was stunned and amazed.

It's The Movie Version.
It's not better than "real life". 
But for a couple of hours, "real life" stops and we get to tell this story.
Not quite how it really happened.
But hopefully a little more entertaining.

As a person who grew up loving movies of all types it can be hard for me to, sometimes, discern between why I love certain parts of life. Do I love the way something looks because it would look great in a movie? Or is it because the way the sky and the architecture of the buildings, street, and urban design mix together? Are all my pleasures in life derived from film -- would this look good in a movie? this is so cinematic! -- or from a mix of pure sensory perceptions that haven't gone through a cinematic filter first?

People with photographic memories have been known to have issues in separating imagination from reality (if you were to remember and think that much, wouldn't you?). Film lovers and filmmakers have been known to issues separating life from the cinema. Do I like this moment in my life because it's similar to what would happen in one of my favorite movies or because of actual, real, sensory perceptions creating an influx of happy chemicals? This poem, I believe, helps me discern this difference.

The difference, it seems, isn't from discerning between the two but in recognizing how they blend. Understanding and consciously shifting how we think.

"I recognize my affinity for this situation in my mortally inexplicable life and wish to weave into whatever creations I may make (stories, paintings, films, etc...). "


"This would look cool in a movie. I like it."

We don't exist in films -- nor do we exist in songs, or paintings, or novels -- but are certainly welcome to take what we may from this realm of our own reality and share it with everyone else via film. In fact, it's encouraged, so long as we do it right.

It's in recognizing this difference between the two, and the cognitive practice of copying and pasting, that we can create great art. And it's this practice that the Drive-By Truckers have mastered.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Color Composition (Movie Barcodes)

I recently ran across this fascinating blog called movie barcode through the wealth of information known as What the creator of movie barcode does (who is selling prints, by the way) is take all the various colors throughout a film and shove them all into a series of vertical lines, creating a colored barcode image.

That was, of course, a repeat of the obvious. I actually have no idea who does movie barcode, nor do I know anything about how they do it. But what I find interesting is what each of these bar codes says about the movies that get decoded (broken down into fascinating post-modern collages).

Another statement of the obvious: different movies have different tones. By tones I mean that one movie may be called dark because its content is centered around less than happy ideas or ideals. Others may be called bright or light because of their slightly more happy tone. Either way, every film has its own spot on the emotional spectrum.

This -- if the movie is any good -- is reflected in not just the soundtrack, (think Trent Reznor in The Social Network), the acting (think Jack Nicholson in The Shining), and the direction (Paul Thomas Anderson in There Will Be Blood) but also in the colors that flood and dilate our pupils based on their lightness or darkness. The colors should match the tone.

It's clear when you look at these great films below, that the filmmakers worked very carefully throughout their production to make sure the visual tone of the film matched the emotional tone of the narrative, thereby creating a very original, stylized, and harmonious film. Something very rare these days.

Enter The Void. Gaspar Noe is known for creating experiences rather than films. This is no exception. The dark story is clearly represented, but so aren't the hints of neon exposure that are also present in his film Irreversible. Most of his technical aspects -- his sound design and color schemes -- are psychologically based to make us feel uncomfortable. The contrast between the dark and the neon accomplishes such. Or, at least, makes feel lost and drunk in Manhattan (still disorienting).

The Lion King. A story that spans the entire spectrum of triumph to defeat is represented quite diversely on the color spectrum.

Fight Club. Need I say more? A film about the oppression of our primal urges for violence and destruction isn't going to be as bright and shiny as The Lion King. The abundance of night scenes, as well as the darkness of the soundtrack, acting, characters, and -- therefor -- color scheme are represented here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kitchen Conversations

Conversations that should never make it into any screenplay, or play, but are too good to not be written down.


Three girls and two guys sit around a coffee table. Drinks in hand and dressed to the T, these twenty-somethings are ready to conquer a Saturday night. The empty and half empty bottles of wine and spirits stand guard on the coffee table, forbidding the threat of boredom.

JANE, a tan brunette with a go-get-em attitude, is commanding the floor.

JANE:  No, here's how it happened: So, my brother used to play guitar in this band, like this complete bro jam band, like Dave Matthews Band or some shit. Anyway, so his band was playing at this festival, right? And my mom is the only one that can make it/is actually willing to go listen to my brother's shitty band at this ridiculous hippie ass festival. So my mom gets there, my brother's been there all fucking weekend, and she immediately starts texting me, "Jane, wish you were here! Free drinks! Yay!" And I'm like "Oh fuck. Already?" So I'm like, "Whatever, this is nothing new." And I move on with my day not thinking anything of it, right? A couple hours later I get this text from her that goes, like, "Oh my God it's so weird how you have to get down on your knees to smoke pot now!" And I'm just like "Uh, what?" So I call my brother and I'm like, "Where the fuck is Mom and what happened?" and he's like, "I don't know! She just got drunk backstage and ran off!" So, me, my other brothers, and my dad all fucking high tail to that damn festival and go searching for my mom. We end up finding her drunk off her ass with a blunt in her hand in this circle of fucking fat rednecks with no teeth and beer stains on their fucking wife beaters and we like pry her out of there and the whole ride home she's just giggling and telling these awkward stories about her and Dad in college while my Dad is trying to either shut her up or change the subject. It was easily one of the weirdest days of my life. And that's why I don't like smoking pot anymore.

All other persons in living room are nearly asphyxiated from laughing too hard for too long.