Awesome I F*in Shot That

AIFST

In 2004 the Beastie Boys recorded their sold-out show at Madison Square Gardens. They handed out about 20 cameras to people in the audience hence the ‘Awesome I F*in Shot That‘ of the title. Apparently AIFST was directed by Adam Yauch (MCA) although, as it’s a movie of a concert and MCA was on stage, I think the direction was a bit hands off. (MCA used the name Hornblower – see above poster for quote regarding that.)

Usually I would avoid concert movies like the plague. Even when it’s a favourite band I find them tedious. I don’t really like watching video clips either. I either want to see the band in concert or just listen to their music. Having said all of that I loved AIFST!

I was lucky enough to see the Beasties live during this concert tour so it brought back some excellent memories of an excellent gig. I almost touched Mike D! But I didn’t because nobody wants randoms touching them – creepy. And I danced so hard and sang along so hard and had a great time in general. I’d loved them so long and was finally at a gig! So, good memories – yeah!

Beastie’s certainly put on a good show and this movie catches them at a real high. It also captures the crowds love for them. Having the cameras in the crowd gives a grungier, closer feel which works well and makes a nice change from the perfectly presented concert. Don’t worry there are also the usual cameras onstage etc, it’s not all hand-held, you’re not going to vomit.

The Beasties know what we want and we get it, but this one’s interesting as it’s not just them as MC’s but as musicians. You get a bit of everything from them. Plus, OMG, Mix Master Mike – mad skillz! And for a little extra fun we get some back stage shenanigans. Lovely.

I really enjoyed this movie. I guess I was pleasantly surprised. I got carried away with it and it was all over in a flash. At the same time I am unlikely to ever watch it again because it’s still a concert movie.  Whatever critique that made me put this on my must watch movie list obviously hit the nail on the head.

Bringing it all home, of course, is the fact that MCA has passed away since this movie was made. This is it. This is the Beastie Boys and they’re a little bit wonderful.

RIP MCA.

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Catfish

Catfish

While it’s an all real life documentary, Catfish is also a disturbing, creepy, almost thriller of a documentary. From the first moment Nev makes friends with a little girl on the internet who is a painting prodigy you just know it’s all downhill from there. Even if you already know what Catfish is about, it’s 5 years old and there’s a TV show based on this experience, it’s still really stressful as you wait for that oh so obvious penny to drop for Nev and his mates.

Meeting this little girl online who sends him presents and emails him but refuses to talk on the phone is weird and, I think now, any of us experiencing it would think so too but Nev is a little naive and trusting and maybe we were all a little less likely to jump to the ‘scam’ scenario before this doco was made.

It is so awful when a ‘sexual’ relationship starts with the little girl’s adult big sister – sexting and late night phone calls and all – we all know it’s not real but at the same time , who is she? Why is she doing this? Is she real, is the little girl real? What’s freakin’ real?!?

There are some real cringe moments in this doco and the makers (especially Nev) were really brave to put them in as they are horribly embarrassing. As it all comes tumbling in on itself and Nev starts to realise how far the subterfuge has gone it’s impossible to take your eyes from the screen. I had to know!

When you do finally meet the culprit/s the intrigue doesn’t let up as you wonder how far the film makers will go to dig up the truth. Somehow they manage to find out all the facts but never attack or degrade the culprit. You can watch this and kind of understand the imperative this person felt to behave this way. It’s sad really and the film makers know it, so they don’t push too hard – it’s really well done.

The layers of intrigue here are really well developed and then stripped away. It’s a clever doco on an important subject. It’s just so easy now for people to create fake lives on the internet and envelop innocent others in a web of deceit. We hear stories about it all the time but watching this documentary makes you realise that just about anyone can fall for this when the deceit is so intricately woven.

All parents should make their kids watch Catfish – they will be completely weirded out but they might learn a little bit about not trusting everyone you meet on the internet (and not just because their parents told them).

Darwin’s Nightmare

Darwin's Nightmare

I’ve been finding it so hard to keep on top of this blog stuff and watching all the movies on my list. It’s quite overwhelming. But I’ve decided to give it all a red hot go (without causing myself a whole lot of stress… hopefully). Maybe I can also drop the quality of my writing (no comments on that one please…) so I can write faster. Anyway if this is the quick and dirty version of me blogging I may just click out a few low word blogs. For example – new blog on Dredd would be “Nope” and for Darwin’s Nightmare it would be “good but needs to be shorter” but I’ll add more shall I?

This is one of those documentaries that create life conundrums. Do I keep doing something or do I stop? Who benefits and who loses?  Basically it comes down to “is it better to keep buying a type of fish which is destroying an environment or do you stop buying and take away the only livelihood of an entire country”? Yes, that kind of life choice conundrum. There are so many – Do I stop buying clothes made in Bangladesh (one of many countries I could choose) where people work 7 day weeks in terrible conditions or do I keep buying clothes made in Bangladesh so those people working in terrible conditions at least have jobs? I could go on but I won’t because this is supposed to be about Darwin’s Nightmare.

Back to the doco – the Nile Perch which we all buy (in just about every country apparently, except Tanzania where the locals can’t afford it!), has destroyed the waters of Lake Victoria. It’s an introduced species which has eaten all the local fishes and is now cannibalising its own littlies for food. Ewwww, right? So it’s completely destroyed the water quality because all the small fish that ate the algae are gone and the water is becoming polluted with algae and Nile Perch poop.

At the same time these fish are the only source of income for Tanzania (except for prostitution it seems). There are some people who have profited from Nile Perch fishing but they didn’t look like locals.

This is an interesting doco, in parts, it could have been really good but it’s just too long and the director keeps himself completely out of the picture which can work but I thought here there was explanation needed. At one point a woman was talking about how lucky she was to have a job (and not have to be a prostitute for the fishermen) while she was hanging out fish carcasses covered in maggots and walking through maggoty entrails (sorry, and yes, it was really that gross) but because the director wasn’t making an appearance I have absolutely no idea what job she was doing or what was going on with the super gross fish carcasses.

Darwin’s Nightmare really will make you think about the effects of worldwide consumption on third world countries but it also leaves you in a conundrum with regard to the actions you take in spending. Unfortunately though it would have been a whole lot better to watch this over an hour on a tv show like 60 Minutes than to go movie length and I really hope someone told this director to explain themselves in future.

loudQUIETloud: A film about the Pixies

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I love the Pixies. I jumped on the bandwagon in about 1990 when a good mate introduced me to Come on Pilgrim/Surfer Rosa. First listen and I was in love. It’s still one of my all-time favourite albums and I still listen to it regularly (in order because if it doesn’t play the way I listened in the 90s I feel weird #preshufflecdplayer). It’s up there with Nevermind for my 90s good times listens.

Therefore I looked forward to loudQUIETloud and I know exactly why it’s on the list. I wish I had watched it in 2004 though because now I want to know about them in 2014! (I know I could google it but too hard, lazy, sounds like work.)

This doco is about the Pixies reforming to tour around the world for the first time in about 10 years. Black Francis is still your go to guy for ego and controlling behaviour and Kim Deal is still your go to gal for angst and addictive behaviours.

All the members are a little older and a little wiser. Kim is a year off the drugs and alcohol (although she is constantly drinking no alcohol beer which seems a little odd but probably is comforting). She also requires her sister to travel with her which is another comfort in a difficult time for her.

Each of the members is harbouring a little doubt about the whole tour as well as some resentments toward each other about the way things ended last time and, I think, wondering if they can pull it off this time.

These guys have a weird dynamic and spend a lot of time sitting around in quiet rooms not speaking at all. Most bands seem to have a strong camaraderie but not these guys. It’s like they enjoy the music they make but not much else. As the film progresses they do get closer and show genuine affection and care for each other but their communication skills are sorely lacking. Each interview with a band member reveals how little any of them know about their future or what is currently going on because they never talk about it!

The movie is a little low key. It’s not dramatic or sad or intense, it is a portrait of a group of people who are very private and are all dealing with some pretty intense issues. It’s all about the music for them but the doco is all about them plus some awesome music.

Since they reformed I have seen them live twice here in Australia and they were absolutely wonderful. Their joy in the performance and the love from the crowds was quite clear.

I’m pretty sure loudQUIETloud is a film for the fans but because I am a fan that also means I can’t really tell, so maybe it’s a film for everyone who likes music and bands and people and tour buses and concerts and non-alcoholic beer and pixies.

Rash

Rash_documentary_film_poster

Fortunately, this is not a film about itchy skin disorders. There is a movie that no-one needs to see but to be quite honest probably exists. But ‘Rash’ would be too obvious a title. You’d need something more subtle like ‘Raised and Red’- tag line ‘The true story of one woman’s struggle to fight her natural urges and find the strength to stop scratching…’. Sounds good…

Rash is, in fact, a film about graffiti. That urban art rash that gets scoured away by overzealous local authorities but reappears almost immediately. I think it’s a bit harsh comparing the quality art that these artists are spreading around the streets to a really annoying itch. But then I suppose it depends which side of the brush you are on. It probably is really annoying if you own a nice clean white wall (though really, asking for it more?) or if it’s your job to spend your days removing it from city streetscapes (although without it you wouldn’t have a job. Catch-22 y’all!).

Personally, I love street art although I’m not super fond of the lazy bus stop type tagging. It seems a bit like a dog peeing on a tree to mark its territory. A good piece of art brightening up the street though – woot! I saw an awesome one once opposite my work called “Chew Barrymore” it was a portrait of Drew Barrymore made from chewed gum, which admittedly is gross, but it looked awesome. I reckon I’ve got a photo somewhere.

Ta daaa!

Chew Barrymore  by Hyde and Seek

Chew Barrymore
by Hyde and Seek

Chew Barrymore  by Hyde and Seek Kind of gross and kind of awesome!

Chew Barrymore
by Hyde and Seek
Kind of gross and kind of awesome!

You get it, right? I like street art. And whoever made Rash likes street art too. The movie is based in Melbourne which is definitely the street art mecca of Australia. There are some amazing lane-ways packed with art that could well be displayed in any art gallery. It’s great to see on film some of the amazing artists that I’ve seen on the streets getting some recognition for their work. Unfortunately Rash was released in 2004 and a lot of the political statements made by artists are well out of date. Still, it gives you that insight into graffiti being so much more than just drawing on walls.

The views of the artists are well represented here and it’s interesting to hear how people get into graffiti art and how they deal with the transitory nature of the work. It must be hard to see your art painted over by the authorities, although seeing it fade over time is part of the art too. The luck of seeing a piece before it gets removed (such as me spotting Chew Barrymore) is part of the fun for the art lover too.

It also looks into a few of the less known forms of street art like sticker art, poster art and stencil art as well as the traditional paint on the walls. Artists have really been pushing the boundaries of street art and it’s great to see. Poster art is certainly very hip around my town right now.

I would have liked to see a few more of the naysayers interviewed and see if there really is more argument against graffiti apart from ‘it’s against the law’. Most people argue the personal property argument, which I do get, or confuse all graffiti with tagging not art.

One of the art works that blew me away was a guy who’d spent weeks collecting autumn leaves then writing little affirmations and bits of poetry on them only to spread them onto the streets from the rooftops for people to find. Talk about a transitory art medium but how wonderful it would have been to find a little piece of that art work.

Gasland

Gasland

Have you ever tried to set your water alight? Have you ever thought to yourself “I wonder if the water coming from my kitchen tap would burn?”. Hopefully you’ve never come close to this but maybe you have if you live near a hydraulic fracturing well and your ground water well has been contaminated by the chemical filled waters pumped down the mine to remove gas from between the shale rock.

This process is commonly called ‘fracking’ which the sci-fi geek in me loves. I used to work in energy and every time colleagues started up a conversation about fracking the giggling teen in me just wanted to explode! Thank you Battle Star Galactica – you have made it very hard to not associate fracking with the other F-word… (Do non-BSG’ers get it now? – yeah, my sense of humour is that childish).

Anyway, turns out fracking is totally fracking up the US of A. Classic villain Dick Cheney made it very easy for companies to move in and set up fracking wells where ever the frack they like, including National Parks. Hey, guess what – Dick Cheney’s fave company Halliburton is a major player in the shale oil extraction game. Dick Cheney loves money – frack yeah!

This picture shows where you shouldn’t drink tap water in the USA because of ground water contamination from fracking.

Red equals fracked

Red equals fracked

These fracking wells are seriously contaminating the ground water in the local area and now many householders can literally set their tap water alight. The companies have offered all sorts of ‘help’ to locals but generally it falls short of actually helping and not to forget quite a few have been paid hush money.

The chemicals used in the water that flushes the gas out of the shale rock is chock full of some seriously fracking dangerous chemicals but the locals are not warned that there is a chance (I use the word chance lightly here as it is more of an inevitability if this doco is anything to go by) that their drinking water could be contaminated. These poor people continued drinking the water for way too long and their health has suffered accordingly. Higher rates of cancer being just one of the fracked up results. They got paid for the lease but something tells me that they wouldn’t have signed the lease if they knew how fracked up their future would be.

So far it’s all sounding a little too conspiracy theory right? Well I thought so at the beginning but actually documentarian Josh Fox is very unbiased. He was offered an opportunity to lease his own land (for a frack load of money) to an oil company and he made this doco while researching whether or not he should take up the offer. It’s really not a spoiler to say that he told them to frack off.

Fracking is probably coming to a town near you as it is a seriously fracking lucrative business. You better hope that your country’s government does not contain any classic villains who are in it for the money as some serious risk management needs to occur for fracking to be even remotely safe.

I understand that Australia (my home) has some good laws in place but of course we’ve just had a change of government to one which does contain some classic villains including one oil industry kingpin and a Prime Minister who seems to appreciate his mining magnate and media magnate (try to think of an Aussie media magnate (worldwide much?) – yeah him) besties more than the average Aussie water drinker. Sounding familiar? Yeah, I think we might be fracked.

 

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Elmo pic

It’s hard to watch this documentary now without thinking of the charges against Kevin Clash (recently dismissed from Court due to lack of evidence I believe). Since Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey was made about him, he has had a severe fall from grace, whether or not the offences occurred, he is still tarnished. Luckily for us this hasn’t affected Elmo’s image and understudies have landed that sweet gig.

Lovable red monster Elmo is Clash’s most famous creation. Although not physically created by Clash, Elmo’s character is all his creation. It’s hilarious to see Elmo’s first appearances on Sesame Street with a deep cave-man voice that is just so wrong! Elmo is a squeaker or at least he has been since Clash got his hand up Elmo (OMG! – so bad it’s good).

We watch Clash’s ascendance from poor Baltimore suburb boy to Sesame Street king, from a kid who secretly makes puppets from his Dad’s jacket to the man surrounded by muppety eyes in the Sesame Street workshop. He makes his way through local TV and Captain Kangaroo, turns down The Dark Crystal (what? Who does that?) even though Jim Henson is his absolute idol but eventually wins a gig on Labyrinth (oh yeah!).

This is really an inspiring story – a boy with a passion makes it all the way to the top and along the way creates one of the world’s most beloved characters. His story will inspire so many children out there to follow their dreams even if other people tell them that what they do and what they love is weird. People are weird, quirky, funny, individual – we should just get used to that.

Clash is an amazing puppeteer. He taught himself to make puppets by watching Sesame Street as a child (as close as he could to the TV but he didn’t get square eyes! We were lied to!), he was bullied at school for playing with toys but later crowned the student most likely to make a million once people realised this was a talent worth praising. He was no longer a weirdo but a boy whose talents were bringing him to the notice of all the right people – the people who knew Jim Henson.

The standout stars are Mr and Mrs Clash though. I don’t think there are many parents who could have been as supportive as these two, especially as they were bringing up five children on minimum wage incomes. Even the coat incident didn’t faze them and as there was no other room in which to store Clash’s puppets they were stacked on shelves in their bedroom. So supportive! Supportive shelves even!

It’s so unfortunate that the controversy surrounding Clash now taints this documentary. It’s nigh on impossible to watch without thinking about what might have been going on at the time. Clash no longer works with Elmo or even on Sesame Street and I know from watching this doco that it must devastate him.

A pity about the controversy – as this is a lovely and inspiring doco, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll spill your tea (or maybe that’s just me).

The Yes Men

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The Yes Men features feats of audacity that are almost too much to believe. I literally gasped at times and found my hand over my mouth at one point for the utter disbelief of what they were saying.

Back in the early noughties these two blokes became really good at making fake websites. Their George W fakesite ended up receiving requests for the then Presidential candidate even though the site was filled with honest to God statements by Mr GW himself that were absolutely dreadful. GW’s team would have sued for defamation I’m sure if only it hadn’t all been true!

Anyway, this led to them beginning a World Trade Organisation fakesite at http://www.gatt.org/which contains outrageous statements about the policies of the WTO. Seriously, go check it out.

The WTO was singled out for its ongoing policies of ‘money, money, money – how can we make rich people even richer and legally exploit every asset the earth contains (or that walks upon it) while spending as little as possible?’. Great policy guys. These are the guys who negotiate with governments to ensure free trade unhindered by pesky things like human rights (extreme version learned from The Yes Men – everything I know I learned from movies).

This in turn has led to them being invited as WTO representatives to trade events around the world. And they went. Herein lies the shock and awe. These two are brave souls and the best life hackers I have ever seen.

At one event in Europe they speak to an audience filled with the CE’s of manufacturing businesses and politely tell them that the North wasted it’s time in the civil war as slavery would have ended anyway when Southern slave owners realised that it’s cheaper to pay an employee base wage in their own country than to house and feed an unpaid worker in the US. They completely outlined the current modern day slave labour conditions of third world workers and called it a good thing. Then the audience clapped… (Hand over mouth at this point).

But it went further! The stuff this audience listened to – I really hope they were just super polite and inside were thinking WTF???. Here’s hoping. It seems unlikely though as one of the Yes Men then went on to strip out of his suit and reveal an ‘executive leisure suit’. He states that the WTO made the suit so overworked executives had time to take part in leisure activities while still being able to oversee their third world factories – through a computer screen – that is on the end of a giant phallus that pumped up from the guy’s groin! I kid you not, the audience still didn’t get up and scream WTF??? Here’s a picture:

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WTF???

See this movie; make up your own mind. Are we super polite or super screwed up enough to always put profit before people? How I hope it’s not the latter while knowing quite well that it generally is.

Also, I never want to eat a poo burger…