Another year has come and gone for the Seattle International Film Festival, and this year, our top selections include a lot of black comedies and films that capture the power of human emotion, in all of its positive and negative facets. Here are some favorites from 2016.
BURN BURN BURN (United...
According to Death Play writer and performer Lisa Dring, grief, in its most violent throes, can be so consuming that one who is experiencing it can hardly feel anything at all.
Dring would know. Having lost her estranged father, beloved mother, and half-understood Japanese grandmother by the wee age of 25,...
One-upping his quirky reputation with some tasteful humor, Connan Mockasin plays the lurking lover in this music video for "I'm The Man, That Will Find You" off of his latest record, Caramel. In it, he executes humorously sensual moves galore, with the major winner being a well-timed tumble down a mega-miniature set of stairs. Get your smile tickles on and stay tuned with an interview with Connan Mockasin, coming next week.
Caramel is out now on Mexican Summer.
Music video director and writer Saman Kesh is a man with a digitally-enhanced vision. A master of weaving curious theories and tales in with his fast-paced music videos, Kesh uses playfulness and modern technologies as a vehicle for pushing forth interesting ideas.
His latest music video for Placebo's "Too Many Friends" is an interactive mystery story narrated by none other than Bret Easton Ellis. Though it is the first in a series of three videos for the band, it is a strong testament to Kesh's remarkable eye and conceptual mind; "Too Many Friends" is so intriguing that it at times dominates a viewer's focus and relegates the music to the background.
In this retrospective, Kesh offers commentary on a selection of hand-picked works -- both award-winning and not -- as well as on collaboration, general nerdery, and the future.
Placebo - "Too Many Friends" Music Video (2013)
INSPIRATION BEHIND THE TRILOGY: "All three take place in different eras, and all are unified by examining a given social interaction based on the respective social norms of that particular time period."
As the themes in the “Too Many Friends" video (rich, drug-using youth, as far as I can tell) seem to work well with Bret's general literary themes, I'm curious: at what point was he chosen in the storyboarding process? How directly did you work with him and what was that like?
We were always interested in using Bret's voice for the narration, as he brought an academic quality to the table. He became involved when we were in the editing phase of production.
As far as recording, it was quite simple. I went to Bret's house with my producer Ross Levine, and awesome sound recorder Michael Miramontes, who both worked on The Canyons w/ Bret. I sat on the floor next to him and directed him line by line. He is actually quite a natural, though [he] was a bit nervous that he didn't have it in him. Overall... Bret's a stud :)
Was the amount of interaction from viewers voting on what happened in the music video about what you had expected? Did you receive any interesting responses or find any amusing patterns?
I knew most people were never going to write their answers down, but surprisingly about a 1/3 of viewers seem to jot at least a letter down. Option C is for those geeky and analytical people that I would probably call friends if I met them.
After their Earth Tour of 45 countries in 90 days, you might think the members of Horse the Band would loathe each other to the point of disbanding. After such a frenetic pace of travel, the close quarters of their interactions, and the meager financial compensation paid to them, what incentive is there to endure?
To enact the Kauffman-esque humiliation upon their audience they are known for: that is the incentive. And now here in 2013, absent record label and foregoing a new album since 2009, Horse gladly take on bonus levels for touring outside of the US. It has become increasingly clear: American audiences no longer excite Horse, and our incessant need for retro gaming nostalgia is exactly what drove them to other shores. We could have been a bit more appreciative that they didn't always write lyrics about video games, and from our folly, Europe has capitalized.
Along for this particular tour is UK band Rolo Tomassi, past tourmates of Horse who also call themselves admirers of the band. When asked about watching Horse address the audience on tour, keyboardist James Spence sums it up in a very apt description, joking that they are "a mixture of entertaining and terrifying."
"Having spent a fair amount of time around them offstage," he continues, "it starts to make way more sense. I appreciate their honesty and that they're unafraid to be themselves at all times."
The tour's Berlin date meant a brief homecoming before departing to Russia for Horse's Lord Gold (Erik Engstrom), who now calls Berlin home base. It would also be the end of the road for Rolo Tomassi, whose upcoming tour schedule has them visiting Japan and Australia this fall. Between the matched amount of enthusiasm for animated keyboard playing between both bands and Horse's outlandish hilarity, the show at Berlin's Magnet made evident that Horse's fun on tour is exponentially higher when not playing at home.
August 12th, 2013 @ Magnet in Berlin, Germany
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSH CONNOLLY (ROLO TOMASSI) AND MATT CARTER (HORSE THE BAND)
One pervy frog man gets down in the music video for Weaves' "Motorcycle", where vaguely sexual lyrics turn into an animated tale of a naughty amphibian's crotch-heavy love for his newfound motorcycle. This animated short is the product of a collaboration between the band and director Jason Harvey, who, for a change of pace, put away his video camera and took out his Wacom tablet.
In the featured Q&A, Harvey, along with Jasmyn Burke and Morgan Waters of Weaves, share their perspectives on meeting, the creative process, and the final horny result.
"What do you mean I don't get it? I'm a genius, I'll understand it; I just need to break it down is all. Now let's see, something about fish sticks interacting with me, makes me a gay fish. Alright now -- what do we know about fish sticks? They're breaded; they're fried; they're frozen. Then under me we have rapper, genius. Hmmm. Then gay fish -- homosexual and they swim...." - "Kanye West" on South Park
Def Jam RecordingsI've never given one solid shit about Kanye West. Perhaps I assumed he would be relegated to the fading collective memory of that awful decade, the '00s -- a waning image of yesteryear, alongside Rudolph Guiliani, Suicide Girls, and Shitty Movies Ben Affleck. He was, after all, the star of one of the greatest events in '00s history, when he hijacked a live telethon for Katrina victims, went way off script and declared "George Bush doesn't care about black people!" A couple days later, a heroic everyman citizen told Vice President Cheney to go fuck himself, right to his face: a butterfly effect Mr. West can be proud of.
And now, here we are, 2013! Holy shit, how 'bout 2013? If someone told me in 2005 that in 8-years-time, Japan would be melting from radioactivity, Daft Punk would make a yacht rock record with Nile Rodgers on guitar, Barack Obama was a two-term president and he too was a war criminal, and Kanye West from the Katrina telethon just dropped one of the best records of the year (and... oh by the way... it's experimental and grotesque like In Utero -- only nastier -- or Pink Flamingos -- only funnier)... I might have shit myself right there.
Ah 2013! I mean, what the hell? There are no rules on this island. It's taken me a while to dig in, but Yeezus is fresh as hell.
When I caught up with Midnight Magic in Portland, Oregon, it was a week after the band's original show in the city. They had originally been booked on a Halloween bash that was foiled by Mother Nature, who decided that hurricanes and cyclones should devoid Portlanders of the band's disco-funk-soul stylings. The make-up show, an Ekstasy-sponsored night co-thrown by members of indie house outfit The Miracles Club, took place at a relatively new dance club called The Rose Room -- and somehow, despite all the chaos, Midnight Magic managed to fly in with seven of their nine members.
I had read a handful of pretty mundane interviews on the internet which were basically fixated on simple facts about the band and went no further. Those publications discovered that some members of Midnight Magic moved from Los Angeles to New York together and that others were session players for Hercules & Love Affair and LCD Soundsystem. All that is fine and dandy, but for a band as fiery as Midnight Magic, I felt it necessary to break the mold and get to the bottom of who they actually are as human beings. On the tip of that iceberg was a simple question about their lineup. How and why is that worth it to them to have nine members? Don't they want to make money or find traditional music-making success or whatever?
I felt that answering the aforementioned questions would by proxy answer a lot of other things about Midnight Magic's approach to music-making and life in general. And when all seven members of the band were on hand and pumped to do a group interview, the band's inclusive and playful sound was translated into tangible real life vibrance.
To set the scene: the club itself was too small to house all of us, so we flowed through the emergency exit to perch in the stairwell, nearly locking ourselves out along the way. Keyboardist Morgan Wiley, the longest-limbed of the group, knelt in the center as everyone stood and sat around him. As there was no flat surface present, Wiley became the eagerly self-nominated holder of the recording apparatus, occasionally striking Backstreet Boy-type poses to make sure the microphone was within earshot of whomever was speaking.
His actions were charming, to say the least -- as was the entire interview. So though I usually opt for expository feature articles on bands, this nine-way chat (with seven band members and two journalists) was too rich with laughter, teasing, tongue-in-cheek statements, and all the self-help philosophies one could possibly want (or not want) to pass up a direct transcription. Doing so would have been a disservice to both band and reader, so both of those follow in the full interview below, along with many a hippie star dust quote spoken with full authenticity.
Have you ever wondered what it'd be like to trip out in Midday Veil's practice space with them? Well, now you can virtually, through the wonders of the first video from their upcoming album, The Current (release date and label TBD). Whereas this video's predecessor, Moon Temple, set a high water mark for godhead hallucinogen mimicry, this one's a bit more subtle. It's like the difference between ingesting a heroic dose of mushrooms before meditating in the woods and casually dropping a quarter tab of acid to jet fuel a night of social drinking. Both are fun, and it really depends on what you're in the mood for.
The way Midday Veil swirl subtle layering effects together to recreate distorted states of consciousness goes hand-in-hand with their modus operandi of consciousness expansion. My favorite part is when it focuses on David Golightly playing the keys and you get the classic LSD chemtrail effect -- or when there's a bunch of freaky keyboard noise, and then I realize it's actually Tim Mason, the guitar player. Or the part where Emily smiles at the camera and her image kind of dissipates into the ether. It's all pretty fun, but more than anything gives a teaser for their new album which I'm sure will be even more potently psych-tastic.
During the 1960s, a flood of immigration brought thousands of Turks from their homeland to Germany, with promises of well-paying career opportunities. Without cultural context, one might find such a German and Turkish association to be bizarre -- but when given historical context, which the heartwarming and humorous Almanya -- Willkommen in Deutschland provides, one begins to understand the fascinating culture surrounding that population, which has now spent decades in a foreign country.
Almanya documents the story of a Turkish family, headed by a grandpa who has seen his children grow to father more children in Germany. Each member of the large family seems to hold a different opinion about his or her Turkish-German upbringing and personal degree of assimilation -- so when grandpa declares over dinner that he has purchased a home in Turkey and would like to take a family trip for everyone to see it, he is met with much resistance. Even his wife of many years is surprised and disappointed by the news. To this, he sternly questions, "Have I ever asked anything of you?" and the family falls silent, only to eventually acquiesce to grandpa's will. From there, the film flies through timelines and decades, recapping the family's immigration from Turkey to Germany with all of the pomp and romanticism that all who dream of a new opportunities no doubt have. But while the film humorously spotlights the excitement of grandpa's past, it also expresses, on the behalf of both the grandparents and their Turkish-born children, a sense of nostalgia for a motherland that lies as a gateway between Europe and Asia.
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