3/31/2011

Pop quiz on Enter the Void (2009)

Fill-in-the-blank: Enter the Void is _____________.

A) OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE *~**!!LOVE @1ST #SIGHTS!!**~* OPENING CREDIT S E Q U E N C E


B) The Prodigy music video I never wanted to end.


C) The Sims: Bleak City expansion pack


D) Beautiful


E) An ambitiously self-indulgent genius director


F) All the above

3/23/2011

An unabridged interview with Mo'Nique

Because of the time difference, this interview (edited version here) was scheduled for 830a. I'm an early-riser, but generally don't look - let alone, speak - to another human being because (I pretend) I need my coffee. I need my scone. I need to zone out on my Google RSS Feed. Until noon. But for someone like Mo'Nique (Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire; Domino), I make an obvious exception. Let's just say by the time it was over, I didn't need that coffee anymore.



MATTHEW DEKNEEF: Hey, Mo'Nique.
MO'NIQUE: Hey, Matthew. How are you, sweetie?

I’m good, thanks. By the way, my goal is to get you to call me “sweetie,” “sugar,” or “baby" at least six more times during this interview.
(Laughs) I’m gonna do my best, baby. That’s two now. Mark it down.

Marked. So, where are you right now?
I’m in Atlanta.
Cool. And what're you wearing right now?
What am I…? (Pause) Wearing?

I’m kidding! I just read that you used to be a phone sex operator, so I had to ask!
Sugar! Okay, I was like, um, this is going to be a different kind of interview! (Laughs) I actually didn’t work the phones, I worked inside the office, so I did the listening. I had to make sure that the people who called were doing and saying the right things.

Interesting. Based on that experience, how similar is phone sex to stand-up? Can you draw any comparisons?
You know, I’ll say this. For me in stand up, it’s the one place where I am totally free. There’s no editing, no cut, no retakes. It’s just me and that microphone and your bosses sitting in front of you.

And what makes for good sex? I mean, er, “show”? I meant “show”!
Matthew, you little filthy! (Laughs) To me, a great show is when everyone is unguarded, including me and the people in front of me, because when everyone is unguarded, there’s no judgment.

Sounds like everyday life should be more like stand-up.
I believe so, baby.

Women of all sizes have really responded to your book [“Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small Minded World”] calling it an honest, inspiring guide to living life, no apologies. Because people in Hawai‘i love to eat, what's the best food-to-life analogy you have?
Food-to-life analogy?

You know, like the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it to.”
Okay, wait. I want you to listen to that statement. It makes no sense. It’s my cake! Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too? I never understood that because I’m not asking for your piece of cake, sugar.

That’s four!
Keep counting, Matthew!

(Laughs) While we’re talking numbers, you’re one of twelve African-Americans to win an Oscar for acting. The first African-American woman to host her own late night show. Add those up and you’re a bit of a trailblazer in the industry. I’m curious: Who are your earliest icons?
Quite a few, which go back historically. Harriet Tubman, Hattie McDaniel of course, Madam C.J. Walker, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg – the list goes on because there’s so many whose shoulders I stand on. The ones who made a path, so mine wouldn’t be as difficult.

Speaking of Oprah, she steps down in September. There room to add Queen of Talk to your Queen of Comedy throne?
You know what? I like to enjoy the moments that I’m in. I can go down one way, but the universe might say, “Come here, you moving too fast!” But I’ll say this: my dream has always been to be a talk show host. When I saw Oprah Winfrey on her TV show in Baltimore, People Are Talking, she looked like me. She was this big, black woman who wasn’t apologetic. I said, “Oh my God, I want to do that.” I had the opportunity to meet her once and she, “You have to work really hard to be here,” and that stays with me. I’m in my dream.

I have to ask you about “Precious”...
Yes.

I loved the intensity you brought to Mary [Lee Johnston]. Honestly, watching that movie, it got to the point where I thought you were going to reach through the screen and throw me across my living room. Has the way you accept roles changed since you won the Oscar?
No. I like doing what’s exciting for me. I like doing things, that when it’s all said and done, excite me. And here’s the real kicker, Matthew, I’ve never considered myself an actress, I’m a stand-up comedian.

Were things as heated off-set as they were on-camera?
No. And I will give the credit to Lee Daniels, the director, for that. What people don’t know is that as soon as we stopped shooting, there was house music playing because baby, we had to get out of that place. So the moment he said "cut," we’d be singing, “I’ve been lifted!” and just partied.

I think it was the fearlessness in embracing that role that people really responded to. Which is present in all of your work actually. I’m curious: Does anything intimidate Mo’Nique?
Um… (Thinking) Hm... (Thinking) No.

Being a mom to twin boys?
Nothing in the industry. (Laughs)

Sounds like you do a good job separating your personal from your professional life.
Oh my goodness, yes. When I’m home, I’m mommy, I’m a wife, and all that other stuff is out there. That Oscar doesn’t mean anything to my kids. They want to play with it. (Laughs)

There are big things ahead for you. I read your next project is with Leonardo DiCaprio. Can you talk about that?
Well, whoever told you hasn’t told me. I haven’t heard anything about it. That’s a first one, Matthew!

What?! Sorry, the internet told me. (Laughs) My bad. Well, I would love to see you in a movie with Leo, so I’ll text him later today and have you two connect.
(Laughs) Well, I’ll say this. I am excited to come to Honolulu, get up on stage, be as free as a bird, and have all my bosses fly with me.

Hope you have a great show and time in Hawaii.
Thank you! Have a beautiful day, baby.

3/19/2011

Coping with Rebecca Black: An emotional trajectory of "Friday"

Overview This is just going to be another useless commentary on the song “Friday” by Rebecca Black. I am also aware that this song burst onto the internet nearly five days ago (which in offline days is like two months) further rendering the futility of what I feel like I “just gotta say about it,” deal? But this is partly what fascinates me about the viral sensation. Rebecca Black brings out the cliché in all of us! Ultimately what I’m really trying to preface here is that I’m sorry. Not sorry for Rebecca Black, but for my own lack of imagination.

Obliviousness I actually don’t have anything against pop music. The first CD I ever owned was East Side Story by Squeeze. I don’t use the disclaimer “guilty pleasure” when the opening bars of “Teenage Dream” makes its rounds on my shuffle. On a good night, Ke$ha’s “Blow” is enough to get me feeling Serena van der Woodsen drunk (this is the part where I do disclaim that I’m a boy, though). Point is, before I open my laptop Monday morn to check my vitals, my alarm clock was probs that “Bulletproof” song. So catchy!

Confusion Who is Rebecca Black and why is she trending on Twitter? What’s this video? Should I press play? She looks totally harmless in her Youtube screen grab so I'll bite.


Denial Man, who did these opening graphics ‘cause they’re awful? Is this the latest SNL video short? I haven't watched SNL in a while, is this new cast member? She looks part ethnic, so she the new Maya Rudolph? Because opening graphics can't look this bad and Saved By The Bell without gunning for a punch line. And this auto-tune has to be a parody of auto-tune, right? Wait, what, this is real?

Acceptance Quickly realize this actually isn’t a parody of song, but an actual song. This is real. Jesus. I feel slightly disoriented because usually if a song is this bad, it has a context and a place (I guess colloquially that graveyard is called a “One Hit Wonder”) and I either embrace it (Metro Station's “Shake It”) or I tune it out (Bieber’s “Baby”). But before I go any further, I need to check if this is truly an edifying moment in popular culture so I conduct an unscientific litmus test. Quick refresh on “Friday” and I see its total Youtube views jump from 500,600 to 22,460,300. Too real.

Amusement Now with the courtesy of knowing what to expect, “Friday” actually delivers on its promise and becomes fun, fun, fun. To laugh at! The beat that moves a little too fast for the words but awkwardly matches the stop-go-time-lapse-ish effects rendering the video into claymation! Which seat can she take! Tween decisions, holla! As I write this, I think, oh my God, Rebecca Black was right… today *is* Saturday! Imagine if this song was called “2010,” then we’d be in some deep shit! *fingernail biting* Also, LOL, her friend has braces! The only thing I won’t mock is that lyric, “Gotta get my bowl, gotta get cereal” #TRUTH

Celebration So it's been established that “Friday” is great to laugh to in the melancholy glow of your laptop screen at 1 in the morning while into your second pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia (just me?), but it’s time to take this shit public stat.

The next day I wake up feeling sick and sluggish for an indeterminate reason and it puts a total damper on my morning routine. I just feel like I’m squinting at everything, you know? When I get to work, someone makes the obligatory, “Hey Matt, how you doing today?” gesture. I say, “I’m good, except I feel like I’m developing a kidney stone or something. Ugh, can we just put on ‘Friday’ already?”

This is when my co-workers and I put it on full unadultered blast and nearly die laughing, shouting, “No, no, no, this is the best part!” over one another. When Rebecca Black and her minions are through partyin’, partyin’, partyin’, yeah! I say, “I think my kidney stone went away,” and an intern laughs. Awww, staff bonding! Only the weird thing is I actually kind of do feel better and that’s when an unsettling spiral sets in…

Disenchantment We continue to listen to “Friday” at least once every other hour to break up the office monotony and because the whole thing really is still funny at this point. We make the observation that this song is so bad, you can’t even like it ironically. It's so bad it’s not even so-bad-it’s-good, it’s just so-bad-it’s-bad. Yet with every repeated viewing/listening, the initial absurdity of the song that kept it on the radar of our consciousness begins to wear off. “Friday” is starting to sound…normal. Saturated. Catchy, even. We're desensitized. (I’m reminded of a very recent affair I had with Rihanna’s Only Girl (In the World). Relationship status: On a break.) I even try to make a playlist during my lunch hour to disassociate myself from “Friday”.


It doesn’t 100% work. Guess the saying's true. Once you go Black, you never go back.

Guilt and remorse I get home from work, turn on the TV, and Princess Diaries is on. Specifically a scene where Mia Thermopolous is walking through high school and receiving insults left and right from her peers. I’ve always sort of hated these scenes in teen movies, because I can’t ever recollect seeing this stuff happen outside scripted television/film and I was a pretty steady fly-on the-wall in high school.

But maybe I’m just being naïve when I think kids just can’t be this mean that easily. Except on the Internet. Which gets me thinking about Rebecca Black and how even though she’s the laughing stock of the web, but she’s still just a kid, right? I feel a strange, slight sense of remorse because I think today is the closest the internet has ever felt like one giant hypothetical high school to me (having grown up with MySpace and Xanga, child’s play by today’s standards).

I try to escape this hopeless argument with myself by flipping over to the news and what do you fucking know? Anchorwoman reports that Rebecca Black is receiving death threats. It’s a sensationalist headline, sure. I mean, I don’t think the person/people who sent those to her honestly want to kill her over a song (themselves maybe, in all seriousness). They’re just bullies who are trying to be funny and this is when I feel myself slowly getting behind Rebecca Black (the person, not her music because if you were a true friend you would tell her sucks, ‘cept in a nicer “That was way harsh, Tai” way).

Forgiveness In fact, the awfulness that’s at the core of “Friday” isn’t even within Becky’s grasp. I mean, her voice isn’t really that bad… it’s hardly her voice! It’s the producers who fell asleep at the auto-tune. Maybe if Rebecca Black got Timbaland or whoever it is that makes Avril Lavigne sound the way she does, she’d stand a chance at producing a song with a shred of irony. I begin to rationalize my newfound kinship for the girl by making comparisons to other horrible music. Like, a Black Eyed Peas song isn’t that far off from “Friday” considering, but then again none of them are in 8th grade and therefore an easy target. She also doesn’t have the industry or marketing-savvy to dot her name with periods (Will.i.am) to let people know she’s a construction of herself and possibly in on the joke. Or? Is? She?

Over analysis I’m so on Team R.B. at this point I begin to think her song could be a commentary on the Twitter generation, her lyrics poking fun at this new establishment of updating everyone in your narcissistic sphere of your every waking move (“Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs” is less than 140 characters). When she reaches the chorus, “Gotta get down on Friday” it comes off more like a chore. Like. She. Just. Don’t. Care. Light bulb, of course! Rebecca Black’s really making fun of the cool kidz who rage on the weekends! I realize I’ve entered the darkest part of this entire trajectory and take a big sobering breath into…

Exhaustion As with all hype, it starts to die. Largely because the attention you bring to it (re: this blog post) is unnecessarily tiring. Who cares? Whatever. Over it.

And that’s it! Hope this can serve as your guide to the emotional rollercoaster that is “Friday” (if it’s not too late that is) and that you make it out alive.

By the way, that word “alive” reminds me. Whenever I see someone’s full name trending on Twitter I’ve been conditioned to assume they just died or something, and on my fourth viewing of “Friday” I realize something in fact did.

RIP Electro-Dance-Pop Music 2009-2011.

3/13/2011

Why I'm crazy today about Sunday

White tea. Box of Thin Mints. Wearing yellow when I never wear yellow. Leftovers neighbors dropped off from their BBQ during that Band of Brothers marathon I started last night. Someone's staying home and never leaving. Thank you, zip-lining girl on the box for getting how I feel about it. My dogs too.



Halfway into all this hard work, someone from the Apple Store calls me. Yay, I CAN GET MY GODDAMN LAPTOP BACK AND LET EVERYONE KNOW ABOUT IT IN A STUPID BLOG! Yay, only costs $300 and my soul! Inhale the remainder of the box so quickly I deserve some sort of scout badge for it. Feel...dizzy.

Cure it with television. What channel is Intervention again? Channel surf. Channel surf. Channel sur-- Now Sunday is truly starting to fuck with me because Legally Blonde is on MTV. (Elle is having a total case of the Sundaze too, btws; join the club.) Wait, woah, and Jurassic Park on TNT! How do I ever choose? Sundays aren't about making decisions. What's the deal, universe?



Give up, turn off TV. Fall into bed, listening to Yuck on repeat. Spaz.


Maybe venture back into the kitchen. Maybe return some emails. Maybe brush my teeth at some point. Until then, later days!

3/12/2011

4 most played bands, songs, and albums in my car in February

THE VACCINES
[NO ALBUM JUST RANDOM SINGLES DOWNLOADED OFF THE INTERNET]

Reminds me of music you're supposed to be chased to. Like you just shoplifted a PEZ dispenser and security is chasing you through supermarket aisles, through a strip mall parking lot. Definitely got a Ramones thing going on, but that's like saying the sky is blue musically. Their debut album comes out in ~two days, and I hope not a lot changes. Though, I wish that Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra) song was a tad longerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.



SURFER BLOOD
ASTRO COAST (2010)

When I first heard "Swim" last summer, I thought Eno's "Needle in the Camel's Eye" and couldn't stop listening (to both those songs). Then last month, I read Chuck Klosterman compare it to The Outfield's "Your Love", so I revisited . . . and it's totally The Outfield's "Your Love" which I love. Also, this band/album makes me feel better about that time I got caught in a wave and cracked my head on the reef (14 stitches!) I didn't turn my back on the ocean. It was just life imitating art. Or something.



SMITH WESTERNS
DYE IT BLONDE (2011)

Sort of a departure from their previous stuff which was more . . . less. Like, didn't sound "produced". Like, they were sort of still experimenting with their "songs". I like that older fucking-off-what-chord-am-I-playing-right-now-anyway? stuff, but this is nice too. Also like that one of the band members looks like James Duval's little brother and therefore has that '96 gaze (the bored and emotionally deserted look even while eating french fries) down to a science. You're destined, bro!



BIRDLAND
BIRDLAND (1991)

Had no idea these guys existed until I was clicking a bunch of buttons on this girl's blog and Birdland flew outta my speakers and perched themselves in my iPod. Wikipedia'd them and what d'you know? History lesson, totally old band! Warps me a little every time that happens.