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Archive for February, 2009

Andrew Wyeth: RIP

February 11, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Reviews, Travel

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now, and I wish I’d written it the day my wife told me, but life happens, eh? Andrew Wyeth is dead. You know, I’ve always been an artist at heart and what that means has mutated and evolved over time, but traditionally speaking Andrew Wyeth is my favorite artist. He lived in Chadds Ford, PA and painted that which he knew—those people and places around him like Western PA and Maine, his friend, family, and, of course, Helga. Ah you can’t forget about the German blond haired blue-eyed beauty. He painted Helga nude for years supposedly without telling his family. The only time I’ve ever been to the Brandywine River Museum near West Chester, PA I saw Helga’s dirty blond hair painted meticulously as Andrew’s granddaughter, Victoria Wyeth, talked of her grandfather’s work. I’d never been more enamored in an artist’s life story before – a story I came to serendipitously on my own. Sure, I like Dali for Dali. I like Warhol growing up in Pittsburgh, and I like Basquait because they made a movie about him. Wyeth was all my own and I didn’t have to share that love with anyone. I moved through his galleries that afternoon and just existed among the stories and the art. I will miss you, Andrew. Thank you for leaving me the gift of your paintings.

Andrew Wyeth

Movie Review: MILK

February 06, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

I had first heard about Harvey Milk several years ago when researching LGBT children and came across Harvey Milk High School. I knew very little of him, and when I heard that Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch were teaming up again after Into the Wild I was ready to see it. I recently finally sat down alone to focus on the historical film. Set in the 1970s Castro area of San Francisco, this film began with shots of the Stonewall Riots and the California reactions before moving into the simpler life of two men who’d just met played by James Franco and Sean Penn.

Sean Penn's Harvey Milk celebrates his big win.

Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk celebrates his big win.

The chronology of Van Sant’s film covered half a decade as Milk slowly emerged as a voice for the gay and lesbian population of the Castro during this politically charged time. A population materialized around him that included Hirsch who played Cleve Jones one of the biggest gay rights activist of present day and the founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt. Josh Brolin (who I still can’t forget was in The Goonies) played Dan White the suggested closeted, religious family-man politician who assassinated Milk and then Mayor Moscone. Brolin did a nice job as a White albeit the film subtly suggests he was gay himself and fearful of his own identity; that message was relatively ambiguous. Franco, Diego Luna (playing Jack Lira jokingly called “Mrs. Milk” by Jones), and a cast of ensembled characters flesh out an ominous plot that caught me by surprise.

The propositions and events of 1978 mirror today’s events in California, Arizona and elsewhere as even three decades later this group of people still do not have their rights. This was most shocking for me, and for that reason alone, it’s one of the best movies of the year. I think MILK deserves the best picture Oscar over Benjamin Button although I’ve still not see Slumdog Millionaire, the critics underdog darling.

Penn’s performance here mirrored his I Am Sam’s performance from 2001. He was able to immerse himself in these roles to the point where Penn disappeared and Milk became reincarnate. His nomination as Best Actor may be overshadowed by the come back kid, Mickey Rourke.

With 8 nominations this year, this film’s sure to win awards. Brolin has a shot, Gus Van Sant is in a battle of heavyweights, and the screen play is a viable candidate. Strong scores and costume design should fade into the background of the film’s narrative. They both do so here, and they both have a strong shot at winning. See this film.

Oscar Review: The Reader

February 01, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Been waiting to see The Reader for several weeks now because I am a huge Kate Winslet fan. I’ve not seen all her films, and she doesn’t make Titanic anymore bearable. One of my favorite films of hers is Little Children albeit I still don’t know anyone who has seen it except for me. So I’ve been eager to see some Winslet love. She’s, once again, up for an Oscar this time for playing Hanna Schmitz, an SS guard who was one of six female guards who didn’t stop the death of over 300 prisoners in a burning church. In this film, Winslet the no-nonsense older woman matter-of-factly begins an affair with a young man (played by David Kross and as an adult by Ralph Fiennes) that lasts a summer before she disappears from his life, only to emerge as as on trial SS guard when he’s a law student. This is where their relationship reemerges and only later ends in death.

Winslet’s performance was spot on and wonderful, and Hanna’s biggest secret hidden only from the young Kross and not the audience is not that she’s SS but that she illiterate. How this plays out gives us the title of our film, The Reader. As Fiennes records audio books to mail to her in jail after she allows this secret to be used against her in court.

The Reader

You know those movies that just bug you and you can’t get over because of all of the holes and unanswered questions? This was that movie. Now while I adored Winslet and was ok with Kross, Fiennes and the story bugged me. Hanna felt so naive during the trial, and even as she answered that they couldn’t unlock the doors to release the women from the burning church, I wanted to yell “Why Not!?” but we never know why not. To me, this felt like half a movie held up by Winslet’s performance.

This film is nominated for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Adapted Screenplay. I believe Winslet can win the Best Actress category if the Academy doesn’t play it safe with Streep or the black sheep Hathaway pulls an upset. Benjamin Button was a better Adapted Screenplay and Daldry is up against stiffer competition for Director. I did notice the beauty of the Cinematography, but the competition there is daunting, as well. Chances are 2 out of 5 wins.

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What music do you like, Mr. Adams?

February 01, 2009 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Reviews

The other day a couple students asked me who my favorite band is. I had to think about it for a few minutes, and then I needed to filter my thoughts. I wasn’t filtering who I listened to as much as I was trying to figure out why they were asking, what they wanted to get out of my answer, and how I should respond. Did they want to hear about my nostalgia towards 80s Pop or were they looking for cool me from the 90s Grunge Scene (I was not some poseur! I actually liked the music and didn’t wear flannel… not too much, anyway). Did they want to know about time follwing my little brother into a Phish loving life? My years listening only to Oldiers (I am talking late 50s-late 60s)? Did they want to know about my strange propensity for Christian Rock from my early teens years? How about when I figured out that 1970s rocked and my Dad was cool? What did they really want to know?

So I am not sure how to answer this question, so I will break down several of my favorites and give you an idea. These are in absolutely no specific order.

THE PIXIES: I remember Michael Amato in high school being obsessed with this band, and I wasn’t really sure what the hype was all about. One CD cover had a topless model on it, so that was cool but beyond that there wasn’t much for me then. I remember the movie Pump Up the Volume had an awesome soundtrack, and on that soundtrack was a stripped down version of “Wave of Mutilation”. I think that song was my segue into the Pixies, and other than “Here Comes the Man”, the only Pixies I heard of for several years. I, like most of the kids graduating high school in the early ’90s, went through an odd music movement that was part grunge (Alice in Chains or STP) and part wacked out alternative (think Ned’s Atomic Dustbin or Information Society). One of my staples of this period was The Breeders who were these two twin women on guitar and bass. The guitarist had drug problems and learned to play a few chords so she could tour with her sister. Her sister, on bass, was Kim Deal, the guitarist for the Pixies. Kelley Deal went on the other projects even though the Breeders still record from time to time. As for Kim, there’s just something about female musicians (and I still adore L7). Honestly, I didn’t really begin to listen to The Pixies until about 5 or 6 years ago, and since then I’ve devoured several albumns and watched a few full length albums. My sister’s boyfriend got me hooked on The Pixies Red Rock show recordings and I’ve not looked back. I’d say the live version of “Wave of Mutilation” and “Allison” are my two favorites by them, but I can listen to anything by them anytime. Especially in Paradise Bakery on a Saturday morning. I just crank it up and go! My Recommendation: The Pixies Perform at Red Rocks.

PRINCE: Some people won’t admit to listening to Price, but you know what? For someone who’s been in this industry for so long, knows how to play several different instruments, and has not compromised his values, you can’t complain too much. Price turned 50 this year, and he’s still rocking out. I’ve been listening to him for 24 years now, and I think my coolest memory was spending New Year’s Eve 1998 in an Australian bar at the base of the French Alps in Chamonix, France. I brought a copy of Prince’s “1999” with me, and the DJ played it at midnight. My other awesome Prince memory was the night I got to know my best friend, Dan. He played an acoustic version of “7”. I’d never heard anything quite like it. My Recommendation: 1999.

FLEETWOOD MAC: I remember back in the late 70s my dad listened to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks all of the time, but I wouldn’t bother with Stevie because I thought she was some scary witch. I don’t really remember when I began to listen to them but I know I first fell in love with “Go Your Own Way” and “Rhiannon”. I think somewhere early I fell in love with Stevie Nick’s voice. The live versions of “Rhiannon” are beautiful, and I even sing the live versions to the studio versions. Early on, I read Mick Fleetwood’s biography about the band, and I loved the whole love quadrangles, etc… I’ve since collected over a hundred different songs and versions of songs by the band. I actually had a chance to see Lindsay Buckingham in concert last year, but it was just him and a work night, so I skipped it. This spring Fleetwood Mac is playing here in Phoenix but tickets are $120! My Recommendation: Rumors.

PINK FLOYD: Who can’t love Pink Floyd? There’s so much history there. I remember the time I saw Pink Floyd during The Division Bell tour.This was in the Spring of 1994. A friend and I drove to Cleveland (I was in Pittsburgh at the time) for the concert. We ended up at the wrong stadium and had to walk several blocks to the other stadium. The closer I got the louder the music became. That album and the song “Stop Talking” still holds a special place in my heart. I love how Gilmour released “Learning to Fly” after Roger Waters left the band, and how popular Momentary Lapse of Reason became after everyone was worried Floyd was done when Waters left. I remember Waters playing on the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the first time I showed The Wall to a classroom of high school kids (believe me, we do NOT do that anymore!). And yes, like everyone else, my cousin and I sat down and watched the entire Wizard of Oz synced to Dark Side of the Moon, and yes, it works! My Recommendation: A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

LIVE: My best friend got me hooked on LIVE years ago. Did you know they were originally called Public Affection? Do you also know how hard it is to talk to people about a band called LIVE? Haha. In college Dan and I saw LIVE as often as possible. I sat out in the freezing snow for 12 hours one day for tickets to see them at the Crowbar in State College, PA because Dan was out of town and couldn’t tag team the waiting with me. The band is from York, PA, and even though I never actually met them, I came close so many times. I believe the last time we saw them Claire was not yet 1; they played at what was then Bank One Ball Park in Phoenix. I have pictures of Claire at the concert. My Recommendation: The Distance to Here.

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS: I’ve listened to the Chili Peppers for as long as I remember, but there are a few highlights I need to point out here. I bought Mother’s Milk at National Record Mart in Century III Mall. A beautiful cassette. Loved everything about it, including the cover art. When I began getting tattoos I looked to the art in that band. Later when I met my best friend, Dan, he adored the Chili Peppers and I immediately began to get more into them Frusciante was gone and Dave Navarro was playing guitar. I loved the band. I loved everything about them, and I still tell the story of when Dan and I drove to Philly with a friend to see them at the Tower Theatre. Before that I’d seen them at Lollapalooza, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik is still one of their best albums ever. My Chili Peppers experience culminated a few years ago with the Stadium Arcadium tour. Frusciante was back with the band, and Dan asked me to come along. I remember hesitating, but then I went. Oh my god, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe Frusciante’s guitar. His playing and my need to hear it that night was as important to me as breathing that night. I’ve never know anything like this before or after. My Recommendation: Stadium Arcadium.

Now I could probably think of another few bands to detail and discuss here for you, but I will let you just choose for yourself. I know there’s music today I miss because I simply don’t listen to much new music, and I am sure there are bands you’ve passed by years ago that I will find in the future. We’ll see, and I will enjoy that experience as much as you hopefully will by revisiting some of mine above.


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