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Don’t Touch My Records (Or, Music and Memories)

Diner

I’ve watched Diner at least a few times in my life, and to this day I can still say without hesitation that it’s easily one of the best films the 80s ever produced. The “don’t touch my records” scene gets me every time. The first time I saw Diner I was still in high school and my only access to vinyl was my dads small collection in the basement that he no longer used because his decades old record player needed repair and he had more important financial obligations, so it all went to waste. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto for university that I started my own collection, taking what my dad would give me from his and searching through flea markets for old Beatles, Doors and Led Zeppelin records.

My collection now certainly isn’t massive, and I’m nowhere near as anal as Shrevie with my organization (old ie. pre 1980s records alphabetized together, new ie. post 1980s records alphabetized together), but I relate completely to him in this scene, as do music geeks around the word. It expresses perfectly that obsessive love people like us have for this all important art form. When she says “It’s just music, not that big a deal” my heart aches for him. Imagine dating someone and hearing them say this? Ultimate deal breaker.

Music has always acted as a marker for moments in my life, and just as he remembers what song was playing when he first met her, I remember songs in relation to people and moments, almost exclusively. Who introduced me to this artist? Where did I first hear that song? It all takes on a heavy meaning that stays filed somewhere in the back of my brain, and comes flooding back the second I think of a particular song.

I will never forget the song “One Day At A Time” because I associate it with my Grandma’s funeral, where it was played and I learned the French version was her favorite song. I had no idea she liked music, and even if it was an overtly religious song that would normally make me cringe, the fact that that was her favorite song opened up my eyes to her in a way I never grasped when she was still alive, and made me let go of any anger I had toward her. Suddenly she wasn’t just a bitter resentful old lady, she was completely humanized through that song. I understood that she struggled too, each and every day, and her judgement was just deflection.

I associate the Smog song “Teenage Spaceship” with my bus ride back home to attend my childhood best friend’s funeral, because it was a sad trip so of course I was listening to Smog, but that song in particular reminded me of growing up with her and how she saved me from myself. Once it came up on my iPod I just listened to it on repeat for the rest of the trip.

I associate the Grandaddy song “AM 180” with the first time I ever fell in love, and Bonnie Prince Billy’s “New Partner” with the first time I had my heart ripped out.

Tom Waits’ Real Gone, Arcade Fire’s Funeral and The Walkmen’s Bows + Arrows will forever be connected to my second year of university, when I moved out of the dorms and in with my friends, who were more aware of indie music than me at the time and who I am forever thankful to for exposing me to music outside the classic rock world I was so obsessed with back then.

I will always associate Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery” with the year I was completely tortured in middle school, and how that song made me feel so much less alone.

Serge Gainsbourg will always remind me of one of the most fun dates I ever went on, in which I broke into Casa Loma in the middle of the night with one of the cutest guys I’d ever dated at that point in time.

Weakerthan’s “The Reasons” will always remind me of the first time I got to know someone who has become very special to me.

I made a whole mixtape of songs that I strongly associate with growing up, and my parents.

I could go on and on and on. Music is memories for me. Many good, some bad, all very important. And I think that’s the case for all of us who get obsessive about our records. It’s not “just music.” It’s our whole lives summed up in many different notes and words that the records have given us.

The songs are markers, audible tattoos that bring us back, let us live in that moment again, recall that person, place or time, for better or for worse. [Click to Tweet]

Messing with someone’s records is messing with their history, don’t do it without expecting some wrath.

Lisa

Best of the Oscars 2014

karen o oscars

Really I just wanted to post Karen O’s beautiful performance of the song that should have won the Oscar, Her’s “The Moon Song.” Seeing her onstage at the Oscars was almost as cool as seeing Elliott Smith sing “Miss Misery” at the Oscars way back when.

Pink’s ruby red dress was definitely my favourite dress of the night. It was obviously created as a homage to the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, which her performance was celebrating the 75th anniversary of. It was also nice to see her give a performance that didn’t involve acrobatics, for once!

Another highlight was the brief on screen mention of Sarah Jones – the camera assistant who lost her life on set due to the producers not taking safety precautions - something that happens on film sets far too often – and not telling their crew that they DID NOT have permission to be shooting on that train track – and also not going over an in case of emergency (aka if a TRAIN COMES – as it did – where should everyone run to) routine.

Obviously, film workers everywhere were and are outraged. The fact that crews shoot 14+ hour days and everyone is exhausted is bad enough for their overall health, but something as horrible as this is just unnecessarily stupid. Having a sister that works in film, she experiences these things first hand, and I am always complaining that she shouldn’t agree to sleep on set and work insane hours – it should be illegal. But the fact of the matter is, the industry demands this. The standards are ridiculous. And if you complain, you won’t get hired again  - so no one ever dares to. It has to change. When a 27 year old camera assistant is killed because she was not informed they weren’t even legally allowed to be on the track, that’s a new low for the industry. #slatesforsarah

sarah jones oscars
Speaking of film figures lost this past year, another highlight was Bill Murray’s perfect impromptu shoutout to recently passed, beloved collaborator Harold Ramis as he announced the nominees for Best Cinematography:

Oh, we forgot one, Harold Ramis, for CaddyshackGhostbusters and Groundhog Day.

And my absolute favourite part of the night came from the intro Robert DeNiro read while announcing Best Screenplay, about what it means to be a writer:

The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self loathing and soul crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.

Truth. Heh.

Even better was that the two most deserving screenplays, 12 Years A Slave, and my personal favourite, Her, both won their categories. It was shameful to me that the directing category left out Spike (and Jean-Marc Vallee – truly the best director of the year).

Cate Blanchett also made me cheer out loud when she said this:

To the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences. Audiences want to see them – and in fact they earn money.

Other quick highlights – Jared Leto’s shoutout to his mom + brother + Ukraine + Venezuela + AIDs victims; Matthew McConaughey’s speech about always envisioning himself in 10 years in order to set goals – reach them – and set new goals; Lupita’s tearful speech; Steve McQueen jumping up and down in pure glee after finishing his speech for Best Picture.

Things I could have done without – Ellen’s lack of any real comedy, instead opting to mingle in the audience the whole time; that awful Bono loves Bono U2 performance; the cringeworthy Bette Midler performance; Pharrell’s hat; the Frozen songwriters giving a truly awkward and annoying rehearsed acceptance speech; Gravity winning almost every category despite having some of the cheesiest lines of all of the films I saw in 2013.

 What did you think about this year’s ceremony? Did the right people win? Tell me below!

 Lisa

Lena Dunham on the Lack of Female Show Runners

lenadunhambsreport

I thought my love for Lena couldn’t grow any stronger, but this entire conversation with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on The BS Report had me thinking up what it would actually take for me to meet her and become her best friend. If you are one of those people who think she is Hannah, please watch, and learn how smart and well spoken she really is.

It’s an hour long conversation, and I loved some of what she said so much that I wanted to write it out for my own sake, and figured it would also be a good thing to share.

ON THE LACK OF SPACE FOR FEMALE VOICES

Lena: It can’t be denied that there is, in most industries – with the exception of nursing and quilting and hair – a bias towards men. But I also think – and this is the same thing I think about female directors – that a lot of the traits that are instilled in women from a  young age like positivity, equanimity, making people feel good all the time – people think or are afraid that that is at odds with being a director or a show runner or a person who is in a position of authority. But the fact is – Jenni and I rule the Girls set with love – it’s run from an emotional, connected place – and it still happens. There is room for all kinds. There is no one personality type that has the skill to manage the goings on of a television show.

There’s also this really frustrating thing where networks kinda go – we already have our women’s show – i’m sure i’d be willing to bet that most networks that already have a show aimed towards women running say – we don’t necessarily have room for a couple more of those. Networks and studios still seem to be almost pathologically incapable of understanding that women make up 52% of the planet and, therefore, programming that has women at its center is not a fad or a trend, it’s a necessary part of media. 

People don’t always recognize that if a young woman is looking at the landscape of Hollywood – what they see are almost only challenges. And so they might say ‘That’s not where I wanna go – I wanna go where I feel like there’s a space for me.’ It’s a specific personality who goes ‘I see no room for me, and I’m going for it.’

That’s one of the things I like so much about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In philosophy - the idea that women have to create space for other women and women who rise to a position of power can’t be complacent in trying to bring other women along with them. It’s our responsibility to bolster each other and our responsibility to guide each other and mentor each other and be present for each other, because otherwise it can be such a crazy battle.”

THE NEED FOR LESS COLLABORATION IN ART – MORE AUTEURS PLEASE

The host also brought up something I STRONGLY believe to be true not just in great TV, but in anything creative – the more voices involved – the more the quality recedes – the act of trying to please and/or represent a larger group of people just waters everything down. The strongest voice usually stands alone, because it is one singular, highly defined POV – its point comes across clean without being tainted by the opinions of others. You can express a relatable emotion clearly when it’s coming from your own unique POV.

Here’s what they said:

Bill: It’s either one person or two people that make a show. One of the reasons network TV sucks, is, for the most part – it’s this by consensus committee of creativity instead of just saying – there’s Vince Gilligan, and we’re trusting him.

Lena: It’s a really amazing thing when networks can have the bravery to just like, put their faith in something. That’s one of the great skills of HBO, is just like, saying we’re gonna trust the vision even when it doesn’t totally make sense to us, and so even our failures will be noble failures cause we’re going down with the ship of an artist who has an idea.”

As soon as a bunch of others start pushing their idea into a specific artists POV – something concrete and powerful turns to mush (hence, most sitcoms/network shows are shitty but Breaking Bad and Girls fucking rule).

The biggest blogs are run by one person alone – Gala Darling, Nubby Twiglet,  - collective blogs rarely achieve the same success because you aren’t really getting to know/connect with someone. It’s a bunch of people, so it rarely provides the intimate insight people crave when consuming. The best films are written, directed and either produced or starring the same person – Spike Jonze, Spike Lee, Woody Allen (eep), Tina Fey, Wes Anderson, etc etc. The more roles the artist can fill, the better the piece will be (most of the time, and only if they’re capable of and desiring to fill those various shoes). Musically, my favourite albums are the ones produced by the musician in their basement on a 4 track, alone (see Elliott Smith’s Roman Candle and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska). Focused, clear, untainted work – a look inside the mind of that person or the character they created – with no one else getting in the way of the process and fucking it up.

The whole conversation is so great. I highly recommend watching it in its entirety, but you can also go right to the part where they discuss the above, at around 50 minutes in:

Lisa

Today’s Quote – It’s A Beautiful Thing

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman

For me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, ‘That’s beautiful and I want that.’ Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great—well, that’s absolutely torturous.

In the end, I’m grateful to feel something so deeply, and I’m also grateful that it’s over. And that’s my life.

Lisa

The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool

phillipseymourhoffman almostfamous

That quote, and that movie, had more of an influence on my life than I’d like to admit. It’s one of the few films I still own a hard copy of.

Of course, you can probably attribute it more to Cameron Crowe and Lester Bangs the actual person, than Philip Seymour Hoffman – but it’s just one of the many scenes in one of the many Philip Seymour Hoffman films that had such a huge affect on me. And I do believe that affect wouldn’t have been as strong were it not for the chameleon like talent of this incomparable actor. Could you imagine anyone else playing Lester Bangs and doing him this level of justice? No.


I watched Almost Famous when it first came out back in high school when I was the epitome of uncool, and the idea that I would ever get to know any of my favourite musicians in real life seemed like a huge stretch back then, but now that it has happened, these scenes are even more comforting/heartbreaking.

There is a horrific sadness in knowing that Philip died in the same fashion that Lester did. Again, I hope people can keep their self righteous judgement of addiction out of the conversation.

The first memory I have of seeing his work/thinking he was incredible was in 1997 with Boogie Nights. I was only 12 at the time and probably shouldn’t have been watching such a film – but it was my sister’s 14th birthday party and what better movie for an all girls sleepover than our crush at the time, Mark Wahlberg?

From then on he continued to appear in only high quality roles with the best directors – always giving a stunning performance, even if it was just for a scene or two.

There was never a question of “Should I see it?” with a PSH movie – it was a “Oh, Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it? When does it open, let’s get tickets.”

Of all the films he made ( about 80% of which I can say I saw) the only one I can think of that I didn’t love was Synecdoche, New York – and that had less to do with his performance and much more to do with the writing/direction of another favourite, Charlie Kaufman.

His presence in a film was akin to a trusted recommendation from Roger Ebert, letting me know that this film would indeed be worth my time. If he liked the script enough to act in it, that meant it had to be strong.

And as great a dramatic actor as he obviously was, I realized his true depth of skill with his role in Along Came Polly – a film I probably wouldn’t have eagerly watched were it not for him being in it.

The hilarity of someone like him explaining what a ‘shart’ is to Ben Stiller will never get old. The guy whose work so often brought me to tears because of its sadness, now brought me to tears from laughing so hard.

As an actor, he truly had no limits in where he could go, which was why it was always so interesting to watch him. So few actors are capable of this.

When I was in high school, watching movies constantly and wanting to be an actor – but suffering from intense anxiety and self loathing – it was because of watching him, Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro that I got over my fears. They made the idea of being an actor not some ridiculous pursuit reserved for beautiful people, but a noble pursuit for normal looking people who happen to be able to experience and express an exhausting range of emotion. It was a beautiful thing.

I went from almost crying in my English classes on monologue day out of fear of people paying attention to me, to signing up for drama classes, auditioning for every play, and having to perform my English class monologue for Toastmasters because I got the highest grade in my class.

So thank you Philip, for moving me in endless ways with your work. You will stand the test of time just like Brando, Peck and Olivier.

 Lisa