I saved Latin. What did you ever do?

I know, I know, I’m late to the game. It wasn’t until I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel two weeks ago that I realized I needed to start watching Wes Anderson’s movies, stat.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was everything I love about movies: enchanting cinematography…a brilliantly-told story…characters who get stuck in your head like a catchy song. Previously, I’d only seen The Darjeeling Limited (in a preoccupied state, no less), and bits and pieces of The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom, all of which left me intrigued by their vivid colors and offbeat storylines.

So, since we’d already been slacking on our Album of the Week initiative (more coming soon, I swear!), Alex and I thought it’d be a fun alternative to begin a Director of the Month series. I think with most directors it would make sense to at least see their most well-known works as well as a couple obscure ones…maybe 5-6 films total. But with Wes Anderson, we powered through all of his 7 feature films within a week and a half, because they’re just all so good.

Here are some of my favorites, organized by random, made-up nominations because I didn’t know how else to do it:

Most Relevant Soundtrack To My Life
Let me start off by saying that ALL Wes Anderson movies have really, really awesome soundtracks, usually including the obligatory Rolling Stones song, a smattering of other British Invasion bands, something with words in another language, and a quirky musical score by Mark Mothersbaugh (the same guy who did the Rugrats music). But my god, the soundtrack to Rushmore is so relevant to my interests it’s freakish. There’s that whole revenge montage to “A Quick One,” Stones deep cut “I Am Waiting,” and an ending scene set to The Faces’ “Ooh La La,” to name a few. So yes, I think Rushmore wins on that one, but can we also take a moment to appreciate the collection of acoustic Portuguese Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic?

(Also relevant: the Vilayat Khan composition in The Darjeeling Limited [Vilayat Khan was my sitar teacher’s father] and “Let Her Dance” by the Bobby Fuller Four, featured in Fantastic Mr. Fox and covered by the Spencer Owen Timeshare.)

Most Stunning Cinematography

Moonrise Kingdom: you can tell how beautiful it is just from the trailer. Amazing settings, colors, camera work. On top of that, I think this movie really captures what it’s like to be a kid (Sam & Suzy taking inventory), even if my childhood never consisted of running away and flawlessly pitching a camp on the edge of an abandoned beach.

Greatest Character Development

Wes & Co. have a great way of introducing characters who are not immediately likable, but who somehow transform into unexpectedly and downright lovable people by the end. It’s so fun to see that unfold throughout each movie. For me, it’s a tie between everyone in The Royal Tenenbaums and the Whitman brothers in The Darjeeling Limited. Maybe I’m just a sucker for dysfunctional family relationships?

Most Smashing Cast

The Grand Budapest Hotel, I mean, seriously.
I admired them before, but after watching all these movies, I am now a faithful fan of Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson. Also, Jeff Goldblum.

Favorite Bill Murray Character
Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. This is a guy who obviously has his flaws, but like most Wes Anderson characters, he has a grand vision that he won’t let go of, which I admire. I also admire the evolution of his relationship with Ned, which is funny, heartwarming, and sad all at the same time. Also, the ending of the movie (coupled with Sigur Ros’ “Staralfur”) just about ripped my heart out.

 

Yep, I think my favorite film of them all has indeed been The Life Aquatic, which apparently is Anderson’s lowest-rated movie. But it’s the one I keep thinking about, and find myself wanting to watch over and over again.

Also, in the middle of all this movie-watching, I might have bought this book, which is a treasure trove of cool visuals and interviews with Wes Anderson. One of my favorite quotes comes from an interview conducted by the book’s author, when W.A. is asked whether he consciously decided to make the sea creatures in The Life Aquatic unreal-looking:

“It wasn’t about trying to make something unrealistic. It was about trying to make something imaginary.”

I really like that. All of these movies are created with a wonderful sense of imagination. I love how each character has these great aspirations, even if they’re kind of crazy and unattainable. And I love the worlds that Wes Anderson and his crew create. From now on, whenever a new W.A. movie comes out, consider me there on opening day.

A personal and humble tribute to OK Go

I’ve been working on this post on and off for over a year now, waiting for the right moment to post it. I think the time has finally come, seeing as OK Go has just announced their new album and a summer tour. IT’S ALL HAPPENING! *cue confetti*

I think most people know by now that OK Go is my favorite non-60s band. Oh No was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school, just like Of the Blue Colour of the Sky perfectly defined my last year of college. Most importantly, OK Go will always be associated with some of my fondest memories of growing upincluding hours of video-filming with best buddies Alie, Jocelyn, and Lauren. Their music kept the four of us together even though we were quite evenly spread throughout the country post-high school. We reunited for shows, bought new albums together, and sent each other links to music videos. If the trend continues, I have a feeling 2014 is going to be a very good year. :)

A chronological list of our many encounters with OK Go 
(and how I became Dan’s creeper friend on Facebook):

1. The Dance Video. It was winter break of 2005, halfway through our senior year of high school, when Jocelyn had the ingenious idea of recreating OK Go’s “A Million Ways” music video. At the time, I’d never heard of the band, but was easily sold by their excellent dance moves and stylish attire. As a result, the four of us spent nine hours on the last day of winter break learning the carefully-choreographed dance, and when it got too late to film the final video, we devised a plan to film it during a five-minute break at lunch the next day, which was the last chance we had before Lauren flew back to the east coast that afternoon (The Plan involved Lauren sneaking onto the Vista High campus by pretending she was having lunch with our assistant band director).

At this point, YouTube was only about a year old and although it’s hard to believe now, putting your homemade fan videos online was still a novelty. We actually emailed the band with the YouTube link to our video, on the off chance that they (or someone in their crew) would see it and be amused. The next day I got a reply from drummer Dan Konopka himself(!), complimenting our efforts. Because I played Dan in our video, I thought this was especially awesome.

2. The Dance Contest. That summer, OK Go held a video contest on YouTube, encouraging fans to make their own Million Ways dance video and post them on OK Go’s page. Of course we entered the contest, and of course we didn’t win. But we still each got an “I Lost the OK Go Dance Contest” trophy (they must have mailed out so many of those) and the satisfaction of knowing that ours was one of the first Million Ways videos ever made.

3. The Colbert Report and 1.5 seconds of fame. At the end of the summer 2006, sometime before heading off to college, I received the following message on YouTube, which is still in my inbox: Hello! I work at the colbert report and we’re interested in featuring your video on the show (tonight!) Obviously, because of the time frame, I need to know ASAP if this interests you. Um, yes it interested us?! After a bunch of frantic form signing and scanning, we gathered a small audience and watched our video on The Colbert Report that night, for about a total of 1.5 seconds (around 2:55, if you’re interested).


(Side note: the treadmill video also came out that summer but I was on tour with Esperanza, and didn’t see it until I got back in August. Suddenly, everyone knew who OK Go was! I have very distinct memories of seeing “Here It Goes Again” all over the TVs at the John Wooden Center at UCLA.)

4. The Extras. The band also released a special edition of Oh No with supplemental material, including a bunch of fan videos. Our Million Ways video was once again featured, after some more tricky release form-signing (at that point I was in California, Lauren in Massachusetts, Jocelyn in Idaho, and Alie in Utah).

5. The Voicemail. One day, OK Go visited Harvard, which happened to be where Lauren went to school. From what I understand, the visit mostly consisted of them playing Guitar Hero and meeting people. Lauren got to talk to the band and even had Dan Konopka leave a voicemail on my phone (what would I have said if I’d answered the call?!). I wish wish wish I still had the voicemail, but to my infinite dismay it departed along with my outdated flip phone.

6. The Guitar Pick and Autumn Leaves. Over the next few years, I saw OK Go in concert 6 times, including at the beach (Encinitas Bro-Am) and in the forest (Stern Grove in SF). At the first show I went to in Hollywood, I caught Andy’s guitar pick when he threw it into the audience, but a psycho girl literally PRIED it out of my hands. At another show with Jocelyn, Damian came out into the audience and stood DIRECTLY in front of us to play “Autumn Leaves.” He even turned around halfway through the song so that his butt was no longer in our faces. Photographic evidence (no zoom on these pics):

Another time, when Lauren, Jocelyn, and I went to their show at the San Diego House of Blues, we saw the band strolling down the street outside the venue, because they could. OK Go definitely has a devoted following, but aren’t so crazy-famous they can’t just hang out wherever they want. Which brings me to…

7. The Picture Frame. Fast forward to 2010. The winter after graduating college I worked a seasonal job at Aaron Brothers in Studio City. I hated it, BUT, a couple days before Christmas, who walks in but Dan Konopka. He was looking for a picture frame for his mother-in-law and I HELPED HIM PICK IT OUT. I think the first thing I blurted out when I saw him was “I know you!!” which, out of the blue, is a really weird thing to say. Dan looked confused and I tried to save myself by explaining what a big fan I was of his band (I didn’t reveal that he had once left a voicemail on my phone, or that I had an email from him saved in my inbox, or that I was his counterpart in our Million Ways dance video). He was super nice and I think a little surprised at how excited I was to meet him. But after all that, how could I not be?!

Apparently after that I friended Dan on Facebook (I actually have no memory of doing this, I’m sorry for being so creepy, Dan!) and luckily/strangely, he accepted. So now I get to see pictures of his adorable son and the occasional OK Go update and it always brightens my day.

Since that awesome encounter, there have been a lot of milestones. Alie got married, Jocelyn got married, I moved to San Francisco, and Lauren moved from Cambridge to Indianapolis to Fullerton to Minneapolis to Palo Alto! It’s been 8 and a half years since Jocelyn fatefully introduced the rest of us to OK Go, and I am so, so glad she did.

A message to the band: thanks for all the memories, and see you this summer!

Some things to listen to

While I get ready to post a very long entry about OK Go, here is a short little interlude for your listening pleasure:

  • Lately I’m been jamming a lot to “Songs” by The Van Allen Belt, a Pittsburgh band that I saw a while back at the Blue Circle release show. I think Tamar Kamin’s voice is mesmerizing. I’m hoping they make their way back to the bay area sometime so I can see them again!
  • Speaking of Blue Circle, click the link and have a listen to some of my favorite tracks: “Deserve You More,” “Thomas Curse,” and “Counting Out.” Actually, just listen to the whole album! It’s marvelous.
  • Recently heard for the first time: “In My Mind” by Amanda Palmer, which might just be the best description of my life, ever. Great listening if you’re having a quarterlife crisis. 
  • Kishi Bashi’s new album is out! I love love love it, and can’t wait to see him at the Fillmore later this month! First video from the album here.
    • Favorite 8tracks playlists lately: driving in cars with somewhat strangers (includes the aforementioned Amanda Palmer song, also more Kishi Bashi, also just a lot of awesome stuff) / i’m gonna make it (general feel-good music) / tints of azure (I use this one if I really need to get something done at work and need to tune out all distractions around me)
    Enjoy the music….be back in a bit!