Saturday, October 17, 2009

What lies beyond the cringe

Last night I met a different kind of hero. A hero for our times. Not in spandex and a cape, but in small but strangely loose (for how small they were) gym shorts and alternating head bands. Adventures of Power is about Power, the son of a copper miner, whose harshest word is “shoot” and whose passion is to feel the music to the point of moving inexplicably to play ‘air drums’ because his father couldn’t afford to give him an actual drum-set or drumming lessons. But this seeming deficiency turns into the hero’s greatest strength as he exhaustedly realizes after overcoming many a difficulty to get to the air drumming championships in Newark, NJ, that he doesn’t need drums, he is drums.

While full of comfortably referential moments for a generation that’s grown up on a diet of mockumentaries and fish out of water dramedies, what gilds this strange child in a layer of specialness is its song of protest and its complete surrender to what must be one of the higher states of Buddhist spirituality – a total lack of self consciousness. As we watch Power clear out rooms with his gyrations, we are taken to the point of cringing and then menacingly further till we realize that what lies beyond the cringe, if we would ever be brave enough to get there ourselves, is an innocence and freedom so pure it’s exhilarating, and we are not just relieved, we're made proud.

Ari Gold shows us independent filmmaking at its uncompromising, auteurist best. Four years in the making, on a budget orders of magnitude less than its authentic locations and large ensemble cast would lead you to believe, each seamlessly edited moment is rich with design details and a musical texture so integrated with the story that it could have only been created along with the process, not laid down after. Songwriter, performer, producer Ethan Gold displays an astonishing intuition, stamina and range of genre talent as the soundtrack majestically becomes the spine of the film.

And so Power, with a vibrant visual and sonic landscape at his back makes his way through his adventure – to express solidarity with his father and fellow strikers at the copper mine back home and to find a place in a world where no one understands ‘no drums’.

There are several reasons why he is a hero. It would be one thing if he took us on the staple arc of ugly duckling discovering he’s a swan, or misfit triumphing over the cool kids. But Power’s insistent message is ‘we’re not better, we’re different’ and his only request of his opponent is not to be less evil, or to give up and go home, but to fight as if he means it, to take the challenge seriously. Ari Gold uses a flippant vehicle to deliver a slap in the face about being honest, about knowing when and whom to laugh at. He’s a new kind of hero because his $2,000 prize money won’t go towards a new apartment – he currently sleeps in a tent when his aunt needs to rent out his room for extra money – or to win the girl, all she wants is his soul and a bit of organic “o” cereal – and it certainly won’t go towards buying an expensive drum set. It goes half to his musical idol and half to the copper miners who’ve lost paychecks because of the strike.

The punctuated violence of the riot police is contrasted by the constancy of the miners’ passive resistance, and our own ability to tap into an eternal beat originating from our mothers' wombs and carrying us forward, invisible, reassuring, highly idiosyncratic, yet when combined in the right moments with the beat that others dance to, supremely Powerful.

Playing in theaters this week.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

From Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium"

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Cultures of Los Angeles

From silicone and bleach to South Indian food and bangles, it's all in a day's drive around Los Angeles.




video

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Cheerios bailing out the newspaper business?


Advertising has always supported the papers but now it's heartbreakingly not enough. Which is why I must admit that getting two boxes of cereal attached to my LA times was pretty moving and even softened this harsh critic of the packaged goods industry for all the processed foods they churn out.  The NYT also came wrapped in a Kellog's Raisin Bran advert but no actual cereal to report (score 1 for General Mills).  Maybe the packaged goods industry can convert their severe mastery of brand management and ability to zombify a nation of millions into believing artificially colored popped rice flakes coated in sugar were part of the food pyramid because a funny cartoon animal said so..into a set of creative partnerships and campaigns to save our newspapers. I still ate oatmeal for breakfast. 

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