Thursday, May 13, 2010

TWO Movie Reviews

My dad's got his top 50 movies posted on his own blog, and as a way to bond with him, I've decided to see many (or all, time permitting) of them with him. I can't recall if Amazing Grace was on that list, but after seeing it, it's definitely on my top 50 now.

The story revolves around William Wilburforce's life's work to ban slave trade in the British empire. As an American, it was a story I'd never heard (or even considered) before. In our classrooms we only get to hear the story of our own Civil War, which had the same result for the United States but at a much grizzlier cost. What's even more fascinating is that the movie takes place more than half century before the Civil War even starts.

Wilbur, as the protagonist is known (probably to distinguish him from his friend and the British prime minister, William Pitt), is probably one of the most eloquent orators to square off against Parliament, but as soon as he bears the standard of abolitionism, he faces opposition that crushes him and his cause. The ultimate theme is how much someone is willing to sacrifice himself for a good cause. After years of political defeat, humiliation, accusations of sedition, and stress-induced illness, he still summons the courage to see his cause through. The best quote of the movie has to be from Lord Charles Fox, played by Michael Gambon (a.k.a. the new Dumbledore), once Wilbur's bill finally passes:

"When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon - men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who's achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more."

That puts me to shame both as an American and as a Latter-day Saint. Well, I can't do anything about the fact that England ended slavery in an infinitely more refined manner than America, but as a Latter-day Saint, I have the greatest cause on my shoulders. Thanks to my habit of introspection, I realize that I can do so much more to share the Gospel because I really have no reason not to. I'd like to lay my head on my pillow and remember that I did some true good in this world, and it's well within my capacity.

I definitely recommend this movie for inspirational, romantic, or entertaining purposes.

Now onto other pressing matters...

I remember seeing the first movie and wondering why the heck I knew so little about Iron Man before it came out. He's a self-built superhero, he's cocky as all get-out, and he's so good at blowing stuff up. My kind of guy. So I just had to see the sequel with my buddies on opening night. Even with my hiked-up expectations, I was not disappointed.

My favorite parts:
- Tony Stark sassing the U.S. Senate
- A drunk Iron Man brawling with War Machine with the DJ cranking out "Robot Rock" by Daft Punk (priceless)
- Tony's robot Jarvis telling him, "Congratulations, sir. You've made a new element."
- The twirling laser attack that cuts through everything
- Some choice quotes I'd prefer not to admit I laughed at

I wouldn't be surprised if I see it once or twice more in theaters. I don't care what critics are saying about it--so much, in fact, that I haven't bothered to check what they're saying--it's got plenty of action, lots of humor, and the right amount of, um, non-action to keep the audience engaged. Also recommended.

I take a freight elevator and press fast forward

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Hunt for Record Stores, Part I

I am a firsthand witness of the cross-over from physical audio media to digital audio. Back in the day, you had to bug your parents to take you to the store/mall so you could buy the latest New Kids on the Block/Nirvana/Chumbawamba album (I use the rhetorical "you" because I actually never did this in the 90s). Nowadays, technology has simplified the process to less than 20 mouse clicks. It's sped up, you don't have to worry about storing a bunch of CDs, and, in unscrupulous cases, it's free.

My personal feeling on the topic is as follows: it's thrilling to go to record stores. I walk through the glass door, hear that little bell, which dovetails into the ambient, obscure 90s album the clerk doesn't mind listening to his entire shift. After 15 minutes of sidling through narrow aisles flanked by racks and racks of albums from bands I recognize, bands I didn't know existed, bands I wished that didn't exist, etc., I find a used copy of that one album from that one band that I heard of that one time. Price: $5.99. iTunes, in your face.

When I was in Provo, I frequented Graywhale, located on the east entrance of University Mall. They easily bank on the trendy music scene, with employees in their mid to late 20s and album organization by multiple genres (including the amorphous "indie"). Albuquerque is different. New Mexicans listen to country, rap, classic rock, and emo music. Cutting edge music is ignored if you can't mosh to it. As such, getting the jolt of looking through record stores is harder to find.

So today I looked up four record stores in my area and checked them out. Here's my report:

Charley's Records and Tapes: I enter to the sound of ( ), by Sigur Ros. Very, very good sign. They have a massive used rock/pop collection, with decent pricing (from $6-8). Unfortunately, the store would've been in style about 10 years ago, as the majority of CDs were big names from the 90s and back. Despite this, I scored some albums and feel alright about it.
Loot: They Might Be Giants - Flood ("Istanbul, not Constantinople") ................................... $5.99
Earthsuit - Kaleidoscope Superior (Mute Math BEFORE they were Mute Math) .... $6.99
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (That one album from that one band, remember?) ... $5.99

Record Roundup: They like music just a little less eclectic than imported music. I got an earful of the 80s. I bash the decade, but drum machines aren't that bad. The selection was virtually the same as Charley's, just condensed. Noteworthy was the first physical Battles CD I've ever seen (including Utah).
Loot: Moby - Play (My friend David's been looking everywhere for this CD) ........................ $7.99

Natural Sound: CLOSED! I actually went to this store once back in 2007. It catered very well to people like me (it makes sense, considering its proximity to UNM), with several used CDs from the last five years. However, today its sleek glass walls are shrouded in opaque plastic, and its once proud name has been scraped from its art deco storefront. RIP, Natural Sound.
Loot: Nostalgia ............................................................................................................................ priceless

Krazy Kat: ALSO CLOSED! I'm not nearly as sad about this one, since the website I browsed had few good things to say about this one.
Loot: Getting to come home sooner ......................................................................................... priceless

In summary, Albuquerque has a decent indie music selection. Well, it did, until I bought it all today.

Why can't I be bright / Like my lover's light