No Subtitles Necessary

November 24, 2009

When I was a young teenager, PBS aired a 9-part documentary on the history of baseball by the legendary Ken Burns, which completely mesmerized me. My Grandma recorded the whole series on VHS for me, and to this day I still have those tapes in my closet. Burns made a few other great documentaries, including ones on the Civil War, World War II, and the history of jazz, and up until recently, the Burns series of documentaries have been the only things I have ever watched on PBS. However, PBS has just started playing a new documentary by James Chressanthis called No Subtitles Necessary, and this lives up to the standard of the Ken Burns films.

No Subtitles Necessary follows the incredible story of legendary cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, two life-long friends and incredible filmmakers who escaped Hungary together during the Soviet invasion and went on to be perhaps the most important figures in the American New Wave of film in the 60’s and 70’s. Films they worked on include Easy Rider, Paper Moon, What’s Up Doc?, Deliverance, and Say Anything. The pair have an amazing story, and it is told very well in this movie, making me really glad that other people actually donate money to PBS to keep it on the air.

Of course, no post here would be complete without a bit of music, and No Subtitles Necessary delivers on this front as well, with a handful of great songs. Of particular note is the immortal trombonist J.J. Johnson, who’s song “Seven Days to Tahiti” is used during the film as a great mood-setter, playing under some beautiful shots of 1960’s Hollywood. I haven’t listened to J.J. Johnson in years, and was thankful for the reminder of a man who my parents always told me was on the level of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Check out the clip below:


Need For Speed Nitro

November 20, 2009

I got a Nintendo Wii on Craigslist a few weeks ago for dirt cheap (one of the only positives of the economy being in the toilet is that people sell their possessions in desperation), and have kept myself somewhat entertained with Wii Sports and Mario Kart. However, just this week I actually bought my first game for Wii that didn’t come with the unit…and that game is Need For Speed Nitro. Earlier this year, I mentioned how much I loved  Need For Speed Shift, especially for it’s realistic physics (excluding huge crashes) and sweet cockpit cam. After a few days with Need For Speed Nitro, I love it, but for entirely different reasons.

Need For Speed Nitro is nothing but unabashed arcade fun, with cartoony graphics and an overall feel that just screams fun, making it a perfect game for the Wii.

Earl Greyhound on MySpace

Quick – what’s the best drama on TV these days? If you answered Sons of Anarchy, you are correct. If you answered something else….well, you don’t exist. Just kidding. But seriously, my well-documented Harley obsession aside, Sons of Anarchy is a great show. In keeping up with the tradition of past FX dramas, Sons of Anarchy is certainly an edgy show, and always has an intense forward momentum within each episode as well as the season’s bigger story arcs. The show can conjure up heartfelt moments just as easily as it brings on the intense action. Even better, it doesn’t feature any of the overacting that plagues so many other dramas or shows full of action.

Beyond all the great writing and acting, Sons of Anarchy also plays great music. Kudos to the music director for having featured Murder By Death in the show earlier (who showed in their Harley ad that they are the perfect riding music), and in this week’s episode they brought out more great music with the song “Fly Low Carrion Crow” by Two Gallants. Check out the heartfelt scene below, as Piney holds his pistol with the song setting the heavy mood.

Cold Case has long had a reputation for it’s strong tie-ins with music, and although I’m a fan of the show, and also like how they often feature an artist’s songs repeatedly through an episode, I haven’t always been huge on the music they picked – for instance, last week we were treated to a bunch of Santana tunes. However, on the most recent episode, “Read Between the Lines,” we were treated to the music stylings of one MC Lyte, with her confident jam “Act Like You Know.” The song plays when Zeb takes Donalyn to meet with Andrews, and plays throughout her impromptu ‘audition.’  Click on the picture below to watch the scene in it’s entirety.

MC Lyte on MySpace

Last night I was flipping through the channels when I heard one of my favorite tracks of 2009, “All In” by The Grouch & Eligh (with a little help from my oft-mentioned favorite LA underground rapper, Pigeon John, as well as Flynn Adam). No, this wasn’t on MTV, BET, or FUSE. Instead the song (very appropriately) soundtracked a montage on ESPN’s World Series of Poker coverage, which you can watch at the bottom of this post. I haven’t been religiously following this year’s World Series of Poker, but I am intrigued by the story of amateur Steven Begleiter, a Bear Stearns financial analyst that has worked his way into the November 9.

Killer tracks like “All In” prove that these Living Legends members still are on top of their game. A laid-back jam with some great subtle synth lines, “All In” also benefits greatly from Pigeon John’s smooth vocal stylings on the chorus. While I’ve been pretty disappointed with the hip hop scene over the past decade, it’s great to know that there are still talented musicians laying down jams like this.

The Grouch & Eligh on MySpace

Pigeon John on MySpace

Head To Head Episode 7

November 2, 2009

It’s been a tough football season for me, and all the other Redskin fans out there. Now that my only hope is that the team tanks for a top 5 pick in the draft, I’ve been focusing my energies on following other football story lines, and the one that has me the most intrigued lately is that of two rival high schools in Mississippi, the Wayne County War Eagles and the West Jones Mustangs. Awhile back I posted the first episode of Head To Head, the reality series that is following the two teams as they battle under for supremacy under the Friday night lights.

Well, folks, Wayne County and West Jones finally had their much-anticipated show down, and I thought I would post the last episode of Head To Head that aired before they played. This last episode focused heavily on how football and real-life intersect, and shows stories of previous and current players at both high schools as they made the transition from high school athlete to college. You’ll hear the challenges that former West Jones star linebacker Archie Sims faced to gain academic qualification, as well as that of Jerrell Powe, the former Wayne County star defensive tackle and almost surefire future NFL player who had to wait three years before he could play in college. You’ll get to hear the maturation process of future Southern Miss defensive end Dasmond McCullum, as he builds himself up from a soft basketball player into a terrorizing QB-killer. You will also see that Wayne County’s Jerrell Gandy, Malik Lofton, and Marion Chapman also have a chance to play big-time college ball.

You’ll also get to hear “Enchanted Hill” by The Album Leaf again. As you may recall, “Enchanted Hill” was also featured in the first episode of Head To Head, and just like “First Breath After the Coma” by Explosions in the Sky, “Enchanted Hill” makes for the perfect epic football music. The song plays in Part 1 of this episode, about 2 mins and 50 seconds in.

I won’t spoil the results of the actual game for you, because the entire game is posted on Cellular South’s website (unfortunately it was too big for me to post myself), so I would advise this – check out the episodes of Head To Head to get you ready for the action, and then watch the game yourself.

Head To Head Episode 7 Intro – The story of Archie Sims

Head To Head Episode 7 Part 1 – Dasmond McCullum prepares for college; Wayne County has a few players poised to play at the next level, too

Head To Head Episode 7 Part 2 – Jerrell Powe fights through adversity to make it to Ole Miss

Head To Head Episode 7 Part 3 – Life after high school football

Those of you who have watched the entire series like  I have, know that this should have definitely played on ESPN instead of just regional television and online, but I’m still glad to have been turned on to this wonderful series. I can only salivate at the possibility of Jerrell Powe lining up next to Big Albert Haynesworth sometime in the near future.

Back to The Album Leaf, as I was listening to “Enchanted Hill” again, I realized that this band is at the top of my list as far as bands I love that I haven’t seen live, in some elite company amongst the likes of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, The xx, Girls, Built to Spill, and Sigur Ros. Here’s hoping for a tour featuring at least two of these artists in 2010.

The Album Leaf on MySpace