Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Savage Garden Way to “Ruin” the Image of Pop Music

As quoted by Anne Rice, The Savage Garden is a vision of earth in which the natural laws of the world govern over anything aesthetic or civil, and that’s exactly what Savage Garden music sounded like. Jam Packed with Dark and Beauty on top of each other, or sometimes in the same level.  The most obvious example of this is SANTA MONICA, the last track from their first album.

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Unlike the name Santa Monica which often connected to the words beach, and bikini girls in roller skate, Savage Garden’s Santa Monica is deep and mysterious. And even though, the song is an ode to the city itself and partly talks of Darren Hayes’ experiences and observations, for me Santa Monica is about anonymity and being alone in spite of loneliness in the city full of people. And then it grows itself into some discovery of being able to be someone or anything that we want to be in there, and nobody will ever realize it, like a fake escapism. The melody and simplicity of this song says it all. See the video below, and you’ll know that even in a live performance, the song meaning and image doesn’t fade away. You can feel the complexity and ambiguous form from Hayes soft voice.

 

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Just like most people in my age, I know Savage Garden from their first international single, “I Want You”, but at that time, I don’t really feel for Savage Garden. Don’t get me wrong, I love “I Want You”, but if feels to disconnected for me. Just like a chicken cherry cola. But their 2nd single, To the Moon and Back is a different story. If someone doesn’t relate in anyway to this song, then that person must be the most happiest human in this earth. To The Moon and Back is sad and depressing, and in a twisted kinda way it shows every human real feeling of being rejected, messed up and feels like really want to dig a hole to stay underground forever.

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Talking about sad and depressing, it wouldn’t be complete without mention “I don’t know you anymore”. This song is very eerie and at the same time, beautiful. I love when Hayes singing “I’ve paid the price, I’m still paying for it every day” and “The snow is more lonely than cold if you know what I mean” parts. At first, I thought the song is about Hayes feels about his ex-wives, but as time goes by, the song meaning is changing. Its about Savage Garden and their breaking up. Its about Hayes feeling about his partner, Daniel, who becoming more and more hateful to their rising popularity. Its sad when the person who usually close to us, suddenly changing into someone that we don’t know at all.  If you see the way Hayes singing it in live, you can feel his pain and gloomy heart.

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 Break me Shake me is Savage Garden’s only hard hitting song. Its basically saying “Go Ahead,  Fuck me, Use me, Break Me, and do whatever you please to me”. What I loved about this song is the clearness of it. Its like looking at the mirror and become conscious about what people always do to another human being just to fulfilled their needs, including yourself. I never get bored of this song. I love the semi-mashed new wave-funk guitar in the middle of the song. You can hear The Cure, The Police and Heart Influence evidently in it.

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“Hold Me”, probably Savage Garden’s most cherish song and definitely my favorite Savage Garden song. The song is always useful to calm the storm in my heart even though the words wasn’t cherish at all. Its about relationship and how frickin’ hard it is. Relationship is when two people trying to live one life. That two people is love each other but still kept on hurting themselves with arguments and pointless debate.  There’s nothing extraordinary about the song technical composition, but that’s the beauty of it.

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Its really a tragedy Savage Garden breaking up prematurely after only making 2 albums. Even though the second album wasn’t as emotional and great as the first one, I think Savage Garden definitely reach what they’re trying to say to people who listened to their music because they always know how to describe emotions. They always know how to describe despair and love. And that’s the reason why Savage Garden matured me. They teach me the lesson, that not every pop music is as crap as Britney Spears. And in a way, they’re “ruining” my taste of pop music by creating a very high standard of pop music in my mind. Probably that’s why I hate almost everything that came from pop music scene in the last decade.

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Crazy Stupid Love * 7.5/10

 

Let me start by saying that CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE really is a shock for me, on a few level. I never thought that it will be that damn GOOD. In Fact, I’m placing it as one of the best Romantic comedy-drama of all time. Why? Because never before I thought that a crowd pleaser flick can be as realistic as CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE, even though I’m still very generous in the word REALISTIC.

Steve Carell and Juliane Moore is husband and wife Cal and Emily, who started the film with the divorce between them. That situation forced Cal to enter the world of dating again after 25 years of marriage. Cal is being mentored by Jacob, a serial womanizer playboy patriarch that always exist in this kind of movie. Cal story of rediscovering his new found world, soon intersects with the story of his 13th years old Son, Robbie, who developed a feeling to his babysitter, the story of his ex-wife with her new so-called boyfriend, and another story of smart, young, beautiful, soon-to-be a lawyer, Hannah.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is a star studded flick. Aside from Steve Carell and Juliane Moore, we have Kevin Bacon, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, and Emma Stone. But unlike most of star studded movies, CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE  script is not focused only on the main character. Every single actors in this movie get their chances and spot to shine. But of course, Steve Carell is the main attraction. I love this guy. For me, his bland looking expression and looks is a major weapon from him, and obviously, this guy is using it very well. But in CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE, Carell is in his peak performance. Carell brings his perfected dry wit to the proceedings but also a range of emotions which we don’t normally get to see from him. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still playing a comic role, but this time he put some serious dramatic energy in it, to make the character not look phony. This is his best work After Michael Scott from The Office(Which is my all-time favorite character in sitcom). I love Carell chemistry with Juliane Moore Character. It is very believable that their characters had 25++ years of marriage. As an eye candy, Ryan Gosling served his purposed well. And so do Emma Stone. and extra kudos to Kevin Bacon and Marissa Tomei, even though their character didn’t really have much screen time, but basically, both of them is the scene stealer. Awesome casting!

The script is amazingly felt fresh even though the theme doesn’t feel new at all. If this were any ordinary movie, the rest of the plot would be obvious. But trust me, there are a couple of story twist that you really wouldn’t expect it at all. There are some moments that very touchy, there are some moments that very unexpectedly funny, there is one hysterical big scene that involved every cast, and there are even some moment when the script is trying to break the fourth wall. I laugh my ass off out of it.

What I don’t like is the soundtrack.  I think they should take a simplistic sweet way instead of going melodramatic with pop/acoustic track.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE, is an almost complete film that change my standard for Romantic Comedy/Drama Genre. it twisting standard romantic comedy into something that’s hilarious and refreshing. I can go on and on, or trying to find the weakness of this movie to critique, but I won’t. Come on, there’s no such thing as a perfect movie. And i never thought that i will ever say this, but for all the flaws that i dont mentioned, or will realize in the second viewing, i will not change the decision that i love CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. and i will recommend it to anyone that i know, no matter who they are, or even what they are(LOL

The Perfect rare combination of Romantic, Reality, and Sweet!

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Karigurashi no Arrietty(The Secret World of Arrietty) * 7.5/10

Coming from the hands of Studio Ghibli, I really had a high expectation for Karigurashi no Arrietty, and boy that expectation does pay off. Karigurashi no Arrietty is not only a beautiful animated movie, it is also the most personal, simplistic and yet wonderful tale that ever grace my screen.

Arrietty and his parents are the Borrowers, the race of tiny human that live under some floorboard of ordinary human house.  They hide themselves from  humans waiting until night to sneak into our homes and ‘Borrow’ the things we wont miss, like sugar cubes and tissues. Although the word borrows seems to generous, because basically they’re stealing. And when some sick weak boy named Sho started to living above their houses, Arrietty accidentally developing some kind of relationship with him.

 One quick suggestion, watch this movie in High Definition or Theater, because Karigurashi No Arrietty is an amazing rich visual sweet to the eye. From the stunning animation, the gorgeous background, to the attention of the detail, everything is so vivid and beautiful. No other animation studios in this world can create something like this except Studio Ghibli. Among the sea of Pixar-esque animation, typical Disney, or 3dDUMB Computer generated, this kind of movie is like a breath of fresh air. And believe it or not, the soundtrack is beyond the word GREAT. It really compliments all those beautiful art transition between the scenes.

 

 

But of course, pretty doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have a good story.But do not worry, Karigurashi no Arrietty is written by Hayao Miyazaki. The genius behind all those story that normal  people only can wrote by using some crack to slick up their imagination. Even though Karigurashi no Arrietty doesn’t have that big epic scale feeling that usually exist in almost every Miyazaki’s Tale, Karigurashi no Arrietty quite frankly is the most personal and beautiful in terms of storyline. From the sweet light relationship between Sho and Arrietty, the creativity of using some daily object, to the hidden subplot about heart operation, everything is running so smooth and very accessible to any age. If I had a child, Karigurashi no Arrietty probably is the first movie that I will let him/her to watch(and after that, Die Hard).

 Karigurashi no Arrietty is not some random anime or random painting that make you see, you realize it is amazing, but then after a couple of months you will forget about it. It is beautiful, meaningful, and crystal clear. I usually doesn’t like this type of dreamy candy movie, but Karigurashi no Arrietty really makes me absorbing all the peacefulness that the movie crafted and make me want to live in Karigurashi no Arrietty Universe. Probably not the best one from Studio Ghibli, but for me, it is the most memorable because of the simplicity that it presents.

Simply Uplifting!

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Serendipity

Back in 2001, I still remember getting very excited waiting for Serendipity. Why? Probably because its another John Cussack movie. Probably because ever since I watched You’ve got mail and An affair to remember, I do had a thing with romantic flick with New York as the setting. Probably because back at that time, in my mind, New York is the most amazing and romantic city because I just started to listen to Jazz(until it replaced by some random utopia city in mind). And boy, I really do grow up. Because right now for me, Serendipity is just another romantic comedy full of walking cliche without any real depth that accompanied by a great soundtrack.

Jonathan Trager is just another ordinary man with a girlfriend, and Sara Thomas is just another British girl with a boyfriend. At the height of the Christmas shopping, fate introduces them to each other. At first, Jonathan is the only person between them that believe that there’s something like destiny bring them together. But after some stroke of fate, Jonathan and Sara decide to go out on town together, ice skating on the central park, talking about Cool Hand Luke and how beautiful Sara is(probably he’s just saying that to getting in her pants). But another stroke of fate separate them and changing their mid life crisis into some pursuit of ultimate love and destiny.

Like all every romantic drama comedy out there, the most important ingredient of the genre is the chemistry between the main characters. And Serendipity hit that. John Cussack is refreshing and charming as always. Even when he doesn’t have his singing in the rain scene like he always did in all of his movie. I love how Cussack define the anxious , subtleness and unrealized gloomy appearance that he put in the mixture movement of his chin and puppy eyes. It really makes me believe that he has cold feet all the time. And Kate Beckinsale is surprisingly changing into this catchy lovely girl with her sweet squeaky cute British accent that went along really well with her character. The chemistry between them is there. I do believe that they’re made for each other. I do believe that last scene of this movie will be between both of them, holding hands or kissing. But what I don’t believe is the light hearted and easy breezy way that fate bring them together. Its just too random, uninspiring and quite frankly boring. I know the filmmaker can do better than this. They should make it more serious and jazzy, instead of comedy and cheesy. I mean come on, the character are too nice, their faces are too beautiful or handsome, the city are too neat and clean, the scene are too sweet. Put some gritty realization into the boot will you?

By any means, Serendipity is not a terrible film. The Soundtrack is good(Its Alan Silvestri), the supporting cast is decent, and New York is New York, culmination of the American dream. Serendipity is a very adorable movie to watch if you had some popcorn or loved ones by your side. But no more than that. 10 years ago, I can easily put Serendipity in my top 20 flicks of all time, but now it probably barely reach the top 500. I learn how to critique a movie effectively and objectively, by not letting feeling and emotion in the way of film watching. But is this a good thing? Or am I turning into some mindless dark machine that did not realize that the point of all movie is selling us THE FANTASY?

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Kwaidan

  KWAIDAN is a 1964’s Japanese Horror Movie. This is truly the product that came out from the belly of those creepy mind of Japanese people. KWAIDAN itself translated as GHOST STORIES in English. This over 160 minutes flick is presenting four Supernatural tale.

  •  Black Hair : Its a classic tragic story about man and his dream. When a samurai decides to leaves his beautiful, beloved but poor wife and marrying rich woman in other town, he finally realize something that even until now is still a very debatable topic in every human minds. That money can’t buy happiness and love. So, after years of  ‘adventures’, he’s returning to the first wife and have a little surprise waiting for him.
  • The woman in snow : The classic representation of Japanese version of the woman in white. When a clueless handsome good looking butt woodcutter stranded in a mid of blizzard encounters the Yuki Onna(Vampires snow woman), the ghost is spares his life as long as he’s not mentioning the encounters.
  • A cup of tea : Some random ronin is drinks water in a cup of tea. he sees the soul of a former samurai, and guess what. that soul is haunting him afterwards.
  • Hoichi the Earless : Hoichi is a blind monk who loves playing biwa. And he’s good in it too. He’s specialty is singing the The Tale of the Heike. what he don’t realize is, the ghost from those war is attracted to him because of this.

KWAIDAN is a horror movie, but trust me, KWAIDAN its not as gory, blatant, and sensational like all other usual horror movies. KWAIDAN really takes its time to built a very quiet suspense to haunt its viewer,  even after the movie is over. The unusual visualization of these movie is the proof of that. Even though its really very clear a studio-work, the director of these movie really changing and make the cinematography as beautiful as a CLASS A expressionist painting. From the beautiful windy vivid depiction of a snowy forest with Yuki Onna’s eyes as the background, to the misty and mysterious misty cloudy of heroes cemetery, KWAIDAN really should put the word eerie and dreamlike in its tag line. The make up and costume is as disturbing and unsurprisingly as historically authentic too. The girl who played the rich wife and Yuki Onna is really making an eerie impact. Combined it with the very minimalist(and sometimes, creepy) take on soundtrack and music. All of these elements effectively put the viewer’s mood in the same shoes and eras of all these stories. I don’t remember any movie do this to me just from the style itself.

Its really hard to find this movie these day. I had it on criterion classic region 1 DVD. But if you do find it, buy it. The extremely predictable stories probably is what makes KWAIDAN a one step away from being called a masterpiece. But if you need a very original, extravagant, visually enchanted and at the same time weirdly, beautiful movie, KWAIDAN is the one for you.

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