Film Review: Big Fan (Dir.: Robert D. Siegel)

Robert Siegel’s new film, Big Fan, ranks in the top tier of this year’s releases. Patton Oswalt delivers a remarkable performance, which you can read about here or below. Enjoy.

Robert D. Siegel’s new film, Big Fan, is a marvelous, funny, depressing, and sometimes frightening looking at obsession, loneliness, and the weird world of intense sports fandom. Siegel wrote 2008’s The Wrestler, and the same working-class, sad sack essence that infused that film is present here as well.

Comedian Patton Oswalt plays Paul, a parking garage attendant who lives with his mother and spends his nights crafting perfect phone calls to his favorite local sports radio talk show. He is the ultimate Giants fan, and for him and his only friend, Sal (Kevin Corrigan), the perfect day consists of tailgating and watching a Giants game in the parking lot of the stadium. One day, they spy their favorite Giant, Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), at a Staten Island pizza parlor, and follow him to a midtown strip club. Their gawking, stalking, fan-boy maneuver comes to a violent end with Paul getting beat down and hospitalized by Quantrell. Though he was almost killed, he refuses to talk to the police about the incident for fear of lengthening Quantrell’s suspension and continuing the Giants’ demise, especially against the dreaded Philadelphia Eagles. From here, Paul teeters on the edge of self-destructive delusion and unhealthy idolatry, climaxing in yet another act of violence.

Shades of Scorsese’s King of Comedy abound, especially in scenes where Paul’s late night sports tirades are interrupted by his mother pounding on the wall, screaming for him to shut up. Taxi Driver is another reference point here, although Paul’s obsession and self-deprecation are far from Travis Bickle’s anti-social psychosis. Oswalt plays Paul with a tinge of humor but a great deal of pathos. It’s a quiet and really quite powerful piece of acting. When things go wrong for Paul, the shadow that washes over Oswalt’s face says more than the script.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is watching Paul carefully write out his sports tirades. For a brief moment, when he is given his airtime, he is a part of something. Sure, it’s armchair coaching built upon a lexicon of sports terminology and clich├ęs, swagger, and after-the-fact advice, but for just a second, he is a part of something. The rest of his life may be a mess, but when “Paul From Staten Island” is given a chance to voice his sports opinions, however trite they may be, he’s a member of the club.

Big Fan is one of the best films of 2009, a triumph for its writer/director, Siegel, and a testament to Patton Oswalt’s ability to subvert his comedy background with intense dramatic flair.

New Releases: Felix Da Housecat – He Was King (8/25, Nettwerk)

This August, electro producer Felix Da Housecat will release He Was King (Nettwerk), which he describes as his most “pop” record to date. Check out the video for the song “Kickdrum”:

Update: my review for Blurt is running today.

Chicago-based electro producer Felix Da Housecat describes his latest, He Was King, as his most pop-oriented album to date. This is an accurate assessment – glitteringly, vacuously, mirthfully, erotically so. These are just some of the descriptors that can be applied to Felix’s new record, a dance-floor mixture of throbbing beats and synthesizer warbles that features guest vocalists on nearly every track. Tunes like “We All Wanna Be Prince” and “Do We Move Your World” represent the softer, pop-centric side of Felix’s vision, while the buzzing, blown-out “Kickdrum” and the alarm-blaring “Elvi$” find him fully immersed in acid and techno regalia.

For the most part, these two sides of the spectrum compliment each other nicely. There are lesser moments of musical lethargy (see “Turn Me On a Summer Smile”), but overall, Felix smartly and successfully melds the slick and the saccharine.

MP3: Noah and the Whale – “Blue Skies” (Yacht Remix)

Noah and the Whale’s new album, The First Days of Spring, comes out next week. It’s a beautifully mopey break-up record that sounds good even if you’re happily in love. Just sayin’. Yacht gives a song from the album, “Blue Skies,” an electro-pop makeover, which you can download here.


Review: Blood Beetroots – Romborama (Dim Mak)

Italian producer Bob Rifo makes punky dance music under his pseudonym Bloody Beetroots. What’s it worth? Not a great deal, although fans of Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label will enjoy. Read my review here or below.

Steve Aoki-approved Italian electronic producer, Bob Rifo, better known as his Bloody Beetroots alter-ego, certainly has a wealth of cool to cash in on. His new album, Romborama, is out on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label (Aoki himself puts in an appearance on the song “Warp 7.7”), and notables like The Cool Kids, The Locust’s Justin Pearson, and Vicarious Bliss all help out to propel these fast and furious dance tracks along.

But hell, Justice did what the Beetroots are doing without any guest spots at all a few years ago, and managed to do it damn well. And herein rests the problem. Yes, the Beetroots’ amalgamation of electro, techno, house music, disco, and what the press release sentimentally calls “punk” is spot-on in terms of energy, rhythm, and well-placed breakdowns. But you’ve heard it all before. So the question remains: if this is just a rehash of the same old neo-club anthems that are blasting through Cobrasnake-patrolled hot spots every night of the week, but the production is on point, is it worth an hour of your time? At times, no – for instance, “Awesome,” featuring the Cool Kids, is a trite excursion into acid synth waves and forgettable lyrics. On the other hand, “Have Mercy On Us,” a riff on classical music conventions, feels relatively fresh and inspired.

So the Beetroots new album is something of a mixed bag. The best thing to do is take it for what it is – a not always original, and sometimes vacuous, collection of bass-heavy dance tracks – and just enjoy the ride.

Home Brew 1: Maple Honey Porter

Thanks to Brooklyn Brew Shop, I attempted my first batch of home brew a few weeks ago. The beer will be ready later this week, so I can’t say that I didn’t completely fuck it up, but it was fun nonetheless. The folks over at BBS sell their wares at the Brooklyn Flea, and answer any email questions you may have while you are brewing quite promptly! I’m almost ready to start my next batch, an Irish red ale. Here are some pics from the first, though.

Siphoning the beer into a pot.

Siphoning the beer into a pot.

Siphoning is hard. And messy.

Siphoning is hard. And messy.

Final step: bottling. Now, we wait.

Final step: bottling. Now, we wait.

Film: Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee)

Ang Lee’s new film, Taking Woodstock (which opens in select theaters tomorrow), is kind of a mess. The main culprit is Demetri Martin in the lead role, but overall the film is a saccharine, piecemeal affair. Read my sneak peak for Blurt here.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Here to Fall”

Popular Songs, Yo La Tengo’s latest album, will hit the streets via Matador this September. Go to the Matablog and listen to “Here to Fall” when you have six minutes to spare. Cinematic, dark, moody – yes, YLT haven’t gotten back to rocking, but they are still making good music.


Video: The Cribs – “Cheat on Me”

The Cribs (aka Johnny Marr’s other band) have a new video for “Cheat on Me,” a new single off their new album, Ignore the Ignorant, due out this November. It’s a bit slower than I would have expected, but it’s still good, satisfying indie pop. Watch below

MP3: Monotonix – “Set Me Free”

I like that old time rock and roll. I also like Monotonix. Listen to “Set Me Free” here, a song off their forthcoming album, Where Were You When it Happened? (Drag City, 9/8).

MP3: Karen O and the Kids – “All is Love”

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O (with her Kids) did some music for the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack. Listen to “All is Love” on their MySpace page.

Video: Jahdan Blakkamore – “Sound Bwoy Buriell”

Jahdan Blakkamoore covered Smif-N-Wessun’s classic “Sound Bwoy Buriell” recently in Brooklyn – watch it below:

Jahdan’s new album, Buzzrock Warrior, comes out 9/15.

Video: The Rakes – “1989”

The Rakes’ new album, Klang, will be released digitally this October 20th. The album was recorded in a Berlin studio, and I understand if you’re jealous that they got to hang out in Berlin for a few months and make music. I am too.

Watch the video for “1989” here.


New Releases: Do Make Say Think – Other Truths (Constellation, 10/20)

Canadian collective Do Make Say Think will release their sixth album this October, Other Truths (Constellation). It’s gonna be a jam, as the album consists of only four tracks, three of which are over ten minutes long. Song titles will be easy to remember as well – “Do,” “Make,” “Say,” and “Think.”

Listen to “Do” right here (via Stereogum).

Video: Free Energy – “Free Energy”

Exuberant, summertime, ’70s-influenced rock? Sure, why not. Debut video from Free Energy:

New Releases: Kraftwerk – 12345678 The Catalogue

This October, Astralwerks will reissue a remastered boxset of eight Kraftwerk albums called 12345678 The Catalogue. The records that will be included: Autobahn, Radio-Activity, Trans Europe Express, The Man Machine, Computer World, Techno Pop, The Mix, and Tour De France. The release will arrive in a variety of formats, including digital downloads and individual CDs, but due to licensing restrictions, the only way to get all eight albums at once is via the boxset.