Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Original Nirvana!

Still Smells Like Teen Spirit After All These Years!

These are busy days – insanely busy days but I have had Nirvana for company all through last week. Dunno why but Kurt Cobain has been a savior of sorts for me – first during my school, then my confused college days and now in my work life.

And the impact of one particularly magnetic song can never be undervalued. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blasted out of the TV screen in 1991 and literally changed the entire world of music. As my friends and I listened to that song, none of us could really explain exactly why it moved us like it did. The lyrics were hard to recognize. The music was grandiloquent and powerful, but it really wasn't all that world-shattering to anyone already familiar with the Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction, Pearl Jam and others like them.

Still, we were drawn to that song. We took that song, and its struggle to describe the indescribable, and made it mean something more. We wrote into that song all of our own feelings that we just couldn't put into words. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" perfectly captured an angry artist questioning his life and circumstances. It was a song that wanted to ask the big questions but knew that doing so was pointless. The song defined a generation and a decade like few songs before it. Even now, after so many years since its release, I have a hard time explaining exactly what it meant to me.

Like so many other people my age, I eventually became a huge fan of Nirvana. I collected their import singles, tracked down hard-to-find indie releases, traded tapes of shows, and read everything about the band that I could get my hands on. I never saw them in concert though. Maybe I was not lucky enough. I also doubt if I could have endured seeing a crowd full of drunk frat boys singing along with "Come As you Are" or "Sliver."

It's easy to be jaded about the whole thing now, as I look back on how ridiculous things became. Flannel became fashionable, "Grunge" entered popular vocabulary, every half-assed band from Seattle got a record deal, heroin made a comeback, and everything on the radio and MTV or VH1 started sounding a heckuva lot like Nirvana. The copycats all got the basic sound right, they just couldn't add any real emotion or impact. Nirvana was the genuine article, and their music mattered so much more than anyone else's at the time. And that’s what still matters!

Youtube Video Link here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fly Away Home (1996)

An Outstanding Family Classic from the 90s

Hollywood may be a moral wasteland, the epicenter of cultural corruption, a modern-day Gomorrah driven by vanity and venality—but what the heck, it sure cranks out some nice movies (as it did in the 90s – 1996 to be specific).

Fly Away Home (1996) not only reminded that good movies still happen, but, following as it did on the heels of so many fine children's films, it makes me wonder if the early 1990s weren't the richest period ever for family movies.

In 1995, we saw the charming talking-pig movie Babe and the funny, innovative Toy Story. In 1994, there was the magical Secret of Roan Inish from John Sayles, and Gillian Armstrong's remake of Little Women with Winona Ryder—the finest version ever of the Louisa May Alcott warhorse and one of the best films of that year. Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A Little Princess were given visually sumptuous adaptations, the first in 1993 and the other in 1995.

Disney, of course, still releases a major animated film each summer; although it’s recent efforts strike me as more tasteless. And these are just the cream of the crop. Add to those all the satisfying bread-and-butter and also fantastic kiddy films that come out every year, like Kungfu Panda, Smurfs, Rango, Cars, Hugo, Up or the more recent Adventures of Tintin, and we're talking profusion here. For this reason, I don't buy the argument that Hollywood has deserted family or moral values.

If you haven't seen Fly Away Home yet, I heartily recommend it. This tale of a Canadian girl who raises a flock of orphan geese is the kind of family film that functions on an adult level, so don't pass it up just because you don't have kids. At the risk of trashing my hard-earned standing as a killjoy, I have to say that I found the whole experience to be cheering and even inspiring.

The film is directed with complete self-assurance by Carroll Ballard, who, by my count, has directed only 6 previous efforts in the past 30 years. I skipped his Nutcracker (1986), but I enjoyed his other works: The Black Stallion (1979), Never Cry Wolf (1984), Wind (1991) and the superb african adventure Duma (2005).

Each is memorable for its natural scenery perhaps the decisive factor Ballard uses to choose his sporadic projects. One thinks of the magnificent coastline vistas in The Black Stallion, the breathtaking Arctic wilderness in Never Cry Wolf, the seascapes and desert country in Wind. For Fly Away Home, Ballard reteamed with Caleb Deschanel, his Black Stallion cinematographer, and their collaboration has made this film another rich visual experience. From macro photography of hatching eggs to funny ground-level tracking shots of goslings to dramatic aerial views of autumn landscapes in Ontario, this film offers constant visual diversity and some gorgeous imagery.

Composer Mark Isham, whose synthesizer-heavy soundtrack enhanced the otherworldly strangeness of the northern wilderness in Never Cry Wolf, contributes a traditional and enjoyable score to Fly Away Home. Fine performances come from Anna Paquin in the lead and Jeff Daniels as her father. And a special tip of the hat to the special effects team, who, through state-of-the-art composting and digital animation, create the illusion that we're flying alongside a flock of geese.

I find it fulfilling to see a film in which quality special effects are smoothly integrated to support a good story, as opposed to an adrenalized concoctions like Transformers (2007) or Twister (1996) where the effects become the film's raison d’ĂȘtre. This movie simply would not have worked if filmed before the 1990s or now in 2000s, because the crucial flying scenes would not have been convincing. In a time when we can expect to be swamped with films built around the new digital technology, Fly Away Home proved that you could put the digital tools to the right use without superseding the movie’s soul. Highly recommended.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Video Link: VeeHD
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