Artificial Suns

ASSISTANCE NEEDED! Wedding Song Playlist!

ASSISTANCE NEEDED! Wedding Song Playlist!

Hey everyone, asking for a little help here.

As many of y'all likely know, my wedding is approaching at near lightspeed. I've done pretty good so far, but we've just gotten to the part where we put together the dance mix for the DJ.

As embarrassing as it is for a former AMV master of ceremonies, I'm sitting here with complete brain-blank. My music-muscles are years out of condition, and I barely listen to the radio any more. Online lists are way too generic. So I thought I'd give crowdsourcing a try.

I'm looking for suggestions! New, old, romantic, silly, lovey-dovey, inside jokes... things you think are just perfect for me and Kristy, or just me, or just Kristy. Songs you always thought were perfect for weddings, things you've heard before at weddings that worked well. I'll even take joke or troll suggestions.

And don't worry, it'll have to get through Kristy, who is much more level-headed about these things, so don't hesitate to offer anything that springs to mind. Calmer minds than mine will filter the response.

This is open to everybody! Friends, family, AMVers, people I only know through the internet, strangers... whoever! Offer as many as you like! (I could really use the help...)
Artificial Suns


Hey all,

Many of y'all were kind enough to assist in the packing up of my place. I'm going through the details of getting the last bits into boxes at this point. If anyone would like to assist in getting all the pre-prepared boxes into the back of a 14-foot UHAUL, then you should know that the packing day is intended to be THIS TUESDAY.

I'll be fetching the truck in the morning-noon window and starting the slow packing process shortly thereafter. We aren't planning on driving out until the next morning, so don't feel any obligation, and for heaven's sake, don't take off work: we're planning on packing all day. Stop by if you like and if you've got an hour or two after work to lend a hand.

I genuinely hope that the process will be simple, but I've got a few awkwardly-shaped things that'll be good to have an extra hand or two of help.

Call if you like before you come over to see if we've finished up.

"Here is the end... per-ish the wo'ld..."

"Well, same time next week, boys. We've got to get a winner one of these days."

Ladies and gents, it's finally happened. It started over 7 years ago (2/21/2008) immediately following my move to the new apartment, and now it's finishing immediately before my heading off into the sunset. A grand total of 250 movie nights and something approaching (I'll count it at some point) 500 individual films. We've laughed, we've cried, we've mocked Matt for repeatedly burning the popcorn, we've chased cereal moths and had Bailey announce arrivals, we've braved snowstorms and heatwaves, we've screamed in agony at the "blame Casey" nights, we've groaned at the thematic pairings or the absurd "secret themes." We've watched commentary tracks, badly translated foreign films, cartoons twisted by context, fled headlong from anything Matt called an "art flick," and come to understand the genius of Nicholas Cage.

And here we are. At the conclusion. What more can be said? We've even already accomplished the ourobouros tail-eating on night #249 with a lazy replay of the first movie night, albeit palindromized. Appropriately enough (since most of my place is packed already) there's just the sweeping up and stacking of chairs left. As the great modern prophet once said "the seats are all empty/let the roadies take the stage."

But there is time for just one last hurrah. Yes, movie night may continue, though in a greatly changed form ("ask me about Mattflix!"), but it will be a different thing, with a different name and a different numbering. Yes, it's time for one last party, one last movie pairing. So crack open those reserve bottles, scrape the barrel for the last of the popcorn, and for God's sake help me clear out the last of the beer, because As you have guessed by now.... this is the end.

The Period: The World's End (109 minutes, 2013) The Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz crew complete their "Cornetto" trilogy (a British ice-cream treat that they didn't intend to tie the trilogy together, but it just sort of happened) with this oddly divisive piece. Simon Pegg plays a stubbornly retro burnout forever trying to relive the glory days of his youth, and hatches a plan to draft the old gang (including an especially recalcitrant Nick Frost) into returning to their old stomping grounds to complete a legendary pub crawl they'd failed at while in school. Pegg accomplishes the surprising feat of being highly charismatic while almost entirely unlikeable. The film is poignant, as it's an examination of nostalgia both from the hopeless devotee and those with an absolute abhorrence for backward-looking, but despite excellent craft and some pretty good humor, it's gotten extremely mixed reviews... that I've noticed fall entirely along a particular (and unusual) age bracket. I think the audience members beyond a certain age (33 or so) can understand the pathetic joke that Pegg is portraying. The old man at the party wearing band shirts 15 years out of date. The guy who never got a life and moved on to adulthood. The sleazy con-artist convinced that the mid-to-late 20's is the only age worth being and stubbornly refuses to leave it behind. All of this in contrast to his friends who've moved on, accepted that their garage band will never have a world tour, that they won't hit it rich in Vegas, that they're actually happy settling down to a wife and a boring job and relaxing on the weekend, instead of drinking themselves into an adolescent blackout and waking up next to a really awful mistake. It's easy to understand why the younger audience members might think this was a lackluster outing... it's practically a direct refutation of their self-important age group and obsessive devotion to whatever pop culture is making the rounds. (I won't go any further into the flick, for fear of spoiling it as it was spoiled for me.)

The Question Mark: This is The End (107 minutes, 2013) Ensuring that we go out with the "good movie/bad movie" standard firmly entrenched, we will end with this supposedly comedic offering from the stoner faction of the unholy trinity of "comedic Seth" (Seth McFarland, Seth Rogan, Seth Green). The setup is pure genius; what if the rapture happened, and no one in Hollywood knew what was going on because they were all terrible people who didn't deserve to go to heaven? Unfortunately, this potential is largely wasted, as the film spends most of its currency on "the odd couple, times three" with intermittent stoner humor. The main cast essentially play themselves, a group of spoiled, self-important, unfunny comedians trapped in a house and gradually driving one another to distraction through petty, selfish, or obsessive behavior. It relies for its humor on the audience being familiar with, and caring about these celebrity (??) comedians and the long list of friends they drafted into cameos. Add in a large helping of "we're not gay, but we keep ending up in gay situations" and spice with masturbation & rape jokes and you have a microcosm of why all modern comedy sucks. True, it's not a total loss. There are good moments, a few funny jokes, and almost inexplicable direct references to The Mist and Rosemary's Baby. But above all, it has a really awesome ending that may actually redeem the whole work.

WARNING: I fully expect this week's movie night to devolve into an impromptu going away party. Please?
Artificial Suns

"The only person standing in your way is you."

This week's selections are all about that very particular breed of friend. The kind that irritates, that challenges. The kind that knows you well enough to really dig in where it hurts and goad you to achieve what you'd never think you could otherwise. The modern, hipster butchering of the English language would term these individuals "frenimes," but I really think the glib dismissal doesn't speak to the true intensity of the relationship. As has been said time and time again, "friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies." These are relationships that arise more out of mutual conflict... the confrontations that shake you out of your normal complacency and encourage you to make a real change. People fortunate enough to have a friend like this really should be greatful... in between the drunken fights and the caustic sniping. So, all preamble aside, let me introduce my friend. His name is Harvey...

Portman's Neurotic Obsession: Black Swan (2010, 108 minutes) A hallucinatory, beautiful film structured around the struggles of an up-and-coming ballet dancer, played by Natalie Portman, as she vacillates wildly between utter devotion to her craft, harried target of her mother's displaced ambition, and a obsession/hatred relationship with the studio's secondary star, played by Mila Kunis. From the description alone, one might be forgiven for expecting a straight-up drama, plodding dully over the white-people-problems of artificially esteemed high art, but there's just a touch of... vertigo here. A lingering impression of disorientation, a slight seaward cant of the story and the characters that begins an uncontrolled precessing outside the realm of normal drama. Portman's stress, devotion, and neurosis become uncomfortably intertwined with the awkward unfolding of a repressed sexuality, and her emotional confusion towards her rival, Kunis, begin manifesting as something a bit more... intense, a bit more... erotic, a bit more... unbalanced. Though a bit slow to start, the film heralds Darren Aranofsky's return to the realm of the truly mental and reveals a director better with the 'light touch' than in Requiem for a Dream, and better at shaping an entire graceful work than in Pi.

Jack's Sense of Entitlement: Fight Club (1999, 139 minutes) David Fincher, another director famous for head-trippery, best seen in his grotesque explosion of the police procedural into the realm of horror (Se7en), directs a book by Chuck Palahniuk, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Norton, a pathologically lonely insomniac claims adjuster entirely benumbed to the horror of modern life by the analytical manner in which his job forces him to evaluate human tragedy is shaken out of his complacency by a chance encounter with a complete philosophical anarchist (Pitt) during a cross country flight. Abandoning his previous life to throw in with this anarchist, Norman finds himself oddly freed from his neurosis and first-world concerns, and almost accidentally participates in the founding of an underground bare-knuckle fighting circuit with oddly cult-like membership of similarly benumbed modern men. Then things start to get out of hand. A film commonly misconstrued as a simplistic, chauvinistic assertion of male ego recovery through meaningless violence, a close analysis of the film reveals an almost total inversion of this assumption. While crude, confusing, and frequently disgusting and violent, the film sports a much deeper, nihilistic psychosis of a philosophy, reveling in the morass of self-conscious modern neurosis and gleefully dancing around the eventual implosion of any attempt to break free. Essentially a study on the collapse of pop psychology, disguised as a misanthropic self-help seminar.

WARNING: Will try to start on time, as the flicks are a little longer than usual.
Artificial Suns

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the war room!"

So, we're coming down to the wire here. Only a few more movie nights to go. And it turns out that it's a lot easier to select movies when they aren't all boxed up and have to be hunted through by the index. A further handicap is making sure the pair are a reasonable length, since movie night has to be Thursday this week. And the dark-comedy-docudrama night was cancelled when I remembered why I'm never showing Man Bites Dog. Plus artsy flicks are reserved for next time. So, what am I to do? Perhaps it's time to get serious. Perhaps its time to contemplate that most malodorous invention of mankind. This is a horror night, right? So this week, (prompted in no small part by the discovery that the two movies are exactly next to each other in the alphabetical organization) we will devote to the greatest horror of all civilization. Nay, of all history, for it predates civilization. And anyone laughing will be shot, for, you see, War is serious business...

The Pavlovian Fascist: Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, 95 minutes) Stanley Kubric realizes that the film adaptation of a tense drama about international tensions leading to nuclear war is actually hilarious, and proceeds to direct Peter Sellers in three of his greatest roles ever. Ranking in the top 10 of enough "best of" lists to become actively boring, the late Gene Siskel's favorite film. In all seriousness, this may be the most beloved film I've ever screened at movie night, and there's very little I could write here that would properly add to its laurels. A dark, satirical comedy, it focuses on a single rouge general, paranoid about fluoridation in the water supply, attempting to initiate nuclear war with the Soviet Union by hijacking the failsafe system designed to assure mutual destruction. A laugh riot, right? Immensely popular even in the tense political wake of JFK's assassination (which event caused a delay in the release), it's generally considered to be one of the greatest satirical comedies ever made.

The Marxist Commune: Duck Soup (1933, 68 minutes) Confession time. My sense of humor derives entirely from episodes of MST3K, the old 'short attention span theater,' and the Marx brothers. This is my favorite comedy of all time. Referenced, imitated, homage-d, and flat out stolen on many occasions, this is the best of the 'brothers, all of the great without any of the tedium. (We even get away without any harp solos!) Appointed dictator of the nation of Freedonia, Groucho (as Rufus T. Firefly) is immediately embroiled in international intrigue with the neighboring nation of Sylvania, and must match wits with their master spies, Chico and Harpo. War, in all its farcical majesty, is inevitable.

WARNING: Haven't seen it in years. Worried about being disappointed.
Artificial Suns

"He tied his own tendons!"


Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the theater has been locked and barricaded. You will note that the numerous armed guards in the balcony overwatching this week's screenings are heavily armed. I'm afraid recent far-seeing modifications to the constitution have determined that the best way to reduce crime, hunger, and carbon footprints is by reducing the movie-going public to a more manageable number. If you look under your seats, you will each find one of a number of items for use in self defense. (Those of you with no items must rely on your kung-fu.) I suggest that you all begin your proactive self-defense. If more than one of you is alive by the end of tonight's films, we'll just have to gas everyone. So sit back, and enjoy this week's pairing of Asian Thunderdomes.

The Explosive Collar: Battle Royale (2000, 122 minutes) When Koushun Takami's book was published, certain members of Japan's parliament attempted to get the film banned. When the film was released a year later, they tried to ban that as well. Predictably, both the book and the film were spectacular runaway hits. The final directoral work of the legendary Kinji Fukasaku (he is listed as the director of the sequel, but died very early in the process), on the surface this is a blood-soaked sadistic slaughterfest of amplified and caricatured high-school students kidnapped by the government and stranded on an island with instructions to kill one another until only one is left. Nastiness and high melodrama for its own sake. Scratch the surface, however, and you find a scathing indictment of Japanese culture, society, and government, the authorities in power forcing the younger generation to scratch and claw at one another like animals for advancement and survival. This attack on authority and tradition is a theme running throughout Fukasaku's work (arising from his youth in wartime Japan), especially in his efforts to demystify and deglamorize the Yakuza society in several violent and morbid gangster films. Casting actual teens as the students acted as a springboard for many young careers (even those a little too over-the-top), but the real standout performance here is the subdued and darkly comic work of the students' teacher, played by famously eclectic and prolific manzai comedian "Beat" Takeshi Kitano. Set in an alternate-history 1997, it's a considerably bleaker and a more pointed critique than the hyperbolized far-flung future of the similarly conceived Hunger Games.

The Intestinal Garrote: Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991, 91 minutes) Dead Alive is to Horror as Riki-Oh is to Kung-Fu. Need I say more? A Hong-Kong film based on a downright absurdly manly Gekiga manga by Masahiko Takajo, it's essentially HBO's "Oz" if Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star were locked up with them. Nominally set in a dystopian future where prisons have been privatized, leading to horrible conditions and gang-like structures among the prisoners, the film follows Ricky, the oddest Christ figure you've ever seen, from admission, through conflict with the boss prisoners, the guards... an odd ogre who wanders in, a psychopath with knitting needles, an assistant warden who keeps mints in his glass eye... a jail cell that fills with cement, the garbage compactors from Star Wars, you know, the usual. Spectacularly campy, deriving both from the film treatment and the essential camp in the original manga, this particular work is probably better known through the anime adaptation which made the rounds with almost as much regularity as Urotsukodoji. Colossally giant men square off, villains laugh evilly, manly tears are shed, tragic, ridiculous backstories are revealed, jaw-dropping gore is blunted by the low-budget makeup, honor is upheld, field surgeons are put to shame, and kung-fu punches through men, chains, concrete walls, steel bars, faces, and other fists. And the film's finale actually gives Dead Alive's lawnmower scene a run for its money.