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Monday, Sep 29, 2008

PSFK has a post about Of Montreal’s eagerness to seize upon branding as a way to make money as revenue streams from intellectual property collapses. Like some sort of would-be futurist, frontman Kevin Barnes has even written a manifesto on the subject.


Once we’ve established a comfortable self-sense of our current identity, we want to parade it. We want to campaign for it. We want the whole world to know, “look look, this is me, how you like me now?”. To project our self identity into the outer and, to amplify the howl of our self expression, we have many tools at our disposal; our art, our clothing and hair style, the way we talk…, and, for a lot of us, the objects that populate our living spaces….


of Montreal has, from the beginning, taken great pains to always put a lot of thought and care into the art packaging for our records. We’ve always felt that the packaging was just as important as the music inside of it. We’ve worked within the constraints of conventional album packaging, and have tried to create something fantastically uncommon every time. Now, we find ourselves in the middle of an exciting epoch: A time, when new technology has shattered the conventional business model and has set a paradigm shift in motion. For some people in the music biz, this is terrifying. For us, it is a fucking miracle! While the kings are in a stupor, we are going to take full advantage of the changing guard.


It seems inevitable that music would become secondary to a band’s ability to have a large-scale impact. To use some guru manifesto rhetoric of my own for a second, music longs to be intimate, local, small-scale, human, as befits its roots in unifying small communities with rhythmic rituals. Brands evolve from the demands of mass marketing, of packaging a lifestyle that allows individuals to transcend or reject the constraints of whatever community they might otherwise have to be attached to. As music’s viability as a commercial product wanes, its original significance returns and it becomes a local and live phenomenon open to universal participation. Anyone can make music and share it, and the meaningful music of the future will be made by you or your friends. Bands can’t simply be musicians anymore and expect to function in the mass market; they need to underscore the elements of brand marketing that have always been latent and make them the total package. They need to be lifestyle-promoting companies who happen to use sound as one of their tools.


But the music-identity nexus that Of Montreal wants to exploit to sell its “exceptional object” hinges on the product not being regarded as slick marketing but as the authentic outpouring of artists that people in subcultures want to emulate or experience vicariously. But who wants to experience vicariously the excitement of coming up with a hot new way of selling T-shirts and posters? Of his grand idea to make packaging more interesting than what is packaged, Barnes writes, “We hope this idea catches on and, in the future, square CD packaging will be abandoned forever and only interesting art objects will fill record stores.” So in other words, he hopes record stores will in fact cease to be record stores and become either hipster knickknack shops or variants on Hot Topic.


 


 


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Monday, Sep 29, 2008

For now, a picture says it all:





Read our complete tribute to Paul Newman in tomorrow’s blog post.


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Sunday, Sep 28, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-09-29...

Old allegiances die hard.  Most gamers gave up on Sonic the Hedgehog a long time ago—granted, his first three games on the Sega Genesis are all but universally acknowledged as classics, themselves arguments for the merits of the Genesis over the Super Nintendo.  As a middle-to-high schooler who only had a Genesis and not a Super Nintendo, I looked for any reason I could to favor my system of choice over the one that all my friends seemed to like.  “Blast processing” was a sufficiently impressive-sounding (not to mention ambiguous) argument that Sega had something in their arsenal that Nintendo didn’t.  To this day, I thank the marketing minds behind Sega for coming up with that two-token buzzword.


Obviously, the more recent incarnations of Sonic, without the fate of a console on his shoulders, hasn’t fared as well.  Perhaps he no longer feels the pressure that he once did, and feels content to coast on the strength of his name alone; regardless of the reasons, though, we’ve been “treated” to debacles like the Xbox 360 / PS3 Sonic the Hedgehog, not to mention forced to spend more than 50% of games with “Sonic” in the name as characters who are very much not Sonic.  Who’s here to save the day but Bioware, the heroes of such well-regarded games as Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect taking Sonic into the realm of Western-style role playing, on the DS no less.  It’s called Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, and if you’re into the whole role-playing thing, it actually looks pretty solid.


The early returns on the game have been mixed, but if anyone can pull the blue-haired wonder from the depths of mediocrity, Bioware can.  As such, my own hopes are guardedly high.


Also showing up this week on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is Silent Hill: Homecoming, the latest entry in the well-established (and some would say best) survival horror series.  Hey, have you noticed that survival horror, once a genre threatening to burst at the seams with knockoffs and sequels, seems awfully sparse lately?  The Silent Hill and Resident Evil series are still out there and doing just fine, but the second-tier entries just don’t seem to be garnering the sales or the recognition that they once did.  It’s not that I miss it, it’s just that it almost seems weird that the release of a survival horror game, any survival horror game, feels like a notable event.


The Wii has We Cheer, a cheerleading game that uses two Wiimotes as pom-poms, which has been (somewhat unfairly, if you asked me) largely mocked in the gaming press.  I say any game that has the musical knowledge to include two tracks from The Go! Team in a cheerleading game is worth supporting.  Plus, my (and your) daughter will probably dig it.  The more literary-inclined puzzle-solvers among you may enjoy some Hardy Boys action on the PC, a game that may well have been greenlighted in the recognition that Nancy Drew‘s business has been just fine in the PC puzzle arena.


As always, I ask you—did I miss anything?  What are you looking forward to this week?  Contemplate the question (and go ahead and comment!) as you look over this week’s release list and a trailer for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood after the hop.


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Sunday, Sep 28, 2008

Sometimes, we get so bogged down with titles here at SE&L that we can’t imagine ever getting through them all. Be it a summer weekend stuffed with possible blockbuster fare, or an awards season schedule that can frequently see as many as eight to ten screenings in a single work week, we do find ourselves overwhelmed and understaffed (isn’t that always the case). Still, in order to keep on top of the ever-changing media market, there will be times when we have to put in the extra effort, to go above and beyond a simple blurb banquet. Indeed, it appears it’s time for what will probably be a regular feature here at the PopMatters Film Blog - the Review-a-thon. 


Over the next few days, we’re going to suck it up, put on our critical thinking cap, and bang out a bunch of opinions. Between now and Sunday, we will tackle Michael Moore’s new documentary, visit a classic rock icon as he showcases a forgotten album, take on another Dragon Dynasty martial arts epic, and maybe even experience an unnecessary sequel or two - and this on top of the films in focus for this week (26 September). With no real schedule for when the latest installment of this endurance test will arrive, you’ll need to check back regularly to see if we indeed make it. The list is ambitious, and a tad unwieldy. Still, as a test of mental mantle, we believe we’re up to the task.


In no particular order, here are the cinematic obstacles that await us:


In Theaters - Nights in Rodanthe  (Now Available)
In Theaters - Eagle Eye (The IMAX Experience)  (Now Available)
In Theaters - Miracle at St. Anna  (Now Available)
In Theaters - Choke
Available Online - Slacker Uprising
On DVD - Unforgotten: 25 Years After Willowbrook (1996)  (Now Available)
On DVD - War/Dance (2007)  (Now Available)
On DVD - Lou Reed’s Berlin (2007)  (Now Available)
On DVD - Pulse 2 (2008)  (Now Available)
On DVD - Plan 9 from Syracuse (2007)  (Now Available)
On DVD - The Rebel (2006)  (Now Available)


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Sunday, Sep 28, 2008


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By now you have all heard that Paul Newman has passed. And, me being too busy or stupified to log a comment am just getting around to paying homage. Since, most of what has already been said—about Newman’s philanthropy, his beauty, his grace, his humility, his political ethos, his sly, understated acting craft—has been said well enough, I don’t need to dwell on that. For those of you looking for more about any of this, The New York Times obit  well summarizes his life, and a capsule recap of his key films was posted a day or so ago on the PM site. Those are fine starts if you thirst to know more about the man that was.


But now Mr. Newman is gone and that means, like all passings in our peripatetic world, we experience a dual loss: deprived of one less human voice, while being reminded once more of our inexorable evanescence.


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