Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Ghost Dog, The Wrestler and IGU"

Every so often films come around that just have that special undefinable thing that speaks to your soul. They are so different and authentic and unique, that you feel that the auteur behind them is speaking directly to you... That the film was made with you and your tastes and life experiences in mind. I cherish these films and I only come across them rarely, but as an artist, ultimately I aspire to create something for somebody out there that has a similar intimate impact.

I know these films are of those sort even before I see them. I get that little shooting pain in the pit of my stomach--that authentic envy that turns you a couple of shades of green when it envelops you. To know that somebody out there beat you to the punch and made a film you wish you made. That feeling, to me, is what separates a great film from the films I truly love.

I remember feeling that way when Jarmusch came out with "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai". It was so strange and beautiful. It touched on antiquted themes like code and honor. It depicted the journey of a solitary hero and Rza laced the whole thing with what was at the time a revolutionary score (pre-Kill Bill).

When Darren Aronofsky came out with "The Wrestler", I again was given pause (Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei in the real Jersey? Are you fucking kidding me?). It had these similar themes with an East Coast gladiator of old hanging on to an era and a life that had passed him by. Both films depict these damaged warriors in a sad and sympathetic light, and in a manner that many may find depressing--but not me. To me there is nothing so righteous and noble as to die in the arena; for the gunslinger to meet his end with his boots on.

"Ice Grill, USA" is a very personal story for us and one that I feel, though on the surface very different than the films I've referenced, has a gritty and genuine, melancholic soul that is brave and feels true and honest. My only hope, is that for some blue collar kid out there, "Ice Grill, USA" can strike a chord. That IGU could be anything close to them what these films have been to me... That it can remind them of who they are and where they come from or at the very least leave an impression that lasts. I can only dream that IGU could someday make another young Jersey filmmaker envious, inspiring them to tell a story of home in their own unique and authentic voice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Hip Hop and the EP Experience"

It is amazing how embedded in my gray matter and in our creative aesthetic hip hop music will forever be. I've always loved music, with stacks of vinyl when I was 7 yrs old, but my life definitely changed when my pops bought me Run DMC's King of Rock cassette at a ticket broker/bookie in Scranton in the 3rd grade. I listened to it over and over again and "let the tape rock til the tape popped." My boy Mark Michalczyk had his big brother Joey's bootleg Memorex 2 Live Crew tape that was banned from stores--we smuggled that tape like it was weapons grade uranium.

Moved to the Jersey shore at 10. By 6th grade my little catholic grade school was deep into rap. NWA, Naughty by Nature, Cypress Hill, House of Pain... Classic. One of the earliest common interests that bonded Sko and I was our love for this angry, poetic, misunderstood artform.

Equally balanced by how my mom raised me and the multiethnic, multicultural experience that was running the streets and playing ball as a kid on the South end of Brigantine, Public Enemy's music so influenced my views on racism and social equality in modern America. I'm so thankful for the lessons taught by Chuck D, Flav and Terminator X.

I remember me and Sko hitting up the spots at the Shore and Hamilton Malls to scoop up tape singles and going to Rainbow Records on Atlantic Ave with Jerry to get the new mixtapes from New York. I remember being a white kid at Holy Spirit and being one of the only freshmen (Joey Mac too) that openly listened to hip hop. By the time I was a senior, everybody was so burned out and kumbaya that I had rich white girls borrowing my Raekwon and Mobb Deep CDs.

Even the videos on BET, The Box and Yo! MTV Raps back in the day had a profound impact on me as a visual artist... Gritty realism, frenetic editing, rich colors a female curve or two... They are part and parcel of what is constantly evolving and maturing into the EP look ("Glam Grit" as Gus would say).

I've long found myself defending hip hop to people of all walks of life who just don't get it and probably never will. That said, I've also opened many a heart, mind and ear to the music we love and can boast many a hip hip conversion in my day. This minor missionary work, and the words that flow from our pens and the images we put on screen are a small way of paying back this music form that has contributed so much to our lives. Thank you, hip hop. I owe you.