Monday, September 26, 2005

Short Cuts

Part of Sunday was spent watching Robert Altman's Short Cuts, a film I heard had many parallels to PT Anderson's Magnolia. Whether or not Anderson was deliberately trying to copy Altman, I highly doubt this. I see similarities between the two films as they are both large ensemble pieces with similar plot devices. Where each one goes from there makes it unique. I can't help but think about my biggest influences on Post and how I try not to copy them.

I've made no secret about my love for Our Band Could Be Your Life, Fargo Rock City and Wilco:Learning How to Die and I strongly feel shades of my interpretations of these books will come through in Post. With Our Band Could Be Your Life, I like the simplicity of breaking up chapters by band simply for clarity sakes. Plus, I enjoy its demystifying look at bands whose stories have become rather big fish stories over the years. Knowing what really happened is way more interesting that what the press said back in the day. With Fargo Rock City, I enjoy its honest account of hair metal from a guy who is still a hair metal fan. Finding deep philosophical meanings in his experiences as a rock fan, Chuck Klosterman nails so many things on the head, even as a fan of the often-mocked hair metal. With Learning How to Die, Greg Kot comes across as a big fan of a band who wants to know everything that a big fan would want to know about his favorite band. The sincerity is there on every page.

Of course there are way more influences involved here, but those are the big three. How inspiration relates to one's own work, that's a very fascinating thing. From a distance, rip-offs look very obvious. However, finding a true copycat is tough.

In the case of Magnolia, I see the structure of Short Cuts mixed in with themes found in Network and in various Scorsese films but I see a lot of stuff that come directly from PT Anderson's own life. Themes of fathers and sons connecting and all kinds of people wanting to find love are some of bigger ones in Magnolia. In Short Cuts, the complicated world of relationships with husbands and wives (with and without kids) are the focal points. Plus, alcohol is a major character in the film even though it doesn't have a speaking part (obviously). Yes, they are both 3-hour epics that end with a major event that ties everyone together, but I strongly feel there are big differences between the two.

I'm sure that some people will draw parallels to the structure of Post to Our Band Could Be Your Life, but I don't mind since it's on purpose. Trying to cover all of these bands, labels and people in one long, straightforward narrative would be insane. Structure aside, Post is written in my own voice with topics you can't find in Our Band Could Your Life, Fargo Rock City or Learning How to Die. Namely, friendships and growing up are some of the biggies. These are topics that are very important to me and I feel they should have the spotlight since they are the ones that give these stories a lot of weight.

I've heard comparisons of all kinds before and some have been way off. When KISS was approached with making a movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, it was billed as "Star Wars meets A Hard Day's Night." If anyone has been lucky enough to see this flick (due to the fact that it is hard to find on tape), you know that is nothing of the sort. The Vines were dubbed as "The Strokes but with credibility." One listen to the Vines' Highly Evolved and the Strokes' Is This It? show massive differences is all shapes and sizes.

As I said before, pure rip-offs are hard to find. Now I haven't listened to this band in years, but I distinctly remember a band called Ozma sounding 98% like Weezer. From similar keyboard, guitar and drum sounds to the vocalist's voice to the songs themselves, I kept thinking of Weezer when I heard them. Judging by Weezer's Green Album and its follow-ups, maybe a band like Ozma was necessary.

Maybe things like message boards were solely created for name-calling and branding rip-offs but I feel it's best to do and not just sit around and criticize everything.


Eric said...

I really Klosterman. You should also check out Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs if you haven't already.

Eric Grubbs said...

That one is definitely is something I'd like to check out. That and his latest, Killing Yourself to Live.