Three Big Things: Jeff Baena
Three Great Things is the Talkhouse series in which artists tell us three things they absolutely love. To mark the new series of anthologies of films found Showtime Cinema Toast, its creator Jeff Baena – the writer-director of Life after Beth, Joshy, The small hours and Horse girl – shared some of the things that have myof his life has made more sense recently. – ND
Cakes with chocolate chips
I make a lot of chocolate chip cookies and for 12 years I have been working on perfecting my own recipe. I started with the basic Toll House recipe and then got really experimental, trying different ingredients and different percentages. Since last week, I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not going to make any more adjustments and I’ve locked myself into my official recipe.
It all really started when my partner Aubrey was working on Parks and recreation, and the head decorator, who had a farm, knew I made Aubrey’s chocolate chip cookies by making them work all the time. They had a goose and some ducks so they gave him some goose eggs and some duck eggs and said maybe I would like to try something with those. It was my first experience, and since then I’ve tinkered with each ingredient to see what kind of a difference the little changes will make. It’s like a crazy science project I’m working on, and now I know it inside and out.
During this 12-year experimental process, Aubrey ate a lot of cookies. This is a very honest review, and it tells me if they are insufficient or if they are too nice. If there’s anything she feels isn’t there yet, she’ll let me know. But in the last couple of months in quarantine, she said these were perfect, so I feel like we’re in a good place.
Click here to read Jeff Baena’s recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Filmmaker Harrison Atkins is a good friend of mine and we hang out all the time. During the pandemic we were tested for COVID-19 and he would come and we would make music together using his Teenage Engineering OP-1 and my OP-Z or just watch movies. I found out this fall that he and a group of other film editors and directors, including Adam Wingard, were part of a collective called Trash Racer. They take a movie every month and break it down into, say, 10 pieces, and all the collective members take their section, filter it, process it, add other media or footage from other movies and TV shows. and do anything. they want with as long as it follows for the right amount of time for this movie. It has a very strong vaporwave aesthetic and is extremely stony. They made a version of Eyes wide closed called Vibes Wide Shut and a version of Donkey called Jazzass, where they took the movie and just added some jazz to it and then totally screwed up with the way it looked through the moshing data and adding weird overlays, changing the color and polarizing it – just going wild on it .
Obviously none of this is legal and you can’t really show the movies anywhere, so they stream them on Twitch, usually once a month. For 4/20, they got a full day of streaming. For example, they took the Japanese horror film lodge and completely marked it with songs from Beach House. It’s very common, crazy, super stumbled and amazing. They also did Abbadook, where they took The Babadook and used songs from Abba as a sheet music. And then one of their directors / editors created an alternate version of Showgirls which essentially took 45 minutes of filling and replaced the score with music from David Lynch films, like Angelo Badalamenti or Rammstein. I like Showgirls – this is one of my favorite bad movies – but this cut made it work at a level where it’s really amazing now. The scene where Nomi eats his burger, looking at the Vegas lights, had the disturbing score of Mulholland Drive and it hits you on such a deep level.
Harrison and I actually did the music for the opening and the first seven minutes. It’s group time, what was Time bandits, with all editors creating their own score for their sections. It was a song we wrote while jamming. Additionally, Harrison created the opening title sequence for each episode of Cinema Toast, and fellow Racer Trash creator Ellie Pritts edited and processed the trailer Showtime released.
Racer Trash is one of the best things that happened during the pandemic – these guys are really onto something so cool and fun, and their aesthetic is so much on my street. If you go to Tic, you can sign up to receive an email each time their content is broadcast.
Green by Hiroshi Yoshimura
Hiroshi Yoshimura is a Japanese ambient musician from the 80s. I was already a fan of his album Music for nine postcards. Last fall I was with Ben Sinclair from High maintenance in West Marin, paddle boarding and going out, and I think it just got reissued. Ben said to me, “Oh my God, you gotta listen to this, it’s so awesome.” I love ambient music – Brian Eno is probably my favorite musician of all time, or at least on par with Bowie – and it’s somewhere between Kitarō and Eno, without being too New Agey; it is very soft and sparse. The title evokes images of plants and nature, but there is also a very liquid and Amazonian feeling; so we listened to it a lot when we paddleboarded through the bay of Tomales and through the little rivers that drifted it. It was just the most calming and relaxing experience. It would also be great for getting a massage, running, or just driving your car and thinking.
It’s the kind of album you just want to keep on repeat. It’s so ambient that you don’t notice when the songs repeat themselves; you are pierced and caught in a dreamlike state. I was really in love with this album and listened to it so many times. It was also very nice to write there and relax while I was stuck at home for over a year. It’s good to have music that is atmospheric rather than intense, as it doesn’t feel like there’s no need for resolution or closure. You can kind of drift in and out. It played a very big role in the second half of this pandemic for me and I highly recommend it to everyone.
The featured image shows Jeff Baena on the set of Horse girl. Photo by Katrina Marcinowski.