Monday, June 28, 2010

Notes from
Under the
Part Three

Click here
for part two

(Pacific Place, 5/10)

Cold War drama set in the 1980s.

Two directors [as stars]..."To our babuschkas"...East German
wife, works as an engineer...Niels Arestrup (A Prophet)...[Fran-
Mitterand..."decadent Western music"..."Keen" (Queen),
"Waving your banner all over the place"..."Johnny Walkman"...
more intrigue than thrills; about marriage, relationships...Pier-
re [Guillaume Canet] and Sergei [Emir Kusturica]...Westerner
and Easterner become emboldened...Burn after Reading...not
pro-communist, not pro-Western-style democracy either.

Farewell opens in Seattle on 8/6 (venue TBA).


(Seven Gables, 5/10)

Alex Gibney takes on Jack Abramoff.

Pest control business, DDT...DEA, HUD..."self-centered jerk"
with a "special genius for finding money where no one else
thought to look"...Saipan sweatshops..."if you could make ev-
erybody poor so you could be rich"...House Majority Lead-
er [Tom DeLay]...Ralph Reed = Pete Campbell (Vincent
Kartheiser)...tribal money...restaurateur..."fucko, bitch
ass" [email]...Metallica, Talking Heads, Le Tigre...AIC, gaming.

Click here for finished review.

(Metro Cinemas, 2/09)

Andrea Arnold's follow-up to Red Road.

Watches girls dance...tries to free a horse...headbutt, "cunt"..."I
wonder what's wrong with you?" "You're what's wrong with me"...
cider, hip-hop dance, abandoned on leash...Conor O'Reil-
ly, dirty-blond hair..."I'm a friend of your mother's"..."You dance
like a black. That's a compliment"...female gaze..."fuckface," "cunt-
face"...squatters...Puts to bed, takes off pants..."You've got some
weird shit"..."How can you call Bobby Womack 'weird shit'?"...
Kind, patient, attentive, catches fish with bare hands...James
Brown...narcissistic...Tilbury, gated community, princess,
razor scooter..."Life's a bitch, and then you die. That's
why you never know when you gonna go."

Endnote: Christian Carion directed Farewell. Kusturica directed
; Canet directed Tell No One (among several other
. Image from Radio Station EXP (© Nord-Ouest Production).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

on the

Made in
, Ice-

Don't expect to find Björk on this 20-track compilation (then a-
gain, she moved away years ago). Instead, Made in Iceland 3
showcases new or lesser known acts, not counting Emiliana Tor-
rini ("Beggar's Prayer") and Sigur Rós singer Jonsi ("Boy Lilikoi").

As expected, electronic artists dominate, though most are quite
melodic. Exceptions include the alt-country sylings of Lay Low
("Aukalagio") and Snorri Helgason ("Freeze Out"). Also Ben Frost
("Hibakusja") boldly goes into industrial territory, but without a-
bandoning song structure completely, just submerging it in buzz.
If no one selection blew my mind, they're all worth a listen.

Click here for "Tunglid" (Olafur Arnalds)
and here for "Repticon" (Reykjavik!).

Brothers at Sea, This Is a Redemption Melody EP, self-released

"Uplifting, bouyant, guitar-driven melodies."
-- press note description

The title promises something with a folk or reggae feel, like Bob
Marley's "Redemption Song," but this teenage Orange County
quintet could pass for Coldplay in a blind taste test (they look to
Switchfoot for inspiration). One Coldplay is more than enough.

Electric Sunset, self-titled, K Records [9/14/10]

"An electric hum on the highway."
-- press note description

Bay Area one-man band Nic Zwart leaves the rock guitars be-
hind for atmospheric synths. So often this M.O. divides into two
types: music for dancing and music for spacing out. Zwart, who
hails from Northwest outfit Desolation Wilderness, comes closer
to the latter, but a few songs would work well on a relaxed dance
floor, where people move slower, with less urgency. Dreamy.

Click here for "Soda."

Weep, Worn Thin, Projekt

From the hyperbolic press notes, I expected the worst, but Doc
Hammer's debut, Worn Thin, isn't too bad, especially if you've
got a jones for '80s synth-pop (Hammer co-created The Venture
). And I don't mean the itchy post-punk variant, but the ra-
dio-ready kind that John Hughes used to soundtrack the teen ang-
st in Some Kind of Wonderful. Doc's voice is thin, but the amped-
up synth work splits the difference. The disc ends with passable
covers of "Right Here, Right Now" and "Shut Up and Drive."

Endnote: After Love Language, Electric Sunset marks the
second act this month to work cats into their promo imagery. If

Nic Zwart
is trying to win me over with his kitten snap, I'm hap-
py to say he's succeeded
(unfortunately, I can't find it online). For
more information about
Brothers at Sea, please click here or
here; for Electric Sunset, here; and for
Made in Iceland 3,
Jonsi (as actor Daniel Bruhl) image from

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I Am an Anarchist

In sorting
some old
emails re-
cently, I came across a message to Mom about Von Trier's latest provocation.

After dragging my feet for a few weeks, I finally caught
this weekend, just so I could be part of the
conversation. Not recommended as a film. It reminds
me of several that are far better, but it certainly gives
you something to talk about..should you wish to do so.

I'm amazed that my friend [redacted] would describe it
as "feminist." That's hardly the case. Charlotte Gains-
, best actress winner at Cannes, plays a one-time
feminist scholar who goes nuts after the death of her son.
Willem Dafoe
plays her paternalistic therapist husband.

Gainsbourg's study of feminism, particularly gynocide, doesn't
make the film "pro-woman." Sad when people fall for that trap,
though that doesn't automatically make it misogynist either.
anything, the gig feels more misanthropic than anything else

The best part of the film.

Atmospherically shot by the gifted Anthony Dod Mantle (Julien
, Brothers of the Head), it's basically A-list exploita-
tion-style horror that makes Misery, Evil Dead, and the other films
from which it borrows look even better than they already are--and
without the Danish director's pesky pretensions towards "art."

Von Trier
also directed Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the
. His concerns remain the same, but to diminishing results
(though The Boss of It All is actually pretty funny). More signifi-
cantly, though, he mounted a version of Medea in 1988. Clearly,
women have been frightening the hell out of him for awhile now!

Endnote: Revised from original text. Image from Owl Pellets.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Same Love That
Made Me Laugh

Bill Withers,
, Reel
Music/Sony Music

"I've gotta take a ton
of lies to get an oun-
ce of truth from you."

-- Bill Withers, "You"

Though Bill Withers released +'Justments at the height of his '70s fame, it didn't meet with the same success as records like Just as I Am, which is ironic as
it captures Bill at his best--earthy vocals, laid-back grooves, Fla-
menco guitar filigrees--just slightly less poptastic than usual.

The more I listen, the more it sounds like a lost classic, rather
than a flawed recording that got lost in the shuffle. If there are
no clear hit singles, his unheralded songwriting is in fine form.

Though his career would continue to wax and wane in the ensuing
decades, culminating with the release earlier this year of acclaim-
ed documentary Still Bill (now available on DVD), +'Justments
suggests some reasons why he dropped out of the music business.

In opener "You," for instance, he takes on hypocrisy, drug use,
and other social ills, aligning him closer to Curtis Mayfield and
Marvin Gaye than listeners of 1974 might have been expecting.

Here's a sampling: "You've got the nerve to call me narrow-
minded, just because I'm not loose and indiscreet," "People
sometimes get blinded by people standing on their own two
feet," and "You're like a man lovin' Jesus who says he can't
stand the Jew." (In "Green Grass," he also castigates "People
taking tranquilizers by the pound"). The message: take care
of your own damn problems, and get off Bill's back, y'all.

But that's just the first song, and as great as it is, it doesn't
represent the rest of the record, which isn't as dark, at least
not until closer "Railroad Man," which recounts a freight-train
fatality...with a surprising degree of sweetness and funk, i.e.
"He was a good-time railroad man" (musically, it comes on like
a Southern-fried cross between "Superfly" and "Troglodyte").

Most of the other tracks, like
the string-laden "Heartbreak
Road" and "Make a Smile for
Me," hark back to classic love
songs like "Ain't No Sunshine,"
i.e. "I believe that love's a good
teacher" and "Chase the clouds
away with your smile." There's
nothing downbeat about those sentiments. (I also dig the way the cascading piano introduction
to "Stories" anticipates, of all things, "I Don't Like Mondays.")

If anything, Bill gets overly-sentimental on "Liza," in which he
begins by stating, "Probably one of the nicest affections in the
world is the affection that's there between a worldly ol' uncle and
a very innocent young niece." Then he croons, "I know what it's
like to need a shoulder, so lay your head on mine." In other words,
it's a family-oriented number in the vein of "Grandma's Hands."

Throughout, his voice is the warm and welcoming instrument
that continues to draw people to his catalog, despite the scarci-
ty of new material. Bill Withers will never go out of style.

Endnote: Click here for Just as I Am/Still Bill and here for Soul
(featuring Withers). Images from Dante Ross and SXSW.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spiral and Unfurl




Their sixth release, Tearing Down Paisley Garden,
represents another solid effort from this Seattle quartet. De-
spite the title, it sounds more like the Purrs are cultivating
the same sonic plot they first laid down in 2006 (think Rain
Parade and the Church). Back then, I noted that they pro-
duce "a nice strong dose of psych-pop" with "languid num-
bers" that "spiral and unfurl into the air like smoke."

Four years later, their formula remains much the same. There's
nothing wrong with that; if you liked it then, you'll like it now.

And maybe it's partly because the Rolling Stones are all over the
place again, what with the reissue of Exile on Main Street, but Jima
sounds more like Mick Jagger than ever before, something I mis-
sed in the past, helping to set this EP apart from previous output.

Also, they do such a good job at blending these songs together
and putting their own stamp on them that I didn't recognize "Only
Dreaming" (Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry) and "I Move Around" (Lee
) as covers, though I wasn't familiar with either track.

Click here for Amused, Confused, & More Bad News.

Will Knox, The Matador & the Acrobat, self-released [6/15/10]

Born and raised in London, Will Knox lives in New York, but
plies a particularly British brand of folk-pop, adding boisterous
violin, stately bass, and sprightly banjo to his acoustic melodies
while singing with a pronounced accent. It's ironic, since lyrics
like "The Manhattan morning has come to life" clearly reflect
his current surroundings. A fine Anglo-American hybrid.

Click here for "Buckled Knees."

Pernice Brothers, Goodby, Killer, Ashmont Records [6/15/10]

The last time I listened to a Joe Pernice project all the way
through, the Boston-based author-musician was heading the
Scud Mountain Boys. Since then, he formed the Pernice
, released 13 albums, appeared on The Gilmore
, and issued a well received 33-1/3 entry on Meat Is
(his brother, Bob, has been a frequent collaborator).

Through the varied assemblages, his soft-spoken voice re-
mains a constant, vaguely reminiscent of American Music
Club's Mark Eitzel and the Jayhawks' Mark Olson. Like those
gents, he sings without a twang, but weaves country and folk
touches throughout his literate concoctions. Near as I can tell,
Goodbye, Killer rocks harder than before, with hand claps,
nods to famous novelists, and occasional bursts of feedback.

Click here for "Jacqueline Susann."

Richard Walters, The Animal, Kartel [7/6/10]

The cable-laden cover of The Animal indicates something loud-
er and stranger than what this Oxford-born singer/songwriter de-
livers. Instead of electronica or techno, Richard Walters plays
a plaintive brand of acoustic pop with daubs of cello and piano. It
all seems vaguely familiar, yet without bringing any specific acts
to mind. When he sings "There's a hole in your head" and "Don't
hide my medicine" he could be referring to a recent diagnosis of
epilepsy. Or something else entirely. Now situated in Paris, Wal-
ters' lyrical ambiguity allows for a variety of interpretations.

Click here for "Brittle Bones."

Endnote: For more information about Will Knox, please
click here or here; for the Pernice Brothers, here or here;
for the Purrs, here or here; and for Richard Walters,
here or here. Lovely Purrs image from the finest kiss.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Movie of
the Month:
Part 19

I recently reviewed the following documentary for Video
, and thought the results were worth sharing.

ALICE - A Look into Alice's Ad-
ventures in Wonderland
(Gerry Malir, UK, 2009, 90 mins.)

Without Alice Lidell, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland wouldn't
exist. This British documentary explores the relationship between
the author and his muse, which came about through Lewis Car-
roll's employment with Oxford's Christchurch College, where A-
lice's father served as dean. When the mathematics lecturer, born
Charles Dodgson, met Alice in 1855, she was three years old, too
young to befriend, so he initially socialized more with her siblings.

Other members of the Lidell clan would become Wonderland
characters, such as the governess-inspired Queen of Hearts (the
film posits Carroll as the White Rabbit). He also took inspira-
tion from the works of William Blake and William Wordsworth,
who shared his belief in the innate wisdom of children; while the
book sprang from a tale he spun to entertain the young Lidells.
Drawings, photographs, and clips bring his resulting story to life.

While at college, Carroll took up photography in addition to writ-
ing, displaying a talent for both (he even penned the original illus-
trations). Young girls became his favorite subject, though the pro-
gram doesn't claim any impropriety on his part. Director Malir
does note, however, that the diary pages detailing this four-year
period no longer exist (relatives removed them). Lidell herself la-
ter wrote, "Being photographed was a joy to us, not a penance."

Sadly, Carroll broke with the Lidells prior to Alice's 1865 pub-
lication for reasons that remain unclear, though the narrative
offers a convincing theory. With an extensive quantity of liter-
ary and historical detail, Alice takes aim more at the academic
than casual fan, but never gets too dry, and includes the 1903
and 1915 silver-screen adaptations. Highly recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 18: Beeswax

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Click here for
my review of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Image from
Alice Pleasance Liddell with her sisters (circa 1859).

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


These are
the reviews
and other
pieces I'm
working on
this month.

Amazon DVDs: Hawthorne - Season One
[three-disc set]
(with Jada Pinkett Smith), Cemetery Junction (with Ricky
Gervais and Ralph Fiennes), and My Son, My Son, What
Have Ye Done?
(click here for my Siffblog review).

Amazon Theatrical:
Get Low (with Robert
Duvall and Bill Murray) and The Kids Are All
(with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore).

Still playing (or yet to open): Alice in Wonderland, The Concert, Countdown to Zero, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Ghost Writer, Mother and Child, Nowhere Boy, Oceans, and Please Give.

Siffblog: Countdown to Zero and The Tillman Story,
Hipsters, and Daddy Longlegs (Benny & Josh Safdie).

Still playing: Mid-August Lunch.

Video Librarian: The Beetle, Bluebeard, Diary of a Wimpy
, Jeff Healey and the Jazz
Wizards - Beautiful Noise, How
Sweet It Was - The Sights and
Sounds of Gospel's Golden
[CD/DVD set], The Official Inaugural Celebration
[two-disc set]
, Preacher's Kid, Pulling John, Subur-
and Casino Jack and the United States of Money.

Endnote: Image from Rotten Tomatoes.