Monday, October 25, 2010

Everywhere You
Go: Black Cats

Lately, there's been a surfeit of black swans in the media, but the
black cat
is timeless (I have a 16-year-old named Sterling). Here-
with, in honor of Halloween, are a few of my favorites. Incidentally,
while I realize that they appear in countless books, movies, and the
like, I chose examples where the phrase also appears in the title.

Trailer for 1941's The Black Cat with Basil Rathbone and Alan
Ladd (one among several US films to operate under that title).

Kaneto Shindo's Kuroneko plays NYC's Film Forum 10/22-28.

Serbian director Emir Kusturica's 1998 Black Cat, White Cat
(click here for my review of his Palme d'Or-winning Undergound).

Click here for more movie posters and here for my review of Broad-
cast & the Focus Group - Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age.

Click here for part two.

Endnote: British cover image for Kuroneko, AKA "Black Cat,"
from Weird Wild Realm. Expect an announcement from the Cri-
terion Collection about a domestic DVD release any day now.

1/12 update: Click here for the best photo essay ever.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gentle on My Mind

The retro taster for the
upcoming Jennifer
album (due 2011)
is a song called "Little
Carol," which appears in
the Italian film Una Vita
a starring Toni
(The Girl by the
). Check it out here.

Here's an excerpt from my Tablet review of Jennifer Gentle's
2005 release Valende (Sub Pop), "I can't say I've ever heard any-
thing like Jennifer Gentle before. On their third full-length, the
Italian duo sound like an unholy alliance between T-Rex, Animal
Collective, Pianosaurus...and Ornette Coleman. While Marco and
Alessio favor offbeat instrumentation, like harmonium, glocken-
spiel, and kazoo, they can also crank up the volume, free jazz-
style, when the mood hits. Marco's vocals, meanwhile, sound
like Marc Bolan on 45 (or Alvin the Chipmunk on acid)."

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Click here for my review of Gomorrah and here for Il Divo, both starring Servillo...but not featuring music by Jennifer Gentle (both films made my top 10 for 2009). Image from Ja.La.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Everywhere You Go: Black Swans

Books, theories, movies, songs, etc. 

Click here for clips from Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. His rotoscope version of Philip K. Dick's book makes brilliant use of Thom Yorke's "Black Swan."  

Mike Whybark, Seattle Film Blog webmaster, also recommends Bruce Sterling's 2009 story "Black Swan." 

When I asked him about a possible connection between the story and Yorke's song, he pointed me to this link about The Black Swan Theory. That entry, in turn, leads to Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 2007 book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. 

I tell you: black swans are everywhere these days! 

P.S. One more. Click here for Bert Jansch performing "The Black Swan" at Chicago's Empty Bottle in 2006. Thanks to ratzkywatzky for the tip!

Endnote: Black Swan opens in Seattle in December (venue TBA). Poster image from First Showing (click for more).

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Retro Flair

Black Angels, Phosphene Dream, Blue Horizon

Long story short: I love this record. Who could've seen that com-
ing? I mean, I fell hard for the Austin outfit's Passover, but follow-
up Directions to See a Ghost felt rushed. The group's psych-rock
sound was in full effect, but the songs weren't there. I need songs.

So, while I'm sad to see that they've left local label Light in the At-
, the switch to Blue Horizon, the new imprint from Sire's Sey-
mour Stein and ex-Strangelove Richard Gottehrer--and produc-
er of the Dum Dum Girls debut--has done them a world of good.

The change may have nothing to do with it, but they appear to
have spent more time on Phosphene Dream. The songs are
there, and they didn't turn to bubblegum to make it happen--
not that I dislike that genre, but I expect rock from the Angels,
and their third LP brings all the fuzz and distortion of their first.

That said, those who never found them sufficiently original may
persist in that view. Their influences remain transparent, and yet
they sound like themselves, a tricky feat to pull off. It helps that
Alex Maas is a persuasive singer joined by talented players who
all get the chance to shine (there isn't a weak link on this disc).

I hear references to many of my favorite artists, like Syd Bar-
rett, the Velvet Underground, Clinic--even the much maligned
Doors. The short, sharp "Telephone," in particular, sounds like
a long-lost should-have-been-a-hit single from the Zombies.

Click here for "Telephone" video.

Since the band hails from Texas, it only makes sense that they'd
also throw in a few nods to the 13th Floor Elevators. They've serv-
ed as Roky Erickson's backing band, so it's fair to say they've earn-
ed the right; much like Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, who
spent quality time with Alex Chilton in the reconstituted Big Star.

In a great year for psych-rock--see Ty Segall, Wooden Shjips,
etc.--the Black Angels have still managed to produce one of
the finest examples yet. And not just as far as 2010 is concern-
ed. This album, for my money, is one for the psychedelic ages.

Jakob Martin, Leave the Light On, self-released [11/16/10]

Folk-rock with soul swing, L.A. singer-songwriter Jakob Martin
adds harmonica and piano to this five-track release, which lends
the proceedings retro flair. Recommended to fans of Ben Harper,
Jack Johnson, and Dave Matthews. Not my thing, but not bad.

Endnote: Trivia: Alex's sister, Wheedle's Groove helmer Jen-
nifer Maas, is married to LITA head Matt Sullivan. The Black
Angels (and Black Mountain) play Seattle's Showbox on 11/29.
For more information about Jakob Martin, please click here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Movie of
the Month:
Part 21

I recently
the follow-
ing film
for Video Librarian, and thought the results were worth sharing.

THE WAY WE GET BY [***1/2]
(Aron Gaudet, US, 2009, 84 mins.)

It may not have the name recognition of Chicago's O'Hare or
New York's JFK, but Maine's Bangor International Airport re-
ceives pride of place in Aron Gaudet's film, since troops leav-
ing for and returning from Iran and Afghanistan often pass
through its doors (the documentary aired as part of P.O.V.).

Since 2003, 87-year-old Navy veteran Bill Knight has made it his
life's work to thank over 900,000 men and women for their ser-
vice. "Our troops need our support," he explains. His companions
include 74-year-old Jerry Mundy, an ex-Marine who lost his only
son to illness, and the filmmaker's mother, 75-year-old Joan Gau-
det, whose family counts three military members, including her
late husband who fought in the Korean War (Aron's wife, pro-
ducer Gita Pullapilly, helped to conduct the interviews).

Gaudet films the greeters, all of whom have health problems, at
the airport and at home. Knight shares his alarmingly messy
farmhouse with a dog and countless cats (Mundy and Gaudet
claim canine companions, as well). During filming, he finds out
he has prostate cancer, but opts to keep greeting while he can.

In the meantime, he moves into a trailer while preparing to sell
his house and pay down his credit card debt. Knight also plans to
place his cats with a shelter, since he can no longer afford to feed
them. Though Joan would like to see the war come to an end, she
admits that she'd be lost if she didn't get to shake hands with the
troops each week, no matter how early the call. Her son deserves
credit for avoiding pathos, pity, and divisive politics in this exam-
ination of dedication and mortality. A strong recommendation.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 20: My Year Without Sex

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. I didn't pick
a DVD for September, but if I had, it would've been Sweet-
hearts of the Prison Rodeo
(click here for my Siffblog review),
which plays the NWFF 1o/8-10. Image from Living in Cinema.

Friday, October 01, 2010

October Reviews

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

Amazon DVDs: Sherlock - Season One [two-disc set], House - Criterion Collection (click here for my Siffblog review), Centur-
(with Michael Fassbender and Dominic West), and Spike
Lee's If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise (sequel to
When the Levees Broke - A Requiem in Four Acts) .

Amazon Theatricals: Waiting for Superman
(from An Inconvenient Truth's Davis Guggenheim)
and Hereafter (Clint Eastwood directs Matt Damon).

Still playing (or yet to open): The American, Eat Pray Love, Get Low, Inception, Inside Job, The Kids Are All Right, Never Let Me Go, The Town.

Siffblog: Sweethearts of the Prison Ro-
and I Am Secretly an Important Man.

Video Librarian: For Memories' Sake, Miss Gulag, Secrets
to Love
, Tehran Has No More Pomegranates, Make Me Young -
Youth Knows No Pain
, Daniel and Ana, Electric Light Orchestra -
Live: The Early Years
, Leslie Jordan - My Trip Down the Pink
, Passenger Side, Wild Grass, Mother and Child, The
, The Secret of Moonacre, Suck, Cody, Fred - The
, BlueGreen, Rio Breaks, House - Criterion
, and You Don't Know Jack.

Endnote: Image from Janus Films.