Friday, December 31, 2010

Movies for Music Lovers: 2010 Edition

for Music

Click here
for the

Some of these films premiered in the US in 2009, but didn't make their way to Seattle until '10, in which case I deferred to local release dates. Some missed the city altogether, in which case I caught up via DVD. Altogether, I saw around 250 films, and wrote about most of them for Amazon, Siffblog, and Video Librarian.

The Tops
1. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)
2. The White Ribbon / Das Weisse Band (Michael Haneke)
3. The Social Network (David Fincher)
4. A Prophet / Un Prophète (Jacques Audiard)
5. Animal Kingdom (David Michôd)
6. Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
7. The King's Speech (Tom Hooper)
8. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
9. Daddy Longlegs (Josh and Ben Safdie)
10. The Red Riding Trilogy (Julian
Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker)

Note: If I had seen Fish Tank and The White Ribbon in '09, The So-
cial Network
would top this list. Last year's #1: The Hurt Locker.

11. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)
12. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
13. The Fighter (David O. Russell)
14. Sweetgrass (Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
15. Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)
16. Mother and Child (Rodrigo García)
17. Police, Adjective / Politist, Adjectiv (Corneliu Porumboiu)
18. Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek)
19. Mid-August Lunch / Pranzo di Ferragosto (Gianni Di Gregorio)
20. The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)

Note: Annette Bening gives an even better performance in Mother
and Child
than in The Kids Are All Right (I'm sorry no one noticed).

Second Runners-up:
21. Everyone Else / Alle Anderen (Maren Ade)
22. The New Year Parade (Tom Quinn)
23. 127 Hours (Danny Boyle)
24. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola)
25. True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen)
26. Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood)
27. The Hedgehog / Le Hérisson (Mona Achache)
28. Mother / Madeo (Bong Joon-ho)
29. A Town Called Panic / Panique au Village
(Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar)

30. The Runaways (Floria Sigismondi)

Also worthy of note: 44 Inch Chest, The American, Blue Val-
, Centurion, Crazy Heart, The Company Men, Disgrace, The Eclipse, Farewell / L'Affaire Farewell, Get Low, The Girl on the
/ La Fille du RER, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män
Som Hatar Kvinnor
, Hereafter, Hipsters / Stilyagi, Howl, I Am
/ Io Sono l'Amore, The Killer Inside Me, The Maid / La Na-
, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, The Night Catches Us, No One Knows About Persian Cats / Kasi Az Gorbehaye Irani Khabar Nadareh, Passenger Side, Rabbit Hole, Soul Kitchen, The Town, White Material, Wild Grass / Les Herbes Folles, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop / San Qiang Pai an Jing Qi, and HBO's If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise and You Don't Know Jack.

1. The Tillman Story (Amir Bar-Lev)
2. The Oath (Laura Poitras)
3. Jean-Michel Basquiat - The Radiant Child (Tamra Davis)
4. Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (Brad Beesley)
5. Inside Job (Charles Ferguson)
6. The Beaches of Agnès / Les Plages d'Agnès (Agnès Varda)
7. Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work (Anne Sundberg and Ricki Stern)
8. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy)
9. Marwencol (Jeff Malmberg)
10. I Am Secretly an Important Man (Peter Sillen)

Also worthy of note: Beautiful Darling, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Client 9 - The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Countdown to Zero, Four Seasons Lodge, Garbage Dreams, Glenn Gould - The Genius Within, Mine, Rio Breaks, Kings of Pastry, La Danse - Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, LennoNYC, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Prodigal Sons, Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage, She's a Boy I Knew, Strange Powers - Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, Two in the Wave, Waiting for Superman, The Way We Get By, and When You're Strange.

Reissues and Rediscoveries:
1. House / Hausu (Nobuhiko Ôbayashi)
2. Léon Morin, Priest / Léon Morin, Prêtre (Jean-Pierre Melville)
3. Le Amiche / The Girlfriends (Michelangelo Antonioni)
4. Mamma Roma (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
5. Wild River (Elia Kazan)
6. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Ôshima)
7. Tie: The Only Son / There Was a Father (Yasujirô Ozu)
8. Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Rock & Roll High School
(Allan Arkush) and Suburbia (Penelope Spheeris)
9. Senso (Luchino Visconti)
10. The River (Jean Renoir)

Note: Mamma Roma marks my introduction to Pasolini. As good a
place to start as any; I suspect I won't enjoy his other films as much.

Missed (or haven't seen yet): Air Doll, Another Year,
Aurora, Certified Copy, Dogtooth,
Enter the Void, Father of
My Children, Film Socialisme, The Illusionist, I'm Still Here,
, Lebanon, Lourdes, Meek's Cutoff, The Complete
Monsters, Nostalgia for the Light, Of Gods and
, Poetry, Secret Sunshine, Shutter Island, The Strange
Case of Angelica, Tabloid, Terribly Happy, Toy Story 3
, Un-
cle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
, and Waste Land.

Yes, I did see: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

1/12 update: Video Librarian (Vol. 26, No. 1) reports that the Cri-
terion Collection will release
Fish Tank on 2/22. "Bonus features
include three of
Arnold's short films, plus additional footage."

Endnote: Cross-posted here. Image from Cinema Enthusiast.
Songs for Swingin' Cineastes: 2010 Edition

To clear up any confusion: This isn't a list of film scores or
soundtracks. It's a list of music recommended for movie lov-
ers such as myself. Some independent film fans prefer main-
stream movie fare. Similarly, some indie film fans prefer main-
stream music. There's nothing wrong with that dichotomy; I
just can't relate to it (and try to avoid giving the Man my
money whenever possible). If you share my taste in mov-
ies, there's a good chance you'll share my taste in music.

The Tops:
1. Ty Segall - Melted (Goner)
2. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here (XL Recordings)
3. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop)
4. The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizon)
5. Sleigh Bells - Treats (Mom & Pop Music)
6. Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy/Wondaland)
7. Bill Withers - + 'Justments (Reel Music) [reissue]
8. Anika - self-titled (Stones Throw)
9. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest (4AD)
10. Gray - Shades of... (Plush Safe Records)

Note: The Gray CD features Jean-Michel Basquiat. Last
year's #1: Sylvester & the Hot Band - The Blue Thumb Collection.

1. Frankie Rose & the Outs - self-titled (Slumberland)
2. Endless Boogie - Full House Head (No Quarter)
3. Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker (Modular) [Australia]
4. Thee Oh Sees - Warm Slime (In the Red)
5. Aloe Blacc - Good Things (Stones Throw)
6. Wetdog - Frauhaus! (Captured Tracks)
7. Wooden Shjips - Vol. 2 (Holy Mountain)
8. Stereo Total - Baby Ouh! (Kill Rock Stars)
9. Moon Duo - Escape (Woodsist)
10. Woven Bones - In and Out and Back Again (Hozac)

Top Singles:
1. Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You" (Elektra/Asylum)
2. Anika - "Yang Yang" (Stones Throw)
3. The Roots - "How I Got Over" (Def Jam)
4. Aloe Blacc - "I Need a Dollar" (Stones Throw)
5. Lee Perry - "Exercising" [Horsepower Remix] (Tempa)

Note: I like garage rock, R&B, funk, dub, Germans, ladies with
attitude, and cranky old geezers. No apologies. Also worth a lis-
ten: the Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (Domino), the Fresh and
Onlys - Play It Strange (In the Red), the Strange Boys - Be Brave
(In the Red), and Past Lives - Tapestry of Lies (Suicide Squeeze).
In the Red, Stones Throw, Light in the Attic: killed it this year.

Top Reissues:
1. Various Artists - Epitaph for a Legend (Snapper)
2. Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg - self-titled (Light in the Attic)
3. Jane Birkin - Di Doo Dah (Light in the Attic)
4. Andy Votel - Cock Diesel Mixtape Vol. 1 Cassette (No Label)
5. Tages - Studio Album Plus (RPM) [UK]
6. Kenny Graham & His Satellites - Moondog and Suncat Suites (Trunk)
7. Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya - Dark Sunrise (Now Again)
8. Les Rallizes Denudes - Heavier Than a Death in the Family (Phoenix)
9. Les Rallizes Denudes - Blind Baby Has Its Mother's Eyes (Phoenix)
10. Walter Gibbons - Jungle Music (Strut)

Still to hear: Dean & Britta - 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for
Andy Warhol's Screen Tests
(Double Feature), Matthew Dear -
Black City
(Ghostly International), Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Kil-
(Warp Records), LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (D-
FA), Junior Murvin -
Police and Thieves - Deluxe Edition (Uni-
versal/Island), Irmin Schmidt + Inner Space Production -
masutra Vollendung Der Liebe
(Crippled Dick Hot Wax),
and Soft Moon - The Soft Moon (Captured Tracks).

Click here for the 2009 edition.

Endnote: The usual disclaimer applies. This list doesn't represent
the best music of the year, but the best music I heard. And I heard
less music than usual (I'm an underpaid freelance writer, and I had
to, you know, pay for most of it). Image from Austin Town Hall.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best DVDs of 2010: Art House & International

Here's the
text I wrote
this Am-
azon list

(it doesn't
appear on
the site).
Since I
compiled it in October, I only included the releases that were available at
the time. Note that it's separate from my favorite films list, which con-
sists exclusively of titles released in 2010, whether theatrically or on DVD.

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

The finest art house DVDs offer something for most
tastes, from pointed melodramas to star-crossed love
affairs. If laughs were in short supply, powerful per-
formances and intriguing imagery ruled the day.


After his unnecessary English-language overhaul of
Funny Games
, Austria’s Michael Haneke took on
the roots of fascism in this beautifully-shot melo-
drama about a small town rotting from the inside.


There are no heroes or villains in the upper-class
family at the heart of Olivier Assayas's quietly
moving film, just a mother and her children trying
to do right by each other in the face of mortality.


Jacques Audiard injects new life into the prison
drama by tracking the rise of a French-Arab man
who scales the ladder from convict to kingpin. Com-
parisons to The Godfather were not misplaced.


Jane Campion’s painterly portrait of the brief
relationship between poet John Keats and Fan-
ny Brawne brings young love to life in all its agon-
y and glory. Her finest feature since The Piano.


Belgian brothers Jean-Luc and Pierre Dar-
leave the suds behind for a gripping look
at a marriage of convenience that blooms into love
between a drug addict and an illegal immigrant.


Lisa Cholodenko doesn't just create fully round-
ed characters, but entire communities, and her third
film isn't just about parents and children, but about
the ties that truly bind. Bonus: it’s hilarious.


Down to the Bone director Debra Granik re-
invents the procedural for the harrowing tale of
a tenacious Ozark teenager trying to save the
family home against unbelievable odds.


This stop-motion adaptation of the Roald Dahl
classic marks Wes Anderson’s most enjoyable
outing since Rushmore. George Clooney is per-
fection as the family man-turned-action hero.


After the morose Margot at the Wedding, No-
ah Baumbach
’s carefully observed romantic
comedy feels downright buoyant, thanks large-
ly to the effortless charm of Greta Gerwig.

10. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Neither a remake nor a sequel to the Abel Ferrara
original, Werner Herzog’s New Orleans noir stars
a gloriously unhinged Nicolas Cage as a dirty, pill-
popping detective with one last shot at redemption.

Note: Jérémie Renier stars in both Summer Hours and Lorna's Silence.

Endnote: The actual Amazon title is "Best Movies & TV of 20-
10." Though I reviewed many made-for-TV movies, specials, and
series, I didn't put together a small-screen list. Also, no box sets,
since I covered very few. Image from © Sony Pictures Classics.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


A new Dirtbombs record is always cause for celebration. Yesterday, I received word that the Motor City combo will be releasing Party Store, a Detroit techno collection, on 2/1/11.

Here's the first single, "Sharevari." I can't speak for the album
as a whole, but the song and video are great--as long as you don't
mind Mick Collins' fake German accent (I can dig it). And you got-
ta love his call and response with singer/guitarist Ko Melina.

Below: original version as featured on The Scene. Dig those moves!

Press release:
Party Store is an assortment of live band interpretations of classic
Detroit techno music of the '80s and early '90s. These are songs Col-
lins digested when they were originally released--at a time where he
was already making waves with garage-punk legends the Gories.
Songs that run the gamut of subject matter from materialistic future-
disco braggadocio "Sharevari" (originally by A Number of Names) to
cold, post-industrial isolation of "Alleys of Your Mind" originally by
Cybotron) through the instrumental optimism of a worldwide house
classic, "Strings of Life" (originally by Derrick May)... All these themes
encapsulate the climate of Detroit both now and at the time of their
initial release. Let it be said clearly...this is a record that address-
es, at the same time, both the past and the future of Detroit.

With "Good Life"--originally by Kevin Saunderson via his Inner
City outfit, Collins re-contextualizes the upbeat modern dance é-
lan to echo with post-punk zeal as the zest of doubled harmonies
resonates throughout. "Bassbin" (originally by Carl Craig as Inner-
zone Orchestra) features modular synthesizer programming by Carl
Craig himself and is the album's pièce de résistance. Clocking in at o-
ver 21 minutes, the track's original light jazz underpinnings are dif-
fused into a martial, militaristic back beat coupled with fire-raining
feedback screes from Collins' trusty Kent guitar. It is arguably the
most intense recording the Dirtbombs have ever produced.

The end result is nothing short of impressive. The players' recreation
of the sequenced, digital rhythms and melodies stems from an Oblique
Strategies card pulled during the recordings ("Humanize something
that is without error") and they tend to do so with a crisp, Kraut-
rock-like precision. For originals that all contained drum ma-
chines, sequencers, and synthesizers the Dirtbombs tak-
es on these pieces all matter-of-factly and use said tools
only to accent what's laid down by the live unit.

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

Click titles for my reviews of Dangerous Magical Noise, If You Don't Already Have a Look, and We Have You Surrounded.

Click here for the Pop Matters review.

Endnote: The band's "I Can't Stop Thinking About It," from
1998 debut Horndog Fest, appears in Blue Valentine (with Ry-
an Gosling and Michelle Williams). It opens at Seattle's Egyp-
tian Theater on 1/7/11. For more information about the Dirt-
, please click here or here. Image from Force Field PR.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Movie of
the Month:
Part 23

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

(Maren Ade, Germany, 2009, 119 mins.)

A German couple watches their relationship crumble in Maren
carefully observed pas de deux. On holiday in the Medi-
terranean, they seem happy enough as they loll about his moth-
er's pool and play Willie Nelson and Herbert Grönemeyer LPs.

Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr), an outspoken music publicist, and
Chris (Lars Eidinger), a retiring architectural student, argue
like most people, and Chris worries about a design competi-
tion, but things could be worse. Early on, Gitti tells her in-
secure mate that she finds him "completely beautiful."

Mostly the two talk, which lends the film a French feel, until
they run into Hans (Hans Jochen-Wagner), an avuncular archi-
tect, and his pregnant wife Sana (Nicole Marischka), a fashion
designer, neighbors who appear to be a few years older. Chris
has been trying to avoid them, but he agrees to come over
for a barbecue, though Gitti would rather go boating.

Things get off to a good start until Hans lectures Chris about
his slow-moving career. Gitti tells him she finds that patroniz-
ing, which embarrasses her boyfriend. After that, their bicker-
ing accelerates, despite Gitti's attempts at romantic gestures,
like a hillside picnic. Chris wants her to "act normally," but his
increasingly judgmental demeanor makes her uncomfortable.

Further encounters with Hans and Sana deepen the divide. In
the end, Ade leaves it up to viewers to decide whether Gitti has
emotional problems or whether Chris is making her sick. Though
the film has elicited comparisons to L'Avventura and Scenes from
a Marriage
, it has more in common with the earthy theatricality
of Bergman than the existential ennui of Antonioni, though Sardi-
nia's rugged terrain does, at times, recall Sicily. Extra features
include deleted scenes, interviews, a short film, and an essay
from Cinema Scope editor Mark Peranson. Recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 22: The Oath

Endnote: I'm sorry to say that Ade's second film, after The
Forest for the Trees
, did not open in Seattle. Slightly revised
from the original text. Image from indieWIRE/Cinema Guild.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Stay Around a Little Longer

Deerhunter, Hal-
cyon Digest
, 4AD

When Atlanta's Brad-
ford Cox
released his
third record, Micro-
castle/Weird Era
, in 2008, I
wouldn't have thought
of him as a 4AD artist
(the double-album
appeared on Kranky-
4AD). After listening
to Halcyon Digest,
though, the full em-
brace of the vener-
able British label
makes sense as he combines loud and soft in ways that re-
call 4AD veterans like A.R. Kane and His Name Is Alive.

I had never heard Cox, who also records as Atlas Sound, prior to
his last LP, but he quickly became one of my favorite artists. The
man has a lovely, lovely voice and a unique way with a melody.

There's nothing quirky or dissonant about his work, and yet it's instantly recognizable. It isn't poppy, but it's always accessible, despite the strange sounds floating around the edges. "Sailing," for instance, fades out into a quiet rumble, while closer "He Would Have Laughed," a tribute to Jay Reatard, has a cold ending.

At times, you'd think wind and rain have invaded the studio. I
have no idea how Cox conjures up such effects; I'm more inter-
ested in whether they work or not. They do. I only question the
addition of saxophone to "Coronado." Said Cox to Exclaim!, "I
wanted that sax on there because I was listening to the Stones'
Exile on Main Street
reissue a lot." And yet Deerhunter has
more in common with the Beach Boys, at their most lysergic,
than any iteration of the 'Stones. Still, I have no question a-
bout the album as a whole: he's produced another winner.

Black Dub, self-titled, Jive/Sony

Canadian singer/guitarist Daniel Lanois, producer of albums for
Bob Dylan, U2, and Neil Young (including Young's Grammy-nom-
inated Le Noise, which bears his name) strikes out with a new en-
semble for Black Dub. Blue-eyed soul, gospel, and reggae meet
Daniel's trademark atmospherics as he joins forces with Brian
Blade (bass), Daryl Johnson (drums), and Trixie Whitley (vo-
cals, keyboards), daughter of the late rocker Chris Whitley.

Their music relies more on the riff or the jam than the lyrics, which revolve around the repetition of simple lines like "I want to live where love lives" ("Love Lives"), "I Believe in You" ("I Believe in You"), and "I feel good, just like I knew I would" ("Nomad").

Whitley strains too much for my taste and "Canaan" sounds like a U2 outtake, but the first release from Black Dub grew on me after repeated listens. The best tracks: the instrumental "Slow Baby" and "Last Time," a blues-psych cover of the Rolling Stones classic.

John Eye, Cannonicus 3.14, H1 Massive

Boston dance-rock purveyor John Eye appears to have absorbed
a few Nine Inch Nails (and Killing Joke) discs in his time. The re-
sult, Cannonicus 3.14, isn't a facsimile, but the EP comes close
as the beats bury vocals and the electronics have a grungy, dis-
torted sound, like a horror movie score for party people. Inter-
estingly, the cover lists the BPMs for each song, from 100-128.

Buddy Guy, Living Proof, Jive/Sony

There ain't nothin' I haven't done.
-- Buddy Guy, "74 Years Young"

I've never been a fan of the phrase "XX years young," a favorite
of frisky senior citizens who consider themselves "young at heart,"
but Chicago blues man Buddy Guy, who entered the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, has earned the right to use it.

On Living Proof, the Louisiana-born guitar slinger rocks hard-
er than men half his age. If his voice betrays his years, that's no
crime when it comes to the blues, and he's never been known
for his smooth vocals. Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach would
surely be pleased to sing with as much grit when he hits 74.

Granted, I prefer the rockers to the ballads, like "Stay Around
a Little Longer" with his 85-year-old buddy, B.B. King, though
Guy pours his heart into all of 'em, and band mate Reese Wy-
nans' expertise on the B3, Rhodes, and Wurlitzer elevates the
enterprise. (Carlos Santana also guests on "Where the Blues
Begin.") In '11, Guy competes for a Grammy (best contem-
porary blues album) against Bettye LaVette, Dr. John,
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and the late Solomon Burke.

Endnote: Image from The Vancouver Sun.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

December Reviews

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


and Joy
, Man in a Suitcase - Set 1 [four-disc set], and Prayers for Bobby.

Amazon Theatricals: Blue Valentine (Ryan Gosling and
Michelle Williams), The Company Men (Ben Affleck and Tom-
my Lee Jones), Somewhere (Sofia Coppola directs Stephen
Dorff), The Fighter (David O. Russell directs Mark Wahlberg),
and How Do You Know (Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd).

Still playing (or yet to open): Hereafter, Inception, Inside Job, The King's Speech, Love and Other Drugs, Never Let Me Go, and The Town.

Siffblog: Claire Denis' White Material and Roger Cor-
man's Cult Classics - Rock 'n' Roll High School. I also refor-
matted my review of Hal Ashby's debut, The Landlord.

Video Librarian: Kenny G - Live at Montreux, Todd P Goes to Austin, New Morning Paris Concert - John Scofield, Pictures of Status Quo, Ana Popovic Band - Evening at Trasimeno Lake, Bee Gees - In Our Own Time [Blu-ray], INXS - Mystify, The Torture Never Sleeps - Frank Zappa, Man in a Suitcase - Set 1, Prayers for Bobby, Robert Klein - Unfair and Unbalanced, and Finding Face.

Endnote: Image from