Thursday, December 31, 2015

Movies for Music Lovers: 2015 Edition

Jack O'Connell couldn't be better (and look more right) in '71
Click here 
for the 2014 

I'm not sure whether this is a first or not, but I'm pretty sure I listened
to more new records than I saw new movies in 2015--and I saw over
250 of the latter (not counting concert films and music documentaries
that never played theatrically)--so if you notice any notable omissions,
check out the list of films I missed below, and you'll probably find
them there. If not, feel free to give a shout. All of this isn't to say that
I didn't have a fantastic time at the movies this year. I did. I always do.

The links lead to my reviews for The Stranger, Portland Mercury, SIFFBlog, and the SIFF program guide (some also appeared in East Bay Express). My reviews for Video Librarian live behind a paywall.  

Sidse Babett Knudsen in The Duke of Burgundy
Top 10
1. '71 (Yann Demange)

The best film about The Troubles since Steve McQueen's Hunger. And for those who know nothing about the politics, it's still a great thriller in Odd Man Out-goes-digital mode. Surprisingly, the filmmaker isn't Irish--and nor is his protagonist--but a Brit of Algerian extraction. '71 is every bit as essential as In the Name of the Father and Bloody Sunday 

2. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)
3. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
5. Carol (Todd Haynes)
6. While We're Young and Mistress America (Noah Baumbach)
7. White God (Kornél Mundruczó)
8. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma)
9. The Mend (John Magary)
10. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako)

11. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
12. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson)
13. Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson)
14. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
15. Hard to be a God (Alexei German)
16. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller)
17. Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
18. Tu Dors Nicole (Stéphane Lafleur)
19. Creed (Ryan Coogler)
20. Love & Mercy (Bill Pohlad)

Note: I count home-video debuts as new releases, since I review so many of them. I caught Tu Dors Nicole on a Blu-ray that I reviewed for Video Librarian, though it also played SIFF's French Cinema Now festival in 2015. Other films I caught on video include Amy, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Mississippi Grind, Mommy, Why Don't You Play in Hell?, and Z for Zachariah.

Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years

Second Runners-up
1. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
2. Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
3. Tangerine (Sean Baker)
4. The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt)
5. Mr. Holmes (Bill Condon)
6. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
7. Heaven Knows What (Ben and Josh Safdie)
8. The Martian (Ridley Scott)
9. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
10. Jobs (Danny Boyle)

Top Documentaries
1. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
2. Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll (John Pirozzi)
3. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution (Stanley Nelson)
4. The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle)
5. Best of Enemies (Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon)
6. Amy (Asif Kapadia)
7. Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson)
8. Iris (Albert Mayles)
9. Sunshine Superman (Marah Strauch)
10. Courtship (Amy Kohn)

Laurie Anderson at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Also worthy of note: 808, All Things Must Pass, The Assas-
sin, The Automatic Hate, Be-
ing Evel, The Big Short, Black Coal, Thin Ice, Borrowed Identity, Boy Meets Girl, Cherry Tobacco, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, The Color of Noise, The Critic, Dope, A Fuller Life, Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Good Kill, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Hafu, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Jaco, Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows, Joy, Korla, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, Listen to Me Marlon, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau, Love Between the Covers, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mississippi Grind, My New Girlfriend, My Prairie Home, Name Me, Mr. Turner, Of Girls and Horses, People, Places, Things, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, Queen of Earth, Queens and Cowboys, Results, Revenge of the Mekons, Room, Saint Laurent, The Salt of the Earth, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Sicario, Slow West, Song of the Sea, Spectre, Spy, Straight Outta Compton, Trainwreck, The Tribe, Unexpected, The Walk, We Monsters, Welcome to New York, Wet Bum, When Evening Falls on Bucharest, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Wild Canaries, Z for Zachariah, and Zero Motivation.

Yana Novikova of The Tribe at the Northwest Film Forum. 

Missed or haven’t seen yet: 99 Homes, About Elly, Advantageous,  
Amour Fou, Arabian Nights, Ballet 422, Blackhat, Bone Tomahawk,  
Breathe, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn,* Cemetery of Splendor, Chevalier,
Chi-Raq, Clouds of Sils Maria, Court, Eden, Experimenter, Franco-
fonia, The Good Dinosaur, Grandma, The Hateful Eight, Hitchcock-
Truffaut, Horse Money, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, The Hunting Ground, In the Shadow of Women, Inside Out, The Iron Min-
istry, Irrational Man, Jackson Heights, Janis: Little Girl Blue, Jauja, The Kindergarten Teacher, Li’l Quinquin, Love, Magic Mike XXL, Man from Reno, Maps to the Stars, Moana with Sound, Mountains May Depart, Office, Nasty Baby, No Home Movie, The Pearl Button, The Revenant, Ricki and the Flash, The Royal Road, La Sapienza, Seymour: An Introduction, Shaun the Sheep: The Movie, Son of Saul, Suffragette, Taxi, Tokyo Tribe, Trumbo, Truth, We Come as Friends, Welcome to Me, What Happened, Ms. Simone?, What We Do in the Shadows, Where to Invade Next, Wild Tales, The Wonders, and Youth.

* I saw Brooklyn on 1/2/16. I liked it, but this should come as little surprise since I also liked John Crowley's Boy A, An Education (which featured an adapted screenplay from Nick Hornby), and every performance Saoirse Ronan has given, from Atonement to Hanna.  

Final thoughts: Some of these films, like Son of Saul, haven’t opened
in Seattle yet; others never will, but many have appeared on other top
10 lists. Though I’m not interested in seeing everything, all are signifi-
cant in some way, and I plan to catch up with most in the next year or two. And yes! I missed the latest films from Cronenberg and Assayas. How does that happen when they’re two of my favorite filmmakers? It happens because whenever I have free time, I’m broke, and whenever I'm not broke, I have no free time. I reviewed hundreds of videos this year, many of them fairly obscure (films designed for the educational market and the like). It keeps me occupied, but it also makes it hard
to keep up with the movies everybody's talking about, from the new James Bond to the new Star Wars. Also, Frederick Wiseman has had an arrangement with PBS for as long as I can remember. I always wait for the broadcast premiere to catch up with his documentaries.

Endnote: Jack O'Connell image from Roadside Attractions.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Songs for Cineastes: 2015 Edition

Lamont Thomas of Obnox. 
Click here 
for the 2014 

I probably spent more time listening to new music in 2015 than any other year, and that includes my days as a music director (when staffers helped me to plow through the deluge of records and CDs we received each week).

On average, that means several hours a day every day listening to new singles, EPs, and full-lengths. Although I don't rank them, I also watch-
ed a lot of videos and listened to a lot of mixes. I receive most of this material from labels and publicists, but I'm a freelance writer, and I di-
vide my time between music and film, so I don't get everything, and I don't have the time or money to hear it all, so you're sure to notice notable omissions. To that end, I've included a list of records at the end of this post that might have made my list if I had heard them in their entirety. In those cases, I heard a song or an excerpt, but didn't have access to the full-length in time. Some of these titles, like the Har-
monia collection are now sold out (at least according to Other Music).

As ever, ranking is somewhat arbitrary, except for #1. I love to rank things, but I kind of hate it, too. Plus, my feelings change with time; not radically so, but enough that these titles would probably remain the same, but the order in which they appear would look different. I can never really predict what will stand the test of time. I mean, sometimes I can, but not always. If something--anything--gets overplayed, it tends to grate on my nerves after awhile, and I notice flaws that weren't ap-
parent before. Or if they were always apparent, I focus on them more than I would otherwise. You could call it a flaw in my construction, and I wouldn't beg to differ, but it's part of the reason why independent releases will always give me more joy than major-label productions.

Note: Links lead to my previews for The Stranger (the paper's staff
published their lists here). Unnumbered lists are in alphabetical order.  

Top 10
1. Obnox - Boogalou Reed (12XU)

A new discovery for me. I'm not familiar with Lamont "Bim" Thomas's previous work, and nor did I hear the other two albums, Wiglet and Know America, that he released this year. I only know that Boogalou Reed--ridiculous title and all--rocked harder than anything else I heard (including that incendiary Wolf Eyes record), and I look forward to hearing more from Thomas in the years to come. As with Kamasi Washington's The Epic, this is a record and an artist that received very little love from Seattle in 2015. We can and should do better to support such talented, uninhibited artists. The fact that they're musicians of color makes their absence from local publications and airwaves seem even more unfortunate.  

2. Thee Oh Sees - Mutilator Defeated at Last (Castle Face)
3. Shamir - Ratchet (XL Recordings)
4. Twerps - Range Anxiety (Merge)
5. Kamasi Washington - The Epic (Brainfeeder)
6. Jane Weaver - Silver Globe (Finders Keepers)
7. The Cairo Gang - Goes Missing (God?-Drag City)
8. Bitchin Bajas & Natural Information Society -  
    Automaginary (Drag City)
9. Föllakzoid - III (Sacred Bones)
10. Wolf Eyes - I Am A Problem: Mind in Pieces (Third Man)

11. Joanna Newsom - Divers (Drag City)
12. Jim O'Rourke - Simple Songs (Drag City)
13. Deerhunter - Fading Frontier (4AD)
14. Shopping - Why Wait and Consumer Complaints (FatCat)
15. Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl -
      We Are Not the First (RVNG Intl.)
16. Destroyer - Poison Season (Merge)
17. Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
18. Boogarins - Manual (Other Music Recording Co.)
19. Six Organs of Admittance - Hexadic II (Drag City)
20. Royal Headache - High (What’s Your Rupture?)

Second Runners-up
21. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, 
       and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
22. Moon Duo - Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)
23. Meg Baird - Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)
24. Slim Twig - Thank You for Stickin’ with Twig (DFA)
25. Ultimate Painting - Green Lanes (Trouble in Mind)
26. Jacco Gardner - Hypnophobia (Polyvinyl)
27. Suuns and Jerusalem in My Heart - Suuns and 
      Jerusalem in My Heart (Secretly Canadian)
28. Metz - II (Sub Pop)
29. Micachu & the Shapes - Good Sad Happy Bad (Rough Trade)
30. Circuit des Yeux - In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey)

Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux. 

Local Superstars
1. La Luz - Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
2. The Sonics - This Is the Sonics (Revox)
3. Pony Time - Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True (self-released)
4. Wimps - Suitcase (Kill Rock Stars)
5. Childbirth - Women’s Rights (Suicide Squeeze)
6. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial (Matador) 
7. Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles - Holy Rollers (Suicide Squeeze)
8. Chastity Belt - Time to Go Home (Hardly Art)

Top Reissues
1. Various Artists - Ork Records: New York, 
     New York (Numero Group)
2. Karin Krog - Don't Just Sing | An Anthology 
    1963-1999 (Light in the Attic)
3. Zeus B. Held - Vinyl Collection (Medical Records)
4. Various Artists - Don't Think I've Forgotten: 
    Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll (Dust-to-Digital)
5. Frederick Michael St. Jude - Gang War (Drag City)
6. Elyse Weinberg - Greasepaint Smile (Numerophon)
7. John Carpenter - Lost Themes (Sacred Bones)
8. Six Organs of Admittance - Dust and Chimes (Holy Mountain)
9. Beat Happening - Look Around (Domino)
10. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy: 
     10th Anniversary Edition (Jagjaguwar)

Note: I forgot to add Laddio Bolocko's Live and Unreleased: 1997-2000 (Quarter Records), so just think of it as #11.  

1. White Magic - I'm Hiding My Nightingale (Leaving)
2. Ty Segall - Mr. Face (Famous Class)
3. Susanna - Songs Revisited (SusannaSonata)
4. Parquet Courts - Monastic Living (Rough Trade)
5. Amen Dunes - Cowboy Worship (Sacred Bones)

Top single
David Bowie - "Blackstar" (Sony)

Also worthy of note: Benjamin Clementine - At Least for Now (Capitol Records), Cold Beat - Into the Air (Crime on the Moon), Deradoorian - The Expanding Flower Planet (Anticon), Django Django - Born Under Saturn (Ribbon Music), Drinks - Hermits on Holiday (Heavenly Recordings), Bill Fay - Who Is the Sender? (Dead Oceans), Flying Saucer Attack - Instrumentals 2015 (Drag City), Gardens & Villa - Music for Dogs (Secretly Canadian), Don Howland - Life Is a Nightmare (12XU), Stone Jack Jones - Love and Torture (Western Vinyl), Jessie Jones - Jessie Jones (Burger), Idjut Boys - Versions (Smalltown Supersound), Mike Krol - Turkey (Merge), Lady Lamb - After (Mom+Pop), Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts - Manhattan (Rough Trade), Mantles - All Odds End (Slumberland), Rhett Miller - The Traveler (ATO Records), Peacers - Peacers (Drag City), A Place to Bury Strangers - Transfixiation (Dead Oceans), Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space (Test Card Recordings), Michael Rault - Living Daylight (Burger), Shannon & the Clams - Gone by the Dawn (Hardly Art), Speedy Ortiz - Foil Deer (Carpark), Summer Twins - Limbo (Burger Records), Richard Thompson - Still (Fantasy Records), Thundercat - The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam (Brainfeeder), Turn to Crime - Actions (Mugg and Bop), Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar), Ryley Walker - Primrose Green (Dead Oceans), Wand - 1,000 Days (God?-Drag City) and Golem (In the Red), Jamie Woon - Making Time (Blue Note), WX - WX (Castle Face), and Yo La Tengo - Stuff Like That There (Matador).

James McNew, Georgia Hubley, and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo at the Neptune.
Need to hear more: Dick Diver - Melbourne, Florida (Trouble in Mind), Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - The Connie Plank Session (Grönland), Fuzz - II (In the Red), Girl Band - Holding Hands with Jamie (Rough Trade), Harmonia - Complete Works (Grönland), King Midas Sound/Fennesz - Edition 1 (Ninja Tune), Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath-Interscope), Cass McCombs - A Folk Set Apart: Rarities, B-Sides & Space Junk, Etc. (Domino), Mbongwana Star - From Kinshasa (World Circuit), Mueller_Roedelius - Imagori (Grönland), Peach Kelli Pop - III (Burger), and Smokey - How Far 
Will You Go?: The S&M Recordings, 1973-81 (Chapter Music).

Endnote: Obnox image from Público (no photographer noted).  

Thursday, December 03, 2015

December Reviews

The young cast of Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Mustang.
These are 
the reviews 
and other 
pieces I'm 
working on 
this month.

The Stranger Film Openings: The Danish Girl Fails to Strike a
Blow Against Hollywood's Heteronormative Hegemony
, Success
Is a Miracle Mop in Joy
, and Mustang Has a Kick-Ass Heroine

The Stranger Music Things to Do: Mike Krol, Rupert
Angeleyes, and Acapulco Lips
, Okkervil River, and
La Luz, Gazebos, and Sick Sad World.

Slog/Film Opening count: 634 posts/reviews since 2011.

Video Librarian: Love Between the Covers, The Placebo Effect, The 
Polygon, Private Violence, Resistance, Tap or Die, UnSlut, The Year 
We Thought About Love, Rock 'n Rhythm Collector's Set: The 1955 
Rock 'n Roll Revue and Rhythm and Blues Revue [two-disc set], Rage 
Against the Machine - Live at Finsbury Park [Blu-ray], Giving Up the 
Ghosts - Closing Time at Doc’s Music Hall [Blu-ray], Just Let Go - 
Lenny Kravitz Live [Blu-ray], Kurt Cobain - Montage of Heck [Blu-
ray], Katy Perry - The Prismatic World Tour Live [Blu-ray], Black 
Stone Cherry - Thank You, Livin’ Live Birmingham UK [Blu-ray + 
CD], The Color of Noise [Blu-ray + DVD], Advanced Style, Rebel Scum.

Endnote: Image from Variety by way of Cohen Media Group. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

November Reviews

Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight.
These are 
the reviews 
and other 
pieces I'm 
working on 
this month.

The Stranger Film Openings: Sex, Lies, and the Catholic Church in Spotlight and Even a Little Kink Can’t Save Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea.

Slog/Film Opening count: 631 posts/reviews since 2011.

The Stranger Music Things to Do: Micachu &
the Shapes
and Yo La Tengo and Dave Schramm.

Video Librarian: Pat Metheny - The Unity Sessions [Blu-ray], Sis-
ters - Seasons One & Two [seven-disc set], Soul Boys of the Western 
World - Spandau Ballet: The Film, Tu dors Nicole [Blu-ray], What’s 
Going On - Taste Live at the Isle of Wight [Blu], Barefoot in the Kit-
chen, A Courtship, Nazareth - No Means of Escape [Blu], Gone with 
the Wind - The Remarkable Rise and Tragic Fall of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Endnote: Image from Open Road Films. 

Friday, October 09, 2015

October Reviews

Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson's The Forbidden Room.
These are the reviews and other pieces I'm working on this month.

The Factual Opinion: three-part Beat Connection podcast in which 
I join Nate Patrin and Marty Brown to look at music documentaries. Part Two - Underdog Films and Part Three - Movement Overviews.

The Stranger Film Openings: The Walk Isn't Perfect, But It's Thril-
and The Forbidden Room Is Like Guy Maddin’s Greatest Hits.

Slog/Film Opening count: 629 posts/reviews since 2011.

The Stranger Music Things to Do: Destroyer and Frog
, Atlas Sound and Deerhunter, and Shannon and the Clams,
Shopping, Gazebos, Nail Polish, and Underworld Scum

Video Librarian: Black and Cuba, Finding Home - Sophorn's 
Story, Perfect Strangers, Six Days - Three Activists, Three Wars, One 
Dream, Walking with Life - The Birth of a Human Rights Movement 
in Africa, George Strait - The Cowboy Rides Away, Life after Death 
from Above 1979, Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 [Blu-ray/two-
CD set], and Jeff Lynne’s ELO - Live in Hyde Park [Blu-ray].

Endnote: Forbidden Room image from Kino Lorber.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

September Reviews

Poster for John Magary's The Mend.
These are the reviews and other 
pieces I'm working on this month.

The Factual Opinion: Beat Connection podcast 011-1 in which I join Nate Patrin and Marty Brown to look at music documentaries. Part One - Legacy Films. Part Two (un-
derdog films and movement overviews) to come. 

Fandor: A Seattle Childhood - The Sting Remains (a review of Bret Fetzer and Matt Smith's My Last Year with the Nuns).

The Stranger Film Openings: Ben Kingsley Meets the Ultimate
WASP in Learning to Drive
, What A Walk in the Woods Tells Us About Robert Redford, The Son of a Liberation Fighter Refuses to Take Sides in Borrowed Identity, The Mend Is a Wonderful Psychodrama, Sleep
ing with Other People
Is More Amusing Than Sexy
, The Mystery of Korla Pandit's Race Is Examined in Korla, and Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez Could Use a Little More Magical Realism.

Slog/Film Opening count: 627 posts/reviews since 2011.

The Stranger Music Things to Do (formerly Up & Comings): A Place to Bury Strangers, Grooms, and Depth and Current, Moon Duo, Kinski, and Shitty Person (Benjamin Thomas-Kennedy), Lætitia Sadier and Deradoorian, Shamir and Allie X, and Angel Olsen and Alex Cameron.

Video Librarian: Harlem Street Singer - The Reverend Gary 
Davis Story, I Dream of Wires, Judith - Portrait of a Street Vendor,  
Queens & Cowboys - A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo, No Evidence 
of Disease, Alto, Grey’s Anatomy - Season 11 [six-disc set], and The 
Goldbergs - The Complete Second Season [three-disc set].


Endnote: Poster image from Cinelicious Pics.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

August Reviews

Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke in Mistress America.
These are
the reviews
and other
pieces I'm
working on
this month.

Portland Mercury (The Stranger's sister paper): Noah Baum-
bach and Greta Gerwig's Mistress America Is Cleverly Self-Critical

The Stranger Film Openings: The Look of Silence Looks at Genocide from the View of an Optometrist, A Holocaust Survivor Returns from the Dead to Haunt Her Gentile Husband in Phoenix, Listen to Me Marlon Offers a Privileged View of a Legend's Thoughts, Noah Baum-
bach and Greta Gerwig's Mistress America Is Cleverly Self-Critical
, and Orlando Bloom Has Other Things on His Mind in Digging for Fire.

Slog/Film Opening count: 620 posts/reviews since 2011. 

The Stranger Up & Comings: Circuit des Yeux, Marisa
Anderson, somesurprises, and Josh Medina & Paurl Walsh

and Thee Oh Sees, SSDD, Smiling, and Guests.

Video Librarian: Ghosts of Amistad - In the Footsteps of the 
Rebels, Hafu, Out in the Lineup, They Are We, Revenge of the 
Mekons, Zero Motivation, Black Veil Brides - Alive and Burn-
ing [Blu-ray], Glen Campbell - I’ll Be Me, Can’t Stand Losing  
You - Surviving the Police [Blu-ray], I Am Femen, Baby It's You  
[Blu-ray], Heaven Adores You [Blu-ray], and Soaked in Bleach.

Endnote: Mistress America image from Fox Searchlight Pictures. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

July Reviews

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe
These are 
the reviews 
and other 
pieces I'm 
working on 
this month.

The Stranger Film Openings: Aloft Is Drama with a Capital D, Attention Must Be Paid to The Tribe, Ian McKellen Shines in Mr. Holmes, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence Is Bas-
ically a Live-Action Comic Strip About the Absurdity of Modern
, Two Unplanned Pregnancies in Unexpected, and Robin
Williams Gives a Nuanced Performance in Boulevard

Slog/Film Opening count: 615 posts/reviews since 2011. 

The Stranger Up & Comings: CROSSS, Gutless,
Homebody, and Big Priest
, Vetiver and Sam Ami-
, and Royal Headache, Dude York, and VHS.

For some reason, my Protomartyr U&C didn't make it to print:

Detroit quartet Protomartyr's Hardly Art debut, Under Color of Official Right, wasn't their first record, but it introduced them to their widest audience yet. Between Joe Casey's incantatory yelp and the band's post-hardcore attack, they recall the days when Midwestern giants like Hüsker Dü stalked the land (just add a little Gang of Four angularity to the equation). Though Greg Ahee, Scott Davidson, and Alex Leonard have what it takes to blow out your eardrums, they excel when they rein in that fury as on "Scum, Rise!," which threatens to explode, but never does, generating enough tension to power a stadium. Over the past year, they've recorded a split single with Kelley Deal’s R. Ring and a third album set for release this fall. Bring industrial-strength earplugs.

Video Librarian: Lost Songs - The Basement Tapes Contin-
ued [Blu-ray], Call the Midwife - Season Four [three-disc set],  
Finding Tatanka, Slash - Live at the Roxy 9.25.14 [Blu-ray],  
First Peoples - Americas, Béla Fleck - How to Write a Ban-
jo Concerto, My Prairie Home, Self Inflected, and Still.

Endnote: The Tribe image from Drafthouse Films.

Friday, June 05, 2015

June Reviews

Mia Wasikowska in Sophie Barthes's Madame Bovary.
These are 
the reviews 
and other 
pieces I'm 
working on 
this month.

The Stranger Film Openings: The Kidnapping of Michel Houelle-
Is Stranger Than Fiction
, The Film Critic: Cynical Writer Meets Beautiful Kleptomaniac, Madame Bovary: Light Gradually Giving Way to Shadow, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Cancer, Friendship, and Art, and The Wolfpack: A Bizarre Family, Candidly Captured

Slog/Film Opening count: 609 posts/reviews since 2011. 

The Stranger Up & Comings: Rhett Miller and
Annalisa Tornfelt
and Jacco Gardner and Calvin Love

Video Librarian: Deported, Once My Mother, A River
Changes Course, 2e - Twice Exceptional, Days of Grace, Ma-
hogany, When Calls the Heart - Trials of the Heart, Know
How, She Must Be Seeing Things, and Of Girls and Horses.

Endnote: Image from Millennium Entertainment.    

Saturday, May 02, 2015

May Reviews

R.J. Cyler and Thomas Mann in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
These are 
the reviews 
and other
 pieces I'm 
working on 
this month.

SIFFBlog: SIFF 2015 Documentaries Take on Music Stores,
Drum Machines, Dueling Pundits, and More!
and SIFF 2015
Guests Include Jemaine Clement, Star of People, Places, Things,
and Marah Strauch, Director of Sunshine Superman

The Stranger Film Openings: Rich Iris Apfel Believes Fashion
Lives Everywhere, Even Dollar Stores
and Good Kill Shows What
Can Happen When Humans Put Too Much Faith in Machines

Slog/Film Opening count: 604 posts/reviews since 2011.

The Stranger SIFF Notes: Spy, Banana, For Grace, Me and
Earl and the Dying Girl
, Sleeping with Other People, I'll See
You in My Dreams
, and Mr. Holmes. They used Angela Garbes's capsule of For Grace instead of mine. Here's what I wrote:

Documentaries about famous chefs, like Paul Liebrandt (A Matter of Taste) and 
Michel Bras (Entre les Bras), tend to play like promotional videos by showcasing 
restaurants as much as their founders. This one centers on photogenic Grace 
founder Curtis Duffy, who has a surprisingly grim back story, but the more 
charismatic subject is his business partner, Michael Muser, a burly Danny 
McBride character as imagined by David Mamet. (KATHY FENNESSY)


The Stranger Slog: A Unique Look at Beach Boy Brian
Wilson and Other Weekend Options
and SIFF 2015 Week-
end in Review: There's More to Australia Than
Mad Max.

The Stranger Up & Comings: The Rezillos and Kid Congo
Powers & the Pink Monkey Birds
, Vaadat Charigim, Speedy
Ortiz, Alex G., Broken Water
, and Amen Dunes & Ryley Walker.

Video Librarian: Don't Think I've Forgotten - Cambodia's 
Lost Rock and Roll, Hepatitis C - Causes, Symptoms, Pre-
vention, Treatment, The Milky Way, Mujeres con Pelotas, 
Kill Me Three Times, Shania - Still the One: Live from Las 
Vegas [Blu-ray], Boy Meets Girl, God's Slave, The Nun, 
and Transatlantic Sessions - The Best of Folk.  

Endnote: Me and Earl image from Indian Paintbrush.  

Sunday, April 05, 2015

April Reviews

Ben Stiller, Dree Hemingway, Naomi Watts, and Adam Driver in While We're Young.
These are the reviews and other pieces I'm working on this month.

The Stranger Film Openings: Call the Midlife—Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts Crush Out on Youth in Noah Baumbach's Painful, Funny While We're Young, Effie Gray Stars a Very Sad and Un-
loved Dakota Fanning
, Rabbinical Court Rules No Infidelity Then No Divorce for Long-Suffering Woman in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Brazilian Actress Shines in New Coen Brothers-Inspired Crime Thriller Kill Me Three Times, Wim Wenders Documentary The Salt of the Earth Is About Photographer Sebastião Salgado, Melanie Griffith, Her Parents, and Her Siblings Deal with Some Badass Big Cats in Roar, Adult Beginners Says It's Time to Grow Up, Misery Loves Comedy Asks if Happy People Can Be Funny.

Slog/Film Opening count: 602 posts/reviews since 2011.

The Seattle International Film Festival: Work continues
on the 2015 program guide (I wrote five blurbs altogether). 


The Stranger Up & Comings: Disappears, Leon Russell, The
Soft Moon and Girl Tears, Lady Lamb, and Sleater-Kinney.

Video Librarian: Irreplaceable, The Red Tent, Low Down, Bob Marley & the Wailers - Easy Skanking in Boston 1978, Penton - The John Penton Story, Bill Maher - Live from DC, Love Hunter, She's Beautiful When She's Angry, A Borrowed Identity, Breakin'-
Breakin’ 2 - Electric Boogaloo [Blu-ray], and Whitney.

Endnote: While We're Young image from A24.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

March Reviews

Jack O'Connell in Yann Demange's '71.
These are 
the reviews 
and other 
pieces I'm 
working on 
this month.

The Stranger Film Op-
enings: Wild Canaries: Brooklyn Screwball Thriller, Featured in this Year’s Seattle Jewish Film
Festival Is A Borrowed Identity, a Film About the Complex Iden-
tity of an Arab Israeli
, You’re Unlikely to See a Better Thriller
This Year than Yann Demange’s ’71
, After Watching It Follows,
You'll Feel Like You're Being Followed
, The Worlds of J.D. Salin-
ger and Jonathan Safran Foer Meet in Like Sunday, Like Rain
and The Movie That Gave the Scottish Band Belle and Sebas-
tian Its Name Has Dead Animals and Drunk Grandfathers

Slog/Film Opening count: 594 posts/reviews since 2011. 

The Seattle International Film Festival: I started working
on the 2015 program guide. This is my 14th year as a contribu-
tor, and I've written three blurbs so far. Titles to come in May. 

The Stranger Up & Comings: The Dodos and Springtime
, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Adia Victoria, Pub-
lic Service Broadcasting, Twerps, Lures, and Zebra Hunt

Video Librarian: Exposed, Through a Lens Darkly - Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, Captive Hearts, Disease and Treatment - Developing a Vaccine: Rotavirus and Treating Cancer: Radiation Therapy, Fifty Shades Uncovered,
Fight Like a Girl, K2 Spice - A Nightmare without End, Letters
from Pyongyang, Reel Herstory - The Real Story of Reel Wom-
en, Give Me Shelter, This Ain’t No Mouse Music!, and Song One.

Endnote: Image from Studio Canal/Roadside Attractions. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Movies for Music Lovers: 2014 Edition

Conner Chapman in The Selfish Giant.
Click here 
for the 2012 

This list is a work in progress.
I began compiling it several months ago, but then the draft disappeared without a trace, so I started to recreate it last week (the original post disappeared while I was working on a new one). Links lead to my reviews for The Stranger, Slog, and SIFFBlog.

The Tops
1. The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard)
2. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
3. Miss Zombie (Sabu)
4. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
5. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
6. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
7. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
8. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
9. A Field in England (Ben Wheatley)
10. Selma (Ava DuVernay) 


11. Dear White People (Justin Simien)
12. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
13. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
14. Love Is Strange (Ira Sachs)
15. Tracks (John Curran)
16. Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)
17. White Bird in a Blizzard (Gregg Araki)
18. Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre)
19. Frank (Lenny Abrahamson)
20. Low Down (Jeff Preiss)

Second Runners-up
1. The Past (Asghar Farhadi)
2. Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée)
3. The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson)
4. Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
5. Diplomacy (Volker Schlondorff)
6. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
7. Top Five (Chris Rock)
8. Pride (Matthew Warchus)
9. Wetlands (David Wnendt)
10. Abuse of Weakness (Catherine Breillat)

Here's my review of The Past, the last one I ever wrote for Amazon as all film freelancers were let go in 2014. It was a great gig for 15 years, and I miss it. To add insult to injury: this piece was never posted. 


Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning film, The Separation, takes the procedural approach to two interlocking relationships. When Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa, who learned French for the role) travels from Tehran to Paris, he expects to finalize his divorce from Marie (The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo), so that she can marry Samir (The Prophet’s Tahar Rahim), but he finds a chaotic domestic scenario: Samir’s wife, Céline, is in a coma after a failed suicide attempt; their young son, Fouad (Elyes Aguis), has become difficult; and Marie’s teenage daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), won’t speak to her. She assumes it’s because Lucie can’t stand Samir, but she’s actually keeping a secret that’s eating her up inside. With Samir’s help, Marie has also been repainting the walls of her dilapidated house, which represent the havoc within. 

Like a cross between a counselor and a detective, Ahmad starts putting the pieces together by trying to get Lucie to open up. He may not be her birth father, but she feels more comfortable talking to him than anyone else. As he discovers, most everyone has been withholding information about the day Céline attempted to take her life. 

By the conclusion, an undocumented worker and a restaurant owner get caught up in this absorbing, unpredictable drama, but if Mosaffa and Burlet are particularly good, Bejo and Tahar play more exasperating characters--Marie is high-strung and Samir is moody--though it’s to the director’s credit that he would prefer to create characters that are more intriguing than loveable. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Top Documentaries
1. Jodorowsky's Dune (Frank Pavich)
2. No No - A Dockumentary (Jeff Radice)
3. The Dog (Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren)
4. Actress (Robert Greene)
5. Regarding Susan Sontag (Nancy Kates)
6. 20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard)
7. Elena (Petra Costa)
8. PULP - A Film About Supermarkets (Florian Habicht)
9. The Case Against 8 (Ben Cotner and Ryan White)  
10. The Great Flood of 1927 (Bill Morrison)

Reissues: Careful, He Might Hear You (Carl Schultz), Je t'aime, je t'aime (Alain Resnais), Level Five (Chris Marker), A Summer's Tale (Eric Rohmer), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper).

Worthy of note (includes video debuts): Alien Boy, An-
tarctica - A Year on Ice
, Bad Hair, Birdman, Cannibal, Cold in July, The Dance of Reality, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Drop, The Double, The Dune, Enemy, Filth, Finding Fela, Follow Me Down - Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians, For a Woman, Foxcatcher, Get on Up, Gone Girl, Goodbye to Language, Grand Central, Grisgris, Guardians of the Galaxy, How I Live Now, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Invisible Woman, Jobriath A.D., Life after Beth, Life Feels Good, Lilting, Locke, Lucy, The Master Builder, Medeas, Moebius, Muscle Shoals, My Last Year with the Nuns, Night Moves, Non-Stop, Nuit #1, Pacific Aggression, Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer, Red Knot, The Rover, Run and Jump, Sister, The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, Suitcase of Love and Shame, Tanaquil Le Clercq - Afternoon of a Faun, Teenage, The Theory of Everything, To Be Takei, The Two Faces of January, Very Extremely Dangerous, A Walk Among the Tombstones, When I Walk, Willow Creek, Young Ones, and The Zero Theorem.

Missed or Haven't Seen Yet: American Sniper, Beyond the Lights, Bird People, Citizenfour, Elaine Stritch - Shoot Me, Finding Vivian Maier, Force Majeure, Gloria, The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies, The Hunger Games - Mockingjay, Part 1, Interstellar, Keep on Keepin' On, Land Ho!, Last Days in Vietnam, Leviathan, Life Itself, Listen Up, Philip*, Manakamana, A Most Violent Year, National Gallery, Red Army, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, St. Vincent, 2 Days, 1 Night, Violette, Virunga, We Are the Best!, and Wild Tales.

* I caught up with Listen Up, Philip in March. I liked it.  

Endnote: The Selfish Giant image from IFC Films.