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.