Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movies for Music Lovers: 2016 Edition

Ralph Fiennes gets his ya-ya's out. [Fox Searchlight] 
Click here for the 2015 edition.

Since I compile this list for my personal blog and not for any other sites or publications, I follow my own rules, which means I count DVD and Blu-ray debuts, though I only listed a few. This is because I review more home video than theatrical releases. Links lead to my reviews for or podcast contributions to Cinema Squabble, Daily Projections, SIFFBlog, and The Stranger (some might have also appeared in East Bay Express and Portland Mercury). My reviews for Video Librarian live behind a paywall or by way of a print subscription.

The Tops
1. A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino)

It irks me that Guadagnino swiped a title that David Hockney already used for one of his most famous paintings, especially since there's no correlation between the two, but the quality of his film (an idiosyncratic adaptation of Jacques Deray's 1969 La Piscine) helps to assuage the irritation. If Grand Budapest Hotel offered a looser Ralph Fiennes than anyone had seen before, A Bigger Splash shows how far the guy can go. Pretty fucking far, apparently. 

2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
3. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda)
4. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)
5. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
6. The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer)
7. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
8. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
9. Little Men (Ira Sachs)
10. The Love Witch (Anna Biller)

Note: I live in Seattle, so some of the films, like Paterson and Silence, that might have made my top 10 are missing, because they haven't opened here yet. A few screened for critics towards the end of 2016, but they weren't assigned to me, so I'll have to wait until 2017. 

11. Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen)
12. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
13. Kaili Blues (Gan Bi)
14. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
15. Fences (Denzel Washington)
16. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)
17. Evolution (Lucile Hadžihalilović)
18. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)
19. The Witch (Robert Eggers)
20. Hello, My Name Is Doris (Michael Showalter)

Channing Tatum gets his Gene Kelly on. [Universal] 

Second Runners-up
21. Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
22. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)
23. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
24. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)
25. Maggie's Plan (Rebecca Miller)
26. 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg)
27. A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Shunji Iwai)
28. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi)
29. The Invitation (Karyn Kusama)
30. In a Valley of Violence (Ti West)

Note: For some reason, In a Valley of Violence, a serio-comic take on the spaghetti western, has attracted less attention than most every West film to date, and that's a shame, because John Travolta gives his best performance in years. Based on his recent projects, he won't top it any time soon, though Ethan Hawke, the film's true star, proves just as convincing as a gunslinger in West's film as a novelist in Rebecca Miller's (sorry to say I missed his turn as Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue). And although Keith Harris won't approve, I'm listing Ara-
bian Nights, a trilogy, as one film. The three aren't just designed to go together, but that's how some theaters have been screening them. Don't ask me to pick a favorite--I won't do it! 

Top Documentaries
1. Fire at Sea / Fuocoammare (Gianfranco Rosi)
2. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman)
3. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)
4. Something Better to Come (Hanna Polak)
5. De Palma (Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow)
6. T-Rex (Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari)
7. NUTS! (Penny Lane)
8. Breaking a Monster (Luke Meyer)
9. Tickled (David Farrier and Dylan Reeve)
10. Author: The JT LeRoy Story (Jeff Feuerzeig)

Note: I'm surprised and disappointed that Fire at Sea hasn't make it onto more end-of-the-year lists. To make the film, Rosi operated as a one-man crew and embedded himself into the life of Lampedusa for months. The results are beautiful, disturbing, and incredibly timely. And it made the Oscar short list, so it still has a chance at a best doc nomination. 

Samuele Pucillo in Fire at Sea. [Kino Lorber]

Doc Runners-up
11. Hooligan Sparrow (Nanfu Wang)
12. Dogtown Redemption (Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush)
13. Seven Songs for a Long Life (Amy Hardie)
14. Sinatra: All or Nothing at All (Alex Gibney)
15. Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words (Stig Björkman)
16. Janis: Little Girl Blue (Amy J. Berg)  
17. Danny Says (Brendan Toller)
18. Song of Lahore (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken)
19. Llyn Foulkes One Man Band (Tamar Halpern and Chris Quilty)
20. Red Gringo / Gringo Rojo (Miguel Ángel Vidaurre)

Note: Seven Songs for a Long Life comes to PBS's POV on January 30, 2017. Don't miss it.

Missed docs: 13th, The Beatles – Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, Dead Slow Ahead, Don't Blink: Robert Frank, For the Love of Spock, Gimme Danger, Gleason, Am Not Your Negro, Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, Miss Sharon Jones!, Newtown, O.J.: Made in America, Peter and the Farm, Tower, and Weiner.

Top Reissues or Video Debuts
1. Private Property (Leslie Stevens)
2. Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey)
3. Fireworks Wednesday / Chaharshanbe-soori (Asghar Farhadi)  
4. Los Sures (Diego Echeverria) 
5. Belladonna of Sadness / Kanashimi no Beradonna (Eiichi Yamamoto)  
6. Cornbread, Earl and Me (Joseph Manduke)
7. A Poem Is a Naked Person (Les Blank)
8. Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye)

Note: Cornbread, Earl and Me, a made-for-TV movie which made its Blu-ray debut in 2016, features the first on-screen performance from 14-year-old Lawrence Fishburne. He's a little rough around the edges, but it's clear the kid was gonna go places. Two years later, that place was the Philippines for the filming of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.  

Conrad Hall shot the hell out of Private Property. [Cinelicious Pics]

Also worthy of note (including docs and made-for-TV movies): 50 Feet From Syria, All the Way, An Autobiography of Michelle Maren, The Bronze, Café Society, Call Her Applebroog, Captain Fantastic, Closet Monster, Coming Out, Complete Unknown, Confirmation, The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead, Demolition, Denial, Don’t Think Twice, Dukhtar, The Edge of Seventeen, Elvis & Nixon, The Eyes of My Mother, Golden Gate Girls, The Handmaiden (except for the last part), I Am Thor, I Don't Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman, India's Daughter, Indignation, The Intervention, Jackie, Kate Plays Christine, L'Attesa, Lamb, Les Cowboys, Life After Manson, Lion, The Listeners, The Lobster, Look at Us Now, Mother!, Mad Tiger, A Man Called Ove, The Memory of Fish, Microbe & Gasoline, Midnight Special, Miles Ahead, Miss You Already, Money Monster, Morphine: Journey of Dreams, Morris From America, Mountains May Depart (see note on The Handmaiden), Neon Demon, The Night Stalker, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, Older Than Ireland, Oriented, Other People, Portrait of a Serial Monogamist, Pushing Dead, Queen of Katwe, Remember, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Songs My Brother Taught Me, Southside With You, Strike a Pose, Sully, Summertime, Tag, Take Me to the River, Theory of Obscurity: A Film About the Residents, Tiny, Too Late, Torrey Pines, The Trees, Uncle Kent 2, The Violin Teacher, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister!, We Are X, Wedding Doll, Where Have All the Good Men Gone, Wiener-Dog, The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes, and the Course of Country Music, Women Who Kill, Wondrous Bocaccio, and The World of Kanako.

Samiya Mumtaz and Saleha Aref in Dukhtar. [Geo Films]
Missed or haven’t seen yet (not including docs): 11 Minutes, 20th Century Women, Aferim!, The Alchemist Cookbook, Allied, American Honey, Barry, The BFG, The Birth of a Nation, Born to Be Blue, Captain America: Civil War, Christine, The Childhood of a Leader, The Club, Creepy, Demon, Dheepan, Don't Breathe, The Dressmaker, Dr. Strange, The Eagle Huntress, Embrace of the Serpent, Everybody Wants Some!!, Eye in the Sky, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Finding Dory, Florence Foster Jenkins, Ghostbusters, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, High-Rise, I Am Not Madame Bovary, I, Daniel Blake, The Innocents, Into the Forest, Into the Inferno, Ixcanul, The Jungle Book, Keanu, Kicks, Knight of Cups, Krisha, Kubo and the Two Strings, Julieta, The Light Between Oceans, Louder Than Bombs, Loving, The Meddler, Miss Sloane, Moana, My Golden Years, Neon Bull, Neruda, The Nice Guys, Nocturnal Animals, Old Stone, One More Time With Feeling, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Our Kind of Traitor, Paterson, Pete's Dragon, Presenting Princess Shaw, Right Now, Wrong Then, Rules Don't Apply, Sausage Party, The Secret Life of Pets, The Shallows, Silence, Sing Street, Snowden, Spa Night, Star Trek Beyond, Sweet Bean, Swiss Army Man, Theeb, Toni Erdmann, Train to Busan, Under the Shadow, and Zootopia.

Note: I signed up for Amazon Prime this year, so that may help me to catch up with some titles going forward, but I don't have the time or the money for cable, Fandor, Filmstruck, or Netflix. Currently on Prime: Embrace of the Serpent and Krisha. The service also allowed me to catch up with TV shows like The Americans, Fleabag, Mr. Robot, and The Wire

Endnote: The clip above isn't bad, but if you haven't seen Fiennes get down to "Emotional Rescue" (not on YouTube), you haven't lived.  

Songs for Cineastes: 2016 Edition

And then there were two. [Chad Batka/Redux]
Click here 
for the 

Links lead
to my re-
views and previews for The Stranger.

The Tops 
1. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)
2. Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly Recordings) [2015]
3. Cate Le Bon - Crab Day (Drag City)
4. Kikagaku Moyo - House in the Long Grass (Guruguru Brain)
5. Steve Gunn - Eyes on the Lines ( Matador)
6. Anohni - Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian)
7. Exploded View - Exploded View (Sacred Bones)
8. Heron Oblivion - Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop)
9. Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits (Castle Face)
10. Essaie Pas - Demain Est Une Autre Nuit (DFA)

Note: For most of the year, Gwenno's Welsh-language record was my #1, but I felt uncomfortable about the choice, because it's actually from 2015, except I first heard about it (by way of the late Other Music update list) in 2016. Then I heard A Tribe Called Quest's first full-length in 18 years, and that was the end of that. Simply put, it's the record I've listened to the most--and that's not counting the hundreds of times I've heard tracks on KEXP. It's rare that a major label release tops my list, but it's just that good. And I'm no super-fan. I own their first two records, but checked out after that. No doubt Epic is hoping that the success of We Got It From Here leads to more music from the surviving duo, but without Phife Dawg, who passed away in March, it wouldn't be the same, so I hope they keep their word, i.e. that this is their swan song. There's nothing wrong with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad continuing to work together; just not as A Tribe Called Quest. Also, I won't deny that I prefer Anohni's protest record more in theory than practice, but I endorse every damn word.  

11. Dr. Lonnie Smith - Evolution (Blue Note)
12. Angel Olsen - My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
13. Deerhoof - The Magic (Polyvinyl)
14. Wussy - Forever Sounds (Shake It!) 
15. Myrkur - Mausoleum (Relapse)
16. Yoko Ono - Yes, I’m a Witch, Too (Manimal Group)
17. The Julie Ruin - Hit Reset (Hardly Art)
18. Rangda - The Heretic's Bargain (Drag City)
19. Psychic Ills - Inner Journey Out (Sacred Bones)
20. Jessy Lanza - Oh No (Hyperdub) 

Note: Why aren't more people talking about the Yoko Ono record? Sure, it's a collection of remixes, but it brings her dance-oriented material up to date without cheapening it in any way. The lady turned 83 in 2016, and she can still wipe the floor with all of us. 

The eternal cool of Dr. Lonnie Smith. [Blue Note]

Second Runners-up
21. Marissa Nadler - Strangers (Sacred Bones)
22. Woods - City Sun Eater in the River of Light (Woodsist)
23. Jah Wobble - Everything Is No Thing (Jah Wobble)
24. The Flat Five - It's a World of Love and Hope (Bloodshot)
25. Charles Bradley - Changes (Dunham / Daptone)
26. Claire Cronin & John Dieterich - Came Down a Storm (Ba Da Bing)
27. Coathangers - Nosebleed Weekend (Suicide Squeeze)
28. Clipping - Splendor and Misery (Sub Pop)
29. Tortoise - The Catastrophist (Thrill Jockey)
30. Wire - Nocturnal Koreans (Pinkflag)

Top Reissues & Collections
1. Colin Newman - A-Z, Provisionally Entitled the Singing Fish, and Not To (Sentient Sonics)
2. Pram - The Stars Are So Big... and Helium (Medical Records)
3. The Chills - Kaleidoscope World (Flying Nun) [deluxe reissue]
4. Terry Allen - Lubbock (On Everything) (Paradise of Bachelors)
5. Benny Hester - Benny... (Moraine Music Group)
6. John Cale - Fragments of a Rainy Season (Double Six / Domino)
7. The Clean - Getaway (Merge)
8. Pylon - Live (Chunklet)
9. Blonde Redhead - Masculin Feminin (Numero Group) [box set]
10. Ministry - Trax! Rarities (Cleopatra)

Also: Anna Homler and Steve Moshier - Breadwoman & Other Tales (RVNG Intl.), Kleenex / LiliPUT - First Songs (Mississippi), Poster Children - Daisychain Reaction (Lotuspool), Sparks - S/T (Bearsville), and Mor Thiam - Dini Safarrar / Drums of Fire (private press).

Note: Not gonna play favorites with the Newman reissues, because I was only able to listen to each one once prior to a browser malfunction. After that, the downloads wouldn't play. 

Anderson .Paak (Brandon Paak Anderson). [Stones Throw]
Top Singles and Tracks
1. Anderson .Paak - "Celebrate" (Steel Wool / OBE)
2. Solange - "Cranes in the Sky" (Saint / Columbia)
3. Six Organs of Admittance - "Taken by Ascent" (Drag City)
4. Junior Boys - "Big Black Coat" (City Slang) [2015]
5. Ty Segall - "Orange Color Queen" (Drag City)
6. Mr. Elevator - "Sunshine Daydream" (Rad Cat)
7. Justice - "Safe and Sound" (Ed Banger)
8. Moon Duo - "Creepin' " (Sacred Bones)
9. Paul Simon - "Wristband" (Concord)

Also worthy of note: Bayonne - Primitives (Mom+Pop), Willis Earl Beal - Through the Dark EP (Tender Loving Empire), Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop - Love Letter for Fire (Sub Pop), Bitchin Bajas and Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties (Drag City), Black Mountain - IV (Jagjaguwar), Erik Blood - Lost in Slow Motion (HomeSkillet), Blood Orange - Freetown Sound (Domino), Boris with Merzbow - Gensho (Relapse), Breanna Barbara - Mirage Dreams (No Roads), Clipping - Wriggle EP (Sub Pop), Cradle - Temperate Lands (CDT), Morgan Delt - Phase Zero (Sub Pop), Devil Makes Three - Redemption and Ruin (New West), Globelamp - The Orange Glow (Wichita Recordings), Cory Hanson - The Unborn Capitalist from Limbo (Drag City), Aldous Harding - Aldous Harding (Flying Nun), The Heliotropes - Over There That Way (The End), Holy Fuck - Congrats (Innovative Leisure), Holy Wave - Freaks of Nurture (Re-
verberation Appreciation Society), Jacuzzi Boys - Ping Pong (Mag Mag), Chuck Johnson - Velvet Arc (Trouble in Mind), Damien Jurado - Visions of Us on the Land (Secretly Canadian), Klaus Johann Grobe - Spagat der Liebe (Trouble In Mind), Lavender Flu - Heavy Air (Meds), Dan Lissvik - Midnight (Smalltown Supersound), Kedr Livanskiy - January Sun (2MR), Matmos - Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey), MV & EE - root/void (Woodsist), Nervous Curtains - Low Defender EP (Med-
ical Records), Parquet Courts - Human Performance (Rough Trade), Britta Phillips - Luck or Magic (Double Feature), Purling Hiss - High Bias (Drag City), Quilt - Plaza (Mexican Summer), Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 3 (Mass Appeal / RED), Mikael Seifu - Zelalem (RVNG Intl.), Mark Sultan - BBQ (In the Red), Sun Angle - Skullflower (XRay), Suuns - Hold / Still (Secretly Canadian), Carter Tanton - Jettison the Valley (Western Vinyl), Terry - Terry HQ (Upset the Rhythm), Terry Malts - Lost At The Party (Slumberland), Doug Tuttle - It Calls on Me (Trouble in Mind), the Veldt - The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation EP (Leonard Skully), Adia Victoria - Beyond the Bloodhounds (Canvasback), Various Artists - Day of the Dead (4AD), Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Dead Oceans), and Andre Williams - I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City (Bloodshot).

Moscow musician-producer Kedr Livanskiy. [2MR]


Need to hear more: Anderson .Paak - Malibu (Steel Wool-OBE), Beyoncé - Lemonade (Parkwood-Columbia), David Bowie - Blackstar (ISO-Columbia), Nick Cave - Skeleton Tree (Bad Seeds Ltd.), Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker (Columbia), Cross - Wabi-Sabi (Ba Da Bing), Justice - Woman (Ed Banger), Frank Ocean - Blonde (Boys Don't Cry), Radiohead - A Moon-Shaped Pool (XL), Silence - Nine Suns, One Morning (Drag City), Solange - A Seat at the Table (Saint / Columbia), and Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (Def Jam).
Endnote: Not only haven't I heard the entirety of Lemonade, but I haven't seen the visual album either, which made it onto a lot of film critics' end-of-the-year lists. An agenda item for 2017's to-do list.  

Thursday, December 08, 2016

December Reviews

Isabelle Huppert in Paul Verhoeven's Elle.
These are the reviews and other pieces I'm working on this month.

Daily Projections: Things to Come and Elle.

The Stranger Film Openings: The Risks of Migrants in the Must-See Doc Fire at Sea and Isabelle Huppert Excels in Things to Come.

Slog/Film Opening count: 673 posts/reviews since 2011. 

The Stranger Music Things to Do: Robert Glasper Experiment.

Video Librarian: Circle of Poison, Dogtown Redemption, Llyn Foulkes - One Man Band, I Know a Man…Ashley Bryan, The Trees, Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live [Blu-ray+two-CD set], Morphine - Journey of Dreams, Danny Says, Me, Myself and Her, An Autobiography of Michelle Maren, Café, and Call Her Applebroog.

Endnote: Image from SBS Productions via Variety.