Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 In Review: Music

**** Bye Bye Blackbirds, The - We Need the Rain
**** Cate Le Bon - Mug Museum
**** David Bowie - The Next Day
**** Everything Everything - Arc
**** Lisa Loeb - No Fairy Tale
**** Saturday looks good to me - one kiss ends it all
**** Strokes, The - Comedown Machine
**** Surfer blood - pythons
**** Travis - Where You Stand
**** Veronica falls - waiting for something to happen

*** Albert Hammond, Jr. - AHJ
*** Anna Hillburg - Anna Hillburg
*** Belle & Sebastian - The Third Eye Centre
*** bettie serveert - oh, mayhem!
*** Cut Copy - Free Your Mind
*** Fleetwood Mac - Extended Play
*** Frankie Rose - Herein Wild
*** Haim - Days Are Gone
*** House of Love, The - she paints words in red
*** Medicine - To The Happy Few
*** Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
*** Neon Neon - Praxis Makes Perfect
*** Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors
*** Sam Phillips - Push Any Button
*** Sounds, The - Weekend
*** Superchunk - I Hate Music
*** Upset - she's gone
*** Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
*** White Lies - big tv

** Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
** Chumbawamba - In Memoriam Margaret Thatcher
** Colleen Green - Sock it to Me
** Dengue Fever - In The Ley Lines
** Elvis Costello And The Roots - Wise Up Ghost
** Joy Formidable, The - Wolf's Law
** Lake - the world is real
** Lyn Saga - Venice
** Marnie Stern - The Chronicles of Marnia
** Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day
** Morcheeba - Head Up High
** My Bloody Valentine - m b v
** Ocean Blue, The - Ultramarine
** Of Montreal - Lousy with Sylvianbriar
** Orange Peels, The - Sun Moon
** Pastels, the - slow summits
** Pet Shop Boys - Electric
** Polyphonic Spree - Yes, It's True
** Richard Thompson - electric
** Rilo Kiley - RKives
** Smith Westerns - soft will
** Son Volt - honky tonk
** Suede - bloodsports
** They Might Be Giants - Nanobots
** Those Darlins - Blur the Line
** Throwing Muses - purgatory - paradise
** Toad The Wet Sprocket - New Constellation

* Dean Wareham - Emancipated Hearts
* Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Unvarnished
* KT Tunstall - Invisible Empire - Crescent Moon
* Kate Nash - girl talk
* British Sea Power - machineries of joy
* Camera Obscura - desire lines
* Chris Stamey - lovesick blues
* Dido - the girl who got away
* Justin Hayward - spirits of the western sky
* Renaissance - Grandine Il Vento

2013 In Review: Movies

**** All Is Lost
**** Blue Jasmine
**** Enough Said
**** Frances Ha

*** Bling Ring, The
*** Gravity
*** Mama
*** Monsters University
*** Mud
*** Side Effects
*** Twixt
*** Upstream Color
*** Wolf Of Wall Street

** Conjuring, The
** Counselor, The
** Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The
** Lone Ranger, The
** Much Ado About Nothing
** Europa Report
** Star Trek Into Darkness
** Stoker
** To The Wonder

* Insidious: Chapter 2
* Man of Steel
* Now You See Me

The Conjuring (2013) **

Some "A" level talent lend some gravitas to yet another "based on true events" horror flick from jump scare master James Wan. The first half is much better.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) ****

Well deserved evisceration of stock pushers in this lively, but a bit too long, film from Martin Scorsese. Sort of Casino goes to Wall Street. Pulls no punches and doesn't hammer you over the head with judgments, but just shows the despicable creatures from their point of view and the takeaway is pretty clear.

UPDATED 09/02/2015: On second viewing, this is a masterpiece. Magnificent soundtrack (as good as Goodfellas), the writing is sharp and witty, Scorcese is firing on all cylinders here.

All Is Lost (2013) ****

Pares it all down to the essence and just shows it. Brilliant idea, expert execution.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Return of the Musketeers (1989) **

Second sequel to the original has the same lead actors, similar style, tone and production values, but lakes the wit and quirks. Director Richard Lester's cut is probably much better.

Walking and Talking (1996) **

Subtle depiction of female friendship and the men in their lives. Pleasant enough, but feels like something is missing.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Week with Marilyn (2011) **

Watchable but uninvolving bio-pic of Marilyn Monroe having a tough time dealing with Sir Laurence Olivier and the local lad who helps her through it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Enough Said (2013) ****

Thoroughly enjoyable and perceptive Allen-esque dramedy, with a breakthrough performance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Martin Scorsese in conversation: Guilt trips of the great director - Features - Films - The Independent

"'Basically, I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, that is the key one, that is when I realised you could do something on television.' Scorsese even appeared in an episode, playing himself in a season opener."

Director John Lee Hancock on 'Saving Mr. Banks': We Went for the Truth, Not the Facts - TheWrap

"When I was a producer on the movie “My Dog Skip” years ago, we compressed 10 years from Willie Morris’ book into one year, and we added some stories that felt like they could have happened to him. I asked him about the inconsistencies, and he said, 'John, there are the facts and then there is the truth. This is the truth.' I thought, OK, that’s a decent way to put it. Don’t worry about the little factual details. Get to the heart of it."

The use of the word "truth" in the interview really means "truth as I see it" which of course is not Truth at all. I don't have a problem with someone making a movie based on a true story if they change the names of all persons and places concerned. It is a fraud and a lie to present a film as historical fact which is what John Lee Hancock is doing no matter how comfortable he is with it. He should make Aaron Sorkin's next flick since they both seem to have the same attitude to reality.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) **

In the first installment, the first hour of setup was almost forgivable, but now Peter Jackson is just stalling for time. Superfluous characters, meandering plot threads, this is a film out of control. Still there is no denying the technical accomplishments.

It's a Disaster (2012) **

Droll look at contemporary 30-somethings suddenly faced with no more tomorrows and promptly ignoring it. Shot sparingly with lots of talk but unappealing characters (probably the point). Some laughs and zingers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Man of Steel (2013) *

Leaden and ponderous "reboot" of the Superman comic book flicks. The only good that can come from this, aside from providing work for the luminous Ms. Lane, is that maybe this most overblown of films will finally kill this idea of treating comic book/action movies as Serious Art. One can dream anyway.

Being John Malkovich (1999) ****

Terrific, original, chock full of ideas, brilliant art direction, top notch and quirky cast who turn in stellar performances and the best puppetry ever in a Hollywood picture.

Scholarship and Politics - The Case of Noam Chomsky -

"It’s just that while language is powerful and creative, its power and creativity have limits; and since language is thought rather than an addition to or clothing of thought, the limits of language are the limits of what we can fruitfully think about. Nor, Chomsky declared, are those limits capable of being enlarged or transcended in time. This is as good as it gets. There is 'no evolution in our capacity for language.'”

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Martin Scorsese says he only has a couple more movies left in him / The Dissolve

“'I have the desire to make many films, but as of now I’m 71 and there’s only a couple more left if I get to make them,'” he told film school students in Marrakech, where he was serving as jury head of the city’s film festival. 'I miss the time when I had the desire to experiment and try different kinds of films, I miss that time, but that’s done, it’s over. There is obligation as you get older, you have family. I’ve been very lucky in the last 10 years or so, to have found projects that combine the desire, the subject matter—from The Aviator to now—with, as best I can, fulfilling the obligation to my family and the financiers.'”

Very, very sad. Inevitable, but that doesn't make it any better.

The Cheerleader Effect: Scientific American

"All of these visual illusions demonstrate that what we 'see' is not always a simple or direct reflection of what is right in front of us. Instead, what we see depends on both the physical stimulus coded by our visual systems (what cognitive scientists refer to as bottom up processing), and a blend of contextual information, expectations, and prior knowledge (known as top down processing)."

So much for "seeing is believing".

via Arts & Letters Daily

Friday, December 06, 2013

Boogie Woogie (2009) **

Spectacular cast (Heather Graham needs to be in more movies!) in a so-so satire (I think?) of London's art world. Thankfully it's brief.

Hard Eight (1996) **

Another flick that seems to be missing something. It's got style and a terrific Gwyneth Paltrow performance but it's not enough to fill in all the blanks.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Stoker (2013) **

Stylish and visually appealing, but one struggles to find some sort of point to it all. Something is missing.