Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Live - Sebadoh @ The Detroit Bar 2/27/07

Of all the bands that I thought would never get back together, the classic Barlow-Gaffney-Loewenstein version of Sebadoh would have been towards the top of the list. That all came to an end last night though, when the 3 got together for a loose hour and a half jam out, the 2nd show on their first tour in 14 years. They played songs from every Sebadoh incarnation though, splitting roughly between half of the classic lineup and half of the post-Gaffney era songs. All 3 members took nearly equal time on the mic, all while splitting time between each other's instruments. Lou tore through versions of "Soul & Fire", "The Freed Pig" and "Two Years Two Days", while Eric totally slayed "Scars, Four Eyes" and "Elxir is Zog". Jason even came through big on two of his best contributions to the band, "Happily Divided" and "Sixteen". They ended it appropriately, with an anthemic rendition of "Gimme Indie Rock". The whole night was a fantastic disaster.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

DVD Review - American Hardcore

American Hardcore was one of the better music documentaries I saw last year and it finally came to DVD last week. Yes, if you know a lot about the scene then it probably won't tell you anything you don't already know, but there is some great reminiscing and funny anecdotes from some of the leaders of the movement - Ian MacKaye, Dez Cadena, H.R. and Henry Rollins among many others. The film obviously can't cover every band (Husker Du being the biggest causality IMO), and they do focus on the Boston scene quite a bit, but they touch on most every major hardcore band. The DVD is the real treat though. There is nearly an hour of deleted scenes, live performances from Bad Brains, MDC, Void, SS Decontrol, Jerry's Kids and YDI, as well as audio commentary by the writer & director. If you like the movie, then pick up the album/soundtrack of the same name, it is one of the most thorough primers on hardcore currently available.

Film (***1/2) - DVD (****)

Watch the trailer

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ecstatic Peace!

Thurston Moore is slowly but surely building one of the most impressive rosters in modern rock with his Ecstatc Peace label. Band for band, this is the hardest hitting grouping of psychedelic folk & noise bands currently assembled - Sunburned Hand of the Man, Be Your Own Pet, Awesome Color, Tall Firs, MV & EE, Magik Markers, Mouthus, Wooden Wand and of course Bark Haze, consisting of Moore, Pete Nolan and Gown. Check out this great clip of Bark Haze performing live. How these guys can kick up so much energy while sitting down is beyond me.

And a little Be Your Own Pet as a palette cleanser.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Departed Sweeps the 79th Annual Academy Awards!

The Departed came through on all the hype tonight, something I admittedly didn't think it could do. I salute the Academy for picking something with balls, a true American masterpiece directed by one of the greatest directors of all time, and easily the most worthy Best Picture winner since American Beauty in 1999.

I was correct that editing would be the deal breaker. Once Thelma Schoonmaker took home the Oscar, it would have been monumental if The Departed had lost. It also proves that there was a total miscommunication about what category Dicaprio should be put in, because if the Academy loved the movie this much then he would have been nominated. I still can't explan the Jack snub though. But it was one of the great pleasures of my life to watch Martin Scorsese take home that elusive 1st Oscar. The standing ovation was hugely emotional. What a moment.

Pan's Labyrinth made a good showing as well, taking home 3 Oscars, but not Best Foreign Language Film. The Academy needs to shake up the Foreign Film committee, because it is inexplicable that The Lives of Others won. The committee is notoriously crazy for not choosing the popular films. Pan's is a groundbreaking, important piece of cinema, as well as a financial smash. They also snubbed Volver for some weird reason. This stuck-up click needs to be broken up.

And big props to Alan Arkin for his Supporting Actor Oscar. It was easily the most impressive scene stealing performance I saw all year. Those Norbit ads definitely put the nail in Eddie Murphy's coffin. If Jackie Earle Haley couldn't win, then I am glad it was Arkin. He truly deserved it.

I only went 16/24. Not horrible, but not too good either. The biggest heart breaker for me was Children of Men losing Best Cinematography. I mean, there's no bigger supporter of Pan's Labyrinth than me, but anyone who has seen Children of Men would know that Emanuel Lubeski's cinematography was virtuoso work. So that was a bummer. Anyway, here are the winners:

Best Picture: The Departed
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Actor: Forrest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren - The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Best Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed
Best Foreign Language Film: The Lives of Others
Best Editing: The Departed
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Original Score: Babel
Best Original Song: Melissa Ethridge - I Need to Wake Up
Best Visual Effects - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Best Cinematography: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette
Best Animated Feature: Happy Feet
Best Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls
Best Sound Editing: Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Makeup: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Animated Short: The Danish Poet
Best Live Action Short: West Bank Story
Best Documentary Short: The Blood of Yingzhou District

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oscar Eve...

Well, tomorrow is the day we Oscar watchers wait all year for, which means it's all down hill until the season winds-up again next fall. It may just be Oscar Eve jitters, but I am losing confidence in my Babel for Best Picture prediction. I am getting this huge Letters from Iwo Jima rush, and feel that it may have the inside edge. I still think it's anyones game, but Letters seems like the perfect Academy movie. Babel is just so divisive that I'm not sure it can pull through. I still don't buy The Departed as the front runner, but they may choose to award Scorsese everything tomorrow. And Little Miss Sunshine is still the only film that there is nearly across the board love for. Will it's lack of a directing nomination really hurt it? Not much I think. If I had another week before I put money down, I may have gone with Letters.

On the acting side of things, I know there will be an upset, most likely in the Supporting Actor category, where Alan Arkin will more than likely conquer. I took Eddie Murphy because of the way my Oscar pool is set up, most people took Murphy. And since I already took the upset with Babel, I couldn't risk a second miss with Arkin. This way I salvage a tie. And I can't help but wonder if the urge to check off Peter O'Toole's name will be too much for Oscar voters to handle. I mean, does this line-up sound too far outside the realm of possibility?

Best Picture: Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Director: Martin Scorsese - The Departed
Best Actor: Peter O'Toole - Venus
Best Actress: Helen Mirren - The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls

I don't think it does. All i know is that whatever wins Best Picture I will be happy with, since this is the first time since I can remember that I really like all 5 nominees. The acting categories on the other hand I could care less about, since my preference in all 4 categories don't have a shot in hell. I'll be back with my analysis on the awards tomorrow night.

Spirit Award Winnners & Reaction

Things went according to plan at the Spirit Awards this afternoon. I only missed 2 prediction and that was Francis McDormand for Supporting Actress and Road to Guantanamo for Best Documentary. Little Miss Sunshine and Half Nelson swept up everything as expected. 2 great, unexpected things happened though - First was the wonderful tribute to Robert Altman, which included a clip show and reminiscing from former collaborators Elliot Gould and Sally Kellerman. Beginning next year there will be a Robert Altman Award for outstanding cast in a motion picture and I can't think of a more worthy name to attach to that award. Second was the Special Distinction Award given to David Lynch and Laura Dern in honor of their 3 unique collaborations in Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and last year's Inland Empire. Dern speech was particularly inspiring. So all in all not a bad afternoon. Tomorrow is the big day though.

Independent Spirit Awards Predictions

The IFP Spirit Awards are annouced in like 2 hours, but I thought I'd throw out my last minute picks.

Best Feature Film
Little Miss Sunshine

Best First Feature
Sweet Land

Best Director
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris - Little Miss Sunshine

John Cassavetes Award

Best Screenplay
Thank You For Smoking

Best First Screenplay
Michael Arndt - Little Miss Sunshine

Best Female Lead
Shareeka Epps - Half Nelson

Best Male Lead
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson

Best Supporting Male
Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine

Best Supporting Female
Mary Beth Hurt - The Dead Girl

Best Cinematography
Pan's Labyrinth

Best Documentary
My Country My Country

Best Foreign Film
The Lives of Others

Friday, February 23, 2007

Final Oscar Predictions

These are the nominees I am putting all my money on this year. Take it for what it's worth, but if you are in an office pool or betting online, you could do much worse than these picks since I don't care one bit what movie wins what. It's all about using your head not your heart.

Best Picture

The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
Letters From Iwo Jima
The Queen

In all the years I have been studying the Oscars, I’ve never seen a Best Pic race this wide open. Normally you can spot the winner months in advance. This year however, I feel any of these films can win. They all have something going for them and something going against them – The Departed is too crude and violent but will win Best Director and other big awards. The Queen is too small and TV movie-like, but Helen Mirren will win Best Actress and the Brits, who make up a large majority of the Academy, love the film. Little Miss Sunshine has no director nod and is a comedy, but took won the SAG, PGA, WGA and will probably take home Original Screenplay. Babel has middling reviews but a Golden Globe for Best Pic and the most Oscar nominations out of the 5 nominees. Letters From Iwo Jima has taken home countless Critics Awards and is being seen right now for the first time by many voters, but is in Japanese. So who knows? The Departed is the favorite, but the actors simply didn’t embrace the film enough for me to consider it. Letters is too little too late I think, plus Clint just won. It is the dark horse pick though and would be typical academy fare. The Queen has always been a long shot, and the Best Actress trophy will be its prize. So it comes down to Little Miss Sunshine vs. Babel. It’s a toss-up, but Babel is a big, epic, important film that hits hard emotionally. It could go to any of these films really, but I have to go with Babel.

Prediction: Babel
Preference: Babel

Best Director

Martin Scorsese - The Departed
Clint Eastwood - Letters from Iwo Jima
Paul Greengrass - United 93
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- Babel
Stephen Frears - The Queen

There really shouldn’t be any arguing over who will take this prize home. It’s Scorsese’s year and another snub would seriously diminish the Academy’s credibility. I think they know that and out of sheer obligation finally award the man. Coming in second will probably Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu or Clint Eastwood. Paul Greengrass’s United 93 is the lone director and no lone directing nominee has ever won. And Stephen Frears doesn’t do much visually to distinguish The Queen from the other films.

Prediction: Martin Scorsese – The Departed
Preference: Martin Scorsese – The Departed

Best Actor

Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
Peter O’Toole – Venus
Will Smith – The Pursuit of Happyness
Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson
Leonardo DiCaprio – Blood Diamond

Forrest Whitaker should take this one pretty easily as well. Peter O’Toole is his biggest threat and will siphon away some votes from older voters. Will Smith is great in The Pursuit of Happyness, but he will be back soon enough. Leo was very good in Blood Diamond, but better in The Departed. And Ryan Gosling represents the only nomination for the $3 million grossing Half Nelson.

Prediction: Forrest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
Preference: Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson

Best Actress

Helen Mirren – The Queen
Meryl Streep – The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet – Little Children
Penelope Cruz – Volver
Judi Dench – Notes on a Scandal

There is really no need to break this race down, since it has been over since day one. Helen Mirren is locked in for the win. No one else should come close, although personally I liked all 4 other performances more.

Prediction: Helen Mirren – The Queen
Preference: Kate Winslet – Little Children

Best Supporting Actress

Rinko Kikuchi - Babel
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Adrianna Barraza - Babel
Abigail breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
Cate Blachett - Notes on a Scandal

Picking anyone besides Jennifer Hudson is really risky here. She has the type of showy LOOK AT ME performance that the Academy eats up. Both the Babel ladies wouyld be worthier reciepients, but vote splitting is inevitable. Cate Blanchett is great in Notes on a Scandal, but she won just 2 years ago. Abigail Breslin is the biggest threat to upset here, and is he wins, look for that yellow VW bus to cruise all the way to Best Picture.

Prediction: Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Preference: Rinko Kikuchi - Babel

Best Supporting Actor

Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls
Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earl Haley – Little Children
Mark Wahlberg – The Departed
Djimon Hounsou – Blood Diamond

This is the toughest acting race to call. Eddie Murphy is definitely the favorite, taking home the BFCA, SAG, and the Globe. Alan Arkin is nippin at his heels though, taking the BAFTA a couple weeks back. He is also the deserving vet. I don’t think Wahlberg really stands a chance, being only the 4th or 5th best performance in the film, but a vote split between the top 2 guys could occur and there are certainly passionate followers of The Departed. Djimon Honsou is very good in Blood Diamond, but it’s not happening this year. And Jackie Earl Haley is amazing in Little Children as well as the being the comeback story of the year, but the role is too polarizing and dark to garner enough wide support. In the end, I think Murphy pulls it off, even with those Norbit ads. The role is baity and showy and the Academy loves singing roles.

Prediction: Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls
Preference: Jackie Earl Haley – Little Children

Best Original Screenplay

Michael Arndt - Little Miss Sunshine
Guillermo Del Toro - Pan's Labryinth
Peter Morgan - The Queen
Guillermo Arriaga - Babel
Iris Yamashia - Letters from Iwo Jima

Little Miss Sunshine is thought to be the favorite, and rightfully so. But The Queen won the Globe and strikes me as very mature and important which appeals to the Academy elite. Babel is the dark horse here I think, and if they are giving it Best Pic, then it may pull something off here as well. Pan’s Labyrinth was a great choice for a nomination, but being foreign and a fantasy film is too much for it to overcome. The Letters from Iwo Jima nod shows that the film has support, but it would need to take picture as well to even be considered here. The surprise critical darling almost always takes this as a consolation prize (Sideways, Eternal Sunshine, Lost in Translation), which makes Little Miss Sunshine your safest bet.

Prediction – Little Miss Sunshine
Preference – Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay

William Monahan - The Departed
Alfonso Cauron et al. - Children of Men
Patrick Marber - Notes on a Scandal
Todd Field & Tom Perrotta - Little Children
Sacha Baron Cohen et al. - Borat

This should be a cake walk to the podium for William Monahan and The Departed. No other film in the category really stands a chance. Notes on a Scandal has juicy and wicked dialogue, but Patrick Marber’s luck with Closer is well documented. Children of Men is an amazing achievement in directing, not writing. Little Children is way too dark, but should be a solid #2. And Borat doesn’t even really have a script.

Prediction: The Departed
Preference: Little Children

Best Animated Feature

Happy Feet
Monster House

I haven’t seen any of the nominees, but Pixar has a good track record with the Academy. No one saw Monster House and Happy Feet was popular, but Cars seems like more of an animation achievement that the others.

Prediction: Cars