Thursday, September 27, 2007

Race for the Prize 9/27/07

Welcome to the first of this year's Stereo Sanctity "Race for the Prize" columns, in which I will monitor the year's annual race for the little golden guy known as Oscar. We are officially into 2007s Oscar Race, as the Toronto International Film Festival ended last week and a full range of this year's big Oscar hopefuls are finally being unleashed on the general public. What this column will attempt to do is gauge the heat on certain films and throw out arbitrary predictions from way-too-early-to-actually know-anything, in a (perhaps vain) vain attempt at getting inside the heads of those sheep known as Academy members. The contenders are ranked by the likelihood (as of today) that they will be nominated. I can't guarantee weekly updates, but I will update when there is a obvious sea change or at least a palpable switch in buzz for certain films or performances. So I'll get right to it.

What's already obvious this year is that no studio wants their film to be labeled with the dreaded "frontrunner" status, and seeing what happened with Dreamgirls last year, who could blame them? So this year, more than ever, it is a guessing game. A good majority of the hopefuls have been screened for critics though, so things seem to be taking a vague shape. Toronto cleared up a few things a bit - the main question answered was that Elizabeth: The Golden Age is not the Awards stud it once was deemed. Cate Blanchett still seems like an obvious choice though, if only because of her legendary loss to Gwyneth Paltrow back in '98. Besides that, it looks like only tech awards for ol' Liz. Surprisingly, Eastern Promises got a leg up at TIFF, but Cronenberg has never been much of an Oscar favorite, so the film seems to be relegated to probably some acting notices if anything. Other than that, Sean Penn's Into the Wild came up huge, along with it's cast, which includes lead actor hopeful Emile Hirsche and highly buzzed supporting work from Hal Holbrook and Catherine Keener. We should know more in the coming weeks though, as reviews for I'm Not There, Reservation Road and Michael Clayton trickle in. So we wait...

Main Category Predictions as of 9/27/07

Best Picture:
1. Atonement
2. Charlie Wilson's War
3. American Gangster
4. There Will Be Blood
5. No Country for Old Men

Five On the Fringe:
The Kite Runner
Into the Wild
Sweeney Todd
Michael Clayton

Best Director:
1. Joe Wright - Atonement
2. Mike Nichols - Charlie Wilson's War
3. Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
4. Ridley Scott - American Gangster
5. Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men

Five of the Fringe:
Andrew Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Sean Penn - Into the Wild
Marc Forster - The Kite Runner
Tim Burton - Sweeney Todd
David Cronenberg - Eastern Promises

Best Actor:
1. Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
2. Tom Hanks - Charlie Wilson's War
3. Tommy Lee Jones - In the Valley of Elah
4. James McAvoy - Atonement
5. Denzel Washington - American Gangster

Five on the Fringe:
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Before the Devil Knows Your Dead or The Savages
Emile Hirsche - Into the Wild
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Viggo Mortenson - Eastern Promises

Best Actress:
1. Keira Knightley - Atonement
2. Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
3. Julie Christie - Away from Her
4. Ellen Page - Juno
5. Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose

Five on the Fringe:
Jodie Foster - The Brave One
Laura Linney - The Savages
Halle Berry - Things We Lost in the Fire
Nicole Kidman - Margot at the Wedding
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart

Best Supporting Actor:
1. Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
2. Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
4. Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton
5. Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Five on the Fringe:
Phillip Boscoe - The Savages
Paul Dano - There Will Be Blood
Russell Crowe - American Gangster
Armin Mueller-Stahl - Eastern Promises
Benicio Del Toro - Things We Lost in the Fire

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
2. Vanessa Redgrave - Atonement
3. Helena Bonham Carter - Sweeney Todd
4. Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
5. Jennifer Jason Leigh - Margot at the Wedding

Five on the Fringe:
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Susan Sarandon - In the Valley of Elah
Catherine Keener - Into the Wild
Romola Garai - Atonement
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Best Original Screenplay:
1. The Savages
2. Juno
3. Margot at the Wedding
4. I'm Not There
5. Once

Five on the Fringe:
Michael Clayton
Things We Lost in the Fire
Eastern Promises

Best Adapted Screenplay:
1. No Country for Old Men
2. Atonement
3. There Will Be Blood
4. American Gangster
5. Charlie Wilson's War

Five on the Fringe:
In the Valley of Elah
The Kite Runner
Into the Wild
The Diving Bell and Butterfly
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The 10 Greatest American Directors Cont....

#6 revealed here....

Playlist #4 - The Experimental 70s

The first 3 Stereo Sanctity playlists have, for the most part, consisted of random selections of songs with no unifying theme (except that they all rule of course). I've forgone that method this time though and decided to group this 4th playlist under the banner of the experimental music scene of 1970s (just click that fat arrow in the side bar to play 'em all). Now certainly not everything on this playlist is avant or experimental, at least in the general sense - in fact, a few of the songs are downright poppy - but all these songs show, in their own unique ways, how 70s underground rock music (a blanket term I'll use to cover everything from electronic to punk to folk to kraut) helped shape the proceeding decades. If you're looking for progressivism in rock music, you need not look much further than the 1970s, or, as you'll come to see, Brian Eno.

Roxy Music - The Thrill of it All: The sound of the Bryan Ferry led art-rock ensemble persevering without the services of founding member Brian Eno. The opening track off of their 1974 LP Country Life.

Brian Eno - Sombre Reptiles: Speaking of Brian Eno, the glam-rock-icon-turned-ambient-electronic-producer took a full fledged plunge into electronic soundscapes with his classic 1975 record Another Green World, inspiring a future generation of musicians as diverse as David Bowie, Aphex Twin, Mouse on Mars and Squarepusher.

Tim Buckley - Starsailor: The father and inspiration to the late great Jeff Buckley, whose life, like his father's before him, was cut tragically short. Unlike his son though, Tim took his music into the realms of the unknown, a technique most fully realized on his avant-folk masterpiece Starsailor. This is your brain on drugs.

Suicide - Frankie Teardrop: A 10 minute, kaleidoscopic ride through hell with synth-rock icons Suicide as your guide. Do not play this for children.

Wire - Mr. Suit: The minimal punk rock legends redefined concision on their landmark debut LP Pink Flag. "Mr. Suit" is just one of 22 perfect songs from that record.

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain: It's just one long guitar solo sure, but it's also the best guitar solo ever committed to tape, period. Free your mind...

Throbbing Gristle - Discipline (Berlin): The avant-industrial progenitors at their most confrontational. One of my favorite songs ever. From 20 Jazz Funk Greats.

David Bowie - Art Decade: Inspired by Brain Eno's work with electronic ambiance, Bowie retreated to Berlin to record three of the most influential records in music history. The first of which, 1977s Low (where "Art Decade" can be found), took Eno's ideas, added a pop veneer and perfected them, resulting in probably the best album in Bowie's formidable career.

Television - Venus: The beloved garage rock band, led by the inimitable Tom Verlaine, released their opus, Marquee Moon, on an unsuspecting world back in 1977, forever altering the way the guitar is looked at. "Venus" is but one of the many absolutely searing statements from this, their debut record.

Faust - Lauft...Heisst Das Es Lauft Oder Es Kommt Bald...Lauft: Faust coined the term Krautrock with their fourth record, the appropriately title IV, but it was "Lauft", which stripped their sound down to just acoustics, that left the deepest impression.

Swell Maps - Adventuring Into Basketry: The oft-forgotten avant-noise troupe - whose leader, Nikki Sudden, sadly passed away last year - was given the much appreciated reissue treatment back in '04. "Adventuring Into Basketry" comes from the ear-bleeding 2nd side of their debut album A Trip to Marineville.

Neu! - Weissensee: A slow, relaxing jam from Krautrock kings Neu!, a band just as likely to lull you to sleep as tear apart your ear canal. From their self titled debut.

Talking Heads - I Zimbra: By the time of Fear of Music, Brian Eno had become an uncredited 5th member of the Talking Heads. Nowhere is his hand felt more than on "I Zimbra", Fear's triumphant opener, which combines West African polyrhythms with the Heads' usual brand of funk-punk and stirs it into a cauldron of tribal beats, chanting voices and awe-inspiring percussion flourishes.

Pink Floyd - Fearless: Before they traveled to the dark side of the moon, Pink Floyd were just another space rock band with an affinity for side-long guitar freakouts. Meddle, the best of their early records, follows suit, leaving a number of shorter gems for side one. This is where you'll find "Fearless", one of Floyd's best and most calming songs.

Kraftwerk - Franz Shubert: The electronic pioneers take you through industrialized Europe with the help of "Franz Shubert", the penultimate track from their genre defining masterwork Trans-Europe Express.

Previous Stereo Sanctity Playlists

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spin Interviews Thurston Moore

If you would have told me last year that Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore would release an acoustic album in the near future, I would have slapped you silly and bet you thousands that it would never happen. Well too bad for you, cause you'd be a rich man or woman right now, as Moore's new solo album Trees Outside the Academy is based almost exclusively around the acoustic guitar. And you know what? It doesn't suck. Actually it is quite good. Spin interviewed Moore in their most recent issue. Here's an excerpt:

"You've been playing loud electric music for over 25 years. Maybe you're picking up acoustic guitar because your ears are ringing?

Not so much because my ears are ringing, but maybe because it's as extreme as doing the very loud thing. And doing it with similar intent: The idea of making really quiet music became something really radical. I like that it's considered extreme to play acoustic guitar."
Read the whole interview here

"Prince Caspian" One-Sheet

Prince Caspian was always my least favorite Chronicles of Narnia book growing up, so hopefully Andrew Adamson can do what he did with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and exceed expectations. The poster's got a big Return of the King vibe to it, but if you are gonna copy a movie poster, you could pattern yourself after worse I guess.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Live - Animal Collective/Wizard Prison/Eric Copeland @ The Henry Fonda Theater, Los Angeles; 9/18/07

Halloween came early to the City of Angels last night as three luminaries of the avant-rock scene took the stage in front of a jam-packed, extremely sold-out crowd at the Henry Fonda Theater. The bands seemed to be going all out, more than likely because the show was being filmed for "promotional purposes" (probably a tour DVD or something like that), but for whatever reason each artist seemed to be leaving it all on the stage (which itself was decorated with skeletons).

Eric Copeland

Top Photo: Eric Copeland (middle) with his band Black Dice

Eric Copeland, one of three members in Brooklyn electronic noise outfit Black Dice, took to the road recently behind his debut solo album Hermaphrodite. His solo work differs from his full time band's recent work in that Black Dice have moved towards a kind of fractured house approach whereas Copeland's tunes are far more drone-y, each tune drifting by on electronic blips and screeches, eventually building to extreme white noise climaxes. If anything, it is reminiscent of early Excepter (and that mind you, is a very good thing). His live show isn't much to look at though, seeing as how it is just one guy hunched behind a table of tangled chords and electronics noise makers. In fact, he never once looked up during the entire 1/2 hour set. When it comes to improvised noise though, you could do a lot worse.

Wizard Prison

I apologize in advance for not having any picture of Wizard Prison, but you see, it's kind of difficult to take pictures in almost complete darkness. But it wouldn't really have mattered since this avant-rock three piece performs their entire show shielded behind a large projection screen, which they use to flash images of fire, decaying trees and unidentifiable (but undeniably sickly) images. Oh, and did I mention they do this dressed in black robes with skull masks on? Their music, a twisted mixture of abstract electronics and pysch-guitar noise, is harrowing as it moves slowly but assuredly from ominous abstraction to doom-rock tribalism. It's intense stuff, perfect for scaring away the neighborhood kids or your soundtracking your next funeral.

Animal Collective

Animal Collective's live shows are infamous for their unpredictability, intensity and general noisiness, and all three where present and accounted for as the avant-pop masterminds took the stage last night at the Fonda. The unremittingly experimental sound sculptors, performing as a 3 piece this particular night (Deakan was noticeably absent), recently released their latest opus, the nearly perfect Strawberry Jam (which incidentally, may very well be the album of the year), but as always, eschewed expectations and set aside a majority of their hour and a half set for new, unreleased material. A few of those tunes will be familiar to real big AC fans, such as "Walk Around" and (I think) "Tasty Place". Of course they appeased with a nice selection of Strawberry jams as well (5 of the album's 9 songs in fact), including "Fireworks", "Peacebone", "#1", "Chores" and "Unsolved Mysteries".

They even dipped into the back catalogue a bit, with 2 selections from their classic LP Sung Tongs, "Leaf House" and "Who Could Win a Rabbit?". Whether it was because of the absence of Deakan or not, the music was almost entirely performed with electronic instrumentation. In fact, Avey Tare only picked up a guitar for two songs. Besides that it was all Geologist and Panda Bear tweakin knobs and flippin switches, with the occasional drum attack from Panda and Avey. This set-up put some songs, particularly the older ones, into a new light. "Who Could Win a Rabbit?" in particular was transformed into a throbbing electro stomper, to the point where I could barely recognized it as it closed the show. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this band can (and will) do anything. Listening to and watching this band continually breakdown musical barriers is a thrilling thing to behold, and it continually begs the question: Why listen to anything else? I myself have hard time finding an answer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

DVD Review - Death Proof (*)

Please note that the above rating in no way reflects my feelings toward Death Proof or Grindhouse as a total experience. To read my original 4 1/2 star review of Grindhouse, click here.

Dear Bob and Harvey Weinstein,

Why oh why would you do this??? Why would split up Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's hilarious, over-the-top B-movie double feature Grindhouse into two separate DVD releases??? I know that Grindhouse was a relative flop at the box office, but you had to have known that a movie like this would exclusively attract all the Tarantino fan boys and probably, more or less, confuse everyone else. You had to have known Grindhouse was always a film that would sell better on DVD, which (probably better than anything else) explains your blatant cash-grab with the separate DVD releases for both Death Proof and Planet Terror. But c'mon, we're reasonable fan-boys, why not have a third release with the actual theatrical version of Grindhouse in all it's blood-splattered glory, in addition to these two DVDs? Don't get us wrong, we appreciate the special features you have included on Death Proof, but what's more important? Some cast interviews? Or maintaining the integrity of what is still the best film of 2007? And lest I forget the most unforgivable causality of this whole ordeal: the faux-trailers that were included before and between the two feature films, that (and I know I can't be the alone here) are probably the best and most entertaining parts of the Grindhouse experience. Excising these trailers is inexplicable. They are not even included as special features. What gives??? But I am a patient man. I can wait another few months for the inevitable release of the entire Grindhouse theatrical film on DVD. In the meantime, I am hope you are happy with your money. God knows you aren't getting mine.

Yours Truly,

Stereo Sanctity

DVD Review - Stranger than Paradise (****1/2)

Jim Jarmusch, perhaps better than anyone has before or since, totally and completely defines American independent cinema. His reputation was built swiftly, and considering his meandering yet instantly recognizable visual aesthetic, it has surprisingly not only survived, but sustained itself for over 25 years. Over this timespan, he has directed 9 feature length films, each working within it's own contained world of influence, but all undeniably the work of the same unique man. Jarmusch's 1984 breakout sophomore film Stranger than Paradise has now been upgraded from it's shoddy, bare bones MGM DVD into a lavish 2-disc offering from the Criterion Collection. Not even taking into account that it was one of the pioneering films of the 80s independent film scene, Stranger than Paradise is on it's own terms a completely singular, minimalist classic. Composed of only 67 individual B&W shots, the film is divided into 2 segments, the first of which (entitled "The New World") was commissioned to be a 30 minute short film, but when the finished product turned out so strong, Jarmusch amended a 2nd half to the film, which takes his 3 main characters from the confines of New York all the way to Cleveland and finally down to Florida, where their lives become irrevocably intertwined.

Stranger than Paradise, along with the early records of Sonic Youth and the music of the nascent No-Wave scene (to which Jarmusch happen to contribute to as well), defined 1980s New York hipster cool. The nonchalant attitude and methodical style that Jarmusch adopted here has been co-opted by independent filmmakers ever since; it's influence ranging from Quentin Tarantino to Alexander Payne to of course Kevin Smith, who has always been very open about the influence of Stranger than Paradise on his debut film Clerks. With only the scantest of dialogue, the film still manages to speaks volumes, both to the way humans interact with each other and to the small moments in life that are taken for granted but can mean so much in hindsight. It should go without saying, but a surface viewing of Stranger than Paradise will obviously reveal very little, but as its cult status will attest to, any sort of in depth look at the film will open up a world of unforeseen possibilities.

As expected, Criterion has flawlessly cleaned up and remastered the film so that the B&W cinematography (which is nearly as famous as the film itself) sparkles and breathes with a heretofore unthinkable vibrancy. But this being Criterion, there are a treasure trove of extras included on a second disc, the most surprising being the entirety of Permanent Vacation, Jarmusch's 1980 debut film. Although the film isn't half as good as Stranger than Paradise (it's one of the only Jarmusch film that could benefit from something actually happening), it is still an essential watch for any fan of the then-burgeoning indie film circuit. Also included is an hour long documentary on both the films, which was made in 1984 and features interviews with most of the actors and crew from each movie. And in addition to a couple trailers and location photos, there is the requisite Criterion booklet, a 43 page mammoth with articles about the two movies from both film critics and Jarmusch alike. It's a fantastic package for a fantastic film.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Absolute Rave for "Jesse James" from Incontention

Kris Tapley over at Incontention has dropped a bomb, calling The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford "the most accomplished work of moving imagery committed to film in nearly a decade." Tapley's no hack either. In fact there probably isn't another critic I agree with on a more consistent basis than him. Inland Empire, The Fountain and Children of Men were top 3 films last year, and Last Days took the top spot the year before that, so he knows his stuff. Here's a short excerpt:
"In 1983, author Ron Hansen crafted a novel that ought to be considered mandatory reading for anyone considering him or herself attracted to the western as a genre and as a conveyor of essential truth. A Shakespearean account of betrayal in the old west, Hansen’s broad sketches revealed deep and vibrant characters that transcended the nickel-book mythology into which they inevitably found themselves woven. Twenty-four years later, filmmaker Andrew Dominik has accomplished a visual telling of that story which is as close to cinematic perfection as you could hope to imagine. At the risk of sensationalism, I would call “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” the most accomplished work of moving imagery committed to film in nearly a decade. It is a staggering piece of true cinematic art."
Read the full review here

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Viva-Radio's 77 Boadrum {Defintive} Video

Since we can't get a DVD of Boredoms' already legendary 77 member drum circle show - performed in New York City on 7/07/07 - then thank god for Viva-Radio and their fantastic look at the event, which includes quick clip introduction interviews with nearly all 77 drummers (which included members of Lightning Bolt, Oneida, Gang Gang Dance, Excepter, Blood on the Wall, Man Man/Icy Demons, Unwound, Enon, Negative Approach, Sunburned Hand of the Man, No Neck Blues Band, Aa, Soft Circle to name just a few). There is also a corresponding interview with eYe himself. It beats the heck out of those youtube videos I posted a while back. A word of advice: at the 8:50 mark, duck and cover....

There seems to be a slight problem embedding the videos. If you can't play them, click here

Viva-Radio's 77 Boadrum {Defintive} Video

eYe Interview

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Control" Is Coming...

More good buzz for Anton Corbijn's forthcoming Ian Curtis bio-pic Control, this time from Stephanie Zacharek over at Control also picked up a some awards a couple weeks back. Thanks to Awards Daily for the tipoff. Here's an excerpt:

What's most touching about "Control" is that it reminds us that these four guys making some very heavy music were really just kids. "The movie doesn't try to make them into big mythological people," Corbijn says. "It's very down to earth, really. It's very human. It's basically the story of a young boy finding his way, and getting lost."

Here in Toronto, someone asked me if "Control" would mean something only to people who care about Joy Division, or if it could work for anybody. But just who, exactly, do we mean by "anybody"? Of course, every moviegoer has his or her own tastes or expectations. But I never know how to answer that question when the film at hand is beautifully made and makes you care about its characters. I suppose the answer is, if you have no interest in people, you might not care much for "Control." But then, you might as well ask why you go to the movies in the first place.

Whole article here

And now the trailer...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Playlist #3

Welcome to the third installment in Stereo Sanctity's ongoing playlist series. Below you will find descriptions of the 15 songs that I've included this time. Just click the big play arrow over there in the side bar to hear all 15 songs in full.

Lisa Germano - From a Shell: The shimmering centerpiece from Germano's recently reissued masterpiece Lullaby for Liquid Pig.

No Age - Loosen This Job: This lo-fo LA avant-punk band just released a great compilation of their recent work called Weirdo Rippers. These tunes were previously only available on 12" vinyl.

AIDS Wolf - We Multiply: It owes a huge debt to Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, but "We Multiply" is still one of the decades best noise-rock tracks, brought to you by cult favorites (and perennial favorites of mothers nationwide), AIDS Wolf. From Lovvers.

A Place to Bury Strangers - Ocean: I've already mentioned these 3 shoegazers before, but it bears repeating: shield you ears, "New York's Loudest band" is out for blood.

The For Carnation - Salo: Brian McMahon's underrated post-Slint outfit The For Carnation got the long awaited reissue treatment earlier this year, when Touch & Go package the band's two EP's together under the name Promised Works. "Salo" is the creeping, crawling centerpiece from Marshmallows.

John Zorn - Speedball: Out-rock's longest running provocateur gets help in the form of the maniacal screams of Boredom's singer Yamatsuka Eye. The result was one of the 80s best records (Naked City), as well as the beginning of Zorn's most beloved project, which he named after this record.

Los Campesinnos! - Frontwards (Pavement Cover): It's not often that a cover can impress me, let alone a cover of the quite possibly the quintessential Pavement song. From debut EP Sticking Fingers into Sockets.

Animal Collective - Whaddit I Done: On the eve of the release of the newest (and best??) AC record, Strawberry Jam, I present you with the avant poppers' warped strumming mind melt "Whaddit I Done?", from their modern classic Sung Tongs.

Neutral Milk Hotel - Song Against Sex: For those of you who think that In the Aeroplane was just the greatest fluke in the history of pop music, I encourage you to play close attention to "Song Against Sex", one of the first inklings that Jeff Magnum was perhaps this generations greatest musical poet. From On Avery Island.

Enon - Natural Disasters: Enon return later this year with their crazy anticipated new record Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds. Here is "Natural Disasters", one of many amazing songs from High Society.

The Flaming Lips - The Spiderbite Song: I have been listening to the Lips a lot lately, mainly because of their fantastic concert film UFOs at the Zoo, but any excuse to revisit the Lips is a good one as far as I am concerned. From The Soft Bulletin.

Orange Juice - Wan Light: Glasgow-based cult favorites Orange Juice got a handful of their seminal work ressisued a couple years back. "Wan Light" can know be found on the resulting compilation, The Glasgow School.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Dial Up: Ted Leo at his creative and melodic peak. A slice of pop-punk heaven from one of the decades best records, The Tyranny of Distance.

Menomena - Monkey's Back: The closing song from Menomena's great debut record I Am the Fun Blame Monster. Their new record Friend & Foe is one of this year's strongest releases.

Deerhunter - Providence: They lost a key piece, but based on past successes like "Providence", Deerhunter have little to worry about. From Cryptograms.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

New "There Will Be Blood" Trailer

Ummm yeah, what the title says.

But seriously, someone give Daniel Day Lewis the Oscar already. And don't look away when the credits flash by, cause you will miss that Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is providing the film's score. Could this movie get any cooler?


Venice Film Fesitval Winners

Ang Lee's NC-17 rated love saga Lust, Caution took home the top prize at this year's Venice Film Festival. This is very good early buzz for a film that many would have probably written off (i.e. the Academy) because of it's sexual content. Some good reviews and few critics awards and you could be looking at a potential run for an Oscar nod, more than likely for Lee's directing. The big shock of the festival was the Best Director Award being given to Brain DePalma for Redacted though. DePalma is consistently underrated and overlooked when it comes to Oscars, so maybe this will be the jump start he needs to make things interesting.

The Grand Jury Prize was shared between Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan bio-pic I'm Not There, and La Graine et Le Mulet. I'm Not There in particular is looking like it is going to be a critics darling. The film also produced an award for Cate Blanchett, one of 6 actors who portray the iconic singer-songwriter in the film. This seems more like a supporting performance to me, which is probably how the Academy will look at it. But look for Blanchett to score 2 nods this year, one for I'm Not There and one for her lead role in the very bait-y Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

In another surprise, the Best Actor award was given to Brad Pitt, for his turn in the highly anticipated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It seems like it is harder for Pitt to score Oscar nods than anyone (remember the Babel snub last year?), but his chances just got a heck of lot better. Here is a list of the top prizes and their recipients:

The Golden Lion (Best Film): Lust, Caution
The Silver Lion (Best Director): Brian DePalma, Rendition
Grand Jury Prize: I'm Not There and La Graine et Le Mulet
Best Actor: Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Best Screenplay: It's a Free World

Read the full list of winners here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Place to Bury Strangers

There is a sticker on the packaging of the debut album from Oliver Ackermann's new band A Place to Bury Strangers that proudly (and accurately) identifies them as "New York's Loudest Band". Now that's a bold statement considering NY is the mecca of noise rock, but I wouldn't test these 3 guys and their seemingly unconscious proclivity for mind flaying feedback explosions. Ackermann has swam similar waters before with his former band, the sadly defunct Skywave, but here he seems to be announcing his return as loudly and with as much pure, unadulterated aggression as humanly possible. A Place to Bury Strangers' influences aren't hard to identify, but they channel them so much better and with less ironic posturing than most bands of their ilk. Imagine the dense layers of white noise that My Bloody Valentine popularized, mixed with the pummeling percussion of Ride, all awash in a sea of Slowdive's horrific beauty and you'll begin to approach the sonic assault of this group. A Place to Bury Strangers' self-titled LP is currently limited to a scant 500 copies, all of which have sold out ( I was lucky enough to scoop one up before the deluge of online reviews surfaced last week). Killer Pimp is in the process of repressing the record, although how many copies they will make available is hard to say. The band on the other hand has already moved onto bigger and better things, signing a new deal with Highwheel Records with plans on recording their sophomore album by year's end. It's already been a fantastic year for art, noise and out rock, and A Place to Bury Strangers have loudly and convincingly bullied their way toward the top of this crowded field. Maybe it's just me, but all the abrasion and discordance cleanses my musical pallet and helps soothe my oft-skeptical ears, all while taking the time to shattered whatever hearing I have left. You've been warned...

Monday, September 3, 2007

My Bloody Valentine to Reunite?!

Could it be that the one of the greatest bands in the history of recorded music is lining up not only a tour (that would include a headlining spot at Coachella in 2008), but also an album of new material, their first in 17 years!!! This almost too good to be true news has been reported by the NME, Billboard and others, but this is also a band that the phrase "I'll believe it when I see it" seems to have been coined for. It is supposedly not about the money, but Coachella is definitely known for throwing extravagant amounts of money at bands for reunions (remember that $5 million dollar Smiths offer?), so it certainly seems like a possibility. I'll tell you what though, just the possibility of hearing "Only Shallow" (or any of Loveless for that matter) live and in person is enough to get this weary music geek all pumped up.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Colin Mee Leaves Deerhunter

Bottom photo provided by the Deerhunter Blog

P4K is reporting that Colin Mee, guitarist of Atlanta psych-rock collective Deerhunter has left the band. I saw Deerhunter live earlier this year and one of their most bracing qualities was their seemingly unconscious tightness as a live band, so it is unfortunate they are losing a piece of such a unique puzzle. This is doubly shocking considering they have released two of the years best records (the Cryptograms LP and the Fluorescent Grey EP) that almost instantaneously shot themselves to toward the top of the art rock heap. I guess Bradford Cox has taken over as the second guitarist for the time being. Who knows if he will be replaced or not. Here's a quote from Mee regarding the situation. You can read the whole story here.

"What happened was that initially I told them that I couldn't play a couple of shows that we had booked next weekend in Portland and Seattle because it was too much of a strain on my schedule. It wasn't necessarily my intention to quit.

"Brad basically reacted by saying that if I did that I was giving up my position in the band, which is pretty much what I expected. I told them that I thought the last few shows we did were a little subpar and I figured they could still do the shows without me and get paid or whatever if it wasn't going to be good even if I was there. I just felt that we had booked too much stuff to support one album just because of the money that was being offered us and whatever networking opportunities went along with that, which I was never involved in.

"By the end of the year we would have toured with basically the same set six or seven times over a two year period, which I would have been fine with, but this particular few weeks was just too much for me considering my other time commitments.

"This sense of being overwhelmed was exacerbated by the fact that I felt we were receiving (and creating) too much press that had nothing to do with any new music being created. I don't want to be overexposed. I don't want the world to know what our excrement looks like or what we are selling on eBay or whether we got robbed. I think that it devalues the music and it is just a way to maintain attention when the music should just speak for itself.

"I understand that is not the way the media works but I found it disgraceful and sensationalistic. I felt misrepresented and that the band was being portrayed as opportunists. I was willing to tolerate it, however, but I am not going to put my life on hold for this."