Friday, February 29, 2008

Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (****1/2)



Solo ambient-pop debut from Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox, who mixes the psychedelic guitar textures of his full-time band with indecipherable loops, tape edits and treated instrument effects, all of which wash over his heavenly, reverb-laden vocals. Let the Blind is a dream-like 14 song suite split between Cox's pop and ambient impulses, yet both work together as unified whole, resulting in what is sure to be one of 2008s most exquisite albums, spawned from the singular mind of one of this generations most talented artists.

Highlights: "Recent Bedroom", "River Card", "Scraping Past", "Ready, Set, Glow" "Bite Marks", "After Class"

RIYL: Deerhunter, Brian Eno, Function, Fennesz, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, M83


Video - "River Card" (unofficial fan video)


Video - "Recent Bedroom" (live)



Video - "Bite Marks" (live)




Myspace - Atlas Sound


Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster (****)



Debut full-length from the indie-rock obsessed Welsh septet Los Campesinos!. Although it carries over two (albeit great) songs from their stellar 2007 EP, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets, the band still manages a giddily cohesive full-length record here, full of tossed-off boy-girl harmonies, ecstatic shouting, touch-in-cheek lyrics and endlessly catchy pop hooks. Not a dud in sight. And you can't beat those song titles.

Highlights: "Death to Los Campesinos!", "My Year In Lists", "This is How You Spell, 'HAHAHA We Destroyed the Hopes and Dream of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'", "You!Me!Dancing!"

RIYL: Architecture in Helsinki, Super Furry Animals, The Unicorns, The Boy Least Likely To


Video - "Death to Los Campesinos!"



"Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s)"


"Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats"


"My Year in Lists"


"This is How You Spell, 'HAHAHA We Destroyed the Hopes and Dream of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'"


Thursday, February 28, 2008

High Places - 03/07 - 09/07 (***1/2)



A 10 track digital compilation of the best work put forth from the New York based tropical-pop band in the year 2007. One-ups their great, quick-burst self-titled EP from the same year by including that record's very best tracks in addition to a number of extended and 7" versions of hard-to-find songs.

Highlights: "Sandy Feat", "Head Spins", "Jump In"

RIYL: Beat Happening, Panda Bear, Young Marble Giants, Animal Collective/Vashti Bunyan's Prospect Hummer EP


Video - "Greeting the Light"


"Canary"


"Head Spins"



Myspace - High Places


Belong - Colorless Record EP (***1/2)



New Orleans dream weavers Belong, the duo behind one of my favorite ambient releases of the decade, 2006s October Language, return with a covers EP consisting of 4 interpretations of some rather obscure psych gems (the most notable being Syd Barrett's "Late Night"). Hidden beneath the layers of static and guitar waves is where you'll find the hint of vocals (a first for Belong), piped in from the originals, which come across more like ghostly transmissions than actual words. Here's 19 minutes of soul cleansing music. (Listen to the whole EP below while you still can)

Highlights: "Late Night", "Girl from New York"

RIYL: Fennsez, Tim Hecker, William Basinski, Stars of the Lid


"Late Night"


"Beeside"


"Girl From New York"


"My Clown"


Samamidon - All Is Well (****)



Sam Amidon's newest solo release is yet another record of spare acoustic readings of public domain standards. Besides featuring his best vocal performance to date, All Is Well also finds Amidon augmenting his core setup with beautiful touches of violin, mandolin and harmonium, each adding subtle emotional weight to these 10 devastating tracks.

Highlights: "Sugar Baby", "Saro", "Wedding Dress", "O Death", "All Is Well"

RIYL: Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Bowerbirds, early Devendra Banhart, Bob Drake


Video - "Saro" (version 1)



Video - "Saro" (version 2)



Video - "Sugar Baby" (live in a bedroom?)



Video - "Wedding Dress" (live at Iceland Airwaves 2007)



Video - Grizzly Bear (Live on "Morning Becomes Eclectic")

I heard Grizzly Bear on Santa Monica's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" yesterday, and what do you know? The video of the performance is up today. Ah technology.

The Mae Shi - HLLLYH (***1/2)



Following the loss of a couple key members, Los Angeles psychotics the Mae Shi expand their lineup and refocus, narrowing their flurry of ideas down to what they know best: short-circuiting guitar pyrotechnics, hyperactive rhythms, look-ma-no-hands song structures and burping electronics. Save the 11 minute electro-funk workout slapped directly in the middle of the record, everything is gold.

Highlights: "Run to Your Grave", "PWND", "Book of Numbers"

RIYL: Super Furry Animals, Les Savy Fav, Deerhoof, Enon


Video - "Run to Your Grave"




"Lion & Lamb"


"Run to Your Grave"



Myspace - The Mae Shi


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Video - High on Fire (Live in New York)

Insane metal troupe High on Fire tore through NY a few weeks back, touring behind their sadly slept on 2007 album Death Is This Communion. Music like this is always better experienced in the live setting, as this 1 hour set proves in skull crushing fashion. (via Brooklyn Vegan)

Part I



Watch Part II Here


Hot Chip - Made in the Dark (***)



After two fantastic records of near-ridiculous genre experiments, Hot Chip tone things down on Made in the Dark, resulting in a pleasant, non-confrontational electro-pop record. It doesn't feature the conception-busting wackiness of their previous work, but it is the prettiest and most soulful work they've done to date. And it features one of the year's great singles so far, "Ready for the Floor".

Highlights: "Ready for the Floor", "Touch Too Much

RIYL: LCD Soundsystem, The Fiery Furnaces, Junior Boys


Video - "Ready for the Floor"



"Made in the Dark"


"Out at the Pictures"


Bottomless Pit - Hammer of the Gods (***1/2)



Formed from the ashes of the much missed Silkworm, that band's remaining two members collaborate on a moody set of tunes indebted to classic late-90s indie rock.

Highlights: "The Cardinal Movements", "Dogtag", "Human Out of Me"

RIYL: Silkworm, Slint, The Wrens, The Breeders

"Dogtag"


"The Cardinal Movements"


Times New Viking - Rip It Off (****)



Matador debut from this intently lo-fi noise-pop three piece. The pop hooks of their previous releases remains in tact here, but more importantly, so do the layers of guitar fuzz and amp noise, swathing these 16 tracks in enough noisy hiss to put-off the intolerant yet reward the patient.

Highlights: "Drop-Out", "(my head)", "Another Day", "Times New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo"

RIYL: Guided by Voices, Sebadoh, The Exploding Hearts, Beat Happening


"Drop-Out"


"Faces on Fire"


"Time New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo"


"Another Day"


Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers (***1/2)



Sixth and, believe it or not, most disturbing record yet from the avant/horror show/synth-pop band. On Women as Lovers, Jamie Stewart returns to the unhinged vocal histrionics that colored the first few great Xiu Xiu records, while at the same time expanding his band's sonic palette to include horns, strings and even saxophone, while still hewing close to the group's patented, chilling electronic soundscapes.

Highlights: "In Lust You Can Hear the Axe Fall", "Black Keyboard", "White Nerd"

RIYL: Joy Division, Excepter, Suicide, Men's Recovery Project


Video - "I Do What I Want When I Want"




"Black Keyboard"


"White Nerd"


"You Are Pregnant, You Are Dead"


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Evangelicals - The Evening Descends (****)



Second and best record from the Oklahoma psych-pop practitioners. One of the young year's most painstakingly assembled jigsaw puzzles of odd noises, pop melodies, falsetto vocals and head-spinning wordplay. The Evening Descends is over-the-top and overblown in the best way possible.

Highlights: "Midnight Vignette", "Skeleton Man", "Stoned Again", "Paperback Suicide"

RIYL: The Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Queen, Broken Social Scene


Video - "Skeleton Man"



"Paperback Suicide"


"Stoned Again"


"Here in the Deadlights"


Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (***1/2)



Debut record from the insanely hyped Columbia grads, who channel afro-pop influences through an indie-pop sensibility, striking upon something that, while not wholly original, is invigorating nonetheless.

Highlights: ""Oxford Comma", "A-Punk, "Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa", "Walcott"

RIYL: Paul Simon, Talking Heads/David Byrne.


Video - "Mansard Roof"



Video - "A-Punk"



"Walcott" (live on "Take Away Show")



"Bryn"


Black Mountain - In the Future (***)



Epic sophomore effort from the psych-rock behemoths in Black Mountain. With ten lengthy songs (one stretching past the 17 minute mark), things grow rather tedious and same-y by the second half the record, yet the first half pummels with the even the best moments on their debut. And it simultaneously features the best and worst prog-rock cover art I've seen in a while.

Highlights: "Stormy High", "Angels", "Wucan"

RIYL: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, Black Sabbath


"Stormy High" (live on Conan O'Brien)



"Angels" (unofficial fan video)




"Stormy High"


"Tyrants"


Monday, February 25, 2008

Stream/Download: The Velvet Underground - "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore" (previously unreleased live recording)



For being anthologized as much as they have been, it's surprising to see a bootleg recording of the Velvet Underground surface that up until now had never been heard. This song is called "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore", and it's well in line with their locked-groove, repetitive late 60s style (this show apparently may have been recorded on April 30, 1967). Sure, it can't hold a candle to what the group was releasing on their records at the time, but any new VU song is worth your attention. This song is now streaming over at the Dead Flowers blog, with the entire show being available as an MP3 download. (from Forkcast via Dead Flowers)

Stream/Download: The Velvet Underground - "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore"


Blood on the Wall - Liferz (***1/2)



Third album from the ear-melting New York trio. While it may not eclipse their sophomore record Awesomer, it probably holds up stronger as an entire album.

Highlights: "Hibernation", "Junkeee...Julieee"

RIYL: Pixies, Sonic Youth, Pavement.


"Go Go Go"/"The X" (live)




"Junkeee...Julieee"


"Sorry Sorry Sarah"


The Magnetic Fields - Distortion (***1/2)



8th and noisiest album yet from the beloved indie-pop group led by the inimitable Stephin Merritt. A nice return to form after a five year absence.

Highlights: "California Girls", "Drive on, Driver", "The Nun's Litany".

RIYL: The Jesus & Mary Chain, Beat Happening, Jens Lekman, Broadcast.


"California Girls" (unofficial fan video)




Record Reviews/Ratings

I post a good deal about music here on Stereo Sanctity, yet I only devote full-fledged reviews to movies, as I listen to way too many new records to ever keep this blog up to date with them all. But now that the Oscar season is over and I there is less to talk about in regards to that, I figured I'd at the very least feature star ratings for most of the new albums I come across. I probably won't give too much commentary or thoughts on each one, simply because I haven't the time, but I will try to include videos, streams, MP3s and maybe even an RIYL line in case you aren't privy to the band in question. Considering this is February 25th, I am already quite behind, so look for a deluge of new album posts within the next week or so until I catch up.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"There Will Be Blood"/"No Country" SNL Skit

No ifs, ands or buts, this is just flat out brilliant.

80th Annual Academy Award Winners!!!!



If this year's Academy Awards proved anything, it's that you can pose all the theories and strategize all you want, but in the end, the numbers don't lie. No Country for Old Men tore through the awards circuit all season, dominating unlike any movie in years, appropriately being awarded Sunday night with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor honors. This is a film that took the PGA, the DGA, the WGA, the SAG and the Oscar, joining an elite group that includes only American Beauty and The Return of the King. You truly couldn't stop what was coming this year. That's now two very hip picks by the Academy in two years (as The Departed triumphed last year), hopefully signifying a sea change within this typically conservative group.

I scored 7/8 in the main categories, and 14/21 overall (not counting the short film categories). A few thoughts:

No matter my opinion of the film, there is no denying that Marion Cotillard did great work in La Vie En Rose. Although she wouldn't have gotten my vote, I can't really complain about her win here.

And I guess all that time over-thinking Supporting Actress paid off, as Tilda Swinton triumphed in what had to be the closest race in years.

I'm also proud of my editing pick for the Bourne Ultimatum, although I will say that I am rather shocked the film also took home both sound awards over Transformers, which also surprisingly got trumped in Visual Effects by The Golden Compass.

Roger Deakins unfortunately (but predictably) got shafted as a result of his double nod for cinematography, but Robert Elswitt's work on There Will Be Blood was a more than worthy recipient.

And lastly, seeing Glenn Hasard and Marketa Irglova win Original Song for Once provided maybe the night's best moment, as Jon Stewart invited Irglova back out on stage to relay her thanks as she was ridiculously cut-off before she could speak.

And that's that. Another year gone. Here is the full list of winners:

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Director: Joel Coen Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, There Will be Blood
Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno
Documentary: Taxi to the Dark Side
Best Doc Short: Freeheld
Best Score: Atonement
Best Cinematography: There Will Be Blood
Best Song: Falling Slowly, Once
Best Foreign Language Film: The Counterfeiters
Honorary Oscar Tribute to Robert Boyle
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard
Best Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton
Animated Short Peter and the Wolf
Live Action short: Le Mozart des Pickpockets
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Art Direction: Sweeney Todd
Visual Effects: The Golden Compass
Best Makeup: La Vie Rose
Best Animated Feature: Ratouille
Best Costume Design: Elizabeth, The Golden Age

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Independent Spirit Award Winners

Juno took home best film while the film's breakout star Ellen Page was awarded Best Actress today at the annual Independent Spirit Awards. Nothing was truly surprising about those wins or any other this afternoon, but I did love the constant love shown toward Todd Haynes' masterful I'm Not There. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly also did quite well, making me feel like maybe - just maybe - Julian Schnabel, Ronald Harwood and Janusz Kaminski can pull off a triple upset tomorrow. Just something to think about. Here are the winners, from Awards Daily.

Best Supporting Male

* Chiwetel Ejiofor, Talk To Me

Bests First Screenplay

* Diablo Cody, Juno

Best First Feature

* The Lookout

Best Supporting Female

* Cate Blanchett

John Cassavetes Award

* August Evening

Best Foreign Film

* Once

Best Male Lead

* Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages

Best Screenplay

* Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Best Documentary

* Crazy Love

Best Cinematography

* Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Robert Altman Award

* Todd Haynes, Laura Rosenthal and the cast of I’m Not There

Best Director

* Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Female Lead

* Ellen Page

Best Feature

* Juno

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Video: Samamidon - "Saro"



I simply stop dead when I hear the gentle, quavering voice of Sam Amidon. His is a stark and beautiful sound, rich with detail yet sparse enough to get lost in the seams. There's at least one moment in every song on his excellent new record All is Well that freezes my thought process, pulling me into it's enchanting world. The fact that these happen to be public domain songs make no difference when Amidon brings such a strong emotional center to each reading. When I hear songs like "Saro", all is well doesn't seem like too far fetched of an idea.


DVD Review - The King of Kong (****1/2)



I've spoken at length here at Stereo Sanctity about the brilliance of Seth Gordon's competitive Donkey Kong documentary The King of Kong, donning it with a 4-star rating upon it's initial release and subsequently placing it on my list of the Top 10 Films of 2007. I've now seen the film four times and it does nothing but get better with each subsequent viewing, prompting that extra half-star you see above. This is the best documentary to see release since Grizzly Man, and one of the great non-fiction films of the decade so far. But that's enough raving, let's break down the DVD.

First, there are two great audio commentary tracks included here, one by director Gordon and producers Ed Cunningham, J. Clay Tweel and Luis Lopez, and a second (very funny) one from Chris Carle of IGN and Jon Gibson of I Am 8-Bit. The main attraction of the DVD though is an extensive extended interview archive, featuring nearly all of the film's participants. Each additional interview (or in some cases, mini-profiles) lends even deeper insight into both of the film's main characters, as well as to the entire unbelievable world of competitive gaming and it's many personalities. Add to this an animated short, an arcade glossary and an I Am 8-Bit Music & Art Gallery, and you have a very thorough single-disc DVD. It usually takes quite a bit to entice people to buy documentaries on DVD, but with The King of Kong, the studio has done a fantastic job of gathering loads of interesting material, some of which is as fascinating, if not more so, than the elements of an already great film.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Race for the Prize: Final Oscar Predictions



"Whatcha got ain't nothin new. This country's hard on people, you can't stop what's coming, it ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."


We've nearly made it to the end of yet another excruciating Oscar watching year, with front runners upended (Atonement), dark horses gaining ground (There Will Be Blood), and more than a couple juggernauts (No Country for Old Men, Daniel Day-Lewis) steamrolling over their competition. Here's how I think things will go down in the Shrine Auditorium come February 24.





Best Picture

Obviously No Country for Old Men is the odds-on-favorite to take home the gold, having demolished the precursor awards season unlike any film since American Beauty back in 1999. With that being said, a Best Picture/Best Director split doesn't seem entirely out of the question in my mind. If the Crash/Brokeback Mountain fiasco of a couple years back taught us anything, it should be not to get too comfortable with the front runner. I see Juno being a possible threat here, along with Michael Clayton, the former because it grossed a boatload of money and because it is the only feel-good movie in the bunch; the latter because it is the non-confrontational, across-the-board respected film...and of course, it has George Clooney. There Will Be Blood fits the Oscar profile for most of its runtime save the last 30 minutes, however it is a cold and divisive film, much like Babel was last year (I won't make that same mistake twice). Love it or hate it films rarely win the top prize. Atonement pulls up the rear simply because it is missing that allusive Best Director nomination. I fully expect No Country to triumph however, as the film has just gotten to the point where it is too big to ignore.

Will Win: No Country for Old Men
Should Win: There Will Be Blood
Should Have Been Nominated: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


Best Director

Whatever happens with Best Picture will have no effect on the outcome of this race. The Coen Brothers are long overdue for the first directing Oscar, and since this is arguably their finest work to date, what better way to honor them. Surprisingly, the lone-director nominee, Julian Schnabel, provides the biggest threat here, as the Academy clearly loved The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but a win without a Best Picture nomination would be rather surprising. Paul Thomas Anderson sits as the dark horse I believe, putting together a true "directors" picture with There Will Be Blood, but like I said before, not everyone could get on board with it's unrelenting brutality. Everyone else in this category is just along for the ride.

Will Win: Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Joel & Ethan Coen -
Should Have Been Nominated: Andrew Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford




Best Actor

Come Sunday, Daniel Day-Lewis drinks everybody's milkshake. Period.

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Should Have Been Nominated: Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl


Best Actress

And here we have the night's first toss up. We are down to Julie Christie vs. Marion Cotillard vs. Ellen Page at the moment. I would say Cotillard could win this if the film wasn't in French and if the film was any good at all, since this is an amazing, transformative performance that Oscar loves to honor. Plus, she's young and hot and Oscar loves that more than anything. On the other side of the coin however, there is Christie, the respected veteran who won her only Oscar over 40 years ago. She barely works anymore and her work in Away from Her was heartbreaking. She's won a lion share of the precursors as well, no doubt due to the fact that Lionsgate has barraged voters with screeners. But this race still somehow reeks of the 2004 Best Actor race, wherein the two front runners, Daniel Day-Lewis & Jack Nicholson, were upended by Adrian Brody. In this case, Brody could be played by the delightful Ellen Page, with breakout role in a Best Picture nominee. I'll be rooting for her, but I wouldn't bet against Christie at this point.


Will Win: Julie Christie - Away from Her
Should Win: Ellen Page - Juno; or Laura Linney - The Savages
Should Have Been Nominated: Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart


Best Supporting Actor

Here's another major category lock. There is no way Javier Bardem doesn't win this award running away. Although I feel that Hal Holbrook gave the year's best supporting performance in Into the Wild, there is just no denying the iconic status that Bardem's Anton Chigurh has already risen to. We are talking Hannibal Lector-sized villainy here. Plus, he is a respected foreign actor who was previously nominated and many feel he deserves an award at this point regardless.

Will Win: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Should Have Been Nominated - Max Von Sydow - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


Best Supporting Actress

And here we are. The toughest category of the night. I've gone over this before and have continued to re-think all the possibilities in my head, yet I haven't gotten very far. Anyone besides Saoirse Ronan seems plausible here, and honestly, if she won I wouldn't be overly shocked. But let's break it down again: No cared about I'm Not There (except me of course); No one saw Gone Baby Gone besides critics; Ruby Dee is on screen less than 5 minutes in American Gangster; Ronan is 13 years old and represents Atonement's only acting nomination. That leaves Tilda Swinton - a respected character actress, who is deliciously evil in Michael Clayton. It's a large part as well and I can't see Michael Clayton going home completely empty handed.

Will Win: Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Should Win: Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Should Have Been Nominated: Marissa Tomei - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead




Best Original Screenplay

Juno has won everything up to this point, and deservedly so IMO, but then again, Michael Clayton seems poised to take home at least one Oscar, right? Well, maybe. This award almost always goes to the indie-hit/quirky comedy (Lost in Translation/Eternal Sunshine/Little Miss Sunshine). Predicting anything else would be risky at this point. Plus, I can't see how all the old men in the Academy could pass up the opportunity to award a former stripper.

Will Win: Diablo Cody - Juno
Should Win: Diablo Cody - Juno
Should Have Been Nominated: Kelley Masterson - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead


Best Adapted Screenplay

No Country has been my sight-unseen prediction since the early fall, and I can't seem to force myself to look elsewhere in this category. It is a strong group of contenders however, with Ronald Harwood's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly script in the upset seat right now. Many feel that No Country won't sweep, and if so, this seems like the logical place to reward another well-liked film, such as Diving Bell or There Will Be Blood. The funny thing about No Country is that the problem most detractors have with the film - the 3rd act - is the most well written part of the film. As strong as the script to Diving Bell is though, it is foreign and it strikes me more as a director's film, same as Blood, which isn't exactly a writer's movie in any sense. Recall, there is no dialogue for the first 15 minutes or so of the film (there is that iconic "milkshake" line however, so who knows). And Atonement and Away from Her are lucky to even be nominated over something like Zodiac or Into the Wild, so don't get to excited for their prospects.

Will Win: Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Should Have Been Nominated: James Vanderbilt - Zodiac


Documentary Feature

If Michael Moore hadn't won already for Bowling for Columbine, I'd say he'd win this in a walk for Sicko. Instead, I'm going with the most acclaimed film of the bunch, No End in Sight. This group is notorious for going their own way however, so it is anything but a sure thing.

Will Win: No End in Sight
Should Win: Sicko
Should Have Been Nominated: The King of Kong


Foreign Language Film

This category is a mess and the branch as a whole loses more and more respect every year when they neglect critically lauded films in favor a middling work. The Counterfeiters, being the highest profile film here, is how I'm predicting. It really is anyone's guess though.

Will Win: The Counterfeiters
Should Have Been Nominated: 4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 Days


Animated Feature


Ratatouille really has no competition here. It is the most widely seen of the three, plus it has that all important screenplay nomination.

Will Win: Ratatouille
Should Win: Persepolis


Art Direction

Atonement was a visual feast no doubt, while Sweeney Todd was a rather glum affair, albeit meticulously designed. There Will Be Blood was eye-popping though. That oil derrick alone should go a long way towards corralling this award.

Will Win: There Will Be Blood
Should Win: There Will Be Blood


Best Cinematography

This is easily the most exciting tech category of the night. Roger Deakins should easily take this for The Assassination of Jesse James. That is, if he wasn't also nominated for No Country. He is sadly going to split his own vote and it will be a travesty to behold. That leaves 3 other superbly shot films though. The Diving Bell is certainly the most innovative of the nominees, but it isn't exactly pretty, which is how this award is usually judged. That leaves Atonement vs. There Will Be Blood. That huge tracking shot in Atonement was amazing no doubt, but TWBB took home the guild award, so that's where I'll lay my bet for now.

Will Win: There Will Be Blood
Should Win: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


Costume Design

Also a bit of a toss-up between Atonement and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. As most have been saying however, that green dress in Atonement is the year's most instantly recognizable costume, and since the entire Academy votes on this category, that's exactly what I feel most people will remember and mark down on their ballots.

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Sweeney Todd


Film Editing

This award almost always goes to the Best Pic winner, or at least a nominee. This year that would be No Country. That is, when it isn't going against a juggernaut type editing extravaganza. This year that would be The Bourne Ultimatum. It could go either way, but Bourne's ACE win last weekend has pushed me into it's corner. Plus, how many Oscars can the Coen Brother's seriously be expected to win in one night? And I bet the Academy frowns on the whole Roderick Jaynes pseudonym.

Will Win: The Bourne Ultimatum
Should Win: No Country for Old Men


Makeup

Norbit? Hah.
Pirates? Been there, done that.
La Vie En Rose? Sure why not.

Will Win: La Vie En Rose
Should Win: ???


Original Score

The two best scores of the year weren't nominated, one because of idiotic rules (There Will Be Blood) and one because of the Academy's stupidity (Assassination), which leaves four forgettable nominees and an oddly original work by a veteran. Atonement skates to an Oscar here.

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Atonement


Original Song

The 3 Enchanted nominees cancel each other out just like Dreamgirls did last year, and August Rush falls by the way side, leaving Once to easily grab the gold.

Will Win: "Falling Slowly" - Once
Should Win: "Falling Slowly" - Once


Sound Editing & Sound Mixing

I can't remember the last time the sound categories were so competitive. There is going to be that sentimental vote for the Transformers team to take home both sound Oscars, seeing as how they have 32 combined previous nominations without a win. The No Country sound is really something to behold however. In a tight, tight race I'd give the edge to Transformers because it is big, bold and LOUD, whereas No Country is subtle and intricate, two things that don't translate well when people go to vote for sound. I could see these two categories splitting however, with Transformers taking Mixing and No Country taking editing (or vise versa I suppose). It's a shot in the dark though. Watch the Bourne Ultimatum with both now.

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: No Country for Old Men


Visual Effects

Uhhhhh.....Transformers. Who else is nominated?

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: Transformers



AMC Shootout Interviews

Kris Tapley points us to these quick clip interviews which aired on AMC as part of their Shootout Oscar Nominee Special. Click here to watch each in the entirety, as there are multiple parts to each. These clips should give you a good idea of what to expect however.

George Clooney



Julian Schnabel



Hal Holbrook



Laura Linney



Marion Cotillard

Monday, February 18, 2008

Can Ruby Dee Pull It Off?

Supporting Actress is by some distance the most mind numbing category going into this weekend's Academy Awards. Any of the 5 nominees could win it, and I feel that each is worthy in her own way. Cate Blanchett would pretty easily get my personal vote, but that's because I know and love Bob Dylan. Many voters may not realize how good of a performance they have on their hands. Plus, even more importantly, she won only 2 years ago. The Tilda Swinton wave of buzz had grown large since her win at the BAFTAs, while Amy Ryan won nearly every critic's award this winter. And then there is Ruby Dee, the respected veteran who took home the SAG for a performance that clocks in at only 5 minutes. She really was the best thing about the disappointing American Gangster, but 5 minutes in a 2 1/2 hour movie? No disrespect intended towards Dee, but she isn't exactly Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) or Beatrice Straight (Network), the two actresses whose Oscar winning mini-roles Dee's has been compared too. Anyway, you be the judge. Here is Dee's entire Oscar nominated performance clip, edited toegther rather choppily, but you get the point. If she wins it will most certainly be for the scene at the 2:45 mark. Great work, best scene in the film.

2007: A Look Back

Looking at this short montage of clips of this year's Oscar nominees it is easy to see why '07 was considered one of the best, if not the best, year for film in nearly a decade. It ends appropriately with the 5 Best Pic nominees, but it's still weird to see that quick Norbit clip at the beginning though. (via Awards Daily)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

ACE, CAS & ADG Winners

The last of the guild awards were handed out this weekend, with No Country kinda surprising in the audio department over the highly touted work in Transformers, while There Will Be Blood took a big step toward the Art Direction Oscar with it's win at the ADG. The Bourne Ultimatum meanwhile handed No Country only it's second guild loss all year, triumphing with a win at the ACE Eddies.

American Cinema Editors:

The Bourne Ultimatum (Drama)
Sweeney Todd (Comedy/Musical)
Sicko (Documentary)

Cinema Audio Society:

No Country for Old Men


Art Directors Guild:

Period Film

There Will Be Blood, PD: Jack Fisk

Fantasy Film

The Golden Compass, PD: Dennis Gassner

Contemporary Film

No Country For Old Men, PD: Jess Gonchor

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Trailer

This actually doesn't look too bad, at least considering how much of a disaster it potentially could turn into. I trust Spielberg as much as the next guy though, and the return of Karen Allen and the presence of Cate Blanchett are enough to raise anticipation for the first Indiana Jones movie in 19 years.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Video: Sonic Youth - "Superstar"

In honor of the Juno soundtrack hitting #1 on the Billboard Top 100, I present to you the vintage video of Sonic Youth's rendition of the Carpenter's classic "Superstar", which is not only played in the film, but also name checked by Jason Bateman's character early on. Of course, later in the film when Batemen and Juno have a falling out, she tries to rub it in by saying, Sonic Youth "sucks, it's just noise!". That was one of the many music references in the film that brought a smile to my face. Ironically, "Superstar" happens to be one of the most beautiful songs in the SY catalogue. Go figure....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Download: Matmos - "Rainbow Flag"



The Matador blog has posted a brand new MP3 from the forthcoming Matmos record, Supreme Balloon. The track, perfectly titled "Rainbow Flag", is a buzzing, bleeping, "all synthesizer", semi-pop number, and a jaunty about-face from the tweaked nightmare of 2006s great The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast.

These guys have always seemed way ahead of their time, crafting mind-numbing concept albums around near-impossible samples (read: animal intestines, surgical violence), but here they seem pleasantly at ease with the idea of rather straightforward electronic pop. If you've never heard Matmos before (shame on you), then this would seem like as good a place to start as any. (via Forkcast)

MP3: Matmos - "Rainbow Flag"

Juno Jargon Jenerator

I saw this over at Red Carpet District and thought it was pretty sweet. If you haven't seen Juno, then you will have no idea what is going on here, but for those of us enamored with the film, it should provide some momentary joy. My favorite one is still, "Oh no, we should just make out instead, la-la-la."

Knock yourself out...

Monday, February 11, 2008

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" - 10th Anniversary Celebration



Pitchfork is dedicating two days this week to the second and final record from the legendary Neutral Milk Hotel, the Athens, GA. based avant/folk/pop band led by the reclusive Jeff Mangum. The first part of this double feature is an amazing vintage interview with Magnum from 1997, just two weeks before the release of their seminal record In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The record placed at #2 on Stereo Sanctity's Top 25 Albums of the 1990s list, taking the #1 spot on my own personal list, where I described it thusly: "...if it isn't the most essential document in the history of recorded music, then it's certainly in the top 2 or 3."

No doubt I will stand by the statement until the day I die.

Of course, it is common knowledge by now that after the release of Aeroplane, Magnum fell of the face of the planet, never having released any other recorded music in the last 10 years, which makes some of his statements from this interview a little hard to bear. Here are a couple excerpts:

"Pitchfork: Do you edit yourself a lot, then?

JM: None of the editing happens on paper, it all goes on in my little computer-storage brain.

Pitchfork: How often do you write songs?

JM: All the time. There's at least four records' worth of stuff that's not out and may never come out ever-- just different things.

Pitchfork: That have been recorded?

JM: Not really. "


It continues....


"Pitchfork: There's a real joy and wonder to your work. It has elements of the outlook of a six-year-old, the way a kid might look at a car going by and still be weirded out that such a thing even exists. This is distilled for me in the line off Aeroplane that goes "How strange it is to be anything at all." Is that your philosophy in a nutshell?

JM: It's been a really strange process, because I was a very religious person growing up. The church told me how things are and I took things in that way and it was all very simple. As I've gotten older, the more I don't understand, the more amazed I am. I usually wake up every morning completely freaked out that I'm in my body. Like usually whatever dream I'm having has something to do with being totally freaked out that I'm in my body and I usually wake up with a shock. And then I relax, forget about it and go and make a cup of coffee. And I wish I could say something about how I'm completely freaked out about even being here without sounding really silly.
It's also about all the crazy sleep-walking dreams that I have.

Pitchfork: You sleep-walk?

JM: Incredibly, yeah. I have like all kinds of crazy hallucinations and it's pretty strange.

Pitchfork: You mean when you're asleep...

JM: Well, I open my eyes and I see things. I've seen spirits moving through the walls. I've seen a vortex coming through the wall. I've seen amorphous little balls of light bouncing all around in the front yard through the window. I've seen giant bugs on the floor. I was in a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, and all I remember is standing on the bed and seeing the whole wall in front of me filled with lights that were [makes popping sound] popping like popcorn out of the wall. Then I'll wake up and I go "Wow, I was standing on my bed and staring at this wall." "


It continues...


[JM]: "I have pretty specific visions for the next two "pop" oriented albums, and then I'd like to just set up a little musical workshop somewhere and record whatever comes to mind. I'm also working on an organ-oriented album about a horse's life and his interaction with the other animals on the farm and in the end he gets sent to the glue factory and ascends to heaven. This particular one won't end up under the Neutral Milk Hotel name since it's a little ridiculous and some of it sounds like Smurf music."

Continue Reading

Part II: Influence & Memories

Day two of Pitchfork's celebration of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea rounds up a number of modern musicians to reminisce about the record, it's influence and it's lasting legacy. Mike McGonigal, who was the interviewer for the first feature, looks back on the instant affection fans had for not only the record, but Jeff Magnum as well. He also looks at just how original the music this band was making at a time when music as a whole was rather ho-hum:

"Aeroplane presented a new template for singer-songwriter music, one that allowed many disparate influences-- a change that has impacted singer-songwriters from the then-nascent "emo" musicians (including Bright Eyes) to Ben Chasny, whose Six Organs project was just getting underway. Neutral Milk Hotel's kitchen-sink approach fused elements from Eastern European choral music, some Canterbury prog, musique concrète, minimalist drone compositions, a little bit of free jazz, and Tropicália-- all this from twenty-somethings who grew up up in rural Southern communities, in a time before when it was a lot harder to find out about "out" musics."

And now for some choice excerpts from some of the artists:

Dan Snaith, Caribou
"I don't know what album is In the Aeroplane Over the Sea's successor. I don't think it exists yet-- and not for lack of people trying. Ten years on, maybe its singularity is its legacy."

Randy Randall, No Age
"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea holds the rare distinction of being one of the few perfectly crafted albums; on par with Loveless and Back in Black. Many a night have I put on this record and laid back and let it wash over me. The instruments are all so thoughtfully chosen and recorded in a way that compliments their natural timbre and distortion. The total fuzzed out blasting drums are an inspiration to both Dean and myself. This record also perfectly blends each song into the following track, making it impossible for me to hear only one song at a time without instantly being pulled in to the entire album. A true Masterpiece."

Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal
"I view [In the Aeroplane Over the Sea] as a high water mark in music. It's amazing that such a classic and important record could remain as somewhat underground as it has. In a way, it's great that it has, 'cause it has enabled everyone who has fallen under it's spell to feel a special, personal connection with it. The songs penetrate the fog of my mind in such an uncommon way. I have been moved to tears at NMH shows. I can't say that that has ever happened before or since. I found myself crying, uncontrollably, and I couldn't make sense of it. After thinking about it later, I decided that it must have just been my body reacting to this beautiful force that was wrapping itself all around and inside of me. It was the only way my poor little vessel could respond to this insane, but benevolent, energy that completely had it's way with me."

David Wingo, Ola Podrida
"Its beauty lies exactly in its ability to forego the conscious mind and work on the subconscious level to create its undeniable emotional pull, to the degree where it seems words are just constructs that can't begin to adequately describe the jolt the music had on you the first time you heard it. All I can really do, then, is attest to the concrete way that the record permanently altered what was my limited scope of what I thought songwriting could or should be."

Saturday Looks Good to Me
"Like a movie like The Holy Mountain, or Anne Carson's poetry, or any other work so personal and flawless one can only ever really look in on it and wonder, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has the rare distinction of existing only technically inside commerce, criticism and opinion. You can of course have an opinion about it, but it would be really hard to even approach the intentions that made it, let alone the constantly unraveling impact it has had and continues to have a decade later. I came to understand with the thousands of other people who have been changed by this music, that you could argue to finer points, but the core of what the record meant was perfect, pure and silently understood."

Read the entire feature

Live - Black Lips @ the Detriot Bar; Costa Mesa, CA. 02/10/08

The Atlanta music scene had a breakout year in 2007, with bands such as Deerhunter, King Khan & BBQ Show, Mark Sultan and of course the Black Lips all breaking through on various levels, not to mention other like-minded dirty south artists such as Jay Reatard and Gringo Star also doing their thing, all blissfully unaware that garage rock is dead and buried.

It was the longest running and biggest stars of the scene, the Black Lips, who brought their notoriously raucous brand of scuzz-rock to Orange County last night however, on a seemingly never ending tour behind their two fantastic 2007 releases, Good Bad Not Evil and live album Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo, both of which made Stereo Sanctity's Top 100 Albums of '07 list. They mostly tore through songs from these two releases, although they did intersperse a number of lesser-known but equally great early tracks. Gone it seems are the days of uncontrollable urination and bloody drama at Lips shows, replaced here instead with gobs of spit and silly string. Regardless of the gimmicks or body fluids, it is simply impossible to control Black Lips die-hards, evidenced by young, stage dancing female fans and their hairy, greasy male counterparts bashing away at each others heads in the audience (which should help explain the quality/blurriness of a number of these pics).

It would all seem rather incidental if the tunes didn't stick however. Luckily, Black Lips have perfected their brand of 60s basement fuzz to the point where accusations of parody can only be regarded as jealously. Good luck finding another band who enjoys playing music for the sheer joy of it the way Black Lips do.

























Sunday, February 10, 2008

2007 David Lean Lecture Given by David Lynch

I came across this as I was perusing the BAFTA website today. David Lynch, besides being one of the greatest directors of all time, is one of the most fascinating people around period, as this interview/lecture proves. Take some time and watch the man. He is absolutely hypnotizing to hear speak about film making.

2007 David Lean Lecture Given by David Lynch

BAFTA Winners!

No Country for Old Men and Atonement split the top two prizes at this year's British Academy Awards, with Joe Wright's period romance taking home Best Film and the Coen Brothers taking Best Director. It should really come as no surprise that the Brits would honor Atonement, and seeing as how the film has no shot at the Oscar without a directing nod, this was the perfect way for the British Academy to single out the film.

Marion Cotillard pulled off a minor upset in the Best Actress category, beating out the favored Julie Christie. It will be interesting to see who takes the Oscar between these two and Ellen Page.

The Supporting Actress race got even more muffled as well, with Tilda Swinton be awarded for Michael Clayton. I really have no idea how this category is going to go in two weeks time. I could make a case for all five nominees.

And then there is Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem, who are all but unbeatable at this point.

I'd also like to say that I am proud of the BAFTAs for awarding Matt Greenhalgh the Carl Foreman Award for his script to the fantatsic Ian Curtis bio-pic Control, which made my personal Top 10 list last year.

Here is the full list of winners, courtesy of Red Carpet District:

Best Film
"Atonement"
presented by Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum

Best British Film
"This Is England"
presented by Sylvester Stallone

Best Director
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
presented by Ian McKellan

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
presented by Kate Hudson

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
presented by Harvey Keitel

Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
presented by Marion Cotillard

Best Supporting Actress
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
presented by Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Best Adapted Screenplay
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
presented by Hugh Laurie

Best Original Screenplay
"Juno"
presented by Alfonso Cuaron

Best Film Not in the English Language
"The Lives of Others"
presented by Thandie Newton

Best Animated Film
"Ratatouille"
presented by Eddie Izzard

Best Cinematography
"No Country for Old Men"
presented by Jason Isaacs

Best Costume Design
"La Vie en Rose"
presented by Jason Isaacs

Best Editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
presented by Kelly Reilly and Paul Dano

Best Makeup & Hair
"La Vie en Rose"
presented by Naomie Harris and Rosamund Pike

Best Music
"La Vie en Rose"
presented by Rhys Ifans and Jessica Biel

Best Production Design
"Atonement"
presented by Naomie Harris and Rosamund Pike

Best Sound
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
presented by Kelly Reilly and Paul Dano

Best Visual Effects
"The Golden Compass"
presented by Emily Blunt

Best Short Animation
"The Pierce Sisters"
presented by Ricky Gervais

Best Short Film
"Dog Altogether"
presented by Ricky Gervais

Academy Fellowship
Anthony Hopkins
presented by Richaerd Attenborough

Orange Rising Star Award
Shia LaBeouf
presented by Eva Green

Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema
Barry Wilkinson
presented by Daniel Radcliffe

Carl Foreman Award
Matt Greenhalgh, "Control"
presented by Orlando Bloom

"No Country" & "Juno" Take the WGA

As expected, Diablo Cody and the Coen Brothers took home their respective WGA awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. I doubt we see a different outcome come Oscar night (and yes, there will an Oscar night!), but if there is an upset, I'd say Michael Clayton has the best shot at swooping in and stealing the award from Juno. There is no way No Country doesn't take adapted however.

More WGA Fallout

Friday, February 8, 2008

"There Will Be Blood" Roundup #2



And it continues....

It looks like Paramount has noticed the phenomenon that is Daniel Day-Lewis' "I drink your milkshake" line and ran with it, sending employees out door-to-door with actual milkshakes and promo cards (pictured below) to help entice Academy voters into honoring P.T. Anderson's latest opus. I don't know if stuff like this actually works (it seemed to help the Little Miss Sunshine folks last year with those little yellow buses), but it is funny nonetheless. (via Red Carpet District)






And now we have David Spade impersonating Daniel Plainview and running down the myriad reasons why he should be the Best Actor winner of 2007. I particularly enjoyed the jab at "Michael Gayton". (from Awards Daily via Funny or Die)

If you missed Part I, catch up here. At this pace, Part III can't be far behind...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dead Oceans = Awesome



It's been kind of a slow week, so I figured I'd write up a little mini profile on Dead Oceans, the recently launched sub-label of indie juggernauts Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar. In only a few short months at the tail-end of last year, the label signed and released fantastic albums by Bishop Allen, Citay, Dirty Projectors and Phosphorescent. In fact, the latter 3 of those records each made waves on Stereo Sanctity's Top 100 Albums of 2007 list.

They don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon either, having already released probably my favorite record of this young year so far, Evangelicals' The Evening Descends, as well as the forthcoming White Hinterland record and a wide re-release of Bowerbird's magnificent Hymns for a Dark Horse, which was originally released in hand numbered copies of 1600 on the Burlytime label - it also happened to sneak onto the top 50 of the aforementioned Best of '07 list. Even early on, Dead Oceans has already established itself in my view as the best off-shoot label since the sadly defunct 5RC. Keep an eye out for these guys.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Snow Angels" Trailer

If you've been to any of this year's crop of Oscar nominated films, you've probably seen this trailer for David Gordon Green's highly anticipated new film, Snow Angels. But just in case, here it is again. I don't make it out to many movies during the first half of the year, but if anyone can get me out of exile, it is god-among-indie-directors, David Gordon Green, whose previous credits include George Washington, All the Real Girls and Undertow. It's coming out so early in the year though, that it could suffer the "critically-acclaimed-yet-doomed-to-be-forgotten-come-awards-season" fate that plagues at least one film every year (Zodiac fit the bill this last year). Either way, this looks like an acting showcase for everyone involved, especially the perennially underrated Sam Rockwell. See for yourself though....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Animal Collective on "Take Away Show"

Animal Collective filmed a recent "Take Away Show" for La Blogotheque, performing street versions of hypnotic new track "Taste" and forgotten gem "Another White Singer". Of course, it is common knowledge by now that Animal Collective are frighteningly prolific, debuting new songs and releasing great albums simultaneously. To wit, their last record, Strawberry Jam (which placed at #2 on Stereo Sanctity's Best Albums of '07 list), coincided with a recent show of theirs I attended, where they played an early version of "Taste". Persumably it will show up on their forthcoming new EP or the rumored Strawberry Jam follow-up, which could see release this very year.

I'm glad they chose to feature "Another White Singer" here as well, as Danse Manatee is kinda considered the ugly stepchild of the AC discography, and is frequently dismissed as an early misstep. Here they tap out the spare song on a traffic cone, a shopping cart, an acoustic guitar and a metal security barrier, shedding new light on unfairly overlooked song. (from Daily Motion via Forkcast)

"Taste"



"Another White Singer"