Monday, August 31, 2009

What We've Been Waiting For

'The Observer' Names the Best British Films of the Last 25 Years

The Observer has just tallied a list from over 60 prominent voters to determine the best British film of the last quarter century. Unsurprisingly, Danny Boyle's Trainspotting came out on top, but there are many other more interesting picks later on down the list. I've never really thought about this particular distinction before, but off the top of my head I'd say Mike Leigh's Naked would be at or near the top of my list, followed somewhere by Control, Secrets & Lies and maybe even The Full Monty. Full list is outlined below, but head on over to The Observer for brief thoughts on each selection. (via Incontention)

25. The English Patient
24. 24 Hour Party People
23. My Summer of Love
22. Man on Wire
21. Riff-Raff
20. Red Road
19. Dead Man's Shoes
18. Shaun of the Dead
17. This is England
16. Hunger
15. Under the Skin
14. Naked
13. Control
12. Hope and Glory
11. Touching the Void
10. Four Weddings and a Funeral
9. Slumdog Millionaire
8. Ratcatcher
7. Sexy Beast
6. Nil by Mouth
5. My Beautiful Laundrette
4. Distant Voices, Still Lives
3. Secrets & Lies
2. Withnail & I
1. Trainspotting

Friday, August 28, 2009

Music Review: Six Organs of Admittance - Luminous Night (**)

"For being such an unwitting participant in the whole mid-aughts freak-folk movement, Ben Chasny’s career has followed a conspicuous path mirrored by that of its parent scene. If 2004's Golden Apples of the Sun compilation represented the nexus of this then-burgeoning community, then School of the Flower, Chasny’s umpteenth release and most widely praised record as Six Organs of Admittance, played more of an unassuming role in expanding the reach of this already insular faction of artists. Whereas scene godfather Devendra Banhart was taking quieter cues from the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Bert Jansch, Karen Dalton and all manner of British folk footnotes (let us not even attempt to chart who he’s trying to emulate nowadays), Chasny pulls from a sonically different yet artistically similar pool of influences. The intricate harmonics of one-man instrumental guitar virtuosos such as John Fahey and Loren Conners certainly provide the foundation for Chasny’s multi-hued acoustic compositions, yet his deft integration of harsher textures attests allegiance to droning experimental composers such as The Dead C and Sun City Girls – not to mention fellow left-of-center contemporaries like Tower Recordings. [Continue Reading]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Playlist Chats With The Criterion Collection

Prompted in part by a depressing article outlining the slow death of classic films on DVD in a recent issue of Macleans Magazine, The Playlist decided to have a chat with Jonathan Turell, CEO of the Criterion Collection, easily the most important DVD production company for fans of serious-minded artistic cinema from around the globe. The good news here is that Criterion themselves haven't experienced much of a downturn in sales recently, particularly when compared to many of the major studies who have been forced to cut back on their production of classic films in digital format. As I'm sure is the case with many cinephiles, not much can keep me from purchasing new Criterion titles when so enticed. To wit, just yesterday I picked up a copy of Whit Stillman's wonderful comedic time capsule The Last Days of Disco, while my eyes are set towards the new Blu-ray of Kurosawa's Kagemusha. The bad news then is that Criterion's Blu-Ray line hasn't been selling how they'd hoped. Turell explains:
“The cost of authoring is very expensive compared to [Standard Definition], and the cost of manufacturing is multiples [compared to SD]. So if I sell a disc in SD and I sell it in BluRay I can do a much better job of paying overhead if I sell it in SD. We could do what the studios do and charge more for BluRay, but we said we didn’t want do that, and we’re trying not to do that, but it’s very problematic for us....It doesn’t look like BluRay is [bringing in] a new audience, it just [serves] an audience of our customers who have migrated from SD.” [The Playlist]
I doubt this necessarily endangers their Blu-Ray line as an entity, but it surely has curbed the amount of titles released in this new format. Luckily for us though, with the hesitancy of the studios to shell out for classic DVDs, Criterion has taken to licensing newer titles for release. In a continuing post, Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist hints at releases for Steve McQueen's Hunger and Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours (both possibly through an awesome new 12 picture deal with IFC), while Criterion themselves have just recently revealed some future titles such as Che, A Christmas Tale, Gomorrah and Revanche, the latter of which is still my favorite film of the year thus far. So head on over to The Playlist for a handful of other hints and exclusives on future Criterion titles, and continue to be grateful that this group of cinema preservationists is continuing to push forward in spite of the economic recession.

Monday, August 24, 2009

'Two Suns' Documentary Trailer

Apparently a deluxe edition of Bat for Lashes' wonderful new album Two Suns is being readied for release on Sept 7th (via P4k). Padding out the 2xCD collection will be a 48-minute documentary on the making of the album, which itself has to be one of the best records in recent memory to fully come through on a young artist's nascent promise. Check out the trailer below, and then pick up the deluxe edition if for some reason you've slept on this beautiful album.

And on a side note: who would have thought the album was partly inspired by The Night of the Hunter? Certainly not me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #9 - 'Together We'll Never'

"Guided by youthful nostalgia, Jordan and Brian take a look back at the late 80s/early 90s grunge movement, charting the rise and fall of this often times misunderstood genre."

Music Review: Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem (***1/2)

"At first, the wandering lo-fi folk of Phil Elverum may not seem to bear much in common with what one would normally associate with metal – let alone black metal. Pay a little closer attention though, and the commonalities are quite prominent: the drifting atmospherics, that dark, almost uncomfortable undercurrent of dread, and an uneasy reliance on naturalistic imagery at the expense of human interaction. It may initially seem strange then – especially as it arrives well over a decade into a fruitful though often times frustrating career – that Elverum would end up here, recording what many are billing as his black metal album. But
Wind’s Poem, Elevrum’s third official full-length released under the Mount Eerie moniker, is a triumph of aesthetic resolve and a valiant magnification of nascent sonic elements. Its 12 tracks and 55 minute length are, quite simply, a wonder to behold." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall (**1/2)

"Simply recreating Jack Nicholson’s iconic pose from “The Shining” on the album art already has me leaning toward the positive side of the grading scale here, but thankfully the charms of Jay Reatard’s latest album, Watch Me Fall, extend far beyond superficial pleasures. A three year gap between albums is a lengthy stretch for any artist nowadays, but for a musician of a punk-rock persuasion and especially for someone as prolific as Reatard, Watch Me Fall arrives in 2009 with considerable expectations. Of course, there has been no shortage of Jay Reatard material released in the interim; last year alone saw two very strong singles compilations hit shelves facilitated in part by his label jump from In the Red to Matador. Ironically, just as his profile has risen to unforeseen heights (and as a previously strident believer in the power of keep-it-simple-stupid punk-rock fury at that) so too has Reatard’s sound gradually expanded beyond the confines of his Memphis garage. So far, in fact, that it’s not really even applicable to refer to Watch Me Fall as a punk-rock record; make no mistake, this is power-pop through-and-through." [Continue Reading]

Thursday, August 20, 2009

'Capitalism: A Love Story' Trailer

UPDATE: And now we have a poster.

EARLIER: Michael Moore meets M.I.A. in the trailer for Capitalism: A Love Story, the newest film from everyone's favorite/least favorite muckraking documentary filmmaker. This looks just about as funny and inflammatory as anything Moore has done in the past, which means it will probably be great while earning it's fair share of criticism. In my opinion, if anyone can make politics entertaining then he or she has more or less succeeded, and I'm all for that.

'Avatar' Trailer Drops, Earth Continues to Spin

UPDATE: So I saw the Avatar trailer before a screening of Inglorious Basterds last night, and I must admit that it looked much better when able to really soak in all the images up close. Still, I see nothing groundbreaking here, though I'm hoping they've saved some of the real surprises for the actual film. But if that temporarily alleviate some of my initial disappointment, this just made me scratch my head. The similarities here really are uncanny. I'd like to see someone get to the bottom of this-- it can't be coincidental.

EARLIER: I don't know, I'm not overly excited about this movie to begin with, but from where I'm sitting even the humans looks CGI in this teaser for James Cameron's ridiculously hyped Avatar. I'm all for great effects mind you, especially when they are nicely woven into the fabric of the film like they are in, say, District 9, but this just looks a little too much like a sliver screen video game. Perhaps the 3-D experience is needed to obtain the desired the effect? Check out the HD trailer over at Apple Trailers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ebert Falls Hard for "Basterds"

If I'm not mistaken, Roger Ebert has know bestowed a 4-star rating on every stand-alone Tarantino film except Reservoir Dogs, though I have a feeling his tune has changed on that particular film in the years since it's release as well. Indeed, this is no faint praise, even if some have come to question his discernment in more recent years. However, my personal taste in Tarantino work has always run parallel to his, so this just ups my excitement that much more. Inglorious Basterds is now sitting at a respectable 76 on Metacritic, though I expect that to drop a bit in the next couple days when the inevitable dissenters arrive. Here's an excerpt from the Ebert rave:
"A Tarantino film resists categorization. “Inglourious Basterds” is no more about war than “Pulp Fiction” is about — what the hell is it about? Of course nothing in the movie is possible, except that it’s so bloody entertaining. His actors don’t chew the scenery, but they lick it. He’s a master at bringing performances as far as they can go toward iconographic exaggeration.

After I saw “Inglourious Basterds” at Cannes, although I was writing a daily blog, I resisted giving an immediate opinion about it. I knew Tarantino had made a considerable film, but I wanted it to settle, and to see it again. I’m glad I did. Like a lot of real movies, you relish it more the next time. Immediately after “Pulp Fiction” played at Cannes, QT asked me what I thought. “It’s either the best film of the year or the worst film,” I said. I hardly knew what the hell had happened to me. The answer was: the best film. Tarantino films have a way of growing on you. It’s not enough to see them once." [Source]

Monday, August 17, 2009

'My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done' Trailer

Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny-- what more do you need? Okay, well this if the first of two Herzog films set to be released this year (along with a remake (not a remake) of Bad Lieutenant), and it looks to be another showcase for Michael Shannon (Oscar nominated last year for his striking work in Revolutionary Road) and just the sort of meaty genre flick that this legendary director can elevate to lofty heights.

Tarantino's Top 20 Films Since 1992

I just ran across this over at Incontention (via Hollywood Elsewhere) and thought I'd pass it along for those interested. No matter your feelings on Tarantino's recent work (and I'm seeing Inglorious Basterds this weekend along with the rest of you), he is still a film lover's film lover and has some predictably eccentric yet rather exceptional taste. I can't say I like all these films, but Tarantino's outside the box thinking has at the very least yielded some interesting choices, including Woody Allen's underrated Anything Else and Lars Von Trier's masterful Dogville, the latter of which should make a run at my decade top ten in a few months time. Anyway, it's a slow week thus far and how many times are you gonna have the chance to hear Tarantino say the word "Shamalama-ding-dong"? That's what I thought.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

For Serious? 'Tree of Life' to Arrive Dec. 23rd

UPDATE: I just worked my way through the Entertainment Weekly in question, and unless I'm missing something, I see them as having Tree of Life listed as a December 25th release. Even still, it looks to me like people are just shooting in the dark on this one-- just one more reason why I wouldn't put too much faith in the film reaching cinemas by the year's end, at least until we hear official word.

Entertainment Weekly apparently has Terence Malick's enigmatic 5th feature Tree of Life penciled in for a December 23rd release in their current 'Fall Movie Preview' issue (via The Playlist). I really want to believe this (really I do), but I'm still not holding my breath-- at least not yet-- until we're given official word from Apparition (and not just the vague morsel of "late holiday season"). I mean, 4 years between films for Malick is like a smoke break for your average Hollywood hack. But to say the least this could drastically alter the season's awards landscape, not to mention any number of decade best-of lists. Maybe a trailer would help ease my apprehension. So once again, we wait...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Music Review: Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans

"Pissed Jeans’ 2007 sophomore album Hope for Men was something of a revelation for me as a music fan. Here is a band that not only brings to mind an impressive roll-call of noise-rock and hardcore luminaries (everyone from Flipper to the Jesus Lizard to Black Flag to Stickmen With Rayguns sound like inspirations for their decidedly crude hardcore-punk) but are so openly provocative in their presentation that their music can’t help but seem like something of an epiphany for listeners (such as myself) fed up with the current state of “indie-rock.” Upon release, I half-jokingly referred to the album as “Hope for Music,” and to these ears it remains one of the best pure rock records in recent memory. The Allentown, Pennsylvania band’s third record, the cheekily-titled King of Jeans, scales back a bit on the outright sonic affront that has understandably frightened away casual listeners, but thankfully still manifests itself as an exasperating blast of punk-rock fury from one of the few torch-bearers of viscerally perverse rock ‘n roll. [Continue Reading]

Podcast: End of Radio #8 - 'I Wish I'd Been There to Make It a Cliche'

"After reigning themselves in on a run of theme-oriented shows, Jordan and Brian here present a grab-bag of tunes from across a wide spectrum of disparate genres including psych-rock, avant-house, improvisational art-rock and, yes, even hip-hop."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Upcoming Coverage: Street Scene 2009 - Friday Report

2009 will mark the first year I make the trek down to San Diego for Street Scene, the city's annual music festival, which touches down in Southern California's East Village August 28th and 29th. I plan on attending Friday the 28th and quickly reporting back with photos and live reviews the following week, which you can expect to show up at InRO (with the requisite link here of course).

As expected, I'll be sticking pretty close to the indie side of the divide, doing my best (barring unforeseeable and inevitable overlaps) to cover sets by the likes of Wavves, Dungen, Deerhunter, Calexico, Mastoson (!), Devendra Banhart, Girl Talk, Band of Horses and Modest Mouse. Basically as much as I can fit into an 8 hour day without collapsing from heat exhaustion.

You can check out the full lineup above, or for more info visit the Street Scene site directly. I'll be plugging the fest with the Street Scene banner for the next two weeks as well, which I'm currently running at the bottom of the page. All in all it should be a good time though, and if you want to see coverage of a band I didn't mention, let me know.

Dusted Feature: Face the Musician - Six Organs and Luminous Night

Just as they did with Kid Millions and Rated O, Dusted has snagged an interview with Ben Chasny regarding their review of Luminous Night, his latest album as Six Organs of Admittance. This is shaping up to be a very worthwhile and illuminating series to say the least. Here's an excerpt:
"Dusted: Do you see this record as an advanced draft of earlier work, and do you agree with the bit about the value of revision?

Chasny: I think Emerson has a good point about revision but I don’t really think of it as revising a previous draft. I think there is a myth that one’s work exists on a singular trajectory that can be charted with one line on a graph and that the line changes direction in relationship to where it’s been. I don’t see things like that. I see it as you have a center, which is where inspiration and imagination exists and from that center different lines (which represent different works) extend outwards in (at least) three dimensions. Some of the lines are closer to others, but they don’t have to be branches of other lines. So the "revision" that happens isn’t on the lines, the work, but on this center, which holds within it the original impetus for creation in the first place." [Continue Reading]
In an odd bit of coincidence, these initial entries in the "Face the Musician" series have nicely coincided with my own work. My review of Luminous Night with be showing up at InRO in a couple of weeks time. So keep it up Dusted, you're making my life easier.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Music Review: Wolf Eyes - Always Wrong (**1/2)

"I think it's fairly safe to assume that at the peak of their exposure, Wolf Eyes experienced a level of profile that no other noise act will likely ever reach again. Even Fuck Buttons, the Bristol-based duo behind last year’s brilliant Street Horrrsing, despite garnering enviable amounts of hype over the last couple of years, have not yet gained prominent national exposure the way Wolf Eyes once had, which resulted in the group appearing in some fairly mainstream publications largely facilitated by their association with Sub Pop records. Of course, at its best, Burned Mind can make Street Horrrsing sound like The Reminder – not a dig on either record mind you – but surprising considering the band’s former reach into some of the more readily available markets." [Continue Reading]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

R.I.P. John Hughes

I have a feeling that a little piece of everyone's childhood vanished today, as 80s teen comedy director extraordinaire John Hughes unexpectedly passed away at age 59. Variety broke the news. A lot of Hughes' most iconic films, from Pretty in Pink to Weird Science, hold up more for me nowadays as pure nostalgia trips, but I firmly believe that The Breakfast Club is one of the finest films ever made. And for that I will remain eternally grateful.

Monday, August 3, 2009

InRO Feature: Discographer #2 - Wilco

Essay by Yorgo Douramacos
Album Reviews by Jordan Cronk, Lukas Suveg, Chris Nowling & Brian Webster

"When Wilco first entered the studio in 1994 to record their debut, 1995’s A.M., grunge was siring a second and third generation of hit-makers, commercial alternative was pulling its weight and the internet was still a smallish media backwater providing just enough bandwidth for reliable transmission of text. Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Dave Matthews Band… the world was a bright and radiant place for album sales and rock radio conglomerates. As heard on their first record, Wilco was what was left after tensions in alt-country band Uncle Tupelo between Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy had come to a head and led to Farrar’s departure. Tweedy quickly filled the creative vacuum and the band became Wilco. Where Tupelo had been a rough and fast folk-rock band, leaving the country rust on their garage-rock delivery – not so weird as The Meat Puppets or Minutemen, but neither quite as honky-tonk as Dwight Yokum – Wilco would seek to shake off the stale beer smell of the all-night saloon and become more of a polished rock band. But first they just had to do something – anything – to get in the studio and make some noise. A.M. was no statement of direction but rather a place holder, the band’s way of saying, “We’re here!” Meanwhile Farrar’s new band Son Volt released a strong debut, Trace, that did better commercially and critically than A.M." [Continue Reading]

Video: Tiny Vipers - "Dreamer"

Here's a pretty simple video of Jesy Fortino (aka Tiny Vipers) performing "Dreamer" in a tunnel in San Francisco last week. The track comes from this year's mesmerizing Life on Earth, one of the most rewarding "growers" of the year so far. (via GvB)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Music Review: Oneida - Rated O (***)

"In a recent interview with Dusted Magazine, Oneida drummer Kid Millions had this to say about his band’s audience: “Sometimes it’s interesting to consider the concept of the ‘listener.’ The audience is at once inside and outside the O. Oneida has been a band for 12 years and we are dedicated to this craft of creating music and performance on our own terms and in our own the same time – they are fleeting. They do not live or die by whether or not we record another song or play another note.” In the grand scheme of things, that statement is obviously true, yet the Brooklyn journeymen have nevertheless built up one of the most fervent cult followings in the underground, a dedicated group of devotees willing to track the band just about anywhere. Perhaps only a band with this particular cache would have the audacity to cut a triple-album in 2009, but at the same time, only a band with this disregard for expectations would find such an undertaking freeing enough to craft what may very well be their best album to date. The second in the band’s proposed “Thank Your Parents” trilogy, Rated O appropriately functions as the middle ground of the core Oneida aesthetic, incorporating the sounds of psych, math, kraut, prog, and minimalist styles, as well as all that intersects them." [Continue Reading]