Listen to this. I have apparently made an EP today.
Listen to this. I have apparently made an EP today.
A “song” I made. Radical sound collage is a better descriptor.
This is going to be a short review. Anyone who reads this blog should be relieved.
"Lawless", the third collaboration between director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave, is the sort of gangster movie that is both at once positively innocuous, making it a perfect passive afternoon viewing experience, and ribald and scorching, a direct comment on the American dream. It’s also the best work of it’s creative duo to date, surpassing the dark landscape heavy drudgery of "The Road" and "The Proposition".
The Bondurants, in all their scholarly glory.
Hey, all! It’s Oscar sunday, and so this means I am releasing my annual list of the best movies to come out in the previous year. I’ve finally had time to see most of the film’s necessary in order for me to make a remotely reliable judgement. Still, there are a couple I have yet to watch, including “Nebraska”, “Inside Llewellyn Davis”, “La Grande Bellezza”, “Dallas Buyers Club” or “Philomena”. However most the other big movies or Oscar contenders I have seen, and if you wonder why some aren’t on the list, it’s because they don’t deserve to be.
10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
With the second Hobbit film, Peter Jackson apparently decided to stop fucking up and actually give us a movie that wasn’t a colossal waste of time. It’s still unclear if he’s learned a lesson I thought he’d already learned: That longer doesn’t mean better.
There’s an interview where Jackson is asked about his “Directors Cuts” of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, in reference to the extended editions, to which he replies that the theatrical versions were his directors cut and the extended DVD’s were just fan service. Why then did “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” play exactly like a film made by someone with no concept of editing? Luckily, this sequel rectifies the mistake, as despite it’s massive running time the film chugs along efficiently. Never did it feel long, in fact I was upset when it ended, as I wished it would continue. As Roger Ebert once said, a good movie is never long enough.
Anyway, everything technical is done remarkably well here, and story wise it’s entertaining and light. It’s nowhere near the level of the original trilogy, but few films are. Here’s to Peter Jackson completing this trilogy and finally moving on to something else so he can reach his full potential.
9. 12 Years A Slave
If you couldn’t tell, my reaction to the previous entry was a little lukewarm, and “12 Years A Slave” shares the same fate. 2013 was a remarkably weak year for film, and while none of the movies on this list are bad, per se, it’s not until about halfway through the list that there are any movies I’m particularly excited about.
Is “12 Years A Slave” a well made picture? Exceedingly so. Steve McQueen has excellent directorial chops. But is there really anything to this picture beyond the “importance” which the Academy loves to recognize so much when they begin to fellate themselves? Well… sort of.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is masterful, as always, as Solomon Northrup, and proves himself to be one of the best actors currently working. In fact, McQueen coaxes great performances from his entire cast (although the Oscar nomination for hitherto unknown Lupita Nyong’O is fairly confusing to me. I don’t remember her being more spectacular than anyone else).
In everything aesthetic the film is done perfectly, and if one is looking for historical drama and examination of human cruelty, well, you won’t find anything better. But the one thing to me that held “12 Years A Slave” back is the fact that the film is called “12 Years A Slave”. From the outset we know how the film is going to end, with his release. Is it a compelling look at the horror of slavery? Yes, absolutely. Is it a compelling narrative? Not so much.
This is a song I made.
It should be noted there are lots of movies I’ve never seen. And, as I see more, my cinematic world-view will inevitably expand. Case in point, I recently had yet another transition in my understanding of film, what I like to call, in the simplest term regarding my perspective as a cinematic spectator, an awakening. It’s worth noting that in the interim periods between these awakenings lots of other things happen other than my being constantly strapped to a chair, my eyes held open with some kind of “Clockwork Orange” device, forcing a constant barrage of cinematic works (James Bond films, I hope) to imprint upon me as they will. Life intervenes, and there is an unquantifiable relationship between these moments of recognition critically and other realizations that occur to me on a philosophical or psychological level. Someday it may be interesting to write a biographical piece of film theory, interpolating life events of the spectator with their informed analysis of film, and then have a respected third party analyze the external influences. Anyway, that was a long paragraph that didn’t really go anywhere. Granted this is just a preface to contextualize what follows, but still, I really must digress.
My first awakening came from watching the film “Blade Runner”, which I’ve wrote about many times. Seeing that movie changed my life, and was really the first time I was forced to view what film could achieve in terms of psychological and philosophical impact and how this was achieved in a totally different way.
The point is, I had to go back and watch movies I’d previously seen throughout my childhood, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “The Thin Red Line”, and re-evaluate them. Films such as these soon replaced movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Serenity” on my constantly evolving internal list of favorite films.
Later awakenings came from viewing (in order): “The Seventh Seal” which opened my mind, not only to foreign cinema but to philosophically driven films that rely on dialogue and allegory as their mode of delivery rather than, or in tandem with, the implication of imagery and action. “Drive”, which (despite the fact that the last time I watched it I couldn’t even finish it) made me more aware of the importance and effectiveness of aesthetic choices like lighting, cinematography and economy of action and dialogue. With “Drive”, silence, sleek simplicity and emptiness reflect the existential material yet it’s still supremely beautiful to look at. And finally “8 1/2”, which was a synthesis of the above concepts, as well as being the first film to which I could apply my recently gleaned understanding of film theory and semiotics. While “8 1/2” features philosophical depth, aesthetic beauty and striking imagery in spades (perhaps more so than any film ever), what it truly showed me was how all these elements are ordered and constructed. How film works on a psychological level in terms of form. This most recent awakening has been thanks to “Blue Velvet”, by David Lynch. Soon an obsession with Lynch developed, and like all these other instances I was forced to revisit many films and view them in a new light.
With any legitimate discussion of film, the importance of the viewers relationship with film must be understood. There’s no doubt that every person exhibits a highly subjective “taste”, which most artists must cater to. What interests me, as a growing theorist and filmmaker, is the way certain films so affect the viewer psychologically that they can thus subvert taste or ignore it’s presence all together.
I am a dj. Listen to it.
Chain My Name - Poliça
Earlier this year, we asked: “What is it that makes Poliça the hottest underground chillwave/indie electro-pop act around currently? Unlike their contemporaries such as Washed Out and Small Black, the textures and ambiance are much less lush. Poliça has a hard edged sound to them, a bit of an industrial influence.”
That’s an apt descriptor of Poliça’s sonic identity. They take elements that would normally be relaxed and pretty, and they turn them into a grimy, rough hewn jam that sounds like it’s performed in an oil change garage. Everything on “Chain My Name” is a bit over-driven. Compare to the previous song on this list, “The Mother We Share”, and you see the differences magnified. Where most electro-pop is interested in fluffy coatings and light hearted fun, Poliça is obsessed with strife and toil.
The proof is in the pudding, or more accurately the lyrics. Filled with rape allusions, there’s something off about the verses of “Chain My Name”. On the chorus, Channy Leaneagh wails: “So are we made to fight all our lives/Chain my name beside you”. It seems as if she’s resisting not only a sexual encounter but the institution of marriage itself, making the mild rape imagery much more interesting, instead of just playing it for shock value. Finally the truth comes out at the end of the second verse. “Don’t make it easier on me/I can’t be trusted with love”. So perhaps the struggle here isn’t sexual, and it isn’t even emotional resistance to a partner. It’s Leaneagh begging her partner to stop loving her, and free himself from her. The self loathing inherent in such a theme is fairly astonishing, in that it’s handled with such tact.
And knowing what we know about Poliça’s lyrics, the darkness of their sound comes into full view. The brilliance is that it’s all quite hidden in layers of subtext. The song is written as a pop song, but it’s in actuality a fairly gothic one.
GENRE: Chillwave, Indie Pop, Electronic, Synth Pop, Goth Rock
- Josh Loney
Chain My Name is number 47 in Tune O’ The Day’s 50 Best Songs of the Year countdown.