Thursday, January 31, 2008

M&M #1

St. Vincent – Marry Me (2007)

We come to Annie Clark, she of the golden voice and jazzy textures, of the romantic hopes and desolate dreams, of the vaudevillian swagger and socially distorted loops. As the year came to a close, I began to hear a beautiful sound coming through the headphones and in that world of isolation this one voice rose above all others in charming my inner chanteuse. Like a relic from another time, a foreign epiphany, St. Vincent descends upon our existence. She is freaky and phunky and delicate and languid and spunky and faithful and ambient and stripling and hungry and mellow and beauteous and a clarion for a new age. She is strange...but when have I ever let that bother me?

The Host – Joon-ho Bong (2007)

Korean Monster movie madness! From the negligence of an American scientist (of course!), who dumps toxic chemicals down the drain, comes a creature of horrifying delight. On the Han River in Seoul, we first catch a glimpse of the monster as it terrorizes picnickers with glee until it finally disappears beneath the murky waters with a teenage girl. The rest of the movie shows her family trying to find and rescue her while the government does all that it can to screw everything up, until eventually bringing in the grand ole' US of A to destroy the monster with (irony of all ironies) chemical warfare. A throwback to the monster movies of the past but incredibly original and creatively updated with new technology, this movie was absolute fun. What a joy it is to descend into the dark of a theater and be entertained so thoroughly and to come out with the sun on your face and find that the world around you feels different, electric. That energy can change who you are. Oh, that's why I love movies so much!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

M&M #2

Micah P. Hinson – Micah P. Hinson & The Opera Circuit (2006)

From the other side of town comes a sound so pure and melancholy so as to dip down under our labored breath and give us guidance. Micah P. Hinson, whose small life thus far has ricocheted from south to east, gives an album that almost sums up perfection. With gravelly voice and beautiful arrangements he serenades us into a time before our own and one that will continue on until yesterday. Seldom do I hear an artist consistently use strings and horns and harmonica and every other sordid instrument to such extreme pleasurable detail. I wallow in his musings and burrow under the weight of his words, darkness blends with the pale airy marrow of the grave and beyond. An honest path opens before me and my mind is swallowed by the brilliance revealed and I am lost for a brief moment in time.

Pan's Labyrinth – Guillermo Del Toro (2006)

What an amazingly creative film. I love movies with an imagination that exceeds all expectations. The little lost world of our twelve-year-old heroine as she tries to escape the harsh realities of war and an evil step-father is so wonderful. I remember spending endless days with friends in the canyon by our home, developing elaborate scenarios and thrilling lives that we would never lead in real life. One of the wonders of watching movies is our ability to transcend reality and immerse ourselves in an incredible world that we will never know and the ones that capture our hearts linger with us forever. 'Pan's Labyrinth' is one of those movies. Every aspect of this film pulled me into its haunted lair; the terror, the hope, the anguish, the desire, the beauty, the imagination, the pain. It was a joy to spend a couple of hours in Del Toro's world. He is one of the greatest directors alive.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

M&M #3

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Knives Don't Have Your Back (2007)
Metric – Grow Up And Blow Away (2007)

Emily is the teenage girl inside all of us. Hiding in our room, laying on top of the covers staring wistfully at the ceiling, hoping that one day soon the world will understand my plight. So many new adult emotions to face, so many boys to kiss, so many drugs to take, so many complicated world issues that creep under your skin corrupting all that was youth. The hunger and fear that pushes us into this altered state completely lacked all foreshadowing and the words spewing forth from our parents lips are raw and foreign. I can't hear them, I don't understand all of your knowledge, it means nothing to me, it means everything to me, it means nothing, I don't understand. Emily Haines beautiful and emotional music is moody and dark and somber and rejoiceful. It's all of our teenage angst. Originally from the band Metric, whose fabulous 'Grow Up And Blow Away' was shelved back at the turn of the century then finally released this year, Haines also released Knives, a solo attempt to get some of the thoughts that were exploding from her mind out into the world. She shares so close to the heart that's it's so easy to fall in love and sink down inside your own soul. 'Dr. Blind' is my favourite song of the year.

Fire – Deepa Mehta (1996)

A deeply heartbreaking tale about two women living under a code of ethic that relegates their humanity to the background. Eventually they discover a passionate world within the company of each other and begin a intimate affair that ends in a purge of fire. Told in India inside the Hindu community, this movie caused riots and was repeatedly banned in some parts of India and Pakistan, even resorting to threats by some fundamentalist elements of Hindu society. But it's such a moving film, revealing humanity on a deep level, that it's shocking to me that it would cause such a reaction coming from a country where the Bollywood ideal of women jostling around in skimpy outfits is completely acceptable but this real and honest portrayal of love is demeaned and banned. It's simply another example of women being relegated to second-class citizens, ultimately just sex objects, that apparently plagues all societies the world over. In the end, that's the true message of this film told by a wonderful film-maker. Beyond the shock of lesbianism, this movie is about two women trying to find some beauty and equality in their lives.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

40 Months

Lucas is a big brother! We welcomed Quinn into the world on the evening of January 8, 2008. We didn't know what to expect with him because we didn't know what he was expecting. We tried to keep him informed during the entire pregnancy so that it wouldn't be like one day we say, “Look what Mommy brought home!” He's mostly been really sweet about her. He wants to hold her and he'll stick his thumb in his mouth and rub her head for some self-comfort, and he asks lots of questions about her.

One of our recent projects that we were hoping to finish before the baby was born was a remodel of the kids' room. New paint, clean-up and get the window operational, a skylight in the ceiling and a new door frame. When it comes to projects around the house, here's how they work. Okay, we get this great idea to revamp a room, fix it up, remodel, whatever and then we develop a plan. Money's not really a major issue, so we have the means to do it right, do it the way that we want to do it. Which ultimately means that we are going to be the ones doing it and that actually means that it's going to take about five times as long as it should. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally devoted to the projects but I can't put myself into them 100% of the time. That's when I feel the drabs creep under my skin and push me toward the dark side. I have to do other things. I have to write and play and take walks and love-life.

This time we decided to begin the project by allowing someone else (supposedly more qualified) do the skylight, thinking that it would get us going and what do I know about putting in skylight. Well, we now have two of them in our house (one came in the kitchen) and there's something to say for doing things on your own. The guy totally destroyed the plaster around the skylight so that I basically had to tear down all of the plaster on the ceiling and start over from scratch. That led into everything else that we had to do, so now here we are three months later and only just now getting to the painting.

Needless to say, the total chaotic uproar in the house has put a strain on our little boy; 90% of his toys are now in the garage, he no longer has a play room nor anyone to play with. We've had many days with a wound-up grumpy Lucas on our hands and bedtime is still two hours away. It all escalated into a complete meltdown on his part as well ours a couple of weeks after Quinn was born. The last straw was when, after raised voices and endless threats, Lucas decided to throw one of his hot-wheels at Quinn! Good thing he hesitated at the last moment (I could see him not wanting to do it, but so much of him was saying yes) and he just tossed it lightly. It bounced off of her harmlessly but man, did he get a rise out of us!

That evening, as I drifted off to sleep, I kept trying to figure out how we all ended up in that situation. It was all very obvious. Although we went to great effort to include him in everything during the pregnancy, taking him to ultra-sounds and doctor visits, after the birth finally happened, we forgot all about the fact that Lucas still has needs that we need to address every day. We were basically sitting around and staring at Quinn a lot, which is what we did when we had Lucas. Babies take up a lot of energy and don't let you sleep some nights and they need you constantly, but it's pretty easy to do, they just sleep and eat and sleep and for an hour or two stare up at you. They don't ask you a thousand questions on the same subject in five minutes. So, even though Xtina's family is nearby and very helpful, and my mom has a wonderful relationship with him, we still needed to parent the little guy some of the time and think about his interests. I guess we were lacking in that area for a couple of weeks and Lucas finally let us know about his frustration.

Lucas is a beautiful little boy and his heart is so big, but he's reached an age where he needs to use his energy productively. He needs projects and school and lessons and jumping in puddles and all other sorts of playtime and anything that allows his brain and body to grow. Welcome to Brainville, Lucas. It's time for you to advance with the world and I promise to start helping you point in the right direction.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

M&M #4

Ursula Rucker – Ma'At Mama (2006)

Ursula Rucker really knocked my socks off with this one. Soulful poetry over sweet hip-hop beats with a voice that's as effortless as time, soft as a songbird in your ear. But what I most enjoyed was how she transported me outside my own skin. She helped me understand the importance of a just and righteous view on life, not simply because of the fact of racial but gender inequality as well. It's so easy in our society to objectify women and look past their humanity, actually that's pretty much normal, and as a fortunate white man sometimes I find myself falling into complacency regarding issues of difference. That's impossible while listening to this album. You become keenly aware of the social injustice rampant throughout our way of life, but she doesn't accuse or offend or demean your efforts. She places these issues before you with such beauty and grace and passion that you'd have to be an ignorant asshole to completely ignore what is happening everyday all around us.

Finding Neverland – Marc Foster (2004)

What an amazingly humanistic film. I remember when this movie was out in the theaters, it had all of the elements of a film that usually pushes me forth into the night itching to grab a seat; fantasy, creativity, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet. So I don't understand why it took so long for us to watch it. I absolutely adored this movie. A portrayal of a human being with such a broad imagination with a desire to connect with the child inside. Told with a warm creative vision, I was pulled into the magic that trailed across the screen from opening credits to closing song. I'm so glad that the film community in general and society embraced this movie because we don't see enough of these films getting recognition and awards and selling tickets at the box office. I hope that all who spent time in the darkness with this engrossing tale truly appreciate how much their lives were enriched.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

M&M #5

Portugal. The Man – Church Mouth (2007)

Wake up, see the sun shining down hard and dense, burning intense like a wicked hot-spot on your retina. You go blind and all that's left is the sound leaving your ears at a blistering rate. Juke-box dreams fade and this heavy rock sound guides you through the darkness, into the night and beyond the animation that fills your brain like ancient movies, sunday morning cartoons, wide-eyed nymphs and ghoulish ghouls intermingle with the voice of God that pierces all other senses until only the void remains. Soft, you hear it rising in the distance and you open to the blankness and like a silver needle threading through the synapses of your brain, you see for the first time...the sun rising and your vision comes back to you with a new awareness. Complete.

Children Of Men – Alfonso Cuaron (2006)

The world is bleak, the youngest person alive is eighteen and he's just been murdered by vicious celebrity, there is nowhere for the human race to go but into the vast reaches of anonymity. One man, whose life is fading with apathy reconnects with his past and discovers that there may be more to humanity's future, just as long as it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Addressing many of the issues that we are facing today, this not-too-distant futuristic movie expresses itself effortlessly. Immigration, terrorism, globalization, the slow destruction of the planet and humanity is revealed through the lens of a gifted artist. Children Of Men is a great film and should be watched by anyone who cares about the future.. It also has one of the most amazing hand-held single frame sequences that I've ever seen.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

M&M #6

The Knife – Silent Shout (2006)

Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson are a brother and sister act from Sweden (the new epi-centre for music creativity) and they fucking rock. With a buoyancy, they roll over the swells of consciousness and transport you under their murky depths. Though it's strictly computer generated music, they create a myriad of worlds for us to experience. Sometimes their voices blend together in distorted harmony and at other times they bounce off each other like children in a schoolyard stomp. Drifting off in a sleepless dream in a bath one night, the song 'From Off to On' serenaded me with deep bliss and juiced my cerebral heart. I relish their dark tower that they've built with their own magic, releasing everything under their own label. The Knife are masters in this modern world. Maybe we should all move to Sweden and simply breath the air.

The Lives Of Others - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (2006)

In 1984, the Stasi (East German Secret Police) controlled the lives of everyone. When the Minister of Culture becomes obsessed with one of the leading actresses in the country Agent Wiesler is ordered to conduct surveillance on her boyfriend, a prominent playwright, in order to find something nefarious on him so that he might be removed from the equation. As Wiesler listens to the lives of these people and begins to question his purpose on the case, he finds himself going against all of his training and covering for the couples inappropriate doings. As the evidence mounts against all of them Wiesler continues to alter reality until a final fatal conclusion. The movie portrays a time when communist Germany was beginning to falter and decades of manipulation eventually created a terribly oppressive environment. When the the rule of law becomes corrupted how can an honest man continue to support it? Winning awards all over the world last year, this movie is a must watch.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

M&M #7

John Vanderslice – Emerald City (2007)

An album that came from frustration due to failed attempts to obtain a visa for his French girlfriend, John Vanderslice comments on the state of American policies in a post Sept.11 world. Rather dark at times but filled with poetic musings that we all are experiencing, it didn't take long for his music to sink in and tug at my human core. Loss and love, life and death are flowing through the pleasant chords and the swarm of his tone settles into your brain and pleads for a new vision. We are all feeling the ache of the destruction that occurred from that terrible day in September, more so since the Bush administration walloped us over the head. It's been over seven years since that fateful day and this album sums up the long twisted road we've traveled as a nation.

The Battle Of Algiers – Gillo Pontecorvo (1966)

Filmed shortly after Algiers gained their independence from France and using those who were pivotal in the initial resistance, this movie is a testimony to what it truly means to fight for freedom and liberty. Shot in the streets of Algiers with a realistic and objective style, this movie is amazing. So real that I felt like I was witnessing exactly how it went down. From the interrogation efforts that approved of torture by the French military leaders (hmmm sound familiar) down to the cell-structure resistance movement that was eventually crushed (but ultimately inspired the people of Algiers to unite), I felt like we were watching a modern day military campaign and it represented the foolishness of America's war on terror. We can never “win” a campaign that tries to impose a western style culture in the Middle East. We must allow the people of the region to speak with their own voice, without the threat of the military shrouding over their heads. An incredible film that questions the imperial order of nations that's completely relevant today as it was in the 1960's.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

M&M #8

Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)

I think that I'm falling for Jens Lekman. I don't know what it is about his music but he has a quirky humor and fantastical aura that really gets me. If I wasn't already married to the love of my life then I don't know what I might do. I wouldn't want to become one of those crazy celebrity stalkers or anything like that (I don't think that I could sustain that much energy for a fantasy anyway). I don't think that I'm gay in any way (I don't find myself staring at men's asses, actually quite the opposite). Maybe it's because he's from Sweden. That country seems like it's so far ahead of the curve that when I listen to his music I'm tapping into some future self that is much more world conscious and environmentally friendly and humorous and creative as hell. Sounds like I might evolve a little as a human being somewhere down the line. Right now, I'll just listen and enjoy my infatuation.

A Scanner Darkly – Richard Linklater (2006)

I don't know what it is about Richard Linklater, either. Sometimes he makes these really interesting indie films that are so creative, and other times he makes total hollywood schlock. But he really hit it out of the park with this one. With Scanner he does that photoshop animation edit technique that he used before with 'Waking Life'. This is the perfect movie for it. Based on a novel by the incredible Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly follows an undercover narcotics detective sometime in the near future as his mind slowly separates in two from taking Substance D, a powerful new drug that's highly addictive. With the help of a scramble suit, all of the undercover agents are anonymous, giving them greater reign over their activities. Before he knows it our hero is asked to start watching himself and due to his increasingly schizophrenic behavior everything begins to unravel toward an unexpected revelation. One of PKD's best and most complete novel, the combination of creative forces involved weave magic upon the screen.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

M&M #9

Feist - The Reminder (2007)

Ahhhh, Feist, the goddess of rock. Her lovely voice serenading us all. We saw her in concert about a year and a half ago and to witness such a perfect display of music creativity makes you appreciate all of the finer things in life. She has such a crushingly achingly fragile voice that is at the pinnacle of collapse that you can't imagine a future so bold and definitive. Her music has a way of reaching down inside and giving your heart a hug right when you need it most. And that is the reason that she's growing and becoming a goddess, that she's demanding the entire world listen to her genius. From IPod commercials to stadium shows to extravaganza galore, Feist has been unleashed upon the world. Please cherish her.

Renaissance - Christian Volckman (2006)

Set in the seedy underworld of Paris in 2054, this animated motion-capture black & white film immediately grabs you and pulls you down into its maze. Motion-capture is an incredible way to animate using actual real-life movements from people to machines to objects. We're seeing it more and more these days and Renaissance was one of the first to get down and dirty with it. The vision that these French film-makers build upon the screen is absolutely amazing and wonderful to view. Beyond the fact that the noirish animation effect that embodies the film, which is almost enough on its own to make for an interesting movie, the story itself is great. It's a sci-fi wonder that wraps around our imagination yet it doesn't alienate our sensibilities. You feel like this could be the future and it most certainly would have the look and feel of the movie. It's a retro-sci-fi-animated-masterpiece and its cool as beans.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

M&M #10

Jennifer O'Conner – Over The Mountain, Across The Valley (2006)

Decided to give this a listen because of a free mp3. At first it seemed like your typical indie rocka with a guitar. The hooks were pleasant, the lyrics obscure but simple, and her voice just gravelly enough to pull you into her pain. I wanted to write it off simply because it's so easy to write off indie music nowadays, but I kept listening to the song and it kept grabbing me. It was a flash in the murky swirl tempting me toward my fate. Once I found the album used at the local music store I dug in and gave it strong consideration. It stuck on heavy play all year long and today I sing along to every tune like I wrote them myself (that is if I had the ability to actually write a tune). So now I'm a fan and O'Connor has thread her way into my soul.

Mutual Appreciation – Andrew Bujalski (2005)

Bujalski has been referred to as the king of mumble-core, which is a style of film that embraces low production value and actors who mumble their lines instead of your typical sharp high quality budget feature seen at your local multiplexes. Yeah...that may be true to an extent but what I like about this movie is how down to earth it feels. It reminds me of the old John Cassavetes from the 50's and 60's. You know that they just want to make great movies that aren't about all of the flash. It's okay if the film is gritty and the actors aren't perfect, because that's exactly the way that life works. And we all are whirling around each other trying to express ourselves the best way that we can and sometimes we don't say the right things and sometines we feel all the wrong things and sometimes we screw up everything that was working and sometimes we just need hug to make it all better. I guess this is real independent film-making.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

M&M #11

Stars – In Our Bedroom After The War (2007)

Probably the most anticipated album of the year once I heard they were releasing it. One of the first major-label bands to release their album digitally only hours after they finished in the studio, Stars have become my favourite band over the past four years or so. I guess, like Grandaddy before them, they would be the band that has become the soundtrack to my life recently. With a pure popilicious melody and sweet dual vocals by Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, often singing at each other like two star-crossed lovers, Stars are the pleasant dream that fills my nights. Unfortunately, after the exposure of the last two albums, this one was a bit of a let-down. It's still great and better than most of the music that invaded my world this last year, but there's something to say for not being overly anxious. It almost never lives up to the anticipation. Perhaps Stars are falling from my orbit and on the horizon is the next phase of my life including the soundtrack for a new era, but for now I'll try to relax and let the soft melody bless my ears.

Winged Migration – Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats (2001)

Lucas' favourite movie makes the list! We've watched this one about ten times this year and because it is such a wonderful visual display, we aren't getting tired of it. A simple movie about the migration of birds across the vast continents from southern hemisphere to northern. Very little narration, almost to the point that you don't even hear it and an occasional fact about some the migratory patterns of a certain species. Otherwise it's just music and birds flying, dipping and diving, and giving birth and dying. It's an absolutely beautiful movie and all around us the world is filled with wonder.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

M&M #12

Nicolay – Here (2006)
Foreign Exchange – Connected (2004)

I've been reading about Foreign Exchange since it came out but for some reason I just never picked it up. It sounded like the type of hip-hop that I really dig. So I finally got it onto my play-list this year and was immediately rewarded with a remarkable album. With an old style of R&B mixed-up with a smooth delivery and just a little bit of fromage that made me smile, not a bit stinky, the groove bounced and shellacked just my style. With that album, Nicolay proved that he was a master of beat and I was very excited to see his new album released under his own moniker. Just like with Foreign Exchange, he inundates us with immensely deep muscle and flow and the thick beats cover the walls of our house with an impenetrable barrier of excellence. Two amazing albums by one masterful artiste.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story – Michael Winterbottom (2005)
Irma Vep – Olivier Assayas (1996)

Both of these movies are a blend of an actual movie in the making and a fictional behind-the-scenes process of making the movie. Both movies have actors who play themselves making a movie as well as actors who play fictional characters around them helping them make the movie. It's a strange chaotic world behind the camera and both directors should be revered for creating this unique world in two incredible ways. Michael Winterbottom is one of the greatest modern film-makers alive today. He never makes the same movie twice. He's always pushing boundaries and searching for an alternative universe with the lens and with 'Tristram Shandy' he has a magical vision. He works with the fabulous Steve Coogan, who won't hesitate to make fun of himself to build a wonderfully humorous environment. The two of them worked together before with amazing results in '24-hour Party People'. In 'Irma Vep', Olivier assayas recruited Maggie Cheung as the main actress in a remake of the classic French film 'Les Vampires'. This one was a bit more confusing but Assayas makes movies with a raw edge that I simply love. His movie 'Clean', from a year ago was at the top of my list. Maggie Cheung was also in that film. Two wonderful film-makers working with two great actors, what more do you want?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

M&M #13

Justice – Cross (2007)

Justice is this crazy dance beat euro house music and I don't know what to make of it. Super-tight and grinding down through your bones, Justice communicates through the dance floor and that's the only place where you can truly understand what they are trying to do. Their album is simply a cross symbol, which obviously evokes a certain milieu that is recognizable in most culture around the world...but are they Christian? Their lyrics are about partying and drinking and having fun, which goes against the Christianity that I grew up with. But Xtina tells me that there is this sub-culture of youth that party hard and quote the scripture constantly. Weird. Any way that you look at it, this album friggin rocks! and will make your toes tap.

Head On – Fatih Akin (2004)

A deeply humanistic love story about two Turkish immigrants living in Hamburg. Both are damaged in some way when they find one another. Cahit is extremely depressed due to the death of his wife and tries to kill himself. After he ends up in the hospital he runs into Sibel who also attempted suicide because of her circumstances at home. She's a wild spirit and cannot deal with the burden of oppression from her father and brothers (apparently a common theme in our world today). She and Cahit form a mutual agreement marriage of convenience that will hopefully get them out from under their terrible situations. Eventually they fall for each other and that's when their passion for life comes storming out in full force. After Cahit is sent to prison for murdering one of Sibel's ex-lovers, Sibel flees to Turkey knowing that her brothers would rather kill her than be shamed by her actions. In Turkey Sibel cannot escape her past and becomes increasingly destructive until she's left on the streets for dead. Many years later, once Cahit is released from prison, he seeks Sibel out in Turkey at a chance for salvation in love, but Sibel has finally found a sense of peace. Will their previous passion change everything once again?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

M&M #14

Grandaddy – Just Like The Fambly Cat (2006)

In the beginning...of this decade I came across the album 'Software Slump' by these guys and it quickly became the defining soundtrack for that time in my life. That's how it works for me. A band enters my life and communicates with my energy for a period of three or four years. Like when I first heard Echo & the Bunnymen in high school when I dreamt of sugar lips and the ballyhoo of teenage sexual liberation consumed my every thought. Or when I discovered Pavement in college and their raw energy helped me rattle the rush of human existence. Or when I came across...Grandaddy hit me during a transitional period in my life. I just turned thirty, was recently married and found myself really evaluating my purpose in a profound new way. Grandaddy's spacey, tender sound was the perfect background music for all of these wonderful new discoveries. 'Just Like The Fambly Cat' being their last album, I'm definitely going to miss their combined creative spirit that elevated them into beautiful territory. But all eras eventually come to an end. Godspeed gentlemen and good hunting.

Volver – Pedro Almodovar (2006)

Surprisingly, Volver turned out to be one of Almodovar's more accessible films. It isn't filled with many of the seedy elements that most of his movies spill upon the audience's collective conscious. Although I'm not so sure that a man trying to rape his daughter or a mother burying said man's body to protect her daughter or that it turns out the daughter wasn't actually the man's child in the first place but her own grandfather's daughter instead are normal story lines that we see today in big budget movies. For Almodovar this film was bit more subdued, especially following his last movie 'Bad Education'. The presence of familial responsibility and the way that life repeats itself is in full effect in this movie, which makes the title 'Volver' (to return) rather appropriate. I guess that women everywhere around the world must deal with the heavy burden of male oppression in some form or another and quite often they can only rely on each other to get them through the madness.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

M&M #15

Trentemoller – The Last Resort (2006)

It's called minimalist techno dub. I remember when techno hit the cultural conscious like I bad habit and I didn't know what to make of it. I was deeply entrenched in the Pixies revolution adopted by Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all the other bands that followed the swell surging forth from the late eighties. Eventually, as it is with any Genre of music, art, culture, I discovered that there were those who were making amazing digital music and that this new form wasn't going to fade away like disco. Trentemoller is one of those artists that have their finger on my pulse, a slow current under the umbilicus feeding me oxygen when I need it. This guy just gets my nature and like certain stars, this music perfectly aligns in my universe.

Idiocracy – Mike Judge (2006)

This movie is scary given our current state of affairs in amerika, but it's absolutely hilarious as well. I didn't know whether I should laugh at how terrified I was or sell my house, buy some property out in the middle of nowhere, learn how to live off the land, and completely disregard this ridiculous country before it's too late. Mike Judge takes every aspect of our culture that is embraced by the lowest common denominator and amplifies it umpteenth degrees until we are swallowed by the twilight zone appeal of this incredible movie. He fucks with everybody, so it's no wonder that this movie wasn't widely released. Although I guarantee that it will eventually become a cult hit and in the future we may find ourselves going to twenty-year anniversary re-released versions of this movie just to see how close we've come to fulfilling Judge's disturbing vision.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

M&M #16

Black Mountain – Black Mountain (2005)

Black Mountain is one of those intense bands that seem to be rising out of the ashes of early 70's heavy metal psychedelic rock. Trends in all types of fashion seem to come back around to the forefront eventually (quite often like a bad meal that never tastes as good on the way back up) and the music scene is just like any other fashion mold out there. Black Mountain avoids the wannabe label though because they simply create fabulous hard rock that makes your upper body sway slowly as the heavy chords rip through your sound system. Being able to add a digital quality to their dense rhythm gives it some light air to breathe with and these songs just keep coming at you until you really start to rely on them.

The Prestige – Christopher Nolan (2006)
The Illusionist – Neil Burger (2006)

So often in hollywood you have movies with competing storylines being released at the same time. It's like one studio heard that another studio was making a movie about this subject, so they turn around and try to one-up them by making a better movie on the same subject. Then they both feed off the hype of competing films so that they can get people in the theaters and as is so often the case, the movies rarely live up to the hype. In this case both of these movies are actually pretty damn good and even though they are both about magicians, the stories themselves couldn't be more different. The Illusionist is a thrilling love story set in Vienna during the turn of the 20th century, while The Prestige is set just before the turn of the century in London and following the death of a woman two avenging magicians stalk one another over the course of their lives...Hmmm, maybe they're more alike than I originally thought. Well, what's important is that both of these movies are worth watching.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

M&M #17

Amy Winehouse – Back To Black (2007)

Amy Winehouse, the wacko soul siren from England, invades america, much to the delight of music aficionados and paparazzi everywhere. Winehouse creates incredibly beautiful soul music with a viscous edge. Her lyrics have a rawness to them that seem so straightforwardly honest that connoisseurs of jazz will dismiss as immature but I love them. She's rash and sexy and vulgar...and she's a wreck! Getting in fights in public, too drunk to perform, pushing every boundary known to humanity. If she survives all the fame and all the bad press and all the bad habits, we may have a great visionary of funk for the future. But for now we have this wonderful album that is completely groovilicious.

The Motorcycle Diaries – Walter Salles (2004)

Based on the journals of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, this film is the youthful travels through South America of two young men who would eventually change the world. Originally planning to view the countryside and enjoy life a bit, their journey begins to take on a humanitarian tone as the two young men witness the injustices of life during the early 1950's. Another film with the incredible Gael Garcia Bernal, this movie is beautiful to the core. The scenery, the music, the dialogue, the acting, the human spirit, it all is a blessing given to us by consummate filmmakers. Bernal embodies the young Che and the passion with which he has for his craft is absolutely wonderful to witness. I truly believed that he would revolutionize the future at the end of this film. The spirit of freedom pulsing throughout the movie is addictive and my heart went out to plight of people around the world searching for a better world. Let's hope that one day humanity will indeed enjoy a genuine vision of equality.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

M&M #18

HiM – Peoples (2006)

When I think about jazz, I imagine the dark heat of night sweltering beneath lights on stages in clubs of teaming bodies and smoke and foul bright moods. I think about the sworn free soul of Jack Kerouac lurching through drunken clouds of words to find God embodied in George Shearing. I remember walking in Soho and dancing down steps through a red door beneath street level to see if we can find a bite to eat but discovering a woman with the softest and sweetest voice enchanting a half empty bar. I wanted to stay and wallow in the beauty of that moment, regardless of the needs of my belly. I wanted to devour that phantom gap in the night as it took a moment to breathe. HiM embodies the spirit of jazz and communes with the pulse of a dream of longing that rose up through the soil of this dark nation.

Henry & June – Philip Kaufman (1990)

The story of Anais Nin's sexual awakening in Paris circa 1931. She meets Henry Miller and his wife June through a friend of her husband, Hugo. While June exudes carnal charm, Henry works on his first novel 'Tropic of Cancer'. Eventually Henry and Anais embark on a torrid love affair that will last the ages. What makes this movie so wonderful is that the look and feel of it embodies the bohemian artist Paris where these characters churn out their lives. I believed that this was exactly how it was and it was a world that I began to love as the movie unfolded. I wanted to live there and write and carry on friendships with magicians and photographers and feel the passion of the Paris nights as they shift and change shape around me.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

M&M #19

Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (2007)

Wilco has become one of those amazing american stories. They went from indie amercana darlings to next big thing to pariahs of the studio system to redemption to obscure experimentalists to rehab junkies to a return to their roots. Throughout it all they have evolved into one of the best straight rock ensembles ever. They make music the way that they want to make it and their sound is as genuine as any rock band in the world. When I listen to them I'm reminded why I gravitated toward this type of music in the first place, searching far and wide through bands like the Hoodoo Gurus and REM and Califone and Canyon. This is the sound that I have grown to love over my lifetime and their beautiful jazzy country pop rock will always find a place in my heart.

Little Miss Sunshine – Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine...ah, the indie art-house darling of gonna capture all the awards and your heart. I always wondered why they called a movie filled with big stars and a modest budget and a good script and great promotion an independent movie. It's such a marketing campaign nowadays to connect with the counter-culture aspect of our human nature. Some would say that it all began with 'Pulp Fiction' and the incredible success of the small upstart Miramax production company, but I think that it goes back even further with Quentin Tarantino's first film 'Reservoir Dogs', a movie made with a million dollar budget filled with stars and a great script. Ever since then the film industry hasn't been the same and Tarantino's Oscar nominated follow-up simply reaped the benefits of his earlier success. Now that we have the internet, we can actually go and truly find independent cinema or make our own with no budget whatsoever. Any way that you look at it, Little Miss Sunshine was a good movie with a good story that we can all smirk at with admiration where the actors gave good performances and didn't break the bank in the process...unless you saw it in the movie theaters, of course.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

M&M #20

Blonde Redhead – 23 (2007)

Blonde Redhead has revolved around our little universe for the past few years and their cosmic music and Kazu Makino's wistfully mumbling voice has become a staple in our home. Over the years they've really developed their sound and this year's release is full and rich and nuanced. They have elevated themselves from the simple punk voracious shout to an orchestrated volume of intimacy and primal beauty. The deep layers of instruments and voice and emotion weave their tender organic swirl into your heart and leave a lasting effect on your mind. The day grows and life expands. I heard from someone that this was their last offering as a band and my first reaction was sadness, but it's been a nice ride and if this is their last hurrah, then they have gone out at the top of their game.

The Proposition – John Hillcoat (2005)

This movie is based in rural Australia near the turn of the twentieth century as civilization spreads across the badlands. Captain Stanley, far from his England home, attempts to create a safe environment for the settlers and his wife who's trying to build some semblance of privilege from whence they came. Stanley captures two of the Burns brothers, outlaws who have been creating havoc amongst the settlers. But Stanley needs one of them, Charlie, to find their older brother Arthur, diabolical/mastermind/thief/rapist/murderer/philosopher, they don't make them much worse. So he strikes a deal and sends Charlie into the wilderness and redemption. We've seen these movies before and the reason that they are so enjoyable is because of that thin line between chaos and order which we find on the outlaw plains of the wild west. In an environment like this, it's difficult to see straight and the unburdened sense of lawlessness affects quite a few, even those who are supposedly backed by the law. Written by Nick Cave, it was wonderful to watch this tale unfold in the outback of Australia and learn a little about that country's history.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

David Lynch on IPhone

David Lynch is a fucking genius! Promotional spot for his movie 'Inland Empire'.


M&M #21

Menomena – Friend & Foe (2007)

Menomena is one of those funky bands that straddle the spectrum. They don't have one exact sound that you expect to get every time you pop in their album. You hear a song and you think to yourself, “Man, this is really weird.” or “Man, this is such a great rock sound that you don't hear too often anymore?” or “Is that Menomena, why does his voice sound so different?” And the compliments just keep rising toward the clouds as the songs keep drowning your ears. Then you find out that they are this freewheelin threesome that shares singing duties, swaps instruments and simply just want to make good music and have fun, and you think, “That makes perfect sense.” This was a nice west coast (Portland, Oregon-so much good stuff in Portland!) offering for the year.

Science Of Sleep – Michel Gondry (2006)

Coming off the masterful film 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', I was willing to watch any movie that Michel Gondry had to offer. So my anticipation was extremely high, especially considering that he made this movie with Gael Garcia Bernal who is one of the most dynamic people in film today. Then I started to watch it. I didn't know how to respond at first. I expected it to be strange (because when is Gondry normal?) but this was completely off-kilter and though Bernal gave a wonderful performance, his insecure genius dreamer was somewhat unsettling. I wanted to root for the guy but how can I feel good about a character that constantly sabotages his own dreams? Ultimately I grew more accustomed to the style and really cherished all of the homemade low-tech special effects. And I started to notice that as I watched these recognizable stars perform in Gondry's universe, I realized that these are the types of films that I always look for. The complete antithesis to mainstream hollywood studio schlock.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

M&M #22

Visioneers – Dirty Old Hip Hop (2006)

Connect to the retro and feel the soulful joy bounce around your mind. This is Marc Mac's fusion of good old hip hop and jazz, deep phat beats that glow endlessly and groove beneath your feet. He takes his time to cherish some of the old soul sounds of the seventies mixed with the funk of the great early DJ's from the eighties and drops them down with horns and bass lines from generations ago. This sound blends with a poetic era that burrows into dim clubs down dark side streets with only a flash of sign to guide you into the heat of mixed-up madness. 'Replay' the first song of the album grooves with perfection accompanied by the soft beauty of Voice and is an absolutely flawless way to start 2008 by remembering what was so great about 2007.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days – Marc Rothemund (2005)

A true story, this movie follows the last six days of Sophie's life after she, her brother and some friends are arrested for distributing leaflets criticizing the policies of the Nazi regime in early 1943. The group is quickly convicted and sentenced to death. It's a poignant tale about the affect of intolerance on society and the efforts of a few people who believe in the right of human beings to live freely. It's difficult to watch from the perspective that we all have today regarding the Nazi reign of evil that existed only half a century ago. To hear the words of Sophie and her companions as they try to combat the hatred of their captors, it's all very obvious that injustice is happening right before our eyes. But they were summarily executed for their “treason” and the Nazis thrived for decades in Europe. While we sit on our high horse and watch from a distance, governments around the world today are enacting similar policies against their populace and the Nazi heritage of hate continues to guide the minds of many. This German film is a cautionary tale to remind us of what will happen if we don't speak out while we still can.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

M&M #23

Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope (2006)

When I was a young pre-teen I always had this fond affinity for pop bands like The Go Go's, Quarterflash, Berlin and Missing Persons. Since the musical influences in my environment never went beyond mainstream Top 40 hits, it wasn't until I reached high school a few years later that the world of music opened to a broader and wider range of styles. Now that I'm older and have discovered amazing varieties of musical creativity, I am attaining a new complex wonder for this faceted and diverse medium. Yet, at times I still find that I'm drawn to this light pop music and the song of the siren touching my heart with its sweet beauty. Regina Spektor melds perfectly in modern kinship with those voices from my youth.

Diggers – Katherine Dieckmann (2006)

Diggers is about a time when a family owned enterprise still held a certain charm and hope but was increasingly being swallowed up in the massive tide of corporate consumption. It's about a group of family and friends who lose their patriarch and suddenly have to grow up and become adults (Oh...a theme that everyone can relate to). Most of them are miserable in their own ways and can't wait to get out from under the weight of the lives that their parents built for them but when that finally happens, they really don't know what kind of lives they actually want for themselves. They fuck around, fight and get wasted most of the time. Eventually they realize that it's impossible to stop the overwhelming tide of progress without a deep passionate motivation and since a life of digging up clams wasn't their dream, they decide that they should focus on the things that do bring passion into their lives. This movie is a sweet homage to our parent's generation.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

M&M #24

Nightmares on Wax – In A Space Outta Sound (2006)

This is one of those down-tempo jazzy hip-hop numbers that hangs on deep into the night when all of the normal people fade into the dark slumber of dreams. Nightmares on Wax is the soundtrack to the hazy beat floating around sofa surfers and couch maidens with funky dreads and a cough reaching down into your lungs. It's the sound heavy down through the beat beneath swirling rims and the fresh midnight breeze that goosebumps across your skin. It's the soul purpose of George Evelyn's creative heart and if you simply take a moment, close your lids and listen...just listen. He'll communicate to you too.

Shortbus - John Cameron Mitchell (2006)

Shortbus is a movie that's about sex and the movie does have quite a bit of sex...real sex. They weren't acting like they were having sex with desperate painful expressions that are supposed to convince us that they're 'acting', but real penetrative sex and real orgasms and spewing of bodily fluids and...just about everything else you can imagine. We're seeing this more and more in the respectable independent film-making sector but unlike some of his contemporaries, Mitchell just knows how to tell a story. The more that I watched this sexy movie I realized that it wasn't really about the sex. It was simply being honest about the way sex exists in our lives and how that effects our relationships and all the other myriad of ways that we try to interact with one another and ourselves. It was refreshing and I felt good when the movie was over...but also a little tired, spent, ready to sleeeeeeeeeeee........

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

M&M #25

Iron & Wine – The Shepherd's Dog (2007)

I've developed a fond appreciation for Sam Beam's music over the years, especially when I'm feeling self-indulgent and wish to roam the deeper avenues within. His super mellow arid music and heart clutching lyrics cast me into wary dreams of abandoned love and achingly surreal yearnings not often seen outside our precious imagination. It's a beauty so deep inside that it can only be conveyed to the world by communicating beyond the literal flow of ideas. A sanguine glance, a rabid moan, a fluttery touch, a clutch at anticipation, an aureate blindness of passion, a dark shiver of pleasure, an ache so deep tears can't stop it, a warm hand upon your back, settling into the flow of blood, cascading across the tremble of leaves, so soft you never want to feel the edge again. Nothing, no words can compare, just the music sliding down into my soul.

Faye Grim – Hal Hartley (2006)

'Faye Grim' is the sequel to Hartley's amazing film 'Henry Fool', which can easily be numbered among the great cinematic achievements of the nineties. Although 'Faye Grim' doesn't quite live up to the original, Hartley develops ethereal magic with his movies and he doesn't disappoint here. It turns out that all of the incredible bullshit that Henry spewed in the first film wasn't actually bullshit after all and his writings are really just a secret code revealing some terrible truths regarding global espionage. Now it's Faye's responsibility to retrieve the manuals with the FBI and terrorists nipping at her heals. Yeah, it doesn't sound like your typical Hal Hartley fare but, even if you haven't seen the first movie, 'Faye Grim' is a strange wonder that makes you look at film-making with a different eye.

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