January 8-14, 2013
week in and already it’s a challenge to keep up with this. I’ll blame
it on coming down with the crud that’s going around, writing for the TV
show, and consuming quite a bit. Better late than never, right?
5. IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012) (DVD) (January 8)
the end of last year the champions of this animated feature came out of
the woodwork and for good reason. Don Hertzfeldt made a funny,
achingly sad, and empathetic movie that defies expectations. (Review)
6. GANGSTER SQUAD (Ruben Fleischer, 2013) (35mm) (Arena Grand) (January 11)
I’d tell that this was no good kept saying, “But that cast!” True, an
impressive cast is assembled, but they’re not credible because Ruben
Fleischer applies the comic book team-up film aesthetic (ie., MARVEL’S
THE AVENGERS) to a period gangster picture that provides scant
characterization. The tongue-in-cheek humor doesn’t mix well with the
off-the-books (but totally OK because they’re cops) violence. Ryan
Gosling does something weird with his voice, at least in his first
scene. The Chinatown sequence is put together nicely enough--is this
the replacement scene for the section removed after the Aurora, Colorado
movie theater shootings--and the final stand-off isn’t too shabby
either. Ultimately, though, it feels like everyone’s playing dress-up
as hard-boiled heroes and villains.
7. BARBARA (Christian Petzold, 2012) (2K DCP) (Gateway Film Center) (January 11)
BARBARA is, in part, a thriller and a melodrama, it resists feeling
anything at all until the protagonist must make a crucial decision.
Nina Hoss is inscrutable but intriguing as the title character, a
doctor banished to the countryside in 1980 East Germany. The film
supplies few details about her and is all the better for it as the
larger picture of who she is comes into focus. BARBARA’s strength is
not knowing which direction it may lead us at any moment.
8. DJANGO UNCHAINED (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) (35mm) (AMC Dublin Village) (January 12)
second time seeing DJANGO UNCHAINED was the charm for me. I liked it
during my first viewing but wasn’t entirely sure that it was complete.
It opened up on a repeat visit, proving to be much deeper and more
controlled than I gave it credit. My favorite films of 2012 tended to
require being seen multiple times, which I’ll choose to characterize as a
sign of their richness and not my deficiency as a viewer. (Review)
9. THE IMPOSSIBLE (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2012) (DVD) (January 13)
tsunami sequence is suitably impressive, and the period in which mother
and son, played by Naomi Watts and Tom Holland, must try to get to
safety is ripe with drama. Then they receive some help, and all the air
seems to go out of the film. My NOW PLAYING co-host respectfully
disagrees with that point, but the effort to reunite the family, if
everyone survived, felt perfunctory to me more often than not. (Review)
AVANT-GARDE MASTERS: A DECADE OF PRESERVATION (Wexner Center for the Arts) (January 10)
be the first to admit that I don’t have much familiarity with
experimental cinema, and sometimes what little I’ve seen completely
baffles me as to its appeal. Still, I try to remain open to
appreciating the work being done off the beaten path. I’m acquainted
with the person who introduced this particular program, so I thought I’d
show support and check it out. I also feel it’s important to support
the Wexner Center’s Film/Video department, as the folks there do an
excellent job of providing chances to see films like these on celluloid.
As it turned out, I enjoyed this particular restored shorts program
overall and noted how some of these have had clear influences on music
For accounting purposes in this journal, I’m counting shorts separately from features.
1s. COSMIC RAY (Bruce Conner, 1961) (16mm)
of the energetic COSMIC RAY features a nude woman dancing to Ray
Charles’s “What’d I Say”. If this have never been projected in the
background at a Flaming Lips concert, someone let Wayne Coyne know about
it. It’s exactly the sort of thing that I could see playing behind the
2s. RABBIT’S MOON (Kenneth Anger, 1950-70) (35mm)
only other Kenneth Anger film I’ve seen is LUCIFER RISING, which played
on a bill with Olivier Assayas’s DEMONLOVER and David Cronenberg’s
VIDEODROME. I found that Anger film to be pretty silly, although I did
see it ten years ago, an eternity in cinema literacy terms. Still...
MOON, on the other hand, is a lovely tragedy about a clown’s romance
with the moon. There’s some revelatory matching of the doo-wop
soundtrack with the images on screen. The print shown was outstanding.
3s. VELVET UNDERGROUND IN BOSTON (Andy Warhol, 1967) (16mm)
longest short in the program was also the most trying. Andy Warhol’s
document of a Velvet Underground concert has its moments, mainly in
revealing details with archival/historical interest, but at 33 minutes I
found it to be a real slog. It’s composed of whatever happened to
interest Warhol during the show, making it kind of like his version of a
Frederick Wiseman documentary.
4s. PIXILLATION (Lillian Schwartz, 1970) (16mm)
5s. OLYMPIAD (Lillian Schwartz, 1971) (16mm) (3D)
6s. ENIGMA (Lillian Schwartz, 1972) (16mm) (3D)
overload with colors and shapes rendered in early computer animation
set to electronic music proved to be the program’s most visually
stimulating segments. My favorite was ENIGMA, the most aggressive of
7s. PREFACES (Abigail Child, 1981) (16mm)
sound collage is impressive, even if I couldn’t always follow it very
well. Chalk this one up to appreciating the technique but not being
grabbed by it much otherwise.
8s. AMERICA IS WAITING (Bruce Conner, 1981) (16mm)
montage of what I presume is stock footage is set to the music of David
Byrne and Brian Eno, again making his influence on music videos seem
apparent to me. I want to say something by Ministry resembles this
short, but who knows if that’s right. It feels like something I’ve seen
mimicked a lot.
Still working (slowly) on GONE GIRL and THE ONE YEAR BIBLE (NEW LIVING TRANSLATION).
8. David Bowie STATION TO STATION (1976)
Not much to say other than what a weird, wonderful album. I look forward to the new album he’ll be releasing this year.
Key tracks: “Golden Years”, “Word on a Wing”, and “TVC 15” (although I should just put the whole album here)
9. Kylie Minogue X (2007)
-Kylie Minogue FEVER
Minogue’s tenth studio album is more of the same. No complaints here.
These two albums--I wrote a little about FEVER last week--kept me
moving at the gym this week.
Key tracks: “2 Hearts”, “In My Arms”, “Speakerphone”, and “Sensitized”
1. Jeff Mangum (Opening acts: The Briars of North America and Tall Firs) (Southern Theatre - Columbus, Ohio) (January 14)
of the near-unanimous praise for Neutral Milk Hotel’s IN THE AEROPLANE
OVER THE SEA on a Guided by Voices LISTSERV I was subscribed to in 1998,
I bought the album unheard. So what if the band’s name was weird and I
had no idea what the album would sound like. Once I got my hands on
it, I thought it was as great as it had been touted. Little did I
expect this album to attain the modern classic status it enjoys. It
seemed more like an underground secret.
years later, including a period where it seemed like no one knew what
Jeff Mangum was doing or what happened to him, I finally got to see him
perform songs from IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA. I didn’t really have
any expectations. Even if I had, they would have been exceeded. I
pretty much had the chills through his entire set. Except for when a
member of The Briars of North America came out to add French horn or
trumpet, it was just him on stage playing an acoustic guitar and belting
out his songs with a voice like a brass instrument. If I had a weaker
constitution, I might have cried through the whole show. From the
opener “Oh Comely” to the encore “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”, it was
so painfully beautiful.
reaction may sound like hyperbole, but this was a concert where the
normal rules were thrown out. After the first song Mangum invited
people to come closer and sing along. The Southern Theatre isn’t really set up for a standing room crowd, yet a good number
of folks surged forward. Fourteen rows back I could still see him and,
like some other rear orchestra stragglers, had the row almost to myself.
The concert was still very intense and had a worshipful air. (The
discomfort I did feel was for Mangum when people would shout out extreme
praise at him, which was fairly common between songs. As I understand
it, part of the reason he went “missing” was because he couldn’t handle
his previous success.)
for the opening acts, The Briars of North America played an enjoyable
set of folk/chamber pop while the duo Tall Firs plodded through one
mid-tempo song about death after another.
-DON’T TRUST THE B---- IN APARTMENT 23 (ABC)
under Unfortunately Named Television Series. It’s not in the top tier
of current TV comedies, but it’s finding its legs during the second
season and deserves a chance to develop. Too bad the way it’s being
aired--leftover season one episodes that break continuity scattered
among season two shows--indicates it isn’t long for this world.
TRUST THE B---- IN APARTMENT 23 can push the limits on TV’s standards
and practices--note the title--but the raunchy humor here has the
cleverness that seems to be missing in pop culture free to be as nasty
as it wants to be. I’ll concede that I’m not crazy about excessively
vulgar humor, so this show may hit the sweet spot for me of challenging
boundaries but being restrained from obliterating them. The
obstructions require creativity to work around them.
push and pull between Krysten Ritter’s cheerful wickedness and Dreama
Walker’s idealistic stodginess is balanced quite nicely. There’s room
for both characters to be who they are without casting judgments on
their opposite personalities and worldviews. I’ve grown weary of the
washed-up celebrity playing himself/herself for easy laughs in movies
and TV shows, but James Van Der Beek is very funny playing James Van Der
Beek. The series has given him something to do rather than just stand
around debasing himself as has-been for our amusement. Ray Ford steals
scenes as JVDB’s loyal assistant.
-THE 70TH ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBES AWARDS (NBC)
couldn’t care less who wins the Golden Globes, but this year’s ceremony
was entertaining by awards show standards. Or it was worth paying
attention to while following the comments of a significant portion of my
Twitter stream. It’s too bad that hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
didn’t get to do much beyond a solid opening monologue, but that’s how
these programs usually go. (Loved the DOG PRESIDENT nominees, though.)
Funny how there’s such a fuss about who’s hosting when they don’t get