Friday, January 29, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Week of Jan. 19-28

Detour (1945) ***
Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Tom Neal, Ann Savage

This B-noir does a surprisingly good job of roping its hero deeper and deeper into the mess he finds himself in. The acting is of the cardboard cliché quality that provides much ridicule of older films, and there are some questionable choices made with sets done in the spirit of holding the budget of the picture down, but in the end it all makes for an enjoyable plot of lies and poor choices.

M (1931) ****
Dir. Fritz Lang
Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Gustaf Grüdgens, Friedrich Gnaß, Ellen Widmann

“M” is a surprisingly in-depth look at the psychological impact and workings of a child murderer, considering how early into the life of the film industry it was made. The first half of the film, when the police can’t find any clues as to the identity of the killer and the public is terrorized by his actions, had me thinking a great deal about David Fincher’s 2007 film “Zodiac”. Peter Lorre’s performance in the second half of the film as the disturbed murderer is stunning for an early film performance. A great deal of thought and research into the nature of the criminal mind went into the making of this early talkie. It’s really an astounding achievement in film.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) ***½
Dir. Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T., Bobb’e J. Thompson, Banjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris

This movie is brilliantly funny. It made me laugh more than any other movie in 2009. Read my full-length review here.

Big Fan (2009) ***½
Dir. Robert D. Siegel
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Jonathan Hamm

I didn’t love this movie because I’m a Giants fan. I loved it because it gets fandom and fanaticism pitch perfect. Beyond that even is how solidly written the characters are in this film. Patton Oswalt’s obsessive football fan never betrays himself or steps away from the basic ideals that make him what he claims to be, the world’s greatest Giants fan. Even when his favorite player beats him to near death over a misunderstanding, he will not do something that might hurt the team. While some may complain this movie is more drama than comedy, its ending is perfectly in line with the classic (as in Greeks) definition of comedy and makes the entire movie.

A Perfect Getaway (2009) ***
Dir. David Twohy
Starring: Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Marley Shelton, Chris Hemsworth

Surprisingly deceptive thriller that takes a fairly old premise and turns it on its head. This is one of those movies where you have two innocents in a tropical paradise being hunted by killers, but they’re not sure who are the killers and who can protect them from the killers. Many reviews at the time of its theatrical release praised its original approach up until the killers were revealed, saying it went on autopilot from that point on. But that happens so late in the movie, it doesn’t have much left to resolve.

The Bicycle Thief (1948) ****
Dir. Vittorio de Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

The Italian neo-realism classic speaks loudly in the times we currently find ourselves. Telling the story of a family man who gets a job hanging movie posters during hard financial times, this movie speaks to a great many issues we are currently dealing with in our own country: economic downfall, unemployment, capitalism vs. socialism. The man’s only requirement for his job is a bicycle. When it is stolen, we feel the weight of the world placed on his shoulders to have such an opportunity so easily taken away from him through no fault of his own.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best Music of 2009

I used to be as into music as I was into movies. In college, I would make a weekly visit to Tower Records to check out the new releases. I subscribed to CMJ (formerly College Music Journal) to keep up on all the latest up and coming bands. If anyone at school needed to know anything about music, I was the one they came to.

Then, two years before our marriage, my then fiancé bought me a brand new to the market DVD player. Suddenly all the money I spent on music was diverted to movies. That is not blame I’m placing. I love my wife dearly for thrusting me into the DVD market at its birth, among other things.

While I attempted to get back into the music scene for the next eleven years, I could never seem to gain the same foothold I once had. I could never find the really new stuff. The stuff that was up and coming before it up and came. I couldn’t even seem to get the same grasp on long standing acts. I didn’t feel informed enough to swing for the fences in the way I once had. All my purchases seemed safe, and so my music collecting never got off the ground again.

That was until last year when a fairly impromptu visit to Chicago allowed a couple of good friends to prepare a new music introduction experience for me that created the spark I’d been looking for in my music obsession. Suddenly, I was back in the game. Part of that game is creating a list of favorite albums, songs, and music sources discovered throughout the year.

I had quite an overwhelming year catching up on the music scene, as well as figuring out how to stay, if not ahead of it, at least along stride with it. This being the first best of list I’ve ever produced for music, I may seem like I’m flailing at the wind with some of my choices, but these were the albums that left the most indelible impressions on me over the greatest year in music I’ve experienced in quite some time.

30 Favorite Albums

1. Omar Rodriguez Lopez – Solar Gambling buy
2. Stardeath and White Dwarfs – The Birth buy
3. Anneke Van Giersbergen & Danny Cavanagh – In Parallel
4. Giant Squid – The Ichthyologist buy
5. Count Raven – Mammons War buy
6. The Devil’s Blood – The Time of No Time Evermore buy
7. Lou Barlow – Goodnight Unknown buy
8. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! buy
9. The Swell Season – Strict Joy buy
10. Der Blaue Reiter – Nuclear Sun buy
11. The Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze buy
12. The Dead Weather – Horehound buy
13. Heartless Bastards – The Mountain buy
14. Russian Circles – Geneva buy
15. Eagle Twin – The Unkindness of Crows buy
16. The XX – XX buy
17. P.O.S. – Never Better buy
18. Crippled Black Phoenix – Night Raider/The Resurrectionists buy
19. The Lonely Island – Incredibad buy
20. Horns of Anguish – Barriers buy
21. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm buy
22. Maserati – Passages buy
23. Pelican – What We All Come To Need buy
24. Behold! The Monolith – Behold! The Monolith LP buy
25. Black Math Horseman – ‘Wyllt’ buy
26. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue buy
27. The Black Heart Procession – Six buy
28. The Leisure Society – The Sleeper buy
29. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic buy
30. DeWolff – Strange Fruits and Undiscovered Plants

Favorite Individual Tracks (in track order of “Words Unspoken: Best of ’09” mix)

Crippled Black Phoenix “Rise Up and Fight”
Mastodon “Crack the Skye”
The Swell Season “Low Rising”
BlackKoldMadina “Trouble the Water”
Crocodiles “I Wanna Kill”
XX “Night Time”
The Leisure Society “Save It For Someone Who Cares”
Foo Fighters “Word Forward”
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears “Get Yo S**t”
The Lonely Island “Boombox”
Behold! The Monolith “Battle for Balls Deep”
P.O.S. “Out of Category”
Pearl Jam “The Fixer”
Maserati “No More Sages”
Have a Nice Life “Trespassers W”
The Black Crowes “Greenhorn”
Steve Martin “Words Unspoken”

Download them here.

10 Reissues/Box Sets/Compilations

1. Nirvana – Bleach: 20th Anniversary (deluxe edition) buy
2. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – White Lunar buy
3. David Bowie – Space Oddity: 40th Anniversary (deluxe edition) buy
4. The Beatles – Mono Remasters (box set) buy
5. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (deluxe edition) buy
6. Big Star – Keep an Eye on the Sky (box set) buy
7. Hawkwind – Quark, Strangeness, and Charm (deluxe edition) buy
8. Pearl Jam – Ten Redux Buy
9. The Pixies – Minotaur (box set) Buy
10. Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series, vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 Buy

10 From the Used Bin

1. Leaf Hound – Growers of Mushroom (1971) Buy
2. Wicked Minds – From the Purple Skies (2004)
3. Rodriguez – Cold Fact (1970) Buy
4. Eno, Moebius & Roedelius – After the Heat (1978) Buy
5. Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Rossum – The Days of Mars (2005) Buy
6. Thin Lizzy – Nightlife (1974) Buy
7. Amanaz – Africa (1975) Buy
8. Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours (1955) Buy
9. Two Lone Swordsmen – From the Double Gone Chapel (2004) Buy
10. Chico Magnetic Band – Chico Magnetic Band (1973)

5 Sources
The Sludge Swamp
Lucid Media
Debutante Debris
White Dot Music
Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers

5 Sites, Not Sounds.

Awkward Family Photos
dooce: Daily Chuck
People of WalMart
S**t My Dad Says
Daily Film Dose

Please keep your artists employed. Buy the music you like.