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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

some reviews

When the Levees Broke...
Dir. Spike Lee
* * * * *
This is not the simple, dramatic retelling of a natural and human disaster. It is a complex, emotional exploration of American history, racial and social, government bureaucracy, human nature, loss, and hope. It would have been easy to make a gut-wrenching compilation of loss and suffering, something that would be more easy to digest, and more movie friendly, but Lee has made something of deeper social significance- one of the all-time great documentaries. No one else could have made this film, it is his masterpiece. When the Levees broke is a personal, social, and historical journey as murky, dark, natural, complex, and awe inspiring as the Bayou’s that surround New Orleans. It is thoughtful, fair, moving, difficult, and cathartic. This document will go on the list of films that every American must see, and will be enriched for seeing.

Snakes on a Plane
* ½
For such a ridiculous title, this is a rather generic disaster/action film. It can’t sustain the goofiness of it’s premise, and quickly falls back on typical action film cliches. The film is almost fun because it has been obviously cut together with new R-rated inserts. The snakes aren’t very good, or well used, and there are some weird gender/race undertones.

Bob Dylan
Modern Times
* * 1/2
Everyone seems to think this is such a great album, but what we have hear is Bob Dylan sounding like Randy Newman impersonating Bob Dylan, only with a guitar instead of a piano. Dylan said there hasn’t been a decent sounding record in 20 years, and I’m wondering what Dylan’s been listening to because this is such an uninspired and unoriginal record, I mean do we really need another version of Rollin’ and Tumblin’? That said, the last few songs of the album are some of Dylans best in the latter part of his career, but that’s not saying much.

The Five Dylan Contemporaries that Deserve Much more Credit
These five singer/songwriters worked in the shadow of Dylan in the prime of his career and in

Tim Hardin: wrote some of the prettiest, fragile, and honest songs ever recorded. While classified usually as folk, his bluesy, earthy, yet ornamental sound would heavily influence Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Rod Stewart. Songs like “It’ll Never Happen Again,” and “Hang Onto a Dream” beautifully juxtapose failing relationships with the state of America in the mid-1960's.
Songs you probably know: Reason to Believe, If I were a Carpenter, Lady from Baltimore

Leonard Cohen: wrote songs that were deeper, and more complicated than any of his folk counterparts. A poet first, his songs are brutally honest, often graphic. Often his songs combine the sacred and the profane, drawing from his Jewish heritage, in intertwined metaphors to relate stories of the sad and lonely. While his instrumentation was and is often questionable, Cohen is still the poet laureate of rock. John Cale’s version of Hallelujah would influence the Jeff Buckley version, which was also done by Rufus Wainwright, which has gained popularity, but omits the more difficult versus. In fact, that song is not even one of Cohen’s best, I think that title goes to Famous Blue Raincoat.
Songs you probably know: Bird on a Wire, Hallelujah, Suzanne.

Neil Young: doesn’t get nearly the recognition he deserves. He didn’t invent country-rock but he made it popular. He was the father of grunge music, and modern alt-country. He was a superstar in a supergroup and on his own. He also was second only to Dylan in solo albums on NME’s list of the greatest albums of all time. While his songs were much more straightforward than others on this list, and much more rock oriented, they were nonetheless as political as Dylan (Southern Man), as personal as Cohen’s (Oh Lonesome Me), and orchestrated as Hardin’s (Words...).

Van Morrison: is up there with anyone as far as widespread musical influence. His baroque pop orchestrations, stream of conscious lyrics, and soulful voice made some of the most unique, and important records of all-time; Astral Weeks has been in the top 5 of many greatest albums ever lists. His influential mix of Celtic, soul, blues, and classical styles has influenced everyone from U2 to Counting Crows, and especially Jeff Buckley.

Richard Thompson: A musical enigma, and critics’ darling, Thompson has never made it big. Either as a founding member of Fairport convention, or as a solo artist. He is ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 20 greatest guitarists of all time, drawing equally on the rockabilly of Buddy Holly and the gypsy of Django Reinhardt. He is at home playing bar ballads, or 15th century Irish folk songs.

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