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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reviews

Movie Review

Be Kind Rewind

Dir. Michel Gondry

Rated Pg-13 (should be rated PG)

* * * *

This movie was pretty harshly received by the critics, which sort of makes sense, because this is one of those loving, bright-eyed films which can be hard to take seriously in a post-structuralist world. And, I acknowledge that this is an imperfect film. But the film’s imperfections lead to its overall beauty. Is it schmaltzy? Well, sort of, but then again this is a fantasy film, which may also explain the harsh reviews of the actors. Jack Black is good, but Mos Def is excellent in his rather stiff, awkwardness. Danny Glover, and Mia Farrow, both in the film partially intertextually, are also nicely awkward.

With this film Gondry has established himself as the Indie-rock Frank Capra. Not to say his films are like the unfair characterization of Capra as a sentimental idealist. Rather that Gondry, like Capra, can acknowledge the harsh and unfeeling world around him, but can create fantasies which affirm the human spirit without negating the darkness or wallowing in it.

This is definitely connected to his film, Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, which is a documentary fantasy and one of the most uplifting films of recent years, and the idea of this film was created by him and Chapelle. And this film is a refreshing take on inner-city community, and it is quite well informed.

Overall this is a brilliant film essay. A sort of quasi-manifesto of Gondry’s DIY attitude. Of film as community, especially for outsiders. How film transcends its individual elements, which may be lacking in sophistication, but how these shortcomings, when made with love, a film can be the most powerful kind of communal art.

Don’t believe the critics, this is, and this coming from a critic who is at times rather harsh on comedies, a very funny film. Its use of sight gags is a nice throw back to the silent days, and Gondry, like a magician, sort of reveals a lot of his own tricks in showing the creation of the homemade films.

That said, this film, like the message of the essay that it is, is not perfect, but it is created with so much love, that it has to be taken seriously, and is a genuinely touching, life-affirming, film. I hope that other filmmakers, or budding film makers, take Gondry at his word, and create their own films, not so much with craft or production values which are more than likely out of their reach, but with love and singular devotion. That like this film their love for the craft and charity for those involved will compensate for those shortcomings and create amazing and refreshing film experiences.

Music Review:

Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

* * * *

Nick Cave has gotten better with age. With the birthday party and on the early Bad Seeds albums he was all anxiety and guilt. But each album seems to have added new levels of complexity. I mentioned in my year-in-review that Cave and his Bad Seeds are probably one of the best bands on the planet (I think I put them at #2). That was in a review for their side-project Grinderman, and the gnarling, sleazy hard rock of that album carries over to the latest Bad Seeds album. Though this album adds the Bad Seeds touch, a sort of dissonant baroque to accompany Cave’s lyrics which are always brilliant, but particularly biting on this album, continuing his sort of a punk-rock Leonard Cohen, where religion, sex, guilt, violence, sentiment, pain, and self-reflexivity all collide together. In fact, Cave seems to be one of the only musicians who have been able to address his own personal Christian existential quandaries consistently and effectively without sounding annoying or smug. Cave and the Bad Seeds have always put out extremely interesting albums with levels of greatness few other artists have been able to achieve, but they also make albums which are difficult to fully embrace. This is perhaps the most consistent Cave album since The Boatman’s Call. The one hesitation is that it really doesn’t seem to reach those brilliant heights for fear of falling. That said this is still amazing stuff.

The Grand Archives

Grand Archives

*** 1/2

I fell in love with the song Sleepdriving, and so I bought the album, and then asked myself: “what have you done, you just bought an annoying little indie-rock album.”

That said, this is very, very much an indie rock, Sub-pop, record. A lot like a softer New Pornographers. And like New Porn they’re assembled of several prominent Seattle Indie bands, most notably Band of Horses. But this isn’t just an exercise in trying to make catchy, breezy, or pretty songs. Or songs which are clever for clever’s sake, or cute for cute’s sake, which is perhaps the nadir of indie rock. Rather this sounds like the best sort of jam session, albeit quite polished and smoothed over. It sounds like people who are friends who got together because they wanted to make music. The closing song, “Orange Jucie,” is a good example of this and one of the best pure indie pop songs ever.

Sure the whistle’s on Miniature birds sounds either really annoying or like a safeway commercial, I couldn’t tell, or the quasi-sampling of The Pixies on Index Moon, and the out-of-placeThe Crime Window (ok, it’s clever for clever’s sake) sounds like an I’m From Barcelona b-side, but it’s the restrained delivery which really makes this not only not-annoying but somewhat classical. In many ways, the band is reminiscent of the great 90’s and 00’s pop masters The Delgado’s, in how they’re able to craft songs that are gorgeous and catchy in many different ways without being grading. The lyrics are substantive and personal enough, but don’t call too much attention to themselves, and the same can be said about the music. They don’t force things, it’s the small juxtapositions which make the beauty.

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