Harsh Texture

    • neo noir
    • crime
    | April 21, 2018, 4:19 p.m.
    Bill Duke directed Deep Cover as if he thought he’d never get to make another film. He adopts a number of stylish techniques; fancy wipes; and camera tricks. Every scene is an excuse to try out a new cinematic toy. Most of these fall flat, distracting rather than enhancing. At its heart Deep Cover wants to be a neo noir. Film Noir often dealt with normal people communing with the underworld. Deep Cover’s plot of a DEA undercover officer becoming seduced by the allure of drug culture isn’t too far a stretch. Duke throws in
    • drama
    | April 14, 2018, 3:35 p.m.
    Part of bargain in abandoning society in favor of the arts is supposed to be the widening of the self. Art is supposed to deepen thoughts about the human condition, to expose the partaker to greater threads of consciousness. The unstated flipside to this of course is that exposure to art will allow you to become inured to life without actually having to live it. This seems to be Greg’s bargain. He’s deeply immersed in cinema, and lets his counterparts in great film act out his greatest fears. Certainly none of his masturbation humor could ever be worse than
    • musical
    • documentary
    • concert
    | April 8, 2018, 12:24 p.m.
    Elvis and John Lennon loom over Hail Hail Rock and Roll like spectres. Chuck Berry may be the only other rock star of their pedigree and stature. The two pop up constantly when the interviewees search for a suitable comparison for Berry. Via archival footage John Lennon proclaims that if Rock ‘n Roll had another name it might be called “Chuck Berry”. Among the talking heads Hail Hail marshalls, there’s Berry’s contemporaries Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. They all seem to shrink in Berry’s presence. All their dalliances as chart toppers on the forefront
    • documentary
    | April 1, 2018, 2:35 p.m.
    There’s no shortage of families that pull themselves out of American society. In media accounts they are often cast in a positive light: keeping their children out of public schooling that’s fundamentally flawed either due to its secular nature, or to save their children from mixing with undesirables. When these families pop up on TV they tend look similar: mid-western, protestant, white, well-spoken. At this point “home schooled children” don’t draw images of urban environments, public housing, child abuse, or near-total societal isolation. Fearful of the outside world, and eager to build his own family into an ideal society,
    • mystery
    • film noir
    | March 24, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
    Seldom did classic noir join Los Angeles seediness with Hollywood glamor in such great proportions. Blue Dahlia marks the sixth collaboration between Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Their rapport is so breezy and charmed that it almost makes you forget about the psychotic veterans, murders, shady dealings, and multiple identities lurking in plain view. This is a world where renting a hotel room is an invitation to robbery at gunpoint. Blue Dahlia achieves this by adding common noir touchstones to a murder mystery plot. Johnny (Ladd) returns home from the Pacific Theater along with two fellow soldiers.
    • spy
    • film noir
    | March 18, 2018, 2:20 p.m.
    A pickpocket comes into possession of a bit of espionage. Both the Communist spies and the American Law Enforcement track him down. The pickpocket isn’t particularly concerned about either party and frustrates them both while claiming to have only allegiance to money. There are always a few Richard Widmarks kicking around at any given time. A-List talent that only seems to find their way into passable features. After their career’s end their filmographies hardly tell the tale of how large they once were. I was drawn to Pickup on South Street because it was one
    • Science Fiction
    | March 4, 2018, 2:46 a.m.
    A fierce storm forces an emergency evacuation and cuts short the first manned mission to Mars. In the chaos, the crew abandons biologist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) believing he died. Watney survived though and immediately begins working to reestablish communications with NASA and to survive with limited resources in the harsh Martian climate. The Martian follows Gravity: hard sci-fi survival stories built around NASA and fronted by A-List actors. Coupled with smaller but still interesting pictures like Duncan Jones’s Moon and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, there appears to be a bit of a renaissance for
    • musical
    • documentary
    | Feb. 25, 2018, 7:14 p.m.
    Music documentaries have never been out of fashion. It's a reliable format that adopts an equally familiar template: open with a dynamic performance piece, then a series of talking heads gush over the as-yet introduced subject with all manner of hyperbole, finally the film contextualizes and proves the worth of the subject. In all the films released on musicians, none ever began with the subject physically assaulting the film crew until “Beware of Mr. Baker”. He’s just been told that other people will be interviewed about him to round out the feature. Baker responds by splitting open the
    • drama
    • crime
    | Feb. 25, 2018, 6:38 p.m.
    Carol Reed’s The Third Man held its central character, Harry Lime, like a privileged secret. There are no flashbacks just other characters' spoken recollections. Its a deeply nuanced route as every person is not just unreliable, but playing their own game. Their accounts of Harry Lime are at the same time selling their version of the man while sussing out the motivations of their audience. The Mask of Dimitrios, made five years prior to the Third Man shows the immediate flaws of using flashbacks to sell such a story. It was billed, and remembered, as one of Peter Lorre
    • superhero
    | Feb. 24, 2018, 12:33 p.m.
    One of the wonderful idiosyncrasies of the US culture is to find a direct ratio between profitability and artistic merit. This very same phenomenon led many to reflexively call Avatar a great work of art once it became the all time box office champ. Its the same impulse that leads to remembering the original Avengers as a great feature. The original Avengers was indeed a good film, but it’s virtues were in its likeability. It is the ultimate exemplar of the Marvel film. I bring this up because the tone of the reviews for Age of Ultron held
  • Donate to the ACLU and pick up some new music
    • now hear this
    • charity
    | Feb. 3, 2017, 11:26 a.m.
    Today, Friday February 3rd 2017, Bandcamp will be donating its share of purchase proceeds to the ACLU. Here's a few albums to get you in the charitable spirit
  • Alert: Preoccupations and Cymbals Eat Guitars release albums on the same day
    • now hear this
    | Sept. 20, 2016, 10:58 p.m.
    Two bands to know continue their hit streaks