Monday, December 24, 2007

The RIAA is Naughty and DFA Records Is Nice

Happy Holidays all, here are 3 more trax from DFA Records:

Hurcules and Love Affair - "Hurcules Theme" (my favorite of the bunch, nice disco/funk track, anticipating their debut disc in '08)

Shocking Pinks - "I Want U Back"

Prinzhorn Dance School - "Realer, Pretender"

And also I have an a$$ load of cards leftover from the Starbucks/iTunes Song of the Day promo that expire on the 31st. Since the RIAA has now decided everything that you've ripped from the cd's you bought constitutes an illegal use of the songs you should grab as many legal ones as you can, but please leave a comment letting others know which ones are used. These can also be used to open accounts in the UK, Canadian, French, Dutch, Japanese or Australian iTunes stores (all of which have weekly free tracks to check out) without a local credit card.

John Fogerty - "Gunslinger"

Emily King - "Moon"

Gloria Estefan - "90 Millas"

A Fine Frenzy - "You Picked Me"

John Legend - "Show Me"

Patti Scialfa - "Looking for Elvis"

Herbie Hancock - "Maiden Voyage"

Annie Lennox - "Dark Road"

Angie Stone - "Happy Being Me"

Brandi Carlile - "Turpentine"

Alice Smith - "New Religion [ƒ Pauletta Washington]"

Rogue Wave - "Lake Michigan"

Alice Russell - "Hurry On Now [ƒ TM Juke]"

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - "Grace Is Gone"

Bitter:Sweet - "Heaven (Nicola Conte 'West Coast Vibes' Remix)"

Greyboy - "Got to Be a Love [ƒ Sharon Jones]"

Spanish Harlem Orchestra - "Sacala Bailar"

Rissi Palmer - "Country Girl"

Raul Midon - "Pick Somebody Up"

Joss Stone - "Tell Me 'Bout It (Live from the Bowery Ballroom)"

Federico Aubele - "Maria Jose"

Sara Bareilles - "Love Song"

Hilary McRae - "Consider Me Gone"

John Mayer - "Dreaming With a Broken Heart"

Galactic - "I Got It (What You Need) [ƒ Lyrics Born]"

Bebel Gilberto - "Um Segundo"

Suzanne Vega - "Frank & Ava"

Sia - "Day to Soon"

Paul McCartney - "Only Mama Knows"


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Bucket List (Review)

Rob Reiner does a damned fine job of channeling former brother-in-law Gary Marshall in this flick. Its an overly sentimental, manipulative and predictable story. But the timing and performances from Nicholson and Freeman make this holiday feel-good fluff worth a look.

As anyone can see from the trailers, Nicholson plays a wealthy hospital corporation owner who gets sick and ends up in one of his own hospitals in a room with Freeman. They are both sick, form a bond and decide to do everything they ever wanted to do with the months the doctors give them.

There are the typical life lessons that one teaches the other and both characters have enough depth for you to invest in their happiness. The funny parts are great (Nicholson is the joker while Freeman plays the straight man as expected). While there is a whole lot in the film to be cynical about if you just take it for what it is, an enjoyable way to spend 2 hrs and you leave feeling just fine... though not worthy of lengthy review.

B (How this made NBR's Top 10 of the year I have no idea)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Atonement (Review)

An actors film that is at times engrossing and often satisfying but there are flaws that hold it back from true romanic epic status.

This non-linear narrative starts off in a pastoral British country estate in the tense times between the wars. The owner's eldest daughter (Keira Knightley) relaxes after coming home from Cambridge and falls for the long time, yet upwardly mobile helper boy played by James MacAvoy. On a hot day the house gets packed with family and friends and mistakes happen... and other things happen that are not mistakes. Briony Tallis, the youngest daughter, allows her overactive imagination to get the best of her and MacAvoy is falsely accused of a heinous crime and sent to prision. 4 years later he enlists and before shipping to France the romance is rekindled providing the perfect set up for painful seperation and a sweet homecoming.

The deftly handled overlapping narrative of the first act flips between several first person set-ups to reveal several points of the story. The acting is pure british stage and uniformly impressive. The flaws aren't revealed until the war begins and the overlapping turns to flashback laden timeshifting and the story gets muddled. The small upstairs/downstairs intruigue of the early part of the film works beautifully but the the grand epic of the longing and horrors of war fail to live up to this start. There is one long-shot on the beach in Dunkirk that lasts for more than five minutes yet despite this technical feat the scene adds nothing to the plot and this is just one scene among many that while powerful in their own right are adrift from any relavance to the story and fail to build up MacAvoy's character.

Once back in Britian we catch up with the Tallis sisters and the film refocuses with strong character scenes and plot resolution on the way to an emotionally powerful finale which is tellegraphed by some subtle flightly camera work and a sense that something is slightly off but the bad taste of the second act still lingers. I liked the film for the most part and the leads are strong but it is far from the Oscar contender the hype would lead one the lead to believe.


A special mention about the main title theme and its variations...loved it. Though I don't know him by name Dario Marianelli (did V for Vendetta) crafts a great piece around a base of type strokes from a typewriter and it works beautifully.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Golden Compass (Review)

Maybe this is what people who didn't read the LOTR books felt like while watching. The names of places, people, ect all sound very similar and it felt like there were some in there that were never first explained. This is a problem inherent in creating a fantasy world like this.

Other than that the whole thing is just very bland. The stakes are barely established and the main plot point in this area (played by Daniel Craig) is barely in the film anyway. The actual stakes of the whole series aren't revealed till the final act of the film just before is a visually uninteresting battle. If you've got a PG-13 rating anyway make a decently violent battle, and even thought it's set at night light it better. This looks like a 70m film for the most part instead of something that was at least twice that - they spent way too much on talent that didn't really show up.

Sam Elliot is the only decent name in the cast that acquits himself well. Most of the actors don't seem to know what is going on (Craig, Eva Green) likely because they have little to do and then there are Simon McBurney & Nicole Kidman who play so far over the top its laughable.

Director Chris Weitz for his part does almost everything wrong. It feels like he sat down to watch a hand full of fantasy epics and tried to copy them...badly. The editing is poor, this film has no consistent flow, and everything about that final fight is terrible. The sneak I was at last Saturday was 85% full and 5 or so people clapped at the end before realizing no one else was gonna join them and promptly stopped.

Kinda feel sad for New Line, the attached trailers looked pretty "bomb-y." The new Will Farrell flick Semi-Pro steps too far into the the dumb zone and another ghastly fantasy Inkheart. This is not good news for a studio having one of the worst years for both money and quality I've ever seen (Love in the Time of Cholera, Shoot 'em Up, Rush Hour 3, Rendition, Mr. Woodcock, Martian Child, The Number 23, El Cantante, Code Name: The Cleaner and now this).


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Mist (Review)

Frank Darabont, writer/director of two of the best and most successful Stephen King adaptations ever has teamed up with the man from Maine a for a fourth time to adapt his novella The Mist for the big screen…he should’ve stopped at 3.

Actually the film, for all but the final reel, is a capable if hackneyed creep fest with several solid scare moments. Every character is set up in seconds…they are stock and thus don’t need any fleshing out. There is the manly hero with a heart & his very unmanly child, the antagonistic neighbor/judge up from NYC for the weekend, the town crazy woman, the local yokels of limited intelligence, the new woman in town, the take-no-shit grandma, the marines, the young kid with bravado, the girl next door, the store manager with authority and the local clerk with some very helpful skills in his past and you’ve seen them all before. This being a movie about supersized bugs… you shouldn’t really expect much more and they all, to a one, make dumb decision after dumb decision in the way that makes you want to call back at the screen (and many did…it was a good audience) as if they could hear you. The film tries to touch on social issues and psychology with these characters but its so hyperbolic that that it can't come up with anything of use to say.

So the mist comes in and everyone is trapped in a grocery store. One woman has to leave to get to her kids and she goes into the mist and we hear screams. After a scene in the loading doc where we first glimpse the creatures and someone dies they realize their predicament and the cliques form. The film then becomes a battle between the crazy woman (Marcia Gay-Harden) who proclaims herself a prophet and reads fitting lines from revelations, the judge (Andre Braugher) and his hatred for the townies and the hero (Thomas Jane) and the sane people who are trying to find a solution.

There is one perfectly unnerving scene during their first night when the giant flying bugs come and start to land of the store’s plate glass window that is the highlight of the film but once the window breaks the succession of genre clichés becomes unbearable. After this, Harden’s overbearing preaching holds sway for much of the film and naturally the simpleminded folk join her fold leading to more death and showing us how terrible people can be without the restrictions of society. Finally, after a large confromtation, Jane escapes with his son and a handful of others, hops in his 70’s era Land Rover with 15 or so lights (looks really cool in the mist) and exits the parking lot while the lights wash over the faces.

If only the film had ended here. Instead we get this montage with an oppressive new age chant played at ridiculous levels and an ending that while screaming pathos rings cynical and hollow. This desperate attempt to rip your emotional core is just pathetic given the film that came before it and it is a total disconnect with the goofy interdimensional invasion plot. Why this grand attempt is here I have no idea – it was not in the novella from what I’ve read and feels like Darabont was just tired of people criticizing his tendency toward sap that he felt he would go completely in the other direction – neither work. Oh, and on top of this the woman who walked out is alive and well despite the earlier implication making the whole brutal stand in the store a useless exercise. This was one time when an ambiguous ending would’ve been perfect but instead it makes you realize that you will never get that 127 minutes back.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Control (Review)

If its fall it must be biopic time!

At least the arc of this one is different than most. Control is based on a book written by the wife of Ian Curtis and details his life and their relationship from 73 to 80.

The story of the band and the times in which they lived is part of the mythical annals of rock by now. The band was formed after the legendary Sex Pistol's show at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in '76 and went on to sign with Tony Wilson's Factory Records and became the kings of Manchester. Two years later their debut album was released and two later again the band was done and Curtis dead by his own hand.

Much of this was already committed to film in 24 Hour Party People, an outstanding piece, but the tones of the two couldn't be more different.

The film is the first feature from Anton Corbijn, iconic photographer (U2, Depeche Mode) and music video director ("Heart shaped Box," "One - European Version") who has first hand knowledge of the people, scene and music in the film. The picture of Curtis portrayed in the film is much different than that in 24 HPP. He is a romantic poet who marries at 18, works contentedly for the British employment service whist not with the band and until his first grand mal seizure is a fairly upbeat person. Once he begins having fits though things turn south. His wife becomes pregnant and they grow distant while his is on the road where he meets another woman. He is also placed on a potent cocktail of medication in a (failing) effort to stave off the fits. Finally when faced with divorce and shame over his condition he hangs himself in his kitchen.

As one would expect from Corbijn, the film is in high contrast black and white and the composition of every shot is beautiful. What I didn’t expect (though perhaps should of) were the vast amounts of dry British sarcasm and dark humor that make up most of the film. The only time queues are at the beginning and end of the film but for the most part Corbijn keeps the pace strong and steady until the last act where we see Curtis falling apart. And as Curtis, Sam Riley (who also had a part in 24HPP) is stunning. He’s cool and tortured all at the same time and knocks out the vocals with eerie likeness.

Of course, the music (iTunes) though is the real highlight. JD’s tracks sound great and they are all performed by the actors themselves. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Sex Pistols, Velvet Underground, Buzzcocks, Roxy Muxic & John Cooper Clarke all make appearances and New Order (the 3 remaining members of JD) provides original scoring pieces as well.

A tragic story but a great film.



Check out the cast doing "Transmission" live from the soundtrack. (MP3)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No Country for Old Men (Review)

Everyone has said it but...The Coens are back.

After two attempts to the mainstream the Coen brothers go back to their roots and ironically will likely get the BO success they so desired. But don't expect to be blown away by this film. It's been hyped way to much for that. This is a solid cat & mouse, western set in 1980 but it lacks the jaw-dropping moments of flash shown some of their earlier work. The Coen signatures are present again including a blacker than pitch vilian stunningly pulled off by Javier Bardem. He is after Josh Brolin who has stumbled upon a satchel of cash lost in a literal mexican stand-off. Brolin is also in top form as is the old cop on the case played by Tommy Lee. Aside from a fairly tired turn from Woody Harrelson the acting is top notch.

Of course much of that is due to the lines the are given. The script is vintage Coens. Though I don't know how much was in the source material, the dialogue is like west Texas's wet dream of it's quirky self... and the black humor that comes from much of it is priceless. Of course there is that ending, or lack there of. Much will be made of this - indeed the screening was closed with quite a few whiskey, tango, foxtrots - but I found it satisfying in a way that the sentimentality of 3:10 to Yuma was not.

Like Fargo reinvents the Noir (Film Blanc anyone?) this film takes a western and dresses it up in 80's K-Mart threads and Ford Broncos and it works just fine. They make the case that the west of the 1980 was bloodier and more frightening than that which had come before... echoing the times that we live in, especially here in Philly.


The Electric Soft Parade - Appropriate Ending

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

No Country for Old Men - Free Advanced Screening

11/7/07 in Philly. Click for details.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Click on the banner above for a 3 track digital EP from DFA Records featuring an 8 minute video of LCD Soundsystem doing Us v Them live in Manchester (Vermont?) along side tracks from Prinzhorn Dance School & Shocking Pinks.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Quick Shots

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [A visually stunning and emotionally moving piece of filmmaking]
I’m Not There [Poetic and experimental with a Stunning turn from Blanchette]

The Band’s Visit [Pitch perfect direction in this fish out of water comedy]
Into the Wild [An vibrant & romantic joy to watch with a stunning climax]
Spider (Short) [Its on the web - watch it now, thank us later]

The Counterfeiters [The whole package]
Encounters at the End of the World [Fun and irreverent doc about the eccentric people, animals and landscapes that inhabit the great white south]
Salim Baba (Short) [Didn't mention this in the write up but it was a very remarkable short doc - Ralph did mention it though]
Wind Man [Magical realism, colorful characters, and contrasts galore - may not be your cuppa but i very much enjoyed it]

Jar City [Even the most modern of crimes can be tackled by good old school detective work but the pacing may put some off]
Juno [Should be an indie crossover hit, a laugh riot with a very solid story]
The Pearce Sisters (Short) [Macabre but in a humorous way]
Persepolis [An astounding story hindered somewhat by the uninteresting animation]

Fission (Short) [Little story but great animation]
My Enemy’s Enemy [Straight forward doc about using bad people to fight those who may be worse]

Brick Lane [Good but VERY familiar story, the 9/11 scenes elevate it above mediocrity]
Help! [Felt stale and dated, but hey We Can Work It Out]
L’Amerique Lunaire (short) [60's western landscapes over a solid score and a eco-story]

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days [What was Cannes thinking?, tight for 45 minutes the it all falls apart]
Margot at the Wedding [Baumbach's latest is disappointing but Black is once again great]

Cargo 200 [Torture to watch but competent filmmaking]
A Journey with Peter Sellars [A boring doc, even if you like lavish opera]

Secret Sunshine [Truly painfully terrible melodrama]

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Chapter 4

Sometimes Mick Jagger Is Wrong

Monday was easily the cleanest day for my program. A slew of circles and Xs paraded about the films on the list for Sat & Sun due to turn downs and timing problems. But Monday has but 1 X as I had previously seen my initial choice for the morning. The rest of the day’s schedule turned out perfectly. Everything I still wanted to see was playing had gotten carried over and none of them were playing opposite each other. So at the relatively reasonable time of 9:15 I was at my first film of the morning with R & V.


Persepolis is based on an autobio-graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi. It details her life growing up in an upper-class Iranian family and having her world shattered by the revolution in 1979. Being an outspoken girl she bristles under the laws of the Islamic regime and her parents send her to Europe to save her. Culture shock ensues and she grows up pretty quick. She returns to Iran but as the old saying goes, “you can never go home again.” The country has gotten even more conservative and she has grown more distant from her parents. She attends university but again bristles over the endemic masochism and close calls with the law. She once again leaves her country and family to return to Europe older and wiser. The story itself is very intriguing. The modern cosmopolitan family depicted in the pre revolutionary era was startlingly familiar, like a tale of the Kennedy clan. The animation is stark, simple and not really complimentary to the story which bursts with life, but this is definitely a must see for this life that has been lived.

Next up is food, good food. I stopped by the gondola to pick up a pass to my next film up at the Chuck Jones and headed to the town park for the Labor Day picnic. Part of the pass fee included this Monday lunch with Omaha Steaks, Haag & Daas sundae stations, and other assorted “sustenance.” Jana, Ian and I took over a piece of grass in the sun and ate and chatted for a bit before I had to run off early to take the gondola ride to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I met up with Ralph and Vanessa again in the theater and we settled into what was for me the best film of the festival.

The gripping story of M. Bauby, the former editor of ELLE France who suffered a stroke at a high point in his life paralyzing most of his body, the film is shot mostly in first person but after the first few minutes you never really notice it. Janusz Kaminski lenses this visually stunning film in the first non-Spielberg film I’ve seen from him since Jerry Maguire. The first person shots float beautifully and bring you into the world Bauby must be experiencing. While convalescing he learns to communicate by blinking his remaining good eye while the nurse cycles through the alphabet to the letter he wished to use. Bauby then write a memoir this way and that is what the script for this film is based on. He also does not glorify himself in anyway. Through flashbacks we learn that he was not the nicest person before the stroke and he doesn’t change even after at one point he allows his ex-wife to interpret a phone call from his lover that caused the end of their marriage. This is a very powerful film and I can’t believe anyone will turn in a better performance this year than Mathieu Amalric as Bauby – though I doubt the academy will award him a trophy.

Next, I finally was able to check out Margot at the Wedding, the third film from writer/director Noah Baumbach, a film that is decidedly less charming than his first 2 efforts. The film about a New York writer returning to her childhood home for the wedding of her estranged sister is laden with big actors. Nicole Kidman plays Margot the writer, Jennifer Jason Leigh is her sister who is engaged to Jack Black. Black is the surprising highlight of this film as his performance goes well beyond what we’re used to seeing from him. Kidman and Leigh however are uninteresting and at times unwatchable in their morose tone and passive aggressive attitude. Baumbach’s head is firmly up his ass on this one as the film oozes self importance and produces nothing of insight or, as was the case in his previous films, charm. He needs to stop writing about wealthy writers and their family problems and take on something new.

I followed this with a film I liked even less – 2007’s Palm D’or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The film is set in the late 80’s in Romania just before the end of communist rule. A young co-ed goes with her friend to get a back room abortion but she wasn’t aware of what the cost was. Not sure what the jury at Cannes was thinking but this couldn’t have been the best film at the festival. The build-up to the actual operation is extremely tense – and it takes only the first 30 minutes of the film. It is followed by nothing at all. There is a 20 minute scene at a dinner table where the subject was Easter eggs. They talked about Easter eggs for 20 minutes! I find nothing interesting about this mundanity and similarities to Day Night, Day Night were also excruciating. It’s a whole lot of footage with out any plot or motive – but shot in a very Cannes winning way. Oh and there’s a completely unnecessary shock scene right in the middle that makes the film even less valuable.

Finally it was time for the last film of the festival, and finally I was able to check out Into the Wild (I’ve only mentioned it 10 times or so without ever seeing it). I said Diving Bell was the best film of the festival, but this one was my favorite. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name this is the story of one Christopher McCandless who abandons his upper-class suburban life assumes the name Alexander Supertramp and hitchhikes his way across the USA in search of experience and communion with nature. Finally making his way to the foothills of a mountain range in Alaska and spends several months living off the land with nothing but a sack of rice and a shotgun. Alex is played by Emile Hirsch in his finest role to date. Hirsh creates a brash, confident, mischievous, affable yet troubled young man who carries the film on his back and makes it look effortless. Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys costar Jenna Malone plays his sister, William Hurt his father and Marcia Gay Harden his mother. Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart and Hal Hollbrook round out the cast as people Alex meets and touches on his travels. I haven’t seen a film this alive in a while and it is extremely infectious. Nightline recently did a story on people who have seen the film or read the book and despite the cautionary tone they feel the need to make the same pilgrimage north to an abandoned 1920’s era public transport bus that was Alex’s home for the summer of 1993, so many in fact that the park service is thinking of moving that bus. Alex boils over with hobo ideology and anger over the facts of his parents’ marriage and his father’s former life. These details are fleshed out in the many narrative devices in the film including latter writing by Alex, diary entries from his sister and voice over from Alex himself. But I never found these exposition points burdensome in fact they are essential to the telling of this story in which Alex keeps his motivations from everyone he meets. One gets the sense though that his family issues are only part of it and that the need for adolescent and post-adolescent males to find themselves in this perfectly regimented society and break with norms to find out what else it out there is also a huge factor. The stunning climax of the film left many speechless and other with watery eyes and it was also the perfect way to end the festival for me.

I have since read the book and while also very good it is a whole different animal than the film. It tries to detail the life and history of McCandless and his family to provide motive and understand the person and it also tries to place him in a lineage of outdoor eccentrics who have over the years shunned society to live off the land and test themselves against something greater. I would say to watch the film first and absorb the emotional punch of it before getting into the details of the book – but definitely pick up the book as well because it answers many questions you may have after watching the film.


So finally after a weekend cooped inside the makeshift (boutiquely so) theaters of Telluride and Mountain Village and a day where I was finally able to see everything I wanted, we all gathered for the first time since Friday morning’s breakfast to have a drink and talk about everything. I said that I was planning on waking up early the next morning to take some pictures of the beautiful landscape before setting off on the 3 hr drive north to Grand Junction (McCandless actually spent some time here I found out in the book) for my noon flight but then said I knew that would never happen and I would be rushing because I’d wake up late. So I left at 8:45 just in time to get stuck in 45 minutes of traffic just getting down Telluride’s main access road as they were expanding it. I flew back over the rolling Rockies noting Ralph Lauren’s “Double RL” ranch and found that the Pontiac G6 is governed at 106. I did however make it with 15 minutes to spare – luckily the plane was late…good ol’ US Air. And now the recap is done. I will do a graded highlight post though.

Thank You to Jana for the invitation and the hospitality and the directions on how to do the festival right. And thanks to Ian, Ralph & Vanessa for being there as well...couldn't have done it without ya (well I could've but it wouldn't have been as much fun or cheap wink)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Chapter 3

Honestly, I Don't Snore

The plan for the next day was to immerse myself in the biggest named film of the festival Into the Wild. There was a screening at the Chuck Jones early in the morning followed by a Q&A and later in the day was a discussion on the film and the novel and story and whatever other condescending questions discussion moderator Werner Herzog wished to discuss. Given its marquee status though, the Chuck was all sold out. We were tagging along with a couple people on the Gondola up when one got a phone call from a friend who had gotten in line and hour earlier and said that he was going to be turned away. So we got to the Mountain Village and hoped right on the down going gondola.


The only viable option (viable = timely and interesting) was My Enemy’s Enemy. This is a doc by Kevin MacDonald who previously directed acclaimed and controversial doc Touching the Void and my #1 film of ’06 The Last King of Scotland. The film tells the story of Klaus Barbie, noted Nazi was criminal and famed “Butcher of Lyon,” who weeded out dozens of members of the French Resistance, detailing both his rise to power in the within the fascist regime but focuses more on his post war exploits. Using found footage, talking heads, first hand accounts and a document trail a mile long the doc shows how Barbie became a CIA informant and later schooled the then fledgling agency on the arts of torture and sedition in order to combat the Soviet threat. He was called as a witness in a trial of Vichy treasonists despite his place in French history he was never tried himself due to US pressure. When the French eventually did demand his arrest he escaped to South America with the help of a Vatican group who smuggled Christian Nazi war criminals out of Europe. From there he became a power broker in Bolivia with a close knit cabal who helped the CIA to overthrow the socialist but democratically elected government and train the new Military regime in his form of expertise. The film paints a picture of the Cold War era in which anyone who was your enemy’s enemy was indeed your friend. It shows how Barbie was indeed a monster and how he could sometimes be an affable guy and how he was used by our government to further their ends and because of his past crimes was easily deniable. The parallels to our current extended war are unmistakable. Pakistani President Musharaf is definitely our enemy’s enemy and even more eerie is the connection (not made in the film) that many of the torture tactics being used in Gitmo and other less publicized prisons are just hands me down techniques from the Nazi era.

MacDonald was on had for a Q&A after the film and talked about his desire to make a small, back to basics, anti-style documentary. He was actually editing the film on his laptop the previous year when he brought Last King to Telluride. Unlike Touching the Void which was praised and scorned for its reenactment of almost the entire episode, this film was totally undramatized.

Following the film I went to the poster signing of the official 34th Festival poster – the artist typically paints in this 40’s 1-sheet style and did the poster in that way. Deciding that since I had neither seen the film nor read the book I was going to skip the Into the Wild discussion and use the time that so many were there to add in another film to replace the one I missed the day before. So I went down to the Masons Hall Cinema (a theater set up in a room of a Masonic hall) to catch Wind Man. To my surprise Ralph and Vanessa were in line already and I hadn’t had a chance to see something with them yet.

Wind Man was described as “magical realism” in the program guide. I had seen a film at the Philadelphia Film Festival earlier this year with the same label and was very much bored by the proceedings so I was a little wary of this film. All that changed seconds into the film. The setting is drab; a small village in Kazakhstan (jagshemash) at the start of the post-Soviet era, but this just serves to contrast the colorful characters that inhabit the village. It opens on a grim reaper like figure wandering through the scrub and desert of central Asia. A young boy stumbles upon him and lifts up his hood to have a look and promptly runs screaming back to his village. Later that night the child becomes deathly ill…and a decrepit old angel falls from the sky into the boy’s family’s barn. The child is healed but the demon still roams and the townspeople are left to figure out what to do with this angel and how to stop the demon. The film is pretty visually sedate except during the lightning storm that brings the angel when the director conjures up a most ferocious thunderstorm with incredible sound to boot. The film features plenty of mysticism from the Islam of the people to the pre-Muslim myths that talk about the death demon to the Christian myths of angels. All of this took place in an era when Soviet suppression on these kinds of ideas had finally ended – though the other traditions provided their own brand of suppression…and suppress they do. The father sees his barn burned down by people trying to kill the angel and is tossed in jail for it. He eventually is forced to sell the thing but gets nothing due to its condition. Meanwhile more tragedy happens at home which is both caused and cured by this enigmatic angel. The cast plays these quirky townsfolk perfectly and in the end life just goes on – as is to be expected.

There was a Q&A after the film but I couldn’t stay as I was trying to run the length of the town to make it to yet another screening of Into the Wild. Of course this was not to be. So instead I went next door to catch the Le Pierre to catch the only film that would be out in time for the next film on my schedule. I probably should have just taken a nap. The film was A Journey with Peter Sellars. It’s a documentary about the titular man who is a dramatic prodigy. He was working at a puppet theater in Pittsburgh as a kid, modernizing Shakespeare at Harvard, ran the National Theater Company in DC and now teaches at UCLA and creates several different productions a year. The largest part of the film is watching extended clips of these productions. I fell a sleep at one point and was nudged to stop snoring…must’ve been the angle I was sitting at as I don’t snore.

After the film blessedly ended I got out ASAP to get in line for The Band’s Visit. Easily the best film of the day, this subtle, fish-out-of-water comedy was a riot. The fish are a band Alexandrian of police men (band is literal) who are sent to play at the opening of a new Egyptian cultural center in Israel. The headstrong captain gets them all lost and they end up at a bus stop a small, nearly deserted town in an arid corner of Israel in their bright blue concert uniforms. The out of water is this town and its people who take the band in and provide places for them to stay for the night. The framing of this film was impeccable. Very similar to Wes Anderson, the story is told in the straight on shots and the action of the film takes place all in the frames – even when it starts outside of them. There were very few insert shots or camera moves. The timing on the jokes was pitch perfect both on the part of the characters and on the part of the filmmaker. The story skirts a fine line between comedy and sadness, often on both sides of the fence at the same time. This is just one aspect of the numerous contrasts that make this film up. The choice that is made to spend the film away from the “canned” Arab/Israeli conflict allows the audience to see the characters to interact as people and believe their interactions to be more real. In the Q&A after the film the Israeli writer and director said they were very influenced by Arab/Egyptian films and actors and kids and that is actually voiced by the characters on screen and shows that the 2 sides aren’t as monolithic on a cultural level as we may think despite the political situation.

The final film of the night was the first I was able to see with Jana (well she was at Juno but I didn’t see her at all). The buzz for The Counterfeiters was huge by Sunday night – despite the fact that no one I had talked to had seen it. It was sold out Friday night and Ralph & Vanessa got turned away and the same happened to all 3 of us on Saturday night. But despite the fact that it was playing at one of the smaller theaters I decided to see if I could get in. I get there and Jana is already in line – yeah! Unfortunately we were later informed that it was the wrong line but we got in anyway – likely due to the rain and the fact that Margot at the Wedding, another perennial sell-out was once again playing at the same time.

The Counterfeiters tells the tale of the Nazi attempt to destroy Britain’s economy during WWII by flooding the country with fake pound notes. To this end they used the forced labor of a large group of Jews in a concentration camp. Due to the importance of this project this group was not only kept separate from the rest of the camp, they were treated with a much kinder hand than those outside their walls. Naturally this causes psychological strain on these trained craftsmen. The leader of the group, a world renown forger who was arrested whist working on this very same project, is torn between his need to accomplish the task, his own survival and that of his group of comrades. The voice of dissent in their band is a communist who is trying to sabotage the project so that they can help win the war against the Third Reich. There is never a dull moment in this film. The story and editing are solid and briskly paced and the acting is top notch. There are moments that evoke Schindler’s List though the film never veers to the emotionally manipulative level of that film. This film was actually opened in Prague a month later as I saw poster’s for it’s opening in a theater up the street from my hotel.


Frankly I can’t remember what happened that night anymore. I believe there was a good bit of planning as most of the next day was TBAs and so we poured over the page announcing what they would be and witch ones were worth seeing. I also think we were trying to come up with the themes of the festival and WWII & life under totalitarian regimes seemed to be the big ones so far. In fact the doc at the begining of the day mentions the episode of the war that was dramatized in the final film of the day...and the trial that closed out that doc was covered in another doc at the festival about Barbie's lawer.

In the next chapter we get what we want.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Chapter 2

Running, Jumping, Standing Still

I don’t get up this early for work but I sacrificed this holiday weekend in the name of great Film (well a few great films and frankly a few duds). The atmosphere gelled the previous night where in we would mostly all wait up for each other back at the house in order to discuss the days views and make recommendations and cautions and see what the TBAs for the next day might be and plan a schedule – all for only about 30 min before we passed out. So the big thing the Friday night was that one of the 4 TBAs on Saturday would be filled with Juno – the second film from Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) I considered this a must see as did several others so the reshuffling and the dread at how much time to make it up to the Chuck Jones theater - a 15 minute gondola ride up and down a mountain - from the Palm theater – in the town highschool and the furthest from the gondola base. Luckily, for this theater only you get W2 (Wabbit Weservations – an ode to the creator of Bugs Bunny) either 90 minutes before the start of the film in Telluride or 5 hrs before the start of the film up in the next town of Mountain Village where the theater is actually located. Ralph and Vanessa were seeing 2 films up there early in the morning but not that one. So they agreed to snag me a W2 so I could get into the screening.

Another interesting thing is that each pass comes with 40 small boxes on either side of the badge, two of which are colored green. This means you have a guaranteed seat in the Sheridan Opera House – a small but high profile theater that provided the start of the festival 34 years ago – for those two films. Each of these boxes is punched when you see a film so that you don’t go to the same film twice. By day 3 you could start playing badge poker – my 3 in a row beats your two pair.


My first film of the day was my first green spot. So I didn’t have to jump out of bead as early is I may have had otherwise (good thing with no Starbucks in town). I made my way down to the SOH and waited in the usual line for Secret Sunshine… as my badge was being punched I was told that there was another line for the greenies and that I could’ve been in much earlier and gotten a better seat than I had. Sign anyone?

A Korean film, Sunshine involved a widow who moves back to her husband’s small village from Seoul. The film had a plot twist every 30 min or so that sends it off in a new direction. This is interesting in theory but it becomes apparent after the first twist that they just keep going down hill – tragedy after tragedy, from a kidnapping to being born again and she just can’t seem to deal with anything…and screams and cries a lot. If things were handle differently this might be a very different review but it seemed very Korean TV in execution. The melodrama was allowed to go unchecked and there were extended scenes of singing and crying at prayer services. This does not make for riveting viewing. Perhaps it’s just a case of cultural viewing habits but I didn’t find anyone recommending this film and at 2.25 hrs it becomes an endurance test for even the most masochistic of filmgoers. (That’s 2 films with born again themes).

Flick 2 was the new Werner Hetzog documentary Encounters at the End of the World. My only previous experience with Herzog was Grizzly Man so I was not expecting this highly comical look at the people who choose to reside in Antarctica. Herzog narrates this blend of travel doc, scientific inquiry, anthropological examination, historical context piece and nature film in a dead pan manner that does little to belie the mocking condescension he seems to have for these colorful characters and creatures that live at the bottom of the world. He starts by giving the circumstances for the trip to the Antarctic (much like I did in an earlier post on the weekend!) that involved something about a monkey riding on a horse out in the desert…with animation. He proceeds to detail his disgust at the base camp/city that serves as the residence for most of the continents inhabitants and then interviews many of them occasionally asking pointed questions or providing commentary that undercut their scientific beliefs or play up their personal foibles. He spends some time with demented penguins watching one wander off into the deepest wastes to die. However one of his main inspirations for the trip was footage shot by the man who scored Grizzly Man. When he goes to the same area to experience some of this it is a truly remarkable sight. Some of the footage he used for a sci-fi film he had made previously. Even more surprising were the sounds that carry under the arctic ice shelf from the creatures that live down there – as Herzog said it sounded more like a Pink Floyd album than any natural sound you’ve ever heard. Equal parts fascinating and entertaining I’d highly recommend this doc.

Now with 25 minutes to spare and a 15 minute gondola ride ahead of us Ian and I started to run all the way from the Palm to the gondola… well I ran a bit of the time. Ian being 5 years younger and in much better shape apparently sprinted the ½ mile or so. Fortunately, I made it to the top, ran by Ralph and grabbed the W2 he had been holding (thank you) and got there just in time to be the last pass holder let into the theater. Of course I had to sit in row 1 but since those seats were angled backward and wend almost flat viewing the film wasn’t all that bad.

The director and writer of Juno were there to introduce their film. Jason Reitman said that he finished the final cut 3 days ago, screened it and it was put on a plane to telluride so this is the first time in front of an audience. Obviously the most mainstream film of the weekend this is a comedy about a high school girl (Ellen Page) who is knocked up by her longtime friend (Michael Cera – yes that kinda makes it funny to begin with). After running from the Planned Parenthood clinic terrified by the people she decided to give the child up for adoption. The chosen parents are played by a very proper and very eager to give of her motherly love Jennifer Garner and an indifferent and pan-laden Jason Bateman. Though this may sound mawkish, the film is far from it. Page delivers the acerbic wit penned by writer Diablo Cody (yes that is a pseudonym and yes she was a stripper) without any girly pretensions. I would call this film New Quirk (no I have no what the old version would be…Tina Fey?), from the opening credits that dissolve into animation from the cold open to the indie rock to the cute seasonal inter-titles the artifice of the film has a peculiar personality all on its own. I’m sure this will be a platforming indie hit in much the same way Reitman’s first film was.

From there everything went down hill. Literally at first! I went down the mountain on the gondola to get inline for Margot at the Wedding that had a Q&A with writer/director Noah Baumbach and low and behold the few people behind me were Reitman, Cody and their entourage. Those of us around asked a few questions and Reitman was a very congenial person, Cody was on the phone for most of the wait. They were ecstatic with the very positive reaction and were calling some other industry people to deliver good news. But the topic quickly turned to the fact that despite showing up more than an hour before the start of the film and being 110 or so people from the door of a 200 seat theater we were warned that we may not get in. There are certain levels of pass holders – Festival Passes are the standard all inclusive pass that gives you admission to all films and 2 dinners. Above those are Partron Passes which include priority seating then Sponsor Passes with even more priority and Show Ring passes for the ultra supporters (think there may have been another level I missed). But since they were all well above the rest of us (including the filmmakers) the line was cut around 95 and we were all turned away. At one point I said I would tackle the next patron who walked by…then that patron happened to be Laura Linney. As she gets applause in the middle of the street in town I thought that would be a bad idea. So I walked over to try and get into The Counterfeiters which was also turning people away the night before, including Ralph & Vanessa. Naturally the line for this is massive and even in a 500 seat theater I again get turned away. So I headed back to the condo pass in hand as all showings for that time block had started.

After kicking there a bit and chatting with Ralph and Ian at different times on how to rearrange my schedule to accommodate those that I had missed. I had rightly assumed that the massive turnaways would be added to the TBAs the next two days. Deciding to hit up the one film I was guaranteed to see I made my way to the small park in the center of town for the free open air showing of The Beatles in HELP! I’d never seen this and was a little taken aback by the sheer absurdity of the whole thing. Obviously influential on Austin Powers this spy spoof and Beatles spoof was actually too ridiculous to really like. Hmmm… maybe you have to know more about the life and times of the Beatles to really appreciate it. In order to get a W2 for my last show of the day (a paltry 5 instead of the desired 6), I left a little early when the 90 minute window opened and walked back for the close as the 2 locations were 2 blocks apart. It was so plotless I didn’t think I missed much.

I returned to the Chuck Jones for Saturdays final screening, Brick Lane, based on Ralph’s recommendation. The plot felt very well worn to me. A Bangladeshi girl is sent to England in an arranged marriage to an overweight, stubborn and chauvinistic older man. She feels trapped longing for her carefree life with her sister back home and starts a flirtatious relationship with a strapping young rogue which blossoms into more. Meanwhile their daughters can’t stand their father’s views and his inability to adapt to the English way of life. If you have seen East Is East, Bend It Beckham, (I was told) The Namesake or any number of Subcontinental woman cum UK wife films in the last few year you know the plot and the themes of culture clash, generation gap, unfaithful woman with marriage problems very well. The one new aspect of this film is that right in the middle 9/11 happens. I read that in the description and was still totally caught off guard to and moved at the scene when everyone runs to a TV to see what is going on. This event turns the plot and the rogue becomes more militant while it’s the father that pragmatically lectures the youth on their history and that their new found unity is unlikely to last. The film is superbly acted and directed well, but there is a twinge too much melodrama for me.


The ride back down the mountain in the gondola was one of my favorite moments of the weekend. It was 1am and I was the only person on my gondola in the pitch black of ten thousand feet up in the Rockies…and the gondola stopped running. It wasn’t unexpected as it was doing this earlier nor was it long 1-2 minutes but it felt like much longer. There was a surprising lack of wind and it was both thrilling and a little scary. The stars look amazing from that height and with so little light pollution tingeing the pitch it was a dazzling sight. Soon the ride belts started up again and the silence was interrupted at intervals by the Doppler effect of the towers.

On the walk back to the condo I overheard some interesting and like HELP! absurdist conversational snippets I assumed were related to the days viewing but I didn’t know which films or the context of the larger conversation – things are often funnier that way. The first at the base of the gondola someone said, “But it wasn’t a Deus Ex Machina. It was, like a Nothing Ex Machina.” Further up the street was heard, “I’m not an American anti-Semite, I’m an Israeli anti-Semite.” I was silently bewildered and amused by these new pieces of knowledge but decided to continue my traipsing through the night instead of perusing a further inquiry. Upon returning to the condo no one was stirring so I turned a light on and realized Jana was already down for the count upstairs and no one else was yet back. So I turned the lights back off and I hopped on the computer for a bit (there is wifi everywhere) from bed. There were some brief discussions when Ian and Ralph made it back – mostly concerning the new TBAs and the Juno adventure – but as we were all pretty sleepy and most also had an early call time for our respective choices we retired rather swiftly.

In the next chapter we catch a few zzz's.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Chapter 1

Best Laid Plans

After a night’s sleep in the altitude it was tour and breakfast time. Jana led us on a stroll of the picaresque former mining town and from Smuggler Road to Brigadoon, the festival’s central tent, pointing out the venues and other places of interest. We walked through the town park (the plaque at the front says that this was the former working class area of the town in mining times – I found it funny that they made the ghetto a huge park with skate ramps.) We had breakfast at a nice little kitchen and collected the swag that was due us as a festival goers (3 cds that I have yet to listen to, a copy of Variety, coupons for Omaha Steaks, gum, mints, spice packets, info on whatever) and waited for high noon when the official program and schedule was released. We tried sitting on a bench/wall thing just outside the tent but that became difficult and it was right in the sun. We decided to go to the park – though Jana meant a different (and closer) park than the large one at the end of town. Oh well. So we had our schedules complete and got back together to discuss. I had an ambitious slate of 18 films, a discussion, and a poster signing set for the weekend – some of these I actually got to. Upon comparison Jana was nuts…but I will let her explain her opening night feat.

Almost forgot to mention that in there somewhere we strolled through the open air market and were completely enamored with a booth called Telluride Truffles. This woman makes what I can only call a ganache made from blends of chocolate and liquor. Some of the flavors were stunningly good: White Chocolate + Meyer’s Rum, Dark Chocolate + Chambord. Others were interesting but not in an awful way: Dark Chocolate + Jack Daniels, Dark Chocolate + Tequila…with rock salt. These are available in jars of as the fillings in said truffles. And of course the pieces of chocolate are shaped like mountain peaks with snow caps or ski trails…sweet…literally.


I slated 3 for Friday night and made all of them easily – lulling me into a false sense of security. Ian and & both selected to start with Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, so I had a chance to ask him more about the festival whilst waiting in line.

The program description really does it justice as it is “like nothing else you’ve ever seen”. Haynes takes the biopic and shakes off the cobwebs while also infusing it with an experimental auteur’s singular vision. The title can be taken literally – it is a film about Dylan in which Dylan is not. Instead he is played both as person and persona by a series of avatars which represent the different periods of his life. Totally non-linear, the bits jump around like firecrackers while the film itself maintains a consistent emotional arc. A young boy named Marcus Carl Franklin is a find in his first film roll as the early Dylan’s Woody Guthrie persona. In his story he travels round the country on the rails as a vagabond singing about the working man and living off the kindness of strangers. He also sings a few tracks of his own and they sound great. Other pieces of the life and times of Bob Dylan include Heath Ledger as film star and estranged husband who is charged with handling the emotional relationship issues and does amicably but doesn’t stand out. Christian Bale plays the early folk Dylan and the later born again Dylan and is one of the stronger avatars. Ben Whishaw (who has also played Keith Richards and most recently stared as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume) as Arthur Rimbaud who always appeared in a static shot talking to camera in front of a white background – this and Blanchtte’s bits were mostly in black and white while the other segments are in color. Which brings me to Cate, wow, one of the best performances of the festival. You even forget that it is a woman playing a man and that she is 15 years older than the Dylan she is playing. It’s the attitude that makes this performance. She takes over from the infamous Newport Jazz & Folk Festival gig through Dylan’s tour of England as documented in D.A. Pennebacker’s Don’t Look Back. Granted this is the showiest portion of the story but she is simply electric in her time on screen. Finally if Richard Gere in the segment I found the most confusing – he plays the Billy the Kid of legend who was left to live by Pat Garrett and is just trying to live in solitude in what amounts to a land of circus folk. If you have seen what Haynes did with Velvet Goldmine and the story of Iggy Pop and David Bowie you can get a sense of what is happening here, even so, this is on a whole other level.

Slideshow of actors as Dylan

This was easily the most polarizing film of the festival and thus the most talked about. It seemed that people who did know more about Dylan were less into the film than I and others who knew very little of his life were. Odd that.

Unfortunately I followed this up with my least favorite film of the Festival. Cargo 200 is a Russian film set in 1984 the period before Glasnost and one of the darkest times for the Soviet people. It attempts to cinematically reproduce the decay of the empire and show the systemic corruption through the story of a Police Captain who moonlights as a vodka bootlegger and kidnaps a girl who he calls his wife, keeping her chained to a bed in the block he shares with his mother. What he does to her is depraved and shocking and the ignorance the mother shows not only to the girl but later to the death of her son is evidence of a crumbling soulless state. There are debates between a state Atheist teacher and another poor vodka bootlegger about this very subject – the fact that no god = no soul. Frankly I get what the film was saying and I still hated watching it. It was like watching death, drug out. There was a short before this film though that I really liked. The Pearce Sisters is a cartoon from the same studio and producers that created the Wallace & Gromit series. It is also depraved – but comedic-ly so and such was an amusing look at the live of two weathered and companionship-starved spinsters who live on an Island off the coast of Scotland and how they treat the occasion shipwrecked man who stumbles upon their stretch of the world.

The late film of the first night was the Icelandic thriller Jar City. The drab atmosphere really sets off this old school thriller with a futurist bent. With the help of a newly created private DNA database (based on an actual company in Iceland) a hardened detective with personal problems of his own tracks down a series of events spanning 30 years to solve the case… and there’s a young roguish sidekick to boot!! If you have seen Red Road (David I think you’re the only one) this film seems to be in a very similar vein minus the full frontal male nudity. Its deliberate, suspenseful and totally engrossing.

Preceding this film was a short that continued to get raves the whole weekend and a producer who was in attendance was claimed to have demanded the info on the director right away in order to sign him onto some project. It was called Spider and you can actually see it here.

So finally we all made it back to homestead and I found out that my Saturday schedule would already need to be changed to accommodate a surprise sneak. This was a sign of things to come as the hours of though put into the original schedule were disrupted time and time again. Good thing I’m cool under pressure.

In the next chapter we move...occasionally

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Prologue

The Road to the Rockies

So Jana (a net friend met through the EZ1 Movie Games) had sent me some fest materials a few years ago in hopes of enticing me to come out to this, being the avid festivalgoer I am. Low and behold a few years later the opportunity to head up to the mountains and ignore this very scenic experience to watch movies for 4 days presents itself and not only would Jana be there with Ian (her son) in tow but Ralph (another netizen of the EZ boards) and his wife were going as well! (David - a third - was thinking of coming but circumstances didn’t permit, I feel for you as this was a great time.)

So of course there was some fun in getting there. This remote mountain village has seasonal service to its airport which is sketchy at the best of times and this isn’t even the right season. In addition I was limited to 3 airports in a 3 hr radius as I was using frequent flier miles and USAir only flies to these destinations. I settled on Grand Junction, CO which googles out to just under a 3 hrs drive. Flight 1 to Phoenix was fine but things got interesting on flight 2.

The gate person comes on and says that we will be delayed because there is a mechanical problem…never a good sign. So we start to board and I am last in line so I can snag an open row if there happens to be any. But when I get down the gangway and onto the tarmac to put my bag in the planeside check (it was a small turboprop) I was told that there was no room and that I’d have to take it aboard with me – even though there is no way for it to fit in the overhead bins. Luckily there are several open seats so stuff it in an open row and walk back to my seat. I sit down and low and behold a few stragglers arrive so the stow is no go. I carried it back to the front where a nice couple who were separated agreed to sit together so I would have an open seat next to me for my luggage. After a few minutes it turned out I wasn’t the only one this would happen to. The thrower gets on and talks to the attendant and the pilot informing them that a) there is no more room in the cargo hold and b) that the plane is too heavy. The FA tries to make an announcement when we find out what the mechanical difficulty was – the PA system doesn’t work!! So this nice British lady screams the announcement as several people’s uncarry-on-able carry-ons are carried on. All the while we are sitting in a metal tube in Phoenix, in August, at midday. So that situation gets resolved and the FA starts franticly handing out water to assuage the encroaching heat. One man head up to the rest room and surprise the flush doesn’t work!! So he go (quickly than god) and the FA takes some of the bottled water and spins it round the basin. Finally we are set to depart so the FA packs up the items and locks the door latches but one bugger slips back open dispensing plastic cups rapid fire into the isle. Finally we take off, a good thing as the AC comes on!

So after shouting the safety announcements over the propeller noise and a few more incidents of flush support we arrive in Grand Junction. I get the car and get lost. Quirky streets those small mountain towns have. I get back on track and find an Office Depot to finalize the gifts for my co-festival goers (M. Night’s first draft of the script for his new film The Happening w/ a few shooting notes) and get lost again – luckily I have a keen sense of direction as street signs were less than helpful (“B ½ Road” really?). Finally I set off for Telluride just in time to miss the open air showing of the Thursday night film – the 1967 version of The Thomas Crown Affair. And I wandered around several streets in this town as well and walked into (what I later found out to be) the wrong house looking for the right one! Fortunately Jana had returned from said film and called me to see where the hell I was. We were also both wondering where Ralph & Vanessa were as his phone was off and no one had heard a word. We talked, they arrived, and Jana gave us a quick lesson on the festival and I was off to sleep to get ready for day 1.

In the next chapter, we plan and enjoy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The 2 Year Old Virgin (Festival)

Made it down to Baltimore for the second East Coast incarnation of the V-Fest over the Weekend of August 4th & 5th. Being to Coachella earlier this year and Bonnaroo last year I think I'm pretty qualified to judge destination festivals by now. This one was pretty good.
A laid out VirginIt was set up on smallest venue of the 3 which limited the activities and stages but i think what was there was solid and you really could get to everything available unlike the other 2. With no camping at the site we had to stay at a hotel but since I travel for work I was able to get that for free but with everything you need to actually camp I think the cost comes fairly even. The next issue was parking - there is none of it if you didn't buy a VIP parking pass which I didn't. People were selling places on their lawns around the venue for $20+. We parked in a middle school yard that was an "official" place and it took an hour to get out of there after the show, more on that nightmare later.

They shoulda taken her right to rehab and forced her in the doorWe settled into the North Stage first to see Amy Winehouse (iTunes) and Incubus (iTunes). Both good sets but not paired together well. Winehouse's sultry torch songs were soothed out some of the older folks in the crowd but the kids were fairly impatient for Incubus. Amy for her part was fun - and likely drunk...or worse, she did drop the mic and laughed it off. The set was a bit languid but that's not a bad thing early in the day on Sat.Brandon Boyd is so dreamy Plus not many of her tunes could be considered uptempo.

Incubus put on a solid set - only seen them mid days at festivals for some reason. Not a fan of the new set save the 2 singles to date and the live performances of other tracks didn't win me over. The rest of the set was very fest like and hit heavy - I wasn't complaining. Here is one of those hits:

So far I had missed The Fratellis (iTunes) due to parking and Paolo Nutini (iTunes) and Felix Da Housecat (iTunes) because I didn't wanna leave my cush spot on the north stage. So we explored a bit in the area of the south stage while PB&J (iTunes) were playing but never actually went up to the stage and we also went over to the grand stand area and snuck into the VIP section. It was uninteresting and not worth what they were charging - though they did get a gift bag so perhaps there is something in there that added value but I doubt it. Food wasn't better and there was still a massive drink line. Bad form V-Fest.
JAMES!!!Next up was LCD Soundsystem (iTunes) on the south stage. Easily the best show of the day andMr. Murphy is pist it was completely hindered by mic problems. It was like a fat guy in a t-shirt doing all the singing. And he was freakin' out firstly in the good, lead singer way and secondly in the singer pissed that he can't hear his mic volume in the monitors and getting feedback for 1/2 the set kinda way. He actually went over and talked to the audio tech twice. In spite of that, the energy Pop quiz, hotshot. Its 105 and you've gotta drum for LCD Soundsystem in August for more than an hour. What do you do? What do you do?was 4 lengths ahead of anyone else playing the first day of the fest. The drummer (Jeff Daniels?) was rockin' out in flesh colored boy shorts - haha - and NancyDamn Wang was all sultry on keyboards. Though the day was in no more need of heat - I was a sponge in a lake by time the flailing ended. The single best song of the whole weekend was their closing track "Yeah" it's never been one of my favorites from the album but the crazy extended live version was blistering.

I was dead after this so I mossied over to the SoCo hurricane station and sat down to catch some7 herbs and smackdowns of the Beasties (iTunes) set. Love the boys but was really not in much hurry to see 'em. Glad I saw some old school stuff - "Don't Sleep Till" & "Brass Monkey". They dropped "So What'cha Want" and I was satisfied and went off to the dance tent to take in Sasha (podcast) & Digweed (podcast). On the way I happened on the Incredibly Strange Wrestling ring. This is some kind of satirical send up of the WWE and it was superfantastic. There was a guy in a bad Robert Smith is turning over in his grave... because its morningChewbaca outfit named Macho Sasquatcho teamed up with a partner named El Pollo Diablo - he was dressed as a chicken. Another wrestler was named Oh My Goth...but more on ISW tomorrow. It was still ridiculously hot so I wasn't dancing yet and chilled in the back of the dance tent sitting for a while more before going in andPanic on the streets of Baltimore shakin it for the rest of the set. The set wasn't as good as last years Sasha solo at Roo but it also wasn't 4am and the place was pretty skint on candy-paint ravers who tend to spruce up the tent nicely.

The rest of the night was spent between Modest Mouse (iTunes) & The Police (iTunes). The A Mouse in the NightPopo show had none of the energy of the previous weeks show in Philly so I'm happy I was able to catch that - similar set list as well. MM were solid though I realized that I know way fewer tracks from them than I thought. "Dashboard" has been one of my favorite tracks of the year and it was a good performance but only getting into MM since their debut on alt rock radio I wasn't into as much as I had thought. Went back for the end of the cops and then back for the rodent encore then filed out to try and get to the car.

After the walk back we found the car after 20 min or so and then drove forward 15 feet or so to the exit line then proceeded to stand still for an hour. Finally we noticed someone had opened up some kinda back gate, or more likely clipped a fence as the transition from parking lot to street was a curb. But the Jetta handled that well and we were back to the hotel. I would suggest staying in Inner Harbor instead of Johns Hopkins despite being closer as there is nothing around there and the hotel bar closed at 12. Still the suite with a balcony was a quality set up.

Day 2 and my thoughts on the Telluride Film Festival on the way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

65 Cent Gas!!

I hope they have cops directing traffic:

In honor of Dinosaurs returning to Philadelphia after 65 million years of extinction, Lukoil will be offering Prehistoric Pricing on their gas - 65 cents per gallon - for one hour, on Wednesday, August 15th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. This special event will take place at the DELAWARE & SPRING GARDEN St. (Philadelphia) location.

Patrons attending this Prehistoric Pricing event will also receive a coupon for the Walking With Dinosaurs Lukoil Discount, which offers a $5.00 discount on $40 & $50 seats for Fri. Aug. 17 at 7:00 p.m. and Sun. Aug. 19 at 11:00 a.m. performances.

Almost makes me want to drive into the city over lunch tomorrow...from West Chester.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Die Poletzei (hope thats spelled right)

My boy Joe is a supervisor and one of the people under him wanted to make sure he wouldn't be expected to do any overtime 2 thursdays ago. Why? Because he also works security at Citizens Bank Park where the Police were playing that night. Joe assured him that he wouldn't and the guy asked if he needed any tickets...he took 2, bailed on picking out china patterns for his wedding next year, called me up and we were off to the show.

Due to massive traffic we missed the openers but picked up the tickets at will call (cheap side view) and got in just as Sting and the boys were going on. We quickly found Joe's friend and he slipped us wristbands and tickets for the field, 30 or so rows back from the stage...sweet!

Twas a fantastic show. They definitely still got "it." Copeland was possessed, Summers shredded it up and Sting... well he's Sting what else can you say. They did all the hits over 2.5 hrs save "Canary in a Coalmine" and played 2 encores closing with "Next to You"

Check the vids:

"Walking in Your Footsteps"

"Next To You"


A track now from the new Robbers on High Street set that came out last month. The title is that stern old ride that looks more like a police car than a police car - why did the cops never realize this when sitting by the side of the road in their unmarked?

Robbers on High Street - Crown Victoria

Monday, July 02, 2007

Party at the (Moon) Tower

Well so much for the pundits... but the Sopranos ending was great - fuck the haters. (Sorry, this post shoulda been up weeks ago.)

Caught 2 great shows earlier this month. First was Bloc Party at the Tower.

Kele & co put on an energetic show last Tuesday in Upper Darby. The Tower is definitely my favorite venue in the city.

The first opening act was a band called The Maccabees from (as all their press says) Brighton - via South London. Despite that affectation they sounded pretty good. Really good in fact. They looked as though none was old enough to drink in this country and this was their first night joining the tour due to some visa issues yet the sound was confident. The lead singer's voice has a peculiar quality to it, very British but it also contains a kind of haunting vocal tremolo. Add to that catchy riffs (Hot Hot Heat, Futureheads, other Brit post-punk style) and solid harmonies and I think these guys could really take off sometime soon. Check their website which is really good lookin'. It's a middle class art school thing. Click for a listen or dl below. Then pick up full length as it is "off the hissey."

The Maccabees - Latchmere (Buy)

Next up was The Noisettes another band from London town (no via on their bio) but this one was pretty crap. Actually check that, next up was a 30 minutes mic check that required the help of the entirety of roadie nation. Seriously it was comical - and they still didn't get it right. Maybe this was the reason The Noisettes sucked. Maybe it was just that their songs were bad and the singer chick was all over the map - in a bad way. Bits of blues, jazz, garage, punk, indie, and others all boiled and mashed and stuck in a stew. Didn't taste too good but the presentation was decent.

Finally, the headlining Londoners (East for the record) made their appearance - and with much less down time than The Noisettes.

Energy through the roof on these chaps and the crowd (at least the ones around me) responded in kind. Blistering set, 2 encores and a lotta Kele's big smile. At one point he took off up the isle of - this is the second show here where this happened, gotta get a center isle seat next time. Here are 2 vids that I took during the show:

The main set was closed with "Like Eating Glass" - in crispy black and white!

and wrap the first encore with "Helicopter" - I think I like the B&W better though.

Bloc Party does indeed rock.

And finally check out the YRock takeover BP did whilst they were in town.

Up Next...LCD Soundsystem's free show.