tcc: beaufort

January 18, 2009

having been going through some classic war films for the past month and a half, it was interesting to see a modern take on the genre.  and while beaufort is technically a film about war, it seems to me to be much more psychological (in the way i always assumed jacob’s ladder to be, though i’ve never seen it).

the film centers around soldiers holding onto the fortress of beaufort in southern lebanon, and their impending orders to retreat.  the commanding officer, liraz librati (played by oshri cohen), is continually tortured by the sight of his fellow soldiers dying from the numerous aerial assaults a day.  many of the characters see their deaths as pointless, and their continued service in a loosing war as a waste of time.

i don’t know anything about the history of south lebanon conflict, but the film seemed very heavy handed.  every character in the film had something to say about why the war was meaningless, and why they shouldn’t be there, and why they should never have gone in in the first place.  that’s not to say that i agree with disagree with their take, it’s just that as a non-partisan (and non-native) viewer i could easily see the filmmaker trying to push at some agenda.

the film is very tense.  the score is a very eerie collection of ambient tones and voices, and the constant background of mortars dropping and things exploding.  the first 30 minutes are really the best parts of the film.  it’s when newly deployed bomb squad solider ziv faran (played by ohad knoller) shows up to the outpost and familiarizes himself with the campus.  his walking about the mountain, and conversing with the soldiers, trying to find his bearings and learn about the outpost are the best parts of the film.  they are filled with dread and very high levels of suspense.

the main reason i had to check this out was because of it’s academy award nomination (not that i follow those fools blindly).  suffice it to say it think that 2006’s pool of nominated films (after the wedding, pan’s labyrinth, and the lives of others) vastly out rank those of last years.  but who knows, maybe they’ll get it right this year.

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top albums 2008 pt. 3

January 14, 2009

continuing with the best albums of 2008.  as always catch up if you’ve missed the start of the list…

15-11

10-6

and now the most eagerly anticipated moment of the year so far…the top 5:

5. only by the night – kings of leon

kol’s last two albums have been their best.  many of their die hard fans would tend to disagree with that statement saying that their first two were the best, but for me those albums were nothing new.  i’ve heard garage band, southern rock, all that stuff before.  but with because of the times kol took a very very interesting step into something i’m not sure i’ve heard before, and that was with the song “on call”.  they continued that with this years only by the night.  it’s a step into these dark soundscapes, filled with soaring guitar riffs, and lead man caleb’s pained screeches just sear into my memory.  you may think that the last two albums have been polished version of a radio friendly band, but “use somebody” is intensely more interesting than anything they have ever done before.

“off in the night while you live it up, i’m off to sleep

waging war to shape the poet an the beat”

4. fleet foxes – fleet foxes

the best appalachian folk album of the year comes from a group situated on the west coast.  their songs are reverb clad, filled with larger than life vocal harmonies, and reminiscent of simpler time (i can’t be sure that the time was actually simpler, i didn’t live there.  but that’s what everyone says right?).  they utilize the story-telling method of songwriting to perfection.  they seem to come together perfectly as a band, and hit the notes exactly the way they wanted to.  peckinfold is a beast at the beginning of white winter hymnal, and on the closing oliver james.  his voice fits their musical stylings perfectly.

3. viva la vida – coldplay

i feel like i might loose some music credibility with the final part of my list, including something as broad as a coldplay album on the list.  but really these guys are about as great as it gets.  a rush of blood to the head is my 2nd favorite album of all time, and viva la vida is a return to their musical creativity.  where i think they really went astray with x&y, using very heavy synth and very (very) radio friendly songs.  my favorite song of that albums was the stripped down kingdom come, and while nothing on this album could be considered “stripped down” they hit a consistent musical tone throughout that really struck a chord with me.  they’ve always been compared to U2, but i never really saw it until this album.  the booming drums, the soaring guitars and vocals.  great.  this definitely feels like their largest album and even if it’s not there best, it’s a step in the right direction.


2. volume one – she & him

if i knew that m. ward was  releasing a new album in 08, i would have been excited.  if i knew that zooey deschanel was going to release an ablum in 08, i would have been intrigued and excited.  if i knew that zooey deschanel was going to team up with m. ward to release an album, i would have died.  i don’t know what it is, but the pairing just seems to make perfect sense to me.  i noticed (probably with the rest of the world) that zooey had an amazing voice in the christmas classic elf, but she’s been one of my favorite actresses since her turn in almost famous.  i think most girl-led folk bands fall into the trap of being too cutesy, to fiest-like, and end up being tired cliches.  but zooey brings a throw-back style to her singing. she’s able to blend very old school country/folk melodies and make them sound contemporary.  the video for why do you let me stay here pretty much sums up my thoughts on why they are awesome.


1. for emma forever ago – bon iver

there’s nothing i can say about this album that will remotely do it justice.  let’s just say that for emma forever ago has found a place in my favorite albums of all time, and a place in my heart (ok that sounded really dumb, but it’s true).  justin vernon is able to emote every single feeling of rejection and pain, and ultimately happiness that he was feeling whilst recording the album.  he recorded the entire album by himself, and he did so on a retreat into the woods of wisconsin after breaking up with his band and his girlfriend.  how hot is that?  he doesn’t have the greatest recording equipment.  he doesn’t have the greatest guitar or other musical instruments.  but what came out of that 3 month stay in the cabin is the most emotionally charged, heart felt, bring you to tears and then make you cry even more, album of the year.  i was just absolutely blown away by every track on this album, and the more i listen to it the more i’m convinced that bon iver is going down as one of the greatest artists ever.  i am seriously starting to question if there’s anything more beautiful than re: stacks.  i don’t think there is.  unless you’re talking about his follow up ep blood bank and the amazing song woods.  then maybe.

i was really hoping that the film was going to probe into the psyche of polanski, the psyche of the girl, and dig into the deeper questions of why what actually happened, happened.  but the film isn’t interested in that.  it’s more interested in the concrete.  the case.  the media frenzy.  the judge.  the prosecutors.  the girl.  and roman.

i actually was surprised as to how much there really was to the case.  i mean a lot of crazy stuff happens, and it’s really interesting to hear the attorneys and reporters speaking candidly about the going-ons.  if you are like me, and didn’t know any of the real specifics of the case, than the film is really quite interesting.  it really delves into every detail about the case and what roman was doing and how he was reacting to the circumstances.  the real standout character of the film is not roman polanski, but the judge of the case (whom we never meet in present time because he died 10 years back).  the way people talk about him, his attitudes and his actions, really take the film from something that would be boring to something way more interesting.  if you don’t know the circumstances i don’t want to ruin it for you, but the man does some very questionable things pertaining to the case.

and while i think it’s entertaining and somewhat thought provoking to learn about the case details and the events, the film falls short of finding something truly moving or thought gripping.  the first fault we get is we never get to hear polanski talk to the camera.  we have interviews with everyone else involved with the case (or everyone that’s alive), but not polanski.  i’m sure the filmmakers tried to get him to interview for the film, and he turned it down so i can’t completely rag on them for not having it, but that element would have pushed the film much farther up the scale.  also (i can’t be 100% sure, but) the questions they asked the girl seemed very conservative.  they didn’t try to pry at her side of the story, but more her reactions to the events.  i was still wanting to know exactly how all this could have taken place when the film is moving on to how the media covered the story.  i wanted to see the filmmakers really pry at the girl and try to get deeper than they already did.

and that goes for the rest of the film as well.  the film is sort of holding back as to what could make an immensely entertaining and provocative film, and more or less settled for the case facts.  but that’s not to say that it’s not interesting.  it is very interesting, i’m just mildly disappointed that they didn’t go for more.

—————————————————————————————————————–

it might have been a little premature to post a schedule for januray (but when have i ever followed those things exactly?).  i want to focus on catching up on 2008 films for my filmspot nomination ballot, and the library still hasn’t gotten full metal jacket to me (platoon is sitting next to the dvd player waiting to go).  so we’ll see.  maybe hitchcock month will have to spill over into february.  i shouldn’t have to wait for the dvds though thanks to 2 christmases ago’s awesome gifts.

if you’re curious what’s on cue for 2008 films to catch up with: son of rambow, the fall, the band’s visit, changeling, gonzo: the life and work of hunter s. thompson, beaufort, kid a, 4 months 3 weeks 2 days, still life, and heartbeat detector (and that’s just what i have waiting for me at home.  a lot more on request).

top albums 2008 pt. 2

January 8, 2009

i’m writing up what i think are the best albums of the year.  as always these are not opinions but stone cold facts.  check out 15-11 right here.

and now 10-6 of 2008…


10. house with no name – horse feathers

horse feathers are the best folk band you’ve never heard of.  and if you’ve heard of them, then well done.  you win a gold star.  house with no name takes what they built up in their first album, words are dead, and expands on these sparse violin, cello, and acoustic guitar folk songs.  lead singer justin ringle sings in a sort of stumbling way, with a hushed breaking into a sort of falsetto voice.  his lyrics are brutally honest (“father your failures are so grave,
they have seeped to son
“), and their instrumentation fills out the bleak feelings of the songs.


9. minor works – j. tillman

if you didn’t notice already i’m a real big new folk (that’s what i call it) kind of guy.  give me a lead singer with an interesting voice, a picked acoustic guitar, brushed drums, and maybe a violin or a cello, and i’m digging it.  j. tillman might be better well known right now as the drummer for fleet foxes (who might possibly make an appearance a little further down the page), but his solo work is just as good.  he’s a alt. country/new folk singer/songwriter you could put a million labels on him, but you won’t know what i’m talking about until you’ve listened to crooked roof (on the actual recording the piano is in tune).


8. maybe they will sing for us tomorrow – hammock

if you haven’t heard of hammock, then you need to.  what they’ve made with maybe they will sing for us tomorrow is more of a sounding board for your emotions.  it’s an ambient filled space of two guitars and a cello.  no beats or vocals.  nothing to distract from exactly what they’re getting at.  it’s an album that when put on will put you in a deep meditative thought.  it’s personal and accessible without calling attention to itself.  you can listen to the album 100 times and come away with different reactions each time.  and that’s a testament to the work put in by the band.


7. með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust – sigur rós

sigur ros traded in their ambient tones, masked vocals, and downbeat drums for a much more upbeat and distinct songwriting style.  there are clear vocal lines and melodies (not that they weren’t doing that before, but on this albums it’s much more prominently featured).  when i first played gobbledigook, i was really taken back to hear the acoustic guitars and the more traditional verse chorus verse chorus style.  i still have no idea what the man is saying, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.  and this album only furthers the notion that sigur ros can do pretty much anything and it’s going to be awesome.

6. the hare’s corner – colm mac con iomaire

colm is my boy.  the violinist from the frames and the swell season has released his first solo album this year, and it’s the best instrumental album of the year…..by far.  i’ve had the good fortune of seeing him perform live (and getting to talk to him, though briefly), and the man is unbelievably talented.  he creates songs full of emotion and incredibly beautiful melodies and violin turns.  definitly check this out and give my boy some love.

tcc: appaloosa

January 8, 2009

“life has a way of making the foreseeable that which never happens… and the unforeseeable that which your life becomes.”

the first half of this film is exactly what i was hoping it would be.  ed harris and viggo mortensen shooting bad guys and just eating up the scenery with grizzled dialogue and awesome hats (and moustaches…or moustache).  but the second half or so of the film just really suffers from an unfocused screenplay and direction.

there’s definitely something interesting to the film.  the entire ed helms viggo relationship is really quite interesting.  i like what harris sort of digs at about justice and vigilantism.  our good guys don’t really think of themselves as good guys, but become sheriffs and deputies of towns because it’s gun work that they get paid for.  viggo’s character himself says that it’s not so much about the morals of the job, but the fact that it is a job.

the film completely looses all of its steam that it builds up so beautifully in the first 45 minutes.  but halfway through new villains are introduced, the old ones don’t show up until the last 15 minutes, and the relationships that form between our two heroes and renee zellwigger’s character just don’t make a whole lot of sense.

i will say that their showdown with the “new” villains in the film is really exciting to watch, and done in a very realistic way and is one of the more brutal scenes i’ve seen all year.  i got to give props to helms for not talking the easy or predictable route in shooting that scene, but shooting it in a disarming kind of way.

if you are a big fan of viggo like i am, then his performance is enough to check out this film.  he is really terrific here, and is warranting a look for some postseason awards.  if you’re looking for a good western then the first half will suffice.

the film also has one of the most haunting stills of the year….

top albums 2008 pt. 1

January 7, 2009

i actually got my computer back really quickly, thanks to the fastidious workers over at the apple store in westlake ohio.  but instead of talking about movies, let’s talk about music.  the best music….of 2008.

first what i was disappointed by and therefore will not be making my list…

saturdays=youth – m83

weezer (red) – weezer

make it happen – nizlopi

15. attack & release – the black keys

the black keys’ 2002 debut release the big come up, was a real mind blowing album.  i was blown away by the sound that two guys could make.  their follow up to that was thickfreakness which i thought really blended a more studio sound with their roughneck recordings from the big come up.  but on the next two, gone were the fuzzy recordings, the strained vocals, and the obvious lack of professional equipment that made them so great in the first place (even if they weren’t recorded in a real studio).  2008’s attack and release pairs the duo up with producer danger mouse and for the first time they actually recorded in a real studio.  but in a strange turn of events, going into the studio has helped them find part of the sound they lost on their previous two efforts.  they get back to more soulful hooks and add a dark dimension to the songs (that i’m really attributing to danger mouse’s presence).  it’s nowhere near as good as the bands first two albums, but is definitely a step in the right direction.


14. loaded – the wood brothers

and now to a two man band (though not really) with a much different (but still bluesy) sound.  the wood brothers first album ways not to loose was one of my favorites of 06, and they keep it going this year.  it’s a country album that’s equal parts blues, funk, jamband, bluegrass, and folk.  it’s a real american album, blending everything that’s great about music and doing so in a well balanced manor.  plus oliver wood’s vocals are sick.


13. the way i see it – raphael saadiq

i don’t know if you could tell by looking at me, but i’m a huge motown fan.  so it was a big surprise to me to find this album a contemporary 60s/70s motown album.  saadiq sounds like he went solo from the temptations, but infuses this with some contemporary feeling.  whether it’s collaborating with jay-z or joss stone, 2008 popular music is always just below the surface on an album that buries itself in old school r&b.  saadiq takes all this to make one of the most fun albums of the year (and i would think one of the more radio-friendly but i’m not really one for the radio anyways).


12. welcome to the welcome wagon – the welcome wagon

i read an article in paste magazine about the welcome wagon, and that it was sufjan stevens who discovered them and signed them, then went on to produce what sounds just like another sufjan stevens album (and that’s not a bad thing).  the sweeping melodies and the huge sounding harmonies make steven’s influence undeniable.  the husband and wife combo makes pseudo gospel/folk songs heavily influenced by their faith and their heart.  and i think those are the best albums to listen to.  these are people singing about something close to their heart and their passion shows.

11. the sparrow and the crow – william fitzsimmons

fitzsimmon’s third album i think shows a gigantic leap forward in his song writing capabilities.  his first two albums had their moments, but i think suffered from too much of one thing.  he seemed to resort to the same melodies and riffs over and over again.  but with the sparrow and the crow, he seems to be maturing as and artist.  his songs are more fully realized and the album feels much more complete then the first two.  his soothing voice and the very understated guitar and instrument work make a real soothing album, and i can’t listen to it without smiling.

tcc: doubt

January 3, 2009

“what did you hear? what did you see, that convinced you so thoroughly?”

i was watching the charlie rose interview with the entire cast and writer director of doubt recently, when john patrick shanely said that when writing the screenplay for the film he was really able to add something more to the film.  he could flesh out the different aspects of the church and the school.  he was able to add more characters to the film and create a much more rounded view of the setting and the school.

doubt centers around a catholic school and church in the 1960s, when sister aloysius (meryl streep) and sister james (amy adams) believe something not so holy is going on with the head pastor father flynn (philip seymour hoffman).  they haven’t seen anything overly incriminating, and when confronted about what they have seen father flynn does have an answer.  the film then leads to a few different confrontations in which the main characters go back and forth on what they believe, the merits of intuition, and the implications of doubt.

amy adams continues to impress me with a tremendous performance in this film.  she is perfect at playing the earnest unsuspecting character.  and i love the way that shanely positions both the sister aloysius character and father flynn.  aloysius at first glance seems to be that atypical catholic school nun teacher; mean and spiteful.  but shanely inflects her with humanity.  whether it’s the way she looks out for the other nuns in the church, or the way she sort of takes sister james under her wing and guides her as a teacher, or even the way we see her fighting for what she believes is the welfare of the children.  she truly does care about the kids in the school even if she doesn’t show it the same way sister james does.

i love the way shanely challenges our notions of sin and judgement.  we’re never 100% sure what father flynn has or has not done, but there is the possibility that he has done something heinous.  but shanely shows flynn in such a great light.  regardless of what he really did do, he truly cares about the students.  i love the small little scenes of him interacting with the students; when he’s coaching them on basketball, or helping them with girl troubles around the lunch table.  we have to take stock of how we truly react to his situation and what we actually believe.

the big scenes in the film, the scenes of huge confrontation, do not disappoint.  and i defy anyone to mention a scene that is filled with greater suspense and emotion than the sister aloysius father flynn final encounter.  this film turns out 3 of the greatest performances of the year, and is one of the most thought provoking and adrenaline filled films of the year.

4 films for january

January 1, 2009

once again, january is hitchcock month!  the greatest director of all time definitely deserves his own month.  now i’ve seen most of the major hitchcock (psycho, rear window, north by northwest, etc.) so i’ll be focusing on the lesser known or rather the films that people don’t immediately throw out when you say hitchcock.

week of january 5:

the wrong man

couldn’t this be the title of almost any hitchcock film?

week of january 12:

marnie

if i had to pick one, this would be the one i’m most skeptical about.  just never been a big sean connery fan.

week of january 19:

suspicion

cary grant.  period.

week of january 26:

foreign correspondent

joel mccrea. question mark. (actually he was pretty great in sullivan’s travels)