2013, Movies

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013, Lee Daniels)

Yes, seriously, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is the name of this movie. Even though this movie is ostensibly “based on a true story,” the director is responsible for it. The title is actually a clue: the filmmakers have so altered the story as to completely alter it. This is, in effect, the Black Forrest Gump.

2002, Movies

Ônibus 174 (2002, José Padilha, Felipe Lacerda)

Bus 174 is a low-budget, overlong documentary about a bizarre hostage-taking incident in Brazil that was watched by the country on the news. The story itself is compelling in many ways but the actual film about the incident is kind of a mess. We might call it “completist” as it’s a 2.5 hour movie about …

1974, Music

Introducing The Eleventh House With Larry Coryell (1974)

This is fusion very much in the Mahavishnu Orchestra mode. In fact, listening to the opening of “Birdfingers,” you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking this was the Mahavishnu Orchestra itself, or perhaps Jeff Beck and the Jan Hammer Group, or something like that. As jazz fusion goes, a lot of it is very much on …

2010, Music

The Element Choir at Rosedale United (2010)

It must be hard to be in the art music field these days. Sure, you’ve got a world of genres to play with – most of them unknown or nonexistent in the recent past – but sometimes having too much choice is worse than having little choice. (Actually, that’s true a lot of the time.) …

1993, Music

Motherscratcher (1993) by Ed Hall

This is the kind of music I really like: sloppy, noisy music played by a band that could be more professional if they wanted to, but they don’t want to. There is one song in particular that hints at their chops in a really exciting way and I wish there was more of that particular …

1995, Music

As the World (1995) by Echolyn

When I was in my very late teens and early 20s, I absolutely loved prog rock. And I think that, had I heard Echolyn then, I probably would have loved them; I probably wouldn’t have cared about the things that now cause me to be concerned about this kind of music. Because this record satisfies …

2007, Movies

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007, Yves Simoneau)

My country was founded in genocide, as was our neighbour to the south. This is a fact that we still haven’t dealt with as evidenced by how many Canadians and Americans would find my initial statement controversial – even offensive – despite its truth. I was born in the last fifth of the 20th century …

1997, Music

The Divine Wings of Tragedy (1997) by Symphony X

Dream Theater remains the only prog metal band I’ve listened to on the progressive side of the spectrum. And I can’t help but hearing their (massive) influence here, for good or ill. (This includes at least one reference in the lyrics to the only Dream Theater album I know well, and I’m sure there are …

1987, Music

Shaka Zulu (1987) by Ladysmith Black Mombazo

By my rough count, this is Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s 23rd album but, according to much of the world, it’s their first, as it’s the first one produced by a famous (white) singer-songwriter and it’s the first one they released after appearing on his record (as part of Simon’s violation of the apartheid boycott, which is …

1987, Music

At My Window (1987) by Townes Van Zandt

Though I know of the legend of Townes, I’ve seen the documentary and I’ve heard a fair number of songs through covers, this is only the second album of his I’ve ever managed to get to. And so I cannot evaluate it against his other records,except for the one I’ve heard. That one, his debut, …

2009, Movies

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country (2009, Anders Ostergaard)

Burma VJ is one of those journalism-as-documentary films that is out of date pretty quickly after it is made – the military regime that is depicted in this film has fallen and a new, less repressive and supposedly democratic regime has taken its place. But just because things have happened since this film was made, …

1982, Music

Milo Goes to College (1982) by Descendents

This is the point where hardcore starts to lose me: where the virtues of the genre are starting to give way to things more common to earlier punk or the later skate punk. It is very clearly the bridge between early hardcore and skate punk/pop punk but I don’t know that this is a thing …

1982, Music

Back from Samoa (1982) by Angray Samoans

I feel like I’ve listened to a fair amount of offensive music in my time but this record is right up there. If you’ve ever wondered where the “piss off at all costs” aesthetic of some bands comes from, it might be from Angry Samoans. Though Gwar and Anal Cunt sound nothing like this band, …

1977, Music

Two Sevens Clash (1977) by Culture

Though I find myself with some vestige of my childhood superstitions – I still knock on wood, unfortunately – I have fought my whole adult life to rid myself and my life of superstitions as much as possible. So I found the Mayan apocalypse stuff to be utterly ridiculous and I find every single fringe …

1977, Music

Police and Thieves (1977) by Junior Murvin

The thing I like more about Junior Murvin’s debut album, Police and Thieves, compared to some other Lee Perry-produced reggae albums from this period (1977 in particular) is that Murvin is more of a songwriter than some of his contemporaries. The songs are more memorable to me, not just because of the hooks – as …

1977, Music

Herat of the Congos (1977)

On account of my podcast, I am finding myself immersed in 1977 reggae right now more than I could ever have imagined. And so I’m learning more about reggae than I have wanted to for some time. (I imagined myself becoming a reggae/dub fan in my early ’20s – what white male young adult doesn’t? …

1977, Music

Equal Rights (1977) by Peter Tosh

Here’s my hot take: Peter Tosh is a way better lyricist than his former band-mate, and much more famous person, Bob Marley. I’ll make a possibly more preposterous claim, based on my ignorance of reggae in general: Tosh is one of the best lyricists in the history of reggae and, to my ears, the only …

1977, Music

Cluster and Eno (1977)

This record definitely finds Eno and Cluster at a sort of middle ground, the kind of middle ground you might imagine if you had heard Cluster’s records and heard Discreet Music, or Eno’s other more electronic stuff. Coming back to this after you’ve heard any of the Ambient series, the music is notable for being …

1972, Music

Neu! (1972)

Neu!’s debut album finds them stuck somewhere between the early electronic explorations of Tangerine Dream – and, I presume, early Kraftwerk, the band Neu! split off from, which I have never heard – and the motorik of CAN and Faust and bands like that. It’s an odd juxtaposition that I might struggle with were it …

1967, Music

Nina Simone Sings the Blues (1967)

Simone’s second of three albums in 1967 was her first for a new label and one wonders if that had a lot to do with the rather drastic left-turn on this record. As you can tell from the title, this is a blues record, where influence on her sound was rather muted on the previous …

1967, 2017

High Priestess of Soul (1967) by Nina Simone

Aside from her voice and her piano playing, the thing that stands out most about Nina Simone among her fellow soul singers of this era is her variety and versatility: listen to most other 1967 soul albums and you will hear one thing, soul. Yes, there will be slow soul songs and their will be …

2013, Movies, TV

Horici ker [Burning Bush] (2013, Agnieszka Holland)

Burning Bush is a 21st century version of those unaccountably good European TV mini series which are released in North America as films (often in abridged form). Though we have been living in a golden age of television in North America since right before the beginning of this century, it wasn’t always like that here. …