Adore (2013, Anne Fontaine)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This film is a really mixed bag. On the one hand, it has a rather ridiculous plot which feels like it’s out of a soap opera. On the other hand, both Wright and Watts are fantastic (though, as others have pointed out, Watts is a little young for her role) and everyone else is fine. And part of it feels like sort of a feminist response or rebuttal to so many films through the years that have celebrated relationships between young women and old men. Unfortunately there’s not enough positive to let you forget about the contrivance that is the Read More

Winterland [Highlights] (2011) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

Categories: 2011 and Music.

This is the “highlights” disc taken from the Box Set documenting 3 Experience shows at the Winterland in October of 1968.It begins with a performance of “Fire” that is highlighted by a series of crazy drum fills by Mitchell that substitute as a drum solo.“Foxey Lady” follows, with its introductory feedback drawn out twice as long. Otherwise it’s not anything special, some hilarious dialogue before nad in it. Just like any show (it seems) Hendrix’s amps keep breaking.Perhaps the hilghlight of the entire disc is their take on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Hendrix was always a great interpretive artists, Read More

South Saturn Delta (1997) by Jimi Hendrix

Categories: 1997 and Music.

So this is sort of the companion piece to First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the album that tried to replicate what would have been Hendrix’s last album. But whereas First Rays was a coherent piece, this is more an abritrary collection of rarities. Like most of Hendrix’s demos and alternates that have been released, everything is very professional. And it’s of interest to any Hendrix fan (though it’s hard to hear what’s different about this version of “All Along the Watchtower”). But it’s not any kind of definitive rarities collection or anything like that. It’s fine. 6/10 Read More

Valleys of Neptune (2010) by Jimi Hendrix

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This is yet another collection of Hendrix demos and alternate takes. As usual everything sounds great (though in one case the sound quality is weak compared to the other tracks) and professional. The tracks are from all over the place, as usual, and it’s a record that’s for Hendrix fans rather than for casual listeners. There are a few new songs, but many have other takes other places. One notable thing is that this version of “Sunshine of Your Love” contains a hilarious bass solo from Redding, much like some live versions of this song. So if you want to Read More

Miami Pop Festival (2013) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

Categories: 2013 and Music.

This is an Experiene concert from the 1968 Miami Pop Festival (obviously) containing remarkably little music from either Axis or Ladyland (which they had already begun recording). Actually I don’t think there’s a single song. It’s a strong set and it shows off the Experience as a great live band, which is something we don’t always think of them as (or at least I don’t).The opening version of “Hey Joe” is considerably looser than any I’ve heard before, opening with more than a minute of feedback and definitely showing signs that the band is getting tired of playing this song.The Read More

String Quartets Op. 33 ‘Russian’ (2012) by the London Haydn Quartet

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Though these quartets were written after the great “Sun” quartets (perhaps because they were written after) I like them a lot better initially. They sound a lot more like my idea of what a High Classical quartet should sound like. Though their forebears were undoutedbly the more innovative and revolutionary set, these are the more appealing, perhaps because they don’t sound so old. Perhaps with these, more than any other set, you can hear why he is the Father of the String Quartet. The individual instruments are all distinguishable, they all their important parts to play and, of course, they Read More

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, George Miller)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

It’s been years since I’ve seen the original trilogy in any kind of thorough way (since Thunderdome used to be on TV all the time, I’ve seen parts of it more than the other two) and I have to say I wasn’t keen on this movie. I hate remakes / reboots in principle (unless they are done effectively, which is relatively rare) and frankly, my favourite of the trilogy is the first one, whereas it seems like everyone else’s favourite is the sequel. This movie takes its cue from the sequel, as is obvious from the ads. But I also Read More

Fargo – Season 1 (2014)

Categories: 2014 and TV.

I normally review a TV series after I’ve watched all the seasons. However, given that the second season of Fargo will consist of an entirely new cast and plot, I am reviewing them separately. Needless to say, SPOILERS!!!  I was really, really skeptical of this idea, not only because I was once a gigantic Coen brothers fan and Fargo remains among their very best films. Making a film into a show is a dangerous proposition. Making a film into a show nearly two decades after that film was released seems insane, to put it mildly. Doomed to failure. When I Read More

Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (1992) by Joe Henderson

Categories: 1992 and Music.

People are weird. Apparently Henderson toiled in relative obscurity for decades and then one day, in the early ’90s, people lost their shit over him, though stylistically he is, you could argue, a pre-Trane player, or a least one who never followed Trane through the door when Trane finished removing the frames around it. So, the good: Here are some imaginative covers of Strayhorn’s work, many of which rethink the originals in new and exciting ways. The band clearly reinterpret the music; they are not content, like so many others, to replicate the tracks and just change up the solos. Read More

People, Hell and Angels (2013) by Jimi Hendrix

Categories: 2013 and Music.

This is apparently the “final” official rarities collection we will get from the Hendrix vaults. These are the last previously unreleased studio tracks. It only took 40 years.This collection shows off the direction Hendrix was contemplating post-Electric Ladyland, the funkier, rootsier one displayed on First Rays of the New Rising Sun, his unfinished final album. But these performances are looser than that record, and they have fewer overdubs. It’s fairly obvious that most of them are just (complete) early demos. But the music is fantastic – Hendrix is on fire, even if he’s playing more lead (and more conventional rhythm) Read More

Sol Invictus (2015) by Faith No More

Categories: 2015 and Music.

When I was young I hated reunions, I felt like they were cash-grabs, things only sell-outs would do. I had a hard time thinking of musicians, particularly my musical idols, as people. I had an idea of artistic integrity and I thought that musicians should stick to it (or face my wrath, I guess). But another reason I hated reunions was because I was a fan of (mostly) “classic” rock. And the vast majority of those bands which reunited…well, those reunions went badly. And my favourite band at the time had never reunited. And the band that took over that Read More

30 for 30: Fernando Nation (Cruz Angeles)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a somewhat awkwardly structured and edited film that still manages to do one of the major things I want from a sports documentary: it makes me wish I was there. I lived through Linsanity, but obviously not in New York. Fernandomania was Linsanity well before Linsanity (and with a better player), with so much more meaning given the terrible events that led to the building of Dodger Stadium. I would have a preferred a film that explored the social aspects a little more than this did – frankly I think a feature-length would have easily been possible with Read More

30 for 30: Marion Jones: Press Pause (2010, John Singleton)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a real missed opportunity. From the opening credits, it’s clear that John Singleton is not the man to make this film. I have never been a fan (though I have never seen his magnum opus) and the opening credits, which feel like they belong to a melodrama, are the first clue that Singleton doesn’t quite now how to handle this great subject. We live in a strange world where cheating in sports is seen as worse than extorting pensioners, or other white collar crime. Marian Jones took performance enhancing drugs. To hear her tell it, she may have Read More

30 for 30: Pony Excess (2010, Thaddeus D. Matula)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

It’s tough to talk about the content of a film like this without talking about the concept of “student athlete” and how the NCAA (and others) have essentially brainwashed the media and most of the United States into believing that it is immoral for “student athletes” to be compensated for the performances that drive the insane amount of money that the NCAA and these universities (many of them – most of them? – private) make. But let’s try to put that aside. Regardless of whether or not you think the NCAA is a horribly corrupt, exploitative institution, they do create Read More

Boardwalk Empire (2010)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

SPOILERS!!! Had Boardwalk Empire premiered in 2000 instead of 2010 – hell, had it premiered in 2005 instead of 2010 – I think we’d think about it very differently. (Or, at the very least, I would.) It’s a show full of great actors, with great costumes and sets and a fantastic sense of place. If the CGI is sometimes a little weak, it would have been totally acceptable in the early century. I think we would have forgiven the complete lack of depth in the writing because everything else about the show is so good. We would have been okay Read More

Oracle (1996) by Michael Hedges

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Michael Hedges is undoubtedly a great guitarist: his technique is incredible and his use of various alternative tunings and approaches to playing is also incredible. Apparently he was also extremely innovative: in the early ’80s he pioneered this style of heavily percussive playing. (There is some controversy over whether he was the first person to play like this, or whether he was he first one to play like this on a steel string acoustic guitar. The latter is likely the more accurate version.) And of course it is a tragedy when anyone, especially a talented musician like this, dies young. Read More

30 for 30: Once Brothers (2010, Michael Tolajian)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a compelling, moving portrait of what it was like to be from an upstart country in a sport, shocking the world, and what it was like to be an early European player in the NBA, and what it’s like to have your country torn apart by civil war. It’s also a compelling portrait of the loss of a young athlete. Unfortunately, the narrator is also the lead interviewee, which not only makes the film awkward – from a technical standpoint, how does a narrator introduce himself? – but leads to easy accusations of bias. I have no idea Read More

In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) by King Crimson

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Full disclosure: King crimsion is one of the bands that “changed my life” on a musical level and they remain among my favourites. I have trouble being objective about them. I’m trying, but it’s probably not possible.We should remember that this album was made by a band that wasn’t really a band at all: Michael Giles and Lake were essentially getting pay checks, as was Peter Giles, Collins and Tippett were only seemy involved; almost all of this is Fripp (and Sinfield), and Fripp before he abandonned his tendency for shitty ballads.The decision to split up the ballads from the Read More

Live at Leeds (1970) by the Who

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Is this the greatest live album of all time? I never used to care about live albums. I never used to care about live music. Music used to live in my bedroom and I had no idea that there was some other side to it. Frankly I didn’t understand why people went to concerts. The idea that a band could be better on stage than in the studio seemed totally insane to me. Totally unfathomable. I was forced to confront that idea when I went away to university and seeing (not very famous) bands became a standard thing: a couple Read More

Ken Burns Jazz (2000) by Fletcher Henderson

Categories: 2000 and Music.

This is a decent one-disc compilation of Fletcher Henderson’s big bands, which are more notable for the featured performers than for anything Henderson did (with an exception or two). Like all single disc compilations of a productive artist, it doesn’t give us the greatest picture of his work. But what it does function as is an interesting little introduction to the changes that large jazz ensembles went through between the early ’20s and 1940. And that’s pretty cool to hear with a band led by the same guy. That’s probably the main reason for picking this up over the separate Read More

30 for 30: The House of Steinbrenner (2010, Barbara Kopple)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a pretty bloodless and blah attempt to document the mixed (mostly) sad emotions of moving from the old Yankee Stadium to the new one. At times it also feels like it’s about the Steinbrenners. There are plenty of interviews with people affected by this change, there are the famous clips, there’s talk about how they spend money, but it doesn’t really add up. But they don’t dwell very long on Steinbrenner’s terrible record as an owner before he was suspended (that gets maybe 5 minutes) and the filmmakers seem unsure whether this is about the move, about the Read More

30 for 30: Into the Wind (2010, Ezra Holland, Steve Nash)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

If you grew up in Canada in the 1980s, you know Terry Fox and his story. He ran the year before I was born, but despite that, I know the legend/myth just like most Canadians my age. Here’s the real connection I have to the story: This is the view from the memorial outside of Thunder Bay. I apologize for the shitty picture. I didn’t take a picture of the memorial…because? I guess there wasn’t a view…But I didn’t know the story this well, so this was still a new experience for me. It’s interesting to see how different something Read More

30 for 30: Four Days in October (2010, Gary Waksman)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

I hate the Red Sox. I mean, I fucking hate them. Though not as much as I hate the Yankees. But I feel like I remember this series like it was yesterday. (But I more remember where I was than the actual moments of the game.) Among the best baseball playoffs I’ve seen in my adult life. (There have been a few that were better in my mind, such as Diamondbacks / Yankees, but not many.) This was a great series and the film does a good job of getting us to understand how incredible it was, in part by Read More

Ajami (2009, Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is an ambitious, compelling, complex portrait of daily life (with a little crime thrown in for good measure) in Israel. In its ambition, it’s trying to be Short Cuts or Traffic but in execution it’s more Babel or Crash (okay, it’s not that bad). Though the actors appear to be amateurs, they are very compelling. As others have noted, the filmmakers don’t take sides in the religious / ethnic conflict at all, it’s just taken as context for the story. The problem with the film, and the thing that prevents it from being a masterpiece is the end, which Read More

Joseph Haydn: Die Sieben letzten Worte (2014) by Cuarteto Casals

Categories: 2014 and Music.

This is supposedly an “instrumental” oratorio. Haydn first wrote it for orchestra (with no vocals!). Then he adapted it for String Quartet. Then he adapted it for Choir (as if it was an actual oratorio). Then he “approved” an adaptation for solo piano, but apparently didn’t write that one himself. This is the String Quartet version, obviously. It is considered the most popular version of the piece, which I guess makes me okay with listening to it over the orchestral original. I am a sucker for String Quartets and Haydn is the Father of them. (He didn’t invent them, but Read More

Joseph Haydn: String Quartets Op. 20 ‘Sun’ (2011) by the London Haydn Quartet

Categories: 2011 and Music.

As with his symphonies and some of his other works, Haydn wrote a ton of String Quartets. Just an absolute ton. This set collects the 23rd through 28th, all of which were written at the same time, as one cycle or collection. They are considered by most people to be the birth of the modern String Quartet and wikipedia tells me that the form established here didn’t really change for 200 years, which is insane. I am a sucker for String Quartets and I can’t say that I’ve heard any earlier than these in my life. So earlier Quartets would Read More

30 for 30: One Night in Vegas (2010, Reggie Rock Bythewood)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

I thought this series was about sports… I am a white male who was born to middle class parents in Toronto in the early 1980s. I cannot, for my life, imagine what it is like to grow up sometimes fearing for your life. I’m sure it drastically affects your outlook on life, your behaviour, and so on. Unfortunately, this film, which is more about Tupac’s assassination than it is about Mike Tyson’s return to boxing, is not a film that let’s me understand what that’s like. The director doesn’t know whether he’s making a graphic novel or a film – Read More

It’s not just C-51 that’s the problem, it’s the System

Categories: 2015, Politics, and Society.

I haven’t posted anything original in this space since February, in part because I am writing a new book, but in part because I have been a little depressed about the seeming inevitably of the government passing the worst piece of Federal legislation I have seen in my lifetime. (If you don’t know what C-51 is, or you don’t think it’s particularly bad, please see the last few posts on this site, none written by me, which detail many of the problems with this brutal bill.) Read More

30 for 30: Jordan Rides the Bus (2010, Ron Shelton)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a fascinating documentary which, for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, should put to bed any idea that Jordan was “suspended” for gambling during his first retirement. Honestly, I wished I had paid more attention at the time – this is utterly fascinating. Is there any equivalent in sports history? The greatest player in a sport trying to make it in another sport, that he hadn’t played in over a decade? And the dedication… Frankly, I’m just in awe. This film isn’t for everyone. If you don’t care about sports or if you have no interest in basketball Read More

30 for 30: Little Big Men (2010, Al Szymanski)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a fascinating look at a little league team that became the pride of a nation, had the “greatest upset in Little League history” (supposedly) and was nearly destroyed by the attention it got. It’s a great cautionary tale – because imagine what it’s like for kids today – Mo’ne Davis – if it was this bad for them in 1982. It reminds us that, no matter how excited we might get over kids’ amateur sports, these are still children; they are still very impressionable and they don’t have our thick skins (though many adults don’t either). Honestly, I Read More