Month: May 2016

2011, Movies

Bhutto (2010, Duane Baughman, Johnny O’Hara)

One of the defining characteristics of human beings that is that we are flawed, imperfect creatures. All the “Great Men” of history were actually just human beings; sometimes they did things we might view as great, but they had their problems. There isn’t a single major political leader in history who hasn’t done something awful.

1966, Music

Hold On, I’m Comin’ (1966) by Sam and Dave

This is a strong, southern soul debut, with lots of gritty singing and the usual music you would expect from the MGs and the Mar-Keys. The one thing I can say in criticism is the lyrics are rather awful, but this is soul we’re talking about. 8/10

1990, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010, 2011

From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010 (2011) by Iron Maiden

I accidentally picked this up thinking it was a compilation of their ’80s music. Ah well. I learned a couple of things from this record: First, Iron Maiden has a formula and they stuck to it (at least on the songs considered their “best”). Second, I should never get a live Iron Maiden album. It’s …

2016, Movies

Sour Grapes (2016, Reuben Atlas, Jerry Rothwell)

It’s a rare thing for a movie to be both funny and suspenseful. It’s a far rarer thing for a documentary to be both funny and suspenseful. I was vaguely aware of what this film was about going into it – wine fraud – but the filmmakers construct their material with such skill that they …

2010, Movies, Sports

Senna (2010, Asif Kapadia)

This is a captivating and engrossing film about Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One driver who some believe was the greatest driver the sport has ever seen, but who died young, before he might have broken some records. The film does a good job of making us understand why Senna had appeal outside of his …

2014, Movies

71 (2014, Yann Demange)

This is a mostly stellar thriller set in Belfast in 1971. I think this would have been an exceptional movie had a surer hand with more experience directed it. Though tense, I can imagine a better (or more experienced) director making a more tense film. While I’m at my nit-pikcing, the framing device of the …

2016, TV

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado (2016)

Probably like many people who don’t pay a lot of attention to stand up, I first heard of Burress after the Bill Cosby thing blew up. In this Netflix special he deals with that, and does his particular brand of observational humour. Burress has an odd and sometimes endearing delivery (though sometimes it seems less …

2013, Movies

Blue Jasmine (2013, Woody Allen)

I have known a few people like the main character in my life; nobody who had this kind of wealth, but multiple people who have been unable to comprehend and deal with the world as it is, who have compulsively lied, and who have been unable to control themselves. And I must say, Blanchett nails …

2014, Music

Ian Sabourin Counter Tenor (2014)

I was sitting on a bench waiting for Jenn to leave her work when I heard this incredible voice (a counter tenor, it turns out) all around me. I thought it was coming from multiple speakers, it was so powerful. After looking around a bit, I saw a young man singing. What impressed me particularly …

1790s, 2016, Music

A Little Too Cozy Live at Studio 42 at the CBC May 20, 2016

On Friday we saw a modernization of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, an opera I have never heard before. This adaptation sets the opera in a reality show where contestants are supposed to pledge their love to each other without actually meeting, similar to the original plot I assume. This is a bawdy one – I’m …

1923, 1952, 2005, Music

The Cunning Little Vixen (1952, 2005) by Leos Janacek, performed by Wiener Philarmoniker conducted by Charles Mackerras, featuring Lucia Popp, Eva Randovám, Dalibor Jedlička

This opera is considered by some to be Janacek’s greatest achievement and it’s easy to understand why. Though significantly lighter in tone than his other operas, it sounds more radical and more forward-thinking, musically. The use of the soprano as this bizarre little interruption (for lack of a better word) is really weird and I …

2014, Movies

Whitey: United States of America vs James J Bulger (2014, Joe Berlinger)

Somebody once said, it’s not integrity that matters, it’s the perception of integrity. One of the reasons people freak out at the more minor of political scandals – the ones where there are only hints of impropriety, or where bureaucrats or politicians are accused of over-spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when the …

2014, Movies

Merchants of Doubt (2014, Robert Kenner)

This is a compelling film about how corporations and lobby groups use pundits to undermine scientific consensuses that would otherwise hurt their profits. The examines the bag of tricks both the tobacco industry and the oil industry have used to fool the American public about both the short and long term health risks of the …

2014, Movies

A Most Violent Year (2014, JC Chandor)

Chandor’s skill is that he can take realistic situations that seem like might not have enough drama for film and turn them into gripping films. Like the best filmmakers of the American Renaissance, Chandor can take wrest drama and suspense from something like minor corruption. This is a film that unwinds slowly, so slowly that …

2014, Movies

Bridge of Spies (2015, Steven Spielberg)

I struggle with so many of Spielberg’s film because, even though he is very good at many things, he can rarely trust his audience, to treat them as adults. This is the rare Spielberg film that doesn’t feel second-guessed, that doesn’t feel like Spielberg had a freak-out about whether or not his audience would feel …

2014, Movies

Still Alice (2014, Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland)

I don’t think it’s wrong to criticize Hollywood films for their lack of connection to the real world. There is nothing wrong with this movie per se; there are some good actors doing good work and even Kristen Stewart is decent.  But this film doesn’t exist in the world that I live in. Maybe once …

2013, TV

The Great Train Robbery (2013)

I like the conceit of this very brief miniseries (two episodes): first, tell the story of the crime, then, tell how it was solved. And the results are reasonably good, the show is well acted and reasonably well made (for TV, of course). There are a few issues with the direction – particularly in the …

2013, Movies, Sports

The Crash Reel (2013, Lucy Walker)

If you have a child (a teenager) who doing or is interested in playing or participating in a sport that involves serious risk of head injury, you should make your child watch this movie. There are lots of moving and penetrating accounts out there of what life is like after a head injury however I …

2014, Movies

Drone (2014, Tonje Hessen Schei)

This is a brief but compelling examination of the issues around the United States’ use of drones for “targeted killing.” It is a pretty conventional talking head documentary merged with a conventional documentary of the style where they follow people around, but the subject matter and a number of the interviewees are compelling enough that …

2013, Movies

The Fifth Estate (2013, Bill Condon)

This is a great and an important story, and it’s a story that deserves a great film, full of great actors. This film gets the latter part right – there are a whole lot of excellent actors in this film doing great work, sometimes major actors in really minor roles – but the film around …

2016, Music

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016) by Radiohead

This is the most orchestrated album Radiohead has made since Amnesiac – and it’s considerably more orchestrated than that. The near-omnipresent orchestrations – with strings often scored to sound like other instruments – makes this record sound new and different (more often than not) compared to their last effort. The songs are still very much …

1914, 1927, 2014, Music

Janacek: Glagolitic Mass, The Eternal Gospel (2014) by Prague Philharmonic Choir, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tomas Netopil

This set collects two of Janacek’s choral works, a mass and a cantata. The setting for the Glagolitic Mass (i.e. the Mass is in old Slavic) is a great, bombastic thing. This is the original version, which is apparently performed less frequently. I always find masses the most dense of orchestral music and have a …

1921, 1925, 1926, 1977, 2006, Music

Káťa Kabanová; Cappriccio; Concertino (1977, 2006) by Leos Janacek, performed by Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Charles Mackerras featuring Elisabeth Söderström, Peter Dvorský, Naděžda Kniplová

This set pairs a Janacek opera with two of his chamber music pieces. It’s an odd pairing, but in the era of the CD it was a regular thing when an opera failed to fill out two discs. Káťa Kabanová is considered Janacek’s first “mature” opera but I think I like it less than Jenufa. …

1902, 1983, 2007

Jenůfa (1983, 2007) by Leoš Janáček, performed by Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras featuring Elisabeth Söderström, Wiesław Ochman, Peter Dvorsky, Eva Randová, Lucia Popp

This is an opera where it’s probably for the best I can’t understand the words, given that it’s about infanticide. The music is high Romantic, but infused with Janacek’s usual folk inspirations, including some idiosyncratic vocalizations and relative realism (realism is always relative in operas) – ‘realism’ such as the knocking on the door and …

2007, Books, Fiction

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks (2007) by Christopher Brookmyre

This is not only  a well-done mystery but it is also a fine indictment of a certain kind of chicanery, one that drives me particularly crazy. SPOILERS

2012, Movies

Beyond Outrage (2012, Takeshi Kitano)

The sequel is more of the same: tons of people getting shot (and occasionally stabbed) because of some perceived offense. At least there’s a little character development this time, but the parade of creative death scenes feels less creative. I just don’t really get these films; they’re like typical American revenge movies transported to Japan …