A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini

Categories: 2007, Books, and Fiction.

This is, for the most part, a compelling, affecting and, at times, devastating novel of what it was like to live as a woman in Afghanistan for the last quarter century or so of the 20th century. It is particularly effective of giving insight into men who hate women – into a whole society that hates women. Fortunate as I am to have been born in Toronto, and raised by a strong, intelligent career woman, it continues to boggle my mind that there are so many men in the world who blame and punish women for their own faults, failings Read More

Bliss aka Mutluluk (2007, Abdullah Oguz)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is an affecting film that unfortunately follows a few too many film conventions, including some Hollywood ones that don’t make a whole lot of sense given a) the size of Turkey and b) that they’re on a yacht… But I understand the appeal of a film like this, which tells probably a relatively rare story for a Turkish audience at the time. I just struggle with the way the story is told with the flashbacks and the chase. 6/10 Read More

Khachaturian: Spartacus (1979, 2007) by The Bolshoi National Orchestra

Categories: 1956, 1979, and 2007.

As far as I can tell, this is the orchestral music from a 1979 performance of Khachaturian’s Spartacus. It is the complete four suites, I believe (or, rather, all the music). I definitely prefer listening to it all at once, instead of hearing one suite or something like that. Read More

Big Man Japan (2007, Hitoshi Matsumoto)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This mockumentary has an ingenious conceit – the everyday life of a superhero. It combines a satire of Japanese monster movies with a satire of reality TV/slice of life documentaries. This is a ridiculously silly movie – which gets sillier at the end, something I’ve always admired – but its points are still worth taking, even if the film is extremely silly as it attacks easy targets. Something else. 8/10 Read More

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

Categories: 1902, 1983, and 2007.

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 the borderline talking. I particularly like the third act. This set also includes “Jealousy,” which was written for this opera but not used and later published as a separate pie.ce 9/10 Read More

Beowulf (2007, Robert Zemeckis)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

Of the two films I’ve seen about Beowulf, this is definitely the better one. I haven’t read the legend myself (beyond a version for children, many years ago) but this definitely feels like it is more true to the original story – the story is definitely less blatantly revisionist than the other version I saw. This one is reasonably compelling but it’s hardly the landmark film that a few made it out to be (given that Sin City had essentially already done this same thing a few years prior). I’m glad that people are using animation to tell these stories, Read More

Mad Men (2007)

Categories: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and TV.

I watched Mad Men over an even longer period than most of you, so my memory of the individual episodes is not perfect. I know there were some weaker ones in there, and there even parts of seasons (perhaps even whole ones) that I didn’t enjoy on the level of the best parts of the show. But I want to talk about the show as a whole, and not dwell on its occasional missteps or the fact that it ran on too long (like most other American TV shows…). Read More

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

Categories: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, and Music.

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and quoting other composers’ music. And one of the reasons he failed to successfully perform it in 1962 is because the piece is monumental (that’s usually the word used to describe it): 4,235 measures long, which sounds like an awful lot. (I’ve also read somewhere that Read More

Traineater (2007) by Book of Knots

Categories: 2007 and Music.

I think most people who come to this record because of the musicians involved will invariably have really high expectations, which is a problem. But a concept album about the decline of US industry made by some of the best experimental rock musicians with so many notable guests – Tom Waits!!! Trey Spruance!!! Mike Watt!!! – is bound to raise expectations. And, if you come to this later, as I have, there might also be an inclination to see this as the beginning of Bossi’s and Kihlstedt’s descent from avant garde weirdness and cutesy indie pop. And so I must Read More

Skullgrid (2007) by Behold…the Arctopus

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is some utterly bonkers playing. These guys are clearly incredible musicians. Just incredible. But it’s half an hour of (almost) exclusively bonkers riffs and nothing else. There are a few moments (such as on “Canada”) when they move out of their (admittedly extremely difficult) comfort zone, but for the most part, these guys just shred and shred and shred. And eventually it gets kind of boring…or numbing. Anyway, extremely impressive from a musicianship perspective. But lacking in restraint (and songs). 7/10 Read More

Beaufort (2007, Joseph Cedar)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a lower budget Israeli war film that falls firmly in the “noble grunt” sub-genre but manages to avoid many of the cliches of that sub-genre. I say lower budget because the digital video quality feels like it belongs to 2001 not 2007. Anyway, the focuses on an outpost in Lebanon that Israel held for around 20 yeas. It focuses on the last group of soldiers stationed that and so covers many of the usual themes of recent noble grunt films. However, the unique setting distinguishes it as do the rather naturalistic performances and the fairly unobtrusive score. I’m Read More

Battle in Seattle (2007, Stuart Townsend)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is an attempt to produce an alternative version of the infamous Seattle WTO protests than the one produced by the mainstream media at the time, a version that was decidedly anti-protester and pro-WTO, pro-State of Washington, pro-Seattle. There’s an all-star cast (I mean, seriously, look at that cast) and the film mixes actual footage with recreations. Having experienced a lesser version of these events in the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010, I can say that this does, at times, recreate the craziness of urban protests when riot police get involved. But there are some, major, major problems that Read More

Balls of Fury (2007, Robert Ben Garant)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a pretty unfunny comedy that seems to exist solely because the writers thought that Christopher Walken not even attempting to play a Chinese man would be funny. I generally enjoy Reno 911 (though not as much as some people) but I feel like it’s borderline impossible to tell this was made by the same people. The gags here are mostly easy and obvious, and the script doesn’t always fully commit. Most of the humour – beyond the ostensibly humourous premise of an Enter the Dragon ping pong tournament – could have been in any movie. In fact, many Read More

The Band’s Visit (2007, Eran Kolirin)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a moderately amusing and moderately affecting film. It’s a simple story of a band getting the wrong directions and ending up in the wrong place. The movie plays off familiar lines – Arabic vs. Israeli, etc. – with have been mined many times before. It’s certainly much less obnoxious than many of these types of movies, in part because of the simple story and because of the understated performance. Maybe I was in the wrong mood but it didn’t grab me. I chuckled a bunch of times and felt the poignancy a few times, but if this is Read More

Atonement (2007, Joe Wright)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is an ambitious adaptation of a novel that I have not read, so how it works as an adaptation, I can only guess. The film it itself is, as I have said, extremely ambitious. It jumps around in time (as, I assume, the novel does), it let’s us know fairly early on that maybe the narrator isn’t so reliable, but it does this perhaps a little too subtly, it contains a fascinating score that waivers from utterly conventional to downright provocative (using a typewriter as percussion – or percussion that sounds like a typewriter), it’s got an incredible extended Read More

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, Andrew Dominik)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a fascinating film, one that attempts to take a novel that tells a tale as if it was written at the time and translate that to the screen. The cast is incredible and the movie is well shot. But the pacing is not great even though the film appears to take up well into the novel’s storyline (based on something I read about the novel online). It’s a long film and that becomes problematic when the pacing isn’t great. I feel like it’s a near miss – some better pacing and we might have a masterpiece on our Read More

Bigfoot’s Reflection (2007, Evan Beloff)

Categories: 2007 and TV.

This is a weird, brief film about Sasquatch that tries both to convince us that Sasquatch exists but, at the same time, attempts to be the objective about it, by including interviews with (a couple) skeptics. The film utterly fails to address the biggest problems with the Sasquat theory: no fossil record and no corpses. Whether or not the film of Sasquatch shown in the film is real – and though I suspect it is not, I cannot prove that – doesn’t really matter, as the other evidence is the worst kind of evidence: eye-witness accounts and foot print casts. Read More

Angel (2007, Francois Ozon)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a well-executed period melodrama that doubles both as a morality tale that money, indeed, cannot buy happiness nor can superficial fame, and as a parody of oh so many British period melodramas. It’s such a subtle parody that one can easily forget it’s a parody (and, judging by the reviews, a lot of people missed it) and there are really only a couple moments in the film where it’s nature as parody is fully revealed: on their honeymoon (seriously folks, how can any of you take that honeymoon seriously?) and when Angel yells out some terrible romance novel Read More

American Gangster (2007, Ridley Scott)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This review is of the extended version, not the theatrical version. This movies tries to balance a number of competing crime genre tropes: the true crime story, the drug dealer biography, the police procedural; it often feels like a couple separate films put together. It’s ambitious but I’m not sure it’s entirely successful. However, how Scott handles the climax is so adept – it manages to combine moments of extreme tension with a nearly Godfather-esque handling of the arrests – that I want to forgive him for the minor missteps over the rest of the film. Personally, I don’t care Read More

Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who (2007, Paul Crowder, Murray Lerner, Parris Patton)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a fawning, awkward fluff piece of one of the greatest bands to come out of the British Invasion. I love the Who – there was probably a time in my life when they were my favourite band – but this film feels like the Official Version, something vetted by Daltrey and Townshend so that we are okay with the fact that they have continued on after the deaths of half the band. I know it’s cool to reunite now, but I am firmly on the side of Zeppelin here. The film is awkwardly episodic – we’re meant to Read More

Amal (2007, Richie Mehta)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

I have read or seen this plot many times, though the source of it is escaping me currently. This is a surprising take on it, not just because of how it plays with our emotions and our expectations regarding a somewhat familiar story, but because of its setting, India – even though it is a Canadian film, I fully expected full-on Bollywood nonsense and that’s not what we get. And I think the familiarity of the story is part of its appeal – at bottom the idea that the poorest are the richest in spirit is a common theme among Read More

The Alchemy Index: Volume III and Volume IV – Air and Earth (2007) by Thrice

Categories: 2007 and Music.

Unfortunately Volume III takes the brief moments of Volume II that alluded to a sort of Post Grunge / “Modern” rock style and takes them to the logical conclusion. I guess some people would consider these songs “stronger” – they’re certainly catchier – by why neuter what your band does well? At least the rhythm section is way better than your standard everyday rock band. It’s certainly a bit of a departure from what I thought this band sounded like, and I guess that’s fine if you like ballads and stuff. I feel like I’m being too hard on it. Read More

The Alchemy Index: Volume II – Water (2007) by Thrice

Categories: 2007 and Music.

Unfortunately I have not been able to hear Volume I so this review is only of Volume II. It’s a tough call though, because ostensibly, a lot of the appeal of this, and the reason the discs are separate even though they don’t have to be, is for stylistic reasons. So without hearing Volume I, I cannot comment as to how Volume II diverges. And that’s a problem, because Volume II is basically just somewhat commercial Post Hardcore. It’s hard to get excited about it. When reviewing another one of these bands a few years ago, I worried that Post Read More