2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

It’s a testament to the endless credulity of human beings that this film got made as a blockbuster, with the budget that entails and the all-star cast. The Mayan Apocalypse thing was some the worst horse shit I’ve heard the intelligent people I know spew, and it drove me crazy that I knew people who claimed to be open to the possibility of it happening, as if being “open-minded” meant that you had to believe the stupid idea that the Mayans – the fucking Mayans, people – predicted the end of the world. Apparently enough people felt this way – Read More

The Boys Are Back (2009, Scott Hicks)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

For much of its run, this feels like a much more authentic version of the ‘widowed single-parent struggling to raise children’ sub-genre. It has a location and a concept that are not typical of the genre and the whole thing feels more naturalistic (despite talking to dead people). However… (spoilers, if this type of film can be said to have a plot point spoiled) Read More

Boogie Woogie (2009, Duncan Ward)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a reasonably amusing, reasonably on satire of the London art world which could well be called the Short Cuts of art world movies – at least it aspires to be that. There’s an All Star cast, there are lots of inter-cut stories, there’s a fairly ruthless attitude towards many of the characters. Not having spent any time in these circles, I assume that most of this is fairly spot on. The only real issue for me is that it’s not consistently entertaining. (Well, I guess the other one would be: who cares about the problems of rich art Read More

Kagel: String Quartet No. 4; Keuris: String Quartet No. 1 (2009) by Lagos Ensemble

Categories: 1963, 1993, and 2009.

This disc collects Kagel’s final quartet and the first quartet by Tristan Keuris, a Dutch composer I have never hear of before. The works were composed 30 years apart. Kagel’s fourth and final quartet is similar to his third in that it contains more radical elements, but these elements are incorporated into more traditional and recognizable forms (even if the quartet is two movements of 8 or so passages each, which is very much not traditional). It’s perhaps the most conservative of his string quartets, but don’t let that trick you into thinking this is a particularly conservative piece of Read More

Black Dynamite (2009, Scott Sanders)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

I haven’t seen any blaxploitation in some time but, from what I remember, this is a spot on parody. And, like every great parody, it takes itself seriously enough of the time that the film and characters feel committed to the genre even as they tear it apart. There are some really solid jokes here, about the genre itself, about African-American culture, about filmmaking in general, and even some “lower” stuff (of the kind you might find in a “spoof”). Though the film probably works better if you are a fan of the genre, it still works quite well even Read More

The Peep Diaries (2009) by Hal Niedzviecki

Categories: 2009, Books, Journalism, Non-Fiction, Psychology, and Society.

This is a relatively interesting and amusing book about how modern technology and modern culture have created a brave new world that we don’t really understand how to navigate (and which could have all sorts of unintended consequences for us. However, the book suffers from a number of problems which make it not among the best books to examine this particular moment in human history (and there are a lot of these books). First, Niedzviecki tries to give all the different things he covers one name: Peep. Obviously that didn’t stick. And the problem is that he comes off as Read More

The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James (1994, 2009)

Categories: 1931, 1994, and 2009.

This is one of the numerous discs to collect all nine of Skip James 1931 78 records that he recorded before he abandoned his music career (or whatever happened) until being “rediscovered” in the ’60s. This music is essential listening for fan of the blues or people interested in music history. James among the best guitarists of his era – he might be the best pre-electric blues guitar player ever. And he was an incredible and distinctive singer. Unfortunately, the sound is often awful and I don’t know whether that’s because of degradation to the original recordings or because of 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

Best Worst Movie (2009, Michael Stephenson)

Categories: 1990, 2009, and Movies.

This film is ostensibly about Troll 2, which some consider the worst movie ever made at(at one point it had a 0% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes  and was once the worst movie on IMDB). At this point I should mention I have never seen Troll 2. Surprised, aren’t you? I should. But I don’t know if it will ever beat Island of Death. Nothing will ever beat Island of Death.* But it’s really about what happened to the cast, and the cult that formed and the film, and the tour the film’s main actors took the film on in Read More

Black Sheep aka Oveja Negra (2009, Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a movie that tries to tell a relatively simple story using complicated narrative techniques. The movie is told in flashback, almost entirely, but the reason for use of flashback is not revealed until the film’s reveal and, until that moment, it’s hard to know why exactly the film is told in flashback because it’s handled rather clumsily both in the way it’s done – at points with, essentially, flashbacks within the flashback – and because the flashback device is forgotten at times and suffers from a Saving Private Ryan problem, where the narrator was not present for much Read More

Case 39 (2009, Christian Alvart)

Categories: 2009.

Renee Zellwegger, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper and Callum Keith Cennie star in this film. Why have you never heard of it? Well, the reason is because this film is awwwful and my guess is that it was dropped at some point when nobody would pay attention to it. It is awful in so many ways: the characterizations are awful (Zellwegger is the world’s worst social worker, or close to it, McShane is supposedly competent until he is utterly incompetent, Cooper is a better social worker than Zellwegger but that is damning with faint praise); the script is awful (it’s transparent, Read More

Angels & Demons (2009, Ron Howard)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is one of those movies where even a little bit of a thought unravels everything. Tom Hanks’ character makes insane “deductions” and everyone (rightly) thinks he’s insane, yet somehow the plot machinations always bear him out. It’s utterly ridiculous stuff, especially the climatic scenes where there’s literally no way that anyone could have possibly set up such elaborate clues or interpreted them. Frankly, the high production values are literally the only thing that saves this from being an utter disaster. 3/1o Read More

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (2009, Jessica Oreck)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a fascinating if idiosyncratic documentary about the importance of insects in Japanese culture. It’s not structured in a traditional manner and features literally one talking head, but the the off-centre approach works as a means of involving you in the material differently than, say, a strictly educational film might. Despite my general interest in Japanese film, I was pretty much completely unaware of any of this, and I found the film enlightening in addition to being unique and involving. Different but well worth the time. 8/10 Read More

Beeswax (2009, Andrew Bujalski)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a bare-bones indie dramedy about two twins at a particularly crucial point in their lives in Austin. It’s one of those indie movies where there isn’t much of a plot – though this has more than most – and there is not much in the ways of production – the actors are shot giving their lines but it feels as if some of the dialogue is improvised (or under-rehearsed), lighting is natural and so on. This is a very particular style of movie and I guess if you really like the style, you might really like this movie. Read More

Bananas!* (2009, Fredrik Gertten)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a maddening, frustrating and outrage-sparking documentary about Dole’s (nee Standard Fruit Company) use of a banned pesticide in Nicaragua (and Costa Rica and Honduras) and how it deeply affected the lives of workers on plantations. There are great things about this movie, including the depiction of actual courtroom arguments, and the clear evidence that Dole ignored Dow’s warning (the warning from the manufacture of the pesticide) to not use said pesticide. But there are problems: it’s clear that the filmmakers befriended one of the attorneys suing Dole and… SPOILER ALERT Read More

Bakjwi aka Thirst (2009, Chan-woo Park)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

The idea of vampires being used as some kind of metaphor for sex has probably been around for as long as vampires have been in literature. It’s not a new thing. And so, initially, this film feels like yet another in the endless line of erotic vampire films. However, the film has enough twists and turns in the usual story that it does not feel at all like a conventional vampire film. SPOILER ALERT For one thing, once the A Place in the Sun type act is committed, the film takes a darkly comic turn into more of a comedy Read More

Backyard (2009, Carlos Carrera)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is an ambitious film, based on a true story, that centres around a female cop and some other women trying to end an epidemic of violence against women and murder in Juarez. It takes the general serial killer tropes and expands them into a more serious, almost Traffic-style drama. I really wanted to like it. However, there are some major, major problems: many of the characters are drawn too thinly; a radio DJ’s spiels are used as a major plot device and it feels forced and awkward (especially his early rants, which sound like they are introducing the plot) Read More

Baaria (2009, Giuseppe Tornatore)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is one of those movies that tries to tell the story of a town/place/region/country through the lives of a character or family of characters. In this case, it’s a man and his family in a town in Sicily. There are inherent problems with this type of film and that’s evident through much of this movie. The filmmakers assume way too much knowledge on the part of the audience – they assume, in this case, that the audience is Sicilian or, at the very least, Italian. I don’t know my Italian history like Italians and so I found a number Read More

Away We Go (2009 Sam Mendes)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is one of those moderately funny, moderately affecting American indie romantic dramedies that were just everywhere in the aughts. The soundtrack – filled with the music of a man named Alexi Murdoch – is perhaps the most obvious clue that you are watching something made in the aughts, but the whole vibe is just too similar to too many other films of its era to really make it distinguished. It’s the kind of film I think I would like had I not seen 50 other movies like it. But this one is better than normal – it’s more over-the-top Read More

The Art of the Steal (2009, Don Argott)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a great documentary about a private art collection that I had never heard of but that is larger than most museum’s and is one of the largest art collections in the world. The documentary is very much on one side, but it’s told in a True Crime style that really makes you enraged about how this takeover was perpetrated. There’s nothing especially great about the telling, just that it convinces you of their point of view – whether or not it is correct – and makes you hurt for the art collection and its defenders. This is a Read More

Army of Crime (2009, Robert Guediguian

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This feels like a spiritual sequel, albeit a corrective, to Melville’s classic Army of Shadows. In this version, the resistance is a ragtag group of foreigners, Jews and communists. It doesn’t have the same kind of suspense that Melville’s film has (I mean, this is Melville we’re talking about) but it’s got a larger scope, as it is clearly intended as a an allegory – as a message of racial harmony for contemporary France. But even without worrying about that message, the film is an effective depiction of the Resistance in France and it raises similar issues as Melville’s film Read More

Antichrist (2009, Lars von Trier)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

I struggle with Von Trier’s movies – and megalomania – for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the ridiculous Dogme 95 statement that he has gone back on so thoroughly in his later films. (It’s not that I object to Dogme 95 in itself but it’s the brashness of youth I object to, and how hilariously he has abandoned his supposedly sincere principles later in life. Von Trier seems to belong to a segment of artists who revel in depression, as if it’s a badge of honour or a badge of their position as Artists or Read More

Hindemith: The Complete Viola Music 1 (2009) by Lawrence Power, Simon Crawford-Phillips

Categories: 1919, 1922, 1939, 2009, and Music.

This disc collects Hindemith’s three viola sonatas with piano accompaniment, and it also includes a transcription for viola and piano of one of the dances from Hindemith’s ballet, Nobilissima Visione. The sequencing is odd: it starts with the final one, then goes to the first, then to the second, then back to the late ‘30s for the ballet transcription. Anyway… The 1939 sonata is exactly the kind of thing I like, and reminds me that, when Hindemith wanted to, he could be both radical and traditional at the same time. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about this music, but the work Read More