BloodRayne: The Third Reich (2011, Uwe Boll)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is a pretty awful film that seems intent on reviving the Naziploitation films of the 70s that everyone fondly remembers. (Oh, you don’t fondly remember them? You think they’re offensive? That’s weird.) I can’t say whether or not this is a fond tribute to those films, as I’ve only ever seen one of them, but it’s a shitty, shitty movie. Read More

Borgen (2010)

Categories: 2010, 2011, and 2013.

Borgen is a remarkable, unique Danish television show that may have established it’s own genre. Every other TV show to focus on politics that I have ever seen has added elements of fantasy; normally these shows and movies are “political thrillers” where someone always dies; occasionally they’re comedies. Either way, there is a balance between realism (in some cases) and concessions to entertainment. Borgen is not one of those shows. Borgen is very like the most realistic fictional TV show ever made about politics. Read More

The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) by Steven Pinker

Categories: 2011, Books, and Non-Fiction.

If you watch the news today, you will be told the world is awful. Even if, like me, you do not have cable, you can still get enough news of the awfulness of the world from your antenna or the internet. The news is an endless barrage of controversy and tragedy; controversy over the supposedly awful things that people do to each other, and the tragedy of yet another series of deaths, caused by human beings or natural disasters. Even if you’re a bit of an optimist, as I am, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that the world is Read More

Frozen Planet (2011)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

This is yet another pretty good Attenborough nature documentary. However, there is a strong sense of deja vu. I feel like I’ve seen these scenes before. I probably haven’t but you can always watch so many documentaries. But it’s pretty. My favourite part was the last episode, actually, which was more interesting and unusual for one of these documentaries, given that it focuses on humans. I learned something! 7/10 Read More

Big Bays Gone Bananas (2011, Fredrick Gertten)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Regardless of what you think of Fredrick Gertten’s Bananas!* (a film I was skeptical of in part because of the film itself and, likely, in part, because of Dole’s campaign of defamation against Mr. Gertten), I doubt you believe that it should be censored (especially if you’ve never seen it). I have seen lots of terrible documentaries, and seen lots of nonsense on the internet but never have I demanded that the content be suppressed. Read More

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

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

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. Read More

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

Categories: 1990, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010, and 2011.

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 pretty clear from listening to this record that Maiden is just milking their sound for all its worth. Sure, some of these songs are pretty catchy and everything is very professional and competent, but so many of these songs follow the exact same formula. And Read More

The Violence of Financial Capitalism (2011) by Christian Marazzi

Categories: 2011, Books, and Non-Fiction.

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book this dense. A long time. Maybe grad school, maybe in the years after grad school when I tried to re-read or finish lots of books that I felt I hadn’t spent enough time with in school. Either way, I don’t think my brain is trained for this stuff any more. And, well, I never took economics. So that’s a problem. Read More

Metal Evolution (2011)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

This is an in depth examination of metal by the man most associated with covering metal on film (though I have yet to see either of his movies). The positive side of this show is that it is a landmark: I don’t think there’s anything like it out there to focus on just a single genre of music. It’s an in depth, it’s informative, it’s enjoyable. The negative: despite it’s length, it somehow manages to miss a bunch of major subgenres (Black, Death, Stoner, Grindcore) but it also feels cursory in its examination of some major bands (FNM!). Also, the Read More

Better This World (2011, Kelly Duane, Katie Galloway)

Categories: 2011, Movies, Politics, and Society.

This is an important film that is really, really worth your time. What starts off seemingly as a portrait of some well-intentioned youths that got into some bad shit (and feels, perhaps, like an apology for such behaviour) soon reveals itself to be the story of something so much worse. Though it’s weird to say this about a documentary, I’ll do it anyway. If you haven’t read the plot description or heard about this movie, SPOILER ALERT 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

Bellflower (2011, Evan Glodell)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

First of all, it’s really, really hard to like a movie when you don’t like any of the characters. (And I mean any.) And it’s hard to like a movie when you don’t understand why anyone does anything. These people drink all day and spend money. (And do some drugs too.) One of them appears to have a part time job, but the rest of them just appear to be living off…uh, I don’t know what they’re living off of. Every single one of these people is a person I would avoid if I met them. Every. Single. One. What’s Read More

A Better Life (2011, Christopher Weitz)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is an affecting movie that does a good job of avoiding cliches. Given the immigration status of the father, and the bad crowd the kid is falling in with, there’s a lot that could go wrong here. But the filmmakers wisely take the less predictable (probably more realistic) option of telling a simple story, instead of working up to some big Hollywood climax. I have seen at least one fairly shitty Hollywood film about the illegal immigration situation in the States so it’s nice to see an effective family drama set within it instead. No beating you over the Read More

Bernie (2011, Richard Linklater)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is one of those films that is played so straight you aren’t sure whether or not it’s a comedy. It’s also rather unique in the sense that, though it is a fictionalized version of a true story, it’s not only partially told as if it was a documentary, but it features interviews with numerous real people. It’s a daring approach, and it’s a testament to both the skill of Linklater and the performance of Jack Black that it works. (This may be the best performance of Black’s career.) The story is a rather weird one, of the kind that’s Read More

Behold the Lamb (2011, John McIlduff)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is one of those movies where quirky characters – who don’t like each other – spend a day with each other and learn some kind of profound lessons about life. If this was an American movie it would come complete with a particularly quirky score. I don’t like these people, but though I learn more about them and they grew on me I’m not sure why I care about their hijinks and their life lessons. It’s well made and all that, but I am just bored of these types of films, even Irish spins on them. 6/10 Read More

Becoming Chaz (2011, Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is a TV-quality level documentary that feels more like an abbreviated reality TV show than it does a film. The other really serious problem is that Bono is listed as a producer. Want to guess whether or not he had final cut? That aside, this does a reasonably decent job of giving us norms a sense of the feeling of absolute necessity of a sex “transition” for those who feel like they were born into the wrong body. However, a much better film has been made about a non-celebrity transitioning and you should watch that instead. 5/10 Read More

Battle for Brooklyn (2011 Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

I have always had problems with the concept of eminent domain, or at least ever since I flirted with anarcism in my early 20s and developed my civil libertarianism. I don’t like the idea that government can decide to take the property of individuals because of some vague concept of “greater good.” But, that being said, eminent domain is a necessary practicality – without eminent domain we would have fewer highways, power plants, and so forth. Basically, if we want public projects, we need some degree of eminent domain written into constitutions. Read More

Barrymore (2011, Erik Canuel)

Categories: 1996, 2011, Movies, and Theatre.

This is the film version of a 1996 one-man show of Christopher Plummer as John Barrymore rehearsing for a revival of Richard III. Unlike some play adaptations, this one makes little pretense of hiding that it was a one-man show. Though film tricks are used to add or slightly change things that must have been done differently on the stage, for the most part it is just a filmed play. And I must say I find that a little refreshing, given how so many adaptions of plays try to hide their staged nature. This kind of thing rests on the Read More

Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011, Michael Rapaport)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Full disclosure: I do not listen to Hip Hop. I have heard some here and there – at friend’s houses, on the radio, and at concerts, and now, for my podcast – but I really know nothing about it. This is an interesting documentary about a hip hop group I know nothing about it. It’s a little odd that some of the interviewees aren’t great, given the huge amount of people they interviewed (as evidenced by the closing credits). But the movie presents the history while only hinting at the breakup, then it deals with the breakup and some semblance Read More

The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicius)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

The hype around this movie was ridiculous and only increased with the Oscar wins (which are meaningless, but anyway…). I just want to address that before I actually tell you what I think of the movie. It’s not novel to take inspiration from silent films. Canada’s own Guy Maddin has been taking inspiration from silent films for the better part of his career, and doing so in such an original way that he practically invented his own style of filmmaking (though his films are less indebted to silent cinema than they used to be). And there have been lots of Read More

Another Earth (2011, Mike Cahill)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is a movie that, by its very title, advertises itself as science fiction. But it’s not, not really. I mean, it’s barely science fiction. Not in the way you expect. MILD SPOILER ALERT Rather, it’s a film about redemption and, regrettably, it follows that ridiculous movie cliche where the person who seeks redemption inserts herself into the life of her victim without his knowledge. This cliche is ridiculous because people don’t do this. And it’s a cliche because this is far from the first movie I’ve seen where this happens. The movie handles it rather well, but we’re left Read More

How We Held Our Post (2011) by Causing a Tiger

Categories: 2011 and Music.

Causing a Tiger is two fifths of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (or, if you prefer, 100% of Rabbit Rabbit) plus Secret Chiefs 3 bassists/Ceramic Dog guitarist Shahzad Ismaily (who, here, plays a guitar somewhere between a regular guitar and a bass). This is their second album, apparently. The tracks were “improvised” though to my ears it sounds more like un- or under-rehearsed rather than completely improvised. This reminds me a lot of other “jazz musicians playing rock music” stuff that has been coming out in the last decade (like Ceramic Dog) only a) two of these people aren’t really jazz musicians Read More

Still You Lay Dreaming – Tales for the Stage II (2011) by Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi

Categories: 2011 and Music.

This second collection of stage music by members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (this time without Dan Rathburn) is considerably more consistent than the last, in part, I guess, because it was written all for one production. I like this better for another reason: here Kihlstedt and Bossi really stretch themselves – they don’t sound like SGM, they don’t sound like the-yet-to-be-launched Rabbit Rabbit, they don’t sound like themselves. It’s clear they’re trying different things here, which is neat. I suspect the relatively poor rating is because of this; the music is unexpected. 7/10 Read More

The Ides of March (2011, George Clooney)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This appears to be Clooney’s attempt to show how a truly “good” candidate would fair in the US primaries. (Why are these films always about primaries? Oh, right, because the US has a bizarre system.) The problem is that Clooney’s character is not a realistic candidate, in my view of American politics. I guess he got filled with hope and figured, if Barack can do it, my make believe idealist can do it. Well, I don’t buy that for a second. Most of what comes out of Morris’ mouth is anathema to much of the US. I don’t care if Read More