The Blue Planet (2001)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

This is a beautiful nature documentary about the world’s oceans. Having watched the excellent Planet Earth earlier, this feels like a bit of a let down, just because I think Planet Earth is more magnificent. That isn’t the fault of The Blue Planet, but I can’t help feeling some deja vu and also, that the production values improved on the more ambitious one. But this is still great to look at and reasonably informative. 8/10 Read More

Jay Jay Johnson with Clifford Brown (1953) aka The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Volume 1

Categories: 1953 and 2001.

This is some extremely solid bop featuring all around great playing from a great trumpet player, a decent tenor (also plays baritone, which is cool) and the man some consider the greatest jazz trombonist ever. Johnson doesn’t get as much time as the reissue title (or his role as leader) would suggest, but his solos are still good and he’s ably assisted by the other horn players. Nothing to dislike here, for sure. 9/10 Read More

Janacek: Piano Works: Diary of One Who Disappeared; 15 Moravian Folk Songs (2001) by Thomas Ades et al.

Categories: 1887, 1909, 1911, 1919, 1922, 1927, 1928, 2001, and Music.

This disc collects two sets of songs by Janacek; one is a proper song cycle, the other is a collection of folk melodies for piano and voice. The Diary of One Who Has Disappeared is just great. Janacek subverts our (my?) idea of what one of these should sound like with abrupt endings and multiple voices. It’s certainly among the cooler song-cycles I’ve heard from the era. It’s really great stuff and is the absolute favourite of everything of Janacek’s I’ve heard to date. The “15 Moravian Songs” is not quite a traditional set of songs, as we might think Read More

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

Categories: 1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is a general history of Rome meant, I believe, for use in schools as a textbook. It’s written that way anyway, so it’s rather dry. The strength of the book is in the early going when it provides a great deal of pre-history to the empire, pretty much all of which I was unfamiliar with. Another strength is that the authors mostly refuse to speculate, so this is likely an accurate, not one that thrives on biased ancient accounts or on inventing motives for historical actors. But the book has two major weaknesses, even though it has been updated Read More

Baran (2001, Majid Majidi)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

This is an Iranian neo-realist / renaissance film that tells a simple story (it goes without saying…) of an Iranian boy whose feelings for one particular person cause him to overcome his xenophobia. It’s simply told – there is not much of a score until later in the film, for example – and the acting is naturalistic. It’s one of those films that is clearly good – and affecting – but doesn’t necessarily add anything – beyond the context of migrant workers trying to survive in Tehran – to a very old story of love uniting despite differences. 8/10 Read More

The Anniversary Party (2001, Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

This is one of those great ensemble dramedies where everyone is on and a balance is struck between (dark) laugh-out-loud humour and pathos. Though it gets a little over-the-top acting-wise by the end, it’s hard to dislike it, as watching these actors for two hours is hardly a chore. All the characters feel developed, even though some of them we barely meet, and all the humour is rooted in character (and is appropriately dark). Yeah, it’s Hollywood. We shouldn’t care. But I did, so that works for me. 8/10 Read More

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (2001) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1960, 2001, and Music.

This is among the most traditional scores of Herrmann’s I’ve heard. It’s downright classical in its overture. I mean, shockingly traditional music for Herrmann. Not having seen this particular film, I don’t know how deliberate this is (I assume, because it’s Gulliver’s Travels that the music is trying to sound like 18th century music). But as a standalone score, it’s really conventional, even when it begins to resemble more of a score later on. Don’t get me wrong, the music is fine, but it’s so conventional as to not be worth your time if you’re looking for landmark scores. 6/10 Read More

The Tiki Bar is Open (2001) by John Hiatt

Categories: 2001 and Music.

I can’t remember where I heard of Hiatt. Maybe somebody covered one of his songs and I liked it. Maybe I saw him on Treme. I think that was it. The band has a lot of energy, which is good. But I am a little wary of the songs. A couple of them remind me of better songs by other songwriters. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s that they’re not amazing, and it’s hard for me to get super excited about this when the songs aren’t great. The biggest problem is the final track, which sees them attempting (and failing Read More

Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

I don’t know why it took me so long to see this movie. I’m a pretty big Jeunet fan, but whatever interest I had in seeing it at the time soon waned. No idea why. For some reason I anticipated I wouldn’t like it, which seems odd to me. It’s way less out there than Delicatessen (still my favourite) or The City of Lost Children, and significantly more accessible, but what it lacks in utter uniqueness it makes up in charm. It reminds me of Leolo to a great extent, but a little zanier if that’s possible. This is how Read More

Is This It (2001) by the Strokes

Categories: 2001 and Music.

So I avoided this like the plague when it came out: it was too trendy for me, but I also didn’t like Casablancas highly affected voice (it’s not that I dislike his voice, it’s more that I dislike the way he uses it most of the time), and, when picking between the “The” bands, I was firmly on the side of the blues rock influenced one over all the others.But over the years this has become a staple. I was shocked to know 4 of the songs pretty well, and I don’t even listen to the radio. They’ve just been Read More

Handel: Water Music; Music for the Royal Fireworks (1984, 1993, 2001) by the English Baroque Soloists conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Categories: 1984 and Music.

I have heard parts of Water Music so many times that it’s hard to appreciate it. However, this performance is so idiosyncratic (perhaps the better word might be authentic, I don’t know) that it is almost like rediscovering the work, hearing it for the first time. And so I find that I kind of like it in a way I never would have expected with such an overexposed piece of music. Music for the Royal Fireworks is something I don’t think I’ve heard before, and it strikes me as definitely a more mature work than Water Music. That being said, Read More

The Sopranos (1999)

Categories: 1999 and TV.

The Sopranos has been seen by many many people at this point and so the fact that this review may include some mild spoilers should surprise no one. The Sopranos was the first massively successful American cable drama that aspired to levels of sophistication (and violence) only seen in movies. It was not the first sophisticated American TV drama, it wasn’t the first drama to bring movie-style violence to television. But it was the first one of these shows to be successful at this, the first runaway hit of these types of shows, and it established HBO’s “It’s not TV…” Read More

ABC African (2001, Abbas Kiarostami)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

This is an at times devastating, at times uplifting semi fly-on-the-wall documentary about AIDS orphans in Uganda, and the UN-led efforts to deal with the crisis. It is extraordinarily impressionistic (apparently it began as location scouting for a more formal film) and so is rather directionless, but that doesn’t prevent you the viewer by being alternatively filmed with anger/sadness and hope by the extraordinary images and the enthusiasm of the children just to be alive. Thought-provoking in its carelessness (as a formal film, not in terms of its subject), it is a unique film that I liked more than I Read More

We Stand Alonge Together: The Men of Easy Company (2001, Mark Cowen)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

This is an affecting documentary about the real people behind Band of Brothers. It is literally just interviews and stock footage (with a couple of brief shots of the mean in the present day) and is not particularly creative in its presentation or anything like that. And it doesn’t aim for that – this is basically just an extended DVD extra (maybe it aired on HBO too) and it is well made and certainly the stories are affecting. 6/10 Read More

Sweet Tea (2001) by Buddy Guy

Categories: 2001 and Music.

The record is introduced as Guy dealing with his age, a nice solo performance. But the rest of the record is significantly different. Sounds like an attempt to use modern production to make something “authentic.” That’s definitely better than that other trend in the blues – to mix it up with soul and R&B and other genres, which can be really annoying – but I’m not sure how necessary it is. The opening sets you up for one thing and the rest of the record is significantly different. As someone else noted, a couple of the performances go on forever Read More

Jazz (2001, Ken Burns)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

Jazz is a noble attempt to be the defining documentary about jazz, “America’s art music” and one of the greatest things to happen in human history, in my humble opinion. Burns has assembled his usual materials – pictures, quotes, historians, contemporary music – to go along with video clips and reminiscences due to the fact that much of this music was performed when it could be recorded either by audio alone or by audio and film. And it should be commended that the tried to do this, just like Burns should be commended for his other long-form documentary projects. But Read More

Grand Opening and Closing (2001) by Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

Categories: 2001 and Music.

SGM’s debut is an idiosyncratic mix of metal, ‘modern creative’, theatricality and some other disparate genres (prog for example). Part of the idiotically named ‘Rock Against Rock’ sub-genre – the standard-bearer? – SGM sound like a less chaotic, less Zappa-crazy Bungle at times, but don’t be mistaken by the oft made comparison. This is an entirely different beast – in part because they clearly like different weird things from Bungle. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature is their use of home made instruments and effects, which makes some tracks even less accessible. I must say I prefer their later stuff slightly, Read More

Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

This is a very creative movie that is noticeably more interesting than your average Hollywood animated film, even now that Hollywood’s animated films are getting significantly better. But it still has many of the genre tropes – and flaws – of anime that personally don’t do anything for me. There’s too much childhood fantasy for me, though I do acknowledge that is definitely what they are going for. It’s certainly an inventive film – some of the characters are pretty spectacular – but I will save my praise for something that actually affects me after it’s over. 7/10 Read More

Piano Concertos; Elegy for Anne Frank (2001) by Lukas Foss et al.

Categories: 1943, 1953, 1989, 2001, and Music.

This is an odd compilation in that it combines performances of Foss’ work by others with two by himself. I don’t really know why they aren’t all by himself, but whatever. I was unfamiliar with Foss and I must say his music is interesting, if far less radical than the 20th century music I normally enjoy. That isn’t to say there isn’t radical music here, but it seems that Foss was on a mission similar to those jazz performers who are trying to fit free into it tradition: Foss isn’t outright atonal – at least very often – but he Read More

Transcendental Blues (2001) by Steve Earle

Categories: 2001 and Music.

I can’t say I know Earle’s oeuvre enough to judge how much of a departure this is for him, but it sure sounds like one compared to his early output. This album is filled with the sounds of pop rock and alternative bands who have embraced “eastern music”. Sometimes these touches are subtler than others – and there are a couple songs where they are totally absent, and not coincidentally those are the strongest – but for the most part this record reeks of “expanding” his sound. So much so that on the title track his voice is nearly unrecognizable Read More

That’s My Bush (2001)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

This is no Brak Show Starring Brak but it’s still a pretty ruthless and relatively subtle satire of sitcom conventions (the last episode is a little more obvious about it). It’s a bit of a one-joke premise and so it is often more “oh that was a clever reference” than laugh-out-loud funny (though there are moments) and unfortunately a few too many of those laughs come from jokes from the sitcom formula (which are just more risque than they otherwise would have been) rather than the satire of the sitcom formula. It makes sense to me that this failed. I Read More

Pneumonia (2001) by Whiskeytown

Categories: 2001 and Music.

The gospel – at least the gospel that I read – has it that this is Whiskeytown’s big attempt at a statement beyond alt country; that this is their do-everything pop rock album that puts them in the canon of great bands…or something like that.  This rep definitely comes more than a little from the fact that the album was recorded well before it was released – allowing hype to build up – and because only half (or less) of the original material recorded made it on record. The (released) results certainly show some versatility on the band’s part that Read More

The Brak Show (2001)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

I was a little sceptical coming into this because I never liked Brak when he appeared in other Williams Street shows. I found him annoying and a distraction. But I was wrong. As Space Ghost destroys talk show conventions (and pretty much everything else) and as Aqua Teen destroys so many TV drama conventions, so does Brak, only Brak takes on the sitcom. It is equally effective as the other two shows, and as funny (it might be more consistently funny than Space Ghost, if not quite as ruthless). Another awesome cartoon. 9/10 Read More

Young Miles (1945-50, 2001) by Miles Davis et al. (1945-50, 2001)

Categories: 2001 and Music.

For die-hard fans of Miles, or for people really interested in how cool came out of bop, this is probably pretty near essential. For other people, I’m guessing it is totally inessential. What we have here are many – though hardly all – of the recordings Miles participated in from 1945 through 1950 – excluding those collected on albums like Birth of the Cool and Conception – with Bird, Diz, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, Tadd Dameron and Sarah Vaughan – among others – and of course with Miles as leader. Nothing here – beyond the Birth of the Cool alternates Read More

Debussy / Dutilleux / Ravel: String Quartets (2001) by Belcea Quartet

Categories: 1893, 1903, 1977, 2001, and Music.

The Debussy quartet is phenomenal. The more I here of his music the more I think he is incredibly underrated, even though he is still acknowledged as a trail-blazer. It’s just one of those things that you’re like “wow, I can’t believe somebody wrote this, let alone in 1893”. The Dutilleux quartet should therefore make no sense pared with the other two. But for some reason it really does sound to me like it “came from” Debussy’s, I can’t really articulate why except to say that it feels natural. The first time I listened I had to double check the Read More

Zettel (2001) by Deep Dark United

Categories: 2001 and Music.

I have listened to music since before I can remember. My mom recently reminded me of a Big Bird record I had as a toddler which taught me about the different instruments in the orchestra. I have been listening to music seriously – as a snob – for at least half my life. So by this point I have standards. I can’t sing, I can’t play guitar, and I could never do what any of these musicians do, but I do know what good music sounds like and I think the thousands of albums and works I have heard in Read More

Women in Jazz (1998, Retro Music) by Various Artists

Categories: 1998 and Music.

The cheapie box set is an interesting phenomenon: Gather some recordings from major artists where the copyright has lapsed (or never existed), Put the recordings in any arbitrary order you choose, Use more discs than are necessary to convince the buyer they are getting a great bargain, Give it a catchy title. I have a Scott Joplin compilation with no credits (funnily enough, from a Quebec label, just like this set) but you can clearly hear differences in piano and recording quality. I have a Muddy Waters box set which is all demos, but nowhere on the outside does it Read More

The Interzone Mantras by the Tea Party (2001 EMI)

Categories: 2001 and Music.

The Interzone Mantras by the Tea Party gets off to a decent start with “Interzone”, a track which suggests they are about to go to a place they have never gone (of course, not quite, because the angularity of the track is heavily flattened out to make it more accessible, and the lyrics are the usual crap). But the rest of the album, though it is relatively stylistically diverse in terms of influences, is very much watered down, radio friendly “modern rock“, which lacks much of the energy that drew people to this band in the first place. It is Read More