Brave (2012, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

I’m glad movies like this exist. I can’t imagine how hard it was to be a girl in the past (or present) who had a mother (or a mother and a father) who believed that she should grow up to be a Lady. I think men had their struggles with male archetypes too, but it has always seemed like the pressure on girls to be Ladies has been much worse. So a film like this, about a girl trying to find her own way, is a good thing. Read More

Casting By (2012, Tom Donahue)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This documentary starts off as a PSA or apologia for casting directors. However, it improves quickly when it narrows its focus to Marion Dougherty and one other director. There are lots of interviews with famous Hollywood stars and it’s interesting to know how some of these people got their first film roles. The film is very much a TV documentary and feels a little too much like an advocacy film for casting directors, but it’s reasonably informative and interesting and worth your time if you’re into Hollywood. 6/10 Read More

Turning Pro (2012) by Steven Pressfield

Categories: 2012, Books, Non-Fiction, and Personal.

At this point, Pressfield has made a second writing career out of inspiring others to write. This is the third book of his I’ve read, and they get less effective each time I read a new one. Why? Because basically they are all the same book. Pressfield is passionate about writing something that compels us to write, but he gives the same advice in each book, with only slight permutations (even quoting from The War of Art here). Your much better off buying War of Art (or something you find more effective) and just re-reading that one book. I don’t Read More

Blancanieves (2012, Pablo Berger)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This Spanish, silent (i.e. no dialogue) version of “Snow White” ingeniously moves the story to 20s Spain and the bullfighters of the era. It’s both a pretty great tribute to silent cinema (and I would assume Spanish silent cinema, though I have seen none of it) and a great reworking of an over-told story. It’s pretty to look at and it’s it’s not so tied to tradition that it looks old. For anyone who is scared by the lack of dialogue, it’s paced well enough that you won’t be bored. It’s worth your time. 8/10 Read More

The Boxing Girls of Kabul (2012, Ariel Nasr)

Categories: 2012, Movies, and Sports.

This TV episode-length documentary concerns a group of girls in Afghanistan who are boxing, and competing internationally. Like any film that focuses on people doing something their community thinks they shouldn’t, this is illuminating. Afghanistan, as a society, obviously doesn’t approve of women boxing (and, at one point, sports in general) and yet these women train, and these men train them. And though these women are not good enough to compete internationally, they do anyway. And their perseverance is a model for us all. And we also get a portrait of the attitudes of those that believe women shouldn’t box, Read More

Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012, Robert B. Weide)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Putting aside the possible moral objection some may have to Woody Allen, this is a decent summary of his career as a filmmaker (and, before that, as a comedian). It’s a little odd in its approach, given that the first “half” (I watched it on Netflix) is fairly chronological, but the second part is less so. It’s not particularly critical – everyone who is interviewed is an admirer – but given his oeuvre and his importance in the history of American cinema, I think we could normally excuse that. But for me, the reason this is not the film it Read More

Beyond Outrage (2012, Takeshi Kitano)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

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 and the incomprehensible (to me) Yakuza culture, but with barely any attempt at character development. I guess the idea is the Yakuza setting is supposed to give us our character development, but that sure doesn’t work for me. 5/10 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

Bestiaire (2012, Denis Cote)

Categories: 2012.

This is a Frederick Wiseman-style documentary about animal and human interaction (though, if Wiseman made it, it would be 3-4 times as long0. It’s ostensibly about animals and humans observing each other, but I thought it was more about animals in captivity (and a bit about taxidermy). The problem (or the great thing) about fly-on-the-wall documentaries is you bring more of yourself to them. So I may think it’s more about captivity, but critics (presumably instructed by a released from the distributor) think it’s about animals looking at people. Anyway, whatever it’s about, it’s a little too obscure in its Read More

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012, Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a thorough and engaging documentary about the seminal power pop band Big Star. It’s definitely on the fawning side, but it’s idiosyncrasies as a film, and the willingness for the interviewees to discuss the negative aspects of the idols’ personalities, make for a more engaging film than you might suspect. It also works as a bit of a selective history of the Memphis music scene, so it’s of interest even if you’re not necessarily a Big Star fan. 7/10 Read More

Humperdinck: Königskinder (2012) by Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester, Chor der Oper Frankfurt, conducted by Sebastian Weigle et al

Categories: 1910 and Music.

My initial impressions of Humperdinck were not great, even though I started with his most famous work. This one though, the opera version of a “melodrama” he wrote in 1897 (because the author of the original story wouldn’t consent to an opera), is really great. All the attempts at “big tunes” with the folk songs appear to be gone (to my ears) and, instead, we get subtlety and invention. There’s one theme that persists throughout the piece that feels so much like it belongs on the soundtrack to a movie set in the dessert that I can’t help but think Read More

Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Categories: 2012 and Music.

This is some great, funky progressive big band stuff is more about the groove than it is about doing anything radical. The horn writing is really solid and the music The band (who I’ve never heard before) is joined by their father (seriously, I’m pretty sure he’s the father of most of the guys here…think I read that somewhere) as featured soloist. He’s an old Sun Ra player, and you can tell, as this album feels very much in that legacy (which is a good thing). This won’t change your life (unless you’ve never heard this style of jazz before, Read More

Beyond the Hills (2012, Cristian Mungiu)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is an unrelentingly bleak film about a convent struggling and failing to deal with the psychological (and possibly physiological) problems that befall a young girl when she comes to visit her former friend. The two characters grew up in an orphanage and probably has a relationship. Since then, one of them has lived in poverty in Germany while the other has become a nun. There’s 2 1/2 hours of this. So if you’re not prepared for that…well, I would believe if people walked out of screenings if they were expecting something else. What is onscreen is a portrait of Read More

Beauty is Embarrassing (2012, Neil Berkeley)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is an engaging, entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking documentary about the animator, puppeteer and pop artist Wayne White, in part inspired by his one-man show (much like Swimming to Cambodia). I was not familiar with White’s work beyond his contributions to Pee Wee’s Playhouse and some music videos (and, of course, I didn’t know who he was). Like most biographical “documentaries,” this one aims to celebrate the subject, not necessarily tell the proper sorry. That isn’t an issue, necessarily – especially with someone underknown like White – but it keeps the film from being a true classic. But it’s enjoyable Read More

Bettie Page Reveals All (2012, Mark Mori)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is an authorized biography, unlike the authorized bio pic that I apparently liked, though I don’t remember it at all. I’m sure it’s very informative if you’re interested in Bettie Page. I don’t really care much, so I found this movie kind of myopic. Though there is some attempt to explain to us all how influential she’s been, there’s less context than I would have liked. The mystery at the heart of her story isn’t much of a mystery, nor is it told in a particularly captivating way. The rest of the film is a pretty typical biography. There’s Read More

Berberian Sound Studio (2012, Peter Strickland)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

You either like Giallo or you don’t. I don’t. An engineer who works on nature films is hired by an Italian Giallo director to work on his latest horror film (just don’t call it horror). And things deteriorate from there. Strickland is suggesting the age-old idea that the art can corrupt the man. It’s a new twist on an old concept, with emphasis on sound – and great details on engineering minutiae – and the visuals we never truly see corrupting Jones’s protagonist. But if you don’t find Giallo creepy – and I don’t – you probably won’t find this Read More

BB King: The life of Riley (2012, Jon Brewer)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is an in-depth but rather fawning documentary about B.B. King, a man who has a decent claim as the greatest living blues musician, or at least among them. It’s more of a celebration than a documentary or proper biography – though there is lots of information about his upbringing, it does feel like a well-rehearsed story – and you’re not going to learn too much about the man’s personal life (beyond a few tidbits). But if you like the blues, or if you like music history, there’s lots here to enjoy; both about his influences and his influence on Read More

Danger 5 (2012, 2015)

Categories: 2012, 2015, and TV.

I can find no news of a third season of Danger 5 so I will review it here. If another season comes along then by all means I will watch it. Danger 5 is a delightfully deliriously absurd take on those old puppet adventure shows, only it’s live action. It’s set in a permanent WWII, where, every week, the gang have to try to stop the Nazis and kill Hitler, before teaching us how all to make a cocktail. The show may take on easy targets, but it’s the sheer volume of those targets – and their insanely absurd interaction Read More

Hindemith: Kammermusik (2012) by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado, et al.

Categories: 1917, 1922, 1927, 2012, and Music.

This set collects Hindemith’s Kammermusik compositions (two are actual chamber music pieces, seven are concertos) and for reasons I may not ever understand, pairs them with a violin sonata and an incomplete work. The first Kammermusik is a crazy, vibrant piece that manages to combine fairly strong melodies (relatively speaking) with the kind of aggressively discordant changes and percussion punctuations modernism is known for. One of my favourite Hindemith pieces. The third movement stands out because it is so peaceful, but it’s practically impressionist. The second Kammermusik begins with some of Hindemith’s brilliant writing for piano – which always threatens Read More

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, Benh Zeitlin)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Sometimes even years after the hype has faded, there are still expectations for a movie. Even though I hadn’t read much about this movie, I wonder if the hype had still coloured my appreciation of this. (Or, alternatively, it’s just not as good and original as people have said.) Yes, Wallis is incredible. And the other actors are all believable. It’s a testament to this particular movie that the naturalistic acting is a success when often in these types of films some of it is great and some of it is awful. But we shouldn’t get too carried away just Read More

Barbara (2012, Christian Petzold)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is one of those note-perfect dramas that unfold slowly, choosing to reveal their mystery like a good novel. It doesn’t hammer us with context or plot, and let’s the characters (particularly star Nina Hoss, in a bravura performance) interact. The film subtly and patiently builds to its climax and doesn’t beat us over the head with anything. I love movies like this: they tell a good story and they treat the viewer as smart. So why not a higher grade? Well, this movie doesn’t have too many moments that stand out as exceptional. Rather, everything is just very well Read More

At Any Price (2012, Rahim Bahrani)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

We’ve seen this story, or variations on it, many, many times. Man has a business/career, kid wants nothing of it. It’s the “I don’t want your life” movie. (And it’s type I often struggle with because my parents are wonderful and never forced me to do anything.) But we’ve never seen this story with an industrial farming backdrop (to my knowledge), where the drama is exemplified by the social problems created by GMO seeds. And this film is also aided by what is, perhaps, the best performance of Dennis Quaid’s career. (Seriously. He is fantastic.) On the other hand, Dickens’ Read More

Hildegard (2012) by Steve Wishart, Sinfonie

Categories: 1100s, 2012, and Music.

I’m all for the radical reworking of old music, really I am. I love it when someone reinterprets old music in new original ways. But it’s really hard to see what Wishart is bringing to Hildegard’s music here that is original or interesting. Moreover, so much of this is just Hildegard’s music, it’s hard to understand why we’re supposed to view this as “a stunning creative re-imagining of choral evensong.” Most of the disc is just the latter, and the parts where he adds things, well I feel like I could have done this (which is really, really, not very Read More

The Company You Keep (2012, Robert Redford)

Categories: Movies.

So, the first thing that’s off with this is the ages: Redford is significantly too old to play his character and most of the other (admittedly fine actor) friends of Robert Redford are also slightly too old for their characters. But it’s more his daughter’s age that is ridiculous. Was this the novel? Was this the movie? Regardless, it feels like a cheap emotional hook to try to make us sympathize with Redford’s character before we learn “The Truth.” A better movie would have let the audience decide what they wanted about Redford’s character before the “The Truth” comes out, Read More

Amour (2012, Michael Haneke)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

At first glance, this seems to be the least-Haneke film Haneke’s ever made (or that I’ve seen, anyway). It’s a simple story, taking place entirely in the apartment of the elderly couple the film focuses on. For most of its run, this is perhaps the most emotionally honest film about death I have ever seen. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly details that most films about ageing and death avoid. However, Haneke cannot help himself and deliberately muddles his ending – as is his wont – so that we are left trying to figure out what happened, which strikes Read More

Niagara Falling: Tales for the Stage III (2012) by Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi

Categories: 2012 and Music.

This is an EP rounding out Kihlstedt’s and Bossi’s “stage” music. It’s sparse and different from their usual stuff, but there’s not a lot here (and some of the running time is taken up by the creators of the performance piece) and it really isn’t essential. Only of interest to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Kihlstedt diehards. 5/10 Read More