-REVIEWS AT A GLANCE: NOVEMBER, 2013-
On the latest edition of “Reviews At A Glance”, I rip into some of the stuff I’ve watched and listened to during the month of November.
Seen any of these movies? Heard any of these albums? If so, do you agree or disagree with my opinions?
8 out of 10
Arcade Fire are the closest thing we have to a huge arena rock band in 2013, a fact not lost on the Montreal-based collective, who’ve returned after 2010′s Grammy-winning The Suburbs with a colossal, 75-minute double LP that’s the most diverse and challenging thing they’ve attempted yet. The stigma of going from one of indie rock’s most beloved commodities to huge major label draws can be daunting, especially in the wake of massive expectations. Arcade Fire, though, are at a point in their careers where just about anything is possible. They could probably continue in the vein of The Suburbs for years and fans would be pleased, but if the release of Reflektor has made anything clear, it’s that Arcade Fire have developed a sense of humor.
-SYMBIOTIC RECOMMENDS: 10 ALBUMS, NOVEMBER 2013-
Greetings, my fellow music obsessives! It’s Jericho over here with a list of my 10 favorite records from last month, featuring the latest from Bill Callahan, NOBUNNY, Black Milk, and much more!
Dig into the grab bag of auditory ear candy here!
12 YEARS A SLAVE
4 stars out of 4
12 Years A Slave is not only the most distinctive and harrowing vision of American slavery ever put on film, but it’s also the first to show the economic structure at it’s center. More than simply presenting slavery as an ideology, director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley (working from Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography) reveal in no uncertain terms that this horrendous scar in America’s history was supported by an economy thriving on buying and selling human beings as private property.
3 stars out of 4
The Counselor, the latest film from acclaimed director Ridley Scott and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), will most likely go down as this year’s Killing Them Softly, a lofty philosophical thesis statement disguised as genre crime thriller. Like that Brad Pitt-starring vehicle that envisioned organized criminals listening to endless hours of C-Span and diving into conversations about capitalism, The Counselor is less interested in what happens narratively than in how individuals arrive at a certain place in their lives. It’s about how fate encroaches upon morally duplicitous behavior that’s as inevitable as death itself, and it gets its themes across almost entirely through stream of consciousness monologues delivered by men who are either sadistically aware of their eventual fates or too arrogant to understand the portent of their words.
6 out of 10
When Cults dropped their eponymous debut back in 2011, it seemed as if vocalist Madeline Follin and co-vocalist/percussionist Brian Oblivion’s homage to 60′s pop, doo-wop, and a Phil Spector-esque production might trip over it’s own twee preoccupations. Truthfully, it’s surprising that the duo even made another record, not only just because that debut felt like the kind of summertime album that captures a time and place and then gradually drifts away, but also because Follin and Oblivion went through a romantic breakup in the interim.
-FILM PICK OF THE WEEK-
I Killed My Mother
French Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan shows considerable thematic maturity and a legitimate artistic eye for composition, pacing, and editing in his directorial debut I Killed My Mother. Though shot in 2009 when Dolan was just 19, the movie went through distribution limbo for 4 years and is just now getting a proper US release. In the interim, Dolan wrote and directed 2010′s Heartbeats and this year’s Laurence Anyways, reinforcing his status as a leader in the new queer cinema movement.
-MUSIC PICK OF THE WEEK-
Hands on the Controls
Listening to the 2002 debut from lo-fi noisemakers Coachwhips in 2013 is pretty rewarding, especially considering one can hear the musical progression of frontman John Dwyer (formally of Pink and Brown, now of Thee Oh Sees). Over the course of 15 years, Dwyer has fashioned himself into a kind of garage-punk version of Robert Pollard, churning out so much music that it’s difficult to determine where the unedited demos begin and the final results end.
2.5 stars out of 4
Based on Richard Phillips’s autobiographical book A Captain’s Duty, Somali Pirates, Navy Seals, and Dangerous Days at Sea, and scripted by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, State of Play), director Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips is, at best, a decent action thriller. What it’s not, despite arguments to the contrary, is a film interested in subtext. This being a Paul Greengrass joint, there’s jittery hand-held camerawork and quick zoom lenses aplenty, and like his 911 film United 93, the intent of plunging audiences into the chaos of the situation by keeping a fly-on-the-wall approach is admirable. On this level, Captain Phillips is a fine example of action-thriller cinema, but what’s most disappointing is the dramatic heart of the film is Phillips’s journey, a strategy that makes perfect sense given that it’s based on the real-life man’s book and told from his perspective, but which is infinitely less interesting than the alternative.
3.5 stars out of 4
Unnerving, hilarious, and strangely moving, Kid-Thing is a magical realist fairy tale about unguided youth whose preoccupation with isolated rural landscapes and absurdist stretches of silence gives the film a singular quality. Written and directed by David Zellner with a penchant for off-beat compositions, Kid-Thing has at it’s center a rather extraordinary performance from 10-year-old Sydney Aguirre, who plays the unsupervised, possibly psychotic Annie.