Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Coming Soon: LCD Soundsystem Concert Film!

January 11, 2012

Noticed on Pitchfork today that they were running a trailer (see below) for a new concert film documenting James Murphy and gang’s last performance in NYC in 2011.  I’m a sucker for music documentaries and I’m a fan of LCD, so this will be something I’ll be writing about.  Since I won’t be attending Sundance this year (ok, I’ve never attended Sundance), I’ll have to wait until it makes its way to theaters.  Having witnessed the power of their live show once, I’m thinking this will be pretty entertaining and James Murphy seems like he would be a fun person to follow around with a camera.

Here’s a few other music documentaries to tide you over while you wait:

  • Dig – A fascinating look at two bands trying to “make it”.  One succeeds, the other not so much.  In addition to the music, a great character study of the two lead singers.
  • Power of Salad – A little harder to find, but a great short documentary about noise rock pioneers Lightning Bolt.  Shows off the adrenaline and racket (I saw them once and it was definitely the loudest show I’ve witnessed) of their live show, as they rock anywhere from small clubs to some dudes’ kitchen.
  • The Filth and the Fury – Telling the story of the Sex Pistols makes for good film, and Julien Temple does not disappoint with candid comments from the surviving members.
  • Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii – Of course Pink Floyd would play a live set in the ruins of an amphitheater at Pompeii.  Filmed in 1972, before Dark Side, this covers material from Saucerful of Secrets and Meddle, with some in-studio cut-aways to the making of Dark Side.

I could keep on going, but that should be a good start.  Any one else have any favorite music documentaries?

Good and Loud

April 21, 2010

Seems like this has turned into a music documentary blog of late, but I keep seeing interesting music-related films.  Saw another one last Friday.  Part of FilmFest DC, Under Great White Northern Lights chronicles the Canadian tour by the White Stripes in 2007.  Apparently the band had troubles getting in the country in the past, and wanted to do a proper tour of Canada.  They head to all the Canadian provinces, depicted with a plane graphic flying and landing at each location.

Music docs usually take one of two forms.  The straight concert film that chronicles a concert or series of shows.  Or the story of the band film.  This one is definitely the first kind.  There is some post-concert backstage talk and mini-interviews throughout the film.  These are interesting for two reasons.  One, they show that Meg White is painfully anti-social.  She talks in a whisper (they give her subtitles) and is always sitting with her eyes down, slumping over.  You can just tell that she is not really enjoying the interview segments.   So Jack does all the talking.  This does lead to one funny exchange where he explains that he doesn’t talk over Meg, it’s just she doesn’t talk.  He does this while she is trying to say “let me say just one thing.”

The other thing the interviews show is that Jack is somewhat obsessed with others’ (especially critics’) views of the band.  He recites quotes from critics about the band and seems to want to explain how the band is so spontaneous even though they have a regimented look and perceived style.

One of the products of that spontaneity are the daytime concerts they give, on short notice at various locations, in the cities they are having concerts in.  Pool halls, bowling alleys, a park, and the back of a small boat are all “venues.”  These are neat scenes; you get to see the band in a setting you probably aren’t going to see them in otherwise.

And then there are the concert scenes.  These are fabulous.  I really felt like I was right there with the band.  On a few occasions, when they ended a song, I had to stop myself from clapping along with the audience.  I saw nodding heads and tapping feet in my general vicinity.  The Stripes are loud.  Jack shreds on the guitar and once in awhile he makes his way to a keyboard.  Meg seems much more comfortable behind the drumkit.  The live version of 7 Nation Army they play towards the end of the movie is very powerful and Meg crushes the drums.

The film ends with Jack playing a piano and singing “White Moon.”  Meg sits next to him and starts crying.  The film ends with Jack embracing her as she cries.  It’s an odd ending.  It’s like they forgot to play up the brother/sister, former marriage angle that is part of the Stripes’ mythology, so put this in the film.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this for Stripes fans and music fans in general because of the great concert footage and the impromptu outdoor performances.

Norwegian….Death Metal?

April 9, 2010

Right after I had just written about a neat little music documentary, I ran across a much different music documentary on Sundance Channel.  Until The Light Take Us is a 2008 documentary about Norwegian death metal.  I’ve never had more than a passing interest in metal, and certainly the darker subgenres of metal have never garnered any attention for me (and I’m not a teenager any more).  But, I’m of Norwegian descent and I’m a sucker for music and documentaries so I did not flip the channel.

I missed the first half hour, so I was a little in the dark as to the players that are interviewed.   Norwegian death metal must be an exclusive club, because they focused on a few bands and about 10 people were interviewed.  Maybe the other bands were out killing puppies or something.  Or burning churches.   A good bit of the film focuses on several churches that were burned in Norway in the early 90s and that were blamed on death metal fans/band members.  The blame is at least partially justified, as one member of the featured bands is convicted of several arsons.

Strangely, the music in the film is mostly brooding, downtempo electronic and not the music of the bands featured in film.  Huh?  Don’t know what that was all about, but it surely didn’t do anything to pick up the pace of what for the most part was a dull film.  I’m still mostly in the dark about what exactly separates Norwegian death metal from the goth guy at the mall dressed in black, with studded bracelets and dark eyeliner.  Church burning?  Bottom line, no need to watch this.

The System

April 8, 2010

Just wanted to add a few comments to what Sriram said about last night’s 30 for 30 entry “The Guru of Go.”  I agree with his general thought that the filmmaker’s overlapping storylines is what held this entry back.  A quick introduction of the “system” could have ceded to the real star of this story, the 1990 Loyola Marymount team, and its stars Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers.  Other thoughts:

  • The Shakespeare transitions were contrived; moreover they’ve been done before in a documentary to much greater effect, see the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury.
  • The segment at the end about Westphal coaching the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and instituting the “system” there was, well, unnecessary.  I had to look this up, but in their best season with Westphal, they averaged 89 points.  Sorry, the “system” did not produce point averages that low, even if it is the WNBA.
  • One last nitpick, but rather than that last segment about Westphal’s travels since LMU, I was more interested in what happened to the other guys on the 90 LMU team.
  • Westphal’s “system” was premised on being in great shape, run, get up more shots than your opponent, and trick the other team into playing at your pace where they will inevitably either get sloppy or just plain run out of gas.  It’s quite simple, and from playing a lot of pickup ball in my day, is how I approached those type of games.  Being small and quick, and generally being able to run for much longer than my opponent, my goal was to run a fast break every time my team had the ball.  Whether that meant immediately sprinting downcourt any time an opponent’s shot went up and waiting for the long bomb pass and easy layup, or pushing the ball as soon as I got it, it worked a lot.  So, I’ve always enjoyed teams and coaches that take this approach, as opposed to the boring halfcourt game that many coaches run.
  • Hank Gathers’ death was sad, and seeing the footage last night made me sad again.  It appears that Gathers felt the need to continue playing, and to make it to the NBA, after his first collapse and that desire to “make it” and provide for his family led to his death.  The resiliency of his teammates and the incredible run they made in his honor got short shrift and should have been the focus of this documentary.

    Catching Up

    April 1, 2010

    I like movies almost as much as music, but like music, there is so much good stuff out there, I feel like I’m always playing catch up.  So every once in awhile I try to see a movie or listen to an artist I’ve heard good things about.  This week, I finally got around to watching Black Hawk Down.

    Visually, this was stunning.  The filmmakers did a good job of putting you right there in the action, and then when you’d be getting caught up in the weeds of the battle, they’d pull you back out with the viewpoint of the helicopter pilots or the COs back at base.  Very cleverly done.

    Music was also well done.  I can’t remember off-hand any particular songs, but the music did a good job of mood-setting.

    One problem with these ensemble war movies is a tendency to not relate to the characters.  There is the requisite pre-battle intro to the cast of characters, which is all and good, but there were just too many people to keep track of.  And then when they start getting killed in the battle, you’re left thinking “ok who was that again?”  But then people are dying off at such an alarming rate, it actually doesn’t matter to identify with the individual characters, you begin worrying for all of them.

    This may have been done intentionally, but the enemy is portrayed as automatons whose sole purpose is to kill American soldiers.  The intro “history lesson” and the opening scene of the enemy troops firing on the innocent natives trying to get food sets them up as the bad guys.  Ok, I get it.  During the battle, only when the young kid accidentally shoots his father, is there any emotion from the enemy.  Maybe this was how it was, but it seemed a little over-the-top to me.

    Only other quibble I had was a personal one.   Some guys you just associate with a movie or a role and it’s hard to get that out of your head while watching them in another movie.  Probably bound to happen with such a big cast, but two casting decisions just threw me.  One was the guy who played the soldier who goes deaf during the battle.  He is always going to be Spud from Trainspotting to me.  I kept waiting for him to shoot up or throw a sheetful of feces at the enemy.  And Tom Sizemore, though he can  probably play his character in Black Hawk in his sleep, will always be the cool-headed badass from Heat.  I was expecting the monologue about being in it for the rush.

    Overall, this was a very entertaining film.  It also leaves you with the feeling that all of the suffering, for both sides, could have been avoided, or at the worst, was for naught.  Four out of five stars for me.


    March 25, 2010

    Image Courtesy of Sarah Schuh

    So got to see some movies in the Banff Mountain Film Festival last weekend in L.A., which was sweet because I missed out on it when it swung through DC this year.  For those of you who don’t know about it, Banff is a film festival devoted to films about the outdoors and outdoor adventuring.  I was a little disappointed with this year’s selection compared to last, but my favorite film by far was one about Eric Honnold’s free solo climb of Half Dome in Yosemite called Alone on the Wall.  A nice picture of Half Dome is above, thanks to my girlfriend.  And free soloing equals climbing without ropes.  Yeah.  The video of the climb itself has you wondering “how can he do that?  He must be crazy.”

    Or is he?  I am not fond of heights, so what he is doing is an impossibility for me even if I did have the physical capabilities to do this sort of climbing (if you were wondering, I don’t).  But just because I (and probably lots of others) have an irrational fear of heights, that doesn’t mean Alex is insane for not having that fear.  I heard others remarking after the film that he must be missing some part of his brain that causes fear.  I guess this is a possibility, or maybe he has developed a mental strength that allows him to overcome the fear.  I think the latter, as part of the way up Half Dome, he has a moment of self doubt, and he spends several minutes hanging out on a tiny ledge just leaning on the rock, like you or I leaning against a wall with our feet firmly planted on the ground.  He gathers himself and continues on.

    The other thing about him was, well, he seemed so normal.  And calm.  There was none of the sort of typical male bravado you find in many of these “extreme” athletes.  No mohawks, no tattoos, no screaming.  I mean does this guy look insane:

    This was the other thing about the movie I found fascinating.  This guy is living out of a van, so he can pursue his love.  Climbing.  Reminded me of other docs I’ve watched about bands, where they are traveling around the country in a van, eking out a living, pursuing their love.  Music.  This single-minded devotion to a subject fascinates me.  His mother talks about how he was climbing from as soon as he was physically able.  I’ve never had such a passion for something.  Sometimes I wish I did, but then I think about all the things I’d be missing out on in life.  Is he happier soloing Half Dome than I was last Saturday running a 5k, hanging out with my girlfriend and her sister, going to the Getty Art Museum, watching a film festival, and eating a late Greek dinner with friends?  Hard to say, though I think I know how the two of us would answer that question.