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by Sarah Zupko and Karen Zarker

19 Sep 2008

Day 1

Seated way in the back, the Ryman’s notoriously excellent acoustics failed, somehow, for Levon Helm’s Ramble. Couldn’t hear the horns, couldn’t hear Helm’s singing all that well, either. Hope the folks who were filming that event for DVD had a better time of it than we. Several songs in, and we stepped out to see what else was shaking on the opening night of the festival.

We stopped at the Basement—a cramped, somewhat down-in-the-heels place reminiscent of some of Austin’s less than pristine venues (we’re talking about you Emo’s). But hey, we come for the music. Alas, we never got to hear it, as two big mouthed, drunken louts “Whooo hoo’d” at everything and everyone—and the music hadn’t even started. Some pretty little thing was setting up on the stage, her clingy dress showing her form rather nicely for anyone with eyes in their head. But the Louts seemed to feel compelled to assist anyone there who might be blind, and “Whooo hoo’d” her for our benefit, as well. Bet she felt flattered, boys, thank you very much. Impossible to hear one’s own thoughts in this tiny space with these damned fools bellowing, we knew we’d never get to enjoy the music, either. Sorry, the Belleville Outfit, the everybodyfields, the Dedringers and Patrick Sweany, but the Basement seemed content to indulge the Whoo Hoos, and not you. We moved on before the show even started, cursing under our breaths.

Soon after we were pulling up chairs to the long tables at the Station Inn (with a car, it’s very easy to get around Nashville for these showcases). Many years prior we’d stopped here for some bluegrass and the feel was as if we stepped into a revival tent. We’d best be converted, or perhaps move on. Rather intense, in that regard, on that day.

It’s in this modest and yes, intense setting that PopMatters’ favorite Mike Farris holds a regular Sunday night gig. We saw him live on a large stage at the Mercy Lounge at last year’s Americana Music Fest—with plenty of room for his band of won’t-be-denied New Orleans-style horns and his trio of gorgeous back-up singers, The McCrary Sisters. Lord, how their sound filled every square inch of space in that large hall, wrapped around us and gave us a squeal-inducing squeeze. Yow!  We’ll be seeing him soon back at 3rd and Lindsley.

But this night, we were at the Station Inn in to hear artists new to us. Donna Beasley is lovely, if you like your decaf in the morning watered down with skim milk and just a granule or two of sugar. Looks good coming to the table, but alas, the brew is weak. An early morning kept us from staying for what appeared to be a folksy line-up tonight.

The first day at the Americana Music Festival was, alas, a bust for us. Others with more endurance and tolerance might say otherwise.

Day Two

Day two started with the incomparable Casey Driessen at the cozy Douglas Corner Café. Now that’s a great venue for hearing really good music. You talk during someone’s set there, you’ll be hushed by the hard core, knowledgeable music devotees surrounding you. And get your butt in that chair, now, ‘cause the artists start on time. Ah!  Perfect.

We’re figuring that when Driessen was a young man he sought out and found the Devil. He said, “Mr. Devil, I’ll give you my soul if you let me play this violin like no other living man.”  The Devil looked him up and down slowly—didn’t take long, as he’s a little fella—sucked on the smoking piece of straw in his mouth and said, “Son, you can keep your soul. You’re gonna need it when you step out on that stage.  But I’m gonna make that violin play you.”

And indeed it does. That sassy violin grabs Driessen by the scruff of the neck and has him shaking on his toes. We swear it thinks it’s the smartest thing in the room, and dares you to try to keep up with it. Ever hear an instrument do a call and response, making it look so damned easy conversational-wise with itself?  Uh huh. Keep up with us, here. Any chance you get to see this man perform live- er, this violin play this man—go, and give yourself one hell of a treat.

Some head shaking appreciation of Driessen over a cocktail at the quiet, elegant bar at Maggiano’s, and then we made our way to the Ryman, again, for the Americana Awards show.

Thank you, Americana Music Festival, for those second row, center seats, where we were in good company with many notables. Joan Baez, on hand to receive the “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award, sat behind us and Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and Mike Farris were just to our left. No complaints about acoustics this night. We could hear the sweat flying.

Courtesy of the AMA

Courtesy of the AMA

Ryan Bingham’s voice sounds like a truck tire on a gravel road, complete with rocks flying up and hitting the fender—it’s a good country sound.

Courtesy of the AMA

Courtesy of the AMA

When Steve Earle walked out we thought it might be the ghost of Allen Ginsberg, such is his middle-aged resemblance. Mr. Earle, please leave New York. It’s softened your sound and taken the edge off the anger that makes us wanna listen.

(You can see the awards results listed below.)

All the while there was Buddy Miller, sweet and modest, playing with the band. You’ll see this talented man everywhere, in the band, with nary a notice ‘til he steps up the mic and makes you smile so broadly.

Courtesy of the AMA

Jason & The Scorchers - Courtesy of the AMA

So, too, Joe Ely (a personal favorite) gives his all, every time we see him, every venue—from a room full of the reverent to singing over the fools blathering in the back, too damned ignorant to know what they’re missing. The man is pure, raw talent, and he makes you zero in on his songs and listen close, the rest of the world be damned.

Earlier in the day, on our way to Jack’s Bar-B-Que, we think we saw a construction crew on the roof of the Ryman, applying reinforcements in anticipation of Mike Farris (another personal favorite) and his kickass band. One song, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” had the crowd testing the integrity of the Ryman’s construction. We swear that building was jumping. Wonder if they taped the stained glass windows, lest they shatter.

Speaking of building-shattering performances, Jason & The Scorchers did not hold back even for the sacred old Ryman—damn near twirled and leapt off the stage right into our second row laps. Tommy Womack has a write up in the program about Jason & the Scorchers that is high caliber music writing. If we find an online link to it, we’ll plug it in here for your reading pleasure. Heck, if we had a scanner…

After a lengthy chatty Awards ceremony, we headed south to 3rd and Lindsley for the Joe Ely set. Yep, Ely is one of those people we’re almost willing to follow to the ends of the earth. We were exhausted by this time, but 3rd and Lindsley has lots of tables and chairs (hallelujah) to rest our weary bones.

The always delightful Rosie Flores was dazzling the crowd with her sassy vocals and mean guitar when we stepped into the cozy place. James Intveld joined her for a few duets of pure honky tonk.

That set the stage nicely for Ely, who mostly played solo. Favorites like “All Just to Get to You” and “Me and Billy the Kid” roused the crowd and a new number “Homeland Refugee” proved equally compelling. The real treat of the evening was Ryan Bingham appearing on stage about halfway into the Ely set to sing a few songs with the Texas legend. They reprised their duet, “Southside of Heaven”, from early in the evening at the awards show and sang a few more off Bingham’s debut release.

Bingham’s dry, crusty Texas twang rests ever so nicely next to Ely’s more polished tones and they clearly feed off each other’s energy. Here’s hoping these two form a more permanent musical partnership and head out onto the road together. They just need to be sure to bring along ace accordionist Joel Guzman (Ely’s frequent musical partner) as Ely’s tunes—anyone’s, really —benefit enormously from the fiery, soulful solos and flourishes of this instrumental master.

AWARD WINNERS

  • Album of the Year: Alison Krauss & Robert Plant/Raising Sand
  • Artist of the Year: Levon Helm
  • Duo/Group of the Year: Alison Krauss & Robert Plant
  • Instrumentalist of the Year: Buddy Miller
  • New Emerging Artist of the Year: Mike Farris
  • Song of the Year: “She Left Me for Jesus” by Hayes Carll and Brian Keane Additional Lifetime Achievement Honors were given to:
  • Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music—Joan Baez
  • Lifetime Achievement / Songwriting—John Hiatt
  • Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement / Executive—Terry Lickona
  • Lifetime Achievement / Performance—Jason & The Scorchers
  • Presidents Award—Jerry Garcia
  • Lifetime Achievement / Instrumentalist—Larry Campbell
  • Trailblazer / Nanci Griffith
  • Lifetime Achievement / Producer / Engineer—Tony Brown

by Sean Murphy

19 Sep 2008

Back when Pink Floyd was the first band in space, they remained mysterious, and cool, by being invisible. For being one of the biggest rock groups in the world all through the ‘70s, the average fan would not have recognized any of them in the local pub. With few exceptions, their faces weren’t on the album covers and—as the resulting records prove—they put the music first. In their prime, the records were truly group efforts, and no one cared too much about taking credit. This, of course, changed once Roger Waters decided he was Pink. Not coincidentally, the more Waters set the controls for the heart of his ego, the more the albums started sounding like…Roger Waters albums. By the time an increasingly megalomaniacal Waters turned his attention to The Final Cut, the original band’s presciently titled swan song, he had decreed Rick Wright’s keyboard abilities no longer necessary for his vision. It was an unfortunate power play: the album suffered for Wright’s absence, and the solo albums Waters subsequently made only served to prove how desperately he needed his band mates (and, to be fair, vice versa).

It was not always thus. Indeed, from the band’s first album, Rick Wright’s piano and organ were integral parts of the Pink Floyd sound. Once founder (as well as leader and primary songwriter) Syd Barrett left the group, it was Wright who temporarily assumed vocal duties until David Gilmour joined the fold. In those early, transitional albums (everything from A Saucerful of Secrets to Meddle can be seen as transition records, all leading to what is arguably the greatest rock album ever made, Dark Side of the Moon) made between 1968 and 1972, the dominant sound of the group was created by Wright and Gilmour. The interplay of guitar and keyboards infuses practically every song, including the sidelong epics “Atom Heart Mother Suite” and “Echoes”. The employment of keyboards moved ever closer to the forefront as progressive rock dominated the early ‘70s, and Wright should get his fair share of credit for legitimizing—and popularizing—this evolution.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd

To properly appreciate Wright’s versatility, it makes sense to consider Pink Floyd’s most overlooked and misunderstood album. The soundtrack to the film More is often, and egregiously, dismissed as an inconsequential stepping stone to more significant work. The individual songs hold up remarkably well, but they also remain illustrative of the ways in which Gilmour and Wright (as musicians, as songwriters) would hone and perfect that signature post-psychedelic Pink Floyd sound. The uninitiated should be pleasantly surprised by the delights contained within: the expansive dreamscape of Wright’s organ solo at the end of “Cirrus Minor”, the almost jazzy action of “Up the Khyber”, and the languidly mesmerizing “Quicksilver”. The album’s centerpiece, appropriately titled “Main Theme”, represents early Floyd perfection, and epitomizes the surreal soundscapes Gilmour and Wright were capable of composing as early as ’69. It is really a remarkable achievement, managing to sound urgent and laid back at the same time—a uniquely wonderful effect Floyd would pull off with uncanny consistency going forward. Many of the ingredients found on More, particularly the blues-influenced guitar and atmospheric keyboards, would resurface, albeit in a steadily refined fashion. The instrumental tracks from this album are blueprints for the slowed down and fleshed out masterpieces waiting down the road.

About those masterpieces. People understandably remember the words to the songs from Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals, but Rick Wright is the not-so-secret weapon dominating the sound and feel of these albums. As ever, Gilmour’s guitar is the engine soaring into infinity, but always, it’s Wright framing the contours—the boundless blue sky behind all the clouds. Consider the sublime (no other word will do) “Breathe In the Air”: Gilmour’s slide guitar (and vocals) dominate the action, but Wright balances it throughout with his ethereal and understated control. Of course, he wrote the music for “The Great Gig in the Sky” and “Us and Them”, two of the group’s best loved, and enduring tunes. The crescendo of the album’s coda “Eclipse” would be unimaginable without his pulsating organ notes.

Perhaps his penultimate contribution is to Floyd’s somber meditation on loss, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. Is there a more melancholy, but beautiful opening to any song in all of rock music? Considering the subject matter (the drug-induced disintegration of former band leader and childhood friend Syd Barrett), it is at once stunning and poignant. And speaking of the aforementioned “Pink Floyd sound”, that’s all you get for the first four minutes of the song: Wright and Gilmour. To be certain, this is Waters’ finest hour as well (those, again, are his words and, on this song, his voice) but let there be no mistake about the sound and feeling, and who was responsible for its creation.

Wright’s role was diminished, but still integral to the final great Floyd album, Animals (yes, I’m of the opinion that The Wall is merely a very good, but not great album—certainly not in the class of the holy trinity that preceded it). After that, if it’s easy to claim that Waters moved himself more to the forefront with increasingly middling results, it also is the truth. Of course, Wright and the others had the last, lucrative laugh, as they soldiered on, sans Waters, in the newer age version of the band. They filled arenas while their embittered ex-mate nursed his indignity, arguably at the expense of his art. No matter. What the band did, from 1967 to 1977, is indelible, and undeniable. In all those years, the refreshingly faceless band focused on the only thing that matters—the music. Fittingly, the quietest member of this most unassuming supergroup possessed the calm contentment of knowing how impossible it all would have been without him.

by Deanne Sole

19 Sep 2008

There is a one-panel cartoon, published last year, showing a doctor with the twined snakes of the caduceus on his chest asking a parent to tell her screaming child that he’s not part of Slytherin. The cartoonist who wrote the caption doesn’t mention JK Rowling or Harry Potter. They’re able to assume that the audience will be so well acquainted with the books that they don’t need to. Ann Radcliffe’s fame was once like that.

It lasted for a long time, too. In Les Miserables, published 40 years after her death, Victor Hugo refers, in an aside, to “the vivid imagination of the police, that Ann Radcliffe of the government.” Thirty years later Henry James mentions one of her books in The Turn of the Screw. “Was there a “secret” at Bly,” his narrator asks, “—a mystery of Udolpho or an insane, an unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement?” In both cases the author treats the reader as if they will naturally know what he means. To them Radcliffe was familiar enough to be used as an easy point of reference: as cold as snow, as high as the sky, as Gothic as Ann Radcliffe.

The author of The Mysteries of Udolpho was born in 1764 and died in 1823. She housed her characters in Catholic parts of Europe—in Italy, in France, places with dramatic landscapes and exotic monasteries—without ever leaving England. In spite of her fame she preferred to stay out of the public eye. She didn’t invent the Gothic novel, but her popularity helped to form the tone of beleaguered high emotion that became one of the genre’s defining characteristics. Her language is firm and imporous without being static, her pen has an eye that moves across the landscape:

“To the south, the view was bounded by the majestic Pyrenees, whose summits, veiled in clouds, or exhibiting awful forms, seen, and lost again, as the partial vapours rolled along, were sometimes barren, and gleamed through the blue tinge of air, and sometimes frowned with forests of gloomy pine, that swept downward to their base. These tremendous precipices were contrasted by the soft green of the pastures and woods that hung upon their skirts …”

Her voice is a series of contrasts: clouds and blue air, barren rock and forests, the sharp double-pop of precipice leading into the open-ended sound of pasture and wood. Radcliffe is sensitive to extremes. In her books, sensitivity itself becomes a sign of moral virtue, particularly a sensitivity towards wild, natural places. Her villains are people who have allowed the urban world to coarsen them. They would rather gamble in a casino than look at a forest, and they prefer ostentatious glamour to “modest elegance.” Her heroes are the other way around. When Emily’s aunt in Mysteries of Udolpho complains that the wild mountains of Italy are “horrid,” the reader knows that there is no love for this aunt in the author’s heart.

The apparently supernatural events in her books all come with rational explanations. If one of her characters thinks she’s seen a ghost then the scene is not there to prove the existence of ghosts, but to give the characters, and, through them, the readers, a chance to be overwhelmed by their feelings. The object of the emotion is less important than the emotion itself. Her oeuvre is like opera in this way—the plots are preposterous, but the whole thing is done with such luscious self-belief that the audience is tempted to forgive.

Radcliffe is not as well-known as she used to be. In modern editions of Les Miserables, Hugo’s reference has earned itself a footnote. No one is likely to make her the punchline of a cartoon. But her fame still survives in odd ways, in hidden signs and signals, like the theatre production that mingled Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey with Udolpho, or a fleeting reference to a castle called Dunbayne in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or the small Gothic publishing house in Kansas whose owners seem to have named themselves after one of her characters. They call themselves Valancourt Books.

* A Radcliff reference page.
* The works of Ann Radcliffe online at Adelaide University.
* Valancourt Books.

by Bill Gibron

18 Sep 2008

Fall finally settles in with a batch of big titles. Of course, some unlikely efforts (Igor, My Best Friend’s Girl) weren’t screened for all critics. Still for 19 September, here are the films in focus:

Trouble the Water [rating: 10]

By picking up on this personal story and serving it up in a way that plays commentator, not critic, the filmmakers allows Kim and Scott to speak for themselves. The results are astoundingly brutal and beautifully honest.

Survival is instinctual. It goes to our very nature as life loving beings. It can be mistaken for desperation or arrogance, but the need to stay alive usually trumps all other basic necessities. When Hurricane Katrina flared up in the Gulf of Mexico, moving from minor storm to an Armageddon like presence preparing to devastate New Orleans, the rest of America looked on with disdain. From the settled suburbanite to the doofus President they reelected, no one really cared if the levees would hold, if city services would respond, or if anyone was left behind. But for Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott, there was no option. There was no leaving or getting to safer shelter. All they had was themselves, their extended family, and their will to survive. They also had a camcorder.  read full review…

Man on Wire [rating: 9]

As the subject of James Marsh’s brilliant documentary…, Petit proves that there can be joy in doing what others would consider to be insane.

A daredevil, by definition, defies death. He cheats the Grim Reaper at his own particular brand of bluffing. This also means, by reciprocal inference, he or she embraces life. Granted, it does appear to be a contradictory condition. By pushing the very limits of existence to the points where you could end it, one looks to be laughing in the face of mortality. It’s seem the very definition of a fool’s paradise. By his very giddiness alone, wire walker Phillipe Petit would be the perfect illustration of this ideal. He sees nothing wrong with finding a location, stringing up a line, and doing his risky, refined dance with destiny. And he worships the moment as he does it.  read full review…

Ghost Town [rating: 7]

Skillful and subtle, with enough hilarity to match its equally ample heart, Ghost Town is the Fall’s sunniest surprise.

Hollywood used to excel at what could best be described as the “little” movie. You know the type - small in scope, limited in appeal, and never overreaching beyond its certain purpose. Prior to the high concept ‘80s, lots of films were ‘little’. But ever since stars became commodities to market like cinematic stock, Tinsel Town has taken the “bigger is boffo” attitude with almost everything. A drama must deal with issues of interpersonal earth-shattering design. A comedy must be over the top and hilariously hyperactive. All of this works against Ricky Gervais and his latest effort, Ghost Town. Anyone coming to this movie thinking the Office/Extras star is out to create a wacky spook show is in for quite a disappointment. Instead, this is a little film that easily achieves its entertainment aims. read full review…

Lakeview Terrace [rating: 6]

This is the kind of movie where every bad guy has his decent side, every hero is merely half-hearted, and the genre beats we except from the story come buried in sidebars of dense characterization and unnecessary sideways subplotting.

Even with years of consideration and compromise, race remains a far too risky hot button topic. No matter how you present it - comically, dramatically, satirically, metaphorically - the corrupt cloud of prejudice tends to trump most artistic aspirations. There’s just too much baggage with bigotry, decades of discrimination and social acquiescence to same that it appears impossible to overcome…at least initially. And no, changing the ‘color’ of intolerance doesn’t redefine or reconfigure the argument. That’s the problem facing Neil LaBute and his latest effort, the slow burn thriller Lakeview Terrace. While it looks like dozens of films that have come before, the independent icon - responsible for In the Company of Men and Nurse Betty - tries to instill some novelty via a unique approach and a controversial villain. For the most part, he stumbles as often as he succeeds.  read full review…

by Bill Gibron

18 Sep 2008

Hollywood used to excel at what could best be described as the “little” movie. You know the type - small in scope, limited in appeal, and never overreaching beyond its certain purpose. Prior to the high concept ‘80s, lots of films were ‘little’. But ever since stars became commodities to market like cinematic stock, Tinsel Town has taken the “bigger is boffo” attitude with almost everything. A drama must deal with issues of interpersonal earth-shattering design. A comedy must be over the top and hilariously hyperactive. All of this works against Ricky Gervais and his latest effort, Ghost Town. Anyone coming to this movie thinking the Office/Extras star is out to create a wacky spook show is in for quite a disappointment. Instead, this is a little film that easily achieves its entertainment aims.

Dentist Bertram Pincus hates people. It’s one of the main reasons he enjoys his chosen profession. A major misanthrope, he spends his days delivering pain, his nights avoiding everyone around him. When a routine medical procedure goes awry, Dr. Pincus discovers an unusual side effect - he can see dead people. Actually, they are the ghosts roaming around Manhattan, looking for someone living to help them complete their Earthly business. One such apparition is Frank Herlihy. A horrible womanizer when he was alive, he now wants Dr. Pincus to help him break up his widow’s impending marriage. If our hero doesn’t agree, Frank will allows the rest of New York’s spirit population to persistently hound him - and with such a large metropolis, there’s a lot of spooks to go around. Of course, once he gets to know Gwen, Dr. Pincus finds himself falling in love. This only complicates things for both the living, and the recently deceased.

Skillful and subtle, with enough hilarity to match its equally ample heart, Ghost Town is the Fall’s sunniest surprise. Going in, we expect the standard star driven vamp, Gervais given free reign to work his wise-ass magic on us unsuspecting Yanks. Even with a script from accomplished scribes David Koepp (who also directs) and John Kamps, we keep waiting for the anarchic adlibbing to step in and swamp everything. Yet aside from a couple of clever confrontations, our lead is in likeable loser mode. He’s not meant to overpower the plot. Instead, Dr. Pincus is a pawn in a much bigger cosmic comedy. Koepp and Kamps keep the humor low key and realistic. We don’t get goofy ghost-busting gags or sequences of sci-fi special effects. Instead, this movie makes its point via characterization and emotion, two things we don’t expect from such a seemingly high concept creation.

Again, Gervais is quite remarkable here, his face gestures reminding one of an uncanny combination of both Laurel and Hardy. Even within a completely contemporary setting, the pear-shaped Brit reminds one of film legends past. It’s not only his demeanor, which comes across as cultured if crazy. No, everything about Pincus, from his sour world view to a reluctance to embrace his supernatural situation screams Hollywood’s Golden Age. The only way we know we’re visiting 2008 comes whenever Greg Kinnear’s pesky specter comes along. With his used car salesman patter and constant Blackberry fidgeting, he instantly brings Ghost Town up to date. As a character, his cruel adulterer is hard to embrace. But since he channels his needs through Gervais, we end up empathizing with his paranormal position.

Indeed, a lot of Ghost Town is centered on helping the dead “settle” their spirits. Koepp sets up the potentially maudlin moments of closure in such a way that they feel organic, not forced. In fact, there are a few handkerchief sequences spread out across the movie’s many narrative threads. Co-star Tea Leoni makes for an easy to accept love interest, her openness matching Gervais’ closed off creep perfectly. There is a great chemistry between the two, an easiness and clear compatibility that answers any romantic questions the audience may have. This is not a movie centering on passions or lust. Instead, Ghost Town wants to travel in tenderness and smaller triumphs. It manages this material with ease.

Certainly, some will see Koepp’s spiritual sense as a little pat. This is the kind of movie that explains human/spirit interactions with an unexpected sneeze, and the flaring of available light the post-modern equivalent of an angel earning its wings. There is no discussion of God or the afterlife, no link up to religion, faith, or a sense of the sacred. The phantoms here are like leftovers from Poltergeist, desperate to reconnect with their loved ones (or in one hilarious case, their bitter rival) before falling into the realm beyond…whatever that is. Indeed, the references to other cinematic spook shows, from the Murray/Akyroyd classic to calmer entertainments like Ghost, keep the film from floating away on its own New Age artifice. Of course, it helps to have Gervais at the center. He could defuse the most potent source of saintly mumbo jumbo with a simple comic stare. 

In fact, for those not familiar with his intercontinental cult status, Ghost Town will be a revelation. As a supporting player in such films as For Your Consideration and Night at the Museum, he never got a real chance to shine. Instead, he appeared pigeonholed in a predetermined cameo conceit. But here, Gervais elevates Dr. Pincus into one of the better leads for a revisionist RomCom. It’s rare to see the schlub succeed, to watch the man with the thicker waistline and jowly demeanor win over the women with the sheer force of his prickly (if hilarious) personality. Of course, established star power can overcome any physical (or psychological) limitations, but Ghost Town is one of the rare films that earns its humble happy ending.

All of this adds up to a film that manages to make its way deep into your heart without feeling overly manipulative or mannered. Indeed unlike another similarly styled movie from 1993 (the trite Robert Downey Jr. effort Heart and Souls), Ghost Town controls all its facets - fantastical and otherwise - to deliver a decent ‘little’ entertainment. Remember, if you’re looking for outsized scope or a dimensional dissection of the supernatural, you’ll need to focus on other films. But if you want to see a great comedian giving a true performance within a movie that works both comically and emotionally, this film will definitely satisfy. It’s nice to see that Hollywood can turn out the well meaning minor gem when it wants to. Here’s hoping Ghost Town‘s shine inspires others to drop the pretense and aim a little lower. As this movie proves, such an undersized focus can produce a refreshing big screen experience.

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St. Vincent, Beck, and More Heat Up Boston Calling on Memorial Day Weekend

// Notes from the Road

"With vibrant performances by artists including St. Vincent and TV on the Radio, the first half of the bi-annual Boston Calling Festival brought additional excitement to Memorial Day weekend.

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