Neo-retro-soul diva Sharon Jones appeared with her Dap-Kings on Craig Ferguson’s show last Friday night to play the title track from her 2007 album. As always, she was smokin’.
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One could easily argue that cooler, more intelligent heads finally prevailed. After little over a year of lagging ratings and regular reputation hits, Disney has finally pulled the plug on its failing “youth” update of the classic Siskel and Ebert review series At the Movies. Replaced were the quote-whoring team of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz, with an announced pairing of Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips and the New York Times’ A. O. Scott taking their place. The change represents the House of Mouse’s backhanded admission that their attempt at “dumbing down” the show for a perceived anti-critic demographic was about as successful as Will Ferrell taking on a classic kid’s show from the ‘70s. As flops go, it’s not a complete embarrassment, but it does speak to a bigger issue infiltrating the media today.
There is a mandatory mantra, spread among studios, film geeks, geek-oriented websites, and the members of messageboard nation that film critics don’t matter. They are a marginalized bunch, believed to be out of step with what mainstream audiences want, betrothed to their beloved arthouse fare while forsaking equally important genres like horror and/or family films. They are caricatured like Neo-con Republicans - white, aged, and about as hip as a mix tape from Dick Cheney - and blamed for every star-studded failure, regularly ridiculed for every cinematic rarity when personal opinion consensus just doesn’t match the box office returns (right, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?).
This new Terry Gilliam film will surely get major play because it features the final performance of Heath Ledger, but that aside, the visual side of the movie looks mind-blowing. Add in Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law stepping in to help out with the lead role (the film had not yet finished shooting when Ledger died) and Tom Waits as the devil and there just might be something worth checking out in there—though it has been a long time since Gilliam directed something great.
“Cars” - Gary Numan
Written by Gary Numan
From The Pleasure Principle (Beggars Banquet/Atco, 1979)
According to the Wikipedia entry for Gary Numan, the famously dark-viewed British new-waver has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. In the article, a quote attributed to Numan indicates that he feels his longtime difficulties in relating to others, the subtext of much of his work, may be directly related to this syndrome.
That gossipy tidbit may reflect the whole truth, a kernel of truth, or no truth at all, but one thing is definitely certain: no other artist in rock and roll has so thoroughly mined the subject of emotional alienation in the modern, computerized world. Numan’s brittle-broken vocal style, ice-cold synthesizer lines, herky-jerky beats, and dread-filled lyrics all contribute to a challenging and compelling aesthetic, one that is still undervalued by many music lovers but cherished by millions of dark-clad misfits worldwide.
Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, Fish Tank is a stunning rites of passage story, written and directed by the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Red Road (Arnold, 2006). The opening begins with the 15-year-old, Mia, who lives on a council estate and seems hell bent on getting into trouble. She is accompanied by her loud and obnoxious little sister and her mother—a trashy, but sexy vixen who certainly wasn’t schooled in the arts of conventional mothering.
To escape her forlorn existence, Mia retreats to an abandoned haven where she practices hip-hop dancing. But, it isn’t until the arrival of her mum’s new Irish boyfriend, Connor, played by the formidable Michael Fassbender that the narrative kicks into full swing. The handsome Connor unbuckles the palpable tension in the dysfunctional family, seemingly bringing hope and redemption. But before long, we realize that the director will not settle on a simple narrative resolution. Instead, the handsome stranger is filled with desires of his own, which will alter the lives of all those parties involved.