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by Cynthia Fuchs

5 Dec 2011


“For most children,” begins Strangers No More, “going to school is as simple as going around the block.” But for the students in the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, the journey has been long and continues to be difficult. Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon’s documentary, winner of last year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, premieres 5 December on HBO, tracks the experiences of several students, as examples of the many (from 48 countries) who have survived loss and trauma. Many are orphans, others have parents who are refugees, all are doing their best to remember their pasts and also to move on. According to principal Karen Tal, means to “open our arms to every student. Almost every student is running away from something.” Their relatives have been running too: Johannes’ father, from Sudan, confesses that his son was never able to go to school before; the boy’s new teacher observes, “You see the eyes of the father, you see that he is really tired from running from one place to another.”

by Chris Conaton

5 Dec 2011


cover art

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

80. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
“Alabama Pines”


Jason Isbell’s career since leaving the Drive-By Truckers has sometimes seemed like the work of a man who hasn’t quite reached his full potential. But this simple country song highlights his best qualities as a songwriter. Essentially it’s a love letter to Alabama, namechecking many of the state’s small towns. But Isbell adds depth to his narrator, sketching out his background as a brokenhearted man in just a handful of lines scattered among the Alabama references. The song’s melody emphasizes Isbell’s rich voice, particularly in the soulful, conversational verses. Meanwhile, small musical touches like the catchy, easygoing lead guitar riff and Amanda Pearl Shires subtle fiddle work give the song the extra character that helps elevate it to one of the year’s best.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

2 Dec 2011


Future Islands

Here’s a new music playlist to indulge in before the onslaught of holiday music starts dancing in our heads.  Strong releases by Atlas Sound and The War on Drugs provide the backbone while newcomers Future Islands and The Drums serve as bookends.  See notes below and enjoy!

1. “Stay Gold” – The Big Pink
English electro-pop duo The Big Pink has just released this single from their second album due in January, Future This.  The synth-heavy sound lends itself to the dance floor, while the straightforward lyrics create an instant sing along.

by PopMatters Staff

2 Dec 2011


POPMATTERS SPONSOR—Open Road Media announces the publication of Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money by e-­original author Jo Piazza available in both print and digital editions.

What does a celebrity baby picture have in common with a drug deal? Why is Kim Kardashian ten times richer than Paris Hilton? What’s an Oscar really worth? And why does Charlie Sheen keep “winning”? Jo Piazza, a former gossip columnist for the New York Daily News and a seasoned journalist currently writing for the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and Fox News, not only brings her unique expertise and personal economics background to Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money, but she has obtained access to the men and women who ensure famous people will make 40 times the average American’s salary in a single year. Piazza not only brings the gossip, but the business expertise in her 12 unique chapters, each based on the format of a business school case study (peppered with hilarity and wit, obviously) that examine how celebrity functions as a business model.

by Gem Wheeler

1 Dec 2011


Scott of the Antarctic and his doomed expedition may have disappeared into the pristine, icy wastes, never to return, but their last despairing notes were not the only record of their attempt to reach the South Pole. A beautifully restored new version of official cameraman Herbert G Ponting’s film of the expedition is currently touring cinemas around the UK, and is available on DVD from the British Film Institute.

A magnificently atmospheric soundtrack from composer Simon Fisher Turner lends the incredible imagery added mystery. Ponting’s masterful deployment of colour and tone give the Antarctic the air of an alien planet, as indeed it must have seemed to the members of the British Antarctic Survey. The smiles and enthusiasm of the team only serve to heighten the sense of creeping dread: this is a horror movie, in the truest sense. Ponting edited the film together some ten years after the expedition foundered, and that hindsight informs every frame. A mesmerising, evocative glimpse of a lost world.

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