Film

'Space Coast' at The DocYard in Boston on 23 January

The DocYard in Boston showcases "what is innovative, interesting, and inspiring in documentary." Space Coast is all of that.

"Here's me in pink stretch pants," notes Mary Bubb. She's a space reporter in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the moment sharing some of her memorabilia with filmmakers Ross McElwee and Michel Negroponte. She smiles as she remembers a friend telling her, "Not everybody has their pink ass on the cover of Newsweek." Mary's recollections as a pool reporter provide something of a background for Space Coast, a film McElwee shot while he was still a graduate student at MIT in 1979. Like his subsequent, more famous documentaries, this one appears mostly observational, with subjects occasionally speaking directly to his camera, addressing him as Ross. As it shows the early version of what came to be his signature visual style -- handheld, amiable, incisive -- the film also indicates his inclination to see in everyday stories the significant rhythms and substance.

And so: even as Mary pursues her work, showing up at each launch (always with a new hat of her own devising, fashioned to be "very symbolic of the mission," she explains), the film follows two other residents of the Space Coast, Papa John Murphy and the Reverend Willie Womack. All offer their wisdom on the landscape changing around them, the declining economy, the closing of launch pads, the frustrations of the community, the way the world works. For the most part, Papa John keeps himself distracted with TV and his family, wrestling with his daughter Diane (currently unable to find a job) and watching Happy Days and religious programming. "Jesus had to have been an extremely rugged individual," he submits, "He lived the life of a fisherman, he wasn’t no pansy." Willie takes his sons hunting, narrates McElwee, in "an abandoned housing development." Each scene in the film offers a small glimpse of the various lives in Cape Canaveral, and together, they reveal the reshaping of a culture, built on ambitions unmet and options unknown.

Space Coast screens on 23 January at The DocYard at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, followed by a Q&A with McElwee and Negroponte. It's the first in this season's terrific biweekly documentary series, conceived to showcase "what is innovative, interesting, and inspiring in documentary." Space Coast is all of that.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

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