Film

'El Sicario -- Room 164': An Incredible Story, Incredibly Told

According to the sicario, many unrecovered bodies are buried in safe houses, backyards and city buildings, places he can't recall or never knew. He may be lying. And he may not.

"The job of a sicario is to do away with the victim immediately, either with a bullet, a knife or a blow." As he speaks, the hooded subject of El Sicario -- Room 164 writes in a notebook, a numbered list of the weapons he names. "Quick and lean," he continues, "So that the victim feels nothing more." In answer to his own question, "How?", he begins to draw a childlike outline of a car and to explain the difference between a professional sicario and an imitation sicario. Where the pretender fires dozens of bullets at a car -- here he stabs at the page, bullet-dots all over the car he's drawn -- the real thing takes aim, needing only one shot to get the job done.

In Gianfranco Rosi's chilling and mesmerizing documentary, EL Sicario -- Room 164, now available be on DVD from Icarus Films, this former sicario wears a mask and has his voice modified, while he identifies himself as a worker, skilled and self-assured. Hailing from Ciudad Juárez, and now seated in a motel room on the border between Mexico and the US, he recalls his employment simultaneously by a drug cartel and the Chihuahua State Police. But as much as he goes over details and recalls crimes he committed, the film is much more focused on how he tells it and how you see it. In Juárez, it reveals in closing, more than 5,000 people have been killed since 2008. According to the sicario, their bodies are buried in safe houses, backyards and city buildings, places he can't recall or never knew. He may be lying. And he may not.

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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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