Reviews

Stuck

Quite happily politically incorrect, Stuck pins everyone, including viewers.


Stuck

Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Stephen Rea, Mena Suvari, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon
MPAA rating: R
Studio: ThinkFilm
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2008-05-30 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer
Well, that’s the world we are living in now. People are very selfish and afraid.

-- Stuart Gordon

Brandi (Mena Suvari) works at an old folks' home. It's tedious, you know, because she delivers meds on a tray in slow motion, and the client who likes her most, Mr. Binkley (Wayne Robson), calls her in to help when he's been "bad again": she pulls back his sheet to reveal a big brown mess of poop, and she barely reacts. Same old.

It's a grim routine, but then again, it's not so grim as the situation facing Tom (Stephen Rea). As Stuart Gordon's Stuck grinds into gear, Tom is evicted from his flea-baggy apartment, forced to leave his meager belongings behind. Informed by his landlord, "You pay or your stuff stays: your choice," Tom looks suitably bedraggled as he heads to the Employment Services office in his beat suit. Here he faces another "choice": fill out a form to get an appointment with a counselor, even though he's already got an appointment, as it says on the paper he clutches, the result of that previous form-filling. "If you want to follow procedure, we can work with you," says the man behind the desk. "If not, it's your choice."

Tom is stuck, no doubt about it. And while he tries to catch some few minutes of sleep on a park bench, Brandi and her coworker/best friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) let off steam at a club, their efforts to escape enhanced by pills popped on their tongues by Brandi's man, Rashid (Russell Hornsby). In case the poop scene at film's start isn't enough to remind you of Gordon's proudly low-budget horror-culty past (Re-Animator, From Beyond), Rashid rolling up in a black leather jacket looking all B-movie jaunty will close that deal. But even as you appreciate the pointed stereotyping, pleased with yourself that you get the jokes, the movie comes with something else. Locating the B-movie potential in tabloid news, it proceeds to deliver the ultimate stuckness.

That is: Brandi's driving home, high, bored, and distracted by her cell phone, and slams smack into Tom, trundling his newly acquired shopping cart with bundled clothing across the empty street. Whaaaa! She screams. He crashes through her windshield. Broken glass, blood everywhere. Yuck.

Following the example of Chante Jawan Mallard, the Texas woman who hit a homeless man with her car, then left him bleeding in her windshield until he died, Brandi drives home in a panic and hides her vehicle in her garage. The social commentary is not subtle: Brandi screeches past a cop on the sidewalk, so intent on harassing a homeless black man that he doesn’t even turn around to see this white girl with a bloody body in her windshield. When she gets home, Brandi gives her dilemma some brief thought, or so it seems. When she tells Rashid she's hit someone, she leaves out the part that the man remains in her windshield and falls into her lover's arms for a night of impassioned and mundane moaning ("Yeah, baby!"), all audible to Tom, who remains conscious, if stuck.

The hysteria doesn't stop. With each choice she makes, Brandi exacerbates the problem. When she sees Tom is in fact awake the next morning, she promises to call someone, then whomps him in the head when he insists on pressing the horn on the steering wheel. At work, she realizes she's left her phone in the car just as the film shows Tom reaching for it, emphasis again on the blood on his hand and blood on the sea, Tom blurry and anguished as the cell lies just beyond reach in the shot's clearly focused foreground. When at last he achieves his goal and makes his call, he can't tell the 911 operator where he is: "I'm in a garage! I'm in a car! A car!"

When a young Latino neighbor, Pedro (Martin Moreno), happens by and hears noises from Brandi's garage, he spots Tom through the window and insists his mother (Lorena Rincon) come see too. Though they're inclined to "help," dad (Mauricio Hoyos) resists, envisioning media and interviews, cops and deportation. "It's not our problem," he declares. "Why the hell were you poking around in someone else's garage?" With the chance of Pedro's sympathy pretty much quashed by his father's not unreasonable but wholly troubling fears, the film returns to its relentless focus on Tom's efforts at escape and Brandi's at denial. Cruel and sad and bizarre, the film doesn't press its comedy or jaw-dropping circumstances, but offers up both in clever compositions and visual gagginess. Tom flops and pivots, grinding his torso over jagged shards, pulling himself off a metal spike, gore and pain rendered in ways that are vaguely "realistic" (at least as far as cheesy effects go) and simultaneously preposterous.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Brandi demands of her guest. He's suitably stunned: "You can't treat me like this." Neither can imagine the other's fear and torment and neither feels the need to try. Their back-and-forthing can lead nowhere, per the film's title. Everyone's stuck. That's not to say the film doesn't pass judgment or that especially righteous punishment is not visited upon assorted offenders. Quite happily politically incorrect, Stuck pins everyone, including viewers.

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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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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

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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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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