Talk, Talk, Talk: The PopMatters Fall 2008 Movie Preview

Bill Gibron

PopMatters highlights 80 fall films all this week. Up today, December: Just like the end of an inspiring speech that may or may not succeed in making its point, these final four weeks before 2009 tend to define or defeat the entire awards season purpose.

If Summer is a convention with a keynote speaker every week, the Fall Movie season is the unruly floor show afterward. It's a metaphoric Tower of Babel, random voices shouting out of turn, each one hoping to carnival bark its way to a turnstile twist or two. Certainly there are individual efforts that stand out, films that announce their presence by the very force of their own motion picture personality, or the lineup they use to get their artistic or commercial point across. Others are clearly filmic lackeys however, skirting around the fringes of their more formidable cohorts, capable of raising a noise here and there while often a mere part of the overall din. Deciphering the signals and press kit pontification is tough, especially when everything seems poised towards maximizing revenues and/or end of the year awards consideration. What we need is a translator to tell us the important statements from the outright shilling, the facts behind the business model fiction.

That's why PopMatters offers its own paraphrasing of the often overwhelming cacophony. This year's Fall Preview will focus on the nearly 80 films that fill up your local Cineplex between now and the end of the year. Indeed, over the next 16 weeks, the studios will be bringing out their big entertainment guns, films hoping to win you over with their powers of persuasion and inherent aesthetic value. Yet this doesn't mean that, somewhere buried in the ballyhoo of another Oscar campaign pitch isn't an actual bit of cinematic classicism. This time of the year is funny that way. While there is always enough hyperbole to go around, it's the unsung or sleeper title that frequently forces its way into the movie marketplace of ideas. Before you know it, this heretofore unheralded work manages to wrestle away the interest level from the former kings of the media mountain (Little Miss Sunshine, for example), making its case more clearly and concisely than its A-list competitors.

Sadly, as we go to press, a few noted films are not set for certain distribution, among them: Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler (receiving a Golden Lion at Venice and massive buzz at the Toronto Film Festival), Stephen Soderbergh's brazen biopic epic of Che Guevarra, as well as several foreign films made far outside the confines of the US that always seem to be marginalized by the mainstream movie establishment. Indeed, while preparing this material, a long set release (Rian Johnson's follow-up to Brick, The Brothers Bloom) has been swept away until January, and don't be surprised if a few more of these voices -- especially in an overcrowded October -- loose their place in the speaker's kiosk once the carnival circuit finishes doling out its opinions. Until then, enjoy the clamor and the commotion, the racket and the often ridiculous fuss utilizing that most elusive of tongues - the language of film. You may not always like what you see/hear, but the results more often than not truly speak for themselves.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

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Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

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