Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Comedy on the Edge

Sarah Silverman works at the offensive edge of comedy in a style that lulls you into comfortability and then hits you in the blind side of prejudice and hypocrisy. Silverman in her act speaks with perfect diction and good posture, but when you listen to what she is saying it is shocking as she touches on taboo subjects. In Jesus is Magic a live concert is combined with some filmed musical numbers and framing devices to create a concert film that captures the sensibility of a comic who is bold and unafraid to offend. It’s not for everyone, but I think that if it clicks with you, you’ll really enjoy it.

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Collages of Music and Memory

by The Books

Lost and Safe by The Books is one of those collections of tracks that is filled with details and snippets that start to make more sense the more that you listen. It’s important to be in a fairly quiet environment as well, but even then it has been surprising to me as I’m never sure if what I’m hearing is in the recording or around me. A sometimes very musical mix and at times experimental, it can be strangely recognizable and opaque at the same time. It’s a wonderful collection of elaborate sonic journeys that I enjoy taking.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Exploring the Idea of Legacy

Ross McElwee is a filmmaker who makes personal documentaries and in Bright Leaves he explores the ways that history, memory and family interact. While at first it seems rambling and random, all of the pieces start to knit together surprisingly well as we go on a journey with the filmmaker as he talks with friends and family to find out if there was a Hollywood version of his family history. It’s hard to describe, but it somehow manages to link together everything in an apparently effortless style. McElwee combines the personal, the historical and political in an endearing style that made me think about how we define our families, ourselves and how we deal with moral issues and personal responsibility.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Beautiful Story of Loss and Obsession

by Werner Herzog

While Werner Herzog is known as a driven and obsessive filmmaker with stories of the making of the films often overshadowing the work. He’s also a skilled documentarian who constantly pushes at the expectations and structure of the documentary form. In The White Diamond he tells us the story of a man who wants to fly a beautiful balloon over the rainforest of Guyana. But it’s much more than that and the story unfolds in a casual, almost accidental way, that conceals the careful control and structure of the entire film. A wonderful and elegiac portrait of fascinating people in unique situations.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fundy Adventures

John and I are hitting the road to go camping in Fundy National Park and I'll try to update from the road either here at my Vox page, on Flickr, and on Bad Metaphor on Odeo (via the phone).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thom Sings for You

by Thom Yorke

Small, subtle and personal, The Eraser is Thom Yorke’s solo recording. With electronic elements and Yorke’s voice it’s an interesting contrast to Radiohead, and a chance to see which elements Yorke brings to the band. The obvious part is his voice and what’s neat about The Eraser is that his voice is much more present than on some of the recent Radiohead projects. Glitchy and introspective, it’s a neat album that grows on you. I bought the CD version which is a beautifully-constructed fold-out cardboard case with artwork by Stanley Donwood called London Views. A bit downbeat, but not really depressing. The CD is like a collection of beautiful things created by someone who slips into their workshop and crafts them by hand with love.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Sampling Expertise on Cassette

by The Bran Flakes

Comfort Stand Recordings is filled with gems and one of the neatest ones that I’ve found is I Remember When I Break Down by The Bran Flakes. It was originally a cassette, so there are two sides. It’s a virtuoso performance created using the old school sampling methods of actually using a sampler and it’s a lot of fun with all sorts of bits of popular culture thrown in. Things like Johnny Depp as Ed Wood and Dr. Ruth and Debbie Gibson. It’s great and free and Creative Commons-licensed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Journey Through Disturbing Places

by Set Fire to Flames

Months ago I was listening to, which provides music based on what you’ve listend to before. One of the semi-random tracks that came up was “Steal Compass / Drive North / Disappear” from the band set fire to flames. The track was haunting and beautiful and when I read the title, I knew that I’d have to check this band out. I found the site with information about the band at “alien8 recordings””: which had an enigmatic description of the group, which is more of an experiment in improvisational music. After some research I found that I couldn’t purchase tracks online, but I had to order the CD, which I did. I’m so glad that I have the CD, since it is beautifully crafted with a booklet that matches the haunting, enigmatic and sometimes disturbing sounds. It’s more geared to headphones and attentive listening and it has an almost cinematic feeling to it with a melancholy tone. You have to listen to get a better idea, but it’s a sound that I love.

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A Story of Redemption

by Olivier Assayas

In Clean we see a woman struggling to put her life together after giving up her various addictions and her fame as a rock star. Olivier Assayas wisely builds the film around Maggie Cheung and focusses on her struggle to rebuild her life and reconnect with her son. Shot in a casual style with long takes and a blurring between reality and fiction caused by the appearance of real rock stars, it works much better than stories of drug addiction because it focusses on the people and not the addiction.
Near the beginning of the film there is a great performance of “Dead Disco” by the band Metric, with the magnetic Emily Haines, which firmly establishes the film in the world of music. As things progress we move around the world with Emily and see glimpses of her former life. An outstanding supporting performance by Nick Nolte as Cheung’s father-in-law adds complexity and depth to a story that doesn’t take the easy way and avoids cliché. A great film that makes you care about the characters and shows you subtle glimpses of life that show the power of cinema and of actors who know exactly how to play a role.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Pirates in Search of a Plot

by Gore Verbinski

It’s fun to watch Johnny Depp as a pirate and he’s always interesting to watch, but with a weaker plot than the first film, Dead Man’s Chest is more about the characters than the plot. With some great and funny action sequences, it’s a fun summer movie, but the writing is a bit sloppy with the film setting up the sequel instead of providing any sort of narrative closure. But I enjoyed it overall and especially liked the chemistry between Depp and Keira Knightly. Bill Nighy is concealed under makeup and cgi, but he still shines through and brings his usual memorable touches to the character of Davy Jones. Stellan Sarsgaard plays Orlando Bloom’s father with his haunted eyes standing out under the makeup. Naomie Harris is over the top as a Jamaican medicine woman who ties loose threads of the plot together, but she has fun with it and manages to say the name of the sequel in the film with a straight face. A fun Summer movie that is an enjoyable (but slightly lazy) connection between the first and third movies.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Happy Synthesized Music With a Quirky Voice

by Lali Puna

I’m going down some interesting music paths now and I like to follow up on influences of bands that I like. I’d seen Lali Puna mentioned by several bands that I like, so I finally started listening and I really like it. Tridecoder has a naive quality that is combined with great synthesized beats that have a bit of glitchiness and always a sense of fun. It helps me chill out and feel better as it cheers me up.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Beautiful Short Film For a Famous Dad

by Guy Maddin

My Dad is 100 Years Old is a lovely short film collaboration between Isabella Rossellini and Guy Maddin where Rossellini plays all of the parts (with the exception of her father’s belly). It’s a history and a love letter for the director who gave us Italian Neo-realism and Isabella. Funny at times and also moving at times, it’s shot in Maddin’s anachronistic black and white style that adds a naive and magical quality to the short film.

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John's Zoetrope Animation

I used the still camera to capture some video of the animation that John drew for the zoetrope at the Discovery Centre in Halifax.
This video was originally shared on by ChrisCampbell with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.

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Jellyfish and Seaweed in Water

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We shot an episode of commandN on a boat in Halifax harbour and beside the dock there were tons of jellyfish. I used my camera to record some of the jellyfish in the water. They looked so cool.

From my blog.
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Deconstructing a Philosopher

by Amy Ziering Kofman

In Derrida the filmmakers are making a film about the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who established the philosophical practice of deconstruction. While many talk about deconstruction, few actually practice it. While it’s very intellectual (it’s philosophy!) the film tries to strike a balance between showing a person and explaining the philosophy. Derrida is brilliant and fun and frustrating, which is how his writing is as well. The film is bold at times and tries to use deconstructionist techniques recontextualized into a cinematic frame to create an awareness. It reminded me why I liked reading Derrida when I studied him a fairly long time ago and it made me also realize how there is very little analysis or rigorous thought in much of the world now. I enjoyed the film, but it’s not for everyone. If you are interested in philosophy or Derrida or biographies of philosophers it should be a lot of fun. Otherwise it could be tough to get through.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Call to Action

by Davis Guggenheim

While I knew that I was sympathetic to the ideas behind the film when I went in, I was surprised by how much I liked the film. It doesn’t have a lot of new information and a lot of it consists of a presentation by Al Gore, but somehow it transcends that and becomes much more. Maybe it’s the arrangement of the facts and the mixing of the personal reasons that Al Gore feels so strongly about the issue that makes it work, but whatever it is, it is powerful and is making me rethink how I do things.
The core of the film is Gore’s presentation, but that is broken up with glimpses of Gore’s personal history which stops things from becoming bogged down with statistics and studies. I agree with what so many people are saying, it’s an important film to see, but it is more than just a rant, it’s a call to action and it contextualizes the crisis in a way that it encourages us to bring out the best in each other and face the challenge head-on with a positive attitude.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Calming Chilled Out Music

by Sleepy Rabbit

I like Sleepy Rabbit’s music and I listen to calm down and chill out. His latest, Woolen Tank has some nice ambient grooves that let me think and relax. You can get Woolen Tank as well as other music at The Army of Lantern Faces site where Sleepy Rabbit (aka Russell Purdy) shares his work.

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Backwards Thriller

The central idea of Memento is fascinating in that it is a thriller built around a main character who cannot remember anything for more than a few minutes. That is combined with a reversed narrative structure where we see the ending and as we go backwards in time we realize that we know less and less about the character and the situations. It’s great to watch and figure things out and the repetition of scenes works well too. I should have seen this film a while ago, but for some reason I just didn’t get around to it. Playing with what we see and what we know and causality is something that works very well in a film. It’s a gimmick, but it is done so skillfully that we admire the way that it plays out.

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A Difficult Balance

by Bryan Singer

I don’t envy Bryan Singer in taking on Superman Returns. The project took years to be made and had to balance the history of the comic books and the previous films. Remarkably, he does it quite well with respectful nods to the older films and adding some depth to a character who doesn’t really have that much going on. Filled with some striking images and good performances it is entertaining and works well as a summer movie. Some parts are a little clunky, but nothing ever slows it down too much and Singer manages to inject some complexity into a simple character and situations.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hand Crafted Rock Music

by John Vanderslice

The more I listen to John Vanderslice, the more I like him. He tours very often and makes a ton of MP3s available of his own work and his previous band, MK Ultra. Vanderslice also has Tiny Telephone, which is a studio where wonderful things can be recorded with analog equipment. With Pixel Revolt he has a perfect combination of quirkly lyrics and instrumentation that is recorded and mixed with an obsessive and loving attention to detail. With songs like "Trance Manual", "Angela", "Exodus Damage", and "Dear Sara Shu" I'm shocked by the complexity and storytelling within an intricate musical structure. Craft combined with a technique and generosity makes for some wonderful music.

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Marriage as an Action Movie

by Doug Liman

The central metaphor running through Mr. & Mrs. Smith is very clever and it compares marriage with being an assassin. There are some really neat scenes that have the leads keeping secrets from each other, but then it goes into action mode and starts slavishly following the classic structure, dropping subplots and characters. Brad and Angelina are great to look at and bring a good sense of humour to the film, but the cleverness slowly drains away as the explosions and body count increases.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Remarkable and Fresh Portrait of a Struggle

by Gillo Pontecorvo

The Battle of Algiers is a harrowing and timely portrait of the fight for independence that happened in the 1950s in Algeria. There is an amazing and shocking documentary feel to the film with hundreds or perhaps thousands of extras appearing the film. With a conscious blurring of the boundaries between drama and documentary as the filming takes place in the streets and with many of the people who would have been there. It provides a methodical look inside both sides of a struggle and it drags on and the stakes increase. Unique and bold filmmaking.

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