Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sundance 2012: Ranking the Best and Worst of the Festival

And so we come to the end of another Sundance film festival. All in all, I saw 32 films, including a couple I checked out at Toronto last year that also played in Park City. Here's my ranking of what I saw, from worst to best...

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Red Lights
Lay the Favorite
Wish You Were Here
Chasing Ice
For a Good Time, Call...
Mosquita y Mari
Celeste and Jesse Forever
The End of Love
I Am Not a Hipster
Black Rock
For Ellen
The Invisible War
The Surrogate
The Imposter
The House I Live In
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Words
Gypsy Davy
Sleepwalk With Me
Wuthering Heights
Simon Killer
Your Sister's Sister
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
Safety Not Guaranteed
Room 237
28 Hotel Rooms

You may notice that Beasts of the Southern Wild isn't as high on my list as it is on many other folks'. I think it's a good film, if a bit overpraised. You also may notice I missed several films that won prizes as last night's awards event. What can I say: There's only so much time, and you can't screen everything. But you can be sure I'll be doing some catchup over the next several months.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sundance 2012: '28 Hotel Rooms' Review

You would assume that the strongest offerings at Sundance would be in the competition sections, but for my money the two best movies I've seen this festival have been in NEXT, which spotlights daring/quirky low-budget fare. (Last year, Bellflower premiered in NEXT.) This year NEXT featured the touching and funny Sleepwalk With Me, but it also played host to the magnificent Compliance and a terrific film I saw yesterday: 28 Hotel Rooms. The premise couldn't be simpler -- a Seattle woman and a New York man carry out a clandestine affair over the span of 28 separate encounters in different hotels -- but the film burrows deeper into the nature of commitment and passion than just about any other recent love story I can recall. I was entranced, as I hope comes across in my Screen International review.

Sundance 2012: 'Mosquita y Mari' review

Two teen Chicana girls share a close personal bond in Mosquita y Mari, but does that mean they're in love with one another? That's the question at the center of this modest little drama, and the film's strongest attribute is that it never says for sure -- after all, the two girls don't even know the answer to that one. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Kills - "Future Starts Slow"

One of the fun side effects of seeing so many movies at Sundance is getting a chance to hear a particularly great song in a new setting. For example, "Dance Yrself Clean" I've always loved, but the way the LCD Soundsystem track is used in Simon Killer is simply brilliant. Then there's the Kills, who are all over the soundtrack to Black Rock. "Future Starts Slow" is especially wonderful in the context of that horror/thriller. So turn it up.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'For Ellen' review

For Ellen is the third film from writer-director So Yong Kim, and by this point in her career, you should know what to expect from her movies. A gradual pace, an outsider main character, not a lot of plot.... If you get on her wavelength, her movies have such flow to them. Her first, In Between Days, showed a lot of promise, but I wasn't as impressed with her follow-up, Treeless Mountain. For Ellen might be her strongest -- to my mind, anyway. It stars Paul Dano as a would-be rocker who's about to reunite with the young daughter he's never known. My Screen International review is here.

Sundance 2012: 'The Words' review

I think I'm really starting to turn the corner on Bradley Cooper. Where once he did nothing for me, now I'm enjoying his onscreen presence, whether it was in last year's Limitless or in his new film, The Words. The literary thriller got picked up by CBS Films here at Sundance, and it's the sort of airport-novel flick that ought to play well with audiences. The Words is all about its story-within-a-story cleverness, and it's executed in a fun, escapist way. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Gypsy Davy' review

I haven't had a chance to see any documentaries yet at this year's Sundance -- I've been focusing on features for the first half of the festival -- but yesterday I saw Gypsy Davy, a rather touching film from director Rachel Leah Jones. Her film is about Flamenco guitarist David Serva, a renowned musician (and inspiration for the Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones") who has had five children, each with a different woman. Jones is one of those children, and her film explores those women and children, creating a portrait of the artist that gets away from the typical talking-heads/career-highlights bio treatment. This is a very quiet, intimate, personal movie, but I was moved by it. I sang the film's praises over at Screen International. And here's a little taste of Serva's musicianship....

Sundance 2012: 'Goats' review

Generally speaking, Sundance's Premieres section is where they spotlight indie-ish films that will eventually get into theaters. They're not necessarily the most artistically adventurous films, but they're probably the most commercial offerings at the fest. And in the case of something like Goats, it means sitting through a mediocre movie that features stars you're pretty sure must have better things to do with their time. I don't mean to pick on Goats -- a so-so coming-of-age tale with David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga -- but it's indicative of a type of Sundance film I have little patience for. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Black Rock' review

Director Katie Aselton's first film was The Freebie, about a married couple who decide that since their sex life is in a rut they're going to allow each other to have a one-night-only fling with someone else. Some might find that premise shocking, but it's got nothing on her follow-up film. Black Rock tells the scary story of three female friends (Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell, Aselton) who go on vacation together to a remote island ... and, well, bad stuff happens. I reviewed the thriller for Screen International.

Sundance 2012: 'Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie' review

Don't have the mistaken impression that all the movies at Sundance are stunning works of independent and world cinema. Some of them are just terrible. Like Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie. Seriously, folks, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim should never be allowed to make anything longer than two minutes again. I caught the film at Park City, but it's going to be hitting VOD on Friday. My sincere hope is that my Screen International review sufficiently conveys how much I loathed this film.

Sundance 2012: 'LUV' review

LUV is a film I wanted to like, but I just couldn't get all the way there. It tells the story of an 11-year-old African-American (Michael Rainey Jr.) who reunites with his Uncle Vincent (Common), who's just out of prison. Set in Baltimore, it's part coming-of-age tale, part crime drama, part sociocultural study. The sociocultural study element is the movie's strongest selling point: Unfortunately, the story itself is just too derivative. I reviewed LUV for Screen International.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'For a Good Time, Call...' review

For a Good Time, Call... looks like the sort of movie that when it hits theaters will be described as "this year's Bridesmaids." It's not because it's about a maid of honor -- it's just that the movie features two female characters who talk about dildos and start their own phone-sex line. The comedy, which premiered last night at Sundance, is extremely uneven, but its stars (Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller) are a pretty fun pair. My review just went up over at Screen International.

Sundance 2012: 'Smashed' review

Smashed is hardly a momentous or revelatory movie, but I wish more American indies were like it. Small-scaled but emotionally honest, it tells the story of a young married couple in Los Angeles (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul) who clearly have a drinking problem. But because they're happy and in love, it's all good, right? Maybe, maybe not. I reviewed Smashed for Screen International.

Sundance 2012: 'Compliance' review

I had been impressed with Craig Zobel's first film, Great World of Sound, but nothing prepared me for what he would do next. That would be Compliance, which debuted Saturday at Sundance and caused quite a stir in the audience. I can understand the volcanic, angry response, but I think it's completely misguided. I reviewed the film for Screen International, and I worked hard to avoid the word "masterpiece," although I think the movie gets pretty darn close to earning that designation.

Sundance 2012: 'Lay the Favorite' review

Rebecca Hall is a good actress, but she should never, ever play a ditzy Florida stripper who moves to Vegas and ends up getting sucked into the world of professional sports gambling. Oops, too late, she already did. The film is Lay the Favorite, which is directed by Stephen Frears and also stars Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It's a comedy that sees its milieu as one filled with adorable caricatures. It's not a pretty sight. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Wrong' review

Wrong is the new film from Quentin Dupieux, who last made the killer-tire horror-comedy Rubber. Wrong isn't a genre send-up like Rubber was, though: This time around, Dupieux is going for an off-kilter, absurdist comedy in which people still work in offices even after they're fired and lonely losers seek out their lost dogs while debating the merits of a new pizza company's logo. If deadpan oddness is your thing, you'll eat up Wrong. I was a little more mixed, personally: I explain why over at Screen International.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' review

No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits were failed attempts by Hollywood to try to modernize the romantic comedy by suggesting that some people aren't looking for "the one": They just want to enjoy a no-pressure sexual relationship with someone they like hanging out with. Beyond their other failings, those two movies bombed because, despite their aspirations to be "hip" and/or "edgy," deep down inside they were as conventional as your typical rom-com. The forthcoming Friends With Kids, which I saw back in Toronto, offers hope that some filmmakers can come up with some fresh ideas on this front, and now comes Celeste and Jesse Forever, which isn't a great film, but at least is a sincere and touching one.

Co-written by Rashida Jones, the film stars Jones and Andy Samberg as a married couple who have decided to get divorced -- even though it has done nothing to dampen the lifelong bond they've shared since grade school. Their buddies refuse to believe that these two can remain friends after separating, but it seems to be working out quite well for them....until it suddenly doesn't. I reviewed the comedy-drama for Screen International.

Sundance 2012: 'Red Lights' review

Despite some reservations, I liked Buried, the 2010 thriller starring Ryan Reynolds as an ordinary man who finds himself buried alive in a box and must find a way to get out alive. That film's director, Rodrigo Cortes, is back with Red Lights, a bigger but not necessarily better follow-up. This one stars Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver as paranormal investigators who seek to disapprove claims of the supernatural. But in their path is Robert De Niro as an infamous blind psychic who went into seclusion 30 years ago. If this sounds a bit like a graphic novel, you're on the right wavelength. Unfortunately, Red Lights is overlong and overwrought -- Cortes takes this enjoyably preposterous premise ridiculously seriously. Red Lights sure isn't boring, but unfortunately it sure isn't that good, either. My review is at Screen International.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Wish You Were Here' review

Two years ago at Sundance, I saw Animal Kingdom, an exceptional Australian thriller starring (among others) Joel Edgerton. He was a virtual unknown to me, although after the fact I realized he had played young Owen in the Star Wars prequels. (You'll forgive me if I wiped that trilogy from my memory banks.)

I've been charting Edgerton's progress since -- he was quite good in the overrated Warrior -- and now he's back at Sundance with Wish You Were Here. It's a drama about two couples who go off on a vacation together -- and one of them ends up missing. Folks, it's no Animal Kingdom. Sadly, it's not even Warrior. My review is up at Screen International

TV on the Radio - "Killer Crane"

For me, one of the biggest shocks of this year's Pazz & Jop music poll was how low TV on the Radio's Nine Types of Light ranked. Not even in the Top 40 -- ouch. I'm not saying it's a masterpiece -- it didn't make my album ballot either -- but I had assumed that TVOTR were one of those groups (like Wilco or Radiohead) whose every album would at least make a decent showing in P&J. Apparently, people just didn't dig Nine Types of Light. Too bad: Here's the great track "Killer Crane" from the disc.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'Red Tails' review

George Lucas spent more than two decades trying to bring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to the big screen. And now he has ... and it's Red Tails, and it's not very good. Sure, Lucas is simply the executive producer of this World War II drama, but the movie will remind you of all the worst qualities of his Star Wars prequels: wooden performances, on-the-nose dialogue.... Just be glad there's no Jar-Jar Binks. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Pazz and Jop Ballot; or, Defending 'Goblin'

Even though it's been six years since Robert Christgau got fired from The Village Voice, I remain positively giddy each January when his creation, the Pazz & Jop music poll, comes out. This year's edition went live today, and count me as one of the people who assumed that Bon Iver's self-titled second disc was gonna win the album poll. Boy, was I off: It finished in ninth. The actual winner was tUnE-yArDs (the brainchild of Merrill Garbus) and her second disc, w h o k i l l. It was the first time a woman has topped the poll since Lucinda Williams' 1998 record, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. That was also the last time women occupied the top two spots: Williams narrowly edged out The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and this year Garbus slid by PJ Harvey's career-comeback Let England Shake.

Of course, Pazz & Jop isn't the same without Christgau's year-defining essay that always used to accompany the results. (Last week's "Rock & Roll &" essay is more about his best-of list than the music year in general, although it's definitely a must-read.) I've been contributing to P&J since 2000 -- my No. 1 album that year was And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out -- and while I miss Christgau's hands-on stewardship of the poll (although he still does contribute a ballot) I think this is by and large still the definitive countdown of the best in music.

This brings us to my ballot. A focus on film reviewing in recent years -- and a concentration on covering rock music thanks to my work at and Revolver -- has made it a little tougher to write about all the albums and songs that matter to me on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, so I figured I'd take a moment to highlight some of my picks. But probably, I should just spend my time defending my No. 1 album of 2011, Tyler, the Creator's Goblin, a lowly No. 98 on the album chart that contained votes from 700 music critics. Even Metallica and Lou Reed's universally loathed Lulu charted higher.

Released in May -- just two months after the artist born Tyler Okonma turned 20 -- Goblin was impossible to judge without also discussing the man behind its making. The leader of Odd Future, a buzz-heavy L.A. rap collective, Tyler, the Creator has been criticized for his homophobic and misogynistic antics that he's been unable to defend in any meaningful way. Goblin is a treasure trove of similarly disgusting sentiments, and he and his posse of Odd Future rappers -- with the possible exception of Frank Ocean, whose Nostalgia, Ultra suggested he might be the one guy in this group who has a healthy amount of empathy for other human beings -- do little to convince me that these dudes aren't straight-up jerks.

And yet... in ways that recall Never Mind the Bollocks or Appetite for Destruction, Goblin is a record I find fascinating and gripping in almost perfectly indirect proportion to how much I like the artist personally. Goblin is Tyler's second album -- his first was Bastard -- and it's been compared to the unapologetic rage of Eminem's early records. (As Brad Wete noted in his Entertainment Weekly review, Goblin really deserves the title My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy even more than Kanye's 2010 record does.) Tyler's anger at those around him -- music critics, Bruno Mars, kids who grew up rich, Bill O'Reilly, girls who won't sleep with him, girls who will sleep with him but give him diseases -- may be partly in his head, but as a producer and a record-maker, he knows how to turn his album into a paranoid, claustrophobic hall of mirrors in which his misanthropy starts to develop its own kind of bizarre inner logic.

But despite his monstrously ugly persona, Tyler succeeds in making his shallow complaints compelling. He mourns the friends he's lost, he pines for the one good girl he managed to come across -- naturally, it's his fault that she got back with her old boyfriend -- and when he talks about killing himself, his freak-show keyboards and jittery samples give the boasts a frightening realism. (Even when it's stooping to mere shock value, Goblin turns out to be rather effectively shocking.) And while he doesn't want you calling his music horrorcore, there's an undeniably nightmarish quality to it. But that doesn't mean it's monotonous: Only after weeks of slowly digesting Goblin and then putting it away for a while did I realize how the songs' hooks had stuck with me. No question his petulance ties the (admittedly overlong) disc together, but his beats -- sometimes merciless, other times tricky, occasionally haunting -- are a close second.

If Goblin was a movie, it might be Rampart or There Will Be Blood, starring a thoroughly detestable main character who we don't like but whom we come to understand. And so we have yet another musician whose personal behavior is repellent but also fuels the vibrant, upsetting and, yes, sometimes funny art that he makes. You wouldn't want your daughter dating this creep, but on Goblin he lets you enter his dark twisted fantasy. Just remember it's a fantasy -- or at least I hope it is.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Roots - "Make My"

Seriously, folks, I'm gonna keep saying it until it sinks in: The Roots are America's best band. (Well, either them are Drive-By Truckers.) Undun came out at the end of 2011 and hasn't gotten nearly enough love. So it's a "concept album" -- you don't need to know the concept to love it. The music's what matters, and Undun is a fount of gorgeous, smart, hard, wonderful music. This is "Make My."

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Godard's 'Weekend' at the Cinefamily

This is an occasional feature called Blind Spots. It gives me a chance to write about movies or albums or whatever that I missed during their initial run. Ideally, this exercise of going back will help me fill in some gaps. I'll write these whenever the spirit moves me.

Two film critic colleagues' comments about Jean-Luc Godard are useful to suggest the wide gap in opinion about the iconic French New Wave filmmaker:

Film Critic Colleague Number 1: "Nobody really likes Godard. He's a guy you're supposed to like, but nobody really does -- they just say they do."

Film Critic Colleague Number 2: "The problem with most filmmakers is that they don't challenge you. But when you watch a Godard film, you think, 'You're a [expletive]. And you're such a [expletive] that I'm gonna sit here and watch your movie and prove that you're a [expletive].'"

(By the way, Film Critic Colleague Number 2 loves Godard: He was saying this to prove his point about what a genius Godard is.)

I'm somewhere in between my two colleagues. I'm still working my way through Godard's immense oeuvre, but there isn't a single film of his that I've seen that I haven't been inordinately impressed by. (Of course, I've yet to see his King Lear.) At the same time, there isn't one I haven't had major reservations about. For me, he's a filmmaker to admire deeply but who's hard to love. His shadow is so large and his influence so wide that it's simply ridiculous to dismiss what he's accomplished. (If you're someone who gets all sappy about Hollywood's maverick '70s, you'd better recognize that just about every film of that era was directly inspired by something Godard did in the '60s.) But even if no Godard film has fully, wholly, completely connected with me, I keep going through his catalog, preferably on the big screen if I can help it.

The latest opportunity presented itself Friday night at the Cinefamily, which is doing a retrospective of Godard's work (including the much-belated L.A. run of his latest, Film Socialisme.) The long story short is that his 1967 film Weekend, which is being presented in a brand new 35mm print, was supposed to play at the Nuart around Thanksgiving of last year, but instead it got pulled for another week of Melancholia. So the Cinefamily got to play host to the revival screening instead, although it is funny to think how similar Godard's and Von Trier's movies are in some ways. Though their approaches couldn't be more different, both films are about the end of the world.

Tight narrative is rarely a major component of a Godard film, so let's dispense with Weekend's as quickly as possible. The married couple Corinne and Roland (Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne), who are both engaged in adulterous affairs, head off on a car trip one weekend to see her gravely ill father. Their reasons are purely selfish -- they want their inheritance, and they're hoping the old man will croak quickly -- and they have no qualms whatsoever about their motives. But as we quickly learn, these two have no qualms whatsoever about any of their consumerist, self-centered actions. Almost 40 years before the funny series of Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig sketches on Saturday Night Live, Weekend's central characters were the original Two A-Holes.

This was hardly new territory for Godard, of course: Starting with Breathless, he'd very happily populated his movies with protagonists you're pretty sure you're not entirely supposed to like. But what made Weekend such a watershed for me was how superbly complete its dislike for modern life was. Godard has never had the rosiest view of humanity, but Weekend might be his bleakest portrait -- and yet it's also probably his funniest.

The couple's car trip does not go as planned, resulting in many run-ins with various strange characters, some real, some seemingly figments of fiction (including a few castaways from Lewis Carroll). But what becomes clear rather quickly -- once the couple escape a seemingly endless traffic jam near the film's opening -- is that these two are really journeying into Hell. Or, more accurately, another version of Hell. Weekend is not one of those films that equates city life with civilization and the countryside with barbarism: The city is filled with jerks in cars who keep crashing into one another, resorting to violence in a moment's notice -- or, at the very least, leaning on their horns with obnoxious frequency. Meanwhile, the countryside in Weekend is filled with radicals who enjoy a little raping, savagery and cannibalism. And Corinne and Roland aren't innocents trying to make their way: They're spoiled and obnoxious and seemly wholly indicative of the sort of nightmarish reality Godard is decrying in his film.

This should be a movie in which there's no rooting interest -- and, hence, no viewer interest at all -- but I have to say I found the whole thing rather riveting. Part of that is because Darc and Yanne are so good at being so shallow. Their short-sighted rudeness in the face of the fiery overturned cars on the highway has a sort of deadpan wit to it. There's a dark, apocalyptic undercurrent humming throughout Weekend -- almost a surreal sci-fi edge -- and yet these two nitwits, these two complete wastes of space, just keep merrily rolling along, mostly annoyed that it's taking a lot longer to get to Corinne's dad's home than they were hoping. That was the genius of the "Two A-Holes" sketches as well: Not only didn't Sudeikis and Wiig care that they were horrible people, they seem irritated that more people weren't like them.

Because Godard enjoys didactic digressions -- you could argue that his later films, like Film Socialisme, are nothing but them -- Weekend is weighed down by preachy political commentaries. These tend to stop the film dead in its tracks, but because so much of the movie has a vaguely unhinged quality to it, I found myself more receptive to them than usual. And while Godard's visual aesthetic often mixes between playful and pretentious, Weekend features some of his more arresting moments. The long traffic-jam scene is rightly heralded, but it's just one of several fairly brilliant scenes, each done in a single take (One involves a detailed account of an orgy. The other a bit of Mozart.) Though Godard is clearly on the side of the hippie guerrillas who emerge in the film's second half, he seems to understand the limits of rebellion and antisocial behavior. That's why Weekend doesn't really need its talky stretches: The film's very conception -- a world gone mad that most people are too self-absorbed to notice -- tells you more than any single bit of dialogue. Technically speaking, the world doesn't end in Weekend, but it sure feels like humanity is on its final legs. And Godard seems rather cheered by it.

"Weekend is a prolonged howl of rage at the perceived vanities and cruelties of bourgeois life," Richard Brody wrote in his book Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard.  Maybe, but that hardly makes the film a downer. If anything, it's liberating -- almost cheery. As R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe once sang in "Ignoreland":

I know that this is vitriol
No solution, spleen-venting
But I feel better having screamed
Don't you?

Godard sure does.

Friday, January 06, 2012

'The Devil Inside' review ... and the State of Studio Horror Films

The Devil Inside opens today. As you might imagine, it's not so good. But I wanted to touch on a few things that I didn't have the space to address in my Screen International review:

1. Why do people find exorcisms scary?

I realize that may sound like a silly question. People find them scary because the person is flopping around and speaking in tongues and spewing horrible things out of his or her mouth (or other orifices, if you're really unlucky). But unlike other horrific/terrifying things that are portrayed on screen, I don't find myself particularly scared by the prospect of seeing an exorcism on screen. It's not like being killed by a guy with a knife or being trapped in a haunted house or having to escape zombies: As farfetched as some of those scenarios are, they at least seem plausible in the world of a horror movie. But with an exorcism, well, you're sorta just watching someone (who's normally not the main character) having their limbs go in funky directions they normally don't. That's incredibly discomforting to watch, but it's not, as far as I'm concerned, really frightening.

Clearly, I'm in the minority. Between The Rite and The Last Exorcism and a few other recent examples, exorcism horror movies are relatively popular. (Or at least Hollywood thinks they are.) Maybe it's because of the recent scandals in the Catholic Church? Whatever reason, I go to these films mostly preparing to have a miserable time. There are few things worse than watching a horror movie whose central concept just makes you irritable.

2. Is it time to retire the found-footage gimmick?

This may be a strange thing for me to say. I actually liked Apollo 18, and I remain a fan of the Paranormal Activity films. But with PA, as I've written about previously, I would argue that the films' found-footage conceit isn't really what's scary about those movies: It's the way the conceit forces you to look around the screen with the knowledge that something horrible is there somewhere. As for Apollo 18, the filmmakers' decision to design the movie as leaked footage from a doomed moon mission is actually executed pretty well technically, even though I'm pretty sure the film as a whole cost about 10 bucks to make. But what's really scary about Apollo 18, unlike The Devil Inside, is that it does play into universal fears in grimly effective ways. Claustrophobia, fear of drowning/smothering/suffocating, fear of creepy-crawly things ... Apollo 18 doesn't win any prizes for originality but it at least knows what horrors it's tapping into. Did it need to be camouflaged as a found-footage film? Probably not.

Washed Out - "Eyes Be Closed"

Washed Out (real name Ernest Greene) has acquired a bit of fame due to the fact that his "Feel It All Around" is used as the theme song to Portlandia. But his 2011 debut album, Within and Without, which was released after "Feel It All Around," is darn good and worth checking out. Here's the opening track, "Eyes Be Closed."

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

'Beneath the Darkness' review

January. It's a terrible time for new movies. (Although that's not entirely true: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia hits theaters this month.) But more often than not you've got junk like Beneath the Darkness. It's a low-budget thriller starring Dennis Quaid as a small-time mortician who's Up To No Good. Dreadful, dreadful stuff. By the way, the film's press notes point out that Beneath the Darkness was filmed in the same Texas town that The Tree of Life was. So, you know, there's something. My review is up at The Village Voice.