Red Bull & Hennessy by Jenny Lewis

 

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Another blogger Crazy Classic Rock recently noted that it’s been slim pickings for rock albums in the 2010s, and I would agree with that assessment.  I’ll get back to that discussion when I publish my best of the decade lists. The lead single Red Bull & Hennessy from Jenny Lewis’ upcoming album was a pleasant surprise. I like the rock sound, thumping drums, piano, and the closing guitar solo works like a dream. Her vocal has been compared to Carole King and Stevie Nicks. To me, the lyrics suggest freedom and the open road, I could imagine listening while on a long drive. Singer-songwriter Lewis has spared no expense and is supported on the album by Beck, Ringo Starr, Don Was (bass player of the 1980s funk-rock band Was Not Was), Benmont Tench (keyboardist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), respected session drummer Jim Keltner, and under-fire singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, who was recently forced to pull his new album and tour amid claims of sexual abuse. I was hesitant if I should boycott with Adams’ involvement. But I thought would be unfair to Lewis if I refused to share. Hopefully, like me, you can separate the controversy from the music. Jenny Lewis is best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the indie rock band Rilo Kiley (which I am unfamiliar). Her latest album On The Line is released under her own name and is out March 22.

 

 

 

Time Rider by Chromatics

 

 

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The story of the upcoming(?) album Dear Tommy is fascinating and exasperating if you are a fan. Johnny Jewel has been talking about the record since December 2014. Word is 15,000 CDs and 10,000 vinyl copies were destroyed by Johnny in 2016. He wasn’t satisfied with the music. Could there be a copy or two hidden somewhere he forgot to smash to bits?
On a positive note, the band have announced their first tour in five years that kicks off in the US on April 30th. Promoting a new album on the tour is a possibility. We will have to wait and see. Hope you enjoy the new song which is one of my favorites of 2019. Nice and dreamy, as you’d expect from Chromatics.

 

 

February recap: films, the Oscars, and Alan Partridge is back on TV

 


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Thoughts on the 91st Academy Awards
I enjoy the Oscars even though I don’t love oscar baity films that lecture me, and the endless thank yous to collaborators is monotonous. As perceptively noted by Sean Chandler Talks About, the Best Picture category appeared to be calculated with the selections appealing to different groups so the Oscars could boost its television ratings. A decision that makes the Academy look a bit desperate.
Films that reflect diversity have good odds of getting nominated. Be it a female cast and LGBT issues in The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody, African-American culture in Green Book, Black Panther,  BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk , or indigenous people in Roma.
The lack of a host went fine but hosting is far from dead which Aubrey Plaza proved with her entertaining opening monologue at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before.
The “Wayne’s World” reunion was a nice idea albeit not that memorable. Melissa McCarthy’s bunny costume was funnier, especially when she opened the envelope. Olivia Colman winning Best Actress was surprising and her speech very sweet, but maybe an even bigger surprise was The Favourite going 1/10 on the night. Lady Gaga gave one of the most inspiring speeches when accepting for Best Original song, saying it’s not about winning but never giving up. Shallow was in my top 10 songs of the year and I was pleased it won. Fully deserved.
Green Book shocked with its wins for Original Screenplay and Best Picture, especially as it wasn’t tipped to go all the way. The various controversies that have plagued the film during the last few months apparently weren’t a deciding factor. That said, it is the kind of movie the Academy loves for its inclusive message. It looked as if Samuel L Jackson and Spike Lee behaved disrespectfully towards Green Book. Lee (you could call him an ungracious loser) admitted Green Book was “not his cup of tea” and that the movie was Driving Miss Daisy with changed seating arrangements. Yet Jackson and Lee also had one of the best moments on-stage when they enthusiastically hugged when Spike Lee won adapted screenplay. I guess those two veterans of the industry just do what they want. A low moment was Spike Lee swearing in front of millions (“do not turn the motherfucking clock on”) to start his speech although I’m happy for him for finally winning an overdue Oscar.
You could argue the Academy tried to make amends for Eighth Grade’s lack of nominations by having Fisher as a presenter, she looked happy to be there. Emily Blunt was also snubbed but declined to attend which meant Bette Midler stepped in to perform the nominated song from Mary Poppins Returns.
The highlight of the evening was when Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper took the stage and gave fans something to cheer about with their intimate duet and prompted new speculation about an off-screen romance.
A fan created an in memoriam montage recognizing those ignored by the Oscars, including Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen and Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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This Time With Alan Partridge (2019) (Episode 1)
He’s back on TV! In episode 1, the awkwardness of Alan saying the wrong thing is similar to his earlier stuff from the 90s, and in that regard the new series plays it safe. You may feel you’ve seen this type of comedy from Steve Coogan before, but he’s still fun to watch. The writing and joke telling is equally as effective as classic Partridge. It wasn’t believable Alan was on TV back then and it still isn’t that believable.  This Time is a spoof on BBC’s The One Show, tackling current affairs such as seals, hygiene and hacktivism. Alan co-hosts with a female presenter which adds some tension. In contrast to Partridge’s chat show Knowing Me Knowing You, we see what happen in the studio, off air. Whether the next episodes will be just as entertaining remains to be seen, I’ll be watching.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free Solo (2018) (documentary) (Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature documentary. The last 30 minutes when he attempts the dangerous climb at El Capitan Wall is is some of the most thrilling non-fiction you’ll ever see, especially when viewed on the big screen as it’s very visual and cinematic. But if you watch a film about free solo climbing without a safety harness then you know you are in for a nerve-racking experience. The first hour of the documentary however is less essential as doesn’t go into much detail about Alex Honnold’s life. I struggle to comprehend why someone would date a rock climber as must be very stressful that their partner could die at any time.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) (documentary) (Mark Hartley)

Tends to showcase the best moments of these low budget Aussie gems so approach the documentary with caution. Despite that, fun to watch what is essentially a highlight reel of Australian exploitation (Ozploitation) cinema from the 70s and 80s. Tarantino is a fan of these films and talks about them. The filmmakers who got the projects made back in the day tell their stories. In hindsight, they are aware their films are for the most part lacking deeper meaning, emphasizing the work had an audience who were just looking for a good time.
I had already seen some of the more prominent titles such as Mad Max, Walkabout, Wake in Fright and Long Weekend. But I found (or was reminded of) a bunch to watch: Patrick (1978), Dead End Drive-In (1986), Next of Kin (1982), Road Games (1981), Razorback (1984), Dark Age (1987), Fair Game (1986), Fortress (1985).

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Bad Genius (2017) (Nattawut Poonpiriya)

wow, what a great discovery. Thanks to Film4Fan for pointing me towards this Thai heist thriller. A Horrible Woman will have to move into second place as Bad Genius is now my favorite foreign film of 2017.
A great premise and the storytelling matches the idea. I love how mobile phones are an active part of the story and the sequence of the STIC exam is nail-biting stuff. The characters are well-defined and the actors do a good job, especially the female lead. Currently has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score.
9/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Holiday (2018) (Isabella Eklöf)

A cold, dark tale set on the picturesque Turkish island of Bodrum. An interesting fact to take into account is Holiday is directed by a woman which makes the violence feel less exploitative than if a man had sat in the director’s chair. Honestly, was hard to care about these people. The group of Danes on holiday are shallow (probably intentionally) and have ties to gangsters and the drug trade.
There’s a disturbing scene about 45 minutes into the film that is getting attention and the violence going on while the kids are watching TV was also unsettling. Slowly builds to an unpredictable finale. The tensest part is in the last half hour as you don’t know what will happen next. The ending is one of 2018’s best and elevates the film by allowing the viewer to re-evaluate everything you have just seen. I just wish the first half of the film was better as I almost turned it off after 30 minutes due to indifference. In hindsight, I now realize there was an agenda with some of the early scenes. An uneven watch, but I can’t shake that ending. Holiday probably requires a second viewing to grasp the nuances.
6-7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pity (aka Oiktos) (2018) (Babis Makridis)

By the screenwriter of Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  The central premise of this Greek weird wave drama is one of 2018’s most original. We follow someone who becomes addicted to pity and negative feelings. Satirizes our unhealthy obsession with attention and selfishness. A thought-provoking watch, though it probably needed to be funnier to reach a bigger audience. A story that maybe could have been told in less time.  The lead actor plays it well albeit the characterization was rather vague which may frustrate some viewers. A bit more back story could have made it easier to care about the characters. Despite some weaknesses, worth a look if you like weird, inventive films that are outside the mainstream. Shubhajit is back from a hiatus and writing reviews at his blog Cinemascope again. He also reviewed Pity.
6-7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) (Barry Jenkins)
A good watch with a touching story though I’m not the biggest fan of preachy message movies. As Alissa Evans wrote in her review, the characters’ personalities feel secondary to their circumstance. The lead Stephan James has kind, gentle eyes which might be the reason he was picked. KiKi Layne is likeable as well while Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry shine in supporting roles. The jazz score is accomplished and is incorporated well.
Important and competently made yet didn’t quite manage to rock me to the core in the way Moonlight did. The characters lacked the deeper, emotional weight of Jenkins’ 2016 film. A sense of wretchedness was missing. Perhaps better captured in Baldwin’s book.
Full review
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Older song discoveries: February

guitar

 

 

Rocket Man (cover) by Kate Bush (1991)
(Good cover with an unexpected reggae sound. She recently officially released the video on her YouTube channel. To coincide with the upcoming 4-disc rarities album The Other Sides)

 

 

 

 

Don’t Talk To Me by GG Allin & The Jabbers (1980)
(A random discovery via a letterboxd review. Apparently there are many wild stories about GG Allin and he is kind of the bad boy of punk music. This recording is from before he lost his mind. Bored To Death, from the same LP, is another memorable moment. A different era but the lyrics have aged well)

 

 

 

 

3,000,000 Synths by Chaz Jankel (1982)
(Sometimes spelled Chas or Chaz. Solo project of the guitarist and keyboardist of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. I don’t know if synth-jazz exists but this could be it. Wish I could hear what is said at 2.06, it’s inaudible)

 

 

 

 

Television, the Drug of the Nation by Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy
(A 1992 hiphop classic that is critical of TV and is still applicable to today’s society.  Language Of Violence, taken from the same album, continues to ring true as well)

 

 

 

 

Think (About It) by Lyn Collins (1972)
(So funky! Reminds me a bit of Musicology, only better than Prince’s tune)

 

 

 

 

Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson (1978)
(Wonderfully tranquil country song. A great discovery thanks to Alyson’s blog)

 

 

 

 

They Shoot Horses Don`t They by Racing Cars (1976)
(A Welsh pop band. A hit single inspired by the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Despite three albums to their name, the group (according to wikipedia) acquired one-hit-wonder status) 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Sunday Afternoon by The Small Faces (1968)
(Very catchy. The band is remembered as one of the most important mod groups of the 1960s, and were a big influence on Britpop in the 1990s. They later evolved into Faces, a very successful psychedelic band with Rod Stewart as lead vocalist)

 

 

 

 

 

Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl (1963)
(An R&B dance classic. Was ranked #23 on The Daily Telegraph’s list of the “50 Best Duets Ever” and was used in the film Baby Driver. The Rolling Stones released a cover in 1986)

 

 

 

 

 

Hooverville by The Christians (1987)
(An underrated 80s group. The name of the band refers to the surname of the three brothers.  We need more uplifting tunes like this!)

 

 


 

Re-discoveries:

 

 

 

Experience by Ludovico Einaudi (Mommy Soundtrack) (2013)
(Drew at Man About Words praised this instrumental in the comments section of his blog and I was reminded how moving this piece of music is)

 

 

 

 

Higher Love by Steve Winwood (1986)
(Unforgettable 80s chorus)

 

 

 

 

The Last Farewell by Roger Whittaker (1971)
(First heard as a child.  I love the “for you are beautiful” chorus, yet I’m only just uncovering the nautical theme in the lyrics. Whittaker hosted a radio show and is quoted as saying “one of the ideas I had was to invite listeners to send their poems or lyrics to me and I would make songs out of them”. Ron A. Webster, a silversmith from Birmingham, sent in The Last Farewell. I hope he receives royalties as the single has sold 10 million copies!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably half of these discoveries were found at Rol’s music blog, What do you think? Any favorites? As always, comments are welcome

My 2018 film awards go to

 

 

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I will watch the Oscars as usually an entertaining show but I don’t have a lot to root for this time except screenplay, original song, score, and feature documentary. Instead of predicting the oscar winners, I’ll share my own 2018 film awards where I put things right that the Academy messed up. Since I can do whatever I want on this blog, I took the liberty of creating new awards in a few cases, such as splitting original screenplay into two (most innovative & best dialogue). For music fans who follow my ramblings, I included a category for them too with the best use of (older) music in a film. Other categories I decided to introduce: Best films with zero oscar nominations, Best scene, Best horror, best thriller, Best Netflix film, Best film by a female director, and Best directorial debut.
Worth mentioning also, the films marked with an *asterisk I have been unable to watch so far, so I’ve included them as “dummy” entries as those have a chance of a nomination in future.
High Life (2018), The Wild Pear Tree (2018) and Never Look Away (2018) I consider 2019 titles. Not out near me until April-May this year, or even later, so not eligible on this occasion.
Films mentioned here such as Beast, First Reformed, Oh Lucy!, You Were Never Really Here, The Rider and Custody are labelled as 2017 on IMDb but with a general release in 2018.
I’ve no doubt left out some quality films but you can’t watch everything!  The winners are bolded in green and you’ll notice I have been generous with the number of nominees as I think it’s fairer to those talented people who are competing. On to the film awards, as they stand today:

 

 

Best English language Film
Eighth Grade
Beast
Mission Impossible – Fallout
Hereditary
First Reformed

 

 

Best Foreign Language Film
Lykke-Per (aka A Fortunate Man)
Burning
Oh Lucy! (Japanese/American co-production)
The Guilty
*Shoplifters

 

 

 

Most overhyped
Leave No Trace
The Other Side of the Wind
Roma
The Rider
You Were Never Really Here
The Favourite
Bohemian Rhapsody
Black Panther
Tully
Quincy (documentary)

 

 

 

 

Most underhyped
Oh Lucy!
Lykke-Per
Beast
Custody
Lean on Pete
Pity (aka Oiktos)
Shirkers (documentary)
Hal (documentary)
*Donbass
*Asako I & II
*Assassination Nation

 

 

 

 

Most original or innovative 
Searching 
Border (aka Gräns)
Pity (aka Oiktos)
The House That Jack Built
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
*Sorry to Bother You

 

 

 

 

Best writing dialogue
The Favourite
First Reformed
The House That Jack Built
Oh Lucy!
The Guilty

 

 

 

Best adapted screenplay
Burning (Chang-dong Lee, & Jungmi Oh)
Lykke-Per (Anders Frithiof August & Bille August)
Suspiria (David Kajganich)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
A Star Is Born (Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper &Will Fetters)
Juliet, Naked (Jim Taylor, Tamara Jenkins, Evgenia Peretz)
*Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty)

 

 

 

Best scene
Climbing El Capitan Wall with no safety gear (Free Solo)
Lighthouse (Annihilation)
Olga’s dance-horror scene (Suspiria)
At the restaurant table (Beast)
Meeting of two families (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Swimming Pool (Eighth Grade)
Performing Shallow (A Star is Born)
Opening dance sequence (Climax)
Running next to carriage (Lykke-Per)
Uma Thurman and Matt Dillon in red van (The House That Jake Built)
The ending (First Reformed)
The ending (Holiday)
The songwriter (Under the Silver Lake)
The ocean (Roma)
Live Aid show (Bohemian Rhapsody)
*Single-take, hour-long dream sequence (Long Day’s Journey into Night)

 

 

 

 

Best Lead Performance (Male)
Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Esben Smed Jensen (Lykke-Per)
Nicolas Cage (Mandy)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Matt Dillon (The House That Jack Built)
John Houston (The Other Side of the Wind)
John Cho (Searching)
Jakob Cedergren (The Guilty)
Denis Ménochet (Custody)
Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
Sunny Suljic (Mid90s)
Giannis Drakopoulos (Pity)
*Christian Bale (Vice)

 

 

 

 

Best Lead Performance (Female)
Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)
Jessie Buckley (Beast)
Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Eva Melander (Border)
Charlize Theron (Tully)
Shinobu Terajima (Oh Lucy!)
Rose Byrne (Juliet, Naked)
Léa Drucker (Custody)
Joanna Kulig (Cold War)
Natalie Portman (Annihilation)

 

 

 

 

Best Supporting Performance (Male)
Steven Yeun (Burning)
Steve Buscemi (Lean on Pete)
Lai Yde (Holiday)
Thomas Gioria (Custody)
Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Na-kel Smith (Mid90s)
Josh Hamilton (Eighth Grade)
Benjamin Kitter (Lykke-Per)
Alex Wolff (Hereditary)

 

 

Best Supporting Performance (Female)
Katrine Greis-Rosenthal (Lykke Per)
Ann Dowd (Hereditary)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Mackenzie Davis (Tully)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Marina de Tavira (Roma)
Kaho Minami (Oh Lucy!)
Tilda Swinton (for everything) (Suspiria)
Mia Goth (Suspiria)
Galatéa Bellugi (The Apparition)

 

 

 

 

Best cinematography
Free Solo
Cold War
Roma
Mandy
Hereditary
Lykke-Per
Holiday
*Long Day’s Journey Into Night

 

 

 

 

Best original score
Mandy (Johan Johnasson, RIP) (Track: preview)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell) (Track: preview)
Suspiria (Thom Yorke) (Track: Has Ended)
Hereditary (Colin Stetson) (Track: Reborn)
Lykke-Per (Lorenz Dangel) (Track: Main Theme)
Under the Silver Lake (Disasterpeace) (Track: A Junction)
The Other Side of the Wind (Michel Legrand) (Track: End credits)
Mid90s (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross) (Track: The Start of Things)
Annihilation (Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow) (Track: The Alien)
Minding the Gap (Nathan Halpern & Chris Ruggiero) (Track: Theme from)
*First Man (Justin Hurwitz) (Track: The Landing)

 

 

 

Original song (written for a film)
Keep Reachin sung by Chaka Khan (Quincy Jones, Chaka Khan, Mark Ronson) (Quincy Jones documentary)
Shallow (Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt) (A Star is Born)
Suspirium by Thom Yorke (Suspiria)
OYAHYTT by The Coup (Sorry To Bother You)
Sunday Never Comes by Ethan Hawke/ Robyn Hitchcock (Juliet, Naked)

 

 

 

Best use of (older) music in a film
Fruit and Icebergs by Blue Cheer (The Other Side of the Wind)
Starless by King Crimson (Mandy)
Skyline Pigeon by Elton John (The Favourite)
This Year by Mountain Goats (Minding the Gap)
Hit the Road Jack  by David Johansen/Ray Charles (The House That Jack Built)
We’ll let you know by Morrissey (Mid90s)
Never My Love by Association (Under the Silver Lake)
Kids in America by Kim Wilde (Three Identical Strangers)
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester (Studio 54)
Supernature by Cerrone (Climax)

 

 

 

 

 

Best film by a female director
Oh Lucy!
Shirkers
Holiday
Free Solo

 

 

 

Best documentary
Minding the Gap (Bing Liu)
Shirkers (Sandi Tan)
Væbnet med ord & vinger (Torben Skjødt Jensen)
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Morgan Neville)
Hal (Amy Scott)
Free Solo (Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)
Fahrenheit 11/9 (Michael Moore)
Filmworker (Tony Zierra)
Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle)
Studio 54 (Matt Tyrnauer)
*Evelyn (Orlando von Einsiedel)
*The Raft (aka Flotten) (Marcus Lindeen)
*They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson)

 

 

 

Best horror
Hereditary 
The House That Jack Built
Mandy
Suspiria
Climax
*A Quiet Place

 

 

 

Best thriller
Beast
The Guilty
Searching
Custody
*Widows
*Calibre

 

 

 

 

Best directorial debut  (What a year!)
Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)
A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper)
Beast (Michael Pearce)
Mid90s (Jonah Hill)
The Guilty (Gustav Moller)
Hereditary (Ari Aster)
Minding the gap (documentary) (Bing Liu)
Shirkers (documentary) (Sandi Tan)
Holiday (Isabella Eklöf)
*Apostasy (Daniel Kokotajlo)
*Sorry To Bother You (Boots Riley)

 

 

 

 

Best Netflix film
Shirkers
Annihilation
Roma
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
The Other Side of the Wind
*The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

 

 

 

 

Best films with zero oscar nominations
Burning
Lykke-Per
Eighth Grade
Beast
Hereditary
Oh Lucy!
Shirkers
Mission Impossible – Fallout
The Guilty
The House That Jack Built
Mandy
Lean on Pete
Annihilation
Searching
Mid90s
Custody
Suspiria
Pity
Tully
*Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (documentary)
*Sorry To Bother You

 

Updated March 17

 

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Which oscar films are you rooting for? As always, comments are welcome