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Archive for August, 2005

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Like Dylan In The Movies

So the official schedule for the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival is up. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m only in town for the first couple days of the fest, thus limiting my options but there’s still stuff I’d really like to see. Number one is Terry Gilliam’s (that guy again!) Tideland, the film he shot while The Brothers Grimm was in studio limbo. This’ll be the world premiere, but the Elgin is one big honking theatre so hopefully I’ll score a couple tickets. Also on my wish list is Linda Linda Linda, a Japanese comedy about a groups of schoolgirls trying to assemble a rock band for a talent show. It’s iffy at this point whether or not I’ll be in town for this screening, though. Fingers crossed.

If I were around any longer, I’d definitely be trying to catch The Piano Tuners Of Earthquakes, Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy, John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes or Stephen Frears’ Mrs Henderson Presents. As it is, I’ll just have to file them away in the grey matter as stuff to see/rent later on down the road. Last year I bit off a little more than I could chew – six films in eight days (as well as squeezing two concerts in there). Festival films always take out a far larger chunk of your time than the actual running time – there’s the lineup an hour or more before show time as well as Q&A’s before and after the film. Usually you were looking at a three to three-point-five hour commitment per film. Even if it’s just watching movies, that takes a helluva lot out of a fella. I had also intended to maybe try and take in a gala opening this year. Not to be… maybe next year.

Also premiering at TIFF – though for just a single screening – is Martin Scorcese’s Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home. Since it’ll be available on DVD just three days later, it’s a wee bit anticlimactic and doesn’t really qualify as a festival must-see. The New York Times declared that neither the doc nor the soundtrack add anything new to the Dylan mythos, though I imagine that the music and images would make them compelling viewing/listening regardless (via Coolfer). Meanwhile Whas11 takes a shot at debunking the myth that the audience booed Dylan at Newport in 1965 for going electric. Their theory is that the audience was booing a MC Peter Yarrow for announcing that Dylan would only play a short set. Interesting take – now let’s see them spin the “Judas!” comment.

Coolfer fears the continuing establishment of digital music as the new normal could spell the end of the album. This would truly make me sad. Hell, I’m buying vinyl now – I’m bemoaning the end of the A/B sides. Personally, I don’t see this happening anytime soon. There is a place for the single, which is where many of the digital business models do their thing, but the album as an artistic statement, as a whole greater than the sum of its parts, will continue on – at least until all the musicians who were similarly brought up on the album – are dead and/or senile.

Lucinda Williams tells Billboard there might be another live album in the pipe to follow-up this year’s Live @ The Fillmore. Her next studio album has a tenative title of Knowing and should be out early next year.

Okkervil River will release a companion mini-album to this year’s Black Sheep Boy entitled Black Sheep Boy Appendix. The album will be out November 22, too late to pick up a copy at their November 7 show in Toronto, but it sounds like it’s a must-have regardless. By the by, Minus Story are also on that bill. Via The Catbirdseat.

Feist does two nights at the Danforth Music Hall, October 17 and 18. Tickets $25, on sale this Saturday. As much as I enjoy Ms Feist, I can give these ones a pass with nary a regret. Too much money, too much else going on.

Another Merge travelling sideshow rolls into town on October 23 when The Clientele and Annie Hayden are at Lee’s Palace.

Torontoist conducts a Tall Poppy Interview (I’ve no idea what that means) with Chuck Klosterman, who’s at the Horseshoe tonight to do a reading/signing for Killing Yourself To Live from 6pm to 8pm. Admission is free. Klosterman has a new essay up at Spin, by the way.

Fox is all about the stunt casting – The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that everyone’s fourth-favourite hobbit will be getting a role in the next season of 24. Season five, which premieres January 8 and 9 of next year, will take place 18 months after the end of season four, and feature a happily married Jack Bauer whose idyllic, terrorist-free life is interrupted when Sean Astin arrives on his doorstep and gives him just one day to throw the ring of power into a volcano. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Charlize Theron will be joining the cast of Arrested Development for at least five episodes next season (which starts September 19) as Michael’s love interest. Umm, hobbits vs hotties? Arrested Development wins.

np – Catherine Wheel / Adam & Eve

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Debate Exposes Doubt

There was a time not too long ago that if you asked me what my favourite bands were, Death Cab For Cutie would have been on the short list. Introduced to me by my friend Dave in Virginia sometime around the summer of 2000, I was fairly enthralled by We Have The Facts And Are Voting Yes and the follow-up The Photo Album. However, in retrospect, from that point on my interest in the band seemed to wane in inverse proportion to the rest of the world. Understand – this wasn’t any sort of knee-jerk backlash against their increased popularity, just a gradual growing apart. As they moved from the more lyrically obtuse, musically anxious sound of the first two or three records to the more heart-on-sleeve, earnest and widescreen pop of the last few albums, I guess it just spoke to me less as my own tastes had been drifting into less straight pop territory. I still play their records now and again but I fear that the enjoyment I get out of them is more nostalgic than genuine excitement. And while critical reaction to Plans (out todaY) seems to be mixed, I’m sure I’ll pick up a copy sooner or later. Oh, and anyone playing Gorilla Vs Bear’s Pitchfork/Plans review poolwho had 6.5?

What with this being the week of Death Cab, I decided it was as good a time as any to watch the copy of their tour documentary Drive Well, Sleep Carefully which had been sitting on my bookshelf for some time now. The feature-length doc follows the band around the US over the course of their Spring 2004 tour (the same tour that yielded their recent John Byrd EP live set), intersplicing band interviews with live performances and thoughtful shots of highways and countryside moving at high speed. The musical components are quite good – honestly, better than any of the three times I’ve seen them live (they’re pretty good live but not awe-inspiring). It’s pleasant enough watching and certainly reinforces the band’s reputation as being nice, grounded guys, but isn’t especially revelatory – not that many tour docs really are. Anyone hoping to see Ben Gibbard throw a TV out of a hotel window will be sorely disappointed.

Naturally, the Death Cab PR machine (now funded by major label dollars) is in full swing. The New York Times has a profile, as do The Houston Chronicle and Reuters. The Seattle Times talked to band friends and family about their impressions of the new album, which MTVu has streaming in its entirety. MTV found out about the making of the video for first single “Soul Meets Body” and Under The Radar has a load of extra interview material online that didn’t make the cover story on the band in their latest issue.

You know, I bet Ben Gibbard gets some seriously weird/creepy fan mail.

Also taking up major space in the latest UTR is their 10-year anniversary feature on Britpop. It’s actually quite a good piece with honest reflections and reminisences from a lot of the principals and bit players in the whole Britpop movement. They’ve got extras from the interviews online here, but if you find the material at all compelling you should pick up the magazine.

And though not Britpop, it’s the best segue I can find. Bradley’s Almanac has a complete Ride show from 1993 available to download right now. Some of the tracks appeared on the Live Light semi-official bootleg, while others are all new (at least to me). A cover of “The Kids Are Alright”? Fuck yes.

The Detroit Free Press talks to Rilo Kiley bassist Pierre de Reeder about making the jump from playing mid-size clubs to arenas opening for Coldplay.

Architecture In Helsinki’s October 1 Toronto show has a venue – Rancho Relaxo. Yeah, that’s right. Considering that the band’s personnel alone will probably exceed the club’s capacity (and the fact that they’ll have to set up single file to all fit on the long, narrow stage) this could be… interesting. And sold out very quickly, so if you’re going to go, get em fast when they go on sale later this week for $12.50. Dr Dog support.

Goths rejoice! Halloweek sees The Dresden Dolls at the Mod Club on October 25 with Devotchka and Faun Fables and cello-weilding Rasputina are there two days later.

This year’s Toronto International Film Fest schedule goes online this morning at 10AM. Hopefully their servers are better equipped to deal with the traffic this year than they were last year. I’ve only got two-and-a-half days in which to partake in the festival, so I hope something good is playing in that narrow window, or I’m going to have some TIFF tickets to sell.

np – Ride / Going Blank Again

Monday, August 29th, 2005

"Gimme Some Sugar, Baby"

Who doesn’t love Bruce Campbell? No one, that’s who. Me, I had a full-size theatrical Army Of Darkness on my wall for much of high school and university (instant campus cred, dontcha know). If he’s not your favourite chainsaw-handed S-Mart employee, he’s your favourite geriatric Elvis or your favourite futuristic Old West bounty hunter. But if he’s your favourite author, well, you should probably read more.

Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way is Campbell’s second book, and the follow-up to his surprise bestselling autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor. As you can probably tell, Campbell is perfectly happy with his place in the Hollywood firmament – a cult and pop culture hero who occasionally gets a taste of respectability via cameo roles and guest appearances. That duality is the launching point of his new book, wherein he takes a sort of Curb Your Enthusiasm fictional real world approach. In it, he gets the opportunity to leap from b-movie stardom to the a-list by getting cast in a Mike Nichols film with Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, but for reasons both his fault and not, it begins sliding into b-movie-ness and general chaos.

The novel is a thoroughly lightweight tome and includes no shortage of not-terribly-proficient photoshopped illustrations of Campbell in various costumes and disguises to ostensibly enhance the reading experience. It doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t really detract either – it just reinforces the irreverent tone of the book. Overall, it’s pretty funny if patchy. The first third of the book is most satiric as Campbell tries to land the role in the film, the middle third consists of barely-related episodes wherein Campbell tries to research various facets of his character and the final act is all-out silliness, not unlike something you’d find in one of his films. I actually preferred the Hollywood insider stuff the best – it seems pretty ridiculous, but I suspect there’s more truth in there than anyone would care to admit. I will have to get a copy of his autobiography – I bet that’s even more fun than Make Love! was.

And while on the subject of books meeting movies, Comic Book Resources has a review of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mirrormask, which isn’t due for theatrical release until September 30. Sony is doing their bit to build anticipation for the film by offering up a few clips from the film as well as a few video interviews with Gaiman and McKean and a making-of scene that we can expect to see on the DVD whenever that’s released. And whilst on the topic of Mr Gaiman, there’s a preview of his next novel Anansi Boys on his website. The book is out September 20 and he’s in town doing the promotional/signing thing on October 8, location to be announced. Update: The Gaiman reading/signing will take place at the Bloor St United Church. Tickets are $15 and are available from The Learning Annex. There’s a limited number of tickets available for people who want to get stuff signed, so if you have to get your Death: The High Cost Of Living trade paperback autographed, get your ticket now.

The New Yorker goes record shopping with Richard Thompson. RT endorses Cyndi Lauper, recommends New Age music as a genre ripe for commercial exploitation and muses about meeting the Queen. Sadly, I’ve had to remove Thompson’s October 20 show at Trinity-St Paul’s from my calendar. Just way too much going on that month and it’s costing me way too much money.

Zoilus ponders the question of why pop music is treated as worthy of consideration by critics but pop literature is not? What makes The Beatles important but not Danielle Steel? Interesting debate ensues.

In addition to playing the Ear To the Ground fest on September 18, singer/violinist/whistler extraordinaire Andrew Bird will be back in town for a show at Revival on November 11 with Chicago’s Head Of Femur.

Toronto Life talks to Metric’s Emily Haines about life in Toronto, where her band has one sold-out and one-soon-to-be-sold-out show at the Phoenix on September 28 and 29. Their new album Live It Out is out on September 27 and Haines has a couple of solo albums in the pipe for next year. Link from Soaring With Eagles.

I’m looking at the list of winners from last night’s MTV Video Awards, and there’s what – five videos total collectively sweeping 20 or so categories? That’s pretty much MTV’s entire video rotation, isn’t it?

More vinyl purchased this weekend – really nice condition copies of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Springsteen’s The River. I think I’ll be hunting down all of Bowie’s essential 70s stuff on LP – I just hope I’m able to find as clean copies of everything else as I did for Ziggy. Oh, and is it true he’s going to be touring this Fall?

I am so stealing that idea.

Dear New Orleans – good fucking luck.

np – Suede / Dog Man Star

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 5

Frank Black / Honeycomb (Back Porch)

Frank Black is one canny fellow. By giving in to demands for a Pixies reunion last year, he a) guaranteed some serious income, b) raised his media profile exponentially and c) got the creative license to break away from his former band’s sound completely. Anyone who wants to accuse him of living off past glories would do well to give Honeycomb a listen first, as it’s light years away from anything he’d have ever done with the Pixies.

With it, Black makes good on his promise to make a country-soul album manned by Nashville session players and he pulls it off pretty damn successfully. Favouring a low-key, almost conversational singing style, Honeycomb is Black’s Dylan album – not that anyone ever would have thought he’d have a Dylan album in him. The tone of the record has echoes of Nashville Skyline and Blood On The Tracks (particularly “Strange Goodbye”, a duet with Black’s soon-to-be ex-wife), and Black himself had joked about calling the record Black On Blonde in tribute to Dylan.

So anyone who wants to hear Black as a creatively vibrant artist would do well to investigate his solo albums like Honeycomb. And anyone who wants to hear “Planet Of Sound” again, go buy a concert ticket.

Soft

I got an email from one of the guys in Soft last October… so yeah, this is potentially how long it could take me to get around to writing stuff up. You’ve been warned. Anyway, there’s not much I can say about these guys because I actually have almost no information about them – nothing in the email, precious little on the website. I remember initially being a little dismissive of them based on the sort of Billsberg chic photo gracing the top of their webpage but am glad I took the time to actually listen to their music. They could be just as easily be from Brooklyn or London, with a distinctively early 90s British sound that’s got too much swagger to be shoegaze but too much texture for Britpop. They’ve also got a more upbeat, joyous sound that’s a refreshing change from the dourness of many of their fellows (think New Order at the Hacienda rather than Joy Division at Rafters) and they contemporize their influences so as not to sound too retro, not unlike Ambulance LTD. There don’t appear to be any albums yet, just singles. I definitely like what I hear – just wish I could find out ANYTHING else about them. I suppose I could ask, but that’s, like, work.

Only a couple of reviews this week. Time has been at a wee bit of a premium, y’understand. Hopefully back to a troika next week.

np – Slowdive / I Am The Elephant, You R The Mouse Original Soundtrack

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

"It's Not Magic, Just Shiny"

The Brothers Grimm is not one of Terry Gilliam’s best films. Not even close – and I’m a Gilliam fan, willing to extend him a longer rope than I would some directors. I loved Baron Munchausen, so even when he goes completely off his nut, I’m right on board. On paper, it should have been great – the Brothers Grimm as 19th century ghostbuster con men in French-occupied Germany who find themselves faced with a genuine supernatural situation – but something went awry between concept and completion and the end results are disappointing.

It’s easy to put a finger on exactly why it doesn’t work – the script is confusing and doesn’t manage to pull the many many plot threads together into anything cohesive. The film definitely bears the scars of it’s difficult birthing process (check out the links below). But Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are just fine in the title roles and seem to be enjoying themselves immensely – most of the cast does, actually. The effects and visuals are considerably less over-the-top than you’d expect from Gilliam in this context, and maybe that’s where it fails to even be a spectacular failure, just a failure. The film spends too much time in the drab real world of Will Grimm and not enough in the fantastical fairy-tale world of brother Jake. There are high points, including probably the creepiest gingerbread man ever, but they’re more like exclamation marks at the end of plain, unexclamatory-worthy sentences. It’s certainly not a wasted two hours, even with all it’s shortcomings I found it a fun, enjoyable film, but it could have – should have – been so much more. Alas.

IGN has an extensive interview with Gilliam about the making of the Grimm, as does the official website. The LA Daily News has some background on the studio politics and general production nightmares that kept The Brothers Grimm on the shelf for so long since it wrapped production way back in Fall 2003. AZ Central also has a talk with Gilliam abou the film. Meanwhile, Zap2It finds out that Gilliam’s dream project, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, still isn’t dead. If you’ve seen Lost In La Mancha, you’ll understand why I hope against hope that Gilliam somehow, someday gets to make this film and that it’s as amazing as the doc showed it could have been.

Yahoo! Music interviews Carl Newman, head New Pornographer (via For The Records).

Durham, NC’s Independent Weekly welcomes home John Darneille, on the road with his Mountain Goats.

Sigur Ros begins what’s sure to be a huge and neverending press circus surrounding the release of Takk on September 13 by talking to The Guardian about Tommy Lee. Last two links via Largehearted Boy.

Check out the trailer for Bob Dylan biopic No Direction Home. This is one of the films playing at the Toronto International Film Festival next month. Via Golden Fiddle.

BlogTO features yours truly in this week’s “Blogerati Files” feature.

The Onion AV Club submits a list of critically reviled films that may yet be worth watching (though not necessarily because they’re not as bad as most think).

What do you get when you put five of the top voiceover artists in America in the back of a limo? The funny. Video gone! Alas. Video returned! Huzzah.

np – My Morning Jacket / Z