Songs for your iPod

Going with some under-appreciated artists today...

(Damien Jurado is an underrated singer-songwriter who despite critical praise and 10 albums in 15 years is still not very well-known. I haven't listened to all his back catalogue, his new 2012 album Maraqopa is worth your time. His music is impossible to completely pin down, I would go so far as to say contemplative lyrics and an acoustic guitar are common features. A vast variety of styles, instruments, and moods are explored during the 10 tracks on his new record. In a 2012 interview Jurado talks about the meaning of the album title Maraqopa. Stream the entire album here. Below are my 3 favorites)

Working Titles - Damien Jurado


So On Nevada - Damien Jurado


This Time Next Year - Damien Jurado (Live on KEXP)


(Wonderful lyrics, thanks Nick, at the escape hatch)

Ivory Road - King Charles

King Charles - Ivory Road by Anderkins


Her voice is not for everyone, but Hadestown was for me among the very best folk albums of 2010. Anais Mitchell has created a fine follow-up entitled Young Man in America. Besides below track, most of my favorites on the new 2012 LP are towards the end of the album: You are forgiven, Annemarie, and Ships. Stream the full album at pastemagazine)

Shepherd - Anais Mitchell

Listeners, any thoughts on this week's music?

7x7 Link Award

Thank you Sati at cinematic corner for giving me the 7x7 award !

Evidently I’m a little late to the party, most of the blogging community I mingle in have already posted their contributions ( :

Rules are:
1.) Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.
2.) Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories: Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, and Most Pride-Worthy Piece.
3.) Pass the award on to seven other bloggers.

1.) Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you: A few years back I had a major scare. I was driving home, feeling spent, rubbed my eye which made me momentarily blind for a couple of seconds, and the car swerved into the opposite lane. Luckily nobody was coming towards me from the other direction, so I cheated death! I could have been killed, and so could the oncoming traffic. I guess the lesson to be learned is avoid driving when you’re tired.

2.) Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories:

Most Beautiful Piece: Beautiful writing or beautiful images? Screenshots from my review of underrated indie film A Love Song For Bobby Long (2004)
In terms of writing, I still find myself going back to what I wrote about The Double Life Of Veronique

Most Helpful Piece: helpful? Perhaps what I wrote about Malick's Tree of Life, and made a collection of lots of different opinions.

Most Popular Piece: According to my stats on blogger, 2001: A Space Odyssey got the most all-time hits. 2001 is a film that is difficult to decipher, and I give possible interpretations. Lots of memorable screenshots help to increase traffic. Could also have something to do with the rare Kubrick quotes, ahem..

Most Controversial Piece: The Social Network is among my top 10 films of 2010 (10th position), yet I shamelessly bashed it anyway, ha ha (was a poor year for film in my humble opinion)

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece: Three Colours: Blue A lot of fans of the first part of Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy apparently. It's a pretty sad and melancholic film, darker than White and Red I thought, so the love for Blue in the blogosphere surprised me a little. I have a suspicion that readers liked the beautiful and mysterious screenshots I selected.

Most Underrated Piece: Notes on a scandal. I have read the book and regard the film as among the most overlooked of the 00s. I researched for the review quite a bit, so hopefully is an interesting piece!

Most Pride-Worthy Piece: I keep changing my mind. I'm going to go with The Shining An informative look at Kubrick's masterpiece, with screenshots I'm very happy about as well. A horror film that cannot be "solved", but I include various interpretations anyway.

and finally...

3.) Pass the award on to seven other bloggers: (Attempting to give the 7x7 prize to those cinephiles who to my knowledge haven’t won the award yet)

Dusty (if ever anyone deserved funniest blogger at lammy awards, he does. For the record, 3guys1movie would be a close 2nd)

I enjoy reading your blogs, and I'm glad to have met you all, I look forward to reading your 7x7 Link Award posts! Happy blogging everyone !

Songs for your iPod

3 female singer-songwriters on the menu today...

("There isn't enough emotional music", I couldn't agree more with Sharon van Etten's opinion in promotional interview for NPR. Unlike a lot of mainstream artists, her lyrics are bursting with personality, and you feel she is in it for creating art, and touching the listener's soul, rather than just cashing in. Sharon Van Etten's song Don't Do It is incredibly powerful, in fact no 2 in my top 100 songs of 2010. I'm not a fan of all her material, but I love Sharon's confessional and vulnerable attitude to songwriting, especially the quieter tracks on her latest LP I find myself going back to, and have posted beneath. Tramp is a mixed bag of folk, rock, and acoustic, I agree with Lisa in her review, who writes the music at times gives her goosebumps.
The b/w album artwork for Tramp (2012) was inspired by John Cale’s 1974’s release Fear. Sharon van Etten's third album was produced by The National's Aaron Dessner, who also guests on the release with fellow band member Bryce Dessner, Julianna Barwick, Zach Condon of Beirut, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak)

Give Out - Sharon van Etten

Sharon Van Etten - Give Out by lilapit


Ask - Sharon van Etten

Ask by Fernando Sergio Filho


Joke or a Lie - Sharon van Etten

(My favorite from her new 2012 album. The track is actually not a new recording I discovered, and was used on soundtrack to movie The Waterhorse from 2007)

Back Where You Belong - Sinead O'Connor

(Remember Soko? Stéphanie Sokolinski is a French singer and actress. In 2007, her tune I'll kill her with that fragile vocal was an internet sensation.
Below are for me the three most impactful tracks on her new 2012 LP. The rest of the album is a little monotonous, with lyrics often becoming cliché. I agree with the NME verdict that Soko has "a knack for making sadness sound sweet". Listen to the rest of her new lo-fi 2012 album here)

I thought I was an alien – Soko


No more home, no more love - Soko


Treat Your Woman Right - Soko

Listeners, any thoughts on the music?

Favorite intros from childhood TV-shows

Inspired by Dan's post at top10films, in which he shared his Top 10 Films of a Ten Year Old


I loved TV during the 1980s. There are days when I long for those times as a child, when I didn't have to worry about a career, or getting married. Most of these shows were pure escapism. Warning, the music in several of the clips below is totally addictive ( :

Thundercats intro

(The best thing about the cartoon was the opening. The logic presumably being, if you have a great intro, then kids will watch. I had a collection of action figures, sword, and vehicle. I never got into Transformers or Star Wars toys.)


Postman Pat intro

(I loved the set design in that show. Theme song strangely sounds like Paul McCartney!)


Superted intro

(Cute story, my mum bought a yellow teddy bear, and stayed up very late the night before my birthday making the red superhero outfit for the teddy. I was very pleased to have my own homemade superted)


The Mysterious Cities of Gold intro

(The music was annoying, but the Indiana Jones atmosphere had me hooked, probably my 2nd fav childhood show. I saw all the episodes as an adult a few years ago, and was still enjoyable)


inspector gadget cartoon intro theme

(Loved the imaginative gadgets of the show, which were probably inspired by Bond movies)


He-man intro

("I have the power!" That never gets old!)


Batman (1966–1968)

(I'll spare you the intro, the music is cringeworthy. I loved when we got to see the batcave and the batmobile. I also recall the show having exciting cliffhanger endings. Batman was my first taste of tongue-in-cheek camp, which I would also enjoy later in the Roger Moore Bond outings.)


Ducktales Intro

(I swear this theme music will stay with you until your last breath, I don't know if that's a good thing!)


Count Duckula theme

(I liked how they made Donald Duck into a camp Dracula)


Banana man intro

(I don't remember much about the cartoon, other than the intro. I guess because the opening was always the same week after week, stayed with me. Looking at it today, I can see the obvious message of trying to make kids eat more fruit)


Wacky Races opening and closing credits

(The way that dog Muttley laughed, I can still clearly remember. As with inspector gadget, it was the gadgets that impressed me)


The Flintstones end credits sequence

(I loved that ending scene, when Fred Flintstone gets put outside the door, yet he is too stupid (or proud) to jump through the window ( :


Knightmare intro

(Knightmare was probably my fav show as an 8-year-old, essential viewing back then in the 80s. The imagination, suspense and participatory element made for great TV. The intro is animation, but the show is not. Dungeon master Treguard was so cool, and the special effects were amazing)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles intro

(The music is so memorable, I love that moment in the disco)


The Wonder Years, Seasons 1-4 Opening

( I felt like I grew up together with the Arnold family. Interesting fact, Daniel Stern, who played the villian in Home Alone, did Kevin's voice-over. Without that voice-over, I don't know if the show would have been as funny and heart-warming)


Doctor Who - 1980s opening theme

(Episodes entitled The Greatest Show In The Galaxy were frightening when you are not very old. Especially the clowns! Fear of clowns is apparently called coulrophobia)


Knight Rider intro

(Haunting music, and who didn't want to drive that car)


Monty Python's Flying Circus intro

(Terry Gilliam, his imagination is limitless. I'd love to know how he came up with all those ideas for the cartoon sequences. Maybe I ought to read Gilliam on Gilliam, the interview book)

Honourable mentions: Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, M.A.S.K, The A-Team, Beverly Hills 90210, Crystal Maze.

Now it's your turn, what were your favorite cartoons or tv-shows as a child? Did you watch any of the shows I shared above?

Film review: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, arguably among the most talented new directors of the last 10-15 years. Most of his characters, are to one degree or another driven by obsession and addiction. All of his films are about people whose tunnel vision, whose single-minded pursuit of a seemingly unattainable goal, prevents them from experiencing the wider and potentially richer life beyond their narrow perspective. In pursuing their personal visions of the ultimate goal, the characters can paradoxically miss out on both the small details and the bigger picture.

The film is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr, with whom Darren Aronofsky wrote the screenplay. Adaptations of novels often work best when they are more concerned with making a good movie, than being painstakingly faithful to the source material, and Requiem for a dream for me is a good example of the former.

The story is quite straight-forward and tells two parallel stories, about addiction to diet pills, TV and drugs. Requiem for a dream is about how these things can affect you and be hard to quit. About how going on a diet can be a nightmare. The game shows Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) watches become a horror film. She thinks people will like her more, if she achieves fame on TV, and this is a sad reflection of the culture we live in. Throughout the story there is a critique of Western culture and the ever present drive to achieve goals that are near impossible.

Requiem for a dream is probably best remembered for its eerie visual inventiveness, disturbing point-of-view, and the creepy and haunting music score by Clint Mansell. The soundtrack confirmed its popularity with the remix album Requiem for a Dream: Remixed, which contains new mixes of the music by Paul Oakenfold, Josh Wink, Jagz Kooner, and Delerium, among others. Clint Mansell theme lux aeterna from Requiem for a dream has also been used in trailers for other movies.

Possibly Ellen Burstyn’s finest work as an actress. In my opinion at 2001 Academy Awards she was robbed of an Oscar for her performance. For those who don’t remember, best actress in a leading role was won by Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich.
Rarely do we see a character study of a 65-year-old single parent, so that was a nice change. Burstyn is almost unrecognizable as Sara Goldfarb, so I give props to the make-up team as well. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) plays her son, and Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly) is Harry's girlfriend, both deliver impressive performances.

I don't know if you can actually LIKE Requiem for a dream, which is why I haven't given it more than 8/10. Enjoyment is not a word I would associate with the film. Instead dark, intense, painful, nasty and unforgettable are descriptive terms that come to mind.

For a small and bleak story that takes place in the apartment of a solitary, middle-aged woman, you wouldn’t think it’s that interesting to watch. But due to the extremely original technical side of the filmmaking, it’s like no other movie I have ever seen. I’m not at all surprised it ranks as #65 on IMDB’s Top 250. As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage). While an average 100-minute film has 600 to 700 cuts, Requiem features more than 2,000. Split-screen is used extensively, along with extremely tight close-ups. Long tracking shots (including those shot with an apparatus strapping a camera to an actor, called the Snorricam) and time-lapse photography are also prominent stylistic devices.

These techniques have been praised, although you could call it manipulation of the audience to obtain an emotional response. The film was indeed criticized for being fascinated by technique for its own sake, unsubtle, without a deeper sense of purpose.
But to know someone deeply is to know their pain, their flaws, and their brokenness. Requiem for a dream brings to light thoughts that most people scrupulously avoid. Life is very short and easily misspent. In our culture, almost everyone is addicted to something and few realize how profoundly they are addicted. As the characters refuse to acknowledge the obvious we as an audience see what's really there.

I felt the filmmakers were trying to make me see through the eyes of a character. (Like for example the star gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey also was first person, or even Black Swan I reviewed last week)
Some people may think Requiem for a dream goes too far and is too vivid. I at times felt physically uneasy watching several scenes. So much that I sometimes had to look away.

Characters in this film seem to be addicts to escape hopeless situations. You probably will never want to go near drugs after having watched, so that’s a positive message! A good film to show to people, who are fighting an addiction or at risk of becoming an addict, I would think. We see how the characters each deal with their situations. The line between fantasy and reality is blurred. Obviously there is an unsubtle critique of the health care system in the United States, an uncaring, impersonal organization concerned only with the power of those who run it. The doctor she goes to visit concerning diet pills barely even looks at her when asking about her weight.

Aronofsky has said:

“Requiem for a Dream is not about heroin or about drugs. (…) The Harry-Tyrone-Marion story is a very traditional heroin story. But putting it side by side with the Sara story, we suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, what is a drug? (…) The idea that the same inner monologue goes through a person's head when they're trying to quit drugs, as with cigarettes, as when they're trying to not eat food so they can lose 20 pounds, was really fascinating to me. I thought it was an idea that we hadn't seen on film and I wanted to bring it up on the screen.” Did you set out to make something that’s absolutely flattening?
“That’s the point of the movie and the book: the lengths people go to escape their reality. This film is a nose dive into the ground and, beyond the ground, into the sub-basement of hell. (…) You know, growing up in Manhattan, we used to go see “A Clockwork Orange” at the 8th Street Playhouse, or to Waverly Street Theater to see “Stop Making Sense” or “Eraserhead.” All those films were these exciting, forbidden films, and I think that’s where “Pi” and “Requiem” come out of — trying to make those types of films. (…) I think the film is pummeling. People are like, “You punched me for 90 minutes. (…) Every scene, my D.P. [director of photography] and I would say, “OK, where is Addiction in this scene? What is Addiction thinking? What is Addiction doing to basically make these characters suffer more?” That’s what Addiction does: It’s a terrible monster that eats the human spirit.” Wait. Why do they have to escape their realities?
“Because they’re chasing after a dream that’s never going to happen. They’re not dealing with their now and their reality. Sara’s not dealing with her loneliness. She’s got this pipe dream that she’s going to be on television and that she’s going to be loved by millions of people. I think that’s what Selby (author of the novel) is saying: When you chase after that fantasy, you create a hole in your present, and then you use anything to fill that hole, to forget about the present, to stay believing in that fantasy and that future. And that’s why it’s not really a drug movie, because anything can fill that hole. It could be tobacco, food, drugs, and ultimately what it really is, is hope.”

The script is also sporadically memorable in my opinion. For instance my favorite quote:
“money is never what I wanted from them, but all they (parents) want to give”

In the preface author of the book Selby explains the title:
"the book is about four individuals who pursued the American Dream, and the results of their pursuit." He ends the preface with: "Unfortunately, I suspect there never will be a requiem for the Dream, simply because it will destroy us before we have the opportunity to mourn its passing. Perhaps time will prove me wrong. As Mr. Hemingway said, 'Isn't it pretty to think so?'"

Director Darren Aronofsky asked Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans to avoid sex and sugar for a period of 30 days in order to better understand an overwhelming craving.

The man peeling the orange (and the orange truck) in the scene where the characters go to receive a new shipment of drugs not only indicates their next destination - Florida - but also serves as a nod to the Godfather films, where the presence of oranges indicated disaster.

To sum up: Not family entertainment, more a frightening look at addiction. An independent film like no other I have seen. Extremely powerful that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.

My rating is 8/10

Was my review useful? Have you seen Requiem for a Dream? Let me know what you think about the film, positive or negative



Interview of director Darren Aronofsky

Charlie Rose interview 2001, guest Ellen Burstyn

slantmagazine, Discussion about Darren Aronofsky

goodreads, Requiem for a Dream

Songs for your iPod

My favorite from soundtrack of new movie Project X

Psychic City (Classixx Remix) - Yacht

Yacht - Psychic City (Classixx Remix) by RamonaRamona


A couple of promising singles from the delayed, upcoming Chromatics album:

Into the black - Chromatics (Neil Young cover)



Lady – Chromatics

Chromatics - Lady by umstrum


Enjoying the new Grimes album!

Nightmusic – Grimes


Symphony IX (My Wait Is U) – Grimes


Oblivion - Grimes

Grimes - Oblivion by iamnotbatman

Listeners, any thoughts on this week's music?

Film review - Black Swan (2010)

Director Darren Aronofsky's fifth feature, "Black Swan," is set in the world of a New York City ballet company. Natalie Portman stars as Nina, an up-and-coming ballet dancer struggling to master her first leading role in Swan Lake. Like Aronofsky's previous film The Wrestler, this is about sacrificing everything for your 'art', whatever the price.

On my first viewing, when the film came out, I was sceptical of Black Swan, which seemed overrated and hollow. I have since rewatched and read more about it, and even listened to a lecture on the film. This is my revised opinion. I still don’t believe it’s a great film, instead I would call it a good film.

Ballerina Nina Sayers has the talent to take the lead in a new production of Swan Lake, but does she have the passion? A story about putting your body at risk to entertain an audience.

Nina lives with her obsessively hovering mother (Barbara Hershey), who used to be a ballerina herself. She loves her daughter very much, but attends to Nina's career with a suffocating attention to detail. The mother is over-protective, projecting her own lost ambitions onto Nina. Is she living through her daughter? Or jealous of her? We never know.

Even though her mother is probably encouraging her to follow in her footsteps, it still must be comforting to lose yourself in a role as Nina does, as Nina seems not to know who she is. Perhaps she is trying to find out who she wants to be.

The Mila Kunis character, Lily, pictured above on left, is the opposite of Nina, relaxed, at ease with her surroundings, promiscuous, she is everything that Nina is not. Nina is still a child, and the film is kind of her belated teenage rebellion.

In a lecture by a psychologist I attended following a screening, it was interesting to hear her take on what was wrong with Nina, her interpretation was Nina is suffering a psychosis. The physical suffering may be a way of dealing with the mental pain, to channel her thoughts towards the body.
Her interpretation of Winona Ryder’s character was that she deliberately walks in front of a car, perhaps to justify to herself she won’t be a dancer anymore in the ballet.

On talk show Charlie Rose, Natalie Portman talked about why she wanted to make the film, the director is one reason, and also that she always wanted to do a dance film, having danced when she was younger, and movement for her is such a cinematic expression. To convey through image, movement and sound what can't be put into words. Portman sees Nina as a child who is becoming a woman. A world where they want to keep them as little girls, not to have breasts or hips. They call them girls, not women or dancers. They ask these dancers to conform to certain standards. For a very female art there is a male domination of it.
It’s about finding pleasure for herself, rather than pleasing other people, that allows her transformation to a woman, and allows her to kill the little girl.

Darren Aronofsky in the same interview comments on the Vincent Cassel character, a teacher who uses his sexuality to manipulate the girls, but justifies his behaviour by calling it art.

Not that Poppy in Happy-go-lucky (2008) in any way resembles Natalie Portman's character Nina, though one similar trait strikes me, the ability to will yourself into certain behaviour, be it happy, or in Nina's case, a perfect dancer.
I think your true self will eventually reveal itself if you try and behave unlike your natural self for an extended amount of time. A lot of effort and stressful moments to be someone you are not. The question is, if you decide to be different, do you want to lose yourself, can you become who you want to be? I don't think Nina could cope with it all. I guess the best performers manage to pull off being another person (albeit briefly during production, but we don't see the hidden anxiety of acting normally, only the finished movie).
Nina can't escape from who she is, I think maybe this is one of the messages of Black Swan, that performing can cause anxiety and stress.
As Sati writes at cinematic corner: "We travel down the rabbit hole of insanity along with Nina, we are scared, happy and exhilarated when she is."

As Roger Ebert writes in his review:
"The tragedy of Nina, and of many young performers and athletes, is that perfection in one area of life has led to sacrifices in many of the others. At a young age, everything becomes focused on pleasing someone (a parent, a coach, a partner), and somehow it gets wired in that the person can never be pleased. One becomes perfect in every area except for life itself."

If I had to find a flaw with the film, it’s that people don't seem to notice at the ballet school that Nina is unwell, and this to me is unrealistic.
Not as memorable and original for me as Darren Aronofsky's masterpiece Requiem for a dream (2000), which I will look at next week.
I agree with pgtipsonfilms, who writes: "Whilst Requiem is harrowingly realistic, Black Swan becomes a little farcical towards the end. This is a pity for cast and director alike. (…)it fails to detail the positive aspects of the industry. Instead, the movie focuses upon many of the negative stereotypes, such as eating disorders and overbearing parents."

NS dance critic's verdict of Black Swan also found faults with the film: “In fact, Mila Kunis in the bad-girl role doesn't have to (dance); she just has to look toned and hot. Natalie Portman does pretty well as the lead, with her elongated neck and etiolated look, but any ballet-goer would notice that the arch of the spine, hold of the arms and articulation of the hip are not those of a professional dancer. These arguments over how representative or realistic the film is are, I think, of limited interest.
In any case, they have short answers: the negative stereotypes are indeed hyperbolic and unrepresentative, but contain germs of truth, and the actors need only convince as dancers within the terms of the film, which they do. More interesting to me is a different perspective--Black Swan appears to be part of a long film tradition in which ballet is associated with madness, sickness, torture, the paranormal and death, and where stock characters recur: the monstrous maestro, the evil twin or jealous rival, the dying maiden.”

Director Darren Aronofsky:
“I just thought it was an interesting contrast to take something as beautiful as ballet and then add horror to it. But then I realized it wasn't that much different than actual ballets. And if you look at the great stories of the ballet - Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet -- they're tragic, they're gothic, they're, you know, have horrific elements.”
And Aronofsky says that thrill may just motivate moviegoers who've never seen a ballet performance in their lives to check out the real thing.

I think what held me back from truly falling in love with the film is that ballet at the end of the day is not really my cup of tea. You don't have to know anything about ballet, to find the film interesting. Black Swan is well worth watching, a good character study. The narrator not being herself means things are not what they seem.

I shouldn’t forget to mention the fantastic, haunting music by composer Clint Mansell, and great performances by all the actors. Natalie Portman won a Golden Globe and Oscar for her portrayal of Nina.

My rating is 7.6

Was my review useful? Have you seen Blak Swan? Let me know what you think about the film, positive or negative



charlierose interviews Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky

npr, interview

Film review, Roger Ebert

Film review, cinematiccorner

Film review, pgtipsonfilms

Bird watch: the NS dance critic's verdict on Black Swan / Sanjoy Roy / New Statesman (Jan. 24, 2011)

Songs for your iPod

Seven Stars (ft. Victoria Legrand) - Air

(Only a couple of stand-out tracks for me on the new Air album. Guest vocalist Victoria Legrand is singer-songwriter and keyboardist for the dream pop band Beach House)

Air — Seven Stars (Feat. Victoria Legrand) by weallwantsome1


Moon Fever - Air


(Can you believe this album is not even available on amazon! He released it himself. You can get the album for free at Joseph Arthur's website, or stream the LP at pastemagazine. The lyrics are very well-written, and the sound production is great too. Below are a couple of catchy tracks!)

Yer Only Job - Joseph Arthur

YER ONLY JOB by josepharthur


Travel as equals - Joseph Arthur

TRAVEL AS EQUALS by josepharthur


Emmylou - First Aid Kit

(If you like the track, give the rest of The Lion's Roar a listen! The breakthrough LP of a talented Swedish indie folk duo, the lyrics seem mature considering their age. The song is of course named after legend Emmylou Harris and reveres her work along with that of others of her time and genre, including her duet partner, Gram Parsons, and June Carter and Johnny Cash.)

Emmylou by First Aid Kit

Listeners, any thoughts on the music?

Favourite trailers blogathon

We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004)

Great use of the song everloving by Moby. The film is a pretty underrated drama, worth a watch! Any thoughts, let me know in the comments

Album review: Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas (2012)

Usually I wait a few weeks or months before sharing new music, I like to let it sink in, and listen to it a few times, to find out what for me are the most memorable tracks on a particular album.

First of all, I love the album cover artwork! The use of shadows and colours, really work well together. Apparently, it's supposed to be his back garden, so we feel we are seeing him as he really is at home, at work.

Unsurprisingly, Cohen’s new album is thematically about becoming old (he is 77). The man is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, and a legend, not just in his native Canada. Leonard Cohen is a poet, not just a musician. Each new album is an event, and a rarity, the long gap between releases brings expectations with it. We know he’s spent years working on the lyrics.

Hearing his new material is, as described in the NPR roundtable discussion:

“like getting a phone call from a friend you haven’t heard from in a long time, and getting his perspective, and what he’s been up to. An intimacy you can’t get from anywhere else.”

For me, a few of the songs are best suited for those listeners who are my grandparent’s age, although I’m sure some will argue all Cohen’s work is about mortality, and is universal. Other themes are love, suffering and forgiveness.

Does Leonard Cohen learn anything from writing songs? Does he work out ideas that way? Leonard Cohen as quoted in the interview:

"I think you work out something. I wouldn't call them ideas. I think ideas are what you want to get rid of. I don't really like songs with ideas. They tend to become slogans. They tend to be on the right side of things: ecology or vegetarianism or antiwar. All these are wonderful ideas but I like to work on a song until those slogans, as wonderful as they are and as wholesome as the ideas they promote are, dissolve into deeper convictions of the heart. I never set out to write a didactic song. It's just my experience. All I've got to put in a song is my own experience."

To balance the melancholy confessions, there’s a little bit of self-referential humor sprinkled into the lyrics of the song Going Home, which is not something I had heard him attempt before, and which took a bit of getting used to:
Lyric: “I love to speak with Leonard. He's a sportsman and a shepherd. He's a lazy bastard. Living in a suit”

As Will Oldham (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) wrote in a recent article in Mojo, that I agree with:

“Somehow he (L. Cohen ) has the ability to shine a light on our finer qualities as people in a way that you feel that you have an alley: even if you’re looking at the beautiful and the ugly in the world, you can value it. I can look around at the good and the bad and say, well, this is humanity and I’m going to keep on dealing with it because I have this man who is doing that too”

His 12th studio album I don’t think is as haunting as Leonard’s best work, but still a hell of a lot better than a lot of other music currently being released, particularly in terms of lyrics. If I had to criticize Old Ideas, it’s that I feel like I’ve already heard the things he confesses on previous albums, maybe he is just feeling the same way? I’m not disappointed, but I’m not feeling he’s reinvented himself either, apart from the feeling of being close to death. So as I was saying before, a mature, elderly audience would probably identify the most with Old Ideas in my opinion. His debut album from 1967 when he was a 33-year-old on the other hand is more relatable for this reviewer. Having said that, I’ve always sensed Leonard was a wise old man, even when he was young, maybe that is why I felt he hadn’t changed much on the new album.

The production on a couple of tracks felt cheap and similar to his last studio album Dear Heather, which is a pity, and which somehow made a few songs sound less powerful, and less profound. Still, was a lot better than 2004‘s Dear Heather, which Cohen admitted to releasing unfinished a few years back due to pressure from the record company.

I liked about half the album tracks on Old Ideas. My favorite tunes are acoustic, this style for me has always worked well with his soft spoken voice, and reminded me of his earliest stripped down acoustic work from the 1960s.

Favorite lyric:
"I used to love the rainbow. And I used to love the view. Another early morning, I'd pretend that it was new."
According to the recent interview in Mojo, Leonard Cohen wants to complete a follow-up before it’s too late.

Old Ideas is a return to form, and in my opinion the best new material L Cohen has put out since 2001's Ten New Songs.

My rating 7.5/10

from Chris, movies and songs 365

Have you heard the new album? What did you think of the tracks I shared below?

Favorite songs from Old Ideas (2012):

Show me the place - Leonard Cohen

Show Me The Place by leonardcohen


Darkness - Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen - Darkness by leonardcohen


Going Home - Leonard Cohen


Crazy to love you - Leonard Cohen

Film review: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Contains spoilers. Empire is one of those classic sci-fi films that has no boring moments, is so well-balanced, introducing new characters such as Yoda, and having enough action to please action fans, and enough romance, spiritualty and philosophy to please those interested in something a little deeper.

George Lucas:
“The first three films were done in a thirties style in terms of aesthetic and acting. The snappy comebacks are out of The Thin Man; it wasn't that contemporary. I wasn't just using the Saturday matinee serial but all of the B-films-not the A-films.”

The film is set three years after Star Wars (1977). Many have claimed that Empire has superior characterization, and better performances, and is the best Star wars film. The script serves not only a young audience, but also an adult one. Perhaps in a psychological sense Luke as a son has to sleigh his father to become a man.

In the documentary, The People Vs. George Lucas (2010), they discuss how George Lucas’ career is like the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader. Particularly the first film seems autobiographical. Luke Skywalker being the lonely adolescent kid who yearns to get out and explore. Perhaps George Lucas has had that nightmare of going into the tree where he sees a version of himself turn into Vader. For a lot of geeks, George Lucas did become the version of that guy in the tree that is in Vader's mask.

“I was sort of fighting the corporate system, which I didn’t like, and I’m not happy with the fact that corporations have taken over the film industry, but I found myself being the head of a corporation, so there is a certain irony there, I have become the very thing I was trying to avoid, that is Darth Vader, he becomes the very thing he is trying to protect himself against”

Most crucially, Luke must accept and redeem his own shadow self, himself when he is at his worst. In this case, that shadow is the father, both as what made us and what we fear to become: in this case, Darth Vader ("Dark Father"). Evil and guilt are inescapable in all of us, and we have to acknowledge that. Luke realizes he is part of a family and he mustn’t carry on the sins of his father.

George Lucas:
"What these films (episode 4-6) deal with is that we all have good and evil inside of us, and that we can choose which way we want the balance to go. Star wars is made up of many themes, it's not just a single theme. One is our relationship to machines, which is fearful, but also benign, they are an extension of the human, not mean in themselves. The issue of friendship, your obligation to your fellow man, to other people who are around you. That you have control over your destiny, that you HAVE a destiny, that you have many paths to walk down, and you may have a great destiny if you decide not to walk down that path. Your life might be satisfying, if you wake up and listen to your inner feelings and realize what it is you have a particular talent for and what contributions you can make to society."

What the force is was never really explained (until the prequels came along). For me, the force was always just about believing in yourself, being able to do more than we initially thought possible, and was only something superhuman in the context of the films.

George Lucas on the force:
"I put the force into the movies in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people. More a belief in God than in any particular religious system. (…) I think there is a God, no question. What we know about that God, or what that God is, I'm not sure"

In the making of Star Wars, George Lucas talks about the force:
“It’s sort of boiling down religion to a very basic concept. The idea that there is some power, or force that controls are destiny. Or works for good, and also works for evil, has always been very basic in mankind”

George Lucas on star wars as part of religion and mythology:
"if it’s a tool that can be used to make old stories be new, and relate to young people, that's what the whole point was"

So why was the Star Wars trilogy so special, that 20 years later it could be re-released and still be a box office attraction?

George Lucas, creator, writer and occasional director of the series, has the answer:
“Special effects don’t make a movie (…) The story makes the movie, and all the special effects do is allow you to tell a particular story”

The fact that so little was changed for the special edition 20th anniversary edition stands as a testimony to the quality of The Empire Strikes Back.

G. Lucas on why the Star Wars films appeal to audiences all over the world:
"One of the main themes in the films is having organisms realize that they must live together, and they must live together for mutual advantage, not just humans, but all living things. Everything in the galaxy is part of a greater whole."

The Star Wars trilogy was an attempt to bring back hope to a nation when it seemed in short supply in 1977. Lucas' vision was to resurrect the myths and legends that had once defined society but had since been forgotten because people had more pressing social problems to deal with: the economy was at an all-time low, the Vietnam War had just finished with no clear victor, and Watergate caused scandal within a government that had already lost public confidence. America was in definite need of a cultural tonic that would inspire people and speak to their concerns and at the same time offer some timeless wisdom.

According to Dale Pollock, author of a biography on G Lucas, the film's return to family entertainment and traditional morality was a conscious decision by its writer-director.
“Lucas wanted to present positive values to the audience. In the 1970s traditional religion was out of fashion and the family structure was disintegrating. There was no moral anchor. Lucas remembered how protected he had felt growing up in the cocoon like culture of the 1950s, a feeling he wanted to communicate in Star Wars.”

Pollock lists the values of the film as:
"Hard work, self-sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, and a commitment to a higher purpose."

Lucas himself comments,
"I mean, there's a reason this film is so popular. It's not that I'm giving out propaganda nobody wants to hear."

What George Lucas has done in Star Wars is to communicate that the younger self resides somewhere inside even the oldest person. Star Wars advocates a return to heroism and traditional morality. Those who criticize the Star Wars merchandise sometimes don’t realize that it was, and still is, supply and demand.

Star Wars fanboy and director Kevin Smith has during his film career shared his opinions about the Star Wars trilogy. For example a clip in his film Clerks (1994), the death star is discussed, they wonder what happens to all the innocent contractors who are rebuilding it?

I’ll skip reviewing Return of the Jedi (1983), it has its moments of originality, the speeder bike chases in the forest, the ewoks are cute, but the story of the death star and battling the empire is essentially repeating Star Wars (1977). I won’t review the prequels (1999-2005) either, because to me they focused more on special effects than story.

My rating 8.0

Readers, was my review useful? Any thoughts on The Empire Strikes Back ?

Did you miss last week's review of Star Wars (1977) ? Here's a link.


The Genius of the System / Gavin Smith / Film Comment 38.4 (July-August 2002): p31-32

Creating and Comparing Myth in Twentieth-Century Science Fiction: Star Trek and Star Wars / Lincoln Geraghty / Literature Film Quarterly 33.3 (2005): p191-200

Whose Future? Star Wars, Alien, and Blade Runner / Peter Lev / Literature Film Quarterly 26.1 (1998): p30-37.

The People Vs. George Lucas (2010)
Clerks (1994)
History Channel - Star Wars the legacy revealed (2007)
The Mythology of Star Wars documentary (2000)
Star Wars MTV Movie Special (1997)
Film Review Special - Star Wars 20th Anniversary
Empire of Dreams - The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004) (the least interesting of the docs I watched)

Favourite trailers blogathon

The World's Fastest Indian (2005)

Such a feel-good trailer, and has become one of my favorite films! Readers, any thoughts? (Warning the trailer contains spoilers)


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