Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - December 30, 2020

Englert, Angela. "Taking the Shine Off with Doctor Sleep." Cultural Gutter (December 10, 2020)

Gulick, Robert van. "Consciousness." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (January 14, 2014) ["Perhaps no aspect of mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness and our conscious experience of self and world. The problem of consciousness is arguably the central issue in current theorizing about the mind. Despite the lack of any agreed upon theory of consciousness, there is a widespread, if less than universal, consensus that an adequate account of mind requires a clear understanding of it and its place in nature. We need to understand both what consciousness is and how it relates to other, nonconscious, aspects of reality."]

Heath, Roderick. "On the Rocks (2020)." Film Freedonia (December 1, 2020)

Friday, December 25, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - December 25, 2020

Durkin, Sean. "Train Ride to Hell: A Shocking Encounter in Code Unknown." The Current (November 19, 2020)

Goncharov, Stefan. "The Idea of History in Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow." Photogénie (December 9, 2020)

Heath, Roderick. "Dressed to Kill (1980)." Film Freedonia (October 28, 2020)

One Hundred Years of Cinema. "1935: Triumph of the Will - The Power of Propaganda." (Posted on Youtube: January 21, 2018) ["Triumph of the Will is regarded as one of the most powerful propaganda pieces ever made, but how did the film advance the racist and anti-Semitic ideology of the Nazi party? What is the history of cinema as a tool of propaganda? Triumph of the Will is one of the most famous propaganda movies ever made. The films is a semi-documentary take on sixth annual National Socialist conference in Nuremberg in 1934, by director Leni Riefenstahl. It covers 4 days worth of speeches, parades and city wide celebration. It’s edited together out of hundreds of hours of footage, and it unveils the core message of the conference without commentary or inter title. Although it’s often praised as revolutionising the art of film propaganda, it actually adds very few techniques of its own, instead drawing on the decades of development in propaganda that came before. So lets take a look at the history of the propaganda film and how theses techniques were used by Riefenstahl to advance the Nazi Ideology."]

West, Stephen. "Robert Nozick: The Minimal State." Philosophize This! #138 (January 21, 2020) ["So obviously there are a lot of different problems political philosophers were faced with throughout the twentieth century...and we've talked about several of them so far, but one of the BIGGEST ones that we HAVEN'T talked about yet...specifically for political philosophers in the mid to late 20th century... one of the biggest questions facing these thinkers was this: when we are hit with problems, big problems, that we need to solve collectively as a society...should the state or the government be the primary tool that we use to solve those problems? How much responsibility is wise to give to the government? Does the government solve the problems of a society in the best manner possible...or does giving the government more responsibilities to deal with CREATE more problems than it's worth? Another important question to consider about all this when it comes to THIS episode in particular: when you progressively give the government more jobs to do and more outcomes to guarantee for people, when you have a big, powerful government with a democracy behind it feeding it tasks to complete...does a big government plus a democracy always equal a tyranny of the majority? And do citizens that don't necessarily agree with the majority or the people currently holding political office, do those citizens just need to resign themselves to paying into a tax pool that FUNDS all the things they don't agree with? Maybe an over-sized government makes slaves of people whose views don't HAPPEN to align with the current majority. To me these are some of the most important and FUN questions to think about in all of political philosophy."]

Weston, Kelli. "The Witch: Suffer the Little Children." Reverse Shot (October 30, 2020)

"Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once. As lightning strikes, as a Finnish knife strikes! She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn't so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long time, without knowing each other..." - Master reflecting on his great love Margarita

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Dressed to Kill (USA: Brian de Palma, 1980)

Dressed to Kill (USA: Brian de Palma, 1980: 105 mins)

"Dressed to Kill : Brian De Palma’s Razor-Sharp, Dreamlike Erotic Thriller." Cinephilia and Beyond (ND)

Ebert, Roger. "Dressed to Kill." Chicago Sun-Times (January 1, 1980)

Eisenberg, Joel. "Reassessing Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill and Body Double." Medium (May 14, 2020)

Erickson, Steve. "Dangerous Liaisons: The Legacy Of Dressed To Kill At 40." The Quietus (July 25, 2020)

Guriel, Jason. "Has Dressed to Kill Outlived Its 80s Shock Value?" The New Republic (September 11, 2015)

Heath, Roderick. "Dressed to Kill (1980)." Film Freedonia (October 28, 2020)

Hilton, Boyd and Mike Muncer. "Slashers Part 6: Dressed to Kill (1980)." The Evolution of Horror (October 19, 2017) ["This week Mike is joined by Boyd Hilton, and the pair get down and dirty to discuss Brian De Palma's controversial erotic slasher, Dressed To Kill. We take a look at the influences De Palma's movie had on 80s/90s erotic thrillers such as Cruising, Blue Velvet and Basic Instinct. "]

Isaacs, Bruce. "The Art of Pure Cinema: Hitchcock and His Imitators." New Books in Film (September 28, 2020) ["The Art of Pure Cinema: Hitchcock and His Imitators (Oxford University Press) is the first book-length study to examine the historical foundations and stylistic mechanics of pure cinema. Author Bruce Isaacs, Associate Professor of Film Studies and Director of the Film Studies Program at the University of Sydney, explores the potential of a philosophical and artistic approach most explicitly demonstrated by Hitchcock in his later films, beginning with Hitchcock’s contact with the European avant-garde film movement in the mid-1920s. Tracing the evolution of a philosophy of pure cinema across Hitchcock’s most experimental works – Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, and Frenzy – Isaacs rereads these works in a new and vital context. In addition to this historical account, the book presents the first examination of pure cinema as an integrated stylistics of mise en scène, montage, and sound design. The films of so-called Hitchcockian imitators like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Brian De Palma are also examined in light of a provocative claim: that the art of pure cinema is only fully realized after Hitchcock."]

Koresky, Michael. "Dressed to Kill: The Power of Two." Current (September 8, 2015)

Sobczynski, Peter. "Back in Fashion After 35 Years: The Return of Dressed to Kill." Roger Ebert (September 11, 2015)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Favorite Music 2020

Well a plus of the social distancing of the pandemic and the inability to travel back to my homeland for the holidays was that I had plenty of time as the Fall semester wrapped up to do a deep dive into recent music. Looking at these it seems to me that I have a strong musical inclination toward funk/soul, surf guitars, psychedelic rock, post-punk, intelligent lyrics and female vocals. Most of all I appreciate music that reaches down inside and touches me - whether it is the mind, my spirit, or my body. Thank you to the friends and critics that helped point out trails to follow on this musical derive and to the great deity of chance that randomly suggested others. Most of all, thank you to the musicians that move us with their creativity!

A Hero's Death by Fontaines D.C. ["Barely a year after the release of their hugely acclaimed debut album ‘Dogrel’, which earned a Mercury Prize nomination and Album of the Year 2019 at both BBC 6Music and Rough Trade record store, Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. have returned with an intensely confident, patient, and complex follow up album. ‘A Hero’s Death’ arrives battered and bruised, albeit beautiful - a heady and philosophical take on the modern world, and its great uncertainty."]

Alphabetland by X [After a 27 year hiatus X releases one of their best albums. "Alphabetland is the eighth studio album by American punk rock band X. Released digitally in April 2020, it is their first studio release in 27 years and the first with their original line-up in the past 35 years. X released the album with no prior announcement to coincide with the 40th anniversary of their debut album Los Angeles and credited songwriting to all four members for the first time in their career."]

American Head by The Flaming Lips [I expect spirit lifting, head spinning, spacey narratives from The Flaming Lips and they definitely have all of that in this album. It came out when I was feeling massive stress adjusting to teaching online for the first time during a pandemic and it provided me with many moments of just letting go with the flow of their music/lyrics.]

Anywhere But Here by Habibi [“The Wound is the place where the Light enters you.” - Rumi
Detroit Iranian-American band interweaves American style garage, surf and psychedelic rock with Persian cultural influences to produce a music that is unique and hypnotic. All of this is fronted with female vocal harmonies that express a grungy positivity that is much needed in these times.]

Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition) by Black Pumas [A 2019 debut album re-released in 2020 with a second album of excellent covers. This band makes my heart ache and my feet move. "Black Pumas is an American psychedelic soul band based in Austin, Texas, led by singer/songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada."]

Celebrated by Strangers by Catholic Action [Second album from the Glasgow band. "On their 2020 follow-up Celebrated By Strangers, the four-piece led by singer, guitarist and producer Chris McCrory, are firing on all cylinders again, ready to remind you that guitar solos still rule—if they’re as interesting and well-executed as these, that is. While their debut album delivered its fair share of peculiarities, Celebrated By Strangers is peppered with even more moments of unexpected zest. For one thing, the album begins with horns sputtering out of control—it sounds like the outro of a drawn-out, improvisational jazz number. But it eventually glides into those playfully coy guitars, always transmitted with a distinct tone that makes Catholic Action immediately recognizable. Their guitar pop fundamentals are always treated as the number one priority, but they have the ability to adorn their music with mystifying production or instrumental quirks that don’t overshadow the songs. Somehow, the wonky percussion and Renaissance organ-like guitars on “Witness” only heighten the song’s charm and slightly absurd theme." -- Lizzie Manno]

Color Theory by Soccer Mommy ["Following Clean, Soccer Mommy (real name Sophie Allison) became especially vocal about her struggles with body dysmorphia, depression and anxiety. These challenges lay solely at the periphery of Clean’s tales about youthful, regretful romantic breakdowns and insecurities, but on her eagerly anticipated Clean follow-up color theory, Allison bravely pulls her mental illness from the sidelines to the forefront, and she also tackles a grave subject she’s spoken about far less frequently: her mother’s terminal cancer. Success neither curing mental illness nor reversing a parent’s medical death sentence is a lot for a 22-year-old to face, but Allison is more than up to the task. color theory is an astounding feat of lyricism as clever as it is devastating, and Allison’s songwriting, production and voice are likewise orders of magnitude stronger than they were on Clean, recalling ’90s alt radio while pushing Soccer Mommy in galvanizing new directions." —Max Freedman]

Cutting Grass Vol. 2 (Cowboy Arms Session) by Sturgil Simpson [From Saving Country Music“On Volume 2, we recorded everything I was too afraid to do on Volume 1… It’s hard to deny that this is a much more personal record. I was thinking about my kids, my grandfather, my wife,” Sturgill says of the album. It includes numerous tracks from his Grammy award-winning album from 2016, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which he wrote after the passing of his grandfather, the birth of his first son, and includes the song “Oh Sarah” about his wife, first recorded in his band Sunday Valley. Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2 also includes a version of the song “You Can Have The Crown” that Sturgill had previously retired from performing, with a slight lyrics change. The album also ends with a song called “Hobo Cartoon,” which Sturgill says was co-written with Merle Haggard. Named after the infamous Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa where Country Music Hall of Famer and producer “Cowboy” Jack Clement plied his craft for many years, the record features an additional 11 songs from the Sturgill Simpson repertoire done bluegrass style."]

Dreamland by Zelma Stone [A pure, raw, stunning, beautiful channeling of grief "into a healing process of creation, this five-song cycle has a palpable sense of resilience, compassion, and vulnerability in its slowly swaying bedroom pop." I hope to hear more from this San Francisco artist!]

Fetch the Boltcutters by Fiona Apple [Stunning lyrics and musical innovation. I wish I could see this live! The title song pretty much sums up a lot of our feelings at the end of pandemic 2020. "Rooted in experimentation, the album largely features unconventional percussion. While conventional instruments, such as pianos and drum sets, do appear, the album also features prominent use of non-musical found objects as percussion. Apple described the result as "percussion orchestras". These industrial-like rhythms are contrasted against traditional melodies, and the upbeat songs often subvert traditional pop structures."]

FREE I.H: This Is Not the One You've Been Waiting For by Illuminati Hotties [12 songs in 26 minutes - love this energetic strangeness "With a solid black album cover and no credits to be found, buzz about the album started to swirl on social media—though that probably wouldn’t have happened if the album wasn’t so mind-numbingly good. Fans immediately began to speculate about whether this was a supergroup whose members included the indie artists tweeting the link, but a close ear would tell you that Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties is indeed on lead vocals, later spelling out her band name several times on track seven “Content / Bedtime.” It was later confirmed as a new Illuminati Hotties mixtape, and it’s a big step up from their 2018 debut Kiss Yr Frenemies. It’s bolder, punkier and has some of the best rock hooks in recent memory. On their 12 songs (with goofy, lowercase track titles) and less than half-hour run time, you’ll hear tinges of phat electro-rock, invigorating riot grrrl and delectable twee-pop. —Lizzie Manno"]

Fresh Kills, Vol. 2 by Night Birds [Actually a compilation of earlier material released in 2020, but I had never heard of them before so I am including it. A New Jersey punk band with a surf punk sound complete with a heavy emphasis on the guitar sound endemic of the genre. They are also quite capable of slipping into thrash mode, in fact the release starts off with a couple of songs in full thrash mode before turning to the surf punk sound. The names of two of their previous albums demonstrate their punk wit: 'Mutiny at Muscle Beach' (2015) and 'Born to Die in Suburbia' (2013)] 

Heavy Light by US Girls ["Her most referential work to date, Heavy Light is defined by an inward-facing well of civic unrest, with Remy foregoing the prescriptive style of her manifesto-like 2018 album In a Poem Unlimited. The record’s name is itself a reference to Franz Kafka (“Faith, like a guillotine. As heavy as light.”), and Remy merges the ideals of the realist movement with narratives of experiential, hometown frustration. ... Largely, the album is a move to activism of consent: She isn’t making assumptions about what people want or how they feel; they have to want it, too, and need to get there in their own right." — Austin Jones]

I Grow Tired But Dare Not Sleep by Ghostpoet [When I was a college student I would haunt used record stores seeking classic and obscure spoken word albums. Stand-up (e.g. Lenny Bruce), slam poetry (e.g. Saul Williams), word jazz (e'g. Ken Nordine), poetic musings (e.g. the compilation Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness), musicians (Serge Gainsbourg), everything, the true delights were when I found an artist that matched their word play with tight, provocative music - that was magic! I mean that literally - spoken words and rhythmic music, ritual magic that feeds the spiritual needs of the tribe and solidifies the connections in the frenzied movement it ignites. So finding this UK musician brought this all back to mind and reminded me of those heady days of being drunk on the possibilities of words and music. Also, what a title for an album 'I Grow Tired but Dare Not Fall Asleep' ... one can imagine it came upon him at night, drunk on poetic language, a stub of a pencil falling out of his hand, pages scattered about, eyes glazed and mind afire ...]  

Inner Song by Kelly Lee Owens ["Dream pop and techno might be vastly different genres, but they share a common goal. Where dream pop’s glimmering, reverb-soaked guitars and keyboards entrance listeners into a listless stupor, techno’s clattering 808s and simple, repetitive rhythms keep the party going. While these modi operandi at first seem diametrically opposed, a closer look reveals that both genres impart enchantment, nirvana, hypnosis and even healing—a night out at the rave is as palliating as an evening splayed out listening to Teen Dream. Welsh songwriter-producer Kelly Lee Owens understands these genres’ powerful overlap more than any other musician in recent memory. With her sophomore album Inner Song, however, Owens potentially opens herself to a much wider audience. A thrilling, dynamic LP that overflows with life, Inner Song is full of dance floor devotionals that easily rank among her most accessible creations to date. If Kelly Lee Owens gently opened the door between dream pop and techno, Inner Song rushes through it and builds a world where ecstatic, curative, untethered electronic sounds abound." — Max Freedman]

It's Only Us by Monophonics ["With a timeless sound that blends heavy soul and psych-rock, Monophonics have built a reputation over the past decade as one of the best live bands in the country. Led by singer Kelly Finnigan, the band of has drawn on their colorful history — both their experiences as veteran touring performers and as individuals growing up in the Bay Area — to create “It’s Only Us,” their fourth release since 2012. A reflection of what they see as the current state of the world, the record touches on difficult subjects such as broken relationships, mental health issues, gun violence and power struggles, all with an underlying message of unity, resilience and acceptance. The band’s signature style of arrangement has been expanded with top-notch production and creative instrumentation to round out the Monophonics’ trademark soul sound, while Finnigan’s vocals are more powerful than ever. At times these tracks can feel classic, as familiar as an old song you grew up with, while simultaneously raising questions about the state of music in 2020 and what the future might hold."]

Lianne La Havas by Lianne La Havas ["Lianne La Havas is the self-titled third studio album by British singer Lianne La Havas. The album was released on 17 July 2020. Released after a five-year hiatus and written following La Havas' break-up, the album was inspired by the life cycle of nature and its ability to thrive, go away, and come back stronger. ... Lianne La Havas is a concept album with a song cycle that depicts the stages of a relationship, from early romance to demise. The albums musical style was inspired by Milton Nascimento, Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorious, Al Green, and Destiny's Child, resulting in a predominately neo soul album with elements of jazz and folk. Upon release, the album was met with rave reviews from critics, who praised the album's eclectic musical style and lyrical exploration." - Lizzie Manno] 

Miss Colombia by Lido Pimienta ["Colombia-born and Toronto-based artist Lido Pimienta shared her second album Miss Colombia earlier this year via ANTI- Records. Pimienta won the Polaris Music Prize for her 2016 debut La Papessa (the first artist recording in a language other than English or French to take home the award), and her Polaris Prize-nominated (and Grammy-nominated) follow-up is even more ambitious. Mixing electro-pop, industrial and reggaeton music with cumbia rhythms, Miss Colombia is a fearless album about identity, resistance and pain. —Lizzie Manno"]

More From the Levee by Chris Smither [OK, I looked up the long, illustrious career of this excellent folk singer and it seems I must have been living in a cave to have missed out on him until this time. This album is full of strong, hard-earned, wisdom and I could imagine sitting around a fire in a forest at night time listening to these songs.]

Nombrar las Cosas by Michelle Blades [Name Things! Indeed. I enjoyed the vocals and music so much I dived into her back catalog and found a treasure trove. "Mexican-Panamian artist Michelle Blades brings a vast range of influences to her unique transcontinental post-psych. Born into a family of salsa musicians, Blades has a rich musical history that includes the Arizona-based noise rock band called North Dakota and the French synthpop group Fishbach." - Jasmine Albertson]

Piano Works by Gabríel Ólafs [Gabríel Ólafs originally composed these when he was a teenager (14 - 18) and performed on Icelandic TV for the first time at 19. He revisits these works in this 2020 releases (I think he is 20 or 21 now). Perfect music for unwinding, reflection, cooking, studying, yoga, creativity ...]

Reunions by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit ["Jason Isbell isn’t the kind of guy you’d think of as haunted, but he’s surrounded by ghosts on his new album. Some of them are the literal shades of people he (or his narrators) once knew who are gone now. Others are figurative: past selves, maybe, lingering in the shadows that memory casts. Together, they’re the spirits that constitute Reunions, Isbell’s latest LP with his band The 400 Unit, and the follow-up to his 2017 release The Nashville Sound. ... Isbell has both smarts and perspective, and each seems to increase a little bit more from one album to the next. He’s always been an empathetic songwriter with a distinctive willingness to see the world from a point of view other than his own. Like any good storyteller, Isbell creates characters, and he has a storyteller’s ability to bring them to life by infusing them with enough of his own experiences, be it sobriety or fatherhood, to make their struggles and small triumphs resonate." - Eric R. Danton]

Somewhere by Gum Country ["There’s nothing better than a band fully aware of their sound—not in the sense of knowing their limitations, but knowing their strengths so well that they can deliver as many satisfying moments as possible. Courtney Garvin and Connor Mayer know they have you wrapped around their finger with the steamy self-described “harsh twee” of their new project Gum Country—or at least it sounds like they do. Pulling from noise, avant pop, college rock and classic indie, it’s clear they know their stuff. After all, this isn’t Garvin’s first indie-pop outing. She played lead guitar in The Courtneys, a Vancouver trio who released two full-length albums of fuzzy power pop—most recently 2017’s The Courtneys II. Drawing on Flying Nun bands like 3Ds and The Bats (as well as Sarah Records groups like Brighter and Heavenly), they fittingly found themselves releasing music for the classic Kiwi indie label as well. While The Courtneys’ sound is centered primarily on driving, harmony-laced indie pop, Gum Country push this sound even further on their debut LP Somewhere. Front and center, Garvin ramps up the fuzz, and Mayer adds eccentric synth flourishes—making for a sound that’s more mature, but as equally carefree as before." —Lizzie Manno]

Stray by Bambara [Deep vocals, layered in heavy music, conveying stories along the lines of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Morphine and Wall of Voodoo - noirish. Originating from Athens, GA music scene now in Brooklyn, NY. "While the music itself is evocative and propulsive, a fever dream all of its own, the lyrical content pushes the record even further into its own darkly thrilling realm. If the songs on Shadow On Everything were like chapters in a novel, then this time they’re short stories. Short stories connected by death and its effect on the characters in contact with it. “Death is what you make it” runs a lyric in “Sweat,” a line which may very well be the thread that ties the pages of these stories together. But it would be wrong to characterize Stray as simply the sound of the graveyard. Light frequently streams through and, whether refracted through the love and longing found on songs like “Made for Me” or the fantastical nihilism on display in tracks like the anthemic “Serafina,” reveals this album to be the monumental step forward that it is. Here Bambara sound like they’ve locked into what they were always destined to achieve, and the effect is nothing short of electrifying."]

 There is No Year by Algiers ["There Is No Year encompasses future-minded post-punk R&B from the trapped heart of Atlanta, where they began; to industrial soundscapes à la 4AD-era Scott Walker or Iggy & Bowie’s Berlin period; to something like the synthetic son of Marvin Gaye and Fever Ray. The whip-tight rhythm section of Ryan Mahan and Matt Tong (ex-Bloc Party) moves back and forth from infectious menace to sci-fi soundtrack to big band fever dream, seamlessly syncing fresh continuity. Mahan’s beat programming and synth constructions fill out the fibrous threshold, while Tesche’s sound-sleeves and aural-layering shapeshift into a richly polished means of exploration, revealing more and more the deeper you delve. “This is the sowing / Of the whirlwind,” Fisher sings on “Repeating Night.” “Don’t forget it’s us against them.” There’s something more behind the curtain of our daily-headlined pain, the album’s title seems to suggest—something even larger at stake than rage, or even revolution; which is exactly what Algiers’ music appears to have resolved itself to channel, and to wield. Their essence on There is No Year is a statement of their defiance, their desire to feel and be human even beyond the necessary fight back, sprawling head-on into the burning wind of doubt and fear and all it’s claimed, arriving on the far side of calamity more alive than ever." - Blake Butler]

Ttrruuces by Ttrruuces [English psychedelic rock from Jules Apollionaire and Natalie Findlay. This debut is a rock opera and while that genre is fraught with egoism and pretensions, I think they pull it off marvelously. The story of Sadie (Sad Girl) and Syd (Lost Boy) as they navigate a troubled world seeking transcendence and ecstasy. I'm rooting for them :) The narrative isn't always clear, for me it is the sounds that will keep me coming back. Extra points for some engaging and amusing videos (especially "Sensations of Cool" and this reworked live video during the summer pandemic of "I'm Alive" ).]

Untitled (Black Is) - SAULT ["The album of the Movement has arrived—and every second of it is glorious. Last year, a mysterious soul group named Sault arrived out of nowhere with two albums, titled 5 and 7. No one knew the identities of its musicians, and the albums were released on an independent label, but they drew rapturous acclaim. 5 and 7 were feasts of rhythmic and exuberant Afrobeat, soul, funk and R&B—the songs are passionate, radiant, radical and rooted in rich Black musical traditions (which, by extension, are the same roots of most popular genres). They were unexpected triumphs, but after releasing two albums in the same year, one might’ve figured Sault would go silent—at least for a little while. But earlier this year, something incredible happened—they surprise-released another album, Untitled (Black Is). On June 12, they posted a square image of a Black power fist on socials with the caption: “We present our first ‘Untitled’ album to mark a moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives. RIP George Floyd and all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism. Change is happening … We are focused.” The languid synthesizers on “Eternal Life,” the fury-filled shared vocals on “Stop Dem,” the jazzy guitars on “This Generation” and the skittering beats on “Black” make up a rich tapestry of soul, funk and gospel music. While there are nods to Motown, these aren’t your parents’ classic soul records—you’re hearing the eccentricities, voices and personalities of today and tomorrow." — Lizzie Manno]

More Music 2020:

Saraya Brewer's local/regional tribute which I am going to catch with next Best of Kentucky 2020 

Live fireside performances by poet and singer-songwriter Wesley Houp

In the early days of the pandemic when I was home alone as a single person, as everything was shutting down, Jeanne-Vomit Terror had a series of live performances that soothed my nighttime nerves and made it feel like I wasn't alone. Their next one is on New Year's Eve 

My super cool neighbors, Nathan Smith and Leland Miller, that jam next door and keep me updated on new musical trends. They have asked me a couple of times to do some vocals and I was hesitant, but Ghostpoet is giving me some ideas of how I could intertwine my writings to their music.

I was trying to think what was the last live show that I saw. It seems so long ago, I think it was Rising Appalachia 

Live on KEXP - my favorite live music podcast. Like most of us, they transformed what they do as a result of the pandemic, and I appreciate their new format that includes excellent biographical introductions to the bands before they perform. It provides a good context for the new music I am listening to.

Love That Album - my favorite retrospective music show

My favorite recording of a live performance Illuminati Hotties 22 set FREE I.H. Live at BetaWave TV

William Pauley III Best of 2020 on Spotify (131 songs, 11 hrs)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - December 12, 2020

In a year in which we have had to pull back and not be so physically present in the lives of others I could think of no better series to watch for the first time or to revisit than the Wachowski Sisters 'Sense8' (Netflix: 2015 - 2018). As I reflect on this transformative show that reshaped my long meditation on empathy, relationships, connectedness, love and freedom, I wonder if it was somehow brought into our lives to help us deal with an impending time of socially distanced reality and to evoke a strong sense of the importance of truly seeing & accepting people as they are (not just as we perceive them to be). A truly remarkable show that opens anyone to the possibilities of humanity, no matter their background or perspective, as long as they are willing to open themselves to its optimistic narrative (in a time when our culture celebrates the cynical and cruel - think of the majority of shows). How do we stay connected in these times? How do we make authentic connections? How do we see others as they truly are? How do we deal with the fear of the other? How do we love others in ways that are not controlling?

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” -- Frida Kahlo

We live in the best of times in which we are able to learn about the world and its incredible diversity of cultures/beings/places/perspectives in a way never historically possible. We live in the worst of times when we are able to isolate ourselves completely from anything different from our own narrow view/conception of the world/reality.  The choice is yours!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - December 11, 2020

López, Cristina Álvarez and Adrian Martin. "Journey to the Centre": On Journey to the Center of the Earth." The Cine-Files #15 (Fall 2020)

Mattson, Kevin. "We're Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America (Oxford University Press, 2020)." New Books in Pop Culture (November 11, 2020) ["In his new book, We're Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America (Oxford UP, 2020), Kevin Mattson documents punk rock in the early 1980s through a comprehensive look into the music, zines, films, bands, and punk Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tactics. He shows how widespread the punk movement was in creating a counterculture that challenged the conservative narrative of 1980s America. Mattson places the punk countercultural movement into the wider context of Reagan’s America and the cultural war that his presidency created. In opposition to Reagan’s panic narratives of nuclear wars, his tax cuts for the rich, and cuts to public education and other social services, punks saw themselves as everything they rejected about the US. Mattson’s extensive archival research into the punk counterculture makes for an informative and captivating read into the larger ways in which punk impacted American cultural identities and challenged 1980s conservativism."]

Salvador, Ricardo. "As Food Insecurity Surges, Leading Scientist Says Hunger Is a Deliberate Choice by Those in Power." Democracy Now (December 10, 2020) ["As the World Food Programme accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, we look at the growing global hunger crisis amid the pandemic, the climate crisis and war. In the United States, as many as 50 million people could experience food insecurity before the end of the year — including one in four children. “It’s important to remember that hunger does not always happen because of natural disasters,” says Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It is often the result of things that we do to each other deliberately.”" 2nd Part: "Why Biden’s Pick of Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary Is a Missed Opportunity for the USDA."]

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - December 3, 2020

"The 50 Best Albums of 2020." Paste (November 30, 2020)

Gardner, Caden Mark. "Disclosure and Pursuing the Trans Film Image." Reverse Shot (June 19, 2020)

Jackson, Danielle A. "Claudine: A Happy Home." Current (October 13, 2020)

Kang, Inkoo. "Parasite: Notes from the Underground." Current (October 30, 2020)

West, Steven. "Confucianism." Philosophize This! #8 (October 29, 2013) ["On this episode of the podcast, we learn about Confucius, a man whose ideas impacted China and eastern philosophy for thousands of years after his death. We find out how Confucius went from being the poor, friendless son of an ancient Chinese 'Teen Mom' to becoming one of the most quoted people in history, as well as how he was reduced to selling his philosophy door-to-door after a brief career as a politician which ended in conspiracy and bribery."]


This is a great movie about the power of good music in a troubled place & time
"A vibrant, hilarious and inspirational biopic of Terri Hooley, Belfast's "Godfather of Punk," whose upstart record shop and music label Good Vibrations became the hub of the city's nascent '70s punk scene and a voice of resistance to the sectarian violence of the Troubles. As the bloody sectarian violence of the Troubles tears apart 1970s Belfast, fanatical music lover Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) stages his own kind of protest: he opens a record shop on the most bombed half-mile stretch of road in all of Europe and quixotically dubs it Good Vibrations. Discovering a compelling voice of resistance in the city's nascent underground punk scene, Hooley starts an indie record label and becomes the unlikely ringleader of a band of young musical rebels who set out to create a new community free of the decades-old hatreds that are splitting their city apart."

Monday, November 30, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - November 30, 2020

Constantine, Perry. "Shoplifters (万引き家族)." Japan on Film (March 4, 2019) ["A Japanese couple stuck with part-time jobs and hence inadequate incomes avail themselves of the fruits of shoplifting to make ends meet. They are not alone in this behaviour. The younger and the older of the household are in on the act. The unusual routine is about to change from carefree and matter-of-fact to something more dramatic, however, as the couple open their doors to a beleaguered young girl. The reasons for the family’s habit and their motivations come under the microscope."]

---. "Yojimbo (用心棒)." Japan on Film #1 (February 15, 2019) ["A nameless ronin, or samurai with no master, enters a small village in feudal Japan where two rival gangsters are struggling for control of the local gambling trade. Taking the name Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the ronin convinces both sides to hire him as a bodyguard, then artfully sets in motion a full-scale gang war between the two in order to rid the town of both criminals."]

Langan, John and Brooke Warra. "Quarantine Readings." The Outer Dark #77 (July 2020) ["The seventh installment of The Outer Dark Quarantine Reading series features John Langan (0:40:31) and Brooke Warra. Brooke discusses her recent Shirley Jackson Award (Best Novelette) for Luminous Body (Dim Shores), and John Langan, who is a SJA Board Member, goes behind the scenes on producing an online awards ceremony to air during a pandemic. Brooke reads her ‘only original monster’ story ‘The Scritch’ (0:13:27), first published in Mantid and included in The Outer Dark Symposium 2020 Program Chapbook. John reads an excerpt from ‘Sweetums’ (0:50:00), which opens Children of the Fang, his fourth collection coming in August from Word Horde, and which originally appeared in A Season in Carcosa, edited by Joseph S. Pulver. They also talk about their own experiences with lockdown living, their writing and publishing news, and their quarantine reading recommendations. The episode concludes with Gordon B White critiquing Children of the Fang by John Langan in an all-new Reviews from The Weird (1:08:33)."]

Loewen, James. "Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History (Teachers College Press, 2018)." New Books in History (January 3, 2019) ["In an atmosphere filled with social media and fake news, history is more important than ever. But, what do you really know about history? In the second edition of his book, Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History (Teachers College Press, 2018). Dr. James W. Loewen interrogates what we think we know about our past. Loewen, a sociologist and professor at the University of Vermont, shows readers that history must be reconsidered in order to avoid previously accepted misconceptions. As Loewen demonstrates throughout this valuable text, teachers must look beyond the textbook to discover what really happened and to teach their students how to "do" history. Teaching What Really Happened is an eye-opening book that reinvigorates history and empowers its readers."]

Meyer, Isaac. "Never Look Away." The History of Japan #236 (April 21, 2018) ["This week, we discuss the career of Japan’s most legendary director, Kurosawa Akira. From humble, middle class beginnings, our story will take us through some of his most notable films, and include detours into the lives of Mifune Toshiro, George Lucas, and even Francis Ford Coppola!"]

Patel, Raj. "As Hunger Soars Across Nation, U.S. Trade & Foreign Policy Is Also Causing Hunger Across the Globe." Democracy Now (November 24, 2020)  ["As the U.S. enters the holiday season, millions of people across the country are struggling to find enough to eat, with the hunger relief group Feeding America warning that some 54 million U.S. residents currently face food insecurity amid a massive public health and economic crisis. Food insecurity in the U.S. has intensified after the expiration of federal assistance programs in the CARES Act, and the United Nations World Food Programme predicts acute hunger could affect 270 million people worldwide by the end of 2020 — an 82% increase since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We speak with author and filmmaker Raj Patel, host of the food politics podcast “The Secret Ingredient,” who says hunger was already at alarming levels in the U.S. before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse. “The long story here is the continuing war on the American working class,” Patel says."]

Sloan, Luke and Will Savage. "The Informer." Michael and Us (October 26, 2020) ["After he named names for Joseph McCarthy, Elia Kazan made a movie about an informer. We watched ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), one of the great American films by the most famous American rat, and discuss its personal meaning for Kazan, and the historical context behind its powerful depiction of working-class New York. PLUS: a free-flowing discussion of celebrity and politics."]

Monday, November 23, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - November 23, 2020

Aloi, Peg. "Watching The Witch with Two Actual Witches." A24 Films (October 27, 2020)

Effress, Inna, Matthew M. Bartlett, and Jon Padgett. "Quarantine Readings." The Outer Dark #78 (July 2020) ["The eighth installment of The Outer Dark Quarantine Reading series features Inna Effress, a Weird fiction rising star, and some Weird double trouble with Matthew M. Bartlett and Jon Padgett (0:35:50), collaborating on their first duet. Inna reads ‘The Devil and the Divine’ (0:13:04), which will appear in the first issue of the much anticipated Weird Horror magazine from Undertow Publications, coming in October. Matt and Jon read the beginning of the epistolary title story of The Latham-Fielding Liaison (0:46:05), part of The Secret Gateways hardcover boxset coming from Nightscape Press and funded by a Kickstarter campaign. As alway, the writers also share their own experiences with lockdown living, their creative news including a story by Inna in Noir Nation, a novel by Matt coming from Broken Eye Books in 2021, and Jon’s update on his editorial/publishing ventures Vastarien: A Literary Journal and Grimscribe Press. Plus everyone’s quarantine reading recommendations."]

Freeberg, Ernst. "A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement (Basic Books, 2020)." New Books in Biography (October 13, 2020) ["In Gilded Age America, people and animals lived cheek-by-jowl in environments that were dirty and dangerous to man and animal alike. The industrial city brought suffering, but it also inspired a compassion for animals that fueled a controversial anti-cruelty movement. From the center of these debates, Henry Bergh launched a shocking campaign to grant rights to animals. Ernest Freeberg's book A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement (Basic Books, 2020) is revelatory social history, awash with colorful characters. Cheered on by thousands of men and women who joined his cause, Bergh fought with robber barons, Five Points gangs, and legendary impresario P.T. Barnum, as they pushed for new laws to protect trolley horses, livestock, stray dogs, and other animals. Raucous and entertaining, A Traitor to His Species tells the story of a remarkable man who gave voice to the voiceless and shaped our modern relationship with animals. Ernest Freeberg is a distinguished professor of humanities and head of the history department at the University of Tennessee. He has authored three award-winning books, including The Age of Edison. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee."]

Gidney, Craig Laurance. "Dreaming a Weird That Shimmers." The Outer Dark #74 (June 2020) ["In this podcast Anya welcomes back Craig Laurance Gidney to discuss his novels A Spectral Hue (Word Horde, 2019) and Hairsbreadth (Eyedolon/Broken Eye Books, 2020; support their Patreon to read this serialized novel). The conversation begins with Craig’s experience living in Washington, D.C., in a time of pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. Craig then reads the opening of A Spectral Hue (0:11;11) and delves deep into the creative process behind this groundbreaking Weird novel. Discussion includes the book’s roots in his fascination with Outsider Art, the transformative beauty of The Weird and creating art out of trauma, why traditional cosmic horror from the white cis male gaze doesn’t scare him, the muse as intrusion, his passion for writing and art that is ‘a beautiful mess’ and ‘dream logic’, a non-Western perspective on the trope of ‘possession’, threading memory and ‘tasting’ words, writing process as ‘mosaic’, leaning into The Weird as character, a new story featuring Emily Bronte, color and Tanith Lee, Leonora Carrington, and Mervyn Peake, as well as why it’s not necessary to have closure in endings. The dialogue then shifts to Hairsbreadth in which Rapunzel meets Black Girl Magic including incorporating African-American folklore such as the boo-hag, affinity with Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, finding a Weird community, and a recent abundance of Weird fiction journals including soon-to-be-launched queer flash fiction journal Baffling which Craig is co-editing. The interview closes with news and his recommended authors including Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown, Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster series, and Head to Toe by Joe Orton."]

Heath, Roderick. "Hour of the Wolf (1968)." Film Freedonia (October 15, 2020) ["As a filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman synthesised two vital artistic modes, the psychological realism of Scandinavian theatre, and the essential faith of Modernism, that understanding of the world depended on perception and therefore art had to find ways to replicate modes of perception, groping towards a rational understanding of the irrational impulse. And yet Bergman’s fascination, even obsession with pathological behaviour and with the dark and tangled roots of the modern psyche and civilisation repeatedly drew him towards the fantastical, the hallucinatory, and the oneiric, conveyed through cinema that often reached back to the supple blend of naturalism and expressionistic stylisation achieved in early masters of Scandinavian cinema like Carl Dreyer, Benjamin Christensen, and Victor Sjöström. So, much as it might once have infuriated some of his high-minded worshippers in his heyday to say so, Bergman’s films very often grazed the outskirts of Horror cinema, and sometimes went the full distance. The anxious, unstable, beleaguered tenor of Bergman’s mature work often employed imagery sourced from the same wellsprings as Horror’s lexicon of preoccupations and metaphors."]

Hewitt, Chris, Mike Muncer and Jacob Stolworthy. "Slasher Pt. 5: Halloween (1978)." The Evolution of Horror (October 13, 2017)

Mason, Lilliana. "Anger and Identity in an Age of Polarization." On the Media (October 30, 2020) ["Anger and tribalism appear to be at an all time high, creating political and societal rifts that can seem unbridgeable. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that only 70 years ago, the country was deemed by political scientists not to be polarized enough, leading to confusion and disengagement on the part of the electorate. Since then, party lines have been crystallized, and the parties, polarized. Most people know exactly which party they belong to — leaving us with two camps that seek to destroy one another. Lilliana Mason is professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity. She and Bob discuss how anger and tribal identity have gotten us to the current political moment, and how we might move past it."]

Rowley, Rick and Lawrence Wright. "Kingdom of Silence: 2 Years After Khashoggi Murder, New Film Explores Deadly U.S.-Saudi Alliance." Democracy Now (October 1, 2020) ["Two years ago, in a story that shocked the world, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for marriage documents and was never seen again. It was later revealed that Khashoggi — a Saudi insider turned critic and Washington Post columnist — was murdered and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents at the direct order of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We speak with a friend of Khashoggi and with the director of a new documentary, “Kingdom of Silence,” that tracks not only Khashoggi’s brutal murder and the rise of MBS, but also the decades-long alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia. “What drew me into this story is Jamal was one of our own,” says director Rick Rowley. “When one of our colleagues is killed, it falls on all of us as journalists to try to do what we can to rescue their story from the forces that would impose silence on it.”"]

Subisatti, Andrea and Alexandra West. "Man Eater: Ravenous (1999)." Faculty of Horror #70 (February 25, 2019) ["Andrea and Alex head West to explore the notions of Manifest Destiny and the Frontier Myth in Antonia Bird’s Ravenous. Combining historical context through a modern gaze, Ravenous proves you are who you eat."]

Taylor, Astra, et al. "David Graeber, 1961–2020." The New York Review of Books  (September 5, 2020) ["David Graeber, the anthropologist and activist, died aged fifty-nine on September 2, 2020. The New York Review, to which he began contributing last year, is collecting tributes from his friends and colleagues."]

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dialogic Cinephilia - November 19, 2020

Brown, Jericho. "Marlon Riggs, Ancestor." The Current (October 26, 2020)

Citton, Yves. "Mediarchy (Polity Press, 2019)." New Books in Communications (September 28, 2020) ["We think that we live in democracies: in fact, we live in mediarchies. Our political regimes are based less on nations or citizens than on audiences shaped by the media. We assume that our social and political destinies are shaped by the will of the people without realizing that ‘the people’ are always produced, both as individuals and as aggregates, by the media: we are all embedded in mediated publics, ‘intra-structured’ by the apparatuses of communication that govern our interactions. In his new book Mediarchy (Polity Press, 2019), Yves Citton maps out the new regime of experience, media and power that he designates by the term “mediarchy.” To understand mediarchy, we need to look both at the effects that the media have on us and also at the new forms of being and experience that they induce in us. We can never entirely escape from the effects of the mediarchies that operate through us but by becoming more aware of their conditioning, we can develop the new forms of political analysis and practice which are essential if we are to rise to the unprecedented challenges of our time. This comprehensive and far-reaching book will be essential reading for students and scholars in media and communications, politics and sociology, and it will be of great interest to anyone concerned about the multiple and complex ways that the media – from newspapers and TV to social media and the internet – shape our social, political and personal lives today."]

Graeber, David and Astra Taylor. "Democracy May Not Exist, But We Will Miss It When It's Gone." At the Bookshop (December 16, 2019) ["In her latest book, Astra Taylor – ‘a rare public intellectual, utterly committed to asking humanity’s most profound questions yet entirely devoid of pretensions’ (Naomi Klein) – argues that democracy is not just in crisis, but that real democracy, inclusive and egalitarian, has never existed. Democracy May Not Exist but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone (Verso) aims to re-examine what we mean by democracy, what we want from it, and understand why it is so hard to realize."]

Coded Bias Official Trailer from Shalini Kantayya on Vimeo.

Hunt, Aaron. "'Male Science Fiction Movies are About Men Having a Romance with Their A.I. Women': Shalini Kantayya on Coded Bias." Filmmaker (November 16, 2020)

Ivins, Laura. "Luminescent Poison: Bringing the Radium Girls to Life." A Place for Film (November 16, 2020) 

Lin, Ed. "This Side of Parasite: New Korean Cinema 1998–2009." The Current (November 2, 2020)

West, Stephen. "Robert Nozick - The Minimal State."  Philosophize This! #138 (January 21, 2020) ["Robert Nozick and the book of his we're going to be talking about today is titled Anarchy, State and Utopia. Now, just to give the following conversation a little preliminary structure...that title, Anarchy, State and Utopia is referencing the three major sections that the book is divided into. The first section would be Anarchy...where Nozick spends a considerable portion of time being understanding of the Anarchist's aversion to government, but ultimately making a case that they go too far. The middle portion of the book, State, has Nozick laying out the TYPE of state that HE thinks is best...and in the Utopia section is where he describes WHY his version of a state is the best...Utopia is a sort of tongue in cheek musing by Nozick..he by NO MEANS thinks his system is an actual Utopia...but he thinks it's FAR BETTER than other systems that have been tried and he argues for why he thinks that is.See, Nozick is not a fan of there being a BIG state, with a lot of responsibilities...he's not a fan of there being no what is he a fan of? How big should the government be and what exactly should it do? Nozick is a fan of what he would call "the minimal state". The best way to start understanding what he means by this is probably to contrast him with both the work of Rawls and the Anarchists of his time..."]

ENG 281 Fall 2020 (Rest of the semester: 1985 - 1999)

(under construction) 


Brazil (UK: Terry Gilliam, 1985) [Criterion: "In the dystopian masterpiece Brazil, Jonathan Pryce plays a daydreaming everyman who finds himself caught in the soul-crushing gears of a nightmarish bureaucracy. This cautionary tale by Terry Gilliam, one of the great films of the 1980s, has come to be esteemed alongside antitotalitarian works by the likes of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. And in terms of set design, cinematography, music, and effects, Brazil is a nonstop dazzler." MB: Gilliam is a founding member of Monty Python and the visionary force behind their wild visual/animated effects. He brings his zany visual sensibility to one of the great films designed to get us to think about the dystopian nature of  unchecked bureaucratic absurdities, rigid elite stratification and a culture formed around propaganda.]

Ran (Japan: Akira Kurosawa, 1985) [Criterion: "With Ran, legendary director Akira Kurosawa reimagines Shakespeare's King Lear as a singular historical epic set in sixteenth-century Japan. Majestic in scope, the film is Kurosawa's late-life masterpiece, a profound examination of the folly of war and the crumbling of one family under the weight of betrayal, greed, and the insatiable thirst for power." MB: One of the all-time great directors adapts one of the best plays by one of the all-time great playwrights. Stunning visuals, incredible mobilization of large action scenes, impressive reworking of the play's themes into Japan's historical cultural setting.)


Blue Velvet (USA: David Lynch, 1986) [Criterion: "Home from college, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) makes an unsettling discovery: a severed human ear, lying in a field. In the mystery that follows, by turns terrifying and darkly funny, writer-director David Lynch burrows deep beneath the picturesque surfaces of small-town life. Driven to investigate, Jeffrey finds himself drawing closer to his fellow amateur sleuth, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), as well as their person of interest, lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini)—and facing the fury of Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), a psychopath who will stop at nothing to keep Dorothy in his grasp. With intense performances and hauntingly powerful scenes and images, Blue Velvet is an unforgettable vision of innocence lost, and one of the most influential American films of the past few decades." MB: A brilliant and disturbing look at the dark-side of small town America. Fueled by committed performances from the cast, infused with Lynch's surreal-dreamlike sensibilities and jammed packed with psycho-sexual themes. The coming-of-age, youthful attraction, small town bully/criminal, and junior-detective mystery story is irrevocably changed after this film. I had friends that watched this film so many times when it came out on video, they could quote entire scenes from memory.]  

Platoon (USA: Oliver Stone, 1986) [Rotten Tomatoes: "Informed by director Oliver Stone's personal experiences in Vietnam, Platoon forgoes easy sermonizing in favor of a harrowing, ground-level view of war, bolstered by no-holds-barred performances from Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) leaves his university studies to enlist in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967. Once he's on the ground in the middle of battle, his idealism fades. Infighting in his unit between Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes nearby villagers are harboring Viet Cong soldiers, and Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), who has a more sympathetic view of the locals, ends up pitting the soldiers against each other as well as against the enemy." MB:  A very engaging look at a young idealist's engagement and struggle with two charismatic, forceful (potential) mentor-guides while navigating the dangers of a war zone.  Good acting by all involved and an excellent soundtrack.]


Full Metal Jacket (USA: Stanley Kubrick, 1987) Rotten Tomatoes: "Intense, tightly constructed, and darkly comic at times ... Stanley Kubrick's take on the Vietnam War follows smart-aleck Private Davis (Matthew Modine), quickly christened "Joker" by his foul-mouthed drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey), and pudgy Private Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio), nicknamed "Gomer Pyle," as they endure the rigors of basic training. Though Pyle takes a frightening detour, Joker graduates to the Marine Corps and is sent to Vietnam as a journalist, covering -- and eventually participating in -- the bloody Battle of Hué." MB: Stanley Kubrick, one of the all time great directors, takes a second look at the in/sanity of war (the first time was the excellent 1957 antiwar Paths of Glory ). It is a bicameral film, showing the unrelenting indoctrination of young draftees in the first part (R. Lee Ermey is so memorable he becomes the blueprint for future cinematic drill instructors) and the second part follows, from the first part, the military journalist Joker (Matthew Modine) as he goes deeper into the actual conflict between the Americans and Vietnamese. Kubrick has a savage, incisive eye for the absurdities of war and its effect on the participants (willing or not). The absurd inconsistencies of the American invasion and occupation of Vietnam is memorably represented by Joker's "Born to Kill" helmet and Peace symbol button.] 

Matewan (USA: John Sayles, 1987) [Criterion: "Written and directed by John Sayles, this wrenching historical drama recounts the true story of a West Virginia coal town where the local miners’ struggle to form a union rose to the pitch of all-out war in 1920. When Matewan’s miners go on strike, organizer Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper, in his film debut) arrives to help them, uniting workers white and black, Appalachia-born and immigrant, while urging patience in the face of the coal company’s violent provocations. With a crackerjack ensemble cast—including James Earl Jones, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell, and Will Oldham—and Oscar-nominated cinematography by Haskell Wexler, Matewan taps into a rich vein of Americana with painstaking attention to local texture, issuing an impassioned cry for justice that still resounds today." MB: A masterpiece: Sayle's powerful narrative about a workers struggle in the Appalachian region, for its portrayal of the way powerful business interests can work to divide workers along race (and the power of overcoming that ploy), for it portrayal of the ways in which people organize to resist powerful interests, and for its naturalistic depiction that made me feel like I had experienced that place & time. Great cast and acting!]

Raising Arizona (USA: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 1987) [Rotten Tomatoes: "A terrifically original, eccentric screwball comedy, Raising Arizona may not be the Coens' most disciplined movie, but it's one of their most purely entertaining. An ex-con and an ex-cop meet, marry and long for a child of their own. When it is discovered that Hi is unable to have children they decide to snatch a baby. They try to keep their crime a secret, while friends, co-workers and a bounty hunter look to use the child for their own purposes." MB: One of my favorite comedies. A film that is able to contain and focus Nicholas Cage's over-the-top acting style is admirable enough, but Holly Hunter as Ed is simply amazing. The supporting cast, as is usual in a Coen's Brothers film, is excellent.]

Wings of Desire (West Germany: Wim Wenders, 1987) [Criterion: "Wings of Desire is one of cinema’s loveliest city symphonies. Bruno Ganz is Damiel, an angel perched atop buildings high over Berlin who can hear the thoughts—fears, hopes, dreams—of all the people living below. But when he falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist, he is willing to give up his immortality and come back to earth to be with her. Made not long before the fall of the Berlin wall, this stunning tapestry of sounds and images, shot in black and white and color by the legendary Henri Alekan, is movie poetry. And it forever made the name Wim Wenders synonymous with film art." MB: I remember in grad school coming across this film in a video store right after I had watched his film Until the End of the World (1991), and like that film Wings of Desire transfixed me with its narrative, its meditative otherworldly story of angels watching over the lives of the citizens of Berlin, and its transcendent moments in which reality becomes just as unearthly as the world of angels. Also, a powerful love story in which one is confronted with how far would you go to be with the one you love?] 


Chocolat (France/Senegal: Claire Denis, 1988) [Rotten Tomatoes: "An affluent white woman named France (Mireille Perrier) returns to her childhood home in Cameroon after many years of living in France. While there, she reflects upon her youth. When she was growing up in the former French colony in the 1950s, her life was one of privilege, escape and ignorance. She bonded with an African servant named Protée (Isaach De Bankolé), even though she was unaware of the larger racial and social tensions stirring all around her." MB: This film would be great to watch while reading Isabel Wilkerson's new and important book Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents (2020). A subtle examination of these theories as played out in this place and time period. For a film about such a serious subject, it is dreamily beautiful in its portrayal of the place and peoples.  Claire Denis is one of my favorite filmmakers because of her sharp focus on "bodies in space" or, if you will, as a practitioner of embodied cinema.] 


Do the Right Thing (USA: Spike Lee, 1989) [Criterion: "Set on one block of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy Do or Die neighborhood, at the height of summer, this 1989 masterpiece by Spike Lee confirmed him as a writer and filmmaker of peerless vision and passionate social engagement. Over the course of a single day, the easygoing interactions of a cast of unforgettable characters—Da Mayor, Mother Sister, Mister Señor Love Daddy, Tina, Sweet Dick Willie, Buggin Out, Radio Raheem, Sal, Pino, Vito, and Lee’s Mookie among them—give way to heated confrontations as tensions rise along racial fault lines, ultimately exploding into violence. Punctuated by the anthemic refrain of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” Do the Right Thing is a landmark in American cinema, as politically and emotionally charged and as relevant now as when it first hit the big screen." MB: The Criterion description is perfect, this is one of the best films - story and technique - of the 20th Century.]


Goodfellas (USA: Martin Scorsese, 1990) [Rotten Tomatoes: "Hard-hitting and stylish, GoodFellas is a gangster classic -- and arguably the high point of Martin Scorsese's career. A young man grows up in the mob and works very hard to advance himself through the ranks. He enjoys his life of money and luxury, but is oblivious to the horror that he causes. A drug addiction and a few mistakes ultimately unravel his climb to the top. Based on the book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi. MB: A masterpiece of the genre and filmmaking in general. The three main actors - Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci - embody the characters convincingly and the supporting cast is also top notch. Magnificent bravura long takes and a superb soundtrack. Where Coppola's The Godfather looked at gangsters through the ruling class Corleones, this film's perspective is through the street level gangsters whose lifestyles and lives are much more precarious (we could think of The Sopranos (1999 - 2007) as middle management).

Miller's Crossing (USA: Ethan Coen and Joel Cohen, 1990) [Rotten Tomatoes: "When the Italian Mafia threatens to kill a crooked bookie (John Turturro), Irish mob boss Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney) refuses to allow it, chiefly because he's dating the bookie's sister, crafty gun moll Verna Bernbaum (Marcia Gay Harden). Leo's right-hand man, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), is also seeing Verna on the sly, and when he's found out is obliged to switch sides, going to work for the Italian mob amidst a dramatically escalating gang war over liquor distribution." MB: This is easily one of my favorite Coen Brothers films and Tom Reagan's machiavellian machinations are a wonder to behold. The dialogue is jaw-dropping and the style is breathtaking! Once again, an extremely talented ensemble cast cinches the excellence of this film. Tagline: "No one is who they seem to be"]


Boyz n the Hood (USA: John Singleton, 1991) [Rotten Tomatoes: "Well-acted and thematically rich, Boyz N the Hood observes Black America with far more depth and compassion than many of the like-minded films its success inspired. Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is sent to live with his father, Furious Styles (Larry Fishburne), in tough South Central Los Angeles. Although his hard-nosed father instills proper values and respect in him, and his devout girlfriend Brandi (Nia Long) teaches him about faith, Tre's friends Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut) don't have the same kind of support and are drawn into the neighborhood's booming drug and gang culture, with increasingly tragic results." Elvis Mitchell: "Boyz N the Hood implicitly indicts the Reaganite policies that turned South Central Los Angeles into a benighted zone worse off than Eastern Europe. Singleton chose the most straightforward story possible, told in an almost elegiac fashion. In this L.A. that he once called home, the despair is underscored by the continual pounding of chopper blades, reminding us that South Central is a virtual armed camp under perpetual patrol by the police. Teenaged Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), Singleton’s hero, wants nothing more than any other teenager—to hang with his homeys, clock the honeys and dream about a future. But unlike most other kids in the Land of Opportunity, his is a world where dreams are always brutally compromised. (1992)" MB: This film exploded on the cinematic landscape and became a much wider cultural phenomenon as the uprising in L.A. at the acquittal of police in a gang style beating of motorist Rodney King. Singleton set the bar high with his seminal film.] 

My Own Private Idaho (USA: Gus van Sant, 1991) [Criterion: "River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star in this haunting tale from Gus Van Sant about two young street hustlers: Mike Waters, a sensitive narcoleptic who dreams of the mother who abandoned him, and Scott Favor, the wayward son of the mayor of Portland and the object of Mike’s desire. Navigating a volatile world of junkies, thieves, and johns, Mike takes Scott on a quest along the grungy streets and open highways of the Pacific Northwest, in search of an elusive place called home. Visually dazzling and thematically groundbreaking, My Own Private Idaho is a deeply moving look at unrequited love and life on society’s margins." MB: Inspired by both Shakespeare's play King Henry IV and Orson Welles 1967 film Chimes at Midnight, Gus van Sant's film became a touchstone for 90s queer cinema (name checked in John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 film  Shortbus) and got greater exposure for the time because of the two lead actors.]

The Silence of the Lambs (USA: Jonathan Demme, 1991) [Criterion: "In this chilling adaptation of the best-selling novel by Thomas Harris, the astonishingly versatile director Jonathan Demme crafted a taut psychological thriller about an American obsession: serial murder. As Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee who enlists the help of the infamous Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter to gain insight into the mind of another killer, Jodie Foster subverts classic gender dynamics and gives one of the most memorable performances of her career. As her foil, Anthony Hopkins is the archetypal antihero—cultured, quick-witted, and savagely murderous—delivering a harrowing portrait of humanity gone terribly wrong. A gripping police procedural and a disquieting immersion into a twisted psyche, The Silence of the Lambs swept the Academy Awards® (best picture, director, screenplay, actress, actor) and remains a cultural touchstone." MB: This excellent film with Jodie Foster's great, strong female protagonist, is hijacked by Anthony Hopkin's embodiment of the super-intelligent serial killer that treats others as disposal (or in this case, consumable). Set off a series of sequels focused on Hannibal and a recent successful Netflix TV series Hannibal. This film came out at the beginning of the 90s burgeoning cultural obsession with serial killers, unleashing a glut of novels, true-crime books & TV, and cinematic depictions, that have not abated to this day.]   


Candyman (USA: Bernard Rose, 1992) [Shout! Factory: "This gut-wrenching thriller follows a graduate student whose research summons the spirit of the dead! When Helen Lyle hears about Candyman, a slave spirit with a hook hand who is said to haunt a notorious housing project, she thinks she has a new twist for her thesis. Braving the gang-ridden territory to visit the site, Helen arrogantly assumes Candyman can't really exist ... until he appears, igniting a string of terrifying, grisly slayings. But the police don't believe in monsters, and charge Helen with the crimes. And the only one who can set her free is Candyman." MB: Brilliantly set in the style of the notorious Chicago Cabrini Green housing projects the film already achieves a spookiness well before we enter the actual plot. Then when you factor in the subtext of America's terrifying racist history into the Candyman's origin, we know that Lyle's research is bound to unearth some terrifying realities. Adapted from horror writer Clive Barker's short story "The Forbidden" from his legendary six volume Books of Blood (1984-1985). There is a completed remake that was held back from release because of the pandemic and now due for release in 2021 - it looks great! The recent documentary Horror Noire (2019) situates this film as a important landmark for black horror fans.]

Orlando (UK/Russia/Italy/France/Netherlands: Sally Potter, 1992) [Amazon DVD description: "Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane and Quentin Crisp star in this "hip, sexy and wickedly funny" film based on the gender-bending novel by Virginia Woolf. Swinton stars as Orlando, an English nobleman who defies the law of nature with surprising results. Immortal and highly imaginative, he undergoes a series of extraordinary transformations which humorously and hauntingly illustrate the eternal war between the sexes. Visually stunning and beautifully acted, ORLANDO is an intoxicating blend of romance, adventure and illusion." MB: As stated above, this is based on Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel: "Considered a feminist classic, the book has been written about extensively by scholars of women's writing and gender and transgender studies." In philosophy there is a debate of being vs becoming, this is a masterpiece of the representation of becoming.]

Unforgiven (USA: Clint Eastwood, 1992) [Rotten Tomatoes: "As both director and star, Clint Eastwood strips away decades of Hollywood varnish applied to the Wild West, and emerges with a series of harshly eloquent statements about the nature of violence. When prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Thomson) is disfigured by a pair of cowboys in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, her fellow brothel workers post a reward for their murder, much to the displeasure of sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), who doesn't allow vigilantism in his town. Two groups of gunfighters, one led by aging former bandit William Munny (Clint Eastwood), the other by the florid English Bob (Richard Harris), come to collect the reward, clashing with each other and the sheriff." MB: In an incredibly long career, working both as an actor and later a director/producer, this film can lay a claim as his best work. It is also a landmark in the Western genre.] 


Dazed and Confused (USA: Richard Linklater, 1993) [Criterion: "America, 1976. The last day of school. Bongs blaze, bell-bottoms ring, and rock and roll rocks. Among the best teen films ever made, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused eavesdrops on a group of seniors-to-be and incoming freshmen. A launching pad for a number of future stars, Linklater’s first studio effort also features endlessly quotable dialogue and a blasting, stadium-ready soundtrack. Sidestepping nostalgia, Dazed and Confused is less about “the best years of our lives” than the boredom, angst, and excitement of teenagers waiting . . . for something to happen." MB: In the time period that this film is set I would have been on the precipice of starting Junior High School (7th grade) and this film completely nails the culture, the aesthetics/style & the attitudes of the era (even though Linklater was in Huntsville, TX and I was in San Diego, CA). It should be no surprise that I adore this film as a snapshot of my youth! I think I'm going to have to take a trip down memory lane and watch it again tonight. If you write a response to this, let me know if there is a film that serves as a generational marker for you.] 

The Piano (Australia/New Zealand: Jane Campion, 1993) [The first lines of this powerful film: Ada: The voice you hear is not my speaking voice - -but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why - -not even me. My father says it is a dark talent, and the day I take it into my head to stop breathing will be my last. Today he married me to a man I have not yet met. Soon my daughter and I shall join him in his own country. My husband writes that my muteness does not bother him - and hark this! He says, "God loves dumb creatures, so why not I?" '... Rotten Tomatoes: "The Piano is a truth-seeking romance played in the key of erotic passion. After a long voyage from Scotland, pianist Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) and her young daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), are left with all their belongings, including a piano, on a New Zealand beach. Ada, who has been mute since childhood, has been sold into marriage to a local man named Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill). Making little attempt to warm up to Alisdair, Ada soon becomes intrigued by his Maori-friendly acquaintance, George Baines (Harvey Keitel), leading to tense, life-altering conflicts." MB: This film is centered around the stunning performance of Holly Hunter as Ada, who although mute, communicates so much. The other actors are also very effective, most notably a 11 year old Anna Paquin, for which she won a Best-Supporting Actress award. You may know Paquin in a later role as Sookie Stackhouse in HBO's True Blood (2008 - 2014). The relationship of people and the environment, the colonizer and the colonized, and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships are also strong themes in this beautifully shot film! To top it off, at least for me, this is a touchstone feminist film.]


Pulp Fiction (USA: John Travolta, 1994) [Rotten Tomatoes: "One of the most influential films of the 1990s, Pulp Fiction is a delirious post-modern mix of neo-noir thrills, pitch-black humor, and pop-culture touchstones. Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are hitmen with a penchant for philosophical discussions. In this ultra-hip, multi-strand crime movie, their storyline is interwoven with those of their boss, gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) ; his actress wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) ; struggling boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) ; master fixer Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) and a nervous pair of armed robbers, "Pumpkin" (Tim Roth) and "Honey Bunny" (Amanda Plummer)." MB: Innovative narrative structure, complex dialogue/delivery, well-drawn characters, a scintillating soundtrack and seriously strange set-pieces. Despite all of that it is amazingly accessible and engaging, as long as you are comfortable with the darker aspects of the plot. Renewed John Travolta's career, made a star/celebrity of Samuel Jackson, and features an extremely talented ensemble cast. Hugely influential as a ceaseless spawn of films sought to imitate this film throughout the 90s onward. I remember seeing this in a sold out theater in Central Illinois as an undergraduate and running into one of my favorite English professors outside afterward. He looked at me with a troubled expression and asked me "Are there people like the characters in the film?" I don't think he was satisfied with my answer that they may be fictional, but there are ... Vincent Vega: "You see, this is a moral test of one's self." Check out the trailer, you will know immediately if you want to see it.]

Queen Margot (Canada: Patrice Chéreau, 1994)  [Rotten Tomatoes: "Margot (Isabelle Adjani) is one of several in line to inherit the crown in France, where Roman Catholics and Protestants are jockeying for power. Margot's mother, Catherine de Medici (Virna Lisi), is intent on seeing her son take the throne once the reign of King Charles IX (Jean-Hugues Anglade) ends. After being married to a man she doesn't love and starting a tryst with one she does, Margot contends with her mother's at-all-costs plan to control the political fate of the volatile country." MB: This was my favorite film that we watched in my French Film Studies course as a MA at Bowling Green State University. It is an incredibly rich and vivid portrayal of the tumultuous society of 16th Century France. For me, the exciting narrative, the rich mise-en-scene, and the great acting, makes this a film I return to from time-to-time. The lead actress Isabelle Adjani was my third cinematic crush (after Maya Deren and Louise Brooks). The intertwining of intense political-court intrigue with seriously hot romance and quickly-shifting alliances makes this a feverish film - I feel a flush just thinking about it.]