It’s tough to resist the best of this new breed of sci-fi cinema: bred on the paranoia-sparking immediacy of 24/7 surveillance culture, cheap and easy Webcams, and omnipresent cameraphones and fed by the sudden impact of cinema verite and drama-injected reality TV, Cops and Cloverfield. Jittery handheld shots are getting easier to parse, and we’re adjusting to the queasiness and the motion sickness, filling in the narrative gaps on our own, and beginning to converse fluently in the new visual language that’s developed alongside digital video, a decade after The Blair Witch Project.
Throat-singing is capable of throwing the most delicious shivers down your spine -- be it from Bulgaria, Tuva, or Nunavut. Tanya Tagaq hails from the latter territory in northern Canada, where a few thousand Inuits live. Still, the aboriginal throat-singer sounds as if she could have easily stepped off a spaceship straight from Planet Post-Punk.
If one were to unravel the ties that bind when it comes to Wye Oak, one would surely link the twosome to that Sparkhawk couple that holds down Low. There’s something in Wye Oak’s stately, almost elegaic rhythms and the way the Baltimore duo works in morose tones and a minor key, with appreciation for a good drone, on its second album, The Knot (Merge), that reminds one of the other’s sad-eyed and beautiful downers. On “Mary Is Mary,” the guitar and organ take on funereal hues, and Jenn Wasner’s cry cuts through the never-out-of-hand noise. And of course, there are the songs, which cast a dour eye toward relationships of all stripes.
A fresh, fragile out-folk take on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent-Millay? That’s something I didn’t even know I was missing. Yet Brighton, England, musician Caroline Weeks has made the Pulitzer Prize-winning American wordsmith’s verse the stuff of longing and beauty on her spring release and solo debut, Songs for Edna (Manimal).
A quick and dirty, flawed little noir with the glam islander trappings of both Polynesia-bound Survivor and the Hawaii-lensed Lost, A Perfect Getaway resembles its colliding characters: the bourgeois tourists who believe they can swoop in and grab a little bit of paradise, scot-free, and the seedy predators who gravitate toward the same fantasy isles, also drawn by the promise of beauty and freedom. Likewise, despite its low-budg production and genre writing, the aspirational A Perfect Getaway rises slightly above its drive-in roots, thanks to strong performances and an unsettling red herring or two.
Johansson Projects’ shows are always worth a peek -- here’s a look at the latest, opening Friday, July 7, at the Oakland gallery: “ibid.: featuring Jennie Ottinger.” I caught up with the Bay Area artist, who received an MFA from Mills College and a BFA from California College of the Arts and has shown in SF, Los Angeles, New York City, and Dallas.
How did you come to develop your paintings?
Time can be so unkind to rock bands as they stick around, age and refuse to break up: Some burn out – others fade away. Still others like Yo La Tengo manage to mine remarkably rich new veins in the ground they’ve broken long ago. Much like the rock-solid coupledom of bandmates Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, this group refuses to call it splitsville, especially since it continues to find new songs to sing, popular or no.
New York Times critic Manohla Dargis was exactly on point when she described Beijing director Jia Zhang-ke as “one of the most original filmmakers working today.” Working above and underground with quiet audacity and a refined eye, Jia seems to have undertaken the sizable task of documenting a changing China -- with a clear-eyed attention to the grit and banality of daily life that Italian neo-realists and documentarians can appreciate, and a lyricism that poets can applaud. A product of Chinese cinema’s so-called Sixth Generation, Jia appears to be working toward a hybrid cinema that seamlessly fuses the real and ineffable.
Vampires have never been so much in vogue – a way for storytellers to talk about morality and sexuality, on a dramatic playing field where the stakes are all about survival. So move over Twilight and True Blood -- the latest entry into canon of bloodsucker legend and lore is Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, which comes out Friday, July 31.
Disregard the title of Deerhoof’s latest album, Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars, 2008), the Bay Area band never offends.
Rather, the up-from-the-underground foursome specializes in subverting your assumptions of what constitutes a rock-out number and what kind of unholy, Maggie-outraging roar guitars, drums, and bass can generate – all with a playful wink and friendly nod to indie’s avant-garde, as well as rock standard bearers like Radiohead, who Deerhoof toured with a while back.