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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lies, corruption, shame= Spanish democracy

I could write thousands of pages, but I don't want to throw all my rage against the daily revelations on Spanish corruption on the blog. It will be too depressing to read. That has to be enough.... As simple as that: corruption has destroyed democracy in Spain. It's our duty, citizens, to restore it. We are the only ones capable of doing it. Let's not waste too much time talking about our usual liars, our vile, shameless politicians (let's hope justice will do it for us).

When the judge opened the record of corruption, the stench became unbearable

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Indie Anthology 26: essential songs

It's been a while since the last chapter of our Anthology, but today the band election has been very easy. My little homage to one of my dearest friends, now quite far from me, but capable still of sharing with me what really matters in life.

Song: Animal Cannabus
Artist: Mull Historical Society
Year: 2001

Can't believe more than a decade has passed. Like Mull, the Scottish island where he comes from (I remember checking where it was on a map), Colin MacIntyre came out of the blue for me (for us). On a time when MTV still played music, "Animal Cannabus" was quite a shock. An epic, torrential indiepop song. A classic with flamboyant new clothes. Then came "Loss" with that unique, impossible dog cover. Music that was a bit surreal, joyful, and very rich (both lirycs and music). Unfortunately, Colin was heavily underrated despite its many talents and vibrant way of understanding music. But this was part of the soundtrack of those years. And still is a magnificent tune, and an artist to vindicate.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Discoverer 49: new indie findings

It's Sunday, so here are the weekly band proposals for your listening pleasure!

Ex Cops. We begin in Brooklyn with a duo: Brian Harding (ex Hymns) and Amalie Bruun (from Minks, band already highlighted on this Discoverer series). Born as Ex Cops in 2011 they released a homemade EP. A first single, "“You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb” b/w “The Millionaire”, followed last April, before signing with Other Music Recording Co. Transformed into a quintet they took to the studio to record "True Hallucinations", their debut album, out now. And what a debut this is. A kaleidoscopic indiepop lesson, delicate and joyful, vintage but modern, strangely moody but full of hooks. Indispensable.

I Was A King. If you also believe Teenage Fanclub is not just a wonderful band, but also a group that mankind needs, here's a name for you. A trio coming from the adorable Norway, they formed in 2006, releasing their debut album "Losing Something Good for Something Better" a year later. In 2009, thanks to the buzz, they assaulted the States with "I Was A King", followed by "Old Friends" in 2011. And then came "You Love It Here", with the help of (attention) Norman Blake and Robyn Hitchcock, released, just in Norway, in late 2012. It's a tragedy, because this is such an incredible pop masterpiece. Pop music lovers, please listen them.

Plumerai. Sure, is not the first time I got into a band thanks to a female voice. Active since 2004, this Bostonians have gone through several line-up changes, four EPs and three records including 2011's "Your Guilty Prize", after which they added the Parisian Eliza Brown on vocals. With her on board (plus a new drummer) joining foundational members Martin & James Newman, they released their latest LP, "Mondegreen", past November. Eliza's powerful, sweet, breathy and mysteriously haunting vocals (I imagine her stealing hearts while singing at some jazz club) give a very unique counterpoint to the indiepop, with a dark twist, somewhere in between shoegaze and post-punk, band sounds. Seductive music.       

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Pretty Decent Swimmers", Northern Portrait, jangle-pop champions

Pretty Decent Swimmers EP

Understatements or modesty are frequently virtues when we are talking about music (usually musicians or critics have serious problems of incontinence, delusions of grandeur or extra-huge ambitions). But I do have to complain here. Our favourite Danish band (along with The Raveonettes), Northern Portrait, is happily back with a new EP (a new record on the horizon too) entitled "Pretty Decent Swimmers", already available on the amazing Matinée Recordings. What an inappropriate, bad title this is!
Because if we are using the swimming reference with indiepop, they are nothing but Olympic Swimmers, not just pretty decent ones. They are the responsible of an incredible, mind-blowing debut album, "Criminal Art Lovers", plus a little collection of delicious EPs. And after hearing their new gorgeous four songs, they should be nicknamed the "Michael Phelps of jangle-pop"!

Come on, how many bands could return to action after three years with such a shimmering, joyful tune like opener "Happy Nice Day"? It starts unremarkable, but after 30 seconds the real song unleashes into n irresistible jangle-pop "beast". Stefan Larsen romantic voice, guitars ringing, a pulse that slows and rises like your heartbeat, a disarming chorus... all the essence of Northern Portrait summarized and perfected into a pop gem. Sure it will be up there among the best songs of the year (and I know we haven't finished January yet).

With such a great initial song, “Greetings From Paris”, pales by comparison on first listening. But that's a very unfair judgement for a subtler, more oblique and intimate number. Give the tune it's time and space, and it will show all its wonders: Larsen's graceful vocals, that guitar breaking in its middle section before the singer strikes back, that ridiculously simple end turning into a ridiculously affecting climax...

“Bon Voyage!” accelerates the tempo a bit, helped by ever-present guitars (this is jangle-pop folks) and looks, smells and of course sounds like a pop classic. What made The Smiths so immortal was that passion they brought to all of his parts: Morrissey's drama, melodies so unforgettable, guitars chiming or evoking known situations. Northern Portrait are capable of injecting that sort of magic to their tunes. Hear how they close the song. That piano...

We reach the end of the EP with “I Feel Even Better”, on which Larsen seems to step back a bit to let the music be on the forefront of the tune. Melody, together with the delicate arrangements are the guide here. With lyrics that are somewhere in between melancholy and the "first day of a new era", it might be the less the surprising of the lot, but it leaves the listener longing for me. Which is exactly what the best bands do. Northern Portrait add another unmissable reference to an immaculate career so far, could we be in front of the champions of jangle-pop? Have to see them live at the Madrid PopFest!!

SCORE: 7,75/10

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Primavera Sound 2013: first impressions

#BestFestivalEver? Not for me, sorry. It makes no sense to criticise such a fantastic line-up, full of some of the most prestigious (some would add cool) indie artists from the past, the present and (maybe?) the future. I understand how proud the organization has to be, and how happy many people must be right now. But it is simply not my dreamed line-up, and considering the amount of my "favourite/have to see" artists that could have potentially (touring in the forthcoming months, releasing new works) is somewhat of a deception, with few "indispensable" acts for me (Camera Obscura and Phoenix only).

This is, of course, just my first impression. Some promising bands have to be checked, and others will depend on the overlaps during the Festival. Here's how PS13 would look for us today

On a final comment, thanks to the Organization for such a nice event. Loved the detail of the poster.

22nd-26th May

LOS PLANETAS tocan Una semana en el motor de un autobus 

Green- Definetely seeing them. Absolute must
Orange- If there are no overlaps (in particular with the green ones), I'll be there for sure
Yellow- Curious about it/"on research mode"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Primavera Sound 2013: the sweepstake

Tomorrow is the DAY: the Primavera Sound 2013 unveils their line-up in full in some kind of party/ceremony. Bloodbuzzed will be there, hoping that as many of our most beloved artists will join the Festival this May. Here's our sweepstake, our bet. This time the artists listed are not personal preferences/wishes. Just our thoughts on which names will be confirmed tomorrow! Will this be the #bestfestivalever? Will let you know!
  1. Band of Horses
  2. Breeders, The
  3. Cat Power
  4. Dinosaur Jr.
  5. Everything Everything
  6. Frank Ocean
  7. Grizzly Bear
  8. Johnny Marr
  9. Knife, The
  10. Phoenix
  11. Postal Service, The
  12. Primal Scream
  13. My Bloody Valentine
  14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  15. Rodríguez
  16. Suede
  17. Tame Impala
  18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  19. Youth Lagoon
  20. Wild Nothing

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Discoverer 48: new indie findings

The first trio of proposals in this 2013. Judging by this new findings, the year ahead of us looks amazing! Hope you agree with me, enjoy!

Beat Mark. They hail from Paris, but have nothing to do with French music cliches. The quartet was born in 2009, after an initial seven-track cassette, they embarked themselves on their first LP, "Howls of Joy" out, only in France, in 2011. But 2013 is going to be their year. A brand new EP, "Beat Mark... Move On" will be released on February 15th, and the aforementioned record will have a proper global release three days after. We should celebrate, because this band merges the noisy vibes of 90's American rock scene with the charms of 80's indiepop. Fuzz & melodies, intensity & vocal delights, noisy & urgent pop to cheer you up.
Yakuri Cable. This Scottish (Glasgow again folks) quartet approached me on Twitter few months ago. I immediately liked the tunes, but the lack of information made me put them on a "have to check" status. Little I knew that half of its members were also part of the wonderful, and dearly beloved Baffin Island. Then it's quite easy to understand why the band tunes, just five songs available at their soundcloud at the moment, sound so delicious. Charming indiepop, with a slight synth-pop touch presiding their music, the overall feeling couldn't be so promising. Keep an eye on them this 2013.
Golden Grrrls. Still on Glasgow to meet this trio, which after a couple of 7"s, now is preparing themselves to assault the indiepop scene with their debut album, out on the infallible Slumberland Records and Night School records on February 25th. They have all the weapons to achieve the victory. Infectious and uplifting guitar-driven twee-pop, full of hooks, melodies, reverbs, sun-soaked vocals and armonies... Expectations couldn't be higher after what we have heard so far. Anxious to confirm the first great impressions.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Post Office", working-class Bukowski

Post Office- Charles Bukowski

A warning: don't read this if you are struggling with your job. Although it could help you to have the g_ _ _  to call it a day, to put it nicely.

"It began as a mistake", the novel begins. A mistake that went on for more than twelve years, on which Charles Bukowski, through the adventures of his alter-ego Henry Chinaski, shows how he became a slave to the wage, like the 99% of us (we all also know who the vile and corrupted remaining 1% are, but that should go on another post), at the U.S. Postal Service.

Sure, If you have read Bukowski previously, you'll find little to be surprised here. There's booze, horses, women and the grim, raw and let's face it, quite funny prose that is so quintessential of this writer. But besides the (always highly recommendable) Hank-by-numbers, "Post Office" offers something else, something more. A deformed, close to the grotesque if you want, but also a very clear mirror in which the majority of us can reflect his/her image.

Because this novel is truly a treaty, written in Bukowski's unique "knockout style", of how jobs ruins and finally ends killing something inside of us. Chinaski is defeated by routine, by boredom, by plain stupidity, by soul-killing workplaces and mind-numbing strategies created just for the sake of having a higher rate on efficiency while decreasing his level of self-stem. Does it sound familiar to you? I bet it does.

At the same time, though, some people need a daily work not to throw himself/herself from a window, or starts a life of self-destruction. It's a contradiction wonderfully portrayed on "Post Office", being an unsuspected deep analysis of the most mundane, zero glamour, life miseries. It's a poignant "I hate my job" tale, but also a "I need to do something with my life" story, one on which Chinaski constantly seeks company (this book is not really about sex, but about not being alone, there's an intriguing sadness on his perspective on relations here) as much as he needs booze. And despite Chinaski is the perfect example of the anti-hero, in "Post Office" he wins. He says "that's enough", looking towards starting a new chapter on his life.

Like John and Dan Fante (add Carver, Wolff and to some extent Richard Yates), Bukowski is able to say a lot of things to readers without what it seems that much (on the surface). He is just worried of telling the truth (of course, his truth). There's no point in mannerisms, affectations or sentimentalism, because he didn't write to impress you. He wrote about what he cared and what he knew best than anyone else, his life. And he was just interested in telling it like it was. All I can say is thank you Hank.

SCORE: 7,25/10

Friday, January 18, 2013

Stop Awful Covers 8

A new year has begun... but the disaster continues. I'm just selecting new or just announced covers from forthcoming releases on this 2013. They all compound the disgusting latest chapter of this Awful Covers Series, showing there's a year ahead full of music... but also full of bad taste. Please musicians, think about what you are doing to your art. Please stop...

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
Even bands I love commit visual atrocities. Will be the first record I won't bother buying from the group. No matter what the author says to justify his creation, it's horrible.

Mystical Weapons: Mystical Weapons
I get the "weapons" thing, but where's the mystic? Can only see awfulness here...

A wolf? A mask? Whatever, this is just a very very poor work.

  Hookworms: Psych for Sore Eyes EP
I see the ad: Enjoy the ugliness in 3D! Yes my friends, add a new dimension to bad taste!

Tilbury: Exorcise
At least the title is quite appropriate.If you are high on something... that is.

Tall Firs: Out of It and Into It
Contradictory title, but I quickly align myself among the ones completely out of it. No doubt. 
 Foxygen: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic Another interesting match between artwork and album title. Bad album title, equally bad album art.

David Bowie: The Next Day
"Often the most simple ideas can be the most radical", say the sleeve designers of Bowie's forthcoming record. And its true, but not in this case. This is just laziness and lack of effort, and as they also say, the result is "an album cover with a white square on it".

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter-Spring 2013: agenda of concerts

Not in the best of moods lately (work issues), so what's best than live music in order to cheer up a bit! Let's take a look at our provisional agenda of concerts until summer (hope it grows)!

31. Veronica Falls at BeCool

15. In-Somni Festival at Sala Bikini. Arizona Baby + Stay + our beloved Partido
16. In-Somni Festival at Razzmatazz 2. Los Punsetes + Extraperlo + Tweak Bird
21. The Raveonettes at Music Hall
23. Minifestival de Música Independent de Barcelona, at Espai Jove Les Basses. A chance to see Amor de Días live, plus The Primitives!

7-9. Madrid PopFest! at Sala Clamores, Madrid. Really hoping to make it! Northern Portrait, Alpaca Sports, This Many Boyfriends, Burning Hearts.... too good already!
13. Beach House at Sala Apolo

19. Allo Darlin' at BARTS Espai Club (Artèria Paral·lel)
20. Jane Joyd at Music Hall
27. Eels at Artèria Paral·lel

17. Alessis' Ark at BARTS Espai Club (Artèria Paral·lel) 
22-26. Primavera Sound Festival. Of course.

Who knows? But a couple of Festivals are in the agenda....

Majority still pending, some due to "calendar issues", but the majority, due to "economic issues" (depressing I know), but green means confirmed: already got the tickets or to be accredited (expected!). Sure many others will come!

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Damsels in Distress", a hipster comedy?

Damsels in Distress

Here's a good film to start a debate about the "meaning" of making films, about the purpose of cinema. After watching a film like "Damsels in Distress" the question came to my mind again: should a director think on the audience when filming? or exclusively on what he/she wants to say?

Because this film is an attempt of making a really original comedy, but it doesn't work (I would add at all), or I guess it just works for director Whit Stillman and his legion of fans. I ask myself: what's the purpose of a comedy? making you laugh and/or have a good time, and if the film is very good, do that while making you think. "Damsels in Distress" doesn't make you laugh and sorry, I don't think it really wants to say anything. But what puzzles me more is that I don't believe Stillman cares about that.

Deadpan, off-beat comedies I have seen a few, is not that surprising, but I can guarantee you watching this film is an odd experience, at least for a (long) while.The dialogues on which the characters are involved are unique. But they are not just surreal or crazy, which could lead to a very suggestive film (like Spanish masterpiece "Amanece Que No es Poco", the recent "Submarine" or the craziest moments on Woody Allen's or Wes Anderson's filmography). Dialogues and characters attitudes are pretentiously ironic (I concede the qualification of pretentious, for sure) off-putting, deliberately bizarre and to me, frequently irritating. It really takes a while and a considerable effort to go on for the viewer.

If you do, you'll find yourself more or less involved in its college story, one where guys are desperately stupids (some fun here) and girls completely insufferable. But in my case at least, I went on just for the sake of figuring out whether or not there was a goal, an end, a conclusion where all these strange kids could reveal something, not because I was going to find something satisfying. And although by the middle of it you get used to this sort of awkward humour and occasionally you will laugh, once the credits end, there's nothing to talk about or worth remembering. Just a very eccentric film, just for the sake of being eccentric. Right now I'm thinking of a dozen of ultra-cool indie bands, with enjoy quite a successful position on alternative industry who, of course in my opinion, "sell" that sort of eccentricity... while lacking songs. Yes, know I get why Stillman and hipster are words commonly used in the same sentence. Unfortunately, is that meaning of hipster that means: "Look how I wear! Check my instagram! Read my very important tweet in the middle of a concert! and How I scream the only song I know about the NEXT BIG THING Pitchfork magazine has written about!"... Sorry about the rant.

Then again, I'm pretty sure Stillman must be satisfied with his work, achieving what he was aiming for or how he directed the cast (I have read fantastic comments on Greta Gerwig's performance, is true she's convincing on her role... but unfortunately is also part of this film). But sorry, is that enough? That makes Stillman an author? I doubt it, because I can only qualify "Damsels in Distress" as a seriously failed film. Or at the very least, a film that wasn't for me.

SCORE: 4,25/10

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Just Kids", the bipolar memories of Patti Smith

Just Kids- Patti Smith

I had really high expectation with this one. The spectacular reviews, (National Book Award included) and my appreciation for the author (she's Michael Stipe's muse and close friend, and although I'm just an occasional fan of her music, she's a legend that I would love to see live). Guess I was hoping for a memorable book, something in between Dylan's "Chronicles" and Mark Oliver Everett's "Things the Grandchildren Should Now". Unfortunately, all I can say is that "Just Kids" has been a disappointment.

There's a bipolarity on "Just Kids". As an autobiography of the beginnings of a rock icon might not be ground shaking, but it does has a lot of strength and points of interests. Mainly because it reveals a young, vulnerable Patti Smith coming to New York to fight for her dreams, but really looking to find herself, on a time when she didn't know what she wanted to be. That, together with the incredibly intense and really intimate depiction of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, would made the book a must read without a doubt. Friend, shelter, colleague, artist partner, lover... Patti Smith allows the reader to adventure into her most intimate feelings, not afraid of showing none of them were yet fully formed as individuals when they met, needing each other to grew up together, as artists and persons. That honesty goes beyond any labelling, its pure, like Smith and Mapplethorpe's relation. That's really rare to find.  Impossible to have a better title than "Just Kids".

Judging by the previous paragraph, I realise "Just Kids" had the potential of being one of the best music biographies I've ever read. But it is not. And sadly, the only responsible is Patti Smith alone. I'm afraid to write that, but I believe this is a case of... seriously flat, poor writing. Unending name dropping, with anecdotes that doesn't add much to the story except showing how many "important people" she met back then, and a constant self-laudatory "artistry" that becomes seriously annoying because is never connected with the real, flesh and bones world. She transforms her reality, a starving young, confused but ambitious couple in a cliche: the starving, tortured artists.

That's why I wrote before the book seems to be bipolar. All the insight, honesty and interest on the Mapplethorpe-Smith relation, with some other few moments (mostly when she recalls or goes back home) disappears or are seriously ruined by the cliches among which she builds her image (and Mapplethorpe) of unique artists. The fact I consider Patti Smith a genuine, remarkable artist only makes it more painful. To make it more clear: repeating endlessly how much you love Rimbaud doesn't make you an artist. Or describing with full detail every single piece of clothing you wore. That's superficial and, at least for me, irritating.

Intense and remarkable at times, but also frustrating and shallow. A two-sided, failed memories as a whole.

SCORE: 5,5/10

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", 70s' movies, drugs & egos

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood- Peter Biskind

"I did a lot of drugs because I wanted to do a lot, I wanted to push all the way to the very very end, and see if I could die." Martin Scorsese

"The cocaine problem in the United States is really because of me. There was no cocaine before Easy Rider on the street. After Easy Rider, it was everywhere." Dennis Hopper

"Popcorn pictures have always ruled. Why do people go see them? Why is the public so stupid? That's not my fault." George Lucas (on Star Wars)

These are true sentences, said by some of the most well-known directors-actors on cinema history. These are only three little excerpts taken from "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" a book that is so full of this sort of ... well, let's say statements, you'll need a couple of weeks (at least) to start reading something else after finishing this book. They also serve to summarise what you are going to find inside this absorbing encyclopedia of the movies that were done on the 70s, the so-called "New Hollywood" and the people behind them. But if I had to choose just one expression to define what this book shows it would be "a monster parade". The most scary I ever read about. Because they were and are real people.

I assume the new directors arising on late 60s really had artistic aims, even a revolutionary spirit to bring substance and interest back to cinema, to integrate movies with the counterculture of that age, a period were Hollywood was agonising and ideas severely lacking. It's depressing to realise that's where we are exactly nowadays. And after reading Biskind's book is even more appalling to find out our current "creative desert" has its origins on the failure of  the exciting "New Hollywood".

Don't want to make this review very long, because in my opinion, every person who loves cinema should read this book, but "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" is a ridiculously detailed account of the work of talented young filmmakers like Scorsese, Coppola, Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, William Friedkin, Roman Polanski or Peter Bogdanovich. But while explaining how those films were made Biskind reveals much more. Basically that it was a horrible and constant battle of egos, a dangerous wild ride of people living out of control, with little rules and even less humanity, and a genuine miracle that some of the movies became the masterpieces that now we venerate. Being honest, even personal heroes like Scorsese, Altman, De Niro, or Ashby doesn't look very well in this picture. Guys like Spielberg or George Lucas confirmed my suspicions: just a couple of egomaniacs (add Coppola here) with an unbelievable greedy mind.

I have read some reviews that salute Biskind's book as "a unabashed celebration of the 70s". I couldn't disagree more. This is an overwhelming work on the worst of mankind. Some people believing and behaving as if they were some sort of Almighty God just because they had a successful movie. Others forcing the people who surrounded them (wives, girlfriends, brothers, long-time friends, etc) to share their miseries and frustrations. Sex, alcohol, drug abuse to impossible limits, delusions of grandeur and surreal situations abound on the book, all related with accurate and puzzling precision. I'm mesmerized by the amount of information gathered by Biskind, but also why his freedom to paint such an ugly picture of a decade. Worse than that. The epilogue is a devastating summary of what legacy Hollywood's last golden age left us.

Please don't miss this book, but also proceed with care with what you're going to read.

SCORE: 8,5/10

Monday, January 7, 2013

Music to Look Forward to in 2013

New year ahead, new musical wishes! Like we did on 2011 here's our small summary of the releases/events we're looking forward to. A brief shortlist of the "music gifts" asked for 2013. 
  1. To begin with, our particular Three Kings, three especially beloved bands of this blog that will have new releases in 2013. Tomorrow arrives "Pretty Decent Swimmers" new EP from the mighty indiepop force Northern Portrait. The Very Most announced few days ago on facebook that a new EP will follow this spring/summer (Jeremy Jensen has told me it will be even better than the great "Ununiversalizable Us", what a statement!). And finally, The Hi-Life Companion assures me 2013 will see their comeback after the wonderful "Say Yes!"
  2. Two young bands that have me completely haunted and should offer their debut albums this year. Fear of Men and Let's Buy Happiness. Can't wait to hear the voices of Jessica Weiss and Sarah Hall in their new songs. Expectations couldn't be higher
  3. More heavenly voices: Rose Elinor Dougall promised me she will have another record ready this year. Please make a Spanish tour too! And it's time for my dear Basia Bulat to come back too. 
  4. Amor de Días and The Pastels on the same year? Yes! Pretty sure I'll see both bands live...  
  5. Planning to attend March's Madrid Popfest. Dreaming to be part of Indietracks on July.
  6. Third Primavera Sound Festival, of course. The chance of seeing Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Eels and Blur live for the first time there? What about The Shins? Well, the PS13's line-up deserves a post on its own... (coming very soon)
  7. Three "big names" to end this list. First one, Phoenix have confirmed their return!
  8. Second. Camera Obscura also has announced they are recording a new album. Too long without you Tracyanne...Can't wait for it...
  9. And one to be confirmed, but evidence suggests (at least in my head) that 2013 should be the year of The National's follow-up to "High Violet". Need to say I'm dying for it?
  10. And finally, the most personal and toughest wish: really hoping for a 2013 where this passion of mine (music, writing about music) becomes (or starts to) a profession...
Sure, there are many more out there, and many more that will be discovered. That's the amazing thing with music. What a year this can be!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Woody Allen: A Documentary", life through a camera

Woody Allen: A Documentary

I already wrote this: I owe a lot to Woody Allen, not only in terms of "cultural education" but also in terms of humour and a certain view of life. I was sixteen when a friend of a friend passed me a couple of films. The first one was Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" (Les Quatre Cents Coups). It grab me and shook me as very few things before. But it was nothing compared with the impact of the second film. I'm referring, of course, to Allen's "Annie Hall", that not only remains as a fundamental movie for me. I know that will "remain with me" forever.

This personal introduction explains why it was virtually mandatory for me to watch this documentary, even though I suspected there wasn't going to be a lot of new information for me on the director (seen it all, read it a lot). The surprise was that for a while, "Woody Allen: A Documentary", it does proof to be a quite revealing and very entertaining film.

Seems that director Robert Weide has had access (which is remarkable) not only to deconstruct the career of the Brooklyn artist, but also to film a bit of his daily life and creative process. During its first half, we have the chronicle of Allen's rising from teen writer to stand up comedian, TV star to a movie writer-director praised as an iconic auteur. For any devoted fan, the archive footage of his monologues and jokes on TV, along with the opinions of the people who are (look at his film credits!, always the same people) "Allen's gang": Jack Rollins, Charles H Joffe, Letty hugely enjoyable. But the contrast with his opinions on camera, his memories of childhood, and his writing habits (the scenes when he shows his working desk, his impossibly outdated German typewriter, and the scrapped notes he keeps that then will become scripts are precious), make this documentary A MUST-SEE.

Seriously, it could have been close to perfection. We start the recap of his filmography going movie after movie for a while (nice to see Martin Scorsese sharing his views on Allen's career). There's another precious chapter (it couldn't be any other way) with the apparition of Annie, or better said, Diane Keaton. Yes, as the movie says, count me among the ones that felt in love with her in this movie. There's one wonderful scene, with Allen incapable of not laughing in front of her, that it reveals much more than any declaration on their level of connection. But after "Stardust Memories" Weide changes the film structure. Gone is the idea of going film-by-film, and everything seems to be rushing from there on. A glimpse on the Mia Farrow-Soon-Yi scandal, although it is remarkable Allen share a thought on that too, a very quick jump into the 90s, another one on his late "lost period", and then his unexpected success with the charming "Midnight in Paris", all mixed with opinions on his legacy, and how actors (Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Penélope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson or Naomi Watts among others) enjoy his peculiar way of directing them. Too much in too little time, forgetting too many things...

Now I have found the film I've just seen is the cinema-release version of a PBS documentary which originally clocks at 191-minutes. That is an enormous difference in length (almost 80 minutes) which might help explaining why the second half of the film looks more disjointed and pressed. I'm sorry to say that if that's the case, well then it seems that, again, business defeated cinema. A commercial decision (reducing the film length) was prioritized instead of consistency and coherency of what potentially was a superb documentary on one of the most important directors, if you allow me to say, ever. I know that I will end watching the complete documentary sooner or later, so I'll let you know... For now, a recommendable documentary that could have been a must-see.

SCORE: 6,25/10

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"A Pistol in Each Hand", Men Overboard

A Pistol in Each Hand 
(Una Pistola en Cada Mano, Spanish Original title)

In my opinion, Cesc Gay is among the top Spanish directors, being one of the (regrettably) few that focuses their films on human relationships, always with honesty, coherency and credibility. Script and actors direction along with the construction of believable, very recognisable situations are his main (huge) talents, mixing drama and comedy with excellent results. In that sense "A Pistol in Each Hand" is no exception. As a matter of fact, is a sublimation of the aforementioned factors.

"A Pistol" might be defined as a comedy with tragic elements on men. But this is not "The Hangover III" now located in Barcelona. Very far from that. This is an episodic collection of five stories all showing the same issue: the male identity crises. Eight men in their late 30s-40s, all struggling and sharing pretty huge emotional turmoils, revealing all their insecurities, fears and fragility in different situations.  

With these episodic structure, Gay makes a bold statement in several levels. First and foremost, with the topic he is portraying. The men on the film could be interchangeable, they have no name. Eight minds, attitudes, manners and inner conflicts that together, are a kaleidoscope of male sentimental troubles. Secondly, with his script and, in particular, with the power of dialogue. There are several locations, but they are only serving the different environments on which very "real" people talk about "real" issues. And third, Gay makes a pretty amazing bet on actors. Without them, their commitment and talents, the film would be completely impossible.

The director has assembled an impressive cast with some of the (arguably) best national and Latin American actors. All of them are flawless, playing their roles with a mostly puzzling naturality that makes the movie flow wonderfully. I bet they enjoyed themselves a lot while they were part of this film.

With all this elements, the success or failure of "A Pistol In Each Hand" resides on the strength of the five stories. The first one, with Eduard Fernández and Leonardo Sbaraglia starts the film on a very high note. Both actors do have a splendid "interpretative duel" in which they play a hide & seek game just to reveal how fuc*** they are. The following story benefits of (another) excellent performance from Javier Cámara, with a very hard role to play, a character exposing his feelings so much he's just on the verge of being pathetic, being convincingly responded by a puzzled Clara Segura. Next comes the central piece of the film, which might be its more powerful. Being the most "dramatic" story of the lot, in the hands of other actors/directors it could have been a very embarrassing moment, but thanks to the gigantic performances of Luis Tosar and Ricardo Darín, it justifies alone viewing the film.

Unfortunately, the last two stories aren't quite remarkable. The fourth story, let's say the most related with sex, is by far the weakest, despite Candela Peña and Eduardo Noriega. The final "chapter" uses double couples and is more rewarding thanks to the work of Leonor Watling and Cayetana Guillén-Cuervo, but its quite simplistic in comparison with the rest of the stories, leaving Jordi Mollà and Alberto San Juan little room to develop their characters, that are built on that "man only talk about football" silly cliche.  

Despite the last two stories, "A Pistol In Each Hand" is a very recommendable film, with excellent acting and story development. Without achieving the greatness of "In the City" ("En la Ciudad") or "Fiction" (Ficció) it adds another noteworthy and coherent work on the career of director Cesc Gay.

SCORE: 6,75/10

Friday, January 4, 2013

Best Movies of (My) Year 2012


Bloodbuzzed is back after our little holidays in London. Before we begin our regular posts, there was a 2012 best-of list pending (you can check gigs, EPs, books, records and songs of the year), the best movies of the year. As we have passed the date, we'll made it quickly (you can click on the movie names for their full blog reviews). 2012 has been quite mediocre in what regards to films (in our opinion, of course), but thankfully, there has been several music documentaries that saved the general impression of the past 365 days. Anyway, here you have the top 10 movies seen on 2012 that deserve to be recognized and celebrated. Enjoy!

10. Bridesmaids
9. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Young Adult
7. London, the Modern Babylon
6. The Music Never Stopped
5. Lemmy
4. Your Sister's Sister
3. The Ides of March
2. End of the Century: the Story of The Ramones
1. Searching For Sugar Man

Want to check last year's movie list? Just click here