Archives for posts with tag: review


This album is an excellent example of why you never need to listen to Lana Del Rey.

Three young folks, playing lush music, evoking mood mood mood. Hannah Reid’s voice is gorgeous, and her timing superb. The rest of the music is all about the atmosphere in which you most want to encounter such a voice. And it works. This is cool. Not to be confused with fake, manufactured cool. If You Wait actually has heart.

Recommended. (To think, this started not in London, but in Stab City! Hats off to you, Notts!)

Now I’m going to go back to listening to “Strong.” Excuse me.

UPDATE: In addition to “Strong,” “Wasting My Young Years,” and “Sights” are beautiful. Sweet in the middle.



In listening to the fourth record from The Shins, I didn’t expect a great change from their previous, Wincing the Night Away, and that expectation was fair. Port of Morrow carries on in the comfort zone that James Mercer has established for himself as an artist. The songs are melodic, fully orchestrated, and everything carries enough sheen to feel like the work of polish was given its due. And yet throughout most of the record, Mercer’s voice sits close in the mix, so we can feel like he is singing to us from a singer-songwritery stool a few feet away. In general the sounds chosen to accompany him are a mix of classic (think electric guitars with plate reverb) and modern (synths and careful drum-tracking), as we’ve come to expect from The Shins. Port of Morrow doesn’t feature any of the unquestionably retro tendencies of Chutes Too Narrow, and few of the folksy tendencies of Oh, Inverted World. No, this is, like the record before it, an amalgam of those aspects with a studio rock sensibility. And, shit, the songs are just great. Try not to sing along with the chorus of “For a Fool” for example…a difficult proposal after the refrain has come around just once. Besides the general strength of melody and the character of Mercer’s vocals, the lyrics are also as intelligent as we’d expect. They aren’t great poetry, but they sound like Keats next to the kind of lyrics that we find in most popular music today.

Overall it’s a great record, and one I recommend highly, especially if you’ve enjoyed the more recent work Mercer has put out. It even has a song that I don’t particularly like, the final and title track. Which, in my mind, is the sign of many great records: it serves as an anchor against the highs you feel throughout the rest of the record, making them richer.

James Mercer is a gift, and even if his music evolves slowly, it would be a pleasure to listen to him sing the same note over and over.


The film that made everyone seasick!

This is a difficult one to watch, but partially because of how good it is. The ethnographer filmmakers took a bunch of GoPro cameras on commercial fishing boats and give us unique view of the industry (and livelihood of the fishermen). There is no narrative and almost no dialogue. The shots are disorienting, often dark, full of sea spray and fish guts. This film contains some of the most incredible and mad images I’ve ever seen. I am almost jealous of what I saw, even though I came close to turning it off after twenty minutes. Patience is the watchword in so many ways.

I have no more desire for seafood.


I hated this film.

It’s just an extended apology for male violence, and would be so even if you took out all the rape. Yes, let’s be clear, Paul rapes Jeanne multiple times, not just in the scene with the butter. But even if we had removed the rape, Paul is a man who uses force to get what he wants, uses his body, and a few scenes of him crying doesn’t redeem him.

There are plenty of films with unredeemed, nasty characters in it, even plenty of films with rape in them, that are able to be stomached, sometimes even liked, because of how they treat the topic. I’m not for cinema that pretends rape doesn’t exist or that men never use force to take what they desire. But I can’t happily sit through an apology for it. Yes, sure, Paul is tortured, but that doesn’t excuse him, or the film that tries to make him its antihero. You can feel it, that Bertolucci loved this character. Not me.

Besides that: Brando speaking French is pure horror. Seventies faux-jazz saxophone. Mostly bad dialogue. And the playful side story of Jeanne’s cineaste fiancé, well it just reminds me of Godard playing with the cinema industry, but it’s not as good. There are some beautiful shots. Bertolucci should have stuck to that. And maybe made Maria Schneider all the film was really about. Maria Schneider walking through Paris, that would have been wonderful. But that’s not what we got. We got saxophone, rape, and a bullshit excuse for a resolution.

On last summary: fake French from Brando; fake jazz saxophone; fake arthouse cinema; fake pornography; real rape. I can’t wait to see another film, even a bad one, to get Last Tango in Paris.


Before Alfonso Cuarón got all grave on us (tee hee), he was making romantic comedies and they were rather good!

Here, in his first feature film, we have the story of an unlikely lothario, Tomás Tomás, who is careless in his affairs to the point of disregarding his personal safety as well as that of the women he seduces. This leads him into a series of very difficult situations, and as his life gets more complicated, he begins to realize that his lifestyle doesn’t serve him once he falls in love with his beautiful neighbor, Clarissa. Add in a whole bunch of other stuff and you’ve got it!

I imagine this film being made by a French team and starring Romain Duris and not being quite as good. The zany 90s feel of it (I seem to be catching quite a few 90s flicks in the recent months) is fun, and there are so many fine touches, such as jokes repeating like leitmotifs, that it’s endearing even as it ends up slightly predictable. I am regret having just enough Spanish to know that significant wordplay is going on, but without understanding what it might be. Sólo Con Tu Pareja may have the second best dream sequence of all time, though, after Dumbo. Ah wait. That’s a drunk scene, not a dream sequence.

[Cue Inexplicable Mexican Wrestler]

Let’s get serious, though: Cuarón is amazing. Even as this film feels like juvenilia, it’s very good quality for a 90s romantic comedy. If it had been the first of his films that I’d seen, I probably never would have guessed that he’d go on to make Children of Men, for example, and Sólo Con Tu Pareja does not come close to his other work, but I’m still happy to have seen it. I haven’t even had a chance to see Gravity yet and I love this director like Tomás loves Clarisa. I really hope he has a long and fruitful career. (His non-directorial production credits are also awesome…)

I just quickly read A.O. Scott’s NYTimes review of the film and I think he largely agrees with me. Good job, Anthony! Which reminds me, this film features one of the five most tasteless jokes I’ve ever seen in a film. Intriguing? I guess you’ll have to watch it, then, because I’m not going to tell you what it is! (Tee hee!)

Now I need to learn some Spanish. I want to know the exact language when Tomás asks Clarisa, “You feel an abyss between us?” And she answers, “Yes. A very small one.”

Alright, I’m off to look up every Claudia Ramírez film ever made.


How ideas get filtered through public consciousness will never cease to amaze me. Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle serves as a great example of how this can work. Freud writes a book that works at revising, if not completely correcting, the theoretical aspects of his psychology, specifically related to the relationships between ego, instinct, pleasure, life, and death. I might even call it slightly hesitant in its claims, and I don’t see anywhere in it that Freud takes an authoritative stance on these topics. It is meant to be, like much good science, the groundwork for future study.

The common cultural understanding, though, for people who haven’t read Freud, is that this is the book that argues for the death drive. The belief is always about the death drive, notably singular, and how this counteracts the pleasure principle. And yet, this is not what we find in Freud’s actual text. He does, in fact, introduce the idea of death instincts, certain tendencies toward a natural, organic death, that orient us with a certain…biological teleology. But these arguments are far from definitive, and far from being the whole content of the book. Much of Freud’s writing, here, is deeply speculative, and he devotes a significant amount of time showing how one thing can look like what would seemingly be its opposite: such as a death instinct that fights against death by external causes, thus looking like a survival instinct, so that it can properly reach its natural end. Suffice to say, in any case, that a famous book, as it exists in Jung’s collective unconscious (if it does), is always the sum of its text with the commentaries and adaptations that have followed it. Beyond the Pleasure Principle is “the death drive book,” insofar as we have made it so, not so much because Freud wrote it that way.

As for the ideas themselves, I won’t get into the gritty details. I didn’t read the book in that mode, anyway. I’ll simply say that Freud had a captivating mind, and as much in this text as in others. I particularly enjoyed his speculations on the isolated “vesicle,” developing and adapting to a world of stimuli, both within and without. At points I felt almost queasy, and that is a good thing. This translation by James Strachey, also, one of the accepted standards, appears good, even if I’m sure there are newer and, perhaps, more accurate translations available today. Altogether, I’m pleased to have finally had a chance to acquaint myself with this particular volume from Doctor Freud.


I’ve meant to read Jung for sometime now and I’m glad I finally did. This collection of essays serves as a nice primer to his mature thought and how he viewed his practice of psychology alongside those of his peers. While no essay goes into great depth about any topic or idea, notably his concept of archetypes, the general foundations seem to be present, particularly of his view of the psyche and the “collective unconscious.”

At points, reading these essays can feel a bit repetitive…

[Click here to read the rest of the review.]


I’ve learned that in the future (and in space, for that matter), it’s very much like on the Titanic: even as the ship sinks, the band never stops playing.

No really, someone please tell J.J. Abrams to let the string section take a rest once in a while, and I don’t mean just when the brass is blasting. The Star Trek universe has never been so sonorous! Okay, okay, jokes aside: the soundtrack in this film is overbearing on the same level as in Inception, and if you know me, you know that’s a pretty harsh criticism. Please, anyone, send a note to filmmakers everywhere: silence is amazing too. And where would a bit of silence be more appropriate than in a SPACE movie? Honestly, I wish Abrams and his imitators would trust the audience to have spontaneous emotional reactions on their own, rather than soundtracking us into it. Even in blockbuster scifi reboots, we are capable of a little finesse on the level of pathos. Give us some credit as an audience, J.J., please?

Aside from sound, this film is just fun. I enjoyed the writers’ moves to really give every character in a conflict a position that was at least somewhat reasonable. The acting wasn’t worth sending my mother an email over, but it was on par for big budget blockbusting. The special effects were gloriously over the top. And the story was enjoyable, with or without the nods to the Star Trek films of yore. I even laughed a little.

I admit, I had hoped that, true to its title, this film would have taken the Enterprise into darker realms, similar to when Alfonso Cuarón helped steer the Harry Potter film series into more troubling waters with The Prisoner of Azkaban. Perhaps I can still hope for this in future Star Trek instalments.

Simon Pegg: corny Scottish accent, but I loved it. You’re still on my Christmas card list.