OLDENBURG20 REVIEW: Buck Alamo [2020]

Pay attention to those colors and you can see the future. You have to imagine Death’s (Bruce Dern) been waiting to take Eli Cody aka Buck Alamo (Sonny Carl Davis) for quite some time. The Texas-based, self-proclaimed expert guitar picker speaks fondly of those benders on drugs and alcohol that left his life a shambles. He relates the fact he can barely remember what happened with a smile tinged by the regret of what might have been both for his career (success led to celebration and thus its dissolution) and…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: David Byrne’s American Utopia [2020]

Us and you. We open on an illuminated square with a table at its center: the stage from an overhead perspective of which the sold-out crowd at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre is never privy. That’s the appeal of a filmed performance. By setting up cameras and documenting David Byrne‘s 2019 stage show from every angle, director Spike Lee is able to present the minimalist aesthetics and artistry in a way that its original format can’t. And with a through-line message of inclusion and connection, that ability is necessary. Just look at…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Underplayed [2020]

Talent is everywhere. Opportunity isn’t. Like every industry built under the watchful eye of a global patriarchy, the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene is grossly tilted in favor of its male artists. And like many of those same industries, this fact exists despite the presence of women pioneers at the inception of electronic sound as a medium. For every Robert Moog that acknowledged their genius (he enlisted Clara Rockmore’s expertise to better the advancement of his synthesizer), there were unfortunately countless others like Don Buchla (who agreed to sponsor a…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Chihuo Quan Wang [Chasing Dream] [2019]

Don’t drown yourself in mistakes from the past. We live in an era where celebrity has become more about fame than talent as those wishing for adulation do what they can to mimic the greats that came before them without ever worrying about proving whether they possess an ounce of originality. You want to impress the judges on “American Idol”? Show them you can be Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna all at once. You want to be the talk of the fighting world by unleashing your strength in the Ultimate…

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REVIEW: ウィーアーリトルゾンビーズ [Wî â Ritoru Zonbîzu] [We Are Little Zombies] [2019]

Reality is too stupid to cry over. Hikari (Keita Ninomiya) has always been a “single player.” That’s what happens when you’re raised in an affluent household by parents who substitute gifts for affection thanks to them never being around. Videogames became the boy’s only outlet. They gave him comfort when bullies at school put him in lockers and when he found himself microwaving yet another vacuum-sealed bag of spaghetti-for-one within his perpetually empty apartment. They’re also the medium by which he interprets reality’s framework for everything that happens to him…

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REVIEW: Blood Machines [2020]

She’s between life and death. When a space vessel goes rogue, fleet commander Galdor (Walter Dickerson) tasks Captain Vascan (Anders Heinrichsen) and his co-pilot/mechanic Lago (Christian Erickson) with retrieving it. Shooting it down from space to crash land on an unknown planet proves this story’s beginning rather than its end as we discover the destination was hardly some random accident. No, it’s exactly where the ship was headed because it is the only place with inhabitants who know its plight. Unlike Vascan’s crude sadist who’s all too happy to destroy…

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REVIEW: Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl [2020]

There’s nothing silly about being a teenage girl. While Amy Goldstein‘s documentary Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl obviously centers upon its British rockstar subject’s unorthodox trajectory from Myspace sensation to “GLOW” actress, it also serves as an invaluably informative account of what it means to be a twenty-first century musician thanks to the industry’s ever-changing landscape. The simple fact that Kate Nash‘s career began because she had enough social media followers to turn record label heads is a product of that moment of time, but so too is her courage…

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REVIEW: Judy [2019]

What if I can’t do it again? Playwright Peter Quilter has stated that the original play (“Last Song of the Nightingale”) on which “End of the Rainbow” was modeled upon found its inspiration from an alcoholic male singer met while traveling with his partner on a cruise ship wherein the latter was also a performer. Because he changed his lead into a woman, however, everyone assumed the show was about a thinly-veiled Judy Garland. This reception led him to research the Wizard of Oz legend’s final year on earth and…

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REVIEW: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice [2019]

So I started looking for other things. Upon sitting down to Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman‘s documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, I had to ask myself why I knew her name. She’s obviously one of the biggest chart-hopping women to ever grace a stage and record music, but I couldn’t think of a single title to attribute to her in a way that correlated why I knew who she was without actually knowing who she was. Then “You’re No Good” started playing. Then came her cover of…

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REVIEW: Anima [2019]

Please let me know when you’ve had enough. When you’re Thom Yorke and well into a career with one of the most recognizable rock bands in the world (they self-release records on a “pay what you want” scale after all), you can think outside the box where advertising is concerned. So don’t be mistaken where his short film collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson is concerned. Anima is very much an advertisement for the album of the same name and Yorke himself as an artist about to tour. The same goes…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: III [2019]

No one said enough is enough. I’ve never been one to pay attention to lyrics. All I need is a good tune, complementary voice, and the joy their marriage instills. So I didn’t think twice when The Lumineers‘ latest single “Gloria” hit the radio. Its folk rock melody was as upbeat and fun as any of the other songs they’ve released like “Ho Hey” or “Ophelia.” Little did I know that the words Wesley Schultz put to Jeremiah Fraites‘ music depicted a dark scene of addiction—one very close to his…

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