Monday

In Memoriam

Mount Eerie's was the most low-key show I've ever attended, including those of far less accomplished and well-known artists (see, e.g., this excellent piece in The Atlantic). First off, Elverum was manning his own merch table in the lobby. I wasn't necessarily planning on buying anything, but when I saw that it was him, I kind of felt bad and bought a lovely book of his photos (taken all over the world, but somehow all looking like the Pacific Northwest) and he graciously signed it. Then, although there were unnamed "special guests" slated to perform, he took the stage just an hour after doors, with no opener at all. He played all of Now Only, most of A Crow Looked at Me (though unfortunately not "Soria Moria"), nothing pre-Crow, thanked the audience for "all this attention," and left. We tried to cheer for an encore – which felt slightly odd in that context – but he didn't come back out. I noticed that he was scheduled to play some music festival in Everett, Washington the next afternoon, so perhaps he just wanted to get back down across the border that night? Or maybe he doesn't think his current material lends itself to the ordinary, expected format of the rock concert? (As he humorously, surreally puts it on Now Only's title track: "I made these songs, and then the next thing I knew / I was standing in the dirt, under the desert sky at night / outside Phoenix at a musical festival / that had paid to fly me in to play these death songs to a bunch of young people on drugs / standing in the dust, next to an idling bus / with Skrillex inside and the sound of subwoofers in the distance.") In any case, his deeply understated presence/performance made a more poignant, lingering impression than more of a proper concert-event would have made.

Thursday

How Soon Is Now?

Now Only is just as devastating, and nearly as pristinely austere, as A Crow Looked at Me. Adjectives like "honest" and "earnest" are thrown around an awful lot in discussing art, but Phil Elverum's new records are so rigorously frank they cut right down to the bone. Yet, where last year's felt raw and still very much in medias res, this year's follow-up feels more – for lack of a better word – circumspect. Its title may pointedly refer to the album's ad hoc, impermanent status (more "working through," reflection from a different angle, etc.) but, Elverum seems to suggest, it's not only this music that's ephemeral--everything is, "always so close to not existing at all," as he aptly put it on the last one. Both of these albums have that kind of rare power that makes most other things feel frivolous or inconsequential. Tomorrow night, we're going to see him perform some of these songs, and while I've heard them all numerous times, I still don't know quite what to expect.

Monday

When you walk through the garden...


Collateral (why use a title already associated with a well-known movie?) is unexpectedly excellent. Its premise sounds like a cross between The Killing and The Fall, but in execution, it's closer to a miniature, British version of The Wire. At one point in this four-episode BBC2 miniseries, one character says to another: "People don't trust institutions anymore." It's inevitably a bit on the nose, yet, by that point in the show, it also feels earned, as a direct summation of Collateral's David Simonesque central themes. Collateral doesn't just tell us that institutions--governments, political parties, the police, the Church--fail people, but shows in persuasive, vividly realized detail how and why they do so, and what the real-world implications of these failures of service and representation are for the lives of individual people. As in The Wire, what prevents these ideas from ever feeling didactic is pretty good writing and really good acting. Carey Mulligan, always terrific, has probably never been better, but the rest of the show's large ensemble cast is equally strong. The expanding-web-of-interconnections structure that writer-creator David Hare favors is here only minimally schematic and forced, largely because all the characters pulled into his web are so interesting and fully fleshed-out and dynamically played, from the Shadow Cabinet MP at odds with party orthodoxy to the lesbian priest and her young Vietnamese lover to the arrogant, semi-racist MI5 agent swooping in on the local cops' investigation. Right, it's that kind of show, but--trust me, really--it's so much better than it sounds on the page, and at four hours, it doesn't overextend its myriad plot threads or overstay its welcome. My only complaint is that they could've come up with a more distinctive title for a show this good.

Tuesday

You can go with this or you can go with that

Wow, this Rosenbaum review of the Flintstones movie is almost eerily prescient, in several respects; however correct he was in 1994, his remarks (apply them now to the Comic-Book Franchise Reboot Movie of the Month, or, for that matter, to The Shape of Water!) seem even more spot-on in 2018.(And Umberto Eco's quotation about Casablanca is just fantastic.)
Come on, summer

Saturday

Oscar predictions

For what it's worth (I mostly just hope Dear Basketball wins):

PICTURE
Will win: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should win: Get Out
Should've been nominated: A Quiet Passion; The Florida Project

DIRECTOR
Will win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Should win: Jordan Peele, Get Out or Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Terence Davies, A Quiet Passion; Sean Baker, The Florida Project

ACTRESS
Will win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards...
Should win: Meryl Streep, The Post
Should've been nominated: Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion; Kim Minhee, On the Beach at Night Alone; Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper

ACTOR
Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Should win: Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards...
Should win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Should've been nominated: Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Thursday

Policy: 2018

This is some seriously dystopian shit.

Monday

Because the music that they constantly play / it says nothing to me about my life

When Black Mirror is good, it's superlative.
When Black Mirror is sweet, it's totally disarming.

Thursday

Pop-Kerr 2020

If the whole non-politician-celebrities-being-presidents thing is a harbinger of things to come and not just an historical aberration, I can't think of a better prospective ticket than Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, both of whom really, truly get it.

Oh man, I miss the Obamas so, so, so much!

Tuesday

Has there ever been a better, more delightfully random ending to a TV episode?

(Yes, I'm still completely obsessed with this show.)

(rough translation:
Greenland, "Land of Men," is an island offshore of the American continent, located in the extreme north of the Atlantic Ocean.
The principal productive activities of Greenland are fishing for halibut and shrimp.
Greenlanders, like South Americans, are known throughout the world for their unbridled passion for dance.)

Saturday

Why do millennials dislike U2?


I mean, I get that Bono (very) often lowers himself to self-parody, and sometimes it's not intentional. I get that he tends to come across as pompous and self-important and kind of a prick (though young people like Kanye very much). I get that they're one of those bands that everyone is told they're supposed to like, and they've appeared on dozens of Rolling Stone covers. And because they've never broken up, they can't be missed in the same way as these 80s and 90s bands that reunite to much fanfare at Coachella or Glastonbury, prompting young people to "discover" their back-catalogues and buy their t-shirts. And, sure, it was kind of annoying when that album just appeared in everyone's iTunes (though the album wasn't bad, actually, if one bothered to listen before deleting).

But, all that said, they were (and sometimes still are) stupendously fucking good.

The early records are so full of real, palpable, complicated spiritual and political yearning, and the songs are mostly great, too.

Achtung Baby still sounds fantastic, start to finish. Listen to "Acrobat" right now; it's one of the best rock and roll songs ever recorded, and such a caustic, mordant self-critique, with Bono basically flagellating himself for being hypocritical and for not being better than he is.

Even the later records have good things on them. All That You Can't Leave Behind has held up especially well, but none of them are disposable cash-ins. U2 are four consummate professionals who are very good at what they do, but they still take chances and do weird and personal stuff when the mood strikes them.

Tuesday

Trees. Mountains. Islands.


I finally listened to this; it's great, and (appropriately) pretty much the saddest record I've ever heard. So beautiful, though, and -- after having lived out here for over a decade -- I'm not sure there's any musical artist who better evokes the very specific feeling of the Pacific Northwest. He's like Emily Carr, or Gus Van Sant.
I used to be really into the Microphones (High School Me listened constantly to The Glow, Pt. 2 and It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water), but I kind of lost track of him after the Mount Eerie record and the band-name switch. So, weirdly, this is the first time I've listened much (or maybe at all?) to Elv(e)rum since moving out to the Pac. NW, and I'm connecting to it (the new stuff and old stuff) in a different, possibly more rewarding way than I did years ago.

Sunday

At the Edge of Empire

Lucretia Martel's latest film, Zama, is a masterpiece--a strange, immersive, genuinely extraordinary experience. I was going to write something about it, and might still when time permits, but it certainly wouldn't (or won't) be as interesting and insightful as this piece, which should be read together with Film Comment's interview with Martel.

Tuesday

What's in Your Head?

If memory serves, this was the fourth cassette tape I ever bought. But it might have been third, or maybe fifth, sixth, or seventh. Ten and Nevermind were first and second, respectively. Then, in some order: Doggystyle, this Cranberries record (I listened to "Zombie" so much), The Downward Spiral, In Utero, and II by Boyz II Men. I'm confident these were the first seven. At the time, all of them sounded new and exciting, but I can specifically remember how Dolores O'Riordan's voice sounded like nothing I'd ever heard. In the many years since, I've heard countless voices that (not coincidentally) sound more or less like Kurt Cobain's, Trent Reznor's, and (especially) Eddie Vedder's, yet none like O'Riordan's (Shakira, perhaps, comes closest). This fact, coupled with my losing track of the Cranberries after that album that had "Salvation" on it, really freezes their music, tying it – in my mind – inextricably to a very specific moment in time and to my earliest awareness of a thing called popular (or in the language of the time, "alternative") culture. No trifecta of hits by any band sounds more utterly, quintessentially "90s" than "Zombie," "Dreams," and "Linger" -- I must've bought Everybody Else Is Doing It... very soon after those first seven -- and they are still affecting songs when you're lucky enough to hear them in the grocery store, though who can concentrate on picking out healthy lunchbox snacks when something as arresting and vituperative as "Zombie" is on the radio?

Sunday

Our "Ballot"


Teresa and I put our heads together, coming up with picks we agreed upon as the best of 2017. Inevitably, some of my favorites and some of hers didn't make the cut--in some cases because of films that one of us didn't see, in others because we disagreed (e.g., she was less enamored of Dawson City: Frozen Time than I am, I refuse to cite an 18-episode TV series as a "film").

Here's what we came up with; "winners" pictured.

FILM

Call Me by Your Name
The Florida Project
Get Out
On the Beach at Night Alone
The Square

DIRECTOR

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Olivier Assayas – Personal Shopper
Sean Baker – The Florida Project
Ruben Östlund – The Square
Jordan Peele – Get Out

ACTRESS

Kim Minhee – On the Beach at Night Alone
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
Saorise Ronan – Lady Bird
Kristen Stewart – Personal Shopper
Allison Williams – Get Out

ACTOR

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out


SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Elle Fanning – The Beguiled
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Elisabeth Moss – The Square
Bria Vinaite – The Florida Project

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Colin Farrell – The Beguiled
Jake Gyllenhaal – Okja
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me by Your Name
Pruitt Taylor Vince – The Devil’s Candy

SCREENPLAY

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Bong Joon-ho & Jon Ronson – Okja
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Jordan Peele – Get Out


CINEMATOGRAPHY

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Sofia Bohdanowicz – Maison du Bonheur
Yorick Le Saux – Personal Shopper
Philippe Le Sourd – The Beguiled
Alexis Zabe – The Florida Project


Saturday

TV

I usually don't bother with doing a TV best-of, but given that this past year produced two of the most extraordinary seasons of television I've ever seen, I decided to post a list.

01. The Young Pope
02. Twin Peaks: The Return
03. The Keepers
04. The Handmaid's Tale
05. Game of Thrones
06. Riverdale
07. Master of None
08. Stranger Things
09. She's Gotta Have It
10. Colbert/Kimmel/Samantha Bee/John Oliver/Seth Meyers