Last night, surrealist singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock officially closed the week-long Indie Memphis Film Festival with a sold-out concert at Studio on the Square.
After a comedic entrance through the exit door, Hitchcock strapped on an acoustic guitar and launched into a performance that spanned more than an hour and included favorites such as "Bass" and "Raymond Chandler Evening," both from 1986's Element of Light. His musical yarns and hilarious in between chatter veered from subject to subject, touching on ants, George W. Bush's DNA, the Pyramid, Johnny Cash's train dreams, Brian Epstein's sexual proclivities and the afterlife.
You can listen in here.
The weather looks to be dry but cool, so dress warm and maybe bring a blanket, but definitely show up. This should be a great event and, crucially, could be a precursor to future film events in Overton Park. We'll see you there.
If you need further enticement, a couple of clips of what you would be missing by staying at home:
It should come as no surprise that Lovely by Surprise, Kirt Gunn's film about a fictional creation that leaps from the page to minimize a child's tragedy, is as lovely to listen to as it is to watch. In his 42 years on earth Gunn has worn many hats, many wigs, some housecoats, and at least one pair of support hose. While living in Memphis in the 1990's the musically gifted filmmaker, who's blown his harmonica alongside Memphis legends like The Fieldstones and B.B. King, fronted The Delta Queens, a blues-rock quartet known for dressing up like little old ladies and tearing down the house. Although none of the Delta Queens' songs made it onto the soundtrack Gunn is deeply connected to his hometown's music scene, which is represented in the film by Shelby Bryant, formerly of the Clears.
“I wanted to have these kind of jarring musical transitions,” Gunn says, explaining how each artist is used in very specific ways to move viewers back and forth between his film's the three distinct storylines. Here's a quick rundown of the Memphis, California, New York, and New Orleans musicians that create Lovely by Surprise's distinctive soundscape. (More after the jump)
Moving into the 20s with a diverse assortment of entries and probably the only place where R. Kelly and Taylor Swift need to be hanging out.
I like all their albums, but I still hear that sense of becoming on this one. From my initial year-end write-up:
On the debut full-length from the best of the current batch of New York rock bands, Nick Zinner's attention-deficit-disorder guitar spars with Karen O's Tourette's syndrome vocals in a race to finish each song — before someone cuts off the electricity or the world ends, whichever comes first — while drummer Brian Chase tries (successfully) to keep it all from flying apart. The result is a sad, sexy, desperate, open-hearted insta-classic and also the rare CD-age album that picks up momentum as it goes — becoming more confident, more expansive, and more vulnerable as spontaneous noise-tunes evolve into full-fledged songs.
Song Sample: "Y Control"
An abbreviated version of our daily guide as the fest winds down:
Pick of the Day: Hometowner Shorts #2 (6:45 p.m.)
Scrambled Eggs is the only one of the bunch we've been able to screen. Greg Akers weighs in:
Scrambled Eggs is a short film suffused with great ideas and visuals, solid acting, and vivid moods. Directed by C. Scott McCoy and written by and starring Adam Remsen, the film is about a man dealing with depression and malaise in the transition between being married (and walking in on his cheating wife) and whatever comes next. Remsen’s character befriends the pizza guy (Brett Magdovitz), has some bad dates at the Cove, and connects with a girl over the Fems. (The film also features music by the Ohio Briars and Pisshorse.) Notable especially for a nice one-take featuring bottle rockets, cigarettes, and beer, and the indelible image of a wedding ring on a golf tee, Scrambled Eggs packs a punch for such a short run time. — Greg Akers
As you might recall, bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes unexpectedly quit Reatard's band last week. Since then, it appears that Jay has scrapped his West Coast dates, including an appearance at the Scion Garage Fest, slated for Portland, Oregon this weekend.
At the Beauty Shop, Reatard — who was rolling with Evil Army frontman Rob Evil and Oscars drummer Abe White — said that he couldn't comment on record, although he made this recent statement to the folks at British music mag NME:
"All the bullshit aside, our band is a really easy one to be in. Ride in the van, listen to jams, load in gear, eat great food, drink free beer, get paid well, load out, go to the hotel, repeat. I honestly love [Pope and Hayes] no matter what my dumb Twitter post says. They kinda quit out of nowhere, me and the tour manager thought it was a joke!"
What's not a joke:
Here's Your Future: Jay Reatard, an unsolicited bit of advice from Washington Post writer David Malitz.
In the words of Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) from Black Book (one of the very best movies of the past decade): "Will it never end?"
Now, Corduroy Wednesday, I'mma let you finish, but last night Alloy Orchestra had one of the best screenings of all time! The Boston-based trio performed their original scores live last night with screenings of new prints of Buster Keaton's classic action-comedy The General and Dziga Vertov's beautiful experimental film The Man With a Move Camera. It wasn't a sellout (boo!), but the crowds were pretty good for both screenings. And those that were there were rewarded with a dazzling experience. If it wasn't the best filmgoing experience I've ever had, it was certainly among the best. And I heard a similar sentiment from many others in attendance.
Now, onto today's schedule with a quick, automatic-writing-style guide
Pick of the Day: The Conversion (8:45 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.)
The film is the product of the filmmaking trio Corduroy Wednesday, lead by director Edward Valibus Phillips. The first screening tonight sold out long ago. As of late last night there were still some tickets left for the 9:15 show. (Preceding The Conversion is the short doc Chasing Daylight, a "making of" feature about the upcoming local feature Daylight Fades, from two-time Hometowner Award winner Brad Ellis.)
The Indie Memphis Film Festival had some schedule conflicts with its initial encore screenings slate.
The readjusted schedule is here:
Monday, Oct 12th:
1:00 pm — Wheedle’s Groove
3:30 pm — Easier With Practice
6:30 pm - Family Matter (documentary short) screening with William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe
Tuesday, Oct. 13th:
1:00 pm - Ghost Bird
3:00 pm - Stingray Sam
3:30 pm — Shooting Robert King
4:30 pm - The American Astronaut
Wednesday, Oct. 14th:
1:00 pm - Invisible Girlfriend
3:00 pm - That Evening Sun
3:30 pm - Luckey
Thursday, Oct. 15th:
12:00 pm - The Wild And Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia
2:30 pm - Children Of Invention
Pick of the Day: Alloy Orchestra performs with The General (6 p.m.) and Man With a Movie Camera (8 p.m.)
Director Edward Valibus Phillips and his Corduroy Wednesday crew (Erik Morrison and Benjamin Rednour) took the Hometowner Award for best local feature for their web series The Conversion, which will debut in its entirety at the festival Tuesday night with screenings at 8:45 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. (The earlier screening is sold out. Some tickets remained at press time for the latter screening.)
"We figured we'd cast everyone in Memphis in the move. That way they'd all buy tickets to the screening and we'd sell it out," Phillips cracked, accepting the award. "It worked!"
On a more serious note, Phillips praised the festival and took note of what has become a significant moment in the development of many Memphis moviemakers. "For a local filmmaker, Indie Memphis is the first Everest you climb," Phillips said.
The Special Jury Awards given by the Hometowner jury were awarded to Ellis Fowler's local dance doc Memphis Movement — Jukin': The Urban Ballet (screening Monday at 6 p.m.), for "visual storytelling" to Kenneth Coker for his animated short Iwa (which screens Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. as part of a local shorts program), for "someone to watch" to Ben Siler for his short The Non-Invasion (screening Monday at 8:30 p.m. as part of a local shorts program), and for "portrayal of living history" to Jonathan Epstein's documentary I Am A Man: From Memphis, A Lesson In Life.
The awards at this year's Indie Memphis Film Festival will be presented tonight at a party at the Hi-Tone Cafe. Shortly afterward, Indie Memphis will announce encore bookings for next week. Check back here late tonight for all that info. But before that, there's a full slate of festival activity today at both Studio on the Square and the Brooks Museum of Art. Our picks for the day's best bets. As always, all screenings at Studio unless otherwise noted:
Pick of the Day: The Hand of Fatima (5:45 p.m.)
Filmmaker Augusta Palmer investigates her late father, the renowned, Memphis-connected rock critic Robert Palmer. Chris Davis goes in-depth on The Hand of Fatima here. Palmer is scheduled to attend. Prior to the screening, at 4:50 p.m., former members of the Memphis alt-rock band the Hellcats will perform outside at the "Festival Cafe" under the name "Friends of Bob Palmer."
Picks of the Day: Pontypool (midnight) and Zombie Girl: The Movie (12:30 p.m.)
Pontypool is perfect for its midnight movie time slot. The film is a claustrophobic tour de force, one of the best films to screen in Memphis this year. Set in the titular small town in Ontario, Pontypool premises a talk-radio station as the hub for a strange news day that begins with reports of a hostage situation and evolves into what could be a zombie-type event.
The film is set entirely in the radio station, and as bizarre and terrifying calls come in throughout the morning, the characters register a confusion and fear that seems palpably real-world. (Stephen McHattie is magnificent as the on-air host Grant Mazzy, and Lisa Houle is heartbreakingly good as the show producer Sydney Briar.) With its insular vision and reimagining of the zombie trope of undead spread, the film is brilliant to the end, when its opening utterances come flooding back into your mind. Pontypool is something like The War of the Worlds as if imagined by Arthur Miller.
A mix of heavyweights (White Stripes, D'Angelo) and personal faves (Amy Rigby, Art Brut) as the countdown continues.
It's sad that Rigby's bid at a Nashville songwriting career failed, because nobody writes sharper songs about love and sex on the wrong side of 40. Oh well, country radio's loss can be your gain. On her best album since her career-making 1996 debut Diary of a Mod Housewife, Rigby is all over the place: a new husband's ex-wife, her identification with Rasputin ("In 1981, I withstood similar attack/I got hit but I came back"), a dream about Joey Ramone, old flings, needy men, that exasperating thing called love. Her fizzy voice is as charmingly limited as ever and, as always, bolstered by bull's-eye phrasing.
Song Sample: "I Don't Wanna Talk About Love No More"
But Palmer's film begins — charmingly and most unexpectedly — like any proper Disney classic, with the animated image of a big red story book that opens to tell a tragedy-laced fairy tale about a young woman who follows a trail of crumbs from the juke joints of North Mississippi to a secluded Moroccan village looking for home, harmony, and something like a happy ending.
“That's a pretty fair description,” says Palmer, who briefly attended Rhodes college in the ’80s and holds a PhD in cinema studies from NYU's Tish School of the Arts.