The oft-threatened debut album from Memphis punk/garage favorites Chinamen will finally see the light of day this year, after much anticipation from the area's underground music community.
The self-titled effort was recorded at acclaimed local musician/producer Toby Vest's (of The Third Man, The Bulletproof Vests, etc.) Hi/Lo Recordings studio, and accurately captures the band's raunchy, explosive and highly catchy brand of rock 'n' roll.
Physical copies of the album in the form of vinyl LPs will be available later this year, and the band will stage a record release party - once they can put together the necessary funds for mass replication. In the meantime, however, they've very quietly made it available for digital consumption on a pay-what-you-can basis.
To listen to and/or download the new Chinamen album before its available in stores, go here.
Ladies and gentlemen, please return your tray tables to their upright and locked positions. We're approaching our landing for this week of Academy Award revelry. We didn't all survive the perilous journey (namely, Melissa Leo), but those who did can say they're stronger for it. This week Flyer writers Chris Herrington and Greg Akers have examined the Screenplays, Animated/Editing/Cinematography, the Supporting Players, and the Lead Players. Today the experts turn their attention to the biggest categories, Best Director and Best Picture.
Nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Ethan & Joel Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)
GREG AKERS: Hooper won the Directors Guild Award, which makes him a serious contender. But I'm putting my money on David Fincher and his brilliant work on The Social Network. Remember when the idea of him making a Facebook movie with Justin Timberlake was at the least bizarre and sounded like a terrible idea? Vindication.
Should Win: All of these directors deserve to be nominated except for Hooper, whose movie is more about the performance than the visuals. David Fincher should win, hands down, but I respect the work done by Aronofsky, Russell, and the Coens. They've all done work I like more, though. (So has Fincher, but that's another matter.)
The odds-on favorite for Best Picture: The King's Speech
Got Robbed: This is easy. Perplexingly, Christopher Nolan has never been nominated for a Best Director Oscar. I'll get into Inception again when we discuss Best Picture, but I think even the most confused or antipathetic of Inception's detractors have to give props to the significant technical achievement that the movie is. In light of his filmography — particularly The Dark Knight and Memento — Inception is clearly Nolan's vision. It's the best movie yet by one of the best directors there is. (And I feel no need to qualify that statement.)
See the joke? You know the kid's Puerto Rican because he's got a switchblade.
The long Oscar endurance race that began on Monday is entering the home stretch. Today, with our penultimate installment, Flyer film writers Chris Herrington and Greg Akers are gazing at the lead Actress and Actor categories. Who will and should win and who got robbed? Read on.
Nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).
CHRIS HERRINGTON: "Oscar buzz" tells us this is a two-person race between Bening and Portman, and given that hers is a more central and more showy performance in a somewhat more high-profile film, I'm saying the person that Will Win is Natalie Portman.
Should Win: Rabbit Hole is one of the few nominated films that I didn't manage to see, so I can't comment on Kidman. As for Bening, she's good but I thought Julianne Moore had both the more substantial role and better performance in The Kids Are All Right. And I think Portman is quite effective in Black Swan and won't complain when she wins. But for me this comes down to Lawrence and Williams. The former is perfect in Winter's Bone, but it feels like alchemy that may not be repeated. Michelle Williams — as we've seen in Brokeback Mountain and Wendy & Lucy — is the real deal. While her co-star in Blue Valentine, Ryan Gosling, never lets you forget that he's acting, Williams never lets you catch her performing. Her naturalism is pure poetry.
Got Robbed:Williams gave one of my three favorite lead female performances of last year. The other two are, unsurprisingly, not on this slate of nominees. One is Hye-Ja Kim, a South Korean TV icon who apparently tweaks her persona as the disturbingly dedicated title character in Bong Joon-Ho's Mother. The other is Lesley Manville, a longtime regular in Mike Leigh's company of great actors who finally gets her spotlight in Another Year, where she is unnervingly good as a very difficult character.
On this we agree: Lesley Manville in Another Year was "robbed":
Production will begin in June. No word yet on where it will be shot, or who will be in it. Universal Pictures will make the film, to be written and directed by Greengrass. Scott Rudin (The Social Network and True Grit) is producing.
We kicked this always-longer-than-intended annual shindig off Monday, when Flyer film writers Greg Akers and Chris Herrington hashed out the screenplay nominations for Sunday's Oscar awards. Yesterday we took the Animated, Editing, and Cinematography categories by the horns. Today, the back-and-forth swings over to the Supporting Actor and Actress categories.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech).
CHRIS HERRINGTON: Pretty good group of nominees here, really, but as far as who Will Win: It looks like a two-man race between Bale and Rush. Bale's performance is begging for a statue, but I feel like the ardor (Really? Apparently so.) for The King's Speech will manifest itself most strongly in the acting categories, so I'm picking Geoffrey Rush. Then again, I'm terrible at predicting this stuff.
Should Win: I have positive feelings for all these performances, even, much to my surprise, Rush, whose turn is less showy and sentimental than I expected. But this is a pretty easy choice for me: John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter's Bone. He's fierce, taciturn, and tough but unexpectedly complicated, and so much of the movie plays out in his eye. But I wouldn't complain about Ruffalo or Bale winning either.
A little bit of Teardrop, John Hawkes in Winter's Bone:
My Friday at the Folk Alliance started at the Stax Academy where students were introduced to the traditions of sacred steel and invited to participate in a Jam session.
David Bromberg's a grammy-nominated musician who's played for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
Today, in day two in the Oscar tête-à-tête between Chris Herrington and Greg Akers — Memphis' version of Bernard-Henri Lévy and Michel Houellebecq — things simmer down now with three of the more minor categories.
Best Animated Feature
The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3
GREG AKERS: These are three excellent films. How to Train Your Dragon is a tons-of-fun actioner that's actually a little thrilling at times. I'm not a huge fan of Jay Baruchel's voice, but you've got to like any animated kid's movie that doesn't make pop-culture references ad nauseam. The Illusionist is a near-perfect little work that's got the soul of a silent film in it. But Toy Story 3 Will Win by like 4 million votes.
Should Win: Toy Story 3 was really fantastic. It's an enormous entertainment that's about something (mortality) and is affecting (who didn't tear up at the end?). It's possible that Pixar has bought my soul from Beelzebub, and that's why I cry at every Pixar movie they've made since Wall-E. That said, hands down The Illusionist should win. It's every bit as enjoyable as Toy Story 3, and considering its cinematic pedigree, its budget, and its relatively slight marketplace footprint, The Illusionist is pound-for-pound the greater achievement.
What's that third Best Animated Film nominee you haven't heard of? It's The Illusionist:
Got Robbed: These categories with less than five nominees ook me out. Like a goose walked over my grave. No one got robbed, but it'd be nice if they filled the category out with Tangled (which I liked) and Despicable Me (which I didn't see but people like).
For the past two years, Flyer film writers Chris Herrington and Greg Akers have held palaver over the ultimate #FirstWorldProblems: who will and who should win the Oscars, and who got snubbed. Well, those kooky members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences went and nominated a whole new slate of movies and performances from 2010. This demands our attention.
And if it demands our attention, it demands it in a five-part series, running through Friday, rounding up the major Oscar categories.
Let's start with the screenplays.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone
GREG AKERS: Since there may be no bigger slam dunk of the night, I'll keep this short: Will Win: The Social Network (by Aaron Sorkin).
Should Win: Co-sign with the lock. The Social Network's script is dynamite. It's but one element that makes the movie great, but it deserves the lavish praise it gets. Of the other nominees, 127 Hours is the weakest, though it at least tries to contextualize what brought a man to get his arm stuck in the earth. Toy Story 3 was another wonderful Pixar film, though I don't know that what makes it work is its script so much as some kind of alchemical emotional voodoo. True Grit has grown on me the more I've thought about it, and much of what I attribute its success is in the Coen brothers' script. Two long scenes of dialogue — Rooster in the courtroom and Mattie bartering about horses — are classic Coen entertainment. Winter's Bone was an excellent film that I'm happy to see get recognized. Jennifer Lawrence is great, but she gets the cues for her steely resolve from the script.
The audacious opening of The Social Network:
Fresh off an unlikely Grammy win and duel performance that thrilled many and perplexed many more, Montreal's Arcade Fire appear set to make their Memphis debut at the Orpheum Theatre Thursday, April 28th.
The concert is not yet listed on the Orpheum site or on Ticketmaster, but the date was included on a concert itinerary sent out by the band's publicist this evening.
The band, whose last album for vaunted North Carolina indie Merge Records, The Suburbs, debuted atop the Billboard album chart, may be second only to Kanye West as the most critically acclaimed pop act of the past few years.
Here they are, performing the Suburbs standout "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" on Saturday Night Live:
This week, local modern/jam-rock scene veterans Copper Possum self-released their highly-anticipated debut CD, Coordinates.
The record, which was recorded in town at Young Avenue Sound by acclaimed local musician/producer Jacob Church, finds the band peppering in elements of funk, jazz and psychedelia into their well-seasoned rock groove, and should please both longtime fans that have been following the band since its formation in 2001 and new fans alike.
"It was an amazing experience (making the record)," says Copper Possum drummer/vocalist Graham Winchester. "It was surreal recording the songs, because we have had some of them since 10th grade or so, but some of them we wrote quite recently. That’s part of how we came to the name Coordinates - it appropriately refers to all the different places, times, and people that have made this first record possible. The album is a celebration of the coming together of all these different elements to create one body of work."
Over the Rhine may have headlined the opening night of this year's Folk Alliance Conference but Memphis artists were well represented. Here's a small taste of what I took in between 9 p.m. and midnight.
Nancy Apple hosted her weekly pickin'-party in the Marriott's Trolley Stop Cafe.
The annual International Folk Alliance Conference kicks off this week in downtown Memphis, and while most of the action is restricted to conference registrants, there's a nice selection of stuff open to the public.
The biggest open event is the conference's official "Public Night," happening tonight at the downtown Marriott, with twin-bill concerts happening concurrently at seven different rooms on the hotel's second-floor meeting area. The lineup is heavy with local folk/roots stalwarts, including Deering & Down and Sid Selvidge pairing up in the Chattanooga room and, perhaps most interestingly, The Bo-Keys and Amy LaVere playing in the Nashville Room. But the Public Night will also feature Mississippi songwriter Paul Thorn, Texas blues musicians Ruthie Foster, and Ohio folk-pop band Over the Rhine in the Marriott's Heritage 4 Ballroom. Tickets to the Folk Alliance's Public Night are $15 and the doors open at 7 p.m. For a full lineup and more info, go here.
Over the Rhine:
Both Memphis entrants advanced out of the two-day quarterfinal round of the International Blues Challenge and will compete in semifinal competition tonight.
Valerie June is representing Memphis in the solo/duo competition and will be one of 32 acts competing tonight for eight spots in Saturday's finals. June's semi-final heat will be at Silky O'Sullivan's at 6 p.m.
On the band side, locals Vince Johnson & the Plantation Allstars are one of 44 acts competing for eight spots in Saturday's finals. They'll be playing tonight at 8:40 p.m. at B.B. King's Blues Club.
For a full schedule of tonight's semi-finals, go here.