Friday, October 16, 2009

Recap: Robyn Hitchcock at Indie Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 5:13 PM

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.

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Lucero: Live on NPR

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 10:45 AM

  • Alan Spearman
Short notice here, but Lucero, in the middle of their "Ramblin' Roadshow and Memphis Revue," are going to be performing live from Philadelphia on NPR at 11 a.m.

You can listen in here.

Reminder: Elvis and Lebowksi at Levitt Shell tonight

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 10:02 AM

Elvis Presley: Badass
  • Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.
  • Elvis Presley: Badass
The show will go on: Indie Memphis' double-feature of Elvis Presley's famous 1968 "comeback" NBC special (co-sponsored by Elvis Presley Enterprises) and the Coen brothers' shaggy cult comedy The Big Lebowski (co-sponsored by the Flyer) will happen at 7 p.m. tonight at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park. The screening is FREE!

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:

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Music of "Lovely By Surprise"

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 1:08 AM

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)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Best of the Decade: Music (30-28)

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 11:20 AM

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.


Album: Fever to Tell — Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Interscope, 2003)

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"

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Indie Memphis Daily: Wednesday Guide

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 10:47 AM

An abbreviated version of our daily guide as the fest winds down:

Pick of the Day: Hometowner Shorts #2 (6:45 p.m.)

Adam Remsen in Scrambled Eggs
  • Adam Remsen in Scrambled Eggs
Among the six local short films in this program are two award winners from this festival and two new films from past Hometowner Award feature-film winners. Ryan Parker's Woke Up Ugly won the jury award for best local short, while Kenneth Coker's Iwa won a special jury award for "visual storytelling." The program also features Family Tree by Kentucker Audley (Team Picture) and Scrambled Eggs from C. Scott McCoy (Automusik Can Do No Wrong).

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

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Unsolicited Advice for Jay Reatard

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 7:19 AM

Late Sunday morning, I ran into Jay Reatard outside the Beauty Shop, and he assured me that he's got everything under control for his European tour, which starts on October 28th.

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.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Indie Memphis Daily: Tuesday Guide

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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?"

The Alloy Orchestra: These guys are awesome!
  • The Alloy Orchestra: These guys are awesome!
I kid Indie Memphis, but as we enter Day 7 of a festival that will now stretch to 10 days, the goodness is starting to turn dedicated film fans bleary-eyed. The reason the festival is going an extra day now is that last week's planned Levitt Shell screening of Elvis Presley's 1968 "Comeback" television special and the Coen brothers' beloved The Big Lebowski has been rescheduled for its original rain date of this Friday, October 16th, with a 7 p.m. start. Indie Memphis organizers didn't want to commit to the date after the initial cancellation last week, but finally settled on it yesterday. The screening will mark a return to what used to be a regular fixture — movies in the park. It could also be a test run for future events, so, please Memphis, let's pack the place out.

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.)

A scene from The Conversion
  • A scene from The Conversion
This year's winner of the Hometowner Award for Best Local Feature, The Conversion is a 12-part, web-conceived series inspired by the recent analog-to-digital television conversion and by episodic television shows such as Lost and 24. The first nine installments have already debuted online, with full series showing for the first time here.

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.)

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Indie Memphis: New Encore Schedule

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 2:42 PM

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

Indie Memphis Daily: Monday Guide

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 9:15 AM

Pick of the Day: Alloy Orchestra performs with The General (6 p.m.) and Man With a Movie Camera (8 p.m.)

Buster Keaton in The General
  • Buster Keaton in The General
As far as I'm concerned this isn't just the pick of the day, it's the pick of the festival. The three-man Alloy Orchestra — Ken Winokur on clarinet, Mission of Burma guitarist Roger C. Miller on synthesizers, and Terry Donahue accordion, percussion, and musical saw — has built a niche writing and performing live scores for classic silent films. They were last at Indie Memphis in 2006 performing with The Phantom of the Opera. This year they return with two far superior films. The General is the signature film from brilliant silent-era comedian and physical performer Buster Keaton, who stars as a locomotive engineer in the Civil War-era South whose train is overtaken by Union spies. Man With a Movie Camera is a profoundly influential film from Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov. Essentially a series of city scenes captured by a newsreel cameraman, Vertov transforms the footage with an array of then-groundbreaking but now familiar editing and post-production tricks. These are both being screened on new 35 mm prints with Alloy's live accompaniment. As of press time, there were still some tickets available for both screenings. This is not to be missed — Chris Herrington

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Indie Memphis Film Fest: Award Winners/Encore Screenings

Posted By on Sun, Oct 11, 2009 at 9:52 PM

The Corduroy Wednesday crew (director Phillips, far left) took home the top Hometowner prize for The Conversion.
  • The Corduroy Wednesday crew (director Phillips, far left) took home the top Hometowner prize for The Conversion.
Awards for the 12th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival were given tonight at the Hi-Tone Café. Festival screenings continue through Thursday at Studio on the Square. Encore screenings were also announced, and are listed at the bottom of this post.

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.

Director Ryan Parker, hometowner winner for best short film with Woke Up Ugly.
  • Director Ryan Parker, Hometowner winner for best short film with Woke Up Ugly.
The Hometowner winner in the short film category was Ryan Parker's Woke Up Ugly, which screen as part of a program of local shorts Wednesday at 6:45 p.m.

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.

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Indie Memphis Daily: Sunday Guide

Posted By on Sun, Oct 11, 2009 at 12:01 AM

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."


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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Indie Memphis Daily: Saturday Guide

Posted By on Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 12:01 AM

Picks of the Day: Pontypool (midnight) and Zombie Girl: The Movie (12:30 p.m.)

A scene from Pontypool
  • A scene from Pontypool
Two zombie-inflected pictures are highlights on this year’s Indie Memphis line-up: The fictional thriller Pontypool and the documentary Zombie Girl: The Movie.

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.

Zombie Girl
  • Zombie Girl
Zombie Girl: The Movie is more straightforward and certainly a sweeter, cheerier imbibe than Pontypool. The documentary introduces us to Emily Hagins, a 6th grader in Austin, Texas — where else could this happen? — Who instigates a fairly mature amateur film production with her zombie-horror Pathogen. Zombie Girl is essentially a making-of doc, but it doesn’t require you to have seen the movie it's about. The star here is Hagins, a super-sweet, precocious kid who fell in geek with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and was inspired to try her own hand at filmmaking.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Best of the Decade: Music (33-31)

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2009 at 8:20 PM

A mix of heavyweights (White Stripes, D'Angelo) and personal faves (Amy Rigby, Art Brut) as the countdown continues.


Album: Little Fugitive — Amy Rigby (Signature Sounds, 2005)
Rigby gets my vote for the single most under-recognized record-maker of my listening lifetime. For those that don't know, imagine Lucinda Williams with a little less genius but more brains and humor. My original write-up:

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"

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Indie Memphis Outtakes: The Hand of Fatima

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2009 at 1:05 PM

The late critic Robert Palmer
  • The late critic Robert Palmer
Augusta Palmer's documentary The Hand of Fatima is many things at once. It's a detailed biography of her father Robert Palmer, the New York Times popular music critic and Deep Blues author who abandoned her when she was only a month old. It's also a portrait of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, the 1,300-year-old Sufi brotherhood championed by Beat-era luminaries like William S. Burroughs.

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.

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