Monday, January 27, 2020

Music Video Monday: Toy Trucks

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 11:38 AM

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In Music Video Monday, hit song hits on you!

I probably shouldn't be springing a Russian Reversal on you so early in the work week. But the character played by Taylor Barrett Moore in "Don't Be So Easy" would really like to know what a girl like you is doing in a place like this.

Director Tony Manard's video for Toy Trucks' first garage rock blast from their Black and Wyatt Records release Rocket Bells and Poetry features Moore hitting on all the women in sight. Yeah, you know the type. Even a psychedelicized shirt can't save this guy's game. Take a look:


If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Alex Greene Live Scores Two Silent Sci-Fi Classics at Crosstown Theater

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 at 9:49 AM

A still from the hand-painted version of "A Trip To The Moon"
  • A still from the hand-painted version of "A Trip To The Moon"
Last October, Crosstown Arts premiered a new screening series where Memphis musicians composed and performed scores for classic silent films. My band 1000 Lights was one of the acts chosen, and we adapted some of our existing material and wrote new songs to accompany Häxan, the silent horror-documentary about witchcraft through the ages. It turned out to be a daunting task that was quite unlike how a rock band usually operates. But it was extremely rewarding, and the audience loved it.

The original series of live scores went so well, Crosstown Arts' Justin Thompson and Courtney Fly have been scheduling more. The first is this Thursday, Jan. 23rd. Alex Greene, the Memphis Flyer's music editor and the current composer-in-residence at Crosstown Arts, will perform a live score to two silent science fiction films. The first is "A Trip to the Moon (Les Voyage dans la Lune)" by pioneering French director Georges Méliès. Made in 1902, it is arguable that "A Trip to the Moon," which borrows heavily from the works of Jules Verne, is the first science-fiction film ever made. Greene says choosing it "was kind of a no-brainer because it’s such a classic. The French group Air did a soundtrack to it, but I have purposefully avoided it. I’ve wanted to score it for a long time. It’s just so whimsical. It was 1902, but it feels Victorian."

It was created years before color film was available, so a limited number of prints of the film were laboriously hand-colored by teams of artists at Méliès' Star Film Company. Many black-and-white prints survived the silent era, but the color version was thought lost until a single, badly damaged copy was recovered in the early twenty-first century. The restored version is beautifully handmade.
Selenites attack in "A Trip To The Moon."
  • Selenites attack in "A Trip To The Moon."
"A Trip to the Moon" is about 15 minutes long, so to round out the program, Greene says he went searching for something that would play well with its surreal imagery. For the second film, “I wanted something more feature-length. I came across Aelita: Queen of Mars almost by accident."

Not to be confused with the 2019 Robert Rodriguez/James Cameron production, Aelita is a 1923 silent film by Russian director Yakov Protazanov. "The set design and costume design is amazing," says Greene. "Especially the kingdom of Mars. It’s a wonderful combination of the glory of the monarchy with the angularity of Soviet Russia. It was before the corruption of the revolution, so it was so full of idealism … We play up the propaganda elements. It makes for good comic relief.”
Yuliya Solntseva as Aelita: Queen of Mars. Solntseva went on to direct 17 films herself and became the first woman to win Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Yuliya Solntseva as Aelita: Queen of Mars. Solntseva went on to direct 17 films herself and became the first woman to win Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival.
The "we" who will be playing with Greene is what he's excited about. "This is the most amazing part: I’m combining my long-standing jazz band, the Rolling Head Orchestra, with the Blueshift Ensemble, a bunch of the more avant-garde players from the MSO who do Continuum Fest and work with new composers. It’s really stunning — a jazz band with classical intent."

To create his scores, Greene first went back to his archives. “Some of it is stuff I composed years ago, but I had no use for it. It’s amazing, one of the main themes for the Queen of Mars herself just fits everything in the film perfectly. But it was something I recorded while I was farming 10 years ago! It was just a matter of translating that into a score for the classical musicians. But it’s all original, every bit of it.”

Combining the classical and jazz aspects of the show turned out to be the most difficult part of Greene's job. “I thought, oh, this is easy! But then I dug into the details," he says. "It was very difficult to score out everything and get the timing just right. Combining the forces of the jazz players, who are used to getting a chord chart and running with it, and the classical players, who probably could do that, but to make full use of their talents, it’s best to have an actual score. Combining that was harder than I thought. But we’ve had several rehearsals now, and it’s just all amazing.”

Alex Greene and the Rolling Head Orchestra with the Blueshift Ensemble will accompany A Trip to the Moon and Aelita: Queen of Mars on Thursday, Jan 23rd, at 7:30 p.m. at Crosstown Theater. Tickets are $5 at the door.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Music Video Monday: THE PRVLG

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 4:00 PM

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Music Video Monday is coming at you live.

Recently, Jam In The Van, a solar-powered, mobile recording studio that crisscrosses America capturing performances from musicians both established and obscure, visited Memphis. They recorded sets from some of our finest, like Jack Oblivan and The Sheiks, Don Bryant, Lucero, Amy LaVere, and Cameron Bethany. THE PRIVLG, a Bluff City bass-and-drums duo, tore the panels off the van with a 12-minute set of original funky soul. Check it out:


If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Friday, January 17, 2020

You Have 20 Seconds To Comply With RoboCop at the Time Warp Drive-In

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2020 at 12:06 PM

Peter Weller as RoboCop.
  • Peter Weller as RoboCop.
If there's one thing that science fiction has been warning us about for a century, it's giving robots guns. Ninety-nine years ago, playwright Karel Capek coined the term "robot" with his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). By the end of Act Three, the robots, which were created as a source of cheap labor, have armed themselves and are hunting humans to extinction. R.U.R. was set in the year 2000. Here in the 21st Century, we actually have the technology to make robots, and what's the first thing we do? Give them guns.

Paul Verhoeven knew this was not going to end well in 1987, when he made RoboCop. Like most of Verhoeven's output in the 80s and 90s, the film was dismissed as trash at the time, but is now held up as a classic. This Saturday, at the first Time Warp Drive-In of 2020, you can see both RoboCop and RoboCop 2 on the big screen.

In the future Detroit of RoboCop, corporations and government have merged. (Sound familiar?) In this clip, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) CEO Dick Jones (Ronny Cox, in a career defining role) demonstrates the latest in autonomous law enforcement technology:


The ED-209 model was made by Craig Hayes, who used a microphone to create the body, and animated by Phil Tippet, the stop motion animation legend behind the holochess sequence in Star Wars: A New Hope. Since it was clearly not ready for full deployment, OCP went with their plan B: a cyborg police officer created from the dead body of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller). Murphy's humanity is at war with his programming, and Weller's tortured performance elevates what was sold as a typical 80s, cynical action film into a real human tragedy.


Weller returned in 1990 for RoboCop 2, but Verhoeven had moved on to make Total Recall. The sequel, which is a much more conventional sci fi action film, was the final film directed by Irving Kirshner, who had started out the previous decade by directing The Empire Strikes Back


Weller continues to work in film and TV today, appearing in Sons of Anarchy and Star Trek: Into Darkness. He took hiatus from acting to earn his PhD in Italian Art History and for a while was a notoriously difficult classics teacher at UCLA. You can see him tearing up the screen in his prime on Saturday at the Summer Drive-In. The Time Warp Drive-In RoboCop Lives! double feature starts at dusk. 

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Music Video Monday: PreauXX and C MaJor

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 11:25 AM

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Music Video Monday is hanging out.

At the beginning of this week's music video, PreauXX is kicking it in the back yard with his friends C MaJor, AWFM, and Kid Maestro like Hank Hill and company in King of the Hill

You probably wish you were chilling with the squad instead of working this morning, but you can live vicariously through the Unapologetic crew. Director 35Miles, who last teamed up with PreauXX to take home one of the Ten Best Music Videos of 2019, gets mellow with his clip for "Blunt In My Hands."


If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Friday, January 10, 2020

A Hidden Life

Posted By on Fri, Jan 10, 2020 at 1:08 PM

August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter and Valerie Pachner as Fani Jägerstätter in A Hidden Life
  • August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter and Valerie Pachner as Fani Jägerstätter in A Hidden Life

What would you have done if you lived in Nazi Germany? Would you have been able to recognize the threat of growing fascism? Would you have resisted the rush toward war, or would you have gone along to get along? What sacrifices would you be willing to make to protect democracy? Would you have sheltered fugitives from the Nazi death camps, even if it meant the possibility that it would earn you a ticket to the gas chamber?

Generations studying World War II have asked themselves these hypotheticals, but these questions don’t look so academic in the America of 2020. This is the implicit question that hangs over A Hidden Life. Director Terrance Malik has never been shy about asking big questions — after all, this is a guy who made a quasi-documentary, The Voyage of Time, that aims to tell the story of the birth, life, and death of the entire universe.

Malick's vehicle to explore the individual’s responsibility in times of pervasive societal evil is the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who became a martyr after refusing to swear a loyalty oath to Hitler. He begins with shots from Triumph of the Will of Hitler’s airplane on his way to the Nuremberg rally. Then the cold, precise, monochrome lines of the parade grounds give way to the sinuous lines and verdant colors of the mountains surrounding Franz’s farm.

If nothing else, Malick and his cinematographer Jorg Widmer have created an incredible travelogue of rural Austria. This is The Sound of Music country, but the Jägerstätter family couldn’t be more unlike the privileged Von Trapps. Instead of singing about how the hills are alive, they spend their time reaping wheat off the hills with actual scythes. The symbolism of villagers whose sons are marching off to fight for the Nazis wielding the implement most associated with the grim reaper isn’t exactly subtle. But if you know Malik’s work, you know subtlety isn’t exactly his strong suit.
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Malik is one of those directors who has his own pace, and he tries to seduce you into matching speeds with one impeccable composition after another. He gets obsessed with watching Franz (August Diehl), his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner), and her sister Resie (Maria Simon) go about the minutiae of farm life.

But all is not well here. When Franz is relaxing with his neighbors in the village’s picaresque biergarten, the mayor goes on a drunken Nazi rant. Franz can’t hide his disgust, and people notice. It gets worse when he is called up for military duty. It’s not so much the military training that he hates — the saintly Franz’s one earthly pleasure besides his three daughters is riding motorcycles, and the Wehrmacht gives him plenty of opportunities — it’s the odious ideology behind it all that he despises. When he’s sent home after the surrender of France (the war effort needs farmers, after all) he finds a silent ally in the town miller. “Don’t they know evil when they see it? Crime, and no shame."
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As the war goes badly for the Nazis, Franz is again called up. This time, his refusal to take the Hitler oath is grounds for him to be thrown into the brig. Back home, his family is ostracized. Suffering piles on top of suffering as he is shipped to a brutal prison in Berlin. The church, in which he placed so much faith, fails him, with even his bishop telling him to fall in line. In 2007, that same church would beatify him into a saint.

As with all Malik’s films, there are indelible moments. Malik loves his wide angle lenses, and Widmer is one of the few people who knows how to use a handheld camera without inducing vomiting. It’s unexpectedly poignant when he uses the same lens to show a first-person view of a beating by Nazi prison guards as he does to sweep across the waterfall-strewn hills of Bavaria. When it comes to his actors, Malik is a filmmaker of interior states. There is a lot of wordless anguish in A Hidden Life. His editing is elliptical to a fault. Maybe that’s part of the point — the decisions we make are ordained ahead of time by our history and emotions, so the actual acts don’t matter as much as we think they do. But this also contributes to the reason the Badlands director leaves a bad aftertaste for some people. When Franz is confronted by his Nazi commandant about his disloyalty to the Fuhrer, Malik cuts away, depriving us of the emotional release of confrontation. That would probably not be so aggravating had we not just spent a half hour watching lovingly chosen angles of peasants putting hay in the barn. A Hidden Life is both an important film and a frustrating one.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

Music Video Monday: Kitten

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2020 at 12:00 PM

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Hey! Music Video Monday is walking here!

Normally on MVM, we feature the latest music videos from Memphis musicians and filmmakers. Today, we're stepping out of our comfort zone to bring to your attention the latest from the Brooklyn band Kitten. "Memphis" is a song about convincing your lover to leave Memphis and never return. Who in Memphis hurt you, Kitten?

But we here at Music Video Monday value quality music videos above all else, and this one by regally monikered director Tsarina Merrin is a good one. The song's pretty catchy, too. Hey, at least it's not "Walking In Memphis".


If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

The 25 Best (and One Worst) Films of the 2010s

Posted By on Thu, Jan 2, 2020 at 10:21 AM

It was a decade of great change in the film industry, with the digital revolution disrupting both the production and distribution ends, and corporate consolidation increasing its stranglehold on the business end. But there was no shortage of great works from both Hollywood studios and independent producers. Here's my list of the best of the decade. But first, the worst.

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Worst Picture Of The Decade: Dracula Untold (2014)
No movie epitomized the brutal cynicism and rampant executive incompetence that plague Hollywood like this abortive retelling of the Dracula story. Stripped of the sex and body horror that gives the vampire myth its beating heart, this piece of extruded corporate product was meant to kick off a Marvel-style series based on the classic Universal monsters by ripping of the worst parts of the 1999 version of The Mummy. It failed, but they're still trying to get that series started, most recently with Tom Cruise's woeful remake of The Mummy. I feel like I never recovered from this deep hurting.

And now, the good films!

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25. Short Term 12 (2013)
Dustin Daniel Cretton’s autobiographical story of his time working in a mental health treatment facility for teenagers is the quintessential festival hit of the decade. Its empathetically drawn characters are brought to life by a stellar cast, including debuts by Brie Larson, Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, and Lakeith Stanfield.

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24. The Love Witch (2016)
Anna Biller’s cheeky tribute to Hammer horror is the ultimate DIY project. Biller wrote, produced, directed, and edited the film, while somehow also finding time to oversee the flawless production design, create the costumes, and write and perform the score. And did I mention she did the whole thing on 35mm film? In 2016!

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23. The Social Network (2010)
Little did we know, in 2010, how big an impact Facebook would have on the coming decade. The final image of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s film, with Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) compulsively clicking refresh, predicts a humanity devoured by its own information creation. We're living in that world now.

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22. Carol (2015)
Todd Haynes’ immaculate adaptation of the 1952 lesbian romance novel The Price of Salt is anchored by a pair of incredible performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It’s as impeccably crafted as it is gorgeous and moving.

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21. Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)
The 2010s were the decade when the real and the fake finally collapsed into each other. Banksy’s sole director credit bites the hand that feeds it by deconstructing the high end art world with the story of the rise and fall of Mr. Brainwash. The fact that it might have all been a giant hoax just makes it juicier.

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20. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Edgar Wright’s visually groundbreaking hero's journey bob-ombed on release but gained a cult following over the decade as people discovered how much fun it is. Working from a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Wright’s film is the first to see the world through the lens of a generation raised on video games.

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19. Little Women (2019)
I figured Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird would land on this list until I saw her adaptation of Little Women. The ensemble cast of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen as the four March sisters growing up in the shadow of the Civil War, supported by Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, and a flinty Meryl Streep, combines with an expertly reimagined screenplay that brings out the contemporary themes in Louisa May Alcott’s novel.

Leonardo Dicaprio as Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth
  • Leonardo Dicaprio as Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth
18. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Quinten Tarantino’s sprawling epic of the death of the 1960s stubbornly refuses to be what you think it’s going to be. A Pulp Fiction take on the Manson murders? Nah, how about a buddy comedy with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as an aging TV star and his stuntman bestie.

This Is What Love In Action Looks Like
  • This Is What Love In Action Looks Like
17. This Is What Love In Action Looks Like (2011)
Morgan Jon Fox’s documentary of the protest movement that shut down the ex-gay therapy program Love In Action was the best film made in Memphis this decade. What starts off as a raw and angry story evolves into a pean to understanding and acceptance when John Smid, the head of the operation imprisoning 16-year-old Memphian Zach Stark, resigns and comes out as gay himself. The film, seven years in the making, is a triumph of perseverance and feeling.

Elsie Fisher as Kayla in Eighth Grade
  • Elsie Fisher as Kayla in Eighth Grade
16. Eighth Grade (2018)
Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is kind of a small and unassuming movie, but it is elevated to greatness by Elise Fisher’s stunning performance as a girl dealing with the last week of elementary school. Her Kayla is the poster child for the age of social media anxiety.

Sorry To Bother You
  • Sorry To Bother You
15. Sorry To Bother You (2018)
Imagine Brazil set in a call center and you’re in the ballpark of Boots Riley’s sci fi farce. There are so many memorable moments, like Lakeith Stanfield’s rap debut at a corporate party and Tessa Thompson’s ever-changing earrings that comment on the action.

Director Agnés Varda in Faces Places
  • Director Agnés Varda in Faces Places
14. Faces Places (2017)
Director Agnes Varda’s penultimate film was as iconoclastic as the rest of her 50-year career. She partnered with the street artist JR to roam the French countryside, meeting people and creating artworks that were both monumental and fleeting—kinda like life itself.

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13. Black Panther (2018)
Ryan Coogler proved himself to be the master of genre this decade. He rose above the bland competence of the Marvel machine with the Shakespearian story of the struggle between T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) for the throne of Wakanda. But it wasn’t just the fact that we finally got a black superhero that made it great. Coogler’s film has more in common with classic swashbucklers like The Sea Hawk and The Adventures of Robin Hood than it does with modern product like Justice League.

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12. Cameraperson (2016)
Kristen Johnson has spent her career traveling the world, shooting documentaries for other directors. She saved the best bits that were cut out of those films and pieced together this collage of tiny slices of her life on the road, from shepherds tending their flocks in war zones to rape victims telling stories of trauma.

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11. Paterson (2016)
Adam Driver has emerged as one of the best American actors of his generation, and he is never better than playing a bus driver named Paterson in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Driver is a shy poet in a dead end job who obsessively observes the people around him and loves his eccentric wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). The little advances and setbacks in his modest life are blown up to big drama in this life affirming masterpiece from the Mystery Train director.

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10. Booksmart (2019)
Not since the Blues Brothers have we seen a comedy team as brilliant as Beanie Feldstien and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart. The inseparable best friends have spent their entire high school careers toeing the line and over-achieving. Now, in their last night before graduation, they want to party. Director Olivia Wilde’s perfect film is the best pure comedy of the decade.

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9. Inherent Vice (2014)
Was Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film of the decade The Master or Phantom Thread? Nope, it was his little-seen Thomas Pynchon adaptation. The paranoid neo-noir loses the plot in amusing ways as private eye Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) tries to unravel the intertwined mysteries of the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterson, never better) and a cabal of drug smuggling dentists known as the Golden Fang. Or maybe not. It’s complicated.

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8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Wes Anderson’s jewel box of a film sits on the poignant cusp between the death of the old world and the birth pains of the new. Ralph Finnes gives the performance of his life as M. Gustave, the greatest concierge in history, who defends the old hotel against the predations of time and encroaching fascism.

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7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
In the era of Disney dominance, as the corporate stranglehold on the film industry tightened, it was rare to see a singular voice cut through as effectively as Rian Johnson’s did with the middle passage of the Star Wars sequel series. His story examines where the decades of myth-making have gotten us, and offers a vision of a more positive future while giving Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker the heroic sendoff he deserved—and one that very few people in the audience were ready for—while sacrificing none of the fun you expect from the blockbuster franchise.

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6. Inside Out (2015)
Pixar dominated the animation of the 2000s, but this decade was more of a mixed bag for the studio. Inside Out is Pixar at its most sophisticated, both psychologically and visually. Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is an 11-year-old girl whose life is thrown into chaos when her family moves to San Francisco. The real action takes place in her mind, where her personified emotions, led by Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) try to keep things in balance. Inside Out is a beautiful, and important, film.

Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, and Park So-dam as a family of grifters in Parasite.
  • Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, and Park So-dam as a family of grifters in Parasite.
5. Parasite (2019)
Bong Joon-ho’s savage take on class conflict is a perfect film whose reputation will only grow over time. The underclass in his vision of Seoul lives literally in basements, while the top of the economic caste live in constant anxiety and discontent, despite being surrounded by luxury. The twisty, darkly comic plot is kept grounded by a bevy of great performances, the best of which is Park So-dam as the con artisté daughter of a family of desperate grifters.

Yalitza Aparicio
  • Yalitza Aparicio
4. Roma (2018)
Alfonso Cuarón’s black and white remembrance of Mexico City in the 1970s is one of the great technical and emotional triumphs of the decade. The director’s peerless vision (he became the only person in history to win both the Best Cinematographer and Best Director Oscars for the same picture) is brought to life with a stunning performance by Yalitza Aparicio, a former schoolteacher who earned a Best Actress nomination the first time she ever set foot in front of a camera.

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3. (tie) Get Out (2017) / Us (2019)

I couldn’t decide which of Jordan Peele’s twin masterpieces to include on this list, so I copped out and went with both of them. To me, they feel like companion pieces. Get Out is like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, a finely tuned, ruthlessly efficient machine. Us is more like Hitchcock’s Vertigo, an exploration of themes and images by a master artist trying to map the psyche of a nation. Both of them are horror films that transcend and transform the genre into something new and exciting.

Mahershala Ali in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.
  • Mahershala Ali in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.
2. Moonlight (2016)
Barry Jenkins is not only one of the best visual stylists of decade, but also our greatest romantic. The three part story of Chiron, a child of Miami’s Liberty City ghetto, is told with three different actors in three different eras of his life. He’s poor, he’s black, and he’s gay, and the film’s focus is his struggle to reconcile the identities that have been placed upon him and become a whole person. Moonlight, a transcendent masterpiece by any measure, features a career-making performance by Mahershala Ali and the most memorable cross-dissolve in the history of cinema.

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1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
“Who killed the world?” is the question that hangs over George Miller’s post-apocalyptic epic. Released a month before Donald Trump began his campaign for president, it points a finger straight at a patriarchal capitalism that sacrificed civilization and the ecosystem  for short term profit and control. But this is no polemical think piece—Fury Road also happens to be the greatest action films ever made. It’s a direct descendant of Buster Keaton’s The General; Miller described its simple structure as “a chase, then, a race”. The editing by Margaret Sixel will be studied for as long as humans make filmed entertainment. In 2017, Stephen Soderbergh, one of film’s greatest craftsmen, said to Hollywood Reporter, “I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film, and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead...[Miller] is off the chart. I guarantee you that the handful of people who are even in range of that, when they saw Fury Road, had blood squirting out of their eyes.”

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Monday, December 30, 2019

Music Video Monday: Top Ten Music Videos of 2019

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2019 at 8:46 AM

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Music Video Monday is counting down the hits!

The Memphis Flyer is proud to feature music videos from Memphis artists on Music Video Monday. Judging from the mind-bending difficulty of putting together this top ten list, 2019 was a good year. I scored the year's videos on concept, song, look, and performance. Then, I shook my head at all the ties and did it all over again. It was so close, it was an honor just to be in the top ten, and I had to include three honorable mentions. Congratulations to all our winners!

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

A. Frog Squad's live space jazz epic "Solar System in Peabody", directed by Brett Hanover, earns an honorable mention as one of the most incredible pieces of music that came across our threshold this year.

B. Stephen Chopek's cover of the Pogues "Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah" came with one of the DIY video auteur's cleverest videos yet.

C. Louise Page's "Future Runaway Bride," directed by Joshua Cannon and Barrett Kutas, will get you to the church on time, but what happens then is on you.

TOP TEN:

10. PreauXX - "Steak and Shake ft. AWFM"

The Unapologetic crew gets behind the counter of a sandwich joint in this video from director 35 Miles. This is one of those videos where you can just tell that everybody had a great time making it, and the fun is infectious. 


9. Uriah Mitchell - "Might Be"

Everything is wound up tight in Waheed AlQawasami's video of a surreal night at the club with Uriah and his friends.


8. Heels - "King Drunk"

Director Nathan Parten transforms Midtown into a D&D fantasia in this incredible animated video for Memphis' hardest rocking duo.


7. Talibah Safiya - "Healing Creek"

Director Kevin Brooks brought out Talibah Safiya's beauty and charisma in this spiritual video, which won the Hometowner Music Video award at Indie Memphis 2019.


6. Sweet Knives - "I Don't Wanna Die"

Shannon Walton is outstanding as a stranded aviator in this video by director Laura Jean Hocking for the reunited veterans of the Lost Sounds, led by Alijca Trout.


5. The Poet Havi - "Shea Butter (Heart of Darkness)"

Director Joshua Cannon and cinematographer Nate Packard took inspiration from Raging Bull for this banger from The Poet Havi, who clearly has more and better dancers than Martin Scorsese ever did.


4. Impala - "Double Indemnity"

Director Edward Valibus and actress Rosalyn Ross created a heist movie in miniature for the kings of Memphis surf's comeback record.


3. John Kilzer - Hello Heart

Memphis lost an elder statesman of music this year when John Kilzer tragically passed away in January. Director Laura Jean Hocking created this tone poem in blue for his final single.


2. Al Kapone - "Al Kapeezy Oh Boy"

Director Sean Winfrey knows how large Al Kapone looms in Memphis music, and he finally blew the rapper up to Godzilla size in this video for one of Kapone's best jams since "Whoop That Trick".


1. Louise Page - "Harpy"

When this one dropped in October, MVM called it "an instant classic." Animator Nathan Parten transformed Louise Page into a mythological monster and sending her off to wreak havoc on Greek heroes. Don't feel sorry for Odysseus. He got what he deserved. Memphis, look upon your best music video of 2019: 


If you would like to see you music video on Music Video Monday, and maybe in the top ten of 2020, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. Happy New Year! 

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 2:02 PM

John Boyega, Joonas Suotamo, Daisy Ridley, Anthony Daniels, and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • John Boyega, Joonas Suotamo, Daisy Ridley, Anthony Daniels, and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
So many thoughts. Where to begin? 

How about a sports metaphor: There’s playing to win, then there’s playing not to lose. There’s a subtle, but significant, difference between the two approaches. Playing to win means being fit, smart, and prepared, adopting an aggressive attitude, and taking chances. You can be fit, smart, and prepared when playing not to lose, but you don’t take chances. You play not to lose when you feel like you have something to lose. You’ve been successful, you think you’re in a good position, and you want to cruise to the end of the season. But playing not to lose is a good way to guarantee a loss. You abandon successful strategies because they suddenly feel too risky. You start to doubt yourself. You lose the plot.

In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, director J. J. Abrams is playing not to lose.

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
  • Adam Driver as Kylo Ren

I’m an old-school Star Wars fan who had his life changed in a movie theater in 1977. I’ve been a fan of the franchise through good movies and bad. I had fun watching The Rise of Skywalker on opening night. But afterwards, during the traditional fan debates in the lobby, there were questions. As my wife said, “I have notes.”

First of all, I have held my tongue on this issue for fear of sounding too nerdy, but here it is: J.J. Abrams, hyperspace does not work that way.

Now you, being a rational human being who lives on planet Earth, might say “Wow, that’s what’s wrong with nitpicking Internet fandom these days!” But I would disagree. It’s a kind of like broken window theory: It’s a small sign of neglect that points to bigger problems.

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But J.J’s gonna J.J., and in The Rise of Skywalker, his strengths and weaknesses get the kind of full expression that only $250 million can buy. His strengths are that he always leans into character. There are good performances here, led by Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. Daniels (who, incidentally, is one of the top-grossing actors in all of film history because he is the only actor to have appeared in all 9 films of the Skywalker family saga) has always been ace comic relief, especially given the fact that he’s played nine films in the most uncomfortable and inexpressive costume imaginable. His final film gives him moments of pathos, and Daniels delivers so beautifully it looks effortless, and is thus easily overlooked. Such is the lot of the robotic character actor.

Oscar Isaac, who is a fantastic actor, plays the best single scene of the film with Keri Russell Poe Dameron’s newly introduced ex-girlfriend, the spice smuggler Zorri Bliss. Daisy Ridley is comfortable in Rey’s skin, and her scenes largely play to her physicality. The young girl dressed as Rey at the Malco Powerhouse screening on opening night testifies to how deeply she has connected with the audience. Her frenemy relationship with Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (Adam Driver, excellent as always) provides the film’s emotional spine. When Isaac and Ridley go on a mission with John Boyega’s Finn in the Millennium Falcon, the film hums along for a while, powered by their chemistry. But just when the sequence should be reaching its climax, Abrams fails to stick the landing, and it fizzles.

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Abrams' weakness is that he's only as good as the writer he's paired with. The Force Awakens was the best film of his career, and he co-wrote it with the legendary Lawrence Kasdan. The Rise of Skywalker must tie up 42 years worth of loose plot ends. The final installment of the sequel trilogy was also handicapped by the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, whose General Leia was to have had a much wider role in the film. So maybe sticking the landing was always impossible. It would be tall order for anyone, but Chris Terrio, the guy who wrote Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is not up to the task. It’s not like the prequels, which often had the air of immaculately crafted renderings of scripts that should have gone through a couple of more drafts. The Rise of Skywalker feels like a checklist movie, with superfluous scenes shoehorned in to fulfill perceived audience wishes. Unrelenting fan service is playing not to lose.

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So I’m a true fan, with love forged on the elementary school playgrounds of 1978. Do I feel properly serviced? Like I said, I had a great time in the theater with my fellow geeks, I teared up at the appropriate times, and the mood was generally positive afterwards. Ultimately, The Rise of Skywalker is most comparable to Return of the Jedi. There are some great high points, but it lacks unity. There’s a parallel here to what happened with the last season of Game of Thrones. There was a decision to go with spectacle rather than doing the hard and risky work in the writers' room. There’s no shortage of spectacle, but compared to what the franchise is capable of, it feels like a squandered opportunity.


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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Music Video Monday on Thursday: The Pop Ritual

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2019 at 3:41 PM

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It's Thursday, but Music Video Monday has a world premiere from The Pop Ritual.

MVM was double booked this week, which is a good thing because it means there's a lot of music videos being produced in Memphis right now. Bluff City industrial masters Colin Wilson, Michelle Karl, and Scott Nivens of The Pop Ritual are dropping their new record It Sheds Again on Friday, Dec. 20., and MVM has the first video, "All The Black Hearts".

“Light is easier to see in the dark," says Wilson. "It is here in this chamber of rituals that psychedelic explorers must shed their old selves to be born again, encountering an eternal beast that resides within us all."


If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, no matter what day it's actually published, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Music Video Monday: The Poet Havi

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 11:58 AM

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It's getting hot in Music Video Monday. Let's take off all our clothes.

Memphis, it is exactly the opposite of hot outside right now, but The Poet Havi knows that summer will be back, and he's getting ready with "Scorpio Girl".

MVM is proud to host the world premiere of the steamy video, directed by Jas Marie. "Jas and I partnered up to make a warm-hearted video that could capture the vibe of a sitcom. I recruited some of my friends and we decorated a downtown apartment and just had fun eating fruit and pretending like it was a scorching summer day (it was actually raining)."

Now you, too, can pretend it's warm outside with "Scorpio Girl".


If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Music Video Monday on Tuesday: Daykisser

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 9:22 AM

Jesse Wilcox of Daykisser
  • Jesse Wilcox of Daykisser
Music Video Monday is moving in on Tuesday.

Your columnist is a day late, but Daykisser isn't a dollar short. The Memphis band will drop their new album Selfhood on Saturday, December 14th, with a party at B-Side. The video for the first single "Dishes In The Sink" was directed by Noah Miller. It features some eye candy in the form of sweet stop motion and the band moving into an invisible apartment. Check it out:


If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Return of Russell: Cinematic Panic Brings Different Kind of Film Festival to Black Lodge

Posted By on Thu, Dec 5, 2019 at 1:40 PM

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This weekend, the second Cinematic Panic film festival unspools on the big screens at Black Lodge. "Like last year, the big idea is, half of the submissions are from Memphis; the rest from all across the country and from other countries," says Matt Martin, proprietor of the recently revived video store and hangout spot. 

In total, filmmakers from 25 different countries submitted entries to the Panic, which includes dozens of short films and features in and out of competition. "Our only criteria is, whatever you make, it's gotta be weird." says Martin.

The festival competition begins on Thursday, December 5 with Flesh City, a gonzo horror fantasy from Berlin director Thorsten Fleisch. This is a film whose own trailer proclaims "It will make your eyes bleed".


Cinematic Panic also features weird and shocking classics, such as Thursday's second film, the infamous J-horror nightmare Ichi The Killer


Friday night sees the return of a Memphis classic. The Importance of Being Russell was a big hit at the 2006 Indie Memphis Film Festival. Directed by Sean Plemmons, the film stars one of the Bluff City's independent film pioneers John Pickle as the titular Russell, a self-proclaimed redneck who finds himself drawn into a plot of world domination via mind control, also known as "getting city-fied".

Pickle says the film grew from a character he created for Pickle TV, which weirded up cable in Memphis for the better part of a decade. "I used to do multiple characters on the cable access show, and Russell was one that I came up with one night out of necessity," says Pickle. "That particular character seems to resonate with with people more than 80 characters that I had done previously. So I just started writing more skits with Russell."


While filming his horror feature, The Last Man on Earth, Pickle and his collaborators, which included Jimmy Ross, had the idea to give Russell his own film. "We all just kind of giggled at it, but the more we thought about it the more just kind of evolved. And so we started getting together like every Sunday night for almost a year, and hashing out the story of what it would it could be and what it should be. ... It just evolved over time, because when we first started digging around with it the the Russell character wasn't like he ended up being in the movie. He was he was a lot more offensive and brash and pretty much just a kind of person you wouldn't really want to be around. I didn't necessarily agree with that at the time, but I'm glad we got we went with it because the Russell character turned out to be very likable."

The Importance of Being Russell is a marvel of DIY filmmaking that includes a special-effect-heavy finale visually inspired by Forbidden Planet courtesy of special effects artist Greg Stanford and makeup artist Maddie Singer.


After Russell is the 1985 Lovecraftian classic, Re-Animator, which was a major influence on Pickle's short film "Cannibal Records".


Saturday includes sci-fi shorts and the David Cronenberg adaptation of William Burrough's Naked Lunch.


Then, Brad Ellis and Allen Gardner of Memphis' Old School Pictures present their latest feature, Cold Feet. The horror comedy, which puts a bachelor party in a haunted house with a ghost who has motives of her own, sold out at Indie Memphis 2019 and won a screenplay award at the New Orleans Horror Film Festival.


Sunday features a full day of films, including the competition horror comedy The Curse of Valburga from Slovenia.


Tickets are $20 for the weekend, and you can see the full schedule here

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Music Video Monday: Al Kapone

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2019 at 10:33 AM

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Music Video Monday gonna stomp your ass.

Yeah, it's the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, and it's coming on like Godzilla— or like a hundred-foot Al Kapone. Director Sean Winfrey got the idea to blow up Kapeezy to match his giant-sized influence on Memphis hip hop after working with him on Graham Brewer's YouTube show.

"One night at Railgarten, I told him about this idea for a music video I had, in which he walked around the city as large as Godzilla. He loved the idea and let me run with it," says Winfrey. "I first shot video of him in front of an enclosed green screen. For the next couple of weeks, I went around Memphis and shot video of environments so that I could make compositions with Al superimposed as large as Godzilla. I went through a lot of trial and error at first, but after consuming many old Godzilla films, I decided to mirror the look and feel of older films. The focus wasn't on the best quality of special effects, which was slowing me down, but the aesthetic of older cinema techniques."

Here's Kapone breathing fire on "Al Kapeezy Oh Boy":


If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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