Music: Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps on Wed., Dec. 11, at 8 PM

Dr_Caterwaul_Paolucci_Slattery_012313_72dpiDr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps play the Best Video Performance Space on Wed., Dec. 11. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps–composed of Michael Tepper on upright bass, Adam Matlock on accordion and vocals; Michael Paolucci on percussion; Chris Cretella on electric guitar and Brian Slattery on violin, banjo, trombone and vocals–plays as much music as it’s able to: blues and murder ballads, Eastern European folk, traditional music from North and South America, tango, swing, classical music, and the songs of contemporary songwriters (including Matlock), using the influences of the music they love to create fluid, improvised arrangements.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Dec. 4. CONTRA DANCE MUSIC: WRY BRED

• Thursday, Dec. 5. GARAGE ROCK/POP: HAPPY ENDING featuring BEST VIDEO’S OWN RICHARD BROWN & HANK HOFFMAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 11. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Thursday, Dec. 12. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 18. JAZZ: THE KITCHEN SINK with NICK Di MARIA

• Thursday, Dec. 19. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Jan. 9. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SOLIN

• Thursday, Jan. 23. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Thursday, Feb. 20. BLUEGRASS: 5 IN THE CHAMBER

Rob Harmon’s recommendation 11/26/13

ROB HARMON’S PICKS 11/26/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksIT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE…AT BEST VIDEO!

…So my pick this week is… everything at Best Video.

“Wait,” you may say, “Isn’t that a bit broad? Shouldn’t this column be about recommending specific titles?””

Allow me to explain.

On a recent Sunday night, my mind naturally began to wander as I straightened out the shelves and put away movies. Perhaps it was the late hour or the quiet before the impending holiday season but I found myself wondering – as in that beloved Frank Capra-directed classic of small-town resilience IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE –  “What would a world without Best Video look like?”

I imagined such a frightening scenario: Nothing in Hamden and the Greater New Haven area but forgettable and *blah* movies available to stream online, or watch on demand or—as far as rental goes—only that coldly glowing red vending machine dispensing inane entertainment in the dead of night. It was an eerie landscape, a veritable ghost town for movies. Where would one go to speak to an accomplished staff—or anyone human, for that matter!—about recommendations or help in tracking down rare or hard-to-find movies? Where, indeed, would the community gathering place be if not at its locally-owned video store?

The thought made me shudder and brought me shooting back to reality. I see the looks of wonder on the faces of children as they enter Best Video: many have never been inside a video store before and they roam about with their mouths agape. I remember the sense of wonder myself and I still feel it, even after working here for three-and-a-half years. We are, indeed, lucky to have this resource in our community.

The Christmas season is upon us and Best Video needs your support now more than at any other time during the year. As you go about your holiday shopping please remember the brick-and-mortar store with its 50,000 thousand titles which has been an anchor here in the Spring Glen neighborhood since first opening its doors in 1985 with a simple premise: to rent and sell the movies that we love to our customers who are precisely in the mood or need for them. Remember that dollars spent here in Hamden stay in Hamden and aid our continuing development as both a community cultural center and a neighborhood crossroads.

Remember that Best Video is the last remaining video store in the New Haven, for many a continued survival in today’s media climate against the non-personal, non-interactive trends of the day. Remember that—like the Bailey Building & Loan of It’s a Wonderful Life—Best Video is your last line of defense, against a world of Redboxes and red Netflix envelopes and log-in screens. Remember the impact that this one store has had in the life of this community: like George Bailey, who stood by his hometown and fought the “Battle of Bedford Falls,” Best Video’s owner Hank Paper and its two managers, Richard Brown and Hank Hoffman, have similarly fought the “Battle of Hamden, CT,” staying true to the store’s original mission while remaining relevant by adding a café and wine bar and a performance space in recent years.

And, yet, all of this does not come free: we need your business this holiday season; we need it as never before! Here is how you can help:

• RENT — This is the easiest and most fundamental way in which you can help Best Video! Do you have lists of “movies to watch” tucked away somewhere? Thinking of a holiday movie marathon? Best Video is your one-stop destination! With the cold weather here again what could be better than an armload of movies or TV shows to snuggle up with?

• BUY — In addition to the movies, TV shows, and assorted box sets on DVD and Blu-ray—both new and used—which we have available for sale we are capable of ordering thousands more titles besides, including CDs, for your purchase, which are here at the store in just a matter of days. Our prices are competitive: 10% off of list price and 20% off of titles pre-ordered before street date, and our turnaround for special orders is swift – just a day or two. Why do your holiday shopping anywhere else when you can do it here at Best Video? And, if you have no idea what to get that certain movie lover on your list there is the ever-reliable Best Video gift certificate!

• EAT and DRINK at our café and wine bar — We have an excellent variety of coffees, teas, hot chocolate, bagels, muffins, scones, as well as holiday-themed drinks and treats to start your day and keep it going strong; and, after a hectic day of shopping and visiting, we have our peerless selection of beers and wines to enjoy with family and friends!

• ATTEND A PERFORMANCE in our performance space — We have hosted a wide variety of events since the inception of our performance space, everything from rock music to jazz to classical, from movie screenings with moderated Q&A’s to wine tastings and poetry readings. The performance space and café —with its intimate atmosphere, PA system, and large projection screen—is even available for rental for your holiday party, book club meeting, art reception, PowerPoint seminar, or other events!

• DONATE your used DVDs for us to sell!

• SPREAD THE WORD about Best Video to anyone and everyone you know – We started out 28 years ago as a neighborhood store and we are still a neighborhood store today!

Many customers express gratitude to us for still being here and—trust me—we are glad to be here, too! But what better way could there be to show your thanks than with your business this holiday season?

So, for this week only….

Recommended: Everything, every damn movie in the store – from AMOUR and ARGO to ZARDOZ and ZORBA THE GREEK, from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and 2 GUNS to THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T and MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and from FIRST BLOOD to THE LAST EMPEROR!

Let’s ensure that this is a great holiday season and that Best Video is here for many more to come! Happy Thanksgiving and thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support throughout the years: we truly would not be here without you!

“You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?” – It’s a Wonderful Life

New Releases 11/26/13

Top Hits
Red 2 (action, Bruce Willis. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%, Metacritic: 47. From Nicolas Rapold’s New YorkTimes review: “The gag, or one of three, in Dean Parisot’s action-comedy seque RED 2 is that its killer oldsters are unflappable not because they’re too cool but because they’re seen-it-all semi-retirees. And after surviving the adventures of RED, these comfortably recognizable agents and mercenaries are now doubly experienced and casual. Sociopathic assassins drop in like son of a guns, and fusillades of bullets come and go like passing showers, but Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren will still trade relationship advice and in-jokes like old friends on a package tour.” Read more…)

Jobs (biopic, Ashton Kutcher. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%, Metacritic: 44. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It would drive Steve Jobs nuts to know that the new movie about his life has all the sex appeal of a PowerPoint presentation. It isn’t only that Microsoft PowerPoint has become synonymous with the dry, dreary, droning of corporate meetings, it’s also that Microsoft was itself a favorite target of Jobs.” Read more…)

Getaway (action, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 3%, Metacritic: 22. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “One can only guess why Ethan Hawke felt compelled to make a high dive from the sublimity of Before Midnight into the twisted rubble of Getaway. What other reason could there be for a star to attach his name to a mindless demolition derby but the payday?” Read more…)

Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (road movie/comedy, Michael Cera. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The title character of Crystal Fairy, Sebastián Silva’s small, lovely road movie, is the assumed name of a free-spirited latter-day hippie visiting Chile. She attaches herself to another American tourist, Jamie [Michael Cera], after he casually invites her to join him and his friends. Perfectly played by Gaby Hoffmann, Crystal Fairy has all the hallmarks of a professed earth mother holding the keys to truth, peace, love and wisdom. She has her charms, but like many such know-it-alls, she can be overbearing and preachy.” Read more…)

33 Postcards (Australia, drama, Guy Pearce. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%, Metacritic: 33. A New York Times critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Guy Pearce is an award-winning actor with dozens of film and television roles on his résumé, but in 33 Postcards he is eclipsed by an unknown young actress named Zhu Lin, whose charming performance gives this sweet if not very credible film its heart.” Read more…)

The Canyons (erotic thriller, Lindsay Lohan. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%, Metacritic: 36. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Canyons — directed by Paul Schrader, written by Bret easton Ellis and starring Lindsay Lohan — is a dispiriting, unpleasurable work punctuated with flashes of vitalizing vulgarity. It isn’t a good movie in terms of the conventional norms (acting for starters), but it also exhibits a crude integrity.” Read more…)

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A-Coming (biography, music, Jimi Hendrix. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “For some in the dismayingly large club of rock stars who died too young, it’s easy to imagine an alternate future in which fate or bad judgment does not intervene and they live to a ripe old age. John Lennon becomes a patron of the arts and fends off repeated requests that he run for office. Cass Elliot does a stint on The View. But watching American Masters: Jimi Hendrix—Hear My Train a Comin’, it is difficult to picture such an alternative for Hendrix, who died in 1970 after taking too many barbiturates.” Read more…)

The Promise (historical drama, Christian Cooke)

New Blu-Ray
Red 2
Jobs

New Foreign
33 Postcards (Australia, drama, Guy Pearce, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%, Metacritic: 33. A New York Times critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Guy Pearce is an award-winning actor with dozens of film and television roles on his résumé, but in 33 Postcards he is eclipsed by an unknown young actress named Zhu Lin, whose charming performance gives this sweet if not very credible film its heart.” Read more…)

New TV
Breaking Bad: Season 6 (The Final Season. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Metacritic: 99.)

New Docs
Blackfish (nature documentary, killer whales. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Unapologetically designed both to inform and affect, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s delicately lacerating documentary, Blackfish, uses the tragic tale of a single whale and his human victims as the backbone of a hypercritical investigation into the marine-park giant SeaWorld Entertainment. Denied on-camera interviews with park executives, who have strenuously taken issue with the film’s contentions in a lengthy news release, Ms. Cowperthwaite tells the distressing story of Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca implicated in the deaths of three people. Through the rueful voices of former trainers and whale experts, a narrative driven by disillusion and regret unfolds as the trainers point to a gap between SeaWorld’s public image and behind-the-scenes reality.” Read more…)

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A-Coming (biography, music, Jimi Hendrix, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “For some in the dismayingly large club of rock stars who died too young, it’s easy to imagine an alternate future in which fate or bad judgment does not intervene and they live to a ripe old age. John Lennon becomes a patron of the arts and fends off repeated requests that he run for office. Cass Elliot does a stint on The View. But watching American Masters: Jimi Hendrix—Hear My Train a Comin’, it is difficult to picture such an alternative for Hendrix, who died in 1970 after taking too many barbiturates.” Read more…)

New Music
Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A-Coming (biography, music, Jimi Hendrix, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “For some in the dismayingly large club of rock stars who died too young, it’s easy to imagine an alternate future in which fate or bad judgment does not intervene and they live to a ripe old age. John Lennon becomes a patron of the arts and fends off repeated requests that he run for office. Cass Elliot does a stint on The View. But watching American Masters: Jimi Hendrix—Hear My Train a Comin’, it is difficult to picture such an alternative for Hendrix, who died in 1970 after taking too many barbiturates.” Read more…)

Music: Happy Ending Featuring Best Video’s Richard Brown & Hank Hoffman on Thurs., Dec. 5, at 8 PM

Happy_Ending_group_photo_72dpi_WebHappy Ending, featuring Best Video’s own Hank Hoffman and Richard Brown, plays the Best Video Performance Space on Thurs., Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. The cover is $5.

Happy Ending plays electric rock ‘n’ roll, mixing original compositions influenced by garage rock, folk rock and psychedelia—oftentimes with a political slant—with cover songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Happy Ending has released two albums—the vinyl LP and 45 “Have A Nice Day” in 1984 and the compact disc “Smile for the Camera” in 1996. John Foster, editor of Op Magazine, described “Have A Nice Day” as a “future cult item for the collectors.” Hank Hoffman sings and plays guitar; Richard Brown plays guitar and alto saxophone. Tom Smith is on drums and Randy Stone plays bass. Check out some songs on Happy Ending’s MySpace page.

Check out Happy Ending performing the original composition “Planned Community” at Best Video Performance Space in April, 2012:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Nov. 21. APOCALYPTIC POP: THE GRIMM GENERATION

• Wednesday, Dec. 4. CONTRA DANCE MUSIC: WRY BRED

• Thursday, Dec. 5. GARAGE ROCK/POP: HAPPY ENDING featuring BEST VIDEO’S OWN RICHARD BROWN & HANK HOFFMAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 11. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Thursday, Dec. 12. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 18. JAZZ: THE KITCHEN SINK with NICK Di MARIA

• Thursday, Dec. 19. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Jan. 9. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SOLIN

• Thursday, Jan. 23. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Thursday, Feb. 20. BLUEGRASS: 5 IN THE CHAMBER

New Releases 11/19/13

Top Hits
2 Guns (action, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 55. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Big bangs and fast talk are the name of the genre game in 2 Guns, a slick, slippery thriller that taps into the anarchic playfulness that made the best American action flicks of the 1980s and ’90s pop. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, riffing on the cheerful irreverence of Shane Black and the hyperbolic style of Tony Scott, the movie turns on a pair of seemingly bad guys who may be good. A reissue of the five-part comic series on which it’s based sets the scene nicely: ‘Two guys walk into a bank. It goes badly.’ It does in the movies as well, although now the duo spring off the page courtesy of Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, one of the better odd couples to bond and bicker since Mel met Danny.” Read more…)

We’re the Millers (comedy, Jennifer Aniston. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 44. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “We’re the Millers, a loose, halfheartedly raunchy, occasionally hilarious new comedy, is about a lot of different things; it’s the usual grab bag of jokes about drugs and body parts. But what really drives the movie is its own search for something to make fun of, and for a comic style that can feel credibly naughty while remaining ultimately safe and affirmative.” Read more…)

Planes (animated feature, Dane Cook [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 39. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Planes is in the Cars lineage, with John Lasseter’s DNA [he is executive producer] and an absence of human characters; the planes and other machines here do their own talking and thinking. What comes out of them isn’t as amusing or surprising as what came out of those cars, and no matter how fast they go, these planes cannot escape the gravitational pull of the earlier movies. Planes is for the most part content to imitate rather than innovate, presumably hoping to reap a respectable fraction of the box office numbers of Cars and Cars 2, which together made hundreds of millions of dollars [not to mention the ubiquitous product tie-ins]. ” Read more…)

The World’s End (comedy, Simon Pegg. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “On a summer evening in 1990, five British teenagers attempted a heroic pub crawl in the town of Newton Haven, a feat of herculean imbibing known as the Golden Mile. Along the way, there were vomiting, fighting and drunken sex, but amid all that fun, the group failed to make it through the requisite 12 watering holes, the last of which was called the World’s End. Their second try, more than 20 years later, is the subject of Edgar Wright’s new movie.” Read more…)

Paranoia (espionage thriller, Harrison Ford. Rotten Tomatoes: 4%. Metacritic: 32. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The fitful spurts of energy that emanate from Paranoia, a sleek, silly corporate thriller, are supplied by Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford playing dueling titans of technology. These warring multibillionaires, Nic Wyatt [Mr. Oldman] and Jock Goddard [Mr. Ford], are former partners who will stop at nothing to destroy each other’s empires. When they meet face to face the size of their egos and the depth of their mutual hatred are signaled by the subzero frost of their sharklike grins.” Read more…)

Violet & Daisy (crime, James Gandolfini. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%. Metacritic: 43. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Violet & Daisy is a story of young female friendship with a violent and somewhat puzzling twist. The title characters, with their floral names and mix-and-match temperaments, are teenage roommates whose shared interests in pop stars and shopping are supported by their work as hired killers. We first see them in action, disguised as pizza-delivering nuns, in a sequence that sets a tone of brazen but not too grisly pop mayhem. These girls, whose chatter on the way to the shootout pointedly evokes the banter of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, are charming, silly and lethal. But Geoffrey Fletcher, the writer and director [an Oscar winner for his Precious screenplay] seems unsure of what to do with his characters, or how far to push their contradictions.” Read more…)

Prince Avalanche (comedy/drama, Paul Rudd. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The principal characters in [director David Gordon] Green’s new film, Prince Avalanche [loosely remade from a 2011 Icelandic movie called Either Way], spend much of their time walking the line between industry and idleness. Their job is to paint the yellow lines on a rural stretch of Texas highway that has been damaged, along with the surrounding forests and settlements, by a wildfire. The year is 1988, not long after real fires devastated parts of the state, though there may be other reasons for specifying the period. Alvin [Paul Rudd] and Lance [Emile Hirsch], a two-man road crew that might have been cooked up by Samuel Beckett after many bong hits, inhabit a predigital pastoral in which — just imagine — they have folding maps instead of GPS, letters on paper instead of text messages and a battered cassette player with not an earbud in sight.” Read more…)

All Is Bright (comedy/drama, Paul Giamatti. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 54. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “All Is Bright is the first movie in eight years directed by Phil Morrison, who made a splash with his 2005 debut, Junebug, a bittersweet family drama set in his home state, North Carolina. On the surface, the new film has little in common with “Junebug” except for its attention to psychological detail and its fondness for offbeat characters and respect for actors. With its affection for downscale characters who dart in and out of the men’s lives, All Is Bright has an openheartedness reminiscent of a Preston Sturges film. The screenplay, by Melissa James Gibson, a playwright who is a story editor of the TV series The Americans, is devoid of laugh-out-loud jokes, but it has a continuing thread of bittersweet humor as Dennis and Rene interact with people in the neighborhood, many of whom are struggling.” Read more…)

C.O.G. (comedy, Jonathan Groff. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 60. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In the world of C.O.G., the first movie adaptation of a David Sedaris essay, self-knowledge is best gained among simple folks, preferably those defined by outsize quirks and nutty pronouncements. At least that’s what David [Jonathan Groff], an arrogant Yalie, learns when he boards a bus to Oregon to bury his fingers — and his unacknowledged homosexuality — in the soil.” Read more…)

The To Do List (comedy, Aubrey Plaza. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 61. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Sure, you can load a lot of overthink involving male-versus-female perspective onto The To Do List, a comedy about a girl determined to lose her virginity the summer after high school graduation. But here is all you really need to know: This movie is smarter and better acted and just plain funnier than most of its predecessors in the my-first-time genre, no matter which sex is losing what.” Read more…)

Treme: Season 3 (HBO New Orleans series, Wendell Pierce. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 77.)

New Blu-Ray
We’re the Millers
2 Guns
Planes
The World’s End

New Foreign
Something in the Air (France, Olivier Assayas-directed period drama set in the eraly 1970’s, Clément Métayer. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Something in the Air feels less like a middle-aged artist’s nostalgia than like an attempt to make a film about the past in the present tense. Its open-ended structure and melancholy atmosphere are reminiscent of post-’68 films like Robert Kramer’s brooding Milestones and Alain Tanner’s magnificent Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, still one of the truest, saddest films about the aftermath of a revolution that did not quite happen.” Read more…)

Barbara (Germany, drama, Nina Hoss. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Barbara is a film about the old Germany from one of the best directors working in the new: Christian Petzold. For more than a decade Mr. Petzold has been making his mark on the international cinema scene with smart, tense films that resemble psychological thrillers, but are distinguished by their strange story turns, moral thorns, visual beauty and filmmaking intelligence. His latest to open in the United States, Barbara, begins in 1980 with an East German doctor from Berlin [Nina Hoss] who, after an unspecified offense, has been recently banished to the boonies. There, in between hospital rounds and harassment from the secret police, she waits and she burns.” Read more…)

Thérèse (France, drama/romance, Audrey Tautou. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The rich are different from you and me, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, sometimes nowhere more so than in French movies. In the United States, a Viking stove in the kitchen and a BMW in the driveway may be mere background noise in a sleek thriller; in France, such emblems of class privilege can be grounds for a date with the Widow [a k a the guillotine], metaphorically speaking. In Thérèse, a 1920s woman is driven to commit a terrible crime, for all sorts of nominal reasons, though, in truth, her paramount motive is the accident of her birth: she’s bourgeois.” Read more…)

New TV
Treme: Season 3 (HBO New Orleans series, Wendell Pierce, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 77.)

New Docs
Bridegroom (marriage equality, personal story. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From David DeWitt’s Times review: “Inspired by a viral YouTube video and deftly directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason [Designing Women], Bridegroom is about an unmarried gay couple in their 20s and what happens when one of them dies. That’s the simple summary of this simply told but exceptionally moving documentary.” Read more…)

Rob Harmon’s recommendations 11/19/13

ROB HARMON’S PICKS 11/19/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksBARBARA (dir. Christian Petzold, 2012)

The impressive new German political thriller BARBARA depicts life in the former German Democratic Republic (or East Germany), but, whereas most films paint a picture of the Soviet Bloc countries in terms of black-and-white, director Christian Petzold wisely chooses to focus on the bleak and dehumanizing ephemera of everyday life—such as busted wall sockets and a strictly-monitored bathing schedule—and the pure dug-in determination of its inhabitants to survive. This is a landscape—seemingly sparse and quiet—populated by survivors, spiritually wounded and maimed though they may be; where the West is such a capricious wonderland far, far away that two hushed women can stare transfixedly at the pages of a garish, smuggled-in jewelry catalogue; and where even villains—especially villains—have human sides: this society may be air-tight but it is far from airless, permitting some room to breathe.

The story takes place in 1980, a year in which much of the GDR was transfixed upon the Olympic Summer Games in Moscow. Dr. Barbara Wolff (veteran actress Nina Hoss) arrives in the provinces to take up a post at a small pediatric hospital. As it turns out this humble position is a far cry from the fast-track career in medicine that she was once charting in Berlin: Barbara has been officially “relocated” due to the fact that she has requested an exit visa from the GDR, a fall from grace which most in this society of few secrets instantly recognizes and pounces upon. She is sullen and remote, spurning the companionship of her colleagues, particularly the sincere and love-sick Dr. André Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld), which right away earns her the reputation of a cold, big city snob to go on top of her apparent political crimes. Yet it soon becomes clear that Barbara has a secret connection to the West and one which she aims to exploit, this in spite of the watchful eyes of her neighbors and the local Stasi agent’s (Rainer Bock) withering attention, resulting in humiliating searches of her flat and her person at seemingly any time, day or night.

Though Barbara is increasingly drawn into the provincial life of the hospital around her and better learns to see the world from André’s humanistic viewpoint she still retains her ultimate desire to escape to the West… doesn’t she?

Barbara tells the story of the GDR in an intimate, restrained fashion, focusing on the life of the title character and her relationships with those around her, especially the lovelorn André and a hard-luck young patient named Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) for whom she forms a strong and  endearing maternal attachment. The performances in the film are understated and powerful, with particular praise going to the gutsy Hoss in the title role. The cinematography, editing, and production design are all first-rate and refreshingly side-step the typical clichés of depicting life under a totalitarian regime in broad strokes and severe gestures, focusing instead on the human-scale sadness of a society divided against itself.

Petzold, who previously gained attention for his drama YELLA (2007) (also starring Hoss), won the Silver Bear as Best Director for Barbara at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, heralding perhaps a breakthrough for him, as well as his willowy star, Hoss. Barbara succeeds as a meditation on the life-draining paranoia and amnesia inherent to life under such cruel circumstances, but also ultimately reveals the strength which can unexpectedly come in dark times.

For an alternate but equally-moving take on this same subject matter be sure to see (if you have not already) the widely-heralded 2006 GDR-set drama/thriller THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

Music: Contra dance trio Wry Bred to play Wed., Dec. 4, at 8 PM

wrybred24_WebThe contra dance trio Wry Bred plays the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover charge is $5.

The contra dance trio Wry Bred engages in joyful musical conversations with driving rhythms and exuberant harmonies.

With Julie Sorcek on flute and saxophone, Mickey Koth on fiddle, and Robert Messore on guitar, Wry Bred sensitively supports dancers and callers alike. The band was founded in 2009 and has been playing at dances, concerts, private parties, and other events ever since. They’ve developed a growing reputation and won the respect and admiration of dancers and music lovers throughout the area and beyond. The members of Wry Bred each bring years of experience as dancers and musicians.

Listen to “Road to Lisdoonverna/Swallowtail Jig/Scollay’s Reel” as played by Wry Bred:

Wry Bred has played for contra dances in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and, in 2011, with dance caller Bill Fischer, went on tour to North Carolina and Tennessee.

Julie Sorcek has been playing flute since she was ten years old, and has been off and running ever since. She added piccolo in college, and has had extensive experience playing with high school and college symphonic bands, and in the late ’80s and early ’90s with the Danbury Community Orchestra. She also plays saxophone and occasionally bodhran and recently began lessons on the fiddle. She is a founding member of Wry Bred.

Mickey Koth was a strictly classical player for the first 40 years of her life. Like Julie, Mickey began playing flute at age ten. As a music education major in college, she learned all the instruments, except double bass and tuba. Her favorites were the bassoon and trombone. At age 39, she started contra dancing and loved the music so much, she rented a violin for her 40th birthday and soon began studying with bluegrass fiddler and dobro player Stacy Phillips. Before the end of her first year playing, she had joined a pick-up band. She and John Kalinowski were the founding members of the contra dance and concert band Wild Notes. With her husband contra dance caller Bill Fischer she performs with Out On A Whim , a band of ever-changing membership that plays for family dances and contra dances as well as for special events.

Robert Messore plays guitar in Wry Bred. He has passionately devoted himself to the guitar for 30+ years. Voted Best Instrumentalist in a New Haven Advocate readers’ poll, Robert has been called the Heart of the New Haven Folk Scene for his vital and many-faceted contributions as solo performer, side man, recording artist, teacher and concert presenter (working on several concert series and the Connecticut Folk Festival). He also plays guitar and bass with soul/rock group, The Chrissy Gardner Band, and presents a weekly program called Toddler Tunes, which is the largest children’s sing-along in CT!

Watch a slice of Wry Bred on YouTube:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Nov. 20. STRING QUARTET ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Thursday, Nov. 21. APOCALYPTIC POP: THE GRIMM GENERATION

• Wednesday, Dec. 4. CONTRA DANCE MUSIC: WRY BRED

• Thursday, Dec. 5. GARAGE ROCK/POP: HAPPY ENDING featuring BEST VIDEO’S OWN RICHARD BROWN & HANK HOFFMAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 11. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Thursday, Dec. 12. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 18. JAZZ: THE KITCHEN SINK with NICK Di MARIA

• Thursday, Dec. 19. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

Music: The Grimm Generation to play Thurs., Nov. 21, at 8 PM

The Grimm Generation play the Best Video Performance space on Thursday, Nov. 21. The music begins at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

The Grimm Generation sound has been described as “Morning After Music” and “Radio Songs For Voyeurs” though we have personally described as “If Alan Lomax and Ziggy Stardust had a baby.” It’s creepy, suburban pop-noir made and played by creepy suburbanites.

Carmen Champagne and Jason P. Krug started The Grimm Generation as an outlet to tell real time stories of cheap excess and alcohol, but with the addition of Lys Guillorn (lapsteel, banjo, bells, rawk guitar), Eric Bloomquist (bass) and Julie Drechsler (cello), the group has evolved into more a sweeping soundtrack of a movie that may be your real life.

Here is the band’s video for their new song “The Next Indie Boy”:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Nov. 13. WINE TASTING with BOB FEINN FROM MT. CARMEL WINE & SPIRITS

• Thursday, Nov. 14. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ILANA ZSIGMOND

• Wednesday, Nov. 20. STRING QUARTET ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Thursday, Nov. 21. APOCALYPTIC POP: THE GRIMM GENERATION

• Wednesday, Dec. 4. CONTRA DANCE MUSIC: WRY BRED

• Thursday, Dec. 5. GARAGE ROCK/POP: HAPPY ENDING featuring BEST VIDEO’S OWN RICHARD BROWN & HANK HOFFMAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 11. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Thursday, Dec. 12. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Wednesday, Dec. 18. JAZZ: THE KITCHEN SINK with NICK Di MARIA

• Thursday, Dec. 19. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

 

Rob Harmon’s recommendations 11/12/13

ROB HARMON’S PICKS 11/12/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksJEAN GRÉMILLON DURING THE OCCUPATION

The inventory of movies here at Best Video is vast: with tens of thousands of titles and over 200 sections the collection is so vast that even an employee like me can find myself getting lost in its depths from time-to-time! And with such a huge catalogue there is an ever-present danger: that movies – even great ones – can fall between the cracks.

Take the work of French director Jean Grémillon, for example. If you have not heard of Grémillon you are certainly not alone: in a career which spanned from the 1920’s to the 50’s Grémillon tends to be overshadowed by his poetic realist contemporaries like Renoir, Carné, or Duvivier. I was unaware, myself, until about ten years ago when I was living in New York and was lucky enough to go, on a whim, one night to see Grémillon’s 1937 film GUELE d’AMOUR. I was completely won over by this fatalistic love story about a cocksure military officer and lothario, played by Jean Gabin, both meeting his match and brought to his knees by a beautiful woman of luxury, played by Mireille Balin. The emotions at work were outsized and a little volcanic, sure, but they were also true and hit home. From then on I caught Grémillon’s films any chance that I could.

Aiding the cause of making Grémillon’s name better known is the Criterion Collection, which graciously released a trio of outstanding films of his on DVD last year, all penned by poetic realist stalwarts such as Jacques Prévert and Charles Spaak, starring the radiant French leading lady Madeleine Renaud, and all made during the German occupation. Appropriately enough, the set is entitled Jean Grémillon During the Occupation.

Jean_Gremillon_set_DVDREMORQUES (1941) concerns the day-to-day dangers and realities of a hard-bitten tugboat crew and the patient women—their wives and lovers—who wait at home and take care of them. The film stars Gabin and Renaud, as husband and wife André and Yvonne, he the captain of the crew, and the stunning Michèle Morgan (THE FALLEN IDOL, PORT OF SHADOWS) as a mysterious woman named Catherine whom André rescues, initiating a desperate affair which seriously threatens the stability of home life.

LUMIÈRE D’ÉTÉ (1943) is a moody masterpiece set in the mountains in Provençal. Michèle (Madeleine Robinson) is a beautiful young woman whose future is ahead of her yet she is desperately attached to the fatalistic, dipsomaniac artist Roland (Pierre Brasseur); Patrice (Paul Bernard) is a decadent aristocrat living on a palatial-but-lonely estate who falls for Michèle, which causes jealousy from his long-time lover, Christine or “Cri-Cri” (Renaud), owner of the glass-enclosed mountain-top hotel The Guardian Angel. Into this already tightly-knit web is injected hunky and sincere, young worker Julien (Georges Marchal), who similarly falls in love with Michèle and who works at the massive construction site nearby—a Mephistophelean nightmare of nocturnal activity—where a dam is being constructed and the dynamite blasting seems to go on ominously and continuously.

LE CIEL EST À VOUS (translatable as the “The Sky is Yours,” 1944) is a nostalgic and warm-hearted drama about family life in a small town and a mother whose love of flying puts her at odds with her expected role in the home. Charles Vanel and Renaud star as Pierre and Thérèse Gauthier, a loving couple and parents of two children whose love is put to the test when Thérèse, jealous of her mechanic husband’s—a former WWI airman—intense interest in aviation spurs her to take up the sport for herself, eventually aiming to break a risky distance flying record. The tension in Le Ciel comes not from unrequited or doomed love (interestingly, all of the flying action is either observed from the ground or takes place off-screen) but from the everyday problems of hard-working people trying to free themselves through pursuit of their dreams, even when those passions threaten to become obsessions and bring everything crashing back down to earth. Renaud is commanding: both her brave performance and the portrayal of a family trying to pull together in hard times make it easy to see how this film would have appealed highly to wartime audiences living under the boot of Nazi control.

In all three films Grémillon’s controlled, often studio-shot virtuoso camerawork is on display: intricate special-effects and tracking shots used during the daring tugboat rescue in Remorques, as well as an extended wedding sequence; a concluding masked ball in Lumière which is a marvel for the eyes to behold; and a sensationally long and idyllic take at the outset of Le Ciel—the camera pans right from a flock of bleating sheep moving across a field to a group of schoolchildren singing and playing, as they eventually are reassembled and begin walking back into town.

If poetic realism is your thing—fatalistic love affairs; settings both picturesque and squalid; buffoonish and hilarious performances by great French character actors such as Léonce Corne; high and low classes intermingling in the ebb and flow of destiny; world-weary protagonists who pontificate and sigh piquant observations on the injustices of life; and plots by turns quotidian or shot through with broad symbolism—then Jean Grémillon’s world is for you.

In the meantime, stay tuned: we will continue to dig around here at Best Video and let you know what other buried treasure we find.

Music: Ilana Zsigmond show, scheduled for Thursday, postponed due to illness

The Ilana Zsigmond show, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14—has been postponed due to illness. Hopefully this show ill be rescheduled for sometime in the new year.