Music: Rock with Spectral Fangs on Fri., May 8, at 8 PM

Photo by Erin Waterfall

Photo by Erin Waterfall

Connecticut indie rock band Spectral Fangs play the Best Video Performance Space on Friday, May 8. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Originally a three-piece garage band with dreamy drifts, Spectral Fangs expanded in November 2012 to fit waves of reverb and power pop sensibilities. Now the band floats tight melodies high above a coalescence of ’60s soul, ’70s punk, irreverent ’90s rock and indie pop.

Spectral Fangs’ influences range from T.Rex and Belle and Sebastian to The Soft Boys, Dinosaur Jr., The dBs and The Left Banke. This reflects only a sliver of the vast music catalogue galvanizing the band—and the many projects that each Fang has embarked upon since they were teenagers growing up in the Tri-State Area.

For more than a decade prior to becoming Spectral Fangs, Joe, Tony and Jared participated in Connecticut’s indie music scene, driving jangly, guitar-focused garage bands like The Saltwater Swells, JFK and The Field Recordings. This sound represented a logical progression from the frenetic punk rock urgency of their earliest band years, when they played New York City dives, famous Connecticut clubs and teen centers.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Thursday, May 7. CLASSICAL/JAZZ: PETRICHORD—SAMUEL SUGGS & MOLLY NETTER

• Friday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: SPECTRAL FANGS

• Wednesday, May 13. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL: BIG FAT COMBO

• Thursday, May 14. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES

• Friday, May 15. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Thursday, May 21. INDIE ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Friday, May 22. ROCK: NOTHING SPECIAL

• Wednesday, May 27. BLUEGRASS: THE FIDDLEHEADS

• Thursday, May 28. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SETH ADAM

• Friday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Thursday, June 4. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR, PARLAY DRONER

• Friday, June 5. STRING QUARTET ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Monday, June 8. FILM SCREENING: “FINDING TATANKA”

• Friday, June 12. BLUEGRASS: THE WOOL HATS STRING BAND

• Thursday, June 18: SILENT FILM with MUSIC: LIGHT UPON BLIGHT scores “THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI”

• Friday, June 26. INDIE FOLK: OLIVE TIGER

• Friday, July 17. PIANO POP/PAINTING: POCKET VINYL

• Wednesday, Aug. 26. BLUEGRASS: STACY PHILLIPS & HIS BLUEGRASS CHARACTERS

Music: Classical/jazz crossover with Petrichord: “Crossing from Bach to Daft Punk” on Thurs., May 7, at 8 PM

Samuel_Suggs_BW_WebDouble bassist Sam Suggs, along with vocalist Molly Netter and perhaps some other friends, will perform at Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, May 7. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

The program is “Petrichord: Crossing from Bach to Daft Punk” with vocalist Molly Netter and double bassist Sam Suggs and friends.

“I’m going to do a good deal of solo work — arrangements of Bach’s lute suite, a premiere of a new work and my own compositions — as well as pieces with my duo partner Molly Netter and maybe a few other friends will join — classical, jazz, fuzzy,” says Suggs.

Oregon Arts Watch:

What Suggs proceeded to play quite simply boggled the mind. Audience members sat up on the edge of their seats, leaning forward … to try to discern just how he was making the myriad sounds from his single instrument… I virtually held my breath all the way to the end.”

Seen and Heard International wrote, “Molly Netter enlivens complex and beautiful music with a voice described as “crisp and clear, white yet warm.”

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, May 1. FILM SCREENING: TONY JULIANO PRESENTS “A DARK ROOM FILM FEST”

• Thursday, May 7. CLASSICAL/JAZZ: PETRICHORD—SAMUEL SUGGS & MOLLY NETTER

• Friday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: SPECTRAL FANGS

• Wednesday, May 13. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL: BIG FAT COMBO

• Thursday, May 14. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES

• Friday, May 15. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Thursday, May 21. INDIE ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Friday, May 22. ROCK: NOTHING SPECIAL

• Wednesday, May 27. BLUEGRASS: THE FIDDLEHEADS

• Thursday, May 28. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SETH ADAM

• Friday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Thursday, June 4. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR, PARLAY DRONER

• Friday, June 5. STRING QUARTET ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Monday, June 8. FILM SCREENING: “FINDING TATANKA”

• Friday, June 12. BLUEGRASS: THE WOOL HATS STRING BAND

• Thursday, June 18: SILENT FILM with MUSIC: LIGHT UPON BLIGHT scores “THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI”

• Friday, June 26. INDIE FOLK: OLIVE TIGER

• Friday, July 17. PIANO POP/PAINTING: POCKET VINYL

• Wednesday, Aug. 26. BLUEGRASS: STACY PHILLIPS & HIS BLUEGRASS CHARACTERS

 

New Releases 4/28/15

Top Hits
Inherent Vice (thriller/comedy, Joaquin Phoenix. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic love-in ‘Inherent Vice,’ Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc Sportello, a Los Angeles shamus in Jesus sandals trucking through the sunshine and noir like a stoner Philip Marlowe. Based on the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel, the film is set in 1970, the year after Charles Manson freaked the city out and its good vibrations faded into an endless summer bummer. That’s the gospel according to Joan Didion, at any rate, who in ‘The White Album’ writes that many people she knew believed the 1960s ended Aug. 9, 1969, the day the Manson Family began its Helter Skelter frenzy. Somehow Doc, a hippie crowned in a halo of pot smoke, never got the message.” Read more…)

The Gambler (thriller, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 55. From Manhla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘The Gambler’ is based on the terrific lowdown and gritty 1974 movie of the same title starring James Caan. That film was beautifully directed by Karel Reisz from James Toback’s script about his experience as a gambler and college lecturer; the new one was directed by Rupert Wyatt from a screenplay by William Monahan, who also wrote Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award windfall ‘The Departed.’ Without a script in hand, it’s tough to tell how significant a contribution a writer makes to a movie, what was retained or changed from page to screen. All that’s clear in this ‘Gambler’ is that almost everything that makes the original so pleasurably idiosyncratic, from its daft ideas to the peekaboo bear rug spread over Mr. Caan’s often-bared chest, has been expunged from the remake. Read more…)

The Boy Next Door (suspense, Jennifer Lopez. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 30. From Nicolas Rapold’s  New York Times review: “He can fix garage doors, beat up bullies and analyze “The Iliad,” but don’t be fooled: The new almost-20-year-old neighbor, Noah [Ryan Guzman], is a nightmare for an almost divorced schoolteacher, Claire Peterson [Jennifer Lopez], in ‘The Boy Next Door.’ She succumbs to his flattery and his sculpted body one night, after walking out on a date, and the rest of the movie is devoted to showing how bad an idea that passionate mistake was.” Read more…)

Paddington (family, Hugh Bonneville. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 77. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In stark contrast to their furry, blundering star, the makers of ‘Paddington’ have colored so carefully inside the lines that any possibility of surprise or subversion is effectively throttled. Perhaps burdened by an excess of respect for Paddington Bear’s creator, the children’s author Michael Bond, or maybe just unwilling to deter the built-in market for the inevitable movie-related merchandising, the filmmakers have settled on safe.” Read more…)

The Wedding Ringer (comedy, Kevin Hart. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 35. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Jimmy Callahan, the professional best man of ‘The Wedding Ringer,’ warns his client more than once that theirs is strictly a business relationship. No actual friendship is intended or implied as Jimmy [Kevin Hart] fills the role of best bud for the self-described yutz Doug Harris [Josh Gad] before and during his wedding, for whom he also assembles a team of degenerate groomsmen.” Read more…)

Boy Meets Girl (romance/LGBT, Michael Welch. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 68. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Boy Meets Girl,’ or — as the subtitle should say, ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Being Transgender’ — is a romantic comedy that’s so progressive it hurts. Placing sex and gender identity at the center of almost every conversation, the writer and director, Eric Schaeffer, is so keen to demythologize that the film’s potentially most affecting moments are too often smothered by the hackneyed characters and setups that surround them.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Gambler
The Boy Next Door
Inherent Vice

New Foreign
Mommy (Canada, drama, Anne Dorval. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The French-Canadian writer, director and actor Xavier Dolan is only 25, but ‘Mommy,’ his fifth feature film in five years, seems like the work of an even younger filmmaker. I mean this, mostly, as a compliment. Stories of adolescence — young adult novels, coming-of-age movies, teenage-targeted television series — are usually the work of adults, and therefore often temper their emotional immediacy with nostalgia, condescension or grown-up wisdom. But ‘Mommy,’ the story of a troubled young man and his mother, seethes and howls with unchecked feeling. Shot in the square, narrow dimensions of a cellphone video, it is a pocket opera of grandiose self-pity, a wild and uncompromising demand for attention, a cri de coeur from the selfie generation.” Read more…)

Le Silence de la Mer (France, 1949, war drama, Howard Vernon. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Classic (pre-1960)
Ride the Pink Horse (1947, film, noir, Robert Montgomery. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Nobody writing for movies likes more than ironic Ben Hecht to muse on the dizzy and eccentric rotations of the merry-go-round of life. And that is what he is doing, in a hard-boiled and often violent way, in the script which he and Charles Lederer wrote for ‘Ride the Pink Horse.’ That is likewise what Robert Montgomery has intriguingly captured on the screen in this taut and macabre melodrama which came to the Winter Garden yesterday.” Read more…
From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of the Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray release: “Dissertations have surely pondered the place that Mexico [and territory that once belonged to Mexico] occupies in Hollywood film noir. The landscape is freighted with historical conflict — materially poor but culturally rich, a lawless realm that is also a sanctuary, an exotic garden of simple goodness and violent desire, all notions figuring in ‘Ride the Pink Horse,’ directed by and starring Robert Montgomery… Praised by the pioneering French survey ‘A Panorama of American Film Noir’ for its ‘enigmatic situations’ and ‘somewhat barbarous poetry,’ the movie is a typical expression of postwar disillusionment — except that the returning G.I. [Montgomery] is a petty gangster gone to New Mexico to shake down a war profiteer [Fred Clark]. And rather than navigating a neon jungle, he finds himself lost in the back alleys of a colonial pueblo, flooded with Anglo tourists for the annual fiesta.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Trial and Error (1997, comedy, Michael Richards. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. From Janet Maslin’s 1997 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Actor Michael] Richards teams up wittily with Jeff Daniels in ‘Trial and Error,’ a comedy that’s much fresher and sunnier than it has any real right to be. Jonathan Lynn, the director of ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ has essentially made the same film all over again in a different setting, but the formula still works.” Read more…)

New British
Wolf Hall (costume drama mini-series, Mark Rylance. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 86.)

New Documentaries
Last Days in Vietnam (war, American history, Rory Kennedy. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 86. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Perhaps the most striking thing about ‘Last Days in Vietnam,’ Rory Kennedy’s eye-opening documentary about the 1975 evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon, is how calmly it surveys what was once among the angriest topics in American political life. The story is full of emotion and danger, heroism and treachery, but it is told in a mood of rueful retrospect rather than simmering partisan rage. Ms. Kennedy, whose uncle John F. Kennedy expanded American involvement in Vietnam and whose father, Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the ensuing war’s most passionate critics, explores its final episode with an open mind and lively curiosity.” Read more…)

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies (health, science, Ken Burns. Metacritic: 78. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “This absorbing series, directed by Barak Goodman, has as an executive producer, Ken Burns, who knows something about how to make a documentary about a war and how to make history come alive. It’s a timeline of humanity’s long effort to cure cancer, going back to the preindustrial age but concentrating on the last 75 years or so. The series is structured as an ever-evolving medical detective story, but the filmmakers give it heart as well by juxtaposing the history lessons with present-day personal profiles of cancer patients.” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
Boy Meets Girl (romance/LGBT, Michael Welch)

New Children’s DVDs
StarStruck: Extended Edition (Disney music movie, Sterling Knight)

UPDATED with ticket info! Sat., Apr. 25, fundraiser for Best Video Film & Cultural Center, new non-profit dedicated to saving Best Video

Friends of Best Video BVFCC_color_WebBest Video Film and Cultural Center—a new non-profit created to preserve Best Video’s rich archive and explore new ways to bring people, film, and music together—will be holding a benefit music event at The Ballroom at The Outer Space on Saturday, April 25, from 7-10 p.m.

Tickets are $25 but we encourage supporters to give more if you can. Donations above $25 will be tax deductible.

Tickets can be purchased and additional donations made through Brown Paper Tickets.

(Tickets can also be purchased at Best Video [cash or check only]. If making out a check for more than $25 and you wish the amount exceeding $25 to be tax-deductible, make the check out to “The Institute Library” and put “BVFCC” in the memo.)

A superb lineup of superb local artists have offered to donate their talent for this event: Goodnight Blue Moon, Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps, Eurisko, Dudley Farm String Band and jazz guitarist Joe Carter.

Steve Rodgers, owner of The Space and The Outer Space, has generously donated use of The Ballroom for our inaugural event.

About BVFCC

Best Video Film and Cultural Center (“BVFCC”) was created to preserve Best Video’s rich archive and explore new ways to bring people, film, and music together. Later this year, BVFCC will start to operate BEST VIDEO, a valued community space serving Greater New Haven with its world class film archive, performance space and coffee bar.

The entire film archive – one of the finest such collections in the country – will remain in place and continue to grow with additions of more foreign and domestic films, documentaries, and dramatic TV series. In addition, the music events, film screenings and other presentations in the performance space will be expanded to reach a broader community audience.

Educational Outreach

A new and very important part of BVFCC’s activities will be an extensive educational outreach program. Films and targeted curriculum will be packaged and organized by specific categories and made available to area schools and other educational organizations. Our goal is to cultivate critical thinking and enhance writing skills for students of all ages by starting a film club in every public school in Greater New Haven. Acclaimed films in the BEST VIDEO collection will be seen and experienced by more people than ever before and clubs will be forums for deep discussion about both domestic and international social justice issues, as well as film history and the arts in general.

Partnership with THE INSTITUTE LIBRARY

Applying for 501c3 status takes time. However, we are partnering with The Institute Library – New Haven, Connecticut’s oldest independent circulating library and one of the last remaining membership libraries in North America. The Institute Library has agreed to be BVFCC’s fiscal sponsor. What that means is that you can make a tax-deductible contribution to BVFCC through the Institute Library today.

New Membership Options

A new membership format is being developed, one which we believe will better serve BEST VIDEO’s 5,000 customers and streamline the video rental process.

Our Success Depends on You

We invite the support of every member of the BEST VIDEO family. If you are unable to make it to the concert, please consider making a donation. All amounts are greatly appreciated. We look forward to the participation of all of our existing members and we are excited to welcome new members to our family as we make this major transition to an even better BEST VIDEO.

 

Films Screening: “A Dark Room Film Fest”—short films by local filmmakers on Fri., May 1, at 7 PM

adrlogo_WebArtist Tony Juliano presents the second “A Dark Room Film Fest” at Best Video Performance Space on Friday, May 1. Juliano will offer up short films by more than a dozen local filmmakers. The event starts at 7 PM and admission is $5.

Previously, Juliano has presented non-mainstream movies he likes at Never Ending Books in New Haven.

The lineup of filmmakers and their films:

Jesse Richards: “Days Gone Not Forgotten”
Harris Smith: “The Death Cycle” and “Youngblood”
Elizabeth Jane Thesis: “Killing Time With Lizzie “Boredom”
Jimi Patterson: “Portrait Of An Artist: Maria Kreyn” or a new Elison Jackson music video.
Roy Rezaäli: “Tulip”
Ali Robins: “After I Woke”
Scott Barley: “Nightwalk”
Rob Zott: “I’m Just Me”
Ian Applegate: “Rap Music Today Vol I”
Mike Franzman: “Winter In New Haven”
Tony Juliano: “Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron” and “Sonny”
Wally Chung: “Tall Evil”
Steven Tsuchida: “A Ninja Pays Half My Rent”
Still from Tony Juliano's "Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron," starring Vivienne LaFlamme

Still from Tony Juliano’s “Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron,” starring Vivienne LaFlamme

UPCOMING EVENTS:
• Thursday, Apr. 30. INDIE ROCK: loom• Friday, May 1. FILM FEST: “A DARK ROOM”

• Thursday, May 7. CLASSICAL/JAZZ: PETRICHORD—SAMUEL SUGGS & MOLLY NETTER

• Friday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: SPECTRAL FANGS

• Wednesday, May 13. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL: BIG FAT COMBO

• Thursday, May 14. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES

• Friday, May 15. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Thursday, May 21. INDIE ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Friday, May 22. ROCK: NOTHING SPECIAL

• Wednesday, May 27. BLUEGRASS: THE FIDDLEHEADS

• Thursday, May 28. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SETH ADAM

• Friday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Thursday, June 4. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR, PARLAY DRONER

• Friday, June 5. STRING QUARTET ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Monday, June 8. FILM SCREENING: “FINDING TATANKA”

• Friday, June 12. BLUEGRASS: THE WOOL HATS STRING BAND

• Thursday, June 18: SILENT FILM with MUSIC: LIGHT UPON BLIGHT scores “THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI”

• Friday, June 26. INDIE FOLK: OLIVE TIGER

• Friday, July 17. PIANO POP/PAINTING: POCKET VINYL

• Wednesday, Aug. 26. BLUEGRASS: STACY PHILLIPS & HIS BLUEGRASS CHARACTERS

Music: loom play on Thurs., Apr. 30, at 8 PM

Loom_WEbThe indie rock group loom play Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Apr. 29. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

loom (Obscure Me Records) is a four-piece from Bethel, Conn., that makes heavy, dreamy pop with heart. The band is comprised of singer-songwriter Danielle Capalbo (guitars, vox), her brother Will Touri (lead guitar), drummer Jared Thompson (Spectral Fangs, The Field Recordings) and bassist Robbie Vozza (The Ghost Sonata). Danielle’s disarming vocals and keen songwriting are the backbone for the band’s subtle unorthodox pop music.

At turns shoe gaze and anthemic, loom conjures the likes of Wye Oak or Slowdive. While relatively young—Capalbo assembled the group in winter 2014—loom has already drawn attention, with debut B-Side “Every Crime” named one of WCNI’s Top 10 songs of 2014 (Moon Cheese Baby).

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Thursday, Apr. 23. ECLECTIC ACOUSTIC MUSIC: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, Apr. 24. BLUEGRASS: THE KOREY BRODSKY BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 30. INDIE ROCK: loom

• Friday, May 1. FILM FEST: “A DARK ROOM”

• Thursday, May 7. CLASSICAL/JAZZ: PETRICHORD—SAMUEL SUGGS & MOLLY NETTER

• Friday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: SPECTRAL FANGS

• Wednesday, May 13. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL: BIG FAT COMBO

• Thursday, May 14. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES

• Friday, May 15. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Thursday, May 21. INDIE ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Friday, May 22. ROCK: NOTHING SPECIAL

• Wednesday, May 27. BLUEGRASS: THE FIDDLEHEADS

• Thursday, May 28. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SETH ADAM

• Friday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Thursday, June 4. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR, PARLAY DRONER

• Friday, June 5. STRING QUARTET ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Monday, June 8. FILM SCREENING: “FINDING TATANKA”

• Friday, June 12. BLUEGRASS: THE WOOL HATS STRING BAND

• Thursday, June 18: SILENT FILM with MUSIC: LIGHT UPON BLIGHT scores “THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI”

• Friday, June 26. INDIE FOLK: OLIVE TIGER

• Friday, July 17. PIANO POP/PAINTING: POCKET VINYL

• Wednesday, Aug. 26. BLUEGRASS: STACY PHILLIPS & HIS BLUEGRASS CHARACTERS

 

New Releases 4/21/15

Top Hits
Cake (drama, Jennifer Aniston. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The modestly scaled, sad-funny indie drama “Cake” centers on a woman and the kind of grief that’s so unbearable this movie can’t even handle it. Jennifer Aniston plays Claire, who, having survived a horrific accident, now lives in near isolation in Los Angeles in a mid-century magazine layout of a house. Its clean lines, drawn by an architect and embellished by a period-design obsessive, make a vivid contrast with the scars jaggedly slashed across Claire’s face and body. Her wounds have healed, but her grimace and the shadows darkening it announce that she’s far from whole.” Read more…)

Walter (comedy, Milo Ventimiglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 36. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “The narrative is effectively constructed and the cinematography is crisp. Even so, in touching lightly on themes without committing to any of them, the movie falls flat. What should be sweet is saccharine, what might be profound seems trite. Supernatural comedy, psychological mystery, modern-day parable, “Walter” is a little of all of these — another way of saying it can’t decide what it is or what story it wants to tell.” Read more…)

Little Accidents (drama, Elizabeth Banks. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The sympathetic young actor Jacob Lofland lights up the American independent movie ‘Little Accidents,’ an earnest, schematic, pocket-size drama about three people struggling under the weight of a calamity. He plays Owen, the elder of two boys who’ve recently lost their father in a coal mining accident that has left 10 dead and upended a West Virginia town. Now, amid the region’s sweeping green mountains, its ominous mines and traumatized population, Owen tries with lurching uncertainty to ease back into normal, even as the writer and director Sara Colangelo clutters his path with enough obstacles to challenge the most heroically determined traveler.” Read more…)

Last Weekend (drama/comedy, Patricia Clarkson. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 40. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “But mostly, ‘Last Weekend’ is an elegiac ode to affluence. This is one Lands’ End catalog of a movie, with woodsy, impeccably appointed interiors; crowded tables of culinary plenty; and a sunny society fund-raiser at the spread of a neighbor [Judith Light]. The reliably impressive Ms. Clarkson is a prickly paragon of benevolent upper-crust virtue. The only wistful suggestion at its comforting close is that such rarefied privilege for its characters might one day be gone.” Read more…)

The Babadook (horror, Essie Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The brilliance of ‘The Babadook,’ beyond [director Jennifer] Kent’s skillful deployment of the tried-and-true visual and aural techniques of movie horror, lies in its interlocking ambiguities. For a long time, you’re not sure if the Babadook is a supernatural or a psychological phenomenon. Once you’ve started to figure that out — or to decide that you’re too freaked out for it to matter — another, more disturbing question starts to arise. Maybe the monster is all in someone’s head, but if so, whose? Sam’s? Amelia’s? Yours?” Read more…)

Taken 3 (action, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 9%. Metacritic: 26. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “After “’Non-Stop,’ ‘Unknown’ and three installments of the ‘Taken’ thrillers, I’m not sure that Liam Neeson’s signature avengers are actually good people to know. On the plus side, they’ll use any means necessary to rescue you from kidnappers and killers. But if you’ve been kidnapped or are facing death, it’s probably directly related to knowing Mr. Neeson’s character in the first place, or just being nearby.” Read more…)

New Foreign
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Iran, vampire, Sheila Vand. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 81. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “By the time the vampire in the chador is skateboarding down a dark, desolate street, the director Ana Lily Amirpour has ensured that ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ will roll on in your memory. The vampire, a Persian-speaking waif called the Girl [Sheila Vand], also wears a striped fishing shirt and an occasional smear across her mouth that isn’t lipstick. She’s taken the skateboard from a nameless tyke [Milad Eghbali], whose indomitable quality and threadbare clothes evoke the children populating Abbas Kiarostami’s early films and, in turn, those of Italian neorealism. Whatever the inspiration, the kid is just one of a number of character types drifting through Ms. Amirpour’s cinematic fun house.” Read more…)

New Television
Fortitude (drama/thriller, Stanley Tucci. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 75.)
Veep: Season 3 (comedy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 86.)

New Documentaries
The Source Family (religion, cults, rock music, Father Yod. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “For anyone looking to teach a master class in brainwashing techniques, ‘The Source Family’ might be an excellent place to start. Documenting the hippy-dippy lifestyle and hedonistic principles of Hollywood’s favorite 1970s cult — led by the self-professed guru and suspected bank robber Jim Baker, a k a Father Yod — Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille’s disturbing film is an object lesson in psychological manipulation.” Read more…)

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (actor bio, movie history. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘How would you like to be remembered?’ the director David Lynch asks the actor Harry Dean Stanton during the documentary ‘Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.’ ‘Doesn’t matter,’ is the laconic reply, and you know he means it. It does matter, however, to the Swiss filmmaker Sophie Huber, who seems to have chosen a particularly tough subject for her first feature. Guarded in the extreme and bereft of vanity, Mr. Stanton, now 87, may have plumbed the inner workings of close to 200 characters, but he’s cagey about revealing his own.” Read more…)

Rob Harmon’s Picks 4/21/15

Rob_photo_031715_WebTwo by Hirokazu Kore-eda:
I Wish (2011)
Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda burst onto the international scene in 1995 with his debut feature MABOROSI before solidifying his position over the following fifteen years with additional art house hits such as AFTER LIFE (1998), NOBODY KNOWS (2004), and STILL WALKING (2008).

Yet, in spite of this admirable track record, Kore-eda remains something of an elusive presence outside of Japan, likely because of his tendency to eschew “safe” material in favor of more personal, idiosyncratic work, seemingly never following a predictable pattern. In short, because Kore-eda is unconcerned with simply producing a single type of film, he has probably never “materialized” in the minds of many Western viewers, which is a shame.

One of the things Kore-eda should be better known for in this country is his ability to work effectively with children. He is the rare filmmaker patient enough to film kids in their element, ensuring that they are not relegated to the role of mere devices in movies that are actually about adults. Kore-eda’s worldview is expansive and his two most recent films illustrate this fact beautifully.

I_WishI WISH tells the story of young brothers Koichi and Ryunosuke, dealing with the unpleasant reality of being separated for the first time in their lives, their parents having recently split up. Sullen Koichi (Kohki Maeda) lives at his grandparents’ house with his mom in Kagoshima, in the shadow of a volcano which daily spews ash into the air. Cheerful Ryunosuke (real-life brother Ohshiro Maeda, with a 1,000-watt smile) lives in Fukuoka with his dad, a slacker who works a menial job and spends much of his time strumming on the guitar and dreaming of rock band success with his bandmates. (Indeed, if anyone comes off as a little childish in this movie it is the parents!)

Koichi and Ryu desperately miss each other and want to reunite their family, when Koichi hits upon a solution, a variation, in fact, on a common Japanese folk belief: if one makes a wish at the point where two trains pass each other at top speed — in this case, a newly-opened bullet train line — the wish will come true. Koichi and Ryu (and assorted friends) concoct a pal, involving saving money and feigning illness to get out of school, to join each other at the crossing point miles and miles away. Meanwhile, Grandpa has a starry-eyed scheme of his own: to start a business manufacturing a traditional Japanese confection, the karukan. Just about everyone in this film is filled with desires and dreams… in short, with wishes.

Instead of following the expected fairy tale trajectories, Kore-eda’s parable of fraternal devotion chugs along at its own pace, never sabotaging the children’s characterizations for saccharine plot turns, the story luffing along like a summer’s breeze. Kore-eda even reserves a stylistic flourish for the climax, a “montage of wishing” which is both unexpected and heartbreaking in its simplicity.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON is the story of an affluent couple, Ryota and Midori, who are informed that their six-year old boy Keita is not, in fact, their own — there was a mix-up at the hospital at birth — and they, and the parents, Yudai and Yukari, who have been unknowingly raising their boy, Ryusei, must now decide whether to switch back, or….

Like_Father_Like_SonClearly, Kore-eda closely examines the idea of familial bonds and the meaning of family in LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON. Also undoubtedly, the scenario seems, on the surface, formulated to maximize the tearjerker potential. The theme of children being separated from their parents is common enough in melodrama and Hollywood history — think of Jackie Coogan being pulled from the arms of the little tramp in the THE KID or Barbara Stanwyck as the quintessential self-sacrificing mother, STELLA DALLAS, bedraggled and standing in the rain, watching her daughter’s wedding through a window from the street — scenes which can be generally counted upon to open the lachrymal floodgates of the audience.

However, Kore-eda again hijacks audience expectations by making the protagonist Ryota the least sympathetic character in the film. Though a crackerjack salaryman in the office, at home he is cold and aloof, an overly-pedantic taskmaster, both to his wife and his son. Kore-eda, in other words, challenges the audience to relate to someone who is a bit of a jerk, while his opposite, Yudai, though provincial, disheveled, and a bit of a loser, seems more the salt of the earth and is revered by his children. Ryota, in fact, is revealed to be the son of a remote and unfeeling father, and he struggles with his impending decision and the conflicting emotions that are awakened within him. Later on in the film, when it is revealed that the switching of the boys was no mere accident but a deliberate act on the part of a wayward hospital employee, Kore-eda defies expectations for a showdown in favor of a far more emotionally measured and realistic outcome.

If anything Kore-eda’s aim in this film seems to be to defer the moment of cathartic emotional release, and not to bring it on, wave after wave after wave. Given the immense emotional power of its material, LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON is remarkably restrained. Such restraint lends the entire film more beauty, and the “moments,” when they do come, more power.

Music: The Zu Zazz String Orkestra on Wed., Apr. 29, at 8 PM

ZuZazz_String_Band_WebThe ZuZazz String Orkestra plays Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Apr. 29. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $10.

A swinging sextet sporting combinations of fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, string-bass, piano, ukulele, and steel-guitar, ZuZazz plays American music from the first three decades of popular recordings.

Their repertoire includes abandoned and regional styles including: Old-timey, Vaudeville, Hawaiian, Blues, Jump, Bluegrass, Cowboy, Swing, Traditional Jazz and tasteless Novelty. Songs from Charlie Poole, Mae West,  Helen Hume, Jimmie Rodgers,  Irving Berlin and W.C Handy are the band’s mainstays.

Come hear a bunch of good-time tunes with dancing beats, ironic lyrics, bad rhymes, tight harmonies and forgotten history, rendered with long instrumental breaks, unanticipated laughter and moving feet.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, April 17. WPKN BENEFIT

• Wednesday, Apr. 22. AMERICANA/ROOTS: THE HELLWIGS

• Thursday, Apr. 23. ECLECTIC ACOUSTIC MUSIC: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, Apr. 24. BLUEGRASS: THE KOREY BRODSKY BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 30. INDIE ROCK: loom

• Friday, May 1. FILM FEST: “A DARK ROOM”

• Thursday, May 7. JAZZ: SAMUEL SUGGS

• Friday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: SPECTRAL FANGS

• Thursday, May 14. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES

• Friday, May 15. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Thursday, May 21. INDIE ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Friday, May 22. ROCK: NOTHING SPECIAL

• Thursday, May 28. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SETH ADAM

• Friday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Friday, June 26. INDIE FOLK: OLIVE TIGER

• Friday, July 17. PIANO POP/PAINTING: POCKET VINYL

• Wednesday, Aug. 26. BLUEGRASS: STACY PHILLIPS & HIS BLUEGRASS CHARACTERS

New Releases 4/14/15

Top Hits
Big Eyes (Tim Burton-directed drama, Amy Adams. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “A horror movie tucked inside a domestic drama wrapped up in a biopic, Tim Burton’s ‘Big Eyes’ tells the story of Margaret Keane, an artist whose characteristic style is summed up in the title… ‘Big Eyes,’ directed in Mr. Burton’s coy, heavily pictorial manner, and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, never quite achieves the full measure of psychological intensity promised by the spooky interior lighting, the low camera angles and Danny Elfman’s hysterical score. The element of Margaret’s personality that allowed her to remain under Walter’s spell for so long remains opaque.” Read more…)

Maps to the Stars (comic thriller, Julianne Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “If the Oscars have left you with a residual hatred of Hollywood or a renewed appreciation of Julianne Moore, ‘Maps to the Stars’ may be just what you need. Suavely directed by David Cronenberg from an elegantly waspish script by Bruce Wagner, it belongs to the venerable tradition of movieland self-loathing. The film, tipping its hat to Nathanael West’s ‘The Day of the Locust’ and Mr. Wagner’s own novels, imagines Los Angeles as an inferno of narcissism, greed and sexual perversity. The radiant sunshine has a sinister glow, and the blossoms on the trees are surely poisonous.” Read more…)

The Homesman (western, Tommy Lee Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Set in a flat, unforgiving stretch of the American frontier in the decade before the Civil War, ‘The Homesman’ is both a captivating western and a meticulous, devastating feminist critique of the genre. Mr. Jones, who rides alongside Ms. Swank as a whiskery ruffian known as Briggs, uses western iconography to dismantle a familiar set of romantic myths. Most basically, the journey Briggs and Mary Bee undertake is not further into the West but back toward the East. It is a trek that originates in failure, passes through frustration and concludes on ambiguous notes of sorrow, resignation and cynicism.” Read more…)

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (thriller, Anthony Hopkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%. Metacritic: 33. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The sole object lesson in the true-crime drama ‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’ is that not every crime deserves its own movie. That much becomes clear in the director Daniel Alfredson’s dreary, uninvolving fictionalized take on the real 1983 snatching of Alfred Heineken, chairman of the company bearing his family’s name.” Read more…)

Foreign Letters (coming of age story, Noa Rotstein)
Ragamuffin (Christian bio-pic, Michael Koch)

New Foreign
Goodbye to Language (France, Jean-Luc Godard-directed drama, Heloise Godet. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Jean-Luc] Godard has a habit of blending gravity with whimsy. His latest film, a 70-minute 3-D visual essay called ‘Goodbye to Language’ (‘Adieu au Langage’), exhibits the formal and philosophical mischief that has been his late-career calling card. It is baffling and beautiful, a flurry of musical and literary snippets arrayed in counterpoint to a series of brilliantly colored and hauntingly evocative pictures — of flowers, boats, streets, naked bodies and Mr. Godard’s own dog, a mixed-breed scene-stealer identified in the credits as Roxy Miéville.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968, comedy, Gina Lollobrigida)

New British
Foyle’s War: Set 8

New Documentaries
Antarctica: A Year On Ice (nature, photography. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 69. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The extremes of ‘Antarctica: A Year on Ice’ might seem routine to fans of nature documentaries, but the photographer and director Anthony Powell produces some dazzling imagery in his droll study of isolation way, way down under. His varied tour of Antarctica’s scientific stations and their long-term residents is like a jokey, expertly shot slide show from another world.” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
Such Good People (comedy/romance, Lance Bass)