24 December 2014

Favorite Music from 2014

2014 Top Ten Albums

  1. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell
  2. Sinoia Caves - Beyond the Black Rainbow (Soundtrack)
  3. Aphex Twin - Syro
  4. Owen Pallett - In Conflict
  5. Todd Terje - It’s Album Time
  6. Röyksopp - The Inevitable End
  7. The Antlers - Familiars
  8. Kiasmos - Kiasmos
  9. Clark - Clark
  10. The Budos Band - Burnt Offering

Honorable Mentions:
...And Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - IX
Fatima Al Qadiri - Asiatisch
M. Geddes Gengras - Ishi
Moonface - City Wrecker
Sun Kil Moon - Benji
Tacocat - Tacocat
TV On the Radio - Seeds
Tycho - Awake
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestite

2014 Top 25 Music Tracks
Röyksopp - Skulls
Tacocat - Bridge to Hawaii
Hundred Waters - Cavity
The Antlers - Palace
Aphex Twin - minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix]
Sinoia Caves - Sentionauts II
Operators - True
Owen Pallett - The Riverbed
Todd Terje - Inspector Norse
Tycho - Awake
Noosa - Begin Again
Kiasmos - Looped
Arca - Thievery
Clark - Winter Linn
The Budos Band - The Sticks
TV on the Radio - Happy Idiot
M. Geddes Gengras - Passage
Plaid - Matin Lunaire
Cashmere Cat - With Me
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - A Million Random Digits
Moonface - Daughter of a Dove
Rustie - Raptor
Wolves in the Throne Room - Turning Ever Towards the Sun
Interpol - All the Rage Back Home
Porter Robinson - Sad Machine

09 December 2014

30 November 2014

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Dir. Werner Herzog

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As depicted by Herzog, Deiter Dengler is a man with a traumatic past who nonetheless remains curious, optimistic and enlivened by the world. The final shot is ecstatic but also a gentle reminder of the mortality of man; even surrounded by his dreams, he stands in a graveyard.

01 November 2014

Monster's University

Dir. Dan Scanlon

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We start and end on scene of near painterly tranquil. In between we're treated to cutesified grotesqueries (the birds in the first shot are soon to be revealed as three-headed, fang-bearing monsters) and the painful knowledge that just because you try hard at something, doesn't mean you'll get good at it. This message, a rare one in children's cinema, is delivered with a light touch: the autumnal imagery of the opening image sets the stage for a lot of softly lit near photoreal animation; but it's nevertheless conveyed deftly.

21 March 2014

17 March 2014


Dir. Steve McQueen

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Steve McQueen opens his film detailing the hunger strike instigated in the Maze prison by Bobby Sands with a chaotic image of protest. We at first only see abstracted movement and hear a deafening rattle. Slowly we realize the image is that of a trash can lid, slammed repeatedly against the ground; there are other lids too, a whole army of them, pounded against the ground by a group of determined protesters. It's an arresting way to start the film, and stands in stark contrast to the next 15 or so minutes, in which very little action appears on screen. We're prepared for the violence that occurs later on in the film by this opening, however, and prepared for polemic nature of the film: after all, it starts with a protest.

16 March 2014

A Serious Man

Dir. Joel and Ethan Cohen

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"Accept the mystery," says the parent of a student trying to bribe the beleaguered teacher, Larry Gopnik. Larry struggles to find meaning to find a reason behind all his troubles: his divorce, his troubled brother, his lack of answers from his spiritual leaders. The Cohens open and close their film with images of weather, symbolizing the lack of ability humans really have to control their own destiny. Why, really, does snow fall, or tornados whirl? Does it have to do with the actions of the mortals on this planet? Is it punishment from a divine being or simply pressure systems? Ultimately, the answer is unknowable.

14 March 2014

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone

Dir. Chris Columbus

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We start the seven year, 8-film journey charting Harry Potter's development from neglected, underfed, friendless and underprivileged to his ascension as a knowledgable, capable and person-of-import here, looking up into a bleak night sky with a sign announcing the plainness of his origins. It's always there, in the back of Harry's (and by extension, the audience's mind), that Harry came from an ordinary (and, in many respects quite unhealthy) place; and it's somewhere he could always slide back into. Indeed, each film begins with him again back at Privet drive. But, inside this opening image is embedded a clue to his potential, a magical owl; a person in animal form who is looking out for him. Indeed, in the final shot the angle has changed; we are above the clatter of the world and looking straight at the distant magical castle. We are inspired to dream as Harry dreams: that no matter our origins and previous traumas and no matter our tendency to return to them, we have a greater potential, and, perhaps, we have loved ones looking out after us.

13 March 2014

The Hunt for Red October

Dir. John McTiernan

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"It's cold this morning," the XO remarks to the Captain. The captain agrees. "Cold, and hard." We see the cold and feel the harsh reality of the environment in this opening shot, symbolically standing in for the cold and hard regime under which the XO and Captain live; a regime from which they are planning to defect. At the end we see a teddy bear, purchased to accompany Jack Ryan's daughter's existing bear, showing he is close to returning to domestic tranquility. But the bear too points us to the comfort that the Captain now feels, away from the "cold and hard" place he left. 

11 March 2014

Killing Them Softly

Dir. Andrew Dominik

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Opening with the detritus of campaign promises: banners, posters, stickers and all the other accouterments of a hard-fought political campaign. And it's all just so much trash now, trash that the characters never seem to rise above. Closing with the hard-working earnest face of a killer spouting the lines: "America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fuckin' pay me." Cynical? Certainly. Accurate? Depressingly so.