A Slice of Fried Gold

Slices of Fried Gold

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ahhhh. I'm finally getting back in the swing of the whole blog thing. Only took me two months, but still, who is really counting anyways? No less, I'm bringing back an old feature that I used to put up every week - a recommendation post that I call "Slices of Fried Gold." Hope you new readers dig it, and old readers (Erik!) I hope you enjoy my recommendations.

Moon (Directed by Duncan Jones, written by Jones and Nathan Parker)

Not to be confused with the forthcoming Twilight sequel (that's New Moon people), this film is a different breed of sci-fi. Its closest relatives in the world of film would have to be Kubrick's 2001 or Boyle's Sunshine, it is a film which takes a look at space not from the adventurous point-of-view, but from the psychological standpoint. It's not all alien discoveries and cool space battles, this type of sci-fi can give us a different spin on the effects of loneliness on a person, a look at what man will do when backed against a corner, and even a look at corporate atrocity and non-sustainable fuel resources. In short, this isn't your standard fair.

Really, I could easily see this being staged as a play, as almost the entire film takes place inside a space station as astronaut Sam Bell (played by the unfathomably underrated Sam Rockwell) is wrapping up a three year hitch as the sole attendant to a HE3 (some variation of Helium which is a fuel resource in the future that is far more sustainable than oil) mining station and the machines that mine the ore. Being alone with a broken satfeed, limitless I Dream of Jeannie! and the Mary Tyler Moore Show reruns, and a sympathetic robot named Gerty (a properly dehumanized Kevin Spacey) predictably starts to wear on Bell, and as it always does in films like this, something goes wrong!

I won't go into any details about this, but the film is quite the trip. I had a general idea of what this was about when going in, and as it turns out I was really far off base as to what it really was. A lot of the film is just going in and experiencing everything without having it spoiled, but there are many twists and variation for what effectively is a one character show. The gradual breakdown of Bell is remarkably captured by Rockwell, an actor that is always a favorite but never really getting roles that meet his ample acting needs. With this role, he finally finds something that he matches up well with, and he puts on a show here. He takes Bell through emotions that I had never even considered possible before, and makes them realistic and makes the audience empathic to what he is going through. That takes some serious skill.

Director Duncan Jones (David Bowie's son) does a wonderful job laying out this storyline for us in a way that naturally flows without getting too absurd (as it quite likely could have, which you will know when you see it), but its not all perfect as the pacing is sometimes glacial (at best). He could have stood to tighten up the film a bit in the editing room, but I understand why he didn't. Clint Mansell provides ominous and haunting music to pair with the stark visuals, but the film is not a dynamic sounding one. It really misses out on the classic soundtrack/scores of Sunshine and 2001, which would have really rounded out the whole experience.

Overall though, this is a superb film. It definitely is not for everyone, as multiple people at my showing walked out (to be fair, it was a REALLY weird audience), but if you like movies that are a smidge more challenging, I highly recommend Moon.

Moon: B

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

My friend Erik totally hit the nail on the head with this album, as he said it was his favorite album this year and it really is absurdly good. While this album is not at all my style (a guy singing lonesome songs about life, love, and God, very deeply and with pared down instruments supporting him), there is something that just really works about it. Whether it is Callahan's extremely deep and charismatic voice, the tempered but robust instruments (it seems like new instruments sneak in with every song - this guy must be freakishly talented), or the haunting and soulful melodies, I don't know. Just everything about this album works.

But I do have to say, after probably five or six listens to the album, the album closer "Faith/Void" is the clear standout. 9 minutes and 44 seconds of pure wonder. It's alternately relaxing yet rousing, basely melodious yet deep with thought, sprawling yet concise. It manages to cover all of my musical bases within one track, and I think I am completely in love with it.

This album came completely out of nowhere for me, but I enjoy it deeply. Thanks Erik!

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle: A-

Wednesday Comics (DC Comics)

Look at that picture of the guy above reading the newspaper. Nothing weird about that, right? Oh wait, nevermind. That isn't a newspaper. That's the new title from DC Comics, aptly titled Wednesday Comics (be careful when you go to your local comic store and add it to your pull - "Wednesday Comics...all?"). DC decided to go a bit old school with this new project, as it combines the slowly dying concept of comic strips in the newspaper with modern day heroes and giants of the industry producing the strips themselves.

In 12 issues, DC will tell 12 part stories of many of their characters one page a time, from a Batman story told by 100 Bullets team Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, to a Metamorpho: the Elemental Man story by titans of industry Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred, to a Kamandi: the Last Boy on Earth story by personal favorite Dave Gibbons (writing) and artistic chameleon Ryan Sook. All of that, plus no less than 10 more stories told by such greats as Kurt Busiek, Joe and Adam Kubert, Walt Simonson, Lee Bermejo, and many, many more.

It easily could have turned out to be a complete gimmick and a bust, but thankfully it ultimately turned into an out-and-out success, entertaining and providing the reader with an alternately unique and high quality experience. Bravo DC for the best value $3.99 will provide you at a comic store.


Erok said...

If you don't already, I would start listening to the NPR podcasts for "All Songs Considered" and "Sound Opinions." Here is a three song live set of Callahan from NPR music.


David Harper said...

Go Bill Simmons or go home! I'm trying to keep my podcast listening to a minimum, as I could see it getting out of control. So far I just listen to the B.S. Report, because Bill is my boy.

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