After being thrown into overdrive for a few days by unavoidable events, illness, and new best friends, I'm taking a day today for significant blogging and nerdy activities. Also known as my favorite things. First up is a post on two recent things I watched/heard and enjoyed greatly.
Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
Great. Another album Pitchfork raves about. I'm sure I'll disagree with this one too.
Wait, I forgot. That's what old David would say. Some time over the past year I went through a portal into a bizarre world where my tastes closely align with Pitchfork and rarely is there a big divide between our musical tastes. This album somewhat predictably is a complete hit with me, as I would quite possibly go as far to say that it is one of my favorites so far this year, along with the Thermals' Now We Can See and Portugal. the Man's The Satantic Satanists.
Bibio sounds like the love child between Rogue Wave and RJD2, two prodigious musical talents in their own right but the perfect alchemy of artists to craft Bibio's Ambivalence Avenue. While sometimes the album pushes hard in one direction (the purely RJD2 beat dropper "Fire Ant", the precious and emotional Rogue Wave-esque "Lover's Carvings"), most of the time this album finds a happy medium between soothing vocals and guitar pluckings and electronic production values. The combination of those aspects typically work off the pop music backbone of both of those artists, using the electronic structuring and beats to remove the listlessness of the folk aspects and using the emotional acuity of the folk to give this robot some heart.
This album from what I've read belongs in a genre titled "folktronica", which is extremely funny to me. Given that those two genres to me exist in two non-overlapping sections of the Venn diagram of music, the fact that Bibio not only successfully makes music with them is inspiring. The fact that he makes this album a favorite for the head bobbers and the deeply bearded alike is completely stunning. This is a wonderful album, capturing emotions without coaxing them out of me with cheap lyrics, eliciting grins with clever usage of production and instrumentation, and soothing me with pleasant and oft-charming vocals. Definitely worth a spin for you more adventurous musical folk.
Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue: A
The Hurt Locker (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by Mark Boal)
From the director of Point Break, the writer of In the Valley of Elah, and featuring the stars of 28 Weeks Later and We Are Marshall comes the Hurt Locker, one of the most highly acclaimed movies of the year.
Okay, if you phrase it like that, the whole "most highly acclaimed movies of the year" thing seems quite far fetched really. The point is, this movie is greater than the sum of its parts and these actors, writers and directors are better than what they've previously shown. This film tracks the last 38 days of Bravo Company's time on a tour of Iraq, specifically through the eyes of a bomb disposal unit (comprised of the incredibly underrated Jeremy Renner, the stellar Anthony Mackie, and the quietly effective Brian Geraghty) recently formed because of a tragedy that happened to their former team leader.
This is not a plot driven movie however - it is more psychological, more about getting into these soldiers heads and finding out what makes them tick and how they can keep going, day in and day out, knowing that any movie could be their last. For some people this movie may not work, but I have to admit, seeing the intensely long lines at GI Joe (including many veterans who evidently feel more connection to a ridiculous movie about cybernetically strengthened soldiers than one about what it is really like to be a soldier) and then looking at the ten or so people in my theater during this, well, I was a bit disappointed. Well written, poignant, intense, visceral, and well acted by an extraordinary cast, this is everything a war movie should be.
Going back to the seemingly bad start in terms of who was making this, first I want to comment on director Kathryn Bigelow. While nothing in her career up until this movie really said she was capable of something like this, obviously she is as the proof is on the screen. The tension in every scene is palpable, and the way she and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd stage the shots is awe-inspiring. There were a few scenes where the intensity actually caused goose bumps on my arms. Writer Mark Boal wrote many powerful scenes, both in the action sense but also in the emotional sense. The way he demonstrated war slowly breaking each of these characters, and the way he revealed what was truly different about Renner's team leader Will James versus the rest was incredible.
Of course, that latter part would not have been possible if it weren't for Renner's tour de force performance. As a man only comforted by the rigors of war, a man who "is not much of a social person but one hell of a warrior" (paraphrased from the movie), he provides the smoldering center and the pivot point for all characters and scenes to spin off of. His teammates Sanborn and Eldridge are just trying to live long enough to go home and start families, but Renner's James is a complete wild card who is there because war is the only time he feels alive. Confounded by reality, soothed by danger, this is one of the most interesting and well drawn characters of 2009 and a role that will hopefully set Renner up for future successes.
The rest of the cast is superb, from the supporting team of Independent Spirit Award nominee (for this movie) Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty to the don't-blink-or-you-might-miss-them roles for Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly. Typically you wouldn't see that kind of elite talent in a tiny movie like this, but when a movie is so captivating and revelatory about two major population bases of modern society, I bet it was quite the fight to even get those roles for those major actors.
Incredible movie, and I would definitely say it fits snugly behind Up as my second favorite movie so far (pending...a lot of movies).
The Hurt Locker: A