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4/28/2003 12:59:52 PM

It was a beautiful day for a drive to Doylestown yesterday, where an “Independent Double Feature” screened at the County Theater, consisting of an odd pairing: the Brothers Quay short In Absentia and Chris Smith’s documentary Home Movie, accompanied by Jeff Krulik’s cult favorite Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

In Absentia is typical Brothers Quay fare, which is not to say it is formulaic or predictable. Their surreal images rely heavily on texture, which is often achieved through the use of meticulously animated light, focus, and camera movement, or by the compound use of a macro lens and grit-laden subject matter. This attention to texture has established a variety of moods throughout their films. In Absentia’s mood is uneasy; the film deals with an institutionalized woman endlessly writing letters to her husband which will never be delivered. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s soundtrack is deafening and terrifying.

Home Movie is Chris Smith’s followup to his award-winning American Movie. In it, we meet the inhabitants of five unique homes, each fascinating in his/her own right, with the possible exception of the reclusive California couple who transformed their home into a jungle gym for their cats. What’s really commendable about Smith’s work is how lovingly he portrays his subjects, whom his films pay tribute to when they could probably be more easily ridiculed.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot, on the other hand, makes little effort to avoid humor at the expense of its subject, but one can hardly be blamed for making a joke of tailgating headbangers, since they do it so well all by themselves.

4/25/2003 11:00:46 AM

Last night was the sixth installment of R5’s “In the Sanctuary Concert Series,” featuring Essex Green, Aereogramme and The Delgados in the sanctuary of the First Unitarian Church (shows at the church are usually in the basement).

Essex Green plays polished, country-tinged psychedelic pop. I’m told their music is the most authentic of the modern psych-pop revivalists, but having little frame of reference from that era and genre, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Scots Belle and Sebastian, and I wonder if that wasn’t a coincidence, since Essex Green was the only non-Scottish act on the bill.

Aereogramme, the main band I went to see, had a rough night. The sound mix was bad (despite it being great for the other two bands) and the crowd seemed generally uninterested, in spite of singer Craig B.’s appropriately pastorate wit between songs.

The Delgados were marvelous, and I can only assume they continued to be so after I had to leave 30 minutes into their set to catch the last train home. I hadn’t heard much of their stuff before, but I certainly intend to seek it out now. They play wonderfully nuanced indie-pop, their songcraft is sublime, and their touring band has no fewer than nine people, including a string section. This morning, I briefly considered heading up to the Bowery Ballroom in NYC on Sunday to see them play a full set—such was my disappointment at having to leave early.

4/24/2003 11:06:27 AM

If you read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None: Hollywood fed it through the Shyamalan and Craven machines and changed its name to Identity. Wait, that could be read as a compliment. Try this instead: If you saw Adaptation: Donald Kaufman’s script for The Three has been made into a movie. They changed the name to Identity. James Mangold directed it. Thank goodness for free sneak previews. I was thinking about paying to see this one.

And you know, I was into it for a little while. There are more than a few nods to Hitchcock, and John Cusack is so unfailingly charismatic that you really think for a minute that this might turn out okay. But it soon becomes all too clear that Identity’s tangled mess of red herrings can’t possibly be resolved in any plausible fashion. And it is not. Instead, they tack on a montage of nonsensical twists, cut it, print it, and hand it off to an editor fresh out of music video school. Trés chic.

4/22/2003 04:17:49 PM

Working for the company that produces the Philadelphia Film Festival allows me convenient access to VHS screeners of most of the festival’s many films. Last night I brought home Alex de la Iglesia’s very enjoyable 800 Bullets, a comic homage to the spaghetti western. Before we started the movie, a new reality series was beginning on Fox. It was hosted by Monica Lewinsky, because she is famous for fellating the President of the United States.

4/21/2003 01:43:29 PM

So a bunch of stuff happened in the last week.

Puppetmania on Monday turned out to be the best of the animated shorts program at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, offering such gems as Jesse Rosensweet’s The Stone of Folly and Patrick Bouchard’s Brainwashers, both of which I missed at Ottawa last fall. On Friday night, the ultra-low budget kung-fu musical Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter entertained me far beyond my low expectations. On Saturday night, Christopher Guest and company’s new mockumentary A Mighty Wind didn’t quite live up to my high expectations.

Today, Kevin Cornell has made his recently-completed Sketchbook #1 available to the online public. It is a staggering work that speaks better for itself than I could speak for it here, so make haste and behold the work of a true virtuoso.

4/13/2003 06:16:20 PM

More film fest stuff this weekend. I caught a little bit of the Lost Film Fest 8.0 on Friday, including 156 Rivington, a documentary about the legendary New York arts/activism space ABC No Rio, and a selection of short films and interesting copyright lecture by Carrie McLaren, curator of the infamous Illegal Art exhibition and editor of Stay Free magazine. Then I had to fly back across town for the Philadelphia Film Festival presentation of 2LDK at the Ritz East, which did not meet my high standards for ingenuity in ultra-violence, so I didn’t find it quite so riotously funny as the rest of the audience, though I did enjoy its clever cinematography.

On Saturday, at the Independence Seaport Museum, was another disappointing shorts program, called Digital Stories for a Digital World. Geoff Adams’ Birdbeat (fugue) and Stefan Nadelman’s Terminal Bar were the two most worthwhile films in the program, which was otherwise a lifeless pastiche of forgettable and occasionally truly awful films. It was preceded by a stale panel discussion with five of animation’s “Best and Brightest,” three of whom were conspicuously Philadelphia educators.

I would have felt defeated by the day had it not ended as well as it did: Dirty Three and Shannon Wright played an awesome, 3+ hour show at the TLA. Shannon Wright played the guitar with her whole body. Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis provided hilariously long-winded explanations for the origins of each composition the band played. It was a happy night of sad music.

4/7/2003 10:59:27 AM

Congratulations to my cousin Bill and his wife Tara, who, around 3:00 on Friday afternoon, gave birth to my tiny new second cousin Justin!

I dove into the Philadelphia Film Festival this weekend, beginning on Saturday with Winged Migration, an amazing nature documentary about migratory birds. Six film crews spent four years following countless species of birds all over the world, filming them with the assistance of all manner of ingenious camera-equipped flying devices. The resulting cinematography is gorgeous, and the birds—particularly their group behavior—are actually quite fascinating.

Beyond Re-Animator was up next, the second sequel to the landmark splatter comedy Re-Animator. As is generally the case with sequels, this one was that much less than Bride of Re-Animator as Bride was of the original Re-Animator. So, predictably, Beyond didn’t approach the brilliance of the original, but Jeffrey Combs’ Herbert West is always lots of fun to watch, and even if that wasn’t enough, the closing credits sequence (involving a battle between a rat and a severed penis) is certainly worth waiting for.

Curious Cartoons was my sole screening for Sunday, and it was disappointing. There were a couple films I saw last fall in Ottawa, including Chris Hinton’s awesome Flux, but not much else was really worth looking at. Half or more of the films in the program came from CalArts, and they were mostly pretty weak. The chief exception: Ben Zelkowicz’s The Erl King. I’m gonna have to see what I can do to represent Philly for next year’s animated shorts program.

Having skipped it yesterday, I was hoping to see the final screening of Spellbound tonight, but I have just now learned that it is sold out. Grr.

4/3/2003 10:38:44 PM

Today I completed my first ever full-page magazine advertisement for a gay pornographic DVD. High five!

4/2/2003 09:54:19 PM

Two shows, seven bands at the Church this week. Sentence fragments ahead.

Dysrhythmia: My favorite Philadelphia band; missed the first half of their set. LickGoldenSky: Screamy hardcore not unlike other screamy hardcore. Hot Cross: shrieking metal/melodic hardcore hybrid, a la Drowningman. Burnt by the Sun: What Pantera might have sounded like if they ever got into Black Flag. Singer sounds exactly like Phil Anselmo, but does not appear to be a redneck.

An Albatross: The east coast’s answer to The Locust. Lineup was a little different from the last time I saw them, including requisite addition of cute keyboard girl who couldn’t look less interested in what she’s doing. Singer needs to lose the Mick Jagger/Iggy Pop schtick. Decent set otherwise. Angry Atom: Radio-ready Avail. Only caught the last couple songs. Mih. Wesley Willis: Highlight of my week. Indescribable entertainment value. Played a handful I never heard before, including “Suck Australia’s Dick.” Happy April Fool’s Day indeed.

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