Best Dude Sounds Like A Lady
Rhye – An L.A. based band with a velvet vocalist that’s hard to imagine is a dude. Mike Milosh hails from Canada, along side Danish composer and arranger Robin Hannibal have released their critically-acclaimed debut R& B release Woman.
Best Christmas Music
Although not released this year, the album came out in 2009, but an honorable mention goes to Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart. A gift for the true Dylanphile or someone you want to give the sound of sandpaper scratching glass.
Best Christmas Tradition
In England in the 1840s the term “dick” meant a type of hard cheese; treacle sauce was added and it became “treacle dick,” add a few currants and raisins for spots and the suet desert becomes “spotted dick.” Yep, so you can say to your Mummy “pass me the spotted dick” at table without getting slapped.
A couple of interesting books that came to my attention this year were the Book of Martyrdom and Artifice (Da Capo Press, 2008) – a collection of early writings from Ginsberg’s journals about his relationships and adventures with the other Beat luminaries, so candid Ginsberg insisted it not be released until after his death, and The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks (Grove Press, 2009), a noir style novel by Burroughs and Kerouac not released until after Carr’s death.
Best New Film
The Punk Singer — A fascinating documentary about Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the band Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and reluctant prime mover in the Riot Grrrl movement as an outspoken feminist in the ’90s.
Walter Salles’s film version of “On the Road” (2013) starts out with a voice over narrative to set the scene, but quickly dissolves into linear visual storytelling with the markings of a buddy film, much like the “Motorcycle Diaries” (2004). The two films are similar – they’re coming of age road movies, but that’s where the similarities end. In “On the Road,” two young guys are out for adventure, consciously leaving the confines of normalcy behind to experience life with the intent of using their experience to make art – and that’s the pitch the movie takes with a token nod towards seeking God. Jack Kerouac has said that “On The Road” was essentially a search for God. “Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him.”
(quote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Road#Major_themes) Set in the late forties, early fifties, Kerouac was struggling to find his writing voice. As it says in the movie, after his father’s death, Kerouac met Neal Cassady. Like all of Kerouac’s work, “On the Road” is semi-autobiographical and Cassady was Kerouac’s muse.
Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) is played by Sam Riley, the English actor who isn’t quite as physical as Jack Kerouac probably was, given that Kerouac went to college on a football scholarship, but comes off as the friendly, sometimes brooding, observer. Dean Moriarty, brilliantly cast and played by Garrett Hedlund, is a manly, sexy, bisexual Neal Cassady, and Mary Lou, Moriarty’s teenage first wife, a.k.a. Luanne Henderson, is well played by Kristen Stewart. Moriarty’s second wife, Camille, a.k.a. Carolyn Cassady (who wrote the famed “Off the Road”) is played by Kristen Dunst with appropriate and longing for Dean to settle down. Carlo Marx a.k.a. Allen Ginsberg is played with exuberance and angst by Tom Sturridge, and the love scenes with Hedlund are sweet. “The legendary Holy Goof (Neal Cassady) inspired so much of the Beat movement and literature, despite having no famous literary output of his own. He was Ginsberg’s lover and ‘secret hero of these poems’.”
(quote: http://www.beatdom.com/?page_id=349 )
The film mirrors the bop aspect of Kerouac’s writing sometimes jumping from one subject to the next without a lot of continuity. You don’t know how you got there, but you go with the flow, and some of the club scenes capture the hot gritty grind of sex, drugs and jazz that would melt away intolerance based on skin tone and allow these forward thinking young people conviviality and acceptance in an intolerant world.
Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee does a fantastic job capturing the pathos of a junky mentor in his portrayal of William S. Burroughs, a paranoid, closeted, junky with a gun fetish, and his wife, Jane Lee a.k.a. Joan Vollmer is brilliantly deranged as played by Amy Adams. Burroughs wife became one of the most famous women of the Beat generation because she was shot and killed by Burroughs while playing “William Tell” in 1951 in Mexico. Burroughs has said, “I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan’s death … [S]o the death of Joan brought me into contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I had no choice except to write my way out”. (Queer, 1985, p.xxii) (Quote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Vollmer)
Male bonding may have been a motivating factor for Jack Kerouac’s adventure, and the experience made for great art. With the Gay movement finally making real headway towards equality, the timing of this movie couldn’t be more perfect. The story was written in a time of oppression, when conformity was paramount. Naturally, “On the Road” is filmed through the lens of nostalgia, but the craving for freedom and truth found through rebellion is visceral and applicable to anyone searching for meaning, truth, tribe, and personal expression – something that many people still seek in our discordant society. The film mirrors our societies ethics today with a haze of early fifties paranoia striving for those same utopian ideals of acceptance and equality. We’re poised for the next big integration, so the search for meaning is all the more poignant.
Following MIT’s launch party for Professor Ian Condry‘s new book The Soul of Anime, there was a screening of director Mamoru Hosoda’s third full-length anime feature Wolf Children (2012). Hosoda’s first two features The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) and Summer Wars (2009) established him as a top animator, but Wolf Children (2012) won the academy award for best Anime Feature in Japan for 2013. This event was thrilling for anime enthusiasts not only because it was the New England premiere, but because the director was there for Q&A after the show.
The story begins with a young college student, Hana, who takes up with a shapeshifter – her new boyfriend can change into a wolf at will. Before long he reveals his secret. Hana, in love, wont be without him, and they make the best of things. Eventually, they have two children, Yuki (Snow), and Ame (Rain). The girl is rambunctious, and the boy is cautious. They are half wolf as well, and growing up in the city is difficult for the young family. When the father doesn’t come back from hunting, Hana takes the children out to find him, when she sees a dead wolf being fished out of the river with a King Fisher in it’s mouth – she knows it’s him. Things go from bad to worse and she decides they must leave the city. They settle in a remote village, and the rest of the film is about the children growing up and what happens to them and Hana becoming a valued member of the community. Stunningly beautiful rotoscoping and layering bring the landscape to life and the characters grow with genuine feeling as the film progresses – a heart-felt fable of finding one’s way in the world when one feels outcast.
Mr. Hosada received a standing ovation as he took the stage. During the first half of the Q & A, Professor Condry asked Mr. Hosada questions about the motivation for making Wolf Children (2012), and about the themes that run throughout his work. Professor Condry translated Mr. Hosada’s answers into English for the audience.
Part of the motivation for Wolf Children (2012) Mr. Hosada said, was that he and his wife were having trouble trying to have children when they first married. They now have a daughter of five, but at the time, Mr. Hosada was interested in the relationship and bonding that happened between a child and its mother. All of his friends were having kids, and it looked like a tiring, yet fun adventure to Hosada and his wife. “When you have children…you can’t sleep and you lose your free time and I could see …it was difficult and troublesome, but at the same time, it seemed kinda really beautiful and cool. And it made us want to aspire to that kind of experience ourselves. It was kind of a prayer or blessing to see other people with children and to see them grow and to raise them, but also watch them become more independent and go their own ways. It was a really wonderful and remarkable thing to watch,” Hosada said.
The film allowed him to explore the themes of adaptability, acceptance, growth and change as he does in all of his films, but unlike Summer Wars, which was exciting and showed “the highs and lows within the film” Wolf Children (2012) was quieter. “With this film, I really wanted to make something where it showed a lot of respect and care in the way it represented raising children. And also the experience of being a child and the experience of being a parent. So more than trying to make people laugh or trying to make people cry, I was really trying to find the truth of what it meant to be a parent, and be a child and experience that.” The themes of struggle and how people face challenges was of interest to Hosada.“So, really, my concern here was to try to take the changes in people’s lives seriously, and to really show how people grow and how people change,” Hosada said.
The setting for the second half of the film was in the country similar to the area Mr. Hosada grew up in. It made it easier for him to create realistic adventures for the children since the setting was familiar territory that he remembered from his own childhood. He noted that this is an unusual film because the journey is through an entire thirteen years in two hours. “If you think of how long it takes to raise a child, well it’s easy to think, like thirteen years, ah, from babyhood and becoming, ya’ know, close to a young adult. Although there are a lot of films that are showing that relationship between parents and children, there are very few and maybe no examples that show that entire time frame.” When asked to discuss the imagery, Hosada said, “I was hoping to really give people the experience of what it was like to raise a child. But of course no one has the experience of raising wolf children.“ The audience laughed and reflected the exuberance that Hosada brings to his films. The evening was well received by all.
“I refuse your question. I’m not your slave, and you’re not my master. You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not a monkey,” Tarantino said, in response to an interview question posed by Krishnan Guru-Murthy regarding the connection between real life violence and violence in film. Fascinating. He’s come unhinged or has he? Subjugation and Colonialism
Let’s look at the layers of this incident. You’ve got a white Hollywood director pitted against an Indian British reporter. Okay – layer one, Brits against the Americans. Layer two, white against black, even though most Indians don’t self-identify as black, there are still race and cultural relations to consider. So we have two undercurrents of subjugation and colonialism. Layer three, Tarantino flips the tables, in that he’s white and the interviewer is isn’t. But Tarantino is a slave to the Hollywood machine. Right? So he’s subjugated. And with this rant, he gets ratings even if they’re not good. It adds to the discussion in context of violence in America. But, is this just marketing? Hmmm. Has Tarantino said anything of substance regarding violence in film and society?
Some. In an interview for Fresh Air earlier this year, Tarantino said what’s really at issue is gun control and mental health, avoiding making a comment on his role in producing a product that promotes violence. Why wont he admit that there is a connection between big screen violence and the streets? Most likely, profits. But maybe there’s more to it.
Maybe Tarantino is trying to do the right thing. Maybe he could be trying to offer a form of empowerment. Violent fantasy in video games and film allow us to lose our powerlessness. We identify with the anti-hero, the underdog who wins the girl and beats the bad guy. Is he really giving the black man someone to identify with? A new hero paradigm that black males can relate to that doesn’t have to do with bitch slapping women and drug lords? Well, maybe. Artistic Integrity
Is there a moral imperative to feed the public pablum when it gets unruly? Or is there a moral obligation to give the people what they want? Neither, and both. There’s also artistic integrity to consider, and this film isn’t any different than any of the other updated spaghetti westerns that Tarantino has done.
Of course there is a connection between violent fantasy and reality. What we see, we emulate and quote. Monkey see, monkey do. Not to mention that the mind has no way of telling the difference between what’s real and what’s fantasy in it’s emotional and physiological response to input. Film teaches us about our connection to each other and ourselves. Film teaches us how to handle ourselves and our emotions, and Mr. Tarantino went all Django on Mr. Guru-Murthy’s ass.
That said, of course Mr. Tarantino isn’t going to say that there is an obvious correlation between movie violence and real life violence because he makes his living making violent movies. It wouldn’t be good business. Tarantino makes films that are larger than life, and they boil everything down to a simple good guy vs. bad guy scenario. Although we might want our lives to be that simple, they rarely are. And the connection between art, violence and society is no simpler.
So what has Tarantino said about violence in his films? Check out the Atlantic article: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/01/quentin-tarantino-violence-quotes/60900/