Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category


Did Bush Sr. Kill Kennedy and Frame Nixon?

December 28, 2008

By David Swanson • After Downing Street header

Russ Baker’s new book presents an account of the U.S. government that is both remarkably new and extensively documented. According to this account, George H. W. Bush, the father of the current president, devoted his career to secret intelligence work with the CIA many years before he became the CIA director, and the network of spies and petroleum plutocrats he began working with early on has played a powerful but hidden role in determining the direction of the U.S. government up to the current day.

New research and newly highlighted information assembled by Baker presents at least the strong possibility that Bush was involved in assassinating President Kennedy, and that Bush was involved in staging the Watergate break-in (and the break-in at Dan Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s) with the purpose of having these break-ins exposed and the blame placed on President Nixon. In this account, those in on the get-Nixon plot included John Dean and Bob Woodward. While this retelling of history would make a certain Robert Redford movie look really, really silly, it would — on the other hand — make Woodward’s performance during Watergate fit more coherently with everything he’s known to have done before and since. It would also give new meaning to Dean’s recent book title “Conservatives Without a Conscience.” I would love to see either of these men’s response to Baker’s book.
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The Flaming Lips: Christmas on Mars

December 19, 2008

Stuart Berman • Pitchfork    read all posts in: REVIEWS   Jump to most recent post

147991xmasonmars_1Astronauts with vaginas for faces, a baby’s head crushed like a watermelon, Fred Armisen singing “Silent Night”– the Flaming Lips’ maiden foray into DIY filmmaking, Christmas on Mars, features no lack of bizarro imagery for fans who’ve been patiently waiting the past seven years for its release. The film essentially encompasses everything Wayne Coyne has ever sung about– the future, outer space, stressed-out scientists, heroism, insanity, the inevitability of death, hope in the face of disaster, the perseverance of the human spirit, mankind’s miniscule standing in the universe at large, and, yes, Christmas. And as ridiculous as the idea of Coyne making a sci-fi film in his backyard may be, it was a logical step for a band that’s historically found its stage-show inspiration in the local hardware store. But compared to the orgiastic circus of balloons, confetti, and dancing mascots that has come to define the the Flaming Lips’ live set-up,Christmas on Mars is a starkly rendered, sometimes ponderous, rather bleak affair. Starring multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd as a Mars-station major trying to salvage Christmas celebrations on the red planet after a Santa-suited colleague’s suicide, and Coyne as the mute alien who helps him, the film plays like a 2001 that looks like it cost $2,001 to make. Read the rest of this entry ?


The year in film 2008

December 18, 2008

A.V. Club  • Noel MurrayKeith PhippsNathan RabinTasha RobinsonScott Tobias
see all posts in: Entertainment      Reviews      or  jump to most recent post

synecdochenewyork2previewNoel: Gang, a year ago at this time, we were so overwhelmed by the quality of the movies we were seeing that we actually came up with a feature where we looked back at other great years for movies, just for the sake of comparison. Well, that run sure didn’t last long, did it? I actually don’t think 2008 was a bad year for movies—I’m happy with my Top 10, and I can think of 10 to 15 more ’08 movies I’d recommend fairly strongly—but I certainly didn’t see much that I believe will stand the test of time the way the likes of No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood surely will. I didn’t see a lot of greatness, in other words, or even much that aspired to greatness. Outside of the daring, wonderfully confounding Synecdoche, New York, much of the real ambition in 2008 came from blockbusters like WALL-E and The Dark Knight (and even Hancock, to some extent). Those were the movies that stirred debate, and earned passionate defenders and detractors. As much as I like Milk—to name just one of the purportedly serious movies competing for our attention here at the end of the year—I don’t consider it a landmark piece of cinema that people will be discussing for decades to come.
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Belle And Sebastian • The BBC Sessions

December 15, 2008

Michaelangelo Matos • A.V Club 

belle1The big draw of Belle And Sebastian’s double CD The BBC Sessions—the first disc collects three full sessions of four or five songs, recorded between 1996 and 2001 for the BBC, plus a song from an unfinished session; the second disc features a full concert recorded in Belfast—is that one of the segments, recorded for John Peel in May 2001, consists entirely of previously unreleased songs. For any band with as rabid and opinionated a fan base as Belle And Sebastian’s, this is a big deal. Though diehards mostly dislike the group’s work from this period (2000’s Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant is generally considered the band’s nadir), these songs fit in well with the more obviously beloved stuff surrounding them. “The Magic Of A Kind Word” is reminiscent of buoyant British Invasion-era pop, while “(My Girl’s Got) Miraculous Technique” evokes a frazzled, rainy-day-shimmering version. That kind of faded luster is what Belle And Sebastian do better than anything, of course, and the rest of The BBC Sessions has it in sharper detail than some of the band’s recorded work. Diehards won’t be getting rid of their copies of If You’re Feeling Sinister or The Boy With The Arab Strap anytime soon, but often these alternate versions are tighter and zippier than the originals, which make them a good introduction for new fans as well as welcome contrasts for long-timers.


The “Anti-anthem” • Yesterday and Today

December 10, 2008

n722515211_4828588_211611Kevin EganOperation Itch Contributor

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Not very colorful lyrics, are they?  Recognize them?  They’re the first verse of one of the most popular American anthems of the last thirty years.  They belong to a song that has been used by some of the most conservative institutions to incite feelings of nationalism and patriotism, particularly during the 1980’s, when a new brand of Republicanism ruled over our collective consciousness.  And as we were proudly proclaiming our superiority over the Soviet Union, unions in the United States were being broken up, the groundwork for market-deregulation was being laid, and tax breaks were given to the wealthiest of Americans, setting off an era of inequality that still exists today.  

 So, what was this song that so feverishly incited a nation to feel so wonderful about itself?  Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A..” 

lis518After the release of the album of the same name in 1984, Springsteen came to represent the mainstream for most rock ‘n’ roll fans.  It was an album that, on the surface, seemed to be a collection of the shiniest pop trash imaginable.  Silly, childish keyboard riffs like the main motif in “Dancing in the Dark” were found to be so laughable, it was difficult to view in Springsteen as the prolific songwriter he had been years before.  To many, he had become a popstar in the same league as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.  Compared to the punk and heavy metal bands that were blossoming at the time, Bruce Springsteen seemed less threatening than Clay Aiken does today.   
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(music review) Pavement:
Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed.

December 10, 2008

147823brightenthecornersFor a band that often seemed be on the verge of a commercial breakthrough, Pavement made all the right moves– they just did them in the wrong order. With its crystalline production (courtesy of R.E.M. architect Mitch Easter and Bryce Goggin) and more refined songcraft, Pavement’s 1997 release Brighten the Cornerswas the logical follow-up to 1994’s indie hit Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. But of course, that move from A to B took a tangential turn back to Z with 1995’s notoriously slapdash Wowee Zowee, an album beloved by the band’s diehard fans, but one that effectively squandered any crossover potential Crooked Rain might have built up (and which would’ve made a lot more sense as Crooked Rain‘s predecessor than successor). 

Brighten the Corners‘ more focused, melodic approach could thus be heard as the sound of Pavement making amends, but it arguably came too late– by 1997, modern-rock radio was already tuning out brainy indie-rock in favour of pre-fab pop-punk and numbskull nu-metal. Pavement understood this shift all to well, which could be why Brighten the Corners sounds like their most self-aware and, by extension, honest album– when Stephen Malkmus yells, “listen to me, I’m on the stereo!” on the album’s excitable opening track, it’s with the implicit knowledge that he’d have to settle for hearing himself on his home hi-fi rather than on KROQ. 
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Chinese Democracy vs. Synecdoche, New York

December 8, 2008

Josh Modell   •  A.V CLub

“When are we going to get an audience in here? It’s been 17 years.”

Yesterday, completely by coincidence, I saw Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York for the first time and listened to Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy, also for the first time.

I’m guessing this parallel has been drawn by some sharp word-jockey already: SNY is a movie—a fantastic movie—about a guy who spends his whole life and inordinate amounts of money trying to create art that is “true” and “honest.”Chinese Democracy is an album made by a guy who didn’t seem to blink at the idea of spending more than a third of his life (read that again—a third of his life!) and untold millions to make it exactly the way he wanted to.

And while Chinese Democracy didn’t move me at all, I find it incredibly difficult to dismiss after watching the painful (and often painfully funny) Synecdoche. More than that, I find myself creating a new movie in my head, a sort of post-modern reality show following the creation of Chinese Democracy as seen from Axl’s eyes. The amazing review that Chuck Klosterman wrote for us theorizes a bit about Axl’s thought processes, but I want more—straight from the mind of a crazy guy so deep into the creation of something that it all seems fairly normal, as if there’s no other way to do it.

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