Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Show Review: Kurt Vile and the Violators at the Casbah

Kurt Vile live show

   I agreed to help a friend with his start up business because, frankly, it's a good fucking business- science based.  Right now he is going around talking to different companies- huge- global-billion dollar businesses- and I'm all like concerned and trying to prep him for these encounters.  He is blithely unconcerned.  And when I ask why he says, "Because I have the nuts."  In other words he has the knowledge and skill set that makes him irreplaceable and crucial to any effort to capitalize on his business ideas.

   I was thinking about that conversation as I watched Kurt Vile play to a sold out by 930 PM Casbah.  Kurt Vile doesn't need to move around on stage or give much of a dynamic performance because he has the singing/songwriting nuts.  He's also got fans- 250+ of which were willing to shell out 20 bucks to see him last night.  He's also got solid indie credentials, five million last fm plays and a BNM in his back pocket.  So I could honestly say that the live show is a pretty static affair, but who gives a shit?   His fans don't care- they were super into it.   Matador and booking agents don't care because he is selling out the venues he plays.

 I ended up just listening to most of the set on the Casbah smoking patio beecause of the crowded interior and lack of a dynamic stage performance, but I'm glad I went because I think Kurt Vile will be around for a long time and his songs are very good.  Kurt Vile has the nuts.  He doesn't need to prance around like a pop punk Nimrod.

  Last night was additional evidence that you don't make money at a rock show in San Diego until the bros show up.  The bros were out last night, and it was glorious.  I feel like the bro demographic really shows a lot of potential.  Bros aren't some unchanging force, they are actually people and I've begun to recognize some of the people as belonging to that particular audience segment.  They always seem well behaved, more so then say the Audience at the Bronx show at the Casbah earlier this year.

 And you know, the fact is that the hard core scene 50 in San Diego couldn't sell out a doughnut shop during a cop convention.  The Bro audience can call up their non-scene girlfriends, and talk to their non-scene bro buddies they play amateur sports with etc and boom you've got a sold out Casbah show no problem.

  Maybe bros aren't into synth rock and atonal K Records inspired indie pop, but they like Kurt Vile, and they like the Crocodiles and plenty of other good bands.  It's like assembling a coalition to win an American political campaign- there are different interest groups, and they need to united behind one Artist/Candidate for that Artist to experience success in the market place.

  I see no reason why that same Audience wouldn't respond to bands like Plateaus, Heavy Hawaii or Mrs. Magician- let alone Cuckoo Chaos.   I think maybe the question I was left with last night was, "How do they bros come to decide that Kurt Vile is worthy of their 20 bucks? What are their sources for that information?"

  I also want to make it clear that these statements are based on my personal observations of specific people- I'm not generalizing at all.   If you were to show me stills of Audience members walking the front door I would be able to identify who I am calling "bros."  I'm not using bros in a negative sense and I respect their taste in music.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

Elizabeth Olsen slated to star as Therese Raquin in the 2013 adaptation of the Emile Zola novel

Book Review
Therese Raquin
by Emile Zola
p. 1867

  Am I only the one who gets Balzac and Zola confused all the time?  Balzac: first, Zola: second.  Therese Raquin is typically regarded as Zola's first hit and the book that made his reputation.   The titular character is the adopted niece of a wealthy-ish old woman who has a son, Camille.  Therese and Camille get married because his mom insists on it.  They move to Paris and Camille's buddy Laurent begins an affair with Therese.   Then they murder Camille together and spend the rest of the book feeling bad about their decision.

  I was honestly pretty bummed about writing this review until I figured out there is a new film adaptation coming out this year starring Elizabeth Olsen. Once I figured that out- after I finished the book I was like, "Damn- relevancy."  Nothing draws an Audience to a book review of a 150 year old book like a filmed adaptation made in the United States starring an up and coming or a list actress.

   Clocking in at a brisk 200 pages in the Oxford World's Classics edition I read, Therese Raquin by Emile Zola makes for a brisk read- a welcome contrast to many of the other weighty hits from the late 1860s.  Zola was at the very beginning of the intrusion of "ism" style thinking making its way into the novel in a self-conscious, programatic way.  Even though English and French authors had been experimenting with including "social concerns" into the marriage/inheritance plot infatuated world of the early Victorian Novel, Zola was different because he espoused literary naturalism as a "cause."

  This kind of like the edge of a cliff for the Novel as an art form.  I'm more inclined to see early literary Modernism as the wrong path vs. a step up from the Novel during the mid to late Victorian period.  Thus, Zola as a "realist" and precursor to Modernism is already headed down this wrong turn for the Novel.  In case you are wondering, I am not looking forward to reading Henry James.  Not one bit.  Can't wait for the movie!!!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Piano Teacher starring Isabelle Huppert d. Michael Haneke

Isabell Huppert plays The Piano Teacher in the 2001 film by Michael Haneke

  Just saw the film The Piano Teacher for the first time and was smitten.

The Piano Teacher is a twisted tale of love and obsession. And crazy ass fetish shit.

 Director Michael Haneke most recently directed Amore which I think won the Oscar for best foreign film this year?

There are a lot of shots in The Piano Teacher where you see Huppert's character isolated in the middle of the frame in a static shot. It's a recurring stylistic motif in the film.

  The Piano Teacher is based on the German language novel by Elfriede Jelinek, originally published in 1983. (WIKIPEDIA ENTRY THE PIANO TEACHER THE NOVEL)   The Piano Teacher is available on Netflix streaming.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Anna Karenina Starring Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley hanging out at a Russian train station in the 2012 film adaptation of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

  I love the classic remake industry in Hollywood.  I am just a huge fan because I feel like it is the most Hollywood thing that Hollywood does that isn't a total embarrassment to world culture (vs. the Hollywood blockbuster, which is a totally Hollywood thing that IS a total embarrassment to world culture or vs. the indie film which isn't a very Hollywood thing that ISN'T a total embarrassment to world culture.)

With classic film remakes you've got a little good (the source material), a little bad (inevitable involvement of A-list Hollywood actress to "get the film made.") and a perpetual wild card (the treatment by the production team.) which often makes these films an interesting target for Arts criticism.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina in the 2012 film version of the Leo Tolstoy novel

 Often criticism of these remakes tries to relate the resulting film to the source material, which is ridiculous.  That's an especially ridiculous path when it comes to Anna Karenina.  It took me close to 20 hours to read the book- and I'm a fast reader- and the film is only 2 hours long, so you are talking about an act of condensation equivalent to reducing the bulk of an object by 90%.  There is no comparison.  Rather, you are talking about an abstraction/conceptualization of the story and themes of Anna Karenina.  Those are: Adultery, Russian Society in the Mid-Late 19th century & the lives of the wealthy in Russia during this period.

 Putting that narrative and thematic content into a film produces something different then a translation of the book into the film.  Much in the same way that early 19th century "translators" of literature would simply rewrite the source material into a new language, Hollywood film adapters "translate" classic literature into another story that shares the same name with the original.

 Specific to this adaptation you've got Keira Knightley- who is sublime i.e. both great and terrible at the same time- in her performance as the titular Anna- a feckless wife with an irrestible attraction to the handsome County Vronsky.  As a bonus you've also got Jude Law- essentially wasted- as her feckless husband Alexei 1. You've got a script by Tom Stoppard- which is obviously a "plus" and he is paired with director Joe Wright, who has an established track record in directing filmed adaptations of classic works of literature starring Keira Knightley: 2005's Pride & Prejudice and Atonement in 2007. (1)

 Perhaps though the best thing Anna Karenina has going is the set design and costumes- which are sumptuous and mean that the viewer is never actually bored during the somewhat tedious and protracted examples of Keira Knightley trying to be "deep." Or shallow and vain- it's still not clear, after reading both the book and watching this movie, whether Anna Karenina is supposed to be sympathetic or a villainess- maybe that is a reason why this book is such an incredibly enduring classic- the ambiguity.

 The novel essentially oscillates between drawing room conversations or their Russian equivalents and big set pieces at balls, train stations & horse races.  The drawing room sequences are elegantly depicted but lack spark, and the set pieces are shot with care but without flair.

 Overall it's a worthwhile viewing- if only for the negative aspects of Keira Knightley once again hamming it up in period costume- which are hilarious.


(1) I know Atonement is not a classic work of literature but rather a book published in 2001 that might arguably be a classic someday. The adaptation still starred Keira Knightley, took place in the past and was directed by Joe Wright so close enough I say.

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