King of Limbs by Radiohead
Like a subtle peach – watermelon – blue fade at dusk highlighting a complex network of bare winter tree branches in the distant foreground – the music here is multifaceted work featuring many hues.
I do admit I was a bit slow on the uptake to recognize Radiohead’s general brilliance around the time OK Computer was being lauded, but since Kid A I’ve enjoyed every release they’ve graced us with (and went back and absorbed the great deluxe edition of The Bends).
This one is slight at about 37 minutes and I often cycle right through and back to the dynamic, loop filled, hypnotic first track “Bloom” while in my car. The music floats, mesmerizes and intrigues with multiple drum patterns, keyboard layers, haunting (mainly indistinguishable) vocals and some seriously heavy bass (especially on the ultra heavy trance/funk-house 4th track, “Lotus Flower”).
I find this a generally absorbing, complex work of electronica based music. Like many reviewers have said it does reward multiple listens (Now when does that triggered electro-trumpet break come in? I know I heard it before…)
As usual, great stuff from Radiohead!
I enjoyed this film portrayal of John Lennon’s early life in Liverpool. It focuses specifically on his upbringing by his Aunt Mimi, played in stark contrast to the free spirited Julia, his birth mother. You’ll learn the twisted intricacies of how this came to be and of John’s rebellion toward this control, thankfully salved by his immersion into skiffle and Rock n Roll.
Memorable scenes include Julia teaching John some strumming technique while playing Maggie Mae on a banjo and Paul McCartney’s character showing up with youthful charisma and talent in winning a place in the early band.
The acting is generally really good and the period styling is spot on – especially great are the British domestic touches – terrific wallpaper abounds – and the scene where John gets his first guitar at a music shop. Love the shopkeeper’s line after being bargained down “Just don’t shoot me!”
A really worthwhile and engaging film that may have a few inaccuracies but will fill in some knowledge gaps for fans and appreciators of the origins of the Beatles.
You Don’t Know Jack
This is a terrific biopic done for HBO that has a lot of fine acting (a tour de force for Al Pacino), nuanced scenes and humor amid the seriousness that surrounds Jack Kevorkian’s mission of providing “medical services” to terminally ill patients.
I must admit it paints a detailed, sympathetic portrait of an intelligent, driven and passionate man who goes well beyond the call of his medical professional duty in fighting his battles to let people die with dignity. Some of the courtroom scenes do become pretty hilarious as Kevorkian attempts to defend himself (he eventually served almost 8 years in prison) from serious charges using some dramatic antics and unusual banter with the judges.
Excellent performances by Susan Sarandon (a Hemlock Society member), Brenda Vaccaro (his sister Janet), Danny Huston (his attorney) and others along with newsreel footage, interview snippets with patients bring this documentary vividly to life.
Wherever you stand on the issues of euthanasia or doctor assisted suicide, this film adds substance to the view of the life of a doctor who became known only as “Dr. Death” and was often the punchline to cruel quips and jokes. Watch this Barry Levinson-directed film and you definitely will know Jack!
Tour de Lance is an interesting, honest insider’s view of the 2009 Tour de France, chronicling the goings on of Team Astana and the tension between super Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, who returned to competitive cycling at age 38, some 3 years removed from his last tour win.
The bottom line is Lance finished third(!), on the podium while Alberto won it. This book is so much more though in that it visits training areas in California and races in New Mexico, Spain and Italy prior to the tour, taking the reader on personal detours, visits with a rural farm family watching the Giro and allowing you inside the minds of the people making it all happen.
Very detailed with insights from other riders (including Armstrong’s inner circle) and especially Astana team director Johan Bruyneel, Bill Strickland has really put together one of the most absorbing inside looks at cycling at it’s highest level I’ve ever read.
The writing by Strickland is very nuanced and uses context that doesn’t overwhelm but adds to your knowledge of how truly hard professional cycling is and what it takes to finish in the top five. The picture of the final podium speaks volumes: Andy Schleck, best young rider in white beaming a satisfied smile, Contador in the middle, a curious expression of hard won supremacy and Lance to his left, his kids nearby, with a near sheepish look like “I came pretty close; you were better but I helped you win.”
A Course Called Ireland A long Walk in Search of a Country, a Pint, and the Next Tee
by Tom Coyne
Tom walked around the perimeter of Ireland with golf clubs on his back – played some 56 links courses, met up with friends and relatives, braved extremely rainy weather, narrow roads and roving dogs and had one heck of an unfortunate incident in one B&B – and captured it all with wit and fine understated writing.
I would dock this at least half a star for the paucity of photos included (and he described people taking pictures at various points) – the black and white snaps don’t do this justice. Inexplicable.
I really like golf and armchair adventure travel so this book was a very satisfying read for me. Detailed enough but with some opportunities to read between the lines (and laugh out loud). He balanced the consumption of Guinness with a steadfast discipline in not taking rides ( “lifts” ) or shortcuts so I really commend the author for accomplishing this challenging (but rewarding in a once in a lifetime sense!) undertaking. I’m also glad he didn’t hurl his clubs out to sea when it was all over, but found a better idea.
More than just a golf book it’s a bittersweet reconnection with his past and a roaming, observant adventure in today’s Ireland, hemmed in by arranged T-times but freewheeling just the same. When I finished this book I looked over at a random golf course calendar I have and the February course pictured was Ballybunion Old – the very course Mr. Coyne ended his travels with!
Patti Smith Dream of Life
This is a really thoughtful, well put together film by Steven Sebring – kind of a home movie of sorts covering a lot of Patti Smith’s life. (Apparently 11 years in the making with some terrific footage from the early days to the present.) It weaves a rich and interesting tapestry – personal, musical, political, philosophical – of an artist who has had her share of triumphs and losses.
Shot mostly in black and white (more arty) sometimes scenes drift into focus – from a chat with her son Jackson (now in her band) to a soundcheck to Patti rummaging around in her home base outside of Detroit or visiting with her mom and dad. She snaps photos, reminisces, visits grave sites (Allen Ginsberg, Rimbaud in Paris, William Blake, Gregory Corso in Rome) and thinks out loud. She practices songs on an old Gibson with Sam Shepard, visits her haunts in New York – where she returned in 1996 after a long absence (to tour behind Peace and Noise and in support of Bob Dylan) and talks about life in general. I love her observations on art, street life and the way everyone processes things simultaneously (and through the added “jungles of our minds”).
Her views on recent political maneuvers by a certain ex-president are pretty clear cut and she isn’t shy about rallying the troops from the stage. Despite her numerous personal losses she remains strong in spirit and lives by her philosophy that “everyone has a voice!”.
Intriguing and lyrical, this is a unique and often moving film (she brings herself to tears while reciting a long poem about Tibet at one point) – one I watched twice and recommend highly.
It flows thru
the death of me
like a river
(One of Patti’s favorites – Beat Poet Corso’s self written epitaph)
Moonlight Mile by Dennis LeHane
This is quite a fast-paced page turner which revisits, in several ways, the general area of LeHane’s Gone Baby Gone and involves Amanda McCready, now in her teens and again – missing.
Amanda is portrayed as a master at altered identities, an impressive student, cut for the Ivy League and like detective Kenzie, haunted by the past.
Patrick Kenzie is the tough detective who enlists his wife and former partner, Angela Gennaro to again attempt to find this girl. Numerous shady character populate this novel, which bounces around from gritty environments, warehouses, trailer parks to the more rural outskirts of town.
You’ll enter a twisted milieu of criminal doings outside of Boston, meet a former doctor who gives up babies to the Russian mobsters, who are so expertly and chillingly depicted by LeHane and you’ll come along for some investigative work spent unraveling the small circle who knew Amanda in the elite school she attended. Realistic detective work – at times mundane other times harrowing. Sometimes bitingly funny too.
This could be another great movie, in line with Mystic River for it’s low-life bar denizens and miscreants. Yefim’s character – a Mordovian thug “How are you my good friend?” – would need to be played by someone in the late Dennis Hopper muted psychopath tradition.
But this is more a story of attempted redemption, commitment and ultimately, despite the chaos, moving on and resolution.