Reviews of Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri(byMartin McDonagh),The Killing of a Sacred Deer (by Yorgos Lanthimos), and Creep 2 (by Mark Duplass and friends).
BY DANIEL MATTI / BLURT FILM EDITOR
(Go HERE to view the Blurt Movie Thoughts master page, which has links to all previous installments.)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
4 out of 5 stars
With a movie title like that, you figured it would be a movie that would be hard to remember but after leaving the film, Three Billboards will be stuck in your head for a while. From the hilariously dark mind of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths) comes his newest film, and he doesn’t stray away from his normal style of filmmaking—movies that are filled with vivid characters who come to the screen to do damage in numbers. Here, the cast includes Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, and Peter Dinklage.
Mildred Hayes (McDormand) who is a recently-divorced, still-grieving mother over the death of her daughter who was raped then brutally murdered, rents out three billboards seven months after the murder, all located within a few feet of her house and on a road not many travel down. The billboard read, in order, “Raped while dying”—“And still no arrests”—“How come, Chief Willoughby?”
Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) and racist officer Jason Dixon (Rockwell) are notified about the billboards, which brings on a series of events to try to figure out who killed Mildred’s daughter.
With a topic such a rape and murder you would think that you would not be ready for a movie filled with belly laughs, but here, it is quite the opposite. Martin McDonagh movies have characters who are as evil and conniving as they are laughable (either at or along with).
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was initially out in select cities, but distribution was subsequently expanded and it is currently in most markets.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
5 out of 5 stars
From the warped mind of Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Dogtooth) comes his latest, amazing, but yet hard to stomach movie. Now, when I say hard to stomach you can take that in two ways. As in, this movie is shit, or this movie has a couple scenes that will make you cringe in your chair. This movie will definitely make you cringe in your chair.
Starring in the film is Colin Farrell as Steven Murphy, a cardiothoracic surgeon who befriends Martin (Barry Keoghan), a grieving young teenage boy whose father was lost on the operating table years ago when Steven performed surgery on him. Martin comes over for dinner and befriends the rest of the family, which includes Nicole Kidman as Steven’s wife, Anna, along with their children Bob and Kim (played by Sunny Suljic and Raffey Cassidy).
Martin tries to repay the favor by asking Steven over to his house for dinner. He obliges, but then later, Martin’s mother makes sexual advances towards him, making him uncomfortable and eager to leave. Martin then tracks down Steven at the hospital where he works to let him know that he has placed a curse on Steven and that he must choose one of the members of his own family. As the curse moves forwards—including paralyzing Bob and Kim along with making them not eat—tension is built through the movie via a free-jazz style soundtrack that puts a cold sweat on the back of the viewer’s neck, leaving you anxious to have some resolution in the near future.
With dizzying camerawork and a stunning acting from the whole crew, this is one that will go on to make it into this year’s top 10 movies.
4 out of 5 stars
Found footage horror movies are something that filmmakers either hate deeply or love immensely. From The Blair Witch Project to V/H/S to Paranormal Activity, there have been some that rule the genre as well as those you can instantly forget came out.
From Mark Duplass (The League, Creep, and a lot of other amazing projects), Patrick Brice (Creep, The Overnight), and Jason Blum (CEO of Blumhouse Productions) comes the sequel to 2014’s Creep, a movie that you might have watched on Netflix in the wee hours of the night as you searched for something unique to watch. If you haven’t yet, make sure to go watch Creep now before you read anymore. It’s definitely worth watching.
Here, Sara is a videographer/blogger who has a YouTube series titled “Encounters” where she meets eccentric characters, ranging from people who like to cuddle to some who just want them to be in a hot tub with. From her not knowing what to do next and thinking of ending her series, Sara finds an ad where somebody has offered to $1,000 to film them for an entire day. Who that person is, Sara will then go on to figure out that is none other than, Aaron (Duplass), aka “Peach Fuzz.”
If you remember the first Creep then you might have had the same horrible dream of the character “Peach Fuzz” and how Mark Duplass can play a delightful, but yet sinister and terrifying murderer.
Aaron reveals to her that he is a depressed killer who feels like he is losing his momentum and passion, then invites Sara along for the ride that she definitely was not expecting. Sara soon goes toe-to-toe with Aaron via games and trying to be ahead of the curve as she documents her day with the murderer.
If you’re looking for something that will make you squirm, laugh, and say “what the fuck” out loud a lot, make sure you watch Creep 2, but only if you’ve seen Creep first.
Reviews of Assholes (by Peter Vack), The Babysitter (by McG), and The Florida Project (by Sean Baker). Spoiler Alert: for Hollywood, one out of three ain’t bad. And no, we don’t mean the above photo….
BY DANIEL MATTI / BLURT FILM EDITOR
(Go HERE to view the Blurt Movie Thoughts master page.)
4 out of 5 stars
From one of the grossest movies to come out of SXSW—and the first ever winner of the Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award—it’s time for Peter Vack’s new film to hit your small screen, it’s ASSHOLES!!
From the warped mind of Vack, it is a story about love, poppers, and fascination of the brown hole. No, literally. This is exactly what this movie is about and you should definitely watch it, if you know that’s your thing. Well, at least one of those things might tickle your fancy.
The romantic tale of Adah (Betsey Brown) and Aaron (Jack Dunphy) as the relapse from sobriety to falling into, well, each other’s assholes and drugs. From blending the likes of Wes Anderson’s style to mumble core pioneers such as the Duplass brothers, Peter Vack has definitely made a name for himself in a crowd of niche underground absurd indie movies. His streak continues here, from Adah and Aaron running around the downtown streets of New York, causing mayhem as they run into a candid crowd as they indulge in poppers and public sex, to the scene where they summon the a shit demon “Mephistopheles,” or “Mephi” for short, played by Eileen Deetz who you might not know was the face of Pazuzu in The Exorcist.
So if you’re into far out gross mumble core movies I highly recommend this movie. If you are the complete opposite I heard Blade Runner 2049 is still in theaters. (Thanks for that, Matti. Gonna go see BR2049 again as soon as I finish posting this. Hey, when’s a new Stan Brakhage retrospective duet?—Niche Ed.)
2.5 out of 5 stars
McG’s comedic horror film “The Babysitter” hit Netflix a couple weeks ago and I finally got around to watching it since I was in the horror film mood and I was awaiting the season 2 drop of Stranger Things (which you could imagine is as amazing as the first one).
If you’re not familiar with McG’s movies, he is essentially a mini version of Michael Bay. Lots of explosions, silly and predictable yet fun story lines, and babes. Pretty much “Chad’s” favorite movie director.
The Babysitter is as mind-numbing as it sounds. Twelve-year-old Cole Johnson (played by Judah Lewis) is a bullied middle school student whose parents still thinks he needs a babysitter and is curious to find out what happens downstairs after he gets tucked into bed by his babysitter, Bee (played by Samara Weaving, pictured above). This plays off of the old story that once you go to bed, the babysitter invites her boyfriend over to get some late night action while there is no parental supervision (gasp!)
.Once Cole goes to bed, he decides to sneak downstairs to find out that the babysitter has invited some guests over to play a simple game of spin the bottle mixed in with truth or dare. There the game turns to a Satanic sacrifice upon one of the goofy, less fortunate “friends”.
As Cole starts to figure out ways to escape the house and from the clutches of each one of the Bee’s friends in ways that mimic Home Alone traps, it ends up being a not terrible movie because you have already seen this movie a dozen times before. Just with different antagonists and another kind of zero to hero character. So I really wouldn’t recommend this movie—or really wouldn’t not recommend this movie. Just hope that you have something else to watch before passing out on the couch.
The Florida Project
4 out of 5 stars
From the mind of Sean Baker comes his newest film “The Florida Project” where again he tackles humanity, family, friendship—and just being an overall great storyteller. Using art direction and costume design that remind of you of any Wes Anderson movie, Sean relays the story of The Magic Castle Motel in Kissimmee, Florida, right around the corner from Walt Disney Resort.
From the perspective of young Moonee (played by the amazingly talented Brooklynn Prince), her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), Jack the manager of the motel (Willem Dafoe), and Moonee’s gang of friends who stay and visit, the movie gives you the lighthearted laughs you want in a comedy but also the “pull on your heart-strings” of a drama. From the misadventures that Moonee and her friends take you on, like burning down a house, to Jack trying to be the father-figure to Moonee and boss of a motel of unemployed and struggling families, this has potential Oscar nominations written all over it.
This is what the world looked like before WordPress, punks. And it was a more vibrant, exuberantly tactile world, too. Our resident fanzine expert Tim “Dagger” Hinely weighs in.
BY TIM “DAGGER” HINELY
Print is still alive and well and here’s some rags to prove it! (See Part 6 of this series elsewhere on the Blurt site.) Fall is here, which means that the baseball season is slowly coming to its conclusion, so with that in mind….
7 & 7 is… (#3) This cool zine is the size of a 45 record (and even includes a flexi) is done by the folks who run the terrific label Hidden Volume label out of Baltimore (think sort of an updated version of Estrus Records, at least in the graphics dept). Plus it’s named after a Love song so of course it’s good, man! This ish has interviews with The Improbables (done by some wanker named Hinely) and Louie Louie plus some most excellent graphics and reviews. Do me a favor, inundate Scott with orders so he continues with this one. www.hiddenvolume.com
The Big Takeover (#80) As I stated last time, if editor Jack Rabid hits issue one hundred I wanna be there for that party. Every June and December one of these drops into my mail box (thanks Jack!) . This time around it’s Chrissie Hynde of The Pretender (on da’ cover) plus other heavyweights like Tommy Stinson, part two of the Lush interview, Tobin Sprout, The Black Watch, Sleaford Mods, Grandaddy and more and lots of more including short takes and a boatload (or truckload if you prefer) of reviews. Also, as I stated last time, you need to subscribe. www.bigtakeover.com
Bored Out (#1) Ok, not really a zine, more like a book (it’s bound) but zine-ish enough as editor Ryan Leach has put together one hell of a lineup here including totally in-depth interviews with Kid Congo Powers, In the Red Record’s Larry Hardy, The Bats’ Robert Scott, Jeffrey Evans formerly of the Gibson Bros, Ross Johnson, The Blasters’ Dave Alvin, The Real Kids’ John Felice and plenty more. I’m about halfway through and totally fascinated. This one’s a keeper, order now. www.spacecaserecords.com
Dynamite Hemorrhage (#4) So for this issue, his 4th since coming back from the dead (so to speak…editor Jay Hinman used to do the great Superdope in the 90’s) Mr. Hinman decided to go all half-sized on us (just like the early issues of Superdope) but it still looks way sharp. In this ish he has an interview with The Kiwi Animal as well as a terrific piece on Happy Squid Records, plus he updates his old piece of 45 45’s that moved heaven and earth to expand it to 100 45’s. In addition, plenty of reviews all wrapped up in a nice little package that only Hinman can put together. www.dynamitehemorrhage.com Vulcher (#3) Yes! The Vulcher crew are on a real roll here and yes, they’re already working on issue #4. The crew is Eddie Flowers, Kelsey Simpson and “Sonic” Sam Murphy and a long list of contributors (including yours truly) and they really delve deep and deliver here. It has the feel of an old school mag and this time around are bits ‘n pieces on Eric Dolphy, Obnox, early 45s by Jim Dickinson, Uncle Meat, The Embryonics, Big Boy Pete, a piece on the late, great David Peel, my piece on two great Aussie garage rock comps and really too much more. Well worth every penny. Write Eddie at email@example.com or Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org
The author is the editor of BLURT and has been rumored to be among those who won’t back down.
BY FRED MILLS
A little over a week ago I started to think I needed to get off social media. It was purely an act of self-preservation, and it wasn’t an altogether alien urge to ditch my “socials,” as people (primarily marketing folks and public relations flacks, but work with me here) like to say, Facebook chief among them. Like most of you, I’ve dropped out from time to time for a day or two in the past, in some instances purely by chance due to the work load at my full-time day job. (By way of full disclosure: I am the editor of a monthly print magazine here in North Carolina—not referring to BLURT, incidentally, which at the moment is online-only, but we hope to revive the print version soon. Editing BLURT content and posting it to the site is something I do to help keep our brand active and, by my way of thinking, also to give our writers and photographers an easy—if not overly reliable, on a day-to-day basis—outlet for their stuff, a place where they can park their words and their pictures and hopefully have a better chance of being seen by peers, musicians, and random music biz folks rather than simply slapping it up on their personal blog. No one here gets paid, in other words. We do it ‘cos we love spreading the word and giving love to the artists we love. And, er, to keep us in those free records we love, too.)
This hiatus from social media was different, though. It came on the heels of a particularly grueling several days, starting the morning after the Las Vegas shooting, through the heartbreaking news of Tom Petty’s sudden passing, and well into the ensuing emotional onslaught wrought by both events, of which Facebook became a nonstop outlet for those emotions.
Indeed, Las Vegas hit me with the same kind of confusion, fear, disbelief, and, ultimately, black grief that I felt in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Yes, I know the body count difference puts the two events into completely different leagues, but, hey, try using mathematics-based logic on one’s body stressors and you’ll quickly understand that equivalencies aren’t necessarily absolutes. And, much like 9/11, you couldn’t get away from the nonstop news reports and online outpouring of grief. Sixteen years ago, four days after 9/11, my wife, 8-month-old son, and I desperately needed to depressurize, so we drove four hours west to the North Carolina mountains, rented a cabin out in the sticks, and spent a long weekend hiking in the woods, cooking on a grill, entertaining an innocent young child who was otherwise oblivious to anything but his toys and snacks, and listening to Americana radio. We came back home in a far more receptive frame of mind, knowing full well that we would re-entering a world that had changed and would never look quite the same again.
With Petty, well… I’ve already penned a rather lengthy story about what my relationship with him has been and what he means to me. Spoiler alert: He’s among my Top 5 all-time favorite artists, and he’s been an emotional presence in both my life and my wife’s since he debuted in 1976. Losing him hit me as hard as losing Joe Strummer before him, and before Strummer, Keith Moon. We can go into all this in more detail over beers some warm summer evening, okay?
The 2017 week, however, was also different from the 2001 week, in that I couldn’t take off for the mountains—well, technically, I live in the mountains, so let’s just say that I couldn’t take off for the beach, or the desert, or the New Orleans whorehouses, either—because I have that full-time job I mentioned above; my wife has a full-time job herself (combined, we put in 100-110 hours per week, easily); and my little son is a little older now, a junior in high school with advanced placement class commitments.
What I could do, however, was remove myself from as many of my primary stress sources as possible: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn (just kidding – I haven’t updated my profile on that failing platform in several years! SAD!)… pfffft. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News…. zappppp. (Well, kinda; on the family iPad we have quite a few news apps, among them CNN, AP, local and regional newspapers, and aggregators like Flipboard, and it’s remarkably easy to let one’s finger to drift across the screen while deciding between Netflix, Hulu, or Vudu, and open up one of those news apps. But I’m proud to report that I didn’t obsessively refresh, and I quite consciously limited myself because I was also wanting to free up time to read a few books I had already partially begun.)
I even did my best to steer clear of the urge to watch the late night comedy (read: political) shows and, instead, look for comfort food such as nature and music documentaries, reruns of Frazier, the latest season of Gotham, and the re-boot of Will & Grace. Just last night my son talked me into starting to watch the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation series again, which feels pretty goddam perfect for the times we find ourselves in. With any luck, by the time we complete this lengthy binge, we’ll find ourselves in markedly different times. And for some reason I also found myself engaged in a selection of YouTube mini-binges: Fela Kuti, my old friends in the bands Dreams So Real and the Sidewinders, Rachel Sweet, and others. (Yes, I did just type “Rachel Sweet.” Should I also type “Rex Smith & Rachel Sweet”?) You’d be amazed at just how much mainstream news media you can NOT watch when you put your mind to it.
In this context, Facebook was an interesting case study in solitude, solipsism, and self-righteousness. Everyone’s experienced, at some point or another, a FB friend announcing he or she was planning on taking a break from the platform. These social media “vacations” are typically voluntary—maybe something happened in their lives that requires their extended attention, like a death in the family, and they get off the media knowing full well that upon their return they will be greeted with scores of so-very-sorrys and wish-you-wells that had been posted in the announcement’s comments section (can we all agree that the toothless, bordering-on-banal, phrase “sending thoughts and prayers” should be permanently retired? put some actual thought into your condolences, people!); and that they will dutifully express gratitude for all the support that was expressed. Occasionally, the virtual departures from FB appear to be voluntary, but in fact they are probably done at the strong urging of a fellow professional and prompted by some bad behavior—say, you were caught texting a photo of your private parts to an underage kid, so you’re being told that maybe you should lay off the pro-Weinstein FB rants and lay low for awhile; or you innocently posted some remarks that turned out to be nakedly anti-Semitic then made things worse defending yourself following the social media shitstorm, so your P.R. person suggests now might be a good time to take that sweat lodge sabbatical you’ve been talking about for ages (can we all agree that making one final FB post about your “needing to do some much-needed reflection and healing” is probably not a smart move either?).
Taking a cue from my old friend Peter Holsapple who, a day or two earlier, had announced he needed a short break from FB, I bailed. Mindful of the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments that would no doubt ensue if I simply disappeared from my digital community like a Second Life avatar soaring towards the heavens just prior to logging off, I made the usual bye-bye-to-Facebook announcement at my FB page . Facebook, I had come to realize, is the Empathy Box that sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick warned us of in his classic book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It tricks us into thinking we are having a collective/communal experience every time we react to some tragedy, some offense, some heartwarming story, some quirky/funny/cool “thing.”
Trust me, all those digital murmurs of compassion or screams of outrage—which I am as guilty as the next person of typing onto my computer screen—along with all those “likes” and laughing/weeping emojis that we register throughout the day, amount to anything but a communal experience. In your social media cocoon, in your groupthink cyber-node, you are deceiving yourself. Sorry to break this to you, millennials, but you might turn out to be replicants (the vote’s still out), and if that’s the case, your brave new off-world experiences are rapidly coming to a conclusion. You want communal? See my below note about talking with a neighbor of mine face to face one recent afternoon.
I’m proud to say that as I ditched Facebook, I said nothing about healing, although as you may note below about “redirecting my energy,” though absolutely descriptively accurate, did come somewhat close to new age mumbo-jumbo. At least I didn’t work “sustainable” into the dialogue. Still, I promise that there were no deaths or tragedies in the family, no wiener photos or sex scandals, no anti-Semitic comments or excursions into misogyny, no bullshit I’d been needing to own up to for far too long. I was just burned out and bummed out in the wake of the worst week I could remember in over a decade, and I realized I had been and around in my gerbil wheel of ugly/tragic/hypnotic national news while accomplishing next to nothing at work or at home. Laying I bed one morning at 4AM, thrashing and adjusting and readjusting my pillow, I had even thought I was about to have a panic attack.
From my Facebook post:
“I’ve decided I agree with Holsapple – time for a break. From the general social media white noise, onslaught of listicles, etc., to the obvious political overkill and partisan baitmongering, to the “no, I have the biggest grievance here” attitudes, to the blatant p.r. pitches at what is a personal, and not a business, page that I get, FB exhausts me even when I am, myself, indulging in my own form of blatant behavior in order to get that one final “like” affirmation. I need to redirect my energy. Plus, there’s that fall veggie garden and kitchen rehab we have going on here at Mills University. See y’all next semester…”
And, damn, it felt good when I hit that “post” button. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. But thanks for asking.
But Fred, you are also asking, what the fuck did you actually do while you’ve been off social media, restricting your news diet, etc.? I fucking banked a good bit of extra time in order to do other “stuff,” for starters.
A report this past March at Adweek, citing a study by Mediakix, indicated that the average amount of time spent per day on Facebook is about 35 minutes, and I can assure you it’s probably more on weekends or days off. In fact, 35 minutes seems way too low, based on what I’ve observed among quite a few of my FB “friends,” who seem to make 10, 15, 20, or more posts to their pages each day, then diligently reply to the comments while also making comments of their own on other friends’ timelines. So I’m going to up that 35-minute estimate to a still-conservative 45… hell, let’s just call it an hour per day, which means that I saved 8 FREAKIN’ HOURS over the course of the past 8 days simply by not dicking around on Facebook—8 hours is a COMPLETE WORK DAY if you have a regular job, or if you are a freelance worker and know how to organize your work day and discipline yourself.
Now, I can’t exactly wave my magic Make America Great Again wand and turn those hours into wages—maybe I should move to Kentucky and get a job in the coal mines since Trump and Scott Pruitt are definitely bringing those jobs and those wages back from a galaxy far, far away—but I reckon I could use the extra time to hustle up some outside writing gigs. Or maybe load all those shitty promotional CDs I get in the mail up for sale on Discogs, Amazon, or eBay—hell, I’ll even settle for averaging the local hourly minimum wage in online sales. I’m not greedy.
At any rate, if we are talking transforming all that digital time I accrued into real-world quality time, I think we have a winner, Bob. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing this past week that I either was not doing the week prior to that, or at least was doing in considerably smaller quantities:
Finished what seemed like The Never Ending Landscaping Project in our back yard, something we’d begun months back with the intention of wrapping it up by Fall. (Mission now accomplished.)
Burned a shitload of leaves and yard debris in the fire pit, which was semi-linked to TNELP but, since it was in a different part of the yard, something I considered a standalone project.
Got the last of my Fall vegetables planted in our two box gardens, and yes, I know that by the first and second weeks of October, one’s garden should have been planted, at very least, a month earlier. 6-8 weeks earlier if possible. So how much time did YOU put into your Fall garden, bub, in between trying to pay your rent and keep yourself I cigarettes and beer?
Helped my wife get our kitchen ready for a partial renovation. I don’t do demo on floors and walls, or install flooring and drywall, but I still understand that I’m expected to pull my weight in the prep work when there’s a family project such as this. (Memo to wife: please stop laughing.)
Started cleaning up the garage in anticipation of finally clearing out my storage unit where, for 100 bucks a month, I pay for the privilege of not being able to thumb through my collection of vinyl, CDs, books, and music magazines whenever I might get the urge to do so.
Alphabetized the vinyl records I actually do have at the house because, duh, that’s what a record collector does when he has some spare time.
Wrote 15 record reviews for BLURT and 3 for another outlet, most of which you lucky readers will be able to view on the site very shortly. That may not seem like a lot compared to the output of a lot of music writers, but don’t forget, I also have a 50-55 hour-per-week job as an editor at a print publication, so sitting at the computer during every free moment I have at home isn’t necessarily the most attractive proposition.
Went to the YMCA to shoot basketball with my son on three evenings, feeling both physically out of shape and needing to subject myself to the ritual humiliation of a 16-year-old smoking his old dad on the court in everything but free throws. (Very pleased to report an 80% percentage on those.)
Went to see Blade Runner 2049. Okay, I would have done that anyway.
Scheduled a long overdue colonoscopy. Okay, I might have done that anyway.
Started to make a list of random stuff I would have posted to Facebook if I had been on during the week. You know, all the crap you think is clever and profound and poignant while you’re in the moment—the same crap you roll your eyes at when you spot someone else trying to be clever and profound and poignant. I figured I could save it to post on FB whenever I decided to get back on FB, and we’d all have one nice communal empathetic chuckle—how meta of him!
Ditched my list of random stuff I would have posted to Facebook if I had been on during the week, because, duh.
Cooked a full breakfast several mornings for that same 16-year-old mentioned above, rather than just throwing some Eggos in the toaster. I don’t necessarily attribute this to having extra time; it’s not like I was getting up on a schoolday earlier than usual. But for some reason, I was feeling more productive than usual. When you feel good about yourself, you behave differently.
Finished reading Blood Done Sign My Name by celebrated N.C. author Timothy B. Tyson—I’d previously been kinda futzing along with it, reading a half chapter this morning and a half chapter the next evening before grabbing the iPad each time to scour all my news apps, because, Trump—and started reading a bio about Steph Curry and a novel by my friend Michael Goldberg. Regarding BDSMN, a stunning memoir about growing up white as the son of a liberal minister in the segregated South of the ‘60s, my own kid had urged me to pick it up after he’d finished it for a class assignment, telling me he thought Tyson’s experiences seemed a lot like what he knew of my upbringing. He was right; Tyson is my new favorite author; and I’m pleased to say that when I tracked down Tyson’s email and wrote him to tell him so, he actually wrote back in less than a half hour, and we continue to exchange nots. (In the Facebook capsule-blurb era, who even has time for crafting a decent email anymore—emails now on the verge of become the digital dinosaur equivalents of old-school formal letters between correspondents. I’m finding myself trying to write friends and acquaintances notes with a bit more meat on their digital bones than “got your info—thanks!” or “let’s catch up soon!”)
And perhaps most revealingly: Spent a couple of hours commiserating with my next door neighbor regarding the Las Vegas massacre. In the past year living in our neighborhood, we’ve never been in each other’s house, but we sometimes chat over the back yard fence while going about our respective outdoors routines, and as I mentioned, I have been out there doing a good deal of work. This time, though, I was stopped in my tracks in mid conversation when he disclosed that the company he works for, a sound and audio company, was handling the Jason Aldean show that horrific night in Vegas. Only one of his employees was hurt, just a small ricochet injury, but the psychological injuries others experienced were potentially profound, and he’d already met with some of them, offering them grief counseling, extended time off, etc., if they needed anything to help cope with the aftermath. (Here’s a local media interview with one of his employees who describes in vivid detail what it was like to be on the mixing stage, under fire, and trying to take cover and get out of there.) A couple of times while my neighbor recounted all this, he became visibly emotional, as did both of us when we subsequently found ourselves talking about losing Tom Petty—he was a big fan himself. It was a sobering couple of hours, to say the least.
The point here should be obvious. There wasn’t anything I did during those “extra 8 hours” I picked up thanks to jettisoning social media from my life and trimming back my news consumption that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have been doing anyway.
But as regards that backyard convo with my neighbor, I’m not so sure. We all like to think that we readily sympathize and eagerly empathize (oops—somebody call Philip K. Dick) with one another on Facebook when something momentous has happened that affected them enough to post about it. But you sure can’t see that haunted, troubled look on someone’s face, or hear that sudden, spontaneous catch in someone’s throat, when someone is posting to Facebook.
In an op-ed essay titled “Finding Grace Around the Kitchen Table” (online it’s “How to Find Common Ground”) that was published September 30 in the New York Times, conservative pundit and talk-show host Erick-Woods Erickson wrote about how a life-threatening incident and its aftermath forced him to look inward and try to figure out what he would want his kids to know about him that they might not automatically know if he were suddenly no longer with them. (This is something every parent, particularly if you’re a writer, ponders and even agonizes about at some point. So we start writing all that stuff down for posterity. Yes, I have. Thanks for asking.)
In the essay, Erickson also ruminates both obliquely and directly about some of the things I’ve been discussing here. The following 3-paragraph passage in particular stands out:
“As we have moved more of our lives onto the internet, we have stopped living in actual communities. Instead we have created virtual communities where everyone thinks the same. We do not have to worry about the homeless man under the bridge because he is no longer part of our community. He is someone else’s problem. But that simply is not true.
“Even as the internet provides us great advances, it also segments us. We have social-media tribes and our self-esteem is based on likes and retweets. We have hundreds of television channels and even more video choices online where Hollywood no longer has to worry about broad appeal. There is a channel for everyone, and everyone in the tribe will get the inside jokes. Social-media interactions have replaced the value of character.
“The truth, though, is that our Facebook friends are probably not going to water our flowers while we are on vacation and our Twitter followers will not bring us a meal if we are sick. But the actual human being next door might do both if we meet him.”
The value of character: To my Facebook friends who might opt to read all the way to the end of my own essay here once they have spotted me back online and noticed the link to this essay that I’ve graciously posted on my FB page: If you need your flowers watered, your mail gathered, your lighting scheme cycled, even your cats’ litter boxes scooped while you go on vacation, if I happen to be in the same town, just let me know, and I’ll do it. If you get sick and need somebody to go pick up some food for you because you feel too shitty to cook, or come walk your dog because you’re too worn out to deal with that hyperactive mutt, or take you to the doctor because you might feel worse at the end of the visit than at the start, I’ll do that too. Let me know. No strings attached.
Just don’t reach out to me on Facebook or try to message me. I might not be on FB. And I disabled Messenger months ago. Phone me, text me, email me, in that order.
Better yet, if you see my car in the driveway, just walk out to the back yard fence and holler in the direction of my back door. That, it turns out, is one of the oldest forms of social media in the world. And it doesn’t require cellphone service or a WiFi connection.
Reviews of mother! (by Darren Aronofsky), Death Note (by Adam Wingard), and Good Time (by the Safdie Brothers).
BY DANIEL MATTI / BLURT FILM EDITOR
(Go HERE to view the Blurt Movie Thoughts master page.)
3 out of 5 stars
mother! is the most recent film from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) that hit theaters last week, and it has left some lasting impressions among movie-goers. Some that absolutely love the film, some that hate it, and the rest conflicted in its hot mess of storytelling and allegories.
SPOILERS! From strange marketing in which the film is almost perceived as a horror movie, and trailers that left you asking, what the hell is this movie even about, the movie has one of the most eccentric tellings of the Bible in recent times—possibly ever.
I went in blindly, wanting to know as little as possible before seeing mother!, and for good reasons. Most Darren Aronofsky films have been thought provoking pieces of cinema, so after making his blockbuster flop Noah, I knew that he would want to return to his roots of making a “balls to the wall” film.
Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence move into a house into the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the outside. Javier’s character, simply named “him” throughout the movie, is a poet and has retreated from the busy world to try to get out of his writer’s block and have a child with his wife, “mother,” played by Jennifer.
mother! is a powerful retrospective telling of the Bible, ultimately, including worshiping idols, the telling of Cain and Abel, and the powers that religion can turn any event into something of extraordinary violence.
1 out of 5 Stars
Netflix recently partnered with horror director Adam Wingard to deliver one of the worst films of 2017. It really pains me to say that, too, since I am a big fan of Wingard’s work (along with Netflix’s ongoing premium programming).
Based on the hit manga where a shinigami—or death god—drops a notebook called the “Death Note” in the human realm, the main character, Light (played by Nat Wolff), finds the notebook and then is shadowed by the shinigami, “Ryuk” (voiced by Willem Dafoe). The Death Note is a notebook that you can write down whatever and however you want to get rid of someone—yes, that kind of getting rid of someone. As Ryuk lets Light figure out how to use the Death Note, and if he is should use the book for good or evil, Light sees himself using it for his own good. Other characters, including the main counterpart “L” (played by Lakeith Stanfield). start to figure out who is using in a pretty basic cat and mouse game.
The biggest reason the film was atrocious… well, pretty much the entire movie is atrocious due to the overacting and scrambled screenplay, with the worst ‘90s TV show dialogue imaginable. If you think the plot has you intrigued, I suggest watching the anime series—or simply just reading the original manga.
5 out of 5 stars
Every now and then a movie comes out that is destined to be a cult hit from the get-go. Good Time is a movie that will do just that. From blending art-house cinematography to the gripping, harsh abrasive soundtrack by Oneohtrix Point Never, the film never gives up and is one of the few films that can uphold through film history books.
Earlier in the year The Safdie Brothers took their film to the Cannes Film Festival. There, they won Best Soundtrack Award, beating out Jonny Greenwood for You Were Never Really Here, Ibrahim Maalouf for Hikari, and Jed Kurzel for Jupiter’s Moon.
From the film’s opening week until now, more and more people are starting to see Good Time, as it ends up being a word of mouth movie rather than using a large budget to heavily promote the film. The film has come close enough, having already surpassed It’s budget, a little over a cool million, in box office earnings.
The film is based around Robert Pattison’s character, who gets his brother with learning disabilities to rob a bank together with him. It examines the road between the characters and what ultimate fate they both must face.
In words that I would use more commonly to someone in person—go see this movie immediately, and definitely in a theater if you still can.
Reviews of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (by Luc Besson), A Ghost Story (by David Lowery), and Kuso (by Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus).
BY DANIEL MATTI / BLURT FILM EDITOR
(Go HERE to view the Blurt Movie Thoughts master page.)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Directed by Luc Besson
(3.5 out of 5 stars)
Luc Besson is not a common household name. For most hardcore action movie fans he is something of a staple name when it comes to the genre. Directing such movies as Le Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, and The Fifth Element. Also on his resume is a long list of writing credits including the hits Taken, District B13, and The Transporter series.
Valerian and City of a Thousand Planets is Luc’s newest film to hit the screens. Based off the late comic book series “Valerian and Laureline”, Valerian is now France’s most expensive movie ever made. Essentially letting Luc make his dream project. A dream project that is stunning but has its flaws.
While watching the movie myself I was nothing but pleased with the visual effects that were on par with Avatar (c’mon, Avatar had some beautiful visual effects) and a story line that was fun and comic book like (unlike Avatar). The dialogue was a little campy at times, but it seemed to be meant to be that way. The ongoing struggle between main characters Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (played by Cara Delavigne) was the ‘ biggest weakness. The two characters were not a 100% match made in heaven or space, for that matter.
Overall, the film is a fun summer popcorn flick that will definitely please some of the audience, but not all who are looking for the year’s perfect film.
A Ghost Story
Directed by David Lowery
(3 out of 5 stars)
The newest movie by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara is an exploration of love, death, and the afterlife.
A brutal car accident that leaves “C,” played by Affleck, dead. “M” is played by Mara, and both will have to find their ways of dealing with death and the afterlife.
Most of the film plays around with the thoughts of an afterlife and that if when we die and were to become a ghost (with a sheet over us—yeah, like in Peanuts), we will wait for whoever fulfills our life most. “M” quickly leaves the house that she and “C” once shared, showing that “moving on” is sometimes difficult but also necessary at times. As “M” leaves, “C” is left there waiting for her as more tenants move into the house that they once shared.
This movie is full of turns that will keep you here ‘til the end and will leave you with your own thoughts and expressions on death—but will also leave you scratching your head at times.
The biggest flaw in the movie is the scene near the middle of the movie, where a group of friends throw a party and a partygoer goes philosophical and tries to sum up death and the afterlife while cracking jokes. For the most part it comes off as the guy at a party who, when he opens his mouth, you immediately go to the other room to avoid him at all costs.
The imagery of the entire film is really what holds it together, but other than that I would say this one is a rental after you knock back a few cold ones.
Directed by Steve Ellison (Flying Lotus)
(4 out of 5 stars)
Steve! Steve! Steve!
Recently the film Kuso by Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, aka Captain Murphy, gave hardcore fans a real shock and awe for their money. With a cast that is full of Steve’s friends (including Hannibal Buress, David Firth, Anders Holm, Regan Farquhar aka Busdriver, and the one and only George Clinton) the film will have you saying what the fuck out loud more than just a couple times.
Clocking in a little over 90 minutes, Kuso is nonstop something. Something that is hard to stomach, visually that is. Something that is amazingly pleasing to the ears.
With the help of other musicians, the film is scored perfectly. Alongside the visuals that are hard to digest with your eyes, your ears are tested to keep the fuck up. Mr. Oizo, Aphex Twin, Busdriver, Akira Yamaoka, and Flying Lotus himself all lend their diverse taste in electronic music to the film—that I have to say, is one of the best and most disgusting films of the year. It’s easily of the most disgusting films I’ve ever seen, on par with films like Salo, or 120 days of Sodom, or A Serbian Film.
Horror geeks and fans of electronic music will find this movie to be a hit. Everyone else, grab a barf bag and prepare for your eyes to have “Kuso” rubbed in them.
Daniel Matti is a 29 year old movie/music enthusiast who drinks too much whiskey and tries to watch movies on a daily basis. Contact him via email: dmrorschach (at) gmail.com
BLURT’S MOVIE THOUGHTS ARE READY FOR SCREENING. Join our man in the Balcony, Daniel Matti, as he reviews recent films that are floating his boat, and even some that he feels should be sunk out of mercy. You’ll also be able to check out movie trailers, posters, and related ephemera. – Ed.
Welcome to Movie Thoughts!
My name is Daniel Matti (I go by Matti) and I’m the main writer/editor here at Movie Thoughts. A little spot where I will post my thoughts about recent movies here at BLURT. Contact me via email: dmrorschach (at) gmail.com
A little background about myself: I’m a 29 year old movie/music enthusiast with tastes in pretty much every edge of the spectrum. When it comes to movies, horror is my forte, but that doesn’t limit me from liking a good rom-com, action, or avant-garde foreign film.
I’ve created this little oasis on the edge of BLURT to voice my opinion without having to bother my friends and family about which hot new extreme French movie I thought was the best film of the year. Also in hopes of inspiring other people to go out and catch flicks sometimes they would never usually see—or ones to avoid.
Serial Reel #1: Reviews of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (by Luc Besson), A Ghost Story (by David Lowery), and Kuso (by Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus).
Serial Reel #2: Reviews of mother! (by Darren Aronofsky), Good Time (by the Safdie Brothers), and Death Note (by Adam Wingard).
Serial Reel #3:Reviews of Assholes (by Peter Vack), The Babysitter (by McG), and The Florida Project (by Sean Baker).
Serial Reel #4: Reviews of Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (by Martin McDonagh), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (by Yorgos Lanthimos), and Creep 2 (by Mark Duplass and friends).
Serial Reel #5:Matti’s Top 10 Films of 2017, including The Disaster Artist, Good Time, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
As far as I know Boston’s Moving Targets, led by main songwriter Kenny Chambers, had only cut a handful of songs before recording their massive debut, Burning in Water (Taang Records, 1986). Though they’d been bouncing around in one form or another since the early ‘80s—they emerged from the ashes of a band called Smash Pattern—the only recorded output they had was a few songs on the Conflict Records compilation Bands That Could Be God. I have to say, I was completely blown away the first time I heard Burning in Water. At the time, I was moving away from hardcore and listening to more mid-tempo, melodic stuff, and this record just hit that sweet spot. The band got a lot of comparisons to Husker Du, which I do hear as an influence, but I like Burning in Water more than any Husker Du record, which is saying something as I love Husker Du.
It was tough to only pick out one song, but I decided to ask Kenny Chambers about the soaring and powerful “Faith.” Kenny was more than happy to hit me back and tell me about the origins of the song and the recording of it. The band: Chambers on guitar and vocals, Pat Leonard on bass, Pat Brady on drums.
What was the initial inspiration for the song? “Faith” was born during my time in the band Smash Pattern (Chuck Freeman on drums) in 1984. I’m sure there was some Mission of Burma influence coupled with a case of Old Milwaukee that we consumed at every practice. When the ‘targets came together again 1985 we started playing it.
Did it take long to finish writing it? The song took a short while to put together. I wrote it whole then added a couple more parts on the following couple of weeks.
Any idea how your long time fans feel about it (i.e.: would it be considered a “fan favorite” or anything?) I think any fan of the band likes that tune.
Was it a staple of your live sets even years later?
The Moving Targets had “Faith” on most set lists from 1985 to 2007. I don’t think that we ever got tired of playing it.
Is there anything about the song you’d change?
I wouldn’t change anything about it. The band played it well and Lou Giordano did a fine job of recording it and coaxing a good performance out of us.
Tell me a little about the recording of it – where and when, how long did it take, any watershed moments or glaring problems, etc.? Recording the Burning in Water album was kind of a blur. We were so excited and it went so quickly (all of the basic tracks in a day and a half) that I personally don’t remember recording most of the songs. I know it sounded great in the studio with Lou and Carl Plaster and we were happy with everything. The only problem with recording was trying to adapt to a cleaner amp sound. Lou pushed the cleaner sound and I was used to total distortion. In hindsight, Lou was right on the money. The record sounds sharp.
How do you feel about it now? I still think it holds up today.
Why listen to shitty-sounding streaming music on Spotify for free when you can pay for the privilege and have something to show for it?
BY FRED MILLS
This week, as June turned into July, in between the Health Care Follies revue, bleeding facelifts, and a preview of looming voter fraud/suppression tussles, we still received some happy #vinylporn news, that the Sony Music record pressing plant in Japan was getting its turbines cleaned up and dusted off in anticipation of cranking out the wax once again. Most of the media coverage, though welcome, was pretty matter of fact and superficial, to be honest, with reports simply pulling out a few lazy statistics about the contemporary “vinyl resurgence” (I officially proclaim that term to be a cliche now – if something has been “resurging” for more than 5 years, I think it’s officially an “ongoing trend”) and quoting some random hipster journalist. (Yes, NPR, I am available for comment. Call me.)
However,Britain’s The Guardian did a pretty decent job with their report “Records come round again: Sony to open vinyl factory in Japan” – check it out HERE – and also dig the photo of a Japanese pressing of Let It Be, since that is literally the only genuinely relevant, context-wise, photo I’ve spotted in all the Sony Japan coverage.
The one thing that all the reports overlooked, or at least could have mentioned as an intriguing and relevant sidelight, is that back in the day, Japanese pressings were considered the gold standard by many, if not most, collectors. After a certain point you could certainly get audiophile reissue pressings from Mobile Fidelity and a couple other Stateside labels catering to a niche market (typically jazz and classical), but Japanese releases still had a certain allure and cachet, both for their reissues and new releases – and, sometimes, for their exclusive nature.
For example, there was the stunning live-in-Japan Miles Davis release Agharta, and Santana’s classic live rec Moonflower, both of which I put considerable energy into tracking down. They weren’t cheap, either. A lot of folks probably forget that Cheap Trick’s Budokan album gained traction initially as a white-hot import-only release – that was the only way you could hear it. I would venture to say that folks prized Japanese pressings for their heavy-weight/virgin vinyl provenance (something that US labels abandoned early on – RCA and Dynaflex pressings, I’m lookin’ at YOU for making all that possible long before the oil shortage affected the record industry), the ongoing use of heavy-stock tip-on sleeves and poly-lined inner sleeves (ditto), and not-essential-but-still-cool extras like outer OBI strips and liner notes or lyrics not included in other countries’ pressings. Gee – it’s almost like in 2017, labels that really care about releasing a quality product with classic touches like 180gm and/or colored vinyl pressings and thick-stock gatefold sleeves, are taking their cues from the heyday of Japanese vinyl… you could even propose that Japan, often a pioneer in technological trends back in the day, pioneered the art of… wait for it… #vinylporn.
As long as we are on the #vinylporn topic, I noticed this week that Atomic Disc in Oregon is having a sale on pressing records. I have no idea what the going rate is at other plants or what a “good rate” might be, but currently, 300 copies of an LP on black vinyl will cost you $1750, which comes out to only about $6 a platter. The price is only $3.20 per copy if you get 1000 copies. (Yeah, do that math quickly, and then think about that $29.98 list price major label LP you bought last week.) A download card included will cost an extra $100, and if you want colored wax (of course you do) it will be $2149.
As you might imagine, my punk band Bo Oswald & the Biohazard Boys and I plan to press our debut, Binky The Troll – a Rock Opera, on splatter vinyl. That bumps the cost of 300 copies up to $2689, but hey, we care about YOU, our fans, so no price is too great… see ya in the record bins.
For a music journalist, there’s no better feeling than finding out your initial instincts were correct. Meet one of Idaho’s best bands.
BY FRED MILLS
Musically speaking, Idaho tends to ping the national radar only occasionally; for the indie-rock milieu, Josh Ritter and Doug Martsch (Built to Spill) are probably the best-known Idaho native sons. Yet the state does in fact have a thriving music scene, with plenty of bars and breweries on hand to play host. You can count Boise’s Like A Rocket among the extant talent, championing regional breweries and arriving soon with their third full-length, High John The Conqueror.
The trio— guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Bobby “Speedy” Gray, bassist Andy Cenarrusa, drummer Max Klymenko—powers straight outta the gate with raucous, roots-rock raveup “Ain’t It All A Work Song” (it’s below, and also at their Bandcamp page for purchase as first single from the album), sending a sonic statement from the get-go they are here to kick up some dust and kick some ass. Sinewy yet deeply melodic Americana is the name of the game, from the twangy, Georgia Satellites-esque “Follow Me Down (to the party by the river)” and slide guit-powered stomper “The Devil of T.V. Paul’s” to the straight-up country rock of “Tuxedo and Anna Leigh” and lovely, Latin-infused cowboy ballad “Magdalena.”
There’s also the album’s psychological centerpiece, “Dark Blood.” Following the stage-setting, 30-second title track, a rippling acoustic guitar instrumental, this rumbling, brooding blues unfolds as a fatalistic tale of mortal sin and retribution: the former, at the hands of Gray’s haunted protagonist; the latter, courtesy album namesake High John, a living, breathing hellhound on the singer’s trail. Classic blues imagery abounds—roosters that are crowing, muddy waters that keep flowing, slaves on the block, “Tarrytown,” ropes dangling from trees—as Gray, voice framed amid a steadily rising chorus of snarling psychedelic guitars and tense martial percussion, realizes his time is near (“Brother, dear brother, take my fine young wife/ ‘cos I got a meeting comin’ with High John’s knife”). It’s a masterful performance, part Steve Earle, part “Sympathy”-era Stones, part Robert Johnson, all Like A Rocket.
As a band, this is a fluid, flexible beast, shifting easily between multiple styles while maintaining a taut, focused core. (A perfect example of this style-shifting is “Cry Baby Cry” which, with its low, echoey, shantylike vibe, initially suggests classic cosmic twang; but as the tune progresses, it ascends and turns anthemic, a marriage of gospel-inspired vocals and power pop guitars.) With songwriter Gray as their not-so-secret weapon—he seems to have absorbed a lifetime’s worth of influences yet instinctively knows when to put them on display and when to deploy them subtly, and nuanced—the three men also demonstrate a collective gift for arrangements that allows them to transcend the physical limits of a “mere” trio.
Ultimately, with High John The Conqueror, Like A Rocket is—pardon the painfully obvious cliché—clearly poised to take off.
Full disclosure: For yours truly, there’s a bit of a personal connection here. During the mid/late ‘80s, in my capacity as music editor for a Charlotte, NC, alt-weekly, I covered Gray’s early band, Helpless Dancer, on multiple occasions, and I instinctively gravitated to their glammy, hard-edged brand of power pop. (I still own a 45 they released during that time.) Their fan base was broad, and devoted. By that point Gray was already a scene veteran with serious chops he’d honed as a teenager touring as part of a gospel group, and after Helpless Dancer he wasted no time in forming a terrific post-punk group dubbed The Dollmakers. After I moved to the Southwest, however, I lost tabs on him, so to not only discover his current outfit now, many years later, but also learn that he made a similar move westward, also in need of a change of scenery, not long after I did makes for an oddly satisfying bit of synchronicity.
See, I’ve always felt that time and distance shouldn’t diminish memories or undermine old loyalties. Support the home team, so to speak. Here in 2017, I frequently encounter favorite musicians from back in the day who are still making stellar art, and in a weird way, having that type of insider knowledge about their backgrounds seems to subtly enhance my appreciation of their current efforts. It’s not necessarily a matter of comparing one incarnation to another one, but rather of having something relevant in common, and I’d reckon anyone can identify with that.
To all the rest of you, there’s plenty about Like A Rocket that, if you have an appreciation for honest, well-wrought, immensely tuneful American rock ‘n’ roll, you’ll be able to identify with. Crank up the stereo (you can get a quick taste at the aforementioned Bandcamp page, including a five-song EP, Raucous, comprising additional material cut during the album sessions) and make up for lost time—just like I’m doing now.
Fred Mills is the editor of BLURT magazine and Blurtonline.com
A Blurt Boot Video Exclusive: Simon Bonney & Bronwyn Adams (Live NYC) 5/14/2019 WARSAW
Filmed by Jonathan Levitt. Check out Bonney's latest record "Past, Present, Future" http://smarturl.it/SimonBonney
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Psychedelic Furs "Only You and I" (Live Costa Mesa CA 7-19-18
Tribute: Tony Kinman (R.I.P.) and Rank And File - Video from "Long Gone Dead"
Blurt Audio Exclusive: Thin White Rope "The Fish Song" (from 2018 remaster of The Ruby Sea