Monday, December 29, 2008

M83: Saturdays = Youth

2008 is the year M83 broke through. I've been following them since 2004, and I had Before the Dawn Heals Us as one of my top ten albums from 2005--even though it only made one notable top ten list that year--but this year their album Saturdays = Youth appeared in seven best-of-the-year lists, even coming in as 2008's #1 album according to one critic. (There's an outside chance you've heard M83's song in the second half of this trailer for my favorite Russian movie, which is a cool trailer, but not nearly as cool as this trailer for Benjamin Button. Anyway...)

The key difference between Before the Dawn and Saturdays is its '80s synth emphasis. Given the album's title, it's absolutely intentional. Anthony Gonzalez, the Frenchman who makes M83 a one man band, is a child of the 1980s and he revisits his youth, sonically speaking. Furthermore, one of the album's best songs, "Kim & Jessie" is about teenagers (watch the song's fairly-'80s-and-slightly-bicurious music video if you want), and several other songs feature a teenage protagonist. "Graveyard Girl" (below) and "We Own The Sky" (video below) are great tracks, but songs like "Couleurs" and "Up!" detract from Saturdays.

There seem to be several neo-'80s electronica outfits that produced albums this year (MGMT, Gang Gang Dance, Cyrstal Castles, Cut Copy, etc.), all of which were well received. For whatever reason, these records seem to be appearing in, well, record numbers. I'm not bemoaning this fact, I'm merely intrigued (and wondered if anybody else has noticed).

Grade: B-
Blurb: Saturdays is no Before the Dawn, but thankfully it's much better than M83's 2007 effort, Digital Shadows. Thankfully. No, seriously, I hated Digital Shadows. If you need to buy one neo-'80s electronica album from 2008, you might be better served with MGMT's Oracular Spectacular, but Saturdays gets the silver medal. Check out M83's "Graveyard Girl" or watch this fan-made video for "We Own the Sky":

graveyardgirl_128k.wma - M83

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TV On The Radio: Dear Science

When TV On The Radio came out with Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes my senior year of college, I [illegally] downloaded one or two songs, but my computer crashed shortly thereafter and I lost those tunes (I didn't have a backup hard drive). I quit following TVotR, and dismissed Return to Cookie Mountain after I saw a video promo for it on MTV (there aren't too many channels I hate more than MangeyTweenVomit). However, I gave Cookie Mountain a second chance--legally downloaded it--and came away enthralled. I can see why Cookie Mountain ended up on so many best-of-2006 lists.

Dear Science came out in late September and I previewed it on Amazon, but I was unimpressed and decided my money would be better spent elsewhere. But when Brandon burned me a copy, I gave it a fair shake. The first listen, I was still unimpressed, but I continued to play the album as I painted my apartment. The more I listened, the more I liked it.

Part of the reason I didn't go gaga over Science was the fact that it seemed a bit more mainstream than Cookie Mountain. Much in the way that Kings of Leon's Only by the Night seems more produced--likely with mass consumption in mind--than Because of the Times (in my top 5 albums of 2007), TVotR's Science seems more slick than Cookie Mountain. "Dancing Choose" and "Red Dress" seem like tacked-on quirkiness as if to say, "Hey, we're still weird!" (Those are actually my two least-favorite songs on the album.) However, "Crying," "Stork & Owl," and "DLZ" are fabulous tracks.

Grade: B+
Blurb: The problem with Science is that there are fewer standout tracks than on Cookie Mountain. I don't think it should be as high as it is on the year-end list for 2008. On the other hand, it's still a fun album, and there's not much like it out there. Check out the tracks "DLZ" and "Golden Age" below.

DLZ - TV On The Radio

Monday, December 22, 2008

Films, Opinions, and now... Music!

When I started Cine-Men (with my now-delinquent, ex-roommate, and pettifogger-at-large blogging partner), I wanted to inform you about good--and bad--films. Since we've already established that I watch more movies than you, I also assume that I listen to more music than you. Currently, my MP3 catalogue is 26 GB--which is about 317 hours worth of music... which means if I played my entire collection non-stop for twenty-four hours, I could go almost two weeks before the music stopped. Dang. I always opt for quality over quantity, but I [pretentiously] think my catalogue manages to be a large quantity of high quality tunes (although there are some guilty pleasures in there). Besides, how could I not promote the fact that I adore indie music?

I have an eclectic taste, so one blog might discuss an alt. country/Americana album and the next might be power-pop, trip-hop, ambient, electronica, folk or *insert random genre here*. Chances are, I'll never review a rap album, but if Ratatat puts out a follow-up effort to Mixtape Vol. II (which you can download for free), it'll definitely be on the list (and I might downlaod some Dizzee Rascal at some point, and I don't know into which genre Santogold--the heir apparent to M.I.A.--might fall).

My next task will be to compile a best-of-2008 list, but the problem is that I have about 10 albums from this year that I have yet to get (and I think a minimum of two weeks is a general guideline for rendering a verdict, as some albums grow on you with each listen, despite the fact that you might have disliked it your first--or fifth--listen)... so I may not be able to post my year-end list until I acquire the albums I suspect might be on that list.

For now, I'll leave you with the 2008 song that I listened to the second most this year
(according to my media player not my MP3 player), "Working Poor" by Horse Feathers (the song I listened to most, "Age of Metals" by The 1900s is not on IMEEM, but you preview it here if you're curious).

Working Poor - Horse Feathers

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Man on Wire

It seems like every time I review a documentary, I start off by saying, "I don't watch them very often" or, "I'm not a big fan," but by not watching them very often--and by picking ones that aren't insanely depressing or Michael Moore-ish--I enjoy them when I watch them. Man on Wire is no exception. Even though the movie's cover clearly tells you the result, the director did a great job building suspense and keeping me excited about the prospect of a man walking on a wire between the Twin Towers. Here's the trailer:

One of the more interesting parts of this film is seeing the two towers being built (they've got footage) and then watching Petit walk between them. Something I would've loved to have known was how Petit felt when he heard the news that the two towers had fallen. Obviously, as a French
funabulist, he must have a unique perspective (see, my circus vocabulary comes in handy!).

An element that is key to this or any documentary is primary-source footage, of which Man on Wire has enough to make it feel genuine. Although I usually despise reenactments, the ones in this film aren't as cheesy as I thought they might be. Plus, the [recently conducted] interviews with all of the "actors" provides a unique post-event perspective, while also adding drama and suspense.

Final Grade: B+/A-
Blurb: This is almost as good as [fellow documentary] Deep Water, but falls just a little short, possibly due to less-than-stellar editing. However, Man on Wire is still an interesting film that you should watch if you're in the mood for a documentary.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This is one of those "hidden gems" that is not really "hidden" at all, since it was nominated for an Oscar--wow, I just looked it up and it was nominated for four Oscars! Surprisingly it wasn't nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Odd. Anyway, I put The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (TBBB) in my queue when it was released to US theaters in late 2007 (it was in a bunch of film festivals too), but I currently have over 200 titles in my Blockbuster queue, so it took a while to float to the top.

Although I had no idea at the time, the film is based on the true story of Jean-Do Bauby (who you might've recognized as Bond's pseudo-enviro-nemesis), a magazine magnate who suffered a stroke, and was subsequently paralyzed, lost his ability to speak, and wanted to write a book about the whole ordeal. On top of all of that drama--as if it weren't enough--there's also a very underexplored narrative about Jean-Do's love life (and I'm not being sarcastic... but I guess I could always read the book for more info). Watch the trailer if you want:

Some TBBB moments were a little tough to watch (the cinematography for the first five minutes started to make me a little dizzy, and then they sewing up of the eye was simply brutal), but I definitely grew more interested in the film as time wore on (which is what should happen with good movies). I was almost moved to tears by Max von Syndow, the actor who plays Jean-Do's father (I actually recognized him from a certain film that everybody seems to hate; you can spot him at the beginning of this clip from said hated film). Why, if the old guy from Into the Wild can get nominated for such a small role, can't Syndow? Clearly, the Oscars were a little hit-and-miss with this film.

Final Grade: A-
Blurb: Definitely the best French film I've seen in years (and I've watched two sub-par ones, one that could've been better, and one that I thought was good, but too long and a bit overhyped.).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Dork alert: I used to love the X-Files when I was in junior high and high school. Every Sunday night, I turned on the tube just in time to hear that spooky whistling theme. I can reveal my fandom knowing that 25 million Americans also used to join me.

Having been off the air for almost a decade, it was odd to see the show make a return to the big screen (everybody's taking the Sex & the City cue). What made it even more odd, is that the movie's storyline felt more like that of a show. The first X-Files movie (1998)--which I owned on VHS--dealt with overarching stories from the series and also took place on a global scale. This second movie, while it deals with the future of the Mulder-Scully relationship, doesn't really generate from the series (and that might be a wise idea since it's been off for so long), but it takes place on such a small (local) scale, that the whole thing seems fairly insignificant. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad movie, it's just not nearly as good/significant as the first film. The relationship drama between Mulder and Scully isn't enough to keep me glued to the screen, especially after a near decade-long absence.

Final Grade: B-
Blurb: I Want To Believe would've been a better made-for-TV movie than a big-screen release. If you're not an ex-X-Files devotee, then you could skip this movie and miss nothing; if you are a devotee, you will probably be a little disappointed with TX-F:IWTB.

Monday, December 8, 2008


A low-fi indie, Kabluey is about a ne'er-do-well uncle moving in with his sister-in-law to help her raise her two sons while the boys father is in Iraq. Initially, the uncle, Salman (Scott Pendergast), is supposed to babysit the boys while their mom (Lisa Kudrow... I know, right?) can go back to work. Salman can't handle the job, so he has to get a "real job," dressed up as an AOL-like logo, handing out fliers. The film is billed as a comedy--as the trailer shows--but that's not necessarily the case.

When I saw the trailer for this movie when it was released to theaters (a very limited release) back in July, I was intrigued, but I figured there were plenty of other movies to watch. However, it got good reviews, and even ended up on a top #20 films of 2008 list. So I changed my mind and put it in my Blockbuster queue.

Scott Pendergast, the film's writer, director, and star, goes for the trifecta, but does not have the stellar results that other recent films have had. A relative unknown, Pendergast puts forth a good first effort, but I think he could've used some help with the writing. All of the characters--including Pendergast--are all underdeveloped, and Kudrow's character is so annoying that I had a hard time mustering up sympathy or compassion for her plight. Furthermore, Pendergast--the writer/director--relies far too much on the humor generated by the juxtaposition of the Kabluey costume and [insert background here]. This wouldn't be the first time a movie has overused a gag, but it certainly lessens the laughter over time.

Final Grade: B-
Blurb: Don't believe the hype. It's a fine movie, which can be surprisingly touching at times, but it's humor isn't humor-ific enough. This is a case of Metacritic (62/100) being more accurate than Rotten Tomatoes (88% fresh). If you have to rent a movie with a dude in a costume, might I suggest the low-budget, needle-in-the-haystack film The Dark Knight. :)