We're back again for another night of "The X Factor" live-blogging. I don't anticipate that I'll live-blog next week's show -- Rosh Hashanah, among other things -- but last night went OK, so I'm fine with making live-blogging a fun premiere week game.
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There are certain films that challenge viewers simply by existing. They are these dares, issued by the filmmaker, that linger out there, and it's up to each viewer to decide if they want to take that dare and see whatever it is, whatever taboo has been broken. It's an entire school of cinema that many people avoid as viewers, and I don't blame them. So much of our culture is designed to make us feel good or to placate us or to reinforce the things we already believe that it's incongruous when we encounter something that seems genuinely determined to hurt us.
"Michael" is the debut film from writer/director Markus Schleinzer, and it's a nasty bit of business, a character portrait played dry, a dark joke told with a straight face, starring Michael Fuith as an insurance worker at an anonymous company who spends his days playing a sort of hide-in-plain-sight game of "look how normal I am" with his co-workers before going to his small and forgettable house where he keeps a young boy named Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) locked in his disturbingly cozy basement. There is nothing coy or ambiguous about Michael's intent, either. Wolfgang is his prisoner, his toy, his sex object, his punching bag, his thing. He has completely cut this boy off from the world and broken him, and for much of the running time, the film simply observes the details of their daily existence. What happens if the boy wants to go outside and do something? What happens if he gets sick? Can Michael take him to the doctor without being exposed? What if something happens to Michael? Would anyone ever know?
Sure, we all know Adele’s “21” is a shoo-in for a Grammy nomination for album of the year, but after the British thrush’s second effort, who will likely land a nod among the top five slots?
We know the Grammy Awards aren’t until Feb. 12, 2012, but next Friday, Sept. 30, marks the last release day of eligibility for an album to be considered. Any album put out between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011 falls within the qualifying period.
That means that a number of sets still to come in 2011 will have to wait until the 2013 ceremony for their chance to snare the golden gramophone, including new titles from Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Drake, Tom Waits, Miranda Lambert and Lou Reed/Metallica.
[More after the jump...]
You know what’s a buzz kill at a party? A dude who crashes your perfectly civilized game night who is wanted by the police.
Then, when the pills that you’ve been popping all night kick in, a drag queen (or at least we think it’s a guy) dressed as a mermaid toting a machine gun pops up through the coffee table, and takes out the cops with said gun and splatters their blood all over a perfectly fine poster of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. What? It seems like it was only last month the band was declaring its love for for Grohl in “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl.”
[More after the jump...]
Jason Aldean had the country hit of the summer with the massively popular country rap “Dirt Road Anthem.” Will he rule the fall with “Tattoos on This Town.” The song, which is already No. 23 on the Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, will undoubtedly get a boost from the video released today.
Aldean is one of country’s resident hunks, so he needs to be in the video, which intersperses footage of he and his band playing in an abandoned warehouse with a story that takes a deeply tragic turn that, to my mind, is a bit too heavy handed for the song. Having said that, congrats to the songwriters, Neil Thrasher, Wendell Mobley and Michael Dulaney, who came up with an image we haven’t gotten before in country songs—or any song—about leaving your permanent mark on your home city by comparing it to a tattoo.
[More after the jump...]
You may not agree with every decision Kevin Fiege makes as head of Marvel Studios, but for the most part he's got an excellent track record. Many questioned the inexperienced Jon Favreau and Kenneth Branaugh (for blockbusters at least) helming "Iron Man" and "Thor" respectively. Or, Joe "I'm almost in movie jail" Johnston taking the reigns of "Captain America: The First Avenger." Needless to say, critics, audiences and the box office validated all of those decisions. And for future Marvel films, Feige and his team have continued to make unconventional choices.
Welcome back. Today marks the beginning of the sixth year of Tech Support here at In Contention. I am delighted about the new collaboration with HitFix, which will doubtless result in even more comprehensive awards coverage.
Over the next 10 weeks, we will analyze each of the “technical” category races in this space: Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. The ways in which the artists behind these crafts can improve a film are innumerable. While excellent crafts artistry certainly can wow the audience, it can, more importantly, bring us into a world being crafted by the director, writers and stars, building mood, character and period, among other things.
Despite all the ways in which the crafts artists improve a film, and are an indispensable part of making one, they are almost always ignored by the press. Indeed, there are gripes almost every year that including these categories in the ceremony takes too long and it would be better if they were taken out of the show. While it is true that people do tend to see films for the story, direction and acting, there nonetheless seems a profound unfairness in this respect given the importance of crafts artistry to filmmaking, not to mention the fact that that first, key draw -- story -- is told via every element of the process.
It's been one hell of a week for '90s/rock-era news. R.E.M. split, Nirvana's "Nevermind" 20th anniversary is on Saturday, Guns N' Roses is touring America, Pearl Jam's rock doc and subsequent soundtrack is out and Radiohead is acting like Radiohead.
On a smaller scale -- but significantly -- Guided By Voices have taken their reunion to the next step and are releasing the first album of new material from its "classic" lineup for the first time since 1996. (The band's final lineup split on New Year's Eve in 2004).
Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell (circa ~1992-1996) got back together last year for Matador Records' 21st birthday, and then hit the road in a full tour. Now, a 21-track set is on the way, "Let's Go Eat the Factory," and will be ready for a January 1, 2012 release. For those playing along at home -- in the words of another band celebrating a major anniversary soon -- that's "on New Year's Day."
Twenty-one tracks is about on par with GBV releases (average number of tracks: 2,389), but it'd be shocking if the rockers have just one album in their back pocket.
This day has been a long time coming.
We all have landmarks by which we measure our lives and our accomplishments, goals you've set for yourself that you've either accomplished or not, and I'm certainly someone who holds film experiences very dear. The moment I knew I'd spend the rest of my life somehow involved in movies took place in a dark movie theater when I was seven years old, and it was one of those lightning bolt occasions. I felt pinned to the back of my chair as I watched a tiny blockade runner fleeing from a seemingly endless Star Destroyer that just kept coming out and over, more real than anything I had ever seen, and I've never wavered in my determination to be involved in storytelling somewhere, somehow.
Because of the relevance of "Star Wars" in my development as a fan of storytelling in general, reaching the moment of sharing these films with my kids has been one of my primary goals since I've been writing about the entire experience of sharing narrative with my children. I know people who start screening the films for their kids as soon as they are old enough to open their eyes, and I respect that. Of course I know other people who don't think it's of any particular importance, and I respect that as well. For me, "Star Wars" is special, and I wanted to wait until they were old enough to process them as stories, so they're not just wallpaper, images without context.