Monday, January 01, 2018


[Posted Dec. 2018]

2017 was a fucking mess. I never finished my lists. I’m posting what I wrote, unfinished, unedited.

One exception: I added a list of albums/songs.

Okja, Bong Joon-jo (Netflix)

Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins

American Masters: Maya Angelou, (PBS)
Something for everyone in this pithy overview of Angelou. Strong balance of talking heads providing warm and detailed insights into her life and work -- particularly from her son Guy Johnson and friends/colleagues like Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Alfre Woodard -- as well as clips of her being interviewed, performing, and just being in front of a camera from throughout her robust life. I’m hardly an Angelou expert, but there are plenty of lovely insights, like the impact of Guy’s car accident on their lives, her love of cooking, her approach to running a film set. I hadn’t watched her reading of “On the Pulse of Morning,” probably since it aired over 20 years ago. The work is bone-chilling, especially in light of what happened about a month prior on those same steps.

I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck (Amazon Studios, 2016)
I took the description of this film at face value -- as a literal telling of James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House. Structurally, the film does accomplish this, but it is so much better for being more about the feeling of Baldwin, rather than his work and life. Like many Baldwin fans, I’ve watched many Baldwin clips and was familiar with large chunks of the film’s archival footage. Peck edits these brilliantly with a tasteful balance of contemporary images and b-roll. The end result is one of the closest visual representations of Baldwin’s love, passion, frustration, fear, and sense of humanity.

Sidewalk Stories, Charles Lane (Island Pictures, 1989)
Hadn’t rushed the Kid into television or film-watching, so the Kid’s media endurance is pretty low. We watched a Doraemon movie, which was an hour and change. Then we watched Singin’ in the Rain in two or three parts. I felt conscious of the sorts of characters and faces the Kid was seeing, so the next option I introduced was either Chaplin’s The Kid or Lane’s Sidewalk Stories. I described Lane’s film as “the New York one,” which may have been the winning tag. We watched most of it in one sitting and the Kid was pretty rapt.

A Face in the Crowd, Elia Kazan (Warner Bros., 1957)
The most infuriating sentiment post-Election 2016 has been the incredulous hand-wringing . It reeks of exceptionalism to think, “How could America have done this?” The truth has been telegraphed for many years by the not obscure writings or Orwell and even the not-so underground films of Judge. Add Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg’s A Face in the Crowd to the very visible list of foreseers. The film’s distinction is, unlike 1984 and Idiocracy, AFITC focuses less on the mechanics of autocracy, but more on the individual who would ceases that power. Sure, the film is largely about the advent of television and how an entire ecosystem of A&R (Patricia Neal’s Marcia Jeffries), platform (TV) and content (Percy Waram’s Gen. Haynesworth) all conspire to make Andy Griffith’s “Lonesome” Rhodes a star. But Griffith’s cavernous laugh and suffocating personality are clearly the oxygen to their spark. Asking if this sounds familiar is simply offensive.

Moana, Ron Clements and John Musker (Walt Disney, 2016)

Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve (Broad Green Pictures, 2014)
Was real bummed to miss seeing this in the theater. A lovely love letter to music, youth and growing up. Any film that opens with “Plastic Dreams” and “Follow Me” already has me from the jump. Those tracks were my entry points to house.

The Revenant, Alejandro G. Iñárritu (20th Century Fox, 2016)
Really loved the sound design of this film. Refreshing to hear a modern film not saturated in soundtrack. The emphasis on breath and wind was more than enough. Very fitting to have Ryuichi Sakamoto do the score.

Chi-Raq, Spike Lee (Roadside Attractions, 2015)
Lysistrata is pretty dated. Updating it w/ 2-hours of shitty slam poetry is pretty unbearable.

Point Blank, John Boorman (MGM, 1967)
Another film I watched years ago and completely forgot. Disturbing (yes, it truly is a “leer and peer” film, hahaha) and brilliant. The commentary with John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh is really useful (minus the leering over Angie Dickinson’s quasi-nude scene). The ambiguity of Walker and Fairfax’s existence and relationship with each other adds layers of storytelling to an otherwise bland revenge tale. Is Walker actually dead? If so, is this a chickens-come-home-to-roost story? If it is, then the psychedelic and narrative hiccups become that much more surreal. Yes, the treatment of women and gay men is bad, but the rest of the film is overwhelmingly strong.

Captain Fantastic, Matt Ross (Bleecker Street Media, 2016)
Also not as bad as I thought it would be. The conceit tickled me plenty: a send-up of progressive values. The film did an excellent job of showing how the arc of both progressive and conservative extremism bends toward each other, to the point where the two connect and become indistinguishable. The ending was fucking sophomoric though. Wish they had skipped the fucking twee GNR karaoke and just skipped straight to the toilet flush.

Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker (Fox Searchlight, 2016)
Not as bad as I read it would be. But very strange storytelling choices. Considering Parker’s understanding and seeming interest in the vivid religious visions Turner allegedly confessed, there should have been ample dynamism in shooting largely off of the Confessions of Nat Turner. Why he took that detour into rape revenge is bizarre and makes unnecessary fantasy of Turner’s legacy.

Jay Som Everybody Works
This record got us through a rough year. We listened to it on our daily commute, riding around, at home… It’s romantic, weary, DIY, feminist, and hooky-as-fuck. Melina FTW.

Part of me thinks TDE should be embarrassed over all the delays behind this record, but it also came at just the right time for me. DAMN, f’real. Left Eye would be so into this.

Thundercat Drunk
The ghost of Austin Peralta still weighs heavy. Modern blues in bite-sized nougats.

Why’d it take so long for there to be a modern-day Wu-Tang?

Tyshawn Sorey Verisimilitude
So glad I got to see this young man perform before I left. What an amazing talent.

Scarface “Black Still
Does this count as Conservative Rap Coalition muzack?

Open Mike Eagle Brick Body Kids
OME deserves an A for sticking to themes.

Joey “Coco” Diaz Sociably Unacceptable
He’s been around forever, but he made some content videos to get the new jacks onboard. This is him operating at about 60% and it’s still más fuego than most anything else out there.

Wadada Leo Smith Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk
Smith hasn’t slipped in years. What an incredible run of albums.

Jackie Kashian I Am Not the Hero of this Story
Like being wrapped in a warm blanket of hahas.

Cécile McLorin Salvant Dreams and Daggers
Down is up because I’m listening to vocal jazz.

Ella Fitzgerald Ella at Zardi’s
Twelve Nights in Hollywood already exists, so is there need for more small room Ella? STFU. This recording is from 5 years earlier. Nowhere near as much confidence and swagger, but it’s still peak Ella tossing off runs left and right.

G Perico 2 Tha Left
Needs to collabo w/ Quik.

Downtown Boys Cost of Living
Yeah, I really wish No Skills did this.

Mac DeMarco This Old Dog
Dad shit.

Ali Wong Baby Cobra
So, so, so happy for her. What a talent.

Hurray for the Riff Raff The Navigator
This is the Bruce Springsteen record I always wanted to hear.

Beaches Second of Spring
Perfect road trip music.

Neal Brennan 3 Mics

Buffy Sainte-Marie Medicine Songs
AARP punk.

Juana Molina Halo
Still pays to experiment with a few ideas at a time.

Farruko “Krippy Kush” (Feat. Bad Bunny and Rvssian)
Mi introducción al Conejo Malo.

Future Future
Pretty happy he’s slowed down in 2018, b/c keeping up at this pace is asking for burn-out.

J Hus Common Sense
As close to UK rap as I’ll get. And stop.

Demi Lovato “Sorry Not Sorry
Pretty cool flip of the Brenda Russell riff. RIP Big Pun.

Lil B Black Ken
Probably the second-most unnecessary reissue/late-issue, but kinda welcome at the same time.

Prince and The Revolution Purple Rain reissue
The remastering wasn’t necessary, but official releases from the Vault are welcome.

Doug Stanhope, Digging Up Mother: A Love Story

Kid Flicks
Trolls (both w/ Saul and at home while sick)
The Jungle Book > The Lion King
となりのトトロ (in theatre, albeit dubbed)

Kid Books
Cece Bell, El Deafo
Hena Khan, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
Andre Marois, The Sandwich Thief

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