Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Prince





There was something unique about the intensity of emotion Prince was able to conjure with his music, especially during those straight-from-the-heart moments of vamp singing with total abandon, like in Adore or Do Me Baby. At the same time, there was his unutterable funkiness of mind-bending psychedelic proportions- the tunes that have been making dance floors explode for decades: Kiss or Alphabet St or Housequake or so many others. I've always been particularly fond of his pitched up vocal treatment songs, like his masterpieces If I Was Your Girlfriend or Shockadelica. And like so few he valued the craft of music and refused to bow down to new corporate industry models that make life difficult for so many artists. The light and love Price shined on the earth is truly inspirational. I am thoroughly humbled when considering how powerful one man's life can be. Maybe its time to finally hang that giant poster of him in the shower that came with the Controversy LP on the wall… Rest in Power.





Sunday, January 3, 2016

Psychedelic mix for Perpetual Dawn

I recorded a mix for Tigerbeat6's Jodorowsky themed Perpetual Dawn party. In their words: "An Unbelievably fine crafted deep mix spanning the outer-most 
realms of freeform electronic soundart experimental psychedelic ambient drone noise electroacoustic and so on and so forth."




(I didnt make the mix with that filmmaker in mind but after submission it was titled after the name of the party)

Tracklist:
Nocturnal Emissions - Sealing a Phase 
Francis Dhomont - Le Flux Des Sons 
Ulf Bilting & Zbigniew Karkowski - T Tex
Rashad Becker - Dances 1
Maja Ratkje - Acid
LST - Lewd Strewth Truth
Killing Sound - Eight Methods
Wolfgang Voigt - R├╝ckverzauberung 6.2
Alvin Curran - Canti Illuminati 
SPK - In Flagrante Delicto
This Mortal Coil - FyT
Black Dice - Trip Dude Delay
Oake - Nihnin ned Bargund
SPR - Concubine
Chris Watson - El Divisadero The Telegraph
Time Machines - 4-Indolol, 3-[2-(Dimethylamino)Ethyl],Phosphate Ester: (Psilocybin)
Nurse With Wound - Soliloquy for Lilith
Pauline Oliveros - Horse Sings From Cloud
Vanessa Amara - King Machine
Nocturnal Emissions - Blended Senses

Best films of 2015

1. Son of Saul



Heavy immersion into death camp extermination realized with unprecedented vision by Laszlo Nemes, a first time filmmaker that studied under Bela Tarr. A brave, important exploration of the Sonderkommandos' hell on earth in 1944 Poland. I saw a 35mm presentation with Nemes in person and the man definitely knows what he is doing. Best film in years.


2. Sicario


Probably the best movie about drug wars ever made. The two double climaxes, especially the table scene, were truly thrilling. Immorality reigns supreme. Intense.


3. It Follows


A visionary nightmare in a timeless dream state. An amazing follow up from David Robert Mitchell after his incredible teenage study Myth of the American Sleepover. Brilliant, refreshing and genuinely scary.


4. Eden



An authentic, emotional portrayal of growing up with house music and probably the first film to take the culture seriously. Amazing soundtrack too of course.


5. Jimmy's Hall



Set within a lush Irish countryside, master filmmaker Ken Loach explores a 1939 land rights struggle that rings poingently true in today's climate. The summation on many of Loach's themes- the destructive nature of the church, workers rights and the power community- are all represented here. If this is truly the final film from Loach he has ended on a beautiful high note. Thank you Ken!


6. A War


Moral complexities haunt this timely and relevant film on the human cost of politics. Tobias Lindholm and Pilou Asbaek have done it again.


7. Ex Machina


Concise, intelligent sci-fi with fascinating ideas and a perfectly creepy vibe. Great sets and locations too. 


8. Anime Nere


Authentic Italian mafia story totally gripping from start to finish with the enormity of the film's power emerging in it's final frames.


9. Colt '45



Taut and bleak French crime film brilliantly directed by Fabrice Du Welz and shot by the great Benoit Debie.


10. One On One



The damaging mindlessness of following orders is dissected in modern master Kim Ki-Duk's latest no-budget treatise on spiritual violence.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mix for Beanie's "Present" Series



I've put together some music for the Beanie's crew in Tokyo.

Track list:

1 Andrey Dergachev - Exilium
2 Nurse With Wound - Salt
3 D.├ů.R.F.D.H.S. - Offerings To Njord
4 Nocturnal Emissions - Shankini Nadi
5 SPK - Alocasia Metallica
6 YouWho - Oh Baby
7 In The Beyond - Arjana
8 Sahasara - Mosaic
9 The Inquisition - Prestige
10 Musicology - Hall of Mirrors

Thursday, May 28, 2015

RadioActive Lamb

RadioActive Lamb was a record label operating in the UK from 1990 -1995. They are probably best known for their rave classic Mohamed's Mind as 2 Kilos ?.  Pretty much every release they made was something special and most have been severely slept on over the years. As far as I can tell it was a crew of a few guys that did all the music under a variety of alias'. A lot of it wasn't on Youtube so I uploaded a few gems for posterity's sake and also found a few tracks others had shared. Check them out below. Email me if you want MP3s.







Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jimmy's Hall


One of the great collaborations in cinema history is that of director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty. They have made what is apparently their final film, Jimmy's Hall. Ken Loach is truly the people director and Laverty has written some of the UK's greatest dramas for him. Here, the lush landscape of Ireland serves as the backdrop for a story about land rights and division of wealth that rings poignantly true in today's climate. With the encouragement and support of the locals Jimmy, based on the life of James Gralton, builds a community center that offers free art/dance/poetry/politics classes. Problems arrive when a pigheaded priest attempts to shut him down in a power play thinly disguised as morality. Most of the story takes place in the years just after the Irish/British war - so when the newly installed government starts removing farmers from their own land Jimmy and his crew stand up for the people and get involved. The film explores the complex relationship between the state, the church, the Irish Republican Army and the young people in the hall that are branded as communists. Jimmy's Hall is the summation of many of the themes Loach has explored throughout his 50 year career including the destructive nature of church power, community building and struggle against oppression. Loach's film is strongly anti-religion and he is just as brutally critical of the establishment as ever- not many young directors are brave enough to do what he does. This was released in the UK and Europe in 2014 but no sign of it playing in the states as of spring 2015. A damn shame not to get to see this masterpiece the big screen. Bravo Ken.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

City Illusion - Vineland 12"




From the heart of Hollywood Babylon emerges the debut 12" by Los Angeles' City Illusion. Side A holds the original mix: a pensive survey of unsettling electronic atmospheres within a cavern of dub; a bass weight meditation born of unholy tradition during Belshazzar's Feast. A pressurized sub invocation & a breakbeat version lie on Side B by forthcoming Tears Of Joy artists Live For Each Moon and Romeo, respectively. Mastered & cut at D&M. Released in an addition of 115 with jacket and insert.
A: Vineland
B1: Vineland (Live For Each Moon Dub)
B2: Vineland (Romeo Version)
Out now in all good shops or purchase the vinyl here or digital here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

1991: Zbigniew Karkowski Interview

Absolutely incredible interview with Karkowski. The ideas he enacted are fully explained here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 10 Movies of the Year 2014

The Immigrant


James Gray's modern American classic about the price of freedom. Marion Cotillard is a revelation yet again. The shot of her in the confession booth with her face emerging from the darkness is the best movie moment I saw this year. Pure class, pure cinema.


Maps To The Stars


The sharpest, most brutally realistic dissection of Hollywood culture ever made. A precision look at the damaged psyches within a morally corrupt system that creates monstrous children and churns out content for morons. The actor that plays the spoiled kid deserves an Oscar for being so repulsively vile. 


Welcome to New York


A return to form for Abel Ferrara and arguably his best film. A much darker look at debauchery than Leo DiCaprio's Wall Street fantasy from last year. Gerard Depardieu is awesome as DSK. The stunning final shot as he looks into the camera was the best ending of any film this year.


Under The Skin


A uniquely psychedelic vision about the alien within that rides the line between experimental and classical perfectly. Not since Enter The Void have we seen something this trippy on screen. A triumph for Jonathan Glazer.


Abuse Of Weakness


One of the great Catherine Brilliat's most personal films. Deals with her recent stroke and her run in with a famous con man swindler. Up there with Fat Girl and Romance as one of her best. Isabella Huppert is astonishing as always.


Starred Up


Masculinity, violence, respect, anger. All throughly dissected in this hardcore British drama about their incredibly harsh prison system. Tremendous.


Foxcatcher


Patriotism, ego, homosexuality, sport, manhood, insanity. Steve Carrel as John du Pont is one of the more complex and creepy character studies I can recall. And I finally gained some respect for Channing Tatum. Amazing film.


Southcliffe


Not a film per se but a mini-series from the UK. This three hour deconstruction of a killing spree is an intricate portrait of grief. Inventive, scary, affecting.


Force Majeure


Heavy movie about a family in crisis punctuated by moments of pure comedy. Bergman-like moments of existential grief mixed in with some of the biggest laughs of the year. Totally unique.


Wolf Creek 2


The horrors the outback come alive once again in Greg McLean's follow up to his 2005 classic. Largely inspired by the unholy killings of Ivan Millet

Late contender for Movie of the Year: Whiplash. The nerve wracking intensity of musical performance has never been captured like this before. Amazing performances, great music, and lots of huge laughs. A modern classic.

More:

I also very much enjoyed the visceral exploration of alternate dimensions via Ketamine of Coherence, the unexpectedly twisted end to Bobcat Goldthwait's Bigfoot film Willow Creek, David Michod's wonderfully harsh statement on the value of human life The Rover, the awesome rendering of relativity and fifth dimensional timespace in Interstellar, the composed and nuanced paranoid nightmare of Night Moves, the foreboding mysticism of I Origins, the allegorical home invasion in Borgman, Von Trier's epic journey into hell Nymphomaniac, intense crime picture The Drop, the price of conformity exposed in Cheap Thrills and the Australian crime epic Son Of A Gun.


Documentaries:

I recommend checking out the inspiring and truly heroic public defenders in Gideon's Army, the demented pedophile cult exposed in Secrets Of The Vatican, the obsessive art recreation in Tim's Vermeer, the unfathomably evil oil company killing people and gorillas in Virunga, Nick Cave autobiography 20,000 Days On Earth and the eight Mind Of A Chef episodes that focus on the brilliant chef Magnus Nilsson (Season 3, episodes 9-16). I also very much enjoyed Lisa Kudrow's brilliant and hysterical satire of Hollywood idiocy The Comeback.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Private Realm - Excommunication & Withdrawal LP

"The Age of Reason and its industrial, post-modern antecedents are facades obscuring the seething dream world of primeval urges that surfaces only in sleep."

Tears of Joy presents the debut album by A Private Realm. Their first release was a 12" and DVD on Tears of Joy in late 2012.
Excommunication & Withdrawal evokes the deadening American landscapes of school shootings, military suicides & general societal dissolution. Thematically the album draws from a variety of inspirations: the media's exploitation of the traumatized, the roots of extreme Islam, the skullduggery of the Cryptocracy, and Elem Klimov's Come And See, the classic film on the unthinkable horrors of the Nazi occupation of Byelorussia- all of which are filtered through the fried brains of two one-time LSD dealers.
Made with a variety of old synths, new modulars, noise boxes, voices and drum machines, musically the work moves from softer ethereal pieces inspired by the likes of This Mortal Coil through to blasts of electronics inspired by the likes of early SPK & the recently departed noise visionary Zbiegniew Karkowski. As lifelong warehouse rats the inevitable thrust of the LP is techno, inspired by the militant sounds of the obvious masters.
Written and recorded under duress in a shitty apartment in North Hollywood while surrounded by poverty, drug abuse and suicide.
Released in an edition of 190 with unique hand silk screened sleeves and stamps, color print insert and download code (with one additional song that wouldn't fit on the vinyl). Mastered by Kris Lapke.

Preview tracks can be heard here
A:
1. Raining Stones
2. Newtown Families
3. Ulster Shadows
4. What Smart Is *Digital Only
B:
1. Through A Glass Darkly (PTSD Struggles)
2. Dreamhealer
2. Kill Hitler
3. Cowan Cryptocracy Mix)
Available now from the Tears of Joy shop or in stores December 22nd.
Digital available from iTunes, Beatport, etc...

"Do not be lulled into believing that just because the deadening American city of dreadful night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet, that it exists outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these modern conditions precisely because sorcery is not what '20th Century man' can accept as real."

Also available now: TEAR005 Rinpoche - Beyond The Hills 12"

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nurse With Wound - Salt



A deeply enveloping drone journey not to be taken lightly.

Nurse With Wound - Salt

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Dark Peace: A Tears Of Joy Mix

A compilation of unreleased or forthcoming music on Tears Of Joy. For stream or download.
Concrete ambient bass meditations, enlarged big room rhythm exercises, fluff-era acid workouts and consciousness-around-the-horn abstraction work.

Mixed in North Hollywood October 30th, 2014.
Intro (Cries & Whispers) 
City Illusion - Vineland (Live For Each Moon Dub) 
Live For Each Moon - The Settler 
Romeo - TB1 
T.E.A.L. - Membrain 
A Private Realm - Refuse to Conform 
Three Baskets - Initiation 1 
Rinpoche - Acid with Leslie & TK 
Snake - Kind of Upset  
Live For Each Moon - Paper Champion

Monday, October 27, 2014

HARASSOR - The Harassor



Video I made for local Los Angeles hardcore band Harassor. Track from the forthcoming LP Into Unknown Depths on Dias Records. Footage compiled from the Beslan School hostage crisis in 2004.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

TEARS OF JOY COMMERCIAL



Commercial I made for Tears Of Joy

Forthcoming releases in 2014:

TEAR004: A Private Realm - Excommunication & Withdrawal LP.
TEAR005: Rinpoche - Beyond the Hills 12" single.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

T.E.A.L. -- Coffins EP

After 12"s from A Private Realm and Rinpoche, P-Lord affiliated label Tears of Joy have released their third record. This one introduces techno experimentalists T.E.A.L. You can hear the entire record record here and purchase direct here. Or it will be in the usual shops next week. Features artwork by Nick Barbeln of Clipd Beaks. Released in an edition of 217 with digital to follow. The video for the track Skulls is below.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Joni Mitchell Interview



A throughly fascinating and insightful look into the mind of Joni. The interviewer is slightly annoying (interrupting Joni Mitchell when she starts discussing quantum physics) but hold his own well enough. The (medically unproven) disease she continually references is Morgellons.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Few Notes on SPK


Some of the best music to ever emerge from Australia was undoubtedly created by SPK. They have one of the more confusing discography's to work through as many releases have various covers for each pressing, different versions of the same song with the same name or no names at all, often different names of the band for each release and even two different versions of the band entirely. It was mainly based around Graeme Revell who was the driving force and sole continuous member during their 10 year existence. He moved to London relatively early in the SPK lifespan and the remaining members, notably Neil Hill (committed suicide at age 28, his wife Margaret Hill died 2 days later from anorexia), still put out music under the banner as SoliPsiK (the ultra rare See-Saw 7"). There were many collaborators throughout the years, the other consistent being Revell's wife Sinan Leong, who appears on most releases and also appeared on a few classic Nurse With Wound albums.

There were three main phases of the band, the first being the early industrial noise material up until 1983 which is arguably their strongest. These very earliest recordings were intense punk inspired songs often creativity utilizing a wailing EMS synth in the background.  Those early 7"s were collected onto side one of the essential compilation Auto De Fe:



The B side to Auto De Fe, recorded in 1981 (as opposed to the late 70's) sits perfectly between their noise and dance periods:



The first proper full length (there were multiple live cassette releases and bootlegs) was Information Overload Unit (under the name System Planning Corporation) that was recorded while Neil Hill and Revell were working in a Sydney mental ward- the album deals with insanity and contains field recordings they made of patients. It's an noisey experimental masterpiece of the highest order, predating much of that kind of music:



After that was Leichenschrei, a very dense, amazing industrial classic by anyone's measure. It's a timeless recording- find it, buy it. Next came an incredible EP under the name SepPuKu:



After 1984 came the comparatively commercial period that spawned the dance classics Metal Dance, Junk Funk, Breathless and more, though I would venture to say, while still awesome, this is the weakest of their output. A few years later came the neo-classical ambient world music excursions that evolved into Revell's current film score career. The highlight of this era would be the Zamia Lehmanni Songs of Byzantine Flowers LP that is a groundbreaking mix of world musics and dark ambient textures, the pinnacle being the hauntingly beautiful single In Flagrante Delicto:



The obscure album Revell made up entirely of insect sounds, The Insect Musicians, is worth noting as well.


A totally amazing band, I recommend spending a few months or years exploring their catalog.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

James Clausell Presents Live For Each Moon: A Mix For Golden Zed



A new mix for the up and coming label out of Long Beach Golden Zed. Recorded at home one Saturday afternoon. May 2014.

1 Burial Hex - Six Wings
2 Playgroup - Squeek Squawk
3 Kambo Super Sound - Kambo Dub Station
4 African Head Charge - Some Bizarre
5 Sunil Sharpe - Roki
6 Donato Dozzy - Sotto Ma Sotto
7 Call Super - Acephate II
8 Rrose - Waterfalls (Birth)
9 Jack Murphy - B1
10 T.E.A.L. - Birds
11 Aquarian Foundation - Planet of Discipline (Trip)
12 Jay Daniel - No Love Lost
13 Ty Holden & James Reynolds - Love the Dub (Where's My Accapella)
14 Colours Ft Stephan Emmanuel & June Hamm - Hold On
15 Imagination - Instinctual (Dave Morales Def Vocal Mix)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

X: The Unheard Music



Cool documentary from 1986 about the Los Angeles band X.  Growing up I never understood why people loved them but by the end of this film I understood. It's good, solid punk rock thats ages well. I recommend getting their albums on vinyl, the productions sounds much better than they do in the film.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Decentralize the Hierarchy.

A throughly fascinating talk on Bitcoin from Andreas M Antonopoulos. Highly recommend viewing.



If you feel like donating to this long running, ad free website, my Bitcoin address and QR are below. I'd use the money to buy server space to keep hosting music for everyone. And it'd able me to post more content.

I'd also be happy to trade for records (or files) on PWF or Tears Of Joy. Each vinyl is 0.02050 BTC (or $10 as of May 1 2014).

Thanks for your readership.
or
1KfdHcpJNEdDYhKNHkQaAnEk6iCCgtrDcW


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Films of Ken Loach



Upon hearing Ken Loach's upcoming film could be his last I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts about his work and hopefully turn people on to bits of his massive catalog. I don't think he's ever made a bad movie. If you're looking for mindless entertainment or sentimentality look elsewhere, Loach's work is extraordinarily realistic and you wont find many happy endings in his movies. But there is a deeply human thread running through his body of work that's always interwoven with a concise anti-establishment statement told in an alarmingly natural and relatable way. Loach has made almost 30 feature films, more if you include teleplays for the BBC back in the early years, so the breath of his repertoire may be intimidating and many of his movies are near impossible to find or see (though there are quite a few for rent on his Youtube channel).

Cathy Come Home, 1966

A good place to start is a trio of masterful films he made in the early 90's: Riff-Raff, Raining Stones and Ladybird Ladybird. Each one focuses on the affect a different social institution or program has had on working class UK and each are incredibly powerful stories. Raining Stones deals with poverty most directly- in the opening we find the main characters killing sheep for their mutton to sell in their local pub. The protagonist is a devout Catholic to the point of idiocy yet the film takes a very balanced thoughtful approach to the way religion controls the lives of believers. Riff-Raff deals with safety regulations on a construction site and Ladybird Ladybird is one of his crowing achievements. Grounded by an earth shatteringly emotional performance from Crissy Rock as a mother battling child protective services for the right to be with her kids, it's a heavy, disturbing look at a twisted bureaucracy out of control. 

Ladybird Ladybird, 1994

One of the things you'll hear from certain Loach fans is they find his style of docudrama so moving not just because of the quality of the filmmaking and performances but that it was the first time they ever saw "normal" people like themselves on screen; Relatable characters that spoke the way they spoke, dressed like they dressed and dealt with the same daily problems they did. The local dialects and accents in his films are throughly authentic to say the least. For an outsider it can be, at times, difficult to decipher- indeed some movies have been broadcast in the US with subtitles, though personally I can usually pick up on the cadences and slang pretty quickly. The most egregious offender of this is probably 1998's My Name Is Joe. It's a solid film thats deals with AA, poverty and love but the Glasgow accents in this are very strong for those not used to them. 

Raining Stones,  1993

Loach is probably best known for the 1969 film Kes: A simple story about a boy and his relationship with his pet falcon that helps him escape from his abuse stricken home life. One of his best movies is undoubtably Sweet Sixteen, another Glasgow set story penned by longtime collaborator the brilliant Paul Laverty. Ken has only written a few of his films but he is there from the inception of the idea and collaborates throughout the process but leaves a lot of the actual writing to others- among them longtime creative partners Laverty and Jim Allen.

Sweet Sixteen, 2002

He has also done a few amazing period pieces, most notable is the riveting and unsettling Palm D'Or winning masterpiece The Wind That Shakes the Barley from 2006. Cillian Murphy stars as a young Republican dealing with the English invading Northern Ireland in the early 1900's. It may be the best film about that conflict ever made, and that's saying a lot.  Land and Freedom from 1995 takes us inside a POUM revolutionary group during the Spanish Civil War. The film that followed it, Carla's Song, is set in 1987 in Nicaragua among the Sandinistas. All great movies I highly recommend seeking out.

There have been a series of intelligent political documentaries over the years. Most are tough to track down so I haven't seen them though I did catch his most recent, Spirit of 45, about the history of the labour party in the UK. 

The Wind That Shakes the Barley, 2006

His most recent features are slightly lighter fare: the excellent and underrated ode to the joys of whiskey The Angels' Share and the dramatic soccer comedy Looking for Eric. Rouge Irish from 2010 dealt with war mercenaries and the particularly excellent It's A Free World... is one of a few films of his about immigration. All worth seeking out.

I should mention one hallmark of Ken's work is his humor. There are laugh out loud moments- just solid everyday laughs- in even the most dreary of his films. Another consistent throughout his career is the quality of his actors is astounding- almost every lead in every movie is remarkable. 

I don't think there has been a more important political filmmaker than Ken Loach. No one has continually portrayed the struggles of the working poor that he time and time again dramatizes so effectively. The trials of oppression are humanized through his films: tragic, educational, comic and ultimately uplifting, Loach's repertoire deserves to go down as one of the finest ever. An important artist is there ever was one. 





Thursday, January 2, 2014

Best Films of 2013

While we didn't have masterworks from Audiard or Haneke or Tarr, it was still a pretty good year for film. I didn't have time to see everything I wanted (Jonze, Coens) but below are a few films that made an impact. Recommendations for documentaries can be found here and brief thoughts on cinema throughout 2014 can be found here.


1. 12 Years a Slave
A long hard look at a cinematically under-explored part of history featuring vividly rendered brutality as deeply disturbing as it is beautiful: sick minds seethe as broken souls are rendered subservient. Heroic filmmaking.



2. The Place Beyond the Pines
Incredible. A thoroughly intense American Epic. Everyone's performance's are first class but Emory Cohen and Ben Mendelsohn are especially outstanding. Bravo.




3. Moebius
Kim Ki-Duk's dialogue free Buddhist penectomy-heavy familial gender study is uniquely transgressive and totally unprecedented in the history of cinema. Full review here.




4. Escape From Tomorrow
The consequences of imagineering are explored in this psychedelic descent into modern magical archetypes and myth-making. Trippy, creepy, relevant and totally original.



5. Simon Killer
An American weirdo in Paris. An understated exploration of a modern sociopath and a well paced unraveling of mania. Brady Corbett turns in another very believable performance in this Joran Van der Sloot-esque tale of modern masculinity.


6. Our Children
Joachim Lafosse's devastating portrayal of a mother overwhelmed by parenting. A very tense, timely, superbly acted film.


7. Evil Dead
A surprisingly well made remake- the debut feature by Uruguay's Fede Alvarez. It's definitely the best horror picture in some time, especially the first half. The atmospherics and camera work were unusually excellent for the genre. This is about as scary and realistic as "demons" can get.



8. The Bling Ring
A condemning portrait of celebrity culture and the vain emptiness it spawns. I know people like this and can confirm they are actually this annoying. Sophia Coppola's best work yet.



9. Shadow Dancer
A very solid entry into the canon of great IRA dramas punctuated by a surprisingly heartless ending.


10. Black Mirror
Not a film but a TV series by UK genius Charlie Brooker. Each of the six hour long episodes are totally different from one another, tied together by themes of media and technology. The first episode, The National Anthem really blew my mind. Demented, intelligent and very funny stuff. The title of the series says it all- track it down. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Documentaries of 2013


1. The Cheshire Murders
This is a haunting and truly nightmarish film. It's a fascinating look at perceptions of justice after a extraordinarily brutal crime, the details of which I still shudder to think. The police incompetence on display here is shocking. After last years Aunt Diane, HBO continues to make some of the best non fiction films.

2. My Trip to Al-Qaeda
Based on his book The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright's one man play about the middle east and the birth of radical Salafist Islam is pretty much required viewing/reading for anyone interested in geopolitics, violence, religion or the state of the world in general. These are some of the deepest, well articulated insights into world conflict I've come across in some time. Also check out Wright's new book on Scientology, Going Clear, that just came out- it's fascinating stuff.

3. Blackfish
A massive expose on Sea World and their hate-filled practices. The "trainers" interviewed here make excuses for their behavior throughout the film but are totally culpable - they were profiting from animal torture regardless of what they say now. 


4. On Death Row
Werner Herzog does true crime. Enchanting explorations of the sociopathic mind. Not sure if this counts as a documentary as it aired on TV but it's worth mentioning since this is probably the best television ever made. His short film about texting and driving, From One Second To The Next is contemporary, surreal, powerful Herzog as well.


5. Dirty Wars
An important overview of Jeremy Scahill's recent work on the murderous US force JSOC, the Al-Awlaki killings and the CIA's activities in Mogadishu. The film is adequately made but Scahill is one of the most important journalists working today rendering this essential viewing.


6. The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer's follow up to 2003's The Globalization Tapes is a long look at retired executioners in Indonesia. It touches on nationalism, propaganda, genocide, and psychopathology while delivering tragically surreal recreations of violent acts with the perpetrators.


7. Valentine Road
Another excellent HBO doc, this time about a recent hate crime in California and the bigotry it revealed in the community. A angry Nazi afflicted teenager murders a flamboyant 14 year old and the town rallies to support the killer instead of the victim. Incredibly, one of his lawyers even tattoos "Save Brandon" on her arm... sickening.


8. Mea Maxima Culpa Silence in the House of God
A revelatory yet unsettling film about worlds largest pedophile cult. Unfortunately Alex Gibney followed this with a despicable hit piece on Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange that made me lose almost all respect for him.


9. The Crash Reel
What begins as a snowboard documentary evolves into an emotional look at life with Traumatic Brain Injury.


10. A Death in St. Augustine 
It was another great year for Frontline. This hour long film about corrupt police covering up a murder by one of their own is the best of the bunch. The final scene is so demented and wrong it is hard to fathom. You can watch it online here.


It didn't see After Tiller or God Loves Uganda but I hear they are great.