Friday, December 31, 2021

Films in 2021

THE INVESTIGATION: Released as a 6 part series but plays like one in-depth 4.5 hour movie. I gained more respect for actual real life detective work watching this than anything I’ve ever seen. Incredible series. Forward thinking, intelligent work executed with style and grace. Søren Malling as the man in charge of the case wears the world in his eyes, what a fantastic actor. Episode 3 alone is better than everything else I saw last year. Tobias Lindholm has never written or directed anything less than phenomenal. On HBO. 

PROCESSION: The best documentary this year is a heavy duty real life psychodrama that takes us deep into the souls of traumatized men and is one of the most insightful and revealing films about suffering/healing I have come across. Powerfully collaborative filmmaking led by Robert Greene. On Netflix. Abolish the Catholic Church now. 

THE NORTH WATER: Another "TV series" that was better than any movie this year. Andrew Haigh’s follow up to the severely underrated film Lean On Pete is a five hour masterstroke; an epic adventure of the finest mythic caliber imaginable. Jack O’Connell is phenomenal and Haigh is without a doubt the strongest talent in British cinema. 

DUNE: Saw once on the biggest screen possible (1.43 IMAX at Citywalk) and again at home. If "dreams are messages from the deep" Denis Villeneuve again lets us know anything is possible with the power of imagination. A vision of messianic prophecy resonating through spacetime. 

THE BEATLES GET BACK: Mind blowing deep dive into their creative process. Watching Paul get lost in writing music as everyone else stands around is mesmerizing. Yoko is the epitome of cool. Reaches a hysterical crescendo when the baby-faced chin-strapped bobby's show up. Interesting to watch in the context of the separate albums they were making outside of the film at the time (McCartney crafting his solo debut as John and Yoko release their freaked out experiments and Harrison's controversial Moog album). 

COLLECTIVE: This is the best kind of documentary: on the ground as it happens, no talking heads whatsoever, and serving as a record of extremely important work. In this case, of a Romanian news team uncovering and exposing enraging corruption. And the fire footage they suddenly hit you with near the beginning is as scary as anything I’ve ever seen. On Hulu.  

QUO VADIS, AIDA?: A UN Base in Srebrenica 1995 is the setting for this intense true story of displacement and massacre. A slow onset of panic builds to a harsh pinnacle of sorrow. On Hulu (for the most part I think Hulu chooses their foreign and art films well). 

LAST CHANCE U BASKETBALL: I found this 8 part documentary series on an east LA jr college team deeply inspirational; full of individual heartfelt human stories. Coach Mosley throws every form of logic, motivation and prayer possible at these kids to help them push their lives in the directions they are meant to be going. On Netflix. 

ANTEBELLUM: Went in knowing absolutely nothing about this and haven't heard anything about it since. Wild original filmmaking. Grapples with the legacy of slavery in a direct and artful way. I thought it would have been stronger without the twist/reveal. 

THE ALPINIST: Wonderful documentary about a fearlessly tapped-in psychedelic mountain climber literally doing the impossible in his own humble way. Whether tragically confused or deeply inspired - a soulful, thought provoking life is revealed. Inevitability hits hard, no matter what. On Netflix.



note
I was shook when I heard Kim Ki-duk died of Covid in December of 2020. Apparently he was in Riga, Latvia where he had moved to find financing for his films and presumably get away from the controversy in Korea. 
A few of my favorites of his:
Mobius
3 Iron
Spring Summer Fall Winter & Spring
Crocodile
Arirang
The Isle
The Bow
Pieta
One of the most far out, renegade, brilliant beyond genius visionaries cinema has ever seen has left the stage!





Saturday, January 16, 2021

Films in 2020


HAPPY AS LAZZARO: Beautifully done modern Italian realism exploring sainthood and the potential good of humanity. Visually stunning 16mm and thematically rich material from Alice Rohrwacher. (I think this was released the year previous but I only saw it in the spring).

LOVERS ROCK: My favorite part was when the toaster enters the party dancing hard and is handed the mic. He sets the party off and into a magical sequence that expresses the ferocity, range and power reggae music can have when properly amplified. Tremendous!

HEAVEN'S GATE: Fascinatingly empathetic deep dive into inexplicable minds of madness. The new standard-bearer for cult documentaries.

ALEX WHEATLE: A young reggae fan navigates his youth in this powerful and direct plea for education. After Lover's Rock, this is the second entry on this list from Steve McQueen's Small Axe series.

NOMAD IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BRUCE CHATWIN: Lovely new Herzog documentary about his twin flame adventurer. Elegant and compelling work as always from Werner.

CORPUS CHRISTI: Religion and violence collide in an intense trip into the heavy faith of Polish juvenile delinquents. The ending was wild.

THE SCHEME: Excellent documentary about FBI corruption told through the world of college basketball shenanigans.

STRUGGLE THE LIFE AND LOST ART OF STANISLAUS SZUKALSKI: Fascinating portrait of a brilliant artist processing the horrors of WWII from an apartment in Burbank.

PIECES OF A WOMAN: A very, very intense and bravado first act mellows out and into a fairly standard yet potent exploration of grief with amazing performances from Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby.

FIRST COW: Another rich fantastical submersion into the Pacific Northwest from Kelly Reichardt.

SORRY WE MISSED YOU: Two masters of cinema take on the gig economy. What a blessing to have another film documenting the people's struggle from Paul Laverty & Ken Loach.



Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Films in 2019

Six films and six documentaries in 2019.


AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL: Held moments and intricate thoughts from a suicidal soul. Wonderfully dark poetic realism from 29 year old Chinese author Bo Hu, in his first and final film.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT: As soon as I stopped trying to follow the story, and think linearly, I loved it. Bi Gan is trying to do something new in filmmaking. Like Bo Hu, he was Chinese and 29 when he made this, though he lives to tell the tale. The theater scene and title card were particularly amazing.

TRIPLE FRONTIER: A macho study of the male ego executed perfectly by J.C. Chandor and a great cast. Chandor is a real talent, looking forward to what he does next.

BORDER: When diversity goes wrong: From somewhere deep within the collective human psyche comes a dark cinematic vision of deformity. Timely & utterly unique. 

UNCUT GEMS: More madcap adventures through the streets of NYC from the Safdie Bros, this one perhaps their most thrillingly intense.

LUCE: A engrossing story about expectation and minority experience, revolving around one of the more complex and intriguing characters in any film this year.


COLD CASE HAMMARSKJOLD: A gruesome reality is revealed in this captivating trip through the halls of an almost unbelievable conspiracy. A truly fascinating documentary.

LEAVING NEVERLAND: Very hard to watch these two men coming to terms and grappling with going public about the abuse. Complicated, sad, compelling, heroic. The final nail in the coffin of Michael Jackson’s personal legacy.

SEA OF SHADOWS: The folly of human ego is on full display in this National Geographic documentary on the totoaba fish trade in the Sea of Cortez. Great footage; tragic and sad.

THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY: A dying magician wills a class A documentary into his life that manages to make poignant commentary on art, the nature of reality and methamphetamine.

ELVIS PRESLEY THE SEARCHER: Enlightening deep dive into the life and mind of a pioneer. Skews drug/food addiction for a focus on his musical inspirations and achievements. Refreshing.

ABDUCTED IN PLAIN SIGHT: A set of abominable parents feed their daughter knowingly to a peado to protect their reputations; a crazy, wild, often genuinely shocking story featuring some of the worst people I’ve come across in a documentary in quite some time.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Rinpoche - Heruka Songs



https://alteredtapedstates.bandcamp.com/album/heruka-songs

New album from Rinpoche, out on cassette and digital on Australia's Altered States Tapes.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Peter Mettler - Yoshtoyoshto

Anthropological psychedelic science in a live, improvised setting from filmmaker Peter Mettler.


Yoshtoyoshto (2015) Live Performance at VIDEOEX from Peter Mettler on Vimeo.

"Gaining knowledge from modified consciousness is an old human trick"

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Jove - Never Say Never



A song taken from the 1977 LP Into The Shrine by Jove. Never Say Never written by David Jove and Ed Ochs. Ochs wrote the liner notes for the album and later wrote a book titled Freedom Spy about the enigmatic psychedelic shape-shifting cultural pioneer, David Jove. This upload is a recording of the first play of a sealed vinyl copy of the album I was lucky enough to find. No effects, compression, EQ, etc have been added.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Gossiwor - Lighthouse



A wonderfully mystic album from John T. Gast & MC Boli as Gossiwor on 5 Gate Temple.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Jim O'Rourke - Fast Car



A brilliant cover of the Tracy Chapman classic by Jim O'Rourke performed solo,live in Japan in 2002.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Zbigniew Karkowski - Perceptor



This is the second track on the CD included the DVD/CD release Karkowski did with his wife Atsuko Nojiri, titled Continuity, for Asphodel in 2007. It's one of his darkest, most psychedelic works and exemplifies the skill and power he had over sound. Please put some time aside to disappear into this piece while playing it loud through good speakers. "All materials on this release developed and composed at The Compound and at Recombinant Media Labs, San Francisco. Mixed and mastered at Asphodel Studios, San Francisco." "Where langues ends, music begins" - ZK

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Films in 2018.

The films that resonated with me the most this year... thank you for your continued readership.

LEAN ON PETE: A boy walks with his horse. A towering achievement in graceful, grandiose, introspective, empathic melancholy that does not rely on trauma or evil to create drama - just the sad reality of the aloneness we will all one day have to contemplate. Echoes of Bela Tarr, Bergman even. Just about the saddest movie I've ever seen and absolutely heartbreakingly brilliant. 


HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN'S CURSE: A Witch ekes out a life in 15th century Europe. Immersive psychedelic horror of the highest quality. A slow motion bad trip; brave for its dwelling on the depraved depths of darkness. An extremely impressive debut from Lukas Feigelfeld. Makes every other 'horror' film this year look like child's play.


COMING HOME BOWE BERGDAHL VS THE UNITED STATES: Disinformation, Patriotism, the psychology of captivity, introspection, torture & madness are deftly explored in this thought-provoking, multi-facetted, very disturbing documentary. The interview with Bowe is astounding. Without a doubt the best, most important and woefully underseen documentary of the year.


PATERNO: The methodological inner workings of self delusion are deftly explored with masterful nuance by Al Pacino. In modern times rarely do we come across a case of institutionalized evil of this caliber; here astutely recognized, studied & fortuitously rendered by the filmmakers. Patriarchal power unveiled. (Barry Levinson has been on a roll lately by taking on modern current events and getting the finest actors of our time to do some of their best work ever. Check out his and Pacino's other recent collaboration, You Don't Know Jack and his film with Robert De Niro, The Wizard Of Lies).


ANNIHILATION: The microscopic destroys the macrocosm as refracting cells divide identity and matter; the Endtimes arrive as corrosion of form. A haunting and deeply trippy film. The best Sci-fi film in eons. 


HOSTILES: On the frontier of the American West in 1892 patriot soldiers are broken by genocidal revenge. A complex, intense film about man’s ability to remain human when imbued with savagery. Christian Bale is incredible. Another amazing film from Scott Cooper.


MANDY: An masterfully impressionistic visionary skillset is on display in Panos Cosmatos’ second headtrip. Have peacecreep hippie weirdos ever been so accurately portrayed on film before? Definetely not in this century. A wild, intelligent, insane and deeply psychedelic movie. Bravo.


FIRST REFORMED: An astute study of what it means to die for a cause and the motivations and approaches available; in this case environmentalism. It also brings into modern times themes similar to Bergman's Winter Light: crisis of spirit, sacrifice and the existence of God.


SUNSET: Utilizing the film language developed in his debut masterpiece Son Of Saul, Laszlo Nemes returns with an immersive, labyrinthine tale of discovery in turn of the century Budapest.


ACTIVE MEASURES: Makes the case that the American president is a comprised Kremlin asset laundering Russian kleptocrat and mob money through Trump Towers. Very well done and quite alarming. Democracy corrupted; we are living in historic times. Excellent documentary.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Films in 2017

Ten movies that resonated with me this year. Thank you for reading. 


LOVELESS: Andrey Zvyagintsev brings us another searing indictment of humanity; a tragically relevant portrait of narcissism within a disintegrating family. It's an intimate, dour film largely told through colors and atmosphere - a poignant and powerful work as always from arguably the finest filmmaker working today.

VOYAGE OF TIME: A profound, all encompassing, pagan masterpiece that tracks the evolution of Earth from before time until it's end. This is a bravado, ridiculously ambitious big picture from the singular Terrence Mallick. The confounding beauty of the images seamlessly integrating the macrocosmic and microscopic were unutterably sublime – but it was the narration that I found even more astoundingly poetic. While watching the film I assumed it was sourced from holy texts from throughout history, I was amazed to find out Mallick had written it all.  “Oh Mother, abyss of light, all beholding...”

I, DANIEL BLAKE: Ken Loach and Paul Laverty savagely attack the corporatization of public services and the maddening banality of hostile bureaucracies. It makes sense that this simple, direct call to action - with such a powerful ending - caps off the most important and radical filmography to ever emerge from the United Kingdom. Thank you Ken.

TWIN PEAKS THE RETURN: Beyond film; an 18 hour journey into Samsara, where time is looping and the immaterial prevails along further explorations into impermanent non-self reality; so subtly  illuminated in the physical realm by the atomic bomb motif – as above so below, atom to star. The final episode with the two characters driving through the night together was as a magnificent distillation of Lynch's inner world realized that I have come across. David pulls out all the stops and transcends limits in what may be the culmination of his vision.

PERSONAL SHOPPER: An extremely rare movie: a ghost story that is actually sort of realistic and also at times genuinely scary. If you smoke weed, watch it stoned. Kristen Stewart is amazing.

ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING: I shed a couple tears during this portrait of Nick Cave in mourning by Andrew Dominick. Some of the looks on his face as he is trying to elucidate his feelings on the death of his son will be with me for a very long time. It was also cool to see Warren Ellis working in the studio. Powerful stuff.

BLADE RUNNER 2049: In sure form once again, Denis Villeneuve utilizes his control of cinematic language to create a visceral psychedelic darkness that flows effortlessly throughout a subversive story of a slave awakening.

THELMA: A Qigong witch explores the potentials of consciousness in this visionary tale for a New Age from Norway's finest dramatist, Joachim Trier. It starts slow but evolves into a unique, trippy thought provoking work.

THE SUNSHINE MAKERS: "Those that say, don't know; those that dont know, say." This mantra of the psychedelic underground is apparently no longer relevant for a certain generation. I never thought I'd find out who was making our acid all those years but here we have a straight forward look at the once secret world of LSD manufacturing - in particular, chemists Nick Sand and Tim Scully, two heroes that profoundly changed world consciousness. It's done in the standard, unremarkable, talking-head style documentary format but the topic is an important one. It's difficult to truly fathom the number of lives these men enhanced.

WHITNEY CAN I BE ME: A tragic, human portrait handled with class by Nick Broomfield.

THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE: The best film I saw this year was actually from 1976 - an epic documentary from marcel Marcel Ophuls that has been beautifully restored by HBO. It's a brilliant, profound, complex, 5.5 hour deep dive into the Nuremberg trials and an examination of the bureaucratic excuses the Nazi scum attempted to hide behind. If you haven't seen Ophuls' other films they are well worth seeking out, especially A Sense Of Loss (on the ground in Belfast, 1972) and Hotel Terminus (Klaus Barbie and CIA activity after WWII).













Addendum: Just caught up with a few movies from last year that are as good or better than the ones above: the very entertaining art-word satire THE SQUARE, dystopian horror IT COMES AT NIGHT and the ultra-heavy documentary on emotional healing work in a prison THE WORK FOUR DAYS TO REDEMPTION which will probably stay with me longer than all the other films mentioned. 

John Cage & David Tudor, 1963.

An incredible film of Cage and Tudor shattering notions of what music can be:




...and this Q&A from after a performance of Empty Words in 1978 is full of inspired wisdom:


John Cage 1978 from Larson Associates on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Stockhausen Lectures

Never have I seen someone elucidate so eloquently about music or creativity. Based in science as well as spirit, Stockhausen's ideas are rock solid and fully hold up under scrutiny. While I was very aware of his importance and I had heard a few pieces and read about him, the genius of Stockhausen remained illusive to me until I heard him speak about his ideas. I cant recommend watching all the videos below all the way through enough. For the uninitiated there is a 48 min documentary titled Tuning In that serves as a good introduction. It intersperses his music with segments from the series of seven lectures he gave in English in the UK in 1972 and 1973. Also below are two of the lectures themselves (the rest are on youtube). The first is a clear, concise breakdown of the Four Criteria of Electronic Music: what it is actually is and how it functions, direct from the pioneer himself. He details the creation of his piece Kontate and discusses many of his most important discoveries. It's fascinating, educational, funny, insightful and mind expanding; absolutely essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in taking electronic music seriously. Below that is a three hour talk about his composition for two pianos and ring modulators titled Mantra. The manner in which he explains this universal piece makes it so one doesn't need to know how to read music to understand the concepts at work. He shares some especially revelatory wisdom during the QandA in part three, the final moments are powerful and moving.
So there we are.

FOUR CRITERIA OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC:







MANTRA:







TUNING IN:



Friday, January 6, 2017

Films in 2016

...in an effort to continue a long standing tradition below are ten notable films from 2016...

1
Graduation


Corruption born of desperation rots the Romanian education system; Deeply nuanced, intelligent writing and directing from modern master Christian Mungiu. Every scene a drama unto itself.


2
Tony Robbins I Am Not Your Guru


Seekers in the managerial class are evangelized by a superhuman and his music cues; prone to inexperience, weak minds gravitate to authority; in search of the ecstatic - hypnotized by a giant. A peek into nightmarish never-ending team building exercises that only corporate culture could celebrate. However, messages of Empathy and Will are critical. A spellbinding documentary. Fascinating, powerful. I salute the giant.



3
American Honey



Midwest; homeless kids; rap music in cars. A film that exudes life. A scattered, poetic vision of youth; a patriotic, hopeful mirage of America.


4
Macbeth



Stunningly photographed and directed, the pacing perfectly intertwined with the artistry. A towering achievement from Justin Kurzel.


5
Midnight Special


Faith and the believer unite as 10th dimensional beings reveal themselves in search of a Christ-like E.T.


6
Arrival


Not since The Fountain has multidimensional consciousness been so eloquently dealt with. Well-paced, thoughtful excellence.


7
Heaven Knows What



An otherworldly dream-state reality from the Safdie Bros. Grimy, raw & beautiful. Brilliant electronic score. Arielle Holmes is amazing in this and American Honey, a raw talent.




Who Took Johnny



A haunting real life conspiracy at the highest levels of control. We've known the truth, here we get closer to proof. Then again, maybe the mom is insane. A mysterious movie.


9
The Witch



Initiation into the coven; An intelligent look at religious madness. A few stunning bravado shots, especially of the witches lair. I read the director studied Klimov's Come and See, it shows. An incredible debut film.


10
Only The Dead See the End of War


Heavy, brutal war footage, Fallujah sequence especially. Non-political, poignant, disturbing.


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 - Rückverzauberung 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.

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.