Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Cultural Diversions: Brows, High and Low 

As we are known to do around here, a Tuesday wrap-up of some recent cultural diversions.

Wilco: A Ghost Is Born
Their trip from the alt-countryish A.M. to this album is a pretty long one. Are you sure it's even the same band? Since A.M., it sounds like Jeff Tweedy is having less and less fun. But the music is no less beautiful. The album starts off slowly, tempo-wise, but slowly wakes up. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is a nearly 11-minute jam that sounds like a cross between Krautrock and Bachman Turner Overdrive that is definitely my favorite song on the CD. The middle of the CD has some uptempo rockers, though with the classic Tweedy depression. (The phrase "I've been puking" appears in "Company in My Back," and not in a good way.) Then we come to "Less Than You Think," which includes the phrase "It's high pitched and it hums." Wilco then proceeds to assault the listener with about, oh, 11 minutes of noise feedback which, well, "it's high pitched and it hums." It's supposed to represent Tweedy's struggles with migraines. And it sucks. Now that I've listened to it twice, I need never listen to it again. Count me among those who hope they don't play it in concert. The last tune is a fun, throwaway rocker, so just fast-forward to the last track.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I don't want to discuss the movie much for fear that of giving too much away. (Oh, yes, one of those kinds of movies.) I'll just say the following -- some of which I've said before:
1. Charlie Kaufman must be a weird guy, because his scripts come out of nowhere.
2. I quite enjoyed Being John Malkovich, but thought Adaptation was too much thinking, and not enough enjoying. It was a puzzle that challenged your mind but not your heart.
3. Sunshine merges the quirkiness and puzzle-ness of Malkovich and Adaptation with a romantic drama. And does it really well. When you've finally figured out what's going on, it matters because you've been given a reason to care about the characters. There's something at stake.
4. Michel Gondry's direction is showy (perhaps too showy at times), but for the most part the special effects serve the story.
Good movie. Go see it.

I went to a puppet show for a whole bunch of kids this weekend. Whenever the plot dragged (which was most of the time), a good puppet-y knock on the noggin was usually good enough to draw gales of laughter from the preschoolers. ("Punch and Judy" lives.)

It's that same concept that drives Dodgeball -- whenever the plot threatens to take over, hit somebody in the head or pelvis with a dodgeball. It's so clear that this was a concept movie, because the plot, well, is pretty much non-existent and the biggest laughs are from things in the movie that have no relationship whatsoever to the movie and its characters. To tell too much would ruin the surprise and much of the humor. It's not a bad movie, it's very funny at points, but 90% of what's funny could easily have been stripped from this movie and put into some movie about, oh, department store salesclerks or river rafters. Stick around for the very ending -- it's rare that you get to see trenchant commentary about American cinema in such tasteless form.

Another Wilco fan!

Did you happen to catch their show at the Cajun House two years ago?
No, I missed 'em. I did see them a few years ago when they played the late, lamented Electric Ballroom.

I find it sad that they scheduled a show in Tucson and a show in Flagstaff but not here. (This was the spring tour that got cut short when Tweedy went into rehab.)

I'm pretty sure they'll come through again when they do a big tour (and definitely plan on seeing them when they do), but it sure says a lot about Phoenix's lack of respect as a concert-going town.
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