March can be a pretty bleak time for music in a college town like Boston. This is true for a number of reasons. It’s halfway through the semester, so students are stressing out and staying in. It’s right around vacation, so they’ve got less to spend on extravagant tickets. Most importantly, every week, there’s at least some school on Spring Break, which means a large population of the city up and vanishes.
I don’t think anyone will ever understand Liars. I was fairly certain that I had a decent grasp on them for a while, but all that was blown to pieces this past summer when they released their self-titled fourth album. To call that album a disappointment would be generous; to call it a disaster might be more appropriate. Their 2006 album <i>Drum’s Not Dead </i>was by far my favorite record of the year, combining droning guitar anti-melodies, terrifying lyrics, and — most importantly — unrelenting, pounding drums layered upon more and more drums to yield one of the heaviest records I had ever heard. Most of the tracks eschew traditional rock song structures in favor of a more stream-of-consciousness approach that is just as unsettling as the music. And so when<i> Liars</i> came at me with a bunch of mediocre three-chord pop songs, I almost had to cry.
If you’ve seen the trailers for “Charlie Bartlett,” you’re probably expecting the movie to be a comedy in the style of “Juno,” as I expected when I went to a screening a few weeks ago. Instead, I found a rather serious drama with a few comedic elements. When I asked first time director Jon Poll about this, he explained that this is how the studio chose to market it. In fact, the original script was even darker and was made “warm and funnier with Gustin [Nash].”
When all the tapes in the video store get erased, an employee and his friend decide to replace them by re-shooting the movies on a shoestring budget. These two geniuses, played by Mos Def and Jack Black, crappily recreate a slew of classic movies including “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Ghost Busters.” Their hilariously lo-fi remakes, replete with cardboard special effects and overacted catchphrases, become an unexpected hit with the locals. Soon the whole town is onboard with their movie reinterpretation scheme, acting and producing remade hit after hit.
Last week’s double bill at the Museum of Fine Arts brought to the stage two seemingly different, yet equally brilliant acts. I’d never witnessed such a divided audience before: young women and French-Americans anticipated Keren Ann’s silky alto and crisp guitar, while middle-aged men — some reeking of marijuana — patiently awaited Dean & Britta’s washy wall-of-sound. Personally, I was more of a Keren Ann fan, but nonetheless loved Dean & Britta’s set of laid-back tunes.
Earlier tonight, seated at The Orpheum, I couldn’t help but think of an old Toothpaste for Dinner comic. This particular installment of the Web series featured the author sitting at a desk writing a letter, which read: “Dear Chan Marshall of Cat Power, SHUT UP. Love, Drew.”
These days, even when its subject is abortion, it’s hard for a film to be genuinely affecting, or even feel new. But Cristian Mungiu’s astonishing “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” insists on confronting abortion with a kind of honesty and force that will leave even the most hardened viewer a little dazed. And yet it would be too easy, and unfair, to label 4 months as simply an “abortion movie”; it would have been easy (and probably even successful) for Mungiu to construct the kind of gritty, mildly simplistic abortion movie most of us expect. But 4 months extends itself beyond any of these expectations and attempts something much more ambitious: to represent a harrowing day in the life of a Romanian college student in a way shatters the separation between film and viewer, and provides us with life, in its truest sense. It succeeds and it feels very, very new.
Does anyone believe that humans are rational? Or are we nothing more than victims of our impulses and emotions, careening randomly from one bad decision to the next like a drunken rodents? In a loosely strung collection of simple experiments, Sloan Professor Dan Ariely argues in “Predictably Irrational” that we behave in ways that fall short of rational, but are highly systematic.
I have to admit that I have a considerable dislike for Colin Farrell … and can you blame me? Surely if you sat through “Miami Vice,” you cannot. Thankfully, Farrell departs from roles such as Bullseye in “Daredevil” and whoever the hell it was he played in “S.W.A.T.” to take on a role that suits him much better in this new film, “In Bruges.” Even Mr. Farrell would probably have to agree with me that there are few words for how terrible some of the films he has participated in are. When speaking about his “In Bruges” character, he hints at what might have gone wrong in earlier roles, remarking “[It’s] nice to not have to pretend to be cool.” It seems that Farrell has changed his ways and it can only be for the better.
Think back to 1997. Who were the five coolest, sexiest women of that year? If you were in the vicinity of TD Banknorth Garden last Wednesday night, the answer would have literally popped out at you from every Union Jack mini-dress and four-inch platform shoe in sight: the Spice Girls, of course, and they’re back. Young women who were barely ten years old when the attractive, feisty quintuplet released their first single (the now timeless “Wannabe”) came out in droves to watch the resurrection of Posh, Baby, Sporty, Scary, and Ginger after a ten year hiatus, which started in 1998 after Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell left on claims of exhaustion and difference of opinion.
I decided to graduate from MIT a semester early so that I would have a few months off before graduate school, and now that my break is here, everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do. Travel? Here’s the thing: I’m not a huge traveler. Sure, I like going places, but I usually get so stressed about planning the trip and how much it’s going to cost that I avoid it. And I think wherever I go, I need to spend enough time there to make it “worth” it, thus adding to the expense and hassle. Well, it turns out I’m not alone: James Samans has written a new travel guide called <i>Spontaneous Tourism: The Busy Person’s Guide to Travel</i>, for people like me.
How does one define 2007 in terms of the music it produced? Surely the selections should reflect the events of the year: in this case, record low temperatures, iPhones for everyone, and an over-abundance of celebrity crotch-baring. At the same time, records making the annual list should be timeless; they should be representative not only of yearly trends, but also be able to withstand a 10-year flashback without much embarrassment on the reviewer’s behalf.
Every year, there are certain movies that stand out from the rest. Some shine as cinematic masterpieces full of magnificent acting and direction. Others push the boundaries of technology and reinvent how movies are made. Still others stand out for telling captivating stories. Whatever the reason, below are our picks for the most significant movies of 2007.
This February will be a slow month in Boston, that’s for sure. Many of you are returning to school after fabulous vacations, and even if I’ve picked a poor adjective, just about anything beats the constant churn of formulas and papers this new semester signifies. While you acclimate to the returning workload, here are the few selections that caught my eye for the month of February. They may be slim, but they’re mighty, so load up!
Romantic comedies may be formulaic, and they may not bring anything new to the art of cinema. The plots may be contrived, and the people in them may be so good-looking that even if the plot were realistic, you would know it is still a fantasy world. And all of life’s major moments may be compressed into a two-minute montage set to pop music. But at the end of the day, romantic comedies can be entertaining. Sure, I like it when a film makes me think and contributes to my understanding of the world, but I’m also perfectly happy when a film entertains. Just like people watching sports want to see others fulfill their dreams in an amusing manner, romantic comedies are a girl’s (and sometimes a guy’s) dream romance played out on the big screen. “27 Dresses” is certainly entertaining.
A smoky mist swirls across your vision as beautiful maidens dance forth to ethereal music in a blaze of color and glory. No, you haven’t died and gone to heaven; instead, this is the opening act of the Chinese New Year Spectacular show, which at its most transcendent makes you feel like you had (in a good way).
The first thing you’ve probably noticed upon watching the various trailers and previews for “Cloverfield” is that the movie is shot as though it is being recorded by a personal camcorder. Luckily, this gimmick (which you probably remember from “The Blair Witch Project”) is not the only thing the movie has going for it.
The musical “Spamalot,” just like its title, is simply ridiculous. But in a good way. The show tries to smash together the unlikely combination of Broadway Musical and of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (which it “lovingly ripped off”). This attempt is successful for the most part; the musical is wacky and good-natured and you can’t help but be amused.