Why The 1970s Are Inspiring Films Today (Cross Talk Ep. 30)

There are definite echoes and recurrences of the 1970s cropping up in film.

It was a time of very serious filmmaking, when grit and resourcefulness were championed, emotions were raw and characters had very simple motivations. You killed my partner? I’m coming after you. We can’t make our marriage work? Let’s get divorced. Our crew needs to get home from the edge of the universe? There’s time to investigate an alien spacecraft.

Tensions were high, politics was laden with so many revolutions – sexuality, gender equality, television, nationalism, race relations. But at the core of it all were stories about characters, and the depth of field pushed backdrops to the edge of our attention.

For the sake of argument, I’m just going to quickly list off a bunch of famous films from that timeframe to demonstrate my point. Ready? Here we go. Star Wars, Jaws, The Exorcist, Alien, The French Connection, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, All The President’s Men, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, MASH, Apocalypse Now, Annie Hall, Rocky, A Clockwork Orange, Halloween, The Deer Hunter, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Carrie, Serpico, Chinatown, the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Sure I didn’t select comedies like The Muppet Movie and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but even those movies featured Nazis and a frog legs merchant. And were weird as shit. I’ll let you figure out which villain was for which film. Yes, there were complex films like Airport, but on that note, disaster films, exploitation and “B movies” were prominent in a decade of civil unrest. Any of this sounding familiar yet?

As we start to look back on the 2010s, I can see that there is a definite correlation in critical filmmaking and so we have some spiritual successors to 1970s classics. Movies like A Ghost Story mimic the epistemological 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Logan channels Badlands, The Man with No Name trilogy and so many other flicks like Five Easy Pieces. But maybe Baby Driver was more your speed, creative cuties? What about The Driver, The Italian Job (technically the 1960s, but just barely), and Smokey and the Bandit?

You know what, just watch the latest episode and decide for yourself if we are entering into a second renaissance of 1970s minimalism in film. AKA the return of the 1970s.

Cool right? Yeah, its a great idea to explore how themes repeat themselves over time, and yes there still plenty of examples of films inspired by the 1980s, but I have to wonder if anybody else is noticing this connection?

I hope you enjoyed watching this episode as much as Chris and I enjoyed recording it. But you know what we love more? Comments! Shares! And new subscribers! Check back in a day for an album review and a theory on why metal music gets better as you age.

Tim!

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream (Planetarium review)

Time to pull out the sports equipment, latex paint, and fishing line, we got ourselves a planetarium to construct!

 

Sufjan Stevens – Planetarium

released Jun 9, 2017
******** 8/10

Planetarium is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens, composer Nico Muhly, drummer James McAlister, and guitarist Bryce Dessner. A supernova, modern art, super group, if you will. This album was inspired by our solar system and features tracks about black holes, tides, Halley’s Comet, black energy, the Sun, the Moon, the Kuiper Belt, creation, and each of the planets, including Pluto!

Now let’s get to the burning question on my mind – is it off for me to say that this was a weird album to review?

Running at just over seventy five minutes, and including seventeen different tracks, Planetarium takes us all over the place, both metaphorically and literally. An album chock full of ideas, it has tons of instrumentals to take advantage of, and produces epic soundscapes, while including vocals as necessary. It weaves in both the epic (Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Black Energy) and the intimate (Venus, Mercury, Pluto, and Neptune) to good effect, but the most interesting thing to note of all of these tracks is not how they function individually, but what happens to you as you listen and experience this light show. Err, sound show.

Mythology, science and astronomy dominate this soundscape. Granted it may take a few listens to really immerse yourself in it all, but each time I sat down with it, I focused on different elements. Sometimes I focused on the melody, others were about the lyrics, and still other times I just sat with my own thoughts and contemplated life. That an album about the solar system could make me reflect on my own existence is compelling. Odd that.

And then we have sonic interludes like Halley’s Comet, Tides, the slightly longer Kuiper Belt, Black Hole and In The Beginning. These serve to dial down or ramp up as appropriate. Remember this is a dense album and not something to be taken lightly, but when you consider the scope and scale of it all, well then it just starts to make sense that it was organized this way.

Some of my favourite moments happen on Moon, with it’s many “R2-D2” like sounds, Mars and it’s to the point thoughts on love and war, and the unfettered sexuality/lust of Jupiter. By the time we get to Earth it’s already felt like everything has happened, but not worry.

Coming in at fifteen minutes, we get to experience the passage of millennia through carefully curated sequences representing formation, habitation, natural disasters, the arrival of man, and what seems like the end of civilization. This is all played tongue and cheek of course, delivered with lines like “… run Mission run, before we arrive” and ending with the more intimate Mercury.

Pros: Heady and thoughtful, the talent of its members is well demonstrated on Planetarium. It gets better and better with repeated viewings, each time with a new thing to uncover. Album closer Mercury is just brilliant.

Cons: Interestingly enough, the scale can be somewhat daunting to witness, but hopefully we get more harmony from the group in live performances or if they ever make another studio album. Sometimes Sufjan sounds like an auto-tuned parrot when he doesn’t need to be.

Runtime: 76 minutes

Points of InterestThe group was formed way back in 2012 and Planetarium actually existed as an idea way way back then, with further get togethers solidifying the songs and setting up for a full-length studio album. This is the result of those sessions. Cosmic themes make sense as globalization has flattened the Earth, but space still remains unexplored.

This is an album of abstractions, considerations, and comparative to a space opera. Maybe it won’t ever be repeated again in the history of humanity, but this record is quite a beautiful thing to behold – I just hope that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of 2017 releases.

theories Summarized

What else can I say about Planetarium but to listen to it for yourself creative cuties? This is a concept album through and through, and one that isn’t afraid to switch from the grandeur of the stars right down to the people on this organic jet pack hurtling through space and time. Theory or no, that’s what I think.

Tim!

Birds Of A Feather (Michael Kiwanuka, Love & Hate review)

I watched American Beauty this past week, and it made me cry dear readers. It wasn’t something I was expecting, but I suspect the movie just opened me up to the experience of addressing some hard feelings I had about love, loss and hate. If you’ve seen the movie, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say it was during Lester Burnham’s final monologue.

That’s the challenge with feelings though, you don’t always get what you expect in life, but that doesn’t make them any less important to work through.

 

 

 

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
released July 15, 2016
********* 9/10

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Michael Kiwanuka is a British singer-songwriter that makes soul music with a folk backing. Influenced by many classic acts of the 1970s, including Jimi Hendrix, Bill Withers, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Tommy Sims, Kiwanuka has now released two albums on the Communion Records label.

I think it’s safe to say that we can hear hints of those musicians in his sound, and  there are other artists which could fit the reference bill as well, like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, but that doesn’t mean because Kiwanuka has skipped the innovation party that he is an imitator by any regard.

Rather he sings about his personal experience using soul music as his platform. Black Man In A White World is an excellent example of this and a great second track to include on the album right after Cold Little Heart. At almost ten minutes long, that first track is emotionally heavy and rightly so because of the self-analysis it runs through.

This record is full of little examples of heartache and unresolved pain. You know how it goes though, life has it’s moments of joy and newfound love, but when that relationship hits the end of it’s value  you’re left without closure and unfortunate leftovers of those emotions. Falling is the third track and it describes that sense of love lost and the hindsight bias of moments that should have been red flags.

As the album works towards the middle Place I Belong, title track Love & Hate, and One More Night each do their part to keep the tempo somber and compelling in it’s deep explorations of tolerance. The title track in particular brings more of that length to the game, running at just over seven minutes in runtime.

After all Kiwanuka is narrating a story of man looking to find his place in the world, one which is confusing at best and tragic at it’s worst. But the hidden strength is definitely in the production provided by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton; where we can feel included in this raw questioning of things and appreciate his insecurities. After all, while the record is very heavy in it’s themes, the tone isn’t so dark as to leave us out of journey.

While I have a special place in my heart for Cold Little Heart, and Love & Hate, the stand out track is probably Father’s Child, another longer song which explores the spiritual side of life and looks for both meaning and guidance.

With all of that said, Love & Hate is a solid album and definitely worthy of an inclusion in your collection, but don’t take my word for it, check out some of these music videos first. 1 2

 

 

 

Michael Kiwanuka is exploring some great ideas and feelings on this record, and while the saying goes, you can only hate someone you once loved, it’s in the quiet moments of reflection that we realize that those strong emotions are what allow us to enjoy and appreciate life. It might be sad to let someone go, but our lives are all the better for it, Kiwanuka just asks we spend some time with it.

But that’s just a theory.

Tim!