Throwing Glass In Brick Houses (Phantom Thread review)

Romantic love can last but a moment, but companion love often lasts for a lifetime. And this is important because it’s a much more real feeling then something so fleeting as lust – the desire to be needed, to be important to someone, to be truly understood, it’s just so much more powerful.

Thankfully, dear readers, this film does expresses just that.

 

Phantom Thread (2017)

Cast: Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
released on blu-ray April 10, 2018
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Audience Score 70%
The Guardian: *****

Paul Thomas Anderson is an American filmmaker. He has been nominated for over eight Academy Awards, and his films have generated over 25 nominations for cast and crew. His list of films is fairly short, having made 9 films over a 20+ year career – Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, Phantom Thread, and 2018’s Waterlily Jaguar.

Now, I would be willing to argue that There Will Be Blood is one of the best, if not THE best film of the 2000s, so when I learned that Mr. Anderson directed it, I took notice and seriously looked at his portfolio. This is important because Phantom Thread is the second film that Daniel Day-Lewis has starred in with this director, and it’s also the last one before he retires.

Special thanks to Focus Features for the IMDB summary of the film –

Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants, and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love

Now, I’m going to posit another theory, and you can choose to agree with it or not.

Romance is about a fantasy, whereas companionship is about taking a very real journey together. I originally watched this movie because it was nominated for a Best Picture award, and it registered with me, but didn’t affect me at the time. Then I decided to watch this film for a second time because I was reminded of something a friend of mine had said. He told me that this film was especially compelling because the two leads challenged each other. While I agree that Reynolds and Alma challenge each other, and I’m about to spoil an important part of the movie, so be forewarned, I think that poisoning someone to shift the balance of power in the relationship is pretty dramatic. So it still works as a movie, because movies typically take the highs and lows of life and leave out the majority of in-between moments.

But it’s in the in-between moments that human connection exists, and that’s why the story of the house of Woodcock, and the waitress that threw a brick into the front window, is the real focal point of a real love story. Not Daniel Day-Lewis, and we are all the better for it.

Pros: Vicky Krieps steals the show, and while Daniel Day-Lewis is enigmatic and bold, as he is in all of his roles, Alma is far more powerful in her strong-willed directness. The attention to detail in the sets, costumes, and interactions amongst the cast will hold you in, make you gasp for air for a moment, and finally accept the beauteous new outlook on life.

Cons: It is a very insular world, and because it doesn’t invite the casual viewer in, you might miss the fact that this is a far better telling of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Points of Interest: The name Alma means “soul” in Spanish and Portuguese. Daniel Day-Lewis has not seen the finished film, and found the role incredibly emotionally demanding.

It might seem obvious now, but the title Phantom Thread eludes to several things. The role of dressmaking in Reynolds identity, the familial ties between Reynolds, his sister, their mother and their business, Reynolds relationship with his mother, and more importantly, the unseen connection between Alma and Reynolds. And this last thread is what drives the story. It might not seem obvious that there is an unbreakable bond between the two lovers, but try as fate might, their love cannot be broken, only strengthened.

That’s what real love does over time, it continues to define the identities of its partners.

theories Summarized

I love this movie. It grabbed hold of my attention, because it demanded a second viewing. I can see myself watching it multiple times over the years. Paul Thomas Anderson has done something wonderful in creating a period film that is timeless, but is very rich in it’s depictions. It’s a little sad that the only award it won was for Best Costume Design, but ironically enough, that might be the highest compliment it could receive given how intimate a role clothes play in our lives.

The exterior beauty of the dress could only exist with the loving labour of dressmaking.

And so that leads us into the Watch Culture video review I have lined up on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut – Don Jon. It’s a story about sex addiction, and how one man’s addiction to pornography has defined how he views most of his intimate relationships. It’s totally worth a watch, and like Phantom Thread, it has some great insights romantic love VS companion love.

Lastly, please let me know what you thought of both of these reviews on love, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel (and email) if you haven’t already. Next week I’ll have a review on folk album and a horror-comedy film, and an interview preview with a pretty cool musician.

Tim!

The Most Critical Hour (Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour review)

Did you know that the golden hour is the first hour after a traumatic injury, and the reason why it’s called this, is that it’s often the most critical for successful treatment in emergency situations.

Now, I don’t think that’s what Kacey Musgraves intended with her album title, but it still holds significance given that this album is worth a critical listen, whether you are a music critic or not. It’s almost like a first look at the world after a life-changing event.

 

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

released Mar 30, 2018
******** 8/10

Kacey Lee Musgraves, better known by her stage name, Kacey Musgraves, is an American country music singer and songwriter. Like many popular country artists today, Kacey is a seasoned professional who has been performing for the better part of twelve years – Golden Hour is her third studio album, following three years after Pageant Material, and her first with MCA Nashville.

She has been met with generally positive reviews on all three of her albums, but Golden Hour is the first album that has ranked at over 90% on review aggregator Metacritic. The consensus seems to be that it’s a great record because her vocal range is quite high and very appealing, and not to mention the fact that while many of the songs are very saccharine, but most importantly there is a sincerity in the dream world she is constructing, and it deviates from typical country fare..

I think it’s great that the Butterflies and Space Cowboy are the first singles. They represent all of the high notes this album wants to hit, and then the rest of the album goes on to prove it over and over again. If you listen to Mother and/or Rainbow you might just be moved to tears. Both of them are positive songs, one about the heritage of motherhood and the other speaking out to minority groups (read: LGBTQ youth).

This is not the type of content you see in mainstream country, it’s atmospheric, and generally just lovely to listen to, but because it’s not ham-fisted with it’s content, it feels better to sing along to a song about a woman giving her lover the space to be independant, for the right or the wrong.

Pros: Space Cowboy, High Horse, Slow Burn and Wonder Woman all almost instantly appealed to me purely as melodies, and upon subsequent listens their lyrics have grown on me to the point that I’m reciting them back to myself. Her vocalist work is just so good.

Cons: While the content is interesting for a pop country album, it does soften the country sound purely to appeal to non-country fans. And it was even mentioned in all of the marketing of the album. And in the process… well, it doesn’t blend in other genres so much as it dials back on the country tones. And the expected sassiness isn’t really there, which might be difficult to accept for existing Kacey Musgrave fans.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of InterestAs I already mentioned, this album has widespread universal acclaim from most critics, having debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200. It’s primarily about the “golden hour” of Musgraves life as she comes out of the glow of just recently getting married, with many things in her life coming together.

This is a nice album. I know that sounds like a safe statement to make, but not every major event in life needs to leave us scarred and broken. Introspection can be a positive experience too. Which is why the uplifting music with an appreciation for the real world, is what we are given, and why I gladly accept it. It’s true that we might not have expected this from Musgraves, but I think the reason why I enjoyed it so much is that she clearly doesn’t care.

theories Summarized

Whether you believe the hype or not, this is a really entertaining and heartwarming album. If it can stand the test of time and enter the ranks of the timeless is yet to be seen, but I’m happy to say for today that Golden Hour has lots of power.

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, Brendon and I decided to do a video review on the chiptune original, Crystal Castles, by none other than Crystal Castles. Using a circuit bent Atari 5200, this music can be jostling, calming, exciting and generate a host of other feelings, but it manages to do this without much help from lyrics.

In fact, Alice Glass often feels like part of the instrumentation, and not a leading vocalist.

There you have it creative cuties. Two great albums, with two very different emotional cores, but I think you’ll find that each have valuable tracks and are worth a spot on the shelf. And please give them repeated listens, because I have a theory that you’ll feel the same as I did initially. That said, hit us up in the comments, like and share the video if you found it valuable, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts.

Tim!

Themes In Film – Redemption (Cross Talk EP 36)

Redemption is a fairly universal theme in cinema.

It’s something that can motivate anyone no matter what their moral, ethnic, or social standing is. In fact, some of the most beloved characters of all time are ones who follow a path of redemption. You have Darth Vader, Severus Snape, the T-800, Phil Connors (Groundhog Day), Derek (American History X), and Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption) for starters. Whether the story is one of holding out hope, belief in something greater then ourselves, a desire for change or simply fighting injustice, it’s a great theme that invites us to see the possibility of choices in life.

Now to be clear, the stories we’re talking about in this episode of Cross Talk aren’t exclusively about redemption, even if some of them have an overt story arc featuring the theme. What’s more important to me is to demonstrate how this topic transcends genre, it can be in action movies, dramas, comedies, crime stories, horror and a whole host of other examples. These themes permeate our culture, and I personally think it’s because at any given time we are all holding out for a hero. Redemption teaches us that we are fully capable of becoming our own source of rescue.

Chris and I decided to provide a selection of films to demonstrate this point about the significance of redemption in life. We selected The Green Mile, Unforgiven, Good Will Hunting, In Bruges, Gran Torino, The Hurricane, V for Vendetta, and Les Miserables. All of these films have an element of drama to them, but the stories are wildly different, some being based in fantasy, others based on history, and still others simply fit a time and a place.

Redemption can bring freedom. Freedom from societal oppression, creative limitations, and intolerable views. And sometimes it can absolve past wrongdoings.

I’m really excited to share this one with you because while we are going to go over each of this four examples, Chris has decided to focus his attention on Les Miserables, the 1935 version, and not one of the other twelve film adaptations out there, though I do have some special love for the Liam Neeson vehicle. And then for my pick, I’ll give some insights on why I think the redemption in V for Vendetta comes from Evey, as portrayed by Natalie Portman, and NOT Hugo Weaving’s theatrical V.

And so this is episode thirty six of Cross Talk. Themes of redemption in film.

theories Summarized

That was such a fun topic for us to discuss – I learned something about myself that even I didn’t know, how important a seemingly popcorn flick like V For Vendetta can represent an ideal about culture. And now I need to check out yet another version of Les Miserables, as Chris promises that the 1935 film is the best version out there.

But what are your favourite examples of redemption in the movies? Do you prefer The Shawshank Redemption? What about The Wrestler? Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ve got really cool folk country album to share tomorrow from Kacey Musgraves… and I’ll give you your space cowboy!

Tim!

Not Experimental Enough? Hold My Whiskey (Jack White, Boarding House Reach review)

What rock and roll artist worked with A Tribe Called Quest and Beyonce, and is completely frantic? The guy who used to wear red, white and black.

Now known as the guy who wears blue, white and black.

 

Jack White – Boarding House Reach

released March 23, 2018
******* 9/10

John Anthony White, better known by his stage name, Jack White, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is also the lead singer and guitarist of The White Stripes, and performs with other bands (The Raconteurs) and artists (Beyonce, Alicia Keys) often. His debut solo album, Blunderbuss, was released in 2012 and followed up a mere two years later by Lazaretto. And to be honest, Lazaretto was the stronger album in my personal opinion.

Both of his solo albums have had considerable commercial success and critical acclaim, so it is not surprising that he eventually followed up with album no. 3, Boarding House Reach; though the time gap was a little wider this time.

Boarding House Reach is an atypical blues rock album and has been released on White’s own label Third Man records as well as Columbia and XL. In an odd move, Connected by Love and Respect Commander were released simultaneously as the album’s lead single back in January, and Over and Over and Over was released as the second single in March. Corporation and Ice Station Zebra were also released as singles, and consequently, the album was able to reach no. 1 on  the Billboard 200.

This is an album which has a lot of layers, and absolutely needs several listens in order to be properly appreciated. Because it probably won’t sound as good as it is the first couple of times, I suggest sitting with it in the background as you drive, while you work away the day, and even as you burst through your evening work out. It’s a rock album that is challenging rock and roll in a time when rock is basically struggling for air.

Thankfully for us, he is a veteran of blues rock, having fronted The White Stripes for years, and it makes sense for him to explore funk, jazz, and even gospel music, but man when he decided to inject hip-hop and spoken word poetry into the mix… that’s when I knew I was onto something special. Plus, it’s a polarizing album, with lots of people locked in, but a healthy amount of skepticism from seasoned reviewers too.

The singles make perfect sense now inside the context of the record, but they are not the highlight of the album, no. They are an introduction into a more fun and carefree Jack White. Yes that might seem off, but listen to Hypermisophoniac, Everything You’ve Ever Learned and What’s Done is Done, and tell me this isn’t a new Mr. White.

Pros: His vocal performances are way out there, and it’s refreshing to see how he is stepping away from blues rock and yet he is still darkly edgy in his lyrical choices. Why Walk a Dog is a great little absurdist track about the idea of owning pets and whether dogs really do have a good life.

Cons: There are a lot of collages of different ideas floating around here, from spoken-word, rapping, progressive rock, funk music, to a cover of Al Capone’s own song (Humoresque). And sometimes they fight with Jack White’s natural sound, whatever that means to you.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of Interest: White chose to write like Michael Jackson would, by thinking of the songs as a whole rather then parts. He did everything in the silence of one room, for several hours at a time each day. This is White’s third no. 1 solo album.

This is not an album rooted in the past, like his previous solo albums and his work with The White Stripes. No this is something out of time, and I’m thankful to have found it.

theories Summarized

I’ll admit that when I listened to this the first couple of times, I thought, yeah it’s technically good, but definitely not a knockout album. This is normal, and a good thing, dear readers. So settle in as instructed, and you’ll come out the other side singing the praises of the future of rock and roll.

And fortunately for us, this week’s Sound Culture video review is perfectly lined up as a weird album of it’s own. If you’ve never heard The Mars Volta before, their debut album is a great place to start, and well worth a listen or 50. Brendon and I break down the technical reasons why this progressive rock album might not be for everyone, but it can definitely be acquired with a little effort.

Yeah, it’s a weird album. Ha! But I love it all the same. I hope you get to feel the same, but either way hit us up in the comments, like and share the video if you found it valuable, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts.

Tim!

Post-it Notes (Jeff Rosenstock, POST- review)

Making music isn’t something for everyone, but everyone needs music in their life. When economic anxiety has become the new buzz term to describe the state of western nations, then I think it only makes sense for an artist to come on the scene and shake things up.

 

Jeff Rosenstock – POST-

released March 23, 2018
********* 9/10

Jeff Rosenstock is an American musician and songwriter hailing from Long Island, New York. He’s been involved in a ska band (The Arrogant Sons of Bitches), an indie rock group (Kudrow), and a musical collective (Bomb the Music Industry!). It was only six years ago that Bomb the Music Industry! split up and Rosenstock had to decide what to do with himself. After a bit of deliberation he launched his solo career in 2012.

In those six years he has released three studio albums, We Cool?, Worry, and POST-. POST- was released digitally on January 1, 2018 to the surprise of so many people. It has since been issued through Polyvinyl and to generally favourable reviews – Most of the songs were created shortly after the 2016 presidential election and reflect Rosenstock’s disenfranchisement with national pride, non-confidence in people, and disbelief in himself.

it’s equal places angry and fun, something we could all do with in 2018. While that sounds incredibly daunting–and like a really tiring listen–the album’s most impressive trait is that it makes all that vital work feel joyous and communal

USA tells a story about the never-ending civil war of America, having never ended but instead become even more charged over time. It’s a strong opener and features lines like “we’re tired and bored” and “et tu USA” which smartly sounds like F U USA. Then we have Yr Throat and Powerlessness, which have a subtle taste of hope about bridging communication, but ultimately raise doubt whether America is worth the trouble.

Continuing this trend are All This Useless Energy and Beating My Head Against A Wall. Both tracks are strong indicators of what happens in the face of futile odds. Most surprising to me though is Let Them Win. A song about the importance of working together to combat evil behaviour and focus on we instead of you and I.

TV Stars reminds you of a Billy Joel song, and even has a reference to piano-playing, but most importantly there is a theme about loneliness and the fear of it, throughout the track. This also shows up on the next song, Melba, which it is probably the most happy song of the lot, and hilarious if you pay attention to the lyrics. Oddly enough it also reminds me of another song – I’ll have to get back to you on what that is exactly.

Pros: The energy of each song is amazing, and how Rosenstock manages to inject fun into such sweeping epics of ideas is something I haven’t seen in a while. Tackling difficult topics comes naturally to him.

Cons: Rosenstock is a victim of his own success. It mimics Me Too! but unfortunately isn’t quite as interesting as that initial outing.

Runtime: 40 minutes

Points of InterestIt was written and recorded mere weeks before it’s January 1 release date. Most of it  was recorded live onto tape, giving it a very lo-fi and earnest sound.

Now all that shared, POST- might not be Jeff Rosenstock’s best work to date, but it is far and above more entertaining/meaningful then so much other music that’s been released this year. This is a spiritual successor to other punk concept albums like American Idiot and The Monitor. It’s heartfelt, DIY, modern punk music, and I think it’s pretty damn accessible too.

theories Summarized

It’s cathartic and painful, bright and worrisome –  an anthem of economic anxiety as it were. POST- was given away for free on New Years Day, but I’d happily pay for it a second time if I were given the choice. It’s that good.

And speaking of albums I would happily buy a second time if it ever came up, Brendon and I have a great video review on the 2005 debut album Silent Alarm. This is essential Bloc Party listening and it features so many danceable tracks on it. Definitely worth a sit down. Or twenty.

I can’t believe that album is over a decade old already, but it was easily in my top five records for that year, and has been on heavy rotation ever since!

And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/or enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on The Shape of Water. A divisive film, yes, but I have an interesting theory on why it actually deserved to win so many Academy Awards.

Tim!