305 posts categorized "Documentary"

November 08, 2019

ECHO IN THE CANYON

Echo_in_the_canyonThis beautiful musical performance/documentary love letter to Los Angeles’s mid ‘60s Laurel Canyon music scene that gave rise to The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, and The Byrds, is an addictive experience. I’ve watched it four times, and will gladly watch it again.

Jacques Demy’s underseen L.A.-set 1969 romantic drama “Model Shop” serves as inspiration for Jakob Dylan (a revelation as the band leader for a concert with a rotating group of co-singers that include Jade Castrinos, Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Beck, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones) to interview the musicians who created such classics as “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “Never My Love.” Tingles run up your spine. 

Echo petty

Jakob's cool-hang interviews with the likes of pop music royalty as Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Roger McGuinn, and Lou Adler allow for some hilarious tales told outside of school. Jakob Dylan’s subtle sense of humor get nice traction with Brian Wilson when discussing a song’s key. Jakob offers to “get out the capos.” Funny musician humor, I know, but I love it. Jakob Dylan is as unpretentious as they come  

Echo

Recording sessions as historic Los Angeles recording studios where great artists have recorded countless hits segue into Jakob Dylan’s live concert celebrating Laurel Canyon’s 50-year anniversary. The briefly utopic community of musicians who gravitated to Laurel Canyon created a Niagara of poetic pop songs turning folk music into rock ‘n’ roll. This is a groovy movie about a brilliant period of music that flourished before its awe-inspiring flight came to an inevitable end. This is a really fun movie to savor. My only complaint is that they didn't feature another four or five songs.

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Sidebar: Although it's never brought up in the film, the Laurel Canyon music was a direct outgrowth of Bossa Nova. Bossa's utopian romanticism came out of a desire to soften samba into a Sinatra-influences style. The early '60s period of Bossa Nova's explosive popularity in the country occurred prior to a movement of young musicians to turn up the heat on folk music and make it rock with the same attention to songwriting that Gilberto and Jobim utilized for their timeless songs.

Rated PG-13 — 88 mins. (A) Five StarsGet cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a bunch pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

March 06, 2019

MADE IN SHEFFIELD

MadeThe industrial city of Sheffield, England was the birthplace for the electronic pop explosion of post punk bands like "Vice Versa," "The Human League," "Heaven 17," "ABC,” and "Cabaret Voltaire." Slick style and cultural cool pulses, heats up, and grows on an international level in a bastion of fearless creativity. Here is an essential chapter of musical history brought to relevant life and context.   

In this enthusiastic, if brief (it clocks in at only 52 minutes), documentary filmmaker Eve Wood charts the lineage of the daring young musicians who created a modern and challenging brand of utopic music that lives on today through bands like "Stereolab" and "Ladytron." 

Made In Sheffield

Through interviews with band members (such as Phil Oakey of The Human League), and rare live performance footage, "Made In Sheffield" fills an essential period that linked Punk to the British New Wave with bands intent on destroying rock music. Interview subjects like the late John Peel, The Human League’s Phil Oakey and Ian Craig Marsh, and music critic Andy Gill shed light on the indispensable influence of Sheffield’s electronic music scene. This documentary is an important film for any serious music lover.

Not rated. 52 mins. (A-)Four Stars

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

February 28, 2019

HUMMUS! THE MOVIE

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More character and social study than the historically relevant document you might hope for, “Hummus! The Movie” comes up short. It doesn’t help that a stark omission of necessary subtitles will prevent English speaking audiences from understanding a significant portion of the documentary. A lack of chyrons places further distance from the viewer.

We’re introduced to several Middle East restaurateurs who feature hummus on their menu to the delight of crowds willing to wait on line for culinary delights. We learn that Christian monks in Abu Gosh, Jerusalem are big fans of hummus.  

Hummus

A tale of rival hummus shops fails to deliver a punch line. Still, the film wins points by introducing us to one hilarious individual in the guise of a man who is a teacher, mentor, hip-hop singer, DJ, rabbi, and grand master of an untitled martial arts system. This dude is a stone-cold trip. Here is one fascinating character who deserves a documentary more than hummus does, in the context of this picture anyway.  

Glaringly, the filmmakers don’t engage audience taste buds accustomed to watching Top Chef Masters. We need to hear a chef wax poetic about the fresh lemon brightness, and bite of parsley, to begin to imagine what makes this food such an ideal canvas for other flavors to harmonize.

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I love hummus; I eat it all the time. Sadly this movie doesn’t move me to understand or enjoy hummus any more than I already do. That’s not to say that this movie was obligated to do such a thing, but it didn’t hold my interest enough to not consider such details. Here is a perfunctory documentary that doesn’t inspire its audience on any level. What a waste.  

Two StarsGet cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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