Saturday, May 16, 2015

Film Review: 'Force Majeure' Coolly Metafizzical...

Image result for force majeure movieSwedish movies are known for their brooding interiors, but brooding exteriors? Now there's fresh food for thought, a thought experiment, that is, which probably best describes this little peach of a movie from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund. The premise is simple enough: a 'controlled avalanche' in the French Alps goes a little bit out of control, giving tourists dining on the view and crepes a good scare, and their split-second reactions a good lesson in metaphysics. Spoiler alert: get your popcorn before the movie starts, because the climax comes within the first ten minutes. Everything else is denouement. Alternative title suggestion: 'Premature Extrapolation'....

The French title (better than the Swedish title 'Turist' BTW), translates most obviously to 'Major Force', but that sounds like a Charles Bronson movie, so 'Act of God' is probably the better rendition, referring as it does to the clause in most contracts that allows a way out for everyone, much harm but no foul; i.e. 'sh*t happens', responsibility must be shared, if the concept even applies. And that's the plot: when the 'little avalanche' comes, people revert to basic instincts for survival, if only for a minute. The wife and mother immediately protects her kids. The husband and father pulls a George Costanza and makes for the exit, reappearing only long after the fog of disaster has cleared. Food for thought? You bet...

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Remember 2014? Remember 'The Interview'?

The year 2014 had to be one of the weirdest years ever, politically and socially, almost unbelievable even months later. First (but not necessarily most) was the wave of child refugees from Central America swarming the US border. That's weird! That makes Putin gobbling up Ukraine almost pale in comparison, way beyond the pale. And remember Ebola, aka 'Apocalypse Now'? Then there's Malaysian Airlines' MH370 and MH17, the one lost in water, the other lost in war. 

War! ISIS! ISIL! And the pseudo sorta' Islamic State! Just when you thought that Netanyahu could 'mow the lawn' of the Mideast with Palestinian bodies, accomplished with impunity and consummate skill, a group of jihadis decide to form a new state in their midst with a ragtag gang of hell-bent misfits armed with sharpened knives and blood in their eyes. But the weirdest part of 2014 had to be the movie 'The Interview'. Remember that, the Seth Rogen farce starring him and James Franco in character as television personalities assigned to interview (and assassinate) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? 

I finally got around to seeing 'The Interview' this week. It's a farce, all right, and if I were a dyed-in-the-wool conspiracy fanatic, then I would have to conclude that the North Korean threat of terrorism against the producers and distributors of this movie surely must've been factory-made PR to boost sales of what is otherwise one of the worst movies every made. Save yourself the streaming fee (this year's Oscar picks are all available on Netflix DVD by now BTW; streamers can wait).

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Tucson's Hypertravel Hostel Proudly Supports Public Radio KXCI! (not Jay Z, just sayin')...

I Amplify KXCI
Is the new celebrity-studded 'Tidal' subscription music service, supported by the likes of Jay Z, Madonna, Beyonce and music's favorite bully Kanye, really a game-changer?  Will it succeed wildly where other streaming services like Pandora and Spotify have fallen short?  I have a better question: who cares?  Remember, we're just talking about a newer, arguably hipper internet-based form of radio, after all.  Huh?  Radio?  Maybe a little back story helps:

Radio: the word inspires... not much really, not any more, and yet it has been the soundtrack to many of our lives, up until now, not bad for a medium whose electromagnetic waves were not even theorized until 1873 by James Clerk Maxwell, and whose frequencies were first proven to exist by Heinrich Hertz in 1886, with practical applications first experimented in 1896 by Guglielmo Marconi, and commercial broadcasting begun in the US in the 1920's.  That's quite the international success story: kudos (and don't call it 'wireless' any more)...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Globalquerque! Rockin' in the Free World...

Los Texmaniacs
Music festivals are one of my favorite things in the entire world, 'world' music especially, music originating outside the dominant Anglo-American English-language pop juggernaut that gets exported everywhere. It's nice when it even trickles down to the provinces, further proof that good things can happen outside large cities. Albuquerque, New Mexico, is good for that.

It's nice to hear what traditional cultures can do on their own, and its especially nice to not have to search so long and hard for it at the source. You already know how hard it is to go to Cuba. And these days you might find more Malian music outside the country than within. That's convenient, considering that the country itself is largely destroyed, victim of Muslim fundamentalism. Mali is one of world music's greatest success stories.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pickamania in Silver City, NM: Bluegrass Music Grows Up

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
My first experience with a bluegrass festival was way back in 1974, together with my buddy Emmett Collier on our Grand Tour of the West, and my first true foray into the world of backpacking and independent travel, cutting off those ties with Mom and Dad and the girl I might've left behind, if I'd had one. I remember the dates distinctly because I left the day I turned twenty. I didn't return 'home' for over six months. Hey, I was hungry. And it was the holiday season. The rest is history.

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