Colin Wessman

RIP Aretha Franklin

It’s always hard when you’re on the road when a pop culture figure who was important to you dies. The last time I remember this happening to me was when James Gandolfini died. Though, I suppose it’s easier with a musician. Because it made it pretty easy to decide what I’d be listening to in the car yesterday, even if the occasion was less than ideal. Even if it’s a busy day, you always want to be able to take the time and stop to appreciate the figure in question’s importance and the work they left behind, because Aretha Franklin left a ton of great music behind worth treasuring. Continue reading

C.A.T.: Superfuzz Bigmuff

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)

This year has marked not only the 30th anniversary of Sub Pop Records, but also the 30th anniversary of this seminal debut release by one of the label’s signature bands. So it seemed like ample time to talk about Superfuzz Bigmuff, considering the venerable Seattle record label is celebrating it’s anniversary in a big ‘ol free concert in theirs (and my) hometown this weekend, which Mudhoney will be performing at. Now, I know I am kinda fudging the prerequisites of “Classic Album Tuesdays” by writing about an EP. But considering Superfuzz has been re-released multiple times over the years in extended versions that reach album length, it seemed ok. Especially when it seems as good a representation as any of the sludgy, energetic records that Sub Pop first made its name on. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 29: Fish Tank

Fish Tank (2009)

Any time we do a month like this, it’s always fun to see the different themes and similarities that connect many of the films, even though with Criterion month, there really isn’t much intention for the films to have anything in common. But one genre that has seemed to crop up quite a bit this year is the coming-of-age film, and in particular ones done by either first time or up-and-coming directors. Fish Tank is another film that falls into both these categories, which firmly established Andrea Arnold as a fresh new voice whose career so far appears to be as unpredictable as this film’s main character. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 25: Vagabond

Vagabond (1985)

It seems to me that homelessness is a topic that is never handled terribly well in most Hollywood movies. Usually, most vagrants in films are either objects of unenviable pity, or they seem to be these magical, miserly dudes that some hapless, better-looking protagonist forms an unusual bond with. But, like a majority of the films in the Criterion Collection, Vagabond is not a film born out of a Hollywood studio, nor a film that from what I can tell had much of a cross-over release in America. Fortunately, it provides a both empathetic and unromantic depiction of homelessness, while tapping into the idea that even if a person lives on the fringes of society, they still have the power to impact those living firmly within it. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 23: Repo Man

Repo Man (1984)

I’m not sure if it was the right call or not to review Repo Man after a weekend screening of Sorry To Bother You. Yes, they do make for a good double feature, considering they both have a kind of anti-capitalist bent, both are about shitty jobs, and both go unexpectedly sci-fi in their finales. But at the same time, Sorry To Bother You seems to really go for it, even more than Repo Man does in terms of its immediacy, audacity, and biting humor. Repo Man on the other hand, seems a bit restrained by comparison, which is probably not a description that’s ever been ascribed to this film. But nonetheless, taken on its own, it’s a very enjoyable little slice of ’80s weirdness that manages to buck the blandness of the decade’s typical studio films. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 22: Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

I knew I would be setting myself up for a challenge when I chose Koyaanisqatsi as one of my films to review for Criterion Month. After all, how do you review a movie with no dialogue, no story, and no explicit narrative other than what you choose to glean from its vast and beautiful images? Well, I suppose it brings up the question of what constitutes good film writing. And I suppose Koyaanisqatsi would be thought of as a hard film to write about because a lot of film writing typically concerns plot or story, of which Koyaanisqatsi has none. But I often feel like a lot of the best film writing (or really any writing about art) is about how a movie makes you feel. And there’s plenty to feel while watching Koyaanisqatsi. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 18: Multiple Maniacs

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

How does one go about reviewing a movie like Multiple Maniacs? I struggled with roughly this same dilemma last year when I reviewed Beyond The Valley of The Dolls, so perhaps I’m more equipped than I otherwise would’ve been. Although, Dolls at least had the kind of (surprisingly) accomplished technical qualities that made it a complete anomaly in the Hollywood studio system. Multiple Maniacs, however, takes that same kind of trashy aesthetic and somehow makes it even trashier, with a nothing budget and the barely actors known as the Dreamland players. And yet, somehow, its absurd depravity is something hard not to still be shocked and entertained by, even 50 years after a murder-happy Divine strutted the streets of Baltimore. Continue reading