I was still relatively unfamiliar with Phoenix months ago when Sean asked me if I wanted to go to this show (The show was last Saturday.) I liked a few of their songs but hadn’t dipped too much into any of their albums but something in me said “I bet it will be fun.” Damn glad I accepted because this was one of the best concerts I’ve ever gone too.

It was a long and confused road to the Showbox Sodo with Sean’s phone giving us the shaft on directions but somehow with Colin’s determination everything eventually came together. We got there about a half hour before the doors opened and were even lucky enough to see some pre-show puke! We eventually got in a little later than advertised but managed to snag some close spots to the stage.

Opening Act: The Soft Pack
The Soft Pack, who I’d actually heard of from one of my regular searches for new music opened the show at about 8:09. I wasn’t particularly excited to see the San Diego quartet but I did enjoy snippets of their set, especially their catchy lead single “Extinction”. They were more or less your typical indie rock band with hints of pop/punk. Kind of reminded me of a more “collegy” take on the Buzzcocks or something… I bet they like The Pixies too. Anyhow they could of just as easily been playing in some nowhere bar, they were fine just forgettable.

Headlining Act: Phoenix
Of course it was a long wait before the French Five-some took the stage but when they finally did the audience went ecstatic. “Listzomania” opened the show and it was hard not to get into when you’re deep within a group of bobbing concert goers watching such an energetic band. Lead singer Thomas Mars was a true showman and his interactions with the audience only made the experience that more exciting.

Phoenix’s sound was just as finely tuned as their studio work and their musicianship was as equally impressive. I think Sean, Colin and I were all as pretty blown away by the group’s drummer Thomas Hedlund (why he’s not an official member I’m not sure.) Hedlund’s parts translated brilliantly to the stage and he even stood up occasionally while playing, I’m all about that. The live setting definitely pumped some electricity into Phoenix’s catalog. Songs that used to seem more mellow like “Long Distance Call” and “If I Ever Feel Better” now totally rocked and they basically played every song you could of asked for. I mean nine tracks out of the ten from their last album? That’s awesome, as I’m still of the opinion that their last release is their best.

The group was very grateful towards the audience and Thomas Mars constantly thanked everyone for their support. They even gave a shout out to Federal Way…. Federal Way? It was just hilarious to see a French band who rarely makes to the Pacific Northwest say that and you had to love them for it.

The Show ended with a glorious rendition of “1901” that had everyone hopping up and down, myself included. Afterwards Thomas Mars reappeared at the back of the room surfing the crowd back to the stage. Colin was definitely part of that but I basically just reached my hand in for a touch… But not in any sexual way. It seemed surprising that Phoenix was playing such a small venue but it in the long term I’m glad they did.

Set List

Long Distance Call






Love Like A Sunset

Napoleon Says

Too Young

Consolation Prizes


Funky Squaredance


Everything is Everything

If I Ever Feel Better


Hmm that guy in the upper right hand corner looks familiar.

Colin’s Top Ten Movies of 2009

I think this post should wrap up our sporadic series of lists that have dominated this blog for the last month. Now we can finally get on with 2010. Anyway, I only saw a handful of movies this year that I really embraced, and a lot that were pretty good but didn’t quite blow me away or anything.

Honorable Mentions:
(500) Days of Summer
The Hangover
Crazy Heart

10. Star Trek
I’ve never really considered myself a Star Trek fan, but I’ve always had respect for the franchise. That’s probably why I enjoyed this slick updated version of the original Star Trek series as it makes for a satisfying popcorn movie for the non-die hard trekkies as well as a film that does a great job of breathing new life into these iconic characters. Sure, the second half isn’t nearly as thrilling of the first half, but Star Trek still made for one of the year’s best blockbusters, and gives a nice rebirth to a franchise that’ll have me looking forward to any subsequent installments.

9. Up
Pixar set the bar extremely high with last year’s Wall-E, and although Up may fall a little short in comparison, it’s still makes for another breathtaking piece of storytelling. Much like Star Trek it suffers a little from a weaker second half, but the sentiment and visual richness of the film are still undeniable. It’s also a little unfortunate that the film pretty much peaks within the first 10 minutes, but I’m not sure how any film could top the emotional resonance of the opening sequence of this movie.

8. Adventureland
I’m not sure that most people where quite as charmed by this movie as me, maybe it has to do with the fact that it pays so many homages to one of my favorite eras in music. But I think there’s certainly more to this film than that, as Greg Matolla creates a surprisingly fresh and personal take on the coming of age story while giving us a nice mix of comedy and heartfelt romance.

7. Avatar
My opinion on Avatar probably resides somewhere between Sean and John’s. Yes, it’s not a terribly original or inventively executed story, but I still found myself getting swept up in the visual complexity of the film, as well as the whole spirit of the thing. I’m still amazed each week when I see that Avatar still has remained number 1 at the box office, I guess James Cameron just knows how to make a shitload of money.

6. Precious
This is a story that’s certainly bleak, but it really hit me where it counts, and I think that’s the most you can ask for in a story like this. Gabourey Sibide and Mo’Nique give remarkable performances, as the film give us a devastating look into the lives of these most compelling characters. It’s one of those films that managed to bring me out of my comfort zone, but in a completely imersive and satisfying way.

5. A Serious Man
This has quickly become one of my favorite films in the Coen brothers’ canon. It’s just fascinating the way the Coens take on all of these weighty themes, all while doing it such a wholly original way that only the Coens could pull off. The film also has an uncharacteristically personal touch as it finds them grappling with their own religious demons in their own strange, offbeat way.

4. Where The Wild Things Are
Going in to this movie I wasn’t sure what to expect. It seemed that the overwhelming concencus I had heard was that it was visually stunning, but kinda boring. Honestly I don’t know how more people weren’t able to get completely absorbed in the childlike emotion and wonderment of this movie. Spike Jonze truly captures a great deal of adventure as well as tenderness in this film. However, I’d definitely have to say it’s less a film for kids than a film for the kid in all of us.

3. Inglourious Basterds
This movie is simply a lot of fun, and another great example of Quentin Tarantino’s knack for reinventing genres. There’s plenty of Tarantino’s signature dialogue, and he manages to top himself with some of his most brilliantly executed scenes yet. There’s really no argument for whether Christoph Waltz should win the best supporting actor Oscar, he steals every scene he’s in and manages to create about as entertaining a villain as you could ask for.

2. The Hurt Locker
Definitely a film everybody should see, as it’s easily the definitive document of the Iraq War so far. However, at it’s heart it’s an action movie and a damn good one. Kathryn Bigelow manages to create some incredibly intense sequences, while also being able to really pull you into the world and mindset of the common soldier. I would have no problem with The Hurt Locker ending up being the big winner at the Oscars, it’s certainly an important achievement any way you look at it.

1. Up In The Air
This is a film that wasn’t hard at all for me to embrace, and I’m sure is one I’ll be coming back to in years to come. George Clooney anchors this film in the way only a performer of his charms and talents could, but the film also gets a great deal of it’s heart and soul from it’s magnificent supporting cast. This is an impressively mature work from Jason Reitman and one that manages to capture the uncertainy of the age we live in while still giving us plenty of warmth and optimism along the way.

John’s Top Ten Movies of 2009

I didn’t see a lot of really great flicks in 09′ but as usual the tale end of the year brought a few gems. Nothing good enough to add to my “Favorite Film’s of the 2000s” list but it’s all too new in my mind. One thing I do know is I’ll definitely be prepared for the Oscars this year.

Honorable Mention
A Serious Man – Recently added this to my “Honorable Mentions” as my appreciation for it continues to grow. It’s highly unconventional but it’s got such an original feel to it and Michael Stuhlbarg steals the show.

Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans – Nicholas Cage’s manic over-the-top performance is reason enough to see this movie. If only it didn’t wrap up in such a bland finale.

District 9 – Excellent docudrama style debut from Neill Blomkamp. Sharlto Copely could and should have a nice acting career ahead of him after playing the sympathetic hero. Convincing effects tied up in some great sci-fi action.

Watchmen – It’s almost as if this film has been completely forgotten. I thought it was damn impressive back in March and was deeply immersed. Ambitious in style and content, I really just need to see it again to see how I feel about now.

10. The Hangover
Not quite as hilarious or outrageous with my second viewing but still a great comedy nonetheless. Who would of thought that a so-so director and a small time cast could pull off such a blockbuster? Zach Galifianakis (I’m not even going to attempt to spell check that) is the obvious breakout star (don’t ask me why Bradley Cooper’s career has taken off) but everybody has their moments… Even Mike Tyson. Maybe watching it with my mom present in the room wasn’t the best setting for a second viewing but I still found a great deal enjoyable. By the way she thought it was kind of funny but too much of a guy movie, I think that’s completely understandable

9. Precious
Sometimes I have trouble watching such heavy handed dramas but I was surprised to find in all of the film’s brooding subject matter, shined little glimpses of hope and happiness. Precious is an intimate and immensely moving film worth seeing for the outstanding performances (even Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz aren’t bad.) Mo’nique has already been given overwhelming acclaim for her performance as the cruel overbearing mother but I was just as impressed by the debut from star Gabourey Sidibe. It may sound like a hard film to watch for it’s controversial subject matter but I assure you that you won’t regret it.

8. Bruno
An onslaught of non-stop jokes, I applaud Sacha Baron Cohen’s fearlessness which results in more laughs than I can count. Bruno is dumb fun at it’s most extreme level and I just couldn’t and still can’t get enough of it. I watched it again (special features included) last November and was amazed by how much I enjoyed it. It’s an odd choice for a “Top Ten of the Year” list but I won’t deny my fondness for Austria’s biggest celebrity since Hitler.

7. Inglourious Basterds
Slick, stylish and unconventional (You know typical Tarantino), Inglorious Basterds is like a B-movie but pumped full of great performances, a good story and countless tributes to cult cinema. It’s got all of Q.T’s known trademarks so it’s not surprising that it’s quite unlike any war movie I’ve ever seen. It drags a little in spots, I mean Quentin can get kind of self indulgent with dialogue sometimes but it’s all in good fun. It’s worth checking out to see Christoph Waltz’s as the strangely likable villain “Hans Landa”.

6. The Hurt Locker
I’ll need to see it again but The Hurt Locker was easily one of the best war themed movies I’ve seen in a long time. A strikingly real feeling (probably due to the fact that it was filmed in the Middle East) with strong performances from a group of skilled character actors. There’s some pretty damn tense scenes here, remember the “Sniping Part”? That’s got to be the most nerve-wracking sniper scene I’ve ever seen. It’s high adrenaline and has no shortage of drama. It would appear this flick is the frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars and I have no problem with that.

5. Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi’s return to his roots is gooey, zany, thrill ride. There’s just not enough slapstick horror movies but I guess it would be hard to imagine any other director taking on such an obserd sub-genre. Some good scares and good laughs, it’s full on popcorn entertainment at it’s finest. It’s good to see that fame and success haven’t gone to Sam’s head but we’ll see what happens when he tackles that World of Warcraft project.

4. The Road
Perhaps the most underrated movie of the year. It’s brief limited release didn’t help but I was surprised there wasn’t much talk about this emotional post-apocalyptic thriller. Viggo Mortensen and the young Kodi Smit-McPhee are quite believable in the role of father and son and I’m shocked their names haven’t come up now that were in award season… Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a popularity contest. Anyhow I loved the strikingly realistic settings of a world gone downhill and the story although simple is incredibly engaging.

3. Avatar
What looks like it’s on it’s way to being the most bankable movie of all time is also the most entertaining of 2009. A mind blowing visual smorgasbord with no shortage of action or beauty, or even a single dull moment. Being entertained is in my opinion the most important thing a movie can accomplish and this did not disappointment. Really all that’s holding it back is a lack of originality in the concept. We’ve seen plenty of movies that are your typical “Man learns to embrace nature” and what not but I guess it’s a plus that Avatarblows all of those film’s out of the water technically. This will forever be remembered as a landmark in film effects and technology.

2. Up in the Air
Ahh George Clooney, he really is the Cary Grant of this generation. A highly skilled actor who can’t be beat on charm, George Clooney leads a talented cast in this fascinating dramedy from the unstoppable Jason Reitman. An inventive take on a unique occupation leads to no end of silly situations and downbeat misunderstandings. It’s got heart and it reaches you on a deeper level which is something that can be hard to come by.

1. Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart is by no means a perfect film, taking a light approach to what could of been a much darker drama but I don’t think I walked out of any other movie this year with such a feeling of satisfaction and joy. Jeff Bridges warm performance combined with his lazy charm makes Bad Blake one of the best characters of his career. Though it may not of worked if it wasn’t for the outstanding score, most notably the main theme “The Weary Kind”. I loved all the concert scenes and especially Jeff Bridges playing off a solid cast featuring the likes of; Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall. It was a true feel good experience for me and I still got some of the tunes stuck in my head, one of the best movies about music of the 2000s.

Sean’s Top Ten Movies of 2009

At this point we’re really late, as 2009 has become a distant memory. I’ve been engaging Colin in a face-off over who should begin our final top tens of last year, but all signs point to me. So, as I’m sitting here, at work, where I’m supposed to help students with Final Cut, I figured I’d get this thing started.

Honorable Mentions
District 9
Funny People

10. Avatar
Here’s the thing, Avatar was like a ride. A fun, memorable, incredible visit to the amusement park that is James Cameron’s mind. As a film, it’s not well-written or particularly interesting. In fact, it’s rather obvious and full of painful plot holes. To the point where it’s hard to believe he had like a decade and this was the best script the mastermind behind Terminator 2 could come up with. But as a visual feast for the eyes, it is damn near unparalleled. Nothing makes a better case for 3D technology than this movie. It’s really great to watch. What’s even more remarkable is the digital effects. I mean, Sigourney Weaver’s avatar looks like her. There are plenty of scenes that I’m sure are entirely animated, and yet they are totally compelling. That’s quite the feat. It’s no wonder this movie has done so well in theaters. It’s just a shame that it will be worthless outside of them.

9. Sugar
What’s most striking about the latest from the team behind Half Nelson is, just like Precious, it’s scary just how plausible a movie it is. Sugar is the story of a young Dominican man’s experiences as he tries to make his way to the MLB. The use of real Dominican ballplayers adds a lot of credibility to the performances, and make the baseball scenes pretty entertaining. Since baseball became such a big part of my life in 2009, more than ever before really, and the Mariners had a really memorable season, I’d definitely be remiss if this great picture didn’t make the cut. But that certainly doesn’t mean this film’s appeal is limited to baseball fanatics. There’s enough real human drama to keep even the nerdiest audience entertained.

8. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fantastic Mr. Fox got a little lost in the George Clooney blitz that hit at the end of last year. Even though The Men Who Stare at Goats was the one that no one liked. I’m a sucker for Wes Anderson. That said, his last two movies haven’t grabbed me like his others did. Fantastic Mr. Fox is pretty amazing visually, and story wise it’s full of plenty of that dry wit that I expect from Anderson. It seems like I should have been a total sucker for this movie, but for whatever reason I wasn’t. I liked it. I respect it. But I don’t love it. I won’t be desperate to get the DVD as soon as it comes out. Perhaps I’m finally moving on from Wes Anderson, like so many critics did a couple films ago.

7. A Serious Man
The Coens simply make interesting movies. A Serious Man isn’t the next No Country for Old Men, but it’s not the next Burn After Reading either. It’s its own interesting entity, worthy of revisiting and analyzing. The performances here are very strong, and cinematically it’s quite pretty. I don’t really know what to say beyond that this movie is really interesting. There’s a lot going on that is not explicitly explained, and it’s fun to think about it and make connections. And that ending, my God. That has to be one of the most incredible last shots I’ve ever seen. How they could write a story like this boggles my mind. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to good writing and A Serious Man has more layers to it than I could ever count.

6. Where the Wild Things Are
We got at least three really sophisticated children’s movies in 2009. Up was full of heart, Fantastic Mr. Fox was fun and Where the Wild Things Are had so much going on it probably is best enjoyed by a more grown up audience. This is a complex look at what it’s like to be a kid, full of all the rage, sadness, and fun that entails. And it’s also got a really great visual style. And it’s got a pretty good soundtrack. And that trailer for the movie was amazing. Spike Jonze totally knocked this one out of the park. There were a number a really memorable movies in 2009. Precious comes to mind, but that is a movie I don’t have the willpower to revisit. Where the Wild Things Are not only was amazing in theaters, but I’d like to check it out again.

5. Moon
I’m always looking out for my boy Sam Rockwell. That’s not true. I haven’t seen most of his movies. But I have seen Galaxy Quest, and he was pretty good in that. Good enough that I like it when he’s in movies. Duncan Jones decided to let Rockwell have a whole movie pretty much entirely to himself, and he did not disappoint. But beyond Rockwell’s great performance, it’s also got Kevin Spacey’s best performance in years. Moon is a really solid psychological science fiction movie that totally was worth seeing twice in theaters.In two different countries. On two different continents. Yeah, I actually did do that. I think that’s cool. But other people are going to say I’m a fool for wasting precious time in London in a cinema. Screw those people.

4. Star Trek
I’ve always had a mild interest in Star Trek. I’ve seen the movies, some of the shows. When they recast the original crew for a new movie, I was like, why do that? Why not just tell the story of another crew? They’ve got all of the future to play with. They’re just going to piss Trekkies off. And they wrote a movie to avoid that. Up until Kirk gets marooned on Hoth, the new Star Trek is an incredible, action-packed ride. After that sad shift to exposition, it does lose some steam. But my God is that first part one hell of a ride. And it’s not like the movie got bad or anything, it just went in a less than desirable direction. Look, I’m always going to be a sucker for a good sci fi ride, and Star Trek is one of the best.

3. Up in the Air
Jason Reitman has consistently been putting out good movies his whole career. He likes to tell the stories of people flourishing under circumstances most of us would dread. Up in the Air is his best movie yet. Yes, it is very timely. But this movie is bigger than that. It’s emotionally involving. It’s funny. George Clooney is acting just about as well as he can, and he sure is suave. The leading ladies more than match Clooney’s performance too. I’ve seen each film in my top 5 twice now, and they all hold up really well. That was most surprising to me with this movie, since Juno didn’t seem that great the second time around. I guess that’s the difference between a movie that relies a little too heavily on goofy dialogue and a movie that has real heart.

2. The Hurt Locker
We’ve been waiting for a great movie about the war in Iraq. We’ve gotten close a couple times, but we hadn’t quite had that movie yet. The Hurt Locker is the movie we’ve been waiting for. On one level, this is the best action movie of the year. The disposal scenes are ridiculously thrilling. Remember the first time you saw James go on his first mission with the team? It just keeps ramping up, first they can’t find the guys that made the call. Then James just walks in there and throws up a smoke screen. Then that driver comes flying in. Then James finds the IED. Then, uh oh, it’s a freaking daisy chain. And there’s that great scene at the UN building. And that sniper battle, holy shit. On another level, it tells an interesting story about good soldiers and the problems they face in a modern war. Is there anything more astounding than that shot of James on the cereal aisle? This is a good ass movie.

1. Inglourious Basterds
If Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece is not everybody’s number one, I don’t know what I’ll do. Inglorious Basterds is amazingly well-written. What it does with language alone is mind-boggling. As Tarantino points out on the special features, WWII was the last time a whole bunch of white people got together for a war. It was the last time that clothes, language and mannerisms could mean the difference between life and death. And he shows us that with some amazing, dangerously tense sequences. That first scene in France. The scene at the bar. The whole ending of the movie. It’s just magnificent. Well done, sir. Well done.

Transference: More Than Meets the Eye

Spoon – Transference

I think we still need to coordinate for when we do our “Best Films of 2009” I’m ready but until than I’ve got plenty to write about. Were still in the first month of the new year and I’ve already listened to a handful of albums worth discussing. Most notably releases from Vampire Weekend and Spoon, I’ll concentrate on established indie rockers Spoon for today’s entry.

For anyone who reads this blog you’ll remember that I declared Spoon’s last album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga as my favorite album of the last decade. Does that mean my expectations where high for album number seven? Actually no, I mean what more could I ask for? I like Spoon, I like a lot of their songs but when it comes to full length albums, I’ve always felt that they often don’t live up to their full potential. Like they have trouble separating the truly great tracks from just messing around in the studio. With the release of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon reached new levels of pop/rock song-writing expertise and although this release is no where near as impressive, it’s still well on the higher end of Spoon releases.

Spoon’s still doing what they do best on Transference and that’s creating unique arrangements with often the most minimalistic approach. The songs aren’t as memorable as on album number six but they have their moments. Founding members Britt Daniels and drummer Jim Eno take a bare bones approach to producing, even swaying occasionally into low-fi waters. There’s a compelling use of both vocal and guitar effects applied to this new batch of tunes and always results into something completely original.

I kind of miss the lack of radio friendly singles but that doesn’t mean these songs aren’t entertaining in their own way. “Before Destruction” is a great opener with it’s moody acoustic sound and it’s followed by another one of my favs the short and sweet “Is Love Forever?”. Tracks like “The Mystery Zone” or “Written in Reverse” are nice additions but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think they wore out their welcome after awhile. “Trouble Comes Running” is easily my favorite track on the album and feels like it could of belonged on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It’s spunky, poppy and catchy… I hope to hear that one blasted on the airwaves if it’s ever released as a single (Strangely enough “Written in Reverse” was the debut single.)

So it’s good, not great and basically what I expected. I’m glad to see that Spoon remains to be experimental with their releases and will always be intrigued by their future plans.

Favorite Tracks: “Beyond Destruction”, “Is Love Forever?”, “Trouble Comes Running”

The Lovely Boned

The Lovely Bones

Let’s go back to some time last summer when trailers for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones were first revealed. It looked promising with all it’s big budget eye candy and a concept that although strange was unique. I remember folks on the intertube figured this would be a contender for awards season and why not? It’s Peter Jackson the guy who made one of the greatest epic films of all time. A lot of people seemed to have high hopes for this project early on simply because of the man behind it, I know I did. So when reviews finally came in as overwhelmingly negative I was like “Could it really be that bad? Could New Zealand’s favorite son really spend so much time and money on such a dud?” Well after seeing it I was definitely disappointed, primarily for the reason that I could feel the embers of much better movie lost in all the madness.

Coming off of the success of King Kong not to mention some movie about Hobbits or something, Peter Jackson could of made any movie he wanted. With his success I’m sure he could of got any kind of budget he desired, so in a way it was kind of daring to take on such an unconventional story. Adapting Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones definitely sounds like a neat idea on the surface but then you start to think “Is this really the kind of story that you can translate to the screen?” A movie about the murder of a young girl in the 70s who spends the duration of the story watching over her family in a dreamworld like afterlife? What’s she gonna do the whole movie? Well unfortunately that was the biggest problem, the fancy effects laden afterworld was as dull as Dilbert.

The movie started out promising, Peter Jackson does a fantastic job of transporting as back to the swingin’ seventies and the film builds some fantastic suspense leading up to young Susie’s murder. I was really enjoying myself for the first ten or fifteen minutes but that soon faded as we then followed Susie wandering around some hollow and occasionally cheesy world between worlds. On one end we have Susie wandering through an angelic dreamworld while on the other end, we have her family struggling through intense hardship as her father works intently with Christopher from The Sopranos to solve the mystery of her death. It’s like were repeatedly caught up in intense confrontations and then completely taken out of it to watch Susie sledding or dancing… It’s totally off balance.

The only true thing that keeps this movie alive are the performances. I’ve really liked Saoirse Ronan since her breakout role in Atonement and she’s definitely gifted in the role of Susie Salmon. Rachel Weisz is okay but Marky Mark is actually pretty solid… But if any high praise must be given it goes to Stanley Tucci who is incredibly engaging as Susie’s twisted killer. I’ve always loved Stanley Tucci even when he’s in some sappy melodrama, I’m just drawn to his performances. Stanley Tucci is basically what kept me going through this 2 hour and 15 minute melodramatic misfire.

It’s a real shame to see Peter Jackson drop the ball but even so I’m not sure that it deserves all the flack it’s been getting. Yeah it’s a mess and it’s pretty inconsistent but there’s some good scenes and the performances are entertaining. I haven’t lost faith in Peter Jackson but I’m certainly going to be a little more cautious about walking into one of his movies from now on.

Crazy On You

Crazy Heart

Don’t mean to interrupt the flow of things but I had to review this at some point. With the Bridgeman’s win at the Golden Globes last night it seems like now is as good a time as ever to do this, so what are we waiting for?

I’ve been giving out a lot of high marks lately to films like Avatar and Up in the Air, both great but I might have to reassess some of these when I end up doing my end of the year list… But one thing I know for sure is that I absolutely loved this film, both for it’s powerful lead performance and excellent Rock/Country soundtrack.

My first reaction to the trailers to Crazy Heart were something around the lines of “Woah it’s like The Wrestler but with a washed up country star.” I mean it’s a fair comparison, both feature once great men who once had their moment in the sun but have since then faded and are fighting for a comeback. Although Crazy Heart doesn’t quite have the dramatic presence or power of The Wrestler it has it’s darker moments. True it tends to waver on the “Feel Good” side of the drama but it’s always nice to get movie this time of year that’s not a complete downer. It’s not like it’s Hallmark Schmaltzy but it’s definitely lighter than your typical awards bound fare.

Screen vet Jeff Bridges plays country musician Bad Blake. Once a successful recording artist, Bad’s career has since been reduced to playing in bars and bowling alleys, not to mention he hasn’t written a new song in years. Troubled by alcoholism and poor health, Bad finds a little slice of happiness when he meets journalist Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), naturally a connection forms and soon enough things seem to look up for Bad, if he can control his demons.

It’s a familiar setup and I’m sure some wont care much for the typical “Older dude falls in love with attractive young woman” plot device but I enjoyed that. I mean I think it makes plenty of sense, Bad is a celebrity. So initially she’s enamored with the legend of Bad which leads to her getting to know him and then falling for him. I believe the romance here and it leaves for a very sweet movie.

But I think the real applause must go to the excellent soundtrack from primarily rocker T-Bone Burnett. I didn’t expect the tunes to wow me much (not being much of a country fan) but they did and I’m still considering buying the soundtrack when it comes out. It’s really more of that bluesy kind of country popularized by the likes of music outlaws like; Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, so I’m not embarrassed to like it. Jeff Bridges has a mighty fine singing voice and he even plays his own guitar which is always a plus for me. Colin Farrel doesn’t have a bad voice either as Bad’s former protege the now famous country star Tommy Sweet. The main theme “The Weary Kind” is an excellent acoustic ballad and even took home best song at the Golden Globes last night. I thought I heard somewhere that it couldn’t be submitted to the Oscars… Isn’t that crazy? I mean if the last two winners for “Best Original Song” at the Golden Globes weren’t even nominated at the Oscars?

Anyways I really loved the feel good simplicity of this film. Does Jeff deserve an oscar for it? I don’t know he’s certainly good but it’s a fairly subtle performance. Jeff Bridges has always been one of the great “under-actors” where it seems like he’s not even acting, he’s just that character. That takes a lot of skill so hopefully that will continue to be acknowledged.