Colin Wessman

Summer Music Catch-Up: Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

I was pretty sure I was already Phoebe Bridgers fan, but I still needed a little convincing. Unlike her bandmates in Boygenius, I hadn’t entirely fallen for her solo work yet, as much as I loved the title of Bridgers’ debut Stranger In The Alps. Still, I liked the songs she wrote on Boygenius’s EP while it seemed fair to give Bridgers some leeway seeing as she’s still a pretty new presence in the indie rock world, if one who’s brimming with potential. Thankfully, Punisher gave me that little push over the edge into Phoebe Bridgers fandom, as it’s a great vehicle for her melancholy little songs while also occasionally hinting at more grandiose gestures. Continue reading

Summer Music Catch-Up: RTJ4

Run The Jewels – RTJ4

This actually was an album I got to talk about a little bit before the onset of Criterion Month, since I gave it a Little Pick shout-out the week after it was released. However, RTJ4 is such an earth-shatteringly awesome album that I feel the need to give it a little more love. When the album was first released a week after the George Floyd killing, it felt like the perfect soundtrack to the summer’s protests against racism and police brutality. While Run The Jewels’ political commentary is one of the more potent aspects of their work here, there’s plenty else to enjoy considering this might be the album I’ve come back to the most this summer. Continue reading

Summer Music Catch-Up: Rough and Rowdy Ways

Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

The past two years in late June, I’ve posted lengthy catch-ups featuring bite-size reviews of albums that I hadn’t gotten around to reviewing by the year’s mid-point. I didn’t do that this year because there just weren’t that many albums that I had much to say about that I hadn’t already mentioned on this blog in one way or another. But then right before and all through July, a bunch of albums came out that I really liked. So, now that we’ve taken a little break from posts in the aftermath of Criterion Month, I’ll try to keep that review-a-day energy rollin’ by reviewing a recent album each day this week. I’ll start off with the one that I probably have the most thoughts on… Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 29: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is another Criterion Month film that proves that sometimes it’s best to go into these types of movies knowing as little possible. While I was well aware that the film was critically acclaimed upon its release — most prominently by A.O. Scott and the Cannes Film Festival — I was less aware of why it was acclaimed. Considering it was a movie about abortion during the final days of communism’s grip over Eastern Europe, I was expecting it to be fairly grim and harrowing. Though I would say it is those things to an extent, I wasn’t expecting it to also be thrilling and genuinely suspenseful in a way that ended Criterion Month on an exciting note for me, rather than on a sad whimper. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 25: A Brighter Summer Day

A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

On our Criterion picks podcast, John challenged me to write our longest Criterion review yet of A Brighter Summer Day, since it appears to be the longest film we’ve reviewed for any Criterion Month so far. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to muster up that kind of insight after being a little exhausted spending nearly four hours finishing this film in time to review it. Still, there is a lot to unpack in this film that feels both very specific to its time and place and yet as universally human as you would want any coming-of-age film to be. But most importantly, it absolutely earns its nearly 4-hour running time, as I’m not sure that the emotional catharsis it provides at its conclusion would be quite as potent if it hadn’t spent that much time building up its world and characters. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 18: My Brilliant Career

My Brilliant Career (1979)

With some prominent actors, you do end up asking the question “where did they come from?” This was something I often wondered with Judy Davis, though I suppose the literal answer to this question was of course “Australia”. She’s the kind of character actress that has always seemed like a bit of an odd fit for American films, though also seemed to be respected for reasons that weren’t obvious to me. However, all of these questions became abundantly clear after watching My Brilliant Career, a coming-of-age tale that saw Davis giving an effortlessly brilliant, career-making performance. Ugh, that felt a little too close to Gene Shalit territory (sometimes Criterion Month feels longer than a month, my friends). Anyways, you could also say the film had a similar effect on the career of director Gillian Armstrong, another Aussie who has also had a long and interesting career that has often flirted with Hollywood.

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Criterion Month Day 17: Mikey and Nicky

Mikey and Nicky (1976)

The 1970s tend to get romanticized among cinephiles (myself included) as this unprecedented time in mainstream American filmmaking, where this new generation of directors were freed from the traditional shackles of studio filmmaking to make something truly radical. While I think that is true in some sense, you do have to take into account that the film industry was still a business. So even though more unconventional dramas like Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon were allowed a place in multiplexes alongside Airport and Earthquake, these maverick directors were still beholden their studios. I would say Elaine May was far from a typical New Hollywood director, but it seems that her tussles with the studio over the release of Mikey and Nicky seem pretty reflective of that era. Continue reading