Quarantine Film Diary: Until the End of the World (1991)

Until the End of the World

Until the End of the World

Wim Wenders’ 5-hour-long, “ultimate road trip” film, Until the End of the World is something of a semi-dated curiosity. It portrays a rather startling prevision (from 1991) of what the future (in the film, 1999) would be like, with our omnipresent, audiovisual connection to the rest of the world via technology, and it also contains a kind of bleeding-heart romanticism for the power of dreams and the human subconscious that seems totally out of place in our Tik-Tok culture, nowadays.

The film takes its sweet time in getting to the point. It was shot on 4 continents and in numerous countries. The story doesn’t really coalesce until hour 3 or so. The rest of everything up to that point has been a roundabout traipsing through Earth and humanity, as though the world were a backdrop. Solveig Dommartin and William Hurt and Sam Neill and many more capable actors decamp from city to city, from country to country. Early on, I gave up on the idea that the film was a metaphor and just began to take it on its own terms.

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What may have passed as a treacly, humanistic meditation, in 1991, on the frailty of mankind and the seductive power of dreams, has now, unfortunately, transmuted into an eerily-prescient commentary on our current, 2020, COVID-19 pandemic society. Cut off from our fellow man, how can we be reasonably certain that we know the world won’t just spiral into chaos? Can humanity be trusted? Could it be possible to simply accept our circumstances, here and now, and make the best of things with one another, striving for peace? Or will the destructive desire for us to retreat into our introverted, inner worlds destroy what last hope we have of collaborating on a society and a reality worth living in? I may never watch this film again, but I am not sorry that I did, if only just once.

P.S. the soundtrack is awesome.

Fast Film Analysis: Targets (1968)

Targets 1

Targets (1968)

Written & Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Boris Karloff, Tim O’Kelly, Peter Bogdanovich, and Nancy Hsueh. And a bonus star, if you can spot him: Jack Nicholson, appearing in the film-within-the-film The Terror (1963), directed by Roger Corman and also starring Boris Karloff.

Targets is the confident and bold directorial debut of cinematic wunderkind Peter Bogdanovich. Frank Marshall cameos in the picture, as well as assuming second unit directorial duties. Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes for The Terror, featured extensively in this picture. The aforementioned Jack Nicholson appears on a drive-in cinema screen. All of this is incidental data.

What makes Targets so unforgettable, is its sense of inexorable conflict. There is a slow, placid, laconic pacing to the film that belies its central conceit: that film(s) can evoke real emotions in us mortals. The legends on screen may be untouchable, larger-than-life, and capable of making us forget the reality of our shared existence, and yet they’re played by human beings. Those human beings are frail, they age, they fade into obscurity, and they die. But the power of performance, as immortalized on film, is capable of transcending the grave.

All of this is to say, I’ve barely described the film. If you value the power of art and take special joy in the craft of filmmaking, then you should definitely see this. If not, you should still see it, because legends are made when fact meets fiction.

 

Year in Review 2019 – Top Films & TV

2019 saw the launch of The Criterion Channel and Disney+, a watershed moment for the availability of streaming content. While Disney clamps down and restricts, Criterion is out here making sure the masses have unfettered access to their fill of sacrilegious art-house cinema. Thanks in no small part to the no-holds-barred approach of Criterion, I present my favorite films (and TV) of 2019.

First up, TV:

11 Ken Burns National Parks

12. The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, a film by Ken Burns

Originally released in 2009, ten years ago, The National Parks is a love letter to one of America’s most enduring legacies. The stories of how close we’ve come, over the decades, to irrevocably losing places such as Yosemite Valley, The Grand Canyon, and the Grand Tetons, are quite simply astounding. This documentary miniseries is a testament to the value of Democratic principles in the face of human avarice. We must steward and preserve the Earth for future generations, and pass onto them the desire to continue to uphold such stewardship.

10 True Detective

11. True Detective: Season 3

Each season of True Detective has been a distinct, standalone story. Season 3 opted to create some more buzz and expectation by teasing and then overlapping with Season 1, in a way that I found both surprising and gratifying. This season told a much more intensely personal story, spanning multiple decades in the lives of its two leads, played by Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff. At its core, the show is about what the pursuit of justice looks like in the face of systemic opposition to the truth. How does one remain committed to truth and justice when pressure is applied from all sides to divert from and dilute objective reality? Part of the truth and reality that each one of us lives is rooted in our shared experiences and fellowship, though. For a pair of detectives, that fellowship can sometimes become subordinated to a system that is impersonal and disinterested in truth. True Detective could be seen as a series of guideposts out of the gloom of ignorance and despair. No deed done in the dark will not eventually be exposed by the light. But to be the one who shines a light in all of the inky darkness… that can be a daunting responsibility.

9 Tigtone

10. Tigtone: Season 1

What if you joined a D&D campaign run entirely by unscrupulous improv comedians and musicians from metal bands? Well, then you might come up with something like Tigtone. The product of an innovative animation technique which renders facial expressions through a kind of motion capture software and transposes it onto the character models, the show feels at once both bespoke and banal. An entertaining diversion with loads of creative talent behind it.

8 Invader Zim

9. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus

Invader Zim left the airwaves in 2004, and fifteen years later, returned with much fanfare to Netflix in the guise of a TV movie, Enter the Florpus. Comprised of an animated adaptation of a portion of the comic continuation of the series, which began in 2015 and continues to this day (and it’s HILARIOUS omg), Florpus easily re-enters the suburban malaise and drab, processed food dystopia of Zim. Not a whole lot has changed in the intervening years. Zim’s misguided lust for domination remains undiminished, as does Dib’s myopic obsession with the paranormal. What ensues is a classic battle replete with social commentary and slapstick hijinks that made me ROFL.

7 Silicon Valley

8. Silicon Valley: Season 6

The final season of one of the best comedies ever compiled. Without saying too much, I did feel that the poetic nature to the denouement of Pied Piper’s saga was pitch-perfect. The comedy equivalent of Chernobyl.

7 Good Omens

7. Good Omens

Based upon Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s much-beloved novel, originally published in 1990, Good Omens has languished in one form or another of development hell (heheh) for many years. At one point, Terry Gilliam was even attached to a film adaptation! In 2019, at long last, the novel was brought to life as an Amazon Original series. Christian Theology classes could and should be taught using it as a reference. I also did read the book this year, prior to viewing the miniseries, and found the adaptation to be very faithful to its source material.

6 The Venture Bros

6. The Venture Bros.: Seasons 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7

A show that owes a debt of exactly 2¢ to Johnny Quest and the bulk of the Hanna-Barbera canon of properties, The Venture Bros. is one of the best comedy series ever written, in my opinion. Years often go by between seasons, and so it was a pleasure to be able to binge it on Hulu. An erudite and also gut-bustingly juvenile show.

5 Chernobyl

5. Chernobyl

“What is the cost of lies?” muses Jared Harris’ character Valery Legasov in his audio-cassette memoirs, which he is in the process of recording as this series opens. “Where once I feared the cost of truth, now I only ask: what is the cost of lies?” is the text of the entire quote. A series that dramatizes a catastrophe of nearly unimaginable proportions, and one which occurred within my own lifetime, albeit on the other side of the world, Chernobyl is a cautionary tale about the dangers of waging a systemic war on expertise. The Soviet Union was a Communist bureaucracy in which only the most prejudicial and partisan actors routinely advanced. Actual experts, and those members of the population who were intelligent, thoughtful and benevolent, seldom rose to prominence within such a system. Eventually, the hubris and malpractice of the unqualified bad actors who were routinely promoted and elevated to “leadership” roles wound up producing a calamity on a scale the world had never seen, neither before nor since. I fear that the same effect can be measured in America in 2019. Just look at the turnover in the current Administration and at the exodus of career civil servants from Federal institutions. If we don’t reverse course, we run the same risk, or worse.

4 Ken Burns Vietnam War

4. The Vietnam War, a film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick

A haunting and damning and utterly exhaustive documentary presentation of the most ill-advised military conflict the United States has ever been involved in (so far, at least). The “Sunk Cost Fallacy” writ large and spanning decades. Over 16 hours in length, and originally released in 2017. The Vietnam War is both epic in scope and intimate in its humanity, and it is also illuminating as it pertains to the disillusionment we now face over the concept of “American Exceptionalism.”

3 What We Do in the Shadows Show

3. What We Do in the Shadows: Season 1

Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement mined a well-trodden concept for comedy gold with What We Do in the Shadows, a 2014 feature-film expansion of their short film from 2005.  With plenty of mileage to be had from this material – basically a mockumentary about a group of vampires hiding in plain sight in the modern world, the new TV series of the same name delivers so, so much more.

2 The Good Place

2. The Good Place: Season 4

The best show on primetime television.  The Good Place is a moral philosophy class taught by comedians, gallivanting around a Hollywood backlot to illustrate their lessons with levity and witty repartee. The final season will conclude in January 2020.

1 Watchmen

1. Watchmen: Season 1

I must admit, I had middling expectations for Watchmen. I knew, of course, that Damon Lindelof of LostThe Leftovers, and Prometheus repute was running the show. And I knew it was going to be on HBO, which usually bodes well for artistic freedom in storytelling. I did not expect to be so captivated by the series. Clocking in at only 9 episodes, “Season 1” (I have no idea whether there is any plan to produce subsequent seasons or what they would entail) is all at once a meticulously crafted homage to the original comic, and something altogether new. In addition, it writes the backstory for one of the only characters from the original comic whose fate remained unexplained. The religious iconography and imagery at play in the show, the juxtapositions of the pride and vanity of mankind with the seeming aloofness of any “higher power” and the bold exploration of deep racial animus, based in no small part upon real historical events, certainly gave me a lot to consider. I expect this show to age well.

0 The Expanse

0. The Expanse: Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 4

But wait! There’s one more show I have to crow about. I had long been meaning to check out The Expanse, and so, late last year, when I noticed that the first two seasons were available on Amazon Prime, I put it on. Needless to say, I haven’t before been so immediately hooked on a show quite as passionately as I have with this one. I actually re-watched the first two seasons with my wife, because I wanted to see what she thought of it. Then, Amazon not only announced that they had picked up the show after SyFy’s cancellation, but that they were producing the 4th season and the 3rd would soon be streaming. At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, I went to an Expanse panel brimming with Screaming Firehawks and featuring appearances of most all of the main cast, all of whom were gracious and shared the fans’ enthusiasm for the show. The Expanse is based upon a series of Science Fiction books by pseudonymous author James S.A. Corey, actually a collaboration between two authors: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. In 2020, I hope to dive into the book series and get a ahead of the show, in order to slake my lust for more.

And now, for the Films:

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Every one of these films were first seen by myself in the year 2019. Many of them were released years ago. Several are 50 years old. Without further ado:

15 Mother

15. Mother! (2017)

Darren Aronofksy’s films have always been fascinating to me, and I’ve seen them all. He has the tendency to get very, very metaphysical with his subject matter. Mother! might be the epitome of this trait. I knew nothing going into the film, other than having an expectation that it would be suitably intense and disturbing. I was not wrong. At the end, though, I found myself deeply appreciative of his filmmaking prowess in attempting to tell a story that, let’s face it, would be extremely difficult to deliver in a straightforward manner to a wide audience. In this film, he wants to create a specific impression that we could chat about philosophically for weeks, but in a way that grips the audience and manages to shift their perspective. I’ll happily re-watch it with anyone.

14 Midnight Cowboy

14. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

A classic, now, 50 years on, with both of its leads still alive and kicking. There is some kind of perverse poetry in knowing that Dustin Hoffman is now a 2 time Academy Award winner and revered thespian who has worked nonstop all these decades, and Jon Voight is a full-blown, Kool-Aid-quaffing 45 (“3”) acolyte. Guess which one was awarded the National Medal of Arts by an impeached U.S. President?  John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, an adaptation of a 1965 novel of the same name, by James Leo Herlihy, is a near-perfect slice-of-life of what America, and specifically New York City, was like in 1969. Taking place primarily in The Big Apple, the film plays like a collage of travel diary photos, despite telling a profoundly depressing story about two lonely drifters.

13 Paint Your Wagon

13. Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Hands-down one of the weirdest films I have ever seen in my entire life. Great music, a powerhouse cast, including Clint Eastwood in his one and only role in a musical, Paint Your Wagon has its sometimes scattershot storytelling elevated multiple echelons solely by Paddy Chayefsky’s fantastic dialogue writing and Lee Marvin’s inimitable prospector character, Ben Rumson. A story of the ugliness of manifest destiny glossed over as the dogged pursuit of the dream of human happiness. A film I found perplexing and double-take inducing, and yet, by the end, it had won my heart.

12 Hereditary

12. Hereditary (2018)

A cinematic master-class in psychological horror and clever storytelling, Hereditary also benefits from a singularly committed performance by one of its key leads, Toni Colette. Borrowing extensively from a pantheon of horror and suspense classics, this film unfolds with meticulous patience and is an exceedingly effective exercise in creeping dread. I watched it twice.

11 Deadpool 2

11 Once Upon a Deadpool

11. Deadpool 2 (2018) / Once Upon a Deadpool (2018)

I’ll be honest, I *really* did not expect to like Deadpool 2. I am pretty much 98.7% burnt-out on ALL superhero films at this point, and after watching the original film in all of its filthy glory, I figured the sequel would most likely be a parade of gross-out one-upmanship. Instead, the merc with a mouth, as played by Ryan Reynolds, gets a bona-fide sequel that surpasses its predecessor in every department. It’s funnier, it’s more savage with its comic tropes, it’s also more reverent with its comic tropes, it has really, really smart writing, Ryan Reynolds, etc. I watched it… four…  times (if you count twice viewing the PG-13 version with Fred Savage, Once Upon a Deadpool)

10 Stepfather

10. The Stepfather (1987)

Terry O’Quinn features in a performance that will turn your blood to ice water in this mid-80s suspense thriller that I had never heard of before. Well worth seeking out.

9 Oliver Twist

9. Oliver Twist (1948)

David Lean’s immaculately-composed adaptation of the classic Dickens story. Featuring an incredible cast, majestic lighting, and a timeless tale of rags to riches. How can you go wrong with Alec Guinness, appearing resplendently squalid in his potentially antisemitic makeup, as the conniving old fence, Fagin? One of many collaborations between Lean and Guinness. Last year, I viewed Lawrence of Arabia for the very first time, and in which Sir Alec plays… an arab, of course.

8 Gosford Park

8. Gosford Park (2001)

Robert Altman’s take on the quintessential country manor murder mystery. A powerhouse cast all around. Eat your heart out, Downton Abbey.

7 Bernie's

7. Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

Fittingly released at the end of the 80s, a decade marked by selfishness, greed and excess, Weekend at Bernie’s has aged really well, in my opinion. The film is a black comedy that aptly skewers various myths about wealth and success, and remains a cult classic.

6 Goodfellas

6. Goodfellas (1990)

Scorcese’s 29-year-old understudy to his sweeping mob epic, The Irishman. Telling another “based on true events” story about a man who commits numerous criminal acts under the mafia guises of “family” and “loyalty” before ultimately being forced to a reckoning. Featuring truly terrifying performances from Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro.

5 The Irishman

5. The Irishman (2019)

I’m not sure I can say many more eloquent things about this film that Guillermo del Toro hasn’t already said in this epic Twitter thread. The gangster mythos transmuted into hollow, empty torment. The ultimate end that unchecked, virulent machismo leads to. Anna Paquin deserves an award for what she simply does with her eyes in this film, boring holes through Robert De Niro’s soul.  Man as the ultimate corrupting influence over all that he touches.

4 Daniel Webster

4. The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

Based on an award-winning short story by Stephen Vincent Benét, starring Walter Huston and directed by William Dieterle, The Devil and Daniel Webster was released in U.S. theaters, originally titled as All That Money Can Buy, a mere two months prior to the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor and America’s subsequent entry into WWII. The real-life Daniel Webster was a famous American statesman and orator who represented New Hampshire and Massachusetts in Congress and served as Secretary of State under 3 U.S. Presidents. The film’s theme revolves around patriotism in America, even while it simultaneously delivers a rather naked rebuke of some of the darker events of American history. Mr. Scratch’s (Huston) final scene in the film will chill your bones.

3 Toy Story 4

3. Toy Story 4 (2019)

I did not know it would be possible for a fourth Toy Story film to move me, 24 years after the first one arrived on the scene and ushered us all into the hellscape of soulless CGI kids movies we dwell in today. At Pixar, they have a saying, “Story is King.” This entry in the franchise manages to keep that adage front and center, telling a delightful tale that goes an inch wide and a mile deep.

2 The Devils

2. The Devils (1971)

I have already written at length about this film. A novel adapted into a play adapted into a film, directed by the visionary Ken Russell, The Devils explores a simplistic religious premise staged within the Catholic tradition: devils exist in the world, they are bad, they cause evil and chaos, and therefore, we must drive them out. What the film does with this premise would have been fodder for G.K. Chesterton’s duo of ruminations, Heretics / Orthodoxy. However, as we might already glean from such works as The Crucible and The Mission, “the world is [not] thus… Thus, have we made the world.” Here is where The Devils paints a stark dichotomy between the fever dreams of spiritual possession and the incarnation of a truly Christian life, and the difference between outward piety and inward reverence. An opulent film with an intense subject matter.

1 Neighbor

1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Without a doubt the most emotionally charged film I watched this year. A balm for the soul. Fred Rogers truly left the world better for his being here. I look forward to seeing Tom Hanks wear the cardigan in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which was released last month.

That does it for 2019!

Except… for… one… more… film:

0 Knives Out 10 Knives Out 2

0. Knives Out (2019)

Rian Johnson’s first outing post-Star Wars is a delightful whodunit, populated, as these affairs often are, with a powerhouse cast of Hollywood stars. The morning after his 85th birthday celebration, renowned murder mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead, apparently by suicide from a self-inflicted knife wound. The rest of the movie unfolds from there. Wonderfully clever, populated with witty dialogue, and rife with intrigue and turmoil that feels as though it were ripped from your own contentious holiday family gatherings, Knives Out works superbly well both on the level of a classic Agatha Christie style mystery, and also as a kind of commentary on American culture in 2019. Bravo.

Honorable mention to: What We Left Behind, The Lobster, A Quiet Place, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Deliverance (1972), Brexit, The Addams Family, Cobra Verde (1987), Leaving Neverland, BlackKKlansmen, Night Moves (2013), The Perfection, The Killing Fields (1984), Isle of Dogs, Cape Fear, The Captain’s Paradise (1953), The Card (1952), The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Favourite, Blow Out (1981), Andre the Giant, Three Identical Strangers, and Active Measures.

Complete list of everything I was a couch potato for in 2019:

Regular = movie watched on a TV or other small screen device
BOLD = denotes theatrical viewing
Italic = denotes a “television series” or “mini series”
Underlined = denotes a short film (30 minutes or less)

  1. 11.22.63
  2. 1922
  3. Ace in the Hole (1951)
  4. Active Measures
  5. The Addams Family
  6. Addams Family Values
  7. Andre the Giant
  8. Annihilation
  9. Ant Man and The Wasp
  10. Aquaman
  11. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  12. Barry: Season 1
  13. BeerFest
  14. Better Call Saul: Seasons 1, 2, 3
  15. Black Narcissus (1947)
  16. BlackKKlansmen
  17. Bless the Harts: Season 1
  18. Blow Out (1981)
  19. Bob’s Burgers: Seasons 5 and 6
  20. Breaking Bad: Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
  21. Brexit
  22. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
  23. Burn After Reading
  24. Cape Fear
  25. The Captain’s Paradise (1953)
  26. The Card (1952)
  27. Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta (Castle in the Sky)
  28. Chernobyl
  29. Children of the Corn (1984)
  30. Clue (1985)
  31. Cobra Verde (1987)
  32. Cooties
  33. Crazy Rich Asians
  34. The Crimes of Grindelwald
  35. Deadpool 2 (x3)
  36. Deliverance (1972)
  37. The Devils (1971)
  38. The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  39. Discovering the De Kooning
  40. Disenchantment: Part 2
  41. Dream Corp, LLC: Season 1
  42. Dune (1984)
  43. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
  44. The Expanse: Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4
  45. Fargo
  46. Farscape: Seasons 3 & 4
  47. Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars
  48. The Favourite
  49. Frantic (1988)
  50. Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened
  51. Fyre Fraud
  52. Game of Thrones: Seasons 5, 6, 7, and 8
  53. Glass
  54. Goodfellas (1990)
  55. The Good Place: Seasons 3 and 4
  56. Good Omens
  57. Gosford Park
  58. The Haunting of Hill House: Season 1
  59. The Heart, She Holler: Season 1
  60. Hell on Earth – The Desecration & Resurrection of “The Devils” (2004)
  61. Hellboy (2019)

  62. Hereditary (x2)
  63. His Dark Materials: Season 1
  64. Hot Streets: Season 1
  65. Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl’s Moving Castle)
  66. In the Tall Grass
  67. Insidious: The Last Key
  68. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus
  69. The Irishman
  70. Isle of Dogs
  71. John Carter of Mars
  72. The Killing Fields (1984)
  73. Knives Out
  74. Leaving Neverland
  75. The LEGO Movie: Part 2
  76. The Letter (1940)
  77. The Little Foxes (1941)

  78. The Lobster
  79. Kurenai no buta (Porco Rosso)
  80. The Man in the White Suit (1951)
  81. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Fathom Events)
  82. The Mandalorian: Season 1
  83. Marathon Man (1976)
  84. The Mask
  85. Me, Myself and Irene
  86. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  87. Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke)
  88. Mommy Dead & Dearest
  89. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  90. Mother!
  91. Mortal Engines
  92. The Muppet Christmas Carol
  93. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

  94. The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
  95. Kaze no tani no Naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)
  96. Night Moves (2013)
  97. Night of the Hunter (1955)
  98. The Nun
  99. Old Joy
  100. Oliver Twist (1948)
  101. One Punch Man: Season 2
  102. Once Upon a Deadpool (x2)
  103. The Orville: Season 1
  104. Pacific Rim: Uprising
  105. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
  106. The Perfection
  107. The Pineapple Express
  108. The Predator (2018)
  109. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  110. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
  111. A Quiet Place
  112. Rampart
  113. Rick & Morty: Season 4
  114. The Righteous Gemstones: Season 1
  115. Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling
  116. Saving Mr. Banks
  117. A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 3
  118. A Serious Man
  119. The Shivering Truth: Season 1
  120. Silicon Valley: Season 6
  121. The Simpsons: Seasons 30 & 31
  122. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  123. South Park: Season 23
  124. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
  125. Spies Like Us
  126. Spongebob Squarepants: Seasons 2, 3, 4 and 5
  127. A Star is Born (2018)
  128. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Seasons 6 and 7
  129. Star Trek: Insurrection
  130. The Stepfather (1987)
  131. Steve Jobs
  132. Stranger Things: Season 3
  133. Tag
  134. There’s Something About Mary
  135. Three Identical Strangers
  136. Tigtone: Season 1
  137. Toy Story 4
  138. True Detective: Season 3
  139. Tuca & Bertie: Season 1
  140. Under the Silver Lake
  141. The Venture Bros. : Seasons 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7
  142. The Vietnam War
  143. Watchmen: Season 1
  144. Waking Ned Devine
  145. Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
  146. What We Do in the Shadows: Season 1
  147. What We Left Behind
  148. Omoide no Mânî (When Marnie Was There)
  149. Mimi wo sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart)
  150. The Witcher: Season 1

  151. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  152. The X-Files: Seasons 7, 8 and 9

2019 – The Year in Review – Top Albums & Songs

Yes, I managed to listen to over 120 albums in 2019. Streaming music subscription services can be a wonderful thing (for consumers, at least). Believe it or not, I still actually purchase music in physical formats, as well.  At any rate, distilling those 120+ albums down to a serviceable “list” of favorites was no mean feat. Behold, my Top Albums of 2019:

15 Peter Caws

15. Peter Caws & Parkington Sisters – The Book of Hylas

Sometimes, through weariness or discouragement, no new thing arises.
Sometimes, through pressure and anxiety, many old things overwhelm.
Learn to wait, for the stirring or for the subsiding.
Learn to wait, for the turmoil to be still, for the stillness to speak.
Let memory recall times of taking refuge, times of setting forth anew.
Bring to mind times of comfort or times of purpose.
You have passed this way before.
You have left markers along the way – look for them.

Peter Caws is University Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at The George Washington University. Fun fact: he is the father of Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws. The Book of Hylas is a set of meditations on life and how to live it, recited by the elder Caws, and set to music by Boston-based Parkington Sisters. Clocking in at 13 minutes, this is surely the shortest “album” I have ever short-listed for a Year In Review.

14 Vampire Weekend

14. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain
I just thought it didn’t rain in California

After a lengthy six year gap, Vampire Weekend returned with their long-awaited fourth LP, Father of the Bride. P4K says it showcases them embracing a full-on jam band vibe. I can’t disagree. Plenty of hooks and ear-worms are here to be pulled out of context, but the album works quite well as a whole. At once cheerful and lamentable.

13 The Get Up Kids

13. The Get Up Kids – Problems

It’s not about hopeless
Not a song of despair
Just about choices and making them fair

Their first album in 8 years, and second since “breaking up” in 2005 and then reforming in 2008, Problems finds The Get Up Kids right back at the height of their considerable powers. They haven’t lost the energy and creativity, although they may have lost one member. Another album that benefits from being experienced whole.

12 Sharon Van Etten

12. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Turning the wheel on my street
My heart still skips a beat

Sharon Van Etten has long been a hardworking supporting act and a talented and proficient solo artist. With Remind Me Tomorrow, she embraces a much broader palette than she employed in the past with her singer-songwriter chops. Production values are up, nostalgia and retro-electronic flourishes feature heavily, and her songwriting is ornamented and adorned in ways both unexpected and refreshing.

11 Bon Iver

11. Bon Iver – i,i

When we were children we were hell bent
Or oblivious at least
But now it comes to mind, we are terrified
So we run and hide for a verified little peace

Bon Iver has always been a superbly singular artist and his falsetto-whisper-croon lilt delivery a vehicle for inscrutable pathos and lonesome heartache. Justin Vernon has worked with some of the industry’s biggest names and yet has managed to carve a channel all his own. i,i in many ways feels like the natural continuation of his sonic odyssey, thus far. Lush and idiosyncratic, this is another album that benefits from whole immersion.

10 Angel Olsen

10. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

You know best, don’t you, now?
Don’t you, now? Don’t you, now?

Angel Olsen’s sweeping epic All Mirrors has aplomb and grandeur aplenty. Widescreen cinema balladry. Olsen delivers the goods.

9 Efterklang

9. Efterklang – Altid Sammen

My soul in that case, at times
Min sjæl i det bIå, til tider

We are in love now, we are in love
Vi er forelsket nu,  vi er forelsket

Always us, together to share us
Altid os, sammen om at dele os

We are infinite
Vi er uendelig

The Danish outfit’s fifth proper album, the first in seven years, is an ornate and densely-layered work. Altid Sammen (meaning “always together”) is replete with orchestral arrangements and exiguous sonic experimentation. The album is sonorous and rewards total immersion. The vocals are entirely in Danish. I have no idea what they’re singing about.

8 Nick Cave

8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

And if we rise my love
Before the daylight comes
A thousand galleon ships will sail
Ghostly around the morning sun

Without a doubt the most emotionally gut-wrenching release of the year. A 2xLP exegesis on grief and mortality. Nick Cave’s most personal work, ever. Simply devastating.

7 Bibio

7. Bibio – Ribbons

Pretty ribbons
And lovely flowers

Stephen Wilkinson is back with his signature blend of acoustic instrumentation and digital warble, creating arrangements in much the same fashion I imagine a skilled florist does. Exceedingly chill and carefree, Ribbons is an album that practically begs to be the soundtrack to your next nature hike.

6 Mountain Goats

6. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

I’m gonna burn it all down today
And sweep all the ashes away

The Mountain Goats play D&D. That’s it. That’s the review.

5 Townes Van Zandt

5. Townes Van Zandt – Sky Blue

Oh but when good times
Come fallin’ over me
Breath turns to melody
All I need’s gonna fall
Away like dreams

A collection of new material, old material, and a few covers originally recorded with Bill Hedgepeth in 1973, Sky Blue is a welcome addition to the prolific troubadour’s back catalogue. An artist I first came to hear and revere by way of T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers, Townes Van Zandt remains a legend of American Country Western music. His writing is poetry that exists on another plane of existence, and yet remains as weary and grizzled as the most down-to-earth Texas troubadour, busking his way across the American Southwest.

4 Big Thief UFOF

4. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.

And you don’t need to know why when you cry
You don’t need to know why
You don’t need to know why when you cry

The first of two albums they would release in 2019, U.F.O.F. finds Adrienne Lenker not letting off the gas, ever traveling forward. This album was recorded in a large, cabin-like room. This is a band to watch over… watch over and marvel.

3 Bombadil

3. Bombadil – Beautiful Country

Suzy don’t forget
Forget to move on

Bombadil have previously featured on my Year in Review lists on more than a few occasions. This year they dropped a brand spanking new album without too much fanfare. It’s exquisite. By degrees, the band is leaving the boondocks behind.

2 Big Thief Two Hands

2. Big Thief – Two Hands

It’s not the room
Not beginning
Not the crowd
Not winning
Not the planet
That’s spinning

Well, darn. Big Thief released two magnum opus records in 2019. I will not be sorry for including both of them on my list, here. Jesus Christ how do they do it?

1 Jeffrey Lewis

1. Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage – Bad Wiring

Were you going somewhere sooner or later
Or just pushing all the buttons on the elevator
You gotta’ have free will to live your pre-planned life
You gotta’ pay the bill or you get unsubscribed

Admittedly, I had no idea that this was going to be my favorite record of the year. But it is. And I have absolutely no reservations about saying so. Jeffrey Lewis has long been a musician I follow. He’s… what do you want to call it, “Anti-Folk” or some such? His songwriting is biting and incisive, the auditory equivalent of an erudite Reddit thread piercing your brain. He’s done entire albums covering obscure punk rock bands, also entire records covering Jewish counterculture poets, and don’t forget the songs about LSD and sexual legends of the Chelsea Hotel. He’s very much borne of a New York City mythology spanning decades including the years when I am not yet alive. The existential pathos of his work cannot be replicated. This album is like a Rick & Morty episode that flies above the heads of the show’s misogynistic fanbase and yet they still applaud. Brutal, crushing, existential self-awareness seems to be a hallmark of Lewis’ work.

Well I guess we’re not supposed to be wise
If everything that learns also dies

Honorable Mentions: Andrew Bird, Kevin Morby, Bruce Springsteen, Angelo de Augustine, Jessica Pratt, Weyes Blood, Jade Bird, HEALTH, FKA Twigs, Whitney, Holly Herndon, American Football, Lana Del Rey, Why?, Over the Rhine, Pedro the Lion, Helado Negro, Clairo, Josh Ritter, Purple Mountains, Vagabon, Ssion, Chromatics, and Beirut.

Apple Music Playlists:

Top of 2019 – Albums

Top of 2019 – Top Songs

Complete List of 2019 Albums:

  1. !!! – Wallop
  2. A.A. Bondy – Enderness
  3. American Football: American Football (LP3)
  4. Andrew Bird –  My Finest Work Yet
  5. Andy Stott – It Should Be Us
  6. Anemone – Beat My Distance
  7. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
  8. Angelo de Augustine – Tomb
  9. Apparat – LP5
  10. Bat for Lashes – Lost Girls
  11. Battles – Juice B Crypts
  12. Beirut – Gallipoli
  13. Beth Gibbons, The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra & Krzysztof Penderecki – Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)
  14. Bibio – Ribbons
  15. Big Thief – Two Hands
  16. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
  17. Bill Evans – Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance Records
  18. Bombadil – Beautiful Country
  19. Bon Iver – i,i
  20. Bonobo – fabric presents Bonobo
  21. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
  22. Cate Le Bon – Reward

  23. CHAI – PUNK
  24. Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready
  25. Chromatics – Closer to Grey
  26. Ciara – Beauty Marks
  27. The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe
  28. Clairo – Immunity
  29. Com Truise – Persuasion System
  30. Danger – Origins
  31. Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
  32. Drugdealer – Raw Honey
  33. Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods (Reissue)
  34. Efterklang – Altid Sammen
  35. Ex:Re – Ex:Re
  36. Faye Webster – Atlanta Millionaire’s Club
  37. Fennesz – Agora
  38. Fever Ray – Live at Troxy
  39. FKA Twigs – MAGDALENE
  40. Floating Points – Crush
  41. Floating Points – Late Night Tales: Floating Points
  42. Flying Lotus – Flamagra
  43. George Winston – Restless Wind
  44. The Get Up Kids – Problems
  45. Glok – Dissident
  46. Guided by Voices – Zeppelin over China
  47. Guided by Voices – Warp and Woof
  48. Hand Habits – placeholder
  49. Hauschka – A Different Forest
  50. HEALTH – VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR
  51. Helado Negro – This is How You Smile
  52. Holly Herndon – PROTO
  53. Hoshina Anniversary – Nihon No Ongaku / 日本の音楽」
  54. Insanlar – Demedim Mi
  55. Jacques Greene – Dawn Chorus
  56. Jade Bird – Jade Bird
  57. Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage – Bad Wiring
  58. Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs
  59. John Vanderslice – The Cedars
  60. Josh Garrels – Chrysaline
  61. Josh Ritter – Fever Breaks
  62. Joy Orbison – Slipping – EP
  63. Kacy & Clayton – Carrying On
  64. Kanye West – Jesus is King
  65. Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
  66. Kelly Moran – Origin EP
  67. Kevin Morby – Oh My God
  68. Kim Gordon – No Home Record
  69. Lali Puna – Being Water EP
  70. Lana del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
  71. Lightbath – Selected Public Works, Vol. 3
  72. Lily & Madeleine – Canterbury Girls
  73. Mira Calix – Utopia EP
  74. Mount Eerie – Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 (feat. Julie Doiron)
  75. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons
  76. Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia (Reissue)
  77. The National – I Am Easy to Find
  78. The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
  79. Nick Cave & the Bad Seesds – Ghosteen
  80. Nils Frahm – All Encores
  81. Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe
  82. Nivhek – After its own death /  Walking in a spiral towards the house
  83. North Mississippi Allstars – Up and Rolling
  84. Oso Oso – Basking in the Glow

  85. Over the Rhine – Love & Revelation
  86. Panda Bear – Buoys
  87. Pedro the Lion – Phoenix
  88. Peter Caws – The Book of Hylas (featuring Parkington Sisters)
  89. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
  90. Robert Ellis – Texas Piano Man
  91. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
  92. SASAMI – SASAMI
  93. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
  94. ShitKid – [Detention]
  95. Sigur Rós – 22° Lunar Halo
  96. Sigur Rós – Variations on Darkness
  97. Solange – When I Get Home
  98. Ssion – o
  99. Stella Donnelly – Beware the Dogs
  100. Steve Hauschildt – Nonlin
  101. Switchfoot – Native Tongue
  102. Tamaryn – Dreaming in the Dark
  103. Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You
  104. Temples – Hot Motion
  105. Tim Heidecker – Another Year in Hell EP
  106. Tim Hecker – Anoyo
  107. Timo Andres & Sufjan Stevens – The Decalogue
  108. Titus Andronicus – An Obelisk
  109. Toro y Moi – Outer Peace
  110. Townes Van Zandt – Sky Blue
  111. Tycho – Weather
  112. Vagabon – Vagabon
  113. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
  114. Vangelis – Nocturne
  115. Various Artists – For the Throne (Music Inspired by Game of Thrones)
  116. Various Artists – Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990
  117. Weezer – Weezer (Black Album)
  118. Weezer – Weezer (Teal Album)
  119. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
  120. Whitney – Forever Turned Around
  121. Why? – AOKOHIO
  122. Yeasayer – Erotic Reruns
  123. Ziúr – Atø

2019 – The Year in Review – Top Albums (Ambient)

A 2019 Year in Review list of albums that primarily skew towards the ambient, electronic, experimental and instrumental. I created a separate list for 2019 because I found myself increasingly turning to such records throughout the year. Part of the allure would definitely have to be the meditative, relaxing quality of many such recordings. Another might have been simply a kick I got on, after years of only occasionally listening to the odd Brian Eno ambient masterwork. Behold, the list:

15 Ernest Hood

15. Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods

A re-issue of an album originally released in 1974, assembled from a mesmerizing array of found sounds, field recordings and proto-ambient electronic music, Neighborhoods truly evokes a memory of times past. The auditory equivalent of being teleported back to a time without the internet, cellular phones and a myriad of digital devices with screens. Unencumbered by such modern niceties, the album streams past at a laconic pace, and, not unlike Midnight Cowboy, one of my favorite films first viewed in 2019 (and celebrating its 50th anniversary), it possesses the distinct quality of being a coherent slice of life, perfectly captured in the moment.

14 Sigur Rós

14. Sigur Rós – Variations on Darkness

Consisting of two, 20+ minute long tracks, Variations on Darkness is assembled from unreleased Sigur Rós material, as well as various multitracks of songs culled from the band’s back catalogue. The music was premiered at the Nordur og nidur festival, and utilized as a soundtrack to choreographed performances from the Iceland Dance Company. Cavernous and shot through with a palpable sense of foreboding, Variations on Darkness made for a terrific soundtrack to any daily news dump from 2019.

13 Górecki

13. Beth Gibbons, The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra & Krzysztof Penderecki – Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)

Beth Gibbons is the lead vocalist for Portishead. Krzysztof Penderecki is a Polish composer whose work has been featured in films, most notably The Exorcist and The Shining. Here, they take on Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s famous Symphony No. 3. A sprawling, mournful piece of composition, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs plays like the score to the denouement of a Sam Mendes picture.

12 Kankyō Ongaku

12. Various Artists – Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990

Perhaps it is indeed emblematic of what Pitchfork deemed, “the growth of functional listening,” that I happened to compile this particular album list for the first time this year. The ubiquity of supermassive streaming libraries now virtually at our fingertips and always available for our thirsty eardrums means we can find ways to soundtrack our lives at any and every moment we wish. Kankyō Ongaku is such a soundtrack*, culled from a number of Japanese ambient electronic artists from the 1980s. This compilation is curated by Spencer Doran, of Visible Cloaks, and released on Light in the Attic Records (the very same responsible for the Lewis reissues and subsequent solution to the decades-old mystery of their provenance). Highly recommended. *The vinyl release of this album is a 3 x LP and features 25 tracks, while the streaming version is limited to only 10.

11 Steve Hauschildt

11. Steve Hauschildt – Nonlin

Steve Hauschildt, formerly of Emeralds, released Nonlin, his latest LP on Ghostly International, in late 2019. I hitherto had only a dim awareness of his work. Much like another of my favorite albums from 2019 (Floating Points’ “Crush”), Nonlin offers up a hybrid cross-section of thoughtfully-composed electronic music, leaning rather heavily on the synthesizers. An art-house Stranger Things soundtrack, if you will.

10 Nils Frahm

10. Nils Frahm – All Encores

All Encores is a collection of the contents of 3 Encores EPs released over the course of 2019 on the heels of Frahm’s excellent 2018 LP, All Melody. Representing a selection of works that are far more spare and unassuming than the baroque, multifaceted splendor of All Melody, the collection of EPs would be a fitting accompaniment to any sort of weather, be it fair or frightful.

9 Lightbath

9. Lightbath – Selected Public Works, Vol. 3

A brand new discovery for me in 2019, Lightbath is the brainchild of composer/improviser Bryan Noll. Selected Public Works, Vol. 3 collects various of his modular synthesizer performances from the past 4 years. Volumes 1 and 2 have been released only on cassette tape thus far, while Vol. 3 is available to stream online. Another EP, Vol. 4, was also released in late 2019. His work is reminiscent of Brian Eno, SURVIVE, CFCF and Oneohtrix Point Never. The soundtrack to a celestial zen garden.

8 Glok

8. Glok – Dissident

Another brand new discovery for me in 2019. Glok is the electronic alias of Andy Bell, guitarist and vocalist of the English shoegaze band Ride. A sprawling record, Dissident fuses, “synth wave and Detroit techno via a love of John Carpenter soundtracks with dissonant atmospherics and an acid throb,” and rewards many repeat spins.

7 Floating Points

7. Floating Points – Crush

Floatings Points is Sam Shepard, a DJ, musician and producer from the UK. Crush is a record I have been looking forward to ever since his debut, Elaenia, was released back in 2015. A deep and exacting record, Crush is something of a Rube Goldberg machine in album form. A musical sub-genre called ‘Braindance’ supposedly applies here. The album offers up tasty morsels in a precisely-constructed presentation format, and you can pluck any one out to enjoy. A virtual buffet that has been thoughtfully arranged and pared back to showcase a number of unique tastes.

6 Hauschka

6. Hauschka – A Different Forest

Volker Bertelmann is the name of the experimental “prepared” pianist who goes by Hauschka. Once upon a time, he was a member of a German hip-hop group. Nowadays, he has undergone an extended metamorphosis to become, more or less, a bonafide neoclassical pianist. A Different Forest is very much a straightforward affair, and requires nothing more than a simple appreciation of the unprepared ivories to enjoy. His playing on this album is expressive and warm.

5 Kelly Moran

5. Kelly Moran – Origin EP

Kelly Moran’s follow-up to her excellent Ultraviolet, released in 2018. Like Hauschka, she is a specialist of the “prepared piano,” which is a piano that has had its sound altered by the placement of various objects on or between the strings. Origin is a no slouch for an EP, clocking in at over 36 minutes in length. Here we find some brand new material, along with improvisational, proto-versions of pieces from Ultraviolet. The tapestry of mesmerizing sounds she conjures from the piano is at once both ostentatious and austere.

4 Tim Hecker

4. Tim Hecker – Anoyo

Tim Hecker followed up 2018’s Konoyo (this world) with companion piece Anoyo (the world over there). The tracks on the latter come from the same sessions that produced the tracks on the former.  Drawing upon Japanese court music style gagaku, Hecker recorded Anoyo with the ensemble Tokyo Gakuso. A voyage into the vacuum of space. Boundless and immense.

3 Fennesz

3. Fennesz – Agora

The first LP from Austrian composer Christian Fennesz in 5 years, Agora is an album of layers. Despite being recorded largely indoors with guitars, the four tracks comprising its 48 minute runtime manage to evoke an eerie spaciousness. Unlike AnoyoAgora feels like a voyage among the stars that turns out to have actually been a descent into the Mariana Trench.

2 Mort Garson

2. Mort Garson – Plantasia

Another reissue, this one from Mort Garson, a pioneer of discrete music and electronic composition. Originally released in 1976, Plantasia is a wonderful cornucopia of Moog synthesizer music, surprisingly organic and warm, and absolutely on-point as far as its central conceit is concerned (music for plants and the people who love them). 40-plus years later, thanks to projects such as the MIDI Sprout, music for and by plants feels more timely than ever.

1 Nivhek

1. Nivhek – After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

Nivhek is a new moniker for Liz Harris, otherwise known as Grouper. This record is comprised of two long-form performances, each broken into two pieces, and originally performed as a part of two different artistic residencies: one in Murmansk, Russia, the other in the Azores, in Portugal. Taken together as a full release, now, in 2019, and clocking in at just about one hour, the cumulative result packs a mighty wallop. From glossolalia to drone to faraway bells and chimes, found sounds and malfunctioning equipment, distant footsteps and funereal abysms of sound, the album plays like a long stroll deep into the desolation of winter’s grasp. As with many of the albums I’ve selected for this new Year in Review list, it rewards patience and many repeat spins.

Apple Music Playlists:

Top of 2019 – Albums (Ambient)

Top of 2019 – Top Songs (Ambient)

 

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency Opines on Impeachment

Oh my god.

You know, everyone keeps repeating this story about Ben Franklin over and over again  —  you know the one  —  about how in 1787, as the Constitution was adopted, Americans gathered on the steps of Independence Hall. When they saw Franklin, they asked, ‘What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?’ and Franklin replied, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’

But what did Ben Franklin even mean by that? Was he trying to say that a Democracy is only as strong as its institutions and that if the people in power become nakedly corrupt and are not checked, that Democracy becomes a hollow pretense that’s no better than a despotic monarchy? Or did he mean that the newly founded nation was a banana republic?

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/i-dont-know-who-to-believe-in-this-impeachment-hearing

I Can’t Tell If It’s Satire: The Best Coldplay Songs Of All Time, Ranked

Leaving aside the fact that ranked lists are inherently subjective, I honestly cannot tell if this one is an elaborate satire or if perhaps the author concluded that actually choosing a “best” Coldplay song was an exercise in self-flagellating effrontery.

Here it is: A line of demarcation between those of us who embrace Coldplay as the music that serves the least desirable and neediest parts of ourselves, and those people who try to deny that such a part of themselves exists (in public anyway). Loving Coldplay means acknowledging that Aaron Sorkin was right to score a screamingly melodramatic montage from The Newsroom to this daringly sappy and ultimately overpowering emotional gut-punch. Yes, it’s embarrassing. And, sure, mocking this sort of thing will get you hundreds of likes and retweets on Twitter. But the next time you’re alone, and your phone is out of batteries, and you feel broken, you will put on this song and the part where Will Champion’s drums and Guy Berryman’s bass crash in behind Jonny Buckland’s soaring guitar will … fix you. And, like Chris Martin sings, tears will stream down your face. And then the song will end, and you will tell no one. But we’ll know.

Source: The Best Coldplay Songs Of All Time, Ranked

“Wanderin’ Star” as performed by Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon

Without a doubt, Paint Your Wagon (1969) has got to be the most bizarre movie musical I have ever watched. Adapted for the big screen by Paddy Chayefsky from Alan Jay Lerner’s original 1951 stage production, the film stars Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood (his one and only appearance in a musical) and Jean Seberg. Although I have never seen a performance of the musical on stage, I read up on it after viewing the film. There are… rather quite a number of differences between the two.

Lee Marvin - Paint Your Wagon

Far and away my favorite performance in the film is Marvin’s wordly, gristly Forty-Niner character, name of Ben Rumson. He also performs my favorite musical number, Wanderin’ Star. Marvin famously insisted on performing all of the singing parts himself, even though he had no real training as a vocalist. His rendition of this song actually became a chart-topping hit in the UK, beating out The Beatles’ Let it Be.

My second favorite musical performance in the film has got to be Harve Presnell’s rendition of, They Call the Wind Mariah. Fun fact, Harve Presnell also famously played the part of Wade Gustafson, father of Jean Lundegaard, in the Coen Brothers’ inimitable classic Fargo.

maria gustafson

Anyhow, if you have 3 hours to kill, and you like show tunes about mining for gold, and if you’re any kind of Paddy Chayefsky fan, Paint Your Wagon is well worth watching.

Addendum: Hell on Earth

the-devils-american-poster-1

After viewing The Devils (1971) the other day, I searched and found Mark Kermode’s 2004 documentary about the film, containing some of the storied “deleted” scenes that were removed by British censors, including the scene dubbed, “the rape of Christ.”

Hell on Earth is a production of BBC Four and contains a healthy amount of graphic imagery. Definitely NSFW but also essential if you, like me, are a fan of Ken Russell’s film.

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