Midyear lists 2018

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Albums

  1. Hailu Mergia, Lala Belu
  2. Carla Bozulich, Quieter
  3. JPEGMAFIA, Veteran
  4. Virginia Wing, Ecstatic Arrow
  5. Kids See Ghosts
  6. Cities Aviv, Raised For A Better View
  7. Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread OST
  8. Leon Vynehall, Nothing Is Still
  9. Beach House, 7
  10. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Hope Downs
  11. Daniel Avery, Song For Alpha
  12. Elysia Crampton
  13. Galcher Lustwerk, 200% GALCHER
  14. Spa 700, 700 Bliss
  15. Phonte, No News Is Good News
  16. SOPHIE, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
  17. DJ Richard, Dies Irae Xerox
  18. Peder Mannerfelt, The Screws That Hold The World Together
  19. Ben Vince, Assimilation
  20. Vanessa Amara, Manos 

Films

  1. Phantom Thread
  2. 120 BPM
  3. Loveless
  4. I, Tonya
  5. Hereditary
  6. The Hymns of Muscovy
  7. The Shape Of Water
  8. Dark River

 

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Songs

  1. Ravyn Lenae, “Sticky”
  2. Hailu Mergia, “Tizita”
  3. SOPHIE, “Immaterial”
  4. MGMT, “Little Dark Age”
  5. Essaie pas, “Les Agents de Stups”
  6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, “An Air Conditioned Man”
  7. A. A. L., “Some Kind Of Game”
  8. Kero Kero Bonito, “Only Acting”
  9. Parquet Courts, “Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience”
  10. Rezzett, “Hala”
  11. 700 Bliss, “Ring The Alarm”
  12. Jonny Greenwood, “House Of Woodcock”
  13. Snail Mail, “Heat Wave”
  14. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Hunnybee”
  15. Pangaea, “Bone Sucka”
  16. Kids See Ghosts, “Cudi Montage”
  17. Beach House, “Girl Of The Year”
  18. Loma, “Sundogs”
  19. Cities Aviv, “Marionette”
  20. James Blake, “If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead”
  21. Park Jiha, “Accumulation Of Time”
  22. JPEGMAFIA, “Does This Ski Mask Make Me Look Fat?”
  23. Elysia Crampton, “Sollunita”
  24. Sons of Kemet, “My Queen Is Harriet Tubman”
  25. Carla Bozulich, “Sha Sha”
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Il Grido (1957)

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surprise late first-period gem from antonioni. i now feel he needn’t have revisited these themes and scenes for Red Desert, though can see why he felt compelled to: there’s such cold richness in the peeling provincial sets, lunar Italian landscapes and untethered characters like blasted topsoil.

maintains sympathetic gravity despite having to reel in an initially repugnant protagonist (a kind of disaffected labouring Zampanino) on a linear-cyclical narrative line – paced excellently i might add, with antonioni not always reliable in this department in his heyday. elegant score too, and a characteristically bold but satisfying ending.

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100th film post in just over a year, after a distinct lack of effort recently. letterboxd is useful but constrictive. plus it’s the summer now and i’m still spending all day in an office.

recent listening includes Snail Mail’s ‘Heat Wave’, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, Kids See Ghosts, Songs: Ohia and REM’s ‘Harborcoat’. recent reading is My Struggle 5, The Vegetarian, and Leonora Carrington’s Down Below.

Red Road (2006)

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The film that slotted Arnold between Wheatley and Barnard in my trinity of today’s daring British filmmakers.

Interesting to go backwards to this after American Honey. The latter has pressure points of peril where Star inches through scenes of nauseating tension under the eyes or hands of quietly terrifying men. Red Road starts out as a drama of voyeurism, with the CCTV control room appearing both space-age and prefigurative of Black Mirror and NSA/GCHQ news.

Jackie’s journey out into the world at her fingertips is a sinking-in as if into quicksand; reminded me both of Scarlett Johansson’s excursions in Under the Skin and Jeanne Moreau’s slow spiral through Rome in La Notte, with the danger of the former crossing the psychogeographical dimensionality of the latter, the Red Road high rises looming Bradburyesque above bruised and battered Glasgow.

Interesting to watch after In The House: the filmmaker’s compulsion to ‘recreate’, re-stage influential traumas? (Jackie sees the human stories behind her screens) A desire to reach back into the past and correct course. That peril in American Honey is the quicksand that pulls Jackie in. The film becomes a lot braver, more physical, the kitchen sink a lot dirtier (Katie Dickie’s performance gains great depth here, too). There’s a sickening sense of parenthood in Jackie’s relationship to her situation, like she’s trying to undo some perverse birth. The denouement shows us the wan and cold world of the present day, the truths that have always been there.

Fund the arts.

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Happy End (2017)

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I always thought it was Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror who said “dialogue is just two monologues clashing” but I find that it was actually Charlie Brooker quoting Russell T Davies. Anyway, Michael Haneke’s film is another study of a modern world in which no-one is able to successfully articulate their sicknesses to each other, a condition largely accounted for (or symbolised by) the screens that have intruded between us.

As with The White Ribbon (perhaps more so) the script is elegantly decentralised across the experiences of the ensemble cast’s characters without feeling fragmented (interconnectivity without communication). Perhaps the tradeoff for this is absence of the black intensity of Amour, besides the most physical karaoke session ever witnessed. And while the pacing of individual scenes like Eve and Thomas in the car is perfectly judged, there’s maybe an over-reliance on those trademark set pieces which threatens to undercut moments of surprise.

Nevertheless, Haneke at his funnest and funniest here, but still the best on the bleak and abstract absurdity that connects life’s particular tragedies.

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Carol (2015)

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Watch this instead of My Twentieth CenturyYes it’s chocolate-boxy, but I like the way it reaches back into that rosy past and remoulds it in the shape of a story which is fresh but believable. The opening shots of Manhattan streets could belong to any 50s crime drama throwback but we’re obviously given something very different, though something which feels like it’s happening in parallel with all that stuff (the incidental flickers of Montgomery and Eisenhower on radios and TVs keep this dominant, violently masculine context or historical narrative in mind. The motel ambush is a treat thus recontextualised).

Lots of Hopper – lovingly so. My dvd copy came with a few postcard screenshots that could have been grabbed from any scene. People talk about Hopper’s spirituality and I don’t know enough about him to relate to that, but the movement and framing here goes beyond nostalgia towards a kind of knowing self-indulgence, as if the secondary characters are consciously acting out the world that they know we will look back upon and imagine. It’s not NY Confidential though; there is a kind of all-American honesty to the stuffy superstore clerks, the dozy motel receptionists, the chattering NYT photo-editors. This harmonic glow rescues the festive yankee cheer, Leica photography, and heartwarmingly binary social dynamics from registering simply as hipster catnip in 2015/2017.

At the centre of this world is a concisely bittersweet affair. The title is an interesting one (given that it’s not The Price of Salt, the title of Patricia Highsmith’s novel): Blanchett’s Carol is largely foregrounded in the weightier second half of the film, which leans on her fractious family situation. I could have handled a little more emphasis on the progress of Therèse – perhaps that’s partly why Call Me By Your Name feels a shade ahead as far as pieces like this in my recent viewing history go. S and J talked CB up (and she swings so easily from liquid grace to trembling force) but I think Mara steals the show, especially at her most distressed. I needed that ending, though (glad it didn’t turn into Heartbeats).

Would consider taking my dvd home for Christmas.

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Good Time (2017)

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Does raise an interesting question about how you mark a film. I tend to want every film I watch to be the best film I’ve ever seen, an attitude which lends itself to negative marking. Negative marking would suggest that a perfect film is one about which you have no complaints. I have no complaints about Good Time. It’s seriously tense, psychological in the manner which I saw and loved in American Honey (close and somehow impartial but so involved). It’s a total trip – that fairground is a cackling neon nightmare, a setting which comes closest to emulating the aural experience of the pounding score from OPN (which compliments the film’s atmosphere ideally throughout and in other more co-constructive ways). It’s a New York film as much as Taxi Driver or King of New York, but the Queens streets present a desperate and collapsing side we haven’t seen so often. Pattinson and B Safdie are great; their fraternity is manipulatively oriented to the perfect extent to keep Connie in the moral gutter, but frantically sympathetic enough to keep us involved and hanging on as the film lurches round corners and down rabbit runs, always in the subjunctive mood (nothing goes to plan, everything is conditional and circumstantial, constantly diverting away from expectation).

I can’t say that it’s a perfect film because it doesn’t have the next-level epiphanic potentiality of an Inland Empire or a Sleep Furiously or, even, an American Honey. It’s probably a great case for marking films positively: what really matters is that you saw it and you had a very

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