Fast cars, guns, awkward weddings, inaccurate but entertaining historical thrillers and everyone’s favourite medieval sword and sorcery epic are just some of the treats on offer in this month’s Music & Movies selections. Also, be sure to catch Searching for Sugarman if you haven’t already. You couldn’t find a finer cockle-warming music doco, unless you somehow stumbled across Anvil: the story of Anvil.
New DVDs for March include Season 2 of the epic Fantasy series ‘Game of Thrones’; Brad Pitts George V. Higgins adaptation ‘Killing Them Softly’; acclaimed music documentary ‘Searching For Sugarman’; the feel-good French smash ‘The intouchables’; & Ben Affleck’s Oscar Best Picture winner ‘Argo’….
Hit & run.
“Charles Bronson is a former bank robber wheelman who ratted out his gang and is living under the assumed name in the Federal Witness Protection Program. He goes by Charlie, and played by the goofy, buffed-out Dax Shepard he makes a charming everyman hero in the amusing and adventurous action comedy Hit & Run. Shepard also wrote the script and codirected what was obviously a labor of love (his real-life partner Kristen Bell plays his onscreen girlfriend), and he shows some genuine chops as a wrangler of rapid-fire witty dialogue as well as car-chase action choreography. Charlie’s brainy girlfriend Annie teaches at the local college and knows nothing about his past life…When Annie needs to get to Los Angeles for an important job interview, Charlie uncovers the muscle car he’s been hiding in the barn and offers to get her there in a flash, even though it may mean uncovering his secret life in the process…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)
Killing them softly.
“There’s plenty of grit, street life, gangland lingo, and nuts-and-bolts criminal insiderism, but the overall tone is more akin to a David Mamet play than a rollicking Hollywood shoot-’em-up. The movie is an adaptation of the fine George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade, and it nicely transposes the tone and delivery of Higgins’s spare prose into a visual style that keeps a long, lingering gaze on its unlovable bad guys. It also holds an attentive ear to the rhythm and pattern of their speech, turning the extended stretches of dialogue into unique tableaux of stylish exchanges between hit men, lowlife punks, and middle management gangsters… Brad Pitt is a sleek and enigmatic presence as Jackie Cogan, a professional killer who’s as exasperated by the stupidity around him as he is obsessed with the details of doing his job right. After an odd couple of hapless losers (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, who are a hoot) hit a mob-run card game, Jackie is called in to clean up the mess…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)
After the wedding.
“Equal parts weepy drama and soap opera, After the Wedding is a beautifully filmed story centering on Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale), a Danish man working at a orphanage in Bombay. Just when funds have run desperately low, Jorgen (Rolf Lassgård)–a wealthy benefactor–promises to donate millions of dollars to the orphanage. But there’s a catch. Jacob must collect the funds himself in Copenhagen… and attend the wedding of the eccentric millionaire’s daughter. But once Jacob meets the benefactor’s wife Helene (played by a radiant Sidse Babett Knudsen), it’s obvious to the viewer that the two have a complicated history. It’s also likely that her daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) most probably is theirs. So why did Jorgen invite Jacob to Anna’s wedding? Does he know Jacob is Anna’s father? Is something nefarious in the works? The thought-provoking film was Denmark’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2007 Academy Awards…The relationships here are messy and often uncomfortable. But they also ring true to life…” (From Amazon.com review)
“Driss (Omar Sy), a Senegalese man living in a Paris slum, applies for a job as caretaker to a wealthy quadriplegic, but all he wants is to get his paper stamped so he can get benefits. Despite his lack of qualifications, he lands the job because of his attitude: Philippe (François Cluzet), the quadriplegic, wants a caretaker who will look at him without pity. As Driss reluctantly learns to move, feed, and clean Philippe, the two men discover a blunt but vital humour that not only bridges the cultural and class divide between them, but gives Philippe a renewed joy in life. It’s easy to see what made Untouchable such a massive success in France; the movie has the sweet sincerity and uplifting conclusion that make for a classic feel-good experience. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable, and Sy–who won the French equivalent of the Oscar for his role–is a dynamic and charismatic performer, while Cluzet’s understated performance conveys Philippe’s frustrations. The movie doesn’t dig too deeply into the struggles of life as a quadriplegic or the struggles of life among the inner-city poor, so when Untouchable ends it’s not likely to leave a lasting impression, but that doesn’t get in the way of its immediate charm and warmth…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)
“Based on real events, the dramatic thriller Argo chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis, focusing on the little-known role that the CIA and Hollywood played–information that was not declassified until many years after the event. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, the Canadian and American governments ask the CIA to intervene. The CIA turns to their top “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez, to come up with a plan to get the six Americans safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)
Game of thrones. The complete second season.
“Based on A Clash of Kings, the second novel in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, season two of Game of Thrones admirably encapsulates the sprawling War of the Five Kings, which pits the malevolent Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) against a host of contenders for the throne of the late King Robert (Mark Addy), including his brothers Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Renly (Gethin Anthony). Further complicating matters is the appointment of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) as Hand of the King to Joffrey, which sets off an intense behind-the-scenes power struggle with his siblings, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who carry on an incestuous affair. Meanwhile, there’s also the issue of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her three dragons; Daenerys spends much of season two making her way across the Red Waste in order to launch her own plan of conquest. These central conflicts are supported by a host of secondary storylines… That Game of Thrones manages to not only weave together all of these myriad threads but also make them compelling and fully realized is among the keys to the show’s astonishing popularity, as are the performances, which, along with the direction and writing, help to make the series the best costume fantasy drama ever produced on television…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)
Searching for Sugar Man.
“Rodriguez, outside of a circle of pre-existing fans, might not be the most famous musician on the planet. But he makes a fascinating subject for the documentary Searching For Sugar Man. Put together in part by the producer of the excellent Man On Wire, Searching For Sugar Man centres around a flop album released by Rodriguez, which went on to build an audience over the decades that followed. But what happened to Rodriguez himself? That’s where the film comes in, and it’s an engaging tale it has to tell. It’s a terrific documentary, this. Touching, mysterious and centred on a genuinely intriguing subject matter, there’s a lot to grab your interest here. After all, is Rodriguez a myth, the film asks? If not, is he aware of the impact his music has had? The film plays its cards very close to its chest, and is all the better for it. There’s material beyond the film to be found on the disc, and it digs deeper in the story as part and parcel of that. So you get an interesting commentary track, as well as a making of piece as well…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)
“From Sundance Award-winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, comes a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary following five kids and families over the course of a school year. Offering insight into different facets of America’s bullying crisis, the stories include two families who have lost children to suicide and a mother awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter, who has been incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus. With an intimate and often shocking glimpse into homes, classrooms, cafeterias and principals’ offices, this is a powerful and inspiring film that every educator, parent and teenager should see…” (From Amazon.com description)
Silk. [Series 1].
“Single, attractive, thirty something Martha Costello is a brilliant, passionate defence barister with the unwavering belief that all are innocent until proven guilty. Martha is about to apply to become Queen’s Counsel; she is applying for ‘Silk’, but she’s not the only one at her chambers– Clive Reader is charming, ruthless and dangerous, and knows how to play the game– Only one of them will be made QC and Senior Clerk, Billy Lamb, is the man with everyone’s lives and careers in his hands. Martha’s conscience and faith in the criminal justice system are tested to breaking point as she deals with clients who are good, bad and downright evil…” (Syndetics summary)
“Spanish psychological horror from director Jaume Balagueró. The film follows César (Luis Tosar), the concierge to the residents at a wealthy apartment building. César seems extraordinarily helpful and polite and is consequently adored by the residents, but little do they know that he is in fact a man so incapable of happiness and human feeling that he makes it his goal in life to make others as miserable as he is. He focuses much of his attention on Clara (Martra Etura), a beautiful young woman whose vivacity and spontaneous sense of happiness make her his opposite in almost every way. With his usual blend of underhand tricks, which include sneaking into her apartment to rig unpleasant surprises and even hiding beneath her bed, César begins to unnerve Clara. When her boyfriend Marcos (Alberto San Juan) unexpectedly returns the situation quickly escalates towards a point of no return…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)
Two little boys.
“The film follows Nige and his best mate Deano’s riotous misadventures as they struggle with their imploding friendship which has been put under pressure by an unfortunate incident involving a hot meat pie, a ginger cat and the untimely death of a Scandinavian soccer star. Nige chucks the dead body in a nearby roadworks hole and runs to Deano for help. Trouble is, Deano’s not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis…” (Syndetics summary)
The selection of new books on popular music this month are all rock legends’ biographies. They include a much-missed Whitney Houston, John Lennon and Marc Bolan. Have a browse!!
Remembering Whitney : my story of love, loss, and the night the music stopped / Cissy Houston with Lisa Dickey ; with a foreword by Dionne Warwick.
“”The world lost one of the most beautiful voices and an extraordinarily beautiful and charitable woman,” says Houston of daughter Whitney’s death in February 2012. Cissy offers a forthright account of her daughter’s life and death.” (Library Journal)
50 licks : myths and stories from half a century of the Rolling Stones / Pete Fornatale with Bernard M. Corbett and Peter Thomas Fornatale.
“Fornatale, the noted disc jockey, radio host, and musical historian who died in 2012, opened the first program of his brand-new radio show in 1969 with a Rolling Stones song. By then the Stones were worldwide superstars, but, as Fornatale recounts in this profusely illustrated oral history of the band, there were some rocky times in the early days. Then back-to-back singles of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and Get Off of My Cloud catapulted them into international stardom. That was 47 years ago. The book features interviews with not only the Stones but also fellow musicians, film directors, music-industry execs, journalists, and does a good job of covering the band’s half-century history in broad strokes, giving us a nice look at the Stones as musicians, celebrities, and young men growing to maturity in the public eye.” (adapted from Booklist)
Mötley Crüe : the dirt / [Tommy Lee … et al. ; with Neil Strauss].
“In the beginning there was the Motley House, crawling with cockroaches and rats, beer cans piled on the porch so high they threatened to spill into the house every time you opened the door. “That place gave birth to Motley Crue,” the band recalls in The Dirt: The Autobiography of Motley Crue. Crue members Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx also team up with New York Times music writer Neil Strauss to tell the story of their band’s rise to phenomenal success.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)
Untouchable : the strange life and tragic death of Michael Jackson / Randall Sullivan.
“Dogged by scandal for over fifteen years and undone by his own tendency to trust the wrong people, Michael Jackson had become untouchable in many quarters, a fact that wounded him deeply. Now, drawing on unprecedented access to friends, enemies, employees, and associates of Jackson, Randall Sullivan delivers an intimate, unflinching, and deeply human portrait of a man who was never quite understood by the media, his fans, or even those closest to him. Traces the story of Michael Jackson’s life from his famous childhood through his final four years, drawing on interviews with his friends, enemies, and other associates to cover his international travels, business acumen, and parenting decisions”.(Syndetics summary)
Prince / Matt Thorne.
“Legendarily reticent, perverse and misleading, Prince is one of the few remaining 80s superstars who still, perhaps, remains unexplained. Now a firm fixture in the pop canon, where such classics as “Purple Rain”, “Sign o’ the Times” and “Parade” regularly feature in Best Ever Album polls, Prince is still, as he ever was, an enigma. Matt Thorne’s “Prince”, through years of research and interviews with ex-Revolution members such as Wendy and Lisa, is an account of a pop maverick whose experiments with rock, funk, techno and jazz revolutionized pop. With reference to every song, released and unreleased, over 35 years of recording, Prince will stand for years to come as the go-to book on the Great Man”.(Syndetics summary)
Joni : the creative odyssey of Joni Mitchell / Katherine Monk.
“Biographies of Joni Mitchell are attempted every few years, but the definitive one will have to wait until the singer-songwriter tells her own story. In the meantime, Monk’s is the closest thing to essential reading. She describes her book as a “rambling adventure into the creative soul,” and it follows Mitchell’s path to popular and critical success as well as her self-imposed exile from that success, while frankly addressing the highs and lows of her career and personal life. One intriguing aspect of the book is Monk’s pursuit of a kind of Mitchell-approved reading list (because of her subject’s own interest in philosophy). Monk uses Martin Heidegger, Joseph Campbell, and especially Friedrich Nietzsche to tell Mitchell’s story and shape the narrative of her creative odyssey.” (adapted from Library Journal)
Days that I’ll remember : spending time with John Lennon and Yoko Ono / Jonathan Cott.
“A contributing editor to Rolling Stone since its inception, Jonathan Cott met myriad musicians, but few-if any-made as deep an impression on him as John Lennon. Cott’s many discussions and interviews (including one conducted just three days before Lennon’s assassination, reproduced here in its entirety) reveal the two rhapsodically rapping about the meaning of “Strawberry Fields,” dealing with fame, Yoko’s alleged role in the breakup of the Beatles (”I think that each of the Beatles was too strong and tough an individual to have been influenced by me in any way” is her response), and the impact of psychologist Arthur Janov’s primal therapy treatment on the duo’s relationship and work together. Cott does a solid job of creating intimacy between Lennon and the reader, something fans of the much-missed musician will likely relish.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)
Ride a white swan : the lives and death of Marc Bolan / Lesley-Ann Jones.
“From mod folk artist to flower power pixie elfin to the king of glam rockers, Marc Bolan was the ultimate chameleon. His far reaching musical and stylistic influence is more relevant today than ever with hits such as ‘Ride A White Swan’, ‘Children Of The Revolution’, ‘Get It On’ and ‘Hot Love’ as fresh and exhilarating as when first released. At last, in the 35th anniversary year of his tragic death, Marc Bolan represents the definite biography. Here rock biographer, Lesley-Ann Jones, paints a meticulous portrait of the T-Rex front man. From his childhood growing up in Hackney to his untimely death at the age of 29, Bolan’s life was one of relentless experimentation and metamorphoses.”(adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)
A light that never goes out : the enduring saga of the Smiths / Tony Fletcher.
“Indie cult heavyweights the Smiths never charted a single higher than number 10, but they are widely considered to be an important musical component of British pop music of the 1980s. Their enigmatic vocalist and lyricist, Morrissey, is a bit of a hero to the disaffected, which only adds to his and the band’s angsty cachet. Of course, they broke up in 1987, but with rumored reunions that never materialized and the individual members’ post-Smiths activities (as a solo), Morrissey has cracked Top 10 lists), their self-conscious legend lives on. In relating the story of the band, Fletcher centers on Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, digging deep in terms of the details of the band’s creative process and progress but with plenty of time for conjecture about the comprehensively enigmatic Morrissey.” (Booklist)
This month’s Classical finds seem to have a bit of a biographical theme running through them. I hope you enjoy rediscovering a familiar topic, or being enthralled by a new one.
Benjamin Britten : a life in the twentieth century / Paul Kildea.
“In the eyes of many, Benjamin Britten was our finest composer since Purcell (a figure who often inspired him) three hundred years earlier. He broke decisively with the romantic, nationalist school of figures such as Parry, Elgar and Vaughan Williams and recreated English music in a fresh, modern, European form. With Peter Grimes (1945), Billy Budd (1951) and The Turn of the Screw (1954), he arguably composed the last operas – from any composer in any country – which have entered both the popular consciousness and the musical canon”. (amazon.com)
Richard Wagner : the sorcerer of Bayreuth / Barry Millington.
“Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is one of the most influential – and also one of the most controversial – composers in the history of music. Over the course of his long career, he produced a stream of spellbinding works that challenged musical convention through their richness and tonal experimentation, ultimately paving the way for modernism. This book presents an in-depth but easy-to-read overview of Wagner’s life, work and times”. (amazon.com)
Great operas : a guide to 25 of the world’s finest musical experiences / Michael Steen.
“From Great Composers author Michael Steen, a unique multi-platform project offering a royal box view into one of mankind’s greatest art forms. From the soaring heights of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle to the tear-jerking emotion of Mozart’s breathtakingly beautiful Don Giovanni, opera is one of the most powerful artistic forms mankind has ever created. It should also be the most enjoyable! Michael Steen’s The Lives and Times of the Great Composers was described as ‘hugely informative and deliciously gossipy’ by the Spectator. Great Operas is his accessible and entertaining user’s manual to making the best of an opera – whether at home or at a live performance, interspersing the key facts with erudite commentary from a man for whom opera is a lifetime’s passion”. (Syndetics summary)
Mozart at the gateway to his fortune : serving the Emperor, 1788-1791 / Christoph Wolff.
“This book examines the final years of Mozart’s life from a fresh perspective. The working premises are that Mozart’s appointment to the imperial court in 1787 affected a profound change in his musical plans; that there is no reason to view Mozart’s last compositions as imbued with the specter of his imminent death; and that one ought instead view the last compositions as products of an outlook determined in part by the imperial appointment. The sheer common sense of these premises is so striking that one wonders how any alternative view could be considered”. (CHOICE)
How to read music / [James Sleigh & Mike Sheppard].
“If you want to learn how to read and write music, this is the book you have been waiting for! Written in plain English and using a minimum of jargon, it’s supplemented by audio material and other extras all available at www.hybridpublications.com This means that you get lots of examples of how things should sound plus many other online bonuses, all clearly flagged on the relevant page in the book”. (Syndetics summary)
Conducting business : unveiling the mystery behind the maestro / Leonard Slatkin.
“Conducting an orchestra is something that is seen as well as heard, but it is quite misunderstood. People may wonder, “What does this person actually do for a living?” This most mysterious of jobs is brought to life in this book. Drawing on his own experiences on and off the podium, Leonard Slatkin tells tales of some of the most fascinating people in the musical world, including Frank Sinatra, Leonard Bernstein, and John Williams. He takes the reader to soundstages in Hollywood as well as great concert halls and opera pits around the globe. Slatkin recounts his controversial appearance at the Metropolitan Opera, his creation and direction of summer music festivals, and a shattering concert experience that took place four days after 9/11. Discussions of work in the recording studio and life on the road as well as health issues confronting the conductor provide an insider’s glimpse into this private world.–From publisher description”. (Syndetics summary)
Everything you ever wanted to know about classical music but were too afraid to ask / [Darren Henley and Sam Jackson].
“This is a richly informative, light-hearted guide to the ins and outs of classical music. The book dives underneath the sheet music to bring the world of classical music to life. Henley offers insights into the composition of an orchestra, the workings of its instruments, and the lives of its composers”. (Syndetics summary)
Hi everyone, Deborah and I are the fiction selectors for Wellington City Libraries and we spend a lot of time reading about, and choosing, lovely new fiction for the library.
This is the first novel by Robert Lyndon, who is also a falconer, and it’s set in 1072 after the Normans have captured England. A warrior called Vallon must save a Norman knight who’s been kidnapped by the Turks by capturing four rare hawks. This quest sets him on a journey around the world and on the adventure of a lifetime. Labelled a ‘historical adventure epic’ and described as well written, evocative and filled with wonderful period detail and characters, it sounds too good to miss. In fact several reviewers have said it was the best book they had read in a long time – so reserve it now!
This is a beautifully written debut novel set around the lives of two sisters. Growing up in the American Midwest, the older and more dutiful Janie has borne the lion’s share of the responsibility of looking after the younger, more lovable but manipulative Hannah. These ties are suddenly cut, however, when Hannah inexplicably but purposefully disappears while away at College. Jamie sets out to find her, mindful of her grandmother’s warning that ever since the Japanese invasion of Korea, the family has lost a daughter in every generation. This is not a mystery story; rather it is a story of one family’s survival through the turbulent and cruel years of twentieth century Korea, their adjustment to life in a foreign land, and of their reconciliation with the past and their future.