What I find surprising about this year is that there have been tons of great releases out throughout the year. I have not liked this many albums in one year in a very long time. Yet there seems to be nothing coming out this holiday season. There are still tons and tons of great albums out there. Thousands of great albums from years past. But just not much new out right now. So I have been trying to use this time wisely. I have been going back in time lately and discovering old albums from decades past. But I have also been spending this extra time catching up on all the great albums that came out this year. I am obsessed with that new Sally Shapiro album "Disco Romance" right now. It is the funnest album out this year since Lily Allen. Sort of like a more modern version of Stacey Q. Like a mix of all the great and fun things about 80's electro and freestyle. But still sort of relevant and exciting. I also am a bit obsessed with Pelle Carlberg. His latest album "In A Nutshell" came out about six months ago but I just found the time to give it a proper listen. And now I can't stop. It really is brilliant. Both Sally Shapiro and Pelle Carlberg are from Sweden. I guess it is just a coincidence. But maybe not. Two of my other favorite albums of the year also come from Sweden. "Night Falls Over Kortedala" by Jens Lekman and "West Coast" by Studio both come from the land of Sweden. Jose Gonzalez is also from Sweden and I am also in love with his album this year "In Our Nature." The Shout Out Louds are from Sweden as well. What is going on this year. Sweden is taking over my life. The Knife and Love Is All are also from Sweden and they both had two of my favorite albums from last year. And I always had a special place in my heart for ABBA. But I never really thought much about Sweden until this year when I started realizing all my favorite albums were from Sweden. So don't get too depressed if you don't think there are any good albums out this month. There are plenty of albums for you to catch up on. You can just spend a couple months getting to know all the great music coming out of Sweden alone. There are also two brilliant albums out recently on Italians Do It Better. Both "Night Drive" by the Chromatics and "Beatbox" by Glass Candy are absolutely fantastic. You will not be able to stop listening to them once you stop.
And while there may not be hardly any new release DVDs or CDs coming out this month or last. There are a ton of movies out in the theater right now. I just saw "I'm Not There" last night at the brand new remodeled Kabuki Theatre last night. I have been excited about this movie since I first found out about it a couple years ago. Todd Haynes has been a longtime hero of mine. I have loved every single one of his movies and they have all been completely different but all equally brilliant. The first film I saw of his was "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story." The movie has never been properly distributed and is sort of hard to find. It chronicles the life of Karen Carpenter and is all told with Barbie Dolls as the actors. Both Richard Carpenter and Mattel are not big fans of the movie and I am sure it is near to impossible to get this movie released on DVD. Maybe someday. I even did a whole paper for my independent film class on the the movie Superstar. The paper sort of turned into a paper on how hard it was to find a copy of the film on video. His first real movie "Poison" (1991) and his second "Safe" (1995) are also both out of print on DVD. Maybe there are some exciting reissues on the way. But we might have to wait until "I'm Not There" comes out on DVD next year. Safe remains one of my favorite movies and Julianne Moore is brilliant as a woman who develops multiple chemical sensitivity. Todd Haynes movies tend to come out every 3 or 5 years. But they are always worth the wait. His glam rock docudrama "Velvet Goldmine" came out in 1998. This movie had an amazing soundtrack just like his new film "I'm Not There." The Velvet Goldmine soundtrack included a mix of new and redone songs. However the I'm Not There soundtrack is all covers of Bob Dylan songs. There are 34 songs on this soundtrack. Songs by Sonic Youth, Cat Power, Calexico, Sufjan Stevens, The Black Keys, Antony & The Johnsons, Yo La Tengo, Mark Lanegan, Karen O, Mira Billotte, and John Doe. I know this will be a shock, but I am not really even much of a Bob Dylan fan. I have always loved him as a person ever since I saw "Don't Look Back." This was the documentary that the great D.A. Pennebaker made about Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England. I have tried for years to get into the great Bob Dylan. But nothing has worked for me. Until Now. The movie is just possibly one of the most amazing films that I have seen. And something is finally making me like Bob Dylan.
Todd Haynes continued to impress me with his film "Far From Heaven" in 2002. I saw this film on Thanksgiving in 2002. Almost 5 years ago exactly. This was a drastically different film since his film before this, Velvet Goldmine. Far From Heaven starred Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid living in 1950's suburbia. The film was nominated for four oscars but really should have been nominated for Best Picture as well. The film was brilliant because it was filmed in the style of those old 1950 films. It was very similar to "Imitation of Life" directed by Douglas Sirk. The film starred Lana Turner and came out at about the same time her daughter was on trial for murdering her boyfriend. While both films dealt with race relations in the 50's, Todd Haynes film also deals with homosexuality in the 50's. But it handles it in ways that would never be possible in 50's cinema. Far From Heaven deals brilliantly with a man dealing with his own homosexuality and coming out of his closet and also the anguish of his wife. But all in the style of a 50's film. It is not a spoof about 50's film or some pale imitation. Todd really captured the feel of a 50's film brilliantly. And Julianne Moore is always amazing. She also stars as Joan Baez in "I'm Not There." She was even good way back in her first film in 1992, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle." But after Short Cuts I was forever sold on the brilliance of Julianne Moore. Far From Heaven is close to perfect and not like anything you are likely to ever seen again.
The idea of "I'm Not There" may sound a bit weird. It is sort of a dreamy imagining of the life of Bob Dylan. Todd Haynes takes six actors and shows six different parts and aspects of his life. The film could have easily failed miserably. I am sure many people thought that it would. But I had faith in the great Todd Haynes. The movie uses Marcus Carl Franlkin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, and Cate Blanchett as the Bob Dylans. They are all sort of perfect. It is a bit hard to even explain and I did not fully get the whole concept until I actually saw the movie. Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett are the best Bob Dylans. They both completely transform into different parts of Bob Dylan's life. Cate Blanchett is just ridiculously brilliant. All I could do was stare at the screen every time her scenes came on. She becomes Bob Dylan completely. I really do love music biopics but they often are so similar and predictable. But Todd Haynes takes the genre and recreates it is as something completely different and fun. The whole film feels like a big dreamlike interweaving story. Bob Dylan fans will fall in love with this film I think. I just hope that people are not scared away by the unique approach that the film takes. I may respect the man Bob Dylan but I would hardly consider myself a fan of his music. But even I fell in love with this film. The smaller parts are also cast brilliantly. David Cross is perfect somehow as Allen Ginsberg. It just works. Charlotte Gainsbourg is also great and Michelle Williams is barely recognizable but briilliant in her role.
The sets and art direction are also perfect. The film was co-produced by Christine Vachon who has been with Todd Haynes since the beginning. Her production company "Killer Films" is also responsible for this new film. Every scene had a perfect set up and looked fantastic. I wanted to move into the house that Heath Ledger lived in with Charlotte Gainsbourg. Every little detail in the furniture and set decorations was all part of his brilliant vision for the picture. The cast and set for the outdoor scenes with Richard Gere were also great. One of the most beautiful scenes is with Jim James of My Morning Jacket singing the song "Goin' to Acapulco." It will give you chills. I really don't even know how to explain the scenes with Cate Blanchett. You really just have to see it to believe it. The movie actually does not include any songs sung by Bob Dylan himself. They are all cover versions. But the movie still manages to capture the essence of Bob Dylan and the feeling of a Bob Dylan song. I really did love this movie as did my movie partner Sarah. But the movie did get started off to a nice start. I was really hungry but didn't really just want movie theater popcorn. I really wanted a hot dog. But being a vegetarian I always just have to stare at the rolling hot dogs wishing they had veggie dogs. But at the Kabuki they did! It was like a dream come true. Sort of like the movie. That Robert Redford sure knows how to design a new movie theater. Sundance came in and saved the Kabuki theatre and actually made it look more like a theatre that belongs in Japantown. I do love myself a good old beautiful theatre. And I will never turn my back on the great Clay, Bridge, or Castro Theatre.. But it is going to be hard to resist the veggie hot dogs. I guess I could start bringing my own into those old theaters I love so much. Next on my list is "No Country For Old Men" at the Bridge Theatre. I already saw "Control" at the Clay a couple of weeks ago. There really are some amazing films out right now. "Lars & the Real Girl" and "American Gangster" were both also brilliant. Wherever you see "I'm Not There," just make sure you see it in a movie theater where it is meant to be seen for the first time. Brilliant.
here is the trailer for "I'm Not There..."