Tuesday, January 27, 2009

new music from neko!

My obsessive myspace checking has finally paid off: Neko Case will be releasing her new album, Middle Cyclone, on March 3! The queen of alt-country threw her fans a bone with a free download of "People Got A Lotta Nerve" earlier this month. Take a listen:

People Got A Lotta Nerve - Neko Case

I'll admit, it took me awhile to warm up to this track. The bright guitars and upbeat drums are quite a departure from her last album, the brilliant The Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. The snippets of new material that can be heard on the Middle Cyclone EPK give me no reason to worry, however; from shuffling, introspective ballads to heart-wrenching torch songs, Miss Case isn't about to abandon the formula that brought her success in the past. I think we can look forward to another gem of an album in March, and stay tuned for a review of her performance at the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C, on April 8!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

She Made the Assholes Behind Me Shut Up

This is a first for me, y'all-- a truly happy post.

Laura and I went to Charm City Kitty Club last night at the Patterson. Laura's been to Kitty-topia before, but yesterday evening was a first pour moi.

The phallic-shaped desserts, free flavored condoms, and scantily-clad cupcake vendor did not prepare me in any way for the passion incarnate that was to take the stage near the end of the night. Who would have thought that in the hyper-technological world of 2009, that spoken word remains a power-house?

The poet and activist Andrea Gibson could make even my ex-Navy chief, Jews-are-going-to-take-over-the-world, Hemingway's-the-pinnacle-of-literature father love poetry. (And she might be able to teach me a thing or two about syntax, but hey, that's just semantics.)

The crew in the row directly behind me in the audience either naturally lacked tact, or had imbibed a few Bohs too many and in any case, were constantly babbling and cracking jokes through other performers' sets (including, unfortunately, the amazing songs of singer-songwriter Gina Young), but when Gibson spoke the first word of her first poem of the night, "For Eli", the loudmouths behind me became as still and silent as babies post-lullaby.

Gibson seemed to embody the very words that came out of her mouth as she spoke them, sending each audience member's ear a particle of her passion. Her poems were candid, honest, tear-jerking, thought-provoking and at times, really funny. Her stage presence dominated not only attention spans, but emotional capacities as well, and in kind, both Laura and I felt it difficult at times to refrain from tears.

Andrea Gibson's poem, "For Eli", which she prefaced by saying she hopes to retire it soon, is a good reminder to the world that charity bracelets, bumper stickers, and saying "oh, that's terrible" before turning off the news special on genocide isn't enough. Her words invoke an urgency for action that's much needed in the world's perilous state of affairs. She also discussed civil liberties, hypocrisy, and how as we grow older, we also grow more judgemental and less accepting of others.

Gibson is not only a memorable dynamo of wordsmith and performer, but she blends activist seedlings into her words that leave me with an unmatchable imprint. Each line of Andrea Gibson's poetry set off a mine in my dormant thoughts, and I'm left wondering, "who planted those explosive devices that one word can send me so happily home, and so inspired?"

You should take a bite out of some of that inspiration: http://www.andreagibson.org

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Paper Dolls of Revolutionary Road

I have been a faithful fan of Kate Winslet. I thought her performance as charming neurotic in Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was spot-on and award-worthy. I felt her pain in "Little Children", and admired her ability to shine alongside Harvey Keitel in Jane Campion's "Holy Smoke". She's offered brilliant performances in many thought-provoking films, not least of them her first ("Heavenly Creatures"), but Revolutionary Road strikes me as a startling regression.

At first, I thought my eyelids were drooping because of problematic acting and a lack of cinematic chemistry. Every line Dicaprio and Winslet screamed at each other seemed stagey and forced. Then, as the narrative developed, I realized the real issue was that Winslet didn't have a legitimate character to portray. She was simply trying to bring depth and soul to a two-dimensional crock of shit. Winslet played The Neurotic, one of the paper dolls women get to be in film.

From the get-go of "Revolutionary Road", it's April Wheeler (Winslet's character) that's being antagonistic while Frank Wheeler (Dicaprio) struggles to comfort her and eventually angers at her inconsolability. April cheats on her husband with his best friend, kills their unborn baby, screams at her daughter, whines and cries about living in a big house and constantly drinking martinis, and has a lifelong dream of going to Paris because her husband once said it was the most interesting city in the world.

The viewer rarely sees her smile or laugh and when she does it's hardly endearing as she follows it up with a bout of sobbing and screaming, or a stony silence and curt words most likely dealing with the failure of the family plan to move to Paris. She's petty, overly emotional, selfish, and at times palpably more insane than the gimmicky character of John Givings, the previously institutionalized son of Mrs. Givings (Kathy Bates). She's the emotionally unstable wife with a resilience factor of zero. We're given no background, no motive, no understanding of her anger and disappointment, only a whirlwind of screaming, pouting, and eventually: blood.

The other three prominent female characters are even worse off in the arena of depth. Mrs. Givings is The Nag, an obtrusive real estate agent whose own husband doesn't want to listen to her constant gossip and complaints. She constantly worries about propriety, barges in on the Wheelers at the worst possible moments, and lets her son insult her and yell at her to just shut up. Then we have The Bimbo, a secretary at Frank Wheeler's company, who's made to look so dumb as to perhaps have undergone a lobotomy as a job requirement. Her vapid statements, easy nature, and wide-eyed expressions are hard to swallow after thirty seconds of her time on screen. And last, but not least, we have The Devout in the character of Mrs. Campbell, a tame woman who tries hard to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, is easily shaken, and seems all-too-happy to be glued to her husband's hip.

I'm only disappointed because I thought Revolutionary Road was going to be a movie that would give me insight into the 50s, a film that would show me two complicated souls struggling to be independent in a decade known for its oppressive environment of conformity.

Instead, I got four paper dolls, a weak imitation of the women I know who lived during that very interesting decade.