Still Paging Mr. Salinger (The New York Times)

On Thursday, J. D. Salinger turns 90. There probably won’t be a party, or if there is we’ll never know. For more than 50 years Mr. Salinger has lived in seclusion in the small town of Cornish, N.H. For a while it used to be a journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters up to Cornish in hopes of a sighting, or at least a quotation from a garrulous local, but Mr. Salinger hasn’t been photographed in decades now and the neighbors have all clammed up. He’s been so secretive he makes Thomas Pynchon seem like a gadabout.

Mr. Salinger’s disappearing act has succeeded so well, in fact, that it may be hard for readers who aren’t middle-aged to appreciate what a sensation he once caused. With its very first sentence, his novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” which came out in 1951, introduced a brand-new voice in American writing, and it quickly became a cult book, a rite of passage for the brainy and disaffected. “Nine Stories,” published two years later, made Mr. Salinger a darling of the critics as well, for the way it dismantled the traditional architecture of the short story and replaced it with one in which a story could turn on a tiny shift of mood or tone.

In the 1960s, though, when he was at the peak of his fame, Mr. Salinger went silent. “Franny and Zooey,” a collection of two long stories about the fictional Glass family, came out in 1961; two more long stories about the Glasses, “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour: An Introduction,” appeared together in book form in 1963. The last work of Mr. Salinger’s to appear in print was “Hapworth 16, 1924,” a short story that took up most of the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker. In the ’70s he stopped giving interviews, and in the late ’80s he went all the way to the Supreme Court to block the British critic Ian Hamilton from quoting his letters in a biography.

So what has Mr. Salinger been doing for the last 40 years? The question obsesses Salingerologists, of whom there are still a great many, and there are all kinds of theories. He hasn’t written a word. Or he writes all the time and, like Gogol at the end of his life, burns the manuscripts. Or he has volumes and volumes just waiting to be published posthumously.

Joyce Maynard, who lived with Mr. Salinger in the early ’70s, wrote in a 1998 memoir that she had seen shelves of notebooks devoted to the Glass family and believed there were at least two new novels locked away in a safe.

“Hapworth,” which has never been published in book form, may be our only clue to what Mr. Salinger is thinking, and it’s unlike anything else he has written. The story used to be available only in samizdat — photocopies of photocopies passed along from hand to hand and becoming blurrier with each recopying — though it has become somewhat more accessible since the 2005 DVD edition of “The Complete New Yorker.” In 1997 Mr. Salinger agreed to let Orchises Press, a small publisher in Alexandria, Va., bring out a hardcover edition, but five years later he backed out of the deal.

Ever since, Salinger fans have been poring over the text, looking for hidden meaning. Did the author’s temporary willingness to reissue “Hapworth” indicate a throat-clearing, a warming up of the famously silent machinery? Or was it instead an act of closure, a final binding-up of the Glass family saga — one that, coming last but also at the chronological beginning, brings the whole enterprise full circle?

“Hapworth,” to summarize the unsummarizable, is a letter — or rather a transcription of a letter — 25,000 words, written in haste, by the 7-year old Seymour Glass, away at summer camp, to his parents, the long-suffering ex-vaudevillians Les and Bessie, and his siblings Walt, Waker and Boo Boo, back in New York.

Seymour, we learn, is already reading several languages and lusting after Mrs. Happy, the young wife of the camp owner. He condescends to his campmates and dispenses advice to the various members of the family: Les should be careful about his accent when singing, Boo Boo needs to practice her handwriting, Walt his manners, and so on.

The letter concludes with an extraordinary annotated list of books Seymour would like sent to him — a lifetime of reading for most people, but in his case merely the books he needs to get through the next six weeks: “Any unbigoted or bigoted books on God or merely religion, as written by persons whose last names begin with any letter after H; to stay on the safe side, please include H itself, though I think I have mostly exhausted it. ... The complete works again of Count Leo Tolstoy. ... Charles Dickens, either in blessed entirety or in any touching shape or form. My God, I salute you, Charles Dickens!” And so on, all the way through Proust — in French, naturally — Goethe, and Porter Smith’s “Chinese Materia Medica.”

“Hapworth,” in short, must be the longest, most pretentious (and least plausible) letter from camp ever written. But though it’s the work of a prodigy, it’s also, like all camp letters, a homesick cry for attention.

Its author is the same Seymour who, while on his honeymoon in Florida years later (but — it gets confusing — 17 years earlier in real time, in the 1948 short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”), will take an automatic pistol from the bottom of his suitcase and shoot himself through the temple as his bride lies napping in the twin bed next to him. And the same Seymour — the family saint, poet and mystic — whom we’ve heard about at such length in the later Glass stories.

Or is he the same?

Madness - The Liberty Of Norton Folgate (2009)

(Not actual cover)


The Liberty of Norton Folgate is the upcoming album by the British ska band Madness. It will be their ninth studio album. The band have been working on the album for close to three years and it will be their first album of new material since 1999's Wonderful. After showcasing a number of songs from the new album at London's Hackney Empire in June 2008, it was announced in December 2008 that the official release date of the album will be March 2nd 2009.

During a radio interview in January 2008, Suggs stated that "Forever Young" might be a possible future single. A shortened version of the track "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" was made available on Youtube in mid May 2008. In December a boxset of the album was offered for pre-order on the Madness website; those who ordered were entitled to a digital download of the album on December 20th. Subsequently the entire album leaked onto the internet on December 25, 2008.

Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley are back in the producers chair. Recording sessions also took place in Toe Rag studios in late 2006 with Liam Watson who engineered and mixed Elephant by The White Stripes.

Balance de cine 2008

En medio de este panorama terrible de estrenos en la Argentina, parece difícil pensar que 2008 fue un año en el que vi muy buenas películas. De hecho, no recuerdo cuál fue la última gran película que vi --y eso que ya vi bastantes de las que vienen con expectativas de Oscar-- y no sólo me refiero a los estrenos locales. Las últimas películas que vi aquí (en videos, screeners o como sea) y que no se estrenaron (ni se van a estrenar) no mejoran demasiado el panorama. No sé, leyendo algunas críticas de esas películas de colegas de afuera, pienso que tal vez sea yo el que no esté pasando un buen momento con el cine. Me encuentro disperso, desatento e impaciente en muchas películas, o porque me parecen previsibles o porque no me interesan lo que cuentan ni cómo lo cuentan.

Acaso sea por eso que estoy prestándole más atención que nunca a la música y menos a las películas. Tal vez sea más sencillo hacer un buen disco que un buen filme (¿será así?), pero lo cierto es que me encuentro con más sorpresas placenteras en la música. Y aún lo que es previsible y nada original se digiere fácilmente en pequeñas porciones de tres o cuatro minutos. Y lo mismo puedo decir de las series. Hay dos que estoy viendo en estos meses --"Mad Men" y "The Wire"-- cuyo funcionamiento episódico dentro de una gran narrativa de horas y horas permite mejores y peores momentos (aún dentro de cada capítulo) sin que eso arruine necesariamente la línea narrativa general, y a la vez genera un proceso emocional acumulativo y progresivo.

Volviendo al cine, aquí van una serie de listados comentados, armados con películas vistas pero no estrenadas, otra de estrenos locales de películas extranjeras y otra de estrenos de cine argentino. Y un largo Bonus Track de... cosas.

(Sin orden de preferencia y no incluye películas norteamericanas que ya vi y que podrían estrenarse en la Argentina en 2009, como por ejemplo la gran "Zack & Miri Make a Porno", de Kevin Smith)

"Summer Hours", de Olivier Assayas (Francia)
¿Será que mi abuelo murió hace poco tiempo y tengo menos idea que los personajes de esta película de qué es lo que se hace en esos casos?

"Aquele querido mes de agosto", de Miguel Gomes (Portugal)
Cuando me refiero a un cine diferente e imprevisible, sofisticado y popular, exigente y liviano, hablo de películas como ésta.

"Must Read After My Death", de Morgan Dews
No vi "Revolutionary Road", pero entre esta película y "Mad Men", la revisión crítica de la vida de los suburbios norteamericanos en los '50 y '60 parece ser el gran tema de los próximos años.

"Achilles and the Tortoise", de Takeshi Kitano (Japón)
Graciosa y dolorosamente autobiográfica. Un director que se vive tomando el pelo a sí mismo y cuya autoflagelación personal pasó ya los límites de lo simplemente simpático y delirante.

"Che", de Steven Soderbergh (EE.UU.)
La cantidad de cosas que podían salir mal en esta película es tal que cuesta creer que haya salido todo tan bien. Digo, para el espectador, no para Guevara ni para el mundo, digamos (Versión completa)

"A Christmas Tale", de Arnaud Desplechin (Francia)
Otro cineasta de la desmesura y el descontrol, a 300 kilómetros por hora. ¿Alguien se atreve a darle una superproducción de Hollywood para filmar? Quiero verlo hacer "Iron Man 2", por ejemplo...

"El cant dels ocells", de Albert Serra (España)
¿Qué decir de esta película que no se haya dicho antes? Eso: ¿qué decir?

"Ballast", de Lance Hammer (EE.UU.)
Una fábula de la reconstrucción

"La frontera del alba", de Philippe Garrel (Francia)
Filmar como si el cine de la década del 20 y la del 60 pudiera convivir en una misma película.

"Gomorra", de Mateo Garrone (Italia)
Tras verla, seguro que Martin Scorsese se quedó babeando y pensando: ¿qué mierda estuve haciendo todos estos años?

"Night And Day", de Hong Sang-soo (Corea)
Dice un cantito típico de las hinchadas de fútbol de la Argentina: "Yo te sigo a todar partes adonde vas/Cada vez te quiero más".

"Of Time And The City", de Terence Davies (Gran Bretaña)
No me acordaba que lo extrañaba tanto.

"Je ne suis pas morte", de Jean-Charles Fitoussi (Francia)
Algo similar a la película de Gomes, pero delirante y afrancesada. Una película hecha de tangentes sobre tangentes sobre tangentes.

"Wendy & Lucy", de Kelly Reichardt (Estados Unidos)

Esta mujer debe estar viendo mucho nuevo cine argentino. Digo, me parece a mí, no sé...

"Encounters At The End Of The World", de Werner Herzog (Alemania)
¿Quién podrá olvidar a la mujer que viajaba adentro de un caño o adentro de un bolso? ¿O era dentro de una zapatilla?

"Boogie", de Radu Muntean (Rumania)
Otro cineasta argentinizado... Este estuvo viendo la filmografía completa de Raúl Perrone.

"Entre les murs", de Laurent Cantet (Francia)
Tras verla, seguro que Ken Loach se quedó babeando y pensando: ¿qué mierda estuve haciendo todos estos años?

"La vie moderne", de Raymond Depardon (Francia)
¿Los personajes de esta película se prenderán en un paro del campo, en un corte de rutas? No creo. Demasiada gente...

"La France", de Serge Bozon (Francia)
Muchas películas francesas, ¿no? ¿Qué decir? Cada vez que escucho las canciones de esta película se me eriza la piel...

"Lake Tahoe", de Fernando Eimbcke (México)
No me había gustado tanto "Temporada de patos", pero después de ver tantas películas mexicanas tremebundas y violentas (buenas o no tanto), encontrarme con esta película fue un soplo de aire fresco.

"Serbis", de Brillante Mendoza (Filipinas)
De adolescente fui un par de veces a un cine porno que había en Banfield (¿qué habrá allí ahora?). De alguna extraña manera, se parecían.

"Ploy", de Pen-ek Ranatanaruang (Tailandia)
Todo aquel que haya estado dando vueltas por un hotel a las 4 de la mañana entenderá de qué va esta película.

"Jogo de cena", de Eduardo Coutinho (Brasil)
Documental, ficción, teatro, cine, todo junto y sin mover la cámara ni el "set". Extraordinario.

"Cloud 9", de Andreas Dresen (Alemania)
Como diría un amigo: "Una de unos viejos chotos que garchan". My kind of movie...

"My Winnipeg", de Guy Maddin (Canadá)
¿Le hacemos "gancho" con Terence Davies? "Se ha formado una pareja", diría el inolvidable Roberto Galán.

(sin orden de preferencia)

"El caballero de la noche", de Christopher Nolan (EE.UU.)
"You are just a freak, like me"

"Wall-E", de Andrew Stanton (EE.UU.)
Stanton es mejor que Kubrick. Ya está. Lo dije. Y Kubrick no sabría hacer una sobre pescaditos tampoco...

"No te metas con Zohan", de Dennis Dugan (EE.UU.)
Don't get me started on this one...

"Shara", de Naomi Kawase (Japón)
¿Cómo se llamaba la película del chileno Torres Leiva? ¿El cielo, el agua, la lluvia, el sol? Bueno, eso está todo acá.

"There Will Be Blood", de Paul Thomas Anderson (EE.UU.)
No Blood For Oil: Blood For Milkshakes!

"Paranoid Park", de Gus van Sant (EE.UU.)
Es como la unión del primer Van Sant con el reciente: la síntesis perfecta, pese a lo "christopherdoylizada" de algunas escenas. Temo por "Milk", lo confieso...

"Eastern Promises", de David Cronenberg (EE.UU.)
"Me? I'm driver. I go left, I go right".

"Before The Devil Knows You're Dead", de Sidney Lumet (EE.UU.)
La vi tres veces. La primera vez no entendí lo que pasaba (no tenía subtítulos y entenderlo a Philip Seymour Hoffman es para mí siempre un problema) y me quedé afuera. La segunda me atrapó. Para la tercera, ya era un fanático.

"I'm Not There", de Todd Haynes (EE.UU.)
Like Dylan in the movies...

"Naturaleza muerta", de Jia Zhang-ke (China)
El reverso de la ceremonia de apertura de los Juegos Olímpicos dirigida por Zhang Yimou.

Menciones especiales: "Iron Man", "Sweeney Todd", "La nube errante/The Wayward Cloud", "La cuestión humana", "Election 2", "Tropic Thunder", "Climates", "Juno", "Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Cristal Skull", "Hellboy II".


"Burn After Reading", de los hermanos Coen
Todo mal. Todo, todo. No sabría por donde empezar.


El agotamiento de la factoría Apatow. Prueben ver el doblete "Pineapple Express" vs. "Zack & Miri Make a Porno" --la primera, de Apatow, la segunda de Kevin Smith, ambas protagonizadas por Seth Rogen-- y después me cuentan.


Honestamente, jamás imaginé que Paul Thomas Anderson podía hacer una película como "There Will Be Blood". Un mazazo... literalmente.

CINE ARGENTINO - TOP 5 (en órden alfabético)

"Historias extraordinarias", de Mariano Llinás
Es más o menos así. Había un hombre, pongámosle M, que salió con su camarita a hacer una película. Y lo que le salió fue esto...

"Leonera", de Pablo Trapero
Ahora resulta que los familiares de Trapero son grandes actores. La abuela de Pablo debe estar terriblemente celosa...

"Liverpool", de Lisandro Alonso
Si el protagonista era Xabi Alonso, y andaba todo el tiempo con la camiseta del Liverpool, seguro que los ingleses decían que era la mejor película del año.

"La mujer sin cabeza", de Lucrecia Martel
Primero la querían los argentinos, pero ahora no tanto. Después los franceses, pero ahora dudan. Más tarde los norteamericanos, pero ahora están confundidos. Y ahora la quieren los ingleses, quién lo hubiera dicho. ¿Porqué todo el mundo es tan duro --exigente, crítico-- con Lucrecia? No logro explicármelo.

"El nido vacío", de Daniel Burman
El día que Adrián Suar se decida a hacer una buena película de verdad, no tiene más que levantar el teléfono y llamarlo a Burman. ¿O será que Burman no quiere?


"Dos amigos y un ladrón", de Jaime L. Lozano

Este señor es miembro del comité de aprobación de proyectos del INCAA...

Village Voice/L.A. Weekly Film Poll 2008: WALL-E World

By J. Hoberman

All hail Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E — even us! Sometimes, the movies really are universal. And so a major studio’s mainstream, multiplex, mega-million-dollar-grossing, Oscar-friendly “summer movie” resoundingly won the ninth annual Village Voice–L.A. Weekly poll of (mainly) alt-press critics, named on 35 of 80 ballots.

Unlike last year, when Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood materialized in late December to snatch the prize from the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men and David Fincher’s Zodiac, there was no groupthink stampede. Critics had months in which to cogitate over the eventual poll winner. Pass the popcorn, not the ammunition: While last year’s top films were characterized by murderous violence, WALL-E radiated hope. The new optimism was also manifest in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, which, boasting a relentlessly upbeat performance by Sally Hawkins, finished a close third in the poll just behind Hou Hsiao-hsien’s relatively cheerful The Flight of the Red Balloon, as well as Gus Van Sant’s ultra-inspirational political biopic, Milk (No. 7).

There are, to be sure, a number of demanding, arty, feel-bad films among the critical favorites: Ari Folman’s animated documentary, Waltz With Bashir (No. 6), deals with the trauma of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon; Kelly Reichardt’s low-budget Michelle Williams vehicle, Wendy and Lucy (No. 8), evokes the reality of hard times without a safety net; and Charlie Kaufman’s convoluted extravaganza, Synecdoche, New York (No. 10), had the fearsomely impacted dry-mouth quality of speed-freak scribble-scrabble. But in other movies, even the bad felt good: Jia Zhangke’s Still Life (No. 4) brooded over a Chinese river city flooded and rebuilt as part of the Three Gorges Dam project — everything despoiled and yet, thanks to the camera, impossibly beautiful.

Arnaud Desplechin’s shamelessly entertaining A Christmas Tale (No. 5) made light of terminal cancer and mental illness; Tomas Alfredson’s offbeat gorefest, Let the Right One In (No. 9), was an unexpectedly touching treatment of child vampirism. Already slated for English-language remake, Let the Right One In was a genuine sleeper — the most surprising movie to crack the poll’s top 10. Other surprises include the relative weakness of Danny Boyle’s well-reviewed (and feel-good) Slumdog Millionaire, which finished 20th, three notches below the year’s commercial triumph, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. And did Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s exceedingly timely geriatric Dirty Harry–cum–disgruntled auto worker flick, arrive in theaters too late to place any higher than a distant 29th?

Batman didn’t prevail, and Clint failed to save the day, but then, John McCain didn’t win the election. It was WALL-E that touched a chord and fit the national mood. No movie was more American than this state-of-the-art ballet mécanique — a bit of apocalyptic slapstick that satirized technology even as it deployed it — unless it was Milk. But neither Sean Penn’s martyred activist nor Hawkins’ irrepressible Happy-Go-Lucky Pollyanna was more industrious or indomitable a public servant than Pixar’s planet-saving ding-bot. Assigned the thankless, lonely job of cleaning up the cosmic mess of an abandoned, polluted world, little WALL-E succeeded in turning it green. True, the machine was inspired by “love” for a more advanced Danish modern fembot, but the real miracle of WALL-E was that the standard Disney tropes — adorable critters, rampant sentimentality, asexual eroticism — were burnt to a crisp and then redeployed as beacons of hope in an almost unbearably bleak vision of a dead world.

Not just the winner on points, WALL-E was also the movie about which critics felt most strongly. Ballots are weighted (first choices garnering 10 points; second choices, 9; and so on), but a majority of votes doesn’t necessarily reflect the degree of devotion that a particular movie inspires. That can only be quantified by the Passiondex — a form of data-crunching developed with a nerdiness worthy of WALL-E. The Passiondex is determined when a film’s total points are divided by the number of ballots on which it appeared; this average point score is then multiplied by the percentage of voters who cared enough to rank the movie first or, factored in at one-half, second. (I have long suspected that in polls such as this, second place is the real number one. The first listed film is the official choice, offering protection for the secret enthusiasm of the film that follows. But that’s another story.)

The Passiondex enables us to make a distinction between those movies that have true partisans and fervent lovers, and those others which, inspiring fraternal good wishes, are the consensus choices that typically appear toward the bottom of many lists. This year’s supreme example would be Wendy and Lucy, which, although it had the most anemic Passiondex of any movie in the top 10, nevertheless appeared on more lists than any except WALL-E, and thus is clearly a movie that, however widely liked (or well respected) among critics, does not inspire much mad love.

Unusual for both building a consensus and stirring ardent feelings, WALL-E scored most passionately. But the poll’s top 10 changes drastically if the movies are reordered by the Passiondex and opened up to the top 25 vote-getters. Now, the cult enthusiasms surface: Jonathan Demme’s Altmanesque ensemble extravaganza, Rachel Getting Married (No. 12), enters the top 10 in second place, while a cluster of more esoteric foreign-language movies, José Luis Guerín’s In the City of Sylvia (tied for No. 21 with The Class), Carlos Reygadas’ Mennonite passion play, Silent Light (No. 13) and Serge Bozon’s musical lost-platoon drama, La France (No. 23), place third, fourth and 10th, respectively. Synecdoche, New York moves up to fifth place, and Let the Right One In to sixth (while Still Life drops to seventh, The Flight of the Red Balloon floats down to eighth, and A Christmas Tale falls to ninth). The prize critical cult film: Rachel Getting Married. Despite generally mixed reviews, Demme’s independent feature received a higher percentage of first- and second-place votes than even WALL-E, meaning that the people who liked it really liked it.

I’d argue that Rachel participated in the positive-thinking Zeitgeist as well. The plot may revolve around an obnoxiously disordered personality (Anne Hathaway) and feature the ultimate downer (death of a child), as well as divorce, competitive dishwashing and a number of lesser domestic disasters, but the movie itself was overwhelmingly affirmative, if not positively utopian. Demme had organized the movie around the ultimate rainbow-coalition musical-fusion New Age wedding, which, as a colleague remarked, had everything but Jimmy Carter in a purple dashiki — an image of inclusion that might have been almost too prophetic.

Best Films of 2008

1.WALL-E (237 points, 35 mentions)

2.The Flight of the Red Balloon (163 points, 26 mentions)

3.Happy-Go-Lucky (159 points, 26 mentions)

4.Still Life (147 points, 23 mentions)

5.A Christmas Tale (146 points, 24 mentions)

6. Waltz With Bashir (140 points, 22 mentions)

7. Milk (123 points, 21 mentions)

8. Wendy and Lucy (122 points, 25 mentions)

9. Let the Right One In (113 points, 20 mentions)

10. Synecdoche, New York (106 points, 18 mentions)

Best Actor

1. Sean Penn, Milk (86 points, 36 mentions): Reigning in his mannerisms, Hollywood’s moodiest male star triumphantly vanished into the role of community organizer–political martyr Harvey Milk — and could well emerge brandishing an Oscar.

2. Mickey Rourke,The Wrestler (74 points, 36 mentions): Gotta be the comeback performance of the decade — aging bad boy as an aging, almost lovable, broken-down professional wrestler.

3. Benicio Del Toro,Che (25 points, 12 mentions): A sometime showboat demonstrates his own brand of revolutionary discipline, playing the icon of icons as a dedicated professional.

Best Actress

1. Sally Hawkins,Happy-Go-Lucky (83 points, 34 mentions): Erupting out of the Mike Leigh ensemble, Hawkins riffs an indelible character into existence — a London kindergarten teacher, at once grating and irresistible in her boundless good nature.

2. Michelle Williams,Wendy and Lucy (60 points, 28 mentions): Williams performs a virtual solo as a young woman who loses everything when she loses her dog. No one this year held a close-up better.

3. Juliette Binoche,The Flight of the Red Balloon (55 points, 26 mentions): Encouraged by director Hou Hsiao-hsien to invent her own character, Binoche broke new ground playing a professional puppeteer as eccentric as the movie in which she found herself.

Best Supporting Actor

1. Heath Ledger,The Dark Knight (75 points, 29 mentions): A no-brainer. Even had the release of Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel not been preceded by Ledger’s untimely death, his turn as the anarchic Joker in Louise Brooks eyeshadow would have immortalized him among a generation of moviegoers and aspirant Method actors.

2. Eddie Marsan,Happy-Go-Lucky(43 points, 19 mentions): As the dyspeptic yang to Sally Hawkins’s ebullient yin, this pug-faced Mike Leigh regular proved a formidable test case for the limits of positive thinking and gave a bad name to driving instructors everywhere.

3. Josh Brolin,Milk (30 points, 13 mentions): After playing Dubya for Oliver Stone, Brolin stepped down the political hierarchy to render an even more chilling impersonation of San Francisco supervisor and avid Twinkie-consumer, Dan White.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Penélope Cruz,Vicky Cristina Barcelona (42 points, 21 mentions): Woody Allen’s sun-drenched Spanish ménage à quatre is chugging along pleasantly enough, and then Cruz enters the frame as Javier Bardem’s homicidal ex — and sets the whole thing ablaze like a raging comic fireball.

2.Viola Davis,Doubt (35 points, 14 mentions): As the pragmatic mother of an allegedly molested boy at a Catholic high school, Davis has just one major scene, but it is the kind that stops an audience dead in its tracks and colors the absolutist logic of John Patrick Shanley’s modern morality play with much-needed splotches of gray.

3. Rosemary DeWitt,Rachel Getting Married (30 points, 14 mentions): Although Anne Hathaway has commanded the lion’s share of press, it’s DeWitt’s less showboating performance as the titular betrothed that provides a welcome oasis of calm at the center of Jonathan Demme’s big, fat U.N. wedding party.

Best First Film

Ballast (20 points/mentions): Lance Hammer’s soulful study of a single mother and her teenage son eking out a poverty-line existence in the Mississippi Delta, Ballast was the rare film about the black American experience whose characters possessed a quiet, unassailable dignity from the start — one not revealed (or, worse, bestowed upon them) by the filmmaker.

Best Documentary

Man On Wire (16 points/mentions): A nonfiction film with the heart of a Hollywood caper, James Marsh’s wildly entertaining docudrama revisited French provocateur Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and turned it into an eccentric valentine to imagination, risk-taking, and creative self-expression.

Worst Film

The Love Guru (5 points/mentions): In the same year that Slumdog Millionaire became a word-of-mouth smash, onetime box-office champ Mike Myers went slumming in brownface as the eponymous cupid of this little-seen (but much-loathed) “comedy.”

Best Undistributed Films

1. The Headless Woman (15 points/mentions): After Che, the love-it-or-hate-it attraction of last year’s Cannes Film Festival was director Lucrecia Martel’s intentionally disorienting immersion into the unstable universe of a bourgeois Argentine woman reeling from a bump on the noggin. As usual, away from the Cannes hothouse, the film’s supporters quickly outnumbered its detractors.

2. Tony Manero (11 points/mentions): You can tell by the way he uses his walk that the monomaniacal protagonist of director Pablo Larraín’s unnerving sophomore feature really, really wants to win a John Travolta lookalike contest on a TV variety show in the waning years of Pinochet’s Chile.

3.Four Nights With Anna (10 points/mentions): Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski’s return to feature filmmaking — and to form — after a self-imposed 15-year hiatus is a typically idiosyncratic, darkly funny tale of obsession in which a lonely morgue worker can only express his love for a beautiful nurse through subtle acts of home invasion (and home improvement).

The Ground Rules: We asked each critic to cite 10 films, three male lead performances, three female lead performances, three male supporting performances, three female supporting performances, 10 films without distributors, and one choice each for documentary, first feature, and worst. Ranked ballots were weighted as follows: For film: 1 (10 points), 2 (9), 3 (8), 4 (7), 5 (6), 6 (5), 7 (4), 8 (3), 9 (2), 10 (1). For performance: 1 (3), 2 (2), 3 (1). Unranked films were awarded 5.5 points each, unranked performances 2 points. Ties were verboten. Outside of the undistributed category, we asked voters to focus on films that opened for U.S. theatrical engagements in 2008.

Participants:L.A. Weekly/Village Voice Media contributors: Robert Abele, David Ehrenstein, F.X. Feeney, Scott Foundas, Lance Goldenberg, Ed Gonzalez, Tim Grierson, Aaron Hillis, J. Hoberman, Brian Miller, Kristi Mitsuda, Adam Nayman, Michelle Orange, Elena Oumano, Nick Pinkerton, Nicolas Rapold, Jim Ridley, Vadim Rizov, Sam Sweet, Ella Taylor, James C. Taylor, Luke Y. Thompson, Martin Tsai, Chuck Wilson

Others: Jason Anderson (Eye Weekly), John Anderson (Newsday), Melissa Anderson (Time Out New York), David Ansen (Newsweek), Sean Axmaker (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), Sheila Benson (freelance), Richard Brody (The New Yorker), Peter Brunette (The Hollywood Reporter), Ty Burr (The Boston Globe), Justin Chang (Variety), Tom Charity (CNN.com), Daryl Chin (Documents on Art & Cinema), Richard Corliss (Time), Peter Debruge (Variety), David Edelstein (New York), Jim Emerson (RogerEbert.com), Steve Erickson (Gay City News/Baltimore City Paper), David Fear (Time Out New York), Howard Feinstein (Filmmaker), Larry Gross (Film Comment/Movie City News), Molly Haskell (Turner Classic Movies), Christoph Huber (Die Presse, Vienna), Harlan Jacobson (Talk Cinema), Christopher Kelly (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), Peter Keough (The Boston Phoenix), Leonard Klady (Movie City News), Robert Koehler (Variety), Dan Kois (NYmag.com), Michael Koresky (Reverse Shot), Diego Lerer (Clarin, Buenos Aires), Philip Lopate (Film Comment) Todd McCarthy (Variety), Patrick Z. McGavin (Screen International), Wesley Morris (The Boston Globe), Mark Olsen (Film Comment), Gerald Peary (The Boston Phoenix), David Poland (Movie City News), Richard Porton (Cineaste), John Powers (Vogue), James Quandt (Cinematheque Ontario), Berenice Reynaud (REDCAT), Carrie Rickey (Philadelphia Inquirer), Jonathan Rosenbaum (JonathanRosenbaum.com), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), Brent Simon (FilmStew.com), Chuck Stephens (freelance), David Sterritt (DavidSterritt.com), Amy Taubin (Film Comment), Charles Taylor (Newark Star-Ledger), N.P. Thompson (Movies Into Film), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), James Verniere (The Boston Herald), Matthew Wilder (Collider.com), Michael Wilmington (Movie City News), Neil Young (Jigsaw Lounge, UK), Stephanie Zacharek (Salon.com)

Best Album 2008: Paul Weller - 22 Dreams

A lo largo de un par de décadas escuchando música siempre ha habido artistas que, por diferentes motivos, he dejado pasar sin prestar demasiada atención. Antes de internet, claro, acercarse a músicos con muchos años de carrera encima implicaba una dedicación de tiempo y dinero que uno no siempre estaba dispuesto a realizar, en especial si lo poco que escuchaba de ese artista no lo convencía lo suficiente como para gastarse un dineral comprándose ocho, diez o más discos (aclaro, no creo mucho en los Grandes Exitos: si algo me interesa, quiero saberlo todo o casi todo).

Así, en estos últimos años, algunos músicos que apenas conocía --eran, para mí, un nombre en una revista, una referencia, un puñado de temas-- se han convertido en artistas esenciales, en tipos que escucho todo el tiempo y que me permiten pensar en que siempre quedan cosas por descubrir en el pasado. Años atrás fue Robyn Hitchcock, un poco más cerca David Sylvian, y ahora Paul Weller. También, claro, hay bandas sin tanta trayectoria (como Felt, por ejemplo, o Another Sunny Day) que, al descubrirlas, me resulta extraño pensar que haya convivido tanto tiempo con ellas en el mismo universo sin jamás conocerlas.

El disco de Weller probablemente sea el mejor de su carrera solista y, con la salida del cuádruple álbum Live At The BBC, fue un año para reconquistar a los fans perdidos y atraer a muchos nuevos. Yo escuché por primera vez a Weller en tiempos de The Style Council y, si bien me gustaban algunas canciones, nunca le presté demasiada atención. Después escuché bastante The Jam pero cuando me reencontré con el Weller solista, convertido en Dios por los hermanos Gallagher y compañía, no me dio muchas ganas de revisar lo que hacía entonces. Y hablo de años como 1995, el de mi primer viaje a Londres, cuando leías sobre Weller en todas las revistas inglesas y veías sus discos en todas las tiendas.

Pero el tiempo fue pasando y nunca "le entré" a Weller, pese a que siempre que viajé a Londres me parecía llamativo lo importante que era en el panorama musical inglés y lo desconocido que resultaba en los Estados Unidos (no es el único, claro, pero es ostensible la diferencia). En la última década su carrera fue en decadencia y nunca se me ocurrió buscar online sus discos ni recuperar su figura. De hecho, apenas tuve "22 Dreams" no le presté demasiada atención. Lo escuché un poco, me interesó, pero no creo haber ni siquiera llegado hasta el final.

Una noche de octubre, sin embargo, volviendo en una minivan de una fiesta del Festival de Viena que quedaba en las afueras de la ciudad, el chofer estaba escuchando un disco que sonaba increíble, que me resultaba conocido, pero que no alcanzaba a saber qué era. Le pregunté. "Paul Weller", me dijo. "Es el disco nuevo, ¿no?". Era. Lo escuchamos los 20-25 minutos que duró el viaje, yo en absoluto silencio mientras atrás la gente hablaba y hablaba (eran las 3 a.m. o más), y ahí empezó todo.

Volví y me dediqué a Weller disco por disco (ediciones, reediciones especiales, discos en vivo, etc.) y la experiencia fue gratísima. No creo que se trate de un artista mayúsculo ni mucho menos, pero es un tipo que ha hecho grandes temas (sí, y tiene uno llamado "Peacock Suit", juro que no lo sabía), de esos que se te meten en la cabeza y no lográs sacártelos por días y días. ¿Algunos? "The Changingman", "Friday Street", "Wild Wood", "You Do Something To Me", "Brand New Start", "Broken Stones"... y sin mencionar los del disco nuevo.

Así que este Número 1 es para el amplísimo "22 Dreams" (que tiene 21 temas en realidad), un disco que parece un recorrido por las distintas etapas de la música de Weller y hasta la entrada en algunas inexploradas. Y es también para los treinta años de canciones que el tipo nos viene entregando y que yo --como muchos, imagino-- hemos ignorado o pasado por alto, siempre en busca de algo nuevo, de un descubrimiento. Pero Weller sigue ahí --como Robyn Hitchcock, como Billy Bragg, como Ray Davies, como Jonathan Richman, como tantos otros-- entregándonos pequeñas grandes canciones que no parecen caducar nunca.

And that, folks, that's entertainment!

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "A Fine Way To Lose (Drunken Demo)" (mp3)

(Foto: en vivo en Buenos Aires)


Este tema de BRMC se puede descargar gratuitamente de su sitio de internet. No es el sistema más fácil del mundo (hay que hacerse miembro del... club y unos cuántos pasos más), pero la canción vale la pena.


2008 National Film Registry (Library of Congress)

The holiday season is usually a busy time for moviegoers, but December is also the time of year when attention is focused on the preservation of the nation’s movie heritage. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today named 25 important motion pictures--classics and genres from every era of American filmmaking--to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, including "The Asphalt Jungle," "Deliverance," "A Face in the Crowd," "The Invisible Man," "Sergeant York" and "The Terminator." Spanning the period 1910-1989, this year’s selections bring the number of motion pictures in the registry to 500.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant, to be preserved for all time. These films are not selected as the "best" American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring significance to American culture.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

John Huston’s brilliant crime drama contains the recipe for a meticulously planned robbery, but the cast of criminal characters features one too many bad apples. Sam Jaffe, as the twisted mastermind, uses cash from corrupt attorney Emmerich (Louis Calhern) to assemble a group of skilled thugs to pull off a jewel heist. All goes as planned — until an alert night watchman and a corrupt cop enter the picture. Marilyn Monroe has a memorable bit part as Emmerich’s "niece."

Deliverance (1972)

Four Atlanta professionals (Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronnie Cox and Jon Voight) head for a weekend canoe trip — and instead meet up with two of the more memorable villains in film history (Billy McKinney and Herbert Coward) in this gripping Appalachian "Heart of Darkness." With dazzling visual flair, director John Boorman and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond infuse James Dickey’s novel with scenes of genuine terror and frantic struggles for survival battling river rapids — and in the process create a work rich with fascinating ambiguities about "civilized" values, urban-versus-backwoods culture, nature, and man’s supposed taming of the environment.

Disneyland Dream (1956)

The Barstow family films a memorable home movie of their trip to Disneyland. Robbins and Meg Barstow, along with their children Mary, David and Daniel were among 25 families who won a free trip to the newly opened Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., as part of a "Scotch Brand Cellophane Tape" contest sponsored by 3M. Through vivid color and droll narration ("The landscape was very different from back home in Connecticut"), we see a fantastic historical snapshot of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Catalina Island, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Disneyland in mid-1956. Home movies have assumed a rapidly increasing importance in American cultural studies as they provide a priceless and authentic record of time and place.

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Before Andy Griffith became a television legend playing a likable small-town sheriff, he portrayed a completely different type of celebrity in this dark look at the way sudden fame and power can corrupt. In his film debut, Griffith plays a rural drunk, drifter and country singer who becomes an overnight success when a radio station employee (Patricia Neal) puts him on the air. Behind the scenes, he turns into a power-hungry monster who must be exposed. This film is based on the short story "The Arkansas Traveler" by Budd Schulberg, who also wrote the script for director Elia Kazan.

Flower Drum Song (1961)

This film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical marked the first Hollywood studio film featuring performances by a mostly Asian cast, a break from past practice of casting white actors made up to appear Asian. Starring prominent Asian-American actors Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta, this milestone film presented an enduring three-dimensional portrait of Asian America as well as a welcomed, non-cliched portrait of Chinatown beyond the usual exotic tourist façades.

Foolish Wives (1922)

Director Erich von Stroheim’s third feature, staged with costly and elaborate sets of Monte Carlo, tells the story of a criminal who passes himself off as a Russian count in order to seduce women of society and steal their money. This brilliant and, at the time, controversial film fully established von Stroheim’s reputation within the industry as a challenging and difficult-to-manage creative genius.

Free Radicals (1979)

Born in New Zealand, avant-garde filmmaker Len Lye moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen in 1950. For his four-minute work "Free Radicals" (begun in 1958 and completed in 1979), Lye made scratches directly into the film stock. These scratches became "figures of motion" that appear in the finished film as horizontal and vertical lines and shapes dancing to the music of the Bagirmi tribe in Africa.

Hallelujah (1929)

The all-black-cast film "Hallelujah" was a surprising gamble by normally conservative MGM, allowed chiefly because director King Vidor deferred his salary and MGM had proved slow to convert from silent to sound films. Vidor had to shoot silent film of the mass-river-baptism and swamp-murder Tennessee location scenes. He then painstakingly synchronized the dialogue and music. Around themes of religion, sensuality and family stability, Vidor molded a tale of a cotton sharecropper that begins with him losing his year’s earnings, his brother and his freedom and follows him through the temptations of a dancehall girl (Nina Mae McKinney). The passionate conviction of the melodrama and the resourceful technical experiments make "Hallelujah" among the very first indisputable masterpieces of the sound era.

In Cold Blood (1967)

In 1959 two men brutally murdered four members of a Holcomb, Kan., family. Truman Capote reported on the infamous incident, first in a series of New Yorker articles and later in his non-fiction novel, "In Cold Blood." With an unsparing neo-realism, director Richard Brooks adapted Capote’s novel, focusing on the motivations, backgrounds, and relationship of the killers, society’s failure to spot potential murderers, and their eventual execution on death row. Filmed in striking black-and-white documentary style by cinematographer Conrad Hall, the film starred then-unknown actors Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, both of whom bore a close physical resemblance to the real-life murderers. Blake, in particular, provides a sensational, multi-layered portrayal. The chilling ending depicts Blake climbing to the gallows to be hanged as we hear his heartbeat slowly come to a stop as the screen fades to black.

The Invisible Man (1933)

Universal released many classic horror films during the 1930s and director James Whale crafted some of the greatest from that famous cycle: "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein," "The Old Dark House" and "The Invisible Man." Whale brought a dazzling stylishness to what were essentially low-budget horror films and, in the case of "The Invisible Man," produced sophisticated special effects, aided by John P. Fulton. As in his discovery of Boris Karloff to play "Frankenstein," Whale made another inspirational choice in picking British-born Claude Rains, in his American film debut, to portray H.G. Wells’ tormented scientist Jack Griffin. In the film, after discovering a drug which provides the secret to invisibility, Rains becomes an insane maniac and goes on a power-hungry murder spree, but later makes a deathbed confession to his fiancée: "I meddled in things that man must leave alone."

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Often described as the one of the stranger, kinkier Westerns of all time, Nicholas Ray’s film-noiresque "Johnny Guitar" possesses enough symbolism to keep a psychiatrist occupied for years and was a favorite film of French New Wave directors. "Johnny Guitar," filmed in the Trucolor process and CinemaScope, also rates significance as one of a few Westerns featuring women as the main stars (Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge). Crawford is the owner of a gambling saloon in an isolated town waiting for the train lines to arrive so she can get rich; McCambridge plays her nemesis. Upon its release, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter panned "Johnny Guitar," but the film’s reputation has soared over time.

The Killers (1946)

Director Robert Siodmak took the original Ernest Hemingway short story as the film’s opening point and developed it with an elaborate series of flashbacks, creating a classic example of film noir. Two killers shatter a small town’s quiet before an insurance investigator (Edmond O’Brien) digs up crime, betrayal, and a glamorous woman (Ava Gardner) behind an ex-fighter's death (Burt Lancaster's electrifying film debut).

The March (1964)

George Stevens Jr., who headed the United States Information Agency (USIA) Motion Picture Service unit from 1962-67, brought in several young talented documentary filmmakers such as Charles Guggenheim, Carroll Ballard, Kent McKenzie, Leo Seltzer, Terry Sanders, Bruce Herschensohn, and James Blue, who directed "The March." This period ushered in the "Golden Era" of USIA films. Examining the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington from the ground-level and focusing on the idealistic passion, joy and synergy of the crowds, Blue’s documentary lets us see the event take shape from the planning stage — with sound checks and worries about whether people will attend — to the arrival of enormous crowds on parades of trains and buses. It culminates in Martin Luther King’s electrifying "I Have a Dream" speech. These USIA films were rarely seen in America because, fearing propaganda, the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act mandated that no USIA film could be shown domestically without a special act of Congress. These films are being rediscovered because a 1990 act of Congress (P.L. 101-246) authorized domestic screening 12 years after release.

No Lies (1973)

Done in faux cinéma vérité style, Mitchell Block’s 16-minute New York University student film begins on a note of insouciant amateurism and then convincingly moves into darker, deeper waters. Opening with a scene of a girl getting ready for a date, the camera-wielding protagonist adroitly orchestrates a mood shift from goofiness to raw pain as an interviewer tears down the girl’s emotional defenses after being raped. One of the first films to deal with the way rape victims are treated when they seek professional help for sexual assault, "No Lies" still possesses a searing resonance and has been widely viewed by nurses, therapists and police officers.

On the Bowery (1957)

"On the Bowery" is Lionel Rogosin’s acclaimed, unrelenting docudrama about the infamous New York City zone known as the Bowery. The film focuses on three of its alcoholic skid row denizens and their marginal existence amid the gin mills, missions and flop houses. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote that "this is a dismal exposition to be charging people money to see." Rogosin and his small crew spent months on the Bowery observing and talking with residents. They crafted the film as a "synthesis" of Bowery life, and it remains a wrenching portrait of hopelessness, despair and broken dreams. The film’s writer, Mark Sufrin, wrote in an issue of Sight and Sound magazine: "Very few, once they hit the Bowery, ever leave, are reclaimed, or rehabilitated…I had escaped that frightening place. They still remain."

One Week (1920)

"One Week" is the first publicly released two-reel short film starring Buster Keaton. One of Keaton’s finest films and one of the greatest short comedies produced during the 1920s, the film, as critic Walter Kerr noted, shows Keaton as "a garden at the moment of blooming." Considered astonishingly creative even by contemporary standards, "One Week" is rife with hilarious comic, often surrealist, sequences chronicling the ill-fated attempts of a newlywed couple to assemble their new home.

The Pawnbroker (1965)

"The Pawnbroker" was the first Hollywood film to depict in a realistic, psychologically probing manner the trauma of a Holocaust survivor, a subject previously taboo because of the fear of poor box office or offending delicate sensitivities. Rod Steiger’s astounding performance — as he tries to repress his memories of the anguish, physical and emotional shame of being an internment-camp inmate — also serves a perfect allegory for American film’s own struggles to represent this major tragedy of 20th century history.

The Perils of Pauline (1914)

"The Perils of Pauline" was the first American movie serial. Produced in 20 episodes, in a groundbreaking long-form motion-picture narrative structure, the series starred Pearl White as a young and wealthy heiress whose ingenuity, self-reliance and pluck enable her to regularly outwit a guardian intent on stealing her fortune. The film became an international hit and spawned a succession of elaborate American adventure serial productions that persisted until the advent of regularly scheduled television programs in the 1950s. Although now regarded as a satirical cliché of the movie industry, "Perils of Pauline" in its day inspired a generation of women on the verge of gaining the right to vote in America by showing actress Pearl White performing her own stunts and overcoming a persistent male enemy.

Sergeant York (1941)

Gary Cooper, in one of his favorite roles, won his first Oscar for his dead-on portrayal of Tennessee pacifist Sgt. Alvin York, who in an Argonne Forest World War I battle single-handedly captured over 130 German soldiers. A stirring film, which appeared six months before America entered World War II as a nation and inspired Americans through the later conflict, "Sergeant York" contains three main segments all masterfully directed by Howard Hawks: Cooper’s life in Tennessee, the war scenes, and post-war scenes in New York City where his newfound fame briefly tempts Cooper not to return to his Tennessee home. This film is Americana at its finest.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Special-effects master Ray Harryhausen provides the hero with fantastic antagonists, including a giant cyclops, fire-breathing dragons, and a sword-wielding animated skeleton, all in glorious Technicolor. His stunning Dynamation process, which blended stop-motion animation and live-actions sequences, and a fantastic score by Bernard Herrmann ("Psycho," "North by Northwest," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Citizen Kane," "Vertigo") makes this one of the finest fantasy films of all time.

So’s Your Old Man (1926)

While W.C. Fields’ talents are better suited for sound films — where his verbal jabs and asides still delight and astound — Fields also starred in some memorable silent films. Fields began his career as a vaudevillian juggler and that humor and dexterity shines through in "So’s Your Old Man." The craziness is aided immeasurably through the deft comic touches of director Gregory LaCava. In the film, Fields plays inventor Samuel Bisbee, who is considered a vulgarian by the town’s elite. His road to financial success takes many hilarious detours including a disastrous demo for potential investors, a bungled suicide attempt, a foray into his classic "golf game" routine and an inspired pantomime to a Spanish princess.

George Stevens World War II Footage (1943-46)

Having already directed classics such as "Swing Time," "Gunga Din" and "Woman of the Year," director George Stevens joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and headed a motion picture unit under Gen. Eisenhower from 1943-46. He shot many hours of footage chronicling D-Day, including rare extant color film of the European war front; the liberation of Paris; American and Soviet forces meeting at the Elbe River; and horrific scenes from the Duben labor camp, thought to be a sub-camp of Buchenwald; and the Dachau concentration camp. The footage has become an essential visual record of World War II and a staple of documentary films.

The Terminator (1984)

In 1984, few expected much from the upcoming film "The Terminator." Director James Cameron, a protégé of legendary independent filmmaker Roger Corman, had made only two films previously: the modest sci-fi short "Xenogenesis" in 1978 and "Piranha Part Two: The Spawning" in 1981. However, "The Terminator" became one of the sleeper hits of 1984, blending an ingenious, thoughtful script — clearly influenced by the works of sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison — and relentless, non-stop action moved along by an outstanding synthesizer and early techno soundtrack. Most notable was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star-making performance as the mass-killing cyborg with a laconic sense of humor ("I’ll be back"). Low-budget, but made with heart, verve, imagination, and superb Stan Winston special effects, "The Terminator" remains among the finest science-fiction films in many decades.

Water and Power (1989)

Winner of a Sundance Grand Jury prize, Pat O’Neill’s influential experimental work is in his own words "a landscape film that became animated by the beginnings of human stories." In this "city symphony," O’Neill juxtaposes images of downtown Los Angeles with scenes from the Owens Valley, Los Angeles’ source of water. This was a brilliant examination of water in all its forms and the one-sided sharing of energy between the two places, representing nature and civilization.

White Fawn’s Devotion (1910)

James Young Deer is now recognized as the first documented movie director of Native American ancestry. Born in Dakota City, Neb., as a member of the Winnebago Indian tribe, James Young Deer (aka: J. Younger Johnston) began his show-business career in circus and Wild West shows in the 1890s. When Pathé Frères of France established its American studio in 1910, in part to produce more authentically American-style Western films, Young Deer was hired as a director and scenario writer. Frequently in collaboration with his wife, actress Princess Red Wing (aka: Lillian St. Cyr), also of Winnebago ancestry, Young Deer is believed to have written and directed more than 100 movies for Pathé from 1910-1913. Many details of Young Deer’s life and movie career remain undocumented and fewer than 10 of his films have been discovered and preserved by U.S. film archives.

Top Albums 2008: Bonus Track

Obviamente que compilar una lista de los diez mejores discos del año tomó un trabajo más que exhaustivo. A diferencia de las listas de películas --algo que estoy más acostumbrado a hacer-- que se basan a partir de la memoria aunque uno haya visto cientos de títulos en el año (siempre y cuando, claro, uno tenga algún listado como base), los discos son un poco más elusivos. Uno recuerda algunos muy bien y los escucha varias veces, otros no tanto; algunos entran en circulación cotidiana, otros quedan a menudo tapados en la acumulación y se pierden en las entrañas del iTunes; algunos son de artistas conocidos y no hace falta revisarlos para saber de qué se tratan, otros vienen de bandas nuevas con nombres similares y hasta indistinguibles (cuando lleven más de veinte años escuchando música sabrán a lo que me refiero).

El tema es que uno tiene todos esos álbumes al alcance de un click o dos y es muy tentador revisar cosas que pasaron de largo en su momento (como M83), confirmar que ciertos éxitos momentáneos se sostienen (o no) varios meses después (muchos discos desaparecieron de toda lista tras este ejercicio, como el nuevo de R.E.M. por ejemplo) y llegar a esos diez que uno considera fundamentales.

Claro, en la revisión surge siempre la necesidad de celebrar, dejar constancia, recomendar o bien, simplemente, mencionar una cantidad de discos que valieron la pena escuchar durante el año. Y finalmente (para no perder días debatiendo si The Dodos es mejor que Hayden, que después de todo no es tan importante) dejé la lista en 100 títulos (además del Top Ten, claro), más reediciones, discos en vivo, EPs y lo que podría llamar "música en castellano". Puede haber algo técnicamente editado en 2007, pero sabrán entender...

Así que aquí van los listados, en orden alfabético... lo que puede ser "el puesto 45" para mí, bien puede ser "el puesto 18" o "el 81" para el lector. Y está bien que así sea. Algunos de los discos están linkeados en el historial del blog.

100 ALBUMS 2008

Aimee Mann - Smilers
Alexis Taylor - Rubbed Out
Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer
American Music Club - The Golden Age
Baby Dee - Safe Inside The Day

Bears - Simple Machinery
Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow And Green
Brightblack Morning Light - Motion To Rejoin
Cajun Dance Party - The Colorful Life
Calexico - Carried To Dust
Castanets - City of Refuge
Celestial - Crystal Heights
Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
Elf Power, Vic Chesnutt And The Amorphous Strums - Dark Developments
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
Firekites - The Bowery
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Foals - Antidotes
Giant Sand - ProVISIONS
Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
Grand Archives - The Grand Archives
Hari And Aino - Hari And Aino
Hayden - In Field And Town
Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair

Inara George & Van Dyke Parks - An Invitation
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt
Jamie Lidell - Jim
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Jeremy Jay - A Place Where We Could Go
Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke
Lambchop - OH (Ohio)
Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
Little Annie And Paul Wallfisch - When Good Things Happen To Bad Pianos
Little Joy - Little Joy

Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
Lykke Li - Youth Novel
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Martha Wainwright - I Know You're Married, But I've Got Problems Too
Megapuss - Surfing
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Micah P. Hinson - Micah P. Hinson & The Red Empire Orchestra
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling
Mount Eerie - Dawn
Neil Halstead - Oh! Mighty Engine
Neon Neon - Stainless Style
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig!!!
No Age - Nouns
Now, Now Every Children - Cars
Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
PAS/CAL - I Was Raised On Matthew, Mark, Luke And Laura

Pelle Carlberg - The Lilac Time
Perhapst - Perhapst
Peter And The Wolf - Mellow Owl
Plants And Animals - Parc Avenue
Portishead - Third
Q-Tip - The Renaissance
Ryan Adams & The Cadinals - Cardinology
School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms
Seasick Steve - I Started Out With Nothin' And Still Got Most Of It Left
She & Him - Volume One
Shearwater - Rook
Shugo Tokumaru - Exit
Sígur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum end
Small Sur - We Live In Houses Made Of Wood
Stephen Malkmus & Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Susanna - Flower Of Evil
Syd Matters - Ghost Days

The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain
The Airfields - Up All Night
The Autumn Leaves - Long Lost Friend
The Dears - Missiles
The Dodos - Visiter
The Donkeys - Living On The Other Side
The Felice Brothers - The Felice Brothers
The French Semester - Open Letter to the Disappeared
The Lost Brothers - Trails Of The Lonely (Parts I & III)
The Mae Shi - HLLLYH
The Moondoggies - Don't Be A Stranger
The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride

The New Year - The New Year
The Postmarks - By The Numbers
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
The Smittens - The Coolest Thing About Love
The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed
The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing
The Virgins - The Virgins
The Walkmen - You & Me
The Welcome Wagon - Welcome To The Welcome Wagon
Twig - Life After Ridge
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Vetiver - Thing Of The Past
Why? - Alopecia
Winterpills - Central Chambers
Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby - Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby


Discos en vivo, EPs, (re)ediciones especiales, álbumes inéditos y otras yerbas. Un Top 20 de otros discos. El Mejor, por un lado, y los otros 19 en orden alfabético.

Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8

Air France - No Way Down EP
Antony & the Johnsons - Another World EP
Arthur Russell - Love Is Overtaking Me
Beck - Odelay (Deluxe Edition)
Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Is It The Sea? (Live)
Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue (Legacy Edition)
Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP
Jim White - A Funny Little Cross To Bear (Live)
José González - Live At Park Avenue
Morrissey - Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Neil Young - Sugar Mountain Live At Canterbury Hall 1968
Paul Weller - Weller At The BBC
Pavement - Brighten The Corners (Nicene Creedence Edition)
Soko - Not Sokute EP
The Clash - Live At Shea Stadium
The Mountain Goats & Kaki King - Black Pear Tree EP
The Rolling Stones - Shine A Light
The Sound Of Arrows - Danger! EP
V.A. - Nigeria '70: Lagos Jump
Vetiver - More Of The Past EP


No estoy escuchando demasiado música en castellano en estos últimos tiempos, así que este Top 15 no pretende ser exhaustivo, no proviene de una revisión importante de lo que se editó en el año (de hecho, tal vez algún disco sea del año pasado) y tiene como único sentido dejar un pequeño recordatorio de quince discos en castellano que disfruté a lo largo de 2008. Como en los otros rankings, hay un Mejor Album y los demás están en orden alfabético.

Juana Molina - Un Día

Ariel Minimal & Florencia Ruiz - Ese Impulso Superior
Banda de Turistas - Mágico corazón radiofónico
Babasónicos - Mucho
Cineplexx - Picnic
De La Rosa - El Espectador
El Mato A Un Policía Motorizado - Día de los muertos EP
Ellos - Qué fue de ellos?
Entre Ríos - Entre Ríos
Gepe - Las Piedras EP
Kinky - Barracuda
Migue García - Ciencia Ficción
Montevideo - Cuando Miramos Al Sur
Nacho Vegas - El manifiesto desastre
Nozurdo - Sintética
Sr. Chinarro - Ronroneando

Oscars: The Gurus of Gold

Según las 16 personas cuyos votos compila el muy informativo sitio Movie City News, ya parecen estar quedando bastante definidos quiénes serán los cinco candidatos al Oscar a la mejor película. En la encuesta publicada hoy, cuyos resultados se pueden consultar aquí, hay nueve películas a las que consideran con chances, siendo "Slumdog Millionaire" y "El curioso caso de Benjamin Button" las que parecen tener más posibilidades de quedarse con el premio. Habiendo visto ambas, me parece que voy a tener que buscarme alguna otra cosa para hacer el domingo 22 de febrero...

Melody Gardot - Worrisome Heart (2008)


JONI MITCHELL and Cassandra Wilson paved the way for Norah Jones, and Jones opened the door for a whole generation of young women who are combining the elastic phrasing and harmonic sophistication of jazz with the personal lyrics of singer-songwriter folk. One of the best of these newcomers is Melody Gardot, a 23-year-old singer-pianist-guitarist from New Jersey whose debut album, "Worrisome Heart," is finally getting national distribution. It has attracted so much attention that Larry Klein, Mitchell's longtime producer, is working with Gardot on her second album.

The title track of her first album showcases her breathy mezzo framed by the tinkling piano and muted trumpet of retro jazz. The lyrics for this slow blues song, however, wonder how she'll ever attract a lover with her troubled mind and worrisome heart -- the kind of introspection associated with folk songwriters. Gardot then shifts gears for the finger-snapping beat, lilting tune, scat solo and battle-of-the-sexes gibes on "All That I Need Is Love," with the biting humor of Nellie McKay.

Melancholy or irreverent, Gardot's vocals fit snugly into the understated jazz arrangements. But what really sells these songs are the juicy melodies. If the chorus hook of her "Sweet Memory" reminds one of Carole King's "Sweet Seasons," that's just a measure of the high standard she meets on all of her originals.

-- Geoffrey Himes, The Washington Post

Notable DVDs of 2008 (The New York Times)

This was a tense year for the DVD business, with sales of standard-definition discs declining and the market for the new, high-definition Blu-ray discs slow to take off. Still, the DVD divisions of the major studios, along with a growing group of dedicated independents, have continued to unearth treasures from the recesses of Hollywood vaults and international archives.

In the industry this segment of the market is known as “deep library,” to distinguish it from the shallow library of more exploitable, more recent films that stock the budget racks at supermarkets and drugstores. The deep titles represent riskier propositions than rereleasing “The Terminator” for the 12th time, and it’s hard to imagine there’s much of a profit margin (if any) for a major archival effort like 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s magnificent “Murnau, Borzage and Fox” box set.

Which is one reason it’s immensely gratifying to see the current management of the established studios taking the initiative to preserve their past and make it available again to a wide audience, including that large portion of the public without convenient access to a revival house or a museum film program. With the local television late show a thing of the distant past, and only a handful of cable channels programming older films, DVDs are the primary force keeping film history alive.

Warner Brothers has long been a leader in this area, and recently it has been joined by a serious program at Fox and a renewed effort at Sony-Columbia. It’s now time for Paramount and Universal to step up to the plate. Although both studios have produced isolated efforts of outstanding quality, they haven’t really explored the richness of their holdings. The Universal library in particular (which includes some 700 pre-1949 Paramount films acquired in the late ’50s) remains a maddeningly untapped resource.

Paramount and Universal have licensed a few of their films to the Criterion Collection, which remains the Tiffany of independent DVD producers. Criterion continues to produce high-quality discs packed with extras and carrying (justifiable) premium prices. But the most exciting Criterion releases of 2008 came from the company’s new no-frills line, Eclipse, which has been able to move beyond the established art-house classics into less familiar territory: silent films by the Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu; overlooked masterworks of the ’60s and ’70s by the Russian director Larisa Shepitko.

Another group of independents — Synapse, Dark Sky, Blue Underground, Mondo Macabro and others — have found a valuable niche in importing or reviving forgotten genre pictures. Kino International and Flicker Alley have established themselves as sources for first-class editions of silent films, and VCI Entertainment has continued to explore the B-pictures, Poverty Row productions and serials that entertained audiences in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. And there are other fine companies, like Zeitgeist, New Yorker and First Run Features, that specialize in more recent foreign films, documentaries and independent productions.

It’s in the nature of the movie buff never to be satisfied, and this one will continue to demand more and more, often quite unreasonably. (Hey, Sony — where’s that Lew Landers boxed set?) But that doesn’t mean I’m not deeply grateful for a year that has included releases as notable as these (in alphabetical order):

COME DRINK WITH ME The Weinstein Company’s Dragon Dynasty label specializes in spiffed-up editions of classic Asian action films; none is more classic than this 1966 King Hu film, which helped to start the modern martial-arts movie. ($19.97, not rated)

DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS: A MODERN MUSKETEER Fairbanks was a minor Broadway performer who became one of the first modern stars, thanks to the series of highly entertaining contemporary action comedies he made between 1915 and 1921, 11 of which are seen in this beautifully produced collection from Flicker Alley. ($89.99, not rated)

EASY LIVING Written by Preston Sturges and directed by Mitchell Leisen, this delightful comedy is about a downtrodden working girl (Jean Arthur) who is suddenly promoted into the world of wealth and celebrity when a fur coat falls out of the blue and onto her shoulders. The movie offers a tantalizing taste of the Paramount classics now under Universal’s control. ($14.98, not rated)

THE GODFATHER: THE COPPOLA RESTORATION The first two films in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy underwent a major digital restoration for this breathtaking new edition, available in both standard definition ($69.99) and Blu-ray ($124.99) from Paramount Home Entertainment. (R)

GRIFFITH MASTERWORKS 2 A superlative collection from Kino of mid- to late-period work from the father of American film, D. W. Griffith, including the Museum of Modern Art’s revelatory restoration of the road-show version of “Way Down East.” ($89.95, not rated)

HOW THE WEST WAS WON Thanks to Blu-ray, this Cinerama spectacular from 1962 is at last available in a home video version that suggests the sheer grandeur of the original release. (Warner Brothers, standard definition, $20.98; Blu-ray, $34.99, not rated)

KENJI MIZOGUCHI’S FALLEN WOMEN Of the many excellent sets issued by the Eclipse division of Criterion this year, this selection of four important films by Japan’s greatest filmmaker is perhaps the most essential. ($59.95, not rated)

MAN OF THE WEST MGM DVD has slowed down considerably, but it continues to explore the rich collection of independent productions that is the United Artists library, exemplified by this spare, philosophical 1958 western by Anthony Mann. ($14.98, not rated)

MURNAU BORZAGE AND FOX The big one for 2008: just as they did with the “Ford at Fox” collection in 2007, Fox Home Entertainment has raised the bar for home video releases with this set devoted to the work of F. W. Murnau and Frank Borzage, two more masters on the payroll of classical Hollywood’s most director-friendly studio. ($239.98, not rated)

SLEEPING BEAUTY Turn off the obnoxious “BDLive” interactive features, and you have a first-rate digital restoration of a late entry (1959) from Disney’s classic period, looking gorgeous in Blu-ray. (Standard definition, $29.99; Blu-ray, $34.99, G)

Top Ten Albums 2008: Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak

MICROPSIA - Top Ten Album of the Year

(No hay links a los álbumes seleccionados)

Kanye West’s first three albums, all with education-themed titles, have been cemented as a true trilogy, not just a nominal one, by the release of his fourth album, 808s and Heartbreak, which moves in a different direction. The move seems instinctive, from the gut and based on the specific circumstances of his life: his mother passed away and his relationship with his girlfriend dissolved. It’s mostly the latter that these songs cover, though the former no doubt influenced the sad demeanor of the album. “I can’t stop having these visions,” a line goes on the second song, “Welcome to Heartbreak”. Across the album, it’s as if he has a compulsion to sing about heartbreak, as if he couldn’t get himself to stop writing one more song about how cold his ex was towards him and how cold he feels now.

It’s a confessional concept album, but one where the mood communicates the concept even better than the lyrics. The songs tell no cohesive story arc, lyrically, though there’s plenty of bitterness, sadness, confusion, betrayal, and the like. The album projects all of these actions and emotions, but it’s the stark yet intricate music that does it best. The lyrics are generally run-of-the-mill, not that far removed from your average emo band, even if they came from his real-life pains and have a different starting place. West is a multi-million-album-selling artist worried about public image and the paparazzi, after all, and that’s part of the subject here too. It helps feed his loneliness. But as the title makes clear, the concept is not just heartbreak, but 808s. It’s about building an aura of heartbreak from a simple machine, by today’s standards: the TR-808 drum machine that was the foundation of so much rap music in the ‘80s. It’s about the heartbreak and the 808s becoming entwined as one sound.

West sings on all of the songs, but his singing isn’t as distant from rapping as you might expect. It seems cobbled-together, adapted to suit a specific purpose, which is how his rapping was at first, too. He was a successful producer figuring out a way to rap, so he could make music on his own terms start to finish. His rapping style always had an amateurish, guy-down-the-street quality to it, even though he has progressed in skill with each album. His singing is even less professional than that. He’s never going to be the next Marvin Gaye, just like he’s never going to be Rakim. In both arenas he’s not innately gifted, nor technically proficient. And he isn’t trying to be. Across 808s and Heartbreak, he doesn’t sing like this album is his breakout move to become known as a singer. His voice works mainly as texture. The way he sings adds to the album’s mood. It’s a stylistic choice, one of many choices he makes to create the album’s distinct atmosphere.

One tool he uses to give his voice a particular texture is Auto-Tune, or some similar pitch-correction/voice-filtering software. He turns the most explicit manifestations of these effects on and off throughout the album, not randomly but purposely. He turns it on to make his voice cold and robotic, to make it blend in with its surroundings. Even the most specific lyrics project feeling more than specifics he sings like this. In “Welcome to the Heartbreak”, for example, he’s telling stories about life as a lonely celebrity, but it’s the tone of the story that leaves the impression, not the stories themselves. He turns the vocal effects off to sound naked, vulnerable. The lyrics that hit most, emotionally, are those sung the most straight, like on “Street Lights”. (The exception is the album-ending live-freestyle “Pinocchio Story”. It is the most meandering track, an uninteresting diary entry without exciting music to bolster it.)

Perhaps he picked up on this Auto-Tune technique from its current-day popularity among R&B singers (T-Pain, most notably). But the way he uses it is not about mimicking others’ success. Nor is it an attempt at perceived perfection, at seamlessness. If he were trying to sound like a professional, skilled singer, his whole approach to singing, and to the album, would have been different. Instead it’s about getting that science-fiction sound, about his voice bleeding into the cold clang of the drum machine, becoming one with the machine… and then separating from it, at key points. Either he listened to modern-day R&B and heard loneliness in the technique, or he heard the tool’s capacity to create a feeling of loneliness and isolation. Or, perhaps more likely, he heard it and just thought it sounded cool, a clear motivating force behind his music from the beginning.

The album’s opening track, “Say You Will”, sets the mood well. Two simple synth notes repeat like a game of Pong, back and forth, lending strangeness. ‘80s soft-pop piano gives an emotional foundation, while other synth chords hover like a choir. The song’s extended outro keeps the music going a couple more minutes after West has stopped singing. This hammers home the feeling of the song while introducing the fact that West’s presence as a composer/arranger is as important, maybe even more important, to 808s and Heartbreak as his presence on the microphone.

On each of West’s successive albums the music has grown in sophistication and impact. 808s and Heartbreak is another step forward in that direction. The thematic focus of the album is driven by the music; West singing these songs ‘unplugged’ with a guitar or something (not that that would happen) would be mostly boring. Though the vocals as presented here play a significant role in the sound, an instrumental version of this album could almost communicate the same stories of heartbreak and loneliness. Then again, it’s easy to listen to this album almost as an instrumental work already, as a film score, with West’s voice just another instrument, albeit one of the leads.

It’s all of the small sounds together that make the music so impactful. This is stark music that relies on almost primitive tools: a past-date drum machine, some synthesizers, some strings (also synthesized, perhaps). It will be described as “minimalist”, and does sound minimalist. But at the same time it’s layered, filled with small, interesting sounds that at first go un-noticed or seem unimportant. “Coldest Winter” uses a machine-gun blast of electric fuzz and funky drums to liven up what might otherwise resemble a Seal ballad.

“Amazing” is filled with unusual sounds. At first you just notice how the coldness of his voice, singing a purposely repetitive tune, is balanced by choir-ish vocals and keyboard. But there’s also lower, growling backing vocals that eventually turn to a Chewbacca-like grunt, which together with the beats conveys a toughness even while the song creeps forward with gentle melancholy. The peak of the song is when jungle-like cries, which could be animal, human or robot, give way to silence…and then Young Jeezy jumps in with the first true rap of the album. He’s a menacing MC, the perfect choice for the cold atmosphere of the album. Both guest rappers, Jeezy on “Amazing” and Lil’ Wayne on “See You in My Nightmares”, were smartly chosen. Their tough voices fit the milieu perfectly. Guest singers are used when the hook benefits from a true singer, either to state it clearly or to set up a commentary that stands outside of West’s own perspective of the hurt one, the angry one.

The way this album was recorded relatively quickly, announced unexpectedly, and released earlier than expected may give the impression that it was tossed-off or rushed. But the album itself is confidently constructed, choices carefully made. Song after song builds up a mood effectively, piece by piece. “Love Lockdown” starts with a heartbeat-like bass tone that manages to be melodic even though it’s barely there. His voice twists from sinister to heartfelt and back, and at one point goes into a brief robot scream. A nice piano melody emerges, and then high-powered drums, like marching-band drummers joined by aggressive hand-claps, kick the song up a thousand notches.

“Love Lockdown” through “Street Lights”, the fifth through eighth tracks, are where the album really takes off. This is where he translates the dark feeling of the album into pop-music gold. “Paranoid” and “Robocop” are two of the bleakest or even meanest tracks lyrically, but are also triumphant pop songs that convey the album’s feeling of heartbreak while lifting off in jubilant ways. “Paranoid” begins with an insistent tone repeating, then introduces a great melody, and then people laughing, at or with Kanye I’m not sure. Then there’s a big 1980s-sounding chord, and then, 50-seconds-in, the song leaps upward, becoming a big, bright pop jam, filled with energy, while all of these pieces keep moving on and even twisting themselves around in different ways. “Robocop” picks up from that, with a similar tenor but lighter and almost busier by nature, with crashing drums paired with delicate strings that keep changing the melody up slightly.

After these buoyant tracks, “Street Lights” is the comedown, a moment of mellow, but it’s also the album’s most precise and impressive channeling of the mood. Part of this is that the lyrical references to street lights passing by like memories, like time, feel like a resolution of sorts, a progression from some of the name-calling he indulges in. And his singing hits the rawer emotional place that as a listener you want him to hit on an album like this. But it’s mostly about the music being brilliantly odd. There’s a wavering keyboard sound that almost resembles the noisy feedback of an experimental rock band but is used emotionally, as a melancholy tone that lingers in the air, threatening to fade but still always hanging on. West lets it sink into the background but also stops to shine a light on it, taking the song to still-motion to highlight the feeling. Lush layers of backing vocals are played against this ‘noise’, absorbing and complementing the strangeness to make the ballad tender as it needs to be. Put this next to previous hip-hop artists’ versions of the sad-love ballad, like say LL Cool J’s piano ballads, and you’ll see that West isn’t worked with musical clichés here. He’s taking the song-form of the lonely-hearted ballad and giving it his own spin, with depth of sound that generates a depth of feeling.

On 808s and Heartbreak, West might be making his own hip-hop version of Sea Change or In the Wee Small Hours, or countless other concept albums where the concept is sadness. But he isn’t fitting a cookie-cutter mold, he’s innovating. As a whole the album draws lines between ‘80s pop, electro, rap, current-day R&B, and other genres, while furthering the production and composition skills that have been West’s true skill from the start. Lyrically these songs contain none of the cleverness of his previous raps, but the music expresses way more than the lyrics even reach for.

The success of 808s and Heartbreak doesn’t hinge on Kanye West’s decision to not rap. This is a different style of album and he chose a different style of vocals for it. It isn’t successful just because he is channeling real-life emotions, either. He has always had a confessional aspect to his songs, even though usually he cut back against it with jokes. The album is so successful because of his winning ways with both song and album construction, and with the way he captures a particular feeling through unusual, evocative, carefully crafted music that’s both simple and complex, cold and warm, mechanical and human, melodic and harsh. (Popmatters)