Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nowhere Boy

This film is about the teenage John Lennon at a pivotal point in his life during the years 1955-1960. The plot focuses on his relationship with his aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his mother Julia, who reappears in his life after being absent throughout his childhood. At this time John is drawn to rock 'n' roll music and begins the formation of a band, The Quarrymen.

As John, British actor Aaron Johnson is practically unrecognizable from his previous role as Dave Lizewski in Kick Ass, in which he played a bullied American teenager who decides to become a superhero. Not only does Johnson have the Liverpudlian accent down, but he also plays the banjo and guitar and does his own singing in the film. I was very impressed with his performance, in addition to those of his co-stars. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Mimi, who avoids showing or sharing emotions at all costs, even after the death of her husband. Despite her somewhat cold exterior, her love for John is still conveyed through her daily reminders of "glasses!" as he walks out the door, or the disappointed look on her face when he comes home late after a birthday party at Julia's. Julia, played by Anne-Marie Duff, teaches John to play the banjo and shares her love of the latest rock 'n' roll songs with him. Very free-spirited, she behaves more like a friend to John than a mother. She wants to make up for lost time with John, despite the objections of her husband and Mimi.

Nowhere Boy also shows John's first meetings with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Paul, and one of my favorite sequences in the film is John and Paul recording the song "In Spite of All the Danger." I recommend this movie to you if you enjoy biopics, Beatles music, or just want to check out the talent of rising star Aaron Johnson.

Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Robyn at the Riveria Theatre, 2/14/11

This Valentine's Day, Swedish pop singer Robyn played a sold out show at Uptown's Riviera Theatre.  She was originally scheduled to perform last Friday, but the show had to be rescheduled due to an illness.  Opening for her were two performers I wasn't familiar with: Natalia Kills and Diamond Rings.

This was my first time going to the Riv and I was pleasantly surprised.  Even though it's twice Metro's capacity, it doesn't really feel all that much bigger.  It is also well staffed; no twenty minute waits for the bar here!  The sound quality seemed much better than neighboring venue the Aragon.  Although, the bathroom situation is pretty desperate.

Natalia Kills was the first up.  She is a British singer/ songwriter who has a slightly darker and arty take on pop music.  She had a strong singing voice and charisma; plus she and her dancers had pretty interesting choreography.  The audience seemed to enjoy her performance. 

Diamond Rings's set was less well received, but not because his performance was lacking.  There was a long pause between the first and second performances and the audience was more than a little antsy.  It's hard to blame them, normally you don't wait 45 minutes for an opening act.  Still, it's pretty rude to call out for a headliner during an opening act. Or spend the entire time talking over a performance.  Anyway, Diamond Rings set might have been a little on the long side, but he seemed to take much of the audience indifference in stride.  He has a new wave pop sound and a David Gahan-esque voice.  In a smaller venue and under better circumstances, he'd probably be much more enjoyable. 

The audience for the show was a mixture of hardcore fans and people just looking to party.  A couple people even came in costume, including one guy who glued pieces of a paper to his face to emulate the Body Talk, Part 3 cover.  That's some serious dedication there.  There were a lot more guys than girls in attendance, which I found a little surprising.  Most of the audience was polite (actually saying "Excuse me" when moving about!) and very excited to be there.  However, a few attendees behavior was on the obnoxious side.  And some people refused to let others pass by them, like concert trolls.  Thankfully, the stupidity pretty much died down by Robyn's set. 

Robyn finally took the stage around 9:45 PM (the concert started at 7:30 PM).  She opened with "Time Machine" and the audience quickly transformed into one big awkward dance party.  The Black Keys are known for their breakneck pace live, but Robyn could give them a run for their money.  She managed to get through almost all of the songs you can dance to on all three Body Talk albums, plus a few tracks from Robyn (including "Cobrastyle," "With Every Heart Beat," and "Konichiwa B----s"), in an hour and half long performance.

Robyn has real stage presence and boundless energy, as she danced throughout the entire double encore set!   Her live backing band was a nice addition.  They really showed off their skills doing a remix/ combo of "We Dance to the Beat" and "Don't F----ing Tell Me What to Do."  Other highlights from the show include, "Dancing on My Own," "Indestructible," "Hang with Me," and "With Every Heart Beat."  She closed with probably her most well-known song stateside, mid-90's hit "Show Me Love."  It was oddly inspiring to know she still performs stuff from her teen pop star days!  And scary to discover that I somehow had the lyrics to that song lodged in my subconscious for the last fifteen years. 

Even though last Friday I was bummed to discover the show had been delayed, Robyn's many songs of heartbreak seemed especially appropriate for Valentine's Day.  It was fun and uplifting to dance and sing-a-long to unrequited love songs, like a concert and group therapy session in one!  Robyn will be opening up for Katy Perry on her next tour.  Even though I'm not really a fan of Perry, I actually dig this combination and hope it introduces Robyn to a teen audience.  Robyn may use her fairshare of profanity, but she has strong and empowering outlook in her songs that positively differentiate her from a lot of pop stars.

Check out one of Robyn's albums:

Body Talk, Part 3 (2010).
Find it in the catalog! 

Body Talk, Part 2 (2010).
Find it in the catalog! 

Body Talk, Part 1 (2010).
Find it in the catalog!

Robyn (2008).
Find it in the catalog!

Robyn is Here (1997).
Find it in the catalog!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Take My Breath Away: Love Songs

I generally prefer my music to be sad, with the occasional twist of bitter, but that doesn't mean I don't occasionally fall for a nice love song. In honor of St. Valentine's Day, below is a list of some of my favorite romantic songs.  This is not a list of the greatest love songs of all time, so don't be offended that I didn't include "Take My Breath Away" or "In Your Eyes."  Also, the author is not responsible for the repercussions of putting any of these songs on a mix tape for your lady friend.

That Teenage Feeling- Neko Case
From: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006).
Find it in the catalog!

This song nicely contrasts a skeptical, but mature outlook on love with a naive, but romantic teenage one:

Now that we've met, we can only laugh at these regrets
Common as a cold, They are telephone poles
They follow each other, one after another,
After another...
But now my heart is green, like weeds
Grown to outlive the season
And nothing comforts me the same
As my brave friend who says:
"I don't care if forever never comes,
Because I'm holding out for that teenage feeling."

Slow Show- The National
From: Boxer (2007). 
Find it in the catalog!

Like any song from the National, it's hard to tell exactly what it's about.  However, there definitely some angst in this song.  I couldn't help myself though, because there is a lot of sweetness in the song too:

I want to hurry home to you
Put on a slow, dumb show for you
and crack you up
So you can put a blue ribbon around my brain
God, I'm very very frightened
I'll over do it
You know I dreamed about you
For 29 years before I saw you
You know I dreamed about you
I missed you for, for 29 years

Johnsburg, Illinois/ Shore Leave- Tom Waits
From: Swordfishtrombones (1983). 
Find it in the catalog!

This is kind of a toss up for me.  Both songs are about his wife and from the same album.  But I'm leaning more towards "Johnsburg, Illinois," because I grew up in the next town over.  And that song is definitely the coolest thing about Johnsburg. 

She's my true love 
She's all that I think of
Look here is my wallet 
That's her 
She grew up on a farm there 
There is a place on my arm
Where I've written her name
Next to mine
(from "Johnsburg, Illinois")

And I wondered how the same moon outside
Over this Chinatown fair
Could look down on Illinois
And find you there
And you know I love you, baby
And I'm so far away from home
And I miss my baby so
And I can't make it by myself
I love you so
(from "Shore Leave")

Higher Power- Jonathan Richman.
From: I, Jonathan (1992). 
Find it in the catalog!

Jonathan may have a childlike outlook on romance and well, pretty much everything else, but he's awesome and this song will give you a case of the awwws...

They say that magic and the science world collide
But Einstein saw me looking at her and he joined my side
And I knew how it would be the way she hated me
And there must be a higher power somewhere

It's magic It's magic the way we got together

It's magic It's freedom, it's fair
It's magic It's magic no not at random
And there must be a higher power somewhere

Saturday, February 12, 2011

TV Kisses Mashup

Even if you prefer to celebrate the birthday of women's rights activist Ann Howard Shaw over Valentine's Day on February 14, I don't think you will regret checking out this "TV Kisses Mashup" video from the AOL TV Squad. Lucy and Ricky! Clair and Cliff! Sawyer and Kate! Kevin and Winnie! (aw.) Watch this clip to see if you can spot your favorite TV couples. 

Was anyone else reminded of the montage of kisses at the end of the 1989 Italian film Cinema Paradiso?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Think I Need A New Heart: Break-Up Albums

In honor of single people's least favorite holiday, I complied a list of my favorite break up albums.  The only thing I love more than songs about heartbreak is whole albums devoted to the topic.  Why spend minutes wallowing in self-pity, when you can spend hours!?  For a truly pathetic Valentine's Day celebration, I recommend watching Say Anything, in addition to checking out one of these albums.  You can spend the evening crying, because no one will ever love you as much as Lloyd Dobler loves Diane Court. (un)Happy listening!:

Sea Change by Beck. 

With moody, spare steel guitar work and song titles like “Lonesome Tears” and “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” it’s no wonder Sea Change has become a classic break up album.  However, those going through real romantic pain will probably find it a bit too mellow to weep to.  

Best Songs of Suffering: “Lost Cause,” “The Golden Age,” and “Side of the Road.” 

Attack and Release- The Black Keys

Pretty much any Keys album will work for a break up.  These dudes know pain and that’s why we love them!  However, this album probably has the most heartbreak per square inch.  This album rocks pretty hard, so you won’t need your hanky.  Recommend for those angry post-break up moments.  

Best Songs of Suffering: “Remember When (Side A),” “Psychotic Girl,” “Lies,” and “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be.”

For Emma, Forever Ago- Bon Iver

If you are so heartbroken that you want to lock yourself away in a remote cabin, this is the album for you.  Inspired by a real life break up, this album has lots of moody and introspective songs. 

Best Songs of Suffering: “Skinny Love,” “Blindsided,” and “Forever Emma.”  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Must-see mini-series: Luther

From the U.K. comes a fascinating detective/crime mini-series. Idris Elba stars as John Luther, a moral detective who isn't always lawful. He is a complicated man leading a complicated life. As the mini-series begins, he is suspended from his job for one of his moral, but unlawful incidents and is separated from his wife Zoe (Indira Varma), although he doesn't quite understand why. Eventually reinstated, his first case back introduces him to Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), a psychopath, who he ends up befriending. In the context of the series, it makes sense: Luther goes to her to understand the mind of a criminal (besides the slight attraction they share). Their pairing is the most interesting dynamic of the show. It is this relationship that exposes Luther, and the viewer, to the moral ambiguity that sometimes exists in the world.

Each episode features a new criminal that Luther must catch, besides the other issues lingering in his life that tie in across all episodes. The format of the show is similar to Law & Order: Criminal Intent (if you're familiar), in which it allows the viewer in on the perpetrator from the beginning. We delve more into Luther's methods, rather than the criminals'. The last three episodes (of six) are extraordinarily compelling because Luther's personal and professional lives collide in a big way. Excellent viewing for cold winter nights.

It appears that BBC has ordered two more two-hour episodes of the show. Yipee!

Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy birthday, James Dean

Banner hanging in
Fairmount. (DP July 2010)
Actor James Dean was born 80 years ago, February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. Dean briefly lived in Santa Monica, California, from the ages of six to nine with his parents until the death of his mother, Mildred. After her death, Dean's father, Wilton, remained in California and sent Dean to live Fairmount, Indiana, where he was raised by his uncle Marcus and aunt Ortense on their farm. Following high school graduation, Dean went to California for college, attending Santa Monica City College and UCLA before dropping out. In 1951 Dean moved to New York to do theater and TV work and became part of the Actors Studio in 1953. Director Elia Kazan hired Dean to star in East of Eden in March 1954. Dean's talent was undeniable to audiences when East of Eden hit theaters in March 1955, and his career began to take off within the course of a couple months, in which time he completed filming Rebel Without a Cause and Giant one after the other. Before either of those films were released, Dean was killed in an automobile crash on the way to a car race in California in September 1955. September 30, 2010 marked the 55th anniversary of his death. Each year Fairmount, Indiana holds a James Dean Festival to celebrate his life and work.

East of Eden, released in March 1955
Find it in the catalog!
James Dean received a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role as Cal Trask.

Rebel Without a Cause (Finished filming in June 1955; film was released October 1955.)
Find it in the catalog!
We will be screening this film at the library this Saturday at 2 PM.

Giant (Finished filming in September 1955; film was released November 1956.)
Find it in the catalog!
James Dean received a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role as Jett Rink.

More about James Dean from the library:
*James Dean: Fifty Years Ago by Dennis Stock (2005)
Dennis Stock, a photojournalist, met James Dean at a party thrown by the director Nicholas Ray. The photos in this book were taken by Stock for a photo essay for Life magazine. Dean visits his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana, in February 1955, before the release of East of Eden. Photos capture him on the farm with his cousin, aunt, and uncle, walking around town, and visiting his old high school. Stock also photographs Dean around New York, where Dean kept a small apartment. Dean goes through ballet poses in a dance class and falls asleep in his accountant's office and even at the bar with a cigarette in his hand (Stock says he was an insomniac). Lastly Stock accompanies Dean to LA during the shooting of Rebel Without a Cause.

Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean by Donald Spoto (1996) and James Dean: Little Boy Lost by Joe Hyams with Jay Hyams (1992) are both located in the Biography section.

James Dean's grave in Park Cemetery in Fairmount. (DP July 2010)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Screening of "The Other Guys" rescheduled

I'm like a peacock, you gotta let me fly!
-Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg)

Originally scheduled to be shown on Wednesday, February 2, The Other Guys will now be screened on Thursday, February 24 here at the Dundee Library at 6 PM. Popcorn and refreshments will be available as always.
We're not going to let a Chicago blizzard get in the way of some great laughs! Join us on February 24 and you, too, will learn from Allen Gamble, Will Ferrell's character in the movie, how a tuna can win a fight against a lion.