Popmatic Podcast October 2009

By , September 28, 2009

Bryan tells grown ups how to get their Samuel Clemens on, as part of Nashville’s Twain and Twang celebration. Amanda’s review of contemporary composer Noah Creshevsky proves that classical music is anything but boring. Closing out, Clint and Bryan share sleeper-creeper gems on DVD for Halloween night viewing.

Movie review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

By , September 25, 2009

vickyVicky Cristina Barcelona

3 1/2  Stars

Woody Allen has been making films outside of New York for the past few years, and Spain proves to be a perfect inspiration and setting for his latest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Rebecca Hall plays Vicky, an attractive and smart woman engaged to a successful and sensible man. Scarlett Johansson plays Cristina, the beautiful and impulsive best friend of Vicky who knows what she DOESN’T want in life, but can’t figure out which “path” to pursue. The girls are invited to spend two summer months in Barcelona with distant relatives of Vicky’s. This gives Vicky a perfect opportunity to finish work on her thesis topic, Catalan culture. After attending an art gallery opening, the two friends end up at a restaurant where they are approached by the handsome Spanish artist Juan Antonio (played by Javier Bardem.) He proceeds to invite both women away for a weekend of art, food and drink, and lovemaking. Vicky is appalled. Cristina is intrigued. And soon they are on an adventure sure to change the course of their lives. There are several angles to talk up this movie to potential viewers. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, VCB is replete with witty Woody Allen dialogue and plenty of sensuality. For the armchair traveler, there’s good food and wine, breathtaking sights, and the passionate sounds of Spanish guitar. And I haven’t even mentioned Penelope Cruz’s Oscar-winning performance as Maria Elena, the crazy and gorgeous ex-wife of Juan Antonio’s. Last but not least, see this movie if only to realize that Javier Bardem can play a lover as well or better than a villain.

- Crystal


Book review: Strokes of Genius

By , September 22, 2009

Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played
By Jon L. Wertheim

4 stars

Senior Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim weaves an intricately detailed recounting of what all agree was an epic, thoroughly well played tennis match into a compelling multi faceted book.

This is a very descriptive portrait of each man’s differences, backgrounds, tendencies, technical strengths and styles, coaching entourages and personalities which leads up to the titanic Wimbledon final that was played over five sets and seven hours in July of 2008.

Many interesting behind the scenes moments, humorous asides and detours including how Federer met Mirka, his disdain for Djokavic’s “boorish” parents, Nadal’s family dynamics and upbringing, racquet comparisons and endorsements all add background color to the event.  Even chair umpire Pascal Maria gets his time in the sun (or rain as it were) here.

One of the best tennis books I’ve read; an often witty and full account of the quirks and glories of Wimbledon, “The Championships” and of what makes both Roger Federer and the eventual ’08 Champion Rafael Nadal so outstanding by anyone’s standards.

My only complaint: no photos included.

- Phil K.

Movie review: Junebug

By , September 22, 2009

Junebug

See Amy Adams in the best role of her career in this underrated Southern indie film.

-Beth

Odd-Numbered Movies

By , September 21, 2009

What’s the deal with odd numbers and movies? If you give it some thought, I bet you can think of at least three movies off the top of your head with an odd number as the title, or at least an odd number in the title. District 9 debuted in the summer of 2009, and a new movie musical directed by Rob Marshall called Nine also hit the big screen in September.

See list of Odd-Numbered Movies.

- Crystal

Legends of Film: Larry Cohen

By , September 17, 2009

Bill and Clint interview Larry Cohen director of It’s Alive and other classics.

Music review: The Long Fall Back to Earth

By , September 9, 2009

The Long Fall Back to Earth
by Jars of Clay

5 stars…but it takes a while to get there

When I first heard the latest album from Jars of Clay, I kinda didn’t know what to think about it. It was a complete departure from their normal sound with all the electronic music and whatnot. I’ve been a Jars fan since high school and this album was disappointing in that it didn’t sound like them…at first. However, I kept the CD in my car and as it spun through I began to really listen to the songs. Eventually I found the Jars of Clay I love. If you only listen to two tracks, make sure you hear #9 (Boys) and #10 (Hero). The title track’s pretty good as well. The soul of the music was always in this album…it just took me a little longer to find it.

- Amanda

Book review: The Song Is You

By , September 9, 2009

The Song is You

by Arthur Phillips

4stars

In the past, I’ve read quite a few books by musicians, about musicians, or about music in general and none of them have ever quite done what I wanted them to. I can’t really describe what I’m looking for, being a musician myself, but this one has come the closest of any of them. Here’s a brief sample of what I mean:

A piece of music’s conquest of you is not likely to occur the first time you hear it, though it is possible that the aptly named “hook” might barb your ear on it’s first pass. More commonly, the assailant is slightly familiar and has leveraged that familiarity to gain access to the crisscrossed wiring of your interior life. And then there is a possession, a mutual possession, for just as you take the song as part of you and your history, it is claiming dominion for itself, planting fluttering eighth notes in your heart.

So anyway, our main character, Julian, is a music aficionado who always seems to be listening to his iPod. He has 8,146 songs at his disposal – ready for any occasion. One night, he’s out walking in New York and happens upon a new band with an inspiring young Irish singer. The girl is magnetic and Julian is immediately drawn to her and her music. Most of the book tells the story of how their lives intersect – or you know – don’t.

- Amanda


Book review: Massive Cold War Epic a Work of Art

By , September 8, 2009

Europe Central
by William T. Vollmann

Some folks enjoy light reading in summer, but I save those extra daylight hours for the heavies. I’d been dying to read William T. Vollmann’s massive cold war epic Europe Central since it won the National Book Award in 2005. Well worth my wait, Europe Central is a work of art as brutal and heavy as the 88mm shells which litter its chapters. Which is not to say the story lacks moral delicacy. Tough times require tough… well you know. Vollmann utilizes prosopography to present a cyclical narrative that spans the German invasion of Russia to height of the Cold War in the 1970s. Equivalent German and Russian historical figures are paired and their psychological responses to fanatical ideology are contrasted in a mesh of recurrent tropes. The cast of characters includes German printmaker Kathe Kollwitz, communist documentarian Roman Karmen, Nazi general Friedrich Paulus, and Soviet general Andrei Vaslov (both of whom defect to enemy’s side when captured). Last but not least is Dimitri Shostakovitch, whose life and work epitomizes the moral ambiguities and ideological confusions at which Vollmann aims his bright spotlight. Even today musicologists debate the thematic intention of Shostakovitch’s body of work. The ambiguity exists only within the personal sphere, within the public sphere the result of hard line ideology is, of course, mass murder. Admist all this death, denial and despair transmuted there is also a love story. Vollmann casts Elena Konstantinovskaya as the love of Shostakovitch’s life. She is Shostakovitch’s mistress, not his wife and their relationship is idealized in is mind, crystallizing into a perfection which may or may not conform to reality to the reality of their relationship. His love for Elena, or the memories thereof, are like the political fantasies of Hitler or Stalin, i.e., unattainable.

The horror of the novel is nearly spoiled by the story of SS officer Kurt Gerstein who clandestinely tried to expose the Holocaust. This is the only section of the book that comes dangerously close to an elementary school morality lesson. Fortunately, at least on an aesthetic level, Gerstein’s end is as tragic as the rest.

You might be thinking, “Bryan, this book sounds terrible!” I recommend this book to anyone interested in the Nazi and Soviet culture, anyone interested in the history of the Eastern Front during World War II, and anyone interested in the life and music of Dmitri Shostakovitch. Though cast of characters is based on historical persons, Europe Central is a work of fiction and the primary reason to experience the book is the artistry of William Vollmann. His prose are precise and evoke a modernist tone. Recurring themes, repeated vocabulary, and chronological interlacing weave a snowy bloodstained tapestry across fifty years of heartbreak and political violence. Think of Europe Central as a photo negative to Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation, or a constructivist War and Peace.

5stars

- Bryan

Book review: If you liked Pride and Prejudice…

By , September 2, 2009

Looking for books that will allow you to stay a little longer in the world of Elizabeth and Darcy? Want to skip the “what happens after they marry and ride off to Pemberley” sequels? These books are for you.

Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field
by Melissa Nathan

A retelling inside a retelling. This book stays very close to the original storyline. It is a charming, fast read. Fans of Persuasion will also want to check out Persuading Annie, also by Nathan.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
by Laurie Viera Rigler

This time-travel retelling, lands a modern-day Courtney in Jane Austen’s time. Sure, there’s a first edition of Pride and Prejudice on the bookshelf, but waking up in Regency England is quite a shock to our heroine.

Austenland
by Shannon Hale

Time-travel is problematic enough, much less time-traveling into a work of fiction. But what if you could visit a vacation spot that comes pretty close to the real thing?

Lost in Austen : create your own Jane Austen adventure
by Emma Campbell Webster

Pride and Prejudice meets the Choose Your Own Adventure novels of childhood. Try your hand at being Elizabeth. Will you end up married to the most eligible bachelor in England? Or will you get carried off by gypsies?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Seth Grahame-Smith

What happens to a classic when you introduce Zombies? Maybe you’ve never wished for such a combo, but this book is not to be missed. Look out for Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters next!

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