Month: January 2022

The Perfect Playlist: Massive Mazzy and Hope Warmly

The modern playlist is the descendant of the mix tape. And like my mix tapes, I make a significant effort to make sure they are right—and by right, I mean that there is a certain cohesion and shared texture that moves me. What I love about digital versus tape is the great flexibility for experimentation (though, sometimes I do miss walking around Manhattan with my old yellow cassette Sports Walkman).

Massive Attack are an English electronic band that was formed in 1988 by Robert “3D” Del Naja, Adrian “Tricky” Thaws, Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall. The band currently consists of Del Naja, Thaws and Marshall. The band first came to my attention in 1991 when I was in Tower Records and I heard their first masterpiece, “Unfinished Sympathy”, playing over the loudspeakers. To date, they have released five studio albums, but don’t seem to be well known in the United States. They should be. They have a superb body of work. Over the last 30 plus years, they have collaborated with various singers including Madonna, David Bowie, Tracey Thorn of Everything but the Girl and Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star.

Mazzy Star are an American alternative rock band that also formed in 1988. Founding member David Roback recruited Hope Sandoval after the group’s original vocalist left the band, which was once called Opal. Mazzy Star came to my attention because of their 1994 hit, the absolutely gorgeous and unforgettable masterpiece, “Fade into You.” Too often, Mazzy Star has been unfairly characterized as a “one hit wonder.” The fact is they too have a superb body of work consisting of four albums and one EP. Sadly, we may never hear more from them again because David Roback passed away in February of 2020. Hope Sandoval, in addition to being the vocalist for Mazzy Star, is also the vocalist for the alternative, dream pop band Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, which she formed with Colm Ó Cíosóig of My Bloody Valentine. To date, they have released three albums, all of which are nothing short of magnificent.

I loved all three bands individually and while Massive Attack have collaborated with various singers over the years, it never occurred to me that they could or should work with Hope Sandoval. Madonna and David Bowie made sense. Personally, I characterize Mazzy Star’s music as southwestern alternative (some of their songs remind me of New Mexico, don’t ask me to explain but when I play “Fade into You” I imagine driving along US-550), but Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions has a greater connection Massive Attack. Regardless, their collaborations were surprising and inspired. My hope is that one day Massive Attack and Hope Sandoval collaborate for an entire album. This playlist brings together their collaborations as well as what I consider to be the best from their respective catalogs. Of course, the challenge here was achieving that cohesion I noted above—but I think I did it! Let me know what you think!

I have provided YouTube links for my absolutely favorite songs.

“Paradise Circus” – Massive Attack with Hope Sandoval, from the album Heligoland.

Protection” – Massive Attack with Tracey Thorn, from the album Protection.

Unfinished Sympathy” – Massive Attack with Shara Nelson, from the album Blue Lines.

“Blue Light” – Mazzy Star, from the album So Tonight That I Might See.

The Spoils” – Massive Attack with Hope Sandoval

Fade into You” – Mazzy Star, from the album So Tonight That I Might See.

“Five String Serenade” – Mazzy Star, from the album So Tonight That I Might See.

“California” – Mazzy Star, from the album Seasons of Your Day.

“Disappear” – Mazzy Star, from the album Among My Swan.

“Into Dust” – Mazzy Star, from the album So Tonight That I Might See.

Quiet, The Winter Harbor” – Mazzy Star, from the EP Still.

“So Tonight I Might See” – Mazzy Star, from the album So Tonight That I Might See.

“Blue Flower” – Mazzy Star, from the album She Hangs Brightly.

“Future Proof” – Massive Attack, from the album 100th Window.

“Inertia Creeps” – Massive Attack, from the album Mezzanine.

“Nature Boy” – Massive Attack with David Bowie, from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

“Karmacoma” – Massive Attack, from the album Protection.

“Teardrop” – Massive Attack, from the album Mezzanine.

“Drop” – Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, from the album Bavarian Fruit Bread.

“The Peasant” Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, from the album Until the Hunter.

Into the Trees” Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, from the album Until the Hunter.

“Butterfly Caught” – Massive Attack, from the album 100th Window.

If you have your playlists so that they play on a constant loop when they end, this one works beautifully in that way.

A Public Apology for a Social Media Faux Pas

Media Literacy is the ability to decipher media messages and their points of views as well as the systems in which they exist (e.g., social media). Being literate in the 21st century means being media literate. We are constantly being bombarded with messages everywhere in both straightforward and subliminal ways. I have been paying very close attention to this for the last two decades after learning that children could not distinguish between advertisement and programming. Unfortunately, since the repeal of the fairness doctrine, news has largely become infotainment, more concerned with ratings and profits than reporting. Social media has been a bloody, double-edged sword when it comes to media literacy.

A couple of years ago, a Twitter page mysteriously appeared in my feed called “Explore Credit Unions” (sometime late last year they changed the name to “Reform Credit Unions.”) I have been a member of credit unions in the past and have had very good experiences with them. In case you don’t know, a credit union is a financial institution that is similar to a bank, with similar services, but it is a member-owned cooperative operated on a non-for-profit basis. They largely work with individuals who would often be turned away at banks. For example, feminist credit unions in the 1970s worked to bypass sexist financial institutions by supporting women’s economic decisions and funding women’s businesses (until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, most banks required a woman to present a male cosigner—her father if she was single and her husband if she was married).

I know credit unions are not without their problems, however the twitter feed for “Reform Credit Unions” implies that they are freeloaders avoiding taxes. My heightened media literacy skills tells me that “Reform Credit Unions” is a distraction, notably away from big banks who caused the economic crisis of 2008. I would also like to note that when there are problems at credit unions, there is justice. Not so with the big banks in 2008—virtually no one was arrested or publicly shamed. Therefore, I find what “Reform Credit Unions” is doing vile—if you truly care, why are you not criticizing banks? I constantly reply to their Tweets and all this time they have never replied to anything I have written (which leads me to think that this Twitter page may be automated).

On January 4, 2022, I was responding to posts from “Reform Credit Unions” and stumbled across another feed called “Tax The Credit Union Cartel” and I, just seeing the name, sloppily assumed that it was another “Reform Credit Unions” and wrongly referred to it as crisis actor for big banks. Again, I made this assumption on the basis on of the name of the feed. Also, the feed itself is less than a month old and only has four followers as of yesterday. I would never have made that statement if a real name was used.

The day after, “Tax The Credit Union Cartel” threatened legal action against me. It was then that I took the time to read what Mr. Carlton Roark is working on. I deleted my tweets. Furthermore, they were not liked or re-Tweeted.

I don’t have that much sway on Twitter. Just scroll my feed and see how many “likes” I typically have.  Most of my interaction is with the Film Twitter community and other creative people. Between my little sway on Twitter and Mr. Roark’s new presence and small following I am pretty sure no one saw my Tweets. Regardless, I apologize for rushing to judgment and making wrong statements and generalizations.

Film Review: Cousin Jules

The last time I set foot in a movie theater was in February of 2020 and with Omicron currently raging, it will likely be longer. I just subscribed to Mubi, and it is one of the best things I have ever done. In the week and half since I subscribed, I have seen quite a few interesting films and documentaries. Just last week I reviewed Red Moon Tide. Today, I wanted to share my thoughts on the 1973 documentary Cousin Jules, which was directed by Dominique Benicheti.

Dominique Benicheti (1943-2011) was a French film director and producer known for documentaries as well as innovative work on 3D film and animation. Starting in 1968 and for five years intermittently, he filmed his second cousin, Jules Guiteaux, who was a blacksmith, and his wife Félicie (who died midway through the shoot), on a small farm in the French Burgundy countryside. According to Moving Image Archive News, when it was released at the Locarno Film Festival in 1973, it was awarded a Special Jury Prize and hailed as a milestone in documentary filmmaking. It was later screened at the New Directors/New Films festival in New York, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Moscow International Film Festival. And that was it. It wasn’t seen again until a restored version was screened in 2013 at the New York Film Festival at the Film Forum. According to the New York Times, Cousin Jules, unlike most documentary films of the time, was filmed in a larger format (CinemaScope with stereo sound) that was not suitable for most art film houses of the time.

The film opens to the sounds of a rooster. We then see Jules wearing worn out wooden clogs and walking from his house to the large shed that contains his anvil, grindstone, and furnace. We see Jules at work, heating the iron bars that he bends and shapes on the anvil. Benicheti beautifully captures all these details in real time. Worn farming tools and kitchen wares are seen throughout the film, which captures life at the turn of the 20th century—it is a record of pre-industrial domestic and rural artistries. An ode to the handmade. The New York Times review, with a hint of snark, notes that the film “may also resonate among 21st-century devotees of the agrarian and the artisanal.”

Some may find the film a little frustrating in that there is no apparent narrative or dramatic progression (there isn’t even any music). It is just a slice of life. However, it is beautifully photographed, and the sound is nothing short of remarkable. Yes, I had questions about Jules and Félicie, and I wanted to know more about their lives (both were born in 1891 and lived through two world wars) but I was remarkably satisfied with it. It was a welcome break from this modern, mechanical world.

Film Review: Red Moon Tide

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical.” – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

The concept of pure cinema has roots in silent film, when filmmakers had to tell a story visually without spoken dialogue. Red Moon Tide is indeed pure cinema for the 21st century: it was filmed on a digital camera and does have dialogue, sound, and music but employs it parsimoniously. It is a feast for the eyes. My lone regret is that I did not see it in a movie theater, but via the streaming service Mubi (but I am thankful for that).

The film is set in the Galicia region of Spain and revolves around the disappearance of Rubio, a fisherman who believed a sea monster was responsible for diminished fishing (as opposed to overfishing or pollution) and hunts it down. Rubio is a local legend in his own right, known for recovering the corpses of shipwrecked sailors. In his absence, the town literally comes to a standstill. Most people in this film essentially stand still (except for three witches), while life around them goes on: horses run, birds sing, water trickles and crashes. Rubio’s story is recounted poetically in voiceover by the residents of the Galician village.

“The sky at night is a black sea.

The stars, bright fish.

The moon, a monster.”

“The monster is the sea.

It has been sleeping for centuries.

We are its dream.”

The film gives you a lot of consider, exploring the power of mythology, nature, the illusion of nature being tamed and humanity’s place in a world that will go on whether we are here or not. A recurring motif in the film is a whale shark and it forced me to consider all of the sharks fished out of the water each year, their fins cut off, and then cruelly thrown back into the water to die a truly painful and slow death. Perhaps humans are the real monsters?

“That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.” – Martin Scorsese*

Camille Paglia, in Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, noted in the introduction how the modern eye is constantly exposed to flashing images everywhere via mass media (she wrote that even when one is pumping gasoline, there is often a television screen on top of the pump). Paglia states that we must relearn how to see and find focus: “…The only way to teach focus is to present the eye with opportunities for steady perception—best supplied by the contemplation of art.” I want to applaud the director, Lois Patiño, for fostering pure cinema in a digital world ruled via smartphones by embracing and incorporating elements of still photography. In today’s movie market, too many films are made for those with short attention spans using cutting and camera work does not allow one to consider composition, scenery, and the actors. This film allows you to do all that and more. I feel fulfilled and will always remember this film as a masterpiece in my personal history of cinema. I hope that somehow, someway, this film is released in American theaters. We need less smartphones and more slow looking, focus and the grandeur of the movie screen.

* P.S. If you have previously read my blog, you know I also love all things comic books and superheroes, but that is not all I consume. I concurrently love popular culture and high art. They can and should co-exist in your world of entertainment and education.