Archer season 6 (2015)

Reboot season, back in their spy agency doing spy stuff. Dealing with Archer and Lana’s baby (and their getting back together towards the end), the return of Barry and Katya and Christian Slater, lotta betrayals and fuckups – the usual. As always I tried to watch an episode a week, then one a day, then six all at once. Enjoyed the attempts to bring back retired catchphrases – this show has the best writing. Cheers to Jared and Mike and Ron and the others.


Review season 2 (2015)

Forrest loses his new girlfriend after blackmailing her, experiences a glory hole, loses his next girlfriend trying to join the mile high club, burns down his dad’s house pretending to be a little person, loses his next girlfriend to a dangerous cult that he started, gets the perfect body, gets shot by his dad “doing a William Tell,” gets lost on a rowboat and buried alive, kills a guy, gets in a violent prison pillow fight, watches his imaginary friend get murdered, continues to get in trouble with his ex-wife, and finally “believes in a conspiracy” that his producer Grant (James Urbaniak) is trying to destroy his life, and rushes him off a bridge to both of their presumed deaths, but we’ll see in season 3. I enjoyed it more than season 1, this time knowing from the start that Forrest is massively deluded about the importance of his show and will sabotage himself and everyone he supposedly cares about for the sake of a review.


Bob’s Burgers season 2 (2012)

Home sick and unable to do much of anything, this made me forget all troubles for a while. Bob is involved in two hostage situations, buys a food truck and gets addicted to video gaming. The kids get lost in an abandoned taffy factory, avoid schoolwork and sabotage Bob’s guest segment on a local talk show. Too many big guests to list, but Megan Mullally stood out as both Linda’s sister and a knockoff Tori Amos.

Looking up the directors on IMDB I discovered a Mike Judge show called The Goode Family, which sounds intriguing, and makes me wonder why I’ve apparently never looked up Mike Judge on IMDB… oh no, he cowrote the new Johnny Knoxville movie.


Dream Corp LLC season 1 (2016)

A dream therapist (Jon Gries, Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite) runs an extremely ramshackle operation, recruits his patient from the first episode (Nick Rutherford, a SNL and Axe Cop writer) to be another “doctor”. There’s a patient-of-the-week and various operational and interpersonal problems and low-rent sci-fi scenarios, with rotoscoped dream sequences, and it’s all pretty wonderful. Also featuring Stephanie Allynne (One Mississippi), Ahmed Bharoocha of Comedy Central show Dead Kevin, Mark Proksch of The Office U.S., and original Office writer Stephen Merchant as the robot. Guests included Mary Lynn Rajskub, June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt), Dan Gill (Creative Control), and the voice of Liam Neeson as itself.


Who Is America? (2018)

“37 percent of lesbians dress like Charlie Chaplin. Why? We don’t know.” Sacha Baron Cohen has a new set of disguises, waves a beeping pervert detector at Roy Moore, makes murder jokes with OJ Simpson, and gets a GA state rep to resign. Essential television.


Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 11 (2017)

Good to have the show back. I watched while falling asleep over about 70 separate nights, so it’s all half-awake fragmented bits, and I was already thinking of rewatching but hey look, season 12 just came out. I don’t find the voices distinctive enough, and someone rightly pointed out that they’re overly chatty and could stand to cut a few jokes. Callbacks to jokes from the classic episodes, nice guest appearances and host segments, with at least one all-timer musical number (“every country has a monster”). Movie highlight was probably the two-part Wizards of the Lost Kingdom.


Apocalypse: a Bill Callahan tour film (2012, Hanly Banks)

Either this is one of the best concert docs I’ve ever seen, or I was just in an extremely Bill Callahan mood. Watched the night he performed at Hanukkah, then again the next day – an Apocalypse-era concert, each song (for the first half?) with a different visual treatment, and short interview or tour-life segments between songs.


Flight of the Conchords: Live in London (2018)

Another fine musical hour – coincidentally, Bill Callahan doc director Hanly Banks worked on the Conchords TV series. I’ve conveniently forgotten most of the songs from the show and albums, so they all seemed new to me.


Documentary Now season 1 (2015)

Such a weird niche idea, I can’t believe it’s allowed to exist. The writers/directors, including lead actors Armisen and Hader, mostly come from SNL.

A Grey Gardens knockoff devolves into found-footage horror. A 1980’s TV doc about the true story of a Nanook-like early doc uncovers some Forgotten Silver-like cinematic inventions. A Vice-like publication keeps sending clueless reporters to their deaths seeking a Mexican drug kingpin. A Thin Blue Line-like investigation into a botched murder trial includes fabulous slow-motion re-enactment footage. An Iceland town holds a quaint Al Capone festival (this was actually filmed in Iceland). Finally their masterpiece, in the vein of A Mighty Wind or the Josh Fenderman story, soft-rock legends The Blue Jean Committee.

Kunuk Uncovered:

The Eye Doesn’t Lie:

The Punk Singer (2013, Sini Anderson)

Anyone can cut a kickass opening title montage to Rebel Girl and interview a bunch of participants about Bikini Kill and the Riot Grrl movement, so I was curious whether this was going to get any better than your standard talking-heads rock-doc. Fortunately I had no idea that Kathleen Hanna dated and married the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horowitz, her polar opposite in terms of lyrical message, and the stories about their relationship before and after the diagnosis that has mostly kept her from touring, warmed my heart.

Kim Gordon in a van:


Girl Walk: All Day (2011, Jacob Krupnick)

Just a feature-length dance choreography to an entire Girl Talk album, that’s all. I watched this twice, because after the first time I had to show it to Katy.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: High Grass Dogs (1999)

I put this on the night Petty died, for the first time since buying it. All of his concert releases are essential, and this one, despite its ugly SD appearance, is no exception.

Also rewatched Lemonade with a seriously unimpressed Mystery Mike, and rewatched Junun with a phone-distracted Katy. And the usual bunch of festival sets…

Only watched a couple of these lately, but I’d better write ’em up before they get lost and forgotten…


Baby Snakes (1979, Frank Zappa)

Definitely overlong and indulgent… don’t know why Zappa thought we needed to spend so much time backstage with his band goofing around and improvising with props for the camera – not exactly feature film material. And I detest audience participation at rock shows – it’s super fun for the two fans onstage, less so for the rest of us.

Gripes aside, the bulk of the movie is a terrific rock concert, and the highlight is the claymation work by brilliant, possibly crazed animator Bruce Bickford… complex cityscapes, crowd scenes, closeups, Frank and his bandmates and groupies, all constantly morphing into monsters.

Foreground: clay Frank at the clay film editing table
Background: Frank at the film editing table


Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015, Brett Morgen)

I don’t feel a morbid urge to read the diaries of dead rock stars or watch their home videos, but I heard this was good, an immersive montage edited according to emotion more than narrative, not a traditional rock doc. But whoever wrote that had a pretty strict definition of traditional narrative, because this is a straightforward, chronological doc, trying to get inside Kurt’s head at the different stages of his life and fame. There’s some Scanner Darkly rotoscoping of reenactment footage (a good compromise) and halfway-decent flash animation of his teenage drawings to illustrate his confessional audio tape collection. Interviews with Krist and Courtney and Kurt’s parents and ex, lots of good photos and concert footage, and a terrific mocking impression he does of Chris Cornell (edit: RIP, Chris). I hadn’t really listened to Nirvana since the late 90’s and mostly the movie gave me the urge to do that – discovered that the bonus discs of concert stuff on the album reissues are reeeeally good.


PJ Harvey in France on the Hope Six tour


Chumbawamba in 1996

I’ve already given up on the ratings system I established in the previous entry. Just can’t start giving number ratings to movies on the blog. I have another, less specific idea, that I’ll unveil soon.


The Color of Noise (2015, Eric Robel)

Been listening to Boss Hog and Melvins lately, so here I am checking out another record label doc right after hating the K Records one. This is two hours on Amphetamine Reptile Records and its founder Tom Hazelmyer, which sounded like it’d be punishing, so I planned to watch it in pieces. But it turned out to be everything I’ve been looking for in a rock doc, full of great music and stories, giving valuable info on AmRep bands I’ve never listened to (and making me wish used CD stores still existed so I could go on a shopping spree). And it’s great looking – slickly designed, with a ton of great visual material (oh, those posters!) from the defunct label’s history. Watched on streaming then immediately bought the blu-ray to check out extra features. This is the movie I’ll be recommending as the apex rock doc. Bonus: the director is from Nebraska.

The guy from God Bullies, I think:

Boss Hog:

Hazelmyer:


Sabbath In Paradise (1998, Claudia Heuermann)

I guess I’ve given rock docs a bad rap, because this was great also. Another John Zorn-and-gang doc, talking about their unique methods of making Jewish music. Got me thinking about how many of the musicians I love the most – Robbie Fulks, Ted Leo, Yo La Tengo, lately Zorn – are enthusiastic, omnivorous music fans themselves, curating specific music histories through their own performances (and references, collaborators, cover songs), but this thought feels like it requires a book-length exploration, so I’ll stop there.

This guy sits in a movie theater, reading from a holy book as if to narrate the action.


Shield Around The K (2000, Heather Rose Dominic)

Pretty amateur-looking… for a while I pretended that this was on purpose, intended to be charmingly lo-fi-looking to match the spirit of the music, but nah. Not as informative as I’d hoped either, spending the entire first hour discussing the origins and career of flagship band Beat Happening, which I’ve already covered in Our Band Could Be Your Life and the Crashing Through box set.

Halo Benders are seen but not mentioned. Dub Narcotic and the Disco Plate series: not mentioned. Cassette culture is covered, but there’s little about the twee-pop vs. riot-grrl mini-scenes. I look at a list of K artists and wonder who ARE these groups… and there are an interesting few that I’ve heard (The Make-Up, Microphones, Lync, that one Beck album) which seem to have little in common, so I was hoping for some kinda artistic overview of the roster, but maybe that’s not possible in 90 minutes. At least we got significant attention paid to the great Mecca Normal.

Mecca Normal:

Lois:

Musically decent, with some good concert footage and songs (usually music videos) played all the way through.

IMDB says the director played a crackhead in Schrader’s Light Sleeper.


Jammin’ the Blues (1944, Gjon Mili)

“This… is a jam session.”
Beautifully lit, with singer Marie Bryant.
Oscar-nominated, but a comedy short about talking animals took the prize.


JATP (1950, Gjon Mili)

This appears to be the movie called Improvisation on imdb. Lackadaisically spoken cast credits come five minutes in. Overall tinnier, compressed-sounding audio on my copy, and far less slickly produced than the 1944 short. On the other hand, this one I’d actually believe is a documentary of a jam session, simply recorded, gradually adding more players until Ella Fitzgerald caps it off. Not being a jazz follower I’m not getting the chills from seeing all these big names in person – Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Buddy Rich – just a pleasant 15 minutes of music.


Burn to Shine – Atlanta, GA – 7.29.2007

I remember reading in Stomp & Stammer that this was being filmed, and have been waiting the past decade to finally see it. A very nice time capsule of the Atlanta rock scene, from approx. the year I was paying the most attention, taping local bands and buying all their 7″ singles.

The Selmanaires:

Delia Gartrell:

Coathangers:


Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane – Santiago, Chile 2011

I love how sometimes, when Mike smiles, you can tell that he’s the devil.
Had to re-sync the audio a few times, but otherwise this show is the greatest.


Deerhunter at Coachella 2016


Tortoise at Primavera Sound 2016


Wolf Parade at Best Kept Secret Fest 2016


Animal Collective on KCRW 2016

In the early days of DVD I gobbled up documentaries on my favorite bands. But eventually every single band gets a documentary, and most are gonna be blandly depressing handheld tour docs, so I stopped watching them, but after the great Breadcrumb Trail I’ve got more hope for the genre. Rounded up some promising docs, but not willing to devote serious time to these, so the plan is to half-watch ’em on the laptop while working on the other computer – along with all the concert videos I download and never watch (because I only play audio shows at work).

Since the rock docs are usually composed of awful handheld footage and interviews, they need to be rated on different merits than regular movies. I’m looking for information and emotional connection to my favorite artists – and don’t forget to play that music that all the interviewees are raving about.


Luna: Tell Me Do You Miss Me (2006)

Learned:
– Dean is not a fan of touring.
– The band members have mild disagreements in the studio.
– They refer to the worst part of any tour as “the Omaha”
– Poignancy of this “final tour” breakup doc is diminished now that they’re back together.

Visually: 3 out of 10
Musically: 7 (lot of good concert footage, and more on the DVD extras)
Information: 3
Emotion: 3 (that’s probably true of their songs, too)
Mood: melancholy

I’ve recently seen Dean in Noah Baumbach movies. Britta voices a couple of stop-motion shows and sang in the 1980’s cartoon Jem. And of course Luna reunited last year. Director Matthew Buzzell has made bunches of short docs, many of them music-related, and a comedy feature with Chris Parnell. Editor Jacob Bricca cut Lost in La Mancha.


Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields (2010)

We see them arranging “In an Operetta” (2004 album) and recording “Distortion” (2008 album), so this took a while to make. Always nice to spent time in Merritt’s company – overall a good portrait.

Visual: 7
Music: 7
Information: 5
Emotion: 3

One producer/director, Kerthy Fix, released a doc on Le Tigre the same year, now works on detestable reality TV shows.


Revenge of the Mekons (2013)

“Every critic loves the mekons, but unfortunately [critics] get free records.”

As a Mekons-fan-come-lately (got into them around 2004’s “Punk Rock”) I had plenty to learn about the group, especially info on pre-2000’s band members, and what happened between the early singles and the move to America. But besides its educational value, this was kinda a great movie, full of so many brilliant photographs, and one of my favorite-ever scenes in a music doc: following the song “Afar & Forlorn” from inspiration to writing to rehearsal to recording to concert performance. A thing of beauty, that.

From any description the Mekons sound like one of the most important bands of our time – contrast this with their utter commercial failure, and the hilarious, self-deprecating remarks of Langford and company. Key quote by Jonathan Franzen: “If you feel like the inheritor of a very embattled critical stance while the rest of the world is going over to the dark side, they’re the band for you. And I say that not because they give you hope of ever winning the battle, but they teach you how to be gracious and amusing losers.”

Not sure if other band docs have post-credits stinger scenes, but I couldn’t cut off “Orpheus”, so made it to this one. “We seem to have lost all our clothes!”

Visual: 8
Music: 6
Information: 8
Emotion: 5

Director Joe Angio also made a Melvin Van Peebles doc. From NY Times: “He had originally planned to profile Yo La Tengo. He courted the band for around 18 months. ‘They never said no, but more importantly, they never said yes.'”


Put Blood in the Music (1989)

The first of many John Zorn programs I’ve found. Sonic Youth’s greenscreen “Addicted to Love” video seems to have inspired the look of this doc. Interviewees have been pasted over scraps of New York footage, turning what’s usually the most visually boring part of a rock doc into its most interesting.

It’s hard to cover John Zorn in a half hour, and the doc wastes precious time with an overlong montage about how New York’s diversity influences its genre-hopping music scene, so we get people talking about Zorn’s different fascinating projects without playing enough music from them. The second part (or third, if we’re counting the NYC montage) covers Sonic Youth, including a nice discussion with John Cale.

Director/editor Charles Atlas recently worked with Antony and the Johnsons, also made docs on artist William Kentridge and fashion designer Leigh Bowery, and worked on a series called Art in the Twenty-First Century. I think that’s him anyway… there’s also a band called Charles Atlas, who did a split single with Alan Sparhawk.

Visual: 9
Music: 4
Information: 5
Emotion: 1

Zorn in shades:

Ranaldo in shades:

Disembodied interviewee:


The Fantomas Melvins Big Band – Kentish Town Forum, London 1st May 2006

Official video (complete with wacky editing and effects) of a tremendous show… Melvins plus Mike Patton and his crew, a grand experiment in tension and release.


The Sadies at Pickathon 2014


Neko Case on Austin City Limits 2013


Parquet Courts at Glastonbury 2014


Perfume Genius at Glastonbury 2015


And most wonderfully, FFS at Glastonbury 2015