Tuesday, January 30, 2007

LYNCH MOB SNEAK PEAK: Arms open wide, and how. Fishing with David Lynch

By Ryland Walker Knight

David Lynch's voice has a diminutive, nasal inflection. You can hear the Pacific Northwest’s gentility and echoes of a woodland youth. In his new book, Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, this calm is felt in each short, declarative sentence that makes up each short, welcoming chapter.

The book is slim. The 177 pages offer more blank, white spaces than text. Lynch doesn’t really explicate his ideas: he distills them into succinct statements. But he’s hardly condescending. Rather, the whole book is an invitation. When you open Lynch’s book, he, in turn, opens his front door and invites you inside for a cup of coffee. And, perhaps, a twenty-minute meditation session.

[To read the rest of the review, click here, and you will be forworded to The House Next Door. Stay tuned for yet more Lynch mania, as promised.]


Saturday, January 27, 2007


SUBTITLE: "however temporal"

Mick LaSalle has a post on his blog today where he asks you to list your favorites in a variety of arenas. I filled out my answers. You can fill out yours here.

For ease, here are mine below. I am nervous to commit to these and think it a rather foolish endeavor but I cannot help it -- I had to partake.

Movie -- The Thin Red Line (Mirror)
Play -- King Lear (True West)
Film Director -- Tarkovsky (Malick)
TV Show -- Arrested Development (Lost)
Album -- 'Wowee Zowee' by Pavement (two alternates: 'cLOUDDEAD' by cLOUDDEAD & 'Bootleg Vol.4, 1966 Royal Albert Hall' by Bob Dylan)
Novel -- 'Fortress of Solitude' Jonathan Lethem ('Play It As It Lays' Joan Didion)
Short Story -- 'Finding a Girl In America' Andre Dubus, a novella, actually
Novelist -- Herman Hesse or Ernest Hemingway, probably, on the whole. But Jonathan Lethem just writes my life in every book so I'd be foolish to not include him.
Composer -- Steve Reich
Classical Piece -- Music for 18 Musicians (introduction to Das Rheingold by Wagner; I'm transparent, I know)
Actor -- Cary Grant, Al Pacino, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson
Actress -- Naomi Watts.
Dancer -- Gene Kelly (yup)
Beatle -- John. You can't front.
Poet -- Andrei Tarkovsky!
Non-Fiction Book -- 'The White Album' Didion ('The Clock of the Long Now' Stewart Brand)
Painting -- 'A Tree In Naples' de Kooning
Singer -- Tom Waits or Joanna Newsom
Sculpture -- Frank Lloyd Wright!
Architectural Structure -- CLICHE ALERT: Brooklyn Bridge
Philosopher -- J.L. Austin
Marx Brother -- Groucho's got the jokes but Harpo's got the pathos.

And, a few I'll add on:

Baseball position player -- Miguel Tejada
Baseball pitcher -- Pedro, c. 1990s
Basketball star -- currently, Steve Nash & Gilbert Arenas / old folks, Magic & Bird
Clothing you own -- my blue and white checkered/plaid not-really-western shit (my pins, if that counts)
Fat Man -- Orson Welles or Marlon Brando

Please, add your own.

Poem for the Day: A Serene Heart At The Movies

by the late William Matthews

She strode to her car and turned the key and
a peony of bomb bloomed all at once.
The film is rated R for violence.
Dear fellow readers of the Iliad,
they found half her pinkie in the roses.
Guns are the new jewelry of men. And cars--
think how much the script must have hated her
to blow her up in the burgundy Rolls.
But she's not real; it's only a movie.
Those blood-drenched dreams we wake from in a baste
of sweat, like our sex fantasies, aren't real
to moral life. They don't impede at all
the love we make, the money or the haste.
So hush now, little baby, don't you cry.

Friday, January 26, 2007

ANNOUNCING!: The Lynch Mob (Feb 12th to Feb 16th)

Our man in Inglewood -- Get your ass in here!

There's already a wealth of worthy essays to be found in cyberspace tackling David Lynch's new big bad behemoth, INLAND EMPIRE. So why not add some more?

We here at Vinyl Is Heavy find the film as fertile a subject presented to audiences as any in recent memory, including 02005's The New World, for good or ill. We also find ourselves victim to Lynch's brilliant marketing ploy of withholding the film from audiences by way of this self-distribution he's devised and enacted. It bugs us but -- hey! -- it's working: the film has already scored big in its runs at Manhattan's IFC Center and the new exclusive engagement at Seattle's Neptune Theatre. It seems this beast has a tractor beam, not a force field. And a lot of it is probably due to Lynch himself.

hold it like an egg

He's unassuming, funny and uncompromised. He's a gentle Montana man who happens to see the world in such a singular fashion that it fascinates people. And once people realize he's not some elitist living high on the hog in the Hollywood Hills but a regular guy living high on the hog in the Hollywood Hills (or wherever in LA), his art opens up. For all its ugliness, the Lynchian cinema is one of curiosity, eager to dive into a subject, bathe in its possibilities and -- hopefully -- render them as beautifully & honestly as possible.

It's the same in every picture, from the triumvirate of Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and INLAND EMPIRE to the "simpler" films like Elephant Man & The Straight Story. The only picture that fails to bring this wonder to the screen is his (justly) much maligned, and outright dis-owned, adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune: it is defined by how ugly its contrivances are and how limited & closed its fantasy world ends up as a result; there's nothing quite coherent in its alphabet soup misdirection. Wait: What about Fire Walk With Me? Isn't that just a mess? Well, yes. But that film is so restless with reality it can't sit still or subscribe to any singular answers -- a palpable, valuable sign of an artist straining in earnest.

However quixotic an aim, it's that yearning for any and all answers floating through life's ether -- not simply one ultimate truth -- that fascinates us. This is why we feel this new pop-art phenomenon deserves yet more time, more burrowing, more wrestling-match exhaustion. We hope to be neither difficult nor contentious, merely honest. And excited by the possibilities we're afforded.

a mob of eyes

Over the week of February 12th to February 16th (and possibly beyond) we will host a series of essays from each of our four five writers as well as various "Lynch Links" to be co-ordinated and updated each day as the top post on the home page. We hope you can join us. And we hope we can live up to the possibilities of this event.

To whet the appetite, here are some reviews, reflections and rejections from a host of critics:
Manohla Dargis, David Edelstein, Jim Emerson, Jurgen Fauth [(1) (2) (3)], Owen Gleiberman, Ed Gonzalez, J. Hoberman, Rob Humanick, Andrew O'Hehir, Keith Phipps, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Michael Joshua Rowin, Nick Schager, Keith Uhlich.

PLUS, the first Lynch Links:

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pointing at the Screen

by Steven Boone

Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring (1949) is a masterpiece of love, time, life and death, but it's hard to capture in words. Roger Ebert found a way to describe some of the finer qualities and themes coursing through this portrait of a father and daughter learning to let each other go, but I'm stuck pointing at the screen, going, "Look at that! Did you see that?" Ozu's images just outrun my words.

So I gathered some of those images into a montage (see below). You might call it a visual critique, but I have only praise for Late Spring, which sensitizes a viewer to such a degree that I'm almost sorry for seeing the tougher, bleaker Tokyo Story (1953) first. The former points shyly, sadly, to the latter. And both films are testaments to the beauty of Setsuko Hara, whose smile deserved it's own movie. (Actually, Late Spring kind of is that movie.)

But enough with the words. Take a look at how Ozu uses a mostly static camera with one lens to show you what happens when real love has a silent fight with time, society and death.

Song: "4am At Toumani's" from the album Mali Music by Damon Albarn and various Malian musicans.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Birds, Misfits, Mon Amour: across a gulf, an ocean

by Ryland Walker Knight

[All stolen from this site.]

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Born Under Punches: Véronique's Hands

by Ryland Walker Knight

before sunset
furthest from
sex appeal
yet more
control freak
the other way
hang up already
metal arms cherry pickin hollow shells
I Can Feel The Heart Beating As One

Audrey is fine but gimme Irène any day. I think it's odd people forget how much LE FABULEUX DESTIN D'AMELIE POULIN actually apes LA DOUBLE VIE DE VERONIQUE, from the haircut to the colors to the mystery love affair. And how Kieslowski's is much better. Its spontaneity slays Jeunet's art-directed-to-death whimsy.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Lateral sculpture: Béla Tarr's Sátántangó
by Ryland Walker Knight

Time is relevant, yes? Art is a distillation of a moment or series of moments. Film art is a capture: the camera takes in light and stores it for future projection—the captured light is time. Film, as an art, is a means to represent the relative passage of time. The filmmaker's job, then, is to assemble a work from the most essential building blocks of story/life/events; or to whittle it down, eliminating the excess. This is the crux of Andrei Tarkovsky's film theory, which he famously defined in his book "Sculpting in Time". The filmmaker is a sculptor, wielding his camera as a chisel. It's a convincing study, and an appealing set of guidelines & edicts to follow in any art. Form must always reflect content, as conscientiously as possible: if the content is hollow, the form is irrelevant. If ever there was a brand of cinema that academia was meant to swallow whole, this is it.

Béla Tarr's seven and a half hour opus Sátántangó (1994) practices many "Sculpting" maxims, first and foremost in the way it represents the slow and subjective passing of time. ...

[To read the rest of the review, click here, and you will be forwarded to The House Next Door for the full article. Also, click here, to view the ever-expanding home base for the Contemplative Cinema Blogathon.]

01994: 434 minutes: dir. Béla Tarr: written by Tarr & László Krasznahorkai, from a novel by Krasznahorkai: Ágnes Hranitzky, "co-auteur".

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back To School Screenshot of the day

Looks like things are falling into place.
-- Ryland Walker Knight

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tokyo Story


by Ryland Walker Knight

The everyday banality distances the viewer, at first, in Yasujiro Ozu's 01953 TOKYO STORY but its purity of expression, its contemplative rhythms and its observations culminate in an ending that evokes the best of Anton Chekhov & Andre Dubus: you learn how to live. Were we all so selfless as Setsuko Hara's Norika, we (humans) would, to say it simply, be better. Norika has the highest of standards for herself but she can see virtue in what we viewers, along with Kyoko (Kyoko Kagawa), are inclined to dismiss as selfish in Shige (Haruko Sugimura); but its Shige who cries first, remember. Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) & Tomi (Chieko Higashiyama) are proud of their children in the end despite the Tokyo-bustle pre-occupations that keep Shige and Koichi (So Yamamura) busy because they are successful and there is a time when children outgrow their parents' embrace. However, this purity is at a remove from the audience by virtue of Ozu's static camera, empty frames and deliberate arrhythmia. That we can reach any emotional plateau is remarkable, nigh miraculous, and as such, it's this heart-felt and honest humanity that inspires such claims. The ascethetic framework (& a stark DVD transfer), however, can misdirect an audience into resisting how nimbly the narrative moves. This is a gentle film. And it moves great distances (albeit from one tatami mat to another (the film's opening and closing titles appear over a thatched grid akin to such floorings)) in the blink of an eye. Women cry -- and suddenly -- but it's the howl of a train and the groan of a tugboat that moved me the most as the film closed. So happy to have found this treasure at last: thank you, Dad, it's a great Christmas present. Life may be disappointing but when we can find ourselves this transported-transformed-transcended with the stuff cloudy days (not dreams) are made of, there's a light shining on the water.

01953: 136 minutes: dir. by Yasujiro Ozu: written by Ozu & Kôgo Nodo

[Thanks to Harry Tuttle and Unspoken Cinema for including me in their Contemplative Cinema Blogathon.]

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I will not Xerox. I'd rather immolate.

Beatrice, fire, life
The new maxim.
-- Ryland Walker Knight

Friday, January 05, 2007

The best medicine? Wash your fucking hands.

by Ryland Walker Knight

[I got the idea from the recent comments on today's, the 5th's, Links for the Day over at The House Next Door concerning the writing credit on movies, specifically CHILDREN OF MEN, which I hope to write about after a second viewing. Naturally, things got out of hand.]

I read a year ago or something (maybe more?) that John Logan has it in his contract that only he gets final credit for whatever the film ends up being but (to pick up from my comments on The House yesterday a bit) THE AVIATOR bears similar strains that plagued GANGS OF NEW YORK, yet the latter has three credited writers. I think both films appear to have been script-doctored to death, to the detriment of whatever passionate vision Martin Scorsese was bringing to the table (or Michael Mann as it may have been once not so long ago; what would Mann's AVIATOR have been? would he have shot digital? (Steve often proposes ideas about movies we know re-imagined as projects by other directors and that could be a fertile shooting gallery I think we could have some fun with)). And to what purpose? Was it merely studio heads trying to focus the project? How many rainbows were either final shooting scripts? I bet they used about three full spectrums, if not more, by the end of each picture. And it's a shame. An entirely dubious and engaging public figure, Hughes warrants a three-hour movie, even if especially because his movies are rarely as good as some of this one's best moments and he was a straight up loon. [But, I should say, this is entirely speculation given my admittedly dated reads on those movies and lack of research (too tired, just wanna bait).]

Which brings me to THE BLACK DAHLIA, which I gave a second look this past week. And it made me think a very similar thesis. DAHLIA's shortcomings are hardly De Palma's over all formal brilliance -- his staircases are Bresson's doorways, it seems -- but the script's meanderings. Yesterday Matt said he often enjoys a meandering story more than a strict narrative (this may not be all-the-way true, a wild paraphrase, but he seemed to say he loves embellishment if it furthers the art, and I'm in agreement, to a point) and there's no lack of that in DAHLIA. I doubt Josh Freidman is solely responsible for the end result but maybe he is -- it's that perverse a movie. I realize part of the point of Ellroy is to get so bogged down in plot you don't know which way is up or whom to trust but it basically doesn't create a very good movie-going experience when it's this congested and byzantine; it just feels muddled. (MIAMI VICE, on the other hand, I am completely in tuned with, so it's partly a matter of taste.) It's beyond noir: some kind of deeper well where all the ugliness hides -- and is rarely seen in Ho'wood. That said, this time I was able to accept it on its own terms and at least enjoyed it more, if only for how gorgeous it is. But there's still somethging missing for me, and a lot of it is in those prettier-than-reality leads who, to me, look like they're playing dress up. The whole movie is kind of playing dress up to get down into that well (hell?). However, there are highlights: Vilmos Zsigmond is a straight up G(nius), the crane shots' subjectivity is simply amazing, Mia Kirshner is breathtaking and, actually, I kind of think Hilary Swank is brilliant in the most awful way possible. When jerked out of the movie, or grabbing another beer, I kept imagining Madeline Cathcart Linscott devouring a host of high school Freedom Writers like she'd been having trouble every day... it was, ahem, a minor epiphany.

watch out, kids
Please, tell me what you think -- anybody. This is intended as the germ you didn't clean off your fingers that inevitably gets on your face. And you know what that leads to... But, knowing the (lack of) traffic I get, it probably won't warrant that kind of infection.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


by Michael Strenski

02006 had it's fair share of disappointments on the album front but after much deliberation I have ultimately decided that Beck's The Information is a slightly bigger piece of aural garbage than the Flaming Lips' At War with the Mystics. Were these former geniuses both infected by some talent-sucking radiation on their joint tour in 02002, coincidentally the last time either band released a half decent album (emphasis on "half")? Anyhoo, screw the losers, why waste digital print on albums I hope never to hear again. Below is a completely unbiased selection of the top six releases in '06. That's right, unbiased. If you disagree, you're wrong.

#6: OOIOO-Taiga
Yoshimi's pet project dropped an incredibly energetic, surprisingly cohesive album in 02006. I say surprising because over the course of the album's 8 tracks, the band throws almost every musical genre into the mix, as disparate as avant jazz and cheerleader anthems. The album's highlight is the opener "UMA", a Japanese girl chorus over a relentless, infectious drum pattern reminiscent of Joy Division's "Atrocity Exhibition", albeit ten times louder.

#5: Ghostface Killah-Fishscale
I have a confession: no hip-hop sounds as good to me as a Wu joint. Although the Clan barely makes a dent on his new album (save Raekwon), G-Deini came back strong with his most slamming record since Supreme Clientele. Though nowhere as cohesive as that past success and frankly a bit long, it was the most inspiring, lyrically dense hip-hop album in a long while. MF Doom's numerous cuts are almost as good a compliment to Ghost's style as the RZA's.

#4: Joanna Newsom-Ys
Envision, execute. The greatest thing about Joanna Newsom's sophomore release is the purity of the vision. She wrote 5 great songs that more than warrant their much-discussed length. She got Steve Albini to record it, fucking Van Dyke Parks to write the string arrangements, and then called up Jim O'Rourke to produce it at... ABBEY ROAD. BAM! What now?!? How can you fuck with that? I wish more albums would be this audacious. It would make life a little more interesting.

#3: Sonic Youth-Rather Ripped
Rather Ripped is the complete opposite of Ys in a purely aesthetic way. Where Ys is grandiose and whimsical, Rather Ripped is Sonic Youth pared down to their bare pop bones. All the songs are concise (save "Pink Steam") and for Sonic Youth, conventional. Turns out that after three meandering, jammy albums this was the exact curveball the band needed. 12 songs simply recorded and full of wonderful hooks and lovely guitars. Beautiful.

#2: the Gothic Archies-The Tragic Treasury
What would a year be without a witty, catchy collection from Stephin Merritt? A compilation of tracks he wrote for the Lemony Snicket series of children's books, The Tragic Treasury turns out to be Stephin's most pleasurable and consistent album since the Magnetic Fields' 01995 album Get Lost. No, it's not better than 69 Love Songs but then again, nothing ever will be. Here are 15 pop songs about the most dire subject matter, intelligently executed and absurdly addictive.

#1: the Country Teasers-The Empire Strikes Back
These Scottish ruffians warmed my little heart this year with their odes to all manners of bad thoughts. How can you top an album that opens with an embellished version of Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh" and closes with an epic called "Please Ban Music"? And damn, check out that album title. Full of lovely little mistakes and misery, nothing this year made me happier.

Except this:
Tricked y'all. The Melvins further solidified their status as the self-proclaimed "Greatest Band in the History of Music" with their 20th full length, the massive, incredibly heavy (A) Senile Animal. After firing their bassist and swallowing up bass and drum metal ensemble Big Business, the Melvins delivered the goods in spades. "The Talking Horse" is a low-riding, bass-bumping anthem, while "Blood Witch" may be the trickiest thing ever recorded, and "A Civilized Worm" culminates in the greatest sing-along of all time. And those are only the first three songs! No album warranted more repeat listens, nor more pleasure than this album, and if you disagree then you must be deaf.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Official 2006 Year-End Wrap Up

by Ryland Walker Knight

The House has published the typical stable of well-written reflections, with one from yours truly thrown in for good measure titled "Swiss Cheese Masculinity" as well as Steven Boone's "Top 5 Flicks". Enjoy, and well wishes. Onwards and upwards, as ever.

fly free

Ahem...Bring It On, 2007

by Ryland Walker Knight

A mixtape/CD to commemorate the wild ride of 2006 and the start of a guaranteed-to-be-wacky 2007. However, this hardly represents any take on the current music scene as I'm so out of touch. That's Mike's job... These are just songs I often listen to, or have at some point, that kind of tell a story about the year (but in a fragmented time kinda way, evidenced by the JB track smack in the middle).

So without further ado, here's a list of tunes in a specific order I give to you to piece together, sans aural help:

1. Strange Magic - ELO
2. In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
3. I Look Into Mid Air - Rex The Dog
4. Why Why - Bogdan Raczynski
5. Female Demands - Prefuse 73
6. Erotic City - Prince
7. My Love - Justin Timberlake
8. What You Know - T.I.
9. Numb Encore - Jay Z & Linkin Park
10. Skew It On The Bar B - Outkast & Raekwon
11. Xpressway To Yrself - Electric Company
12. I Got The Feelin' - James Muthafunkin Brown, RIP
13. Can You Get To That? - Funkadelic
14. Shake Some Action - The Flaming Groovies
15. Little Room - The White Stripes
16. Eighteen - Alice Cooper
17. Hey Elanor - Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
18. Pick Fights - Why?
19. In The Air Tonight - godheadSilo
20. Pope - Prince

Some glaring omissions, due to convenience, time constraints, fluidity and what files are actually on my harddrive versus vinyl in a box:

Hip Hop - Dead Prez
Freeze The Saints - Stephen Malkmus
Rattled By The Rush - Pavement
Only You - Yazoo
Sitting Still - REM
Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie - Joanna Newsom
Sawdust & Diamonds - Joanna Newsom
Anythang - Devin The Dude
Mr Tough - Yo La Tengo
I Was Young When I Left Home - Bob Dylan
plenty of others...