PREVIEW: Tous Les Jours

Available to Stream on Amazon Prime is Nicholas Mullin’s masterpiece of a documentary, Tous Les Jours. This intimate portrait of Newfoundland artist Jean Claude Roy follows his daily activity as a landscape visionary. As he gathers his paints and sets off to seize each day, we are led into a beautiful landscape of color that is Jean Claude Roy’s world.

Receiving praise from various film festivals, this documentary will truly transport you into the life of a true artist.

REVIEW: Yesterday

Streaming on HBO is Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, a story about how we are to prioritize our lives when good fortune drops into our lap. Jack Malik is a struggling musician who wakes up one day to an alternate reality in which he is the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles and their music. As a hopeful artist who never has felt praised for anything of his own creation, Jack sets out to make a name for himself by producing the music of the Beatles for himself. As success and fame seize him and “his” music, we see Jack struggle with his own identify as he learns of what he truly wants from his life.

As an audience member who has never been a devoted fan of the Beatles, I tried to watch this film without a perspective that is dulled by adoration of the Beatles’s legacy.  Entering into this movie, I expected the themes to be closer to ones of sentimentality, such as desirous love or musical devotion. More prevalent, however, was the theme of what it means to be authentic despite the allure of obtaining mass appeal.

Just like the alternate universe in which Jack finds himself, Yesterday possesses a odd feeling of over-saturation. The execution of the characters’s motivations, while often resonant with real life, seemed slightly off and left me to believe that the script-writers did not properly prepare for certain plot set-ups. That being said, the majority of the characters appeared normal in comparison to Jack’s second manager, Debra Hammer: a representation of surface-level production value that only cares about Jack’s profitability. This larger-than-life persona is a caricature of executives from the music industry in real  life who are in the business of sucking currency out of a creative entity. While Debra works to build a solely-profitable image for Jack, we see Elle, Jack’s first manager, who had only worked to affirm and encourage who Jack already was. The stark distinction between the two managers is offered as a choice for Jack; is it more valuable to be widely profitable as a product, or uniquely valued as an authentic being?

As Jack dives deeper into his woven lie, he grows increasingly anxious that someone knows his secret and that he will be put to shame for the liberties he has taken with the Beatles’s music. The pace and sequencing plays on the feelings of anxiety that many may know as an imposter syndrome. As Jack is credited as a genius, he feels increasingly lost in the image that has been developed for him.

What is the cost of accepting the love that we are freely given? So often it can be easy to hope for love that is given for what we offer the world, but there is a sort of indescribable sacrifice one must make in order to be loved just as they are. Despite its occasional nonsense and the unpredictable writing, Yesterday is a charming film that sparks thought and reflection about personal authenticity, and hopefully draws to mind someone in your own life who has valued you even at your lowest points.

REVIEW: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Available through Amazon Prime Video, I recommend, for the audience’s consideration, Joe Talbot’s directorial masterpiece, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This gem of a picture places itself in definitive rank with some of the greater films in Studio A24’s arsenal, with a portrayal of hope like that of The Disaster Artist, a restrained desperation to live well like While We’re Young, an awe-filled richness of color palette like that of The Florida Project, and the pain of family brokenness in a fashion similar to Mid90s. The trailer alone accurately represents the craftsmanship poured into this project, with cinematographically-sharp imagery, a speechless array of colors, and a somber yet familiar loyalty to the legacy of San Francisco.

This film centers around two friends, Jimmie and Montgomery, in the wake of this city’s gentrification. Montgomery is a poet working to better his craft, and Jimmie Fails dreams of repossessing a Victorian Mansion once built by his grandfather. Jimmie possesses an assured and quiet vibrancy, while Montgomery is of a sweeter, more analytical spirit; however, the ties that bind these two comrades are their individual and collective hopes for the future. A heart-warming feature of this film is the childlike nature of these two characters, and their graspings towards the good and the beautiful, as those who have seemingly lost a piece of their boyhoods due to homelessness, parentless-ness, or a lack of belonging. A movement of this film represents Jimmie and Montgomery as they struggle with being outcasts from the local group of black males who are portrayed as emotionally-aloof and hyper-masculine. Jimmie and Montgomery do not only fail to feel at home in their family circles, but are ridiculed and excluded by their old friends who belong to this group.

Great tragedy strikes when Kofi, an old friend of Jimmie’s and member of this group, loses his life in a shootout while trying to prove that he is intimidating and worthy of esteem. This tragic loss of life is the implicit product of extreme social pressures against authenticity that are pushed by the leaders of this posse. This seems to call into question the necessity and healthiness of friendships that don’t encourage you to be authentic. From this death, you see several posse members develop into a willingness to express vulnerability and heartbreak over the loss of their friend. This, and more, seems to critique the superficial standards for contemporary friendship, and also acts as a stark contrast to the brother-like, vulnerably-open relationship that is between Jimmie and Montgomery. These two are set apart from the crowd, because they dare to be authentic, and possess the courage that is to embrace suffering that inevitably is hand-in-hand with the raw joys of life.

This film is a burgeoning triumph, not only because it showcases the quietly-accompanying pain that is often present in our day-to-day lives, but paints a picture of the beauty in the mundane, simple hopes for one’s future. The viewer will be in great company as they resonate with the vein-ed question woven into this film: Who am I to be if there is nowhere to belong? Consistently throughout, this picture possesses a bravery in its storytelling as it fervently struggles to settle on a clear sense of “home.” What is home? Could it be the Victorian Mansion with a mysterious past, or simply a reassuring friend who offers companionship for the road ahead? The audience of this film will not only take pleasure in its craft and color, but will be convicted of the need for authenticity, alongside the encouragement that is a shared understanding in that they are not alone in feeling misplaced from time to time.

REVIEW: Talisk at the Ark

As Talisk’s performance began, their rich music charged into the audience of the Ark not unlike a great gush of water breaking past a dam. It is truly exciting to witness a band’s live set after hearing their recorded music, but Talisk presented a set that would blow anybody’s expectations out of the water. Their bright, booming entrance brilliantly set a high musical bar that instantly pulled me to the edge of my seat.

Each member of this group brings a specific and unique element that contributes to their overall quality: BBC Radio Scotland best summarized the stage presence and musical talent of Mohsen Amini when they called him a force of nature. With a speaking voice that sounds the way a rich, dark lager tastes, Amini’s concertina playing is the lifeblood of Talisk. Accompanying the concertina is the seemingly-effortless violin playing  from the sweetheart of Talisk, Haley Keenan, who possesses musical range and technical excellence. Lastly, guitar player Graeme Armstrong, newest member of Talisk, provides a strong and constant presence through his powerfully precise pickings and strummings.

Talisk’s musical set at the Ark was so sharply delivered and seamless that I often wondered if this performance had been pre-recorded. Not so! Through ever-so-slight onstage communication, Talisk took their audience through corridors of traditional acoustic folk music only to thrust them into great halls of pulsing Celtic rock. How enchanted I was by the genre barriers they crossed, and the ease at which they operated their respective foot pedals and switches that allowed them to pivot back and forth into various  musical modes.

I had the pleasure of chatting with the Talisk members after the show, and it really struck me how charming each member was.  It left me wishing that they had shared more stories during the set. Additional banter and camaraderie between the individual members during a performance would definitely round-out their collective stage presence. Alongside this, I believe that an attention-getting opener is well placed for a venue like the Ark, however, Talisk could have allowed themselves a bit more space and time to build their sound and reveal all of their musical tricks, lest they exhaust their audience’s excitement with no direction to expand.

Turnout for this event was unusually low, I believe, because of Ann Arbor’s social-distancing initiative to slow the spread of corona virus. This is a true shame, especially as Ann Arbor faces an artistic desert for the foreseeable future. With a musical set that was tightly synchronized and an off-the-hook ambiance, Talisk really blessed their audience with a warm and lively spirit that I truly hope carries over into our daily lives through these unique times to come.

PREVIEW: Tiny Moving Parts (CANCELLED)

—- CANCELLED —-

Making their way from Benson, Minnesota, beloved math rock trio Tiny Moving Parts is coming to Ann Arbor for a polished and pulsing set of tunes at the Blind Pig on Saturday, March 14th! Opening for this emotionally-charged musical unit are the diverse talents of Belmont, Capstan, and Jetty Bones. This lineup will most definitely bring about a musical atmosphere worth entering into!

Tickets are starting at $20, and the doors of the Blind Pig open at 7PM!

Do you actually have a better way to spend your Saturday night? I didn’t think so.

PREVIEW: Talisk at the Ark

This next Tuesday, March 10th, Talisk is coming to Ann Arbor! This performance will mark the second time that this world-renowned Celtic/Folk band has played at the Ark! Within only four years since their formation, Talisk has already raked in several major awards, including Folk Band of the Year 2017 at the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Music Awards.

With tickets priced at $20, the doors open at 7:30PM and the show starts promptly at 8:00PM.

Be sure not to miss out on this terrific trio!