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Initially published October 17, 2020
Last updated January 9, 2021
PICKS OF THE MONTH
October 2020 Picks
Gangs of London
(Sky Atlantic release: 23 April 2020; AMC+ and streaming release: 1 October 2020 / Pulse Films, Sister Pictures, Sky Studios / Action drama, crime drama)
IN your consumption of TV guilty pleasures, do you like your fare having evil and violence crossing that boundary between Succession's latent subtlety and Game of Thrones' laid-out-there cunning? Gangs of London, created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery and directed by Evans, Corin Hardy and Xavier Gens, is here to satisfy that crossover demand. Kat Hughes of thehollywoodnews.com: "Action fans will find plenty to unpack in this no-holds-barred violent juggernaut assault to the senses."
Just remember, though: this need not be just entertainment, for many of today's plutocrats (and their pet political parties) have long been in the inter-ethnic world of gangsterist existence. That's where Gangs of London's takeoffs from mafia-flick traditionalism has still to fully allude to, beyond simply having a character like Lale and an influential legal real estate corporation like the Wallaces'. That (unintended) timidity aside, its depiction of gangsterism's capabilities is not for the faint-hearted, just as voicing things about today's politics is not. Functionally as an allegory of our time's societies and as another mafia-film comment on influential citizenship, it already sublimely works, looking very much like Scorsese just updated himself and made a 9-plus-hour gangster movie for the times.
Television documentary series episode
The full video of "The Right to Vote," the first episode of Whose Vote Counts, Explained, the new Vox Media series on Netflix. [All-access video uploaded to YouTube by Netflix, 28 September 2020]
"The Right to Vote"
(This episode of the series Whose Vote Counts, Explained was launched by Vox Media together with the series' second and third episodes on 29 September 2020 on Netflix Philippines)
WE recommend you watch all three episodes of the whole series, but this first episode of Whose Vote Counts, Explained, delivered via that fittingly-clear-as-always signature Vox manner, is to us the most interesting of the three, mainly for its push of the idea that the United States as the world's best model of democracy should now finally be universally regarded as one of our planet's biggest myths. Sure, unlike such countries as the Philippines, individual outlets of the American free press can hardly be touched at the national level (the reason why America's Republican-leaning elite can only support Fox News as their biggest disseminator of "alternative facts" and won't try to go after any one of those truth-telling institutions of investigative journalism with the intent of closing it). But most other facets of American systems of corruption are really no different from those found in such countries as the Philippines, except that they can be said to be darker versions of those for having radically bigger containers of greed.
If there's something unique with America's corrupted brain, it would have to do with its being in a multicultural nation of immigrants, which is somewhat akin to being in a dormitory consisting of factions of dudes coming from different regions. The availability of the concept of a clear Other in the form of a different race or religion within that dormitory makes that Other concept attractive to the eternal social blame game often inevitable in situations of crisis. And so, the perpetually toxic racism and consequent white supremacism that would make Adolf Hitler beam with pride in his grave lives on in this precarious plutocracy called the United States of America, with no indication of ever letting up or finding a resolution inside our or the next generation's lifetime.
So, in this episode of this enlightening (because well-illustrated) series, the previously-sexist and racist, now mainly racist acts of voter suppression in that country (along with the lying that goes with them) manifest themselves as collectively one of the world's most successful artworks of evil. That is not to say, however, that this continuing xenophobic (should we say neo-Nazi) habit (which is now largely Republican) hasn't its own admirers elsewhere, especially among other countries' leaders-cum-dictators who would be displaying superiority complexes that would equal Donald Trump's party's strongly-conserved shamelessness hiding beneath the skirt of select Christian values. . . .
Of course the second episode of this series―on how money is king in American politics, titled "Can You Buy an Election?"―is just as valuable a watch, but we Filipinos already know about that money stuff as the American legacy in the Philippines' own problematic representative democracy.
Meanwhile, the series' eponymous third episode, on gerrymandering, is also quite educational in its delving into how the practice works for ruling parties.
But, in the end, nothing in these two episodes can compare with the glaring degeneracy of the voter suppression act persistent in the USA as one of the most despicable examples of political as well as moral meanness inside the first world, and it's all happening in full view of the rest of the planet that now looks at America as no more than an erstwhile model.
Installation art work, Public art work, Artivist work, Process art piece
Photos of Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's In America, / How could this happen... public art installation, with the artist setting up the work in the third photo. [First two photos grabbed from abc7ny.com; the third photo by Sarah L. Voisin grabbed from washingtonpost.com]
In America, / How could this happen...
(First two photos posted with a report on abc7ny.com, 28 October 2020; third photo posted with a report on washingtonpost.com, 23 October 2020)
THIS public art installation by Washington, D.C. artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg may not be as arresting as a Christo piece, but it's not meant to be. The idea would thumb the nose of l'art pour l'art in favor of a concept-cum-token, i.e., it favors something like a protest work (artivist work) that may also, as in this case, work as a fleeting plan (using paper) or germ for a more permanent space for national mourning. Yes, national, as it should be, as national as that monument for America's Vietnam war veterans. Vietnam, yes, as this one's just as humongous a failure as that one that started in the Eisenhower administration and ended during the Ford government, although you could say that this present crisis is a worse disaster for being from simply one man's (and his coterie of people's) idiocy and/or selfishness rather than from an era-defined geopolitical culture.
It could even be argued that what happened with the Trump government was this: it illustrated the weaknesses of the US presidential system that has been putting too much power on its president, to the extent that this system (and ultimately the nation it serves) could open itself to endangerment from the whims of a psychiatric case of a president or a foreign power-compromised one. With that as a background to Firstenberg's protest's wide context, the white flags in her piece as demonstration of number also underlines the concept of plurality against a revolution around one con man as a cult of personality.
The conceptual power of the piece is also in its process, writing all those names on all those flags, planting the flags with equal spacing, and printing numbers that might have to replace what's on that stage that she put up in the middle of the installation.
But it is also in the piece's participatory nature, which invites families to send in names or flags as the death statistics (or new names from undercounting) continue to come in. In fact what motivated Firstenberg to do the project was the idea of "statistics." The protest to the idea of "mere statistics" may have already been carried by that aforementioned political rally stage that she did in the middle of the installation, which already delivers quite a parody with the official-looking lettering type of the project's title printed there and the number of the current dead at the center of it. That number's being dynamic, i.e., meant to change with the changing casualty report, seems to mimic vote counts, which Donald Trump seems to be more concerned with increasing at the moment rather than with the dead count that he has to keep low or stop.
But Firstenberg's stage setup seemed not enough for her. Firstenberg decided to surround that rally stage not with protesters but with a cemetery-like representation of the rising casualty number via white flags that would also carry the victims' names. The flags were planted on the fields of grass of the DC Armory Parade Ground. Now, note that the idea of statistics is inevitable in pandemics and wars. So Firstenberg's intervention using the white flags inserts a more human image that might contrast with the impersonal statistical number of casualties looming large on that middle stage setup. Human, we said, because white is the color that pays tribute to the dead, and the flags are there to grow in number like wild plants while the dynamic impersonal number on the stage background tarp also grows its count like a digital counter.
The visual of the flags would also come out like a sneer, because it as a result appears to have appropriated the KKK look with what came out from the flags' pointed white shapes. With that, it's as though the images were placed there to illustrate a new pointed-white image context, and slapping it as this park's now more sympathetic vision on the face of a president more concerned with taking care of his white nationalist priorities (an originalist Coney Barrett that might back up his public charge rule and a silent support for separate-but-equal arrangements) rather than with an all-too-real pandemic that he continues to dismiss.
The official trailer for Kiss the Ground. [Trailer uploaded 21 August 2020 by Kiss the Ground]
Kiss the Ground
(Released 26 October 2020 on Netflix Philippines)
PRODUCED by supermodel, activist and businesswoman Gisele Bündchen, Kiss the Ground is an argument for regenerative agriculture via the able lens and dramaturgy of Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell, and it's on influential Netflix! To clarify what that sentence means, offering the film as "an argument," let it be known that regenerative agriculture is still a controversial approach within the climate change scientific community, at least as regards its claims about carbon dioxide reduction. Probably also because there's the fear within that community that the regeneration argument would be used by the oil and gas industry as an excuse to go on with the unabated extraction of fossil fuel, although we have yet to see an oil drilling company investing heavily in reforestation, regenerative farming, and desertification reversal.
The part where the environmentalist community would not have any beef against regenerative agriculture, however, might be in the area of soil rehabilitation and desertification reversal. So, we can begin there.
Now, it must also be known that the criticism around the issue of regenerative agriculture is not going in one direction only. Mainstream climate change activism is in fact also getting a flak from the regenerative movement for being wrongly focused on carbon emission reduction solely, without putting a premium on that other necessary thing: drawdown. Drawdown is where regeneration comes in heavily. . . . Now, sadly, there's another antagonist to regeneration's efforts, for it seems that the movement's formula has been identified by the pesticides industry of the US, China and India as requiring substantial losses from their niche, and it would seem that it was largely on that demand for sacrifice that these three countries decided to beg off the Paris Agreement, among other lesser reasons.
Starring the farmers and activists behind the regenerative movement, Kiss the Ground conscripted Woody Harrelson to man the narrator's (moderator's) mike, and―to boot―an original song from singer-songwriter and agroforestry farmer Jason Mraz (who also gets to speak about his farm in the film).
To answer some questions about the message of the film, here's the Kiss the Ground world premiere Q&A panel video by the Kiss the Ground account on YouTube, saved after that Q&A's live airing on 23 September. Enjoy and get your measure of it!
Sociology of gender statement, Gender studies statement
Embedded Facebook post by Rappler featuring a Grade 1 student's answer to a gender question in elementary school, posted 20 October 2020
"LOOK: This Grade 1 student is untroubled by gender stereotypes"
(Posted on Facebook by Rappler 20 October 2020)
NAH, this one from Rappler already speaks loudly for itself.
Cause marketing project
Project 68 kg.
(Launched October 2020)
MARKO Pavčnik and SPAR Slovenia's Project 68 kg. (the project's video ad above) was realized with the help of DDB Slovenia. According to the project's press release, renowned "Slovenian chef Marko Pavčnik collaborated with Spar Slovenia, a grocery store chain, to create a unique experiment published on The World Food Day. It was based on a national research done that showed that an average Slovenian wastes as much as 68 kg of food per year. The goal of the experiment was to put this staggering number into perspective by showing how many meals such a large amount of food can produce."
The official trailer for Totally Under Control. [Trailer uploaded 11 October 2020 by Madman Films]
Totally Under Control
(Released on Amazon Prime 13 October 2020)
THIS is the perfect documentary (produced and directed by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, from a screenplay by Gibney) on what happens to a country when confronted by a virus pandemic when that country is being run by a government that rose up the ladder (or slid down the escalator) into voters' uneducated minds via the embrace of everything that's the opposite of truth. Having convinced itself that in lies is power and been accustomed to untruths' train of power-lending affirmations, the government found another enemy in the truth about the virus, latching on to its own lie about it. What do they say?―keep telling lies until they become truthful even to you? Seems like a nifty adage working out its barenaked anatomy here.
But, of course, it's not politicians that one is up against in a pandemic, it's the truth of the virus behind it that doesn't care what party you come from or from what part of the political spectrum you jump from. It will happily spread its own truth against your unguarded self-lies.
One might wonder how this was possible at all. Or, more bluntly, how this idiocy was able to get so high up in the social echelons of American society. But, remember, this is a government by a party that slowly increased its number of people given to conspiracy theories (either as a conquering tool or as a real belief) and strong anti-science religious dogma coupled with an anti-college or anti-cityfolks attitude (again, embraced either for pro-business arguments against regulation or as real beliefs of the flat-earther sort).
Reader, if you want such a government for your country, if you haven't already got it, then watch this film's realities unfold for a continuing reference. Of course you've daily been watching this reality unfold on cable, via CNN or MSNBC, . . . but in a current globe running rampant with right-populist argumenta ad ignorantiam (constantly saying that their proposition should be true "because it has not yet been proven false," and vice versa) and Russian-type whataboutisms, this is still a crucial watch concerning the fatal consequences of living with lies!
A Totally Under Control Part 2 on climate change catastrophes? That should be coming soon.
"not a lot, just forever"
(Released 23 October 2020 by 4AD as track 9 of Lenker's album songs / Written by Adrianne Lenker)
ANOTHER philosophical ditty from Adrianne Lenker avoids the big-catchy-chorus formula for songs. Instead it gives us a folk music version of minimalism that you maybe won't remember the exact melody of years from now but would definitely remember the wisdom of in relation to smiles, dog barks, sweater tears, wrens' feathers, knives on letters, or rocks bearing the weather.
The official trailer for Misbehaviour. [Trailer uploaded 31 July 2020 by Shout! Factory]
(Streaming release: 15 April 2020 UK, 25 September US / Gaby Chiappe and Rebecca Frayn, writers of screenplay based on a story by Frayn; Philippa Lowthorpe, director)
WRITTEN by Gaby Chuappe and Rebecca Frayn from a story by Frayn and directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, this well-made film has a social value already quite obvious even from the premise alone that appeared on Wikipedia thus: "The 1970 Miss World competition took place in London, hosted by the US comedian Bob Hope. At that time Miss World was the most-watched TV show in the world with over 100 million viewers. Arguing that beauty competitions objectify women, the newly formed women's liberation movement achieved overnight fame by invading the stage and disrupting the live broadcast of the competition. When the show resumed, the result caused uproar: the winner was not the Swedish favourite but Miss Grenada, the first black woman to be crowned Miss World. In hours a global audience had seen the patriarchy driven from the stage and the Western ideal of beauty subverted."
(Uploaded to Vimeo 11 October 2020)
THE Vimeo page with this video of the short documentary film by Lance Edmands notes that The Seeker is "A lyrical portrait of an excommunicated Amish woodworker struggling with spirituality, poverty, and life as an outcast from his strict, insular community." A winner of the Vimeo Staff Pick Award at the Camden International Film Festival, and part of the official selection for the Tribeca Film Festival 2020, Nashville Film Festival 2020, and SF Documentary Festival (DocFest) comptetitions, it's a short story about faith and doubt, Protestant dogma and counter-"Protest". For more information about the short film, click here.
The official trailer for Netflix's David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. [Trailer uploaded 23 September 2020 by Netflix]
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
(Released 4 October 2020, Netflix)
THIS David Attenborough witness statement at the natural historian and broadcaster's late age offers a most frightening threat. The only letdown is it still shifts its gear to a prescription-offering optimism at the end, given that the populations of the world have full knowledge that no government on our planet will take any drastic step to mitigate or reverse the threat until it is too late in the game. But, of course, we understand why the film has to take that prescriptive direction, otherwise it wouldn't make it into any media roster. Also maybe because it's not being directed at impossible governments but to some other realistic audience.
Now, why the pessimism from our side? you'd ask. Well, we all know that all of the governments of the world are driven by big business that often comes into conflict with basic science, and if all of these governments' approach to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic is an indication of how they would all collectively react to the progress of climate change this late in the day and henceforward, we already know we can't rely on them to make all the urgent steps that'd make a difference. Let us love this documentary for its dark threats, and while we each may want to embrace the available solutions Sir David Attenborough offers towards this mood, we'd do best to be rid of that narration's later optimism and replace it with a revolutionary's more appropriate anger and consequent urgent commitment to plan for each of our village's own survival, especially as the fine people of the 1% seems to be merely aiming for a move to Mars.
(Released 16 October 2020, Luminelle)
WE don't know how feminists would debate on both the satisfaction and sadness of womanhood illustrated in these songs from Canadian singer-songwriter Helenda Deland's debut album, but here's what we're reading from some reviews so far:
Allmusic: "Throughout Someone New, on top of its hypnotic mix of the strange and familiar, Deland's vulnerable voice helps make her self-conscious, searching commentaries all the more engrossing."
Exclaim!: "Like a parcel of breakup roses compressed into a confetti cannon, Helena Deland's debut album is explosive, belaboured and totally intoxicating."
Loud and Quiet: "Helena Deland gets incredibly close to penning the perfect pop album for the current moment."
An embedded page from poetryfoundation.org with Louise Glück's poem "Aboriginal Landscape" that was first published in the December 2013 issue of Poetry magazine
The Swedish Academy's awarding of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature to Louise Glück
(Awarding announced October 8, 2020 by the Swedish Academy)
SO Louise Glück was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, which is a relief, coming on the heels of last year's controversial bestowal of the honor by the Swedish body to Serbian nationalist Peter Handke (for his novels and plays). A sigh of relief here as well after that 2018 postponement (due to a sexual harassment investigation complaint) of the announcement of who that year's winner was, moving it to 2019. The 2018 winner was finally revealed in October of the following year as Olga Tokarczuk, an anti-nationalist, and it seems that the Academy had succeeded in moving on from that previous year's fracas. If that had any impact at all on the Academy's picking a non-controversial writer for this year, we don't know.
Now, as regards Handke, we understand of course that the novelist-playwright's body of works previous to his Serbian nationalist texts are worthy of high commendation and lasting recognition. But context is everything, we also tend to agree, for we believe the endorsement of the Swedish Academy is regarded by many as having the same weight as any endorsement (or non-endorsement) from that other nationalist who goes by the name of Donald Trump (whether it's in a tweet by QAnon or some institution's pronouncement regarding face masks twisted to serve a demagogic scorecard). And, notably, the Nobel website did include those controversial titles by Handke in their bibliography for the author, which probably inspired Europe's far right.
So, again, this year it's a more peaceful Nobel pick. But, of course, that really wouldn't mean anything to someone who has yet to read a single Glück piece. Therefore, we here in diskurso, as an arts magazine that constantly claims to be more interested in artists' works than in artists' provenance-hyped names, would now want to quickly salute the Academy's current selection by endorsing at least a single Glück poem here instead of another abstract rave about the poet. This piece is embedded above, titled "Aboriginal Landscape," and it's a poem on death, in case you want to know before reading. It's quite an apt read for these recent years that saw the rise of Covid-19 deaths-denying nationalist gods.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned
(Released 23 October 2020, Sub Pop)
ALLMUSIC: "Not many acts find the midway point between Wolf Eyes and Three 6 Mafia, but by the time Visions reaches its apex at the brutal centerpiece 'Looking Like Meat', that's exactly what (Los Angeles trio) clipping. sounds like. It's a particularly threatening chapter of horrorcore that renders even some of the more severe acts that came before almost cartoonish by comparison."
The Needle Drop: "clipping. somehow manages to top last year's There Existed an Addiction to Blood with a second helping of avant-horrorcore bangers."
Sputnikmusic: "Visions of Bodies Being Burned ruthlessly pulls at the edges of that world until it falls apart, dissolving back into our own, undoing the illusions its predecessor meticulously created."
Under the Radar: "Few listening experiences this year are as gripping, visceral, and vivid as Visions of Bodies Being Burned."
The Line of Best Fit: "Visions of Bodies Being Burned, like its predecessor, is macabre and monstrous in all of the ways that your leering curiousity would have it. It’s a taut exploration of hatred and hostility, one which stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its demonic older brother."
(Released 25 September 2020, Partisan)
NME: "The Bristol punks' third album is a juggernaut that roars through sarcasm, defiance, compassion and controversy. It's a bumpy ride, but one worth taking."
Louder Than War: "It’s a wonderful record. It makes you dance, think, feel wild and gentle, sing and shout and want to change the world whilst embracing everyone you can in a physically socially distanced but mentally very socially attached kind of way."
Crack Magazine: "One could accuse IDLES of sometimes being a bit, shall we say, on the nose, but given the absolute shitshow masculinity has become in a post-Trump, post-Brexit era, perhaps they should be lauded for meeting these topics head on, and with brute force. Because at the end of the day, music – no, the world – needs them."
Under the Radar: "It may be easy to write off (IDLES) initially as preachy or reductive but the sharp, self-aware wit and incisive simplicity in the band’s best lyrics make it clear its members are no intellectual slouches."
PopMatters: "IDLES know how hard it is out there, now more than ever, but that's all the more reason for raised fists and unceasing resistance. Last time they did it joyfully, and before that, they did it brutally. Now those elements come together, whether for a fight or a moment of gratitude."
The Independent: "It's a one-tone listen. But that shout-in-your-face directness is exactly what makes Ultra Mono so powerful. This is rock music that compels you to pay attention."
Dork: "For all of the ugly rage and fury at modern life on display here, it is also a celebration of the beauty that can happen when people come together in love and unity to face the turmoil and traumas of an increasingly angry, shouty, scary world, and facing it armed only with a hug."
Two from Greenpeace's Bombs print ad series created by Nitch, USA
(Released October 2020 by Greenpeace and Nitch in US publications)
REMEMBER Agent Orange? Well, plastics aren't actually being manufactured every day for the tactical use of some Rainbow Herbicides program against the populace of the Earth; that would only come out as a stupid self-bombing program.
But you get these print ads' drift. Plastics-bombing is happening, with us acknowledging that it truly is, and our empathy with particularly the view that says this is quite stupid is here represented by our inclusion of these two print ad series entries from Greenpeace and ad agency Nitch in our listing for this month. We did that, even as we doubt that they'll make a bit of a difference.
Fragment of the cover of Bruce Springsteen's new album Letter to You. [Photo grabbed from ultimateclassicrock.com]
Letter to You
(Released 23 October 2020, Columbia)
SO The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) gathered his E Street Band in the bubble of his New Jersey compound where his studio is located to record "live," within a span of five days or so, a bunch of songs he just finished writing, along with three old songs. Now, if he did this in November this year, you'd say he probably did it in cognizance of the fact that, at 71, he is at high risk of succumbing to COVID-19 in case he contracts SARS-CoV-2 in the current pandemic that has caused the sudden demise of several people in the arts and culture world. But The Boss actually did this in November 2019 before we all got to know of the virus.
Still, in those four days, what was produced was an album that came out very much like a heartland rock version of David Bowie's Blackstar, even though in one track dedicated to his dead friends, "I'll See You In My Dreams," The Boss implies by the very song's title that he doesn't want to join these friends anytime soon just yet.
So, again, this was recorded in just a few days, as reported by Rolling Stone and NME, five to be exact. And it was made in a "live" sort of process instead of having each member's part recorded separately, and the visuals on this process could be gleaned on the accompanying documentary film Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You. All in the pandemic tradition, you'd say, that had the likes of Taylor Swift and Charli XCX adapting to, producing instant albums (folklore in Taylor's case and how i'm feeling now in XCX's) that had the critics raving.
Others were more excited about the fact that Letter to You has The Boss of the Born to Run era reemerging after a long drought of Springsteenian classic rock songwriting that many have purportedly been missing. But this call to a former heartland rock sound should be deemed only natural, given that the songs here are sort of the 71-year-old rock star's way of formally saying goodbye, in an album, to the passing of old E Street Band buddies Clarence Clemons (who died in 2008) and Danny Federici (died in 2011). Meanwhile, the three songs in the album, excavated from a shelf of unreleased '70s compositions, work as Springsteen's elegiac salute to late The Castiles mate George Theiss and his presence in the rock star's life.
So the tracks here are personal paeans to friends and communities, from the past and of what should be a coming future. Springsteen sings about friends still living and close ones now dead. That should explain the emotional intent of these tracks' melodies and the rocker's vulnerable singing of them. But shouldn't this record also serve as a liberal inspiration to us in this planet tired of watching those other bosses in our era―at the helm of filial or business or government boats―who are obviously thinking only of themselves and their personal or unregulated corporate freedoms to do whatever the hell they want, as if the world is revolving (with total admiration and acquiescence) around them and not expecting them to behave as one among the responsible workers of the planet? What the album offers is an old millionaire rocker's singing songs for and about average Americans' common life, the way one should, portraying characters' lives against the mysteries of the world instead of against a niche from another race or religion or sex that could be used as a scapegoat for the majority's misery.
Indeed, if there's politics in everything, then even a singer-songwriter's momentary break from overt political song-writing can be appreciated as a demonstration of a social-cum-political attitude towards people and places as well as death and the life that one has lived, especially in this current era where the line between political decisions and social behavior has all but been obliterated. Therefore, that demonstration would be as important as the protest oeuvres, maybe more important. And it's equally important that one did it via proven expressive heartland-rock melodic tropes that readily gel with Springsteen's sort of heartfelt prose that chooses to avoid a trendy kind of vague poetry, underlining the truth that this elderly rock star is still not interested in singing to the critics at the art pubs.
Yes, the album's first five tracks may be said to be boasting a kind of ballad prose, including "Burnin' Train" that's a torch-tribute to his long-lasting marriage to Patti Scialfa, "Janey Needs a Shooter" that's obviously about a woman who's got a kind of "nigga" by her side against the pill mill or pervert docs and the corrupt preachers/priests and the dirty or judgmental cops, and "Last Man Standing" that's of course about his being a kind of survivor to the passing of members of The Castiles.
But "Letter to You," the second track, is what you might call a prose poem for being a kind of Springsteenian version of The Lord's Prayer.
Now, from "The Power of Prayer," of course, it's all decidedly pure poetry, with this track being about the religion of life outside of religious living as well as about music-making as a form of prayer (celebrating one's surround with gratitude). That track is an apt transition to another poetic piece, "House of a Thousand Guitars," about a time in this last four years where a "criminal clown has stolen the throne," a clown whose noise would, however, have to face the resistance of "a thousand guitars." On to that song about demagoguery, "Rainmaker," which strikes us as a lovely portrait of the same con man referenced in the preceding track. Even the prose of "If I Was the Priest" actually works as a thesis on the internal conflict within religiousness inside the old West (which contradictory landscape, truth be told, has not exactly changed all that much, the reason why we continue to see Bible-carrying lynching-thirsty racists in that landscape). "Ghosts," a song for Theiss, could also be dedicated to religion's saints; otherwise Springsteen's roster list of saints would include his old bandmates.
"Song for Orphans," meanwhile, is not literally about orphans; it's about all the losers out there, especially the ones inside the rock music industry of which Springsteen has been a worthy and lucky part. It actually references Springsteen's early rebel-band inspirations including The Axis and Confederacy and the "restless loud white boys" that include Springsteen himself and those other African-American-music-influenced white musicians. But just in case these lyrics are read as something else, as one that's singing about grabbing the leadership of a "confederacy," for instance, and forming an alternative "axis," remember that the coup that it sings about is certainly on a mission different from a neo-Nazi or alt-right one, given that the song's narrator finds himself inside a night that "lullabies the refugees with an amplifier's hum."
Now, despite all that depth, we don't have to puzzle our way through the closer "I'll See You In My Dreams," which is a sort of reprise of track one, addressing missed dead friends again, but, as we mentioned above, is also seemingly funnily refusing to see those friends soon in heaven. But the album is totally about Springsteen's kind of early-septuagenarian perspective on his past life, on the present, and on our future life as a global community as well as on death. In the album's accompanying documentary titled Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You, The Boss closes the film's narration with this: "Age brings perspective in the fine clarity one gets at midnight on the tracks looking into the lights of an oncoming train. It dawns on you rather quickly, . . . there's only so much time left. Only so many star-filled nights, snowfalls, brisk fall afternoons, rainy midsummer days. So, how you conduct yourself and do your work matters. How you treat your friends, your family, your lover. . . ."
Makes you wish the USA had such a non-juvenile Boss-voice up there at the top, doing work that he would treat as something that could be his last.
Public interest TV ad series, Artists' rights statement
Three video materials from APRO's CORTA! tv ad series
(Released 30 September 2020 by APRO through Leo Burnett Brazil)
HERE'S APRO and Leo Burnett Brazil's description of this public interest tv ad series of theirs:
"CORTA! (Cut!) – it’s a term frequently used in the audiovisual industry, and now, it’s the name of a powerful new campaign from Leo Burnett Brazil aiming to put an end to the sexual harassment plaguing the industry.
"The campaign is brand-new, having just launched at the end of September; however, its roots date back to 2017. Three years ago, the Brazilian Association of Production of Audiovisual Works (APRO) developed 'Corta!' – the Pact for Anti-Harassment in the Audiovisual Industry. Fast forward to today – with the help of Leo Burnett Tailor Made and in efforts with #MeTooBrazil, an independent arm of its namesake #MeToo movement in the U.S. – the CORTA! Campaign launched to shine a spotlight on this urgent need for a change in industry behavior."
The official trailer for The Trial of the Chicago 7. [Trailer uploaded 23 September 2020 by Netflix]
The Trial of the Chicago 7
(Released 16 October 2020, Netflix)
THIS long-delayed Aaron Sorkin-written historical film project started on paper in 2007, but Sorkin actually intended it for Steven Spielberg's directing style. Spielberg begged off the project after the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, and it wouldn't be until 2018 when the Spielberg-co-founded DreamWorks Pictures would decide to give the script a go at filming, with Sorkin himself assigned to direct his own masterpiece after showing his directing mettle in 2017's Molly's Game. DreamWorks put the film up with Paramount Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Marc Platt Productions and Shivhans Pictures, but during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic Paramount Pictures sold the online streaming rights to Netflix. And so here we are.
So the film is mainly about that show trial put up by the until-2016 worst president the United States ever had, Richard Nixon. It is probably the sixth film to be made on this subject. As for that trial, well, it had the obvious intent of convincing the world that there was a kind of antifa movement meaning to overrun government! Oops, . . . did we just confuse Nixon's evil cunning with Trump's vocabulary and fake-news-driven motives? Well, we're not apologizing for dragging out a similarity.
But the film is also, among other things, about judges like Julius Hoffman (played here by Frank Langella) in America's still-problematic justice system and democracy. It's also about a whole lot of other things, including the black power movement and the reasons why there has to be such a thing. True, some poetic license had been invoked to service some chronological drama expected of feature films, but these hardly had any effect on the basic truth about the history of this event. And, yes, some essential elements of this history had to be contained for focus.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote in his review: "Sorkin has structured The Trial of the Chicago 7 ingeniously, so that it's never about just one thing. It's about the theatrical insanity of the war in the courtroom, about how the government would stop at nothing (including flagrant attempts at jury tampering), and about the politics, at once planned and spontaneous, of how the Chicago protests unfolded." Meanwhile, John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "Sorkin has made a movie that's gripping, illuminating and trenchant, as erudite as his best work and always grounded first and foremost in story and character. It's as much about the constitutional American right to protest as it is about justice, which makes it incredibly relevant to where we are today."
Although our own notes here might look like a salute largely to Sorkin (we're fans of his The Newsroom, by the way), that is not our intention, knowledgeable as we are about cinema as a team art requiring a bunch of other geniuses to produce a genius of a final product. But we actually still have a few more words allowed us by our editor for this entry, and we would like to allocate these to Sacha Baron Cohen, who we think stands out in his role as Abbie Hoffman, and to Eddie Redmayne, who took the part of Tom Hayden. We're sure there will be enough time to mention the other names involved in this cinematic achievement in the next Oscars, so, . . .
Anime, Trauma and Divorce
(Released 16 October 2020, Auto Reverse Records)
THE Line of Best Fit: "(Chicago musician and comedian) Open Mike Eagle working through his pain is more gleeful than many MCs rapping about their best days, so more is always welcome."
AllMusic: "The album's numerous anime references will be lost on listeners who don't follow the art form, but nearly anyone can relate to his confusion, weariness, and desire to set things back on the right path."
Pitchfork: "On his bleakly comic new album, Open Mike Eagle surveys the damage of one terrible year, using anime mythology as a lens for examining real-life pain."
a vinyl copy of Róisín Murphy's new solo album Róisín Machine. [Photo grabbed from spectrumculture.com]
(Released 2 October 2020, Skint Records • BMG)
NME: "The eccentric Irish icon’s dancefloor-ready record is her most euphoric yet, full of hedonistic singalong hits that will make you really, really miss the club."
Spectrum Culture: "An album that only Róisín Murphy could make, Róisín Machine is the product of a life milked to its fullest extent. Instead of ignoring shortcomings, it elongates them into swirling, hypnotic dance tracks that are just as suitable for the club as they are for days stuck at home, where restlessness brings out the strangest in us all."
Pitchfork: "On her fifth solo album, the Irish singer finds a new role as a dancefloor truth-teller, infusing house and disco epics with thrilling expressions of desire, regret, and self-knowledge."
(Released 9 October 2020, Ghostly International)
MUSICOMH: "With the temperate harp thrums that chime through (opening track) 'Pine Trees', the tone of the record is distinctly established. Recorded in the Cornish countryside at the Newquay studio of Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, the restorative influence of time spent in nature, a clement, balmy tone infuses proceedings with wordless serenity as a breeze of bowed strings swirls the air and soft electronic waves lap at its shore. . . . So much of the delight of listening to music comes from the lyrical, our tacit affiliation with the rage, wit or pathos an artist wishes to project. This record (by classically trained harpist Mary Lattimore) goes some way to appropriate the perception of being wordless, hushed by the beauty of the world we inhabit."
the cover of Headie One's debut studio album EDNA. [Photo grabbed from theartsdesk.com]
(Released 9 October 2020, Relentless)
NME: "‘Edna’ is proof that (Headie One is) the unmistakeable, global ‘King of (UK) drill’, and much more besides."
The Telegraph: "Despite its focus on crime and punishment and prodigious use of gangland slang, Edna proves far more thoughtful than the genre’s reputation might lead listeners to expect."
The Arts Desk: "There’s a lot you can learn about (Britain) from hearing that grimness expressed with such determined intelligence."
Text (c) copyright 2020 diskurso art magazine