Friday, December 28, 2012

My favorite jazz albums of 2012

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 02:00 PM

david_virelles_continuum.jpeg
Early next month the annual jazz-critics poll put together by Francis Davis will turn up on the music website Rhapsody for the second year in a row—in the five previous years the results of the poll were published by the Village Voice, which has successfully decimated just about every tie to its older, better self. Aside from listing my five favorite international albums in this week's paper, the jazz poll has been the only formal survey I've participated in, and since it's what critics usually do this time of year, I thought I'd use this week's jazz column to run my ballot for the 2012 Rhapsody poll. In the next week or two I'll also use this space to count down my favorite 40 albums of the year, without regard to genre.

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Thomas Mann, film critic

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 01:38 PM

What am I? Who am I? Is this me?
  • "What am I? Who am I? Is this me?"
Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master looks like the consensus choice among critics as the best U.S. movie of 2012 (it's the only one, besides Richard Linklater's Bernie, to show up on all three of our year-end lists in the Reader)—meaning there should be at least a few hundred different arguments in favor of seeing it. If you haven't yet, be sure to catch it on the largest screen possible as soon as you get the chance. Like Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Lawrence of Arabia (currently playing at the Music Box in a new DCP restoration), The Master plays out on a giant scale out of thematic necessity. It will not be the same movie outside a theater.

I look forward to revisiting this and to seeing what different critical responses emerge over the years. In the meantime, I'll let Thomas Mann have the final word; following the jump is a relevant quote from his story "A Man and His Dog":

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12 O'Clock Track: The Shrine, "Zipper Tripper"

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 12:00 PM

Primitive Blast
  • Primitive Blast
During a discussion the other day about excellent-yet-overlooked records from 2012, Reader digital content editor Tal Rosenberg clued me in to a band from LA called the Shrine who somehow completely flew under my radar. In the words of Danny Brown, "shouts out to you" for turning me on to this, because their LP Primitive Blast, which came out this August on Tee Pee Records, is a complete riot to listen to. The tags on the band's Bandcamp page sum it up pretty well: "Black Flag," "Black Sabbath," "violence," and "skate" are a few of them. Today's 12 O'Clock Track is "Zipper Tripper," the kick-off track on Primitive Blast.

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Did you read about Sheriff Arpaio, the city's 500th homicide, and the current state of music writing?

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 11:07 AM

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That a fatal Austin shooting marks the 500th homicide of the year? (The last time Chicago had 500 or more homicides was in 2008; the murder rate is up 17 percent over last year.) Tal Rosenberg

• That Arizona's Sheriff Arpaio is putting armed volunteers around schools in his county? Tony Adler

• Charles Pierce on "the austerity dance"? Ben Sachs

• That hundreds of men accused of sexual offenses including rape have run for public office in India over the last five years? (Meanwhile, the 23-year-old student who was gang raped earlier this month shows signs of organ failure.) Kate Schmidt

• Maura Johnston writing at NPR about the current state of music writing? (And, really, you could just cut out "music" and add "on the Internet" after "writing"—they're interchangeable.) Tal Rosenberg

• Bryant Terry's vegan-Asian-soul food recipes for good luck in the New Year? Kate Schmidt

• The top ten long-form pieces of the year according to long-form-writing aggregators Longform and Longreads? Tal Rosenberg

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The best, the worst, and the rest of this week's movies

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 07:34 AM

This dog wont hunt: Darling Companion, among the years worst movies
  • This dog won't hunt: Darling Companion, among the year's worst movies
This week, to augment the Photo Issue, Ben Sachs, Drew Hunt, and I are calling our favorite films of the year. If you're a sucker for this sort of year-end blather, check out the Bleader for our 2012 genre picks (animation, human-interest doc, comedy, political doc, sci-fi/fantasy movie, action/suspense movie, horror movie), plus the year's best revival and the worst of 2012.

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My Best of 2012 Spotify playlist—five hours of the year's most pleasure-inducing music

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 06:52 AM

2 Chainz
  • 2 Chainz
Back in August I created a Spotify playlist called "Best of 2012." Since then I've done a lot of tweaking and refining to it. Things got a little out of hand.

At this point the list is as close to exactly how I want it as it's going to get. Spotify's library has a lot of pretty huge gaps. There aren't a lot of mixtapes on it, so I couldn't include anything from either of Action Bronson's extremely rewarding album-length releases of the year, or Charli XCX's "Forgiveness", and I had to put Jeremih's "773 Love" on there instead of the superior "Fuck U All the Time" because that's the only song from his amazing Late Nights with Jeremih mixtape that Spotify has. And, increasingly, the best hip-hop and dance music is being released straight to the Internet track by track without coming anywhere near an actual record label, so the mind-blowing amount of good music that came out via SoundCloud this year is almost entirely absent. But all in all I think it's a fair representation of my listening this year.

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Reader's Agenda, Fri 12/28: Creative Control, Shlohmo, and Danny Tanner reimagined as a psychotic murderer

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 06:08 AM

Shlohmo
  • Shlohmo
You spent the entirety of your last weekend with your family, and, good lord, you need to get out of the house. Looking for a way to blow off some steam? Agenda's got you covered.

Creative Control, a comedy-and-variety show hosted and produced by local comic Joe McAdam, shakes down tonight at Saki. The show starts up at 8 PM, and its scheduled performers include Marty DeRosa, Cameron Gillette, Timmy Brochu, and Cullen Crawford. Creative Control is free, but donations are accepted and encouraged.

Dance producer Henry "Shlohmo" Laufer headlines the Bottom Lounge tonight. Shlohmo "has the heart of a rap producer and the mind of an avant-garde electronic composer," writes Miles Raymer, "a founding member of the LA-based Wedidit collective (made up of like-minded hip-hop experimentalists such as Groundislava and Jonwayne) and a frequent performer at long-running and highly influential club night Low End Theory, Laufer has released an album and a couple of EPs, including this year’s Vacation (Friends of Friends), that verge on the ambient, but the unauthorized remixes he posts online offer more immediate gratification." Sepalcure and the Abstract Science DJs will be providing support.

Envisioning Bob Saget's Danny Tanner as anything other than dad of the year may seem damn-near impossible, but in Attend the Tale of Danny Tanner: A Full House Musical , showing tonight at Gorilla Tango Theatre, you get to see him portrayed as a homicidal maniac. "Writers Chris Gorton and Katie Johnston-Smith have made Danny a psychopath who memorializes his wife by killing one drunk driver a year on the anniversary of her death," writes Tony Adler, "that's OK with Jesse and Joe—until Danny starts getting sloppy." Sounds hilariously dark.

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wholly good at Half Italian

Posted By on 12.27.12 at 04:42 PM

TIF money has finally been applied to a good cause: Nancy Kamp, who opened grocery and deli Half Italian in March just across from the Logan Theatre, did so with the help of funding from the much-criticized tax increment financing system. It's a charming place, full of staples like olive oil and vinegar, fancy salt, canned tomatoes, tuna, organic bulk dry goods, olives, and fresh pasta, with a small produce section and a well-curated selection of wine and beer. On a blustery evening last week, the store felt like a cozy refuge from the cold, wet weather. Kamp has kept things simple, right down to a cash-only policy that outraged Logan Square Yelpers, whose credit cards you'll pry from their cold dead hands (she recently backed down and began accepting plastic, applying a $15 minimum).

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Getting by in four recent American comedies

Posted By on 12.27.12 at 04:15 PM

Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine in Bernie
  • Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine in Bernie
To echo J.R. Jones's sentiments from last week, this was an exceptional year for film comedy in general and for American comedies in particular. I didn't include Bernie, Magic Mike, Moonrise Kingdom, or Silver Linings Playbook in my top-ten list, but only because I couldn't decide which one I liked best. All four movies are formally accomplished and made me laugh a lot. In addition, they're so thematically similar that I have trouble thinking about them individually.

Notwithstanding Jack Black's exceptional lead performance in Bernie, all four can be described as ensemble comedies—or, more to the point, communal comedies, as they concern the workings of close-knit groups. The groups are quirky in nature but ultimately functional—the subtext of these films is that misfits work together more successfully than "normal" people, since they realize they can't make it through life alone.

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My favorite films of 2012

Posted By on 12.27.12 at 01:30 PM

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
  • Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
Next to Bruno Dumont’s Hors Satan, which has yet to receive a proper theatrical release here in America, Paul Thomas Anderson's magnum opus The Master remains the most beguiling and endlessly imaginative film I saw all year. The story itself would be enough to intrigue, but from a formal standpoint, the already stout Anderson has upped his game in ways hitherto unseen. Anderson shot The Master on 65-millimeter film, with hopes that it would screen in the epic 70-millimeter format wherever possible. Our own Music Box Theatre was one of the few places this happened, making for one of the more eventful evenings of the year for Chicago moviegoers.

I was lucky enough to attend that screening, and I marveled at what I saw. (Read my account of that evening here.) Almost in spite of the 70-millimeter format, which best suits deep-focus photography and broad vistas, Anderson’s film works mainly in compact compositions and features a good number of close-ups. However, Anderson shoots the faces of his actors as if they're grand landscapes, capturing their various imperfections and unique contours. Not hurting matters are Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, two of the greatest actors alive today, both of them capable of grand, emotive facial gestures as well as more contemplative method styles. Whenever I struggled with the film's occasionally aimless narrative, I simply studied their faces. Suddenly, everything made sense. During instances when Anderson did pull the camera back for some wider shots—I'm thinking of the motorcycle scene, in particular—the effect was equally as stunning. Seeing the film in 70-millimeter was a truly singular experience that is undoubtedly lost when seeing it projected in a different manner.

I selected the rest of my top ten based solely on my emotional and intellectual response to their particular styles. These are the films that stuck with me the most.

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