Thursday, September 22, 2005

RECENT MOVIES AND MUSIC

First the music:

If you know me, you know I am also a singer/songwriter in the contemporary folk genre. Naturally I am a fan of female singer/songwriters and I have a new love. Kasey Chambers' CD, "Wayward Angel" is the kind of new record I just don't want to stop playing. Remember when you were young and you would get a new album and you would listen to it everyday, over and over, until you knew all the words and could sing along with every song? That is what happened to me with this CD. Then my husband stole it out of my car and I had to fight to get it back.

I don't know anything about the artist and I almost don't want to, because now I have my own idea about her from the songs. She has one of those voices which can go from thin, little girl to soulful to rockin' to warm and sensitive. The styles are contemporary, country, bluegrass, folk and even a hot, sexy blues. Lots of angel imagery, some angst, love, family and just fun. Hot musicians, including the incredible Steuart Smith on electric guitar. Kasey wrote all the songs and the recording was done in Australia.

I don't care. It is just great music.

Rodney Crowell: one of my songwriting heros. I even mention him in my song, "Solstice". Last night we saw him live at The Mint in Los Angeles. His band was amazing with Will Kimbrough and Jed Hughes on guitars. They did a bunch of songs from his new CD, "the outsider" plus many of my favorites from earlier albums. The sound was the usual atrocious mix that The Mint is infamous for. Rodney even stopped the second song and tried to communicate with the soundman. Then he accepted what he obviously had to work with and rocked on.

I haven't seen a band have so much fun performing in a long time. He also did Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone", complete with singalong and we all knew all the words and lost our voices. In between verses he introduced the band, they did blistering solos and oh my god. It was fabulous. Then I bought the new CD and got him to autograph it. What a night!

On to the movies: Two weekends ago we saw "The Four Brothers"; me, my husband and my son. It is set in Detroit, where we are all from, so that was great right there. The "brothers" are foster kids who were adopted by their foster mom. Two are black, two are white, they are now grown and pretty much hoodlums but as their mom says, you should have seen them before she got them. They reunite at their mom's home after she is shot to death in a convenience store in the neighborhood and decide to avenge her death.

Naturally a whole can of worms is opened and it gets to be a crime thriller with plenty of gratuitous violence and blood, but these brothers are so fearless and cool with each other and it is so exciting right up to the end, that I wasn't bothered by it. Plus these boys just really love their mom. Under all that bravado and toughness they are softhearted mama's boys. Charming really. If you aren't afraid of blood, I highly recommend it.

"Word Wars" is an amazing documentary about Scrabble. Made in 2004, it follows four obsessed Scrabble players on the way to and participating in the ultimate Scrabble tournament in San Diego, CA, sponsored by Hasbro who makes the board game. I mean, we play Scrabble fairly often and feel good if we get over 100 points. These guys study the official Scrabble dictionary and memorize hundreds of words (using flash cards!) and get over 400 points regularly. Each one is a special kind of geek. I wouldn't want to be one of them, but I could appreciate the obsession, because I am like that about reading. If I was offered a hugely paying job that would take away my reading time, I would no way take that job.

I've been working my way through all the movies in which Jessica Lange plays a part, from earliest to current. (What would I do without Netflix?) Finally got to 1995 and saw "Losing Isaiah". It has a very young Halle Berry, who was a great actress even then. I thought the screenplay was weak and somewhat unrealistic. Halle plays a crack-addicted teen who has a baby and leaves him in a trash can, finds a fix, passes out, etc. Isaiah is the baby. Jessica Lange plays a social worker who adopts him. The druggie Mom goes through rehab and wants her baby back. Big drama.

Finally I saw "Spanglish" with Adam Sandler and an actress who is famous in Mexico and who reminded me of Penelope Cruz. It is a look at a Mexican single mom in LA, who takes a job as a maid with a rich family and almost loses her daughter to them. Hm. Similar theme to "Losing Isaiah" in a way. The acting is really very good and the daughter gets the best of both worlds because of her mother's commitment to her values and the exposure to the American Way which speeds up her assimilation. Probably not very realistic, in fact very idealistic, but entertaining and not bad, as movies go.

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