CABARET, directed by Bob Fosse
I can see why people who saw this before Chicago are underwhelmed
with the new movie. Fosse's film is a movie first and a musical second;
you know, it's got depth and character development and ambiguity and shit
like that. But yet even though it's not the movie's fault, modern eyes
will have a hard time getting past the fact that Liza Minnelli is the
star of the show -- I mean, she's in a whole hell of a lot of it; you
can't get away from her. The tone and subject matter are dark and sophisticated
-- Chicago is just one glorious highlight reel in comparison --
but the story itself is a little simplistic, its romantic triangle a little
too convenient. And these sorts of quibbles mean a lot more when you're
trying to make serious art than when you're just giving 'em the old razzle-dazzle.
NOWHERE IN AFRICA, directed by Caroline Link
Seeing this the night before the Oscars, I knew I was watching the soon-to-be
Best Foreign Language Film winner. Looking around the almost-full art
house theater, I watched as older men and women sat back and let the tasteful
art flow through them. It's another true-life Holocaust flick with the
twist that the family escapes Germany and goes all the way to Africa to
start their lives from scratch. From moment to moment, it's well acted
and plotted -- nothing ever feels wrong or out of place. But it never
fires you up one way or the other, either. Here's a family that survived
the Nazis and was changed along the way -- and? Could there be a better
companion piece to The Pianist? B
Spoon "KILL THE MOONLIGHT"
Every year, The Village Voice's annual "Pazz & Jop"
music poll gives me a chance to argue, celebrate, and play catch-up. And,
sure enough, this indie band is just as good as advertised. And, how about
this, they're college-educated white guys who actually know how to dance,
funk, rock -- you know, their music moves and rolls and messes around.
No emo in them, they enjoy tones, moods, textures, and actual hooks. The
Pavement comparison doesn't quite fit, except that both bands can quietly
stun you when they're not just having one hell of a smart-ass good time.
The White Stripes "ELEPHANT"
Their sound now a gimmick, they survive because Jack White doesn't seem
aware of the formula he's fallen into: blues rocker, piano rocker, rocker
rocker. We don't need any movements or revivals -- that's for bored rock
critics to get all misty over -- we just need good bands. Count on these
guys to blow the cobwebs out of your ears, and you'll be happily surprised.
Expect the Second Coming, and you're in for a huge disappointment -- these
minimalists don't have the worldview or ambition to resurrect anything.
But they are branching out: Where Jack used to unearth an old blues gem
to get his rocks off, now he just writes his own. Plus, great kitsch cover.
And, proving it was no live fluke, he's out to become your next guitar
Idlewild, live at the El Rey, April 3
On album, they're explosive, filled with promise and easy-to-spot influences.
(It warms the heart to know that U2 and R.E.M. are still inspiring young
bands.) On stage, they're still not all there, though. Roddy Woomble's
voice doesn't have the anger and command it does on "100 Broken Windows"
and this year's "The Remote Part." But this Scottish group has
deservedly made their mark in the UK, and here's hoping that a distinct
identity will soon follow their already-established guitars and energy.
There are several official band sites worth your obsessive time, but none
revel in the singular stupidity of its subject more than this one. Not
only do you get almost daily news on these nu-metal morons, Fred Durst
himself delivers it. What results is a series of grammar-deficient, typo-heavy
genius. From the looks of things, Durst is single, working on the album,
and enjoying "some other phat ass riff come barreling out of our
amps." Forget what he's gonna name the new album -- "Fetus More"
for now, but maybe he'll change his mind again! Between his stream-of-conscious
postings and his public appearances, the man's making a serious push for
a reality show. That is, of course, if the VP position doesn't work out.
FUTURAMA, Sundays on Fox
The recent episodes were completed before they knew they were getting
axed, and yet since the news the show has become riskier, more clever,
and, most importantly, really funny. The series' main weakness will forever
be its lack of great breakaway side characters -- there's no Disco Stu,
no Comic Book Guy, not even a Carl and Lenny -- but Fry, Leela, and Bender's
evolving, forever-juvenile relationship was just starting to become as
meaningful as the guys' on Frasier. It never reached The Simpsons'
peak, but its animation and sci-fi in-jokes are for the ages. A-