It has been eight years since Julian Schnabel‘s last film, the surprisingly controversial Miral. But it’s been worth our patience, as his new Vincent Van Gogh biopic At Eternity’s Gate arrives in theaters this weekend to rapturous reviews. (The New York Times called it “a vivid, intensely affecting portrait.”)
And indeed, Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of the tormented artist is nothing short of revelatory, convincingly inhabiting Vincent as he’s shown traversing the sun-drenched landscapes of Provence that so inspired him – but also viscerally capturing his loneliness, and his tragic descent into mental illness.
Though as Dafoe’s Von Gogh puts it himself, “Sometimes they say I am mad. But a grain of madness is the best of art.”
The film also features Rupert Friend as the artist’s long-suffering brother Theo, and Oscar Isaac as his friend and fellow painter Paul Gaugin; the always great Mads Mikkelsen plays a priest – Van Gogh, remember, was a deeply devout man.
Most certainly, At Eternity’s Gate again affirms Schnabel as a director with a mastery of capturing and conveying emotional nuance. It is also surely a good time to acknowledge that Willem Dafoe is indeed one of the truly greatest actors of his generation, with a trajectory that has taken him from Platoon to The English Patient to Spider-Man to this moment, which will very likely be remembered as one of his best.
Season 7 of Game of Thrones ended in a riveting state of suspense, with old enemies forming fragile alliances, and some with only the intention to later deceive. Sansa and Arya Stark saw to the execution of the scheming Littlefinger. While Cersei and Jamie Lannister seemed to be at an irreparable impasse.
But that was August 27, 2017 in the real world – and the long wait has likely sent more than a few GOT devotees into veritable seizures.
Now, at last, we have the first teaser for Season 8. Frustratingly, it does not contain any new footage (check this recent Entertainment Weekly cover story for a few titillating tidbits). Rather, it opens with Cersei dramatically proclaiming, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win … or you die.” (Indeed, indeed.) It then collects some of the most breathtaking, pulse-quickening scenes from the previous seven seasons, from the epic battles to the epic betrayals – with even the long dead Ned Stark making an appearance.
More than anything, it is an exhilarating reminder of why Game of Thrones might just be the most monumental show ever to grace the small screen.
Season 8 officially begins in April 2019; start your binge re-watching now.
The endless, worldwide proliferation of mostly arbitrary music festivals has arguably reached an absolute saturation point. But Pitchfork, amazingly, seems to have just come up with something refreshingly uncommon – at least in regards to the spectacular setting.
Indeed, the new Midwinter, launching in February of 2019, brings together a fairly fascinating lineup of artists at the exalted Art Institute of Chicago. Leaning, naturally, the artier end of the musical spectrum, it will run the gamut from jazz (Kamasi Washington) to classic shoegaze (Slowdive) to post-rock (Tortoise) to, um, chamber pop (Perfume Genius) to nu-goth (Zola Jesus) to her musical majesty, the one and only Laurie Anderson.
“Midwinter is an ambitious new concept,”enthuses Pitchfork festival director Adam Krefman, “and with it we’re intentionally trying to push the boundaries of live music. Placing forward-thinking musicians in the context of the Art Institute, we’re opening a dialogue between mediums, and creating a unique cultural event.”
All in all, more then 30 performers have been selected to appear over three nights, February 15-17 of next year.
Of course, within the hallowed walls of the AIC, it wouldn’t seem right if a bit conceptual haught wasn’t on the bill. And to be sure, “original pre-recorded compositions, unearthed recordings, and soundscapes” from the likes of Nico Muhly, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Midori Takada and Visible Cloaks which are inspired by and “converse” with iconic works from the museum’s collection, will be part of the programming.
With any luck, you’ll find that the music affords you a whole new way of understanding art. And honestly, what more could one possibly wish for than that?
Tickets (which can be purchased here) are a very reasonable $50 for one night, and just $127.50 for all three evenings – including the chance to actually sit in on artist interviews, which will be broadcast live, along with select other moments from the festival, on Pitchfork Radio.
It’s hard to believe, but a year after the horrifying mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert in October of 2017, we’re still turning on the TV to regular reports of more of the same. For all the talk, virtually nothing has been done, legislatively, to address the issue.
LA singer-songwriter MILCK remembers the despondency she experienced upon hearing the news. But she also took the opportunity to create something positive out of all the horror, a new single titled “A Little Peace,” which was released today – just five days after another gunman murdered 12 innocent people in Thousand Oaks, California.
She recalls of last October, “I was home alone the night I heard about the Vegas shootings. The only things that kept me from spiraling into fear and despair were my fans, and my music. I remember turning on my Instagram Livestream to play a spontaneous concert to find a way of not being alone. As I was playing the concert I came up with the chorus of ‘A Little Peace.'”
The song, with its gospel vibes and hopeful refrain of “All I need is a little peace,” is also part of the YouTube #creatorsforchange series, which brings together “positive voices who are tackling social issues and promoting awareness, tolerance and empathy.”
“When YouTube told me about the #creatorsforchange program,” she explains, “I knew my song would have the right home. They understood my vision of bringing strangers together to create literal and figurative harmony. My director and I assisted through hundreds of testimonials of singers from all over the world, and we found seven voices to join me in the studio. Each person brought such uniqueness and beauty to the project – we are all forever connected thru this song, and I am so grateful.”
MILCK, who has also been an activist for LGBTQ and women’s rights, released her debut EP This is Not the End earlier this year. She will be performing at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles tomorrow evening, November 13, and at the Google HQ in D.C. this Thursday.
When it first landed on shelves in 1994, Vanessa Daou’s conversation-shifting Zipless: Songs From the Works of Erica Jong was veritably like nothing before it. Inspired by the writings of the controversial author of Fear of Flying and Shylock’s Daughter (amongst others) it was at once fearlessly erotic and boldly feminist – as well as startling in its musical scope.
Arguably more relevant than ever, it will be released on 180-gram black vinyl by DRKR Records in association with KID Recordings this December 7…the perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite socio-cultural provocateur.
And to be sure, tracks like “The Long Tunnel of Wanting You,” with its sensual acid-jazz grooves, as well as the soulful “Becoming a Nun” (particularly provocative in its salacious lyrical phrasing), and the languidly sexy, spoken word “Smoke,” all made for intoxicating, lascivious listening – while also provoking intellectually. It was particularly incendiary, of course, at a time when a testosterone-fueled Lollapalooza music culture prevailed, three years before the advent of Lilith Fair.
“Releasing Zipless on vinyl is like releasing imagination to a whole new generation,” Jong enthuses, “We always presume that technology must be the latest in innovation, but sometimes we are fortunate to be re-introduced to the familiar. And Zipless is freedom, Zipless is fearlessness, Zipless is getting past the fear of your own identity.”
Daou is also quick to remind that it was one of the first albums to be stickered in Tipper Gore’s zeitgeist-stirring but dire PMRC crusade. 24 years later, obviously, we face aggressive censorship efforts by both the conservatives and liberals.
“Zipless is an idea whose shape and form changes, shifting and morphing with each generation,” explains Daou. “It has guided me creatively, sonically, and philosophically. In many interviews at the time, I was asked if I considered myself a feminist. Invariably, my answer ‘of course’ was met with a scoff, rolling eyes, and a grimace. It seemed that the struggle of our mothers was not one that the ‘90s generation felt still needed to be fought.”
She reckons we now live in an America in which creative freedom is in many ways diminished – and with so much Evangelical oppression to the right, and PC suppression to the left, who could argue?
“Ideas of culture, sexuality, identity, creativity, are malleable, flexible things,” she reckons. “Perhaps it comes from growing up on an island (St. Thomas), surrounded by water, where the references that shaped me were the sun, sky, sand and ocean. The lens through which I’ve looked has always been kaleidoscopic, allowing for many shimmering, complex facets.”
Curiously, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, Zipless is particularly compelling, perhaps able to raise questions about exactly what sexual freedom means to women now. And even though there is obviously no one answer to that, agitating the discussion seems as exigent as ever.
Every great socio-political moment needs an equally visceral soundtrack to rouse the revolutionaries.
And after the epochal U.S. midterm elections, protests have erupted once again, this time over voter suppression, the dubious new attorney general – with more reasons to be angry popping up practically on a daily basis. Of course, as you take to the streets, or just take in the media overload that blares from our screens day and night, you’ll want to have music with you that rises powerfully to the occasion. So pop on some headphones and let these “take charge” classics from The Clash, Björk and M.I.A. get you sufficiently inspired for what we are pretty sure is still a long battle ahead.
To the barricades!
“This is Radio Clash”
Key lyric: “Forces have been looting / My humanity / Curfews have been curbing / The end of liberty / But now this sound is brave / And wants to be free”
“Army of Me”
Key lyric: “You’re alright / There’s nothing wrong / Self sufficiency please! / And get to work”
Key lyric: “Pirate skulls and bones / Sticks and stones and weed and bombs / Running when we hit ’em / Lethal poison through their system”
On August 3, an unflinching headline blared from the pages of The Hill: “Calling Press ‘Enemy of the People’ is a Totalitarian Strategy.” And they were not alone. The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New Republic, even the Washington Post and New York Times have printed chilling evidence of Donald Trump’s increasingly authoritarian impulses.
Once there was a day when music would have actually been first to the barricades (if only Joe Strummer were still with us…); yet today, when we need it most, everyone with a mixing deck and a microphone instead seems to be blathering on about absolutely nothing.
The lyrics, written in 1981, are still startlingly relevant and compelling (“Evil men with racist views / Spreading all across the land / Don’t just sit there on your ass / Unlock that funky chaindance”); though LCD substitute in the line, “The Orange One is president.” And despite the dance metaphors, the words, “Grab that groove thang by the throat / And throw it in the ocean” are an obvious and pointed call to action, sung to an astonishingly rousing groove.
Our love for sexy chanteuse and Twin Peaks star Chrysta Bell is hardly a secret. But she’s just gone and given us perhaps the best reason of all to again declare our veneration.
With just two weeks to go until the midterm elections, the David Lynch muse has issued a challenge: send an email to CB@chrystabell.com, with a screenshot of your voter registration form, and she will send you free music. And not just any free music…but her music, which we may have mentioned before on these pages, is beautiful and wonderful and haunting and life-changing.
“Being a voter offers a powerful feeling of accomplishment,” she rightly enthuses. “You feel like you did something significant, you participated in something along with millions of other fellow Americans, something that is immeasurably meaningful: Democracy.”
Of course, the oft-repeated excuse is that one’s individual vote, in this Republic, just doesn’t seem to matter all that much. But with so many dubious/dangerous political machinations going on behind the scenes, and with so, so much at stake right now (women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, healthcare, foreign policy), it’s never been more exigent, or more crucial to have your voice heard.
“If voting didn’t matter so much,” she stresses, “why on earth would people fight so hard to be able to do it? Some people risk their lives to be able to vote. In America, our votes make a difference! It’s wonderful and precious to be able to safely engage in democracy and it’s something I believe we should not take for granted by forfeiting the opportunity.”
To emphasize her point, she urges everyone to watch the short video of Fannie Lou Harner testifying before the 1964 Democratic National Convention, regarding violence against black voters in Mississippi. Remember how hard some had to fight just to be able to vote.
And the music? Her stunningly realized self-titled EP was released this past March, including the visceral single “Everest” – surely one of Chrysta Bell’s most chillingly powerful vocal performances to date. Her 2017 album We Dissolve also comes highly recommended by this publication.
Surely never before in our lifetimes has voting in an election been so crucial as in the upcoming midterms – with the future of so many significant issues at stake.
Electrifying the cause will be progressive political organization Swing Left, formed in early 2017 in the wake of the shocking election of Donald Trump to the presidency. To wit, their ‘Last Weekend’ Kickoff Rallies will be taking place on both coasts next Thursday, November 1, with a galvanizing a-list lineup at each agitating for the cause.
In New York City, in the Great Hall at Cooper Union, musical talent Sara Bareilles and Chloe Flower will be joined by actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Piper Perabo, Taylor Schilling and Amber Tamblyn; while in Los Angeles, a veritable festival of musical guests will include Moby, Rufus & Martha Wainwright, Karen O & Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Dave Grohl’s The Bird and The Bee.
“In order to drive voter turnout on the scale of a presidential election this year,” explains Michelle Finocchi, CMO and Founding Member of Swing Left, “we need to drive volunteering on the scale of a presidential election.This is what Swing Left’s cultural mobilization efforts are all about.”
But Swing Left’s mission goes beyond the traditional registration endeavors – they are determined to motivate people to be genuinely engaged and involved in the fight to make change.
“Prior get-out-the-vote campaigns have prompted people to simply pledge to vote or to register to vote,” she says. “But in order to win this year, we need to go further and not just vote; they need to also volunteer to support Democratic candidates across the country and help us take back the House.”