Lady Bird. There’s been considerable buzz surrounding the semi-autobiographical directorial debut for Greta Gerwig and its completely justified: It’s one of the year’s best. It stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Brooklyn) as Christine McPherson, an underachieving, rebellious teen who literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks in Sacramento. She insists on being called Lady Bird and spends most of her senior year at a Catholic high school thumbing her nose at its rules and regulations. Lady Bird is also lobbying to get into a high end college on the East Coast, but, as her college advisors are quick to point out, her grades aren’t exactly Ivy League material. Life outside the classroom isn’t much better. Her father (Tracy Letts) is unemployed and depressed and her mother (Laurie Metcalf), is an overworked nurse who’s trying to hold the fragile family dynamic together. Lady Bird also finds herself torn between two suitors, Danny, an aspiring actor wrestling with sexuality and Kyle (Timothee Chalamet), an up and coming musician. But at the core of the film is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, two strong willed individuals who love each other, but refuse to give an inch to the other. The film fires on all cylinders – the writing, direction, the acting, cinematography and the score (another winner by the one and only Jon Brion). After establishing herself as a formidable actress and screenwriter, Greta Gerwig can now add director to her resume with this outstanding debut. It will be shocking if this film doesn’t make considerable noise during awards season. Lady Bird is playing now in select theaters. You can also go to ladybird.movie for more information.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The latest film from Academy Award winning writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) stars Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, who is furious that in the seven months since the brutal rape and murder of her daughter, police have yet to find a lead, much less a suspect. She decides to take them to task by commissioning three billboards with messages aimed directly at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), Ebbing’s revered police chief. This doesn’t sit well with Willoughby, his racist, loose cannon, second in command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), or with the community, who never quite took to Mildred in the first place. All of this only spurs to Mildred to act out – and up – even more, hoping the attention will pressure Willoughby and Dixon to find the killer. McDormand is pretty much lights out in anything she does, but here she’s pure fury, piss, vinegar and on fire as Mildred. Rockwell is a close second as barely hinged mama’s boy Dixon, mining enough of his humanity to make you like him as much as you loathe him. Harrelson is brings a measured sense of frustration and weariness as Willoughby, while the rest of the cast – which includes John Hawkes as Mildred’s abusive ex-husband, Lucas Hedges as her son and Peter Dinklage as a local who has the stones to take Mildred on a date – are in peak form. This is a dark comedy of the highest order, leaving no stone unturned and taking zero prisoners. Sure to be in the awards season mix. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri opens in select theaters November 10th. You can also go to www.foxsearchlight.com for more information.
Thanks To The Moth And Arcanna Rose by The Veldt. Led by identical twins Danny and Daniel Chavis, The Veldt have been creating atmospheric shoegaze rock and soul for nearly three decades. Their latest EP revisits material from their days working under the name Apollo Heights, but with a decidedly more fuller, richer band aesthetic. There’s also elements of trip hop and hip hop to the mix, thanks to a production team that includes Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, Carlos Bess (best known for his work with Wu Tang Clan) and Jason Furlow, aka Nosa. Tracks such as ‘The Color Of Love Is Blue’ and ‘Fit To Be Tied’ strongly suggest that if Phil Spector were making records today, it would sound this majestic. The Veldt are putting their final touches on their long awaited full length album, Resurrection Hymns, but this EP will more than wet your musical appetite. Thanks To The Moth And Arcanna Rose is available now on Itunes and Bandcamp.
Silver & Gold by Ryal. Ryal’s self titled EP closed with ‘Another Song’, a meditative song about loss and resolve. It was an abrupt departure from the dance/pop that dominated the EP, but served as a primer for Ryal’s full length album, which continues on the darker, atmospheric tone as that track. Darker and much more atmospheric, it draws heavily from singer-keyboardist Jacque Ryal’s personal travelogue through the West Coast, which included stops in San Diego, Colorado, Hollywood, Vegas and the California Redwoods. Whether as a death-obsessed child so preoccupied with death whose only comfort is found in music (‘Record On’), a young adult discovering the complexities of love (‘Trees’); personally driven narratives with political undertones (‘Charity’, ‘Multiples’, ‘Divide’, ‘Hub Royal’), to celebrating life and being in the moment (‘Take Another’), Ryal and long time collaborator Aaron Nevezie have created a defiant, raw, and cathartic synth pop triumph that warrants multiple listens. Silver & Gold by Ryal is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music outlets.
Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol 13/1979-1981 by Bob Dylan. The latest installment of the acclaimed Bootleg Series looks back at Dylan’s most polarizing – and creative – period since he went ‘electric’ in 1965. Between 1979 and 1981, Dylan released three albums: Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot Of Love, all of which revealed a recent conversion to Christianity. Fans and critics were stunned as Dylan toured extensively, exclusively playing the new material, which also included on stage sermons. This new set – which can be purchased in either a deluxe or standard edition – features up to 100 previously unreleased live and studio tracks, a hardcover book, and Jennifer Lebeau’s feature film ‘Trouble No More’, which combines unreleased footage from the 1980 tour along with new footage written by Luc Sante and performed by actor Michael Shannon. While everyone was taken aback by the sudden leap into the Christian faith, it must also be pointed out that this was one of Dylan’s most fertile songwriting periods, full of rich imagery, poetry and potency. It marks another creative reset for the artist, laying the ground work for what became The Never Ending Tour and providing a backdrop for many of the masterpieces that he’s done since. It’s a collection that demands reconsideration. Trouble No More is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers. You can also go to www.bobdylan.com for more information.
Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi. The Iranian-born, American raised photographer/filmmaker was initially hired by Prince as a camera assistant for a number of his music videos. Shahidi eventually moved up to cinematographer and Prince was so impressed with his work that Shahidi became one of the few people to actively photograph the famously reclusive musician. This new book culls together the many sessions that Shahidi had with Prince, including the ultra exclusive 3121 parties that became one of the most sought after invites in Hollywood. It captures Prince as his most playful, private, introspective, and, of course, creative. With a forward by Beyoncé, Shahidi has put together a moving tribute to his boss and friend. Prince: A Private View is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City. Bruce Springsteen by Frank Stefanko. Based on a recommendation by long time friend Patti Smith, photographer Frank Stefanko began shooting Bruce Springsteen while he was recording Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Stefanko would ultimately shot the album’s now iconic cover and it launched a friendship that lasts to this day (Stefanko also shot the cover of Springsteen’s best selling book Born To Run). In conjunction with Springsteen’s run on Broadway and the recent publication of the new book, Bruce Springsteen: Further Up The Road, The Morrison Hotel Gallery will be presenting an exhibit of some of the many collaborations the two have done over the years. It captures Bruce both at home in New Jersey, in the studio, on the beach, and with his collection of classic cars – most of which are done in stark, but eloquent black and white. The friendship and trust between them is on full display and the results are fantastic. A must see exhibit for any fan of Bruce or fine art photography. Bruce Springsteen by Frank Stefanko is on view now at The Morrison Hotel Gallery. You can also go to www.morrisonhotelgallery.com for more information.
New York City. Resurrection City by Jill Freedman. The Occupy Wall Street movement drew heavily on Resurrection City, an encampment that took over The Washington D.C. Mall in the spring of 1968. It was designed as the centerpiece to The Poor People’s Campaign, which was created by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (and carried on by Reverend Ralph Abernathy after King’s death) to show how the money that was being spent on the war on Vietnam could be used to help the millions of people living in extreme poverty here at home. Moved by Dr. King’s call to action, photographer Jill Freedman joined the campaign and spent 6 weeks in the encampment. Nearly 50 years after King’s death and the Poor People’s Campaign, The Steven Kasher Gallery is presenting a new exhibition featuring 70 images from the D.C. occupation. It captures spectacularly captures the joy and pain of the movement, ranging from the mundane, defiant, along with the movement’s frustrations and optimism. Seeing these photos also serves to show us that the issues and struggles from this effort are very much in play today. A must see exhibit. Resurrection City by Jill Freedman will be at The Steven Kasher Gallery through December 22nd. You can also go to www.stevenkasher.com for more information.
Los Angeles. The AFI Fest. Now in its 31st year, Los Angeles’ long running international film festival showcases independent and global filmmakers as well as forecast what which films will dominate the upcoming awards season. Among those being featured this year: Oscar buzz worthy films such as Mudbound, Call Me By My Name, Molly’s Game and I, Tonya; a 12 film Robert Altman retrospective; panel discussions featuring Angelina Jolie, Patty Jenkins, Martin McDonough, Sophia Coppola, and Jordan Peele plus much more. Between the screenings and the in depth conversations with some of the top names in the game, this festival is a movie goers dream. The AFI Fest runs through November 16th. You can also go to www.afifest.afi.com for tickets, a complete rundown of events and more.