Monday, July 27, 2015

Blurred Visionary...An interview with Blur's Graham Coxon

The time was 1995 and optimism was sweeping Britain with a force the likes of which few could remember. Tory rule was waning fast and the vibrant and youthful opposition leader Tony Blair seemed poised to assume the Prime Minister’s office with a promise of better times. Britain was having its driest summer in recorded history, the Northern Ireland peace process was kicking into gear and Damien Hirst had just won the Turner Prize with two bisected cows submerged in formaldehyde. In short, it was a time in which anything seemed possible.

Few bands define this particular era as much as Blur. A fresh, brash, intelligent pop quartet blessed with dashing looks and an ability to channel the most agreeable parts of British culture into ambitious albums. The angst-driven sludge of grunge, vanquished by the suicide of its most recognisable figure, had been replaced by Britpop, an Anglocentric movement that recycled the high points of the last 40 years of British music, most notably The Beatles, early Pink Floyd, The Smiths and The Kinks. Blur wrote songs that kids and grandparents could sing along to: “All the people, so many people, they all go hand in hand, hand in hand through their Parklife”. It was the nearest thing to the Swinging Sixties any subsequent generation could imagine, and it seemed to take everyone by surprise.

At the heart of this uncharacteristic rush of English euphoria was Graham Coxon, Blur’s bookish guitarist and co-songwriter, a musician largely credited with the band’s musical ingenuity, an endlessly inventive counterpoint to singer and lyricist Damon Albarn’s effulgent melodies and rich character studies.

“I wish I could have had fun,” says Coxon over the phone from a hotel in Paris where the band is on tour. “I wish I could have allowed myself to have fun and enjoy it. When you have an idea of how things should be and you enter into it and it’s not how you imagine, it can be an odd experience. It’s not an easy road to get off once you’re on it,” he sighs. “There’s a lot of rubbish music, rubbish politics, rubbish people. The people who say they had fun in the 90s, I don’t think they’re the musicians, I think they’re the predators; the press, the record labels. I’m not sure bands were having an awful lot of fun.”

If Blur were merely writing and not living the joy others associate with their wry parochialism, arch-rivals Oasis were certainly doing their best to stay in the headlines and live the idealised rock and roll lifestyle. Their euphoric anthems played perfectly into the media’s desperation to bring class, geography and distorted personalities into a constructed musical war. As an indication of quite how strange these times were, an unofficial cassette recording of Oasis arguing for fourteen minutes made the British charts.

“The guitarist I have a lot of time for, the drummer I don’t know, I hear he’s a nice guy,” Oasis’s Noel Gallagher told the NME in 1995. “But the other two, Alex and Damon, I hope they fuck off and die of AIDS.”

It was the sort of statement record labels and publicists lived for, it was also exemplary of the sort of chat at which Oasis excelled. When the music tabloid press formally announced a ‘Battle of Britpop’ – pitting the foul-mouthed lads from Manchester against the moddish London-based Blur – the bands had little choice but to play their parts. The ‘Battle’ reached its apex when the new Oasis single Roll With It and Blur’s much anticipated Country House were both released on August 15, 1995. Only one of these songs contained the lyrics “he knows his claret from his Beaujolais”, and it wasn’t written by the band that spent their first million-dollar paycheque on cocaine and Brisbanian prostitutes. The national media made their best efforts to turn the chart countdown into a Generational Moment. Millions picked a side and responded accordingly when, with some help from Damien Hirst’s video, Blur’s Country House debuted at number 1.

While Oasis are estimated to be several months off announcing a lucrative reformation, Blur are making their first visit to Australia in 18 years, promoting their first album in 12; The Magic Whip. Within seconds of its opening song Lonesome Street even those with only a passing knowledge of the band’s hits can instantly tell it’s the same foursome who soundtracked the mid-90s.

“We still get on,” says Coxon of the band’s 30 years of history. “We’re not doing anything we don’t want to do. We don’t feel like we’re being forced to do anything by the record labels.” Even band photo shoots? “Well,” he sighs deeply, letting silence envelope the line before laughing. “Some things don’t change.”

Unlike the other members of Blur who’ve moved counties and changed careers, Coxon seems to have changed the least. He still lives in Camden Town, still dresses as though he’s not interested in impressing anyone, and still regularly releases albums. Besides Albarn (also a member of super-group Gorillaz), drummer Dave Rowntree has run as a candidate for the British Labour Party and now works as a solicitor, bassist Alex James has spent the years since their last album, 2003’s Think Tank, writing opinion columns and making cheese on his farm in Oxfordshire, where he lives next door to friend David Cameron. James has insisted that he and Rowntree have “never had a political conversation” and scoffs at the idea of the band being on anything but friendly terms.

“We spent an awful lot of time with each other, touring, etc.” says Coxon of their heyday. “But when we had time off, most of that time was spent trying to fix up our own lives. When you go on tour there’s always a lot to do once you go home, it’s natural. For a few years between 2002 and 2008 we hardly talked at all. We had an enforced break that was really needed. At the time it seemed confusing but now it seems obvious. It was just very difficult trying to initiate it.”

According to the very attentive (and not entirely dispassionate) music news sources at the time, by 2002 Coxon’s alcoholism had become untenable. Following a ‘blazing row’ he was forced out of the band during the recording of Think Tank, a story he hotly contests.

“I don’t think it was my fault, not at all,” he says between lengthy pauses. “When Blur and me went our separate ways I was completely sober, and I’ve remained so since. I held my hands up and said ‘yeah, I’ve got this problem’ so it was easy for the rest of the band to blame me for everything because I admitted to it. Everyone has their issues. It’s just that some people are better at dealing with it, and some people are more prone to going under.”

In his biography Bit of a Blur, James cheerfully admits to spending over one million pounds on champagne and cocaine. Rowntree was admitted to noted rehabilitation clinic The Priory for addiction to cocaine and Albarn wrote their number one hit Beetlebum about using heroin with ex-girlfriend Justine Frischmann, but Coxon downplays suggestions the band were out of control. “Blur were clean living compared to other people,” he laughs. “Even what Alex wrote in Bit of a Blur…I mean, really, that’s nothing compared to other groups.”

Reflecting on his statement, Coxon leaps in to justify himself. “See,” he explains keenly, “no one really knows how they’re going to react when they first get on a record label and start touring and partying and all the rest of it. No one knows how their body or mind will handle two months of solid partying. It’s usually in quite a negative way, it’s not that good for anybody.”

Regardless of what was happening to various minds and livers during the mid to late 1990s, Blur were remarkably workmanlike, writing dozens of diverse and acclaimed songs, as they transitioned away from their bright Britpop roots into songs that reflected darker times. Their albums Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, The Great Escape and Blur are some of the most acclaimed of the era. Despite their often maudlin lyrics songs like For Tomorrow, Girls and Boys, He Thought of Cars, The Universal, Song 2 and Tender still sound galvanic.

“I don’t think we ever made really optimistic music,” says Coxon. “There was often an undercurrent of sarcasm and a sense of absurdity about life. When we played the songs it was often quite chaotic. We were probably very visually interesting live because we were all pretty tipsy when we were playing, but I think we play the old stuff better now. We certainly play a lot harder and sound a lot stronger.”

Though Blur reformed for a 2009 tour, released two singles in 2012 and closed the 2012 Olympic Games, there was never a hint that new music would be recorded until several months before the release of The Magic Whip. The album only exists because of the chance cancellation of a concert in Tokyo that left the band with five days to fill in Hong Kong, and the frequent questions from journalists about making new music fresh in their minds.

“Honestly, I was happy just to get some sleep. My hotel room had a circular bed!” says Coxon with a laugh. “But Damon had other ideas. We agreed to jam for five days and see what happened, and soon we rather glibly said: “OK they want this album, let’s bloody make it then.’”

Released in April, The Magic Whip has already become the band’s highest charting record both in Australia and the US and garnered rave reviews from critics. As which much of their previous work, the album is full of imagery and inspiration from their environment. Just as they channelled the buzz of the mid-90s before exploring pre and post-millenium tension, this album is full of personal responses to shifting economies and changing cultures, leading some to make accusations of ‘orientalism’, charges the band laugh off. Albarn refers to events such as the Hong Kong student protests, his time in Sydney, holed up in a hotel following the Martin Place siege several blocks away, and a nostalgia both for England and, perhaps, glory days.

“We made it very differently to albums we’d made before,” says Coxon. “We jammed out lots of material – mostly based on Damon’s home recordings – for five days then 18 months later I and [producer] Stephen Street edited it all and presented it to Damon in 12 songs while he was in Australia. He heard what we’d done and decided to commit to it. On his way back from Australia he stopped in Hong Kong for 48 hours and retraced his footsteps, made notes, made films and stuff like that and wrote the lyrics over that New Year. In a way Damon can be misunderstood as some kind of autocratic General by Blur fans, but I think he actually appreciated me taking it off his hands and sorting it out.”

Despite the geographic separation of the band, the success of the album and the time spent touring together, Coxon doubts that this method of recording is likely to be repeated for Blur, and doesn’t foresee any further albums.

“The gods don’t seem to allow us to repeat ourselves. We try to repeat past processes and it falls on its face, so it’s almost like this process found us in a way. It wasn’t something we did really on purpose, we wilfully picked up instruments and all that, but overall the process that resulted in another album was something that we didn’t plan, we couldn’t plan it. So that way it caught us out.”

This article was first published at Junkee under the title "Rubbish music, rubbish people, rubbish politics: We spoke to Blur's Graham Coxon About the '90s" on July 14, 2015.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Other Side of Rickie Lee Jones

Singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones talks to Andy Hazel about living in New Orleans, her 35-year career and staying on top.

She may be imminently releasing her first album in a decade, she may have a legion of diehard fans ecstatic at any message she chooses to share online, but right now Rickie Lee Jones is interested in one thing, her garden gate.

“I’m just trying…to close this thing,” she says in laughing frustration. “Do you hear that noise in the background?” She pauses to let a distant clacking sound ring. “Well I live between the train and the riverboat so I always have this sound. I love it…and there’s the train a few blocks away making itself known, it’s wonderful.” Since moving here in 2013 Jones has been sparked into creative resurgence, thrilled that the city reminds her so much of her childhood. That New Orleanians hang their washing to dry instead of using a clothes drier is, she insists, a very way to measure a city’s suitability.

“Things are pretty great here,” she says in a warm Southern brogue. “The town is really…what’s the word…it pulls people out into it, kind of like the opposite of LA where everybody stays in. Here everybody goes out. Wait…I got it!” A latch slips into place and her measured tones break open into a loud laugh. “Now, where were we? Andy, I’ve got to tell you, you’re the very first interview I’ve done for this record,” she says laughing loudly before screaming in mock terror.

Breaking through in 1979 with the song Chuck E.’s in Love Jones had two million selling albums, won a Grammy and was in an intense relationship with fellow singer-songwriter Tom Waits for several years. Unlike most pop stars of the early 80s, Jones wrote and arranged her intricate jazz-influenced pop songs, was backed by the best musicians available and exerted control over the whole creative process. Interviews show just how uneasy promoting and talking about her music, but also how readily she is to talk about her life. Famously, one interview became the basis for The Orb’s seminal ambient house track Little Fluffy Clouds.

“Whenever everybody’s putting out something new they’re usually just thinking about the new thing they did. I know people always like to ask me about old stuff, that time is the past but that music isn’t the past. All my art is timeless to me. 1979 is the past, but not [song from her first album] Last Chance Texaco.”

Any chance for juicy gossip about Tom Waits is neutered firstly by a polite segue into discussion of her music inspired by him, and secondly by fact “I haven’t spoken to him since…1979,” she says searching for the date before executing a rich, long pause.

“The places that my songs live, the times that they were created from; 1963, 1947 or 1922, not necessarily the week I wrote the song, that’s what they represent to me. They’re not cemented in another time. So, there might be a tune or two that is, or was, a real…healing tool, and that could invoke some feelings. But I’m not doing that right now.”

Right now is what Jones is excited about. She’s written a blog about the making of her new album The Other Side of Desire, and she’s excited to know what impression the cover art has made and what ‘journey’ the songs suggest.

The opening song Jimmy Choos is, as the title suggests, about luxury shoes. Ostensibly about helping a friend through a breakup, Jones repeats the phrase “Choos’ shoes” dozens of times, slurring the sounds and rendering the words ridiculous. “Wouldn’t it be great to hear that on the radio!?” She laughs. While it may be better suited to being on the soundtrack of a John Waters-directed episode of Sex and the City, it is a bold and confident song that is wholly her and instantly reminds anyone who only knows her from her 80s hit that her voice is a utterly unique creation. The Pogues-esque Christmas in New Orleans, and the long, languid, atmospheric tracks Infinity and Haunted echo her most acclaimed work and foreground her expressive voice to powerful effect.

“The first time I told the title to people I saw the look in their eyes and I could see they were thinking of sex. I thought ‘I guess that’s how that word is used’, but to me, we’re talking about the things you desire, not the things you need. We’re talking about this thing that leads you down all these roads that you’re better off not going down.”

Shedding the major record labels to make this, crowd-founded, album, Jones’ doesn’t find control comes from fame and influence, rather, money.

“While I have my finger on the button, how far I can push the button is totally decided by how much money I have to promote it,” she says with another warm, open laugh, “and actually that’s really exciting. Because when you have to work with all those guys – and they’re always guys, they used to wear suits now they wear flannel shirts – you feel like they are making choices and you have no control. So to be the person who goes ‘this is how we’ll spend the money and when we make money we’ll continue to use it to promote the record, and we don’t have to stop promoting the record because it’s the only record we have to promote’, that’s a great feeling. I feel like I will have more control, but time will tell.”

Suggestions of attention being the new online currency are brushed aside. While younger fans are discovering her older work (The Word recently named her second album, 1981’s Pirates as one of the 25 most overlooked albums of all time), Jones is more interested in that one thing that younger fans value most, authenticity.

“I’m not trying to reach for the attention of kids. Forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I see 60 year-old women trying to look like they’re 25, or making product to try to get a 20 year-old to buy their product I feel embarrassed for them and for me,” she says, tellingly. “I like the way I look. I like my age. I like my generation. I like who I am and I’m going to make a record that hopefully speaks to everybody. I’m not gonna try to pretend like I’m not who I am. That being said, I want to look great!”

Jones laments the shorter attention spans she feels typify the younger audience and is unwilling to cater to it. “The thing about staying in business in my age is to be happy about who you are, and then the record I make  - I love my record – but before I love my record I feel OK about who I am, and the life I live. I think that’s going to be what makes it an interesting journey, at least I hope so.”

Rickie Lee Jones’ album The Other Side of Desire is out June 19 on Cooking Vinyl.

REVIEW: Citizenfour

There’s been a change in the language. We’ve gone from talking about freedom and liberty to talking about privacy.       

- Jacob Appelbaum

American film reviewers have been hailing Laura Poitras’s documentary Citizenfour in terms so hyperbolic as to risk inviting ridicule. “One of the major and defining documentaries of recent times”, “an electrifying countdown to an epoch-altering event,” “[it] isn’t a film so much as a big fucking deal,” and, as the poster boasts, “the movie of the century”.

Film buffs that know a lot more than Farrago are saying it’s a lock in for the Best Documentary Academy Award. But, besides all the bluster and hubris, who or what exactly is Citizenfour? Can it make boring things like ‘leaking documents’ visually interesting, and, more importantly, away from its headline grabbing subject matter, is it actually good?

First up, Citizenfour is a first-hand account of the world’s most famous fugitive, Edward Snowden and his leak of millions of top-secret National Security Agency files. The files detail the extent to which governments and telecommunications companies spy on their citizens and customers, how they covered it up, and the lies they told, under oath, about not doing so. While the issues of security and privacy are of massive importance, key to Citizenfour is that director Laura Poitras was the first of three journalists Snowden leaked documents to, and she filmed their first meeting.

The reason why this film is not just good but worthy of its hype, is balancing the intimacy and immediacy of millions of documents from US intelligence archives to Snowden’s laptop to the global media, with a study of Snowden himself.

The early sequences of Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald and Snowden’s novel-worthy introduction in the lobby of the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong (Snowden: “I’ll be the one working on a Rubik’s Cube. You’ll ask me what time the restaurant opens. I’ll tell you and then warn you that the food is bad…then we’re good”) makes this seem almost fictional. Once upstairs in the hotel room things became very real very quickly. As Snowden said in an interview with the New York Times, “we all knew there was no going back once she turned the camera on.”

Watching her, Greenwald, and later the Guardian’s Ewan MacAskill (flown over once Greenwald emailed him the code phrase “the Guinness is good”) try to maintain their composure when they realise they are getting the greatest journalistic scoop of modern times plays out like a white-knuckle thriller.

From Snowden’s heavily encrypted attempts to contact them using his codename Citizenfour, to his Julian Assange-enabled escape from Hong Kong to Moscow (soon to be the subject of its own film), Citizenfour leaves you with the feeling there is far more of this story to tell. Oliver Stone is working on his own version, in which Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is cast as a modern day hero. Poitras has hundreds of hours of additional footage, much of which is likely to be just as jaw dropping as her story here.

Unlike the Assange documentary Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets, Snowden is clearly uncomfortable with being the centre of attention. As much as some wings of America media may like to demonise him, Snowden – unlike Assange - is not a divisive character. He is at pains to point out that he is driven to do what he thinks is right, at immense personal cost. In the film he is clearly incredibly anxious, but also clear-headed and calm. His transition from earnest nerd to literal overnight celebrity makes it so watchable. Snowden, well aware that the media will try to deflect attention from embarrassed politicians to a character assassination, has unreserved loathing for the way national security leaks have happened in the past. “Some people want to skulk around in corridors and speak anonymously? Fuck that.”

The personal cost clearly eats away at him, and several scenes of him chatting with his until-now oblivious girlfriend as she tells him their house is being raided and she’s detained and questioned by police are potent.

Poitras’s balancing of the personal, political and cryptographic is what drives the film. That she pulled a narrative arc together from thousands of hours of footage of talking heads, people typing, courtroom antics, security infrastructure and impassioned nerds is remarkable and speaks to not only her skills, but those of editor Mathilde Bonnefoy.

While revealing little of the content of the documents, Poitras sets the stakes high at the outset and the film never stoops to sermonising. This withholding of judgement has earned Poitras and the film’s distributors The Weinstein Company a civil lawsuit in which they’re are accused of “aiding and abetting the theft and misuse of stolen government documents.”

Much of the press around Citizenfour is about issues it raises rather than the film itself, and, oddly, it fits into a continuation of conversations started by the events it depicts. How it was made, its partially redacted press screenings and secretive last minute New York Film Festival premiere last October and Poitras (notably almost excised from the film) has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight. World changing events have never been seen this intimately before. While Snowden pledged “public interest” as the driving factor behind his leaks, the public have been coming out of cinemas on Team Snowden (“What matters are how people feel about these issues, regardless of your opinion of me,”) or Team USA (which is also Team Australia since George Brandis, Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott have repeatedly accused Snowden of treason, treachery and of being a traitor to his country).

Whichever way you view it, everything has changed since the encounter shown here. How citizens think about their government, how governments treat their citizens, relations between telecommunications companies and governments, the role of the courts in national security issues, and the media’s increased reliance on whistleblowers to tell public interest stories.

The Australian government blame Snowden’s leaks (still being drip-fed by Greenwald’s website The Intercept) for forcing them to engage in data retention policies. Policies even the government’s supporters view as overreaching and imposing massive limitations on the freedoms of its citizens. Policies that will ‘drive up prices for Internet and phone services’ and, according to the telecommunications companies involved, ‘be a major intrusion into the lives of every Australian.’

Whether these come to pass remains to be seen. Either way, long after this film leaves cinemas its issues will remain in news headlines. As the opening sentence suggests, the conversation has changed, and that is exactly what Snowden set out to do.

The J Files: David Lynch

Music alongside image should augment it; help it sustain the illusion of reality. Emotions registered subtly on the screen should be writ large in the score. Music should make the internal audible…or so Hollywood tradition states.

Applying this concept to director and writer David Lynch is not straightforward. Lynch uses sound and music almost constantly in his films, but he doesn’t simply amplify the emotional. Music is pushed to do far greater things than promote empathy.

“I do whatever feels true,” he told ABC’s Sarah Kanowski while visiting Brisbane to launch his exhibition Between Two Worlds. In Twin Peaks truth meant slick 50s-style lounge jazz, in Wild at Heart, rock and rockabilly, in The Straight Story folksy Americana and in Inland Empire dark industrial electro. For Eraserhead, where his feature-filmmaking journey began, Lynch and sound designer Alan Splet created a combination of mechanical hums and inhuman screams, a legendary soundtrack that took four years to complete. In one key scene the claustrophobic brutalistic score briefly gives way to a sliver of low-fi dream pop: 

In heaven, everything is fine…

In fact, it could be argued the entire dream pop genre started with this effulgent 90-second torch song. The Pixies opened virtually every show with it and acts from Jay Reatard to Modest Mouse and Bauhaus have covered or adapted it. Not only is In Heaven an early example of Lynch incorporating ‘live’ performance into his films, but it gives us our first glimpse at themes he consistently returned to: An angelic woman dressed in white signifying moral purity, a man (in this case, Jack Nance) entering a realm between life and death, and the now-familiar mix of the surreal, funny, menacing, mysterious and comforting. Written and sung by Peter Ivers and performed by ‘The Lady in the Radiator’ Laurel Near, In Heaven exists in Eraserhead in both dream and ‘reality’.

In dreams you’re mine / All the time / Forever. In dreams.

Lynch did the same thing nine years later in Blue Velvet, another film about a young man approaching sex with a combination of fear and fascination. In a central scene, vicious psychopath Frank Booth (played by Dennis Hopper) commands a dandyish Dean Stockwell to mime to Roy Orbison’s In Dreams before weeping. In Blue Velvet Lynch uses pop culture to evoke a time and place, in this case smooth 50s pop and shots of picket fences and mowed lawns, before literally moving beneath their surface. The lyrics from In Dreams are used by Booth in a seduction / intimidation scene in which Jeffrey Beaumont (played by Kyle MacLachlan) is smeared with blood, violently kissed and beaten. The brutal violence and aggressive sex scenes gain power from their juxtaposition by being set in an idyllic, Reagensque setting and using iconic songs. When interviewed about how some people may never hear In Dreams the same way again, Roy Orbison, in his last ever interview, told Nick Kent: 

Oh, I was shocked! I was mortified. But later, I really got to appreciate not only what David Lynch gave to the song, and what the song in turn gave to the film, but how innovative the movie was, how it really achieved this otherworldly quality that added a whole new dimension to "In Dreams". I find it hard to verbalise why, but Blue Velvet really succeeded in making my music contemporary again.

Music, in Lynch’s hands, becomes far more than simply a soundtrack. It drives narrative, it’s re-appropriated and charged with far more than the songwriter ever intended. Blue Velvet is especially unusual compared to other films of the mid-80s in that it features a huge amount of symbolism: Insects, birds, ears, orifices, colours and numbers are all invested with layers of meaning. As such, the viewer (and listener) is encouraged to place extra weight on Lynch’s choices of song and look for meaning in them. Further examination is always rewarded.

She’ll never go to Hollywood…

“Collaboration…has to marry to the picture, it has to marry to the whole thing, or it will kill it.” Lynch told Sarah Kanowski. “It’s better to have no music than music that doesn’t work.” Making the TV series Twin Peaks saw Lynch at his most collaborative, working with a large cast and crew and all the opportunities, and restrictions, of a major TV network. The series and ensuing film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me are Lynch’s second and third collaboration with composer Angelo Badalamenti and singer Julee Cruise. The scene in which Cruise sings Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart at the town’s bar The Roadhouse comes at a pivotal moment in the series. Laura Palmer’s killer is about to be revealed and several other story arcs are reaching their peak or resolution. At this point, with 20+ million American households on tenterhooks and viewers around the world holding their breath, Lynch slows everything down for a musical interlude.

Laura’s friend Donna sitting at a booth smiles and mouths the song’s lyrics to new boyfriend James Hurley. The town sheriff sips a beer, the Log Lady shells peanuts and we drift forward in time to another gossamer-light pop song, the glacially paced The World Spins. We then watch FBI Special Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, again playing an innocent moving into a liminal world) as the music shifts again, to a slow, haunting piece signifying The White Lodge, an extra-dimensional place he’s visited before in a dream. Cruise is replaced by The Giant, a messenger from The White Lodge, who cryptically tells Cooper that another murder is taking place. The stage on which Cruise is performing becomes a site for the transmission of messages to Cooper: Music makes the public, private. The overlapping of these worlds, and the splitting of self, is a recurring motif not only in Twin Peaks, but throughout Lynch’s career. Music is an essential part of creating a world in which this is not only credible but also familiar. The scene finishes with Cooper struggling to comprehend the message he’s received – reconciling his ‘selves’, and we transition, aided by the fading sounds of the theme from the White Lodge and the rising, ominous click of a record needle turning on the last groove of a record, to one the most protracted and violent murders ever portrayed on US television.

No I banda. There is no band…

Nowhere is music used more effectively to demonstrate this union or splitting of self than in Mulholland Drive. When asked to describe the music Lynch curates, chooses and writes, people are invariably lost for words. The terms ‘dreamlike’, ‘moody’, ‘atmospheric’, ‘scary’ and ‘weird’ are often used, and almost all of these terms appear on websites in which films are discussed when trying to explain or decode this film. Some give up, others agonise over the importance of fleeting symbols but all feel the intense atmosphere as Lynch languidly depicts primal urges and subconscious drives, toying with our traditional ways of interpreting films.

We can see the woman with blue hair sitting out of focus in a balcony above Rebekah del Rio as she sings Llorando, Roy Orbison’s Crying in Spanish. We recognize the importance of the woman’s hair being blue because of the blue box Naomi Watts’ character Betty is carrying and the blue key that has just appeared in Rita (Laura Harring)’s handbag. Seasoned Lynch watchers will recognise that on a deeper level Lynch has chosen this because it is somehow connected to the ‘Blue rose case’ of his previous film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and its soundtrack song Questions in a World of Blue, and of course earlier film Blue Velvet. But what does it actually mean? Menace? Calm? Lynch himself certainly isn’t going to answer (“The colours are part of the mystery. Blue is my favourite colour,” was as deep as he went when Laurent Bouzereau asked him for Cineaste). It is this sense of urgent importance without recognition that gives his scenes their power, and frustrates the viewer used to solving mysteries and defining purpose. Music is a perfect vehicle to draw in the viewer and allow them to accompany this deep emotional push without signifying anything specific.

‘We don’t know what the thought or idea is until it enters the conscious mind,’ he told Sarah Kanowski animatedly, and it is this state that Lynch works so well in - the ability to trigger something like a repressed memory or a dream but without consciously giving definition to it, and he always uses music to do it. Even in his very earliest short films The Alphabet and The Grandmother, acquiring knowledge leads to futile despair, a theme that returns again and again throughout his work as well-meaning people try to solve mysteries and wind up embattled in their own psyches. Those films, and Eraserhead, are as celebrated for their sound design and use of discordant non-natural soundtracks as they are for anything seen.

In depicting the subconscious on screen, Lynch has said he wants to give audiences the sensation of ‘floating’. He has also said that the best way he can do this is through sound. No film features as many floating point-of-view camera shots and sustained, lingering melodies as Mulholland Drive.

The film’s pivotal scene at Club Silencio, described above, highlights just how important this public/private real/dream dichotomy is. Before familiar red velvet curtains, Rebekah del Rio falls to the floor and Llandro keeps playing, the film cracks and perspectives and identities shift. With silence, the illusion that is the film world falls away.

“Silence is beautiful,” Lynch told Sarah Kanowski. “They say that this field within each one of us is infinite silence and infinite dynamism together. Just the word silence is very interesting to think about. It’s a beautiful, beautiful word.”


 Angelo Badalamenti’s long, languid sustained ‘cluster chords’ are hallmarks of Lynch films and here, in an earlier scene, as amnesiac Rita discovers the dead body of Diane Selwyn and realizes she is in mortal danger, one of Badalamenti’s chords stands in for her scream. Badalamenti has often spoken of the close bond between himself and Lynch. Whether he’s narrating the creation of Twin Peaks’ theme, causing Lynch to laugh so hard he required surgery for a hernia with his attempts to rap, or writing NME’s favourite film soundtrack of all time, their closeness is evident. It was clearly a big move for Lynch to step away from the man on whom he’d relied as a composer for 20 years when he decide not simply to pen lyrics for Badalamenti, but compose music himself, and sing it on his most recent film, 2006’s Inland Empire.

Lynch has always embraced new technologies, particularly those that grant him greater control over his art. He left film and TV altogether to focus on creating animations for and pledged never to use film stock again now that digital allowed so much creative control. An artist with nearly limitless tools at his disposal, Lynch focused on music and released two albums, Crazy Clown Time (2011) and The Big Dream (2013) both loaded with celebrity guests and recorded at his home studio.

“If I’m honest, I’m a non-musician and there are great musicians in the world, great players and singers. And what they’ve done is inspire me so much that I’m off with my lunchbox into the studio to try and have fun in the world they’ve inspired,” he said in the documentary Making the Big Dream. Inspiration is possibly the most profound gift Lynch has given from all of his art, and it is powerfully present in music today. Chillwave, dub step, witch house, dream pop - all of these atmosphere-driven genres and sub-genres venerate the work Lynch has done.

In one of the more notable examples, Lana Del Rey seemingly took a 2011 Guardian article referencing David Lynch's influence on her music as a challenge to cram as many Lynch references as possible into a two-minute version of Blue Velvet in a advertisement she made for H&M.

Lynch’s finest musical moment since launching his musical career is an iTunes bonus track I'm Waiting Here from his album The Big Dream. The track is a duet with Swedish songstress Lykke Li and showcases all his favourite musical tropes: reverbed guitars, ominous bass, sparse rhythm and a prominent breathy falsetto. It’s a reminder that, unlike many great musicians and filmmakers of the last 30 years, Lynch knows when to leave part of the job to someone else and, unusually for such a noted auteur, can play well with others.

Along with, tellingly, a remix, I’m Waiting Here is his most recent, and one of his strongest songs and when those factors coincide, it bodes well for whatever the future holds.


Monday, March 30, 2015

REVIEW: Fast and Furious 7

In yet another highly lucrative victory for multicultural Australia, RMIT’s own Chinese-Malay-Australian filmmaker James Wan takes the helm for the seventh outing of the Fast and Furious franchise. Wan graduated from the SAW series, via the ‘quiet-quiet-bang’ horror blockbusters Insidious and The Conjuring, to this highest of high profile releases. From the first frame it’s clear Wan is comfortable moving from his favoured ‘low budget / more creative control’ model, to working with quarter of a billion dollars and an already tightknit clique of actors and producers.

Brought even closer by the untimely death of lead actor Paul Walker, the team that makes Fast and Furious 7 both in front of and behind the camera are a shining example of diversity and successful collaboration. When Vin Diesel announced his daughter would be called Pauline in honour of Walker, it was no headline-grabbing stunt. These actors are close and the Fast and Furious series is no brain-dead ego-driven blockbuster, it just makes more money when it’s sold that way.

Lent unusual dramatic heft by Walker’s death, the storyline is a committee-driven series of ludicrous setups that permits even more ludicrous stunts (some performed by the rapper-turned actor Ludacris) to take place with a joyful ignorance of insurance premiums.

And it’s fun. Lots and lots of fun.

We’re talking driving a Lykan Hypersport out of the 45th floor of a skyscraper, INTO ANOTHER SKYSCRAPER sort of fun. It’s like the producers supplied near illegal levels of sugar and an endless supply of Matchbox cars to a group of seven-year olds and said ‘yes!’ to everything they came up with.

What storyline there is involves bad guy (Jason Statham) avenging the incapacitation of his brother (Luke Owens) in the previous film, and our heroes fighting for their gritty-yet-affluent lives. The plot also takes in a terrorist Jakande (a constantly agitated Djimon Hounsou) and a government official called Mr Nobody (a wry ‘just-here-for-the-paycheck’ Kurt Russell) vying to steal some powerful spyware. It’s all just as daft as it sounds, but somehow, amidst all the revving engines and breaking glass there is time to get to know characters’ quirks and engage with their dilemmas, which are usually solved by driving fast, firing guns or, in one memorable scene, flexing a muscle.

Amidst the flying cars, furrowed brows, convenient amnesia and hammy dialogue, possibly the most incredulous scene is one in which an American government official congratulates a rogue hacker on a job well done. Hey, it’s Hollywood!

While militarised drones, US covert ops and mass surveillance figure largely in the film’s mechanics, screenwriter Chris Morgan never aims higher than providing a skeleton for spectacular entertainment, and why should he? Other less-seen and more acclaimed films can ask the questions. Diesel and co have worked hard to make this franchise not only hilarious fun, but also a showcase for a new definition of friends-as-family. Virtually all non-explanatory dialogue is about the value of domestic relations, most notably an extended postscript focusing on Walker and Diesel’s friendship. Even those who haven’t seen previous instalments won’t have trouble in seeing how vital Walker is to the series and how important he is to the others. And if you haven’t it’s striking how involved you can become with the predicaments of characters barely sketched. Even (Game of Thrones’) Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey, who is rarely in a non-life-threatening scene and never formally introduced to anyone, stops to appreciate the affecting moment of Paul Walker fooling around with his son and hugging his wife on a beach as the sun sets.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Calling the Oscars 22/02/2015

After the nominations were announced on January 15th, and the annual accusations of sexism, racism, xenophobia the field actually looks, well, pretty good. Well, a nerdy white guy (Wes Anderson) is doing surprisingly well, and everyone black will have to settle for being acknowledged with Best Original Song, but that aside, the batch of films being considered is actually very strong. Despite some snubs they’ve won a lot of love away from the incestuous pit of opulence that we think of as Hollywood. The dynamics certainly suggest that this is the toughest field to pick with professional Oscar pundits (yes, some people make a living just following the Oscars every year) splitting their predictions in more categories than usual.

American Sniper has earned more than every other film put together and continues to divide audiences. Boyhood (aka '12 Years a White Guy') is inarguably a wonderful piece of filmmaking and a film unlike any other and Birdman has style to burn.

One thing you can guarantee will attract complaints however is Neil Patrick Harris. Despite being dashing and talented, he could give out money and cars and there'll still be tweets about how much better Amy Poheler and Tina Fey were hosting the Golden Globes.

Best Picture
Only going with eight contenders from a possible ten, this is essentially a tight two-horse race between “Boyhood” and “Birdman”. Both have done well in the awards rounds (as has “The Theory of Everything”). Most critics favour “Boyhood”, but it’s far from a lock in. There hasn’t been this much uncertainty around a Best Picture race in years.

"American Sniper" (Clint Eastwood)
"Boyhood" (Richard Linklater)
"Birdman" (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Wes Anderson)
"The Imitation Game" (Morten Tyldum)
"Selma" (Ava DuVernay)
"The Theory of Everything" (James Marsh)
"Whiplash" (Damien Chazelle)

Will Win: "Boyhood"
Could Win: "Birdman"
Should Be Here: "Nightcrawler" and "Gone Girl"

Best Director
Until recent years, Director fell with Editor and Picture winners, but not any more. So much love has fallen Birdman’s way the Academy is likely to reward it somewhere, and Iñárritu has a lot of love in the (big) actor’s guild. Linklater’s achievement is remarkable though, and a very tough call. I’m arguing that “Birdman”’s marvels are technically obvious and it’s the sort of thing that’s hard to deny, despite whether these tricks and marvels actually serve the story or not. In a close race I see the Director / Picture split to reward each of the favourites, and as amazing as Linklater’s achievement is, it doesn’t stun in the way “Birdman” does.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Birdman"
Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"
Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Morten Tydlum, "The Imitation Game"

Will Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu "Birdman"
Could Win: Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
Should Be Here: Ava DuVernay, "Selma"

Best Actor
While it’s not Keaton’s “time” in the way it was Jeff Bridges’ a few years ago, the preceding festivals have honoured him as if it’s his wake. An award seem a fitting end to this season. He’s in a very close race with Eddie Redmayne who has been getting huge raves, won the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA award (which historically predicts that the Oscar is his) and many prognosticators have him down as the likely winner, but I see his youth is a disadvantage here. It’s a tough one to choose, and it’s grown tougher over the last few weeks as people point to his farcically bizarre turn in the expensive and ambitious sci-fi flop “Jupiter Ascending” as counting against him. He’s played the award circuit beautifully (he even had time to get married) so it certainly seems like a fairytale time for him. Sometimes two favourites can split votes, which some are predicting is happening here, and Bradley Cooper is also emerging as a serious contender, so this is a real nailbiter.

Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
Could Win: Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Should Be Here: Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler"

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, on the other hand, is someone whose “time” it most definitely is. She’s a lock in for Best Actress for a challenging role that no one has a bad thing to say about. Felicity Jones put in an extraordinary performance that has been feted everywhere too, but Oscar loves acknowledging a career as much as a role.

Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"
Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"
Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"

Will Win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Could Win: Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Should Be Here: Scarlett Johansson, "Under The Skin"

Best Supporting Actor
It would be very surprising for anyone other than JK Simmons to take this one. He’s won everything going since last year’s Sundance Festival in the lead up to Oscar night and this one is his.

Robert Duvall, "The Judge"
Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"
Edward Norton, "Birdman"
Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"
J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Will Win: J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"
Could Win: Edward Norton, "Birdman"
Should Be Here: Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”

Best Supporting Actress 
One of the night’s surest bets, Arquette has been a frontrunner in this category for at least six months. Her nearest competition, a fiery and bug-eyed Emma Stone, could surprise as Christoph Waltz did for “Inglorious Basterds” in 2009, but she’s a long shot and she’ll have further chances. If they use the clip from “Boyhood” where Arquette is sending her son off to college, she’s a lock in.

Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Laura Dern, "Wild"
Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"
Emma Stone, "Birdman"
Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

Will Win: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Could Win: Emma Stone, "Birdman"
Should Be Here: Jessica Chastain, "A Most Violent Year"

Best Editing
Editing down 12 years of footage seems like the sort of achievement that sticks in the mind and it’s arguable it could be rewarded here. However, the last-minute love for "American Sniper" with its tension-building cuts and fine action scenes is likely to find some love below the line, and I think here (and in the sound categories) are its best chance. “Whiplash” could easily slip in – the last ten minutes of that film are also a masterclass in building tension, but most of the love for that film come form the under-4o contingent in the Academy, and they haven't quite got the numbers.

"American Sniper"
"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
"The Imitation Game"

Will Win: "American Sniper"
Could Win: "Whiplash"
Should Be Here: "Citizenfour"

Best Original Screenplay
Another very close race, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is seen as the favourite, and a major category win for Wes Anderson would be well-deserved for a film that no one dislikes. A win for “Birdman” wouldn’t be a surprise and it could easily trump its main competitor and "The Grand Budapest Hotel".

"Birdman," Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo
"Boyhood," Richard Linklater
"Foxcatcher," E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
"Nightcrawler," Dan Gilroy

Will Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Could Win: "Birdman"
Should Be Here: "Selma"

Best Adapted Screenplay
The best chance for a win for “The Imitation Game” lies here, and it would be harsh for the film to go home with nothing. “Inherent Vice” is just too oddball to get enough votes, and though “Whiplash” is beloved, it will likely be seen as ‘too indie’ by enough of the Academy who all will have been exposed to Harvey Weinstein’s ‘a vote for the Imitation Game is a vote for Alan Turing’ campaign.

"American Sniper," Jason Hall
"The Imitation Game," Graham Moore
"Inherent Vice," Paul Thomas Anderson
"The Theory of Everything," Anthony McCarten
"Whiplash," Damien Chazelle

Will Win: "The Imitation Game"
Could Win: "Whiplash"
Should Be Here: "Gone Girl"

Best Cinematography
A stunning tour de force of artistry and orchestration, Lubezki was once the eternal nominee until last year’s win with “Gravity” and he’s a near lock-in to take home this year’s too. Few in the industry would begrudge him this despite the field. Deakins is well overdue for his, but he’ll likely have to wait, probably for 2017’s Oscars where he will likely be nominated for the Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!”

"Birdman," Emmanuel Lubezki
"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Robert Yeoman
"Ida," Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
"Mr. Turner," Dick Pope
"Unbroken," Roger Deakins

Will Win: "Birdman"
Could Win: "Unbroken" or "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Should Be Here: "Under The Skin"

Makeup and Hairstyling
In a gesture that will seem to say ‘look, we don’t just reward famous people who look like someone else’ "The Grand Budapest Hotel" will likely beat Foxcatcher here. By a nose.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
“Guardians of the Galaxy”

Will Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Could Win: "Foxcatcher"
Should Be Here: "Into the Woods"

Best Costume Design
The Academy, and, in fact most of us, love a strong Costume contender that you can sum up in a eye-catching frame, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is full of eye-catching frames. It will likely win big and win here.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Milena Canonero
"Inherent Vice," Mark Bridges
"Into the Woods," Colleen Atwood
"Maleficent," Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
"Mr. Turner," Jacqueline Durran

Will Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Could Win: "Into the Woods"
Should Be Here: "A Most Violent Year"

Best Production Design
It’s hard to miss the work that went into "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and you can expect it to be deservedly rewarded here.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
"The Imitation Game"
"Into the Woods"
"Mr. Turner"

Will Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Could Win: "Mr. Turner"
Should Be Here: "Selma"

Best Original Score
Good lord Alexandre Desplat, give someone else a turn. His seventh and eighth nominations come this year, and it could be the year he finally wins. Those both his scores are strong, people seem to remember “The Theory of Everything”’s score more easily. Jóhannsson has already won the Golden Globe, and I’m picking him. Expect to see RMIT graduate Ben Frost here in the next few years.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," Alexandre Desplat
"The Imitation Game," Alexandre Desplat
"Interstellar," Hans Zimmer
"Mr. Turner," Gary Yershon
"The Theory of Everything," Jóhann Jóhannsson

Will Win: "The Theory of Everything"
Could Win: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Should Be Here: "Under The Skin"

Best Original Song
This is likely to be the ‘moment’ we can acknowledge the staggering injustices perpetrated on African Americans by old white American men, and the infinitely more trivial injustices perpetrated by old white men of the Academy. Overlooking Ava DuVernay for Best Director and David Oyolowo for Best Actor for their brilliant turns in the story of Martin Luther King and the march from Selma to Montgomery to demand voting rights will have to make do with a nod to a song by John Legend an Common. The song is fine, and it does contain an overt reference to Ferguson riots early on which will jar beautifully when they perform it, but I’m sure a bunch of people will be disappointed “Everything is Awesome” won’t take it.

"Everything Is Awesome" from "The Lego Movie"; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
"Glory" from "Selma"; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
"Grateful" from "Beyond the Lights"; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
"I’m Not Gonna Miss You" from "Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me"; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
"Lost Stars" from "Begin Again"; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Will Win: "Glory"
Could Win: "Everything Is Awesome"
Should Be Here: "Spooks" from Inherent Vice

Best Sound Editing
The push to acknowledge “American Sniper” will likely find love here, though “Birdman” is likely to be the (’it won more though it didn’t win the most coveted categories’) in its race against “Boyhood” and this is a category where it’s likely to pick up a nod.

“American Sniper”

Will Win: "American Sniper"
Could Win: "Birdman"
Should Be Here: "Under the Skin”

Best Sound Mixing
Never an easy category to predict, the divisive “American Sniper” could pick this up, as there is a long history of war movies being rewarded here, though “Birdman” made a strong case for winning this with its overt layering of sound.

“American Sniper”

Will Win: "American Sniper"
Could Win: "Birdman"
Should Be Here: "Fury”

Best Visual Effects
At last, a list of films that actually got shown in cinemas. Tough to predict the Academy hivemind here.  “Interstellar” for all its vaulting ambition may be rewarded here, though they do love throwing a bone to blockbusters here and “Apes” or “Guardians” could easily nab it. One of the few Australians in this years field turns up as part of the team nominated for “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, go Adelaide’s Tim Crosbie!

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Will Win: "Interstellar"
Could Win: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
Should Be Here: "The LEGO Movie”

Best Foreign Film
Best Foreign Film, for its idiosyncratic selection procedure, accusations of bias and snubs so egregious that the award has become almost irrelevant to the prospects of the winner, has turned out a batch of very watchable films this year. “Ida”, with its surprise nomination in Cinematography, is the favourite, though a strong campaign for Argentina’s “Wild Tales” could see this sneak in for the upset.

"Ida" (Poland)
"Leviathan" (Russia)
"Tangerines" (Georgia)
"Timbuktu" (Mali)
"Wild Tales" (Argentina)

Will Win: "Ida"
Could Win: "Wild Tales"
Should Be Here: "Force Majeure"

Best Animated Film
Cries of ‘OMG, where is ”The LEGO Movie”?’ are still finding their way into throats of people across America as office parties assemble to fill out their Oscars pools, and it is one of the most notable surprises in the field. “Big Hero 6” has been adored by almost everyone who’s seen it (with a lot of adults admitting to tearing up), but “How To Train Your Dragon 2”, a step up on the massively successful and beloved original, is the favourite. Personally, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a stunning hand-drawn tale, is a film to watch if you haven’t already.

"Big Hero 6"
"The Boxtrolls"
"How to Train Your Dragon 2"
"Song of the Sea"
"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"

Will Win: "How to Train Your Dragon 2"
Could Win: "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"
Should Be Here: "The LEGO Movie" 

Best Documentary Feature
As I wrote elsewhere, “Citizenfour” is one of the more exciting documentary films to have been released in the last few years. It’s beautifully assembled and compellingly told, and doesn’t come with an agenda to push. It’s also the most hyped, the most awarded and most seen of the batch and is a virtual lock in for the win.

"Finding Vivian Maier"
"Last Days in Vietnam"
"The Salt of the Earth"

Will Win: "Citizenfour"
Could Win: "Virunga"
Should Be Here: "The Case Against 8"

Short Film – Animated
“Feast” benefits from having played before ‘Big Hero 6’ so is the likely winner here, though all of these are worthy, if heavy on the cute side.

“The Bigger Picture”
“The Damn Keeper”
“Me and My Moulton”
“A Single Life”

Short Film – Documentary
Having not seen all of these, the film about old white men, “Crisis Hotline”, seems like the safest bet for a group of voters whose demographics are so well known. Having said that, the short film categories are voted on by a much smaller group of people, those who watch all nominees, so we’re talking about a group of old white men with time on their hands, which makes “Crisis Hotline” seem an ever safer bet.

“Crisis Hotline” Veterans Press 1”
“Our Curse”
“The Reaper (La Parka)”
“White Earth”

Short Film – Live Action
“Boogaloo and Graham” is the safest pick here from a very diverse group, though “Aya” is the most cinematic.

“Boogaloo and Graham”
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)”
“The Phone Call”