Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Soloist

Well, count me in with the rest of the filmies who are saying The Soloist is so much better than you think it is. Yeah, it’s a tortured musical genius movie, but it’s also way more stylistically ambitious than it needed to be. I mean, the sound editing on this thing, you guys—I saw the movie at the Davis, which I love having accessible within walking distance from my apartment, but now I wish that I’d seen it down at the River East or somewhere with better acoustics. Their use of voice over and the rest of the stuff on the soundtrack is really a fairly brilliant way to deal with the inherently uncinematic nature of both movies about writing and movies about music. It swings for the fences in a lot of places, and misses, sure (I reeeeally could have done without that final shot of all the mentally ill people dancing at the end, and the ranging, impressionistic shots of LA’s homeless communities with Jamie Foxx reciting the Lord’s Prayer in voice over was a bit much as well), but it also gets a hell of a lot right. The 2001-esque (yeah, that 2001) sequence of dancing lights when the two lead characters go to a symphony rehearsal was so unexpected and so nice, and the shots of those two birds flying over LA while the cello music swells on the soundtrack was so overwrought that it curved the circle all the way back around to incredibly moving. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx’s performances are likely to win all kinds of plaudits this year, so, whatever, I don’t need to pile on here, but I absolutely adored the moment when Downey Jr. is hanging around at the community center interviewing that old lady, and he throws his head back with this narcissistic glee and laughs, “you’re so awesome!” It was such a wonderfully honest moment of writerly enthusiasm—he was totally not in the moment with this other human being but was already busy mentally constructing a probably condescending anecdote about her. I’ve totally been that kind of asshole, and it was both bracing and weirdly comforting to see on screen. Don’t let the sappy trailer fool you on this one, y’all. It’s worth a look.

Whereas last year I was busy boo-hooing into that Bon Iver album for months on end because it was all gentle and full of pain, and stomping around the neighborhood listening to the Dodos strum their acoustic guitars and bang their drums, this year all I want to listen to so far is the spazziest, most annoying music I can find. I mean, the Neko Case album is gorgeous and all, and I know I’m going to really like it a lot more when I’m in a better headspace for it, but I just can’t pay attention to it right now because I’m busy jonesing for anything that’s full of harsh, electronic sounds and beats that are so aggressively irritating that they’re like ohrwurms on Viagra. There’s Animal Collective, of course (“My Girls” is a given, but OMG, you guys, “Brother Sport” has been killing me lately: “OH-pen up your OH-pen up your OH-pen up your throat a luh-tel”). Per Dono’s recommendation, I’ve given a few listens to Dan Deacon’s Bromst (still letting it grow on me, but I dig what it’s doing). Like everybody and their Tumblr crush, the Micachu and the Shapes album is making me ridiculously happy (right now I have five tracks starred in the smart playlist I call “songs to watch out for”—and there could be five more by the end of the week the rate things are going). And the granddaddy of ’em all: Max Tundra’s Parallax Error Beheads You. The explosive brilliance of that album makes my teeth chatter. There’s so much going on in it, and it seems so overwhelming (ahem), but then once you start to learn it, you realize that he’s in complete control of every vintage keyboard blip and drum machine stutter. Plus he’s funny as all hell, dopily insecure, and laser-focused on pointing out really subtle instances of a certain kind of hipster bullshit (fashion, wanky film students who’ve read a bit too much theory). It's an astonishing achievement, and I'm sooo glad I didn't let it slip by just because it kind of flew under my radar upon its release at the end of last year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi-- I just had to comment on your observation here in your review of The Soloist, about the use of the word "awesome" in an already-creating-an-anecdote way. This is the subject of a column in our upcoming magazine.
--the magazine is called ARTOCRATIC ( and the column is "That's AWEsome!!!"--
We spend our time delineating the potential for compassion that the current-day use of the phrase engenders, but you rightly point out that it can be used to dismiss people in a not-so-kind fashion. I wonder if it's more the older generation (X and older) who are still looking for ways to be 'cooler' or 'hipper' that are more guilty of that not-so-kind usage. The younger gen's usages, that I've been privy to hearing, seem to be in service of spreading the love or at least giving a neutral "movie-reality" tone to their own lives (arguably oppressive, in itself, true).
But anyway, you are the first other person I've read to reference the important meta-statement that the word AWESOME makes these days, so I had to share.
Take a look at our mag-in-progress and get in touch if you'd like to contribute something for publication. I enjoy your blog.