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Archive | January, 2016

Movie Breakdown: 45 Years

January 29, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

45 Years looks like one of those films that just rips you apart and then leaves you in a dark corner somewhere, all disassembled and feeling like maybe you don’t really know anything about anything.  Sign me up!  Also, go ahead and pour me a glass of whiskey.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Just as I suspected it might be, 45 Years is a fantastic but tough film.  Geoff (played very earnestly by Tom Courtenay) is all set to celebrate 45 years of marriage with Kate (played passionately and brilliantly by Charlotte Rampling), but a few days before the momentous occasion is set to occur he receives a letter notifying him that the body of his first love has been found (she fell down a crevasse while they were hiking).  This causes an immediate shift in the couple’s relationship, and the rest of the film follows Kate as she battles her husband’s rekindled infatuation with a woman long gone.

45 Years is only about 90 minutes long, but even with its swift runtime director Andrew Haigh delivers a lot via Kate’s unraveling.  Don’t expect any big dramatic moments set to sweeping music or anything like that though.  No, Haigh quietly and patiently unfolds the film in a way where Rampling is allowed to show you everything via her face (her eyes are something else) and little reactions to things (there’s a great moment where a certain lyric causes her to quickly turn the radio off).  So, every time she finds something out or becomes more aware of her situation, you see it on her face and in her body language before a single word is spoken.  It truly is masterful work by Rampling.  Props to Haigh for providing the right sort of space in the film for her performance to exist.

If you want to take a punch to the stomach and/or you just like great movies, then go see 45 Years.

One Last Thought:

I never watch movies with headphones on, but I strapped on a pair for 45 Years and really enjoyed the experience.  Admittedly, I don’t know if I loved it because the film was mixed really well or if it was just nice to blot out the world, but either way I think I’m going to start wearing headphones as often as possible when watching movies at home.  You can hear everything!

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Sheer Agony (Noah)

January 29, 2016

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Let me be honest here: I’ve been hip-dip in mixtape after glorious mixtape of old, weird, obscure music and I’ve barely taken the time to poke my head out of my cubbyhole to acknowledge that contemporary music is still hurtling along. That said, I took a moment away from the world of mixtape podcasts I’ve newly discovered, to dig around and see what I might be missing. Enter Sheer Agony. You can categorize things as Nerd Rock now, like it’s an actual genre that someone came up with that is applied to music (what a world huh?), and though I try to avoid just dropping made-up genres on music, Sheer Agony does have that bookish twinge of what I imagine Nerd Rock would be. It feels like the end of thrashy, leather-clad punk rock in the early 80s, when the Talking Heads were showing people that subversive music didn’t have to be all sweat and punching. It has that twang of a guitar string broke on purpose but pushed into this tight, almost mathematical little parade of off-kilter music that you’d find yourself somehow shaking your hips to. It’s not just that either though, somehow, in two minutes mind you, they squish in a raging guitar solo, a burst of like 80s white-guy soul, and then a step back into that nerd-rock-dance-party we all got our hands stamped for. Nice way to kick off the year.

:Sheer Agony – I Have A Dream:

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Mirror Travel

January 28, 2016

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Mirror Travel have been a favorite of mine since I moved to Austin in 2007.  Though, way back then they were called Follow That Bird, they played scuzzy garage rock, and whenever I saw its members out and about they had big X’s on their hands.  Now they’re all grown up and cranking out undeniably good psych rock tunes (example: their swirling new single down below), and I just couldn’t be more proud.  High fives all around to them.  And you, because why not.  Enjoy.

:Mirror Travel – Yesca:

Cruise Deal is due out March 11 via Modern Outsider.

Bonus Video:

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Movie Breakdown: Kung Fu Panda 3

January 28, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Personally, I think the first two Kung Fu Panda films are pretty good.  While they’re both fairly silly, they pack a positive message and feature great visuals.  I have moderately high hopes for the third entry.

Post-Screening Ramble:

On the outside, Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t all that different than the first two entries in the series.  Po (voiced by Jack Black) thinks he has his whole life figured out, but a particularly tough challenge comes along and forces him to push himself so that he can be who he needs to be to save the world.  Also, the film – just like its predecessors – features some really great looking action scenes, a nice message (believe in yourself, you can do anything) and a slew of goofy jokes.  It is, without a doubt, what it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately though, even if you just lightly poke at the film’s shiny exterior, you’ll open a hole big enough to see inside to its hollow core.  While watching it I felt like it had been completely auto-created via some weird Kung Fu Panda formula, and then the computer running the numbers proceeded to generate a full film and prep it for distribution.  There’s not much heart or originality on display, just a lot of celebrity voices and various things that co-directors (I’m assuming they’re not computers) Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni lifted from the other two films.  Sure, Kung Fu Panda 3 is an overall harmless, mostly enjoyable movie, but it’s legit lacking anything that’s memorable.  If you ask me, that’s disappointing.

You won’t hate yourself for dropping your hard-earned dollars on Kung Fu Panda 3, but you might later wonder what the point was when you can’t remember anything about it.

One Last Thought:

It’s pretty clear that Dreamworks will be churning out Kung Fu Panda films long after we’re all dead and gone.

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Movie Breakdown: The Finest Hours

January 28, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

All I know about The Finest Hours is that there’s a part in the trailer where Chris Pine yells “NOT ON MY WATCH!” and it makes me laugh out loud every single time I see it.  I sincerely hope the line carries the same level of comedic impact in the actual movie.

Post-Screening Ramble:

The Finest Hours is not a good film.  It’s based on a neat true story – back in 1952 a small Coast Guard team embarked on a suicide mission to rescue sailors stranded on a busted oil tanker – but “based on” is about all there is to it.  There’s an unnecessary love component and you get to briefly see what the SS Pendleton’s crew went through while waiting to be saved, but mostly it’s just Chris Pine driving a boat over and under waves and lots of people endlessly talking about how they don’t expect the Coast-Guard-crew-that-could to live, much less save even a single sailor.  Then guess what happens?  You know what happens, and therein lies the main problem with The Finest Hours – it’s too much of a bore to allows its obvious ending to be something great.  What a shame.

Aside from a lackluster presentation of its “incredible” true story, the film also features some bizarre performances.  Chris Pine plays his guy, Bernie, as a light version of Forrest Gump, and I’m still not sure if he was supposed to be kind of special or just shy.  I believe Casey Affleck may have been going for a poor man’s “rebel without a cause” kind of thing for his character, Ray, but who knows.  There’s also a chunky Ben Foster who mostly grins and makes weird eyes at people.  The worse though is Eric Bana, who has some kind of half Texas, half Boston accent that’s one of the worst things of all-time.  Oof.

Skip The Finest Hours.  Duh.

One Last Thought:

My screening of The Finest Hours was in 3D, but I don’t actually remember seeing anything that was 3D.  Am I just used to the effect now?  Or was the film not actually in 3D?  I’ll never know, I suppose.

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Show Of The Week

January 27, 2016

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Even though this is kind of a low key week for shows in Austin (SXSW is clearly looming), there’s still a lot that you could get out and see.  As always, if you’re going to pick just one show to attend, go with my top choice, which is Roses, Shivery Shakes, Rose Selavy and Typical Girls at Barracuda tomorrow night.  That’s four quality indie pop bands for … well, I don’t know how much because I can’t find it listed anywhere.  Regardless, I’m sure it won’t be expensive, and like I said, all four bands are good.  Be there.

BONUS Show Recommendations:

Thursday:
- Tuxedo (DJ set), Blue The Misfit, The Digital Wild at the Parish

Friday:
- Cross Record at End of an Ear
- Rain Collectors, Reservations, Tremble Out, Tapes at Cheer Up Charlie’s
- The Villas (record release), Wildcat Apollo, Loafers at the Mohawk
- Sailor Poon, Dan Doyle Solo Loop Set, Loteria, Basketball Shorts at Hotel Vegas
- DJ Hey Chris Page, Kay Oddysey, Que Pasa, Tres Oui at The Blackheart

Saturday:
- A Giant Dog, The Ripe, Street Dads at ABGB
- The Black and White Years, Shark Rider at Lamberts
- Vanessa Carlton, Skye Steele at the Parish
- Grace Potter And Her Band at ACL Live

Sunday:
- Harvest Thieves at Waterloo Records

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Quickdraw: Wussy, Best Friends, DIIV, Blue Healer, Polica

January 26, 2016

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Music!  Enjoy.

:Wussy – Dropping Houses:  In a recent interview with Spin, Wussy’s Lisa Walker referred to this track in part as a “singable wall of noise.”  I second that.  Forever Sounds is due out March 4 via Shake It.

:Best Friends – Wash Me Out:  I wasn’t familiar with Best Friends (phrasing?) until this fuzzy, lo-fi indie rock track arrived in my inbox last week, but now I’m all about them.  The band just released an album, Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane., via FatCat.  This particular song isn’t actually on the LP, but I’m still anxious to dive into it.

:DIIV – Is The Is Are:  The more I hear off of DIIV’s upcoming album, the more I get excited about it.  This track has a driving arrangement that I really like.  Is The Is Are is due out February 5 via Captured Tracks.

:Blue Healer – Luminescent Eyes:  Here’s a slick new pop tune from Blue Healer, an Austin-based act that I’ve grown fond of over the last six months or so.  Expect it to get lodged in your head.  The band will release their debut album later this year.

:Polica – Wedding:  I’ve never really thought of Polica as dark or edgy, but that’s pretty much their approach here both sound-wise and lyrically (the song is about the “symbiotic relationship between the militarization of police in America and the drug trade”).  It works for them.  United Crushers is due out March 4 via Mom + Pop.

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The Range

January 25, 2016

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My original plan was to post a Quickdraw today, but I scrapped that once I realized just how much I dig The Range’s new single, Florida.  So, here we are.  The song, which is the first to be released off of his upcoming album Potential, is wonderfully textured and features some choice bits from Ariana Grande’s You’ll Never Know.  Put on headphones!  Enjoy.

:The Range – Florida:

Potential is due out March 25 via Domino.

Bonus Video:

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Beats & Eats (James)

January 22, 2016

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Beats & Eats is a mixtape and a meal. A collection of tunes (sometimes there’s a theme, sometimes it’s just whatever I’m into this month) and a recipe to cook (bake, mix, whatever) while you listen to the songs. Enjoy!

Nothing says winter like making soups at home, while listening to your latest favorite mixtape, and sipping on strong whiskey — right now it’s a glass of Barrel Select George Dickel, gifted to me by the staff at The Blackheart in Austin.

Beats & Eats: Volume 1 is 90 mins of some of my favorite 2015 releases to listen to while you make the baked potato soup recipe below, borrowed from the outstanding cooking blog Smitten Kitchen. This soup is damn near perfection. Perfect for these negative temps I’m experiencing in Minnesota. Familiarize yourself with the recipe, queue up the mixtape, and get ready for the best damn potato soup of your life.

Smitten Kitchen Baked Potato Soup (serves 6)

Ingredients:
- 1 head garlic
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and chopped small
- 5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used 5 cups; add the extra cup after pureeing if you’d like a thinner soup)
- 2 bay leaves
- Table salt
- 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- Ground black pepper
- Toppings, optional:
- Minced fresh chives or scallions
- Bacon bits
- Sour cream
- Grated cheddar
- A drizzle of melted (or melted and browned) butter

Instructions:
- Rinse the head of garlic to remove any outside grit or dirt. Cut the top third off the head and peel any loose papery skins off the bottom two-thirds. Pop out a bunch (or all) of the garlic clove tips and mince them.

- In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook them until soft (but not brown), about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute. Add the larger part of the garlic head (whole, not chopped), broth, bay leaves and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer until garlic is very tender when pierced with tip of knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Add potatoes and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

- Discard bay leaves. Remove garlic heads. Optional: If you’d like an extra garlic boost to the soup, using tongs or paper towels, squeeze garlic head at root end until cloves slip out of their skins. Using a fork, mash the garlic cloves to smooth paste and add it back to the soup.

- Add sour cream to soup and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Using immersion blender, process soup until chunky-creamy, leaving lots of potato texture intact. (Alternatively, transfer a portion of the potatoes and broth to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.) Serve with whatever makes you happy on top, or nothing at all.

Beats & Eats Vol. 1 Mixtape

Bones and Beeker open things up. Tap your feet while you peel potatoes and chop leeks. This is the bulk of the prep work you’ll do today. The rest is hurry up and wait.

Smitten Kitchen’s recipe gives you the option of peeling or not peeling your potatoes. I say “sort of” peel them — because peeling potatoes really sucks and is that really what you want to spend your afternoon doing?

2015 Mercury Prize finalists ESKA, C. Duncan, SOAK, and winner Benjamin Clementine, all make an appearance on January’s mix. Son Little’s The River wins 2015’s “Most Under-Appreciated Award” in my book. Justin Vernon-produced The Staves drop in twice. So does Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment (second place in the James Taylor’s “Most Under-Appreciated of 2015″ category).

By track 13 or 14 you should be thinking to yourself “Heck yeah, I’m making this killer soup! It’s gonna be so good,” and you’ll be listening to Bully’s I Remember and it’ll be good. Titus Andronicus quietly (it seems to me) dropped a 29-song concept album earlier this year. It’s a handful to dig through but Fatal Flaw is a Westerbergian gem.

Harvest Thieves and Keeper hold it down for Austin TX. Diet Cig (Harvard) and Pesky (Keep Me) are charming and delightful. Beach House somehow managed to release two albums in 2015, All Your Yeahs being one of several rad tracks spread across these two releases. Beyonce and Run the Jewels collaborator BOOTS drops Bombs Away. I included Blackstar on this mix before we lost David Bowie — what a fucking bummer 2016 has been for rock n roll. RIP.

Once everything is cooked through, transfer half your soup to a blender and puree, then return the blended soup to the chunkier half and mix it all up. You should have a delicious baked potato soup sitting in front of you, full of texture and flavor.  The key to this soup is everything that goes on top of the soup — the baked potato in all it’s glory — bacon, chives, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese.

Chance the Rapper and his band Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment close out this month’s mixtape. Chance’s star is burning bright right now and the decision to put out an adventurous album with his backing band getting top billing deserves respect. Try not to get Jamila Wood’s Sunday Candy chorus stuck in your head while you eat this delicious Baked Potato Soup.

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Raised Eyebrows: 2015 Hangover (Randy)

January 22, 2016

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I’m reluctant to leave 2015 behind. Admittedly, there’s plenty of junk that happened that I’m ready to forget about, but I am realizing there’s a good chunk of records that either I failed to give a fair shake to or missed entirely in the past year.

The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire) (buy)

Pioneers of the “Dunedin Sound” in the early 80’s return with their first full length in almost 20 years! The results are impeccable and wildly contemporary for a band out of the spotlight for so long. I Can’t Help You is the album’s best song but don’t overlook Molten Gold or the title track.

Chuck Johnson – Blood Moon Boulder (Scissor Tail Editions) (buy)

2013’s Crows In The Basilica was a big record for me. Songs like Ransom Street Blues helped me turn on to more traditional forms of music. Blood Moon Boulder takes Johnson into deeper zones perfect for a drive down US Route 67 toward Marfa.

The Weather Station – Loyalty (PoB) (buy)

Tamara Lindeman wrote the best song of 2015 with Way It Is, Way It Could Be. Her lyrics and voice paint an incredible picture that is completely singular and original. The snakey guitar and rhythms add to the stealth beauty of the song. Stunning.

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness (buy)

This record is one of the most interesting pop releases in a while. Silhouette is extraordinary. Side Note: Very similar artwork to Apple artist Mary Hopkin.

Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge) (buy)

I hated this record when it came out. I still think it doesn’t reach the heights of what the band is fully capable of, with one exception, Shoulders. Julia McFarlane has written a present-day jangle pop stunner full of waver and grace.

Woolen Men – Rain Shapes (Loglady) (buy)

I always looped Woolen Men in with the whole garage rock trend happening seemingly everywhere. Another band of lost bros rebelling against nothing or possibly boredom. I was wrong. Rain Shapes contains four songs that will soon be considered classic. It’s one of the tightest and consistent releases I’ve heard from any band anywhere.

Salad Boys – Metalmania (Trouble In Mind) (buy)

I’ve been a fan ever since I heard I’m A Mountain from their self released cassette back in 2013. What is fascinating is, I’m not sure if the band is aware of the past sounds that they so wonderfully suggest or not. One thing is for sure, Metalmania rips.

Phil Cook – Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers) (buy)

I learned of this record through Hiss Golden Messenger. Cook is a member of the band and on his off time has made a wonderful record. For those of us that see music as church, this is the record you put on on Sundays.

Barna Howard – Quite a Feelin’ (Mama Bird Recording Co.) (buy)

Howard’s 2012 self titled album may be one of the best singer-songwriter albums of the new millennium. His sophomore album finds him among friends and feelin’ mellow. The title track is a road song that sits well next to Willis Alan Ramsey’s Satin Sheets. That’s a big deal in my world.

Tinariwen – Live In Paris (ANTI) (buy)

This band is sheer joy. Their desert blues/sand rock/ is trance inducing. I’m still hoping to see them live one day. This will have to do until then.

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The Coathangers

January 21, 2016

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It’s 2016, and that means The Coathangers have now been around for a decade.  Holy cow!  If I were them, I’d totally spend the year napping and watching TV.  They’re not me though (thankfully), so instead they’re going to put out their fifth full length, Nosebleed Weekend, and (I assume) tour a lot.  Good on them.  Their catchy and seemingly-titled-to-fit-my-life-right-now single awaits you below.  Enjoy.

:The Coathangers – Make It Right:

Nosebleed Weekend is due out April 15 via Suicide Squeeze.

Bonus Video:

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Show Of The Week

January 20, 2016

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This Saturday you should head to ABGB for Modern Outsider’s Five Year Anniversary Spectacular!  The show is FREE and has a bill that consists of three great Austin acts – Moving Panoramas (total up and comers), The Calm Blue Sea (a motley group of post-rockers who rarely play anymore) and Dana Falconberry (she’s always fantastic).  Plus, you’ll have a chance to thank and/or laugh at Chip and Erin – the main brains behind Modern Outsider – for daring to run a record label.  Don’t miss out!

BONUS Show Recommendations:

Tonight:
- The Sun Machine, Halfways, Rotten Mangos at Hotel Vegas
- Super Thief, Burnt Skull, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Oozer at Beerland

Thursday:
- Nic Armstrong & The Thieves, Mamahawk, Elijah Ford at Stubb’s
- X_X, Obnox, Coma in Algiers, Marriage at Barracuda

Friday:
- Summer Salt at End of an Ear
- The Soft Moon, VIDEO at the Parish
- Sounds Del Mar, Cartwright at Hotel Vegas
- BUHU, Whit, Zettajoule, Ghostbunny, Good Talk, JT Kelley at Cheer Up Charlies
- Possessed by Paul James at Lamberts
- American Sharks, The Lochness Mobsters, Leather Girls, Loteria at the Sahara Lounge
- Saintseneca, Des Ark at the Mohawk

Saturday:
- The Gary, The Ex-Optimists, Economy Island at the Hole in the Wall
- The Sour Notes, Royal Forest, My Golden Calf, Honey and Salt at Cheer Up Charlies
- BLXPLTN, NGHT HCKLRS, Basketball Shorts at The Swan Dive
- The Vanity, Megafauna, Matt Gilmour’s Patient Wolf at Lamberts
- Futurebirds, Susto at the Parish

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BUHU (Album Premiere)

January 19, 2016

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A week or so ago I was sent BUHU’s debut full length, Relationshapes, and it pretty quickly made an impression on me.  It’s a lively bit of experimental pop that moves really well and has a bunch of creative sounds that steadily swirl around.  Band main-brains Clellan Hyatt, Juan Pablo Mendez and Jeremy Rogers definitely deserve a big high five for it, so be sure to deliver one if you see them out and about around Austin.  Enjoy.

This Friday Relationshapes will be released via FMF Records (you can still pre-order it through Bandcamp), and BUHU will play at Cheer Up Charlie’s.  The rest of their upcoming tour dates can be found here.

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My Golden Calf (Single Premiere)

January 19, 2016

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My Golden Calf is a fairly new act out of Austin that features Dabney Dwelle (formerly of Quien ‘es Boom), Tim O’Neill, Jonathan Skaggs & John Hale, and today SOTO is premiering the second single off of their upcoming debut LP, Perfume Brute.  The song is called Young Pioneers, and it features endearing vocal work by Dwelle and a really well crafted pop arrangement.  I’m into it.  You will be too.  Enjoy.

Perfume Brute will be released February 26 via Bandcamp.  You can see My Golden Calf play this Saturday at Cheer Up Charlie’s.

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Movie Breakdown: Finders Keepers (Noah)

January 19, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Documentaries are at the point of over-saturation right now, but hey, there’s a lot of weird shit in the world and if someone wants to turn a camera on it, I’m okay with that. This one’s about a guy who finds a foot in a storage unit and tries to get famous off it … but, the guy who’s foot it is isn’t exactly cool with it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There should be a new genre of documentary called micro-anthropology which would focus on the new wave of documentaries that focus on the singular relationships between two people and how that relationship affects their minuscule circle of friends/family. Finders Keepers could be the defining film of this genre. The film centers on two men, Shannon Whisnant and John Wood – self-described as polar opposites – who are drawn together when Whisnant finds Wood’s amputated foot in a recently purchased storage unit. Ostensibly, this is what the film is about – the struggle between two men to see whom has actual possession of a former body part – but, as all of these micro-anthropology films do, it’s more about the story of these two men and how this very strange event occurs and affects them. It’s a thin premise for the story, as the vaunted “foot in the grill” disappears for much of the film, but the directors, Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel, use the absurd set-up as an entry point into what becomes a dissection of these men, their families, and the lives they’ve lived. I think, if you look close, you can see that Carberry and Tweel are trying to make the point that everything leads to something, good or bad, and that these two men, and the foot that brought them together are just a small example of that, but it’s such a subtle, almost assumed concept, that the overarching story sort of blocks it out. Leaving the audience with a sort of sideshow attraction view of small-town North Carolina and the people who populate it. It’s a well made bit of fluff (aside from a music selection that borders on maudlin) but at the end of the day, it’s just that – an attractive, sometimes interesting film, that never digs deep enough to matter all that much.

One Last Thought:

At some point this dearth of good documentaries is going to have to end right? Finders Keepers isn’t even that good of a documentary and it’s still pretty good. When will the badness return?

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