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Movie Breakdown: A Band Called Death (Noah)

May 22, 2013

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

When Drag City released Death’s cobbled together album For The Whole World To See it was a revelation in terms of early punk. Nothing that sounded like this had really been discovered and the fact that it was blasting out of the amps of a trio of black brothers from Detroit made it all the more exciting. A documentary chronicling the history of an album this awesome is sure to be awesome just because of its proximity to so much awesomeness. Right?

The Reality:

Turns out that sometimes a good album comes from a really simple, pretty boring story. In the 70s, three brothers from a slightly musical family decided that they wanted to make music. One of the brothers was a bit of a savant, started blasting some pretty weird shit, and voila a band popped out. Unfortunately that band was called Death and no one in their right mind wanted to attempt to change the face of music with a punk trio, before the word even existed, from Detroit. Bad things happen, the music disappears, someone finds the music, the band gets big again, blah blah blah blah. It’s a great story, a story that’s defined a million musical rediscoveries (especially as of late) and one that seemingly every musical documentary in the last five years has hit upon. I’m not saying that A Band Called Death isn’t a heartfelt tale of three dudes making good on their abilities as musicians (though I can’t say that ending up as a reggae band counts as “making good”…), but it’s really just that. Call this film a victim of enormous expectations, but we’ve seen a lot at this point in the history of the music documentary and, well, I think I was just expecting to see more.

The Lesson:

Elijah Wood is, if this movie tells the truth, as musically respectful as Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, and ?Love. Somebody close my mouth, there’s flies getting in it.

A Band Called Death is available now on VOD.

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SXSW 2013: 5 Docs To See (Noah)

March 6, 2013

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If I was at SXSW, I’d probably stick to whatever films featured the slowest, most easily understood narrative, and the biggest explosions as there’d be such much alcohol flowing through my system that just keeping my big, beautiful peepers open would be hard enough. That said, for a few of you who are interested in subject matter aside from Spicy Coke and the occasional shot of Goldschlager, I put together a list of a few of the more interesting sounding documentaries. Surprisingly, there is very little full frontal nudity lauded in any of these film’s descriptions.

1. A Band Called Death, d. Mark Christopher Covino, Jeff Howlett

Death were the forefathers of punk, before the idea of punk was even a flicker in the eye of a bunch of leather clad skinheads getting overly sweaty. Born and bred on the mean streets of Detroit in the late-70s, Death released piercing, brilliant music that sunk beneath the surface and didn’t resurface for another 33 years. It’s the kind of story that we hear more and more of these days, but Death, with their harshly political lyrics, started something, and this doc follows that creation.

2. Our Nixon, d. Penny Lane

Nixon was a divisive figure that has been rightly smeared in the wake of his involvement, his heading even, of the Watergate scandal. Nixon wasn’t just that though, he was a charismatically environmental president, as well as an impressively intelligent one. Our Nixon follows Super-8 movies of three of Nixon’s closest aides, offering, what could amount, to a revelation of less public side of this American pariah.

3. TINY: A Story About Living Small, d. Christopher Smith, Merete Mueller

I read an article a while back about the advent of the tiny house. It’s a strange movement that reflects both the rough economic times as well as the fear of ecological reprimand. We put a lot of weight on the idea of a non-moving home in this country (regardless of the world’s nomadic past) and the tiny house questions just about all of them. TINY, questions those questions, following a handful of people who’ve decided to pack up the big life and get small.

4. Before You Know It, d. PJ Raval

Three words: gay, old, people.

5. The Network, d. Eva Orner

If you saw Control Room, the documentary of Al Jazeera and their coverage of war and terrorism, this one might be right up your alley. The story of a television network that exists in … Afghanistan. News + danger = riveting.

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