September 2014
 

Recommendations

>>The Goat Rodeo Sessions

United States, 2011 | Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile

The Goat Rodeo Sessions won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. However, to characterize the album as just "folk" would be misleading. In the eleven track album, an impressive range of instruments were used by the quartet: cello, fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, piano, and gamba. The effect of this eclectic mix of mostly string instruments is a unique and highly enjoyable fusion of blue grass and classical. 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, mandolinist Chris Thile – recipient of the 2012 MacArthur "Genius Grant" – told a funny anecdote:

I was at a performance of Mahlers 9th at Carnegie, and they were playing the third movement and there was this passage and the strings...they just knocked it out of the park. Like, mission accomplished. And they land on this down beat, and I was in this box, and I went, ‘Yeah!’ And then, ‘shhh’, ‘shhh.’

According to Thile, internalized social constraint is the only thing stopping people from jumping and dancing at a classical concert as they would at a rock concert. As Thile says, "you can't tell me [Bach] is staid compared to [Radiohead]."

For him, instruments are just "materials that can be manipulated in a way to suggest any style that you want." Accordingly, Thile thinks there will be 

so much genre hopping for musicians in the very near future that it will cease to be genre hopping – the walls between things are going to be so worn that you won’t have to hop anymore, you can just casually walk over them … the actual nuts and bolts of the stuff is not that different ... it’s mere aesthetic considerations where most of the differences lie.

Hopefully Thile is right, and the beautiful "genre hopping" project, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, is a sign of things to come. 

>>Shaolin Soccer

Hong Kong, 2011 | Stephen Chow

Shaolin Soccer is not so much a parody of kung fu films as a comedy that embraces the tropes and traditions of kung fu films. It’s clear that it’s not actor-director Stephen Chow’s aim to poke fun at kung fu conventions — at least, not entirely. It’s not a film marked by derision or condescension, but by warmth; it’s obvious that Chow loves the genre, which is why he’s able to play around with it so deftly, and also why the film is so welcoming, despite its outrageous goofiness and patchwork narrative.

The film is based on the getting-the-crew-back-together theme, a device that’s been used in some version or another in countless films, from Seven Samurai to Ocean’s Eleven. Sing (Stephen Chow) is a master of Shaolin kung fu whose dream is to spread the practice of kung fu among the general populace. When “Golden Leg” Fung (Man Tat Ng), a down-on-his-luck former soccer star, discovers that Sing has a super-powerful leg perfect for soccer, he offers to coach Sing. Excited by the idea of using soccer as a means to promote the benefits of kung fu to the people, Sing agrees and goes about convincing his five estranged Shaolin brothers to join his team. They eventually compete in a national soccer tournament in which they face off with Team Evil, coached by Fung’s arch-nemesis and made up of bio-engineered super players.

There’s a lot going on in Shaolin Soccer; it’s wall-to-wall gags, and it never lets you breathe for a second, which is how a movie like this, whose only real sustaining force is the comedy, should be. The film gets a lot of comedic mileage out of the different abilities of each of the six Shaolin brothers (Mighty Steel Leg, Iron Head, Iron Shirt, Lightning Hands, Lightweight Vest, and Hooking Leg) which are ridiculous in themselves — think of the usefulness, for example, of a very strong stomach in kung fu — but especially so when deployed as soccer moves — think of the usefulness, on the other hand, of being able to grip and shoot a soccer ball with said stomach. But the funniest parts of the film occur off the soccer field, between Sing and Mui (Vicki Zhao), a girl who works at a bakery and is also a kung fu master. Their budding romance is fraught with difficulties, and their awkward, completely anti-sexual chemistry is hilarious. The film also refuses to conform to traditional standards of beauty for film actresses, as Zhao goes through a series of absurd physical transformations.

Shaolin Soccer upends expectations and outdoes itself at every moment. It’s a series of surprises and non-sequiturs, constantly redefining and turning in on itself, sustaining a dynamic energy throughout. Simply, it’s one of the funniest movies ever made.

 2014 ©   Ava Decapri   &   Nico Pliskin  ,  "Flight of the Sneaky Fly"

2014 © Ava Decapri & Nico Pliskin, "Flight of the Sneaky Fly"


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