Perhaps there are no two greater examples of cinematic contrast during this year’s Oscar season than Damien Chazelle’s La La Land and Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women. Both films will most likely land some number of Oscar nominations when they’re announced in Hollywood later this month. Both films are of cultural value and demonstrate emotionally aesthetic achievement. Both films showcase top-marks performances by their primary actors. But where La La Land presents thin, one-coat-only, brush strokes in its character paintings, 20th Century Women presents multi-layered, messy and imperfect, endlessly complex and fascinating portraits of real people.
What defines a quality music producer? Well-informed and developed artistic taste? Phenomenal technical prowess in the recording studio? Is it someone who stands off to the side of the musicians, supporting and supplying yet allowing complete artistic freedom? Or is it someone who tugs, digs, bends, and sometimes breaks a top-marks result out of the performers concerned? To each his own, seems to suggest the brand-new eight-part PBS series Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, the first two episodes of which premiered at this year’s DOC NYC Festival (full episodes are available for viewing here).
Mean Streets' loud aural landscape with its intense songs and aggressive language, filled often with frustration, emphasizes Charlie’s (Harvey Keitel's) self-imposed separation, resulting from his quest to “save” his whacked-out pal Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro) and simultaneously do his own penance.
What is proof enough to determine that a historical event did indeed happen? The accounts of firsthand witnesses? Written documented records? Handed-down legends? Where the imperfect memories of human beings (and not much else) are involved, it becomes increasingly difficult to know for sure. In his latest film, and first feature-length one at that, documentarian Jeff Krulik employs all of these evidential elements in order to conclude whether or not Led Zeppelin played here.
“I move around a lot, not because I’m looking for anything really, but because I’m getting away from things that get bad if I stay,” says Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson), the protagonist of Bob Rafelson’s 1970 classic Five Easy Pieces. Bobby Dupea is The Guy who Never Grew Up, and this line of dialogue spoken during a revelatory speech to his incapacitated father, perhaps best sums up his character, as well as the overall mood of the film.