UPDATE — Final Mix Released! (See Below)

Long-time readers know that I’m a big fan of Karsh Kale, my old neighbor and the current heavyweight champion of making music with cool people all around the world. For Valentine’s Day, Karsh shared an early mix from a recent collaboration with Blackstratblues (a.k.a., guitarist Warren Mendonsa’s new project after moving on from Indian Rock legends “Zero”).

“Hallelujah / Ode to a Sunny Day” is a straightforward concept: Kale sings a Jeff Buckley-esque interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” over the music to Mendonsa’s “Ode To A Sunny Day”, which was originally featured on 2009’s “The New Album”.

AIR released their latest album earlier this week — and it’s a new soundtrack for a 110 year old movie masterpiece.

Best known for 1998’s “Moon Safari” and their musical contributions to films such as The Virgin Suicides, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel (a.k.a., the French electronic duo AIR) released their latest album earlier this week — and it’s a new soundtrack for a 110 year old movie masterpiece.

“Le Voyage Dans La Lune” (“A Trip to the Moon”) is often referred to as the first science fiction film in history. Directed by Georges Méliès, it was originally released in 1902 in black and white and, incredibly enough, also in a hand-colored version. The only hand-colored print known to exist was rediscovered in 1993 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya, who found the original nitrate print in such a dilapidated state that it was said to resemble a hockey puck. A frame-by-frame restoration began in 1999 and, with a little digital assist from the folks at Technicolor, it was finally completed in 2010.

To go along with the restoration, AIR composed a new score and decided to release an expanded version of it as an album (Available at Amazon Music Store and iTunes Store). On its own, it’s another solid bit of work by Godin and Dunckel – but seeing it in context with the film made it even more enjoyable for me.1 The imagery feels like a dream: Méliès idea of a space launch was, after all, to have a row of identically-dressed women slide an artillery shell containing the explorers into a cannon and then fire it like a bullet into the eye of the “Man in the Moon”.

AIR’s fun, modern score helps Méliès’s dream feel not so far away to us, and I think that’s kind of an amazing thing: Over a century old, “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” is a window into a time when the moon’s surface could only be imagined and the idea that it could ever be known was, itself, a flight of fantasy. Its restoration (and with AIR’s contribution — rebirth) is an experience certainly bound to stir modern imaginations and one that’s well-worth checking out.

  1. I guarantee you’d be hard-pressed to find a fight scene between Wizard/Astronomers and an army of Moon Creatures with a funkier backbeat than “Sonic Armada”. []
This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

“The Artist” is a modern French interpretation of an old black-and-white silent movie, which is to say that you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a film idea which would have to travel a more difficult road in order to find a wide American audience.1

However unlikely the concept, though, “The Artist” is poised to do just that. Michel Hazanavicius, previously best known for his O.S.S. series of Spy Parodies, leads Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo into new territory with a movie which manages to be both a tribute to a film-making era gone by and also one of the most emotionally potent movies that I have seen in some time.

Many critics have been happy to pull out the “Silence is Golden” trope in their reviews, anticipating the almost certain Oscar nominations for the film and its cast (not to mention for the wonderful score by Ludovic Bource). They’re right to do so. “The Artist” has some incredibly nuanced performances and, believe it or not, one of the most compelling ones is by a dog. Uggie is a Jack Russell Terrier who steals every scene he appears in, prompting an ad-hoc Twitter campaign to get him an Oscar nomination as well.2

Watching Dujardin and Bejo tap dance together was also a revelation to me: The wordless joy that these scenes express is the real thing, not an ironic, tongue-in-cheek gesture or some sort of “Hey — Look at me dance in the 1920’s!” exercise that some of Hollywood’s recent forays into the era have produced. The film’s American production design team also really nailed the look and feel of the time, adding so many fun little grace notes for the audience to pick out.3

And yet with all the tap dancing, period artifacts, and performing dogs, “The Artist” manages to remain a serious film about love and pride. It is, without a doubt, my favorite film of 2011.

  1. Please — Don’t consider this an invitation to submit your own “Springtime For Hitler”-esque suggestions. []
  2. This would be well-deserved and a return to Oscar’s origins, if you believe the story about Rin-Tin-Tin receiving the most votes for Best Actor in the Award’s first year. []
  3. A favorite: Watching Dujardin’s character, slinking away from an auction where all of his personal movie star memorabilia was sold, almost get hit by a car in front of a marquee which reads “Lonely Star” []


A Complete List of the 300 books from David Foster Wallace’s Personal Library at the University of Texas at Austin Archive.

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

DFW Annotated Copy of Don DeLillo's Players

Inside cover of David Foster Wallace's annotated copy of Don DeLillo's Players. Harry Ransom Center.

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE was working on a novel when he committed suicide in September 2008. Coinciding with its posthumous release as The Pale King, the University of Texas at Austin has opened its Archive of Writer David Foster
— a special collection of his notes, manuscripts, and personal effects. Made up of 34 document boxes and 8 oversize folders, the collection has received as much attention for what it reveals about Wallace as a reader as for the window it provides into his creative process as a writer.

The Archive has about 300 books from Wallace’s personal library, many of them substantially annotated. I decided to make a complete list for myself by searching the special collection via the University’s online card catalog… and I thought other people might also be curious about what was on his bookshelf.

So for the convenience of bookworms everywhere, I am sharing it in the table below.1 There’s a really interesting blend of material and topics here so, if you’ve been looking for some good book recommendations, you should be set for a while!

[Read more…]

  1. I did my best to make the corresponding Amazon links point to the correct translation / edition of the work in question. []