sexta-feira, fevereiro 26, 2016

Jazz on the big screen

Two of the most iconic jazz trumpeters are hitting the big screen.

Don Cheadle plays Miles Davis in Miles Ahead 
&
 Ethan Hawke playing Chet Baker in Born To Be Blue





























segunda-feira, janeiro 11, 2016

David Bowie 1947 - 2016



Plenty of his own songs and collaborations have left their mark, but none quite like these two...


 

quarta-feira, dezembro 30, 2015

Best of 2015 - From my perspective

                        


This year I've been very sloppy with my blog. Between work and social life it's difficult to find time... But I will admit I could have done a bit more effort.

In any case, I still watched movies... A lot of them! 
2015 brought us a lot of quality and variety. It was very easy for me to make this list, even without watching many likely candidates like Carol, The Room, The Revenant and Creed just to name a few.

So without further a do, here's my top 10 movies of 2015:

Mad Max
Youth
The Gift
The Lobster
Ex Machina
Straight Outta Compton
The Martian
Me, Earl and The Dying Girl 
Amy (documentary)
Dope

Special mentions to the wonderful surprise that was Danny Collins, plus the triumphant return of Star Wars.

Here's to another great year ahead of us... Not only with great films but everything culture wise.

quarta-feira, dezembro 23, 2015

James Vincent McMorrow - Cavalier


A friend of mine said James Vincent McMorrow has the voice of an angel.

Couldn't agree more.

segunda-feira, dezembro 21, 2015

Dope (2015)



My latest streak of film viewing has made me come back to write for the blog. I don't promise to be consistent, but to at least drop a few suggestions here and there.

I start with the following:

DOPE​.

Directed and written by Rick Famuyiwa, produced by Pharrell Williams, Sean 'Diddy' Combs & Forest Whitaker and starring wonderful young ensemble featuring  Shameik Moore (!!!), Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoe Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, among many others.

And don't get me started on the soundtrack... Kicks off with Naughty by Nature... is heavy on A Tribe Called Quest...  and gets it going with Public Enemy, NAS and Gil Scott-Heron.

Definitely going into my Top10 of 2015.


quinta-feira, maio 21, 2015

Farewell David Letterman





Some time ago, I posted about the role that The O.C.​ played on the expansion of indie music for the masses. Most of us never heard about Death Cab for Cutie​, Modest Mouse​, The Shins​ and Bright Eyes​… Bloc Party​ and The Killers​ were gaining traction and even some of the cult classics like Sex Pistols​ and The Ramones​ got their place on the show’s spotlight.











Despite having a sense of gratitude towards the Californian soap opera, I am now “morning” the end of show - maybe more musically relevant to generations before “The O.C”: David Letterman’s.

For the few of you who don’t know who Dave Letterman is, my advice is for you to look him up on YouTube and get acquainted with his magnificent work.

Talented writer, great communicator and incredible comedic skills have made Mr. Letterman one of the most prominent forces in the history of TV.

So why am I putting “The O.C” and David Letterman in the same post?

Because way before Seth Cohen and Marissa Cooper were engaging in their musical taste, Letterman was already getting on his stage a mix of artists that went from some of the most popular names at the time, to the unknown bands who would end up achieving greatness.

From R.E.M.​’s first television act on his show, to Arcade Fire​ break out followed by the likes of The Strokes​ and Letterman’s favorite band Foo Fighters​, we have seen an outrageously good list of musical artists… most of which we can thank him for introducing to the general public and therefore making it possible for a lot of bands being in our iPods.












So, as a way of paying homage to the legendary TV host and his colossal influence on music, I am leaving you this small article written by The Independent​, which contains their selection of the Top 18 musical performances ever to grace us on David Letterman's show!

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/the-best-late-show-with-david-letterman-musical-performances-10263503.html

terça-feira, março 10, 2015

Films seen in the last week


Relatos Salvajes


This Oscar nominated Argentinean film is one of the best funny things I've seen in recent times. I had no idea whatsoever of what to expect and maybe that's for the best... so I will avoid any sort of details. I will say however that, rather than being your typical movie, this is actually a mix of short movies with a couple of themes in common, all of which told with a very (very!) dark humor. 

Maybe it's not your kind of thing, but I had a blast.
 

Magic In The Moonlight


Woody Allen's latest feature presents itself with a good cast and although it does provide good moments, it is far from being among his best work.  By all means watch it, but I honestly don't think it will make worth your time.
 


Whiplash


Seen it before, but with my Mom in town, just had to see it again. One of the best movies I've ever seen. Incredibly well directed, great acting and amazing soundtrack. Should be on everyone's "To see" list.



 Bad Words



This is Jason Bateman's directorial debut... and it's a great one. Sharp on the tongue, beautifully shot and with various moments that will make you chuckle, this is a great unexpected surprise as I had no idea of what was coming.




While We're Young


Noah Baumbach is back with another of his indie movies that a lot of people out there are bound to relate with. He's reunited with Ben Stiller after their previous collaboration in Greenberg, while also adding the talent of the incredible Naomi Watts, followed by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. 
Not entirely sure how this movie will go down in comparison with Baumbach's previous film Frances Ha (2012), but i can tell you right now that this an OK movie with good moments... but felt like it was never great. Maybe my expectations were too high... I remember seeing the trailer and thinking to myself that this would be incredible! 
Having said that, you wouldn't certainly waste your time if you were to see this though...


domingo, janeiro 11, 2015

Gattaca (1997)



Saw Gattaca (1997) for the first time. What an incredible movie! Smart and profound... capable of making a big testament to the core of the human spirit and soul. Nothing is impossible!


sexta-feira, janeiro 02, 2015

Best of 2014 - From my perspective



As per usual, here's my "Best of" the year that has passed... 

Unfortunately I won't compile a list of "Best albums" since I wasn't able to listen to that many throughout 2014. Can't really justify why... I guess I ended up getting my hands on older albums - which obviously wouldn't serve the purpose of this list.

In regards to the film list, there are going to be a lot of great absences, some of which I haven't seen yet (Birdman, St. Vincent, Selma, Still Alice...). Nonetheless, I can honestly say that this year has been really strong. 

With that said, here's my "Top 10 films" of 2014:


Some good movies that didn't make the cut this year include Cold July, Chef, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street (my guilty pleasure) and Interstellar

The latter needs a second watching. I found it tremendously overcomplicated and very silly at times, but there is a lot in it that can (and should) make this film a classic. Maybe I'll change my mind about it...

There you have it. As I said, 2014 was really strong when it comes to movies...and there's plenty more that need to be watched. Feel free to comment on these picks and share your own. 

Have a wonderful 2015!

sexta-feira, dezembro 19, 2014

Dadiva (Curta-metragem)


Façam o favor de dar feedback. O meu amigo Vasco "Jim" Saraiva agradece...

domingo, dezembro 14, 2014

Skeleton Twins (2014)



Wonderful, beautiful surprise...

Don't finish the year without watching this excellent movie. 

sexta-feira, dezembro 12, 2014

Whiplash (2014)


 

I was fortunate enough to see a pre-screening for the movie Whiplash (2014) last night and I have to say:  I loved it! Absolutely loved it! I mean, what a ride!

As I anxiously tapped my hands in my legs and knees, trying to emulate some jazz percussion that was still lingering in my head, I became more and more desperate to get home so I could write about the film. But the thing is… I wanted to write more than just saying how good it was. I wanted to write about all the feelings that had stirred up in my mind and in my heart during and after the screening.

First and foremost, I must warn you. I’m a massive Jazz lover! I was raised in a Jazz family and therefore, I can easily be considered bias. That said, I sort of feel like I’m able to have a bigger appreciation for what this movie is all about. And make no mistake… by saying this, I’m not giving my take on how this movie depicts the jazz industry (in this case education system). No. Far from it! In between various things I want to say how I loved everything from a cinematic point of view, but also having in mind the brilliant soundtrack made of great classical standards such as Duke Ellington’s Caravan that just filled my heart and made me think: "I am really grateful for having two parents who raised me under the best musical genre of all time". There is nothing that can ever reach the level of quality, creativity and wild genius which jazz possesses. And hey, I’m not a fanatic! Honest! I consider myself quite the eclectic guy. In fact, I listen to other musical genres, some of which probably even more than jazz… but that doesn’t take it away from how much I appreciate each note written in a Jazz music sheet.

So, let us begin…

(... and five, six, seven, eight)


The name of this movie, Whiplash – taken from a tune written by Hank Levy – can also be a reference to how Terence Fletcher (played by J.K Simmons) scars his students. His methods are far too brutal, bringing up to mind how Gunnery Sergeant Hartman undermined his troops in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987). Fletcher, the intimidating maestro, believes that in order to achieve greatness, people need to be pushed beyond their limits, doing whatever it takes to get his pupils to that an elite level. If you break on his watch, even if just for a moment, he will show no patience, no love, no mercy.

 
We discover this by following Andrew Neiman, a 19-year-old drummer who seeks to be the next “Charlie Parker”, or in his case, the new Buddy Rich. During the 106 minutes in which the story unfolds, we witness a real endurance test being applied to the young boy, hoping that he does not fall into despair and that he can overcome the tyranny of his orchestra leader. 
It is just brilliant to see the level in which their relationship develop and massive praise must be given to the young and talented Miles Teller - who I’ve became a fan since watching the indie-production The Spectacular Now (2013) – and to J.K Simmons, who will undoubtedly be up for an Oscar nomination, that can very well translate into a win. The veteran actor is just superb.

Congratulatios are also in order to Damien Chazelle (a jazz aficionado), the man behind the script and direction of this wonderful motion picture.

Chazelle wrote an 85-page script, but then adapted it to 15 pages in order to make Whiplash a short movie, so that he could attract someone to invest. After debuting at the Sundance festival, he was approached right away by several investors who financed the long version. Among those same investors is Jason Reitman, the director behind movies such as Thank You For Smoking (2005), Juno (2007), Up In The Air (2009) and most recently Men, Women & Children (2014).

The young Damien got going, working with some of the crew involved in the original showpiece, including Mr. Simmons. The 59-year-old veteran, who at the moment I’m watching on a weekly basis with his terrific performance as Vernon Schillinger in the HBO cult classic series Oz (1997 - 2003), was a smart decision that obviously paid off, as he is probably the best thing out of the Jazz themed film. But rest assured, there is plenty more in Whiplash to make it worthy of various accolades, even if it wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe.

That could almost be a standalone post, but I'm learning with time that such discussion is almost not worth it. I believe people’s perception about the Globes and the Oscars has been changing quite a lot through the years. They’ve lost all sense of credibility and therefore, is not shock to see terrific movies such as Whiplash being left out of nominations. Thankfully, word of mouth (especially nowadays with social media) is enough to get these names across the world and attract people to the movie theaters.

Anyway… back to the film!

Chazelle is also a maestro on his own… showing promising leadership “on stage”. His new masterpiece is beautifully shot and it reveals great taste in various sequences / scenes that kept the rhythm fluid.


Through Fletcher, our emotions as a viewer are constantly manipulated, like Andrew’s… 
It is by giving yourself to its narrative and characters that you feel the moments of joy and pain, almost like you are part of the story. I think the director accomplished that by leaving the audience engaged with every single action.

Another great element here, which I have briefly mentioned - is the soundtrack. It’s just the icing on the cake. I mean, what would you expect? When you get to hear some of the greatest musicians, either play in the background or set the stage for a prominent scene, you know what the results are going to be. 



 

I really do hope that the music leaves a mark on people, bringing them closer to Jazz. That each viewer gets home and learns about Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and John Coltrane. Or listen to more contemporary (but faithful to its principal) takes.  

People often say: “Jazz is dying”. I do see why people would say that… but I don’t really agree with Fletcher’s view on it. He believes the art form is vanishing because of musicians who don’t push themselves enough… thus not creating new “legends” that can continue carrying the legacy set by some of the greats.
It is my opinion that more and more people don’t really get to hear the music that often. For one, it needs to be something that you are brought into, as it can be hard for some to grasp. On the other hand, and completely contradicting myself, it is also the music of the people, accessible for all depending on how free your spirit is. The other issue with the decaying genre is how society has developed with its musical taste and demands. Everything now needs to be pop influenced. A lot of musicians claim to be jazz players, but in reality they are a shallow, soulless product that used the great history and intellect behind “JAZZ” to sell their work to a wider audience. Michael Buble and Jamie Cullum, of whom I’m a fan of, can be seen as part of their group of people

But let me set you a better example in which I will make clear reference to two festivals in Portugal: “Cool Jazz Fest” and “Estoril Jazz”.

Estoril Jazz is the longest running jazz festival in the country. It has attracted larges audiences to watch great musicians such as Miles Davis, Keith Jarret, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker and so on… That same festival which was very popular during the 80’s and 90’s is now struggling. Why you ask? Because they are no longer providing the sort of music that people demand. Because people are not interested in the old school, vanguard Jazz. They want catchy tunes, stage dancers, cool videos… the kind of thing that big pop names deliver.

Then you have "Cool Jazz Fest". I don't get why the fest is called like that. It just feels awkward and silly when you call yourself a jazz festival, but have no jazz names featured in your lineup and instead present Sting and Seal… fantastic artists, but again, not jazz related. People don’t care though… They will easy pay 50 euros to attend that gig, but not spend 20 to watch a lesser known musician at the "Estoril Jazz" festival or in Guimarães. They won’t even do a quick (and cheap) trip to some of our finest Jazz clubs like Hot Club in Lisbon or Cascais Jazz Club. 

Because they are not simply into Jazz, despite their claims of going to a Jazz concert. 

(Calming down) 

Apologies for the rant.

All and all, Whiplash is the sort of movie that I would gladly watch it again in the near future. Not only because it’s that good, but also because it would provide me with an excellent opportunity to make sure others would watch it and get to know the art behind the cinema experience and the music. It is a masterpiece that is neither rushing nor dragging. 

 Its tempo is just impeccable.
 


quinta-feira, dezembro 11, 2014

Golden Globes: As nomeações

Bora lancar discussao sobre os Golden Globes...

Ano fortíssimo com grandes filmes na lista... Boyhood, Whiplash, Birdman, Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, Foxcatcher... no entanto... ha que mencionar o seguinte:

- Onde anda Gone Girl e Interstellar?

- The Imitation Game... bom sim senhor... merece lugar nas nomeações... mas qq um dos filmes em cima mencionados ficava-lhe com o lugar...

- The Theory of Everything - Parece a maior banhada dramatizada de sempre.

- A Most Violent Year e Inherent Vice... quase nada se viu... (porque?)

- Robert Duvall (The Judge) e Keira Knighley (The Imitation Game) nomeados. Achava que seria para a categoria de papel mais banal, mas aparentemente eles tao mesmo a falar a serio.

No fim do dia, tudo isto e subjectivo... verdade seja dita, a reputação tanto dos Globos como dos Oscars não e a melhor e felizmente tenho-me vindo a aperceber disso com o tempo... ainda assim gosto de os criticar. Porque sim.

terça-feira, novembro 11, 2014

Interstellar (2014) / Gone Girl (2014)




Since I saw Interstellar (2014) this past Saturday, the movie has been lingering in my head.

I didn’t know what to make of it right away. I mean, I acknowledged it was good from a technical standpoint, beautiful shots and soundtrack and amazing performances (specially from Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain) and that I had a great time watching it… but couldn’t figure out if it was worth the outrageous score on iMDB and all that incredible praise it’s been getting.

There were a few things about it that raised some uncertainty in my decision… mainly the big thing for me was that the movie tends to over complicate things that could easily be a lot simpler - even Michael Caine said he was confused! Sure, it can appeal to the intellect and imagination but even so... you take the chance of losing the audience and on top of that you might be perceived as pretentious or even silly at times. I’m not even sure if what I wrote just now makes sense, but I hope that at least for those who have watched it already, this can resonate in some shape or form.

Nonetheless, after I saw it with a group of friends, a discussion followed as we were leaving the room. Things became clearer and other ideas came up to mind. All of the sudden, it had become more enjoyable after we cleared the air and talked about Nolan’s intentions as a director managing a complex, yet fascinating script.

Some can argue that debate after a movie - in order to fully comprehend the plot - is a great thing, because it adds more to it… others might see it as a bad sign since you should be able to get the plot on your own and if you didn’t, well… either the director did a bad job or you might be seen as not very bright (there's always that someone who's afraid to admit that they didn't get it or didn't like it, when something is almost unanimously good).

Unfortunately, I’m more inclined to say I really didn’t keep up when I should… I want to blame the director, but it’s hard for me to doubt Nolan’s abilities. He’s one of the best directors out there without a single bad movie in his repertoire, which leads me to be quicker doubting myself than actually questioning Nolan’s decisions. Despite poor audio mixing in the first few scenes, I'm pretty sure I didn't miss out on important parts of the dialog. 

That said, and with days gone by since I last saw it and after much consideration I can now stand my ground and say it’s a terrific movie. In fact, one of the best I’ve seen this year. It still doesn’t top Gone Girl as my favorite of 2014 (check my post on the subject) and I think it certainly doesn't deserve the high ranking it holds at the moment on iMDB.


With an amazing script, great directing and all around performances, Gone Girl just made a bigger impression. Even though Interstellar is the kind of film that will live longer in history and will be more appreciated as a cinematic experience within all its majestic beauty and powerful details, this novel turned movie still remains the most enjoyable film I’ve seen in 2014.

David Fincher is a master at messing with people’s emotions. You find yourself getting into these psychological traps, where things are not as they seem and you are constantly doing U-turns to your opinions. I really found it to be more appealing and entertaining... but, as you know, these things are highly subjective.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is a timeless cinema work of art - which I recommend people watching it in a big screen. Gone Girl on the other hand is a movie that I urge people to watch it, knowing that it doesn't really require a mandatory trip to your local cinema since it doesn't hold up to the same sort of visual standards as Chris Nolan's latest feature.





domingo, outubro 12, 2014

The Vertical Hour



To anyone living in London, I recommend you to go to the Park Theater in Finsbury Park and watch the play "The Vertical Hour", written by Sir David Hare. Very interesting and well acted! 

sexta-feira, outubro 03, 2014

Gone Girl (2014)




One of the best things I’ve seen this year! Hands down!

I remember leaving the room and tweeting right away: 
“My head is still spinning! I mean, what a ride!! By far one the best things I've seen all year! My heart is still pacing”

It’s funny… 24 hours later I still feel the same way almost as the adrenaline is still being pumped into my body.

David Fincher, like he so often does, play with your head… over and over again, until you don’t know who you are any more.

The key to its success (or part of it) is the script based on Gillian Flynn novels, who actually ended up helping Fincher with the adaptation.

Add fantastic performances by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike (as well as the supporting cast with Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carry Coon, Kim Dickens) and you have a masterpiece in your hands.

It's hard to give it a full-on review without entailing crucial moments. I for one, prefer to just state whether its worth it or not... and trust me… it will leave you on the edge of your seat. It will flip you upside down more than once… it will build anxiety, anger, relieved with occasional laughter and some sense of rightness. But ultimately, it will linger long after the credits roll. You will talk about it afterwards. Discuss it, digest it and then talk some more.

It is that good!