Most people, yours truly included, think Bob Dylan is one of the great songwriters of the 20th century. People are far more split on Dylan the performer. When you get someone with the incomparable voice of Nina Simone to sing a Dylan song, odds are most folks will appreciate it. So here you go. Here’s Ms. Simone performing “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

via BoingBoing

Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart

I’m a fan of country music. Real country music. Not the fake plastic stuff you hear on most “country” stations these days. Music that tells stories of life on the road, stories about trains, stories about love and loss. Music sung by men and women who have spent their lives travelling the country, collecting tales for their songs and living life to the fullest. Music that’s soaked in whiskey, steeped in blues, and drenched in heartbreak.

So it stands to reason that I would enjoy a movie that follows an old country musician while he plays out his career in tiny bars, in remote places, to dwindling crowds. And I did. A lot.

Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a country legend whose star has faded and fanbase has aged. He’s been married four times. He drives a beat up old pickup truck. He’s an alcoholic. In other words, he’s a living country music cliche. His agent books him a tour of the Southwest, playing dive bars and bowling alleys. He’s eeking out a living, doing the only thing he knows how. Something he once loved, and maybe still does, but something he doesn’t seem fully engaged in anymore.

Since Crazy Heart is a modern independent movie, it’s safe to assume there is some grand epiphany and some major changes in his life. Both happen, but neither is handled in a trite way. The story is solid, the acting good, and the characters well-sketched. But, for me, what made the movie was the music.

Jeff Bridges and Colin Ferrel do an admirable job singing and playing guitar, but what really impressed me was the songs. T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham wrote original songs for the film, and they are universally good. “The Weary Kind” won the Oscar for Best Original Song, and it is certainly deserving, but my favorite was “Fallin and Flyin”. The opening line of the chorus, “It’s funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’ for a little while”, sounds like something Hank Williams, Sr might have written. The songs are simple, straightforward, and everything that’s good about country music.

At one point in the film a reporter asks Bad Blake what current artists are “real country”. He dodges the question, but the implication is clear: Bad Blake is real country in way not many current artists are. And that’s a real good thing.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Canadian indie rock band Said the Whale
Canada is very big right now. Despite the fact that their Winter Olympics lacked snow, and their women’s curling team choked in the gold medal game, they got a ton of positive international exposure. My guess is that British Columbia will have a bunch of new folks coming to visit in the next few months, and hopefully they’ll take the opportunity to check out the local music. One of the bands they should really see is Vancouver-based quintet Said the Whale.
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Zooey Deschanel and I have a pretty one-sided relationship: I worship her from afar, she doesn’t know I exist. I’m ok with that though. I have a feeling meeting her would ruin it. In real life she’s probably not the manic pixie dream girl she plays in most of her movies. And I’m probably not that interesting to a big shot musician and actor. So it’s probably best that we keep our relationship at a comfortable distance. She can keep going on not having any idea I’m out here, and I’ll keep admiring her work a little too much.

On that note, she and M. Ward are getting ready to release their second album as She & Him. Volume 2 comes out March 23rd, and from what they’ve released so far it seems to pick up where the last one left off. The video for “In the Sun” shows the pair back in high school. Loner M. punches away at his phone and practices guitar, while popular Zooey dances with her friends and perfects the dying art of hula hoop. That’s right. Zooey. Deschanel. Hula. Hoop. Enjoy:

Via Pitchfork

Christoph Waltz is awesome. He was completely deserving of his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for portraying Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Eduard Khil is awesome too. His wordless singing has been all the rage on the internets lately, and still makes me laugh after about 25 viewings. So it stands to reason that Christoph Waltz + Eduard Khil = TOO MUCH AWESOME. Waltz did a bit for Jimmy Kimmel Live where he pays homage to the Russian singer:

How does Kimmel get folks to do these videos? He is truly one of comedy’s greatest heroes. Thank you Jimmy. Thank you.

Y’all probably know by now how much I like covers played on unusual instruments. Typically it’s ukuleles or banjos, but this week it’s a cello. And it’s played expertly by Ben Solle. He’s joined by a somewhat creepy quartet of dancers. Just try to ignore them and focus on Ben playing Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine”:

via Launtromatinee

If you’re a 14 year old girl (or just someone who watches ANY tv) you know that vampires are VERY hot these days. Between Twilight to True Blood it seems like all women are looking for in a man is a brooding countenance, pale complexion, and fangs. Whenever something gets this popular it’s inevitable that people will start making fun of it. And I say “Rock On”. In this case literally.

Suck seems to have a pretty conventional story, up to a point. A struggling band is taking their last shot at stardom, hitting the road playing dives for uninterested drunks. They need something to catch people’s attention and get them listening, saving them from having to get real jobs. That’s all pretty standard. The twist is that they all become vampires, and by doing so, get famous. Along the way the meet Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. Honestly, this thing could be a train wreck of epic proportions. Or it could be a classic “so bad it’s good” cult favorite. Check out the trailer:

Suck played at the Toronto International Film Festival, but it doesn’t seem to have a wide release date set. For more information check out the movie’s official site.

A second trailer is out for Iron Man 2, and while it still looks good, I’m starting to think it might suffer from a common action movie sequel disease: villain overload. Check it out:

Iron Man 2 swoops into theaters May 7th.

Funk. I can’t think of another musical genre where the name so accurately and succinctly describes what it is. You can try to use other words to describe it, but none of them really fit. When it’s done right the only word that truly encapsulates the music is “funky”. If you don’t know what that means, just listen to The Bamboos and you’ll get it.
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This is genius. It’s a generic trailer that points out the cliches and stereotypes that riddle Oscar winning movies. Funny stuff, and appropriate to watch during the Oscars:

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