Saturday, December 09, 2006
This week's PopMatters Picks from the pop-o-sphere:
1. "Iraq in Fragments" (dir. James Longley — Typecast Releasing/HBO Documentary Films, 2006)
James Longley's "Iraq in Fragments" is a meditation on chaos and coping, with its focus intently on Iraqis. From a close-up of 11-year-old Mohammed's eye, looking out on city streets, to a long view of young Kurdish shepherd Suleiman, silhouetted by a setting sun, the documentary offers a range of views and reactions to the US occupation of Iraq. As interviewees struggle to imagine a future beyond the current, daily horrors, they are at once alike and disparate, furious and hopeful, resilient and outraged. The film provides specifics, details of hectic life among ruins, faces filled with dread, desire, and defiance. Whether looking out on empty streets or endless fields in Kurdistan, the film creates a sense of space. Whether cramped or expansive, the compositions are alive with movement, color, urgency. Marchers, worshippers, workers, men with guns: they all suggest that the film has only scratched a surface.
— Cynthia Fuchs
2. Matt Damon
It's been a big year for the baby-faced ace actor. On the heels of his buzzworthy performance in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" — another Ocsar contender for the famed director — Damon shows up in a prime role in the eagerly anticipated "The Good Shepherd," directed by Robert De Niro. Two meaty roles in two possible Academy Award nominees in one season means Damon's name is a sure bet to be showing up inside those nominations envelopes in some prime category, like "best actor." Is Damon becoming this generation's Michael Caine?
— Sarah Zupko
3. Clipse "Hell Hath No Fury" (Jive/Re-Up/Star Trak)
With their highly awaited sophomore release finally breaking past industry barriers, the Clipse are using their opportunity to rap about pushing the white, but with authenticity already in place, the duo focuses on poetic device and metaphorical wizardry as a way to pepper the could-be-flavorless drug topic. This is a 12-track waltz through the life on the corner. The duo's lyrics are delivered with an equally matured air, and since the brothers take wordplay to the furthest extent they can, the album remains as entertaining as it does intellectually stimulating.
—Steven J. Horowitz
4. "Clerks II: Mooby's Fun Meal Collector's Set" (Exclusive to Best Buy)
Every feel like your life is just like a movie? Thanks to this limited edition DVD package from Best Buy, you, too, can feel like a morbidly cynical employee of Kevin Smith's "Clerks II" faux fast food franchise. Sip your favorite fountain drink from your plastic collector's cup as you practice acerbic takes on current popular culture while dressed in your Mooby's visor and "Funployee" nametag. Sorry, donkey show sold separately.
— Bill Gibron
5. Foo Fighters "Skin and Bones" (RCA)
"Skin and Bones" is a recording culled from the Foos' largely acoustic tour of this past year. It's an album that takes every single one of those beautiful past hits, puts them alongside some of the more moving bits of the acoustic side of "In Your Honor", tosses in a new tune, and comes out sounding like the perfect departure that never was. This experience is just different enough from the typical, hard-rock Foo sound to be interesting, while still remaining true enough to the originals as to make singing along not only possible, but necessary. Foo Fighters have put out the most listenable, enjoyable disc of their career so far. It's not a bad achievement for a toss-off just-in-time-for-the-holidays live album.
6. Fangoria Radio (Available on Sirius Satellite ? Channel 102)
Long considered the premiere genre magazine still in circulation, the folks at "Fangoria" now use their weekly three hours on Sirius satellite radio (10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays) to spread the ghoulish good word about horror. Fun and frenetic, hosts Dee Snider (Mr. Twisted Sister himself) and b-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon interview figures from fear's past and present, as well as overseeing serious discussions about terror's present place in the culture.
— Bill Gibron
7. Brand New "The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me" (Interscope/Tiny Evil)
The new highly touted record by emo giant Brand New is simultaneously soothing, bitter, and atmospheric. It's understated when it needs to be and far more mature than their previous work; putting breakup and self-infliction cliches behind them. This is an effort to put on the CD shelf next to Jimmy Eat World's "Futures" and Blue October's "Foiled." These are examples of emo bands taking an experimental, slightly darker step towards maturity at the possible expense of dismissal by their early fanbase. That mark is visible throughout much of this record; they sound like a completely new band, which is ironic, considering their name.
— Andrew Blackie
8. Godchecker.com (Web site)
Tired of your current deity? That present traditional spiritual guide not getting it done? Then perhaps it's time for a new personal savior, and Godchecker.com has a wealth of available divinity to satisfy even the most demanding faith-based disciple. From the obscure (Oceana), ancient (Incans) or just plain odd (Veles, the Baltic God of the Underworld...and Sheep?) this amazingly informative website has your non-Nativity belief bases covered.
— Bill Gibron
9. Sufjan Stevens "Songs for Christmas" (Asthmatic Kitty)
Originally intended for friends and family, indie icon Sufjan Stevens recorded five EPs worth of holiday tracks over the last few years. With the exception of some scant availability on fan sites, this is the first major mainstream release for the 42 deeply devotional songs. Consisting of traditional carols and some Stevens-penned originals, it's a surprisingly somber "Seasons Greetings" for a genuinely gifted artist.
— Bill Gibron
10. "The Best of the Match Game" (Brentwood Home Video)
It was a '70s TV ritual — a daily dose of scandalous sexual innuendo and drunken celebrity masquerading as a simple game show. Though the original version was a '60s NBC hit, it was the Me Decade version of "Match Game" on CBS that folks still obsess over today. Granted, this DVD set contains select episodes only, but any opportunity to revisit this screwy classic is well worth one's entertainment dollar.
— Bill Gibron
PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Find more PopMatters content at www.popmatters.com.
(c) 2006, PopMatters.com
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.