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Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring 2012 Playlist

1. Bleak Bake---King Krule***
        The warm and woozy opener to Archy Marshall's debut EP under the moniker King Krule, Bleak Bake floats casually along on light, welcoming guitar strums, and subtle electro-trappings.

2. Lately (I've Been On My Back)---BOAT
       A goofy-fun little trifle from the Seattle-based Pop/Punk group, steadily building into jubilant, chant-worthy climactic shouts. Perfect for cranking in your car.

3. Furr---Blitzen Trapper
        A lovely little gem from Portland's own Blitzen Trapper, Furr has a sweetly nostalgic strum, and its lyrics, as penned by frontman Eric Earley, are rich with natural allusions to Spring time's sun-soaked majesty.

4. The Look---Metronomy***
        One of the most finely-tuned acts in music today, Metronomy takes razor-sharp, ear-worm melodies, and drives them home with aplomb. The Look might be the best example yet.

5. Two Doves---Dirty Projectors
         Who could resist this little wonder, wherein Angel Deradoorian reminds of a higher-voiced Nico, stealing center-stage from frontman David Longstreth, delivering something straight-forward, and emotionally pure.

6. Burned Out---The Field

        The Field releases songs that you can get lost inside of. Burned Out is no different, 7 and a half minutes of swirling, enveloping gorgeousness almost leaves you light-headed when its over.

7. Cannons---Youth Lagoon***
        Lo-Fi Bedroom Pop done right, Cannons takes a familiar road to heart-on-sleeve, fist-pumping glory, but where it arrives is big, intimate, and rousing to no end.

8. Riding for the Feeling---Bill Callahan
        A bummed-out tune for a dusty-roads traveler, Riding for the Feeling fills the air of any room in which it plays like a palpable mist, Callahan's beauteous blues doled out over 6 sweeping minutes.

9. Rigamortis---Kendrick Lamar
         One of the absolute best Hip Hop songs of 2011, Lamar has a lazy phrasing that creates a tantalizing juxtaposition against the way he positively plows through tongue twisters.

10. Fast Jabroni---Surfer Blood
        Just good, ol'-fashioned College Rock, done to giggly, head-banging perfection by one of the only bands out there who still makes the stuff.

11. Sweet Moment---Bowerbirds***
        Pretty much all of Bowerbirds' latest album, The Clearing, is ideally suited for Spring listening, but none more than Sweet Moment, a sunset marvel filled with sticky-sweet harmonies.

12. Tenuousness---Andrew Bird
        Andrew Bird at his most relaxing (and this guy was on Yo Gabba Gabba... so...), tenuousness is a gentle concoction constructed out of a clapping gallop, and Bird's ever-playful lyricism.

13. Fast Peter---Moonface
        An engrossing rush of looped organs, Fast Peter immediately feels exhaustive until its groove settles down into your bones, topped by some of Spencer Krug's most earnest, charming and goofy lyrics to date.

14. Family Tree---TV on the Radio
        A ballad if ever there was one, Family Tree is TV on the Radio clearing out space for Tunde Adebimpe to deliver a power-house vocal performance, garnished with violins, cellos, and other lovelinesses.

15. Weekend---Smith Westerns***
        An all-fun, all-the-time little guitar jam that would have seemingly been in place on the Ed Sullivan Show, Weekend will hop right into your head, and stay there for days.

16. Raconte-Moi Une Histoire---M83
        One of the only songs I've ever heard that could accurately be described as both adorable and psychedelic, M83's odd little number tells an oddly heartening story, placed on top of shifting, exciting instrumentals.

17. Lord Knows Best---Dirty Beaches
         Lord Knows Best's scratchy, looped piano sample is so hypnotizing that you almost start to see the world in slow motion, caught in the tune's strange glow.

18. Cherry---Ratatat***
        Quite possibly the only truly mellow tune in Ratatat's catalogue, Cherry is the sound of walking through open fields, and seeing and feeling the season's change.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games (Release Date: 3-23-2012)

        Hundreds of years in the future, the United States has fallen. The nation was ripped apart through civil war, but has since been resurrected as a new country, named Panem. The Capitol of Panem is a shamefully wealthy place, residents sinking their funds into gaudy fashion and rampant excess. The twelve surrounding districts whom the big wigs of the Capitol govern are not so lucky. Not only are the regions lower on the socio-economic scale, ranging from mildly well-off to dirt poor, they're also subject to one nasty annual tradition. Each year, one boy and one girl from each district is randomly selected to participate in the Hunger Games, a nationally televised gladiator event wherein 24 youths enter an arena, and only one is allowed to leave. The rest meet their end at the hands of their peers.

        These are the trappings of Suzanne Collins' mega-selling Young Adult novel The Hunger Games, a property that was essentially a financial slam dunk the second that it was announced. Lionsgate, a mid-major studio who has never had anything even close to this big on their hands, could have easily phoned this one in and still broken Box Office records, but, god bless them, they didn't. Not even close. The Hunger Games film is riveting, pulsing with blockbuster electricity and enormity that are usually regulated to the summer months of movie release date calendar. It wants to be big and important, and it is.

        Much of this comes down to the excellent handling of the production, starting off with the film's impeccable casting. Anyone who's read the novel knows that the intrigue of The Hunger Games owes as much to Katniss Everdeen, the strong, surly female who relays the tale through first-person, as it does to its dystopian set-up. Casting Katniss was a make or break for this movie, and I'm proud to announce that the studio's choice, youthful indie veteran Jennifer Lawrence, is a resounding triumph. Few actresses Lawrence's age have such a sense of gravitas, such an ability to visually communicate inner strength without over-doing it. She's also physically up to snuff, and while her voluptuous person might come at contrast to her age (16) and malnourished upbringing, there's a power to her body that makes her wholly believable as the warrior that Katniss is meant to be. Everyone surrounding her is similarly great, but the movie is all about Lawrence, who was the new kid on the block a mere 2 years ago, nabbing her first Oscar nomination for the gritty, unrelenting Winter's Bone. The Hunger Games will/has made her an enormous star overnight, and she deserves every last bit of it.

        The Hunger Games possess inextricable links to two other pieces of art, to which it will be compared to from here on out into eternity. The first, of course, is the source novel. The second is the entire Twilight series, but we'll get to that in a minute. Many obsessed, detail-oriented fans will complain about this omission or that one, but I'm here to take a divisive stance: I think that The Hunger Games works better on screen than on page. Where the novel is entirely seen through Katniss' eyes, doling out endless inner-monologue, much involving a tacked-on feeling love triangle as she fights for her life, the film uses an objective eye. This allows the movie to capture the proceedings on a much grander scale, all the valor and violence expansive and serious-minded. The book, in the opinion of this writer, occasionally presented its dire story in a frivolous manner. The film makes no such mistake.

        As a mind-blowingly popular Young Adult novel with hints of fantasy, observed through the eyes of a young female with two hulky, doting boys in tow, The Hunger Games almost begs to be compared to Twilight. Admittedly, I have not read Stephanie Meyer's vampire series, but a movie-to-movie comparison between the two is simply no contest. The Hunger Games is a straight-faced affair, dealing with heavy themes without skimping on the adrenaline, working wonders of size with its relatively modest 78 million dollar price tag. The original Twilight movie featured lines like, 'Hold on, Spider Monkey,' and its cheap aesthetic might prompt one to wonder how much of its 37 million dollar budget was lost to couch cushions. The later Twilight entries, Breaking Dawn withstanding, have been decidedly less laughable, but there's truly no justifying the comparison. Twilight is a wish-fulfillment romance with auxiliary elements pasted on its edges. The Hunger Games, much like its strong-willed heroine, hardly has time for love at all. It's too busy fighting for its life, working its tail off to be a towering, enveloping entertainment, as opposed to just a successful one. Hats off to Hollywood: 2012 finally has its first real winner.

Grade: A-

Friday, March 23, 2012

21 Jump Street (Release Date: 3-16-2012)

        Logic can be the bane of a movie's existence. Some flicks, like action thrillers, or horror entries, torture their audience with poor decision making and clumsy exposition. Others, like heist movies, or biopics, dedicate so much focus and attention to making sense that they forget to entertain altogether. But Co-Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have just the solution for this paralyzing conundrum: Ignore logic completely. How else do you explain the easy friendship that evolves between schlubby geek Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and his air-headed jock of a high school (tor)mentor, Jenko (Channing Tatum). Or the rampant damage that the two cause, both socially within the school, and to private property outside its doors, without ever receiving a slap on the wrist? There's simply no explaining these occurrences; They're open wish-fufillment, and one of the smartest moves that 21 Jump Street makes is not only being honest about fantasy trappings, but wearing them proudly.

        You'll know this from the very start, when Hill and Tatum breeze through years worth of backstory and friendship development in mere minutes, all before Ice Cube shows up to chew scenery for what seems like hours. In this fantasy land, the two are assigned to go under-cover as high school students, and bring down a drug ring whose leader might just be a student. What the two find there is sometimes more interesting than funny: Tatum, once the ruler of the High School kingdom, turns out be be neither smart nor eco-friendly enough to be one of the popular kids, just as Hill's dry humor and self-defacing attitude come into style. It's an intriguing commentary on social shifts (and a surprisingly positive one, if you ask me), but it just doesn't give you the giggles the way that it should. The scenes that do get the guffaws are nearly always physical in nature, wether the leads are tripping out on drugs, or in the middle of some kind of action sequence, creating a slight rift right down the middle of the thing.

        Don't get me wrong: 21 Jump Street is a fun flick. Hill and Tatum have a great manic energy together, even if the improbable nature of their pairing distracts. Lord and Miller, making their live-action debut after their similarly loopy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, deserve some style points for the way that the whole thing is sewn together, and they keep the thing moving for much longer that most comedies get away with (110 minutes, almost all of them entertaining). I suppose that I just went in with my expectations a tad high: I was looking forward to great time at the movies, and I received what passes for a great time at the movies in March. The days of Summer couldn't come soon enough.

Grade: B-

Monday, March 19, 2012

Odd Future: The OF Tape Vol. 2 (Release Date: 3-20-2012)

        If you're aware of Odd Future (or, as they're properly named, OddFutureWolfGangKillThemAll) chances are you've already established some kind of opinion of them. The Hip-Hop collective, who calls San Francisco home, absolutely exploded onto the scene last year, riding a mammoth wave of hype that only the internet can create. Their first application for prime time came in the form of Tyler, the Creator's Yonkers music video, a stirring, captivating clip that saw him to a VMA for Best New Artist, and brought his deplorable, profane world-view to the attention of numerous civil rights groups who only served to bolster his fame. Tyler was all of 19 when Yonkers dropped, and he's only 21 now, leading a slew of similarly-aged MC friends head-first into the world of divisive but popular music. The group has been releasing music together since 2007, but The OF Tape Vol. 2 is the first time that the boys got the whole band together since their star took to the sky.

        And what do you know; The group's second mixtape is, to the joy of some, and the misery of others, pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's extremely explicit, exuberant, long-winded, idiotic, and exciting. Just like we observed with Tyler's Goblin mixtape from last year, OF Tape 2 asks its listeners to sit through patience-trying grinds like We Got Bitches in order the arrive at thunderous jams like early-leak Rello and NY (Ned Flander). Again, the schizm between the innocence of these boys' youth and the harshness of their words takes center stage, endlessly offensive rhymes bouncing off of lines like, "And I've got a Capri Sun on me," causing their characteristic listener bafflement, though the power is eventually lessened through repetition.

        The only real thing that we learned from Odd Future's latest offering is the band's pecking order. It's always been Tyler and silky-voiced Frank Ocean on top, but here, Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats establish themselves as the primary supporting cast, spitting sordid plays on words at a speedy clip. This is not the album that sees Odd Future to another break-through, but it's also far from a misstep; As a matter of fact, it might be a statement of purpose. We are Odd Future, and we make sprawling compilations that make your jaw drop one moment, and bring your palm to your face at others, all on top of some cold, hard beats. Listen and enjoy... just not too loud when those parents are home.

Grade: B

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Shins: Port of Morrow (Release Date: 3-20-2012)

        It's been a whole 5 years since The Shins last released an LP, 2007's Wincing the Night Away, but the cobwebs that these guys are shaking off go back even further. While Wincing was a big hit, flying off of shelves, and seeing them to greater fame, now that the dust has settled, it's hard to find anyone who really values the likes of Australia or Sea Legs on the same level as older hits like New Slang or Saint Simon. So, yeah, scrap comparisons to 2007, and rewind it all the way to 2003, 9 years, which translates to 27 in indie-buzz-band years. Suffice to say, The Shins that we all know and love, the ones who positively embodied the independent music scene in the early 2000's, are getting along in their years.

        If Port of Morrow is their attempt to turn back the clock, the disc is a woeful failure. Most glaringly, the album's second half gets stuck in a sort of mid-tempo rut, playing along pleasantly enough, but sounding disappointingly Dad-friendly (Sorry Dads!). September and For a Fool, in particular, appear completely oblivious to just how similar they are, slipping anonymously into and out of one another without distracting you from whatever else you're doing. Maybe that's the real problem here: With the exception of premiere single Simple Song, every track is far too content with being background music, opting for niceness over intrigue time and time again.

        That being said, one could find far worse songs to do homework to. As previously alluded, Simple Song is undoubtably the album's champion, with James Mercer's voice and lyrics slotting perfectly into the band's heyday canon, encased in guitar chords that wiggle in just the right way. Opener The Rifle's Spiral is no slouch either, employing the denser sound that they briefly visited on their Know Your Onion! EP back in 2002. But the tune with its finger most firmly on the pulse of Morrow is It's Only Life, a song that displays exactly how age has effected this band.

        It's not that The Shins haven't tried working with twang before, and Mercer's lyrics are no stranger to emotions that seem adolescent in nature, but he's never been 41 while delivering them. When he breaks from the track's near-constant falsetto to deliver the impassioned line, "Call you on the telephone/Won't you pick up the receiver?" I couldn't help but giggle, but I also couldn't help but kind of like it. It was at that moment that I realized what had just happened; The Shins have become Weezer, reliving past nerdy glories with one listenable cheese-fest after another, all improved by the familiarity of the band's sound, and the listeners' love of past accomplishments. There are worse fates, but just like that comparison that I made at the beginning of this, are you really ever going to pick Pork and Beans over Buddy Holly? I didn't think so.

Grade: C+

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oscar Predictions 2012: Round One

        You thought I was done talking about the Oscars, didn't you? Oh, what a foolish thought, indeed! As a matter of fact, I never stop thinking/talking/writing about the Oscars, and really, now is as good a time as any to do it. From this early out, anything is possible, every highly-touted film still-unseen, still wonderful until proven otherwise. More than just some early Oscar picks, this article is a celebration of the slate of (potentially) high quality flicks headed our way in the next calendar year. Here are my potential Best Picture Nominees, ordered in a mind-numbingly arbitrary manner, as I have not seen a single film in question. Here we go:

(Note: I fully realize that not all of the pictures included are from the movie in question, or even produced by the company behind the film. That's what happens when you write about flicks 9 months in advance.)

1. Lincoln
        Last year, my earliest early predictions had Steven Spielberg's War Horse at the top of the ranks. When it came out, people by and large sort of shrugged it off, and it still managed a Best Picture nomination. Case in point: Spielberg makes an Oscar-Friendly movie, it automatically shoots to the top of the class. And, yeah, the story of Abraham Lincoln, as performed by Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and others... sounds pretty Oscar-Friendly to me.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
        Movies about recent world events can be hit and miss with the Academy, and this story of 6 Navy Seals on a mission to take down Osama Bin Laden might have, 'too soon,' written all over it. Then again, it also has Oscar written all over it, with Kathyn Bigalow and Mark Boal, the director and screenwriter that brought us The Hurt Locker, re-teaming for another dance with the golden man.
3. Les Misérables
        Oscar loves a good-old-fashioned musical, especially one as highly-regarded, and serious-minded as Les Misérables. What's more, there hasn't been a singing flick listed among the year's best since Chicago took home the big win, so voters might be hungry for the genre. The film serves as Director Tom Hooper's follow-up to The King's Speech, and boasts of a star-studded cast of thespians drooling for Oscars (Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, so on...).
4. The Dark Knight Rises
        Go ahead, expect the Academy to snub this movie the same way that they snubbed The Dark Knight in 2008, but prepare to be surprised. The expansion of the Best Picture roster is viewed by many (including this writer) to be a result of the last Batman flick's omission, so Rises not only has the immediate attention of voters, but even a handicap in its favor. Now it just needs to be good.
5. The Master
        Any movie with the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Harvey Weinstein behind it has a damn good chance at having its name up in lights on Oscar night. The subject, rumored to be, 'not based,' on the origins of Scientology, gives me pause, but everything else about it doesn't.
6. Django Unchained
        This is the year where we find out if the name Tarantino has become synonyms with Oscar love. His slave-epic throw-back to the westerns of the 70's might not be up the Academy's alley, with characters named Broomhilda and so-forth, but having DiCaprio and recent winner Christoph Waltz on board sure helps.
7. Gravity
        Not many have their eyes on this one as intently as I do, which almost makes me want to predict it even more. A mysterious sci-fi project starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, I wouldn't be so high on this if it didn't come from the Director and Cinematographer of Children of Men, one of the most criminally over-looked movies to come out in my life time. Sure, the Academy ignored them last go-around, but if they return with similarly staggering results, I don't think they'll pass twice.
8. Argo
        Can Ben Affleck sit at the big-kids table? That's the question at hand as he prepares to unveil Argo, a sprawling CIA epic that follows closely on the heels of his almost-nominated The Town. With a cast including Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Gooman, and Alan Arkin, there's a lot of reason to keep hopes high.

As of now, I am predicting that these will be the Eight that get nominated (I don't have some crazy math problem that helped me determine the number, these just seem like the ones). The following is where I rank the next movies in line.
17. Brave
19. To Rome With Love
24. Looper

Friday, March 9, 2012

Leftovers: February 2012

Leftover Music:
The Clearing---Bowerbirds
         2012, in its early runnings, has been a pretty unambitious year in as far as media art is concerned. Blockbuster movies only start pouring out this month, and the music world seems to be hiding their big guns for even longer. Enter Bowerbirds, a three-member band from South Carolina who's been kicking around the lower-ranks of buzz-bands for a few years now. While their previous efforts were lovely and promising, The Clearing is their moment, fleshing out previously simplistic songs structures with the likes of violin, trombone, cello, organ, vibraphone, and clarinet. It's a veritable feast for the ears, all blown up into lush cinemascope, gliding on top of lead singer Phil Moore's swooning croon (comparisons to Andrew Bird are wholly justified). The album opens up with early Song of the Year candidate Tuck the Darkness In, and while the rest might not match that tune's grand-standing loftiness, beauty is slathered all over the thing, making The Clearing 2012's most pleasantly surprising music entry thus far.

Kindred and Street Halo EPs---Burial
        It's been nearly five years since William Bevan, AKA Burial, has released a proper LP. The disc in question, 2007's Untrue, is looked at by many as a canonical entry into the early, less-boisterous incarnations of Dubstep, so it's no wonder why the dude is still working on a follow up. That's not to say he hasn't been busy, helping out with guest spots and collaborations, and dropping two three-song EPs in the span of a year. Street Halo was originally slotted for inclusion in my Top 50 Albums of 2011, but I eventually decided that it was a bit slight of an offering to compare readily with full-length LPs. The chilled, downcast beats were just as captivating last year as when Bevan initially burst on onto the scene, but they're even better when paired with the thematically identical Kindred. Played back to back, the two make for 50+ minutes of anxious, foreboding, and strangely danceable listening, offering more than enough to keep grey-skys Dubstep fans happy until that long-awaited LP finally drops.

Interstellar---Frankie Rose
        Following her excellent cover of The Strokes' Soma on last year's Is This It? tribute album, Frankie Rose finally gets a chance to show what she her sprawling pop sensibilities sound like in album form. The results do not disappoint. Like Beach House with considerably more caffeine, Rose's songs swirl around in a multi-colored world, fueled by eternally blurry guitar strums, and a singular knack for ear-worm melody. Check out the pop tumble that is Night Swim, or the chant-ready stomp of opener/title track Interstellar. Frankie Rose has always been one to watch, and now, she's one to listen to ASAP.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Andrew Bird: Break it Yourself (Release Date: 3-6-2012)

        Andrew Bird has been around longer than you might think. One of Indie music's patron saints of Orchestral Pop, Bird's been on the scene since the fresh young age of 24, and has remained there through today. In his 38 years of life (and 14 as a recording artist), Bird has released a whopping 10 albums, 7 under his solo name, 3 under the Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire moniker. The extended time in the spotlight has allowed the man to really develop as an artist, but it has also served to strip him of just about any sense of mystery. After all of these years, we as an audience have a very, very specific understanding of what a, 'New Andrew Bird,' disc will sound like, and this sense of confinement finds Break it Yourself tripping over its own feet more often than not.

        Above all else, Break it Yourself feels painfully low on urgency. The LP spans a sizable 14 tracks, collectively occupying an hour's time, and only early single Eyeoneye possesses any real sense of get-up. The song is an easy highlight, Bird strumming some hearty riffs that lead in to a surprisingly break-neck conclusion. It's the only entry on the album that has the nerve to use some gas, the others all restricting themselves to driving in residential areas, and parking lots. To describe it as relaxed would be the ultimate understatement: This is a collection of tunes with the power to slowly close eyelids, and while this soothing sensation is certainly admirable in some respects, listening to Break it Yourself in the middle of the afternoon might prompt you to take a nap.

        Listen: Andrew Bird will never release a, 'bad,' album. He's too musically savvy, his voice is too golden, and he has an unteachable understanding of what sounds pleasant going into ear drums. But pleasant is the opportune word here, as song after song pass without ever even attempting to validate their own, individual existence. If you can tell me the difference between the simple shuffles of Lazy Projector and Fatal Shore, I'll give you a cookie. Bird's way with off-kilter lyrics is also starting to fade, trading in goofy, non-literal chants of the past like, 'There will be snacks/There will,' for repeated, exacting stances like, "Oh, I can't see the sense in us breaking up at all." Even when BIY clears out space for a eight-minute epic like Hole in the Ocean Floor, the entire thing just sort of lofts around in the air, lacking senses of direction or purpose found on previous long-form Bird wonders like Armchairs. Break it Yourself is the disheartening sound of an artist running out of tricks, and even if his old stand-bys remain lovely and warm, there's no mistaking this with the guy's best work.

Grade: C

Friday, March 2, 2012

Netflix Instant Watch Picks for March 2012

Now that the Oscars are over... How about more Oscars! Edition:

The Fighter
          Way back in the long forgotten year of 2011, there were a whopping, eye-popping 10 Best Picture nominees (as opposed to this year's 9). Those of you who follow the site, or even just speak to me in person, probably know that I preferred last season's line-up to the one we saw this last Sunday about twice over, and The Fighter is a big reason why. A boxing movie isn't exactly uncharted Oscar territory, but the energy and verve of this flick make it stand out from the pack. Mark Wahlberg stars as real-life Middleweight Mickey Ward, a Boston native whose violent expressions in the ring disguise his permissive personality, as he allows his hoard of bickering sisters, domineering mother (Melissa Leo), and Crack-addled big brother (Christian Bale) to conduct his career. This all changes when Mickey meets Charlene (Amy Adams), a no-nonsense type who is stands by her man, and lights a fire under the situation. Director David O. Russell is a master of capturing odd-ball social situations, a knack that makes The Fighter's moments of discourse just as electric as the battles peppered around them. The Fighter is a grand sports movie, making you care about its characters, staging events both massive and nail-biting.

True Grit
          I am a complete and total sucker for the Coen Brothers. I could seriously watch either of them eat a sandwich, and probably be completely entertained. I walked into True Grit expecting the brilliant pranksters to reinvent the Western, and at first, I walked away a little underwhelmed. Turns out, the problem was all in expectations. The pair had already re-written the genre a few short years earlier (No Country for Old Men); This was a loving return to something gone, but not even slightly forgotten. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is out for retribution: After the 14-year-old girl's father is murdered in cold blood, Ross hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down the killer. Filled with stunning visuals, sweeping music, whip-smart olden dialogue, and the west's particular brand of heroism, True Grit is a joy to watch from start to finish, proving that these patron saints of the art-house can appeal to mass audiences without losing their unique sensibility.

Winter's Bone
        If you're one of the bagillions who already have their The Hunger Games midnight showing tickets, and you haven't seen this movie, you've got something to remedy. Jennifer Lawrence's true coming-out party is a gritty neo-noir set in the Ozark Mountains that sees her displaying all of the earthy, strong-willed, kick-ass qualities that make her a shoe-in for Katniss Everdeen. Her Ree Dolly has quite a problem on her hands; While taking care of her ailed mother and two siblings, Dolly is informed that her meth-cooking father has jumped bail, and if he doesn't turn up, the family's house will be seized. Dolly sets out to find him, plummeting into the dark and seedy underbelly of the area. Winter's Bone isn't exactly easy-watching, but it's riveting cinema, with towering performances by Lawrence and John Hawkes, and an ending that rattles around in your head for days.