Thursday, January 31, 2008

Don't Stay Home Tonight

Seriously. You can get someone to Tivo LOST. There is too much great live music going on!

First, head to Slowtrain for French Quarter.

Then, choose one of three options:
SLAMMys Acoustic @ Hog Wallow
Wendy Ohlwiler (9:30)
Stacey Board (10:15)
Eliza Wren & The Jewel Thieves (11:15)
Dead Horse Point (12:15)

SLAMMys Acoustic @ Mo's Bar & Grill
James Miska (9:30)
Chaz Prymek (10:15)
Chanticleer (11:15)
Grizzly Prospector (12:15)

Tolchock Trio, No Age, Liars @ Urban Lounge
action starts promptly at 10 p.m.
no kidding
no excuses (if Angus Andrews can defy doctor's orders and perform with a seriously tweaked back, you can make it down to cheer him on)

GET OUT THERE! Report back tomorrow.

(Jamie Gadette)

Flag Bashing

[Church/State] Gordon B. Hinckley appears to have been a decent, God-fearing man. And that has nothing to do with the fact that the American flag in Utah should not be flying at half-staff in his honor.

It may seem otherwise, considering the way Old Glory is used as a barometer for any sort of local tragedy, but there are actually Federal guidelines for this sort of thing. The governor of a state may, in fact, order American flags to fly at half-staff, but only under very specific circumstances. And the death of a religious leader -- I feel the need to re-emphasize this, even in Utah: a RELIGIOUS leader -- does not qualify.

Title 4 of the U.S. code spells it all out, and section 7m authorizes a governor to make such an order "upon the death of a present or former official of the government of the state, or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from that state who dies while serving on active duty" (hat tip to The head of the LDS Church may be a de facto political figure in Utah, but we can all mourn without bringing the flag into it. (Scott Renshaw)

KRCL Update: Get Ready for Baby Boom Radio

[Focus Group Hell] A consultant hired by KRCL 90.9 FM presented findings of his focus group research to the station’s board of directors last night (see City Weekly's Jan. 31 cover). The upshot: Focus groups really like listening to the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Dylan and Hendrix.

The KRCL focus groups can’t stand indie (“too crazy"), or Americana (too “twangy”). They really hate black music. (Those rap people use bad words.)

Babs De Lay, one of the KRCL’s volunteer programmers who attended the board meeting at Horizonte, wanted to know if the consultant had asked any black people?

The consultant’s response: How many minorities, are there really in the Salt Lake valley? (That brought grumbling from some at the back of the room, considering KRCL has for years been telling granting agencies that serving Utah’s minority communities was the reason for its existence.)

It’s all a numbers game, Peter Dominowski, principal of Market Trends Research, told volunteers and the board: Don’t get all high and mighty thinking you are providing some special service.

“Public service equals audience. They are synonymous,” he said. “Getting people to listen is the mission.”

Those who hoped focus groups of KRCL listeners would behave any differently than focus groups anytime, anywhere, were sorely disappointed. The pinheads who participate in focus groups said what they always say:

They want music that is “comfortable and familiar.” Music that is “appropriate” to listen to at work; that’s “uplifting and calming.” They don’t like to be challenged, or “work too hard” listening to the radio. As one focus group participant put it: “Different kinds of music, I just don’t like them.”

Focus groupies do like to hear the same songs over and over again. People don’t form emotional attachments to music, or a music station, without repetition, said Dominowski. And those emotional attachments are what make listeners contribute to fund drives.

KRCL should “adapt” techniques used by commercial stations. It should play “time tested artists,” and avoid “stressful,” “odd” or “polarizing” music during primetime, said Dominowski, who has been consulting public radio since 1985, providing focus group magic to more than 100 stations in the past two years.

Dominowski knows what the people want, because, with KRCL’s program director, he played music to six focus groups of 10 people each in late November. All participants were KRCL listeners. Two groups said KRCL was their favorite station. The other four were made up of people who sometimes listened to KRCL, but liked other stations better.

The guinea pigs were played five different two-and-a-half-minute music mixes, then asked to rate the music and give their thoughts.

Focus groups weren’t played any blues, jazz, or R&B. Those music types had already been excluded by analysis of Arbitron data measuring KRCL’s historic listener numbers.

  • The “heritage rock” mix of Beatles et al. had the broadest appeal across age and gender lines. (“All bands that I know,” said a focus groupie. “Felt like an old friend.”)
  • The Americana mix (including Lyle Lovett and Alison Krauss) got the thumbs down.
  • The indie mix (including Tegan and Sara and TV on the Radio) was “not uplifting” said focus groupies, who somehow were scared by the poppy The Thermals.
  • Older listeners hated the “urban contemporary” mix including M.I.A. and The Roots.
  • On the other hand, the “modern adult contemporary” mix (including Josh Ritter and Feist) was “well accepted.”
The consultant’s bottom line: KRCL should play a mix of “heritage rock” and “modern adult contemporary.” In the future, the difference between KRCL and the oldies station will be that KRCL will play the B sides.

Dominowski said the sound would be like (all together now) WXPN in Philadelphia. That just happens to be the direction station management was hinting at more than one year before the consultant ever set foot in Salt Lake City.

Much of Wednesday’s presentation to the board was made up of bar graphs segmenting KRCL’s listeners in categories like “loyalty by half hour.” Several volunteers noted that, according to the Arbitron charts, KRCL’s most successful current programs were playing exactly the types of music that would be banished from daytime in the proposed format switch. ("That's half of what we play," one said.) Currently KRCL's days from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. have among the highest listener “loyalty.”

But the consultant said people tuning into today’s popular KRCL programs were “fringe” listeners who listened only to a few programs and would never become “loyal.”

In addition to the recommended format change (KRCL should be all-music “minimally” from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays), the consultant recommended KRCL hire paid programmers.

Also, that KRCL’s music director program all music that is played during the days. No more having “inconsistent” DJs picking the music that goes out over the air.

Formally, KRCL’s board of directors won’t vote on the recommendations until Feb. 7, two days after a scheduled meeting of volunteers to discuss the proposal. But in fact the train has left the station. KRCL is already advertising for a new music director. Volunteer daytime station DJs were given their walking papers two weeks ago. It now appears that station directors agreed to hire paid DJs sometime this summer when KRCL signed a contract with the Corporation with Public Broadcasting, the agency paying for the station makeover.

All but lost in the general confusion and hubbub of the consultant’s presentation Wednesday was one of the his last recommendations: “Weekend primetime is just as important,” read the phrase projected on the wall.

Meaning that KRCL’s remaining volunteer DJs—the weekenders who thought they’d been saved in the switchover—may want to start getting nervous. (Ted McDonough)

Holy C.O.D.!

[Thursday Quiz] Each answer is the name of a religious leader. You are given a brief description and the cause of his or her death.
  1. Founded Christianity; crucifixion. [Answer]
  2. First Latter-day Saint prophet; gunshot wounds. [Answer]
  3. Sci-fi author; stroke. [Answer]
  4. Translated the Bible into German; heart attack. [Answer]
  5. Thelemic author of The Book of the Law; respiratory infection [Answer]
  6. Barely became the first Christian Roman emperor; prolonged illness. [Answer]
  7. Christian Science founder; pneumonia. [Answer]
  8. Bisexual founder of Wicca; lung cancer. [Answer]
  9. Indian prince who achieved Nirvana; mushroom poisoning [Answer]
  10. Islamic prophet; head pains [Answer]
  11. Jewish prophet; died in Jordan on Mt. Nebo [Answer]
  12. First Mormon Utah governor; cholera [Answer]
(Brandon Burt)


Who cares which candidate The New York Times endorses, or whose ship Giuliani jumps to? The celebrity endorsement to end all celebrity endorsements is now in.

Just take your vitamins, say your prayers and lay down your vote for the Barack-ster, brother. (Scott Renshaw)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Day of Respect, and of Political Temptation

This Saturday the streets of Salt Lake City stand to be choked with thousands of people seeking to pay their respects to the late President Gordon B. Hinckley. Members of the LDS faith will undoubtedly make pilgrimages from around the world if they can afford it, to pay homage to their departed prophet, this will include, media has told us, Mitt Romney.

Now it's hard to say when politics stop when a candidate is on the campaign trail. Is the trail something they ever step off of? One may never really know, but if a candidate can step off the trail that doesn't mean what they do off the trail won't have political consequences on the trail.

There's nothing to suggest that Mitt isn't sincere in his wish to pay respects, or anything to indicate that he will try and politically capitalize on the event for publicity. What is a potential concern is the temptation Romney might face to take advantage of the time in Utah to hit up old fundraising acquaintances for some much needed cash.

An interesting analysis pointed out that Romney is at the critical funding stage where carving a share of Super Tuesday delegates will mean dipping into personal reserves if he wants to be competitive with Huckabee in the south and McCain in the northeast. Now the question would be, will Romney who is certain to come into contact with former Olympic planners, as well as other prominent LDS businessmen who have in the past contributed to his campaign at the services Saturday, make any side trips? Or even really accept donations that day?

It's an incredibly risky proposition, and one to worry about. All the donors and resources may converge effortlessly in Salt Lake City for Romney but the potential backlash for even accepting a penny on the day of the funeral of a prophet could be devastating-- if word got out. We shall just have to wait and see...(Eric S. Peterson)

Annie Get Your Gun

[Legislature] It's unclear whether he is preparing for Armageddon, or the coming class wars in which God-fearing men will have to protect their storehouses from marauding bands of poor people. Whichever, Utah Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, has a proposal for the 2008 Utah Legislature some wags have dubbed the "Annie Get Your Gun Bill."

According to provisions of Madsen’s S.B 157, every man, woman and child will be able to carry a gun on the streets during a “declared state of emergency.” No policeman, mayor, or city council could confiscate a gun, or, in fact, do anything to stop gun owners from “the lawful possession, transfer, sale, transport, storage, display or use of a firearm or ammunition.” Utah’s governor would be specifically barred from interfering with guns. And anyone who had their weapon confiscated could sue.

Madson is sponsoring another bill this legislative session with the suggestive title, “Protection of Constitutionally Guaranteed Activities in Certain Private Venues.” Unfortunately, the bill on closer inspection also turns out to be gun related. The measure would force private employers to allow employees to bring guns with them to work, as long as the guns were properly stowed in cars.

Readers may recall Madsen as one of a group of gun-toting lawmakers who, this summer, had to unholster and secure weapons strapped to their bodies during the middle of what was supposed to be an educational bus tour of Davis County. (Ted McDonough)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hip Hop Don't Stop

[Local Music] So we've gotten a lot of heat recently over our apparent loose grasp on Salt Lake City hip hop. The response has mostly been of the "you like such and such band therefore you know nothing about hip hop" to the more thoughtful "Suck it City Weekly." Right. Not very helpful. Perhaps you could enlighten us: Who are you absolutely loving right now? Who deserves some attention in the paper? Oh, and Mugshots, I'm waiting for you to come down to CW headquarters. The invite is still open. (Jamie Gadette)

And You Thought Her Dancing Was Depressing...

[TV] Word is out that Marie Osmond has danced her way into an upcoming, nationally syndicated day time talk show. She will be carving out a day time niche to help make the afternoons fun and uplifting-- good news for Prozac'd out Utah county housewives and the unemployed alike.

Rich Colbert, of Program Partners who signed Osmond is quoted in a recent article as picking Osmond because "she is divorced, a single Mom and suffered from post-partum depression, Colbert said Osmond is “the voice of American women today.”

But don't cancel the Zoloft prescription yet folks, the syndicated series Marie won't be starting until fall of 2009, but when it does, it's sure to be your daytime prescription for heartfelt, yet wholesomely zany girl-talk (with possible dancing!!) (Eric S. Peterson)

Spite on the Hill

[Utah Legislature] It's time again for an ugly bill pushed by ugly people who have little regard for humanity.

All together now: Spite makes right!

Those who did the right thing by rejecting House Bill 241: Reps. Holdaway; Gowans; Moss; Shurtliff; and Wheatley.

As for the bigots in the majority on the committee? Well, somebody keeps electing them. (Holly Mullen)


[Local Music] As of this morning, we weren't aware of a SLAMMys Mariachi showcase, but who are we to question Burt's Tiki Lounge?

(Bill Frost)

Think You're Having A Bad Day?

[Downer News] Our country might be sliding into a recession, but things could be worse. I bring you another installment of The World Is Bigger Than You Are. Here's a sobering reminder of how scary things can really get. (Jamie Gadette)

Dead Zephyr: Week 220

[Downtown Rising] Salt Lake City's Zephyr Club has been closed since Oct. 31, 2003; no activity in the space since ...

(Bill Frost)

The GBH Conspiracy

[News] Last night, The Colbert Report exposed the grand conspiracy behind the "untimely death" of LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley. Remember, he did it, not us ...

(Bill Frost)

Monday, January 28, 2008

SLAMMys Week 3: Come On Feel the Noise, and Ambient Bliss

[Local Music] Ambient experimental music certainly isn't for everyone, but I'm a Twin Peaks watchin' William S. Burroughs readin' gal who has always had a taste for the stranger things in life.
So, you can imagine my off the hook jubilation when the Ambient Rock and Noise SLAMMys showcases fell on the same weekend.

Friday night, I headed to Liquid Joe's to check out I Hear Sirens, Our Time in Space, and DulceSky. I was absolutely impressed by the respectful, attentive Liquid Joe's audience. It's so refreshing to attend a show populated by people there to listen.

I Hear Sirens played first, and polished off an impressive instrumental set that was met with warm applause and lots of love. It’s always gratifying to see a vocal-less band with a solid fan base.

My personal favorite was Our Time In Space. They’re currently working on some new, more high octane material that they debuted on Friday night. OTIS never cease to amaze me because they’ve mastered a certain straight-up rock & roll fierceness with ambient underpinnings. I would highly recommend their live show.

DulceSky played last, and their darker, more moody brand of ambient rock never fails to mesmerize an audience.

On Friday Night, I felt like the animated head with the glowing red sinuses from the Tylenol Cold and Sinus commercial, but the Ambient Rock showcase was certainly worth while, so I’m glad I attended.
On Saturday, I STILL felt like the animated head with glowing red sinuses from the Tylenol Cold And Sinus commercial, but that didn’t stop me from attending the SLAMMys Noise Showcase at Red Light Books.
“And what’s the appeal of noise?” asks 99.9% of the population…

I will readily admit that experimental music lacks universal appeal. But I will say if you’re willing to give noise a chance, you’d be amazed at what it does for your mind and senses.
15 minutes of solid drone always clears my mind and re-sensitizes me to the nuances of the world.
Tenants of Balthazar’s Castle, Palace of Buddies, I Hate Girls With Bruises, Yeti, Agape, and Ih86335 (that’s “I hate bees,” people) all played solid sets to a respectful, attentive crowd in the cozy basement of Red Light Books which resembles the cave where the Fraggles live (sparkly ceiling and all...)
It’s always comforting to know that you’re not the only Twin Peaks watchin’, William S. Burroughs readin’ noise lovin’ gal in town. (Jenny Poplar)

Sundance: Thursday Night Freeze-a-thon

[Fest Music] Dear reader, I understand that blogging is supposed to be an instantaneous form of communication. So, please forgive me for the absurd gap between the time the events detailed in this blog actually happened, and the time it took me to post this account.

Thanks to the fates conspiring against me, I only made it up to Park City once during Sundance. And I didn't get to see Patti Smith or Neil Young. I froze my ASS off and paid $20 to park my car. But it was still fun.

Despite going up early last Thursday, and wielding a pass, I didn't get into the Star bar AT ALL. That's okay. The Star Bar is like an underground prison with creepy red lighting. I waited in line for almost 4 hours in a snowstorm to see
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and they didn't even end up playing.

I did have some CHOICE celebrity sightings while I was waiting in that never ending line, being pelted with snow.

If I were an ethic-less celebrity gossip journalist, I would have received a promotion. I guess I'm crossing the line by posting this blog.


I saw a very grizzled, angry looking Alec Baldwin (the years have not been kind to him, friends) carrying a mystery baby. The devil on my shoulder told me to snap a picture and sell it to the National Enquirer, but the angel (who always wins) said "naw, that poor man has suffered enough... let him walk by in peace with his secret love child."

Next I spotted British actor
David Thewlis chatting away on his cell phone. I've seen him in many films and I think he's an incredible actor. He's quite striking in person.

The BEST (hint of sarcasm) was a visibly inebriated David Crosby in an ankle-length brown fur coat and hat walking against traffic in the middle of the street with a dazed expression on his face. Eventually, a team of handlers got a hold of him, and I saw them escort him in the other direction.

In all fairness, perhaps David Crosby has dementia. Isn’t that sad when the best case scenario is dementia?

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young were SUPPOSED to play the Star Bar, but they canceled at the last minute. The door guy said it was because they "couldn't make it up the canyon," (bullshit!!!) but I think the real story is that Jolly Old Saint Lit (that would be David Crosby) got totally shit housed and the rest of the band decided not to go on without him. Apparently Neil Young played guitar for one song and Graham Nash sang backup vocals with a fellow named
Josh Hisle. Stephen Stills was MIA.

Oh, David Crosby!!! You’re breaking my heart!!! I love your music, I love your voice... but after 35 years, AND a liver transplant can't you get yourself together and sober up? You’re not going to get another liver. Poor David. I think he needs a little help from Dr. Drew.

My Thursday night wasn’t a total bust. I ended up seeing an excellent
Bloodshot Records alt-country band called Ha Ha Tonka on the Main Stage. It was frightfully cold (the Main Stage is OUTSIDE at NIGHT), but I’ve never attended a show with a square-dancing pit (!), so I’m glad I braved the weather.

I will say that the media often romanticizes events like Sundance. I PROMISE you... You will ALWAYS have more fun attending small shows and parties with cool, interesting, funny, INTELLIGENT people who you KNOW, friends who you care about, than all of those industry ass clowns had @ Harry O's all festival long. Keep that in mind next time you watch TMZ... (Jenny Poplar)

Sundance Gone, But Good Documentaries Still in Town

[Post Fest] The sun has officially set on Sundance, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to watch a good documentary or two until next year.

The Salt Lake Film Society is still pumping out relevant and though-provoking films for free right here in town.

Tonight at the Downtown library there will be a screening of the award winning documentary A Walk to Beautiful which follows five Ethiopian women born with physical disfigurements in their struggle for acceptance in their own communities. The screening will be tonight Mon. Jan 28 at the City Library auditorium at 7:oo pm. It will include a discussion with local activists as well as some of the producers of the film.

There will be another feelgood documentary at the city library this Wednesday at 6:30 pm, when the movie Freedom from the Abuse of Power: Torture and Unlawful Imprisonment is shown. This one is a snapshot of our country's recent unpleasantness with secret prisons and extraordinary rendition. University of Utah Professor Tim Chambless will lead a discussion on the legality and ethics of torture in the world, after the movie.

Sure they might not be the kind of movies your looking for if you're in a Weekend at Bernie's kinda mood, but if you are feeling like you want to grapple with some of the most challenging issues of our times then they are well worth checking out, and you don't have to drive to Park City. (Eric S. Peterson)

Hinckley: Is There a Complete Picture?

[Obit Wars] Over at The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Crawler Glen Warchol blogs nice today about LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died last night at the age of 97. Warchol urges people to go easy on the Mormon-bashing some might be inclined to share, if for no other reason than to exemplify good manners.

What Warchol may not have expected was the back and forth between posters, who let loose with rants about what they suspect is the Trib's censorship of online comments related to Hinckley. Anonymous posters to the Crawler seem fairly certain the Trib online editors are killing criticisms of the late prophet, and they are none too happy about it.

(This isn't the first time posters to the Trib's blogs and comment boards have suspected editors fiddle with their free speech. Go
here to be refreshed on a similar issue last week.)

I'm not endorsing a string of Hinckley and/or church criticism, by any means. This is a solemn moment, Hinckley was a giant among world religious leaders and a fine quipster to boot. But the questions raised about the "no warts" version of the Hinckley obituaries running in Utah newspapers and tributes running on all TV stations do give one pause. The best obituaries in newspaper lore are those that give a full picture of a person's life--good, bad, ugly. Since we are all human on this planet, it's always nice to see a realistic, if adequately respectful, obituary of the celebrities among us.

So, do this: Read the Utah versions and updates of the Hinckley tributes and then try these:

The New York Times Hinckley
obit today offers a bit more reason.

And here is a rather interesting NYT piece, written in 1994 (one year before Hinckley took the reigns from church President Ezra Taft Benson). Here, Hinckley talks about why members who speak out against church policy, as several BYU scholars did 11 years ago and were abruptly fired, do so at their own
peril. It's an intriguing look at the man's mettle before he became the worldwide leader of a church that cares very deeply about its public image. (Holly Mullen)

Where Were You When Gordon B. Hinckley Died?

[Local Culture] The phone rang last night just after dinner finished around 8 p.m. I was at a friend's house in Midvale. They're devout Mormon. The father, who'd just made his own pasta, is a longstanding member of his ward's Bishopric.

After he answered the phone, he said, "You're kidding." He hung up.

"President Hinckley's dead."

His wife's jaw dropped.

I was looking at Jessica, their 17-year-old daughter, who had her back to me.

She's about to attend BYU as an English major. I'd tutored her a few years ago in writing and was waiting for her to read some of her poems aloud. As a lapsed-Protestant, new to this country, Jessica was my introduction to Mormon folk. I've long admired her passion for a religion I confess I don't understand. What I have come to understand though is, as Harold Bloom said, the LDS faith is uniquely American.

As I watched her back and over her shoulder saw her mother's expression as she stared at her daughter's face, I could feel all of Jessica's pain radiating from her. Her sense of loss was palpable. Her back didn't move, nor her head. She was so rigid it made me ache to watch her. Finally, I turned away.

Where were you when you heard the news? How did you react? Or did it even register? (Stephen Dark)

Turn and Face the Strain

[Election 2008] Somebody owes David Bowie an apology ...

(Bill Frost)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

SLAMMys Week 3: Indie Rock at Urban Lounge

[Local Music] Even though Sundance is done, I believe we, as a city, can persevere.

As Sundance died its quiet death on Saturday night (much to the
passivity of everyone involved), the rest of Salt Lake went on living.

After missing out on a promising Friday night of SLAMMys performances (due to a disappointing Sundance screening of Choke) I made it my duty to catch the indie rock showcase at Urban Lounge. And even though I have yet to be disappointed by a Slammy performance, Saturday night proved to be the best so far.

The Lionelle earned some deserved props for putting on a superb first act. Both Cavedoll (above) and Let's Become Actors decreed the prowess of the new(ish) band, and I couldn't agree more. Check out their album Oh! The Company That We Keep! and you'll agree with me that it's the type of music that scares the hell out of you. Seeing them live was no different.

Let's Become Actors is that band that you want hate: good-looking dudes who play catchy tunes. I probably would've liked them more if the GF didn't want to do them so bad.

Cavedoll had color-coordination, rope lights and a projector... even if they didn't play so well, I would've been a fan (because I'm easily amused by rope lights). The six-piece gave the night some much-needed sass with their mix of pop and electro-dance, which filled the previously-empty dance floor. Extra kudos to drummer Jamison Wilkins, who did a fantastic job of standing out amidst a stage of dominant and sexy performers (sheesh, I don't wanna get all adolescent-boy on you, but I haven't tried as hard to catch eyes with a female performer since I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a couple years ago). Drummers rarely get their due, and Wilkins was incredibly tight. (Ryan Bradford)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sundance: The Awards are In, and That's a Wrap

[Film Fest] Tomorrow is the last official day of the festival, but tonight's awards ceremony kind marks the de facto end. And the winners are:

American Dramatic:
Grand Jury Prize: Frozen River
Audience Award: The Wackness
Directing: Lance Hammer, Ballast
Waldo Salt Screenwriting: Alex Rivera and David Riker, Sleep Dealer
Cinematography: Lol Crawley, Ballast
Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence: Anywhere, U.S.A.
Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Cast: Choke

American Documentary:
Grand Jury Prize: Trouble the Water
Audience Award: Fields of Fuel
Directing: Nanette Burstein, American Teen
Editing: Joe Bini, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
Cinematography: Phillip Hunt and Steven Sebring, Patti Smith: Dream of Life
Special Jury Prize: Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

World Cinema Dramatic:
Grand Jury Prize: King of Ping Pong
Audience Award: Captain Abu Raed
Directing: Anna Melikyan, Mermaid
Cinematography: Askild Vik Edvardsen, King of Ping Pong
Special Jury Prize: Ernesto Contreras, Blue Eyelids

World Cinema Documentary:
Grand Jury Prize: Man on Wire
Audience Award: Man on Wire
Directing: Nino Kirtadze, Durakovo: Village of Fools
Cinematography: al Massad, Recycle

And with that, my festival comes to an end. Thanks for following along, and we'll see you again next January. (Scott Renshaw)

Sundance: What's So Funny?

[Film Fest] It's strange that it has taken so long to realize, but I think I laugh more at Sundance than I do at movies the rest of the year. And a lot of it is even intentional.

I may not be the idea audience for some types of Sundance fare – needlessly provocative psychodramas, minimalist bummers – but the comedies tend to fall right into my wheelhouse. They're smarter than most, and less likely to be made for the sense of humor of a 12-year-old. Comedy for an actual adult doesn't come around nearly often enough.

One of my favorite recent Sundance comedies, The Puffy Chair, came from the sibling team of Mark and Jay Duplass a couple of years ago. Their new effort, Baghead, continues their participation in the lower-than-low-key aesthetic dubbed “mumblecore” with the story of four under-employed L.A. actors who decide to head for a mountain cabin and write a script to showcase their abilities. After a pair of hilarious early sequences – perfect Sundance fare in their parodies both of festival films and the subsequent parties – the film settles into a combination of amusing relationship observation and awkward detour into scary territory. The brothers Duplass may be into genre movies, but trying to insert half of one into their comedy doesn’t quite work.

French writer-director Samuel Benchetrit also clearly adores genre movies, but of a different type. His winning black-and-white comedy I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster presents four stories of people enthralled by the romantic allure of crime, but butting up against the realities of their actions. Benchetrit gets a lot of mileage out of bungled attempts at hold-ups and kidnappings, but he also finds unexpected heart in recognizing the connection between criminality and a search for something missing in people’s lives. It’s an uncommon mix of terrific slapstick and effective character humor.

Choke tries to achieve the same balance, but not to the same effect. Actor Clark Gregg adapts the Chuck Palahniuk novel about a messed-up sex addict (Sam Rockwell) who finds benefactors by pretending to choke in upscale restaurants. Gregg does a fine job with some of the edgier material, and Rockwell is becoming one of the most versatile actors that no one quite seems to appreciate. But as drop-dead hilarious as the film is at times, it also aims for a sentimental streak that doesn’t quite feel true to the author’s style. I only made it through the first half of the book Choke a few years ago, but if he ends his book the way Gregg ends his movie, the dude has softened up plenty since Fight Club. I laughed, I didn’t cry … and I wouldn’t have minded doing even more laughing. (Scott Renshaw)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sundance For Slackers

[Film Fest] Sundance 2008 is almost gone from us now and with the last weekend upon us so for all of you folks that if you haven't take advantage of this amazing opportunity to see amazing rebel film making, and go celebrity hunting just because you loathe the idea of making the pilgrimage to Park City and fighting the traffic, the ego pollution and the bone chilling cold, let me just say this: I don't blame you.

In my fourth year of enjoying the Sundance film festival, this has been by far my most favorite year and I never set foot in Park City. On top of that I've had the least amount of difficulty getting tix this year and have seen more celebrities then ever before.

First off I gotta say props to our film guru Scott Renshaw for being on the front lines up in Park City every day of this crazy festival. His advice has helped steer me clear of some potential "suckfest" movies and onto some good ones. Best of all is that I and the rest of you movie buff slackers can take advantage of these reviews to plan out which movies you want to see and just figure out when they're playing in Salt Lake. Chances are when a movie plays in the SLC you gotta much better chance of not only buying advance tix (15$) at the Trolley Square box office, but you also gotta good chance at getting in just at the waiting line. Grab yer number two hours before and then you only have to wait in line a half hour before the movie starts.

In this unprepared fashion I've gotten a chance to see three great documentaries this festival, The Linguists (check Scott's review here), Kicking It and Slingshot Hip-Hop.

In these screenings I still got the chance to see the directors in person and hear them talk about their work. Which was amazing for Slingshot Hip-Hop a documentary about the growth of Palestinian rappers using hip-hop to artistically channel their rage at the Jewish occupation. Man you thought Compton was a rough 'hood, imagine what kind of music gets produced on the streets of Gaza. Not only was the director present afterwards but she also brought 5 of the Palestinian rappers from the feature who answered questions and ended the night with some freestyle Arabic rap.

Last night I managed to get into a midnight showing of Hell Ride, a Tarantino production directed by Larry Bishop. Bishop a former actor in old Motorcycle gang movies of the late 60s revives the genre in an epic movie packed with bloody revenge, bikes, peyote and hot oil wrestling biker chicks. You know, your typical snobby intellectual Sundance feature.

But after the movie ended the director got up and talked and answered questions along with some of the cast including Michael Madsen, Eric Balfour and Dennis Hopper. Dennis Freaking Hopper!

I'm embarrassed to admit it but I was totally star struck. I mean this is Mr. Easy Rider himself! But then again I figure I was also star struck just because, hey, the last place I thought I would see Michael Madsen and Dennis Hopper would be sitting in the back of the Broadway theater.

But anyways it's not too late slackers! This Friday evening the vaunted adaptation of Chuck Pahlaniuk's Choke is playing at the Tower and tomorrow the animated horror shorts selection Fear(s) of the Dark is playing tomorrow at the Broadway at 3:00, for more info on that one check out the CW review.

And if you've seen nothing, go to the box office and you might be able to pick up some tix for the prize winning movies. They'll be up in Park City, but don't worry, by Sunday when the award winners are shown, the crowds will already be flying back to their respective coasts. (Eric S. Peterson)

Friday Letters Round-Up

  • Hahahahahahahahaha! This joke never gets old.
  • I just made this one up. Get it? Get it?
  • As long as we don't say the A-word, I'm sure nobody will know what we're really up to ...
  • Now let's see ... it's got to be on this ballot somewhere. "Hey ... hey, you--which button do I press if I want to vote against Socialism?"
  • I am getting sick and tired of all these trees around here. Can't they put in a road or a nice Top Stop or something? Yeah, I'll "wildlife" you, you thieving squirrel!
(Brandon Burt)

Meth: It's What's for Dinner

[TV] AMC's new original TV drama Breaking Bad could be the best show about a middle-aged meth dealer since, well, ever--and I'm not even going to make the all-too-easy Ogden joke here. If you missed Sunday's premiere (which City Weekly's Ted McDonough called "hilarious," and he ain't easy to get a laugh out of, trust me), AMC repeats it twice tonight; second episode to follow on Sunday. It's good, dark stuff--we know you like it that way.

As part of AMC's promotion, the website lets you send a personalized get-yr-shit-together video to a friend--it may not be life-changing, but it is the coolest widget trick I've seen in at least the last five minutes. An example:

(Bill Frost)

Sundance: Lake Effect

[Film Fest] For a screening of a film by a pioneer in experimental cinema, I was engaging in a little experiment of my own: Could I really sit through 80 minutes of images of one location?

James Benning's casting a glance is of particular significance to a local journalist, since the subject of the avant-garde legend's visual essay is Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, the massive stone-and-earth art piece in the Great Salt Lake. Over the course of 37 years, from April 1970 through last year, Benning shot footage of the Jetty, capturing the changes in its appearance as the water levels of the lake fell and rose over the decades. The shots last anywhere from one to three minutes, the only background noise generally consisting of the lapping of waves or the calls of shore birds.

There are levels of cinematic geek-dom, and I generally don't fall into that level that finds the material described above absorbing; give me a story, or give me No-Doz. And indeed, I'd be lying if I said I didn't nod off once or twice (though, to be fair to myself, at this point in the festival anyone who says they aren't nodding off hasn't been working hard enough). But there are also astonishing images here, from salt-covered stones that resemble alien eggs, to foam being blown over the surface of the lake like white tumbleweeds. There's tedium, yes, and there's beauty, and a somewhat remarkable look at a work of art that made an impact on the natural world around it, even when it was hidden below the lake's surface. (Scott Renshaw)

Girlfriend needs a manager!

[Republican Family Values] For those who worry that everybody in Utah County has become a neocon bent on spending up the hugest deficit in U.S. history, it's good to know that the key value of thriftiness is still espoused by some people in Orem.

Yep, you read right: That was $20 for a blowjob.

Somebody needs to have a talk with those girls--if not to keep them indoors where they obviously need to be kept, at least to teach them the value of a dollar. (Hint, girls: The value of a dollar is falling like a rock. Start your negotiations out at $200 and haggle from there.) Where is the union rep?
(Brandon Burt)

Utah Adopts Reporters' Shield Rule

[Media] Put this post in the category of completely self-serving news.

Well, not exactly. A shield rule that allows Utah reporters to protect their sources' identity will help news gathering for all of us--here at City Weekly and every other print, broadcast and online operation. And that, in turn, will help everyone who reads a paper, watches TV news, reads a blog. Most everyone.

Sometimes Utah's institutions really do the right thing by the public. The following e-mail came yesterday, signed by two Salt Lake City media lawyers who have been advocating for the shield rule--Jeff Hunt and Michael O'Brien.

"Dear Media Coalition Members:

Good news! The Utah Supreme Court yesterday adopted a reporter's shield rule for Utah. Acting with remarkable speed, the Court adopted Rule 509 of the Utah Rules of Evidence just one day after the public comment period on the Rule closed. According to an email I received last night from the Court's legal counsel, Rick Schwermer, and confirmed by a phone call this morning, the Court met yesterday and adopted the rule, effective immediately. That means news reporters in Utah are covered by the new privilege as of now. Schwermer said the Court would issue a written order later formalizing its adoption of the Rule.

... The Rule creates a near-absolute privilege for confidential sources. The only exception: when disclosure is necessary to "prevent substantial injury or death." ... This language is even more protective of confidential sources than existing case law and would compel disclosure of confidential sources only in the most extreme circumstances.

The rule also protects unpublished non-confidential newsgathering material, e.g., outtakes, notes, photographs, etc., subject to the balancing test that the Utah federal and state courts have been using for the past twenty years.

Through this process, Mike and I have become intimately familiar with the shield laws of the other 47 states and the District of Columbia. In our judgment, the Utah rule provides some of the strongest protections to news reporters of any shield law in the nation.

The Supreme Court's adoption of the rule culminates a nearly three-year-long campaign to enact a reporter's shield law in Utah. As you know, there have been many ups and downs along the way. The end result is very gratifying. Our thanks go to all of you who submitted public comments of the Rule, helped us educate the Advisory Committee and Supreme Court, consulted with us on strategy, and took the battle to the public via op-ed pieces, radio and television interviews, and editorials. This could not have happened without your support."

Oh. That's journalism god Hunter S. Thompson in the photo, c. 1971.

(Holly Mullen)

Sundance: "Excuse Me, I Need to Take This ..."

[Film Fest] I know people in the entertainment industry have convinced themselves that they need to be accessible every moment of the day, but come on, people. Have we no dignity at last?

In a festival venue's men's room, I overheard animated talking in a stall. And sure enough, after the flush, someone emerged still engaged in a conversation on his earpiece cell phone.

And we wonder why Hollywood ends up making so much crap. Thank you! I've been here all week ... (Scott Renshaw)

Sundance: Gold Metal

[Film Fest] Director Sacha Gervasi obviously understands the shadow that This Is Spinal Tap casts over his documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, his chronicle of the long-lived, never-quite-made-it Canadian heavy metal band for which he was once a roadie in the 1980s. During a recording session, he zooms in on an amplifier where the numbers go to 11; he follows band members on a tourist trek to Stonehenge. Even the band members themselves understand that they’re living a Spinal Tap-esque existence, as a backstage walk through a tiny venue’s blank hallways inspires a shout of “Hello, Cleveland!” I mean, the drummer’s name is Robb Reiner (as opposed to the single-b Rob Reiner who directed Spinal Tap). It seems like they were doomed from birth to these comparisons.

But there’s something even more poignant about Anvil!, because it’s all real. Founding members Reiner and singer/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow – childhood pals now in their 50s, supporting themselves with day jobs like delivering school lunches – soldier on at turning their 35-year project into something that will finally draw the wide acclaim that always eluded them, despite inspiring speed-metal legends like Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica. And Gervasi, allowed extraordinary access thanks to his longtime association with the band, discovers both a tale of almost absurd persistence and a sweet tribute to Kudlow and Reiner’s friendship. Ultimately, those two ideas become impossible to separate: As much as they love making the music, you get the feeling that they also can’t give up the bond that keeps them together.

At times, Anvil! hits some of the cringingly hilarious comic high notes of Spinal Tap: watching Kudlow try to raise money for a studio session by doing high-pressure telemarketing; a gig at a Prague nightclub where the owner tries to pay them in bowls of goulash; a performance at the wedding reception of the band’s other guitarist. But there’s one other crucial way that Anvil deserves comparison to This Is Spinal Tap: It has fun with its subject, but never loses respect for their commitment. A room full of critics broke into spontaneous applause at one point, recognizing an improbably heroic moment for the band. How much more awesome could a salute to these guys be? The answer is none. None more awesome. (Scott Renshaw)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sundance: The Thrill is On

[Film Fest] People see a lot of quirky comedies, minimalist dramas and other theoretically high-brow fare at Sundance. But why don’t people generally think of scary movies when they think of the festival?

History suggests Sundance thrillers should warrant more attention, between those that were box office hits (The Blair Witch Project, Saw) and those that triumphed artistically (last year’s Joshua and The Signal). Still, the creepy stuff generally finds itself relegated to the Midnight Category, far out of the limelight. You’d think the cinematic establishment didn’t really respect the thriller as a genre. Oh wait …

This year’s festival hasn’t exactly been swimming in thrillers. Michael Haneke’s English-language remake of his own 1997 film Funny Games made an appearance, but it’s scheduled for a theatrical release in just over a month. And I’ll have plenty more to say about Haneke’s little experiment in self-replication at that time.

Otherwise, you’re left with something like the high-seas high-tension of Olly Blackburn’s Donkey Punch. Three young women from Leeds, England – on a Spanish holiday to help one of them forget about a bad breakup – hook up with a group of seemingly charming men, only to find a trip back to their yacht turning into a nightmare. The closed environment of a boat on the water should lend itself to nerve-wracking action, but the film never manages to move beyond lurid to find something genuinely unsettling. People die at all the predictable intervals, though they do so in some relatively creative ways. But the really scary thing is how something with this much sex, drugs and violence can end up leaving a viewer faintly bored. (Scott Renshaw)

The (New) Life of Reilly

[Sportswriters We Love] For a long, long time there was one main reason to read Sports Illustrated: Rick Reilly.

Then the columnist who had top real estate on the back page decided to leave the magazine. (Damn you, Reilly! Didn't you know
you were why I resubscribed after letting my SI subscription lapse at least a decade ago?)

This story about his sabbatical from columnizing (until he starts up at ESPN) explains what he's been up to. And still, I miss him. (Holly Mullen)

News Flash from The Mormon Times!

[Media] Oh how I treasure knowing that the D-News has shed light on what's going on with that mysterious segment of Utah's population, known as "the Mormons." You may have thought the D-News' LDS news line column, Religion and Ethics column or...the rest of it's paper, was covering the latest coming off the Latter-day wire, well you were wrong.

The latest breaking news The Mormon Times tells us is a
list the Church is presenting on LDS vocabulary they are officially retiring. Some of these quaint terms were quite apropos during the nifty fifties but apparently don't have a place any longer in the modern church vocab.

Just for fun I'll list some of the obsolete terms and you try and guess why the church is reluctant to be using them anymore (just for help I will provide some italicized hints).

Deseret Sunday School Union: the original name of the church's Sunday school program.
(The last man to organize a Sunday school union strike against the church disappeared Jimmy Hoffa-style... into outer darkness)

Rainbows: a name for primary age girls. (Damn hippie children ruined that one for the LDS kids)

Gaynotes: original name for girls in the Liahona or "little homemaker" program. (insert own joke here)

M-Men and Gleaners: young men and young women's departments in the church's 1921 MIA program. (I swear I saw an ad for M-Men and Gleaners somewhere in the back of one of the City Weekly classifieds around here somewhere...) (Eric S. Peterson)

When Movies (Besides Ones Directed by Joel Schumacher) Make You Hurl

[Film] In non-Sundance-related news...

According to a thrilling nonstory/infotainment
piece by CNN, the movie Cloverfield has many people complaining about the motion-sickness caused by the hand-held aspect of the film. In fact, this situation is so dire that one IMDB user had to leave after only 20 minutes (the story actually cites this board-user).

After some journalistic research (ie combing more online discussion boards), I found that this reaction is not uncommon--which is going to affect peoples' decisions on whether to see the movie.

It's a shame too, because people SHOULD see the movie. I'm not going to review it, but it's unlike anything I've seen in a long time--especially in an age where sci-fi movies, novel by nature, have become increasingly familiar. Now, all that innovation is going to be negated by the fact that the movie makes people sick (aka the movie about a vomit monster who comes to vomit town and vomits all over the vomit people who are already inundated with vomit because the vomit pipe line burst*).

Plus, the only people who complain about shaky cam are old.

*Thanks Lauren (Ryan Bradford)

Sundance: BMI Snowball Showcase

[Fest Music] Last night I ventured up the canyon, an hour later than planned, to attend the BMI Snowball Showcase. The evening's scheduled performers included Cheb i Sabbah with Salar Nader, Mitch Hyare and special guest Gingger Shankar, Steve Smith from Dirty Vegas, Devotchka's Nick Urata and headliners The Aggrolites. To be honest, I was only familiar with Devotchka, but decided to brave another evening on Main Street since BMI was kind enough to invite me and three friends out to the event, held at the spacious Kimball Art Center--emphasis on spacious. For some reason, tiny clubs are the new hard-to-find clubs. Last Saturday I went to a party in a shoe store! A shoe store.

We left after 15 minutes of bumping into one too many puffy coats.

We hoped to arrive at the BMI show promptly at 6, have a drink or two, then grab some dinner elsewhere. Instead, we arrived at the Park City's Albertson's parking lot at 7, only to find out someone is charging a $100 flat fee for the chance to park there. Ridiculous. So we drove around like out-of-town newbies until a snow-crusted mound looked good enough to precariously mount the Subaru. What next? Oh, dancing across unpaved sidewalks trying to find a shuttle stop. We finally accessed one that was headed in the opposite direction from our destination, but figured it would circle back eventually. Heck, it was warm and I'd chosen form over function for the evening's attire.
When we finally arrived at the Kimball Art Center, we discovered a long line clustered around the entrance. Oh man. Not again! We stood there for about 10 minutes before I swallowed my pride and approached the BMI rep at the door. "Um, don't you know who I am?" I thought I said. I probably said something more like, "Um, hi. It's Jamie, do you remember me. The humble servant of the press?" Much to my surprise, she let us in right away. Woohoo! We missed the first two acts, but had a chance to grab some wine before Nick Urata took the stage. Before he came on, the emcee requested that the audience keep it down or go into another room to chat. It was refreshing to hear someone treat musicians with respect at a festival that so often turns bands into sideshows.

Urata was humble and amazing. He apologized in advance for failing to compare to the usual spectacle his eight-piece band puts on, then launched into a series of romantic ballads that were free of cliches and somewhat haunting in an old-soul type of way. He switched up his guitars, manipulated them using effects pedals, and just nearly shut up the crowd (who just couldn't stop themselves from murmuring at least a little, as you can tell from the brief footage here).

The Aggrolites came on right about the time the bar ran out (!) of wine. Either organizers were unprepared, or there were a whole lot of lushes boozing it up. I got up close for what I thought would be a sweaty, punk-fueled affair, but quickly realized the tight band was set on a more mellow performance. A few diehards in the crowd shook their fists in the air and modestly skanked to the restrained reggae/ska. Good stuff, but nothing all too memorable. Perhaps The Aggrolites were holding back for the industry event?

All in all, a good Sundance experience. We left the party to grab some grub off Main with our friend Patrick, who is working with local filmmakers Steven Greenstreet and Bryan Young on a documentary about (in a nutshell) obesity. Keep an eye out for the film which is in its final stages of development. Young says the soundtrack will feature material from several Salt Lake City bands, so you know you'll be hearing more about it from me. (Jamie Gadette)

Bruce Lee and Other Badasses

[Mass Transit] Since the first of the year, I've been taking the University TRAX line almost daily to and from the CW offices. It's partly a mission to lighten up my size-8 carbon footprint; and oh yeah, I have "loaned" my 7-year old car to my 19-year-old daughter in Los Angeles.

Beyond the minute environmental difference I'm making, I get a lot more than I give in this deal. The eavesdropping opportunities on the train are fabulous. (I partially make my living off of overhearing others' conversations--don't say you weren't warned.) This morning, on the 9:29 ride from Rice-Eccles Stadium, two rough-hewn guys, just slightly liquored up, got on at the Library stop, sat right behind me and spent the next three minutes (until I got off the train at Gallivan Plaza) comparing the prowess of martial arts heroes. Here is their approximate conversation:

Guy 1: A lady friend gave me this diamond earring (points to his ear).
Guy 2: You better have it in the right ear. You could get beat up for wearing it in the wrong ear, my man.
Guy 1: Yeah, but they'd have to be tough, man. They'd have to be Bruce Lee to beat me up.
Guy 2: Bruce Lee. Oh man, he was the baddest martial arts dude. The baddest.
Guy 1: What about Chuck Norris?
Guy 2: Chuck Norris. He's bad. He's the second baddest.
Guy 1: I'll agree with you there, man. And Jet Li. He's the third baddest. Him and that guy in Transformers.

(Holly Mullen)

DV8, Well-Done

[News] Last night, longtime downtown SLC concert/dance venue DV8 burned down. The joint opened as Cartoons Comedy Club in the early '80s, later becoming DV8 dance club with the occasional band and, eventually, one of the hottest alt-rock venues of the '90s: Tool, PJ Harvey, Elastica, Primus, the Rev. Horton Heat, Garbage and countless others played DV8 regularly; Pearl Jam made their Salt Lake City debut there. Even during an awkward phase as Club Xscape in the '00s, the place still hosted some great shows--and, even better, didn't host a scheduled concert by Canadian douche-rockers Nickelback because the band said the place "wasn't big enough, eh."

DV8 has been closed and empty for years, but your local TV news had no clue: Last night, you could forgive West Valley-based ABC 4 for not knowing anything about the Downtown West Temple area (at least they knew the Capitol Theatre was around there somewhere), and Fox 13 was too busy with important American Idol news, but KUTV 2? They're two blocks away and the only possibly endangered nearby businesses they could name were the Salt Palace and the Marriott Hotel. These are your downtown neighbors, Caffe Molisse, Mynt Martini, Benihana, etc. Do KUTV employees ever go anywhere downtown between the studio and the parking garage? (Bill Frost)

Sundance: Finally!

[Film Fest] Just when it looked as though Sundance 2008 would provide the most uninspired crop of American Dramatic Competition Films in my memory … well, that's pretty much still true. But at least I can walk away from it all having seen one great piece of filmmaking.

The film is Sugar, the second feature from the Half Nelson team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, and they continue to combine a powerful naturalism with a refusal to allow that “naturalism” to become “tedium.”

The story follows Miguel “Sugar” Santos (Algenis PĂ©rez Soto), a 19-year-old professional pitching prospect, from a training academy in his native Dominican Republic through spring training and his first minor-league assignment in a small Iowa town. The expected culture shock ensues—only knowing enough English to order one breakfast from the diner menu; enjoying hotel-room porn; eating meat loaf with the nice farm family he stays with—but Sugar is more than a fish-out-of-water tale. In the course of exploring a very specific milieu, Fleck and Boden capture something universal about the appeal of America as a land of dreams, and the collision of those dreams with harder realities. Low-key yet engrossing performances from the entire cast contribute to a tremendous piece of human drama. Turns out my sports draft analogy from yesterday was more appropriate than I knew; there’s an obvious #1 pick after all. (Scott Renshaw)