Film: Uncut Gems (2019)
A cinematic ticking bomb if there ever was one. Uncut Gems is directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie who continue their tradition of casting a famous actor in an atypical role. 2017’s Good Time (which I liked, but maybe not loved) had previous teen-idol Robert Pattinson as a gritty bank robber, and this time around Adam Sandler becomes jeweller and gambling addict Howard. Now look, anybody who’s seen Punch-Drunk Love and even the more recent The Meyerowitz Stories knows that Adam Sandler can act, but goddamn, is it always refreshing to see him go out of his comfort zone. Uncut Gems is a film whose intention seems to be to take you on an anxiety and adrenaline-filled ride and never allow you to catch your breath, not even for a moment. And at that it succeeds – it keeps building and building up until culminating into one of the most exciting climaxes I’ve ever seen in a film. Even though it was late at night, I was on the edge of my seat with eyes wide open and heart beating fast. And then that ending? Perfectly hilarious, dark, deserved.
Where to watch? Netflix.
Album: Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains (2019)
Purple Mountains will probably be forever remembered as singer and songwriter David Berman’s goodbye note, who committed suicide one month after the album’s release. It is a beautiful, aching dive into the mind of a man at the end of his rope. Musically this is not a complex album, and the band’s country-tinged arrangements and melodies may not be something that you haven’t heard before. But it is very effective, with always just the right instrumental touches to fit the message, such as the lonesome harmonica hook in Darkness and Cold and the ghostly harmonies in Nights That Won’t Happen. I also love Berman’s voice, a dry, unemotional baritone that somehow expresses so much. And then there’s the lyrics…oh man those lyrics. Each song contains lines that’ll touch a nerve, beautifully realistic, painfully personal. Here are some of my favorites:
“And the end of all wanting is all I’ve been wanting”
“Lately, I tend to make strangers wherever I go / Some of them were once people I was happy to know”
“The light of my life is going out tonight without a flicker of regret”
“How long can a world go on under such a subtle God?”
“I want to be tantamount to cordial, tantamount to good / I want to be a warm and friendly person, but I don’t know how to do it”
“The dead know what they’re doing when they leave this world behind / When the here and the hereafter momentarily align”
Truly one of the most moving albums of the past decade.
Where to listen? Spotify.
Special: Norm Macdonald – Me Doing Standup (2011)
When David Letterman introduces Norm Macdonald on his last performance on the show he convincingly states that there’s “no one funnier”. And I tend to agree. Norm is one of those people that I am in awe of every time I watch him. He seems to breathe funny in the same way that James Brown breathed music, and appears to work every waking hour at creating it. He’s a man that can take the most ridiculous street joke and make it side-splitting hilarious through…I don’t even know what. Through his intonations, his gestures, his rhythm, his everything. As the huge fan that I am my tendency is to recommend any and every Norm appearance (talk shows, podcasts, interviews), though I guess some people do have an actual life. Me Doing Standup is an excellent representation of the man’s comedy and, in my opinion, the better special of the two he has. What might surprise some is the slightly loose character of the show – by his own account Norm goes onstage with only the strong punch-lines prepared and then riffs and plays around them. But hey, I’d personally take Norm’s search for jokes over most comedian’s best-rehearsed material any day.
Categories: 1 Film, 1 Album, 1 Special