by Josef Woodard
NEW YEAR, NEW MUSIC: The in-town live music calendar for 2007 kicks off with a brainy bang tonight and tomorrow (January 11 and 12), as digitized N.Y.C. violinist Todd Reynolds performs with videographer Luke DuBois at the Contemporary Arts Forum. In Still Life with Mic, we get a blast of experimental but accessible new music with visuals attached and interwoven, courtesy the provocative Iridian Arts series. Reynolds’s diverse résumé includes work with Steve Reich, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, Bang on a Can, and Ethel, and his solo projects place him at the juncture of conventional violin virtuosity and laptop-aided, sinuous/cerebral grooves.
LISTOMANIA, CONT’D: The hopeless film critic within — an obsessive trait known to many, whether or not payment is attached to the practice — can’t help but fall into roundup mode around the turn of each year. It’s a holiday tradition, spilling over into January, as we babble and bicker about our best-of lists and survey the landscape of what was. Was this neurotic condition known in the 19th century? There may be no cure. But it’s a relatively harmless affliction, unless arguments come to blows. Below is a baker’s dozen-sized list of the best films of 2006, in the interest of trying to give closure to the year’s cinematic fruits. The list is site-specific, only including those films that have shown up in Santa Barbara, which still gets some of the late-breaking, Oscar-timed releases late, being outside the limited-release market. Still unseen in this area code at press time, for instance: Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima and David Lynch’s Inland Empire.
Of those screened here, Dreamgirls, bolstered by the stunning work of Jennifer Hudson, must be the sentimental feel-good flick of the year (despite the weakness and period faux pas of its music), and the goofy-sweet Nacho Libre — Jared (Napoleon Dynamite) Hess’s sophomore charmer — may be the year’s guilty pleasure. The slacker Zen-like Old Joy is an Oregonian film with hypnotic, Eastern sensibilities, and Mel Gibson’s stirring Apocalypto soared, whatever the transgressions of Gibson, the man. Little Miss Sunshine is the year’s sleeper sensation, with something for everyone, including sentimental resolutions to wild card situations, and Alan Arkin in pottymouth mode. From the more serious, real-world side, Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (second installment still on its way to Santa Barbara) wrapped WWII lore — and war, generally — in valid question marks, and United 93 introduced the 9/11 subject to cineplexes with unexpected grace, artfulness, and taste.
One Cinephile’s List: Little Children (Todd Field), Volver (Pedro Almodóvar), Apocalypto (Mel Gibson), Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood), The Departed (Martin Scorsese), Factotum (Bent Hamer), Nacho Libre (Jared Hess), Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris), United 93 (Paul Greengrass), Tsotsi (Gavin Hood), Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt), A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater), and Dreamgirls (Bill Condon).
MEA CULPA, #1: In last week’s roundup of the prime CDs of 2006, at least one glaring omission must be corrected. What list worth its salt would be complete without mention of the brilliant example of human electronica, Thom Yorke’s The Eraser (XL)? Last year, Yorke toured with his band Radiohead and passed through SoCal’s urban areas. We dream of the day the band deigns to return to the Santa Barbara Bowl, where its shows a few years ago were among the most memorable in the Bowl’s history.
TO-DOINGS: Music of a worldly sort comes to the intimate and inviting UCSB MultiCultural Center Theater this month, starting with a warm wind of forró music from northeastern Brazil on Friday night. Rob Curto’s Forró for All is a dance-happy group based around the N.Y.C. accordionist’s jazz-spiced variation on the forró tradition. Another calendar marker for so-called world music fans is next Thursday (January 18) at the MCC, when Wang Fei performs the traditional Chinese Guqin music on the instrument known as the qin. (Got e? firstname.lastname@example.org.)