NEW YEAR/NEW MUSIC: 2007’s live music calendar in town kicks off with a brainy bang tonight and tomorrow (January 11 and 12), as digitized NYC violinist Todd Reynolds performs with videographer Luke Dubois at Center Stage. In a program called “Still Life with Mic,” we get a blast of experimental but accessible new music with visuals attached and interwoven, courtesy of the provocative Iridian Arts series. Reynolds’ diverse resume 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 sonics and sinuous/cerebral grooves.
LISTOMANIA, CONT.: The hopeless lifer film critic within — an obsessive characteristic 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 which 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 feelgood flick of the year, despite the weakness and period faux pas of its music, and the goofy-sweet Nacho Libre — Jared (Napoleon Dynamite) Hess’ 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 Mayan action flick 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 end, 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 Almodovar), 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), Dreamgirls (Bill Condon).
MEA CULPA: In last week’s round-up 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 humane 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 their 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, inviting UCSB MultiCultural Center theater this month, starting with a warm wind of “forro” music from Northeastern Brazil, on Friday night. Rob Curto’s Forro For All is a dance-happy group based around NYC-based accordionist’s jazz-spiced variation on the forro 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 Guquin music on the instrument known as the qin.
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