I've never understood the objection that Christopher Nolan's movies are sterile. Dunkirk, his new dramatization of the 1940 rescue of British soldiers from the beaches of Northern France carried out largely by civilians, knocked me flat. Here's my review.
search for me
What a Craig Finn-style blockbuster summer we're having this year. Nothing as visionary as Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015, maybe, or as congruent with my own sensibilities as The Nice Guys from last year, but everything I picked sight unseen for my Village Voice/LA Weekly summer movie preview—Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming—has so far avoided embarrassing me. I even liked Rough Night okay. It's possible I'm not all that discerning a critic.
But my praise for War of the Planet of the Apes is well-founded. Even though I saw the movie weeks before I was assigned to write about it, which might be why the review is uncharacteristically (I hope) light on specific observations.
I'm seeing Dunkirk—and talking with Christopher Nolan!—as soon as I get home from my present holiday in Scotland, and Atomic Blonde and Detroit in short order after that.
Rock Island Party Line: Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg, reviewed.
For the Dallas Morning News, I reviewed folk singer Billy Bragg's new history of skiffle, a largely forgotten British musical form that linked blues and "trad jazz" with rock and roll in the mid-to-late 1950s. Enjoy.
For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I wrote about Quindar, an electronic music duo comprised of art historian James Merle Thomas and Wilco multinstrumentalist Mikael Jorgensen. In their multimedia live performances and on their debut album Hip Mobility, the pair finds inspiration in the ephemera of the pre-Shuttle space program.
I met with Jorgensen backstage at Wolf Trap before Wilco's Filene Center performance there last month. I waited until we'd concluded our official interview before asking him to sign my copy of A Ghost Is Born—the first record Wilco made after he officially joined the band. He countered with an offer to get the whole lineup to sign it. That was nice. Not counting book signings, the only other person I've ever asked for an autograph was Bono.
PREVIOUSLY: I interviewed Wilco founder and frontman Jeff Tweedy for the Washington Post in 2009.
I've liked all of writer-director Edgar Wright's movies, so it's no surprise that I flipped for his comic thriller Baby Driver. It sings like Freddie Mercury, it dances like Fred Astaire, it burns enough rubber to curl Vin Diesel's hair. Run, don't walk; but for God's sake don't drive because you're likely to kill someone on your way home.
Just because Flying V's latest fight-choreography-themed show, The Secret History of the Unknown World, is pandering to me even harder than other fight-intensive shows doesn't mean you won't enjoy it, too. Read all about it in this week's Washington City Paper. Also reviewed: Mosaic Theatre Company's U.S. premiere of Hanna Eady and Edward Mast's drama The Return.
Here we are in Year Ten of the Marvel Cinematic Era, and not one piece of music has emerged from any of the two dozen films based on Marvel characters (released by Marvel Studios and others) that can rival John Williams' mighty score for Superman: The Movie or even Danny Elfman's brooding Batman theme.
For years I've wondered why this is. But only two days ago did I at last get to ask someone who might know. On today's All Things Considered, I speak with Rupert Gregson-Williams, who composed the score for director Patty Jenkins' fine Wonder Woman. You might even hear a cameo by one of the most venerable heroes of the National Public Radio universe, the great Bob Mondello. Then I got the unexpected-but-welcome opportunity to re-adapt my radio script back into a prose version, allowing me to reanimate a whole bunch of my freshly-slain darlings. Lucky you!
I've posted the audio file of the piece on this page for archival purposes, but I implore you to listen to it over at NPR. I love that the audio is right there for you to stream or download right there with the web version. They're similar but not the same, a consequence of how what works on the radio doesn't always work on the page, and vice versa. Bob spent a long time drumming this lesson into my head. Like I said: lucky me. Listen and/or read, please.