The Best Movie Critic + review

The Couchman Cometh: Music Movie Fest Edition PLUS A Movie Fest Chili Recipe

Ben here. We have one more Music Movie Fest round-up post before returning to our normal cascade of reviews and nonsense. Before we get to Justin's write-up, Movie Fest chef extraordinaire Miranda would like to share a delicious movie fest recipe with you all:

Hello, movie lovers. Miranda here with the recipe for the tasty and efficient vegan chili we had for dinner at movie fest.
Vegan Chili for a Small Army (3 Can Chili Deluxe)

½ of one green pepper, diced OR ½ bag of frozen chopped green peppers
½ of one onion, diced OR ½ bag chopped onions
3ish tablespoons oil
1 32 oz can of tomatoes (I used San Marzano peeled tomatoes because I had them. Diced tomatoes would be ideal)
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
2 cans black beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1​/3 cup kasha (buckwheat) – it expands, so keep that in mind
salt and pepper to tastespices! Chili powder, garlic powder/ fresh minced garlic, onion salt, whatever you like

Note: Chili powder is a must. I get my spices from Savory Spice Shop in Denver, so I used both a hot Chimayo chili powder and mild New Mexico green. Toppings: green onions, sour cream, cheese, Fritos, tortilla chips, etc.
This recipe follows my Unified Soup/Stew Theory. I've used this method for chicken soup, curries, hearty lentil or barley stews and probably more.
1. Add enough oil to a large pot to cover its bottom. On low medium heat, add spices, salt, onion, green peppers, and any other vegetation that doesn't take long to cook.

2. Once all the vegetables look like they're sweating nicely and the kitchen smells wonderful, add your canned ingredients. Turn up the heat and let this mixture come to a boil. Feel free to add some water if it's looking too thick. You can always boil off extra liquid.

3.Add kasha and stir. The chili is “done” when the kasha is tender and has expanded to give the liquid some nice body, but you can simmer for as long as you like. Test for seasoning at this point. You may want to add salt or make it spicier.

Feeds at least 10 hungry movie-goers. Scale back or multiply as necessary.

-Miranda

THE COUCHMAN COMETH

Justin here. Like Ben described in his post, we had a Music-Movie Fest last weekend. Here are my thoughts on the movies we watched.

WE ARE WIZARDS

Luke’s absentee pick was We Are Wizards, a documentary about people who make bands based on the Harry Potter books and movies. It was a solid pick and quite funny. I agree with Ben that the documentarian used a lot of lame clich├ęs to pad this one out, but overall, it was very funny and engaging. Mercifully it was less depressing than Trekkies. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read all the Potter books and seen all the movies. I’ve only seen a few of the movies. For some reason, I’ve seen Goblet of Fire like 10 times, and I don’t even really like it. It just always happens to be on. So yeah, good stuff overall. The commentary guy was by far the best part of the movie for me. It was hard to tell exactly how crazy he was, but he was funny as shit, and really gets the subtext behind these “young wizard gods” as he easily mixes deep respect and ludicrousness.

Magic Moment : When the punk rock 6 year old sang a cover of X-Ray Spex, “I am a poseur and I don’t care,” as, “I am a dragon and I don’t care.”

TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET

R. Kelly is a mad genius; or maybe an idiot savant or something. It’s hard to say what’s so appealing about this. Miranda’s pick, I think, was the most fun of the day. I’ve seen Trapped in The Closet 3 times, and it never fails to entertain. If you have never seen this, you need to. I believe it’s free on the IFC website, if not there, then on Youtube. You just need to commit to watch at least 3 or 4 episodes. The first one is good and all, but it doesn’t hint at the madness to come. Every time I watch this I have lines floating through my head for weeks.

Magic Moment: The reveal about Bridgett’s secret lover.

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933

Beth’s pick was this gem, which was actually a pretty strange musical. Movies from this time period typically don’t have as tight a plot as they need to. There are usually a lot of conveniences and shortcuts taken because musicals are escapism at its purest. Most people watch musicals because they want a nice love story. There’s nothing wrong with that – I watch Stallone movies because I want to see him blow shit up – same thing.

Gold Diggers of 1933 is both a conventional love story and social commentary. The first act of the movie is relatively chaotic; there is no central character for the first 15 minutes or so as the scene is set. There is an apartment of out of work showgirls and their neighbor who is a song writer. Together, they conspire with a musical producer to get a show off the ground and make some money. By the end of the act, the focal characters are the handsome young songwriter and his love interest, the star of the show he’s writing music for. While the great depression was an inescapable part of the first act, it disappears for the more conventional love story of the second act, which culminates with the young man taking over for the lead actor on opening night and the sexually charged “Petting in the Park” number. It is then revealed that the young man comes from old money and that while he intends to marry his co-star-let, his stodgy brother and family lawyer do not approve on moral grounds. The third act concerns two of the other show girls swindling the brother and lawyer out of money while trying to get them to fall in love with them to prove that it’s ok for his brother to marry an actress. It’s light comedy, and while money is a primary concern, the economic situation of the day is immaterial as the rich were well insulated and the gold diggers were gold digging. A quick happy ending happens at the end and the movie takes a left turn into weirdness as we finally see the centerpiece of the show, ‘The Forgotten Man,’ number – a solemn meditation on unemployed veterans having to sleep on the streets and stand in breadlines set in a minor key in the rain. Afterward, the movie ends. Now this is damned weird, especially for the time. Movies now as then are cheap escapism, and it seems weird after such lighthearted fare and indeed even a happy ending to have sad reality come and shit on everything. Interestingly, if all they did was switch The Forgotten Man number with the lightning fast happy ending resolution that immediately preceded it, then the movie would have been completely different. As it stands, I’m very glad Busby Berkley didn’t.
Magic moment: any of the fantastic dance numbers which I criminally didn’t mention at all above. They really are amazing.

32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD

This was the movie I picked. I want to first give some background on how I came to this selection. When Ben and I talked about what we wanted to do for Music-Movie Fest, I made a list of the qualities I wanted a music-movie to have. The key thing I ended up with was that I wanted music to be central to how the narrative worked, and not just part of the story, but that music has to be as important to the whole of the movie as the writing, acting, or production. I made another list of about 50 movies and systematically eliminated them one by one. At the end, I didn’t have anything that I really wanted to show. Then one day I was looking through my VHS collection and saw my copy of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould. At that point, I had never seen the movie. My grandpa actually taped this off PBS for me back in the 90’s.
Side note, I owe my love of music more to my grandpa than anyone else. He introduced me to the world of classical music with Mozart’s Clarinet Quintets when I was 8 or 9. That piece is still one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. When I started playing the saxophone in my elementary school band, he gave me a CD of Charlie Parker. I still know all those songs by heart even if I can’t play them on any instrument. But my grandpa’s favorite music is solo piano work, and his favorite musician there is Glenn Gould who Grandpa turned me on to when I was in high school. I just mention this because it’s hard for me to separate Gould, Bach, and my grandpa. The movie can be in turns, heartwarming, strange, uncomfortable, beautiful, and deeply moving. I have some degree of nostalgia about it all which colors this movie differently for me than for the other people I watched this with. I believe Ben was the only other person familiar with Gould aside from Miranda who has had some collateral contact with Gould from me.

The more I thought about what I wanted from my choice, I realized that I wanted something that was more music than movie, something that captured not only the experience of listening to music, but also to some extent the experience of playing music and living music. The fractured, episodic nature of 32 Short Films captures so many different aspects of the musical experience, as well as Gould himself. I don’t want to say too much more about it, and I have a lot more to get to, so I’ll just say that this movie is way out of print now, and it is unlike any other movie you will ever see, so if you get a chance – watch it.

Magic Moment: The Diary of One Day short.

THE POINT

I’m really glad Eric picked this movie; I’ve been meaning to watch it for years. Ultimately it was about as good as the album. I love the album but I don’t think it’s great. I would have loved this as a kid. As an adult, it didn’t work as well. If this had been condensed to half an hour or 45 minutes it would have ruled. Also, I’m glad that it stuck with the story of the album so closely, but it certainly didn’t need to. I’m interested in the greater Point universe.

Magic Moment: Me and My Arrow

FUNNY FACE

This was a really fantastic movie, and one of the Audrey Hepburn movies I hadn’t seen. I ended up really liking it. The color was great, and the part of me that secretly really enjoys Project Runway totally ate up the first act, which mostly takes place at the offices of a fashion magazine. The colors this movie uses are amazing.

There were a couple of things I really liked about this movie aside from the colors. The dance scenes were great, I'm a total sucker for good dance numbers. I also really liked the characterization of philosophers as womanizing prats... I would like to note at this point that I do have a philosophy degree, and while I don't personally view myself with this distinction, I do view fashion photographers like this - in the case of this movie, Fred Astaire.

I probably had the most fun watching this movie aside from Trapped in the Closet.

Magic Moment: Audrey Hepburn's modern dance

LISZTOMANIA

Way too much going on here, I'm going to bullet my thoughts.

- I wish that Kubrick had directed this Clockwork Orange Style, same basic thing.

- I didn't know where satire on romantic piano music ended and satire on early 1970's began.

- I wish this was just one part of a larger series of movies lampooning music, I'd pay serious bucks to see these people tackle George Gershwin, John Williams, and that terrible Metallica and Symphony project.

- How many ultra phallic set pieces does it take to just ignore them?

- I'd like to suggest Freidrich Nietzsche played by Steve Martin, it's not that far off from Steve Martin doing Maxwell (of Silver Hammer fame) in the god-awful Sgt. Peppers movie with the Bee-Gees.

- This was much much better than that and Tommy and Quadrophenia, not as good as Amadaeus though, but it kicked Mr. Holland's Opus' ass.

- Maybe Mr. Holland's Opus would have been better if at the end instead of conducting an orchestra of lights for the deaf, it was an orchestra of giant golden dicks...

- Probably not.

- I loved this flick, and with the exception of the last movie, it was my favorite of the day.

PURPLE RAIN

This movie is damned close to being perfect. It's not the best acted, written, or directed movie I have ever seen, but in terms of judging a movie based on its own merits and what it either achieves or fails to achieve, Purple Rain did it all. The problematic portrayal of Prince as alternately a huge asshole and a ridiculous dick works exceedingly well. We had a conversation the next day about how much say Prince had with regard to that portrayal, maybe the version of "The Kid" in Purple Rain is Prince's re-written family friendly version.

Appolonia 6 is terrible, and it's hilarious that Morris Day from the time lives in an apartment crappier than my first one in Greeley. Why in god's name would Appolonia leave New Orleans to come to Minneapolis for fame in fortune? Is it that she's not good enough to make it in New Orleans? Why the hell did Prince beat the shit out of her SECONDS after she gave him the sick Prince guitar? Does this movie improve or worsen when you find out that not only did Prince write AND record all the music for The Revolution but also all the music for The Time and Appolonia 6 except for the vocals? Does it matter? I once met a guy that thought, legitimately, that this was basically reenactment of what actually happened to Prince and how he rose to prominence.

I, personally, would make a deal with the devil for the chance to write a direct sequel to Purple Rain where "The Kid" is now and having to reconcile his past and do a reunion tour with The Revolution. He would have to apologize to them and try to make good in a world he never made. It'd be like an alternate reality if Prince had never recorded 1999. He'd be saying stuff like how Controversy wasn't that bad and be playing to a bunch of hipsters that idolize Dirty Mind but still find him a one-trick pony. I'd be kind of like Blues Brothers plus The Wrestler, but with more car chases.

Magic Moment: The Purple Rain performance, if you don't get Prince and you see this and still don't care, then I don't even know what to say to you.

Your regularly scheduled Couchman column will return next week. In the meantime, here is a video I wanted to share at music-movie fest but forgot to.

best, Blog, book, Cinema, comedy, criminal, Critic, fantastic, favorite, musical, and more:

The Couchman Cometh: Music Movie Fest Edition PLUS A Movie Fest Chili Recipe + review