Sprung: Best Rock & Pop Music of Spring 2009

Light-Of-X"Time for my Spring Music Selections. I'm fixated on a rash of enchanting femme fatales that would make Nico smile. I've had quite a few opportunities to live with most of this music, having taken a much-needed break with the wife and kids in Vermont. A long drive to and from the mountains afforded me some quality listening time. Loaded up the iPod with a batch of new discs and just kept on chooglin'. These discs should help thaw the last bit of winter blues as we New Yorkers scramble for sunlight and the promise of warmer days. For those of you in more hospitable climates already witnessing early spring, they will be grand companions as well.

Let the Sun Shine In

sunshine-cleaningAmy Adams continues to dazzle in small, dignified movies, as she did in the indie features Junebug (2005) and again last year in Doubt (2008). Her characters barely registered with the masses, but certainly did with the critics and her peers. Add her latest character Rose Lorkowski in the delightful Sunshine Cleaning, which ranks up there with both of the above-mentioned Oscar-nominated performances. Everyone is a little quirky in this quirky little film that borrows not only the producers, but part of the title, a beat-up old van, and everyone's current favorite grandpa, Alan Arkin, from their last quirky indie hit -- Little Miss Sunshine.

No Degrees of Separation

taking-chancelSix degrees, two degrees, no degrees. Kevin Bacon walks amongst us. If you live in N.Y.C. you will have seen him here or there. Ditto if you surf your TV for late night moving pictures. He is a chameleon in some ways. Appears in movies, maybe not in the forefront, that have defined Americans and our culture in every decade he has worked, and he has worked plenty, although you'd be hard-pressed to find fans and critics raining the same praise on him as they do his peer Sean Penn. Too bad, because he has maintained a steady and dignified career. From highbrow dramas to comedies, science fiction to horror flicks, and even animation (the voice of Balto). From Animal House in 1978, the original Friday the 13th in 1980, not to mention Diner and Footloose from that same decade, even my son's favorite dark monster comedy Tremors in 1990.

School's In

the_class_film.jpgThe teacher is often an unsung hero in modern soceity. Yet most of us can pick one teacher that made a huge difference during our developmental years. The French docudrama The Class (Entre les murs) honestly examines the minutia of a middle school in a lower-middle class, multi-ethnic school in Paris. It was the first French film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes since 1987. Moreover, it's been shortlisted for a 2008 Academy Award nomination. This raw and visceral feature -- using real teachers and students -- by director Laurent Cantet exposes the harsh realities for any student, regardless of grade or background.

Spencer The Rover, RIP

john-martynHe had a voice and he knew how to slur it. Self-taught guitarist, it didn't matter whether he plucked an acoustic or feed it through a bank of electronic effects, his voice remained unique. Singer-songwriter Ian David McGeachy AKA John Martyn, born on the 28th of June 1948 in Surrey, raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Died of pneumonia in Ireland yesterday, the 29th of January 2009. To his legion of music fans and critics, he was revelatory and will be missed. Fame and riches would elude him here in the States. Thankfully, he was a national treasure in the U.K., even though he never cracked their top 40. So beloved he was finally appointed an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in New Year Honours this past December.

Monsterous Sounds

beats-headphonesGuys love their gadgets. And if you're truly into music and incomparable sound reproduction, then excellent speakers and headphones are inevitably crucial to your listening experience. In these economically challenged days, most folks might not cotton to dropping $350 on a pair of headphones. For the serious audiophile, no big deal. Does it really matter that they were co-designed and endorsed by hip-hop impresario Dr. Dre? Not really. For the proof ultimately rests in what you hear and whether or not you like it. And when it comes to sound, Monster Cable places a premium on delivering the goods.

The Great Culture Round-Up of 2008!

the-poet-van-goghI covered many of my music picks in my Thanksgiving Round-Up, my Summer Hitlist, and Spring Picks. Plus Steve Holtje, our ace managing editor, and the rest of Culture Catch critics and writers have been on top of the whole spectrum of culture the entire year. Here's a sampling of some of my cherished cultural moments from this past year, alphabetically listed. I certainly missed some crucial art openings, didn't have enough time to read about 20 books sitting next to my desk, and didn't see a handful of "must-see" movies and plays. By no means can one person consume even just the smart culture available in New York, let alone the rest of the world. But still I believe I've witnessed enough to share some of my favorite moments, both real and digitally rendered. Enjoy.

The Match Lives On Forever

The Wrestler

The world of BIG time wrestling is an enigmatic creature, part circus, part serious athletic prowess. A trainwreck waiting to happen. It places muscled freaks on display to satisfy the primal urges of their adorning fans, no less a spectacle than preening and prancing rock and rollers adoring stadium stages all over the land. Instead of windmill arm swings and high kicks, we get elbow smashes and body slams. It is this world that Mickey Rourke so convincingly inhabits in director Darren Aronofsky's riveting and raw feature The Wrestler that he has already been shortlisted for many year-end acting awards. To watch this hulking actor -- he put on 30 pounds of muscle and performed all of his wrestling moves and stunts -- is a truly exhilarating ride.