- Charlie Chaplin in the 1936 film
It's easy to laugh watching Charlie Chaplin fail to keep up with a factory assembly line in Modern Times, such that he almost literally gets chewed up by the machinery, but it's also easy to find the message here, in 1936, about industrial dehumanization and desperation in the Great Depression. Chaplin, of course, doesn't stop there. Never one for restraint, he also tackles psychology (he loses his mind), Communism (he's confused as one), drug abuse (he accidentally chows cocaine), and recidivism (he singlehandedly halts a jailbreak). Oh, and that's just in the 20 minutes or so. As a filmmaker, he may have had qualms about the technological efficiencies of modern society, but damn if he wasn't pretty efficient himself.
Rhapsody in August is not quintessential Kurosawa. There are no samurai warriors, no epic battle scenes. Rather, one of the greatest directors ever turns his lens on the effects of war — in this case, of WWII and the multiple forms of devastation caused by the atomic bombings. To the dismay of many, Richard Gere shows up as the son of a Japanese widow's long-lost brother, who lives in Hawaii, but when the film was released in 1991, the real controversy was over Kurosawa's rather one-sided depiction of the Japanese as victims, ignoring the country's military aggression in the Pacific. His reply to critics: War is between governments, not people. See the film and decide for yourself.
They may be freaks and they may play folk, but Akron/Family, one of the best live indie bands in the nation, is much more than a freak-folk band, employing everything from classic rock to gospel. When I first saw them in a cramped, malodorous club in New Haven, Conn., in 2006, not more than one of them was standing at any given moment, and yet it remains one of the most rousing shows I've ever seen. This unassuming threesome howls, slaps, bangs, stomps, and smashes their own songs with the vigor of an abusive drunk. They also do the quiet thing pretty well, but that makes for less interesting copy. Sleepy Sun opens.
In a city with more film festivals than there are states in the nation, D.C. Shorts is one of its finest — and the third-largest short film festival in country, right behind the usual suspects (New Laredo and Los Alamos, of course). In addition to being the pride of the local film-making community, this eight-day affair, now in its seventh year, also has a reputation for being a filmmakers' festival. There are the necessary sponsors, but no bulging swag bags and gilded Lexus tents. Instead of Paris Hilton, you get genuinely special guests, like Roger Ross Williams, director of the 2009 Oscar-winning short Music by Prudence. And, perhaps most important, D.C. Shorts won't ever make you sit through a three-hour film about incest.
As a journalist, it's my duty to be skeptical of public relations stunts, and "The Big Reveal" in Anacostia is nothing if not that. I don't remember where I first heard about the event — Twitter, most likely — but next thing I knew, the Curious George in me was submitting his little monkey email address into an empty field and clicking "submit." And submit I have. What is "The Big Reveal" and what will it do for my life? I'm expecting nothing short of revelation. If you're curious enough, this big something will be revealed at the Big Chair in Historic Anacostia between 5:30 – 8 p.m., and you can get a preview at Vivid Solutions at 4 p.m. Please join me, because the only thing worse than crushing disappointment is crushing loneliness.
If you haven't heard of Vampire Weekend by now, you're probably not even reading this sentence. They're accomplished enough, I suppose, but what makes this concert worth a trip to Columbia is second opener Beach House, who in January released what remains the year's finest album. With Teen Dream, this Baltimore-bred duo eschews languorous lullabies in favor of expertly paced Percocet pop. If I were to SEO-optimize this description, I'd include keywords like "hazy," "calming," and, yes, "dreamy," but there are no words to describe the emotional punch of one of the most ethereal bands working today. All right, so I guess there are appropriate words to describe Beach House after all.
Not nearly as hardcore as their name suggests, Surfer Blood is an arena band without the fan base. Yet. That's the impression you might get, anyway, if you've only heard last year's breakthrough single, "Swim," in which they come across as an indie rock Duran Duran. The rest of Astro Coast, though, is much more a jangly beach-pop record, like the Shins but unafraid of feedback. Who knows if Surfer Blood will be one-record wonders or are here to stay, but for now they're still as hot as an open leg wound in shark-infested waters.