Media Review 2/26-3/2

I’m gonna start doing this from Saturday to Friday.  It just makes more sense if I’m going to write it on Saturday.


Project Nim:  A documentary that asks intriguing questions about human nature vs. animal nature.  Made by the same filmmaking team that made Man on Wire (another potent, fascinating watch), Project Nim is structured around the life of a chimpanzee named Nim, chosen by scientists for an experiment conducted to determine if chimpanzees can learn language and communicate with humans.  You can imagine the trajectory the movie takes (chimpanzee is cute, chimpanzee grows up and becomes dangerous), but you cannot predict the human-interest side of this.

Documentaries are largely only as good as their subjects.  Luckily, Project Nim follows people that are almost more fascinating than than the chimpanzee at the center of the movie.  If the scientists (and I use that term loosely) in this movie are trying to answer questions about nature vs. nurture in chimpanzees, the lives and desires of the people keep getting in the way.  They constantly want Nim (Nim Chimpsky is his name- a play on the linguist Noam Chomsky’s name) to be more than a chimp, to fulfill roles in their lives that an animal can’t fill.

Very good movie- what’s interesting is that we find ourselves as the audience humanizing Nim.  I had to remind myself that he’s just an animal.  Does he have feelings?  It sure seems like it in this movie.

Albums I Liked:

Interstellar by Frankie Rose:  Can we agree on something?  Pop music sucks these days.  There are exceptions, to be sure, but pop music has steadily declined from people trying to make music to people trying to get famous.  So why not listen to some pop music you can truly get lost in?  Frankie Rose’s Interstellar is the kind of album that has hooks to draw you in and creative instrumentation to make you stay.  She isn’t saying much with her music, but the atmosphere she creates is ethereal in the best kind of way.  Favorite songs: “Pair of Wings” “Had We Had It” “Gospel/Grace”

Songs of Praise & Scorn by Christopher Paul Stelling: There’s a feeling fans get when they feel like they’ve discovered someone, a possessiveness mixed with sheer delight every time you hear that artist.  That’s how I feel with Christopher Paul Stelling.  I can’t tell you much about him for sure (his backstory is kind of ambiguous), but I can tell you that his style of folk music draws you in to a different time and place.  His old soul comes through in his voice, even in the moments where he begins to shout out of some deep emotion, whether it’s pain and anguish or desire and passion.  Favorite songs: “Mourning Train to Memphis” “Ghost Ship” “Solar Flares”

Songs I Loved:

“Mourning Train to Memphis” by Christopher Paul Stelling: “Mourning Train to Memphis” is a window into all of Stelling’s songs.  He grapples with tough subjects and finger-picks his heart out.  In “Mourning Train to Memphis” Stelling is fed up with the inevitability of death.  He knows it’s coming for those he loves, and that it’s supposed to, but there’s nothing like acceptance in his voice as he shouts out the chorus, “Ain’t it a shame all the people on this earth they have to die.”  Could be depressing, but in Stelling’s capable hands, it’s empowering.

“Pair of Wings” by Frankie Rose: While many of the songs on Interstellar are quick and catchy, Frankie Rose’s best is her most subdued.  “Pair of Wings” merely repeats the same thing over and over, but the building background synths combined with the desire for freedom and connection in her lyrics lift this song off the ground.

“Comeback Kid” by Sleigh Bells: Though Sleigh Bells’s Treats was critically acclaimed, I just couldn’t really dig it (except for the sweet song “Tell ‘Em”).  I feel the same way about their newest, Reign of Terror, but once again there’s a standout track.  This time, it’s “Comeback Kid,” their powerful, punchy pumpup single.  The mix of Alexis Krauss’s voice with the pulsing beat makes for an encouraging, exciting song.


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