Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kanrocksas was fun while it lasted.

Last week I posted about the Kanrocksas music festival happening in a couple weeks. Well, make that, was scheduled to happen in a couple of weeks. Almost exactly a week after the schedule was released, the two day festival has been officially cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

It really wasn't too much of a surprise and there is a lot of talk about what went wrong. It probably was a lot of things. I have mentioned that festivals aren't really my favorite venues of live music, they are complex beasts. So things didn't work out and there is no festival.

I think the thing that I am most disappointed about is the shadow that this cancellation may cast on the local music scene. But I am not sure I can even speak for the local scene at all. I am still trying to figure out it all out.  I just want every single one of those bands on that former festival line up to keep the Kansas City area on their tour routes. Come sing us your songs, come fill our souls.

Especially The Descendents. 

The Descendents were probably the band that was going to make the festival for me. I haven't seen them since college when I lived out west. In fact, they were one of the --let's listen to them obsessively until my roommates threaten to kick me out--bands of my college years. Look at me falling into the pit of nostalgic again. Let's just not remember all those Latin classes, I am still a little fuzzy about the pluperfect tense. 

I think squealing was involved when I saw the Descendents on the Kanrocksas lineup. I really, really wanted to see them. I still really, really, really want to see them. Milo, like the rest of us aint getting any younger. Now I guess all that is left to do is dig out a black hoodie, zip it up all the way and be all mopey for exactly 17 seconds. Than get over myself and high five all the bands that are still comin' touring  the K(dot) C (dot) this summer and the bands that are releasing new music, and fresh strawberries, they deserve high fives too. Every summer deserves to be a summer of music.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Song of the Week: A Soundtrack to Summer Mix tape

Every now and then instead of just one song for the Song of Week, I give you a whole playlist, and it's that time again!  Summer always make me super nostalgic so my little playlist which I submit for your listening pleasure below , is filled with some new songs, but mostly memory filled songs of yore.

A Soundtrack to Summer

1. Rockaway Beach—The Ramones
 Duh. Like I need an excuse to sneak The Ramones into people's ears. 

2. Summertime—Langhorne Slim & the Law
Summertime IS HERE, and bringing with it some pretty sweet piano.  (Well, technically summer is almost here, but who reads calendars anymore anyways. Certainly not Mother Nature.)

3.  Heavy Metal Drummer—Wilco
A little love song about seeing live music in the summer. Trivia fact: 98% of the time I have seen Wilco live it has been outside in the summer.  To the best of my knowledge, none of them have worn shinny, shinny pants . . .yet. 

4.Window Sill—Pickwick
‘Cause in the summer we all open our windows up WIDE.  A little bit of a stretch for our summer theme, but this song is just so rock and roll, it makes me want to grab my tambourine and sing and shout.   

5. Home for Supper—Hoots & Hellsmouth
I spent my teenage years, and have now returned to Missouri, on the edge of city and country. We are deep in the Bible Belt and there are churches that still set up their revival tents in the summer. This song isn’t preachy, but it reminds of seeing those big white tents.

6.  Let’s Go—He’s My Brother She’s My Sister
Summertime is a time for escaping and freedom, sometimes in more ways than the obvious.

7. Summer Blooms—Whetherman
Here’s your song with handclaps in it, pretty much a must on any playlist I make.  This one also has whistling, a little bonus just for you.  It just oozes summer, like a popsicle dripping down your chin.

8. Into the Mystic—Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (Van Morrison cover//from the Once soundtrack)

9. Summer Home—Typhoon
Not to fall too much off the hyperbole cliff, but the winter months are just so heavy for me. I need the sun. And when I feel the cold dark months dragging on, I play this song on repeat:  “Can we wait for summer again? Can we hold out for summer again?  Will we ever be whole again?”

10. Keep On Walking—Passenger
There is so much happiness and truth in this song. 
“I keep on walking until till I find that old love or that old love comes to find me.”

11.  California—Tyler Lyle
Banjo AND handclaps. Yep. I did it.  Well, actually Tyler Lyle did it. I spent my little years (under the age of 12) in California so I guess this a little nod to that sunny state. However, the song is about starting over which isn’t bound by any season or month, but starting over near a beach always has a nice ring to it.

12. Middle of June—Noah Gundersen
Noah Gundersen has the habit of stopping me in my tracks by the pure beauty of his music. I find everything about this song just so gut retching perfect.

13. Shenandoah-Trampled by Turtles
In the 6 years that I lived on the East Coast, I don’t know if I found a more beautiful place than the Shenandoah Valley. I spent many summer weekends there camping with friends, hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains, running like a crazy lady in wide open fields and breathing deeply. It will always be one of my favorite places on this little blue marble we called Earth.  Also, last summer some friends and I saw Trampled by Turtles, outside in 100 billion degree weather, right before the world ended. Or a storm hit the DC area knocking the power out for a week. The world tends to end a lot in DC. But that night on the way home, sitting in my car at a road-stop eating snacks and talking about our lives and hopes and dreams as the wind and rain pelted my car will always be a happy summer memory.

You can also listen to this playlist on Spotify, if you are into that. Please be into that. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

10 Things

I know that I just posted a list of stuff yesterday, but in this Twitter and Facebook status world we live in these days, I feel that shouting random stuff at people is how we communicate and stay relevant. So let me communicate:

1. Happy Birthday Bob Dylan! You will always be one of my favorites.
I have posted a lot about Mr. Dylan, but this post kinda explains it all.

2.  I'll just go ahead and admit it: I spend a great deal of my day thinking about different things I can put Sriracha on.

3. I'm thinking about trying to make (brew?) my own Ginger Ale. Just because I don't partake of the libations, doesn't mean that I can't be all crafty when it comes to fun drinks. Oh, a mocktail party is so happening this summer.

4.  All month I kept thinking next weekend was Memorial Day because one of my favorite global trotting friends is making a rare appearance in the States for some adventures. And also adding to this anticipated weekend O'fun, the summer concert season kicks off with the General and I seeing the Lumineers (Three Cheers for the Lumineers!). But it turns out THIS weekend, like beginning right now,  marks the start of the Memorial Day celebrations. I feel so unprepared. Should I buy a mattress, set  my food on fire or do something more meaningful? I have been thinking about tackling organizing  my family photos. That's a meaningful memorial right? I start on this project every now and then but get quickly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all and end up throwing things in shoe boxes and shoving them under my bed. Bad, bad archivist.

5. I am a huge fan of Jenny Lawson/The Bloggess and her post this week is pretty much why I have been going to bed as the sun raises lately.  I keep hearing about  smug people that go internet/electronic devices fasts, as in turning them off, going off the grid, living outside the Matrix for a day or whatever. That's just silly. When someones discovers/documents Big Foot, I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT.

6. Actually I really should be super duper nice to all the internets and on and off buttons in my life especially after the last couple days. Seriously folks, back your stuff up and become BFFs with all the computer loving people in your life. Bake them brownies with double sprinkles.

7. FYI:

8-9 {something insanely clever that just blew your mind}

10. Trampled by Turtles do the best covers:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Walk to Remember

I live on the line between city and country. A quick drive gets me to every modern convenience I could want or need. But an even shorter walk gets me to roads and paths less traveled by. Last week when I couldn't stand to be inside for more minute than I absolutely had to, I explored some of the nearby walking paths and trails, and learned some mucho important things:

1. Just because people are wearing sun visors AND fanny packs doesn't mean they know where they are going. The paths I tend to follow are lovely, but aren't marked with signage at all, so I thought I would just follow some of my fellow walkers to get things going and since the sun visor crowd looked like they knew what was up, I picked them. Nope, I soon found myself in the middle of some zen maze path. Pftth. I am finding fewer and fewer situations were following someone with a fanny pack is ever good idea. 
2. Just because people are running fast, doesn't mean they are being chased by Wolverine.  I was minding my own business on one of the paths and all of a sudden these 2 guys come out of nowhere and they are running towards me really, really fast. And not just--look at us we are gazelles running gracefully faster than you-fast, but like running away from something fast. Naturally, my first thought was, "Are they being chased by Wolverine? I know I can't out run Wolverine." I don't know why my first thought centered around Logan what's his face alter ego, it isn't like I have watch X-men recently (really). But then I realized that Wolverine is the good guy and if he is chasing these guys, then they are bad guys, so it is a good thing that they are running fast past me. And Wolverine would totally be my friend. Then I realized (again), with probably not a moment to spare, that I am a 30 something lady wondering if a superhero would be my friend. Huh. I then made myself think about the party dress I still have to get for an upcoming event. Just to even things out and all. This is how my mind works, folks. 

3. I have no idea what that Field of Dreams movie is about. Like I mentioned before, the paths aren't marked at all, and the terrain is pretty rolling,  so it is pretty easy to suddenly have no idea where you are at, or if it is quicker to keep walking hoping the path will loop around, or if you should turn around.  I was having one of the those moments, and decided to keep walking and then BAM I found myself close to some baseball playing fields. FIELD OF DREAMS. I was hoping these were magic fields and Kevin Costner would suddenly appear and tell me how to get back home. On second thought,  I don't think I want Kevin Costner to ever suddenly appear. I knew that I should build something and people would come or something like that. But I didn't do any of that. I just turned around and went back the same way I came. Wow. The story was pretty anti-climatic. Sorry about that.
4. If you are the only person for as far as the eye can see, go ahead sing out loud. Really loud. Air drums are totally ok too, I'm still undecided about air guitar usage. 

5. Be however grown up and fancy as you want, but passing lakeside swings and NOT swinging is not only silly, but I am sure it kills butterflies somewhere. Don't let butterflies die. SWING.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kanrocksas: Avett Brothers Vs. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

The KanROCKsas Music and Arts Festival is an almost annual two day festival held at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.  Music festivals are really how a lot of bands tour during the summer. It gives them, the bands, a center to pull in a vast audience from a larger geographical area (as opposed to smaller local clubs) as well as a chance to introduce their music and passion to a new audience that may have come to see other bands. I don't think I have ever left a festival without love for a handful of new bands and artists.

I'm kinda proud of our little big Kanrocksas festival, that I have no connection with or to whatsoever. It gives us a chance to show off our little piece of the map, show our enduring passion for the music and hopefully give all these bands a reason to come back. So let's not be jerks there in mass of humanity in the pits and in the crowds and in the midways. Let the heart of the Heartland shine bright, even after standing in the same spot for 5 hours with someone's elbow in your spleen, all to catch your favorite band. We are the Midwest after all, and we have oodles of hospitality.

Earlier this week the powers that be released the festival schedule-what bands would be playing on what days. Each week until the festival I am going to put up a band from each of the two days as a little face off. Not really as a competition, we love each and every of the visiting musicians, but so we all become fully aware of the sheer grandeur that is coming our way.

This week the Avett Brothers (playing Friday) faces off with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros (playing Saturday).

The Avett Brothers
I have mentioned before how the Avett Brothers's music has changed my life and how each time I see them live in concert, my little heart comes *this close* to exploding. So with all that, behold the Avett Brothers singing Salvation Song:

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Whenever I try to describe seeing the Edward Sharpe play live the first word that always comes to mind is joyful. The mere number of tambourines that are always on stage is only the beginning.  Their songs are rich and deep and just fill you up when you listen to them.  Singing "Man on Fire:"

 Trivia fact: Nora Kirkpatrick the accordion player played Esther, Dwight's beet farm girlfriend this last season on The Office (she has other film and tv credits too).

Tickets and general information about the festival can be found on the Kanrocksas Festival website.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Song of the Week: Ben Howard

"Oh I will become what I deserve."
"Oh I will become what I deserve."
"Oh I will become what I deserve."
"Oh I will become what I deserve."
"Oh I will become what I deserve."

"The Fear" by Ben Howard from his album, Every Kingdom

I discovered this song via a post by Jamie Tworkowski/TWLOHA. I really can't do anymore justice to this song then all of Jamie's words. "Become" is just a beautifully complex, frustrating and comforting action word. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

On the Homestead: Storms, Dreams and Gardens

Right after this entry was posted, a deadly tornado hit Oklahoma. People were lost in this powerful act of nature. There are no words that can ease the pain or answer the question of way this had to happen. May the families, friends and people of Oklahoma find strength and comfort in the memories of their loved ones and know that the heart of Heartland beats for them today and tomorrow and all the hard days to come. 

Last night we had some pretty fantastic storms here in old Mid-West. Tornadoes and the heartbreaking damage they leave in their paths were spotted in Oklahoma and Kansas. On this side of the state line, we had a raucous thunder and lightning show.
 I was so unprepared for this storm. I didn't make brownies* or a playlist of stormy songs.**  There definitely needs to be more emergency preparedness drills in my future. 

This light and sound show was definitely the must see thing of the night and by night, I mean all night. I stayed up way too late watching and listening to the heavens shake. And maaaybe watching a Firefly marathon. I mean, going to bed or watching a space western, is like the easiest decision known to man. Whenever I am involved in some silly conversation about celebrity crushes and it is my turn to divulge, it is usually a toss up between Nathan Fillion and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It think I am safely on team Nathan now, for all those who are keeping track.

I went to bed so late into the night that it was really early in the morning. And a pleasant sleep it was not.  I had a reoccurring bad dream that I have had most of my life. I haven't had it in a while, and thought that I had vanished it forever since I resolved the whole issue in my dream. But atlas, it flooded my subconscious last night/this morning. And the most annoying thing about it is that it a dream within a dream within a dream, so even if I make myself "wake up" once or twice, I'm still in the dream. And then when I wake up, and make sure I am for real awake, I spend a good 15 minutes shaking and turning on lights and thinking about unicorns and kittens bringing my pie filled with rainbows.

I did finally fall asleep this morning, and lucky me, dreamt that I started a new job and had a desk/cubicle in a bullpen, not a real bullpen, but you know-- a cluster of desks, and I am cleaning out the desk from the previous person and discover that it is my desk from the job I left in 2006. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

I was worried that the storm was going to take out my little garden. I have not had the best luck with weather and the garden this year.  I lost several plants to the freak snow storm we had in earlier this month and have had some just plain old bad luck with other plants, especially herbs. After planting and replanting 3 times, I  just have to come to terms with not having cilantro for fresh salsa this year. I guess it is all a lesson in survival of the fittest.  So when I eat my little harvest all throughout the summer  I will be eating SURVIVAL.
The before picture; it's my first time doing raised bed gardening
Onions and lettuce
Not pictured: tomatoes, and herbs (dill, rosemary, lavender, basil and Thai basil, and a couple so very sad cilantro plants)

*Long ago I decided for long forgotten reasons that tornado warning merit brownies.  Natural disasters merit chocolate. It is like a rule or something.

**Yes, if you don't know me that well yet, I do make a playlist for everything. Oh, you're tying your shoes, wait, wait, I'LL MAKE YOU A MIXED TAPE.

My, my, my I sure am all caps lock yell-y today.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Song of the Week: Joe Pug

I know that I shouldn't start a post about a beautiful song with a sad story. A sad selfish story. ((shrug)) But I am. This weekend I have a bout of food poisoning and besides shaking my sick and pathetic fist at the universe, "Why are you doing this to me?," and vowing that I will never, ever, ever, ever eat anything again, all I could do was watch little You Tube videos* on my phone curled up in my ramshackle nest of sheets and blankets or on the cold bathroom floor. Too much? Does this stage really have to be set in that much detail?


I watched this video for Joe Pug's Hymn #76 about 76 times. Or 5968 times. I don't know, I was delirious and I am not good at math. 

Oh, Joe Pug. I am pretty the beauty of his songs make me cry 87.5% of the time. And that is even when I am perfectly healthy. I've been able to catch him live, and even in a large and crowded venue, he makes the show feel so intimate and well, perfect. Perfect as in the completeness of a moment. You don't want or need anything else in that moment of time.

And since Joe Pug is such a peach, he is giving you the above song for free and 4 others on his website. You'll love Hymn #101.  Pinky swear promise. 

*I'm too super nervous to watch the trailer for Ender's Game. Somebody tell me if it is ok for me to watch. I still feel the book is too good for Hollywood to trash it up, even if Harrison Ford is in it. It just makes me nervous. NERVOUS. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

From the Editor

I know that it may feel that this blog is slowly morphing in to a music blog. I don't know if or if not that is really an intention of mine, and I hope that it hasn't negatively effected (ie bored) any of my readership. Within my friends in real life circles I am known for my quirky escapades and random musings, which make for splendid blog filler, but there hasn't been a lot of those lately. You see, moving back to Missouri from DC is proving to be very different from what I thought or expected it to be. And very different can sometimes be translated into very difficult.  But different and difficult aren't always bad either.  I can't believe that it has been 4 months. My life currently is no where near what I thought it would be when I first planned out this so called next chapter in my life, and there are many of times that I feel that I have wasted this weird grey area time in my life.  But the one thing in my life that has stayed constant is music. When I can't focus enough to read a book, or I can't stand writing another list of things to do or rage inducing "goals", or when my heart is just beating too fast thinking about the should of's and could of's and what if's and every other single stupid question, music is there. When I can't think of a single other thing to talk about or write about or think about, I can always talk about another song. And as long as I can do that, than I know that my head is still above water. 

I still feel like I am at a crossroad, still trying to figure out just how much I am willing to sacrifice and change to make the life that I know deep down inside I want, still, how I can make this sound even more like an cheesy after school special, still figuring out what my life is all about. Which I am sure that at any given time, 98% of the world population is also trying to figure all these things out, so this isn't groundbreaking news.  But sometimes all that is kinda hard to put in a nice little blog post, even if I do want to share.  So if you can hold out through a couple more songs and music posts (I hope somewhere along the way you have hear something you like), I'm sure that plenty of pie days and road trips (like to the new Woody Guthrie Center in OK, eek!) will follow. And just you wait until my tomato plants start producing, you won't be able to shut me up about those.  Um . . .I wonder if there are any songs about tomatoes?  Duh, maybe one of the best lines in a song ever, " She's a sad tomato." from REM's Crush with Eyeliner. MUSIC WINS. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Song of the Weekend: Mowgli's

The Mowgli's song, "San Francisco" has been getting a lot of radio time here in the heartland and rightfully so. It is a happy sun drenched song.  Every time it plays on that little sound box in my car, I turn it up and roll my windows down to make sure that everyone around me knows just how fun a song it is.  It's like a form of community service.

And this single did it's job as a single, getting a song so comfortably stuck in my head that I needed to find out and fill my head with other music by this band, so I bought their new 5 song EP, Love's Not Dead. Oh singles, you gateway drugs. I am finding this little album to be the perfect spring, almost summer music, there is just a freedom to it. A freedom that is ingrained in us as little kids with summer vacations and as adults we can't quite give up the idea of long summer nights chasing fireflies and days without tests of our knowledge, skills and worth. 

Don't you want to see how good life can be? Let's make a harmony and life will sing. --from "Time"

The Mowgli's will be back here in Kansas City Metro, performing as part of Night One of Buzz Under the Stars on June 1. 

And in other music news, have you guys seen the gold and platinum metallic vinyl editions of the The Great Gatsby soundtrack?  Wacka wow.  I saw the movie this weekend, putting my English degree to good use, and loved it from the acting to the production and thought it was a good and respectable representation of the novel (with the few flaws and changes Hollywood always seems to have to throw in for good measure). Moral of the story: don't marry a polo player.  I know that there has been some chatter about using modern music, specially rap music in the movie and soundtrack. I thought it fit perfectly to the story and feeling of the film.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Song of the Week: Whetherman

Open the windows up wide, breathe in deeply the smell of the freshly cut grass, grab your Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker,  and put this song on LOUD. It's going to be a good day.

Speaking of this song, Nicholas Williams (aka Whetherman) writes:
'Birch Tree' is about accepting your own karma for good and for bad, and finding solace in certain places that remind you of what has real substantial value to you in order to gain insight from balance. It's about not being shallow with people who are close to you, and allowing yourself to understand that what goes around will come around, including love, heartache, and happiness. In this case, there is a metaphor with the track title. A birch tree is known as a symbol of renewal and growth, its easy and eager ability to repopulate areas damaged by forest fires or clearings show it's ability to adapt. "The birch tree asks us to take root in new soils and light our lives with the majesty of our very presence." (via bandcamp)

Whetherman's newest album, Streams & Pastures was released in March of this year and is delicately, calmly and perfectly soundtracking these ever increasing light filled days.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May Film Challenge: Foreign Films

"Challenge" sounds so much better than "sitting around watching a bunch of movies." But even the word 'challenge' got questioned as I was throwing around ideas with some friends who were lucky enough to be stuck in a car with me. "Challenge is too over used", someone said, "It makes me not want to do something when it's a 'challenge.'" So a little subtitle got added:

May Film Challenge: a stupendous extravaganza super fun not to be missed adventure into the cinematic arts. Put that on a button and wear it.

Movies, films, cinema and the such, have always intrigued me. Not just for their entertainment value but also for the layers of storytelling within them. They have not only the story that the viewers see, but also the whole movie making process. There are a lot of credits at the end every single movie, every one of them must mean something. It begs to ask, is the "art" of film the final product or the process of creating that final product? So . . . who wants to get stuck in a car and discuss "art" with me now?

I have a sister that went to film school and works in the business, so I frequently put that hard earned education to use and rope her into giving me a list of movies to watch, especially now that I finally have taken the low road and signed up for Nextflix again. But sometimes scrolling through Netflix makes me anxious, I WANT TO WATCH ALL THE MOVIES. Except Gone with the Wind. Yuck.  

This past weekend, my expert and I worked on coming up a with a couple different  pretty broad categories of films  and a manageable amount of movies within those categories (5-7) that I could watch in a month's time and wear a beret and feel all cultured and stuff. 

The first catagory is foreign films, which I feel that I already have a pretty good foundation with, I mean, I do own Amelie. I love American films and give them my money and time quite regularly, but sometimes I love to see how the rest of the world tells their story.  I wanted movies from a range of countries and time periods, but also wanted a couple that in some, or any, way changed cinema.  Film is a pretty fast evolving medium. If you think about the special effects you grew up with versus the ones we have now, wow. What films were the earlier adapters, which ones took that jump to the next big thing in movie making? But above everything else, I want good stories. I'm pretty demanding. 

Sigh. Long introduction, here the movies I picked for May, in no particular order:

1. The Hidden Fortress (1958, Japanese)
Written and directed by Akira Kurosawa

Quick and dirty summary: Lured by gold, two greedy peasants escort a man and woman across enemy lines. However, they do not realize that their companions are actually a princess and her general.

Why I am watching it: I am already a big fan of Akira Kurosawa and his samurai movies, but I haven't seen The Hidden Fortress. There is a remarkable relationship between American western movies and Japanese samurai movies. Kurosawa's Seven Samurai was adapted into The Magnificent Seven. A Fist Full of Dollars staring Clint Eastwood? Yeah, that is basically a remake of Yojimbo, my favorite Kurosawa film. But it doesn't stop there. George Lucas has acknowledged that Stars Wars was highly influenced by The Hidden Fortress. Yoda's robes and  moves make better sense now, huh? 

2. Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Russian)

Written and directed by Dziga Vertov

Quick and dirty summary: A cameraman travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling inventiveness.

Why I am watching it: While the Russians didn't invent film editing, they took it to a new level, demonstrating, with movies such as Man with a Movie Camera, that the story really takes shape after you stop shooting and you start putting it all together. 

3. M (1931, German)

Written and directed by Fritz Lang

Quick and dirty summary: When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Why I am watching it: This movie was a transition between silent and talkie films. I really love silent films, especially suspenseful ones, which this one sounds like. Sounds likes . . .silent films . . .I am hilarious.  I am also curious, curious to see how  silent scenes and not so silent scenes mix together. 

4. The Bicycle Thieves (or The Bicycle Thief) (1948, Italian)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Written by Cesare Zavattini

Quick and dirty summary: A man and his son search for a stolen bicycle vital for his job.

Why I watching it: I was a little worried that my sister would suggest Fellini for the Italian slot in my list. I try, try, try to like Fellini, but I fall asleep during La Dolce Vita, every time. So, Bicylce Thieves, even though I know it is going to sad, is kind of a relief. This movie is probably one of the most recognizable examples of post World War II Italian neo-realism and the trend to show the realities of life on film instead of the glossy epic Hollywood life.  

5. The Grand Illusion (1937, French)

Written and director by Jean Renior

Quick and dirty summary: During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.

Why I am watching it:   Most of my foreign film experience is with French films, so with this challenge, basically I was looking for work by someone other than Truffaut.  Grand Illusion was controversial when it came out because it showed people on all sides of the war as people. Germans as people in a French film? The nerve. And fun trivia fact; the director Jean Renior was the son of the famous painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

6.  The Seventh Seal (1957, Swedish)

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

Quick and dirty summary: A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

Why I am watching it: I have only seen one Ingmar Bergman movie, Through a Glass Darkly, years ago and I had no idea what was going on and this somewhat confusing/traumatic event led me to pass on all of his work. But what is life without second chances?  My sister sold me on the Seventh Seal, when she told me that the scene in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey when our two heroes play chess with death is based on a scene in this film. Bill and Ted forever. 

7. The Passion of Joan of Arch (1928, French)

Written and directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Quick and dirty summary: A chronicle of the trial of Jeanne d'Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.

Why I am watching it: I didn't want to have more than one film from the same country, but how can you pass up a silent film about Joan of Arc? It is most notably famed for being filmed almost entirely in close up. Which means in silent films terms, that the weight of story is all facial expression.  Body language to the max.

*All quick and dirty summaries come from