Friday, December 19, 2014

Yo La Tengo will return for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Yo La Tengo
  • Yo La Tengo

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announced in a Facebook invitation that Yo La Tengo will appear at the Wilma Theatre Wed., Feb. 11, as part of the festival. This marks the second time the experimental indie rock band has played the festival. In 2014, the group provided a trippy live score for Jean Painlevé's aquatic films. This time the band will score a "live documentary" called The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller by filmmaker Sam Green, who will narrate the multi-media show live.

Thank Eru, The Hobbit is finally over

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 1:14 PM

In keeping with Indy holiday tradition, resident LOTR nerd Kate Whittle went to see the third Hobbit film. (Here are her reviews of the first one and the second one.)

Brace thyself for a nerd alert: I’m one of those people who read The Silmarillion. If you’re not in the know, The Simarillion is a posthumously published collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology about the back history of Middle Earth. Silmarillion doesn’t hold up on its own, and the only real reason to read it is if you want to immerse yourself in bits of the sagas of elves and men, and really geek out on Beren and Lúthien.
I realized, after seeing The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, that watching the Hobbit trilogy serves the same purpose. It doesn’t hold up on its own, but if you really just want to enjoy a bit more of the things that you loved about Lord of the Rings, it can be fun. In my case, LOTR’s appeal is about watching beautiful men tossing their luscious hair and riding horsies, and in that regard, the Hobbit trilogy delivers.
In most ways, the Hobbit trilogy as a whole enrages me, primarily because it shouldn’t be a trilogy. After seeing Desolation of Smaug at the midnight opening last year, I swore “never again” as I left the theater, bleary eyed, at 3 a.m.

Thranduil's steed: the horniest of them all
  • Thranduil's steed: the horniest of them all

A lot of things made sense to me when I read a Cracked article theorizing why the Hobbit films aren’t very good, and it’s because director Peter Jackson reluctantly took over the project when Guillermo del Toro dropped out. Whereas LOTR was driven by Jackson’s love for the source material, the Hobbit was driven by money. There’s absolutely no artistic or storytelling merit to making three films out of this—there is only profit. This makes me sad.

And yet when the time came, I still clasped my special-edition Fellowship leaf pin to my blouse and headed to see Battle of Five Armies with just a tinge of hope—and booze hidden in my purse. I did the smart thing and went to a matinee this time. I also brought my sister, a considerable array of snacks, and sat close to the exit so we could duck out to go to the bathroom easily. I highly recommend that you take this strategy.
Let’s get the not-so-great out of the way: Five Armies is still an absurdly long movie; it’s stretched out, unjustifiably, with extra subplots involving the people of Laketown and an unlikely love triangle between two elves and a dwarf. My sister did frequently whisper “Come on, make out already!” to no avail; the most action anyone gets in this film is when someone holds a dead guy’s hand and weeps.

In Five Armies, expository dialogue scenes meant to set up LOTR are pointless, confusing and distracting from the Hobbit’s central tale. The action scenes are sometimes worse, relying heavily on half-assed CGI; at one point, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) prances up falling rocks in a laughably cheesy slo-mo.

But, speaking of Legolas, Five Armies is improved where the first two were not in many regards, thank Eru. My dear Leggy gets a little better showing of badassery this time around, along with Lee Pace’s deliciously queeny Thranduil, who rides a giant Irish elk into battle, kills orcs and never musses his hair. Galadriel makes an appearance, played to the hilt, as always, by Cate Blanchett. Really, the elves are one of the best reasons to see this movie, particularly the scene where they arrive into the dragon-devastated Laketown and distribute what looks like Swiss chard to the hungry townsfolk. Only elves would deliver leafy greens to starving people, and it’s a charming touch. Also, we get to see dwarves ride into battle on giant mountain goats, which looks awesome. The costuming is lovingly detailed, and seeing the beautiful embroidery and knitwear up close kept me engaged even when the melodrama was silly.

When the eponymous battle of Five Armies gets going, things finally get good (or at least better): heroic deeds, tragic deaths, epic action and ultimate victory of good over evil. It took a ridiculous amount of time to get there, but at last, I got what I came for.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rappin' country doc "Roll-Out Cowboy" screens tonight at the Roxy

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Editor's note: This review by Jule Banville originally appeared on New West's blog in 2011; in light of Chris Sand's farewell show and documentary screening, we present it for your enjoyment. (And check out Kate Whittle's writeup of how Chris Sand feels about the documentary now.)


If there’s one guy who’d be at home in Montana, it’s an Obama-lovin’, cowboy-hat-wearin’, hip-hoppin’, gay-friendly guy from a town in North Dakota too small to have a grocery or a restaurant.

But Dunn Center does have a bar, the Ilo, and it does have Chris Sand, aka Sandman the Rappin’ Cowboy. Both the town and the guy star in “Roll-Out Cowboy,” a film festival darling screening at the Roxy Theater Thursday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m.

Sand actually is at home in Montana, mainly because it was his home in the formative years. These were the ones in Ronan during middle and high school, when he says living on the Flathead Rez exposed him to the urban vibe of the ’80s that still throbs in his skinny white boy soul.

The 74-minute documentary that exposes that soul follows Sand around for a year as he tries to live in two worlds. In one, he’s a creative, wandering performer, a modern mashup of Woody Guthrie and LL Cool J on the road and breaking hearts from Chicago to Des Moines to Olympia. In the other, he’s just trying to fit in at home, which happens to be an old falling-down farmhouse. He bought it for a thousand bucks in a town of 122 people, mostly Lutherans older than his parents.

In Dunn Center, he’s got a tour bus that doesn’t work but, if it did, would probably get 8 miles to the gallon. He’s got an outdoor bathtub (natch), a post office box and neighbors who don’t really get him, but seem to like him when the cameras roll. He gets blue there. He tries to blend in there.

Above all, where Dunn Center is concerned, Chris Sand is committed. That’s saying something, according to several of his old girlfriends. Their appearance in the film is one of its high points, a fun set of edits that breaks up a movie that, at times, feels a lot like its subject’s life: meandering, moody, a bit lost, but often entertaining and pocked with a few killer rhymes.

It’s clear filmmaker Elizabeth Lawrence isn’t one of those documentarians striving for something Frenchy like a denouement. There’s no built-in tension or much manipulation of what must be hundreds of hours of tape in order to make Sand’s life fit a rigid story structure. Even the breakup of Sand’s friends and partners on tour, a hip-hop comedy duo called the Mustaches, is dealt with in a them’s-the-breaks fashion. It happens. More stuff happens. Chris Sand is a real talent. The end.

But that whole bit about Chris Sand being a real talent? He is. At its best, this is a movie about how an unusual performer thinks and lives and thinks about living. It’s small that way, in a nice way, in a way that makes you want to go to the Filling Station in Bozeman some night when he’s there, because some day, he might just get bigger than the Filling Station in Bozeman and you can say you saw him when.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oh Comely! Neutral Milk Hotel announces show in Missoula

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 10:20 AM

Neutral Milk Hotel
  • Neutral Milk Hotel

11:11 Presents just announced that Neutral Milk Hotel will play the Wilma Theatre Sat., June 6, which means you won't just get a Jeff Mangum sighting—it's the whole fam damnly.

The beloved experimental band has influenced the likes of Bon Iver, Bright Eyes and Arcade Fire. The band went on hiatus for several years, but returned in 2010 and started touring again.

$33 advance/$36 day of show

Tickets on sale this Friday, Dec. 12, at noon at, Rockin Rudy's, the Wilma Box Office and (866) 468- 7624.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kick ass and take no prisoners: the MADE Fair Etiquette Guide

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 4:14 PM

There are two kinds of craft fairs in this world: the kind that you can lazily browse through in 10 minutes, or the MADE Fair kind: the rock concert of craft fairs. The bi-annual alternative fair packs thousands of people into the Adams Center, and some tight corners and popular booths can get as packed, sweaty and elbow-y as a mosh pit. The concessions stand even serves booze now, too, adding to rock ‘n roll experience. New this year, two gyms have been added to the layout and an additional entrance added to the rear of the center.

Make no mistake: this is Thunderdome

MADE Fair, while fun, is something you also wanna be prepared for. Maybe it’s because of our generous outdoors, but Missoulians aren’t great at sharing personal space in close confines. (I’m as guilty of this as anybody.) So with that in mind, I offer an etiquette guide for crowded craft fairs. When I asked Facebook friends for suggestions, this got some of the most irate responses I’ve ever seen from otherwise gentle people, such as, “LOOK IN THE DIRECTION YOU ARE WALKING.” Other responses, regarding the use of double strollers, contained language I won’t reprint here.

So, some don’ts: Don’t bring the double-stroller, please. Don’t swing around a heavy backpack. Don’t arrive hungover, unless you hate yourself. Don’t chit-chat with the vendor when people are in line behind you waiting to check out. Don’t scoff at the price of an item: it’s simply rude, and the hard-working vendor can probably hear you.

Some dos: Do use coat check, for Pete’s sake, it usually benefits a local nonprofit and takes a load off. Do enjoy a libation (or three.) Bring cash in small bills, because not all vendors have Square swipes. Keep with the flow of traffic. Have another adult with you to keep any children in your party entertained somewhere outside of the melee, like the bleachers.

Also, prepare to lose your friends. Every year I go in to MADE Fair with a couple buddies, look a different direction for a split second, and wind up never seeing them again until we all stumble out of the fray, dazed, into the winter sunlight. Pre-assign a meeting place for everyone to get back together; nobody can ever hear their cellphone go off during these things.

At the end of the day, MADE Fair is totally worth some mild hassle. It supports local, independent hand-crafters and artisans, allows for one-stop decimation of Christmas lists, and it’s a tribute to Missoula that we turn out in droves for it.

Music video: The Magpies release "Firefly"

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

  • "Firefly"

Sing it: "Firecracker likes to be lit up! Firecracker loves to blow it up."

Beloved Missoula band The Magpies released a video for the bright and fuzzy rock song "Firefly" from their newest album, Tornado, which we wrote about in October. The video was shot by Amy Donovan, who is married to guitarist Hank.

Check it out:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

About last Monday: Johnny Marr in photos

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Freelance photographer Amy Donovan went to the Johnny Marr show at the Top Hat on Monday. The guitarist best known for his work with The Smiths, played for the release of his new album, Playland, and Donovan captured him here:





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Not Yet Begun to Fight: Montana-made film about fly-fishing veterans premieres on Netflix

Posted By on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Not Yet Begun to Fight
  • Not Yet Begun to Fight

It's Veterans Day, and on this occasion you can curl up on your couch to watch the Netflix premiere of the Montana-made documentary Not Yet Begun to Fight. This film, which we wrote about when it showed at the Big Sky Documentary Festival last year, tells the story of a handful of wounded veterans who find healing through fly-fishing in Montana. It specifically focuses on a retired Marine, Colonel Hastings, who takes new generations of PTSD veterans out on the water where they can find catharsis and, hopefully, some peace and camaraderie. This isn't some rose-colored glasses film—the vets are raw and intense. But filmmakers Sabrina Lee and Shasta Grenier have captured profound moments of humor and hope, throughout.

The film was selected by the New York Times as a broadcast highlight for the week when it aired on national PBS stations, and it was hand picked by Roger Ebert to be on of 12 feature films shown at Eberfest 2012.

It's now available for streaming on Netflix and available for 99 cents on iTunes just for today.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Jon Stewart talks about the real ambush from his show's Redskins segment

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 1:56 PM


Remember the whole controversy on "The Daily Show" where some Redskins fans felt "ambushed" by the Native Americans who showed up to discuss the team name? And remember the essay one of the Native Americans, Migizi Pensoneau, wrote for the Indy that blew up on the Internet?

Jon Stewart recently spoke with New York Magazine and addressed the segment, essentially adding support to Pensoneau's take on the matter.

"I’ll tell you where there was a real ­ambush," Stewart told the mag. "When the Native Americans went to the stadium and people said the most vile shit to them. The ugliness that arose was mind-numbing."

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Untold stories

Finding my father in The Things They Carried

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 3:43 PM

The Big Read—a national program encouraging citizens to read great works of literature—wraps up its 30-day celebration of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and I find myself slogging once again through a quagmire of questions about Vietnam, a war that ended as I was coming of age, the war that tore our country apart.

I wasn’t there. My father was. Three tours. My family has the scars to prove it. I’ve spent 30 years nursing a peripheral obsession with that war in an effort to understand its effect on my dad, a highly decorated Marine Corps pilot who died last year. He rarely spoke of his time in Southeast Asia, and The Things They Carried filled in some gaps for me in unexpected ways.

The Things They Carried (cover image)
  • The Things They Carried (cover image)

The first time I read it, five years ago, I was knocked out by O’Brien’s prose. Combat is ugly, he writes, but it also contains astonishing beauty: “Like a killer forest fire, like cancer under a microscope, any battle or bombing raid or artillery barrage has the aesthetic purity of absolute moral indifference … and a true war story will tell the truth about this, though the truth is ugly.”

I’ve read dozens of books on the Vietnam War, but O’Brien’s is the only one that gives equal weight to the mundane and the extraordinary. Extreme acts of heroism are recalled with the same detail and emotional heft as heartbreaking acts of cowardice. There is no judgment, just the clear-eyed conclusion that war can turn us inside out. The sublime and the horrible came at you non-stop.

O’Brien’s ability to witness and remember the startling gems of truth within the surreal, horrific backdrop of a pointless, never-ending jungle war brings the focus of the narrative where it is most effective: soldiers not as soldiers, but as vulnerable people. Just like you and me. He doesn’t ask the big political or dramatic questions about the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia, he writes about a butterfly on the chin of a Vietnamese man he’s killed with a grenade.

These stories are hard to tell, and O’Brien doesn’t gloss over the rough parts. His account of a platoon of foot soldiers searching tunnels and digging foxholes and slapping mosquitoes and marching from village to village with no purpose or direction is so vivid I half expected to see mud on my fingers after turning the page. I especially appreciated his liberal use of combat jargon, leaving the reader to suss out the meanings of the colorful language that helped the soldiers feel like they belonged, like they were a part of something.

And yet, The Things They Carried is much more than a collection of war stories. It’s a book about how to tell a story. “By telling stories,” O’Brien writes, “you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself.” Like my father, O’Brien didn’t talk much about his experiences in the war after returning stateside. But he wrote about it, expecting catharsis, hoping for wisdom. “Telling stories seemed a natural, inevitable process, like clearing your throat.”

I wonder if my dad just never felt like he was ready to clear his throat.

One night about 20 years ago, I stayed up with the Major in his Las Vegas home. My mother had gone to bed, and we sat at the kitchen table drinking gin over ice, just two men shooting the shit. I asked a couple of general questions about helicopters, and the conversation angled to the time he was flying missions out of Khe Sanh, a notoriously dangerous Marine outpost, around 1969.

Although he’d been identified as one of the top 10 chopper pilots in the theater, he told me he was frequently “scared shitless” flying missions through the jungle or taking enemy fire out over the South China Sea. As the gin loosened him up, he shared his memory of one such mission, and I watched as his jaw clenched and his eyes grew large, remembering not just what he saw, but how he felt. The intensity and determination on his face is what I remember of that night, not the particulars of the story.

The Things They Carried helped me realize that maybe I’m not asking the right questions. The heaviest things they carried in Vietnam were not of military issue. They were the things you can’t see. And most of the men and women who served in that singular hell called Vietnam will carry these things until the day they die.

Tim O'Brien talks about his influential book at the Dennison Theatre tonight, Oct. 28, at 8 PM as part of Big Read festivities. Free. The Big Read's big finale is a capstone event at Draught Works Wed., Oct. 29, with tunes provided by Bob Wire. 5-8:30 PM. Some proceeds benefit the Valor House.

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