Hot Docs Review: Come Back Anytime (John Daschbach, 2021)

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | 1 Comment

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I deliberately picked Come Back Anytime as my first Hot Docs experience this year because in a time of chaos, what I needed most was something warm, inviting and a reminder of good in the world. These are words which describe this documentary well, but which can also be used to describe the primary focus of the documentary – ramen. See what I did there?

Come Back Anytime is a documentary about Masamoto Ueda, a self taught Ramen Master who owns a ramen shop in Tokyo. Now you might be thinking – well, there’s probably 5000 of those in Tokyo. While that is true, this little restaurant goes beyond your normal food porn doc. The documentary explores food as a place of community, a place where individual, sometimes lost souls can find a place of being – certainly a challenge in a place as sprawling, daunting and busy as Tokyo. It looks into how a restaurant of any sort can move beyond a mere transaction and the how it can eventually change the people’s lives around it.

Also – there’s a lot of delicious looking shots of ramen. Makes you hungry and also feel all warm inside.

Hot Docs Link

Hot Docs Review: The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright, 2021)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

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The duo of Russell and Ron Mael, better known as Sparks, have certainly made their mark on music history. Always creative, always challenging themselves to go off in new, different, and often unusual directions (or does new, different, and unusual just come naturally to them?), Sparks have delighted fans over the course of their lengthy career. Among those fans is Edgar Wright, and in The Sparks Brothers, Wright has managed to capture the essence of the duo’s quirky style in a thorough (and thoroughly entertaining) portrait.

The film features extensive interviews with the Mael brothers as well as commentary from a wide range of musicians, actors, writers, and comedians on the band’s significance. And I do mean a wide range – where else will you find the likes of Erasure, Jack Antonoff, Mike Myers, Patton Oswalt, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Flea, and “Weird Al” all espousing on the same topic in one film? The director himself even appears on screen for a bit, billing himself as simply “Edgar Wright, Superfan.”

Whether you’re a superfan or a Sparks neophyte, The Sparks Brothers is a delightful look at the career of a truly unique and wholly original band.

The Sparks Brothers is currently streaming as part of the Hot Docs festival.

Hot Docs Review: FANNY: The Right to Rock (Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

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“Just about every single interview we did, the opening question was, ‘Well, how does it feel to be a girl playing an instrument?’ And, you know, Jesus, did you do any research?”

So says Fanny bassist and singer Jean Millington at one point during Fanny: The Right to Rock and while women in rock music have definitely come a long way since Fanny’s heyday, what’s striking is that that women in bands are most certainly still being asked that question to this day. Sigh.

Fanny: The Right to Rock is a compelling and heartwarming portrait of a band that broke a lot of ground in the 1960s and ’70s, made a bit of an impact and won over a lot of people at the time, and who to this day still have a lot of big names championing them. But for various reasons (sexism, racism, homophobia), the band never quite did have the impact that they probably should have.

Featuring interviews with the likes of Kate Pierson (The B-52’s), Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go’s) and Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) singing the band’s praises, the film takes a deep dive into the band’s progression throughout their career, from their origins as the first all woman band to sign to a major label to their attempt to relaunch their career with reunion album Fanny Walked The Earth.

Director Bobbi Jo Hart makes a good case for the band’s legacy as trailblazers and while the band never did quite reach the heights that they could have, this film just might help to open up their music to a wider audience. And rightfully so, since Fanny absolutely rocks.

Fanny: The Right to Rock is currently available to stream through hotdocs.ca

Album Review: Sharon Van Etten – epic Ten

Posted on by Paul in Albums | Leave a comment

Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten at SXSW 2011

Sharon Etten’s epic was released back in September of 2010 and while it was her second release, it was my first introduction to the New Jersey singer-songwriter. After seeing Van Etten open for Junip at Lee’s Palace in November of that year, I was immediately hooked and saw her no less than three times during the promo cycle for that album and several more times in the ensuing years, most recently at Roskilde 2019 … you know, back when live music was still a thing.

Sharon Van Etten is easily one of the best songwriters of the past decade or so and while everything she’s released since then has also been great, I must admit that none of it has resonated with me in quite the same way that that epic has, so I was happy to see that Van Etten is celebrating ten years of epic with a deluxe reissue. Sure it’s a little late, but time doesn’t really have much meaning these days anyways and I’ll take any excuse to revisit a favourite album, especially when it’s loaded up with extra goodies.

The “goodies” in question are, of course, covers of each of the album’s tracks by a broad selection of performers including Shamir, IDLES, and Lucinda Williams, which help to make this re-release of epic just a bit more, well, epic than the original release. Of the new versions, the standouts are Shamir’s stunning version of “DsharpG” and Courtney Barnett and Vagabon’s grungy, Neil Young-esque take on “Don’t Do It.” The biggest surprise of the bunch though comes from the previously unknown to me St. Panther, who transforms Van Etten’s “One Day” into a full on pop song.

But what of the original versions of these songs? Do they hold up all these years later. Yes they do. Very much so. From the opening strums of “A Crime” to the meditative beauty of closer “Love More”, I was taken right back to the first time I heard these songs and reminded that as much as Van Etten has progressed and grown as a songwriter, she was already so good back then.

I always look forward to seeing what Sharon Van Etten’s going to do next, but it’s nice to look back every now and then too. And epic is definitely an album worth revisiting.

Sharon Van Etten’s epic Ten is out now on Ba Da Bing Records.