2017 was fraught, to say the least, a year of dirty politics, propaganda, white supremacy, natural disasters, sexual harassment allegations and, against it all, a rising tide of resistance. Whether or not this year's films were knowingly made with our country's current moral temperature in mind, it was often impossible to separate the fractious social climate from what was happening on the screen, especially when some of the most disturbing headlines came from within Hollywood itself.
Victor Wooten remembers sitting on his mother's lap backstage at a Curtis Mayfield show. He was about 6 and, along with his four older brothers, had just finished playing the opening set for the influential soul musician.
When Erik Walters and his bandmates in Silver Torches started making their new album Let It Be a Dream, they did so... sort of by accident. "We weren't even looking to make a record," Walters says in a telephone interview.
Over the past decade or so, the Hugs have carved out a niche in the Portland music scene as a DIY group with more polish than most indie-rock groups. In a place where roughness is celebrated, they "try to play as perfect as possible," says frontman Danny Delegato, so they've taken a fair bit of crap from snobby scenesters for being too polished and poised for commercial success.
Heading into the first week of 2018, it's mostly quiet on the live music front, with everyone seemingly recovering from the onslaught of holidays or nursing their New Year's hangovers. But we're already looking ahead at what's coming down the pike, marking our calendars for some of the big shows happening on Spokane stages between now and early March.
Kendrick Lamar, Lorde and more
NATHAN WEINBENDER, music editor 10.
Von the Baptist has exploried new sounds over five years, and still has room to grow
Considering how quickly bands form and dissolve, five years of steady gigging and collaboration is a rarity for most local bands. But somehow, Von the Baptist frontman Vaughn Wood sees the band as entrenched as ever within a sound that makes the project still feel new.
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I've often heard Tonya Harding's life story described as a uniquely American one, which I think says more about America than it does Tonya Harding. Growing up amidst poverty and abuse in Portland, her rise was as precipitous and perilous as her fall: She went from scrappy figure skating underdog to world-famous athlete to late-night TV punchline, all before she was 25.
I don't want to jinx it, but is it possible that Hollywood is warming up to the idea of flawed women as appropriate — even riotously entertaining — protagonists of their own stories? There's been a solid handful of really great examples of movies this year about women as fully human people, and 2017 is going out on a wonderful high note with the bold, tough Molly's Game.
Darkest Hour is about a controversial leader's steadfast refusal to engage in peace talks in favor of going to war. Not the sort of message you'd expect people to support these days — but I should mention that the leader is Winston Churchill and the war is the one to stop the Nazis.
Pitch Perfect 3, the third entry in the comedy series about the young women of a competitive university a cappella singing group, opens with them belting out a massive rendition of Britney Spears' "Toxic" on a yacht off the south of France, and then leaping off the boat in slo-mo while it explodes. This is really rather remarkable: I don't think I've ever seen a movie jump the shark — or the exploding yacht — in its opening scene.
Among the many curious surprises offered by Downsizing, a social satire about mankind's efforts to reduce the entire population down to an average height of five inches, is the fact that Alexander Payne made it. Co-writing with regular collaborator Jim Taylor, Payne (Election, The Descendants) is no stranger to tongue-in-cheek commentary, but Downsizing has the loopy, unpredictable, melancholy plot line of something by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Anomalisa).
Note: This essay contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
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