The Thrill Isn't Gone Yet

Eight films from director Alfred Hitchcock are featured this month as part of Michigan Theater's Great Directors series, and although most of the films were shown earlier this month, you can still catch three of his best on the big screen. Watch Tippi Hedren duck and cover in The Birds this Friday, January 16 at midnight, or see if Jimmy Stewart can snare his suspicious neighbor in Rear Window next Monday, January 19 at 7p.m. If dark comedy is your style, then watch Barbara Harris swindle the gullible in Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot, playing the following Monday, January 26 at 7p.m. The AADL also owns Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and The 39 Steps if you missed them at the Michigan Theater this month.

To delve into the director's psyche and his unconventional relationships with the actresses in his films, try the 2008 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies.

AAFF Goes Green, Sees Submissions Rise

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When the Ann Arbor Film Festival finished receiving submissions for this year's March 24-29 festival, they had collected works from over 40 countries that crossed every imaginable genre, with total submissions surpassing 2,600 films, up 25-percent from last year. In an effort to improve the festival's sustainability, the AAFF also waived the press kit component for filmmakers and requested eco-friendly packaging, such as paper cases and recyclable mailers. With the Oscar nominations being announced January 20 and awards given February 22, film auteurs and aficionados have some exciting events to look forward to throughout the cold months ahead.

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story

On January 16 come to the Downtown Library at 7 pm to hear prize-winning author and historian Timothy B. Tyson talk about Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, a carefully researched memoir of a 1970 racial murder in Oxford, N.C. The book is being made into a movie. I'm eager to hear the author speak. I'm also wanting to respectfully ask his opinion of The New Republic article about the unfortunate book Angel at the Fence: the true story of a love that survived.

There's No Place Like Alone

At some point this winter, I will fight off an impulse to move to a remote cabin in the northern Wisconsin wilderness with my battered copy of Thoreau's Walden and try to write and record a set of brilliantly simple folk-pop songs that captures the beauty of isolation. Inevitably, I'll come down off the ledge and throw on Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago instead and live vicariously through the stories, characters, and timbre of these nine songs. Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) lived out my flight of imagination during the winter after his band broke up, turning out tunes that are immediately familiar in a Nick Drake vein of hushed thought, but deceptively rich in reclusive imagery and emotional detachment, making this record not merely a fanciful escape, but a meditation on the nature of solitude.

...And A Headbanging New Year

Enough Ella Fitzgerald, Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra, and the other silky smooth standards this holiday season. The AADL has the holiday record with more muscle, less string overdubs, and a title that pretty well sells itself (to metalheads everywhere): We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year. Fans of Testament's guttural vocals will appreciate the band's exceptionally heavy rendition of Silent Night, while the Kiss audience rocks out to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Foo Fighters fans hear Dave Grohl chase the red-nosed one in Run Rudolph Run. This holiday CD might not be right for the entire family, but for those about to rock, this one's for you.

Winter Shadow Art Fair This Saturday

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The Winter Shadow Art Fair, featuring more than 40 local vendors and artists, is this Saturday from noon to midnight at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. Stop by the PLAY Animation Station at the Ann Arbor Film Festival's table to make your own animation right on site. If you like what the Animation Station has to offer, then check out Terence Sacks' Opportunities in Cartooning and Animation Careers available at the Library. The AAFF will also be selling and playing their new DVD, Time Pieces, which highlights last year's winning film submissions. The Art Fair costs 2 cents for admission (so remember your shiny Abe Lincolns), and if you're under 21 you will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Guns N' Roses Unleashes Chinese Democracy After 14 Years in Production

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The facts surrounding the sixth Guns N' Roses studio record, Chinese Democracy, are straight out of a Christopher Guest mockumentary or a Brian Wilson breakdown. Consider the following: over $13 million spent on production, 14 years of recording and mixing, 3 different record labels, 4 new band members (Axl Rose, sole original member), 4 producers, 17 contributing musicans, a ban on the record in China, not to mention Rose's myriad scandals while in self-imposed exile in the Hollywood hills. The only thing this record is missing is the obligatory Stonehenge track to make it a 'true' rock epic. Whether this overblown release is worth the wait is for the listener to decide; either way, Axl Rose's personal golem has earned its place in the expansive halls of rock egotism.

Nonesuch Releases Philip Glass Box Set

In 1978, classical composer Philip Glass denounced Minimalism -- the term often applied to his work -- saying, "that word should be stamped out!" Thirty years later, as Nonesuch releases the ten disc set Glass Box: A Nonesuch Retrospective the composer may not have razed the word, but he has expanded his work in order to shed such trappings.

That said, Glass' most famous pieces are built around repetitive chord structures and stripped down instrumentation, where the most subtle changes become fault lines that resound in tonal shifts. The first four discs best exemplify this style, the standouts being his ambitious cycle Music in Twelve Parts and the solo piano elegy Glassworks. Also included are selections from Hydrogen Jukebox, his collaboration with poet-turned-librettist Allen Ginsberg, as well as the film scores for Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, and the indelible opera, Einstein on the Beach. Although each disc contains pieces previously available as stand alone recordings, hearing the spectrum of Glass' work from the early 1960s to today clearly demonstrates the depth and breadth of his singular compositional vision.

Beach Boys Songwriter Brian Wilson at Michigan Theater

The mastermind who created such legendary recordings as Pet Sounds, Surfin' USA, Friends, and other Beach Boys hits is coming to the Michigan Theater on Wednesday, November 12 at 7:30pm. Brian Wilson is best known for his groundbreaking use of lush harmonies and nostalgic, emotive lyrics which contemporary artists such as Panda Bear, Apples in Stereo, and The New Pornographers continue to ape today. Promoting his 2008 release, That Lucky Old Sun, the concert will feature songs from this recording and, of course, some Beach Boys hits as well.

1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die

List makers and debaters you have met your match! Music journalist Tom Moon has compiled a list of recordings so exhaustive it could only be captured in a book with an equally superfluous title: 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Fortunately, there is also a searchable website where you can peruse the complete list of recordings or browse the fourteen music genres enumerated in the big list. No surprise about the inclusion of six Beatles albums or copious selections from Miles Davis' catalog, but perhaps suspect are the individual record selections of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left over the stellar Pink Moon, and Elvis Costello's Armed Forces rather than This Year's Model. Let the debates begin!

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