David’s Discs: What to Check Out This Month

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Movie: Phantom Thread

The last time director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis made a film together, they gave us the greatest film of the century thus far in 2007’s There Will Be Blood. Needless to say, there was huge anticipation for Phantom Thread leading up to its release and it had a lot to live up to.

The thing is, Phantom Thread is entirely unlike There Will Be Blood. Well, maybe not entirely unlike. In Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis’ superb method-acting is once again on full display as he inhabits his character, ’50s fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock. Anderson’s electric filmmaking is apparent here too, as the film moves forward with a palpable sense of urgency and intention, a trait which can be found throughout Anderson’s work.

Apart from that, Phantom Thread is a unique entry in the Anderson catalogue. For one, this is his first film set outside of the United States. Phantom Thread is a British story that takes much of its influence from the notoriously stuffy English costume dramas. In Anderson’s hands, however, the film does not go the way of the others. As he always does, Anderson places his subjects under a magnifying glass, allowing the drama to take on a thriller-like quality. Ironically, Phantom Thread is neither thriller nor wholly drama; it is, in fact, a comedy, with a dramatic sheen. To be clear, this isn’t your standard Judd Apatow fare, but when the laughs come, they come long and hard.

The comedy shows the form of a relationship between Day-Lewis’ character, Woodcock, and his determined female love interest, Alma—played by Luxembourger-newcomer, Vicky Krieps. Woodcock, because of his intense dedication to his work, likes to maintain significant distance in his relationships, which is why the tend to be numerous and short-lived. Alma, however, seems determined to change this pattern and to make herself an integral part of his life. Woodcock, shall we say, resists this intrusion. The sparks in this relationship are less like fireworks and more like Molotov cocktails, making for maximal entertainment.

Overall, I found Phantom Thread to be in turn hilarious, electric and gripping—certainly never disappointing. Granted, it’s not There Will Be Blood, but it also makes no attempt to live up to that comparison. Instead, Anderson gives us a brilliant comedic take on the classic costume drama; what results is certainly the best film released in January.

Score: 9/10

Album: To Infinity by Special Explosion

This album was released back in the middle of December, and boy, did it almost slip by completely unnoticed. Special Explosion, a band from the Pacific Northwest, fuses indie rock with emo adding a splash of post-rock on their debut album to create a quietly stunning collection of tracks. I’ll admit, on my first time through, I didn’t really get it. The vocals of brother-sister duo Andy and Lizzy Costello are quiet and breathy, and their harmonies aren’t necessarily the most overwhelmingly beautiful you’ll ever hear. The songs don’t have the most obvious structures either and, initially, it can feel like they’re meandering.

What can’t be denied, however, is the incredible musicianship and gorgeous recording, and that’s what kept me listening. Eventually, it became clear that Special Explosion’s music is extremely fragile, and after some really close listening, I found that I had come across one of the prettiest albums of 2017—and certainly one of the most overlooked. In my opinion, the devastating “Waterfalls” and the anthemic “Fire” are reason enough to listen to To Infinity. While it may take more than one listen to fully appreciate, I urge you to give this album a chance!

Score: 8/10

Album: Ephorize by cupcakKe

Prudes, beware! CupcakKe is a Chicago rapper whose claim to fame is the incessant delivery of as many sexually explicit, over-the-top lyrics as she can muster in a single verse. I hadn’t expected to enjoy this as much as I did, but with its combination of aggressive rapping, hilarious punchlines and on-point production, Ephorize completely won me over. “Duck Duck Goose” and “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” provide some of the most hard-hitting and comedic moments, while “Self Interview” lends an unexpectedly introspective (but extremely compelling) moment to the album. So, if you’re interested in listening to some ridiculously raunchy hip-hop, you can’t go wrong with Ephorize.

Score: 8/10