Archive for February, 2014

[50/50] Album #15: “Watermark”

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Album #15: “Watermark” — Enya (1988)

Enya-1988-WatermarkIf all goes according to plan, I’ll be catching Julianna Barwick tonight at the Carrack. Moody and ethereal, her music has been described as Enya for the Indie crowd.

Enya herself has been an ambient darling since her breakthru album “Watermark” in 1988. It’s understandable people might be wary of the record, thanks to the overexposure of its big hit, the overwrought “Orinoco Flow,” but this would be a mistake, like avoiding Led Zep IV because of “Stairway to Heaven.” From the beautiful and haunting opening title track to the Irish lament “Na Laetha Geal M’óige” (Days of My Youth) that closes out the record, this is a perfect album for the dead of winter. “Watermark” is all the more impressive because Enya plays all the instruments and sings all the tracks herself, looping vocals to create a chorus of backup singers from her solitary voice.

February, Enya and looping go back a quarter century for me as well. At the time, I had one of those boom boxes that would continuously play a cassette tape, flipping from one side to the other automatically when it reached the end. If you didn’t hit stop, an album would repeat forever. I was in my first apartment, soon after my roommate had left to move in with his girlfriend. I’d also recently heard from my ex-girlfriend, which put me right back in the metaphysical crater where she’d left me. Alone, broke, and feeling a wee bit sorry for myself one bitterly cold evening, I put on “Watermark” and plopped down on the couch to read. I lost track, but sometime after hearing the click of the cassette flipping over for probably the dozenth time, I finally found the energy to get up and eject the tape. By then, Enya and her moody, ethereal voice were forever burned into my head.

[50/50] Movie #15: Rollerball

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Favorite Movie #15: Rollerball (1975)

rollerball2Forget the Superbowl. The ultimate championship takes place at the end of Rollerball: “No substitutions; no penalties; and no time limit.” The resulting devastation brings to a head the showdown between the corporate masters of a dystopian future and a global superstar. The 1975 sci-fi cult hit is still probably the best of the bleak “dark future” films of the 1970s. (It has certainly aged better than its contemporary harbingers of doom: “Soylent Green” and “Silent Running.”)

I’ve written before about Rollerball. A lot. Hell, I even designed a board game around it. The title game is that exceedingly rare creation: a fictional sport that is believable as a sport. This is thanks, in great part, to the cast of stuntmen hired for the movie’s action scenes. Between filming they reportedly kept playing, coming up with their own set of rules for the game, and even rewriting their own lines. By the time the film made it thru editing (and an enthusiastic marketing dept., who actually released the official rules as part of the movie’s promotional packet), a completely new game had been invented.

While that isn’t the point of the film — it is a cautionary tale of ceding too much control to corporations — the violence of the game helps drive home the heavy-handed message. Of course the great irony is that the director, Norman Jewison, originally set out make a movie with an anti-violent message; yet if Rollerball is remembered at all today, it is for the three amazing action scenes that showcase this fictional future sport.