Madison calendar, January 17 through 23
A record-release celebration with Vanishing Kids, the darkly comic thrills of “In Order Of Disappearance,” and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Jason Fuhrman, Scott Gordon, and Reid Kurkerewicz
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY JANUARY 17
New York band Charly Bliss applies just enough snarl and filth to guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks' clear, slashing hooks, yielding songs that bruise and brighten in equal measure. Each of the 10 track on the band's 2017 debut album, Guppy, comes across with startling focus, especially "Black Hole," a song that teeters between euphoria and torment, between messy confession and cutting right to the point. It's a rare band that can make you feel this swept up this fast. Charly Bliss shares the bill here with fellow New Yorkers Active Bird Community and with Madison band Disq, whose recent track "Communication" landed among our favorite Madison singles of 2018. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY JANUARY 19
Since they formed the band Vanishing Kids in 2000, vocalist/keyboard player Nikki Drohomyreky and guitarist Jason Hartman have made several moves back and forth between Madison and Portland, Oregon, gone through myriad lineup changes, and usually indulged a wild patchwork of sounds, drawing especially heavily from the realms of post-punk and metal. The excitement of albums like 2007's Skies In Your Eyes and 2013's Spirit Visions came from hearing the band splice together influences that spanned from The Cure to Voivod to Killing Joke to Slayer into warped but undeniably moving songs. But over the past five years, Vanishing Kids has begun to sound more focused on one sound, solidifying a new lineup with bassist Jerry Sofran and drummer Hart Alan Miller and writing new songs that mine a subtle vein of stately gloom. They play here to celebrate the 2018 release of the resulting album, Heavy Dreamer, with new member Sam Shinners (also of Ruin Dweller and Red Museum) joining on live keyboards.
This record is certainly the most cohesive thing the band has ever done—though the jump-cut eclecticism of its earlier records was captivating in its own way, there's a lot to be said for the patient, immersive sequence of these eight songs. On highlights like the title track, "Without A Sun," and "Reaper," Sofran's growling bass and Miller's lumbering drums draw on the heft of doom metal, while Drohomyreky's vocals gasp and yearn for high drama. Drohomyreky's synth sounds are more fine-tuned and delicately reverbed here than they have been on past releases, and Hartman's guitar playing balances dense low-end riffs with leads that spiral into ecstatic, ornate melodic overload. The band couldn't have picked a better title for Heavy Dreamer: This music has its feet in the sludge and its head in an unabashedly mystical, vulnerable zone. —Scott Gordon
While many of her films deteriorated beyond repair, Madison audiences still have the chance to see silent film star Colleen Moore in director Alfred E. Green's Ella Cinders (1926), based on a once-popular comic strip character. Moore is immediately charming as Ella, armed with a flapper haircut that'd be fashionable on today's Netflix stars. Trapped in a loose take on the Cinderella story, Ella is forced to work for her stepmother and sisters, who soak up that sweet Gilded Age leisure time. With the help of the local ice delivery man, Ella enters a beauty contest that will supposedly win her fame in Hollywood. After several gags and tribulations, it becomes clear that the contest was a sham, and Ella has to work her way up to stardom from less nothing.
With a hilarious performance from Moore highlighting her body comedy, the film works as a window into the Hollywood of her day. With the paparazzi, the need to market your selfies, and a parasitical studio system, the film portrays a burgeoning movie production system already critical of itself, as the camera pulls back from scenes within scenes to show us how the line between performance and reality was already troubled in the '20s. With organist Jelani Eddington playing a live score, these screenings should prove to be an authentic silent film experience with thematic ties to today's moviegoing adventures. In addition, Duck Soup Cinema proves that trigger warnings don't than have to herald the cultural apocalypse some critics foresee, as the series website warns of offensive jokes from back before Americans developed empathy. Especially disappointing in Ella Cinders are white performers dressed as stereotypical Native Americans. —Reid Kurkerewicz
SUNDAY JANUARY 20
A hybrid silent film released at the dawn of the talkie era, director Paul Fejos' 1928 dramedy Lonesome is a frantic love story set against a physically distressing 1920's New York. Mary, a phone operator, and Jim, a factory worker, find themselves anxious and confused during a hectic and heteronormative Independence Day weekend, as their fellow "working stiffs" pair off. Both find confrontations with solitude unacceptable. They try magazines, and records, but mass media is somehow devoid of the meaningful connections with other human bodies they obviously crave. As the camera whisks seamlessly between their lives, both decide to celebrate alone on Coney Island, where they have a meet-cute in a mirror, eventually convincing each other they are rich.
It's almost always nice to watch heroes who don't already own or eventually attain infinite money. In fact, you actually see Jim run out of coin to pay for further amusements on their impromptu date, and it's ok. You also get a rare scene—a grown man crying in black and white—after the pair are separated on a rollercoaster that starts on fire (is there a better metaphor for life in the city?). It becomes like a horror movie when the police ruin everything and the lovers lose each other further in a rainstorm.The few talking parts of Lonesome are often cast aside as afterthoughts, but, like every other aspect of the film's production, they were at least used as thoughtful experiments, as pivotal developments in their relationship use voice. Their sincere decelerations of affection are awkwardly enunciated, but that's not so far off from most people's reality. While Fejos eventually left Universal Picture's strict production system, which insisted on the talkie segments, and, I suspect, the impossibly optimistic ending, Lonesome stands as an impressive version of the love-in-the-city storyline that's still being pumped out today. —Reid Kurkerewicz
TUESDAY JANUARY 22
A slick exercise in cinematic style and a fresh, absurdist tale of revenge, Hans Petter Moland's deadpan pitch-black comedy In Order Of Disappearance (2014) offers icy thrills, unexpected humor, and cartoonish carnage. The inimitable Stellan Skarsgård stars as Nils Dickman, a taciturn, impassive, and somber snowplow driver in a remote Norwegian town who has just been named "Citizen of the Year" for his tireless, Sisyphean devotion to keeping the roads clear.
When his son dies of an apparent heroin overdose, he sets out to find those responsible for the young man's demise. In the process of taking his vengeance, however, Dickman inadvertently exposes a complex web of international drug trafficking. He pursues not only the actual murderer, but also his employer—a pretentious, militantly vegan crime boss known as "the Count" (Pål Sverre Hagen)—and the various intermediaries who facilitated the lethal transaction.
A relentless, cold-blooded killing machine, Dickman methodically dispatches the criminals, one by one, with the same single-minded determination that he applies to removing snow. The Count mistakenly blames a rival Serbian gang for the deaths, thus igniting a bloody, cyclical war. As the body count piles up, the executions become increasingly imaginative and brutal. Each deceased character receives a black-and-white epitaph screen with their name and corresponding religious symbol. With an eye for ethereal, monochromatic compositions that frequently veer toward abstraction, cinematographer Philip Øgaard exquisitely captures the stark, wintry landscapes of the film's setting, thus accentuating the grisly, aestheticized violence and the existential emptiness of Dickman's quest.
Since the release of Moland's film, critics have observed how, on paper, it sounds like a perfect vehicle for actor Liam Neeson, star of the Taken franchise. Indeed, In Order Of Disappearance has recently been remade in English by the original director with Neeson playing the protagonist role, renamed Nels Coxman. The new film, titled Cold Pursuit, will come out in the United States this February. —Jason Fuhrman