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October 12th, 2011 WW Screen Staff | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Reel Music 26, Week 2

Have you heard of this “Decemberists” band?

screen.box.starisborn_3749BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY: Vanja Kovacevic in A Star is Born. - Image courtesy of NW Film Center
     
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A Star Is Born

35 A Star is Born is like a Serbian episode of MTV’s Made. Vanja Kovacevic, who wrote, directed, edited and produced this documentary, wants to become a drummer. The Decemberists are her idol, and as an homage to the Portland band (which makes a cameo at a show in Berlin, and has the best scene in the film), she calls her own haphazard band Writers of Fiction. She recruits talented Serbian musicians to join her group, and gives herself nine months to learn how to play the drums. She’s not good, and she doesn’t really get good over the nine months. Mostly, she just bitches and whines as if she’s having some kind of existential crisis, while her bandmates get pissed and frustrated and continually preach epic, philosophical advice that induces serious eye-rolling. The band doesn’t end up sounding too awful at its concert, but Kovacevic’s percussion skills leave much to be desired, which is indicative of the film as a whole. MAGGIE SUMMERS. 9:15 pm Saturday, Oct. 15.


Pepper’s Pow-Wow

76 This hour-long 1996 documentary has the look and production value of a classroom educational movie. And it should, really, be shown in classrooms across the state of Oregon. Jim Pepper, a Native American sax player who came up in the Portland public school system, wound up changing the face of jazz with his groundbreaking fusion group, the Free Spirits, and developing his own unique collage of jazz, pop and traditional Native music (some of which found mainstream success). The film explores the roots of those creative endeavors, talking with friends and colleagues about Pepper’s distinct saxophone sound and his even more singular songwriting. Pepper died from cancer in 1992 at just 40 years old—an age at which many jazz musicians start to hit their creative stride—and this documentary is largely comprised of footage from the last few years of his life. The film is a great launching point to discovering Pepper’s music (though much of it is out of print). You can hear great ear behind his composition-building and the heart and fight in Pepper’s playing. He is still missed. CASEY JARMAN. 7 pm Monday, Oct. 17. Part of a three-movie jazz block.


SEE IT: Reel Music continues at the NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium through Sunday, Oct. 23.

 
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