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Berlinale 2014: 20,000 Days on Earth

A highly polished docu-fiction hybrid about Nick Cave, an artist who’s all about construction, polish (dig those dapper suits), and self-invention.

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Berlinale 2014: 20,000 Days on Earth

20,000 Days on Earth is a highly polished, carefully constructed docu-fiction hybrid about singer-songwriter Nick Cave, an artist who’s all about construction, polish (dig those dapper suits), and self-invention. Directors Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth were previously commissioned by Cave to film 14 short making-of documentaries packaged with the recent reissue of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ discography. So they have, in their way, already made their definitive-ish biographical portrait of Cave, his band, and his music. This is not that.

Instead, 20,000 Days takes the form of an imagined day in the life of Cave, as he drives his luxury car to his therapist, has lunch with bandmate Warren Ellis, heads to an archive loaded with bric-à-brac from his past (a scene that includes a hilariously detailed breakdown on an instance when a German concertgoer urinated on Birthday Party bassist Tracey Pew that plays like a deconstruction scene from JFK), and snacks on pizza while watching Scarface with his twin sons. In between, we’re treated to scenes of Cave working through material for his latest Bad Seeds album, Push the Sky Away, live concert footage, and chats with past collaborators Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue.

For better, 20,000 Days is a decidedly fans-only affair. While the film is seemingly accessible as a portrait of an artist who seems particularly attuned to his own creative process, and particularly adept at describing this attunement (Cave has given several long-form lectures on the peculiar metaphysics of songcraft), it’s unlikely that many who aren’t already whole-hog Bad Seeds fans would be able to stomach much of Cave’s self-styled pomposity. By his own admission, the musician “was always a kind of ostentatious bastard,” and that whole persona bears out across the film. It’s there in his description of a God he doesn’t believe in coming alive in his songwriting, and it’s there in the way his voice sort of lilts upward in self-satisfaction after a particularly adroit turn of phrase.

Still, it’s this sort of practiced pomposity—the well-tailored suits, the jewelry, the ability to knock out locutions like “the never-ending drip feed of eroticism” with the ease of someone effortlessly nailing self-pitched dingers—that many of Cave’s admirers respond to. His arrogance is more of an inheritance than a warranted affectation. He’s allowed to be so full of himself because he’s just that good: one of the most talented songwriters (even if he took some heat for rhyming “Hannah Montana” with “African savannah” on a recent record) and riotously entertaining performers in the history of popular music, full stop.

20,000 Days gives Cave an opportunity to present himself, knowingly, as a literary construction. He’s deeply intelligent, and somehow genteel and sophisticated even when he’s describing on-stage urination. It’s not exactly a “revealing” documentary, if shaking out dirt is to be taken as a metric by which these sorts of biographical sketches should be judged. Aided by Pollard and Forsyth’s meticulous direction (including a climatic concert scene that seamlessly cross-cuts between other performances across Cave’s career), Cave only plays the cards he wants. But in a backhanded way, this considered, half-fictional approach perfectly serves an artist who has always been in the process of making and remaking his own mercurial image.

Berlinale runs from February 6—16.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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