Sunday, December 20, 2015

Five Favorite Films of 2015

Judging from my five favorite movies of 2015, or the five films that stayed with me the most, this has clearly been a somewhat unusual year for cinema. Genres like animation and outer space adventure tales, which I’ve previously enjoyed but never taken too seriously, suddenly offered films that left me thinking more deeply than they had before. Two of my favorite movies of the past twelve months were box office hits, rare for the films that appeal to me the most during any given year. It makes sense in a way, as global capitalism marches on, that there’s a gratifying balance to be found between the blockbusters and the small independent movies; some talents will trickle up, while others will trickle down.

Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, Lost River, which was booed by the audience and trashed by critics when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, is a film that almost nobody saw this year for that reason. Its cinematic release was extremely limited. The movie showed in only three theaters in New York and Los Angeles and grossed just over $45,000 in the US. Fortunately, I happened to be in New York the one week that the movie screened at the Angelika Film Center there. Although many have accused Gosling of ripping off David Lynch (and yes, Lynch’s films obviously influenced the movie’s elliptical style), Gosling’s shy brand of coolness is stamped all over the movie.

The narrative of Lost River is intentionally slim: a young man named Bones (Iain De Caestecker, handsomely approximating Gosling himself) strips copper from abandoned urban buildings and sells it to help support his kid brother and his mother (Christina Hendricks), who ends up in a rather interesting line of work herself. They’re trying to save the house that they’re about to lose. Several subplots emerge: Bones has a quasi-romance with a neighbor (Saoirse Ronan), gets pursued by a towering, brutal bully (Matt Smith), and discovers a flooded town that explains the movie’s title. The scrappy characters and dreamlike, frequently transfixing images, underscored by Johnny Jewel’s pulsating electronic soundtrack, mean more than the sum of those storylines.

The result is a very American product (by a Canadian-born director) that’s both contemplative and phantasmagoric, combining the grotesque surrealism of writers like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor with the hypervisual verve of a graphic novel. Coincidentally, I watched the film immediately after I saw the fun and riveting horror flick It Follows at the same theater. Both movies were filmed in Detroit, and both use that legendary location’s current decrepitude and ruined grandeur to sad and exhilarating effect, another element that makes Lost River feel distinctly American to me.

The most important film of 2015 is Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. I saw it when I was at a conference in Chicago, but it’s set here in my home city of Boston. Following a team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe who won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the tragic breadth of the Catholic church’s cover-up of the city’s decades-long priest sex abuse scandal, the impeccable ensemble cast (especially Mark Ruffalo as the film’s ethical backbone) and the cumulative emotional impact work with devastating precision. What impresses me even more in retrospect is how carefully such explosive subject matter is handled in the film. Never once does the material tip in the direction of the sensational, rooting the movie in genuinely moral territory from start to finish.

Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter, is perhaps the only cartoon that will ever appear on a list of my favorite films. It’s often as profound in its ideas as Spotlight, and that’s really saying something. The movie takes place mostly inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, who’s recently relocated with her parents from the midwest to San Francisco. As Riley starts to grow homesick, missing her former town and her friends there, the emotions in her head, voiced by an array of comedians and TV personalities, begin to wrestle it out with one another: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader).

The inside of Riley’s mind, wide and sprawling as a world of its own, comes to life in a way that couldn’t be conveyed in any other medium. The film is mostly about memory, and the sorrow inherent in the notion that some of our memories, notably those from childhood, will simply be lost over time. In the film, memories are represented by colorful spheres; as Riley’s memories rack up, workers keep them safely shelved, plucking out the ones that have turned gray. The wasteland of forgotten memories where Joy finds herself later in the movie, an endless slope of darkened, discarded spheres, is an image that hasn’t left me since I saw the film several months ago. Neither has the movie’s central message: sometimes Sadness has to be allowed to take control.

Ridley Scott’s latest venture, The Martian, I saw at a beautifully restored art deco theater in Brattleboro, Vermont. The packed Saturday night audience was easily the most subdued and well-behaved I’ve had the pleasure of viewing a movie with in years, reminding me of just how important that aspect of moviegoing can be, and how much it can affect our enjoyment of a film. The crowded house also provided a nice counterpoint to the on-screen desolation; an American astronaut, played with equal parts humor and gravitas by Matt Damon, gets stranded alone on Mars after a storm separates him from the rest of his mission crew. What follows is high and gripping entertainment, as Damon’s character engineers ways to grow food and survive on an inhospitable planet, while we await his rescue by the NASA folks down on Earth.

Of course, recent hits such as Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar could easily have made The Martian seem like a copycat film. And as much as I loved Gravity, I think there’s a bit more humanity in The Martian overall. The science of Ridley Scott’s movie also feels more thought-out and authentic, perhaps because of its fictional source material, the eponymous 2011 novel by Andy Weir on which the film is based. It’s refreshing to see a scientific film that seems both accurate and respectful of its audience’s intelligence.

Finally, another movie that I saw in New York over Thanksgiving, Josh Mond’s James White, is a little film that I’m very glad I had a chance to watch. A family drama set in Manhattan, just after the death of the protagonist’s somewhat absent father, it comes complete with a boost of adrenaline, thanks to the energetic performance of Christopher Abbott in the title role, an aspiring magazine writer who’s trying to find his path and seriously flailing. Cynthia Nixon’s fierce and soulful portrayal of his mother, a cancer patient nearing the end of her life, is award-worthy, masterfully evoking her character’s delicate strength. A heartbreaking dialogue between the two in their apartment’s bathroom contains the finest writing and delivery of any scene that I saw this year.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Brad Gooch, Smash Cut (HarperCollins, 2015)

I had to read Brad Gooch’s Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s over a period of about two months in gradual increments, stopping and starting, to give myself time to process what I was feeling. As excited as I was throughout the book, I knew from the beginning how emotionally demanding it would be for me, a memoir about a talented artist and filmmaker, Howard Brookner, a handsome young gay man in New York City, who died of AIDS and was buried on his 35th birthday. I was right on the edge of tears in every paragraph of the prologue, so I allowed myself a couple of weeks after that to feel prepared enough to continue reading.

Brad Gooch, a biographer, novelist, and poet, was Howard Brookner’s boyfriend for a decade, from the time they met at a gay bar called the Ninth Circle in 1978 — as Howard gazed directly at Brad from a pastel haze of flashing jukebox lights — until Howard’s death in 1989. The Dantesque allusion of the bar’s name carries a sharp resonance from the outset. By its end the book documents a hellish descent into illness and loss, but only after ascending in its first half through an intimate, lovingly troubled relationship and into the initial levels of bohemian artistic ambition. “If I were forced to choose one trait that defined us, and our generation, and those times,” Gooch recalls, “I’d have to say that we were romantics. It was a romantic time.”

Being a gay man myself and single at 41, I felt sure that the book’s romantic focus would present a steep but worthwhile challenge. Coincidentally, in the midst of my reading the book, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. When I first moved to Boston from Ohio in 1993, I thought for certain that by making such a move, I’d soon find a long-term boyfriend, someone not so different from the two young men depicted in this book. That’s not how things turned out for me. But something else the book makes clear is that even if two people find each other and commit themselves to staying together, the world may have very different plans.

Howard Brookner is about as likable a figure any memoirist (or reader) could hope for, and the author’s continued affection for him is apparent on every page. When the pair met in 1978, Howard was just starting work on a documentary about the Beat Generation fixture William Burroughs (the film was completed five years later in 1983), embedding himself in the downtown Manhattan art scene, along with his film school classmates like Jim Jarmusch. The middle son of a Jewish family from Long Island, Howard made an attractive fit for Brad, who had moved to New York from his WASPy roots in Pennsylvania. Remembering their first night spent together in Howard’s loft in the East Village, Brad describes “a sensation of being a mere composite of iron filings pulled in by the life-size magnet of Howard’s body.”

Smash Cut is equally a memoir of its era. As was standard for the age, casual sex and drug addictions underscore the surface action, tampering with the stability of our central couple. The segue from the days of glam rock into the harder edge of punk always lingers at the scene’s periphery, as does a figure like Andy Warhol, who appears in person halfway through the memoir, “with an intelligence that transcended gender and sexuality.” I worried that the pace might slow down when the author detours to Milan and Paris to try out a less than fulfilling stint in modeling, but Gooch’s storytelling and knack for detailing the characters he met in Europe keep the tempo of the book in line with the previous chapters in New York.

Upon his return to Manhattan, Brad relocated with Howard to share an apartment on the fifth floor of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, a building the author mentions that he still passes every day in his current neighborhood, bringing on a cascade of memories, which was the real catalyst for writing this book. Within a few pages of their move to the Chelsea, in early July of 1981, Brad reads the now infamous article from the New York Times, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals,” the ominous beginning of what would later become the AIDS epidemic. “A chasm opened up in front of me,” the author writes.

Gooch’s description of the overarching feeling throughout the early years of the AIDS epidemic is among the most powerful I’ve encountered. The passage is prompted by a hard rain on the streets of New York and worth quoting here in its entirety: “It was a dark afternoon in the spring of 1987. So many memories of those last few years of the eighties are like that: rainy, bleak. It’s not possible that the weather was dismal for years on end, the same throughout all four seasons. But those years, taken together, were like one of those mornings when you wake up, the clouds are dense, the barometric pressure low, and no one calls. You feel as if your legs are a little heavy because the weather is creating a low-level system of depression throughout the city. That years-long day just went on and on and on.”

While he was finishing his work as director of the feature film Bloodhounds of Broadway, a send-up of 1920s New York with a cast of Hollywood actors, including a young Madonna, Howard Brookner’s rapidly declining health landed him in St. Vincent’s hospital. During those years, even some medical professionals were still afraid to have physical contact with AIDS patients. Providing one reason why she’s historically been such an icon for the gay community, Madonna visits Howard at the hospital, climbs right onto the hospital bed with him, and kisses him on the lips. When Howard asks Brad why so many visitors are stopping by, Brad replies, “Because something about you makes people feel good when they come to see you ... because you give something to people.”

On the day of his funeral, Howard Brookner departed from Brad Gooch’s life in the same way he first appeared, in a hazy halo of light, “a very strong bright light in an oval shape that was suspended high in the skeletal branches of a nearby tree.” Smash Cut is a beautiful, generous tribute to Howard’s life and memory, as well as a loving recollection of the time in which he lived.

Monday, June 22, 2015

17th Annual Provincetown International Film Festival (June 17th - 21st, 2015)

If someone was new to our planet, the annual film festival in Provincetown would be an excellent introduction. Seeing nineteen movies over five days is kind of like a primer for life on earth. The diversity of subjects in the films that I watched spanned from a son visiting his elderly parents in the English countryside (Tom Browne’s contemplative Radiator) to documentaries about Marlon Brando, Tab Hunter, Peggy Guggenheim, and pioneering punk promoter Danny Fields, from playful criss-crossing of gender lines (François Ozon’s The New Girlfriend) to the somber tale of an ex-gay publisher turned pastor (Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael).

Having known relatively little about the subject of The End of the Tour, the late novelist David Foster Wallace, I’m somewhat surprised that it turned out to be my favorite film in this year’s festival. Featuring a career-changing performance by comedic actor Jason Segel as Wallace, the film recounts the handful of days that David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) spent staying and traveling on a promotional book tour with Wallace while interviewing him for a Rolling Stone article. The visit later resulted in a memoir by Lipsky, which was the source material for the movie’s screenplay, adapted by playwright Donald Margulies. It makes sense, therefore, that The End of the Tour is totally a writer’s movie, in the guise of a road movie with lots of intellectual sparring.

In this case the sparring partners could not be more suitably matched. Segel captures Wallace’s brooding yet laidback nature in a way that seems genuine and likeable. Even Wallace’s diehard fans who are most protective of his legacy should be pleased by Segel’s tightrope walk of a portrayal, although it’s the kind of understated performance that deserves much more attention than it will probably receive. Eisenberg’s Lipsky is an ideal geeky foil to Wallace’s hulking nerdiness. The scenario of the Rolling Stone piece gave both men plenty to mistrust about each other, yet as the director James Ponsoldt worded it during the post-screening Q&A, the film is “an unrequited Platonic love story.”

Lipsky’s last-chance, whirlwind list of details as he describes the interior of Wallace’s rural Illinois home to his handheld tape recorder (with some expert help from Danny Elfman’s subtle electronic score) was the most moving moment from any film that I saw at the festival. And despite Wallace’s ongoing resistance to “selling out” to such a mainstream publication like Rolling Stone, the Alanis Morissette poster on his living room wall — along with his boyish crush on her — is evidence that he didn’t have too much of an objection to becoming a sort of rock star himself. The film doesn’t dwell on Wallace’s suicide but instead lets the fact of it linger quietly in the framework of the movie, a decision that seems right to me.

The most outright entertaining film that I saw in the festival was Paul Weitz’s Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin as a fabulously blunt lesbian poet, a character that’s slightly inspired by my writer friend Eileen Myles. Another road movie of a kind, though the trip doesn’t stray too far from the character’s California town during the course of a day, it’s the sort of crowd-pleasing film that filled every single seat in Town Hall, the festival’s largest venue. Tomlin plays Elle Reid, a former academic who’s gone broke just as she’s broken up with her much younger girlfriend, in the wake of Elle’s longtime partner Violet’s death from a costly cancer. Elle’s granddaughter, Sage, shows up right when Elle’s edge is sharpest, asking her grandma for money so that she can pay to have an abortion.

Mayhem and dark humor ensue, of course, as Elle and Sage go door-to-door in search of a handout. Along the way we meet tattoo artist Deathy (a wonderful Laverne Cox), café owner Carla (the late Elizabeth Peña in one of her final roles), Elle’s long-ago husband Karl (Sam Elliott, still sexy at seventy), and Marcia Gay Harden having a riotous time as Sage’s no-nonsense, business executive mother. Some might complain that the storyline feels a bit too thin, but the film is more focused on developing its characters than the action of the plot. Tomlin has waited forever to play a role like this, one that’s probably closest to who she is in everyday life.

Among the documentaries that I saw, Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack was easily the most thought-provoking. In fact, I found it impossible to stop thinking about the film in the days following the screening, mainly because the story itself is so bizarre and the territory is so unfamiliar. The six teenage Angulo brothers were raised and home-schooled in their apartment at a public housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Throughout their childhood, they almost never left the apartment. Their mother, who grew up on a farm in the Midwest, met their Peruvian father, a Hare Krishna, when she was hiking a trail to Machu Picchu on which he was a tour guide. Their goal for the Angulo tribe was ten children, far more than their apartment could accommodate, so they only made it to seven kids. The brothers’ younger sister is rarely seen on screen. Their father’s entrance is also intelligently delayed. As the story unfolds, we imagine him to be a frightening figure, and he’s definitely scary when he eventually surfaces, but he’s also quite cowardly in the way that he’s sequestered his children and his wife away from the world.

The reasons for trapping the family indoors are specious, a combination of quasi-religious and philosophical beliefs and a general fear of New York City and the dangers of American culture. What the boys lacked in social interaction, they made up for through watching movies. Their favorites are all manner of horror films and anything directed by Quentin Tarantino; they are, after all, a gang of teenage boys. Just watching the films repeatedly, however, was never enough. They re-enacted their favorite scenes on video camera for years, transcribing the scripts on a word processor, designing their own costumes, and hand-crafting weaponry with pieces of cardboard cut from empty cereal boxes and painted black. (An intricately assembled Batman suit is especially impressive and looks nearly authentic.)

After one of their makeshift guns caught the eye of a neighbor in their building, an entire SWAT team busted through their door, handcuffing every member of the family and pinning them up against a wall. Finding nothing but toy guns in the apartment, the cops congratulated the boys on their craftsmanship and left them alone, until the oldest brother decided to venture outside wearing a homemade Michael Myers mask while their father was out buying groceries. That episode ended with an arrest and a stay in a mental institution, but the barrier between their claustrophobic apartment and the world outside had been breached at long last. Running up an avenue on their first day out of the apartment together, the Angulo brothers met the film’s director. She followed them with her camera from that point onward.

Their mother mentions being happy that now the boys can finally learn how movies “are both real and not real” in the context of the actual world, a phrase that could also describe the surreal qualities of The Wolfpack itself. Although the almost identical members of the clan, after years of being kept indoors together, are bound to be visibly awkward on the subway and on an excursion to the beach at Coney Island, the film suggests that movies, at least when they’re the sole outlet for the intense imaginations of young male siblings, might provide just enough socialization to build a bridge to the culture-at-large.

Bao Nguyen’s Live From New York! is about as different from The Wolfpack as two documentaries can get, but I found this overview of Saturday Night Live’s forty-year history to be equally as interesting on other levels. While I’ve never been a massive fan of the show, I’ve followed it sporadically and sometimes more faithfully over time, depending on the individual cast and the quality of the writing team. To keep a weekly live show going for so long is a tremendous accomplishment in itself, and it’s one that deserves this type of closer examination.

The film’s overview is mostly chronological. Because there’s so much to cover, everyone who sees it will feel like something was left out. The cast members’ commentaries offer the most useful insights because they’re inside views from the people who actually made the show, or as Will Ferrell calls it, “a living, breathing time capsule.” Original cast member Laraine Newman mentions that what sets the show apart is that it’s a meritocracy: “If a sketch is good enough, then it runs.” More recent cast member Andy Samberg remarks that it’s the perfect show for the Internet generation because everything’s done in short clips. Head honcho Lorne Michaels draws on the controversial examples of Andrew Dice Clay, who was thought to be too crude to host the show, and Sinead O’Connor, who tore up a photo of the pope on the air, to explore the show’s tension between censorship and freedom of expression. Other examples highlight how issues of race and gender have proven to be challenging in the studio, just as they are in American society. The documentary’s director wisely chose to take a serious approach, one that investigates how Saturday Night Live has both reflected and influenced the climate of our culture.

Speaking of culture, I want to close by considering a shift that I’ve noticed in many facets of American life lately. In the aftermath of the (so-called) Great Recession, there’s a desire to appease the masses that’s gradually seeping into all aspects of art and commerce. The anxieties are understandable as the global economy continues to get a foothold and gain traction. A certain sense of tameness and safety is widening its reach, nevertheless, affecting even my college teaching, a job that was once about challenging students to think but is now being forced into the mold of customer service representative.

This shouldn’t be happening to art and film as well. Sure, it’s commercially important to have popular movies that are created for the mainstream. But it’s artistically important for films and other art forms to incite discomfort, bend the boundaries of genre, and propel their creators and their audiences toward the edge, both aesthetically and emotionally. The annual film festival in Provincetown showcases a variety of films each year that satisfy the need for edginess and experimentation, and I hope this trend continues in future years of the festival.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Austin Bunn, The Brink (Harper Perennial, 2015)

The arrival of Austin Bunn’s debut book of short stories, The Brink, is certainly well-timed. We’re living in an era of history that feels like it’s always already post-apocalyptic, and that’s exactly what the tightly woven yet loosely worn ten stories in this ambitious and wide-ranging collection are all about. On the book’s opening page, we meet a precocious seventh-grader named Sam, for whom “nuclear holocaust is the only thing worth thinking about,” an obsession with extremity and obliteration that permeates Austin Bunn’s stories, without ever feeling inescapably dark or too heavy-handed. They’re doomsday tales for a generation that grew up training itself, after all, to view doomsday scenarios from a consciously ironic stance.

In addition to being a fiction writer, Bunn is a playwright and filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for 2013’s Kill Your Darlings, starring Daniel Radcliffe as a young Allen Ginsberg. Each story in The Brink has a cinematic sweep and depth; it’s clear that they were written with a filmmaker’s eye, and it’s easy to read them with a moviegoer’s imagination. Sometimes I was reminded of individual films. For instance, “The End of the Age Is Upon Us,” told from the perspective of a young man who’s involved in a cult, recalled the harrowing edginess of 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene. Bunn’s approach to inhabiting his narrator’s sad and brainwashed vision of the world is fully believable and invested throughout.

At times the momentum of the stories reminded me of Alice Munro, who in her best pieces leads her readers to the brink, dangles us over the edge, and then yanks us back up to safety, but never leaving us unchanged after a glimpse of the dangers below. It’s strange to think, therefore, that I also found Bunn’s storytelling style reminiscent of someone like the late John Hughes, whose brilliant and seemingly timeless mid-80s teen romantic comedies always struck the right balance of drama and sentimentality. A number of these stories show a clear desire to be neatly resolved and self-contained, even in terms of structure, while others end openly or abruptly.

A quality that feels new to fiction, at least for me, is the simulated alternative game-world called the Also in the story titled “Griefer.” The acceleration and velocity of language that Bunn taps into when the central character launches himself into the kinetic strata of the game — in stark contrast to his humdrum everyday life with his wife in their apartment — is similar to the Beat cadences of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, a world drawn with words that zing and dance around on the page: “I zoomed to the edge of the gray-green butte. Below me, the city stretched out on five peninsulas into the ocean, a hand on a mirror. Hundreds of players hived at one of the city terminals. The Also’s composer, a nineteen-year-old kid who made the game sound like a nail salon, was having a live farewell jam. If I boosted my speakers, I could just perceive the twee.”

My favorite story in the collection, and the one that seems most accomplished and realized, is “Ledge.” Set in the age of Christopher Columbus, it’s a seafaring tale about reaching the edge of the Flat Earth, and finding out what’s beyond the precipice. More than mere fantasy, the story is firmly rooted in the long-standing tradition of magical realism, and as such, its tone and dynamic are inherited most directly from Gabriel García Márquez. His own seafaring tales, like “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” “The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship,” and “The Sea of Lost Time,” bear an immediate relation to “Ledge,” and Bunn’s story aspires to be as genuinely good as those are.

Narrated by a young man from Seville, who documents the sea journey in his ledger with a quill, it’s one of several stories in the collection (along with “Hazard 9” and “Curious Father”) that unassumingly threads in a gay storyline. In “Ledge” that subplot is even more seamless and unspoken, integrated into the story’s relationships, because anything more demonstrative than that would be anachronistic. The device is both successful and moving, as is the story’s main conceit, of an afterworld that lies beyond the ledge: “Death is the tyranny. To conquer the ledge was a conquest over this. The greed of time.”

The Brink’s virtuosic, trademark aura is situated between the cyberpunk avatars of “Griefer” and the exploration-era atmospherics of “Ledge.” I’d call it Steampunk Lite, and I don’t mean Lite in the sense of hollow imitation. I mean it in the sense that these stories, though obviously influenced by the genre of science fiction, don’t stop there. They’re always totally literary in concept, execution, and scope, which is also what makes them authentic. Their language engages and never shies away from the playful complexity of metaphor. A group of nerdy school kids running in a game rushes around in “a vortex of spaz.” The summit of a mountain looks like “a kneecap rising out of a bath,” and a helicopter landing on bare ground “felt like a pit stop on a hot plate.”

In terms of characters, what all of these stories share is their focus on outsiders. The catalysts for outsiderdom throughout the book are various and diverse: unhappy marriages, infidelity, sheer geekiness, teenage pregnancy and abortion, sexual difference, facial disfigurement following a car crash, assembling an entire battalion of misfits. These are stories about loneliness that have the power to make their readers less lonely.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fifty Favorite Songs

Lately, I’ve been reorganizing my CD collection, which has given me a perfect opportunity to compile a list of my fifty favorite songs. My only rule has been to include no more than one song by any given artist. Also, I came of age in the 1980s, so forgive my obvious affection for all of the awesome music from that particular decade. Or don’t.

Alphaville, “Forever Young”
Tori Amos, “Winter”
Aztec Camera, “Valium Summer”
The Beloved, “You’ve Got Me Thinking”
The Blue Nile, “The Downtown Lights”
Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill”
Mary Chapin Carpenter, “John Doe No. 24”
Tracy Chapman, “Fast Car”
Cocteau Twins, “Heaven or Las Vegas”
Crowded House, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”
Etienne Daho, “Weekend à Rome”
Ani DiFranco, “Grey”
Nick Drake, “Northern Sky”
Everything but the Girl, “Talk to Me Like the Sea”
Frazier Chorus, “Dream Kitchen”
Peter Gabriel, “Mercy Street”
Patty Griffin, “Rain”
Hem, “Sailor”
Sara Hickman, “Sister and Sam”
The Human League, “Human”
The Innocence Mission, “Black Sheep Wall”
Michael Jackson, “Human Nature”
Rickie Lee Jones, “We Belong Together”
Joy Division, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
Nik Kershaw, “Radio Musicola”
Lamb, “Gabriel”
Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”
The Lover Speaks, “No More ‘I Love You’s”
Madonna, “Open Your Heart”
The Magnetic Fields, “Papa Was a Rodeo”
Joni Mitchell, “A Case of You”
Momus, “The Sadness of Things”
Bill Nelson, “Dream Ships Set Sail”
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Souvenir”
Pet Shop Boys, “Being Boring”
Prefab Sprout, “Goodbye Lucille #1”
Prince, “Little Red Corvette”
Radiohead, “Fake Plastic Trees”
Roxy Music, “More Than This”
Scritti Politti, “Overnite”
Duncan Sheik, “That Says It All”
Bruce Springsteen, “Tunnel of Love”
Talking Heads, “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”
10,000 Maniacs, “What’s the Matter Here?”
Thompson Twins, “Hold Me Now”
Times Two, “Raining All Over the World”
Suzanne Vega, “Luka”
The Waterboys, “The Whole of the Moon”
Dar Williams, “When I Was a Boy”
Neil Young, “Birds”