‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

In Nicole Riegel’s feature debut, Jessica Barden stars as an Ohio teenager who strips buildings of metal to earn cash.

Holler begins with Ruth (Jessica Barden), its protagonist, running. She’s racing to drop trash bags into the flatbed of a truck, where her brother, Blaze (Gus Halper), is waiting. They high-tail it from the scene and sell discarded cans to Hark (Austin Amelio), who pays them chump change for metal. Soon, they will graduate to higher-stakes scrap work: stripping deserted buildings of wiring for larger payoffs, with even bigger risks.

The central question of the movie is whether Ruth will summon the courage to run again, to flee her hometown. The director, Nicole Riegel, making her feature debut, shot the film in the section of southern Ohio where she’s from. Riegel has said that Ruth’s story was inspired by her own challenges leaving the area. Even the medium — Super 16-millimeter film, in the era of digital — adds to the ambience of rusting, abandoned machinery.

Ruth has little overt incentive to stick around. She hides an eviction notice under a flower pot. Her mother (Pamela Adlon) is a drug addict in a county jail. But Ruth gets an unexpected — and, to a condescending teacher at her high school, impractical — offer of college admission: Although she had prepared the application, she never submitted it. Blaze did that for her.

The film strikes an unanticipated false note with its ending, which initially seems too easy — a way to avoid resolving conflicts. But despite a parting smile, and the music of Phoebe Bridgers over the credits, the final moments become bleaker upon reflection. The only way to end this story is to abandon it.

 

Source: ‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

Record Review: Jon Wilks “Up the Cut”

By Billy Rough

With something of the spirit of Nic Jones, and dare I say it even a smidgeon of Johnny Flynn in there, Jon Wilks new album Up The Cut is a refreshingly stripped-back and intimate affair.

As a researcher and performer of folk songs, especially those of his native Black Country, Jon Wilks has a keen eye for history and Up The Cut is a fine selection of traditional folk songs, all from the collection of Child and Roud. Several of the songs, ‘unheard in 180 years’, come from Birmingham and the Midlands and provide a fascinating introduction to the rich musical legacy of the area along with, as all good folks songs do, a telling insight into the lives and loves of the time.

Up The Cut is Wilks second release of such material following his debut Midlife in late 2018. In contrast to the larger sound of Midlife though, here is a much snugger and more immediate album. No keyboards here, only Wilks and his guitar. And effective it is too.

Wilks’ confidence as a tunesmith is well demonstrated throughout. ‘Pretty Girls of Brummagem’ came to Wilks from the notes of Roy Palmer, but no tune existed. For the track, Wilks creates a sweet little tune, which feels thoroughly authentic. The lyrics too provide valuable historic insight into the Birmingham of the 1830s, with tales of the dandy ‘up New Street he struts so gay, smokes his Havannah on the way’ alongside other characters such as the chimney sweep, the shopman and the ‘old gentlemen of sixty-four’.

The Stowaway’ is hard to resist. It’s an old music hall song, but Wilks’ guitar plays loose with its the mawkish elements of the song and provides it with a simple, yet melancholic attraction.

John Riley’ is a beautiful track. Wilks version comes from Palmer’s recording of Staffordshire singer George Dunn back in 1971. In his notes, Wilks says he’d love to hear a great singer tackle this song; they’ll have some way to go to better Wilks’ version, however.

The Jovial Hunter of Bromsgrove’ has an echo of the Halliards for me, with Wilks’ pleasing guitar reminiscent of the nimble finger work of Nic Jones. Probably more familiar as ‘Bold Sir Rylas’ the song has quite a legacy, yet Wilks provide a refreshing new interpretation.

How Five And Twenty Shillings Were Expended In A Week’ almost tells you all you need to know about the song in its title. Brummie words are a joy here, with talk of a ‘bonny cock of wax’, ‘swipes’, and ‘strings’. None of these meaning what you initially think they do! For illumination, you’ll need to buy the album! ‘The Lover’s Ghost’ on the other hand is a fetching bit of folklore, a lament dripping in mood and foreboding. It’s a dark song with a strikingly haunting melody.

The album is filled with songs of work, class, joy, and pain, hopes, dreams and fears. They are universal songs with the timeless concerns of us all. The unused subtitle to the release “hawkers and ballad singers – sworn foes to dull sobriety and care’ (title for the third album there I say Jon!) taken from a comment by the poet George Davis in 1790, gives an idea of the history at play here. Wilks’ sleeve notes on each song’s background and the Birmingham of the 18th and early 19th centuries is extensive, with some nice personal comments on how he worked on each song too. Eight of the ten songs on the album came to Wilks via the research of Roy Palmer and there is certainly an echo of Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd here too.

Up The Cut is a beautiful album. Affecting, simple guitar, exquisitely accompanied by Wilks’ authentic, honest voice. A raw, but entirely seductive, performance. One for all lovers of traditional songs delivered with minimal frills. More please Jon! Up The Cut is released on 12 February 2021.

‘Get Duked!’ Review: The Kids Are All Fight (and Jokes)

In this busy British comedy, four teenagers are dumped in the Scottish Highlands, where they spiral into high jinks and danger.

In the British comedy “Get Duked!,” four misfit adolescents come face to face with a familiar existential threat: other people. A three-minute cat-and-mouse cartoon optimistically stretched to feature length, the movie is loud, busy and cheerfully glib, though at one point — after the weapons and politics have been brandished — it takes a brief turn to sincerity. This doesn’t do much other than announce that it has more in mind than clichés and jokes about the lysergic dividends of rabbit scat.

There’s nothing wrong with poop jokes except when they’re not funny and after the first pellet gag the loamy possibilities of this source material diminishes. In the main, the humor in “Get Duked!” is more scattershot than scatological and leans hard on stupidity and the comedy of stereotypes

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Movie Review: ‘Fisherman’s Friends’

By J.P. Devine

Director Chris Foggin’s “Fisherman’s Friends” is in town on Amazon Prime. It’s meat loaf and mashed potatoes with gravy. It’s fried chicken. It’s that comfortable, that evocative and heartwarming.

For film lovers, it brings to mind “Waking Ned Devine” and Bill Forsyth’s 1983’s “Local Hero.”

But they were fictitious. “Fisherman’s Friends” is, for the most part, a true story and here it is:

We meet Danny (Daniel Mays) who is a struggling mid-level promoter in a London music company.

At opening, Danny and his office buddies are on vacation in a tiny village in Cornwall. While strolling the waterfront, they come upon a group of fishermen, young, old and middle aged, entertaining visitors with an impromptu string of sea chanties.

Danny’s cynical buddies leave him behind in the village to try and sign the singers to a contract.

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