Several Hungarian blues bands

One of the recent arrivals on our faculty is a Hungarian combinatoricist, who I hang out with a fair bit, since we’re both junior faculty and in closely related fields. It took him a whole 5 months to discover that I was a dangerously obsessive Magyarophile, which says something either about my restraint or his powers of observation (I’d like to think it’s the former). Instead of fleeing from the crazed stalker like a sensible person, he’s been kind enough to give me a chance to listen to his excellent collection of Hungarian blues musicians. So now I have impressions to write up about the albums I’ve been listening to.

The tl;dr version: Blues Fools has one album and it’s an awesome harmonica-driven blues work. Charlie’s a pop-star with a gravelly voice who’s not actually a blues artist. Ferenczi György’s albums are hit-or-miss but occupy a nice funk-blues place on the spectrum. Hobo Blues Band is at their best a Muddy-Waters-esque rhythm-driven classic blues band, but in the late 80s branched into some experimental and progressive work which is unusual if not artistically sterling. Mátyás Pribojszki Band is basically Blues Fools dragged in a jazzy direction. The Takáts Tamás Dirty Blues Band is a creative Chicago-style blues band often wandering out of that mold. Tóth Bagi is competent but missable. Tűzkerék is fundamentally hard rock, not blues.
Individual writeups on Blues Fools, Charlie, Ferenczi György és a Herfli Davidson, Hobo Blues Band, Mátyás Pribojszki Band, Takáts Tamás Dirty Blues Band, Tóth Bagi Band, and Tűzkerék

BOB

This is another show from the 35th Humana Festival of New Plays at Actors Theatre, so bear in mind that it’s experimental and modern and such. BOB is a much more straightforward play than A Devil at Noon, which was the other work that I got a ticket to with my season pass. It is an easy play to like, filled with light humor and absurdity, with enough drama and poignancy to feel like more than a trifle. It’s sweet and sentimental and silly. It might not be the deepest work out there, since its message is ultimately a fairly pedestrian one, but it’s entertaining and a pleasant way to spend an evening, full of hope and celebration of human connectedness and spirit.

It’s not without its flaws. The inter-act dances smack a little too much of aggressive experimentalism for its own sake, and the softball teasing leveled at institutions like the Chicago Cubs and Starbucks somewhat reduce its otherwise strong sense of universality and timelessness. There were a few rough patches in the performances where actors stumbled over their lines (rather a surprise to me, since Actors generally has solid casts), although this was largely redeemed by the strength of the chorus members’ performances overall. One excellent aspect of the play, which might be either an aspect as written or of this specific performance was the characterization synchronicity which individual chorus members maintained through their various roles. Particular props to Danny Scheie, whose flamboyant and exuberant performance very nearly upstaged the protagonist.

Oh, and an aside to someone who is probably not reading this: my deepest apologies to the unfortunate whose bike I apparently managed to block in when I parked mine. I have no idea how that happened but I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again, to you or anyone else.

See also: premiere at Actors Theatre.

Village au panique

[Screenshot]This was screened at UofL, but I missed it, so I went back and got it on Netflix. It is one weird film. It’s apparently based on a TV series with similar production values and logic. Although nobody comes out and says it outright, I kinda get the vague impression the core demographic for the TV series is stoners; it’s got that blend of low-budget quirk, lack of cohesion, and vague similarity to children’s programming that folks totally eat up when high. The film perhaps shows a greater cohesiveness: there’s a plot, although it’s totally absurd. Nonetheless, I am not entirely sure I ever really engaged this peculiar movie the way it ought to be enjoyed. The animation is very crude, almost certainly deliberately so and intrinsically unimmersive. Most of the characterizations and situations are fundamentally infantile: in fact, I had the impression while watching it that the plot might have come from the story-ramblings of a four-year-old. I always watch a film with an eye to what experience is being delivered, and here the experience honestly felt pretty patronizing and simplistic. Which may be my fault, really! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea; the artistic crudity was somewhat intriguing, but it didn’t seem to really serve too much purpose aside from establishing “indie-cred” bonafides (and being less expensive, I suppose). Other than the deliberately crude model posing and low frame rate, the technical aspects were pretty respectable: voice acting was one-note but servicable, and the sets and models were actually fairly detailed (but easy to underestimate since they were so stylized).

Maybe it would make more sense if I had some familiarity with the underlying TV show. I can well imagine this sort of disjointed, vignette-style animation working well in the 10-minute or 15-minute storylet format. Stretched out to almost 2 hours, the whimsy starts to run a bit thin.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.