The Visitors – Dir. Thomas McCarthy (Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass)

visitor.jpgThe first great film of the year is a small, and likely already out of the theaters, treasure written and directed by the genius behind 2004’s brilliant “The Station Agent.” Like its predecessor, “The Visitor” is a story about a journey from loneliness back into the real world of the living. In this case a recently widowed, middle aged professor, stuck somewhere between deep professional apathy and outright depression, is given a totally unexpected shot in the arm. Summoned to NYC to present a paper to his colleagues, Walter Vale played brilliantly by Richard Jenkins from “Six Feet Under,” returns to his largely abandoned NY apartment after years away only to find two illegal aliens living inside. But after an awkward initial meeting, Jenkins begins to really gel with the young free spirited drummer from Syria, who, in the gentlest of ways reintroduces him to the simple pleasures of life. Ultimately the flim becomes more complicated exposing us to the inherent hypocracy of our immigration policy in a post 9/11 world. From the incredibly nuanced portrayal of lasting and fleeting love, to the broader issue of finding joy in life, this movie is a gem that pushes buttons but never tugs too hard. The truth is told in a quiet convincing tone but with a beautifully understated cast. This is a deep diamond in the rough.  

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Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (Fat Cat)

fightened.jpgI am a huge sucker for that occasional ‘big’ sounding rock band not yet big enough for me to immediately discount, yet melodic enough to enjoy as some sort of profoundly guilty pleasure without the guilt. Unfortunately armed with a silly name, sure to polarize audiences, Frightened Rabbit are a Scottish band who seem like long lost soul mates to Ireland’s Frames, Scotland’s Snow Patrol or even the recently pop-afflicted Okkervil River.

But to be clear this is large, emotive, and crescendo building rock record, but I don’t care. If not for the recurrent use of the F word, the song “Keep Yourself Warm” would blow up through the blogosphere right into the dreaded world of commercial radio. Perhaps this is why they jinxed the song in such a way. Of all the finds you are not likely to stumble upon, do seek this out!   
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