The Academy Awards didn’t nominate The Raid 2

February 22, 2015

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Last year I found myself in the surprising position of having viewed most of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards through my own free will, lured only by their marketing campaigns and my general interest. This year when the Academy dropped their nominations I hadn’t even seen half of their choices because the Academy is always fucking up. But I rallied and I watched every damn one of these movies. None is better than The Raid 2. Even the worst of these wasn’t as bad as Jupiter Ascending.

"I just took the most incredible nap."

“I just took the most incredible nap.”

Is Clint Eastwood lazy or incompetent? I ask this since I don’t know myself, and maybe someone who has worked on his films in the last ten years can educate me. American Sniper neither enraged me nor challenged me to think, and instead joined the long list of late era Clint Eastwood directing jobs where the camera just gets propped up in the corner and the acting is wooden and indifferent. Bradley Cooper is actually pretty good but he’s surrounded by a bunch of nothing. The action scenes have no rhythm or intensity and feel half speed. The supporting cast is Gran Torino level skilled, so you have scenes where a soldier learns one of his buddies was killed and he bellows “Fuck!” the same way you or I would when you forgot to buy pretzel bread at the store and have to use regular bread for your sandwiches for lunch all week. I’ve made some noise online about the fake baby in this movie and it fits with the laziness of everything else. There is a baby whine placed over every scene with the infant but it’s so haphazardly applied to the soundtrack that it only draws attention to this fake fake baby. Most importantly, Eastwood doesn’t even make the disgusting, rah rah America “God I love the military” movie that so many places have made this movie out to be. Cooper’s Chris Kyle is clearly tormented by the horrors of war and has some PTSD but he doesn’t at all seem excited to be killing anyone. Instead it just becomes a rotation of Kyle going war, coming back, going back to war, again and again. It’s like the second half of The Hurt Locker, which is the part that no one likes of The Hurt Locker. The best part of the whole movie is when we see that the enemy sniper who has been gunning down American soldiers spends his free time SPINNING BULLETS ON HIS KITCHEN TABLE. This movie couldn have used more of that bullshit.

So when it is seasonally appropriate Inarritu DOESN'T wear a scarf? This fucking guy.

So when it is seasonally appropriate Inarritu DOESN’T wear a scarf? This fucking guy.

I have been more than forthcoming with my thoughts on Birdman. It’s pretentious and masturbatory, it attacks low hanging fruit and strawmen, and it isn’t even funny. People have told me that it isn’t supposed to be funny but tell that to all the marketing that says it’s comedy. I will admit that after sitting through some of these other stinkers, at least Birdman is attempting to be visually compelling, even if that very attempt is another misfire.

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Boyhood is wonderful film. Beyond not feeling like a stunt it nails the way that our parents can mold us and influence us and try to make us good people but we still become who we are all on our own. I know my dad didn’t intend for me to write snarky shit about movies online but here we are.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is another fine Wes Anderson production and his first best picture nomination because it references World War 2. It also has the saddest ending of an Anderson film, unless you count the sadness you feel after sitting through Darjeeling Limited and thinking “They literally threw the metaphor off the back of the train? Fuckkkkkk thissssss.”

See, he cracked Enigma but also he was gay. That's what this means. Heavy.

See, he cracked Enigma but also he was gay. That’s what this means. Heavy.

Listen, actors got tricks and skills and some guys can do a lot and some guys can do a couple things. But after sitting through The Imitation Game I dunno if Benedict Cumberbatch has that much to offer us as an actor. I’d love to see this guy not play an introverted genius with bad social skills. Imagine him playing a party planner who gets along with everyone? I’m gonna say it, BC needs to do a romantic comedy where him and Jennifer Garner don’t get along but keep meeting on transatlantic flights and arguing over who gets the aisle seat. The rest of The Imitation Game is standard biopic business, and considering it comes from the guy who did Headhunters, it is a total disappointment. It’s the kind of movie that social studies teachers will make the class watch on half days.

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I was genuinely moved by Selma. By focusing on one particular moment in history instead of trying to summarize a historical figure’s entire life, Selma manages to create nuance and suspense around a well known event in the cause of civil rights and make Martin Luther King Jr. a real guy and not some awards beacon. David Oyelowo’s performance is perfectly level, playing a man instead of icon. He felt like a real guy who was trying to figure all this shit out and genuinely worrying about failing. Also, despite having Common in a prominent role, this movie is great. First time for everything!

"Swing me while you can, Stephen!"

“Swing me while you can, Stephen!”

I’m going to repeat a joke I made about The Theory of Everything right after I watched it the other day: “We all know that Stephen Hawking is more than his disease. What this movie presupposes is, what if he isn’t?” Theory is as Oscarbaity as they come. Even more than The Imitation GameThe Theory of Everything will become a threat amongst tenth grade English teachers and their students. “If this class doesn’t behave I’ll make you sit through that Stephen Hawking movie.” “No, teacher! We promise to behave. Please give us a test!” Theory of Everything has two(!) scenes where we watch someone stock a bookstore window with copies of Stephen Hawking’s new book. What is the book about? Who cares? Stephen Hawking still has a working dick! That is the lesson of this movie as Hawking’s wife says “Look what we did” as their three children run around a fountain. I’ve never even heard of Stephen Hawking’s kids! I do know that he’s been on The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation which this movie never mentions because it is too busy being lame as fuck. Also Eddie Redmayne should be in movie jail for Jupiter Ascending, not up for awards. Get your head out of your ass, Academy.

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Whiplash is fire, is flames, is greatness. J.K. Simmons is a monster and his monstrousness consumes Miles Teller to the point where instead of being repulsed by the monster he wants to be him. Still the greatest finale of any of the nominees and the best delivery of “Fuck you.” in cinema for the year 2014.

It doesn’t matter who wins this year, just like it didn’t matter last year. SPRING BREAK FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Blackhat

January 19, 2015

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Michael Mann is an old legend who has come to the point in his career where he is just making reiterations of the same themes that run through most of his prime work, with varying degrees of success.With Blackhat Michael Mann indulges and takes his love and fascination for criminals who are excellent at their work while showing due diligence to chip away at things like plot and exposition to the point where the movie starts to resemble abstract art pieces intercut with violence, rides on expensive private planes, and vast open spaces for characters to find their thoughts.

The choice to cast Chris Hemsworth as computer hacker Nick Hathaway has already been widely mocked but who else would Michael Mann cast as his avatar this time around? Hathaway is a genius hacker, lethal at hand to hand combat, good with a gun, a giving lover, and a loyal friend. I guess I’m just used to Michael Mann movies at this point that I didn’t even flinch when Hathaway started hiding bladed weapons on his person in preparation for what looks like a suicide mission. Hathaway is such a good guy that even though he went to jail for cybercrime and has a least a pretty healthy disdain for authority, when he’s told later that he has to go back to jail his first reaction is “Sure. Do the crime do the time.” His friends have to actually convince him to be a fugitive. Whattaguy. Hathaway is also the type of guy who has the top two or three buttons on his shirt undone. Always.

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Like Miami Vice, Blackhat treats much of it’s dialogue as literal afterthoughts. The sound mix runs in and out, fading up and down. Hathaway starts talking about his father and the sound just trails out. “You get the idea”, says Mann. When the plot sorta kicks in during the second half of the film and the characters start facing real danger it takes you by surprise since so much time has been spent hanging out, flying around, and wandering into nuclear hot zones like it ain’t no thang. Mann actually starts the first big action sequence with everyone being woken up early, wandering around their hideout all bleary eyed like it’s the first day of school and everyone missed the bus. Later Hathaway and his girlfriend spend their time waiting for the bad guy to call them back by spooning in bed and flipping through pictures on their phones. This scene was very real and true.

As with any other Mann film the violence is exquisite, brutal and final. Wall mines fillet unsuspecting police, Hathaway destroys a group of attackers with a bar table and beer bottle, machine gun bullets literally lift people off their feet. Is this the first Michael Mann film to utilize a missile launcher? Please don’t let it be the last. The blade work at the finale is monstrous and efficient, lest we forget that Hathaway is a guy who has done some time.

You have to love that despite a track record of never delivering what people expect (a straight ahead biopic, a television show adaptation), Michael Mann still gets to make the movie he wants to make. Blackhat is a thoroughly un-compromised Michael Mann film and I love it to pieces.

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Best Music of 2014

December 30, 2014

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2014 felt like 2009, a year with a couple stand out records but an off year since we didn’t have any new Kanye. So goes Kanye, so goes the year.

I listened to as many albums as I could get ahold of this year and even as it ends I’m still finding stuff I missed or should have spent more time with. Much love to Rich Gang, Guy Gerber and Puff Daddy, Charli XCX and A$AP Ferg.

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1. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

I just wrote and then deleted a long autobiography about my relationship with Death From Above 1979’s first album, about the mythology created about the band with my wife and my friend Lauren, about the times that Sebastien was a jerk and Jesse was the coolest dude ever. But I don’t want to bore you. Death From Above 1979 are back, and this album rules. The production is cleaner but the songs are still brutal, ferocious, and instantly danceable. A joke we make is that Jesse’s bass is tuned to “awesome” at all times. I mean that in the truest sense. This band inspires awe in me. This record leaves me awestruck. It is a triumph and I am so happy they’re back. 10 years was worth it. Sebastien is still a jerk but that is why we love him.

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2. Keys N Krates – Every Nite

Trap dance? I don’t know the official term but Every Nite is all bangers.

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3. Duck Sauce – Quack

Another long wait that was worth it. A-Trak told a podcast in 2011(!) that this record was done and mixed and it finally came out this year. A-Trak is the partner that Armand Van Helden has needed his whole career. Van Helden has certainly created some masterpiece singles in his lifetime but a full cohesive album? Not until Duck Sauce. A-Trak is a people pleaser and he works well to accentuate Van Helden’s strengths and keep all his goofing around contained in the skits. This is dance floor nirvana.

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4. The Afghan WhigsDo to the Beast

Greg is back and he brought tunes. This is a divisive record since Rick McCollum isn’t featured on it but it still sounds like the Whigs to me and Greg is in fine form. In the sea of reunion cash ins, this is a record with purpose and spirit.

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5. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun

After the slump of 2011’s The Hunter, …Round The Sun is a nice return to form. Killer riffs abound and these guys still know how to write a hook. Standing ovation.

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6. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

El-P made me a believer with his production on Killer Mike’s 2012 R.A.P. Music. I didn’t exactly see the light on the first Run The Jewels but the sequel definitely hit my sweet spots. The raps are vicious and the beats are there to match them.

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7. Brody Dalle – Diploid Love

Brody Dalle’s post Distiller’s career has been largely silence, with the exception of the Spinnerette project, which took a promising EP and expanded into a disappointing album. Diploid Love is a total success, with Dalle playing nearly everything and just rocking faces. Dalle’s voice still retains that trademark rasp and she sounds like a Beast.

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8. Klaxons – Love Frequency

Is this really the last Klaxons album? Bummer. This one is more like the Myths of the Near Future with laser synths and less guitar. Rachel thinks it sounds like 2007 which is great! 2007 was great!

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9. Sloan – Commonwealth

Sloan seem to be on an every other album thing with classics at this point in their career. After roaring back with Never Hear The End of It in 2006 they released the short and relatively subdued Parallel Play. That record is mad underrated. Then in 2011 they dropped The Double Cross which is a fucking masterpiece so it makes sense that Commonwealth would be more chill. Of course, it only takes a couple listens to realize that Sloan still have it and will always have it, that their songs will imprint into your mind and you’ll be singing them forever.

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10. Skrillex – Recess

He could have just made 11 bangers and said “That’s a wrap” but instead he sought out some interesting collaborations, and just tried to see what would stick. Not as hard hitting as Bangarang, this would be the thoughtful Skrillex album. Still has some dance jams but he is in a headier place. If this one left you wanting there is always the Dog Blood stuff which are all face melters.

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11. Ariana Grande – My Everything

I was hoping for this to be 2014’s Kiss and while it didn’t quite get there it still has plenty of jams. Songs with Zedd, The Weeknd, A$AP Ferg, all fire.

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12. Stars – No One Is Lost

Despite their claims, I thought Arcade Fire really shit the bed with their “dance music” attempts on Reflektor. Stars made similar claims on the run up to No One Is Lost but hey, they came through. Only the title track and the closer have that club feeling but the rest of the album is a more than solid collection of indie rock jams, and as someone with little stomach for indie rock these days that is saying something.

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13. We Are Scientists – TV en Français

I’m a We Are Scientists fan for life so every record goes into immediate rotation. This one is more chill with less rockers but these guys still know how to crafty punchy tunes. I’ll take it!

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14. Slipknot – .5 : The Gray Chapter

My expectations were low to non-existent for this album. Paul Gray dies, they kick Joey Jordison out of the band, the last record was just ok, was this album even going to exist at all? I should have realized that nothing gets a metal band invested like the death of bandmate. Like Back In Black and Down III.5 is all righteous fury and chewed anger. And they have “Custer”, which is an immediate instant classic. I read they’re closing their shows with it now.

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15. DJ Quik – The Midnight Life

DJ Quik is a legend and genius and all of his albums are great. Same with this one.

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16. Spoon – They Want My Soul

Spoon are so good at this point that it is easy to underrate them or just plain take them for granted. This album is more top quality Spoon for us Spoon loving masses.

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17. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

This album sounds like these weird instrumental albums my dad used to play when I was growing up. I think they were like new age or something like that. Listening to this reminds me of being 10 years old but not in any specific way. I say this because I can’t describe the feelings this album elicits any other way. It’s really good and it makes me feel like a child.

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18. YG – My Krazy Life

As I type this I read that YG and DJ Mustard are feuding. If so, get this last document of their fruitful collaborations.

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19. French Montana – Coke Boys 4

I joked in January that this was the best album of the year but then I kept listening to it and I guess I love French Montana?

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20. Katy B – Little Red

I don’t think this record caught on because they waited over 2 years to captialize on the excitement of “Aaliyah”. Drop this album in Spring 2013 and you might have had something. That said, it still has plenty of fun dance cuts and hey, they included “Aaliyah”!

Best Songs of 2014

  1.  Swet Shop Boys “Benny Lava” Heems of Das Rascist drops of one off EP with the jam of the year. I heard he’s quit music and working in an office now which is total bummer because dude has bars.
  2. Federal Reserve featuring Cam’ron, A-Trak, Juelz Santana & Dame Dash “Dipshits” This promised a Dipset return that didn’t happen but while you play the track you feel like Cam and company are set to take over the world. Dame Dash with best spoken word outro of the year. Also A-Trak!
  3. Death From Above 1979 “Virgins” The first 10 seconds of this song are the greatest 10 seconds of your life.
  4. Keys N Krates “Are We Faded” Yes.
  5. Death From Above 1979 “Trainwreck 1979″ The comeback single that said that everything will be alright and the boys are back.
  6. Stitches “Brick In Your Face” This was the year of Stitches. He has a gun tattooed on his face and he loves cocaine. Also video of the year.
  7. Future featuring Pharrell, Pusha T and Casino “Move That Dope” Pharrell has the best verse on this track and there are a LOT of great verses on this track.
  8. Bobby Shmurda “Hot Nigga” Free Bobby.
  9. Duck Sauce “Time Waits For No-One” This is the great sequel to “U Don’t Know Me” that we’ve been waiting 15 years for.
  10. Dej Loaf “Try Me” The nicest song about murdering your enemies.
  11. Hercules And Love Affair “Do You Feel The Same?” These guys can’t make a full record but they’re usually good for one jam and this song is a JAM.
  12. La Roux “Uptight Downtown” La Roux followed up a five year absence with 9 songs, 1 of which was this one, totally great, and then eight forgettable whiffs. But yeah, this one rules.
  13. Ariana Grande feat. A$AP Ferg “Hands On Me” These two sound absolutely jubilant about having sex.
  14. Drake “0 To 100″ Swap in “We Made It” or “6 God”, Drake dropping loosies and still running shit without an album.
  15. A-Trak & Lex Luger “Ohmygosh” A-Trak also also worked with Lex Luger this year and made some bangers so basically A-Trak was running shit in 2014.
  16. Drake “Trophies” More Drake.
  17. Brody Dalle “Don’t Mess With Me” Noted.
  18. The Afghan Whigs “Algiers” This sounds a lot like the True Detective theme song which is also a pretty good song and hey a not bad show have you watched True Detec-
  19. Kylie Minogue “I Was Gonna Cancel” This Kylie album felt slight but had a few wonderful moments, this Pharrell production being the highlight.
  20. Designer Drugs “Crystal” BANGER BANGER BANGER BANGER BANGER!
  21. Young Money featuring Tyga, Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Wayne “Senile” This beat is insane and I can’t believe they let Tyga rap on it but Nicki and Wayne drop flames and thus it is a classic.
  22. French Montana featuring Jadakiss “88 Coupes” Harry Fraud needs to do a Ghostface album, stat.
  23. Run The Jewels featuring Zach De La Rocha “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” As a longtime Rage Against The Machine fan, I was excited for this and the fact that it actually delivers on it’s song title is remarkable.
  24. Basement Jaxx “Never Say Never” The Jaxx have been just ok since crushing shit on Kish Kash in 03 and Junto is a nice return to form. “Never Say Never” is their best single since “Good Luck”.
  25. Nick Jonas “Teacher” I’m as surprised as you. The rest of the album is a snooze though.
  26. Nicki Minaj featuring Beyoncé “Feeling Myself” Nicki Minaj released “Only” as a single instead of this and I just can’t wrap my mind around it.
  27. Sloan “You Don’t Need Excuses To Be Good” Chris Murphy is a golden god.
  28. Slipknot “Custer” New classic.
  29. Beyoncé “7/11″ The self titled album ended up on my list last year but this track is as good as about half the songs on that one.
  30. Disclosure featuring Mary J. Blige “F For You” Disclosure are inherently boring but Mary J. Blige makes this a first class banger for the ages.

Best of Movies of 2014

December 23, 2014

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This was not a hard list to make. In the past I have agonized over these things, moving them around for days and days, fretting over placement. What a waste of time! But this list came easy because I followed my heart.

The Best

1. The Raid 2 

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Best action, best violence, best payoff, best everything. How can you hype something in your head and it still exceeds your wildest dreams? The answer is The Raid 2. I think I’ve covered everything I love about this movie in various other places or if you’ve ever met me in person but let me just reiterate that nothing is beating this bad boy for a long time. The bar has been raised. Never forget that at the U.S. premiere someone had a seizure and they had to stop the movie. The Raid 2 is so good it might kill you.

2. The Guest

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I loved how they kept showing you that David is a bad guy but then have him do something cool as hell, like intimidate a high school principal or casually smash a guy’s head into the wall and then fuck that dude’s girlfriend. “This guy is bad, right? So why does he rule?” The grenade toss is highlight reel hall of fame shit and put it in the Smithsonian.

3. Whiplash

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There is a moment about 3/4’s the way through that a few people say is too over the top and throws the movie into some crazy realm. And definitely when that scene happens the first thought is “Whoa movie! You are getting crazy! Settle down, baby.” But then Miles Teller tries to play the drums while covered in blood and I got it, it worked. The movie is all about playing till you bleed and about playing so well while mouthing “Fuck you” to your archenemy. The best archenemies are the ones who might be your friend but then turn on you but you could almost be each other. Dr Doom and Reed Richards, Wolverine and Sabretooth, heck DeNiro and Pacino in HeatWhiplash even has it’s own version of the restaurant scene!

4. John Wick

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Keanu Reeves is a national treasure and a legend. The Matrix, Point Break, Speed, classic status. His legend is secure, he directed The Man of Tai Chi and fucking crushed it, and still he made head shot masterpiece John Wick because he wants you to know that he is still a legend who will barrel roll and pop you in your right eye.

5. Blue Ruin

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Everything goes wrong in Blue Ruin and just keeps going wrong for a while and never really goes right. It’s sad but also hilarious, like when a character gets shot with an arrow and tries to remove it like DeNiro in Ronin and then realizes fuck it and goes to the hospital.

6. Nightcrawler

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Jake Gyllenhaal is a fucking creeeeeeeep in this movie. Also I believe that the person he plays is very real and true.

7. Edge of Tomorrow

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Tom Cruise in a mech suit fighting aliens. NO CONTEST CLASSIC STATUS.

8. Snowpiercer

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I like how people watched this movie and said things like “That train didn’t make sense, where did the rich people sleep?” What is it like to be dead inside? Bong Joon-Ho has about 5 classic set pieces here, the classroom being the most obvious but that ax fight is goddamn poetic. This is also the film I get the most texts about, after The Raid 2. “Did you see Snowpiercer, Lorin? Seems like your thing.” You are correct, everyone. Awesome movies are indeed my thing.

9. Only Lovers Left Alive

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Literally two vampires spooning and playing shoegaze. Masterpiece.

10. Under The Skin

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Scarlett Johansson lures men into her van and then rips their guts out and leaves just the skin. This was really good.

Honorable mentions

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wasn’t that ending like the saddest fucking thing?

Boyhood

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Relatable.

Sabotage

USA Today keeping readers informed about Arnold shooting people in the spine.

USA Today keeping readers informed about Arnold shooting people in the spine.

Goriest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ever made. At one point they’re just stapling people to the ceiling and shoving main characters into fridges. INSANE.

Underrated

300: Rise of an Empire, Hercules, Pompeii

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These movies had no obligation to be any good and yet they were all wonderful romps. Pompeii is a John Snow and Mr. Echo team up movie against Jack Bauer! 300 Part 2 is a prequel, sequel and sidequal all at the exact same time. Eva Green shoots a flaming arrow into a monster which causes a domino effect explosion and she just turns and walks away like, “This is what I do.” And Hercules had The Rock casually murdering dudes as one does.

Worst Movies

Birdman

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I’ve gone on the record.

They Came Together

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I think I hate David Wain movies.

Godzilla

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Every defense of this movie is verbal gymnastics trying to say boring is not boring.

Need For Speed

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Everyone is embarrassed and sad about being involved. Also people keep getting out of their cars and not racing! Get back in your car!

Birdman

November 12, 2014

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Why is it that any piece of media that attempts to exult art just ends up a total garbage heap? Never trust a movie that gives itself a standing ovation. Birdman might be the worst film of the year. It’s pretentious, overlong, and witless. It contains merely character sketches portrayed by numerous humans with mouths that spit words. Words, such meaningless things. I say that not because I devalue the dialogue or the written word, but for what Birdman tells me. Characters talk and walk and the soundtrack booms an incessant drum beat, never building to a groove, just hanging there as noise. Characters are angry and dejected and betrayed and surprised and saddened and bewildered but who are they? Who are these people? Why should I care about them? The camera moves with confidence and it all looks great I guess but why do I care? Sure I like Michael Keaton, but I like him in movies where he has something to do. Director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu is merely using Keaton as a vehicle for his own pity parade. Iñárritu is an artist! He’s working over here! You wouldn’t understand, critic!

Birdman loves low hanging fruit. Superhero movies take some obvious hits because superheroes are so stupid, right you guys? Not like this movie that uses superheroes as the hook to get you to see it and even has a superhero sequence with tanks and monsters and the main character flying around the city. But yeah, fuck superhero movies.

I’m going to share a tidbit from the IMDB trivia page:

“According to Alejandro González Iñárritu, he had dinner with director Mike Nichols in New York two weeks before he began shooting the movie. Inarritu told Nichols of his plan for how he was going to shoot the movie as one long take. Nichols predicted it would be a disaster because not having the ability to use cuts in editing would inhibit the opportunities for comedy. Inarritu said the meeting didn’t deter him, but was instead helpful in raising his awareness level of the difficulty of what he was about to do.”

Mike Nichols told you, Alejandro! Iñárritu’s style meshes with comedy like oil and water. Or critics and artists!(amirite Al?) I can only figure that Iñárritu shot it that way because otherwise what would there to be to talk about? I read a guy on Letterboxd calling Birdman brilliant and then just typing “Camerawork!” in all caps. Dude, I know. They used a camera. So did every other movie ever made. Ask around, I’m a sucker for a good long take, but generally they serve a purpose. Iñárritu did it for no apparent reason except that it made his movie really hard to make for all involved. Nothing makes great comedy like stringent rules!

If I have to say something nice about the movie it’s that Edward Norton is pretty great. I’ve read that he is playing a parody of himself but how do we really know? I’m no Hollywood insider! He also gets some really bad lines in a scene with Emma Stone that Stone’s character calls out as bad writing but as my dude Justin Muschong would say, “Just because you point out the shitty thing you did doesn’t mean it still isn’t shitty.” Paraphrasing.

Bless your heart, Naomi Watts. Even after the forced nude scene in 21 Grams you still show up to work for this guy. Watts joins Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough as one of the women in Keaton’s life who is there to love him and deride him. He’s a shitty father, a terrible husband, and a bad boyfriend. But you know what, even though he doesn’t really change, they still give em a little smile at the end. Riseborough even has a miscarriage and then turns into a lesbian with Naomi Watts. This has no precedent, except maybe Iñárritu yelling off camera “Why don’t you ladies kiss now? That’s what women do when they’re alone together, right?” Amy Ryan is one of our finest actresses but she is reduced to sighing (ex)wife here. Emma Stone has a monologue where she yells at Keaton about how old and irrelevant he is and then she just walks out of the room, leaving Keaton to fiddle with a joint for an extremely long period of time, probably because they couldn’t cut to a new scene because our boy Iñárritu is already married to this continuous one take style. Stone later warms to her dad because he’s the star of viral video that gets 300,000 views. (Birdman is the kind of movie that talks about things like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter from the point of view of someone who has heard of them but never used them. 300,000 views is not that impressive. Too Many Cooks has over a million!)

Any jokes are either obvious or dead on arrival. There is a scene where Norton and Keaton are wrestling on the ground and Norton is wearing nothing but briefs. So wild! Scenes like this always remind me that a director told them to do this stupid shit and they said yes without hesitation. Keaton later gets stuck walking through Times Square in just his underwear and I guess I should be impressed that it is a long take? The whole movie is a long take! This isn’t impressive anymore. The bloom is off the rose. Also, they film movies everywhere. You can’t just film in Times Square and expect me to stand and applaud. You know who else filmed in Times Square? Total Request Live. And they did that shit every day for years!

Birdman isn’t funny ultimately because Iñárritu came with an axe to grind. If he was simply telling a tale of wild times behind the scenes, well, he might have carried it off. But instead wants to tell us he is An Artist and that critics are Lazy. Michael Keaton’s critic rant is easily the most embarrassing moment in film in 2014. Critics don’t have any power, Al! Just ask Michael Bay and his pile of money! Having the critic say she is going to pan Keaton’s show without even seeing it is the stuff of dreams. Lots of laughs over here.

Has anyone talked about the fact that the play within the movie is not very good? The costumes are shabby, the characters never block towards the audience so someone always has their back to the crowd. “We didn’t pay good money to look at your ass, sweetheart!”

I really wish someone could make a really great film about the behind the scenes of show business. OH WAIT someone did it was Robert Altman it’s called The Player it’s a masterpiece. It even has a long take at the beginning if you want to watch it and need to type out “Camera work!” in your Letterboxd review.

Anything is Possible: Thoughts on The Raid 2

July 19, 2014

The-Raid-2-Logo

It has taken me a moment to write down the thoughts, emotions, the sense of truth and purpose that comes from The Raid 2. Since it’s release on March 28th I have felt great elation as words of joy and excitement filled my social media timelines, text messages, and phone calls. The Raid 2 is love.

The Raid 2 fucked the game up for everybody. I don’t just mean in the way that Gareth Evans made a sprawling 2 hour plus crime/action movie hybrid for four million dollars that looks and sounds better than every big budget action blockbuster this year. The moment that fucked the game up, that fucked my mind up, is when Kenichi Endo’s character Goto says, “Anything is possible.” Sure, he is referring to criminal machinations being unfurled around him, but Evans holds the shot on Endo and lets the line linger in the air. This is a mission statement, a call to arms. The Raid 2 is proof that you can do anything. Every action sequence has a breathless chant of “This is happening this is happening this is really happening” running underneath it. Long take battles in a nightclub that spill out into snow covered alleys. The camera floating above the jail yard as prisoners fight to the death covered in mud. A woman who kills a whole subway car full of thugs with two claw hammers. The camera traveling effortlessly through a vehicle during a car chase. But on top of what “Anything is possible” means to The Raid 2 I keep thinking what it means to me as a human being, a person trying to exist as a creative person. I perform improv, which has it’s champions and critics, much like any other art form, and “Anything is possible” is true for any improvised scene. There are no limits, no settings, no rules. You decide your destiny. When Goto said it, I felt a kinship and a bond with the film and with true creative people everywhere. We can do whatever we want!

Going back to The Raid 2 as a film, all of it would be for naught if I didn’t care about the characters. And I do! Obviously Rama is the guy I care about over everything, he’s just a good guy in a bad situation who happens to be just better at fighting than anyone on planet Earth. Still, there’s only one of him and a shit-ton of bad guys. I care about Bangun, the world’s most sensible crime lord. He knows when to kill a guy and when to take the high road and not leave a mountain of bodies. It still doesn’t work out great for him but his sensibility rang true. A character like Uco is inherently unsympathetic but Arifin Putra’s performance is such that his sadness and ultimate betrayal are given time to well and grow so that when he decides to gun down his father, the scene has weight and it means something. Even when the characters are only small sketches, like Hammer Girl and the Bat Guy and the guy who just looks tough and leaves your body in a field, their characters are illustrated with small wordless details that say more than a ream of exposition. On a very base level, my feelings on The Raid 2 are purely “Holy fucking hell that guy just had his face blown OFF!” But I also cherish moments when Bangun realizes his son’s treachery or when Uco faces himself in the mirror after murdering his father. That show of emotion and betrayal wouldn’t mean shit if Evans hadn’t laid the groundwork. Also the car chase. And the kitchen fight. And the porn den battle. And on and on. The Raid 2 is everything.

raid2

 

Lorin saw all the movies nominated for Best Picture. Give him a kiss.

March 1, 2014

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The morning of the Oscar nominations I was surprised that I had already watched eight of the nine films nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.  I saw their promotional campaigns, caught some trailers and thought, “Heck, I’ll check that shit out. Why not?” This never happens, as I stopped seeking out Oscar bait films and even after a film is Oscar-nominated(and subsequently becomes an Oscar-winner) I don’t run out to see it. The Artist and The King’s Speech can win all the awards they want, doesn’t mean I gotta subject myself to their tyrannical middlebrow ways. (If I’m going to watch a black and white silent movie I’ll watch Buster Keaton, who was straight killing it back in the day. You see Sherlock Jr.? Fuck outta here with The Artist.) So I realized, if I just went to see the one remaining nominated film, I would have seen them all and I could knock out a nifty blog about all the films.

Philomena

Learning lessons!

So I went to see Philomena and it was fine, you guys. Total middlebrow, “funny” without actually being funny, more soft chuckle than loud guffaw. Sassy old lady teaches stodgy middle aged man how to, well, not be so stodgy I guess. And he teaches her that the Catholic church did her dirty. It was hardly the worst, not close to the best, but the theater was warm and my friend and I were easily the youngest people in the theater by 30 years. So it was classic Oscar bait. Won’t offend anyone too much(the Catholic church is shown as shitty, but not totally shitty), and it has that “gay people are real people too” bent but without actually giving any significant speaking roles to gay characters. If this thing had dropped in 1995 it would have looked like Santana at the Grammys, only at the Oscars, and instead of holding Grammys they would be holding Oscars. Y’know, that’s not a great comparison. Forget about it.

Shit.

Oh shit!

Did you see Gravity? That movie is Fucking Awesome. People got real bent out of shape about Sandra Bullock’s back story but I thought my wife made a good point when she said, “It was going to be one of three things: dead husband, dead kid, or sexual assault. I admire their restraint.” As do I! You see some of these people bagging on Gravity like it’s 2 hours of Sandy crying about her kid, when it’s actually 90 minutes of Sandra trying not to fucking die in space! It’s amazing that Rachel and I didn’t break our hands watching this movie. Ebert used to talk about movies where you would bruise your partner’s forearm from squeezing it because shit was so tense. Gravity is the quintessential bruised forearm movie. Heck, forget bruised, you and your friend/lover will both need hospital care for your broken arms because Gravity Never Stops. Just like real gravity, it’s always holding you down, quite literally pinning you to your seat, for fear of being demolished by a passing burning satellite dish. Sandy doesn’t get a single moment to chill between dodging debris and explosions and making sure she has enough air. My dog for life Alfonso Cuaron directed, so no surprise that the movie is hot fire. Cuaron previously directed Children of Men, which is hall of fame, lifetime pass greatness. Cuaron could blow up a hospital of legless babies and blind puppies and we’d be like, “Al! Holy shit! Jeez, man! What did you do? Be careful! That is fucked up. Oh my god, all those legless babies. Fucckkkkkkk…………..Jail? Nah man, it’s cool, see ya later.”

Your dad

Captain Phillips is solid work from a director I don’t like that much. Paul Greengrass bears the responsibility for 90% of all American action movies containing barely any shots where the audience can tell what is going on. The second Bourne movie has Matt Damon in a car and apparently something happens. I dunno, AND I WATCHED THE MOVIE. Captain Phillips doesn’t have this problem. You can clearly see what is going on the whole time. And what is going on is life, man! Tom Hanks is just trying to move some shit in his boat and these pirates are just trying to hijack so they can just keep living under horrible tyrant conditions. Captain Phillips is the quintessential dad movie. Every critic hates the conversation Tom Hanks and Catherine Keener have at the beginning of the movie but that is an exact conversation that my dad has with my mom all the time. All dads. All moms. Captain Phillips is life.

This is actually tagged "old-people-watching-tv.jpg"

This is actually tagged “old-people-watching-tv.jpg”

Nebraska is fine and understated and legitimately funny. Once again, total dad movie. The scene where all the old people watch tv and talk about stuff they can barely remember, I’ve lived it! Everyone with grandparents has lived it. It was too real.  That said, the best performance in the movie is from Will Forte, but he was once again snubbed by the Academy.

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Dallas Buyers Club is a perfectly fine, minor film. It’s been positioned as a major work and some kind of acting tour de force by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. McConaughey is good, Leto is turrible. I enjoyed this movie while I watched it, in a very “sticking it to the jerks” kind of way. The jerks in this case are doctors, who only care about profits and killing people instead of helping them. Classic movie doctor stuff. Since I heard that the actual guy McConaughey portrayed was a bi-sexual dude, it’s kinda lame that they had to concoct this whole homophobia angle, essentially saying that there wasn’t much story there and they had to change an essential aspect of the main character’s life in order to give him an “arc”. But seriously, Jared Leto sucks so bad, don’t give him an Oscar.

Buffering

Buffering

Would Her work if the OS were voiced by someone other than Scarlett Johansson? The glut of internet videos that have parodied the film seem to prove that it would not work at all. I feel like anyone who bought in to this relationship between a man and his OS was just seeing Johansson in his head and thinking, “Well, yeah, it’s Scarlett Johansson. This makes sense.” Why else would Spike Jonze replace Samantha Morton as the voice of the OS, except to replace it with the voice of one of world’s hottest sex symbols? Plus the world it presents does not make any sense. Joaquin Phoenix’s job makes no sense. Everyone’s pants make no sense. This whole movie was like the Emperor’s New Clothes.

What a buncha dummies.

What a buncha dummies.

But I do not begrudge Her and it faded from my thoughts not long after I walked out of the theater. Unlike American Hustle, the worst film of 2013. Now certainly movies like 47 Ronin and A Good Day To Die Hard are ostensibly “worse” but American Hustle, this fucking movie. Where to begin? David O. Russell has managed to top his terrible track record, after the shitshow that is The Fighter and the abomination of I Heart Huckabees. Those movies are total garbage but American Hustle feels especially terrible since Russell is trying to imitate Martin Scorcese and failing in every way. American Hustle has all the important features of a post Three Kings Russell work: shit acting, no sense of tone, and camera work that is straight up amateur hour. Amy Adams is next level terrible. I could feel the entire audience recoil every time she uttered that “Australian/British/nope” accent. I can suspend disbelief pretty far, but none of my group of friends could grasp how any of the characters in the movie ever thought her accent was genuine. My good friend McCarty is a big David O. Russell fan, and even he said to me, “Yeah, Amy Adams is really bad in this.” When Bradley Cooper’s character gets all upset that he had been “duped”, there was a collective sigh of exasperation in the theater. These characters, what a bunch of dummies! Not to mention that David O. Russell managed to make a Scorcese ripoff that is devoid of all the sex, drugs and violence audiences flock to decadent 70’s era movies to experience. One gun is fired in the whole movie! In a goddamn flashback! Jennifer Lawrence is miscast as a woman at least ten years older than Lawrence can actually portray. How are we as an audience supposed to believe that Christian Bale would cheat on Jennifer Lawrence with Amy Adams? Fuck outta here!  And that twist? Who didn’t see that coming? Why did this movie that cost millions of dollars to make look like it was shot in your grandma’s basement? Why does it look like dinner theater Goodfellas? Shoulda called this thing Garbage Town USA.

primary_12-years-a-slave-trailer

12 Years A Slave is intense. You saw it, you know what I mean. It’s impressive in the way it never stops to let you get a breathe and collect yourself, because slaves didn’t get that option either. This movie is great in just about every way that a movie can be great. Will any moment in film be able to duplicate the combined sensation of elation and dread like the Paul Dano beating scene? Oh man. I’d never felt anything like that before. I can’t say it’s my favorite movie, but if it won all the awards I would not be mad about it.

Balling out of control

Balling out of control

The Wolf of Wall Street is nuclear powered craziness, top down no stop fuck your shit up insanity. 3 hours this fucking thing just beats you senseless. At one point I thought, “Oh shit, I guess it’s powering down.” I was wrong! It was just a fake out, because then they’re driving boats through hurricanes and blowing up planes! Leonardo DiCaprio is hall of fame in this one, physical comedy master class. Who knew? We knew! We all saw him going buckwild in Django Unchained last year. How’s he gonna top this one? He might not! Who cares? Scorcese shamed everyone in the directing game. Bow down to the master.

Would it have killed the academy to put an even ten movies up for best picture? Throw Inside Llewyn Davis a bone. For a best picture list this isn’t half bad. You got a couple instant classics, some easy crowd pleasers, a few dad movies, one lame-o stinker and only one total piece of shit. For the Oscars this is not bad at all. But honestly, my favorite movie of 2013 was Spring Breakers. Franco, Korine, and Benson got robbed.

Spring break foreverrrrrr

Spring break foreverrrrrr

Lorin Kozlowski’s Favorite Movies of 2013

1) Spring Breakers

2) The Wolf of Wall Street

3) Fast and Furious 6

4) Gravity

5) Before Midnight

6) This Is The End

7) You’re Next

8) The World’s End

9) Evil Dead

10) The Counselor

Vampire Academy

February 12, 2014
VA

Vampire Fucking Academy

I really need to get into this Young Adult Fiction game. These guys are making bank, selling millions of books, and everything is a copy of a ripoff of a pretty terrible original idea. According to wikipedia, which is never wrong, Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, “had no experience as a writer of any kind and had never even written a short story before Twilight.” Incredible. We can do it, you guys! Someone who definitely did it is Richelle Mead. She is the author and creator of the Vampire Academy series, a blatant mishmash of Twilight, Harry Potter, and Gossip Girl. Get that money, Richelle.

I don’t want to give excuses but I went to see Vampire Academy because of the creative team behind it, brothers Mark and Daniel Waters. Mark directed Mean Girls and Daniel wrote Heathers(and Demolition Man!) What a team. But what they had to contend with is the Vampire Academy mythology. Shit is complicated. Three(!) varieties of vampire. You got your cool, laid back, chill vampires that apparently just want to get jobs and live chill lives. Then you have these 30 Days of Night/Blade II looking jerks, who run around with red, infected eyes and generally seem like rude, dirty people. I couldn’t tell if they were full on monsters so in thrall to their bloodlust that they had lost all sense of decorum, or if they actually have some plan besides ambush and kill. Some of them can talk, but it is of the wheezing, “You shall die…” variety. While I expected them to be the main villains of the piece, they actually only exist on the fringe of the plot for some boo scare attacks and to be cannon fodder. Apparently you can choose to be this kind of vampire, like how some people aligned with Voldemort in Harry Potter though I don’t know why. Voldemort had some swanky safehouses. These guys live in bushes and caves and their eyes look just terrible!  The third type of vampire is not even really a vampire, more of a glorified security guard, who just protect the more chill vampires from the crazy ones. These three types of vampires have specific names that I cannot bring myself to type. I am so sorry.

The main character is Rose Hathaway, who is played by Zoey Deutch, who is, fun fact, Lea Thompson’s daughter. Bury us old people in the ground because the new generation is here to replace us. She is pretty good, just the right kind of detached, take no shit kind of girl. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t follow the instructions of a single adult for the entire movie. Do you, Rose/Zoey! Rose has a thing for her combat training instructor Dimitri, and it was pretty much the only relationship I cared about. There is this red headed guy (Rose calls him Duckie at one point) who keeps trying to get with Rose but she knows what is up. And what is up is Dimitri and his ten year age difference.

Sh'yeah right! Keep dreaming, son.

Sh’yeah right! Keep dreaming, son.

I looked up the plot of the book series when I got home and it looks like they tried to cram about 5 books into one movie. It shows. Rose is BFFs with Lissa, who might be Queen of the vampires one day, but first she has to declare a major, I think? Rose and Lissa start out the movie having run away from the Vampire Academy because of some car accident that killed Lissa’s parents. Oh man this car accident. You guys, these cars couldn’t have been going over 15 miles an hour, tops! Right before they collide it cuts to black and pans up on flipped cars and broken glass like they were doing some Twisted Metal shit. Hilarious. After this crash is shown, it is then repeatedly mentioned for the next half hour, just in case you forgot about the crash. Oh man, the crash. Remember the crash? The crash. Oh shit, damn. But maybe they were talking about when Crash won best picture and how it was a travesty? I bet that’s it.

Never forget.

Never forget.

Rose and Lissa have a very similar dynamic to Blair and Serena from Gossip Girl, right down to the hair color. This did not occur to me until AFTER I got home from the movie, so I’m pretty disappointed in myself. Despite weighing about 95 lbs, Rose is supposed to be Lissa’s bodyguard, or at least will be in future after she graduates from Vampire Academy. Lissa gets to be queen and  you  have to go to school to get a degree in bouncing? Weak sauce, Rose. Tell Lissa to outsource and you get a degree in one of the sciences.

Oh man, the magic in this movie. I can imagine Mead’s “A-ha” moment when she said, “Vampires, but they can do magic! Where is my pen? Honey, have you seen my pen? What? I can’t hear you. Stop vacuuming and talk to me….My pen. I’m looking for my pen…..Which drawer? The one we keep the stamps in?….Hmm, I don’t see it. Oh, here are those scissors you were looking fo-OH MY PEN!”

I'm just kidding, Richelle.

I’m just kidding, Richelle.

Team Waters were given next to no budget for the magic in this movie, which consists of a scene where wind powers are demonstrated on a row of pinwheels and some guys display their fire abilities by making gun fingers at candles. You did what you could with what they gave you, Team Waters! Oh wait, one guy does get set on fire at one point for calling someone a slut. Down with slut shaming! There is also a water effect at one point that is so bad Rose breaks the fourth wall.

Rose doesn’t get to do any magic, because she’s too busy brewing up sexual chemistry with Dimitri while they “train”.  Late in the film Dimitri and Rose are bewitched into almost fucking in order to distract them from a larger dastardly plot. This leads to the great line from Dimitri as he rips off Rose’s clothes and says, “Nice dress, let’s burn it”, and tosses it into a fire. This scene was very real and true.

"Sorry I burned your dress." "No you're not." "Yeah, you're right."

“Sorry I burned your dress.” “No you’re not.” “Yeah, you’re right.”

Despite having more exposition(and hidden exposition) than I usually will tolerate, I kinda liked this movie. Team Waters was clearly fighting an uphill battle of low budgets and derivative source material but they carried off most of it. When Vampire Academy puts the mythology aside and focuses on the high school drama the younger cast members get a little spring in their step. No one in the cast seems completely comfortable with the silly supernatural elements that make no sense, but everyone knows how to deal with high school drama. At a few points no one even talks about being a vampire or having powers and they go to the mall and buy dresses for the dance. When one character bared her fangs near the end of the movie and got punched in the face I thought for a second, “Oh shit, this chick is a vampi- oh wait, I knew that. She punched her because she is a bitch. Being a vampire had nothing to do with it.” VA has a bunch of scenes where characters call each other “blood whores” and spread rumors about blood sucking threesomes and that shit was fun and interesting. When characters start talking about destiny and healing abilities I would lose interest. Obviously I still miss Gossip Girl a lot. 

Truly never forget.

Truly never forget.

Heck, I would say that your tolerance for teen dramas will determine whether you will even make it through this whole movie. The pan of the film at Grantland points out that Vampire Academy would have been better served on tv, and I agree. Give us a whole season of Rose and Dimitri burning holes in their loins. Take your time with your apparent vampire war that is set up for a sequel that will never happen now. I hope some of these guys find work after this movie. I’m sure Zoey Deutch will be fine, and the guy who plays Dimitri has a bright future of getting thrown out a window by Jason Statham.

 

Lorin’s Favorite Music of the year 2013

December 30, 2013

2013 turned about to be the year when every major artist in the game dropped a big album and maybe half of them were any good. For every triumph like Yeezus or Hesitation Marks you’d have a disappointment like Magna Carta Holy Grail or Random Access Memories. I could write a whole thing on the let down albums this year. Nah. Too easy.

20) Stay Trippy – Juicy J

Those Rubberband Business mixtapes were my shit and Stay Trippy was a long time coming and totally worth the wait. All bangers about strippers and drugs, which is what we as human beings want from Juicy J. “All I Blow Is Loud” and “Gun Plus a Mask” are instant classics and “The Woods” is probably the best thing Justin Timberlake did all year.

19) Heartthrob – Tegan and Sara

“Love They Say” is pure beauty and sadness. So is “Closer”. Whole thing has this weird mix of happy/sad going on. I’ve never really cared for Tegan and Sara before this album and I know there was talk about Heartthrob as some kind of craven grab at popularity but these songs sound real good, and real true. Getting a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still be true! And everyone wants to be popular! Who are we to tell Tegan and Sara they can’t put food on their families?

18) Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke

If this guy could dance he would have the world on a string. Still, everything on this album is better than both those bloated 20/20 thuds. Breezy and fun, done in 40 minutes.

17) Trap Lord- A$AP Ferg

All you need to know about this album is that the chorus to “Dump Dump” is

“I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick”

16) Artpop- Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is overstudied and not nearly as good as she thinks she is. And yet, this album is fire. So many bangers, just vicious shit. Purposely ugly in all the ways that appeal to me, yet with these huge neon hooks. The hook for “Sexxx Dreams” is like a laser to the face. “Aura” is a monster.

15) B.O.A.T.S II: #MeTime – 2 Chainz

2 Chainz goes front to back here, just casually dropping bangers and classics like it is just the most natural thing in the world.

14) Save Rock and Roll – Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy are one of my favorite bands. Their three album run in the mid 2000’s is some hall of fame shit. They don’t get any respect though because their audience is largely girls and old men like to write rock history. Save Rock and Roll is weird and actually doesn’t have a ton of guitars on it, but it still has great hooks, fantastic singing from Patrick Stump, and a song about masturbation. The boys are back.

13) Nothing Was The Same – Drake

2013 was my year of Drake. I know why people don’t like him and sometimes I still don’t like him but I think he has more songs I like than dislike and Nothing Was The Same is pretty good. I think it could have used a couple more bangers like “Started From The Bottom” but that wasn’t what he was feeling at the moment. But did you hear “Trophies”? Shittttt.

12) Excuse My French – French Montana

This may be the last we hear from French Montana. The album flopped and people have already moved on but this album has tracks. Hot fire all over and these beats, son. Diddy paid good money for these beats and it would be a shame for all of us to ignore them. Also, the ignorance of “Pop That”, “Marble Floors” and “Ocho Cinco” all on the same album is awe inspiring. May French continue to be worried about nothing.

11) Dynamics – Holy Ghost!

The first three songs are kinda eh but then it makes a huge jump in quality and you can forgive those first tracks and come to like them a little bit. I saw these guys live this year and they aren’t very interesting performers but the songs sounded good and while they can’t really pull off their ballads live, those tracks are the best songs on Dynamics. “I Want To Be Your Hand” is an instant classic.

10) Matangi- M.I.A.

This album should have been called Bangers. M.I.A. never fell off, really. I’ve gone back to MAYA a few times and it is still hit and miss but who doesn’t have a moment like that? We keep giving Jay-Z second chances. Matangi is easily M.I.A.’s best album, no contest. The production is vicious, she still doesn’t give a fuck, and unlike her other records it isn’t back loaded, it’s just loaded.

9) My Name Is My Name- Pusha T

I still listen to Hell Hath No Fury all the time. I bought Till The Casket Drops even though the reviews were bad. I listened to No Malice’s solo album(terrible, btw). I rocked that Play Clothes mixtape for like half of 2009. I’ve listened to the Re-Up Gang record at least 4 times. I really really like The Clipse. My Name Is My Name is largely flames, Pusha T goes hard, Kanye hooked him up with some hot beats(“No Regrets” oh shit), dude is back. I wish The Clipse were back but this is great. Best Pusha track of the year is “Millions” off of the Wrath of Kaine mixtape.

8) Hesitation Marks – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails have never made a bad record. This is a fact. Look it up. Every album is good to great, though us hardcore Nailheads can argue over which is which. (Year Zero is my shit). Hesitation Marks isn’t a return to form, thank god, it’s just the next step. There are dancey songs and funky songs and songs that are slow like “Hurt” and it is all fine and good.

7) Black Panties- R. Kelly

What do I do with you, R. Kelly? How do I reconcile your past actions with the music you made and continue to make? It’s tough. And tougher for the victims of your crimes. Black Panties is a really good album. The track with Future is next level. “Legs Shakin'” is bananas. “Every Position”, totally nuts……Man. I dunno.

6) Long.Live.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky is a cool dude. That’s what he sells, being cool as shit. The first half of this album is like riding in a haze of cool(and weed smoke). Then he drops “Fucking Problems” and “Wild For The Night” and your heart level jumps up and you freak out and start breaking things and then you simmer down again. Then “Ghetto Symphony” comes on and you level a city.

5) Old- Danny Brown

If you ever bad mouth Danny Brown on Twitter, Danny Brown Stans will come out of the darkness and flood your mentions with anger and vitriol. “Danny Brown is the truth!”, they will scream. “Danny knows what is going down in these streets!” He does! I agree! This album is great, leave me alone.

4) Beyoncé- Beyoncé

Like the rest of you, I’m still digging into this one, but it’s highlights are plentiful. “Drunk In Love” and “Blow” were early favorites, and “XO” gets better with every listen. I was rocking “Bow Down/I’ve Been On” since January so “***Flawless” is of course my shit. Frank Ocean is still boring, though.

3) Yeezus – Kanye West

I like how nothing is going right for him in “I Am A God”, which everyone seemed to miss. Oh well, Kanye foreverandeverandeverandever.

2) For Professional Use Only – Araabmuzik

Araabmuzik got shot this year by some guy trying to steal his chain. Araab lived, dropped a sick remix album, kept on keeping on. Plus, you’re asking for trouble trying to rob the guy who made “This For The Ones Who Care”.

1) Paramore – Paramore

I started to like Paramore a lot after those two guys left the band and some astute blogger somewhere pointed out that all the songs on their last album were about how those two guys were just a bunch of assholes. That they quit because they were concerned about “keeping it real”, whatever that means in the pop/punk scene, which is the phoniest scene around. This album is a great rebuke to those guys, and really anyone who shit on this band, because the songs are sooooo good. Songs about being adults, and moving forward, and living your life after hard shit happens. I listened to this album a lot, and it was a no brainer when I had to pick my favorite of the year. “Ain’t It Fun” is a nice final “fuck you” to those guys who quit, but it could also just be about lazy people. There are levels to this shit.

Best songs of 2013
1) “This For The Ones Who Care” – Araabmuzik

2) “Fo Real” – Future featuring Drake

3) “Do What You Want” – Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

4) “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake featuring Majid Jordan

5) “Fucking Problems” – A$AP Rocky Featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar, & 2 Chainz

6) “Suit And Commercial” – The Hood Internet (Daft Punk/Justin Timberlake)

7) “Higher” – Just Blaze x Baauer featuring Jay Z

8) “All You’re Waiting For” – Classixx featuring Nancy Whang

9) “Going With You” – Sebastien Grainger

10) “I Told Em” – French Montana

Wunderstudies

July 5, 2013

Wunderstudies: Open mouths, big hearts, full of song (L to R- Brett Goodnack, Ayne Terceira, Dan Derks, Tessa Karel, Anna Gilchrist, Keara Kelly) Not pictured- Nathan Ratliff, Brett Bavar, Stephen Gottschalk

True story: Wunderstudies was my first experience with musical improv. My friend Andrea turned to me before the show and said, “You don’t strike me as a musical kind of guy.” “Wait, this a musical?” I replied, and I steeled myself for the show. But lo and behold, it was wonderful. Ayne Terceira performed a character I recall having the name Die Hard and the show was exuberant and joyous. The songs sounded like real tunes, written and rehearsed. And of course the improv was stellar, supportive and hilarious. That show has remained the benchmark for all the musical improv I have watched ever since. The team is basically all top notch improv ringers, and it is no surprise that every Wunderstudies show I have made it to since has been full of great performances and wunderful songs(I’m sorry, I had to do it!). While I am saddened to hear that after two years together the group is ending(and even sadder that I won’t be able to see this last show), what a run they have had. Did you see that show they did about dogs? INCREDIBLE DOG WORK, BRETT GOODNACK! Stay wunderful, every last one of you. (OH LORD I DID IT AGAIN)

If you are in Pittsburgh, see off this fantastic team at 8pm tonight, Friday July 5th, at the Steel City Improv Theater, 5950 Ellsworth Ave.


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