Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blogcrushing Like Crazy

I had intended this post to simply be about one particular crush I've been nursing lately, but it soon exploded into a bacchanal or polyamorous blogcrushing. Shameless.

Anyway, here's a collection of things what I've been loving on the past week or so. The laziest motivation for a blog post ever? Perhaps. Read on.

The Initial Crush

So I saw of my own free will was dragged kicking and screaming to see Confessions of a Shopaholic last week, and while it was a decidedly middling effort (which wasn't bad considering the groaner of a premise), I came away thinking of nothing but Kristin Scott-Thomas's brief handful of scenes as a French fashion editor. She owns the film's one truly hilarious scene, a pas de deux between herself and a slice of upside-down cake that is distressingly too big. It's a total gem.

But I was already in a fairly KST-positive place, having just seen Four Weddings and a Funeral (for the first time!) the previous weekend. So every time Kristin popped onscreen, in my head I heard, "How's Duckface?" And I laughed and laughed.

Oh, and staying on the Shopaholic tip, a bit of a secondary crush for Hugh Dancy, who looked like this:

for a full hour and a half.

Musical Crush

Ever since the Grammys, I have been nursing a bit of an infatuation with Jennifer Nettles of the band Sugarland. I'm not a country music guy at all, so while I've heard of the band, I've never really listened to their stuff. But her performances (as well as her delightful personality) at the Grammys had me thinking I need to at least give her a shot, since I kind of think I want to be friends with her. And it would be rude not to know my friend's music.

I still haven't listened to Sugarland proper -- though Roommate Mark is apparently on the case -- but what I did do is go on a YouTube binge. And that's where I found Jennifer Nettles singing with Bon Jovi:

You guys? I LOVE her. It's not even such a transcendent performance (it's "Livin' on a Prayer," it doesn't have to be), it's just her total exuberance and joy. (Check out the clips for "It's My Life" and "Have a Nice Day" for more where that came from, including a shout out to "dangly bling.")

Ongoing Crush

Last night's viewing of Big Love just confirmed what I've been saying for two years (if not more): Amanda Seyfried is the shizz. Enjoying what is easily her best season on the show, Amanda's Sarah has been breaking my heart week-in, week-out (except for last week's Anna-marries-then-divorces-the-family episode, which was curiously crappy). But this week was the ultimate, with the unexpected glee at the idea of a night on the town with her dad to the totally crushing events of the last ten minutes, which took what might have been a cop-out and made it far too painful to be so. Plus she looked dynamite at the Oscars, no?

Musical Crush, Part 2

Have you ever re-discovered a song you loved maybe two years ago that had since fallen to the recesses of your iTunes library but now seems to shine all the brighter for its resilience? Like "Everlong," by the Foo Fighters, which I always forget how much I love it until I hear it again. So it is now with Brandi Carlile's "The Story," which I had completely forgotten until Frankie Jordan sang it on "Idol" (...minutes before she was eliminated). The official video is embed-disabled, but this live version loses almost none of the song's potency, despite the muddled sound quality.

Actual, No-Fooling Crush Object

No, for real, you guys, I think I may be in actual love with Luke from The Amazing Race. Which, by the way, everything you've heard about this season being the best in years is (thus far) 100% true. Particularly if you appreciate the humor in rolling wheels of cheese and cream-pie-in-the-face gags. (And as Krusty the Clown taught us, the pie bit only works if the sap's got dignity; CBS clearly listened, as these are among the most likeable set of teams ever.)

Anyway, back to Luke My Prospective Boyfriend. Adorable. Sweet. Good to his mom (when he's not rolling his eyes behind her back from time to time, which...who among us hasn't on a road trip, hey mom, love you!). Okay, he befriended the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders, but none of us is perfect (and actually, they seem pretty okay, for Dolphins fans). And he took to the aforementioned cheese and cream pie challenges with the appropriate mix of dread, rueful enthusiasm, and licking. (Oh shut up, it was cream-pie filling.)

Seriously, though. I'm tempted to learn sign language so that if and when our paths ever cross, I will know the proper way to sign "I loved when you fell down that hill with the cheese, also will you marry me in Connecticut?"

Trailer Trash Tuesday: Funny People

Okay, first thing off the bat: NO trailer should be three and a half minutes long and give away as much of the plot as this one does. I feel like I just saw a very entertaining little short film, but also that I can already map out the entire feature as I sit here. No good, trailer people.

As for the movie, I like what I see so far. Judd Apatow knows how to meld comedy with pathos and I have no doubt he has the chops to tell this story. This isn't a middle-aged guy trying to score for the first time or a pothead trying to come to grips with fatherhood; this is life and death and family and stand-up comedy. But I trust Apatow, I honestly do.

My worry is that the actual quality of the product is going to get swallowed up by the combined force of the impending Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen backlashes. And that the whole discussion of the film is going to get hijacked by fanboy wars. Which is too bad, because Funny People has the makings of one of the more interesting artistic stretches of the year.

I was iffier on the project before I saw this clip. Adam Sandler isn't going to blow the doors off any arthouses, but he can be properly utilized and corralled. And Leslie Mann looks completely fantastic and is probably my #1 reason to see the movie. After all that unexpected awards-season chatter that she got for Knocked Up (fruitless though it turned out to be), I think the sky's the limit for her here.

What did you guys think?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Thoughts (While I'm Still Awake)

Overall, I give the entire production a solid B+. Jackman was fun, breezy, and awful nice to look at. And any Oscar ceremony that clocks in before midnight in New York is doing something right. I was dubious when I heard all the stuff about the ceremony this year "telling a story" and re-grouping the awards, but in practice, the decision to hand out the writing awards, design awards, and post-production awards in bunches (with one presenter for 2-4 categories) was a great, time-saving idea. The singing during the In Memorian montage wasn't as big a problem as I'd made it out to be in my head (is the Shawshank Redemption score really all that more austere?), though the elusive camerawork that made it hard to read the names was kinda shitty. I also thought the montages were all well done (especially the comedy one) and fit what I think the Oscars should always be: a scrapbook of the year in film.

No so good was that dance number, which didn't appear to have any reason to exist beyond the fact that they had Hugh Jackman and they felt obligated. I was happy to see Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper get some time to shine, even if they were overshadowed by Zac and the Hudge.

As for the unique way the acting awards were presented, I thought that was ultimately a better idea in theory than in practice. It was indeed very cool to see five previous winners in each category emerge like the final five Cylons and all, but five little tribute speeches per category made them all run too long, and the tributes themselves were either watery, pompous, or insincere. There are very few things that I would accept as substitutes for clips from the nominated performances, and this definitely was not one of those things.

Very, VERY boring fashion this year, with everyone deciding on silver, sparkly dresses or satiny earth tones. Thank god for colorful outliers like Viola Davis, Amy Adams, and Amanda Seyfried. Unfortunately, though My Girl Reese Witherspoon opted for color, she didn't exactly opt well. Best Dressed, Non-Color Division goes to Kate Winslet (more on her in a paragraph or two). Worst Dressed, Hilariously So Division goes to Sophia Loren, who scared the shit out of me no less than five times.

As for the winners? Totally expected, which was both good and bad. Being totally prepared for the Slumdog near-sweep made it easier to distance my fannish tendencies and be happy for artists I really love, like Danny Boyle and Anthony Dod Mantle. The Acting categories, which seemed like such interesting toss-ups, all went to frontrunners, which would have been annoying if I didn't love Penn, Cruz, Ledger, and Winslet. Great speeches from Cruz and Penn, too; I'm choosing not to hold it against them that they couldn't think of anything as awesome as "Domo Aregato, Mister Roboto."

As for Kate Winslet: her best speech this season my a country mile. Great moment with her dad, heartfelt, grateful, and one hell of a kicker with that "suck it up" nod to Streep. Well done, and I am SO glad she won. Maybe now, with the hysteria of the season behind us, people can back off their totally over-the-top bitchiness about her and realize that one of our best working actresses has an Oscar, and that's a good thing.

Overall, a fine Oscar ceremony that will undoubtedly get terrible ratings and everyone will blame The Reader and feel all superior about the fact that they didn't see any movies that didn't make a billion dollars, and we'll spend the next year wondering how we can trim/dumb down the ceremony enough to salvage ratings. But as a fan of the Oscars, I enjoyed these ones. Even if I fell two short-film categories short of winning the pool.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Before They Hand Out the Statue...

...for Best Supporting Actress tonight, be sure to check the 2009 Supporting Actress Smackdown over at Stinkylulu's blog. I was invited to participate this year, and I had a great time evaluating performances that, while I didn't love all of them, I loved writing about all of them.

My personal choice for the best of the year (nominated or not) is pictured above. Click on to find out who the Smackdown panel at large chose to honor.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Music Meme #2

I want to do these every few weeks or so, I think. Both because it's an easy way to get content up here and because I think it's fun.

*Oh, and if you look at this list and you see you know, like, fifteen of them, try and only answer a handful. Fun for everyone!

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line from the 1st 25 songs no matter how embarrassing
Step 3: Strike through once someone guesses both the artist and the track correctly.
Step 4: For those who are guessing, looking up the lyrics is CHEATING.
Step 5: If you like the game post your own.

1. I got my head checked by a jumbo jet Blur, "Song 2"
2. Why don't you ask him if he's gonna stay Fleetwood Mac, "Tusk"
3. Backword words, he got 'em, shut up, I'm talking Republica, "Drop Dead Gorgeous"
4. I thought I saw a man brought to life Natalie Imbruglia, "Torn"
5. They say I'm fabulously rich, come on just let's go Tragically Hip, "Grace, Too"
6. She comes out on Fridays every time Counting Crows, "American Girls"
7. You only see what your eyes want to see Madonna, "Frozen"
8. In a coffee shop, in a city, which is every coffee shop in every city Ani DiFranco, "Little Plastic Castle"
9. Pack up, I'm straight enough Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps"
10. Memories are just where you laid them Fuel, "Hemorrhage"
11. that summer fields grew high, with foxglove stalks and ivy 10,000 Maniacs, "Stockton Gala Days"
12. On nights like this, when the world's a bit amiss Hedwig and the Angry Inch, "Wig in a Box"
13. let me use your toothbrush, have you got a clean shirt? Joan Osborne, "Right Hand Man"
14. You got a hundred dollar bill, get your hands up Faith Evans, "Love Like This Before"
15. I had to escape, the city was sticky and cruel Cyndi Lauper, "I Drove All Night"
16. You're strutting into town like you're slinging a gun Cher, "Just Like Jesse James"
17. I'm on my second drink, but I've had a few before The Donnas, "Take It Off"
18. It was an early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn Supertramp, "Goodbye Stranger"
19. In the deepest ocean, the bottom of the sea Radiohead, "Weird "Fishes/Appreggi
20. What am I not supposed to have an opinion Christina Aguilera/Lil' Kim, "Can't Hold Us Down"
21. And now I know, Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say Elton John, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"
22. With your feet on the air and your head on the ground The Pixies, "Where Is My Mind"
23. I catch the paper boy, but things don't really change David Bowie, "Modern Love"
24. Last night, I dreamt of San Pedro Madonna, "La Isla Bonita"
25. cut my tongue out, I've been caught out Garbage, "When I Grow Up"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winter/Spring Movie Preview '09: Part 3

Previously: Part 1, Part 2.

Movie: Crossing Over (Wayne Kramer)
High-Concept Synopsis: Multiple character immigration drama, with Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, and Ashley Judd.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences who think the premise and trailer are reminiscent of the Oscar-winning Traffic. Harrison Ford fans eager for him to start actually acting again. Fans of Kramer's previous work, the respected-but-dull The Cooler and the not-respected-but-awesome Running Scared.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who think the premise and trailer are reminiscent of the Oscar-winning Crash. Sean Penn fans who have heard that his scenes were cut from the film after he disagreed with the film's political stance. Territorial fans of psychic John Edwards.
Why I'd See It: The production has been awfully beleaguered, with not just the Sean Penn thing but a Harvey Scissorhands editing flap, delayed release date, and now getting dumped into February without so much as an ad campaign. I am officially dubious. February 20

Movie: Fired Up (Will Gluck)
High-Concept Synopsis: Eric Christian Olsen and Nicholas D'Agosto eschew football camp for cheerleading camp. The better to score with chicks, is the idea.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences hoping for nothing more than a dumb high-school sex comedy. Fans of the not-unpleasant looking Olsen and D'Agosto. Fans of Gluck's past work on ill-fated TV shows like "Grosse Pointe," "The Loop," and "Andy Richter Controls the Universe."
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fans of dumb high-school sex comedies who think this looks like a particularly low-rent one. People who liked Bring It On but think it worked just fine without guys trying to trick women into having sex with them. Non-fans of "90210" anti-actress AnnaLynne McCord.
Why I'd See It: If I did, it'd be solely on the cuteness potential of Nick D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen -- it's prime fodder for Sarah's Crushed Film Festival, no doubt. But the whole thing seems like it could easily fall into obnoxiousness. Probably an HBO pick. February 20

Movie: Watchmen (Zack Snyder)
High-Concept Synopsis: The world's most respected graphic novel gets its long-awaited big-screen treatment.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Alan Moore's book who aren't too loyal to him to overlook the fact that he doesn't approve of the movie at all. Zack Snyder fans who like the way he adapts beloved material (Dawn of the Dead) and graphic novels (300). Big, blue, naked, atomic guy fetishists.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fanboys who end up hit by cars or falling down wells on opening day. Alan Moore. Fans of the book who are petrified that the movie will end up falling short of the book's glory.
Why I'd See It: There's almost no way the movie won't fall short of the book's glory; tempered expectations are everyone's friend in this situation. I'm still crazy silly excited to see this story finally realized onscreen. March 6

Movie: The Horsemen (Jonas Akerlund)
High-Concept Synopsis: Dennis Quaid investigates a series of murders linked to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Zhang Ziyi, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Patrick Fugit co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Horror fans who were too late for their desired screening of Watchmen. Fans of Akerlund's music-video oeuvre. Audiences attracted to the R rating for "grisly and disturbing content."
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Religious Christians and Ric Flair fans annoyed at the appropriation of the Four Horsemen. Non-fans of Akerlund's feature film oeuvre (Spun?). Neal McDonagh, whose role was apparently cut from the film.
Why I'd See It: Given the genre, the lack of fanfare isn't a deal-breaker. Grisly and disturbing content sounds like a winner, though. March 6

Movie: Sunshine Cleaning (Christine Jeffs)
High-Concept Synopsis: Amy Adams is a single mom who starts a crime-scene cleanup service with her flaky sister (Emily Blunt). Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, and Clifton Collins Jr. co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of indie family comedies (people keep comparing this to Little Miss Sunshine, but I think that's just lazy thinking and adding up Arkin and the word "Sunshine"). Fans of what appears to be some sparkling chemistry between Adams and Blunt in the trailer. Recession victims looking for interesting job ideas.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who scorn indie comedies that share titular words in common with Little Miss Sunshine. People who think the families-making-ends-meet-via-unorthodox-careers stories are best left to cable TV series. People who only enjoy Adams playing squeaky little cherubs.
Why I'd See It: I'd been following the buzz on this since Sundance 2008, and while the year-plus delay in releasing this is a bit of a concern, but the trailer suggests something good. March 13

Movie: A Perfect Getaway (David Twohy)
High-Concept Synopsis: A pair of killers (Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez) stalk a honeymooning couple (Steve Zahn; Milla Jovovich) in Hawaii.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Kalifornia and other crazy-couple-terrorize-other-couple thrillers. Fans of director Twohy's filmography (Pitch Black, Below, The Arrival), which is either awful or underrated, depending on who you talk to. Timothy Olyphant and/or Milla Jovovich fans hoping the Hawaiian setting will inspire the eschewing of essential articles of clothing.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who think the idea of a Poor Man's Kalifornia sounds pretty awful. People who don't buy Olyphant or Sanchez as nearly scary enough to get the job done. People who enjoy Hawaii and would like to be able to look at it without all the chasing and screaming.
Why I'd See It: Twohy's interesting at the very least, and I'm more sympathetic to this cast than most. Scary/stalky Timothy Olyphant! I'm in. March 13

Movie: Race to Witch Mountain (Andy Fickman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Cab driver The Rock ("Dwayne Johnson," officially, but come on) and astrophysicist Carla Gugino help a superpowered sibling duo escape bad guys. And, one assumes, they all race to Witch Mountain.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the original Disney movie Escape to Witch Mountain. Fans of The Rock but only when he does kid movies (call them the Kindergarten Coppers). Parents and children who opt not to see Last House on the Left.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Overly loyal fans of the original who find the tweak in the title to sugeest a dumbening down. Carla Gugino fans who are only Carla Gugino fans when she shows her jugs. Moralist parents naturally concerned about any movie that involves witch mountin'.
Why I'd See It: Originally I didn't think I would, but the trailer suggests a fun kid adventure, which means maybe a DVD rental down the line is in order. March 13

Movie: Last House on the Left (Dennis Iliadis)
High-Concept Synopsis: Remake of the notorious Wes Craven proto-torture porn classic. A gang of rapists unwittingly take up for the night at the home of one of their victims. Hardcore revenge gets had.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Wes Craven fans who clearly don't have a problem with remakes. Fans of next-generation character actor Garret Dillahunt. Ghost fans who have been waiting patiently for the big Tony Goldwyn comeback and may have found it.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Breathless torture-porn objectors. Breathless horror-flick purists. Non-fans of notoriously crappy Monica Potter, who won't even pay to see her killed onscreen.
Why I'd See It: I never saw the original, so I have no memories to keep sacred. Torture porn is never an outright draw for me, but if someone I know wants to see this, I'll be down. March 13

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blog Updates To Resume Soon

(And by "technical" I mean "holy God do I feel like crap. Hope you got your flu shots, people. This is no fun.)

Friday, February 06, 2009


Look, I can't live without IMDb, same as the rest of us. Bitching about it would be pretty pointless. But I'm going about today, looking up info on Meryl Streep for work, making sure this year was her 15th Oscar nomination and not 16th or 35th, when I look at her list of career Oscar nominations and see one in 1988 for a movie called Evil Angels. Now. I'm not gonna say I'm some kind of expert. But I know Oscar history pretty well. Particularly during the timespan that I have been alive. But this freaked me out, because I had never heard of such a movie, and certainly I hadn't heard of Meryl getting nominated for it. Am I an incomplete Movie Guy? Or worse, and incomplete Meryl Fan?

Of course, I clicked on the link and saw that -- DUH! -- in 1988 Meryl was nominated for A Cry in the Dark. "Evil Angels" is merely the stupid Australian title. Because apparently "Dingo! The Baby Devourer" wasn't classy enough. Whatever. Anyway, this is what drives me crazy about IMDb, that they list any foreign title, even now apparently English-language movies that were made outside the U.S. Which means I have to travel the long way to find out that "Wu Ho Cang Long" is "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Or that "Le Scaphandre el le Papillon" is "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." I'm not being xenophobic here -- I love those movies. I'm just ... okay, I'm probably being a little xenophobic. Whatever! It's not "Le Internet Database du Cinema"! And PLEASE don't start down that slippery slope where English-language alternate titles like "Evil Angels" start showing up. You're a database. More clarity, not less. Thank you.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Great Grammy Questionnaire: Best New Artist

Previously: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year

Our category-by-category dissection of the last 20 years of questionable (and occasionally appropriate) Grammy decisions continues! [See also: The Critical Condition]


Most Justified Winner: It a cursed category, for sure, and while Mariah Carey (1991) is an imminently defendable choice (certainly when considering the fact that she had to essentially steal the award from Wilson Phillips), I'm going with Christina Aguilera (2000), both because I love her and because I am still happy she bested Britney and Kid Rock. [Mark says: Mariah Carey]

Least Justified Nominee: God, where to begin? I could field an entire baseball team (with full bullpen!) with the craptacular nominees this category has produced. And that's not even counting Milli Vanilli, who I feel are far too easy a target at this point. So while 1993 produced a trio of unbelievably awful acts (Billy Ray Cyrus, John Secada, and Kris Kross -- and they still couldn't even nab Worst Field, see below!), Papa Roach (2001) takes the cake for being the most thoroughly indefensible nominee. At least those other three had memorable hits. [Mark says: Sisquo (2001)]

Least Recognizable Nominee: Runner-up: Susan Tedeschi in 2000. I don't even know enough about her to properly make fun of her nomination. I was all set to give this to Heather Headley (2004) until I realized that she originated Aida on Broadway, and I have a recording of her and Adam Paschal doing "Written in the Stars" that I quite enjoy. So congratulations, The Kentucky Headhunters (1991)! I assume you were a country act! [Mark says: Susan Tedeschi]

Best Field: 1996 had the highest highs (Alanis, Joan Osborne), but Brandy, Shania Twain and (winners) Hootie and the Blowfish don't really hold up. 1998 gets closer, with Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu, and (for better or worse) Puff Daddy weighted down by Paula Cole and Hanson. And 2007 is certainly an interesting year, with James Blunt and Corinne Bailey Rae being propped up by Carrie Underwood, Imogen Heap, and Chris Brown.

Give it to the 1997 field, which recognized three legitimate acts -- Garbage, No Doubt, LeAnn Rimes -- plus The Tony Rich Project, who were a flash in the pan but one I remember semi-fondly. As for the Jewel nomination, I'm confident we'll one day look back on her popularity with the fondness of a Kim Carnes, or perhaps a Vicki Lawrence. [Mark says: 2004]

Worst Field: Again, 1993 was a cesspool (see above), but Sophie B. Hawkins and Arrested Development manage to elevate the field just enough. 2001, on the otherhand? The aforementioned Papa Roach, plus: Jill Scott (okay, fine), Brad Paisley (cute, at least), Shelby Lynne (hmmmm), and Sisqo. SISQO! Case closed. [Mark says: 2003]

Most Awesome Field: The best thing about the Best New Artist category is how it either nominates the most flash-in-the-pan acts possible, or at least pulls from wildly different genres, forming a delightfully weird quintet. Cases in point: 1995, where the genre sameness barely downgrades the awesomeness of Sheryl Crow, Green Day, and Counting Crows being nominated alongside Ace of Base and Crash Test Dummies. Or 1992, with the rather mind-blowing lineup of Color Me Badd, C&C Music Factory, Boyz II Men, Seal, and Marc Cohn.

My personal favorite is 1994, when a rather predictable winner (Toni Braxton) was joined by Belly, Blind Melon, Digable Planets, and SWV. Maybe not the BEST lineup in the world, but probably the most eclectic. [Mark says: 1992]

Biggest U2 Potential: U2 wasn't eligible as a "new" artist in the last two decades, but which nominee has the best chance to become a U2-like perpetual nominee. I reflexively thought Sheryl Crow (1995), because she shares their same right-down-the-middle universal appeal. But she really hasn't been nominated all that much in the major categories given her stature. No, I'm going with Corrine Bailey Rae (2007), on the basis of her back-to-back Song of the Year nominations, as well as her presence on last year's Herbie Hancock Album of the Year. [Mark says: Dixie Chicks]

The Great Grammy Questionnaire: Record of the Year

Previously: Album of the Year, Song of the Year

Our category-by-category dissection of the last 20 years of questionable (and occasionally appropriate) Grammy decisions continues!


Blandest Nominee: If someone knows how Train managed to get nominated in 2002 for the abhorrent "Drops of Jupiter," please don't ever tell me. [Mark says: Celina Dion, "Because You Loved Me" (1996)]

Nominee That Had the Least Chance of Winning: My first inclination was to say Nelly and Kelly Rowland for 2003's "Dilema" (remember when that was a song?), but honestly, the honor goes to the Foo Fighters last year, if only because even if anyone could remember the song ("The Pretender"?), there was no way it was getting past "Rehab," "Irreplaceable," and "Umbrella." (It also singlehandedly sunk '08's chances in the "Best Field" category, for bonus points.) [Mark says: M.I.A., "Paper Planes" (2009)]

Most Justified Winner: Tough to pick a winner here because I so rarely like the songs that win this award. Even when they do give it to a song I love (Coldplay's "Clocks" in 2004), it ends up beating out even more deserving songs (see "Best Field" below) and I can't feel 100% good about it. That happens to the runner-up here: Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" in 2006, which was great...but great enough to best Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." Kanye's "Gold Digger," Mariah's "We Belong Together," and "Hollaback Girl"? It's at least a close call.

Which is why I'm actually giving it to the 1994 winner -- that's right -- Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." Say what you will, but the song has endured, and more than that, it beat out a grand total of one good song (Neil Young's "Harvest Moon") and three absolutely hideous ones (Billy Joel's "The River of Dreams," Sting's "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You," and "A Whole New World" from Aladdin). [Mark says: Shawn Colvin, "Sunny Came Home"]

Best Field: Check out the genius of 2004: Coldplay's "Clocks" (the winner, and a song that's become underrated via the Coldplay backlash of '05-'09), Beyonce's "Crazy in Love," Eminem's "Lose Yourself," and Outkast's "Hey Ya!" Four indisputable classics of pop music (undisputable!). Even the weak-sister fifth nominee (The Black Eyed Peas and JT on "Where Is the Love") isn't nearly bad enough to tarnish the above four.

Distant (distant!) runner-up status goes to 2001, whose five nominations are all much weaker, but still represent a highly defendable cross-section of what everybody (everybody!) was listening to that year: U2's "Beautiful Day," N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," Madonna's "Music," Macy Gray's "I Try," and Destiny's Child's "Say My Name." [Mark says: 2000]

Worst Field: 2003, which was kind of given to Norah Jones ("Don't Know Why") by default over Eminem's "Without Me" (which, in retrospect, is a seriously weak Eminem entry), the aforementioned "Dilema," Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," and Nickelback's "How You Remind Me." I will pay you cash if you've listened to any of these songs on purpose in the last three years. [Mark says: 2005]

Worst U2 Nomination: This category has actually been fairly circumspect when it comes to Dublin's finest. Back-to-back wins in '01 and '02, sure, but that's been it, at least since "Joshua Tree," and "Beautiful Day" and "Walk On" are certainly defendable picks. "Walk On," I suppose, but I'm not really putting my back into it. [Mark says: "Beautiful Day"]

Welcome to My Earworm

Franz Ferdinand, "Ulysses"

Holy shit, you guys.

The Great Grammy Questionnaire: Album of the Year

Previously: Song of the Year

Our category-by-category dissection of the last 20 years of questionable (and occasionally appropriate) Grammy decisions continues!


Most Offensive Winner: It was pretty bad in 2005 when the Ray Charles nostalgia tour hooked up with the wake of Norah Jones's 2003 awards outburst and produced an Album win that bested Green Day's "American Idiot," Kanye's "College Dropout," "The Diary of Alicia Keys," and Usher's "Confessions."

But while '05 saw four very good albums defeated, 1997 saw three great ones -- Smashing Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," The Fugees' "The Score," and Beck's "Odelay" (plus, okay, "The Waiting to Exhale" soundtrack) -- all bested by ... Celine Dion's "Falling Into You." You guys, I'll defend "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" all day, but this Grammy was egregious. [Mark says: Tony Bennett, "MTV Unplugged" (1995)]

Most Surprisingly Appropriate Winner: There have been a handful of winners in the last 20 or so years I've enjoyed -- Outkast, Lauryn Hill -- but none that felt more like a triumph of THE album of my year more than Alanis Morissette winning in 1996 for "Jagged Little Pill." That album defined that year for me, and as far as I'm concerned it still holds up. Petty concerns about Webster's definition of irony notwithstanding. [Mark says: "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (1999)]

Most Egregiously Passed-Over Nominee: 1998 should not have even been a question. I understand that Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" was received with hosannas by major music critics (i.e., Rolling Stone), but looking at the year with any kind of perspective, Dylan, Babyface ("The Day"), Paula Cole ("This Fire"), and a typically boilerplate Paul McCartney ("Flaming Pie") should have been total cannon fodder for Radiohead's "OK Computer." Take Thom Yorke and Co. out of the mix and that is a brutal field. And, as ever, Radiohead gets no love for making everybody else look better by association. [Mark says: "OK Computer"]

Most Past-Their-Moment Nominee: Speaking of McCartney, he's a nominee here for his 1998 AND 2006 nominations, both albums which didn't produce a single song you or I have ever heard. Other almost-but-not-quites: Paul Simon ("You're the One") and Beck ("Midnite Vultures") in 2001, and Pearl Jam in 1996 for "Vitalogy," which wasn't a bad album, but not good enough to make up for the omissions of "Vs." and "Ten" in previous years. No, I'm going with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2007, for that album that had "Dani California" on it. Blah. [Mark says: Radiohead, "In Rainbows" (2009)]

Worst Field: With all due lack of respect for the 2002 field (India Arie, more Bob Dylan, and a win for the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack that seems less cool with each passing year), 1995 completely takes the cake, and I don't expect much argument from my counterpart. Eric Clapton's cloying "From the Cradle," (the admittedly awesome) Bonnie Raitt's third iteration of the same album, "Longing in Their Hearts," one of Seal's albums that were titled "Seal" (probably the one with "Kiss From a Rose" on it), a particularly embarrassing win by Tony Bennett (for an UNPLUGGED album!), and...the piece de re-shit-stance ... "The Three Tenors in Concert." Oh, how I wish I was concocting an elaborate joke field. [Mark says: 1995]

Best Field: Of course, the very next year rebounded with a great lineup: the aforementioned "Jagged Little Pill" beat out Mariah Carey's "Daydream" (maybe her best album), Joan Osborne's super-underrated "Relish," and Pearl Jam's "Vitalogy." And, okay, Michael Jackson's "HISstory," which is why '96 is merely a runner up.

As for the winner, it's so close between 1999 and 2004, that I think I need to break it down. Feel like getting crazy? (Note: I pretty much like all these albums to some degree or another; there are no losers here.) Okay, so 1999 had the better alternative critics-fave (Garbage's "Version 2.0" over The White Stripes' "Elephant") and the better weakest link (Shania Twain's "Come on Over" bests Evanescence's "Fallen"). 2004 had the better alpha-female dance album (Missy Elliott's "Under Construction" over Madonna's "Ray of Light") and the better mainstream solid-but-they've-been/will-be-better effort (Justin Timberlake's "Justified" tops Sheryl Crow's "The Globe Sessions"). So it comes down to the better highbrow hip-hop winner ... and in a squeaker I give it to Outkast's "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" over "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." By, like, a millimeter. Winner: 2004. [Mark says: 1999]

Worst U2 Nomination: 2006, when they actually won for "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." [Mark says: "All That You Can't Leave Behind"]

The Great Grammy Questionnaire: Song of the Year

Roommate Mark and I got to talking about the Grammy Awards the other day. As we tend to do. Who won Best New Artist in 1992? What year did Norah Jones win all those awards? Herbie Hancock? Really? And since I'm a list-maker by nature, and I think Mark may be too, I proposed this quick little questionnaire regarding the last twenty years of the Grammys' dubious history in the traditional "Big Four" categories. Filling these out was a fun exercise in the weird mix of songs and artists we've allowed into the national consciousness in the past two decades. Plus I get to make fun of all the crappy nominations.

We're dividing these up into four posts, one for each category. For each post, Mark will have a mirror post on his blog. Read mine, then read his. Then read mine again.


Sappiest Nominee: Okay, I believe special mention needs to be paid to the fact that All-4-One were nominated back-to-back in 1995 and 1996 for the one-is-even-worse-than-the-other duo of "I Swear" and "I Can Love You Like That." Holy shit. I thought I'd forgotten those songs. No such luck. Additionally, I'm giving a pass to Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel," both because she's made it up to me with the last couple years and also because I was able to wring so much recap- and blog-fodder out of that awesome title.

No, the crown goes to "The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics (1990), which tried to mine the subject of father-son regret for every dry eyeball that Harry Chapin left behind. It was so bad that my grammar-school music teacher made us sing it at an assembly. THAT'S how you know a song is sappy. [Mark says: "I Hope You Dance" (2004)]

Least Appropriate Winner: Runners-up: "A Whole New World" in 1994, which didn't exactly beat out a murderer's row, but which toppled Neil Young ("Harvest Moon") and Jim Steinman ("I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"), both of which I would have vastly preferred. Also John Mayer's "Daughters" (2005), maybe my most hated of all the winners of the past couple decades. The fact that it kept Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" from winning is its only mitigating factor.

No, I'm giving this to 2004 winner "Dance With My Father," by Luther Vandross (and co-written by Richard Marx!). Not only because it was overly sentimental pap, and not only because as a "sorry you're dead/dying" handout it beat out the superior Warren Zevon, but because it kept Eminem from picking up the one trophy (for "Lose Yourself") he'd ever deserved on pure merit. How does the man who wrote "There's vomit on his sweater already/Mom's spaghetti" NOT end up at the podium to accept a songwriting award? [Mark says: "Unforgettable" (1992)]

Most Obviously Engineered Nominee: It took all five members of Train to write "Drops of Jupiter" (I wonder how many it took to write "She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo"!). It took ten (TEN!) people to write Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together." But because I'm feeling sentimental, I'm giving this to Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" (2001), which I'm pretty sure was written by every member of Destiny's Child, past, present, and future.

Best Example of Actually Good Songwriting: A couple of great ones from the early '90s: In 1992, REM was nominated for the obsessive semi-masterpiece "Losing My Religion." Naturally, it lost to "Unforgettable" (written in 1951). In 1991, they nominated Sinead O'Connor's heartbreaking total-masterpiece "Nothing Compares 2 U" (written by Prince). Naturally, it lost to Bette Midler's "From a Distance." [Mark says: "Nothing Compares 2 U"]

Best Field: Here's how you know how rare it is for this category to put together five completely defendable nominees in a given year: It hasn't happened in at least 20 years. The closest it's come: 2008, which had the very good "Rehab," the great-but-probably-not-because-of-the-songwriting "Umbrella," the good-but-probably-a-guilty-pleasure "Before He Cheats," Corrine Bailey Rae's perfectly adequate "Like a Star," ... and "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's (WHAMMY!). And 1993, when Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," k.d. lang's "Constant Craving" (both excellently written songs), the theme song from "Beauty and the Beast," and Vanessa Williams's "Saved the Best for Last" (both totally egregious but enjoyable songs) were forever sullied by their association with Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart."

No, the actual Best Field is this year's, with strong entries from Estelle ("American Boy"), Adele ("Chasing Pavements"), Jason Mraz ("I'm Yours"), and Coldplay ("Viva La Vida"). And if Sara Bareilles is your thing (she's not mine, but I know many fine people who really like her), then her "Love Song" makes it 5/5. Kudos, 2009. [Mark says: 2007]

Worst Field: All due lack of credit to the aforementioned 1994, but let's refuse to give it up for 2000's lineup, where the classic "I Want It That Way" (not kidding) and the perfectly adequate "Unpretty" by TLC were diminished by association with Santana's "Smooth," Shania Twain's "You've Got a Way," and Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca." [Mark says: 1990]

Worst U2 Nomination: "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" (2006). As is often the case among the least defensible U2 nominations, they won. [Mark says: "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"]

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Can't Wait!

I know I put forth my weird and winding 2009 movie preview a few weeks ago, but it cannot be stressed enough how much I'm looking forward to the new year's crop. And I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate, once again, in The Film Experience's annual "We Can't Wait" roundtable series, where Nathaniel and a select group of internet loudmouths (here's where I come in) bat around our most anticipated titles of the upcoming year like so many balls of yarn.

The countdown starts tomorrow, so make sure you're locked on The Film Experience to catch all the goodness. In the meantime, how's about we go over the titles from my list (we each submitted a ranked Top 20) that didn't make the cut. (And by the way, even though I made such a list on this here blog right after New Year's I was surprised at how much things had changed)

5. Public Enemies: Johnny Depp and newly-minted rage junkie Christian Bale in the story of John Dillinger and the birth of the FBI. I've been underwhelmed by director Michael Mann lately, but he definitely has it in him to deliver the goods. An aesthetically friendly supporting cast inclusing Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, and David Wenham can't hurt either.

11. This Side of the Truth: The full-on Ricky Gervais Experience comes to the movie screen for the first time -- I'm considering this my stand-in for the Christopher Guest movie that apparently isn't getting made this year, and my expectations will be large. Tina Fey, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman will go a long way to fulfilling them.

12. The Fighter: Aronofsky's latest. Mark Wahlberg. Brad Pitt. Done.

13. Untitled Nicole Holofcener Project: No title yet, but we know it's about the comings and goings in a New York apartment building, and it stars Catherine Keener (natch), Rebecca Hall, and Amanda Peet. Holofcener writes some of the best roles for women anywhere, period, and this should be no exception.

14. Young Americans: In my mind, this movie is spiritually tied with Observe and Report, the Seth Rogen comedy that has tragically becomed destined to be known as "the other mall cop movie" now that Kevin James has ruined it for the rest of us. Anyway, both co-star Anna Faris, which is what makes them worth looking forward to, and Americans gets the edge because: cuter guys (Topher Grace, Robert Hoffman, Seth Gabel) and a one-crazy-night post-graduate plot, which is a trope and a half, but one that always gets the job done for me.

15. An Education: The reports out of Sundance really sold me on this coming-of-age-in-'60s-London movie. It supposedly features a breakout lead performance by Carey Mulligan, supporting turns by Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper, Sally Hawkins, and Emma Thompson (!!!), and a Nick Hornby screenplay. Literally zero of those things aren't awesome.

16. X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Okay, for one thing, I'm an X-Men loyalist no matter how bad the last one was. But the bottom line here is this: I am but flesh and blood, people. And Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schrieber, and Taylor Kitsch doing the mutants-with-muscles thing is really pretty okay by me.

18. The Boat That Rocked: Richard "Love, Actually" Curtis directs this story about an illegal, nautical radio station in the 1960s (what is it about me and the '60s this year? It seems like half of my most-anticipateds -- including my #1 that actually DID make the Film Experience list -- are from that time period). Anyway: Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, January Jones. Say no more.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Music Meme

Hey, I've got to bust outta this no-posting funk somehow.

Anyway, first thing you do is head on over to Roommate Mark's blog, The Critical Condition, and take part in his music survey. And if you can tell me what #2 is and ease my mind, so much the better.

Anyway, I had one of these up on Facebook over the weekend and it was lots of good fun. And I like to have good fun here on Low Res, so I'm cross-posting this one here. It's an interesting mix of songs, and this group ended up heavier on the classic rock stuff than I thought it'd be.

So get to guessing!

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line from the 1st 25 songs no matter how embarrassing
Step 3: Strike through once someone guesses both the artist and the track correctly.
Step 4: For those who are guessing, looking up the lyrics is CHEATING.
Step 5: If you like the game post your own.

1. I hear the ticking of the clock
2. When you were young and on your own, how did it feel to be alone?
3. You're burdened me with your questions, you'd have me tell no lies
4. That old dog has chained you up all night
5. Someone to hold you too close, someone to hurt you too deep
6. I heard there was a secret chord
7. Maybe I didn't like to hear, but I still can't believe Speed Racer is dead
8. So if you're lonely, you know I'm here waiting for you
9. Billy rapped all night about his suicide
10. Yellow bird flying, gets shot in the wing
11. Sweet wonderful you, you make me happy with the things you do
12. She down on the corner, just a little crime
13. The twenty-second of loneliness, and we've been through so many things
14. When you're talking to yourself, and nobody's home
15. Lift up your head, wash off your mascara
16. Mama pajama rolled out of bed, and she ran to the police station
17. Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach
18. It's four in the morning, the end of December
19. Like anyone would be, I am flattered by your fascination with me
20. Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
21. I go oooh oooh, you go ahhh ahhh
22. When everything is going wrong, and you can't see the point of going on
23. There's nothing you can do that can't be done
24. She calls me from the cold, just when I was low
25. You had my heart, and we'll never be worlds apart