Friday, December 17, 2010
Thanks for coming back!
So I was listening to my iPod today (quel surprise). And considering how much I love writing lists, I decided to write up what I think are my favourite albums this year. However, due to some technical difficulties (aka Joel got ahold of the pc and mucked it up and now I can't look over iTunes and see what albums I've purchased this year) this is going to be very scattershot and likely leaning more towards current albums. Please send your angry e-mails towards Joel :p
Oh, and I should add a caveat: this list may (aka will) include an album or two not necessarily released this year. Sometimes you re-discover an album from previous years that jumps out at you and says "I'M AWESOMESAUCE" and ya just hafta recognize it.
Yah, I've had wine.
OVERALL FAVE ALBUM OF 2010
My Chemical Romance- Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys
Ok. Calm your knee-jerk reactionism down. It's very easy to dismiss MCR as 'emo' or 'whiny' or any other such adjectives usually tossed about by people who haven't really listened to them. Frankly, when it comes down to it, they consistently release some of the best, most enjoyable rock music of recent years. I would be tempted to add their last album, The Black Parade, to this list, but I need to restrain my fanboy gushing.
Danger Days discards the experimental, concept-album approach of Black Parade for something much simpler and accessible: rock out with your cock out. I can dig it. Apparently it IS a concept album of sorts and it has something to do with them living out some punky alter-egos in a dystopian future society, but screw that, the music is THE SHIT. In this album they return to their punk-influenced rock roots and for about 40 minutes or so they grab your ears and fuck them with shredded guitars, thunderous drums, spaced out synths and throat wrecking singing.
This is not to say that this album is one-dimensional, uninteresting or merely noise for the sake of noise. Not only can these boys rock, but they can genuinely make 'music'. I would say that every single song has more technique and skill behind it than about 95% of what gets released and embraced by pop culture. I wish I had a better understanding and vocabulary of musical terms so that I could properly explain what makes this album so varied and interesting, but trust me when I say that these are some of the most talented musicians working today.
The ONLY complaint I have about the album is that there are three 'songs' of merely talking as the 'narrator' of the album interjects with some random strangeness. They're all very short snippets but they're still shuffle-busters nevertheless.
Man. This album is ridiculous. Fave album without a doubt.
FAVE POP/GAY ALBUM OF 2010
Kylie Minogue- Aphrodite/ Scissor Sisters- Night Work
Ok, this is cheating. Two albums for one distinction. To that I say 'shut up! my list!' and I drink some more wine. I have a very good reason for this however.
I believe I will forever link these two albums in my mind. Firstly, they were both released around the same time. I got their lead singles on the same day. Scissor Sisters produced one of the songs on Aphrodite. Kylie sang with SS at Glastonbury on their song Any Which Way. They all love penis. It just makes sense people!!
That said, they're both legitimately fantastic albums. Kylie came through with one of her best releases in years, probably her best since Fever. Scissor Sisters ditched a lot of the weirdness that always held them back as something of a novelty band without losing any of their uniqueness. Most importantly, the two albums complement each other so well that it makes sense to link them together.
I see these albums as such: you put Aphrodite on during the day. You dance about your apartment, preferably in your adorable but not too skanky underwear, celebrating life and happiness being a strong, sassy woman/gay. You embrace and celebrate your inner power animal or some such malarky (with the occasional song or two to get a little sentimental and thoughtful). Generally speaking, you love life and you're gonna live it up.
Soon,however, night falls, and it's time to put on Night Work. Now's the time to take all that self-loving, joyful, carefree energy from before and translate that into 'I'm going out with my gays and I'm gonna get DRUUUUUUNK and fuck a stranger"
Umm, thumbs up to that my friends.
Sample lyric from Aphrodite: i'm fierce, i'm feeling mighty, don't you mess with me I'm the aphrodite
Sample lyric from Night Work: we can talk about relationships but there's better things to fill your head with.
Y'know. Mama's getting sleepy. I'ma come back to this. I still have yet to discuss Janelle Monae, Matt Duke or Bran Van 3000.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Much like he does, I should stress that these are my 20 favourite games of all time. I'm not saying that these are the best. I can pretty much guarantee that you will see some and vigorously disagree with me. That's fine though. At least you're reading this (see: SUCKAAAA!). I should also point out that as I am an old man with a severely debilitating brain disease (I drink a lot), my memories of specific points about some of these games may be a bit off.
Without any further ado, I present #16-20.
20. Maniac Mansion (NES)
A bloody classic, in my books. Any game that can poke fun at while simultaneously cherish old comic-horror movies of the 50's is a winner with me!
Basic plot is as such: Titular mansion is inhabited by mad scientist and his crazed family. They kidnap comely teenage girl. Comely teenage girl's boyfriend and friends unite to try and rescue her. Hilarity ensues.
Maniac Mansion was of the point-and-click genre, wherein your cursor could be used to highlight various objects on the screen along with actions such as Talk To, Walk To, Push, Pull, Give, yadda yadda. I bloody loved these kinda of games growing up. Something about the freedom of having all these actions available to you made you feel like you were really IN the mansion. Ok, not really, but it was damned fun to try and give a hamster to a giant purple tentacle. (that is, if you don't attempt to "dry" the hamster in the microwave. Yep.)
The game also had a large cast of characters, all with their own skills, personalities and weaknesses. You played as any combination of 3, and you had to choose wisely so that all your skills complimented each other (funny enough, the nerdy one that looks a bit like me was the most skilled. YEEEH BITCHES!). They could die, get kidnapped, or suffer various odd fates, and it was this variety of characters and outcomes which really makes this game memorable for me. It was a videogame equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and frankly, any videogame that allows you to blow up a hamster in a microwave (and then witness the mortified reaction of the kid who owned it) is guaranteed a spot on this list!
19. Arcade Side Scrollers (Arcade)
Ok, this is a bit of an 'umbrella' entry, because it covers a couple games that, in my mind, all deserve a place on this list. Specifically, I give props to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, and Golden Axe).
What these games all had in common was that you could get together with a couple friends at an arcade (or play by yourself, if you were me and had no friends...hence this list), and blow a whole months allowance worth of quarters, all in the name of moving from left to right and unleashing all holy hell on animated sprite-villains of your choice.
Back in my day, we had one joystick to move your characters, and two buttons: a punch/kick and a special attack button. If you were lucky, you could combine these in a handful of ways and perform some KRAYZEE moves (usually the screen would flash and a few enemies that used to be there would now be lying dead on the ground)
What made these games so special was that they were so fun and so vibrant that they were basically giant quarter-vacuums. If you died it was always a life or death scramble to fish another fistful of quarters out of your corduroy shorts (don't judge me) before the Continue? screen went away. But you kept plugging away, thrashing your way through wave after wave of enemies, fighting the occasional outlandish, screen-filling boss, cheering on your friends (or yourself, silently in your head...) as they whooped ass. It was great fun.
Not great fun: being stuck playing as Dazzler in X-Men. Seriously. Ooh, watch out. I'll sparkle at you. Weak sauce.
18. Uncharted 2 (Ps3)
This game is pretty straightforward. Thrills-a-minute action adventure game, starring gruff but charismatic loner on a voyage to uncover ancient treasure. Simple stuff really.
The reason this game ranks on my list is because it's so motherloving entertaining, it's almost a sin. If Moses could hike himself back up that mountain and find a new set of commandments, he would find "Thou Shalt Not Play Uncharted 2", because anything this much fun must be a sin.
The game itself is gorgeous. Playing it on my big-ass, fancy tv all in hi-def glory is basically one giant orgasm of my eyes. The amount of detail put into this game is ludicrous. I'm not just talking about the areas in which you play, but if you stop and look around, every facet of the world around you is so painstakingly realized, you'd swear it was real life. I remember the first time I played it, and in the opening chapter I stopped at one point simply to pan the camera around and take in the surroundings. Places that you will never actually visit in the game, just far off vistas. Nearly photorealistic. Eyegasm.
All the characters in the game have so much individual personality, so much charm (or lack thereof, with the villains), it's as if this game was starring major name actors. One of my favourite moments comes early on, when you're scaling a wall to climb atop a building. Suddenly your partner shouts out something like "bad guy! above you, above you!". You grab said baddie by the ankles, yank him off the building where he plummets to his doom...and your partner says, deadpan "bad guy! below you, below you!". I damned near wet myself. It's a 3 second blast of cleverness you don't often see in games, and it's something that carries through the whole game.
In terms of actual gameplay, this game never lets up. From the first moments, you are constantly on the go, shooting and jumping and exploring and puzzle solving and ducking and punching and trading witty bon-mots and dying (A LOT) staring at your partner's ass and dodging and smelling yak ass and kicking a ball away from children...it's exhausting how much there is to do in this game! You are constantly being engaged and entertained. One of the most heart-stopping, unbelievable moments in the game is when you are in a building, shooting baddies, when a helicopter blasts the building with rockets. Suddenly the building is collapsing WITH YOU IN IT, and you keep on playing, running and gunning as the floor you are standing on tilts and drops and desks and books are flying around you... words cannot express how insane this scene is. It only lasts about 10 seconds, and when it was over I physically had to re-start breathing, because I'd stopped. No other game has done that to me!
17. Mortal Kombat 2 (SNES)
Fatalities. Babalities. Friendships. Acid pits. Spike pits.
I enjoyed Mortal Kombat 1, I did. Unfortunately for me, I had a SNES, therefore my version of MK1 was so sanitzed and de-awesomed, the characters didn't bleed, they sweated. You can just imagine what kind of neutered fun that game was.
MK2 roared back with a bloody vengeance, and for the first time, I felt like I was playing a 'grown up' game. It was so violent (for it's time), so bloody (ditto), I was shocked, appalled, and couldn't stop playing.
MK2 had such a wide ranging roster of kombatants, you could hardly ever get bored playing it. True, this is where the MK series really began it's palette-swapping instead of creating truly new characters (Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile...we get it! Lin Kuei clan! Oy!), but at the time it was original and awesome. I always loved that it was real people playing the kombatants too. It made it so much more icky when they died their various deaths.
Perhaps it was morbid that I was so fascinated with this game. Things like Kung Lao sawing his enemy in half with his razor hat or Baraka hacking up so-and-so in an armblade frenzy was just so unexpected to see back then. People could still be shocked by something in a videogame, and I loved it for that reason. Sure, the fighting mechanics were a bit wooden and it was never much about the combos as it was "trade hits until someone dies", but it was simple and it was efficient and unpretentious. And maybe, just maybe, you would spare your foe and turn him into a baby instead of eating his head. (although I can bet that I wasn't the only one who desperately wished that you could perform a Fatality on a recently babied Babality!)
16. Super Castlevania 4 (SNES)
I played this game for hours upon hours upon hours. I barely remember the story (a Belmont of some sorts off to whip the shit out of Dracula). I only know that it was fun beyond all reason and that's good enough for me.
I'd always liked the earlier Castlevania games, but they always felt very limited, very stiff. What this one did was it seemed to free the series up and make it truly feel like an action game. Leaping and whipping and hurling boomerangs never felt so immediate in the series.
Man oh man, what I remember most was possibly the most useless move ever put into a videogame. Normally Mr. Belmont would snap out his whip to kill the various ghouls and nasties. However, if you held onto the attack button, he would continue to hold him hand out with the now limp whip dangling there. You could push the arrows on the directional pad and he would gently flail about the whip in a spinning, jerking manner. It was basically like an arthritic grandmother wafting her hankerchief in the air. It was weak. You had to allow enemies to essentially walk into you (and since it was so weak, it would never kill them). It served absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Yet there it was, available to me to do. So I did what any kid would do: I flailed. I died SO MANY TIMES because I wanted to see if I could successfully complete, well, anything by wafting about my whip. No surprise here; I never did.
Something about the fact that the game presented you with such a flagrantly useless ability always struck me as being oddly amazing. Sure, the game was fun and it had killer graphics (for it's time. OOOOH SHIT! THE ROOM IS ROTATING!!), but what I will always remember is me/Belmont, standing in front of a crushing wall of undead deathmonsters, whip determinedly fluttering about in front of me, convinced I would beat the game like this.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
My thinking goes back to one of the basic tenets of evolution: survival of the fittest. I just think that all of our advances in technology and science mean that the genetic "winners" who by all rights should be dominating are stuck with hanging out with genetic "losers" who should really have been bred out of existence.
Take me for example :p I am in no way an example of an overall healthy human being. Just a small sampling of the illnesses passed through my family genes are: heart failure, mental disorder, cancer, glaucoma, lupus, alcoholism. I myself suffer from a whole slew of various minor & major health conditions.
If we (aka humans) didn't have things like medicine, machines, etc, my genetic line would have died off a long time ago, no doubt about it. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy being alive and all! I'm just saying that under the rules of survival of the fittest, I wouldn't even get so much as a Participant ribbon in this human race.
Imagine a world where everyone with a flawed genetic line was wiped out. What/who would be left? Those genetically dominant humans would be the ones to grow and evolve and become whatever humans turn into next (superpowered mutants!!). But here's all us genetic losers and sickys muddying up the genetic pool, bringing everyone else down.
Ok, yes, this is some weird thinking and it makes me look like I'm espousing offing anyone who isn't "perfect", but I can't help but wonder if all our technological and medical advances actually hinder our development as humans. Hmmm... I dunno. Maybe I'm just weird. (maybe?!)
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Let me be clear: this is some NSFW shit. I'm mighty mighty gay and a lot of this I'm like "YIKES!". If you click and browse you do so under fair warning. (now you just knooooooow you wanna check it out)
Fun fact: it's the guy better known as Manicorn, David Mason. So...hot... See: http://www.exterface.com/unicorn/
Basically he's this sex crazed, over-muscled, fetish-tastic homo who posts random comments on life interspersed with some raunchy as hell posts. Let me be clearer: I am not into fetish. I'm not into whacked out kink. I'm not some oversexed muscle mary (like he is). There should really be very little that draws me into his blog.
But then he'll go and post something as hysterically funny as this:
...and I'm like, yep, there it is. Never before have I seen so much love for Grace Jones, Samantha Fox, Liza Minelli, Cher, and everything kitschy gay.
Most of my reactions to the blog are "eek!" and "oh no, more penis!" but then every now and then I find myself laughing like a hyena at what he's now proclaiming to be another Creature Fiercer Than You., and it's some crazy praying mantis that pretends to be an orchid and then *NOM!* eats the bug. Or he'll make a post about having CRAZY sex with some random guy (eek) which afterwards makes him want to sit around all day and eat boxes of Froot Loops (HAA!).
If you can wade through the raunch and the weirdness, you will find a surprisingly hilarious blog, and that's good enough for me. You might have the sudden impulse to minimize your browser whenever you hear someone coming, for fear that they see you and throw you some mad shade (also, the blog will increase your gay vocabulary by at least 32%) but ignore it. They may get a laugh too.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Firstly, that is tiring as FUCK and I am pretty sure that I have egg/sugar goob in my eyebrow that I'm hesitant to remove for fear that it will take part of my eyebrow with it. .
Secondly, I am 100% certain it wasn't beaten enough and therefore this monstrosity will become some warped, sweetened, baked egg goob. With whipped cream, toasted nuts and fruit topping.
Also, let me point out a detail to y'all. Toasting almonds: no problem. Toasting walnuts: no problem. Toasting coconut shavings: akin to asking someone to set your house on fire. After about 3 minutes of having them in the oven this awful, burnt, suntan-lotiony smell began emanating from the oven. I opened the oven door only to find that what was once a smattering of lovely little white coconut flakeys was now a charred, angry bed of black death. That smelled of the tropics.
Scratch the toasted coconut. Walnuts are a go though!
FIRST UPDATE: holy shit, it's the size of a house. Ok maybe not that big but it has spread to encompass the entire baking sheet. I don't know whether to eat it or to ride it across the Mushroom Kingdom.
SECOND UPDATE: HEY HEY NOW! It's nearing the end of it's bake time and it actually looks like a meringue!! A little golden baked :D
FINAL UPDATE: it's fucking delicious. A little darker on the bottom than I would've liked, but I blame that on my stupid oven and it's propensity to be irregularly warm. Small problem though: I now have a meringue the size of a fortress...and only myself to eat it. Mama's getting fat tonight!
FINAL FINAL UPDATE: ok, no. The darkened bottom ended up giving it an overtoasted marshmallow taste, and I put too much liquidy stuff on top and it was a large gooey mess. HOLY SWEETNESS BATMAN I got the diabetes from it. Still, a valiant effort and I will certainly try again, at a lower heat.
Friday, July 16, 2010
So welcome to the first edition of "Watch This, Not This". Today we're going to look at [rec] versus Quarantine. [rec] was originally released in 2007 in Spain, while Quarantine came out in North America in 2008. Both follow a plucky young reporter named Angela (played by Manuela Velasco and Jennifer Carpenter, respectively) as she trails a pair of firefighters on what she expects to be a typical news story while swiftly turns into, basically, a zombie infestation in a sealed off apartment building. It's shot entirely from the POV of her cameraman which lends a distinctive, immediate, youtube-y feel to the movie. Very cool!
First thing I want to express is that while this is called "Watch This, Not This", I actually do recommend watching Quarantine. It is a rare, Americanized remake of an already excellent foreign film which is genuinely decent and scary. [rec] is likely difficult to find, so in lieu of that, grab a copy of Quarantine and be entertained and freaked out.
That said, if you can find it, [rec] is definitely the superior product. The camerawork tends to be a bit less jerky, the overall look is a hair grittier and more realistic, and the scares jump out at you a smidge more effectively. The problem I found with Quarantine is that despite the fact that it's shot from a reporters video camera, it still has too much Hollywood gloss to it. Or maybe it's the perils of watching it on Blu-Ray, with it's sharp edges and vivid colours. But [rec] comes across as being more low-fi and genuine, and that adds heaps to the atmosphere and realism (realism being a term loosely used to describe a zombie movie, of course).
Both movies suffer from having a lot of secondary characters who never really amount to much except to be appetizers on feet. I'm fine with that but a lot of the time you don't know what is happening outside the realm of the cameras lens. There are times when characters aren't on the screen and you vaguely know that zombie shit is happening somewhere, but then the next time you see the character, he or she is zombified themself and you're like "wait, what??". I suppose it makes sense because of how everything is filmed but it gets a bit disorienting sometimes. Just assume that if you haven't seen someone for a while and zombie shit has happened recently, then that person is turned.
The little girl that features prominently in both films is waaaaaaaaaay more effective in the Spanish version. Ooh shit. That's all I say.
The biggest difference I can notice between the two movies is the 10-15 minute final sequence in the attic/penthouse. I first watched Quarantine shortly after it came out and this sequence freaked the everloving poops out of me. Just recently I watched [rec], though, and this same climax is so, so, SO much freakier. I watched it alone in the dark and when...well, the final zombie comes into the picture I was just about ready to shut the whole thing off. It was THAT scary! I just watched Quarantine again tonight and with the final minutes of [rec] still fresh in my mind, it just can't compare. If you never see [rec], you will still enjoy the end of Quarantine. If you do watch [rec] you will undoubtedly agree with me.
Firstly is the explanation, vague as it is, of the source of all the troubles. Without spoiling anything [rec] is far more explicit about laying out the cause. You might not be 100% certain what the reason is but you will still be about 80-85% sure, and what you are guessing is likely correct. Quarantine takes a very different tack in both reasoning and presentation. All I will say is that the cause in [rec] and the cause in Quarantine are very, very different. And in Quarantine the viewer has to make inferences based on quick views of things within the penthouse and add them up to what they think created the zombies. Maybe it's better to leave it up to the imagination, but trying to read headlines of articles tacked to a wall as a camera goes speeding by is not my idea of 'resolution'. In comparison, it kinda cheeses me that Quarantine took such a vague route.
The camerawork in this sequence is far superior in [rec]. I know it's supposed to be just a guy holding onto his videocamera but in Quarantine it's like he loses all motor skills and we're left to whirl about the room along with him. *zip- there's a zombie! *zip there's a hospital bed! *zip- there's Angela! *zip- OH SHIT, ZOMBIE!* In [rec] he's still jittery and prone to not focusing on one thing but it's a lot smoother and easy to follow. The viewer is able to take in a lot more of the tension and atmosphere of the situation and, worse, really get to appreciate that last creature.
Oh and what a doozy she is. Maybe I'm just a sucker for night vision, but seeing anyone/thing with that creepy pale glow in the eyes is usually enough to make me curl into the fetal position (I'm looking at you Silence of the Lambs). In [rec] I'm fairly sure she HAS to be cgi, whereas in Quarantine they may have been able to use a human actor. All I know is that if [rec]-bitch ever hobbled into my line of sight I would flat out die on the spot. She's scarier in [rec], too, because you get a semi-explanation as to who she is, while in Quarantine she's just some random nasty. Knowing what you do about her makes her that much freakier. UUUUUUUGH I get the willies just thinking about it.
I sincerely hope they do an Americanized version of the sequel. I just think that based on the changes they made to the end sequence they would have to completely re-imagine the storyline of the second. The characters and their motives cannot exist in the Americanized sequel, which is too bad. (*note- I just finished watching [rec] 2, and boy howdy is it a doozy. It's not a stretch to say that it's a sequel which actually improves upon the first.)
When it boils down to it, [rec] is 100% on my list of best zombie movies ever. It doesn't rely on a lot of cheesy, over the top, or overtly grotesque special effects to sell it's zombies. Nor does is it equate 'zombie' with any sort of heavy handed metaphorical allegory. These are nasty, bitey, murderous beings that are gonna come fuck you up and that's that. By using the POV of the cameraman to put us directly in the 'combat zone', it provides a refreshingly unique approach to horror movies (remember, this was before Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity!). Quarantine is, though not equal to, nevertheless a fantastic movie in it's own right. It's still a remake which loses a little bit of the excellence of it's predecessor.
My vote: Watch This- [rec] A-
... AND This- Quarantine B
*starts listening to All The Lovers*
Anywhoseywhatsits, with the release of "Aphrodite", her 11th studio album and my current obsession, I thought I'd take a look back over her more recent albums and offer up my unsolicited and assinine thoughts!
Impossible Princess- released 1997
Lead single- Some Kind Of Bliss
* not gonna lie, this is easily one of my least favourite songs by her. Mostly because it's so out of sorts with everything else she's done. I can recognize the fact that by choosing this as the first single she was clearly announcing that we're in for something different with this album, but the song is bland and IMO tries too hard to be "un-Kylie". Furthermore, while Kylie isn't known for having the strongest vocal chops, this is one of the only songs I can think of where that actually becomes a detriment to the song. This begins Kylie's track record of choosing really whackadoo lead singles- just you wait!
Title track- Dreams
* a title track only in the sense that it contains the line "these are the dreams of an impossible princess". I often look to the title track of any album to be the defining mission statement of any album, and so I look to this one as such. I find this song very interesting. The sound is very dramatic and ominous, with loads of electric guitars thrown up against violins. The lyrics match that battle between different sounds in that they refelct a woman struggling with desires one way or another. The song reads as a woman entering maturity, having difficulty deciding what she wants in life. That confusion and desire to have it all is very reflective of the incohesiveness of the album as a whole and the mish-mash of styles that went into it.
Final thoughts: A different album, certainly. It stands out as her most unique and ambitious album by far, but one can't help but wonder if Kylie just isn't cut out for sonically adventurous type music. The choice to feature "natural" instruments like drums, guitars, and such more prominently than, say keyboards and other such electronics make for a interesting and, again, un-Kylie sound. That being said, there are some fantastic tracks on this. From the sexy synth of "Breathe", to the bratty pop of "Did It Again" (the video is one of my faves, self-aware but not narcissistic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM5jhxK1Gu0 ), the punky breeziness of "I Don't Need Anyone" and Eastern-inflected "Limbo", this is definitely a listenable album. You just need to recalibrate your expectations of what a Kylie Album is and listen accordingly.
Light Years- released 2000
Lead Single- Spinning Around
*Remember what I said about jank lead singles? Ignore that for a moment. This has got to be one of the greatest lead singles ever. Launches out of the gate with a declaration of "I'm spinning around, move out of my way" Kylie returns to her dance pop roots from the strangeness of Impossible Princess. Proclaimed her comeback song (the poor woman has suffered the "comeback song!" curse many times), this song is bright, assertive, irresistible and fun. Even now, 10 years later, if you want to put on your headphones and strut like a woman in charge, this is the go-to song. It's no surprise that this song got the album off to a great start.
Title Track- Light Years
*A fuckin' weird song, but since it closes this album, by this point you are either riding high on the Kylie wave or you are so full of cheese that you feel like a Pizza Pocket. In it Kylie assumes the role of intergalactic flight attendant, taking the listener on a trip to, I dunno, aural fantasy? It's spaced out, sparse and features a spoken interlude where Kylie does a safety anouncement directing listeners to the emergency exits. If this is the Mission Statement of the album, one can only assume that Kylie is saying "hey, I'm gonna take you on a voyage to fun and fanciful places. Come along!". I dig it.
Final Thoughts: Holy crap, this is a jaunty album. There is "summer album" and then there is this. I can see how it would be easy to dismiss this album as piffle, even braindead. But frankly, sometimes you just want to put on an album you know will a)put a smile on your face and b)a tap in your toe. A lot of the songs may be silly ("Koocachoo", "Your Disco Needs You" - did they all just sing ASS?) but I love it. After Impossible Princess I can understand her desire to do what she does best: bright, danceable, pop perfection. "Butterfly" remains one of my favourite songs by her. There's a line in "Kids" that really sums it up: "and we'll paint by numbers 'til something sticks, I don't mind doing it for the kids". She knows she isn't breaking any new ground, or blowing anyone's minds. She's doing it for the people who want it, and that's fine by her (and me!)
Fever- released 2002
Lead Single- Can't Get You Out Of My Head
* Sing it with me folks : "la la la, la la la laa laaa"! Don't act like you don't know this song, and don't act like it didn't rule your brain for weeks after it came out. Now I'm gonna say something shocking here: in theory, as a lead single, she was bonkers to use it. It's weird, stuttery, almost overly simple, and compared to some other songs, it should never have been the lead. Second, third single, maybe. In practice, it was (and still is) one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded. You listen to this song once or twice and it is lodged in your brain like a hungry tick, until you are sitting at your desk humming the "la la laa"s without even realizing it. Even the video is kind of whackadoo (here begins her practice of making dancers do weird ass things), but nothing can compare to her white, one piece, hooded dress thingy. I'm a homosaurus rex and even I was like "DAYYYUMMM!" when I saw her in it. It was this song which made me into a Kylie fan (I was still unaware of anything before this except for "Locomotion").
Title Track- Fever
*What the crap? I love this song, but really Kylie, you have come down with a case of lovesickness fever and you need a doctor to heal you? I have tried to figure out how this song could work as a Mission Statement, but it really doesn't work. Unless it is to say that dancing is the cure to what ails you, and this album is meant to fix you? A weird little song, very disposable.
Final Thoughts- Oh Fever, how I love you. This was the first album I owned of hers, and so I always look to this as the yardstick by which I measure her other releases- how do they compare to Fever? The album is a slice of euro-pop wonder, and is one of those rare albums where you listen from front to back and everything is solid. Standouts are "In Your Eyes" (easily one of the top 3 best songs she's done), "Love At First Sight", "Love Affair"...oh hell, everything rocks my socks. What I love best about this is that it takes the joy and bounce of Light Years and strips away a lot of the silliness that rendered it a bit (ok, a lot) cheesy. Really, for anyone looking to get into Kylie, this is where you start.
Body Language- released 2004
Lead Single- Slow
* As a lead single, this is a total fail for me. There's no hook, nothing that bites into me and says "LISTEN TO MEEEEEEEE!". Yes, it's sexy and seductive and she lays on the breathy vocals like she's dying of tuberculosis but it's too joyless and calculated (and therein lies a major problem I have with the rest of the album.). I like my Kylie poppy and fun, and I can certainly allow for her to try out different things, but this took away her soul, for me.
Title Track- Slow
* Again, this counts as the title track only in the sense that she says "body language" in it. As a Mission Statement, it makes it very clear that she's going to try to ply you with her slinky, electro charms. It also displays that her dancey, hooky fun is out the window in favour of cold, calculated synth. *sad face*
Final Thoughts- I will give credit where credit is due, there are some good songs. I like "Secret (Take You Home)", "Chocolate" (where she does slinky/sexy correctly), "Loving Days", but on the whole I just never got into this album. I always get the feeling that this was her attempt to become more mainstream by ditching the bubbly charm that always kept her on the outs with "serious" listeners in favour of r&b sounds and inoffensive electro. If Kylie has gone through many different incarnations, this was 'Serious Kylie', and I'm not feeling it.
X- released 2007
Lead Single- 2 Hearts
* Let me be clear: I fucking ADORE this song. That out there? Y'all get that? Ok good. Now then, WORST LEAD SINGLE OF LIFE. Suddenly Kylie becomes glam-pop-rock queen? It makes no sense. By leading off an album with a style so unlike typical Kylie, I feel like she alienated a lot of potential new listeners who were so blatantly confused by the shift in style. X was supposed to be (another) her comeback album and this likely ruined the chance of that; people just didn't know what the hell was going on. As for the musical worth of this song, it's a smash. Handclaps, jaunty "woooo!"s, slamming piano, and a more organic sound make for one of her most unique songs. Granted it's all a sound that we don't really hear again on the album but you have to love it anyways.
Title Track- umm, there isn't one.
* X was always meant to refer to the fact that it was her 10th album. In a way, that highlights a failing of this album: it has no clear Mission Statement, no throughline to make a cohesive album. More on that...
Final Thoughts- ...right now. X is a solid collection of songs, no doubt about it. When it came out it was just about the only thing I had the ability to listen to! But recently I've been reading some reviews of it that were all united on the fact that it's just not a great album. The Kylie fanboy in me screamed "NO YOU ARE WRONG! IT'S AMAZING! GRRRAAAWWWWRRRR!!!" but I thought I should take an objective view at it and yeah, as an album it's a bit weak. The awesome songs are there, they just don't all fit together. She plays style hopscotch like she did in Impossible Princess and once again the results are a bit discordant and confused. I still love a great many of the songs here, "In My Arms", "Wow", "All I See", "Speakerphone", and more, but they're better served as individual listens that a straight, front to back listen.
Aphrodite- released 2010
Lead Single- All The Lovers
* Oh holy hell, I need to compose myself. We go from "2 Hearts" as the worst lead single of life to this, the best. When I first heard this song it became my life goal to listen to it on repeat until my ears dropped off from overload. Much like "Spinning Around", she lays it all out in the first line: 'dance, it's all I wanna do so baby dance'. Nice and clear of her, innit? What follows is a euphoric, propulsive, emminently danceable, lyrically unabashed celebration of love and dance. What really sells it for me is that it, for me, is the ultimate alchemy of joyful pop Kylie with a current, 'grown up' sound. It's the kind of song that should rightly convert the critics. The best bit happens after the slowdown that follows the second chorus. Her voice fades away, blippy percussion skitters along for a handful of beats and then BAM! Drums and the kind of kind of blissful synth that makes you want to raise your arms and sway bursts out. Gives me shivers almost every time. Bonus points go to the video for being such a (scantily clad) blast :D
Title Track- Aphrodite
(there are no versions of this on youtube *sad face*)
* If you want a Mission Statement, you've got it. Backed by a stompy, military sound Kylie makes it very clear that she is back to rock your world and she's doing it better than others can do it. It's a bit of a departure for her, because she's always been the kind to do her own thing, oblivious to others. Yet here she is saying she's pop-queen shit and all y'all others better recognize. It's a new incarnation, "Dominant Kylie" and it fits her like a glove. A little ego, a little bragging, it's all good. I can see this becoming a HUGE hit with gays and single, sassy women everywhere. WERK!
Final Thoughts- Again it seemed like Kylie needed a comeback album, something to put her in the spotlight and really let her explode. If Light Years did it for her in the 00's, then Aphrodite is definitely it for the 10's. She's at her best making pop music to put you on the dancefloor and boy howdy she doesn't disappoint. There are a couple hiccups, admittedly, like "Illusion" and "Looking For An Angel", but they don't detract all that much. The one-two punch of "All The Lovers" followed by "Get Outta My Way" (just TRY listening to this while you are walking without power strutting) are enough to to make this album a classic, but there are bright spots like "Cupid Boy", "Better Than Today", "Closer", "Can't Beat This Feeling" and more. It is no surprise that it is already shaping up to be her most successful album, critically and commercially, since Fever (which was, in fact, slagged a bit critically), hitting #1 in several European countries as well as debuting higher than any album she's released in the US.
FINAL NOTE- Albeit not official studio albums, it should be metioned that she also has a couple live albums that are essential listening. Defying expectations of typical pop stars, betch can sing live! Her live shows are fantastic and she has a keen knack of reworking older songs to make them really special, like "Locomotion" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z-cjxaZNiw ). I would absolutely recommend Showgirl: Homecoming (her return to the stage after finishing treatment for cancer). SO GOOD!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I was in a massive cafeteria, such as you might find in a university or a hospital. People everywhere. Me being me, I was hungry, and decided to go to KFC. Yay for no lineups! I get up to the counter, order myself a 10 piece chicken meal, because I have never eaten apparently.
TWIST! I'm short on money. I need two more dollars. That's when random attractive stranger wearing a suit appears and offers to pay the rest. My hero! He's cute too. Shaggy but well controlled dark hair, tall, baby faced. *nom*
We get to chatting (no idea what about) and we decide that he's going to join me for lunch. I have a lot of chicken after all! But then my phone rings and it's Macy Gray who needs me to come get her from the beach. BAD TIMING!!
What I end up doing is I leave the box of chicken with Rando (he never gets a name) and make him promise not to leave the cafeteria. I drive off to the beach, pick up Macy Gray, and drive back. Once we get out of the car she starts walking away, but in my dream she has monstrously long legs, so to keep up I have to run after her. We soon part ways.
I get back into the cafeteria and lo and behold, Rando is not to be found. MAMA NEEDS HIS CHICKEN! Cue entrance of Marie who just appears out of nowhere, and we try to find him. She comes up with the plan that if one of us starts to shout "CHICKEN!?" then he'll know to respond with "CHICKEN!!" and we'll find him. So suddenly there's the two of us yelling "CHICKEN?!" at the top of our lungs, followed by a distant shout of "CHICKEN!!".
Eventually we find him hidden around a corner at a table for him and I, and he has now changed into casual clothes. Marie totally disappears from the dream (sorry luv!) at this point. Your influence will soon be felt again though, don't worry! I suppose we must eat the food and chat, but I don't think any of this took place in my dream because suddenly we're into a musical interlude as if we were in Glee and he's singing a song that in the real world I'm faaaaaairly sure doesn't exist, but in Dream World I was sure was sung by Daughtry (there you are again Marie). I don't know if the song was supposed to be about what he was feeling at the moment or if it was about me, but he was singing and dancing alone in a totally black room doing some inexplicably high kicks while hitting the notes (the best way to descibe his kicks are like when the Cullens are playing baseball in the first Twilight movie, and Alice is pitching. Every time she throws the ball she does this weird kick, and that's what dream guy was doing. Because why not?)
That's where the dream ends, because I rolled over in my sleep and pissed off my angry sunburnt back. The first few minutes were a weird mood combination of "OW my back" and "that was weird..." and "mmm fried chicken".
If anyone wants to take a stab at dream interpretation, have at 'er! I'm especially intrigued to know what Macy Gray's long legs were all about.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
What really made the moment special was that as it was slipping through the holes in the drain it seemingly grabbed ahold of the metal edges with it's skittery-awful little legs and clung to it like it was re-enacting a scene from Cliffhanger. As I refilled my mug with water it held on for dear life, trying to pull itself back out and it's frantic misery brought me great pleasure.
It took a couple mugs of water to finally wrench it free of the drain but I got the wiggly bastard. ENJOY YO' SWIM, BITCH!
Furthermore, I discovered a way to make killing earwigs more enjoyable (aka I don't want to huddle in a corner and moan). I pretend I'm a ninja-raptor killer and stalk around the bedroom with my hands full of kleenex. When I find an earwig (not hard to do lately) I give a little raptor-shriek and give it a violent peck with the kleenex glove. Surprisingly satisfying!
How I've never been committed to a mental hospital is beyond me.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
1. Lost. Well DUH. What did you expect me to say? If you read this and still this was a surprise to you, you need to just go away. I'm not even gonna go on a spiel about why I love it.
2. Cougar Town- It is SO easy to roll a derisive eye at this. I know, because before it came out I was definitely one of those people who scoffed. A tv show starring the worst 'Friend' about a middleaged woman who lusts after young'uns. Throw in the lady from 'The Drew Carey Show' and her terrifying new face and mix it up with a fairly terrible first episode, and you got yourself a winner! Strangely I stuck with it and thank the baby jesus for that, because no other show makes my laugh hysterically on a consistent basis. Firstly, you have to throw away your expectations because it is NOT about Courtney Cox being a cougar and lusting after the young'uns. That plot is thrown away within the first few episodes. It's become a show that celebrates friendships and family in all it's forms, as well as drinking lots of wine and beer along the way. Umm, YES! Maybe it's because I see a lot of myself and my friends in the characters, but every week I'm like "I want that life!!" And I don't know why she never showed it before, but Courtney Cox is fucking hilarious. It makes me like Monica Geller a little more. Best thing about the show: Busy Phillips, who plays brassy and klassy (yes, with a 'k') Laurie. Part of the joy of watching the show is the hilarious things they say. The other part is watching Laurie's as she reacts to things. Honestly, it makes me re-watch episodes over and over, just to fall over in laughter at her face. Let me say it again: GET OVER YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS AND WATCH A FEW EPISODES. Best comedy on tv right now, no question. Even better than 30 Rock *sacrilege!* PENNY CAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN!
3. Vampire Diaries- STOP ROLLING YOUR EYES! This season was blessed/cursed with shows that it is very easy to form an opinion without ever watching a show (see also: Cougar Town). VD was another one of those, and I admit to mocking it mercilessly before it even came out. Sample thought: "oh gee, ANOTHER teenage drama about wimpy vampires and angst and the sullen girl caught in the midst. PUKE PUKE PUKE". What became very obvious soon after the show began was that it is a decidedly grown up and unstereotypical show. Every character is exceedingly well created and people you would expect to be one way (ie. Caroline, the pretty, blonde, Queen Bee personality) surprise you by surmounting their 'type' to become genuinely interesting. Some take a little longer than others (ie. Jeremy, the sad, broody brother), but give it time. There isn't a weak link among the bunch. In terms of storytelling, VD is probably the most successful at propelling it's main story from week to week, introducing and solving mysteries, building suspense, taking big twists, creating conflicts, etc. I can't think of another show (nope, not even Lost *SACRILEGE!*) that so efficiently tells it's story and holds my interest from week to week. My investment into the ultimate story of Lost was fostered over the course of several seasons, whereas with VD it has come about within it's very first. Impressive stuff! BOTTOM LINE: get over your initial smug, 'oh yay, another teen vampire drama' inclination and you'll be happily surprised.
4. Modern Family- Another comedy! Another show in it's first season! I must be easily impressed by new things. (yeah, pretty much) I have to say, it IS easier to get into this show than Cougar Town or Vampire Diaries, if only because it doesn't create the initial kneejerk reaction of "LAAAAAAAAME". MF is another one of those shows that makes me pretty near wet myself with laughter every time, but in a different way than Cougar Town. It's difficult to say why that is... I'm tempted to call it 'intelligent humour', but that isn't to say that CT isn't intelligent. I guess it's like comparing 'Frasier' to 'Friends', where MF is the Frasier and CT is the Friends. Both funny, well written, with a solid cast of characters, but people always look at "Frasier" as being the more 'highbrow' or the two. MF really is, at it's heart, about family. Three different versions, all related, all with their different idiosyncracies and stories. The gay dads raising their adopted baby, the old man and his younger wife, and the classically 'nuclear family'. All of them are BONKERS :p It's a rare show that can both tickle your funny bone and warm your darkened little heart, and MF does that pretty much every week.
5. I need time to think about this one. I have two shows are are fighting for the title, and I need to carefully consider and pick just one. One is a comedy, one is a drama. WHICH WILL WIN!? tbc
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I've noticed a common thread amongst critics who are reviewing the more recent episodes of Lost. A sentence or phrase that keeps popping up with alarming consistency is "I will be so disappointed if 'insert mystery here' isn't answered by the finale".
Now, I am a card carrying, "I'm A Candidate" t-shirt wearing, blog updating, friend aggravating, theory espousing fan of Lost. (I will pause a moment for you to say "well DUH"). But am I going into the finale with my list of theories that MUST BE ANSWERED OR ELSE I GET HULK-SMASHY? Hell no. The minute I do that, I set myself up to be let down.
I think too many people are heading into sunday's finale with this sense of "alright Lost, I've stuck with you for six years. I forgave you Nikki & Paolo. I acted like I cared about Jack's tattoos. I didn't leave you when you killed Libby/Juliet/Jin/Sun (ok, mostly Sun and notsomuch Jin). YOU OWE ME!". Lost doesn't owe us anything except for to finish telling the story it was always meant to. Oh sure, there are a great many things that I would like to get addressed and/or answered. But will I revolt if they aren't? No.
A review I was reading made a very good point about last week's episode, "Across The Sea", which by all accounts has caused many a Lostie to throw their arms up in disappointment and say a very loud "wtf?!". The author made the point that the episode had the effect of re-focusing our attentions on the themes and motives that REALLY matter to Lost. We've gotten so distracted by things like "What happened to Ben's childhood friend Annie?? Why were the Others building an airplane runway?? What about the Hurleybird??" that we forget the most important question raised by the show: "what is the Island and what do the Losties have to do with it? And what is going to happen to our beloved Losties?" "Across The Sea" very plainly set in motion what is necessary to have those questions answered, so yay for it.
We get so caught up in the little finicky details of the show that it gets difficult to seperate our own vested interest from the ultimate story that Lost is trying to tell. We need to catch our breaths, sit back and let it all unfold as the writers want it to. And frankly, from day one this has been a show that heavily uses ambiguity to pepper it's story. Why shouldn't it end on the same note?
I say, by the time the show is done on sunday night and I have composed myself into a somewhat manageable human-shaped ball of mess, whatever questions remain unanswered are just fodder to keep my brain occupied for who knows how long, gleefully theorizing away.
That being said, if Rose, Bernard or Vincent don't show up in the finale, I'm going to be SO disappointed.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My pondering: is the same true of gay friendships? I would argue, yep. Not gonna lie, I've had friends who, if circumstances were different, I'd totally bone them. Really, what's wrong about that? The best sexytimes is always with someone you feel close to anyways!
The fact that I have had both wine and beer tonight probably isn't helping the thinking process any. Mmmm, sexy friends.
Friday, April 16, 2010
And who better to start off this new column than Neko Case? Truly one of modern music's most unique, challenging and recognizable voices, I will admit that when I was first made to listen to her, I hated her music. As Joel describes her, she is 'VERY folky', which works just fine for me now. If I had to describe her music, I'd call it alt-country-folk. Clearly, not exactly one for the masses.
But be open to her, and you are in for a treat. Her voice and her music combine to create the most incredible listening experience, which I say with no amount of hyperbole. Listening to her, especially when discovering her for the first time, really is an experience. I still get chills listening to her earlier material!
In any event, it's best to just listen to her, think about it, listen to her again, and fall deeply in love. She's not for everyone, but everyone should listen to her.
I've included the links to youtube so you can hear the song I'm talking about. I'm so thoughtful :)
1. Furnace Room Lullaby (from Furnace Room Lullaby- 2000)- The first song I'd recommend for any Neko virgin is this. One major reason for this is that you learn two important things: 1)her voice is RIDICULOUS. Gorgeous, full, haunting. I remember once hearing that her voice can be best likened to Patsy Cline's ghost. I support that! 2)Half of the time you are not going to have any idea what she's singing about. Neko Case writes songs for herself and her plays on words, lyrical choices, etc, will likely make no sense to anyone outside her brain. Just roll with it.
2. Porchlight (from Furnace Room Lullaby- 2000)- I love the lazy drum, the casual guitar, the rich twang in her voice. This one is very country-tastic, be warned. She wrote it about being on the road, but desperately wanting to be back home. Pulled by the memories of her porchlight (natch). Cotton in your ears.
3. John Saw That Number (from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood- 2006)- Nothing like a little southern Gospel to get the party started! Playful, bluesy, it'll make you want to sway and clap your hands.
4. Deep Red Bells (from Blacklisted- 2002)- Blacklisted is one of those albums that every time I think about it, I'm struck by how much I ADORE it. This song is it's best, and easily one of my all time faves by Neko. I don't so much know what she's singing about (apparently it's about a man who was murdering hookers in Vancouver. K?) But the imagery in this song is so evocative. When I talked about getting chills by her songs, this is what I was talking about. There may be no better lyric than "it tastes like being poor and small and popsicles in summer" in modern music. Dunno why. It's just stuck with me ever since I heard it. But her voice when she sings the words Deep Red Bells is what I think of when I think of her. *shivers*
5. Outro With Bees (from Blacklisted- 2002)- Melancholy and sweet, I imagine this song playing from a wind up music box. It's a mere 1:36 long, every second of it pretty. The album closer Outro With Bees (Reprise) is almost better, in that it's played like a hidden gem found on an old AM radio. I envision a 50's housewife sitting in her kitchen, swaying sadly by herself. Also, the way her voice bends when she sings the first 'no' in the line "there's no sure footing, no love I believe" is my single favourite sung syllable in all music-dom. It sounds dorky to even think that, but it's true.
6. Look For Me (I'll Be Around) (from Blacklisted 2002) Admittedly, this song wasn't written by Neko. It was written in the 50's, and you can still hear it. Her version is just so bleak and sorrowful. This is the kind of song they play in old Blues bars just before closing and everyone is nursing their final drinks. You will also notice something: you can actually suss out what she's singing about! The benefits of her covering someone else's work ;) It's a sad song about longing after a lost love and hoping that one day they will give up all the glitz and fakery of the life they thought was best for them and come back to simple, loyal Neko. Heart...breaks.
7. I Wish I Was The Moon (from Blacklisted- 2002)- Another one of those 'chills' songs. Just listening to it now makes me stop writing so I can just sit here and sway. This song probably holds the record for most times inexplicably stuck in my head when I wake up in the morning. Couldn't tell ya why. Just is! haha Her voice is so full of emotion in this one, I love it. Anger, sorrow, longing, hope. All in there.
8. Hold On, Hold On (from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood- 2006)- What always surprises me about this song is how...mainstream it sounds. That isn't meant to sound disparaging, really. It just has a very meticulous, produced kind of sound. Hmm, still sounds like I'm insulting it. I wouldn't include it in this list if I didn't think it's one of her best. I guess it's just more accessible to the casual listener than, say, Deep Red Bells or something like that. It's less alt-country and more plain ole fashioned country (but bluesy and Neko-fied)
9. That Teenage Feeling (from FCBTF- 2006)- Who ISN'T holding out for that teenage feeling when it comes to love? You know, the silly, irresponsible, all consuming love we used to feel when we were younger and 'knew better'? An ode to feeling young and dumb and always believing that love should feel like that.
10. Lady Pilot (from Blacklisted- 2002)- This always puts me in a jaunty mood. I like the drama of it. Guaranteed to get you strumming your air guitar. I always (secretly) think of my forward-thinking, assertive, bold female friends as Lady Pilots (not afraid to fly)!
11. Running Out Of Fools (from Blacklisted- 2002)- A nice fat "eff you" to that ex that seems to haunt you. Originally performed by Aretha Franklin in 1964, it had none of the menace or the resentment that Neko's version has. Listen to them side by side and you will praise Jeebus that Neko re-did it her own way. An absolute must-listen.
12. Ghost Writing (from Blacklisted- 2002)- A real standout in her earlier career, this one is definitely evocative of her alt-bleak-country vibe. Oh LORD, her voice here is amazing.
13. This Tornado Loves You (from Middle Cyclone- 2009)- Neko re-imagines herself as a destructive force of nature, tearing across land and blasting through trailer park in search of her love. Her use of imagery is brilliant, once again. I lovelovelove how guitar is used in this one. The fluttery strum that carries over the whole song is so different and unique. LOVE IT.
14. Middle Cyclone (from Middle Cyclone- 2009)- What is most surprising about this song is that for once she drops the impenetrable lyrics and fancy imagery (although not entirely, of course) in favour of being vulnerable and personal. This song is about her struggles with loving and being loved and I just adore it. It harkens back to Outro With Bees in that it's a simple, repeating melody that would be more suited to an old fashioned music box. Don't let that simplicity fool you though. Beneath it lies an achingly bleeding heart.
15. I'm An Animal (from Middle Cyclone- 2009)- We're nearing 'rock' territory here! This one always strikes me as a relic from the late 90's Canadian music scene. I could see The Tragically Hip having a song like this (although I would invariably hate it). I enjoy that she's doing something new here with her 'typical' sound. She isn't changing to find a new audience; she's just trying on some new shoes to go along with her cowboy boots!
Monday, April 12, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
And yet a funny thing happened while watching this movie: I got wigged right the fuck out. I'm not talking "AHH! Something jumped at the camera accompanied by a violin shriek" jumpy kind of fear that passes in about 10 seconds. I'm talking true, knees up to the chin in protection, don't wanna see what is in the bathtub WHY DO YOU KEEP REACHING FOR THE SHOWER CURTAIN?! kind of wigged.
And I liked it!
The first thing you notice while watching is that it is shot and presented in a very specific, late 70's-early 80's on the cheap kind of style. Hair is big and the cassette tape players are bigger. It looks like it was filmed 30 years ago. Not to mention you can rent a house (from Dee Wallace, of 'Cujo' fame- probably the only actor in the movie you are likely to recognize with any sense of "ooh, what do I know her from??") for $300 a month.
This artistic choice is very clever and works perfectly for the movie. It's never used as a sly wink at the audiences, it's not meant to be ironic. It's just how it is, take it or leave it. What I took from it (and from the rest of the movie) is a very clear love for the style of horror movies that came out in that era, where not every scary movie had to feature young, sexed out/drugged up teens getting mutilated in clever and obscene ways. Yes, this movie stars a young, attractive lady, but it's never exploitative. She made me long for the days of Jamie Lee Curtis circa "Halloween" and "Prom Night".
To sum up briefly what the movie is about: young woman, Sam, finds perfect home to move into but needs to get money for it. Takes 'babysitting' job for a husband and wife in creepy large house. Convenient total lunar eclipse that night. Soon regrets ordering pizza. Soon regrets taking job. (see title of movie)
Now, one thing you need to know going into this movie is that it's slow. It takes a damn long time getting anywhere freaky. I admit I was getting a little bored at first. Still, it does something most scary movies don't give a lick about: it builds suspense and creates an atmosphere that can be best described as "off". The first third of the movie is pretty much about making the viewer on edge, so that when stuff does happen, it's easier to knock us over.
The first real shock of the movie isn't entirely unexpected. Without giving anything away (it's still DAMNED enjoyable), you know pretty much from the get go that this character is going to eat it at some point and in the moments before it happens, you know it's going to happen very soon. What's amazing is that when it does happen, it's so sudden and nasty that you're still completely taken aback. Joel and I just looked at each other like, "whoa".
And then it slips back into slow and creepy mode for just about the rest of the movie.
But oh man it's creepy. Even Sam knows it, and not long into settling in to 'babysit' for the night is she wandering the house, big ass knife in hand, turning on all the lights (THANK YOU movie character for finally doing what any normal human would) . By this point the movie is completely under your skin. Every time she opens a door, you're hoping that nothing is there. When she turns on a light, you cringe in anticipation. And that bathtub I mentioned? Yah...not empty :S
The final act of the movie is half intensely awesome/half letdown. After so much excellent buildup, there really could be nowhere truly satisfying to go, so things get bloody and chasey and then...end of movie. It's a shame because it feels like nothing really gets explained...and it doesn't. What did creepy couple need Sam for? Why was the eclipse important? And the very last line of the movie can either be contrived or fantastic. Again, without giving anything away, it's the kind of last second "surprise!" that we've come to expect from movies nowadays and that usally result in significant eye rolling and/or groans of dismay. That said, in keeping with the tone and presentation of the movie, back in the 70's/80's an ending like this would have been completely unexpected and shocking, so maybe in the context of this movie, it does work? I leave that to the viewer to sort out. I personally err on the side of 'clever', only because it does sorta kinda give a hint as to what the movie might have been about.
Anyways, final verdict: it's not perfect. it won't change the way horror movies are made. But it's damned effective and anyone who is really willing to give it a shot will be pleasantly disturbed. It's a tiny, unknown gem of a movie and unlikely to find a large audience, but afficionados of good horror should seek it out.
3.5 out of 5
Friday, April 2, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Honestly, 'Cougar Town', 'Modern Family' and 'Vampire Diaries' each have SO many things to love about them that it's impossible to rank one above the other.
I shudder to think how much I'm gonna have to spend on season dvds :S
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I have innumerable joyous memories associated with Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Link, Zelda, Ganon, Kirby (gaaay), Samus Aran (to a lesser extent), the Belmont clan, Cecil, Kain, Rosa, Rydia, Tellah, Palom & Porom (yes, f'realz), Cid, Yang, Fu So Ya, Golbez, Terra, Edgar, Sabin, Celes, Shadow, Relm, Strago, Locke, et al (y'know, the wild kid, the noble king dude, the gambler guy). The fact that I can name all those Final Fantasy characters from memory is a testament to the hours and hours spent playing FF2 and 3.
Now, if you were to give me a Wii, I'd probably smile politely, do a little homo-jig...and turn around and eBay it as soon as you were out of sight. It's not that I don't imagine some of it's games are fun, it's just that I have 0% interest in supporting Nintendo anymore.
With the onslaught of the next-gen systems, it was made very clear that Nintendo sought to create a new fanbase for itself; EVERYONE. They forsook (yep, I said it) power under the hood for things like accessability, casual appeal and charm. Yes, they still have Mario, Link, Samus, but what they don't have is the decency to spare us from titles like Cooking Mama Eleventy Billion or Collection of Sports Games Starring Cartoon People With Giant Heads: Ultra Shiny Deluxe "I Gots Ma New Teefs" Edition.
Nintendo went from being the powerhouse, the leader, nay, creator of the video game industry to being the childrens toy. I can appreciate that they wanted to expose videogaming to sectors of the market that otherwise would have laughed at the thought of playing video games (wahoo! Grandmas got herself a Wii Fit! Now she can keep her cankles to a minimum!).
In doing so, however, they have given up on catering to all us video game nerds that want real games, real graphics (fyi, they do matter Non-Mindo), real lasting entertainment. Wii Fit may have sold a whack of copies, but who is going to sit down and write a crappy little blog piece in 20 years talking about how many fond memories they have of playing it? Answer: no one. It's not a video game.
Plus, the amount of utter CRAP released for the Wii is just ludicrous. Again, Nintendo is no longer striving to put out real games. They're just hucking wad of pooh after wad of pooh at the wall and seeing what sticks (and what DOES stick invariably gets Wad of Pooh: Ultra Shiny Deluxe "I Gots Ma New Teefs!" Edition)
Turn to Sony now, maker of the shiny, wonderful PS3. Hello beautiful. *waves*
When this next-gen business starting rolling around, about the last thing I saw myself buying was the PS3. There had never really been many PS-exclusives back on the PS2 to make me want to stick around. LOVED my PS2, don't get me wrong! It was outrageously expensive, too. Again I thought, "man alive, have all these companies decided to completely alienate gamers?!".
Cut to now, where I could gleefully (and lord knows, I have) spend hours upon hours in a row, sitting on my couch, geeked out on either Uncharted or Bioshock or FF13 or God of War 3 (soon, my preciousss!) or any other host of games. HEAVEN!
When PS3 released the new version of the hardware, all slimmed down and shined up (thank you, Jenny Craig) for oodles cheaper, I finally took the plunge and bought it. I figured, "ok, now we're talking!". I bought Bioshock, Street Fighter 4, Soul Calibur 4, GTA 4, Devil May Cry 4 (hello #4) and since then have played other excellent games like the aforementioned Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed 2, Dragon Age: Origins, inFamous and, oh yes, FF13. Uniformly I am impressed with these games, because they are truly games and not 'entertainment free-for-alls' like Nintendo values. In years to come, so long as I can retain my mental faculties, I will still look back and think to myself "wow, remember when the building collapses in Uncharted 2...with you in it", or I will still recall leaping off a building and ganking a guard in ACreed2. I will marvel still at how enormous Chun Li's thighs have become and I may just tear up at recalling Vanille and Sazh's big confrontation in Nautilus.
The PS3 does now what Nintendo used to do; not just kill time with pretty shiny things, but actually amuse, engage, move and surprise me. I know it sounds kind of silly to make the PS3 sound so significant or mighty but to someone who has lived and breathed video games since he was a wee tyke, it IS a big thing. The PS3 does for me what Nintendo used to, but has since abandoned.
A thought just occured to me: I spent almost my entire 'video game life' with Nintendo, right? Then with the Wii they almost entirely abandoned videogaming as they had previously supported; In essence, they abandoned us loyalists too. Maybe that's where some of my disdain stems from. Don't you know my inherent abandonment issues Nintendo?! *shakey fist*
Anywho, long story short, I have oodles and oodles of love for my PS3 where once I had only suspicion and disinterest. As for Nintendo, where once they was love, loyalty and fond memories, there is only disappointment, irritation...but still some fond memories (ahh, learning how to do backflips in Mario 64. Good times.)
Friday, February 12, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
**Note 2- most of this was thought up after watching Lost last night, therefore my brain was in a bit more mush state. Also, there was a large bottle of wine involved. If that helps explain anything then so be it.
So, I've decided that I have solved Lost. Yep. After years of pulling out my hair and engaging in ridiculous conversation that leaves non-Losties utterly fearful for the state my mental health, I have reached an overarching conclusion regarding the great mystery: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Sitting down? Ready for a good laugh? Pour yourself a glass of wine (I'll wait......Back now? Ok.) and dive in!
What Lost seeks to do is present mankind's search for the meaning of Life (capital 'L' intended) on a small scale. It's often been wondered if the show is about redemption, family, the world as a global village, etc. To that I say, it is. And it isn't.
I WILL get to my point. It just may take while to get there.
Harken back to the conversation between Jacob and Mystery Man (henceforth known as Loopy, trademark Marie Lemay hehe) in the season finale of Season 5.
Loopy: You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren't you?
Jacob: You are wrong.
Loopy: Am I? They come. They fight. The destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
Jacob: It only ends once. Anything before that is progress.
I remember watching that and thinking "whew, I know this is likely important, but I'm too busy brain mushing to sort out the relevance". Now, given some time, here's what I think.
Jacob and Loopy have been toying with humans for a long long time. See: the Spanish promo for Lost. Youtube it, super easy to find. Ooh, the Losties are like pieces in a heavenly game of chess. Fitting, I'd say. Loopy is on the side that humans are iredeemable. We're crude, violent, unworthy of salvation. Black pieces. Jacob believes we are inherently good and deserve the chance to be proven worthy. Whtie pieces. Over however long they've been playing at it, Jacob & Loopy have manipulated the destinies of many people to bring them to the Island, which will serve as the test site of their struggle to be proven worthy. The Island is where they come up against great difficulties, torment, successess and failures, and Jacob & Loopy are sitting on the sidelines to see how humans 'perform'. If we 'win', humans may continue to live. 'Lose', and we perish.
So, as RuPaul would say, "Don't fuck it up!".
When Jacob says "it only ends once. Anything before that is progress", he means literally that humanity IS destined to be wiped out, just not anytime soon. In the time we are given we are to surmount the challenges that we are presented and learn from them to become better people. Fail at that, and buh-bye you miserable S.O.B.s!
When we ask "what is the meaning of Life?", we're asking a whole multitude of questions. What is my purpose on Earth? Why does God let bad things happen? Where do we go when we die? If we all end up dying, what's the point? And what does Lost do but encourage us, the viewers, to ask a lot of these questions, just in relevance to the characters. In a way, Lost answers this (for the sake of it's own show, not our own lives) by saying that it's all in the service of God(s) deciding the fate of humankind.
So Lost is about humankind and whether we even deserve to exist or not. Yes? No? I can actually hear eyes rolling...
Something that occurred to me, that I found interesting, is that when people look at Lost and try to suss out it's religious or cultural relevances, they're always presented with a whole host of comparisons, spanning multitudes of sources.
Religion: Egyptian has become the most prominent, but Christianity plays a big part, as does Muslim too. And after some thought, there are a lot of ways you can apply Norse mythology to the nature of the Island, Smokey, the Losties plight. I'm sure there are many more religious tie-ins that can be made. I'm just not that smart. Summed up by Locke, Mr. I Do What A Higher Power Commands Me To Do. Man of faith.
Philosophy: John Locke. Desmond Hume. Dogen. I know there are more, but there is no way that it's just a coincidence that these characters share names with great philosophical minds of the past.
Literature: the number of books referenced or shown is just ludicrous. This show wears it's library card out and proud.
Science: Hey Jack, what up?
I thought about all that for a bit. Wondered why there are SO many associations with these and other things. Then it kinda tied back to the whole "The Lost Island is a micro-universe of the world as a whole", and it made sense. It's part of our own journey, thus it makes sense that it'd get all squashed together into theirs. And it kinda hit me, that all of these are things that shape how people act with one another, why they believe what they do, why they do what they do. Religion, Science, Philosophy, Literature, they are some of the tools that mankind can use to either better itself or destroy itself.
Ignore the characters, pretend they're not on the Island. If you look at it now, the Island represents how religion, science, philosophy, literature (and other stuff) plays a role in our lives. Locke is the Man of Faith, and look where that got him? Dead and evil. Jack believed solely in science, but that's left him hollow and uncertain. My take on it is that the Island tries to show the Losties that they need to open themselves up to many ways of thought, to many ways of living, and only then can they achieve any sense of enlightenment.
And through enlightenment, humanity proves it worth to the Gods. Yes? No? Carrying on...
I realize now that I've even managed to confuse myself in writing this. Have I even formed any coherent arguments?! Meh. You're the one who chose to read this. Suckaaa! Wait, come back!
So yes, humans live on earth. They fight, they destroy, they corrupt. Have done so for millenia. But they learn, they grow, they choose to become better people when given the proper tools (religion, science, yadda yadda). For example, Sawyer came to the Island a con man, a murderer, a cad. Sure, he's not exactly a saint, but he's learned to love, he's atoned for his sins, he's made the choice to live as a better human. You can trace the growth and development of all the major characters along a similar route- come to Island kinda shitty or messed up, go through a lot of crap on Island, come out the other end better for it.
DIGRESSION, sorta: in Norse mythology, here on Earth was pretty much considered the testing grounds for humanity. Only by proving their worth through great trial and suffering did a human become worthy to ascend to Valhalla, the heavenly kingdom. See also, Ymir, Midgard, Jormungandr (again, thanks to Marie for the further info). In Hinduism (and here is where I am calling upon my grade 11 religion knowledge, so expect it to be shoddy and malinformed, at best) all life on earth is a cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. However, once enlightentment is reached, one becomes freed from that cycle and ascends to their heavenly resting place. OH! And in Judaism, it is believed that the true name of God is a number, and by understanding that number does one attain enlightenment. 4 8 15 16 23 42? *nods* It's been revealed that the Numbers were said to hold to the key to humanity's continuance or demise. *brain flops out*
This final season will be about enlightentment, redemption, damnation, and the final decision about humanity's worth. Characters will either prove their mettle and satisfy Jacob's standpoint, or they will fail and prove Loopy right. The Lost Island will be the final chessboard between these two Godly figures.
Yah...I'm fairly sure I didn't prove my point at all.
MEANING OF LIFE!!! *waggles hands*
Monday, January 4, 2010
Rachel McAdams- love her, please avoid crap movies (see: Time Travellers Wife)
Ryan Reynolds- big fan since "Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place", can do no wrong in my books (I refer to his skills as an actor, and not that he's a fine piece of mancake)
Mike Myers- gets the "Oh Yeah, Him!" award for fading into obscurity but appears in movies as a surprise cameo (See: Inglorious Basterds)
Sarah Polley- bland, but well meaning. I still wait for anything that shows her star power as much as Dawn of the Dead did.
Sandra Oh- will always love her, despite the fact that I have seen very little with her in it
Jim Carrey- irritates me as often as he impresses me so call it a scratch and hope he makes a good movie soon
Brendan Fraser- see Mike Myers
Hayden Christensen- irritates the snot out of me. Has he ever been good in something?
Joshua Jackson- will always be Pacey, but he's working on erasing that. I don't not like him.
Criticisms I've seen levied at it are things like "the story is too weak", "I can't empathize with computer generated characters", "the acting isn't up to snuff". My argument against those sentiments is: that's why there are seperate Oscars for acting, screenplay, visual effects, etc.
Ok, so maybe the story isn't the most in depth. Maybe it is Pocahontas in space. So it doesn't win for Original Screenplay. (and for the record, the story of Pocahontas is centuries old and the reason that it endures is a testament to the power and timelessness of it- and Disney).
So maybe the majority of the movie is spent with giant blue aliens interacting, aliens clearly drawn up in a computer. Doesn't mean that it isn't still very human situations, responses, feelings being played out and played out very convincingly. Remember, say, The Lion King? That was the story of a lion who loses his dad and tries to regain his livelihood, all hand drawn. But who didn't get more than a little choked up when Mufasa dies? If you can have any sort of emotional response to what is ostensibly an incredibly well done cartoon, then the film has succeeded. Here's your visual effects Oscar!
Maybe it isn't an actor's piece, but not every film I watch has to have the main characters sobbing and wailing over a dead child, drug addiction, broken heart, "insert poignant difficulty here". But the actors play their roles, they play them well, and they leave the Oscars to the Meryls and the Clooneys. Which is fine by me.
The reason that Avatar should be up for Best Picture is that the overall pupose of a movie is to create a world, to immerse you in it, to have you buy into the story being presented and to create an emotional response in the viewer. It does this in spades. Previous classics of cinema have done the same, movies like Star Wars (the original bunch), the Lord of The Rings trilogy, even such high-falutin' fare like Titanic (let's not forget how much cgi and action was in that movie).
The mindblowing success of Avatar is proof that not only did James Cameron create something visually astonishing, moderately brain involving and vaguely socially responsible, but he's gotten millions and millions and millions of people to buy into that world and be affected. Not just sci-fi nerds or action buffs. but the masses. That is surely a sign that the movie resonates with people in a very big way.
I'm not saying that a movie should win Best Picture based on financial success alone- can you just imagine a world where Transformers 2 gets nominated? My brain would explode at the thought, but it's still a wet pile of mush from watching it. But in a race where Avatar is sure to be considered for multiple Oscars, one needs to set aside their preconceived notions about what is and isn't suitable to be up for Best Pic and instead think "what movie took me somewhere, moved me, involved me, interested me, entertained me, showed me something special, more than any other?" and accept that a movie with giant blue aliens and Michelle Rodriguez could very well be that movie.