Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year everyone!

Best movies of 2009 theoretically coming soon...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The commercial for Avatar tells me that it will change movies forever, or something along those lines. Like pretty much everyone (except maybe those people who waited hours at Comic-Con to see a ten minute clip of the movie), I assumed this was hyperbole. Sure, it's the most expensive movie ever made, and James Cameron invented a camera so he could film the normal actors while seeing them in Pandora, 10 feet tall and blue, but changing movies forever? Really?

Turns out this isn't hyperbole, at least as far as how movies are made.

But let's start with the story. The story sucks, although probably not much more than a lot of the shit that makes tons of money. James Cameron should stick to inventing awesome things and stop writing. If the script was ready to go ten years ago, you would think someone would tell him in that time to make his characters less boring and his story less cliched. I guess everyone was too awed by the camera.

A lot of people say that the movie is clearly a commentary on the United State's actions in Iraq (note: James Cameron is Canadian), and Cameron has apparently made comments that support this view. I still think it's bullshit. First of all, this movie was ready to go ten years ago. If it's about any war in the MidEast, it's probably about the first Gulf War. Or, as one of my friends says, it's clearly about Native Americans. Or maybe it's about the British Empire or the Belgian Congo. Attacking people whom you see as primitive because they have some resource you want is obviously a very old and very universal theme, and I think the movie suffers a little because of that. Maybe it is about the Iraq War. But it doesn't have to be, and whether it is or not makes no difference.

But the technology does make a difference. I firmly believe that Avatar will change the way movies are made, at least when the price comes down a bit. It was incredible to look at, with super-crisp 3D, beautiful colors and style, and amazing captures of depth of field. Just the sheer amount of the movie that was in 3D was amazing, and HE SAW THE WORLD AS HE WAS FILMING IT!

Given that Cameron invented this camera specifically for this movie, it's interesting to see how the widespread use of the technology will play out. I have no idea what kind of person Cameron is, and whether or not he will allow others to use the camera, or if he will try to make it less expensive, or if he will guard his secret until someone else figures out the technology on their own. But I can't imagine that someone who makes action movies or movies about aliens or anything roughly along the lines of Avatar could possibly see this movie and not think "Holy shit, this is what I need to be doing!" Who knows if anyone else will in the near future? But Avatar has certainly set the bar very, very, very high for the future of movie-making.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why I Love Chuck Klosterman

"It is unfair to compare In Utero to Waco. It is unfair to compare Cobain to Koresh. I know that. They are not the same; just because two things happen at the same time doesn't mean they're connected. Babe Ruth's first home run and the premiere of Birth of a Nation both happened in 1915, but that doesn't dictate a relationship, If you stare long enough at anything, you will start to find similarities. The word coincidence exists in order to stop people from seeing meaning where none exists. So, sure, comparing Cobain and Koresh is a little unfair.
Although I'm not sure which one it's unfair to. I feel sorry for both of them. I can see it both ways. That's my problem."

I'm only one chapter into Chuck Klosterman's newest book, and although I can already tell it's definitely not one of his best (but probably better than Killing Yourself to Live), I feel almost like I've come home, literaturely speaking. I may not know anything about sports, and not too much about early-90s bands, and no longer want to be a journalist of any sort, but he will always make it okay to not believe in coincidences and to make grandoise statements about life using pop culture metaphors that really just make the most sense inside your head.

Plus, I'll probably be listening to Nirvana for the next month straight after reading this. Thanks for helping me go back to freshman year of high school, Chuck!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best Songs of 2009

The real take-away message from these posts? I missed a lot of the popular and a lot of the hip music this year. But I do have a decent idea of what I missed....Perhaps there will be a Part 2 after I hear all the music I should have heard months ago...

- Run This Town, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Kanye West: This song makes me a little sad, because I think Kanye outraps Jay-Z, which is tragic, but it's still fantastic. I love how Rihanna's part builds so much and never quite comes down, and by the middle of the song, all I really want to do is hang out in a club with the three of them.

- Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z: Something really bothers me about Jay-Z's new rapping style (hence Kanye outrapping him), but this song almost makes me want to stay in New York next year. I may not be a real New Yorker, but close enough that this song means something to me.

- You Belong with Me and Thug Story, Taylor Swift: Okay, first of all, if you haven't seen T-Swizzle do Thug Story, watch it! I liked her already, but this made me love her. And You Belong With Me is just great. Love Taylor, kinda hate Miley.

- Paparazzi, Lady Gaga: I know everyone's obsessed with Bad Romance, but I think this song is infinitely better. It may not be danceable, but it showcases the actual talent Lady Gaga has in a way her other songs don't always.

- Two Weeks, Grizzly Bear: Even though Grizzly Bear was pretty awesome live, and I love that Jay-Z/Beyonce/Chuck Schumer went to the concert in Brooklyn, I wasn't all that impressed with this CD. All the songs sounded very similar, but I really liked this one. The building "aaaah" in the background is great.

- I Called Out Your Name, The Thermals: It was hard to pick a song off of this CD, but something about this one really grabs me. The emotions are just somehow rawer than on the rest of the songs, even if it's in the same vein.

- Wilco (the Song), Wilco: Like I said, I haven't listened to this CD all that much, and I haven't loved what I've heard. I think Wilco's lost it a bit in recent years, but I love the "Wilco will love you baby" part, and overall, I think this is their best song in a while.

- The Privateers, Andrew Bird: Realistically, I can't pick a favorite song from this CD. I think I may like this the best, but I'll get back to you on that.

- California Goths, Wavves: Okay, this one was a little made-up, but I do love this song. It manages to be melodic/make me want to dance and make me want to slam into people at the same time.

Honorable Mentions: Best I Ever Had by Drake, Use Somebody by Kings of Leon, Beautiful Nightmare (or Sweet Dreams, since apparently that's the actual title) by Beyonce, almost anything on the C5 party mix.

Dishonorable Mention: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. Please, Conor, take off the cowboy hat, pick up a bottle of whiskey, and make real music again. I'd even settle for Cassadaga!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best Music of the Year

If there's one thing I learned recently, it's that in order to be a real blog, I need some sort of "Top ____ of 2009" or "Top _____ of the Decade" list. While Top Whatever of the Decade would certainly pull me further up the cool blogger scale, let's be honest. I was 12 when this decade started, and I can barely remember what I did a month ago. Best of the Decade isn't happening, nor is Best Movies of Anything, because if you know me (and I assume you do), you know I see a lot of movies. I don't really feel like trying to remember all the movies I saw this year.

Which leaves me with the best music of the year. I started with what I thought would be the easy one: best albums. Apparently I was wrong. Now, I think most people who know me think I'm reasonably hip. I read Pitchfork (once in a while), like bands a lot of my friends have never heard of, think I have better taste in everything than most people, etc. While those things may all be true, the conclusion is a lie. I am not really hip, a point that was truly driven home when I realized that most albums I listened to this year that I considered "new" music (generally given to me by one of 3 people...) actually came out sometime in the last few years. So my favorite albums that came out this year (that I actually really liked and listened to, not just ones that were kinda better than other things)? Here's the three I could come up with: Andrew Bird- Noble Beast, Pete Doherty- Grace/Wastelands, and The Thermal- Now We Can See. To be fair, I really loved these three, especially Noble Beast, but still a pathetic showing.

So here's what you get instead: The Top 10 Albums I Listened to A Lot in 2009 (that weren't necessarily released this year), in no particular order. Coming soon will be the top songs of 2009.

- Andrew Bird, Noble Beast: Like I said, I really loved this one, and really, all Andrew Bird (so let's add those other albums to this entry). He's an incredibly talented musician, and his songs were perfect for both intense listening and background noise while I spent hours in the library. Bonus: they're folkish and quiet without being depressing, which is not something I can say for a lot of my folkish and quite music.

- The Thermals, Now We Can See: Apparently I had seen The Thermals open for Ted Leo a few years ago, but I guess they didn't make a huge impression. This year, at Pitchfork, they really did, especially their cover of Green Day's Basket Case, because seeing lots of hipsters sing that was pretty funny. But anyway, this kind of reminds me of middle school, but in the absolute best way (seriously, my music was the best part of middle school). And with all the stress of senior year, that's just what I needed sometimes.

- Rilo Kiley, everything: Seriously, everything. I'm sure I've said this about 100 different bands throughout my life, but I could probably listen to Rilo Kiley forever and never get tired of them. Sure, Jenny Lewis disappointed me a little with her solo albums, but I could never hold a grudge against her. Rilo Kiley just always seems perfect for whatever I'm feeling, whether it's happy or depressed or whatever.

- Jay Reatard, Matador Singles '08: For some reason this worked really well as driving music. And I did a lot of driving over the summer.

- Rolling Stones, 40 Licks: Also excellent driving music. And generally great summer music. Fuck the Beatles (jk, don't worry).

- Liam Finn, I'll Be Lightning: Really beautiful, and perfect for dreary days, which we've seemed to have a lot of this year.

(Notice how the explanations are getting shorter? Favorites are hard! Plus, this is obviously the best of the last 6 months. Remembering is hard too!)

- Peter Bjorn and John, Writer's Block: Amsterdam was continually stuck in my head for about a month straight. I know nothing can be hip once it was on Gossip Girl, but all the songs are super-catchy, and there's few things I love more than (sometimes) moody lyrics with catchy music.

- Wolf Parade, both their CDs because I listen to artists on shuffle and don't know the difference: I really don't know what to say. I started this project about 6 hours ago (and took a long break). I like it. The end.

- Sufjan Steven, Illinois: First of all, I spent a lot of time in Illinois this year, so it seems appropriate. But mostly, this is a great CD (Paste even picked it as their best of the decade). Besides being catchy/emotional/whatever to listen to, I think this CD, and perhaps the project as a whole, despite the fact that it was never finished, captures something fundamental about the relationship between place and music. Do I sound like an indie blogger asshole yet? Oh, and the song titles are awesome.

- Lupe Fiasco, The Cool: It's honestly a toss-up between this and Food and Liquor, but I probably listened to this one more. I love Paris, Tokyo, and why wouldn't I love rap by a self-proclaimed nerd?

So stayed tuned for Top Songs of 2009, which I promise will be better, and most likely longer. And I may even do the top movies, since I had a request for it...

P.S. I swear I didn't miss Wilco (the Album). Honestly, I just haven't quite listened to it enough to make any list, although I do really like Wilco (the Song).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

more videos!

Because let's be honest, no one is reading this, and I have nothing insightful to say now...But this video is pretty brilliant:

And in other news, I just had my last class of the decade. Holy shit!