Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Four Points on New Music

Four thoughts on new music, none of which deserve their own post.

1. Lucas Grabeel - "You Got It"
Comments: WHAT THE HOLY HELL???? This was on the Radio Disney Top 30 countdown. But they didn't seriously play it on the radio did they? This song is so insane, and it's not at all what I would have expected as the debut single of a High School Musical artist. It's 20 seconds of music stretched over 4:30! It's definitely not good, but it's just as definitely really interesting. I just can't get over how insane this song is. No rating.

2. Vanessa Hudgens - "Sneakernight"
Comments: Her debut single from her second album, as recently released to Radio Disney. And I have to say it's really generic. It's like a bad version of Kat McPhee's "Open Toes". I guess generic isn't too bad if it's catchy enough or if the vocals are good enough, but it sounds to me like she's phoning it in and there's no hook to speak of. This song is just kind of boring, and actually I think it's kind of bad. There's still hope though. I didn't really like "Come Back to Me", but I ended up liking her first album just OK, and I absolutely loved/love "Say OK" (it ended up being my #16 single of 2007, but easily could have been top 10). Still, this is extremely disappointing, and she's capable of a lot better.

3. Cassie - "Official Girl"; "Thirsty"; "In Love with the DJ"; "Turn the Lights Off"
Comments: OMG, 4 of the 6 or 7 songs that have leaked from the Cassie album are completely amazing, and the others are pretty darn good too. But seriously, whichever of these four songs that are released as singles will contend for top 10 singles of the year. "Turn The Lights Off" and "In Love with the DJ" we all knew from last year. "Thirsty" and "Official Girl" both were released/leaked this year as far as I know and I'm amazed to say they are just as good! In fact, "Thirsty" is probably my favorite song of the year to this point. There's a decent chance this album will rank as my album of the year if it is in fact ever released and assuming all 4 of these songs are all on it.

4. Ashlee Simpson - Bittersweet World
Comments: As it stands right now this is the best album I've heard this year, and by a pretty fair margin. I'm thinking now it's a lock for top 5 of the year if not higher, but who knows how it will age over time. I haven't put a ton of work into listening to most of the lyrics yet, but the music is so awesome . I love the way the songs bounce effortlessly from bouncy fun ("Outta My Head") to R&B stormer ("Boys") to hilarious send-up ("Rule Breaker") to confessional masterpiece ("Little Miss Obsessive") to beautiful ballad ("Never Dream Alone"). It bounces and it bops and it dances and it makes you dance and it makes you think and it makes you cry. The way it bounces along from song to song in a completely bonkers but also completely real way is just incredibly impressive. Ashlee loves to experiment, apparently, and a vast majority of the experiments work. The only songs I don't love are "Hot Stuff" (very funny, but I don't dig the music) and "What I've Become". "Little Miss Obsessive" is right up there for my favorite single of the year so far (either that or "No Air" or "Official Girl"), and "Never Dream Alone" seriously made me tear up the first time I heard it. I was driving in my car at the time and almost had to pull over. I could and maybe will write a whole post just on that song. Anyways, I love the album and highly urge my readers to check it out.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Favorite Movies of the 90's

In this post, I will identify my favorite movie of the year, as well as point out one other underrated classic that didn't quite make the cut as my favorite, for every year from 1990 through 1999. Return of the old style, way too long for anybody to read posts! Yay!

Personal Favorite Film: There were several good movies this year, and I did not see the main competitors for the Best Picture Oscar (except Dances with Wolves, which I did not like). Edward Scissorhands is perhaps the best loved movie of the year today. I love Tim Burton and I like the movie but I've always thought it a little overrated. But, I haven't seen it in a while. Gremlins 2 is one of the best sequels of all time, because it completely abandoned the original and went for completely farcical comedy. Teh Brain Gremlin forever. Jacob's Ladder is a cult favorite but I thought it was boring. Home Alone was a smash, and it holds up really well today as a cute and funny movie. Flatliners is star studded and has a good plot, but is way worse than it could/should be. The best film of the year is ultimately Total Recall, which manages to maintain a tension throughout, despite a complicated and ridiculous plot. But the several classic scenes and fun plot and action make this one of the greatest action films of all time.

Underrated: Quick Change is probably my 3rd of 4th favorite movie of the year (behind Total Recall, Gremlins 2, and maybe Edward Scissorhands). It's a really funny comedy about bank robbery starring Bill Murray, Geena Davis, and Randy Quaid. Despite the star-studded cast, it's not well known or remembered today. But nevertheless it's one of my favorite comedies.

Personal Favorite Film: There are a few viable competitors here. Silence of the Lambs won best picture, and it's a really compelling drama. But, I have never been bowled away by it, and have generally found it a bit over the top. Terminator 2 had great special effect, and I loved it at the time. Many people think it is superior to the original, but I still consider the first Terminator to be a far superior movie, due to the extreme cheesiness of the sequel. The scenes where John Connor is teaching him to be human are brutal to watch. For me, there are 2 viable competitors here. JFK is a really good drama and it's in the top 5 of the decade in terms of cultural impact, but it's just way too long, and completely nonfactual. None of this keeps it from being a great movie, but they hold it out of the number one slot this year. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey is clearly superior to the original movie, no matter what anybody else says, and it's one of my favorite comedies of all time, and the best movie released during the year.

Underrated: 2 choices here: He Said, She Said is not remembered fondly today, but I think it's a sharp and funny and romantic movie. Plus, I've always been an Elizabeth Perkins fan. That's good enough to make it one of my favorite romantic comedies of the decade.

Personal Favorite Film: To be perfectly honest, I haven't seen a whole ton of movies this year. I have seen Aladdin, a very good movie from the Disney golden period of the late 80's/early 90's. It's probably not as good as Little Mermaid and Lion King but I loved this movie as a kid and I still really enjoy it today. It's the most silly and comedic of the movies, which does make it hold up a tad less, but I still enjoy it. Wayne's World is one of the funniest comedies of all time. Yeah, I was 10 when I first saw it, which maybe skews it a little, but I still laugh my ass off whenever I see it. But my favorite movie of the year is Glengarry Glen Ross, which features an excellent cast and a really interesting story. It's funny and it's gripping and it's depressing. Excellent drama.

Underrated: Not underrated in the sense that it's one of the best of the year, but underrated in the sense that most people seem to think it's extremely terrible and I kind of like it. I'm speaking of Stay Tuned, the John Ritter movie. Yeah, a lot of the jokes are lame, but it's got a clever conceit and it pulls it off fairly well. As a TV loving youth I really enjoyed it.

Personal Favorite Film: In my opinion, this was a really strong year for movies. The popular blockbuster this year was The Fugitive, which was critically acclaimed at the time and still holds up very well today. The Sandlot is a classic kid's movie and still an all time favorite of mine. Schindler's List won best picture, and I liked it better than I normally like big, meaningful dramas, but it's just not quite my favorite. Groundhog Day is one of everybody's favorite movies, and I am no exception. Extremely funny, and it has a good message that it states well. Ultimately, my favorite film of the year though is Searching for Bobby Fischer, which is a really interesting movie about a young chess prodigy. The characters are very interesting, the story is good, the acting is uniformly excellent, and it all meshes together well. Max Pomeranc gives one of the greatest kid performances in film history. It's one of my 3 or 4 favorite movies of the decade

Underrated: Wayne's World 2 gets a bad rap, as a lot of comedy sequels do, but it's still really funny. OK, the re-tread jokes from the first movie fall flat, but "a great big bloody Bengal tiger" alone makes it worth a watch.

Personal Favorite Film: There was a very famous best picture race this year. In addition, The Lion King the most popular and probably best Disney film of this era was released. OK, maybe Little Mermaid was better. But still, it was really fun! Forrest Gump won best picture, but is not well liked today among the film crowd. I tend to agree. It's a good movie, but not a great movie. Shawshank Redemption is the most well known, but I thought the movie was silly and boring and I thought it was just OK. Pulp Fiction is the best of the three, and it has a cultural cachet like no other movie from the 90's. It's just not quite my favorite of the year. Four Weddings and a Funeral was an original and very good romantic comedy, but there were still some kinks to work out. Andie MacDowell also gives one of the worst performances ever from a female romantic comedy lead. My favorite movie of the year is Quiz Show, which has good acting and a good story and a good theme. It manages to be entertaining and to hold up well throughout multiple viewings. A true success.

Underrated: Not too many really underrated films from this year. I guess D2: The Mighty Ducks, by far the best movie in the Ducks franchise, though still not a great film, it's usually worth catching part of whenever it comes on cable.

Personal Favorite Film: I think this was a weak year for films, though part of that is two of the movies I suspect would be my favorites of the year, Babe and especially Sense and Sensibility I have yet to see. Of what I did see, there are 2 movies released this year, both cult favorites by well loved directors which I associate together this year. I suspect most people's list would be topped by 12 Monkeys or Seven, and I do enjoy both movies, but I find both to be overrated. Best picture winner Braveheart not the type of movie I enjoy, I thought it was boring. Toy Story was the first Pixar film, and a worthy entry into their canon, but not quite the best of the year. My favorite from this year is Empire Records, a funny indie comedy and all around entertaining film much beloved by all music fans.

Underrated: Pocahontas is generally seen as the beginning of the end for the Disney creative rebirth. While not quite as good as their four hugely successful movies preceding this, I think this gives the movie the short shrift. Just cause it's not as good as those doesn't mean it's still not a good movie, which it is.

Personal Favorite Film: An extremely strong year for films. Probably the best loved film of the year today is Fargo a dark Coen Brothers comedy. All I have to say about that is what I've said countless times above: I like the film, but not as much as some others seem to. Same is true of Waiting for Guffman, a very funny comedy but not quite as hilarious as it's often made out to be. Bottle Rocket a very entertaining Wes Anderson film; it's obvious from watching he hadn't quite gotten his footing or formula down but it's still a great one. Scream, one of my favorite teen movies of all time, revitalized the horror genre and paved the way for lots of mediocre and some really good teen horror flicks. The best movie released this year was Jerry Maguire, exactly the kind of crazy, over the top role he was born to play, and with a really good love story. And Renee Zelwegger is really good and cute in it too! One of the most watchable films of the decade.

Underrated: My second favorite movie from this year is the in my opinion painfully underrated That Thing You Do!, which, actually, may well be my favorite Tom Hanks movie. The characters are really believable, the plot is interesting, the acting is good, and the theme song is amazing. I've seen it so many times on TV and I still really enjoy it.

Personal Favorite Film: Grosse Point Blank is an enjoyable John Cusack comedy that I think has become slightly underrated over the years, but it's still a fave of mine. Men In Black is an immensely entertaining blockbuster, featuring excellent performances from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, who have an easy chemistry. Good comedy and good action. Ultimately, my choice here came down to two movies, both nominated for best picture. Titanic gets a horrible rap now, but I still love the movie. It's got a great spectacle to it and a good love story and really good acting from two of the best actors of our generation. Ultimately though I agree with the apparent current critical consensus that LA Confidential was a better film, thanks to its great acting, complex themes, and very interesting plot and characters. This should have spawned a new wave of noir type mysteries, but for some reason it never did. Ah well.

Underrated: Two extremely underrated comedies this year: The Man Who Knew Too Little starring Bill Murray and Nothing To Lose starring Martin Lawrence & Tim Robbins. Nothing to Lose by far the best Martin Lawrence movie with hilarious use of Scatman song. And The Man Who Knew Too Little is seriously one of my favorite comedies of the 90s.

Personal Favorite Film: This was the strongest year for film in the 90's, in my opinion. Dark City was Ebert's favorite movie of the year and probably my favorite at the time. It's a great dark sci-fi film, but I've come to like it slightly less over time. Rushmore is the best Wes Anderson movie and an excellent comedy. The Dinner Game is one of my favorite foreign movies, a hilarious French film with absolutely no substance whatsoever. Honestly, I never have really liked Saving Private Ryan, it's well behind the pack of the other movies mentioned. I may well be alone on this, but I far prefer Shakespeare in Love, and was and am glad that it won best picture. It's seriously one of the best romantic comedies I've seen. Still not good enough though. My favorite movie of the year is Pleasantville, thanks mostly to its commendable theme and outstanding acting all around. And I like the color/black and white gimmick underlying the film.

Underrated: Can't Hardly Wait is a really good teen film that does one of the best jobs of capturing the high school dramatic of any of these types of movies. It's not just a worthwhile cable watch, it's a genuinely really great movie.

Personal Favorite Film: Actually, maybe THIS was the best year for film in the 90's. The top 5 of this year stacks up well against the top five of '98, anyways. The Matrix is, in my opinion, very overrated. I've never really gotten the appeal of it, especially in light of the terrible sequels. American Beauty is a movie that I had a similar reaction to apparently the rest of America: I loved it at the time, but find it has aged remarkably poorly. OK, into that top 5 I referred to above. The Sixth Sense is one of the best blockbuster summer movies ever released and it has a cultural cachet that's top 5 of the decade. American Movie is an amusing and funny and interesting documentary. Notting Hill is one of the top 3 romatic comedies of the decade, and probably the best traditional romcom ever released. It's my second favorite movie of the year. My favorite film of the year, by a fair margin, is Election, which is probably my favorite film of the entire decade. It's really funny and it has great characters & acting. It features what is definitely Reese Witherspoon's best performance, and I'm a big Reese Witherspoon fan so that's definitely saying something.
Underrated: The other top 5 film of the year not referenced above is 10 Things I Hate About You, which manages to be the best teen film of this era thanks to it's sharp and funny dialogue.

Here's the final list, including as a bonus my favorite movies by year for the 2000s
1990: Total Recall
1991: Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
1992: Glengarry Glen Ross
1993: Searching for Bobby Fischer
1994: Quiz Show
1995: Empire Records
1996: Jerry Maguire
1997: LA Confidential
1998: Pleasantville
1999: Election
2000: Keeping the Faith
2001: Amelie
2002: Spy Kids 2/Catch Me If You Can (I can't decide!)
2003: Big Fish
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2005: Brokeback Mountain (I'll be damned though, if the movies of this year that have provided me the most entertainment and enjoyment aren't Sky High and Just Like Heaven)
2006: High School Musical
2007: Enchanted

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