Friday, December 12, 2008

Every Year It Gets Worse

Not the Grammy's themselves, or who wins, but my knowledge of who these artists are. So - my annual look at categories I actually know nominees in:

Record and Song of the Year
I like that Coldplay song, sure.

Album of the Year
I'd like to get the Coldplay album, and agree that In Rainbows stands tall with Radiohead's best, so nice to see that there. and the Krauss/Plant album actually sounds interesting.

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
"Viva La Vida" again, but I have to note here that I actually (shock!) have heard a few songs off of the new Gnarls Barkley, and am interested in hearing more! That's almost hip, right?

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Up against Michael Feinstein, Natalie Cole, Josh Groban, and Barry Manilow is Rufus Wainwright! Go Rufus!

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance
Gravity, John Mayer
I Saw Her Standing There, Paul McCartney
Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Bruce Springsteen\
Rise, Eddie Vedder
No Hidden Path, Neil Young

I've actually heard three of these, and am puzzled by the Neil Young song, as there are several much better songs - and vocal performances - on that album. Between Springsteen and Vedder, I'd go with Vedder here.

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals and Best Rock Song
I like "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," but it almost comes across as pastiche Bruce. "House of Cards" by Radiohead, no doubt. Great song.

Best Rock Album
Like I said, I do want to get Viva La Vida, and the little I heard of Kings of Leon on SNL was actually interesting. But why isn't In Rainbows here?

Best Alternative Music Album
Because it's here, I guess. When an album is nominated for Album of the Year, doesn't it kind of automatically win the narrower category? I mean, none of the other 4 here were good enough for Album of the Year, right?

Best Jazz Vocal Album
Reminds me that I still need to get Cassandra Wilson's latest, Loverly.

Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album
I have the new Emmlou Harris, All I Intended to Be, and it is lovely.

Best Musical Show Album
Still haven't gotten to the new Gypsy, but I do have it. Little Mermaid was disappointing for this Menken fan, as none of the new songs were as good as the new stuff he wrote for Beauty and the Beast. The new South Pacific is good as well, but i have to bet Gypsy here, based on even the little I've heard so far.

Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media
Juno was good, but a bit repetitive. Sweeney Todd? No contest - great album, with some great film music treatments of Sondheim underscoring.

Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media
A very tough one. Johnny Greenwood's There Will be Blood score is magnificent, but so is Thomas Newman's Wall-E score. Easily the hardest category for me.

Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media
Peter Gabriel's WALL-E song, "Down to Earth," is a great one, narrowly beating out Menken's "That's How You Know" from Enchanted.

Until Whenever

Friday, December 05, 2008

50 Things I Loved About WALL-E
  1. That the first sound we hear isn't a spaceship, or majestic orchestral sounds, but Michael Crawford singing "Out there!"
  2. That all of WALL-E's movements have a mechanical, logical origin - you can see how he works, and how he fits together. Compare to the very unconvincing spatial logistics of the transforming robots in Transformers.
  3. The sheer beauty of those opening shots, as we descend towards earth and see those sad and beautiful towers of trash.
  4. The internal logic of WALL-E's daily life - we see how he repairs himself, how he lives.
  5. The sound of WALL-E rolling along.
  6. The way WALL-E recharges by using a solar charger like a tanning reflector.
  7. Fred Willard.
  8. That Fred Willard and the others in the B'N Large commercial are real people.
  9. The idea of monitors that project on their own, without a frame or surface.
  10. The moment when WALL-E grabs a hubcap so that he can copy the dance in "Put On Your Sunday Clothes." The first moment that hit me emotionally.
  11. The overall notion that music has that power, the power to move a robot to sentience.
  12. The sleek, Apple-y design on EVE.
  13. The way WALL-E trembles when EVE first tries to blast him
  14. Thomas Newman's majestic score - his best in a while, maybe even since Shawshank!
  15. The way WALL-E's low-power sluggishness in the morning resembles human tiredness.
  16. That the cockroach buddy never gets cloying.
  17. WALL-E trying to get EVE to hold his hand.
  18. WALL-E showing off his possessions to EVE to try and impress her.
  19. The way that WALL-E never gives up on her after she shuts down upon securing the plant.
  20. EVE's voice, just the right blend of real human female and robot.
  21. The way EVE's three fingers aren't attached to her hand, nor the hand to her arm.
  22. WALL-E's bouncy travel music.
  23. The way WALL-E digs himself under the ground to escape the rocket's blast.
  24. WALL-E reaching up to run his hand through Saturn's ring.
  25. The design and scale of the cruise ship.
  26. The switch in the second act, and how it doesn't make the lazy humans bad people.
  27. The notion that robots that gain a bit of free will are hauled off for repair
  28. The eager industriousness of the cleaner bot
  29. Jeff Garlin as the captain - fat people can get a glottal quality in their voice, and Garlin has it.
  30. John and Mary rediscovering the joy of touch.
  31. WALL-E and EVE dancing outside the spaceship. One of the most joyous and beautiful moments I've ever seen in a movie
  32. The animation of the fire extinguisher's exhaust crystallizing.
  33. WALL-E's self-sacrifice.
  34. The Captain standing on his own to feet.
  35. EVE's real panic as she tried to fix WALL-E.
  36. Cupcake in a cup.
  37. That, while exaggerated, the satire of humans never interacting, or moving on their own, came from a real place - all those people engrossed in their screens felt uncomfortably familiar.
  38. That they planted the seed of the hover chairs with the hover chair for Grandma in the earlier commercial
  39. That PIXAR somehow managed to make a beautiful family film about the near-extinction of the human race.
  40. EVE bringing WALL-E back to life with a kiss. Magic.
  41. How WALL-E says "EVE"
  42. How subtly the animators distinguished between no-memory WALL-E and recovered WALL-E.
  43. That WALL-E wants to introduce himself to everyone he meets.
  44. That the animators weren't afraid to make it look like WALL-E is taking a dump when he compresses trash.
  45. The massage robot gleefully pummeling the security robots to pieces.
  46. The credits, which tell us in evolving art styles how the humans repopulate the planet.
  47. Peter Gabriel's song.
  48. The ATARI 2600 WALL-E game going on in the margins of the credits.
  49. The short about the magician and the sheer inventiveness in the concept.
  50. The Mac reboot sound effect.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Butler Did It

I know I'm not the first to notice this, but it's kind of remarkable just how much of television drama is at heart, based on mystery stories. The ways in which we and the characters figure out who committed the crime change, but that core of a crime, suspects, and a reveal are at the heart of so many series. I mean, look at the current network lineup:

Cold Case - Cops solve old mysteries (why they can solve them now, and they were unsolvable then, generally goes unexplained)

The Unit - I'm not sure, never having seen it, but I bet there's a mystery aspect.

Medium - Psychic solves mysteries.

Boston Legal - Lawyers solve mysteries (I don't watch BL, but imagine that at least a goodly portion of the cases feature an aspect where we don't know if the defendant did it or not, and the answer gets revealed at the end, after the verdict. That was Kelly's modus operandi on The Practice anyway)

CSI Miami - Genius forensics experts solve crimes using science and a creepy old redhead with a sunglasses removal tic takes all the credit.

House - Genius doctor solves medical mysteries with the help of flunkies (who never actually solve a mystery on their own)

NCIS - Team of investigators solve naval-related mysteries.

The Mentalist - Genius former fraud-psychic solves mysteries by being really observant.

Without a Trace - Investigators solve missing-person mysteries.

Fringe - Super-genius and his son and catatonic FBI handler solve weird, vaguely sci-fiish mysteries.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Dogged cops solve mysteries that often start out marked by some deviant sexual angle that turns out to be naught but a red herring.

Pushing Daisies - A sad sack guy solves endearingly quirky mysteries through magic.

Criminal Minds - A team of FBI profilers solve icky mysteries, but only after the killer has killed people, but before he kills the latest victim.

CSI: NY - Genius forensics experts solve crimes using science and the leadership of a slumming quasi-film-star.

Bones - A genius bone scientist solves crimes with the help of a hunky cop/FBI guy (never seen it)

Life - A cop solves mysteries while eating lots of fruit.

Law & Order - Cops and lawyers solve mysteries, while never cottoning to the fact that it's always the least-likely suspect.

Life on Mars - A modern cop solves standard TV mysteries in the 70s while trying to sole the big mystery of how he time-traveled in the first place.

CSI: Genius forensics experts solve crimes using science and the leadership of a slumming character actor.

Eleventh Hour - FBI guys solves vaguely sci-fiish mysteries.

Supernatural - Hunky brothers solve supernatural mysteries.

Ghost Whisperer - Busty psychic solves mysteries with the help of ghosts.

Numb3ers - Math genius solves mysteries using math.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Meme Pilfery

From his frogness:

1. Five names you go by:
(almost none anymore or in real-life though - in real-life I'm just John)
a. Tosy and Cosh
b. Supe
c) Sweetness
d) Gamps
e) JC

2. Three things you are wearing right now
a. A purple dress shirt
b. Grey slacks
c.) Black shoes

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
b. The complete Deadwood
c. An eggnog latte

4. Three people who will probably fill this out:
? I don't often spread memes.

5. Two things you did last night:
a. Watched the first half of the latest Pushing Daisies
b. Drank some maple tea

6. Two things you ate today:
a. Chicken Marsala pizza
b. Cranberry Vanilla Grape Nuts Trail Mix Cereal

7. Two people you last talked to on the phone
Two colleagues, about a meeting document we are preparing.

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
a. Most likely start a new project at work
b. Finally start watching Wall-E

9. Two longest car rides:
a. New Jersey to Florida
b. New Jersey to New Hampshire

Until Whenever
You . . . Shall . . . Not . . . PASS!
David Foster Wallace is trying to defeat me. But he won't. I am about 220 pages from the end of Infinite Jest and I refuse to be defeated. I will finish it. That said, I don't think I've ever read a book that I'm this conflicted on. There are breathtaking set pieces here that remind me of Neal Stephenson in their epic scope and insane level of detail. There is so much wit and wonderful turns of phrase that it can be like going into sugar shock to read it. And there are passages that are murder to get through, stylistic thickets where about all I can to do is to chop through.

After all is said and done, I don't think I'm technically a fan of Wallace's fiction. I adore his non-fiction like maybe no other non-fiction reporting, but his fiction is simply too dense and obscure for my sensibilities. It's a failing of mine, not his (to be sure), but there it is.

All the same - he will not defeat me. I will finish this behemoth of a novel. And, in the end, I will be glad I did.

Until Whenever

Monday, December 01, 2008

Random Top Ten

Random Top Ten!!

Top Ten Covers

10. "The End of the World" - John Mellencamp (orig. Skeeter Davis?)
Sometimes you know why songs grab you. Sometimes not. This is a pretty straightforward reading of an oldies station classic, a bit countrified, but man does it work.

9. "The Man Who Sold the World" - Jordis Unga (orig. David Bowie)
I had high hopes for Junga after that first season of RockStar. Alas, her promised solo album never materialized.

8. "My Heart" - Audra McDonald (orig. Neil Young)
Of all the pop tunes I'd imagined Audra McDonald covering, this wasn't one. And that it's the album's best track? Who knew?

7. "Sacrifice" - Sinead O'Connor (orig. Elton John)
A very powerful, hushed rendition.

6. "Shelter from the Storm" - Cassandra Wilson (orig. Bob Dylan)
I love the way the tempo and guitars accelerate as the verses pile up.

5. Come Down in Time – Sting (orig. Elton John)
I still have never heard the original, but Sting's piano-bar version is haunting and beautifully spare.

4. "Can’t Help Falling in Love" – Bono (orig. Elves Presley)
Simple and elegant. A guitar plays the simple arpeggiated chords and Bono sings the song, starting in a very low register, moving up an octave for the second verse, and jumping up another octave to a sweet falsetto for the last. Gives me chills.

3. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" - Anne Sofie Van Otter (orig. ABBA)
The operatic alto still stands as the best classical interpreter of pop songs I've ever heard.

2. "Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley (orig. Leonard Cohen)
A cliche for a reason.

1. "The Rainbow Connection" Willie Nelson (orig. Kermit the Frog)
I've posted on this before. See here.

Until Whenever