30 November 2010

Your What the Fuck Moment of the Week: Whipping Hair Back and Forth

I've never put up a "What the Fuck Moment of the Week," nor do I actively intend to make this a weekly thing, but today deserves it. Apparently tho this has been out for a few weeks and I've heard it on the radio before, tonight was the first time I really clued into this song and the artist and conception behind it, all of which are insane and deserve rambling. First a listen to what I'm talking about:

Yep. Now, listening to this on the radio I pictured some young black female artist creating a pretty earnest, fun track about loving her hair and throwing it around in fun. There's nothing really wrong with that. I do that all the time. It's awesome. I don't use six different forms of conditioner for lack of reason.

So I put some research into this song so I could play it at loud volumes while whipping my hair back and forth in my leisure time. Surely to my surprise I find that this is the Daughter of Agent J himself, Willow Smith. The little girl who wanted daddy to take care of her puppy in I Am Legend (2007). That little cunt...Anyway, this chick sounds like she's got the pipes of a twenty-year old but just turned ten. It's crazy. Listen to this kid belt out the tune, some of it is auto-tuned but her kid range is ridiculously developed. Regardless of how insanely stupid this song is, she's got some talent.

Now, this is so incredibly dumb. It's insanely dumb. It's so dumb a ten-year old could do it. Shit. It's enormously repetitive, irritating...and catchy! I can't get over how this kid has latched on to such a party track, though and sings beyond her years. This song will be a huge hit, it's far too ridiculous not to be - it's fun, danceable, singable and friendly to just about anyone who comes within earshot.

It's also Will Smith's daughter. What a year for these kids, the other brat has Karate Kid (2010) in the can and now this bitch is about to rock the charts with her insane ridiculous song. Check out how sassy she is. Wow, whip that hair. Is every member of this family making a million dollars this year? (Wait, did Will actually even have a movie out?) This is out of control. This video is insane. Kid dancing / whipping hair, no Devo within recognizable site, what an adventure.

At least it's already getting some good parodies. By the way, what happens next is a rare incredible moment from Jimmy Fallon:

Haha, great booing at the close of this performance. So there you go. Willow Smith, insane trashy, catchy, dumb, dancey, irritating lovely track for your ears out there. Go whip some hair.

26 November 2010

First Impressions: Harry Pothead and the Deathly Swallows, Fart I

Alright mates, here we have the first half of the final installment of the Harry Potter Film Octology, Harry Pothead and the Deathly Swallows, Fart I (2010). Boo yah! This baby has gotten a good amount of critical acclaim, mostly with some grains of salt (get to that later) as well as more buckets of money than an Elder Wand could conjure! Hey oh! There's a lot to this shit, so let's dive in:

Context Amongst the Harry Pantheon:

Let's get this out of the way first. This film is very different from other films in the Harry Potter Franchise for a few reasons. Most of the complaints thus far from Critics seem to be that this isn't actually a whole movie, it just sort of ends at an okay spot with the intention to continue next summer. In fact, both films are really much less sequels to each other than just definitively split parts of the same film. Even Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004 respectively) were pretty different films (each of which also came to full, satisfied endings, if not as thoroughly as say, The Lord of the Rings Franchise).

That said, Deathly Swallows remains one of the most complete films in the entire franchise. See, all other Potter films don't have much of a coherent story. They're more like a bunch of stuff that happens. Not every scene is ever necessary for the fulfillment of eventual story and climax (which I guess consistently happens in Spring Semester for some reason). This is more true for flicks like Ass-Blood Prince (2009), during which nothing really important happens until the final twenty minutes and less true for something like Order of the Penis (2007) which has a continually driving conflict tied to the narrative. You may take a moment to enjoy the Potter Dirty Names. These films more often typically just feel like watching a interesting School Year than a real movie. Deathly Swallows, Fart I jettisons this formula by ignoring Hogwarts completely. Does Harry still get a diploma if he skips the entire first semester?

It's also more "movie-like" because the Harry Potter Universe typically has a wide focus on multiple characters at once, some handled well (Prisoner of Asskaban [2004]), others mismanaged (Gobtit of Fire [2005]...alright this is getting hard now. That's what she said). Without Hogwarts and after a quick intro to about a dozen people we've met years ago (including the wedding of a chick who has never been important that for some reason risks the entire Order...also more on that later) this film is able to get into some intricate character study of just a handful of main characters, mostly Ron, Hermione and Harry. Following just these kids on the run through the woods is much more film-like than watching them go to class.

Yes, coming along nicely.
There is also a great deal of maturity on display here. It's cool that Harry Potter has grown up with its fans, and there's not really anything kiddie-friendly anymore. Each film has gotten more intense and the situations more desperate than the one before, coinciding with both the growth of characters and determination of evil and as the penultimate film entry, Swallows, Fart I is very mature. Ahem. This is part of Harry Potter's brilliance.

From the first scene you know that evil is going nuts in this world and it's not really a cartoon anymore. Voldemort is a bad motherfucker, killing and torturing all kinds of mudbloods then setting up a Nazi Purging Regime in the Headquarters of Magic (What does the Ministry of Magic govern anyway? Like...all UK Magic users? They must have egregious taxes to afford those fancy haircuts). People get hurt, main characters die, this isn't holding anything back any more. There's some real pain and anger on display, violence, sex, disaster baby, this ain't your little sisters Pot anymore. The film really coolly interweaves these hints at a larger war while focusing on the three main character's struggles dancing to crackly radio music. Part of this is some side characters like Remus, Luna and Dobby popping up here and there without much need for characterisation because it's already been so thoroughly laid out. While this helps the pacing tremendously, it also renders any new viewer to this entry pretty dumbstruck. But anyway, Evil is truly allowed to be Evil here, which lends much more credibility to the perils of the story.

For comparison's sake, I'll take something like The Phantom Menace (1999). What real motivation does anyone in this film have to fight? The Trade Federation isn't really evil, they don't DO anything very offensive and the Droid Army is really just a threatening tool rather than a motivated, evil thinking enemy. I feel like bringing up The Phantom Menace is like resorting to Godwin's Law, but my point remains. The stakes in Deathly Swallows feel real.

This flick's also pretty sexy...in a Chris Hanson will find you sort of way. Ginny Weasley is growing into a babe, great zip-up scene, Harry must've sported half a chubby for that scene. Hermione is also coming along nicely, topless make-out with Harry in an evil Voldemort Soul Vision was pretty sexy. These are great times.

Context Amongst Shit That Don't Make No Sense:

Alright now, even though I enjoyed this film a lot, it's not without its problems. There is hardly an ending to this thing, I feel like it could have had a more significant cliffhanger. Again, I'm thinking of more explicitly split films like the latter Matrix flicks, Pirates of the Caribbean and even the Back to the Future Series. They each have a very compelling cliffhanger that really got the audience jazzed up to see the third installment (regardless of the quality of the third one. Remember when Reloaded [2003] ended? So pumped for Revolutions [2003] then...oh shit. Actually I really enjoyed Reloaded, I'll fight you). Deathly Swallows doesn't really have this. Oh shit, Morty's got the Elder Wand...which he got really easily after a long period of not interacting with the main characters.

Still looking like an old woman.
There is also some questionable shit going on here. What the hell was up with that wedding? It seems so obvious to me that the Death Eaters would attack the Weasleys, how was that their best hiding place for Harry? I mean, it fucking already happened once already! Why would they have a huge Wedding there that obviously everyone would know about. The film actually treats this stupidity well because you're watching and you think "That's so dumb, why don't the Death Eaters attack them?" and then the Death Eaters immediately attack them. The same thing happens when Hermione keeps apparating in the same forest (by the way, how many forests and beaches in England are completely abandoned? They never see anyone else around just strolling through as they come in). It's also the same forest where they already saw some bad dudes walking around. You think "That's so dumb, I can't believe they haven't found them yet." Immediately after they get caught. So the stupidity of the characters is somewhat balanced here. I guess.

So let's chat about this ice lake - are you kidding me? I thought this was a moronic trap set by some evil forces and there would be no way Harry would fall for it. Then he fell for it...and it wasnt a trap. What the hell, Godric Gryffindor, why keep your dagger at the bottom of a fucking ice lake. Although I'll contend that the Voldemort Mud-Soul-Monster was awesome. Sexy awesome.
Alright what else to wrap this up...it's nice to see that Dobby has evolved somewhat from what I always thought was a poor Gollum knockoff, he looked much better here than he did in Chamber of Semen (2002). A brief encounter of Dumbledore's Gay Lovers is welcome. I also liked the brief instance of Draco we saw, who is really just acting evil out of peer pressure, nervous and shaky even in his contempt. There's a bit of soul to save yet. He's still a wiener though.

In conclusion, the movies are way better, have yet to read a book and pretty proud of that. Hail Yates. Do you think this has a shot at Best Costume Design?

25 November 2010

The Long Halloween Vol. II: Thanksgiving

Welcome to our Second Year of the Long Halloween, a monthly look at the best ways to celebrate our favourite holidays. With November again comes a pretty basic one - Thanksgiving! There aren't a whole lot of options for Turkey Day, which tends to be overlooked in the media while sandwiched between the huge candy and present fiestas that are Halloween and Christmas. It definitely has its own iconography though and here's the best of the lot to celebrate right:

Thankful Flicks:

There's really one one major Thanksgiving movie out there. John Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987). It really captures a major modern part of Turkey Day, the long painful travel home as well as spending a great majority of time with someone who you really hate. It's also an incredibly funny film with Steve Martin and John Candy at the top of their game before intense obnoxiousness and Jamaican/Dozen Family films set in.

Thanksgiving is also ultimately about compassion, thankfulness, family and the lengths we'll all go for all that shit. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is also chock full of this good stuff. This, along with the fact that there's no other real Thanksgiving film made ever make it a worthwhile viewing for Turkey Night. Of course if they ever make this into a whole feature (not bloody likely), we've got an instant Holiday Classic. Uhh...moving on then.

Thankful TV:

I estimated last year that no one would ever beat "Turkeys Away" (S1;E7) from WKRP in Cincinnati, and that remains true. There's no better episode that demonstrates the need for Turkey on Thanksgiving nor one as funny and ridiculous in its slow build to insanity. I'll give How I Met Your Mother a close second, however, for both "Slapsgiving" (S3;E9) and "Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap" (S5;E9). Check out the first slap and song below:

I think I'm a little more partial to the sequel for its added depth between Lilly and her father as well as the continuous slap debates that escalate through the episode. It shows a lot of what Thanksgiving is about, shitty family members, forgiveness, togetherness and slapping the hell out of your friends. These are thankful times.

I'm also a fan of "The Mom & Pop Store" (S6;E8) from Seinfeld, which really emphasizes the parade element - Go Macy's and Woody Woodpecker. It also hints at Thanksgiving Parties, which are heavily underrated. In fact, the day before Thanksgiving tends to be one of the biggest bar drinking nights of the year, which I'm surprised hasn't been addressed in TV or Movies significantly yet. Finally there's the simple fact that everything is shut down for these couple days, good luck with the dentist, Jerry. Not till Monday. We're all too fat and preoccupied with irritating family members to come in to work.

Thankful Musics:

There aren't a whole lot of Traditional Thanksgiving Carols, either, but this does come to mind immediately:

It would be a sad day indeed if you made it through without giving this a play. It's all about 90s Pop Culture References, non sequiturs and praise of Modern Thanksgiving Iconography. Turkey, potatoes, gobble gobble, corduroys, etc. He's got this whole thing down, man. It's funny that this Holiday is so closely tied to its foodstuffs. Speaking of -

Thankful Food and Booze:

Now, here's the easiest part of the whole post, if it's Thanksgiving you'd better be eating Turkey. Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberries, Dinner Rolls, Beef Jerky and Green Beans are all also acceptable. Let the Turkeys fear this day over all others, they all must die. Creative types may spring for a Turducken, which is incredible. As for drinks, with all the heavy Turkey and Gravy, I'd suggest a few boxes of wine to get that Itis going nice and strong. Food is key, gorge and gorge, folks, that's the best way to celebrate this holiday.

Other Thanksgiving traditions are really just football (all three games this year are going to be ridiculous blow-outs, calling Pats over Lions, Saints over Cowboys and Jets over Bengals easy), Dog Shows (calling um...those damn Australian Shepherds seem to be raking it in lately I guess) and Pilgrims vs. Indians. The pigskin is a noble tradition, although why it has always befallen Detroit to host a Turkey Game is beyond me. I mean, Dallas is America's team, even if they're widely overrated and their owner is an insane billionaire. Anyway, on to that last part, I feel like the Pilgrim contribution isn't a huge blip on our radar anymore. It's easy to forget the tradition of Puritanical Moral Values, Racism, a brief moment of unity, then hundreds of years of Bloodshed and Germ Warfare that formed the basis of Thanksgiving. Thanks to Lincoln, though, America's got its own special day of giving Thanks.

Why doesn't anyone praise this among Lincoln's accomplishments? We've got a Federal Holiday because of him, baby! I mean sure, maybe the Gettysburg Address a month earlier overshadowed his October 3rd, 1863 Declaration of Thanksgiving. C'mon man.

Getting off topic. Actually despite its questionable origins Thanksgiving today is actually fairly un-commercialised among major holidays. It is still actually a time for Thanks, Acknowledgment, Humility and Family. Hoorah.

Let's listen to some more Adam Sandler now.

19 November 2010

Trends: The Desexualisation of Male Genitalia of 2010

Alright, stay with me here, folks. Today we're going to talk a lot about Penises. You know, those dangly things in between a man's legs. It goes by many names - Lingam, Cock, Flesh-Rocket, Ham-Banana, these terms are cross cultural.  Now, I love my penis, it's an awesome tool to have, clearly not just for sexual purposes but for a variety of tasks around the house. From hammering nails to pressing hard to reach buttons in laser halls, the boner in particular is a very useful aid. In the past month, however I've noticed two distinct forms of media thoroughly desexualize the limp phallus.

Your Dick as a Plaything!

Jackass 3D (2010) demonstrated just a few of the many uses your penis has besides boning. This became Chris Pontius' signature schtick in the film, he was rarely in a clothed scene. The film demonstrates a complete desexualisation, though. The Penis isn't there to offend or instill any kind of sexual arousal. It's there to play around with. Bat some ping pong balls around. Play fireman.

One of the best things about being a guy is the ability to mark your territory anywhere. Bam Margera plays fireman all over this film with a Cock-Cam which allows the Penis to take up a majority of the frame. There's nothing sexual here though, just a man who a hose attached to the waist. We've got this limp swinging hose attached to our bodies, we should be using them for more fun. The stigma comes with sexual connotations but there's nothing remotely intimate or sexual going on here. It makes me curious about the level of offence here. Is there anything wrong with a butt-ass naked Pontius swinging his dick around? There are obvious homosexual interludes but when the enjoyment isn't remotely sexual is this still applicable? They're grown boys having fun who just discovered the full potential of their cocks. It's a beautiful thing.

"You'll rue the day...I ever took my pants off!"

After the new episode of Ugly Americans this week on Comedy Central I was inspired to write this post. Here we have another desexualisation of the Penis, but instead of a toy it can be a weapon. A blunt object used literally for the destruction of smaller animals.

Ugly AmericansNew Episodes Summer 2011
Death Spray
New Episodes Oct 6, 10:30pm/9:30cDepartment of Integration Field GuideFollow the Show on Twitter

One of the major uses of Dicks besides a tool is to kill animals. Whether large or small, typically full boners only we may use to fight off dangerous creatures. Officer Frank Grimes in this episode however, uses the momentum of a flaccid penis with a huge amount of hip action to get his point across. Indeed there is an entire underground fighting circuit of the "Manbirds" who battle with large fleshy cock-like dangling body parts.

The penis is a blunt instrument, thick enough to be tossed around and do some damage. This episode features penises heavily but without much mention (besides the above clip - I mean, this goes on for another 15 minutes without addressing the use of Literal Cocks in Cockfights) and no sexual context. The Penis truly is a tool and its use as weapon and plaything proves for immediate comic effect but also a unique removal of context.

Dicks featured prominently without a use for reproduction, self-satisfaction or waste disposal is a bold move. It's bold because it pushes the lines of good taste, blurs concepts of sexuality and enables a freer concept of the human body.

No homo.

15 November 2010

First Impressions: Skyline

Ahh. What to do about a film like Skyline (2010). Man I was pumped for this movie. I was genuinely pretty excited. Now, I wasn't expecting another District 9 (2009), but this looked like some cutting-edge alien effects with an interesting spin on the invasion-plot, definitely worth a squirt, right?

Shit no. This film was bad. This was really, really bad. But maybe I'm being a bit harsh here. There were some elements of this flick that I did actually really like. They were pretty seldom, but here we go, divided into two major categories, The Good and The Shit.

The Good:

This is the film's money shot, if Skyline was good at all, this would be close to iconic. It's very impressive visually and even awe-inspiring. Indeed most of anything good from this flick comes from the effects. It's no surprise then to learn that this is the first feature production by Hydraulx, which before was only a special effects company. It's for this exact reason that the effects are really the only thing cool about the film. It's also why the main characters are Special Effects workers who live in Santa Monica...where Hydraulx is based. Way to think outside the box with the characters and setting, guys.

The Martians are pretty cool looking, if not in parts rip-offs of War of the Worlds (2005), The Matrix (1999) and Independence Day (1996). The big lumbering Beast with the Hand-Tongues thing was pretty unique though, as is the idea that these huge monsters are "piloted" by smaller monsters. Actually, this doesn't really make sense, nor is it given any explanation ever.

This is one of the things I like and dislike about this film. It didn't have an explanation for the events - no "psychiatrist scene" at the end explaining to the audience what they just saw. This really only works however, with films that can generally be figured out with enough simplicity to make a bit of sense. Cloverfield (2008) works in this regard, because while there's never any scientists suddenly appearing and explaining everything, there's really not that much to explain. The Monster has come because he's a pissed off animal and that's about it. Why the fuck are the aliens in Skyline (SPOIL) stealing human brains and putting them in their own soldiers? Soldiers who then pilot huger, irrational monsters. And why the fuck is Jarrod's red brain so special that he controls his own alien body. Dammit, you need to either explain a little bit or just go in another direction. I'll give Mars Attacks! (1996) as another example of aliens doing weird shit that fit with the overall story without explanation due to tone and ....damn, this was supposed to be the positive side, right?

The film as admirable guts. There are many things that I think the audience genuinely wouldn't expect. Another simultaneous positive and negative is the isolated action. The whole story ends up taking place in and around a single apartment building in Santa Monica, which would be cool in a Die Hard (1988) - sort of way if the action kept flowing around the building. Instead, they almost escape (don't, in a pretty shocking and gutsy scene killing off its most famous actor) and then just go back to where they started with little plot development besides exchanging charismatic actors for uncharismatic ones. Far too much of this movie is the main characters watching the action instead of participating. Part of the thrill of the ending to Independence Day is President Bill Pullman flying along with the Good Ol' Boys. The scumbags in Skyline just watch Predator Drones huddled behind closed blinds. Damn it's hard to keep this positive. Sorry to compare it to so many other films but it's really as if the directors, The Brothers Strause just tried to pack in every cool trope they had ever seen from other invasion movies but really miffed on the execution.

The Shit:

Now, the plot is actually somewhat logical, that is, it follows a logical path (until the ending). There aren't a huge amount of twists and turns or sudden things that happen for no reason involving the story or drastic changes in character. Where the film really faults then is the simple fact that the characters aren't that interesting. When uninteresting characters make decisions in line with their personalities the result is...NOT INTERESTING. The action really looks like a damn effects demo reel. Why the fuck are they just watching it outside? The tension is there but its completely based on reaction to situation, not real problems. I'll again cite Cloverfield as a film that spends a good amount of time organically growing its characters (through a realistic party) and then lets them continue to breathe and grow through the paths they take then interaction between themselves during breaks in the action. Skyline blows a possibly unique "Alien Invasion Hangover" premise almost immediately along with its hook - the cool Blue Light Attraction thing.

Why the hell is Jarrod given special powers and a special red brain? Damnation, that was fucking stupid. Anyway, the poorly constructed characters have even worse actors and there are tons more blown opportunities. You can piece together the night from the opening scenes, which could have been a cool hook that allowed its characters to grow through action. Instead we are treated to this ploddering party that is really uninteresting. Like, the party doesn't seem fun. And then of course, almost the scene identical from the opener just played again. So many stretches of this film are just boring and uninspired. Ugh this sucks. I'm on the shit part, right?

This ending. How can I talk about this ending. If you haven't seen it, I don't know, just don't see it and read this anyway. The film ends with main dude Jarrod and his main bitch, Elaine getting sucked up by the light (which I guess does nothing once they are inside the ships. Gosh darn it.) then Jarrod's brain getting sucked out of his head and placed into an Alien Monster Body. As Preggers Elaine is about to get her baby drilled out of her Vag-Hole, Alien-Monster-Jarrod busts in and kicks everyone's ass in stop-motion freeze-frame credit action shots.

Holy Barbecue Dick, what the fucking hell.

This was probably one of the stupidest endings to any movie ever. It didn't make shit for sense, had no correlation to the previous fear and hiding tone and just doesn't make any kind of logical sense at all. What the hell is supposed to happen next? They will just be killed immediately, they're in the middle of a huge fucking alien ship full of giant monsters and they're only advocates are whiny screaming Pregos and passed out jabronis. Fucking...fucking cock. As it turns out, I hated this movie. I wish it didn't look so cool.

Actually a lot of the CGI gets pretty bad, the broken glass for some reason is laughable, as is some of the dusty shots (why is CGI dust so difficult?). Basically this film comes down to an interesting premise that is just completely wasted and cool looking Alien Monsters. Google Image Search the Monsters, and watch the trailer once for the premise. There. You've now had a better experience with Skyline than I did. Congratulations.

13 November 2010

Profiles: Does Kanye Deserve Humility? Part III; The Case Against

I've been rambling about Kanye a lot this past week, first noting his early career, launching on to the scene in very atypical rap fashion, then proceeding to prove himself to be the most egotistical prick celebrity of the past decade. To answer our Ultimate Question here, whether or not Kanye actually deserves Humility, I'm arguing here that no, he doesn't. Kanye really has been one of the greatest artists of our time and he deserves constant praise, adoration and 24-hour penis sucking. To say this is to ignore his personal life entirely and judge him solely on his works. This is of course a double-edged sword. Celebrities these days simply cannot be judged only from their oeuvre, but when we do so we can more clearly determine the quality of their art.

Graduation and Bigger Sound, 2007

Kanye really set a new standard with his third album, Graduation (2007). First, I loved how 50 Cent released his album Curtis (2007) the same day and attempted to challenge him for sales. Kanye just buried Curt, clearly the mainstream public had accepted Kanye's more moderate rapper image over the hardcore Gangster, which really hasn't recovered since. Kanye sets the trends.

There are so many incredible tracks off this record. You can check out more information than you would ever want here, but I'll sum up some of the singles. I talked about "Can't Tell Me Nothing" a bit in my Zach Galifianakis post. This is a good example of the album, killer beats over chill hooks with lyrics by Kanye that slice between pain, sardonic jokes, righteous anger and an unruly confidence. I'll quickly admit to hating "Stronger," but "Good Life" more than makes up for it, which won Best Rap Song at the 50th Grammy Awards. Kanye really had a streak of incredible videos off this album, from Galifianakis to the cute and clever animations on "Good Life" (and that chick is real hot) and one of the best of the decade in "Flashing Lights" (again, real hot chick):

This is undoubtedly the best track off the album and the video is perfect. It's wrapped in mystery, darkness, contemplation and sexiness. Is the chick killing Kanye with a shovel out of anger? Revenge? Sadism? It's about a broken relationship turned to its most extreme. Crossing the edge. There were a shitload of vids for this track, not all of which were purposely released by Kanye, but that hasn't stopped others from making some interesting connections between the reluctance of celebrity and a possible journey to the afterlife. Kanye's the only mainstream Hip-Hop artist who is attempting ideas this big. Other incredible non-singles include the smooth "Good Morning," "Drunk and Hot Girls,"and "I Wonder."

The Record Skips - 808 & Heartbreak, 2008

This goes against most of what I'm trying to argue here, but I actually think 808 & Heartbreak (2008) sucks fucking donkey nuts. I mean, "Love Lockdown" sucks, "Heartless" sucks, "Amazing" sucks. Auto-Tune is like the 3-D of the music industry. Popular among artists as a quick fix to bad production, initially popular but since has made audiences weary. 808 is full of this shit and it just sounds awful when overblown. I might put "See You in my Nightmares" as the album's best track, but even that is way below the worst track off Graduation. I'll give the vid for "Coldest Winter" a slight prop for continuing the death theme from "Flashing Lights." Ugh that Auto-Tune is awful, I need to stop listening to this Album now.

So this pretty shitty album combined with some really low PR moves had placed Kanye significantly in the wrong side of the public eye. He would need to do something pretty spectacular, he couldn't just declare himself to be the best anymore, he had to prove it.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010): He Proves It

Kanye's latest album drops in nine days (with YouTube among other Internet help, does that even matter anymore?) and it's tough to find a poor song on the whole damn thing. He's done something really special with these tracks and little 35-minute music video accompanying the whole album. The first thing to mention is the quality - if these songs were shit this would be very forgettable, narcissistic and excessive. Instead it's awesome, narcissistic and excessive.

The "Power" video I mentioned a few months ago as a great video and I believe it still is. Jumping from this point, he's used an enormous video for "Runaway" to showcase much of the rest of the album while connecting the songs to a full narrative. Songs in the full video, some just snippets, include "Dark Fantasy," "Gorgeous" a remix of "Power," "All of the Lights," "Devil in a New Dress," "Runaway," "Hell of a Life," "Blame Game" and "Lost in the World." It was exceedingly difficult to find those links. The songs follow the same order on the Album, although a handful are left out of the video. Here's the whole lovely ordeal:

Notice the unique colouration, consistent tonal changes that align with visual and song changes, an organically flowing yet mysterious narrative that lets loose nuggets of occasional wisdom and long meditating moments of expression, dignity and substance. There is a definitive arc, literal star-crossed lovers with a storyline that is never hit over the viewer's head but instead allowed to breathe. It's not a perfect effort but it showcases a whole lot more genuine drama and tragedy than most comparable films or television shows dealing with similar subject matter. Coming from a musician, this should be revolutionary. Anyone with a better PR than Kanye would have received higher praise rather than scoffs and eye rolls.

A few things stand out about the tracks- you can tell that Kanye has learned to use Auto-Tune a bit more judiciously, it works well tempered in "Lost in the World" compared to 808. He's also reached the point where he can grow and flex a track brilliantly. "Monster," absent from the "Runaway" video is probably the best track on the album which is almost solely due to Nicki Minaj's efforts. We should also praise him at this point for his SNL performances, which probably rank immediately in the "All-Time Greatest" category (With Radiohead, Sinead O'Connor and um...Queens of the Stone Age?). Watch that video. Yeah, that was on SNL. He just owns it. If his efforts, removed from any implication of ego, turn out success like this, can we judge him on hubris? Is that the price we pay for greatness - I mean, is self-aware greatness still greatness?

This is a bit of the irony to Kanye's supposed lack of humility. There is no other Rapper close to achieving this right now. Regardless of actual composition or meaning the effort here is staggering. He claims to be better than other rappers (read: all other people) because of his perceived humility. He's not out there making these ignorant songs about partying or smoking, he's pouring his heart out, the only one truly attempting making "art." And he's right. The simple question behind these three posts is really "Is Kanye right about himself?" Besides the beauty of the colour, cinematography and story of the video, there are also still moments in "Runaway" where he twists Black Cultural Stereotypes. The Dinner party exhibits a racial power reversal in its depiction of sharply-dressed well-to-do Blacks catered by White servants. Kanye is continually about proclaiming African Pride in positive ways, creating art through his songs instead of putting on a minstrel show. Unfortunately as he's successful in this fight it becomes personal instead of inspiring. It becomes about Kanye in a very individual way instead of funding a possible revolution in cultural stereotypes.

Does Kanye Deserve Humility? Should we join Steven Colbert and South Park in illuminating his hubris? Or can we praise the only living rapper that could possibly give us incredible songs like these? Is he not deserving of praise because of his personal arrogance, do his character defects also delegitimize his struggle (conscious or not) for Positive Black Cultural Independence?

I'm a positive bloke. I believe we can be level-headed enough to pick through the good and bad. We can appreciate what Kanye has done for the Black Community, what he has done for the modern music video while not ignoring his personal hubris but rather tempering it. We can acknowledge his unique position among stereotypical Rap Artists while checking his hyperbole and admiring his art. It's a tough line to tread but it's not impossible. If we can better, we must be better.

09 November 2010

Because it's Relevant: Biff, Incest and Back to the Future

There's been this weird Back to the Future resurgence the past couple weeks. This likely originated from the 25th Anniversary of Marty's first travel through time on 26 October 1985. Universal released all three films on Blu Ray to coincide with the date, some movie theaters across the world played re-releases of the first film, and the whole Trilogy has been on TV (You can watch the whole damn thing again next on ABC Family this Saturday from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm EST...). There's also a video game to arrive in December (with some creepy-ass renditions of Doc and Marty). Needless to say, BttF's explosion in our zeitgeist is only rivaled by McRibs, Kanye West and Late Night Talk feuds. Love this country.

So let's get to it. Now, it should go without saying that you can get into a gargantuan amount of topics of discussion concerning these three films. There are staples of culture everywhere, expert melding of soft science-fiction with constant iconography, one-liners, memorable characters and a twisting yet followable plot. Somehow this was easier to follow than Transformers: Revenge of the Swollen (2009). Although this still helps. There are time paradoxes to discuss, dozens of subtle winks and a narrative that continually reminds, refreshes and foreshadows plot elements both in grand arcs and seemingly innocuous doses. Many other websites have gone on and on about the differences between Part II and Now (a future we're quickly approaching. That guy's Doc Brown is great, by the way) and obviously Doc and Marty's gay love affair. See how much Back to the Future topics we've had the past few weeks? We need to talk about something else. So I picked the two topics that most interest me about the Trilogy: "Biff the Rapist" and "Constant Incest." Punch it!

1) Biff has all the Charm, Good Looks and Respect for Women as a Young Ben Roethlisberger

There are so many reasons why this trilogy really works, one is the multiple roles played by single actors, exhibiting different generations of the same family as well as single people in different times. Michael J. Fox really pushes this after playing 3/4 of his family (including his daughter...creepy) in Part II (1989) and his great-great-grandpa Seamus in Part III (1990). In a subtly humourous way, Chris Lloyd basically plays Doc Brown as a constant at all times. Then there's varying roles for the ladies, both Lea Thompson as Marty's Mum and Elizabeth Shue dishing different make-up as Marty's GF and wife during different decades. I think one of the most important characters and an underrated villain for the Me Decade is Biff Tannen.

Admirably played by Thomas F. Wilson, whose credits also include the dude who dated Bill's mom on Freaks and Geeks and the voice of "tough fish" on SpongeBob SquarePants, Biff is vital to the story. He's also basically a Rapist/Murderer/Gangster. I mean, in other films when the villain takes over the world there is the obligatory castle, general evil and malaise but when Biff takes over it's far more evil. He admits to killing Marty's father, abusing his mother physically and emotionally and running the town into a violent slum based around a corrupt Casino. As a kid he intended to rape Marty's mother had George McFly not intervened. He's this corrupted vision. Check out the scene when Marty follows Biff around his house right after he goes back to 1955 in Part II. He's so cruel to little children even, throwing their ball on top of a roof then laughing about it. He then proceeds to pull up Lorraine's skirt in broad daylight, then vows to marry her whether she wants to or not. He's possessive, angry and demented. No part of him contains mercy or redeeming features. He's the most evil character ever put on celluloid. Probably.

What's most dangerous about Biff is that he does possess some intelligence. While he may appear to be a simple brute, he knows how to weasel out of things, pull off crimes and invest his way to some substantial power in every future besides the end of Part I (1985). As an old man he's weary but still cunning, stealing the Time Machine for his own twisted purposes. You can see the full flex of his character over the sixty years, the youthful excess and optimism contrasted with the crotchety grandpa, but both still retain the evil spirit.

His progeny, Griff is possibly more demented. He's actually a bit more aggressive and a more active criminal, possibly due to his cyborg implants, faster-paced technological lifestyle and lack of a significant father figure (awww...). What's cool about Biff as a villain is that his presence is always felt throughout the trilogy despite his small awareness of who or when the protagonist is. He remains a threat because he's fucking nasty. I also love how the only way to up the ante after his demonic takeover in Part II was to set him in the only time more violent than that - the Wild West.

Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen is probably the most insane of all Biff's incarnations. He has no qualms or restraint in his violence, killing and robbing at will. While Part II's Alternate 1985 Biff is one with runaway money and power, Part III's Western Biff is runaway without Law (although admittedly Alt-85 has become proud enough to boast that he "...OWNS THE POLICE!" The recurring elements and continual reflection of events and characters with slightly different settings and tones is part of what makes BttF such an engaging trilogy.

2) Dude, Your Mom is HOT!

The Freud theories running wild throughout Back to the Future are awesome. Marty finds himself on the way to becoming a cognizant yet unwilling Oedipus after accidentally pushing his own mother into falling for him. Nice. Lea Thompson kills it as a babe girl-next-door mom. There's more here than that though.

Notice in Part II when Marty sees the trashed out version of his mother Biff his eyes do not leave the boobies. They really don't. I mean, c'mon Martin, glance and then look away, he's just lost in the fun melons. They're plentiful sure but you're making them feel exposed, shamed and awkward all over. This is ridiculous.

Finally, I really need to point out that why the hell in Part III are Marty's Wild West relatives played by Michael J. Fox (Marty) and Lea Thompson (Marty's Mom). Has no one else ever realised this? Why the hell wasn't Maggie McFly played by Elizabeth Shue? You know, to show that they're a couple? I know that Crispin Glover had some troubles with the producers, and no one was giving a shit about Jeffrey Weissman so they basically just paired up the two most recognisable McFlys, but it seems like this weird Oedipal Fantasy come to life and living in the Old West. Clearly, Marty is able to watch a version of himself shack up with a version of his mother. This is sick shit. It's almost as bad as the realisation that Luke Skywalker kisses a single girl in the entire Star Wars Trilogy...HIS SISTER. Shit.

There's a whole bunch more on the internet everywhere with cool BttF stuff. I'll try to cite some here -

Part II's role as an in-between movie, contrasting to Part I and III's straight-forward narratives. It's also notable for its insane number of different timelines (four) - check that out here.

Original actor for Marty McFly, Eric Stoltz, what could have been...a much shittier film -- here.

Drinking Game!

So that's it. This post should get you thinking about one of the most thorough Trilogies of our time, which broke ground in screenwriting, effects, and blockbuster heart as well as filming styles (back-to-back), release dates and finally, providing three very connected but distinct settings that followed similar tropes and scenes with different and engaging character growth. Fantastic, ladies and gentlemen, now go buy a Blu-Ray player for this apparently okay release.

08 November 2010

Profiles: Does Kanye Deserve Humility? Part II; Gay Fish

Kanye West is still on everyone's mind so today we're talking about some of his more recent albums, trials, controversies and the possibility of a deserved out of control ego. Last week I mentioned his rise as an unconventional rapper. His brand was education, class and lyrical complexity over low pants, drugs and violence. Even his lack of a stage name seemed to establish him as someone level with the public - a musician without masks or an alter-ego. He sought to re-define what it meant to be a Public Black American Figure and restore integrity to his profession's stereotypes. He's done all this while collecting Grammys, widespread commercial and critical acclaim and succeeding behind and in front of the microphone.

Unfortunately he's also a tremendous ass.

Let's start with my all-time favourite Kanye Moment. Just watch:

Holy Fuck. I don't have enough Internet to ramble about how much I love this. Every part is awesome. The Mike Myers / Kanye pairing is weird enough then Kanye just immediately goes off the teleprompter and visibly shakily voices his true opinion. This took guts, it really did, no matter your opinion of any one involved or any result, this took a lot of courage to go out and speak his mind. It's what makes this country great - you've got the freedom to be as ridiculous as you want to be and criticise who needs to be criticised.

Myer's face throughout is priceless. I love imagining whatever conversation they might have had after the producers cut to an obviously not-ready Chris Tucker. Mike: "So, you just kind of felt like going for that one, did you?" Kanye: "Yeah, you tell your kids you were there." But hey, it's a real dude voicing his opinion, skewed or not, over an incredibly serious situation that he didn't feel our government was taking seriously enough. In terms of his hubris, it's Kanye believing himself able to fight for his people, and there's not a lot wrong with that when he pulls it off. Also his follow-up interview is pleasing.

Sometime around 2008 with 808s & Heartbreak Kanye started making this transition from the "College Kid" image to this trendier, chain-wearing, Venitian-blind Glasses owning douchebag. He moved away from a relatable, artistic, possibly visionary rapper into someone well aware of his visionary status who sought to glorify himself and exploit his talent rather than be cool and let it ride. C'mon, you know you can't declare yourself cool, Kanye. That's pretty uncool. As he kept proclaiming to be the definitive voice of a generation, South Park with excellent timeliness picked up on the trend and ripped him apart in "Fishsticks" (S13;E5) This is a brilliant send-up of an out of control ego. He can't see past himself. This along with Steven Colbert's Operation: Humble Kanye a few months earlier almost seemed drastic against unarguably one of our generation's best rappers. It's not like Kanye is Bob Dylan, but maybe he was one of the best out there and he deserved to brag about himself. I mean, he wasn't hurting anyone, right?


The low PR moment of the decade for Kanye. The personal stories of this guy just get more and more ridiculous. Taylor Swift, semi-cute, surfboard bodied 19-year old Country Pop Star just won an MTV Video Music Award in 2009. Hoorah! Good for her, right? Well, apparently Kanye wasn't really pleased with the results. He found no problem with running on to the stage, denouncing the award winner standing feet away and claiming Beyonce deserved to win. At least he wasn't saying that HE should have been the winner. Wait, he actually did do that once. How does he think he can get away with this shit? His ego is so huge that he believes he can do anything, but hell, even Obama called him a jackass. You're fighting for Black Acceptance and the only Black President in history calls you out on being a Jackass? Shit, dude. Get real, baby.

There's two classy moments that came out of this - Beyonce letting Taylor come back up on stage and give a proper acceptance after the former won her own award. Secondly, Comedy Central playing four back-to-back episodes of "Fishsticks" the night before. Yeah, that episode had originally aired five months earlier. Damn that's good.

So, as the years have gone by, it's pretty clear that Kanye views himself as some kind of gift to the world. We should be so lucky to have him in our lives. This isn't much hyperbole. His Twitter Account is one of the best out there, it's a reason to get on Twitter. While he currently has 1,558,165 followers as of this writing, he's only following 1 account, Oprah. I like the idea that Kanye doesn't care about what any one else has to say on Twitter, but he's overjoyed at sharing his own thoughts. He's also a generator of the "My presence is a present kiss my ass" Meme, after lyrics from his single off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), "Monster." Which of course is the best hash tag ever. Just being around Kanye is a present to all of us, and according to him, we should be grateful. This kind of stuff...this is beyond parody or mockery. This is just a joke on its own.

Aziz Ansari sums up Kanye pretty well through discussing some moments hanging out with him. This shit is hilarious -  but there's little to doubt any more, this isn't really a joke. Kanye really is this out of control. He loves himself so so much. He truly believes without question he's the greatest artist to ever live. This attitude is just so insane, but I have to remain in contention. Kanye IS good. Kanye's shit is really good. Almost all rappers, hell, most big mainstream artists, celebrities and athletes in general think their shit is the shit, but most of their shit is just shit. Is Kanye's outrageous ego justified? Or is it just one we see more often than others? Certainly there is a discrepancy here between humility, rationality and how Kanye is expressing himself.

Stay tuned for later in the week where I'll chat about his albums and give my final case for why Kanye does not deserve to be humbled. In the meantime, enjoy this:

05 November 2010

Profiles: The Ranges of Knowing Zach Galifianakis

As the star of Zach Galifianakis rises I tend to become upset. I'm upset because suddenly everyone thinks he's the new funniest guy in Hollywood. This simply isn't true - he's been the funniest guy in Hollywood for the past decade. Today, I thought we'd look at what you might think of when you hear the name "Galifianakis" and judge how well you know our newest fattest beardest comedy icon.

So if you hear the name and think of...

#1) The Hangover (2009), congratulations, you're 95% of America. The rabid success of this film made Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach household names, but the latter was the clear break-out star. It also injected anabolic steroids into all their careers, again, Zach soaking up the most benefits. This is the most basic level of knowing Galifianakis, the earnest but crazy, misguided, dangerous but strangely innocent. Blood brothers, wolf pack, not at the table, Carlos. There are tons of classic lines out of his mouth and it's a great role in an excellent film. There's a lot more to Zach than this, though.

If you think of...

#2) "Can't Tell Me Nothing," you're on the right track. In the Summer of 2008 Kanye West employed Zach in one of the greatest videos of the year (hey, Rolling Stone thought so) for "Can't Tell Me Nothing. This is brilliantly weird, disturbing, intense, passionate and hilarious. Please watch:

Zach's performances like this work because he's taking it absolutely seriously. He's showing such pain and honesty in such a ridiculous juxtaposition of genres, characters and settings that it comes off completely absurd. His natural disposition allows him to exploit this kind of contrast for humour, and it's suprisingly consistently effective. It's also surprising how effectively he's brought back the beard and engaged it into his brand. If you've already seen or heard of this, congratulations, you're in the second tier of knowing Galifianakis. The vid was pretty popular even for being the second one Kanye commissioned.

But if you're thinking of...

#3) Out Cold (2001), now you're getting into vintage Fianakis. This is an...okay little movie about a bunch of dudes trying to save their ski resort from Lee Majors. It does feature Zach predominantly in the greatest prank ever pulled on a passed out buddy:

It's a pretty fun, easily passed-over comedy that has a handful of pretty cute actresses in it. While no one saw it at all in its theatrical run, it's got a bit of a cult following on DVD and Comedy Central occasionally throws it on the air. I wouldn't be surprised if you've seen it and can recognise the chubby bearded guy.

So then if you think of...

#4) "How come girls can say, 'I'm going to go to brunch with my girlfriend', and no one assumes anything but when I say, 'My boyfriend and I are going shopping for fanny packs', everyone thinks I'm a gay?" You're thinking of his stand-up. Which is hardily renowned around these parts. He brings a deeply sardonic sense of class and pride to his self-effacing material. He plays soothing piano across most of his more random musings about life, which brilliantly breaks-up the material and offers pacing for the one-liners that works incredibly. Again, his delivery is so earnest and seriously toned, he's a constant professional. It's not even a nervous kind of stammering delivery in his seriousness, either. He's confident in lunacy. His stint at the Purple Onion here is fantastic, as is his Comedy Central Special back in 2001, which has the greatest ending to any of those Specials Ever. Watch the whole thing here, it's worth it for moments like "Just give me the rapist," and  
"Have you ever been so drunk you wet the bed? Not even sleeping, just standing over, pissing on it?"
His clothing changes as well as prop, music and song use is extremely creative as is his continual crushing delivery. The preparation and planning also seems unheard of for a Comedy Central Special. You can also note the visual and auditory inclusivity of the performance. I've heard him quoted here and there so I know others have caught this but it's definitely worth it for anyone calling themselves a Galifianafan.

Finally, and well this sucks, but if you're like me and you think of...

#5) Late World with Zach, you're deep in the shit, baby. First of all, look at the tiny IMDB page. I remember watching this during its first run during the Spring/Summer of 2002, it literally came on at 2 or 3 AM on vH1, and hell, they don't even have a page for it anymore. Oh they got La La's Full Court Wedding, but no Zach. But yeah, I actually watched this thing when it was first aired. Every moment was awesome. It was mostly similar to his stand-up, lots of musical interludes, weird interviews and some bizarre sketches that came straight from Zach's mind. It was like a normal late night talk show but one with no real filter for the personality. Just a twisted dark version of what these shows could be like. It was brilliant, ran for nine weeks and currently has no DVD or website. Thus really, it exists only on IMDB, Wikipedia and my mind. If it's in yours too, congratulations, you've made it to true Galifianakis Appreciation.

With that, enjoy Due Date (2010), which looks like another great mainstream ride for this insane, intensely focused, simultaneous straight man and goofball Fat Jesus.

Enjoy, friends.

04 November 2010

Profiles: Does Kanye Deserve Humility? Part I

It seems like the last week or so has been all about Kanye West, and with a recent shout-out in George W's new book today seems like a good one to talk about the Voice of A Generation, a Genius and Gay Fish, Kanye West.

Kanyeezy is an interesting rapper. He started his career producing some of the hottest tracks in the early 2000s, including a good amount of Jay-Z's The Blueprint among a pretty impressive list including Nas, Ludacris, DMX, Mos Def and T.I. According to authoritative Wikipedia sources, Roc-A-Fella Records was cautious about supporting Kanye when he turned to rapping himself because of his atypical anti-street image.

There is a lot of complex societal ideas that swirl around this guy. The marketability of a genre, persona or a human being, individuality, music video art, free expression, critical acceptance with personal disdain and finally hubris out the ass. Is Kanye actually humble among the field of Rappers though? Does he deserve his self-appointed Kingship? On a few occasions he proclaimed himself the next Michael Jackson - a King of Pop - is this declaration self-deluded or accurate? There's no other living rapper as committed to his craft as an art form on a scale that can rival the best of any other genre - breaking free in a very mainstream way from the limitations that had seemed to guarantee prior success - the kind of success that Roc-A-Fella was used to and the risk they feared with Kanye. Let's start charting his professional career.

Early Success and an Anti-Gangster Image, 2004 - 2006

Kanye first came out with The College Dropout in 2004. Both his lyrical content and image were highly contrasted to typical hip-hop tropes at the time. He came out with a polo and nice jeans, branding himself as the eponymous College Dropout, a kid with education, class and a sense of decorum and formality. Looking at other popular hip-hop videos of the era, the bankability of this image seems ludicrous. This was  Kanye attempting to reevaluate what it meant to be a public Black figure in America. He was not going to dance and act like he should to get his money. He's out to create a dignified art form instead of dishing on rims, weed and girls.

While "Slow Jamz" is probably his most famous track off Dropout, "Through the Wire" and "Jesus Walks" are his most personal, most Kanye-like singles. They're both lyrically honest and well-produced songs. There's a reason why Kanye gets the honour to open up Dave Chappelle's Block Party (2006), here is a full version, the embedded below cuts out a bit of the intro, which is worth it.

All I'm saying here is that when Kanye came out there were a few other rappers (all of whom seem to be in Block Party, by the way) who had this closer approach to hip-hop as this genuine art form, a means of expressing values other than slurred, speedy words, negative stereotypes and violence. While cats like Mos Def and Talib Kwali had their own success though, none rose like Kanye, which gave him a certain amount of power within the musical community. Here was a guy tremendously successful who managed to still spit about his true emotions and feelings. This trend, though, would also be his downfall.

It's so difficult to pick a favourite Kanye album because they really are all so good. He followed up his freshman effort with Late Registration, which had incredible tracks such as "Diamonds from Sierra Leone,"
"Roses," and "Touch the Sky." The latter of those three is probably my favourite track of the album. It's so smooth and has a cool 70s beat that reminisces about a time of a more homogeneous Black Culture. It's also proud, boastful while maintaining a unifying theme. But of course we need to talk "Gold Digger." Watch the vid:

I'll point out a few things, first listen to this kick-ass Remix. Jamie Foxx is here capitalising on his uncanny Ray Charles impression, for which he won an Oscar in Ray (2004). His hook layers over the entire song beautifully. Check out Kanye's complete disinterest in the video, both to the girls and the audience. His back is turned to us with his hands in his pockets for the majority, as if he really doesn't need to be or like to be in the spotlight. His stylistic choices are again reminiscent of a simpler time while seamlessly placing black models in pin-up positions that would have been filled in their own time with white chicks. As immensely popular as "Gold Digger" was (during my college years this was a very rare song that just about every clique of people could get behind and love, it was bizarre. I mean, hippies, jocks, gangsters, potheads and nerds, it was insane), Kanye seemed as though he could eschew the recognition.

Which of course we'd learn was simply untrue. In our next installment I'll discuss his best album, Graduation, his personal controversies (which are endlessly ridiculous) and his pending album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which could prove to be one of his greatest successes to date. All of this praise, should we be shunning him or bowing down like he wants us to? Where are the lines between adoration, hubris, humility and rationalisation? Do I ask too many questions? Stay tuned!
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