27 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 12: A Cool Week in the Mountains

I can feel Summer winding down already. Winter is coming, people. And guaranteed, we will go from 90 degree days straight to negative twenty. It's the way of the horrible world now. But we still have some sizzling hot jams to get through! We have a few hot new ones this week along with some old favourites. Let's get to it!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Snowchild" by The Weeknd

All these Weeknd songs seem to be following some coherent storyline, or at least have him dressed the same. I haven't really watched them. This is a lot chiller than his earlier bops this summer, and like the next hot jam this week, doesn't seem like much of a summer track. It's also another one of the growing list of 2020 animated music videos - it's nice to see folks innovating during the age of Corona. I like it, it's not quite "Blinding Lights" but it's fine.

Second Hot Jam of the Week: "cardigan" by Taylor Swift

We were all set with The Weeknd, then Tay Sway decided to drop a surprise album. It's okay. This song is more her longfull ballad style, which she's maybe weaker at than her effervescent witty pop artistry. In terms of upbeat summer jams this is lacking, but its mournful tone perhaps suits 2020 better than bippier tracks. There is a lot coming out of this album, and we'll see if she has any late surge or domination. She's capable.

The lyrics to this jam really hit me this week. It's an incredibly dark and depressing song. But it's such a bop! I enjoyed jamming out to it this week but damn, it's such a monument to relationship despair and self-assessment. It's a marvel, and truly a completely 2020 song. It's doing okay chart-wise and I'm far from sick of it so far.

Speaking of longevity - it has been a very long time since we had a week without "Rockstar." Consistency in Summer 2020 is exceedingly rare. I'd be surprised if this manages to have a successful August - there is getting to be quite a bit of competition. I almost left it off this week, but it came on some Google playlists of mine, and I reflected how it was the #1 song in the country for so long, without real widespread recognition. It'll keep trucking.

This is another song that has been on and off, and I'm maybe giving it a lot of late credit. Megan Thee Stallion was also shot at this week, which is crazy. It's more of a Summer 2020 soundtrack jam than I've given it credit for and Beyonce certainly elevates any song she's attached to. I like the flow here more than the beat. It's probably a little out of style at this point, but we'll see if it hangs on any more.

What do we do with "Watermelon Sugar" at this point? It's maybe making a good case for itself, and doesn't really show any sign of going away, despite me predicting that a few weeks ago. It's really one of the only explicitly summer songs we've had this year, even if Summer 2020 has produced a handful of specific Summer 2020 songs. We'll see how everything eventually shakes out.

"death bed (coffee for your head)" by Powfu

I feel like I've known this song for years. This entered my purview a few weeks ago and it didn't even strike me as a new song. It's an awfully cute song with some Kanye-style vocals-as-beats. But it's so darn sweet. I think it's popular. Anyway, despite it sounding old, it's certainly fresh this week and I'd like to see it surge for a while.

"Wishing Well" by Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD has had a lot of charting songs this summer, particularly with a surging album over the last few weeks. The echoes of addiciton, depression, and refrain of "I can't breathe" resound in 2020. It doesn't even seem to explicitly be in reaction to George Floyd, but that's an inexporable link at this point. The track's been around for a time, but this week I realized that I had both listened to this a ton so far this summer and it's also hella relevant. This is a depressing week.

Next week...

I almost threw Dua Lipa on this again, but she just missed the cut. I'm curious if Taylor hangs on, although no track off folklore is traditional pop. Surely her getting back to some folk roots can be a good thing. And "exile" is tight as hell. There's a path there, but we'll see if Summer 2020 wants stripped down Taylor Swift music. Also her F-bomb on "betty." Yes, I listened to this whole album. Stay tuned, folks!

20 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 11: Vacation from Crap

We are barreling through the chaos now. I don't even know where to begin anymore. Everything is pretty bad all the time. I guess we can just listen to some hot summer jams to get funky fresh but what's the point? What's the point of any of this! Cataloging the Summer 2020 Summer Jam List has unearthed heady bits of existential drama over here. Let's dive in!

Hot Jam of the Week: "For the Night" by Pop Smoke ft. Lil Baby, DaBaby

Pop Smoke dropped an album and got like six songs in the Billboard Hot 100 this week. None are particularly good, maybe "The Woo." Juice WRLD is lighting up Spotify, but they aren't all that great, either. So, I'm sure I'll eat my words when these become big bangers, but I'm also struck by the fact that we're so decentralized that entire albums get charted because people are just streaming and listening to whatever they feel like listening to. It's amazing and democratizing and fantastic. Hell for distilling into a weekly list, but great for pop culture consumption.

"The Bigger Picture" by Lil Baby

This song found its way on a playlist of mine this week and although it's not really charting, streaming, or getting radio play, it also feels very much like a song of our time and I enjoy it quite a bit. It's a good jam, too. We're at such a point where we don't know how to react anymore and the art that emerges from quarantine and racial struggle ought to get some more recognition. The way Lil Baby says "We've had a hell of a year" sums it up. We certainly have.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

We're doing a hardcore "Remember the Summer" edition this week, not in small part because we seemed to hear a little bit of everything over the last few days. In the life of a pop song I think we're beyond the initial freshness, beyond the initial staleness, and then into the "Oh yeah, this jam is a jam" part of jam life. "Say So" is all in that. It's still a very funky song that we enjoy.

"Blinding Lights"by The Weeknd

Surely we are forming some kind of Summer 2020 with some of the jams this week. I still don't really believe Summer 2020 will be known for its music, but these are all emblematic of the Soundtrack to Living in Our Homes. I also generally like all these songs. With a gap of anything really ubiquitous, this is the default. Funky 80s style with some fresh rivets.

"Rain on Me" by Lady GaGa ft. Ariana Grande

I heard this this week and kind of didn't hate it, even longed for it a little bit. It still seems like an underperformance considering the talent invovled but it's maybe not totally terrible. I don't know where Lady GaGa finds herself. I am an obvi stan but she seems inexorably tied to her early 2009 pop success and daring fashion statements rather than the lasting diva she should be. Maybe I'm way off base, especially for a fan. I'm saying I wanted this song to be better rather than a clubthumper that could have been done by any starlet out there.

"ROCKSTAR" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This is maybe pretty much over, but it still earns a place here. I'm not tooootally sick of it, just getting there. It's still doing well chart-wise and at this point, has done well to cement itself as a strong contender. At least at this point I don't feel like any other song really sums up 2020. At the same time, it feels so small, right? No one is singing "Rockstar" in the streets. We'll see how we keep progressing.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

After a few weeks off, Dua Lipa is back with a song we heard a ton a while ago but not much since. I dig this track a lot, it might be my favorite Dua Lipa to be honest. She has splintered her jams this summer, though, and I worry that she won't contend for the crown since no one song has been dominant. This apparently still has some life in it, though. Could be something.

"Toosie Slide" by Drake

Drake is just the default of like, the decade. I don't think he's especially great - he's definitely good, but should he dominate the way he does? Not really. Like Dua Lipa, after a few weeks in the shadows, this track came back in a big way this week, and I found myself humming it quite a bit. It's fine. It's a fine song.

Next week...

I'm not sure "Toosie Slide" should be #1. But this is where we're at. I'm curious about the track Kanye dropped as he dropped out of the Presidential race. Perhaps he realized it's actually a hard job that requires geopolitical knowledge? Or not, who cares. Any of those Juice WRLD or Pop Smoke tracks might catch on. But the same as Dua Lipa's multiple hits, when you have five or six contenders, it's hard for any one song to stand out and become THE notable song. Keep truckin!

13 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 10: Mid-July Blues

We are in the thick of it now, folks. It's the true heart of summer. All the May and June getting reacquainted with the sun nonsense is behind us and we're finally past the all the major High Holidays of Cinco de Mayo, the End of School, and the Fourth of Julio. Now it's just pure summer. Beaches and waterparks ahoy! Well, let's pretend a magnificent disease is not currently ravaging the planet.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Hallucinate" by Dua Lipa

We have two hot jams this week. Who cares, it's summer, it's hot out. Also this first one isn't very good. I struggle with Dua Lipa. Sometimes her tracks are straight bangers, others like this just sound very forgettable and replaceable. I do love this big wave of animated music videos folks are having to do in quarantine. Or maybe this was a real artistic choice. It's not totally compelling.

"The Adventures of Moon Man and Slim Shady" by Kid Cudi and Eminem

Our second hotness - I dig the title and that's maybe about it. The track takes too long to drop which turns me off instantly. The beat also just feels all over the place. So is Eminem lately, who after so much great output exploring him finding his identity, seems to be struggling with the kind of rapper he wants to be right now. Cudi is reliably solid, though. I got into it by the middle of his verse. In terms of jam-ness, this is probably not too big of a dent.

"Mamacita" by the Black Eyed Peas ft. Ozuna, J. Real Soul

This is kind of a cool song but damn I've never wanted to punch a series of artists in the face like watching this video. Are they cool? They're not cool, right? Everyone is just trying so hard. I always thought of The Black Eyed Peas as reigning pop royalty just because their 2005-2010 was so solid and ubiquitous, but I suppose that is getting to be like ten years ago. Maybe they suck and everyone hates them? Have folks largely forgotten their jams? I don't know, but I kind of like their cross genre 2020 work that has a different flavor.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

This track crept is way back into my ears this week and I suppose it had never really fallen too far off this list. Doja Cat is certainly having a hell of a summer, even if her latest track isn't that great. This song really found a way to emphasize everything she does well in the best way, though. It's the kind of name-making track that could last a while.

"The Box" by Roddy Rich

I was actually trying to think of "Rockstar" and I came up with this one. Whenever a song enters long-term brain function I'm like, "Okay, this can get that TOP status." "The Box" got there this week. It's still a factor on the charts and whatnot, but we've definitely left in the dust for a while now. It's still an earworm. Dig it.

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This is still a presence although it may be cresting for my own ears. It's still very good and that little mandolin complements the heavy bass pretty well. It's fun and a song of our time unlike any other major song that's penetrated the charts much so far this summer. At this point the race is still wide open, enough that a late-breaking July or August track could even come in and do its thing. In all reality, Summer 2020 is not going to be remembered for its music, it'll be remembered for everything else going on.

"Savage" by Megan Thee Stallion

I'm not a huuuuge fan of this track, but I heard it a ton this week and it's never really plummeted off the charts, so, good enough. I like the thick ferocity Megan brings to the rap table but I need a more engaging beat or a better use of her talents for her to crossover like Doja Cat to me (see everything said above). This is okay, I guess.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

Yep, all the way to #1! What a bizarre series of events. I compiled all the contenders this week and thought, yeah, I actually both heard and talked about "Watermelon Sugar" the most. It is truly bizarre - we are in a thorough age of hip-hop so deep that it's genuinely weird for a British White Boy Crooner to gain the top spot right now. It's just so unlike any other song on this list. Summer 2020 has a weird playlist. But I like this.

Next week...

There are a lot of contenders out there. We ignored The Weeknd, but he's not quite done yet. I also personally listed to so much Ava Max, but I don't think that brief spat of Quarantine Songs are really much of a thing anymore. Stay tuned, you really never know this summer. And GaGa / Ari! I think there's something there still. Stay healthy, loyal readers!

07 July 2020

Because I Streamed It: Josie and the Pussycats!

That's right. I want to take a minute on your Independence Day Weekend to talk about one of the greatest films of all time. This is visionary directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont's Josie and the Pussycats (2001). This has been burning a hole in my brain for some time now. Are you ready for critical mega-reevaluation? It's time.

And not one hairball!

There are a few films that never quite reach cult status despite me personally loving them to death. My many attempts at propping up The Lone Ranger (2013) come to mind. Or the glory that is A Very Brady Sequel (1996), which I believe completely uncoincidentally also came from the minds of Kaplan and Elfont. Some movies people just seem to form an opinion on and hate from the get go. I try pretty hard at avoiding that. It of course doesn't always hold true and there are surely plenty of great films out there that I never gave a second chance. But, dear readers, I beg all of you, if you haven't already, give Josie and the Pussycats a chance. It will blow your mind.

So, what's the deal, here? Isn't this a random, one-off teen bopper, flash-in-the-plan, trend-chasing dated thoughtless kids' movie? It is absolutely all of those things, but it's also a canny biting critique of consumerism, teen exploitation, and the music industry.

If you're a little behind, let's catch you up on the origins. The 90s for some reason were full of these updated classics, including cartoons. I dug into this a little bit during that A Very Brady Sequel article, and you should check that out for a huge list I compiled. I feel like all of these were popular during their time. Maybe it's just that I was a kid in the 90s and it was all advertised to me. I think when you get a flurry of ads on Nickelodeon in 1995 you think the films are a little bigger than they were.

Live-action cartoons have been a staple for decades at this point, but the 90s mined Hanna-Barbera hard. Looking back, this is clearly the product of older studio executives both interested in the nostalgia from their own youth as well as an ability to appeal to consumers who were now of the age to have children, thus begetting a win-win. They'd pull in dollars from the adults while indoctrinating their small children into the iconography of the by-gone era. If this all seems cynical, that's because it's also exactly what Josie and the Pussycats is all about.

I never read the Archie comics that featured the eponymous band, nor do I really know anything about them. In fact, when the film descends to Riverdale, my first thought was that it was ironic they used the name from Archie. No, that's just the actual town name, man. On the surface this is all the movie is - a shallow cash grab nostalgia trip for baby boomers under a veneer appealing to millennials. But it's so much more!

First, Josie is exceedingly meta in an age well before reflecting on tropes was popular. It all comments on the pointlessness of decisions behind these kinds of movies. At one point one character asks another, "Why are you here?" and she responds, "Because I was in the comic book." She literally doesn't have a function in this movie but is just there hanging around as explicit fan service.

This film is also known for its product placement. It's insanely excessive, the point of distraction. Looking at it with fresh eyes, it's clear that the McDonald's shower curtains, Ray-Ban windshields, and characters lovingly petting the Target dog is satirical commentary on the ubiquity of advertisements in our daily lives, and film promotion in general. They actually say this explicitly in the film as an auxiliary revenue source but it's also known that the filmmakers didn't actually seek permission or get paid for any of the product placement. This is in sharp contrast to a Transformers movie that feels similar but contains none of the self-awareness.

This ties into the main thesis of the film, which centers on a nefarious music record producer infusing subliminal messages into pop albums to decide trends and encourage teenagers to buy things. It ends up being a pithy commentary on the never-ending cycle of capitalism. Characters judge their worth through materials, trends, popularity, and fandom, not any articulate measure of self-worth. This is ultimately unwrought by the film's end, at least for the main characters, although they remain naive towards the shady government agency funding all this mind control.

While it remains an extremely underrated satire, it is also a perfect capsule of 2001 pop culture. We didn't really realize it at the moment, but there was this sincere feeling of pre-9/11 excess and invulnerability. This oral history sums it up well. We were well past grunge and the capitalism of the decade led the music of late 90s / early 2000s to commoditize that punk feeling. Instead of crafting art from authentic pain that spawned dangerous acts like NWA and Nirvana in the early part of the decade, companies cranked out manufactured acts and corporate songs. There was such a fearlessness to all this - people felt very comfortable consuming and pretending to rebel rather than actually articulate a struggle.

Josie expertly demonstrates this industry attempt to wrangle and corporatize popular trends, which also sums up a lot of why 2000s music was terrible. As the oral history notes, this is one reason why current rock and pop artists all feel the same and if their music is good, it's also very non-threatening. Hip-hop is where punk lives in modern times and where the artists are still genuinely fighting authority

Now, this is a side observation, but I have been on a small streak of watching music biopics, which this actually is, even though it's completely fictional. I made the mistake (maybe?) of watching Rocketman (2019) and Walk Hard (2007) back to back. It's just amazing the number of tropes Walk Hard nailed and become very hard to avoid in just about every musical ever. Rocketman wasn't as egregious as Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), but Josie nailed the parody before there was even a glut of biopics to parody.

It brushes by every biopic beat as tropish to the point of admitting the nefarious mind-controlling company manufactured Behind the Music shows to further corporate agendas. It hits the beats but admits artists live a life guided by managers (again...mind-control) in pursuit of the highest popular dollar. None of the biopic melodrama really sticks - sure the group breaks up, but that's because Josie is listening to subliminal messages telling her to go along with what happens to every rock group. The conflict isn't lasting. The film knows it can mine real drama and stakes from the characters and their central conflict with...well, contemporary pop culture I suppose. There is a meta nature here that is so far ahead of anything else that was happening at the time.

This is probably a good reason why the film was so overlooked. Its shiny product placement veneer turned off serious movie-goers, and its basic conceit that all modern pop culture is manufactured mind control turned off its primary demographic. It could quite pull off making fun of the very people who were watching the movie, but looking back now it's easy to laugh at the chaos. It's still earned its cult status, though, and there are true fans like me out there. Probably.

So what do you think? Have I convinced you to give this film another look? It certainly deserves one. It's both indelibly of its time and so far beyond it. I could watch this every day. In addition to all of the above it's consistently funny, has an undercurrent girl power message, and contains some genuine bops. You're in quarantine, just go watch it!

06 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 9: NATION GO BOOM!

What a Fourth of July weekend! Over eighty years ago our founding fathers brought forth this nation devised from the concept that liberty should be extended to all land-owning white males, and boy do we show it today. This is an instrumental part of the Road to Becoming a Summer Jam Champion. No song has ever won without carrying this weekend. That's not actually true at all, but now that we're hyped, let's dive in:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Wash Us In the Blood" by Kanye West ft. Travis Scott

Hahahaha, alright. We had to honor President Kanye this week. I mean, Kanye is fine, I really don't get up in his mental health issues, which he can usually be pretty coherent about through his music. He's also clearly a music and lyrical genius, even if his greatest flaw is probably that he knows it. This song isn't very good, but I like that it's more Yeezus than Ye. He's always just been a fearless contrarian who takes really radical positions all the time. Folks tend to forget that his entire first album's thesis was how great it was to drop out of college and how all degrees are useless. He's really not all that different in 2020. Anyway, I could talk about this forever - I think his Presidential Campaign is a publicity stunt, since he's not actually registered anywhere, or maybe he just sort of thinks he can do it? It just makes me think of declaring bankruptcy. Like, no, there are a few other steps in there.

Pop Smoke had a big album this week with Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon and most of the songs aren't that good, including this one, but when 50 comes on maaaan I went back to like 2004. He's got some bars left in him yet. It also got a music video and I dunno, probably should have been our hot jam. What?! Kanye beats out 50?! What is this, 2007?

This is not a huge song right now but has definitely found its way into a lot of ears this summer. On and off this list for sure and I actually dig the wordplay quite a bit here. It's not totally contemporary Bieber beat-wise, which probably makes it a bit more palatable. It's kind of a fun sleak sexy track that I admit I enjoy more than it deserves. It could be gone next week or hang around. That kind of summer song. We've seen our share by this point!

This track has been on the periphery for some time now, kind of always just on the outside looking in. I don't think it's really a top tier track, but it had some pretty strong performances this week by every metric we look at. It just really doesn't feel like the #2 song in the country, right? It's very stripped down and Megan is fierce af while Beyonce's vocal gymnastics are typically out of this world. I suppose it's all in service to itself, which makes good art, but it hasn't quite hooked my brain this summer.

I was kind of done with this to be honest, but it's had a strong presence on radio, Billboard, and Spotify. Yeah, that's pretty much everything. The Weeknd had a good early lead but I'm not sure this track IS Summer 2020. That's also because Summer 2020 is generally devoid of any fun or good news at all. It's weird. Can we all admit this a funked summer? The song is still good.

This song is still crushing everything, but we knocked it back down to earth a bit this week. I still thin the remix is a little stronger than the original and captures so much current anger. I'm realizing more and more how good this song actually is. I'm not sure it will find its way on wedding playlists, but it's fun.

Yeah, this was up there this week. I don't think it's actually all that popular, but it's so summery. I also ate a pretty strong quantity of watermelon this week and kept thinking about this track. This track keeps coming back this summer and maybe it's not as done as I think it is. It's actually starting to crush spotify. That's all good, it definitely grows on me.

Yeah, this track actually stuck out the most to me this week. It's kind of a weird pick but I feel like it was in the car every time I hopped in it and it just earwormed its way into my brain all week. The whole point of this list is truly capturing a week by week zeitgeist of pop music, and this was "Supalonely"'s week for sure. Wasn't even close. There you go! America! It's also a hella bop.

Next week...

We had some weird picks this week along with what has become some of our staples. We left out Doja Cat and Dua Lipa, who might still make a comeback. We'll see. Summer is going by very fast. On one hand I can't wait to get out of this terrible summer, but also...it's SUMMER! We love this season! It's just too hot. Damn hot. Damn this hot! Come back next week!

01 July 2020

Sweet Crap, It's Only Halfway

We're at the moment, folks. Day 183. The half-way point of the year. How is 2020 halfway over? It feels like we've lived a thousand lifetimes. One weird and inconvenient thing we do around here is keep track of each and every movie we watch. That's right. We have pushed this pretty far over the last few years. Now is the time to examine where we are at the halfway mark, talk about the best and worst that we've seen and dive into some superlatives. Let's get to it!

Total Movies Watched: 89
New Movies Watched: 50 (56%)

By Platform:

Streaming Total: 63 (71%)
DVD Total: 21 (24%)
TV Total: 3 (3.3%)
Theater Total: 2 (2.2%)

I have only watched TWO movies in theaters? Well, we are in a global pandemic. What's more depressing is that those two movies were Rise of Skywalker (2019) and a drive-in viewing of Bloodshot (2020).

I'm always eager to breakdown my streamed movies and see how my tastes in services are changing. I caught 22 on Hulu, although half of those come from splurging on the HBO add-on (does that count as HBO Max now? No one seems to know.). 27 are Netflix, so that's still a good lead, especially if I didn't have the HBO supplement. That leaves quite a few left, the biggest chunk of which is eight from Disney+. The rest are digital downloads and random YouTube and Amazon Prime one-offs.

Of the DVDs I of course have the Netflix Mail model, which supplied 15 out of the 21 movies I watched with the good ol' DVD player. That means Netflix, either streaming or DVD accounts for just under half of the flicks I checked out so far, or 47%.

By Year:

I've only seen six films that came out in 2020. Oof, but c'mon, 2020. Let's go by decade:

2020s: 6 (6.7%)
2010s: 49 (55%)
2000s: 16 (18%)
1990s: 11 (12.3%)
1980s: 4 (4.5%)
1970s: 2 (2.2%)
1960s: 1 (1.1%)

So, that's rough, obviously. My old movies have sincerely fallen by the wayside. I usually get one great '30s or '40s film in there. It's good to see the disaster where I'm at and know to buckle down in the second half. The 2010s are dominating more than I thought they might with the biggest single year understandably being 2019 at 21 films. Notable years I'm missing right now are '98, '02, '08, and '13. We're beyond complaining about the 90s at this point.

Prior Years:

I knew this was going to be a down year, but here's where we are when comparing to other midpoints. Note that in 2015 I did not keep track of first-time viewings.

2019: 112 total / 72 new (65%)
2018: 127 total / 83 new (65%)
2017: 112 total / 58 new (52%)
2016: 114 total / 62 new (54%)
2015: 92 total

We are below 2015 levels, which is certainly rough, but this has also admittedly not been a priority this year. We'll see if we can reach that fabled 200 mark, but I may be hesitant to set sights that high at this point. Our percentage of new films seen is also down, although marginally higher than 2017 and 2016.

Best Films Seen So Far:

This includes all first-time viewings, regardless of which year they came out. I actually struggled with this list. I had eight no-brainers and then had to pull to get to ten. It's rough. I've seen...I've seen an inordinate amount of bad movies this year. Anyway,

#1: The Lighthouse (2019)
#2: Da 5 Bloods (2020)
#3: Portait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
#4: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
#5: Mandy (2018)
#6: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
#7: Ford v Ferrari (2019)
#8: The Platform (2020)
#9: The Howling (1981)
#10: The Frighteners (1996)

The Top Seven or so I think will be very strong contenders on our end-of-year list, as I really loved all those movies. We'll see what, if any, 2020 film can come out to challenge, but otherwise Da 5 Bloods is far and away the best film of 2020 so far. Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) coming out hopefully though.

Worst Films Seen So Far

I feel like there's so many. Again, first time viewings:

#5: Frozen II (2019)
#4: Undercover Brother 2 (2019)
#3: Killing Gunther (2017)
#2: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
#1: American Ultra (2015)

I'd love to get into this more. Bottom Three were very hard to pick. Killing Gunther was saved by Schwarzenegger, though. IX is mostly trolling here, but I'm pretty serious about how much of a colossal letdown that was. But really, American Ultra was the most boring movie ever made with no idea what kind of tone it was going for. I couldn't maintain interest at all.

That's the halfway point, people! How many more movies will we get up to! Stay tuned here to keep tracking: http://www.norwegianmorningwood.com/p/movies-and-tv-in-2020.html

29 June 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 8: Is this Really It?!

It's a seminal moment in every summer - the party's are amping up, June is rounding the corner and we're about to dive crotch-first into the Independence Day Week. This is one of the most important moments in our Summer and also our lives. We're about to crest the half-way point of this long, arduous Summer that shows no sign of ending. It's time for another wave of jams, though. Let's dive in!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Soulmate" by Lizzo

There were a lot of new jams this week, but the most notable is probably Lizzo, who teamed up with an animated Queer Eye team for a nice positive self-image video for us this summer. This isn't really that catchy or innovative of a Lizzo track and the Queer Eye inclusion isn't all that strong but it's fun. I don't think this hits the heights of Lizzo Summer 2019 but it could be fun for a bit.

"Roses" by SAINT jhN

This track pops up again, but just barely on our radar. It's still a fun, throbbing track that's actually been hovering quite a bit on the periphery of ubiquity this week. I like it, it's fine and actually still doing well enough to find a spot here. I heard it a bit this week. It's good. I really don't have much else to say at this point. Another first! Oh, Summer 2020.

"Rain on Me" by GaGa and Ariana

After a few weeks off, this blasts back on the Winner's List. Okay, I will admit this is starting to grow on me. The beginning has an "Edge of Glory" feel which is always spectacular and the collabo is tight. I'd like something more than the cookie cutter 80s pop revival beat, but it's fine for now. It's doing okay chart-wise and could actually hang around for a bit.

"Whats Poppin" by Jack Harlow ft. everyone

The beat is a little sparse for me and it seems like a cash grab collabo, but it actually feels very modern to me, which gets it points here. More importantly, it's burning up Spotify and seems to fit a lot of needs, which could mean it gains some traction as a notable summer jam. I could never listen to this again and be pretty happy, but it's always possible it gains speed. It probably will. I've never felt older, which is a good sign.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

This track has definitely been on and off the charts, and to be honest, it doesn't totally fit he prototype of what's popular right now. It feels way more like a 2013-kind of white boy crossover R&M. Having said all that it's more amazing that it's still doing well. It's a great summer song, after all. I could go for some watermelon.

"Party Girl" by StaySolidRocky

Alright, this track has been here and there for a while now, and I still think it pretty much sucks, but it's been a pretty empty week. We're definitely leaning more streaming than radio this week. It should be no real surprise that these tracks aren't that Top 40 friendly. It's almost as if most of the country is blindingly racist. Weird. Weird thoughts. The flow is a little slow and slurry here for my taste, but it's good enough to acknowledge as a something this summer.

"Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

I don't even know how this got the #2 position. I was just kind of looking through everything and this feel on my lap. I heard it maybe once, but it's got a good combo of radio, streaming, Billboard, and me liking it right now. It's very solidified right now as an early contender, but still has a half of summer to get through. That hasn't always been kind to these early leaders. We'll see!

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

After a lot of weeks being the presumptive number one in an otherwise vaccuum, "Rockstar" killed it this week. I was tempted to throw the remix down as the Hot Jam and possibly also throw it here as the #1 again. It's not too weird for a track to be on this list twice in one week, right? Dropping a new video this week seals it and it's doing fantastic by all our metrics, including liking it at this point. The BLM remix also feels of the moment in a time where not many other tracks are finding the voice to respond, despite a national community yearning for this kind of thoughtful catharsis.

Next week...

There were a handful of big releases this week that are pretty bad and will probably never see much action this summer. Katy Perry tried her hand at Gay Anthem "Daisies" which is so derivative that at one point "Swish Swish" literally starts playing instead. I just don't think the gay community needs Katy Perry as their spokesperson. Also, this is totally a quarantine video, but not very well done. Doja Cat dropped "Like That" which seems really manufactured and not nearly the earworm of "Say So." Then there's the usual culprits. Also, for some reason, this is the #1 song in the country. It's not very good.

22 June 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 7: Third-way There Edition

Well folks we are getting deep into June, it's the 45th Anniversary of JAWS (1975) and the 40th Anniversary of The Blues Brothers (1980). All is right with the world. Things are starting to heat up - even the oceans are boiling! Or just increasing in acidity. We have an array of toasty sultry sexy summer jams for you to sink your earjaws into today!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Afterglow" by Taylor Swift ft. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grade seems to be showing up in a lot of songs that end up being total duds this summer. I think this is in line for more of that, but we'll see what happens. I like it a little better than that GaGa track. I think this summer is going to need something special to elevate above the normal status quo. Can pop catch up to world events in time and truly demonstrate the zeitgeist? We'll see. I do not think this is it.

"Supalonely" by BENEE ft. Gus Dapperton

This has definitely been hanging around for a little bit and we threw it back on this week. It's actually grown on me quite a lot and I dig it. I don't think it's totally getting its teeth into the mainstream jugular quite yet but it still has potential. For now it's a pretty pleasant track that I was happy to re-include this week.

"Kings & Queens" by Ava Max

I actually love this song. It's not really a chart factor but it was totally in my head this week. It's so wonderful and danceable! I love the quarantine spin. It's not really a factor in Summer Jam Coronation but I think it could continue to pop up here and there, especially as I continue to like it. That guitar! Hit that guitar, man!

"Roses (Imanbek Remix)" by SAINt JHN

As I've said before, I am extremely annoyed at typing out SAINt JHN. That capitalization is all over the place. I am, however, not sick of this track despite its incomprehensible lyrics. That beat is fire and has such an attitude to it. It again isn't tracking or charting well or anything. I suppose I just hate songs that are actually popular. That's always something I've considered secondary to devoting so much time and effort to a weekly Hot Jam Countdown.

"Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

So, definitely dropped a little, but still hanging out, "Blinding Lights" is still really fun, even if it's time is pretty much over. I think. It's got those fresh but nostalgic synth vibes, bruh. I like it. It sounds like both vintage pop and vintage Weeknd while also new. Having said that, it just doesn't seem to be slaying any charts. I really don't get radio enough to stay up to date with new songs made by artists with numbers in their name.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

Not quite as strong this week, but still a good contender. I still enjoy this, but it's probably cresting already. For whatever reason Dua Lipa seems to struggle earning that final push to the top of Pop Diva Stardom. I think it's her inscrutably dead eyes and uninteresting beats. But that flow! I love this song. We'll see what happens with her.

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This is again here by default - I live in an area that just doesn't play these jams unfortunately, but it's still slaughtering the charts. It's a good track. Is it THE jam of 2020? Maybe. What a weird year we have. DaBaby is a very modern artist and it feels like it's ahead right now. Without any other presumptive contender right now it might be leaning that way. We're a third of the way across this marathon with no real clear ubiquitous song. 2020 is fragmented and scary. This is a good track. You should totally click to listen to this track. Please click.

"Toosie Slide" by Drake

So, out of no where, Drake is back on top. I didn't hear any other song more this week and I was getting behind it, even singing along a bit. Drake broke my walls. Drake broke me. It's...fine. It's a fine song. It's doing okay chart-wise. I wouldn't call it dominating but it's still relevant enough to earn this position. This summer has turned over and over again upside-down so we'll see what happens next week...

Next week...

Oh, who knows. I haven't heard much from Doja Cat, she might be out. I might try a deep dive into the slew of hip hop tracks that are currently dominating pop music. That's very much a streaming-driven algorithm, and one that is a much better pulse of the country. That's unfortunately also one I have less access to on a regular basis. Hrmm - that's maybe the exact disconnect we have with this country's age gap in rewarding any music that's actually popular! Who knows anything anymore! We'll try to expand, because all these jams are stale af. Stay tuned!

18 June 2020

First Impressions: Bloodshot

Hell yeah I saw Bloodshot (2020). In the Age of COVID-19 the Drive-In movie theater is king! I haven't been to a drive-in in nearly 25 years. It's not that great, I sit in my car all the time. But it was fun to mix things up and find a way...to survive.

"Die, Robot Legs!"
 features Vin Diesel playing himself in a clear vanity project that also somehow exists as a strong contender for the perfect Vin Diesel vehicle. If you actually want to watch this thing, I suggest just watching it - the premise is actually pretty clever and the trailer completely gives away every card it has. It was very disappointing. In fact, stop reading this review and watch it, because otherwise it'll be super ruined for you. Or not, whatever, it's not like The Sixth Sense (1999) or something.

The movie opens with Vin Diesel in some anonymous war torn country, who fights his way to the big bad villain, who kills his boo and then Diesel himself. He wakes up as part of some scientific experiment, infused with nano-technology that can heal any wound instantly as well as giving him super strength and complete Internet access! Diesel sneaks out and seeks revenge, an unstoppable killing machine who decimates the villain and secures vengeance.

At this point we're like 40 minutes in, so more shit has to happen, right? Well, as it turns out, Diesel is totally being Memento'd by (ironically) Guy Pierce. Guy Pearce fabricates memories of the killing in Diesel's programmable corpse and then points him in the direction of whoever he wants killed. The movie actually plays with a lot of tropes this way. His girlfriend, at first seeming like an egregious example of a fridge girl is actually completely fine, has moved on, has a new husband and child, and hasn't actually seen Diesel in five years. His disobeying orders and striking out on his own is all a farce designed exactly as Guy Pearce wants it. All his rage and catharsis is artificial bullshit. It's actually kind of amazing.

You wonder if Diesel was aware of any of this. He eventually becomes sort of a side character in his own story. He's clearly a tool for every other character, a bull pointed in whatever direction they want to destroy. He ghosts is knocked out constantly. Is it some commentary on these unstoppable superheroes or action heroes who feel so justified in their righteous revenge? It's all a ploy. I'm not sure if the movie is that smart, because yes, there are quite a few problems with this, perhaps undercut the most because Diesel's performance and dedication to the "Hero's Journey" is incredibly sincere.

You didn't always get that with Diesel. Despite appearing like a mindless violent beefcake, I always liked when he slowed things down like showed how scared he is at the end of xXx (2003) or voicing The Iron Giant (1999). I think he's trying too hard to prove himself these days and trying desperately to show how tough he is after The Rock called him out for being soft. Anyway, even though this was the perfect movie to show some real growth, he bungles it by being the most insane headstrong unstoppable killer ever.

Part of that obviously works in the film's favor. Guy Pearce even comments constantly about how driven Diesel is, and how he just thinks he's in a video game. There is a lot of that. Diesel basically completes mission after mission and works his way up to the final boss. A lot of this is meta, but it is sincere enough to work, at least in some ironic sense. As you can tell, this movie actually really tripped me up. It's not obvious with its meta-commentary like The LEGO Movie (2014) or something, but there's a lot there. For a bit it tries to comment but also eat its own cake, and when it slides too much in that direction, it fails.

Now for all the crap that makes no sense. Upon thinking about the premise at all, why did Guy Pearce have to do any of this? He has the nano-technology to create an unstoppable killing machine. Why does he need to trick Vin Diesel into killing all these people? Why doesn't he just hire someone and then make them to it? This idea is less crazy when you realize that he also has a team of three technologically advanced cyborg killers working for him that actually just do that.

One, in particular, is some guy with robot legs. Robot Legs hates Vin Diesel for absolutely no reason. He absolutely haaaaates Diesel. Who the hell knows why. The best I could guess is that they invest all this energy into making him a super-healing unstoppable killer, when he would probably just do it for free. Maybe it's the fact that one girl got a super breathing apparatus (by the way, I'm convinced this movie doesn't understand how lungs work), and another blind soldier got all these drone cameras to control. Robot Legs just got the ability to parkour. He doesn't actually have a purpose in this film outside of plot, and by that I mean within his own organization.

There's also not really a major world-ending plot or anything. Guy Pearce is just kind of a jerk. Diesel's arc boils down to getting revenge on someone who brainwashed him into thinking he needs to get revenge on that person's enemies. There's nothing actually heroic about anything. That presents another level of meta-irony, which again, Diesel seems to play with sincerity. It works when you're reading the movie as this basic parody of action films, but there really are too many slow motion, music swelling scenes of pure heroism to defend this stance.

So, Diesel is unstoppable, can heal from any injury, and hack into the top government satellites anywhere in the world, but he can overheat or something? It's never quite clear. His chest gets red and eyes get bloodshot (the only way this title makes sense I guess?), which means he's close to danger! But nothing really happens. He overclocks at one point and then just kind of wakes up in the next scene. It's not all that dramatic. Again, is this a commentary on bulletproof, deathproof action heroes? Or just bad writing? I've put way too much thought into Bloodshot over the past few weeks.

On that note, since the ostensible love interest gets all worried when he overclocks, we should talk about the girl in the movie, because it's really weird. Diesel has his wife (or girlfriend?) memories that drive all his revenge, but when that's undercut it seems like he's going to hook up with the Breathing Hole Girl. She has some implant on her chest that lets her breathe in poison gas or underwater. Maybe it's just how she's presented - as a total sex ball honeypot, but it seems like she's going to help Diesel heal from the pain of losing his girlfriend-wife. But that never happens, and they end platonically.

Not to seem like I'm beating a dead Charger, but AGAIN - is this on purpose? Subverting our expectations that the action hero hooks up with the sultry breath hole vixen? I don't know what's going on. It's maybe progressive, she has her own dynamic and agency and is only kidnapped once. It sort of skirts problematic treatment, but the movie seems reluctant that they hook up while presenting them as totally hot for each other.

Lastly we have the black friend, Lamorne Morris who does a pretty good job as the renegade hacker person who reboots the Diesel into serving justice. He inexplicably speaks in a thick English accent, which I could only think of Don Cheadle in Ocean's 11 (2001) as precedent? Like, why is this a thing? I just don't know what's going on this film.

In the end I actually dug Bloodshot a lot. It's certifiably dumb, but a pretty fun time that pokes holes in action tropes, purposeful or not. I think it was on purpose, but it's not witty enough to take advantage of them, and Diesel, to his credit, is so sincere in his performance that it simultaneously enforces and undercuts the core theme. Just watch this movie, it's pretty wild.

lamorne morris accent

16 June 2020

2020 Summer Jam Week 6: Mid-June Blues

We've gotten to a point where we're existing in an unending continuum, people! This was a fun week, though. Some parts of the country are starting to re-open. And we solved racism, so that's good! The virus really isn't slowing down, though, and we're all going to pay for our hubris one way or another. In the meantime, let's kick back with some sultry slavic summer jams!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Forgive Me" by Chloe X Halle

This was a big track that dropped this week and has such a punishing, throbbing beat. It's sick as hell. The vocals are kind of typical Pop / R&B but they fit well. It doesn't seem like it has a ton of traction right now but it's set up to do well if it catches on. I want to see more 90s style girl groups getting hits this summer.

"Sadder badder cooler" by Tove Lo

This dropped a few weeks ago and I meant to ramble about it. It's a female revenge fantasy by way of Tiny Toons and it doesn't quite work, but I actually dig the song. There is a lot of wacky brutal Disney evisceration going on and I'm not entirely sure if it's condoning or satirizing the violence. Again, the synths and lonely Tove Lo vocals elevate the jam.

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

I really didn't hear this track that much this week, but that might be more a product of me riding around and listening to radio in the middle of the country. #1 on Billboard and Spotify this week, though. It's an enchanting track and clearly doing pretty well. It's already a contender, but doesn't feel as significant as a runaway hit yet. We'll see what happens with it.

"Intentions" by Justin Bieber ft. Quavo

This has been around for a while but I just heard it quite a bit this week. It's been in the background and I generally like it, even if the wordplay is crazy basic and borderline awkward. It slides into that EDM beat that Bieber has found as a comforting home and while nothing stands out as a monumental pop achievement, it's good enough for us. Our lives. Oh what an existence!

"Say So" by Doja Cat

She's hanging around! I thought this might be fading, but she was still pretty strong this week. It's a sexy track and I've found that I'm far from sick of it. It's racking up some consistent points at this point and may be forming a nice early lead, especially with The Weeknd falling off this week. We'll see, it doesn't quite feel like a song that can dominate the season, but it's still a fun jam.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

Harry Styles gets back on the countdown! I didn't really like this song, but it came on this weekend and I found myself jamming out. Has it just broken down my defenses? It's actually a fantastic summer themed jam, and those usually work. Everything about it is pretty bonkers and it doesn't come across as a bop at first, but it does get under your skin. We'll see how it progresses.

"Sunday Best" by Surfaces

Okay, I didn't put this on a few weeks ago because it's so old, but it's crawling up the charts and getting a lot of airplay. Time to throw down! But it's so fun and positive. I had never seen the video before, these guys are douchebags, right? They seem like douchebags. But the song is good. That's what matters in this world. It's an earworm and doesn't really have a shot at the Crown, but it's good this week.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

Out of no where! This was the biggest song in my life this week, it totally found its way in my brain and I kept singing it to myself every day. It's doing okay chart-wise, but no one seems to like Dua Lipa. That might be because she's not all that great as a personality-fueled pop diva. The flow is so fun here, though. It's obviously a stab in the dark at Summer Queen relevance at this point, but who knows this summer.

Next week...

We've ignored "Toosie Slide" for a while now. I almost feel like this will continue and what once felt like a contender will count up to have nothing. "Stuck with You" by Ariana / Bieber was rattling around my brain and for the first time of course, we have no Weeknd this week. That's why it's the Week, baby! All these stars could shine again. Summer is just getting started!

08 June 2020

2020 Summer Jam Week 5: Not Much Better Edition

Well folks, I'm pleased to say that across this great nation of ours we have cured COVID-19, solved systemic racism, and brought 40 million people back to work. Now that all of our problems have gone away we can get back to what really matters - counting down those sleek, sexy summer jams!

Hold on a second, I'm just hearing terrible news...we apparently haven't done anything and the world is burning to the ground! Oh well, that was a fun couple of seconds. What can we do to beat the Summer Heat? The Bummertime Badness? Summer jams, of course:

Hot Jam of the Week: "No Glory in the West" by Orville Peck

This is like a modern Johnny Cash and it's pretty spectacular. There's a sincere Western mourning in his voice and while it's rare that this column highlights Country tracks, this elevates above a lot of the drawl while staying authentic. Apparently this bro is gay, too, which is great. We haven't mined the gay cowboy well since Heath and Jake, but this track works really well. We'll see if it catches on.

"a few words for the firing squad" by Run the Jewels

RTJ dropped what seems like Run the Jewel 4 this week and it's all pretty good. I actually didn't enjoy 3 that much but 2 is one of my all-time favorites. There is a lot to like here and "Ooh La La" may be the best positioned single, while "never look back" might b my favorite. Anyway, in the age of police nonsense, this felt the best to highlight.

"RITMO" by Black Eyed Peas ft. J Balvin

I probably shouldn't be mentioning this any more. It's efinitely not popular and exists as the last bastion of a radio gasping for relevancy. But I heard it a bunch this week and still atually like it! It's a total non-starter anywhere else. But hot summer jam baby! Nah, it's probably just taking up valuable points from The Weeknd.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

"Don't Start Now" is still very much a thing, but this is gaining some traction as a proper summer jam. The flow is addictive as hell, even if Dua's beats seem like the most typical EDM ever. Whatever, that's pretty much pop in 2020. It's still catchy and has that nice fed up girl feel from "New Rules." It works.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

This is just past its crest, but I caught it again this week and was reminded that it's a pretty fun, varied, wonderful track that has some life in it yet. I love 2020's commitment to funk. There might be a little too much competition for this to push back into relevancy, but it's still a tasty jam and a nice success for Doja Cat, finally!

"Roses" by SAINt JHN

This is another track that has came and went but I heard it on the radio this week and it's just a banger. I dig it a lot. I have no idea what any of the lyrics are but it's a hot jam. Some might even say it's the hero we need right now. Nah, it's probably dead. This whole list is as dead as the moral compass of our nation! Hey oh! Gettin' political up in here.

"ROCKSTAR" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This somehow fits our era, and with another strong performance on Spotify, it almost gets the top spot this week. It's sorrowful in its own way but also feels very modern and energetic. I'm not convinced DaBaby is the next great rap star, but he's having a moment right now for sure and this song is strangely soothing to me right now.

"Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

Is it me or do we need another great meme song? I just yearn for "Old Town Road." That should come back. But this is still a bop and with no real competition unseating it, earns another nod this week. Doja Cat has the 70s but The Weeknd has the 80s, baby! It's got good vibes. I think society is too fragmented right now for it to be unchallengingly ubiquitous, but it might be as close as we get. Is "Blinding Lights" the anthem of Black Lives Matter? That doesn't really track, we might be still searching this summer.

Next week...

I narrowly left off Drake again, but I think "Toosie Slide" could still be something. I hardly heard any GaGa / Ariana but they could certainly come back as well. I almost felt like some Bieber as well. There is quite a bit of summer left and none of these tracks feels like dominant jams yet. STAY TUNED, LOYAL READERS! Stay tuned.

01 June 2020

2020 Summer Jam Week 4: World in Chaos Edition

Hey Folks - is your city burning to the ground right now? Well, it's time to melt those summertime blues with some tasty choice summer jams! In all seriousness the country feels like it's in shambles. We are fully boiled over and sick of unemployment, quarantine, and a virus that we can't fight, so we fight each other. The unfortunate truth is that when we live in a country founded under false pretenses and genocide, we deal with a long scar that isn't easy to wash away. It's going to need a lot of empathy, effort, and will from all of us to make this world better. Now, let's get spicy with some summer jams!

HOT JAM OF THE WEEK: "Together" by Sia

I just wanted to comment that somewhere down the line Maddie Ziegler got jacked and it's disturbing as hell. I'm also cynical enough to read her perma-smile as disingenuous, but that's more a me problem. The track is catchy, I have no idea what movie it's from, but Sia needs to try really hard to make a bad song and this is pretty decent.

"Roses" by SAINt JHN (Imanbek Remix)

I had this jam on the list a few weeks ago and it's still sort of popular but I was thumping to it last week. It's nice to remember it exists. Lyrics are obviously undecipherable, but who cares, that's far from the point of a track like this. I don't know how much life it has left, I think its time is clearly passed, but it's fun to remember again.

"ROCKSTAR" by DaBaby  ft. Roddy Ricch

Despite being clearly inferior to Nickelback's "Rock Star", the current #1 track on Spotify is actually a pretty cool song. It's got a nice mandolin running through it with a solid bass line. This could be a big track, it's simultaneously energetic and chill. I really haven't gotten on the DaBaby or Roddy Rich train, to be honest, a lot of modern hip-hop blurs together in my brain and it feels like the modern industry churns through artists like tissue paper. This is cool, though and I think could rise this summer.

"My Oh My" by Camila Cabello ft. DaBaby

This is well past its prime, but I actually just love it, and I heard it again this week and made a huge mental note to include it here. It's so sweeping and grandiose and distinctive. Just an all-around fun song that I could listen to over and over. It's sexy, too. As I said, I think its mostly done in terms of jamming this summer, but should still be a background thing.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

This is creeping up this week and could become a thing. Great summer song, watermelon, that's definitely a thing. Harry Styles is doing well right now, and although "Adore You" might be the better Billboard track right now, "Watermelon Sugar" is the hot jam. It's okay. It's not really a throbber jam. That probably depends on your sexual attraction to Harry. I feel like this song doesn't know what it wants to be. But it's hot, so here we are.

"The Box" by Roddy Ricch

Another Roddy Rich this week - I have definitely heard this jam quite a bit and it's doing well enough on Spotify to warrant a pretty significant spot here. I am typically late to the party. This is a great party jam, though so call me fashionable! There's nothing crazy notable here lyrically or even really beat-wise. It's just all flow and alternating rapping and singing and the, uh, bedsprings? It comes together and works.

"Rain On Me" by Lady GaGa ft. Ariana Grande

I totally trashed this last week, and even though I'm a huge GaGa fan, I thought this track was garbage. It's managed to earn some popularity, though, and may have been the buzziest song of the week. The Ariana collabo is obvi a huge get and it satisfies plenty of pop requirements, generic beat, fluffy vocals, great timing for Summer domination. It's always alluded GaGa, for like ten years now. Could this be a thing?

"Blinding Lights" by the Weeknd

The Weeknd dominates again and offers the tastiest jam of the week. There seems like too strong competition to keep this up, but for now it's the best headbanger we got. It hasn't quite gotten old yet, which is a great sign. It may stick around not quite at the top of the heap, but this synth ballad isn't going anywhere soon.

Next Week...

We left off Dua Lipa and Drake this week for the first time, but there are still strong contenders that aren't quite six feet under yet. We also abandoned most of our quarantine songs. We are kind of opening up now...but this is far from over. It's weird to even listen to bops right now. It just feels like everything is falling apart. Stay strong, stay safe, and treat each other well, America.

25 May 2020

2020 Summer Jam Week 3: Special Quarantine Edition!

Well, what's going on, now? We're still pretty quarantined, but loosening up restrictions a little bit. It's Memorial Day and time for beaches and pools to open up. It seems like we are doing so although there's no real indication that the virus is slowing down or anything or that it wouldn't come back immediately if like...we go back to what was causing it to spread. Never mind that shit, we got some hot salsa jams to get through!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Kings & QuaranQueens" by Ava Max

So this is really just "Kings & Queens" but it's a pretty good energetic pop track and I love a video that acknowledges the zeitgeist in a positive way. Ava Max is maybe underrated and this is a fun home video. We can do quite a bit at home, it's not a big deal. I'm into it. I hope this electric jam catches on and we have some fun this summer.

"Claws" by Charli XCX

Watching this just reminds me a lot of current Millennial tastes. It's purposefully kitschy, random and nihilist, since everything else in the world they've grown up in has been a chaotic disaster. It's actually pretty fun, with this grinding techno beat, chewing auto-tune and actually a nice positive drive. It's not popular or anything, but a nice diversion this week.

"Stuck with U" by Bieber and Ariana

We want to lean hardcore into quarantine this weekend and here's the capper song for everyone. It's not very good or memorable despite featuring two of the leading voices in pop music. But it's totally modern and has a nice ballad feel to it. I'm curious how much this stuff will last over the next few years. It's okay I guess.

"Supalonely" by Benee ft. Gus Dapperton

This also reeks of Millennial tastes, which is all fine. The song isn't all that memorable, but we can add being trapped at home making weird music to our list of generational standards. This song just broke and has been gaining some traction. The beat doesn't totally sync up with the lyrics or flow and could underline just about any song. Still, its nice.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

This song isn't that great, but it features a lot of Watermelon munching. How can you have a better summer jam than that?! Despite never listening to One Direction I tend to like Harry Styles, which might actually be related. This doesn't really do it for me, though. I wonder if my ears are starting to cave and all pop songs have become trite and interchangeable to me. No. It's the children who are wrong.

"Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa

Dua has an early Summer Lead, but I'm thinking it might be cresting. Well, it should have crested quite a while ago, but I still dig it a lot. The big Disco ballad still gets me, though and as far as I'm concerned, this is her masterpiece. It still got plenty of references this week and is credible. Sort of. It may fade fast from here on out, but I also still enjoy it a lot so probably not.

"RITMO" by Black Eyed Peas ft. J. Balvin

"RITMO" feels very old but it's not, giving it a specific weird space to thrive in. It probably succeeds by re-purposing "Rhythm of the Night" by visionary generational voice will.i.am. Also apl.de.ap. Man the Black Eyed Peas blow. I'm giving it a lot of stock this week. It comes on and it's like, "oh, this song I haven't heard much, what is that all about!" but it's all a tired fallacy. Quarantine pop regurgitation! This song is terrible. I'm addicted.

"Blinding Lights" by the Weeknd

I was really struck this week but how good this track actually is. By the weekend, the Weeknd had me hooked. "In Your Eyes" is good, too and we highlighted that last week, but if he's going to have a run at this, he needs to consolidate his tracks. I'm not sure this fills summer ubiquity standards that will carry for the peak months of June and July, but this is in a good spot right now. I love the 80s throwback with a decidedly modern style. It's just fun as hell.

Next week...

I left a lot off this list. "Say So" is still a thing, as is the new Lady GaGa / Ariana Grande jam, but to be honest, I thought that track really sucked. That's a big collabo, though and we likely won't have heard the last of it. We put "Watermelon Sugar" on this list, but "Adore You" is still a thing as well. And Toosie Slide! Sorry, Drake.

18 May 2020

2020 Summer Jam Week 2: FOR THE MONEY!

Ahhh mid-May. A time where Summer's wave is just cresting, kids are graduating, the sun is squinting its eyes after a long sleep and the jams and movies are just heating up! Except this year. This year everything sucks! Hooray! We're kind of at a loss about jams right now. These are probably popular? What is going on? Who knows. We're all doomed. Let's listen to these slaps!

Hot Jam of the Week: Ludacris ft. Chance the Rapper

I don't think this song even has a name, or maybe it does but who knows right now. Ludacris dropped all these songs during an online instagram song that was supposed to feature Nelly, except he doesn't understand how to work a computer. Far from Tez, here. These songs may actually drop one day, but it's fitting to showcase a song that Luda apparently just had sitting around and felt like sharing during quarantine. It's an average song with an okay beat. Luda dropped a ton of unreleased songs on this show, none are very good, but I like the format of artists in quarantine just doing whatever they want.

"Toosie Slide" by Drake

This song is just kind of there, again. It's existing pretty hardcore right now. Like, it's fine, it'll get the job done, not a hot slide into the list, but not dominating anything. Great background music. In many ways, all music is background music. I put virtually no thought in adding it to this list, nor could I really recall the beat that well. Do I dislike Drake? I might.

"Adore You" by Harry Styles

I think I actually do like Harry Styles, though. This has been around for a while. For someone who spends nearly four months of the year writing a weekly pop music column I surprisingly don't pay attention to pop music. This has been around and I think I've kind of dug it without ever tuning into the specific modalities. Harry's good. He was in Dunkirk (2017). I didn't know he was so I just thought he was a good actor. This is a good track.

"In Your Eyes" by The Weeknd

Has anyone noticed The Weeknd cranking out tried and true bops recently? I guess he's just a really good artist. "Blinding Lights" is a little bit more popular right now but "In Your Eyes" is a lot hotter. He's got these funky synth rhythms that consolidate so many musical styles in one. I think it's actually generally accepted that The Weeknd is good and I'm maybe not saying anything new. I might as well be in 2012 with Kevin Garnett and Howard Ratner. I dig it.

"Level of Concern" by Twenty One Pilots

It's been a minute since we heard a crappy twenty one pilots song and this does a nice job of filling that out. I'm not sure it it was written pre-quarantine or what, but it's a nice nod for where we're at right now. It's actually a fantastically apt quarantine song. I'm curious how much more we're going to get by the time this crap is all over.

"RITMO" by Black Eyed Peas, J Balvin

The Black Eyed Peas made a bold choice by moving on without Fergie, but maybe no one cares? Or are they actually...better? The song has been rattling around in my head for a while now and I heard it a bunch this week, even though it's pretty old. Time no longer matters. This song is attached to Bad Boys 4 Life (2020) which could emerge as the #1 movie of 2020. Just think about that a little bit.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

I don't think this has actually been on the radio all that much, but it's still getting traction. What does it mean to be the #1 song in the country during quarantine? Is Doja Cat just the next Cardi B? Why can we have thousands of white boy crooners but only one black female rapper at a time and they are all instantly rivals? I love Doja Cat. This is a great song, it's accessible, interesting, and varied enough, floating from these ethereal vocals and then slamming down these harsher rap bars. It's all good.

"Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa

Bounce to cool off that hot lava water! This has been stuck in my head for weeks. It gets the #1 spot in my brain this week. I resisted last week because it's so damn old, but I actually still like it a lot. I love how it descends into this funked out 70s beat and her grunts get all kinds of bonkers. It's great and Dua deserves a brighter spotlight.

Next week...

I left out "My Oh My" but instantly regret it. I have also been sort of kind of getting into "Supalonely" which feels like a weird Millennial video without much interesting merit, but it's surging in some popularity. Other than that, plenty of ancient songs to go around. I was thinking about GaGa's love song, but that never really took off, did it? Stay tuned, intrepid pop adventurers!

12 May 2020

2020 Summer Jam Week 1! LOCKED IN A BOX

Well, folks, it's that time of year again. It's the most glorious time of any year - it's Norwegian Morning Wood's SUMMER JAM COUNTDOWN! Each and every week we'll break down the hottest, spiciest, sauciest, sexiest jams to hit our earballs until one track is finally named the winner and champion of all 2020.

And how is Summer 2020 going so far? How about freaking terrible. We are still in quarantine lockdown due to Corona, everything is awful, and we're not getting nearly the kind of hot party jam exposure we need to. It's also a polar vortex and there's no superhero movies to watch. What kind of summer is this?!

Without further griping though, the Jams must go on. We will countdown eight hot tracks each and every week from now until Labour Day. And we're already off course because I forgot to write this yesterday. I absolutely 100% guarantee that the rest of the summer will go smooth. Corona is dead! Long live Sol!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Roses" by SAINt JHN (Imanbek Remix)

You know I sure as hell ain't spelling out the grammatical nightmoare of SAINt JHN every week. But this track dropped four years ago and didn't make many waves until this remix. See, all you need is some EDM fused sick beats and you got a banger on your hands. It's a bop for sure and maybe a little old and obscure, but those songs take some time to crawl up the charts. We'll see if it progresses. I hope not, just for the band's name.

"Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa

Old but potent! I think my grandparents boogied to this back in their day. But it's still fresh somehow, maybe because we're not listening to music like we used to. Or just I'm not since I have no TV and no radio and don't really sit around listening to music alone. Dua Lipa has been around for a while now and has never quite seemed to reach diva level. Maybe it's her greater comfort with EDM beats like this instead of traditional pop ballads. This has hopefully elevated her and I love the "Don't stop caring-UHbout me now" and the Clapper.

"The Scotts" by Travis Scott, Kid Cudi

This is a few weeks old now, but time no longer has meaning in quarantine. Travis Scott is good but always in that unplaceable generic hip hop way. The beat is hot here, though, it's got a little twisted, melancholy bent but retains its edge. It's a fun song. We haven't heard Kid Cudi in a while, either. This could do well and has a decent 2020 pedigree but may remain in the background.

"Savage" by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyonce

I heard this on the radio this week and was like "Oh, that's hot." I love hearing Beyonce swear. It's just fun. It's like hearing your mom swear. It's so rare. Megan Thee Stallion is a promising new act and it's great to have Queen Bey's blessing here. I feel like Beyonce rarely actually puts out songs, but when they do it's fire. It's a treat.

"My Oh My" by Camila Cabello ft. DaBaby

This is like if a telenovela was a song. It's awesome. It's trashy and catchy and beautiful. I have been touting Camila for years now and I hope this takes off this summer. Jeez, this dropped in February? Where have I been this year? Quarantine really does mess with your head. I feel like I heard this for the first time this week. Whatever, I'm down. Maybe being in isolation inside will extend some lifetimes.

"Blinding Lights" by the Weeknd

I guess we're actually all doing classic tracks now. I'm an old man now. This is our 10th year of this crap. This song is great, it feels simultaneously like Uncut Gems (2019) Weeknd and just a straight up synth 80s song. It's a good jam and one we can trip out to or bang out to this summer. Maybe, if it hasn't spent its last breath. We might as well be just covering all the gems from Spring 2020. Soundtrack of Quarantine. Soundtrack of our Lives.

"Toosie Slide" by Drake

Unpopular opinion - Drake isn't actually that good, he was just anointed as a cool rapper in like 2011 and never messed that up. He is was in Degrassi, ya'll. Go Raptors. Anyway, this somewhere between "God's Plan" and "Money in the Grave" and that's just fine. It's kind of like "Blinding Lights" in that it just sounds like any other song from the artist, but it's still good. It doesn't push his art anywhere. But it'll do.

"Say So" by Doja Cat ft. Nicki Minaj

Doja Cat has moved up quite a bit since "Mooo!" which we proudly showcased back in the day. Her softer vocals pair up well with the intensity of Nicki and we really just need a Cardi B remix to hit a strong female rapper trifecta. Also this gets the #1 spot because she apparently promised Nicki she'd show her boobs if it hit #1 on the Billboard charts. I don't think that will happen, but that's fun. Fun stuff. It's a good song, it could hang around a while more.

Next week...

Dua Lipa seems to be coming out with a song every few days, so that's a constant threat to jump on this countdown. It's going to be tough to be all ears for new music, but I guess it's actually no different than our typical search for new jams online. We'll be searching for the hottest, sweatiest, thirstiest jams out there. Or just put up this crap again, it's all good.

30 April 2020

Political Ideologies and Conservatism in Media - Here's Post #1000!

In the eleven years that we have been doing this, we have never missed a month without a post. We are coming down to the wire on this one in April, but not sure if you've noticed, but there isn't very many movies coming out right now. Nevertheless this is a golden age of streaming and watching crap, and we are consuming quite a bit of media from every available corner. There are a few things that have gone in my brain to make me think about politics and the nature of our two major governing ideologies. This is also a nice insight about what I've been watching and reading - Rod Chernow's Grant, HBO's Watchmen, FX's Mrs. America, Netflix's Waco, Jay Roach's Bombshell (2019), and Michael Bay's The Island (2005). Not too mention shifts in current Democratic and Republican ideologies. This will be a bit of a scattershot post. Are you ready to dive into what's been going on inside my brain?

I am going to try to make this largely non-political. I admittedly lean left, and there's no way to completely hide that bias, but I want to chat a little bit about how the media is far more conservative than we tend to credit it for. Part of this conversation then is how much dominant conservative groups espouse about the mainstream leftist media. Considering the preponderance of Fox News, right-wing radio talk show hosts, and as I will discuss, the general message of most American cinema, I'm not sure that is true. I do think that painting themselves as underdogs while having dominant media voices is not only a powerful way to position oneself, but a truly American one.

This country is built on being the plucky underdog. We love come from behind stories and that stems from the American Revolution. We were down 3-28 when the patriots of this country came back in the second half... Conservative media tends to have a "woe is me" attitude that emboldens its position. This is worth some discussion of political ideology.

We ought to leave behind Liberalism and Conservatism for a second, because in contemporary American politics those enlightenment-era ideologies aren't quite as clear-cut. Liberalism is more designed around emphasize civil rights, secularism, and yes, limited government. It is difficult to picture an era where that was an option, but it grew as a response to the oligarchies and monarchies of authoritarian kings. That of course is where conservatism originates - a strong authority that limits freedoms in favor of security and a singular head of state.

These original ideas have been mixed pretty thoroughly in the past three hundred years or so. I'm most curious about working out the role of government. Now, there are many different paths to political ideology, and it works best if we think of things not so much as binary left and right, but as a three-dimensional matrix where every possible belief exists as an infinite spectrum going in every possible direction. Thus, we've started to group conservatives in with juxtaposing ideas such as a government hands off approach to guns, but a very hands on approach to abortion. The inverse is true for liberals. Neither side has an actual ideology any more, at least one that can be justified by any universal truth. Both moreover simply favor familiar and established stances on issues long accepted by either party.

This of course hasn't always been true. Yeah, I've been reading Grant, the biography of Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Army for the Grand Old Republic and 18th President of these United States. It also centers around the formation of the Republican party, which seems insane now to be established around halting the expansion of slavery while Abraham Lincoln greatly increased the power of the Executive Branch. Simultaneously they seem to be both liberal in fighting for equality for all humans (err...male humans) while emphasizing a strong central authority. The liberalism of mid-19th Century Republicans was not unlike modern Democrats. While they believe strongly in egalitarian equality, they also believe that left to their own devices, private citizens will never provide this equality.

There's some heady contradiction there. It's as if the government is strong-arming its citizens to be nice to each other. During Reconstruction the South was divided into five Military Districts under jurisdiction of Union Generals in order to protect both the newly freed black population along with white Republicans who were persecuted and murdered without prudence or consequence. The government had to step in to protect freedom.

That's tough logic and one used to justify wars, security, and large standing armies by modern-day Democrats and Republicans alike. If the power of government is derived from the consent of the governed, is the role of government also to protect the governed from each other? Hence our ideologies start to conflict with each other.

We're running into that today amidst the on-going coronavirus pandemic. Donald Trump has put his party through the ringer by first placing individual response duty on the states in an effort to avoid responsibility, and then retracting that stance in favor of strong central authority when those states took stances opposed to his worldview. In the days since General Grant the Republican Party has slid far towards a more Libertarian stance, which emphasizes limited government and a completely free market. These were of course also early tenets of liberalism, which due to the tendency of parties to define themselves by opposition rather than intrinsic philosophy, has become at odds with the Democratic Party.

Modern Republicans favor an extreme individualized position. They don't want any taxes for government services and to survive on their own. That's an admirable stance, but one that feels ignorant in a world where gaps between the select few who can afford to survive on their own and the masses of people who require government intervention to survive gets wider and wider. This is of course not the only tenet of Modern American Republicans - the default is an emphasis on big business (not changed since Grant's time), traditional American values and concepts of religion, families, and households, and a general non-interference with their attempt to recreate that lifestyle.

Thus the foundation of liberalism has been split. Republicans managed to grab the self-sufficient small government emphasis and the Democrats latched on to the secular, global understanding that the world exists outside your backyard. I am very curious how we move forward after Corona if Trump continues to favor strong deference to Federal power while individual Democratic states want to do their own thing. To further compound this, what happens when the smaller state governments exercise greater control over lives, bodies, and economies than the Federal Authority that desires non-interference?

See how ideology is broken down? There is no ideology anymore. Small or big government philosophy shifts based on what is most convenient to the party in power at the time. Democrats who had strongly opposed strong Federal Power in the Reconstruction Era fell apart from FDR to LBJ as Federal Aid programs exploded and the New Deal and Great Society created a Civil Rights Welfare State that still shapes politics today.

And what about the Nazis? What about those damn Nazis? Fascism is clearly conservative - the strong emphasis on nationalism, values traditional to one's country, and strong central authority are all conservative talking points. The socialism of National Socialism wasn't really liberal socialism at all, in that one favors strong government to protect the downtrodden people while the Nazis did not have a great Civil Rights track record. What happens, then, when these viewpoints are co-opted by Klansman and neo-Nazis today who support Republican isolationist and anti-women movements?

Well, that made me think of HBO's Watchmen. Alan Moore's original graphic novel, Watchmen (1986) crafted a unique niche by distilling philosophies into the worldview of fictional superheroes and then letting those personalities bounce off each other until the world was destroyed (or saved). The nihilistic Comedian, Manichaean Rorschach, the utilitarian Ozymandias. It's fun.

In HBO's version, set 34 years after the original graphic novel, we see some of these same people, but I'm most curious about Rorshach's legacy. Lip service was given to Rorschach's original ultra-conservative views, but the follow-up sees the logical conclusion in the Seventh Kavalry, a white supremacist organization that adopts Rorschach's mask. Okay, let's catch you up.

Originally, Rorschach's whole deal was that he was a tortured little kid who wore a black and white mask that would mesh but never mix, leading to what looked like a constant Rorschach blot on his face. Alan Moore took inspiration from Steve Ditko's Question and Mr. A who were both Randian conspiracy theorist detectives. Did you know Steve Ditko was a rabid objectivist? Yay! Objectivists believe in the superior heroic individual, the idea that you are right and everyone else is wrong. It's very emotionally fulfilling but doesn't leave much room for caring about other people.

Rorschach thus is supposed to be a satirical superhero. He's a crimefighter with no regard for the gray area of crimes and exists only in guilty or innocent, right or wrong. Black and white. Somehow he became the most popular Watchmen character, but really that's no accident. It's difficult to understand that the world comes in shades of gray and we might not always be right. It's comforting to have definitive answers to big complicated problems. For immature folks, particularly boys, that's an easy philosophy to fall behind. You don't need to care about anyone else - there is one truth and only you can find that out.

This slides in well with Rorschach's conspiracy theories, which in both Watchmen turn out to be true. As a general rule I don't believe in conspiracy theories. The worst theories, like Flat Earth or 9/11, have an overwhelming evidence to support what is generally believed to be true. The most intriguing theories, like the Kennedy Assassination cover-ups or George Soros just can't exist in a world of constant leaks.

Anyway, belief in conspiracies have become part of the Republican doctrine. There is always someone more powerful out there out to get you but only you know the truth and can save the rest of the world. It's bizarre how these things have all coalesced together. In HBO's Watchmen the natural progression of Rorschach is a more reactionary path, where the Seventh Kalvary discover his conspiracy is very much true and thus give his writings much credence. This deontological thinking natural extends to the black and white races and when only one can be good and one evil, the white Seventh Kalvary make the only choice that makes sense to them.

Mrs. America presents significant cognitive dissonance when choosing a political ideology. It centers around Phyllis Shlafly's attempt to block the Equal Rights Amendment from passing in the 1970s. Such an amendment to the U.S. Constitution would guarantee legal equality across the genders. Spoiler alert, we have no such amendment, but the show is more focused on the great irony that an extremely competent and charismatic housewife fought against this bill.

Here's another arbitrary political center piece that got caught up in ideology, misplaced by what either party thought was right. Conservatives fear change, they believe the woman's place is in the home and Mrs. America presents all sorts of slippery slope arguments as to what may happen when that supposed delicate balance is disturbed. It also presents how misogyny and racism make common bedfellows. On the progressive side, though, the women fighting for Equal Rights are presented as nearly all young Democrats, although some like Betty Friedan are older and have been fighting to exist as their own individual selves with autonomy over their bodies and rights for a long time.

Both sides have great difficulty unifying. There are enough big personalities at play that everyone wants their turn in the spotlight in addition to their common goals. The Democrats especially have an extreme range between the Black Panther sympathizing African-American contingent, the more moderate women who believe they need men to be their advocates, and the bra-burning hippies. Nothing is black and white here, despite the races involved. There is a wide spectrum and not all women fit into neat boxes of ideology. The most surprising aspect is how much a group of women in the show fight to remain complacent by their husbands' sides.

Okay, so by now you've probably spied some of my liberal sympathies. I honestly have trouble seeing both sides, but I do worry about the government overstepping its boundaries. It gets at that conspiracy thing. Have we let the fear of pandemic override our sensibilities towards liberty? Is a belief in the free market and personal freedom a truly liberal stance? Much of that comes down to simple trust in government, that they will relinquish power when the strife is over, they have our best interests at heart, and that they exist to protect the civil rights of the governed.

This becomes difficult because Republicans have crafted a narrative that has eroded this trust while simultaneously creating only one trustworthy figure - Trump. It's difficult to see strong belief in the leadership of anyone else. He rode to power on three tried and true methods: immigrant fear-mongering, goading conspiracy theories that make his downtrodden followers believe a secret truth exists that only they are privileged to know, and the constant women-hate that fuels conservative men and women alike. The leader of government constantly presents government as an intrusive, gun-stealing, mask-wearing, economy-busting demon that wants to infringe on liberty when it in fact exists to protect that liberty. In giving up free thought and common sense to a demagogue, though, his followers have crafted an unassailable central authority to rule them. What is the cost of socialist protection? At the end of the day is it any different than a war-mongering dictator? Rule of one or rule of many?

A lot of conservatism comes down to simply not caring about other people and focusing on the individual. Liberalism seems to believe that other people have feelings and needs that exist outside of your own. That's mostly at the heart of both ideologies. When conservatives are doing well, there is a natural thought of "Why can't other people do well, too? It's their fault." In recent memory this has morphed and morphed and affected one big genre: comedy.

At first you might think that of course comedy leans liberal, SNL, The Daily Show, and comics are generally thought of as extremely liberal. That's all punching up (mostly) at institutions for their own hypocrisy. But I have been watching a lot of old comedy as well, and it strikes me how much we think "Oh, you could never say that today!" It's also bizarre to me that many 90s comedians like Kelsey Grammar, Tim Allen, Adam Sandler, and Norm MacDonald lean conservative, or are out and out Republican. Comedy is difficult when you have to care about who you are insulting. For the record, I love all four of these guys. But there is a significant amount of "Oh, why aren't things the way they used to be?" feeling out of all of them and more. Even Jerry Seinfeld gets into a little bit of this and who knows why, he's like the cleanest comedian ever.

I have seen this objectivist stance bleed into pop culture more than even liberals and especially conservatives would like to admit. It's not only that Rorschach, despite Alan Moore's intentions, becomes the hero of Watchmen. You can see it everywhere. Batman succeeds in the Christopher Nolan films by superseding the rule of law through private enterprise. Tony Stark does the same. The government is incompetent and dangerous in Marvel films, literally full of secret Nazis.

The age old tale of one lone man, usually white, fighting against a shadowy corporation or hostile nation is a very old story, but one that remains extremely popular in contemporary cinema. I talked last summer about how the Old White Man Fights for his Family trope is a HUGE thing over the last few years. But there was one film that got me really thinking about this, which I saw the other day. Don't ask me why I watched it, but for the first time I caught Michael Bay's The Island.

I don't blame you if you've never seen it, it's really not great, but it is truly a conservative thinkpiece. Ewen McGregor and Scarlett Johannson have an apparently idyllic life in a post-apocalyptic socialist paradise where all food and housing is provided, the central authority monitors food intake and personal health, and everyone wears the same thing and works the same job. Little do they know that they are all actually just living organ donor clones for their wealthy counterparts in the real world.

From there it's a conservative checklist. There is a grand conspiracy. There is one man who knows the truth and is able to break free and release his world from the socialist nightmare. Scarlett Johannson is there as lip service to strong women but actually exists as a trophy without agency. It's a fascinating dive. The latter half of the movie is largely one big chase scene and it does buck the typical Michael Bay trend in that the military is the bad guy, although to be fair, they seem to be duped by the big bad socialist commander of the "utopia" created to supplicate the clone organ donors.

In the hands of another director The Island could have been memorable cinema and people may have read into it deep enough to understand its conservative propaganda. But at its bones is the fact that this is basic story structure. Not every movie is like this, of course, plenty end with an individual learning to work in a team, or to break away on a secular journey to find new adventures in the world. But that savior, individual breaking away from the constraints of a homogeneous society reeks of objectivist privilege. I look at 1999 as the year where every movie was like this - The Matrix, Fight ClubAmerican Beauty, even Office Space. And yeah, I'm bleeding blue, but I'm not in favor of this kind of restrictive society. The key liberal cornerstone has always been individual civil liberties. Conservative media tends to bypass this though, when imaging the liberal fantasy society where the government controls every aspect of our lives.

That was a long rant but it had been building up for quite a while. I typically avoid politics here, but this is just honestly how I see things. I would be very curious about your viewpoints and if I'm way off base. What do you think about any of this? Support your local food bank. Here's General Grant.

Ain't no corona in whiskey!

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