12/31/2021

Tops of 2021

I don't have much new to say this year. Movie theaters are dying. Cinematic melodramas only exist on streaming platform which continue to be exceedingly segmented, and TV is still the best place to find great writing and acting. The cinema is dead, long live my couch!    

 

The Rick & Morty Season 5 Honorary Top Ten TV Shows of 2021

  1. Squid Game (S1)
  2. Mare of Easttown
  3. How To with John Wilson (S2)
  4. Midnight Mass 
  5. The White Lotus
  6. Only Murders in the Building (S1)
  7. Ted Lasso (S2)
  8. Curb Your Enthusiasm (S11)
  9. Hawkeye (S1)
  10. Monsters at Work (S1)
  11. Dave (S2)

The Zeena the Seer Honorary Top Ten Movies of 2021*

  1. Dune
  2. The Lost Daughter
  3. The Green Knight
  4. Don't Look Up
  5. Spider-man: No Way Home
  6. Licorice Pizza
  7. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  8. No Time to Die
  9. Free Guy
  10. Zack Snyder's Justice League

The Fred Durst Honorary Top Ten Songs of 2021

  1. good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo
  2. Dangerous by Morgan Wallen
  3. Drain You (Remastered 2021) by Nirvana
  4. Dad Vibes by Limp Bizkit
  5. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
  6. Today by Fruit Bats
  7. Back to Oz by Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine
  8. Pulk/Pull - True Love Waits Version / Untitled v2 by Radiohead
  9. Days Like These by Low
  10. U-Mass - Live from the Warfield by Pixies


The Tom DeLonge** Honorary Most Listened To Albums of 2021

  1. In the Key of Disney by Brian Wilson
  2. Baron Von Bullsh*t Rides Again by Modest Mouse
  3. Sublime by Sublime
  4. Thank You by Stone Temple Pilots
  5. Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water by Limp Bizkit
  6. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by blink-182
  7. Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  8. Tenacious D by Tenacious D
  9. Significant Other by Limp Bizkit
  10. Them Crooked Vultures by Them Crooked Vultures
* – These are the movies I've still yet to see: CODA, Drive My Car, King Richard, West Side Story (2021), The Card Counter, The French Dispatch, The Hand of God, House of Gucci, The King’s Man, Last Night in Soho, The Last Duel, The Lost Daughter, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, The Worst Person in the World
** – I met Tom DeLonge at an airport this year, which is what kind of propelled me back into my pop-punk and rap-rock days.

9/26/2021

Breaking the Atmosphere of Cynicism

The Importance of Damien Chazelle Being Earnest

On October 12, filmmaker Damien Chazelle released his third major motion picture release, the intimate space biopic First Man (starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Clare Foy, in another Oscar worthy performance, as Janet Armstrong). With First Man, Chazelle found himself at a crossroads – continue to work with what's working (movies immersed in the culture of music) or to push himself topically and stylistically into uncharted space. He chose the latter, and this departure from the musical realm provided us as viewers with an intimate story about two infinitely vast topics – outer space and a man’s inner life.

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in First Man. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

During the 141 minute journey to the moon, Chazelle channels Kubrick, Spielberg, Howard, and Malick all in order to paint an unconventional story about a very private and somewhat reclusive American legend. The choice to render a story about space travel so intimately has been the topic of much discussion in analysis of the film. But something I think that has gone unmentioned is that by mixing together a hodge-podge of directorial references, Chazelle magically avoids a voiceless grey and creates something colorful and completely new. By doing so he solidified himself as the first great “post-postmodern director” and added pressure to film critics to start formally describing his style as Chazelleian.

Chazelle is a derivative director. Reading this, you may think I'm insulting the director, because for many, being derivative is anathema, and always a bad thing. However, if we’re being honest it's impossible to not be derivative, because no art is ever created in a vacuum, and all creators, whether unintentional or not are imitating and stealing from the other creative endeavors that whir past our senses. I believe Chazelle has not only realized this but he's embraced the notion that all film makers (past, present, and future) work in the shadows of those that created before them or alongside them. And he doesn't live in fear of it. He acknowledges it, pays homage to it, and somehow creates something totally new and original from source material. I think most people would agree, we did not need another movie about space, but by zooming in on Armstrong and his inner-life through this process we were given a totally new movie about space, because it's actually just a movie about a emotionally reticent man.

Watching First Man, I felt hope for the coming generation of young filmmakers that will soon be filling the voids that legends like Scorsese and Spielberg will be leaving behind, because I saw in the movie a 33 year old director rejecting cynicism and embracing sincerity as he told a story about a complicated mission in a complicated country during one of the most tumultuous decades we have in our history. This is why I describe Chazelle as a "post-postmodernist," because, while he gladly references and re-mixes movie-making technologies (mixing super 16mm with IMAX) and story-telling motifs (e.g. all of La La Land) he is not cynical or patronizing when he does it – he does it with full earnestness. This is nothing short of miraculous, because cynicism has become the de facto millieu from which much creative work is made and critiqued.

My hope is that more movie-makers and storytellers will move towards a post-post-modern way of thinking and embrace earnestness. Not that we can't be critical or should embrace being naïve, but rather, reject the exhaustion and hopelessness that cynicism brings with it. It’s a creative suppressant and I think this next generation of young filmmakers need to ardently fight against if we're going to continue to see innovation in the field. It’s an idea as ludicrous as landing on the moon – just the kind of idea I can see us accomplishing.

12/31/2020

Tops for Twenty Twenty

The Best Diversions from the Worst Year

The year 2020 will be iconic for many reasons – the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown of the world being the main one. Beyond that, one could argue that, in spite of (or because of) the coronavirus, 2020 was one of the greatest and most unifying years of television that we've had in recent memory. A truly iconic year of TV. Popular culture and media consumption over the past 20 years has become more and more fractured as people are now able to stream whatever they want to watch on their own terms and the societal bonds forged by appointment television are now relegated to sports. Streaming services have contributed greatly to this fracturing as they wage bidding wars for I.P. and sitcom reruns, resulting in the average viewer feeling lost and disillusioned as to why The Office is no longer on Netflix (I refuse to use Peacock...but that's another story). Most water-cooler conversations (via Zoom) are now are people pleading with their co-workers to not spoil the latest show, because they (a) didn't have time to binge it in one weekend or (b) are still trying to get a password for HBO Max from their father-in-law.   

Despite all this something interesting happened as stay-at-home orders spread through the country (and more passwords were shared). More and more people were watching their televisions, and they were watching it communally with friends and family as a way to connect through social distancing. By way of consequence Netflix and ESPN both capitalized on this and released two of the most unifying and polarizing documentaries – Tiger King and The Last Dance – and these both became cultural landmarks and meme-fodder for this new world of social distancing we were all grappling with. At their core, what was so special about these shows is that they captured American society on a large scale over a decent amount of time that helped the world feel a little bit smaller and more under control. The shows provided ways for us the cut the tensions amongst our friends and families as we argued about who to vote for, whether of not wear masks, and if we should cancel Christmas. Joe Exotic and Michael Jordan gave us a reprieve from the devastation surrounding us outside and provided more trivial things for families to argue about. Did Carole Baskins kill her husband? Will Michael Jordan take it personally? How will Joe Exotic dye his hair in prison?  Did Scottie Pippen have a good summer? 

As we gain more distance from the onset of the pandemic, I think Tiger King and The Last Dance will become historical media markers and provide for us and remind us of the little bit of light and reprieve TV was able to offer us during one of the most tragic years in generations.

As for movies, things are a little more confusing. Movie theaters were forced to shut-down and every major media company was forced to pivot and start experimenting with in-home releases. So, while movies were being watched, they were no longer being watched in theaters, and rather major Hollywood tentpoles were being imbibed on television screens, tablets, and phone screens all from the comfort of home. If COVID-19 showed us anything it's that seeing movies in the theater isn't as important for your average consumer and annually (as ticket prices continue to increase) it'll become harder and harder for the average family to justify a $75 trip to the theaters. 

 

That being said, I don't think the Hollywood studios will completely divest from the theater chains, and the cineplex will survive, but I wouldn't be surprised if it became less of a cultural gathering place that it has been up until now. We've all tasted the convenience of in-home premier access, and I can testify myself, that after having returned to a theater to see a movie, I did not miss it and at times felt very uncomfortable and regretful of leaving the house. The coming year is going to be a pivotal year for movies that prioritize a theatrical release and while I'm not fully doom and gloom I'm not feeling super optimistic about the fate of the cineplex. Maybe said another way, I'm buying stock in GameStop, not AMC.


The Carole Baskins Honorary Top Ten TV Shows of 2020

  1. The Queen’s Gambit (S1)
  2. Ted Lasso (S1)
  3. Better Call Saul (S5)
  4. Mandalorian (S2)
  5. Rick & Morty (S4)
  6. Ozark (S3)
  7. Tiger King 
  8. The Last Dance
  9. The Flight Attendant (S1)
  10. The Boys (S2)

Top Ten Movies of 2020 in Honor of Chadwick Boseman

  1. i'm thinking of ending things
  2. An American Pickle
  3. Da 5 Bloods
  4. The Invisible Man
  5. Mank
  6. Tenet
  7. Lovebirds
  8. Palm Springs
  9. Soul
  10. Onward

On to Music...

This was a weird year for music for me. COVID-19 was very challenging as we all adjusted to new rhythms and learning all the technical wonders of Zoom. So there were many moments after a long day of sitting in front of a screen where I just wanted to listen to the nü metal and alternative bands of my youth. So I spent a lot of time listening to System of a Down, TOOL, and blink-182. I didn't have the energy to seek out new music like I usually do, and I just wanted the comfort of Tom DeLonge and Serj Tankian. So I listened to a lot of music from my high school days and it was glorious. In honor of this I'm adding a "most listened to" list, because much of the music I listened to wasn't from this year (let alone this decade). I hope you'll check them out. I'm also including my normal Top Ten songs from the year, so please enjoy that as well.


The Billy Corgan Honorary Top Ten Songs of 2020

  1. Break My Heart by Dua Lipa
  2. Cool Again by Kane Brown
  3. Nah Nah Nah by Kanye West
  4. Never Really Over by Katy Perry
  5. Goodbye to All That by Sufjan Stevens
  6. Alone by Zzo
  7. All the Wine by Bartees Strange
  8. More Than My Hometown by Morgan Wallen
  9. He Will Hold Me Fast by The Ritual Kids
  10. Beautiful Boy - Ultimate Mix by John Lennon

The Maynard James Keenan Honorary Most Listened To Albums of 2020

  1. Songs for the Church (2020) by The Ritual Kids
  2. Until the End of the World (1991) by Various Artists
  3. Lateralus (2001) by Tool
  4. Temporary Bliss EP (2020) by Zzo
  5. The Ascension (2020) by Sufjan Stevens
  6. Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy EP (2020) by Bartees Strange
  7. Toxicity (2001) by System of a Down
  8. ...And Justice For All (1988) by Metallica
  9. Enema of the State (1999) by blink-182
  10. Siamese Dream (1993) by The Smashing Pumpkins

1/19/2020

Nine for Nineteen

The final year of the decade was, once again, another year dominated by Disney as the company had eight of the top ten highest grossing movies of 2019. Of those eight movies, five were franchise sequels, two were remakes, and one was the origin story of a character for a larger cinematic universe (essentially a prequel). Despite Disney's dominance in the theaters, Netflix continued to invest in and digitally release a slew of prestige motion pictures. Movies like The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, were eagerly watched and discussed by critics and the general public. And not just were these things watched, they were rewarded with awards and nominations.


So what do we make of all this? People are clearly still going to the theaters to watch I.P. infused special effects theme park ride extravaganzas, and (a lot of the same) people are still watching thoughtful and original motion pictures by independent storytellers. From my estimation, it seems like a film's genre is having a direct impact on the format in which people feel like they need to see it. Marriage Story may be a great film, but do I really want to put on real clothes, drive in the snow, pay 12 bucks, and then sit next to a mouth-breather who keeps asking their spouse about plot details – all in order to watch a really well-acted marriage fall apart? I'm not so sure anymore... Now, do I want to do all those things to watch Thanos evaporate? Absolutely. 

1/05/2019

Excellents of Eighteen

This past year may go down as the hardest year for me to craft my top ten list. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main one is that there wasn't a clear number one movie for me. In year's past there has always been a single cinematic experience movie that jumped out, grabbed me and held on strong as I continued to watch other films. But in 2018, this never happened, and I never had that "singular moment." Despite this, I did force myself to rank my movies, but if I'm being completely honest, depending on my mood or the type of genre I'm looking for, any one of these ten movies could be my number one. There is horror, animation, super-hero, fictional biopic, semi-historical biopic, action, and a new genre I'm calling post-modernist mish-mash where director Steven Spielberg reflects on and actively processes the decades-long oeuvre of Steven Spielberg.


Ranking my favorite TV shows was a much simpler endeavor, mainly due to the fact that I had very clear emotional responses to certain TV shows. These feelings were conveniently elicited in such a way that they were was easily rankable. The year in television (and this has been the case for a while now) was once again the more exciting and interesting venue for compelling visual storytelling. Whether it was Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) brilliantly bumbling along as she chased a sociopathic assassin or Barry Block (Bill Hader) brilliantly bumbling along as he hid the fact that he was a sociopathic assassin (big year for assassins). Over on FX, Donald Glover continued to push the envelope for the 30-minute format as his Atlanta got weirder and more insightful while Glover continued to explore his voice as one of the most exciting and creative story-tellers working today (Teddy Perkins anyone?). And (unfortunately) it was on the small screen where we found the finest cinematography of any movie or TV show within Sam Esmail's Homecoming (yes even better than the master Alfonso Cuarón's ROMA*).

2/11/2018

Supremes of Seventeen

This may go down as one of the hardest years for me to rank my top movies of the year. The challenge wasn't that there weren't enough good movies – there were a lot of good movies this year. But there were few that I found to be great, and there wasn't a movie that I felt captured the country's imagination (like La La Land did last year ). All that to say there wasn't a real stand out to me, until I saw the Safdie Brother's Good Time. I wasn't able to see this until recently, and I'm so glad I did before I made my list, because the movie literally took my breath away (I think I breathed a total of 3 times during the whole film).


Good Time wastes very little of your time, as it economically paints a heartbreaking picture of mental illness, criminal recidivism, and the sickeningly clever (and stupid) manipulation tactics that desperate men succumb to as they drag those around them down with them.

1/25/2017

Standouts of Sixteen

As I finalized my lists for 2016, I began to sense a backlash to loving La La Land. I'm beginning to notice more and more that within pop culture, once something surpasses a level of general acceptance (no matter it's merit), there is a certain type of person that feels an obligation to irrationally dislike something – simply for the sake of "balancing" the conversation. I don't feel like we should do this with La La Land. It was a sincerely audacious movie made by a 32-year-old millennial who actively rejected the cynicism of his peers and made something truly hopeful and beautiful. La La Land is the best movie of the year, because in the cynical, franchise-drenched cinematic landscape of 2016, it was a revolution, and it's worthy of its accolades.


Other things to note: this is the first time that my #1 movie and #1 album are from the same source. Damien Chazelle and his team have really created something special, and I'm proud to heartily endorse it. Had it not been for La La Land, Martin Scorsese's Silence would've been my #1. It was a beautiful portrayal of the struggle to hear God's voice, the challenge of doubt, and a very fair examination of the imperialist undertones of missionary work.

12/29/2015

Favs of Fifteen

It seems that my blog has devolved from a semi-irregular accounting of spiritual thoughts and concepts to a yearly archive of my favorite media from a given year. Which maybe isn't DEvolution, but REvolution? This year brings along with it a change – I'll be including my favorite TV shows from the year as well, and I removed the singles list this year. (Btw, did you hear? The Beatles are streaming everywhere! That deserves a list unto itself.)


The John Hammond Honorary Top Eleven Movies
  1. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
  2. Room
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. It Follows
  6. The Hateful Eight
  7. Steve Jobs
  8. The Big Short
  9. Ant-Man
  10. Spotlight
  11. A Most Violent Year
The Grinder's Honorary Top Six TV Shows
  1. The Leftovers (Season 2)
  2. Mr. Robot (Season 1)
  3. Fargo (Season 2)
  4. Silicon Valley (Season 2)
  5. Better Call Saul (Season 1)
  6. Show Me a Hero (Mini-Series)
The Hotline Bling Honorary Five Albums
  1. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
  2. Return to the Moon by EL VY
  3. Hop Along by Painted Shut
  4. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
  5. Join the Triumph by Citizens & Saints

1/10/2015

Best of 2014

This year's list is a little different than year's past. Instead of doing a list for albums acquired, I'm going to share a list of favorite singles from the year. My love for bad pop music has never been represented (until now). Unfortunately, there weren't many "complete" albums this year that I enjoyed front to back – so I'm not super proud of my bottom three in my list of albums, but what are you going to do. Here are my lists.


The Star-Lord Honorary Top Five Movies of 2014
  1. The Lego Movie
  2. Birdman
  3. Nightcrawler
  4. Whiplash
  5. Gone Girl
The James Vincent McMorrow Honorary Top Five Albums of 2014
  1. The Bones of What You Believe by CHVRCHES*
  2. Becoming What You Are by Kings Kaleidoscope
  3. Everything Will Be Alright in the End by Weezer 
  4. LP1 by FKA Twigs
  5. Disgraceland by The Orwells
The Meghan Trainor Honorary Top Five Singles of 2014
  1. Summer by Calvin Harris
  2. Felix Culpa by Kings Kaleidescope
  3. Sleepless by CAZZETTE
  4. Don’t Tell ‘Em by Jeremiah
  5. Bang Bang by Jessie J (feat. Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj)
* - This album technically came out in 2013, but I had no idea, and didn't start listening to it until February of 2014. As well, it's definitely the only album of the year I liked from beginning to end. Thus it's making my list. Blame it on the fact that I'm 27, and it takes me a while to find out about cool music.

1/05/2014

Tops of 2013

Welcome to the third annual edition of my tops list of the year. I'll be listing 3 lists for 2013: Favorite albums released in 2013, favorite albums acquired in 2013, and favorite movies released in 2013.


The Terrence Thornton Honorary Top Five Albums Released in 2013
  1. Bad Blood by BASTILLE
  2. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend 
  3. Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper
  4. Pure Heroine by Lorde
  5. Trouble Will Find Me by The National 
The North West Honorary Top Four Albums Acquired in 2013
  1. good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar 
  2. The Lumineers by The Lumineers
  3. The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  4. Pitch Perfect Soundtrack by Various Artists
The Mike and Sulley Honorary Top Five Movies Viewed in 2013
  1. Gravity directed by Alfonso Cuarón
  2. Frances Ha directed by Noah Baumbach
  3. 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen
  4. Saving Mr. Banks directed by John Lee Hancock
  5. Her directed by Spike Jonze

4/26/2013

Favorite Songs from a Favorite Band

Yesterday, while I was investing some time into my Facebook News Feed, I saw a post from the page of one of my favorite bands Bright Eyes. They were sharing that the music blog Stereogum had posted a list of The 10 Best Bright Eyes Songs. Now, I love Top Ten lists, I do one every year for movies and music, so I couldn't resist making my own Top 10 Best Bright Eyes Songs.

My list is very different than Stereogum's list and that's probably because I'm a fan, and they're more music critics (and we all know critics are "different" than the rest of us). So keep that in mind. One quick note: On iTunes you can see "play count" for a given song. This played heavily into my listing, as did "nostalgia" – what sort of connection did this song have to my past (esp. High School ha!)
  1. "We Are Free Men" on There is No Beginning to the Story EP
  2. "You Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will." on LIFTED -or- The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
  3. "Land Locked Blues" on I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
  4. "Kathy with a K's Song" on Oh Holy Fools!
  5. "A Perfect Sonnet" on Every Day and Every Night
  6. "Middleman" on Cassadaga
  7. "A Scale, A Mirror, and Those Indifferent Clocks on Fevers and Mirrors
  8. "False Advertising" on LIFTED -or- The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
  9. "Jejune Stars" on The People's Key
  10. "June On the West Coast" on Letting Off the Happiness

12/31/2012

The 2nd Annual Tops of Twenty Twelve

This is the second annual edition of this listing where I share my favorite albums from 2012. And for the first time ever I'm also including my top five movies as well. For last year's lists click here.


Here are my main criteria for the music rankings:
Repeatability: Can I listen to it multiple times and not get sick of it?
Listenability: Is it pleasant and intriguing to listen to?
Emotionability: Does it speak to my heart and soul?
Originalibity: It has to be somewhat original; subjectively.

The "Gangam-Style-Honorary" Top Five Albums Released in 2012
  1. My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men
  2. Other People's Heartache/Flaws EP by Bastille
  3. Silver & Gold by Sufjan Stevens 
  4. Making Mirrors by Gotye
  5. An Awesome Wave by alt-J
The "Temple-of-the-Dog-Honorary" Top Five Albums Acquired in 2012
  1. If Not Now, When? by Incubus
  2. Nickel Creek by Nickel Creek
  3. Vows by Kimbra
  4. Strange Mercy by St. Vincent
  5. Never Trust a Happy Song by Grouplove
Here are my main criteria for the movie rankings:
Emotionability: Does it speak to my heart and soul?
Attentability: Does it keep my attention?
Repeatability: Would I watch it again?

The "Star Wars: Episode VIII - Lucas Strikes Back" Honorary Top Six Movies Viewed in 2012
  1. Wreck-It Ralph
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Silver Linings Playbook
  4. Django Unchained
  5. End of Watch
  6. Zero Dark Thirty

12/13/2011

Top Five + Top Five = Top Ten of Twenty Eleven

Well, it looks like I'll break my blog silence with a post that ranks the music I've listened to this past year (I got big plans to write a real post in the near future, and I hope to write more regularly). Until then though, this will have to do.


Here are my main criteria for the rankings:
Repeatability: Can I listen to it over and over again and not get sick of it?
Listenability: Is it pleasant and intriguing to listen to?
Emotionability: Does it speak to my heart and soul?
Originalibity: It has to be somewhat original; subjectively.

The "Lady Gaga I Was Born This Way Baby" Honorary Top Five Albums of 2011
  1. Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio 
  2. The People's Key by Bright Eyes
  3. The Sounds of Daniel Bashta by Daniel Bashta
  4. Bon Iver by Bon Iver
  5. The Soundtrack to Drive by Various Artists
The "Katy Perry, Yeah She Has Good Pop Music/One of the Boys/Teenage Dream" Honorary Top Five Albums Acquired in 2011
  1. Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
  2. Only By The Night by Kings of Leon
  3. Dusk and Summer by Dashboard Confessional
  4. Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers by The National
  5. Odd Blood by Yeasayer 
Note: If I had no shame I would've included Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, because I spent a decent amount of time listening to them (more than I'd care to admit). But I do have shame, so they only get an honorable mention. Florence + the Machine might've made the list, but I just got their Lungs album, so I couldn't in good conscience.