I skipped the open thread this week, but you can consider this a general media thread. Some links, none of which are complimentary of the subject material:
- Stupid list #1: Bravo’s list of 100 Funniest Movies, with commentary by Ed Brayton. I actually disagree with about 75% of Brayton’s particular remarks, but we agree on the essential lameness of this list.
- Stupid list #2: National Review’s list of 50 Conservative Rock Songs, with commentary by Amanda Marcotte (who is normally at Pandagon, but is guest blogging at Michael Bérubé’s blog).
- A.O. Scott reviews The Da Vinci Code in the NY Times, stopping along the way to admire the awfulness of Dan Brown’s writing, and wisely noting that “movies of that ilk rarely deal with issues like the divinity of Jesus or the search for the Holy Grail. In the cinema such matters are best left to Monty Python.” (Hat tip to JSpur.)
- Possibly funnier, certainly snobbier: Anthony Lane’s review in The New Yorker.
- More on Dan Brown’s awful writing, at By Neddie Jingo.
- Language Log raised many of the same issues a while back, but in a more pedantic way.
- PZ Myers reviews X3, narrowly avoids head explosion.
I haven’t seen The Da Vinci Code or X3; I may end up seeing the latter.
Via Matt Yglesias, Blender magazine has a list of “The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born”, for those of us who were born around 1980. You may recall that this publication previously did a list of the worst songs ever, correctly selecting “We Built This City” for the top slot. (I was pretty sure I blogged that list, but can’t find any evidence of it.)
A list this long will inevitably contain some really good and some really bad choices, but should at least name one song by My Bloody Valentine. I had to scroll down to #290 before I discovered that they couldn’t decide between “Only Shallow” (Loveless) and “Swallow” (Tremolo), and so named the nonexistent song “Only Swallow”. However, the correct answer is “Soon” (and “To Here Knows When” should also have been on the list).
The second thing I did (after looking for the MBV song) was look for the most inexcusable song on the list, which I found more quickly: Nelly, “Hot in Herre” at #80. Another contender appears twice: “Where’s Your Head At” by Basement Jaxx. There’s also a strong preference for cheesy 80’s ballads, but I will chalk this up to nostalgia.
It’s harder to argue for the biggest omission: I can always find some obscure song that I really like but wouldn’t appear on such a list. However, several of my favorite songs by the better-known indie bands are in fact present (usually around the 400s). Given what does appear, it’s a little surprising they didn’t include a song by the New Pornographers, either “Letter from an Occupant” or “The Laws Have Changed”. In another type of omission, they included three New Order songs but none of them are “Bizarre Love Triangle” or “Blue Monday”.
I’ll have to wait until after next year’s survey of ’80s music to compile my own version of this list, but in the meantime the rest of you can point out other omissions.
In conjunction with my weekend plans, and the long drive required to get there, I have made a mix CD using bands that will be appearing at Coachella. I prioritized recent music since this is most likely to be played; as a result none of the songs here are older than 2004. I also tried to avoid songs that have appeared on some previous mix CDs. A couple tracks are unrepresentative: Devendra Banhart sings in English most of the time, and TV on the Radio normally use instruments. A few of these have been posted here with recent music reviews. Here’s the tracklist:
High Noon Sun (Coachella 2006)
- The Go! Team, “Junior Kickstart”
- Sleater-Kinney, “Wilderness”
- My Morning Jacket, “Off The Record”
- Mylo, “Zenophile”
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Cheated Hearts”
- Bloc Party, “Banquet”
- Wolf Parade, “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son”
- Devendra Banhart, “Quedateluna”
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “In This Home On Ice”
- Franz Ferdinand, “L. Wells”
- Cat Power, “Love & Communication”
- Mogwai, “Glasgow Mega-Snake”
- Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, “Me And Mia”
- TV On The Radio, “Ambulance”
- Sigur Rós, “Gong”
- Dungen, “Panda”
- Ladytron, “Beauty*2″
- Animal Collective, “Turn Into Something”
Copies available on request. (Those of you who are going to Coachella with me are likely to be handed copies whether you want them or not.)
As Lemming has already noticed, Sleater-Kinney and Bloc Party are playing at the same time. Originally I was simply planning to decide between them, but then I realized that I have a quantum mechanical solution available to me. I just have to stop by the lab before I leave…
A few weeks ago there was a request for a thread on the subject of essential ’90s movies, along the lines of the music thread that ran in January. These threads are nicely self-sustaining so I decided to save it for the next time I was away from the blog for a few days. That time was five days ago, but I had assumed I would be able to turn my computer on. So instead I’m posting it now, since it’s a good Friday thread and I’ll be on a plane for much of the day.
Rules: Suggest movies from 1990-1999 that are essential in the sense of classic, influential, or just generally awesome. Obscure and idiosyncratic choices are encouraged. Also, pick the best overall movie from that decade, and we’ll see if there’s a concensus.
Here are some of my favorites to get you started (with my top pick in bold):
- Army of Darkness (1993)
- Clerks (1994)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
- The Usual Suspects (1995)
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
- The Matrix (1999)
I’m probably forgetting a few since I don’t have my DVD collection in front of me (should have entered it into listal),
Here are the 10 “Best Picture” Oscar winners from the 90’s:
- 1990: Dances With Wolves
- 1991: The Silence of the Lambs
- 1992: Unforgiven
- 1993: Schindler’s List
- 1994: Forrest Gump
- 1995: Braveheart
- 1996: The English Patient
- 1997: Titanic
- 1998: Shakespeare In Love
- 1999: American Beauty
If you’ve ever wanted to look through my CD collection, now you can without even coming to Berkeley. They’re sorted by rating, but for some reason the page doesn’t display what the rating is. Look at only the unrated albums (via the drop menu) to see what I’ve picked up recently. I may fill in the other sections of this site later, but music was the easiest to do. (I also don’t have my classical music CDs on there.)
Via Lifehacker, who really shouldn’t be finding more ways for me to waste time.
Oops, I meant to blog this a little bit earlier, but fortunately it’s not too late: Chad Orzel is polling on the Greatest Physics Experiment from a set of eleven nominees (which have been described in some detail in earlier posts at Uncertain Principles). So go over there and vote! My endorsement is for Cavendish. (Also, I regret not nominating Onnes for the discovery of superconductivity.) Preliminary results are here.
Last month I asked for recommendations of essential 90’s albums, and received an enthusiastic and comprehensive response. I’ve collected the results of that comment thread into a wonderfully eclectic list of 115 albums, which I’ve posted below the fold.
Some commenters went beyond the scope of the original question, either more broadly (by recommending artists without a specific album) or more narrowly (by citing individual songs). I’ve put these in their own lists. Finally, there were a few albums mentioned outside of the 1990-1999 range, which are also listed separately.
And of course, late additions to these lists are also welcomed!
I’m sure we’re all suffering from best-of fatigue by now, and there was certainly no shortage of end-of-year music threads on this blog. Nevertheless, here’s a start-of-year music thread related to a New Year’s resolution of mine. I recently sorted my iTunes library by year and discovered that there’s a serious shortage of music before about 2000. This is unsurprising, since outside of a few specialized genres I only very recently started seriously collecting music. So, I’d like to fill in some of the earlier eras. Rather than taking on all of the music written in the twentieth century (I’m in pretty good shape for music from before 1900) I decided to go by decades, starting with the most recent. Hence, a New Year’s resolution: Collect more music that was originally released in 1990-1999. You know, the stuff I would have been listening to in high school, had I been paying attention. The trouble is, I wasn’t, so I’ll need some recommendations.
So what were the essential albums of the 90’s? By “essential” I don’t just mean classic or influential, but also personal favorites and obscure gems. To get things started, here are some of the albums I still hear people talking about:
- U2, The Joshua Tree (1990)
- My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (1991)
- Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)
- Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
- Belle & Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996) [my personal favorite 90’s album at the moment]
- Radiohead, OK Computer (1997)
- Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
That list is heavy on indie-rock, since that’s what I’m most familiar with, but all genres are open! Punk! Metal! Rap! Country! Ok, maybe not country. But if it was good and released in the 90’s, please tell me about it.
If this effort is successful, (a) I’ll do a post on my favorites at the end of the year—yes! Another best-of list!—and (b) I’ll do the 80’s next year. (Sorry to make you wait, Mason.)
I listened to a lot of music (by my standards) this year, but mostly neglected other media categories. So the rest of the end-of-year list is drawing from a smaller set of works. I’m sure I overlooked lots of worthy books, movies, and games this year, so please point them out in the comments.
Favorite movie: Sin City
This was definitely the most visually interesting film of the year, a film that really looked like its graphic novel source material. This was coupled with a series of storylines running at top speed, each depicting some act of heroism rising up from the dark heart of the city. The movie was grotesquely violent, but I think this was an important part of the experience (I addressed this point in more detail in my longer-than-usual review back in April).
Honorable mention: The 40-Year Old Virgin surpassed expectations by being completely hilarious while being sympathetic to the shyness afflicting the title character. The dialogue and characters were very authentic, even when the situations got a bit ridiculous.
Favorite book: Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Murakami manages to find pockets of magic and portals to alternate worlds hidden around Japan, and then teases us with short glimpses of the wonder he’s found. This was my favorite of his since The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and was more accessible as well. The basic story sounds pretty straightforward: a 15-year-old runaway goes on a journey, falls in love, faces his inner demons. However, as with everything Murakami, there’s a lot more beneath the surface.
Favorite video game: Well, Xenosaga II was probably the best game I played this year, but that list is very short. I can’t really close this category until I’ve played Dragon Quest VIII, for one thing… What else should I be playing, as long as this category is open?
I’d better finish up my end-of-year lists before the year actually ends. I decided arbitrarily on a top 5 list of albums; this probably captures about 10% of full-length records I listened to this year. The top two are not going to be surprising to the regular readers; however, the fifth one was a tough decision.
5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
When I first heard this I couldn’t figure out what all the buzz was about. The first song was bizarre and annoying, and I couldn’t decide whether the singing was weird, or just bad. But once I got used to the singer and started skipping Track 1, I realized I really liked this record.
4. Architecture in Helsinki, In Case We Die
Brilliant, frenetic indie pop, with a childlike sense of fun.
3. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
This band quickly became one of my favorites when I started listening to them late last year. This release didn’t surpass their previous album, but was still one of the best of the year. A couple of the songs are simply amazing, and the rest are just plain excellent.
2. Ladytron, Witching Hour
Previous Ladytron albums appropriated mundane objects of modern society as metaphors: hence songs about credit card numbers, digital watches, black plastic, alarm clocks. Witching Hour focuses on the people in this technological landscape, and brings an immediacy and energy to the experience. This record does surpass Ladytron’s previous work: rather than a handful of great songs surrounded by filler, this one is awesome from beginning to end.
1. The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday
Here we have an album in which the lead singer rants arrhythmically while the band plays power chords in the background. And yet… they do it so well. Part of the fun is following the twists and turns of the storyline across the different songs; part is listening to Craig Finn’s snarling monologue, and the rest is the way the band just rocks. I can’t quite recommend them for everyone—some fraction of the population just finds them weird—but this was far and away my favorite and most-played CD of the year.
I’m also going to steal one of Lemming’s categories from the comments to my favorite songs post and list the:
Best Albums I Should Have Bought in 2004:
3. Snow Patrol, Final Straw
2. The Delgados, Universal Audio
1. The Arcade Fire, Funeral