Album Review: Twin Plagues by Wednesday


Album: Twin Plagues
Artist: Wednesday
Release Date: August 13, 2021
Label: Orindal Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “They Burned Down Dairy Queen”
  • “How Can You Live If You Can’t Love How Can You If You Do”
  • “Gary’s”
  • “Ghost of a Dog”

Thoughts” The Asheville, North Carolina quintet has a 90s sound without feeling retro. Vocalist Karly Hartzman sings introspective lyrics with a bit of a twang over crunching guitars. It’s kind of like The Nields crossed with My Bloody Valentine. All the tracks are lo-tempo, but there’s enough variation in the music and emotion in the vocals that it never gets tedious.
Rating: ***

Classic Movie Review: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Release Date: December 25, 1962
Director: Robert Mulligan
Production Company: Brentwood Productions | Pakula-Mulligan
Summary/Review:

I first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in junior high school, as reading this novel is basically a nationwide requirement of the United States education systems, and immediately fell in love with it.  Then we watched the movie in class and I was disappointed.  At that age, I didn’t like it when movies deviated from the books. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize that the best adaptations used the language of cinema to capture the mood and spirit of a book rather than strictly recreating it (which is why Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of that series of movies).  I also remember feeling that the kids in To Kill a Mockingbird didn’t act like real kids but I felt the same about E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as a child while thinking the kids were actually very realistic when revisiting as an adult.

If you have somehow never read To Kill a Mockingbird, it is a story told from the point of view of a young girl living in a small town in Alabama in the 1930s named Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (Mary Badham).  Scout lives with her widowed father Atticus (Gregory Peck) and older brother Jem (Phillip Alford), and often plays with a boy named Dill (John Megna) who stays with his aunt in their neighborhood.  In the book, Scout, Jem, and Dill have many adventures and get into mischief.  Scout also begins to get an understanding of the differences of the adults in her lives through encounters with a cantankerous old woman who turns out to have an addiction to morphine, as well as a mysterious recluse, Arthur “Boo” Radley (portrayed without words by a very young Robert Duvall).  Atticus is a model of good parenting who attempts to instill compassion in his children, treating them with patience and never talking down to them.

The central plot to the book and even more significant in the leaner movie version is the trial of a Black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), who is falsely accused of beating and raping a white teenage girl, Mayella Violet Ewell (Collin Wilcox), by her drunken father Bob Ewell (James Anderson).  Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson in court and demonstrates during the trial that the Ewells’ accusations can’t possibly be true.  But convincing an all-white jury in the Jim Crow South to accept the word of a Black man over white people is the impossible challenge.  In the most famous scene of this movie, Atticus delivers a nine-minute summation to the jury where he explicates his belief in the American justice system that they will find Tom Robinson innocent.

I found that this is a very well-made movie, yet it still feels like something of an appendix to an even better and more complex novel.  Gregory Peck’s performance is excellent, but it’s almost too good and having an actor of his stature portray Atticus Finch feeds into legitimate criticisms that Atticus is a “white savior” character.  I did feel legitimately moved though by the scene where the Black spectators in the courtroom balcony stand to honor Atticus and Reverend Sykes (William “Bill” Walker) says “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” A scene just before that where Dill is sleeping on Reverend Sykes shoulder is sweet and intimate especially considering the time and place.

As to the acting of the children, I was impressed with Phillip Alford’s performance as Jem.  His facial expressions and gestures say a lot as the older child who understands the significance of what is happening.  Mary Badham can be a bit too precious as Scout, especially in the scene when she talks down the lynch mob.  But she is absolutely perfect in her delivery of my favorite line of all, “Hey, Boo.”

I guess I have mixed feelings on To Kill a Mockingbird as a movie because I can never see it as standing apart from the book.  But it’s a great book, so it can’t help to be a good movie as well.

Rating: ***1/2

Classic Movie Review: Pierrot Le Fou (1965)


Title: Pierrot Le Fou
Release Date: 5 November 1965
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Production Company: Films Georges de Beauregard
Summary/Review:

I struggle with these French New Wave films, especially Godard’s, so I’m a bit relieved that this is that last one on my list.  Although I think I may have been more receptive to Pierrot Le Fou had I been more in the mood for a weird, experimental film.  The movie is about a man named Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo, who just recently passed away) who leaves his wife and family and boring middle-class life in Paris to run away with his old girlfriend Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina).

She insists on calling him Pierrot, which he hates.  They go on a crime spree across France and are chased by both the police and gangsters from a right-wing paramilitary organization opposed to Algerian independence.  Pierrot le Fou was clearly an influence on Bonnie and Clyde. The movie is more of a montage than a linear plot, linking various vignettes together.  Some are comedy, some are eccentric, some are violent, and a couple are even musicals.
There’s a lot of overlapping narration from Ferdinand and Marianne, and references to philosophy and literature. I’m probably missing layers of significance but it all feels very pretentious.

Rating: ***

Podcasts for Two Weeks Ending September 25


Scientific American 60-Second ScienceDinosaurs Lived–and Made Little Dinos–in the Arctic

Dinosaurs were so cool. Literally!

This Day in Esoteric Political HistoryAttica

The attrocity at a New York state prison, the media complicity in perpetuating the false narrative of the authorities, and how little has changed in criminal justice in 50 years since.

This Day in Esoteric Political HistoryCalendar Confusion

That time in 1752 when everyone in the British Empire lost 11 days.

Twenty Thousand HertzListening to the Movies

How audio description for movies originated and how it is done.

What NextEmpty Shelves Everywhere

Ongoing supply chain problems of the global pandemic.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 140-131


A year ago, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

500-491 400-381 300-291 200-191
490-481 390-381 290-281 190-181
480-471 380-371 280-271 180-171
470-461 370-361 270-261 170-161
460-451 360-351 260-251 160-151
450-441 350-341 250-241 150-141
440-431 340-331 240-231
430-421 330-321 230-221
420-411 320-311 220-211
410-401 310-301 210-201

Artist: Bob Marley and The Wailers
Album: Catch A Fire
Year: 1973
Label: Island
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Concrete Jungle”
  • “Stop That Train”
  • “Baby We’ve Got a Date (Rock It Baby)”
  • “Stir It Up”
  • “No More Trouble”

Thoughts: Kind of amazing when you have an album that has banger after banger and realize that it’s not a compilation album.  In fact, Catch a Fire is just the first of a stretch of albums where Bob Marley and Co. will churn out great song after great song.


Artist: Black Sabbath
AlbumParanoid
Year: 1970
Label: Vertigo
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “War Pigs/Luke’s Fire”
  • “Paranoid”
  • “Iron Man”

Thoughts: I grew up in the 80s when Heavy Metal was a dominant force in music and one that was considered rebellious, dangerous, and scary.  Then in the 90s it got reclassified as “hair band music” and played on VH-1 which previously had only played light rock.  Listening to this album I tried to put my mind in 1970 and imagine what hearing this type of music would’ve sounded like to people at the time.  Probably dangerous and scary, but also evocative of the Vietnam War Era malaise.  Musically it sounds more like contemporaries Led Zeppelin than 80s Heavy Metal, but the seeds are there.


Artist: Madonna
Album: The Immaculate Collection
Year: 1990
Label: Sire
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Holiday”
  • “Borderline”
  • “Into the Groove”
  • “Live to Tell”
  • “Like A Prayer”
  • “Express Yourself”
  • “Vogue”

Thoughts: I’ve grumbled about Rolling Stone including compilation albums in this list but it seems especially egregious for a groundbreaking female artist who dominated pop music over three decades.  Madonna charted 9 number one albums, and her debut album was the only one not to make it to Top 5 (it was #8), so you think that there would be plentiful albums to choose from.  Anyhow this album collects all the 80s hits that made Madonna a star, if that’s your thing.


Artist: Adele
Album21
Year: 2011
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?:Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Rolling in the Deep”
  • “Rumor Has It”
  • “Set Fire to the Rain”
  • “I’ll Be Waiting”
  • “Someone Like You”

Thoughts: I remember first hearing “Rolling in the Deep” and being wowed by the powerful voice channeling Aretha Franklin coming out a young English woman.  Soon enough, Adele was everywhere and her songs were filling the airwaves (which was a good thing). The album is called 21, but Adele seems to sing from experience beyond her years.  Honestly, it’s hard to believe that this album is 10 years old already.


Artist: Funkadelic
AlbumMaggot Brain
Year: 1971
Label: Westbound
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Maggot Brain”
  • “Can You Get to That”
  • “Super Stupid”

Thoughts: This is a brilliant, amazing album and it’s shameful that I never heard it until 5 years ago, nor does it have more widespread exposure.  It feels like a whole lot of music made it the past 50 years owes its origins to the music on this album.  Previously discussed in my P-Funk Music Discovery.


Artist: U2
Album: The Joshua Tree
Year: 1987
Label: Island
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Where the Streets Have No Name”
  • “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
  • “With or Without You”
  • “Red Hill Mining Town”
  • “One Tree Hill”

Thoughts: I was never a U2 superfan but I’ve usually liked their music well enough. U2 began to become known in the U.S. in the mid-80s, and among the Irish-American community there was a special pride and curiosity about a rock band from Dublin.  My Dad, of course, disliked his copy of War someone gave him because it sounding nothing like Irish trad. The Joshua Tree launched U2 into the level of super-stardom in the U.S.  I remember that the album and “With or Without You” were released in March 1987, and thus a lot of the promotion was tied to St. Patrick’s Day.  Of course, U2 drew their influence for this album from a mythical America so it’s not St. Patrick’s Day content, at least by the standards of someone like my Dad.


Artist: The Fugees
AlbumThe Score
Year: 1996
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “How Many Mics”
  • “Fu-Gee-La”
  • “Cowboyrs”

Thoughts: Memory is a weird thing.  I was certain that I remembered The Fugees cover of “Killing Me Softly” coming out when I was in college.  In reality, it came out 5 years after I graduated college.  At any rate, as you can imagine, I’ve not paid much attention to The Fugees before now. For one thing, I never knew that the members of the band are Haitian-American. As for the tunes, they are melodic with a smooth flow, clever samples, and great beats.  I think I like it!


Artist: Joni Mitchell
Album: Hejira
Year: 1976
Label: Asylum
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks: none

Thoughts: I’m just gonna put it out there: I don’t get Joni Mitchell.


Artist: Hank Williams
Album: 40 Greatest Hits
Year: 1978
Label: Polydor
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Lost Highway”
  • “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
  • “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)”
  • “Crazy Heart”
  • “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle”
  • “I’m Sorry For You My Friend”
  • “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
  • “I Won’t Be Home No More”
  • “I Saw the Light”

Thoughts: When I hear the name “Hank Williams,” I think of the “Are You Ready For Some Football” guy.  But that’s Hank Williams, Jr. who was a very young child when his father died.  When I comes to country music, I favor old-timey sounds to more contemporary country which is fused with rock or pop balladry.  Hank Williams, Sr.’ s music sounds like it should be coming out of a crackly radio in an old car or diner (as it did in The Last Picture Show).


Artist: Portishead
AlbumDummy
Year: 1994
Label: Go! Beat
Have I Listened to This Album Before?:Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Sour Times”
  • “Strangers”
  • “Numb”
  • “Wandering Star”
  • “Glory Box”

Thoughts: Probably a perfect album.  Portishead combines a lot of things that were going on at the time in the 90s – hip-hop rhythms, creative samples, and ambience galore.  The music could be described as “chill-out” if only the tension were not constantly be ratcheting up.  The alluring vocals of Beth Gibbons carry the songs into an effervescent place.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485. Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483. Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482. The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481. Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478. The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477. Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469.Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465. King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464. The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462. The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459. Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457. Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456. Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455. Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451. Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448. Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446. Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443. David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440. Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439. James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438. Blur, Parklife
  • 437. Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435. Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431. Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429. The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427. Al Green, Call Me
  • 426. Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425. Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424. Beck, Odelay
  • 423. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421. M.I.A., Arular
  • 417. Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416. The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415. The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414. Chic, Risqué
  • 413. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409. Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408. Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405. Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402. Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401. Blondie, Blondie
  • 400. The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398. The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392. Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
  • 390. Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388. Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387. Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386. J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385. Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384. The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • 380. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • 378. Run-DMC, Run-D.M.C.
  • 377. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • 375. Green Day, Dookie
  • 374. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
  • 373. Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul
  • 371. The Temptations, Anthology
  • 369. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  • 368. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
  • 365. Madvillain, Madvillainy
  • 364. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
  • 363. Parliament, The Mothership Connection
  • 360. Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
  • 358. Sonic Youth, Goo
  • 357. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • 356. Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • 354. X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
  • 351. Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
  • 350. Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
  • 349. MC5, Kick Out the Jams
  • 348. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
  • 347. GZA, Liquid Swords
  • 346. Arctic Monkeys, AM
  • 345. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • 344. Toots and the Maytals, Funky Kingston
  • 343. Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
  • 342. The Beatles, Let It Be
  • 341. The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
  • 338. Brian Eno, Another Green World
  • 337.  Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
  • 335. Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes
  • 334. Santana, Abraxas
  • 333. Bill Withers, Still Bill
  • 332. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
  • 330. The Rolling Stones, Aftermath
  • 329. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing…
  • 328. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
  • 326. Prince, Dirty Mind
  • 323.The Clash, Sandinista!
  • 320. X, Los Angeles
  • 319. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  • 317. Billie Holiday, Lady in Satin
  • 316. The Who, The Who Sell Out
  • 310. Wire, Pink Flag
  • 309. Joy Division, Closer
  • 308. Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
  • 307. Sam Cooke, Portrait of a Legend
  • 306. Al Green, I’m Still In Love With You
  • 304. Bill Withers, Just As I Am
  • 301. New York Dolls, New York Dolls
  • 299. B.B. King, Live at the Regal
  • 297. Peter Gabriel, So
  • 294. Weezer, Weezer
  • 293. The Breeders, Last Splash
  • 292. Van Halen, Van Halen
  • 289.  Björk, Post
  • 288. The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers
  • 287. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
  • 283. Donna Summer, Bad Girls
  • 282. Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours
  • 279. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York
  • 278. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
  • 276. Radiohead, The Bends
  • 275. Curtis Mayfield, Curtis
  • 274. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
  • 273. Gang of Four, Entertainment!
  • 272. The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat
  • 267. Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
  • 266. The Beatles, Help!
  • 263. The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night
  • 262. New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies
  • 261. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head
  • 260. The Slits, Cut
  • 259. Janis Joplin, Pearl
  • 257. Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors
  • 256. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
  • 254. Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters
  • 252. Devo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
  • 250. Buzzcocks, Singles Going Steady
  • 246. LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out
  • 245. Cocteau Twins, Heaven of Las Vegas
  • 242. The Velvet Underground, Loaded
  • 240. Sam Cooke, Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963
  • 239. Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded
  • 238. Kraftwerk, Trans Europe Express
  • 237. Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger
  • 236. Daft Punk, Discovery
  • 232. John Coltrane, Giant Steps
  • 229. Patsy Cline, The Ultimate Collection
  • 228. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead
  • 227. Little Richard, Here’s Little Richard
  • 226. Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
  • 223. John Lennon, Imagine
  • 221. Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine
  • 220. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Déjà Vu
  • 215.  Grateful Dead, American Beauty
  • 213. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…
  • 212. Nina Simone, Wild is the Wind
  • 211. Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures
  • 210. Ray Charles, The Birth of Soul
  • 209. Run-DMC, Raising Hell
  • 206. David Bowie, Low
  • 205. Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman
  • 202. Björk, Homogenic
  • 201. A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders
  • 198. The B-52’s, The B-52’s
  • 197. The Beatles, Meet the Beatles!
  • 195. Leonard Cohen, Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • 193. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys
  • 192. Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill
  • 191. Etta James, At Last!
  • 190. The Who, Tommy
  • 189. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out
  • 185. The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
  • 184. Cyndi Lauper, She’s So Unusual
  • 181. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
  • 178. Otis Redding, Otis Blue
  • 177. Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story
  • 176. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet
  • 175. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  • 174. Jimmy Cliff and Various Artists, The Harder They Come: Original Soundtrack
  • 173. Nirvana, In Utero
  • 172. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • 171. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
  • 170. Cream, Disraeli Gears
  • 169. Billy Joel, The Stranger
  • 167. Depeche Mode, Violator
  • 166. Buddy Holly, 20 Golden Greats
  • 165. R.E.M., Murmur
  • 164. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
  • 162. Pulp, Different Class
  • 161. Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills, & Nash
  • 156. The Replacements, Let it Be
  • 155. Jay-Z, The Black Album
  • 154. Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace
  • 153. PJ Harvey, Rid of Me
  • 150. Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska
  • 149. John Prine, John Prine
  • 148. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
  • 146. Blondie, Parallel Lines
  • 144. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
  • 143. The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground
  • 142. Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A.
  • 141. Pixies, Doolittle
  • 140. Bob Marley and the Wailers, Catch a Fire
  • 139. Black Sabbath, Paranoid
  • 138. Madonna, The Immaculate Collection
  • 137. Adele, 21
  • 136. Funkadelic, Maggot Brain
  • 135. U2, The Joshua Tree
  • 134. Fugees, ‘he Score
  • 132. Hank Williams, 40 Greatest Hits
  • 131. Portishead, Dummy

 

Movie Review: Fruitvale Station (2013)


Title: Fruitvale Station
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Director: Ryan Coogler
Production Company: Significant Productions
Summary/Review:

We “Say Their Names” but sometimes that’s all we know about Black people killed by police and vigilantes.  Ryan Coogler’s debut film as director and writer tells the story of the man behind one of those names, Oscar Grant III, who was shot by police in a Oakland metro station just after ringing in the New Year in 2009, and died later that morning.  Michael B. Jordan portrays Grant as someone dealing with the complex mess of everyday life in the 24 hours leading to his shooting.  Melonie Diaz  portrays his girlfriend Sophina and Octavia Spencer adds a lot of emotional heft as his mother Wanda.  Ariana Neal steals scenes as Oscar and Sophina’s 4-year-old daughter Tatiana. This movie feels very real to me.  While it’s not filmed in a vérité or neo-realist style, I don’t feel like I’m watching Jordan, Diaz, and Spencer as actors playing people, but real people.  This movie was released before the Black Lives Matter movement officially began but it captures the meaning of the phrase in its depiction of one precious, human life of a Black man that was taken away.

Rating: *****

Book Review: Picturing America : The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps by Stephen J. Hornsby


Author: Stephen J. Hornsby
Title: Picturing America : The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps
Publication Info: Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, in association with the Library of Congress, 2017.
Summary/Review:
I’ve always loved those little maps you get for free at tourist destinations that have lots of little comical people doing touristy things on plan clearly not drawn to scale.  In fact, when I was a teenager I had two pictorial map posters, one of Greenwich, CT (the town next to my own where I attended high school) and one of Williamsburg, VA (where we went on lots of vacations before eventually moving there).  Stephen Hornsby breaks down the history of pictorial maps in this book which he says peaked in the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s.  Pictorial maps were used for education, for civic and industrial promotion campaigns, and to help people on the homefront keep up with the battles of World War II among other things.  Although this is a richly-illustrated coffee table book, my one complaint is that the images were often still too small to see the details.  Nevertheless this is a fun and interesting book about an esoteric topic of my interest.

Recommended Books:

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)


Title: Grosse Pointe Blank
Release Date: April 11, 1997
Director: George Armitage
Production Company: Hollywood Pictures | Caravan Pictures | Roger Birnbaum Productions | New Crime Productions
Summary/Review:

This is one of those movies I’ve always wanted to watch but for some reason never got around to.  I like John Cusack in just about anything which was is the primary draw.  Turns out that this movie is full of actors I like in just about anything: Minnie Driver! Dan Aykroyd! Joan Cusack! and Alan Arkin!  It also has a killer soundtrack with music provided by Joe Strummer of The Clash and includes songs by The Clash, Violent Femmes,  English Beat, The Specials, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Pixies, Motörhead, and more!  Never has a movie made me more want to get up and dance.

But what about the actual movie?  Well, John Cusack stars as professional assassin Martin Blank who is sent to carry out a hit in Detroit at the same time as his high school’s tenth reunion in the nearby suburb of Grosse Pointe.  His assistant Marcella (Joan Cusack, god I love her) insists that he attend the reunion.  Blank admits to his therapist Dr. Oatman (Arkin) that he’s never gotten over his high school sweetheart, Debi Newberry (Driver).  It turns out that he never showed up on their prom night disappearing to begin the path he’s taken to hired assassin.

Blank is at a crossroads in his life and attends the reunion wondering is he is still suited for killing and if he should have a different future.  In a running gag, he tells everyone who asks him what he’s been doing for 10 years the honest truth and they all think he’s joking. To complicate matters, several men are eager to carry a hit out on him, including Grocer (Aykroyd), a fellow hitman who wants Blank to join his union of hired killers and doesn’t take no for an answer.  This leads to a comical intermingling of Blank’s personal and professional lives as he tries to reconcile with Debi.

I don’t want to give too much away but this is a smart and entertaining film. It does a good job of mixing and playing with conventions both action films and rom-coms.  It also feels very original in a way that you don’t often see in Hollywood comedies.  I’m glad I finally watched it.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Structure by Water From Your Eyes


AlbumStructure
Artist: Water From Your Eyes
Release Date: August 27, 2021
Label: Wharf Cat Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “When You’re Around”
  • “Track Five”
  • “”Quotations””

Thoughts: This album from the Brooklyn electro-pop duo Water From Your Eyes documents a break-up.  Specifically the end of the romantic relationship between band members Rachel Brown and Nate Amos, although they remain together as a band and as friends.  There’s a lot of variety to hear: Beatles-esque harmonies, shoegaze guitar, ghostly vocals, relentless industrial noise…  It changes from track to track and sometimes within the song.  But there is, er, structure here as the album is broken into two sets of four songs symmetrical to the other four.
Rating: ***1/2

Classic Movie Review: The Graduate (1967)


Title: The Graduate
Release Date: December 21, 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Production Company: Lawrence Turman Productions
Summary/Review:

I first watched The Graduate some time in the mid-90s because, along with Easy Rider, it is said to be an emblematic of the Baby Boomer generation.  Watching it then, I felt that Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) seemed more representative of my own generation, at a time when we were being called “The Slacker Generation.”  Watching it now, though, I think there is a feeling of directionless many people experience in their 20s that transcends generations.  My other impression of the movie was that it wasn’t very funny and I didn’t like it.

Watching it now, I realize the problem I had with The Graduate is that it makes me deeply uncomfortable, which is something that a good movie can do.  I wrote in my review of M*A*S*H that there were a lot of positives of the Sexual Revolution of the 60s and 70s, but sometimes there was a push to be transgressive which crossed the line from health to unhealthy sexual expression.  The seduction of Benjamin by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) is extremely creepy, almost predatory.  Later in the film, Benjamin becomes a creepy stalker in his pursuit of Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross).  I’m never convinced that Benjamin actually loves Elaine, he’s just looking for a way to escape the rut he’s captured in, and I think the film actually supports this interpretation.  As for Elaine, watching her respond positively to Benjamin is like watching a camp counselor in a slasher film enter the creepy house where I want to shout at the screen “NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?”

The Graduate is an extremely well-made film.  I particularly like the the montage of Benjamin schlubbing around his house intercut with scenes of his assignations with Mrs. Robinson.  The acting is all around terrific, and Anne Bancroft’s performance in the scene where Benjamin presses Mrs. Robinson about her past is magnificent.  Simon & Garfunkel’s music for the film, while repetitive (although not as repetitive as Midnight Cowboy), is perfectly synched to the movie, and I especially like the part where Simon’s guitar strumming peters out when Benjamin’s car runs out of gas.  The final sequence of the movie is ludicrously unbelievable, but it’s still very funny (and was brilliantly spoofed in Wayne’s World II). Something I didn’t notice or didn’t remember from my previous viewing is that when Benjamin and Elaine get on the bus their smiles and laughter slowly turn to looks of confusion, as if they’re thinking “What now?” I never thought there was a happy future for Benjamin and Elaine and their expressions in the final shot confirm it.

Want to know something weird?  When filming this movie, Anne Bancroft was only 36 years old, joining Vivien Leigh and Gloria Swanson among actresses playing characters who are treated as older than themselves.  Granted, Mrs. Robinson had a teenage pregnancy, so it’s entirely possible that she have a child in college at Bancroft’s age.  But here’s something weirder: Katharine Ross is less than 9 years younger than Bancroft!  Weirder still?  Hoffman is only SIX YEARS younger than Bancroft.  The leads in this intergenerational comedy were all born in the same decade!

So, I think I like The Graduate a lot more than I did on my previous viewing, but I don’t love it.  I guess I’ll check in again in another 25 years, and who knows!

Rating: ***