What the **** happened to the music industry?

Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Although this article comes a bit late after the fact, I wanted to at least mention it since it’s a topic that people seem to get rather passionate about for better or worse. As most of you trend following kiddies know, the Grammy’s aired this past week on NBC and brought out the usual controversy we’ve come to expect from the assortment of pre-madonnas and self entitled brats that populate the ‘music industry’ these days. However, no issue seemed to ignite the twitter sphere to such a point as the moment when 30-year music veteran Beck defied the odds and took home the award for ‘Best Album of the Year’, all the while angering countless teenage fans of Beyonce everywhere. Now if you’re like me and possess a music IQ (or any IQ for that matter) that ranges in the above average category, you’ll think to yourself ‘who the fuck cares about the Grammy’s? Real talent doesn’t get noticed on the national stage anymore!’ Admittedly, I stuck to my yearly tradition of not staying up to watch the Grammy’s but found myself pulled into the debate nonetheless. While I concede the argument that the Grammy’s have become more saturated than a college degree, I will admit that the nineties kid inside me did a jig when I saw that Beck had usurped the pop music dominated throne and received his long overdue award. Sadly, my faith in humanity was trumped by the fact that the hashtag ‘#whoisbeck’ managed to trend  much higher up than it should but then again I’ve come to realize overtime that the majority of people who actually take the Grammy’s seriously aren’t exactly re-inventing the wheel.  This leads in to my larger point and that is ‘What the fuck happened to the music industry?’

You could argue that the question I ought to be asking is ‘What the fuck is wrong with people?’ and you’d be right but that’s something I just don’t have the energy for at this moment. Another time perhaps.

If you’re going to go by the billboard ratings and what you see on television you would almost certainly come to the conclusion that modern music is populated solely by either: Hip-hop or pop music, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Yes, there are plenty of alternative bands or hipster groups that your one friend will rave about but you’ll never listen to that manage to pop up but those just don’t make it big enough to merit any sort of airplay and for better or worse get pushed down into the mire before anyone hears of them. A few exceptions can obviously be made in the non-pop genre i.e. Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran, Fall Out Boy etc. but more often than not that doesn’t speak to the level of their talent as much as much as it concedes the fact that people still get a kick out of seeing cute boys play the guitar. A good example of this standard is the country music genre which has a massive following of pre-dominately white teenagers and young adults who get a kick out of wearing flannel shirts and ripped jeans while listening to a man-child with a 5 o’ clock shadow and a comically big hat sing about how a well-cared for truck is an analogy for his woman. Something tells me the popularity of such a thing is directly correlated to the amount of alcohol one consumes but I suppose that can be said for most things in today’s music world that become ‘cool’.

So why do these artists become so popular, are they really that ‘good’ ? Or does it all fall into the category of ‘all hype’? In case you’re wondering the answer is most certainly the latter. American’s, more specifically young adults and teenagers make up the biggest demographic that contemporary music appeals to and moreover markets to. How do I know this? Well I can tell you that my parents generation certainly didn’t listen to The Beatles and Paul Simon because of how good their asses looked covered in Crisco, and most certainly didn’t label them ‘great musicians’ because of their ability to generate buzz or “YouTube Gold”. No, they listened to them and regard them with such high esteem because of what their music said and how it made it touched upon the culture that they lived in. Keep in mind this was an age plagued by uncertainty in a nuclear age, my parents were born in the fifties and lived through Vietnam, The Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Reagan years. Kids these days assume that ‘culturally significant’ means how many videos someone has that went viral or how many awards they won. Being culturally significant transcends more than just fame, it means having material that is defined by the time period that produced it. John Lennon and the ‘Give Peace a Chance’ crowd helped define a generation who saw music as a means to bring issues larger than themselves into a bigger discussion. Music took on a sound that is clearly distinguishable from any other period and became a staple of the ‘flower power’ and hippie movements which protested the War in Vietnam and usage of nuclear weapons. Today’s generation has no identifiable genre with which to tie itself to like my parent’s generation did. My parents experienced a clear evolution of music from the days of: Bobby Vinton and Buddy Holly, the phenomenon of American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan, Elvis and the British Invasion, the 70’s music scene which produced glam and hard rock, funk and punk music and early synth pop. They were a generation of young adults who lived through easily one of the most exciting periods of music and got to experience a myriad of new and innovative musicians who sought to evolve their art to a place where they could influence countless talents for years to come.

Yet, somewhere around the turn of the century that sort of evolution stopped and the music industry became what the hipsters at Starbucks who sip their caramel macchiatos refer to as ‘mainstream’. People started being indoctrinated with the 24 hour non-stop media circus which would pummel you with images of what is ‘hot’ and more importantly what’s not. The reality show became the next big phenomenon, where for hours at a time you could watch the lives of the rich and famous be put on stage for all to see, ‘warts and all’. We became a society infatuated by the most pedestrian and boorish ideas and entered a world where watching people allegedly ‘just like us’, bickered, drank, fought and got arrested all in the matter of an hour. “Wow,” we’d say, “this is so crazy that I just have to show my friends.” Pretty soon this sort of “did you see that” culture reared its ugly head and moved onto the music industry where people with little to no musical skill realized that you didn’t need actual talent to produce a record, you just needed to tap into the pulsing vein of society which valued these sorts of things. Not only could you produce a ton of D-quality music like this but you could market cheap sound-alikes and copycats for little to no effort and sure enough you’d be an overnight billionaire in no time. Actual musicians and instrumentalists were largely pushed aside in favor of those who had an image that could be slapped on everything from a cellphone wallpaper to a billboard in Times Square. Sure, such things might get stale after awhile but when they did you could even market their collapse too, as a cable reality show where a camera crew followed that person on their disgusting and pathetic journey of redemption, where gluttonous housewives could smirk on their self-righteous thrones of pizza stained  La-Z-Boy furniture and watch the musicians that used to play on the ‘teevee’ scrounge around in the mire of rehab facilities and glumly look at the camera almost begging for their collective approval. Real music has died out in large part because people allowed the most reprehensible and base aspects of human nature to dominate their interests. People don’t like to stretch their minds anymore, it’s easier to look up answers on wikipedia for the inner meanings of a song or film or book these days than actually ponder and interpret. Young adults aren’t being forced in large part to think for themselves and are being encouraged to just ‘know’ the right answer instead of seeking it out for themselves. Music has stopped being about artistry and is purely sex, violence and hashtag worthy ‘moments’. It’s gotten to the point where ‘controversial music’ is someone making a video or a statement which people don’t unanimously agree on or can’t wrap their brains around. Opening up a discussion shouldn’t be synonymous for ‘controversy’ and moreover ‘controversy’ shouldn’t be looked at as a dirty word.

Music has the power to do many things but what it shouldn’t be is a soapbox for bad behavior or disrespect for others. People like watching award shows these days like the Grammy’s not in the hopes of seeing good music but waiting to see if something ‘crazy’ or ‘controversial’ happens. We’ve become a society of bystanders who instead of trying to better the world around us just stand there and videotape bad acts in the hopes of becoming ‘famous’. Kanye West’s ‘rant’ after the Grammy’s easily overshadowed any sort of talent or art went on act the actual ceremony and honestly that’s really sad that we are so easily taken in by stupidity as to put it on this pedestal where it proceeds to make millions of dollars. Writing songs about going out drinking, fighting with your girlfriend, doing drugs and gyrating asses isn’t art, it’s trash. It’s the sort of thing which should be isolated and mocked rather than viewed as ‘deep art’ which defines an entire generation. This past week Drake released a new “mixtape” of the usual sort of tripe that he usually produces or should I say, he and 5-6 other people produced, that was being hailed on twitter as something akin to The ‘White’ Album by The Beatles or Tommy by The Who. That’s like your teacher in school taking the half-assed report from that one slacker in your class about how “Football is the best sport Ever” and putting it on the bulletin board over your piece about “How Head Injuries effect the Sports World”. The music industry has become a joke and not a particularly good one because most bad jokes people tell you to get lost after telling it, not throw you billions of dollars in revenue in the hopes that you’ll create more just like it. Sure you could argue that the music scene is starting to open up the discussion to civil liberties like in Ferguson but aside from Common and John Legend who wrote the song for the film ‘Selma’, who else is really leading the charge in the industry against police brutality and the shooting of innocents? People will also cite the stunt pulled last year by having over 50 gay couples marry on stage as a ‘culturally significant’ music moment but let’s be honest it’s not like gay marriage is really a taboo subject in this country for the most part other than in shit states like Alabama, so it really wasn’t taking much of a risk by doing so. If you want to take a risk, have 50 transgender individuals come on stage with you and really make a statement with your support. But no, that doesn’t sell records, that’s too ‘controversial’, better wait til enough people make it popular before you start doing stuff like that. So in the meantime we’re stuck with the boring mass produced pop acts that dominate the industry who are essentially poster boys for the endless line of talent shows and award shows until they become too old or unpopular and are quickly shoved aside in favor of someone much younger and hotter to take hold of the limelight.

I guess in closing, if you’re looking for an answer to the question I posed earlier: “What the fuck is wrong with music?” the answer is: we are. We are what’s wrong with music these days.

Taylor Swift ‘Shakes Off’ Spotify

Photo Courtesy of the DailyMail.co.uk

Photo Courtesy of the DailyMail.co.uk

Look, we all know that the music industry in the 21st century is based off of image, there’s no denying that. Every year it seems like there are new Award Shows popping up simply for the purpose of creating ‘tweet’ worthy moments which is admittedly not a bad way to get yourself out there to prospective fans. One has to agree that music acts (they’re acts not musicians okay) like Miley Cyrus, Pharrell, Kanye West and Iggy Azalea wouldn’t be nearly as notorious had they not made a point of being front and center at things like the VMA’s. Celebrity is all about image and image sells itself in the saturated cesspool we call ‘pop music.’

This past week country star turned pop-star Taylor Swift announced that she was pulling her music from streaming service Spotify in response to the growing piracy trend. Not only that she adamantly asserted that ‘music should not be free’ and stated that her work would only be available on pay services such as Rhapsody and  Beats Music. Big Machine, Swift’s label made the following statement, “We determined that her fan base is so in on her, let’s pull everything off of Spotify and any other service that doesn’t offer a premium service.” But wait, Spotify does offer a premium service at 9.99/mo and while it isn’t exclusively pay to play, it does serve as a gateway for many an artist to get their stuff out to the public and encourage subsequent purchase. However, Borchetta (Big Machine’s CEO) feels that artists are being taken advantage of by not making their music exclusive to those who are essentially ‘superfans’. I guess the message that Swift and co. are trying to get across is that real fans don’t listen to music for free and if you have been you’re not worthy of their product. This differs grealy from NIN front man Trent Reznor’s views, who in 2007 famously urged fans to steal his albums due to the corporate greed in the music industry. Now, I’m not saying that Reznor and Swift aren’t allowed differences in opinion but only one of them has won an Oscar for their work and kept up consistently with their fans while the other feels her time is best spent twerking for youtube hits.

Therein lies my issue. The music industry hasn’t been about record sales in ages if you pay any attention to the growing trend of listening services such as Pandora and Spotify. Musicians for the most part are more than happy to put on a good show for a few minutes in elaborate costumes just for the sake of trending on the inter webs. Taylor Swift became the 3rd highest paid woman in showbiz last year making $57 million, putting her behind Oprah Winfrey and Britney Spears. Thus I find it hard to believe she’s really suffering from shoddy record sales. Again the message for musicians in past decade has been ‘image, image, image’ and getting your face out there by seeking any attention you can get. Scandals and controversy at the VMA’s only help record sales and only aim to make artists popular via word of mouth. Twerking is this generations guitar on fire, and has been a go-to for many an ‘artist’ who wishes to make a quick buck off their image. Nevermind that this sort of thing degrades the music industry to the brink of prostitution and never mind that millions of young people are now trying to replicate that success by doing the same thing, because at the end of the day sex sells. For years Taylor Swift marketed herself as the plucky every-girl who just wanted to play her guitar and sing about love and teen plight. Fast forward to 2014 where she’s scrapped the guitar act and can now be seen twerking and prancing around in a leotard in the ‘Shake it Off’ music video which sits comfortably at a quarter of a billion views. So what do I think of her decision? I say ‘who the fuck cares’ because when you’re making more money than any working class professional in this country simply by dancing around and singing about boys, I can’t say I feel too sorry for you.

So in the end for those of you heart broken over the fact that Taylor Swift has turned her back on her fans in favor of cash just remember that she wouldn’t be anywhere without your loyalty in the first place.

The 5 People You Meet in College

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Lemme give it to you straight: college is a unique experience. One that can be replicated nowhere else in the planet. To be clear, Disney couldn’t bring you the same thing in a two hour VR simulator, although it would be a hell of a lot cheaper. So without further ado I wish to outline the sorts of wily characters you’ll meet in college.

1. ‘Those people’ in the library

That doesn’t quite narrow it down does it? It will in a minute….I’m referring to the individuals, sometimes groups, who use the library as their social hub. Those people, usually commuters who for some reason can’t seem to find anywhere in the whole world to meet up with their friends except right smack dab in the middle of where you wanted to do you homework. Imagine if you will the following scenario: you’re just of class, you head to the library in the hopes of grabbing a coffee and settling in for a nice study session so you can have time on the weekend to carouse with your friends. You’ll all set to hit the books when you realize there’s no suitable seat to be found. All the comfy areas of course are taken by the circus freaks who wish to spend their time chatting about how ‘awesome that episode of Game of Thrones was last night’ which naturally leaves you having to look seek out option two. So you head to the more quiet area of the library where you’re sure there isn’t going to be any riff raff but when you get there it becomes apparent that everyone had the same idea and you’re shit out of luck. At this point you’re done, you don’t even want to study anymore because your whole train of thought has been derailed by those meat sacks who decided to turn your study area into The View for a couple of hours. Thus you postpone your studying and god forbid you have a group project that needs doing you’re even more up shit creek because everyone knows how hard it is to coordinate meet times. So yeah, those people in the library…fuck ’em.

2. The Sports People

No I’m not talking about the people who play fantasy sports on their laptop in class, which is distracting enough. I’m referring to the athletes at school who can’t seem to find another outfit that doesn’t broadcast that they’re an athlete. Now you might say I’m being a little bit of a jerk but seriously one has to question the logic just a bit and being logical I’ve come to two conclusions. Either they want people to view them as some sort of olympic gods who are a class unto themselves or they simply need the constant reminder that yes they made it into college and it says so right on their shirt sooooo…yeah. Which is fine and let’s face it I’m not complaining because more often than not they need help on their homework and if you can help them squeak by in their philosophy course, you may be what separates them between going pro and serving your kids fries on the way to a skiing trip. In the end they’re swell people and hey, most of them ain’t too bad on the eyes either.

3. Political Science majors

You might ask why do I single this major out of all the wildly different and academically diverse studies in college. The answer is simple, both in my experience and many of my peers, political science people are easily the most recognizable and insufferable pricks in training this world has to offer. But I digress, while I agree that the major has its benefits in bringing to the table a discussion about the political and socioeconomic climate in this country it just simply doesn’t line up with the sort that are attracted to it. Why is this? The answer would take a long time to draw out but basically it attracts the sort of mouth breathing attention whores who wish to elevate themselves based solely on their ability to out schmooze the others in their field and regurgitate Huffington post articles on a second’s notice. Should you be like me and grew up watching The West Wing, I’m sure that the idea of being like Martin Sheen or Rob Lowe was something that looked pretty cool, I mean shit, that show was pretty good. And should you also be like me, you probably saw college as an opportunity to fulfill those dreams, arguing with your peers about the deficit and state of the union, allowing you to showcase just how tenacious you really are. But alas once you got into your 101 course you realized you wouldn’t have that opportunity. You realized that the sort of which you’re lined up against are student council wannabes who figured that their ability to coordinate the dunk tank on field day was enough credential to give them use of the phrase, “I’m fiscally conservative but socially liberal”. And sure, that’s a cute line to use on that girl in your creative writing class but it ultimately gets worn quicker than the pages of your copy of Atlas Shrugged that you keep on your shelf. However, should you continue with your poli sci career beyond one semester you can be damn sure you’re going to be the bane of your friends existence as you belt out the latest hot phrase you heard in Comparative Politics. Sure you may sound like someone who knows they’re talking about but in the end you just end up sounding like a lame duck (see what I did there?)

4. Club People

You know how you’re sitting in the library or at your laptop and you get a tap on the shoulder by some plucky looking girl who just wants you to ‘stop by [fill in the blank] room for snacks and an information meeting’? Those are the type of people I’m referring to. Now I can’t speak to the character of all clubs but I can speak to many of them and here’s why. Today’s generation is so obsessed with what many have observantly called ‘armchair activism’, that is the kind of people who spend a prodigious amount of time circulating information regarding some sort of cause or some sort of issue that ‘just needs fixing’. Look, of course the world has problems but I don’t see how posting incessantly on Facebook or badgering people about it is going to fix it. Sure, awareness is a good thing but look at recent things like Kony 2012 where so much money was donated and time spent by well meaning individuals who just wanted to ‘fix something.’ And in the end we saw it to be revealed as nothing more than a kickstarter campaign for some guys drug habit. I guess my issue is this, educate yourselves on your battles. Research and for gods sake don’t waste your college years by ‘greenpeacing’ every little issue that crosses your Facebook timeline. These are the sorts of people who fancy themselves to be the next Mother Teresa one donut and free cookie at a time. Seriously, it gets old and I’m sure many of us who went to college wished that some of these people had spent less time guilting us over what we should be doing. Hell what I should’ve done was not gone to college!

5. Student Government People

Now a lot of this crosses over into the criteria that makes category 3 so unique, but then again this kinda makes sense right? Here are folks that make all the important decisions on campus, or so they’d like to think. In fact they’re more like the excitable student driver who’s carefully kept in line by the teacher who slams on the breaks should a lead foot come into play. If you’re looking for someone to raise the cost of tuition or fix the quality of food in the dining hall look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for someone to help you color coordinate your next pizza party and order a sub platter, look no further. Ya see, what makes these group of people so special is their belief that they are so special because let’s face it; most people in college couldn’t give a fuck who becomes the next secretary or student body treasurer because it doesn’t matter! Sure it’s nice to say you know the guy who provided the salmon rolls and ovaltine at culture night but he’s probably not the kinda guy you want making big decisions. Luckily the school recognizes that and thus is why we have college presidents and deans to make the decisions that really matter. There’s a reason why millenials suck and it isn’t just because of the music we listen to. It’s because we just don’t know as much as we think we do and in the end it’s easier to slap a title on someone than give them real power. And yeah, sure it’s really annoying when you have to keep seeing signs and get emails about voting for student body whatever, but just be thankful that whatever decisions they make won’t tread any further than, ‘oh that color scheme at the senior ball really wasn’t very easy on the eyes.’

So there you have it, a list of the sorts of characters and cretins you’re sure to meet in college. Of course I didn’t touch on plenty of others but I simply wished to provide you with a list of the most notorious. In any event I hope you got a few laughs and I hope that I didn’t offend those of you easily bothered by other’s opinions too much, but if I did let this be a reminder to grow a thicker skin. Cheers!

The Evolution of Christopher Nolan

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Disclaimer: I will only be discussing Nolan films I’ve seen personally, so that leaves out his debut film (Following). *SPOILER ALERT*

As Interstellar sweeps the box-office in its first week, polarizing sci-fi fans and critics alike, I can’t help but look back on the career of one of the most innovative directors of the past fifty years. While admittedly many Nolan fans found themselves a little late to the party with the release of the Dark Knight Trilogy garnering much attention and catapulting Nolan into mainstream notoriety, his earlier films are easily his best.

Why do I say that? I guess a lot of it comes from the fact that his earlier films are extremely low on visual effects and thus reliant purely on performance and script writing. Looking at films like Memento and Insomnia which showcased the acting chops of both Guy Pearce and Robin Williams respectively; the latter in one of his best dramatic roles since Good Will Hunting, it’s hard not to admire the talent of the writers. Unfortunately this period was so short lived with Batman Begins released only 3 years after Insomnia thus beginning the era of the Christopher Nolan that the world has embraced so enthusiastically. Am I saying that everything after 2002 is shit? No. But what I am saying is that there is a clear evolution of the type of films that Nolan sought to make. ‘Mainstream’ is a word that comes to mind but I don’t want to seem to hipster in the presentation of my thesis, however it’s obvious that Nolan became very enamored with special effects and cinematography as of 2005. The Prestige was a fine film for sure, being released between the Dark Knight and Batman Begins to mostly positive reviews. What I liked about it was that it had a great onscreen rivalry that is rarely seen in such a convincing way, not to mention the turn by David Bowie as the inventor Nikola Tesla. Jonathan Nolan weaves a very intriguing tale of passion, obsession and the extent that some are willing to go to fulfill those obsessions. And while the ending might’ve split audiences I think it was less twisty per say, than what you get in films like Inception and Interstellar and seemed to fit with the tone of the film rather than tacked on.

Now onto The Dark Knight Trilogy which is easily the most lucrative and well received trilogies, comic book or otherwise and engrained the name Nolan into modern nomenclature. Personally I think the movies are shit, but that’s an article for another day. Essentially my argument for this standpoint goes as follows, between the massive plot holes, complete miscasting of Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman; the latter seeming to pop up in every movie under the sun since the late nineties, and the irritating fact that Nolan seems to think that Gotham should be a combination of every metropolitan city in the US instead of exactly what it is: a fantasy location. Look, I can agree with two things A. The Dark Knight is the best of the three and B. Ledger gives a very good modern take on the Joker, aside from that I cannot hang any more laurels upon its already weighed down shoulders via critics universally. Nolan really sold out with the Dark Knight Trilogy he stopped caring about his characters and focused more the visual spectacle and contribution he could make to his trophy case. It became less about decent script writing and more about set pieces, and for comic book fans who swear by the ‘realistic’ Frank Miller Batman, the films just don’t measure up and don’t even come close to animated series greatness which is saying something.

When it comes to Inception I think Nolan was getting a little back to his routes in terms of innovative screenwriting while also owing a lot of success to the power of modern film making technology and practical effects. I thought the casting was great and it was nice to see a story daring to try something that many might’ve thought to be un-filmable. My only issue was the ending which for those handful of you that haven’t seen the film *SPOILER ALERT*: It just seemed like Nolan wanted us to be so sucked into the universe he created for his characters that he thought a little added twist at the end was the only thing separating it from greatness. It doesn’t make sense in retrospect and seems to only seek to confuse its audience and sell DVD’s, it’s as if Nolan felt that the film couldn’t be carried alone on it’s previous 2 and a half hours and needed that extra kick to leave a lasting impression, which is the same trap he falls into with Interstellar. It’d be like JK Rowling making the entire seven book Harry Potter experience be the result of a massive dream sequence and call it quits; it just felt contrived when all was said and done.

Again, as previously stated Interstellar chooses to go with the same sort of evolution of its plot and while not nearly as narratively strong as his previous sci-fi effort it teeters on some good ideas but falls short of greatness. The plot goes as follows: In the somewhere near future the earth is ravaged by issues, alluded to be the result of climate change and follows a family in the midwest lead by former test pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who is tasked by now underground NASA to travel into outer space with a makeshift crew to seek out two pairs of expeditions who were searching for habitable planets via a wormhole. What follows is a nearly 3-hour hamfest that brings to mind McConaughey’s shit performance in Contact and seeks to hit its audience over the head with the ‘love transcends time and space’ message. In the end it just felt like the Nolan was desperately trying to force this over-arching theme upon its audience rather than provide a coherent story. Admittedly, much like Gravity, the visuals are spectacular and best seen in IMAX or in the theater as it is more about the experience than the actual journey that takes place on screen. The chemistry between Anne Hathaway (who is devilishly miscast) and our hero is very forced and felt very unnatural, and while I’m no fan of Miss Hathaway I felt her presence was especially irritating. Again, like Inception Nolan places his audience on a roller coaster of an amazing visual feast of technical feats and set pieces but ultimately exploits its universe to circumvent its shortcomings. Nolan ends up focusing too much on visuals and a rather odd cameo but Matt Damon and sells his work short with these contrivances. Such works pale in comparison to the mystery and brooding melancholy we see in Memento and to a lesser extent Insomnia which focus on the fragility of the mind of its leads rather than what sets they live and interact with.

There’s no denying that Christopher Nolan is an amazing director and he has easily crafted some of the most visually awe-inspiring set pieces in film history. However, his true legacy lies in his ability on rare occasion to present his audience with an unorthodox look at the human mind and the tragedy of that fragility. His talent to bring out the best in his lead actors and present their struggles in an uncomfortable yet nuanced manner is unparalleled and brings to mind some of the works of Philip K Dick and Poe. I only hope that he is able to trade in some of the fanfare he is so good at creating for deeper stories that ask more of his audience, rather than pulling a Shymalan-esque rabbit out of his hat to wow those moviegoers who go for the ‘wtf moment’, which isn’t nearly as powerful.

My problem with Hollywood

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With Oscar season not too far away and the fall being the time of the year when contenders start to rear their head, I figured it’d be only natural to post something that I’ve wanted to for quite some time.

Here’s the thing; everybody knows that Hollywood and moreover award shows are no stranger to controversy particularly when they get it ‘wrong’. Now I’m not saying that this prevents some of us who choose to nitpick over the ins and outs of mainstream entertainment from enjoying the movie, I guess it’s just more indicative of our irritation with how society rewards its darlings.

The past 8 years I’ve tried to watch the Oscars for at least the better part of an hour either because I have a dog I’m rooting for or mainly because I hope to see the Academy get something right without having to be shilled into doing so. Now, it’s no secret that a big part of winning Oscars is self-marketing and making yourself look like you really don’t want the award but not so much that you give your award away to someone else. Jennifer Lawrence is a pro at this as it’s been awhile since someone her age was given the Best Actress statue, let alone in contention for it two years in a row. My contention however is that the Academy and the film industry as a whole, are so desperate to have someone marketable enough under the age of 30 that they’d probably give Justin Bieber an award if he threw on a pair of buck teeth and gained 50 pounds. The problem with this is that Award shows are reduced to making its main criteria be: who makes themselves look the ugliest or gains the most weight. Charlize Theron most famously ran with this in the film Monster and while I find her to be a capable actress outside of playing murderous prostitutes, I can’t say that I mark my calendar every time a new film featuring her drops. More recently, Anne Hatahway got away with an Oscar nab for her rather short and exhausting performance in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, which is a film that was overrated to begin with and has been driven into the ground with both it’s stage revival and now motion picture and makes me question whether anybody as actually heard of the book anymore.

What I find so nauseating about her Oscar in particular was the fact that it was based entirely on one scene she had in the film rather than an over arching performance. Yes, Tom Hooper (regrettably) made his actors sing live as opposed to overdubbing it with a studio version and yes Anne Hathaway looked sweaty and dingy, which I believe is more credit to the makeup people but is that alone really deserving of lauding? After seeing her performance I can agree with the critics on two things A. Anne Hathaway can carry a tune & B. She certainly does a good job at looking like she’s in pain but that could’ve been due to hearing Russell Crowe belt out a few tunes. I guess my issue overall is with the film as a whole which was just so unnecessary and self indulgent that it looks like less of an homage to the stage play and more of a desperate way of getting Oscar nominations. Now I’m not going to be one of those critics who gives Anne Hathaway shit for looking like a 10 year old on Christmas when she received her Oscar but I will say this; she’s lucky Meryl Streep wasn’t up for an award that year or else she would’ve been a seat filler. Because if there’s nothing the Academy loves more than giving actors who beat themselves up for their roles, it’s giving Oscars to veteran actors for impersonating other famous people.

Now obviously I picked on Anne Hathaway a little but mostly because it was the most recent example of self indulgent ‘pats on the back’ per say. However, I think it should be made clear that the Academy has been getting things wrong a lot farther back than a few years ago mainly in it’s mind boggling decision to give Gregory Peck the Actor Award for To Kill a Mockingbird over Peter O’ Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. Here’s an example of the academy siding with a portrayal of a popular fiction character over someone like T.E Lawrence whose experiences during the Arab Revolt were depicted in the film. My issue is that while Peck gave a perfectly fine performance in the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s magnum (and only) opus, it stops at being fine as he didn’t have a whole lot to do. People tend to confuse the film and moreso the novel as being about Atticus Finch which it really isn’t but rather a view of Southern racial injustice from the p,o.v of a child who grows to see her father as a beacon of courage in the face of oppressive race relations. Thus for this reason I always view Atticus Finch as less of a character but more of a symbol for a much larger theme. That doesn’t take away from the film but it doesn’t mean that his Oscar was worthy of anything more than a ‘bravo’. O’ Toole’s performance is so nuanced, we see him change from the self assured cocky young officer on a mission to a man forced to struggle with inner demons on his relationship with the Arab tribes and torture at the hands of the Ottoman military. It’s an amazing performance that asks deep questions of its audience not only of Lawrence himself but of the British role in occupied Arabia. In other words, the Academy really dropped the ball but doing something very predictable and very easy, opting to reward a fine performance rather than one that might’ve been out of some peoples comfort zone.

In the end I suppose Hollywood has always played it safe, choosing to spend billions of dollars yearly on comic book adaptations and remakes than spend anytime creating original screenplays. It should also be noted that the Academy has yet to give out a Best Picture award to a Science Fiction film. Instead every year we get the usual line of box-office suspects: the superhero film, the annual sequel to some franchise (usually involving cars or some voluptuous babes), and finally somewhere around fall, the biographical films where veteran actors pull out all the stops to give their best impression of some famous politician or social activist. It’s all very predictable ,with the only real innovation being in what I suppose would be called the ‘indie’ film where there seems to be no shortage of ideas, good or bad, but dammit at least they try! I doubt Hollywood will ever really put those films front and center particularly since there is no foreseeable end to comic book films which now account for perhaps the largest amount of revenue (thanks Disney!) on a yearly basis. But hey, that’s what this country is about right?

A (Short) Word on Religion

Why can’t people come to grips with the notion that we are alone in this universe. There is no great eye in the sky watching us and moving mountains as it sees fit, we are here because of evolution and luck. Is that so scary? To view one’s self as the product of an evolutionary fluke that occurred, and that we as a collective species are essentially no better than any other creature that has or will walk this earth? Religion has perverted and exploited the worst parts of mankind since one monkey figured out that he could take what he wanted from the other based on what “God” told him. It’s a coping mechanism to fill in the gaps that science was unable to create thousands of years ago, nothing more. Now that we are getting answers to our genetic makeup the notion that we came from two folks in a magical garden holds no water. Revel in your time people, stop focusing your energy on doing good worlds simply for the sake of accumulating enough brownie points just so you can make it past the pearly gates. Life is short and time is infinite, accepting that is the first step to enlightenment as far as I’m concerned and ridding the world of needless conflict and violence that has plagued it for centuries in the name of some fantastical sky god.

(more to come….stay tuned)

Under Pressure: ‘Net Neutrality’ & Obama’s Duty

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This week many ‘Net Neutrality’ supporters were out in numbers protesting the notion of a corporate internet, leading many to speculate on how the battle of the ‘world wide web’ would pan out.

For those of you who aren’t yet informed on the matter I strongly encourage you to follow this link as it provides a real comprehensive look at what could happen should this occur: https://www.aclu.org/net-neutrality

Essentially, corporate telecommunications companies are hoping to utilize the internet in their favor and regulate the amount of information your computer (i.e. videos, emails, pictures, etc). That means, they can regulate the speed your router loads websites and date and encourage those of us who don’t like it, to shell out for a better service package and bleed you of your money. It’s a nice scheme for the big wigs who are getting the extra cash but a big ‘fuck you’ to the rest of us regular folks who just want to watch some of ‘The Wire’ online. What would occur should this sort of bullshit pass, is that there will be a ‘fast lane’ and a ‘slow lane’ for those who aren’t willing to fork over hundreds a month for good service. The internet will now become a luxury for the average US citizen and force many of us to give it up entirely.

Barack Obama, has yet to really take a stand on the matter as far as talking points go, but if his recent appointment of Tom Wheeler as chairman of the FCC is any indicator, than we’re all royally fucked. Keep in mind Mr. Wheeler was himself a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with positions including President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA). It’s like putting an alcoholic in charge of the liquor store. Myself and many others can only hope that things go the right way and prevent this type of cronyism from happening but then again, ‘money talks’.