Pop Culture 2012
Most devastating political attack ad ever: “Firms:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud3mMj0AZZk
Best of Music Singles:
Serena Ryder – Stompa
Kendrick Lamar ft. Dr. Dre – The Recipe
The Struts – I Just Know
Grimes ft. Doldrums – Colour of Moonlight (Antiocus)
Free Energy – Hangin’
Labrinth – Express Yourself
The Weeknd – Wicked Games
Nas ft. Mary J. Blige – Reach Out
Lissie – Go Your Own Way
Wasis Diop ft. Grace – Let it Go (Ingmarlo & DJ Susso Remix)
Shiny Toy Guns – Speaking Japanese
Netsky – Wanna Die For You
Ellie Goulding – Figure 8 (Xilent Remix)
The Bootleggers ft. Emmylou Harris – Fire in the Blood/ Snake Song
Rank 1 – Sympho (Sound Access Remix)
Nicki Minaj – Va Va Voom
Cage the Elephant – Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked
Dead Robot ft. Charlotte Haining – Frost (Original Mix)
Gyptian – Hold You
Alex Clare – Too Close
Foreign Beggars ft. Skrillex – Still Gettin’ it
The Pretty Reckless – Make me Wanna Die
Within Temptation – Faster
S.Heera, MNEK – Hesitate (Hold On) [Dub Scout Remix]
My favorite song right now is The Weeknd’s Wicked Games. Nicki Minaj should get an honorable mention for her work with David Guetta on “Turn me on” which showed considerable range on her part. Within Temptation had the Bond theme song until Adele agreed to do something completely different, if you look at “Faster” in that context it makes sense, as a stand-alone song not so much. I love the utter simplicity of Gytpian’s “Hold You,” it’s kind of a magical little song in and of itself and I’ve really enjoyed it since it came out early this year. Also someone to keep your eye on is Sidney Samson whose mixes have been among the most consistent in terms of quality even when put up against more mainstream DJ’s like Armin Van Burren whose “State of Trance” is a mainstay in most circles.
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid/M.A.A.D. City
Grimes – Visions
Jack White – Blunderbus
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Icona Pop – Icona Pop
If I had to rank them I’d probably put Grimes’ Visions as the number one album this year. Listen to it, even if you don’t like it you’ll have the experience of hearing one of the most interesting albums in recent memory. It’s not really pop or dance or anything, it’s in a category all its own. Kendrick Lamar gets into the discussion because he put together a really compelling album with some great tracks, I just didn’t feel like it was as strong cumulatively as most critics did. Imagine Dragons put together some neat anthems this year and I hope they get more attention for what they’re doing to redefine indy music as opposed to “reinventing pop music” as some seem to insist they’re doing. This isn’t Arcade Fire. Jack White will probably be on any list I put together if he puts out an album because he is one of the best raw talents out there and no one does the kinds of things that he does on guitar anymore.
- John Carter – this is the clear winner for best score in my mind. It is the most consistent orchestral work of the year and has some of the best action music this side of a James Bond movie (and in a year with Thomas Newman scoring the Bond film it was a welcome diversion.) The titles may have made about as much sense as the film itself, but the individual cues are unique and memorable.
- Anna Karenina – Dario Marianelli hasn’t put out a ton of work over the last couple of years, but the stuff he’s done has been magnificent and among the most technically proficient. Anna Karenina isn’t as strikingly beautiful as Agora or as stylistically rich as the Brothers Grimm or V for Vendetta, there is no cue on here like “Evy reborn,” but the score holds up throughout with its marches and nods to imperial Russia that would have made Tolstoy proud.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – You mean Lincoln, right? Lincoln by John Williams, that’s obviously what you meant to put here I know it. No, I was disappointed with Williams’s Lincoln and disappointed with Spielberg for botching the ending of the movie (which I won’t reveal here for spoilers sake, but let’s just say that it involves a theatre named for a car company and a guy whose name rhymes with tooth.) I loved Henry Jackman’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It was gritty, adventurous, and just downright fun! Inauguration is one of my favorite cues of the year and the last four tracks combine for some of the best action music put forth by any composer this year.
- Rise of the Guardians – I’m not a big Alexandre Desplat fan because his music isn’t all that memorable to me and he doesn’t have that knack for nailing themes and expanding thematic development that most composers who reach Desplat’s level have, but I enjoyed this score despite its faults and those of the composer.
- Skyfall – How could it be anything else? Look, I was among the most disappointed James Bond fans when Sam Mendes announced that David Arnold would not be scoring this film, but any James Bond music beats no James Bond music. The score has its strongpoints. Grand Bazaar, New Digs, Shanghai Drive, Komodo Dragon, Granborough Road, Tennyson, and Breadcrumbs being the high points in the score. Additionally, I liked The Moors and Adrenaline as well. All in all it was a fairly decent score, it just failed to measure up to the spectacular standard that David Arnold has set for the series. Also the James Bond theme was used once, just once! In the film and when it was used in the film it wasn’t even Newman’s own orchestration or recording of the theme it was the same theme recorded for Casino Royale by David Arnold called: “Bond, James Bond” that has been the staple of the series for the last three films. Talk about dereliction of duty!
1. A Thern For the Worse – Jack Carter
1. What Story Do You Prefer? – Life of Pi
2. Jack and Sandman – Rise of The Guardians
3. A Good Omen – The Hobbit
4. Mysterious Island Main Titles – Journey 2
5. End Titles – The Innkeepers
6. You’re My Hero – Wreck It Ralph
7. Thneedville Chase – The Lorax
8. The Funeral – Frankenweenie
9. The Woman in Black – The Woman in Black
10. Merida’s Home – Brave
11. Dark Shadows Prologue – Dark Shadows
12. Twilight Overture – Breaking Dawn Part 2
13. Spiderman End Titles – The Amazing Spiderman
14. Sab Than pursues the princess – John Carter
15. Life – Prometheus
16 On Thin Ice – Dark Knight Rises
17. Wreck-it Ralph – Wreck-it Ralph
18. Pi’s Lulliby – Life of Pi
19. Sanctuary – Snow White and the Huntsman
20. Irene’s Theme – Sherlock: Series Two
21. Time Machine – Safety Not Guaranteed
22. Once There Was a Hushpuppy – Beasts of the Southern Wild
23. The Mission Begins – Men in Black 3
24. Cristeros – Cristiada
25. The Impossible Main Theme – The Impossible
Best of Movies
- Skyfall – Nobody does it better. The twenty-third entry in the James Bond franchise will go down as one of the best in its history. All of the credit here needs to go to the new screenwriter for the franchise John Logan. This was his story and his hook that made this film the powerhouse that it was. This also marks a new step in Bonds development that will be interesting to see how it plays out in future films. Any time you have the opportunity to do something new and novel in a franchise while moving the characters in a new, different, and unique direction you know that you’re doing something right and they did that in spades here with Skyfall.
- Pitch Perfect – I’ve watched this film three times now and I grow to appreciate it more and more the more I watch it. Very few films have been this well written and well developed in recent years and it is rare to see the kind of character and story development put together with intriguing aural patterns that Pitch Perfect was able to do. Not only was this one of the most well-made films of the year, it is also among the most enjoyable to watch.
- Lincoln – I was hesitant to even see this movie, but after putting it off for about two months I decided to sit down and watch it on New Year’s Eve and – ending aside – it was very good and faithful adaptation of Lincoln’s life and the struggles that made him the greatest President in the history of our storied nation.
- Argo – A lot of people have this as either their number one or number two film and I went back and forth between this and Lincoln at number three, but ultimately what brings it down to number four for me is the Ben Affleck direction aspect. You look for directors to take that next stylistic step and usually they get there by their third film, but not Affleck. This film had all the intangibles that you look for in a great film except music, character development, and style. All of those things are controlled by the director and should have been handled better considering the scope and budget of this film.
- Zero Dark Thirty/Silver Linings Playbook – I simply couldn’t make a decision here for the fifth spot and both films were exceptional so I decided that this warranted a tie. Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow’s return and she does it with such style and attention to detail that it really is remarkable. Silver Linings Playbook had such a strong first and second act that it almost completely made up for the weaknesses in the third act. Both are highly enjoyable films and I recommend both highly.
Worst of Movies
Moonrise Kingdom – two reviewers summed up this macabre waste of time well. Christopher Llyod of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune writes: “Wes Anderson’s films are stylistic carbon copies of each other, merely swapping out storylines and characters. It’s like going to a bunch of different restaurants and ordering the exact same meal — you walk in knowing what you’re going to get.” That’s quite true really. Rushmore was original because it was the first weird movie that Wes Anderson made and it was actually funny. The Royal Tennenbaums was strange, but oddly endearing, while everything else in the director’s career has been utterly painful to sit through. Erick Weber writes: “It’s a collection of cockeyed ideas compressed into a narrative that’s utterly devoid of any actual attachment.” That’s probably the most succinct way of putting it all things considered.
The Bourne Legacy – wow, what a way to screw up a clever idea. I liked the concept of having Jeremy Renner’s character operate in the timeframe of the previous Bourne movie. Unfortunately, that was the last original concept that the films’ writers cared to come up with. Not only was this film boring, but it was completely lacking in any sort of development whatsoever.
Ted – why, oh why, oh why would someone make a movie about a pot-smoking teddy bear? It had its occasional jokes, but they were few and far between as was the story’s originality throughout. I had no desire to ever see Marky Mark sing again, why Seth McFarlane thought any of this was funny is a question he won’t be pondering next year as he gets ready to host the Oscars. Yes, that’s right, this guy is hosting the Oscars because it can’t get any worse, right?
Most historically relevant Lincoln quote for the New Year:
“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is, that you will destroy the government, unless you be allowed to construe the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin all events.”
 Abraham Lincoln, “Address at the Cooper Institute,” (New York: New York Times Complete Civil War, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers: 2010), 34. Harold Holzer and Craig Symonds ed.