I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for the Oscars. I love the sappy speeches and the mediocre monologues. I love the dresses and seeing who arrived with whom. I love taking bets on who will get more screen time: Jack Nicholson or Johnny Depp. For the record, it was Jack.
I love that it is one big Hollywood wank fest. There is nothing quite like seeing people who get paid way too much to be awarded by other people who get way too much, with another little gold statue to put in their Malibu house. It is pure decadence and escapism.
This year, it felt different. The quirkiness, independence and simplicity got their moments, as well as the dramatic, high budget and excessive. Juno, the film advertised as the ‘break out hit of the year’ was fully recognized, giving Diablo Cody the award for best original screenplay. Sure, some of the dialogue annoyed the heck out of me, but it was an enjoyable film that wound up being successful.
Director Julie Taymor’s latest film, Across the Universe, chronicles the 1960s through the use of Beatles songs, spanning their entire catalogue. Considering Taymor’s knack for creating incredible visual spectacles (Frida), as well as the continued relevance of the music of the Beatles, this might be a great idea.
We follow the story of Jude (Jim Sturgess), a young artist from Liverpool in search of his father, and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), a young suburbanite in search of what she believes in. They meet through her brother, Maxwell, a college dropout, and fall in love. Along the way they run into Sadie, a rock singer with a big, raspy voice, JoJo, an electric guitar player, and Prudence, a girl who keeps running from her problems.
Carolyn Mark, a singer-songwriter/chanteuse from Vancouver, doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body. Her records sound like the kind of parties I’ve always wanted to go to. Her latest effort, Nothing Is Free is beautiful, reflective, clever and very fun.
It begins with a slow, absorbing tune called “The Business End,” which contains jokingly somber lyrics like “too lazy to beat myself up being too lazy to, you know, beat myself up” and “feelin’ bad about not feelin’ bad enough.” Her songs are always full of single lines that jump out and attack, making you think, while still striking a funny chord: “…that airport feeling, being made to wait for expensive things you don’t need” (“Happy 2B Flying Away”).
The Beatles fascinate me. Sure, I love their music, and it would be a sin to not appreciate their effect on popular music. But I’d be lying if I said they were one of my favorite bands. After spending all of my childhood and teenage years listening to and discussing them, I’m kind of burnt out on Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s. What I really love about the Beatles is where they stand in the history of pop culture, not pop music.
A Hard Day’s Night is one of my all time favorite movies. Every time I watch it, my mind is completely boggled by one factor: the girls. Screaming girls are one part of pop culture that has never made sense to me. True, I spent my entire teenage years going to concerts, standing in the front row, and soaking up every bit of contact I could with my favorite musicians, feeling like I was touching greatness. I’ll admit that I sobbed like a baby when Tina Turner hit the stage at the United Center on her final world tour. Yet all of this idolatry and focus on pop stars has never been something I could understand—it was always just something I felt.
Is anyone else as psyched as I am about the fact that the Spice Girls are having a reunion tour? Back in the 90s, they were the bees knees, the cat’s pajamas, and every girl I knew adored them. It broke my heart when Ginger left, and then when they split up, I knew it was the end of the era.
Of course, I never really felt compelled to listen to their music (aside from the infectious “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life”), and I couldn’t tell you who sings what part on each song, but I really did admire them. Any band that dedicates themselves to playing characters and admits that there is nothing below the surface truly garners my respect. When it came to singing, each of the girls was completely unidentifiable, and completely generic, but their personas and costumes are so bold and exaggerated, that they’re impossible to forget. They each chose an archetype, a gender/race role or even a fetish and made it their individual image.
Ten years ago, I was in fifth grade. Everyone around me was listening to the Backstreet Boys, but I had a different favorite band. I was madly in love with Hanson.
I fell for their sweet lyrics, their pop hooks and the fact that they were my age. My poor father had to buy every album they put out because, well, I begged him for them. (The odd thing is that during the peak of their fame, they only put out one real album of their own original work. The rest of their catalogue included a Christmas album, a disc of demos from when they were even younger, and a concert album.)
By the time I was in seventh grade, my interest in them was waning and had faded entirely by the time I entered high school. Part of it was indirect peer pressure and part of it was that I was so burnt out on their songs and longed for something deeper. I never got rid of those CDs, but I became embarrassed that I ever listened to them. During this time, the band faded into obscurity, becoming nothing more than an irrelevant pop culture joke. They released an album in 2000, but I didn’t know it at the time, nor did I care.