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Showing posts from December, 2016

Nostalgia Cinematic: Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" and the other Hollywood throwbacks of 2016

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Among the handful of films released about old Hollywood in 2016, La La Land best captured the magical joy of the Golden Age. While the Cohen Brothers, Warren Beatty and Woody Allen focused more on the studio system aspects of yesterday, with varying results, Damien Chazelle delivered a song and dance extravaganza. Not only is La La Land the much needed feel-good movie of the year, it's perhaps the best film, one that engulfs with starry-eyed euphoria from reel to reel.

Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a Jazz pianist who yearns for the days of Thelonious Monk and can't seem to get with the times in the face of a changing musical landscape. Sebastian first encounters Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) during the film's opening Los Angeles traffic jam musical sequence, as she flips him the bird. Dolan is an aspiring actress who day-jobs as a barista on a studio lot and can't seem to catch a break from casting directors. It's not until Mia and Seb meet and a shy courtship turns into a …

Grief-stricken: Pablo Larrain's "Jackie" (2016) in the new age of masculinity, femininity and sorrow.

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In Titanic, the sink ships, and in most films about John F. Kennedy, he dies -- in the end -- or at the beginning -- surely somewhere in the timeline. Taking a fresh approach by witnessing the events through the female perspective, Pablo Larrain's Jackie is an intense, grim account of the bloody widowing of the first lady in November of 1963 as she returns to the now cold White House that will soon be a former address, facing opposition in planning a proper presidential funeral amid national fear and heartache.

At times, Jackie is an artsier companion piece to Parkland, released in 2013 during the 50th anniversary of the assassination, which recounted the events at the hospital in Dallas where JFK's body arrived and Abraham Zapruder's quandary of capturing the fatal bullets while filming the motorcade in Dealey Plaza. Aside from chronicling the frenzy of the shooting, Jackie reveals much more of what occurred behind closed doors and the intimacy of the first lady's gr…

On 1994 and today: Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, etc.

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In 1994 I was 9 years old and wasn't allowed to see Pulp Fiction, True Lies, Speed or the dozens of other R-rated fare that was at the box office that year. But as a young cinephile I was aware of these films and they were scribbled on to a long list of movies I wanted to sneak in or convince my parents to allow to me watch. Of course I shared in the love of The Lion King and The Mask with the rest of my adolescent peers, but there was a curious obsession with the forbidden -- both the sublime and the schlock. The hot mess poster of a bald, sunglassed Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers spoke to me.

Juxtaposing Pulp Fiction and The Lion King, '94 proves to be a watershed year at the box office, where great films were making good money and most blockbusters were good films. Tarantino went on to lose the Academy Award for Best Director and Picture to Robert Zemeckis' Forest Gump, a film which seems to have been largely forgotten when discussions of iconic cinema of the …

2016 Degrees: 50 favorite songs of the year

Another year, another Spotify playlist full of great music.

Many have wrote that 2016 was the year of the "video" or "visual" album thanks to Beyonce, KanYe, Frank Ocean etc. -- but really it was a great year for full albums, not just singles to be streamed. There were plenty of young artists coming into their own (Chance The Rapper, Blood Orange) along with solid returns from legends (Radiohead, Iggy Pop).

David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest) gave us bittersweet swan songs, and those zombies The Rolling Stones even came back to their roots with a blues record that is hella fun. Television and the cinema also featured some great compositions from The Night Of and Stranger Things to The Neon Demon and Arrival.

I typically keep these Spotify yearly playlists to twenty or so songs, but it felt right to expand to 50 songs this year, to showcase some deep album cuts and multiple tracks from many artists that put out fantastic records.

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