Sunday, December 18, 2011

Best Albums of 2011

Top 16 Albums of 2011

16) Tyler, the Creator: Goblin

The most anticipated album of the year for anyone who knew who Odd Future actually were created a cult buzz worldwide and all over the Internet. For fans it was a disappointment and for newcomers or critics it was a masterpiece. It was pretty good and that's it. It is weak compared to his previous release Bastard. The hype began literally overnight after Odd Future gave one of the best television performances ever on Jimmy Fallon. The energy and aggression was there and people wanted more. Tyler didn't sell out with this album, going against convention he actually made a darker and less accessible album. There are very good highlights that again revolve around Tyler's disturbing and confused outlook such as Golden (my favourite track) Her, Goblin, Nightmares, along with his impressive rhyming skills on Yonkers and Tron Cat. He just needs to ease up on the rebel shit, he's just a fucking kid and immature, not a genius like some say.

15) Drake: Take Care

Drake is that guy that you can't help but hate. I mean you just look at this album cover and think "what a douchepacker!" Just go to and you will shit yourself laughing at the descriptions of this guy. However, credit is due where credit is due and this is a good record. Drake is an average rapper and lyricist, but  he is sincere in topics of insecurity and lost love. On Doing it Wrong he states "We live in a generation of not being in love",  a ballsy line for a rap artists, but it is an accurate claim. It is his musical ear that proves to be great, his plays out more like an R&B album than a hip-hop one. The music is soft and dreamlike with Drake pointing out vulnerability after vulnerability. He sounds desperate, lonely, and heartbroken and isn't shy about expressing it, and after he may boast about spending six million or fucking in Palm Springs. He has chosen a good direction in terms of producers and his sound is influenced by The Weeknd, James Blake and The xx, which gives thus album a minimal and ambient atmosphere that suits his depressing mood. Big Ghost Chronicles destroyed him in hilarious fashion with lines like:

"It's like this muthafucka jus slid down a rainbow n landed in a big pool of estrogen before he made this shit b." 


" This that shit Drake listens to on his lavender i pod when he's usin his flying umbrella to get from point A to point B son."

Big  Ghost Chronicles may be the best blog of the year, but that can't take away the fact that Take Care is one the years best albums.

14) AraabMuzik: Electronic Dream

Produced one of the hardest street anthems of the past few years (Diplomats: Salute) and has now has delivered a hypnotic dance album with no rappers featuring. It reminds me of dance music heard when I went to under 18s clubs, but these are more advanced with strong beats ricocheting off dance rhythms and high vocals. Araab is taking the dance club music to the streets and it sounds good.

13) A$AP Rocky: LiveLoveA$AP

New York rap has been weak for a couple of years, even when there are good releases they are missing that New York sound. A$AP has taking elements of Houston hip-hop and attempted to make a new New York sound and with the intrinsic help of Clams Casino he has somewhat succeeded. A resident of Harlem, he has taken the street anthem rap of the Diplomats, chopped and screwed it, hazed it out and brought it down into the stank basements of Uptown Manhattan. Songs like Leaf and Demon with their trapped haunting sample vocals are reminiscent of Burial. He is part of the new generation of rappers that can transcend from underground to mainstream easily enough. What I like about A$AP is that he is not a hipster rapper, and you can tell he has been recognized as that in the past. Signed the biggest deal in for a starter rapper since 50 Cent...not exactly a lightweight.

12) Fucked Up: David Comes to Life

Punk Opera has become a new favourite of mine since listening to Damian Abraham scream out his lungs over these fast paced guitars...its an enthralling loud and energetic album. There is a concept to it too about some guy named David, but I couldn't give a shit in following the story because the music and screaming vocals are just too good. Normally screaming "Slipknot" shrieking vocals aren't too accessible, but here it blends perfectly with the music. It's actually a romantic album I think.

11) Beyonce: 4

She's already the biggest female recording artist in the world and has certainly released some of the most successful pop hits over the past ten years, but this is her first really strong album. Ballads (1+1),  club song (Girls Rule the World), party song (Party) and 90s R&B (Love on Top)...Still the best out there.

10) Danny Brown: XXX

"I miss when rappers were they're all just nerds" -Beavis and Butthead

Danny Brown may look like a nerd, maybe that's why G-Unit pulled out from signing him, he may also look like a lizard with fucked up hair, but one thing is for sure and that is that he raps hard as fuck. He doesn't try to adapt to any image because his image surely doesn't adhere to his ferocious and insane rap style. He has this yelp when he raps on Monopoly, but it's not some stupid works into his flow. He is obsessed with drugs, more with abusing then selling. When he talks about his selling days he doesn't glamorize it describing his "pencil to the temple" like past. He delivers funny quips "pussy stank like Cool Ranch Doritos" or "on the same pill that had Carlton dancing fast". It seems like Danny Brown really doesn't give a fuck and he is good at expressing that. Definitely the hardest record of the year.

9) Frank Ocean: Nostalgia, Ultra

Frank Ocean may not sound to different from your average R&B singer, but it's his content that compliments him. On Strawberry Swing he reminisces about childhood, which is like a rite of passage. Next song is Novacane, where he sings about having no emotion during sex. On American Wedding he expresses the emptiness and faults of an American marriage. "They don't last to long" he sings over a Hotel California sample. Nature Feeling has him singing a fuck song (respectably) over MGMT's Electric Eel. Unlike The Weeknd, Ocean is tired of fucking around, drugs, women, late nights and wants something more simple and stable. And unlike his clique Odd Future he is more mature. A vey impressive and interesting mixtape.

8) Real Estate: Days

This is just your basic hippy, soft rock, guitar layered album. This is hammock music right here, listening to this on a lazy summer day seems about right.

7) M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Nothing much has changed for M83, still making unbelievably epic music. I have found this album difficult to get into compared to his previous work. Midnight City is an ode to city life on a huge scale with a saxophone to can you go wrong? Steve McQueen is another epic burst. When the chorus hits it's like a soundtrack for fireworks, the weekend, busting a nut after holding it in for a month, Judd Nelson raising his fist in the air at the end of The Breakfast Club...yeah its good.

6) Jay-Z/Kanye West: Watch The Throne

I can't believe this actually worked. Usually these big hype albums are a let down and there is nothing bigger than this. Just look at the fucking cover! After Kanye West's opus last year he has teamed up with Jay-Z in his spare time to create this extravagant album. They invite Beyonce, Justin Vernon, RZA, Pete Rock and Frank Ocean to help them out. Expensive samples, listing off seriously expensive and rare brands while reflecting on fatherhood, black on black crime and race. Who Gonna Stop Me? has Jay-Z rapping over a dubstep sample in which Kanye speeds up at the end. Big Ghost Chronicles described it the best : "sounds like niggas is drivin Lamborghinis around in the studio and drums is hittin like automatci weapons"

5) James Blake: James Blake

After dabbling in minimal dubstep and sampled vocals, James Blake has returned with a proper album that is less complex and he uses his own vocals, which are very good. This is more like minimal R&B than dubstep, he still adheres to his own sound, but this is more accessible to the public. Check out his version of A Case of You.

4) The Weeknd: House of Balloons

The Weeknd are not your average R&B band: cocaine, shady parties...the music and content is dirtier and grittier than others. House of Balloons begins with the uplifting chorus "this is a happy house!", but when we reach Glass Table Girls we are dropped down into a cellar of drug abuse and aggressiveness. Love the line or we can turn into a Nightmare...Elm Street." Sounds like all these songs were written after a rough night (The Morning) and they are preparing to do it all over again.

3)Girls: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I don't really know what to say about this album except that it is just so fucking good. Its a soft rock album with nostalgia of 1950s and 1970s rock. Titles such as Honey Bunny, Saying I Love You and Magic correspond to this, but they can go hard to (Die). This year has lacked experimenting and expanding among artists, which isn't  a bad thing. They are perfecting their skills within their genre e.g. Quik, Blake, M83 and Girls can't get more perfect than this.

2)DJ Quik: Book of David

DJ Quik has been my favourite artist ever since I listened to his 2009 BlacKQout collaboration with Kurupt. What's so great about that album and this is that nothing is riding on it, there is no pressure or expectation/media buzz. He doesn't have to prove anything to anybody, he just enjoys making good music. Music is a fun pastime and Quik is here to remind us of that. He sticks to what he does best, which is westcoast gangster rap, but adds his own little elements without over doing it. He may add some world music or dubstep in here or there, but he never strays too far from the basics. The music represents California...the sun, BBQs, girls, palm trees. It's not complicated, strictly business/fun.

He gets more personal on Book of David, addressing his family problems or rendevousing with an old girlfriend. He's more mature than his contemporaries . In his forties, not trying to be in his twenties (Jay-Z). He acts his age and has fun doing it. No pressure and freedom to do what he wants, hang out and make fun music.

1) Bon Iver: Bon Iver

This year has proved to be the year of the vocals.  Last years All of the Lights transcended into 2011 and had listeners trying to pick out the odd twenty vocalists. James Blake introduced his voice to his music, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd made R&B more interesting and The-Dream and Beyonce belted out a few. However, the most soothing came from that guy with the beard, Justin Vernon. It seems his time with Kanye West has inspired him to become a perfectionist and this album is the proof. It consists of eleven great tracks with not one disappointment. The closer Beth/Rest sounds as if it should be Lionel Richie singing over it, but Vernon can transcend from folk to indie to pop/R&B when he feels like it. On Holocene he sings in realisation that he is "not magnificent". Someone should tell him that this album is though.

Honourable Mentions

Kendrick Lamar: Section 80

Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica

Freddie Gibbs: Cold Day in Hell

Shabazz Palaces: Black Up

tUnE-yArDs: w h o k i l l

St. Vincent: Strange Mercy

Big K.R.I.T.: Return of 4Eva

Smith Westerns: Dye it Blonde

Clams Casino: Instrumental Mixtape

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top 25 Singles of the Year

25) Clams Casino: Motivation

24) Adele: Rolling in the Deep

23) The Dream: Wake Me When it's Over

22) John Maus: Believer

21) Zoo Kid: Out Getting Ribs

20) Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire (feat Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown, EL-P): The Last Huzzah! 

19) Danny Brown: Monopoly

18) Frank Ocean: Novacane

17) Beyonce: 1+1

16) Fucked Up: Queen of Hearts

15) A$AP Rocky: Peso

14) Tyler, the Creator: Yonkers

13) James Blake: The Wilhelm Scream

12) Azealia Banks: 212

11) Girls: Vomit

10)Araab Muzik: Streetz Tonight

9) Jay-Z/Kanye West: Niggas in Paris

8) DJ Quik: Nobody

7) Beyonce: Countdown

6) Real Estate: It's Real

5) Nicki Minaj: Superbass

4) Lana Del Rey: Video Games

3) Bon Iver: Holocene

2) The Weeknd: House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls

1) M83: Midnight City

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shame: 4 Macs

Now here's a Holiday movie for the entire family: A 30 something New York bachelor, who is unable to function in a real human relationship, whether with a lover, friend or family member. He is a sex addict whose only form of happiness, rather satisfaction, comes from either watching porn or having meaningless sex with strangers/prostitutes. This movie isn't enjoyable in any form or fashion, but it deals with a subject that is buried deep under society's standards and should be viewed if only once.

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a man with no emotions. He blocks out his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) from his life because...yeah that's right he is filled with "shame". He needs his privacy to cover up his tracks of filth whether he is hiding a hooker in his stylish apartment or his porn on his office computer. He gets no pleasure in his perverse activities as they serve more like daily habits rather than special events. He goes on a date with a co-worker and the scene is full of awkward tension because he is so impatient with the dating process, he is more secure with the no nonsense, straight to bed formula. The tension is eased through the humour of the nervous first-day-on-the-job waiter, which is the only escape from depression and solitude we get in the entire movie. 

When Brandon finally attempts to seduce his co-worker a few days later he is unable to become aroused, he has let her in too much on a personal level and is unable to perform. His addiction to porn and sleaze has raised his sexual expectations and he doesn't live within the realistic realm of intimate interactions. Later we see him get a hooker and perform one of his sexual fantasies, he has his orgasm and that's the end of the interaction. He returns to his hollow habitat.

His isolation is reflected on the unusually empty New York streets, seems like most of the film was shot at 4 A.M. The only populated scenes are on the subway where he searches for his prey. The film has aspects that the average male may relate to or understand, living in contemporary society where sex is propelled at the masses everyday through either conscious or subconscious advertising. In the Internet and digital age it seems nearly impossible to escape from. For the majority it rubs off them, but for some it may cling to and they can take it more seriously. 

The relationship with his sister is more ambiguous, I understand if he is shutting her out because he doesn't want his perversions to come to light, but how they both act around each other is rather awkward  and writer/director Steve McQueen doesn't go into their history much, but I found the fact that they were both comfortable seeing each other naked to be disturbing. 

Fassbender delivers a strong performance that most Hollywood actors would never even dare taking and its pretty safe to say that he will be nominated for the best actor Oscar. He is a great actor that conveys the screen realism that De Niro and Pacino gave in the 1970s.  Shame is certainly a great depiction of this taboo subject, but it is not fun to watch. I respect it, but don't admire it. I love these type of movies (nightwalker genre?), but I prefer them to be more stylistic with quirky caricatures and more of a developing story. Paul Schrader is a master at these type of genres, along with Scorsese and De Palma. These directors take a look at the seedy underground of the urban with delight and humour. Mc Queen makes you want to put you balls in a bucket of ice before slitting your wrists. :-(

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Artist: 3 Macs

The Artist was probably the most anticipated movie this year for me and similarly to The Tree of Life, it didn't live up to it's expectation. However, it didn't fall as low as Terrence Malik's work. Both films definitely deserve trailer of the year. When I first saw the trailer for The Artist I was blown away and thought that this will be a film that proves that contemporary audiences can still adapt to and enjoy silent films. I was half right. Michael Hazanavicius has made a daring silent movie in the digital age with no 3D visual extravaganza, however the motives of The Artist and lets say....Avatar are exactly the same. The audience are relying on the art of visual storytelling, and while Cameron invited us to see the future, Hazanavicius is inviting us to pay homage to the past.

For what it is, The Artist is good (hence the 3 macs), but it also proves (possibly intentionally) that modern audiences simply cannot adapt to the silent era again. I found myself frustrated at times, just aching to hear John Goodman's character's scream. The visual comedy was very good and it certainly helped move the story along easier, but I just really wanted to hear the characters voices. I accept that it is  a very good experimental film, but I really could not adapt to watching silent movies on a regular basis. I think I would go insane. 

The performances are excellent by both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, they really do have faces that can tell a story with amazing expressions and energy. They possibly have given the best performances this year. There are also certain aspects that are actually moving. The sequence where George's (Dujardin) own silent movie premiers to an almost empty theatre is truly sombre and portrays the difficulty for silent stars to transcend to sound pictures. George stands in the back swarmed by an aura of failure, while his protege/love interest Peggy Miller watches his character on screen sink into the sand, she is moved to tears as she recognizes that it represents his sinking career. 

The incapability of George to adapt to the "talkies" reminded me of Bela Lugosi's struggle to secure other roles besides Dracula. Bela was also as proud of Dracula as George is about silent film, both so passionate about their work and recognizing it as art. Lugosi once said that Dracula is Shakespeare for him. So just like the Count, George's descent is sad to watch and Dujardin plays it superbly. A great example of George's fear of sound is when he dreams that he can't speak. We the audience for the first time can hear sound: a glass touching the table, girls laughing, typewriters. As I said before...a good experimental movie, can't take that away from it.

In conclusion, The Artist is a daring movie to make today and it succeeds in its own right through excellent performances, but it solidifies that the silent era is dead and not coming back. But we know this already, but if someone attempts to make another gimmick movie as good as this, I'm not going to see it. Another factor that pissed me off in this picture is the fact that they used Bernard Herrmann's piece from Hitchcock's Vertigo near the end of the film! How dare! Another recent movie to pay respect to old Hollywood is Scorsese's Hugo, which is a much better experience. He shoots a movies in 3D in order to tell a story set in 1930s Paris. This is a much more interesting approach.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Window to Our Fears.

"Fear is stronger than love...remember that, fear is stronger than love"

-Tupac Shakur

A bleak outlook and obviously not a popular one, but we can't ignore it. Fortunately for the most of us our paths in life don't let us deal with that scenario. That's what the movies are for, more specifically that is what horror movies are for. Stephen King once said that horror movies are like rehearsals for our own death. We watch these frightening images in order to help us conquer our deepest fears, horror films act as a substitute for our reality. This is why we submit ourselves to the blood, guts, knives, stalkers, monsters, werewolves, zombies and creepy little girls in white that go "la, la, la, la, la".

The history of the horror genre is as old as cinema itself and could be argued that the process of cinema spectatorship is a horror film within itself. Audiences sit in the dark and in theory are witnessing ghosts-images on the screen that are immortalized, a moment in time captured forever, characters replaying the same scenario years after they have passed in reality. 

Horror movies have acted as a mirror, allowing us to take a look at ourselves and society as a whole. They contain countless underlying themes and subjects, sometimes subconscious. Hitchcock's Psycho killed off the protagonist thirty minutes into the story, which then forces the audience into the shoes of the antagonist, Norman Bates. We the spectators enter Norman's and try to figure out ways of covering our tracks. The shot where Norman tries to sink Marion's car is a perfect example of the audience thinking like the killer-when the car ceases to sink for a second, we are as relieved as Norman is when it finally disappears into the swamp. 

Hundreds of slasher flicks, commencing with John Carpenter's Halloween, place the killer in POV mode, hence we see the world through their eyes as if we were taking part in the murder. Horror movies,  specifically the sub-genre of the slasher, have been criticized for having misogynistic overtones. The beautiful, dumb blonde being violently slaughtered at the very beginning. Two points I would like to add here:

i) Violence is aesthetic in cinema
ii) Carol Clover's book Men, Women and Chain Saws counters this criticism with an in depth look at the slasher genre.

Clover flipped the argument of the slasher film being anti-women by claiming that they can be recognized as feminist statement. The rules are laid out for viewers, most notably female spectators: do not drink or take drugs and do not partake in sexual activity. Halloween is the bible in this aspect. The girls who drink or have sex are violently killed and don't put up much of a fight. The protagonist Laurie is the innocent, quiet girl next door, who abstains from the promiscuous lifestyle. Therefore, she is strong and survives the attack, defeating Michael Myers. Remain a virgin and you will survive in the slasher flick. Being a strong female character pays off is what Clover is trying to argue, and this character has become to be known as the "final girl". So although Hitchcock's films may not appear to be as controversial as the later slashers, they actually keep women oppressed, looking pretty and utilized as a break from the narrative. The ultra-violent excess of the slasher on the other hand actually develops the female character into a heroine and focus point of the movie.

The "final girl" has been enhanced over the years with heroines such as Nancy in Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, who ends up creating booby traps around her house in order to capture and defeat Freddy Kruger. There are exceptions to Clover's theory though, such as Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill. There is a "final girl", but she isn't so fact she's a whore, actually come to think about it nearly all of De Palma's heroines are prostitutes, porn stars or promiscuous in some form or fashion. However, De Palma homages Hitchcock more than the slasher genre, and his films fall more in the thriller genre than the slasher in the strictest sense. He deals with adults and not horny adolescents, except for Carrie, but that falls into the supernatural category. 

Another sub-genre of the horror movie that expresses social issues is the zombie movie originated by George A. Romero with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. The underlying theme in Night of the Living Dead is that of racism and the state of humanity within America in the 1960s. The images of the southern hicks hunting and shooting zombies resembles the Civil Rights struggle. The fact that the lead character Ben, who is black and the main protagonist was revolutionary in its own right. The ending is a devastating one, but is a true depiction of those times.

Romero's sequel Dawn of the Dead in 1978 deals with consumerism and commodity fetish, the zombies are driven towards the mall because it is all they are familiar with. The surviving protagonists are trapped in the mall and succumb to a life of luxury via material goods, they become relaxed, comfortable, but it doesn't last long as they become bitter and pathetic controlled by products. The zombies are a reflection of ourselves and our monotonous consumer lifestyle, just like shopping-they come in crowds and devour all they can.

John Carpenter has said that there are two types of fear: a) the fear of what lies beyond our house, the external fear and b) the fear of what is inside of us. He used the comparison of his two films Halloween and The Thing. We are fascinated by our bodies and the limitations of them, horror films are all about the body whether one is being stabbed by a sharp object or transforming into a werewolf. In John Landis' An American Werewolf in London special effects artist Rick Baker helped create the most graphic and dynamic body transformation ever by shooting the change without any cuts and in light. 

We are somewhat attracted to disfigurement or body modification, and if not attracted then certainly intrigued. Freddy Krueger's face, classic Hollywood monsters such as Frankenstein or Dracula and even more so today with "torture porn" movies such as Hostel and the Saw series. Jackass became a worldwide phenomenon simply because people just enjoy watching others harm their bodies. People love to watch wrestling, UFC and boxing to see other put their bodies on the line.

The picture above brings me back to the original premise of this article and how in real life fear does not necessarily exceed love. In Wes Craven's New Nightmare, the first of his meta-narrative spree, we are shown the original cast and crew of the original Nightmare on Elm Street. We are dealing with Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon and of course Wes Craven, who are all playing themselves ten years after the movie. The Freddy franchise has sky rocketed and he is a household name, and the series has ended, which now means he is free to enter our reality. What starts off as a scenario for a story that deals with how horror films have a bad affect on their star's lives soon becomes an argument as to why horror films are so essential in everybody's lives. 

The fear/Freddy Krueger is liberated from the movies and crosses over to our reality, and what Wes Craven is basically trying to explain is that horror movies are needed to trap the fear within a fictional story so we the audience can view it in a cathartic process. We are been scared in a safe environment within a movie theatre where we can vent our fears in peace. We go to the movies to laugh, cry, think and be scared shitless - the latter being the most physical emotion throughout film history.

Here's a good old fashioned youtube tribute-Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Great Cinematic Stand-Offs

There's nothing like a good stand-off, the anticipation and build up of two people about to square off and settle a score. Pacquiao VS Mayweather is what everyone wants to see and the high hopes for that continue. However, pondering about the magnitude of this bout I began to reminisce about great stand-off scenes within cinema, a predicament where two or more characters go head to head via fists, weapons or even words. I decided that I will list off a few scenes that contain some of cinema's greatest stand-offs. So here are a few just off the top of the noggin in no particular order:

1) They Live (Carpenter. 1988)

Roddy Piper and Keith David square off in Carpenter's cult classic in a long-blown brawl. Pro wrestler Piper wanted it to play out like real fights, which are clumsy and slow. Nothing fancy, just two friends going at it in a back alley. Even when Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to parody it in their "cripple fight" they couldn't deny its greatness and literally did it shot for shot.

2) Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)

This is one of my favourite scenes of all time and there is nothing spectacular about it, these two guys don't even come to blows, but the tension between Butch (Willis) and Vega (Travolta) is mouth-watering. We are introduced to a conversation between Mr. Wallace (Ving Rhames) and Butch accompanied by Al Green's Let's Stay Together, which creates such a relaxing and mellow atmosphere within the red-lit bar. Soon after Butch walks over to the bar where Vega is. Vega confronts Butch by staring at him, when Butch inquires he is given some calm and collected attitude from Vega, which seems to come out of nowhere. 

Butch's look of confusion when Vega leaves the bar is priceless and we are unsure as to why Vega defies him, but what we do know is that we want to see these two guys go at it. Later on we witness Butch shoot Vega because of a pop-tart jumping out of the toaster. The tension between the two creates such anticipation for a fight and the fact that it never comes is delightfully frustrating.

3) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)

This is a high leap from the previous two. Not only is the stand-off in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly arguably the most epic of all time, but it is possibly one of the most epic sequences ever printed on celluloid. Sergio Leone's last installment of the Dollars Trilogy is the definitive spaghetti western and it bigger than life in scope. The movie is almost three hours long in which after the Civil War battles, imprisonment and betrayal we are left with three men face to face in a Mexican Stand-Off. 

For two and a half hours before we reach this point we witness the endurance of the three main character's on such a large scale-Eastwood's persecution by Tuco (Eli Wallach) in the desert, Tuco's viscous beating from the order of Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), and Angel Eyes' ruthlessness in order to garner the buried treasure. Not to mention the landscape of the American Civil War-thousands of families torn apart, friends fighting friends. Basically up until the Mexican Stand-Off, the film is already bigger than life. Leone set himself a difficult challenge in topping what went before, a challenge that only him and Ennio Morricone could take on. The collaboration of these two is one of the most essential in film history, maybe even more important that Hitchcock and Herrmann or Scorsese and De Niro. Without Morricone's overwhelming score Leone would have never been able to achieve the absolute epic stand-off. The marriage of music and images in this scene portrays the definitive stand-off in the most ultimate way.

4) Dawn of the Dead (Romero, 1978)

The final scene in Romero's Dawn of the Dead seemed like it was going to take the same route it did in his predecessor Night of the Living Dead ten years earlier. However, the despair and bleak conclusion was countered in the last moment as Peter (Ken Foree) chose to fight for his life rather than suicide. He swarmed through a sea of zombies with army music in the background. This time round our hero survives and does it in the most ridiculous way possible. A John Wayne homage if there ever was one.

5) The Killer (Woo, 1989)

Before John Woo brought his style of extravagant cinematic action to Hollywood, and before Wu Tang's Raekwon sampled the dubbed voiceover's of The Killer for his 1995 Only Built for Cuban Linx, Hong Kong was the home of these ferociously action packed films. I guess there is no real suspense or tension to build up the shoot outs, but the actual gun fights themselves are just so fucking entertaining. Its like kung fu with bullets, you forget to breathe during these sequences and John Woo does it best here.

6) The Deerhunter (Cimino, 1978)

Probably the most intense scene in the history of cinema, one of those moments when you are watching a movie, get completely caught up in it and try to comprehend how you would act in such a situation. You are on the edge of your seat for this one and if not then you have the attention span of a fucking hyena on ketamine. True the movie is long and slow, but its a film about little personal moments rather than a big statement on the Vietnam War. All these little moment add up to this huge occasion: captured by Vietnamese and forced to play Russian Roulette against the people you care for the most. 

The way Michael Cimino captures the realism and emotion of this predicament, along with the excellent performances of De Niro, Walken, Savage, not to mention the Cambodian he used that actually despised Americans is something of a miracle. No music either, the only soundtrack to this is a repetition of slaps and maos! You don't blink throughout that roulette sequence until they escape and you couldn't be more ecstatic and proud that they actually made it out. You will never forget the word MAO!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drive: 4 Macs

Drive is all over the map: it begins with a clear homage to Walter Hill's 1978 cult hit The Driver, where Ryan Gosling takes on Ryan O'Neal's character of the driver. He is cool, calm and collected with a fucking tooth pick. His rules are clear and fair, he is the driver and that is all. So we seem to have a simple heist/car chase picture, until after the credits come up on the screen layered in pink and we enter John Hughes territory with the boy likes girl scenario showered in 80s synth pop. This continues for what seems like an hour, short on dialogue or car action. During this period we are introduced to the main characters, who all seem repressed and frightened. Gosling is borderline mute, his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) isn't far off either, but despite this they spark a relationship along with her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). 

Apart from getting warm and cuddly with Irene and Benicio, the Driver works in the movies as a stuntman, while working as a team with his mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston) in a garage. He also moonlights as a getaway driver from time to time I suppose. Shannon introduces him to Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), an ex movie producer, who dabbles in crime with his Jewish mob partner Nino (Ron Perlman). Bernie invests $300,000 into a NASCAR vehicle that the Driver will inhabit. 

When it seems the Driver and Irene might become romantically involved, her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns from prison, only to be harassed by a petty gangster named Cook (James Biberi), who vows to harm Irene and Benicio if he doesn't do a robbery for him. The Driver, cool as a fucking cucumber and chewing on his tooth pick decides to help Standard in the heist in order to protect Irene and Benicio. Of course everything that can go wrong does, Standard is killed and the Driver is left with the money and responsible for the lives of Irene and Benicio. 

From John Hughes and Walter Hill we are catapulted into visceral display of violence and survival that is reminiscent of Scorsese's Taxi Driver and John Carpenter's Halloween. In fact the killings are played out in similar style to the slasher genre, and by the time we get to the beach scene we feel like we are face to face with Michael Myers. The Driver also portrays characteristics similar to Paul Schrader's Travis Bickle, a man who is severed from social interaction, but who is willing to put his life on the line for the greater good. The Driver gains more of a personality through his violent acts, which he takes too far in order to just defend himself (elevator scene). Our interest in him grows and we become curious as to what occurred in our protagonist's life before Los Angeles (an idea for a prequel), but for now he remains existential and the supporting cast keeps us up to date on the spiraling predicament. 

Nicolas Winding Refn chooses style and technique over substance, but there is emotion present, only it is  repressed by the characters through fear or vulnerability. Shannon and Bernie repress their feelings for each other, fear on Shannon's part and vulnerability on Bernie's part. Nino is the only character who really lets it pour out when he expresses his spite for the Italian mafia because they patronize him for being Jewish. 

Alas, Drive for the general audience does come down to style with its neo-noir landscape of Los Angeles, retro 80s synthesizers and violent gore that would make Tom Savini proud. It is evident why Refn won the Best Director Award at Cannes this year for this genre mashing piece of work and while Driver may not be the years best film it is the most interesting yet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5 Mac Rating System

It has been brought to my attention from the masses (two friends) that I need to adapt to some form of rating system. So if your entire family perishes in a fire and you simply just do not have the time to read my entire review, you can now just take a quick glimpse at the 5 Mac rating system. It goes as follows:

5 Macs= Excellent
4 Macs= Very Good
3 Macs= Good
2 Macs= Probably shouldn't
1 Mac= Gay

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Warrior delivers exactly what you expect, but it still succeeds keeping you on the edge of your seat for close to an hour of the film. There are three reasons for this: the fantastic atmosphere and mise en scene of the MMA tournament, the fight scenes are incredibly intense and the fact that the audience within and outside the film are conflicted as to whom to route for. It is refreshing to see that, if only the WWE could follow suit in their storyline because the whole heel/babyface type cast decreases the level of competition from the audiences' point of view. 

The first half of the film is basic enough and pretty mundane compared to last years The Fighter, which was shot with more style and technique, along with lively characters and humorous scenarios. Another fight movie involving brothers, but this time they actually go against each other in combat. Tommy (Tom Hardy) acts all mysterio here when he returns home to his father (Nick Nolte) after serving as a marine in the Middle-East. He decides he wants to fight and enter the MMA tournament to win the grand prize of $5 million. He wants his father, who was an abusive drunk throughout his childhood to train him formally. The father, Paddy, has been sober for 1,000 days and wants to make amends. Tommy isn't interested, cut off from all human emotion and basically a fighting machine. The human side is delivered to us by the brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), a science teacher, family man about to lose his house and suspended because of fighting for money on the weekend. He returns to his old trainer and by technicality is placed in the tournament. 

 It is not until the tournament in Atlantic City that the excitement and atmosphere really begins. The build up and anticipation is brilliantly portrayed by Gavin O'Connor from then on. The brothers meet on the beach in A.C. and Tommy remains cold, not recognizing Brendan as his brother. It is revealed soon after that Tommy is in fact a war hero (how good is this guy?) Paddy continues to try and connect with Tommy until one devastating scene where he is rejected and degraded by his son. The show must go on. 

The tournament proceeds with extremely enthralling bouts that could inspire the skinniest, nerdiest, Amish boy to join the UFC.  Another great factor in this movie is the support from the fighters' trainers, family, friends and in Brendan's case the student body. You get so tied up in the tournament that you forget that this is a film and feel like you are experiencing sport. The climax is quite rushed and corny, but it can be forgiven due to the sheer exhilaration of the bouts because the fact is that we don't really care about the exterior of the fighting cage, the film belongs in there.