Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hot! Live! Music!

Should I have something more substantial than a Hot! Live! Music! post for my final post of the decade?

"Mark, you haven't been posting anything substantial all this time, so why start now?"

Good point!

Damon Albarn, "For Tomorrow"
What better title for a post on New Year's Eve, since tomorrow will include a severe hangover rehab day for half of society.  Damon Albarn is a good answer if you find yourself in any "name an underrated musician of the last 30 years" discussion.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, "Do You Remember The First Time?"
Speaking of Britpop, here's a cover of....maybe the best Pulp song?  I've for years held Disco 2000 in that esteemed place, but DYRTFT is very very close.  I actually think this cover helped elevate its case.  Also, turns out Sophie Ellis-Bextor has been a big pop star in the UK for multiple decades,  who knew?

Robyn Adele Anderson, "Take Me Out"
Another New Year's Eve-appropriate song, as it's about someone totally striking out with the person they're trying to woo.  It's for the best, really, since who wants to start 2020 with an ill-advised hookup?

U2, "One Tree Hill"
My only comment here is why wasn't this in the movie?  Sure, it makes it a bit longer, but contrary to the belief of every film critic of 1988, there's nothing wrong with little more Rattle & Hum.  It is amusing how so many U2-haters lost their minds that U2 "dared" to "compare themselves with music legends" in the film, since a) that wasn't really what they were doing, and b) turns out U2 were legends themselves.

Future Islands, "Seasons"
The five stages of watching this video: "haha this is goofy" --- "how is this not a meme?" --- "seriously though, this guy is giving it 100 percent" --- "wait, is this actually awesome?" --- "this is awesome!"  Even Letterman seemed impressed, making it one of the seven or eight times he cared about something over the last decade of his show

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Survivor Ratings: Tommy

Tommy Sheehan is one of the most interesting Survivor winners in ages, hamstrung by four factors that were largely out of his control.

1. He wasn’t presented as very charismatic, at least not in the way that easily translates to the TV viewer at home.  This is a bit of a problem given that his win was entirely based around “the social game” and the fact that his castmates found Tommy to be a great guy.

2.  While the show may not have figured out how to portray Tommy’s best traits, it did feature enough of him in every episode that he was widely pegged as the winner as soon as the premiere finished.  One simple trick for guessing a Survivor winner is to try and notice which player always seems to be getting some bit of facetime in almost every episode, even if they’re not really involved in that episode’s main storyline or voting scenario.  Another is to find the player who could be boiled down to a simple, easily-digestible tagline for their win — in Tommy’s case, it was the kindly grade-school teacher who had to learn how to be a Survivor-style "bad guy."

3. Between Tommy’s lack of overt personality and predictability of his win, it made for a fifth straight unmemorable male victor of Survivor.  That made it 11 male winners out of the last 14 seasons (!) and only increased the already-overt feeling that Survivor is slanting its game towards male players.

4. Nobody is going to remember Island Of The Idols for anything besides Survivor’s latest ugly controversy (summarized here).  The spectre of Dan Spilo loomed over this season even moreso than those giant wooden heads of Rob and Sandra.  The fact that producers were so absurdly and offensively unprepared for how to deal with this situation is yet another “why do I still watch this stupid show?” moment. 

So ultimately, the story of Tommy winning Survivor seems pretty insignificant in the larger story of Survivor not looking out for the safety of its contestants.  It’s pretty damn sad that the upcoming all-winners season only has to pass the “hey, there wasn’t any sexual harassment on this season, hooray for us!” bar for Jeff Probst and CBS to pat themselves on the back.

How He Won: In a unique bit of trivia, Tommy is the first player in 20 seasons (since Natalie in Samoa) to win without ever having individual immunity, finding a hidden idol or having any type of other hidden advantage.  It’s the kind of victory I didn’t think was possible in the age of Survivor being a glorified scavenger hunt, since it was a pure win for the social game.  Now, this isn’t to say that Tommy wasn’t helped by advantages, since he was so trusted by his fellow players that he often knew who had most of the idols and advantages, since they outright told him in order to include him in their plans.  Frankly, this seems way more impressive than actually finding an idol oneself.

Tommy was able to pull this off by, essentially, being in a final three alliance with everyone, or at least being so trusted by everyone that they felt good about him as at least a short-term ally.  And then when it came down to crunch time and Tommy might be on the radar to be eliminated, he had surrounded himself amidst other major social-game threats.  Why vote Tommy when you could vote for Elaine, or Janet, or Lauren, all of whom seemed more dangerous since (unlike Tommy) they’d all won challenges or found idols?

Probably the single-best skill one can have in Survivor, which is the ability to be someone everyone would be okay losing to.  Don’t forget, this game is ultimately a popularity contest.  Tommy walked that fine line between being enough of a threat that everyone respected his play, yet not so obvious a threat that his name came up.  The only time Tommy got any votes was in the split-tribe double-vote episode (a twist Survivor should do more often, imo), and even then, his simple geniality saved him.  Elaine had been at odds with Tommy in previous votes but she still felt comfortable working with him, and Karishma still preferred working with Tommy (who she’d only just recently met had been against her in every prior vote) over the Missy/Elizabeth combination due to all of that past bad blood.

Could He Do It Again?:
He’s not going to be in Winners At War so we might not get the chance to find out until, geez, season 50 or whatever, but it occurs to me that Tommy is the type of player who would always be something of a contender.  Again, he’s just under the radar enough that opponents might prefer to target more obvious challenge winners or something first…..and in the meantime, the opponents might want to include Tommy in their votes since he’s such a good guy to have on board.  If Survivor ever figures out how to portray “social game” winners without making their victories seem obvious, maybe winners like Tommy will eventually get more respect for their play.  It’d also help if Survivor would avoid having disgraceful sexual harassment scandals along the way, FYI.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Close Call

I was having a chat with some friends about the best movie endings of all time, and one came to mind as the closest-to-greatness good ending ever.

The Bourne Ultimatum.  Jason Bourne is shot off a rooftop, and he plunges down into the river.  We cut to Julia Stiles’ character watching a news broadcast about the events of the film, and the various officials involved in the illegal government program being taken into custody.  There’s mention of Bourne’s involvement, and how he was seemingly killed…except after three days of searching, his body hasn’t been found.  At hearing this, Stiles just grins to herself and we get the little violin cue at the start of Moby’s “Extreme Ways,” a.k.a. that song that plays at the end of all the Bourne movies. 

It’s almost entirely perfect.  BUT…then we get a brief shot of Bourne’s motionless body in the water suddenly stirring and swimming away.

Hopefully I don’t spend the rest of my life in movie arguments, since that seems like a fresh kind of hell.  But, I will argue to my dying days that they didn’t need the shot of Bourne actually coming to.  Just end the movie on Stiles smiling and then the Extreme Ways cue.  Her smile tells you everything you need to know; my theatre audience back in the day even laughed and semi-cheered out of amusement that Bourne had once again escaped danger.

I’d say this was the worst decision of the Jason Bourne series but, well, then the fourth movie happened.  And that weird spinoff with Jeremy Renner. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Joker Addendum

A couple of add-ons to my review/semi-pan of the Joker movie...

* I always enjoy playing the game of "would this film have been more interesting if someone else in the cast had played the lead role?"  While I'm not sure if this game will ever produce a better result than my suggestion of a You've Got Mail remake helmed by Parker Posey and Dave Chappelle,  Joker had an interesting one with a guy who's in the movie for about 30 seconds.  If you wanted to give a different take on the Joker, why not move away from the over-the-top aspect whatsoever and cast Marc Maron?  A Joker whose nihilistic view of the world manifests itself with cynicism rather than manic glee makes it all the more terrifying if MaronJoker actually did burst out laughing.  I don't know why the idea of Marc Maron playing the Joker makes me think of Michael Douglas and "Falling Down," but there you have it.

* As timely as ever, the Epic Rap Battles Of History crew are here with Joker vs. Pennywise that might even more visually impressive than lyrically impressive, which is saying something.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Best Song Ever?

We all have our personal choices for greatest song of all time, with my personal bid going towards Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."  But objectively, the best song ever might just have to be "Memory," from the musical Cats.

Now, why Memory, of all the songs in recorded history?  Good tune, sure, but the GOAT?  I propose Memory as the #1 for one simple reason --- it isn't just a great song, it's so great that it has seemingly single-handedly carried one of the single worst musicals of all time to decades of different production runs and now a sure-to-be-terrible movie adaptation.  Quick, name anything from the Cats soundtrack apart from Memory....exactly my point.

With all due respect to Greta Thunberg, my person of the year might be the woman in my theatre audience who yelled "NOPE, HARD PASS" after the Cats trailer was shown, to wide applause and laughter from the rest of the crowd.  (If the heckler was, in fact, Greta Thunberg, then double the prize for her!)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019



Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon are great!  I like Bokeem Woodbine and Tracy Letts!  I like Finn “The kid from Stranger Thi…hey what is this, my actual name is so incredible that I don’t need a nickname, you blaggard” Wolfhard!  Jason Reitman has made a couple of really good films, even if he’s on a enough of a cold streak to see why he broke down and stepped into the family business of Ghostbusters movies. 

And hey, at the end of the day, it’s a Ghostbusters movie.  As if I’m not going to see this on opening day.  The Ghostbusters are such an integral part of my childhood and overall pop culture upbringing that any movie might fall under the general “no such thing as bad pizza” corollary.


...it looks…kind of bad?  Or was I the only one who sort of cringed throughout the whole trailer?

Basically, it looks like Super 8.  Or, appropriately enough given Finn Wolfhard’s presence, Stranger Things.  (Or, Stranger Things’ spiritual predecessor IT, which weirdly also starred Wolfhard….this kid is already being typecast.)  What it doesn’t look like is Ghostbusters, and while it’s possible that “Afterlife” will represent a glorious broadening of the franchise once we see what Reitman has done over the course of two hours of screentime, it seems entirely tonally off in two-minute trailer form.  Like, not even one joke?  Aren’t these supposed to be comedies?

Like I said, I’m absolutely going to see this movie, so maybe my criticism is ultimately meaningless.  And it is only a trailer, so it’s too early to pass judgement.  But given how much hate the 2016 movie got for not being a “real” Ghostbusters movie from the sexist neckbeard crowd, maybe it’s a bigger issue if the 2020 movie misses the point entirely?

btw, I withdraw all criticism if it turns out Carrie and the kids are descendants not Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston, Dana, Janine, Louis, etc. but rather Larry Storch.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Merry Creepmas

Is there anything better to listen to while reading a "Love Actually is actually sketchy as hell" thinkpiece?

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Hit Single History

With less than a month to go, the Best Twitter Thread Of 2019 crown is suddenly seized by a late challenger!  For those of you unclear how Twitter works, hit the "Dec. 5" link to access the entry thread, and then just keep scrolling downward. 

"Ten Feet High Club" is a legit banger.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


I found myself in downtown Toronto today, and it struck me that if the city wanted to redirect some of its budget towards more useful things, they could save money by cutting back some of the unnecessary signage. 

For instance, in the tunnel leading from Union Station to the CN Tower/Rogers Centre area, there are multiple (multiple!) signs along the way that read "this way to the CN Tower."  And then there's a helpful arrow. 

Man, if you need a sign to help you find the CN Tower in downtown Toronto, you're just beyond hope.  This would be the tunnel, btw, that is mostly made of glass.  So one could look at a sign that directs you in the direction of the tower, or one could turn their eyes maybe two inches upwards and see....the tower itself.

M. Night Shyamalan himself couldn't have produced more pointless Signs.