Tragically Mainstream

No guilt, only pleasure.

Month: June, 2013

Marriage Equality Week Special: Shelter

by Henry Gorman

This Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling were victories, if only small ones, in the major ongoing civil rights campaign of our time.  But another battle– the fight to bring representation of gay and lesbian relationships to the media– has continued to stall.  Although TV has made huge strides since Will and Grace, many gay characters today remain peripheral sidekicks and simpering stereotypes.   Also, television shows and movies are still reluctant to show gay characters being affectionate with one another and often seem to feel a need to “punish” them with tragic deaths.  Even good works often fall into this trap.

 

"I wish I knew how to quit you, heteronormative narrative tropes"

“I wish I knew how to quit you, heteronormative narrative tropes”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Man of Steel, Urban Destruction, and Zach Snyder’s Homeric Filmmaking

by Henry Gorman

Man of Steel has a magnificent superhero film pedigree. Its story springs from the mind of Christopher Nolan. Its script flows from the pen of David S. Goyer, who helped Nolan write The Dark Knight.  Zach Snyder, whose Watchmen and 300 won the acclaim of the viewing public and Hollywood’s younger and bolder critics, directs. This film should have been a marvel.

No, not that kind of Marvel!

No, not that kind of Marvel!

A trip to Rotten Tomatoes suggests otherwise. Man of Steel hovers around 55%, well below forgettable-but-shiny fluff like Star Trek: Into Darkness, blowing-its-chances-to-be-bold-and-meaningful Iron Man 3, and Christopher Nolan’s adventurously literary yet deeply flawed The Dark Knight Rises. The critics who do sing its praises issue them quietly, or with qualifications.  This film failed. Read the rest of this entry »

Yeezus Reviewed

by sethisan

On “Ready to Start”, a song off Arcade Fire’s third album, The Suburbs, there is a line that goes:

“All the kids have always known that the Emperor wears no clothes / but  they bow down to him anyway, ’cause it’s better than being alone”

Kanye West has always been that enfant terrible who refused to “bow down”, and consequently, has often paid the price of “being alone” – a theme frequently explored and indeed, elevated to the status of messianic sacrifice, most notably in his 2010 masterpiece, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

It seems only logical then that Mr. West, having dabbled in comparing himself to superheroes and pharaonic God-Kings, escalates the analogy to the ultimate apotheosis, and this bring us to Yeezus.

Right from the near-paranormal chorus in the first track, “On Sight”, Mr. West makes it abundantly clear:

He’ll give us what we need
It may not be what we want

The song begins with jarring distortions that smack the complacent listener in the jowls, forcing them to pay close attention – Yeezy is back and he knows who’s been naughty. Read the rest of this entry »

Things To Do Now that Game of Thrones has Finished: Part II

by Henry Gorman

I promised that I would give you more recommendations about what to do now that you have finished watching Game of Thrones. I struggle to be a Ned Stark and not a Petyr Baelish to you, dear readers. Today, I make good on my word.

Making good on your word is the opposite of what my next recommendation is all about. Today, I dip my pen in praise of my beloved Crusader Kings II, a medieval dynasty simulator crafted by a team of thoughtful and meticulous Swedes at Paradox Interactive, and my personal Game of The Year for 2012.

Crusader Kings II

The Cover, which you will never see because you should buy it on Steam anyway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CK II places the player in the middle of slaughterhouse Europe and hands her a butcher knife. You start the game as a landed medieval nobleman or noblewoman. You will have a motley court, consisting of your bannermen (er, vassals), your family, and a passel of assorted hangers-on. There will be a few wise councilors and dedicated servants among them, but most will be scheming vipers plotting to take each other’s lives and lands, when they’re not trying to murder or depose you. You will likely serve at the court of some greater nobleman, where, if you’re any good, you yourself will be scheming for glory.

Like the Lannisters, you will ultimately begin to chafe at bending the knee to a mightier lord. So you will gather whatever power you can to yourself. You might win glory and land on crusade against the Heathen Turk (or, if you play a lord of the Muslim persuasion, on jihad against the Heathen Frank). You might expand your domain by forging claims on your neighbors, whether or not you share a liege. Much as Robert secured Tywin’s support on the throne by marrying Cersei Lannister, you too can find yourself powerful allies with the right wedding. And, with a few strokes of the knife, the younger daughter who you married while seeking an alliance might become an heiress whose son will unite your lands.

When you finally march on King’s Landing and take your uncomfortable seat on the Iron Throne (er, rather, by accumulating enough lands or plotting a rebellion, becoming your country’s king), life doesn’t get any easier. You will constantly be pressured to expand your realm, help your allies, and give land to your children. And, after you perish and your son or daughter takes the throne, he or she will have to face the murderous ambitions of his or her siblings.

Read the rest of this entry »

Did you REALLY need that guest verse? Ariana Grande featuring Mac Miller – The Way

by williedollars

I don’t think the question of whether Ariana Grande NEEDS Mac Miller’s guest verse on her debut single, The Way, is very hard. Here’s a set of premises which answer it empirically:

PREMISE: The objective merit of any pop song increases exponentially with each mention of Bruce Almighty.

PREMISE: Mac Miller raps the line “Bruce Almighty, that’s groovy” in Ariana Grande’s The Way.

CONCLUSION: The objective merit of Ariana Grande’s The Way increased exponentially with the inclusion of Mac Miller’s line “Bruce Almighty, that’s groovy.”

All right. I think we’re done here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mid-Aughts Throwback: T-Pain featuring Young Joc – Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)

by williedollars

As far as we’re concerned, pop music started in 2000. So we’re never going to throw it back any further. If you find that troubling, ask yourself, Do I actually want to listen to a guy named williedollars explain The Police to me? If the answer happens to be yes, well we do have a comments section.

Riding the bus in middle school provided a fascinating look into things I typically wasn’t cool enough to know about. The closer to the back of the bus I sat (always looking aloof, pretending like I was more interested in the book in my lap than the conversation behind me), the m0re scandalous the things I heard. A homeschooled version of me would probably be smarter and a more productive member of society, but he wouldn’t know intimately the mechanics of sex with mothers or the proper context in which to use the word faggot (answer: every context). And he wouldn’t have heard the pop music that one cool bus driver played every afternoon. You know that bus driver, the one you prayed to get on your bus at the start of each year because that bus driver turned on the radio. And in early 2007 (my eighth grade year), the radio played Buy U a Drank.

Public school me was cool with that. He was more than cool with it. He felt like he just got in on the ground floor of a revolution. I imagine what I felt the first time I heard T-Pain (and Young Joc!) was like what the Jacobins felt the first time Robespierre rolled out a guillotine. They were probably like, “Robots. Fucking robots.” And then that switched into: “This is the future. Oh my god. This, this is the future.” And that’s what Auto-Tune was like.

Read the rest of this entry »

Things to Do Now that Game of Thrones Season 3 has Finished: Part 1

by Henry Gorman

After a glorious ten blood-and-semen-drenched weeks, Game of Thrones has departed, leaving our television screens tragically bereft of bodily fluids for nine and a half months. I read the first four books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire well before the first season of Game of Thrones came out, and I loved them, but never thought they would hit mainstream. I was shocked by how staggeringly popular and well-discussed the show became. But, looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The show’s producers recognized something there that I didn’t.

Tyrion

Which is why they are all now rich as Lannisters

Read the rest of this entry »

Hey Henry: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and What Makes Good Pop Radio

by williedollars

In this new series, williedollars asks Henry a question on facebook chat. Then they talk about it. And they’re probably the only ones who understand what they’re saying. But they post the transcript on the blog anyway.

Wednesday, June 6

8:12pm
williedollars: Hey Henry, what song on the radio is really pissing you off right now?

8:13pm
Henry Gorman: I feel bad about saying this, but
I don’t like that Daft Punk song which is now a hit

8:15pm
williedollars: Oh shit. But I kind of feel you. I spent about seven hours in the car today driving to Houston and it came on around about seven times. I listened once. But still man, people saying RAM is an instant all-time classic and you just dissed it. Explanation? I might give mine if you go first.

8:15pm
Henry Gorman: I feel like Daft Punk has huge goodwill
they’ve done so much excellent stuff
just thinking back to like, Discovery
an amazing album
so we all really, really want them to break out
and now, it’s actually happening
and we’re all really excited about it
but I feel like “Get Lucky” just isn’t a song I want to hear on the radio again and again
It’s too elevator-music-y and ambient-sounding, honestly
for a pop hit
no energy

8:23pm
williedollars: Pharrell’s voice doesn’t do anything for anybody. he’s just there. And then what we’re left with is a EDM meets seventies funk beat (is that inherently good?) with a pretty lame chorus. And once you’ve got that, I see what you’re saving about elevator music, no doubt
That said…
While it’s not a prototypical radio hit…
it’s still undeniable that the song has a great vibe to it and is about as perfectly realized for what it is (electro seventies throwback) as any song will ever be
kind of feels like teenage dream to me for just being so… complete.
or some vampire weekend stuff
and if we’re going to ever get variety on pop radio, shouldn’t it at least be in the form of fully realized songs like these, even if they don’t fit our definition of “radio song”?

8:27pm
Henry Gorman: Well, my definition of “radio song” is less about content than about function
I want a certain… intensity from my pop radio

8:27pm
williedollars: okay, I can dig that
like we have ipods and cds if we want a different feel? like that’s not radio’s inherent function?

8:28pm
Henry Gorman: well, not pop radio’s

8:28pm
williedollars: Pop radio is assumed in these conversations, henry
damn.

8:28pm
Henry Gorman: true, true

8:28pm
williedollars: this is for the fucking website bro!
but anyway, go on

8:29pm
Henry Gorman: but like, even alt-radio shit has a certain mainstreamness now
RAM was a #1 album
and that followed Vampire Weekend
but yeah
like, I want bit strident emotion or celebration
even if it’s really dumb
I think that pop music is fundamentally sort of performative
my appreciation of it is often less about the music itself and more about music-as-performance
(I often find the alt stuff that makes it through to mainstream sort of distasteful
I mean, Imagine Dragons, really?)

8:31pm
williedollars: oh god, yeah..

8:31pm
Henry Gorman: (They’re like Coldplay, but Scandinavian)

8:31pm
williedollars: I feel you so hard
(THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID)
Lyrics don’t matter in pop radio. Agreed?

8:32pm
Henry Gorman: hmmm
I dunno
I think that they’re secondary, but can still play valuable functions

8:32pm
williedollars: Unless they’re just all-time maybe, like meme-spawning, like SHAWTY GOT DEM APPLE BOTTOM JEANS, BOOTS WITH DA FUUUURRRRRR

8:32pm
Henry Gorman: Yeah, like that!
or if they have something like the immense beautiful camp vapidity of “Love You Like A Love Song”

8:33pm
williedollars: oh shit… dinner just got here….. finish that thought and can I get back to you a little later?
Selena is good at camp, btw

8:33pm
Henry Gorman: mmmhmm

8:33pm
williedollars: like, a little toooo good

8:33pm
Henry Gorman: the best

11:40pm
Henry Gorman: shall we resume this, Will?
I actually think that lyrics can really make a song, in some cases
“Somebody That I Used To Know,” for example, subverted the douchey-complaining-about-your-ex breakup song (exhibit A: “Grenade” by Bruno Mars– most ridiculous single line “Bad Woman! Bad Woman! That’s just what you are!”)
by including a verse from the ex’s perspective
and it wound up being way cooler as a result

11:44pm
williedollars: oh shit, sorry man. we ate pizza and drank wine and wattched v for vendetta and i’m kind of out of it. Is there the possibility of doing this tomorrow> i’m sorry

11:52pm
Henry Gorman: mmm, no prob, bro
we can just finish it then

Friday, June 8

10:34pm
williedollars: I think the issue we have to deal with here is that pop music is not monolithic
it’s not all club bangers and ex-disney bubblegum on pop radio
we have our indie rocker mumford-type people too and our alternative gotye guys and rappers like kanye who can manage to be fairly deep while being commercially successful
basically, the guys who supposedly exist on some higher plane of music (just ask your hipster friends, they know) who write a commercial song as a gateway to the non-commerical stuff
sara bareilles is another similar category: single white female with a guitar

10:39pm
Henry Gorman: urgh, I despise single white people with guitars

10:39pm
williedollars: but the point of this is that lyrics seem to matter for these artists, but I wonder if that’s just our idea that they’re “better” than pop radio coloring our impressions of them, making us think they’re smarter than they actually are
and “Love Song” is GOAT
so maybe the question is, why does some more alternative stuff like gotye work and other stuff like ‘get lucky’ not work?

10:41pm
Henry Gorman: well, I feel like it’s because Gotye is… well, intense

10:41pm
williedollars: like how i feel about taylor swift?

10:41pm
Henry Gorman: yeah!

10:41pm
williedollars: so we’re going back to performatives here?

10:41pm
Henry Gorman: in both cases, there’s something plaintive and powerful and authentic
I feel like it’s say, Somebody that I Used to Know vs. We are Young

10:41pm
williedollars: so either the music has to be intense or the emotion has to be intense to make up for it?

10:42pm
Henry Gorman: STIUTK is clearly better-constructed of course
but it’s also way more directed and more meaningful

10:42pm
williedollars: STIUTK… sounds like an eskimo tribe

10:42pm
Henry Gorman: Gotye is their god!

10:43pm
williedollars: here’s the thing though: i always always always prefer we are young. i need to think about why here for a second..
now that i think about it, STIUTK is also an equally great song and my preference simply comes down to taste
what i think they have in common though
is that they both have a high-low dichotomy. Emotion and intensity come through in a completely unexpected chorus in both songs.
that’s the problem with get lucky: it’s too consistent
i can vibe to that but I can’t “pop music” to that

10:45pm
Henry Gorman: hmmmm
I actually like that
I feel like a good hit pop song has some kind of explosive burst
something like an orgasm, really

10:45pm
williedollars: it was the first slightly meaningful thing i’ve written
oh, and like the end of nelly’s verse in cruise, right?
because by the way that might be my favorite song on the radio now. but i digress

10:46pm
Henry Gorman: yeah!
“Get Lucky” is like nice foreplay

10:47pm
Henry Gorman: but, ironically, given its name, it never comes

10:47pm
williedollars: deeeeeep
and maybe it works as foreplay in the context of the album. We should remember that daft punk are supposedly more focused on the album than the hits

10:47pm
Henry Gorman: yeah
and that’s totally fine

10:48pm
williedollars: boring, yes, but fine

10:48pm
Henry Gorman: well, it’s not boring in context
just boring for radio
which pulls songs out of their album context all the time

10:48pm
williedollars: yeah, exactly.
not on my radio: NOMR.
not quite as catchy as NIMBY i guess

10:48pm
Henry Gorman: hmmm
like, Kanye is great because he throws together these whole albums that work really well together
which each have a bunch of songs which totally work well on their own

10:49pm
williedollars: facebook is creepy as fuck. There’s an ad for Fun. in the corner of my screen right now
HOW DO THEY KNOW

10:49pm
Henry Gorman: ewww
but anyway
Fun is basically like Queen
or trying really hard to be like Queen

10:49pm
williedollars: dude, you’re right. Way more similarities there than i’ve ever thought to notice

10:49pm
Henry Gorman: and, like Queen, their songs build to explosions when they work well
(like say, the awesome guitar solo in “Killer Queen,” or that crazy autotune voice guitar-solo like thing in “Some Nights”)

10:50pm
williedollars: yeah, and like queen they might not be the most heart-felt, gut-wrenchingly deep songs ever, but they’re perfectly constructed anthems
which work on pop radio
give me ‘livin on a prayer’ any day back in ’87 and I’d always turn it up
if i were alive, that is

10:51pm
Henry Gorman: mmmhmm
maybe Fun is like the rebirth of ’80s Anthem rock

10:52pm
williedollars: maybe we shouldn’t only rag on daft punk here though. that’s unfair

10:52pm
Henry Gorman: No
you’re right, it really is

10:52pm
williedollars: another song that never hits any high notes for me is that Philip Phillips song

10:52pm
Henry Gorman: which one

10:52pm
williedollars: love you when you’re gone

10:52pm
Henry Gorman: (I despise Philip Philips)

10:52pm
williedollars: when you’re long gone gone
how many “L’s” on his name?
2, 3, or 4?
oh shit it’s 4
says google

10:53pm
Henry Gorman: It’s called “Gone, Gone, Gone,” I think
the song
but it sucks
yes

10:53pm
williedollars: yeah, you’re right

10:54pm
Henry Gorman
really, Phillip Phillips is like Mumford and Sons if Mumford and Sons sucked

10:54pm
williedollars: exactly
so it’s like, there’s space for a banjo on pop radio as mumford have shown.

10:54pm
Henry Gorman: Yeah!
not just banjos
but really pretentious pseudo-intellectual lyrics
that don’t even rhyme
but I really like M&S even though they’re not as deep as they think they are

10:55pm
williedollars: but you need to add ebbs and flows, make songs sound epic. there need to be breakdowns and mumford do that well. Phillip comes a bit short because he’s hasn’t figured that out. And he doesn’t have pseudo-intellectual lyrics to fall back on either.
i’m pretty neutral on mumford in general though.
they still haven’t released anything as good as ‘little lion man’ which worked because the insane banjo in it was just frenetic enough for good pop music. their newer singles are just show-stoppy enough to be passable as anthems, but this is where the banjo hurts them for me. But anthems still have pop appeal.

10:56pm
Henry Gorman: hmmm
true, true
also in banjo-space are the Lumineers

10:57pm
williedollars: ahh, yes.
no way in hell they ever have another hit single, right?
they won’t have another great song because they’re too anonymous. Marcus Mumford’s got a distinctive voice, this guy doesn’t
still, Ho Hey worked because it was explosive in just the right places

10:59pm
Henry Gorman: hmmm
I think that even songs with serious, serious weaknesses can benefit from having the right sort of orgasmic pop
“Can’t Hold Us” is a great example, I think
it’s a huge hit despite Macklemore’s enormous weakness as a rapper
because its structure and hooks and builds are so strong

11:00pm
williedollars: Is ‘skittery’ a word? I don’t think so. But like, the beat just skitters along beneath that track and you want to move and that’s what a lot of pop is about.
the reason is falls short of its potential is because macklemore doesn’t give it time to breath. we never get a build up or a drop. This is a fairly common thing in much of rap music and as a result many of the so-called “best” rap songs ever aren’t successful on pop radio
they’re not following the formula.
but rappers are forced to go commercial for a single or two each album as well and there comes the money.
not suggesting that macklemore’s a good rapper btw
but he made (or hung out around Ryan Lewis making) a great radio hit in thriftshop, which allowed him to put his second single on the air, and while the production on ‘can’t hold us’ is incredibly pop friendly, he didn’t modify his rapping enough to allow it to be so effervescently pop friendly.
he actually almost killed thrift shop this way too imo
and having no flow doesn’t help his cause either

11:04pm
Henry Gorman: hmmm
well
I guess that this raises questions about the role of vocalists vs. producers and so forth
honestly, the record seems to suggest that production is way more important
we just need to think about Katy Perry’s last year
she can’t sing at all

11:05pm
williedollars: yes, she can’t sing

11:05pm
Henry Gorman: but hit after hit after hit!
and you and I both love a lot of those songs
“Teenage Dream” especially
is all-time great

11:05pm
williedollars: okay, but we should also remember TD is like 2009

11:06pm
Henry Gorman: wait, wait, no

11:06pm
williedollars: more recent KP songs have been hits but not quite as big simply because the hook wasn’t there
‘the one that got away’ in particular comes off as trying too hard.

11:06pm
Henry Gorman: true, true

11:06pm
williedollars: was it 2009? or was i off?

11:07pm
Henry Gorman: well, the album came out in 2010
but crazily, it was producing singles for two whole years

11:07pm
williedollars: wow. that is crazy
but it had like six number ones, right?
but i’m digressing
but it was like totally six

11:08pm
Henry Gorman: mmmhmm

11:08pm
williedollars: so, anyway, all this is really just a round-about way of saying that
POP MUSIC NEEDS A HOOK
(or at least some musical or emotional intensity to try to back it up)

11:08pm
Henry Gorman: yeah
I also think that we can say that “Get Lucky” is not a bad song
just not really meant to be listened to in a pop radio context
we can’t hate on Daft Punk for that
they’re swell guys who make good music

11:09pm
williedollars: and helmets too!

11:09pm
Henry Gorman: yeah!

11:09pm
williedollars: but when you only have one chance to impress someone in their car on the radio, you’ve got to reel them in.
And i don’t think ‘get lucky’s’ got that kind of pathos

11:11pm
Henry Gorman: hmmm
does Daft Punk have a single song that does?

11:12pm
williedollars: well, i guess not
And that’s why the only time they’ve ever been in a radio hit was when, again, kanye  samped “better, harder, faster, stronger”

11:12pm
Henry Gorman: yeah, exactly

11:12pm
williedollars: so basically, DAFT PUNK GET OUT OF MY RADIO

any final thoughts?

11:16pm
Henry Gorman: nah, I think that we got this cleared up
we took a single song that didn’t seem right for radio, and spun it into a whole conversation about what “being right for radio” means

11:17pm
williedollars: slightly ambitious for a first conversation
and at least 75% of what we just said was bullshit
but so it goes.
bye henry.

11:19pm
Henry Gorman: later, Will!

Sound and (no Nick) Fury– Why Iron Man 3 is a Disappointment

by Henry Gorman

Spoilers ahoy!

Okay, first things first.

There’s a pretty good chance that you liked Iron Man 3. And you probably liked it for some good reasons. Robert Downey Jr. is still funny and charming. Gwyneth Paltrow is an assertive, capable, fully-characterized Pepper Potts. The twist revealing that Ben Kingsley’s Baptist-preacher-speaking Mandarin is just a hoax and his subsequent performance as a coked-out former stage actor are hilarious. The mandatory big superhero spectacle moments– especially Iron Man’s rescue of 13 people tumbling from Air Force 1 and the final battle at the end featuring all the suits– came off beautifully. The film’s soundtrack team hilariously and effectively called us back to 1999 at the very start. And the film offered us an excellent movie child being adorable and calling on the protagonist’s inherent morality and doing all the other stuff that movie children are supposed to do. (Yes, I know it’s fashionable to hate on movie children. But you know who else loves tossing kids into movies? Stephen. Fucking. Spielberg.)

LincolnAndSon

BOOM, LINCOLN (Spielberg and Kushner were robbed here. Fucking robbed)

But I suspect that you might have walked away from the theatre thinking that something was missing. Iron Man 3 clearly failed to fall among the best of superhero films. It never achieves The Dark Knight‘s epic, portentous thematic sweep, or the flawed but wonderful X-Men First Class‘s touching human drama or the criminally underrated The Amazing Spider-Man‘s resonance. It fails to provide even the meaty satisfaction of simple-but-solid summer blockbusters like The Avengers, Thor, or even the first Iron Man. And this is true even though many of its individual elements (acting, scene-to-scene direction, humor, spectacle) are as good as or better than those of many of those films.

So, what went wrong? Well, the film had a big chance to be about something that mattered. And it blew it. What’s up? Politics.

So, the Iron Man franchise has pretty much always been about a dude who runs a weapons-making company and then gets all upset about the consequences when he finds out that the weapons are falling into the hands of bad dudes and being used to kill innocent people. So instead, he takes the most powerful weapon of all, uses it to lay the smackdown on the people who misuse his weapons, and refuses to share it with anybody but the US government and a nebulous scary-powerful secret security organization. Which still leaves him a dude who uses his enormous wealth to put himself beyond the reach of international law and uses technology beyond the reach of everyone else to kill and injure people with impunity. He might be a morally superior dude, and the people he hunts down might usually be bad, but there’s still something kind of uncomfortable and problematic about this. In some ways, Tony Stark is a metaphor for some of the grayer aspects of US power. He’s threatened by people his firm helped to arm (just as the US was attacked by the henchmen of Osama bin Laden, who it had trained to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan), and in order to secure himself and the people he cares about, he sets himself above any authority and uses novel technology to hunt down and destroy threats (drone strikes).

The first two movies were pretty popcorny, and of course, failed to use this to do anything meaningful. But come on, guys. This was the fourth movie featuring a hugely popular character who your audiences are invested in. But at the same time, they’re probably getting tired of same old, same old Iron Man. So if you wanted the movie to be a super-success, you would need to offer them something new while still pulling on their prior investment. If this movie actually explored a real contemporary issue in a meaningful way, everyone would go apeshit. Most superhero movies generally only talk about politics in the most ham-handed and goofy way possible, even when their writers and directors should know better (*cough*Christopher Nolan*cough*)

 BaneRevolution

1% OF THE BATMANS HAVE 99% OF THE WEALTH. OCCUPY GOTHAM

The only films that have done it successfully have been the X-Men movies, which tend to work because they can talk about issues without explicitly talking about them– being a mutant can be a metaphor for being Jewish, being black, being gay…

XMenFirstClass_CharlesEric

By the time X-Men: First Class came out, the writers were tired of you not getting the point and just made the homosexuality explicit.

So, if you pulled this off, it would have meant a lot. And you had something big that would have let you do that. And you blew it. What did you waste? BEN FUCKING KINGSLEY.

Yes, the revelation that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin is no more than a coked-out actor was fucking hilarious. But consider what the film loses when it makes that revelation. In his videos, Kingsley’s Mandarin is compelling and menacing. His voice is like “a Baptist preacher’s.” He speaks with a chilling moral certainty. And he totally raises a whole bunch of issues about capitalism and American power, some things that Tony Stark totally represents– albeit in a vague and incoherent way.

If they had stuck with him as the main villain, and actually developed it well, it would have been amazing. Because Kingsley is a compelling motherfucker. And he’s Gandhi! Dude, just think about Gandhi calling out and challenging Tony Stark (and implicitly us, America) about the problems surrounding capital accumulation and arbitrary exercise of power. And then being terrifying and horrifyingly killing a whole bunch of people in unpredictable ways, Heath Ledger Joker-style. It would have shocked us hard and made us really think about shit. Postcolonial-type shit.

 FrantzFanon

Frantz Fanon Approves (I can’t figure out who painted this.

Anyone who helps with attribution gets a cookie!

UPDATE: It’s by Mustapha Boutadjine.  Ike Jose figures it out within an hour of posting!  )

But instead, Kingsley is a fraud and his backer, a much less compelling man who has a much more boring plot to inflict perpetual war on the world in order to make a profit from arms-dealing, is the real villain. Yawn. We had evil arms-dealing profiteers in the first Iron Man movie, guys, and it didn’t really mean anything then either. This shit’s played out. You had a chance to get some major thematic depth out of your villain, and blew it. Don’t be proud of yourselves.

PS: The film also totally screwed up its handling Stark’s PTSD, but I’ll talk about that later, with my own personal Greatest Disappointment of Oscar Season 2012.  I’m talking about YOU, Silver Linings Playbook

The Week in VEVO: A Painting with Your VEVO

by williedollars

If you want to just see all the newest music videos from everyone who matters, no one’s stopping you from going to VEVO.com’s music video premieres page. But if you want a different gimmick each week to add a totally unnecessary new layer of meaning to these videos, well, you’ve probably come to the only place on the internet for that.

This week: ART HISTORICALLY NOTABLE PAINTINGS TO COMPLEMENT YOUR MUSIC VIDEOS

I like to imagine the guys in the thawbs are actually Kanye, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz fresh off the set of the Mercy video, having decided sensibly to resell the car and invest the profits in Baroque paintings. But I guess you can read this photo differently too if you want to.

I like to imagine the guys in the thawbs are actually Kanye, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz fresh off the set of the Mercy video, having decided sensibly to resell the car and invest the profits in Baroque paintings. But I guess you can read this photo differently too if you want to.

Mariah Carey – #Beautiful (Explicit Version) ft. Miguel

Let’s count the ways Mariah phones it in on this song and video: 1. She lets Miguel sing the opening verse AND the chorus! 2. She makes a video that consists of absolutely nothing but her doing a little sexy dance for Miguel! 3. She obviously ad-libs the entire dance! 4. She puts a hashtag in front of the song name!

How could Mariah do this? This seems as preposterous as, I don’t know, like, the formative French impressionist painter  Édouard Manet giving up painting masterpieces like Olympia and Le déjeuner sur l’herbe to paint stalks of asparagus! Something like that would never happ–Oh, wait.

Ke$ha – Crazy Kids ft. will.i.am

Since Ke$ha’s gone RiFF RAFF-style crazy in this video, I figured it’s only appropriate to introduce her to one of modern art’s crazies, the surrealist Yves Tanguy. Why a lesser-known surrealist like Tanguy? Well, because for one thing, Crazy Kids is not as good as some of Ke$ha’s best work, just as Tanguy wasn’t as visionary as someone like Dali. However, it also seems like the song’s slowly building chorus could bounce around nicely in the otherworldly landscape of Tanguy’s Mama, Papa is Wounded! Or at least will.i.am could swim through it I guess.

Il Volo – We Are Love

Frans Hals’ Laughing Cavalier isn’t laughing at them for singing pop opera because hey man, that shit’s HUGE in Austria. He’s laughing at them for guy on the right’s outfit at 1:24.

Jessie J – WILD ft. Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal

Jessie J is a little bit too full of herself much like a certain Young British Artist who covered a platinum skull cast with a couple thousand diamonds, called it “art,” and then couldn’t find any poor sap to buy it off him for his ridiculous asking price. It’s starting to get embarrassing listening to her “show off” her voice by recklessly throwing it at whatever gratuitous power note she can find and coming up with a warble that autotune can just barely save. She does this in Domino too, but that is a much better-composed pop song than WILD, so we overlook it there. WILD simply won’t stay in my head like its predecessor, even if Jessie struts alone like a star for a full minute at the beginning of the video. Speaking of the video, Jessie is apparently surrounded by other over-inflated-ego people including the supposed artiste directing the video, Emil Nava. Dude, Emil, if you’re going to put your name in big letters at the start of the video, at least make sure it’s better than Mariah’s phone it in video from above. I’m not sure it is.

Also, I know that skull’s not a painting.

P9 – My Favorite Girl

This is apparently an up-and-coming boy band from Brazil. I’m truly sorry for having introduced you to them. There are many questions to ask about this video (like what the fuck is every person in the band except the blond kid doing?!) but I will limit my analysis to the lyrics. I don’t fault them for not speaking English as their first language, but there is literally more literal meaning in the “words” in Cy Twombly’s Blackboard Paintings than there is in the lyrics to My Favorite Girl. I don’t know how but there just is. Also, what sounds worse? Fingernails screeching across that painting or P9ers screeching the word “GIRRRRRRRRRRRRLLLL”?

Snoop Lion – Ashtrays and Heartbreaks ft. Miley Cyrus

Apparently there’s enough darkness in the world right now to make Snoop change his name and start kind-of-singing and make Miley Cyrus believe that even she is qualified to help people through their addiction issues and stuff. All these concerning revelations should indicate that the end is near, so prepare yourself by studying the work of Ad Reinhardt which reveals all the subtle little gradiations where lives, and musical careers, can go wrong.

Tyga – For The Road ft. Christ Brown

The video for the catchiest song of the week (mainly because Chris Brown is on fire right now) switches up the color palette from that last downer. The only thing to remember about this video is that while Tyga and Chris may be looking extra fly in all white and about to head to Rack City for one last “fuck for the road,” once the camera turns off and their girls are gone, they’ll look a lot more like Gilles in their white clothes, like lonely, mocked pierrots as painted by Antoine Watteau. And with that, I think I just created an unnecessary downer out of this video too! Mission accomplished for just another week in VEVO.