Search Box

Links to Culture Cafe Episodes!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Year In Music (2014)

December is a magical time. It's when we all put aside our differences and celebrate the majesty of things that we most enjoyed throughout the year. 

In that spirit, let's not waste a beat; here's the music that I liked in 2014.

 Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else


Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

 Spoon - They Want My Soul


 Jack White - Lazaretto


The Antlers - Familiars


 Wye Oak - Shriek


Brian Eno and Karl Hyde - High Life


The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream


 Flying Lotus - You're Dead!


 clipping. - CLPPNG


Caribou - Our Love


 Manon meurt - Manon meurt


Strand of Oaks - Heal


Ariel Pink - Pom Pom


 Run The Jewels - RTJ2


Perfect Pussy - Say Yes To Love


tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack


 FKA twigs - LP1


Todd Terje - It's Album Time


 Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal


Perfume Genius - Too Bright


Mac DeMarco - Salad Days


Real Estate - Atlas


 Lykke Li - I Never Learn


St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Dum Dum Girls - Too True

Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else 

Macross 82-99 - Sailorwave
(This technically came out last year December 31st... so...)

Cibo Matto - Hotel Valentine

ceo - Wonderland

Kishi Bashi - Lighght
Taylor Swift - 1989
(It was a strong pop album, but the lyrics prevent me from rating it too highly) 

What's on your list this year?


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Film: Jurassic World Trailer

Finals are here, so there's not been much for me to do these last couple of days. I've managed to avoid spontaneous combustion by maintaining a few scraps of busywork here and there but it's mostly negligible things.

Having said that, I figure this would be an appropriate time for me to discuss something that hopefully many of us are looking forward to: the return of two classic franchises in both Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode VII.

Let's start with Jurassic World. In the unlikely event that you haven't seen the trailer, please take a minute to do so now. Short as it is, I think there's quite a bit to digest.

One of the first things I'm terribly pleased about is, first-timers to the franchise, director/co-writer Collin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly. Their previous film Safety Not Guaranteed which Connolly wrote, and Trevorrow directed and produced, was a tremendous film that I think speaks to why they would be suited to take over this franchise. Without spoiling much, the concept of Safety Not Guaranteed stems from a joke ad that achieved internet fame in the late 90s.* Here's the ad in case you've forgotten it:

It spawned a wide range of memes often pairing the ad with a humorous and unflattering shot of an unidentified individual. In Safety it plays central to the plot, which takes place in a universe where the ad is not a joke but has been placed by a man who believes himself to be capable of time travel. So how does this relate to Jurassic World? Quite a bit in fact.

Let's think about the original Jurassic Park for a minute to to answer this. The leap is that man was able to recreate dinosaur through genetic chicanery. That's a big leap too. Science has long since dismissed the foundation of the novel and film as being impossible by virtue of the fact that DNA simply doesn't survive that long.** It turns out this really didn't matter though. People voraciously read through the books - as did I at the tender dinosaur loving age of 10. The movie took people by storm, and with but a quick scan of lists is often considered one of the greatest films of all time, certainly one of the more notable ones. It didn't matter that it couldn't happen. What mattered is that the story was interesting, had a great cast, and was of course visually dynamic. The CG definitely helped, but once you take note of the fact that out of 127 minutes, 6 have dino-CG and 14 total feature dinosaurs at all, it becomes a different story.

Safety Not Guaranteed takes a huge leap as well, but I contend that much like Jurassic Park, it's not the point, nor really is it the gamble. The gamble is trusting the story and characters to make the leap as seamlessly as possible. The dialogue was fantastic in Safety Not Guaranteed, the characters felt like more than cardboard cutouts, each of whom dealt with their own personal conflicts over the course of the runtime. That it dealt it with a man proposing time travel played second fiddle to the real point of the film.

This of course brings me back to Jurassic World. I can place trust in Trevorrow/Connolly to create a sense of purpose for these characters beneath the veneer of a shiny new dinosaur inhabited park. Much like the first (and best so far) entry in the series, it will rely on more than a gimmick to make it memorable. This is course is evidenced by the supreme lack of plot and nearly pointless characters introduced in the forgettable Jurassic Park III.

So what else makes me excited about this movie? I think the plot so far as we know is more clever than people are giving it credit for. From what has been revealed the movie involves a working theme park set twenty two years after the events of the first film. From what the director has stated the park is fully operational yet interest has slowly declined in recent years. This results in the geneticists being tasked with creating a brand new hybrid dinosaur. By the way, that's the new leap.

It's humorous to me that people would be upset about this at all. I'm reminded of a Kumail Nanjiani joke wherein he rhapsodizes about a stray cat that tries repeatedly to enter his house. At one point the cat comes dressed in a pizza delivery outfit and proclaims it's from "Meowminoes," to which Kumail says, "...So we had it put down." The audience groans but he soaks up their reaction following with, "Really? At what point did you believe that story tale? Meowminoes made sense to you?" That's how I feel about people reacting negatively to the news about a hybrid dinosaur. A fully operational dinosaur park visited by tens of thousands daily, and you groan about a hybrid dinosaur? I propose that the hybrid dinosaur is precisely why this plot is clever.

Again we need the first movie real quick to help with my point. I believe it was as much a commentary on the state of computer generated graphics as it was an adventurous good time. Such a thing hadn't existed before Jurassic Park and as a result of its triumph CG dominated movies have become increasingly common. That's where Jurassic World has had trouble. It had been in development for many years, and some versions of the script that leaked along the way included mechanized dino-soldier hybrids.*** So what could World do when Park had already been there - quite successfully as well? You change the commentary to adapt the attitude. When people were blown away by the CG dinosaurs, it would be equally as accurate to say that people were blown by the CG. In Jurassic World the attractions are commonplace and people are accustomed to it much in the way that modern audiences live in a world where CG is commonplace and the fantastic no longer exists solely in dreams. I feel this is the purpose that the hybrid, allegedly D-Rex, serves.

Audiences are bored so we've got to shake things up by making a brand new dinosaur. 

That's really clever because as a statement it exists both within and without the universe of the movie.

That having been said, how cool was that trailer!?


* For more on that check out the Know Your Meme article, which is actually quite detailed.
** Darn science. It seems it's only about 521 years for DNA to hit its half-life
*** ILM has since denied that these were 'official' part of JP4's (as it was called then) production. But given that hybridization is a part of this plot, I'd be willing to be it wasn't far off.