Thursday, February 20, 2014

2013 Recap: Music

2013 albums by order of enjoyment:


Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
Tegan & Sara - Heartthrob
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get...
Chvrches had the highest highs, and the album's lows were really only changes of pace to set you up for the next hot track. Tegan & Sara's turn toward pop was brilliant, and that album is all killer no filler. We've dissected VW already - majority killer and a smattering of filler. Neko Case again produced an album that was ranked in the top ten of many year-end lists; she continues to meet already high expectations.


Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse
I didn't buy the QOTSA album until an after-Xmas sale, so I haven't digested it much. But what I have digested has been very kind to my bowels, to carry the analogy to a needless and grotesque place. The 2nd and 3rd most appreciated Scottish albums I heard this year have some great moments -- Franz's "The Universe Expanded" might be my favorite songwriting of the year

Hmm. Huh?

Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium
I was a firm "No" on Reflektor, until I found that I could buy it for $4, and then found that I wasn't charged $4 due to an Amazon mix-up. So can I hate a free record? Probably, but not this one. The songs are all too long - every one of them - and I still prefer my Arcade Fire shouting to dancing. I mean, this is the first album of theirs I'd probably want to listen to while I cleaned the house. But it's mostly fine. And "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" is the kind of song I hope to again hear from U2 soon.

Okkervil's newest is a good album sprinkled with horrible tracks. "Stay Young" and "All the Time Every Day" are so bad that I find myself avoiding the entire CD. Yes, I bought the CD. Sometimes I listen to music in the form of CDs.


Dodos - Carrier
Polyphonic Spree - Yes, It's True
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito
Alpine - A is for Alpine

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

2013 Recap - Film

Here's what yours truly thought about the year in cinema, from most enjoyed to least enjoyed. (*Denotes theater viewing, and the increased expectations that come with it.)

Gravity (3D, IMAX)*

There’s been a lot of chatter about the disliked backstory of Sandra Bullock’s character, and overanalysis of the film’s scientific merit. The discussion should revolve around (GET IT???) its immersive awesomeness. The term “non-stop thrill ride” gets tossed around a lot, but if ever there was a true use for it, it’s the real-time plot of Gravity. Plus, this was the first film I saw in 3D that didn’t make me wish I’d saved the extra few bucks in exchange for a 2D experience.

Fast 6*

The Fast and Furious sequels continue to be the greatest running series of comedy films since the revered Police Academy franchise. Yes, it’s absurd that a street racing series has morphed into a bunch of heist films, but that’s what makes them so great. Ludacris is a gadget expert, like James Bond’s Q? Okay, sure! Vin Diesel can scheme and charm better than Clooney’s Daniel Ocean? Yeah he can! You get all of the great action sequences of a Bond film, and you laugh far more than you would during Mission Impossible or Ocean’s Eleven.

This is the End*

The closing sequence was the most memorable, but I thought they did a great job of making me chuckle throughout.


Whoa, developers in the future are terrible at beta testing! Haha, but seriously folks, Her is an enjoyable and provoking thought experiment about what we need from our relationships, and how our relationships are always evolving. It makes you crave yet another viewing of the thematically similar Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which still totally holds up, and in an unfair comparison, totally blows Her out of the water. Also thematically similar: that episode of Futurama where Fry constantly makes out with his Lucy Liu robot.

The Heat

Quite formulaic, but my funnybone was very much tickled.

Thor: The Dark World*
Star Trek Into Darkness*

Both were okay action sequels. Both had problems. Star Trek played around too much with recycled plots from its Shatner/Nemoy years. It also had two very frustrating moments. First, the whole goddamned spaceship needlessly falls directly on San Francisco, forcing me to think about all the innocent life forms that were just plowed to death. (Had I seen Man Of Steel, I’m sure I’d be making a similar complaint with it.) JJ Abrams couldn’t have plopped that thing down on a sparsely trafficked Bay Bridge or something? Second, while Khan was making a run for it, he took a moment to grab a duster jacket from the back of a chair. No reason, really. I suppose he could have been chilly given that cloudy San Fran weather. More likely, Abrams wanted him to have a cape-looking thing flapping along behind him as he ran. Stupid. That jacket must have slowed the superhuman down enough so that Spock could catch up to him.

But what I really get annoyed by in both these films is how the villain was defeated. In both cases (and in The Dark Knight Rises, and in every Superman movie ever), the hero hit the villain a lot with no success, then got really mad, then hit him again WITH ATTITUDE to defeat him. At least Thor had some scientific help to dispatch his bad guy; Spock was nothing but fists of fury (and a little help from a phaser set on stun).

Iron Man 3*

I thought the middle of the movie was the best part, with the adorable child sidekick and Adam Pally’s newsvan cameo. It’s maddening when he blows up all the Iron Men outfits at the end. What a huge waste! Couldn’t those be used in local bomb squads or something? The least you could do is recycle the metal in those things!

Pacific Rim*

Pacific Rim was definitely a movie about giant robot-thingys fighting giant alien monsters. It delivered on that, for sure, so it met my expectations. My main complaint is that it was sometimes too dark (literally dark, not “grim”) to see exactly how a robot was fighting a monster. Bump up the brightness and contrast in that CGI next time, del Toro!

All Is Lost*

It would be interesting to know how much acclaim this movie would have had if it was released before Gravity, since it’s basically Gravity At Sea. (If you would like its Neil DeGrasse Tyson equivalent, the Sailing Anarchy forum has got ya covered!) I mean, critics like it, but maybe everybody (including me) would like it even more? I’d like to see two alternate versions of All is Lost: 1.> Redford breaks the fourth wall and says a bunch of kooky phrases to the camera, like, “Here we go again!” and “Gimme a break!”; 2.> Redford swears a blue streak during every hardship. This movie only has, like, one half of a swear word! I curse more than that just going through my mail.

The World’s End*

I understand why there was a sci-fi twist, but I thought the movie was going great and didn’t need it. All the subsequent action cut down on the laffs.

American Hustle*

A hundred and thirty-eight minutes! David O Russell, I’ve heard of a LONG CON, but this is ridiculous! LOLOLOLOL. What an extremely well-acted ensemble piece! What delightful cleavage! What a snooze! Man, I could not wait for this movie to end. It’s like some handcrafted antique turquoise lamp that I understand is very valuable but find too ugly to display in my living room. Or it’s not like that at all? Some other analogy?

Frances Ha

This is basically a movie about why I’m glad I don’t date in New York City, or maybe why I'm glad I'm not involved in NYC social life. Filmed in black & white, directed by Noah Baumbach, featuring a plot about a modern dancer, yet this happily falls short of my line of pretentiousness. And Greta Gerwig falls well above my line of good acting.

Warm Bodies*

Whoa, it sure has been a long time since we hit the theater for this thing. It was cute, I guess. You know when the boy zombie has his human love interest in the airplane cabin, and he’s trying to stop her from crying? He puts on a record - it’s Guns N Roses! But wait, he’s spinning “Patience” from the Lies album? Why didn’t he bust out “Don’t Cry” from Use Your Illusion?? Or “Don’t Cry (Alternate lyrics)” from Use Your Illusion II??!?!?!?!? ZOMBIE DJ FAIL.

The Way Way Back*

The movie begins, and the family is headed to the beach in a 1970 Buick station wagon. The kid sings along to REO Speedwagon. Kids at the water park breakdance. Kids carry landline headsets out to the porch to have more private conversations. This was obviously meant to be a 1980s period piece, but was jarringly set in modern times, probably because of a small budget. So that was pretty confusing. And then the kid’s sudden rise from zero to hero was also confusing and seemingly unearned.

The Great Gatsby (3D)*

I’ll be a new parent in 2014, so I’ll certainly see fewer new movies. And when I’m at home, listening to a baby cry instead of watching the latest 3D extravaganza, I will be so happy that I didn’t waste $15 on garbage like Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

This is barely a movie. I found my mind wandering, thinking about all the work that went into making this thing that could have been better spent on anything else. It’s fun to see Michael Cera act like a bigger a-hole than he was in This is the End, but that’s all.

2013 movies I still want to see and think I’ll like:

Anchorman 2
The To Do List
The Spectacular Now
In A World

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rock Shows

Again, updating the list of concerts I attended. Either I can't remember any of 2009 or it was a slow year.

High School Era (1993-1997)
Pearl Jam / Urge Overkill - Century II Convention Hall, Wichita, November 24, 1993

Winger / Blackfish - West Bank Stage, Wichita

Collective Soul - Kansas Coliseum, Wichita

Green Day - Cotillion Ballroom, Wichita, November 16, 1994

MU330, Cotillion Ballroom, Wichita, November 22, 1995 (Free tickets!)

Bush / Goo Goo Dolls / No Doubt - Kansas Coliseum, Wichita, March 6, 1996

Foo Fighters / Ween - Cotillion Ballroom, Wichita, April 21, 1996

Lollapalooza: Metallica / Soundgarten, Longview Lake, KC, June 27, 1996

T-95 Oz Fest: Spin Doctors / Sponge - Sedgwick County Park, Wichita, August 23-24, 1996

Smashing Pumpkins - Kansas Coliseum, Wichita, August 31, 1996

Stone Temple Pilots / Cheap Trick - Kansas Coliseum, Wichita, May 13, 1997

Undergraduate Era (1997-2001)

U2 / Smash Mouth - Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, October 29, 1997

U2 / Third Eye Blind - TWA Dome, St. Louis, November 8, 1997

Third Eye Blind / Space Monkeys - Cotillion Ballroom, Wichita, February 6, 1998

H.O.R.D.E. Fest: Smashing Pumpkins / Blues Traveler / Ben Harper / Barenaked Ladies -  Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Oklahoma City, July 15, 1998

Cake / Ben Folds Five / Jude - Starlight Theater, Kansas City, June 2, 1999

Postgraduate Era (2001-2003)

Weezer - Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Saint Paul, September 20, 2001

Ben Folds (w/ full band) / Citizen Cope - First Avenue, Minneapolis, October 4, 2001

Travis / Remy Zero - Historic State Theater, Minneapolis, October 13, 2001

Bob Dylan - Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, October 25, 2001

Ben Folds (solo) / Divine Comedy - First Avenue, Minneapolis, February 26, 2002

Ben Folds (solo) / Duncan Sheik - First Avenue, Minneapolis, November 22, 2002

Tom Petty / Jackson Browne - Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, December 9, 2002

They Might Be Giants / Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players / Dave Eggers
- Fitzgerald Theater, Saint Paul, October 24, 2002

Single Young Professional Era (2003-2007)

Rufus Wainwright / Joan as Policewoman (instead of Shannon McNally) - Liberty Hall, Lawrence, February 23, 2004

Guster / Ben Folds (solo) / Gavin DeGraw - City Market, Kansas City, July 17, 2004

Secret Machines / Moving Units / Autolux - Bottleneck, Lawrence, February 10, 2005

Modest Mouse / Mason Jennings - Uptown Theater, Kansas City, February 22, 2005

Fiery Furnaces - Bottleneck, Lawrence, April 20, 2005

The Shins / The Brunettes - Liberty Hall, Lawrence, May 8, 2005

Rilo Kiley - Granada, Lawrence, May 11, 2005

Mates of State Granada, September 27, 2005

Animal Liberation Orchestra, Bottleneck, Lawrence, November 7, 2005 (Tagging along!)

Aimee Mann - Liberty Hall, Lawrence, January 29, 2006

Day on the Hill: Spoon / Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - KU Campus, April 8, 2006

Nickel Creek / Matt Pond PA - Liberty Hall, Lawrence, April 14, 2006

Tilly and the Wall - Bottleneck, Lawrence, July 16, 2006

Secret Machines / Death Cab for Cutie / Keane / Mates of State / Broken Social Scene (Bleeding Kansas Festival) - Burcham Park, Lawrence, August 5, 2006

The Shins / Viva Voce - Liberty Hall, Lawrence, February 12, 2007

Tapes 'n Tapes / Chuck Klosterman - Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, February 23, 2007

Neko Case - Liberty Hall, Lawrence, April 6, 2007

Love and Marriage, No Kids Era (2007-2014)

The Polyphonic Spree - Gothic Theater, Englewood CO, July 22, 2007

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Granada August 1, 2007

Arcade Fire Starlight Theater, September 28, 2007

Polyphonic Spree / Rooney - Granada, October 20, 2007

New Pornographers / Immaculate Machine - Liberty Hall, November 4, 2007

Fleet Foxes - Bowery Ballroom, NYC, October 5, 2008

Tom Petty / Steve Winwood - Sprint Center, KC, July 22, 2008

Spoon - Liberty Hall, April 20, 2008

Tilly and the Wall - Granada, June 27, 2009

New Pornographers / The Dodos - Liberty Hall, July 26, 2010

Rogue Wave / Midlake - Granada, September 19, 2010

Menomena - Bottleneck, October 12, 2010

Dodos - Record Bar, March 21, 2011

An Horse - Jackpot Saloon, September 24, 2011

We Were Promised Jetpacks / Bad Veins / New Cassettes - Riot Room, March 20, 2012

Polyphonic Spree - Granada, May 12, 2012

Hospitality - Jackpot Saloon, June 8, 2012

Stars / Diamond Rings / California Wives - Bottleneck, October 9, 2012

CHVRCHES - Granada, June 7, 2013

Mates of State - Frank’s North Star Tavern, July 30, 2013

Postal Service / Mates of State - Midland Theater, July 31, 2013

Franz Ferdinand - Granada, October 7, 2013

Neko Case - Liberty Hall, October 15, 2013