What do "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Lincoln" have in common? Beyond both being American Oscar hopefuls that happen to be his two favorite films of the year, A.O. Scott thinks they share something else: a "Spielbergian" quality: "Both films have been accused of painting some of the calamities of American life, past and present — poverty, slavery, racism, environmental disaster — in unduly optimistic colors.“Lincoln” and “Beasts” are radically, fundamentally and in complementary ways, about freedom... They are also examples of what, for an American filmmaker, freedom looks like." Good points all round, and also indicative of why, in my opinion, "Beasts" has a cleaner shot at a Best Picture nod than many believe it does right now. [New York Times]
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If you listened to the top 10 podcast or read through the subsequent column, you know very well what I think of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." It is perhaps for me his best work since "Jackie Brown" and easily one of the year's best films. And it's hitting screens this holiday with a lot of anticipation built-up and ready to pop. So here's your space to tell us what you thought of the film, so rifle off your take here when/if you get a chance to see it, and feel free to rate it above.
The wait is over for those heavily anticipating the transition of "Les Misérables" from stage to screen as the film hits theaters this holiday season. I'll be very interested to know how it plays for our readers. It's been a funny thing, watching such split reactions. Critics are mostly lukewarm but Academy members eat it up. I'm somewhere in the middle there. I cried a bit, cringed a bit, and mostly enjoyed the enterprise. But do tell us what you thought. And feel free to rate it above.
On the previous Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, Dan and I talked about our favorite TV shows of 2012. On today's podcast (likely our final of the year), we offered the dark side of that, with some of the worst and/or most disappointing shows of 2012, from a cross-dressing comedy everybody knew would be bad to a prestige cable drama we had such hopes for. The rundown:
"The Walking Dead" without Glen Mazzara (00:01:00 - 00:10:55)
The Worst of 2012 (00:11:00 - 01:11:00)
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
NEW YORK - Having worked in the movie industry for over 15 years, you can probably guess I've seen a lot of films. I've often been asked to attend very early screenings for highly anticipated films. Moreover, I've been lucky to attend numerous premieres in Hollywood, New York and on the festival circuit in Toronto, Telluride and Park City. I have never, however, seen a reaction to a performance in a movie theater like the euphoric response to Jennifer Hudson's turn as Effie White in "Dreamgirls." Spontaneous applause is one thing, an impromptu standing ovation during three separate premieres is something else. And, simply, nothing has ever come close...until this year. Anne Hathaway clearly doesn't have Jennifer Hudson's vocal talent, but she may give Hudson's legendary awards season a run for her money in "Les Miserables."
It was a strong year for music with artists old and new making music that resonated deeply. Below are my top 10 albums of the year along with another 10 that could have been contenders. To see my Top 10 singles, go here. My colleague Katie Hasty prepped a video package of her top albums as well. To view that, go here.
1. “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean: A striking debut from an artist who seemed to arrive fully formed. It’s not just his writing or singing or musicality, it’s also the unguarded emotion that he brings to every song. He examines love in all its forms. His influences, including Stevie Wonder and Prince, are along for the ride, but he still delivered a collection that felt unique.
2. "Babel," Mumford & Sons: Bolstered by Marcus Mumford’s furious guitar playing and Winston Chambers’ ringing banjo work, “Babel’s” tells of the search for grace and redemption are all the church you needed in 2012.
3. "Three Pears,"Dwight Yoakam: In his first album of original songs in seven years, the neo-honky tonk pioneer creates some of his most soaring, jangly melodies, referencing all of his idols, from the Beach Boys to Elvis Presley to, of course, Buck Owens. Beck produced two cuts to help get Yoakam started, but the album comes from a singular, still resonant voice and heart.
4. "Little Broken Hearts," Norah Jones: Working with Danger Mouse brought out a previously hidden recklessness and menace to Jones’ work. Sweet melodies are juxtaposed against murderous thoughts, such as on “Miriam.” It’s a stunningly dark album that covers betrayal, debilitating hurt, shame, the desire for revenge, and, ultimately, the ability to walk away, bowed but not broken.
5. "Wrecking Ball," Bruce Springsteen: The foremost chronicler of America once again sums up the current national zeitgeist in all its beauty and horror and gives voice to our hopes and fears. Full of cathartic anthems, Wrecking Ball” sets it sights on the devastation and destruction wrought on the middle class and increasingly growing lower class, by Wall Street and venomously takes prisoners.
6. "Some Nights," fun.: The trio sounds like Queen crossed with Barenaked Ladies. Each of the songs are several songs wrapped up in one, unified by Nate Ruess’s sweeping, supple vocals. From the big drums to the big melodies to the big vocals, fun. exemplified what’s best about pure pop music this year.
7. "The Carpenter," Avett Bros.: A glorious look at life and death, with the focus on death. The North Carolina brothers run the gamut of human experiences on their seventh album, a rambunctious, largely acoustic affair, with a joy and depth missing in so much of today’s music.
8. “Unorthodox Jukebox,” Bruno Mars: This would have been higher on the list if it weren’t for Mars’ occasional lapses into bitterness and misogyny on such songs as “Natalie” and “Money Make Her Smile,” but those blights are overcome by the extremely well-crafted melodies and Mars’ song craft. Leave out the tunes about the golddiggers and focus on beauties like “When I Was Your Man,” “If I Knew” and “Locked Out Of Heaven.”
9. "Looking 4 Myself," Usher: There’s really nothing Raymond Usher can’t do, whether it’s bust out a full dance or contemplate what it means to become an adult. The reflective “Looking 4 Myself” finds Usher in a thoughtful mood about love and his life, especially on the gorgeous “Climax” (just listen to his searing falsetto). His confidence as a performer leads him to an embrace of many different music styles and adventurousness missing from some of his past work. An underrated effort that will hopefully find a more appreciative audience as years pass.
10. "Red," Taylor Swift: While not an album I go back to frequently, “Red” makes the list because of the abandon and artistry Swift took when creating it. Her musical evolution since her debut six years ago is nothing less than staggering and on “Red” she exhibits a fearlessness when it comes to embracing different styles. Almost every song features drums way upfront in the mix and an aggressiveness of purpose. Sure, the singles are catchy, but album cuts such as her atmospheric duet with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and the Cranberries-like “State of Grace” are worth rooting out.
TEN OTHER ALBUMS I GREATLY ENJOYED
“A Thing Called Divine Fits,” Divine Fits
“Blunderbuss,” Jack White
“The Truth About Love,” Pink
“The Only Place,” Best Coast
“Uno,” Green Day’
“Bloom,” Beach House
Shields, Grizzly Bear
"Lonerism," Tame Impala
“Slipstream,” Bonnie Raitt
“Born and Raised,” John Mayer
What were your favorite albums of 2012?
As members of the Academy hurry through the last screeners they need to see before committing an opinion on the year's best (for those who bother trying to get as deep into the stack as possible, that is), a number of races hang in the balance as extremely tight categories are sure to leave a number of contenders feeling the sting of "also-ran" on Thursday, January 10.
Frank Ocean has released “Wisemen,” the song that he wrote for “Django Unchained” after director Quentin Tarantino, regretfully, left it out of the film.
Ocean put the song up on Tumblr with little fanfare over the weekend. Hear it here.
The song is a midtempo, atmospheric track with a hypnotic effects-laden guitar line running through it. Lyrically, Ocean sings “I bet your mother would be proud of you” over and over again as he runs through various scenarios about evil and good men and life and death in an emotional, but restrained vocal delivery.
Just as Tarentino was gracious about not using the song, telling Pitchfork, “Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it.” Ocean is similarly respectful. His only text with the song is “Django was ill without it.”
"Django Unchained" includes new music from Anthony Hamilton, John Legend and Rick Ross. Below is a gallery of Tarantino's "greatest hits" from his previous works.
What do you think of "Wisemen?"
I had thought we were done with critics' awards until the holidays subside, but the Online Film Critics Society decided to make us a Christmas present of their nominations -- or perhaps that should be a gift for "The Master," which underlined its status as a critical darling with a field-leading eight nominations. "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" were a distant second with five each.
It's a strong list, the most distinctive feature of which is a Best Picture nod for "Holy Motors," the first such citation I can recall this season. Also relatively unique: a double shot of genre fare in the Best Original Screenplay category, with "The Cabin in the Woods" joining the more frequently cited "Looper"; David Cronenberg's slavishly faithful "Cosmopolis" screenplay scoring in the adapted race, and foreign-language nod for Oscar-shortlisted doc "This Is Not A Film."
Check out the full list below and, of course, at The Circuit.
Happy Monday, folks, and an early Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it.
I'm taking the next week off to spend some time with the family, rest, recuperate, and prepare myself for the onslaught of new shows coming up in early 2013.
There'll be a bit of new content from me during the week, including a pre-recorded Firewall & Iceberg Podcast later today where Dan and I talk about some of our least favorite shows of 2012, plus some galleries I co-wrote looking back at some big TV stories of 2012 and forward at some potentially big stories of 2013.
Have fun, stay safe, be good to each other, and I'll see you either on New Year's Eve day, or else right after the new year, as I start packing up for the winter TV critics press tour.