Sunday, December 24, 2017

Best of the Year 2017: Song

Kendrick Lamar

I know that "HUMBLE." gets all the attention, but "ELEMENT." is just as good and the music video is underrated.

No Joy

The dreamscape of No Joy's Creep EP are wonderful. You should check them out.

Marilyn Manson

I overlooked this lyrical monster on the first few listens of Heaven Upside Down, but then I realized the sound and texture made it the best on the album.

"Second Sleep"
The New Pornographers

This is a glimpse of the future (listen to it with headphones).

"Creature Comfort"
Arcade Fire

A simple song about the vanity of suicide, but so sonically optimistic.


Honorable Mention: "Love and Sex"
Prince and the Revolution

Though not recorded anywhere near 2017 (even though the beat seems new), this song finally saw the remastered release it deserved. What a jam!

Honorable Mention: "Other Ways to Get to the Same Place"
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Though lyricless, this masterful score moment for Ken Burns' Vietnam War draws a bleak landscape of mind and conflict. Man, that sentence sounded pretentious...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Edge of Human (Blade Running Blues)

[Semi-spoiler-free review of Blade Runner 2049]
  • Replicants are bioengineered humans, designed by Tyrell corporation for use off-world. Their enhanced strength made them ideal slave labor.
  • After a series of violent rebellions, their manufacture became prohibited and Tyrell corp went bankrupt.
  • The collapse of ecosystems in the mid 2020s led to the rise of the industrialist Niander Wallace, whose mastery of synthetic farming averted famine.
  • Wallace acquired the remains of Tyrell corp and created a new line of replicants who obey.
  • Many older model replicants - Nexus 8s with open-ended lifespans - survived. They are hunted down and 'retired'.
  • Those that hunt them still go by the name... Blade Runner

It’s a very quiet movie. The score is used sparingly and there are long pauses in dialog. The theater (surprisingly packed) is filled with occasional coughs. Loud coughs, small coughs, short coughs from the front, from behind, from the side. I imagine a plague, a superflu that starts slowly. The human race is always weak against slow builds--they never forsee a creeping doom.

I thoroughly enjoy seeing a movie spoiler-free. I do watch much-awaited movie trailers, but not too close to the release date. I loathe early reviews... those critics and starving writers wanting their opinion to be the first.

I remember 1998’s fated Godzilla big budget blockbuster. The early movie trailers avoided showing the monster’s full face and figure. Eventually, as summer came and the movie premiered, the face and body were no longer a spoiler. I remember feeling spoiled when I saw the full lizard, because I didn’t see the movie until it was on VHS. Now, I shield my eyes from TV teasers, so I can go in pure, unfettered. I’m thinking, “maybe I can outguess the director and discover the plot using my Holmesian powers”. Usually, I am surprised and pleased to see a movie unfold different from my dreams. And this happened for Blade Runner 2049.

A few days before I saw BR49, I went to the Wikipedia article on it to look up a character name. For some reason, I had to know what Ryan Gosling was doing in this film. And, to my dismay, I thought I had seen too much. The next morning in bed, I woke up with an epiphany to the plot. I knew the director (Denis Villeneuve) had a penchant for plot twists, and I believed we were going to get a “twin” event. If you’ve ever seen his Enemy, you’ll know where my head was:

I dreamed up a movie where Ryan Gosling was playing both a replicant and a human. Each scene with a Gosling would jump between the human and the copy character. They looked and sounded the same, but one was real and the other was manufactured. We wouldn’t find out until the end that there were two characters on the clock. It seemed very Villeneuvien to me, so I went with it. But, to my joy I was totally wrong. That dream-movie would make a great sequel to what I witnessed in 2049.

The Harrison Ford and “Rachel” scenes were the least interesting in the film. But I guess there were old fans to placate. A CGI Sean Young seemed tacked-on. What I’m impressed by is new sci-fi ideas. Novel ideas thrown onto the screen like:
  • A portable hologram girlfriend that can be erased forever (just like a real one)
  • Farming synthetically (replicant animals that humans eat?)
  • A terrorist attack, deleting all cloud data
  • Memory fabrication
  • Nuclear Vegas
If it were to be compared to the 1992 or even 1982 version of the original, I would say ‘49 has 90% less Asian influence with 80% more detective work.

I remember bleak silence. Silence (with no coughing plague).

The only thing I distinctly remember from the PKD novel (Androids/Sleep) is the ending. I was on a plane to somewhere, reading in my seat. At the end of the book, Decker is outside of the city and he finds a toad. He believes it is the real thing and it uplifts him immensely. He goes on thinking that for several pages, but in the end, it turns out to be synthetic.

Movies watched in 2020

Here's my annual list. I beat 2019 by about 60 . I stopped tracking TV series, too. The only films I saw in theaters were: Star Wars IX,...