Posts Tagged ‘music’

tltweek67

“Just sing,” they tell him. “You’re only an entertainer and it’s not your job to talk about these things.”

But he has seen what comes of silence.


This is for Three Line Tales. Thanks to Sonya for running the challenge and Paulette Wooten for providing the prompt photo!

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He is marooned, a castaway in a desert of cement and steel, his old life little more than a blur of vague memory. He has no wallet, no cash, no cards.

His fingers dance over the guitar strings, subtle and gentle. The notes that emerge are like nothing that anyone here has ever heard before: an elemental wave of sound that reverberates over the paving stones.

He closes his eyes – the ones that seem green or blue or purple depending on how the light hits them – and listens to the dancing notes, feeling them in his soul, their rise and fall.

This he thinks, is the only way I can survive in this world of theirs. 

He opens his lips. The song that springs forth is like the first flowers of spring.

Coins and bills fall into his bag as he plays on.

He will not starve tonight.


Word Count: 148

This is for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Thanks to Priceless Joy for running the challenge and Sunayana MoiPensieve for providing the prompt photo!

Our Top 5 Movies of 2016!

Posted: January 2, 2017 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
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Welp, it’s that time of year again. Fuck the Oscars, I’m sure everyone is just dying to know what two WordPress hacks thought of the year in film. So let’s get right to it, shall we?

Jaden’s Picks

Welp, 2016 sucked politically and celebrities-you-love-not-dying-ly, but it did not suck in film. While last time around we were struggling to come up with just five movies for this list, (J.A. Prentice resorted to listing The Force Awakens fifth, which he has grown to hate) this year I’m gonna have to add three honorable mentions. And while all five of my top movies are great, the top three are almost interchangeable. Those three blew me away with their ambition, skill, and vision.

Honorable Mentions:

10 Cloverfield Lane was the first movie I saw in theatres this year, and it remained in my top ten the entire way. You can, unfortunately, tell right where the original script ends and the tacked on Cloverfield tie-in begins. But hey, that tie-in is only a few minutes long and the first 95% is a stunning piece of small-scale yet intense filmmaking.

I just got back from Oscar-frontrunner La La Land and, while I wasn’t blown away by it, particularly the much-gushed-over ending, but it’s still an extremely impressive product. The sheer technical skill behind the set pieces is something to marvel over. And you can just go ahead and pencil in “Emma Stone” on that award for Best Actress.

And continuing the music theme, rounding out my honorable mentions is Sing Street. Actually, Sing Street and La La Land have a lot of similarities. A wistful yearning for bygone decades, passionate, exuberant set pieces, and optimism in bunches. Both movies will want to make you write, or sing, or dance, or shoot a movie. Though this one may also leave you with a craving for, uh, whatever they eat in Ireland. Potato stew?

Now on to the even better stuff:

5: Zootopia

What Zootopia does is simple yet incredibly inspirational. I want to say  “it’s a kid’s movie that doesn’t treat its audience like children” but that would be misleading. I’m not sold on it being a kid’s movie at all. First and foremost, it is an allegory. A noir mystery told through colorful anthropomorphised animals because that’s just how allegories work. They make you think about subjects you don’t want to think about by presenting them in a less scary way. So it’s really just as much a kid’s movie as Animal Farm. Sure, there’s jokes here and there to keep the kiddos happy, but the lessons taught here, this plead for peace and acceptance, is meant to hit the parents.

4: Edge of Seventeen

Some people had Batman V. Superman as their most-anticipated movie of the year. Others, Captain America: Civil War. Me? Edge of Seventeen.

OK, so I didn’t search upcoming movies at the end of 2015 and go “ooh! A teen comedy! I HAVE to see that!” My anticipation came from seeing the red-band trailer for this movie pop up on Hulu and laughing out loud three or four times. That never happens. And so, when the reviews of the whole thing come in glowing, my hype levels went to eleven.

And it absolutely delivered. There’s a sneakiness to this movie’s charm. It crept up on me, so that while the movie was actually going I was thinking “this is good, but not good good.” And then it was just about to end and I realized I was grinning just about as wide as a cynical curmudgeon-in-training can grin. It put me in a fantastic mood for the rest of that night and the day after. It won’t end up as quotable as, say, Mean Girls, but it lands with much more power. Go ahead and pencil in Hailiee Steinfeld on that award for Best Actress.

3: Arrival

Man, I LOVED this movie, and yet, it’s “only” number three. Shorter write up for this one, it’s the only movie on here I feel is easily spoiled.

Arrival takes the good parts of The Martian and Interstellar and does away with all their failings. If you haven’t had it spoiled for you, just know it pulls off an incredible act of writing and editing. If you’ve had it spoiled, know that it may be even better when you know what’s happening.  Go ahead and pencil in Amy Adams on that award for Best Actress.

2: Kubo and the Two Strings

If it weren’t for one, count it, one, problem I have with this movie, it would be my favorite of the year and possibly one of my favorite animated movies of all time. It’ll have to settle for simply being a stunning tour de force. Oh well.

Kubo is magical. It’s thrilling, it’s heart-wrenchingly sad, it’s touching, it’s awe-inspiring, it, even more than Zootopia, seeks to tear down the constructs of what animated movies can and can not be. So many people talk about animation as a lesser form. “It was good, as far as animated movies go.” “I don’t wanna watch a cartoon, I wanna watch something more serious.” I dare anyone with that to watch Kubo and come out the other side retaining that mentality.

1: The Witch

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Some people will say “eh it wasn’t scary.” And, I guess if you just wanna jump in your seat, fine. The Witch won’t do the trick. But if you want to be blown away by near-impossible feats of acting and writing, or are sick of every horror or historical fiction movie just not delivering anything new for you, then this is a must watch. Because The Witch is both the best horror movie and the best historical fiction I’ve seen in years. Maybe ever.

Still not convinced? OK, I’ll put it this way: The film, which follows a puritan family living in the middle of nowhere, New England being attacked by a supernatural, demonic entity, was endorsed by both the Catholic church and the Church of Satan. I shit you not.

As a historical fiction, it perfectly captures the loneliness and eerie, silent terror of an early settler of the New World. You feel claustrophobic watching it. You want to see civilization. A building, a car, anything. It depicts devout faith neither as an all-healing antidote to suffering nor a fool’s errand. The questions it provokes are relevant both to a  17th-century Puritan and a certain 21st-century atheist.

As a horror movie, it has this unnerving, uneasy tension that slowly winds and winds and winds without giving you a release. Its spell does not leave when the credits are finished. I’m not sure if it will ever wear off on me. The fact that this movie even exists is a miracle.

Oh, and pencil in Anya-Taylor Joy on that award for Best Actress.

J.A.’s picks:

Nine Lives, starring Kevin Spacey as a talking cat, was the bestest thing I’ve ever seen. 11/10.

(The above was the placeholder my esteemed co-blogger and author of the Revenant without DiCaprio, Jaden C. Kilmer, left for me to replace on the post, but I didn’t have the heart to remove such a work of art. It will remain even though it was supposed to be temporary, like the Eiffel Tower but less French.)

I’d also like to retroactively change The Force Awakens on my previous list to Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, because that was a much better movie.

Okay, now onto my 2016 top films list, which is less complete than my 2015 one because I still haven’t seen Rogue One. Let’s see if I can make it through the whole post without accidentally calling last year 2015. Or 2011.

Honorable Mentions:

Star Trek Beyond is the best Star Trek film since First Contact, has a Kirk that actually feels like Kirk, and is generally a fantastic film. However, a weak villain undercuts it just enough that it can’t beat out the really tough competition it had this year. It is a genuinely great film, though, and I’d really advise watching it if you’re a Star Trek fan.

Captain America: Civil War does a fair better job with the concept of superhero battle film than the other film this year that attempted that. It had well-developed character, consistent motivations, and intense emotional stakes. I loved it.

Doctor Strange is visually beautiful and breaks out of the Marvel mold a little. Cumberbatch, Swinton, and Ejiofor give great performances and the treatment of magic is excellent. It doesn’t lean too heavily on Marvel’s sprawling cinematic universe or undercut its own story to serve the needs of some other films (*cough* Guardians of the Galaxy *cough*). Highly recommended.

5: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I struggled between this and Doctor Strange, which I felt was more visually impressive, but Fantastic Beasts won out for me. It does a great job expanding on the harry Potter universe without feeling like a prequel or a spin-off. It feels like something that could believably happen in the same world rather than a derivative story. It builds something new while still relying on the old. I think bringing in Rowling to write the script was an excellent move. In the hands of another writer, the movie could easily have become an attempt to imitate Harry Potter instead of being its own beast. A fantastic one. And, like my number one choice, it dealt with major issues in American society through subtle allegory without ever becoming preachy.

Going in, I wondered “Are five films really necessary?” Going out, I thought “Yes. Yes, they are.

4: Moana

Disney is really on a roll recently and Moana is no exception. It’s a great film in the long tradition of Disney Princess movies, though drawing from a culture on the other side of the globe. It had great music, great characters, and a great climax. I personally don’t find it as amazing as Frozen, which is a really amazing film, but I enjoyed it a great deal.

3: Kubo and the Two Strings

Okay, Jaden got here first and said what I was going to say. Damn him and his similar taste in films. This movie was visually beautiful, well-acted, and emotionally powerful.

Despite this year being terrible for such boring things as human civilization, it was a fantastic one for animated movies.

2: Arrival

The SPOILERS. I also like hard science fiction and the clever linguistic stuff, but… SPOILERS. I can’t even give a proper review because I have to avoid mentioning SPOILERS. SPOILERS is really good.

Watch it so I can tell you what I think. Go. Watch it now!

1: Zootopia

Disney released a powerful statement on race relations in modern day America and cleverly disguised it with a pair of bunny ears.

I wasn’t looking forward to Zootopia very much when I first heard of it. The trailers seemed to reinforce my initial perceptions of “cute animal movie with no real depth” – see 90% of the movies that the not-Disney/Pixar studios release – and I thought that it would be, at best, fun and forgettable. I was wrong. I was very wrong. This movie stuck with me all year. It was incredible, tackling so many problems of modern society without ever being too overt or too preachy, which is a really difficult line to walk. It wasn’t afraid to get dark and serious, despite being an animated movie with talking animals. It’s incredibly clever and heartfelt, never going in for morally simplistic Saturday Morning Cartoon lessons. Zootopia is the movie America needs, especially now.

I reserve the right to change all these rankings on a whim because I’ll probably end up regretting at least one of these choices. Because that’s the sort of person I am. 

Also, my Oscar sheet is now a mess because I pencilled a bunch of names under Best Actress and nothing under anything else. Thanks, Jaden. 

How Galavant Subverts Disney’s Formula

Posted: November 16, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
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Galavant is the best show you’ve never seen. Let’s just get that out there. This wonderfully strange and silly musical/fairy tale/satire went quietly into the night after two seasons on ABC, but mark my damn words it will have a resurgence somewhere in some medium in the next five years. It’s too good to die for good.

Created by Dan Fogelman (director of Tangled) with music and lyrics done by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (who worked on every movie of your childhood, most notably Aladdin) this parody of Disney musicals comes from a place of personal experience. They know exactly how Disney musicals are supposed to work, and exactly how to twist the structure for max hilarity.

Also, this gives me a chance to revisit one of my favorite pieces I’ve done for this blog: A WAY too in-depth Breakdown of Disney Songs.

Briefly recapping that article: Almost every Disney song ever belongs to one of four categories and appears in this order: The Exposition Song, the I Want Song, the Wake Up the Kids Song, and the Love Duet. 

 

For brevity’s sake, I want to focus on ways Galavant reverses the I Want Song and the Love Duet to humourous effect.

You know how the first song after the opening number in every Disney musical has the princess sing about her hopes and goals?

“I Want much more than this provincial life/I want adventure in this great wide somewhere”

“Do you wanna build a snowman?”

“I wanna be where the people are/I wanna see ’em dancing”

Well, Galavant gives the I Want Song to the villainous King Richard. The result: A slew of unexpectedly PG-13 images that pretty much sum up how I feel most cackling villains really feel.

I want to shoot him with a crossbow/I want to stab him in the eye/I want to liberate his head from his neck and then punt the bloody wreck sky high”

And the delightfully bloody lyrics come accompanied by a major-key waltz that sounds nice and happy. Fit more for a princess than the evil king.

I want to hurl him out a window/and shove explosives where the sun don’t shine.”

Perhaps giving their villain the I Want Song was carefully planned rather than a simple reversal. As the show unfolds, King Richard emerges as the central character, even more so than the title character and Prince Charming stand-in. The show ends up being about his journey. And I’m sure that was planned from the start, because these Disney experts intentionally gave him the I Want Song.

Next up: the Love Duet.

Let’s get real for a moment. The Love Duet is usually the song that doesn’t hold up. They’re typically too sweet, too perfect, too groan-inducing. And Glenn Slater is well aware of this. In “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever” the Love Duet gets flipped completely on its head and turned into a passive-aggressiveness competition instead, with two separate pairs of love interests exchanging insults and disparaging remarks.

“You’re worse than crabs/worse than scurvy/worse than lice or plague/but truth be told/you’re growing on me just like mold”

“You’re utterly disgusting/I loathe your manly stink/I see your mouth start moving/And God I need a Drink”

But, not wanting to entirely desecrate the good name of Disney love songs, the crew do give us one duet played straight at the end. And perhaps to re-iterate how this second one, “Love Is Strange,” is the serious love song, they gave it the exact same chord progression as “A Whole New World.”

Or maybe they didn’t. I’m not a music major, but saying that makes me sound smart.

Rage vs Love. The heart shaped like a hand grenade

Well, it happened. The elephant in the room today is, well, the elephant soon to be in this room. Someone more than half the country did not vote for and therefore, a lot of people, including the people at this blog, are angry.

I, personally, reverted back to my twelve year old self. I loaded up American Idiot and blasted it. Next up in queue, 21st Century Breakdown.

And as I listen to these albums, which in many ways are emblematic of the political culture the last time the president was from the GOP, I’m realizing they have a number of lessons about life and politics.

Politics

A common critique of the two albums is the vagueness of the lyrics, sometimes bordering on word salad. But today, that vagueness allows American Idiot to feel relevant to 2016 in addition to 2004. Yeah, Billie Joe isn’t singing about iPhones and ISIS and Harambe, but he’s pointing out issues that remain in today’s society.

The first half of American Idiot is a fiery, fervent dismissal of 2000’s politics that sounds a lot like 2010’s politics.

Don’t want a nation under the new media/And can you hear the sound of hysteria?

 

Welcome to a new kind of tension/All across the alienation/Where everything isn’t meant to be OK

 

Don’t want to be an American Idiot/One nation controlled by the media/Information age of hysteria/It’s calling out to Idiot America

Well, they called it. Our new president is the man who got by far the most air time from the media. A guy who got political advice straight from straight from the head of a huge media corporation. The guy who consistently channeled hysteria and paranoia en route to a resounding electoral win.

Holiday continues the political talk, and while it gets a little bit more specific to the Bush age, with references to the Iraq War, warns off the power of money in politics.

Another protester has crossed the line to find/The money’s on the other side.

And the satirical monologue near the end?

Bombs away is your punishment. Criticize the Eiffel Towers who criticize your government. Bang bang goes the broken glass and kill all the fags who don’t agree.

The reference to the French government’s refusal to back the Iraq War and struggle for marriage equality are things of the past. But what’s important is the message the satire paints. A warning of a government who reacts first with violence or anger against even a disagreement, or someone who is different to the sense of what’s “normal.”

Life

So that settles it. Green Day says get up and riot and protest, yes? Let’s do it!

But not so fast. Because the story of American Idiot is actually a heartbreaker about a man caught up in his own righteousness and anger. Above all else, American Idiot is about how normal people can lose themselves and lose sight of their values.

In American Idiot and Holiday, the protagonist sets out to San Francisco to protest and be a rebel against the Bush administration. Along the way he falls in love with another protester and adopts a whole new alter ego- a punk rock, drug dealing, riot-inciting rebel known as St. Jimmy.

But he ends up getting wrapped up in that persona. He loses sight of the initial goal and becomes essentially a rebel without a cause. In the end, the girl (whose name he can never remember) leaves him because he lost himself along the way. He stopped fighting what he set out to fight.

Where have all the bastards gone? (…) Where have all the riots gone?

 

The town bishop’s an extortionist/And he don’t even know you exist/Standing still when it’s do or die/You better run for your fucking life

 

St. Jimmy is a figure of/Your father’s rage and your mother’s love

And that line right there is the central theme to the whole story. Rage versus love. Whatsername embodies rage, but shows a capacity for love at the same time. St. Jimmy starting out as a balance between the two, but eventually gives in to his father’s rage and becomes just generally angry rather than productively so. His retreat into drugs as his solace rather than action is what causes whatsername to abandon him. And eventually, she settles down somewhere and St. Jimmy is left to pick up the pieces and find himself again.

Rage and Love are not mutually exclusive.

People have a right to be enraged right now. But that rage must be properly directed. And Love must, in the end, win. Revolutions are born of love and die of hate. We are angry because Love lost, and in the next four years we must always remember that, lest we end up rebels without a cause.

 

 

Once Upon a Time, Youtube was a haven for amateur writers and performers. But not anymore. This series examines just what happened.


 

When Youtube was first launched, it looked a lot more like Facebook. You had friends, and could communicate more directly with other users. The home page looked a lot more like your “Facebook Wall.” You got updates from your friends, what they’ve liked, (though at the time it was what they’ve “rated.” Youtube debuted with a 5 star system before transitioning to likes/dislikes.) what they’ve commented, and what they’ve posted. You could also subscribe to someone if you just wanted to see their new videos. The Youtube home page is your tour guide. It directs you to new videos and helps you discover new people. Think of it as the “discover” option on Spotify, or the friends finder on Facebook.

Take a look at the home page now. If you have a youtube account, logout first, since the home page would be tailored to what you’ve watched in the past. What does it look like? Who’s featured?

Ten years ago, the home page looked like this.

https://web.archive.org/web/20060812052946/http://www.youtube.com/

(don’t post until this is a real image.)

Note the “My Friends” tab at the top.

Writing Like Taylor Swift

Posted: June 29, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Fearless leader Prentice is currently experiencing the joys of a post Brexit UK. Never fear, I’m here to try and step up my slacking article writing duties in the interim. Today’s piece will teach you how to win ten grammys and become the best selling musician in the world. (Your results may vary.)

Taylor Swift. The Pennsylvania talent has been topping charts since she was a teenager with country songs tinged with pop, and has evolved into a bona fide pop sensation. Her appeal is startling in its wide swath of demographics. There’s me, a self-described “recovering hipster” who wouldn’t listen to anything but vinyl indie records senior year, who’s currently writing this to the soundtrack of Taylor Swift’s 1989. There’s screamo bands like Our Last Night and We Came As Romans that like her enough to cover her. There’s baseball star and all-around macho man Anthony Rizzo who walks out onto the field to “Bad Blood.”

So what’s going on here? It’s not like Taylor’s got a once in a generation vocal talent. Her music isn’t virtuosic. It’s usually pretty simple. So that leaves one answer: It’s her writing.

Taylor, sole writer or co-writer of all her songs, has a distinct style of songwriting that is deceptively talented. The way she writes creates songs with massive appeal yet enough sincerity in the emotions to not feel like her lyrics are packaged on an assembly line. Take this verse in “All Too Well.”

Photo album on the counter/Your cheeks were turning red/You used to be a little kid with glasses/And a twin sized bed

You’ve got the whole picture from just that, don’t you? The emotion, the place, the tone. She doesn’t say “you were embarrassed when we looked at your photos from childhood.” She shows you what’s happening. It’s the oldest rule in the book: Show, don’t tell. She’s an expert at creating a big picture in a few words.

To get a little more advanced in the writer’s tool shed, Taylor also loves to break out synecdoche: making a part of something stand for the whole. She’ll say “four blue eyes” in “State of Grace” and you get the picture of her and someone else looking eye to eye. She describes someone in “Blank Space” as “new money, suit and tie” and again, a few words paint the whole picture. If you look closer at her lyrics, you’ll find they’re stuffed full of moments where she employs snyecdoche: She’ll open a song with simply “Midnight.” She’ll describe an argument by simply saying “a slamming screen door.” I could probably write a full length article simply listing examples.

Her use of synecdoche ties into the basic idea of show don’t tell. To write like Taylor Swift is to create as full a picture as possible in as few words as possible. It’s concise, restrained, and simple. She doesn’t dazzle you with fancy words or overly complex narratives. She doesn’t waste time. And it’s probably because she only has three or four minutes to tell her story. (Worth noting her lyrical masterpieces, “Dear John” and “All Too Well,” are both over five minutes) This is an approach to writing that resembles two unlikely comrades: The Beatles and Ernest Hemmingway.

Did I just compare Taylor Swift to Ernest Hemmingway? Yeah. They may write about vastly different subjects and in different genres and mediums, but their central philosophy seems to be the same. To be clear, concise, and evocative.