Sunday, January 30, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2010

What a strange year for music. Never before have I had to reconcile my list so much between commercial albums and artistic endeavors of the highest (pop) order. I feel like I've got a good feel for what I think of as the most important albums of the year, but I doubt anyone else will agree. Oh well. I've been called the Armond White of the blogosphere before so I may as well live up to that reputation. Enjoy!

Selena Gomez & The Scene came this close to making it and in a weaker year, I could see their sophomore album A Year Without Rain making a serious run for the top spot. That girl certainly has grown up musically in eight short months; Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid has proven to be a love-it-or-hate-it album. I adore the more commercial sounding first half, led by singles 'Cold War' and 'Tightrope' but that more experimental second half, 'Come Alive' aside, often leaves me cold; I wasn't sure whether or not to include Wynter Gordon's The First Dance EP since it's technically not a complete album. Those six songs, however, make for one of the most consistently absorbing listens of the year. Can't wait to see what this girl does next; And, yes, I have to give props to Justin Bieber for My World 2.0. He hasn't quite reached the level of Miley, Demi & Selena yet, but he's getting there. I expect his next album to be a real contender.

10. David Archuleta, The Other Side of Down
As I admitted a few months ago, Archie's sophomore album isn't exactly groundbreaking musically speaking. What it lacks in innovation, however, it more than makes up for in pure listenability. Archie's voice is quickly developing a distinct personality that was lacking on his solid, if unremarkable, debut album. The Other Side of Down is a major stepping stone in Archie's career and I couldn't be prouder of the little fellow.
Key Tracks: 'Stomping the Roses', 'Something 'Bout Love', 'Look Around'

09. Gabriella Cilmi, Ten
Cilmi's debut album was high on vocal ability but low on follow through. But it appears that Cilmi learned her lessons (ha!) for Ten, her sophomore album. Lead by the massive, highly charged first single 'On a Mission' and its more mellow but just as kinetic second single 'Hearts Don't Lie,' Ten proves that Cilmi can retain her natural soul in a more aggressive electropop setting.
Key Tracks: 'On a Mission', 'Hearts Don't Lie', 'Superman'

08. Hurts, Happiness
The gloomy British duo's debut album captured the hearts of serious-minded pop music lovers with tastes far loftier than my own. Surprisingly, I found myself completely falling for Hurts' beautiful melancholy. They make miserablist music without forgetting that the music should ultimately be listenable as well.
Key Tracks: 'Wonderful Life', 'Blood, Tears & Gold', 'Devotion'

07. Rihanna, Loud
It's no Rated R, but neither is it pretending to be anything like that masterpiece. And it's not a retread to her former Good Girl Gone Bad glory, á la Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted; if anything, the album is stronger and more consistent than that slightly overpraised collection of singles. Rihanna has moved on from the past. There's no looking back anymore and Loud is there documenting her journey forward.
Key Tracks: 'Man Down', 'Fading', 'Only Girl (In the World)'

06. Ke$ha, Animal
Ke$ha's end of the year 8-track album Cannibal was a complete turd and signaled that perhaps the Queen of Trash Pop needs to change it up a bit next time around. But there's no denying that her first album, a glittertrash mash-up of hot mess dance tracks, showed that the pop world needed a slutty, alcohol-fueled alternative to Lady GaGa.
Key Tracks: 'Party at a Rich Dude's House', 'TiK ToK', 'Your Love Is My Drug'

05. Alphabeat, The Spell/The Beat Is...
The Danish pop band known for their retro 80's music channeled Ace of Base and the best of 90's pop music on their latest album to near perfect results.
Key Tracks: 'The Spell', 'Heat Wave', 'Heart Failure'

04. Kelis, Flesh Tone
And the award for "Best Album I Rarely Listen to But Every Time I Do I Quickly Fall In Love With It Again and Wonder Why I'm Not Listening to It 24/7" goes to Kelis' latest album. The 'Milkshake' diva ditches the hip-hop and embraces her electropop side with shockingly fantastic results. Who knew that the chick who once screamed "I hate you so much right now!" is now one of our greatest Dancehall Queens.
Key Tracks: 'Emancipate', 'Song for the Baby', 'Acapella'

03. Joe McElderry, Wide Awake
Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected the dullest contestant on The X-Factor to produce not only an album this alive and electrically charged but, also, perhaps, the greatest debut album from a reality show finalist ever. La Joe and Simon clearly reached a compromise--give me a few ballads and I'll let you do whatever crazy electropop stuff you want--but it never once feels like he is compromising himself as an artist. The album's bombing is unfortunate, but, if anything, it may eventually lead him to a label who will know what to do with his interests and talents (here's hoping Cherrytree, home of Robyn and Frankmusik, snatches him up after Simon releases him).
Key Tracks: 'Someone Wake Me Up', 'Ambitions', 'Until the Stars Run Out'

02. Robyn, Body Talk Trilogy
Part 1 was the more consistent album. Part 2 was a bit hit or miss but contains 'U Should Know Better', possibly my new favorite Robyn song ever. Part 3 was great but didn't quite reach the levels of Part 1. How on Earth was I to choose just one of these albums? In the end, I decided that I needed to just honor the complete trilogy for its sheer ballsiness and complete listenability.
Key Tracks: 'U Should Know Better', 'Dancing On My Own', 'Cry When You Get Older'

01. Miley Cyrus, Can't Be Tamed
I resisted as long as I could, ladies and gentlemen. I know a lot of you were confused by my initial lust for this album, and I seriously thought that my complete and unrelenting infatuation with it would pass with time. But it didn't. And as I sat down thinking about this list, trying to come up with a number one, I kept coming back to this album. Sure, the album isn't perfect--'Forgiveness and Love' is utterly unlistenable--but all of its highlights make up for the imperfections. Miley can go on and on about how she isn't a pop artist, but Can't Be Tamed proves that this is where the girl needs to concentrate her talents. Her limited range shines here in ways that other genres or styles of music wouldn't support her. And the tracks not only sound bloody good but they also tap into Miley's personal life far more than we've ever seen. She can say over and over again that 'Liberty Walk' and 'Robot' are about women leaving abusive relationships, but they reveal so much about her relationship with Disney as a corporate product and coming into her own as an artist without them controlling her. There's no denying that Can't Be Tamed is hardly the most serious album of the year but it's the one I feel offers the most insightful look at its artist and the one I keep thinking of as The Moment in music this year. If that's not enough for a number one spot on this list, I don't know what else is.
Key Tracks: 'Who Owns My Heart', 'Can't Be Tamed', 'Robot'

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Britney's Videography: 'Boys'

Britney Spears 'Boys' # # # # #

Last time, I admitted that Britney's previous single, 'I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,' was the first single of hers that I fell out of love with after the initial glow wore off. 'Boys' was the first single of hers I outwardly didn't like from the first time I heard it and onwards. Even today, I'm still turned off by this draggy, monotonous, uninspired dreck to the point that I consider it easily Britney's worst single. The video doesn't add much to the song, but at least it's a tad more interesting to look at than Britney wandering around a canyon, contemplating her future. 'Boys' is Britney back in ho mode, ready to take on fourteen boys at the same time, have her fun with them and then toss them aside. And the 'Boys' video could have been a lot of fun--think 'I'm a Slave 4 U' but even skankier--except for the fact that the director forgot one important element: the boys. Besides Pharrell, who features on this song, and a cameo from Mike Myers as Austin Powers (the song was on the soundtrack for Austin Powers in Goldmember), there's only one other guy in the video and he's totally the kind of skanky, unattractive guy Britney put in all of her videos around this time. What is the use of having a video for a song about fucking boys and then not putting any boys in the video? It really baffles me sometimes how these music video directors come up with these lame concepts that completely fail to capture the spirit of the song. Did anyone listen to the song beforehand?

Britney and Pharrell interact for a few seconds, although you'd be forgiven if you forget it mere seconds later since Britney couldn't give two shits about him. During the interaction, he's a mere prop, a stripper pole of sorts, for Britney to dance around. Pharrell tries his best to make it look they are connecting but Britney is just looking away from him, never once looking like a believable duo. What saves this video from damnation is the final 15 seconds or so when Britney does her obligatory routine with Mike Myers/Austin Powers. It's nothing special, but Britney looks so happy and full of life being silly with Austin Powers that it makes the preceding 3.5 minutes worth it. Believe it or not, silly Britney is not a side of her we get all that often so we must relish it every chance we get.

Previous installments: ...Baby One More Time | Sometimes | (You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop Remix!) | From the Bottom of My Broken Heart | Born To Make You Happy | Oops!...I Did It Again | Lucky | Stronger | Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know | I'm a Slave 4 U | I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Dame Wears Black for Andy

In case you don't follow the multitude of film people I do on Twitter or have an actual life that doesn't revolve around something so arbitrary as film awards, today was Oscar nomination day. I used to be really into predicting and following the Oscar race, but as the years have gone on, I have become more and more disillusioned with the whole spectacle. Sure, I still live for the actual show itself and I do follow the race with a passing interest, but it doesn't hold the same magic for me it once did. I have realized over the years that I'm much more fascinated by the non-consensus personal ballots I see from online bloggers I admire. I don't care if we disagree, I just love seeing people pick movies and performances they truly love rather than pick stuff that falls into the category of good taste. Oscar, for the most part, doesn't do that and that is why I've become disengaged.

This year, however, I did have one Oscar wish: that my beloved Andy Garfield would get a nomination for his work in The Social Network. Unlike my no-chance-in-hell campaign/wish for La Tisdale to get a nomination for High School Musical 3, Andy was a legitimate contender. He had the Golden Globe nom, the BAFTA nom and a considerable amount of support behind him leading into today. The recent SAG omission stung but you never know with that group and the way they pick their nominees. So, I went in this morning confident, believing in the power of The Secret, that Andy would get his well-deserved nomination and I'd do this happy dance:

I was at work this morning when the nominations were announced, so I was horrified to discover these two tweets on my phone during my morning break:

Cut to my (and probably Andy's) reaction:

HOW CAN YOU MAKE ANDY CRY, YOU HORRIBLE BASTARDS?! What did he ever do to you to hurt him like this? You all saw The Social Network. You all know how amazing he was. So why did you ignore him in favor of Geoffrey Rush being old and Australian? Ugh, so many questions, so little answers.

In honor of my new mood, I quickly posted this on my Twitter:

It is, officially, a day of mourning. Instead of ending nearly every tweet with "Oh Andy" (sexual connotation implied), we must now end them with "Poor Andy" to honor the memory of this now dead dream. The mourning period will last for an indefinite amount of time but, do not worry, fellow Andy lovers. He will rise from the ashes once again and eventually he'll go from this...

to this...

(I don't even know what that is, but I love it! Adorable Andy strikes again)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

So GLAAD to Be a Gay

As I'm sure you ascertained from this recent blog post, GLAAD and I are not on very good terms. We often disagree on what constitutes a "positive" portrayal of gay life in movies and TV--they either like nice, quiet gays coming out of the closet or loud, in-your-face crusaders while I tend to prefer characters with a little more shading or, heaven forbid, an evil gay--so it pisses me off that this lousy group is supposed to be "representing" me and my best interests. Anyways, they recently announced the nominees for their Media Awards, so I thought it would be fun to take a gander at what they thought was the best in gay cinema this past year.

Outstanding Film - Wide Release
  • Burlesque
  • Easy A
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I haven't seen The Girl Who Played With Fire--hell, I barely made it through The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo--but I have seen the rest so let's tackle them in alphabetical order. As a film, Burlesque is a heaping pile of shit. Not even Cher in all of her Cher glory nor an impressive star turn from Cam Gigandet can save this Fosse-wannabe from being anything but a joyless, soulless imitation of far better films. With that being said, the depiction of homosexuality in Burlesque, even the "gay stuff" that extends far beyond Stanley Tucci's character, didn't offend me in the slightest. Actually, I quite enjoyed the films enthusiasm for treating Cher like the God of the Gays she is and for giving into every cliché you'd expect from a Gay Romp like this: Glitter? Check. Belting divas? Check. Catfights? Check. Cher being a bitch? Check. Cher looking fiercer in outfits than many women half her age? Check. For once, I believe GLAAD is looking beyond the surface as to what a "gay" film means and for that I must, gulp, applaud them.

Know we are up to Easy A and I'm afraid this love fest must end. I know, that was quick. Listen, I thought Dan Byrd was hilarious and his chemistry with Emma Stone made their witty repartée that much funnier, but to suggest that his character's representation of a gay male is either positive or progressive is grossly offensive. This is a character who asks a friend to help make other people in his school think he's straight by pretending to have sex with him because he's too much of a pussy to ignore the haters and thinks that things will get magically better when he goes to college. The whole scene where he asks Emma Stone to help him was so uncomfortable for me to watch both times I've seen the movie. Maybe it's because my own personal philosophy has always been to either come out or shut up but never, ever pass for straight, but I can't stand behind him as any sort of positive role model.

I wasn't a big fan of The Kids Are All Right, but even I can't argue about it's importance as a gay film. Sure, I do have a reservation or two about that fact that when Julianne Moore's character has an affair it is with a man and not another woman, but I obviously understand why it happens and it's necessity to the story. Doesn't mean I have to agree, though. Either way, this film is on it's way to an easy win so congrats!

And, finally, we have Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I liked this film far more than I ever thought I would. The trailer made it seem overly quirky, even by my standards, but in the finished product, everything sort of fell into place. Keiran Culkin plays the gay roommate of Michael Cera's Scott Pilgrim and while I liked the character, once again I'm not sure if it was entirely a "good" gay creation. Culkin's character Wallace is wickedly funny, yet he also steals his female best friend's date, has sex with him while in a relationship with another guy and then tells Scott when he questions it that, basically, it's okay for him to do it because he's gay. In the words of Cher Horowitz, "As if!" How revolting. With that being said, I did enjoy that Wallace and Scott's friendship was never once threatened by his homosexuality; Scott could care less either way. That's quite a big leap forward in the depiction of gay/straight male friendships in the movies.

So, all in all, not exactly a bad batch of films here. The only one I would be quick to replace is Easy A, although I'm not exactly sure what to replace it with. Black Swan, perhaps? And as much as I bitch about GLAAD, let's all be grateful that they didn't go for something completely horrible like, as Glenn suggests, Kick-Ass or even Valentine's Day for that dumb "twist" ending.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Well Played, Black Swan

Even if you, like me, weren't totally bowled over by Black Swan, there's no denying that its marketing campaign is all sorts of brilliant. From the multitude of posters, to its trailer and the general word of mouth for months on end, Black Swan has quite possibly been the most buzzed about film of the year. And in a year when a massive Christopher Nolan film was released, that is saying a lot. The most impressive feat of this campaign, however, is perhaps small in scale but enormous in terms of impact. I was speaking with my mother yesterday and she was asking if I had seen Black Swan yet. I told her yes and that she would most likely enjoy it. She then told me that she was so excited to see it she asked her co-worker if she wanted to go see it with her in theaters. They couldn't go see it because it hadn't opened in their area yet, but I was still stunned. My mother works at a library and gets free movie rentals whenever she wants. She's also the biggest cheapskate on the planet, so she would rather wait until the DVD comes out instead of paying money to see it in theaters. The last movie she saw in theaters was The Da Vinci Code way back in 2006 and that was only because my dad was a big fan of the book and wanted to see it. To be honest, I can't remember the last movie she saw in theaters just because she wanted to see it. So, to sum everything up, Darren Aronofsky and his marketing team deserve all the praise they have earned thusfar. They may not win the Best Picture Oscar come March, but I think my mother's $8 for a movie ticket is even more valuable.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Top 20 Rentals of 2010

I consider a "rental" any movie I have seen in 2010 that wasn't actually released in 2010 (or, in the case of a few films, some films released in 2009). Although there weren't as many gems as there were last year, the quality of these films is very nearly equal to those. Here's what I thought was the best, in order from top to bottom:


The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache, 1973)
The grand finale to the French New Wave movement. Eustache and star Jean-Pierre Léaud evoke both the talkiness of Godard and the romance of Truffaut in this evocative, emotive drama of love. Léaud's shining moment as an actor; some of his monologues would put more "traditional" actors to shame.

The Trial
(Orson Welles, 1962)
A two-hour nightmare: perfectly captures the increasing confusion and insanity while never forgetting the sense of dread and doomed fate that hangs over Anthony Perkins' Josef K.

Twist and Shout (Bille August, 1984)
Two Danish best friends--one emotionally damaged, the other in love--deal with racing hormones while balancing adult-sized burdens, not limited to pregnancy, a mental mother and an abusive father. Twist and Shout sounds unremarkable, even slightly rote, but sensitive direction from August makes you care deeply about these damaged people. (More on Twist and Shout)

Applause (Rouben Mamoulian, 1929)
The first proof that these new-fangled "talking" pictures may prove to be just as fruitful artistically speaking as their silent predecessors. (More on Applause)

Z (Costas-Gavras, 1969)
Costas-Gavras' breakthrough film is the rare political thriller that manages to be both an intelligent, indicting commentary on the then and now political climate and compulsively watchable entertainment. The Raoul Coutard cinematography, with his usual palette of severe reds and blues, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, who manages to make his blue sunglasses an extension of his character, make this high-charged film cool.

Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
Speaking of cool, Alain Delon is the very definition with his perfectly positioned hat and icy cold demeanor in this stripped down, both dialogue-wise and visually, gangster film.

Another Woman
(Woody Allen, 1988)
Gena Rowlands plays Woody Allen with surprisingly fantastic results in this sober, introspective drama more in line with Interiors than Hannah and Her Sisters.

(John Berry, 1974)
Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones tackle "the race problem" in 1970's New York with the kind of head-on confrontation of the issues and stylized delivery more associated with sketch comedy (the Bunifa sketches on MadTV, for one) than the usual race film we think of then and now.

Tout Va Bien (Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972)
Godard and Gorin's call to arms in a post-'68 France is one of the most reactionary films I've ever seen. After watching the film, I wanted to riot in the streets and protest everything that's wrong with this country. Such is the power of Godard when he's in the right mood.

No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson, 2007)
Nothing in No End in Sight is exactly a breaking news headline when viewed in 2010, but considering the film came out in 2007, it's almost downright prophetic.

They Won't Forget (Mervyn LeRoy, 1937)
A white Northerner is accused of murdering one of his Southern students. The prosecutor has very little in the way of tangible evidence so he turns the town violently against the accused, eventually turning the case into a nationwide battle between the good ole boys of the south and the uppity Northerners. This Warner Brothers (surprise, surprise) flick is one of the most damning and truly progressive films of the entire Studio Era.

The Sundowners (Fred Zinnemann, 1960)
The rare family drama that works as both a 60's-era big budget crowdpleaser and an introspective look at the inner-workings of an atypical family. The characters are just as full of disappointments as they are triumphs.

Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 1974)
A biopic of the now famous painter who battled a hostile art community who refused to see his work as legitimate "art." Told in a highly unusual way, Watkins' intense stylization often walks the fine line of discomfort as Geir Westby's Munch often stares right into the camera as if he's staring right into the audience's soul.

The Collector (William Wyler, 1965)
Terence Stamp falls in love with Samantha Eggar so he does what any other normal male would do in such a predicament: he kidnaps her, giving her anything she wants while keeping her locked up in his basement. Stamp is a great addition to the oeuvre of Emotionally Damaged Boys and the film's complicated and often shocking intertwining of sex and slavery is shocking and fascinating at the same time.

The Happy Ending (Richard Brooks, 1969)
I feel like my love for this film has died slightly in the months since seeing it, but I can still appreciate Brooks and star Jean Simmons baring their souls and real-life marriage for everyone to see.

Best of B+
Shut Up and Sing (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, 2006)
The fall and rebirth of the Dixie Chicks. Uncomfortable, often times provocative, this documentary gets into nitty gritty of dealing with a PR nightmare and how to retool a once lucrative career because of one infamous sentence.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
(Tony Richardson, 1962)
I hate the British New Wave, but Richardson's film is an anomaly for the time period: it's more The 400 Blows than Tom Jones. Tom Courtenay, playing the Antoine Doinel of this film, is slowly becoming a favorite actor of mine.

A Hatful of Rain (Fred Zinnemann, 1957)
Zinnemann again, this time with a Broadway adaptation depicting the life of a heroin junkie, his wife, his brother and the horrible circle of co-dependency they live in day after day. Tony Franciosa got the Oscar nom back in '57, but Don Murray and Eva Marie Saint, as the husband and wife, respectively, are the real knockouts.

The Cell (Tarsem Singh, 2000)
I never thought this would be my kind of movie in a million years, but Tarsem's heavy, lush visuals are jaw-droppingly good. And it contains the best performance from J. Lo we're ever likely to see; her facial expression the moment she awakes from the killer's psyche still gives me chills.

King Rat (Bryan Forbes, 1965)
Bryan Forbes, director of such underseen "women's films" like The L-Shaped Room and The Whisperers, tackles men in a POW camp and achieves the same results he did with the women. The film chronicles how these men slowly start to lose their humanity in an artificial world where anything goes and you have to do anything it takes to stay alive. Tom Courtenay, as the uptight British officer trying his damnedest to be an honorable soldier but slowly realizing it may not be worth it, is once again a treat in this film, but George Segal and James Fox as amoral officers who seek control of the camp (and may or may not have a homoerotic vibe around them) are just as great.

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
Somehow, I've managed to either to go 15 or so years since seeing this film or never seeing at all. Even more surprising was the film itself, with Spielberg at the top of his Movies as Entertainment game.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon, Class of 2010: Anne Hathaway in Valentine's Day

StinkyLulu, like Cher, is coming out of retirement for one last round of what could be called the Farewell Tour. Or, in his case, another installment of his popular annual Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon honoring the year's best actressing at the edges. This is one tradition I like to partake in every year, if only so I can talk about an undervalued performance that moved me in some way over the course of the year. In the past, I've discussed La Tisdale, La Tisdale again and Olivia Williams. This year, however, we're gonna tackle...

Anne Hathaway as Liz in Valentine's Day

The film, a multi-character romantic comedy following a multitude of couples in various stages of relationships on the most romantic day of the year, is not Nashville and director Garry Marshall is not Robert Altman, so there's not much in the way of a true "performance" in Hathaway's work here. Not that this should be taken as a slight against her or her work in the film. Sometimes, films only need an actor to give a radiant, charismatic star turn in order to be successful and Hathaway delivers just that in Valentine's Day as Topher Grace's new girlfriend with a naughty secret job.

Anne Hathaway's star persona has been built on two very different personalities. The first is the down home, realistic, everyday girl that we saw in films like Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. The second personality is the girl with a sarcastic, dark edge who combats other characters with a biting wit and deadpan delivery. Rachel Getting Married is, obviously, her best work in this realm of her persona, but this year's Love & Other Drugs and the underseen Havoc also provide wonderful insights into this aspect of Hathaway's persona. With these two tenets of her star persona already firmly entrenched in people's minds, Valentine's Day, in its own highly commercial way, offers a way of combining them into one performance.

When we first meet Hathaway's Liz, she's taking Polaroids of her new beau (Topher Grace) the morning after a wild sexual tryst. As is normal in romcoms of this nature, the two are a bit overly cutesy and romantic for my liking, but what the scene does best is show Hathaway as the naturally charming and beautiful woman she is. She doesn't need a gimmick in this opening scene to immediately grab the audience's attention; her realness is all that's necessary.

One look at the clock, however, sends Liz scurrying out of the apartment like a bat out of hell. Topher thinks it's something he has done but really it's for a completely unrelated reason: she's moonlighting as a phone sex operator and doesn't want him to find out about it. During these hilarious, uninterrupted monologues where she portrays both a hot and bothered Southern belle and a Russian dominatrix, Hathaway quickly taps into the darker, edgier side of her persona. The humor that results from these moments--and, trust me, I was practically howling each time she came on screen--is due to the fact that you don't expect the sweet-as-pie Liz to tell a client on the phone, in a thick Russian accent, "I'm going to spank your dirty, pig boy ass." Hathaway's multiple personas work extremely well on their own, but when combined they provide some of the only genuine laughs in an otherwise mediocre film.

In her final scene, after Topher Grace has discovered her secret and breaks up with her, we see him crawling back with a cutesy, only-in-the-movies apology. This being a Garry Marshall romantic comedy, Hathaway's Liz automatically takes him back. As clichéd as the whole moment is, it works solely because the two of them clearly work together. They are both simple, real people and in an increasingly tacky and over-the-top Los Angeles, people like them are harder to find. And if this isn't the face of a woman truly in love, I don't know what is:

Hathaway isn't really giving the sort of performance that wins Oscars in Valentine's Day, but it's a fine example of the Star Turn and one of the highlights of this mixed bag of a film. If anything, Anne Hathaway's performance here is proof that there is more to this woman than meets the eye. She's continuously showing us different facets of her persona and mixing them in such a way to different, interesting results. Little ole Annie is a class act and a talent that I'm sure will be continuing to intrigue us in the future.

For more supporting actress goodness, check out the Blog-a-thon Headquarters over at Stinkylulu's bog.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We're Here, We're Queer, We Shoot to Kill

The Argentinian film Burnt Money (Marcelo Piñeyro, 2001) is a rarity among gay-themed films. It's a crime drama following the exploits of a trio of criminals in 1960s South America, two of which are in a homosexual relationship, after a bank heist leads to the murder of a police officer. They subsequently try to evade capture before a massive, blood-hungry shootout finale. Not exactly The Broken Hearts Club, is it? In fact, one can imagine a "progressive" gay rights group such as GLAAD, those purveyors of good taste and modernity who support every White People Coming Out film or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, objecting to Burnt Money's depiction of murderous gays who live outside the law in ways that go beyond mere morality. Of course, their objections would be unfounded as (a) the Gay Villians are Detrimental to Gay Imagery in the Cinema is a tired argument and far too easy to lean on and (b) the escalating violence and depiction of a gay relationship amid such a twisted, unhealthy environment is precisely what makes Burnt Money interesting to watch.

Perhaps this speaks volumes about the effect Argentina has on gay relationships, but the film Burnt Money reminded me of the most was Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together. Both films start with a couple, once perfectly in love, now inexplicably out of tune with each other. They are both confined to a small space which brings out the worst in them and drives them further apart. And, perhaps most tellingly, both films share the same major problem: these couples are so deep in their own loathing of each other that, for the most part, it's hard to understand what they ever saw in each other in the first place. Visually, however, Piñeyro seems to be more influenced by John Woo in his Hard-Boiled heyday, especially during the gun-crazy finale. Cornered by the police in a now evacuated apartment building, the three criminals decide to go out in a blaze of glory. They load their massive stockpile of guns, get naked (I'm not entirely sure why, but the guys are hot so I'm not complaining) and begin unloading bullets on the police. It's interesting to note that as soon as the bullets start flying, after an entire film of disconnect, the two lovers finally realize how much they love each other. This association between love and violence is an incredibly unusual connection to make in gay-themed cinema, but it's part of the reason why Burnt Money is worth a watch. B

(Special thanks to Glenn for initially joking about the GLAAD thing and inspiring this "review")

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top 50 Songs of 2010

2010 has been officially over for about 12 hours, so let's take a quick look back at the hottest singles of the past year.

Not Eligible: Only actual singles are considered for this list. This means that songs such as Rihanna's 'Man Down' and 'Fading,' Robyn's 'U Should Know Better,' Joe McElderry's 'If You Love Me' and Cheryl Cole's 'Waiting,' which otherwise would have made the list, are disqualified. Also, my eligibility dates run from December of '09 to November of '10. This is only because sometimes it takes me awhile to warm up to a song and I feel like it's unfair that a song 2 weeks old should compete with one I've had 4 months to spend pondering. So, this rule disqualifies Joe McElderry's 'Someone Wake Me Up' and Frankmusik's 'The Fear Inside,' both of which should make a strong showing on next year's list.

10 Runner-ups:
Alexandra Burke 'The Silence' | Alex Gaudino 'I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)' | Drake 'Find Your Love' | David Archuleta 'Something 'Bout Love' | Alphabeat 'Heat Wave' | Rihanna 'Rude Boy' | Kate Nash 'Do-Wah-Doo' | Marina & The Diamonds 'Shampain' | Kelis 'Scream' | Alex Gardner 'I'm Not Mad'

50. Sophie Ellis-Bextor 'Bittersweet'
49. Rihanna 'Only Girl (In the World)'
48. Cee-Lo Green 'Fuck You'
47. Kelis 'Acapella'
46. Kelly Rowland 'Commander'
45. Ed Drewett 'Champagne Lemonade'
44. Nelly 'Just a Dream'
Nelly hasn't been relevant in ages, but he made a big comeback with this unexpected slow jam much in the vein of his earlier 'Over and Over.'
43. Diana Vickers 'My Wicked Heart'
Vickers at her most stylized. Amazing stuff if you can get past it.
42. 3OH!3 featuring Katy Perry 'Starstrukk'
41. Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris 'Baby'
Silly fluff, but done in such a way that it actually kinda becomes sweet. A nice flashback to the days of junior high relationships.

40. Kris Allen 'Alright With Me'
39. Rihanna 'Rockstar 101'
38. Janelle Monáe featuring Big Boi 'Tightrope'
37. Katy B 'Katy on a Mission'
I'm not exactly sure what Katy B is singing about, but this song just feels right nonetheless. And it's surprisingly catchy!
36. The Hoosiers 'Choices'
35. Grum 'Can't Shake This Feeling'
34. Ke$ha 'Your Love Is My Drug'
33. Freemasons featuring Wynter Gordon 'Believer'
A bit of a late entrant to this list. I only just discovered this song's brilliance about a month ago and I haven't been able to stop listening since. Wynter Gordon is a true talent on the rise.
32. Lady GaGa 'Alejandro'
31. Marina & the Diamonds 'Oh No!'

30. Darin 'Lovekiller'
29. Selena Gomez & The Scene 'Naturally'
28. The Pretty Reckless 'Make Me Wanna Die'
Taylor Momsen becomes the second Gossip Girl star with a promising music career. Who'd have guessed that back in 2007?
27. Sky Ferreira 'One'
26. Sabrina Washington 'OMG'
Obviously, the better of the two singles titled 'OMG' this year. Now if only people would actually listen to this one.
25. Hurts 'Wonderful Life'
24. Lady GaGa featuring Beyoncé 'Telephone'
23. Miley Cyrus 'Can't Be Tamed'
22. Leighton Meester 'Your Love's a Drug'
21. Mark Ronson & The Business Int'l featuring Q-Tip and MNDR 'Bang Bang Bang'

20. Nicki Minaj 'Your Love'
Ingenious sample, brilliant rap, heartbreaking finale. The moment Nicki Minaj really clicked for me.
19. Gabriella Cilmi 'Hearts Don't Lie'
18. Justin Bieber 'Somebody to Love'
17. Joe McElderry 'Ambitions'
16. Alexandra Burke 'Start Without You'
15. Selena Gomez & The Scene 'A Year Without Rain'
Selena (& The Scene) risks alienating the Disney crowd with this sensual song of romantic longing. The lyrics make it sound like kids' stuff, but her delivery makes 'A Year Without Rain' one of the most tender love songs of the year.
14. Alexandra Burke featuring Pitbull 'All Night Long'
Alexandra Gurl takes it to the club with this massive, trance-inducing pop song.
13. Alphabeat 'DJ (I Could Be Dancing)'
12. Diana Vickers 'Once'
11. The Saturdays 'Higher'
Welcome back, girls! After the awfulness that was their Wordshaker album, The Saturdays returned to their former glory with this infectious jam.

10. Miley Cyrus 'Who Owns My Heart'
After flirting with the Top 10 in both 2008's and 2009's year end list, Miley finally snuck in this year with her most mature single to date. 'Who Owns My Heart' unfortunately went nowhere on the charts, but it's proof that if Miley continues down the pop music path, she has a bright future ahead of her.

09. Katy Perry 'Teenage Dream'
Speaking of maturity, Katy Perry, the one-time singer of such immature dreck as 'Ur So Gay' and 'I Kissed a Girl,' grew up before our eyes with this ode to young love. Perry's fragile upper register adds a touch of beauty and tenderness that I think many covers of the song (including the Darren Criss one, although I believe it's brilliant in its own way) truly lack.

08. Rihanna featuring Jeezy 'Hard'
This is still the most brilliant dissection of a Rihanna song I've ever read and made me see 'Hard' in a whole new light. I've really grown to appreciate Rihanna's follow-up Loud in the past month, but I don't think anything will ever top her Rated R reign.

07. Darin 'You're Out of My Life'
Surprising, touching, tender, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs worthy yet haunting and dark, Darin's Eurovision hopeful revealed that he is the next major pop artist to incorporate violence and death into his usual music.

06. Kylie Minogue 'Get Outta My Way'
Aphrodite was a disappointment, but 'Get Outta My Way' showed Kylie at her feisty, fearless, Girl Power best.

05. Robyn 'Dancing on My Own'
Robyn at her best, dancing through the heartbreak.

04. Selena Gomez & The Scene 'Round & Round'
This past July, I had a rough weekend. Some guy I was into was blatantly ignoring me and my roommates were gone for the weekend and had left a sink full of nasty dishes that could not wait until they came back to be washed. So I trudged upstairs, already in a pissy mood and turned on this song, which I had just downloaded, while I started washing the dishes. 'Round & Round' was on repeat and about 10 minutes in, I was just shouting the damn lyrics, eager to get rid of all my negative feelings. Selena (& The Scene) definitely helped me get through that rough night with this clever gem of a song.

03. M.I.A. 'XXXO'
Aside from 'Born Free,' the lone standout from M.I.A.'s horrid mess of an album was this song, her most commercial sounding to date. 'XXXO' is brilliant in its dissection of how pop culture wants celebrities to be pigeonholed into certain "types" and in its ability to be catchy at the same time. Bonus points for including a lyric about Quentin Tarantino.

02. Janelle Monáe 'Cold War'
'Tightrope' was Monáe's breakthrough, but 'Cold War' was the song I came to realize over time was the even more brilliant of the two. I have a hard time describing why I love this song so much. Something about it, whether it's the lyrics, the music or Monáe's vocals, connects with me on a deeper level than a vast majority of songs I've ever heard. Her album was a bit hit or miss for me, even though I appreciate what she was going for, but if she keeps on cranking out songs like this one, Monáe will continue to be on my good side.

01. Gabriella Cilmi 'On a Mission'
From the moment I first heard Cilmi's battle axe of a single very early this year, I knew that it would be one I wouldn't soon forget. But who would have guessed that 'On a Mission' would have hung on to the top spot, without any real competition, for the entire year? I sure didn't. But that goes to show you just how powerful and memorable of a song 'On a Mission' is. It became my battle cry during certain moments of the year, making me feel empowered when other media just wasn't cutting it. And during other times of the year, I was simply amazed by the lyrics ("I never miss a trick just like a magician"), Cilmi's delivery, the out-of-this-world beat and that brilliant Middle fucking 8 which contains as much brilliance in 20 seconds that many entire albums couldn't manage this year. A true "moment" for pop music and a song that I hope many will discover (or re-discover) in the future.

Happy New Year!

Now that 2010 is officially behind us, we can finally start looking forward to the one and only thing that matters in 2011:


'Hold It Against Me' >>>>>>>>>>> 'Born This Way'