From ages 11-15 my outfit of choice amounted to a t-shirt of my favorite metal band, my pale-ass shaved head, and a pair of khaki shorts to beat the heat. The band on the shirts varied. The trend began with messy Slipknot and Tool and System of a Down shirts (metal snobs feel free to roll your eyes) and ended with the designs of Mastodon’s Blood Mountain plastered across my torso. I wore them for a lot of reasons, some of which had to do with how much I enjoyed sneering at the cute little middle schoolers who got weirded out by my fashion taste. But first and foremost I came to school in these morbid cotton nightmares because I thought the music was rad as hell.
In general, I try not to learn too much about new movies before I see them; I like to protect the unpredictability and promise one feels in the dark theater just before the movie begins. The only thing I knew about Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight coming in, besides that it had been widely acclaimed, was that it had a chopped and screwed version of Jidenna’s 2015 club hit “Classic Man” in it, which had been showcased in a trailer I hadn’t actually seen but had heard about. This song provided a barometer of the age and perspective of the people I saw the movie with. I saw Moonlight first with my parents, and tried to talk to them about why the inclusion of an altered version of the song was an interesting choice; they didn’t know the original song and didn’t have much interest in why a remix of it was in the movie. When I saw the film again a few weeks later with two high school friends, about three seconds into the scene in which the song comes blaring out of the car speakers, my friend leaned over and whispered, “Ayyy, chopped and screwed!”
The “chopped and screwed” style of remixing hip-hop originated in Houston in the ‘90s, although it’s found a second life in online file-sharing sites like DatPiff, where amateur DJs can upload their own mixes of hit songs and albums. The sound comes from two processes: “chopping” — cutting up sections of the song or vocals and making them repeat as if a DJ scratch – and “screwing,” slowing the tempo down so that the pitch of the instruments and vocals falls as well (the name for this comes from DJ Screw, who is credited with the creation of the style).
After I published my article last week, I received comments from people around me: “Hey, you didn’t mention Finding Dory! What gives?” Well, I left Finding Dory off my list to talk about it more in-depth because the Academy gave it no nominations this year. Only four Pixar movies have ever been totally ignored by the Academy Awards; all of them have been in the past five years. Those films are Cars 2, Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur, and Finding Dory. See a pattern here?
I haven’t even seen La La Land, so this is not a review of that film. The picture accompanying this article is only related to the subject in spirit and is primarily there for bait to increase readership. La La Land seems like a pretty cool movie, and from the brief snippets I’ve heard of its soundtrack, its music is probably intoxicating, jazzy, and maybe even original. Its two starring actors manage to look highly attractive and suave in all of the ads and stills I’ve seen and I bet that this translates into captivating motion on screen during the actual event of watching La La Land. I’ve gathered from some media outlets, including Saturday Night Live, that La La Land may represent yet another tiring instance of Hollywood “whitewashing,” as it is a film about jazz that stars two white actors (this criticism resting on the implication that jazz music was gradually formed by the profoundly unique experiences and reactions of African-Americans in the twentieth century – an assertion I can adamantly defend).
I had Dan Gilroy’s 2014 film Nightcrawler on my watch list for quite some time. I repeatedly passed through it on Netflix, intrigued by its premise and promise as a crime thriller, and I intended to save it for a rainy day. I finally gave it a go on one of my last days of break. My spirits were low in light of Trump’s inauguration, so I turned on the movie and hoped for a distraction from our tumultuous world for a few hours. This film is visually gorgeous.
A few years ago, the runaway success of Run the Jewels might have seemed unlikely, especially to its own members. Conventional wisdom defines hip-hop as a young person’s domain, making the odds unlikely that two 41 year-olds would finally hit their stride after a decade toiling in that hallowed obscurity of underground rap. Anyone with a pulse, though, will have noticed that these are not ordinary times, either for the music industry or for the world at large. Call it the effects of mass media, the Internet or suppressed bigotry, but the era of “fake news” and mainstreamed conspiracy theories is upon us. Fittingly, a recent spike in sales has returned George Orwell’s 1984 to Amazon’s bestseller list, nearly 70 years after its initial release.
Since Trump was elected, I am bothered every day by a certain set of questions and anxieties. Whenever I go on a news site or look at a paper, our current president apparently fits the bill of tyranny wearing a fresh set of big boy underpants. He has begun an enormous upheaval of all values we carried closely to our hearts. Truth, facts, common decency—these diamond American ideals have gone out the window. Meanwhile, the media stands by professionally wide-mouthed.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time in and around “geek culture” (an awful phrase, but bear with me), it’s to be wary of the scene’s conventional wisdom. This doesn’t mean to doubt people’s intelligence or shoot down enthusiasm, but the dogma of fandom is often built on dubious estimations of art. The flavor of the month is probably not the best one, while a popular contrarian attitude is also worth interrogating.
My latest encounter with fandom’s oversights has come in recently reading a number of comics by Frank Miller. Undeniably one of the most prominent creators of the 1980s along with folks like Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller was a writer-artist before that was cool in America (and in superhero comics to boot, where that’s still not so kosher).
It’s the beginning of 2017. You know what that means? That’s right, it’s time for awards season! And that also means it’s time for articles and Internet comments railing about how the Academy is rigged, complaints about how Movie X didn’t get nominated or how Film Y is going to win because it’s made by So-And-So Studio. Now, I’m not going to lie: it’s fun to guess which movie is going to win, to hope for your favorite film to secure an Oscar and to be either ecstatic or disappointed by the results.
We’re two weeks into the new year, and already film studios are putting out their work. Last weekend, Hidden Figures managed to replaced Rogue One at the top of the box office while earning critical praise. By contrast, Monster Trucks did as well as expected — Paramount had taken a $115 million write-down last September, and the movie has in fact bombed. Already we’re having highs and lows, and we’re only through three weekends! The rest of the year will surely give us some fantastic stories, especially in animation.