Pop-Kerr 2020

If the whole non-politician-celebrities-being-presidents thing is a harbinger of things to come and not just an historical aberration, I can't think of a better prospective ticket than Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, both of whom really, truly get it.

Oh man, I miss the Obamas so, so, so much!


Has there ever been a better, more delightfully random ending to a TV episode?

(Yes, I'm still completely obsessed with this show.)

(rough translation:
Greenland, "Land of Men," is an island offshore of the American continent, located in the extreme north of the Atlantic Ocean.
The principal productive activities of Greenland are fishing for halibut and shrimp.
Greenlanders, like South Americans, are known throughout the world for their unbridled passion for dance.)


Why do millennials dislike U2?

I mean, I get that Bono (very) often lowers himself to self-parody, and sometimes it's not intentional. I get that he tends to come across as pompous and self-important and kind of a prick (though young people like Kanye very much). I get that they're one of those bands that everyone is told they're supposed to like, and they've appeared on dozens of Rolling Stone covers. And because they've never broken up, they can't be missed in the same way as these 80s and 90s bands that reunite to much fanfare at Coachella or Glastonbury, prompting young people to "discover" their back-catalogues and buy their t-shirts. And, sure, it was kind of annoying when that album just appeared in everyone's iTunes (though the album wasn't bad, actually, if one bothered to listen before deleting).

But, all that said, they were (and sometimes still are) stupendously fucking good.

The early records are so full of real, palpable, complicated spiritual and political yearning, and the songs are mostly great, too.

Achtung Baby still sounds fantastic, start to finish. Listen to "Acrobat" right now; it's one of the best rock and roll songs ever recorded, and such a caustic, mordant self-critique, with Bono basically flagellating himself for being hypocritical and for not being better than he is.

Even the later records have good things on them. All That You Can't Leave Behind has held up especially well, but none of them are disposable cash-ins. U2 are four consummate professionals who are very good at what they do, but they still take chances and do weird and personal stuff when the mood strikes them.


Trees. Mountains. Islands.

I finally listened to this; it's great, and (appropriately) pretty much the saddest record I've ever heard. So beautiful, though, and -- after having lived out here for over a decade -- I'm not sure there's any musical artist who better evokes the very specific feeling of the Pacific Northwest. He's like Emily Carr, or Gus Van Sant.
I used to be really into the Microphones (High School Me listened constantly to The Glow, Pt. 2 and It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water), but I kind of lost track of him after the Mount Eerie record and the band-name switch. So, weirdly, this is the first time I've listened much (or maybe at all?) to Elv(e)rum since moving out to the Pac. NW, and I'm connecting to it (the new stuff and old stuff) in a different, possibly more rewarding way than I did years ago.


At the Edge of Empire

Lucretia Martel's latest film, Zama, is a masterpiece--a strange, immersive, genuinely extraordinary experience. I was going to write something about it, and might still when time permits, but it certainly wouldn't (or won't) be as interesting and insightful as this piece, which should be read together with Film Comment's interview with Martel.


What's in Your Head?

If memory serves, this was the fourth cassette tape I ever bought. But it might have been third, or maybe fifth, sixth, or seventh. Ten and Nevermind were first and second, respectively. Then, in some order: Doggystyle, this Cranberries record (I listened to "Zombie" so much), The Downward Spiral, In Utero, and II by Boyz II Men. I'm confident these were the first seven. At the time, all of them sounded new and exciting, but I can specifically remember how Dolores O'Riordan's voice sounded like nothing I'd ever heard. In the many years since, I've heard countless voices that (not coincidentally) sound more or less like Kurt Cobain's, Trent Reznor's, and (especially) Eddie Vedder's, yet none like O'Riordan's (Shakira, perhaps, comes closest). This fact, coupled with my losing track of the Cranberries after that album that had "Salvation" on it, really freezes their music, tying it – in my mind – inextricably to a very specific moment in time and to my earliest awareness of a thing called popular (or in the language of the time, "alternative") culture. No trifecta of hits by any band sounds more utterly, quintessentially "90s" than "Zombie," "Dreams," and "Linger" -- I must've bought Everybody Else Is Doing It... very soon after those first seven -- and they are still affecting songs when you're lucky enough to hear them in the grocery store, though who can concentrate on picking out healthy lunchbox snacks when something as arresting and vituperative as "Zombie" is on the radio?


Our "Ballot"

Teresa and I put our heads together, coming up with picks we agreed upon as the best of 2017. Inevitably, some of my favorites and some of hers didn't make the cut--in some cases because of films that one of us didn't see, in others because we disagreed (e.g., she was less enamored of Dawson City: Frozen Time than I am, I refuse to cite an 18-episode TV series as a "film").

Here's what we came up with; "winners" pictured.


Call Me by Your Name
The Florida Project
Get Out
On the Beach at Night Alone
The Square


Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Olivier Assayas – Personal Shopper
Sean Baker – The Florida Project
Ruben Östlund – The Square
Jordan Peele – Get Out


Kim Minhee – On the Beach at Night Alone
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
Saorise Ronan – Lady Bird
Kristen Stewart – Personal Shopper
Allison Williams – Get Out


Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out


Elle Fanning – The Beguiled
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Elisabeth Moss – The Square
Bria Vinaite – The Florida Project


Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Colin Farrell – The Beguiled
Jake Gyllenhaal – Okja
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me by Your Name
Pruitt Taylor Vince – The Devil’s Candy


Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Bong Joon-ho & Jon Ronson – Okja
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Jordan Peele – Get Out


Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Sofia Bohdanowicz – Maison du Bonheur
Yorick Le Saux – Personal Shopper
Philippe Le Sourd – The Beguiled
Alexis Zabe – The Florida Project



I usually don't bother with doing a TV best-of, but given that this past year produced two of the most extraordinary seasons of television I've ever seen, I decided to post a list.

01. The Young Pope
02. Twin Peaks: The Return
03. The Keepers
04. The Handmaid's Tale
05. Game of Thrones
06. Riverdale
07. Master of None
08. Stranger Things
09. She's Gotta Have It
10. Colbert/Kimmel/Samantha Bee/John Oliver/Seth Meyers


Album (Cover) of the Year

A good substitute for Xmas music--available on both Spotify and Tidal!


Top Tens

10 Best Films I Saw in 2017
01. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)
02. 24 Frames (Kiarostami)
03. Get Out (Peele)
04. The Florida Project (Baker)
05. Super Dark Times (Phillips)
06. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong)
07. The Lost City of Z (Gray)
08. The Square (Östlund)
09. Call Me by Your Name (Guadagnino)
10. Mudbound (Rees)

10 Best Films of 2017, based on North American commercial release date
01. A Quiet Passion (Davies)
02. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Morrison)
03. The Death of Louis XIV (Serra)
04. Get Out (Peele)
05. The Florida Project (Baker)
06. Super Dark Times (Phillips)
07. Personal Shopper (Assayas)
08. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong)
09. The Lost City of Z (Gray)
10. The Square (Östlund)

01. The Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa
02. Drake - More Life
03. Taylor Swift - reputation
04. Jay-Z - 4:44
05. Morrissey - Low in High School
06. SZA - Ctrl
07. Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm
08. Björk - Utopia
09. Kelela - Take Me Apart
10. Sleater-Kinney - Live in Paris

01. Childish Gambino - "Redbone"
02. Cardi B - "Bodak Yellow"
03. SZA - "Drew Barrymore"
04. Ariana Grande - "Everyday"
05. Aly & AJ - "Take Me"
06. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Cut to the Feeling"
07. Drake - "Passionfruit"
08. Taylor Swift - "Gorgeous"
09. Harry Styles - "Sign of the Times"
10. Selena Gomez - "Bad Liar"


It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

This article points to an important, and disturbing, connection. And this one, to a very telling absence. Which is all the more to say, that Super Dark Times (a must-see) is--in a way that's not on-the-nose obvious or didactic about it--a kind of Garden of Eden story for our current cultural moment, with the two decades in between a Freudian latency period.


That's Not Officially for Sale
Ghost World is on Criterion!!!!!


Vive le Sénégal!

Thanks to the front-to-back fantastic Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa, my love of Afro-pop has fully been rekindled, not least Orchestra Baobab and their reunion masterpiece Specialist in All Styles and Youssou N'Dour's astonishing Egypt, two of the best records of the twenty-first century. The video above, from a concert earlier this year, very seriously begs the question: Is this the world's greatest band?


This ain't for the best / My reputation's never been worse...

Even if I'll always prefer her first three records (and especially the self-titled debut), there's no denying that Taylor 2.0 has her own distinctive charms, and this is the most impressive Taylor 2.0 record yet. When it's good, it's awfully good; reputation's six or seven best songs would hold their own with the six or seven best songs on any recent pop record or, for that matter, any Taylor 1.0 record. That's in part because she sounds altogether more confident in her reinvented persona (never more so than on "Ready for It?" and "I Did Something Bad") than she did on Red or 1989, but in part, too, because, persona aside, she actually hasn't reinvented as much as she lets on: going back to "Our Song" and "Tim McGraw," her greatest strength has always been her laserlike specificity as a songwriter, capturing very particular people, situations, moments, feelings more impeccably, and sometimes devastatingly, than any of her contemporaries. By contrast, she's at her worst when she goes for deep/cryptic/vague, especially when her 2.0 sonics aren't good enough to bail her out. That's why "Look What You Made Me Do" is probably the worst song she's ever released (and seemed like a dreadful portent for the record it was meant to preview). And it's why "Delicate" is her best track in years; and "Gorgeous" and "Call It What You Want" are nearly as terrific. These three, in particular, are perfect adaptations of New Taylor's of-the-moment pop palette to what she's always done best. With more songs as good as these, maybe I won't always prefer Old Taylor.


Just What I Was Feeling at the Time

01. The current NBA season I honestly can't remember a more thoroughly enjoyable time to be an avid pro basketball fan, in terms of the enormity and diversity of talent league-wide, interesting teams, brewing rivalries, and, as a bonus, the bountiful supply of high-quality writing available on All Things NBA, from general profile pieces to stats-heavy analysis to in-depth reports on PB&J preferences. Also, for last night's Raptors/Hornets game, Drake joined the on-air commentators for the entire 2nd half (minus a washroom break)! After the game, he even interviewed Kyle Lowry!

02. Super Dark Times I like Stranger Times plenty and found the new IT much better than expected. But this minor-key masterpiece is a perfect antidote to the resurgence of the cute, clever group of preteen/teenaged boys riding around suburbia on their bikes genre, as, by contrast, these teen boys are much more realistic and naturalistic: kind of dumb, awkward, and gross, not either angelic figures (as in Gus Van Sant, though there are good aesthetic comparisons to be made with Paranoid Park and, to a lesser extent, Elephant) nor lovable, wisecracking misfits engaging in precocious rapport that's funny yet ultimately reassuring to adults. And while it's set in the mid-90s, and does a good, relatively subtle job of evoking that time (when I was about the same age as these kids...), it's not awash in rose-colored nostalgia or rapid-fire period references. It's really one of the best, and most disturbing, dramatic representations of (white, male) teenaged awkwardness and anxiety I've ever seen. It left me shook!

03. On the Beach at Night Alone Hong Sang-soo's latest is one of his very best and Kim Min-hee's performance might be the most impactful I've seen all year; in retrospect, this makes me appreciate Claire's Camera more, as a kind of de facto companion piece.

04. Low in High School Better than World Peace... and Years of Refusal, hence his best in a decade-plus. Roughly half of it sounds surprising (in mostly good ways), the other half sounds exactly the way diehard Moz fans want it to sound.

05. Utopia Fewer surprises (though some), but never ever dull. She remains incapable of making a less-than-very-good record.

06. She's Gotta Have It We're only two episodes in, but this feels like a direct equivalent to Twin Peaks: The Return: Netflix clearly gave Spike Lee the same free rein that Showtime gave Lynch, and the results feel like the maximum-possible iterations of their respective aesthetics.

07. Brock Boeser Reason to believe.
The year's most important piece of film criticism is also one of the best essays on Culture Right Now, full-stop.


"It's fun putting your name in songs!"

Another terrific throwback--here, not just a revisiting but a reimagining--and Miley remembers her words better than Aly & AJ do.