Revisionist histories — EW’s “New Classics”, part 1

24 06 2008

It should come as no surprise that a pop culture-obsessed mind such as mine would drop some opinions on Entertainment Weekly’s recently published “New Classics” lists.

By some reasonable logic, the editors of the mag have submitted their picks for the best movies, albums, television shows, books, video games, plays/musicals, tech achievements and style moments of the past 25 years. They wind up batting about a .300. They get lots of hits…but still plenty of strikes.

The whole 25 years thing is arbitrary at best…I personally think it was done simply to keep Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” out of the top album spot — as it was released at the end of 1982.

So what takes that mammoth album’s place? Prince’s “Purple Rain” soundtrack from 1984. Now I happen to love Prince. I own “Purple Rain” on vinyl. It’s a solid record with no soft spots…definitely a top 10 record. But number one?!! Editors, you mean to tell us that “Purple Rain” was the greatest music put to tape over the past quarter century?

Is the album better than the mega-selling arena anthems of U2’s “The Joshua Tree” from 1987? Better than R.E.M.’s artful “Murmur” (1983), “Document” (1987) or “Automatic for the People” (1992)? Better than the crossover miracle of Lauryn Hill’s “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (1998)? Better than the coked-up hard rock of Guns N’ Roses’ “Appitite for Destruction” (1987)? Better than Nirvana’s uber-influential “Nevermind” (1991)? Better than the Dr. Dre’s suburb-conquering “The Chronic” (1993)?

It’s a tough sell, in case you can’t tell.

There are lots of holes in the album list:

One R.E.M. album on the whole list?!! And it’s “Life’s Rich Pageant?” I dig that record, but it doesn’t boast the influence or the quality of “Murmur,” “Document” or “Automatic for the People.” It has been very uncool to like or even respect R.E.M. of late. Their last 15 or so years of output doesn’t help matters any. Their first 10 years remain undeniable.

Public Enemy doesn’t pop up until #55? The Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” ranks only at #43? No NWA at all?

Radiohead’s “OK Computer” comes in at #62?

Two albums from 2007 in the top ten (Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”) seems excessive. There are five in the entire top 100…also excessive.

The list also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of country music. Now I’m no country fanatic. But no Garth Brooks? The guy sold more albums than any other solo artist in the 20th century! Plus he redefined the whole country genre. The editors really missed the boat on this one. They only included two mainstream country artists: The Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain. Predictably, four alt-countryish acts found their way onto the list: Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Ryan Adams. I’m a big believer that the best that country has offered the world over the past 25 years typically does come from outside the mainstream…but, c’mon

More on movies and tv soon.


Oscar Weiners

19 02 2008


Here’s the deal. I don’t really care about the Academy Awards. And I’m not sure anyone else does either.

We’ve (and I mean we) all decided that the Best Actor should be Daniel Day-Lewis. Most of us probably decided that when we all first saw the trailer for “There Will Be Blood” at the beginning of “No Country for Old Men” — which, incidentally, we’ve all decided should earn the award for Best Picture.

It’s all futile anyway…awards night coverage will be reduced to best and worst dressed lists.

Nevertheless, here are some hopes:

1. “Juno” takes nothing home except perhaps Best Original Screenplay. I’ll be the first to admit that I loved this movie. I’ll likely watch it many more times than any other nominated film. That being said, I also have watched “Say Anything” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” a helluva lot of times too. What am I getting at? “Juno” was an great movie, but Oscar-worthy it was not.

2.  Ruby Dee does not, repeat, does not win the Best Supporting Actress Award for “American Gangster.” She may be a great actress, but she’s on screen for mere minutes.

3.  The awards show is apolitical. I know this is a pipe dream. In the current election season, I would love to make it through the broadcast without hearing a self-righteous Hollywood liberal preach something from the stage. (And that’s coming from a relatively liberal person!) Every year the show gives right-wing wackos more ammo for the culture wars.

4. “Ratatouille” wins Best Animated Feature. “Persepolis” is the favorite, but this deceptively mainstream film from Pixar and Disney shows that writer/director Brad Bird is a great filmmaker — by any measure. I’d love to see him make a non-family film. He’s a true artist.

5. In keeping with the majority of critics, Javier Bardem wins Best Supporting Actor for his disturbing portrayal of Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.” Daniel Day-Lewis strikes oil (or academy gold, more precisely) for his role as Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood.” The film also earns Paul Thomas Anderson the Best Adapted Screenplay prize. The Coen Brothers’ evocative “No Country” snags the duo the Best Director award before going on to win Best Picture.