Sunday, January 28, 2018

Top Tens of 2017: #4s

Here are the fourth best podcast, film, album, TV show, and videogame of 2017:

#4 Podcast: The Solecast

I've been listening to Sole's podcast, on and off, for the last couple of years. In the beginning it was, I'll be honest, out of a mixture of lurid interest and solidarity; I do consider him a comrade and a friend (he also came on my podcast this year, full disclosure I guess?) but the early bits were fairly rough. This year in particular has seen him take what he's doing with the podcast and take it to the next level.

As far as leftist podcasts go, he is hitting a sweet spot that a lot of others that I've listened to absolutely don't. I straight up have no interest in the pure comedy stylings of a Chapo, and while I appreciate the interview-heavy, soundbite-producing style of Revolutionary Left Radio, it can be kind of exhausting. Sole also focuses on interviews, but is significantly more invested in a conversational style that stays on track with (what I assume are) prepared questions.

I appreciate the tack Sole takes with getting guests, sort of alternating between "bigger name" guests like Mackenzie Wark or Sage Francis with folks doing art or on the ground organizing, which provides for an interesting experience of hearing stories and theories in a sort of holistic way. Plus he talks to folks who are into permaculture and shit, which I super don't care about but he clearly does, and that's what makes it interesting.

Among my favorites are his interview with rapper Mic Crenshaw who was involved in creating the anti-racist action network and rapper POS who doesn't do much political organizing, with rapper & disabled rights activist Kalyn Heffernan, and the episode with a J20 defendant. Making that list genuinely surprised me with how many musicians there are on it, since I tend to not think of this podcast that way at all, but hey, what do you know.

#4 Film: mother!

I don't think mother! is necessarily a hard movie to talk about, but I am fairly certain I am not going to do a good job of it. It might be a movie that portrays a horrifying empathy for the abuser. It also might be a secret sequel to The Others that doesn't want to commit. It also might be (and, if you've read me in the past, you'll probably figure out that this is my preferred reading whether or not it is the most supported) a story of a man in love with the embodiment of his house.

The first 45 minutes or so of this movie look like Stoker shot on a GoPro. Jennifer Lawrence is constantly framed dead center in close up, with the camera movements primarily following her and occasionally swinging around from front to back or vice versa. It's a very weird choice that gives a lot of weight to the very early scene in which she walks to her front door and then encircles the foyer by walking through each of the rooms in a tight circle. If she's the house, that sequence is also in some sense her as the camera. The technique in general recalls specific sequences from Requiem For a Dream, or the shot of Becky (Amanda Seyfreid) in season 3 of Twin Peaks being high in her husband's thunderbird.

Because of this, the movie itself is able to be signposted by the only two exterior shots in the whole thing. The first happens at about that 45 minute mark, and signals a slight release of the camera from Lawrence's character. It still tracks her closely, but sometimes is allowed to come to rest at an entryway, allowing her to wander around a room. It also marks the introduction of the first outsiders, a man played by Ed Harris and, later, his wife, Michelle Pfeiffer. Their kids show up, an altercation occurs, and the beating heart of the house is made more material when some of the resultant blood cannot be mopped up. The blood or the house show Lawrence's character to a secret room in the house in a scene that is somewhat similar to certain moments in Silent House, which I still maintain is pretty good, okay.

The second exterior shot happens somewhat later, and marks the point at which the husband (Javier Bardem, who is a poet afflicted by writer's block until Harris & Pfeiffer's characters show up) begins to invite into the house a whole society of people. Just before that, though, Lawrence's character has a vision of renewal in a wide overhead pan out, showing the home and the woods blooming with life. She is also pregnant. It should be said: this is a movie which doesn't do subtlety, in the same way that Aronofsky never has. As she's in the last stages of pregnancy, the house is overrun with Bardem's character's fans who eventually go from admirer's to an entire society that progresses from riots to religious societies to cults and full a brief, full-scale war film. That last bit is maybe the only part of the movie that super didn't work for me.

So yeah! I did, as expected, a bad job of talking about that. Sorry about my book report? It's a really interestingly-shot thing that wears its allegory on its sleeve in a way that is more fun to watch than to reminisce on. Aronofsky made a weird movie about a woman who is a house and I fuck with that pretty hard okay.

#4 Album: T-Wayne by T-Pain & Lil Wayne

Any other year this would have been my favorite thing ever. And in a lot of ways it still is. It's the long-held collaboration between the two titans who completely altered the musical landscape just about a decade ago, and it is kind of clear why it was held back. There's a ton of joy and play in it, but hardly any memorable hooks or exciting production. But that play alone makes it lovely and delightful.

#4 TV Show: The Shannara Chronicles (season 2)

The first season of MTV's (now Spike's) The Shannara Chronicles was one of my favorite experiences of watching something in 2016. It was a delightful little thing that got a surprising amount right, even if it failed in many other ways. That is, in many ways, the story of this second season as well, if slightly more muted. The big change (aside from the channel) is that it leans a little more into the Diversity aspect and doesn't do quite as good a job with the source material.

A big pet peeve: it is made clear in the novels that the Sword of Shannara is capable of being wielded by a Shannara not because of something inherent in the bloodline, but because of a mistaken belief among the public that that is the case. This season explicitly goes back on that, which is kind of a major bummer.

Otherwise, it is a lovely little thing, a genuinely enjoyable experience that has a number of flaws and falls apart at the end.

#4 Videogame: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I never quite got out of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild what many others did. I'm barely interested in open worlds and I have very little patience for emergent gameplay. I do love weird systems clashing, but in the actual act of play I'm significantly more likely to wander to the invisible edge of the world and run alongside than try to combine inventory items and environmental hazards to form a unique way of dispatching an enemy. Despite the fact that it is very much not my playstyle, enjoyed my time with the game a ton. Which is to say that it was a chill time that I appreciated in 2017.

Blog Archive