Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Big River

By sheer coincidence, I spent my Sunday reconsidering Rivers Cuomo over two different forms of media.  A chapter in Chuck Klosterman's Eating the Dinosaur posits that the reason Cuomo remains an enigma to this day is because he is literally incapable of writing with any viewpoint of irony, and his earnestness is perplexing to an audience that accepts irony far easier than sincerity.  (Klosterman also charges Werner Herzog and Ralph Nader with similar afflictions.)  This point seems to be more or less echoed by Cuomo himself in a remarkably reflective interview done for Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions.  I can't recommend listening to this program enough.  Not only does Cuomo tackle a set of impromptu songs while backed by Chicago riot grrrls The Cathy Santonis, but he also directly answers the charge that his songwriting has devolved into pandering schlock.

I've been racking my brain trying to come up with any band that's had a similar career trajectory to Weezer.  Green Day is clearly the best parallel.  Granted, they released a couple independent albums before Dookie, but they more or less mirror Weezer from the time each released major label debuts in 1994.  Both bands' sophomore releases were initially seen as commercial disappointments (though Insomniac wasn't as critically reviled as Pinkerton.)  Both spent the last few years of the 1990s fading toward obscurity, as Green Day put out two albums that few people outside myself bought, and it became accepted as fact that Weezer was likely done for good.  And both have achieved a resurgence in album sales in the new millennium, becoming the types of bands who now play arenas in front of crowds populated mostly by fans who never listened to either band in 1994.

Of course Rivers Cuomo and Billie Joe Armstrong are viewed in completely different ways as songwriters.  Armstrong has always been a rock star, who simply wrote songs as a means to continue being a rock star.  Cuomo on the other hand is a song writer who has been spent his career getting used to the notion of becoming a rock star (especially in terms of stage presence, where Cuomo's evolution from shoegazing nebbish to spotlight star is similar to that of Michael Stipe in the 1980's.)  The content of Armstrong's stories consists largely of obvious fiction, whereas every song Cuomo writes seems to be the newest chapter in an ongoing memoir.  This is why you can hear "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and simply think, "Wow!  What a shitty song!"  Yet when you hear "Heart Songs" or "We Are All on Drugs," the first reaction is, "What is wrong with him?  He can't possibly think this is a good song!" 

While I'll allow that Cuomo's never-ending sincerity accounts for some aspects of the sea change in perception, it can't be seen as the only reason.  In the Sound Opinions episode, Cuomo addresses the particulars of writing the epic turd that is "Beverly Hills."  And when you hear his reasoning, it sounds like a perfectly acceptable method of writing a song ("I read something.  I felt a particular way in that moment.  I wrote from that fleeting point of view and accepted it as truth,") but it's only reasonable for someone who has JUST STARTED writing songs.  

This is the key to Rivers Cuomo's songwriting.  The man refuses to age.  He's the Richard Alpert of bespectacled front men.  The songs on Raditude are not necessarily worse than those on The Blue Album, because they're basically interchangeable inasmuch as every one of them could have been written within one random day by his life.  As fans, this is what's troubling.  The songs of The Blue Album and Pinkerton are ingrained within our coming of age, but I can't relate to the songs off Raditude any more than I can relate to the songs of Taylor Swift, as I am no longer a teenager, and both are writing songs from strictly a teenager's point of view.  This is not to say the songs can't be enjoyed; it just means that enjoyment of Weezer in 2010 must come with an emotional detachment.  In this respect, one can fully appreciate the catchiness of "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" in the same way one appreciates the catchiness of Lady Gaga.

Rivers Cuomo is playing the part of the freshmen girls in Dazed and Confused, and we as a people are communally playing Matthew McConaughey's character, Wooderson.  We are getting older, and he is staying the same age.  All right, all right, all right.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

2010 Oscars Live Blog

I just watched Ryan Seacrest leave James Cameron, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Tom Ford bewildered all within a 3-minute sequence.  This can only mean that the 2010 Oscars have commenced!  Or as they are known technically, The 2010 Academy Awards Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

8pm ET Pre-Show: Kathy Ireland is here!  Can somebody put the wheels in motion on Necessary Roughness 2?  The public demands more Sinbad.

"George Clooney, tell me about your pranks!" is the entertainment reporter variant of "Coach, give me your assessment of the first half of play."

What is going on with Kathy Ireland?  She's talking to everyone as if they're autistic.  Or as if she's had a stroke.

I watched The Box a couple weeks ago, and am frankly disappointed to see Cameron Diaz without her terrible southern accent.  Sidenote:  The first half of The Box is shockingly compelling.  Luckily, Richard Kelly remembers that he's Richard Kelly halfway through, and the second half is a laughably ridiculous mess.  There are zombies involved.  Seriously.

I like how much of this pre-show involves movies that aren't being released for months.  Also I love how this jackass reporter is giving Steve Carrell and Tina Fey shit and telling them "This isn't the Emmys," but everyone acts like it's completely normal for Miley Cyrus to be there.

 Sherri Shepherd just asked the Twilight kid, "What did you do to prepare for tonight?"  I can't think of an acceptable answer for such an insane question.  Should he have done research by attending other awards show beforehand?  She also called him "The most famous werewolf in motion picture history."  We've gone from zero-to-fucking stupid in record time this year.

7:30p:  We open with the 10 lead actor nominees getting introduced.  Is this American Idol?  A Neil Patrick Harris song does little to answer this question.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Get That Junk Outta Here!

Rob Lowery is a walking contradiction.

Who knew it could be so angst inducing to play your way off the most mediocre bubble in tournament history?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bad Idea 2010 Oscars preview

The Oscars are Sunday night, and my plan right now is a Bad Idea Live Blog, following in the mediocre tradition of 2008 and 2009.  This year's Oscars seem to be the most predictable in recent memory, so enjoy the hours of interminable waiting that leads up to inevitable wins for Christoph Waltz, Mo'Nique, Jeff Bridges, and Sandra Bullock!  But at least we can watch ex-spouses fight over Best Picture.

If there were any question that I was unemployed for the latter half of 2009, the fact that I've seen all 10 Best Picture nominees would erase all doubts.  My two favorite films of '09 were Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man, and while both are nominated here, both will lose. However, I also loved The Cove, and it has a great shot at winning the documentary category.  There's been a rash in recent years of documentaries about Iraq/Global Warming/Corporate corruption/etc.  And while I have no problem with those topics, those docs are usually ridiculously boring, as if I'm watching a visual representation of a good magazine article.  On the flipside, The Cove is ENTHRALLING, and I love any excuse to openly wonder "What the fuck is wrong with Japan?"  The trailer will hook you:

I'll likely elaborate on various throughts throughout the live blog, but here are my mini, twitter-sized reviews of each of the 10 best picture nominees.  Spoiler alert:  I REALLY hated one of these 10 movies.  See if you can guess which one!

AVATAR:  Classic conundrum. Amazing visuals like you've never seen before, combined with the worst dialogue since my 3rd grade play. Gets worse the more I think about it.

THE BLIND SIDE:  Loved the book. Expected to hate the movie but surprisingly did not, aside from a few scenes. Also: college coaches "acting" as themselves!

DISTRICT 9:  Great first hour: Innovative and awesome. Terrible final 40 mins: I thought perhaps the final reel was replaced with TRANSFORMERS 2 .

AN EDUCATION:  In every one of his movies, Peter Sarsgaard is driven to kiss you, kill you, or break your heart. Stop toying with my confused feelings sir!

THE HURT LOCKER:  Decent script, but the movie would be ordinary with a standard director. The framing/distance of each sequence are the magic of why it works.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS:  Opening scene is 20 mins of point-perfect dialogue, tone, & tension. Gets even more fun from there. Ballsiest final line in recent memory.

PRECIOUS:  Lee Daniels made you feel like shit with MONSTERS BALL and does it again here! Best date movie since DANCER IN THE DARK! Also, Lenny Kravitz.

A SERIOUS MAN:  Might be funniest Coen bros movie ever. Increased my knowledge of Yiddish exponentially. Will only enhance your love of Jefferson Airplane.

UP:  AMAZING first 10 minutes and enjoyable ending cover up a by-the-numbers middle 60 mins. MR FOX is the more consistent animation of '09.

UP IN THE AIR:  Every aspect of it is a mess. Clooney is miscast. Script makes no sense. Character development is one 180° turn after another. Just brutal.