Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eminem Will Kick Your Ass Right Off The Charts

When controversial recording artists actually make good music instead of relying on their controversy, music magic happens. The latest example of this is Eminem’s new record Recovery which is an extremely well done follow up to his 2009 album Relapse. No stranger to calling himself out, Eminem even admits that his previous record was only so-so in one of his latest smash singles “Not Afraid.”

And to the fans, I'll never let you down again, I'm back
I promise to never go back on that promise, in fact
Let's be honest, that last Relapse CD was "ehhhh"
Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground
Relax, I ain't going back to that now

With an amazing beat and his usual tongue-twisting but clever and biographical lyrics, Eminem is back. Although he has demonstrated many personas over the years including the cartoonish Slim Shady and the serious Marshall Mathers, the one singing “Not Afraid” is the one I prefer. It’s the same guy who blew us all away when he sang “Lose Yourself” on the 8 Mile soundtrack.

When he is gritty, real and well-spoken, Eminem has the capacity to knock everyone else off the charts like he did in 2002 (when he had both the #1 album and the #1 movie in the country at the same time) and like he did a few weeks ago when he knocked annoying Katy Perry out of her #1 spot with “Not Afraid.” He is brilliant when he wants to be and when he feels like being brilliant he’s hard to ignore.

I know there are a lot of Eminem haters out there (and rightfully so) but if you can get past his history of being called homophobic, racist, sexist, an addict, etc. and listen to a few songs then maybe you’ll change your mind. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you think he’s an angry, punk ass white kid who doesn’t shut up and should just go away. But keep this in mind: This is a kid who came out of nowhere in 1999 with his bleach blonde hair singing “My Name Is” and he caused such a stir that Rolling Stone put him on the cover. (I remember the first time I heard that song; it was when my friend Josh brought it over to my parents’ house saying it was the best rap song he’d heard in awhile).

Back in 1999 when bubblegum pop was ruling the charts, people couldn’t decide if Eminem was going to be a one-hit idiot like Vanilla Ice or if Dr. Dre’s new protégé really was worth talking about. Eleven years later he’s still around and right now he has the #1 song in the country with another Recovery gem called “Love The Way You Lie” which features go-to hook master and a personal favorite of mine, Rhianna. Now that he has over a decade of music business experience under his belt, maybe Eminem really does have something to say.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brothers & Sisters

Ahh just the title is a foreign entity in and of itself. As an only child I clearly have no idea what it’s like to have siblings. The only glimpses I’ve had is having cousins who are like siblings, a mother who is the third of four children, a best friend and a boyfriend who are the oldest of three kids and several other friends and family who have at least one sibling. But maybe that’s why I’m so transfixed on this show, as it depicts a family that consists of five children who are incredibly different yet similar at the same time. A chaotic household with a bunch of grown up siblings who all have their own agendas but value their family as a whole very much.

So maybe there is something I can relate to. Coming from a family that is Mafioso (in the best sense of the word) I can relate to the Walkers. My family has always put each other first and so does this family. I come from a family business and so do the Walkers; a business that is extremely important to every member of the family.

As tough as family is, the idea that blood is thicker than water means something. On Brothers & Sisters, the Walkers suffer a huge loss in the pilot episode when the father (Tom Skerritt) and patriarch of their family in every sense of the word, dies of a heart attack. While he was living he was respected, revered, loved and even feared but after his death the family finds out about his countless infidelities and indiscretions. This information crushes his family’s starry-eyed view of him but he isn’t there to shoulder the burden of the pain he causes. Instead, that burden is put on the matriarch of the family (Sally Field) who has to deal with the truth after several decades of marriage and deal with the questions and concerns of her five children:

Sarah (Rachel Griffiths) – the type-A working mother who has trouble juggling her job and family. Her issues are the most relatable of the siblings and she is part of the family business.

Kitty (Calista Flockhart) – the Republican radio show pundit turned political TV personality turned Communications Director for Senator Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe)/her future husband’s political campaign.

Tommy (Balthazar Getty) – the first-born son who is as All-American and Republican as they come. He is married to a beautiful woman (Sarah Jane Morris) and he is also part of the family business.

Kevin (Matthew Rhys) – is gay and a corporate lawyer. His sexuality is accepted by everyone in the family except his father. He is by far the most entertaining character on the show.

Justin (Dave Annable) – the drug addict war vet who has trouble staying clean and getting his act together. He pretends that he doesn’t care what his family thinks but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Throughout the four seasons this show has been on the air the Walkers have encountered marriage, divorce, illegitimate children, mistresses, bankruptcy, starting new businesses, infertility, birth, death and every other issue you can imagine. The arguments between the siblings are both real and entertaining and the ways in which they interact make you believe that they are actually related.

In addition to family issues, the show tackles political subjects in a way that I’ve yet to see on a family drama. While some characters emphasize “being green” others are more known for their NRA memberships. It reminds me once again that no matter what the medium, politics always finds its way into the discussion whether we like it or not.

That being said, Brothers & Sisters is an excellent show that examines the difficulties of family and the struggle it takes simply to be human. Season one is by far my favorite but I always look forward to the next episode of the show. I’m not sure what’s in store for this fall’s upcoming season but if I know the Walker family, it will be nothing short of entertaining.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quote This!

Over the last few days I have had several of my movie buff buddies tell me that Inception and Toy Story 3 are the best movies they have seen in a long time. In addition to the surprisingly overwhelmingly positive response to both movies I found it interesting that two completely different movies are earning “A+” reviews from some of the harshest critics I know. My friend J.P. called them "the two best movies of 2010" and my friend Adam referred to them as "flawless." Those are some pretty big words from some pretty big movie guys!

While Inception is a mind-twisting thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Toy Story 3 is an animated Pixar movie that features the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. I haven’t seen either one yet but after reading and hearing stellar reviews I might have to make it a point to see both asap.

In celebration of movie awesomeness here are a few lists:

15 Most Quotable Comedies Of All Time:

15) Wedding Crashers
14) Mallrats
13) Wayne’s World
12) Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison
11) Dazed And Confused
10) Old School
9) The Hangover
8) The Big Lebowski
7) Office Space
6) Fast Times At Ridgemont High
5) Caddyshack
4) Princess Bride
3) Swingers
2) Zoolander
1) Anchorman

10 Most Quotable Non-Comedies Of All Time:

10) Reality Bites
9) Top Gun
8) Boondock Saints
7) Almost Famous
6) Tombstone
5) Jerry Maguire
4) Star Wars
3) Scarface
2) The Godfather
1) Pulp Fiction

*And any movie starring Clint Eastwood or Jack Nicholson.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Heart Of Deadliest Catch

They say that truth is stranger than fiction but when it comes to the show Deadliest Catch truth is more heartbreaking than fiction. Although most people already know that fishing boat Captain Phil Harris passed away in February at the age of 53 from a massive stroke and subsequently a pulmonary embolism, last night the episode that shows what happened aired on the Discovery Channel. To say it was a tear-jerker is an understatement considering we were watching Harris’ sons, Josh and Jake, listen to the doctor who initially says their dad is doing well even though we already know the outcome. We watched as one son gets high to deal with the stress of his father’s pain and then sends himself to rehab while the other son holds back tears while holding his dad’s hand in an Alaska emergency room.

Anyone who has watched Deadliest Catch before knows that Phil Harris, his crew, the other captains and their crews are no joke. These guys are tough; they are awake for an ungodly number of hours in the coldest, harshest weather conditions swinging around dangerous equipment on large fishing boats to make sure they meet their crab quota. They are gone from their families for weeks and months at a time while doing one of the hardest jobs in the world. Their daunting occupation demands that they are tough so when we see any of them laid up in bed or crying or anything like that it seems unnatural. And it’s really hard to watch.

As the episode went on we see Harris looking like a different person – his normally long hair is shaved, he has trouble speaking and is extremely weak. Nothing like the beer chugging, chain-smoking hardass we are used to seeing. His sons think he’s going to be ok and then Johnny Cash’s cover of Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day” kicks in and so do the tears. His son Josh calls his brother Jake to tell him that their father has passed away and then word gets around to the captains and crews of the other boats. Even though, as viewers, we knew it was coming it was still difficult to watch. I was blubbering like a little girl and there was no stopping me. The idea of losing a parent is horrifying and something I don’t ever want to think about.

But that is what’s amazing about this show. The fact that a Discovery Channel documentary/reality series about a bunch of guys who fish for crab in the Bering Sea can evoke so much emotion is pretty incredible. Between the camaraderie and family ties, what we see happening to these people is real. Not in the bullshit Real World way, but in a way that genuinely portrays friendships, families and coworkers in one of the most hostile work environments imaginable.

I’m not sure who is going to be the Captain of the Cornelia Marie now that Harris is gone but it is clear that no one will ever take his place.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Anthony Bourdain

While it’s pretty much common knowledge that I don’t spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen unless it’s to “supervise” Rodney when he is making another amazing meal, I am surrounded by people who are engrossed in the food business. In addition to my boyfriend being a fabulous cook at home, my best friend is the Pastry Chef at one of Denver’s best restaurants and her boyfriend is the Executive Sous Chef at the most prestigious hotel in Denver. Additionally, one of my good friends owns a successful bar/restaurant that will be celebrating its 39th anniversary next month.

As a result, I have found myself being exposed to more food industry stuff than ever before like eating at many of Denver’s best restaurants, watching shows like Kitchen Nightmares, No Reservations and Bizarre Foods and even going to see Anthony Bourdain speak. Bourdain is a favorite of both Rod and Carly so there have been a lot of discussions about him and I’ve definitely contributed to his brand. For Christmas I bought Rodney a copy of Bourdain’s book A Cook’s Tour and for Rod’s birthday I bought him a copy of Bourdain’s Medium Raw.

I read a few chapters of A Cook’s Tour a few months ago but didn’t really get too much into it. Since I’m a very picky eater I don’t enjoy the delicacies that most foodies like. You won’t see me ordering lamb, duck or rabbit off the menu and I would much rather have simple foods than rich foods. Of course this means I’m missing out on a lot but that’s ok. I’m happy eating my, as Carly would say, “boring foods.” Therefore, reading a book about eating amazing foods in foreign places wasn’t nearly as interesting to me as it was to Rod.

That being said, I cannot put Medium Raw down. I had to put it down to take my dog running and write this blog post but since yesterday I have literally been glued to the book. First of all, Bourdain writes like he talks so watching his show and going to see him speak were good introductions for someone like me. I’m glad I saw him “live” before reading his book.

In Medium Raw (I must admit that title grosses me out a little bit) Bourdain does talk about food and places he’s been but he also examines how the food industry fits into pop culture and how it’s changed. He’s not afraid to call people out in his book and he is definitely not afraid to tell you exactly what he thinks. His writing is also very autobiographical in the sense that he talks about his past (drugs, a failed marriage, crazy women, spending too much time in bars, etc.) and also talks about how he’s changed. Although his whole “bad boy” persona wears a little thin (sometimes it seems as if he’s trying to star in a written version of Behind the Music) he is not afraid to admit where he went wrong and how many mistakes he has made. He recognizes that it’s time to “take off the leather jacket” and “take out the earring” now that he is a father. He also can’t say enough about how much he loves his daughter and how he is going to do everything in his power to make sure she is a confident, smart and well-rounded kid.

From what I’ve read so far I can’t help but think of the food industry like the music industry. It has its stars who make the big bucks (i.e. Mario Batali and Bobby Flay), its sellouts who also make the big bucks (i.e. Rachael Ray), trends that come and go (i.e. Kobe beef/designer burgers) and has been seriously affected by the economy. Just from reading this book I’ve learned how complex the food business is and how, like the record industry, it is no place for softies. There is even a chapter dedicated to those who think they want to be a chef in which Bourdain explains how unless you went to a top culinary school (i.e. Johnson and Wales), are young, in shape (he says fat cooks won’t be able to hack it) and are willing to work for pennies for the first few years, stay away from being a chef.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book and continuing my “education” in a field that never really interested me but is very important to the people who are most important to me. Who knows, maybe someday raw meat won’t make me want to gag.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pop Music = Lady Land

Pop music has officially taken over. Again. Right now on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Lady Gaga are all in the top ten and regardless of the masses being obsessed with Lady Gaga I think all three of them are pushing the same agenda. This morning on VH1's Jump Start I was in the other room and I thought I heard a Ke$ha song playing and when I looked up at the television I realized that it was in fact Katy Perry.

Although I’d of course rather listen to rock and roll, there is nothing wrong with pop music. In fact there are countless pop acts that I love listening to but I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find fewer posers and more talent.

While Christina Aguilera has a huge voice and has turned out great music in the past her most recent album Bionic sounds and looks like a Lady Gaga rip off and not in a good way. The songs and videos focus more on shock value than her voice which is borderline eight octaves. Aguilera does her best when she flexes those vocal muscles in songs like "Fighter" and "Ain’t No Other Man," not when she is exploiting her sexuality in ways that we’ve already seen.

While Perry has been quoted as saying that her latest hit single “California Gurls” was written as a west coast answer to Jay-Z’s “Empire State Of Mind” I think it sounds like a song that was turned out of some pop music machine lacking creativity but pulling in fans because of its candy-colored theme that features Perry in candy- colored hair and outfits.

Ke$ha’s breakout song was “Tik Tok” but whether music fans realize it or not we first heard her voice as the catchy hook of Flo Rida’s “Right Round.” No question her voice is appealing but I feel like her whole “I’m a party girl and I brush my teeth with Jack Daniels” image is both tired and gimmicky.

And then there is Lady Gaga who I think is a combination of Madonna and Amy Winehouse with her ridiculous outfits and not-so-flattering paparazzi photos. Everyone I talk to seems to love Lady Gaga but the only time I’ve actually been impressed with her was at January’s Grammy Awards when she played piano and sang opposite Elton John. I actually saw a voice and some drive from that performance rather than weird lace and bubble outfits and an inability to wear pants.

Don’t even get me started on Miley Cyrus. I can’t believe that person that a career.

So I guess pop music is currently the land of the ladies which is fine…I just wish that we had some more women who played their instruments and used their voices to their full potential rather than bouncing around with cupcake bras and flashing hearts on their crotches. There is nothing wrong with being creative and different and I think all of these girls have real potential but instead they are relying too much on shiny outfits and bright lights. Give the music-loving public a little bit more credit…we know a good act when we see one.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Teen Show Standouts

Regardless of the amount of shit I get for it, it’s no secret that I love watching teen shows. It started in the 1990s with 90210, continued in the early 2000’s with The O.C. and is still going strong with Gossip Girl. Although most teen shows share similar themes such as love, clothes, homework, addiction, betrayal and the inevitable transition from high school to college, there is usually one character that stands out in each show:

In 90210, Dylan McKay was the son of notorious millionaire/thief Jack McKay. Dylan grew up living in a hotel and spent most of high school taking care of himself, surfing and visiting his father is prison. He was already in AA by age 16 and developed quite the drug habit by the age of 20. He was also extremely wealthy as a result of a hefty trust fund and his James Dean looks made him noticeable from a mile away. Damaged and abandoned by his parents, Dylan was taken in by the Walsh family who saved him more than a few times. Jack McKay is killed when Dylan is a senior in high school (a fact that gets a little sketchy as the years go by) and Dylan ends up being a wanderer who is not sure what to do with his life.

The O.C. introduced us to wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid Ryan Atwood, who finds himself in Juvenile Hall as a result of his older brother making him an accomplice while stealing a car. Finding himself behind bars, the then 16-year-old Chino kid meets his lawyer (Sandy Cohen) who promises to help him. After finding out that Ryan’s father is in jail and that his alcoholic mother has abandoned him, Sandy brings Ryan to live with his family in Newport Beach. Despite his background, Ryan ends up being a good kid and succeeds with the help of the Cohen family. He also subsequently saves the people he loves in more ways than one and the show comes full circle after four seasons when Ryan helps a young kid the same way Sandy helped him.

The most sophisticated of the three shows and the one that is currently on television is Gossip Girl. Based on an anonymous Web site of the same name that somehow knows secrets about the rich and famous of Manhattan’s Upper Eastside, the show features characters that simultaneously love each other and want to destroy each other’s lives. The center of all evil and deception is wealthy Chuck Bass who lives in a hotel and whose father dies when Chuck is 17-years-old. A lover of vices and women, Chuck is dangerously smart and destructive. Still in his teens, Chuck inherits his father’s business and, always dressed in a suit, conducts himself as a business man decades ahead of his time. Whether or not Chuck will ever get over his need to be better than his father is yet to be determined but honestly I’m just hoping he survives the next season considering he is the most exciting and interesting character on the show.

While each of these shows featured/feature other compelling characters, the ones that standout clearly have similarities. Maybe viewers enjoy watching damaged people rise and fall or maybe it’s a coincidence that these teen shows thrive on male characters that are anything but normal. Either way these are the people who make the shows worth watching even if the shows they are starring in are teen shows.