Favorite older film discoveries during 2016

Happy New Year! Below I watched for the first time in 2016. All rated 4.5/5 or 5/5 on letterboxd. I'm counting films that are from before the 2010s.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (Robert Wise)
I loved the way the story unfolded and there are a few surprises.
Why she didn’t jot down the words in order to remember them is a little odd though, considering what was at stake. Afterwards I obviously had to google the alien language.
The dangers of nuclear weapons is of its time during the cold war era, but the threat of extinction still feels vital. Set the template for films such as Starman (1984), ET (1982), and of course the 2008 remake.

3-Iron (2004) (Kim Ki-duk) 
Confused me with its genre, is it a drama, comedy. But I really enjoyed what is an almost silent film. Kim Ki-duk is known for this style. Of his work, I had already seen Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003), The Bow (2005), and Time (2006).
Clearly breaking and entering is wrong, but there’s a feeling it’s therapeutic for the characters.
Probably a message is we don’t need a lot of words to be happy. The main character breaking into people’s homes reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s debut film Following (1998). Just my interpretation, but possible there’s a subtle critique of Korean society. Shining a light on the problems with arranged marries and maybe other societal issues too. With so little explanatory dialogue, there are things about their past left unanswered, so there will be different opinions of what it all means.

Raven's End (Kvarteret Korpen) (1963) (Bo Widerberg)
Swedish classic nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Included in the Danish edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Set in the 1930s, a family yearns for a better life. The husband misuses their funds on gambling and alcohol so they have fallen behind with the rent. His son still lives at home and wants to be a writer but is constantly interrupted. The filmmakers show solidarity towards the less fortunate, yet also depict the father as someone who is keeping them stuck in this rut. I cared about the characters, even though the themes of poverty and birth control are a bit dated and would probably appeal to my grandparents generation.
The aspect that has aged the best is the budding author trying to make a mark, and the changing relationship you have towards your parents as the years go by. The most powerful scene is about 70 minutes into the film when the son cries when confronting his father. A film that gets better the more I think about it. Great performances and the film feels ahead of its time.
Favorite quote: ”Sometimes you need to feel that you are not the strongest one”

A Simple Plan (1998) (Sam Raimi)
Almost perfect neo noir. Great storytelling. I couldn’t look away. Perhaps even better than Fargo.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) (Ang Lee)
A captivating adaptation of Jane Austen's book. The scene when Emma Thompson breaks down is very moving, and I was glued to the screen the entire time. These are characters that stayed with me long after the film was over. There are also comedic moments which I wasn't expecting.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) (Joseph Sargent)
This is how suspense thrillers should be made. The tension is held until the nail-biting conclusion. The rare film when you root for both sides.
Inspired the color names in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). The criminals call themselves Mr Blue and so on.

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) (Penelope Spheeris)
Gives context to punk music and what audiences were like who went to see the shows. Punk is described as “real music, no bullshit rock stars” Various groups talk about life in a punk band. You can be loved by fans and hated by others. A band member explains the punk songs are short, but actually have as many verses/lyrics as normal songs, because they are played faster. Black Flag made very little money when expenses had been paid, only enough for food and cheap accommodation.
The film ends with a concert by Fear in which the audience misbehaves and the band provoke the crowd by calling them names.
Favorite quotes:
Band member: “The only performance that makes it, and is a success, is a performance that causes total madness” Promoter: “Well I don’t want to be a party to that”
Audience member: “That’s why I do it, just to get aggression out”
“Why do you think they act like that? “It’s an energy outlet, they are really nice kids but they just have to be doing something different, it’s a release from their daily tensions I guess”

An Angel at My Table (1990) (Jane Campion)
The scene with the chocolates is very cinematic and stayed with me. Her trip to Europe was my favorite part. The film does a good job of showing us a person who is in that grey area, not crazy, but not normal. Kerry Fox gave an amazing performance as the author Janet Frame, someone who you root for and want to see lead a happy life. Also, it’s well-paced, so despite a running time of 2 hours 38 min, I was never bored.

Bill Hicks: Relentless (1992) (Chris Bould)
The beach, rotten teeth, the waffle house, delivering food to the starving via military equipment were my favorite parts. There's never a dull moment in this stand up show. He has a way of pulling faces in the sketches, which heightens the comedy. Still feels daring and controversial despite recorded in 1992. He confronts issues so the viewer questions the world with him.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) (Kurt Kuenne) (documentary)
Thanks to Nostra at myfilmviews for the recommendation! An unforgettable and surprising real-life story of injustice and love. In an interview, Kuenne says that the documentary began as a project only to be shown to friends and family of Andrew Bagby. But as the events unfolded, Kuenne decided to release the film publicly. For the full impact, go into this one knowing as little as possible.

Ms .45 (1981) (Abel Ferrara)
Visually remarkable, there is hardly need for any dialogue, everything is told with images. Set in the 80s, the story could have been about a big city in America today. Zoë Tamerlis plays the mute, a complex and memorable character who gets a kick out of her vengeance. This is a woman who just wants to be left alone.
The scene of the street harassment is realistic and reminded me of the recent viral video "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman". Men are creepier and more offhandedly predatory than they think. Other specific scenes had an American Psycho-ish vibe.
A suspenseful and well-paced exploitation flick that glued me to the screen, and which at only 80 minutes doesn't outstay its welcome. My only complaint is the last act at the party when the guests behave illogically. I should explore Abel Ferrara's filmography.

Scarlet Street (1945) (Fritz Lang)
Film noir classic. A well-told story which I became emotionally invested in. I don't really want to go into specifics as it's best to discover the film for yourself. I will say though that the performance of Edward G. Robinson (pictured at the top of the poster) is one I will probably never forget.

Danish films:

Zappa (1983) (Bille August)
An early international breakthrough for its director, Bille August.  Considered one of the best Danish coming of age films. Very well-acted by the three teenage boys and compelling from beginning to end. A realistic depiction of testing boundaries and power games. Almost every scene is memorable. The bird and the fish symbolic for the characters. Despite Steen’s bullying ways you pity him because of his selfish and neglectful parents. A tad heavy-handed in how the parents are depicted, yet a powerful story.

Et Rigtigt Menneske (aka Truly Human) (2001)
Surprisingly funny Danish dogme film, especially the tooth brushing by the mirror, when he has his first meal and doesn't know what to do with cutlery, the asylum seeking scene, and also laugh out loud is the car wash.
Obviously criminal acts are unacceptable. I think the filmmakers are saying society becomes a dark place when we fear the worst and show no sign of wanting to understand. It's interesting the foreigners are the most welcoming towards him. Added to my Best films from Denmark list

Olsen-banden går amok (aka The Olsen Gang Runs Amok) (1973) (Erik Balling)
 Light family entertainment. I’ve only watched a handful of the 14 Olsen Banden films and you could argue if you've seen one, then you've seen the formula. This is my personal favorite so far. Especially the robberies are suspenseful and memorable.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Tuborg (which is often a product placement in the series) made a contract with the producers. I like the fact "Amok" shines a light on alcoholism because the series tends to be too carefree about drinking.

Seen any of these? Agree or disagree they are great? Have I tempted you to watch any?

Top 10 albums of 2016

If I had to describe 2016 in music, words that spring to mind are tears and politics. 2016 saw the releases of David Bowie’s and Leonard Cohen’s last albums while they were alive, shortly after both died. On these albums they sang about coming to terms with mortality. Meat Loaf was another aging music icon who in 2016 sang about the challenges of getting older.
Prince was a huge loss and very unexpected. Artists paid their respects by singing covers of his hits, such as D'Angelo’s Somethings It Snows In April, a ballad which became infinitely sadder after Prince’s passing in April.
Glenn Frey, founding member of the legendary rock band Eagles, will be missed, as he at just 67 years old succumbed to his battle with heath problems.
Greg Lake, prog rock bassist and founding member of both King Crimson and Emerson Lake and Palmer died at the age of 69 following a battle with cancer. Keith Emerson of the same band died in March.
Maurice White, singer and co-founder of the group Earth, Wind & Fire died in February.
George Martin, legendary producer for The Beatles, passed away age 90.
Guy Clark, Grammy award winning country and folk singer, left us on May 17 at age 74.
Bobby Vee, pop singer and teen idol in the early 1960s, died in October age 73.
Another loss was the frontman of Motörhead who passed away in late December 2015. In November 2016, Metallica paid tribute to Lemmy in their animated music video for Murder One. A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg died in March due to complications from diabetes, but managed to finish his work on what would be the hip hop groups final album.
Nick Cave’s new album was about grief, his 15 year old son tragically dying in an accident. Last year we also got Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed album Carrie & Lowell (2015) about the death of his mother Carrie. It can be tough to judge albums that are so autobiographical and personal. What they are singing about becomes more essential than the musicianship.

But it wasn’t all morbidity. With the presidential election on people’s minds, many artists were not afraid to express their political views, and there were a number of Trump protest songs.
Beyoncé, Solange, Common, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Blood Orange, Open Mike Eagle, Prince(Dec 2015),  Kanye West, The Weeknd, Michael Kiwanuka, A Tribe Called Quest and other artists put out 2016 material with references to black lives matters. Attempting to make important albums/songs about our time, presumably following in the footsteps of, but not quite matching, Kendrick Lamar’s highly successful socio-political album To Pimp A Butterfly (2015).
In fact if a black artist didn’t sing about black lives matters, it almost came across as politically incorrect. Lil Wayne came under fire for publicly denouncing Black Lives Matters. He later apologized. A$AP Rocky claimed in an interview he "did not sign up to be no political activist".
There's certainly an abundance of musicians wanting to express themselves about our times, although the danger is the public could grow tired of the same things being repeated. There's also the argument that it's at times pretentious and insincere, with a commercial agenda.

A lot of fuss was made over the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature being awarded to Bob Dylan, who technically is a musician/lyricist and not a writer of books. Many publications focused on his lack of acknowledgement of the award, although he did finally speak on the matter to The Telegraph and said it felt “amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?”. He asked the US ambassador to Sweden to read his acceptance speech and Patti Smith was present at the dinner to sing Dylan’s music.
The argument against him is his rivals in the category actually do write literature. The argument for Dylan's win is his importance to our culture and that his writing could be described as Homeric or Shakespearean, which is meant to be spoken aloud/sung.

In other news this year, Bruce Springsteen released a well-received autobiography Born To Run, which was praised for its prose. I haven't yet read the book, but I'm told it provides insight into the inspirations behind the songs and details his inner traumas. There were also new memoirs by singers/musicians such as Phil Collins, Brian Wilson, Grace Jones, Maurice White, Johnny Marr, Lol Tolhurst, and Robbie Robertson.

What should we make of the current state of the music industry? In the 2010s, we are no longer seeing that many classic albums getting released. Disposable music is the norm. The quest becomes to locate the keeper albums.
There's just one debut album (Margo Price) in my top 20. I'm worried about the future of music with so few new talents making an impact. Perhaps I simply overlooked them? Of course certain bands take a few releases to perfect their sound.
Definitely a throwback to the 90s running through my list with the inclusion of Radiohead, Garbage, The Divine Comedy, A Tribe Called Quest and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

Anyway, below are my choices. The order ebbs and flows. I hope my top 10 represents the non-disposable.


Blonde by Frank Ocean
Neo-Soul. Channel Orange (2012) was beautifully produced with some great songs such as Pyramids and Thinkin About You, although Blonde (2016) was easier to connect with emotionally. The strongest moments such as Ivy, Pink+White, Solo, & White Ferrari speak to me on a meditative level. On Ivy he manipulated his voice to sound younger, to better capture the time he was evoking. My favorite on the album is Nights, which is quite moving. White Ferrari is possibly the catchiest. I disliked the vocal on Nikes, which is an odd choice for lead single.
A record you have to listen to more than once for it to get under your skin. Many of the lyrics seem deliberately relatable. Maybe in a year there will be other cuts from the album which will become favorites.
Many of the new songs have two or three competing narratives — different points of view participating in the same story. “That was my version of collage or bricolage,” he said. “How we experience memory sometimes, it’s not linear. We’re not telling the stories to ourselves, we know the story, we’re just seeing it in flashes overlaid.”


★ [Blackstar] by David Bowie
Experimental Rock. Bowie knew he was going to die and this album reflects his state of mind, coming to terms with his life and accepting death is moving ever closer. A worthy final album, which is quite affecting given the circumstances. Bowie died of liver cancer just two days after its release.
He is supported by a group of jazz musicians, who may go on to have separate careers of their own. The videos are impressive. Dollar Days and Lazarus are the tracks I return to the most. A contemporary classic with good tracks from start to finish.


Strange Little Birds by Garbage
Alternative Rock. Shirley Manson, now 50, writes from a standpoint of experience and I guess she wants to pass on her life lessons. I have grown out of some of their earlier pop stuff, yet there are still a bunch of their older, darker songs which hold up. Interesting how the new album has a maturity and feels like fan service to the now older audience.
There are strong moments such as the My Bloody Valentine-esque single Empty and killer lyric ”I've been feeling so frustrated, I'll never be as great as I want to be”. Even Though Our Love Is Doomed, penned by producer/drummer Butch Vig, delivers a memorable guitar riff and could be interpreted as a song about animal welfare, when you consider the music video and album sleeve. Another highlight is Blackout which musically reminded me of The Cure and feels like an anthem for introverts in the same vein as Here by Alessia Cara. Amends and If I Lost You might be the most autobiographical songs Manson has ever written, the latter about jealousy and insecurity. The closing ballad (which Garbage albums are known for) Amends is presumably about past relationships as Shirley has publically disclosed the lead singer of Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie cheated on her in the 1980s. While the new material is not as catchy and chart-friendly as Garbage’s earlier work, her vocal still sounds the same, and many songs grew on me on repeat listens. Even Butch Vig admitted: “They’re gonna need to hear it a couple times to get into it”. As a fan, I would rank Strange Little Birds fourth, with their 1995, 1998 and 2001 albums in the top 3 spots. If I had to point out a weakness, it's that some tracks go on a little too long.


Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
Singer/Songwriter. Not as accessible as Push The Sky Away (2013), no obvious singles for radio. It feels wrong to talk about the commercial performance of the album. Skeleton Tree is a sad yet beautiful record. The epic opener Jesus Alone is lyrically remarkable. I love the melody and vocal in Girl in Amber, which is reminiscent of the title track on his 2013 album. In fact quite a few of the new songs are variations on the synth-based soft spoken closer Push The Sky Away.
A very personal, therapeutic, melancholy release, uncommon for Cave to be so vulnerable and direct. I felt his pain over the loss of his son, particularly on the heartbreaking I Need You, Girl in Amber, and the duet Distant Sky. Although if I’m honest, in some moments the album made me feel a little drowsy and disengaged. There are weaker tracks, but enough significant moments to make it impactful.
Favorite lyric:
You're a distant memory in the mind of your creator, don't you see?


We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service by A Tribe Called Quest 
Hip hop. An album worth revisiting. Received generally positive reviews and considered by critics as a return to form. The group is regarded as a pioneer of alternative hip-hop and this is their first studio album in 18 years. I'm unfamiliar with their 90s heydey, so I can't compare how it stacks up. Disc 1 has a lot of quality tracks while disc 2 is weaker. Lost Somebody and The Donald are tribute songs to recently deceased band member Phife Dawg. His nick name was Don(ald) Juice.
Stand outs for me are The Space Program(an anthem for change), Dis Generation(an ode to the new generation of hip-hop), Melatonin(about the struggles of modern life), We The People(the lead single) and Movin Backwards(about being remembered)


Midwest Farmer's Daughter by Margo Price
Country. Proof that it pays to read year-end lists. I missed her debut in March and what a great discovery late in the year. I love Hands of Time and the other songs are good too. A towering vocal and skilled musicianship by the backing band. Seldom am I wowed by an unknown artist. She has a talent for songwriting and creating melodies. While the lyrics tend towards melancholy there's also an air of hopefulness. In a few months, the album might move further up my list. Much better than this year's overhyped A Sailor's Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson.


A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
Art Rock. Very atmospheric, very melancholic, very Radiohead. Not as groundbreaking as their earlier work. You could argue the new album is fan service, but holds up well to repeat listens. Their music to me is something you experience and I don't really want to explain it. Speaks for itself.


The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
Hip Hop. The marketing and release of this album is what it might be remembered by. And of course the controversial video for Famous. After it was put out, he remixed several songs and released it again, the album was an unfinished work in progress. He also added new tracks. This kept his name in the media, and made you listen to it again, which was clever salesmanship. The album is inconsistent, half the songs are pretty good. Better than overrated Yeezus (2013). Not as great as MBDTF (2010). I’m still undecided about the quality of the lyrical content.


Foreverland by The Divine Comedy 
Chamber Pop. Nice to have Neil Hannon back, it's been six years since the last Divine Comedy album. I quite enjoyed the lead single Catherine the Great, which is an entertaining history lesson of sorts, and also works as a word play on his partner's name Catherine. The second single How Can You Leave Me On My Own is hilarious and seems quite confessional. The intro of Napoleon Complex is beautiful. To the Rescue is my favorite non-single track, which can be read on several levels, presumably there's a shout out to My Lovely Horse Rescue, a charity Hannon co-founded with his girlfriend and animal lover Cathy Davey. If I had to point to a weakness, some of the tracks don't delve deep enough with the lyrical content, for example Happy Place, I Joined The Foreign Legion (To Forget), and Funny Peculiar.


Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest
UK Hip Hop, Spoken Word. The album title is presumably a reworking of the famous "Let Them Eat Cake" quote which is associated with Marie Antoinette. Tunnel Vision is among the best tracks of the year, in which her political message is the most direct. If you only listen to one song from the album, try that.
As with her album Everybody Down (2014), the lyrics are the main attraction, and I recommend reading the words while you listen. On her 2016 outing, she looks at bigger issues, such as climate change and gentrification(the track Perfect Coffee).
A number of the songs are structurally reminiscent of her previous material. This time a group of seven Londoners living on the same street. For example Ketamine for Breakfast, in which Jemma only likes those who treat her badly, and We Die, where Alicia mourns a deceased friend.
Kate Tempest's writing has many details, which can be perceived as both a strength and a weakness. She believably shows us this world in its complexity, even if some details could be regarded as unnecessary.
Other cuts that moved me, Pictures on a Screen, a haunting account of modern day emptiness and discontentment. Grubby, a chaotic stream of consciousness, about a relationship that won't let go. Some of the other songs may grow on me.
A shout-out also to the artwork, the sleeves for the singles and album are above average, the visuals stay with you.
Kate Tempest's vocal is quite similar to Anne Clark, the English poet, songwriter and electronic musician.

Which are your favorite albums of 2016? Have you listened to any of the albums here and what did you think? Have I encouraged you to listen to any of these? As always, comments are welcome.

Question: your favorite Christmas-related films?

I'm probably jumping the gun, as I haven't watched every so-called Christmas classic.
Below are a few I enjoy, including three short films:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (Frank Capra)
Probably one of the most uplifting and inspiring films ever made. A feel-good drama with fantasy elements. Arguably James Stewart's finest performance, he has an effortless charm. Stewart plays George Bailey, a thin, skinny, well-meaning and selfless character, who has much responsibility. He grows up in Bedford Falls in Connecticut and dreams about leaving and exploring the world. At the same time, he feels duty towards the community. My favourite scene is between Mary and George, when they talk about the future and he promises to pull the moon down for her. Like The Shipping News (2001), a film about community and what that entails, pros and cons.

Santa Claus - The Movie (1985) (Jeannot Szwarc)
The Christmas movie I have rewatched the most. They seemed to show Santa Claus - The Movie on TV every Christmas in the UK when I grew up. Probably my first movie memory, I was not very old when I first saw it, maybe 5, so obviously very nostalgic. Heck, I even rented the video once as a child when it wasn't even Christmas! The effects still hold up well, especially the reindeer sleigh-rides. They had a budget of 50 million dollars, which in 1985 was huge. The money is up on the screen and the toy workshops look amazing. The actors I thought were perfectly cast, the short actor Dudley Moore as the small elf Patch, the fatherly David Huddleston as Santa Claus, and John Lithgow as the sinister toy manufacturer. The story is partly about the origins of Santa Claus and might even get you interested to find out more about the history of the real Saint Nicholas. Probably will appeal more to kids. A film that can get you in the mood to celebrate Christmas.

A Christmas Story (1983) (Bob Clark)
The quintessential American Christmas movie. From the perspective of a young boy, we've all been kids who wanted something desperately for Christmas. Very quotable and rewatchable. With relatable childhood moments at school and with the family at home.

Black Christmas (1974)  (Bob Clark) 
Odd how Bob Clark made the beloved family-friendly A Christmas Story in 1983, yet even earlier made a horror film with Christmas in the title.
Black Christmas is one of the earliest and most influential slashers. A murder mystery in which a community receive obscene phone calls, those calls still hold up as very creepy. 

Gremlins (1984) (Joe Dante)
Part comedy, part horror. Not for kids, I remember I saw it fairly young, before the 15 rating on the video box said I should. The cute little creatures are not all cuddly!! Amazing to me how many classic 80s movies Corey Feldman is in, he reminds me of childhood. Feels very 80s, they don’t make them like this anymore. A definite nostalgic movie. Joe Dante was at the top of his game in the 80s.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) (Jeremiah S. Chechik) 
A goofy comedy classic. A bit uneven, but very funny in places, especially the dinner scenes cracked me up.
The third installment in National Lampoon's Vacation film series, written by John Hughes, and based on his short story in National Lampoon Magazine, Christmas ‘59.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (Henry Selick) 
I guess you can watch this to celebrate Halloween or Christmas. Atmospheric and timeless, a masterful piece of stop motion animation. I love the opening sequence. There are countless details which add to the charm and rewatchability, such as when the father opens his head and scratches his brain, the walking bath tub, the dog ghost, or the girl sewing her body parts back on.
I didn’t need to have Christmas explained to me. Although I admit it’s healthy to look at traditions with fresh eyes like a child does, so as to (re)discover what makes things magical in the first place. Hijacking Christmas is a unique idea and we can all relate to Jack’s feeling of something missing in our lives and tired of the old routine. Part of me feels like Burton as a kid would have preferred the ghoulish Christmas presents.
I admire the film more than I love it, but there’s enough to enjoy here in terms of visuals, music and quirky characters. The effects hold up well and so do the songs. Memorable tunes, especially ”This is Halloween” from the opening, and “What's This?” when Jack Skellington encounters Christmastown.

Bad Santa (2003) (Terry Zwigoff) 
A Christmas comedy with offensive swearing, drinking, lustful behaviour, and not least showing (deliberate) disrespect to Jesus and the lord. Guaranteed to divide audiences, I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Why the love interest and grandmother can’t see Santa is a jerk is implausible, but the story has its moments. Especially memorable are the scenes when Bernie Mac repeats ”half”, the staring guy at the bar, the boxing, and the jumper cables. The story felt sort of like a reworking of Home Alone, in which the kid befriends a crook. I'm usually not a fan of vulgar comedy, but the story was better than average.

Home Alone (1990) (Chris Columbus)

Batman Returns (1992) (Tim Burton)

Die Hard (1988) (John McTiernan)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) (Stanley Kubrick)

Love Actually (2003) (Richard Curtis)

Short films:

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 
Surprisingly melancholic, but very very rewatchable, whether you are child or grown-up.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) 
An iconic story. You can understand how the grinch could be fed up with seeing xmas decorations and hearing all the music and caroling.

The Snowman (1982)
An Academy Award Nominee. I mainly remember the short for the flying scene featuring the song Walking In The Air

Yet to watch: White Christmas (1954), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Remember the Night (1940), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Scrooged (1988), Elf (2003), Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (47 min 1964 TV special), Frosty the Snowman (25min 1969 TV short), The Little Drummer Boy (25min TV short 1968), A Garfield Christmas Special (30min, 1987)

Thanks to this site for use of the image

Best albums of 2016 (#11 - #20)

This Unruly Mess I've Made by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis 
Pop Rap. It's become cool to hate on these guys because they probably shouldn't have won the Grammy for their debut which many thought Kendrick Lamar ought to have won for Good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012) . Their sophomore effort This Unruly Mess I've Made received mixed reviews and not every song is good. The writing is often self-indulgent(Light Tunnels, Buckshot, Bolo Tie), and not as catchy as their debut.
So why am I still including the album in my top 20? Mainly because I admire the introspection, honesty, and also the variety of topics explored. I rate tracks such as White Privilege II(racial issues from various perspectives), Growing Up(about parenthood), St Ides (about family and the non-commercial life) very highly.  The Train(about detachment and departure) and Kevin(about the loss of a friend to drugs) may grow on me.

E·MO·TION: Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen
Synthpop. Throughout the process of her last album, it was revealed that 250 songs were composed and now we get a bunch of the unreleased tracks. Side B is arguably among the best EPs of 2016 and some of the material is equally as good, if not better, than her album E•MO•TION.
I especially enjoyed Fever and The One, both very retro 80s, as is most of the 8-track EP. It's front-loaded, yet so were many of the byegone albums she was influenced by.

Hella Personal Film Festival by Open Mike Eagle + Paul White
Hip hop. Wouldn't go so far as to label it a comedy album. Written in a non-serious manner, so the delivery and opinions don't become overly self-righteous.
The album title is a bit misleading though, as it isn't specifically about a film festival.
They confront contemporary issues such as cursing(the song Insecurity), how we are slaves to technology and daily responsibilities(the song Check To Check), news coverage and political involvement(the song Leave People Alone), gun violence(the song A Short About A Guy That Dies Every Night), and racism(the song Smiling).
Favorite lyric:
"But maybe everlasting life is a curse though
Eternity is drama making life the commercial"

Freetown Sound by Blood Orange
Alternative R&B. Consistently good, with pop hooks and political awareness, but too much computerized instrumentation. Highlights include E.V.P., Augustine, and Better Than Me

Lemonade by Beyoncé
R&B. An interesting, ambitious concept album concerned with, among other things, infidelity and black lives matter, accompanied by a film aired on HBO. You could say it's self-indulgent, but if you have experienced any kind of injustice in your life you could feel empowered by her ability to soldier on.
If I'm honest, the cd as stand-alone wasn’t as captivating. The music needed the visuals to work its wonders on me. Although it has been argued there are longer versions of Freedom and Love Drought on the cd. I particularly like the tracks Daddy Lessons and Hold Up.

A Seat at the Table by Solange
R&B./neo-soul. Beyoncé's sister Solange Knowles also put out an album this year. Pleasant, easy-listening music, yet not memorable enough to be a classic. The single Cranes in the Sky is great and feels timeless. Junie is another stand out and the most fun and upbeat track. If I'm honest, the interludes are more compelling to me than the majority of the songs.

You Want It Darker Leonard Cohen 
Sing-Songwriter. Third leg of a trilogy, along with Old Ideas (2012) and Popular Problems (2014). He turned 82 this year and his vocal performance is simply not as powerful as it used to be. His delivery is lacking in variety.
The good thing is he still has a way with words and the poetic lyrics tell you where he is at, coming to terms with god, love and death. While it isn't a requirement to be elderly and frail to identify, the material does seem geared towards the experienced adult. He also mused about similar themes on his previous two albums, so You Want It Darker could feel slightly redundant if you listen to the trilogy back-to-back-to-back.
I would label it a minor Cohen album. The first two tracks You Want It Darker and Treaty are memorable with best of the year potential, but unfortunately the record loses steam after that early promise with too many dull moments. I'm a longtime fan, so I hate to give a middling review. RIP Leonard Cohen. We lost a legend.

Woman by Justice
Nu-Disco. The groups third album. An undemanding, easy listen, which is sometimes all we need. You could argue the tracks are too long, and on first listen I didn't care for the album, but give it time and may grow on you. Highlights: Safe & Sound, Randy, Fire, and the live YouTube version of Alakazam! Justice could easily have used a super model to feature in Fire music video. Kudos to them for the choice of 70-year-old Susan Sarandon.

Braver Than We Are by Meat Loaf
Rock Opera. What the album has going for it is the epic production which sounds like nothing else in contemporary music. Meat Loaf's vocal is not what it once was (which he openly admits in the opener) and that is the albums weakness, but the guest singers do a fine job of supporting.
There's quite a bit of variety. More and Godz have elements of hard rock. Souvenirs has an enjoyable saxophone solo. Who Needs the Young is a blend of country and cabaret. Most memorable is Going All the Way Is Just the Start (A Song in 6 movements). The worst is Skull of Your Country, which annoyingly reuses parts of the 80s classic Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Basses Loaded by Melvins
Sludge Metal. Kindly recommended by Aussie film blogger Epileptic Moondancer. Melvins are new to me. The album could be described as metal riffs with jazz thrown in. Considered a return to form by the band. Has more replay potential than the new Metallica. Highlights include The Decay of Lying, Choco Plumbing, Hideous Woman, Planet Distructo and War Pussy.
The bizarre mid-album track Shaving Cream felt out of place. Apparently the band have a goofy side, so I suppose it's normal for them. Maybe I'm Amused is probably a pun on Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed. I Want to Tell You is a Beatles cover.

Albums #21 - #25:
Untitled unmastered. by Kendrick Lamar (Jazz Rap)
Junk by M83 (Synthpop)
Honest Life by Courtney Marie Andrews (Country)
2013 by Meilyr Jones (Chamber Pop)
Nothing More to Say by The Frightnrs (Rocksteady/Reggae)

Agree or disagree? What do you think about these albums/artists? I'll share my top 10 albums of 2016 soon.

Question: Which classic or new TV shows are on your watch-list?

Here are a few on my list:

Porridge (1974–1977)
I, Claudius (1976)
The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1981-) (review)
Playing Shakespeare (1982)
Yes Minister (1980–1984)
The Young Ones (1982-84)
I'm Alan Partridge (1997-)
Spaced (1999-2001)
Little Britain (2003–2006)
Buried (2003)
Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge (2010-)
Black Mirror (2011-)
The Hollow Crown (2012–)
Travel Man (2015–)
The Crown (2016-)
Mum (Season 2) (2017)
Peter Kay's Car Share (2015-)

The Honeymooners (1955-1956) (thanks to Dell for the recommendation)
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) (selected episodes)
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69) (selected episodes)
Miami Vice (season 1) (1984) (currently watching)
Behind the Music (1997-)
Dinner For Five (2001–)
The Wire (Season 2) (2003)
Firefly (2002-2003)
What's In My Bag? (2006-)
On Death Row (2012-)
BoJack Horseman (2014-)
Mr. Robot (2015-)
Hip-Hop Evolution (season 1) (2016) (Thanks to Nostra for the recommendation)
Twin Peaks (Season 3) (2017) (review: E1-E4  E5-E8  E9-E12  E13-E18 )
Stranger Things (Season 2) (2017)

Matador (1978-1982) (currently watching)
Historien om Danmark (2017-)

I prefer UK comedy. For drama I like a story (like Twin Peaks or The Wire) that progresses.

Have you seen any of these? Which TV shows are at the top of your queue? What TV-series should I watch next, any suggestions?

Older song discoveries from soundtracks during 2016

What's this?  by Danny Elfman / Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
For Halloween or Christmas. Or any other time of year.

Exit by Tangerine Dream / Album: Exit (1981) / Stranger Things, Season 1 (2016)
I  already knew a lot of the 80s music from Stranger Things. I should listen to TD's 80s albums.

Watermelon in Easter Hay by Frank Zappa /Album: Joe's Garage (1979) / Y tu mamá también (2001)
I love how calming Zappa's song is, even if it isn't his usual style. Epic guitar solo

Voices by Russ Ballard   / Miami Vice episode "Calderone's Return" (1984)
Continuing my voyage discovering the 80s, the series has 80s music in abundance. Or you can cheat and just go through the list. I'll have things to say about the show in my TV watched in 2016 post.

Mother Sky by Can  / Deep End (1970) 
You can understand the young man's infatuation with his co-worker Susan (Jane Asher). Hilarious when he walks around in public with the cardboard cut-out of the woman, accompanied by this hypnotizing krautrock song

The Meaning of Life by Monty Python   / The Meaning of Life (1983)
A few of the songs from the soundtrack are Monty Python classics, which elevate good sequences into great sequences

L'arena by Ennio Morricone   / The Mercenary (1968)
The best composer of westerns

Betty et Zorg by Gabriel Yared   / Betty Blue (1986)
Haunting harmonica, very soothing

Sentimental Walk by Vladimir Cosma /  Diva (1981)
The walk taken by Jules and Cynthia across the city includes this beautiful piano piece

The Glory Of Love by DeVol   / Guess Whos Coming to Dinner (1967)
Timeless song about love. The film is a bit dated.

When I Go by Minimal Compact  /Album: Raging Souls (1985) /  Wings of Desire (1987)
Wasn't convinced if the vocal was good or bad. Grew on me. Very atmospheric, like the film is.

If There Was a Man by The Pretenders   / The Living Daylights (1987)
From end credits, in contention to be the title track, but lost out. So different to the bombastic and pop-friendly The Living Daylights by A-ha.

747 by Kent  (1997) / Career Opportunities (1991)
I'm cheating a little, as the song is 6 years older than the film. A random YouTube user put the song together with the John Hughes movie.

Death Proof (2007)
You can generally trust Tarantino's soundtracks will deliver obscure gems, and Death Proof is no exception.
Hold Tight! by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (1966)  
It's So Easy by Willy DeVille (1980)

Take Your Tiime (Do It Right) by SOS Band (1980) / Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Catchy and danceable disco, from The Sound Machine scene. The soundtrack is arguably the best thing about Richard Linklater's latest.

Hope you enjoy the selections. What do you think about the music from these films and tv shows? Which discoveries from soundtracks did YOU make this year?


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