The Top 20 Disney Songs of All Time (So Far)

For so many of us, before we become self-styled experts in whatever kinds of pop music we like best, there are Disney songs. They’re inescapable, nearly; who among you, readers, cannot name or hum or sing or belt out at least one, if not half a dozen? With the current Disney cartoon Moana scoring rave reviews and mega box office as it completes the company’s re-embrace of its musical heritage, we thought it would be fun to establish a Disney Song Canon – the competition Moana‘s strong set of tunes faces as they hope to achieve immortality in the Disney songbook, which I believe is located somewhere inside the Disney Vault, possibly on the shelf above all of the Black Cauldron merch.

Of course, Disney music is not limited to animated features, and so neither was this list: live action releases from Disney (though generally not Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures) were fair game, along with theme park songs and any applicable Disney Afternoon theme songs. Songs from subsidiaries such as Pixar, Marvel Studios, Muppet Studios, and Lucasfilm were not eligible, because those entities’ existences predated Disney, as much as Pixar movies are now identified with the Disney brand.

Your usual SportsAlcohol buddies Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, Sara, and Maggie were joined by self-taught Disney experts Jonathan Lill, Rayme Shore, Bayard Templeton, and Jennifer Vega, compiling lists of our favorites and synthesizing them into a single Top 20. We’ll be back later this week with a podcast where we talk a little more about our choices and their movies. But for now, enjoy this ultra-definitive, well-considered list. These are the Disney songs that feel like magic to us.
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The SportsAlcohol Podcast: Reliving the 1996 Billboard Chart

If you’re anything like us, this year has been a hard one for living in the moment. That’s why we’ve spent a number of podcast episodes reliving moments of the past, both in our own lives and in the culture. Today, Marisa leads Jesse, Rob, and Sabrina down a guided trip of a representative cross-section of Billboard Magazine’s top songs of 1996. It was a simpler time, one when we were all in high school and Bob Dole was the worst thing that could happen to us. Some topics covered:

  • Every band is someone’s favorite
  • Getting into a band you don’t like before they make it big
  • Sheryl Crow dishing dirt on the seedy underbelly of the music industry
  • Rob and Jesse’s AP English class
  • Mickey Rooney’s worst role is good argument for a 1984-style regime
  • Friends (both the tv show and the concept of a close bond with others)

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

As a bonus, here is some content we discussed below (please note: none of these songs are on the list)

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SportsAlcohol.com Founder in the Wild!

The turkey is done. The doors have been busted. The Friday has been blackened. Now ’tis the time to move on to the season of holiday specials. To that end, SportsAlcohol.com founder Nathaniel will be giving a presentation on comic strip-related holiday specials at a very merry edition of Kevin Geeks Out at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.

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Official description:

For the Christmas edition of the KEVIN GEEKS OUT show, comedian Kevin Maher and his guests look at their favorite Holiday Specials, from the obvious to the obscure. This two-hour video variety show will stuff your stocking memorable moments from movies and tv specials.

You want to check out the new Alamo Drafthouse. (Drinks an food at your seat! Rosé shakes!) You want to see nerds presenting clips from different holiday specials, recalling your youthful favorites and introducing you to the weird ones that passed you by. You want to find joy and light in the world. You want to see Nathaniel in some kind of festive garb. You want to get tickets.

If you’re investigating this page becuase you found the ticketing site for Kevin Geeks Out and thought, “Hmmm, SportsAlcohol.com, what is that?”—good! Our obtuse, SEO-befuddling site title has somehow worked on you. You can see what we’re all about, holiday-wise, with this podcast about our favorite holiday entertainment.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Pop Culture Disappointments

We’ve talked about our pop culture tears and fears, but what about that weird combination of the two, where you fear something will let you down so much you feel like crying? Either you’re listening to a Tears for Fears album, or you’re experiencing the universal feeling of pop-culture disappointment. For this episode, Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse talk about stuff that’s let us down over the years, from childhood to our teenage years to our wizened old age. We talk about singing food products, great directors who swung and missed, Broadway musicals, bands we grew out of, and more! After an extremely disappointing election and 2016 in general, maybe talking about some less harmful letdowns will be helpful.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

TRACK MARKS: “So Long, Marianne” by Leonard Cohen

By just about any measure 2016 has been a rough year. In addition to the turbulent, terrifying political sea change of Brexit and President-elect Trump, we’ve lost many great artists this year, artists whose work in the years ahead would be especially welcome. While the passing of Leonard Cohen on November 7th was not as shocking as Bowie or Prince, given his age and his recent proclamation that he was “ready to die,” it is an immense loss nonetheless. Less a songwriter than a poet putting music beneath his words, Cohen made songs that are both legendarily melancholic and exquisitely beautiful, the cutting, cynical lyrics buoyed by delicate mandolins and soulful female-backed choruses. Often they have a confessional feel to them, particularly when he is plundering the lower moments of his own life (as in the epistolary “Famous Blue Raincoat” which, while not strictly autobiographical, is written as a direct address from Cohen to a man who ran off with his girlfriend, and is simultaneously affectionate and merciless to all three participants.) But that gives his work a generosity as well, the sense that he is pouring all of himself into every line, with the signature graveled delivery that makes a listener lean closer, hold it tight. It would be near impossible to put into words how much his music has meant to me; cliches about feeling less alone and better understood don’t seem nearly enough to honor such a talent. But I’ll try.

It’s tempting in these dark, uncertain times to write about one of Cohen’s more pessimistic, later period songs, and there are many to choose from – “The Future” (“I’ve seen the future, baby/And it is murder”); “Everybody Knows” (“Everybody knows the fight was fixed/The poor stay poor, the rich get rich”); hell his final album was called “You Want It Darker,” and apparently we do. But I’m choosing instead to focus on a song from his debut album, and one that was likely on his mind in his final days: “So Long, Marianne.”

Upbeat by Cohen standards, “So Long, Marianne” is a shimmering, strumming ode to a love that doesn’t always come easy. It’s fragile and fraught, the singer struggling to reconcile his wish for freedom to wander with a longing for the shelter that such intimacy offers, balancing both the yearning and loneliness that can creep in even after knowing your partner for decades. In one touching, wistful turn of phrase that speaks to Cohen’s origins as both a poet and novelist he says they met when they were “almost young” (something it’s difficult to think of Cohen ever being), and you can sense in every passing stanza how the years between the couple have created both an uncrossable chasm and a shared history that can never be forgotten. There’s a lived-in warmth that feels unique to the rest of Cohen’s catalogue, probably because it is based on a real woman, a real relationship that Cohen had over several years with Marianne Ihlen, whom he met in Greece and eventually moved to Montreal with, along with her young son. The relationship ultimately did not last but the song stands as a monument, not only to her and what they shared, but, to borrow from another Cohen number, to the cracks that let the light in, the beauty in life that makes the pain bearable even if just for a moment.

And so I’m going to close this by quoting, in full (which hopefully doesn’t break any copyrights), Cohen’s letter to the real Marianne, written when he learned she was dying:

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

In the years ahead, there will be many times when we might feel hopeless, despondent, scared, all of which is perfectly understandable, even advisable to a certain point. But let us also be the ones who stretch our hands out to one another rather than push one another away. I’ll see you down the road. Thank you, Leonard Cohen, for all you’ve given us and for getting there first. And for the love of God, 2016, please don’t take anyone else with you on your way out.

TRACK MARKS: “Most of the Time” by Bob Dylan

You may have heard a little announcement out of Stockholm recently: Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, the first American to do so since 1993 and the first musician ever so honored. It was, to say the least, a controversial choice among the literati. As a writer and avid reader of fiction, I sympathize with the complaints that awarding a literary prize to someone like Dylan robs an actual author, often one whose name is hardly known in the U.S., of a well-deserved boost in sales and recognition. And as someone who strives to read poetry more regularly, I understand the necessity of interrogating whether someone who is known primarily as a lyricist can or should be considered a writer of verse in the same way laureates like Szymborska and Heaney are. And as a woman who has experienced her share of man-splaining, I nodded my head at the annoyance that rippled through many Twitter feeds that perhaps the ultimate white male artiste beloved by every pretentious dickhead who ever picked up a guitar received an award of this magnitude and prestige.

And yet.
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Shin Godzilla (2016)

First things first: Shin Godzilla is here! There’s a new Japanese Godzilla film currently playing theaters in the United States and it is pretty spectacular. With a franchise that has lasted over six decades and twenty nine films, audience members will obviously approach it with a wide variety of expectations, so it’s best to know going in that it is a film much more in the vein of the original Godzilla (or 1984’s The Return of Godzilla) than the sillier alien invasion epics that characterized the 60s & 70s. It’s a film with seriousness of purpose, with the most frightening depiction of the title monster in the entire franchise (with the possible exception of the original). But it’s also a deeply eccentric film, with a strain of satire running throughout, and extremely propulsive and idiosyncratic filmmaking choices that render a talky, procedural story breathlessly involving (it’s the Contagion or Apollo 13 of Godzilla movies, or The Martian if Matt Damon was roughly 35 stories high and oozing radioactivity). The story is certainly familiar to fans of the genre, but the presentation can be dizzyingly unfamiliar. Presented in this country with subtitles, it’s an incredibly dense film, with whip fast dialogue (sure to be too talky to some) sometimes fighting for room with other onscreen text (including a running gag where every character with a line is identified by name and title/rank/governmental position, including some characters who get multiple titles as their position changes during the story). It’s a very political film, with some material that will be easily grasped by western audiences and some material that will (and, no doubt in my case, did) fly over their heads. Oh, and the monster sequences are beautiful, thrilling, and full of images that left this Godzilla fan’s jaw on the floor. So, that’s the short of it. Go see the movie! But there’s a lot more to talk about. So, if you want to go deeper, let’s get to it.

(NOTE: I’m going to talk about the story of the film in some detail below. But I’m only going to put another big spoiler warning before I discuss some details about the film’s depiction of Godzilla himself because there was some stuff there that genuinely surprised me!) Continue reading Shin Godzilla (2016)

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: What Makes Us Scared at Movies

Last time we talked about visceral reactions we have to movies, it involved the movies (and TV shows) that have made us cry. In the spirit of Halloween, Nathaniel, Rob, Marisa, Jesse, Sara, and Rayme got together to discuss movies that make us cry… WITH FRIGHT! We discuss what movies scared us as kids, what scares us as adults, what horror classics never did it for us, and more! Some of these movies are traditional horror; some of them are just dramatic thrillers or children’s TV shows. If you want to find out who started to cry from fear at Signs or who hid under the bed during Fraggle Rock, this is your chance!

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Godzilla: King of the Hollywood Trends

For one week, starting today, fans in America and Canada will be able to see Shin Godzilla, the first new Japanese Godzilla movie in twelve years. The film was a smash hit this summer in its native country, and is already proving controversial (mostly sight-unseen) with western fans for both its politics and its portrayal of the title monster. While controversy is certainly not new to the series, its existence surrounding the twenty-ninth(!) entry offers promise that there is still room to try something new as Godzilla enters his seventh decade on screen.

One area that Shin Godzilla seems to be striking new ground in the series is that it is apparently a completely fresh start, establishing its own continuity and not functioning as a sequel to any prior film. That’s right, Shin Godzilla is a reimagining/remake/hard reboot/what-have-you. It’s all the more surprising that his hasn’t happened before when you look and see that so many of the other storytelling trends that Hollywood studios have been chasing over the last fifteen years have been well covered in the Godzilla series. Godzilla wasn’t always there first, but he was usually there early, and I needn’t tell you how big those footprints are.
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What ‘The Girl on the Train’ Gets Wrong About Westchester

The novel The Girl on the Train takes place across the pond in the good old U.K., but the move adaptation imports it to Westchester County, NY. It’s a pretty good match for the subject matter, in that there is a train that runs alongside some big freaking houses, which is basically the main building blocks you need for the story. Since Westchester is my turf, I’m in charge of WC fact-checking,  just like I was with the X-Men movies. Here’s what they messed up.

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You Can’t Live in Ardsley-on-Hudson

At least I don’t think you can. It my 20 years of living in Westchester, I never met anyone who said they were from Ardsley-on-Hudson. Ardsley-on-Hudson is more of a hamlet than a village. There is a college (that uses a Dobbs Ferry street address), a country club (home to Westchester’s only curling team), and, yes, a Metro-North station, but that’s about it. There’s no mayor. There’s no elementary school. If you look for Ardsley-on-Hudson real estate, you’ll find houses in Irvington.

It’s funny, because if the movie had transplanted the events of The Girl on the Train to any other “-on-Hudson” town, they’d be fine. Irvington-on-Hudson is a place, which is also just called Irvington. Hastings-on-Hudson is a wonderful village, and you can get away with calling it Hastings. But the village of Ardsley—which is a real village with its own mayor, school system, mailing addresses, and the like—and Ardsley-on-Hudson are two different places, and they’re in two entirely separate locations. Sadly, Ardsley has no Metro-North station of its own, so many times people hop on the train assuming the Ardsley-on-Hudson stop is close enough, only to wind up with an expensive cab ride. The New York Times even made this mistake.

That stuff about being a routine baby factory, though, is pretty spot-on.

WTF Is NY1?

For updates on the seedy crime that’s being investigated throughout the movie, the characters often turn to TV staton New York 1. NY1 is unavailable in the county. We’re a News 12 Westchester region all the way.

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The Train Itself

Sometimes, the Metro-North seats looked a little off to me. Sometimes, though, they were dead on, so it could’ve just been the shooting angle. But the fact that I could see enough of the seats to scrutinize them is a fundamental mistake in the movie. If Rachel was really commuting at a time that would be convincing for someone who had a real job in a city, all those seats would be taken. And forget sitting in the same window seat in the same car every day—if she was getting on around Ardsley-on-Hudson, she’d either be squished in the middle, or standing.

And One Last Note

Ardsley is a teeny, one-square-mile village, and Ardsley-on-Hudson is less than that. It’s not odd to me that few movies are set in any of the Ardsleys. As far as I know, there are only two: The Girl on the Train, and Unfaithful.

In the cinematic world, “Ardsley” is shorthand for one thing: murderous infidelity. In our Tim Burton podcast, we talk about how the suburbs are usually only given one treatment in film: the whole American Beauty, materialistic souring-of-the-American-dream/seedy-underbelly thing. You go from zero to The Ice Storm in 60 seconds. (Though The Ice Storm took place just over the border in Connecticut.) That’s not to say that it never happens, or that it never works. (Cheever, man.) But I do hope that someday filmmakers find a different color to paint the suburbs in the way Burton does.