GLORIA BELL: Is it time for Generation X to get its groove back?!

Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria Bell, a remake of his Chilean film Gloria from six years ago, follows the broad outline of a light dramedy about a middle-aged woman getting, as the Terry McMillan phrase goes, her groove back. Gloria (Julianne Moore) is fiftysomething, gainfully employed, outwardly cheerful and maybe a little bit lonely. Her children are grown, her divorce long since finalized, and she even has a cute-movie-ready hobby: We first see her out at a dance club, populated by other middle-aged folks, eyes searching and hopeful. She likes to dance, though a lot of her moves are tentative.

Early in the movie, Gloria meets Arnold (John Turturro). They dance together, and soon they’re in a bona fide relationship–passionate, but seemingly with potential that extends beyond a sexy post-club fling. Re-energized sex life… romantic restaurants… her groove! Is it back?! But with the basic framework of a middle-age-revitalization story in place, Lelio feels free to dance around it. Stories like this, especially when they’re focused on providing some degree of fantastical wish-fulfillment, are often belabored with exposition about the protagonist’s normal, perhaps humdrum life. In Gloria Bell, we learn a lot of details about Gloria’s life with a quickness and a clarity that recalls Greta Gerwig or Noah Baumbach (he even captures Moore singing along in her car, alone, in a few shots that recall the intimacy of Gerwig’s earliest moments in Baumbach’s Greenberg). She works for some kind of insurance firm, mostly on the phones. Her young-ish son (Michael Cera) is a single parent to an infant. Gloria does not own a cat, but a hairless one keeps slipping into her apartment somehow. All of this plays out in concise and well-observed micro-scenes, with a near pathological avoidance of overstaying their welcome.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: High Flying Bird

The SportsAlcohol.com affinity for Steve Soderbergh has been well-documented, and then Soderbergh had to go and do something to entice us even more: He put out a movie on Netflix that we could all watch, about sports (Rob), business (Ben), and the commodification of the body, again (everyone!) that reminded some people of Moneyball (Rob again). So naturally, Marisa, Jesse, Rob, and Ben convened a podcast summit to talk this all out. How does this stack up to past Soderbergh triumphs? Is this the Moneyball we deserve? Will we ever seize the means of production?! Listen to our crisp DIY episode (and our sportiest episode ever!) and find out!

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Is Neil Jordan’s GRETA deliciously bonkers, or just kind of bad?

Neil Jordan’s new movie Greta is a thriller in which a just-graduated young woman (Chloe Grace Moretz), still grieving from the death of her mother, finds herself bedeviled by Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older woman who initially appears to be a sweet surrogate mom figure but turns out to be a dangerous obsessive. It’s the stuff early-’90s stalker movies were made of, and the throwback angle combined with access to new technology and Jordan’s considerable talent, not to mention a plum role for Huppert, give the movie a buzz of anticipation as it starts to unfold.

That buzz grows dimmer and more erratic as the movie explores the life of Frances (Moretz), who has moved to New York (played mostly by Canada and Ireland) to share a fancy Tribeca apartment with her spoiled best friend Erica (Maika Monroe). The two women speak mostly in awkward exposition, like, well, a couple of middle-aged guys making their best guess at what 22-year-olds sound like. Restless and unsure of herself in the big city, Frances finds a purse abandoned on the 6 train. She tracks down the owner, Huppert’s Greta, who invites her into her charming little house (of undetermined location) for tea. Soon Frances is going to dinner with Greta and helping her adopt a dog, as Erica rolls her eyes over her friend’s weird social engagements.
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How to Train Your Dragon 3, Lego Movie 2, and kid movies that won’t grow up

Given the logistical undertaking of making a movie franchise out of big-studio animation, it must be a blessed relief not to have to include live-action performers in the mix. Voice actors can often fit their performances into packed schedules, they can change their appearance without affecting production, they can let natural aging take its course—and if the studio’s hand is forced, they can be replaced with minimal fuss.

It’s notable, then, that the sequels to the 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon have decided not to take advantage of the medium’s potential for eternal youth. The first movie is about a Viking teenager’s bond with the dragon he’s supposed to be hunting; in the sequels, released in 2014 and now in 2019, the boy ages more or less in parallel with the passage of real-world time. He’s taller and more assured in How to Train Your Dragon 2, and in The Hidden World he’s old enough to lead his tribe and think about getting married. Another recent (mostly) animated sequel aimed at kids, The Lego Movie 2, also works the passage of five years into its storyline. The walking, talking Lego minifigs who populate the movie don’t suffer much wear and tear, but in the movie’s parallel live-action storyline, the boy from the first movie is now approaching teen-hood—and his shifting interests are an engine of the sequel’s plot.
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DIRTY COMPUTER is our album of the year. Here’s why.

JESSE:
So generally we don’t cover the Grammys very much here on SportsAlcohol.com except for the occasional entreaty to Maybe Just Don’t. But the Grammys do provide an awkwardly timed opportunity to reflect on the best music of an awkwardly constructed eligibility period that we will simplify to just “2018” (although, real talk: did any of us love an album that came out in November or December of last year?). And as it happens, the general consensus choice for SportsAlcohol.com Album of the Year is, in fact, nominated for a Grammy! That would be Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, which is one of this year’s eight nominees for Album of the Year. Why are there eight this year instead of the usual five? Because otherwise there might not be room for the Post Malone album, of course! (Seriously though, I have no idea. Was 2019 the year that the Grammy Olds were finally like “hey, there’s a LOT of music out there? What with the Post Malone album, et cetera”? In the words of a diffident, opaque Lorne Michaels: Why now?)
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Grammy Week Track Marks: “The Stove and the Toaster” by the Hold Steady

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

Music purists of a certain age and disposition are currently frustrated with The Hold Steady, given that they’ve spent the past five years dribbling out a couple of songs at a time rather than holing up in the studio and releasing, you know, an album. But as desperate as I am to finally unwrap the band’s seventh LP and see what Holly and Charlemagne are up to, I can’t be too mad at The Hold Steady, not when they’re releasing songs as spectacular as “The Stove and the Toaster,” another of Craig Finn’s propulsive adventures in sleazy criminality. At just three-and-a-half minutes, it’s a remarkably dense song, packing in the usual torrent of verbiage and somehow still finding room for an epic guitar solo. Finn’s lyrics are as sharp and flavorful as ever, but it’s important not to overlook the band’s musical flourishes, like the sudden squalls of piano, or the horns that punctuate each line of the chorus, a sort of subliminal reminder that declares, “Hey folks, we aren’t just talk-singing poets; we’re a goddamn rock band.”

But Finn’s storytelling will always be the heart of The Hold Steady, the way he weaves tales of extraordinary specificity—geographic, personal, architectural—and spins them into music. “The Stove and the Toaster” is so teeming with detail and suspense, it could practically double as an episode of Breaking Bad, and not just because of the southwestern locations. The premise is simple: Finn wants to rip off some drug dealers, and his girlfriend has inside info that will allow them to pull off the perfect heist. (In some characteristically piquant Hold Steady minutiae, the stash is in the stove, the cash is in the toaster.) The problem is that they’re in over their heads; their marks are “earpiece dudes in a fortified fortress / A wholesale crew that does pretty big business.” This makes their fates a foregone conclusion—“We came to the kitchen and we knew it was over / I didn’t see any stove, no sign of the toaster”—but it also makes their recklessness oddly tragic. Finn just wanted to show his girl a good time, but he never stood a chance. Only a songwriting pro could conjure such a clueless amateur.

Grammy Week Track Marks: “Mistake” by Middle Kids

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

As lousy as 2018 may have been for America, it was quite the year for Australia, or at least for Australian three-pieces. Not only did Camp Cope deliver a blistering sophomore album, but the little-known outfit Middle Kids arrived onto the scene with Lost Friends, a ferociously catchy debut full of taut, intricately composed bangers. There’s nothing especially revolutionary about this trio’s music; they write straightforward songs that bounce from verses to choruses and back. But art doesn’t need to be original to be great, and “Mistake,” the record’s second single, weaponizes your familiarity against you. You think you’ve heard it before, and all of a sudden you’re tapping your foot, banging your head, and belting out its refrain at the top of your lungs.

Naturally, the pet trick of lead singer Hannah Joy is an oldie but a goodie: She loves to draw out single syllables for seconds at a time, right from the “Ooooh darling” that opens the song. Joy’s lyrics aren’t fancy—she repeatedly rhymes “back” with “back”—but they’re evocative, efficiently revealing a woman crippled by confusion regret (“Thought I was healthy but I’m choking / It must be catching up, my smoking”); she also drops in some sly bits of Swiftian pronoun-switching. But the sound is the key here, the way the drums and guitars seem perfectly unified, propelling Joy forward as she pushes toward each electric chorus. The band knows exactly when to crescendo and when to downshift, resulting in a song that snakes and curls before finally erupting with euphoria. It’s perfectly constructed, yet it doesn’t feel engineered or excessively polished. It’s a hell of a thing: Musicians have been banging on drums and strumming on guitars for decades, and without altering any of that basic technique, Middle Kids have somehow produced something fresh and exciting. Maybe it’s telling that the word “mistake” never actually appears in “Mistake”. On multiple levels, it’s nowhere to be found.

Grammy Week Track Marks: “Nobody” by Mitski

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

It’s a tough time for romantics. Nobody (heh, heh) understood that better in 2018 than Mitski, who put out a concept album on the possibilities and pitfalls of commitment called Be the Cowboy, a slippery piece of work that never quite plays its whole hand and is all the better for it. Prior to this single, it wasn’t immediately obvious that Mitski was at all interested in producing dance music, but this is a beat that even depressed people can dance to. The lyrics mention a love planet “destroyed by global warming,” just in case you were still wondering where millennial concerns truly lie.

There’s a chilliness and distance to “Nobody” that embodies our current state of courtship at its best and worst. “I don’t want your pity/I just want somebody near me,” Mitski sing-speaks at one point, and there’s perhaps no better encapsulation of the ennui that many young people feel these days, when communication is at everyone’s fingertips but connection remains just out of reach. Mitski’s delivery has a certain vulnerability to it, but there’s also the sense that this is just another shield. She’s singing to a void, after all. Perhaps the future of club music is songs you can dance to alone. In that case, Mitski has a long career ahead of her. Not that there was any doubt about that.

Grammy Week Track Marks: “How to Socialize & Make Friends” by Camp Cope

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

There was no shortage of songs by fed-up women in 2018. From Courtney Barnett co-opting a famous Margaret Atwood platitude for the chorus of “Nameless, Faceless” to Soccer Mommy’s opening salvo of “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog,” badass ladies were not afraid to put their anger front and center. And with good reason. Credibly accused sex offenders are now serving both the highest office in the country and on the most respected court of law. It was a good year to be furious. But of all the female kiss-offs that came out last year, Camp Cope’s under-the-radar “How to Socialize & Make Friends” might be my favorite.

The three-piece all-female band hails from Australia, which is obvious from the moment lead singer Georgia Maq opens her mouth. She has a delightfully insouciant delivery, tossing off the lyrics’ tangled storyline like she’s telling it to commiserating friends in a bar. While there are more overtly political numbers on the album “How to Socialize” hails from, there’s something more pervasive about this song’s depiction of the power imbalance that’s often at play in romantic heterosexual relationships. Maq alludes at various points to a key left for her, a man who routinely sleeps next to his wife, and how often women bear the emotional baggage of men without expectation of much in return. While a lot of this feels recognizable for women navigating the modern dating scene, there’s something immensely freeing in Maq’s vision of riding her bike “with no handlebars,” a return to the simplicity of girlhood that has the pull of a siren song. Once she gets to the repeated line “I can see myself living without you” she could be talking about a single man or all of them, and that’s the kind of spitefully independent spirit I want to take with me into 2019.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Best Movies of 2018

Now that you’ve read our list of the best movies of 2018 (right? right??), it’s time to hear us justify our choices! Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse got together to count down our list, talk about our choices, where we were unanimous, where we disagreed, and what outlier picks we wish everyone else as much. It’s a brisk overview of an unusually strong year in film, so go ahead and listen in and figure out what the deal with this Stalin guy is.

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