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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Music of 2023

Just in time to miss the Grammys entirely, and following a three-year hiatus, the SportsAlcohol.com music enjoyers are back to talk about how they experienced the best music of 2023, whether that’s through indie rock, pop, old favorites, new discoveries, streaming or old-fashioned LPs. Sara, Marisa, Rob, Jeremy, and Jesse are all on hand to chat about trends and antitrends in the year’s music, including thoughts on Boygenius, The National, Caroline Polachek, Olivia Rodrigo, Belle & Sebastian, Blondshell, The Hold Steady, ancient legacy acts, the best shows and albums and singles of the year, and, of course, Joe Jackson.

You can listen or — if you still have a device that plays mp3s — download using the player below. Better yet, you can download the mp3, break it into two parts, and burn it onto a pair of CDs to make the double-album podcast of your dreams!

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Movies of 2022

Movies! Now more than ever! For this late-but-not-that-late episode on the Best Movies of 2022, the SportsAlcohol.com movie core of Marisa, Sara, Jeremy, Jesse, and Nathaniel each submitted a list of, yes, their 20 favorite and/or best movies of 2022, aggregated into a single list. Four of us then run through those collective choices in this loose countdown, which means talking about movies that are and are not actually about the magic of cinema. Musicals, multiverses, Hitchcockian thrillers, dark comedies, and emotional devastation… this year’s best movies of 2022 had it all! Along with our group’s consensus choices, we offer occasional dissent with each other’s picks, plus a quartet of outliers that only made certain individual lists. There’s a lot to enjoy here, so get to listening!

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Streaming TV of 2022

You may have heard of a coming streaming recession or TV apocalypse, but regardless of what the future may hold, right now, there is still a hell of a lot of streaming TV out there for your consumption, whether your streaming provider is Netflix, Hulu, Paramount, Apple, Disney, Tubi, or all of the above (or just Tubi because Tubi is the best). Sensing a need for categorization and consensus in this vast streaming TV landscape, Ben called an emergency session of the SportsAlcohol.com podcast crew to talk about our favorite shows of 2022, sorted neatly into a series of categories: workplace shows, relationship shows, fantastical shows, funny shows, animated shows… all the types of shows, as favored variously by Ben, Jeremy, Sara, Marisa, and even TV agnostic and confirmed “movie person” (ugh) Jesse. So before you just shrug your shoulders and fire up that new season of Mad About You that you missed a few years ago, why not listen to us stump for our favorites (and run down a few of our anti-favorites)? We’ve got something for just about everyone, and if you watch all of these shows already, you can hear us praise and/or debate them. Happy listening and watching!

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast Lost Episode: Indie Movies of Summer 2022

Hey there! It’s been a while, I know! We recorded our annual wrap-up of highlights from an indie-movie summer (and recommendations for a healthy streaming fall) back in September, but life, paid gigs, and occasionally COVID got in the way of Jesse actually editing the damn thing and getting it out into the world. I thought this particular movie podcast episode might feel outdated now that it’s December, but as it turns out, this is a terrific compendium of summer indies that will probably be largely overlooked as we head into the big end-of-year list-making season. Plus, some of these movies are newly available on Netflix and/or Hulu and/or old pals at AMC Plus, an organization that we make a case should be sponsoring us on this very episode! So let Sara, Marisa, Jeremy, and Jesse take you on a whirlwind tour of the movies you might have missed last summer while you were seeing Top Gun 2 a third time! You won’t regret it!

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

The Best Movies of 2021

It’s been a long year. I’m referring, of course, to 2020, which is still going, some 800-plus days after it started. Oh, it’s 2022?! Ah, shit. That means this list is super-late. Sorry! But maybe we could all use some extra time to think about our choices, and how extremely correct they all are. I won’t waste any more time. Let’s get to the list for another year where everything was garbage but the movies. You can listen to us defend our choices here.
Continue reading The Best Movies of 2021

The SportsAlcohol.dom Podcast Double Feature: Best Movies of 2021, and the Oscars

It’s been a quiet winter, podcasting-wise, at SportsAlcohol.com HQ, but now Marisa, Sara, Jeremy, and Jesse are back with two new retrospective episodes! In the first, we continue our annual tradition of counting down our collective top 15 movies of the year (that’s 2021, not 2022). The full list will be on the site soon, but you can get a preview with our discussion of group and personal faves. Then we convened to talk about some of the best-and-other movies of 2021, offering our predictions, preferences, and occasional complaints about the recent Oscar nominations. Sure, it’s March, but the Oscars still haven’t happened yet! So why not take a last listen to us talking about the highlights (and occasional Oscar-honored lowlights) of the 2021 movie year? It’s been a rollercoaster year-plus, but keep in mind: Heartbreak feels good in a place like this.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • SportsAlcohol.com is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the episode directly here for the best movies of 2021 and here for the Oscars.
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud. We don’t always have it working right but there’s good stuff there regardless!
  • You can listen to the episodes in the players below.

TRACK MARKS 2021: “4Runner” by Rostam

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them around the turn of a new year, looking back at the previous year in music.

There was a brief, blink-and-you-missed-it period when it seemed like everything was going to be okay. That we’d pull through this whole COVID mess; the masks could be doffed, the social distance between us closed. It’s hard to believe now as Omicron continues to wreck its havoc on vacation planning and school reopenings, but during the weeks of June and July 2021 when it seemed like this great disaster was about to be in the rearview, Rostam’s swoony “4Runner” was my personal soundtrack.

This isn’t to say I was spending a lot of that period driving around; even two and a half years after moving back to the Midwest I still don’t have a car. But like the titular vehicle, “4Runner” is a track designed for the open road, even if it’s just one you’re riding in your mind. Rostam seemed to anticipate this by releasing the single way back in March of 2021, when most of us were still homebound, in advance of his second solo album Changephobia. Though he hasn’t collaborated with Vampire Weekend in several years now, the song recalls some of their breeziest work, though it’s much less indebted to Paul Simon’s multicultural melange than the self-consciously cinematic sweep of Roxy Music.

Employing a surging mix of 12-string acoustic guitar, drums, and a Moog bass, Rostam constructs a euphoric ode to queer love and the freedom that can be found as much in a lover’s arms as the wind in your hair. The lyrics paint a nostalgic portrait of a couple who could be on the road or on the run: the 4Runner they’re driving has stolen plates, after all. A sense of illicitness, even danger, hangs over the scene; at one point Rostam mentions the knife his partner keeps in the passenger door. The song never boils over into melodrama, though. This isn’t a Thelma & Louise story, doomed to end in tragedy. There are no cars careening into canyons here. Instead there’s an acknowledgment that uncertainty is part of the trade-off of partnership, and might even be one of the rewards. “I’m waiting down the street. Take all the time you want to come,” Rostam sings, the music fading beneath him like a sunset, a daily event that can still feel momentous despite its constancy. It was difficult to be spontaneous this past year, but “4Runner” reminds us what it feels like to throw caution to the wind and take off somewhere unmapped, if only for three-and-a-half minutes at a time.

TRACK MARKS 2021: “Faith Healer” by Julien Baker

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them around the turn of a new year, looking back at the previous year in music.

I cried a lot in 2021. I don’t think I’m alone in that. It was a uniquely dark time for many of us, when the continued isolation imposed by the pandemic began to feel less like a moral imperative and more like a congenital defect, particularly for those like me who live alone and already prone to depressive and defeatist thinking. We had hoped the year would go better. It had other plans. In times like this, sometimes it doesn’t really help to try and boost yourself up with positive and mindful self-talk that feels false or forced. Sometimes you just want to hear from someone who gets it. For me, that someone was Julien Baker.

In advance of the release of her third solo album Little Oblivions, Baker was remarkably candid about the personal struggles and demons that inspired it, from her evangelical upbringing to a series of addictions and relapses before she was even out of her teens. If there’s a self-flagellating aspect to her music, a punishing intensity not only to the lyrics but the musical compositions supporting them, there’s also a firsthand knowledge of unhealthy coping mechanisms that can make her seem like the gurus she’s questioning, a belief in herself that’s all the more compelling for how clearly fragile it is. No track embodies that better than “Faith Healer,” the record’s first single and its best song.

Like much of Baker’s music, it starts hushed, with a simple undulating guitar picking, her voice not entering the song so much as venturing into it. “Ooh I miss it high,” she croons, as if hesitant to invade its holy space with a confession of weakness. But, as with most confessions, once Baker starts it all begins flooding out: “What I wouldn’t give if it would take away the sting a minute. Everything I love, I’d trade it in to feel it rush into my chest.” If there’s anything an addict understands in her blood, it’s the seductive power of a quick fix. Whatever the vice might be, whether it’s a drug or a person or a belief system, there’s a relief in giving into it, blinding yourself to the delusion that maybe, this time, you can control the chaos being welcomed back in. The song itself mirrors this during the bridge as strings dart with increasing fervency, building to the cathartic invitation to connect, even, and perhaps especially, when it’s bad for you: “Come put your hands on me.” When she performed this live at one of the first shows I went to post-vaccine in September, the crowd lifted theirs as if the concert hall was a revival tent. And for the upteenth time that year, I cried. And I wasn’t alone in that.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Films of Wes Anderson

How did it take us this long to get to a Wes Anderson podcast episode?! Though The Grand Budapest Hotel was our consensus choice for the best movie of 2014, our site’s very first best-movie-of-the-year pick, we hadn’t yet dedicated a full episode to Anderson’s full filmography. With the recent of release of The French Dispatch, we decided to change that, assembling Marisa, Jon, Sara, Jeremy, and Jesse to rank Anderson’s movies and discuss all ten of them. Which film edged out which other film for the number one spot? Which one was lowest on multiple lists? What do we think of his latest movie (now available to stream, rent, or buy on disc)? And where do the stop-motion animals fit in?! All of this information and more is contained in this podcast episode, our first in too long, but also one of our best. So switch off the Kinks for just a couple of hours and listen up!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • SportsAlcohol.com is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the episode directly here.
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud. We don’t always have it working right but there’s good stuff there regardless!
  • You can listen to the episode in the player below.

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER at 25: To Break Things and Be Forgiven

Mel Coplin cannot name his child. This is the inciting plot point of writer-director David O. Russell’s second and, in my opinion, best film: 1996’s Flirting with Disaster, which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. It belongs in the same upper echelon of satirical road trip comedies as Albert Brooks’ Lost in America and Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels but is rarely granted that level of recognition, perhaps overshadowed in the popular imagination by Russell’s flashier but less soulful later efforts. Watching it now, there’s something quaint, even wholesome, about Disaster’s more pint-sized focus and ambitions; its entire budget could probably match the cost of one of American Hustle’s needle drops. It’s a portrait of a distinctly dysfunctional family, released during the height of the Clinton years, picking up on the ambient anxieties of the you-can-have-it-all era and mining it for painful laughs. But, like pretty much every character in the film, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Let’s get back to Mel, who is played with exquisitely calibrated neuroticism by Ben Stiller. Mel cannot name his child because he doesn’t understand where he came from. Mel was adopted as a baby by Pearl and Ed Coplin, played by an uncharacteristically ribald Mary Tyler Moore and perpetually harried George Segal, respectively. Though they are not his birth parents, it’s easy to see how they’ve rubbed off on Mel once they’re introduced in the sort of madcap multilayered “everyone talking at once and about different things” dinner sequence that will become this film’s recurring set piece. For someone like me, who grew up in a household that insisted on sedate nightly meals together that often unfolded with the television on in the background, these scenes hit the same pleasure centers as Moonstruck or Raising Arizona. It’s not that I recognize my own family in them, but the particularities of the arguments and the tangled affection informing them invite me, if only briefly, into a new, more emphatic one. Pearl and Ed are upset with Mel because, deep down, they fear they haven’t been enough for him. Because this is a David O. Russell comedy, that’s expressed by Moore boasting about the defiant buoyancy of her late-middle-aged breasts and Segal cautioning about the carjacking problem in San Diego, where Mel has just announced he’s heading with his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette, expertly capturing the heightened-stakes sensuality of new motherhood) and his hapless caseworker Tina (Tea Leoni, never sexier), who is recently divorced and feeling pressed for time, biologically speaking. Tina has identified San Diego as the residence of Mel’s birth mother, Valerie Swaney.
Continue reading FLIRTING WITH DISASTER at 25: To Break Things and Be Forgiven