Category Archives: Lists

The SportsAlcohol.com Album of the Year: St. Vincent by St. Vincent

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Our album of the year is St. Vincent by St. Vincent. Five of us put together wildly different album lists, and this was the common ground, appearing on every single one, often near the top. We were all at least somewhat familiar with St. Vincent’s work before this year, but her self-titled record blows her past, merely good albums off whatever planet she’s from. As gratifying as it’s been to see female pop artists completely take over the charts over the past couple of years, it’s hard not to see St. Vincent as the new-millennium female pop star (which is to say: pop star) for the smart set. Below, Marisa, Sara, Rob, and Jesse piece together what we love about this album from its eleven wonderful songs.

The SportsAlcohol.com 2014 Album of the Year: St. Vincent

1. Rattlesnake

From her robotic live show choregoraphy to the growth she shows on St. Vincent, it’s clear that Annie Clark enjoyed her time working with David Byrne. I may have mentioned this before, but I am big into opening tracks. I probably read too much into the chioce of “Rattlesnake” as the leadoff to this record, but who cares when the song is this good. Twilight Zone paranoia fights it way over layers of synths and guitars with a bouncy beat to boot (and, maybe most unnerving of all, apparently based on a true story). It’s like so many tracks on this album: so many great things at once. – Rob

2. Birth in Reverse

St. Vincent is by far my favorite artist prone to adding “in America” at the end of a phrase. I mean, that sounds like a go-to parody move for making your lyrics sound as all-encompassingly pompous as possible. And yet in “Birth in Reverse,” for my money the catchiest song on this record, it functions more as a locator. The song opens with a description of ordinary household activities (of a sort), and the chorus’s description of what she sees “through the blinds,” “a birth in reverse in America,” feels like a zoom-out to a Google Maps view of where-ever the hell you bide your downtime when you’re the lady from St. Vincent. (Bonus points for the phrase “birth in reverse” supposedly coming from Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America.) The view from St. Vincent’s window sounds especially jittery because the music moves at a relentless pace that sounds like a workout video going amok. Whether it’s making a sweeping statement about America or, potentially worse, making a sweeping statement about how we all view the world through a digital lens (see track 5), St. Vincent makes opportunities for pomposity sound palatable, and palatable things sound extremely fucking weird. – Jesse

3. Prince Johnny

True fact: I am the last one to turn in my St. Vincent write-up. That’s because I’ve spent a lot of time trying to sort through all my feelings about “Prince Johnny,” apart from the feeling that I love it. She starts off the song by saying, “You’re kind, but you’re not simple.” The same can be said for the song: It’s pleasant, but it’s not simple. That’s why music writers have twisted themselves into knots trying to describe it, layering on these really purple words, like calling it a “a luxuriant, rhythmic ballad with a melancholic, detailed narrative.” I’m not criticizing. It needs this kind of description. I would add these equally flowery words: haunting, longingly, soaring, enigmatic, elegiac,  and heartbreaking. Kind-but-simple words do not do justice.

When I saw St. Vincent at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland this year, we got there late and had a less-than-ideal position in the crowd. Much of my view was obstructed for most of the concert. But, when she played “Prince Johnny,” she climbed atop of a tower of amps and sang it from far above the crowd. I understand that Clark is known for crazy stage antics, but I’m glad she made sure that “Prince Johnny” got a big moment in the show, even though it’s a quiet song. – Marisa

St. Vincent 2

4. Huey Newton

I’ve always thought of politics as incidental to St. Vincent’s music. It’s certainly there, as in the Strange Mercy closer “Year of the Tiger,” but usually it’s subtextual instead of foregrounded. But she must have picked up on something in the air because in a year marked by racial strife and protests against police brutality she fortuitously named a song for one of the founders of the Black Panthers. Newton had no lack of trouble in his short life as an activist: he was jailed (and later acquitted) for the murder of a police officer, and eventually was shot and killed by a member of the Black Guerilla Family, a prison and street gang in Oakland, in a neighborhood he had once helped revitalize. St. Vincent’s music often walks the line between beauty and insanity and nowhere is that more evident than the brilliantly structured song that bears his name. The opening verses, unfolding over a spacey jazz beat as St. Vincent’s voice reaches higher into her register, are ominous and nonsensical, conjuring images of “cardboard cutthroats” and “fuckless porn sharks.” Then it makes a brutal break, a jagged guitar riff crashing in as she shifts into righteous fury, literally shredding everything that’s come before. We’re in “perpetual night” now among motherless creatures and misfits and she’s not afraid to leave us there. Though no explicit political statement is made, it’s pretty clear which lot St. Vincent throws herself in with and it’s not those who are “safe, safe, and safest.” – Sara

5. Digital Witness

If there can be said to be a through line in St. Vincent’s album it may well be a rejection of our current cultural consumption, or at least a pointed critique. Many of the songs sound like observational transmissions from an alien being and that hits its zenith with “Digital Witness.” Is there any mantra that speaks more to the anxieties of the modern age, and damns them more, than “If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me, what’s the point of doing anything?” The popularity of Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social media sites we congregate on has turned us all into digital witnesses of one another, less living life than performing it, and St. Vincent means to wrench us away. “I want all of your mind,” she commands, and the song is catchy enough that we’ll readily give it to her. The instrumentation bears some of the hallmarks of her recent collaboration with David Byrne with its swaggering guitar and bright stuttering horns. There’s something pleasingly artificial about the sound, which ends up embracing the synthetic texture of modern life as much as it sends it up. Any musician worth her salt is hyper aware of how she presents herself to her audience and for all her otherworldliness St. Vincent is no different. “Won’t somebody sell me back to me?” she asks at the song’s end but if anyone is in control here, it’s her. – Sara

6. I Prefer Your Love

Clark, queen of the slow jam! It’s a shame that mixtape-making isn’t the way that young people court each other anymore. “I Prefer Your Love” would be a good song to have stashed away for a deal-sealing cassette. Even if the intended could resist the “I prefer your love to Jesus” opening lyric on account of silliness, there’s no way the “All the good in me is because of you” wouldn’t work. Sorry, kids. You’ll never find anything as beautiful on Tindr. – Marisa

7. Regret

Annie Clark claims she’s thirty two years old, but it’s more likely that she’s an ageless visitor from another planet. The clues go beyond her increasing comfort in loosening her human façade and dressing more like one of our new otherworldly overlords. Take “Regret” for example. There is a level of reflection and knowing world-weariness to these lyrics that I just don’t see coming from someone my little sister’s age. Musically, she has experimented more with her sound than most rock stars do during their entire career. “Reget” sees her try out a bunch of new guitar tones and play with rhythm by having the bass line in the chorus go against everything. She also shows off her vocal range here as well just for fun. “Regret” is so next-level, there’s no way she hasn’t been secretly working on her music for at least decades. I bow down to our new ruler. – Rob

8. Bring Me Your Loves

DRONE 1: DID YOU LISTEN TO THIS MESSAGE? ST. VINCENT IS ORDERING ALL OF US TO BRING HER OUR LOVES.

DRONE 2: OH, LIKE, WE SHOULD EACH BRING HER ONE OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS?

DRONE 1: SHE SAYS ALL OF THEM.

DRONE 2: ALL OF THEM?

DRONE 1: YEAH. SHE SOUNDS PRETTY SERIOUS.

DRONE 2: DID SHE SAY WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO WITH THEM?

DRONE 1: SHE WANTS TO LOVE THEM TOO.

DRONE 2: WELL THAT SOUNDS PRETTY HARMLESS.

DRONE 1: I THINK YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE.

DRONE 2: OH JESUS. THIS SOUNDS SERIOUS.

DRONE 1: YOU SEE?

DRONE 2: THIS SONG IS NOT THAT LOUD IN THE BROADER SCHEME OF LOUD MUSIC, BUT IT STILL SOUNDS LIKE IT’S HAPPENING IN ALL CAPS.

DRONE 1: STOP WASTING TIME, WE NEED TO BRING OUR LOVES TO HER IMMEDIATELY.

DRONE 2: I’M REALLY GOING TO MISS MY PUPPY. – Jesse

9. Psychopath

I have listened to this album countless times. I have listened to the Lady Gaga song “Edge of Glory” exactly as many times as I’ve heard it in a public place since it was released (I would estimate about ten). Yet every single time I hear St. Vincent sing “…’cause I’m on the edge of a heart attack” in this song, her intonation leads me to expect her to sing “on the edge of glory.” This is embarrassing because St. Vincent is vastly superior to Lady Gaga and annoying because it sometimes actually manages to get “Edge of Glory” into my head, but also, finally, a useful point of comparison, because Annie Clark, as St. Vincent, does all of the weird, inventive, artsy shapeshifting that Stefani Germanotta does as Lady Gaga. Hell, the transition from the stuttering verses of “Psychopath” to the lusher orchestration of its chorus and back again to minimalist beats and angular guitar is more dynamic than most of Gaga’s costumed-up club boilerplate. Of course, 2014 is kind of a silly time to be picking on Lady Gaga; St. Vincent makes it plentifully easy to just listen to something better.

10. Every Tear Disappears

This song is also very good, but instead of writing about it, I wanted to share with you a sampling of some of Annie’s magnificent hairstyles from this year. – Rob
SV1
SV2
SV3

11. Severed Crossed Fingers

A lot of St. Vincent, the album, is hepped-up and robo-dance-y; even the slow jams feel like they’re about to explode into something more menacing (and by virtue of being followed by “Huey Newton” and “Regret,” they do). But the album closer feels like the St. Vincent version of a torch song or a Broadway finale. I know those things sound (a.) contradictory and (b.) not particularly descriptive of a song with so much evisceration imagery. But can’t you just imagine Annie Clark in a semi-robotic pose with a handheld microphone, arm outstretched to the crowd as she warbles matter-of-factly yet emotively about her crossed fingers lying in rubble? (I have to imagine it, because the two times I saw St. Vincent in concert this year, she neglected to play this song.) Lush but unsentimental, glorious and strange: this is St. Vincent closing up a near-perfect record. – Jesse

The Top Five Best Albums of 2014

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It sounded like a lame joke I might make to myself or on Twitter: Rolling Stone has thought it over, and they’ve decided that the best, most interesting, and/or most inspiring albums of 2014 are: the one that U2 gave away for free, and the one that Bruce Springsteen pulled together from a decade of outtakes. I like U2 and I’ve got love for latter-day Springsteen. But the question remains:

Don’t you think we can do better?

Not every music publication’s best-music list is as lame as Rolling Stone‘s, of course, but there is a certain familiarity and timidity in a whole lot of them. The kind of over-the-top poptimism that gives Taylor Swift a lot of bonus points for making an album that isn’t unlistenable and that a lot of people bought. Or the kind of inclusiveness that insists you need to count down 50 top albums of the year, which is to say mention a lot without really calling anything way better than anything else. I understand that a crap-ton of albums are released every year. But is a list of 50 a best-of, or is it an abridged chronology?

So here’s the SportsAlcohol.com music nerds to tell you what’s what. Rob, Marisa, Sara, Craig and I submitted fairly disparate Best Albums lists and rallied around a few top vote-getters to create our rock-solid top five. We’re pretty sure it’s the best one on the internet. So there’s nothing left to do but enjoy it. And then argue with us like we’re Rolling Stone.
Continue reading The Top Five Best Albums of 2014

The Ten Best Weezer Songs of the Past Decade

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Weezer is the Star Wars prequels of rock and roll: objects of loathing born from young love, recipients of vitriol presumed to be deserved and, beyond the affection of a few die hard nutcases, universal. This is hyperbolic, of course: a rock band “no one” likes can no more survive for decades than a movie series “everyone” hates can gross $300 million domestic every time out. But it’s inarguable that Weezer has, like the Star Wars prequels I so enjoy, disappointed a lot of people, and unlike Attack of the Clones, I would not give any of Weezer’s albums of the past decade three and a half stars out of four for the sheer enjoyability of the good stuff.

Also unlike Star Wars, which had three-year gaps (at least in terms of movies) for opinions to percolate (and, I think, sometimes nervously reverse themselves into scorn), Weezer has absorbed these negative reactions via not scarcity, but abundance. The band came back in 2001 after nearly five years of inactivity, and they haven’t been away for so long since. Though their 2005 nadir Make Believe was bookended by three-year breaks, they’ve also had major productivity spurts, most notably in the 2008-2010 period where they released three studio albums and one cast-off collection in less than four years.

Conventional wisdom says these records mostly just upped the ante on how bad Weezer could let down its dwindling fanbase, and true that none of these records or what I’d call “good,” though a few flirt with “pretty good” or “OK.” But as the band prepares to release its umpteenth for-real-this-time return to form, Everything Will Be Alright in the End (out tomorrow), it’s worth noting that the past decade of Weezer has not yielded nonstop dross. In fact, there are some pretty great Weezer songs adrift in the seas of mediocrity, waiting for attentive, non-angry listeners to rescue them. This is what I intend to do here. I’m limiting this to a list of the Ten Best Weezer Songs of the Past Decade and, as such, not including their post-comeback records, 2001’s Green Album or 2002’s Maladroit — because those albums are, as a whole, good. Not great like the first two, but good enough to listen to without much skipping – really, the best halves of Green and Maladroit could combine to form a record nearly as good as Blue or Pinkerton. And the songs that follow, well, they could probably form a record nearly as good as that one. Maybe some of the poptimism afforded derivative Top 40 songs might (in a Weezer-friendly rockist fashion) be applied to your old pals from ’94.
Continue reading The Ten Best Weezer Songs of the Past Decade

Belle & Sebastian List: Outcasts Edition

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Last week, we celebrated the art of Belle & Sebastian through a big list of their 25 best songs. Come Monday morning, we are celebrating the science (such as it is) of Belle & Sebastian list-making (and also some more art) with a quick post about the list’s outliers, quirks, and murky methodology. Apologies to songs as if they’re humans will abound.

THE PILE OF NEARLY-MADE-ITS

Two songs got muscled out of the Top 25 at more or less the last possible minute. With a final list submission that included a late-breaking surge of support for “Dress Up in You,” both “We Rule the School” and “You Don’t Send Me” got bounced off. We even had a blurb for “You Don’t Send Me” prepared by our panelist Jeff, which I will add as an honorary number 26 right now:

26. You Don’t Send Me

Dear Catastrophe Waitress, 2003
My kids like to play air horns to this song in the car. It’s pretty hilarious. – Jeff Prisco

As for “We Rule the School,” well, this Tigermilk track is the only track that Sara voted for that didn’t make it on the list (more on that in a moment). Sara has pledged her love for this song regardless of its inability to give her the perfect 15.
Continue reading Belle & Sebastian List: Outcasts Edition

Belle & Sebastian Week!

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

As the biggest God Help the Girl fans this side of Glasgow, we spent the week thinking about Belle & Sebastian.

A panel of esteemed sad bastards fans voted on the list of The Top 25 Belle & Sebastian Songs of all time until now. Song write-ups have wistful reminisces abut the Mets, the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, bad temp jobs, and, sometimes, the band.

If you need something to listen to while reading the big list, we put together a Spotify playlist. Magic words: put spotify:user:sportsalcohol in the search bar in Spotify to start following us.

The Outcasts posts talks about the songs that hovered on the fringes of the list.

Jesse argues that God Help the Girl revives the movie-musical genre that Rex Harrison tried so hard to kill.

And, if you don’t believe it, try not to be charmed by Belle & Sebastian Week’s Track Marks (yes, we’re still calling it that): “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie,” by/from God Help the Girl.

 

The Top 25 Belle & Sebastian Songs List

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It is not an anniversary or an occasion, at least not directly. None of Belle & Sebastian’s seminal albums turn a particularly interesting age in 2014, and though it sounds like their new record is pretty much complete, it doesn’t seem like it will see release before 2015. But as Stuart Murdoch’s first film God Help the Girl hits theaters over the next couple of months and the band branches out to other projects, as large bands often do, it seemed like as good a time as any to take stock of this Belle & Sebastian business. After less than two decades together, the group has put out seven albums, another three albums’ worth of singles and such, and given us a whole lot of hours of ways to feel happy and sad, sometimes at the same time. So happy 18th birthday, If You’re Feeling Sinister! Have a great 11th, Dear Catastrophe Waitress! Has it been four years already, Write about Love? Let’s get listing.
Continue reading The Top 25 Belle & Sebastian Songs List

Disney Animated Witches, Ranked

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

We’re talking Disney animated feature films only, here. No Pixar, no Marvel, no Magica De Spellno Hocus Pocus. We can argue about what constitutes a witch later. For now, in honor of the live-action Maleficent, here’s an up-to-date ranking of the ladies I’ve determined to be animated Disney witches.

10. The Enchantress
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
She sets the events of the movie in motion, but only appears in the stained-glass prologue. Stained glass will never haunt your nightmares. 

The Enchantress

9. Orddu, Orgoch, and Orwen
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Only my sister and I have fond memories of this movie, which our grandma snuck us into after a showing of Flight of the Navigator. Even then, I only remember Gurgi, and nothing of these witches.

Orddu, Orgoch, and Orwen

Continue reading Disney Animated Witches, Ranked

Every Adam Sandler Comedy, Ranked

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Adam Sandler has never been a critical darling. This information is practically a cliché; even the movies now regarded as his early, funny ones didn’t exactly receive glowing notices during their original runs, and as the audience that enjoyed his early comedies aged into possible critical-establishment roles, they, too, came to lament the low quality of his vehicles. As a former fifteen-year-old, I think I can attest that this isn’t just grumpiness or nostalgia setting in: I dutifully see Adam Sandler comedies not because they’re usually good, but because they can be good, and I want them to be good. Regardless of what we pointy-headed types may look at as diminished returns, Sandler has remained a popular movie star (in his comedies, at least) for close to twenty years by this point. He may not have hit the same box office or critical highs as fellow SNL players turned movie stars like Will Ferrell or Mike Myers, but in terms of pure numbers, he’s probably the most financially successful (depending on how you count Eddie Murphy’s more erratic mix of massive hits and huge flops).

Though they do vary in quality, it’s his consistency that has come to define his career. The sheer uniformity of his output remains almost unmatched: the vast majority of movies starring Adam Sandler come from his Happy Madison production company, with multiple writing, directing, and/or producing credits from Sandler’s usual gang of buddies, associates, and hangers-on (for these purposes, movies made with Sandler’s usual screenwriters, producers, and/or directors before the official creation of the Happy Madison shingle count towards that total).

This includes the twenty-one movies that I’ve fudged into a top (or bottom) twenty below. This list does not include the more serious movies he has made for other people every two to four years (Punch-Drunk Love; Spanglish; Reign Over Me; Funny People); his voiceover work in Hotel Transylvania (borderline, because it features Sandler’s buddies in supporting roles and a co-writing credit from Robert Smigel, but is also very much of the Sony Animation house style and presumably would have been made without Sandler’s participation); or his sole action-comedy, Bulletproof. Sandler also did supporting roles in a couple of unsuccessful comedies in 1994: Airheads and Mixed Nuts. I have seen them both; let’s leave it at that.

For each Official Adam Sandler Comedy, I’ve included notes on which of Sandler’s team of SNL writers (most often Tim Herlihy; sometimes Fred Wolf, Robert Smigel, or Steve Koren) and journeyman directors (Dennis Dugan, Frank Coraci, Peter Segal, Steve Brill) get credit, along with counts of how many SNL performers he manages to hire. I have not included Allen Covert, Peter Dante, or Jonathan Loughran in these counts; just assume that all of them are in all of these movies and that Covert produces most of them, even if that’s not literally true. I’m also avoiding doing a Nick Swardson tally. He’s been in eight of these. It feels like more. Finally, I’ve noted Sandler’s myriad love interests, not only because they represent a surprisingly and weirdly diverse cross-section of name actresses from the past few decades, but also because it’s worth noting how many of them are significantly younger than he is, even (especially) when he’s playing a total man-child.

Sandler’s consistency makes the task of ranking his films perhaps even more fruitless than the usual list-making; both his best and his worst can be considered toss-ups, especially when you subtract the easy outs of Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People, which are the two best movies he’s actually appeared in. But closer study does reveal not just the way Sandler repeats himself, but the way his repetitions accommodate subtle shifts, occasional jumps in quality or particularly ill-advised detours. (Longer essays or reviews I’ve written about some of these films are linked to their titles, when available.)

Herewith, your intro to those Adam Sandler studies.
Continue reading Every Adam Sandler Comedy, Ranked

Top 10 Reasons Spider-Man 3 Is Better than The Amazing Spider-Man

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

When Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man premiered in July 2012, the general reaction seemed to be: well, it’s better than Spider-Man 3, obviously. A few passionate defenders called Amazing a better, more faithful representation of the Peter Parker and Spidey of the comic books than the Sam Raimi take, but for the most part, the movie seems to have been met with something between an affectionate shrug and an encouraging smile. But at least it was better than Spider-Man 3. Obviously.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (for serious, you guys still aren’t going with The Spectacular Spider-Man for a sequel title?) opens this weekend to kick off the summer movie season, and while the early reviews seem a bit more mixed than its predecessor’s, it almost certainly won’t be treated with the same level of derision as Spider-Man 3. Obviously.

Now, I haven’t seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet. There will be a SportsAlcohol.com editorial summit on Friday night to determine what the deal with this movie is. But I have seen The Amazing Spider-Man, and the thing about that movie is: it’s not as good as Spider-Man 3. Not nearly.

The thing about Spider-Man 3 is: it’s actually pretty good.

Not as good as Spider-Man and certainly not as good as Spider-Man 2. To be sure, Spider-Man 3 is the weakest of Raimi’s de facto trilogy, and has two major problems that feed into each other: overcrowding and retconning. Before we get to the good stuff, these problems should be addressed.

The supposed problem of villain overcrowding has been noted at least since Batman Returns in 1992, and indeed, the first series of Batman movies seemed to add bad guys indiscriminately for easy stakes-raising. But as Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has shown, multiple villains don’t have to mean jammed-up storylines: that trilogy managed to include Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, the Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Mr. Zsasz, Bane, Carmine Falcone, and Catwoman. Some had bigger roles than others, of course, but that’s pretty much the same number of villains that populate the Burton/Schumacher films.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man 3 adheres more to the Schumacher model of villains, only it’s applied to the entire cast. Apart from the introductions and transformations of Flint Marko (the Sandman) and Eddie Brock (Venom) and the revival of the Green Goblin in the guise of Harry Osborn, Spider-Man 3 adds Gwen Stacy (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and her police-captain father while continuing to utilize its beloved supporting characters (Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, Curt Connors) and, if anything, upping the screentime afforded to Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson. The movie also serves its themes of internal conflict by having several main characters toggle back and forth between personalities, essentially piling on additional characters even when familiar ones are onscreen: Peter Parker bonds with an alien symbiote that brings out a dark side to his personality. Harry Osborn loses his memory (and thirst for vengeance against Peter/Spider-Man), then regains it. Mary Jane has a real flirtation with Harry, then is manipulated by him when he re-evils.

The movie has so little actual room for its characters that it ret-cons them into the earlier films whenever possible. Flint Marko turns out to be involved in the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben, just to give him some convenient incentive to seek symbiote-encouraged revenge. Less of a direct retcon but perhaps even more ridiculous, Bernard Houseman (John Paxton), the Osborn butler for the entire series, decides late in the film to come forward and tell Harry that his father was a murderous lunatic and that Parker did not kill him, and for some reason this and only this can convince Harry to renounce his evil ways (and for some reason Bernard did not see fit to share this information sooner).

Individually, most of the movie’s characters get a moment or three where they shine. Narratively, though, Spider-Man 3 is a mess. Both of the overcrowding and retconning stem from a script that seems unfinished at best; check out that patchwork bit where local news narrates Spider-Man’s big climactic fight with Venom and Sandman. There is also, as mentioned, some whiplash-inducing twists and reversals between Peter, Harry, and MJ in terms of who is wronging who and for what reason.

AND YET: Narrative is overrated sometimes. Spider-Man 3 is a lot of fun and far more good than bad. It came out a year after X-Men: The Last Stand, and for some reason that movie got a pass as a mild disappointment from a lot of fans, while Spider-Man 3 is still held up as something as a disaster. It’s not a disaster! It’s a pretty good movie with a pretty weak script! Surely you’ve heard of this practice before. It also takes Spider-Man to some new places, which is a lot more than I can say for The Amazing Spider-Man insisting that it’s taking a different approach while more or less remaking the first Raimi movie with a minimum or imagination. If we’re going to say that Marc Webb didn’t make a terrible Spider-Man movie, then we as a culture need to admit that Sam Raimi never made a terrible Spider-Man movie.

And so:

Ten Great Things about Spider-Man 3, In No Particular Order

Continue reading Top 10 Reasons Spider-Man 3 Is Better than The Amazing Spider-Man

The 25 Best Hold Steady Songs of All Time (For Now)

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

A couple of weeks ago, the Hold Steady, a Minneapolis-by-way-of-Brooklyn indie rock band that sings about lost teenagers, drifting adults, various scenes, and other bands, put out their sixth record, Teeth Dreams. It’s their first album in four years, and basically the only time any of the band’s fans have had to wait any real appreciable amount of time for something new; the first five came out in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010, never more than two years apart. This daunting pace was eventually slowed by some lineup shifts, extensive touring, lyricist and singer Craig Finn taking a solo-record detour, and, you know, life and stuff. The first three Hold Steady records are, to this fan’s ears, basically masterpieces, and the others are pretty damn good, too; it’s probably inevitable that the band would need a break from eighteen-month album cycles.

In celebration of this fresh batch of songs, the editors of SportsAlcochol.com decided to poll some other Hold Steady fans and come up with a definitive Top 25 Hold Steady Songs (So Far). Fourteen people, including many writers and zero professional music critics, composed top ten lists that were either weighted (if ranked) or distributed equally (if not). Points were tallied, songs were ordered, ties were broken by number of list mentions, cases were made, and, probably, feelings were hurt.

With a band that so smartly engages with the pleasures and dangers of nostalgia, there’s a very real danger and palpable pleasure that a list like this becomes a catalog of greatest hits from everyone’s favorite couple of albums — mid-aughts nostalgia for nostalgia about a time, nonexistent for anyone participating in this poll (as far as I know) when the eighties almost killed us. As to whether that actually happened, well, read on. Individual top tens seemed like the right number to ask for, given that, by my count, the band has fewer than 100 original tunes — but it nonetheless forced us all to make some hard choices. I will say that while no songs from Teeth Dreams made the list, consider this: “Oaks,” the new album’s nine-minute closer, came close, outscoring several stone-cold Hold Steady classics in the process. That seems to me a sign that this band will continue making great songs for years to come. My personal pick for a future classic: “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You,” the propulsive narrative that opens Teeth Dreams with classic severe understatement. The point us: we compose this list not to eulogize the band on the tenth anniversary of their debut record, Almost Killed Me (it came out April 20, 2004), but to pay tribute as they set out on their latest tour.

Continue reading The 25 Best Hold Steady Songs of All Time (For Now)