The Best Movies of 2018

Our list of the best movies of 2018 didn’t have to be 15 titles. It could have been 20, or 25, or 30, because all four of the core SportsAlcohol.com movie-watchers had plenty of choices for our individual lists from a year with no shortage of smart, entertaining, galvanizing, beautiful, traumatizing, exciting, and otherwise distinctive 2018 releases. But these choices for the 15 best movies of 2018 are the ones that found a kinda-sorta consensus among the four of us. They aren’t all on every list, but they’re still the 2018 movies that some portion of us, occasionally of us, bonded over in some way. So grab a friend and check out these particularly unifying pictures.
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Sorry, Pop Fans: ‘A Star Is Born’ Thinks Ally’s ‘Why Did You Do That?’ Is Bad

I feel like I have to correct the record on something. Ever since A Star Is Born came out, there’s been a lot of analysis about the soundtrack, especially one song on it in particular: “Why Did You Do That?”

“Why Did You Do That?” is the song that a post-fame, pop-repackaged Ally performs on Saturday Night Live. A sampling of its lyrics: “Why do you look so good in those jeans? Why’d you come around me with an ass like that? You’re makin’ all my thoughts obscene.” Later, Jack derides her for these words.

The analysis I’ve seen around the song usually takes the form of two questions: 1) Is “Why Did You Do That” a bad song outside of the universe of the movie? 2) Within the world of the movie, does the movie believe it’s a bad song, or is it just Jack who doesn’t like it? The first question can’t have one definitive response. Either that type of music works for you, or it doesn’t and that’s fine.

But the second question has a concrete answer, and yet the conclusion I arrived at isn’t really the one drawn unanimously, much to my confusion. But  A Star Is Born really, truly thinks that “Why Did You Do That?” is bad. My proof:

It’s So Different From Ally’s Other Songs

Ally is so talented that Jackson can’t help but be taken in by her. He falls in love with her through her songwriting. But “Why Did You Do That?” sounds nothing like the tunes that kick-started their romance. Before her big pop-career launch, even the catchier songs she wrote, like “Look What I Found” (which I personally like a lot better than “Why Did You Do That?”), come rooted in a much more singer/songwritery place. If we’re supposed to believe in the transformative power of Ally and Jack’s love, and they express that feeling through music, how are we supposed to see the change in her sound as anything but a betrayal of that love?

She Refuses the Dancers

Okay, artists evolve. Things change. If you believe A Star Is Born is about Jackson’s desire to manage Ally’s artistic work and stifle her creativity, I think that’s a truly cynical reading of the movie, but you can read his dismissal of “Why Did You Do That?” through that lens. But my big question to you: Why did she refuse to have backup dancers at her first performance? 

The answer is she turned the dancers away because that’s not how she sees herself as an artist. This, to me, is the biggest clue into what Ally thinks of her pop image. If those songs truly came from her developing sense of self, she  would’ve embraced the dancers at her debut and in her SNL performance. Instead, she said she didn’t think she needed them.

And Jack had nothing to do with that. She doesn’t get rid of them because she’s afraid Jack won’t like it. It’s because, in her heart, she knows she’s a songwriter and  not a pop product.

Diane Warren Co-Wrote It

Actually, this probably runs counter to my point. Warren has written some of the most successful songs ever.

Jackson Hates It

This is where we veer into a bit of subjectivity: If the hero of our romantic story says mean things about the song, does that look bad for him, or for the song? This time, I think it’s both. His criticisms come at a point in the movie where it’s clear he’s on a downslide, and could potentially take Ally down with him. But he’s also heralded by the movie as a musical genius, and he knows what he’s talking about.

For what it’s worth, I think this is a departure from the other versions of A Star Is Born. (The biggest departure after changing her name from Esther Blodgett, which I’m gutted they did. Esther 4-Eva!) You’re supposed to think Judy Garland is an acting tour de force. You’re supposed to think Barbra Streisand is a consummate performer. I don’t think you’re supposed to think Janet Gaynor is untalented. James Mason, Kris Kristofferson, and Fredric March never impugn Esther’s talent. I kind of like that Bradley Cooper does.

You Only Get a Sideways Glance at It

When Ally does perform “Why Did You Do That?” on Saturday Night Live — with dancers — the performance isn’t really the focus of the scene. It’s something happening in the background. If A Star Is Born was really behind this evolution in Ally’s career, and really thought the audience should consider it an unambiguously good song,  it would’ve had a moment as powerful as “The Shallow.”

There is no moment for “Why Did You Do That?” The movie doesn’t want you to consider it a triumph. Whether you do or not is up to you, but the movie’s thoughts on it are pretty clear to me.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Spider-Man Movies, Ranked

Longtime readers and listeners of the SportsAlcohol.com World Wide Web Brand may have noticed that we kinda dig on Spider-Man. In fact, one of our most popular pieces ever, and the site of our only (so far) bona fide comment war is about Spider-Man 3; our first-ever podcast episode was about The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and we’ve recorded on related films since then; Rob has written about Betty Brant while Marisa has written about the songs of Spider-Man.

So yeah, we dig on this.

To celebrate the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, we did something different: Marisa, Rob, and Jesse threw together a straw poll to rank out every major Spider-Man and Spider-Man-adjacent movie of the past 20 years. That’s right: In this podcast, we talk about them all. The animated highs! The amazing lows! The venomous middles! It’s all here, in a compact hour-long episode with multiple post-credit scenes! Basically, it’s a Spider-Man extravaganza for our new age of superhero abundance. It’s the next best thing to what I know you’ve all been craving: PICTURES OF SPIDER-MAN. While you wait for your photographer to come back with those, have a listen to us!

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The SportsAlcohol.com MiniPodcast: Second Act

Typically, the SportsAlcohol.com podcast does overviews: of directors, of stars, of full TV seasons, of a year or decade’s worth of pop culture. But as part of our miniseries look at business movies, Jesse and Ben decided to rush into the studio right after watching a screening of the new Jennifer Lopez movie Second Act and discuss it, just like we discussed Pretty Woman and The Secret of My Success, among others. Only this time, there’s no science fiction… except that which this Jennifer Lopez vehicle provides.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Creed II and the Rocky Series

The Rocky series was unexpectedly revived in 2015 with the release of Ryan Coogler’s terrific movie Creed, which was followed last month by the sequel Creed II. Nathaniel, a lifelong Rocky fan, and Jesse, a relative newbie, both saw the new Creed movie and got together to discuss the latest sequel and how it fits into the Rocky series in general, as well as the often-confounding career of one Mr. Sylvester Stallone. Our Rocky podcast has several FLAMING HOT TAKES, including our weirdly mutual opinion of certain internet-beloved Rocky sequels as well as certain universally reviled Rocky sequels.

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The Best Songs of the 2000s: The Outliers

No one who votes on a best-of list is ever completely, 100% satisfied with the results, and few group lists are as idiosyncratic as the individual ballots that come together to form a consensus (no matter how weird that consensus is). With that in mind, we wanted to give the participants in our recent Best Songs of the 2000s poll to defend their orphan choices—the songs that not only didn’t make our list, but only received a single vote from a single participant. In most cases, the artist in question didn’t make our list at all (the last two profiled here are an exception); in several cases, the artist in question didn’t receive any other votes! (Sorry, Aaliyah, Dntel, and Junior Senior!) Whatever the circumstances, here are a bunch of our writers back for a curtain call, to explain how and why they departed so completely from the crowd.
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The Best Album of the 2000s Came Out in 1999

The best album of the 2000s was released in 1999, and it was 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields. This is not the first time this happened. The best album of the 1980s was London Calling, and it was released in 1979. Both albums perfectly pivot the previous decade and anticipate the best music in the one that would follow.

69 Love Songs capped a decade when the alternative went mainstream and became commodified. Alternative rock went from a subcultural scene in the movie Singles, but became the punchline in the early ’00s movie Rock Star. Indie labels got bought by big labels as part of a portfolio play. And, everything was being drowned out by the manufactured pop industry (c.f., Britney Spears, N’Sync). Pop would continue like that throughout the next decade — and even up to now.

So, what is the bellwether for a time like this? An album that points to fact that love songs are an industry with a formula and just a flavor of genre. At a time when the Music Genome Project was trying to prove that all songs come from a defined set of characteristics, Stephen Merritt and his bandmates of morose musicians set upon a concept album of all love songs of all different genres. And, sure, not every song is a gem, but every song is necessary — every song anticipates what a pop / rock love song could be, and reminds us that this is all artifice. The chords are going through the motions, the tunes are genre archetypes, and the lyrics are well-worn.

Those 69 Love Songs anticipate so many of the songs that wound up on the list that we chose, and so, to that end, I present 25-plus of the 69 Love Songs that could be swapped with those that wound up on the list of best songs of the ’00s.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Best Songs of the 2000s, Discussed

If there’s one thing we at SportsAlcohol.com love just as much as making a big, unwieldy song list, it’s talking (and griping!) about our big, unwieldy song list, so of course after we ranked the 101 best songs of the 2000s, a bunch of us got together to talk about the results. Listen to Marisa, Craig, Sara, Ben, and Jesse badmouth each other’s choices, bicker about LCD Soundsystem and Bruce Springsteen, and talk about a bunch of music we all love in a wide-ranging, sometimes contentious, but surprisingly concise discussion. And that’s not all! A little later, Marisa and Jesse decided to talk to SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Rob about his arduous list-making process, resulting in even more insult into our weird, nerdy, music-loving minds! This Best Songs of the 2000s double feature is not to be missed. Plus, it has much better sound quality than our ’90s episode!

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    • You can listen to both episodes in the players below.


The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 3)

You’ve seen 101 through 61 and 60 through 21, right? So go ahead and dive in to the final stretch, our best-of-the-best top 20 songs of the 2000s.

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s: Part 3

(The Top 20)

20. “Heartbeats” – The Knife (2003)

I want to preface this by saying fuck all covers of this track. Stripping “Heartbeats” to its barest elements to highlight the power of the lyrics does it a disservice. It’s more than just a tender love song; it’s so clearly a first love song. Jose Gonzalez picking away on his acoustic guitar captures just a single dimension of both the ecstatic joy and the inevitable doom of first love. The performance and instrumentation of the original recording strike a balance that makes the song legendary. Bathing in sawtooth waveforms right at the start of the analog synth revival and supplanted by impressionistic ESL lyrics, the one true recording of “Heartbreats” deftly contains multitudes. – Rob

19. “Idioteque” – Radiohead (2000)

This perfect crystal song; it would take little more than this one track for Radiohead to earn legend status. For a decade’s worth of bands-to-be, Radiohead was the unattainable horizon. Despite the pursuit, in the nearly two decades since “Idioteque,” we’ve heard very little that compares well to it. Perhaps music has gone elsewhere and the project is over. Nonetheless, this is not trivial music. Radiohead try harder. – Chris

Continue reading The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 3)

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 2)

We got the intro and bottom of the list out of the way yesterday, so let’s just hit it straight into the next 40 songs!

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s: Part 2

(60 through 21)

60. “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” – UGK (2007)

I admit it, I was way late to “International Players Anthem.” Though it came out on UGK’s 2007 album Underground Kingz, I didn’t really hear it until 2009 or 2010 when my wife Becca put it on a mix CD that she gave me when we were dating. So I’m a late convert to “International Players Anthem” and, as the saying goes, there’s no zealot like a convert, so…HOLY HELL THIS IS AN AMAZING TRACK! I mean, it has everything, EVERYTHING – the beat and sampling is peerless and brimming with confidence; there are virtuoso raps in a variety of lyrical styles, from Andre 3000 rapping (as usual) about spaceships and getting sunburned on his bum, to the casual references to Paul McCartney’s marital woes and crashing Bentleys. And (of course) a terrific performance by one Pimp C (RIP). And that doesn’t even take into account the music video. There may well be more “important” hip hop tracks higher up on this list, but you can’t tell me that there are any that are more fun to listen to. – George

59. “Me and Mia” – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (2004)



Continue reading The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 2)