The SportsAlcohol.com Mixtape: The Rise of Skywalker

The SportsAlcohol.com nerd core will be podcasting about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker soon enough (by which we mean, in a week or two). But in the meantime, with the movie’s commercial premiere just hours away, we made you a mixtape. Two years ago, we opened up a weird high school tradition to the world (or at least the SportsAlchol.com audience) by offering thirty-plus minutes of get-psyched mix-em-ups, to be listened to on your way to see a Star Wars movie. We’ve done the same for Episode IX, and I hope you enjoy it. (You can also download the never-before-officially-released Force Awakens mixtape here.)

As before, there are general instructions and a trivia component. The instructions are easy: about 35 minutes before you roll into your theater of choice to see The Rise of Skywalker hit “play” on the downloadable mp3, or the stream linked below.

Here’s the trivia part: This mix contains a lot of songs and samples. Some of them relate directly to Star Wars; most of those connections should be obvious, even if you don’t immediately recognize their origin. BUT: the rest of the songs and samples (that is, the non-Star Wars majority of the mix) have something in common. What is it?

The answer is relatively broad, so bonus points if you can go into more detail using specific examples.

A correct answer will get you a shout-out on our next Star Wars podcast!

In the meantime, enjoy getting psyched for the movie, and may the force be, well, you know.

TRACK MARKS 2019: “Seventeen” by Sharon Von Etten

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. As usual, we’re closing out the year by talking about a bunch of songs that we loved over the past 12 months.

Some anthems announce themselves before you’ve even pressed play. You don’t call a song “Born in the U.S.A.” and not open with stadium-sized power chords, even if the lyrics they’re backing take the piss out of such nationalistic fervor. A title like “Seventeen” also conjures all sorts of associations for listeners both nostalgic and painful, but Sharon Van Etten’s ode to youth is ready to carry whatever baggage is brought to it. Like much of the Boss’s classic catalog, it works as a rock song and a reckoning simultaneously.

Van Etten has made no secret about how much an abusive relationship has influenced her songwriting, and about how uncomfortable this makes her, and much of her superlative 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow feels like a conscious attempt to move beyond such narratives while acknowledging the impossibility of ever doing so completely. It’s a work both haunting and haunted, almost Lynchian at times with its slinky synths and narcotized soundscapes. It’s not always an easy listen, which is why “Seventeen” initially feels like something of a relief, rolling up at the album’s halfway mark like a car with its top down, filled with the people you used to be.

But if “Seventeen” looks backward, it does with eyes wide open. As Van Etten observes a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, her lyrics straddle the line between wisdom and longing, embodying both the girl’s anxious rush to grow up and the singer’s wish to shield her from what that might mean. At times, it’s as if she’s addressing to her own ghost: “I see you so uncomfortably alone/I wish you could see how much you’ve grown.” It feels like a distinctly feminine thing to fear: that your younger self would look at what you’ve become and sneer. But Van Etten refuses to sneer back. It’s why this song will last long after 2019 is in the rear view. Because whether you’re at the beginning of your next decade or the end of one, it’s got something to say to you.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Black Christmas Through the Years

The SportsAlcohol.com podcast isn’t always a vehicle for up-to-the-minute new-release movie reviews, but about once a year, around the holidays, apparently that changes. Last year, Ben and Jesse talked about Second Act; this year, ’tis the season for Black Christmas. A new 2019 version of the 1974 proto-slasher classic is hitting theaters this weekend, so Jesse and special guest slash podcast expert Becca took this opportunity to go through the Black Christmases that preceded it. In this holiday rundown, we look at the very different 1974, 2006, and 2019 incarnations of Black Christmas and try to sort through our reactions. Who will survive this holiday splatterfest?! (Becca thinks it might be her; listen in for her explanation of why she’s safe from horror-movie fears, at least for now.)

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Albums of 1999 – Midnite Vultures by Beck

Like we said before: The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is doing a Fall 2019 mini-series about albums from 1999, short but impactful discussions about old but impactful albums from 20 years ago! In the latest installment, we discussed a SportsAlcohol.com favorite that may not be as beloved by the culture at large. That’s right, right around the time of Beck’s new album Hyperspace, his old album Midnite Vultures quietly celebrated 20 years of existence! We see you, Midnite Vultures, and we discuss whether you are the best Beck album in great detail. Mix bizness with Ben, Rob, Marisa, Jesse, and Derrick to find out what we think of this and plenty of other albums from the Beckography!

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

Forget Widescreen: THE REPORT, WAVES, and this fall’s aspect ratio status symbols

The Report, a new film written and directed by Scott Z. Burns and produced by Steven Soderbergh, has been shot in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. A few years ago, this would have seen more or less standard. Of course, some movies are composed in anamorphic widescreen while others opt for the less expansive 1.85:1, but just as 1.85 became the common wider-than-TV frame in the 1950s, 2.35 or 2.39 have become quite common in the era of flatscreen TVs (which are closer to the 1.85 ratio), a default “cinematic” look now that so much TV has widened out. This fall, I’ve noticed that many of the season’s most interesting and ambitious movies aren’t bothering with super-wide compositions at all. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is in 1.85 (like some of his older movies); the Shining sequel Doctor Sleep is, too (like the original’s theatrical release), and so are Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn, and Ang Lee’s Gemini Man. Some recent releases go further: Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is in 1.66, the New York Film Festival debut First Cow uses 1.33, and The Lightouse is in the super-old-timey 1.19. Meanwhile, the movies that stay wider for their entire running times are the chintzier likes of Zombieland 2, Last Christmas, and, yes, Jexi. There are plenty of reasons a director might not want to automatically use 2.35, but it’s still a fascinating switch, even if it’s a coincidental one. Is this a reaction to the easy availability of Widescreen Content? Does anamorphic widescreen now somehow signify a movie going through the motions of visual interest while remaining mostly indifferent?
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – Ben Folds Five and Fountains of Wayne

Like we said before: The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is doing a Fall 2019 mini-series about albums from 1999, short but impactful discussions about old but impactful albums from 20 years ago! In the latest installment, we tackled a nerdy, suburban double feature: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner by Ben Folds Five and Utopia Parkway by Fountains of Wayne. Join Rob, Marisa, Randy, and Jesse as we navigate our old teenage-ish selves who first heard these albums, and figure out why (or if) they mean much to us today.

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – When the Pawn…

Like we said before: The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is doing a Fall 2019 mini-series about albums from 1999, short but impactful discussions about old but impactful albums from 20 years ago! Next on the docket is Fiona Apple’s second album, popular and weirdly abbreviated as When the Pawn, an artistic breakthrough following her commercial breakthrough Tidal. Rob, Jesse, and Sara look back on Apple’s ’99 record, and how it informs the music she’s made since then. Join us as we ask three simple questions: what did this album mean to us at the time, what does it mean to us now, and is this the best album by the artist in question?

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – Emergency & I

The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is particularly good at two things, if we do say so ourselves: (1.) talking at length, particularly (2.) about the pop culture of 20 years ago. So our new mini-series about albums from 1999 is both in and out of our comfort zone: We’re producing some of our shortest episodes ever, but we’re adding to our popular talks about 1999 summer movies and 1999 pop with some (probably Will Smith-free) talks about individual albums that mean a lot to various members of the SportsAlcohol.com team. First up is one for the indie rockers, an album just about to turn 20, and a personal favorite of Rob, Randy, Jesse, and Marisa: the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I. Join us as we ask three simple questions: what did this album mean to us at the time, what does it mean to us now, and is this the best album by the artist in question?

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

NYFF57: The crime stories of MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN and OH MERCY!

Though it was far from the most acclaimed film of this year’s main slate, it made sense for the 57th New York Film Festival to close with Motherless Brooklyn. The NYFF is the a major festival-season gathering that still feels a little bit local, and as such, has an unofficial but clear obligation to its hometown. That was evident in the opening night selection (Scorsese!), the centerpiece selection (Baumbach!), the quasi-secret screening (Safdies!), and a reoriented version of Motherless Brooklyn that takes place in the 1950s instead of the Jonatham Lethem novel’s then-contemporary 1990s.

Brooklyn had a particular weight on it this year because Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, while set in a familiar Classic Scorsese milieu, is not actually a New York crime picture—it’s more of a tri-state area affair. Uncut Gems (as yet unseen by me) is legit NYC, but it wasn’t an officially announced main-slate attraction. So that leaves Edward Norton’s passion project as the crime movie representing New York City, playing alongside The Irishman (skulking around Philadelphia and New Jersey) and Arnaud Desplechin’s Oh Mercy! (set in the French city of Roubaix).
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NYFF57: The Past Lives in FIRST COW and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, both of which just played the 57th New York Film Festival, are not exactly set contemporaneously, but they’re not too far apart, at least from our contemporary vantage. Portrait unfolds over a few days toward the end of the 18th century, while First Cow is relatively early in the 19th, around 1820. They’re also set thousands of miles apart, First Cow remote (the Oregon territory) and Portrait, in some ways, remoter (the coast of France, in and around a well-appointed but seemingly isolated house). And superficially, they don’t have much in common beyond that remoteness, and an accompanying ender segregation. First Cow features only a few women, while Portrait of a Lady on Fire has almost no men.

A man, mostly unseen, nonetheless looms over the story of Portrait, told as a flashback from Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a painter and art teacher, prompted by a student’s question. Years earlier, Marianne is sent to paint Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), so that the resulting picture may be sent to a potential husband, to seal the deal on an official marriage proposal (the painting will convey mostly Héloïse’s physical presence, and she is a terribly attractive woman). It feels like a formality, but it’s one that Héloïse will not sit for; upon her arrival, Marianne learns that she’s accepted a stealth assignment. She will pose as a companion for Héloïse, observe her, and paint her portrait in secret. The movie gets right into Marianne’s point of view, and her painter’s eye for detail; you can see her observing Héloïse’s hands, her earlobes, the back of her neck. Eventually also her face; Adèle Haenel is given a “you were expecting someone else?” face-reveal introduction.
Continue reading NYFF57: The Past Lives in FIRST COW and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE