How Come No One Is Talking About Transcendence’s Weird Clothes?

By now, everyone knows the deal with Transcendence: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), while making strides in the field of artificial intelligence, is killed by anti-AI loonies, forcing those who love him to upload his consciousness and connect it to the internet.

This premise invites obvious comparisons to last year’s Her. It deals with the repercussions of giving AI access to the culmination of human knowledge through the internet, and it explores how a person–in Transcendence‘s case, it’s wife Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall)–could be in love with a bodyless, all-knowing entity.

But there’s one way that these movies are similar that no one seems to be talking about: They both have super weird fashion choices. In Her‘s case, it’s intentional. The movie’s affininty for high-waisted pants show that we’re not exactly in the here-and-now. With Transcendence, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Continue reading How Come No One Is Talking About Transcendence’s Weird Clothes?

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

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.

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Let’s Talk about How I Met Your Mother

So How I Met Your Mother came to an end this evening. I have thoughts. You probably have thoughts. My wife definitely has thoughts. Maybe let’s talk it over in this open thread?

Open questions:

-Loved it?
-Hated it?
-Can we leave Ted alone now or does everyone just hate him more?
-Other finales you loved/hated/did it better/did it worse?
-Is there an optimal number of seasons for a really good show to run?
-It’s seven seasons, isn’t it?

A Talk with My Cousin about the Divergent Movie

I wrote a bunch about Divergent the week it came out, and then I found out that my thirteen-year-old cousin Abby is super into Divergent so I decided I should interview and get the scoop about what I was missing by only seeing the movie. Abby reads a lot and is awesome. Herewith, our chat:

JESSE: So when did you first read the Divergent books?

ABBY: Over the summer.

JESSE: How did you find out about them?

ABBY: I saw one of my friends had read it, and I saw stuff on the internet that said they were really good books.

JESSE: And I assume you’ve read all three by now?

ABBY: Yeah. It was quite the wait to get to read Allegiant though. That came out in October.

JESSE: Did you know then that a movie was coming out?

ABBY: I can’t quite remember…I don’t think I knew then but after I had read it I saw something online.

JESSE: And generally you were super happy with how the movie came out?

ABBY: Yeah, pretty much. Only a couple scenes I thought would have been really good to be put in the movie.

JESSE: You mentioned something about a butter knife scene. What was that about?

Continue reading A Talk with My Cousin about the Divergent Movie

Things I Wish Happened in the Divergent Movie

-Definitions of words explained 60% fewer times

-Zipline sequence shot with real IMAX cameras

-Zipline sequence shot entirely as POV to avoid bad green screen

-Someone pointing out that Tris may be Divergent, but her hair is Dauntless

-Billy Zane cast instead of poor and weirdly shaped substitute Jai Courtney

-Long sequence with Shailene Woodley alone in dystopian wilderness a la the first half hour of Riddick

-Longer bird-fighting sequence, possibly including bird-fu (not to be confused with bird flu)

-Miles Teller cast in one of the main roles tailor made for an actor with genuine charisma

-Four contracts bird blu

-Ending with cut to title card DIVERGENT. By “ending” I also mean possibly individual scenes, not just the movie

-More complicated scheme of mirrors that would necessitate at least 25 more takes to the camera

are you nervous 2

are you nervous

Fake Spoiler Alert: The Divergent Movie

The movie Divergent comes out this week. Before the movies of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games came out, I read the books to orient myself in the beloved world of these properties. I have not read Divergent. But I have seen the trailer a bunch of times. I am seeing a press screening of the movie tonight so I thought I should explain what I think this movie is going to be like.

What I Assume Happens in the Movie Divergent Based Only On Watching the Trailer a Bunch of Times

Backstory delivered by opening narration: 100 years ago, there was some kind of war, possibly topiary in nature. Then someone declared color-war and divided everyone by their shirts.

Shailene Woodley plays a character who I think is called Tris, a girl who gets up on roofs and admires the peace topiary while also kind of wondering what it all means, also is maybe kind of Amish or something. She is almost ready to go to vocational school and her affectionate boss at the barn where she works is played by Ashley Judd.

On orientation day, everyone and their families, or bosses if they don’t have families, goes to hear a lecture from Kate Winslet’s character, who I will assume is called the Peacekeeper. She explains the rules of color-war and then all the teenagers, even the ones from the Amish districts, have to go get tested to figure out what team they’re on. So the teens get tested on skills such as getting injections, knowing object permanence in a world of mirrors, dog-hugging, and hitting floors when you fall on them.

dog hugging

Continue reading Fake Spoiler Alert: The Divergent Movie

Fans Should Never Get What They Want—Myself Included

So, I’ve said on this site a few times that creators should be brave enough to stand up to their fans. I’ve begged Sherlock‘s Stephan Moffatt, for example, to keep the focus of the show away from the Sherlock/Watson bromance—their love for each other is only moving if commented on sparingly—and I’ve stated that Veronica Mars works best when Veronica’s love life isn’t the centerpiece of the action (again, a little goes a long way). If I could add a third example to complete this triumvirate, I’d say that Marvel should be wary of giving in to fans’ luuuurve of Loki. Like everything else mentioned above, Loki is great, but most effective in a subplot or as a side-character. He’s charismatic, yes, but he’s not a hero—making him one would diminish what’s interesting about him.

Anyway, at SportsAlcohol.com, we’ve created a shorthand for the idea that fans shouldn’t get what they want: #TeamPiz. I’ve learned that this makes some people on the internet very, very angry.

I think part of the anger is the idea that I’m telling other people that they shouldn’t get what they want. As someone who is more interested in mysteries than romance, who am I to tell people who are into epic love stories that they shouldn’t have their romances?

In reality, though, I developed my “people should never get what they want” theory based on something I did to myself.

Let me Tell You My Tale of Woe (Though You Might Have Heard This One Already)

Continue reading Fans Should Never Get What They Want—Myself Included

What about Veronica Mars, though?!

It happened: the Veronica Mars movie came out. A large percentage of SportsAlcohol.com staff and contributors saw it together in Manhattan on Friday night. We were not able to record and transcribe the many conversations that followed. But we thought it might be nice to open a discussion thread on here for virtual reactions, however belated. I’ll kick in a few of my major comments below, and I hope others will respond and/or throw in their own.

Obviously, this thread will have spoilers.

Briefly: #TeamParker

When faced with the bad boy versus stable-but-kinda-boring boy trope, often overlooked is the interests of the boys themselves. In lesser series with this trope, and lesser-than-everything Twilight, very little work is put in to explaining why anyone would want to date anyone else, especially if “anyone else” is the main character of the show. The most egregious example perhaps being Sookie Stackhouse of the True Blood series who — despite displaying very little in the way of basic survival instincts, loyalty, or even intelligence — prompts each man she comes in contact with (good or evil) to want to have an exclusive committed long term relationship with her.

Now, Veronica Mars is a much more appealing person than Sookie — she’s intelligent, funny and generally loyal to her friends. I’d totally want to be friends with her. I also understand why Logan specifically would love her. I was both caught off guard by their first kiss and felt genuinely moved by it, then moments later felt foolish by not seeing it coming earlier. They undeniably have chemistry that was earned, and she has made him a better person (on the balance) by serving as a (comparatively) solid moral compass and got him down from 100% brooding and/or cynicism to about only 40% brooding and/or cynicism. She found him at a fairly low moment and took a chance.

On the other hand, it’s not clear to me that she would be good for Logan long term. Her flaws and his flaws trigger each other such that it seems like he is always going to end up hurt (and brooding). Her primary flaw is almost a necessary trait for any TV detective/officer/slayer, which is that her identity is so wrapped up in being a detective that it leaves little room for anything else. This is difficult for her relationships in a number of ways. The first is that she applies the “trust but verify” ethos that make her an excellent detective to her relationships with disastrous results. This manifests itself most directly when she plants a GPS on Logan (and nearly plants a second one in his car). It doesn’t help her trust issues that Logan is an individual prone in good times to misdemeanors and gambling, and in bad times to bum-fighting and leaving others behind in burning buildings, which means that when she looks in on him she often will find highly significant unpleasant things and she is likely to keep looking.

The second aspect of being a good detective is that Veronica is a workaholic who is constantly working in dangerous circumstances (the danger may abate when, between series and movie, she goes to law school, but she’ll almost certainly retain her work ethic).  When Logan is around this he freaks out by being overprotective and prone to throwing punches prematurely.  He seems like he would make a lousy detective, which makes him a less than valuable sidekick.  Yet when she goes off without him, he freaks out because he can’t protect her — even going so far as to hire a bodyguard to look after her.

Dating Parker, by comparison, seemed to make him (briefly) happy without the up and down drama.  She makes (or has someone else make) cutesy cakes with their faces on it. Not dangerous at all!

As to who Veronica should date: I don’t think she needs a boyfriend at all.  She could look to the example of Raylan Givens of Justified, who when given a choice between a bad girl and good girl in season 1 slowly loses both to his workaholism.  Whereas in that show the loss of each woman feels tragic as Raylan is aging and he does seem genuinely hurt when his position gets in the way of love, even a decade after the end of her show, Veronica is young and has time to take romance less seriously.  She should just enjoy herself.

[Ed. Note: This will be explored further in a #TeamVeronica post very shortly.]