Tag Archives: hot takes

RESURRECTION is a well-shot workshop-level mediocrity

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.

The new psychological horror-thriller Resurrection burns slowly, with two elements guaranteed to hold my attention. One is Rebecca Hall, who has become one of the movies’ foremost chroniclers of a loosening grip on rationality, in large part because she projects such an unwavering intelligence. The other is the city of Albany, located 30 miles south of where I grew up, and rarely captured on film with such evocative clarity. (Usually, if it’s being captured at all, it’s to stand in for other cities.) Hall plays Margaret, a successful executive and single mother, whose Albany-based life is a feat of imposed order, reflected in the modernist/brutalist architecture of the city skyline. She’s a mentor at work at a doting, perhaps overprotective mother to her teenage daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman), who is close to leaving the nest for college. And when David (Tim Roth), a figure from her past, re-appears, she slowly begins to unravel.

David seems to know he would have this effect on her. At first, their encounters are barely that—Margaret thinks she glimpses him in the distance, or finds him on a public bench, seemingly minding his business. Is he a hallucination, even? He’s such a ghostly figure that it seems possible, though no one looks askance when the two appear in public together. Margaret may wish that she was merely talking to herself, but that’s not the case. Fearing for the safety of her child, she tightens her grip, and of course Abbie, and the rest of her world, resists this attempt at control. David won’t make a move to generate suspicion in the eyes of anyone else, but he also refuses to be denied.

I may have just described to you an eerie, unnerving horror movie of rare discipline and exactitude. If so, I apologize, because Resurrection is, for the most part, a well-shot crock of shit.

As a slow burn, it’s intriguing but ultimately low-key incompetent. Half a movie’s worth of creepy build-up gives way to a monologue from Hall that’s obviously supposed to be a bravura minimalist one-take set piece, where she unloads her character’s entire salient background as it pertains to her nightmarish relationship with David. There’s relief, at first, in the way the movie finally lays its cards on the table after so much intentional withholding—a clever reversal after creating the expectation that maybe writer-director Andrew Semans would keep everything close to the vest for the entire runtime, or at least until the final minutes. But though Hall gives this scene her best—if she can convincingly feign concern over a massive CG ape in Godzilla vs. Kong, of course she can kill it with a juicy monologue—it’s also the point where Resurrection no longer seems to trust her carefully calibrated performance. She can convey so much through her expression or her behavior, as she does in The Night House and countless other movies; giving her a baldly expositional ten-minute monologue doesn’t necessarily serve her character or performance. It serves the movie’s desire to shock and provoke.

It is provocative, I’ll give it that; this is a movie dying for its “F” CinemaScore badge of honor. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, I’ll say that Margaret reveals the details of an abusive relationship she had with David when she was a young woman, capped by an off-screen (both in terms of the movie and her own eyes) act of pure evil, made especially insidious by Margaret being forced to rely on David’s account of the incident. His telling adds a layer of fantastical impossibility, and now that he’s returned to her orbit, the psychological gravity of his bizarre claims threatens to pull her back in.

The thing is, what David tells Margaret about their old life together sounds like incoherent (and, conceptually, rather abstract) ranting, delivered with am eerie (some might say minimally acted) calm by Roth. It’s a gambit doubtless designed to make Resurrection really go there. The movie is clearly trying to say something both about the controlling, irrational nature of abuse, and, perhaps secondarily, about the psychological horrors of a parent attempting to keep their child safe. Mainly, that… they really suck and can make you do bad stuff? That central monologue does both too much and too little; it explains everything so precisely and directly that it breaks the film’s mysterious spell, while also failing to make a convincing case for Margaret believing something that is not just highly unlikely, but literally impossible. Yes, yes, this is the insidious and seductive nature of abuse, illustrating how that power may never actually go away, and so on. But if this is metaphorical, it’s also tautological: Believing stuff your abusive partner says is as irrational and unwinnable and damaging as… believing stuff your abusive partner says.

A movie canny enough to simply rip off The Vanishing might have shifted the emphasis from the impossible to the unknown: David is in the position to promise Margaret access to something she desperately wants, if only she submits to him. Isn’t that more in the realm of abuse, the promise of something that could technically happen—that the abuser will provide some semblance of what the abused desperately wants—but in reality will not? Instead, David promises Margaret something absolutely insane, and she submits to him.

This could make a case for operating on a more abstract, dreamlike level if Resurrection was more visceral, or even just entertaining. On a purely practical level, this revelation sends the movie into a slog of repetition: Margaret faces David, spits venom at him, tries to strong-arm him into leaving her alone; he reacts with an unflappable, sanguine smugness; she bends to his will in some way or another; repeat, repeat, repeat. Add in some boilerplate scenes of Margaret trying and failing to exert control over her daughter, and Semans also sours a potent metaphor about parenting into programmatic plot points (while tacitly insisting that these are no mere plot points).

All of this simmering tedium does come to a head, in a scene that is, admittedly, a wild ride—though perhaps it seems more like one because the movie has heretofore self-consciously restrained itself beyond all reason. Resurrection ultimately feels like it was reverse-engineered to reach this big confrontation between Margaret and David, and look, the sequence has its moments; there is one in particular, involving the appearance of a knife, that made me laugh in delight, a momentary heedlessness taking over all the preciously arranged writer’s conceits. Then—and again, trying to avoid spoilers on a movie I by this point despised—there’s a “crazy” turn as predictable as any writing workshop short story, chased with an equally predictable note of ambiguity in the denouement. These aren’t moments of impossible-yet-inevitable clarity that dot good literary fiction; they’re the only moves Semans can really make, because the movie’s nightmare logic is narrower than it looks. Mostly, it looks a lot like an “elevated” horror movie greenlit in the wake of Hereditary. Even the distinctive Albany Look gradually recedes from view.

At best, Resurrection is a geek show. At worst, it’s a game of three-card monte that’s all shuffling and no meaningful catharsis. It’s one thing to rig a card game; it’s quite another for the dealer attempt to convince you it’s actually been an interpretive dance.

The Best Songs of the 2000s: The Outliers

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.

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.
Continue reading The Best Songs of the 2000s: The Outliers

The Best Album of the 2000s Came Out in 1999

Ben self-identifies as a Slytherin, so it makes sense that he is a business school graduate. He really liked the movie Margin Call, so that makes him SportsAlcohol.com's de facto business correspondent. By business correspondent, we mean the expert in movies and television about business (we don't care about the strength of the dollar or whatever).

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.
Continue reading The Best Album of the 2000s Came Out in 1999

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Best Songs of the 2000s, Discussed

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.

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 15 Best Liz Phair Songs (So Far)

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 I was 16 or 17 and girls my age called Alanis Morrissette “Alanis,” it irritated me in the way that smartass know-it-all insecure teenage boys frequently get unaccountably irritated. You don’t know her! I’d think. Or sometimes say out loud, in the way that smartass know-it-all insecure teenage boys frequently can’t keep their stupid mouths shut. At the time I, to paraphrase the song “Rock Me,” didn’t know who Liz Phair was. But I thought back to those moments when reading over our write-ups of the best Liz Phair songs—including my own. Pretty much all of us did it: We called her Liz, like we knew her. We don’t, of course. But that’s how good Liz Phair’s songwriting is: There’s something relatable yet specifically conversational about so many of her lyrics, as well as her unaffected delivery style and sometimes fret-squeaking arrangements. And as important as Exile in Guyville is, this kind of presumptuous rapport with your audience doesn’t automatically happen from one great album. It happens more often from a career full of high points, from one of our best (and sometimes most underappreciated songwriters). SportsAlcohol.com founders Marisa, Jesse, and Rob were joined by past ‘90s list voters Sara Ciaburri and Lorraina Raccuia-Morrison as well as Liz (and film) scholar R. Emmett Sweeney to pay tribute to our collective favorites, coinciding with the reissue of her first four albums on vinyl, an Exile-themed anniversary tour, a bigger tour in the fall, and hopefully a new album sometime soon. In the meantime, here is who Liz Phair is.

The Top 15 Best Liz Phair Songs So Far

Continue reading The Top 15 Best Liz Phair Songs (So Far)

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Career of Tim Burton

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.

Tim Burton is easily one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood, with a name awareness up there with Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan. Yet in recent years, the director, whose new movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children just came out, has been the target of plenty of scorn, too. Is he an underappreciated auteur, a self-plagiarizing hack, or something in between? Is Miss Peregrine a comeback or did he not really go anywhere? What’s up with how much the internet hates Alice in Wonderland?

These questions and more are at the heart of our Tim Burton podcast, where Nathaniel, Marisa, and Jesse started with his new movie and wound up discussing every single feature he’s directed in some capacity. We talk about the best, the worst, the unloved and the underloved. Who sticks up for what? Who has a hot take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? And what have any of us bought at Hot Topic? Listen up and find out.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Hot Takes on the Pop Music Canon

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.

Welcome to the internet! We have hot takes here. SportsAlcohol.com has plenty of contrary and bizarre opinions to go around, and for this podcast we focused on albums from the pop music canon. Rob, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse got together to chat about which albums they think are secretly inferior to other, less acclaimed albums by the same artist. It’s a simple formula that generates hot take after hot take! Here are just some of the artists we cover in this trim 40-minute session:

The Beatles!
Bruce Springsteen!
U2!
The Stone Roses!
Radiohead!
Sleater-Kinney!
Simon & Garfunkel!
Coldplay for some reason!
Liz Phair!

AND MORE!

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll become infuriated with our hotness.

How To Listen

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