Was ‘Bridesmaids’ deserving of Oscar nod?

Did “Bridesmaids” get left behind at Oscar’s Best Picture altar? Or are the raunchy comedy’s two nominations already more than it deserves?

Some early buzz suggested that Kristen Wiig’s R-rated wedding-disaster hit was a contender for the Academy Awards’ top prize, especially now that the field is open to more than just five films. That didn’t happen, but “Bridesmaids” did score a supporting-actress nod for Melissa McCarthy, who played the endearingly obnoxious and sexually voracious Megan, and an original screenplay nomination for writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo.

Best Picture was always going to be a long shot. The fact is that the Oscars have never been kind to comedies, as a look at recent years makes clear. Of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture this year, only Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” is considered a comedy, and of the 10 nominations in 2010 and 2011, only the animated movies “Toy Story 3″ and “Up” qualify.

Originally published Jan. 24, 2012 on MSNBC.com. Read the complete article.

TV Club, Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead

“Mawdryn Undead” (season 20, episodes 9-12. Originally aired Feb. 1-9, 1983)

“Mawdryn Undead” tries to do a lot. Too much, really. It’s ambitiously overstuffed with plot ideas: The nostalgic return of an old co-star, a retelling of the Flying Dutchman myth with a Doctor Who twist, a nonchronological story structure split between two timelines, the return of a well-known old villain, and most importantly the introduction of a new companion, Turlough, who joins the Doctor with orders to kill him. But while there’s a lot of moments to enjoy here, that’s too much to work into a single story. And to be fair, “Mawdryn” is not meant to be a single story, but the first part of a larger arc, with a fairly self-contained story intertwined with material that spins into the subsequent episodes. The problem is that the parts meant to be self-contained to this story wind up feeling thinly resolved and rushed, while the part that’s by far the most compelling—Turlough’s dilemma—isn’t actually resolved at all, by design.

And that’s only a problem if you’re not planning to watch the rest of Season 20 of Doctor Who the way you would probably watch, say, 2011′s Series Seven—in broadcast order from start to finish. It’s commonplace now to give audiences a season-long arc that draws you back for every episode. In 1983, though, it was a fairly big change for Doctor Who, which is a big reason that all three of the Fifth Doctor stories I’ve covered so far for TV Club were from Peter Davison’s first season in the role: They’re much easier to look at as individual stories.

Of course, in some ways Doctor Who was far more invested in the idea of ongoing storylines than was typical for its time—other than soap operas and one-off miniseries like V or Shogun, it’s hard to think of another show so insistent on its viewers returning four or six or even 12 weeks in a row to see how the story ended. But most Doctor Who serials are more or less self-contained: Given some basic knowledge about the concept of the show and who was in the cast at the time, you could pick up a DVD from almost anywhere during its first couple of decades and not feel hopelessly lost, and also be assured that the story you’re watching will come to a definitive conclusion. If you want to continue on past “Brain of Morbius” or “The Mind Robber,” you can, but you don’t have to. There had been an experiment with a season-long storyline in 1978 with the six-part quest for the Key To Time, but in practice it was loosely organized enough that a viewer could drop in anytime and pick up what was happening.

Originally published Jan. 22, 2012 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Interview: Father You See Queen

After moody electronica duo To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie disbanded last year, instrumentalist Mark McGee branched out in many directions, founding improvisational group Votel and lending a hand to electro-hardcore act Marijuana Deathsquads. But his chief project is another duo—Father You See Queen, pairing him with vocalist Nicole “Mona” Tollefson and specializing in an elegant, icy, even eerie sound that moves beyond To Kill’s territory without losing sight of its borders. The duo also share a common interest in accentuating their music with visual art; McGee says one reason they signed with Chicago label Flingco Sound System was a common desire “to make the packaging just as important as the actual music.” While their six-song EP, titled 47, isn’t officially out until April, FYSQ’s Jan. 20 show at 7th Street Entry marks the unveiling of a special limited-edition set of 36 handcrafted music boxes—each unique, containing a download code for the album and a scattering of ashes and hair hiding another secret underneath. Created by artists Jason Wasyk and Danielle Voight with creative input from McGee and Tollefson, the boxes have a minimalist and deceptively simple design mask subtle allusive meaning. The A.V. Club talked with the band and the artists about the evolution of Father You See Queen’s sound and the thought behind the boxes.

Originally published Jan. 17 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Review: Howler, America Give Up

Although the title of Minneapolis quintet Howler’s debut full-length suggests weary resignation, America Give Up practically glows with youthful energy. Frontman and songwriter Jordan Gatesmith hasn’t even turned 20 yet, and America steamrolls through its 32 minutes with a brash and undeniably exhilarating vitality. Howler’s buzz-creating EP from 2011, This One’s Different, created a huge wave of next-big-thingitude in England, where raves from NME led to a tour slot opening for The Vaccines and a deal with legendary U.K. label Rough Trade. Which almost certainly means a backlash is coming in six months or so, but until then (and even afterwards) America has plenty worth enjoying.

Comparisons to The Strokes have been flung at Howler repeatedly, enthusiastically, and accurately, though it’s fair to note that Howler reaches deeper into the past for its influences, snaring the good bits of high-energy punk guitar combos like The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Buzzcocks, and ultimately drawing from the old-school rock rebels of the ’50s. Which is ultimately both the most endearing thing about Howler and the precisely defined shape of the space it’s boxed itself into. The surf-punky “Beach Sluts” could be a lost Ramones B-side, both for its rough-edged, infectious garage-rock enthusiasm and its inescapable shallowness.

If the members of Howler seem less interested in breaking out of that mold than enthusiastically reveling in it, who can blame them? They’re young, and they have plenty of time to develop a voice that transcends as well as recapitulates their influences. Whether they can do that is a question for the band’s second album—America Give Up is about woo-oo-oo choruses and fuzz-laden, spiky guitar chords, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Originally published Jan. 17 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

TV Club Doctor Who: 24: City of Death

“City Of Death” (season 17, episodes 5-8. Originally aired Sept. 29-Oct. 20, 1979)

Today’s stop on our nonchronological journey through Doctor Who brings us to somewhere close to the end of the second major period of the Fourth Doctor era. The most obvious way to mark changes in the series over the years is simply by which actor is playing the main character, but Baker’s seven years in the role, longer than anyone else, spans three distinct periods, more or less. There were always many other forces helping to shape Who, whether that was external ones like the 1960s Dalek craze or competition from shows like The Avengers and Batman, or internal ones like the changes in creative vision brought in whenever a new producer or script editor took over. I’ve already covered two serials from Baker’s first period (“The Brain of Morbius” and “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”), when horror-friendly Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes were the creative leads behind-the-scenes. (Baker’s debut, “Robot,” is really more of a holdover from the Third Doctor creative team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.) The third section begins in Baker’s last season, with the ascendancy of producer John Nathan-Turner, who would steer the ship like a slow-motion car crash through nine years and four Doctors, before flying his metaphorical “Mission Accomplished” banner with the series’ cancellation in 1989.

Originally published Jan. 8 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Interview: New Monarchs

The New Monarchs began as a conventional four-piece rock combo, but they didn’t stay conventional for long, boiling down to a two-man electronic collaboration between lyricist-guitarist Sean Hogan and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Nelson. The duo’s 2008 debut, Blueprints, married glossy, processed beats with heart-on-sleeve, emotion-drenched pop, creating a sound the duo refined further on 2010’s five-song Electrocaching. The New Monarchs’ still-untitled sophomore full-length should be released later this year. In the meantime, the band has also put out Repeating Equation: Electrocaching Remixes, a track-by-track reworking of Electrocaching by compatriots in the local electronic scene including Askeleton and DJ Skullbuster. To celebrate the EP, they’ll play Jan. 7 at Cause with Ghost In The Water and Aaron & The Sea. The A.V. Club caught up with Hogan and Taylor to talk about the remix EP, the joys of a diverse music scene, and the benefits of appearing on Gossip Girl.

Originally published Jan. 6 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

The Future Sounds of Yesterday: A Sequence of Synthesizers in Science Fiction

Music and technology have always gone hand in hand—and the explosive flowering of music as an art form in the last century is also the story of the explosive growth of technology. Indeed, people have recognized the potential of computers to revolutionize music since before there even were computers. In 1842, writing about the theoretical uses of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, computer-science progenitor Ada Lovelace enthused that once the fundamentals of harmony and musical composition were properly understood, “the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” (And there’s something wondrous about a woman at the dawn of the Victorian Age dreaming of something now commonplace with electronic groups such as Daft Punk.) Like computing itself, electronic music began as the arcane province of technology specialists and slowly became a truly democratic force that put the power to change the world—or at least soundtrack it—in the hands of everyone. And because cutting-edge technology is particularly good at sounding alien and futuristic, it’s meshed perfectly with science fiction as a subject matter. Below is a brief history of the ways those three elements—the music, the tech, and the SF themes—have intersected and influenced each other, in various media, over time.

Originally published Jan. 3 in Clarkesworld Magazine. Read the complete article.

WordPress Themes

Spam prevention powered by Akismet