WHAT'S TRENDING

What St. Patrick's Day Drink Are You?

Take our St. Patrick's Day quiz to find out how your personality looks in a pint glass

March 17th Is Coming

Corned beef is slow cooking; potatoes are boiling; cabbage is, well, being tolerated. And what better way to get in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day than to find out what brand of spirits you would be? You know, if your personality were to be magically transformed into an alcoholic beverage and then made shareable via social media. Well, we've done the magical part, all you have to do is take our quiz.

WHAT'S TRENDING

5 Oscar-winning films you can binge watch on Netflix right now

There's no such thing as too many movies...

This weekend is your last chance to get caught up on this year's Oscar Nominees. Moonlight, La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, the list goes on and on. It can become overwhelming. Why not take some time to relax and take a break from all of this cultural catchup? What better way to relax than to watch some Oscar winning films on Netflix. What? I didn't say take a break from movies altogether. That'd be ridiculous!

Here are 5 Oscar winning films you can binge watch right now on Netflix:

Shakespeare in Love


The Academy adores any film that is self-referential (thus La La Land's 14 nominations). Not only does Shakespeare in Love pay tribute to an artist whose influence can still be felt in the film and dramatic community today, but it illustrates nuances found throughout the artistic community that will be familiar to anyone who has a passion creating. Packed with talent; powerhouse actors Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, not to mention writer Tom Stoppard. This is a near perfect film with just enough inspiring sweetness and painful melancholy to be perfect Oscar winning material.

Braveheart

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A lot of mixed feelings are going around about Mel Gibson's return to the silver screen regarding his new film Hacksaw Ridge. Yet, regardless of the personal problems Gibson has faced over the last 10 years, Braveheart remains one of the most compelling war dramas of all time. It may not be completely historically accurate, but this story of William Wallace in the fight for Scottish independence will get you yelling "FREEEDOOM!" for the rest of the weekend.

The Big Short



Guaranteed to make you mad but in the best kind of way. The Big Short came out of left field from creator Adam Mckay (of Anchorman fame). Mckay's comedic timing adds a layer of complexity and surreality which allows the audience to take in information that is so massive and startling that it might otherwise be difficult to process. A crisp, funny, and politically relevant film about the 2008 financial crisis with great performances from everyone involved.

Good Will Hunting

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The film that made Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's career and spawned an equally inspiring and erratic Oscar winning speech. Robin Williams's performance alone is enough to make this film worth watching. Equal parts hilarious and tear-jerking; a movie if that makes you feel good while also asking the question "What are you doing with your life?"

No Country For Old Men

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No one creates a world in the same way as the Coen brothers. A stark, unabashedly American film; the Coen brothers paint a time and place so dark and brutal you can taste it. Book adaptations are always difficult, but this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel is excellent. If you're looking for a film with suspense, blood, and a lot of space...check this one out first.


Relaxed Enough Yet?

There, now that you've refreshed yourself, you can go back into the dark movie theater and finish all 62 nominated films before Sunday. I believe in you!

Humor

How Ariana Grande ruined La La Land for me

Was Ariana Grande an inspiration for La La Land's hit soundtrack?

Here's The Introduction

This is the part of the article where I tell you that I enjoyed La La Land. I paint myself as one of those rare cinematic consumers who neither overrated nor underrated Damian Chase's musical ode to the City of Angels. It has moving moments but a slow beginning. But this isn't a film review. This is about the music.

Much of what makes La La Land compelling is the bold simplicity of its themes. Musical themes. Hidden beneath layers of minor 7ths and modulation are some pretty clear-cut melodies that indelibly imprint themselves right onto the amygdala. One such theme is from "Another Day of Sun". The opening number contains a progression and melody that is repeated throughout the film and appears as an island of pop in an ocean of jazz. It rings of familiarity, yet it's hard to place.

After seeing the film, I soon found myself humming this theme everywhere. In the shower, back alley stairwells, the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store. This melody, both pervasive and elusive, haunted my steps, longing to be connected with an identity long past. Then one day, I was making a chicken salad sandwich in the kitchen, discussing the matter with my brother (at this point it had become a matter of great importance). Suddenly, it struck me, like the scene in Jaws, when Roy Scheider's character hears the screams of the first shark attack and that weird dolly zoom thing happens on screen. Not familiar? Take a moment to refresh yourself:



Anyway, it was just like that. After days of incessant humming, trying to excavate my mind for melodic memories, a neurological wall broke open, and out of the dust, a single figure appeared.

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Ariana Grande

Of course! How could I have been so deaf to the blatantly obvious? Justin Hurwitz's theme lines up with the Pre-Chorus from Grande's "Problem". Don't believe me? Let's take a listen.

First, we'll listen to Hurwitz's "Another Day of Sun Melody" as it reappears towards the end of La La Land. Listen carefully!


Catchy ain't it? Alright, now that we've got that covered, let's head on over to Ariana and take a listen to the Pre-Chorus from "Problem".



It's so clear! Justin Hurwitz was clearly listening to My Everything while composing for La La Land. I can't believe that...what? Oh, you're still unconvinced? Hmm, well, let's try them together and see what you think.



The Reveal

So what do you think? Well, I don't really care what you say, because to me, La La Land and Ariana Grande will forever be inextricably linked. And every good story needs a reveal so here it is: I love this. Far from ruining La La Land, this confluence of Teen Nick royalty and Hollywood hierarchy only serves to strengthen my love of each respective work. Yes, the title was a lie, but get used to it, this is the internet.

If you have yet to see La La Land, it's sure to stay in theaters for awhile. If you haven't heard Ariana Grande's My Everything, honestly that's impressive and I applaud your skills of evasion. At any rate, I encourage you to check out both the film and the album. If you need to hear that mash up again before embarking...well be my guest...

WHAT'S TRENDING

Samurai Jack Season 5 trailer declares "Jack's Back"

March 11th is just around the corner!

Jack's Back...With A Beard

The trailer for Samurai Jack dropped this week. If you didn't grow up watching the stoic samurai Jack calmly dispatch robots and aliens in his attempt to travel back in time after being hurled into a dystopian futureverse by an evil shape shifter, well, you can get caught up right now . If, on the other hand, you're already a fan of creator Genndy Tartakovsky's haiku of a masterpiece, then mark your calendars because this new trailer will definitely get you psyched for Season 5 on March 11th.



Why I'm Excited

The new trailer shows Jack fifty years after Season 4. With the exception of some new muscles (and follicles), Jack appears unchanged by time. After spending 4 seasons trying to get back to his chronological home, Jack is still stuck in the future, and seemingly feeling a bit down about that.

Tartakovsky says that the show will have a darker, grittier, tone than past seasons. The creative team includes many of the original cast and crew, including Phil LaMarr as the voice of Jack. Much of Jack's signature style is sure to be in place while the added freedom allowed by Adult Swim (as opposed to Cartoon Network) creates a compelling opportunity for a fresh take on the solitary samurai.


Why I'm Concerned

I have reservations about something that should be an overwhelming positive. Enhanced technology. All previous seasons of Samurai Jack have been hand crafted. This creates obvious limitations but I often find that those technical limitations foster more creative products and that the ability to do more for cheaper doesn't always result in the best art (films such as the Star Wars prequels or Peter Jackson's The Hobbit don't ease my anxiety on this point). However, Tarakovsky states that the animation team is working hard to make the new season feel hand crafter even though they're using digital technology. Only time will tell.

The loss of voice actor Mako Iwamatsu as Aku is also a legitimate concern. Mako's death leaves a void that's impossible to fill, yet it is always possible this obstacle could prove a creative opportunity. Once again, this will all be much clearer come March.


Regardless Of These Concerns...

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The first four seasons of Samurai Jack introduced us to a world that was equal parts artistically adventurous, poetically beautiful, and just straight up badass. It's time to get excited, count down the days, and catch up if you haven't already.

If you're desperate for more news on the new season, check out the behind the scenes video below with some great insight from the creators and actors involved in Season 5 of Samurai Jack.



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WHAT'S TRENDING

Train trades their tracks for a cruise ship on A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat

Train's latest release tries hard for radio gold. Maybe a little too hard.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Heavy On The Craft, Light On The Art

Grammy award winning band, Train, released their tenth studio album last Friday, January 27th. The album, titled a girl, a bottle, a boat is a cheerful, saccharine, pop-mobile filled with party anthems, love songs, and plenty of dance-y drum machines to keep lead singer Pat Monahan's soaring vocals on the radio waves well into the summer months.

Train's craftsmanship is top notch and they show no signs of slowing down. However, with a few notable exceptions, the songs on A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat feel safe and trendy as opposed to trendsetting. Fans of Train's work in the last few years won't find much to complain about on this release. But if you're looking for soul searching rather than "...Soul Sister", then I would recommend looking elsewhere.

Here's a more in depth look at the tracks off of A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat.

1. Drink Up

A party anthem with a bit of a hat tip to DNCE. "Drink Up" feels like an attempt to sublimate/neuter red cup party culture into an adolescent nicety. Well crafted musically, but the infectious falsetto hook doesn't make up for the lameness of the lyric. When a band attempts a punchline song (where the title and the last line of the chorus sync up) then they had better hope that the audience is laughing with them and not at them. The stretch of rhyming "glass" with "i've got memories on tap" feels awkward when surrounded by pop sheen and when Monahan sings:

Don't regret the things you do, or things you say
Even if you did it for the fame

it makes you wonder if this is autobiographical.


2. Play That Song

Really? "Heart and Soul"? They didn't even want to hide it? This saccharine pastiche borders on parody. Another band may try to turn a sweet Hoagy Carmichael melody into a more dangerous hook. Instead, hip hop drums and belted vocals just dump more high fructose corn syrup onto it. This song gives me type 2 diabetes. The fact that the producer and co-writer William Wiik Larsen calls himself IDAP (I Deserve A Plaque) doesn't help me.




3. The News

Rhythmic lyrics. Nice, (no really I like them). The wordiness of the verses builds tension and makes the long phrasing of the chorus all the more refreshing. The progression isn't anything revolutionary but rhythmic variation is compelling and the little blips and bleeps and chipmunk background vocals are used very wisely. Solid, soulful, pop.


4. Lottery

Beautiful guitar opening strum to open. Evocation of Bossa Nova and radio crackling. Hopes for a retro acoustic feel are quickly dashed, however, with a thumping bass drum and a Cristal name drop. The Junkanoo drum sample is intriguing but also a little goofy. Overall, not bad, but confusing. And that's just the music.


5. Working Girl

Repetitive. Relatively inoffensive. I imagine private school girls will dream of being blue collar Juliets while listening to this at their semi-formals this year.


6. Silver Dollar

Fine. Train tries to cash in on the Trop House trend with this one. Everything is well played but it's hard to hear Train over the trendiness. Other long haulers like The Roots and U2 shift and change according to their own tastes, thus shifting trends from within. Here, Train simply appears to be following. Their impeccable musicianship and attention to detail allow them to do so effectively. But it's one of those, "Gain the world, lose yourself..." kind of things.


7. Valentine

Doo-wop love song, like trying to squeeze Billy Joel's An Innocent Man into the top-40. Coming from a band that recorded an alarmingly impressive ode to Led Zeppelin last year, this song reeks of boredom.


8. What Good Is Saturday

Another punchline song. This one plays better though. The FIFA and Captain Crunch references are cute. The back beat and chorus melody evokes a Saturday morning pretty seamlessly. Maroon 5-esque but more relaxed. It may have taken till the eighth track, but Train finally starts to seem to hit a groove here.


9. Loverman

This is vintage train in the best sense. A perfect blend of beach rhythms, cinematic strings, and a hook from Priscilla Renea that feels lifted (but improved) straight from a Motown girl group. The bridge is possibly the ballsiest vocal I've ever heard from Monahan and it's a pleasure to listen to. The song closes with a sensual and satisfying variation of the main refrain that leaves me wondering, "Where did this come from?!". Monahan told Forbes that this was his nineteen year old daughter's favorite song on the album. A shame there's not more like this.


10. Lost and Found

This is what "Drink Up" should have been. It's still anthemic. Still referentially alcoholic. But it lacks the self conciousness and trend chasing of "Drink Up". With a driving horn line that's reminiscent of a New Orleans marching band and a progression that's a bit daring, this is Train hitting their stride.


11. You Better Believe

A strong album closer. It's an American Idol song. A CW anthem. Piano driven, unabashedly sentimental, and cinematic but not overly trite or cliche. Not particularly my cup of tea but absolutely nothing wrong with it.


Cruise Ship Music

Train is now preparing for their 4th Annual Sail Across the Sun, a cruise ship concert series that features artists like Natasha Bedingfield and Arrested Development opening up for Train. It's probably the perfect analogy for Train's brand of pop. Cruise ship music. Enjoyable. Popular (but not necessarily hip). Inclusive yet monied.

Train's methods have certainly paid off in keeping them on the charts for so many years. I just hope that they don't look back and wish they had taken more risks. They definitely have the chops for it. It remains to be seen whether they have the stomach for it.

You can hear A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat right on Spotify (below) or wherever you usually stream music:

Train - a girl a bottle a boat

Arts

Do You Use Social Media As A Television Or A Telephone?

To Connect Or Not To Connect? That Is The Question.

It's a metaphor.

In 1995, Robert D. Putnam, a political scientist wrote an essay entitled Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital. It's not as depressing a book as it sounds (but it's not a comedy I won't lie to you.) Basically, it outlines various aspects of why American culture has become less social over time and some ways in which society can regain its sense of civic involvement. I read the book back in university and if you're interested in sociology you can check out some of his corollary essays to get a taste of it. One of the ideas that stuck with me was that of the television.

But whereas Putnam blamed the literal television for distracting people from human interaction, I take television to be a small manifestation of something much larger. What that larger thing is, I actually have no better word for. The best I can do is simply point out the fact that while a Television (capital T) is indeed just that, it's also something more. It's a metaphor. A metaphor for anything and everything that we use to consume and escape our daily lives. Some have even criticized Putnam for having missed the fact that sociologists were critical of things like radio for distracting from civic life long before TV was even a thing. But this misses the point that human beings have always had habits of consumption and escape. This isn't an inherently bad thing, at least I don't think so. But to be blind to the fact that it's happening at all...that is bad. Because if something isolates us like a Television does (capital T!), then we need to be aware of it if we hope to control our level of consumption rather than be controlled by it. We need to balance our Television use, with the Telephone.

Again I'm speaking of the metaphorical Telephone. Before we go on let's define these terms so I don't continue to pester you with parentheticals.

George's Homemade Metaphors (A Family Recipe)

Television: from ancient Greek τῆλε (tèle), meaning "far", and Latin visio, meaning "sight". Metaphorically, any thing or activity that is used to consume information or entertainment to the exclusion of other human beings. TL;DR Something that isolates.

Telephone: From Ancient Greek τῆλε ‎(têle, "afar") + φωνή ‎(phōnḗ, "voice, sound"). Metaphorically, any thing or activity that is used to connect or interact with other human beings. TL;DR Something that connects.

All good? Good.

Television vs. Telephone

So now the question becomes, what is the new Television? What is the new Telephone? The answer is actually the same thing:

hand-apple-iphone-smartphone.jpg

These guys.

Smart phones place both a telephone and a television (literally and metaphorically) into our hands. But most of our consumption and connection no longer takes place in separate apps. They take place inside our social media. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. The Big Four. These apps have the potential to be used as either Telephones or Televisions depending upon the whimsy of the user.

Now that we've covered what it means to use something as a Television or Telephone, let's take a look at some examples of usage depending on what app you're in. And remember that with each of these examples, Television doesn't equal bad and Telephone doesn't equal good. But by virtue of the fact that Television is easier than Telephone, some of the examples will appear negative.

Facebook

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Facebook as Television:

  • Facebook stalking
  • Cat Videos
  • News, Think Pieces, Your Best Friend's political rant with 100 angry comments
  • FB Omphaloskepsis. I.e. Nostalgically looking at your own newsfeed (I'm not the only one who does this right?)
  • FB Live

Facebook as Telephone:

  • Tagging your FB friends in a status or picture or video
  • Making a cat video and sharing it with the world
  • Writing a status that encourages dialogue
  • Asking for advice or encouragement from the FB community
  • DM
  • FB Live (yeah it goes both ways)

Twitter

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Twitter as Television:

  • *Scroll, scroll, scroll*

Twitter as Telephone:

  • Having a twitter convo with friends (or strangers!)
  • Starting or engaging in a hashtag trend
  • Creating Memes
  • DM

Instagram

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Instagram as Television:

  • *Scroll, Scroll, Scroll*
  • Living in the magnifying glass tab
  • Clicking on endless hashtags

Instagram as Telephone:

  • Sharing pics from your life (even more so if it includes people you can tag in the picture)
  • Constructing an Insta Story that entertains your followers or engages with your friends
  • Instagram Live
  • DM

Snapchat

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Snapchat as Television:

  • Watching everyone's story
  • Clicking on every news/promo story
  • Looking at yourself in all the different filters (sorry that's Television)

Snapchat as Telephone:

  • Snapping directly with a friend
  • Constructing a story that entertains and engages with your friends
  • Taking a picture of yourself in a filter and then sending it to someone (that's Telephone)

Now Go And Do Likewise

Did I miss anything? Are there new ways of using social media that haven't been thought of yet? I'm sure that there are. Leave me some comments on how best to use social media as a Television or a Telephone.