Belated thoughts on the Grammys

I realize few people care about the Grammys as they’re occurring, let alone three days later, but I’ve been meaning to jot down a few impressions I got from the annual ceremony.

The Grammys are more of an all-star concert event and a marketing vehicle for the recording industry than an awards show, and that’s part of what makes them so fun. This year’s show didn’t have many particularly memorable moments but it did manage to entertain and sometimes infuriate.

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The Ghost of Top Ten Lists Past: Part Two (2005-2009)

Earlier in the month I took a look back at my top ten lists from the first half of the last decade. Today I’ll finish the job.

My biggest takeaway from the earlier exercise was that lighter fare — comedies and family films — tended to have more staying power than dramatic films. The exceptions tended to sit at the top of my lists and for the most part remain there now. But the slots from five to ten would likely see a lot of turnover were I to re-rank those years today.

So let’s dive in and see if the trend continues.

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The Ghost of Top Ten Lists Past: Part One (2000-2004)

This week I was reading Slate’s annual Movie Club, a back-and-forth between a group of critics about the year in film, and one of the participants made a point that really resonated with me.

Matt Zoller Seitz wrote, “I bet almost everyone who makes Top 10 lists looks back at them years later and wonders why they put a certain movie on a list when they can barely remember a thing about it.”

Boy, is he ever right. I’ve often said that I don’t really know how I feel about a movie until much later, and preferably after seeing it again (and, in some cases, again and again). But the nature of the ranking business has us assigning a position to a film usually based on one viewing within the past day, week or month.

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Chemistry class

Please don't make us kiss!


Watching Knight and Day the other night, I was struck by how little heat I sensed between Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Here are two attractive, charismatic actors in great physical shape but I didn’t believe for a second that they wanted to sleep with each other.

Then it occurred to me that I’ve really never seen Tom Cruise exude chemistry with anybody. Certainly not with then-wife Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut. Not with then-girlfriend Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky. He had a nice rapport with Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, but it was chaste. Top Gun? He had more chemistry with Val Kilmer than Kelly McGillis (and here’s where the gay rumors kick in). Perhaps Risky Business is the last Tom Cruise performance that was downright sexy.

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Lyrically speaking

I like to think of myself as a lyrics guy — somebody who values the text of a song as much as the music. And I definitely gravitate toward songwriters who have a way with the written word — Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan come immediately to mind as favorite artists valued as much for their lyrics as their tunes.

On the other hand, I’m a huge R.E.M. fan who doesn’t know what the hell Michael Stipe is saying on half of their records and doesn’t care. It’s not as if I apply a litmus test to an artist that requires them to excel at both music and lyrics before I consider them a favorite.

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In praise of Rihanna and ‘Disturbia’

rihanna2Halfway through presenting my countdown of 2008’s top ten songs (which has already been signed, sealed and delivered) I realized I committed a major blunder in overlooking one of last year’s gems, Rihanna’s ‘Disturbia.’

I bought her multi-platinum album Good Girl Gone Bad toward the end of December but didn’t consider it for my year-end list because it was released in 2007. However, three bonus tracks on the edition of the CD I have were released in 2008. Silly me.

First, let me sing the praises of this album. I know I’m a year and a half late to this party, but that’s not gonna stop me from raiding the snack table and jumping in the pool with my clothes on. Good Girl Gone Bad is, put simply, the best album of its kind I’ve heard since… maybe ever.

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