always intrigued when an opinion is presented as fact. A sign of iconic
status for any artist is when you’re so beloved that your work is universally regarded at
great without question or debate. The work in question is presented as this is what good is.
It's a rare occurrence and every genre has at most only one of these iconic artists. But do they really deserve their titles as the best? No one seems to every question it.
started when I heard a debate where a woman was trying to convince
people that the Beatles were not a good band. For now I’ll put the Beatles aside and continue with another example because from what I’ve seen,
questioning the Beatles' talent
instantly make people's eyes bug out in confusion. It’s as if you told them
the sky wasn’t blue. Instead I'll use Meryl Streep
as an example. Even if you've never seen one of her movies you already
know that she's the best actress alive. No one even comes close. She
basically gets an Oscar nod every year by default. There's never been a
debate or even a question to her status as the best. It's just true.
It's fact! Or is it? Have you ever actually formed your own opinion of
her performances? I suspect there are a lot of people who just taken on
everyone else's opinion as their own. Could it be possible that Meryl has us
all fooled and she's really just a mediocre actress with a great publicist?
to the Beatles. I don't have a strong opinion of the Beatles either way.
I also don't have any of the emotional connections to the Beatles that so many
other people do. I'm totally neutral. The argument knocking their talent was that they were a
boy band with only 12 good songs. The rest of their songs are either silliness or just plain
bad. Also she made a point to say that most of their music sounds like children's music. This led me to the question, Do the Beatles suck?
As always I prefer to make my own opinion so I knew it was time to do my homework. I decided to listen to Abbey Road, The White Album, and Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. I chose those three because they were the three albums I knew of. After listening to all three albums in full I can finally answer my earlier question: No the Beatles do not suck. Did I fall in love with their music? No. For some reason I expected to have a strong reaction either for or against because the music is so iconic. The weird thing is that after listening to hours worth of Beatles tunes I was left feeling much the same as I did when I started. I still really don't have a strong opinion of them. The music wasn't really my personal taste but I wouldn't call it bad either. It was beige. One point I will totally agree with is that their music sounds like children's music. Rather then having song about emotions there seemed to be a tendency toward telling a specific story. As if all of their music was a picture book being sung aloud for story time. I can imagine every song on a kiddie album or cartoon. As an example these area few lines from A Day in the Life:
The picture book practically writes itself. I guess kiddie music isn't a bad thing just not what I expected. Although maybe that's why it is so universally loved. It is simple and accessible for all.
been pointed out to that much of the Beatles' genius was their innovation
and groundbreaking sound for the time. Their music must be listened to with a historical perspective. Up to that point no one in music had done
what they did. I don't dispute their mark on history. Regardless of my personal opinion they obviously touched on something that resonated with everyone. It was also easy to see their influence when I asked this same question on Facebook and got a barrage of comments in support of the fab 4. I've always believed the better the art the more passionate the response. People still care about this music which is a point that shouldn't be ignored.
To close, I want to make two points clear. First, no I don't think the Beatles suck. Maybe just a bit overrated, but who wouldn't be when held to the expectation of best band of all time. My second and more important point is that you should make your own decisions. Ask the questions no one asks. Use other people's opinions as a guide but in the end look and listen for yourself.
Before the angry comments start flooding in, no I don't hate Meryl Streep either. I just used her as an example because no one seems to question her label as the best. Is she the best? Yes. She kicks ass even more then she is given credit for. I would totally support the Oscar's decision to give her an award every year just for being her bad ass self. Don't take my word for it though. If you missed them, watch The Iron Lady, Doubt, Julie and Julia, and Death Becomes Her. Is that range or what?! #Merylforever
Also the point about listening to the Beatles with a historic perspective bothers me a little bit. If your music is supposed to be the ultimate best, it should be good on it's own regardless of the listeners time and place. When you listen to the Supremes and you don't need a shred of history to like their songs. #justsayin
I stumbled onto a great podcast last week from Cracked.com. The overall theme of the podcast is straight nerd comedy. Although it's not a theme I'm normally drawn to, it was funny and insightful enough to keep me listening. The most recent two episodes discussed the topic of what movies and tv shows hold up over time. Great movies of their time watched decades later don't always remain good. For example, have you ever watched one of your beloved childhood cartoons as an adult and thought, "This is such a piece of shit. How did I ever like this?" If you haven't had this moment go back and watch the original Smurfs cartoon. *Shudders*
The Cracked podcast mentioned the Oscars and some of the award winning films that should and shouldn't have won. With the announcement of the 2014 Oscar nominations on Thursday, this is a perfect opportunity to take a moment to check their track record.
When the Oscars got it wrong:
1991- Dances With Wolves won Best Picture instead of Good Fellas. This is one of the example's given by the Cracked guys. Even though I haven't seen either film, I don't doubt that Kevin Costner loses his cool factor 20 years later.
1994 Tommy Lee Jones won Best Supporting Actor for the Fugitive instead of Leonardo DiCaprio for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. This is a case where no one's performance went bad it was just a bad decision. Leo's role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape is probably the best performance of his whole career.
1995- Forrest Gump won Best Picture instead of Pulp Fiction or the Shawshank Redemption. I'll admit I loved Forrest Gump when it came out. The heart warming tale was a huge hit amongst audiences everywhere. Years later the film reads a little shmaltsy and dumb where as Pulp Fiction is still as edgy as it was on opening night.
1997- The English Patient won Best Picture instead of Fargo. Similar to Tommy Lee Jones, I think this is a case where time had nothing to do with it. I thought they made the wrong decision on the night of the awards. Everyone got caught up in the epic (boring) love story. Fargo is quality cinema and the English Patient needs to be taken off life support.
2002- A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture instead of Moulin Rouge. Also Jennifer Connelly for Best Supporting Actress for the film instead of Maggie Smith for Gosford Park. First Maggie Smith is perfect in everything and hands down she should've won over Connelly's boring and forgettable performance. As for Best Picture, Moulin Rouge was clearly the most original movie of that year and it still is just as good even 10 years later. Note: A Beautiful Mind isn't a bad movie but Moulin Rouge is just better. This is also a mistake I knew on awards night.
2006- Crash won Best Picture instead of Brokeback Mountain. I've written blog posts before about this one. Does anyone even remember Crash? Brokeback Mountain was so good it virtually eliminated gay movies for the next ten years because no one wanted to complete with it. Crash won because the Academy was too afraid to pick (at the time) controversial barebacking cowboys. Also, Best Supporting Actor should have been Jack Gyllenhaal instead of winner George Clooney for Syriana. Although I suspect Clooney won more for his over all popularity and career and not this specific performance.
The Oscars have also gotten it right a few times:
1991- Kathy Bates won Best Actress for Misery. Yes, totally deserved.
1992- Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture and Anthony Hopkins and Jodi Foster both took home Best Acting trophies.
1994 Tom Hanks won Best Actor for Philadelphia. You can argue about his win in 1995 for Forrest Gump but Philadelphia is one of the best of his career.
1997- Geoffrey Rush won Best Actor for Shine and Francis McDormand won Best Actress for Fargo. Geoffrey Rush was sort on an unknown and unproven actor in 1997. His amazing performance kick started a career that has lasted and spawned dozens of other great roles. McDormand gave the standout performance that made Fargo what it was.
2000- Hilary Swank won Best Actress for Boys Don’t Cry. There is theory on how you win an Oscar. Either you're a big actress in a unknown/small movie (Nicole Kidman in the Hours) or you're an unknown actress in a big Hollywood movie. (Kathy Bates in Misery) Swank broke that mold when she was an unknown actress in an small indie movie. Her turn as Brandon Tina was perfectly acted.
2001- Gladiator won Best Picture. I tried to watch Gladiator at the time and thought it was incredibly boring. In fact I fast forwarded through most of it. You might wonder then why I 'm glad it won. I'm only glad it won because it beat the favorite Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. CTHD was breathtaking when it first came out. When you watch it now it looks totally ridiculous. Awful in fact.
2003- Chicago won Best Picture. I LOVE this movie and totally deserved the top award. The look and sound of this musical is still fresh and timeless. This was also an "I'm sorry" from the academy because fellow musical Moulin Rouge lost the year before.
Visit The Cracked Podcast to have a listen. I also recommend the podcast about LBJ. I was surprised how interesting it was.
There are two new shows coming up that are worth taking a look at.
is a new cartoon comedy on FX. The series focuses on the title
character Chozen who is a gay rapper fresh out of prison. The husky homo hip
hopper is voiced by SNL alum Bobby Moynihan whose best known for his drunk
uncle character. Fans of
Archer will also recognize the animated adventure’s signature visual
style. Nothing else about this show follows the normal convention
though. As far as I can tell this is the first (animated) thick gay rapper
to grace our television screens. Shout out to Big
Dipper for keeping the real life thick gay rap world afloat. With a plot
so unique I just hope Chozen is actually funny. Sometimes when a show
sets out to be so different they can overlook actual quality. I’m
crossing my fingers because I’m really excited about
this show and want to like it.
Series premier Monday 1/13/14 at 10:30 on FX.
Looking is a new gay ½ hour comedy on HBO. Jonathon Groff best known for
Glee and Frozen leads the cast of fresh faced new comers.
The series centers around a group of twenty something friends living in
San Francisco. At first glance I wrote this show off because all of the
actors (featured in the preview) are thin
and trim pretty bois. In terms of breaking gay body image stereotypes, this
show is a grand fail. However it occurred to me that I might be judging
it a bit too harshly. I had an A HA moment when I realized that
Hollywood rarely deviates from a narrow body image
for all of human kind, gay or straight. After all Friends and Sex and the City
were hardly breaking down body image barriers with diversity.
Advertising, television, and movies have always favored the thin beige
thespians who are stereotypically pretty.
I guess when we fought for equal rights that included being watered
down and misrepresented by media like everyone else. My overly critical
gut instinct was softened when I realized I was judging
Looking using standards that are near impossible to meet in
mainstream media. Unfortunately there is so little gay representation on
tv that when a gay centric show does come out it is expected to represent every gay
person in America.
The more I thought about it, the more I began to look forward to
Looking. Odds are that Looking will be the great show. HBO has a
proven history for creating thought provoking, well written,
captivating television. When you ask someone about an HBO produced
series, rarely do you hear a bad review. I hope this instance
is no different. So for all my bear minded readers, don’t think about Looking
as show representing gay life. Instead go into it with the mindset that
this is a show about a group of men living in San Francisco who probably
have an unrealistic amount of
money given their age and career level. (Did I mention that poor people
aren’t represented on tv either?) It’s the male version of
Girls. Coincidently it premiers after Girlsthis Sunday 1/12/14 at 10:30 on HBO. Give it a chance. I would rather have stereotypical gays on screen than no gays at all.
I’m not saying Chozen is doomed to failure but the odds are against it.
When I write I often focus on my personal life and don't often talk about my work life. There are two main reasons I don't talk about work. First, when you name your employer online anything you do or say can possibly be linked back to that company. I realize it's not the most common occurrence but why chance it. My blog isn't always the appropriate for all viewers so there's no need to bring my companies name into the mix. The second and more important reason I don't talk about work is because my job is quite uninteresting. I work in the property/causality insurance industry which comes in second only to accounting for the most boring award. Coverage questions and deductibles just are not exciting reading.
I decided to bring this up because it occurred to me recently that I've finally gotten to a place in my life where I feel very content in my job. When I graduated college I went straight into retail management. After a couple years I'd had my fill of retail and knew it was time for a change. Getting out of the retail game however is easier said than done. I spent several years fighting and struggling to change my career path. My resume was always online
and I would constantly dig through online job sites for new postings. Feeling unsettled
in my job became comfortable and normal. I got used to the struggle. Even when I finally got my first interview with my current employer it took them a full year before finally offering me the job. Advancement and salary increases have never been my main focus. I'm happiest when I have a work life balance while enjoying what I'm doing. In the past I've taken the promotion I wasn't sure I wanted just for the big pay increase. I learned that even with more money I still didn't like being a manger and I still was unhappy. You might laugh but one of my very first goals was to find a job that had standard Monday through Friday hours. When I left retail management I even took a 20% pay cut just for the possibility of not having to work on the weekend.
Now I'm happy to say I've gotten to that happy median where I'm content. I like working for a large national corporation because it offers possibilities. It afforded me the possibility to move across the country. While I'm not sure I would use the word love I can say I genuinely don't mind going to work in the morning. I have a boss who trusts me and lets me work independently, my coworkers are nice people who work well together and I almost never have to talk directly to a customer. Did I also mention that I started with 4 weeks of vacation time. 4 WEEKS! Those are the things that matter to me. I don't have to manage people and I have more time off then I can sometimes use. It may not be a high paying job or the one I dreamed of but it's the job I enjoy.
While we're on the subject, let me talk about dream jobs. A department store fashion buyer has always been my theoretical dream job. I use the word theoretical because while I like the idea of becoming a buyer, I'm sure I'd like the reality. The other problem is the fashion/department store industry is volatile. The continued evolution of tastes and purchasing habits have brought an uncertain future to professional buyers everywhere. While insurance isn't the most exciting but it is stable. Seeing so many of my friends face layoffs makes my practical nature value my stability.
On one final note. It's also nice to work in an environment with coworkers who are retiring. When I worked in retail it always struck me as interesting that I never once saw of or heard of a person retiring from their job as a retail manager. In fact it was more common to hear stories about successful managers who had climbed up the ladder only to one day give it all up because they just couldn't take it anymore. Or to be more polite they would say they just "needed a change." Whenever anyone tells you they need a change it's code for I'm miserable. Seeing everyone always quit or get fired before the age of 65 only confirmed every instinct I had to leave. So now when we celebrate a retirement at work I feel confident that there's at least the possibility that I too can one day retire from this job.