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by Matt White

23 Jan 2009

How many times have you heard a b-side of one of your favorite bands and thought “WHY wasn’t this on the album?” It is even more frustrating/confusing when there are tracks on the album that are weak and if replaced with this hidden gem of a song, could elevate the album to a great (or at least considerably better) record.

The four-disc b-sides and rarities collection Join the Dots, released in 2004, showed the Cure to be a band that consistently casts aside great songs to b-side status, often in favor of questionable experiments. I’m all for variety on an album but 1996’s aptly-named Wild Mood Swings could have done without “Club America” and it’s bizarre low-octave croon from Robert Smith. As the second song on the record after the strong opener “Want”, it was probably seen by first-time listeners as an early sign of a disappointing album and seems to cast a dark cloud over the rest of the (actually quite good) record. If you ask me, it’s one of the main reasons Wild Mood Swings is so looked down-upon.

Now if Smith had replaced “Club America” with the “Mint Car” b-side, the gorgeous “A Pink Dream”, the album just might have been received a little differently and perhaps remembered more fondly. It is an almost ridiculously upbeat, sunny slice of pop. It starts out with heavy cymbal crashing and a mix of electric and acoustic guitars, fooling you into thinking it’s darker than it is. Then the momentum picks up and the clouds break. The bright, fiercely strummed acoustic guitars recall “Inbetween Days” and Robert spits lyrics like “I rub my head and stumble out the door / Head into the bright new beautiful day”. The production is pristine with every cymbal hit sparkling, every guitar strum exuding rays of sunshine. Not only should this have been on the album, this should have been a single. 

There’s an abrupt shift of mood in the last verse when Smith sings “It was all so far away, so long ago / I hardly ever think about her anymore / Except sometimes when the summer twilight breeze carries me the scent of faraway rain…”, showing off how easily the Cure can slip from mindless joy to nostalgic melancholy. These two emotional extremes have always been what the Cure does best. The fact that the same guy who wrote “Pornography” also wrote “The Love Cats” (and within a year of each other!) is proof of that. I can’t help feeling Wild Mood Swings would have been a better showcase for these two strengths if “A Pink Dream” had been included in the tracklist. Alas, it remains a song I can put on mix-tapes/CDs I make for people knowing they’ve probably never heard it, thereby introducing them to a perfect piece of pop.

by Bill Gibron

22 Jan 2009



We critics LOVE to lambast the Oscars, arguing that they get it wrong so frequently that their annual misguided message to moviemakers and goers threatens to turn the 80 year old institution into a true cultural afterthought. Sure, there are always signs of life, or at the very least, a shift. Last year, the Academy gave the Coen Brother’s No Country for Old Men all the legitimizing love they could, while tossing some Paul Thomas Anderson affection toward There Will Be Blood as well. Heck, even Juno and Michael Clayton beat out several “prestige” pictures to walk away with a Best Picture nod. So when a film like The Dark Knight becomes one of the highest grossing commercial successes of all, there is always talk of some kind of industry recognition. Sure, popularity doesn’t always equal aesthetic importance, but with the vast majority of film reviewers agreeing on the unequalled mastery of Christopher Nolan’s post-modern masterwork, it seemed like an Oscar lock.

So what happens? Somehow, one of the slew of Holocaust oriented pics (albeit one that uses the senseless slaughter of millions of Jews as a sloppy psychological subplot) beats one of the best films of all time for Academy recognition. No other major awards entity has The Reader on its short list. Not the Producers Guild. Not the Directors Guild. Not the Screen Actors Guild. Only international entities like BAFTA (the British Oscars) and the Golden Globes (who cares) pegged the production for major year end consideration. Now, it’s not like The Dark Knight will go away unrecognized come 22 February. It has eight nominations to The Reader‘s five, and has a much better chance of winning its technical awards than the latter has of earning a single trophy for Best Picture/Director/Actress or Cinematography. Indeed, at the end of the evening’s festivities, Heath Ledger will more than likely earn only the second posthumous Oscar ever given, while areas like effects, art direction, and sound mixing could go the blockbusters way.

And let’s not forget the other surprises and snubs, both warranted and uncalled for, that manifested themselves this morning. Below are a few of the highlights from the annual festival of cinematic second guessing. As we move closer and closer to handing out those coveted little gold men, SE&L will go into a lot more detail about this year’s Academy Awards. It promises to be a very spirited and lively five weeks.

The Surprises
The Reader Gets Best Picture/Director Nods

This critic has made no bones about his hatred of this film. It’s not a personal anger, or something born out of the creative team involved. No, when dealing with the organized genocide of an entire race of people by an evil governmental entity Hell bent on taking over the entire world, there shouldn’t be a double standard, borderline pedophilic love story taking center stage. Daldry did nothing to warrant Best Director consideration (his work is just as pedestrian as it was in The Hours, and he got a nomination for that too. Must have compromising pictures of several AMPAS members), and the end result is confused and incomplete. This is destined to go down in Academy history as one of the worst Best Picture choices ever.


Winslet in Best Actress Category Only

Okay, this screws EVERYTHING up. Winslet was supposed to get her nod in the Best SUPPORTING Actress category as a less than subtle means of making sure she walked home with Oscar gold this year (she has five previous nominations, but no wins). Putting her here knocked out several strong candidates - including one major missing name listed below - while turning the entire race into a literal crap shoot. Depending on who you think did the better job - and all five turns were excellent - this may be the first year where the final decision is not so readily predetermined. Sadly, it looks like Winslet may be on the short end of the tally once again.

Doubt Stronger than Some Expected

By the time the pundits were through marking up their Year End excuses for self importance, John Patrick Shanley’s adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize winning stage play was getting just minor, peripheral consideration. Many had Viola Davis recognized for her single, sensational scene with Meryl Streep, but few had Amy Adams, or Shanley himself, getting a nod. With the additional attention given to the leads (including a sensational turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman), Doubt went from “no way” to nicely represented. And unlike The Reader, it deserves it.

The Snubs
The Dark Knight Out of Picture/Director Race

This is just a crime. It’s a scandal and a shame, pure and simple. Of the five films given Best Picture cred by the AMPAS, The Dark Knight surpasses at least three - the fractured Frost/Nixon, the epic but uneven Benjamin Button, and the cinematic travesty known as The Reader. The DGA knew this (no love for Daldry’s dreary romance). The Producers Guild got this right (taking Shanley’s Doubt over the Holocaust drama). And let’s drop the arguments about commercial success spelling doom for Nolan’s amazing movie right now. Titanic got its record breaking number of nominations. Jaws, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings (both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King) got Oscar acceptance. There is just no excuse for The Dark Knight not being among said roll call.

Happy-Go-Lucky? Not If You’re Sally Hawkins

She’s been the presumptive favorite since topping several year end lists. She walked away with a Golden Globe this past January, and has been heavily touted as one of this year’s nomination locks, what with other acknowledgements from such prestigious places as The Berlin Film Festival. So what happened? How did Hawkins go from predestined front runner to wounded wallflower? Blame the politics of studio shilling. Apparently, The Reader and Angelina Jolie have stronger PR people than Mike Leigh and his usually brilliant British aesthetic.


Bruce Springsteen’s Wrestler Tune Gets Nothing

After the fiasco two years ago, which saw Dreamgirls earn three unnecessary nod, and last time around, when
Enchanted also scooped up a trio of nominations (and no awards), the Academy claimed they were going to reconfigure the rules regarding how Best Song choices were made. Apparently, screwing up the system entirely was the solution. As a result, The Boss, this year’s Golden Globe winner (and current Oscar owner for Philadelphia) can keep his tuxedo in moth balls for the rest of the awards season. Sure, the actual nominations available for consideration are nothing to sneeze at, but were there really only three good songs this year? With two being in Hindi?

Australia‘s Nomination/ The Duchess’ Pair of Nods

Guess there’s lots of back slapping neo-nepotism amongst the costuming and art direction cliques. Betcha Baz Lurhmann is happy!

Wanted Gets Some Tech Rec

Look, we loved this hyper fun and slickly stylized bullet ballet more than most, but it definitely didn’t deserve to walk away with two technical nods. Was it’s sound design and editing really that good? Or was the pool to choose from really that poor?

What’s With All This Love for Penelope Cruz?

Apparently, Oscar, like most men, thinks with his little Oscar. There is no other reason why this vacant waste of Hispanic space deserves an Academy Award - especially not for this subpar excuse for late in lifeless Woody Allen. She’s done better.

SE&L Satisfaction
Michael Shannon Gets Revolutionary Road‘s Sole Acting Acknowledgment

While this amazing movie deserved much more than three Oscar noms (the other two are for those old ‘anyone can earn them’ standbys, art direction and costuming), Shannon’s work definitely deserves the film’s only acting acknowledgment. Say what you will about the rest of Road‘s revisionist trip back to the sodden suburbs of the ‘50s, but this actor’s laser sharp Greek Chorus really put the whining Wheelers in their place.


WALL-E‘s Screenplay Shown Some Love

For most of the Summer, there was a push to see this fascinating CGI classic go the way of Beauty and the Beast as only the second animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture. There was even talk of getting director Andrew Stanton a Best Director nod. Well, none of that came to pass, especially in light of what happened to a certain Bat-man. But WALL-E did walk away with six total nominations, including the lock in its own cartoon category. But the most surprising statement has to be the Original Screenplay acknowledgement. Apparently, someone in the AMPAS is paying attention.

The Documentary Category is Not a Complete Embarrassment - For Once

After years of screwing up something so easy as picking the best documentary from the previous 12 months, the Academy inched ever closer to quasi-redemption this year. There is not a bad pick among the five finalists, with three - Wire, Water, and Encounters - actually maintaining masterpiece status. In fact, who ever walks away with Oscar gold come 22 February, will be the cream of a really impressive crop.

by Bill Gibron

22 Jan 2009

As announced this morning here are the nominations for the 2009 Academy Awards (review links appear after a specific film’s first mention):

Best Picture:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (review)
Frost/Nixon (review)
Milk (review)
The Reader (review)
Slumdog Millionaire (review)

Best Actor in a Lead Role:
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler (review)

Best Actress in a Lead Role:
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married (review)
Angelina Jolie - Changeling (review)
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt (review)
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight (review)
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road (review)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona (review)
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Best Director:
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk
Stephen Daldry - The Reader
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Foreign Film:
The Baader Meinhof Complex - Germany
The Class - France
Departures - Japan
Revanche - Austria
Waltz With Bashir - Israel

Best Screenplay from Adapted Material:
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
David Hare - The Reader
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Screenplay:
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh - In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Andrew Stanton Jim Reardon and Pete Docter - WALL-E (review)

Best Animated Feature Film:
Bolt (review)
Kung Fu Panda (review)

Best Achievement in Art Direction:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess (review)
Revolutionary Road

Best Achievement in Cinematography:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
Wanted (review)

Best Achievement in Sound Editing:
The Dark Knight
Iron Man  (review)
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Score:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Alexandre Desplat
Defiance - James Newton Howard
Milk - Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman
WALL-E - Thomas Newman

Best Original Song:
“Down to Earth”  from WALL-E - Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman and Gulzar
“O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Best Achievement in Costume:
Australia (review)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Best Documentary Feature:
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World   (review)
The Garden
Man on Wire (review)
Trouble the Water (review)

Best Documentary (Short Subject):
The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness — From the Balcony of Room 306

Best Achievement in Film Editing:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Makeup:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (review)

Best Animated Short Film:
La Maison en Petits Cubes
Lavatory — Lovestory
This Way Up

Best Live Action Short Film:
Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Manon on the Asphalt
New Boy
The Pig
Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Best Achievement in Visual Effects:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

by Rob Horning

22 Jan 2009

David Harvey’s The Limits to Capital makes for especially interesting reading, given that he argues (extrapolating from Marx) that contradictions in “the circulation of capital” lead inevitably to economic crises that get expressed in the credit system (which had evolved, in his view, to solve lower-order crises of “overaccumulation”—aka “savings gluts”). He looks at bubble phenomena from a Marxist viewpoint—bubbles form when capitalist accumulation necessarily fails to achieve balance; the crises that occur when they pop are tentative, temporary solutions to the contradictions inherent in capitalism. When the capability to reinvest in capital formation is constricted for lack of viable opportunities—- when profit can’t go back into making more capital—fictitious capital is created via the credit system. That yields a speculative frenzy (since the relation between opportunity and underlying economic capapcity has been severed) that is unsustainable. So then, inevitably, there must be devaluation, to re-create opportunity in the ashes.

Perhaps that is where our economy is now. Indeed, Eliot Spitzer writes in his Slate column that we have yet to see enough creative destruction:

Although everybody claims to love the market, nobody really likes the rough-and-tumble of competition that produces the essential “creative destruction” of capitalism. At bottom, this abhorrence of competition and change are the common theme that binds together the near death of the American car industry, the collapse of the credit market, the implosion of the housing market, the SEC’s disastrous negligence, the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and the other economic catastrophes of recent months.

He points to those tell-tale marks of capitalist decadence—cronyism and rent-seeking—and appears to be wishing for a real rain to wash the system clean. He concludes:

Both GM and the SEC need to see a change in market conditions as an opportunity—not a challenge to market share…. This is a unique opportunity for President Obama and the Congress to take two seemingly different entities and force them to play by the real rules of capitalism: compete and transform to produce better products.

It’s the word force in that passage that strikes me as a bit ominous. That’s probably because state repression of that sort plays a prominent role in Harvey’s crisis theory. After differentiating between “periodic crashes” and “long-run problems that arise with the irreversible transformation of configurations in the circulation of capital, class formation, productive forces, institutions and so on,” Harvey argues:

The latter, as Marx observed, are strongly affected by the increasing socialization of capital itself, first via the agency of the credit system and ultimately through socially necessary interventions on the part of the state. The character of periodic crashes is thereby also transformed. Instead of being the aggregate social effect of an essentially atomistic, individualized process, they become a social affair from the very outset. The state, via its policies, becomes responsible for creating what it hopes will be a ‘controlled recession’ that will have the long-run effect of putting accumulation back on track.
The options for the internal transformation of capitalism become increasingly limited, more and more confined to innovations within the state apparatus itself [think TARP, et. al.]. And once the limit of the state’s capacity to manage the economy creatively is reached [think, the zero interest bound] the increasingly authoritarian use of state power—over both capital and labor (though usually with far more devastating effects upon the latter)—appears the only answer. Crises embrace the legal, institutional and political framework of capitalist society and their resolution increasingly depends upon the deployment of naked military and repressive power.

Not to get all paranoid, but this sort of argument puts Rahm Emanuel’s intention to never let a crisis go to waste in a much more sinister light. Harvey reminds readers of Lenin’s view of the matter, that imperialist nations can always resort to war to solve crises; nothing works better for devaluation than some wanton wholesale destruction. That may go a ways toward explaining Bush’s inexplicable foreign policy. Obama has promised to end one war; let’s hope the deteriorating economy doesn’t force us into another.

by PopMatters Staff

22 Jan 2009

A.C. Newman
Submarines of Stockholm [MP3] from Get Guilty


Cut Off Your Hands
Turn Cold [MP3]

Happy As Can Be [MP3]


Handed [MP3] from Ye Viols! [27 January]

Richard Swift
Lady Luck [MP3] from The Atlantic Ocean [7 April]

It Hugs Back
Work Day [MP3] from Inside Your Guitar [3 February]

The 1900s
Age of Metals [MP3] from Medium High EP

Animal Collective
My Girls [Video]

Loney Dear
Airport Surroundings [Video]

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

READ the article