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Friday, January 31, 2014

Best Films of 2013 (part 1)

So, I've been watching lots more movies than usual lately (which, is quite an achievement cause I love movies) due to a combination of finishing postgrad, being unemployed and breaking my foot (which has me very immobile for the next 5 weeks). So I made a list, as I usually do. Other than the top 5 the rankings are quite fluid and all the films are quite good. (Disclaimer: I haven't seen Nebraska  which is why it's not on the list.)


25. Spring BreakersUSA- English. Directed by Harmony KorineThe entire cast is great but James Franco steals this show. Really didn't expect this to be good by the premise and trailer. I was wrong. Cause I expected wild and fun but this movie is much darker than that. Really it's a visual of not just the worst of youth but what you think the worst of youth is (which is so much worse), which sounds terribly depressing but luckily the film manages to just ride that line of satire. Like most good films, the good comes from taking a seemingly straight story or overused genre and putting a fresh look on it. With this it takes a teenage cash-grab crime film and completely turns it over into something that sticks in the memory. Darkly.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaeVPdsVkyA

24. Blue Jasmine - USA - English. Directed by Woody AllenFor a man that's been making movies as long as he has it's quite surprising that he gives us something new, or would even bother to not stick to a formula. Blue Jasmine is every bit a Woody Allen film but the perspective is shifted to female view and the focus is on Jasmine, which in new for Allen though his female characters are usually well written. Excellent acting from Cate Blanchett drives this and the film pays obvious tribute to A Streetcar Named Desire. 




23. The Spectacular Now -USA-English. Directed by  James PondsoltI have little faith in coming-of-age stories usually because they formulaic and repetitive or in the cases where they're attempted to not be, they're so far from reality that it's impossible to connect. This film manages to be an adept and sensitive film that never comes across as dull despite the predictable trajectory and is thoroughly relatable. Granted high school wasn't that long ago and of course, my high school experience was nothing like the American one, but this film both brings me back to that time and gives me a new look/feel on the teenage experience. Manages to really capture the feeling of being caught in a time when everything's going to change but you're not sure how.




22. Enough SaidUSA - English. Directed by  Nicole HolofcenerCharacter study and romantic comedy. Generally these two things don't go well together as most rom-coms are less filled with characters than stereotypes. Good rom-coms, like good relationships are based on communication, and the dialogue in this film is excellent (really that's all you need for a good film, remember Before Sunrise?) even as the characters start miscommunicating to each other and building up the lies and awkward situations. It might be the script in part, but the chemistry between Julia Louise-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini is excellent and endearingly watchable.






21. This Is The End USA- English. Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan GoldbergI love fictional versions of reality. I have no idea why. But self-referential and semi-altered reality has always held appeal to me. Also, this film is just ridiculously hilarious. Good comedies, like good romance films, are rare and I'm always happy to find one. Completely energetic and wild and full of a huge cast of stars making fun of themselves (Emma Watson's cameo is solid gold), the film is full of laugh out loud moments and perfectly fits in with the seemingly endless stream of end-of-the-world films.






Saturday, January 25, 2014

The security of highest individual score in Test Cricket

Brian Lara with 400*, that's the score to beat to have the highest individual score in Test cricket. I'm of the opinion very few batsmen in the game now have the combined ability and mental capacity to bat for the length of time to gain this score. And then even of those who do it is unlikely some will have the opportunity due to weak teams and lack of long innings (always left stranded not out like Chanderpaul). I think a lot of reasons for the lack of potential other quadruple hundred makers are present, even the regularly used one of Test cricket becoming weaker due to T20 cricket and the shortened forms' impact on concentration (I half agree but there's still young Test quality around with batting. It's killing spin bowlers more, I think). Nevertheless, here's a list of the few batsmen with the ability to make at least 401.

England


  • Alistair Cook - Personally I think Cook is one of the more likely batsmen to break this on the basis of his batting ability coupled with the fact that he's captain so he can declare when he wants and continue to bat on. Of course his immense ability and technique would help as well and he also should have several years of cricket left in him since he is only twenty-nine. Add in the relative strength of the England batting lineup especially considering the likelihood of batsmen to stay with him to reach 401 (Root and Trott and Bell can stick in there) and it's possible. Had a horrible Ashes, but then, who didn't from England? Can be done


  • Kevin Pietersen  - Scores runs quickly, can bat for long and has no fear of any bowler in cricket (remember the reverse sweep six off Murali when he was in prime-spinner mode?). I think the biggest guess on this is how much Pietersen can manage before he loses concentration and gets himself out. On a good day he can, but I doubt his mental ability for several days. Then again he can hit his way to big runs quickly.  maybe, but a wildcard pick really.


Zimbabwe

No possible players from Zimbabwe can manage this, I think, which has as much to do from lack of Test experience after the long break from the longest form of the game than any lack of talent. Brendan Taylor is good but it's a long way down from Andy Flower level.

West Indies

  • Chris Gayle - With two Test triple hundreds he can't be not counted but it's more a case of extended periods of everything in his favour than actually buckling down and aiming for the score to be made. It's possible that he can break the record but it'd take some luck and a few days of bad bowling. Especially considering he's in really bad form. Close to impossible


  • Shivnarine Chanderpaul -The least likely batsman to get out, he will bat on and on until everyone gets out. The problem being everyone usually does and leaves him stranded. He bats very slowly as well, since usually time is an issue when playing for the West Indies, because they're attempting to save the game. Can turn it up very quickly when he wants to (scored the 3rd fastest Test century off 63 balls). Lack of talent or mental ability isn't the case here, it's just that the opportunity is unlikely to arise. Extremely Unlikely


New Zealand

I don't think any players from the Black Caps can make a triple hundred. I doubt any will be making a double hundred except Brendan McCullum and possibly Kane Williamson, who is still young. The Kiwi batsmen still, as they have for ages, make fifties and don't press on to make hundreds.

Pakistan

With all the confusion about home Test matches, it doesn't help with getting a steady run in the side, something that has never been the easiest knowing the volatility of Pakistani selectors. Still, there is possible talent for securing the score although it seems very unlikely.

  • Younus Khan - The one Pakistani batsmen who currently has the ability to make very big scores regularly and the technique to face up to any bowling attack. An average of over 50 and runs all over the world means he won't need specific conditions but the major drawback here is the Pakistani lineup and it getting all out on him since that can happen at any moment but maybe Misbah can stick around to get him there. Don't see it happening


India

  • Virender Sehwag- Same as Gayle he's here because of his two triple hundreds and it'd be hard to leave him out but I feel like his time has passed. Age has dulled the hand-eye coordination and reflexes that made his attacking style able to come off for so long but he does make big centuries usually and possibly the century in December 2012 (his first in tests for 2 years) could be a late rennaisance (he's only 34 anyway), but I think the triple hundred days are behind him. Missed his chance probably



  • Cheteshwar Pujara - Mostly here on pure ability with specific respect to how well he paces an innings and looks like he wants to bat long. A bit heavy on the bottom hand but so is Graeme Smith and even so he very rarely gives the ball air. Scored triple hundreds in first class cricket in India (all his hundreds have been in India, so slight question mark on travelling ability but the highest Test score has been made by a batsman in their home series since Wally Hammond in the 30s made it on tour to New Zealand.) He could go downhill from here, of course, but out of all the young players (under or equal 25) in the world, he's likeliest. Too early to even put a probability

Bangladesh

Despite being in Test cricket for 13 years now, that's still a blip on the learning curve and Bangladesh are minnows of the game. But they possess immense talent and with experience they will be a major force and development has been seen already. Currently though only Mohammed Ashraful or Mushfiqur Rahman have seem likely to make even a double century.

Australia 

A few years ago this would have been a much longer list but the team's in a transition period. There's quality around though. Always is with Australia

  • Michael Clarke - Currently the best batsman by far for Australia the major holdback is that Australia don't bat for very long innings with big runs ( they've fallen a long way), though the last Ashes could be signs of an upswing. Also, he's the most aggressive captain in cricket right now. Very unlikely that he'd sacrifice a win for a huge score. That being said he obviously has the ability and when teams are used to losing even a draw looks good (like Lara when he made the 400*, though he was still chasing a win in that game). Natural attacking instincts for a win override the need to chase

Sri Lanka 

This is the most likely, I think, because Sangakkara and Jayawardene both have the ability and temperament also bat together regular (they have the highest test partnership of 674) and will probably play on batsman friendly pitches (of Sri Lanka) more regularly than other players.

  • Kumar Sangakkara - Had a horror series against Pakistan but still one of the best batsmen in world cricket. He can bat long and make big runs, has all the shots and the ability to up the tempo and the technique to deal with really any type of bowling (he would have excellent practice in the nets after facing Muralitharan and Malinga to deal with the highest quality). At his age I'd say he'd have done it already but you can't count him out.


  • Mahela Jayawardene- Really anything I had written above could be applicable to Mahela. Not in good form really at the moment but he has long periods of bad form followed by spells of huge runs. Age is not on his side but he has made 374 before and really if he and Sangakarra buckle down in a nothing test during an already won series on a lifeless pitch, either of them can. Still has it but aging quickly.


South Africa

Possibly the next most likely after the Sri Lankan pair to break the record or even equally likely. South Africa don't even usually bat that long because they can fold up sides quite easily but each of these players can bat for long periods easily and as seen recently they can chase huge totals (almost the highest run chase of all time) so if they can bat deep chasing, setting should be easier.

  • AB de Villiers- Bats deep. Best batsman in the world right now and also the captain of the ODI side. Most of the players on this list are or have been captains of their side and I have no idea why that is. Maybe the ones who stick around and are good get offered the post. Can bat very quick but it's usually proper cricket shots. A bit of a question of how long he can stay for but he has made 278* already. Without Kallis anymore he may bat higher in the order which should work in his favour. Currently it's always a surprise when he gets out and he has the ability and form, right now. Keeping wicket might take the energy out, but in a first innings, he very well could


  • Hashim Amla - A special talent. A run-getter like no other but every bit a proper cricket player. He only has 8 sixes in Test cricket (19 in ODIs) and yet has a strike rate of over 50. He can bat properly taking singles, hitting the bad balls and almost never throws away his wicket. Has a top score of 311* and looks likely to top that at some point. And he does have an excellent beard, so bias. Still only thirty so really when the Sri Lankans retire he's the most likely candidate. The man to do it



Best Tracks of 2013 (part 2)

In no particular order (well, maybe a little order) and very haphazardly chosen and described. Which tends to apply to most of my lists. It's gonna be cross a lot of genres but obviously I don't listen to everything so I'm not going to have any dancehall or country on here (fair warning). Heavily influenced by other end-of-year lists, because really without those how else am I going to find half of these tracks? They sure aren't playing on the radio....


 40. Rich Homie Quan - Type of Way

I didn't even realize this wasn't a Future song till almost October. It definitely has that chopped-up, sorta electric/autotune warble finish to it. It's one of those songs you know are in English but can't figure out all the words and still find yourself singing along. Catchy and cause I still can't figure out all the lyrics it's either serious or silly either of which works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KKbdErJkiY


39. Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharell - Blurred Lines

Could not stop humming this. It was everywhere and extra catchy. Granted it had a beat that sounded part Marvin Gaye (Got to Give It Up) and part Sanford and Son opening theme but somehow that works (or works because of it?). Lots of controversy since apparently it promotes rape culture but that's been debated to death. Personally I like my R&B a little bit racy and this track just rides the line of "you gotta be cool to pull this off". And they pull it off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyDUC1LUXSU



38. Disclosure ft London Grammar - Help Me Lose My Mind

I am completely in love with Hannah Reid's lyrical and vocal ability, as well as the garage/house beats being put out by Disclosure (UK has always had an the only garage music worth listening too for long, usually). The ethereal lyrics find a perfectly futuristic beat which is equally comfortable for lazing sprawling on the bed contemplating life or losing yourself at 2am on a nightclub dance floor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBW9VEE29W4

37.  Lil Durk - Dis Aint What You Want

21 years old and a whole lot of trouble. Must be a Chicago thing. And he drops the line "I can't do no shows cause I terrify my city". A song where it spouts indifference on the listeners and on fame except it feels very real not a front. The entire backing beat is sparse which works with Durk's rapping style of short phrases delivered for impact.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgA-wVkuZGo

36. Ciara - Body Party

Finally a good sex jam. It had been starting to seem only R. Kelly could make tracks like this. There's also a bit of Janet Jackson influence here too. It's a very light song with a slowed down sample of "My Boo" that's a clever idea to use cause 90's nostalgia is high now. The song itself just speaks of un-hide-able and un-miss-able fun. Very sensuous.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9rSBcoX9ak


35. Earl Sweatshirt ft Frank Ocean - Sunday

This song is raw, really raw (which means Frank Ocean is a perfect accompaniment, even if it's weird to hear him rapping). I hope we get more of the both of them (Super Rich Kids was great too). There's a mix of aggression and despair through Earl's verse but Frank's is all call-out's and aggressive superiority which, like the rapping, is very unusual yet works so well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ-rNtSeVC4

34. A$AP Ferg ft A$AP Rocky - Shabba

I'm glad for any reason to call out "Shabba" like it's the 90s (yeah, the 90s nostalgia has hit me too). Hilariously ridden with one liners and a feat of bravado and charisma. This is the kind of track that could easily be unlistenable if you miss the line but they pull it off. Plus they actually get Shabba to feature on the remix. Brilliant. An excellently hilarious (and accurate) tribute to Shabba by breaking him down to "8 gold rings+4 gold chains + 2 bad bitches + one gold tooth". And they get the Caribbean slang down excellent (usually Americans make it ridiculous)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXZxipry6kE

33.Chvrches - The Mother We Share

Electropop is a personal favourite and this band, with the beautifully upbeat vocals of Lauren Mayberry, are an encompassing melodic treat, nowhere seen as clearly as on this track. The lyrics are caustic and bitter but you'd never tell just from the synth, pumped beat. As many people have noted, there's a lot of influence of The Knife, which I say can only be a good thing.  And also they sound as good live as studio which, considering the style, is no easy task.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j73ZGLKu9Sc



32. My Bloody Valentine - Only Tomorrow

One of my favourite albums during the 90s was Loveless  and the best track I'd thought was "Only Shallow". I didn't have high expectations when they got back together and put out a new album (how often is that good?). I was wrong. The album is excellent. This track is covered with a huge noise of sound that makes everything else seem muted. It's the kind of song you daydream/reflect to. A very dense track with heavy guitar and the always incomparable vocals of Bilinda Butcher making you feel both like it's from the 90s and it's recent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY0uF3M7YJQ


31.Tegan and Sara - Closer

Good music from Calgary? Who'd have guessed? But they are good.  It's all pop and disco and synth and quite a rush. Finds that mix of suggestive and naughty with having a good time. And it manages to sound every bit as good stripped down as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5ljvQXHy2k




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best Tracks of 2013 (part 1)

In no particular order (well, maybe a little order) and very haphazardly chosen and described. Which tends to apply to most of my lists. It's gonna be cross a lot of genres but obviously I don't listen to everything so I'm not going to have any dancehall or country on here (fair warning). Heavily influenced by other end-of-year lists, because really without those how else am I going to find half of these tracks? They sure aren't playing on the radio....

50.  Rudresh Mahanthappa - Waiting is Forbidden

Frantic saxophone with guitar accompaniment, before mellowing out and then speeding up again , this track sounds like several film soundtracks merged into one (Eastern and Western films). And I've always had a bias to saxophone music ever since Coltrane (though this is far from hard-bop)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAqCt-r0b0A

49. Meridian brothers- Coplas Para Cantar Al Atardecer

This is one of those bands I'd never find on my own. Heard this track on someone else's blog. I'm not even sure there's a genre for this type of music, Spanish-folk-experimental maybe? It is pretty enchanting with the unusual marching-band style instruments and slow, funeral-song melody. Entire song gives kind of a feel of an army march beat or a film montage soundtrack during a sad scene. Excellent work out of Colombia (I think? )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEsH6FK7Vwg



48. Phosphorescent  - Song for Zula

Very chill sounds of bass,drums and strings. But the lyrics of the progression of the after-worries of a failed relationship are both subtle and brutal. The song portrays brilliantly the mental struggle of dealing with a breakup of a relationship that was foundational. I mean, who can't relate to  "I will not open myself up this way again".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2MnJGBpSR4

47.  Mala Rodriguez - 33

Now I don't speak a word of Spanish (well, maybe one or two words) but that doesn't even matter. The flow this woman has is brilliant, reminiscent of Tyler the Creator or MC Solaar. You just know she's badass and rapping about lots of trouble. And that heavy-bass with arching synths backbeat is a perfect platform. At 2:30 length you want more when it's done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2epPVxmU0IM


46. FKA Twigs - Water Me

This song is, frankly, terrifying. It sounds like the soundtrack for The Omen. (Video's creepy as can be too). It is, however, a masterwork of production and sound-layering to make the track sound somehow like it's being done in an empty opera hall. The lyrics are brilliant as well with the stated vulnerability that works excellently with the ambient sounds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFtMl-uipA8

45. Chucho Valdes-  Tabu

I love Cuban Jazz and I'm very biased to it. The rhythm and instrumental mastery and interplay of this track is quite excellent with a feel of several decades of musical history in it. I don't even know if this is a new track or a standard but it's excellent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNu8XRyP9QY

44. Bunji Garlin - Differentology

Every single person on this island has heard this song hundreds of times over this year. I was hearing it played in England up till Christmas. Quality soca with the usual party vibe but the production level with the semi-electronic influences is what really makes this stand out. That and the energy of Bunji, as always.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-s7D6pYqpQ

43. Ballake Sissoko - Nalesonko

I don't even know much about the instruments being played (lead one being kora, apparently) but this is what I imagine when someone says world music. New instruments (to my ear) and yet the music is infectious and the beauty of the music transcends familiarity yet still manages to be relatable . The technical ability needed to hold the attention with one instrument in a song is amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY-bZTWfNaw



42. Young Thug - Picacho

Such an addictive song and so silly about diamonds that peek at you. Crazy background wobbly beat that helps the song stay stuck in your head. I don't really listen to Young Thug but everything I've heard so far is really weird. As far as music goes, weird wins over normal. Complete energy hype track.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovA6iPznvzw

41. A$AP Rocky ft Kendrick Lamar, Drake & 2 Chainz - Fuckin' Problems

I felt like every time I stepped into the gym this song played. Some of the best rappers in the game trying to outdo each other and the sheer lyrical play on this record is wonderful. Everyone just dropping ridiculous lines one after the other, it is still showing no sign of getting old

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAQVGx1vzrk





Sunday, January 12, 2014

Woody Allen films (I)

I've finally managed to see every film Woody Allen has directed and most of the ones he's acted in (easy enough because they're usually the same). So I've decided to make a list in order of my favourite ones in the sense of watch-ability. This might not be entirely in sync with excellent film-making exactly because I like comedy more than drama hence I might be biased toward Annie Hall over Interiors but maybe some people will agree with the order. Of course, my memory is flawed so the films I saw first might be slightly forgotten but then again if they were good they're memorable, right?

Must watch - If you have other films you plan on watching and haven't see these, scrap the others and watch these instead. And if you have seen them, watch them again.

1. Manhattan  (1979)

2. Annie Hall (1977)


3. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

4.  Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

5. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

6. Midnight in Paris (2011)



Try to watch as soon as possible - Maybe you can watch them after you're done with your first choices, but no later. They're still better than most films showing in the cinema now

7. Husbands and Wives (1992)

8. Sleeper (1973)

9. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

10. Love and Death (1975)

11. Zelig (1983)


There's time still -Not exactly a priority but if you're short on films and have seen the rest you go to these.

12. Match Point (2005)

13. Deconstructing Harry (1997)

14. Radio Days (1987)

15.  Bananas (1971)

16. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)


17.  Take the Money and Run (1969)