This week, the big topic of conversation among music fans is whether the chorus of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” sounds enough like Tom Petty’s 1989 hit “Won’t Back Down” to warrant the 12.5 percent songwriting credit recently awarded to Petty and his co-writer, Jeff Lynne. Copyright infringement as it applies to songwriting plagiarism goes beyond merely how a song sounds, and if a songwriter even intended to copy the work of another. The field has become more and more litigious in recent decades, and to an outsider, the situation can look a bit creatively limiting. Sometimes people do go to court and win, but many big cases settle out of court on the basis of subconscious plagiarism. What a scary landscape to live in as a musician — being responsible for inadvertently copying someone else’s work you’ve never even heard. … Read More
By now, it’s safe to assume that everyone who cares about “political correctness” — pro, anti, or “it’s complicated” — has not only absorbed Jonathan Chait’s New York magazine cover story on the topic, but read plenty of rebuttals to its arguments. Flavorwire’s Judy Berman took a polite chainsaw to Chait’s piece a couple of days back, and I don’t have a lot to add to what she said. But at this point, it’s worth taking a look at how Chait’s reacted to criticism of his essay: with, for the most part, the perception that people are focusing on him and his identity, rather than his arguments. … Read More
The Sundance Film Festival draws to a close this weekend, but your film editor is already headed home from the land of snowy mountains, altitude headaches, crowded shuttles, and indie flicks galore. Because I managed to take in so many Sundance titles this year (34 total), we’re splitting our capsule review roundup into two parts; tomorrow we’ll look at the fest’s narrative films of note, while the focus today is on the documentary premieres and competition entrants. These 19 movies covered everything from sexual exploitation to famous faces to the movies themselves, with intelligence and grace; they (OK, most of them) are worth keeping an eye on in the months to come. … Read More
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, published on this day in 1813, is one of the most quotable novels in the English language, full of unforgettably witty repartee that signals attraction, revulsion, maneuvering for power, and more between her characters. To celebrate its birthday, here are 15 of our favorite one-liners from the book, illustrated by thematically (but not chronologically) appropriate GIFs.
Is Pemberley on fire, or did someone just get burned? … Read More
PARK CITY, UTAH: Since its premiere Sunday night, one of the biggest stories of the Sundance Film Festival has been Sarah Silverman’s revelatory performance in the addiction drama I Smile Back. Indiewire called her “completely riveting.” Variety insisted, “rarely has a performer striven so concertedly to shed any trace of his/her comedy roots.” And Hollywood Reporter wrote of her “gutsy performance” “annihilating almost every trace of her comedy persona.” On the ground, the skill of her turn has generated nothing less than surprise — she’s so good, and so dramatic! But it should no longer shock anyone that a comic actor is also skilled at drama, not just because there’s such precedence for it, but because comic actors are too often regarded simply as second-class thespians. … Read More
In Louis C.K.’s (second) email accompanying the announcement of his surprise new special Live at the Comedy Store, the comedian talked about small comedy clubs (as opposed to the larger theaters he’s been performing in) and why they have been — and remain — so important to him as an inventive, constantly performing comedian. Live at the Comedy Store was, as the title suggests, filmed at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, one of the many smaller comedy clubs where C.K. paid his dues as a comedian, and one that he still goes back to. Available via his website for $5, the special is something of a tribute to these clubs. It is also, of course, uproariously funny. … Read More
“Can a white male liberal critique the country’s current political-correctness craze (which, by the way, hurts liberals most)?” asks the print-edition subtitle of New York Magazine pundit Jonathan Chait’s latest provocation. (For maximum outrage-baiting effect, the version that appears in the magazine is also titled “Trigger Warning,” and the subhead ends with the tease, “We’re sure you’ll let us know.”) A better question would have been, “Can any writer connect the Charlie Hebdo shootings to trigger warnings in college classes, protests against universities hosting bigoted speakers, the term ‘mansplaining,’ and a Facebook group for women writers without sounding hysterical?” The answer, of course, is “nope” — and, furthermore, “grow up.” … Read More
Four days after performing onstage for the first and only time as Android Amaker, Seattle musician and Oklahoma native Brent Amaker checked into a plastic surgery clinic for a neck lift and a procedure on his eyelids. In a sense, it was just part of the show for Amaker. In another sense, there’s not a lot of distance between the show and his life.
Amaker has fronted highly stylized country and western band Brent Amaker and the Rodeo since 2005, but last year he teamed with a handful of other Seattle musicians on an electronic music project, Android Amaker. Encompassing elements of music, visual art and fashion, Android Amaker imagines a future when the singer has uploaded his consciousness to a mechanical humanoid that roams mining operations and frequents dive bars in the far reaches of the galaxy. But for the singer himself, it’s more than just a sci-fi fantasy. … Read More
PARK CITY, UT: Buried deep in the private journals, audio diaries, and home movies that comprise the bulk of Brett Morgen’s remarkable documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck are these instructions: “Look through my things and figure me out.” It’s a simple imperative that Morgen clearly took as his mission statement, crafting a bio-doc that eschews the usual conventions in favor of something a good deal more experimental and impressionistic. “This is not Nirvana: Behind the Music,” director Morgen warned the Sundance Film Festival audience Monday morning. “My films are meant to be experiences.” … Read More
This weekend, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney released “FourFiveSeconds,” a stripped-down, soulful jam. Rihanna delivers one of her best vocal performances ever atop an acoustic guitar hook — seemingly from Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth — that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ed Sheeran album. Kanye sings — sans AutoTune — with a defiant streak audible in his voice, about spending the night in jail (a true story, mind you) and the public coming for his pride. An organ, likely played by McCartney, and a hearty choir of voices flesh out the sound and give “FourFiveSeconds” a gospel feel as it progresses. … Read More