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U2 Songs of Innocence - Song by Song Walkthrough

Culture and EntertainmentPosted by André Hansson Mon, October 13, 2014 10:41:42

As promised in my previous post with quick reviews of U2’s catalogue, here’s my review of U2’s latest, Songs of Innocence. Overall, it’s a good album, but not a great one. As with their previous outing, No Line on the Horizon, I would place it somewhere in the middle of their output. There are few great songs, but many of the songs are a bit… well, meh. The album still get two songs with the core 5 out 5. Not bad, but most of the other songs don’t exactly burst through the roof so as a whole the album get 3 out of 5 stars from me. I might still change my mind -- U2 albums have a tendency to grow on you. Below is a song by song walkthrough with some short comments for each.

U2 - Songs of Innocence - 3 out of 5 stars



The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) - 3 out of 5 stars

This tribute to Joey Ramone sounds nothing like a Ramone song. Good song, with choppy rhythms and quite deliciously distorted guitars that I suspect are intentionally made to sound bad. It sounds a bit like The Edge borrowed my old 200 Euro crap Zoom 2020 multi from the Grenland museum back in Zoran Cullibrick’s basement. If I were to venture a guess I would say he’s using a fuzz pedal on low gain.

Every Breaking Wave - 5 out 5 stars

Best song of the album, one that truly belongs in the canon of great U2 songs. This is U2 wringing every last bit emotion out of a song, something they’ve done so well in the past with songs like With or Without You, Pride (In the Name of Love) and one (to name a few). One of the best songs U2 has made in a decade.

California (No End to Love) - 3 out of 5 stars

U2 tries their hand at surf pop with a song that starts of with a Beach Boy’s like chant (baba Barbara, Santa Barbara…). A catchy tune, almost in the style of Even Better Than the Real Thing. This is a good song, but alas, not quite the real thing.

Song for Someone - 5 out of 5 stars

A hauntingly beautiful ballad, Song for Someone is another emotional track, with gorgeous soaring Edge backing vocals. “I was told I’d feel nothing the first time”. Great lyric.

Iris (Hold me Close) - 3 out of 5 stars

The opening of this song sounds suspiciously like that of Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies (1987). This tribute to Bono’s mother Iris, who died when Bono was 14, also pays tribute to U2’s post-punk origins. Given how important this song must be to Bono, I can’t help but to feel it should’ve been better. The line “something in your eyes, took a thousand years to get here” is one the best pieces of lyrics on the album.

Volcano - 4 out 5 stars

Hard driving bass, delicious pop melody chorus. This one you will be humming on for days after listening to it.

Raised by Wolfs - 3 out of 5 stars

The heaviest and possibly the most intense song of the album. Political lyrics, wailing song, tom-tom galore and a good nod to U2’s roots.

Ceaderwood Road - 2 out 5 stars

This is U2 crossing into more traditional rock music, with Zeppelin and Hendrix like guitar riff and more straight forward drum licks. There’s been one song like in this style on the last few albums they’ve made and I can’t help it. I don’t think U2 does this kind of music well.

Sleep Like a Baby Tonight - 3 out 5 stars

With heavy lyrics and quite creative structure, I can’t help but to feel that this song too should’ve been more than it is. It never really reaches the heights one has come to expect of U2 songs. The verse borrows from Gene Pitney’s Something’s Got a Hold on My Heart. Maybe this has something to do with it?

This is Where You Can Reach Me Now - 3 out 5 stars

The most experimental track of the album, with Edge guitar that sounds like sweeping birdsong one moment, blues the next and Pointer Sister’s the next again. Did it work? Sort of.

The Troubles - 4 out 5 stars

Beautiful closer with Lykke Li performing guest vocals. Not likely to be a radiohit but still one of the strongest tracks on the album.







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André Hansson’s Guide to U2 Albums

Culture and EntertainmentPosted by André Hansson Sun, September 21, 2014 14:41:58

U2 is back with Songs of Innocence. This is a big thing for me, even though these days U2 are not really that often in my headphones anymore. But my life history is inseparable from these four Irish lads. Between the ages 13 and 22 I more or less listened to nothing but U2. Pride (In the name of Love) was the first song I can remember liking at age 8. It’s the song that is most likely to be played at my funeral when that day comes. I can still vividly recall the cheap 80s video effect that transitioned from Cia Bergh’s introduction to the first part of the song (the low flying POV shot over the Dublin harbor over Edges lightly distorted harmonics and choppy muted strings that open the song) on the Swedish Pop Chart show Bagen back in 1984. I may have progressed and developed quite an eclectic taste today, at age 38, but I’m still a U2 geek. That will probably never change.

This post, though, is not really about my relationship to U2, but a guide to their albums. Maybe Songs of Innocence will entice some young people unfamiliar with the history of the band into thinking “hey, these geezers are not all bad -- wonder what else they’ve done?” Well, look no further than to my awesome, and completely subjective, guide below. Enjoy.



1980-1983: Post-Punk Glory

Boy (1980) 5 out of 5

Youthful energy and post-punk glory. U2 started out in the wake of the punk scene and were inspired by acts like The Ramones (which is frequently referenced by U2, lately with the song The Miracle (of Joey Ramone). They were contemporaries with Simple Minds, Gang of Four, Echo and the Bunnymen and many others. The political issues and the break with classic rock music’s masturbatory virtuoso craftsmanship that had fueled the main-era punk (with acts like The Sex Pistols) is still there, albeit now it’s more about the music now than off-stage antics. The sound is both more polished and experimental, with clean guitar sounds and experimental rhythm sections. And Boy is one of the best albums of the genre and still one of U2’s best.

I can also recommend trying get hold of some bootlegs from around the time of the Boy release. On these, without the polish of Steve Lilywhite’s studio album production, the true post-punk spirit comes out.

Legacy tracks

I Will Follow

Other notable tracks

A Day Without Me - check out Edge’s weird echo guitar parts

Shadows and Tall Trees

Stories for Boys (does it get anymore post-punk than this?)

11 O’clock Tick Tock (a song that never made the album, but one frequently featured in live performances in the early days of U2. A live version can be found on Under a Blood Red Sky from 1983 and can also be found on the latest remastered deluxe version of Boy)

Out of Control



October
(1981) 2 out of 5

October is the rushed follow-up to Boy and features more post-punk, only this time not nearly as good as before. One can hear U2’s lust for experimentation, and willingness to push their own boundaries already here, but this time without the results. I believe generally, October is considered the worst U2 album (possibly in competition with 1997’s Pop) and I’m of the same opinion. It has a few highlights nonetheless. Gloria takes its place among the legacy track and Edge’s keyboards on the title track October is hauntingly beautiful.

Legacy Tracks

Gloria

Other notable tracks

October

I Threw a Brick through a Window



War
(1983) 2 out of 5

In January 1983 U2 scores the first UK Top 40 hit with New Year’s Day, as song about the Polish Solidarity Movement and the mainstream break through is a fact. This song and the album radio air play of Sunday Bloody Sunday catapults U2 to a different level of fame. The album is considered a U2 classic, but my opinion has always been that the rest of the album is pretty bland. More post-punk but it just isn’t very good. It certainly is nowhere near the brilliance of Boy.

Legacy Tracks

New Year’s Day

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Other notable tracks

Two Hearts Beat as One

40


1984 - 1989: The Rise to Super Stardom

The Unforgettable Fire (1984) 4 out 5

The Unforgettable Fire is U2’s first of many collaborations with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and marks the first time U2 radically changes their sound. The post-punk roots are still quite clearly there, but the album is a wash of lush ambience, sweeping guitars and keyboards. It’s an album where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Many songs are individually weak, but the album has such a great atmosphere it doesn’t really matter. It’s an album you put on and just let it play, not one where you skip around for individual tracks. Pride (In the name of Love) is a massive hit around the world and U2 solidifies their status as a major mainstream act.

Legacy Tracks

Pride (In the Name of Love) - Oh-oh-ah-oh!

Bad (check out the epic performance of the song at Live Aid in 1985, which is some say is a key piece in U2’s rise to super stardom)

Other notable tracks

A sort of Homecoming

The Unforgettable Fire



Wide Awake in America
(1985) 3 out of 5

An EP containing live versions of A sort of Homecoming and Bad, plus two mildly interesting songs from The Unforgettable Fire studio sessions that never made the album. Worthwhile mostly for the live version Bad, which enjoyed massive album radio airplay in the US in the wake of Live Aid, where the bad had performed an iconic version (not the one on the album, though) of the song, and helped pave the ground for massive commercial success of their next album, The Joshua Tree. All songs on this album are now available on the remastered deluxe reissue of The Unforgettable Fire.



The Joshua Tree
(1987) 5 out of 5

With or Without You and I still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For hits number 1 in the US and U2’s break through into super stardom is a fact. The album is hailed as one the great albums in the history of pop and rock music, U2 makes the cover of Time Magazine and are suddenly everywhere. There’s not a single dud on the album (except possibly Trip Through Your Wires, which I personally never really liked). The American music inspired album, while made in the otherwise abominable second half of the 80s, features none of the signature sounds of that era. No reverb on the drums or voices, no cheesy synthesizers etc., which makes the album sound as fresh today as it did back then. Truly a masterpiece.

Legacy Tracks

With or Without You

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for

Where the Streets Have No Name

Other notable tracks

Bullet the Blue Sky

Running to Stand Still

Red Hill Mining Town



Rattle & Hum
(1988) 2 out of 5

After the Joshua Tree U2 tried to capitalize on their success with a movie called Rattle & Hum. It bombed at the box office. The movie and subsequent album was criticized for being self-indulgent. It’s ok to be big superstar providing you don’t brag about it. The nod to American music continues and U2 are seen collaborating with American greats like BB King and perform half-hearted covers of The Beatles and Hendrix (actually, Watchtower is a Dylan song, but I believe U2 were inspired by Hendrix's interpretation). The album is a mix of (heavily doctored) live performances from The Joshua Tree tour and new studio songs. I never liked the album and for me it became clear that U2 are not always that good when they stray too far outside their own European post-punk heritage and into more traditional styles of music. U2 are at their best when playing U2, not when playing Hendrix. There are exceptions, Angel of Harlem on this very album being one of them.

After touring the album U2 had a bit of a burnout and Bono announced on their 1989 New Year’s Eve concert in Dublin that they “had to go away and dream it all up again” which led to speculation that the band was splitting up.

Legacy Tracks

Angel of Harlem

Desire

Other notable tracks

All I want is You

Heartland



The 90s - The Experimental Phase

Achtung Baby (1991) 5 out of 5

The Edge said in famous interview that 1991’s Achtung Baby still sounded like the blues to him, but through a certain kind of filter. I never understood what he meant. To me ‘Baby sounds nothing like the blues (with the possible exception of One). It sounds much more like post-punk through a filter. And it is U2s greatest and thematically most coherent album. For me it will always be their greatest album. I am too old to reevaluate no matter what they do in the future. There are too many memories of my struggling teens intimately tied to this album. And I’m not alone. For a long time U2 fans were divided between The Joshua Tree and ‘Baby. Today I believe ‘Baby came out on top, if barely.

Achtung Baby marks U2’s second radical change in sonic style. The last anyone had heard of U2 was the hauntingly beautiful All I want is You, the last single from Rattle and Hum. Then comes The Fly with heavy distortion and phaser on the guitar, distorted low whispering voice, and none of the iconic shimmering delayed Edge guitar parts that signified their 80s sound. Four men chopping down the Joshua Tree, Bono said of the song. The album opens with Zoo Station which sounds like your stereo is broken.

Like many others, I initially had trouble digesting this radical change, but I did and then I never looked back. ‘Baby is the start of what today can only be described as U2s experimental phase, with two more albums in the 90s breaking sonic new ground. They not only broke new ground sonically, but also image wise. Where the old U2 had been earnest and pretentious, the new U2 was sarcastic and ironic. Suede vests and cotton rags had become black PVC suits and fly shades, black and white had become color, boring had become fun.

After the release of Achtung Baby they embarked on the massive and technically challenging Zoo TV tour, still in my opinion, their best tour.

Legacy Tracks

One

Mysterious Ways

The Fly

Other notable tracks

All of them



Zooropa (1993) 4 out of 5

U2 follow up Achtung Baby with an album that was originally going to be an EP. It’s a more pop oriented album than any previous U2 album, with sweeping pop melodies like those of Zooropa and Lemon, and quirky bubblegum pop like Some Days are Better than Others. And it works. Pushing U2s sound in this direction was in my opinion much more successful than pushing it towards blues on Rattle and Hum. Stay (Far Away, So Close) is the soundtrack for Wim Wenders film In Weiter Ferne, So Nah, the not-quite-as-brilliant-but-still-worth-a-watch-follow-up to one the best movies ever made, Der himmel über Berlin. It’s around this time that Bono is starting to rely heavily on falsetto for the high notes (and in the case of Lemon, entire songs).

Legacy Tracks

Stay (Faraway, So Close)

Lemon

Numb

Other notable tracks

Zooropa

Dirty Day



Pop
(1997) 4 out of 5

Maybe it was dressing up like The Village People in the video for Discotheque, or the release conference at K-Mart, or maybe Bono being misquoted in the prerelease interviews saying Pop was a “dance record” when he meant “dense record”? Or maybe the fact that the album was rushed out while still being somewhat rough? Or something else? But Pop seemed to alienate a lot of core U2 fans. U2 were being perceived as straying too far from what made them a great super star act. Pop was disappointment commercially (it still sold “millions”, but slightly less “millions” -- everything is relative) but I always liked it. It a great collection of songs, a testament to U2s willingness to take risks and experiment with their sound. Not a single dud on the entire album, if you ask me. Many of the songs were rerecorded and polished for release as singles, but none of them constituted any improvements over the album versions.

U2’s biggest challenge was at this time how to top the overbearing majesty of their own Zoo TV tour. They did, at least in size, with the PopMart Tour.

Legacy Tracks

Discotheque

Staring at the Sun

Other notable tracks

Gone

The Playboy Mansion

If You Wear that Velvet Dress

Please

If God Will Send His Angels

Mofo




2000s - The Elder Statesman Phase

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) 4 out of 5

It’s around this time that I start slowly to lose interest in U2. After the relatively unsuccessful Pop U2 reinvents themselves by… going back to a more Joshua Tree-like sound. U2 are now beginning to administer their legacy, rather than pushing boundaries. Oh well, we all grow old sometime. They again flirt with the blues (In a Little While, Stuck in a Moment) but it is better this time around than back in the Rattle and Hum days. The album is hailed as a triumphant return to form and is called out as U2's third master piece. Does that assessment still hold up today? I suppose I agree, although I make no secret of the fact that I prefer the 90s experimentation and the 80s post-punk over the American influenced blues stuff. Still, ‘Leave behind is and album that has a little bit of everything and boy is it a great collection of songs.

U2 Tours indoors for the first time since the first leg of the Zoo TV tour in 1992.

Legacy Tracks

Beautiful Day

Other notable tracks

Wild Honey - notable for being one of the worst songs U2 ever made. I still believe they put it on there as a joke

In a Little While

Kite

Stuck in a Moment

Elevation

Walk On



How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
(2004) 3 out of 5

Bomb is an uneven album in my opinion. The more rock oriented follow-up to All You Can’t Leave Behind contains some of the best songs U2 has ever made, but also a few bland ones, and a few real duds (A Man and a Woman, anyone?). The album was a massive commercial success, in no small part to Vertigo being featured in a commercial for the iPod.

Legacy Tracks

Vertigo

Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your own

Other notable tracks

City of Blinding Lights

Original of the Species

Miracle Drug



No Line on the Horizon
(2009) 3 out of 5

No Line again sees U2 trying to shake things up sonically. It’s not a bad album with some great songs, but somehow the album presents like a dense gray mass of tracks that are sometimes indistinguishable from each other. Maybe it’s the mix? Maybe it’s the Edge using the same EQ and distortion setting on all tracks (if he in fact even did this, -- it’s what it sounds like in my ears). The 16th note delay arpeggios make a triumphant return and is heavily featured on almost all tracks. I commend U2 for trying, even if it didn’t quite succeed this time, like it did back with Achtung Baby.

They embark on their most ambitious tour yet. Many of the songs that were a bit bland on the album gets a significant boost when U2 are playing them live.

Legacy Tracks

Get on Your Boots

Magnificent

Other notable tracks

Moment of Surrender

Breathe



Songs of Innocence
(2014)

So what about this one then? I can’t say yet. First impression is that it’s quite a lot more accessible than No Line on the Horizon. Some songs immediately stuck on me but it is too early for me to form an opinion at this time. I’m not a music critic so I will take privilege of time before I decide. Stay tuned.


So there you have it. Hope you found it useful.
André


















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The Use of Profanity in Serious Literature

Culture and EntertainmentPosted by André Hansson Fri, May 23, 2014 16:09:15

The use of profanity in literature remains controversial. Some people don’t like it and don’t want to see it no matter what the circumstance. Others believe the use of the four letter words can bring gritty reality and edge to a text. After all, real people say f*ck and other things all the time. It’s everywhere in movies. My own opinon is that if an author cleans up the language too much it can sometimes sound dull and contrived. Real people swear, that’s a fact. But can it be overused? Judge for yourself.

I compiled a list of books that are generally considered to be literary fiction and did a search for the word “f*ck”. Not surprisingly, the older the book the less it is used. The type of story also matters, of course, but it shows clearly that many works of revered fiction contains profanity to great effect.

List

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby - 0 times

2. Truman Capote - Breakfast at Tiffanys - 1 time

3. JD Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye - 5 times

4. Brett Easton Ellis - Less Than Zero - 58 times

5. Hunter S. Thompson - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - 84 times

6. Nick Hornby - High Fidelity - 98 times

7. Charles Bukowski - Women - a whopping 336 times

- That’s more than 1 f*ck per page

8. Richard Blandford - Hound Dog - 304 times

- Again, more than 1 f*ck per page.


In my own novel, The Jacket Trick, the f-word occurs a modest 106 times.





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Science Fiction movies!

Culture and EntertainmentPosted by André Hansson Sat, May 03, 2014 10:24:58

In a recent blog post author David Brin lists his favorite science fiction movies. Being a huge fan of the genre I was inspired to do the same.

SF in movies is all too often about blazing laser guns and explosions and not so much about the exploration of the human condition and our possible futures. For that, oftentimes you have to turn to written Science Fiction. But every now and then something good pops up. Here are some of my favorites and disappointments.

May contain spoilers!

The good ones:


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The idea that humanity needed a push to overcome the hump to sentience was a prevalent idea at the time, especially in the works of Clarke. The monolith provides that when it interferes with human evolution on a number of occasions, most notably when it teaches the apes to use tools. The film leans heavily on symbolism and metaphors that are open to interpretation but for me it was always a lot about the loneliness we feel as a species, not knowing if we’re alone or not, or who created us.

Blade Runner (1982)
If one had to pick a single movie as the best, this one would probably be my choice. Action, slow building suspense, a man wrestling with his own ethics, a bleak but not dystopian future, the rights of artificial life forms. This movie has it all. It bombed at the time, but has built up a cult following and is now more or less the favorite of everyone who is in the know.

Alien (1979)
Is Alien really SF, or just horror cliché. Well, it’s mostly the latter. Switch out The Nostromo for a haunted house and the Alien for an axe murderer and not much changes, but it was all done so well it still easily makes the list. Everything from the ultra-realistic acting, the sexual undertones (especially the attacks on male sexuality which was unprecedented at the time and still creepy today), the order of which the characters are killed off, to the set design, was and still is, brilliant. Scott was smart not to show the Alien too much. Nothing kills the mood in a horror flick like seeing the strings holding up the giant spider’s jaw, or crappy CGI.

Alien was not horror based on surprise, but rather anticipation. You have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen all along, and Scott counted on it. Then he dragged it out, and dragged it out, until you were at the edge of your seat. I’ve heard younger audiences accuse Alien of being a movie where “nothing happens”. It’s the slow mood building part of the first hour they are referring to. That’s how movies were made once upon a time, before we were taught that something had to explode every two seconds to be exciting.

Aliens (1986)
Cameron’s sequel is almost as good as the original. A different kind of movie, with guns and marines, but it has all the trademark Cameron ingredients. Strong female characters, tough-but-vulnerable males and the two maternal instincts squaring it off at the end. Also, Michael Biehn.

The Terminator (1984)
Everyone knows The Terminator is about a cyborg from the future wreaking havoc in 1984 Los Angeles. But there’s another way to look at this film. A boy and girl from disparate worlds meet, they fall in love while trying to escape an inescapable threat. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like another movie Cameron made, about say, 13 years later? (hint, the inescapable threat in that movie is the boat we all know is going to sink). Anyway, The Terminator was groundbreaking and, like Alien, spawned many carbon copies, some of which are now more well known that this brilliant low-budget sci-fi tale. A dystopian future, but from a time when the idea was still reasonably fresh. The best part is the build up, where two men arrive in flashes of light, one brute, one more vulnerable. They both seem to be looking for a woman. Why? Are they working together, are they not? Good stuff. Schwarzenegger is fun, but it is Michael Biehn that carries the movie.

The Abyss (1989)
The Abyss has the best character development of any science fiction movie I’ve seen. Every character not only plays a pivotal role in some fashion, they are fleshed out and given depth in a way that I’ve haven’t seen before or after. The preachy slap on the wrist ending I can live with, but the movie is at its best from the destruction of the Crane to the time when Bud dives for the bomb. Here, it’s a grueling close quarters thriller, a real nail biter, with outstanding acting from the entire cast. The special edition ending is possibly even more preachy, but at least it explains the otherwise puzzling turn of events. It also adds several scenes that makes you care more about the characters, which is always a good thing. This is probably Cameron’s best film. Also, Michael Biehn.

Contact (1995)
Not as complex as the book, but still a good movie. Real(ish!) science, aliens - but plausible ones we never really get to see. The religion versus science theme is hammered in a bit too hard but still good enough to make the list.

Gattaca (1997)
Features a portrayal of the future you almost always only find in written SF. In Gattaca we see a society with problems, but some things actually seem to work. We seemed to have solved some issues, but gained new ones as technology has developed. Just like in real life. Blade Runner is an example of this as well, but they are few and far between.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Aliens come to earth, they abduct and communicate with music. My favorite part of this is movie is Dreyfuss’s character. He’s not a super hero, just a regular guy. A family man, who rises to occasion. Spielberg always knew how to write characters. Another slow build up before the action begins. It was the way you made movies in the 70s.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The best of the Star Trek movies. Unlike the predecessor, it had a distinct antagonist in the form of Khan. Faster pace, more action, but also emotion and things to ponder, like man playing God and creating life with devices that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. There are other Trek movies that are decent, but if you’re only seeing one, then Wrath of Khan has to be the one.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The best of the Star Wars movies. The heroes are on the run, it features a lot of Han Solo and then there’s the big surprise at the end, setting up for wonderful things to come. And nothing gets blow up from the inside.

1984 (1984)
Orwell’s classic, together with Huxley’s Brave New World are the best entries in the dystopia genre, one that Hollywood has rehashed hundreds of times. This British film is fairly close to the book and features nice performances from John Hurt, Suzanna Hamilton and Richard Burton. It was Burton’s last film.

Honorable mentions

Silent Running, Brazil, E.T., Moon, District 9, Forbidden Planet, Star Trek: First Contact, War of the Worlds, Solaris, Children of the Lost City, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Inception, Altered States, The Dead Zone, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, many others.



The disappointments - movies that promised so much, but ultimately didn't deliver

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
I disagree with Brin that T2 was better than the first one. It was clear to me when I saw this one that it was nothing more than a standard Hollywood production, without the edge and originality of the first one. Arnie was a big star by the time T2 came out and clearly everything had been streamlined to fit his needs rather than the movie’s. But it was all done with panache and flair so maybe this belongs in the fun and so-so category and not the disappointments.


Alien 3 and 4 (1992, 1997)
Alien 3 killed off Hicks and Newt off-screen(yes, it’s been 20+ years and I’m still pissed off about it!) and otherwise was nothing more than a poor rehash of the first one, with bald English actors you couldn’t tell apart from each other, and whose death you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about. Alien 4 was just more of the same, but with American accents and hair.

Avatar (2009)
It was visually stunning, but otherwise nothing special. I’ve seen comparisons made to Dances with Wolves, and Aliens (the marines copy lines from Apone, the exosuit fight at the end etc), but these are all superficial. On a more fundamental level it is a copy of Cameron’s earlier, much better film, The Abyss. Humans engage in an endeavor that endangers morally superior, but vulnerable alien species (extraction of unobtainium in Avatar endangers the Na’vi vs. nuclear war in the Abyss endangers the water dwelling creatures). Good forces in humanity rise up and save the day and the aliens. Only with Avatar, Cameron’s view of humanity has darkened considerably. In The Abyss there was still hope for humanity, as represented by the reconciliation of Bud and Lindsey’s marriage, but in Avatar there is no redemption for humanity. Jake even has to literally abandon his humanity to stay good at the end of the movie. Or maybe he just did it for love, or to get his legs back, what do I know?

Star Wars, all of them except Empire (1976 - )
I was never a big fantasy fan, and Star Wars is fantasy, not science fiction. I’ve always found that Fantasy glorifies the past, not the future. It glorifies feudalism and elitism. Switch out the space ships for horses, the light sabers for regular swords, and start calling The Force for what it really is - magic - then what you got is fantasy. Not a very good one, at that. See Lord of the Rings instead.

Gravity (2013)
I understand why the science fiction community went all apeshit about this movie. Finally, there was an SF movie again with real space hardware, without lasers, massive machines blown up from the inside, flesh eating aliens or lame dystopian plot rehashes. But Gravity was in my view just a never ending engineering obstacle course without any plot or character development. I found myself not caring whether the characters lived or died. The little piece about Bullock losing her daughter they could just as well have left out. It was so little and felt so contrived it made things worse, not better. The bad science pointed out by Neil Tyson and others doesn’t matter. I can give a movie a lot of leeway if the story is good. Bad writing I cannot.

Other bad ones:

Event Horizon, All of Michael Bay’s movies, Riddick, Time Cop, Hollow man, anything based on Michael Crichton (science is bad and will morally corrupt and doom us!Always) the list goes on…

The so-so, but fun. Turn off your inner critic and just try to enjoy and these movies aren't too bad.

Total Recall (1990)
It's a Schwarzenegger movie and that of course gives it a certain character. A movie based on Philip K. Dick, the grand master of SF, and it's not so bad if you can get past Arnie.

The Fifth Element (1995)
Fairly stupid plot, but gorgeous to look at and quite fun.

Mad Max Trilogy (1979 -1985)
Another cold war era dystopia proceeding from the notion that humanity will eventually destroy itself. Still quite fun and the dystopia plot was fresher back in the early Eighties so I will include these instead of any of the newer ones.

The Matrix
Fun. Too much martial arts for my taste and the dime store philosophy doesn't hold if you dig a bit deeper, but the idea that we live in a simulation is true SF.

Seksmisja (Eng. title: Sex Mission) (1984)
Polish SF comedy about a future where a genetic bomb has exterminated all males. I suppose it doesn't fall into the realm of serious SF, but fun nontheless.

The Postman
Based on the book by the above mentioned David Brin. The Postman was sawed to bits when relased but isn't nearly as bad as it was made out to be. It suffered, in my opionion from the then reputation of Costner for being a camera hogging narcissist. With any other actor it would've probably been much better recieved. Not as good or clever as the book, but still quite enjoyable and absolutely gorgeous to look at. The Postman (book as well as movie) is rare (even unique) in the post-apocalyptic genre in that it actually portrays civilization as something we would miss if it was gone, something that was fundamentally good and didn't deserve to be destroyed.

Logan’s Run
A dystopia, but perhaps one with a twist. Again, the idea wasn't done to death at the time so it gets to be on this list.

Predator
Alien in the jungle. Arnold again, but one of his better ones.

Serenity
Some good old fashion space opera. Based on the short lived cult TV-series Firefly.

Others
Starman, ExistenZ



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The Curse of the Artistically Driven?

Culture and EntertainmentPosted by André Hansson Wed, December 21, 2011 11:08:24

Beethoven first mentioned his hearing loss in 1801, at the tender age of thirty. He was having trouble hearing the high notes of instruments and voices. In 1812 people had to shout to make themselves heard and by 1827 his hearing loss was total.

This, a major disability for someone wanting to compose music, didn't stop Beethoven from doing what he was put here to do. He simply adapted, started using more middle- and low-frequency notes. When he was completely deaf he relied soley on his inner ear.

He never gave up, probably because he couldn’t. The practising of artistic talent is not a choice, it's a compulsion. I'm sure most of you artistically talented people out there agree with me. You have no choice but to give in to your artistry. Life would be pointless without it. Nothing will hold you back, whether it be injury, illness, handicaps (like in Beethoven's case), economic realities, lack of commercial success or whatever. It's not up to you.

In the 1981 movie Who's life is it anyway? Richard Drefyuss's character battles with unsympathetic hospital staff to end his own life after an accident that would'nt let him sculpt anymore. His life was meaningless without being able live out these artistic compulsions.

As a libertarian and an artist alike, I find this compulsion doubly disturbing. I don't like to be forced to do things, not by others, not by government, not even by myself! My own artistic ambitions is holding me capture, coercing me to keep creating! Ironic isn't it? Sometimes I actually wish I didn't have this unrelenting urge to write, or to compose music, or draw. Why can't I just be one of the non-driven, content with joining the rat race, enjoying working some office gig, raising children, watching Reality shows on Friday nights, scratching my bellybutton and think happily that this is what life is all about? It would be so much simpler than to continually having to find ways around economic realities to find time and resources to create. I envy these people because they seem to be free of the destructive self-loathing artists feel when they can't create.

Having creative gifts is a blessing. There is nothing more satisfying than creating. But it's also a prison. And the sentence is for life. There’s not even a parole.

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Nyliberal Robin Hood

KulturPosted by André Hansson Wed, May 19, 2010 09:42:05
Den 12 maj hade ännu en Robin Hood film premiär men den här gången med en twist. Jag ska först villigt erkänna att jag ännu inte sett den men redan i trailern märker man att denna reinkarnation av den klassiska stråtröven i 1200-talets England är annorlunda.

Robin Hood har alltid framställts som en ärkesocialist, en litterär gestaltning av välfärdsstatens devis "att ta från de rika och ge till de fattiga". Robin Hood i Scotts tappning verkar vara betydligt mer nyliberal. Han slåss för "individuella rättigheter" och mot en stor, mäktig och invasiv stat som tar ut höga skatter.

Borta verkar också den vurm för kungligheter som filmerna präglats av vara. Handlingen brukar centreras kring att Robin Hood leder vägen så att den "gode" Kung Richard kan återvände och avsätta den "onde" prins John. Som så många andra sagor av denna typ kan vanliga människor bara välja mellan att vara slavar under antingen den ene kungligheten eller den andre men aldrig uppleva någon egentlig frihet.

Robin Hood talar redan i trailern om hur "folket är slavar under kungligheter" och de vill ha sin frihet inskriven i lagen. Mycket intressant och jag ser fram emot att se den.

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