1. “The 50 Best Albums of 2014.” Pitchfork unveils its list of the best albums of the year. Below is Andrew Nosnitsky on Aphex Twin’s Syro.
“Perhaps no figure in electronic music casts a heavier shadow than Richard D. James. He spent the ’90s reinventing himself perpetually, trampling through aliases and existing subgenres—acid house, ambient, drum’n’bass, whatever—and emerging with strange and brilliant derivatives on a near yearly basis. So it came as a surprise (and maybe a slight disappointment) when Syro, his first official album after 13 years of relative reclusiveness, proved to be anything but a surprise. In fact, if you had imagined a new Aphex Twin album in 2004, it probably would’ve sounded a lot like the one he ended up releasing in 2014. But here’s the thing: Despite the incessant projections of his audience, Aphex Twin was never principally about innovation. His discography is merely a running series of genre studies, warped instinctively by a perfectionist with a bizarre creative voice. Syro feels like the logical culmination of these efforts, as the genre he’s bending and perfecting this time is the amorphous one that he instinctively spent his career creating: a bubble-and-spazz hybrid of acid squelches, spongecake melodies, and scattershot rhythms.”
2. “49 Stars, Musicians, Authors, and Other Celebrities Say Farewell to Stephen Colbert.” Among the celebrities to bid farewell: Jon Stewart, Rachel Dratch, Al Roker, Jeremy Piven, and Donald Trump. Below are some words from James Franco.
“I was on the show a few times. Each time we talked about Tolkien, and Colbert schooled me in Middle Earth lore. That guy must read The Silmarillion every night right after he reads Dick Cheney’s memoirs. The second time I went on, I tried to stump him with some arcane Tolkien trivia. I asked him to name at least two of the Valar, the undergods of Middle Earth. Without blinking, he said, ’Would you like Manwë, lord of the wind, Mandos, king of the underworld, Varda, queen of the stars…?’ We got along very well because I always appreciated his playful irreverence. I had no need to outplay him; I was happy to go along on his crazy ride each time. It was art. Colbert could do or say absolutely anything because it was all through the mask of his character, even though everyone was in on the joke. The character gave him license to speak the truth through its opposite: satire.”
3. “Great Expectations: Reconsiderations 2014.” For Fandor, Calum Marsh realizes that if you can get past the best and worst there are always more curiosities to delight in.
“I continue to struggle with Whiplash. Some observations, in any case: The rigor it advocates doesn’t extend to the filmmaking, which concedes too much to convention; a film of greater discipline would have (for instance) excised the superfluous girlfriend. For a film about the scourge of artistic compromise, it seems doggedly ingratiating: The scene at the dinner table, in particular, has been calibrated to maximize audience satisfaction, urging us to cheer for our hero as he wittily eviscerates his extended family, whose one-dimensional philistinism exists simply to hate. Its conception of jazz is, at best, meager. Its turns of plot are preposterous. And yet. And yet…I was enthralled by Whiplash. It is an invigorating thing, despite (or perhaps because of) its stupidity. By the time its hero has launched into a blood-splattered ten-minute solo before a sold-out Lincoln Center, my intellectual resistance meant very little: I’d already given myself over to it. Is that an inexcusable compromise? I still haven’t decided.”
4. “The best 2014 films that made under $100,000.” The Dissolve shine a light on some of the year’s lowest-earning cinematic fruit.
“’You can lead a horse to water,’ as they say, ’but you can’t make him drink.’ That’s true of a vast swath of great independent and foreign films, which rely almost entirely on strong reviews and word of mouth to gain a foothold in a competitive market. Often, they can have everything going for them and still get buried in the avalanche of movies that come out every week, especially in New York, where sometimes dozens of new releases compete for dwindling sets of eyes. We don’t forget them here at The Dissolve, however: The list below includes a diverse range of voices from around the world—from established auteurs and new talents to an exciting wave of documentary filmmakers eager to push the boundaries of non-fiction—all of which grossed under $100,000 at the U.S. box office. (Note: All totals, via Box Office Mojo, are as of December 10, 2014, and don’t take into account revenue generated by VOD, streaming, or other non-theatrical outlets.) They all deserve a second chance—if not to make gobs of money, then at least to find the adventurous viewers that missed them the first time around.”
5. “The Best Movie Posters of 2014.” Among Adrian Curry’s selections are the posters for Borgman, Under the Skin, and Actress.
“Those of us who care about movie posters often complain about ’big head’ posters from Hollywood studios, but the design for Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank is the ne plus ultra of big head posters: a poster for a film about a big head. The head in question is the papier-mâché noggin worn by Michael Fassbender’s title character, which was inspired by the nearly identical prop worn by Chris Sievey, a.k.a. Frank Sidebottom, the nasal-voiced troubadour from Timperley, Manchester, who famously covered the Sex Pistols (’Anarchy in Timperley’) and had his moment of cult fame in the ’80s. The poster for Frank, designed by an as-yet uncredited designer at P+A studio (the anonymity seems apt) subverts the chief function of the big head poster by not showing us the film’s star. To me it’s a thing of beauty (my affection for Frank Sidebottom and for the film itself only increasing my appreciation of the design) both simple and striking and beautifully lettered: a poster that was arresting both in theater lobbies and one-inch tall in online film listings. If whoever designed this would like to come out from behind the mask and take a bow, I’d love to hear from you.”
Video of the Day: Mike Leigh raids the Criterion Collection closet:
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