Posts tagged ‘Entertainment’

Lolly’s Top 5 Hip Hop Hits of 2009

See also Lolly’s Top 5 Hip Hop Hits of 2008

Runner-ups: “Birthday Sex” and “Imma Star” by Jeremih, “So Sharp” by Mack 10 featuring Lil Wayne, “Best I Ever Had” by Drake, “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey, “Girls on the Dancefloor” by Far East Movement

#5 Omarion featuring Gucci Mane (or Lil Wayne) “I Get It In”

This song is cocky (pun intended) as hell: It’s about fitting really big things into tight places. Omarion brags about how his girl “fumble(s) when it hangs down,” and Gucci Mane is hooking up with gal who has “done fired” her panties. In the Lil Wayne version, Mr. Carter quotes Beyoncé’s “Ego” to make the same boast: “It’s too big; it’s too wide; it won’t fit, but…I get it in.” Ironically, the most phallocentric song of the year has a video that’s about as phallocentric as last year’s “I Kissed A Girl” by Katie Perry. Omarion has moves that would make most ABDC teams jealous, but he doesn’t save them for the few ladies in the video. Toward the end of the three-minute clip, the rapper forms a human seesaw with a male dancer. This quasi-homoerotic display is almost unheard of in hip hop videos. Perhaps the compact “parking spot” is unisex.

#4 Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem “Forever”

The line-up doesn’t get much better than this. Unfortunately, some radio stations abridge the 6+ minute song by removing one of the rapper’s verses. In ascending order, here’s how I would rank each rapper’s rhymes: Eminem (“He ain’t had a real buzz like this since the last time that he overdosed”), Drake (“Labels want my name beside the ‘X’ like Malcolm”), Lil Wayne (“My mind shine even when my thoughts seem dark”), and Kanye West (“You would think I ran the world like Michelle’s husband”).

#3 Mario featuring Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett “Break Up”

Breaking up never sounded so good! It seems Mario would do just about anything for his girlfriend (“Don’t I lace you with the Gucci? / Don’t I deck you in the Louis?”) except, of course, be faithful. And, for him, it isn’t so much about getting back together but, rather, having one last midnight rendezvous (“If you leavin’, baby, don’t leave me till tomorrow / Tonight we gon’ get a lil’ tipsy with a bottle”). If the break up is final, Gucci Mane reminds us that “girls are like buses: Miss one, next fifteen, one comin’.”

#2 Keri Hilson featuring Lil Wayne “Turnin’ Me On”

Miss Keri, baby! This song should be renamed “Pleasing Women for Dummies.” Keri stresses the importance of “recogniz(ing) a real woman,” and Lil Wayne brags about his oral prowess (“I’ma kiss the spot for ya…I turn you on like a handle / Like a television on the Weather Channel”). Sporting “on” and “off” brass knuckles, Keri rocks the music video that’s full of dichotomous imagery.

#1 Kid Cudi featuring Kanye West & Common and sampling Lady Gaga  “Make Her Say”

“And we can have one hell of a night / Through the day,” promises the casual (hetero)sex anthem of the year. Kid Cudi wonders, “When it’s said and done, will she spit it up or swallow?” Kanye West wants to hook up with a shorty, but he doesn’t want to make it “statutory”: “Hold up…Born in ’88. / How old is that? / Old enough.” Common reminisces about a girl whose “head was gooder than the music.”

And each wants a ménage à trois the only socially acceptable way he can have it (XX/XY/XX). To emphasize this common goal, each rapper begins his verse with a version of “She wanna have whatever she like / She can if she bring her [girl]friend.” Cudi wants a dominant girl with a “fat ol’ ass.” Kanye makes me wonder why I didn’t love college. Common likes to take charge – even if he has to pay for it.

That which is explicit in this hit is misogynistic at best (Cudi and Co. sample Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” to the tune of, “I make her say, ‘Oh…Oh-Oh-Oh…Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh’ when I p-p-p-poke her face.”). That which is implicit, however, is compelling and provocative. Just as most novels have autobiographical inspiration, lyrics often reveal aspects of artists’ personal lives. Each performer in “Make Her Say” shares more information on sexual preferences than would most hip hop artists. It’s one thing to talk about getting “brain on the train.” It’s another to express as-yet-unfulfilled desires, previously secret reflections, and subtle sociopolitical commentary to boot.

The melancholy undertone of an upbeat song that’s entirely about sex seems strange. The subject matter, however, isn’t as lighthearted as the music video’s balloons and peaceful scenes would have you think. “Casual sex” is a misnomer: There is nothing casual about sex. As a society, we take healthy sex lives for granted, and yet sexuality influences most of us in some very problematic ways. Whether they realize it or not (I think they do), all three rappers express this tension between carnal desire, heteronormativity, and mainstream constructions of masculinity. Lady Gaga, who defies gender norms, genre, and Jehovah, creates the backdrop for this musical dialogue. The final product is far from a “Bad Romance.”

February 12, 2010 at 7:26 am 2 comments

“Jumbo Jessica” and the Marlon Brando Paradox

Jessica Simpson needs to fire her stylist. Ever since the singer donned a pair of high-waisted jeans and double-layered leopard print belt to the KISS Country Chili Cookoff, the tabloids haven’t given her body a break. The New York Post described her as a “corpulent country star” and assigned her the hurtful “Jumbo Jessica” moniker. Us Weekly eagerly repeated the nickname, and People used the same series of unflattering pictures to publicize “her new fat curvy body.”

Days before her humiliating and oh-so-public breakup with Tony Romo, Jessica sang the National Anthem at the AT&T National golf tournament in a horizontally striped Michael Kors dress. The Daily Fix commented, “As the ditzy blonde singer’s career shrinks, her bottom line continues to expand.” Not to be outdone, Perez Hilton blogged, “Is JSimpleson finally pregnant with her dream baby?…That’s an ass you could serve Thanksgiving dinner on!”

Just under 5’3″, Jessica is a petite woman who has been blessed with curves in all the right places. Minor weight fluctuations become exaggerated on her small frame. Case in point: Within the same month, OK! ran stories on Jessica’s wardrobe woes, Romo breakup, and “revenge diet.” She “look[ed] like a blimp” one week and boasted a fit physique the next.

This repulsive practice of inventing weight problems for female celebrities certainly takes its toll on the common (wo)man. I’ve found myself turning down desserts lately and worrying about how I look in form-fitting jeans. It also serves as yet another example of our society’s rampant sexism and double standards: Tom Cruise’s diminutive stature and Jack Nicholson’s gut receive little press/criticism. This is what I call the “Marlon Brando Paradox.”

Marlon Brando is rightfully considered one of the greatest actors of all time. The Academy Award winner’s career spanned over half a century, but his svelte form progressively widened throughout. At almost no point, however, did the media criticize Brando’s weight or deny his talent because he wasn’t as conventionally attractive or as physically fit as he had been as a young man. With performances as “Vito Corleone” in The Godfather and “Paul” in Last Tango in Paris on his impressive résumé, we didn’t need him to look a particular way. But if he had been a woman, he almost certainly would not have landed comparable roles.

The Marlon Brando Paradox perpetuates our society’s commodification and fetishization of the female body.  By scrutinizing the female form in this manner, we are preventing progress and gender equality. While Jessica Simpson is the latest victim, almost no one–celebrity or not–escapes being viewed through this perverse, distorted lens: I am anxiously waiting for it to shatter.

August 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm 2 comments

Current and Classic Rentals & Ratings

Year of the Dog
Genre: Comedic Drama
Starring: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard
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Molly Shannon shines in this quirky drama about the multi-layered relationships between co-workers, friends, loved ones, and, of course, animals.  Mike White, the writer of The Good Girl and School of Rock, makes his directorial debut in what hopefully will be the first of many cinematic triumphs.

New York, New York
Genre: Musical Drama
Starring: Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro

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Minnelli and De Niro sizzle with musical and sexual chemistry in this Scorsese film set in the post-WWII 40s.

He’s Just Not That Into You
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Scarlett Johansson

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I expected more from this all-star cast. It has its funny and sweet moments, but, overall, this film portrays women as weak and inept players in the game of love and war.

Summer of Sam
Genre: Crime Drama
Starring: John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito

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Set in New York City in the summer of 1977, this Spike Lee Joint follows a close-knit group in an Italian-American neighborhood as it responds to the surrounding violence, heat, humidity, and hatred. Son of Sam’s carnage serves as the backdrop for a reflection on the complex nature of relationships between members of a seemingly cohesive community. Make sure to check out Adrien Brody’s compelling performance during the “Teenage Wasteland” montage.

June 5, 2009 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

From the Vault: Nine 1/2 Weeks Gets 8 1/2 Stars

Three years after I was born, Adrian Lyne (Unfaithful, Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction) directed Nine 1/2 Weeks, starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke. I saw it for the first time this weekend and felt puzzled by the film’s poor critical reception. Lyne manages to forge a balance between art and sex, creating an erotically-charged drama rather than soft core porn. The film is a meditation on the ambiguities and limitations of consensual liaisons between women and men.

Elizabeth (Basinger), a “divorced white female, beautiful statuesque blonde,” meets John (Rourke) while shopping for dinner party fare.  John is concomitantly creepy and desirable as he makes overt sexual advances toward Elizabeth. “You’re taking a hell of a lot for granted, aren’t you,” Elizabeth remarks as John pointedly changes the bedsheets after their first outing. And thus begins a 9 1/2 week sexual journey. Elizabeth’s endearing naiveté complements John’s carnal authoritativeness. Scenes of sadomasochism, female masturbation, spontaneous lovemaking, and erotic food usage ensue. Lyne’s images at once titillate and disturb as the couple crisscrosses sexual boundaries and societal norms.

In her early 30s at the time of the film’s production, Basinger is, in retrospect, living proof that some women are like wine; they improve with age. While undoubtedly attractive, Basinger’s Renée Zellweger-like poutiness in this film pales in comparison to her fetching sophistication in L.A. Confidential and The Door in the Floor (both filmed over a decade later). Rourke, on the other hand, has endured a transformation in the opposite direction. The intensive reconstructive surgery he underwent after his professional wrestling career has rendered his once-alluring face almost unrecognizable. That said, he still has the body of an Olympian and acting talent that ranks him among the very best. His portrayal of John in Nine 1/2 Weeks made me further appreciate his wide range as an actor, as evidenced in Body Heat, Sin City, and The Wrestler.

If nothing else, this film depicts two major actors at pivotal moments in their respective careers. Beyond that, the disquieting interactions between Elizabeth and John speak to the complications of human nature and the overwhelming responsibility that accompanies sexual desire.

June 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Current Redbox Rentals and Ratings

Frost/Nixon
Genre: Drama
Starring: Frank Langella and Michael Sheen
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Langella deservingly received an Oscar nomination for his role as Richard Nixon in Ron Howard’s provocative retelling of the post-Watergate interviews between British television personality David Frost and the former president.

The Poker Club
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Starring: Johnathon Schaech
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Although it has a few interesting plot twists and startling moments, The Poker Club comes across as a decently-made student film. But if you’re looking for visual stimulation, actors Johnny Messner and Michael Risley and actresses Jana Kramer and Lori Heuring make good eye candy.

The Wrestler
Genre: Drama
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood
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Rourke delivers an artistic tour de force as a has-been competitor trying to make a comeback in his professional and personal lives.

The Spirit
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Starring: Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Gabriel Macht, and Scarlett Johannson
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Even with an all-star cast and the talent of Frank Miller as screenwriter, The Spirit managed to lower my spirits when I saw it in theaters this holiday season.

Doubt
Genre: Drama
Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis
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Some critics bemoaned Streep’s “over the top” performance as a hyper-judgmental nun, but I think Sister Beauvier’s ferocity and relentless inner struggle could have only been depicted by such a seasoned and dedicated actress as Streep. Hoffman, Adams, and Davis also triumph in expressing what playwright and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley likely had in mind when he helped transform his story from stage to screen.

Yes Man
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel
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With a handful of laugh-out-loud scenes, this lightly romantic comedy achieves its goal of providing 90 minutes of entertainment. While Carrey and Deschanel have some chemistry, their age difference is a bit distracting and doesn’t manage to completely pass off as believable.

April 24, 2009 at 9:34 pm 5 comments

“I Hate You So Much Right Now”: Feminine Angstiest Songs #2

Kelis’s “Milkshake” brings all the boys to the yard, but her rhymes in “Caught Out There” put them in their places. She dedicates the song to “all the women out there/that been lied to by their men/over and over again” and admits “maybe you didn’t break the way you shoulda broke, yo, but I break.”

From her 1999 debut album Kaleidoscope, “Caught Out There” paved the way for the cocky and confrontational lyrics of “Bossy” (featuring Too $hort) and “In Public” (featuring husband Nas). In fact, when Kelis declares herself “the first girl to scream on a track” in “Bossy,” she’s referring to exercising her irate shouting skills in “Caught Out There”: “I hate you so much right now / I hate you so much right now / I hate you so much right now / Ahhhhhhhhh!” Kelis repeats the angsty chorus no less than seven times and outdoes Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” with threats like, “So sick of your games / I’ll set your truck to flames / And watch it blow up, blow up / (Tell me how you gonna see her now?).” I certainly think that’s worse than taking “a Louisville Slugger to both headlights!”

It may seem like I’m hating on my man right now, but that’s not the case at all. I do, however, feel severe animosity toward “The Man.” He can go fuck himself. And I’m grateful to “the one that’s tattooed on his arm” for giving me an outlet to vent my ire through.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 14, 2009 at 10:43 pm 1 comment

Oscar Moments and Quotes

Best Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Once she positioned herself behind the podium, Spanish sensation Cruz squealed in delight and warned that she might actually faint. At the conclusion of her acceptance speech, she spoke in Spanish. I will paraphrase her message: To all the Spanish speakers in the world and all those from my country, I share this award with you.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Along with Danny Boyle’s Best Director trophy for Slumdog Millionaire, this was the least surprising award of the night. Many would agree that Ledger’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor also symbolized the accolades he should have received for his leading role in Brokeback Mountain. As recognized by his immediate family, this award was all-the-more meaningful in that it honored his final film and, in a large sense, his career in its entirety. Kim Ledger, Heath’s father, said that the Academy Award “would have humbly validated Heath’s determination to be validated […] within an industry he so loved.”

Best Actress: Kate Winslet in The Reader (although the Academy certainly had Revolutionary Road in mind as well when casting votes)

When introducing the actress, Marion Cotillard acknowledged Winslet’s “passion, vulnerability, and extraordinary depth.” As she beheld the golden figurine in her hands, Winslet declared, “Well, it’s not a shampoo bottle now.” She had dreamt of this moment since childhood, occasionally using bathroom objects to help her mimic an acceptance speech in front of the mirror.

Best Actor: Sean Penn in Milk

Robert Deniro introduced Penn as a man who puts everything into his work: “Sean Penn, the actor, loses himself in every role.” In the most political speech of the night, Penn urged, “We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.” He described himself as “grateful to be living in a country that is willing to elect an elegant man as president.”

Honorable Mention of the Night: Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Sir Ben Kingsley asked the audience of the 81st Annual Academy Awards, “Why do we care for a bleach-blond battered bruiser? Well, there’s one reason: Mickey Rourke.” He then addressed the actor directly: “We’re better off having you in the ring. Welcome back, the returning champ, Mickey Rourke.” While Rourke did not win the coveted Oscar, he did take home a Golden Globe just weeks before. During the after show with Barbara Walters, Rourke admitted that, while winning the Oscar would be an honor, “at the end of the day, you can’t eat it, you can’t fuck it, and it won’t get you into heaven.”

February 24, 2009 at 2:42 am Leave a comment

“Oops, I Didn’t Know We Couldn’t Talk About Sex”: Feminine Angstiest Songs #1

In 1994, Madonna released Bedtime Stories, an album with less overt sexuality than Erotica (1992) but with plenty of imagery nonetheless. Although “Secret” and “Take A Bow” were the most popular singles on this multi-Platinum album, “Human Nature” takes the cake when it comes to expressing feminine angst. I’ll explain why in this first installment of many about songs I like to jam to when I’m feeling like a man-eater.

Before Madonna rendered herself curveless through yoga and God only knows what else, she filmed the music video for “Human Nature,” wearing body-hugging black vinyl and donning chestnut cornrows among a sea of smutty men and women. Anonymous hands begin to fondle a seated Madonna just before she slams her legs shut. We then see her dancing in a white box, along with the other dancers in S&M-esque garb. Throughout the song, Madonna seductively whispers the following mantra: “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself.” The backless, frontless boxes could represent superficial repression from which Madonna is ultimately free with access through the front and back doors.

Madonna is unapologetic about her sexuality, self-expression, and decisions: “I’m not sorry / It’s human nature / And I’m not sorry / I’m not your bitch / Don’t hang your shit on me.” Sometimes a partner’s words and actions serve as an attempt to silence us, but we can take the upper-hand in the blame game. I’ve taken this too far by refusing to apologize for things that actually are my fault, but I like the concept of using human nature as a defense when appropriate.

“Human Nature” came back to life in Madonna’s 2001 Drowned World Tour as she performed it while riding a mechanical bull. Not to be outdone by her past self, Madonna recruited Britney Spears to sing along in November 2008. This version of “Human Nature” includes the infamous line, “It’s Britney, bitch!” The cougar and her cub have been released into the wild yet again.

Unabashed and unwilling to adhere to haphazard social constructions, Madonna delivers yet another knockout performance. My favorite line of the song poses an age-old question: “Would it sound better if I were a man?”

January 1, 2009 at 5:49 am 1 comment

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