In 2014 a couple of terrific “little” movies came out that really touched me.
–Chef, from director and star Jon Favreau is about a man who loses pretty much everything and finds a way to get it back. Don’t watch it hungry because your stomach will not stop growling, it makes food look especially delicious. This movie stayed at our “indie” theater for months, which is pretty much unheard of these days. I asked an employee why and he said that as long as people were coming, they were going to keep playing it. Made me like them even more.
–Begin Again was written and directed by John Carney (Once) and stars Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. It is a tale of losing love, personal re-invention, and making beautiful music in New York. I loved this movie. In fact, everyone I’ve talked to who has seen it has loved it as well. I even checked out the soundtrack after seeing the movie. For a taste, check out the mix near the end of this blog.
I mention these movies because they really have stayed with me. They were wonderful in the theater and would be even better in your family room. You don’t hear a lot about movies like these much. Movies are big and loud and superhero-y or over-the-top raunchy or ridiculous rom-coms. Sometimes that’s ok, I’m not really complaining. It just makes me appreciate when a small, thoughtful movie comes along that is truly powerful in a way that takes me by surprise.
John Carney seems to have mastered this genre because his new movie, Sing Street, fits right in. It’s a story about a teenage boy trying to make it through his teens in Dublin in the 80s. I took my bestie, Jenny, with me to a screening of it and, we (quoting Jenny) “loved every minute of it.” Even though we didn’t grow up in Ireland, we could totally relate also being children of the 80s (albeit in Ohio). Teenage years are hard, kids are trying to find themselves grasping at any persona that looks remotely appealing. I remember when MTV and videos were new and exciting, showing us a window to all kinds of possibilities. It was powerful stuff. (We stayed up til midnight to watch the premiere of “Thriller” and then couldn’t stop talking about it.) If you were in a band, or wanted to be in a band, or if you just listened to the radio – you will be touched by this movie.
As I was thinking about the 80s I thought of two books that also captured that era for me. I’ve put both of these on my favorites list but with no descriptions.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a YA novel about two outcast teens growing up in Omaha in the 80s, navigating life and first love. 80’s music is a refuge for Park; he was way more musically advanced than I was at that age. I didn’t discover bands like The Smiths and Depeche Mode until the 90s. The really special thing about this book though is it takes you back to first love; how it felt and how all-consuming it was. Who doesn’t want to feel that again?
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of the coolest, most creative books I’ve ever read. Essentially it’s about a virtual contest set in motion upon the death of the creator of the world’s most famous video game system to win his billions. It is set in an ugly future (yet scarily realistic, maybe inevitable?) but it is steeped in 80’s nostalgia. This and The Martian and This Is Where I Leave You are also my guy recommendation books. Can’t misses. Plus Steven Spielberg is going to direct the movie. Cannot wait.
Now for music…
I just finished another mix. I have a “Good Stuff” theme going; as I find songs I like, I add them to a playlist. When it’s full (about 20 songs), I burn it to a CD (hand out a few, keep one in my car) and then start the next one. I just made “Good Stuff 5” and am happy to share it. (My 12 year old has put the stamp of approval on it so there’s an endorsement for you.)
Some of these songs I have mentioned previously. Some you may not know. I read about them, hear them on XM or hear them in a TV show or movie. I will listen to the track a couple times, make sure I like it, then I add it to the playlist, this could take a year so some songs are kind of old and some may be very recent. When I get to 20ish, I play around with the order and then I’m done.
Hope you like it (I’m so hi tech now, you can click on it if it’s hyperlinked and listen):
- “First” – Cold War Kids (I put it 1st, get it?) I really dig this song; the combo of his voice, the drums – whatever, I’m just in.
- “Take Me To Church” – Hozier
- “The Wolf” – Mumford & Sons I LOVE this song. “Cause you were all I ever longed for…” Swoon.
- “Long Way Down” – Robert DeLong
- “Begin Again” – Purity Ring Cool beat with a delicate vocal.
- “Every Other Freckle” – alt-J A little creepy stalkerish but I still like it.
- “Hero” – Family of the Year Kinda folksy and fun.
- “Talking Body” – Tove Lo
- “10,000 Emerald Pools” – BORNS Seems like it should’ve been on the Twilight soundtrack, has that vibe.
- “Lost Stars” – Adam Levine This is from Begin Again and I can’t stop listening to it. It was Oscar-nominated in 2015 for Best Original Song.
- “Fade Into You” – Sam Palladio & Claire Bowen This is from Nashville. I am a sucker for a good harmony and this has one. It’s hauntingly beautiful. I like this TV show but the bonus is that every now and then someone sings a song and it blows me away. “Good Stuff 4” has “A Life That’s Good” by Lennon & Maisy, sisters on and off the show.
- “I Know You” – Skylar Grey This is from the Fifty Shades of Grey. I love her voice. I have a couple songs from her on my iTunes.
- “Here” – Alessia Cara I also like “Wild Things,” but I didn’t have this one on a mix yet.
- “Eyes Wide” – Meadowlark Eerily beautiful vocals with a good beat.
- “Hold the Line” – Jack and Eliza Beachy vibe with great harmonies.
- “Greek Tragedy” – The Wombats One of my favorite bands right now.
- “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” – Wet Pretty and peaceful.
- “Dreams” – Beck
- “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” – The Neighbourhood “Sweater Weather” is one of my favorites. This is off their most recent album.
- “Castle” – Halsey This is on her latest album tho you may have heard it in the new The Huntsman: Winter’s War trailer. I liked Snow White & the Huntsman but my favorite part was when the movie credits came on and Florence + The Machine’s “Breath of Life” started playing. Holy cow. I had a visceral reaction of joy, I LOVED it immediately (it’s on “Good Stuff 3”). This song has a very similar vibe and, thanks to Zoe bringing it to my attention, it completed my mix.
Song of the blog…
I was halfway through writing this entry when the news of Prince broke. My title became more eerily appropriate. Like most others, I agree that Purple Rain is a classic. Two of my favorite Prince songs are not from that album, however.
In college there were some pretty great bands that played a lot around campus. One in particular (Bob Popular anyone?) would play Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” I requested it every time I saw them, which was often. It got to the point that they’d see me coming and give me a wave, like “we see you, it’s coming.” Every time it pops up on my music (because I never really hear it on the radio), it takes me back to college and fun times.
“7” is from the Love Symbol Album from 1992. A perk of working at HMV was when new records came out they would be played in the store. This song just clicked with me. I love it.