What to Watch: Winter Movie Round-up

Oscar season has folks running to the movie theater. Is this the year Leo DiCaprio finally takes home that golden statue? Will he ban it like some members of the African American community think he should in order to support the black community or take after Marlon Brando, have someone else accept and then reject it for him? Either way, Leo deserves to win.

Office politics on a global scale are aside from the point, here are some of the films I’ve seen this winter:

  1. The Revenant: no one is laughing. The White Walkers would be no match for Leo’s depth of spirit and determination to get justice served. There was no snickering or leaving the theatre for this battle of the elements, man and the politics of the era. Never has Tom Hardy been so revile. We also got to see my quiet crush, Domhnall Gleeson as the sweet, yet naive captain.
  2. Joy– now before you join me in the when-is-Jennifer-Lawerence going to be likable, haven’t we had enough of her for the time being table, let’s say I watched this one because my family wanted to watch it. I was reluctant, aside from J.Law, the trailer didn’t wow me, and I kept thinking really? Bradley Cooper, DeNiro & J.Law? Ugh. We’ve been there…with the same producers. However, I watched it and damn. Shazam. I was wowed. It was damn good and inspirational. Everyone who has had an idea or a dream they left on the table due to a misstep in their youth, should watch this film.
  3. Train Wreck– There is a spoiler alert in here. It was more enjoyable then any other Judd Apatow-involved film. Amy Schumer was great, to a point. Then, it reverted to the same devices any other rom com uses to resolve, with a charming ending, but still why must we always find that the only way for a woman to be happy does she half to be half-naked? Is that a distraction for eating humble pie or just another distraction showing the character hasn’t grown that much, just enough to make everyone in their life who always forgives them, love them enough to go another ten rounds.
  4. Hateful 8 – was a snowy, miserable, painfully slow bloated Tarantino film. My boyfriend loved it. I tried to not fall asleep. If only he wasn’t as indulged, there could have been half an hour less to this movie, no intermission – the last time I remember hearing about one was vaguely as a child, Ghandi had one. This is not Ghandi, it will not give you inspiration but some of the acting is excellent. The overuse of racial slurs towards Samuel L. Jackson, were a bit much to take. We got the point Quentin. If you want to see Channing Tatum be horrible in a charming way, the second half will reward you, but when the break came I was ready to leave.
  5. Brooklyn – thought this one would speak to my Irish heritage. Instead, her millennial indecision annoyed me to no end. I kept waiting for something to happen, so did she. Don’t let life make your decision, make them for yourself. I would rather sit through the uneven, should-have-been-an-SNL sketch, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler  comedy “Sisters” again, then watch this. Perhaps I was annoyed she left my ginger crush, Domhnall Gleeson, to believe she was interested when she was being selfish. What I didn’t like about this film was that there were no consequences to the characters lies by inaction. She left a wake of tears, but she was happy. Well, isn’t that uplifting? No.
  6. In The Heart of The Sea– swoon hard, swoon in 3-D at Mr. Chris Hemsworth, but don’t expect a lot of plot in this one. Ron Howard expressed his excitement at using 3D, inspired by the film “Life of Pi,” which was an excellent film. Mr. Howard, you abused 3D in this film, as if you were an NYU film student learning how to use a camera. There was a serious lack of character developement but oh Thor, you are handsome and you have beautiful blue eyes.

RENTALS: This is winter. Finally.

  1. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – all the banter and fun that was missing from James Bond, can be found in this great romp of a movie. Two thumbs up, a little sad I missed this one in the theaters, but it was gone fast. It’s definitely worth watching over say The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  2. The Women in Gold – another film, but smaller that I had wanted to see in theaters. The story of the rightful owner, Maria Altman, who fled the Nazis in Austria seeking the Klimt’s painting of her Aunt Adele (pronounced A-dell-ee, not like the singer), which was claimed by the Austrian government and placed in their museum. It’s a wonderful film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. I love when a film showcases a relationship and determination of two people, who are unlikely to come together, thinking neither party will teach the other one.
  3. Everest – another true story. Why climb it? Because it’s there. I can’t imagine what would make me want to climb Everest after seeing this film and what you could happen to you as you climb, your body literally dying with each step. This film showed some of the worst and selfish parts of humanity. It showcased ego wanting to triumph over nature, and then getting ego’s ass being thrown off a mountain by its pure arrogance. The hero of the story for me was Peach, the wife left behind in Texas who rallied her minions to get a helicopter for her dying husband to get him off the damn mountain, where he had been left to die by people he paid $65,000 to be there.

NETFLIX & CHILL:

1. Jessica Jones – (series, not a film) Turn it into a drinking game by taking a shot every time Kristin Ritter pouts or there is some serious hot sex…so maybe you can have some too. Not something I could power watch because of all the pouting. Still, love a deviant, reluctant superhero- yes, that means I’m going to see “Deadpool,” despite how awful Ryan Reynold’s Green-Film-He-Got-Blake-Lively-From-As-Well-As-Paid. Ritter pulls it off and manages to pull back my interest just when I think I can’t take her pouting anymore. Great plot twists.

2. The ReWrite – this is a charming film helmed by Hugh Grant. Hugh plays a washed-up rogue writer and does it well. If you are looking for a fun film with banter insert Marisa Tome. Add reluctance, social missteps, a few literary quotes and Hugh Grant and you’ll be laughing with this one.

TV (Bonus):
Tyrant – I loved the first season. They went so far in each episode it was truly well-timed with all that is going on in the Middle East. The second season started off the same, then got quite annoying, so much so I started going back and catching up with British reality TV like “Come Dine With Me” and the ever-entertaining “Don’t Tell The Bride,” which is a great concept and never disappoints for awkwardness and dreadful “oh, hell no, he. Did. Not. Do. That! She can’t marry him!” But, after the holiday season, I caught up on the last episode and it’s back to a place where I can be intrigued again, leaving out a lot of the soap opera and focusing on the action of political decisions. This series explores the tricky lines of moral compasses, with less cursing and jazz than “Homeland.”

Music (Bonus):

X-Ambassadors “Love Song, Drug Song” may be Brooklyn’s answer to The Kings of Leon, and I love it.

King Charles–  one of my favorite artists I’ve ever worked with, is also extremely talented. I’ll never forget how all the women in the office found a way to come to my office when he was in there for two hours. He is highly entertaining. He was an absolute dream when we trekked through the living hell that SXSW can be to manage and gave his full KC charm to a small room of people at his showcase there. A true talent.

Hope you enjoyed that. Note, as much as I love film and TV, I am reading two books about product management and a novel called “Smoke,” which is riveting.

The Power of One…Ramble

Yesterday, Taylor Swift, gently, because she does, in general, have mad love for Apple, and is a savvy business woman, posted a letter to Apple, requesting they pay the fees associated with streaming to artists, producers, etc. during the three month period for their new streaming service’s trial period. She had a point about not being paid, hardware sales have always been the priority for Apple. Many tech companies build products and expect they will dazzle us so incredibly, content owners will fall over themselves, no matter what the cost to their own pockets to participate.

Taylor has been calling bullshit on streaming and it’s pay scale for almost a year publicly. Her “1989” album isn’t available to stream. She is in a unique position, and many other artists felt she wasn’t using her to power to stand up for them, but she very clearly did in this letter to Apple, so back off haters, she just shook you off and did you a solid.

With only a week to launch, the heat felt scorching, for a few hours, until Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services (see? I told you this is a engineer-based company, there’s no music indicator in his title), Eddie Cue stepped up, spoke to Taylor and tweeted a policy change on Twitter,  that Apple Music will “pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial.” Girls, hit your Hallelujah.

Through the miracle of the power of one person, one person in the right place with the power for her words to change the actions of a corporation that has more money than the American government (oh hey, Greece, maybe Apple could buy you as a vacation spot.)

To be fair, let’s talk about streaming in general and why this move is important. Consumers are streamlining their music and video libraries. Having moved almost two months ago, I opted to give away my entire CD collection. Now, you might say how big could it have been? I was a professional music programmer for Vh1 and Head of Music Video Programming for Yahoo!, plus a life long passion music fan. It included unreleased mixes music industry A&R staff asked for input. The mere physical weight and space of it did not leave me excited.

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I looked at my computer, a six month old Mac Air Book, which doesn’t have a CD slot. I had sold my car, which felt outdated by having a CD player, despite a connector for smartphone/iPad, etc. Thinking of my economy of space, of not having to worry I was losing any music because of my premium subscription to Spotify, my iTunes and Amazon purchased music camped out in The Cloud, it was one less hassle. A massive collection to let go, it went to the right person, who owns many of the same CDS and is still keen on the physical and has promised to appreciate it and safeguard it, believing I will change my mind.

Streaming makes my life much easier. While I did purchase “1989” – via iTunes, if it had been available for me to listen to in full on a streaming site, I might have done it a lot sooner and not only two weeks ago.

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Let’s compare this to renting a movie through a streaming service. The last rented movie I watched from iTunes was “Mockingjay”, which clocks in at two hours and 3 minutes. I got tired and stopped watching it with under thirty minutes left. Given that a rental has a 48 hour time limit, I tend to agree with what JinSai’s blog post regarding the 90-day trial period being too long, a day or a week should be more than enough to convince me you have offered a great product and I must have it. The 48-hour time limit on rentals, is a huge motivator so that consumers don’t forget to watch it, most watching it upon clicking to rent it.

When I went to watch the remainder of “Mockingjay,” I was met with a very sad flaw of the movie side of streaming services, a lack of upsell. I had missed the 48 hour rental window, by about an hour, if Apple had given me the option to finish watching the movie for another dollar or pound, I would have said yes. But it didn’t. It was a little unclear what the options were aside from sending a fear message “you will lose this download” – was my option to pay the full rental price again? I decided I wasn’t that interested. I loved the books so much, I delayed reading Mockingjay for two weeks so I wouldn’t be done with it. The first movie was terrible, the second movie much better and third, by splitting it into two parts, clearly you made it too long and opted for sleep. But, I digress (this is a ramble people!)

If Apple Music’s trial was a week, that is still longer than Apple would go unpaid, or their employees, so Taylor has a valid point, that we don’t get our iPhones free for three months, (unless we’re on a payment plan with a phone company, which charges us so much in interest we wind up paying several hundred dollars more for something that will be outdated by the time we pay for it in full). As a music programmer, when Coldplay’s X&Y was released, I, like many other music professionals, was invited to the record label’s office, where I could listen to the album, which was loaded onto an iPod, encased in glass. Often major decisions to sign a band are made on one listen. If I had had one listen of “1989” I probably would have bought it right away, but instead it had to prove itself to me.

I am pro-streaming, pro-economy of space, even in the memory of my laptop or smartphone. I am also pro-paying people for their creations and the team that goes behind making it available (it’s more than engineers, the operations staffers are the ones that deal with the digitization, the metadata push, etc., the A&R staff have to turn in all the correct documentation with correct producer/writer credits, etc. and on and on). Applause to Taylor for making a difference for all the hard working people in the music industry, and for Apple for listening and changing their policy so quickly. Use your own power to benefit those around you and you will not only win their respect, you can change the world.

Spotify + Starbucks = Smart Move…Ramble

The streaming game has been hearing up the last five years, turning a once geeky, slow connectivity and often frustrating early adapters experience into the preferred way to consume new music.

Jay-Z may have a point about artist payments, but the way he launched his own service, TIDAL, (in partnership with labels) has left a sour taste in the air of greed. I read his autobiography. He had a tough childhood, he’s been part of the one percent longer at this point….

We don’t look anything alike, you may be wearing a Yankee’s cap, but you owned part of a sports team, a management company, you party on yachts and hang out with PPP culture’s A-listers. I don’t feel bad for you, you have Beyonce on your arm. But back to the point.

Taylor Swift is in a unique position to sway younger listeners getting their feet wet with streaming, but does she need her own service with another select group of artists that range from hipster cool main streamers to super wealthy? Doubtful. Too many factions and artists cutting out will lead to fans getting the raw end of the deal or turning, once again, to piracy, which is what streaming in general, was developed to stop.

That’s where a business, in this case Spotify, has to look at their roadmap and reassess what is going to make them maintain their audience, and provide the next step of enhancement. What will make their content more compelling than the same kind of exclusives other content sites provide? They are going to add video, that’s great but that game is heating up with competitors, so where can they go next, where competitors are not? Spotify’s new relationship with Starbucks brings together the U.S.’s other daily need – the one for caffeine.

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I’d much rather have baristas involved in Spotify DJ’ing and talking about music, with an added bonus of coffee perks, then the disastrous race relations program, #racetogether. This new relationship is forward thinking and beneficial to both brands. I say yes to Starbucks trying out new products, especially now they serve flat whites and cold brew.

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This is not the first partnership to expand Spotify’s cool brand offline experience. Their parnership with Uber has my man tortured while I play DJ. It’s a mobile party in the U.K. Smart branding all round and making the streaming experience communal.

Congrats Spotify, now can we please expand the deal to Europe so this premium streamer can get in on it? Cheers.

Bad Blood: When Professional Friendships Cross The Line…Ramble

Howard Jones sang “when you cross that line, there’s no turning back.” As we know Jane Austen’s beloved “Pride & Prejudice” leading man, Mark Darcy proclaimed “my good opinion is lost, it is lost forever.” When you work with people over a career, especially in a high-instensity work environment, friendships run deep. This is partly because, just like high school, your geographically aligned by profession, thrown together at the same tentpole events, repeatedly, and the long hours mean you have less opportunity to make new friends outside of your profession.

When you work in entertainment, more often than not, most of your friends will be fun, have big personalities and some hopefully, not completely surface level. You bond over the insanity of how not-glamourous it is,  how rockstars are babies who throw tantrums yet, it’s worth it, cause you just love music and film, etc. oh-so-much. Years go by and these bonds grow stronger, until, one day, you find out that friend you made an effort and made an effort to go beyond the confines of simply industry-related events, to become a true friend, has betrayed you in some way.

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What makes it worse, is if this betrayal bleeds into the professional part of your friendship. It becomes an insult the betrayer delivered a professional sucker punch, leaving you ready to launch a full-blown war because “you can’t fix a bullet, with a band-aid.” Good thing our girl Taylor Swift, goes there for you, allowing for when that mad love to bad blood, to be an anthem,  without having to draw blood yourself.

Thank you Taylor for giving us real humans a way to vent.  If you don’t have something nice to say, all you have to do is turn up “Bad Blood.”

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I’ve Got A Blank Space Baby…Ramble

If you’re a Swifty you just sang “and I’ll write your name”- and if you are newly obsessed with Taylor, like Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Blank Space” we understand and welcome to the party. “Blank Space” is an instant classic.  Aside from the epic video directed by pop video legend, Joseph Kahn, and the very cool FREE app (wait doesn’t Taylor hate free? No, she doesn’t, when there are up-selling opportunities)…there is Tay lip-syncing along with BBC Radio’s Greg James to “Blank Space” which is hilarious.

Um, yeah and there’s the fact that for the first time EVER on the Billboard Charts, Taylor replaced herself as the number one single, swapping out “Shake It Off” for “Blank Space”- as if we needed any more affirmation it is on repeat in the jukeboxes in our heads.

I also love the fact she’s been handwriting notes and sending them to fans with gifts. There is nothing like the power of a thank you note. It’s cool to see such beautiful manners. So haters, go hate somewhere else, this is one smart business woman you can find on the cover of TIME magazine. Now if you are not singing “Boys only want love if it’s torture, don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you” start right now!

Crush of the Week: Trent Reznor

I’ve been called ‘the teen queen’ for a long time. As a professional music programmer and interviewer of pop stars, I love the joy of pop music. Life is too short not to dance. My crush on Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, will then come as a surprise to some people.

I love to see live shows and have seen everyone from the popstars who give you an instant tooth ache they are so sweet and sugary, to the incredibly gifted YoYo Ma (I have a degree in classical music), and rock acts like Tool. I can appreciate the degree of talent and sheer performance skills in any performer, even if I’m in China and my mother is falling asleep on my shoulder while we’re in the first row at The Beijing Opera.

Friday night my friend Tina and I went to Jones Beach, now Nikon’s Jones Beach, a place I have been to many times over the course of my life as a Long Islander. (That’s Long, not Strong Island!) Soundgarden was the opener, Chris Cornell still sexy as ever, screaming rock songs, but the crowd, still a little distracted.

Then it was time, the stage was almost entirely empty. It looked like after a show takes place, being broken down, just a green screen and a lone microphone in the middle of it. Strutting out on to command the stage, one lone man dressed entirely in black with shitkicker boots on, grabbing hold on the mic, commanding attention. A keyboard appeared, music bounced through the night air while the song built and other musicians joined Trent, building. Throughout the next several songs the set took hold, changing and morphing with lighting and staging throughout the performance, Trent growing more magnetic with each song.

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The whole vision was incredible, riveting, rendering me speechless. Thank you NIN, thank you Trent, thank you Tina for taking me. If you get a chance to see NIN live go, even if you think it’s not your taste, go, you know more songs than you think and the sheer artistry of the entire night is like being part of an art installation.

Summer Reads For Everyone…Ramble

I read. A lot. As a writer you there’s a saying ‘you can only write as well as the best book you’ve read’. I’ll read any topic matter as long as the story interests me. Here are my suggestions for summer reading:

FOR HIPSTERS/INDIE MUSIC LOVERS (redundant) and LITERARY LOVERS:

Wonderland by Stacy D’Erasmo – a densely literary ode to the life on a rock tour, D’Erasmo’s vivid descriptions of creating music, the intricate characters who feed off the industry and the struggle for the main character to make a comeback as an artist, is inspirational. I’ve personally written a chick lit (oh I can feel the daggers of your judgement publishing industry) manuscript (I have several interested parties in publishing, not everyone wants or rejects the same thing), about a rock star manager, and found this a realistic portrayal of how an artist’s brain works. Sex is something that comes naturally, love is always complicated and not enough. Living up to her famous father’s artistic imprint, the main character Anna is in her 40’s, taking one last shot for breaking through the indie scene into the mainstream. Anna reminds me of a red headed version of Liz Phair who’s “Exile in Guyville” was well-received and commercial pop was widely rejected. If you like music and don’t want to read another biography, this is really amazing and well written.

FOR HISTORICAL ROMANCE READERS & THOSE WHO LOVE GREAT BANTER:

Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloise James is charming. The seventh in her Desperate Duchesses series, (they stand alone), the extraordinary Ms. James builds tension between the two main characters to the point of extreme delight. Thorn is a ‘bastard’ and Lady Xenobia, left an orphan of a free-spirited Marquis. Forced by her circumstances to raise her own dowry, Lady X became an interior decorator. She decides it is time to retire and marry, but accepts her final job to transform Thorn’s new estate, as well as him, into the ideal English Gentleman’s prize in order to win approval for marriage to the sweet, dimwit, Lala. The banter between Thorn and Lady X will have you laughing out loud. It’s like indulging in your favorite dessert and finding out the ingredients are more beneficial to your body than vegetables (sign me up for that).

FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO ‘LEAN IN’ WITH A SPOON FULL OF SPICE

#GIRLBOSS by  Sophia Amoruso is her memoir of her rise from a shoplifting dumpster diver to heading up a multi-million dollar fashion company, Nasty Gal. She keeps it real, and you won’t be able to stop laughing. While other career books tend to be dry, Amoruso shows off real-world tips that will help you achieve becoming your own GIRL BOSS!

More tude than Iggy