Tag Archives: Writing

Scrape the mold off the bread: The best of Sheryl Crow

I’ll self-censor for the sake of a longer piece on the new Threads I’ll promote as soon as it goes live at the end of the week. For the moment, though, let this brief sixteen-song précis on her career suffice. I’m missing the albums between 2005-2012, but so are most of you. Please note, though, that 2017’s Be Myself, one of the least heralded good albums released by a vet in recent years, contributed a couple of tracks.

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My flawless albums

These albums boast not a single track I skip. I don’t say that I prefer them to others in their oeuvre, just that I play them end to end without cease. Dylan, the Beatles, other warhorses don’t apply. Likewise Neil Young, whose Tonight’s the Night (“Speakin’ Out”), Zuma (“Through the Sails), and Rust Never Sleeps (“Ride My Llama”) don’t qualify. Several beloved albums like Hearsay and Black on Both Sides don’t qualify. Continue reading

Ranking the #1 R&B songs of 1975

Disco made its first serious footprint on this chart in 1975. Classics like “Fly Robin Fly,” “The Hustle,” “Shame, Shame, Shame,” and a couple of Wayne Casey singles did well and crossed over pop, not to mention fellow traveler Barry White and Smokey Robinson in the here-goes-nuthin’ phase of his solo years. Ohio Players experimented with kiddie Funkadelic (Eddie Hazel co-wrote the Temptations’ “Shakey Ground”). The O’Jays confirmed the eternal verities, their biggest hit of the year conferring a name on my most frequented message board. My jam, though, is ” You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” a master class in the arrangement of strings and to my ears the greatest thing White heaved, groaned, and croaked over Continue reading

The sensuality and play of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’

As part of its reconsideration of key films in Juliette Binoche’s career, Reverse Shot turns to The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Philip Kaufman’s adaption of Milan Kundera’s novel that, according to Mark Asch, introduced the kind of film beloved by Miramax a few years later. “The 1990s were the final, tired echo of aspirational Boomer cinephilia—a time when daily-newspaper critics were constantly on the lookout for vestigial traces of the Janus Films ’60s, that golden age of heady, glamorous foreign films, and frequently found it preceded with the Miramax logo,” Asch writes. The Unbearable Lightness of Being transcends this taxonomy because it’s more playful than the competition; it’s not light, it’s buoyant. Kaufman may straighten Kundera’s digressions, but it results in no loss of esprit. To create a film infused with a Mann-ian irony lacking in the original novel is a miracle. Continue reading

The films of Mike Nichols

I’m glad he believed in comedy; the brooding Silkwood is the exception in a career defined by bringing the timing of stand-up and the precision of theater to film. But if Ingmar Bergman often failed at the latter I can’t blame Mike Nichols for maintaining his glib equipoise. Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, Heartburn, Working Girl, and Closer have the rat-tat-tat hollowness of TV productions; in some of those things I can hear actors hitting their marks. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Wit are more than that; it’s impossible for me to imagine Albee (and screenwriter Ernest Lehman) and Margaret Edson letting anyone run away with their work. Hip, crisp, as pretty and meaningless as effective advertising, The Graduate defined how bourgeois youth saw themselves before they bought the first Crosby Stills & Nash album: the guy beds Mrs. Robinson and Elaine and is allowed a moment of self-doubt (their child will be Jesse Eisenberg in The Squid and the Whale had his parents been merely clever New Yorkers).

I may be alone in thinking that his run of work between 1996 and 2004 was his peak. Thanks to former collaborator Elaine May’s scripts and polishing, The Birdcage and Primary Colors are sound, solid entertainments (humanizing the Clinton-fied candidate in the latter is gross though), and despite garish touches (what looks intentionally chintzy on stage is worse onscreen, thanks to the camera’s literalizing effect) his HBO adaptation of Angels in America isn’t afraid to mismatch tones. I need to rewatch The Fortune; it can’t be as bad as Heartburn.

Hail YouTube for preserving many of the original Nichols-May routines. Quote of the day: “A moral issue is always so much more interesting than a real issue.”

1. Wit
2. Angels in America
3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
4. The Birdcage
5. The Graduate
6. Working Girl
7. Silkwood
8. Primary Colors
9. Carnal Knowledge
10. Catch 22