Monday, January 27, 2014

The Grammy Awards: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Well the Grammy Awards happened last night, and while the performances did not set the world on fire, the winners were actually the best they have been in a long time.  At the end of the day the big winners were Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with 4 wins, Daft Punk with 4 wins, Pharell Williams had 5 wins (he won everything Daft Punk wins along with Producer of the Year-Non Classical), and Justin Timberlake who was snubbed in the General Field category but won 3 awards.

The Good

-Of the Album of the Year nominees two winners would have made me happy Daft Punk or Kendrick Lamar, Daft Punk took the trophy and they were genuinely happy, well as happy as two robots in helmets can be.  This duo has been around for a long time, and this well deserved.  The duo won Record of the Year along with Nile Rogers and Pharell Williams, and his hat.  Get Lucky was also the most acceptable win.

-Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna, and Queen Latifah doing "Same Love" while performing the wedding ceremony for ALL couples.  This was the performance of the night, and one no one will forget it brought many to tears in the audience (Keith Urban), and myself.  Beautiful.

Simple worked best! Carole King (the legend) meets Sara Bareilles in a duet for the ages, they were great. Lorde, Kasey Musgraves, John Legend, Taylor Swift.  These performances let the music speak for themselves

Paul McCartney with Ringo-I got to see McCartney in Fenway Park this past summer, and boy can he still rock, what an incredible moment.

I will add one more thing from pre-Grammy Awards, Kathy Griffin won the Comedy Album; she is only the fourth woman to win the Award since 1959, other winners are Elaine May, Lily Tomlin, and Whoopi Goldeberg.

I hate to say that I root against someone, but Taylor Swift has no place being in the Country categories at the Grammy Awards she is a pop artist now, and she did not win Country Album.

The Bad 

I like Bruno Mars, and I am glad he finally won a Grammy, but Pop Vocal Album ?  His album is decent, but I actually think Lorde or Justin Timberlake should have won here.  I would have given Bruno Pop Vocal Performance (maybe).

The low key Grammy Performances which got no showcase, ala Lorde, Kasey Musgraves, and many others who were relegated to the middle stage, their performances were good, that is not the bad part, the problem is the awkward transition from the producers/director.  Imagine (no pun intended) transitioning from Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar to Kasey Musgraves quiet, but great performance, did not work.

Too Long!-I like the tribute to the classics, The Beatles, having Willie Nelson, Kris Kristopherson, Metallica, that's awesome, but I think there are too many.  This show felt endless, and with few awards to break up the monotony, why wouldn't you announce Rap Album, you have two nominated in the Album of the Year category, this show is WAY too long.

The Ugly 

Kendrick Lamar won 0 out his 7 Grammy nominations, he pulled a India.Arie, which is very sad; he should have won Rap Album, I am one of the fans of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, but Lamar's album deserved to win.

Going too Big! Katy Perry-Someone call Salem there is a witch on the loose, that set design and arrangement for Dark Horse was just bad.  I feel like she covers up her lack of vocals with these large production numbers, which work less than half of the time.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Director's Guild of America (DGA) Names Gravity, Breaking Bad, and 30 Rock the Winners

On the film side of things Alfonso Cuaron has won the Director's Guild of America (DGA) Award for Gravity, giving the film a huge boost in both the Director's race at the Oscars, and now Best Picture.  The Best Picture winner rarely splits, last year it split because of the Affleck effect, while this year no front-runner is nominated without their director.  

The last time the was a split, before Argo, was in 2005 when Ang Lee won Director, and Crash won Best Picture.  This came out of bias.  There was also a split in 2002 when Chicago won Picture, and Roman Polanski won Director, The Pianist came on strong towards the end, and fits the Oscar agenda.  There was a split in 2000, Gladiator won Best Picture, and Steven Soderbergh won Best Director, this was a competitive year, and Soderbergh had two nominations.  The other split was the nail biter in 1998 between Shakespeare in Love which won Picture, and Spielberg took home director for Saving Private Ryan.  Since 1990 there have been 5 splits, which is not a high number, but they are becoming more common as of recent.  Is this a year of a split, or does the win at Producer's Guild of America (PGA), and DGA mean something.  Pay attention to the BAFTA awards, they will be the most telling barometer.

At the moment i am predicting a split, but I can see Gravity taking home Picture and Director, along with a boat load of technical Oscars.

X -- Alfonso Cuarón – "Gravity"
Paul Greengrass – "Captain Phillips"
Steve McQueen – "12 Years a Slave"
David O. Russell – "American Hustle"
Martin Scorsese – "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Zachary Heinzerling – "Cutie and the Boxer"
X -- Jehane Noujaim – "The Square"
Joshua Oppenheimer – "The Act of Killing"
Sarah Polley -–"Stories We Tell"
Lucy Walker – "The Crash Reel"

Bryan Cranston – "Breaking Bad" ("Blood Money")
David Fincher – "House of Cards" ("Chapter 1")
X -- Vince Gilligan – "Breaking Bad" ("Felina")
Lesli Linka Glatter – "Homeland" ("The Star")
David Nutter – "Game of Thrones" ("The Rains of Castamere")
Mark Cendrowski – "The Big Bang Theory" ("The Hofstadter Insufficiency")
Bryan Cranston – "Modern Family" ("The Old Man & the Tree")
Gail Mancuso – "Modern Family" ("My Hero")
X -- Beth McCarthy-Miller – "30 Rock" ("Hogcock!/Last Lunch")
Anthony Rich – "The Big Bang Theory" ("The Love Spell Potential")

Stephen Frears – "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight"
David Mamet – "Phil Spector"
Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford – "The Sound of Music"
Nelson McCormick – "Killing Kennedy"
X -- Steven Soderbergh – "Behind the Candelabra"
Dave Diomedi – "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (#799)
Andy Fisher – "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (#13-1810)
Jim Hoskinson – "The Colbert Report" (#10004)
X -- Don Roy King – "Saturday Night Live" ("Host: Justin Timberlake")
Chuck O'Neil – "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (#19018)
Louis CK – "Louis CK: Oh My God"
Joel Gallen – "2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony"
Louis J. Horvitz – "55th Annual Grammy Awards"
Don Mischer – "85th Annual Academy Awards"
X -- Glenn Weiss – "67th Annual Tony Awards"
Matthew Bartley – "The Biggest Loser" ("1501")
X -- Neil P. DeGroot – "72 Hours" ("The Lost Coast")
Paul Starkman – "Top Chef" ("Glacial Gourmand")
J. Rupert Thompson – "The Hero" ("Teamwork")
Bertram van Munster – "The Amazing Race" ("Beards in the Wind")
Stephen Herek – "Jinxed"
Jeffrey Hornaday – "Teen Beach Movie"
Jonathan Judge – "Swindle"
X -- Amy Schatz – "An Apology to Elephants"
Adam Weissman – "A.N.T. Farm" ("influANTces")
Fredrik Bond
John X. Carey
Noam Murro
X -- Martin de Thurah
Matthijs van Heijningen

The Second Annual Underrated Film Award Winners

Most Underrated Films of 2013
The Bling Ring 
Don Jon
Pacific Rim 
This is the End 
Warm Bodies 
The Way Way Back 

And the winner is.....Don Jon

In his first feature film as a director/writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt does something great; he creates a genuinely funny film with an interesting point of view on modern masculinity.   Gordon-Levitt does a great job with this film, and I give him credit for taking on this film, and creating a deeper more meaningful film about self exploration.  Do not let my serious talk fool you either this film is truly funny, and the scripts shines making you laugh just as hard as you explore the psycho social actions of heterosexual male behavior.  

Most Underrated Performances of 2013
Andrew Dice Clay-Blue Jasmine 
Ryan Gosling-The Place Beyond the Pines 
Rinko Kikuchi-Pacific Rim 
Aubrey Plaza-The To Do List
Sam Rockwell-The Way Way Back 
Miles Teller-The Spectacular Now 
Emma Watson-The Bling Ring

And the winner is....Miles Teller-The Spectacular Now 

In a year full of some of the best lead performances from men Miles Teller got lost in the shuffle for this breakthrough performance.  Teller is brilliant as Sutter.  On the surface Sutter is a cocky young man who believes everyone loves, no adores him.  When his girlfriend breaks up with him Sutter meets Aimee, and layers to the inner workings of his mind peel away. Teller is great as this "little boy lost" abandoned by his father his brings so much life and depth to this character.

Most Underrated Technicals Aspects of a 2013 Film (Direction, Writing, Editing etc,)
Phillip Ivey's Production Design in Elysium
Anthony Gonzalez, M83, and Joseph Trapenese's Original Score for Oblivion
Nicole Holofcener's Direction for Enough Said 
Sean Bobbit's Cinematography for The Place Beyond the Pines
Joseph Gordon Levitt's Screenplay for Don Jon
Terel Gibson's Film Editing in The King's of Summer 
Janty Yates' Costume Design in The Counselor

And the winner is....Sean Bobbit's Cinematography for The Place Beyond the Pines

place beyond the pines cinematography

The Place Beyond the Pines is the film Oscar forgot, but one of the best parts of this film was the cinematography.  I am from where the film is set, Schenectady, NY, and this films captures the beauty and darkness of this small upstate New York City.  The cinematography is beautiful capturing each shot/image of this three part journey perfectly.  The cinematography stands out namely because of the way it explains the emotional aspects of each character along with painting the picture of the surrounding area.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Grammy Predictions 2014

Madonna is going to have a duet with a surprise guest, then there is the potential Jay-Z and Beyonce duet, Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder, and Robin Thicke.  These are only a few of the performances and cool pairings.  Over the past few years the Grammy Awards have been blending genres, and pairing cool performers in part to save their poor set of nominees.  

Over the years the Grammy Awards have become the most generic in music.  I realized just think year that the last rap artist to win Best New Artist was in 1993.  This could be the first year a rap/hip-hop artist wins this award with two nominees Kendrick Lamar, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  This could also cement the Grammy Award's penchant for honoring pretty young white girls.  The same has been true in Album of the Year, although the Grammy Awards have been honoring more non-traditional genres lately with wins from Mumford and Sons (2013), Arcade Fire (2011) Outkast (2004).   A win from the above mentioned Best New Artist nominees or Daft Punk would prove the Grammy Awards are not just rubber stamps for pop music, but value rap/hip-hop, and dance/electronic music.

Album of the Year
Sara Bareilles-The Blessed Unrest 
Daft Punk-Random Access Memories
Kendrick Lamar-Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis-The Heist
Taylor Swift-Red

I am better predicting Oscar winners, the Grammy Awards are not my forte.  If you look at history the winner would seem to be Swift, but in my book there are marks against her, one she has has won this award before, and not long ago repeat wins at her age seem unlikely.  I would also argue that she did not receive as many nominations as you would have expected leaving her vulnerable.  Daft Punk has a good shot here too, they had a huge hit, and are the critical darling of the group, which has paid off for many artists recently, although in fairness Kendrick Lamar's album has the highest meta critic rating.  So who wins?  My money is on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, huge hits beget huge album, and a large presence.  I think this year's prizes are going to be split pretty evenly as there is no landslide winner like Adele two years ago, or even fun. who took home two trophies last year.

Will Win: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis-The heist
Spoiler: Not to cop out, but everyone my second gut would be Swift

Record of the Year 
Get Lucky — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
Radioactive — Imagine Dragons
Royals — Lorde
Locked Out Of Heaven — Bruno Mars
Blurred Lines — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell

In years past songs like Radioactive dominate this category but Imagine Dragons was left in the dust, and not as popular this year.  Blurred Lines is the biggest hit, but the controversy hurts the song, as does  Thicke's reputation.  Daft Punk had another huge hit of the summer, I think this is their best shot at a win.  Lorde's Royals is also a huge hit, and still all over the radio, but does that matter?  Not really if you look at the past winners here many of them were songs I did not even hear on the radio look at the Robert Plant and Allison Krause win just a few years back.  The Bruno Mars song makes the most sense here, but is it too light hearted, or not "important enough?"  My money is on Daft Punk vs. Lorde.

Will Win: Lorde-Royals
Spoiler-Daft Punk-Get Lucky

Song of the Year
Just Give Me A Reason — Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)
Locked Out Of Heaven — Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
Roar — Lukasz Gottwald, Max MartinBonnie McKeeKaty Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)
Royals — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O'Connor, songwriters (Lorde)
Same Love —- Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert)

Another tough call.  I like the idea of "Same Love" winning the message is great, and it would fit within the category.  My gut says "Just Give Me a Reason" wins.  Although Lorde and Bruno Mars are the double nominees, which typically bodes well for artists.  I would say "Royals" has the better shot of these two.

Will Win: Just Give Me A Reason — Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)
Spoiler: Royals — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O'Connor, songwriters (Lorde)

Best New Artist 
James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves

History says the winner is Kacey Musgraves with the country voting block, and split in the hip/rap world with two nominees.  I do however think that it would be hard to ignore Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Will Win: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Spoiler: Kacey Musgraves

Pop Field

Best Pop Solo Performance

Mirrors — Justin Timberlake

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Just Give Me A Reason — Pink Featuring Nate Ruess

Best Pop Vocal Album

The 20/20 Experience — The Complete Experience — Justin Timberlake

Dance/Electronica Field

Best Dance Recording

Sweet Nothing — Calvin Harris Featuring Florence Welch

Best Dance/Electronica Album

Random Access Memories — Daft Punk

Traditional Pop Album

To Be Loved — Michael Bublé

Rock Field

Best Rock Performance

The Stars (Are Out Tonight) — David Bowie

Best Metal Performance

God Is Dead? — Black Sabbath

Best Rock Song
Cut Me Some Slack — Dave Grohl, Paul McCartney, Krist Novoselic & Pat Smear, songwriters (Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)

Best Rock Album

The Next Day — David Bowie

Alternative Field

Best Alternative Music Album

Modern Vampires Of The City — Vampire Weekend

R&B Field

Best R&B Performance

How Many Drinks? — Miguel Featuring Kendrick Lamar

Best Traditional R&B Performance

Get It Right — Fantasia

Best R&B Song

Pusher Love Girl - James Fauntleroy, Jerome Harmon, Timothy Mosley & Justin Timberlake, songwriters (Justin Timberlake)

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Unapologetic - Rihanna

Best R&B Album

Girl On Fire - Alicia Keys

Rap Field

Best Rap Performance

Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Holy Grail - Jay Z Featuring Justin Timberlake

Best Rap Song

Thrift Shop - Ben Haggerty & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz)

Best Rap Album

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - Kendrick Lamar

Country Field

Best Country Solo Performance

Mama's Broken Heart - Miranda Lambert

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Highway Don't Care - Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban

Best Country Song

Merry Go 'Round - Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves & Josh Osborne, songwriters (Kacey Musgraves)

Best Country Album
Red - Taylor Swift