Favorite Songs of 2017

It’s still January, so not too egregiously late: Here’s a list of my top songs for this year, in an order that might be surprisingly mixable. These are not necessarily from 2017; I just happened to have heard them in the last twelve months.

Paris, by The Chainsmokers on Memories…Do Not Open
On Hold, by The xx on I See You
Should’ve Been You, by Imelda May on Life Love Flesh Blood
Castle on the Hill, by Ed Sheeran on Divide
Want You Back, by HAIM on Something to Tell You
Ride, by Twenty One Pilots on Blurryface
Cleopatra, by The Lumineers on Cleopatra
Fault Line, by Michelle Branch on Hopeless Romantic
Walk on, by Overcoats on YOUNG
Liability, by Lorde on Melodrama
Making Love Out of Nothing at All, by Air Supply on Definitive Collection
New York, by St. Vincent on MASSEDUCTION
Beautiful Trauma, by Pink on Beautiful Trauma
Love Me Like You Do, by Ellie Goulding on Delirium
Sign of the Times, by Harry Styles on Harry Styles
The Industry, by Okkervil River on Away
Don’t Take the Money, by Bleachers on Gone Now
White Flag, by Joseph on I’m Alone, No You’re Not
Ordinary World, by Green Day on Revolution Radio
Tachycardia, by Conor Oberst on Ruminations
Apocalypse, by Cigarettes After Sex on Cigarettes After Sex

I don’t know if any one particular song stands out here — maybe Lorde’s “Liability”?  Or perhaps The xx’s “On Hold.”  Let’s just call it a tie, because they’re both wonderful.

Essay in The New York Times: The Unexpected Branch on the Family Tree

I just realized that I neglected to put this on my blog, so now the circle is complete.  I must say, I love this artwork — I have a feeling Giselle Potter found a headshot of mine on the internet, which explains my long hair, but how in the world did she nail my mother’s likeness?  Giselle, you are amazing.

SI Tennis Mailbag, Grammar Edition

I’m back in the Sports Illustrated Tennis Mailbag, this time with a grammatical gripe!

 

The text:

Dear Jon, I got a bone to pick with tennis players, especially American and British tennis players. My beef is simple: the pervasive misuse of the adjective “aggressive” in our beloved sport. You can be aggressive, but you do not play aggressive—you play aggressively! I understand if non-native speakers don’t realize the distinction (Rafa is especially fond of leaving off the -ly) but in your podcast with Jared Donaldson, he says, “play aggressive” (10:08 mark). He was talking about Rafa, so perhaps it’s contagious. Jared’s not alone—John Isner’s guilty as well.  And it doesn’t help that even journalists are making this errorQ. This match, Jelena played very aggressive.” Granted, these writers may be foreign, but still. We need to aggressively rescue this adverb from further grammatical degradation!
—Sung, Washington, N.J.

Read Jon Wertheim’s response!

Haiku and Review, Scifi Edition: Barbarella, Event Horizon, Alien: Covenant, Starship Troopers, The Thirteenth Floor

After listening to the latest season of the podcast You Must Remember This, which featured Jane Fonda, my wife and I thought it would be kind of neat to go through Fonda’s filmography.  We started with her first real movie role on Walk on the Wild Side and after a few more films, arrived at…

Barbarella
This is one strange film.
So strange that I had to stop.
And feel terrible…

After half an hour, I’d had enough.  A sexploitation film in every way, though I think what bothered me more than anything was that Fonda seemed 100% committed to the campy role with absolute seriousness.  There’s something eerie about the juxtaposition.  Not recommended.

Now for the rest — I’ve been meaning to see some of these movies for quite a while; we’re talking years for all but the newest (Alien: Covenant).  I had some time last week, so it was a great joy to finally catch up to them.

Event Horizon
What an engine room!
Gotta love the spike decor.
Hellraiser in space.

Not what I expected.  I mean I’d heard this was a horror movie set in space, in the vein of Alien, but I did not know how much Clive Barker influence it had (he was consulted, even, during pre-production).  Laurence Fishburne was so young and thin!  Recommended.

Alien: Covenant
I’ve seen this before
in Star Trek’s Data and Lore
with much less drooling.

I liked Prometheus better than this one.  Not a bad movie, and Michael Fassbender is wonderful as always, but sadly predictable in just about every way.  My favorite moment of the film was when Amy Seimetz, who plays Faris (and wife of Danny McBride’s Tennessee), in her dash to escape the alien, bangs her shoulder against a metal box in the hallway.  It seemed so utterly real, her panic.  Barely recommended.

Starship Troopers
Time to kill some bugs!
Wooden acting master class.
Hooray…fascism?

Wow, is the acting bad in this film.  Helmed by Paul Verhoeven, who also directed Total Recall and Basic Instinct, you’d think that he’d know how to get a half-decent performances out of his young actors, but no, the leads are uniformly terrible, even Neal Patrick Harris.  I couldn’t quite figure this movie out — it’s made to resemble a propaganda film, I guess to satirize the obvious fascism/Nazism imagery, but it almost seems like it’s celebrating it?  It’s weird.  And really bad, and not in a good way.  Not recommended.

The Thirteenth Floor
Plot is tricky, and
D’Onofrio’s amazing
as geek and barkeep.

Craig Bierko is the lead in this film, but Vincent D’Onofrio, as always, steals every scene he’s in.  I think everyone who knows movies knows about D’Onofrio, but he’s one of these actors that I wish was a household name.  Four actors play dual parts in this movie, but D’Onofrio is the only one who really seems like two completely different people.  There’s a twist in this movie that’s quite ingenious; I wish they went even farther with it, but I’ll take what I can get.  Recommended.