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The 63rd annual Grammy Awards, which took place on March 14th, marked the continuation of this year’s socially distanced award season. Unlike the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, the Recording Academy chose to hold its ceremony outdoors where it could host nominees in person. The format worked well, making the ceremony feel more like a normal, pre-COVID event.
Martin Scorsese once said that Marvel movies were more akin to theme parks than cinema — a claim that drew the ire of many passionate nerds who rushed to the defense of the $22 billion grossing franchise. His rationale was that the films were predictable and didn’t convey the unique emotional and psychological experiences of its characters in the way that he believes true cinema does.
“Two of Us,” a French film directed by Filippo Meneghetti, feels at first like a simple love story. However, the film quickly evolves into a complex portrait of queer love, familial distance and loss. Meneghetti’s debut film is a harrowing yet stunning exploration of what it means to love in secret.
Frontwoman Tamara Lindeman takes a grand leap on The Weather Station’s fifth album, “Ignorance.” She departs from the band’s previous indie-folk sound to undertake an emotive art rock project brimming with existentialism. Lindeman interweaves personal storytelling with reflections on climate change and urbanization, bringing emotional weight to easily depersonalized issues. Despite a sometimes simplistic sound, the masterful lyricism of “Ignorance” offers a poignant take on the ongoing destruction of the natural world.
No other band has had as inconsistent a career as Weezer has. After achieving critical and commercial success with the power-pop of their 1994 self-titled first album, the darker direction of Weezer’s second album, “Pinkerton,” initially drew negative reviews, despite later achieving cult status. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s embarrassment over “Pinkerton” led to a long series of albums in the 2000s full of safe, boring pop music that lacked the magic of Weezer’s early work. While the band did produce a couple of albums I enjoyed during this period, particularly 2016’s “White Album,” they reached a low with 2019’s “Black Album.”
A decade after Argentinian director Juan José Campanella’s “The Secret in Their Eyes” won the 2010 Academy Award for best foreign film, Campanella made his return to live-action cinema with “The Weasel’s Tale” — a remake of the 1976 film “Yesterday's Guys Used No Arsenic.” Campanella’s dark comedy, offered through the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ “Film on Demand” series until Wednesday, follows former starlet Mara Ordaz, played by Graciela Borges, who lives with three filmmaking colleagues in a secluded mansion on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Since the release of his debut album in 2015, Chris Stapleton has made a name for himself in country music — opting for the grit and rough edges of the genre’s earlier days rather than the bikinis and pickup trucks of its pop iteration. Gifted with masterful songwriting and a powerful voice, Stapleton knows how to write an affecting song and drive home its emotions with his distinctive, raspy tone. With his fourth solo album, “Starting Over” — which debuted in November — Stapleton has truly mastered his craft, tugging at heartstrings with the lyrics of one song and excoriating your soul with his vocals on the next.
From beginning to (almost) end, 2020 has been the most unconventional year in recent memory. And naturally, the music released this year has been strange. While those who released music at the beginning of the year largely finished recording before the pandemic began, many artists releasing albums at the tail-end have had to work around stay-at-home orders and general shutdowns. As always, art has found a way to overcome, and these 10 albums represent some of the best music released in this otherwise difficult year.
On Oct. 3, Netflix released the sixth and final season of the Canadian comedy series “Schitt’s Creek.” Originally aired in Canada on CBC and in the U.S. on Pop TV, the show deftly and hilariously tells the story of the once-wealthy Rose family, who have fallen from grace and must live in the small town of Schitt’s Creek.
For the better part of the decade, experimental hip-hop group Clipping — stylized as clipping. — has played a pivotal role in the revitalization of horrorcore. Consisting of rapper Daveed Diggs — known for his role as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the 2015 Broadway hit “Hamilton” — and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, Clipping prides themselves on taking elements of horror films and transforming them into musical form. The trio’s name perfectly encapsulates their production style, as harsh, industrial noises overlay unnerving, spine-tingling screams and discord.
The much-anticipated “Borat” sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” is as politically timely as it is funny. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and directed by Jason Woliner, the film, released Oct. 23, outdoes its predecessor with its bold, high stakes pranks and rich political satire. At its core, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” makes a powerful critique of how misogyny is frequently overlooked in President Donald Trump’s America.
Over the past few years, former YouTube star George Miller — better known as Joji — has become one of the most popular internet artists in the mainstream world of music. Given his background, a career in serious music sounds unlikely; under his YouTube personality “Filthy Frank,” Joji was known for his dark, gross-out humor and his wild alter ego, Pink Guy. However, Joji’s transition from fringe YouTube comedian to mainstream R&B artist was more successful than anyone could have imagined.
“Enola Holmes” — one of the newest entries to Netflix’s catalog, based on the young adult series by Nancy Springer — is a fun, adventurous and action-packed film that brilliantly reinvents the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne, “Enola Holmes” centers on the life of the youngest Holmes sibling, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), and her journey to reunite with her missing mother while forging her own sense of freedom. While the film contains some elements of the classic Holmes mysteries, it adds a new twist with its focus on social activism and female intellect. From start to finish, the film successfully creates a world that places a strong-willed heroine center-stage, offering a timeless lesson on female empowerment.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s New York Times best-seller “Mexican Gothic” is a lush, moody story brimming with horror and mystery. With all the trappings of a Victorian novel, “Mexican Gothic,” which was released in June, calls upon notable doomed heroines in the literary canon, from Ophelia in “Hamlet” to Cathy in “Wuthering Heights,” in order to place readers in its melodramatic prose. “Mexican Gothic” is your favorite Brontë novel, but better.
With their self-titled 2008 debut, Fleet Foxes established themselves as an indie folk outfit with achingly sincere, pastoral lyrics and a penchant for vocal harmonies. And unlike many folk rock artists emerging out of the late 2000s, they have remained fresh, while managing not to make a major departure in style on any of the three albums they have released since their debut. After a six-year hiatus, their third album “Crack-Up” dove headfirst into progressive folk, with denser instrumentation, longer songs and unorthodox song structures. With “Crack-Up,” Fleet Foxes proved that they could work within their established style to create a challenging, dense album of music that defied accessibility. With their newest album “Shore,” released on Sept. 22, Fleet Foxes have proved the opposite: Their music can be equally powerful with simpler instrumentation and more accessible, catchy songs.
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to her American Book Award-winning 2016 debut “Homegoing” is “Transcendent Kingdom,” a novel alternating between past and present in the life of Gifty, a Ghanaian-American neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and former self-proclaimed “Jesus Freak.” Throughout the book, Gifty, who studies impulse control in mice, reexamines what led her to a life of empiricism after growing up in a deeply religious immigrant family in the Bible Belt. Grappling with Gifty’s experiences growing up “sticking out like a sore thumb” in her predominantly-white town and “as Ghanaian as apple pie,” the novel is both accessible and urgent.
In late 2018, the production crew of “Mulan,” the latest soulless Disney live-action remake, began filming in the Xinjiang province of northwest China, home to the Uighur people. At that same time in Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party continued to sharply expand internment camps for ethnic Uighurs, camps that had already incarcerated up to one million members of the predominantly-Muslim minority group.
Katy Perry’s fifth studio album, “Smile,” arrives on August 28. To generate buzz, she hosted a Zoom question and answer press conference with college reporters. I clicked out feeling underwhelmed, and I’m trying to pinpoint why.
When I first watched “Indian Matchmaking,” I didn’t frown upon the premise of the show. Instead, I laughed at hilarious scenes between Indian American families redolent of my family. Released on July 16, this Netflix original is produced by the Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Smriti Mundhra, who communicates a middle way between arranged marriages and modern dating. “Indian Matchmaking” has polarized viewers, with some seeing it as perpetuating colorism, sexism and the caste system, while others perceive it as a lighthearted take on contemporary Indian culture that destigmatizes arranged marriages. I am in the second camp and let me tell you why.
Dominic Fike’s debut album “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” is the antidote to a lackluster summer. Released on July 31, Fike’s album presents an eclectic collection of musical ideas well-packaged into 14 songs. This 34-minute listen is full of pleasant twists and turns that make for an engaging and kaleidoscopic record.