The Riff - January 2008

Movie Music Madness

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 7:50 PM EST

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Best-picture Oscar nominations this year have gone to a compelling and diverse group of films that, for the most part, earned them: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood. For me, the soundtracks or scores to three of these films in particular helped make them as great as they are. Here are a few examples:

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MPAA Accidentally (On Purpose?) Exaggerated Impact of Piracy

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 7:43 PM EST

mojo-photo-mpaa.jpgHey, remember the MPAA? The Motion Picture Association of America? Well, like their buddies in the RIAA, they've been using every tactic they can think of to fight illegal downloading of movies, especially on college campuses; that includes lobbying lawmakers to sanction educational institutions on whose intertubes the naughty downloading was done. But it turns out the numbers they used as the basis for their claims were a wee bit exaggerated. The MPAA just revealed (pdf link) that a 2005 study which claimed that "44% of the motion picture industry's domestic losses were attributable to piracy by college students" was, erm, a mistake:

Franz Ferdinand Hoping for Comeback

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 4:41 PM EST

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So much can change in four years. Your approval ratings can drop 20 points, your hair can turn gray, or your band can go from worldwide domination to leftfield footnotes. In 2004, Franz Ferdinand could do no wrong: their nervous, aggressive dance-rock embodied the wary times, the neo-Soviet album art suddenly seemed fresh again, and they sure looked good in those tight-cut suits. While proclaiming they only got into music to "make girls dance," their lyrics contained unexpected depths. "Michael" turned into a gay anthem, and the inescapable stomper "Take Me Out" turned out to be about lovers as snipers, daring each other to pull the trigger: "I know I won't be leaving here / with you." The song's stunning musical twist, an exhilarating deceleration from new wave to hip-hop speed, seemed to hint at previously unexplored regions of rock innovation.

New Bond Movie Has Dumbest Title Ever

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 12:10 PM EST

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Quantum of Solace. What exactly does that mean? Let's consult the dictionary... and not just any dictionary, but the Oxford one 007 himself would use.

QUANTUM
noun (pl. quanta) 1 Physics an individual quantity of energy corresponding to that involved in the absorption or emission of energy or light by an atom or other particle. 2 a total amount, especially an amount of money legally payable in damages. 3 a share.

SOLACE
/sollss/
noun comfort or consolation in time of distress.

So... could it be referring to atomic peace? Or perhaps to the total amount of... er, comfort our favorite spy is sure to receive from his new Bond girls (see picture)? I'm so confused.

Warm-Weather Tunes: Music to Turn Your Heater On

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 9:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-tropicalsunset.jpgOkay, call me a wimp, but lately temperatures in San Francisco have struggled to get above 45 degrees, and even for a guy who grew up suffering through Nebraska winters, it feels pretty damn cold. Maybe it's the poorly-insulated apartment heated with a space heater? Anyway, with wind chills currently freezing the tootsies off of most of America, it seems like we could use some music that reminds us of sunnier times. So put on your shades and join me in some creative visualization in pursuit of warmth.

Last.fm Makes Deal With Labels to Stream "Every Track"

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 7:20 PM EST

mojo-photo-lastfm.JPGLast.fm, the music and "social networking" site acquired by CBS last year, has announced deals with all four major record labels in an apparent attempt to become the leader in free online music streaming. The site started as a "public diary" of members' listening habits; its software reads what you play in iTunes and uploads it to your page, then tallying it all up on artist pages and recommending similar music. Their lists of "most played" tracks are kind of interesting—and I'm not just saying that because I have one.

CBS bought the company last May for $280 million and since then has increased the number of tracks available as free streams to over 3 million. Now, Last.fm co-founder Martin Stitskel says "the mission is to have every track available." Golly, and good luck: it's always seemed a little ridiculous to me that if I want to point to an example of a song, YouTube makes referencing the video the easiest thing in the world, but if I just want the audio by itself, there's no one place to go. Unfortunately, Last.fm doesn't currently allow embedding of its player on other sites (like Imeem does, for instance) but if it succeeds in its mission to become a "free music discovery tool," it'll be a lot better than just listening to 30-second samples on iTunes.

A quick test of Last.fm was a bit disappointing: I looked up Cat Power, whose new album Jukebox is getting some good reviews, and found only four tracks available as streams, none from the new album, although there were a bunch of messages in the "Shoutbox" wishing Chan a happy birthday yesterday. Aww. So, for now it's back to YouTube and MySpace.

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War Dance Nominated for Oscar

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 5:21 PM EST

wardance.jpgIt's official: War Dance—a documentary about former child soldiers who journey from their IDP camp in Northern Uganda to a music competition in the nation's capital—has been nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. Its running mates: No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Sicko, and Taxi to the Dark Side.

Go here to read Mother Jones' interview with War Dance filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine.

Barack Obama, Wire Fan

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 1:01 AM EST
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So Barack Obama says his favorite TV show is The Wire. And his favorite character, he tells the Las Vegas Sun, is Omar Little, the charismatic, sawed-off shotgun toting, Honey Nut Cheerios-eating, gay stickup artist. "That's not an endorsement. He's not my favorite person, but he's a fascinating character," says Obama, displaying both admirable honesty and pop-culture cred, yet risking alienating the demographic (i.e., women) that will never forgive Omar for helping set up Stringer Bell. And all the culture warriors who will take issue with Obama calling the gangster "sort of a Robin Hood." But picking your favorite Wire character is all about moral ambiguity—a real minefield for a politician who thinks the answers to these kinds of questions really matter. All the cops are corrupt or boozers or philanderers. The politicians are weasels. And the drug dealers and journalists? Enough said. The only mildly politically safe Wire character I can think of is Lester Freamon, whose biggest sin is a love of miniature furniture. If you want to get a little more daring, you could go for rookie middle-school teacher and ex-police Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski—but don't forget that he's an accidental cop killer.

Coachella Lineup Announced: No My Bloody Valentine, But Stoners Will Still Be Happy

| Mon Jan. 21, 2008 8:41 PM EST

Dark Side of Coachella

Goldenvoice announced the lineup for this year's Coachella festival at a press conference in Mexico City today, and the big surprise turned out to be a bit of a throwback: Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will be appearing on the main stage, in a special performance re-creating the 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. Oooh-kay. Other big names include the reunited Verve, the Raconteurs, and Love and Rockets; on the electronic side, festival veterans Kraftwerk will return along with Justice, M.I.A. and Sasha & Digweed.

Criticism of the lineup for being a bit underwhelming is starting right up; it happens every year, and it's par for the course, since the pool of "gee-whiz" bookings has almost been exhausted for the nine-year-old festival. However, this year does seem a little heavy on the "artists who seem kind of tired" front: hello, Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, and Fatboy Slim. But last year's lineup had its share of yawners (Crowded House, anyone?) and like always, the excitement is in the middle: from Animal Collective and Pendulum through Battles and Santogold down through Kid Sister and Modeselektor, the afternoon schedule will be chock full of great music. And hey, if a headliner sucks, that just means you can get back to the hot tub at your place earlier, right?

But yeah, think how awesome My Bloody Valentine would have been... oh well.

The Coachella festival takes place April 25-27 in Indio, California; tickets are on sale this Friday at Coachella.com. Full lineup (complete with new impressionistic poster) after the jump.

The 300 Somehow Manages to Avoid "Worst Picture" Razzie Nomination

| Mon Jan. 21, 2008 3:58 PM EST

Them's some bad movies

Now this is an awards ceremony I can appreciate. The Razzies have been honoring the worst films and performances for 27 years now, and the 2007 nominees were just announced today. While the Lindsay Lohan vehicle I Know Who Killed Me led the pack with nine nominations including Worst Picture, Eddie Murphy's Norbit received eight, with Murphy getting five of those on his own: four for performances and one for his screenplay. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry also received eight nominations including "Worst Screen Couple;" it's nice to see people come around on this one since the producers really seemed to bamboozle gay rights organizations into acceptance when it came out. Feature-length commercial Bratz and Fred Savage-directed Daddy Day Camp rounded out the Worst Picture nominees, and as I said, neo-fascist paean to pectorals The 300 slipped by without a single nod—you'd think it'd get its own special achievement category or something.

The Razzies will be awarded at a lavish ceremony on February 23rd at, um, Magicopolis in Santa Monica. Full list of nominees after the jump.