It’s hard to make one truly amazing film. It’s entirely more difficult to become one of the most innovative auteurs of our time. Both of those are traits Scott holds, and oftentimes the execution is obvious, grandiose and spellbinding. Today we’re gonna discuss what I consider to be his five movies. Picking his best is difficult and many great films of Scott’s had to be left off the list. I tried to include a mixture of his exercises in filmmaking, and this list features horror, science fiction, crime drama and others. What they do have in common is their ability to create a world through a lens that is at times heartbreaking, shockingly scary and poignant. Without further adieu, I give you Ridley Scott’s best. Lastly, there will be spoilers throughout, so hopefully you’ve seen these. Enjoy.
5. THE MARTIAN, 2015
What could have been a film as depressing and downtrodden as any other survival type movie manages to be not only tough skinned in tone and delivery, but also quite funny throughout. Much of this is due to the screenplay for the film, based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir is thoroughly funny throughout, with sarcasm and snarkiness permeating through. Much of that is due to how well Matt Damon delivers in his role as Mark Wattley. You sense his desperation in the face of almost certain death, but the levity he brings to his trials helps the movie goer, and the character himself, brave the more difficult parts of the film. You ache for him when his crop dies, yet you laugh with him when he’s explaining the poor choices in music that his captain has. It’s a harrowing adventure sci-fi film, and it’s thoroughly rewatchable. The whole cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain and more are all great, but this is Damon’s show and he owns its power.
4. AMERICAN GANGSTER, 2007
I went to see this with my former partner over a decade ago, and her reaction to loving the film still creeps out in my head. She hasn’t heard much about it. But was uninterested all the same. Nearly three hours later she was excitedly ranting about how great it was. In hindsight it’s hard not to expect Washington and Crowe to deliver the kind of top tier acting they’re known for, but this movie still wasn’t a completely sure thing. The plot involves a crime lord working his way up while working himself into the spotlight long pointed at his mentor, who passes away during the early moments of the film. On the other hand you have a cop, played by Russell Crowe, who’s similarly working his way back into the good graces of his police cohorts, while also trying to get his law degree. Both of these masters trade back and forths as they circle each other until the tension can’t be held anymore. It’s an excellent drama led by another insane cast, with Josh Brolin playing a huge asshole corrupt cop, and plenty of others. The tale spans years, continents, provocations and of course the ultimate fight among cops and the drug dealers who work to control the means of production.
3. ALIEN, 1979
John Landis once commented that Alien isn’t actually a science fiction film but gothic horror. To some extent he’s correct. However, in my opinion it’s able to be both sci -fi and gothic horror. It’s scary and futuristic, but the setting of the Nostromo makes the sense of dread even more palpable. Essentially it’s a film about a creature torementing the residents of a ship, but that’s just the beginning of the nightmare. Ellen Ripley, played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver is a powerhouse of raw energy and instincts that she utilizes to defeat the Xenomorph in the film. Simply put this film is a masterpiece, and its success spawned decades of at times exciting film making and plot twists. But if not for the memorable moments of the first film, none of the others would have ever done to fruition. Between the infamous chest bursting scene, or all the grizzly deaths carried out by the “Alien,” Aliens was a different kind of horror tale, and it worked to massive success and the emergence of a female heroine that everyone could root for, even if the story of Ripley is ultimately heartbreaking and seemingly never ending.
2. GLADIATOR, 2000
From the epic battles and plot, to the grandiose set design and feel of the time, Gladiator is a rare Epic that did extremely well with both casual audiences and critics alike. Nearly twenty years later, it’s still a marvel to watch, and it only gets better with time. As Maximus, Russell Crowe is amazing in his role, and expels determination and brutal methods in his race to be welcomed to the afterlife where his family is waiting for him. Running close to three hours long, it’s easy to lose interest in some films, but Gladiator sucks you in and won’t let you go until all the wrongs of Commodus are undone and made right. It’s poetic and poignant, but also deeply dark and sinister, especially when Phoenix begins his descent into madness. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, but it’s also just a really really good film. For that and all the other reasons I’ve explained, Gladiator lands at number 2 on our countdown, and it’s well deserved.
1. BLADE RUNNER, 1982
Really, where to even begin? Among Scott’s best films there tends to be a large division among the top choice. Some choose the coldness of Alien, others the engaging battles of films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, while others like his softer more compassionate side with The Martian. For me though, Blade Runner tops all of them. I’ve always been a fan of dystopian science fiction, and this is widely considered among the all time best. From harrowing performances by Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young, to the gorgeously layered rubble of Los Angeles, it’s basically perfect. One thing though, they have multiple cuts of this film, so make sure to avoid the voiceover version. Stick with the final cut. It’s longer and more dense, but you get snapshots of the world more and it ends up being more thoughtful also. It’s honestly beautiful in its portrayal of humanoid machines trying to figure out what the right way to survive is. It’s a struggle for the characters, but understanding it is really a cinematic treasure and a joy to experience. It makes you think long and hard about our future and the unnerving future that is racing towards us. One of the best movies of all time, it only gets better and more relevant with age. I hope you enjoyed this little variety in the programming, and I’ll see y’all later. Thanks for reading.
In my opinion, the single greatest band of the last twenty years. What was wrongly assumed to be a no brainer one hit wonder band, the British powerhouses of nuance-Yorke, the brothers Greenwood, Selway, and O’Brien have consistently been able to transcend modern music and make thought-provoking music that’s not easily digestible but nonetheless has engrossed a massive following that is as fervent as the band is stubborn in pursuit of new exciting sounds and emotions. As another entry in our series of top five albums, I present to you the five best albums from the one and only Radiohead.
5. Amnesiac, 2001
Released just one year after Kid A (we’ll get to that later), this record is weird, yet motivating, but also with a sinister undertone, like a foreboding apocalypse. “Pyramid Song” is a masterpiece and maybe their best song period, while closer “Life in a Glasshouse” is a solemn, worrisome track that whimpers passionately, under a cloud of horns and uncertainty. So much of the album is opposite of its predecessor, yet it still manages to be a poignant reminder of the potential of the band. I feel like it’s often overlooked when discussing the bands best moments, but if you’re a fan of the band through and through, it’s a classic album that deserves accolades.
4. The Bends, 1995
Pablo Honey has come and gone, and while most people simply wrote them off as that one hit wonder band, the quintet set out to push themselves to make something more memorable than the first go ‘round. The result, 1995’s “The Bends” is a British arena rock album just waiting for a crowd big enough to rock arenas. The title track is snarky and conquering all in the same, and the guitar work on the track, as well as the accompanying record proved to everyone that they weren’t correct in writing the band off as the next big thing that went nowhere. “Fake Plastic Trees” is perhaps the most unusual ballad of the decade, while still being a beautiful soaring moment. “My Iron Lung” bristles in the sunlight before diving deep into anguish, while “”Black Star” is melancholy and honest. The album got people to put more stock into the band(at least critically), and by the time the band released their next album they were no longer a forgotten name from the early 90’s.
3. In Rainbows, 2007
Pay what you want, and get a record. I still remember the announcement of the bands seventh record, and definitely not understanding the angle. Either way, once you downloaded “In Rainbows” you were welcomed into a record that ended up being a landmark for the band. It has all the constructions and effects that a fan can recognize as being Radiohead, but it’s more casual and easy going then some of their more experimental records. It’s has the slow building moments like “Nude” and “Videotape,” but it also has measured angst and raucousness during segments like “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” This record is hard to escape, even 12 years after the fact. It shows a band maturing in gorgeous but painful ways, and sees the band enter a new landscape of musical direction.
2. OK Computer, 1997
The album that changed everything. One moment they were a quite good but obscure band, and then the turn approached and the band went balls to the wall to break out of their earlier shell. The result is simple- the best album of the 90’s. In 1997 it was hailed as a masterpiece, which it is, but we hadn’t yet met this “new” Radiohead. Every track on “OK” works and sits nestled in comfortably with each other track. “Paranoid Android” is a whirlwind of sounds and energy, while “Let Down” is a thick mess of emotions and soundscapes. The point is, every song compliments the tracks before and after it while staying true to the theme of failing systems prevalent through the running time of the album. The fact that every song is an illumination of the bands strengths make the album that much more of a landmark. Even after 22 years it’s still often regarding as a perfect album, but that’s only because it actually is.
1. Kid A, 2000
And now we come to the number one. Obviously this is just my opinion, but when a band does a complete and sudden 180 in regards to their sound, and it ends up being this goddamn good, you have to take notice. The cold electronic elements beaming through the record put the listener in a lonely, thoughtful place, but again, it simply works. “How to Disappear Completely” is a slow burn of emotion, with Yorke’s detached voice acting as a compass as you wander through the dark looking for safe passage. Note, this record is less about showing safe passage than it is opening up your subconscious in a way that’s measured but sullen. I could listen to this all day and still find new things to get excited over. “Idioteque” is more upbeat and energetic in instrumentation, but it still has the hunger and depraved moments the band is known for. If “OK Computer” was the best album of the 1990’s, than “Kid A” stands as the moment that the band not only made two of the best albums in different decades, but also the moment that the mass public really started to get hooked into the wondrous, illuminating sounds that make this band so timeless and engaging.
Thanks for reading!!
In a day and age where celebrity and worship is devoured, and where info and the personal loves of our favorite entities are known and dissected, Richard D James stands firmly in the shadows.
Now, while he’s nowhere near as known as Kanye( Even though Mr. West knows his music well enough to lift some of his work for his own use and then not credit him), James has made of career of sidestepping his “counterparts” and entrenching himself on the outside rim of what is mainstream.
For many people, their first encounter with the work of Aphex Twin came with the video of “Come to Daddy,” the super fucking creepy clip that helped to at least in part establish risk taking electronic during the late 90’s. Like Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers and Autechre especially, the sounds of AT were different than the more guitar driven rock of the time period, but such is the way of the music world. It still remains one of the best plots of the world of music as we launched toward the next millennium.
When I first heard this “Come to Daddy” track and witnessed the nightmarish landscapes and construction of the video, it instantly stood out to me. It was gorgeously done and mixed, but it’s also terrifying and worrisome. That said, while he certainly has songs that are dark and foreboding in its mayhem, quite a lot of his material is engrossing, layered, and well soothing. When I look at an artist, I hope for continuity but also experimentation and growth. It can be tricky thing to pull off, but the rewards are often plentiful. During his music making career, Richard D. Has performed and recorded under the Aphex Twin moniker, but also over ten other names. some of the more known include AFX, the excellent Caustic Window, GAK and Polygon Window. Honestly it’s a lot to consider, but you can’t deny his prolific nature.
One of the best overall tracks during the first half of his career as Twin, is a single “Windowlicker,” that not only stands up these days but remains a core foundation of the growth for electronic music during the turn of the century. It’s a masterpiece that flows and cascades through various whimsy and delight. It’s just a chipper yet soothing song that is as captivating as it is plush. With the release of that song, alongside the release of his masterpiece Drukqs in 2001, he was on the map, but then retreated and didn’t start to reuse his Aphex Twin moniker for nearly 13 years. From there though, it got even weirder.
The return started in typical Aphex Twin fashion, with something out of the box and provocative: samples of music showing up on the dark web for fans to track down, stumbling through the darkness in pursuit of something musically exciting. The result of the campaign was the
release of James’ first AT album in over a decade, “Syro.” Musically it’s similar to what came before, but it’s still an excellent example of electronic music pushing boundaries and waking audiences up to something that perhaps they had forgotten.
Since then we’ve seen the release of two very good but quite different EP’s, titled “Cheetah,” while the other “Collapse” takes the route of weird even by Aphex Twin standards. My partner wasn’t a huge fan of either, but the whole sound of the project doesn’t really embrace drawing new fans. I think it’s likely because with Twin, you either gravitate towards it’s challenging nature, or you just don’t get it, or downright don’t like the minimal nature. Either way, Richard D James as Aphex Twin is a true trailblazer of electronic conjuring’s, and it’s excited to see more mininmal productions and sound engineering making their way back into a more appreciated musical landscape. Thanks for reading, hope y’all enjoyed.
Welcome to 2019! First I’d like to thank everyone who read my year end posts. I hoped you enjoyed it. Secondly, this year I’m planning more posts this year than I’ve been able to do in the last year or two. In the coming months, I’ll be sharing articles in Florence and the Machine, Radiohead, and many others. Some of these are likely to be long and in depth, while others will be more tight and to the point. I’ll also be doing some reviews of festival lineups, and also more articles in films and whatever else brings me inspiration.
But, before all of that gets going, it’s time to talk about the start of festival announcements season. That means, at least for me, sharing my thoughts on the brand spanking new Coachella Lineup. I won’t be going over every single artist, but rather will be discussing some of my favorite sections of the bill, as well as some of the choices that we see presented. I hope you enjoy.
THE BEST OF
For months rumors had been swirling that the headliners were set as Gambino, Justin Timberlake and Kanye. Well as we all know now, only one of those is actually happening. Choosing Gambino is a no brainer, especially given his fall concert cancellations that disappointed a great many, including myself. But maybe the best pick to headline is Kevin Parker, aka Tame Impala. With three excellent albums already under his belt and a fourth expected to drop sometime before Coachella begins, this is sure to be a big moment for Parker and his backing band.
Now while two of top three round out this list, the next options helped to define varied and eclectic world of music. For Kacey Musgraves, who garnered a giant 2018 with an amazing country record, while Solange looks set to conquer alternative R&B with an album that’s likely to be among the biggest hits of the year. Finally we have Lizzo, who creates independently of the previous two. Having seen her a few months ago at Voodoo, I can attest to her live energy. It’s a don’t miss set that might just catapult Lizzo to the upper echelon of the music scene.
SURPRISES, GOOD & BAD
Every year more or less Coachella reaches deep into their bag of off the wall bookings and lead the way in increasing visibility for artists that perhaps normal Coachella goers wouldn’t naturally gravitate to. This year is no exception. khruangbin and their style of laid back world music is amazing, and while Idris Elba is a head scratcher(apparently he’s been doing electronic music for years now), they still manage to snag a once obvious booking of Weezer, their placement on the lineup is dubious. Bummed down to fourth billed of their day, it’s sure to be a big crowd pleaser, even if they haven’t released an amazing album in over 15 years. Beyond that we have the K-Pop phenoma Blackpink, who I’m not familiar with, but from what I’ve read lately it seems like this is a big deal and a huge get for the festival. Finally we have Aphex Twin, who in my opinion towers over every other electronic artist on the lineup. He’s been consistently brilliant most of his career and had operated mostly in the background, choosing not to become a household name wit ridixulous build ups and “bass drops.” If you like intelligent electronic, this is the must see show of the weekend. If you like being a bro and chugging beers while acting like a douche, maybe stick to Diplo and some of the others. Those are way better suited for limited capacity brains than Aphex Twin is.
HMMM OKAY I GUESS:
Within the last few years, the festival has strayed away from their landmark reunions and going toward a more hip hop/ pop infused lineup. This year is no different, though not as extreme as last year’s lineup. Ariana Grande is a massive star, but is more overproduced than anything tye festival has ever had. It reminds me that these days, it’s less about the bands playing and more of a name dropping type of thing that lets people brag about being there. That not to say though that she isn’t currently relevant. Kid Cudi is well known, but his high billing is surprising, since he hasn’t been a landmark name for a few years, except for the moderately good Kids See Ghost project. The two most surprising and not exciting acts for me though, are Diplo and Jaden Smith, albeit for different reasons. Smith hasn’t released a single thing that gets me going, and it’s darkened by my thinking that he’s only getting these moments and opportunities because of his family entertainment history, not for actual skill. Diplo is a different beast the music is a relic of the glory days from 7 years ago when EDM was giant, but I’ve heard things about his sexist behavior, and it just doesn’t appeal to me. Finally we have the 1975. While nowhere near as off the wall as some of the others, frankly I just didn’t like the new album, and overall haven’t been hyped on them. It’s ok though. I realize I’m one of the few. Oh well.
Either way, the lineup was excellent for some, and as is tradition, the first weekend has already sold out, and I’m sure the next weekend will soon go.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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