In horror, a genre so defined by referentiality, any speck of genuine original thought can be incredibly refreshing and dangerously risky. Horror fans have voted with their wallets and proven themselves more willing than most to accept the derivative, and the genre has progressed over decades through small, incremental evolutions in between comparatively few revolutionary outliers.
In music, 2014 was a year mostly defined by the past. 90s superstars Aphex Twin and D’Angelo reemerged after spending the better part of the 21st century in hiding, and surprised everyone with their renewed vitality. Madlib, Killer Mike and El-P recaptured the furious energy of their youth and reminded a resurgent underground hip hop scene that there’s life in the old dogs yet. The War on Drugs wrote the best Springsteen album since the 80s. The Men, Parquet Courts and Ariel Pink mined 50 years of music history to inform their modern brand of grubby-kneed rock.
It’s tempting, when looking back on a year in film, to search for hidden themes. An over-arching mood or trend that connects seemingly unrelated works into a nice, neat package that says “in 2014, these were the preoccupations, interests and concerns of Western society”.
Peruse the list of highest-grossing films of 2014 and a few common threads are evident: four are comic book adaptations, seven are sequels, zero are The Monuments Men… the make-up of the top grossing list is almost as predictable as the films themselves. But the one thing that unites every one of them, without exception, is scale. Either in cast, budget or scope, each is more massive than the last, and with advances in modern filmmaking that places them amongst the most ambitious productions in cinema history.
“I love you!”, septuagenarian Lynn Dell declares as she floats past a cluster of bystanders admiring her outfit.
But what she really means is, I love that you’re paying attention to me. For people like Dell, whose next-level dress sense caught the eye of style blogger Ari Seth Cohen, attention is all that matters. Hate me or love me, just as long as you pay attention to me.
What We Do in the Shadows does to vampires what This Is Spinal Tap did to rock and roll: mercilessly skewers its overblown mythology while also completely respecting and adhering to its accepted tropes. And like This is Spinal Tap, What We Do in the Shadows is achingly, hilariously funny.
I’m going to stretch the definition of “childhood” here, for two reasons: one, I didn’t start consuming/appreciating film until well after I’d left childhood, and two, I feel a compulsion to disavow myself of the respect and adoration I gave Kevin Smith during my early teenage years, which was as passionate as it was misguided.
I am, as you might expect of someone who writes on both music and film, naturally interested in where these two art forms intersect: the soundtrack. A good soundtrack or score complements a film and helps evoke mood; a truly great one works on a whole other level to transcend mere accompaniment and become an inextricable part of the film experience.
In hindsight, beginning a sequel with a song about how sequels never live up to the original was probably a bad idea, but that’s exactly how Muppets Most Wanted — the follow-up to 2011’s brilliantly successful reboot The Muppets — begins, and the song is disappointingly prescient.
“Here Comes the Sun”, the first track on side two of Abbey Road, is the perfect pop song.
Truly, if you were to write a guide on how to compose the perfect pop song, you would describe “Here Comes the Sun”: start with a simple but memorable guitar line, layer in an unobtrusive drum beat, a lively, upbeat bass line, and you absolutely must have a catchy, singable refrain and heavenly vocal harmonies. The key would be to remove all extraneous elements and keep things subtle; simple is beautiful after all.