Sunday, August 31, 2014

giving credit where credit was due 20 years ago

In today's New York Times Jon Caramanica writes about André "André 3000" Benjamin's reunion with Antwan "Big Boi" Patton to celebrate Outkast's 20th anniversary as recording artists, plus Benjamin's role as Jimi Hendrix in the new film biography Jimi: All Is by My Side, written and directed by John Ridley, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay earlier this year, for 12 Years a Slave. A couple of points stand out in Caramanica's article:

For the better part of his career, André 3000 has been a pioneer, sometimes to his detriment. Outkast was a titan of Southern hip-hop when it was still being maligned by coastal rap purists. On the 2003 double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," which has been certified 11 times platinum, he effectively abandoned rapping altogether in favor of tender singing, long before melody had become hip-hop's coin of the realm.

I would argue that P.M. Dawn were far more ahead of their time than André 3000 in that department. By their third album, Jesus Wept (1995), frontman Prince Be had abandoned rapping altogether in favor of singing, but even on their 1991 debut, Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, Be sang for the duration of the tracks "On a Clear Day" and "In the Presence of Mirrors":

In a possible nod to the duo's influence, rapper Childish Gambino, a.k.a. actor-comedian Donald Glover, covered P.M. Dawn's 1992 hit "I'd Die Without You" earlier this year for BBC Radio 1Xtra:

Here's another point of Caramanica's I disagree with:

His forays into fashion (Benjamin Bixby) and animated television (“Class of 3000”) would have made far more sense — and had a far bigger impact — a couple years down the line. In many ways, André 3000 anticipated the sound and shape of modern hip-hop ambition.

I don't care to argue his point about fashion, though I'm pretty sure Sean "Puff Daddy"/"P. Diddy" Combs's Sean John line of clothing came before André 3000's, but does Caramanica not remember Kid 'n Play's Saturday-morning cartoon on NBC in the fall of 1990?

Or MC Hammer's on ABC the following year?

Hey, nobody said pioneering had to lead anywhere good. Just ask the Donner Party.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"The future is now!"

"The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel or watch female mud wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home or play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities!"

—psychotic cable-TV technician Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) in The Cable Guy (1996)

Eighteen years later, however, I still haven't found that female-mud-wrestling channel. C'est la vie.

Friday, August 15, 2014

fantasy vs. reality

Since 2009 Sofía Vergara has played Ed O'Neill's wife on my favorite current sitcom, Modern Family. And in this summer's Chef she plays the ex-wife of Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed the film.

No offense to O'Neill or Favreau or any men who look like them who don't make TV and movie money, but the odds are that any woman who looks like Sofía Vergara has her pick of the litter. She doesn't have to settle for a big-bellied bulldog—not when she can have True Blood werewolf Joe Manganiello.

But since most of us don't look anything like him, we'll continue to do the right thing and create movies and TV shows in which Vergara plays the homely hero's wife, ex- or otherwise, so that she can continue to pay her bills. (Is selflessness a turn-on for you, Sofía? Just curious ...)