Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TQCL - 1988

Movie of the Year

Rain Man

The sad part about this movie is that, while it is probably Tom Cruise's finest hour as an actor, he is completely overshadowed by Dustin Hoffman's iconic performance. Hoffman is totally convincing in his role as Raymond - nailing all of the little ticks and nuances that make his portrayal as natural and immersive as any you will ever see. Cruise's role as Raymond's brother, Charlie, certainly isn't such a total transformation and talent showcase - however, Charlie's subtle character growth and evolution is equally important to making the whole story work and Cruise does it brilliantly. Worth watching for the performances alone, Rain Man also boasts a solid story as well as a great musical score from Hans Zimmer. Rain Man is one of that select group of movies that grown men don't mind admitting they got choked up while watching. Rain Man is the best movie of 1988. Definitely the best movie of 1988.

Runner Up: Beetlejuice
Honorable Mention: A Fish Called Wanda

Album of the Year

Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime 

You'll often hear people hail this album has the epitome of progressive metal and the band as the fathers of the genre itself. Both of these claims are absolutely ridiculous simply because there is hardly any reason to call Queensryche a progressive band at all. Sure, there's a bit of unorthodox song structure here and there and a general prog "flavor," but I'd place Queensryche squarely in the heavy metal category. That being said, this album is one of the absolute best concept albums in any genre of metal, prog or otherwise. A solid storyline involving revolutions, assassinations, religion, sex, and society in general - all delivered by Geoff Tate at the peak of his career (which represents the best that 80's heavy metal vocals have to offer outside of Dio himself). It's hard to pick favorites here, but I feel the album really kicks into high gear with "Spreading the Disease" and is perfect straight through to the final notes of "Eyes of a Stranger." Certainly one of the great heavy metal albums of all time and one of my favorites in any genre.

Runner Up: Bathory - Blood Fire Death 
Honorable Mention: Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking

Monday, January 23, 2012

TQCL - 1987

Movie of the Year

The Princess Bride 

You know you've got something special when the movie in question not only perfectly parodies some of the more common tropes in fairy tales but at the same time pulls everything off so well as to be one of the best pieces in the genre in its own right. The Princess Bride has everything you could possibly want in a story: "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." - it is one of those rare times where a movie really does have "something for everyone." It's goofy, cliche and silly but all so pitch-perfect and lovingly crafted that you can't really help but get completely wrapped up in the story. Perfect cast, perfect score and one of the most quotable scripts in movie history combine for one of the most lovable films of all time. Watch it immediately if you haven't seen it (though, to be honest, I find that inconceivable).

Runner Up: Spaceballs
Honorable Mention: Predator

Album of the Year

Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction

Is there really any doubt about this one? Appetite for Destruction is the ultimate "80's" album and without a doubt the best thing ever produced by a "hair metal" band by a long shot. What can I really say about this album? It's the perfect example of how to write pop songs without sacrificing any aggression or edge in place of overly-processed "sugar." Whether it's everybody's favorite power-ballad "Sweet Child O' Mine" or something a little more down and dirty like "You're Crazy" every single track on here is catchy as hell and Axl proves that you don't need a particularly pleasing voice to give one of the greatest vocal performances ever - attitude and swagger can take you a long, long way in rock and roll. I think the biggest compliment that I can give this album is that by all indications I should have "burned out" on this album long ago due to overexposure - I haven't, I'm listening to it as I write this and haven't had the urge to skip a song yet. Awesome.

Runner Up: Joe Satriani - Surfing With the Alien
Honorable Mention: Dead Can Dance - Within the Realm of a Dying Sun

Saturday, January 21, 2012

TQCL - 1986

Movie of the Year


Generally speaking, if a sequel to a great movie comes out boasting more baddies, more laughs and more action it is a pretty safe bet that said sequel is going to be a disjointed, incoherent mess. So major kudos to James Cameron for taking over the reins from Ridley Scott and steering the series in a different (but equally awesome) direction. Never one for subtlety, Cameron's vision of the Alien franchise is way more over-the-top than the original, particularly in the nature of the action scenes and Ripley's supporting crew this time around. I mean, Paxton's rendition of Hudson is about as unsubtle as you can get ("Game over, man!") but it is impossible to deny how memorable and downright entertaining that performance is as he steals scene after scene. Despite the move toward a more action-oriented experience, the film doesn't lose sight of what made the original great and there is still palpable tension and a strong atmosphere of dread. One of the few sequels that arguably surpasses the original - I still maintain that Alien is the better of the two, but I'd say that's just a matter of genre preference. (Just don't let me catch you claiming that there were any more Alien movies made after this.)

Runner Up: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Honorable Mention: Platoon

Album of the Year

Megadeth - Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?

1986 was pretty definitively the "Year of Thrash" - my Top 10 for all music and my Top 10 for thrash would look eerily similar, if not entirely identical. With an entire genre of bands peaking at the same time, who reigns supreme? I'm throwing in with Dave this year, Lars - sorry. Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? maintains the speed and ferocity of Megadeth's debut album but is also infinitely more polished and sports much more interesting song structures. This evolution is obvious from the very opening of the album - the almost-instrumental "Wake Up Dead" features radical tempo changes, a sampler of killer riffs and two absolutely incredible solos. And that was just your appetizer - there's still a full meal being prepared for your pleasure. Whether it be the awesome bass lines and catchy sing-along chorus of the title track or the furious attack of a song like "Good Mourning / Black Friday," these courses are prepared from only the finest hand-picked thrash ingredients and prepared by master chefs trained in the finest Bay-area concert venues. A meal fit for the gods!

Runner Up: Metallica - Master of Puppets
Honorable Mention: Kreator - Pleasure to Kill

The Quarter-Century List

Having neglected my review duties for far too much of 2011, I felt a "full ranking" of 2011 music releases would be severely lacking. As such, I pondered for a bit on what I could present in its stead. Being the uncreative type and my life's odometer having recently ticked past the quarter-century mark, I came up with the SUPER ORIGINAL IDEA of summarizing my favorite movies and albums from each of the first twenty-five years of my existence on this planet.

So, presented here for your reading (dis)pleasure - The Quarter-Century List.