In Memory of Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was a tremendous film critic and is pretty easily the most well-known and beloved writer about film in American history. His death today after a long, very public, battle with cancer is a tremendous loss to the entire film community and we here at The Addison Recorder extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. There have been a lot of tributes to him pouring in since the news of his passing broke this afternoon, and I wanted to whip something together that expressed how important Ebert was in my life. The thing is, I cannot begin to express the impact he had on me.
[Read more…]

Alex’s Thought on the Cinema of 2012 Part One: Or, Argo is a Mediocre Thriller in the Guise of an “Important” Film and its Oscar Victory was Vapid Bullshit


I’ve been putting off summing up my experience of the year 2012 in cinema for a while now.  It just seems that I never see enough to really pass judgment on a year until 1/6th of the next one has passed. Part of that is just the general lethargy of me not seeing half of what I want to on time. But there’s also a big part of me that doesn’t want to write an article like this until I can bitch about the opinions of others, namely the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So I will get to my overall thoughts on the cinema of 2012 in a second article, first I have to get rid of my venom in this one.

In specific I want to tell you, dear readers, that the Academy gave its highest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture of the year to a film that is wholly undeserving of such praise. Now this is not an unusual occurrence. In the past ten years I have agreed with the Academy’s choice all of once, when the Coen Brothers won top honors for their 2007 Western/Noir/Existential Philosophy Think-piece No Country for Old Men. That’s not to say that I hate every Best Picture winner. I have absolutely no complaint with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Departed, The Hurt Locker, or even The Artist winning it all. There were movies I preferred to all those films, but they are all good to great films that deserve to be seen and stood out against the films they competed against at the Oscars. That’s not something that I can say for Argo, the film that was named Best Picture of 2012. I know my esteemed editors here on The Addison Recorder have sung the praises of Ben Affleck’s Iran Hostage thriller in their own 2012 pieces, but my opinion runs rather dramatically counter to theirs.
[Read more…]

Oh, Holy Shit, Hello!

If you’re arriving here at The Addison Recorder because of the link in Todd VanDerWerff’s essay over at The A.V. Club we just want to say hello! So…hello! Personally, I’m sort of flipping out that our little blog, with a readership that probably maxes out in the dozens and has a mere 71 Facebook fans,  was linked to by the publication that the four of us are all sort of aspiring to emulate on here. It might just be me, and it might just be because I am running on only a few hours of sleep because my dog is sick, but this feels like a big deal.

Anyway, please do have a look around. Our “Welcome” post from when we started off last summer is a good place to get to know the writers on here, and we’ve done a decent job of filling this site up with words since then. So dip into the archives, tell us what we’re right (like my thinking that The Master is some kind of classic) or wrong about (like Travis insisting that baseball is an exciting sport worth caring about).  I know for certain that this weekend Andrew is planning on liveblogging the Oscars (I may join him in this endeavor), and I’ll probably write my own accounting of the cinema of 2012 within the next few days, and we’ll have even more articles coming your way in the future.

Thanks for visiting!

Alex and Andrew Talk Oscar Nominations: Part 1

I am guessing that we will all be missing Emma Stone when he hosts solo.


As I sit down to start our conversation about this year’s Oscar nominations nearly 48 hours have elapsed since Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone announced them. This break between the announcement and our analysis wasn’t necessarily by design, I just got quite sleepy last night. But it has allowed the nominations to sink in a little more, which can only be a good thing, right?

Anyway, even with the break I don’t quite know where to start in our assessments. The biggest news from the nominations, and certainly the biggest shock, is what the Best Director category looks like. Best Director nominations are a necessity for any film to win Best Picture (only Driving Miss Daisy has won it all without a Directing nomination in the past 80 years or so), which means that yesterday morning saw a dramatic shake-up of the race. The Academy snubbed Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful work on Zero Dark Thirty and did the same to the extremely popular Ben Affleck for his direction of Argo. I don’t even know how to convey the seismic upheaval that those misses represent. Both Zero Dark Thirty and Argo were tipped by myself and most others as major dark horses. Either could have snuck past Lincoln and win Best Picture. Without Directing nominations though, both suddenly appear to be dead in the water. I’ve seen a lot of chatter in the wake of the snubs that suggests some other films are stronger than we suspected and could win (most prominently Silver Linings Playbook, which improbably became the first film in 31 years to get nominated in all seven major categories). I don’t really buy that line of thinking right now, though. Until the industry awards start getting really wild, I think that these nominating snubs have essentially cleared the path for Lincoln to win without much of a contest.
[Read more…]

A Pre-nomination 2013 Oscar Primer

So shiny…

Oscar nominations come out on Thursday morning (7:30 CST for our loyal local readers), a couple weeks earlier than usual. Since I have spent way too much of my life reading, writing, and thinking about this annual race to milquetoast  immortality it seemed prudent for me to create a little pre-nomination primer. I’ll check back in after nominations are announced and again closer to the ceremony in February because I nerd over this like Travis nerds over baseball hall of fame ballots. I’ll go over Best Picture in detail and then just post my prediction for the other major categories (acting, directing, and writing).

The “Major Contenders” Group:


Zero Dark Thirty


Les Miserables (requisite UGH)
[Read more…]

Recorded Conversations: New Favorites from 2012

Welcome to “Recorded Conversations,” an occasional feature where all the Addison Recorder editors contribute their thoughts about a question, idea, or prompt. Everyone will chime in, and then we see where the conversation wanders.

Question: To ring in the New Year on the Recorder, we look to our recent past and ask “What new thing (or things) that you discovered in 2012 has become one of your favorites?”

I need to limit myself on this one. When this idea first trickled across my brain it was as an idea for a full-blown article, not a shorter Conversation piece, so my apologies if I try to cram too much in. I have three distinct answers, and I have no idea which would win out above the others, so…I’ll tackle all three!

1. Bluegrass (and bluegrass-inspired) music

She’s from Southern California, but damn if she doesn’t sing like she’s from a coal town in Appalachia.

I’m starting off with this because I don’t think I have ever written about music on the Recorder before. Honestly, it’s just not a medium that gets a lot of deep thought out of me. If I like the music, then grand. If not, well, why annoy myself by listening? I don’t really get far beyond that because my interests are much more tied to narrative and visual forms of expression. Music is a bit too esoteric and pattern-based for my math-hating brain to really embrace as anything but a mood-setter.

However, I spend all day at work in front of a computer, which means I have lots of time to listen to music while my brain is occupied with other things. With the aid of Pandora and Spotify this has meant that I have been noodling around with the musical genres and forms that I like, finding new artists and other albums to fill in my day. Last year, urged on by my pre-existing love for Gillian Welch and the TV show Justified (which is back TONIGHT; gadzooks, I may need to write about that), I delved deeper into the sounds of bluegrass and its associated styles.
[Read more…]

Conference Realignment, or, How I Learned to Stop Caring and Hate the Future

As I write this, players wearing maize and blue and scarlet and grey are stretching and warming up inside Ohio Stadium. Unsurprisingly, this means I am quite nervous and keyed up since The Game is only fifty minutes from kickoff. The annual contest between Michigan and Ohio State goes back over a century and has filled the intervening decades with jaw-dropping plays, gut-check defensive stands, and thrilling wins (or embittering defeats) for both sides. Bound up in this end of the year game is a wealth of feelings: regional animus, cultural identity, and the simple matter of bragging rights that mean something. It’s everything that is right and good about college football.

I am not here to write about everything that is right and good about college football, though. Instead, what I want to talk about is the business of college football. Earlier this week the Big Ten Conference announced two new additions to its membership starting in 2014: the University of Maryland will leave the ACC and Rutgers University will leave the Big East to become the 13th and 14th members of the alliance still known as the Big Ten (I’m not even going to touch that particular bit of…math). These moves are only the latest in a 3-year long cycle of schools moving from conference to conference in a dizzying cycle of realignment.
[Read more…]

We’re still here (and we have things planned)!

Hello world,

Sorry for the long break in our correspondence, but life can get in the way of many things. Sadly, for the past month or so, life has been getting between us and our beloved Recorder for one reason or another. But have no fear, for Alex, Andrew, ~J, and Travis are all doing well and will soon be back with a vengeance.  The rest of the boys will get their work on here in good time, but I wanted to chime in and let our readership know about a few of the projects that I have been working on and plan to spit out soon.

Firstly, I am and will remain your devoted TV viewer, and so I am starting a recurring feature where I will drop an article every week or two about one of the shows that I keep tabs on. This will give me a chance to expound on all the programs that I dearly love (or still tolerate), without breaking my neck trying to do a weekly recap of absolutely everything. That’s what The A.V. Club is for.

Secondly, the awards season for films is quickly approaching, and since I have a longstanding fascination with the simultaneously excellent and awful horse race that is Oscar season I will be chiming in with coverage of that. I’m going to endeavor more to cover the films themselves, on their artistic merits (as I have with surefire Oscar contenders Moonrise Kingdom and The Master), but will likely devote a few posts to the race itself as well. Also, I plan to complain a lot about how the Academy consistently mishandles how to present itself and its mission (Seth MacFarlane!?! Really?!?).

Finally, I am planning on working through one of my burning shames as a cinephile. Many of my friends and colleagues know that I am a huge fan of the Coen Brothers, the filmmaking siblings behind such modern classics as Fargo, O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country for Old Men. What I rarely let on when I discuss the Coen’s work is that I have not seen huge swaths of their filmography. Every cinephile has many blind spots, and one of my most glaring ones is that I have not seen any of the films that the Coen Brothers have made before The Hudsucker Proxy. So, I plan on rectifying that with a series of articles wherein I will watch (or re-watch as the case may be) and write about every Coen film up to 2010’s True Grit. I think it will be illuminating to travel through their eclectic resume in a (relatively) short span of time, and if this is a hit, maybe I will do the same with other filmmakers or movements that I am woefully underseen on.

Anyway, that’s the plan of attack for yours truly. I’ll see you in the comments section.

P.S. I am going to write my essay about it someday, but if you’ve been holding your breath since the 1st week of July the best show on TV last year was Louie. It will also be the best show on TV this year. My thoughts about it will appear when I do not feel hopelessly intimidated and over-matched by its genius.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As you may recall, one of my first articles on the Recorder decried baseball as a profoundly boring sport played during the interminable period of boredom that is summer. Happily, summer is all but over. Classes have begun, the weather is cooling, and that most essential of American sports returns this week. Having defended its virtues in my previous article, I feel no need to make a case for football, especially college football, as the most entertaining, strategic, and exciting of the major games. Instead, I want to discuss some of the wonders and curiosities that are peculiar to this grand game.

On a very basic level, the pleasures of college football are very simple and tied into the season that hosts the game. The game kicks off at the tail end of summer, with the first few weeks of games played comfortably under clear cerulean skies. Up here in the Midwest, the first sharp crack of cool air and blustery weather means that the conference games have begun. Rivalries that stretch back over a century are fought once again as jackets and hats are pulled out of closets and Oktoberfest beers are toasted in victorious satisfaction.  When the calendar turns to November the crowds bundle under winter jackets and heavy scarves as the most bitter of enemies face off on freezing fields underneath slate grey skies. The bowl games around Christmas and New Year’s are played mostly in warm locales, a last tantalizing glimpse of fun before winter finally wipes out all warmth and the football season ends. It’s no accident that the four months that correspond with the football season are my favorite time of the year, but I’ve been an old man since I was 15. No one should be surprised that I revel in the season of decay and passing, and celebrate its sport above all others. It’s a wonderful time that I pine for constantly during the off-season.
[Read more…]