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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

HypeCast: Anomalisa, The Gift, and Oscar Nominations

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Collin and Tyler discuss a pair of under-seen winners from 2015. First up is The Gift, Joel Edgerton's directorial debut that probably has more to do with Basic Instinct than Swimfan, though Collin wouldn't know. The violence-free adult thriller is available now at Redbox, but if you're looking to have your brain scrambled and your sense of individuality refuted by something on the big screen, Anomalisa has your name written all over it. Mind-bending screenwriter Charlie Kaufman directs the stop-motion animated feature, telling the story of a middle-aged man stumbling through the malaise of life, and pioneering the cinematic revelation that is puppetlingus along the way. Finally, they discuss the recently announced nominations for February's Academy Award, and how they stack up against the predictions the guys made on last week's episode. In the process, Tyler teaches Collin that research is for suckers, and Oscar predictions are most accurate when banged out in about 15 minutes on a piece of scratch paper. Warning: a few naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-12:23---The Gift
51:35-1:12:40---The Oscar Nominations

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oscar Predictions 2015: Round 3 (Final Nomination Predictions)

Best Picture:
1. Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 7)
        The frontrunner to win Best Picture has shown up everywhere, from critics groups to important guilds to BAFTA. Its invitation is already in the mail.

2. Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 1)
        I know I'm a broken record, but I'll say it again; don't bet against Steven Spielberg when he's shading serious. BAFTA, the PGA, and the WGA all backed me up on this one.

3. The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 4)
        Leonardo DiCaprio gunning for his first Oscar win, massive box office last weekend, staggering ambition, and the return of Alejandro González Iñárritu, only a year after his Birdman took home the big one. Count The Revenant in.

4. The Big Short (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Adam McKay's first foray into 'adult' filmmaking wasn't even supposed to come out this year, but has absolutely stormed the guilds ever since. His DGA nomination almost represents a guarantee at this point.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (Previous Ranking: 30)
        I can't believe it either, but the fourth entry into this long-dead franchise is essentially a lock at this point, having not only shown up at the PGA and DGA, but just about every technical guild shortlist under the sun.

6. The Martian (Previous Ranking: 29)
        The Academy has been waiting years for Ridley Scott to make a movie that everyone could agree on, and here it is. With all the guilds backing it, The Martian likely takes the 'space adventure' slot away from Star Wars.

7. Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 9)
        This is around where things start to feel a bit less certain, but with support from critics and PGA, along with a story that should appeal to older voters, I think Saoirse Ronan and friends get in.

8. Straight Outta Compton (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Trust me, I'm just as surprised as you are, but Compton has been everywhere except the DGA, and the idea of making such a 'cool' pick likely appeals to voters.

9. Sicario (Previous Ranking: 18)
        That PGA nomination sure came out of nowhere! The WGA soon followed suit, and with support from a variety of technical groups (along with the general quality of filmmaking), I'll take a flier on the latest from Denis Villenueve
I am predicting these nine films to be nominated (I don't have some crazy math equation that helped me determine this number; these just seem like the ones). The following is where I rank the next movies in line.
10. Carol (Previous Ranking: 3)
        My my, how the mighty have fallen. A shocking no show at the PGA, no ensemble love from SAG, and a snub yesterday at the DGA have this one floundering. BAFTA love keeps it alive, as do the twin heralded performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

11. Room (Previous Ranking: 38)
        Room is in pretty much the same place as Carol, only without the BAFTA support. They both could still show up big tomorrow morning, but the tea leaves aren't looking so good today.

12. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Previous Ranking: 22)
        The 11 films listed above are our top-flight contenders, but that doesn't mean Star Wars or one of the five films listed below can't shock the world. I have no real evidence to support picking The Force Awakens, but when a movie is set to make 900 million dollars in its first month of release, you can't really take it off the list.

13. Trumbo (Previous Ranking: 34)
        The acting branch of the Academy is by far their largest faction, and they surprised everyone by going ga-ga for Trumbo. The WGA nod helps, but really, this one comes down to thespian support.

14. Ex Machina (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        This was always going to be a film that ended up on a lot of top 10 lists, but the PGA citation transformed it from a hail mary to a real possibility in the Best Picture race. WGA and an outpouring of Alicia Vikander love help push it along.

15. Inside Out (Previous Ranking: 6)
        It's looking like Pixar's latest triumph will have to be happy with a Best Animated Feature nomination, but after the inclusions of Up and Toy Story 3 at the big kids' table in '09 and '10 respectively, we shouldn't cross it off just yet.

16. Beasts of No Nation (Previous Ranking: 16)
        Everything I said about Trumbo applies here, only with less famous actors, and no support from any other guild. This is the perfect litmus test for the power of the acting branch.

17. The Hateful Eight (Previous Ranking: 8)
        Almost no one else could make this movie and still warrant a spot on this list, but this is Tarantino. In just eight films, the guy's won two Oscars while being nominated for three others, and led actors to a total of six nods, and two victories. Are you ready to call him and his movie dead?

Best Director:
1. Tom McCarthy---Spotlight
        He's the director of the Best Picture frontrunner that's famous for great acting. Need I say more?

2. Alejandro González Iñárritu---The Revenant
        The Academy obviously loves him, all five of his previous movies showing up somewhere on nomination morning, with last year's Birdman taking Oscar night by storm. The Revenant won't be where they suddenly abandon him.

3. George Miller---Mad Max: Fury Road
        Assuming he gets in, I actually kind of love Miller's chances to win the it all. That said, can you ever really call the director of a two-hour chase scene a 'lock' for the nomination?

4. Ridley Scott---The Martian
        It's obvious that people want Scott to make it back into the Oscar conversation, and I absolutely think he gets in, but his flick is still a sci-fi offering, which can irk some voters.

5. Adam McKay---The Big Short
        I really, truly cannot believe I'm picking Will Ferrell's BFF to be among our five nominated directors, but he got the DGA nod, and is film is on an absolute rampageTodd Haynes---Carol
6. Steven Spielberg---Bridge of Spies
        Smart money says they're really going to make Spielberg (and Hanks, for that matter) work for it in order to get back into the five. Perhaps unfair to hold a guy back just because he's done more impressive work in the past, but when you've stormed Normandy and resurrected dinosaurs, most things sort of feel like old hat.

7. Todd Haynes---Carol
        One of only two people listed below Spielberg to have garnered an Oscar nomination, Haynes' film not only still has a Best Picture pulse, but something about his inclusion here without an accompanying citation for Carol reminds me of Bennett Miller's almost analogous situation with Foxcatcher last year.

8. Denis Villenueve---Sicario
        If you think they're going for Sicario in Best Picture (and I can offer you a 2% GUARANTEE that they will), then the Denny has to be on your list. Some of the year's showiest directing.

9. F. Gary Gray---Straight Outta Compton
        A respected industry veteran who has yet to snag a nomination, Gray's film is not only a likely Best Picture nominee, he offers the Academy yet another opportunity to show love to a black filmmaker, something they've really only recently started doing.

10. John Crowley---Brooklyn
        The least complicated description this side of Tom McCarthy; if they're going for Brooklyn in Best Picture, he has to stay on the radar.

11. Lenny Abrahamson---Room
        Same deal as with Crowley, but for a movie with a slightly lower profile.

12. J.J. Abrams---Star Wars: The Force Awakens
        He absolutely won't get in if his movie isn't among the Best Picture nominees... but what if it is?

15. Quentin Tarantino---The Hateful Eight
        Shameless copy/paste time: Almost no one else could make this movie and still warrant a spot on this list, but this is Tarantino. In just eight films, the guy's won two Oscars while being nominated for three others, and led actors to a total of six nods, and two victories. Are you ready to call him and his movie dead?

Best Actor:
1. Leonardo DiCaprio---The Revenant
        The biggest frontrunner this category has seen in years, not only do I think Leo is a lock to hear his name called tomorrow, I don't even really see who could ultimately take it from him.

2. Michael Fassbender---Steve Jobs
        Nominated everywhere for his stellar performance, this might not be Fassbender's best work ever, but it's abut time he started being a perennial Oscar contender.

3. Matt Damon---The Martian
        Yes, I know he missed for SAG, as did his movie at large, but I still can't talk myself into going any lower than the #3 slot. I just can't see The Martian getting in for Picture, Director, Screenplay, and more without Damon coming along.

4. Bryan Cranston---Trumbo
        It makes sense that the Academy would want to claim Cranston as one of their own in an attempt to disassociate him from the ranks of 'television actors.' Can't say I expected it this soon, but again, his name has been everywhere.

5. Eddie Redmayne---The Danish Girl
        Last year's winner takes on an even more daring role than Stephen Hawking. Far from a guarantee, but you don't win a golden man without the likelihood of further nominations.
6. Johnny Depp---Black Mass
        Yes, he got the SAG, but he missed BAFTA, and Black Mass has been MIA literally everywhere else. Pirates was certainly a long time ago.

7. Steve Carell---The Big Short
        Lest we forget that Carell was invited to the party just last year, and is in a much higher profile movie this time around. I was tempted to move him up higher, but there's been no real support so far. Call it a hunch.

8. Tom Hanks---Bridge of Spies
        The movie's getting in for Picture, and this is a remarkably weak category this year, but if the guy couldn't get in for Captain Phillips, it's pretty tough to predict him here.

9. Samuel L. Jackson---The Hateful Eight
        Again with my refusal to sell all my Hateful Eight stock, this would be a cool way to celebrate Jackson and Tarantino's miraculous body of work together.

10. Michael Caine---Youth
        Paolo Sorrentino's last film, The Great Beauty, won Best Foreign Feature back in 2013, so at least a handful of voters will check this one out. The question is wether they want to give Caine a 'career' nomination.

11. Ian McKellen---Mr. Holmes
        Same exact logic as with Caine, only without a director with a recent track record of success.

Best Actress:
1. Brie Larson---Room
        This has been a battle between Larson and Ronan since the summer, and nothing has changed. Expect some pretty loud gasps if either misses tomorrow.

2. Saoirse Ronan---Brooklyn
        As previously stated, it's been Larson vs. Ronan for a while now, but Larson has always had the slight edge. She's absolutely getting in.

3. Cate Blanchett---Carol
        Some cry category fraud when they see Blanchett's name here instead of the Supporting category, but the woman is a walking Oscar statue, and with a SAG nod under her belt, she appears good to go.

4. Charlotte Rampling---45 Years
        Said to be amazing in the film, this could be a wonderful career capper for Rampling. Her film is just only now making the rounds, but really, is there anyone listed below with a better shot?

5. Jennifer Lawrence---Joy
        This one makes me feel queasy, as Joy has hardly moved the needle since it's December release. That said, Oscar obviously loves J-Law, and again, who down there are you taking over her? This is less of a prediction than a default selection.
6. Rooney Mara---Carol
        This is how jacked-up every acting race is besides Actor; Mara's whole campaign has been for a Supporting Actress nomination, and yet I still have her just missing in a different category for the very same performance. Mara and Vikander are making things difficult.

7. Helen Mirren---The Woman in Gold
        She scored a SAG nomination along with zilch from everywhere else. It still feels far-fetched, but she is one of the most respected actresses of her generation.

8. Sarah Silverman---I Smile Back
        Same deal with the surprise SAG appearance described above... only without all that 'Actress of  Generation' stuff.

9. Alicia Vikander---The Danish Girl
        I think this performance is almost a lock to get nominated, I just don't know if it's here or in Supporting. My gut tells me the latter, so I'll keep her down here.

10. Maggie Smith---The Lady in the Van
        A 'career nomination' special, but that BAFTA shout out does make things slightly more interesting than some of the other veterans in this category.

11. Lily Tomlin---Grandma
        Another potential 'career nomination,' I remain on the look-out for a Tomlin appearance simply because of industry respect, and a wide-open field.

12. Charlize Theron---Mad Max: Fury Road
        This is a simple 'How much do they love Mad Max?' play, nothing more and nothing less.

13. Emily Blunt---Sicario
        Everything you just read above, but for a thespian who's only been nominated previously, and not won like Theron has.

14. Blythe Danner---I'll See You In My Dreams
        Same as Tomlin, but with less attention paid to the movie.

15. Melissa McCarthy---Spy
        I keep saying this field is wide open, and if I truly believe that, who's to say that McCarthy can't sneak in for a critically-lauded laugher that could represent something of a sea change in the Academy's thoughts about both women and comedies.

16. Amy Schumer---Trainwreck
        Same as above, accept McCarthy has already been nominated for a bawdy comedy. There's no real way to know if she's and Oscar share a similar sense of humor, but the film's screenplay citation at the WGA bodes well.

Best Supporting Actor:
1. Mark Rylance---Bridge of Spies
        In a category that could truly go in an almost incalculable number of different directions, thank god for Rylance, the only Supporting Actor who's nomination feels completely safe.

2. Christian Bale---The Big Short
        I call Rylance 'completely safe' because he's a tiny bit more secure than Bale, though SAG, BAFTA, and the film's overall momentum ought to make him feel pretty comfortable.

3. Idris Elba---Beasts of No Nation
        Here's where things get tricky (see: impossible). Elba is a beloved industry veteran who's never been nominated, an idea that you could just as easily see as working in his favor as against it. That said, he's the only one remaining name with both BAFTA and SAG.

4. Mark Ruffalo---Spotlight
        There was a time when both Ruffalo and Keaton felt like locks for Spotlight, and now they're both on the fringes. Smart money probably wouldn't have either in the top five, but I struggle to believe that no male actors make it from their ensemble. I'm leaning Ruffalo because of SAG.

5. Tom Hardy---The Revenant
        There's hardly any reason to pick the guy, but I'm going with my gut on this one. If Leo pulled Jonah Hill in with him for Wolf of Wall Street, who's to say it can't happen again here, especially for a never-nominated star of multiple 2015 Best Picture nominees.
6. Sylvester Stallone---Creed
        I can't believe that I'm predicting Sly to sit this one out, but it just doesn't seem like there's room, evidenced by his skunking at the hands of both BAFTA and SAG. However, this is an all timer for the veteran card, so definitely keep your eyes open for Stallone.

7. Michael Keaton---Spotlight
        This seemed like his Oscar to lose only a month ago or so. Still can't believe they'd rob him for Birdman last year, and then deny him a nomination for this, but that's certainly where the signs are pointing. Just like Stallone, watch out for the last minute surge.

8. Benicio Del Toro---Sicario
        That BAFTA nomination brought his chances back to life, as did precursor love for Sicario at large, but can you really sit out the entirety of the precursors and still make it in a field this crowded?

9. Jacob Tremblay---Room
         He showed up at SAG, and Oscar does tend to like awarding young actors in the Supporting field, but his film appears mortally wounded, and my god, what a lame move to slot him here as opposed to Actor, as he's clearly Room's main character.

10. Michael Shannon---99 Homes
        Somehow scored a SAG nomination for a film that just about no one saw, this would be a perfect narrative for a first nomination. As is, he's already had his turn, and I'm betting they make him wait for another.

11. Paul Dano---Love & Mercy
        Dano's finger prints have been all over way more successful films than people really realize during his still-young career, and he'll certainly get in at some point. Suffice to say, he picked the wrong year to make a Brian Wilson biopic.

12. Jason Mitchell---Straight Outta Compton
        This is my lone hail mary play in Supporting Actor, as I actually believe that numbers 3-11 listed above are almost on an even playing field. Part of me just wonders if Compton will find other major category love beyond a Best Picture grab.

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Kate Winslet---Steve Jobs
        No, I was not swayed by her Globe win, and no, I don't see any world where she takes this one home. That said, she's shown up everywhere from BAFTA to critics awards to SAG, and there's a chance that both of the performances listed below end up in the Actress category. She's the only one who feels completely assured.

2. Rooney Mara---Carol
        I love Mara's chances to win here if she gets nominated, but the chance that she ends up in the other acting category spooks me out of listing her at the top.

3. Alicia Vikander---The Danish Girl
        Same exact deal as Mara, only with a slightly larger chance of going lead, and a less beloved movie.

4. Rachel McAdams---Spotlight
        Not exactly the showiest role of all time, but my hunch is that Academy members who don't vote for Keaton or Ruffalo will feel indebted to slot her in here.

5. Helen Mirren---Trumbo
        She was double nominated by SAG for both this and The Woman in Gold. It just feels like sentiment is in her favor, even if BAFTA decided to pass.
6. Jennifer Jason Leigh---The Hateful Eight
        Rinse and repeat; I wonder if their might be deep seeded Hateful Eight love within the voting body, and Jason Leigh is a widely beloved veteran actress who's somehow never been nominated.

7. Alicia Vikander---Ex Machina
        Oscar has a stupid rule wherein a thespian cannot appear twice within the same category. If they didn't, I'd predict her twice here, but as is, I have her ranked this high incase they decide she's a lead in The Danish Girl.

8. Kristen Stewart---Clouds of Sils Maria
        Not exactly the most talked about film on the docket, but Stewart has been showered with praise through out the year for her work here. I like her as a wild card.

9. Jane Fonda---Youth
        Just like her co-star Michael Caine, this would be a career nomination that depends mightily on their opinion of Paolo Sorrentino's latest work.

10. Elizabeth Banks---Love & Mercy
        Another beloved thespian in search of her first nomination, Banks is way out on the fringes, but if Dano manages to sneak in, she might come along for the ride.

11. Joan Allen---Room
        This is just incase we're sucker punched with an outpouring of love for Room. It's unlikely, but that's her only path to glory.

Best Original Screenplay:
1. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer---Spotlight
2. Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen---Bridge of Spies
3. Bob Petersen and Pete Docter---Inside Out
4. Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus---Straight Outta Compton
5. Alex Garland---Ex Machina
6. Taylor Sheridan---Sicario
7. Quentin Tarantino---The Hateful Eight
8. Amy Schumer---Trainwreck
9. Paolo Sorrentino---Youth
10. Ramin Bahrani, Amir Nader, and Bahareh Azimi---99 Homes

Best Adapted Screenplay:
1. Adam McKay and Charles Randolph---The Big Short
2. Nick Hornby---Brooklyn
3. Aaron Sorkin---Steve Jobs
4. Phyllis Nagy---Carol
5. Drew Goddard---The Martian
6. Emma Donahue---Room
7. Charlie Kaufman---Anomalisa
8. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Mark L. Smith---The Revenant
9. John MacNamara---Trumbo

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

HypeCast: The Revenant, and Academy Award Predictions

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Collin and Tyler brave the snowy planes of suffering with Leonardo DiCaprio by seeing The Revenant, director Alejandro González Iñárritu's follow-up to last year's Best Picture winner, Birdman. During the discussion, Collin is horrified to learn the meaning of the term SIF, and also basically claims to be as good an actor as DiCaprio. Tyler finally admits to the rampant failings of one Domhnall Gleeson, sending Elwyn into a tizzy of musically-aided delight. The second half of the episode features their predictions for the Academy Award nominations, which will be announced this Thursday. Tyler might not have done as much research as Collin, but makes up for it with his analysis of Kurt Egyiawan's performance in Beasts of No Nation. Warning: a few naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-35:49---The Revenant
Our Academy Award Nomination Predictions For...
35:50-44:19---Best Supporting Actor
44:20-44:21---Best Supporting Actress
52:13-56:12---Best Actor
56:13-1:00:00---Best Actress
1:00:01-1:05:06---Best Director
1:05:07-1:21:56---Best Picture

Friday, January 8, 2016

HypeCast: The Big Short, Creed, and Spotlight

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Collin and Tyler are stuck at home due to an amount of snow that folks on the east coast and midwest wouldn't think twice about. Thus is born the first ever SkypeCast, and if you like your conversations to sound as if one of the participants is at the bottom of a water well, boy oh boy, you're in luck! Tyler finally gets around to seeing Spotlight just as Collin finally checks out Creed; hooray for movies that came out a month-and-a-half ago! Both prompt enthusiastic, uncomplicated praise from the guys, which is certainly not the case with The Big Short, a financial collapse comedy about which Collin repeats the same point over and over again, marring the fact that the likely Best Picture nominee is actually pretty good. Warning: a few naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-4:20---Intro and complaining about about an inch or two of snow
25:16-41:48---The Big Short

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015 (10-1)

10. Art Angels---Grimes
        'Pop' is a genre tag without a real definition, an umbrella under which all kinds of sounds and textures exist, and Claire Boucher seems determined to explore them all. Art Angels sees the singer/songwriter/producer try on any number of aesthetic outfits, exploring Country twang (California), K-Pop exuberance (Kill v. Maim), seductive House (Realiti), and whatever the hell SCREAM is. She paints each rhetoric in her own distinct color, making for an album that's defined by its wild variance, as well its unmistakably singular authorship. Everything on hand both pops and bounces, Boucher's every musical move as natural as the last, confirming her status as one of the most unique voices working in pop music today.

9. What Went Down---Foals
        The five members of Foals harbor an audible affinity for the harder side of the Foo Fighters' discography, wedging that decreasingly relevant storm of distorted guitars and raspy yelps into their otherwise lithe and spacious arena rock sound. The pairing has born uneven results in the past, but What Went Down finds the Oxford fellows finally locating the sweet spot between 90's bombast and modern U.K. rock 'n' roll. While the self-titled opener gives itself all the way over to the former styling, most tracks here split the difference, songs like Albatross and Night Swimmers alternating between kinetic six-string specificity and speaker-ruining tidal waves of sound. No one does big quite like Foals, and their latest adds another ten songs to their collection of sky-scraping anthems.

8. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper---Panda Bear
        Panda Bear albums tend to open with a billowy, inviting, and short-lived number, and while Sequential Circuits, the track that kicks off Grim Reaper, does little to buck this trend, there's a swampy tension just beneath the surface that warns of things to come. Noah Lennox's 2015 solo effort is as mind-melting and enveloping as we've come to expect from the Animal Collective figurehead, but a grimy, itchy sense of unrest hangs over nearly all the proceedings. Mr. Noah might be melodically immaculate, but there's a palpable distress in its descending choruses, and lead single Boys Latin opens with a swampy churning that casts doubt on all the glittery proceedings that follow. Lennox will always favor the light to the darkness, but Grim Reaper finds one of our primary musical optimists allowing some shade to enter his work, and the results are captivating.

7. Carrie and Lowell---Sufjan Stevens
        Having spent so many years surrounded with innumerable fellow musicians and collaborators, who could have guessed that the most beloved album of Sufjan Stevens' career would primarily be a solo outing? Carrie and Lowell finds the orchestral pop mastermind stripping his sound down to its basest elements in order to craft far and away his most personal LP to date. The disc takes its name from Stevens' parents, his complicated relationship with the former driving this heartbroken tale of loss, depression, hope, and redemption. Most frequently operating with one instrument at a time, the 11 tracks found here represent an Elliott Smith-level bloodletting, one that always prioritizes emotional clarity and honesty over attempting to impress with virtuoso musicianship, leaving behind a trail of tears in its wake.

6. Sometimes I Sit and Think to Myself, and Sometimes I Just Sit---Courtney Barnett
        It's lucky for us that Courtney Barnett ever decided to pick up a guitar, because she could have made it just as easily as a writer of short stories. The Australian singer/songwriter pens some of the most unique lyrics in music today, spinning one yarn after another, each fitted with exacting, unexpected details that separate her tales from those of her peers. Wether describing a crush at the local swimming pool (Aqua Profunda!) or projecting suicidal thoughts onto a young service industry worker (Elevator Operator), Barnett's way with words is infallible, prompting one revisitation after another in order to mine for all the jewels buried inside of her knotty recitations. Her ear for melody doesn't hurt either, as seen on the speedy, snappy Nobody Really Cares If You Come to the Party and album stand-out Depreston, but it's those mysterious musings that have me coming back again and again, eager to sit and think to myself.

5. Summertime '06---Vince Staples
        At first listen, you'd be forgiven for believing all of Summertime '06 was produced by the very same beatsmith, despite the fact that the hour-long double disc is the product of many cooks working in the very same kitchen. By far the most immediately cohesive hip hop album of 2015, '06 recalls Staples' youthful days of running with the Crips, pairing stomach-turning tales of violence and misogyny with something approximating nostalgia, all playing out over nocturnal, minimal instrumentals. An utter rejection of 'Conscious Rap,' Staples' studio debut is sinister and grimy, only the weary, agitated beats betraying a terror and stress that the MC refuses voice. Those who pine for the old days of gangster rap ought to be careful what they wish for, because Summertime '06 is known to raise blood pressure, and cause sleepless nights.

4. Currents---Tame Impala
        One of the most devise albums to meet the world in many moons, Currents is the sound of a beloved young artists wadding up everything that has worked for them in the past, and throwing it in the trash. Having jostled their way to the front of the indie music pack with Lonerism's sumptuous psyche rock, Kevin Parker and company used 2015 to bring their aesthetic back to the 80's, their newest LP consisting of one exquisitely detailed soft rock stunner after the other. While singles like 'Cause I'm a Man and Eventually play as well out of car and laptop speakers as just about anything from last year, there's nothing quite like experiencing the LP in headphones, where each slight sonic deviation and impressionistic twist is given its full due. An endless parade of grace notes and flourishes, Currents is rich enough with detail that there's always something new to discover, no matter how many times you've pressed play.

3. In Colour---Jamie XX
        Staring at the album cover for Jamie XX's long-anticipated debut LP almost feels like looking at the playlist, the kaleidoscopic image seen above perfectly encapsulating the bright, varied soundworld of In Colour. Playing out over eleven tracks and taking a bow right after the 40 minute mark, the disc somehow finds time and space for ascending dance-floor fillers (Gosh), chill-wave-y variety shows (Sleep Sound), hip hop radio bangers (I Know There's Gonna Be [Good Times]), bright, ruminating instrumentals (The Rest is Noise), lovelorn trip hop (Seesaw), and enormous house anthems (Loud Places), synthesizing them all into the very musical pallet. As replete with feeling as it is variety, In Colour is an often wordless album that exudes enough emotion to make even the most celebrated lyricist green with envy. There's no point in describing Jamie XX within the context of a single genre, or even several; no matter what box you try to put the super producer in, he will inevitably break out.

2. I Love You, Honeybear---Father John Misty
        When Josh Tillman left Fleet Foxes back in early 2012, it was easy to wonder why the indie rock journeyman would exit such an up-and-coming outfit to go it alone. Four years have passed since then, and not only have we not heard a peep from the Foxes' camp ever since, Tillman has created a masterpiece in the openly sarcastic, brazenly bizarre, and deeply heartfelt I Love You, Honeybear. A collection of ballads dedicated to his wife, Emma Tillman, the record is a gorgeous 45 minutes of pianos, strings, guitars, scathing self-diminishment, and personal growth. The Father is undoubtably a glass-half-empty type, but while the lyrics here are unabashedly cynical, Honeybear finds their author working past his pessimism, and gaining strength through both love and compassion. Alternating between stand-up routine antics (The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment), piss-and-vinegar frustration (The Ideal Husband), and soulful mourning (Holy Shit), it takes Misty's trudge through the wasteland of despair to bring the restorative powers of a song like I Went to the Store One Day or Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins) such awe-inspiring gravity. Honeybear is like reading the diary of a brilliant, tortured artist, and while his journey isn't exactly one to be envied, the ultimate feeling of solace he finds is worth enduring any number of woes.

1. To Pimp a Butterfly---Kendrick Lamar
        What is there to say about To Pimp a Butterfly that hasn't already been uttered, written, texted, or blogged since it set the world on fire back in March of last year? A monumental 78 minute offering whose level of ambition knows no peer, Lamar's follow-up to Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is novelistic in the truest sense of the word, challenging its listeners with a bevy of sounds and ideas from first moment to last. Though its length and complexity served to irk those who wanted to hear a 'fun' Kendrick album, the MC made a massive bet on himself, and is now raking in all of the winnings. A deep-album cut was cited by the most powerful man in the world as his favorite song of 2015, one of its only pop-leaning numbers became a rallying cry for social justice, and it's the near-unanimous pick for album of the year. Perhaps most impressively, the disc prompted a type of immediate internet reaction I wasn't aware still existed in the age of instant gratification: silence. There was and is too much going on here to justify making a snap judgement, prompting critics and listeners to remain mum for almost a week until its many notions and arguments had time to calcify in peoples' minds.

        Such is the power of Butterfly, an album the defies any and all easy classifications, exploring race in modern America with more bravery, confusion, and honestly than any other rapper would have dared. As if everything found in the first hour+ weren't bold and uncompromising enough, Lamar ends the album by resurrecting Tupac Shakur from the grave in order to have a philosophical chat about crime, violence, poverty, and social upheaval. At first glance, their Compton upbringing would seem to be the only real connection between Kendrick and his idol, but the conflict at To Pimp a Butterfly's core is one that the late great had to contend with as well. How does one react to being anointed, going from aspiring superstar to representative of a genre and a people almost over-night? When afforded this level of fame and exposure, how does one use their voice to promote positivity and effect change, while refusing to allow his or her image to be distorted by both their handlers and the masses? How does one transition from important black artist to important black leader? Kendrick isn't about to claim he has the answers, but the way he wrestles with the questions is both eye-opening and mind-expanding. As academically rigorous as it spiritually poignant, To Pimp a Butterfly is a classic on arrival, a hip hop album that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the genre's all time greats, and a perfect encapsulation of 2015's unique brand of civil unrest. Its level of accomplishment cannot be over-stated.

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015 (10-1)

10. Boys Latin---Panda Bear
        Even for Panda Bear, a guy whose whole career has been a celebration of mind-bending psychedelic musical experiences, listening to Boys Latin in headphones is revelatory. The song assails the ears from every conceivable direction, Noah Lennox's shimmering voice reverberating and echoing around the track's seemingly endless space, and doing so over a far meaner soundscape than we're used to hearing him attend. "A dark cloud has surfaced again," Lennox informs us on a variety of occasions, and while this is undoubtably more gloomy material than we're used to hearing from the Animal Collective alumnus, a simple binary of light and dark doesn't begin to describe Boys Latin's brain-altering powers. Perhaps not the verse-chorus-verse experience you expect from a top 10 song of the year, but the first single from Panda Bear's latest finds its spot on the list not by slowly descending down the rabbit hole, but by diving in head first.

9. Mountain at My Gates---Foals
        It's not always easy to put a finger on exactly what it is that endears eardrums to a particular song, but with Mountain at My Gates, Foals make that distinction awfully easy on us. Yannis Philippakis and Jimmy Smith's guitar lines intertwine elegantly and immediately, their lithe interplay soon underscored by Walter Gervers' pounding drums, and a deeply funky bass line. The verse ascends into a skyward-looking chorus, an amplification of the song's intensity upon each and every repetition. The train finally leaves the tracks in the song's last minute, a hoedown-tinged exhibit of pure rock-and-roll force, complete with merciless tempo, and Philippakis' raspy wails. Mountain's pleasures are readily discernible, five individuals each performing at the peak of their powers in order to create something both grand and bombastic.

8. Loud Places---Jamie XX feat. Romy
        On an album that's no stranger to enormity, Loud Places stands out as both In Colour's show-stopping centerpiece, and rich emotional core. "I go to loud places/to search for someone/to be quiet with," Romy intones in the song's lyrics, her loneliness already underscored by the crowd noise that serves as our opening salvo, and ushered into the track by melodically clinking bottles. It's lovesick and ravishing in equal measure, but serves as a mere throat-clearing in the face of the tune's towering chorus, a recklessly over-the-top reverie that's among the year's finest. The choir chants, the empties 16 ounces continue their jubilant bounce, and Romy shows listeners just how much can be done with a voice that stays the course even when its parent song is rocketing straight out into the cosmos.

6. *tie* Depreston and Kim's Caravan---Courney Barnett
        And the award for 2015's short story writer of the year is... Courtney Barnett! With a sound somehow equally split between Sheryl Crow and Nirvana, the 28-year-old Australian somehow manages to gain more attention through her wordy, hyper-detailed storytelling. Depreston is a tale of the wordsmith and her paramour going house shopping, and the deceased estate that inspires Barnett's limitless imagination to conceptualize a variety of scenarios. A song for the autumn if ever there was one, the guitar solo that ushers us out of the tune's breezy paradigm brings to mind the saturated colors that abound in the year's third quarter. It's a light, alluring little wonder of a song, mysterious and intricate yet undeniably warm and comforting.
        Kim's Caravan, on the other hand, is really none of these things. Expanding out into a foreboding and ultimately earth-shattering seven minutes, it serves as the winter storm to Depreston's mellowed-out orange glow, a journey where the aforementioned tune is more of a destination. The guttural bass line trudge of the track's opening moments predicts doom for each and every member of the song's narrative, a strange rattling taking place behind Barnett's tale of a suicidal seal, hallucinations of a judgmental jesus, and the powerful balm that chips and a drink provide. From the opening's nearly inaudible rumblings to the crashing chaos of the number's conclusion, Caravan just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and for all of the knotty specificity of Barnett's lyrics, her words are best understood by embracing the song's repeated mantra: "Don't ask me what I really mean/Take what you want from me."

5. Let It Happen---Tame Impala
        Epic American films of the 50's and 60's, like Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia, open with massive overtures, a sampler platter of not only the sounds but also the emotions their audiences were about to experience. Tame Impala's Currents begins in the very same fashion, and while nothing found in Let It Happen's domineering eight-minute life-span is revisited over the course of the album, it aptly conveys every feeling and texture contained within. The basic groove is simple, a sharply-tuned guitar refrain and simple, steady drums, but Tame Impala innumerable sonic avenues within this forthright structure, each tricked-out with studio specificity that truly cannot be overstated. Each instrument takes turns as the song's lead player, the only true constant taking the form of Kevin Parker's wispy, etherial falsetto.

4. Sound & Color---Alabama Shakes
        In the back half of 2015, the title track from Alabama Shakes' latest record was heard in two prominent places; the season finale of Mr. Robot, soundtracking the collapse of the modern world, and an ipad pro commercial, an advertisement that uses gorgeous images of our solar system as its primary visuals. The point is, people feel the world shaking beneath them when Sound & Color plays, an odd but undeniable experience brought about by a song that barely elevates beyond its initial hushed whisper. Brittany Howard's remarkable voice has never been put to greater use, covered here in tinny keyboard plunks and patiently rolling drums, layered atop itself, and yearning for connection. The deeply emotive tune proves yet again something that all too many artists tend to forget; sometimes stripping a song down to almost nothing is the only way to make it feel enormous.

2. *tie* The Blacker the Berry and i (Album Version)---Kendrick Lamar
        Kendrick Lamar's staggering, imperfectly ideal masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly is defined by the incredible number of angles from which it observes blackness in modern America, and between these two songs, situated right as the towering epic is about to conclude, capture the astounding breadth of his vision. Berry is just about the boldest, bravest rap song imaginable to emerge from the mouth of a legitimate super, unfiltered rage emanating from its every pore. Not only does Lamar not mind exploring the stereotypes leveled against young African Americans, he even steers into the skid, crassly aligning himself with the negative perceptions that media and culture have leveled against him, baiting any number of uncomfortable reactions over Boi-1da's hard-as-bricks beat. Don't think for a moment that Kendrick is fully assimilating himself with the labels he's exploring; the MC even doubles back on his last verse to question black culture's culpability in the matter, fearlessly accepting the readily foreseeable backlash that was soon to come. It's a question that inevitably irked some fans, a sacrifice Lamar was willing to make in order to get the wheels of discussion turning.
        i also risks being assigned a 'victim blaming' label, but skirts the confusion and frustration of the aforementioned track to concoct a beautiful ode to self-empowerment. The song was released almost a year in advance of its parent album as a glossy single about the power of loving one's self, but by the time we reached To Pimp a Butterfly's penultimate number in March of last year, the track was wearing wholly unfamiliar clothes. Through a combination of live recording and studio trickery, the song is presented as though being performed live, complete with crowd noise, looser and unmixed instrumentation, and Lamar's words delivered with a fervor that the original recording couldn't quite capture. The most important distinction, however, arrives at the three minute mark, where the Compton MC cuts the song short in order to quell a disturbance in the crowd, and follows it up with one of the most powerful spoken-word efforts the genre has ever seen. Analyzing the slew of ideas and arguments contained within is useless; the points he makes speak for themselves, and it's impossible to imagine anyone articulating them more eloquently. As powerful and emotional as the album at large, this is i's most perfect iteration, and the most important hip hop song of 2015.

1. Bored in the U.S.A.---Father John Misty
        No one understands the feeling of laughing while your heart is breaking quite like Josh Tillman, as mentally and emotionally dexterous a songwriter as we have working today. A kernel of unbearable truth rests at the core of his every joke, while humor seeps into even his most wrought and hopeless sentiments. Bored in the U.S.A. is his attempt to write a new national anthem, one more attuned to America's modern zeitgeist, and even if you find his paradigm a touch distressing, there's no arguing the beauty with which it's presented. A beguiling piano ballad fitted with melancholy violins and deeply-rooted pessimism, the song is so grand and nakedly wounded that we almost need the piped-in studio audience laughter that cuts into some of Tillman's most dour statements. As with all things Father John Misty, there's no right way to feel about the lyrics and the notions contained therein, but even if the former Fleet Fox is just having a laugh, he almost made me cry while doing so. It takes a sense of humor to understand listless devastation, and an acute awareness of depression to craft a black-hearted joke. Misty's has both, as well as the best song of 2015.

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015

Friday, January 1, 2016

HypeCast: The Hateful Eight, Sicario, and New Year's Resolutions

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Collin and Tyler discuss Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, the auteur's latest dialogue-driven bloodbath, which they both saw projected in glorious 70mm... and that's film, y'all. Before spending an eternity at Minnie's Haberdashery, the two catch up on one of 2015's best films, Sicario, jogging Collin's memory, and elaborating on Tyler's experience in the land of wolves in one fell swoop. Then the aforementioned chamber-piece western enters our conversation, and things get a little hairy. Not to blow your mind before you've even listened to the podcast, but Tarantino's use of the N-word is at least slightly problematic, as is the endless destruction of Jennifer Jason Leigh's poor face. Finally, the two devise New Years resolutions for themselves, as well as a slew of film industry higher-ups who could stand to take a piece of advice here and there. Warning: a few naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-3:20---Intro and Collin's mea culpa
17:13-1:09:16---The Hateful Eight
1:09:17-1:25:06---New Year's Resolutions