The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its shortlist of nominees for 2014. While the Hall of Fame is little more than a vanity project for a cabal of self-important baby boomers headed by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who last had his finger on rock's pulse sometime before the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." came out, it's always fun to predict who will and won't make it in on each year's ballot. So here they are, in approximate likelihood of induction.
Because artists are eligible 25 years after their first record was released, Nirvana have been nominated on the first possible ballot. (Bleach came out in 1989.) They will sail through, which the board will consider proof that they're down with The Kids, notwithstanding that The Kids that bought Nirvana's albums are in our 40s now.
Ronstadt will be this year's sympathy vote, since she recently disclosed that her singing career is over due to Parkinson's Disease. A technically gifted (and drop-dead gorgeous) singer, Ronstadt was often hampered by her lack of interpretive skills. For example, she seemed genuinely oblivious to the fact that Randy Newman's "Sail Away" was sung from the point of view of a slave trader.
He's been eligible for 11 years, and as a critically-respected solo artist who also scored some major radio hits, he's exactly in the hall's wheelhouse. Given the comparative lack of sure things in this year's shortlist, this may be his year.
Although the board is notoriously anti-disco (Donna Summer didn't get in until after she died), the commercial resurrection of Nile Rodgers via Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" might sway a few members to recognize the architectural genius of hits like "Good Times" and "Le Freak."
Hall & Oates
There was a period in the early 1980s where critics considered Daryl Hall a genius blue-eyed soul songwriter on the level of Todd Rundgren and John Oates an amiable dude with a killer mustache. Perhaps some residual nostalgia for the duo's hits might bring them in. Personally, I think they should be inducted just for this incredibly bizarre and primitive video for "She's Gone."
Perhaps the only act who genuinely wants to be in the Hall of Fame, Kiss are rock's most shameless hucksters. And frankly, they deserve recognition just for the fact that they pioneered the licensing and merchandising that made pop music even more profitable than it was. But the board still has the antiquated view that rock is art, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, and that being too commercial is uncool.
LL Cool J
With his primary career these days being an amiable TV actor, it can be hard to remember just how outstanding singles like "The Bells" and "Goin' Back To Cali" were -- LL was one of the first next-gen rappers taking the music in new directions after the first wave had passed their peaks. Like Hall and Oates, he'll get in eventually, but this may not be his year.
Given The Replacements' "loveable losers" image, it would actually be entirely fitting if they became one of those bands who never actually make it in. When they do -- which they will, eventually -- it will shut the door on the entry of other key Amerindie bands of the mid-80s like Husker Du and the Meat Puppets. The board thinks they only need one representative.
Like Rush, Kiss and Black Sabbath, Yes has their diehard fans who think the Hall of Fame is a joke for not including their favorite band. The Hall is indeed a joke, but that's not why.
Still stigmatized by the overblown reaction to some widely misunderstood quotes Yusuf Islam (the man formerly known as Cat Stevens) gave to a newspaper in the wake of the fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie, Stevens may never make it into the Hall. But then, his pleasant but lightweight take on UK folk-rock is hardly the most earthshaking music of its time.
Okay, look: Machine Head was awesome. I mean, "Space Truckin'" and "Highway Star" will still rock your face off, and even as overplayed as it is, "Smoke on the Water" has one of the all-time great riffs. But the rest of Deep Purple's catalogue is at best third-string boogie. If artists with only one great album are eligible, let's induct The Stone Roses immediately.
Dr. Dre will someday make it into the Hall as a producer, but Jann Wenner lets the band whose signature song was called 'F--k tha Police" into his playground over his dead body. And Ice Cube's acting career makes NWA seem less threatening with every family comedy he makes.
Honestly, The Zombies are probably my favorite band on this entire list: "She's Not There" is maybe the most perfect single of the British Invasion, Odessey and Oracle is start to finish brilliant, and through Rod Argent's electric piano solos, they were possibly the very first band to bring a modern jazz influence into Top 40 pop. But they remain probably too obscure a niche taste to make the final ballot.
That goes double for The Meters. All rock critics genuflect to this New Orleans institution led by the legendary Art Neville, but I've always suspected that most of those copies of Fire on the Bayou in their collections don't actually get pulled out much.
I love Link Wray's doomy, reverb-driven instrumentals as much as the next guy, but given that his first, biggest and best hit "Rumble" came out 55 years ago, I can't help but think that if he was going to get inducted it would have happened by now.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Much like The Meters, critics love to name-drop Butterfield and his legendary guitarist Mike Bloomfield, but Bloomfield remains far more beloved for his mid-'60s work with Bob Dylan than for much-lauded but little-heard albums like East/West.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
In the late '50s a group of elementary students put futuristic drawings in a time capsule that is then buried on school grounds. One overly obsessed kid Lucinda goes her own way by writing hundreds of mysterious seemingly non-sensical numbers on her entry. Fifty years later it’s dug up and comes into the possession of Caleb the young son of John Koestler a recent widower and astro-physics professor who becomes obsessed with the papers Caleb has brought home from class. He soon discovers the random digits are actually not-so-thinly disguised dates (including 91101 of course) for “future” disasters and there are clearly three of those dates yet to come. Although nobody believes his ramblings about this code for impending doom a nearby plane crash proves he is on to something so ominous the fate of the world could be in jeopardy. With all hell about to break loose the prof takes matters into his own hands.
WHO’S IN IT?
Just a couple of years ago Nicolas Cage starred in Next as a magician who could see into the future and had to prevent a nuclear attack. Now he’s at it again as an MIT professor who also has clues to future catastrophes and also is out to prevent the inevitable. And of course in the National Treasure films he latched on to maps that had contained similarly dark deeply held secrets. Nic clearly likes “knowing” stuff before the rest of us and he’s quite believable even if some of the circumstances in his latest sci-fi adventure are really out there -- literally. Cage somehow makes you buy into this stuff which is key to the ultimate success of the flick. As the key kids Chandler Canterbury as Caleb and Lara Robinson as Lucinda (and later Abby Lucinda’s granddaughter) are properly eerie and haunted-looking. Rose Byrne is also along for the ride as Lucinda’s grown daughter who is able to provide goosebump-inducing information that the numbers alone can’t. There’s also some dead-on creepy emoting from D.G. Maloney as a quietly foreboding stranger who seems to be following Caleb.
Unlike some recent movies of this type with nothing on the agenda but pure mayhem “Knowing” delves into the bigger issues of why we are all here providing something other than just big explosions to talk about on the way home from the multiplex. Director Alex Proyas (I Robot Dark City The Crow) certainly knows how to pull off complex action set-pieces but he and his screenwriters also seem to be genuinely interested in exploring the meaning behind the madness.
Some of the more pedantic dialogue Cage is given can be groan-inducing but since he plays John as a total believer we can forgive it. Also the film falls victim to a final act that veers into typical disaster movie territory and isn’t as compelling as the first two thirds which try to keep the premise at least marginally credible. At two hours it probably could have been tightened anyway.
The rain-soaked plane crash sequence with its gritty hand-held photography is riveting to watch and one of the most frightening depictions of a jetliner disaster put on film yet.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
If you are really squeamish it might be worth "knowing" that you should take breaks in the big disaster sequences as the CGI effects can get pretty violent and graphic particularly for a PG-13 movie.
Despite seemingly having it all hunky Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) has still never been able to leave the nest. It’s actually easy to see why. It’s free and his mother (Kathy Bates) dotes on him. But Tripp’s parents especially gregarious dad (Terry Bradshaw) are anxious to get him out of the house so they can have their own lives. That’s where Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes in: a professional consultant who works specifically with fed-up parents who want their adult sons to move out. She dates them convinces them its time to fly the coop and then lets them go. It’s mostly foolproof--but not in Tripp’s case. No this is different because Paula starts to have feelings (Can you blame her? Just look at the guy) jeopardizing not only her job but the fact she may have found the perfect guy. OK Launch seems contrived but give it a chance; it might grow on you. As with any romantic comedy it’s about watching two attractive people--in this case McConaughey and Parker--spar and connect. Well at least most of the time. But there’s another trend in rom-coms these days: wonderfully original supporting characters who add color and can oftentimes steal the show all while allowing the main characters to shine beyond the standard girl-meets-boy scenario. Tripp’s two best friends Demo and Ace--played by Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure) respectively--are a real hoot. As is Zooey Deschanel (Elf) Paula’s anti-social bird-hating roommate Kit (great name by the way); she nearly steals Parker’s thunder especially when she and Bartha’s Ace hook up. Also delightful are Bates and Bradshaw as Tripp’s patient parents itching to break free. Who knew an Oscar-winning actress and former Super Bowl champ could have chemistry? Under the direction of Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon) Failure to Launch isn’t the end all be all of romantic comedies but it does take delight in some of its idiosyncratic approaches towards the genre. For example the womanizing Tripp may seem to have a devil-may-care attitude about his living situation but he’s really has some deeper issues going on. And Paula’s job--it seems a bit mean-spirited don’t you think? She leads these poor guys on and then once they leave the house dumps them. So in a way she gets her due. Of course Dey’s attention to the side characters also gives the film a big boost. He probably learned a lesson or two from watching Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Ultimately in what you’d think might be another stale rom-com Launch surprises you with its wry humor and multi-layered performances.
In 1930 Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt) an American socialite in search of debt relief and a fresh start transfers to Amalfi Italy. Her reputation as an indiscriminant adulterer comes along and she’s quickly the talk of the small town. Amidst her misadventures with married men she stumbles upon Robert (Mark Umbers) and Meg (Scarlett Johansson) a young blissfully married couple from America. Robert immediately strikes up a relationship with the older temptress and it’s immediately assumed by the resident paparazzi—a.k.a. citizens with binoculars and nothing better to do—that he is the latest prey. Meanwhile Mrs. Erlynne is being courted by another wealthier man named Tuppy (Tom Wilkinson) who can’t help but fall for her despite tepid interest on her end. When Meg learns of her husband’s rumored paramour she reacts hastily uncovering surprises that shock and affect all involved. The acting is where A Good Woman suffers. The female leads while both rightfully esteemed actresses are both miscast. Hunt’s Mrs. Erlynne has a world-wise and profound retort for every question thrown her way but her delivery just doesn’t fit her words; she seems uninspired but it’s much more likely her trying too hard. Johansson meanwhile is an anachronism in the film: She is an impossible sell for a reason having nothing to do with physical beauty or acting chops—she’s completely and simply at long last out of her element. But Wilkinson as always shines here as the pathetic yet adorable Tuppy. It’s perfectly plausible to see him in 1930s Italy—or any setting whatsoever. His eloquence befits the time and place and he makes his sad little man engaging funny and relatable even today. Director Mike Barker is charged with bringing A Good Woman adapted from Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan to the big screen. It’s a tall order to adapt someone as revered as Wilde especially on the heels of the widely lauded adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but Barker comes through for the most part. Luckily for him the lush mesmerizing scenery of the setting is at the forefront. And the director would’ve succeeded in transporting us back to the whole exotic pristine milieu had it not been for the aforementioned actresses’ inabilities to do the same. Nonetheless he holds up his end retelling a typically complex Wilde tale of love and narrow-mindedness without butchering or overstating the message.