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.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
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.