I almost couldn’t decide on an album to pick from 1980, not because there was no good music, but because there wasn’t much that spoke to me. There’s not a favorite album of mine from 1980 or something with a personal meaning. So I just picked an album I like and that I knew would offer me something to write about, Joy Division’s Closer, which was released two months after Ian Curtis had committed suicide. It is unsurprisingly dark and cold, yet undeniably powerful.
Win Win is a traditional indie comedy. It follows rather typical indie movie characters through a standard indie movie plot. It’s good, but not because of the story or some of the underdeveloped characters, but mainly because of the incredible acting. Paul Giamatti is amazing and, well, everyone else is too. But the story moves along such conventional paths and especially the ending is resolved much too easy. Also, the character of Jeffrey Tambor, as funny as he is, has no back story at all and only shows up to be funny. On the other hand, Kyle (Alex Shaffer) is a very well-written and acted character that keeps most of the movie going. Thomas McCarthy is both a great writer and director and you see that in most of the scenes, even if others don’t work or feel hokey. Anyway, I really liked the movie despite its flaws and I want to take a look at how it depicts the average life of common people.
Pulp’s This Is Hardcore, released in 1998, is a testament of anxiety in our culture, the diary of someone failing at life despite having success, a war report from the front of unsuccessfully battling to fill the void. Pulp, the Britpop band that had been releasing albums for over 10 years before suddenly having enormous success, published this album three years after Disco 2000 was an international hit and the fallout was wearing them down. Artistically I consider this album their masterpiece, despite its flaws. It’s a bit messy, untrimmed and unfocused at times, but when it hits its mark, it goes straight for the kill. It’s unflinching and bitter and cynical but always with a certain sense of humor and full of brutal honesty. And it’s brilliant. You might feel uneasy and slightly embarrassed while listening to it, but you might also get an idea of an artist struggling with life in this culture, but never stopping from telling us about it.