DOPE Digest is a weekly roundup of pop culture miscellany, with succinct analysis from our contributors.
Snowden (movie trailer)
BK: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Nic Cage in the same movie? It’s like Christmas coming early!
I’m not a huge Oliver Stone fan and I’m even less of a fan of the voice that JGL uses throughout the trailer/movie, but I love a good crime thriller (even if it seems a bit too soon for this particular story) so I’ll definitely be seeing this one. The only thing that really bothers me (besides that damn voice) is the fact that Edward Snowden always seemed like kind of a squirrelly loser of a dude, whether or not you think of him as noble or a traitor. The fact that he gets to be portrayed by JGL makes me jealous and angry, but I guess I wouldn’t be seeing it if they cast Paul Dano or something so I can’t blame Mr. Stone for that. I’m in.
syvo: Hmm this looks like a successful commodification of the real-life ongoing modern horror that is the techno-police state. Rather than really address the impossible issue of digital privacy nowadays (who could?), let’s just nod our heads thoughtfully at the end of this cool relevant spy thriller, when the white text emerges from the quiet black screen, and the filmmakers “explain” the epilogue/takeaway to us in 150 words or less.
Julia: My feeling is – just watch Citizenfour! I doubt that 50 minutes of delving into Snowden’s youth/background is really going to enrich the NSA story. And the documentary is amazingly suspenseful given that much of it is fixed on him fidgeting with a laptop and toiletries on a hotel bed. Citizen four stars!
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom (music video)
syvo: As a big fan of Charli’s, I was a disappointed by her recent Vroom Vroom EP. In addition to serving as another example of her sometimes poor choice of song title (“Vroom Vroom” is even worse than “Boom Clap”), the EP itself let me cold. Take this song for example. In some of her previous work, Charli XCX has experimented with questionable “rapping” stuff (unfortunately, I think it’s just kinda a British thing), but this is the first time she’s offered us a full-blown Iggy Azalea song.
But this is a prime example of a music video actually making me like the song more. Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, Charli’s charisma breaks through the song’s basic lameness and to create something that I can find acceptable. The video itself is rendered in a saturated, inky black-and-white that’s really beautiful to look at, and Charli expresses her ever-building sense of confidence through fun choreography and cool editing. Somehow, it works. (I think?)
As a performer and pop personality, Charli XCX is better than ever; it’s just a shame the music itself hasn’t kept pace.
BK: We’ve been riding for Charli XCX for years, and I’m always happy to hear her put out new tracks. You’re spot on about her song titles, syvo (“Vroom Vroom” just makes me think of those terrible Mazda ads) but she looks great in the video and it is pretty catchy despite the cheesy ‘beep beeps’ in the chorus.
The video gives me a distinct Mariah Carey – Heartbreaker (remix) feel, and I think it goes beyond the fact they are both black-and-white and feature ‘cool’ cars. This is a whole new look and feel for Charli XCX; I’m not sure that I approve of it long-term (she seemed destined to be one of the most creative and under-appreciated pop singers alive) but I can’t blame her for seeking some extra exposure. You do you, Charli. You’ve earned it.
Julia: Ugh, no – I reject this. I like punker-Charli. Listen to her Stooges cover on the Vinyl soundtrack and block this one from your memory.
Rihanna – Needed Me (music video) (nsfw)
syvo: This video is directed by sometime indie film enfant terrible Harmony Korine, but I think it goes too far to say that anything particularly “creative” is going on here. I mean, I understand why when they hired Korine they were like, “can you make it like Spring Breakers?” and not “can you make it like Gummo?”, but that doesn’t make it any more interesting. I’d even have taken a Rihanna video based on Trash Humpers over this, which rates only average in terms of Rihanna videos.
BK: This video is basically an outtake from Spring Breakers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Fortunately for all involved and those viewing, there is absolutely no James Franco! Unfortunately, there is no Gucci Mane, and Gucci is to Spring Breakers what Vincent Chase is to Queens Boulevard.
There is nothing terribly exciting about the video beyond the obvious nsfw Rihanna, but this song is excellent and I’m always happy to hear it no matter the context (maybe not first thing Monday morning, but pretty much any other time). I’m glad to see that Rihanna has not yet been completely overshadowed by Beyonce. At least not on Syvology.
Julia: I am THRILLED about the current “statement choker” trend. It’s like a summer-appropriate turtleneck! In addition to the A+ diamond choker, this video contains three of my other fashion favorites: 1) bell sleeves, 2) metallics, 3) face tattoos. This is the best song off ANTI, which has unexpectedly become one of my favorite albums of 2016. Second favorite is “Woo” because I love shouting behind vocal distortion. Rihanna evidently has rescinded her “I don’t wanna be a murderer” stance put forth in the 2006 classic “Unfaithful” – just one example of how much we as humans can change in 10 years.
The Neon Demon (movie trailer)
syvo: Though I certainly have a sneaking suspicion that this will be less like Drive (2011) (i.e. accessible, beautiful, instant classic) or Bronson (2008) (i.e. unique, intelligent, stylistic gem), and more like Only God Forgives (2013) (really attractive, shiny, cool-looking and smart-seeming senseless artistic abortion), that apprehension simply has no effect on my level of excitement. Look at this trailer! It is gorgeously weird! I’m also appreciative of the fact that Christina Hendricks is still willing to sacrifice her career with strange, risk-taking projects like this one, even after weirdo misfires like Ryan Gosling’s Lost River (2014) and Dark Places (2015). I really think that it’s the right move for her.
BK: You had me at Christina Hendricks.
This trailer is amazing, and Nicolas Winding Refn has proven himself capable of making great movies (if not quite as consistently as we might like). I’ll see basically anything that features Joan Holloway, and I think the littlest Fanning seems like she could be good as well. The world of runway modeling is inherently disturbing – throw in a potential homicidal beauty and it sounds like a recipe for success.
Fifi Rong – Forbidden Desire (music video)
syvo: I’m not totally into this song, but the video is noteworthy. The glowing-orb-inside-singing-mouth trick is really hypnotizing.
BK: I really dig the video. I can’t quite figure out what kind of situation would call for this song – maybe if I were wandering through a club of vampires in Istanbul at 4am. I also imagine that being the kind of place where everyone has light-up glow mouths.
DOPE Throwback – Powerman 5000 – “When Worlds Collide”
syvo: I was having a great conversation with my brother the other night about the nuanced distinction between “alt-metal” and “nu-metal” in the late-90s, and somehow this emerged from the rabbit hole. This project by Rob Zombie’s younger brother (“Spider”) was definitely one of the first CDs I ever bought as a pimply pre-teen metalhead, and man does this track hold up. I seriously dig the “techno-steampunk Mos Eisley Cantina” aesthetic going on here. I also appreciate the Quan Chi cameo.
This video is fantastically entertaining and awesome not in spite of, but indeed because of, its remarkable stupidity. Truly, this video is without match when it comes to nailing down precisely what mainstream rock music was like for a second there.
BK: Man, music videos used to really have some kinda budgets, huh? Those were the days. And seriously, always good to see Quan Chi getting work outside Mortal Kombat.