I decided to give the Weekly-Wrap Up’s another shot to develop and here is the first one back! I talk about Kurt Vonnegut, Keanu Reeves, Damian Lewis and Life, and Queen Latifah! Here is it:
Album of the week:
This was a weaker week for albums for me. I finished Queen Latifah’s discography and
started Louis Armstrong’s work. I only have made it through a few Louis Armstrong albums and haven’t been able to say that the albums as a whole have been stellar, just that Louis’ actual trumpet playing is magnificent. For that reason, I am picking Queen Latifah’s Black Reign as my album of the week. As much as I enjoyed her first and second records, but I think Queen Latifah was at her best over the boom bap beats of Black Reign. Plus, it has arguably her best track, “U.N.I.T.Y.” on this record as well. It also has some of those slower, softer songs on the back end of the album that showcase Queen Latifah’s singing ability. I love that those tracks seemingly balance the beginning of the album that starts more traditional, in-your-face, NY rap (which still had some of favorite tracks on the record like “Black Hand Side” and “Rough…”). Overall, I think the album represents Queen Latifah’s peak – a solid mix of both rapped and sang songs with a nice of slower more tender songs and songs that exude toughness.
Song of the week:
Why not stay in the same wheelhouse? I already mentioned Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” so let’s stay there! First of all, that sax? Then that boom bap sound? This beat is absolutely wonderful. It’s got that “They Reminiscience Over You” vibe to it (shout out to Pete Rock because that beat, my god that beat). Okay, maybe that was just the sax and I wanted a chance to mention another beat I love, but still! Over her first few albums, Queen Latifah was no stranger to fighting back against misogyny, but I don’t think there was a song that exemplifies that stronger than “U.N.I.T.Y.” Queen Latifah doesn’t have time for your bullshit. I don’t know what else you want to say. She also flexes her lyrical ability on this record. Man, she can spit. Okay, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. But listen to this track and give Queen Latifah some damn respect.
Television episode of the week:
I’m currently making my way through Batman: The Animated Series, Life, Wayward Pines, and Nathan for You. I’m going to something a little different with this category this week. I want to focus on what makes the show Life so appealing to me, rather than talk about a single epsidoe. I do not even think it had the strongest episode of the week, I think that was probably Nathan for You (which never fails to make me crack up from it from its awkwardness) or Batman: The Animated Series (which functions as both a gripping portrait of a super hero and an interesting look at modern cities). Life works on a different level for me though. I’m only 4 episodes into the show, so it has plenty of time to falter, but I have been enjoying it quite a bit so far. It lives up to its title. There is perhaps no television show genre that is more over saturated than the police procedural. However, that’s also what makes Life such a breath of fresh air. It operates on a premise that I haven’t seen any other police procedural touch. It’s about an officer who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years before getting exonerated and returning to the police force. His character (played by the wonderful Damian Lewis) returns to “normal” life with an entirely new perspective. One that emphasizes “the now” and the precious and fickle nature of life. What I like so much about the show though, is how they manage to make the entire show mimic that philosophy. It really is about life. For as much as it’s a police procedural, it is also about what makes life worth living for the different characters in the show. I don’t even mean to make it sound overwrought with sentimentality, because I had those same worries starting out and the show has assuaged them quite well to begin its run. I would definitely recommend giving Life a shot.
Movie of the week:
This category is assuredly the toughest category of the week. I watched three movies this week and all three are deserving of high praise. Anomalisa, John Wick: Chapter 2, and Creed. Anomalisa is one of the best animated films I have seen in a long time, second to Kubo and maybe third to Song of the Sea. Creed, and I say this with no hyperbole, may be one of the best sports movies I have ever seen. I also generally tend to have a problem with sports films despite how much I love sports, but that’s a conversation for another time. With both of those things being said, my film of the week is still John Wick: Chapter 2. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a movie theatre. I also saw Moonlight in theatres, and I will recommend that movie forever because of it is one of the best films of this decade so far, but it would be unfair to call that experience “fun.” John Wick: Chapter 2 opened up the world that the first one introduced to us. It’s an exhilarating ride of hand-to-hand combat and gun fu. It retains the sentimentality of the first film, which is again both a nice and grounding touch for the premise of the film. Something else it capitalizes more on (especially through Keanu Reeves acting) is humor. Scattered throughout John Wick: Chapter 2 were moments of levity and hilarity. However, to cap off talking about this great film, I want to talk about my favorite scenes from it. Every scene involving Common and Keanu fighting qualified for this spot. When they first meet and end engaging in a grueling hand-to-hand fight until falling through a window. Then when they discreetly try to fire pistols at each other in a crowded train station to their final encounter on the train. All of these lead up to the moments on the train where Stahelski (director) so wonderfully builds the tension to the climax of that fight. John Wick: Chapter 2 comes together as an action masterpiece on the backs of Stahelski and Reeves, and I absolutely cannot wait for the third installment in the series.
Piece of writing of the week:
This one is kind of cheating. I finished Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House this week, so it makes more sense to pick a short story from that. I just don’t think any of them compare to what you get in the book of his that I just started, Slaughterhouse Five. This book is actually the only book of his that I had previously read, and I really enjoyed on the first go round. This time, the beginning of it hit me even harder. Before he ever gets into the “actual” story about Billy Pilgrim. Those first 30 pages or so. That is my piece of writing of the week. Vonnegut so effortlessly weaves the absurd and somber together unlike many other authors I have encountered and I don’t think there is a better example than the beginning of that book. By consistently focusing on the mundane in the face of atrocities, he brings a levity to the situation without letting the reader forget exactly what they are reading. In any case, if you are going to read a Vonnegut novel, make it Slaughterhouse Five, which may actually end up being my piece of writing of the week next week too.