The McGill Tribune arts team presents an overview of the movies and music you may have missed over the break.
Nicki Minaj | The Pinkprint
Since her verse in “Chi-Raq” where she promises to give her audience “a new trick every week until this album drops,” anticipation has been high for Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint. Nonetheless, there are a few disappointments. Fans are tired of “these girls/boys is my sons I’m just not showing yet” and any other variations where Nicki Minaj refers to other rappers in the game as her sons. Another trend that needs to stop is her frequent mention of pills. It makes one wonder if her endorsement with Beats Pills™ pays her for just mentioning the word. The most horrendous thing on this album is bad collaborations— who approved of any of Lil Wayne’s verses. But things get better. “Get on Your Knees” is a melodic mix of rap and pop featuring powerful and harmonic vocals from Ariana Grande and a catchy chorus. “Only” ft. Drake, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown puts all rumours to rest about any relationships between Nicki and the aforementioned. “Trini Dem Girls” is dancehall track that provides that island vibe and really makes you want to wine to it. The album blends ego-stroking lyrics and self-assurance with the turbulent experiences of love and loss. Upon listening, the album name becomes self-explanatory. The Pinkprint, unlike a blueprint, is not a design plan of her final path, but rather, the shaping of her destination and insight to her initial trajectory. The Pinkprint is a journey of self—the self-evolution and self-reflection of a woman striving for success, intertwined with self-love and self-empowerment.
D’Angelo | Black Messiah
It’s no secret that D’Angelo’s been off the map for a while. Until his long-awaited Black Messiah dropped last December, D’Angelo hadn’t released an album since 2000’s Voodoo. With such a long layoff, many worried that a new D’Angelo album would be nothing more than a self-indulgent mess, à la Guns and Roses’ Chinese Democracy (2008). Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Black Messiah is a triumph, one of the best albums of 2014. With the help of his backing band The Vanguard, D’Angelo has produced yet another stunning R&B opus. Enlisting the help of Pino Palladino and Questlove on bass and drums respectively, D’Angelo provides some of the deepest grooves since, well, Voodoo. That isn’t to say that Black Messiah is simply a Voodoo redo. The former is much more stylistically diverse, shifting from Voodoo-esque funk jams such as “Sugar Daddy” and “Ain’t That Easy” to more experimental and psychedelic work on tracks like “1000 Deaths” and “The Charade.” Always aware of his influences but never derivative, D’Angelo in Black Messiah is more than worth the wait.
Kanye West | Only One
Kanye West blessed us into the new year by releasing his first track since dropping Yeezus (2013). “Only One,” featuring Paul McCartney on organ, is a quasi-lullaby, supposedly sung to Kanye West by his late mother in a dream. While the idea of Kanye West serenading himself may seem off-putting (particularly considering the fact that West’s musical talents do not extend into the world of singing—cue autotune), the sincerity of the lyrics make it a worthwhile listen. While many detractors will want to illuminate this song as being just another of West’s egotistical romps set to a gentler rhythm, it cannot be denied that this track succeeds in showing off the versatility of West as an artist, both lyrically and through collaboration with artists outside of his usual genre.
Snarky internet denizens have taken to referring to Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film as “Incoherent Vice,” and they’re not totally wrong. The adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 picaresque, stoner-noir novel is challenging to follow when trying to keep track of the myriad of ways in which the protagonist Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) encounters neo-Nazis, prostitutes, drug dealers, and cops along his journey to track down his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston). Still, a thorough comprehension of the film’s many details appears to be far from the rambling narrative’s primary aim. Much more pressing is its vibrant array of characters (played by actors such as Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, and Michael Williams), beautiful colours (see it in theatres if you can), and gorgeous soundtrack (which is an idiosyncratic compilation of older pop songs and some of the most romantic music Johnny Greenwood has written in ages). As with any work of art, the viewer must acquiesce to the film’s internal logic rather than impose his values on it in order to appreciate it, and Inherent Vice operates under a singular rationale that’s well worth accepting.
The Imitation Game
The best actors are masters of performance styles that distinctly render their personalities transparent to their audiences. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of tortured genius Alan Turing in Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game is an example of such a superlative performance. Cumberbatch has proven he has the talent to express bizarre personalities, particularly after seeing him excel as the eponymous hero of the hit series Sherlock, but The Imitation Game proved just how cultivated of a skill set he has in his arsenal. This film explores Turing’s development of a code during WWII that deciphered the Nazi’s encrypted communication system, Enigma, and the backlash he faced from the government for his homosexuality. Cumberbatch’s brilliance comes out in his ability to capture both Turing’s genius and the repressed side of the character. The film also features a strong supporting cast, including Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode. Considering all of this year’s Oscar buzzed films, it seems that Cumberbatch has a strong chance to win Best Actor.
Rob Delaney | Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.
The funniest man on Twitter has surpassed his character count in his latest novel, a less-than pithy review of his life before he reached comedic fame. Delaney expresses in unabashed detail his introduction to drugs, his descent into alcoholism, and his near-twenty-year bedwetting stint. The novel is undeniably raw, and it is Delaney’s self-criticism and consistently honest outlook on his past that makes for a read that is both superficially humourous and deeply moving. The biggest failure of this book is, surprisingly, the cover, which misrepresents a book full of insight and ingenuity as one of cheap jokes and forgettable chuckles. Thankfully, Delaney manages to set the darkly humourous tone of the book in the first page, and by the end of the opening chapter confirms that he is a force to be taken seriously in the world of comedy and introspection.