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Episode 99 - Sign o' the Times vs. Stop Making Sense

Sign o' the Times vs. Stop Making Sense  

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  1. 1. Which movie should be inducted into the Canon?

    • Sign o' the Times
    • Stop Making Sense


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Film critic Armond White joins Amy this week to pit two classic concert films against one another. Prince’s “Sign o’ the Times” goes head to head with Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” in a musical battle for the ages. Amy and Armond discuss what makes a great movie musical, the potency of a strong-willed auteur, and each films’ respective generosity towards showcasing talent. Plus, they assess the evolving means by which we associate music and images before leaving it to a final vote.

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It doesn't feel right to vote since I couldn't get a hold of Sign o' the Times. So, if we all abstain from voting, both get in right?

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The Canon Episode 99: A Man Factually Explains to Amy Why Prince is Best. Ugh.

 

But for real, hopefully future guests are a little less "explain-y" and a little more "discussion-y". I know Devin used to get into the same territory, but at least Amy felt comfortable pushing back. With a guest, she's too polite to push (rightfully so).

 

As for the movies, Stop Making Sense is the no-brainer choice for me. More fun being had by the band, less sterile artifice, (in a weird way) more charisma in Byrne than Prince, and (i know this is subjective) better music. Sign O the Times had its moments, but overall felt it was indulgent in a way that wasn't backed up by the finished product.

 

Oh, and by the way, Sign O the Times can be easily found on popular torrenting sites, which I only feel comfortable mentioning since there's literally no way to give the owners your money for the movie anymore.

 

EDIT: After reading some of Armond White's movie reviews, I now feel vindicated in my initial distaste for the guy's style of critique. https://www.rottento...nd-white/movies. Armond White Drinking Game: take a shot whenever he writes the phrases "liberal", "millennial", "inclusive", "Obama-era", "politically correct", or "intersectionality" in a sneering tone.

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EDIT: After reading some of Armond White's movie reviews, I now feel vindicated in my initial distaste for the guy's style of critique. https://www.rottento...nd-white/movies. Armond White Drinking Game: take a shot whenever he writes the phrases "liberal", "millennial", "inclusive", "Obama-era", "politically correct", or "intersectionality" in a sneering tone.

 

Yup, I read them as well. I did that part of research in January to look up who actually was capable of disagreeing on "Get Out" with everybody else and giving it a "rotten". I disagree with him most of the times, but I mostly find it jarring that a guy can write, in quite a chameleonic way, for a right-wing-paper and incorporate in these reviews more or less a consistent conservative-partiotic angle on films, while at the same time write for OUT magazine, where he writes, quite flamboiantly, about queer cinema. And while there are certainly some gay conservatives, the overlap in terms of political goals and stuff they like is generally pretty small. Is this supposed to be some kind of practical joke? Case and point would be his negative review of last year's moonlight on National Review, and featuring the picture of the same film in an article praising how great 2016 was for queer cinema.

 

http://www.nationalr...is-latest-movie

http://www.out.com/a...ever-gay-movies

(Granted, he sticks to his negative opinion about that film in this list. But still. It's a bit weird).

 

Quite a lot of sites seem to settle on the side that Mr White is a bit of a troll: http://www.rogereber...of-armond-white

http://ew.com/articl...-of-ny-critics/

http://www.avclub.co...ten-tomat-65156

 

Now, I don't know how biased these sources themselves are. I think that's up for somebody else to judge, since I'm in Europe and a bit detached from the media landscape on your side of the pond.

 

About the episode: I did enjoy some of the points Mr. White made on the show, like the concert film being in the tradition of the musical, and the sexual undertones in both films. We do share a distain towards La La Land.

 

But in the end, it came down simply to which film I found to be better made and more consistent, and I have to give that one to Stop Making Sense.

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Quite a lot of sites seem to settle on the side that Mr White is a bit of a troll: http://www.rogereber...of-armond-white

http://ew.com/articl...-of-ny-critics/

http://www.avclub.co...ten-tomat-65156

 

It's been my opinion for a long time that White is mostly a contrarian for contrarianism's sake. That's not to say there is never anything useful in contrarian criticism, but when reading him it's helpful to have that understanding. It's why almost everything he writes has to contain some kind of dismissive swipe at SOMEBODY or SOMETHING.

 

EDIT: And of course, I got to the section about La La Land in this podcast, where White says "It can only be enjoyed by people who know nothing about the tradition of movie musicals." Fuck him. That's not just a swipe at the movie, it's a swipe at everyone who liked it. Screw that.

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Yeah, his arguing with Amy often felt like it boiled down to condescendingly saying "Trust me, I know what this really means" or "This has value because I say it does" without backing it up with much evidence or explanation. Amy handled what would have been, for me, a very frustrating "conversation" with a lot of grace.

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Anyway, I'll also say that I did enjoy Armond's comments on both of these two films (he can be insightful when expressing his appreciation for films, moreso than when tearing them down).

 

I voted Stop Making Sense. All respect to Prince as a musical artist, but SMS is just better-made as a film, a more coherent and focused piece of cinematic art. This is where it probably helped to have Demme as the guiding hand, as opposed to the cobbled-together footage of Sign o the Times.

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Having read White's reviews in the past, I expected a much more...bombastic edition. This one was actually almost, I hesitate to use the word boring but that's not the right word. I was expecting one not quite so academic.

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It's been my opinion for a long time that White is mostly a contrarian for contrarianism's sake.

Isn't that Kyle Smith (NY Post)?

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Armond White is one of my favorite critics. The way he consumes movies is just as important as anyone else's, and the best kind of idiosyncratic. Sometimes his critiques are difficult to comprehend, but I like that he really is his own thing. Also, any discussion trashing La La Land--an empty film about the emptiness empty people fill themselves with that misses its own point--is fine by me.

 

Anyway, I went with Sign o' the Times. I prefer Talking Heads, but as a film, it's Prince all the way.

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Ugh...Armond White is VERY hard to listen to. While Sign O' The Times the album is obviously a masterpiece, I haven't seen the concert movie and I don't know anyone who's not a diehard Prince fan who has seen it. Where can I even watch it? I've seen the "video" of "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" which was pulled from the footage of the movie, which is the only reason I felt justified in voting.

 

I voted for STOP MAKING SENSE, because it is recognized as one of the three great concert movies ever made and because you could watch David Byrne gyrating in the giant white suit on an endless loop and never get tired of it. It is iconic. This shouldn't have been a versus. It should have just been "welcome to The Canon Stop Making Sense". Still, it is good to have the podcast back!

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At least Devin's occasional man-splaining came with some humor. Boy, Armond was a slog. Kudos to Amy for getting through it, but I hope he's not invited back.

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Yup, I read them as well. I did that part of research in January to look up who actually was capable of disagreeing on "Get Out" with everybody else and giving it a "rotten". I disagree with him most of the times, but I mostly find it jarring that a guy can write, in quite a chameleonic way, for a right-wing-paper and incorporate in these reviews more or less a consistent conservative-partiotic angle on films, while at the same time write for OUT magazine, where he writes, quite flamboiantly, about queer cinema. And while there are certainly some gay conservatives, the overlap in terms of political goals and stuff they like is generally pretty small. Is this supposed to be some kind of practical joke? Case and point would be his negative review of last year's moonlight on National Review, and featuring the picture of the same film in an article praising how great 2016 was for queer cinema.

So I haven't listened yet- but I checked out his twitter as I haven't heard about him before.

 

It is so bizarre seeing such detailed critiques of LGBT representation in cinema mixed in with pro Trump tweets- I guess its the Caitlyn Jenner argument, in a truly tolerant "Post Gay" world, being gay doesn't mean your political beliefs have to align to the left.

 

But anyway- this isn't an Armond White discussion, this is a Sign o the Times V Stop Making Sense, I haven't seen them yet, but it seems like either choice is decent.

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Man, I thought I sounded condescending when I talk about movies... Stop Making Sense is the obvious choice for the Canon.

 

And, if I may, Armond White can take his unintellectual, jaded dismissals of La La Land and go back to making National Review pseudo-intellectual "cuck-servatives" feel like they can somehow access modern cinema without a modern paradigm.

 

Keep at it Amy! I know you'll have better episodes in the future! Maybe there need to be some consensus bonafide masterpieces put in, or a director face-off? Can't wait to see what you bring to the table on this re-embarkment!

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All the way with bleary, sycasey 2.0 and deanepuddle's comments! I am going to turn some aluminum foil and bottle caps into an olympic medal for listing to this guy talk down to the listener with such an airy quasi intellectual tone. Frankly, we all deserve a medal.

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So I haven't listened yet- but I checked out his twitter as I haven't heard about him before.

 

It is so bizarre seeing such detailed critiques of LGBT representation in cinema mixed in with pro Trump tweets- I guess its the Caitlyn Jenner argument, in a truly tolerant "Post Gay" world, being gay doesn't mean your political beliefs have to align to the left.

 

But anyway- this isn't an Armond White discussion, this is a Sign o the Times V Stop Making Sense, I haven't seen them yet, but it seems like either choice is decent.

 

I agree with you, that we shouldn't discuss his case here. Let me just add, that one can be economically conservative/open-market and be socially liberal. But I don't think that's what either Donald Trump nor the National Review really is about. And if Mr White disliked Moonlight, it might as well be, because it hit too close to home for him. To put it in some over-generalistic terms, as he would do: He wears his contrarianism as mask and as an armour so he doesn't have to confront his real self, just like Catlyn Jenner can't take a joke and Black wears his muscles.

 

As of the films: I was surprised, but Signs O' The Times was aviable at my library. It's a fun experience, but, apart of the cinematic qualities, I never quite got into Prince's music. It never appealed to me as much as different artists of the times. I always felt his productions are bit too much stuck in the 80s, with a lot of echo and synthesizers. If I like some of his songs, it's most of the time despite of his production, not because of him. Also, Amy, if you say the best Prince single is whichever one is listening to right now, I dare you to listen to the Batdance more than 10 times in a row. To me it's an incoherent mess with some fanfiction dialogue mixed in it. That argument worked for the Beatles, but definitely not for Prince.

 

Stop Making Sense made, in lack of better words, simply a bit more sense to me. The stripped-down version of Psychokiller is just one of the highlights, and yes, I really want to add a Jonathan Demme film to the canon. He's a thoughtful filmmaker and I'd say a bit underappreciated.

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I had trouble focusing on Armond talking throughout the episode just as I had trouble focusing on Sign O' the Times when I watched that. Stop Making Sense is an easy winner for me. I have nothing against Prince, and it may just be my bias as a big fan of Talking Heads, but it was much more engaging to me, probably due to Demme's direction. I'm not even that into concert films but this really did it for me, especially the reveal of the big suit and the performance of Girlfriend is Better.

 

And dang, such hardcore La La Land bashing and insulting anyone who dared to enjoy it. While it's definitely a film that will lose its veneer in a few years, there's a lot to enjoy about it and in no way is it an insult or a disgrace to musicals of the past. It's impossible to deny that Chazelle has talent, despite what you may think about the "musical-ness" of La La Land.

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I was much more familiar with Prince going into this. I love the Sign O The Times album but never saw the concert film, but Stop Making Sense made a much bigger impression on me. I couldn't take my eyes off David Byrne (I actually agree with Armond White .. Byrne does have a powerful sexuality on stage).

 

I watched both of these films twice over the weekend. I almost want to throw Sign a vote just because not everyone got to watch it, but I think Stop Making Sense just made me a huge Talking Heads fan whereas Purple Rain is really the better Prince showcase.

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Purple Rain is really the better Prince showcase.

 

This is also a good point. If there is one movie to canonize as representative of Prince's cinematic output, it's Purple Rain.

 

Personally, I might not canonize any of them, just because I find that Prince as a filmmaker has some key limitations (indulgence, overconfidence in his own abilities as an actor) that prevent his movies from 100% "clicking" with me. But Purple Rain is clearly the big dog among them.

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This is also a good point. If there is one movie to canonize as representative of Prince's cinematic output, it's Purple Rain.

 

Personally, I might not canonize any of them, just because I find that Prince as a filmmaker has some key limitations (indulgence, overconfidence in his own abilities as an actor) that prevent his movies from 100% "clicking" with me. But Purple Rain is clearly the big dog among them.

 

Something about Purple Rain didn't work for me until I saw it in a theater last year with really good sound. The story isn't the greatest, and he really isn't much of an actor, but the stage performances really make up for it and tie it all together. Sound is such an important component to Purple rain. If you're watching it on low volume or with tv speakers then you're not getting that same venue feel.

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Something about Purple Rain didn't work for me until I saw it in a theater last year with really good sound. The story isn't the greatest, and he really isn't much of an actor, but the stage performances really make up for it and tie it all together. Sound is such an important component to Purple rain. If you're watching it on low volume or with tv speakers then you're not getting that same venue feel.

 

The musical performances definitely are what works about the movie.

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This is merely a "me too" post to make it more convenient to gauge listener sentiment. I vote Mr. White out of The Canon. Listening to him swung me back and forth between bored and frustrated. That's a matter of personal opinion, but isn't this entire show a personal opinion meter?

 

Which brings up an interesting point... Is Amy considering bringing back well-liked guests for repeat appearances? It feels petty to critique the critics rather than the movies up for debate, but isn't it valid to say whom we would rather listen to going forward?

 

And if we talk about guest presenters we enjoy or don't enjoy listening to, is mentioning Amy's presentation style off-limits? I don't want to be vindictive for the fun of it, but is it an attack if we point out oft-repeated vocal mannerisms of Amy's that actively distract from being able to listen to the points she is making? I sometimes get so hung up on "like" and "it's true" that I have to force myself to concentrate again on the topic. This has nothing to do with her analysis of the films or quality as a reviewer. But in her role as starring host of an audio podcast, her delivery and performance style matters.

 

The obvious retort is "If you don't like it, you don't have to listen." Certainly true. The fact that I keep listening means I like it enough to stay with it. But if film critics can offer their perception of the creative and technical aspects of a movie that influenced their opinions, are we within our rights to do so as well with regards to the podcast?

 

I have a bad feeling this is opening a bucket o' worms unrelated to this week's vote, but we were already deep into a thread with people opining about the reviewer rather than the reviewed. I have no wish to be disrespectful to Amy or her guests, and I hope I won't be perceived as a troll or flamer.

 

Thank you.

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The only reason Stop Making Sense is winning because none of the voters have seen Sign O Times ..

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In the spirit of this episode's guest, I'll be contrarian and say Armond certainly didn't match my mental image of him (ie. a bitter and cantankerous grump). Separating his appearance here from all else he's written - I thought it was a surprisingly fun conversation!

 

Didn't really catch a "mansplain-y" vibe; seemed like polite back & forth with some gentle disagreement, though I guess it's Amy's perspective that really matters. Seems like Armond's got a precise, academic way about him, but does that qualify as "quasi-intellectual"? The concepts and arguments were sound, even if I didn't always agree.

 

But dismissive?? YES, and that's a huge turn off for me with critics - and not just singling out Armond, there's quite a few out there. Even if I agreed La La Land isn't a strong musical, it's not like there aren't other reasons to appreciate a movie. To assume it only got acclaim because audiences lack "erudition" is arrogant. You can convey disagreement without being an asshole about it. As if internet comment sections weren't bad enough... (not anyone here though, y'all are the bee's knees)

 

Anyways, haven't been able to find Sign o' the Times yet - surprised so many voters here have - but Stop Making Sense is indeed incredible. Abstaining for now.

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