Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Four

16 Jan

So I know it’s been awhile since my last over/underrated post, but Life. My excuses, in chronological order, are: birthday party/Golden Globes, dinner with the parents, Downton Abbey, book club field trip (Alexandra Bracken, YAY!), Husband’s company’s holiday party, and my school’s holiday party.

Methinks that this week will be a far more productive writing week, but no promises.

In the meantime…

Overrated

Adele

Let me be clear about one thing: Adele has mad talent. Pure, raw, stuff of legends talent. Whitney and 90s Mariah sized talent. The girl can belt and wail with the best of them. I’m not denying that.

What I will propose, however, is that she’s a bit of a one trick pony.

When “Hello” hit the airwaves in October of 2015, listeners were thrilled to at last have new music from the songstress, who at one point had contemplated retirement after the success of her previous album, 21. “Hello” was a song worth waiting for. Finally, finally, Adele had released a slow building piano ballad that allowed her to belt out the big notes while showcasing her talent for controlled resonance. How truly original! Like nothing we’d ever heard before on her previous singles like “Hometown Glory,” “Someone Like You,” “Skyfall,”… Oh, wait.

I’m not saying that “Hello” isn’t a fantastic song, because it is. I was obsessed with it, too, and even semi-understood why the video was viewed more than 27 million times in its first 24 hours. I may, in fact, still be obsessed with it, but that’s not the point. The point is that nearly every Adele song sounds exactly the same. Even her “uptempo” songs à la “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It” seem to have repeat characteristics. Retro sound? Check. Soul choir backup chorus? Check.

All of Adele’s songs are good, and worth listening to. But do I understand the point of 25-release-day listening parties? Not really, considering that it’s hard to tell exactly which song you’re listening to unless you’re using the album jacket as a reference.

As long as we’re discussing things I don’t understand, let’s talk about Adele’s 2016 Tour. When tickets for Adele’s first tour since 2011 went on sale on December 17th, they sold out within minutes. Fans were willing to fork over upwards of $150/ticket to see the chanteuse, and those were the prices on legitimate, uninflated websites. That’s an awful lot of money spent to see a woman stand in one spot and flail her arms about for two hours while singing songs exactly as they were sung on the albums. Hell, someone could put me on that stage to lip sync her songs for two hours, and I bet the people up in the nosebleeds couldn’t tell the difference.

I’ve always been someone who’s thought that the true sign of musical artistry was reinvention. Take artists like Madonna and Justin Timberlake, who have proven their ability to update their sounds for musical relevancy, while still maintaining their signature styles. Call me strange, but when I hear new music from artists, I expect it to actually sound new. This is something that Adele, despite her undeniable talent, has not yet managed to do. Until I hear a “new” Adele song that I haven’t already heard before, I’ll just be over here in my corner, Disappointed in Adele, Party of One.

Adele

Underrated

The Jinx

SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains spoilers pertaining to the HBO miniseries The Jinx. Although technically, if you were up on your current events, they wouldn’t be spoilers. Maybe you should sort out your priorities. 

“Have you watched Making a Murderer?” This is the question du jour of January 2016.

It seems like literally everyone I have conversed with this month somehow or another gets around to asking me this question. After a discussion of the Netflix series (which I’m sure will be on this list in some capacity come January of 2017), I always follow up with, “Did you watch The Jinx?” I am appalled astounded by how often the answer is “No.”

In case you happen to be ignorant like the vast majority of the people I have this conversation with, let me fill you in. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is an HBO documentary miniseries about accused murderer Robert Durst. The miniseries follows writer/director Andrew Jarecki as he interviews Durst periodically over the course of several years.

If you’re considering blowing off the Jinx as a run of the mill did he/didn’t he true crime story, don’t. There is much about the Jinx that elevates it to a higher level of journalism, and even higher level of entertainment. 

Take, for example, the history of Jarecki’s relationship with Durst. Jarecki was the director of the 2010 film All Good Things, which was inspired by Durst’s story. After seeing the movie and liking it, Durst contacted Jarecki and agreed to be interviewed. Jarecki jumped at the opportunity to get inside the mind of the man who inspired his Hollywood tale, and Jarecki’s passion for the subject matter shows. The Jinx is a superb and artfully crafted blend of news footage, archived interviews, new interviews, and reenactments. The carefully pieced together narrative is so captivating that it’s easy to forget that what you’re watching is true. 

Even if you were to cast the cinematic production value of the Jinx to the side, which you shouldn’t, you’d still be left with an emotionally compelling masterpiece.

While the documentary is technically about the investigations into the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s wife Kathie, the 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman, and the 2001 murder of his neighbor Morris Black, it’s also about the bizarre relationship between Jarecki and Durst. As the story unfolds, Jarecki struggles to balance a fragile mix of emotions toward Durst. He can’t seem to decide whether to admire, hate, pity, or fear Durst, and what’s more – neither can viewers.

So, even if you were to cast the cinematic production value and the Jarecki/Durst relationship to the side, which you shouldn’t, you’d still be left with a fascinating examination of what constitutes admissible evidence, along with journalistic privilege and its place in the justice system.

“Why?” you might ask. Because not only is the footage captured in the Jinx riveting to watch, it also contained new evidence and an “Oops, is my microphone still on?” confession by Durst. As portrayed on the show, Jarecki and his team struggled with what to reveal to law enforcement and when, so as to maintain the integrity of the evidence. They also had to carefully weigh moral obligation with their desire to maintain their sources’ anonymity. Eventually the evidence uncovered by Jarecki and his team led to Durst’s arrest on a murder warrant. Even better? The arrest took place on March 14th, the premiere night of the Jinx‘s final episode. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

Even if you were to cast the cinematic production value, the Jarecki/Durst relationship, and the intriguing lesson on journalism and the justice system to the side, which you shouldn’t, you’d still be left with the overwhelming satisfaction of knowing that what started out as documentary to entertain and educate the masses will wind up playing an undeniable role in serving justice. It’s everything fans of Making a Murderer are looking for, they just forgot to look for it back in 2015.

The Jinx

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