Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week’s entries come from: Andrew Grevas, Laura Stewart, Tim Fuglei, and John Bernardy.
Andrew: Admitting to being a fan of pro wrestling typically gets you strange looks, especially these days when industry leader WWE is putting out an unwatchable product. For many years now, WWE has recycled the same stars on top, failing to establish new ones, all while churning out storylines that simply lack creativity. It’s a product mostly marketed towards kids, except they don’t like it as much as they used to either. WWE’s woes are no fault of their performers. The blame firmly lies with owner and one time creative visionary Vince McMahon who is failing to see that he doesn’t have his finger on the pulse the way he once did.
Jon Moxley (known as Dean Ambrose while in WWE), felt the same as fans like myself and walked away from guaranteed seven figures to join upstart AEW (All Elite Wrestling) as well as New Japan Pro Wrestling, all in the name of creative freedom and pride in his craft. Moxley’s appearance at the end of the first ever AEW event, Double or Nothing this past Saturday was enough to create a huge online buzz. He came out in the closing moments of the show and attacked both Chris Jericho (another former WWE star who left in exchange for creative freedom) and internet and international darling Kenny Omega, establishing that Moxley will be a main player in AEW in the fall when the promotion begins their weekly show on the TNT network.
Moxley followed it up with a video the following day announcing that he would also be competing for Japan’s most prominent and prestigious company, New Japan Pro Wrestling. In less than 24 hours, Moxley showed the world that his post-WWE life will not be a quiet one. He’s on track to be a bigger star than ever, without the machine behind him.
Based on the content of the video and Moxley’s showing at AEW, it’s safe to say the handcuffs are off and the man who once took the independent ranks of pro wrestling by storm with his unique style and creative mind is back. For fans like myself who long for a product that can help us suspend our disbelief and not insult our intelligence, the return of Jon Moxley could not have come soon enough.
Laura: It has been five years since You’re Dead!, the last album release from Steven Ellison, a.k.a. Flying Lotus, and he has been busy. Flamagra sweeps in with 27 tracks jam-packed into an hour of music. There’s a lot to take in—but that’s a good thing. Most of the tracks are between one and three minutes long, so there’s no chance of your mind wandering too far. Like binge eating a box of chocolates with the flavour guide missing; you just don’t know what’s coming next, but pretty much all of it is delicious, and there’ll be something here for everyone’s tastes.
In the album blurb, Flamagra is painted as a concept album, with Ellison having been haunted over the years by “a lingering concept about fire—an eternal flame sitting on a hill.” Then, when he was at a party, he overheard David Lynch saying the words that would end up as the monologue the director speaks on the track, “Fire is Coming”. If anyone other than David Lynch was the person saying those words you’d think it was ridiculous, but with Lynch, you just know that it is true. His words and Ellison’s vision brought Flamagra to life. Lynch is no stranger to Ellison; Flying Lotus played a DJ set at Lynch’s Festival of Disruption in May 2018 and he famously samples music from Twin Peaks in his live shows.
Over his career, FlyLo has enjoyed many collaborations, but Flamagra takes that to another level. Can you have too many guest artists? Maybe. This album kinda makes it feel that way, but that’s probably only because of the long list of tunes. The tracks without a contributor do tend to suffer at the expense of this, though the music is sublime at every juncture; technical jazz and soulful funk that would make Prince proud. So who other than Lynch features? Long-term collaborator, bassist Stephen Bruner (otherwise known as Thundercat), co-writes over half of the tracks. Then there are contributions from Anderson Paak, George Clinton, Little Dragon, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Toro y Moi and Solange. Quite a line-up!
From beginning to end, there’s an all-encompassing meditative feel to Flamagra. This enlightening vibe does get interrupted now and then by tracks like the tension building, bass-heavy “Fire Is Coming”—which features David Lynch telling a story that you can totally picture becoming a short film—and the aggressive-flowing Denzel Curry guest spot on “Black Balloons Reprise”. Outside of those tracks, there’s always a soothing aura from the music. Whether it’s the soft claps and fluttering notes of “Post Requisite” or the bluesy groove of “Burning Down the House” with George Clinton, Flamagra always has something unique to offer.
You may find yourself diving deepest down the FlyLo rabbit hole of “Andromeda” one minute, then basking in the glorious tinkling of piano keys in “Remind U”. the next. Then on the flip side, “Pilgrim Side Eye” makes you feel like you are walking through an 8-bit-world. Flamagra is completely removed from our world, our dimension even—a fantasy accessible only through a combination of space travel and LSD. The red-hot rapper, Tierra Whack guests on “Yellow Belly”, sounding like a character in a horror film, tripping on DMT and helium and spouting absolute nonsense. This is the one track which is sparse of layers, only claps and snares and fragmented beats to keep the verse moving. It is divine, and so very, very Lynchian.
While Flamagra may not conjure up as elaborate a world as those that Lynch does, and it doesn’t push Ellison’s art forward in the same way that You’re Dead! did, it is still wonderful to see that Flying Lotus is taking weirdness to the masses and has created his own genre in the process.
Bonus points go to the wonderful album artwork, and if you download Flamagra on Spotify, you’ll see animated art for every track which is a real treat.
John: Host Scott Ryan interviewed Martha Nochimson on the most recent Red Room Podcast, and it’s as classic as you’d expect if you recognize her name. Anyone who remembers Joel Bocko’s Sparkwood & 21 podcast feedback knows how integral he saw her interpretation of Lynch, Frost and Twin Peaks before Season 3 was even a figment, so I was looking forward to this heavy-hitter of an interview. Spoilers: it did not disappoint.
Nochimson views the original Twin Peaks as the end of formulaic television, and the beginning of auteur television. She and Ryan talked about the David Effect (Lynch, Chase and Simon), why David E. Kelley didn’t make the auteur cut, and how Agent Scully repercussions extend into Parks and Rec.
She breaks down the concept of Perfect Hero (and how Breaking Bad, e.g., is just a perfect hero inversion) in a way that the protagonist makes the world a controllable experience. Then she explains how an auteur universe gets bigger and bigger as it unfolds and there can be no such thing as a Perfect Hero in it.
Nochimson pins herself down on what her favorite part of Twin Peaks is, as well as what she thinks of the ending, and Ryan mentions how none of that can be discerned in her new book, Television Rewired: The Rise of the Auteur Series.
They, of course, talk Twin Peaks extensively. Nochimson describes Lynch’s terms of the Marketplace—the world of ordinary business transactions within culture’s definition of reality—and the Unified Field—a reality at the heart of the universe that extends beyond the restrictions of the marketplace. This alone would’ve kept me happy but then she elaborates that characters in Lynch’s work become more and more aware of the Unified Field.
She and Ryan discuss Lynch’s time working on the original Twin Peaks series, the differences between the Giant’s and Fireman’s clues, if Twin Peaks actually made an appearance in Season 3, how the passage of time does or doesn’t matter to Lynch, Cooper’s “mistake” in Episode 29, and if Dale should’ve gone after Naido into the great unknown.
Nochimson’s take on the Season 3 ending surprised me—she came to a definite conclusion—and I’m intrigued by the Mobius Strip Theory in her book that Ryan mentioned but didn’t elaborate on. The podcast has a ton to chew on all by itself, and it did a great job convincing me to buy the book, too.
Tim: The suits at Warner Brothers must be pleased with their nascent giant monster franchise reboot, started in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, continued in Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island. They both made decent piles of money and had the right combination of woozy nostalgia for the Japanese originals and fan response that we’re now three movies in. They’re not quite ready to queue up Kong for his inevitable showdown with the big green guy, but more than ready to pull a roll call of creatures out to pit against Godzilla and of course the simpering collection of humanity that cowers under their mood swings.
The producers of Godzilla: King Of The Monsters clearly got the memo that some found Godzilla’s first entry to be something of a slow burn, with several humans followed closely while the monsters made ill-lit cameos until they come together for some good old fashioned city smashing in San Francisco. This sequel, bereft of any original cast save a sober David Strathairn making stern military pronouncements and Ken Watanabe thankfully given more to do, chucks a new array of characters and a couple of plot points at you in the first five minutes, then sets about destroying buildings, shooting guns, shaking cameras and showing big bad monsters as often as it knows how to.
We’re introduced to a San Francisco family who made it through the events of the first film, but hardly unscathed. Fortunately for the mechanics of the new movie’s plot, the parents happen to be brilliant scientists and the daughter has their intelligence crossed with no shortage of pluck. Chiseled scowler Kyle Chandler is the dad who doesn’t want anything to do with big monsters, doe-eyed Vera Farminga has developed a MacGuffin to drive the story forward, and Millie Bobbie Brown grows a curly head of hair to bob around as she’s running from things.
Something of a Monster Study Team called Monarch has risen up, and it’s through their efforts that we discover many more huge creatures of the night have been discovered. In typical form, people with varying and destructive agendas attempt to hijack some of the nobler plans behind Monarch’s efforts, and away we go. Godzilla does take his time to make a first appearance, but it’s one that’ll have audience members covering their ears with the blaring sound design and shrinking in their seats at the first of many dominance displays from the big guy and his friends. They’re not really friends though; a particularly troublesome three-headed beastie called Ghidorah has designs on that monster king title and makes life very difficult and death quite easy for the rest of the planet in the process.
All of the resulting calamity ensues at a determined, aggressive pace, rounded out by a solid supporting cast that doesn’t seem particularly averse to delivering increasingly silly dialogue—a hallmark of the originals too, so one can’t complain too much. The deep geekery we’d expect from a remake of such a beloved set of movies runs through the film’s DNA so much that we even get to enjoy Stranger Things’ Eleven flipping the bird to Game of Thrones’ Tywin Lannister. It’s all good turn-your-brain-off-and-watch-the-explosions fun; the San Francisco finale of the earlier film stretched out across multiple sequences that ultimately leave you exhausted more than exhilarated, but not in a particularly bad way. Godzilla: King of The Monsters telegraphs what you’re about to get walking into the theater by its title alone, so no one should be surprised that it’s neither the second coming of Shakespeare nor the worst thing you’re likely to see Hollywood belch out this summer.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!