My 50 Favorite Musical Albums Of All Time

I know this isn’t a movie related list but I would like to start talking more about music on this page and broaden my writing horizons so here’s a list of my 50 favorite albums of all time in order. Some are obvious, some are obscure. Regardless, this list represents my preferred taste in music pretty accurately as of writing this. Like any list, this is subjective and will likely change over time.

  1. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness-The Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
  2. Dirt-Alice in Chains (1993)
  3. Siamese Dream-The Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
  4. Songs For The Deaf-Queens of the Stone Age (2004)
  5. Adore-The Smashing Pumpkins
  6. Facelift-Alice in Chains (1991)
  7. The Suburbs-Arcade Fire (2010)
  8. The Queen is Dead-The Smiths (1986)
  9. Blues For the Red Sun-Kyuss (1992)
  10. Rated R-Queens of the Stone Age (2000)
  11. Funeral-Arcade Fire (2004)
  12. Meat is Murder-The Smiths (1985)
  13. Gish-The Smashing Pumpkins (1991)
  14. Lullabies to Paralyze-Queens of the Stone Age (2005)
  15. Welcome to Sky Valley-Kyuss (1994)
  16. Aenima-Tool (1993)
  17. Ride the Lightning-Metallica (1984)
  18. Neon Bible-Arcade Fire (2007)
  19. Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
  20. St Vincent-St Vincent (2014)
  21. Alice in Chains-Alice in Chains (1996)
  22. 10,000 Days-Tool (2006)
  23. …And the Circus Leaves Town-Kyuss (1995)
  24. Bloom-Beach House (2012)
  25. Strange Mercy-St. Vincent (2011)
  26. Above-Mad Season (1995)
  27. Set Yourself On Fire-Stars (2004)
  28. Hell Awaits-Slayer (1985)
  29. Devotion-Beach House (2008)
  30. Fantasies-Metric (2009)
  31. Like Clockwork-Queens of the Stone Age (2013)
  32. Rage Against the Machine-Rage Against the Machine (1992)
  33. Vulgar Display of Power-Pantera (1992)
  34. Steal This Album!-System of a Down (2002)
  35. The Fall of Ideals-All That Remains (2006)
  36. Heart-Stars (2003)
  37. Aloha Moon-Magic Wands (2012)
  38. Depression Cherry-Beach House (2015)
  39. Beach Fossils-Beach Fossils (2010)
  40. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea-Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)
  41. Loveless-My Bloody Valentine (1991)
  42. Cowboys From Hell-Pantera (1990)
  43. Clash the Truth-Beach Fossils (2013)
  44. Dopethrone-Electric Wizard (2000)
  45. Humbug-Arctic Monkeys (2009)
  46. The Five Ghosts-Stars (2010)
  47. Jupiter-Magic Wands (2016)
  48. The Stone Roses-The Stone Roses (1989)
  49. The Doors-The Doors (1967)
  50. Actor-St. Vincent (2009)
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The Stanford Prison Experiment Review/Analysis (2015)

Introduction

First off, I would like to apologize for being away from this site for so long. School and life in general has caught up to me so I haven’t had time to really update this site. Hopefully I’ll be back on top of my stuff from here on out.

Now that that’s out of the way, I wanna devote this article to discussing a movie that, quite frankly, blew me away. That movie is entitled The Stanford Prison Experiment, a 2015 docu-drama based on the actual Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971. For those not familiar, in 1971, professor Phillip Zimbardo engaged in an experiment in which 20 volunteering college students would be chosen at random as either prisoner or guard to simulate the prison experience. The purpose of the experiment was to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the conflict between the prisoners and prison guards. During the experiment, prisoners suffered extreme abuse at the expense of the guards, complacently accepting their punishments. As the guards continued to ramp up their psychological torture, Zimbardo found himself much more engaged in the experiment, going as far as to allow the torture to continue. After only 6 days of a 2 week experiment, Zimbardo pulled the plug.

The movie is a retelling of these events using actors to represent Zimbaro, his colleagues, and the volunteers. Since the events of the movie mirror the actual events, the rest of this article will be devoted to reviewing and analyzing the movie itself.

Review

Objectively, the movie succeed on nearly every level. The acting is fantastic, especially Billy Crudup as Zimbardo, Ezra Miller as Prisoner 8612, and Michael Angarano as the sadistic “John Wayne” guard. Each of these performances demonstrate the depravity each of these characters go through throughout the film. The writing and direction is impeccable, a surprise from a relative unknown director in Kyle Patrick Alvarez. His direction is slick yet confident, capturing the growing tension and animosity between the guards and prisoners. The suspense and tension throughout the film derivative into feelings of genuine unpleasantness. Notably, the climactic 20 minutes are some of the most intense, uncomfortable, and menacing I’ve seen in a film in quite some time. Major props of the movie for knowing how to ramp up the intensity and keep it going until the end.

Quickly, we come to hate the guards as if we are the prisoners themselves. The psychological effects are well displayed by the prisoners. Ezra Miller’s Prisoners 8612 is volatile and becomes a standout amongst the prisoners, quickly cracking and violently resisting. Zimbardo himself is through more and more into the experiment, allowing the torture to continue “in the name of the experiment”. To us, however, this is not as apparent. There are signs that Zimbardo is almost enjoying the torture the prisoners go through and even goes as far as to participate in it at one point. Our protagonist gradually turns into the main antagonist of the film.

Analysis

The predominant theme of The Stanford Prison Experiment is power, specifically how quickly it corrupts us. The selection for the roles of guards and prisoners is determined completely randomly, so it is easy to imagine if the roles of guard and prisoner were switched, the outcome would have been nearly identical. What does this say about human nature? Based on the actual experiment the film is based upon, we can conclude humans are quick to abuse their power once thrusted into a position of one. One’s creativity seems to skyrocket when it requires them to be cruel. The effect of this experiment was so strong that Zimbardo became as antagonistic as the guards, only snapping out of it at the insisting of his girlfriend. At the end of the film, the volunteers are interviewed after the experiment has ended. Notably, the sadistic John Wayne guard simply describes to Prisoner 8612 that he was just going along with what he thought was best for the experiment, that there was no hard feelings between them in real life. To both the audience and characters, this did not seem to be the case at all. Says Ezra Miller, “I know you’re a nice guy…I hate you because I know what you can turn into”. Later, the John Wayne guard remarks, “Personally, I don’t see where it was harmful…I wanted to see just what kind of verbal abuse people could take…it really surprised me that nobody said anything to stop me”.

In my view, the other dominant view was one of morality. Consider the short term and long term effects of the abuse the volunteer prisoners were subjected to. Was it worth the so-called results of the experiment? Many of the guards felt they were doing nothing wrong, while many of the prisoners felt they were going to suffer from the effects for quite some time. Personally, I feel the question of morality lays purposefully unanswered in the film. It’s hard to fault the guards for getting involved in the experiment and putting in the effort, but was it really worth it to go that far? We also see Zimbardo’s moral capacity slowly dwindling and dwindling until he finally snaps out of his stupor. Regardless, I do not fault Zimbardo completely for how things went down. I genuinely believe he was interested in studying the ramifications of power and authority rather than fulfilling some twisted fantasy. Granted, we learn about Zimbardo unintentionally through the experiment. All in all, the movie and real life experiment comment on human nature and are capacity for cruelty given the opportunity. Though this has likely always been the case, the experiment truly brought it to fruition

Conclusion

All in all, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a fascinating, gripping, and genuinely disturbing character study about humanity in general. The intensity does not let up from the start, making for a compelling and brutal look at the abuse of power and authority. The filmmakers have crafted a fantastic work that is definitely among my favorite films of 2015. I’m so glad I stumbled across this movie on Netflix because I’ve been singing its praises since. I strongly implore any of you to check this movie out because it blew me away. It deserves more recognition and praise.

Rating: 8.7/10

Why Mr. Robot Is My Current Favorite TV Show: Delusion, Detachment, & Destiny (Analysis/Interpretation)

Introduction

Like many fellow college undergrads off to college, the amount of television I watch these days pales in comparison to from a few years ago. My busy schedule and internet access keep me more than sufficiently occupied with my time. Television is all about Netflix and streaming services now, anyway. There’s few shows on network television today I would name as personal favorites of mine. However, just last year I came across USA original Mr. Robot while staying at home over summer vacation. I’d only heard great things about it and the premise definitely piqued my interest. Never did I expect I would officially fall in love with the show by the end of the premiere episode of the second season, the first episode I watched.

Granted, it’s pretty unconventional to start a series after a full season had passed. How would I avoid spoilers and be able to comprehend what was going on? Luckily, the show seemed to follow a different path than it had for season 1. I quickly became familiar with the characters and their roles with respect to the storyline. As I continued to be enthralled, I started to notice prevalent themes and motifs creator Sam Esmail wanted to get across. The following essay won’t delve into major plotpoints or spoilers, but will rather discuss the themes present in Mr. Robot. After this, I’ll offer my personal thoughts in terms of objectivity/subjectivity with hopes of getting across with Mr. Robot is the best show on television right now. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

The Story

Elliot Alderson is our protagonist, a late 20s cyber security expert stricken with anxiety, depression, and apparent delusions. He finds himself incredibly dissatisfied with his current life, one that takes a turn when he is approached by Cyber-Anarchist group FSOCIETY, who recruit him into participating in cyberterrorism using his exceptional skill-set.  His new mentor is the mysterious Mr. Robot, leader of FSOCIETY who might have closer ties with Elliot than he would have imagined. Also involved in FSOCIETY is Elliot’s sister Darlene, a tough, hipster-ish young woman whose role in FSOCIETY and Elliot’s life gradually becomes more significant over time. The bulk of the series revolves around Elliot’s increasing involvement in cyber-activity as he attempts to maintain his fragile grip on sanity.

Analysis/Interpretation

Delusion/Control

Without spoiling anything, Elliot Alderson is a very unreliable narrator, a fact he himself acknowledges. His narration is often confused and reluctant. He address the audience as his best source of clarity, we are his truest friends. Even then, we don’t know if we can reciprocate this trust he places in us. Why does he speak out to people he can’t even see or be sure that exist in the first place? Elliot’s perception is a very deluded one.

To him, characters are completely different from who he thought they were initially. Their relationships subsequently change completely, and quite frankly, he doesn’t know how to deal with it. Elliot’s delusions are those he conjures subconsciously as a means of portraying his ideal existence. The relationships he thinks he has with people are ideal in a perfect world. But they’re false. How often do we see ourselves in other people’s eyes and imagine good things? In Elliot’s case, this isn’t done because he’s some kind of narcissist. He does so because he’s lost and lonely. Characters will disappear and reappear depending on Elliot’s current mindset. For lack of a better term, Elliot never fully possesses control.

What happens when our control over our own thoughts/actions becomes muddled? This is Elliot’s main predicament throughout the entire show. His control over the environment is essentially nonexistent: his delusions deny him access to the control box of his brain. What he sees and what he believes are under the control of his many neuroses. Elliot is his own primary antagonists of the series. Sure, there are other nefarious people impeding his and FSOCIETY’S progress. What Sam Esmail wants you to believe, however, is that we are truly our own worst enemies.

Detachment

Have you ever been surrounded by friends and family and still felt alone? For Elliot Alderson, this is a constant feeling. He has his sister, his best friend Angela, his fellow FSOCIETY hackers, his co-workers. So why does he feel so detached from all of them? It’s important to look into Elliot’s upbringing to understand this.

Growing up, life was tough for Elliot. We learn early in the series that Elliot’s father Edward contracts Leukemia and dies when Elliot and Darlene are still pre-pubescent. Their mother is cold, unloving, and detached from her two children herself. Even when he was alive, there was clear tension revealed between Edward and Mrs. Alderson as revealed in flashbacks. In my view, Elliot has inherited most of his negative personality traits from his mother (both in nature and in nurture). We even notice that Elliot looks a lot more like his mother than his father. Though Mrs. Alderson is portrayed as constantly cold, we realize Elliot is trying to break this curse. He reaches out to people, sometimes out of desperation. He talks to us as the audience through narration in hopes of reestablishing his grip with reality. However, from what we’ve seen so far, reality manages to remain just out of reach. At times, he’s back on Earth (as displayed in a notable scene involving an infamous psychiatric drug I won’t reveal). Other time, he’s so far gone he doesn’t even recognize his closest friends.

Mr. Robot is a technologically heavy show. It’s become a sort of cult show for hacker culture around the United States. Comparisons between FSOCIETY and Anonymous are made frequently. The hacking portrayed in the show has been described as revolutionary for its real world accuracy and attention to detail, and is one of my favorite aspects of the show as well. What is Sam Esmail saying about the abundance of technology, though? Elliot is frequently on his laptop, whether at work or elsewhere. It’s how he relates to people a lot of times, by looking people up and hacking them. At one point, he even hacks his own therapists, eventually using the information he finds to help her out. Are we as attached to our technology as Elliot is?

Personally, I think the argument is a tired one. “Millenials are hooked on their phones 24/7, blah blah blah”. Obviously as a millennial myself, I’ve heard this one a lot. That’s why I don’t think Sam Esmail is necessarily making the same argument. The show Black Mirror is an excellent anthology series warning us about the increased presence of technology and how it may be harmful in the long run. To me, I believe Esmail is making the same argument. It’s easy to get sucked into the ever so advancing technology and become attached. It’s easy to use it as a crutch. A big part of the show is identity (which I’ll get to soon). Perhaps what Esmail is saying is that we cannot let our technology become a part of technology, whether it be our love or our supposed large usage. There is a large sense of maturity and nuance in this argument. Esmail isn’t treating you like dumb millennials. He may or may not love technology, but doesn’t think it should define us. We are not machines. At risk of treading into an analysis of the Terminator franchise, I’ll conclude this section here.

Identity/Destiny

What’s the point of even being here if we’re so deluded and detached from everything around us? How can we establish an identity if all we know is technology? Who really is Elliot Alderson?

My interpretation is that Mr. Robot concerns itself with themes like depression, anxiety, disassociate identity disorder, and so on as much as technology/hacking. Esmail wants to reach out to the depressed yuppie culture he has seen in the booming tech field. As an undergrad in computer science myself, I’m certainly in Esmail’s target audience, which brings me to perhaps my absolute favorite part of the show. I relate to Elliot Alderson so much, it’s not even funny.

Here’s a man who’s talented at what he does yet emotionally broken. A man who just wants to be able to connect to people. “I’m not good at talking to people”, he declares in the first 5 minutes of the first episode of the show. Thus, he retreats into his laptop and technology and distances himself from the world. How many of us find ourselves able to talk to people online, only to clam up and shut down when dealing with people in person. I know I certainly have. Like Elliot, I possess a tinge of social anxiety that makes it much more desirable to be alone. Talking to others and general interaction can be so exhausting. Never before have I seen a show that’s spoken to me on this level and portrayed social anxiety and general anxiousness to such a relatable degree. I, and many like me, am Elliot Alderson. I’m not bragging that my computer science skills are amazing, but they do mean a lot to me just like Elliot.

It’s hard to definitively establish my identity or what my destiny is. Same for Elliot, I’d say. What matters, however, is that he’s working towards it. Getting involved in FSOCIETY, reestablishing old relationships, stepping out of his large comfort zone. It’s all in the pursuit of identity. I personally believe we give life meaning. Without our efforts, life is inherently meaningless. Who we are means something only to us and maybe our closest cohorts. We choose our destiny through our every day actions. One day at a time.

My Thoughts

Mr. Robot is a technical marvel in nearly every aspect. The acting, especially Rami Malek as Elliot & Christian Slater as Mr. Robot, is absolutely fantastic. The writing is sharp and insightful.  We learn something new about each character through their dialogue and actions every single episode. The cinematography is incredibly impressive and unique. Characters are constantly painted in corners or filmed at a long distance. Their bodies are often cut off from overhead angles.  Shots are meticulously symmetric and clear. Close ups are also utilized to emphasize overwhelming emotions characters must be experiencing. Parallel wide shots are often used in scenes with multiple characters to establish their dominance or lack thereof over the other characters in the shot. This type of unorthodox symmetry is definitely on purpose. We feel cornered, out of frame, detached just like the characters are supposed to feel. Shots are still and calm. There is little to no music during most scenes. Dialogue is crystal clear so we hear its importance. Esmail also enjoys throwing in various teasers and easter eggs to keep us wanting more. We think we know what’s going on with characters, but we end up being completely wrong in some cases. Our understanding of the universe portrayed is just as muddled and confusing as the characters’ within it. We’re helpless to do anything within the universe or affect the fates of the characters, characters we’ve come to empathize with and understand. All major players in the show are well fleshed out and developed, but we just keep wanting more. We root for Elliot, Darlene, Angela, Gideon (CEO where Elliot works), and so on. There’s a sense of mystery that enshrouds the show and never really goes away. You’re hooked in without warning, and you’re rarely given any time to breathe. A common complaint among fans and critics is the large amount of questions that have yet to be answered within the show, but to me, that just keeps things gripping and exciting.

Conclusion

Mr. Robot is a show that has revived my interest in discovering fresh, original television that I had lost when I moved away to college. The next season won’t air until October 2017, and I’m already feeling the lack of new material in my schedule. These 6 months will hopefully pass by quickly because I’m not sure how much longer I can stay away. To reiterate, Mr. Robot is, in my opinion, the best tv show on the air and my current favorite television program of all time. As good as it already is, they have nowhere to go but up in my view. In a way, I feel part of Elliot’s existence and have become fully invested in his well-being. I can’t wait to see what Esmail has up his sleeve for us in the future. For now, however, I’m incredibly grateful I was able to stumble upon this show and alter my television viewing stance for good.

Rating: 9.3/10

 

Kong: Skull Island (2017) Movie Review

Introduction

To date, the only King Kong related media I’ve ever seen is the Peter Jackson version from 2005. Personally, I liked it. It went on way too long and the characters were flat, but the effects and creature design were amazing and certainly enough to keep me engaged in the story. With the newest installment in the franchise Kong: Skull Island, I had hoped for something along the same lines. All I desired at the end of the day were visually stunning action scenes among Kong and even the human characters. Here are my thoughts and feelings about the recent release Kong: Skull Island. I will be avoiding spoilers and reveals in this review completely.

The Story

A group of commandos/scientists embark on a mission to mysterious Skull Island in hopes of mapping the island. Upon arrival, they are quickly greeted by the infamous Kong, a gargantuan ape “the size of a building”, who quickly separate the team into various groups on different parts of the island. From here, they must find a way to regroup with their other comrades and find a way off the island, all the while avoiding the giant & deadly animals who habitat the island. As their numbers dwindle, they come to realize their deadliest enemy may not be Kong and that Kong himself may be their best hope to safely leave the island.

My Thoughts

I had my reservations when I learned the director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, was mainly known for his indie debut The Kings of Summer, quite the far cry from the CGI heavy, big budgeted film audiences were expecting. Luckily, Roberts is able to achieve the pre-summer blockbuster look for the most part. The design of Kong looks decent enough and will probably satisfy most of the general viewing audience. The other monsters on the island are also visually sleek and impressive, engaging in convincing action sequences that were easily the highlight of the film for me.

When it came to the human characters, I got exactly what I expected, which wasn’t much. Everybody does a great job portraying their characters, working well with the generic characterizations and dialogue they were given. I was surprised to learn two actors from the film Straight Outta Compton (Corey Hawkins & Jason Mitchell) had roles in this film, roles that were huge variations from their roles in the former film. Thankfully, they show a lot of potential as young actors and I look forward to future roles these two have.

However, I found myself hardly caring for most of the main cast and honestly felt more connected with the lesser focused on characters. Tom Hiddleston plays a generic British commando. Brie Larson is the photographer archetype. Samuel L. Jackson is the leader of the commandos whose role is to be skeptical of the painfully average John Goodman character and also spout one liners here and there. John C. Reilly is admittedly great as a WWII solider stuck on the island for 29 years, but his humor is really hit or miss for the majority of the film. Since the bulk of the film’s humor comes from his character, for me, the humor really was not necessary in the long run. I also felt this ended up contributing to the inconsistent tone of the film. Should I be on the edge of my seat now, yet laughing hysterically 30 seconds later? Maybe if the majority of the humor had hit would I excuse these jarring shifts of tone, but unfortunately, Kong: Skull Island can’t deliver.

Conclusion

Kong: Skull Island is a decent action-adventure flick with an excellent visual style but a lacking story beneath the surface. Characters were there as food fodder for the beasts of Skull Island, but the film was going for that in the first place. For those who are able to turn off their brains and enjoy the spectacle in front of them, I would highly recommend this film to you. For me, nonetheless, Kong: Skull Island was an average pre-summer blockbuster that serves to fizzle out amongst a laundry list of potential superior films both already released and to be released in the upcoming months.

Rating: 7.4/10