Best Songs of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Of all the pieces of art and entertainment that I’m ranking for the decade, songs are probably the most personal. Yet somehow I feel compelled to consider how they affected the world at large moreso than all the other categories. The tunes that I value the most aren’t just the ones that make my own heart sing but also the ones that draw all of us closer together. So as I assembled this list, I asked myself both, “What has made me dance these past 10 years?” and “How would I like to dance with everyone else?” Here’s what that playlist looks like.
(I aimed to stick only to songs that were released as singles, as opening this to deep album cuts would’ve made things so overheated.)

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This Is a Movie Review: ‘Wonder Wheel’? More Like ‘Woody Allen Spinning His Wheels’

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CREDIT: Jessica Miglio/Amazon Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

Starring: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi

Director: Woody Allen

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Angry Scotch Drinking and Off-Screen Whack Jobs

Release Date: December 1, 2017 (Limited)

Knee-jerk rejection of voiceover narration because it explains things too straightforwardly earns my ire as one of the worst habits in criticism. But in fact there are times when some filmmakers use the technique as crutch, and perhaps none as frequently as Woody Allen. At least in the case of his latest, Wonder Wheel, he attempts a more poetic form of narration, or so he would like us to believe. Scratch that. It’s not just poetic. It’s also dramatic. You see, because the narrator, Mickey Rubin (Justin Timberlake), isn’t just a lifeguard, he’s also a poet and a dramatist. One would think that there is enough drama inherent in a film that its narrator would not need to spell it out so directly, but Wonder Wheel puts that theory to the test.

Mickey would like you to know that he is also a player in the story that he is telling. Perhaps his presence is meant to spice up this tale with extra passion, but that does not appear to be the case in any discernible fashion. The setting is 1950s Coney Island, and most of the action is set in or around the beach or boardwalk. As far as I can tell, the endless amusement of this area is irrelevant to the people who live there. Mickey is having an affair with Ginny (Kate Winslet), a frustrated waitress married to Humpty (Jim Belushi), who is a decent protector but also a bit of a brute. The most interesting thing about him is his name – is it a nickname? Is it short for something? Could it actually be his given name? Meanwhile, Humpty’s adult daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) shows up unexpectedly, after having run off and married a gangster years earlier. She tries to lay low and get through night school, but naturally some of her husband’s associates come looking for her because she knows too much.

Ultimately, nobody gets a happy ending, which is hardly surprising. But it would have been nice if there had been some sense, any sense, of finality. One of the worst possible outcomes happens, and then Wonder Wheel just stops. Then we just move on out the theater and get on with our lives, with nary a memorable impression to show for it. Maybe the stagy, stilted, sporadically compelling acting style will stick with me a bit, but otherwise, it must be said: Woody, you don’t have to stick to your one-film-per-year routine. It is okay to wait until you find inspiration.

Wonder Wheel is Recommended If You Like: The Jim Belushi-aissance, Stage-style acting on film, Narration that is too wispy to even be pretentious

Grade: 2 out of 5 Humptys

SNL Recap December 21, 2013: Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake

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Wrappinville
I’m fine that we’re seeing JT again in less than a year, but not so much that we’re seeing another -ville sketch again so soon. I would have been fine with it if this edition were really good, but it wasn’t so much.  I had trouble making out all the lyrics.  Although maybe that was because I was tired. B-

Jimmy Fallon’s Monologue
Oh boy, here comes another musical monologue.  At least Jimmy is up to the task.  I liked the concept, but I think I would have preferred it if Jimmy had kept going on with his impressions in an increasingly difficult manner.  It was fine that Paul showed up, I suppose, but I think it would have worked better if that appearance had come later. B

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SNL Recap March 9, 2013: Justin Timberlake

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Now who’s the horse?

Cold Opening – Hugo Chavez Memorial
A sketch about Elton John reworking “Candle in the Wind” for Hugo Chavez?  That’s like the definition of inspired.  “If a candle could pull out 2 pistols” and “capitalism killed Mars” (with its spoken-word breakdown) were the highlights. B+

Justin Timberlake’s Monologue
The Tom Hanks’ five-timers club monologue was more thrilling than this one, seeing as it followed that original so closely.  But considering that the five-timers lounge hasn’t been fully revisited since that first appearance, this was more welcome return than diminishing return.  It was particularly nice to see five-timers who don’t stop by that often anymore, like Chevy and Candie Bergen.  I also appreciated the historical context, such as the recognition that John Goodman hosted 11 consecutive seasons.  And Steve Martin, your arrogance is so delightful. B+

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SNL Season Finale Recap May 21, 2011: Justin Timberlake/Lady GaGa

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Alphonse!

Cold Opening – Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Prison Cell
As I see it, the humor in a sketch like this isn’t so much the dissonance of a convict displaying the knowledge of a sophisticated topic like the world economy.  It is more about the fact that when a topic like the economy is discussed, it is usually rather dry, so it is funny when it is expressed with some attitude, or some form of personality.  That is essentially what Kenan does with Jean K. Jean.  In this sketch he did it less shticky, with a dash of Lorenzo McIntosh thrown in. B

Justin Timberlake’s Monologue
Justin does all the things he says he is not going to do.  I am so pretend-confused. B-

Liquorville
If I remember correctly, when Will Forte was the upstaged spokesman in the (Fill in the Blank)-ville sketches, he and Justin’s mascot character always got along by the end.  So it was a change of pace that Kristen’s spokeswoman remained at odds with him.  As always, the musical selections were generally energetic and inspired.  Pulling J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” out of the vault?  Hoo boy, gotta love that. B

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