Thursday, October 31, 2013

Video Of The Week: Rob Zombie

At first, I wasn't sure how to take this song. I still don't.

Rob Zombie isn't the most cover-oriented singer, and his attempt at industrializing The Ramones was uneven, to say the least. But I thought he could do well with Grand Funk Railroad's We're An American Band, which he kind of does.

Except it doesn't really sound like Rob Zombie - apart from the gravelly vocals. It's heavy rock, far from the industrial/electronics-heavy material he excels at, and it kind of falls a bit flat, a bit like a Kid Rock cover...

The video doesn't help, either, a compilation of a live performance and behind-the-scenes tour footage with a ton of boobage, it looks like the beginning of one of his horror movies where a family of Southern-state in-breds will take advantage of the anonymity of a weekend-long music festival shock-full of drunken teenagers to go on a rape-and-killing spree.

I'll give it a few more listens, but it could be my least favourite Zombie track so far, though it does capture some of the energy of his live shows. Or maybe I really have grown cynical with age.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pearl Jam: Lou Reed Tribute

As tributes came left and right to mark the passing of Lou Reed these past few days, my favourite band got in the mix and covered one of the Velvet Underground's hardest songs - not because it's complicated by any stretch of the imagination, but because it's repetitive and almost toneless. The song is Waiting For The Man; it's from their show in Baltimore last Sunday:

Notice how even Eddie Vedder can't stop himself from moving into his actual, loud voice for the last verse...

Monday, October 28, 2013

R.I.P. Lou Reed

I mentioned it when J.J. Cale passed away, and now another member of my Sacred Five songwriters has died, Lou Reed. Of all of them (Eddie Vedder, Tom Waits and Renaud are the other three), Reed's vocal delivery and guitar playing (though not his ''ostrich'' - i.e. all-the-same-notes - tuning) was the one I ended up closest to resembling, albeit not on purpose.

Rolling Stone described his singing style thusly in 1971:
Reed's voice hasn't changed much since the early days. Outrageously unmusical, it combines the sass of (Mick) Jagger and the mockery of early (Bob) Dylan, but is lower-pitched than either. It is a voice so incapable of bullshit that it makes even an artsy arrangement work by turning the whole thing into a joyous travesty. Just as arresting as Reed's voice are his lyrics, which combine a New York street punk sensibility and rock song cliches with a powerful poetic gift.
As the tributes rolled in yesterday, you could see that his influence as a figurehead of all things New York- and arts-related still stood unscathed (everyone from Salman Rushdie to Samuel L. Jackson to Iggy Pop to Ricky Gervais had something to say); he was not only as unseparable from New York as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Spike Lee, he was the city's underbelly, its history of upheaval, fights for gender equality (he even dated a transgendered lady in the 70s), its rampant drug scene.

He died of liver failure, 6 months after a transplant. It wasn't from eating too much citrus.

During his career, many critics noted that he had a tendency to forgo complicated musical arrangements and lyrics, instead opting for a more direct, succinct approach; still, his long list of musical collaborators over the years would leave a jazz and prog-rock fan a mouth-watering sensation: Jack Bruce (Cream), Aynsley Dunbar (Frank Zappa, Journey), Steve Winwood (Traffic, Blind Faith), Steve Howe (Yes, Asia), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Caleb Quaye (Elton John), Steve Hunter (Alice Cooper), Bob Kulick (KISS, Meat Loaf), and jazz great Don Cherry. Among others.

Some of his collaborations were ill-advised, particularly of late (yes, I'm thinking of the double-album from hell with Metallica, but he also could have done 2003's The Raven without bringing David Bowie back into his list of friends). But mostly, he'll be remembered for great songs about 'unclean' subject matter: drugs (Heroin, Waiting for My Man), sadomasochism (Venus in Furs), prostitution (There She Goes Again), the death of a parent (Standing On Ceremony), AIDS (The Halloween Parade), some favourite movies and plays (Doin' the Things That We Want To), racism (I Want to be Black), the electroshock therapy he received as a teen (Kill Your Sons), as well as transvestites and transgenders (Walk on The Wild Side).

But he could also write the perfect ballad, as can be attested by such gems as Pale Blue Eyes and Perfect Day. And while his early solo albums Transformer and Berlin stood as hard acts to follow and are no doubt considered his ''classics'' (especially after the post-dissolution praise for his work with The Velvet Underground), I'm still very fond of some of his later works, notably 1996's Set The Twilight Reeling (whose jewel case came in various colours, mine is purple) and 2000's Ecstasy.

I'll have never seen him perform live.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Top 10s This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. BLACK SKINHEAD, Kanye West (2013)
8. LEAVE BEHIND, Martha Wainwright (2012)
7. SIRENS, Pearl Jam (2013)
6. BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES, Atoms For Peace (2012)
5. FUCKWITHMEYOUKNOWIGOTIT, Jay-Z (feat. Rick Ross) (2013)
4. COPY OF A, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
3. GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS (Peter Gabriel cover), Arcade Fire (2013)
2. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, Metric (2012)
1. REFLEKTOR, Arcade Fire (with David Bowie) (2013)

Top 10 Peter Gabriel (Solo) Songs:

10. MY BODY IS A CAGE (Arcade Fire cover), Scratch My Back (2010)
9. BIG TIME, So (1986)
8. HERE COMES THE FLOOD, Peter Gabriel (1977)
7. LOVETOWN, Philadelphia soundtrack (1993)
6. DON'T GIVE UP (with Paula Cole), Secret World Live (1994)
5. BIKO, Peter Gabriel (a.k.a. 3/Melt) (1980)
4. SLEDGEHAMMER, So (1986)
3. SOLSBURY HILL, Peter Gabriel (1977)
1. GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS, Peter Gabriel (a.k.a. 3/Melt) (1980)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fonts And Nonsense

I came across this article about a Pepsi ad about a month ago, but time hasn't really been on my side of late, so I delayed posting about it until now. Which is silly, really, because there isn't really much to say, because seeing is believing and forming your own opinion:

If it looks to you like it says ''PEPSI X RAPE'', that's because it almost does, as the article states:
Pepsi is quickly learning this lesson after partnering with Japanese clothier A Bathing Ape.

Nothing suspicious there; collaborations happen all the time.

But to promote the brand’s AAPE line, Pepsi chose a font that might skew the meaning a bit for the casual passerby.
I'm not one to be easily offended - if at all; as a matter of fact, I'm usually the first one to promote offensive stuff, because I find North Americans hypocritial about being über politically correct in their speech and yet borderline psychotic in their actions and beliefs (particularly the right-wing, pro-life, pro-death penalty, ''don't touch my guns/don't tread on me'', vaguely-to-extremely racist and violent in their tone with everyone who disagrees with them folks).

But that's precisely why I would avoid, as a marketing professional, the use of a font which involuntarily - I hope - associates a household name in the beverage industry with one of the worst crimes one could commit, probably on par with murder: the rise of violence in our public discourse in the Age Of The Internets has brought forth a very loud consortium of voices calling for and promoting violence against women; sure, a lot of them are just trolling, but in a world where public shootings occur more than once a week, the creeps are no longer afraid to come out of the woodwork and seem to be encouraged by a certain public spotlight to try to one-up their brethren.

We don't need to further encourage them via that large a brand-name recognition. I probably wouldn't have minded if it was a brand I truly despised, or a start-up that I could associate with rapists, psychopaths and other dudebros from the start; free speech does mean one (or one brand) can choose its target audience, just like Barilla decided they didn't need the gay clientele, or Denny's didn't need black customers. But the second-largest soft drink company in the world probably should have been more careful...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Video Of The Week: The Kills

Before they were dancy, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince (a.k.a. The Kills) had a gloomy take on modern garage rock, not unlike Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Mosshart drew a lot of attention with this band, but even more so with her side-project with Jack White, The Dead Weather.

With this song, the title track off No Wow, they show the potential to round out a sound with just a voice, a guitar, and effects (namely a looper to repeat the drum-like parts and a drum machine). Simple, effective.

Also, they show the tremendous power of a pouty, hiding-her-face, dark-haired femme fatale and her ability to create an aura of charisma despite not having the best voice of all time nor looking like a model. It comes down to ''can she bring it?'', and she does.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ohio State Marching Band: Tribute To Michael Jackson

Sure, a tribute to such high-brow art as Beethoven is nice...

But a 10-minute, super-spectacular marching band tribute to Michael Jackson, somehow, is what will join me in my dreams in a few hours (pay attention to the dance sequence at the 4:30 mark):

Twerkin' Beethoven

I would tell Miley Cyrus to put that in her pipe and smoke it, but I'm afraid she'd try to, literally, smoke Chicago burlesque artist Michelle L'Amour, who puts the ''ass'' in ''classical'' in this fine, uh, interpretive dance version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

Ok, so it's not twerking, but it's definitely something. And, sure, the video is a year old, but who needs a reason to watch a live performance that includes dancing, classical music, and someone wearing a bow tie?

Po Paul And The Arctic 30

About a month ago I wrote about my long-time friend, Po Paul, who was arrested along with 29 other Greenpeace activists and ship crew members. They have now been dubbed The Arctic 30, and here's what Greenpeace had to say about them, followed by pictures of each member:
The courageous crew of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise protested at that Gazprom rig because they felt compelled to bear witness to the slow but unrelenting destruction of the Arctic. The ice is retreating, oil companies are moving north to drill for the fuels that are driving that melting, species are at risk, including our own. Thirty men and women, some young, others not-so-young, all with a moral compass, actually did something about it. Just as in years past, the resolve and courage required to win a better future for our children requires personal sacrifice, a sacrifice the Arctic 30 are now making. They made their stand in the interests of us all.

They also urge you to sign this online petition.

Vigils and protests took place all over the world, but one held in New Zealand got my attention, where the vigil took place around a mock prison cell, where members of Greenpeace and Amnesty International as well as a few celebrities took turns imprisoning themselves, notably Lucy Lawless (a.k.a. Xena, of whom Po Paul was a huge fan):

All in all, some 250 events were held in 50 countries, almost simultaneously.

All 30 members of the ship have now officially been charged with piracy by the Russian authorities. Most of them are isolated, and were denied contact with other humans for over a week when they first got there; they can now see their lawyers, and other visitors, which is how I was able to get this picture of Po Paul, where he looks like he's aged 20 years in 30 days:

Hang in there, my friend. I don't know for how long, and I'm not sure exactly why (except for the obvious ''disrupting the status quo''), but the fact that your cause is just will could should be of some solace. That, and the fact that everyone who knows you fully supports you.

And even some pretty prestigious people who don't:

We miss you.

It's too bad there were no Americans on that boat; Jimmy Carter would have gotten all of you out by now.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

This Week's Top 10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. SACRILEGE, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
9. GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS (Peter Gabriel cover), Arcade Fire (2013)
8. SIRENS, Pearl Jam (2013)
7. CAME BACK HAUNTED, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
6. BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES, Atoms For Peace (2012)
5. DRAG ROPES, Storm Corrosion (2012)
4. DESPAIR, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
3. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, Metric (2012)
2. MONOPOLY, Bloody Diamonds (2012)
1. REFLEKTOR, Arcade Fire (with David Bowie) (2013)

Top 10 Things To Avoid Talking About At Work:

10. Politics
9. Sex
8. Religion
7. Politics
6. Sex
5. Religion
4. Politics
3. Sex
2. Religion
1. Politics

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Video Of The Week: Atoms For Peace

The name of the group may ring a bell: it's from a song off Thom Yorke's solo album.

That name may ring a bell: he's the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Radiohead.

That name may also ring a bell, as it's taken from a Talking Heads song title (off the oft-overlooked True Stories album).

So... who are Atoms For Peace? Well, first and foremost, they're Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano). Their first few gigs consisted of them playing his solo record, a cover or two, and a Radiohead b-side, then they stated incorporating new songs, until they had enough to make an album, Amok.

The band's center and sound engineer is none other than Radiohead's long-time producer Nigel Godrich (keyboards, synthesizers, guitars), and their backline is rounded up by Flea on bass (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers), mercenary drummer extraordinaire Joey Waronker (who has filled in for the regular drummers of Beck, R.E.M., Charlotte Martin, Smashing Pumpkins and The Vines, as well as being a one-time session drummer for Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, P!nk, Norah Jones and many other past and present greats), as well as percussionist Mauro Refosco (from the band Forro In The Dark, and RHCP's tour percussionist).

You may call them a supergroup.

This song, Before Your Very Eyes, is their fourth single overall, and the third one from Amok - the first release was a stand-alone double-A-side consisting of Tamer Animals and Other Side. The video is reminiscent of Radiohead's Kid A-era videos, barely showing the musicians, mostly consisting of digitally-constructed landscapes blending water, mountains and buildings. Like the song, it's no longer ''original'' per se, but it's still pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt

I did it for Backspacer, so I figured I'd do it for Lightning Bolt as well... a track-by-track critique of Pearl Jam's record, due out today.
First off, what a generic fucking album title. ''Will it be electric? Will it hit you like a lightning bolt?'' Also, after pulling the ''eponymous album'' on their eighth in 2006, they now give us their first with a record named after one of its songs. On their tenth album. I'm expecting a re-hash of Hotel California on the next one...

Getaway is a good lead-off track, with its 70s/Kiss vibe (complete with drums-and-vocals breakdown), reminiscent of Backspacer's Johnny Guitar. 8/10

Mind Your Manners was the first single and video, and it sounds like a lot of PJ's ''rockers'', notably those with hardcore-punk-inspired vocal melodies (Blood, Comatose), with the bridge bringing a softer break. It's ok, but not great. Could use louder guitars to match the intensity. 6.5/10

My Father's Son has decent musical ideas, particularly the Caribbean-like bass lines, but the guitar seriously lacks balls - distortion and low ends. As they are, they leave the (angry) vocals to defend themselves and don't utter a syllable to help out. Could have been at least two points better with decent sound. 6.5/10

I've already commented on Sirens when I featured the video a few days ago, but I'll reiterate: good power ballad that could have used better lyrics (as in not ''can you hear the sirens'' three times to start the song off). But I'll be glad to hear it live if it replaces the overplayed Daugther and Small Town, maybe even Betterman. 7.5/10

As a title track, Lightning Bolt is far from a standout. It's not terrible, but also suffers from poor production: it seems the second verse's guitars don't come in as strongly as they do the first time around, though you'd think they'd want to increase the intensity. Also, keeping in mind Wishlist and Unthought Known, it's beginning to be a theme to have songs that start with (and also have a middle part with) muted guitar notes. I say ''theme'' because I'm trying hard not to say ''schtick''. 6.5/10

The sixth song of the album is called Infallible, which I'm guessing was ironic, because it actually proves PJ to be anything but. You know when you hear a Soundgarden song and think to yourself ''it's ok, but it sounds like a Pearl Jam knock-off''? Well, this sounds like Pearl Jam imitating Soundgarden channeling Pearl Jam. Fitting, then, that at 2:15, Eddie Vedder would sing: ''You think we've been here before / You are mistaken''. It's an honest mistake, really, and you won't be the first to make it. 5/10

Pendulum. Oh, what promise, with a drum beat that wouldn't have been out of place on No Code (or close to Radiohead's There There, for you non-PJ fans). The guitar playing is subdued, restrained, efficient; it would have been a really good number if not for the damned ''ah-ah-ah-ah-ahs'' punctuating the final minute-and-a-half - really, there wasn't a 5-syllable sentence they could have repeated instead of fucking ''ahs'', even something as simple as ''time just passes by'', or ''here I am to die'', or ''I'm going back to bed''... 7/10

Swallowed Whole isn't a bad song, it's well-written enough, seems like one of the band's classic mid-tempo rockers, except it sounds like shit. This song is a testament that the band needs outside help at a producing level (and should take Brendan O'Brien's studio key away or change the locks altogether). The guitars sound like they're played through a 1940s AM radio and Vedder's voice is way too loud in the mix - and he's singing slightly off-key in a burning-my-ears kind of way, like when 20 years of people complimenting his awesome voice gets to his head and he starts to think every sound coming out of his mouth is gold. 6/10

And now it's time for the most painful track of all: Let the Records Play. Let's concentrate on the music first: a classic blues-boogie, it sounds pretty much like Rob Zombie's Pussy Liquor - or the theme from True Blood (a.k.a. Bad Things by Jace Everett)... with their balls taken out, the scrotum following suit, and the dick falling off as well. And when you've emasculated the shit out of a song, might as well throw some classic rock lyrics à la Kiss/Bob Seger in there for good measure (you wish you had one bourbon, one scotch and one beer to wash away this silver bullet, but this is clearly Dry Country). 2/10

Vedderites will recognize Sleeping By Myself from his solo Ukulele Songs album... which for some reason the band decided to cover, taking it from an honest, touching song to a pseudo-country cheese-fest. To make the pain in my ears more bearable when I listen to this, when the guitar solo comes up at the 1:30 mark, I just turn my brain off and drift into the chorus of P!nk's Just Give Me A Reason - yes, I know - and it helps me survive until the next verse. 3/10

Yellow Moon is a winner, though, and probably should have been the closing track. Reminiscent of such nice, dark ballads as Nothingman, it would have been at its place on any PJ record save the first and previous-last, it fits so well in their catalog. It's Low Light's bigger, stronger brother. 8/10

But Future Days is the actual closer, and it's a fine slow song, in the vein of The End or All Or None, though it might have been better suited to play during the end credits of a very good film (see Man Of The Hour for Big Fish). The keyboard intro is the only spot in which Boom Gaspar's presence is felt, which is a tad off-putting considering he's in every band photo for the album. 7/10

All in all, this is an album of firsts in my relationship with Pearl Jam: the first time I don't really like an album, the first time I dislike more songs than I love, the first time I dread going out to see them live in case they pop one of these out, the first time I'm angry at them for going soft for no reason (not the ballads, the ball-less Let The Records Play).

All in all, I'll give this a 6/10.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2001 In Film

One thing most of the best films of 2001 have in common is that they make you think. Some for the duration of the film (Lost And Delirious), some for weeks afterwards (Mulholland Drive), others yet for spurts (Zoolander). And yet, most of these films can be watched over and over again without diminishing their value.

Previous posts: 1994, 1995, 1996.

Today, a leap forward to 2001:

Top 20 Films:

20. MONSTERS, INC., Pete Docter (USA)
19. SHREK, Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson (USA)
16. PLANET OF THE APES, Tim Burton (USA/Australia)
15. WAKING LIFE, Richard Linklater (USA)
14. NO MAN'S LAND, Danis Tanovic (Bosnia/France/Slovenia/Italy/UK/Belgium)
13. FROM HELL, Allen Hughes & Albert Hughes (USA/Czech Republic)
12. DONNIE DARKO, Richard Kelly (USA)
11. THE SON'S ROOM, Nanni Moretti (Italy)
10. A BEAUTIFUL MIND, Ron Howard (USA)
9. LE PACTE DES LOUPS, Christophe Gans (France)
7. MY FIRST MISTER, Christine Lahti (USA/Germany)
6. GHOST WORLD, Terry Zwigoff (USA)
5. ZOOLANDER, Ben Stiller (USA)
4. BLOW, Ted Demme (USA)
3. OCEAN'S ELEVEN, Steven Soderbergh (USA)
2. LOST AND DELIRIOUS, Léa Pool (Québec)

Top 20 Directors:

20. ANDRÉ TURPIN, Un Crabe Dans La Tête
19. STEVEN SPIELBERG, A. I. Artificial Intelligence
18. DANIS TANOVIC, No Man's Land
17. PIERRE FALARDEAU, 15 Février 1839
15. WAYNE WANG, The Center Of the World
14. TIM BURTON, Planet Of the Apes
13. RON HOWARD, A Beautiful Mind
12. RICHARD KELLY, Donnie Darko
9. JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL, Hedwig And The Angry Inch
8. CHRISTOPHE GANS, Le Pacte Des Loups
7. JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET, Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amélie Poulain
6. BAZ LUHRMANN, Moulin Rouge
5. STEVEN SODERBERGH, Ocean's Eleven
4. ALFONSO CUARON, Y Tu Mama Tambien
3. TED DEMME, Blow
2. LÉA POOL, Lost And Delirious
1. DAVID LYNCH, Mulholland Drive

Top 20 Lead Actors:

19. JAKE GYLLENHAAL, Donnie Darko
18. TOM WILKINSON, In The Bedroom
17. BENOÎT MAGIMEL, La Pianiste
16. JOHNNY DEPP, From Hell
15. BILLY BOB THORNTON, The Man Who Wasn't There
14. JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL, Hedwig And The Angry Inch
13. NANNI MORETTI, The Son's Room
12. JIM CARREY, The Majestic
11. BRAD RENFRO, Bully
9. ALBERT BROOKS, My First Mister
8. GEORGE CLOONEY, Ocean's Eleven
7. ALAN CUMMING, The Anniversary Party
6. LUC PICARD, 15 Février 1839
4. BILLY BOB THORNTON, Monster's Ball
3. RUSSELL CROWE, A Beautiful Mind
2. SEAN PENN, I Am Sam

Top 20 Lead Actresses:

20. ISABELLE BLAIS, Un Crabe Dans La Tête
19. NICOLE KIDMAN, Moulin Rouge
18. LAURIE HOLDEN, The Majestic
17. NICOLE KIDMAN, Birthday Girl
16. ÉMILIE DEQUENNE, Le Pacte Des Loups
15. LAURA MORANTE, The Son's Room
14. THORA BIRCH, Ghost World
13. JULIANNE MOORE, Hannibal
12. JUDI DENCH, Iris
11. KERRY FOX, Intimacy
10. SISSY SPACEK, In The Bedroom
8. MOLLY PARKER, The Center Of the World
6. AUDREY TAUTOU, Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amélie Poulain
5. NAOMI WATTS, Mulholland Drive
4. ANJELICA HUSTON, The Royal Tenenbaums
3. LIV TYLER, One Night At McCool's
2. LEELEE SOBIESKI, My First Mister
1. HALLE BERRY, Monster's Ball

Top 15 Supporting Actors:

14. ORLANDO JONES, Evolution
13. VINCENT CASSEL, Le Pacte Des Loups
11. GEORGE CARLIN, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
10. IAN McKELLAN, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
9. BILL MURRAY, Osmosis Jones
8. PAUL BETTANY, A Beautiful Mind
7. PETER BOYLE, Monster's Ball
6. JOHN GOODMAN, One Night At McCool's
4. KEVIN COSTNER, 3000 Miles To Graceland
3. BRAD PITT, Ocean's Eleven
1. STEVE BUSCEMI, Ghost World

Top 15 Supporting Actresses:

14. JORDANA BREWSTER, The Fast And The Furious
13. MONICA BELLUCCI, Le Pacte Des Loups
12. JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT, Heartbreakers
11. LAURA DERN, I Am Sam
9. GWYNETH PALTROW, The Royal Tenenbaums
7. HELEN HUNT, The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion
5. ANNIE GIRARDOT, La Pianiste
3. JENNIFER CONNELLY, A Beautiful Mind
2. LAURA ELENA HARRING, Mulholland Drive
1. JESSICA PARÉ, Lost And Delirious

Top 20 Screenplays:

20. BLOW, Nick Cassavetes & David McKenna
19. I AM SAM, Kristine Johnson & Jessie Nelson
18. OCEAN'S ELEVEN, Ted Griffin
17. THE SON'S ROOM, Nanni Moretti
16. NO MAN'S LAND, Danis Tanovic
15. LE PACTE DES LOUPS, Christophe Gans & Stéphane Cabel
14. LOST AND DELIRIOUS, Judith Thompson
13. LE FABULEUX DESTIN D'AMÉLIE POULAIN, Guillaume Laurant & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
12. UN CRABE DANS LA TÊTE, André Turpin
11. ONE NIGHT AT McCOOL'S, Stan Seidel
10. THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, Wayne Wang & Miranda July
9. LE PLACARD, Francis Veber
8. DONNIE DARKO, Richard Kelly
7. HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, John Cameron Mitchell & Stephen Trask
6. WAKING LIFE, Richard Linklater
5. 15 FÉVRIER 1839, Pierre Falardeau
4. 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND, Richard Recco & Demian Lichtenstein
3. A BEAUTIFUL MIND, Akiva Goldsman
2. GHOST WORLD, Daniel Clowes & Terry Zwigoff

Top 15 Cinematographers:

14. PETER DEMING, From Hell
13. GALE TATTERSALL, Thirteen Ghosts
12. PIERRE GILL, Lost And Delirious
11. ROGER DEAKINS, A Beautiful Mind
10. STEVEN SODERBERGH, Ocean's Eleven
9. ROGER DEAKINS, The Man Who Wasn't There
8. STEVEN B. POSTER, Donnie Darko
7. FRANK G. DeMARCO, Hedwig And The Angry Inch
5. ANDRÉ TURPIN, Un Crabe Dans La Tête
4. DAN LAUTSEN, Le Pacte Des Loups
3. PETER DEMING, Mulholland Drive
2. DONALD McALPINE, Moulin Rouge
1. BRUNO DELBONNEL, Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amélie Poulain

Top 10 Villains:

10. MARK HAMILL, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
9. JOHN GOODMAN, One Night At McCool's
8. GENE HACKMAN, The Royal Tenenbaums
7. EDGAR SELGE, Das Experiment
6. WILL FERRELL, Zoolander
5. TED LEVINE, Joy Ride
4. VINCENT CASSEL, Birthday Girl
3. PIPER PERABO, Lost And Delirious
2. TIM ROTH, Planet Of The Apes
1. PETER BOYLE, Monster's Ball

Saturday, October 12, 2013

This Week's Top 10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. FOUR BLACK SHEEP, Martha Wainwright (2012)
9. HURT, Nine Inch Nails (1994)
8. DRAG ROPES, Storm Corrosion (2012)
7. CAME BACK HAUNTED, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
6. TRY, P!nk (2012)
5. GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS (Peter Gabriel cover), Arcade Fire (2013)
4. DESPAIR, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
3. SIRENS, Pearl Jam (2013)
2. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, Metric (2012)
1. REFLEKTOR, Arcade Fire (with David Bowie) (2013)

Top 10 Al Pacino Parts:

10. INSOMNIA (2002)
8. SCARFACE (1983)
4. SERPICO (1973)
3. ... AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1979)
2. CARLITO'S WAY (1993)
1. THE GODFATHER (1972, 1974, 1990)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson, Dumb Ass

Ben Carson is a doctor. Well, he was. Now, he's a Fox News correspondent and, therefore, a fucking idiot.

The Political Line disagrees, and found a few things that, in retrospect, might be worse than Obamacare:
  • The Civil War
  • Lincoln Assassination 
  • JFK Assassination 
  • MLK Assassination 
  • Bobby Kennedy Assassination 
  • Denying Women the right to vote 
  • Civil Rights brutality
  • Jim Crow Laws
  • Separate but equal laws
  • Watergate 
  • Lehman Brothers Collapse and financial crisis of 2008
  • 1929 Stock Market Crash
  • Japanese Interment Camps 
  • Hurricane Katrina 
  • The Great Depression 
  • WWI
  • WWII 
  • Vietnam 
  • Korean War 
  • 9/11 
  • Iraq War 
  • Gulf War 
  • Afghan War
  • Columbine 
  • Fort Hood Shooting 
  • Dr Ben Carson becoming a national figure 
Pearl Harbor was pretty bad - both the event and the film. Also, they talk about Columbine and Fort Hood, so we can add pretty much any shooting, including Newtown and Aurora. The Kent State shootings, the police brutality on members of the Occupy Movement, the fact that the Justice system was built on and continues to operate as a means to keep minorities down, the Stonewall riots, the Bay Of Pigs fiasco, the overzealous way with which the U.S. has toppled any foreign government they didn't agree with for the better part of the 20th century, the constant denying of the citizens of D.C. the right to be represented properly in Congress...

That's a lot of shit that's worse than Obamacare.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

R.I.P. Philip Chevron (The Pogues)

Who knew when I featured The Pogues last week it'd be ''celebrating'' the final few days of one of their members' lives?

Indeed, guitarist Philip Chevron died of cancer at the age of 56 yesterday.

Prior to joining The Pogues (first as a replacement, then as a permanent member), he'd been a founding member of punk band Radiators From Space.

Cancer takes no prisoners, but no ones survives Life, either. All you can do is do your best and try to leave a lasting impression, hopefully a good one, perhaps even bring joy and light to the world. Chevron certainly did that.

Video Of The Week: Pearl Jam

I've been holding back featuring this video for two reasons, mostly: one, it's relatively plain - just a performance video - and also, I don't usually want to showcase Pearl Jam songs where the lyrics aren't top-notch.

In this case, the power-ballad called Sirens, lead singer Eddie Vedder says the line ''Hear the sirens'' three times before saying anything else - and it isn't even the chorus, it's just a verse. Well, technically, he doesn't say it at all during the chorus, but the more he says it, the less I want to hear sirens.

Still, it's a good slow song, and if it can mean it will replace such songs as Daughter (a song now just barely tolerated just to see what classic Vedder will tag at the end rather than for the song itself), Betterman or Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town in their setlists, it'll have made the world better place.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Top 10s This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. FOUR BLACK SHEEP, Martha Wainwright (2012)
9. MOZART'S SISTER, Mozart's Sister (2013)
8. DESPAIR, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
7. CAME BACK HAUNTED, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
6. INVISIBLE TOUCH, Genesis (1986)
5. DRAG ROPES, Storm Corrosion (2012)
4. SIRENS, Pearl Jam (2013)
3. GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS (Peter Gabriel cover), Arcade Fire (2013)
2. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, Metric (2012)
1. REFLEKTOR, Arcade Fire (with David Bowie) (2013)

Top 10 Jack Nicholson Parts:

10. BATMAN (1989)
9. PRIZZI'S HONOR (1985)
8. HOFFA (1992)
7. AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997)
6. CHINATOWN (1974)
3. THE PLEDGE (2001)
2. EASY RIDER (1969)

1994 In Film

Not that I'm going reverse-chronology or anything, here is the third in my series of ''best-of'' lists for film, but you can find the first two here: 1995, and 1996

Today, 1994, a great year in high-end films, with special nods to Quentin Tarantino and independent film-making:

Top 20 Films:

16. KILLING ZOE, Roger Avary (France/USA)
15. HEAVENLY CREATURES, Peter Jackson (New Zealand)
14. FARINELLI (IL CASTRATO), Gérard Corbiau (Italy/Belgium/France)
13. FORREST GUMP, Robert Zemeckis (USA)
12. ASHES OF TIME, Wong Kar-wai (Hong Kong)
11. EXOTICA, Atom Egoyan (Canada)
10. TRUE LIES, James Cameron (USA)
9. HOOP DREAMS, Steve James (USA)
8. ED WOOD, Tim Burton (USA)
7. THE CROW, Alex Proyas (USA)
6. CRUMB, Terry Zwigoff (USA)
5. CLERKS, Kevin Smith (USA)
4. LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL, Luc Besson (France)
3. THE LION KING, Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff (USA)
1. PULP FICTION, Quentin Tarantino (USA)

Top 20 Directors:

20. IAIN SOFTLEY, Backbeat
19. TODD PHILLIPS, Hated: GG Allin And The Murder Junkies
18. BOAZ YAKIN, Fresh
17. KEVIN SMITH, Clerks
16. ROGER AVARY, Killing Zoe
15. ROBERT ZEMECKIS, Forrest Gump
14. GÉRARD CORBIAU, Farinelli (Il Castrato)
13. JAMES CAMERON, True Lies
11. ALEX PROYAS, The Crow
10. ROMAN POLANSKI, Death And The Maiden
7. WONG KAR-WAI, Ashes Of Time
6. TIM BURTON, Ed Wood
5. ATOM EGOYAN, Exotica
4. ANG LEE, Eat Drink Man Woman
3. LUC BESSON, Léon: The Professional
2. OLIVER STONE, Natural Born Killers

Top 20 Lead Actors:

19. JIM CARREY, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
18. DENIS LEARY, The Ref
17. JOHN TRAVOLTA, Pulp Fiction
16. STEPHEN DORFF, Backbeat
15. BRENDAN LEE, The Crow
14. TOM HANKS, Forrest Gump
13. JOHNNY DEPP, Ed Wood
12. JEAN RENO, Léon: The Professional
11. ALBERT FINNEY, The Browning Version
10. WOODY HARRELSON, Natural Born Killers
9. DANIEL AUTEUIL, La Séparation
8. STEFANO DIONISI, Farinelli (Il Castrato)
7. ALLEN PAYNE, Jason's Lyric
6. PAUL NEWMAN, Nobody's Fool
5. MORGAN FREEMAN, The Shawshank Redemption
4. HUGO WEAVING, The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
3. GARY OLDMAN, Immortal Beloved
1. SAMUEL L. JACKSON, Pulp Fiction

Top 20 Lead Actresses:

20. DANA DELANY, Exit To Eden
18. MIA KIRSCHNER, Exotica
16. LARA FLYNN BOYLE, Threesome
15. JANE MARCH, Color Of Night
14. GRETA SCACCHI, The Browning Version
10. SIGOURNEY WEAVER, Death And The Maiden
7. ISABELLE HUPPERT, La Séparation
5. JADA PINKETT, Jason's Lyric
3. LINDA FIORENTINO, The Last Seduction
2. DEMI MOORE, Disclosure
1. ISABELLE ADJANI, La Reine Margot

Top 15 Supporting Actors:

15. GARY SINISE, Forrest Gump
13. ERNIE HUDSON, The Crow
12. BOKEEM WOODBINE, Jason's Lyric
11. DON McKELLAR, Exotica
10. CHAZZ PALMINTERI, Bullets Over Broadway
9. VING RHAMES, Pulp Fiction
8. TOM SIZEMORE, Natural Born Killers
7. TERENCE STAMP, The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
4. PAT MORITA, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
2. ROBERT DOWNEY JR., Natural Born Killers
1. GARY OLDMAN, Léon: The Professional

Top 15 Supporting Actresses:

15. NATALIE PORTMAN, Léon: The Professional
14. AMANDA DONOHOE, The Madness Of King George
13. SARAH POLLEY, Exotica
12. JOHANN CARLO, Quiz Show
11. JENNIFER TILLY, Bullets Over Broadway
10. ROBIN WRIGHT, Forrest Gump
9. MAGGIE CHEUNG, Ashes Of Time
8. JULIE DELPY, Killing Zoe
7. SHERYL LEE, Backbeat
6. DIANNE WIEST, Bullets Over Broadway
4. SALLY FIELD, Forrest Gump
3. HELEN MIRREN, The Madness Of King George
2. KATE WINSLET, Heavenly Creatures
1. JUDY DAVIS, The Ref

Top 20 Screenplays:

20. DISCLOSURE, Paul Attansio
19. DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, Ariel Dorfman & Rafael Yglesias
18. JASON'S LYRIC, Bobby Smith Jr.
17. ED WOOD, Scott Alexander & Larry Karazewski
16. THE BROWNING VERSION, Ronald Harwood
14. SERIAL MOM, John Waters
12. KILLING ZOE, Roger Avary
11. AMATEUR, Hal Hartley
10. HEAVENLY CREATURES, Frank Walsh & Peter Jackson
9. FRESH, Boaz Yan
8. QUIZ SHOW, Paul Attansio
6. ASHES OF TIME, Wong Kar-wai
5. EXOTICA, Atom Egoyan
4. EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, Ang Lee & James Chamus & Hui-Ling Wang
3. CLERKS, Kevin Smith
2. NATURAL BORN KILLERS, Oliver Stone & Dave Veloz & Richard Rutkowski & Quentin Tarantino
1. PULP FICTION, Quentin Tarantino

Top 10 Cinematographers:

10. TONINO DELLI COLLI, Death And The Maiden
8. BERNARD LUTIC, Le Colonel Chabert
7. THIERRY ARBOGAST, Léon: The Professional
6. ANDRZEJ SEKULA, Pulp Fiction
5. DON BURGESS, Forrest Gump
2. BRIAN J. BREHENY, The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
1. ROBERT RICHARDSON, Natural Born Killers

Top 10 Villains:

10. PETER GREENE, The Mask
9. KEVIN BACON, The River Wild
8. SCAR (JEREMY IRONS), The Lion King
7. SEAN YOUNG, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
6. JEROEN KRABBÉ, Farinelli (Il Castrato)
5. VING RHAMES, Pulp Fiction
4. RODNEY DANGERFIELD, Natural Born Killers
1. GARY OLDMAN, Léon: The Professional

Video Of The Week: The Pogues

As the quintessential ''Irish sound'' rock band, The Pogues have written and covered pretty much the entire cannon of what Westerners identify with the Celtic sound. Chief among their compositions are two of the best ballads of the past 75 years Fairytale Of New York, and this one, Rainy Night In Soho:

Soho has one of the best lines in rock ballad history with ''You're the measure of my dreams'', one that shows both the depth and humility often found in singer/composer Shane MacGowan's lyrics.

One weird twist with this song is that it was almost never released. Originally recorded during the sessions for Rum, Sodomy & The Lash (1985), over a dozen versions float around various bootleg recordings and studio vaults, primarily because of a rift between MacGowan and the album's pdoducer, Elvis Costello: Costello preferred a mix that featured an oboe, while MacGowan liked one with a cornet. Various versions were created mixing both to a certain extent to try to make them both happy, but the song was ultimately shelved and not put on the album.

It took until 1991 to released, on the Poguetry In Motion EP. Who won? You could say that MacGowan did, as the cornet version appeared on most versions of the release... except in Canada, where the oboe mix made the cut instead.

The Poguetry In Motion tracks were re-released, remastered and included in the 2004 re-editions of Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, and yet another version of Rainy Night In Soho was also included on the 2004 re-releases of 1990's Hell's Ditch.

The songs is also featured on every compilation of the band's music, with multiple versions making their way to the Just Look Them Straight in the Eye and Say... POGUE MAHONE!! box set, from 2008.

Nothing is ever easy with The Pogues, even releasing their best songs.

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013-14 NHL Season Preview: The Awards

And so I went with my Eastern Conference and Western Conference predictions... might as well dig myself an even deeper hole and try to predict the various award winners.

President's Cup (regular season champs): Pittsburgh Penguins
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference Cup finalists): New York Rangers
Clarence-Campbell Trophy (Western Conference Cup finalists): St. Louis Blues
Stanley Cup Champions: St. Louis Blues
Conn Smythe (playoff MVP): Jaroslav Halak

Art Ross (points scoring leader): Evgeni Malkin
Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer): Steven Stamkos
Hart (MVP voted by the press):Steven Stamkos
Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players): Alex Ovechkin
Vezina (top goalie): Jonathan Quick
Calder (best rookie): Jacob Trouba
Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike): Jason Pominville
Norris (best defenseman): Shea Weber
Bill Masterton (perseverance/comeback): Erik Karlsson
Frank Selke (best defensive forward): Tomas Plekanec
Jack Adams (top coach): Patrick Roy
King Clancy (humanitarian): Alexandre Burrows
Mark Messier (best leader): Henrik Zetterberg
GM: Bryan Murray

2013-14 NHL Season Preview: Western Conference

In the second part of my NHL Preview series, I'll take a look at the Western Conference, where the new playoff rule for the final two spots could very well apply.

Western Conference:

The Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks

I usually never pick a reigning Stanley Cup champion to finish first in their division the following year, mostly because of fatigue - and also because they usually lose key components of their team to free agency. But not only are the Hawks' key pieces under long-term contract, they're also playing in the weakest conference in the league - they won't coast through thanks to St. Louis and L.A., but their high-end talent and depth is unmatched in the West while Pittsburgh and New York will face each other much more often.

2. St. Louis Blues

This is Ken Hitchcock's Moment Of Truth with the Blues, a well-balanced team of players in their peak years. They'll don't need Jaroslav Halak to steal games, but he will - that's what he does. The defense is among the best in the league, led by the Big Three of Alex Pietrangelo (now paid like a Norris winner), Kevin Shattenkik and Jay Bouwmeester. Built a bit like the Boston Bruins in that there are no superstars on offense but instead will score by committee, they don't have Boston's grit nor the same level of abilities - where the Bruins boast six possible 60-point players, the Blues have five guys capable of reaching 45-to-50. But they like to win 2-1 or 1-0, and they will.

3. Minnesota Wild

The Wild have built themselves a team that can contend right now with a strong leadership group that includes captain Mikko Koivu, former New Jersey captain Zach Parise, and former Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville - all of whom are potential Olympians. The future's also pretty much guaranteed, with the best stable of prospects at the AHL level. Ryan Suter could use some help on defense, and both goalies are question marks when it comes to health but the Wild remains a fine team.

4. Colorado Avalanche

How can a team of talented attackers, an iffy defense and questionable goaltending be ranked 4th in their division? One reason is how weak that division is, the other is the fact that first-year head coach Patrick Roy can teach an AHLer to contain an NHLer any day of the week - but offense has to come naturally. And the Avs have plenty of that, perhaps enough to trade either Ryan O'Reilly or Paul Stastny for help on the back end near the trade deadline, though it may not prove necessary. I've heard people wonder aloud about André Benoit as a 3rd/4th D - but Roy saw a lot of him in the past few seasons as an RDS contributor and analyst in Montréal (which he did between coaching games with his Québec Remparts of the LHJMQ), and he liked what he saw. Expect other coaches not to like Roy, he'll get under their skin a lot, save for perhaps 5 of them.

5. Dallas Stars

All the talk is about Tyler Seguin, and while he will likely be a point-per-game player for nearly ten seasons, it would be wrong to build around him; he's more a ''piece of the puzzle'' guy than ''big picture'' player. Jamie Benn looks like he got the call to be the face of the franchise, and I think he's a year or two removed from being able to consistently put points on the board, but rookie Valeri Nichushkin will lend a much needed hand. Shawn Horcoff and Ray Whitney will be fine leaders for the kids to look up to, and in a couple of years, the Stars could contend. In the meantime, they'll be a playoff-bubble team. They'll likely make it this year on the strength of their powerplay (which should crack the league's top-10) and because their conference is so weak.

6. Nashville Predators

As always, the defense will be impressive and hard to beat. And, as always, goals will come at a premium - on both sides of the ice. I love Mike Fisher, but he shouldn't be anyone's first-line pivot at this point in his career. Rookie Filip Forsberg could very well finish first in team scoring, followed by stud defenseman Shea Weber and... rookie defender Seth Jones. Yeah, it's that bad.

7. Winnipeg Jets

I don't expect coach Claude Noel to last until Halloween, and he may have won less than five games at that point, though it's not entirely his fault: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has built this team going half-way on exactly what you should do (through the draft and patch up through fee agency), and half-way exactly what you should never do - overpay to retain your current top players although they have led you to the bottom, thus preventing direct position-by-position immediate improvement. Most GMs aren't stupid enough to downgrade their rosters via trade on purpose, yet the Jets have painted themselves into a corner, with a really awful colour to boot.

The Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Kings

How little do I think of this division? I'm guessing a team that has trouble scoring more than two goals per game will win it. Jonathan Quick is one of the two best goalies in the world, so stopping pucks won't be an issue;  Slava Voynov dislodged Drew Doughty as the #1 defenseman, but that just makes him better, not Doughty worse. The trouble with the Kings is Anze Kopitar should always get ore than 75 points, Dustin Brown should get 30 goals and 200 PIMs, and the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter should be just as productive. Often, they're not. But the Kings are jusdged on their playoff success anyway, and they're Cup contenders for sure.

2. Vancouver Canucks

Why second? I don't know. The Sedins still work their magic, Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler are dynamic role players with a finishing touch, Roberto Luongo will lead Canada at the Olympics, John Tortorella is a fine tactical coach despite his temper... I guess I just don't feel the defense as well as I used to. It's porous, and no longer as productive. Their window is closing fast.

3. Edmonton Oilers

A worthy coach to show the uber-talented youngsters how to play a better all-around game, three point-per-game players, a 35-goal man in Jordan Eberle, and the year Devan Dubnyk proves his critics wrong all make for a stong showing this year. The addition of Andrew Ference on defense will help a lot.

4. San Jose Sharks

I could totally live in a world without the San Jose Sharks. Even the Stanley Cup wouldn't see a difference. This is the year where we realize just how old Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart and Dan Boyle really are.

5. Anaheim Ducks

I like the Ducks. I love Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne; I usually draft Ryan Getzlaf in my hockey pools and I wish François Beauchemin had never left the Montréal Canadiens. But I still have to face the fact that they're an injury or two of being dead-last in their division. These are the years to rebuild, to have a contender when John Gibson will be ready to take the mantle as #1 goalie.

6. Phoenix Coyotes

The Seattle Portland Québec Phoenix franchise isn't done going through harsh times. Past Mike Ribeiro, no one is worthy of first-line status on that team; past Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, no defenseman deserves to be an opening night roster NHLer. Brace yourself, Mike Smith, it'll be a long 6 years.

7. Calgary Flames

The Flames desperately needed to rebuild. But they should have planned it earlier,, and allowed Jarome Iginla and  Miikka Kiprusoff to retire as Flames more gracefully, all the while preparing the next generation to take over. As it stands, they lost both with very little in return, and no one's ready to take the mantle. Bob Hartley will lose his hair and his cool all winter long with this team, one I'm surprised actually reached the cap floor.

The playoff picture:
Los Angeles (1B) - Colorado (7)
Vancouver (2) - Edmonton (3)
Chicago (1A) - Dallas (8)
St. Louis (2) - Minnesota (3)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013-14 NHL Season Preview: Eastern Conference

Fall is here, I caught a cold which developed into a bronchitis - and that means hockey season is here. Like just about every year, I'll go with my predictions; I was pretty spot-on in some cases last year, and very off-the-mark in just as many. Time to get my beak wet...

The NHL went nuts and changed their divisions and playoff format, introducing the concept of a ''wild card'' in which three teams from each division is guaranteed to make it to the post-season, and the remaining two spots in each conference will go to the best two remaining, regardless of division.

Because I think it will actually be used, I'll just jump forward to the meat and bones:

Eastern Conference:

The Adams Atlantic Division:

1. Boston Bruins

Perennial contenders fresh off a Stanley Cup Finals berth, the Bruins have tinkered with their roster this summer more than in years past, retaining most of their core players but upgrading in character. At his age, Jarome Iginla won't score 40 goals, but he can sure replace Jaromir Jagr and even be more physical; Loui Eriksson is as consistent as they come for a typically-Bruins-y 60-70 points per season, which any player on their top two lines can get to. It's the type of team Tyler Seguin could never fit into, so his trade to the Dallas Stars was addition by subtraction. Tuuka Rask is a top-10 goalie and the defense if young, brutal and can pinch in offensively. The best-balanced team in the NHL.

2. Ottawa Senators

How do you replace the team's heart and soul when the captain decides to leave as a free agent? Acquire a consistent 30-goal man like Bobby Ryan who could reach the 40-goal plateau with a master passer like Jason Spezza. Erik Karlsson remains a force on defense, and paired with Marc Methot, could play upwards of 25 quality minutes per game. They have one of the best goaltending duos in the game in Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner to go with a very bright coach. They're also tough enough to resist playing Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia.

3. Detroit Red Wings

The Wings in third? Well, yeah. The offense is a mix of ''very experienced'' and ''unseasoned kids'', and though the veterans are World-Class players, they can't play all 60 minutes of every game. The defense may have over-achieved last year (probably thanks to coach Mike Babcock, the best in the business), and I have a feeling they may hit some rough patches this year, in a full 82-game schedule. They'll evolve into a great time by the time the youngsters take over for the veterans, and they're among the very good teams in the NHL, but they are sitting between chairs at the moment. Lucky for them, Jimmy Howard is a steady presence in front of the net.

4. Montréal Canadiens

Their core group of youngsters is among the league's most promising, chief of which being reformed bad boy, team player, Norris Trophy winner and possibly (who would've thought just two years ago?) the best choice for next captain, P.K. Subban. Sniper Max Pacioretty is barely 24, and Alex Galchenyuk is a 19-year old phenom. Lars Eller could further develop into a 60-point two-way center, and Brendan Gallagher's career may not last over 10 seasons because he plays all-out, but they'll all be memorable. Add Jarred Tinordi as a possible ox on D and you've got the cornerstone of a decade-long contender. The present's not bad either, with one of the best and most consistent two-way centers in the world in Tomas Plekanec and one of the league's top-5 defenders of the last decade, Andrei Markov. Of course, all they require is that Carey Price show why he's the highest-paid player in team history, which so far he has been unable to. But watching him during training camp, I can say that he's been looking like an NHL goalie for the first time in three or four years; sure, that goalie is Stéphane Fiset, but you've got to start somewhere. If Price can't get it done, Zach Fucale will, in 4 years.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs made it to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade last season, and they had better not get used to it. They'll be the most affected by the Wings moving into their division, and while they do have an elite sniper in Phil Kessel, they lack secondary scoring and forward depth.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning

Though I think Ben Bishop will end up being the solution in front of the net, and Steven Stamkos will probably score 50 goals per year for the foreseeable future, the current-day NHL requires a much stronger top-6 up front and a much more consistent, accurate, physical top-4 on defense. It looks like Victor Hedman is coming into his own, but he needs help.

7. Buffalo Sabres

Who knows what this team will look like after the trade deadline, as a major rebuild is under way and more veterans could be sacrificed.

8. Florida Panthers

Sure, adding Tim Thomas and a rag-tag team of misfits who passed their tryouts and ended up signing at a great bargain makes them look better than they did three weeks ago, but the Panthers 4 years and 4 top-5 draft picks away from contending for the playoffs again. They'll score more goals than last year (and that they were looking at just a month ago), they'll let in less, except instead of losing 5-2, they might end up losing a lot of 3-2 and 2-1 games. Sucsess often comes through struggle, and these kids will get more than their fair share this season.

The Metropolitan Division:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens have the actual best player in the world (Evgeni Malkin) as well as the guy most people think is the best in the world (Sidney Crosby); they have a pure sniper who could eventually crack the 50-goal plateau once or twice and is a sure-shot to score 40 any year in James Neal; they also have a slew of imposters who would struggle to find powerplay time and second-line duties on other teams but fare extremely well in Pittsburgh because they're fed by elite players (I'm looking at you, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis). The defense isn't what it was when they won the Cup, though they did bring back an older Rob Scuderi, and the man between the pipes has gone from a blue-chip Olympian to one of the league's biggest question marks. Still, the top-heavy Pens should win their division, as they're rested from three straight early playoff exits.

2. New York Rangers

Possibly the most talented team in the league, the Rangers are perennial under-achievers. They undoubtedly have the best defense in the league, the best (or second-best) goalie in the world in Henrik Lundqvist, and a potent offense that boasts a past Rocket Richard winner (Rick Nash), a Conn Smythe winner as the third (!) center (Brad Richards) and enough talent to have six 60-point players, especially if Alain Vigneault takes their leash off; they also have enough character to go deep in the playoffs.

3. Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin is back to his old ways, Niklas Backstrom is good for 75-85 points, Mikhail Grabovski is good for 60 and a couple of selfish distractions, and their top-3 on D is pretty good. Braden Holtby is also looking good between the pipes. I don't know about playoff success, but I'm sure getting there won't prove too difficult.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

With all the tweaks GM Paul Holmgren applied this summer, the Philadelphia Flyers are one player away from Stanley Cup contention. Unfortunately, that player is soon-to-be-retired Chris Pronger, but other teams will have top d-men available before long. The farce in nets will be fun to watch, but it shouldn't hinder the team's hopes too much. Plus, Ray Emery will find his stride.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

I don't see them regressing too much, but getting through in the East will prove to be too much of a challenge for the Jackets. They simply lack the resources and talent, and are an injury to Marian Gaborik away from being bottom-feeders. Their defense is promising, though, and they may just sacrifice one of their-top two to make room for (possible Calder winner) Jacob Trouba and trade for some help at center.

6. New York Islanders

Sure, they have an MVP candidate in John Tavares, and a decent finisher in Matt Moulson. But they lost their best defenseman (Mark Streit) to Philly and their goaltending is just too old and/or questionable.

7. Carolina Hurricanes

Lots of promising prospects, decent middle-to-high level scorers (Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner), a Conn Smythe winner in nets (Cam Ward), but almost every team's line-up is better than the Canes'. Simply put: all teams improve each year (well, 28 out of 30, anyway), it's those who improve more than the others do that can leap forward. The Canes just can't.

8. New Jersey Devils

Lose a World-Class superstar forward? Check. Start a goalie who should have retired two seasons ago? Check. Financial troubles stop you from spending money on top-end free agents over the summer? Check. A year removed from losing captain Zach Parise to free agency, Ilya Kovalchuk bolts. That's 150 points gone with no return. Say what you will, but Travis Zajac isn't the player who'll pick up the slack, and neither is Michael Ryder. Damien Brunner and Jaromir Jagr should perform admirably considering they're practically alone save a rebound season from Adam Henrique. The defense is suspect, and the best goalie will start the season warming the bench - and that's discounting the fact that he's still unproven. If you thought Newark was already depressing, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Playoff picture:

Boston (1B) - Montreal (7)
Ottawa (2) - Detroit (3)
Pittsburgh (1A) - Philadelphia (8)
Rangers (2) - Washington (3)