Mumford and Sons revisited

Three years ago, I wrote one of my most popular posts of all time, a review/listening guide for Mumford and Sons’s first album, Sigh No More.  I always thought I might do something similar for their second album, Babel, but I never got around to it–though I must say that I think it’s a great album.  I disagree with those who considered it a sell-out album; the band was just getting better at writing tight, radio-playable folk-pop songs, a skill that should not be denigrated.  Now that Mumford and Sons is/are about to release their third, stylistically very different album, I’m returning to them on my blog–but not to write about their music.  This time, I want to mention a couple of things I appreciate about the way the band members present themselves physically, which, as I think we all know, can be nearly as important in our day as the music itself.

1. Have you seen Winston Marshall’s hair lately?  It’s beautiful.  I realized this as I watched him tossing it around during the band’s frenetically kinetic performance on SNL this past week.  Sometimes long hair, on a man or a woman, can look lank and stringy, but not so on Winston.  I love the fact that he’s just letting his rather thick hair go where it pleases instead of trying to tame it.  That’s usually been my own personal hair styling method as well.  I have a lot of respect for people (particularly for women) who just let their hair be awesome even if it doesn’t look put-together according to the current definition of what put-together hair looks like.  You should not be surprised to know that my hair role model is Helena Bonham Carter.

my hair role model

my hair role model

Nice job, Winston.

Nice job, Winston.

2. While watching the same performance, I was confirmed in my long-held belief that Marcus Mumford is very attractive.  He’s not like my number-one celebrity crush, but I like a lot of things about the way he looks (but please note, Marcus, that the small mustache is not one of them).  I like how, speaking of hair, he has a little piece that insists on sticking up–it’s so Harry Potter.  I also love that he’s not ashamed to contort his face in order to express emotion while singing.  His face looks like it’s going to break, but that’s how he gets that gut-wrenching sound that’s part of what makes this band distinctive.  Probably my favorite thing about Marcus, though, is that he doesn’t look like the heroin waif we typically picture when thinking of a rock ‘n’ roll front man.  Now understand me, he isn’t fat.  But he definitely has a soft belly.  And his face isn’t chiseled or angular or gaunt by any means.  And I would guess the only bicep toning he gets on a regular basis comes from playing the guitar like a maniac.  You can really see this in the SNL performance, in which he’s just wearing a t-shirt (and trousers, too–geez, people), since tweed jackets and vests are no longer part of the Mumford and Sons uniform.  I have a lot of respect for this very noticeable, if not flagrant, disregard for a long-established stereotype.

There’s entirely too much body hatred in our world today, and the music industry often hurts rather than helps.  So it makes me very happy that the members of Mumford and Sons–none of whom exactly look like gods of rock–seem to be totally cool to just, as they put it in the last song on Babel, “be who [they] are.”

Huge props to the pudgy rockstar

Huge props to the pudgy rockstar

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The Bad Guy Report 2012

This past Saturday, after I watched Skyfall for the second time, I had some clever thoughts that I believe deserve to be turned into a blog post.  I realize that it’s a little late to be doing 2012 year-in-review summaries, but in my defense, several of the movies I’ll be referencing are probably still in your local cheap second-run theater.  So here it is: The Bad Guy Report.

The year 2012 proved interesting in the villain department.  For example, in The Amazing Spiderman, we saw Luna Lovegood’s dad stop trying to recreate the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw and move to bigger, higher-tech mad scientist projects, which led to his turning himself into a Godzilla-type creature who enjoyed ravaging New York City.  (By the way, the actor in question may have roles he’d rather be known for than his ten-minute appearance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, but I persist in calling him Xenophilius Lovegood because it’s a lot easier to pronounce than his real name, Rhys Ifans.)

Speaking of summer supervillains, this year Batman finally met an opponent with an equally incomprehensible voice.  It’s a good thing most of the confrontational scenes between the Dark Knight and his nemesis, Bane (I guess I could have just said “his b/Bane”), involved more punching than talking.  Despite Bane’s sad backstory, Steelers fans worldwide will hate him forever for destroying Heinz Field just to prove something we already knew: Even a giant fissure opening up in the middle of the field couldn’t stop Hines Ward.

Moving on to movies upon which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deigned to bestow their notice, Django Unchained featured Leonardo DiCaprio’s first truly villainous role.  Seriously, Leo, you’re 38 years old; it was about time you played something other than a golden boy.  Well, to be fair, I suppose Howard Hughes wasn’t, strictly speaking, a golden boy; nor was that guy from Shutter Island.  But it’s good (in a troubling way, I guess) to see that DiCaprio can cross nimbly over to the dark side when called upon to do so.  From what I understand (I haven’t seen the film yet), he does it convincingly.  Oh, speaking of bad guys in Django Unchained, what’s this I hear about Jonah Hill playing a member of the KKK?  I didn’t think the Klan allowed Jewish participants, let alone sweet-looking baby-faced Jewish boys.  I’ll have to see that to believe it.

2012 was also an important year for bad guy philosophy.  Wreck-It Ralph is essentially an extended commentary on the interaction (and sometimes the vast disparity) between the roles we have to play and who we really are at our core.  You probably saw the trailer with the bad guy support group a million times, but the words of the hairy wrestler Zangief bear repeating: “You are bad guy.  But that doesn’t mean you are bad guy.”  (N.B. I never figured out what was so bad about Zangief, other than the fact that he left out his indefinite articles.)  And if you’ll indulge me in one more profound quote, this one from an unnamed zombie: “Good…bad…UGHHHH [zombie sound].  You must love you.”

Now it’s time for the bad guy move of the year.  You know, villains are just like professionals in any field; they exchange ideas through trade publications, discussion boards, etc.  (I was going to say conferences, but they generally don’t like to be in the same room with each other, except in the unusual situation described in the preceding paragraph.)  So some years, you might see two movie villains employing the same strategy, both to great effect.  The 2012 bad guy move of the year is as follows: Get yourself captured and placed inside a glass case right in the middle of the good guy headquarters.  Smile unsettlingly and taunt the good guys.  Eventually, when it’s too late for them to do anything about it, allow them to develop the inkling of the idea that you are exactly where you want to be.  Then, escape and wreak general havoc.

Does this strategy sound familiar?  It should, since it was used by two of the most memorable villains of the year, Loki in The Avengers and Silva in Skyfall.  I didn’t notice the resemblance until the second time I saw Skyfall, which is proof that 2012’s bad guy move of the year is fully customizable to a variety of personalities, styles, and situations–although it seems to work best for villains who fall into the category of mischief maker (as opposed to, say, mad scientist or power-hungry politician).  And now that I’ve mentioned mischief makers, it is perhaps beginning to dawn on you that a very similar strategy, though without the glass case, was used by the ultimate bad guy of the past decade.  Remember?  “I want my phone call”?  In case you need your memory jogged, I’ll close this report with a video clip.  After you’ve marveled at the brilliance of this truly frightening 2008 villain, let me know some of your favorite bad guy moments of 2012.