(Top 101) #39. Gold Dust – Tori Amos

July 31, 2010

Tori returns to the Countdown with “Gold Dust.”  It’s my second all-time favorite Tori track, which is saying something with her musical canon.  But really, it is something else. 

Like pretty much all of Tori’s songs, lyrical mysteries abound, and you’re never exactly sure where you stand (Who the heck is Laura Mars?), but really, it’s the feeling behind the lyrics that really matters with Tori, and there’s no question Tori’s captured a piece of truth here.  It may be enigmatic, but it somehow only adds to its sad beauty.

How did it go so fast

You’ll say as we’re looking back

And then we’ll understand

We had gold dust in our hands…

39. Gold Dust – Tori Amos

(Top 101) #40. Here Without You – Three Doors Down

July 31, 2010

I’m actually not sure what to say about this song.  There’s no frills, no fuss to this one.  Just a great song paired with a great voice that’s clearly been through what it’s singing about.  It’s all about accepting loss, claiming the heartache, then keep walking on, knowing you have more miles to go yet.  But only after allowing yourself one last look back.

Cause you’re still with me in my dreams

And tonight girl it’s only you and me

40. Here Without You – Three Doors Down

(Top 101) #41. Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You – Glenn Medeiros

July 31, 2010

I am currently at page 330 in writing my would-be first novel.  A few days ago, I wrote the scene in which the main character and the girl he falls for make love for the first time.  Afterwards, they talk through the night, and one of things she tells him is how she got interested in studying English after she hears the song, “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” by Glenn Medeiros.

This story is actually, like the vast majority of what I’m writing, based on a true story.  My ex loved this song.  And yes, so do I.  It’s simple to the point of being bland, optimistic to the point of being stupid, and romantic to the point of incredulity, but somehow, it all works, teetering on the edge of insufferabe cliche-dom but somehow never falling in…  The video, on the other hand, is straight from the karaoke room video template, featuring every romantic cliche known to man.

If the road ahead is not so easy

Our love will lead a way for us

Like a guiding star

41. Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You – Glenn Medeiros

(Top 101) #42. I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me – Katie Irving

July 31, 2010

I hate horror films.  I mean, hate, Hate, HATE.  Seriously, why pay money to be disturbed and get all stressed out more than you already have to be?  And isn’t there enough violence and terror out in the world as it is?  Why would you want to see any more onscreen?  I just don’t get it.

That being said, I do have one horror film that I do like:  Carrie.  Why that one?  Well, it’s scary and bloody like other horror films, but unlike the others, it’s got real heart to it.  Plus, it has in its protagonist Carrie White a character that’s both horrible and sympathetic, and also infinitely (for me anyway) relatable.  She’s no faceless, heartless chainsaw-wielding, mask-wearing, joke-cracking psychopath.  She’s a human being who only wants to be left alone and allowed a little of happiness who happens to be telekinetic. 

The #42 song on our countdown comes from this movie, used in the prom scene when Carrie is dancing with the guy (Tommy) she has a crush on and finally starts to think that love might actually be possible for her.   The scene and the song work together PERFECTLY, pushing each other to greater heights.  They’re both about insecurity and longing, the battle between fear and the need to love, to want something desperately but to be terrified of not knowing what to do even if you were to get it.  Both the movie and the song, they pull at the heartstrings in all kinds of ways, before the inevitable bloody, heartbreaking mess that’s to follow.

42. I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me – Katie Irving

Tommyland Movie Reviews… (Inception, Let the Right One In, etc.)

July 22, 2010

INCEPTION:  I went to the movie theater for the first time in AGES to check out Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.”  I’m not really into big-budget, full-of-special-effects-wizardry blockbusters, but the concept (the line between reality and dreams) sounded interesting, and I wanted to check it out.  It definitely grabs your attention early on, that’s for sure.  The execution is every bit as grand as the concept, and the movie develops one layer after another, until it’s almost exhausting to watch all of them play out at the same time.  In the end, I’m glad I watched it.  The performances are great (Leonardo Dicaprio has officially grown up from a Boy Wonder into a bonafide Movie Star), the visuals are striking, and the story leaves you with a lot to think about, especially on how reality is a concept we create for ourselves, just like we do we in dreams.  The one thing that you may find either really interesting or as in my case (really annoying) is the ending.  Let’s just say it will probably leave your head spinning and spinning.  For me, I just decided to take the simplest explanation possible and just leave it at that.  TOMMYLAND RATING: B.

HARD CANDY:  A couple of days before seeing “Inception,” I watched this film at home, and it took me some time before I realized the same actress–Ellen Page–starred in both (she’s a couple of years older and her hair’s a lot longer in “Inception”).  In “Hard Candy,” she’s not creating dream landscapes.  No, sir.  Instead, she’s creating a hellish trap for a hotshot photographer whom she believes to be a child molester, using herself as bait.  Basically, it’s like a fictional version of those Dateline NBC specials where they get a sexual predator to show up at some house and then take them away in handcuffs (it was great television in a train-wreck-can’t-help-but-look kind of way).  It’s an interesting idea, but it turns into a paper-thin cartoon pretty early on and never recovers.  Ellen Page’s character is some sort of a pre-teen version of Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2,” and I never bought her fully as a true-to-life character.  And the whole, will-it-ever-end “castration” scene is just painful to endure.  I mean, not as bad as castration itself, I grant you, but still!  TOMMYLAND REVIEW:  C-.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN:  Vampires and teen romance.  Thinking of “Twilight” yet?  Well, forget that, because this Swedish film kicks “Twilight”s ass in every way possible.  The story here is both familiar and simple.  Young Swedish boy slowly develops a friendship with an unusually pale neighbor kid who’s kind of weird but can solve the Rubik’s Cube with no problem.  Before too long, he wants to be her boyfriend, but then it turns out she’s a vampire with all the ensuing baggage (drinks blood, can’t eat candy, has to stay out of sunlight, etc.).  So far, this sounds like every cliche-filled vampire movie ever made.  But “Let the Right One In” somehow turns it all into poetry, mixing in a sweet, honest coming-of-age story with the requisitie gore and bloodletting.  It really gets to the human (and apparently also vampiric) need for love and acceptance, and I couldn’t help but cheer for the young couple, despite all the obvious compatibility problems they’ll have down the line.  TOMMYLAND REVIEW:  A+.

VALENTINE’S DAY:  This collection of bite-sized love stories is the American equivalent of “Love Actually.”  Of course, a couple of changes have been made.  The characters have all become annoying and paper-thin caricatures.  And every situation has become a walking sitcom cliche to be resolved in a nice, oh-so-cute-let’s-now-all-throw-up manner to make us all feel cuddly inside.  Please.  I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is a movie made either for stupid people or to make smart people feel stupid.’   Either way, it’s pure drivel.  TOMMYLAND REVIEW:  F.

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS:  Jim Carrey plays a gay (or as he calls it, “Gay, gay, gay!”) con man who steals and lies his way to living the good life.  He ends up in the slammer, where he comes across sweet-and-innocent-can-be Ewan MacGregor and falls head over heels in love.  After that, there’s lie after lie, con after con, and escape after escape.  It’s all meant to be a gee-whiz-what-a-character study along the lines of “Catch Me If You Can,” but the big problem is that the main character is just too damn annoying.  Jim Carrey’s capable of subtle, nuanced dramatic performances (The Truman Show, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but here, he’s been allowed to overact and make all kinds of goofy faces to his heart’s content, and it leaves you wishing, if not the death penalty, at least for a court-mandated vow of silence.  TOMMYLAND RATING:  D.

THE RAMEN GIRL:  Brittany Murphy (rest in peace) stars in this one as a young American woman who follows her boyfriend to Japan only to see him cut her loose at the first chance possible, leaving her high and dry in a foreign land.  After all the requisite crying and moping, she ends up at the little noodles restaurant across the street, where a bowl of ramen brings her much-needed joy and spirit (hey, it’s worked for me on many a cold winter night!).  She promptly decides that ramen noodles are her future and her calling, and she pesters the gruff Japanese chef into becoming her ramen sensei.  Nothing from then on is all that surprising.  Brittany and the chef squabble on and on and fret about not understanding each other’s language (this gets old pretty fast), and of course she ends up learning that ramen cooking has to come “from the heart,” and in the end, in true Mr. Miyagi fashion, they become lifelong friends and teach each other a lesson about life and all that.  Still, despite all the cliches, there’s a charm to the story that elevates it from being just a “Lost in Translation” wanna-be.  Maybe it’s because the film never tries to pretend it’s any more important than it is.  Or maybe it’s Brittany’s plucky, googly-eyed performance.  Or most likely, it’s because I just love ramen myself.  After watching this movie, I went right out for some ramen of my own, and that’s got to count for something, right?  TOMMYLAND RATING:  C+.

(Top 101) #43. Again – Archive

July 15, 2010


Usually, songs grow into me.  I hear a song once, and if I think I like it, I listen to it again and again until I either decide I don’t like it after all or I slowly but surely come to love it.

But every once in a while, there comes a song that you hear for the first time and you already it’s become a new part of you, and you’re not entirely the same person as you were before you heard it.  “Again” is one of those songs.  I’m still not sure how I came across it, since I had never heard of Archive, but what I do remember is hearing this song and thinking somewhere in the middle, ‘Oh, my God.’  It’s a heartstopper.

If I was to walk away from you my Love

Could I laugh again?

43. Again – Archive

(Top 101) #44. I See a Darkness – Bonnie Prince Billy

July 15, 2010


If you were to walk into an elevator here in Korea, you may notice something rather puzzling.  The button for the fourth floor will–more cases than not–have an “F” on it instead of a “4.”  The reason?  Well, four is apparently considered an unlucky number in Korea and China (think “bad karma”).  The reason is that the Chinese character for number four looks either identical to or really similar to the character meaning “Death.”

So why am I not very surprised to find Bonnie Prince Billy’s “I See a Darkness” at #44 on this list?  Seriously, it is easily the most depressing song on the Top 101 Countdown, and maybe even the most depressing song anywhere, period.  Do you remember the story of “Gloomy Sunday” and how it inspired a bunch of people to kill themselves?  Well, “I See a Darkness” makes that song sound like a Ke$ha party jam.  Still, depressing and bleak as it is, it’s utterly beautiful and hypnotic, and in a strange, ironic way, it’s also uplifting, too, as it reminds you that everyone goes through inner pain and turmoil at times.  It’s a part of what makes us human.

And you know I have a drive to live I won’t let go

But can you see its opposition, comes arising up sometimes

44. I See a Darkness – Bonnie Prince Billy