The Winter Olympics: Arriving with less fanfare than their summer counterparts with their tidily marketed narratives of American dominance, the Winter Olympics deserve equal notice for the opposite reason. For all the talk of American exceptionalism we hear in our politics, advertisements and political advertisements, there's something instructive about the U.S. existing outside the center of the universe—to say nothing of all the staggering international skill on display. If we can watch Northern Europe outshine us in luge, who knows what other lessons we might learn?
MAST's 'Thelonious Sphere Monk': Produced by the multi-instrumentalist and electronic artist also known as Tim Conley, this record calls upon some of the top names circulating around L.A.'s progressive jazz scene — Makaya McCraven, Daniel Rosenboom and Gavin Templeton, to name a few — and honors Monk's centennial with an tribute album that's as reverent as it is relentlessly inventive. A bent "Bemsha Swing" recalls '90s jazz-funk weirdos T.J. Kirk, and "Straight No Chaser" is upended by Brian Marsella's piano and a stuttering beat on what amounts to an album-length testimony to the timelessness of Monk.
Surprise releases: Once upon a time, a pop star upended tradition by dropping a new album with zero advance notice. Ever since then everyone has wanted to be Beyoncé, and Netflix was the latest with the sudden reveal of "The Cloverfield Paradox," a sequel of sorts to "Cloverfield" that was released after the Super Bowl. But based on the reviews, the end result didn't live up to the fanfare. Going forward, we probably should be mindful of the differences between artist-centered surprise-releases and those that arrive to generate buzz around a middling movie no one trusted to open in theaters.
The need for 'Solo: A Star Wars Story': One of the more talked about trailers during the Super Bowl's ad blitz, this production has had its share of troubles that culminated with Ron Howard taking over directing duties. You can understand Disney's desires to wring cash out of every possible angle in the "Star Wars" universe, exploring the backstory for an already well-explored character isn't the easiest or most compelling way. While we're probably 10 years or so away from the jawas getting a "Fraggle Rock"-like spinoff, "Lando: The Last Calrissian" (or something) needs to get in the pipeline ASAP.
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