Analyzing Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly, five years since its initial release. A Complete Track by Track breakdown.

Before TPAB, Kendrick Lamar was the new kid on the block. Everybody had heard of him and almost everybody knew he had the potential to do something big. But he wasn’t a star yet. His previous album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a critical darling and quite a big hit considering his humble beginnings, but it just wasn’t enough to get him into the mainstream rap scene. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great album and even made Kendrick famous. Heck, it was the fame he earned from his first two albums, that lead to him creating TPAB. Having trouble to deal with this newfound fame, money and cultural identity, Kendrick went to South Africa looking for inspiration. The influence of his trip on the direction of the album can be easily felt.

It’s been only five years since Kendrick released To Pimp a Butterfly (15 April, 2015), but it’s already considered to be a classic by many. And rightfully so, TPAB is one of those albums that cements your name among the legends forever. Kendrick was no more the new upcoming talent in the hip hop scene, he was one of the masters of the genre. A commercial and critical success upon it’s release, It went on to earn Lamar 11 grammy nominations, and a grammy for best rap album of the year (It lost Album of the year to Taylor Swift’s 1989 funnily). A lot of magazines called it the best album of 2015 and The Independent named it the “Album of the decade”. In short, it was huge.

Kendrick explores a lot of themes on TPAB, all of which I can’t even comprehend. It talks about subjects ranging from black history to celebrity worship. If we were to discuss all of those themes, all the literary references and musical innovations , we’ll be stuck here all day. Instead I’m gonna talk about each track individually, discuss about what I think they’re about and what they mean to me and at the end I give you my final thoughts. Sounds cool? Aight.

Wesley’s Theory

“No one teaches poor black males how to manage money or celebrity, so if they do achieve success, the powers that be can take it from right under them”. Kendrick Lamar has given pretty clear explanation about what’s this song is about. He makes a direct reference in the song about Wesley Snipe’s arrest at the age of 35, on the charges of tax evasion.

“But remember, you ain’t pass economics in school
And everything you buy, taxes will deny
I’ll Wesley Snipe your ass before thirty-five”

This is one of my favorite tracks in the album. Right from the opening you know you are in for a treat. The instrumentation is beautiful and the sampling by Kendrick is exceptional. I also love the features on this track. From George Clinton to Steven Ellison, all bring their A-game.

I also like to read this song as reference to Chaos Theory o The Butterfly Effect considering the things Kendrick talks about later in the album. It states that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can cause a cyclone in the other end. Kendrick compares himself to the butterfly a lot, and his little songs that can have huge meaning or effect on people at the completely other end of the globe.

“But remember, anybody can get it
The hard part is keepin’ it, motherfucker”

2. For Free? (Interlude)

When I first heard heard this song I couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t decide if was genius or a disaster. But once I listened to it for the second time I knew it was genius. I mean the jazz instrumentation is itself sensational but combined with Kendrick’s fast flowing sarcastic lyrics – it is a masterpiece.

“This dick ain’t free
You lookin’ at me like it ain’t a receipt like I never made ends meet
Eating your leftovers and raw meat
This dick ain’t free”

Kendrick takes a dig here at the materialistic nature of modern rappers, how they always go around flexing girls and cars. He also talks about the struggles he had to face suddenly once he became rich and famous, and how suddenly girls wanted to sleep with him now. Kendrick makes a statement about this dirty side of fame and most modern musicians seem to have accepted. The song also talks about all the dirty things money makes people do and how it affects family values and nature in Ameica.

“Oh America, you bad bitch, I picked cotton and made you rich
Now my dick ain’t free.”

3. King Kunta

“The yam is the power that be (that be, that be, that be, that be, that be)
You can smell it when I’m walkin’ down the street”

Let’s start this one with some background information. Kunta Kinte is a fictional character from the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Kinte got his right foot cut off because of his attempts to escape his plantation. The way Kendrick uses yams to represent power and discrimination with the song is genius.

If we take a look at the song, you can see that Kendrick is using an easy rhyme scheme to bring the message across in a very simplistic way so everyone can understand it. He calls out the people that weren’t interested in him before he got famous and he also raps about how everyone wants a piece of his leg (reference to Kunta), that means everyone wants a piece of his money, fame or success.

“I was gonna kill a couple rappers, but they did it to themselves
Everybody’s suicidal, they ain’t even need my help
This shit is elementary, I’ll probably go to jail”

4. Institutionalised

“What money got to do with it
When I don’t know the full definition of a rap image?”

Kendrick’s past is still a part of him even though he made it out of the hood. He talks about everyone being Institutionalized and put into stereotypes. The Intro talks about What Kendrick understood of a rap image – money, hoes, clothes, and celebrity – was just part of what it means to be successful. What he didn’t understand is that one can obtain these things, but it doesn’t mean you’re entirely free from your past or societal limitations put on a person of color. You can be famous but still poor of spirit or mind. Verse 2 shows how money influences people’s actions and behavior towards other people by an example of one of Kendrick’s friends.

Institutionalized is also a metaphor foe how the music industry changed Kendrick as a person and what he thinks of it.

“And once upon a time in a city so divine
Called West Side Compton, there stood a little nigga
He was five foot something, God bless the kid
Took his homie to the show and this is what they said”

5. These Walls

“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes, I did the same”

The title has 3 different meanings. The walls of a woman, the walls of his mind and the walls of a prison cell. The song narrates Kendrick having sex with a married woman whose husband is in prison for killing one of Kendrick’s friends. Lamar views this as an act of revenge for his dead friend but he also has a bad conscience about using his power to seduce someone like mention in the song “For Free?”.

“If these walls could talk
I can feel your reign when it cries
Gold lives inside of you”

6. u

“Mood swings is frequent, nigga
I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons, nigga
I know you and a couple block boys ain’t been speakin’, nigga”

So this is a very dark and personal song for Kendrick Lamar. He faces internal battles such as insecurities, self-hatred, selfishness and let-downs. He talks to himself and blames himself for things he has done or not done in the past. He also questions himself and questions who he really is.

Kendrick deals with depression and suicidal thoughts during the song, especially towards the end of it. The lyrics here are extremely beautiful and heartbreaking. You may not have faced the same situations as him but you feel Kendrick’s pain through this track.

“I cry myself to sleep
Bitch, everything is your fault
Faults breakin’ to pieces, earthquakes on every weekend
Because you shook as soon as you knew confinement was needed”

7. Alright

“Alls my life I has to fight, nigga
Alls my life I
Hard times like, yah!”

Alright is the most successful single of TPAB. It probably even has one of the most catchiest hooks of the album (Nigga we gonna be alright). But that’s doesn’t mean the song isn’t deep. The first line itself is a direct reference from the famous 1982 novel “The color purple” which tells the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation.

‘Alright’ is like a response to ‘u’. He tells himself that he’ll be alright and he’ll get through it with God’s help. The song has an optimistic message and verse 2 introduces Lucy (Lucifer)

“And we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I’m at the preacher’s door”

8. For Sale (Interlude)

“The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers
Until I came home”

The 2nd Interlude of this album is about Kendrick dealing with Lucy’s temptations. She sells him all these ideas that she will fulfill all of his dreams and promises, but he knows that it is all a lie.

He also decides to spread his message through his songs instead of selling out like many other artists, which boy he does. But Kendrick doesn’t only share his ideas he makes sure the music supporting those ideas is great.

9. Momma

“met a little boy that resembled my features
Nappy afro, gap in his smile
Hand me down sneakers bounced through the crowd”

Momma refers to Africa, because that’s where he comes from, that’s where his roots are. He also went on a trip to South Africa in 2014. Lamar talks about growing as a person and fighting off Lucy’s temptations. The trip to Africa changed his view and perspective on a lot of things and he realized that he didn’t know as much as he thought he did.

“The mind of a literate writer but I did it in fact
You admitted it once I submitted it wrapped in plastic
Remember scribblin’ scratchin’ dilligent sentences backwards”

10. Hood Politics

“I don’t give a fuck about no politics in rap, my nigga (my nigga)
My lil’ homie Stunna Deuce ain’t never comin’ back, my nigga (my nigga)”

Kendrick’s voice is at a higher pitch on this track to signify his younger self when the hood was all he knew. He tells himself just to spit lyrics for his homies and not to worry about politics at the start of the first verse. Kendrick celebrates the hood life in this song and at the same time criticises it’s shortcomings. He analyses he’s transtion to the man that he is today, and you can even sense a longing for the hood life in him.

“But that didn’t stop survivors guilt
Going back and forth, trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting a continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one.”

11. How much does a dollar cost?

“How much a dollar really cost?
The question is detrimental, paralyzin’ my thoughts
Parasites in my stomach keep me with a gut feeling, y’all”

In this track Kendrick runs into a homeless man at a gas station in South Africa who asks him for a dollar. Kendrick thinks that he wants the money to buy some crack as he looks like a crack addict. He starts to feel guilty about his selfishness. Later on, the homeless man claims to be God and a dollar has cost Kendrick his place in heaven.He curses Kendrick on his lack of generosity. Kendrick asks for forgiveness and is now free of Lucy and Uncle Sam.

Here Kendrick expresses his visual confusion about what to do with all the money he has earned He doesn’t want to give it away to the poor, because once he was one of them, and if he can make it even they can. Money will make them lazy and they won’t work. We wants to help them with the money he’s earned but not give it to them.

“He looked at me and said, “Your potential is bittersweet”
I looked at him and said, “Every nickel is mines to keep”

12 Complexion (A Zulu love)

”Dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin’ sun
Give a fuck about your complexion, I know what the Germans done”

Through this song, Kendrick talks about discrimination based on color. And not just discrimination among black and white, but within the people of color. Complexion is about educating society on Color-ism and telling everyone that every color is beautiful to him and that dark skin and light skin is equal.

“Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens
We all on the same team, blues and pirus, no colors ain’t a thing”

13. The blacker the berry

“Everything black, I don’t want black (they want us to bow)
I want everything black, I ain’t need black (down to our knees)”

This track borrows it’s name from The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, a novel by American author Wallace Thurman, associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The novel tells the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a young black woman with dark skin.

This song deals with racialized self-hatred and racism in general. It also deals with internal problems the black community faces. Kendrick raps with an aggressive voice throughout the song and is angry about the destruction of black lives.

“You hate my people, I can tell ’cause it’s threats when I see you
I can tell ’cause your ways deceitful
Know I can tell because you’re in love with that Desert Eagle
Thinkin’ maliciously, he get a chain then you gone bleed him”

14.You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)

“And the world don’t respect you and the culture don’t accept you
But you think it’s all love
And the girls gon’ neglect you once your parody is done”

This track might be a reference to 2Pacs ‘Lie To Kick It’, I’m not sure about it. The intro introduces Kendricks mother as the initial voice. The song is about being yourself and not lying to fit in somewhere and it’s also about stereotyping people.

“Tell me before we off ya, put you deep in the coffin
Been allergic to talkin’, been a virgin to bullshit
And sell a dream in the auction, tell me just who your boss is”

15. i

“I done been through a whole lot
Trial, tribulation, but I know God
Satan wanna put me in a bow tie”

‘i’ is the complete turnaround to ‘u’. Though TPAB revolves around negative temptations and self-doubt, this song offers redemption. He found himself and is able to love himself now. This is also contrast to ‘u’ where he hated himself and couldn’t imagine loving himself. Kendrick also explains how the media wants to keep everyone down by spreading negativity. He is proud to be black and shows this by the word ‘Negus’ which means royalty in Ethiopian.

“And I love myself
(The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs)
I love myself
(But it can do what it want whenever it want, I don’t mind)
I love myself
(He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)
I love myself
(One day at a time, sun gon’ shine)”

16. Mortal Man

‘Mortal Man’ is probably the most ambitious track in hip hop history. The track can be divided into three sections. The first half of it he name-checks different leaders such as Nelson Mandela or Malcolm X. This part was clearly inspired from his trip to South Africa, where he visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.

He describes his early self (and many others like him) as a caterpillar forced consume anything and everything in order to survive. He then realised the only way he can make it out of the streets (the cocoon) was to pimp his music, talent and beauty out to the record labels and privileged society. This metaphor was used throughout the whole album and is also the title of the album. It’s also interesting that the former name of the album was Tu Pimp A Caterpillar (2Pac).

Kendrick got the audio recordings of 2Pac’s interview in Germany when he was doing an interview himself. Kendrick was fascinated because the answers that 2Pac was giving were still relevant for today. I gotta tell you as soon as I heard Pac’s voice I got emotional. Here I was listening to one of my favorite artist talk to his idol, a legend who’s now a dead man. So let’s get to the interview with Pac. They discuss the black culture, racism, fame and image. Kendrick feels like 2Pacs spirit lives through him and the poem that continues throughout the whole album at the end of songs comes to an end as Kendrick reads out the poem to Tupac perfectly circling out the whole album. At the end when Kendrick calls out “Pac.. Pac… Pac…”, not gonna lie, I totally cried.

Final Thoughts

“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it
Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it
In order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment
The caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him
But praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent
The thoughtfulness and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life
The caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak
And figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city
The caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon
Which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas take root, such as
Going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations
That the caterpillar never considered
Ending the internal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different
They are one and the same”

I think this poem perfectly sums up the theme of To pimp a butterfly. Kendrick fully transforms into the butterfly at the end. He might have a longing towards his humble early life, but what he has is much more valuable. Sure the artist life is full of problems and mental insecurities. But as an artist he can now do things he never could earlier. He can speak to people around the globe, he can shed light on issues no one else would, he has the power to uplift the conditions of those like him and he the opportunity influence a whole new generation with his rap. But the fact that he’s a big man now, a butterfly, doesn’t mean he’s forgotten his roots or where he came from – The caterpillar still lives somewhere inside the butterfly.

18 Overlooked Films from 2019, that you must check out during this Quarantine.

So, who’s sitting in their homes wasting all of their time watching movies? Just me, eh? Oh my bad. But still you must be getting bored stuck up in your apartment and must be looking out for some kinda source of entertainment. And trust me, ain’t no harm in passing your time watching movies in this panicky times. So, what movies should you see?

You have probably seen the big budget CGI blockbusters like Endgame or The Lion King. Also, you have probably checked out the award biggies like Once upon a Time in… Hollywood, Joker or 1917. And since almost everybody has Netflix, you must’ve seen Marriage Story or The Irishman (even though you didn’t sit through all 3 and half hours of it). But 2019 was a great year for movies, and you probably didn’t see a lot of the great ones overlooked by the audience at the theaters or on streaming. Well then, this coronavirus pandemic might have finally given you the time to check out this underrated gems from last year. So here are 18 overlooked movies from 2019, you must check out:

  1. Waves

After 2017’s brilliant “It Comes at Night”, director Trey Edward Shults returns with this epic emotional journey of a suburban African American family as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the wake of a tragic loss. The movie is brave and bold in storytelling and the way it is structured. There’s a huge risk that’s taken midway through the film, and it definitely pays of. Though a sports movie at heart, Trey’s meticulous detailing and examination of love and family life will surely touch your heartstrings and maybe force a few ears down your cheek.

Featuring an impressive ensemble cast that includes Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (It Comes at Night), Sterling K. Brown (This is Us), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Broadway’s Hamilton), Taylor Russell (Lost in Space), and Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird), each and everyone gives an extraordinary performance. Especially Sterling K. Brown who is definitely robbed of an Oscar nom.

Despite the positive press, the turbulent family drama didn’t make many waves at the box office when it hit theater screens in November of 2019, most likely due to its limited release and restrained marketing campaign. The movie is available on Apple TV and Amazon for rent.

2. Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is probably the most high profile movie on this list. But when the sequel to The Shining makes only $70 million at the box office, it’s definitely underwhelming, especially when it’s so good. Mike Flanagan was given an almost impossible task – to follow Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece and at the same time stay true to Stephen King’s original novel (since King very publicly hates the Shining, which he maybe even he should). And yet somehow, Mike Flanagan pulls it off. Doctor Sleep is both a worthy sequel to Kubrick’s movie and King’s novel. I have been a fan of Flanagan’s direction and editing since Oculus, and he definitely doesn’t disappoint here. Ewan McGregor is really good as Danny, and I love how the story deals with his character and it’s one of my favorite things about the movie. Both Rebecca Fergusson and Kyleigh Curran are fantastic in their respective roles. And for the horror fans out there, yeah the scares in this film are really good too. So make sure to check it out if you haven’t already. It might not be as good as The shining, but it’s the next best thing.

3. High Life

I love space movies,and High Life takes a giant leap ahead of the others in its genre. Unfortunately, many missed out on the visually moving, emotionally stirring, and deeply haunting film in favor of other movies that debuted on April 5, 2019.

Robert Pattinson leads the movie, helmed by 35 Shots of Rum director Claire Denis, as Monte, a man who is on death row for killing his friend when he was a child. Monte, his fellow inmates, and their criminal supervisor Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) are carrying out a dangerous mission in space, hurtling toward a black hole for reasons not initially explicitly known. The journey doesn’t end well, and the path that the prisoners walk along is just as devastating. Told in a nonlinear fashion, High Life follows Monte as he attempts to learn what actually happened to the other inmates aboard the ship while caring for his infant daughter, Willow, who was born during the mission under chilling circumstances.

4. Under The Silver Lake

Mitchell’s It Follows was one of the best debuts of all time, his sophomore outing, Under the Silver Lake is a movie that only a certain few will like, but if you like it you’ll love it. Fortunately, I just love this movie. David Robert Mitchell’s modern-day neo-noir started off with plenty of hype, playing in competition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Originally scheduled for a June 2018 release, the film was pushed back so that Mitchell could do another edit, and after further pushbacks, it was released in America to next to no fanfare on April 2019. Critics either loved or hated this one, with little space in-between, but nobody could deny the dizzying ambition on display. Andrew Garfield plays Sam (and he knocks it out of the park), a slacker with an interest in conspiracy theories who sets out on a strange quest after his neighbor (Riley Keough) mysteriously disappears. The movie is very influential for me and I find something new every time I watch it.A lot of Under the Silver Lake is deliberately aggravating but if you stick with its heightened style and accept its inherently baffling nature, you may discover something special.

5. The Nightingale

Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, The Babadook, was one of my favorite films when it came out and since then it has become a horror classic (and a fabulous LGBTQ+ icon!) Following that up, Kent decided to take a totally different direction and directed one of the most brutal but crucial films of the year in The Nightingale. Set during the Van Diemen’s Land Black War – a period of violent conflict between the Aboriginal Australians of Tasmania and the British colonialists – Irish convict Clare Carroll (played by Aisling Franciosi) works for the British Army in the hopes of seeking freedom for her husband and infant daughter.

After the sadistic Lieutenant Hawkins and his soldiers violently rape Claire and kill her family, she decides to seek revenge with the help of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy. Out of all the films on this list, The Nightingale is easily the toughest to watch. Deeply vicious, immensely disturbing, and hugely controversial for its extreme depictions of rape and violence, this is a story of deep anger that could never be downplayed or softened for general audiences. It takes no prisoners because war and colonialism never did, and Kent has no interest in sugar-coating the heinous crimes of British colonialism against the Aboriginal people of Australia. In that aspect, its bravery cannot be undersold.

6. Blinded by the Light

I love this love this movie for many reasons and if you are an Indian/Pakistani with a passion for art you’ll definitely love it too. At the intersection of Bruce Springsteen’s heart-tugging lyrics and the life of a teen in 1980s England is a story of self-discovery, coming of age, and the transformative power of a chorus that begs to be belted out loud. From director Gurinder Chadha, Blinded by the Light tells this very tale: contemporary rock fan and aspiring songwriter and poet Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), the son of two Pakistani immigrants living in the south east of England, discovers Bruce Springsteen and is suddenly struck with a feeling he’s never experienced before.

Though “The Boss” and the wide-eyed teen lead two very different lives, Javed finds all too relatable Springsteen’s lyrics of wanting to break free from his small town and make a name for himself. His parents (Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra) and his best friend Matt (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) may not understand, but Javed feels like he was born to run — outside the city limits of Luton, away from his traditional family values, and into a world where his dreams can become reality.

7. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

France, 1770. Marianne, a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent. Héloïse is a reluctant bride to be and Marianne must paint her without her knowing. She observes her by day, to paint her secretly.

The movie is French, so they definitely fall in love and what develops is one of the most touching and heartwarming relationships put on film ever. The two actresses do work I can’t even comprehend and the direction is just off the charts. Celine Sciamma shoots very frame like it’s a painting and the effect is astounding. Please give this beautiful movie a watch, you’ll not be disappointed.

8. Fast Color

Im a huge comicbook nerd and love CBMs. And superhero movies are the talk of the town right now yet, one of the greatest superhero films of 2019 was one the vast majority of moviegoers completely missed out on. Fast Color, directed and co-written by Miss Stevens filmmaker Julia Hart, stars The Cloverfield Paradox actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ruth, whose seizures cause massive earthquakes, and Orange Is the New Black alum Lorraine Toussaint as Bo, Ruth’s mother who has the ability to disintegrate and reassemble objects with her mind and to see “the colors” — vivid flashes of light.

9. Don’t Come Back From the Moon

Starring Rashida Jones as Eva Smalley and James Franco (who I just adore) as her husband Roman Smalley, Don’t Come Back from the Moon is as deeply affecting as its title suggests. The film, an adaptation of Dean Bakopoulos’ novel directed by Bruce Thierry Cheung, angles itself from the perspective of the Smalleys’ 16-year-old son Mickey (Jeffrey Wahlberg), who is grappling with feelings of intense abandonment after his father becomes the latest man in their California town to pack his bags and leave, vanishing without another word. In short the kinda movie I’ll see.

It sounds like the logline of a new paranormal sci-fi series, but Don’t Come Back from the Moon is rooted in a harsh reality: the fathers and husbands in the rundown desert community walk away from their lives because they have nothing better to do — because they don’t care that they’re leaving behind boys who must turn into men before their time, and children who don’t know why their dads always end up “going to the moon.” As Eva resists the urge to self-medicate with alcohol, Mickey looks after his younger brother Kolya (Zackary Arthur), explores his sexuality, and lets his angst manifest in a rebellious streak — the whole time weaving a tale that’s “piercingly observant about the fragility of the family foundation.”

Released in a limited run in mid-January, Don’t Come Back from the Moon has garnered sweeping praise from critics, who regard the film as “poignant and visually striking,” “an artful and affecting mix of harshly defined specifics and impressionistic storytelling.”

10. Booksmart

Beanie Feldstein stars as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures

The perfect film for people like you and me, who busted their ass last year for getting into the colleges of their dream. The flick follows do-good best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), who make the shocking realization that while they were hitting the books in the hopes of getting into good colleges, their peers were partying hard and gaining entry into those same universities. Motivated by a desire to prove themselves as carefree and a burning need to never be inferior to their classmates, Molly and Amy try to shove four years’ worth of rule-breaking fun into a single night. As you watch the pair attend parties, learn new slang, get in trouble with the law, face their fears in more ways than one, and finally come of age, you’ll laugh, cry, and wish your last day as a high school student was even one-tenth as interesting and life-changing as Molly and Amy’s blowout envoi.

It’s difficult to oversell just how incredible Booksmart is, how heartbreaking it is knowing that it didn’t make tens of millions of dollars, or why you should see it, like, yesterday. So, we’ll let Little White Lies’ Hannah Woodhead do the talking for us: “Booksmart feels like a watershed moment for the next generation.”

11. Last Black Man Of San Francisco

Exalted as “one of the best movies of 2019 by a long shot,” if not the top film of the year, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a rousing, soul-stirring, haunting effort from Joe Talbot. Talbot makes his directorial debut with this drama partly based on the life of Jimmie Fails, a black man trying to reclaim his childhood home in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, California. Jimmie’s best friend Montgomery “Mont” Allen, played by White Boy Rick and Captive State actor Jonathan Majors, accompanies him on his quest to recoup ownership over the Victorian house his grandfather built. What follow are discoveries about identity, truth, and belonging in a city they no longer feel has any space for them.

The film — which also stars powerhouse talents like Danny Glover, Mike Epps, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Thora Birch, and Finn Wittrock — left critics moved when A24 released it in a limited launch on June 7. Its scenes filmed and its story told beautifully, The Last Black Man in San Francisco bursts with emotion, grapples with life truths, and has the makings of an unforgettable classic. The pic definitely isn’t one to miss (though many did miss out on it when it hit cinemas), so catch it as soon as you can.

12. Wild Rose

If you are like me and you love British dramas about awkward young people, this movies this right up your ally. An invigorating take on the star-is-born tale, Wild Rose puts aspiring country star Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) up on stage, then draws the curtain back to show what life beyond the twangy tunes and cowboy boots is really like. You see, Rose-Lynn isn’t your typical doe-eyed country musician with a dream in her heart and a guitar in her hand — she’s also Scottish, an ex-convict, and the mother of two children. Struggling to make ends meet, to avoid falling back into the habits that landed her in jail in the first place, and to realize her ultimate goal of becoming the next Dolly Parton, Rose-Lynn hits a crossroads when the doors that lead to a better life finally open… and draw her away from her kids.

13. The Farewell

Released by A24 in a limited run on July 12, The Farewell centers on Awkwafina’s Billi, an aspiring Chinese American writer, and her family, who are shocked to learn that their beloved Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) — Mandarin for “grandmother” — is dying. Billi’s parents Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and Jian (Diana Lin) notify her just days after she’s turned down for a writing grant that Nai Nai has terminal lung cancer and only a few months left to live.

Billi’s family decides not to tell Nai Nai of her impending fate. They repeatedly deceive the ailing woman in an effort to realize the old adage about ignorance being bliss, ultimately scheduling a wedding for Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han) as a way to unite the family for one last celebration before Nai Nai passes. However, Billi is uneasy about lying to her grandmother and ends up disobeying her family’s request, showing up in China to rock the boat.

14. Luce

Tim Roth, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Naimo Watts appear Luce by Julius Onah, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Larkin Seiple All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

A gripping mystery-drama from director Julius Onah, Luce picks up ten years after the adoption of Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a bright boy born in war-torn Eritrea who has become a respected debater at his high school, an all-star athlete, a beloved member of his Arlington, Virginia community, and, of course, the pride and joy of his parents Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). Luce’s dazzling reputation takes an unexpected hit after he submits an assignment — an essay written in the voice of 20th-century political revolutionary Frantz Fanon — to his history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). The underlying message of Luce’s essay causes immediate concern, and when Harriet searches through Luce’s locker to see if there are any clues to explain the young man’s alarming remarks, she discovers something far worse than words on a page.

15. The Souvenir

Another one of those “every frame a painting” movies, featuring captivating performances from real-life mother-daughter pair Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne (who also star as mother and daughter in the film), The Souvenir follows a young woman named Julie who forms an unhealthy relationship with a much older man while attending film school. Based partially on writer/director Joanna Hogg’s own experiences at film school, The Souvenir weaves its narrative together using loose, dreamy stitches, relying on the audience to fill in the purposeful spaces it leaves as it skips through time in uneven strides. The result is an often painful and occasionally abstract coming-of-age tale that wrestles with addiction, ambition, and destructive romance that feels more like remembering an experience than telling a story.

The Souvenir may not be the best movie night pick for a casual film fan, but committed cinephiles should expect to be blown away by its strong performances and expert filmmaking. While this critical gem didn’t fare so well during its limited theatrical run, you can catch up with it in the comfort of your own home, since it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime

16. Honey Boy

When I first heard of this movie, I dismissed it as a vanity project for Shia LaBeouf. I mean nn paper, Honey Boy seems like the type of film that shouldn’t work at all, the type of self-indulgent and overly personal fare that is much more therapeutic for the filmmaker than entertaining for an audience. And yet, somehow, the Shia LaBeouf-penned film (in which he also stars as his own father) manages to defy expectations, delivering a deeply personal and introspective film that also works as a nuanced examination of a dysfunctional father-son relationship and a thoughtful commentary on child actors in Hollywood.

In a loose recounting of LaBeouf’s own childhood, Honey Boy mostly follows 12-year-old television star Otis (Noah Jupe), who lives his life between comedy sets and a seedy motel room, which he shares with his father, James, a former rodeo clown who now makes his living as Otis’ chaperone. James is several years sober, but still fails to give Otis the love and affection he craves, offering up hefty helpings of criticism and outright hostility instead. Yet, as the adult Otis (Lucas Hedges) reflects from rehab (the setting in which LaBeouf also wrote the screenplay), he can’t completely write his father off, much as he may want to, and still finds himself yearning for some sense of connection.

Fortunately for the majority of people who missed Honey Boy in theaters, the film is now streaming on Amazon.

17. The Lighthouse

Is the Lighthouse about two people going mad in a deserted Lighthouse, or an allegory for the revolutionary story of Prometheus? Whatever be the case, this movie might just be my favorite movie of last year.

Directed by The Witch filmmaker Robert Eggers, who also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Max, The Lighthouse is a surreal and disturbing “descent into madness,” with standout performances from both Pattinson and Dafoe. It may be a little too bizarre for the casual film fan — one critic called it a “visceral assault on the senses,” with others warning that it is “rough going” and “the opposite of a crowd-pleaser” — but these appear to be features, not bugs, playing into the overall effectiveness of the film. But while The Lighthouse performed respectably for a film of its size, it was still not widely seen by movie-going audiences as a whole, despite its warm reception from critics.

In 2021, Robert Pattinson will make his (hopefully) triumphant return to major franchise fare — after previously appearing in both the Twilight and Harry Potter films — when he’ll star as Bruce Wayne in The Batman. After plenty busy with several smaller, artistically ambitious films that challenge both actors and audiences alike, let’s hope he makes for a great Batman.

18. The Wind

2019 was hardly short of horror films, from the continued domination of Blumhouse to It: Chapter 2 following up one of 2017’s biggest hits and concluding one of horror fiction’s most popular stories. There’s always space in the calendar for a horror title to plug a gap in-between blockbusters. Still, more than a few slid under the cracks when they easily deserved a bigger audience. Emma Tammi took her story to the American frontier of the 19th century with The Wind. A Midnight Madness selection from the previous year’s Toronto International Film Festival, The Wind perhaps suffered from too many comparisons to Robert Eggers’s The Witch.

It’s not hard to see why those parallels were drawn but they did a disservice to Tammi’s film and her intent. Focusing on two couples who live in solitude on a vast unpopulated area of New Mexico, The Wind sees them possibly tormented by a poltergeist or prairie spirit seeking to cause havoc. At its heart, this is a film about women’s struggles in an isolated world where their fears are dismissed and gaslighting often drives them to ruin. Tammi’s directorial debut reveals her to be an assured filmmaker with a strong grasp over theme and craft, and her characters are all richly drawn in ways that often subvert horror viewers’ expectations.

Neon Bird

Beat up on the streets, picked up from the trash.
He needed some band-aid, but was too low on cash.
He wanted to laugh, but went hush to avoid any clash,
Though there was fire in his heart like a phoenix rising from the ash.

He trembled his way back home alone
Humming this disastrous melancholic tune
Until he stumbled upon a rolling stone
And fell into the dark pit of unknown.

To cage a bird with fluorescent wings,
Isn’t worth a try.
It might hurt your feelings,
But let the Neon Birds fly.

Through the mountains, night sneaked upon the sky.
Dark spirits creeped inside the pit to terrify.
The lone nightingale screamed out a cry,
As he could feel a thousand eyes on him, trying to pry.

They trashed his soul and called him names
But he didn’t care; he was too familiar of their pety little games.
Deep inside a hole a new born songbird lay,
Singing songs about running somewhere far away.

To cage a bird with fluorescent wings,
Isn’t worth a try.
It might hurt your feelings,
But let the Neon Birds fly.

The city I used to call my home
Seems to have gone away somewhere far.
I’m looking for it everywhere
Driving around in my car.

Leeches contaminated the air –
Filled with mist and smoke.
Mice died in the flood of blood,
The smell of it all making me choke.

I drove across the bloodstream flowing downhill,
A million mice died, coming underneath my wheel.
I still move on though, I got no time to mourn,
It’s the ill fate of the mice – they die where they’re born.

Trees taller than the mountains, go to seed,
Crying in a choir, as they’re the ones who bleed.
They’ve been here since the dawn of us.
They’ve seen us all grow and do the dirty deeds.

A million men hung themselves from those branches,
And the cowards got shot in the back from the ones in charges.
The city is haunted by the ghosts of our past,
Not letting them go, even though they’ve so long surpassed.

City of bones, bones of cages,
Trapping souls, stinking of blood and stitches.
I don’t want to be like them, dead while still living
But it is my destiny, there’s no escaping.

I’m getting late, I should be going to my house
But I don’t want to see my dad or his brand new spouse.
I don’t want to see anyone, not my family nor a friend.
None of them like me, they all just try to pretend.

I hear a voice calling me. My love, is that you speaking?
I can’t remember a word that you were saying.
Were you upset or was it once again all my fault?
I don’t care anymore, I don’t want any more of your assault.

This city is rotten and dying bit by bit
And if I don’t leave it, I’ll die along with it.
I need to run away or I’ll later have to grieve,
I want to tell stories, I need to find what I believe.

A bright bird hovers over the disastrous death scene,
Making me realise I have my car and gas in my engine.
Deep inside a hole a new born songbird lay,
Singing songs about running somewhere far away.

To cage a bird with fluorescent wings,
Isn’t worth a try.
It might hurt your feelings,
But let the Neon Birds fly.

What are the songs that voices never share? a.k.a Importance of understanding our lives with the help of Art.

It was the last week of November, I was sitting in my claustrophobic hostel room in Kota, Rajasthan with all the lights in my room turned off. I had skipped classes for almost a month and had caught a really bad fever by the end of it. We had our major tests coming up but I had no intentions of studying. I just sat there in the darkness – thinking. Thinking about what I can’t explain (or maybe i don’t wanna explain). That night I read a book, not just any book but “The Catcher in the Rye” bu J.D. Salinger. And it spoke to me, in words no human being in living form ever could. I was suddenly able to analyse the thoughts going on in my head, that were troubling me this whole time. It sat back pressing my head against the cold wall, thinking about the book over and over. It was in this moment I was understood what Paul Simon had meant in his 1964 hit single “The Sound of Silence”, when he said,

“People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share…”

Sound of Silence Album Cover, Simon & Garfunkel

Art has the power to move people – speak to them about things they never thought they could or they understand. It adds so much more meaning to the world we see, that it in turn helps us see ourselves. That night, “The catcher of the rye” sang to me songs that voices could never have shared. I suddenly had a newfound passion – the passion to write, the passion to sing songs voices could never share. I called my mom and booked tickets for home the next morning. I didn’t give any of the tests that year (which I heavily regretted at the end though) and when I came back to Kota, I knew this was just a phase of my life I have to pass. And I did. Without any problems? No, It was still pretty horrible but at least I was not seeing any false hopes now. I knew myself better and I knew what I wanted to do. The catcher in the eye was only a example, over the last few years I have consumed a lot of pieces of art that have have changed my life or shaped me to be who I am today. I love reading books. I love watching movies. I love making movies. I love listening to music. I love dancing to music. I love to pack my bags and set out on a trip to the hills with no plans whatsoever. And this blog is my way of sharing all that with you guys.

But just like any good relationship, it goes both ways. If you want to listen to the songs that voices never share, you need to listen carefully. You need to give the artist and the art the respect it deserves to understand what it’s trying to say. And that’s where I come in. I will be analyzing various pieces of art, movies, music, poetry, stories etc, here in this blog in detail. I want to dig deeper and find the meaning behind some of the works of my favorite artist, along with sharing some of my own work, and use them to help you in way to listen to the songs voice never share. Hopefully, my blog will make you understand yourself better.

And till the next post, remember to always listen to The Sound of Silence.

Understanding Life with Art

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