January 19, 2010
these albums are all great. none perfect, but some darn close. there’s a lot of them. so get comfy cause it may take a while….or you can just scroll really quickly.
the animal years – josh ritter
josh ritter just has something to him. his songs are catchy, his lyrics are witty, he puts on one of the best live shows i’ve ever seen. the man just knows how to have fun up there on stage. i can listen to this whole album.
fleet foxes – fleet foxes
probably one of the more surprising albums i’ve heard. i was not ready for their crazy appalachian folk harmonies and musical stylings. the album gets a little redundant somewhere from “he doesn’t know” to “meadowlark” though. i’m really excited for them to put out a new album (and with j.tillman none the less!)
the little willies – the little willies
norah jones and company take to covering old country hits. i’m in. there’s some duds on the album, but so much good that it’s completely worth purchasing. i wouldn’t bother with the songs they wrote themselves, but i’d stick with the hank williams and townes van sandt songs. when it’s on, it’s on.
dead cities, red seas, lost ghosts – m83
m83 brings an electronic album masterpiece that makes you want to blast it from your car stereo as you lay in a snowy field with friends looking at the sky…..heeyyyy.
brick (original motion picture soundtrack) – nathan johnson
one of my favorite movies of the decade (and all time really) has one of the most brilliant scores. nathan johnson uses old out of tune pianos and guitars, filing cabinets, kitchen utensils, and instruments he made up like the whine-o-phone. it has such a presence and a great sense of mood to it. johnson delivers musically the tone and setting that his cousin delivered visually in the film. a perfect blend of stylistic filmmaking and stylistic musicmaking.
o.c.m.s –old crow medicine show
old crow medicine show is a bluegrass/old timey band who feel completely contemporary. they are amazing musicians, amazing vocalists, and amazing lyricists. the fast paced songs are upbeat and fun for the summertime, and the slow ones i love to put on mixtapes. any band that can make it onto one of my mixtapes has to be good.
aslep at heaven’s gate – rogue wave
the more i listen to rogue wave, the more i’m convinced they are the most underrated band working today (besides the frames of course). i mean these guys are amazing. they remind me of a mix between radiohead and iron & wine. asleep at heaven’s gate was one of my favorite albums from 2007 because it was just such a surprise. lake michigan was a fairly big hit (if i can remember correctly) but the whole album just blew me away. check this out, seriously.
flowering spade – sean hayes
sean hayes took a huge leap with flowering spade. this album is almost perfect. he crafts such interesting songs with such a wide range of influences. his voice is one of the most interesting out there today, and flowering spade is by far his best album.
kill the moonlight – spoon
“the way we get by” may have become an indie film cliche, but there’s a reason why. when i first heard it, i wasn’t sure if i’d ever heard anything like it. it’s familiar, yet startling.
songs for the deaf– queens of the stone age
josh homme is one of the best frontmen around. he’s got the voice, he’s got the guitar skills, he’s got the hair (he actually looks like a leaner, taller donal logue). this album is there best. plain and simple. one of the best rock albums of the decade.
maladroit – weezer
anyone who doesn’t tell you that pinkerton is weezer’s best album, is straight up lying to your face. don’t ever trust that person again. but maldroit is very good. i feel like there’s a little bit of a pinkerton resurgence in this album, and is highlighted by some of their best songs ever. burdnt jamb is the most unknown masterpiece there is.
elephant – the white stripes
i’m not as big a fan of the white stripes as i think i should be. i mean they’re very much in the scope of bands that i love, but there’s just something that doesn’t grab me always. but elephant was an amazing album. it seemed to grab a consistent tone from beginning to end, and felt like a more solid, better produced (though that’s not always good), and darker album than white blood cells or whatever else came before it.
minor works – j. tillman
if you don’t know who joshua tillman is, then please go buy this album and listen to crooked roof. that is all.
agaetis byrjun – sigur ros
sigur ros makes some of the most beautiful music there is. but they sing in icelandic, or a made up language, and it’s hard for me to listen to one of their albums from start to finish. this album has some of the most gorgeous instrumentation i have ever heard. it makes me sometimes wish that they would just become an instrumental band.
come away with me – norah jones
norah jones’ first release was her best and the measuring stick by which all her albums will be held up to, then fail to compete with.
seven swans – sufjan stevens
sufjan is one of the most creative artists working today. he seems to be never satisfied with what he’s doing, always looking to find new ways to create. seven swans is an album full of biblically based songs. songs about abraham’s sacrifice, Christ’s atonement, and the book of revelation. he writes songs about God and his relationship with Him.
the big come up – the black keys
the first (new) vinyl record i ever bought was the big come up. i had never even heard one song by the black keys. i was standing in the record store, and pulled it out of the “local” section. i flipped it over and over, reading the back, looking at the pictures, trying to figure out who these guys were and what they sounded like. i couldn’t put it down. something was calling to me. i needed to buy the record. as soon as i get home with the record in hand i open it up to find a shiny white vinyl starring back at me. i put the needle to it and proceeded to have my mind blown. i listened to the entire thing front to back maybe 3 times.
fox confessor brings the flood – neko case
i wasn’t too wild about neko case when i bought this. i liked a few songs of her’s and had a walmart gift card someone had given me so i thought “eh, why not?”. it has grown on me probably more than any other album this decade, and the first half of this thing is one of the best. it looses a lot of its charm and character half way through, but the first 5 or 6 songs are phenomenal.
armchair apocrypha – andrew bird
this is andrew bird’s masterpiece. a lot of the time his lyrics go over my head, but his instrumentation and song crafting is the best it’s ever been on this album. he strikes a mood from the beginning and holds it consistent throughout. and he puts on one of the best live shows i’ve ever seen.
December 17, 2009
the first decade of the 00’s is done. everyone’s putting out the best of decade lists, and i do love lists. i’ve complied my favorite albums (somewhere close to 50 i think) and will be revealing them in 4 separate lists: the really good, the great, the almost perfect, and the pantheon. we’re starting off with the really good.
the really good
transfiguration of vincent – m. ward
m. ward’s greatest album on his solo side. (vincent o’brien, undertaker, outta my head, involuntary, helicopter, let’s dance)
before the dawn heals us – m83
maybe not m83’s best effort, but there’s too much here to be ignored. such great reverence for a era of music that has long since passed its prime. (don’t save us from the flames, i guess i’m floating, teen angst)
robbers & cowards – cold war kids
these guys kind of came out of nowhere for me. all of a sudden i couldn’t get away from hang me up to dry. it was everywhere. and i was loving it up. i thought i read somewhere that the singer is classically trained, which would make sense because his voice is off the hook. they blended rock with a sort of grandiose yet still indie feel. and their songs are catchy as hell. (we used to vacation, hang me up to dry, saint john, hospital beds)
gimme fiction – spoon
spoon is a band i have hard time not listening to. they’re just fun. (i turn my camera on, sister jack, i summon you)
mutemath – mutemath
mutemath are one of those bands that you have to see live. they are unbelievable. i’ve seen them twice now and they have so much energy and enthusiasm for the show that it’s hard not to get swept up into it (even if you try). their live shows are so good that it almost makes the cd not as satisfying. you just don’t get the same experience out of listening to the cd as you do watching paul meany do a handstand on his keyboard. that being said, these songs are all still really good. (collapse, noticed, stare at the sun, break the same)
in a space outta sound – nightmares on wax
these guys can make beats. it’s what i put on when i need to relax, or for a late night drive. (passion, flip ya lid, chime out)
half these songs are about you – nizlopi
i was blown away the first time i heard a nizlopi song. the vocals were great, the bass and the beat. these guys had it. i listened to the rest of the album only to find a liking for half of it (maybe the ones that are about you?). whenever the lead singer starts to rap he looses me (mostly because he’s awful). but the ones were he sings are were you want to be. couple that with a really lousy second effort and they end up on the lower end of my favorite albums of the decade (but some of the better songs!). (girls, faith, jcb, freedom, wash away, worry)
the love below – andre benjamin
andre benjamin is a revolutionary. the man can do no wrong in my eyes. and his side of the speakerboxxx/the love below album makes my list. not the other guy’s. he brings so much inventiveness, so much fun, so much raw talent to hip/hop. i’m hard pressed to name another person like him. (hey ya, roses, take off your cool)
gnarls barkley – st. elsewhere
it’s hard not to include this on the list. the first time i heard crazy i went crazy. there’s no refuting that it’s a great song. and there’s some other really good stuff on this. dangermouse just knows what he’s doing. (crazy, gone daddy gone, smiley faces, just a thought)
under the blacklight – rilo kiley
rilo kiley was always interesting, but with under the blacklight they became relevant. it’s a alt. country pop hit! their songs are catchy, fun, and interesting. their mix of electronic elements is what sets this album apart. (silver lining, breaking up, under the blacklight)
big black hole and the little baby star – sean hayes
sean hayes has one of the most interesting voices out there today. he has no two songs that are similar. and no two albums that are similar. he is continuously improving and moving forward. big black hole was a huge step forward in his songwriting abilities, as most clearly seen in calling all cars. he knows the aesthetic he’s going for and he nails it. (boom boom goes the day, same god, angel, calling all cars)
December 17, 2009
“how much does your life weigh? imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack.”
george clooney is a man who flies around the country firing people. that’s his job. he shows up, tells you you’re fired, then leaves. he has a philosophy about life that’s centered around backpacks. how when we fill them with the things we have in this world (house, car, friends, family) it gets heavy and is not worth carrying. he has a relationship with another frequent flyer who seems to finally be the one who connects with him. he never sees his home, he never sees his family. his sister’s getting married, but he’s never met her future husband. he only spends money on things that get him more miles so he can reach his 10 million mile mark and get his name on the side of a plane.
that seems like a lot of stuff, but the movie actually doesn’t seem to do much in way of plot. it really is a movie where not a lot happens. usually i love those kinds of movies. i’m all about taking your time to develop character and setting and mood. but this film doesn’t really try to do any of those things. it throws us into the world of the frequent flyer george clooney, and expects us to bond with him. when in reality, it’s almost impossible. the film wants us to buy into a guy who’s main point is that all humans will let you down. it’s fundamentally flawed. how can i be interested in a man who isn’t interested in anything….except flying?
there’s so much here that could have been done well. the idea of him saving up for his 10 million mile mark is great, but completely handled wrong. i never once got the sense that he actually cared about it or cared about anything. he just seemed to sit there while life happened around him. the whole concept of a man coming into town, meeting someone for the first time, then completely changing their life is really interesting. but the film only really focuses on that idea for a second then decides it’s not worth investigating. we seem to start different rabbit trails every two minutes in the film. one of our main characters, a girl we actually can sort of connect with and invest with, ends up leaving about half way through the film and we never see her again. it just isn’t interested in anything that is interesting, and that’s a problem.
i never once felt emotionally invested in any of the characters (except for anna kendrick’s character a little) and really didn’t care what happened to them. the whole clooney/farmiga sequence did absolutely nothing for me. and her end to the film totally doesn’t flow with what we saw just 10 minutes earlier…..
*** spoiler alert ***
she goes with him to his sister’s wedding in upstate wisconsin for a few days, goes with him to his old high school, is clearly emotionally invested in him, then ends up being married and calls clooney an escape? if she is going to be married then we need to see a little more conflict in her. she needs to be contemplating who she really loves more. her husband or george. it just doesn’t flow well at all.
*** spoilers over ***
the film felt flat and uneven the entire time. at one point during the wedding sequence we get a really pseudo documentary style filmmaking with handy cams, lots of crash zooms, way more personal composition. i love that style of filmmaking, but it completely took me out of a scene that is really supposed to connect me emotionally with the characters. the entire film has been shot in a completely neutral static way up to this point, and now we get a really jarring stylistic choice for absolutely no reason.
what worked with juno was that i loved the characters. i wanted to spend more time with them, learn more about them. i was sad when they were sad, happy when they were happy. in this film i just didn’t care one way or the other. after juno i had really high expectations for mr. reitman, but now i’m going to have to rethink my position on the man.
December 5, 2009
“people don’t realize this, but loneliness is underrated.”
note: this was sitting in my drafts for sometime for some reason. sorry.
i can tell that this is a film that will stick with me for a while. i can tell because there are hundreds of things i love about it. the actors, the music, the actor’s clothes, the style, the little cartoon bird, leslie nelson. i had the film on my fall film preview from 08, way before anything was known about the film (so give me a little dap). i could not wait until this film came out…and then i saw the trailer. the trailer. i mean this trailer for this film is probably the greatest trailer i have ever seen. i’m not just saying that. i truly believe it. i felt so much depth behind every shot. i felt such a sense of joy and elation and the sadness that comes hand and hand with that. i just couldn’t contain myself when zooey opens the door. there is just so much to that 5 second shot i couldn’t bear it.
editors note: just watching this trailer again has made me reconsider this as the best film of the year. the best 90 seconds i’ve had at the theater.
joseph gordon levitt won my heart with 2006’s brick, and he cemented his place in my favorite actors pool with mysterious skin (which i saw after brick). the man is a chameleon. he can do it all. and he is one of the few actors who i will check out just about anything because he is in it. i was even remotely curious about g.i. joe because of his role. seriously! but what an inspired decision to place him in this film. it just feels like it was written for him. he has the angst, he has the believability, he has that romantic comedie yet indie feel to him. he’s wonderful. i felt for him because i felt like him. he’s not ryan gossling, he’s not ryan reynolds, he’s not anyone named ryan. he’s joe.
there was something that felt amiss for me. maybe it was the fact that i built up so much hype in my head. i mean there is no way the film could live up to my unreal expectations. and this was way before all the mainstream hype. i was just so excited on my on terms, that it might have tainted my experience a little. some of the editing felt a little uneven, and i was left wondering if there was a master director’s cut of which i was missing (dvd maybe?).
the music was great, the moments of style felt perfectly in line with the rest of the film, and the rest of the cast was evened out really nice. some moments felt a little to tounge in cheek, but it was such a refreshing look at relationships that i could sit through the entire film. one moment that particularly stuck out for me was the whole bergmanesque foreign film section. i was laughing really hard and then feeling weird because no one else was.
this is a film that i’m eagerly anticipating revisiting (hopefully with a longer cut). i hate hearing people labeling it as a romantic comedy or a revisionist romcom because it’s so much more. it’s honest, it’s stylized, it’s surreal, and it’s hilarious. one of the better ones this year.
and jgl is just the man. that is all.
November 29, 2009
“i didn’t want to wake you up, but i really wanted to show you something.”
October 26, 2009
“yeah, let’s celebrate mediocrity! that’s fantastic!”
whip it is a film i probably would have waited for on dvd had i not received free passes. and i’m glad i did receive free passes, because i would have not wanted to pay a redbox fee (or risk the late fee from the library) on this film.
something is to be said about predictability in certain films. romantic comedies, other mainstream comedies, sometimes benefit from predictability. it’s comforting to know that the story isn’t going to take your for a ride you’re not ready for. there’s also something to be said about predictability in films that are trying to be “alternative” now. and it’s not what you want.
the script for this film is probably the worst i’ve heard all year. every line of dialogue is so contrived and completely forced. shauna cross wants to be hip, wants you to laugh at her little indie sensibilities, wants you to fall in love with her quirky characters, and it all falls completely flat. nothing about the script is original, nothing about the script is relatable or funny. it’s just bad. it’s trying to be something that it’s not. just because roller derby isn’t mainstream, doesn’t mean you can just half-heartedly write the script and get away with it. all of the dialogue just cannot stand on its own. you take an interaction ellen page has with one of her old friends who’s fallen by the wayside…
friend: so what are you all like alternative now?
ellen page: alternative to what?
friend: i don’t know..isn’t that the point of this movie? to be alternative?
ellen page: no, i think it’s meant to be extremely derivative to every other indie film and indie music and indie indie indie indie indie indie indie indie indie indie indie indie. wait, is indie alternative? then yes, i like indie. aren’t i cool?
friend: no, not really.
how anyone would option that script….i don’t know. and i’m not saying that every movie has to be completely original. i said before that predictability has its place in movies. just don’t try to pass off predictability as something completely new and fresh and “alternative” and try to make it cool. that’s when we run into problems.
and the script might not even be the worst part! let’s put aside my personal disdain for drew berrymore’s acting capabilities. i tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. i thought that maybe since she’s practically grown up on film sets, that she might have actually picked something up from directors and dp’s about how to make a film. but i was wrong (i don’t know if i actually thought that, or just hoped that it might just possibly, somewhat be true). she has absolutely no idea how to construct a film. all of the staging was completely awkward, forced, unnatural. she cannot frame a shot. i just could not believe how awful her direction was from beginning to end.
wow. i cannot believe that i’ve written almost the most i’ve written all year about whip it. that just seems sad. anyways, one thing i did like about the film, and it was almost a sort of revelation, was kristen wig’s performance. i hate kristen wig. she is the same in every single thing she does whether it’s on snl or a movie or whatever. she just sits there, uncomfortably and sort of mumbles under her breath something completely stupid and incongruous with the rest of the scene. but in this flim she plays something completely different (or at least after the first 10 minutes we see her) and it’s almost a breath of fresh air. i didn’t feel my stream of contempt i normally do when she appears on screen. it was refreshing.
and! i almost forgot. the relationship between ellen page’s parents (marcia gay harden and the tall bad guy from home alone) was great! it was really awesome to see a married couple who love and support one another, who don’t cheat, who don’t fight openly, and love their family. you might not agree with their stances on things, but you cannot deny that they loved each other and respected marriage. that was a nice touch that helped me get through the movie.
ok. that’s it. i’m done talking about whip it forever.
August 25, 2009
“each and every man under my command owes me one hundred nazi scalps… and i want my scalps!”
at moments during the film i was taken in by the beautiful camera movement and composition, at moments i was laughing hysterically, at moments i was scared to death. tarantino weaves a story that basically just rewrites history. he throws caution to the wind and enjoys it as much as somebody should be allowed to enjoy something.
the basterds are a group of jewish american soilders whose only goal is to find and kill nazis. they are led by aldo the apache (brad pitt) and because of his native american roots they not only kill the nazis, but leave their bodies dismembered and disemboweled so as to strike fear in their enemies eyes. and quentin has now qualms showing us some of this action.
the movie has some very serious moments where normal ww2 films would let those moments sit and settle with the viewer. but not quentin. anytime the atmosphere gets too serious, he undercuts it with something ridiculous. whether it’s busting out a gigantic pipe or a little quip from brad pitt or when eli roth comes out of the tunnel and we’re unbelievably scared. he kills a german with a bat, then acts like an eight year old boy running around his back yard. quentin doesn’t let the seriousness of any moment ever sit with us too long.
all the praise i’ve read so far has been for christoph waltz who plays colonel hans landa (aka the jew hunter), and i’m afraid i will be no different. he is phenomenal. he is unlike any villain i’ve ever seen in film, and i give qt a lot of credit for that as well. but waltz is the one who materialized the character. he gave life to one of the most intriguing characters on screen this year and is a lock for “best performance of the year” lists. at least mine. but don’t let his performance overshadow brad pitt, because i think he’s just as fun to watch. he isn’t given as much screen time (which surprised me), but is just living it up on the screen when he’s out there. he gives one of the more surprising performances of the year.
i never knew what was going to happen next in this film. i was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and for a two and a half hour long movie it’s pretty painful to be sitting there. quentin keeps us guessing around every corner, and gives us possibly the most fun we could have in theaters this year. i did get a little uncomfortable in the scenes where i thought quentin was reveling in the violence a little too much, but in terms of a ratio to the rest of the film, those moments are few and far between.
August 14, 2009
“i think we can do nothing to stop the march of time.”
synopsis for those who don’t know: some french pows try to escape from various prisons during ww1. obviously there is more too it. and during the film i couldn’t help but think of the things that had inspired it (the count of monte cristo) and the things that took inspiration from this film (stalag 17, the great escape).
renoir does a great job of getting you to think about the way war has changed. i couldn’t help but think about how officers are treated now. would an enemy take such good care of you just because you’re an officer from your country? i’m not sure. the changing of the guard, the shift from the way things used to be to the way they are now is what this film is about. but maybe that just doesn’t work as well for me. maybe it’s because i’ve never known the way things used to be. maybe i’m so ingrained to the way things are now, that the way things used to be seems foreign. it’s not that i couldn’t recognize it, but it just didn’t have the same impact on me that it would have had on people of its time.
one thing that amazed me was how close to ww2 this film came out. some of the foreshadowing of the changes in war are unbelievable. to see things you know are going to change with ww2 foreshadowed in this film is amazing. and apparently as soon as the nazis occupied france it was one of the first things they siezed.
von stroheim is great as the german pow camp officer. his interactions with boldieu (pierre fresnay) are great, especially their final scene on boldieu’s death bed. their friendship, their past, is so tangible in that moment. you can just feel the history between them, and the cultural history that von stroheim’s character is fighting with. his inward brokenness is only slightly mirrored by his physical deterioration.
renoir never spells anything out for the viewer, he allows the characters to speak for themselves. he lets the story unfold at a natural pace, is not afraid to add a little humor, but all the while is conscious of how his camera tells the story and speaks into the characters. he does a great job of positioning every character and interlacing the multiple story-lines and characters.
August 12, 2009
August 5, 2009
“did i know that i just met the most dangerous dark wizard of all time? no.”
to be honest, i hadn’t seen a harry potter film that i liked. they all just seemed to fall flat and not fully encompass the scope of the books. this was the first film in the series that i can actually say i enjoyed. it didn’t necessarily fully encompass the book, but was able to take liberties with certain aspects, add certain aspects, and remove the unnecessary ones. david yates (the director) was able to place the film in a time that seemed relevant. i felt the terror that the world has to be experiencing at this time. dark forces are at work, people are scared, and i’m buying it.
one of my biggest problems so far with the series has been the performance of daniel radcliff. he always seems to earnest, too much like he’s spot reading, too fake, and too stiff. in this film however, he seems to find more of a groove. i wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a great performance, but it’s adequate. maybe it’s because he doesn’t seem to have a lot of lines, but yates seems to be able to reign him in a little. on the flip side, there are some truly great performances in this film. they were able to just sweep me into the magic of it all.
jim broadbent – professor slughorn
broadbent gives one of the surprise performances in the film. in the book, professor slughorn was a very hot and cold character for me. sometimes i really liked him, sometimes i thought he was a waste of a page. but broadbent makes me love him. broadbent adds something to the character that i think the book was missing. he adds heart, or humor, or maybe just a face, i don’t know. whatever it is, he took a character from a book and really built upon it. he was able to infuse something else that took the performance over the top for me.
michael gambon – professor dumbledore
i’ve never really liked gambon in any of the potter films. the original dumbledore (richard harris) was made for that role. that man just brought a level of gravitas that gambon just doesn’t (or didn’t have). however, in this film, gambon brought it. he brought it so hard that i was scared for fragile little daniel radcliff. i thought he might shatter. maybe it was the source material, but gambon just seemed to take the role to another dimension. he added a dark side to it. he made me scared just to look at him….and that’s just fun.
alan rickman – professor snape
rickman’s performance has always been a little one-note for me. that being said, knowing what is going to happen in the rest of the films now (i finished the final 3 books in the last 6 months or so) seeing the subtext in his performance in this film was phenomenal. i cannot wait to see what he will do in the final two films (based off one book…which might actually be a great idea).
helena bonham carter – bellatrix lestrange
she just scares the crap out of me.
tom felton – draco malfoy
this was were the money was at. felton was absolutely great. he was able to give the dual sides of malfoy so much life in this film. he is able to give light to all the parts of the character i love. he’s conflicted, he’s heartbreaking, he’s sad, he’s pitiful, he’s pushed beyond his years, he’s an actor i now am furiously excited to see what he does next.
there is a shot in the film where malfoy has to go out on his mission and he walks down the hallways of hogwarts. at the same time in the shadows of the corridors we can see fellow wizarding students making out in the hallways. the contrast of this shot and the beautiful way it was filmed had me almost jumping out of my seat with excitement.
this film left me the most excited to re-watch it of any film i’ve seen this year (including up). that being said, it’s not my favorite film of the year, and has a lot of problems. somethings i wanted to see explored at greater length, somethings i felt could be cut a little. i wish the film could have actually been a couple hours longer. maybe they should have split the last two books into 4 or 5 films.