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 vincentm. 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 usm83

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 & cowardscold 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 fictionspoon

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)

mutemathmutemath

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 soundnightmares 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 younizlopi

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 belowandre 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 barkleyst. 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 blacklightrilo 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 starsean 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)

up in the air

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.

500 days of summer

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.