Friday, January 28, 2011

Music of the 2000s

While I certainly hope I can follow through on my desire to put up a music post every Friday, it is not exactly the plan to post nothing but music posts on Friday. But here are two in a row. And two lists in a row, to boot! This one at least will be worthy of the name....

I should have posted this last year, at the beginning of the new decade - but things happened last year, and I put it off, and I haven't been listening to music as much this year, or thinking about it, and suddenly here we are, in 2011, and I've done nothing to come to grips with the music of the past decade and so... We'll try it now. I could pretend to make a virtue of it - giving myself another year to think things over, catch up - but it hasn't worked that way. I alluded to my listening cycles last week - I am in a very definite down cycle now... That's a bit inconvenient when it comes to trying to assess the 2000s (or what I thought of the 2000s), because for most of that decade, I was in a most definite up cycle. I bought an awful lot of records in the 00s, and listened to them, songs and records alike, and brooded on them, I read about music, I formed and occasionally shared opinions of music. It's thus very odd now, in a period when I'm not doing those things, to try to sum up what I thought in a time I did....

Coming up with a list, then, is troublesome - a lot more difficult than coming up with a list of favorite films was. The sense of distance from music I have been talking about it - but only part. There's also the fact that I have never documented my music purchases and likes and dislikes as obsessively as I do my film watching. And there's the fact that, looking back at things I bought, listened to, liked in the last decade, I'm reminded how often and how much my tastes have changed. Not that I stop liking things - what I liked in 2002 I like today (what I liked in 1986 I like today; most of what I liked in 1978 I like today) - but I go on binges, getting semi-obsessed with one type of music or other, then moving to something else. This can be quite extreme - I spent the first half of the 90s listening almost exclusively to jazz, ignoring rock, barely even listening to my favorites. But I moved through jazz history, and by 95 or 96 had reached John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock, and then it was a simple thing to shift back to Richard Thompson and Pere Ubu, and next thing I know, I'm buying rock records again (Built to Spill, Tool, PJ Harvey among the first new artists to catch my ear), and there you go.... So in the 00s - I started the decade listening to a lot of old and new punk (Minutemen; Sleater-Kinney & The White Stripes) and guitar stuff (AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Neil Young; Built to Spill, a new commitment to the Rolling Stones, etc.) - discovered Japanese punk (Boredoms) and neo-prog (Mercury Rev) and combined them (Acid Mothers Temple; Ghost); had a run of listening to lots of extreme stuff (Keiji Haino, Soft Machine and Van Der Graf Generator, Krautrock, Pete Cosey era Miles, Derek Bailey) - until I started listening to new folk (Devendra Banhardt, Neutral Milk Hotel), combined in turn with noise and prog (Six Organs of Admittance; Ghost again, Sigur Rus.) And then the Liars came out and I got obsessed with post-punk - Gang of Four and PIL - but that was like picking up an old thread, filling in the gaps, buying the albums of songs I liked in 1983 or 84 - I was, from the time I heard them, a Pere Ubu and Joy Division fan, so this Gang of Four/PIL/Wire enthusiasm was building on old loves.... Meanwhile, I liked their contemporary imitators, though only the Liars really convinced me... And then TV on the Radio came out and, you know, whatever that led to, not to mention the complications of getting more obsessed by Boris, the Melvins, Mono, etc. ca. 2007... What do you do?

It means that now, looking back, I don't entirely know what to do with the decade. Sometimes, the music I bought in the 00s looks like it was collected by 4 different people - and each one seems to jump up and insist on their judgments being the right one. Can one person really get as enthusiastic about Mercury Rev, The Liars, The Crane Wife, Rainbow, "Halfway Home" or "Only the Sun Knows" or "Casimir Pulaski Day" as I have been? Apparently so. But it makes for a particularly uncertain kind of list-making... Though I suppose there are constants: electric guitars - soloists - drums - and I guess a back of the mind love of melodies (the Smokey Robinson effect, call it.)

So then - here it is - my favorite 25 records of the 2000s:

1. Mercury Rev - All is Dream

2. David Sylvian - Blemish

3. White Stripes - White Blood Cells

4. Boris (with Michio Kurihara) - Rainbow
5. The Liars - They Were Wrong So We Drowned
6. Earth (with Bill Frisell) - The Bees Made Money in the Lion's Skull
7. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
8. The Decembrists - The Crane Wife
9. Danielson Famille - Fetch the Compass Kids
10. PJ Harvey - Songs from the City, Stories from the Sea
11. Grinderman - Grinderman
12. Scott Walker - The Drift
13. Six Organs of Admittance - The Sun Awakens
14. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
15. White Stripes - Icky Thump
16. Sigur Rus - Hvarf/Heim
17.Godspeed You Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists to to Heaven
18.Radiohead - Kid A
19.Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
20.Sonic Youth - Murray Street
21. Ghost - Hypnotic Underworld
22. David Sylvian - Manofan
23. Damon and Naomi With Ghost
25. Gomez - Split the Difference
25. Devendra Banhardt - Rejoicing in the Hands

...and since that seems - incomplete - close contenders, might include:

Acid Mothers Temple - La Novia, Geocrentric Worlds of the Acid Mothers Temple
Boris - Pink
Deerhoof - Reveille, Apple O'
Sigur Rus ()
Derek Bailey - Mirakle
Devendra Banhardt - Cripple Creek
Earth - some combination - a reminder, maybe, that sometimes bands as a whole make more impression than individual records...
The Fire Theft - the Fire Theft
Ghost - In Stormy Nights
Jay Farrar - Sebastapol
Kills - Keep on your Mean Side
Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
MIA - Arular
MIssion of Burma - Obliterati
Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antartctica
Nick Cave & Bad Seeds - any? all?
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?
Ruins - Tzamborgha
Six Organs of Admittance - Compathia, Dark Noontide
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes

...though that is still awfully arbitrary... I think I may need another post like this, dedicated to my favorite bands of the 00s - I think I will put that off, though, and try to write more about those bands, when I post it. I'll stay with straight lists here....

And songs? I will stick to a top 10. And say that I don't listen to the radio enough to make any distinction between album cuts and singles, and most of the stuff I listen to barely registers as singles anyway - still...

1. Damon and Naomi (with Ghost) - I Dreamed of the Caucuses
2. Sufjian Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day
3. Mercury Rev - Hercules
4. David Sylvian - The Heart Knows Better
5. Radiohead - Idioteque
6. TV on the Radio - Halfway Home
7. Six Organs of Admittance - Only the Sun Knows
8. Boris - Rainbow
9. Decembrists - The Crane Wife 3
10. Modest Mouse - Dark Center of the Universe

And finally - since Michio Kurihara plays on what seems like half the records and songs on these lists - I'll leave you with Kurihara, playing with Boris, Rainbow, live, getting as much from about 3 notes as can be gotten...

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Favorite Music of 2010

If I can, I am going to make Friday music day at this blog. If nothing else comes to mind, I shall resurrect the old Friday Random Ten posts - though I'll try to keep it more varied than that. I am not as good as I wish I was at writing about music - I end up substituting lists and quotes and allusions for even the barest analysis, but I guess that is all right. We shall see what comes to mind.

I will start the year off by making a list of the best music of 2010... and immediately run into a major problem. Here I want to talk about music, and here I barely listen to music at all anymore. My music habit is very cyclical - I go a few years listening to and buying lots and lots of music; then go a year or two (this spell has been going on almost 2 years now) and barely listen to music at all. Go from buying 40-50 new records a year to buying 15-20 (which I don't listen to) - it's strange. I don't know when I will start up again, though I always do start up again; I don't know what I will listen to when I do (I had a big jazz phase back in the 90s; came back to rock, and passed through a bunch of phases in that - old punk, prog, "post-rock", post punk, etc. - the last semi-trend was a spell of 3-4 months of listening to opera and 20th century classical...) The result - I can barely put together a top 10 (this is almost a top 2, plus a bunch of name-dropping), and most of it turns out to be old favorites - in lean times, one relies heavily on reliable old favorites.... This spell, this year, is no exception. And so - on to the list:

1) Grinderman - Grinderman2 - perhaps the ultimate in old favorites. That itself is a little odd - I heard Nick Cave in the 80s, and did not care too much about him. I listened to him more in the 90s, and around the Murder Ballads era started to really like him. And in the 00s, this grew stronger, until the Grinderman records, which somehow, hit every single one of my buttons and hit them square. I might also have to confess that this is the only record I listened to end to end more than once - though like everything these days, I especially obsess over songs...

Heathen Child - embedding disabled, alas, but this is a hoot of a video...

And here, live, When my baby comes, which I could listen to on infinite loop almost, especially the freak out at the end:

2) Janelle Monae - Archandroid - not a lot in common with Grinderman, I guess, but the rather sad truth is that this is the only other record this year to totally grab me. For good reason, she is the real deal, exciting, varied, imaginative music, just great...

Here's a live clip, a couple songs:

3) MIA - Maya - I'm cheating, I'm afraid. I have no idea if I listened to this record or not. I think so, most of it - but this is mostly because of "Born Free". The video - well, it's interesting, maybe not exactly coherent - a bit of a cliche, I suppose - interesting though. But the song - from that accelerating drum intro, through the shuddering drone of it - it's for me. It's apparently a Suicide cover/rewrite, given a battering ram drum track - plus, someone on a blog somewhere, that at this point I would have no chance of ever finding, compared it to the Fall - I hear that, too, some of those phrasings are very Mark Smith.... If you must steal, those are good sources - and I think she pulls it off. It's certainly addictive. Between this and Grinderman, it should be obvious that what little I have listened to has tended to the drony - fast, noisy drones....

Here, in all its overblown glory, is the Video:

and here, live - it is interesting, digging around YouTube, how different her performances are from one another. Start here, on Letterman with an army of impersonators, and Martin Rev himself:

And here on Jools Holland, with an all girl band, including, apparently, Victoria Smith on drums:

4) Melvins - The Bride Screamed Bloody Murder - another old favorite, that probably makes it in for providing what I like them for, if not doing anything special with it. Though who knows - they are a more immersive band - I like settling in with them awhile - which mitigates against the hit or miss listening habits I have these days, and against really evaluating any given song or record. I like the Melvins - any song, any bunch of songs will do... in that sense, this is still quite a satisfying record, that I tend to like more whenever I hear it...

A couple songs, live:

5) Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart - This is the record that seems to benefit the most from coming up on the iPod, this year. Odd, but their brand of hippy sludge doesn't always play as well when I mean to listen to it as when it comes along randomly - it has an odd way of tempting me to dismiss it, but not quite letting me - and paying off... And here's a video...

And now - this is about as far as I can go in accurately assessing even as subjective a thing as how much I liked a bunch of records. After this - I don't think I bought anything last year I don't like, and won't like in the future - but the rest is pretty arbitrary. I will make the list to 10, though from here on out, it's guesswork.

6. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
7. The New Pornographers - Together - a very Canadian year... I don't know if I trust this record - New Pornographers records are getting very indistinguishable, which isn't quite a virtue in their case....
8. Richard Thompson - Dream Attic - lots of polite sounding, well crafted songs, with effortlessly brilliant guitar bits - another typical late career Richard Thompson record, that I can't help grading on a curve.
9. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter - they're still around, making good music - so I ain't leaving them out.
10. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

I leave out live records - I would make my life a little easier including them - Mogwai's Special Moves is quite nice, especially. A live clip would not be amiss:

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Films, in Brief

As the new year begins - finally, a couple weeks with some actual decent films. A couple weeks in a row where there were films out I wanted to see and felt some keenness in the choices I made. Very gratifying. There may have been more good films in 2010 than I give credit to, but it certainly seemed as though there were a lot of weeks with nothing out I cared a whit for. Even in November and December, usually a good time for films. It's a great relief for this year's releases to start out much more appealingly. So here are some short notices - some of these films might get more later, if I get more energetic.

True Grit - 11/15 - the Coens on their best behavior, in some ways, thought he story itself is very close to their sensibility. A beautiful film, wonderfully played, a straightforward western perfectly executed. Oddly, given their love of comedy, it is less funny than the original - though more of a story, and a movie, less a star piece. Adaption or remake or not, though, it is all theirs - like all their films, it is a kind of celebration of the spoken word, the human voice, human faces, landscapes and skies, light and textures. Voices and faces especially, which is what makes their films almost infinitely rewatchable.

Rabbit Hole - 10/15 - story of a couple who have lost their 4 year old son in a car accident, some 8 months before the film takes place. They are not coping well. The man goes to group therapy (without his wife), which soon prompts a somewhat predictable plot point; she, meanwhile, stalks the boy who ran over their son, another somewhat predictable plot point... It would probably be churlish to note that the woman has a sister who is expecting her first child - as sisters inevitably seem to do in films about the loss of a child. It's churlish because in spite of the borderline cliched situations, the film is a carefully made, resonant examination of grief and recovery. It feels right - it feels very familiar, but the details and moments still seem to have life in them.

Blue Valentine - 10/15 - a film about a bad marriage shot in gritty realistic style that though honorable and well made in every way comes short, somehow. It's hard to say why - just that somehow, the blend of gritty realism, mopey whimsy, Cassavetes style melodrama and more conventional melodrama comes off as less than the sum of its parts. I don't mean to complain, though - it is a smart, well made film, a welcome attempt to tell a fairly honest, simple story, to show lives of regular people - salt of the earth! the working man! It even flirts with showing people working, which is bloody rare in American films. The performances are superb - the story is grim, without being over the top - the characters are interesting, sad, complicated - so don't take that griping too much to heart. I suppose what it comes to is that it's a bit too schematic in places - the ways neither of them wants to repeat their upbringing (he's from a broken home, and will do anything to preserve any kind of home; she's from a nightmarish "stable" home, and would do anything to spare her kid that kind of hatred.) That's maybe too neat (for instance) - though it's also accurate, so again - the quibbles are quibbles, doubts about a very good film.

Somewhere - 11/15 - I was a bit surprised to find myself really liking this film. Is there a backlash against Sofia Coppola? I don't know - I just come across the complaints now and then. Usually about all the time she devotes to the terrible suffering of privileged white folks. The problem is - she makes pretty good films. She has an eye, and she films what she knows - and while what she films may be limited (what she knows may be limited), she makes it live. This film starts and ends rather schematically (driving in a circle; walking toward something) - in between, though, it is surprisingly effective. The plot - a dissolute Hollywood star forced to take care of a precocious kid for a week - is old stuff - but it doesn't quite go in the directions these kinds of films usually go in. He does not resent the kid (then learn a life lesson); he does not do anything stupid and careless with the kid; he is, in fact, a decent father, when he chooses to be. And if he learns a life lesson - it was one we could see coming before the kid turned up. The emptiness of his life is clear enough without the kid, and it is clear enough that he knows it. So - I'd say it succeeds, in telling a story about someone nothing like normal people, but still making it recognizably human, and having a fair sense of the specificities of his life. The boredom and randomness of acting and publicity; the swarms of enablers around you; the endlessly freely available pussy (and cock, if you were so inclined) - oddly enough, it probably comes the closest to showing someone working for a living of all these films. A very strange kind of job - but a job.... And she has that eye - it's a slow film, but one that absorbs you into its rhythms, its imagery, and keeps you there. I liked it.

Film Posts 2011

Here then is my yearly Index of my film posts. This year, I think I will add links to blogathons and similar projects during the year, even if I don't actually participate. I used to try to keep on top of these things, but these days, there are fewer of them, and I am lazier - I won't pretend this is comprehensive, but I'll try to make it useful.

Mostly, though, this is to keep track of what I manage to write during the year.

Longer Pieces:

2/13: Notes on Hong Sang Soo - films, and appearance.
5/31: Mr Deeds Goes to Town - shots and essay
6/2: John Doe Footnote
9/18: Screen grabs and mini-essay on Capitalism, Violence and the Media in some Fassbinder films
10/30: Illustrated essay on the two classic Frankenstein films.

Occasional Pieces:

1/2: Best of 2010 (and 2009, in retrospect).
1/4: A quiz.
2/11: Pointers to Noir blogathon, Korean, Michael Mann blogathons. - Iranian blogathon announcement here.
2/14 & 17: Maltese Falcon (1931) notes, on style, especially in the meeting between Spade and Gutman. And 1941 notes on the same scene. For the Noir blogathon.
2/22: Iranian film blogathon, announcement and list.
also - 2/27: on Sound in Iranian films. (Shirin and The Mirror.)
3/7: Korean film blogathon - my list.
5/8: Mother's Day Screen shots - Japanese films
5/19 - Comments on Cannes, mostly Von Trier
5/22 - Syberberg Screen Shots
6/6: Big Red One D-Day post
6/12: Mon Oncle shots
6/18: Springtime Quiz
6/19: Fathers Day - Ozu
6/26: Sunday - Triangles (Ozu, Lester)
6/27: Peter Falk memorial, Columbo's strength
7/2: Halftime Report - movies of 2011.
7/3: Screen shots - Rio Bravo.
8/7: Screen Shots - The Furies
8/14: Screen Shots - Carol Reed
8/21: Screen Shots - minute 55 of three 1955 films (Ordet, Kiss Me Deadly, Smiles of a Summer Night)
9/4: Screen shots - Kick Me Deadly - feet in Kiss Me Deadly
9/11: Memorial, with shot from Stosczek
9/26: Shots from Guy Maddin's Dracula ballet movie, and links to a Maddin blogathon.
10/2: Rio Lobo shots.
10/9: from Horror of Dracula.
10/16: Empty spaces in Let the Right One In.
10/23: Thirst
10/28: Halloween Quiz from SLIFR.
11/13: Sergeant York, in honor of Armistice Day.
11/20: Platinum Blonde screen shots.
12/4: Godard's birthday commemorated with shots from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.
12/11: Manoel de Oliveira turns 103 - Eccentricities of a Blonde Haired Girl shots.
12/12: Ozu's birthday, in pictures.
12/18: Snow! - from Frgo and The Saddest Music in the World.
12/25: Have yourself a Melancholy Christmas - courtesy of Meet Me in St. Louis.


1/17: Capsules - True Grit, Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine, Somewhere.
4/20: Certified Copy
4/23: Le Quattro Volte.
6/9: Midnight in Paris and Tree of Life Reviews
6/23: Big roundup - Bridesmaids, Princess of Montpensier, The Trip, Nostalgia for the Light, Blank City, Legend fo the Fist, 13 Assassins, Meek's Cutoff
7/10: Summer roundup - Pianomania, Buck, Page One, Bad Teacher, Larry Crowne.
8/15: Capsules - Tabloid, Friends With Benefits, Road to Nowhere, The Future
9/7: New films - The Sleeping Beauty, Mysteries of Lisbon, Magic Trip, Myth of the American Sleepover and Senna.
9/21: More theatrical viewings - Contagion, The Guard, Rapt, Drive & World on a Wire.
10/21: More new films: Detective Dee, Restless, Black Power Mix Tape, Ides of March, Love Crime
12/6: Recent films - Melancholia, Take Shelter, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Skin I Live In.

Outside Events - blogathons, etc.:

1/17: Alfred Hitchcock blogathon at the Classic Movie Blog Association.
2/13-20: For the Love of Film Noir blogathon. Donation site.
2/21-27: Iranian Blogathon.
3/7-13: Korean blogathon.
9/5-9/9 : My 9/6 link to Nick Ray blogathon
11/10: Reaction to Wonders in The Dark's musical countdown.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

Yes indeed. Very pretty snowstorm, but it's all pretty heavy and there's a lot of it, so there is an awful lot of this around:

I myself got a day off from work, which is just as well as I also got half a day with no electricity... I took the opportunity to wander the neighborhood looking at the aftermath (if that's the word - its still coming down, sort of...), then warmed up with a bowl of Pho before coming home... I've been looking at theinternet, and I am confused - did someone accuse Sarah Palin of drinking the blood of Christian children? Surely that can't be right - she would never discriminate on the basis of race, color or creed, would she?

Right. The mere mention of a certain reality show star and failed politician gives me a pain - here, as an antidote, is a picture of a cat misbehaving, cutely...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Professor Hubert Farnsworth’s Only Slightly Futuristic Holiday Movie Quiz

It is time for the real marker of the turning of the seasons, Dennis Cozzalio's movie quiz - this one named in honor of Professor Hubert Farnsworth. Here we are, and here we go:

1) Best Movie of 2010
A: Carlos, the long version

2) Second-favorite Roman Polanski Movie
A: The Pianist, I think

3) Jason Statham or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
A: I think the Rock, though I have not seen him that much - both are fun to watch though.

4) Favorite movie that could be classified as a genre hybrid
A: I'm afraid this is an invitation to waffle. I'm not sure how far apart the genres have to be for this - there are thousands of horror comedies, for instance, enough that I don't know if that counts as a hybrid or as a genre unto itself - if a hybrid, the answer has to be something like Bride of Frankenstein. But that seems to be more sub-genre than hybrid, somehow... How about a western comedy, like Destry Rides Again? or do I stick with something obvious, like Blade Runner?

5) How important is foreknowledge of a film’s production history? Should it factor into one’s reaction to a film?
A: I guess not much, as I do not often think about it. Once in a while a fact or two will come along that changes how I see a film - not often, and not in any consistent way.

6) William Powell & Myrna Loy or Cary Grant & Irene Dunne
A: While I like the Awful Truth more than anything else these 4 combine in, I like the ongoing chemistry between Powell and Loy. Which is a nice way to split the difference.

7) Best Actor of 2010
A: This is not as clear as I'd like - I think Edgar Ramirez in Carlos has to be the answer, though Jesse Eisenberg makes it close.

8) Most important lesson learned from the past decade of watching movies
A: Stella Artois commercials are annoying?

9) Last movie seen (DVD/Blu-ray/theater)
A: Blu-Ray is The Maltese Falcon, as it happens. DVD as of now is Stagecoach. Theater is True Grit.

10) Most appropriate punishment for director Tom Six
A: I'm afraid the only punishment I can inflict is to ignore him. Which I suppose is terrible enough...

11) Best under-the-radar movie almost no one else has had the chance to see
A: Well - it's very hard to see - so let's say, Los Angeles Plays Itself.

12) Sheree North or Angie Dickinson
A: Angie, I guess. I mean, Rio Bravo, right?

13) Favorite nakedly autobiographical movie
A: 400 Blows, I suppose - or Contempt.

14) Movie which best evokes a specific real-life place
A: Let's say Playtime and Alphaville - the new Paris, by day and night...

15) Best Director of 2010
A: This has to be Assayas.

16) Second-favorite Farrelly Brothers Movie
A: Dumb and Dumber (after Something About Mary, I guess.)

17) Favorite holiday movie
A: It's a Wonderful Life is a holiday movie in practice, though not as much in theory. The latter, for something quite specifically about a holiday - or two - how about a Nightmare Before Christmas?

18) Best Actress of 2010
A: of films released - Isabelle Huppert in White Material (Kim hye-ja in Mother close behind.) Of films made in 2010 - Hattie Steinfeld, right?

19) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson
A: Baker

20) Of those notable figures in the world of the movies who died in 2010, name the one you’ll miss the most
A: In terms of ongoing movie production, on films I seek out - the answer is probably, and somewhat obscurely, William Lubtchansky, for his part in all those Rivette films. I suppose in broader, historical terms, it would be Rohmer, though Hideko Takamine has been part of a lot of films I worship.

21) Think of a movie with a notable musical score and describe what it might feel like without that accompaniment.
A: This is a great question, though I don't know what to say to answer it. No amount of thinking is going to bring an intelligent answer so I am going to have to pass.

22) Best Screenplay of 2010
A: The KIds Are All Right? of all the releases - Mother

23) Movie You Feel Most Evangelistic About Right Now
A: What the hell - Ishtar.

24) Worst/funniest movie accent ever
A: These questions are the hardest to answer - examples pop into my head later - when I see something - I'll hate myself for not doing better. So punt, and take as easy a target as there is - Kevin Costner in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves has long been my touchstone for accentual ineptitude...

25) Best Cinematography of 2010
A: Not surprisingly, this is True Grit.

26) Olivia Wilde or Gemma Arterton
A: No, I'm not going to pretend to know who these people are. EVen after googling them, I don't know who they are.

27) Name the three best movies you saw for the first time in 2010 (Thanks, Larry!)
A: Not counting new films - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (the Mamoulian/March version); The Red Shoes (in a theater, too!); Odd Man Out (also theatrical.)

28) Best romantic movie couple of 2010
A: Might well be Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor

29) Favorite shock/surprise ending
A: favorite isn't the right word, but - Patrick Yau's Expect the Unexpected takes the cake...

30) Best cinematic reason to have stayed home and read a book in 2010
A: Those Louis Vuitton "journey" ads. The only ads I know to consistently draw boos.

31) Movies in 2011 could make me much happier if they’d only
A: ...release more Korean films - a good default answer...

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Best Releases of 2010 (And 2009 revisited)

Happy New Year, again. And - no point beating around the bush - straight into the best of 2010. With all the usual caveats - this list of of the best films given a first release (that I know of) in a commercial theater in Boston and its environs in 2010. Obviously, that I have seen - a caveat that might matter more this year than most. This was a down year for me - I went 2-3 months barely seeing any film - I moved in the spring, which proved very time consuming, especially on weekends when I might be watching movies. I spent most of June and the beginning of July parked in front of the TV set watching soccer. I took a vacation in July and made lots of little trips. I did not watch as many films as usual. Though it's not just me - I did not find the year's releases all that thrilling. The first half the year was okay, with last year's foreign films coming through - but when that slacked off, the new offerings were singularly uninspiring - and this did not improve in the fall.... I don't know if that is fair - I may have skipped a lot of films for bad reasons that might belong on this list... But there it is.

Enough of that. I complain about it being a bad year for movies, but that's less true at the top. Maybe nothing world-beating, and definitely thin, but there were still plenty of very fine new and recent films. (And quite a few that still haven't gotten screened here in town.) This is still a pretty good top 25, I think:

1. Carlos (long version) - Olivier Assayas
2. Mother - Bong Joon-ho
3. White Material - Claire Denis
4. Police, Adjective - Corneliu Porumboiu
5. Exit Through the Gift Shop - Banksy
6. The Social Network - David Fincher
7. True Grit - Coen Brothers
8. No One Knows About Persian Cats - Bahman Ghobadi
9. The White Ribbon - Haneke
10. A Film Unfinished - Yael Hersonski
11. House - Obayashi Nobuhiko (took 33 years, but it's a first release, right?)
12. Fish Tank - Andrea Arnold
13. Wild Grass - Alain Resnais
14. Greenberg - Noah Baumbach
15. The Tillman Story - Amir Ben-Lev
16. Vincere - Marco Bellochio
17. I am Love - Luca Guadagnino
18. Bluebeard - Catherine Breillat
19. Anton Chekhov's The Duel - Dover Koshashvili
20. The Ghost Writer - Roman Polanski
21. The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko
22. Air Doll - Kore-Eda
23. A Woman A Gun and a Noodle Shop - Zhang Yimou
24. Kick Ass - Matthew Vaughan
25. Catfish - Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost

And - an early crack at a best of 2010 (made in 2010):

1. Carlos
2. Exit Through the Gift Shop
3. The Social Network
4. True Grit
5. A Film Unfinished
6. Greenberg
7. The Tillman Story
8. The Ghost Writer
9. The Kids Are All Right
10. Kick-Ass

The latter I imagine will change dramatically. In fact - since I did not do so last year, here is a retrospective top 25 for 2009, to compare to my first crack at 2009 - the latter (posted here) first:

1. Thirst
2. Bad Lieutenant...
3. A Serious Man
4. Inglourious Basterds
5. The Limits of Control
6. Antichrist
7. The Hurt Locker
8. Moon
9. Beeswax
10. Bright Star

With a year to think about it:

1. Mother
2. Thirst
3. White Material
4. Police, Adjective
5. Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans
6. A Serious Man
7. Limits of Control
8. The Antichrist
9. Inglourious Basterds
10.No One Knows About Persian Cats
11. White Ribbon
12. Eccentricities of a Blonde Haired Girl
13. Fish Tank
14. Wild Grass
15. The Hurt Locker
16. Beeswax
17. 36 Vues du Pic Saint Loup
18. Fantastic Mr. Fox
19. Bright Star
20. Vincere
21. The Informant!
22. Moon
23. I Am Love
24. Bluebeard
25. Up

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 is under way - how delightful! I am back from visiting the kin, and getting settled back in. I have a new housemate, a dear little kitty cat under the tree:

Though more typically, in the tree:

Anyway - she is settling in, and should be all right, as long as she doesn't try climbing to the top of my bookshelves - we might all be in for a nasty surprise then...

So it's been a full week or so, with traveling and holidays and all - a nice little rest, some very photogenic weather -

- way too much chocolate, cookies, pie, etc. And lots of Christmas movies. And Bogart - another nice gift under the tree:

And so - into the new year. I won't belabor my resolutions - I notice I posted blogging resolutions last year - yikes! I did visit the relatives, though - I did take a class or two - it took me all year, but I even got the Mabuse set! Otherwise.... the goals stand, basically - see more movies, write more - we'll see. This is about all I have the energy for today, having celebrated the new year mostly by eating way too much Tapas and Chinese food. Time for a nap!

And - I suppose - a somber note - the passing of Hideko Takamine, the extraordinary Japanese actress, aged 86. I have not really composed anything in her honor - I will give you the Siren's take and an image - Takamine as a delightful moppet in Tokyo Chorus. She would grow up to be among the very best actresses, in some of the very best films of all time. And, I think, the most purely beautiful of the great Japanese actresses of the 40s and 50s...