Sunday, February 07, 2010

2009: The Realy Last Final Post For Real

A chance to highlight some of my favorite posts from last year. My favorite was a series called Stumpin' in the Crates, where I posted some records made by politicians, including Lester Maddox (there's a bonus photo of Lester here), Senator Everett McKinney Dirksen, Senator Sam Erwin, and a bizarre Jimmy Swaggart record where he insists that God has cursed the Kennedy family.

I briefly revived the Single of the Week series (there's more to come, if I get my ass on it) with singles by Meco, The Gentrys, The Mark IV, Rufus Thomas, The Hassles, and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

Some more musical happenings: from Florida, a couple choice Bowie rip-offs from White Witch, a full LP of 80's metal from The Drills, and a mystery single (courtesy of the Sonic Safari gang) from You Josh and Me. On 9/9/09 (the day The Beatles' Rock Band game and new remasters of all their recordings were simultaneously release), I put up two posts of Beatle-related oddities: Part 1 and Part 2. Here's a funny album of cheesy Vegas comedy (yes, I posted it before Balkinage!), Bottom's Up for Swingers. A few random posts on Rance Allen, Melvin Gibbs and The Fiery Furnaces.

I'm especially proud of my tributes to Lux Interior and John Hughes.

A few random movie posts on Drag Me to Hell (I saw it at the drive-in!), Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers, Stormy Weather, and the incredible experience of Joe Dante's Movie Orgy!

Two very random YouTube-based posts, one a nostalgic rememberence of movies I saw at the Mayfair Theater in Stuart, and one post on the musical evolution of "Cow-Cow Boogie" and "Train Kept A-Rollin'".

My look back on the past decade: Part 1 (personal shit and the political scene), Past 2 (music), Part 3 (movies). A mix of my favorite songs from the 00's: Side 1, Side 2.

I don't ususlly include the political posts in these round-ups, but I was kinda proud of these three posts about the healthcare debate.

If you're interested, here's a similar roundups of my posts from 2008. And don't forget to listen to my Special Guest Appearance on Sonic Safari!

And finally, at long last, my top 10 movies of the last year:

1. Where the Wild Things Are: This takes my top spot because it hit an emotional spot in me. Some people seem to think that it fetishizes childhood, an accusation that seems to fit better with something like The Science of Sleep, but to me it just feels like a very honest and accurate portrayal of the inner life of a certain type of kid: rambunctious, sensitive, imaginative, and a little troubled. I went back and looked at the book and was surprised to see how closely the movie follows the ideas in the book, even the way Max's fantasy world is informed by events and feelings from his real life.
2. Inglourious Basterds: This one grew on me over time. I had it much lower on my list, but I find myself thinking about it more than any other film from 2009.
3. Up: Possibly my favorite Pixar movie (and positively my favorite Pixar that's not a Brad Bird joint--his films are almost their own sub-genre). This just barely edges out Toy Story 2 for a few reasons: (1) Up has this sense of high adventure that you get a little of in other Pixar films, but really comes across here more than ever before. (2) there's a lot of sad stuff in Up, but it's all bittersweet. I feel like they slightly miscalculated the "When She Loved Me" song in Toy Story 2, and it ended up just a little TOO sad. It kinda bums you out for the rest of the movie. And (3) Toy Story 2 does an amazing job of following all these different character arcs in a lean 90 minutes, but I think Up being slightly less cluttered with characters has a little more room to breathe.
4. Moon: Strange thing about science fiction: the genre seems to be all about ideas, but when you get down to it, you realize that a film like this can succeed even though there really aren't any terribly original ideas in it. There's nothing in this film that you couldn't find in a dozen old paperbacks on the scifi shelf in your local used book store, but somehow these ideas remain fascinating even after being examined over and over. And as far as the Oscars go, Sam Rockwell was FUCKING ROBBED!
5. The Hurt Locker: Man, this movie is fucking INTESNE.
6. In the Loop: One of the things I like about this movie is that it doesn't try to make some big statement about How We Got Into This Mess. The war is just the backdrop. Rather, it's a movie about the way society rewards cowardice and punishes courage, even (especially!) in a time when courage is most necessary, and the way that the ultimate virtue in politics is to never say anything of substance. That, and the amazing foul-mouthed dialogue (imagine a world where everyone talks like Ari from Entourage, only you have good writers writing Ari's dialogue).
7. Away We Go: I'm as surprised to see this on my list as anyone, but like Wild Things, this spoke to a specific moment in my life, that moment being about the time my peers turned 30 and began having children en masse (I remain childless, a condition that I have deeply ambiguous feelings about). There's a unique comic voice at work here, and it's difficult to get a handle on it as it verges wildly from the lead couple's very real and natural performances, and the wacky charicature couples they encounter along the way. But these wacky couples work for me as both a satire of the over-thinking parents you see trying so hard to engineer their children's happiness, and as a personification of the insecurities the new parents-to-be experience. The generation raising kids today feel that they're navigating a minefield of potential complexes and neuroses that they can instill in their children for life simply by fucking up. There's a point to which this is probably positive, but I think it ends up driving parents AND children a little crazy.
8. The Fantastic Mr. Fox: My favorite Wes Anderson movie? Probably not, but certainly my favorite of this decade. Tennenbaums is beautiful, but a little too rigid. Mr. Fox captures some of the anarchic energy that was present in Anderson's pre-Tennenbaums work, and the simplicity of the story helps focus Anderson in a way that hasn't happened in years. How is it that Mr. Fox and his family and neighbors feel more like real characters than Steve Zissou or the brothers in Darjeeling Limited?
9. District 9: It's not that District 9 has much to say about apartheid, more that the apartheid setting roots the action in a real and living world (at this point I should say something like "contrasted with the storybook rainforests of Avatar," but I still haven't seen Avatar, so who knows?). But what really makes the movie special is that the main character, Wikus, is such a despicable little weasel, and not a particularly bright one either, which makes the mechanics of the story more interesting than following a hypercompetent Jason Bourne type.
10. A Serious Man: This meditation on the unknowableness of God is hardly my favorite Coens film of the decade, but it's a brilliant construction, with every scene, image and line reflecting and commenting on the story's themes and questions. Plus, best 70's interior decor movie ever. Or late 60's, I guess.

Caveat: I need to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus again. On first viewing, it was a visually stunning and thoroughly entertaining film that has no idea what it's trying to say, but then, that was exactly what I thought after my first viewing of The Adventures of Baron Munchaussen. So the Coens hold their spot very tentatively.

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