Monday, June 30, 2008

I Rock


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

Until Whenever
On to the tunes

At this point, I really have to do this, don't I? EW's best 100 albums of the last 100 years. Bold is have, red is no interest, green is interest.

1. Purple Rain Prince and the Revolution (1984)
Way back, when Rolling Stone did a list of the best albums of the 80s, this was #1. So I pretty much have to get it at some point. I have a hunch this is going to be one of those albums where I know most of the songs without realizing it.

2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Lauryn Hill (1998)
I'd kind of like to see what all of the fuss is about.

3. Achtung Baby U2 (1991)

4. The College Dropout Kanye West (2004)
Not a big rap fan.

5. Madonna Madonna (1983)
Or Madonna fan.

6. American Idiot Green Day (2004)
The songs that made the radio, and there were a few, I actively disliked. Something smug in the delivery that just bugs me.

7. The Blueprint Jay-Z (2001)

8. Graceland Paul Simon (1986)
A great album, although, as I always do when Graceland comes up, I have to note that I actually prefer the follow-up, The Rhythm of the Saints.

9. Back to Black Amy Winehouse (2007)

10. In Rainbows Radiohead (2007)
This is very, very oddly high, especially given how insanely lauded OK Computer usually is.

11. MTV Unplugged in New York Nirvana (1994)
Better than any of their albums? Curious.

12. Stankonia OutKast (2000)
My normal anti-rap bias is being outweighed by my respect for how crazily joyous the ubiquitous "Hey-Ya" is.

13. You Are Free Cat Power (2003)
14. Disintegration The Cure (1989)
15. The Marshall Mathers LP Eminem (2000)

16. Rain Dogs Tom Waits (1985)
I have the live Big Time and like it but don't love it, so I'd be curious to hear this.

17. Odelay Beck (1996)
Something about Beck bugs me. He seems overly impressed by how out there he is.

18. People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm A Tribe Called Quest (1990)
19. Dangerously in Love Beyoncé (2003)

20. Tidal Fiona Apple (1996)
A remarkable debut, but her last album, Extraordinary Machine, is actually superior.

21. The Emancipation of Mimi Mariah Carey (2005)
22. 3 Feet High and Rising De La Soul (1989)
23. The Soft Bulletin The Flaming Lips (1999)
24. Come On Over Shania Twain (1997)
25. Turn On the Bright Lights Interpol (2002)

26. Time Out of Mind Bob Dylan (1997)
27. Funeral Arcade Fire (2004)
A lot of "first is best" here. Dylan's first album in his late-career comeback is not as good as the remarkable Love and Theft, and Arcade Fire's fine debut is not as strong as last year's Neon Bible.

28. Illmatic Nas (1994)
29. Breakaway Kelly Clarkson (2004)

30. Appetite for Destruction Guns N' Roses (1987)
This album makes me feel 15 again. I still remembering having to convince my mother to let me get it when I won one of those "win an album" spinny-wheel things at the Boardwalk. Not sure how I did, actually.

31. FutureSex/LoveSounds Justin Timberlake (2006)

32. Life's Rich Pageant R.E.M. (1985)
R.E.M. is one of those bands I always forget I like.

33. As I Am Alicia Keys (2007)
34. Is This It The Strokes (2001)
35. Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette (1995)
Does anyone who had a radio in the mid-90s really need to own Jagged Little Pill?

36. CrazySexyCool TLC (1994)
37. The Moon & Antarctica Modest Mouse (2000)
38. Raising Hell Run-DMC (1986)
39. Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow (1996)
40. Ready to Die The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
41. Legend Bob Marley and the Wailers (1984)
42. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
43. Paul's Boutique Beastie Boys (1989)

I am an old fuddy duddy.

44. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road Lucinda Williams (1998)
Wonderful moods on this. And much more upbeat than I would have guessed.

45. If You're Feeling Sinister Belle and Sebastian (1996)
I'm curious about these guys, entirely from what I've read, given that I don't think I've ever heard any of their music.

46. Homogenic Björk (1997)
See, Bjork's "out there"-ness I like, even if it doesn't make me want to listen to her music.

47. Exile in Guyville Liz Phair (1993)
Read enough love to have me curious.

48. American IV: The Man Comes Around Johnny Cash (2002)
49. A Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay (2002)
I still haven't decided how I feel about Coldplay.

50. Sounds of Silver LCD Soundsystem (2007)
51. The Score Fugees (1996)
52. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Spoon (2007)

53. King of America Elvis Costello (1986)
There is so much more Elvis I would put on here along with this.

54. Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 Janet Jackson (1989)
55. It Takes a Nation of Millions... Public Enemy (1988)

56. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco (2002)
A fine enough album, but not the revelation I was led to believe.

57. Harvest Moon Neil Young (1992)
Gorgeous. Still my favorite Young.

58. Surfer Rosa The Pixies (1988)

59. Ray of Light Madonna (1998)
60. Crooked Rain Crooked Rain Pavement (1994)
61. Paid in Full Eric B. & Rakim (1987)

62. OK Computer Radiohead (1997)
63. The Joshua Tree U2 (1987)
"Hey look!" We're hip!" We didn't pick the obvious albums!"

64. Mama's Gun Erykah Badu (2000)

65. Elephant The White Stripes (2003)
I really need to see what all this White Stripes stuff is about someday.

66. The Chronic Dr. Dre (1992)
67. Metallica Metallica (1991)
68. Wrecking Ball Emmylou Harris (1995)
I like Harris fine, and yet don't feel the need to listen to her albums. Odd.

69. Give Up The Postal Service (2003)
70. My Life Mary J. Blige (1994)
71. Rock Steady No Doubt (2001)
72. 1984 Van Halen (1984)
73. The Queen is Dead Smiths (1986)
74. Play Moby (1999)

75. Born in the U.S.A. Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Now I get to be the contrarian and say I prefer Tunnel of Love.

76. Heartbreaker Ryan Adams (2000)
77. Dummy Portishead (1994)

78. Vs. Pearl Jam (1991)
Another band I like fine but don't feel compelled to own.

79. Let It Be The Replacements (1984)
80. Back to Basics Christina Aguilera (2006)
81. The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails (1994)

82. Grace Jeff Buckley (1994)
That's some beautiful rock.

83. Learning to Crawl The Pretenders (1984)
84. Low-Life New Order (1985)
85. Home Dixie Chicks (2002)
86. Loveless My Bloody Valentine (1991)
87. All Eyez on Me 2Pac (1996)

88. So Peter Gabriel (1986)
A great album, with a lot more going for it than "Sledgehammer," "Big Time," and "In Your Eyes."

89. Bachelor No. 2 Aimee Mann (2000)
I'd peg this her best too.

90. Toxicity System of a Down (2001)

91. Siamese Dream Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
Sure. Will always remind me of my college roommate, who played it constantly.

92. The Writing's on the Wall Destiny’s Child (1999)

93. Either/Or Elliott Smith (1997)
I love XO, and this is on the list.

94. Synchronicity The Police (1983)
Easily their best, even with "Mother."

95. Trap Muzik T.I. (2003)

96. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea PJ Harvey (2000)
She was supporting this when she opened for U2, and i remember liking the songs through my impatience.

97. Britney Britney Spears (2001)
98. Transatlanticism Death Cab for Cutie (2003)
Their name is a big stumbling block for me.

99. Live Through This Hole (1994)
100. Faith George Michael (1987)

Until Whenever

Friday, June 27, 2008

More. Scrolling

In addition to the film list, EW put out lists of teh best 100 books, albums, and TV shows of the last 25 years. Because Jaq did it, here is my look at the book list. It should be noted that EW was upfront that they deliberately tried to limit authors to one or two books on the 100. So only one Harry Potter, one Stephen King, etc. I also must take a moment to bemoan the absence of the book I'd put at #1 - Edward P. Jones' masterful slavery novel The Known World. See here for why.

You know the drill - bold is read it, red is don't wanna read it, and green is hope to read it.

(may be spoilers within)

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
I've read pretty much nothing but high praise, and the concept - father and son wander through hellish post-apocalyptic landscape, is right up my alley. This is on my library list, and pretty high up actually.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
Is this the best Potter? I might go with Half-Blood Prince myself, but at the point we're just quibbling.

3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
A great, great book that was free-form and poetic enough that I really need to re-read it to get a better sense of it.

4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
The king of the "horrible childhood" memoirs. Very curious to see what the fuss was about.

5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
The structure of this book, with the vast majority of the plot being a fantasy of one character at a dance, really bugged me - why am I supposed to care about the main character when it's all fake. (Which of course raises the question, and I'm sure deliberately, is why I'd care if the framework wasn't there - after all, it would still all be made up).

6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
I love Lehane - this more "literary" effort is great, but his more pop-mystery "Kensit and Gennaro" mystery books are equally great.

7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
I love this book, but was surprised how non-fictional it was.

8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
I've read one book of Munro stories, and I think this is it. She's great, but a bit too dry for my tastes. I also am not a huge short story fan, and that's all she does.

9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)

10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
Never heard of it.

11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
I read Into the Wild and liked it fine - am curious to read this more personal story.

12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)

13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
Just re-read this actually. Grand and every bit as good as advertised.

14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
I like Oates, but haven't read nearly enough of her work - just We Were the Mulvaneys actually.

15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
Great, effortless fun. I loved the meta-structural games Eggers played here.

16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
Sheer genius. Just a remarkably disturbing, engrossing book.

17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)

18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
I've never read any Updike. Bad reader!

19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
Great, and, I agree, better than White Teeth.

20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
I've seen the film and feel no need to read the book.

21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
A great, short and sweet hybrid of memoir and writer's guide. That being said, I'd much prefer to see some of King's fiction here - It or The Green Mile.

22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
Heard nothing but good things.

23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
Never heard of it.

24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
Not a huge Western fan.

25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
Another where I've seen the film and don't feel the need to read.

26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
Nothing I've heard or read about this makes me feel the need to read it.

27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)

28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
Very funny stuff.

29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
Comes highly recommended from a trusted source.

30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
Never heard of it.

31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)

34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
A very sad and sweet novel.

35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)

36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
Will get to it one day.

37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
Will get to it one day.

38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)

40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
Great kid's fantasy that never speaks down to its audience. Nowhere near as joyous as the Potter books, but very good nonetheless.

41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)

46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
I've never warmed to Gaiman.

47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
Ragtime was pretty good, but not so good as to make me seek out more Doctorow.

48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
A beautiful, epic, structurally inspired novel I will read again one day.

49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)

50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
Good, and much more fun and accessible than it's "literary" reputation might success.

51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)

53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
Another I must read again. So good.

54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)

55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)

57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
I've only read Charlotte Simmons, but liked it enough to want to check out more Wolfe

58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
I like Boyle enough to want to check this one out.

59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)

60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
A vey well-done and engaging bit of muckraking.

61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)

64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
I read the first 50 pages of White Noise and tossed it away. Not my cuppa.

65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)

66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
Wallace writes my favorite pieces of journalism. Wonderful in-depth stuff.

67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)

68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)

72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
A wonderful novel with a wonderfully executed point of view (first-person from an autistic child).

73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
One of my favorite books ever, and my Irving choice as well.

74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)

75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)

77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
I read this almost reluctantly (a novel about a British butler?), but it's wonderful.

78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)

79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
I like Gladwell's articles very much, but this felt a little drawn out.

80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)

82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
Should be much higher.

83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)

87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
Stephen King told me I should read it, so I shall.

88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995
Hornby is very dependable. Agreed that this is his best.

89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)

90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
I'm a sucker for a good foodie memoir.

91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
I know the twist.

93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
Another author I keep meaning to read more of - I loved this farmland retelling of King Lear.

94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
Great muckraking.

95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)

100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)
A triumph of design and content.

Until Whenever

Thursday, June 26, 2008

TV on DVD vs. TV on TV

Angel spoilers follow.

I just finished the third season of Angel on DVD. I've watched all the Whedon output that I have watched - all of Buffy, all of Firefly, and now three seasons of Angel - on DVD. When I watch a series on DVD that my wife is not interested in - like all the Whedon stuff - I watch it on the train on my laptop. With a 45 minute train ride, the timing is just right to get in an hour-long episode of a TV show sans commercials. So I'm watching at a clip of two episodes a day.

One of the plots in this season of Angel had to do with Angel siring a son with another vampire. In the course of the story arc, Angel finds out about the pregnancy, sees the female vampire kill herself to save the baby, takes the the baby in, and has the baby taken from him. All of these events take place in maybe five 0r six episodes.

Now, when the baby is taken, this is a huge, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking turn of events. And I did find it affecting. But not too much. See, as aired, this arc took a month or two to play out, in weekly installments with maybe a rerun or two thrown in. So viewers had time to adjust to the idea of Angel having a son. On DVD, in the space of three days, it was all very sudden. So the emotional connection was not as strong - I hadn't had as much time as I was supposed to to become attached to Angel as a loving Dad. And the show suffered - only a little, admittedly, but suffered nonetheless.

This is just another example of how the traditional TV show structure - with time for the characters usually passing in a rough approximation of real-time, that is, from September to June of one year during the course of a season - can be screwed with when watching a show on DVD. The rhythms of TV depend, to some degree, on that once-a-week beat, and on a passage of time that is mirrored by the audiences - and that, in fact, depends on the audience's real passage of time for some of its effect. What will be interesting is how - if at all - producers start to adjust for the fact that a lot of their viewers are seeing their shows for the first time on DVD.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Because I Must

Before I commence with the list itself, let me say one very important thing about the EW list of 100 "new classics: in film (films released in the last 25 years), in the form of a confession. The list disturbed me - as in had me nervous, twitchy, anxious - all weekend. I couldn't get my mind off of it. Why? Because The Shawshank Redemption is nowhere to be found on it. And this disturbs me. I paged through the magazine dozens of times, assuming I missed it. I know it shouldn't be so upset. I know it's just a list. But Shawshank's omission is to me like omitting peanut butter and jelly from a list of classic sandwiches - an oversight so egregious as to invite questioning. Was it a mistake? Was there some classification reason for its omission I'm missing? Because they can't have intentionally omitted it. Right?

Same drill as before - Bold is seen, red is have no interest, green is hope-to-see-someday.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Shawshank aside, I'm OK with this as their number one. A great film that's aged well so far and that still stands alone.

2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)
I love that they treat these as one film.

3. Titanic (1997)
Yes. It bears repeating; this bombs, and film snobs bemoan that modern audiences didn't embrace this wonderful throwback to old Hollywood.

4. Blue Velvet (1986)
No. I know people love this, but #4?

5. Toy Story (1995)
EW makes the same mistake as the AFI voters. Pixar released several better films after their admittedly superb first one.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Yes. And no, naysayers, the film doesn't makes sense as a flashback. But we're never told it is one - not an actual one. Sure, the film is spurred by Ryan's memory, but the bulk of the film is never supposed to be his memories. It's supposed to be the actual past, that we are being shown because he is remembering his part in it.

7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
A great film. I've seen this at least three or four times, which begs a question. With so many TV shows and movies to see - never mind the TV Shows and movies that will be released in the future that I will want to see - will I ever see this again? Should I?

9. Die Hard (1988)

10. Moulin Rouge (2001)

11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
No. Sorry. This I need to see again.

12. The Matrix (1999)
This is falling in estimation as time goes on, isn't it?

13. GoodFellas (1990)

14. Crumb (1995)

15. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
A very odd choice so high up. It's like they wanted Johnny Depp in the top 20 but thought Ed Wood was too esoteric.

16. Boogie Nights (1997)
Another film I'd really like to see again.

17. Jerry Maguire (1996)

18. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Another film I must see again. Caught a little of it on cable a few months go, and we struck again by how great the score is.

19. Casino Royale (2006)
Way too soon. Great film, easily one of the best Bonds, but top twenty of last fifty years??

20. The Lion King (1994)
As I said yesterday, Beauty and the Beast is the better film.

21. Schindler's List (1993)
I've only seen this once. Must remedy. (Although I have listened to the score easily 20-30 times.)

22. Rushmore (1998)

23. Memento (2001)

24. A Room With a View (1986)
I don't know that I've ever seen a Merchant Ivory film.

25. Shrek (2001)
I rewatched this recently with the girls, and think it's been getting a bit of a bum rap. It's much more clever and sweet than I had remembered.

26. Hoop Dreams (1994)
One day Ebert. One day.

27. Aliens (1986)
Man, haven't seen this in forever. Great Horner score.

28. Wings of Desire (1988)

29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
See, the problem is that I don't want to see BSII and BSIII until I see the first again. Need more hours in my day.

30. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
I know some think this isn't aging well, bit to me it's just becoming a very nice period piece.

31. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ang Lee is kind of scary, isn't he? A martial arts epic, Jane Austen drama, a comic book movie, a 70s period piece, a gay Western. What can't he do?

32. Fight Club (1999)
A little overrated, really. But I do have a huge crush on Helena Bonham Carter in it.

33. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Easily the best of the Hughes films, and a good movie no doubt. But on a list with no Shawshank!!!?

34. Fargo (1996)
Yet another film I'd like to see again someday and probably won't.

35. The Incredibles (2004)
Can't wait until the kids are old enough to appreciate this one!

36. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
A great super-hero movie.

37. Pretty Woman (1990)
For all of the ill-will directed at this movie because it's such a fairy tale, you'd think it had pretensions to reality. It is supposed to be a fairy tale.

38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
A very, very sweet movie masquerading as something else.

39. The Sixth Sense (1999)
This will only grow in estimation over the years.

40. Speed (1994)
A perfect little gem of an action movie.

41. Dazed and Confused (1993)

42. Clueless (1995)
A bit overrated I think.

43. Gladiator (2000)
Braveheart is the better ancient times gore film.

44. The Player (1992)
I remember pretty much nothing about this movie.

45. Rain Man (1988)
Haven't seen in ages.

46. Children of Men (2006)
Now here's a movie I know I will watch again and again and again.

47. Men in Black (1997)
Slighter than it seems at first.

48. Scarface (1983)

49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Ang Lee you genius.

50. The Piano (1993)
A movie that seems to be kind of forgotten today.

51. There Will Be Blood (2007)
It will be interesting to see how this ages.

52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)
When they knew how to do spoofs.

53. The Truman Show (1998)
I adore this film.

54. Fatal Attraction (1987)

55. Risky Business (1983)
Not really. It's fine, but 100 of the last 25 years?

56. The Lives of Others (2006)

57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Remember when it seemed like the Farrelys were going to make great raunchy/sweet comedies forever?

58. Ghostbusters (1984)
One of those films you can never really recreate. Just a perfect confluence of actors and subject and execution.

59. L.A. Confidential (1997)
I have to cop to not getting the huge love this film gets.

60. Scream (1996)

61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Not worthy of inclusion.

62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)

63. Big (1988)
Sweet and deeper than you might remember.

64. No Country For Old Men (2007)
Too soon.

65. Dirty Dancing (1987)
Come on. This is cheesy fun, but not, you know, good.

66. Natural Born Killers (1994)
Comes off kind of silly now, no?

67. Donnie Brasco (1997)
A film that should be remembered more.

68. Witness (1985)
I've seen large chunks, but never the whole thing.

69. All About My Mother (1999)

70. Broadcast News (1987)
Another film I doubt I'll ever get around to seeing though.

71. Unforgiven (1992)

72. Thelma & Louise (1991)

73. Office Space (1999)
Should probably be higher, really.

74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

75. Out of Africa (1985)

76. The Departed (2006)
Maybe, but not even this high.

77. Sid and Nancy (1986)

78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
So much more sweeter than I expected.\

80. Michael Clayton (2007)
Too soon, but this was really a very good movie.

81. Moonstruck (1987)
Should be much higher. Might be the best romantic comedy ever. The atmosphere it captures, of a big New York Italian family, is just pitch-perfect.

82. Lost in Translation (2003)
Slighter than we might have thought at first.

83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

84. Sideways (2004)
Great performances.

85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Should be much higher. A great comedy.

86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
Not sure why this is so loved. It was a fine coming of age film, but not much else.

87. Swingers (1996)

88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
As much as I might like to, can't argue. It works.

89. Breaking the Waves (1996)

90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

91. Back to the Future (1985)
Should be higher. Just a perfect piece of pop entertainment.

92. Menace II Society (1993)

93. Ed Wood (1994)

94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Another I've seen large chunks of.

95. In the Mood for Love (2001)
I don't know what this is, so I must not want to see it too badly.

96. Far From Heaven (2002)
A great film I've already forgotten about. Sad.

97. Glory (1989)

98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Not really. Did Miramax pay a fee?

99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Easily deserving. What many often forget is that some did think it was real as they watched it. Not everyone reads entertainment magazines.

100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
No argument.

Until Whenever

Monday, June 23, 2008

Listing from the Lists

Because the Tosy and Cosh charter says I must, here are my pithy reactions to the latest AFI list - this year, a hodgepodge of Top Ten lists, rather than one long Top 100 lists.

But before I commence with the pith, I wanted to make two points in regards to commentary I've read elsewhere:
  1. Some have noted inconsistencies in the lists - for example Tom the Dog has noted that Toy Story was ranked on the 10th anniversary list last year and yet it is rated lower here than animated films that weren't ranked at all in the 100 last year. To which, I parry that A: these lists are not assembled by committee and checked for accuracy, but voted on by a large number of film professionals and critics. I'd rather have these kind of inconsistencies than the vanilla choices committees can make. And B: it is logical, to me, to say that a film is a better overall film than another, but a lesser example of the genre.
  2. Others have accused AFI of doing things like jerry-rigging lists to be representative - by making sure that the sports list has lots of different sports represented, for example. Again, the list is not assembled this way - it's all about pure voting.
OK. I am bolding ones I've seen, greening ones I'd like to see, and redding ones I have no desire to see.

1. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, 1937
I know I've said it before, but I find the notion that in the more than 70 years since the first animated film was released, no one has managed to make one better, laughable. Lists like these tend to place FAR too much emphasis on innovation, and not enough on the ability to take innovative ideas and refine them.

2. Pinocchio, 1940
Again - the second animated film is the second-best ever??

3. Bambi, 1942
Haven't seen this since I was a wee lad, actually.

4. The Lion King, 1994
I like The Lion King fine, but think that Beauty and the Beast is easily the best of the 90s Disney films. The Lion King doesn't balance tone nearly as well (as wonderfully dramatic as the death of the king scene is, it kinds of jars with the potty humor of Timon and Pumbaa) and the Elton John score is far inferior to the glory of Beast's score.

5. Fantasia, 1940
Haven't watched all of this in tears either.

6. Toy Story, 1995 (99)
Genius, but, again, Pixar's first film is not its best. They have learned in the last thirteen years, and the lessons learned are evident in the final products.

7. Beauty And The Beast, 1991
I'd put this one as #1, myself.

8. Shrek, 2001
I like Shrek just fine, but it ain't Top Ten material.

9. Cinderella, 1950
I'd put Sleeping Beauty above it, if forced to put a Disney princess film here.

10. Finding Nemo, 2003
Maybe Pixar's best.

Most egregious omission. The Iron Giant should really be in here.

1. The Wizard Of Oz, 1939
I'd honestly put the Rings trilogy above it, but can't quibble much.

2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, 2001
I understand why they can't treat the trilogy as one film, but it really is. Wholly deserving.

3. It's A Wonderful Life, 1946
Not a fantasy. I really do think AFI would have been better served by more rigorously defining its genres. When this and Rings are on the same list, the idea of carving out genres starts to lose meaning - they really can't be judged against each other except as complete films; they share no real genre attributes.

4. King Kong, 1933
Call me blasphemer, but the Jackson remake belongs here.

5. Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
Not a fantasy. Even if it does treat Santa as real.

6. Field Of Dreams, 1989
Maybe a fantasy. Not really though.

7. Harvey, 1950
Never seen it, but I did the play in high school. Not a fantasy.

8. Groundhog Day, 1993
Again we see the problem with genres being left vague. Great film, though - I don't think anyone would've predicted how well it's aged back when it was released.

9. The Thief Of Baghdad, 1924
Not on my radar.

10. Big, 1988
Sure.An underrated film.

Most egregious omission: The Princess Bride

Science Fiction
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
More blaspheming. I don't like this film. Pretentious and unfocused.

2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977
Sure. Empire Strikes Back is better though.

3. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
Very worthy.

4. A Clockwork Orange, 1971
From what I know if it, though, "science fiction" is a stretch.

5. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951

6. Blade Runner, 1982
Didn't love.

7. Alien, 1979
As others have noted, Aliens sis the better film.

8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
I'm OK with this one.

9. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, 1956
I can only see so many films before I die.

10. Back To The Future, 1985
Hell yes.

Most egregious omission. Children of Men

1. Raging Bull, 1980
Another classic I really did not love.

2. Rocky, 1976
Sure. A great sports film as well, in the way it uses sports as a metaphor for what's great about the human spirit.

3. The Pride Of The Yankees, 1942
Toll old-timey for me.

4. Hoosiers, 1986
I really need to see this.

5. Bull Durham, 1988
Great choice.

6. The Hustler, 1961
Sigh. The Blockbuster list gets longer and longer.

7. Caddyshack, 1980
Some have said that this really isn't a sports film. I say it's really about a larger question - is golf a sport?

8. Breaking Away, 1979

9. National Velvet, 1944

10. Jerry Maguire, 1996
I like this film a lot, but it's not really a sports movie. It's got sports in the background, but it's not about sports in any real way.

Most egregious omission: A League of Their Own

I am not a huge Western fan. So:

1. The Searchers, 1956

2. High Noon, 1952

3. Shane, 1953

4. Unforgiven, 1992
Saw this in the theater and haven't seen since. Really should. Sigh.

5. Red River, 1948

6. The Wild Bunch, 1969

7. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, 1969
Great film. Wonderful balance of tone.

8. McCabe And Mrs. Miller, 1971
Tom the Dog has me wanting to see this one.

9. Stagecoach, 1939

10. Cat Ballou, 1965

Most egregious omission: Blazing Saddles (only because Deadwood is not a film.)

Is "gangster film" really a genre?

1. The Godfather, 1972
Of course.

(2)2. Goodfellas, 1990

3. The Godfather Part II, 1974 (32)

4. White Heat, 1949

5. Bonnie And Clyde, 1967
Although as I look at my Blockbuster queue, I'm not optimistic . . .

6. Scarface: The Shame Of The Nation, 1932

7. Pulp Fiction, 1994

8. The Public Enemy, 1931

9. Little Caesar, 1931

10. Scarface, 1983
One of those films I really have no desire to see, having heard so many quotes and seen so many clips.

Most egregious omission: The Untouchables?

I dunno. Do all of these films have puzzles that are resolved at the end? If not, they are not mysteries.

1. Vertigo, 1958

2. Chinatown, 1974
Saw it, did not love it.

3. Rear Window, 1954

4. Laura, 1944

5. The Third Man, 1949

6. The Maltese Falcon, 1941

7. North By Northwest, 1959

8. Blue Velvet, 1986
I do not remember much about this film, but was it really a mystery?

9. Dial M For Murder, 1954

10. The Usual Suspects, 1995

Romantic Comedies
1. City Lights, 1931
I have never seen a Charlie Chaplin film. Commence the stoning.

2. Annie Hall, 1977
All this green is depressing me.

3. It Happened One Night, 1934

4. Roman Holiday, 1953

5. The Philadelphia Story, 1940

6. When Harry Met Sally..., 1989
Sure. I think it's aging very nicely.

7. Adam's Rib, 1949

8. Moonstruck, 1987
Should be higher. Just a wonder of a film.

9. Harold And Maude, 1971

10. Sleepless In Seattle, 1993
Not so much.

Most egregios ommission: The Princess Bride. Really.

Courtroom Drama
1. To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962
As good as advertised.

2. 12 Angry Men, 1957

3. Kramer Vs. Kramer, 1979
Is this really a courtroom film, though?

4. The Verdict, 1982

5. A Few Good Men, 1992

6. Witness For The Prosecution, 1957

7. Anatomy of a Murder, 1959

8. In Cold Blood, 1967

9. A Cry In The Dark, 1988

10. Judgment At Nuremberg, 1961

The least-well defined genre of the ten. What makes a film an "epic?"

1. Lawrence of Arabia, 1962
I may just put this at #1 in my Blockbuster list today. I really want to see it.

2. Ben-Hur, 1959

3. Schindler's List, 1993
As pretty much everyone who's commented on these lists has noted - is this an "Epic?"

4. Gone With The Wind, 1939
I know - I'm a bad person.

5. Spartacus, 1960

6. Titanic, 1997
Sure. A great, great film, that would be much more respected if it had bombed.

7. All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930

8. Saving Private Ryan, 1998

9. Reds, 1981

10. The Ten Commandments, 1956

Most egregious omission: Braveheart.

Until Whenever

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three by Three - In Plain Sight

Three things I like about the new USA series, In Plain Sight.
  • Mary McCormack. As a put-upon Federal Marshall charged with shepherding various low-lifes through the witness protection program, she strikes a quite delicious blend of sour and smart that never edges into the cutesy. A wonderfully pitched performance.
  • The tone - the series does real emotion, but doesn't take itself too seriously. Sure, if you don't take yourself seriously, you don't get something like Deadwood or even Breaking Bad, but we wouldn't want everything to be too serious, no would we?
  • The setting. Hey! We're not in L.A. or New York! Or Miami.

Three things I do not like about the new USA series, In Plain Sight

  • The stories are, so far at least, a little soft. No surprises, no compelling twists, just pretty straightforward TV drama stuff. These plots could've appeared on a fair-to-middling 70s cop show.
  • The boyfriend - I think they jumped a bit too quick into the "romantic angst" well.
  • The mother - a bit too pathetic to be taken seriously so far.

Until Whenever

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Being a Heathen

From the Samurai Frog, I steal this'n:

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
I've never felt that to define oneself as an "atheist" one must be 100%, absolutely dead certain that there is no God of any kind. Basically, that kind of single-minded certainty is part of what I don't like about religion. And yet, to me, an "agnostic" is one who simply doesn't have an opinion. I do have an opinion, and a very strong one, that there is no God of any kind - no white-beard-and-robes guy; no mystical force of nature; no initial spark of creation architect, no nothing. But I can't claim to know this, any more than I can claim to know that there aren't advanced civilizations living beneath Mars' crust. But I can certainly be remarkably skeptical of it.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious?
No. Baptized Catholic but never went to church or made any other sacraments. Was brought up by believers, but not in the specifics of a faith. I actually kind of get what "cultural Jews" are getting at - I celebrate Easter and Christmas, go to the occasional Mass, was married by a priest, and feel other cultural connections to Catholicism, but am not really a Catholic.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Can I pretend that "Trojan Horse" is one word?

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
The leaps and bounds being made in medicine. It's really astonishing the things we can cure and prevent.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
I'm not sure there is an atheist community, and I don't think there should be one. The notion of a set of rules and beliefs that all atheists should share is, frankly, repugnant. It's the absence of such dogma that I love about atheism.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
Admiration. People who devote themselves to the clergy are, in large part, selfless, giving, and extremely generous people who do a lot of good. A twinge of disappointment, sure, but I'd feel that twinge if my kids hated U2, too - that's just a natural, genetic desire to have your children be to a large degree like you, to validate you. And as longs as you don't let those twinges rule you, they're fine.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
The notion that there must be a God for such a complex world to exist, given that the immensely logical refutation that a God complex enough to create such complexity must itself require a creator seems never to have been pondered.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I don't know that I have one.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Hitchens, because he can write like the devil, and because he's all about the real-world examples, and not about thought experiments.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Osama bin Laden? The head of the Klu Klux Klan? Someone like that - who takes theism to very dangerous, murderous extremes.

Until Whenever

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wanna Cry?

Stolen shamelessly from TV Guidance:

Until Whenever

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Want to Know

You know those articles you read every now and then, in magazines like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, in which an intrepid reporter provides a very in-depth look at something you never knew you wanted to know more about? Like what it's like to be a breakfast fry cook at a huge Las Vegas restaurant, or be George Clooney, or be a chef whose lost his sense of taste? I have one I want someone to write. (I'd write it, but that would require research. And work).

Was flipping through the channels last night and came across on one of the HBOs Ed. Ed was a vehicle for Matt LeBlanc about a baseball playing chimp. I've never seen Ed. But I understand it to be a very bad movie that no one liked when it was released, that no one has ever liked in an ironic way, and that has never become any kind of cult film. It's just a dumb movie that you forget. And yet, with thousands of movies in the world, HBO was showing it. Why? Are there studio politics at play? Is there some kind of movie payola going on? Is it a cost thing - do channels have to show crap because the good stuff is expensive? I would really like to know how HBO, or TNT, or TBS, or USA, picks movies to show - whose job is it, what is the process like, what masters do they have to answer to.

Wouldn't that be a great article? Want to write it?

Until Whenever

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

100 Favorite Songs - #s 51-60

60. "Trying to Get to Heaven" - Bob Dylan
This companion piece to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is clever in the way it approaches its end-of-life theme from behind a pretty upbeat, happily settled groove. From Dylan's late period, it features his trademarked late froggy growl of a vocal style, a style that lends itself particularly well to this kind of song. "When you think you have lost everything/you find out you can always lose a little more." Indeed.

59. "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" - U2
One of the U2 songs people will always think of when they hear U2. I have many versions of this song, but my favorite is probably the live version from Rattle & Hum, sung right after a bombing in Ireland. It mixes a spare, acoustic fell for the first half, with just the Edge playing that classic figure, with a full-and angry rocking version in the second half - best of both worlds. For years I thought that high-pitched yelp towards the end when Bono sings "no more" was him; it is, of course, just some feedback.

58. "I Hung My Head" - Sting
Sting doesn't do story songs often; he should do more. This spare, haunting song about a man who kills a lone rider for no real reason, in a fit of boredom almost, has been covered by Johnny Cash, but Sting's original version deserves credit - his almost flat delivery, without histrionics - makes the song.

57. "Extraordinary Machine" - Fiona Apple
Just talked about this song. I said: "We start with a great opener, a puckish, impish song that's propelled by a wonderfully coy arrangement by Jon Brion. I love how Apple sings this song - listen to the way she adds a bit of silly slyness to the second syllable of "extraORDinary," or the way she adds a bit of breathiness as she makes vocal leaps - "every DAY." But what I might love most about this song is how it doesn't sound like any other song I've ever heard." Ditto.

56. "Train in the Distance" - Paul Simon
A wonderfully mellow and melancholy Simon song about divorce with one of my all-time favorite lyrics: "The thought that life could be better/Is woven indelibly into our hearts/And our brains." I think this song is about Carrie Fisher.

55. "Nightswimming" - REM
Great, great use of piano anchoring a beautifully plaintive melody.

54. "Original of the Species" - U2
An open-hearted song about being a parent that the band never quite perfected live. Something about the heavy use of piano, I think. "You are the first one of your kind" is a sentiment that rises to mind every time I look at my kids - it can be hard to get over the incredible fact that these are unique individuals, and the immense promise of that fact. This song gets that emotion across really well.

53. "Wake Up Dead Man" - U2
A sad/angry rant at an unlistening Jesus to "wake up." One of U2's darker (darkest?) Christian songs, with a bitter, defeated opening sung over an almost listless guitar part - "Jesus/Jesus help me/I'm alone in this world/And a fucked up world it is too/Tell me/Tell me the story/The one about eternity/And the way it's all gonna be/Wake up/Wake up, dead man."

52. "Obvious Child" - Paul Simon
I simply adore the South American percussion on this song, especially the big percussion break in the middle. One of those Paul Simon songs that's not a "classic" song you'd hear on the radio, but a great one nonetheless.

51. "Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley
One of the most extreme examples of a cover becoming the definitive version of a song. Buckley's patient, understated passionate delivery is what makes this work as well as it does - that and his simple-yet-emotive guitar work of course.

Until Whenever

Monday, June 09, 2008

When Inspiration Doesn't Strike!!

You steal a meme!

What is your...?
1. Favorite movie:
The Shawshank Redemption. See here for why.

2. Favorite movie to come back to time and again:
The Shawshank Redemption.

3. Best movie that you never want to see again
As much as I loved Requiem for a Dream, it was intense and disturbing enough that I could probably never see it again and be perfectly OK with that.

4. Last great movie you saw in a theater
Iron Man. Indiana Jones didn't quite reach greatness for me.

5. Last great movie you saw on DVD
There Will Be Blood. Pretty sure. (Pretty sure it achieved greatness, not that I saw it). I would like to see it again (but given the number of hours left before I die in (hopefully) sixty years or so and movies I want to see, may not) to see how it plays now that I know the story is so thin.

How do you feel about...?
1. The ending of Iron Man:
Genius. No studio has ever tried what Marvel is trying here - a cohesive universe that ties together. The James Bond films, Muppet films, DC films, Spider-Man and X-Men films rarely if ever refer each other, and the big Star Wars and Lord of the Rings sets are really single epic stories. But multiple stories that will all tie together in an Avengers film? Wow.

2. Jason Segel taking control of the Muppets
I love Siegel on How I Met Your Mother but have yet to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the puppet Dracula musical within that purportedly convinced the Henson folks to give him a shot. So - cautiously optimistic.

3. Manohla Dargis' last editorial in the New York Times about women in film:
Did not read.

4. The MTV Movie Awards
Very, very unnecessary. Big-budget popcorn films don't get enough promotion?

5. Ellen Page as Jane Eyre
Doubtful, but hopeful that she can surprise all and pull it off. Winona Ryder started out as "quirky modern girl" after all, and has had much success in period pieces. After Heathers, I doubt I would have been any more doubtful that Ryder could do period than I am about Page.

"Who is your...?
1. Favorite Actor:
Morgan Freeman. He's risking becoming typecast, but dig deeper and you'll see more range than you might suspect.

2. Favorite Actress:
Julianne Moore.

3. Favorite Actor (deceased)
Jimmy Stewart. So smooth.

4. Favorite Actress (deceased)
Katherine Hepburn.

5. Favorite Director
Steven Spielberg. In popcorn or serious mode.

Which do you prefer...?
1. Sub-titles or dubbing
If I have a choice, subtitles, but dubbing doesn't bug me.

2. Kurt Russell or Bruce Campbell
Kurt Russell. I am pretty much (Spider-Man cameos aside) a Campbell virgin.

3. Buttered Popcorn or Salted Popcorn
Buttered. Because butter makes everything better.

4. Ambiguity or clarity
Usually clarity. Ambiguity can work, but it's much harder to pull off without being precious.

5. Characters or plot
In film, plot, since we get so little time with film characters. On TV, characters, since we spend so much time with them. Ideally, of course, both.

Until Whenever

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mixed Bag '08 - Director's Commentary

I think at this point I've received all of the discs from the Mixed Bag exchange. I'm at various stages of listening to each, and thought now would be a good time to describe the mix I foisted upon the others.

Love's Not an Evil Thing
The title comes from a line in one of my 10 favorite songs of all time, and one of the last songs on this disc. See if you can guess which one!

1. Extraordinary Machine / Fiona Apple 3:44
We start with a great opener, a puckish, impish song that's propelled by a wonderfully coy arrangement by Jon Brion. I love how Apple sings this song - listen to the way she adds a bit of silly slyness to the second syllable of "extraORDinary," or the way she adds a bit of breathiness as she makes vocal leaps - "every DAY." But what I might love most about this song is how it doesn't sound like any other song I've ever heard.\

2. Adios Hermanos / Paul Simon 4:42
From Simon's oft-neglected album of songs he wrote for the Capeman musical, this is a beautifully evocative mix of Doo Wop and Puerto Rican salsa sounds. I love how the sound is both somber and stately without being drab or colorless - the female singer who adds color in the middle does a world of good. I simply adore the ending, and the way Simon imbues "and they rode that black mariah," with such weary sadness, bleached of anger.

3. The End Of The World / John Mellencamp 3:24
I got Mellencamp's album of blues covers, Trouble in Mind, a few years back, and never really listened much. Then somehow I came across this cover on my Ipod wand was stunned by how good it is. One of Mellencamp's best-ever vocal deliveries, hitting the weariness of the blues style just enough, without overstating it. It's a simple, very straightforward arrangement, but it works perfectly.

4. Devil's Arcade / Bruce Springsteen 5:22
Would it be crazy to call the cello that comes in 30 or seconds after the start of this song my favorite Bruce moment ever? It's just such a sublime, haunting, simple-yet-devastating melody. One of those tunes you can't believe isn't already out there already.

5. The Man Who Sold the World / Jordis Unga 2:12
Three summers later, and RockStar finalist Unga has yet to release an album. And it's a pity, because she was easily the most talented of that first season's crop of singers. Here, she sings the hell out of the David Bowie song (even if she's really doing a cover of the Nirvana unplugged cover). The pain and anguish in how she sings the word "world" is sublime.

6. Don't Dwell / Tracy Chapman 3:22
Chapman's last album is a bit underrated. This slow, moving, very melancholy song is the standout - add some distortion and electronic noodling to the arrangement and it could easily be a Radiohead song. Very atmospheric and moody, especially for Chapman.

7. Philadelphia / Neil Young 4:07
As has been oft-noted, the song that should have won the Oscar. The sheer beauty of this song, including the understated sadness in Young's voice, and the resigned piano chords, is just wonderful.

8. Come Down In Time / Sting 3:46
A song I never ever hear anyone talking about. It's Sting covering Elton John, with just bass and piano, and it's a sad, 3AM-sounding, thing, with a superb vocal from Sting. I love the way he holds on to the final note for just a hair too long.

9. Mercy / U2 6:31
An illicit bootleg of a song cut at the last minute from their last album. This is a great, epic, modern U2 song, the aughts' version of Bad, with passionate, anguished vocals from Bono and some very classic U2 guitar work from the Edge. A version of this will likely surface on the new album coming out this fall.

10. The Show Must Go On / Queen 4:36
The world's greatest rock singer has AIDS and is terrified and furious. That's really all you need to know. No one will ever cover this song as well.

11. All This Useless Beauty / Elvis Costello 4:40
A delicate, sweetly melancholy ballad from Elvis. There are some great lyrics here - the opening line, "It's at times such as this/she'd be tempted to spit/If she wasn't so ladylike/She imagines how she might have lived/Back when legends and history collide," is just perfect.

12. Shelter From The Storm / Cassandra Wilson 5:18
Jazz/blues singer Wilson does great covers, and this Dylan cover is maybe her best - the chugging, propulsive, still-jazzy acoustic guitar parts are great, especially the way they gain momentum throughout the song. Dylan can be hard to sing, so strong are his own idiosyncrasies as a singer and so strongly does he imprint those on his melodies, but Wilson does a beautiful job. I'd kill for an album of Dylan covers by her.

13. Overkill (Acoustic Version) / Colin Hay 3:47
Discovered this in the Season Two Scrubs premiere and have loved it ever since. A great, great acoustic guitar song, with some nicely contained virtuosic playing at the bridge and an amazing energy.

14. Wise Up / Aimee Mann 3:32
Mann has a new album out! Must get. This is probably my favorite song of hers, especially for it's slowly chugging arrangement and the way she hits the high notes with such an air of measured hopelessness and control.

15. No Cars Go / Arcade Fire 5:44
Loud, exuberant, and big and theatrical in the best sense of the word, with a massive pileup of singers and instruments at the end that literally makes me shake with joy.

16.True Love Waits / Radiohead 5:03
An acoustic live track. Gorgeous and simple.

17.Sugar Baby / Bob Dylan 6:40
Dylan stares mortality in the face and converses with it. This is probably my favorite vocal performance of Dylan's - I love the weariness and age in the voice, and I love the way he's constructed the song around these big mid-phrase pauses - he sometimes sounds like a forgetful old man trying to remember a word - "I got my back - PAUSE - to the sun 'cause - PAUSE - the light is too intense." And what a devastating phrase that is?

18.Crash Course / Crash Test Dummies
A very melancholy, hauntingly beautiful, very short piano solo that seemed a great way to close out the disc.

Until Whenever

Monday, June 02, 2008

Three by Three

Sorry for the unanticipated hiatus - may not be back for good yet, but we'll see.

A reminder - Three by three is entirely spoiler-filled; I make no efforts to not reveal endings, twists, or plot turns.

Three things I liked about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

  • The acting. Ford does a very good job of making Indy an older, slower man while not denuding the character so much that we wince at his physicality. LeBouf and Allen, as the key supporting characters, are fine - I kept having to remind myself that the reason Marian is less feisty, less of a firecracker, more matronly here, is because she is in her 60s.
  • The action - Spielberg's deft hand is as fine as ever. The extended chase in the jungle sequence is inventive, thrilling, and pitched at just the right tone. And I love how Indy reacts to his son as an action hero - there are some great bits where we see some wonderful emotions of fatherly pride play across Indy's face.
  • The ending - not the action, MacGuffin ending, but the wedding. A perfect, very real-feeling, and very natural place to end the story.

Three things I did not like about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

  • The plot. While Crusade or Raiders may not have had any real credibility as far as the way archaeological discoveries are really made, the way that Indy found the Ark and Grail - and why he wanted them - were always clear. Here, I never really understood what these skulls were supposed to be, how one went missing, or how he found it. It also felt a little claustrophobic, with none of the globe-trotting episodic nature of the other stories coming through.
  • The ending - Still not really sure what happened.
  • The aliens. In theory, aliens are no more or less outlandish than arks that can melt faces. In practice, they were a bit too credibility-straining. (And no, that they weren't aliens from space, but rather from "between spaces" didn't help.

Until Whenever