Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Year-end Top 5 Lists

At times, it seems the primary skills I picked up in grad school are drinking beer and commenting on pop culture. In that vein, I'd like to offer my year-end "Top 5" lists for music, movies and books. In reading these lists you may notice that a great many of the titles mentioned were not, in fact, released this past year. Being perpetually behind the times, it seemed simpler to limit the results to stuff that I heard, saw or read in the past year, regardless of how old it is. For example, I haven't really seen any of the movies currently being offered up as Oscar bait and which are making the top 10 lists of all the real movie critics out there. Oh well -- this is just what I liked about the past year; feel free to comment and (dis)agree.

  1. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods: Loud. Louder than your boyfriend's rock 'n roll. And better. And they give a great live show, too.

  2. Kanye West, The College Dropout: This hip-hop is the new punk rock. The first track, "We Don't Care", is a completely joyous song about how much it sucks to be poor, and it gives a deserving middle-finger to every authority figure in range. I think maybe he had some other big hits also.

  3. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema: Listen to this band if you like super-catchy, yet sophisticated, power-pop. Each song crams in more hooky melodies, hand-claps and "hey ya's" than your average hour of pop radio (and why aren't they on the radio? oh yeah, they're Canadian). And the song "Sing Me Spanish Techno" will totally suck your brain out.

  4. The Arcade Fire, Funeral: A cycle of songs about children living in a world without grown-ups. I definitely have days where I feel that way.

  5. M.I.A., Arular: She's an ex-pat Sri Lankan, and current Londoner. There's an entire globe's worth of musical traditions in here, yet it mainly sounds like music played on trashcan lids while dancing on top of a burning cop car. In other words, pretty awesome.
(Hon. Men.: the Shins, Spoon, Talib Kweli, Neko Case, the Flaming Lips, Cibo Matto)

  1. Batman Begins: I love action and comic book movies, but a lot of them are frankly kinda lousy. This one's not. Christian Bale makes a great Batman and Bruce Wayne, but the film's got an even better villian, exciting action sequences, and an actually compelling storyline.

  2. Code 46: I'm also a sucker for any kind of sci-fi (LJ still makes fun of me for liking A.I.), and I really fell in love with this movie. Or perhaps I just fell in love with Samantha Morton's character. Hmmm. Anyway, imagine Gattaca as a zero-budget romance and with better acting. And I love that they filmed modern-day Beijing and Dubai as stand-ins for the cities of the future.

  3. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: See here.

  4. Brokeback Mountain: OK, so this actually is oscar bait. I don't know if it's as groundbreaking a movie as the critics say; I suppose a movie about gay cowboys is always going to be shocking to some. I enjoyed it for the simple pleasures of unpretentious story-telling, backed up by great acting. Heath Ledger deserves every award he's going to win for this one.

  5. Gangs of New York: Finally got around to seeing this, and I actually liked it a lot. I was expecting a polite Merchant & Ivory period piece, but it's really more of an urban western with a story lifted from a fascinating bit of forgotten American history (the Civil War draft riots). They should've lost the Hollywood romance between Leo and Cam, and stuck with the tribal street warfare set to rock music. Daniel Day-Lewis tears it up (as usual).
(Hon. Men.: Bad Education, The Incredibles, Million Dollar Baby, Born Into Brothels, Velvet Goldmine, Hotel Rwanda, Harry Potter 4)

  1. Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A book to savor -- the anti-page-turner. This is the comprehensive tale of the rebirth of English magic, as related by the disreputable love child of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. It has footnotes better than a lot of fantasy stuff you pick up (no joke).

  2. Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: The story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy and her encounters with the California medical system. The author tries her absolute hardest to be completely fair to the parents and the doctors and everyone involved, which just makes the tragedy of the story all the more wrenching. The most thought-provoking book on multi-cultural America I've read in a long time.

  3. Neil Gaiman, American Gods: The tale of a war between the old gods and the new gods of media and technology, as waged in the interstate truck-stops and tourist traps across the landscape of the Midwest.

  4. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A funny and charming novel about comic books, escape artists and the different ways people can come together as a family.

  5. Joe Sacco, Palestine: Joe Sacco spent a year living in the West Bank in the early 90's after the first Intifada. Here he downlinks his impressions, sketches, opinions, thoughts, and myriad interviews with Palestinians living under occupation. Just cuz its a comic book doesn't mean it can't be hard-hitting journalism too.
(Hon. Men.: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince; Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats; Laura Kaplan, The Story of Jane; Karen Armstron, Islam: A Brief History)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've seen/heard/read most of the things on your list, but I do love 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.' I wasted several hours of some beautiful days in the Canary Islands reading it.