Saturday, February 14, 2009

2008 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year! What can we say about 2008? For starters, I’m happy it’s over and I’m striving to remain optimistic about 2009. (On the plus side, hard times generally produce great art for future lists.) Thanks to DVD and, the small screen finally gets a category in my tenth annual list. Not all of these selections came out last year, but that’s when I got around to them. So, unsolicited as always, I humbly submit my 2008 Top 5’s:

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (young love in/with NYC)
The Orphanage (Capra-esque horror)
Happy Go Lucky (anatomy of a truly happy person)
Rachel Getting Married (a trainwreck, yet I couldn’t look away)
Appaloosa (Ed & Viggo rock the Wild West)

Colma The Musical (authentic high school musical)
Be Kind Rewind (thoroughly sweded)
The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (proto celebrity-stalker-homicide)
Talk To Me (back when radio ruled)
Gone Baby Gone (Southie hospitality)

The Hold Steady- Stay Positive (these sing a long songs will be our scriptures)
Titan: It’s All Pop! (Kansas City ‘78-82…powerpop’s halcyon days)
The Speedies- Speedy Delivery (hella hair and hooks with skinny ties too)
The Clash Live At Shea Stadium (rocks, despite the faux-hawk and imminent break-up)
Silver Sun- Dad’s Weird Dream (keeping the powerpop fires burning)

Lush Life- Richard Price (lower east side nightmare)
The Plot Against America- Philip Roth (guardian of liberty)
The Abstinence Teacher- Tom Perrotta (suburban jihad)
Then We Came To The End-Joshua Ferris (dot com bubbleheads)
Gentlemen of the Road- Michael Chabon (or as the author puts it “Jews with Swords”)

AC/DC 12/4/08 Oracle Arena, Oakland (father-son bonding)
The Hold Steady/Drive By Truckers 11/24/08 The Fillmore, San Francisco (almost killed me)
“August Osage County” 7/26/08 Music Box Theater, NYC (full bore family dysfunction)
The Rubinoos 6/21/08 Great American Music Hall, San Francisco (powerpop gods rock the earth)
You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown 5/2/08 Trinity Church Sonoma, CA (a starlet is born)

Deadwood Seasons 2&3 (extreme manifest destiny)
Firefly Season 1 (cowboys in space, thanks!)
Arrested Development Complete Series (be glad you’re not a Bluth, another hulu gem)
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog (1st entry from the new small screen)
Lost Season 4 (mind bending flash forwards)

Let me know what you think and feel free to respond with Top 5’s of your own. I’m always on the lookout for material for future lists. Here’s to a brighter 2009!

2007 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year! I hope the start of 2008 finds you well. All in all, it was a pretty good year for film/music/books and live entertainment. It was especially difficult keeping the DVD list to five, now that so many great TV/cable shows are released in the format. While not all of the selections below came out last year, that is when I caught up with them (I live in Sonoma, give me a break). So, I humbly submit my 2007 Top 5’s:

Children Of Men (an incredible achievement in dystopian filmmaking)
Once (captures the thrill of musical collaboration)
The Lives Of Others (humanity conquers oppression)
3:10 To Yuma (the western will NEVER die)
Juno (she is invincible)

Flight Of The Conchords Season 1 (100% irony-free musical/comedic genius)
Lady Vengeance (what revenge really looks like)
Deadwood Season 1 (*#!%ing incredible)
Hard Candy (Juno as an American lady vengeance)
The Descent (all-time top horror film)

The Hold Steady- Boys & Girls In America (Kerouac with guitars blazing)
Ace Of Hearts Records- 12 Classic 45’s (Boston rock & roll soundtrack of my teenage years)
Sloan- Never Hear The End Of It (keeping the northern pop fires burning)
The Weakerthans- Reunion Tour (more proud Canucks, even a song about curling!)
Dinosaur Jr.- Beyond (biggest surprise of the year)

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (alternative universe Philip Marlowstein)
Boomsday- Christopher Buckley (no one under 45 is laughing)
The Shadow Of The Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon (extreme bibliophilia)
No Country For Old Men- Cormac McCarthy (when did it all go wrong? 1980.)
Night Train- Martin Amis (existential noir)

Sloan 4/30/07 The Independent, San Francisco (anti-shoegazers)
Cheap Trick 6/22/07 Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma (Daddy’s all right)
The Weakerthans 10/03/07 Slim’s San Francisco (rock, pop and songs about a cat)
The Hold Steady 11/06/07 Mezzanine, San Francisco (keeping the rock & roll dream alive)
Elvis Costello & Clover 11/08/07 Great American Music Hall, San Francisco (an historic event)

Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Also, please respond with Top 5’s of your own. My quest for new viewing/listening/reading material is never-ending. Here’s to a great year in 2008!

2006 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year! All in all, not a bad year- at least compared with the crapstorm that was 2005. Finally some sanity in the voting booth and Mother Nature didn’t go all biblical on us- maybe we should thank Al Gore. The list was hard to put together this year as I had a tough time limiting a few of the categories to five. Several selections below were not released last year, but that was when I finally caught up with them. It was a good year for live performances too, so I’ve included them as well. I now respectfully submit my 2006 Top 5’s.

Little Children (suburban horror movie)
Sweet Land (timeless love story)
The Departed (Marty’s back)
Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (funniest of the year)
The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada (same old problems in the new west)

Targets (Bogdonovich’s inspired debut B-movie/art film)
The Best Of Youth (Italian family saga- 100% mafia-free)
The Proposition (a genuine Western, in a different west)
Brick (contemporary high school noir)
Angels In America (elegy for the 20th Century)

The Weakerthans- Reconstruction Site (Winnipeg poetry with guitars blazing)
The Drams- Jubilee Dive (from the ashes of Slobberbone)
Pernice Brothers- Live A Little (so pretty, if you ignore the words)
Bloc Party- Silent Alarm (angular and beautiful)
Drive-By Truckers- A Blessing & A Curse (even in a world of hurt, it’s great to be alive)

King Dork- Frank Portman (rock & roll Holden Caufield)
The Darling- Russell Banks (politics wilt under the West African sun)
Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro (sheep Dolly’s progeny)
Black Swan Green- David Mitchell (universal coming of age story)
On Beauty- Zadie Smith (higher education survival game)

Drive-By Truckers 5/5 Fillmore SF (from acapella harmonies to thundering 3-guitar onslaught)
“The Lieutenant of Inishmore” 5/23 Lyceum Theatre NYC (blood drenched farce)
“Spring Awakening” 8/3 Atlantic Theater NYC (19th century German “Breakfast Club”)
The Drams 9/25 Bottom Of The Hill SF (they just can’t NOT rock)
“Passing Strange” 11/4 Berkeley Repertory Theater (Is Stew the new Sondheim?)

Now it’s your turn! Please respond with Top 5’s of your own- I’m always looking for new/different viewing/listening/reading material. Here’s to a great year in 2007!

2005 Top 5 Lists

Another year gone and my family has not been smited by Mother Nature. I consider us blessed- many have not been so lucky. SERIOUSLY!! WHAT IS GOING ON!! As the floodwaters recede in my town of Sonoma, I reflect on the cultural artifacts that made an impression on me in 2005 and respectfully submit my list of Top 5’s for the year. While many of the selections below were not released in the last year, 2005 was the year I first saw/heard/read them:

Brothers (cain/able vice-versa)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (funniest since…..?)
The Squid and the Whale (sophistication/suffocation)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (a conversation/near divorce starter)
Junebug (southern gothic)

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (sex vs. love)
Fat Girl (puberty blues)
Fail-Safe (President Fonda)
3-Iron (helpful home invasion)
The Safety of Objects (neighborhood watch)

Fountains of Wayne- Out-Of-State-Plates (B-sides better than most group’s A-sides)
John Vanderslice- Pixel Revolt (pop horrors)
101’ers- Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited (Joe Strummer 101)
Big Star- In Space (The year’s biggest musical surprise)
The Killers- Hot Fuss (new band/old sound the kids and I dug)

Harbor- Lorraine Adams (millennium immigration story)
Killer On The Road- James Ellroy (psychobiography)
Gilead- Marilyn Robinson (father’s legacy)
Perv: A Love Story- Jerry Stahl (Stark, Bobby Stark)
Summerland- Michael Chabon (baseball odyssey)

Please feel free to respond with Top 5’s of your own as I am already looking for next year’s selections. Happy New Year- here’s to a natural disaster-free 2006.

2004 Top 5 Lists

I can’t say I’m sorry to see the end of 2004. For various reasons the year already wasn’t going very well, then it finishes with one of the worst natural disasters of all time. Such suffering makes nearly everything else seem trivial, so I wasn’t sure I’d send out a list this year. Yet, the selections in my yearly “Top 5’s” are very important to me, perhaps even more so in years like 2004. So, I humbly submit the films, albums and books that, regardless of when they were actually released, made a considerable impression on me in the last twelve months. Please feel free to respond with a list of your own.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…& Spring (a film/poem)
Mean Creek (who’s the bully?)
We Don’t Live Here Anymore (love on the rocks)
The Return (from Russia with love)
Dogville (our town?)

Freaks & Geeks Complete Series (the ultimate American coming-of-age story)
The Office Seasons 1&2 (it hurts sometimes, but you still can’t look away)
Broken Wings (universal family struggle)
Barbarians At The Gate (son redeems father and vice-versa)
Carandiru (scared straight)

Green Day- American Idiot (historical record of our times)
Sloan- Action Pact (Canadians rock too, eh?)
Wire- Chairs Missing (post punk original)
The Muffs- Really Really Happy (they ain’t kiddin’!)
Descendents- Cool To Be You (punk rock for adults)

Little Children- Tom Perrotta (parents are people too)
The Odd Sea- Frederick Reiken (little boy lost)
Lullaby- Chuck Palahniuk (I don’t even want to know where his inspiration comes from)
The Color Midnight Made- Andrew Winer (enter Conrad’s world)
Vernon God Little- DBC Pierre (misanthropy & mendacity- over the top or right on target?)

Happy New Year- I wish you all the best in 2005.

2003 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year to you all! It’s that time again... Completely unsolicited, though painstakingly detailed, lovingly compiled and respectfully submitted, here are lists of the films, videos/DVD's, LPs'/CD's and books I enjoyed most in 2003:

Rabbit Proof Fence (evil done despite best intentions)
Thirteen (Nica will be holding at 12 forever, thanks)
The Man Without A Past (Finland Rocks!)
The Secret Lives of Dentists (no root canals, but still SCARY)
28 Days Later (finally some good eatin' in London)

The Believer (=teenage identity crisis x infinity)
Raising Victor Vargas (romance without the "comedy")
Blue Car (full contact poetry)
Intacto (lucky? if not, this may be why)
No Such Thing (millennium monster...literally)

Avenue Q Original Broadway Cast Recording (Sesame Street for 22 year olds)
Slobberbone- Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (an all-time American original)
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros- Streetcore (redemption/epitaph)
No Thanks! The 70's Punk Rebellion (yeah, well I've still forgotten more than you'll ever know, I think)
Rooney-s/t (powerful pop)

Atonement- Ian McEwen (family secrets and lies)
Wonder When You'll Miss Me- Amanda Davis (RIP way too soon)
Samaritan- Richard Price (society's microscope)
Boy Still Missing- John Searles (childhood trauma)
Plainclothes Naked- Jerry Stahl (such depravity!)

Feel free to respond with a list of your own. Here's to a great 2004!

2002 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year! It is time once again time for my completely unsolicited, though respectfully submitted, year-end Top 5 lists. While these movies, videos, LP's/CD's, and books may not all have been released in 2002, I didn't see/hear/read them until this past year because, well, I've been busy:

The Fast Runner (breathtaking 1000 year old Inuit legend, a DIY digital video triumph)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (true coming of age movie)
Mullholland Drive (Hollywood Rorschach test)
Secretary (the story of a VERY personal assistant)
Adaptation (fear and self loathing in today's Hollywood)

Hedwig &The Angry Inch (the best musical ever....period.)
Ladies & Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains (original riot grrls)
Save The Tiger (Jack Lemmon updates Willy Loman in 70's-era LA)
Series 7 (the ultimate "reality" tv long until this is actual reality?)
With A Friend Like Harry (see for yourself if the rest is: "who needs enemies?")

Joey Ramone- Don't Worry About Me (a much needed eulogy)
Hedwig &The Angry Inch Original Soundtrack (Mitchell's origin of love)
Ruth Ruth- The Little Death (the kids call this "emo," whatever that is)
The Briefs- Hit After Hit (scorching punk rock with attitude and hairstyles)
Wayne Kramer- Adult World (still growing, not just growing old)

Survivor- Chuck Palahniuk (death cult survivor becomes rock star prophet)
Spectacular Happiness- Peter D. Kramer (love and terrorism)
The Corrections- Jonathan Franzen (and you thought YOUR family was screwed up)
Two Girls Fat And Thin- Mary Gaitskill (dangers of adolescent Ayn Rand exposure)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay-Michael Chabon (comic book heroes)

If you have a list of your own, I'd love to see it.

One sad note, I was very sorry to hear the news of Joe Strummer's death on December 23rd at age 50. Strummer was co-leader of The Clash and the band's ideological center. His recent work with The Mescaleros stands alongside the best of The Clash in celebrating cultural diversity through ideas and music. Joe Strummer's intelligence and compassion had an enormous influence on me when I was growing up and continues to inform my beliefs and worldview. If you'd like more information about Joe Strummer, you can click on the link below.

Thanks and here's to a peaceful 2003.

2001 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year to you all! Since I've always had a hard time keeping my opinions to myself, I have, completely unsolicited, compiled another round of Top 5 lists. These movies, videos, LP's/CD's, and books may not all have been released in 2001, but that's when I got around to seeing/hearing/reading them:

Memento (whodunnit? damned if I know)
Sexy Beast (Ghandi kicks ASS!)
The House of Mirth (people are nicer now...well, aren't they?)
The Royal Tenenbaums (a Glass family for the new Millenium)
You Can Count On Me (does anyone ever really grow up?)

The Decalogue (never have I seen artistry and compassion more skillfully combined)
Waking The Dead (romance fueled paranoid fantasies or vice versa)
Tigerland (the savior's name is Roland T. Bozz)
Flight of The Innocent (such tenderness, such violence)
Abre Los Ojos (there really is no need to see Vanilla Sky)

The Strokes- Is This It? (unlike anything you've ever heard...since 1976)
The Donnas- Turn 21 (AC/DShe!)
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros- Global Au Go Go (the man continues to amaze)
The Dictators- DFFD (Who Will Save Rock & Roll...)
The Dickies- All This And Puppet Stew (BIG surprise, 20 years in and going strong)

American Tabloid- James Ellroy (seedy, sleazy, down and dirty Camelot)
White Teeth- Zadie Smith (rage against the melting pot)
Sarah- JT Le Roy (Protistute "Alice" in West Virginia truckstop "Wonderland")
A Confederacy of Dunces-John Kennedy Toole (Ignatius J. Reilly-a true original)
A&R- Bill Flanagan ("music industry" is an oxymoron)

Please feel free to e-mail back with a list of your own, just to me or to the whole group. I'm always looking for entries for next year's lists.

2000 Top 5 Lists

Happy New Year! Not that anyone asked, or probably cares, but here are my annual Top 5 lists. While I first saw/heard/read these last year, it doesn't mean they were released in 2000:

Croupier (coolest leading man since From Russia With Love)
Requiem For A Dream (...this is your brain on Aranofsky)
Chuck & Buck (nostalgia gone haywire)
Two Family House (the best Marty movie in years)
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Kurosawa meets Fuller)

Last Night (what will you be doing the night the world ends?)
Black Rain (Hiroshima from the bombed perspective)
Guinevere (Sarah Polley fixation- reaching epidemic proportions)
Metroland (suffocating in suburbia?)
The Celebration (family values)

Scientists- s/t (FINALLY reissued and well worth the wait)
Nash Kato- Debutante (guitar rock sans irony/turntables)
Green Day- Warning: (they keep getting better)
John Doe- Freedom Is... (we can all relate to this guy)
Lazy Cowgirls- Somewhere Down The Line (unrepetant, down and dirty rock & roll)

Snow Falling On Cedars- David Guterson (sociology lesson/whodunnit)
A Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens (Sydney Carton rocks)
Map of The World- Jane Hamilton (like getting kicked in the stomach)
Turn of The Century- Kurt Anderson (media saturation in 2000- the horror)
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers (my stomach can't take much more abuse)

Please feel free to e-mail back with a list of your own. I'm always on the lookout for great watching/listening/reading material.

1999 Top 5 Lists

As the new year is a time of reflection, I thought I would share with you my "Top 5's of 1999" list. Why? Because, as I have said before, I am an opinionated bastard. In addition, I am always looking for new things to watch/listen to/read. I welcome any feedback as well as a list of your favorites of 1999.

While not all of the following were released last year, that's when I got around to them, so here are my Top 5's of 1999, in no particular order:

Run Lola Run
Being John Malkovich
(tie) Bowfinger/Election

Still Crazy
Love & Death on Long Island
Four Days in September

Buzzcocks- Modern
Lazy Cowgirls- Rank Outsider
Sloan- Between The Bridges
Donnas- Get Skintight
Johnny Black Trio- Basic Black

A Widow For One Year- John Irving
The Things They Carried- Tim O'Brien
The Golden Gizmo- Jim Thompson
Freedomland- Richard Price
About A Boy- Nick Hornby

Happy New Year. Thank you for your time.