Monday, February 15, 2010

Media Review 2009.

I thought my exile to Uganda would leave me movie-less during my time there, but I didn't count on the various friendly neighborhood bootleg DVD shops set up along Main Street in Jinja that sell DVDs for just under $2 each. These guys actually got pretty decent copies of just about everything that released in the States, though usually with "Property of [Studio Name]. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited" at the bottom of the screen popping up every thirty minutes. But I worked around it and saw more movies this year than I would have back in the US. Thus, my list was very difficult to compile, because I had a lot to work from. Anyway, here it is:

5) Inglourious Basterds [Loved the audacity of it, and loved Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa. Well-written screenplay that goes places you don't expect--I'll always appreciate that.]
4) The Hurt Locker [I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before I saw it, other than the fact that a bunch of critics liked it. Pretty much blew my mind.]
3) Up [Sentimental and screwball at the same time. Is there anything Pixar can't do?]
2) The Informant! [I thought this was going to be one thing and then it turned out to be something completely different. Soderbergh's most genius stroke (in a movie full of them)? Hiring Marvin Hamlisch to do the score.]
1) Fantastic Mr. Fox [I became convinced this was the top movie of 2009 after I watched it a second time. Only then did its brilliance settle into place for me. It's a cracking good script, for starters, and visually inventive while remaining distinctly human. Well done, Wes.]

In the Loop [Hands-down the funniest movie of the year. Actually of the last several years. Incredibly well-written and acted, especially by Peter Capaldi, who is able to contort profanity into shapes never before imagined. Be warned, though: it's very, very profane in the language department.]
Moon [Thought-provoking science fiction that asks more questions than it answers. That's my catnip.]
Goodbye Solo [Probably the most emotional time I had during a movie this year. It's a small, character-driven drama that focuses mainly on the odd bond between an African cab driver and a sorta redneck old man. Very affecting.]
A Serious Man [The Coen brothers personal spin on the story of Job, with maybe a little King David thrown in there. Pretty much beyond description.]
Five Minutes of Heaven [An actors' picture, this may have been a stageplay converted into a movie. Don't know. Anyway, it's Liam Neeson, who you know, and James Nesbitt, who you probably don't, and it's very Irish and intense, and very, very watchable.]

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
(500) Days of Summer
Where the Wild Things Are

An Education
The Road
Bright Star
The White Ribbon

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
Crazy Heart
The Blind Side

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

The Rise of Cobra
Revenge of the Fallen

Artistically sound directors of my generation tackling children's movies in a thought-provoking and creative way (i.e. Pete Docter's Up, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are and even Henry Selick's Coraline). What's next? Michel Gondry's The Little Prince and Quentin Tarantino's Pat the Bunny?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen [My thoughts on this movie were fully documented on my decade list.]

5) Surrounded by Lights, Jesse Sprinkle [Remember the '90s Christian band Poor Old Lu? This is the drummer, writing music that you would find at the intersection of Elliott Smith and Vigilantes of Love. Seriously good art-pop.]
4) Wilco (The Album), Wilco [The best Wilco record since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. "You And I," with guest vocalist Leslie Feist is a real treasure and makes me wish she would come out with a new record already.]
3) Sex, Drugs & Self-Control, John Reuben [John Reuben consistently restores my faith in hip-hop as a valid art form.]
2) No Line on the Horizon, U2 [I was on the fence about this one when I first heard it--it felt like another minor U2 album, like Pop or Zooropa. But the more I listened to it, the more it became a part of my psyche. I'm not ready to stand it alongside The Joshua Tree or All That You Can't Leave Behind, but it's definitely up there for me in the overall U2 pantheon of legendary records.]
1) Kingdom of Rust, Doves [Typical Doves--brilliant from start to finish. Flawless.]

Embryonic, The Flaming Lips
The Good Album, All Star United
The Open Door EP, Death Cab for Cutie
Zero Balance, Isaac Witty

No idea.

Due to limited availability over there in Uganda, I read hardly any books from this year. So, with that in mind, I've bookended my list with two classics, while the middle three books I got from the library within the first month of being back in the US.

5) To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee [I bought this from a missionary garage sale after they were done using it to homeschool their kids. I hadn't read it since high school, and I was intrigued as to whether I would even like it. Well, it's even better--definitely an American classic, and with good reason. And if I was Harper Lee, I wouldn't have written another book either.]
4) Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon [Chabon takes a break from alternate-history novels and completely awesome-sounding screenplay writing (he's currently adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars for Andrew Stanton!) to collect a series of essays about the different roles of being a dude (husband, father, son). It's kind of hit-or-miss, but when he hits, he knocks it out of the park.]
3) Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, M.T. Anderson [It would be best if you read the first two books in this meta-hilarious series (Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen), but even if you didn't, you might enjoy this delicious spoof of all those crappy series books that have been cranked out for kids since Tom Swift. You will marvel at this depiction of Delaware as a third-world country full of savage natives, ancient ruins, and tropical jungles. Brilliant.]
2) Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: A Natural History of English, John McWhorter [McWhorter is a linguist who writes with an attitude, and this informative yet compulsively readable volume presents much of his humor on display as he takes you from the beginnings of Olde Englyshe to the language we currently call our own. By turns fascinating and hilarious--and I learned a whole lot, too.]
1) C.S. Lewis: Signature Classics, C.S. Lewis [Totally cheating here, but whatever. This is seven classic books from Lewis compiled into one volume (the titles being: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, and A Grief Observed). This thing preserved my sanity while I was in Uganda, and I don't know if I could've made it there without my good friend Lewis with me.]

Set Apart: Devotions of God's Steadfast Pursuit of You, a bunch of people including myself
I AM Standing Up: True Confessions of a Total Freak of Nature, Luke Lang

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown [It was better than The Da Vinci Code, I'll give it that. But it was still, quite literally, stupid. And condescending. And that's difficult to do, to be both of those at the same time. Anyway, I'd like to say that I can't understand how something like this can be so successful, but, unfortunately, I understand it all too well (see my thoughts on American Idol from my decade review for further reading on this topic).]

I watched one show in 2009. That was LOST. The show would air on Wednesday nights here in the States, and iTunes would make it available overnight--usually about 12:30 Thursday afternoon my time. I would begin to download it on my 64 kbps connection (that cost $100/month and that never achieved the 64 kbps speed) and it would generally, barring any power or internet outages, be finished downloading between 22 and 24 hours later. So, the LOST episode everyone saw here on Wednesday night, I would watch as soon as possible, which was generally late Friday afternoon. Incidentally, the two-hour season finale took exactly two minutes shy of 48 hours to download.

Someone loaned me the first season of Flight of the Conchords on DVD during our Uganda stay. That stuff's pretty funny, but it wasn't around in 2009.


Anonymous said...

In the "Not Interested" column, you listed "Blind Side". Did you see it? I thought it was very well acted (really, Sandra Bullock did well!), and an uplifting story. Follows the book pretty closely, too.

Adam Palmer said...

I haven't seen it. That particular section of my review was for movies that other people have found to be good, but that just don't interest me. I tend to steer clear of heart-tugging biopics; they just don't do much for me.

Thanks for reading!

marshall baker said...

I agree with you on the Fantastic Mr Fox, I loved it. It was well written, fun and I loved the music (Burl Ives) I grew up listening to my older brothers Burl Ives records and it brought back great memories.

suburbangranola said...

Did you by chance see Extract? It was only out for like 3 seconds but I loved it.