Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Best of 2007

Here we are again, concocting complex justifications for abusing eggnog (wink), waiting for the fat scary guy to kick in the door and bring us our heart's material desires, and then face the one night a year where those with kids struggle to stay up to greet the new year.

We look back fondly, sometimes jaundicedly (no, that's not a real word), of things we've done and seen.

Here's some of the stuff that I've enjoyed and a couple things I didn't.

- Anything by Laura Miller on Salon.com.
Ms. Miller is so erudite and insightful that I now read anything she pens (or pecks, as the case may be), even if I could care less about the topic itself. Usually, I do care about the topic, which is just frosting. The cherry on top is her writing is refreshingly clear. I wish I had a brain as exquisite as hers.

- Roger Ebert
Since he's recovered enough to begin working again, Ebert is a man renewed. You can just feel the energy and joie de vivre in everything he writes. His reviews have become a little too generous, with a lot of movies getting four stars, so scale them back about 1/2 a star, and they'll be more consistent with his earlier work. Also, they've put up an archive of all of his shows, so you can watch Siskel and Ebert (or "Replacement" and Ebert) to your heart's content.

- Rolling Stone Magazine
Even though I dissed on it recently, I've had a complete turnabout on Rolling Stone. I look forward to the next edition like I used to for Entertainment Weekly (which has edged further into People magazine land by devoting a page to Hollywood fashions, etc., it has the egregious "anything gay is cool" slant, the cover stories are blatant adverts for the latest trash, and I originally subscribed for the book reviews, which aren't that good, especially since there's Laura Miller around (see above)) and Playboy (which lost its editorial edge about the time Hef became single again, the nudes are absurd, and my eldest discovered where I hid them, so no more copies in the house!). I got the subscription primarily because my daughter was selling them for some fundraising thing, and it was the cheapest, and I knew I'd at least open it up on occasion. But then, I took this test that points you at the movie reviewers you are most in line with, and besides Roger Ebert, it gave me Peter Travers, and I'll be damned if it wasn't correct. Hell, I read Rolling Stone cover to cover anymore.

- "My Patch" by Jim Noir (from the CD Tower of Love)
If you've seen any Christmas ad for Target, you've heard this. It's the song that has the way-too-catchy "bonka bonka bonka bonka" descending guitar riff. My whole family walks around singing "bonka x 4" for hours after it plays. In a jolt of synchronicity, Stumbleupon brought up the MP3 search engine Beemp3.com at the same moment I was researching what the song was. For the hell of it, I searched for it (most mp3 search thingys suck), and it pulled it right up. I use it all the time now. And I've ordered the album.

- "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie
This year's guilty favorite. I have no excuses.

- "Radio Nowhere" by Bruce Springsteen (from the CD Magic)
Bruce has ditched his Arlo Guthrie stuff and gotten back to power pop with "Radio Nowhere". The lyrics alone give away how fun the song is: "I just wanna hear some rhythm / I want a thousand guitars / I want pounding drums / I want a million different voices / Speaking in tongues". How cool is that?

- Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Foo Fighters
Arguably their second-best CD ever, after There Is Nothing Left to Lose. I may be wrong, but this one's about Kurt Cobain. Even the song order and the themes follow the career arc of Nirvana. The first song evokes "Stairway to Heaven," plus there's a finger-picking acoustic number, just like "The Battle Of Evermore" from Led Zeppelin IV, so it's also somewhat of a tribute to that famous rock warhorse.

- "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne
Ok, I have two guilty favorites this year. Feel the love.

- Alright, Still by Lily Allen
Neo-Reggae and a sexy potty mouth make a great album, I must say.

- 5th Gear by Brad Paisley
Awesome guitar chops blended with a keen sense of humor. I was bummed when I heard the prettiest actress in the whole world, Kimberly Williams, got hitched, but this guy's so cool, I've learned to be OK with it. "Ticks" is a highlight.

- Dwight Sings Buck by Dwight Yoakam
Well, Dwight has always sung buck, really, but that doesn't diminish this gem. I am continually blown away by Dwight's arrangement of a song. He's probably one of the best living examples of that rare skill. (This is the first album I bought entirely as an MP3 album, btw.)

- And the Eagles kicked out a new album, which is OK, but it's no Hotel California; in fact, it's really their worst album, sorry to say.

- As long as we're on the topic of music, I have to rave again about the Amazon MP3 store, with no DRM (copy protection) on the songs. I'm lovin' this instant gratification thing. Walmart has given the music giants the ultimatum that they must provide their MP3 with no DRM to Walmart as well, so the labels that are holding out will no doubt cave within the (next) year. What Walmart wants, Walmart gets.

The venerable Rolling Stone had an article called "Biz Bets on Subscriptions" in the 12/13/2007 Issue 1041, p17-18 (here's the only ref I could find on line), where Rick Rubin and some of the CEOs of the music giants think the next big thing is "Subscription Services" where for a monthly fee, you can listen to every single song the label owns. However, it's streamed to your computer. Sorry, boys, have you noticed those things everyone has their headphones attached to? Please catch the next clue train. It's the one with the big "Walmart" placard on the side.


- Movies have been kind of dismal this year. TV is the place to be. So rather than try to scrape together false enthusiasm for a couple titles, I'll just list the whole kit and caboodle, and go from there.

First, here's what I've seen thus far (and remember, I have a fambly "assisting" me in my choices):

Epic Movie
Norbit
Breach
Music and Lyrics
Ghost Rider
Wild Hogs
Zodiac
I Think I Love My Wife
Blades of Glory
Meet the Robinsons
Grindhouse ("Plant Terror" and "Death Proof")
Spider-Man 3
Shrek the Third
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Knocked Up
Ocean's Thirteen
Surf's Up
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Evan Almighty
Live Free or Die Hard
Ratatouille
Transformers
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Cashback (original short)
The Simpsons Movie
Wild Hogs


Of those, only Live Free or Die Hard stands out as a movie I honestly enjoyed. The premise is preposterous: Hackers use govt. computer systems and networks to shut down, well, everything. I had to laugh out loud when it became clear this was the hook, because I work in government, and I can tell you there is no such interconnectedness in existence. Not even remotely. But, get past that, and you got yourself a fun popcorn movie with Bruce, the apple commercial guy, and a cameo by Kevin Smith.

These I have yet to see:

Shoot 'Em Up
Balls of Fury
The Nanny Diaries
Superbad
The Bourne Ultimatum
Interview
Sicko
Mr. Brooks
Bug
The Ex
Waitress
Next
Black Snake Moan
Across the Universe
Into the Wild
The Heartbreak Kid
Gone Baby Gone
Martian Child
No Country For Old Men
I Am Legend
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


I expect to like the ones in bold. Stay tuned, as they say.


- The best (non-blog/printed media) reads were anything by David Foster Wallace. Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays was my fave for the year. And his intro to The Best American Essays 2007 was a joy as well. He just makes me giggle. Oh, and of the essays, the highlights are "A Carnivore's Credo", "Dragon Slayers", "Loaded", "What the Dog Saw", and "Onward, Christian Liberals"

Oddly enough, I don't have any fiction that was released this year to rave about. Too bad.


- The best TV shows are "Chuck" and "Pushing Daisies".
-- "Chuck" is essentially The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes meets Spy Kids, with a liberal dash of teenage horndog. Entertaining as hell, and has some great little moments like when the female agent assigned to protect Chuck, played by total hottie Yvonne Strahovski, goes into swat-fu mode on some bad guys at her cover job at the local Wienerschnitzel, shown here:



While she's in this pose, about 20 teenage boys run in and snap shots of her on their cells. Total fanboy moment. And to prove they know their audience, the creators even have her in the Princess Lea slave bikini for the Halloween episode. For more of Ms. Strahovski, check out the fan site here.

Via a modern trend I approve of, you can watch whole episodes of "Chuck" here.

-- "Pushing Daisies" is one of the more unique things to ever hit the tube. "The Piemaker" (we are never told his name correction: I think it's Ned) has the ability to revive dead things with a touch, but he must touch them again within a minute, or something nearby then drops dead. He teams up with a local private eye to solve crimes. That description doesn't even begin to do the show justice, though, so go watch an episode or two.

One of my old faves, "Desperate Housewives" jumped the shark when they gave one of the main characters cancer. This is a soap about fucking around and gossip, playing the chemo card is just wrong.


- The Best Quote of the year belongs to that Democrat-hater Ted Nugent. I grudgingly admire the Nuge.

A French journalist asked, "What do you think the last thought is in the head of a deer before you shoot it? Is it, "Are you my friend?" or maybe "Are you the one who killed my brother?"

Nugent replied, "They aren't capable of that kind of thinking. All they care about is, 'What am I going to eat next? Who am I going to screw next? and, Can I run fast enough to get away?' They are very much like the French in that."

(Source)

And this one's been around for a while probably, but I'd not seen it until someone put it up on our humor BB at work:

Failure is not an option ... it comes bundled with the software.



Finally, here's the best cartoon of the year, especially for cube dwellers like myself:

(Click for larger version.)


If you need to keep going, here are Stephen King's best of movies (sort of) and tunes. M. Blowhard also has something for you.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You didn't like Grindhouse? Dude, Death Proof was the best thing I've seen in a long time. Almost (but not quite) as good as Pulp Fiction. Planet Terror was also good, though not on par with QT's half.

I love the conceit of casting actual Hollywood stunt doubles as, you know, Hollywood stunt doubles. I love the scene in the diner, seemed like four minutes or so without a single edit, while the characters talked about whatever, and the villain is visible in the background listening in, while the girls chatter away unaware, and the camera just smoothly circles the table. Teh kewl. I love the cars. I love the sheriff from Kill Bill having a cameo (the guy who always starts with "Son Number One, I believe -"). And, as Ebert said, QT is the best writer of dialogue currently working in Hollywood. I tend to fall in love with his characters. (OK, they're hot. But still.) What's not to like?


Joel

Whisky Prajer said...

So much to respond to while I (slurp) quaff pints of (glub) eggnog (beeeelch!) -- but I'll stick with Roger Ebert. I, too, am happy to see him up and writing again, although my own tendency is to dial down his enthusiasm by a star-and-a-half. Post-op Siskel had a similar change of heart. I recall his final "movie of the year" being Babe: Pig In The City. I couldn't disagree with him more, but on the other hand, nothing made me love the man like that choice at that time.

Yahmdallah said...

Joel,

I did. But it wasn't unalloyed joy. And, unlike most, I liked "Planet Terror" more than I liked "Death Proof" - though I always enjoy Mr. T's dialogue. I've always thought a script by Tarantino and Kevin Smith would just be amazing.

Whisky, agreed.