Here’s a list of things – books, music, movies, etc. – not necessarily released in ’08, that I held great affection for over the last year.
It is in no particular order, category, genre or subdivision. And I’m not saying these are better, worse or the ‘Best Of” anything. And, no, I didn’t put DARK KNIGHT on my list. If you don’t like it, I don’t care. This is my house. Whose house? My House! Whose house?
Gentlemen Of The Road by Michael Chabon – Many of you may already know of my abiding love for all things Chabon. WONDER BOYS and KAVALIER & KLAY are among my all-time favorite modern novels. GENTLEMEN is the most joyful little novella I’ve read in eons. Chabon was obviously having fun writing this light-adventure and I had just as much fun reading it in a single sitting.
Cormac McCarthy – I had given a cursory glance to McCarthy’s ‘Border series’ in my University years but, being young, drunk and fairly pretentious, I didn’t give them much of a chance. I was newly intrigued by McCarthy with the film version of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (also on the list), and picked up a copy of THE ROAD after reading a blurb somewhere. Not only is that book the most heart-wrenchingly emotional and terrifying thing the father of a young son could read, it was utterly breathtaking in its description of the ruinous beauty of a post-apocalypse. Now I find myself chapped-ass deep in BLOOD MERIDIAN, one of the most brutal books I’ve ever read and one of the greatest westerns NOT written by Elmore Leonard… and just like McCarthy’s other books, the brutality and animalistic glory of the storytelling are so lovingly wrapped in magnificent prose that I have no choice but to despair that I will never be that good…
Love Come Around – Jack Harlan – Ahhhh yes. Jack Harlan. Canadian Folk dynamo, Dylan meets Wainwright by way of Pete Seeger as grumbled by The Boss circa NEBRASKA. While Jack Harlan wears all of those influences, and more, on his sleeves, homage never degrades into imitation. Soul-searching songs of salvation, workin’ man’s laments and good, ol’ fashioned love ballads flow together to create a dark velvet sea of emotion that is not only good for what ails ye, but endlessly listenable.
Check it out at http://www.jackharlan.com/music.htm
Dracula Puppet Musical from the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall – While the rest of the film was quite funny, it was – ironically enough – forgettable. That is, outside of the greatest piece of musical puppet theatre ever put to film. I couldn’t find the actual footage of the puppets from the film, but I’m going to throw up this clip of Jason Segel singing “Dracula’s Lament”. Just watch and imagine… “his head on my mantle will let this world know how much I love you.”
There Will Be Blood – Let’s face it, Paul Thomas Anderson IS the greatest filmmaker of the new generation. He’s Orson fucking Welles without the studio harassment. TWBB is a 180 degree thematic turn from anything he’s done before, while still retaining that off-kilter PTA feel. Daniel Day-Lewis makes Daniel Plainview the scariest on-screen slow-burn meltdown since Jack became a dull boy in Kubrick’s THE SHINING. I was riveted to my seat for the entire near-3-hour running time, despite there being very little action. The performances, the cinematography, the music – all of it was so chilling and breathlessly silent, you would have sworn it was the greatest ghost story ever made, but without a ghost in sight.
No Country For Old Men – The second most-spooktacular film of the year. Like TWBB, NO COUNTRY was eerily still, and perfectly captured the wide open quietude of West Texas. Tommy Lee Jones reclaimed some of the steel-jawed glory of years past, Josh Brolin proved he has always been a movie-star in-the-making, and Javier Bardem was finally brought to the attention of American audiences in a big, big way. His turn as the pathologically ‘just’ killer, Anton Chigurh, was arguably the most disturbing character to appear in American film since Anthony Hopkins yearned for fava beans and a nice chianti. The Coen brothers nailed this one, and it lands, along with THE BIG LEBOWSKI, O BROTHER and FARGO, on the list of their best to date.
Pineapple Express – Much like HOT FUZZ turned the buddy cop movie on it’s head without lampooning it, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS takes on the pothead flick AND the buddy flick and turns it into something gloriously hilarious, unexpectedly sweet and unrepentantly un-PC. In a year full of raunchy, uncouth and frequently tasteless comedy, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS was the perfection of the genre. While it still featured plenty of untoward material, none was gratuitous and all of it was hilarious. Also, while much of the love for skewering Hollywood cliché was heaped on TROPIC THUNDER, I thought PE was much more concise and far less obvious about its satirical elements. Seth Rogen does a mild stretch from his comfort zone, but Danny McBride, the always flawless Gary Cole and the unlikely pair of Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson steal much of the sly humor. James Franco, long wasted in pretty-boy background parts and cameos in other peoples comedies, finally gets to really show his comedic chops for the first time since FREAKS AND GEEKS. As Saul Silver, the hapless, pot-addled dealer with aspirations to City Planning and Bubbey issues, Franco creates the most iconic pot-smoking idiot-savant since Jeff Spicoli. This was one of the only flicks from last year that, as soon as it was over, I wanted to pop the disc back in and watch it again – especially the opening bit with Bill Hader, who is fast becoming my favorite comic actor and SNL regular.
Flight of the Conchords – Right. Band Meeting. Role Call. Murray? Present. Brett? Brett?
I caught a couple of episodes of this surreal comedy on HBO in the states in the summer of 2007, but the DVD release didn’t make it’s way up north until this year. In fact, it has JUST started showing on our Comedy Network in the last month or so. Still, I am a fully avowed Conchord addict. How can you not be with tunes like “Brett You’ve Got It Goin’ On”, “Bowie’s In Space”, “Business Time” and, of course, “Hip-Hopopotamus vs. The Rhymenoceros”? I’m not even ashamed to admit that, upon finding that none of the online links worked in Canada, I stooped to flat-out piracy to check out the recently released Season 2 premiere episode. The show returns to HBO in the states PDQ, but until then, check out the CD, the HBO comedy special, the live albums or the first season on DVD. The tale of two dunderheaded Kiwis lost in the Big Apple, lazily approaching a music career as New Zealand’s 4th most popular folk-rock duo export, with the assistance of various fiends and their clueless manager, Murray, is some of the best TV EVER.
Funny or Die – Whether you like their flicks or not, you have to admit that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s website is pretty goddamn funny. Featuring videos from every nook and cranny of the net, as well as shorts and special treats from Celeb fans ranging from John Mayer and Natalie Portman to comedians like Sarah Silverman, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis and The Dan Band, this is some funny, funny shit. One of my recent faves? The Smallest Cock in Porn: The Don Dolmes Story
Furr – Blitzen Trapper – This is, by far, the single greatest boy-leaves-home, boy-becomes-werewolf, boy-meets-girl, boy-becomes-man-who-used-to-be-werewolf tunes in all of recorded history. I fucking love this tune. Folksy, rocksy, bluesy. Kick-ass and unshakeable.\”Furr\” by Blitzen Trapper
And finally, the best movie trailer of the year…