Herewith, stuff I geeked out on this year. Feel free to weigh in with your own in comments. In fact, I hope you do!
Musical boyfriends and girlfriends
A pair of hotly-anticipated albums disappointed me this year.
The Killers’ new one sounds like instead of channeling Bruce’s Born to Run angst through their androgynous new wave filter, as they did to such stunning effect on their first two albums, they decided to do their own take on all of his boring mid-tempo songs (Bobby Jean, et al, for those of you in the know). This was not, artistically, a sound idea.
Mumford & Sons knew better than to mess with success but unfortunately, that meant all of their songs were banjo hoedowns in which Marcus Mumford bellowed “heaaaarrrrrrrrt” really loudly every other line.
On the other hand, Jack White lived up to his billing and then some. Blunderbus lived up to my expectations — Sixteen Saltines and I’m Shakin’ are sweet, spectacular blasts of pure shimmering brilliance. He’s like if Willy Wonka and The Cure had a baby and raised it on a diet of Led Zeppelin, only without all of Robert Plant’s Lord of the Rings fanfic lyrics. Plus, his entire backing band consists of badass women, and lordy do I have a soft spot for a man who isn’t threatened by female badassery:
I appear to be one of the few who hasn’t turned on Lana Del Rey, but I maintain that underneath all that weird public persona and plastic surgery drama, her album is a gorgeously lush, uneasy, queasy, occasionally gory musical slice of life straight out of a David Lynch movie. In fact, I’m pretty sure she stole a bunch of imagery right out of that crazy Wizard of Oz/brains-flying-around thing he made in the early 1990s for this video… Ah! Wild at Heart. (Warning for vehicular shenanigans and death):
But I was especially thrilled to discover First Aid Kit, a pair of Swedish sisters in their early 20s:
Really, it’s a rediscovery. I first encountered them 4 or 5 years ago when they were a minor youtube sensation as teens for their cover of a Fleet Foxes song. They wear their influences on their sleeves — they’re still finding their own voices, but such voices.
I objected to fun. initially on the basis of twee punctuation and capitalization, but damn if this song doesn’t sound like the opening number to a musical I’d love to go see — and you all know, I hope, by now, how I feel about musicals (not good, is how. I hate musicals, and I hate opera. There are very few exceptions, but if this became a real thing, it would be one of them.):
Eliza and I fell in love with this song by them as well (skip to 1:03 to avoid all the arty video preamble malarkey):
I tried to guess what Eliza’s favorite songs were and I got almost all of them right. Here is her list:
ET (Katy Perry)**
Istanbul (They Might Be Giants)
Payphone (Maroon5. Dammit)
Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye feat. Kimbra)
Runners up, based on the number of times she has played them:
Anything by Pitbull
I have been making an informal study of hiphop and rap lyrics and I have concluded that Obama (with or without Michelle) is the most-mentioned president. As a historical figure, he probably surpasses even Benjamin Franklin at this point, and he’s not even on any money yet.
Also: I cannot tell all the artists who are T-something apart except for that nice young man, Timberland, who helpfully says “freakyfreaky!” in every single one of his songs.
* I’m conflicted about Maroon5. The whiff of douche is soooooo strong on Adam Levine, but he’s also very supportive of his gay brother and gay rights, which really goes a long way toward negating the douchebaggery. And the songs are insanely catchy.
** This Katy Perry song is also why I can never quit Kanye West. Anyone who would subvert a sexy! aliens! trope by rapping “First Imma disrobe you, then Imma probe you” will always have a place in my heart. Plus, he was right about Taylor Swift.
The year in film, or, I saw two movies because there were supposed to be naked dudes in them and they turned out to be the best things I saw all year for reasons that had very little to do with the nudity
Shame, or as I called it in an email to my sister: SHAME FLAIL OMGOMG
It’s been months since I saw it and I can’t get it out of my head. I didn’t think it was sexy at all, I thought it was tremendously disturbing and affecting and one of the most emotionally immediate movies I’ve ever seen.
Around the time I saw Shame, I also watched Crazy Stupid Love, and I cannot help but think of those two as flip sides of a coin. Ryan Gosling and Fassbender’s characters are two men who are very much on the same path, except Ryan’s is just that little bit less jaded and ruined and has a few more people around him who are still fully human.
I finally rented Magic Mike last week. Much as I loved Soderbergh’s Haywire, with its not-at-all subtle Black-Widow sex/violence metaphors (and the casting of Ewan McGregor and Fassbender in the same movie kaBOOM brain exploded gray matter EVERYWHERE), the more subtle and better movie was Magic Mike. I’m serious! The stripping is actually kind of gross and mostly reminded me of our old neighbor’s dog, Barkley, who would hump anything and everything. But if you view the movie as a companion to his The Girlfriend Experience, which is about a high-class call girl and her boyfriend, the films have a lot to say about the way we sell ourselves (and that maybe we sell what we sell because it’s less painful than selling our souls).
The third Batman movie was not as good as the middle one because the middle one had such a spectacular take on why societies build myths for themselves. This one was good and I happen to love Ms Hathaway unreservedly, but it was more of a “we’re getting the band back together” with a Bourne Ultimatum chaser with some on-the-nose commentary about the Patriot Act than a true myth-builder the way the first two were.
I liked Hunger Games but it needed to be MUCH gorier in order to have the impact of the book. See Battle Royale if you want the real thing.
My verdict on The Avengers: MOAR Hawkeye. Or, to be precise: More Hawkeye’s ARMS.
OMG. I just googled “hawkeye arms” and found that there are actually whole websites devoted to Jeremy Renner in short-sleeve or sleeveless shirts. Also, that happened 10 minutes ago because then of course I had to look at ALL OF THEM.
Gone Girl — Wow did I need to take a shower after than one. It takes a long time to get going, but I am SUCH a sucker for unreliable narrators, and this book has two of them. More I will not say except that I was reading it while I worked out and nearly fell off the elliptical trainer when I got to the big reveal, then texted incoherently at the friend who had recommended it to me.
Broken Harbor — I read this at my mom’s house and then I couldn’t sleep because I heard things skittering all around me. What is so brilliant about Tana French’s books is the way she shows you how the shrapnel from these mysteries her detectives investigate rips through their lives. You’re constantly getting blindsided when you read her because the emotional whallop is coming, you know that, but it rarely comes where and when you expect it.
Bitterblue — The final book in the Graceling trilogy, aka the book I’ve been waiting for 2 damn years now! I love this one because while the first two did a fantastic job establishing a fantastical society from the perspective of two super-human women who are very different but very remarkable, this last tells the story of someone completely ungifted, who nevertheless must make her way as the ruler of one of the kingdoms. The author is unconventional views on what makes a romantic happy end, and some really interesting things to say about how a society recovers from an atrocity in which many were complicit, voluntarily or not. The whole series is even with the Hunger Games trilogy and may even be as good as The Hero and the Crown. If such a thing were possible, which of course it isn’t.
Shadow and Bone — A young adult fantasy book set in steampunk Russia. With a tragic figure who is a villain or maybe a misguided hero or I don’t even know but I cannot believe I let myself get sucked into yet another trilogy that I will now spend three years waiting to read the rest of. Graaaaahhhhh.
Warm Bodies — Existential Angst Among the Formerly Human or Interview With a Zombie. But with more funny and less creepy pedo-necro-philia.
Yesterday, I took Eliza to New York to go to Annie. It was something I had to do for work but I wasn’t about to go see that show without a kid to filter the experience through and that is how my 7-year-old daughter has now seen 2 Broadway show in less than 4 months. It was really fun and the production is topnotch. We still liked Lion King best, though.
Televisually I am always a year or two behind because we watch everything on Netflix, but I am off Mad Men, on to American Horror Story. (The last episode of the first season, SPOILER: wherein the ghosts put on a show? I laughed like a hyena.)
Portlandia reminded me of Hipsterville, and so is a win.
I will love Liz Lemon forever, and I love that the show makes you ship her with Jack even as you root for him with Avery. Take a note, sitcoms who think sexual tension should be resolved!