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By now everyone has had enough of “best of” lists, both for the year and the decade (whether or not you consider the decade to have ended). This means it is the perfect time to add my insignificant choices to the noise.
In comparison to last year, I didn’t find the same quantity of music to like this year. But this year was about quality.
There are four stand-out favourites:
Metric - Fantasies : Highlights were “Help I’m Alive”, “Gimme Sympathy” and “Sick Muse”.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It’s Blitz : Highlights were “Zero”, “Hysteric” and “Heads Will Roll”.
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix : Highlights were “Liztomania” and “1901” (my favourite song of the year).
Decoder Ring - They Blind the Stars and the Wild Team : I was overjoyed when I heard about a new album after a four year wait. No vocalist this time (Lenka’s solo album was a pick for last year).
And my other choices:
This wasn’t the best year for movies, or at least I didn’t see many that blew me away. Speaking of being blown away…
The Hurt Locker lives up to the hype. It’s gut-wrenching, thrilling and captivating. The less said about the plot the better - it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible, not because there are any twists or surprises (well… there is one), but because it deserves to be experienced fresh.
I found it interesting to consider how it approached its anti-war theme. It starts with the message that war is a drug, but it certainly doesn’t show it as a happy place, more the detrimental effect it has on the soldiers involved (in this aspect, it’s somewhat similar to Generation Kill). I read that it was made without any assistance from the US military. By comparison, the worst movie I saw all year, Transformers 2, had the full support of the US Army, Air Force and Navy, and the US taxpayer probably contributed more in that movie than the entire budget of The Hurt Locker. That’s fairly depressing.
I loved Avatar completely. I didn’t care if the plot was obvious, if the script was basic, or if the environmental and anti-war message was cliched and lacking in subtlety - what’s so bad about that anyway? As James Cameron said, you aren’t going to get people to change their mind, but maybe by adding to the culture you increase the volume of the message.
As many other people have commented, the movie made me feel like a child again. It was exciting and wonderful. I really wanted to be on Pandora and to be a Na’vi. Those are the types of emotions I want from movies and it almost never happens. Isn’t it fantastic to have a big budget movie deliver in this way?
Other favourite movies:
Friday Night Lights and LOST continued to be my unmissable shows in 2009. FNL is seeing some important characters move on (Matt Saracen’s final few episodes were heartbreaking as always) and LOST is ramping up to its final season (the Daniel Faraday episode was especially amazing this year).
It seems that I’ve overcome my addiction to Gossip Girl, because as soon as the gang graduated from high school I pretty much lost interest in their shenanigans. The good news is that this made room in my packed TV schedule for some new shows.
And those new shows are mostly comedies. I think we’re in a golden age of TV comedy at the moment. While nothing yet manages to reach the standard of Arrested Development, there were seven new comedies this year that I highly recommend:
Despite being over-hyped and over-promoted, Glee lived up to my expectations. I’m a sucker for teenage shows set in high school, but it is the music that takes this to the next level. I’ve loved every one of the cover songs they’ve done, and listened to the soundtrack albums endlessly (hmmm… maybe they should have been listed in my music section). Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is great, Rachel is amazing and I have a boy-crush on Puck and his mohawk. My highlight: when “New Directions” sing their version of Van Halen’s “Jump” (mp4 version)
Skins has been around for a few years but I only found it recently. Somehow it manages to be realistic, funny, touching, depressing and artistic all at once. It supposedly has a comparatively young writing staff and famously replaced its entire cast after the second season when the characters graduated from high school. Also, great soundtrack!
I wonder what parents of young teenagers think when they first see Skins and realise what might be in store for them. I imagine it is mostly horror. Skins is pretty graphic - the show depicts drug use, sex, death, swearing, homosexuality, anorexia and suicide. There is an underlying theme of parents being completely disconnected from the issues their children are facing. One humorous story involved a 14 year-old girl auditioning for a female pop group called Sexxbombs, singing a song “Ass 2 Ass” with her single father cheering on from the audience.
It’s almost unbelievable to think that a comedy show could make a seventh season its best, but Curb Your Enthusiasm managed it in 2009. The overall story of the season was Larry producing a Seinfeld reunion show, and while it was brilliant to see the Seinfeld cast back together, there were plenty of other incredible moments. Some of my favourites:
If this was the last season of Curb, it went out with a huge bang, and also managed to create a brilliant Seinfeld finale.
Work was fun. My fitness improved a lot. I got an awesome new washing machine (a Miele! highly recommended). I didn’t read enough books. As usual, I didn’t spend enough time with friends, nor did I keep in touch with them. I made a map of cool things/places in the Bay Area. I’m looking forward to 2010. Until then, stay sweet.