Paper Street Oscars – 2013


Oscar Predictions and Preferences

BEST PICTURE: Argo (preference: Les Misérables)
BEST DIRECTOR:
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (preference: NOT Spielberg)
BEST ACTOR:
Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln (Lewis gave a flawless performance that was hurt only by how the above filmmaker depicted it so… Hugh Jackman)
BEST ACTRESS:
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook (preference: Jessica Chastain)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (preference: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables (preference: Amy Adams, The Master)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Django Unchained (preference: Flight though I’ll be thrilled if QT wins)  
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Argo (preference: Russell’s Silver Linings script will be robbed!)  
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Amour (preference: Amour)  
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Searching For Sugar Man (preference: Gatekeepers)   
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
Wreck it Ralph (preference: Paranorman)  
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Argo (preference: Skyfall)
BEST FILM EDITING:
Argo (not sure how or why Argo will win over Zero Dark Thirty)  
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Les Miserables (preference: Les Misérables!!!)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Les Miserables (preference: Les Misérables!!!)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
Skyfall (screw Adele, Hobbit’s “Hear of the Lonely Mountain” was snubbed)  
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Life of Pi (preference: Anna Karenina)   
BEST SOUND MIXING:
Les Misérables (Skyfall)
BEST SOUND EDITING:
Life of Pi  (preference: Skyfall or Django)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Life of Pi (preference: Prometheus)
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:
Les Miserables (preference: Les Misérables!!!)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT:
Curfew
BEST ANIMATED SHORT:
Paperman  
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
Open Heart


Paper Street Oscars: Personal Picks

BEST PICTURE: Dark Knight Rises
BEST DIRECTOR:
Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises  
BEST ACTOR:
Liam Neeson, The Grey
BEST ACTRESS:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Robo Fassbender, Prometheus  
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Samantha Barks (Éponine), Les Misérables
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
 David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Like Someone in Love Abbas Kiarostami
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Beasts of the Southern Wild. That’s a documentary, right?  
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
No feature animated movies were great this year so… Batman: Year One
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Dredd and Skyfall
BEST FILM EDITING:
Dark Knight Rises  
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
 Les Misérables
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Django Unchained (for Django’s blue suit)  
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
 “Song of the Lonely Mountain” by Neil Finn, The Hobbit
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Cloud Atlas
BEST SOUND MIXING:
Dredd  
BEST SOUND EDITING:
Prometheus
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Prometheus
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:
None. Dumb category.


Best Picture Nominees Ranked

  1. Les Misérables (A-)
  2. Zero Dark Thirty (A-)
  3. Silver Linings Playbook (B+)
  4. Django Unchained (B+)
  5. Life of Pi (B)
  6. Argo (B)
  7. Amour (B)
  8. Beasts of the Southern Wild (B-)
  9. Lincoln (C+)

Best of 2011–Top 60 Songs of the Year

The Best Song of the Year…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTcrX17joIE[/youtube]

2.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQsPex0OwMM[/youtube]

3.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKZHyVnsugg[/youtube]

4.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZYYRQjR40Q[/youtube]

5.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJQk0jDZx8o&ob=av2e[/youtube]

6.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVq2yMuAMVQ[/youtube]

7.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAihDAJX8Ow&ob=av3n[/youtube]

8.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zsnw6yxH2o[/youtube]

9.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK65y-A_QIA[/youtube]

10.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va0w5pxFkAM[/youtube]

Top 60 Songs of 2011
click on the song title to hear it

  1. The Birds by Elbow. Whenever I think back upon 2011 this song will always come up first.
  2. Nail In My Coffin – The Kills. Gets the blood boiling. This dirty rock howl stayed in my head all year long.
  3. Interstellar – Amplifier. Space prog at its best. A visionary song in which the only way to be truly free is to travel faster than light. Makes perfect sense to me. (note: the above three songs are pretty much tied for #1)
  4. Dystopia – YACHT. Leads the charge of great 80s inspired songs in 2011. Starts with “The Earth, the earth, the earth is on fire” and only goes up from there. Bonus hipster version of YACHT doing “Dystopia, Voodoo City and Shangra-La.”
  5. Still Life – The Horrors. A shining new wave-y song. Having scored my song of the year for “Sea Within a Sea” in 2009 The Horrors damn near do it again with “Still Life.” There’s no stopping them.
  6. Civilization – Justice. I listened to this underrated song at lest 50 times. Also, music video of the year!
  7. Curl Of The Burl – Mastodon.  One of the best metal song of all time.
  8. The Wolf – Fever Ray. Just like the Beck and Bat for Lashes song from last year featured on the Eclipse soundtrack, it’s best to forget the material this great song came from (Red Riding Hood sorry to say). Still, Fever Ray was robbed of an Oscar for best original song. You hear me Muppets!
  9. A Thousand Details – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. Best instrumental track of the year. It’s from Trent Reznor so, yeah, no surprise there. This intense song is from Girl with the Pearl Earing OST.
  10. The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey. “These, these, these are the words…”
  11. Lotus Flower – Radiohead. This was the lead single off the underrated King of Limbs for a good reason. Here’s Radiohead doing “Lotus Flower” live. Damn that’s good! 
  12. Index – Steven Wilson. I’m a sucker for strings.
  13. Strange News From Another Planet: Know Your honor / Rule by Being Just / The Ship Impossible / Strange Epiphany / Racing and Hunting – …Trail of Dead. Last year my #1 was a 25 minute Sufjan Stevens song. This year my favorite LOOOOOONG song of the year was only 16 minutes. What an experience though. I am officially offering an apology to this band for ranking their Tao of the Dead album so low. It really grew on me.
  14. Tiny Monsters – Puscifer.  NOT to be confused with “Little Monsters” starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel.
  15. My Machines (ft. Gary Numan)” – Battles. One of many great collaborations on this album. Hellllo Numan.
  16. Who’s In Control – British Sea Power. Please listen to this song. The band does not get enough love.
  17. Immigrant Song” – Trent Reznor, Karen O & Atticus Ross. Better than the original song by Led Zeppelin. Also one of those rare songs where Karen O isn’t annoying.
  18. How Deep Is Your Love? The Rapture. Very deep.
  19. Neat Little RowsElbow. Elbow scores a second track on the top 20. A great song about death.
  20. Glass Jar – Gang Gang Dance. Just wait till it hits minute 6. This is the best Thievery Corporation song Thievery Corporation never recorded.
  21. Revolving Doors Gorillaz. Last year Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach and the song “Stylo” dominated my song/album lists. The fact that Damon Albarn made another list worthy song (and on his iPad!) is pretty cool. I could go for a new Gorillaz song every year.
  22. Fall (M83 vs. Big Black Delta Remix) – Daft Punk + M83. The best M83 song of the year was on Daft Punk’s Tron remix album rather than M83s.
  23. Cruel – St. Vincent. Played with passion, quirkiness a great production and an even better voice. Hey Adele, THIS is how it’s done.
  24. Stay Away – Charli XCX. The best song of the year from a new band/artist.
  25. Amor Fati – Washed Out. The (second) best song of the year from a new band/artist.
  26. Midnight City – M83. And of course I’m wouldn’t dare forget the second best M83 song. I’m amazed (and a bit sad for some reason) at how mainstream this song has become.
  27. Need You Now – Cut Copy. I didn’t love Cut Copy’s new album but this track is the band’s best ever.
  28. Shark Ridden Waters – Gruff Rhys. A very laid back beach song from the last person you’d expect to make a laid back beach song.
  29. Man Overboard – Puscifer. Does what Puscifer and Maynerd does best: dark, clever and full of energy. I love how Maynard James Keenan was able to make an entire song out of nautical sayings.
  30. The Wave – Amplifier. This is only the second Amplifier song on the list. Most songs from the best album of the year, The Octopus, should be on this list but I wanted to save room for other bands.
  31. Repetition – TV On The Radio. Repetition” by TV On The Radio.
  32. Holdin On To Black Metal – My Morning Jacket. My Morning Jacket has never, ever, made a good album. What’s so strange, then, is how many good songs they are able to put on bad albums.
  33. “Get Away” – Yuck. Sigh, this song makes me nostalgic for the 90s. Also, if you like dogs and naked girls be sure to check out another great Yuck song called “Rubber.” This album should have been higher on my list.
  34. I Can See Through You The Horrors. Another masterful Horrors track.
  35. Let England Shake PJ Harvey. Honestly, most songs from this album could make this list.
  36. I Walked Alone YACHT. More YACHT?!
  37. The Daily Mail Radiohead. What’s this?! A non-showy song off the new Radiohead album. Impossible. /sarcasm, that’s exactly why this album is so good. Oh, and it’s a b-side too.
  38. On’n’on Justice. I could have just as easily went with the intro song and/or “Ohio.” But not the song “Audio Video, Disco” which I find annoying.
  39. Last Leaf Tom Waits. Tom Waits manages to make the image of the last leaf on a tree as winter approaches into a moving poetic experience.
  40. Shake It Out Florence and The Machine. Guilty pleasure pop song. Also 1000x better than anything Adele farted out of her mouth.
  41. White Gold Ladytron. Ladytron’s new album Gravity the Seducer was a huge letdown. Tracks like this salvaged it from being a total misfire.
  42. Shangri-la YACHT. The 3rd YACHT song on the list. This song sums up the theme of the album. It’s pretty cool.
  43. Nowhere To Run To – You Love Her Coz She’s Dead. I can chew on this until the next Crystal Castles song comes out (which is hopefully soon). I’m including this to fufil my obligatory 8bit Nintendocore requirement for the year.
  44. Miss You The Rapture. Pretty much the same song as “How Deep Is Your Love?” Meaning: it’s great!
  45. Abducted – Cults
  46. In The Dark Places – PJ Harvey. Why don’t I just put the whole PJ album on this list?
  47. Queen Of Hearts – Fucked Up. As a whole Fucked Up’s album is monotonousness and at times grating. But… if you just listen to this song you will come away very impressed. That’s what they call a mixed complement.
  48. Build Me Up, Break Me Down by Dream Theater. Epic prog in a year with no shortage of that.
  49. 212 Azealia Banks. I don’t know what the hell is going on here but I love it.
  50. House Of Balloons – Glass Table Girls The Weeknd. An epic R&B/post-dubstep song.
  51. Remainder The Black Dog – Steven Wilson. A classic (modern) prog song made by the king of new prog.
  52. With Love – Elbow 
  53. Space Is Only Noise If You Can See Nicolas Jaar. Equal parts annoying and breathtaking. I’m listing it here because it’s more of the later. Err, I think.
  54. Love in the Dark YACHT. Yup, more YACHT. “I love you like a small time cop, I want to smash you face in with a rock.” I don’t know why this album didn’t take off.
  55. Green Valley Puscifer. This song helped me get over a great loss.
  56. Options – “Whatever’s On Your Mind” by Gomez. Underrated as ever. Even I forgot to rank their new album 🙁
  57. “Lonely Boy – The Black Keys. An overrated album from a very good band. Great song though.
  58. Exile Vilify – The National. Not only is a new National song awesome but a new National song that appears in Portal 2 is awesome beyond all comprehension. Also, check out the fan made video attached to the song.
  59. Living Is So Easy” – British Sea Power.
  60. Parallel Timeline with Alternate Outcome – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
  61. “Want You Gone”  GLaDOS. I forgive you too GLaDOS.

The 20 Worst Songs of 2011

  1. Lady Gaga  – “The Edge of Glory” –Fuck. You.
  2. LMFAO  – Party Rock Anthem. OMG STFU LMFAO. Yeah but is this song worse than “Sexy & I Know It?” That will be a debate for the ages.
  3. Nicki Minaj  – “Super Bass” Minaj’s boobs are the least fake thing about her. She is a bad copy of a bad copy (Gaga). The song “Fly” is just as bad.
  4. Adele  – “Someone Like You” –It was a mildly inoffensive mainstream pop song the first time I heard it. It was wrist cuttingly bad the 100th time. The last time some sang the lyrics “Someone Like You” this shittastically bad was King’s of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”
  5. Willow Smith – 21st Century Girl
  6. Heart2Heart – “Facebook Official,”  I didn’t even know this song/band existed until I googled “worst songs of 2011.” I’m sorry I did.
  7. EMA– “California” Ponderous!
  8. Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song. Inspirational pop from a coke head loser (with millions of dollars). Ooh look, he’s dancing with monkeys ahaha.
  9. Lady Gaga – “Judas” Really, every Gaga song from Born this way would make the top ten.
  10. Bob Iver – “Holocene
  11. Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)
  12. James Blake – Wilhelms Scream
  13. Destroyer – “Kaputt
  14. Lady Gaga –  “Born this Way”
  15. Lady Gaga – “Americano”
  16. Lady Gaga – “Marry the Night”
  17. Lady Gaga – “You and I”
  18. Lady Gaga – “Hair”
  19. Lady Gaga – “Scheiße”
  20. Lady Gaga – “Heavy Metal Lover”

Other

Best Video Game Song: Turret Wife Serenade.” Portal 2. Perhaps the best video game score ever.
Best Original Movie Song: “The Wolf” by Fever Ray.
Best Music Video: Justice/Civilization. Also “Shark Ridden Waters” by Gruff Rhys (Gruff with a beard getting fucked with by a hot chick). And
Best Instrumental: A Thousand Details by Trent Reznor
Best Bad Song:Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5.
Most Appearances on this year’s top 60: Yacht (4), PJ Harvey (3)

Oscar Predictions

Final Oscar Predictions Zzzzzzzz

  • Picture: The Artist (should: Midnight In Paris)
  • Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist (should: Terrence Malick)
  • Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist (should: Oldman and Clooney)
  • Actress: Meryl Street, Iron Lady (Viola has better odds? Should: Rooney Mara)
  • S. Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners (Should: Plummer!)
  • S. Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help (should: McCarthy)
  • Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris (should Midnight)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Payne, The Descendants (Should: Descendants)
  • Documentary: Pina (Should Pena) Winner: Undefeated (what?!)
  • Animated: Rango (Should: Rango)
  • Cinematography: Kaminski, War Horse (Should: Tree of Life) Winner: Hugo
  • Editing: The Artist (Should: Dragon Tattoo) Winner: Tattoo (cool!)
  • Music: The Artist (Should: Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy)
  • Song: Man or Muppet (Should: Muppet)
  • Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Should: Potter) Winner: Iron Lady
  • Art Direction: Hugo (Should: Hugo)
  • Costumes: The Artist (Should: Hugo)
  • Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Should: Apes) Winner: Hugo
  • Sound Mixing: Hugo (Should: Hugo)
  • Sound Editing: Hugo (Should: Drive)
  • Foreign Language: A Separation (Should: Separation)
  • Live Action Short: Tuba Atlantic Winner The Shore
  • Animated Short: Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  • Documentary Short: Tsunami

Results (winners in red… obviously): Woah, I didn’t bomb it. This is the first year I’ve gone 8 for 8 in the main category. I was a habitual 7/8er. Overall I got 17 out of 24.

This is the first year in recent memory where I have only a passing interest in the Oscars. Are Oscars to blame for picking the wrong movies or is it simply the paucity of good to great movies they had to chose from? As flawed as the voting process is I’m thinking its the later. My predictions this year are not really based on much beyond intuition because I haven’t cared enough to follow the precursors or OPPs (other peoples predictions). My final-FINAL predictions go up this Saturday and, yes, I fully expect to bomb this year so I might as well go out on a limb.

All nominees ranked by preference. 

Best Picture

  • “Midnight in Paris” (Grade: A)
  • “The Descendants” (Grade: A-)
  • “The Tree of Life” (Grade: A-)
  • “Hugo” (Grade: A-)
  • “Moneyball” (Grade: B)
  • “The Artist” (Grade: C+/B-)
  • “The Help” (Grade: C-)
  • “War Horse” (Grade: D+)
  • “Extremely Lame & Incredibly Bad” (Grade: D-/F)

What Will Win: The Artist will most likely win. I say that grudgingly. The Artist is a well crafted throwback to be sure (I’d rate it a C+/B-) and I appreciate that it does not flaunt its post-modernism. The retro gimmick works BUT… if this movie were made in the 20s nobody would care about it. Even as modern silent films go Guy Madden (Brand Upon the Brain) is a true master of pomo silent cinema while Michel Hazanavicius is more of a tourist. The film is not flawed so much as it’s not anything particularly special beyond being a fun little movie. It’s got “momentum” (I hate that term) and will win based on that because people who vote for the Academy Awards (that is when they don’t just give it to their kids/spouses/friends to vote for them) seem to care more about picking the film that is most arbitrarily popular at this exact moment rather than one that will endure or one they liked because that would require insight and some sort of critical evaluation. If you look at the state of the movie industry today you will see that that those traits are absent and have been for a while. This sheep mentality to voting for the trendy films is how titles like Slumdog Millionaire or A Beautiful Mind win and are promptly relegated to being forgotten. Like that film, The Artist will not be remembered years from now because, well, there’s not much to grab on to here. The story of an actor being rendered obsolete has been done before, and better (All About Eve, Singing in the Rain, etc.), and the style is of course entirely cribbed. The other candidate, though a long shot, is The Desdendants and that is a much better and more rounded experience. A real movie in other words. But who am I kidding those rarely win the top prize.

What Should Win: One upside to this year’s nominees is that more than half of them are actually good. The other half don’t belong here. Midnight in Paris, Descendants, Hugo and Tree of Life are four within a very small handful of films I would dare to call good in 2011.  If I could only vote for one title it would be Woody Allen’s Midnight. I would add that Moneyball would have been included in that “good” list if not for the few gag inducing scenes involving Pitt’s character’s singing daughter who, in a moment of startling pandering and out-of-place-ness, auditions for the audience as if she’s trying out for America’s Got Talent. Look, if I wanted to hear little kids singing I would go to… nowhere actually.

What Should Have Been Nominated: Too many to count. I love that the Academy managed to nominated only 9 films. I’m all for fewer films being included in the best picture category (five was perfect except for the fact that the Academy never managed to nominate the right films) but the fact is that a year hasn’t gone by where a larger pool was even remotely necessary–even if it was the Academy would probably screw it up by throwing in a couple Middle American dung nuggets a la The Blind Side. Deplorable 2011 titles like War Horse, The Help and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (the worst best picture nominee since Crash) somehow made the “elite” cut of prestigious Best Picture nominees which is an honor that is lessened with each passing year due to overcrowdedness and poor selections. What really sticks in my craw is that rather than go for a full 10 by selecting a thoughtful dark horse like, say, A Separation, or something brilliant like Drive or something unique like The Skin I Live In the voters would rater nominate nothing. Maddening. Wake me up when this is all over.

Directing

  • “The Tree of Life” Terrence Malick
  • “Hugo” Martin Scorsese
  • “Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen
  • “The Descendants” Alexander Payne
  • “The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius

Will: “The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius is the “best” “director” of the year. And by best I mean he placed a stationary camera in front of a shallow film with one dimensional characters. Genus! Blah. Hazanavicius winning the DGA pretty much ends any speculation. Will he have a prosperous directing career after this breakout film? My guess is that he’ll get a few high profile films that will bomb then go back to making bad French spy comedies. Au revoir!

Should:  Malick. No contest. He will lose to a something that could have been directed by a freshman film student and no I’m not talking about the time he lost to Spielberg. Awesome!

Robbed: The directors of Drive (Riffin), Hanna (Wright), The Skin I Live In (Almodóvar) and Melencholia (Trier) all really have legitimate beef here. As much as I like The Descendents I don’t think Payne has ever been a good enough director to warrent a Best Director nom let alone two (a great writer, sure) and the Artist was directed on autopilot so those two shouldn’t be here. But on the miserable years when Steven Daldry makes bad films and gets them nominated for no apparent reason (The Hours?! Billy Elliot?! The Reader!!!!!!?????) I’m just grateful he missed out for the first time with his feel-good (and by feel good I mean brain-dead) 9-11 sob fest.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
  • George Clooney in “The Descendants”
  • Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”
  • Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”
  • Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”

Will: Jean Dujardin in “The Artist.” I find it amusing that all the actors in The Artist were upstaged by a dog. The good news is that after this year we will never have to try to remember or pronounce his name again. To his credit he was one of the few actors in the film that actually looked like he belonged in a silent film except the filmmakers had to ruin that by giving him a speaking line at the end where this American character’s really thick non-American accent defied all logic and reason and took me out of the picture. Clooney has the best shot at upsetting but he doesn’t have “momentum” for some reason.

Should: Gary Oldman is the best actor nominated. No surprise considering he might be the best actor living. I’m thrilled that he received his first trip to the Oscars after being slighted far too many times in the past (Dracula, Sid and Nancy, The Contender, The Professional, Dark Knight etc.). That being said I was also floored by both Clooney and Pitt’s respective performances. Less so with Dujardin and Belcher (haha).

Robbed: Lots. How about Steve Coogan (The Trip), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Antonio Banderis (The Skin I Live In) and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris giving his best performance since Minus Man. Dujardin and Bichir took the spots of some worthy actors. I would also like to add that for the second year in a row Ewan McGregor turned in Oscar caliber performances with Beginners this year and Ghost Writer last that was overlooked by literally everyone in the moviegoing community. Boo. Obi-Wan gets no respect.

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
  • Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”
  • Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”
  • Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”
  • Viola Davis in “The Help”

Will: Despite not winning the SAG I’m still going with Streep. I love me some Streep but it would be sad to see her win for a lesser film. I guess that could have also applied to the awful Julia and Julia. She should have won for Doubt. Still, I will be clapping for Streep when she gets her third Oscar. She is one of the few living actors for whom I would say three career Oscars is not enough.

Should: Rooney Mara acts the shit out of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” She gave the best performance of the bunch. It’s not even close in fact. I was a huge doubter that Mara would be good in Dragon Tattoo. I don’t feel bad about being wrong because the quality and intensity in performance quite literally came out of nowhere. She turned in embarrassing performances in Social Network and Nightmara on Elm Street (haha see what I did there!).

Robbed: No Elena Anaya (The Skin I Live In) means that this category is incomplete. Same goes for Kira Knightley. After Pride and Predjuice, Atonement, Never Let Me Go and A Dangerous Method I have no idea where her new found talent came from–acting lessons?

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
  • Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
  • Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
  • Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
  • Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Will: Cancer + gay = Oscar. That’s just science. What’s great about Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”? Everything. This is one of the few categories in the entire 2012 Oscar list where the frontrunner deserves (according to me) to win. To call this a make-up Oscar would not do justice to just how amazing this performance is. Yes, the great Plummer is due to win an Oscar (where were they when he was in The Insider or, hell, Sound of Music almost 40 years ago) but a win here will have nothing to do with history and everything to do with quality. Again, lets give McGregor a little bit of credit again for helping to elevating Plummer’s performance.

Should: Honestly I would love to see Branagh win an Oscar. Long overdue. Nolte would also be fun to see get a win despite the fact that he overacted up a storm in Warrior (his Captain Ahab audio book tantrum was flat out painful to watch!) but, come on, it’s Nick Nolte we’re talking about! But this categorize basically has only one true standout and it’s Plummer. He will win, he should win; the Oscars will get only one acting category right.

Robbed: Two names are glaringly absent. Both should have been here but was screwed over by the usually overrated Max von Sydow’s unexpected and undeserving nomination. And, though I hate to say it, Jonah Hill was adequate at best in Moneyball. The first snub is Albert Brooks who was so good in Drive. I was hoping this small but memorable SAG nominated performance would be nominated like when William Hurt got singled out for his brilliantly odd performance in A History of Violence. Well he got screwed (“You don’t like me, you really don’t like me” he Tweeted). Speaking of getting screwed: BEN KINGSLEY. He was so good in Hugo that I’m amazed everyone wasn’t talking about him this year. I sure was. It’s safe to say people in general (a) take him granted and/or (b) have not forgiven him for being in too many bad movies year after year. Those two contradict each other. Moving on…

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
  • Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
  • Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
  • Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
  • Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Will: Octavia Spencer in “The Help” Ugh. Cool name aside, I still haven’t forgiven Octavia for being in Air Force One (for Oldman, however, I was willing to look the other way). Her Help co-star Chastain should have been nominated for Take Shelter instead. Does Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist” have a shot at this too? I hope not. She was not convincing as a silent movie character at all. Too modern. And too hot. Oddly enough Amanda Seyfried looked like a better silent movie actress in the very bad movie In Time. Only problem was that she had to talk in that movie and we all know what happens when Amanda has to read dialogue… we get, well, In Time and Red Riding Hood. Which is why she might not have sucked so bad in dialogue free The Artist.

Should: Boring category. Really, I don’t care who wins here. You could walk out on Hollywood Blvd and find a more capable street performer. Not one nominee generates any real feeling one way or another. McCarthy, though ever so slightly overrated in Bridesmaids (sorry but John Hamm actually stole the movie from all those ladies save for Wiig’s roomates), was funny at least half the time. Being that eliciting laughter qualifies as an emotion I would have to vote for her.  Congratulations. Little known fact (for obviously reasons): I first became a fan of McCarthy when she had a very small part in the great movie Go and I’m glad.

Robbed: Cary Mulligan not only gave a better performance in Drive than all of the above nominees but this is her first best film performance ever. Second only to her role in the classic Doctor Who (TV) episode “Blink.”

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “The Descendants” Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
  • “Hugo” Screenplay by John Logan
  • “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan
  • “Moneyball” Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
  • “The Ides of March” Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon

Will: The Descendants seems like a sure thing. Oscar #2 for Payne! I’m glad it won the WGA. I’m also glad The Help wasn’t nominated here. The fact that it wasn’t in this category of all things leads me to believe, or at least hope, that it might not win many this year.

Should: Go Payne! Really though it’s a triple tossup for me between Descendants, Tailor and Hugo. I’ll give the edge to Descendants just because it would be cool to see the dean from Community make his way up to the podium and declare his love for Jeff Winger while wearing an unbelievably gay, er, I mean FABULOUS! outfit.

Robbed: Ahem, Drive.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “Midnight in Paris” Written by Woody Allen
  • “A Separation” Written by Asghar Farhadi
  • “Margin Call” Written by J.C. Chandor
  • “Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
  • “The Artist” Written by Michel Hazanavicius

Will: The Artist was nominated for screenplay. Screenplay! What? How? WHAT?! Noooo! I will slap a bitch who says The Artist should an award for its screenplay. Yes, I know there’s more to a movie’s script than just dialogue but, come on, best SCREENPLAY for pantomiming in a story that was not original to begin with?! This reminds me of the time Joss Whedon got nominated for the wordless (and most overrated of all time–I said it!) Buffy episode “Hush.” Thankfully, I don’t think it will win the Oscar for writing this year. My hunch is that Globe and WGA winner Allen will get his third writing Oscar…

Should: …and that’s great. Woody Allen wrote the best film of this bunch. Midnight is a wonderful/funny/thoughtful fantasy story and a win for Allen would be a great tribute to a filmmaker and storyteller that continues to release great films. Really, I can’t say enough good things about that magical film or Woody for that matter.

Robbed: Beginners and Certified Copy are two that come to mind. And of course The Skin I Live In. And Take Shelter. And Win Win. Lots of good stories missed out in the picture and writing category. To be fair I haven’t seen Margin Call yet. It looks great and I’m glad that smaller titles like that and A Separation got some attention in this category because it sure as hell wasn’t going to happen in the uber safe and boring Best Picture category.

Animated Feature Film

  • “Rango” Gore Verbinski
  • “A Cat in Paris” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
  • “Chico & Rita” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
  • “Kung Fu Panda 2” Jennifer Yuh Nelson
  • “Puss in Boots” Chris Miller

Will: Rango. The best animated film of the year (by faaaaaaaaaaaaaar) and that rarest of things: a Johnny Depp movie that is not total crap. This is a strange category this year. Half the films nobody has heard of, one film is unmitigated crap (Panda) and the other looks like unmitigated crap (Puss). Rango is the only logical choice. If it doesn’t win I will shit myself with anger.

Should: Rango. The film is smart, beautiful, visually masterful and funny. If you ever wondered what a Coen Brother animated film might looks like this is as close as we’re probably going to get to seeing one. I’m a huge, unapologetic Gore Verbinski fan. He’s an auteur no matter what anyone says. Yes, even on Mouse Hunt and The Mexican. Even when he makes really bad movies like Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and 2. I’m very glad he will (probably?) get an Oscar. If so he will join Hayo Miyazaki and George Miller as cool directors who have earned an Oscar in this relatively new category. I just fear the day when Tim Burton wins for crapping out some animated monstrosity.

Robbed: I haven’t seen Tintin and while I’m sure I’ll hate it (it’s Spielberg after all) I’m shocked and for some reason a bit sad it wasn’t nominated. I’d be willing to bet my new Mini Cooper that Tintin is the better 2011 Spielberg movie because War Horse sure as hell isn’t cutting it.

Documentary (Feature)

  • “Pina” Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
  • “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
  • “Undefeated” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas
  • “Hell and Back Again” Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner

Will: Pina. I will be happy to see Wenders finally get an Oscar. He was sooooo close when he made Buena Vista Social Club; I still don’t know how he lost that one.

Should: Pina is a very good film. I would hesuitate to call it a full fledged documentary however since it’s more of a film that presents dance performances. If tha tmakes it a documentary than so was Black Swan.

Robbed: This year’s documentary nominees remind me of the 80s and 90s where obscure films that nobody will ever see get nominated while good docs miss out. Sorry, I’m just bitter Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams wasn’t nominated. Note: my dislike of the documentary genre continues, thus bringing me one step closer to fulfilling my sad and empty quest to escape form reality entirely. I make one or two exceptions per year and Herzog is always one of them (though I couldn’t bring myself to watch his other doc–something about death row that looks thoroughly depressing even for Herzog).

Foreign Language Film

  • “A Separation” Iran
  • “Bullhead” Belgium
  • “Footnote” Israel
  • “In Darkness” Poland
  • “Monsieur Lazhar” Canada

Will: A Separation.

Should: Dogtooth! Oh, that was last year. Obviously A Separation and not just because it’s the only foreign film on this list that I saw. Iran should stick to making movies because that’s the only thing they not spectacular at fucking up.

Robbed: THE SKIN I LIVE IN. Yes, I’m busting out all caps for that. How did this brilliant thriller not make the cut? It’s the best foreign film of the year. Screw this!

Cinematography

  • “The Tree of Life” Emmanuel Lubezki
  • “Hugo” Robert Richardson
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Jeff Cronenweth
  • “War Horse” Janusz Kaminski
  • “The Artist” Guillaume Schiffman

Will: The Artist is black and white and looks like Greg Tolan (Citizen Kane) shot it. Usually that means a film is a lock to win in this category even though, in The Artist’s case, the camera doesn’t move! Never mind. Tree of Life and War Horse might also win. The later is a bad movie, yes, but a great looking bad movie. Kaminski is perhaps the best living cinematographer. He’s too talented to be stuck working with Spielberg on every one of his films but, whatever, he’s going to win and that’s fine with me. Really, though, this category seems relatively open to upsets. Seeing as how Inception randomly won last year (the only award that film SHOULD have won at that) I’m hoping for another surprise.

Should: Tree of Life. Beautiful, elegant and truly original. The film’s cinematography helped make it all those things. Malick might have help the movie bit to I suppose 🙂

Robbed: Do I even need to say it… okay then, it starts with a “d” and ends with a “rive.”

Art Direction

  • “Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • “War Horse” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
  • “Midnight in Paris” Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
  • “The Artist” Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould

Will: Hugo seems like a lock. Sadly, this category might be its only win. This film contains Scorsese’s second best use of sets. The other is Gangs of New York (bad film in my opinion but a great looking bad film at least) which I still shudder to recall lost to Chicago.

Should: Tough call between Hugo and Potter. As much as I adored seeing the ruined and smouldering Hogwarts finally come to life I have to give the edge here to Hugo because of how creative its design is. Such a memorable film.

Robbed: Hanna.

Editing

  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • “Hugo” Thelma Schoonmaker
  • “Moneyball” Christopher Tellefsen
  • “The Descendants” Kevin Tent
  • “The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius

Will: I have no idea. The Artist I guess but only because I’m guessing people are just going to give it as many Oscars as possible. Editing in The Artist is very by-the-numbers, no?

Should: Tattoo and Hugo. Both have a shot thankfully. Great editing. I’m disqualifying Schoonmaker only because she’s won like a million editing awards.

Robbed: Drive (again). Also Contagion. And how could this category not contain Tree of Life. It’s absence does not compute. Hanna is another worthy snubbee. Also, The Trip did an amazing job of condensing the series into a wonderful movie and should have been nominated.

Visual Effects

  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
  • “Hugo” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier
  • “Real Steel” Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg

Will: Potter or Apes. Take your Pick. Apes it is.

Should: I loved the final Potter and it’s effects. I love Hugo and it’s effects. I love Apes and its effects. All superlative in different ways. If I had to pick I would go with Apes because the special effects are brilliantly used to help tell this film’s emotional story. If the award was for best 3D movie then Hugo would win, it’s the best 3D movie ever made.

Robbed: Tree of Life really should have been recognized here. It’s that rare arthouse films where visual effects are used to make a film more artful. That last happened, when, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? For that reason alone it should be celebrated. Now I’m going to contradict myself and say that Green Lantern should also have been nominated. I’m 100% serious, the effects are perfectly suited for the type of film GL is. And, hey, where’s X-Men First Class? For Magneto’s death quarter scene alone it should be nominated. That all of these films were not nominated while Real Steel was makes me very angry.

Music (Original Score)

  • “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Alberto Iglesias
  • “Hugo” Howard Shore
  • “The Artist” Ludovic Bource
  • “War Horse” John Williams
  • “The Adventures of Tintin” John Williams

Will: Artist. Whatever. I usually complain when John Williams (the most overrated composer of all time) gets nominated once. With two nominations I’m utterly speachless. At least he won’t win. The Artist seems like the safest bet. This is one and only category where the a win for Artist makes sense…

Should: …that being said it’s not the best nomianted score. I’m equally fond of Shore’s Hugo score and Iglesias’s Tinker tinkerings. If I had to pick just one it would be the later.

Robbed: Trent Reznor, Trent Reznor, Trent Reznor. Also: OMG, Alexander Desplat wasn’t nominated this year.

Music (Original Song)

  • “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
  • “Real in Rio” from “Rio” Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Will: Wow, what a pathetic category. Just two nominees. And random ones at that. This category never made much sense to me because the songs are usually not really part of the movie. In Muppets it was though so it gets points for that. Muppets will win because Muppets isn’t a horrible unwatchable annoying mess like Rio. Plus, it’s that rare original movie song that’s as silly as it is good.

Should:  Muppets. Obviousley.

Robbed: First of all I would like to personally thank the Academy for once again not nominating Madonna in this category. The best original movie song that I came across is Fever Ray’s aptly titled “The Wolf” from Red Riding Hood. It’s by far the only good thing about that awful mess of a movie. I love Fever Ray. I also love Trent Reznor’s “Immagrent Song” from Dragon Tattoo but, despite outdoing Zepplin, it’s not “original.”

Costume Design

  • “Hugo” Sandy Powell
  • “Anonymous” Lisy Christl
  • “Jane Eyre” Michael O’Connor
  • “The Artist” Mark Bridges
  • “W.E.” Arianne Phillips

Will: I have no idea. Hugo, Artist and Anoymous seem to have a shot.

Should: I refuse to give props to period movies. I’m so sick of seeing them win. Sure they look good but usually very little imagination goes into them whereas modern costumes are wholly original.  That being said the less period-y movie here is Hugo so that gets my imaginary vote.

Robbed: Drive. Seriously, that was a cool jacket. I want one!

The Whatever Categories…

Makeup

  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
  • “The Iron Lady” Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland
  • “Albert Nobbs” Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle

Will: Who cares.
Should: Not J Edgar. Oh, it wasn’t nominated. Good! Really, who cares.
Robbed: Nobody–it’s makeup. How about Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star?

Sound Editing

  • “Drive” Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce
  • “Hugo” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • “War Horse” Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Will: Hugo or War Horse. Hugo it is.
Should: Drive. Not because the sound editing is necessarly better than it’s fellow nominees but because, well, it’s Drive. How random is it that this is the film’s only nomination? The Academy managed to single out the one thing people didn’t talk about when the film was over. Well, that and the
Robbed: Tree of Life.

Sound Mixing

  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
  • “Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
  • “Moneyball” Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
  • “War Horse” Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Will: Again, I have no idea. Hugo?
Should: Dragon Tattoo for the sound of Mara’s beautiful ass being spanked.
Robbed: Tree of Life.

Short Film (Animated)

  • “Dimanche/Sunday” Patrick Doyon
  • “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
  • “La Luna” Enrico Casarosa
  • “A Morning Stroll” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
  • “Wild Life” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Will: I’ll get back to you on that.
Robbed: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Documentary (Short Subject)

  • “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
  • “God Is the Bigger Elvis” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
  • “Incident in New Baghdad”James Spione
  • “Saving Face” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
  • “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Will: Uh, yeah, dunno. Saving this pick for the last minute.
Robbed: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Short Film (Live Action)

  • “Pentecost” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
  • “Raju” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
  • “The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George
  • “Time Freak” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
  • “Tuba Atlantic” Hallvar Witzø

Will: Huh?
Robbed: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Best of 2010: The Rest of the Best

Top Ten Directors of 2010:


  1. Joon-ho Bong’s Mother
  2. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  3. Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer
  4. Mike Leigh’s Another Year
  5. Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void
  6. Olivier Assayas’ Carlos
  7. Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine
  8. Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg
  9. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valahalla Rising
  10. Maren Ade’s Everyone Else

Top Ten Stories (dialogue, story, characters etc.)

  1. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
  2. Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos)
  3. Mother (Bong Joon-ho)
  4. Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)
  5. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  6. Black Swan (Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin)
  7. Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski and Robert Harris)
  8. Carlos (Olivier Assayas and Dan Franck)
  9. Wild Grass (Alain Resnais and Laurent Herbiet)
  10. Buried (Chris Sparling)
Performances
  1. Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg in Greenberg (Stiller’s Punch Drunk Love)
  2. Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter
  3. Hye-ja Kim as Mother in Mother
  4. Lesley Manville as Mary in Another Year
  5. Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang in The Ghost Writer
  6. Colin Firth as The King in King’s Speech
  7. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
  8. Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi in I Am Love
  9. John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone
  10. Édgar Ramírez as Carlos the Jackel Carlos
  11. Mark Ruffalo as Paul in The Kids Are All Right
  12. Armie Hammer as Winklevossx2 in Social Network
  13. Ewan McGregor as The Ghost in The Ghost Writer
  14. George Clooney as Jack in The American
  15. Geoffery Rush as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech
  16. Chloe Mortz as Hit Girl (Kick Ass)
  17. James Franco as Aron Ralston in 127 Hours
  18. Mads Mikkelson as One Eye in Valhalla Rising
  19. Amy Adams as Charlene in The Fighter
  20. Gary Oldman as Carnegie in Book of Eli
  21. Melissa Leo as Alice Ward in The Fighter
  22. Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street 2
  23. Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy Buried (yes, Ryan Reynolds)
  24. Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris
  25. Olga Kurylenko as Etain in Centurion
  26. Alison Pill as Kim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

21 Great Lines:

  1. The thing about you kids is that you’re all kind of insensitive. I’m glad I grew up when I did because your parents were too perfect at parenting- all that baby Mozart and Dan Zanes songs; you’re just so sincere and interested in things! There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying. You’re all ADD and carpal tunnel. You wouldn’t know Agoraphobia if it bit you in the ass, and it makes you mean. You say things to someone like me who’s older and smarter with this light air… I’m freaked out by you kids. I hope I die before I end up meeting one of you in a job interview. Greenberg
  2. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!” King George in King’s Speech
  3. “Fuck this shit, I’m getting the bazooka!” Bad guy in Kick-Ass
  4. “Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch” Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) in True Grit
  5. “I feel pregnant.” Hot Tub Time Machine
  6. “Machete don’t text.” Machete
  7. “I’m weirdly ‘on’ tonight.” Greenberg (Ben Stiller) in Greenberg (great more due to the context and inflection in which it was said).
  8. “Okay you cunts… Let’s see what you can do now!” Hit Girl in Kick-Ass
  9. “We can do that ourselves. I’m 6’5″, 220, and there’s two of me.” One of the Winklevoss in Social Network
  10. “I have to go pee due to boredom.” Scott Pilgrim
  11. “He can’t drown two ghost writers, for god sake. You’re not kittens!” Ghost Writer
  12. “I need your advice like I need a cock in my ass!” Anette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
  13. “You’re a value.”
    Disgusted “I already know that. You didn’t have to say that.”  Greenberg.
  14. “And now we’re two people walking around with shit in a bag. I mean… I mean, what if we didn’t have dogs with us, and we were doing that? That would be disgusting. But, because we have dogs, it’s normal.” Please Give
  15. “If I’m King, where’s my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.” The future King George in King’s Speech
  16. “I partake not in the meat, nor the breast milk, nor the ovum, of any creature, with a face.” Evil Ex #3 in Scott Pilgrim
  17. “Hey guys I learned the bass line from Final Fantasy II. Check it out.”
    “You are the salt of the earth, Scott.”
    “Thanks.”
    “I meant scum of the earth.”
    “Thanks.” Scott Pilgrim.
  18. “Release the Cracken!” Zeus (Liam Neeson) in Clash of the Titans (the only time that movie and something good happened)
  19. “He punched the highlights out of her hair!” Young Neil in Scott Pilgrim
  20. Bread makes you fat?!” more Scott Pilgrim
  21. “Youth is wasted on the young.”
    “I’d go further. I’d go: ‘Life is wasted on people.” Greenberg
Memorable Moments (spoilers, obviousley):


  • The denouement of I Am Love. Rapturous wordless hyperbolic melodrama. Without any direct dialogue the ending floods the senses with images, actions and an overwhelming emotional sensation. There’s tragedy, violence, hatred, a broken family, a pregnancy revealed (a character passes her hand across her stomach) and of course hope. I love how the music swells as the pivotal scene unravels. The final moments of I Am Love move with equal parts grace and brevity. An ending is so powerful and so complete that one does not even need to have watched the movie to be moved by it or to understand what the story is about; though certainly watching is recommended as Love is one of the best movies of the year.
  • Mother dances at the beginning and end of Mother. She dances to forget. We, however, do not forget.
  • Just about every moment in Greenberg–here’s one: Greenberg gets Florence a double double from In n’ Out after she has an abortion. The first thing she sees when she wakes up is a juicy close-up of the burger. Another classic scene: Greenberg attempts to hang out with young adults is just about perfect. His description of them (see best line of the year above) is the most random and humorous (not to mention meanest) description of the youth of today I’ve ever heard. “There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying.”
  • The final close-up of Manville in Another Year. Crushing isolation in the midst of a joyful family moment. Mike Leigh is one of the best filmmakers around when it comes to knowing how to close a movie.
  • Not only is Josh Brolin’s “friend” not dead (as he thought when he stole his unpublished/unready by anybody else novel) but miraculously looks to be pulling out of his coma after all in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Feigning happiness (not very well), the tortured look of barley concealed despair on Brolin’s face is perhaps the best bit of acting he’s ever done. And he’s a good actor. This is one of the best Woody Allen moments/narrative punch-lines of all time.
  • Hit Girl’s introduction in Kick-Ass. See line above.
  • The King gives his big speech. Proving, among other things, that Beethoven rocks!
  • The swimming scene in Let Me In. A classic horror movie moment that, clearly, may never lose its impact. Michael Bay could re-make the remake and that scene would still probably be ranked here.
  • Samurai vs. Predator in Predators. Every since I was a child I dreamed of who would win in a fight, a Samurai or an alien. I know know. To only thing better would be to watch Joss Whedon’s dream match-up as heard in Angel, a cave man vs. an astronaut.
  • Almost any moment involving Christian Bale in The Fighter. My favorite has to be a musical moment with his mom in her car. Bale earned his Oscar many times over.
  • John Hawkes has a showdown with cop Garret Dillahunt in Winter’s Bone. More effective than the kind of showdowns where people actually shoot at each other. Only great scene in that overrated movie.
  • The Ghost finally unravels the mystery in Ghost Writer. Ewan McGregor busts the CIA… then gets busted back by an off screen car. Evil always wins. Is is logical that he outed everyone during his book’s opening ceremony. No, of course not, but the over-the-top setting makes for a more rewarding cinematic ending.
  • The trio in True Grit meet the BEAR MAN. One of the few moments in the film that feels like it’s from an actual Coen brother movie. “Do either of you need medical attention?” the Bear Man asks. Uhhhh, no thanks Bear Man. You’re awesome!
  • Hit Girl is shot by her father played by Nicholas Cage in a super-wide full shot. She is hit in her bullet proof vest and flies back like a rag doll. When she gets back up he says “One more shot than Ice Cream!” This is their idea fun. Roger Ebert cited this scene for why the film is immoral. I cite it as why it’s so special. Kick Ass.
  • Monsters have hot, steamy tentacle sex in Monsters. A great humanizing moment that brings tears to the actual humans watching.
  • Leo enters the lighthouse in Shutter Island and finds Ben Kingsley waiting for him. The moment of ultimate truth. Like the end of Dark Tower but 100% more insane. Literally. I guess that makes it more similar to “Memento.” Whatever. It’s a good moment either way.
  • The last supper in Of Gods and Men. As the men deal with their fates their fatalistic moments are captured in close-ups. Better than the actual last supper. You know, the one with that Jesus guy.
  • Milla shoots coins at zombies in Resident Evil 4. A great new way to dispatch zombies. I hate when people call this series uninspired. Tell that to the zombie with a quarter embedded in his brain.
  • Laughing at all the trendy L.A. art hipsters that unknowingly line up to see the world’s biggest modern art hoax in Exit Through the Gift Shop. People are very trendy when it comes to “the next big thing.” This doc exposes them.
  • The loooong opening of Enter the Void. The first quarter of the film consists of hanging out, making out (with your sister–eww) then lots of drugs, walking and… death. And the best part is that it’s now GHOST TIME, BITCHES! Now that you’re a ghost what are you going to do, dude? Go to the past to hang out with Jesus? Be a fly on the wall as they film Dark Knight Rises? Watch Blake Lively (not) take naked pictures of herself?…….. Seriously, you’re going to watch your sister strip, get knocked up, have an abortion and get preggers again where you will now be there during the moment of spooging? Ah, I see. Well, that wouldn’t have been my first choice.
  • Art and humanity achieve “perfection” at the end of of Black Swan.
  • The beginning of Monsters is actually… the end. Didn’t see that coming–actually, I did since it was the first thing I saw.
  • Another end-of-the-movie Shutter Island moment. Leo sitting on steps. The film’s final scene. This is a great moment. It comes at the end of the movie after Leo’s ultimate triumph over his situation (and mind). It is also a moment of utter defeat where, symbolically, the truth does not set character free but imprisones him as he regresses back into his fantasy world. His fate is sealed. Time for a cigarette with Mark Ruffalo (juxtaposed with the opening).
  • The final, one sided friending attempt in Social Network. The taping of the keyboard becomes an unlikely metaphor for a nerd’s ambiguous search human connection and, by extension, all of ours.
  • The blindsiding twist in Book of Eli. Didn’t see that coming.
  • Jeff Bridges gets off his lazy zen hippy ass in Tron: Legacy. Way more interesting than his boring son, the bland hero we’re saddled with for the whole movie. And as it turns out can still kick ass. Bridges becomes God crossed with Morpheus with a touch of the Dude abiding. Rad!
  • White guilt backfires in Please Give. Oliver Platt’s reaction to the line “I’m not homeless, I’m waiting in line” after after his wife (Catherine Keener) gives a black dude money is priceless.
  • Gordon Gecko hustles LaBeouf sorry ass out of like a billion dollars in Wall Street 2. After almost two hours of humble pie Gecko is back! A great moment in the vein of the one in Tron where an old-timer schools his annoying twit of a son (in law).
  • The incinerator sequence in Toy Story is improbably thrilling. Amazing looking. Very apocalyptic. And as good as any action movie.
  • The final shot in Pirahana echoes of Sam Jackson’s fishy undoing in Deep Blue Sea. Bring on Parahana 3DD, Aja!
  • Twin strippers do a pole dance in Somewhere as an Amerie’s “1 Thing” song plays. Stephen Dorff, in bed, looks bored then passes out. The film also put me to sleep.

Best… Random Stuff:

Music

  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s. The Social Network Soundtrack
  • John Adams, I Am Love
  • Hanz Zimmer, Inception
  • Alexandre Desplat, Ghost Writer
  • Clint Mansell, Black Swan
  • Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy
  • Nigel Godrich, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
  • Lee Byung-woo, Mother
  • Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy
  • Atticus Ross, Book of Eli

Cinematography

  • Wally Pfister, Inception
  • Bill Pope, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Kyung-Pyo Hong, Mother
  • Adam Kimmel, Never Let Me Go
  • Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
  • Martin Ruhe, The American

Editing

  • Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Sae-kyoung Moon, Mother
  • Lee Smith, Inception
  • Walter Fasano, I Am Love
  • Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier, Carlos

Most Underrated:

  1. Monsters
  2. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
  3. The American
  4. Buried
  5. Live Flesh
  • Most Surprisingly Good: How to Train Your Dragon
  • Funniest Scene: Greenberg attempts to hang out with young adults. Then does some coke. #mistake Runner up: Waiting for Crispin Glover’s hand to get cut off in Hot Tub Time Machine was way funnier than it should have been.
  • Best Sight Gag: A lonely male appendage is floating after an attack in Parahana 3D. Then… gulp.
  • Best Moment in Worst Movie: The line “Machete don’t text.”
  • Worst Moment in Best Movie: a
  • Movie Most Ruined by Hype: Social Network
  • Best Sequence: The unbroken 30 minute shot that opens Enter the Void. Also Mother spills water in Mother.
  • Best Action Set Piece: Hit-Girl infiltrates enemy headquarters. Cuteness ensues. And blood. And bazookas! And freakin jet packs with gatling guns! Kick Ass delivers in every way on its title. Runner Up #2: the twisty room shoot-out in Inception. Runner Up #3: the big action scene at the end of Toy Story 3.
  • Best Trend: Artistic films making money. Are we back in the 60s? Black Swan, The Fighter, True Grit, Social Network were all hits last winter. Tron and The Tourist were not. Keep it up Hollywood!
  • Worst Trend: 3D sucking, then sinking–Hey lets pay more for horrible image quality of something that hardly even looks 3D. It’s as if
  • Worst 3D Movie: Tron: Legacy. Airbender and Clash of the Titans were obviously much worse in every respect but Tron was not only a huge let down but possibly the film that killed the surge of 3D event movies.
  • Best Character Name: One Eye in Valhalla Rising. Runner Up: Bear Man in True Grit. Nothing beats a direct name.
  • Underrated Performance: Olga Kurylenko in Centurion. Speechless and angry, this performance from Kurylenko (who was last seen sucking in that horrible Bond movie) not only surprised me but stuck with me long after the film faded. Her menacing performance as a savage warrior stole the movie. She even gives One Eye from Valhalla Rising a run for his money. Though she could cut your head off without hesitation there’s something strangely sexy about this character. Runner Up: Gary Oldman as Carnegie in Book of Eli and Elias Koteas as The Polieceman in Let Me In.
  • Best Death (spoiler a-comin’…): Double kill! The Samurai and Predator deliver a double death blow (not the gay kind either). Also, the crazy microwave scene from Kick Ass and the opening to Monsters.
  • Best Bad-Ass: John Hawks in Winter’s Bone.
  • Second Best Bad-Ass: Hit Girl.
  • Best animal or performance: The King’s Corgis in The King’s Speech. Also, the chicken in Social Network, the unfortunate cat in Dogtooth, and the Sheep stuck in mud in Robin Hood.
  • Best Boobage: None. Nekkedness in movies has hit an all-time low. The 80s and 90s are long gone.
  • Movie So Weird that I’m Not Sure if I Loved it or Hated It: (tie) Super and Book of Eli. Both seemed destined for cult status.
  • Good Movie Ruined by a Bad Central Performance: Animal Kingdom
  • Bad Movie (Almost) Saved By A Performance: Jackie Chan in Karate Kid
  • Most Miscast: Ellen Page in Inception. Oddly enough she was much better in Super.
  • Best Inanimate Object: The book in Ghost Writer, the Jetpack in Kick-Ass, the never-dying camera James Franco uses in 127 Hours, Greenberg’s copy of Heretics of Dune (try spotting all of Dune’s cameos).
  • Great Movies I Watched But Saved for 2011 (their true US release date). Uncle and Certified Copy. Both guaranteed a spot on this year’s list.
  • Movies I Should Have Watched: Agora, Chloe, and of course White Material. Shame on me for being so lazy and not giving these promising titles a chance.
Best Theatrical Posters:

Worst Poster: Takers. Look at this poster! Bad photoshop job. Fire whoever made it. Runner Up: Black Swan. Not only spoils the movie but, when shot in close-up, looks really bad. So bad that it lessens the effect of when you see the full transformation int he movie. So bad that was being mocked by Jim Carey and Tyler Perry. I hate this poster for the same reason I hate the magazine Fangoria. Some monsters should just remain in the dark.

 

Full Best-of List Here:
I’m not happy with how I ranked some of these films but it’s too late to change. Some nagging concerns: that I may have ranked Kids Are All Right too low. That Blue Valentine should have been in my top ten but that would mean losing Carlos and I just can’t let that happen. That ranking Social Network so low was a knee jerk reaction to the insane amount of hype that film got. That Black Swan will either get better with a second viewing and move up on the list or be rediclous now that I’m more objective about it and fall off it. That Monsters ranked too low. Also, the internal debate as to what really is, or, I guesss was the #1 movie of the year ragges on–if I could have a five-way tie for the top spot I would.
  1. Mother
  2. Greenberg
  3. Scott Pilgrim
  4. Ghost Writer
  5. Another Year
  6. Kick Ass
  7. Enter the Void
  8. Dogtooth
  9. Shutter Island
  10. Carlos
  11. Blue Valentine
  12. Wild Grass
  13. Of Gods and Men
  14. Everyone Else
  15. The Fighter
  16. I Am Love
  17. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
  18. Monsters
  19. Never Let Me Go
  20. The King’s Speech
  21. Predators
  22. Valahalla Rising
  23. Please Give
  24. Exit Through the Gift Shop
  25. Black Swan
  26. Social Network
  27. Final Flesh
  28. True Grit
  29. The Kids Are All Right
  30. Let Me In

The Best Films of 2010

1. Mother
Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho has once again made a crime film that defies the genre it thrives in. It’s nothing short of a monumental achievement. I come away from this movie thinking about the curious sense of humor in the first half, indelible drama in the last and all the brilliant touches in between. When a young girl in a small town is found dead, lazy authorities (are there any other kind in Bong’s films?) pin the crime on Do-joon, the village idiot. Normally that would be the end of the matter but this idiot (don’t call him a “retard” or he’ll freak) happens to have a mother that will not quit until her son is free and back at home sleeping in the same bed with her.

Do-joon’s mother has no name beyond “mother” and possesses a fierce sense of loyalty that is equal only to her eccentricities. As Oedipal movie Moms go she manages to outdo Eleanor Shaw from “Manchurian Candidate.” Her warm and motherly advice to her imprisoned son: “Even if you did do it you have to deny it.” “Mother” is about a woman’s journey to uncover the truth and simultaneous unwillingness to face the truth or for that matter deal with her own actions past and present. She is haunted but tirelessly marches forward with the drive of a hunting shark. Mama wants her son back and that’s all there is too it. Except it’s not all. There’s so much going on beneath the surface. The film, aided by such a unique character and performance by Hye-ja Kim, is not on a moral crusade and never goes soft on us. In fact as I continued to watch this quasi-thriller/quasi-drama/quasi-comedy unfold I realized, with a wicked sense of amusement, that this cuddly old mother figure is more fierce than any cop or killer in town.

Not one scene in this movie ends without something inspired or unexpected happening. Its uniqueness is a marvel. “Mother” also has an uncanny eye for detail, pacing and beautiful shot compositions (see picture above) and easily ranks as the best directed released of 2010. I was on the fence as to what movie to select as my #1 (basically it’s a four-way tie this year) but that gave it the edge… as it should. Oh but the writing (also by Bong) is also flawless! Fantastic story twists and aesthetic quirks give this film so much personality that don’t even know where to begin when attempting to describing what it does. I’ve watched “Mother” three times and catch something new every time–the way viscous blood settles on the floor, the movement of tiny figures across huge landscapes, Edward Yang-level shots that capture character actions through windows and doorways, mother’s shadow as it is cast over mourners, artfully captured candid close-ups that are held for an unnaturally long time, spilled water cascading towards a finger and threatening to give away mother’s position as she sneaks around a sleeping man’s house (one of many great Hitchcock touches), mother dancing at the beginning and end of the film (the film’s defining scene) and of course a “Rashomon”-effect that kicks in when we find out who killed the young girl. The’ll even be shots that depict a dead serious situations (like a key moment with mother on a bus) that are hard to focus exclusively on because something crazy will be going on in the same shot. Moments like those (and countless more) are enveloped by a story that is masterfully straightforward and elegant. Strange how a film this idiosyncratic can also have so much classic film sense.

How did “Mother” not make more #1s? Why wasn’t it screened in-competition at Cannes? Why didn’t the Academy see its brilliance after South Korea submitted it as its official entry? Why didn’t Hye-ja Kim win more acting awards? Most of all, why isn’t Bong  Joon-ho every movie a worldwide event? There is only a handful of “new”  filmmakers from the last ten or so years that I would consider truly worthy of note. In no particular order they would be Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Syndromes and a Century”), Chan-wook Park (“Vengeance” trilogy, “Thirst”), Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Hanna”), Edgar Wright (see the #3 film below), Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko,” ‘Southland Tales”) and for kicks I would also throw Zach Snyder into the mix (the fact that we know his name, can spot his style and have an opinion on why or why not we should consider him “important” only proves his cultural relevancy). At the very top of my list however would be South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho and it’s “Mother” that seals his status as a modern auteur. While “Mother” is more on “Memories of Murder’s” wavelength than that of his eco-monster movie “The Host” and “Barking Dogs Never Bite,” it is every bit as good as those titles and for that matter every bit as good as anything anyone has made in years. Most directors would kill to have made three films as good as Joon-ho Bong has in their entire career but he’s just getting started.

2. Greenberg
Noah Baumbach

“A shrink said to me once that I have trouble living in the present, so I linger on the past because I felt like I never really lived it in the first place, you know?” I sure do. “Greenberg” is the best Woody Allen film that Woody Allen never made. While set in L.A. and edgier than most of Allen’s work save for perhaps “Deconstructing Harry,” the (now) legendary writer/director Noah Baumbach taps into the same outsider’s rage with his new film. “Greenberg” is not only Baumbach’s best film to date best his best made film–for once his filmmaking and sense of style is able to go toe-to-toe with his fascinating script and characters.

About a loathsome man house sitting for his rich brother, Roger Greenberg makes everyone’s life he encounters just a little worse; Greenberg is nasty and selfish, yes, but the anger that emits from his toxic core is true to the character and not included without some considerable thought or insight. Unlike many similar angry-man-child films out there “Greenberg” is not aimless in its cynicism and does not take its iconoclastic character’s seething, silver tongued slacker attitude for granted. Thankfully it also does not coyly offer him up to us as some miserable buffoon that we are meant to laugh at. If anything, Baumbach is brave in his attempt to deal with such a prickly figure. In true post-“Squid and the Whale” fashion, you’re not asked to sympathize with this highly intellectual mess of a character, only to spend a few hours with him and develop your own impressions. For most people I know (especially women) that means hatingthe ever loving crap out of Greenberg(and the movie that’s named after him) but from my point of view, and for better or worse, I don’t think I related to a movie or character more in 2010. When an enlightened L.A. soul gave me advice one day to be a “fountain and not a drain” I was thrilled and instantly thought “that’s something that someone would have also said to Greenberg!”

Unlike a lot of characters in the mostly uninspired fish-out-of-water genre, Greenberg is stubborn, unchanging and, in a lot of ways, not nearly as horrible as all the “normal” L.A. bores who think they have it all figured. I like how his stink wafts though the pretentious streets of L.A. like an aimless plague of nebbish anxiety. The film has a strange affection for L.A. that’s hard to put into words but easy to understand. I’ve also lived in L.A. all my life and also love it despite it not loving me. The underrated (when he’s not overrated) Ben Stiller plays Greenberg in his most complex performance to date. Even something as simple as his him struggling to fill out a grocery list (all he can think of is whiskey and ice cream sandwiches) or constant application of ChapStick (OCD?) is memorably handled and a smart way of explaining who this character is by simply observing his myriad idiosyncrasies.

The film belongs to Stiller while it’s heart belongs to Greta Gerwig’s Florence, the exasperated “love interest” that is revolted and charmed by this troubled man. She’s not the only one. She even finds time to sum the character up with more of that condescending L.A. self-help advice that I just love: “hurt people hurt people.” The dialogue is just about perfect in this movie. Never straining to be too clever but smart, funny and believable which is not something I often see in independent movies. “I’m weirdly ‘on’ tonight” Rodger chirps to his friend Ivan (Rhys Ifans who manages to be funny without doing anything funny) as he steamrolls through yet another one-sided/self-centered conversation. Like Ifans and Stiller’s characters, the film is dramatic primarily but, within that dramatic realm, happens to be hilarious. As for that “hurt people hurt people” line, well Greenberg thinks it’s “kind of trite but it stuck with me.” Well said.

I’ve watched “Greenberg” four times since it was released early last year. It gets better every time I see it.

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Edgar Wright

In a year when film once again manages to hit a new artistic lows, surpasses yet again by television and video games, I am thankful to “Pilgrim” for reminding me that the cinema can be enjoyable and well made in equal proportions.
Edgar Wright, the most inspired comic movie maker since the days of Chaplin, has crafted something truly unique to the superhero genre. While only his first comic book adaption (he chose wisely) you would think Wright has been making films like this for years. So much story and visual information is covered in such an enjoyably madcap manner that, upon further viewings, I constantly found myself pausing just to look at mise-en-scène or take in one of the many layers of cleverness.
Like his brilliant zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” and somehow even more brilliant cop themed “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim” is, in a word, dense. Drawing upon a surreal concoction of “Looney Tunes” meets, uhh, Jean Luc Godard, every second yields pleasures, some hidden and some smacking you right in the face. Could be a split second sight gag (Lucas Lee’s movie posters), a funny line (“bread makes you fat?”), a funny flash-back, a funny action (the inner knee tap that orgasmicly disables Roxy), funny blocking, funny reoccurring motifs (the letter X=ex, each evil ex wearingtheir respective numbers into battle etc.), clever if not always funny play on words (“you were a VEGON, now you will BE GONE”), funny expressions (the characters react hilariously to Knives Chow getting the highlights knocked out of her hair), funny reactions to funny expressions (“what, I’m not afraid to hit a girl” the guy who punched Knives says), funny text scribbled across the screen (the game ending “Continue?” prompt pops upon death–I hate when that happens) , funny editing cuts (LOTS), funny actual cuts (made, in one scene, by pixilated light sabers–COOL!!!) funny references to the original comic (at a party Comeau implies the movie we’re watchingis “not as good as the comic”), the myriad video game references (1ups and such) and of course special effects straight out of a cartoon (Scott getting thrown into a buildingcomes to mind). “Pilgrim,” like its eponymous character, tries so hard that even when it (and he) says something stupid or falls on its face you root for it to get back up and continue doing what it’s doing.

This is a movie that was made to be enjoyed but can also practically be studied for all the technique on display. It makes sense that it’s a cult movie but could have just as easily been enjoyed by so many more if only they were more open-minded. It’s not just about a nerd, but a nerd who loves video games. And music. And isn’t very ambitious. Or smart. And is a jerk. Ah, I can see how that doesn’t appeal to a lot of people outside of the white-male-raised-by-Super-Nintendo demo. For those in it, though, this is a fairy tale for the digital age. Not only is Wright’s film well made (it’s editing, adapted screenplay and cinematography are all the best of the year) but the casting is right on the money. Michael Cera may be hit or miss (still tryingto forget that other 2010 movie featuring Cera and his evil doppelgänger, “Youth in Revolt”) but, daym, he IS Scott. Every stammer, grin and (literally) empty headed blurb is vintage Cera and vintage Scott.

This is a living breathing cartoon that only lets up when it’s being awkwardly romantic. His love interest, Ramona Flowers, is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (whom I’ve had a crush on well before Scott!!!). Of course in this world Scott must battle Ramona’s seven evil exes and as a bonus two of the seven are played by the Capt America of the future (Chris Evans, bro-ing it up with great pleasure) and Superman of the past (the underrated Brandon Routh steals scenes as a Super Vegan). I could continue blabbing about how much I appreciate this movie and how much it has grown on me in a few short months since its disappointing release (surpassing even the comic in a lot of ways) and, most of all, how much it disturbs me to say that Armand White’s pick for the #1 movie of the year is actually quite wise and progressive. I’ll cut my effusive ramblings short because, the way I figure, the less time I spend talking about “Scott Pilgrim” only translates into more time I can be watching it.

4. Ghost Writer 
Roman Polanski

New Hollywood titans Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese opened their respective films on the same day in 2010. Both films were thrillers and both happened to open with the glum image of a boat traversing chilly water before docking on an ominous island. Oh, and both were… really good! But where as “Shutter Island” plunges into the murky depths of psycho-fantasy, “Ghost Writer” sticks with it and doggedly attempts to unearth the dark mystery at hand. With a story about politicians that lie, governments that kill and writers that, well, write, this is “Chinatown” for the 21st Century only with GPS car navigators and cell phones instead of chatty cab drivers and shadowy phone booths. “Ghost” is a very clean and efficient movie that, like it’s workhorse writer, has a job to do and does it as efficiently as possible. Roman Polanski understands that more and different is not necessary better –especially with regards to the neo-noir– so he wrote and directed “Ghost Writer” exactly as it should be and as good as it can be. This perfectly crafted film is methodical (others might call it slow but screw them) in the way it depicts the riveting transition of a ghost writer with literally no-name (apt) to a glorified journalistic gumshoe in over his head. What begins as a in-and-out writing assignment (“you name it, he ghosts it”) turns into a murder mystery and unfolds with a worldwide government conspiracy.

Ewan McGregor plays the “ghost” with a great and wily deadpan approach and is apart of a trio of truly memorable movie characters. The other two are the subjects of his writing assignment, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams as Tony Blair, er, a fictional former British Prime Minister and his wife. The film’s seemingly ordinary appearance within the detective/mystery genre makes it hard at first to process how flawless it actually is. Because it’s so good at its job the film itself is unnoticeable in the sense that you watch it without a second thought of how it was made. That’s classic moviemaking and proof, if you needed any (I did), that Roman Polanski is one of the greatest directors of our/any time.

In terms of plot and narrative structure “Ghost Writer” shares strikingly resemblance both to Polanski’s own brilliantly underrated horror fflm “The Ninth Gate” starring the then-underrated/now insufferable Johnny Depp. Books are central plot devices in both stories and the text itself acts as a desirable means to arriving at some sort of central truth about the world we live in. In “Ninth Gate” it is the forces of Satan and in “Ghost Writer” it is figurehead politicians, furtive spies and sinister government interests. There is hardly a difference. True to the filmmaker’s dependably weary world view, any attempt to uncover or attain this illusive and possibly non existent notion of the “truth” is foolish and will meet with one’s own undoing. The system won’t let the truth win. It can’t. That, my friends, is noir at its best!

5. Another Year
Mike Leigh

For what it is, it’s perfect. As if it wasn’t painfully obvious before, nobody observes the average person better or with more subtle depth than Mike Leigh. As characters sit, eat and talk about nothing particularly important or life shattering, Leigh is a master of the mundane and, through that, the human condition. Who else could make everyday matters so riveting and so relevant? Centered around the impossibly understanding and supportive couple and their ancillary relationships with various longtime friends/family/co-workers and set over the course of just another year, this movie has the ability to be quietly sad and oddly funny in it’s depiction of all these characters. That almost every scene is set and centered around the happy couple’s always-open home and domestic life makes “Another Year” a great Bizarro world companion piece to “Dogtooth.”

The most amazing thing about this picture as I see it is the skillful misdirection on Leigh’s part. What Leigh does in this movie I will admire to my grave. Most will never realize how unique this movie truly is. This well adjusted couple, played wonderfully (and in a very believable, lived-in way) by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, are the center of the film but at the same time not the focus of it. While deep and well rounded in their own right they are ultimately just straight men to a revolving door of acquaintances, most notably the tragic yet entertainingly loopy and self involved figure played by Lesley Manville who, by the way, was also very good in the wife roles of Leigh’s past greats “All or Nothing” and “Topsy-Turvy.” Manville plays the character of Mary as a manic, desperate and ultimately very lonely middle age secretary fully of the kind of anger of someone who has let her life slip by. A female Greenberg in other words. Despite serving the functions of both a central character and a supporting character, Manville’s chain smoking alcoholic spinster is, in the end, just one of the many shades to this film and this content couple’s colorful life. And that’s what’s so unusually tragic about her and this movie. She exists in a very real way yet is totally invisible and the last scene is crushing to a degree that I find hard to put into words. In one sense, then, this a positive and life affirming film about the power of love, community and how the people in our lives can change us while also serve to remind us of who we are. In another, darker sense it’s about how scary it is for those who have not found happiness.


6. Kick Ass
Matthew Vaughn

I can’t say I had a more purely enjoyable theater experience in 2010. Consideringhow many uninspiring big films were released last year that should count for something, right? It does. A lot in fact, because in what other year could a movie where a dude gets microwaved and a pre-teen girl gets shot by her dad for fun land a spot in my top five?! I wish more agreed with me but, as with “Scott Pilgrim,” “Kick Ass” is being relegated to the fringes of nerdy big budget cult status. Fine, a film like this deserves to be underrated. After wisely passing on the third “X-Men” movie (only to be hired back for “X-Men: First Class”) Matthew Vaughn (maker of two other great cult titles “Layer Cake” and “Stardust”) was wise to select “Kick Ass” as his first superhero movie. It bears his bloody stamp. It also does nothing less than expand my notion of what this genre was capable of.  This postmodern superhero film is “Fight Club” for the “Spider-Man” generation.

7. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noé

What has Gaspar Noé been up to since he pissed everyone off with the incendiary “Irreversible?” Probably trying to figure out how the hell to make “Enter the Void.” And a shit load of drugs from the looks of it. “Void” is not only Noé’s best film but a turning point in the filmmaker’s career and the cinema of the subjective. Noé actually figured out the whole style/substance paradigm that eluded him in the past and thus was able to artistically back up the bravado he’s known for. The result is “Enter the Void,” a monumentally trippy story of chaos, death, spiritual (as well as literal) rebirth, the translucent/transient nature of beingness, watching, and of course Paz De La Huerta’s vagina. It is one of the best crafted first person point-of-view movies I’ve ever seen (not that there’s many of them), the most technically successful ghost movie ever made and surely one of the most originally executed concepts of the year, maybe decade. And that’s just the first thirty minutes!

In the early stages I was instantly drawn to the faceless character as we both embarked upon what ends up being the final moments of his life. The viewer gets to pull a Being John Malkovich by hanging out in his cloudy head as he gets high, hangs out with his sister (their affection for each other boarders on incest by the way), gets high again, meets a shaggy French friend and walks with him through streets of Tokyo before busted by cops in a bar and coming up with a brilliant way of buyinghimself some time as he flushes his drugs down the toilet, screaming “I have a gun!”–sounds ordinary up until that last part but, trust me, there may not be a more transfixing sequence in all of 2011 movie making.

Once in spirit form the rest is solid but not brilliant. The character’s journey tends to be rambling (understandably), transgressive and a bit too obsessed with the sister character played by (the overrated) actress Huerta. The film seems unable to sustain the transcendent sensory overdrive experience that the riveting opening chapter offered. Still, the “Void” is well worth entering. It is not only eye-opening but mind altering; the warped David Lynch touches and flurry of trippy psychedelic synaptic spasms blend nicely with the floating camera realism while the influence from Kathryn Bigelow’s classic techno-noir “Strange Days” opening (one of my all time favorite sequences in cinema) offers a great point of departure for this film. In the end, the title “Enter the Void” may refer to death, the act of sex or perhaps the act of entering into the “void” of humanity (i.e. birth). Probably all. It’s total madness! If this movie doesn’t make you want to go to Japan, do drugs, die and lead a existence as a junkie ghost (which mostly entails watchingyour sister dance and blow Japanese dudes at a strip club) than nothing will.

8. Dogtooth
Giorgos Lanthimos

Set in the present, “Dogtooth” is about three children who, for reasons never explained, are raised in a deceptively ordinary house believingthat the outside world has gone to hell. Everything they are told is not only a lie but a devious and cruel deception. Imagine if the world’s most twisted psychological experiment were performed by your parents. In this topsy-turvy film world, cats are killer predators that will tear you apart, imaginary siblings exist outside of the fenced-off garden, the world is an dangerous and evil place that will eat you up if you take even one step beyond your house’s property line and, oh yeah, there are no movies beyond what you shoot in your own house. At almost every turn this film questions domestic normalcy, notions of isolationism (both personal and national) and even the arbitrary function of everyday language signifiers. “What is a zombie?” one of the grown “children” asks her mother. “A zombie is a small yellow flower,” she is told. Amazingly, there’s a lot of subversive humor to be found in “Dogtooth” until it creeps into to this unsettling, post-structuralist horror film mode where you feel like anything could happen.

Like a dog, the children are, in one character’s words, “molded” into creatures of unquestioning obedience and servitude. The tyranny of the patriarchy haunts and eventually eats away at the spotless artifice of the home. With the introduction of an outsider that the sadistic (or perhaps just crazy) father brings into the compound to alleviate his son’s, well, urges, things start to really break apart. Especially after she sneaks in the “Jaws” in exchange for oral sex. Feelings of stagnation, claustrophobia and fear of the ever present menace that is “outside” hint at broader messages of European nationalism, the complex construction of personal identities and probably a bunch of other stuff like immigration, but the film never gets carried away with forcing any clear message or, indeed, of even implicitly making a message at all. The film, in the end, is made or broken by our reading of it. For a story so confined, the narrative openness is refreshing and even revolutionary.

In addition the all heady metaphors and deranged story details Lanthimos turns out to be a capable filmmaker as well! Appropriately (and perhaps even wickedly) Lanthimos frames “Dogtooth” with low to the ground Ozu-like camera angels and applies (also like Ozu) an obsessed modern focus upon a single nuclear family. This a one of a kind vision that would be copied if anyone knew how the hell to copy it! It’s subtle and slow moving turns, punctuated by shocking moments of sexuality and violence, are all effectively used in ways that I have never seen before. The lives of these willfully imprisoned children may have no basis in reality until you realize that our own customs and traditions in the prison-like cells we call houses and apartments are just as arbitrary. In the end the real horror of “Dogtooth” is not the dreary routine and domestic illusion the children find themselves unwittingly trapped in but the one we are all trapped in right now in real life.

9. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese

On a dark and stormy night… yes, Scorsese made that kind of movie. The inclusion of “Shutter Island” is noteworthy because I rarely enjoy Martin Scorsese movies as much as other people seem to. Two in the last decade made my list… of the WORST movies of the year (I can’t say enough bad things about the overrated “Gangs of New York” and “Departed”–they are are unwatchable messes) while “Aviator” laded a spot on my top ten best a few years back but that was hardly a film I would still maintain is still great or worthy of being included on a revised top-ten. But… by not being the filmmaker people expect him to be Scorsese was able to disappear behind his cumbersome legendary status to make an enjoyable movie with no strings attached. This is a most refreshing departure for the filmmaker, the sort of unabashed b-movie that “Departed” wanted to be but couldn’t because it was so full of its own clever devices. “Island” is filled with mystery, a beautifully exaggerated atmosphere and a clearly visible (but not ironic) joy for pulpy genre storytelling. Even DiCaprio’s usual bad/over acting (there, I said it) didn’t affect the movie adversely. In fact, Leo’s sophomoric brooding as he finds himself trapped on an island of crazy people only helps the story achieve a necessary aura of unnatural unease. It’s also a better haunted-by-my-dead-wife DiCaprio movie than “Inception” because, well, this film has an actual story nestled in its dark core.  In the end the film works as a thriller and even ends up working as a character driven piece. I’ve said it before and will probably say it again but Scorsese is always a better director when he’s not trying so hard to be a better director.

10. Carlos
Oliver Assayas

Weather or not you think it’s one of the year’s best you have to agree that “Carlos” is one of the most important and relevant films of the year, second only to “Social Network.” And it’s not even a film-film! It’s a miniseries but one of the highest order. Aside from the breathtaking, flawlessly paced and thankfully penis free middle chapter concerning the now famous hostage-taking incident by Carlos and his terrorist group at the 1975 OPEC conference, it’s not even that “Carlos” is the most groundbreaking achievement of the 2010. What’s great is more in the way everything is brought together under Oliver Assayas’ pluralistic umbrella. From razor sharp jump cuts to heated cultural interactions to disjointed location sprees to a fragmented sense of history and moral causes and of course the ironic usage of new wave music, “Carlos” is an explosion in all senses of the word.

The film is wise to borrow from the best parts of “Traffic,” “Che” and “Munich.” It actually surpasses them in a lot of ways. What “Carlos” does it does so well and with such unbridled conviction that it does not need to innovate the crime genre it is playing in. This is a staggering epic that must be experienced in all it’s glory so no settling for the anemic feature length version. The weight of it all is overwhelming and even hard to grasp at first because I was so busy attempting to take in and absorb all the information being casually thrown at me. But once I realize it’s not about the specific facts and details but about the attitude and sweeping gestures then the film worked its complex magic on me. And not to take away from all the beautiful small and innocuous but no less important moments such as the sight of a naked woman on white bed in the afternoon, the way two people look at each other while drinking or even just the way smoke dances through the air. This may be the sexiest looking terrorist movie ever made.

Olivier Assayas has made a lot of cool films (last year’s “Summer Hours” also ranked high with me last year) but none quite like “Carlos.” I never quite knew where the filmmaker was comingfrom and that kept me as on edge as anything in the film proper. Is Assayas advocating Carlos’ terrorist behavior? Sympathizing with his cause? Mocking him? Demystifying a legend? It is not spelled out for us thankfully but perhaps elements from all four. I just can’t get a fix on things. The same goes for the figure of Carlos himself played so well and with such conviction by Édgar Ramírez. This is not a a film that attempts to explore and psychologically pick apart the man underneath the so called legend of Carlos the Jackal. A wall is always up on Carlos’s true feelings and his “cause” and perhaps the only cause that ever really mattered to him with was his own via self aggrandizement. Unlike a lot of famous movie gangsters (with terrorists being the modern version of them) this film is about the rise and… not fall but sloooooowdecline of a “historical curiosity.” Carlos talks a good talk but never quite seems to care about anything and so his gradual and unspectacular undoingis fitting. You get the sense that he would rather gaze at his naked body in a mirror, got to a swinging party, romance some commie groupies and of course profit from his professional terrorist activity than to make the world a “better place to live in.” All that and so much more is what makes this such an interesting character study.

11. Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance

Ohhhh, damn, I wish this one could have squeaked into my top ten. Normally I’m skeptical of movies that jumble their chronology. Far too often, as in the case of Iñárritu’s insufferable “Babel”/”21 Grams” and a slew of other post-“Memento” films (and perhaps “Memento” itself!), it serves no other purpose other than to show off and ultimately conceal the flaws of a movie that would not be as interesting if it were told from A to B. “Blue Valentine”… is not one of those films. It’s dually fragmented timeline is handled perfectly by director Derek Cianfrance and makes total sense given the theme of the movie: the life and death of a romance. It’s hard to find any faults with how this film was made. The happy-times/sad-times contrapuntal editing in particular keeps the story alive and emotionally effective every step of the way. Thrilling even but in a very grounded and terse manner. The impact of all this would have been significantly lessened if not totally destroyed if the two central performances were not up to par with the film’s unique style and approach to the romance genre. The couple played by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are two of the best actors of their generation and if you don’t believe me then this film will show you why. The passion comes through as much as the sense of loss and decay without ever (ever!) feeling gimmicky, overly sentimental or mawkish. Despite a nomination for Williams I almost feel as if “Blue Valentine” didn’t get enough credit. It achieves so much that it’s a shame people let the fact that it made them feel awful get in the way of the impressive work at hand.  This film engages the heart and mind in a way very few loves stories have done in the past.


12. Wild Grass
Alain Resnais

A crazy old man (André Dussollier) finds a wallet in Alain Resnais new film. His attempt to make contact with the wallet’s owner makes for one of the more interesting stories told in 2010. It’s a special kind of film oddity that fits well into Resnais’ towering works (spanning almost 70 years!) but also feels like a fresh step forward for him. Even after watching it’s hard to get a fix on the style and tone of this movie. It’s fanciful and at times as drifts into dream-like passages yet serious at other times in its approach to character and plot. This is a deeply personal story relying on subjective point-of-views yet also relyingon a multi-character tapestry and the element of chance. Nothing is quite right in this movie and that’s why it’s so effective. A great mystery surrounds it and that mystery never really leaves it either. That it’s intention. Parts reminded me of Krzysztof Kieslowski’sworks in the way it observes unique personalities and how they attract, push away and bounce off each other. Other parts seem to be influenced by “Eyes Wide Shut” in terms of visuals, color pallet, and the strange sense of reality the characters exist in. And yet more elements are highly self-aware and postmodern. Oh, and strange–like, stalker love story strange. But funny all throughout in it’s extremes. As with “Everything Else,” I didn’t know if the film would end with joyful tears or blood curdling screams. I won’t say what happens but I will say that the final line “When I’m a cat, will I be able to eat cat munchies?” makes about as much sense when you first hear it than to someone who hasn’t seen the movie at all. Point being, the story takes you where it takes you so just be grateful that it even exists. “Grass” is elegant, colorful, thoughtful and incredibly imaginative. In other words, an Alan Resnais story. I can’t wait to see it again.

13. Of Gods and Men
Xavier Beauvois
The anti-“Carlos” as French movies go. As someone who has never gotten into that organized religion thing it says lot coming from me that the message and meaning of the faith-based “Of Gods and Men” spoke to me. Lead by the great Lambert Wilson and the Samurai dude from “Ronin” (Michael Lonsdale) the film follows the real life story of Catholic Missionaries who live out (the remainder of) their humble lives in a hostile war zone. And this is before 9-11! They told they are unwanted. They are told to leave or die. They stick around. The film thus becomes a modern retelling “High Noon” except with 100% more Muslims and no Gary Cooper in sight. I guess that also makes it similar to “Zulu” but with a lot more bibles than guns.

“Gods” contains a message of peace and hope but, unlike like many films with a “message” (especially those rooted in Christian ideology), does not push its dogmatic world view, only its humanism. There is a beauty to the naturalism of the performances, locations and narrative drive. With many scenes of prayer, table setting and farming the film captures the serene rhythms of these holy men and their way of life and becomes increasingly more captivating (and horrifying) when the sanctity of this peaceful existence becomes disrupted with spurts of dramatic intensity within the brotherhood, violence outside of it and, worst of all, the feeling that the worst to come is just around the corner and holding an automatic rifle. This group of men whom we get to know and love quite well over the course of the story believe they have found their calling in the Earthly equivalent to hell and yet, despite mounting fears and anxiety, they resist flight and cling to love and understanding. God, after all, must has a reason for all of this madness (or, uhhhh, not). All they want to do his help the local village and coexist with their Muslim “neighbors.” Do I buy into the Christian religion or, for that matter, the opposing religion? No I do not. Do I feel the West should be in a country that doesn’t want them there? NO, that’s an asshole move. Would I have gotten the hell out of Dodge if I were them. Hell yeah! But I am not them; even so, the dilemma that is presented to the viewer is universally understood and accepted. It’s rare to find a film made in the modern era as morally honest and agreeable as “Gods.” No film I can recall at the moment explores the religious and cultural divide between the East and West more delicately or with more insight as “Of Gods and Men.”

14. Everyone Else
Maren Ade
This is one of those cases where it pays to never read film criticism (anymore) or listen to Internet posters. I fired this bad boy up because I heard it was good. That’s all I need anymore. The film opens on an insecure German man-boy and his slightly bored but uber-passionate girlfriend. The two are hanging on in Spain (I think… maybe Italy or Greece) with very little to do but very lot a lot on the mind if you’ll pardon my grammar. Things just sort of exist and linger in this movie. The film’s tempo is strange to say the least. One scene has a way of flowing into the other, carrying with it a undercurrent of nervous energy. The pacing and editing is able to match the Mediterranean breeziness of the region. By the half-way point I was hooked and wondering where this film is going. Will it morph into thriller? A drama? SOMETHING has to happen! At this point was reminded of the early moments of “Sexy Beast” but of course there was no psycho Ben Kingsley to spice up the proceedings. Or is there? Not to spoil things but little actually happens in the second hour as well and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a wonderfully observed slice of life but a bitter and somewhat soggy slice that I’m glad I don’t have to actually eat. Sample dialogue: “I love you so much…” Gitti, the woman, says to Chris. His response?: “…” nothing. Full of awkward silences and indifferent glances, “Everyone Else” about a once happy, now unlikable couple told in the vein of, say, a modern Cassavetes film. Like his films, it focuses on the selfish traits of men and the infuriating nature of the women that love them. In the end, what “Everyone Else” does best is capture the little moments in a relationship. Not the big fights or the infinite sadness but the innocuous moments such as reading a book on a lazy afternoon. Watch it alongside “Blue Valentine” and you’ll never want to be in another relationship again.

15. The Fighter
David O Russell

While many gravitated towards the boxing and melodrama this is a movie made (in my eyes) by it’s smaller and more intimate details. Funny considering its director, David O Russell has historically been more of a bigger-is-better kind of guy within the indie world. “Three Kings,” “Flirting with Disaster” and “I Heart Huckabees” were not exactly subtle.  Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a period movie so keyed into the era it was set in. Considering that era is the 90s it’s easy to overlook what this film does. From the tattered clothes characters wear to the musky sweat stains on said clothes to the way the boxing matches are shot to look like a 1993 HBO broadcast, the film is oozingwith authentic texture. And I haven’t even mentioned the actors because, really, “The Fighter” is nothing if not an actor’s movie and it has two Oscars to show for it (last time that happened was, what, “Million Dollar Baby” and who knows what before that). The sense of place and character is uncanny here.

Mark Whalberg plays real-life underdog Mickie Ward (a boxers name if ever there was one), a stepping-stone fighter which is basically the guy you beat up to move up the ranks. On this surface this is the kind of character we’ve seen before in this genre. He’s the gentle straight man throughout the entire movie and I give Wahlberg so much credit for not only producing and keeping this movie alive but not attempting to steal the spotlight. He remains a passive character that is not a Saint so much as a slightly dopey dude tryingto get by and do right. Lead by an amazing performance by the showy Melissa Leo (in a crazy mother performance that joins the ranks of Angelica Huston in “The Grifters” and Fay Dunaway in “Mommy Dearest”), an underrated Amy Adams in her best role so far (as good as Leo is I would argue Adams is better) and, in a out-of-left-field performance character-actor Jack McGee (you’d know him if you saw him) as the resistant father. Lead by the fierce mother, the family surrounds and smothers Mickie, harnessing his talent for profit at the expense of his health and humanity. But I never disliked them because they added so much to the story.

Of course it’s old news by now to sate that Christian Bale, pardon OSCAR WINNER Christian Bale as Mickie’s crack addicted brother/trainer steals the show. If Whalberg is the heart of the movie than Bale is its voice and twitchy energy source. And it’s loud! In fact, Bale steals the show so hard and with such authority that his greatness spills over into Wahlberg/Russells other films. He’s now officially the best thing about “I Heart Huckabees” and “Three Kings!” Never has a boxing movie had such a vibrant human component. Russell is finally getting the credit he deserves.

16. I Am Love
Luca Guadagnino

Tilda Swintoncando just about anything! Speak Italian, sure why not? Russian? Yup, she does that too. How about Hungarian? Not in this film but she did that in Béla Tarr little seen “The Man From London.” So why, with all her options after winning an Oscar (how cool is that by the way?), would Swinton make a movie in which she plays the repressed matriarch of a bustling Italian family who have made their money off industry and now just sit around worrying about throwing parties? Because she’s like no other actress on earth. Here, Swinton effortlessly transforms her Anglo ice queen persona to fully inhabit a, uh, Italian ice queen. This woman can make the simple act of eating shrimpoff a plate in slow motion look cool. I bet she could play Harriet Tubman and totally pull that shit off. I’m getting sucked into the vortex of Swinton’s awesomeness so… okay, the film: “I Am Love” is a refreshing kind of story that we don’t get much of these days outside of a Todd Haynes film.

“Love’s” qualities actually takes you off guard. It took me back to the Vittorio De Sica days of unabashed Italian romances and melodramas while at the same time transcending its genre. This is a movie full of great looking food, better looking(retro) cinematography, detailed sets, a lush music composition, beautiful people and one impossibly gorgeous/well chosen close-up after another. Of course, as things start to unravel in the story (I won’t spoil the details) the beauty wilts and turns into a complicated but no less fascinating mess. The upside to that is the intensity the film takes on in its latter, darker half. When the uptight Swintonfinally lets loose and gets a little su’in-su’inon the side, the film pops with the best and most creatively shot outdoor sex scene since that amazing adaptation of “Lady Chatterley,” or perhaps just ever. The film also contains the best use of soup as plot twist ever. EVER! And, while it’s at it, one of the very best codas of the year. The emotions in the wordless final sequence gave me chills. “I Am Love” is like a lost classic Italian film had Italy not gone through its cinematic renaissance after World War 2 yet retained the magical qualities of the filmmaking from that period. It’s a real treasure.

17. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Woody Allen

Woody Allen made another underrated movie in 2010. What else is new? When “Stranger” opens with one of Allen’s signature old time tunes it occurred to me that whatever happens in the world –and a lot happens– I can always count on Woody Allen to be Woody Allen. You can’t put a price –or rating– on that. This is an artist that will not change or be influenced past his usual inspirations and this is also one of those rare instances where one’s inability to change is a good thing. The film takes me back to the days of “Hanna and Her Sisters” where a group of people loosely connected go about their lives in a way that can not quite be called realism and not quite be called un-realism. More like Woodyness. Observations are made, arguments are animated, trusts are broken, friendships are sparked, drinks are had, love is lost, and then found again somewhere else. Any fan of Allen knows what to expect. Woody is a master at heavy drama/Greek tragedies (“Match Point” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” are classics in their own right) and perhaps more well known for his comedies but what’s more interesting is how good he is at the in-betweens. And I don’t just mean “Melinda and Melinda,” a film that is literally, and by design, in between drama and comedy. This is a cheerfully modest and of course underrated effort full of everyday people that we are not asked to like or hate. There is a lot to chew on here. The title in question is used very ironically–who is this “tall dark stranger” we always hear about, anyhow? Beyond the exaggerated depiction of “him” on the film’s poster (looks like Zach Ephron with a pompadour) the tall dark man is not in this film and that’s its point. He’s never existed but he will always be brought up because we want to live in a world where he might.

18. Monsters 
Gareth Edwards

Sometimes a movie, once seen, has a way  of creeping up on you even if you don’t like it. Like a… monster. A human-based sci-fi story in the truest sense, “Monsters” is what Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” would have been had it not ODed on indulgent effects and sophomoric (soph-moronic) family melodrama and happy endings. Other indirect influences on this indie movie seem to be “The Host,” “District 9” and “Cloverfield” so goes without saying that this film is in good company. That being said it’s nice to see the influences exist without getting the overwhelming sense that the film itself is not original.

Its not the whiny characters or rudimentary “get out of the ‘infected zone, ARGH!” plot that captured my imagination so vividly but the authentic atmosphere and overarching back-story/backdrop that got its hooks in me. “Monsters” is easy a avoid given it’s poor reception and hostile viewer reactions and just as easy to dismiss on the off-off-OFF chance you actually end up seeing it. No less than a day passed for me and I could not stop thinking about it. Over a month later and this beast is STILL on my mind! I just can’t shake it. It now stands as a cult B-movie on par with the great (to me at least) 90s hard sci-fi horror masterpieces “Screamers” and “Event Horizon.”

Speaking of cult, I can’t resist evoking the great H.P. Lovecraft here (and above, in the particularly inspired Cthulhu Photoshop creation that I made) for the ways the film bases itself on unspeakable and oft-unseen horrors being thrust upon insignificant and ineffective individuals. That and of course the towering betenticled monstrosities that have fallen from the black depths cosmos (well, Jupiter’s moon at least) and engage in behavior unknowable to us humans. As with Lovecraft (and this is the last instance the grand old one’s holy name will be mentioned) it’s the mystery that makes the monster.

In the science-fiction genre sometimes less is better and, in this film’s case, less makes a lot more sense. Basically, this is an alien invasion movie told from the ground and from the point-of-view of people who are rarely in the middle of the action. If you were as unfortunate as me to have watched the thematically similar “Skyline” you may find yourself thankful to “Monsters” for treating it’s premise with respect. With strange rumblings and eerie sounds that are always somewhere off in the distance, the menace is felt even when it is not seen. When the characters do intersect with the invaders that glow menacingly, however briefly those encounters may be, the experience makes as much if not more of an impression than any non-stop ID4ish action approach. There is a scene where the main character, a douchey freelance photographer named Andrew, catches a glimpse of the “evil” aliens only to realize that they are not evil at all but perhaps just creatures who, like us, are simply trying to exist (though not coexist).  There is another scene where the protagonists charter a boat which of course gets stuck in the water. Suddenly something can be heard in the distance and whatever it is, it plops in the water and slowly drifts towards them. I thought to my self, first, “I’m glad I’m not in that boat” and second “there will be blood!!!” What I got instead was not blood but 100x more rewarding. Anxiety and ambiguously are this film’s strong points.

Again, it’s just too bad the dialogue and character interactions fail to achieve the same level of success. Full of bad chemistry and even worst decision making skills, the two shallow leads often don’t often seem to be aware (or care) that they are in a world where aliens exist (don’t count on any Bill Paxton-esq “game over, man!” reactions), much less have taken over a large chunk of Mexico which America has conveniently fenced off. Yeah, fenced off–ah, but fear not, the film does not get too carried away with Mexicans=aliens metaphors though it does make for some claver allegorical fodder.

It may not be for everybody but “Monsters” goes down as a haunting and unforgettable science fiction movie.

19. Never Let Me Go
Mark Romanek

A last minute addition to this list. I’m still letting this powerful movie sink in so I’m not sure if will rise or fall with time. Probably the later. What I can say for sure is that filmmaker Mark Romanek is a visionary that, if anything, should really get out and make more films. He’s the Jonathan Glazer of brilliant underachievers. “Never Let Me Go” is staggering work of dramatic speculative fiction and, as this genre goes, in the same league as “GATTACA” and not too far off from “Children of Men.” As clone harvesting movies go, it also beats the hell out of “The Island.” This drama raises powerful questions and does so with grace and beauty.

20. The King’s Speech
Tom Hooper

To be honest, after the Oscars I’m kind of burned out on this film. It’s a solid story full of great moments and memorable performances. I loved it… as much as you can love a mainstream biopic that wins Best Picture. It’s witty, dramatic, solidly paced, perhaps the best ensemble films of the year (Colin Firth as the man who would be King and Geoffery Rush as his glorified shrink give career defining performances) and that rare kind of biopic that feels genuinely original rather than cribbed from other movies or some grandiose book. On the other hand it’s not groundbreaking or even particularly well directed (Tom Hooper’s Oscar will go down as a mistake of Danny Boyle proportions). That’s not such a big issue in the end because the material speaks for itself, stuttering along only occasionally. Disgruntled “Social Network” fans are whining that, as Best Picture winners go, the film is not terribly relevant and will not hold up well over the years. I couldn’t disagree more. The film is a lightweight at times (more in the vein of a 90s Miramax movie than a big historical epic) but timelessly good, surprisingly engaging and will be accessible for as long as movies are (which is about 10 years by my watch). And can anyone really say that “King’s Speech” is less relevant or enduring than, say, “Crash” or “Slumdog Millionaire,” films that, as I predicted, nobody cares about only a few short years later? No. End of story. Nuff said. Moving on…

21. Predators
Nimród Antal

If it bleeds, you can enjoy it. I totally defend this pick. Why are people so afraid to embrace b-movies like this? The same people that enjoyed the first “Predator” or even a film like “Avatar” passed over this movie with jaded disgust. Whatever, dude. Unlike a lot of popular genre movies from last year, “Predators” does exactly what the franchise requires it to do. It respects the original story, maintaining the sensibilities of John McTiernan’s film while also tweaking the formula ever so slightly into something enjoyably new. This is hardcore sci-fi action with as little story as possible. What story is there is pure potboiler adventure where a group of bad-asses led by Adrian Brody of all people are stuck in a prison… the size of a planet! As they try to piece together how they got there and who they can trust (hint: nobody) the armed humans soon realize that this is the kind of hunting reserve where the humans are the hunted. No doubt that’s a huge cliche by now but there’s a reason why it’s one that has endured for so long. With “Predators” you get all that plus you get to see what happens when a Predator alien faces off against a Japanese samurai! Coolest. Thing. Ever.

22. Valhalla Rising
Nicolas Winding Refn

“A man once told me… they eat their own god. Eat his flesh, drink his blood… abominable. We have many gods, they only get the one.” Is this film “about” Christians? Not really. It’s a visual poem about The End. All sorts of ends, too. The end of eras (Vikings for one), the end of religions, the end if God, the (beginning of the) end of civilization and perhaps even the end of individuals. The film takes place everywhere and nowhere. “Valhalla Rising” is a beautiful and haunting experience that has a way of staying with you despite its lack of clarity. Can’t say it makes sense in the typical storytelling, uh, sense but it’s more of a poetic mood piece that sweeps you away for a brisk ride through the darkness of man and of nature. It’s more Joseph Conrad on psychedelic drugs than Kirk Douglass with a big horned hat. Instead of literal depictions of action and location the viewer is meant to feel their way through this amazing story like the one-eyed protagonist with no name played by an actor with a really cool name, Mads Mikkelson. He plays a force rather than a specific character. In the movie, his silent warrior character (aren’t they all) escapes bondage, travels the land, adopts a child, meets Christians and embarks with them on a three hour tour to the “promise land” that gets detoured directly to what they consider hell. Or maybe just North America. Same thing. This film is a cooler version of Terrence Malick’s “New World.” Except it has cooler swords. And Vikings. And Mads in full on survival, Danish samurai “Die Hard” mode.

23. Please Give
Nicole Holofcener

Some of the best writing of 2010 came out of this movie. Not saying much as it was a particularly fallow year for screenplays. Not here. Nicole Holofcener (“Walking and Talking,” “Lovely and Amazing”) is like a younger and obviously more female Woody Allen. Featuring two families that live next door to each other in New York, the film is not “about” anything specific. Well, perhaps life-and-death-in-the-big-city if I had to pinpoint an overarching theme (and that’s kind of a big one) but it’s the subtle approach that makes all the difference in this incredibly candid, funny, and, by the end, heartfelt film. This is as close as America may ever get to every having their own version of “Yi Yi.” Yay?

24. Exit Through The Gift Shop
Banksey

A crazy real movie about a crazy Frenchmen making a fake movie about street art. Oh, and the documentary might not even be real in the first place. Got to hand it to this film for restoring my like (not love anymore) of the documentary art form. Having burned out on the oft-smug “realism” of mainstream documentary filmmaking, I put off watching “Exit” and of course was surprised by a documentary that was not only enjoyable but the spiritual successor to “Man on Wire” in the unique way it approaches people who make art. The film is lively, well shot and topical in the most unusual of ways. It’s energy is all its own. True, it’s at its more interesting when exploring illegal street artists, an underground movement that, as the doc progresses, begins to take on all blandishments of an established art form. By doing so “Exit” makes a quirky case for street art being more important and practical than real art because it is seen and enjoyed by many instead of the rich few. Of course this doc takes an abrupt turn in direction and tone when its main subject becomes popular and puts on a show for hipsters. The film, then, goes on to show how the street art movement is just as empty and full of shit as regular modern art. I love the edgy approach. What starts off a raw depiction of renegade counter culture artists turns into a demasking of a pre-fab hype magician. This quality not only captures the art world and those who blindly follow its trends but modern “artists” in general (including film, art, music etc.) whose need to be hip and famous trumps the desire to make good art.

25. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky

“Black Swan” is one great and giant metaphor for art, method acting and the impossible search of perfection. Of transformation in other words. Once that is understood it all has a way of falling into place. Here is a movie so good that many are not even aware that it’s a hardcore cult movie at its core. How could it not be?! The truth is that I’m not the biggest Darren Aronofsky fan (“Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” are overrated) but, second only to “The Fountain,” “Black Swan” is one of his best movies because it eschews inept and shallow forms of experimentation in favor of a solid storytelling supported by truly skilled filmmaking. With this film it is now implicitly clear that Aronofsky has grown tremendously as botha filmmaker and a storyteller. About an artist who literally bleeds for her work, this is the movie he was trying to make with “The Wrestler” but failed. Everything is stunning and elegant but with a gritty edge. The black and white production design, the nimble cinematography, and the story about the trouble surrounding a Black Swan ballet revival, is simple yet elegantly told. And a set of performances from Natalie Portman, Barbra Hershey and Vincent Cassell recall some of the best moments of “All About Eve” yet also manages to blend in a fantastic twist in the form of its now infamous Kafka-esq metamorphosis. As Natalie Portman literally finds herself transforminginto a giant bird (wha???!!!) “Black Swan” does not get enough credit as beinga really good horror film. As Portman peels off her skin, cuts her nails, breaks her foot and clips feathers it’s more visceral than any “Saw” movie. It’s also the best ballet thriller ever made. Okay, it’s the only one ever made but at least it’s a good start. Natalie Portman takes command of her performance to create something… unforgettable and that’s something she has not done since “The Professional.” In retrospect “Black Swan” is not “perfect” (to borrow a great line from the move) but like its character its total and unyielding conviction makes all the difference in the world.

26. Social Network
Directed by David Fincher

When did director David Fincher become everyone’s favorite uncle? The man is was the best filmmaker in America. He solidified that status when he made “Zodiac,” one of the best and deepest films of the decade, perhaps ever. Then… something happened. The real David Fincher must have been kidnapped (or killed) and his evil/well-adjusted doppelganger stepped into his shoes to made a movie called “The Curious Case Benjamin Button” and it was shit. Not only did that movie emphatically end his reign of greatness but felt like a slap in the face to anyone who followed his nihilistic visions with such adoring wonder (i.e.: me). Now, the quickly made (by his standards) “Social Network,” a film about Facebook (ugh), has emerged to become his best received film ever and the single most acclaimed films in years. It is considered to be the best picture of 2010 by so many people that there’s no use in even arguing why it might not be the best film ever made. Is it? No, not really. But I will say that it is very good and a definite improvement over “The Curious Case of Forrest Gump.” I just find it funny that now that people finally agree with me about how good Fincher is, I begin to disagree. Where were all you people when “Fight Club” came out? Unlike “Button” though, Papa Fincher’s new film is more measured and exceedingly more well made because it never compromises its vision for the sake of sentimentality or narrative closure.

To its credit “Social Network” is a vast, difficult and probing look into not only how a cultural boom and “game changing” (I hate that word) business model got started but about where we are as a society because of this website (for better or worse). Fincher is wise not to glorify the lead character played so well by Jessie Eisenberg, the Harvard institution or Facebook itself. He even called his film (written by Aaron Sorkin) “glib” at one point which really endeared me to him because I feel deep down that he too feels that his last two films are not who he is as a filmmaker despite both of them being his most successful. At times the film almost seems to be mocking these preppy doouchebags scrambling for credit, fame and fortune (and even the notion of Facebook itself) but does the more interesting thing by sticking with them as the gripping story unfolds. The last shot of Eisenberg futilely attempting to make contact with a person through his own website by clicking, and clicking and clicking, in a desperate attempt to make human contact, is vintage Fincher. The movie-saving bleak and ambiguous ending offers a modern glimpse of what Charles Foster Kane would be if he existed in this era.  Both financially and critically “Social Network” is an unqualified success to be sure and while there’s nothing wrong with that (or the film for that matter), well, I just want the old David Fincher back.

27. Final Flesh
Directed by Vernon Chatman

Clearly the most disturbing piece of pornography since? The Passion Of The Christ.”
-Some guy on the Internet

In 2010 Sean Comes may have popularized the term “mind fuck” in the overrated “Get Him to the Greek” but this film actually does it! The surreal sorta-comedy “Final Flesh” is exactly what you would expect from the Vernon Chatman, the guy behind “Xavier: Renegade Angel” and “Wonder Showzen.” And if you don’t know what those are you also probably don’t know what weed is. “Final Flesh” is one huge goof. Literally. Supposedly the filmmaker hired porn actors who didn’t know (or care) what the movie was about. Which is fine because neither do those who watch it. It’s horrible (but not in a bad way) and fascinating (but not in a good way). I don’t know if it’s the best fetish movie ever made or the worst. The “story” is divided into four parts and involves a family surviving the apocalypse in their house. Along the way they get naked and bath in the tears of neglected children. This film is a a great argument for why the term Brechtian should not be derogatory. The film is so obscure that there’s not even a Wikipedia entry for it. I hope “Flesh” becomes the new must-see late-night cult movie because, really, how many times can you watch “The Room” before it gets old.

28. True Grit
Joel and Ethan Coen

Another year, another Coen Brothers film makes my list. “True Grit” does not resurrect the Western. It does not reinvent the Western either. And finally it does not deconstruct the Western. It does however settle into the Western like it’s a nice and comfy if a bit smelly old shoe. On their last film, “A Serious Man,” the Coens were at their most emotionally honest while on this one they are at their least ironic. I was expecting a film in which no other directors living (or dead) could pull off except the Coens but this is not that film. It’s strangely… ordinary. The dialogue and sense of humor stand out to be sure but the story proper is far from groundbreaking. Their last “Western,” “No Country for Old Men” approached the genre with a revitalizing energy and uncompromisingly bleak philosophy. It’s not a Western so much as an atonal hymn to the corruptible nature of man and the moral void we are constantly at risk of falling into. It is a film that will no doubt go on to help define the time it was made in. “True Grit” on the other hand says nothing and defines little other than its own tenacious gumption. Instead of standing back at a distance to observe the genre (as they usually do) the directors locate themselves and their oddly thin characters smack dab in the middle of it all and draw upon all the tropes and conventions we expect while at the same time bringing their singular voice to the mix. The film is about a young but wise girl’s quest for revenge (yawning now) and the men that help her bring those responsible to justice (Zzzzz). That’s it! The film is did not engage me emotionally but it didn’t need to and I will not hold the director’s pedigree against them. It’s just a well told story that happens to be a Western and since I’m a whore for this most pure and consistent of genres so here it is on the list. As J Peterman from “Seinfeld” would say: Congratulations on a job… done.

29. The American
Anton Corbijn

George Clooney is often at his best when he’s not saying anything. He doesn’t talk much in “The American.” And he doesn’t need to. The film speaks for him thanks to the enormously talented new filmmaker Anton Corbijn at the helm. Being famous for his album cover photography and music videos, Corbijn clearly has a eye for stunning compositions. Working in long form seems to be no obstacle and “The American” even improves upon the already impressive “Control,” his first film. After this film and Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” I’m starting to think it’s more exciting to see a film from a new director who is a fashion designer or photographer rather than someone who actually went to film school. This underrated, thinking man’s assassin movie was hated by audiences and critics when it came out (I blame the advertising… and stupid people) but I feel it has all the stuff to become a cult thriller. When a film looks as good as “The American” does, big shoot-outs are not only unnecessary but unappealing. If people wanted that then they should have just watched some horrible Angelina Jolie movie  like “Wanted” or “Salt.” As an aside I would love to see his character from “Burn After Reading” meet the one he plays in this film. I don’t know if they’d hit it off or kill each other.

30. The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko

Really enjoyed “Kids.” I have nothing but good things to say about it beyond the non-ending for Ruffallo which is a bit limp. Great story, great dialogue, (probably) the best ensemble cast of the year and unlike so many similar independent-ish movies about quirky families (“Little Miss Sunshine” and “Rachael Getting Married” come to mind) it’s not shallow, smug or self satisfied. I think back on that movie and smile. Then I want to eat a tomato like it’s an apple. I have no idea why I can’t bring myself to get it higher on the list.

special mention:

Buried
Rodrigo Cortés

One of the best close room scenarios ever. Except it’s a closed coffin, underground, dark and full of sand and even a snake. As movies about people who are buried in a coffin go, it’s near the top of the list right below Kill Bill vol. 2. and right above “The Vanishing” and that “CSI” episode directed by Tarentino. This movie is so effective that I never, ever want to watch it again. Director Rodrigo Cortés and writer Chris Sparling find so many inventive ways to use the space of the 2×8 set that it’s above all a great film to study. Each camera angle offers a fresh perspective and all the changing light sources (flash light, cigarette lighter, glow sticks, cell phone etc.) are way more fascinating then they should be. The film is not boring for even a second. Hitchcock would be proud of that. Speaking Hitch, the “story,” what little there is, is equally resourceful as it throws new and very creative curve balls every few minutes in the telling this doomed man’s story for survival. It’s like “127 Hours” in that respect but unlike that film Buried does not get carried away with formalistic excess. It also avoids narrative tricks and twist endings. Instead, the film sticks with the character and the grim reality of his situation and it’s all the better for it. Finally, Ryan Reynolds gives a performance nobody knew Ryan Reynolds was capable of… including Ryan Reynolds.

Let Me In
Matt Reeves
“You’re not a girl?”
“No.”
“What are you?”
“I’m nothing.”

Let Me In proves that…
(a) Matt Reeves is a talented filmmaker that, after Cloverfield,  somehow acquired a keen eye for atmosphere, action and humanity.
(b) The film, while totally unnecessary, is wise to steal as much as it can from the original/better European version.
(c) The original story, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is so timelessly good that anyone who ever adapts is almost guaranteed a decent film as long they follow the core story/themes.

The answer: all of the above. The film is one of those rare adaptations that upholds the quality of the previous incarnations. I mean, how often is is that we root for the monster as much as we fear it? Okay, a lot these days but with respect to the horror genre, where all the good ideas are coming out of either Europe or Asia, that almost never happens. The original version is one of the best horror films ever made and the single best vampire story ever adapted for the screen. This version is… good. Everything I said about Tomas Alfredson’s film (link) applies here give or take.

Under “take” I would say that the screenplay’s dialogue is more straightforward and less enigmatic. That’s not entirely a bad thing but I personally prefer quirky mystery of the original because it heightens the horror aspects and makes for a more engaging experience since nothing is spelled out to the viewer. I also didn’t love the laughably bad crazy monkey girl CGI effects depicted every time our young little vamp springs to action. Looks unnatural and robs the film of being effectively spooky. Another strike against it is the undeniable feeling that this version is and will always be superfluous even though it’s one of the rare remakes that is watchable. Under “give,” however, I would say that the film is drop dead beautiful; the dark shadows, the stunning street light orange and the shimmering red of blood etc. Along with the original it is also one of the most improbably romantic films ever made.

The pre-teen vamp/human puppy love is juxtaposed withthe inevitable sick and twisted conclusion that answers what happens when an immortal girl spends her life witha nerdy mortal boy. As for the horror, it’s downright brutal and handled very well by Reeves. The pool scene is, once again, one of the best shot horror moments of all time (up there with Ripley’s silent showdown at the end of Alien). The solemn performances by Kodi Smit-McPhee (kid from The Road and that rare good child actor) and Chloe Grace Moretz (ARGH, STOP WITH THE THREE NAME NAMES!!!) who is bit girl instead of hit girl this time around (yes, I think I’m clever). Boththe kids along with performances by Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas do justice to the original actors. After this film and “Kick Ass,” Moretz claimed more lives in 2010 than Cancer. While it’s not even close to the original this version seems to respect both the novel and original film and that’s why it’s works as well as it does. Um, that’s also why it probably make any money in America.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
David Yates

Very few series get better with age. Harry Potter has.

Pirahna 3D
Alexandre Aja

You know you love it!

Splice
Vincenzo Natali

While “Splice” is not content with being a common, late night horror film, make no mistake, it is a monster movie. One that, like the failed experiment turned poison-tailed monster, fails to maintain its structural integrity (in the last act) but still succeeds on the strength of the idea that created it. The film stars Sarah Polly and Adrian Brody as the world’s smartest, hippest and stubborn rock star scientists who, out of sheer cocky defiance, create a hybrid creature. As the blob grows bigger and stronger the two grow more and more… stupid. There may be a narrative flaw in their inability (or unwillingness) to “deal” with the creature but at the same time it almost makes sense why they would allow their experiment to get out of hand (and tail). First and foremost I like is how the film’s horror elements are rooted in something deeply tragic and human. The gender issues are also compelling without feeling forced. The “monster,” named Dren (Nerd backwards–ha!) is a memorable creation. A being that would be pitiable if she, it, weren’t so eerie in the way it reflects humanity back upon us original sinners. Wide eyes, bald as a baby, pin sharp tale of death and possessing a penis shaped head, to look upon Dren is to look upon the sinister nature of creation. As she grows the film does to but, on the other hand, as she flames out so too does the story. It almost had to be that way. While a noble failure the film has a way of making science thrilling again and that almost never happens in modern science fiction/horror. “Splice” begins with the wonder and the euphoric glee of discovery, briskly moves to “wait a minute, what’s going on here?” uneasiness (a staple for good horror) and finally settles on the disappointing application of some really good ideas.

The Book of Eli
Rodrigo Cortés

I still don’t know if “Book of Eli” is one of the best films of the year or one of the worst.

Best of 2010: Video Games

1. Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

I don’t often give Xbox 360 games their due. Well, here I am giving them their due. Mass Effect 2 is a juggernaut and, as far as the world of video games is concerned, the year belonged to it. It’s literally peerless, especially when you take into account that not even the first Mass Effect matches up to its grandeur or efficiency. Mass Effect 2 is a perfect sci-fiaction RPG adventure and, yeah, while that’s a lot of genres at play the game is streamlined and the genres all add an invaluable imprint. I can even call it a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game because multiple playthroughs yield different experiences; all brilliant and unique. It’s similar to Heavy Rain in that respect except with 100% more alien sex. In a nutshell, the story has you traversing the universe to discover why humans are being abducted. But that description is as lacking as saying that Star Wars is story about a kid that finds his father. This is a fully realized science fiction world (as good as any other modern sci-fi mythos) where you can (or at least feel like you can) do anything. Most importantly, you feel like you, as a player, make an impact on the world(s) and that effect is unique to how you play it. In other words, it’s your game! Having a real sense of ownership of the story and characters puts Mass Effect ahead of just about anything else out there. From his and her design to the choices made under their command, Commander Shepard is, for better or worse, my character. I played through the game as two very different Shepards, one an evil male (natch) and the other a morally fierce female. As good as those playthroughs have been for me I can’t wait to start it all over again on PS3. But that’s not all because the year will end with the release of Mass Effect 3 and by that time the series’s domination will be complete. Mass Effect 2 is an easy choice for game of the year for me. I can put up no argument that, alongside Uncharted 2, it’s the most important game in the current generation.


2. Just Cause 2 (PS3)
The most underrated game of the year. I’m calling JC2 a sandbox killer because once I played it I can never go back to other open world games. It’s first victim is the overrated Red Dead Redemption voted game of the year by most sites and publications but rendered useless and boring and about 1/100% as enjoyable as JC2. If my criteria of what the best game of the year was simply what I had the most fun playing day in and day out then Just Cause 2 would be that game. It’s the kind of game where beatingit is nice but ultimately means nothing because you keep going back. When I fire up up my save I never know what I’m going to do. I do, however, know that I will have a lot of fun. As a bonus, the game even lets you record your antics and post it on Youtube! JC2 is also the ultimate time killer. Hours will go by and as you’re gliding through the air you will marvel at where you are and how you got there and appreciate theguarantee that whatever you do next it will also be a blast. Creatingan open world game where you can not only grapple anythingyou can see (including people) but also whip out a parachute creates near limitless potential for fun and mayhem. Add to that a beautiful jungle island that, to my knowledge, is the biggest open world game of all time (San Andreas might be bigger) and you have a truly special experience. As for the story and the main character go, neither are good. And that’s not a bad thing because open world games are almost always hurt by too much story. It’s not needed because it’s OPEN WORLD and story, by design, is restrictive and didactic. Just Cause 2 gets that while so many games like GTA, RDR and Mafia II don’t. Next to Red Faction Guerrilla and San Andreas this is the best open world game ever made.
3. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
It’s rare enough for a PSP game to make the list at all, let alone at a position this high. That’s the wonder of Peace Walker. It’s NOT a PSP game. It’s a Metal Gear game. As full and complete and satisfying as the best Metal Gear Solid experiences out there (meaning: part one and three). The title transcends whatever system it’s one, be it the 8-bit NES or top-of-the-line PS3. Another reason this should not reduced by its handheld “limitations”… it’s huge. Though I spend a good chunk of my summer beating it, I’m still playing it.
4.  Alan Wake (Xbox 360) (tie)
Three games tied for the number 4. Normally I don’t like doing that but 2010 saw the impressive and unexpected return of mystery/horror games. The following three titles elevated the genre in uniquely different ways. The similarities they share is that they are all near perfect classics. Very rare for that to happen in this genre. Even more rare that it would happen three times in a year.

Another Xbox exclusive makes the list! What happens when an author’s dark imagination turns against him? You get one of the best survival horror games of all time. I put off playing this game for obvious reasons. It looked lame. Dark woods–yeah, been there. Strange hauntings–yeah, yeah, I know the drill. Creepy small town setting–that would be special if none of us ever played Silent Hill. Well I was wrong to not play this game for so long. Cliches do not slow down this air tight survival horror expiernce. In fact, as much as I love Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space (the King and Queen of survival horror in my book) this game beats them in a lot of ways. The setting perfectly fits the atmospheric spooks. The story is deep and complex and rationed out in enjoyable bits. The use of music and Television conventions is truly innovative (the entire game is a “season” with episodes acting as chapters). The central light mechanic (flashlights are your main weapon against the evil “darkness”) is smartly implemented and creates a lot of surreal sights of morbid beauty as twisted shafts of light stand out from afar and bathe you in safety when you’re in its warm embrace. You feel this game. It’s so visceral. When you’re running through the woods in dark with one bullet left and no flash light juice you WILL feel the pressure. This is a survival horror game where the menace is more or less a logical part of the narrative. And the self awareness featuring an author caught up in his own world/nightmares/mania adds a tremendous purpose to what you’re doing. The last thing this game wants you to do is question the logic of what happening and that’s ironic because this is a game that holds up quite well.
4. Heavy Rain (PS3)
A landmark in the medium of video games. A story you enjoy in the same way you might read a book, except you’re simultaneously experiencing the story and helping to create it. Or not… because this is not for everyone. Heavy Rain will or at least should be studied for the way it uses the narrative form to engage the player in a multi-faceted mystery. The game requires you to to find a serial killer and make the tough choices and sacrifices along the way to get it done. Not an easy task. This game challenges you. Not in terms of gameplay (which is smooth and well designed) but psychologically. I do not feel it’s embellishing to say that no mystery/thriller movie or novel has the ability to affect the player/viewer the what Heavy Rain does. A landmark title in not just video games but the mystery genre.
4. Deadly  Premonition (Xbox 360)
Another mystery/horror game makes the list. In a year that polished games with high production values bought um earned uniformly good reviews, Deadly Premonition, the small game that could, got awful reviews. That right there exposes the video game “journalism” industry as a bought and owned fraud. But who cares about critics, it’s all about the players and the cult experience many of enjoyed this year. When playing one must keep in mind that it’s a b-movie of a game that borrows from that other b-movies/shows like Twin Peaks. It also borrows (perhaps not intentionally) from Silent Hill, Heavy Rain and Alan Wake. And why not? It’s one of those games that gets everything right… by doing everything “wrong” technically speaking. The controls are awkward, the open world is bland and tedious, the story is weird, the characters are out of place, the dialogue is… uh, very Japanese (“What a hell! EVEN ___ has been killed” blank space added to avoid a spoil), the survival horror is well below the gold standard Resident Evil 4 set (on the PS2 no less!) and the graphics, oh the graphics, look like they were rejected from a Xbox era game. But all of that contributes to the unhinged small town nightmarish aura the game is going for.
The game is not just good but one of the most pure and endearing video game experiences of the year. Amazingly, it starts off so bad it’s good and ends up so good it’s, well, good. The game shines brighter than so many American products that are either sequels or involve the military. DP is about a quirky FBI agent named York Morgan (Agent Cooper meets Agent Mulder meets Agent Tyler Durden) who waltzes into a small, David Lynchian town with his imaginary friend, determined to investigate a murder… and drink as much coffee as possible. The the way the cream swirls in his coffee, by the way, gives him vital clues as to where to go next. Of course things go to hell (almost literally) from there and the story spirals out of control as a Raincoat killer straight out of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” strikes again and again… and again. The game never takes itself too seriously but still manages to be scary and atmospheric. And heartfelt! The character of Yorke and his imaginary friend is a gem and one of the best original video game heroes of all time. He makes creepy rape faces every chances he gets, talks to his “friend” Zach about b-movies constantly (he loves “Tremors” and “Remo Williams,” how cool is that?!) and he gets visited by demons that nobody else seems to be able to see. Actually, I’m wrong one other person can see and it’s it’s the player and we’re just as crazy as him for playing this delightful cult game.



5. Bayonetta (Xbox 360)
The best action game since the first Ninja Gaidenon on the original Xbox. This game is unrelenting. “Enough” is just not in its vocabulary. What starts as an obnoxious Japanese action game starring a naked witch with a “Tangled”-sized rope of black hair (that’s also functions as her suit!) who battles angles in her free time turns very quickly into a symphony of beauty, violence and gorgeously choreographed, balls-out hyper sexualized fighting. The creator of the game admits that each battle is basically designed as a violent reenactment of the act of sex ending in, uh, a very intense moment. From there, each individual battle does likewise as it leads up to the (always crazy) end boss of each level. And finally the bosses (and there’s a lot of em) ramp up to the orgasm of all orgasms. Your primary endgame is to defeat God, or at least a God called Jubileus, The Creator (great boss name btw!). It’s not a stretch to state that I don’t think I’ve ever played a game as over-the-top as Bayonetta. In a year with an unusually large among of fighting games, it’s curious how lazy this once great genre has grown. While not bad, the current king of action games, God of War 3, added nothing to the franchise and that was before Dante’s Inferno, Darksiders, and Castlevania: Lord of Shadows all embarrassed themselves by copying the clearly stagnant GOW formula. Unlike those button mashing boy’s club efforts (the best of which is Castlevania I guess), Baynotta changed things. She is able to take on a God and kill it in the game and does a similar thing to the action genre outside of it. Where do we go from Bayonetta? There’s no topping it!


6. Pac Man Championship Edition DX (PS3)

How good is the new Pac Man game? The DX stands for dick xplosion! It’s that fun! The most simple yet addicting game of the year. Pure kinetic movement. I sunk hours into it last year and will sink countless more hours this year trying to improve upon what I did last year. The feelingI get while gobbling up those ubiquitous dots and stringing up them sweet-ass ghost trains up before chomping them all into the digital void of nothingness with Mr Pac Man’s pizza slice shaped maw is so basic yet so fundamentally enjoyable. Eating dots and reversing the tables on ghosts is like buildingblock of all video games. AHHHH, SOOO GOOOD<<<. In a way, in a lot of ways actually, this is a perfect game in the sense that what it does, it does perfectly. There’s no room for improvement with Pac Man CE. So many late hours were spent trying to top my personal score, checking out leaderboards (you people are insane!) and of course trying to grab the most ghost combos possible. Who could have ever guessed that in a year that saw the release of new Halo, Call of Duty, God of War and Fallout games, Pac Man would beat them all! Could 2011 be the year of Pong?

7. Vanquish (PS3)

I can’t believe how good Vanquish turned out. The game looks like a generic space shooter when in actuality in revitalizes the genre much in the same way Bayonetta did. With hyperbolic flourishes of overkill. The guy behind Resident Evil made this game as the shooter to end all shooters. Vanquish delivers in ways many shooters don’t even bother with. I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan of the genre but if I’m going to play one I want to shoot! A lot! This game gives me exactly what I want, unlike Gears of War which just annoyed me with it’s false sense of story, overwrought atmosphere and annoying grunting characters. This game eschews all that in favor of, yes, shooting. Pure, blissful almost orgasmic bouts of shooting. And when you are not shooting you are dashingfrom one cover spot to another so you can shoot some more. And you shoot everything. Mech, robots, giant robots, giant mechs, air crafts, humans, you name it. This is the Bayonetta of shooting games and if there were any justice both games would have sold more than Halo and Black Ops combined. Of course that didn’t happen.


8. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (PS3)
It’s good! It’s actually good! A cash-in? Of course. This game exists to milk every last drop of blood from the franchise before the next big Creed release. Still, had they called Brotherhood Assassin’s Creed III instead not many people would have objected because it’s a full length and fully satisfying experience. One just as good as any other Assassin’s Creed title (or most games released this year for that matter) and that’s high praise. As cash grab expansions go this game fares much better than Fallout: New Vegas, Black Ops and last year’s horrible Halo: ODST. Bottom line, I didn’t expect to love Brotherhood but here I am saying I love it and meaning it. Openingup Rome is one of the defining moments of the entire series. Contrary to what I thought before playing there’s a lot to do and lot more story to uncover in the increasingly complex Creed mythology. The side quests, ranging from recruiting assassin’s and giving them orders a la Metal Gear: Peace walker to buying landmarks with all your hard earned loot, are as enjoyable as the main ones.  As an aside I can’t help but think that if Ubisoft is going to spin-off another AC game they should now make one that is Desmond-centric, but that’s just me. Maybe Ubisoft still will seeing as how you now get to control Desmond in his own little open world area (which, in a very cool twist, is the modern setting of the very same hub plaza from AC2). The story works because it expands the mythology without exhausting it (the game conveniently skirts the more sci-fi alien visitors stuff, which may or may not be a good thing) while the new cat-and-mouse multiplayer mode is actually a lot of fun and thematically relevant as MPs go rather than some forced mp component. While Brotherhood won’t win any awards for creativity it sets a welcome new benchmark for full priced expansion games. This is a must for fans of Assassin’s Creed.



9. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
I can be jaded when it comes to Wii games. Hell, a lot of us adults playing video games are and for good reason. We play games like Mass Effect and Heavy Rain and Final Fantasy and Halo etc. and have little respect for recycled “kids” fluff, especially when it appears on the more lazy than not Wii console. But the worst thing a gamer like me (or any anybody) can do is ignore a quality title like Super Mario Galaxy 2 because of the system it’s on. There’s no reason not to play this game. Mario is back and, well, that’s it. The story is of course a non-factor (this is a Nintendo game after all). The gameplay is however a major factor and that’s what matters with a series like this. Everything that was great about the first Galaxy is back, better and bigger. Sure the first Galaxy was far more innovative for its time but the platforming, the hub space ship world, and the use of gravity and planet hopping is top notch. And the ability to play as Luigi and Yoshi is the icing on the cake. This game provides non stop fun and smiles while also providing a strong challenge. It is the King of platforming. That being said it disturbs me to see that in 2010 more people were still playing and buying last years uninspired and overrated New Super Mario Bros Wii over this but, as I said, it’s on the Wii and the kids who play that system wouldn’t know or respect a quality game if they got it for free. See, there I go again being jaded.



10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (PS3 Network)
Not quite an 8bit game. More like 16bit. Hey, not a problem. This game takes me back to the beat-em-ups of  the golden era. Similar to games like Double Dragon and River City Ransom but with a elevated sense of humor and a lot of cool references to past games and of course the Pilgrim comic/movie. This is a meta-game about games! So much to love here, especially the price ($15). The combat is fun and actually very complex (not to mention HARD in the early stages). The co-op is exciting (even though it lacks an on-line mode for some reason). The story is classic Pilgrim pugilism. The music rocks to no end. The stat and XP building is so deep it almost takes the game into RPG territory. And the little details thrown in are appreciated by any fan of the Pilgrim film or comics; ex. Edgar Wright makes a cameo, all the characters from the book are included (love the gay bearded music guy) and you can even pay off Scott’s $400+ late fee for Land of the Lost. Haha. A lot of love went into this game. Well, consider that love reciprocated.
also…

Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP)
The second of three PSP games to make the list. Up until 2010 there were not three worthy games in the systems entire run! But this is not a case of too little too late. It’s never too late for a new ValkyriaChronicles game. They’re even making a 3rd game for the PSP. This is a full fledged Valkyria Chronicles game that I can play in bed. Consider me recruited to the cause. While the game is a bit watered down from the amazing PS3 cult hit (I hate how the maps are divided) it’s just great to see the series live on in any capacity. The strategy RPG elements are as sharp as ever and the game even manages to surpass its forebear in some ways by including fantastic pre-mission segments set in your company’s barracks. I love the hub world offered and feel it connects the game world more than the history book gimmick of the last game. That being said the story proper is not particularly strong and the young hero is about as annoying as JRPG young heroes get (his stupid hair and annoying laugh haunts me: “Ah HA, ah HAHAHA”). VC2 packs so much into such little space that it gives Metal Gear Peace Walker a run for its money.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS)
A bold new perspective for the point and click series pays off. The series is known for it’s charming problem solving lawyer action but this spin-off focuses on detective work. And it works! Edgeworth is a fine character that deserves his own game and I’m happy to see his first outing to be such a success. Perhaps not financially (this is a cult game after all) but certainly in terms of how fun it is. For a series not known for its innovation this game is a mini-revelation. Can’t wait for the second part.

Persona 3 Portable (PSP)
Were it new and/or had it not already received the FES treatment, the PSP Persona would be the best game of the year.  No question. The PSPsimprobable rise to fame in 2010 continued with the superlative Persona 3 port. Just enough is changed from its PS2 brother to make it a must-play for Persona fans. Beingthat I picked this game as the second best of the entire decade one extra line of dialogue would have sealed the deal for me let alone an entirely new playable female character. Oh yeah, and the game came with Jumpei’s hat! The lack of an explorable game world hurts a bit but hardly enough to make a dent in one’s overall enjoyment of what might be the best JRPG of all time. I’ve beaten the PS3 version of Persona 3 two times and logged plenty of hours into this new portable version. Even if I never finish this version it makes me feel good knowing I have it and can play it anywhere. If that’s not the definition of nerdy than I don’t know what is?

Dark Void (PS3)
Perhaps the most underrated “bad” game of the year. As high profile flops go, Bionic Commando this is not. Imagine Uncharted with a jet pack. And aliens. Great fun, quit complaining. It’s world war 2 and Hitler’s winning. The solution? Fly around an alternate dimension shooting UFOs down and hijacking others only to land (or crash) them and take cover so you can kill a bunch of aliens. This game is exhilarating at times. I don’t know why people are so hostile towards it, especially now that you can get it on PS3, Xbox360 or PC for a little over $5 bucks. EA thought it had a big franchise on its hands and Brad Pitt even optioned Dark Void for a movie. Whoops. Less than a year later and very few people even remembers it existed. Those it do make fun of it. I have a soft spot for it. It’s even better than…

Castlevania: Lord of Shadows (PS3)
Definitely a love/hate thing going on with this game. Impressive looking. Insane combat. Beautiful visuals (the inside of castles look as gorgeous as snow covered mountains). Great voice actingfeaturing awesome narrative oration by Patrick Stewart. And an ending that knocked me out of my chain mail. This game has a lot going for it… but a lot going against it at the same time. Namely, it can be slow, tedious, awkwardly designed (pulling a lever and punchinga button can be a challenging!), overlong (I rarely say that) and at times infuriating. The puzzle sections also suck. Seekingto create a new line in the long running franchise the game missteps by tryingto be God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and Lord of the Rings. The fact that the one thing it does not try very hard to be is Castlevania is odd and off putting. At least until the end. Oh, the end. Loved it! Overall, and despite my bitching, not a bad game at all and easily the best 3D Castelvania to date (sorry Lament of Innocence). I hope Konami make a follow-up because I have a feelingit will be something special. If you can get this title for cheap it’s well worth picking up.

Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)
Halo is a fun. Still. Somehow, and I don’t know how or why because it’s not like the series has tried anything new since, like, dual wielding. So, yes, Halo is not better than ever but in a lot of ways (some good, some bad) it’s as good as ever. A streamlined product that is the total refinement of a truly original idea (Halo: Combat Evolved) that single handily ignited a new era of console gaming. While some fans feel the series gets better and better (story and gameplay) I have the opposite reaction. The concept gets more and more used up for lack of a better word. It’s entertainingbut not really exciting anymore. By doingthe whole Master Chief-less prequel thing (again!?) and setting the game on the doomed planet Reach, a world on the cusp of a world-ending war, this is as good of a place as any to “end” the series–certainly better than the shamefully lackingODST. The game gets points for not only providing a polished Halo experience but for connectingwith the player emotionally. The fatalism of thinggame is quite compelling. I wonder if Microsoft will quickly cash-in a la Modern Warfare’s year-in/year-out model or give the series a proper breather before craftinga proper reboot and/or exploring a new aspect to freshen up the same-y universe? I hope the Halo series is careful and takes its time but why should it be? People will buy no matter what because, lets face it, the core FPS fan is the kind of meathead who is more interested in callingpeople “fags” and spamming grenades with 12-year-olds than being challenged by a new Halo or single-player Bioshock story. And being that I’m somewhat of a Halo fan I guess I’m just as bad as everyone else. Given that even Halo is now using some of Modern Warfare’s aesthetics (the tightly shot FPS narrative passages) I think I know where this is heading and it’s fate could be far worse than that of the planet Reach.

Enslaved (PS3)
So much vision. Such a cool plot. Such intriguing characters. And yet still something’s missing! Above all I love running around in this postapoclayptic Eden. Doing so with Andy Sirkus as a buffed out brute named monkey with some random hot chick wearing ripped pants makes it even more fun in the non homoerotic sense of the word (that’s why I mentioned the girl). Made by the same crew of Heavenly Sword (and future maker of the Devil May Cry reboot that is almost guaranteed to suck), this game is full of atmosphere. The world, or what’s left of it, is lush and the remnants of a long past civilization (our civilization) is ugly, rusty and rotting. That stark contrast makes for a great visual duality. The story (basically getting from point A to B) is involving but with a premise about a (hot as hell) woman enslaving an apish man and forcing him to do her bidding while bitching at him to “hurry up!” all along the way (because god forbid he takes too long or strays too far from her clutches) I got very annoyed very quickly. When Metroid: Other M’s female protagonist was controlled by the male powers that be everybody freaked out but nobody seems to mind it when the roles are reversed. Seriously, though, we’d need about 1,000 more games like this before the it balances out so I’m far from offended. That being said, that’s not even the problem with the game. It’s the gameplay and short length that ultimately hurts the experience. The GOW fighting is shallow but at least it’s fun on that simple punch-punch-heavy-punch level. The rest of the game is climb-based platforming which is oh so popular these days. But the climbing/jumping/shimmying/dropping routine is tedious and mostly unrewarding; more Prince of Persia reboot than anything Nathan Drake got into. As for the length, well, that’s not so much of a problem now that the game (an under performer) is bargain priced. Problems aside, Enslaved is still very fun and belongs more on the good list here than the slightly-less-than-good one featured below.
Note: This is the only first person shooter to make my best list this year though I did have fun playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Fable III (Xbox 360)
This is the first Fable game to make my list because it’s the first Fable game to be, uh, good. It’s true. The past games bite off more than they can chew and end up muddled and awkward examples of almost-great western RPGs. While deeply flawed this game gets a lot right. First off I love the setting. An industrialized world that’s as much steam punk as it is D&D. The characters are fun and lively, the dialogue is brilliantly wry as is the story and graphics. The main reason this Fable makes the list though is the basic hook. You play a sibling to a tyrannical king. Throughout the entire game you defect and rebel, building up your “terrorist” group in an effort to overthrow him. But that’s not the end. Once you do a new kind of game begins. Sure, the game fails in lot of areas (combat is simple, some glitches etc.) but the sense of tangible progress is undeniable winning. I not only got the thrill of overthrowing a king but of managing my own kingdom. In between, the game adds some awesome Sims/Dark Cloud elements like buying property, managing your house, raising a family and either being good or evil to the people in the kingdom. As Mel Brooks said, “it’s good to be King” and it’s just good to play as one–especially when he’s a total dick. In the end Fable III is brought down by it’s short length and inability to wrap everything up. Like the other Fable titles, it’s a victim of its own ambitions.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS)
Layton and his man-love boy Luke travel to the future to solve more random-ass puzzles. When in trouble thugs will say “It’s time to teach you a lesson! Solve this puzzle!” instead of just beating you up. No worries, Layton never misses a beat, he busts out some of his most gentlemen-like moves to date. Featuring more back story and a very fun plot, Unwound Future is the best Layton game to date. The puzzles are weak but that’s the only shortcoming in an otherwise very fun game. We get exactly one new Layton game every year and this is one of the only franchises where that’s not enough.

Super Scribblenauts (DS)
The first is still the best in my eyes. But many now prefer this one for all it improves (more words and better controls). This game’s updated vocabulary (with big hairy slimy adjectives now!) maximizes the random-ass fun to be had as your imagination runs wild. The level building feature is also very fun.

NBA Jam (Wii)
The classic NBA Jam returns. And besides graphics nothing has changed. And that’s exactly why it’s still great. It will always be great.
Alien vs. Predator–I actually had a lot of fun with this new Alien game in which you can play as humans, aliens and, um, more aliens (Predators). Each mode has its own story and mechanics. The story is decent (Bishop is back !) and the three campaigns are competently interwoven into the narrative.  During these campaign the first person shooting is innovative and switches styles based on the character (Marines shoot, Aliens crawl and Predators are stealthy bad-asses). The game is a somewhat low rent so people poo-pooed all over it. Their loss. Easy for me to say since I didn’t actually buy it but it makes for a great (and quick) rental.

Angry Birds (iPhone)
Some people are bitching that casual games are ruining legit games. Uh, hardly! As if $1 games will ever fully replace Modern Warfare. And if they do, great, that’s lets me buy 59 more games. Angry Birds came out late last year but (literally) exploded in 2010. These physics based games are very addicting. And very simple. But it’s simplicity should not be considered dumb. Far from that. This game is very challenging and very rewarding. The constant updates are great too.
The Worst Game of the Year:

Final Fantasy XIII
It’s a bad sign when the best character in a game is a black dude with a Chocobo living in his afro. It’s all downhill from there and it’s a steep hell because this is far and away the worst game of the year. The shocking thing for me though is that I never thought I have to call a Final Fantasy game the worst anything of any given year. If the series is the stuff of legend (and it is) than it’s most recent installment is the stuff of infamy. My hatred for this game is intensified by the fact that it exists in what may be my favorite video game genre of all time. This linear role playing game is of touch in almost every way imaginable and games like this are the reason American gamers laugh at Japanese RPGsand the reason many feel Japanese games are on their way out. FFXIII stubbornly withholds all the joys of RPGs and including a lamentable lack or misuse of open endedness, item management, character development, character design, story, writing and any sort of variety. That it somehow figured out how to offer a decent battle system is a small miracle seeing as how it fucks up everything else.
To play and beat the game ALL you need is two pieces of tape. That’s it! Once the game is fired up and the exasperating cut scenes play out (beware of some uberannoying anime cliche characters that giggle and “uuughn” and give their best blue steel faces while wearing outfits designed by retarded cosplay wearing teenage girls) you use the first piece of tape on the analogue. Tape it forward. Next, place the second strip of tape on the x button (or A button on the Xbox–which no Final Fantasy game should ever be played on by the way). Your character will now run and hit the action button endlessly. As your character automatically runs straight (straight is the only direction in this linear game) and fight her/their way through mildly challenging battles on her/their own, you are free to do whatever you want and, trust me, sitting in front of the game is not what you want unless you want punishment. Twenty or thirty hours later your taped controller will have beaten the game. Upon beating the game I had only one thought and feeling: I hate you, Final Fantasy XIII. I cursed it’s creation every second I played it, cursed its characters and cursed some more through the end credits. Then I cursed at my dogs for allowing me to play through this entire game without putting me out of my misery. Friends don’t let friends play Final Fantasy XIII. To put things in perspective I called Final Fantasy XII the best game of the year and ranked it as one of the ten best of the decade. It’s not just a case of how the mighty have fallen but how the mighty have fallen and dragged its fans down with it in the process.
Runner Up: Metriod: Other M
I bought this game. I actually paid money for it. Lots of people did. Why? Because it’s Metriod and not just Metriod but a console version of Metroid from the guys who made Ninja Gaiden. Well you know what, we all got screwed.
What Happened?
Overrated/Disappointing/Etc.
1. Red Dead Redemption–The most critically acclaimed game of the year and, accordingly, the most overrated. I think “older” gamers like me are to blame. I guess they like the pacing and the novelty of the western genre. Yes, I played it. And beat it. And I never want to touch it again. Not bad by any means (I’d give it a B- or 8.0 out of 10) but it’s just another pretentious Rockstar game full of pointless side quests, imprecise shooting and glitches. Maybe that’s why I call it Grand Theft Auto IV with horses. That game also got plenty of GOTY awards so I must be missing something. A big something. As an aside, I continue to detest Rockstar’scharacter models, motion capture and cinematic cut scenes. Very hackyand predictable. It’s all hand waving, pacingand silly posturing.
2. Fallout New Vegas–Ugh, this is still a sore subject. The follow-up to my game of the year for 2007 will not even make my top twenty. That’s the very definition of “What happened?” The answer:… nothing. And after sinking almost 250 hours in Fallout 3 (one of the ten best games of the last decade) I fired up New Vegas and learned instantly (and heart breakingly) that I’m kind of over it. I wouldn’t have been if they improved in any way upon the original but this game is miles behind the last one! The sun soaked world you play in is promising at first but ultimately very bland and unrewarding. It’s big, sure, but so big and so vast and so disjointed that it’s endlessly open ended immensity ends up hurting the experience. All that beingsaid, the game still could have had a shot of making my twenty best list above. Why didn’t it? Because it’s fucking broken. As in it does not work in some of the most basic of ways. As in I encountered so many game breaking glitches that to even call it a game is a bit unfair at times. My gun keeps shooting, my character falls into a non existent pit, other characters get stuck on nothing, items go flying, books open themselves (maybe they’re haunted), characters refuse to talk, my character randomly will drop dead and after putting up with all that my save file got corrupted. FUCK! I put about 20 hours into Vegas and gave up. They I played more Demon’s Souls. I will beat it one day to be sure but that day is not today.
3. Dead Rising 2–What happened is the game’s goddamn timer ruins any chance of fun you might have otherwise had (and there’s a lot of fun to be had) in this fantastically flawed open world mall/stadium Zombie action game. You can make just about anything, do just about anything, and kill just about any zombie that ever lived, oh how fun… BUT you also have to keep checking the clock and if you dare to get distracted by, you know, all the fun you’re having then you then have to run like an idiot across the map because some arbitrary timer insists you have to give your stupid daughter her stupid anti-zombie medsat the exact time indicated. If you don’t: fuck you, game over. Not level over or check point over but GAME over. The entire game ends. If you’re two seconds late: fuck you, game over. If you arrive on time your game STILL may end because the clock of death is iffy and imprecise at best. Where’s the fun in that? WHERE?! I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that was pretty much totally ruined by something unnecessary and avoidable. They should have called it Clock: The Game.
4. God of War 3–Same old God of War. That was good enough to make GOW2 a late gen PS2 classic but not enough this time around. I’ve grown so tired of Kratos’s“Wah, wah, wahhhhhhargh” histrionics. So sick of his ALWAYS ANGRY ALL THE TIME fits and daddy issues. Dude, get over it! His petulantly hyperbolic rage towards the heavens is sooo2004. His one-note to date, pure cock rage, is now laughable despite the fact that it once came from a very emotional place that the player could practically feel through the rumble of their controller. I’m being a bit harsh though. This is not even close to being a “bad” game. It’s above average, definitely falling in the B/8.0 range. The graphics are perhaps the best on the PS3 (meaning: best anywhere) and the memorable moments never stop coming at you. Still, I have to wonder if there’s a future in this series. If there is it would probably have to be without Kratos because the character is creatively tapped out. Unless… he’s the bad guy in a new adventure. That would be great because I would love to rip his grimacing head of in a final boss battle, putting an end to his stupid, stupid misery.
5. Call of Duty Modern Warfare:Black Ops–Oh look another COD game. Thank$ Activision, I’m sure you took your time to make this the best game possible. Best selling game of the year, you say? Of course it is! This is the Madden of first person shooters. I’m officially sick of this series. So why am I still playing it?
6. Transformers: War for Cybertron–Bought it, beat it, played it on-line and, in the end, I can respect the game for being the first fully realized Transformers console game ever–it’s Halo: Reach with robots. Still found it annoying. Didn’t like the controls (argh, meelee) and while the graphics are impressive, they start to get old.
7. Darksiders–Average game steals from all better games around (God of War, Zelda, Portal) and… it’s still an average game. The game has it’s fans but I just couldn’t get into it. And enough with squatty character designs. The horizontally pressed, chubby sausage finger Gears of War character designs has got to go.
8. Resonance of Fate–“What happened?” is that this effin game is hard as balls! I love this game… erm… I should say I love the idea of it. I got a good dozen hours into this quirky steam punk JRPG gem before giving up completely and I HATE giving up on games. It’s disgustingly hard and unforgiving. It punishes you because it can. You have to beat it on the impossibly hard normal mode to open us an easier mode. Really?! I love the turn based arena battle mechanics (more than FFXIII decent set-up even) but, god damn, this game kicked my ass and not in a fun and challenging Demon’s Souls kind of way. Rather, in a frustrating way that is hard for the sake of being hard. Such a shame.
9. Sin and Punishment 2–A very good on-rails shooter. Almost made the above list except this one boss keeps kicking my ass so I gave up and now I’m bitter about it. Fail–me.
10. Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands–The magic is gone A competent POP experience but not a memorable one. Better than the reboot a few years ago but that’s not saying much. Where does POP go from here? I’m afraid it’s dead and no amount of time traveling back to the past will revive it. So sad. The memories will love on though. A great modern series.
11. Bioshock 2–I don’t dislike the game at all. Well, unless we’re talking about the shallow and fun slurping multiplayer modes which are a great argument for single player games not needing to shoehorn in MP. Parts of Bioshock 2 are even better than the ever so slightly overrated first game. The last half offers non stop jaw dropping moments. The feel you get as Rapture falls apart is exhilarating and offers some of the best gameplay moments of the entire series. Not to mention the final twist in which you play, uh, from a different character’s perspective. So, yeah, the game has its moments. I list it here however because I remembered at the very last minute that this game even came out in 2010. Despite some improvements the game ultimately fails to make the kind of lasting impression that the first had. This time next year the bulk of Bioshock 2 may disappear from my mind entirely. Especially after Bioshock: Infinite comes out. Oh boy, can’t wait.
12. Goldeneye–Sigh, you can remake Goldeneyefor the Nintendo 64 all you want but it will never be the real thing. And, sorry, the Wii is not a system for first person shooters.

Estimated Money Spent:
$1,600+ 🙂 ….   😐   … 🙁
Estimated Hours Spent Playing: I’m afraid to count.
Best Moments:
(there be spoilerisms below)

Mass Effect 2:A character you love (for me it was Mordin but it could be any character) dies during the final mission. Happened before in video games but never quite like this. If a character dies YOU are the reason and the feeling of loss is palpable. You are now faced with the choice of re-playing the game or dealing with the tragic consequences in the next Mass Effect. The flip side of that is letting Jacob die every time, haha sucka! Very few games give you such a feelingof ownership, making it a moment to remember and a moment that is, in a word, personal. Truly revolutionary gameplay.
Bayonetta: The orgasmic final act in which you kill God. Followed by flying his sorry ass into the sun. Followed by a pole dance. This game really understands what men want from video games.
Castlevania: Lord of Shadows–Not only are we surprised to see that Gabriel, the hero, turns evil after killing Satan himself but that his sidekick has been the lord of death from all the other games. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, after the credits roll the game reveals its ultimate ending. The game jumps from Medieval times to our future and, guess what, good old Gabe somehow turned into Dracula during those years. The same one you’ve been fighting in all the old Castlevania games! Holy shit! That moment just turned a flawed game into a good one.
Heavy Rain: The killer’s identity. A better twist than any movie could come up with this year.
Bioshock 2: I’ll just say it’s a moment that involves a Little Sister. Well, not a moment but the moment.
Deadly Premonition: Yorke’s fate. As “twists” go it manages to be touching, absurd and actually earned from a narrative standpoint. The fact that the game ended with genuine closure is impressive beyond comprehenson. Runner up moment: playing as the Raincoat Killer.
Metal Gear: Peace Walker: Managing Your army and base. There’s some RPG in my cup of Metal Gear and I like it.
Just Cause 2: The first time you realize you can do anything in this game. Cruising around has never been so fun in a sandbox game.
Mass Effect 2: Giant Frankenstine Robot Human Monster of Deaaaaath. As end boss battles go, this was one of the year’s best.
God Of War 3: Chronos Boss Battle. The boss is the entire level! That’s been done before but never with such pleasing rage. Here, you get feel like the world’s most angry and violent insect.
Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission, under the force field. More Pitch Darkian than Chronicles of Riddick.
Mass Effect 2: Another ME2 moment. In this one Mordin sings Gilbert and Sullivan. First Gilbert and Sullivan shout out in video games? As sci-fiG&S tributes go, this even tops Data from Star Trek singing their tunes. Can’t wait for the Criteron of Topsy-Turvy! I’m getting sidetracked.
Vanquish: The first time you powerslide across the map down a long corridor and manage to hit cover… while shooting, and killing in slow motion. Once this game gets going the momentum doesn’t stop till the end credits. Of course, the end credits involving shooting missiles at the people who made the game.
Halo: Reach: The final stand. The “survive” moment where death is inevitable is quite moving if not totally original (it was done in Final Fantasy: Crysis Core with Zach).
Dead Rising 2: Taking a boxing glove, tape kitchen knives to them. Put them on. Light them on fire. Punch Zombies. 
Demon’s Souls: Shut up, I am still playing it. I will beat it one day (hopefully before the sequel Dark Souls comes out).
Super Scribblenauts: Making my own level. I made a homoerotic version of Lord of the Rings. My favorite touch was adding a rainbow colored Hobbit skeleton in Gandalf’s twisted layer.
Resonance of Fate: Discovering the battle system for the first time. Worst moment: getting defeated by a few short hours later. This game hates me.
NBA Jam: Unlockable characters! Clinton dunking on Palin. Feels. So. good.
The Rest of the Best:
Favorite Writing in a Video Game: Mass Effect 2. Followed by Heavy Rain.
Most Interesting Graphics:Just Cause 2, Bayonetta and Alan Wake.
Favorite Music: Heavy Rain, Scott Pilgrim and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
Funniest Game: Deadly Premonition. Nothing comes close.
Most Innovative: Heavy Rain. Followed by Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Best Multiplayer: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Best Retro Game:Pac-Man. Followed by Scott Pilgrim
Hardest f@$#%*! Game: Resonance of f@$#%*ing Fate.
Most Underrated: Deadly Premonition. Followed by Dark Void and Alien vs. Predator.
Favorite Character/Voice Work (Male):Agent Yorke and his imaginary friend Zach (voiced by Jeff Kramer) in Deadly Premonition. Tied with Yorke is Mordin Solus (voiced by Michael Beattie) in Mass Effect 2. Runner Up: Eathan Mars and Scott Shelby (Sam Douglass) from Heavy Rain and of course the great Sir Patrick “facepalm” Stewart in Castlevania: Lord of Shadows– “YOU ARE THE ONE GABRIEL, YOOOOOUUUU ARRRRRRREEEEEEE THHHHHHEEEE ONNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!”
Favorite Character/Voice Work (Female) : Commander Shepard (voiced by Jennifer Hale) from Mass Effect 2. Love her!

Best of 2010: Graphic Novels/Books

1. The Walking Dead vol 11, 12 and 13
by Robert Kirkman
Forget the sometimes brilliant/sometimes awful AMC TV series, the OG Walking Dead comic is the best zombie saga of its day. Perhaps that’s because it’s not even technically a zombie series anymore–it’s a human series that just happens to feature the occasional zombie. After the intense and still talked about prison show-down more than a year ago, the series has slowed down these last few volumes but I can honestly say that’s not a bad thing. The last three volumes in particular have focused more on character moments and drama rather than the high intensity action this series has been known for in earlier volumes. But the shift makes sense. The hand-less protagonist Rick has never been more tragic or morally uncertain. When he takes on a band of cannibals in volume 11, Rick is so fierce you actually end up feeling bad for the man-eaters at the end. Rick is like the Walter White (“Breaking Bad”) of the comic book world–a figure that has become as scary as he is/was sympathetic. Whatever the series has become in its long tenure, the one thing it hasn’t is tired. Fresh ideas and new angles pop up in every issue with more regularity that most new comic series. Sure, Kirkman’s dialogue can sometimes feel a bit forced and unnatural but in terms of the overall (and hopefully never ending) narrative arc, all of Kirkman’s duck are in a row. Things are going down and while we can be sure that it’s not going to pretty we can also be sure that it will be awesome!
2. Invincible Iron Man vol. 3 and 4
by Matt Fraction
Iron Man is easily the best ongoing superhero series. Matt Fraction is not only able to get into the mind of Tony Stark (no easy task–especially after the movie) but he makes a nest there and chips away at his psyche. The arc that finds Stark loosing his mind as the equally unbalanced patriot/villain Norman Osborn (and the entire government) is after him is a classic chapter in the character’s mythology that is able to reexamine Tony Stark’s identity with trilling narrative precision. It goes back to backs while also offering a new side to Tony–a side that isn’t drunk or cocky for once. Each new story in Fraction’s amazing series reveals not so much who Tony Star is (we know already that) but what motivates him, makes him tick, makes him soar and ultimately what makes him fall.
3. Chew vol. 1 and 2
by John Layman
Warning: reading this will cost you 10.95 because you will have to buy it once you read what it’s about. Chew is the best new comic series of the year.
4. Buffy Season vol. 6 and 7
by Joss Whedon and co.
I don’t know what I’m going to do once the Buffy Season 8 comic series ends later this year. Actually I might know and hopefully it involves starting up Season 9 as soon as possible. The movie version has us hardcore Buffy fans in the dumps but it’s nice knowing the real Buffy will continue to live on in comic form. Buffy is the series that got me into comics and it’s going to be the series to keep me into them for years to come. It’s almost as good in print as it is on TV. That’s saying something.
5. The Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilliad and The Battle of Jericho Hill
by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, and Richard Isanove
Dark Tower fans finally got to find out how exactly Gilliad fell to the dark forces of “The Good Man” John Farson. And it’s not quite how I expected it to turn out. This graphic novel spin-off to the seven volume Tower novels has become very dependable. One of the deepest and most richly rewarding series around. Worthy to be included in Stephen King’s marvelous Dark Tower cannon. Seeing the events that were (maddeningly) briefly touched upon  in the books fleshed out with gorgeous art and great writing proved to be a thrilling experience.
6. The Boys vol. 4 and 5
by Garth Ennis
Despite a slight dip in quality, The Boys maintains its edge and humor in its 2010 offerings. While crass and ridiculous, it’s still one of the most audacious and original graphic novels around. I love it. And now that the good (but really evil) superhero celebrities have set their sights on the fringe supe-bashing protagonist the series is gearing up for an amazing(lybloody) show-down. It’s going to get very ugly. Add to that a fantastic art style and brilliantly twisted dialogue and you have a dodgy winner.
7. Fantastic Four vol. 1
by Jonathan Hickman
Marvel pulls a Green Lantern and makes this comic good again. Really good! Great sci-fi storytelling.
8. Marvel Zombies Return and Marvel Zombies 5
by Fred Van Lente
Welcome back Z-boys! Contrary to popular opinion I loved me some Marvel Zombies vol 3 and 4 but, lets face it, it wasn’t the original Robert Kirkman (he of Walking Dead fame) Zombies I grew attached to. Though I have to say that headless zombie Deadpool (Headpool) is an invaluable addition to the increasingly decaying rooster. That swamp monster dude was also pretty cool. Returns, um, returns or reboots the series and while it doesn’t capture the humor and out-of-left-field style of the first two books it’s still a success in my opinion. The emphasis on zombie Spider-Man and his changing morals grew on me (leave it to Peter Parker to make even a zombie version of himself emo). And Wolverine (who comes in both zombie and regular strength) also has a big part to play. I would love to see the gang return for movie volumes of brain eating fun (bring back Ash!) but may have to settle for comics like Marvel Zombies 5 which is fine by me. Either way, I would kill for a movie or video game based on this franchise.
9. Scott Pilgrim vol. 6
by Bryan O’Malley
And the landmark Pilgrim series goes out with a whimper. Fitting given the character we’re dealing with. The series declined in its last two issues due to novelty of the subject wearing out, repetition of plots and the whole Scott/Ramona back-and-fourth losing a bit of its edge and luster (stay together or break up… but stick with it, okay guys). Ironic, then, that the final volume is called “Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour.” It’s not but it was still nice to see this amazing series end on a somewhat tolerable note. I have an idea for a great spin-off too: Ramona runs off and finds a new boyfriend so now Scott must become an evil ex! How cool would that be? Shut up, I think it’s a great idea.
10 The Complete Balled of Halo Jones by Alan Moore
Moore dials up the sci-fi to 11 on his flamboyent series that has finally been collected and reprinted. This space adventure retains Moore’s usual/unusual sense of humor as well as sense of action rooted in some kind of purpose (be it political or self reflexive). Jones makes for not only a great Moore character but an important sci-fi female protagonist. It’s a bit of a slog at times (with cluttered art and text and some confusing story lines) but the bubbly sci-fi comic strip universe he creates is well worth visiting. It’s funny how a black and white comic can feel so colorful. The worst thing about this comic is that it ended before its time.
10.1 Nemesis vol. 1
by Mark Millar
While I liked Mark Millar’s Kick Ass book, I loved his Nemesis. This is a book about an evil superhero going after the government. A subversive commentary on terrorism and celebrity.
also great…
American Vampire by Steven King and co.
After a lot of lame ass vampire stuff infecting the cultural ethos (Twilight, Bite Me, the horrible third season of Tru Blood) it’s good to see this kind of return to form. A Vampire story that is scary, sexy and stylish. That’s all I need. As a bonus this book has an underwarter vampire. Cool! Looking forward to vol 2.
Y: The Last Man Deluxe Edition by Brian K. Vaughn vol. 2-4
Because you can never buy Y enough times and never read it enough.
Blackest Night by Geoff Jones
DC’s high profile answer to Marvel Zombies. DC does another big cross over event that’s actually halfway good which is more than I can say about Marvel’s big cross over Siege. Blackest Night offers more proof that The Green Lantern is the only good DC character around.
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka
Batwoman as a Jewish lesbian? Yes, and she just out-cooled Batman. How odd is it that two of the best Batman books of recent times/all time are about Joker and Batwoman? To Batman’s credit I hear Grant Morrison’s recent Batman and Robin are very good.
Worst:
Seige–Marvel effectively kills the joy of its events with this flashy dud. What started off promising (Dark Avengers is one of my favorite books to date) turned into a joyless exercise in putting the mostly boring heroes back in charge. TWO CAPT. AMERICAs!? Fuck off, Marvel that’s stupid!
Twilight–more proof that Twilight readers are stupid and will buy anything regardless of cost or content.
Best Non Fiction Book:
Home by Bill Bryson:
Instead of looking outward at the history of the entire universe Bryson looks inward with his fantastic new book. It’s a history of what the title suggest but of course since this is Bryson, it’s about so much more. I haven’t quite finished it yet but I’m savoring every colorful word.
Runner Up: The Grand Design by Steven Hawking.
God may not be dead but he’s certainly unnecessary. Shockingly, science doesn’t need a magical wizard in the sky (or, uh, space) to make sense and Hawking should be commended for this book.
Best Fiction Book:
Lucy by Laurence Gonzales
Monkey hybrid book. It’s like Spice (but better) meets the third (and worst) Planet of the Apes movie. A great read that tackles evolution, racism, and what it means to be human. Very profound without being pretentious.
Runner Up: The Half Made World by Felix Gilman
Five words: Steampunk and “demon-possessed guns.” One more word: Western.
Best Book Not From This Year: Anathem by Neal Stephenson, 2008 (yeah, I really need to read more non-Sci-fi books)
Post, post, and post apocalyptic monks from the future (and another planet) fight off aliens from another-another planet. Gotta love Stephenson. This is his most ambitious novel to date. I love how detailed this book is. Playing with language and the conventions of a genre he helped create Stevenson creates a fully realized world. One where predictable cyberpunk clichés are all but a distant  memory. This book was a real discovery for me.
Note:  Content taken from my other WordPress blog.

Best of 2010: Songs

2010’s Best Songs

for the top 50 songs listed click on song titles to see/hear on Youtube…

  1. Impossible Soul Sufjan Stevens
    The best song of the year. The best song in years. To even it a song seems to limit it. There’s nothing else in the same league as Sufjan Steven’s “Impossible Soul” in terms of innovation, experimentation, catchiness, or emotional resonance. This 25-minute electronic-ish opus defies classification. The chorus, if I can even call it that, doesn’t kick in until the 14 minute point, at which point Stevens feel-good hipster motivational warm fuzzies reache maximum capacity with lines like “It’s a long life/only one last chance/couldn’t get much better/do you wanna dance?” I like “Impossible Soul” because it’s not a song made for pop radio, satellite radio or iTunes. When the song reaches its peek Stevens finally shows mercy and takes all the effusive momentum away, guiding the song into a quirky slow-motion coda that warps the previously upbeat tone into something warped at first, then sad then something in between. The song ends with the line “boy we made such a mess together.” The song too is as mess but it also couldn’t get much better.
  2. Stylo Gorillaz
    Smooth synth, Bobby Womack jamming about love, Damon Albarn whispering “juice.” This is the best 80s song never to be released in the 80s. I listened to “Stylo” more than any other song this year.
  3. Doe DeerCrystal Castles
    CC maintains a high energy and never lets up. The only lyrics are “deathray deathray.” Coolest thing ever?
  4. Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool Editors
    “Chewing with an open mouth/raw meat/your blood drool attracts the flies.” Sick! Could this be the world most kick ass vegetarian song? I don’t know. What it is for sure is the best Interpol song that Interpol never came up with (though they do have a song ranked 97 on this list). Also, the vid for the song song is cool. Check it out above.
  5. Got NuffinSpoon
  6. Colouring of PigeonsThe Knife
    Great example of The Knife’s creativity. With a unusually large amount of Opera and drums this sounds nothing like past Knife music. Sounds nothing like anything for that matter. Oh, except for maybe that scene in “Fifth Element” where the blue alien Opera lady busted out space rhymes all over Bruce Willis’ ass.
  7. Runaway Kanye West
    Kanye’s best song to date. Gotta love the two minutes of autotuned guitar.
  8. We Want WarThese New Puritans
    A true original.
  9. Bloodbuzz OhioThe National
    More blissful paranoid from The National. Imagine being married to this guy?
  10. Because The Night Bruce Springsteen
    As good as any ‘new’ song. Or old song for that matter.
  11. I Want The World To StopBelle & Sebastian
    So do I!
  12. Here Sometimes Blonde Redhead
    Very low key Blond Redhead song. Not flashy. Solid though. Brings back good memories.
  13. TightropeJanelle Monáe
    Even white people like this song!
  14. Let’s Get LostBeck And Bat For Lashes
  15. No Words/No ThoughtsSwans
  16. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire
    2010 was the year for great 80s music throwbacks. Here, Arcade Fire channel (and surpass) ABBA.
  17. Escape Velocity The Chemical Brothers
    It’s songs like this that make me wish I took drugs. I’m totally going to rewatch “2001: A Space Odyssey” and play this song when Dave goes into hyperspace!
  18. Crash YearsThe New Pornographers
    New Porn’s most recent album may not be very good but this song is classic Porn. Nice to hear Neko back too. Also, the video for this song is great.
  19. In Motion Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  20. Fuck YouCee Lo Green
    2009’s Lily Allen’s “Fuck You’ now has some stiff competition. HA!
  21. Dance Yrslf CleanLCD Soundsystem
    A prime example of a well constructed LCD song. The slow build is fantastic. Don’t know why this song wasn’t the most popular on the album.
  22. Good Intentions Paving CompanyJoanna Newsom
    Newsom’s best song to date. Probably because it’s an actual song with actual instruments other than harp and an elf singing voice.
  23. Superfast Jellyfish (feat. Gruff Rhys & De La Soul) – Gorillaz
    Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys + De La Soul + Damon Albarn singing about crafty squid breakfast foods. Most random collaboration of the year.
  24. Lovesick Lindstrøm and Christabelle
  25. Rill Rill Sleigh Bells
    “Wonder what your boyfriend thinks about your braces/ what about them/ I’m all about them.” Oh, Gawd I hate that I like this song. Sixteen six six six like the pentagon!
  26. Walk In The Park Beach House
  27. England The National
  28. (3-way tie) Year of Silence and Baptism and Celestia Crystal Castles
    Give Crystal Castles credit for being able to make an English language song sound way more scary than a German language one. Celestia is not scary, it’s just pretty.
  29. A Drowning How to Destroy Angels
  30. Apply Glasser
  31. Dancing On My Own –  Robyn
    Poor Robyn. She comes across as the loneliest dance pop singer ever. I’d totally bang her if she wasn’t such a stalker.
  32. This Too Shall PassOK Go
    Great, great, video.
  33. Desire Lines – Deerhunter
    I would be a much bigger Dearhunter fan if they made more songs like this.
  34. When I’m With YouBest Coast
    Hanging out at the beach. Spending time with Ronald McDonald. Taking him to In-N-Out (irony!). Even a Snacks cameo.
  35. Odessa – Caribou
    Since when was Caribou any good?! I guess since this song.
  36. Aidy’s Girl’s a Computer Darkstar
    Had me hooked at the title.
  37. Month Of May – Arcade Fire
  38. Empathy Crystal Castles
    Lots of Crystal Castles songs this year. Instead of having this be the Best Songs of the Year I should call it “The Best Crystal Castles Songs Featuring Some Other Stuff.”
  39. TRON Legacy (End Titles) Daft Punk
    For those complaining that the new Daft Punk album isn’t Daft Punky enough… shut up and listen to this song.
  40. The Height of Summer The Knife
  41. AM/FM – !!!
    I listened more to the song “AM/FM” than actual AM and FM radio.
  42. One Life Stand Hot Chip
    Captures what I loved so much about “Ready For The Floor.”
  43. Drunk Girls LCD Soundsystem
    With pressing, socially piercing lyrics like “Drunk girls are boringly wild” and “Drunk girls wait an hour to pee” this is a story that needs to be told. Bravo, James. Also be sure to check out the video because it’ll make you feel dirty (like, gangbanged by clowns dirty) though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that is so.
  44. Sorrow The National
    Where are the razor blades?
  45. Bohemian Forest Pantha Du Prince
  46. Jail La La Dum Dum Girls
  47. The Inevitable Relapse Filter
    The dorkiest song so far. Most years I have a lot more songs/bands like this on my list. 2010 was just too cool for school.
  48. USA Boys HEALTH
  49. You Knowjj
  50. Threshold Sex Bob-omb (from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)
    WE ARE SEX BOB-OMB AND WE’RE HERE TO MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT DEATH AND GET SAD AND STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  51. VesuviusSufjan Stevens
    Makes the list for rhyming Vesuvius with Sufjan. Also because it’s a great song.
  52. Fainting SpellsCrystal Castles
  53. Not Getting ThereBlonde Redhead
  54. Is Love Forever?Spoon
    Quick Answer: No. No it’s not.
  55. Rhinestone EyesGorillaz
  56. Planetary (GO!)My Chemical Romance
    Ugh… I hate to say it but this is a good song.
  57. White SkyVampire Weekend
  58. Not In LoveCrystal Castles
    More Crystal Castles. Sorry. I can’t help it.
  59. White Knuckles OK Go
  60. On Melancholy HillGorillaz
  61. Bottled in CorkTed Leo and the Pharmacists
  62. Attack MusicThese New Puritans
  63. NorwayBeach House
  64. Difficult – Uffie
    Uffie makes a good song! Without the help of Justice!
  65. Round and RoundAriel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
    Pitchfork picked this as best song of the year. Don’t know bout that. It is the best song on the overrated album though.
  66. Stick To My SidePantha Du Prince
  67. Written in ReverseSpoon
  68. JimSwans
    Jim. Jim. JIIIIIIIMMMMMMMMMM.
  69. WarpaintWarpaint
  70. MiseryMaroon 5
    I’m sorry.
  71. Cry When You Get OlderRobyn
  72. Too many MiraclesBadly Drawn Boy
  73. Bring NightSia
  74. Crown on the GroundSleigh Bells
  75. NightZola Jesus
    What a cool name! As it happens that’s also the nickname for my penis.
  76. I Can ChangeLCD Soundsystem
  77. Real LoveDelorean
  78. Garbage TruckSex Bob-omb
  79. IntimateCrystal Castles
  80. AliveGoldfrapp
    The 80s are alive. Again.
  81. Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass!!!
  82. WTF?OK Go
    OMG
  83. Plastic BeachGorillaz
    Why would anybody bring a Casio to a plastic beach?)
  84. Let’s Go SurfingThe Drums
  85. And the World Laughs with You (ft. Thom Yorke) – Flying Lotus
  86. Intriguing PossibilitiesTrent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  87. Afraid of EveryoneThe National
  88. You ll Be Taken Care OfDavid Byrne and Fatboy Slim
  89. ZebraBeach House
  90. UndertowWarpaint
  91. Drug BoyFilter
    More rehab music from Filter. Well, at least Patrick is not singing about Jesus.
  92. HolidayVampire Weekend
  93. Recognizer – Daft Punk Tron Legacy (Soundtrack)
  94. World Of LinesCoheed and Cambria
  95. Howlin’ For YouThe Black Keys
    When did this band become so trendy? I miss the Rubber Factory days.
  96. Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) – My Chemical Romance 
    As “na na na” songs go, way less annoying than “Hey Jude!”
  97. BarricadeInterpol
  98. You Must Be Out Of Your MindThe Magnectic Fields
  99. Love-Hate-Sex-PainGodsmack
    Guilty pleasure. Hey, just be happy I didn’t put on Godsmack’s “Crying Like a Bitch” instead.
  100. Come On Sister – Belle & Sebastian



 

Most appearances on this list:

Crystal Castles: 8 (good god, that’s pratcially the whole album! maybe this should have been my #1 album of the year)
Gorillaz: 5
The National: 4
LCD Soundsystem: 3
OK Go: 3 (yikes, sorry)
Spoon: 3

and finally…

Worst Songs of the Year:


  1. Aaron Lewis – Country Boy: “And I like my jeans and my old T-shirts and a couple extra pounds will never hurt cuz a country boy is all I’ll ever beeeeeeee.” More lyrics. “You never catch me outta my house without my 9 or 45,” and of course “I’m proud to be American and strong in my beliefs. And I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again and I’ll never need my Government to hold my hand.” The world’s shittyest Tea Party anthem performed by the world’s shittyest Tool cover act. I think Aaron Lewis (of Stained) is trying to be Kid Rock. Nobody told him however that the only band worse than Stained is Kid Rock.
  2. Train – Hey Soul Sister: the #1 song of the year on iTunes?! Really?! Come on people, we can do better than that! On second though…
  3. Susan Boyle – Hallelujah: You can suck on your own all you want sista but when you bring Leonard Cohen into your whole sham of a career then I getz pissed. If you can listen to this song without passing out then, well, you probably own a Susan Boyle album.
  4. Any Glee Song recorded, played, listened to or watched in 2010. See above or listen to their version of Beck’s “Loser.”
  5. Twin SisterAll Around and Away We Go: That voice! AWW, Shuuuuuutttttttt uuuuuuuupppppppp! Twin Sister sounds like an annoying(er) girl version of that old pedofile from Family Guy. Seriousley, listen it’s really bad.
  6. Ke$haWe R Who We R: Washed up in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
  7. Lady Gaga – Telephone: Don’t pick up.
  8. Katy PerryCaliforna Girls: Boobs.
  9. Taio CruzDynamite
  10. WeezerMy Sex: Weezer went from being nerdy-cool to nerdy-stupid. In the radio version the ever edgy sell-out Rivers Cuomo sings “where’s my socks?” instead. Nuff said. He should have just gone for it and sang “where’s my balls?” or how about “where’s my talent?”

Best of 2010: Music

1. Gorillaz

Plastic Beach

 
The Gorillaz finally proved to people that they’re not a one or maybe two album wonder by staying relevant, exploring bold new sounds that no one else in rock is attempting and taking listeners on an exciting thematic journey on par with the ape-ocalyptic setting of their last album, Demon Days. Call it a post-post apocalyptic concept album in which nature reclaims what is rightfully hers. This time around the real Gorillaz take center stage. And by real I mean the human side of Damon Albarn and his wide range of collaborators that are finally able to take a bow in front of their fans. The army of musical artists on this ambitious project includes but is not limited to //takes in deep breath…// Albarn of Blur (natch), Mos Def, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Gruff Rhys (YES!), Lou Reed (YES, YES!), Snoop Dogg (NO!), Mick Jones & Mark Smith of The Clash and Albarn’s other band The Good, The Bad, And The Queen, Paul Simonon, Kano, Little Dragon, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and, because why not, The Syrian National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music //…exaggerated exhale//. Plastic Beach is a masterpiece on every level and in every respect. It’s is more mature, soulful, profound (eco rock!?) and refined than the band’s previous releases which have been great but often feel more like a multi-colored templates than an actual finished effort. Songs like “Stylo,” “Rhinestone Eyes” and the beautifully sad “On Melancholy Hill” transcend and even break the fourth wall to what was once considered to be a gimmicky postmodern band. This shit is for real! Plastic Beach it’s still a funky album full of animated simian hi-jinx and epic themes of man vs. nature vs. Cephalopodic breakfast foods but the human component has never shined so bright or so brilliantly.
2. Swans
My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
 
Nick Cave was once a dark and scary guy. Gnarled, Gothic, gritty and perhaps a few other G-words like grizzly and of course great. He changed because to stay that dark is to basically kill oneself. Still, I miss the old Cave from time to time and this new Swans albums took me back to the angry sounds of Cave and took me back in such a forceful way that I was really affected by listening to it. Not an easy listen mind you but that was just what I needed in a year full of way to surgery music. This grungy (hey, another G word!) masterpiece is equal parts brutal and beautiful. Eight tracks may seem short for a come-back album but not here. Those songs, each precious in their own filthy way, are sprawling Gothic-punk howls full of brooding damnations and the sense that the only way to get through life is to drink one’s self into a slurry oblivion. This is music to be played at the precipice of hell. Besides having the best album title of the year, My Father is as bleak as they come but the upside to that is that it is purifying in it’s total and uncompromising darkness (sample song title: “You Fucking People Make Me Sick” which pretty much sums up the vibe of this listening experience). I was shocked to find out that a sound this edgy and (seemingly) nihilistic has come from a band that has been around for almost thirty years. Where have I been all these years and how can I make up for all the lost time of not having Swans in my life?
3. Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles (II)
 
Not too long ago I ranked Crystal Castles’ 2008 debut as the 6th best damn album of the decade and the best new band of the decade. So, yeah, I am a HUGE Castles fan. It’s actually unhealthy how much I listen to Ethan Kath and Alice Glass’ frenzied first album. The combination of 8bit electronicanoise and Glass screaming incoherently about robots withAIDS or some shit like that proved to be an intoxicating listen for lack of a better word. The album is so raw and darkly energetic that I was scared this band would burn itself out. After hearing (and hearing, and hearing, and hearing…) their second album I can now say that they actually did burn out. But not in a bad way. Crystal Castles clearly made an effort to ease up on the 8bit furry in a successful attempt to become a more polished and artistic version of the band that made the Crystal Castles (I) album. That’s mostly good news because the band probably won’t be a flash in the pan like the equally riled up one-album wonder Andrew WK. I am a lot more confident that the band can grow, adapt and, most importantly, survive. The downside to that is that the thing that clicked withme so forcefully on the first album has been tamed and diluted to fit this “ideal.” But, look, not everything can be the best thing ever all the time so I am happy as shit that the smooth but still edgy Crystal Castles (II) turned out to be one of my favorite albums of the year. And, really, is there anything more Goththan that album cover? On a final note I am both proud and ashamed to say this is the only tangible album in 2010 that I actually paid to listen to.
4. The National
High Violet
 
“Sorrow found me when I was young/ Sorrow waited, sorrow won.” – The National
Was there anything sadder in 2010 than the music of The National? No album has captured the haunting yet beautiful qualities of loneliness and isolation this spectacularly since Beck’s Sea Change (my #2 album of last decade). The National goes on to pull off the impossible twice by topping it’s last album, the near perfect Boxer. Sounding like a heroin addict being kept awake by too much caffeine, The National has grown up on High Violet but they have certainly not grown soft or warm. This is a an album to walk the cold streets alone to. Special note: The National put on one of the best live shows I saw all year. I was expecting a dour concert experience but instead got one full of angry, self loathing energy. Singer/songwriter Matt Berninger is in some sort of insane zone right now and I can’t wait to see what’s next even if whatever that is will inevitably make me depressed.
5. Sufjan Stevens
Age of Adz
 
A controversial opinion but this may be SufjanStevens best album to date. I loved every second of Adz, even the ones that didn’t quite work. Not too long ago Stevens blew everyone away with his epic album Illinois, a collage of songs that literally put the State tribute singer on the map and, along the way, helped define the music of the last decade. Instead of trying to re-capture the conceptual magic of Illinois and Michigan  Stevens let it all go with a funky, colorful and out of control album.  Full of quirky bleeps and buzzes, Adz owes as much to British electronic master Matthew Herbert as it does Sufjan Stevens. But this album doesn’t even seem to have a genre. It’s its own genre. The final song “Impossible Soul” is a 25 minute electronic opus that defies expectation and has a way of luring you in and making you feel blissfully happy and redeemed (“it’s a long life/only one last chance/couldn’t get much better/do you wanna dance”) only to take all that away with an agonizingly brilliant slow motion coda that ends with “boy we made such a mess together.” That song is better, and just about as long as most proper 2010 album releases. In fact if that song was an entire album then it would be the best album of the year. In the end, the fuzzy sense of fun and experimentation of Adz proves to be a great compliment to Stevens’ flighty not quite folk/not quite rock sound. What’s more amazing is that this comes from a Christian rocker that actually… rocks.
6. These New Puritans
Hidden

I’m at a loss for words to describe why I think this album from the British band These New Puritans is full-on amazing. If the Liars joined with Nine Inch Nails and added a bunch of drums and an orchestra and shit you would have something like Hidden. Its foreboding sound and razor sharp production is like nothing else I heard all year. The bass actually hurts! Ermm, or something like that. Who the hell knows? It’s really good. That’s all. Shut up and listen to it. Guess who’s not a music critic?
7. Belle and Sebastian
Write About Love
 
Is there anyone more reliable in popular culture than Belle and Sebastian? They’re the musical equivalent to comfort food except a particular piece of food doesn’t keep on giving like this album does. But including them is no nostalgia trip either. The music is genuinely good. It’s the same, yes, but its enduring qualities are as charming as ever and never grow old. Aside from an obnoxiously bland and trite Norah Jones duet (worst B&S song ever?) the album doesn’t really have any weak spots. It’s best songs like “I Want the World To Stop” are filled with what I love so much about this Scottish band: funny, sardonic, melodic, dark and almost inappropriately joyful.
8. LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening
 
Should have been titled This is Happening? Because, yeah, it is! LCD Soundsystem makes another casually dazzling album and shows no sign of slowing in the process. Unlike a lot of dance/rock acts LCD has evolved in a very complex and hard to describe way. James Murphy somehow and miraculously knows how to avoid TOO MUCH digital bombast without ever having to scale back on the energy or insane sense of fun he adds to every second of every song. The opening song “Dance YrselfClean” starts off with a slow, almost whispering droll for a few minutes until it explodes and the energy released from the dance floor supernova doesn’t let up for the rest of the album. Happening may be an ever so slight step back (more like sideways) from the one man band’s debut album and Sound of Silver but of course it is! Anything Murphy does after those two albums will be a “let down” (quote marks used very ironically). Maybe that’s why this rumored to be LCD Soundsystem’s last album. I sure hope not but if it is he went out on a high note.

9. Beach House
Teen Dream
 
I disliked Beach House’s self titled first album, finding it ponderously turgid and over-hyped. But, wow, Teen Dream has got to be the biggest improvement story of the year. Every song is not only elegant but full of emotion and great melodies. It still manages to be cold and sleepy (especially the second half of the album) but in a very interesting way with all that other cool stuff swimming around under the thin frozen layer of dreamy music. Landing somewhere between husky and girly, Victoria Legrand has one of the best voices in indie rock. I don’t know about the Teen part but Beach House sure got the Dream part of the title right. Also, it’s better than the cover of “Teenage Dream” on the Scott Pilgrim Soundtrack and WAY better than Katy Perry’s 2010 Teenage Dream album. What’s with that title popping up everywhere this year?
 
10. Blond Readhead
Penny Sparkle
 
I continue to worship Blond Redhead’s last album, 23. It is, no question, one of the best albums ever made. Nothing in the band’s past prepared me for it either. The question that has been nagging at me in the years since its release is if this uncanny spike in quality from an ok-ish punk rock band to a alternative band that made an album as good as anything Radiohead has done in last decade. Would this mark new trend for the band or is it simply some rare and almost accidental fluke of genus on par with, say, Franz Ferdinand. Well they made a new album…….. and, un, I still don’t really have a solid answer to that question. I know for sure it’s not the second fluke option so the new album is a success just based on that …however… it’s not anywhere close to achieving 23’s swooning ethereal serenity. What it is, though, is a competent album with an unreal sense of beauty and personality coming at us from all angles. Penny Sparkle may not have gained Blond Redhead any new fans but it sure did please this one.
11. Sleigh Bells
Treats
 
I won’t lie, the hype from music critics, annoying music fans (who only listen to what they think is cool) and god damn Honda commercials hurt these too cool for Brooklyn musicians. This hipster band managed to sell out BEFORE they became overrated! Very impressive and probably indicative of where “alternative” music is headed if it is indeed not already there. Still –and it kills me to say this– the album is really good so give me a little credit for putting aside my petty annoyances. The soft voice/hard-ish techno sound reminds me of what Crystal Castles would have been had they actually wanted to fit in rather than make fun of those who do. Whatever, this album proves that you don’t need to like a band to like a band’s music. Feh, may they never make another good album again.
 
12. Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
 
In a very indirect way the best thing Taylor Swift ever contributed to the music world (or society) is this album. The douchebaag scores a winner. Outside of an amazing Daft Punk rip-off, err, collaboration and thecool auto-tune song “Love Lockdown,” Kanye hasn’t been consistently good in one of his albums since practically ever. And it didn’t even matter because the great (not really) manipulator seemed to prefer people talking about his antics and big moupppph than his actual music. Well, this time around his figured out how to make good music come out of said big mouth! Bottom line: this is a solid rap album. And I’m not even into rap. At it’s musty I’m-sorry-yet-fuck-you heart is one of the year’s very best songs “Runaway,” a song with more purpose and soul than anything (and/or anyone) he’s done to date.
13. Warpaint
The Fool
 
Was there a better album to chill to this year? And was there a better debut? Yes and no to the second question because Warpaint’s Fool had the honor of making the best non-debut debut of the year. They’ve been around in some form or another (actress Shannyn Sossamon was once in the band… for real!) but they’ve never been good. They are now.

14. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Social Network Soundtrack
 
The Social Network Soundtrack A.K.A “The Best of Ghosts I-IV” with “In the Hall of the Mountain King” thrown in the middle just to make sure we’re paying attention. No, really, this is the best movie score of the year. As soundtracks go, Daft Punk’s Tron album proved that just because awesome artists are making a soundtrack doesn’t mean it will automatically kick ass. Instead, it just kicks a little ass which is nowhere near as much ass as Daft Punk should be kicking. Anyway, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did the unthinkable by making a solid album on its own that, in a lot of ways, is better than the movie it’s based on! But Reznor and producer Atticus Ross (working with Reznor since With Teeth) also managed to stir up the stodgy expectations of what a movie music in general “should be.” Movie scores sadly can’t seem to get out of this dreadful John Williams vortex of overwrought orchestral clichés but a score like the one to behold on “The Social Network” looks to mixes things up by adding much needed dissonant rock/electronic to the cinematic pallet of Fincher’s universally praised movie. And the 8bit flourishes are just about perfect given the subject matter. For instance, the scene in which the main character goes on a power trip and hacks the Harbert network would not have had the same impact had Reznor’s busy bee techno track “In Motion” not been there. Sure that song is basically an 8bit remix of “32 Ghosts IV”  but it  improves upon the original so no complaining here. This score does for the 2010s what his Fincher’s own Dust Brothers “Fight Club” score did for the 90s. I don’t know if Reznor is going to do more movie scores but my vote says he really should provided he doesn’t turn into another Danny Elfman.
15. Spoon
Transference
 
Speaking of chill music. Spoon’s new album is so relaxed that it pratically doesn’t exist! It doesn’t grab you like past Spoon albums but it sure is catchy and, like past works, grows on you as the year presses on. Spoon has turned chilling into an art. In fact I can think of no band except maybe the one above that has achieved such an impressive level of casual rocking, but plenty of tried (ahem Hold Steady). Suddenly all the pot references make sense. On a random note Spoon’s new album is great music to paint your apartment to so put that in your pipe and smoke. No guys not literally, that shit’s toxic.
16. Darkstar
North
 
Darkstar finally release their first album and it’s a stunning if a bit divisive debut. The brooding sounds of North are slow (by design) but also very effective. Synth based electronic music has had a lot of ups and downs but this is definitely an up. Plus, I have a rule: any band that makes a song called “Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer” automatically gets a spot on this list.

17. The Knife
Tomorrow, In a Year
 
It’s The Knife! Without Anderrson! Doing a Charles Darwin tribute!!! With six minute pidgin call songs!!! And an Opera chick singing!!! Weirdest album of the year.
18. Ok GO
Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
 
Another underrated Ok GO album. Hard to figure these guys out. The music is great. The videos are jaw dropping (no other band is having more fun making music videos). They’re sometimes very popular and but ignored the rest of the time. Their albums are not well reviewed either. What’s easy to figure otu though is to not listen or care about any of that and just enjoy what we get.
19. Robyn
Body Talk
 
The Annie award for best pop record of the year goes to… another Northern European artist! It must be something in the water over there because these chicks know how to get a party started. And by party I mean singing by myself in my car. Hell yeah! Somehow, though, that seems like something Robyn would make a song out of (she made “Dancing On My Own” a hit after all). It’s safe to say though that Robyn had a good year. She released not only the best album of her career (Body Talk vol. 1) but maybe the three best! The ambitious trilogy that make up Body Talk are such light, fluffy and grooveable dance pop mini-albums that I have no problem forgiving her for asking Snoop Dog to do a duet on “U Should Know Better.” That no-talent joke tried to ruined two of my favorite albums of the year (Gorillazbeing the other) and failed both times. If he appears on Tool’s 2011 or 2012 album I will officially stop listening to music.
20. Best Coast
Crazy For You
 
Take Neko Case’s impossibly beautiful sound and put it through a muffled telephone quality filter. Then add some cool but rough surf pop melodies and you have the recipe for the first Best Coast album. This is an impressive debut that grew on me over the months. As good as it is I have a feeling Best Coast is going to get a lot better and that’s something to be excited about. Far from perfect but certainly a band to watch out for.
 
 
also…
 
jj
jj no. 3
Following one of last year’s/decade’s best albums is this criminally underrated follow-up from this Swedish pop/afrobeat/electronic/some-other-stuff band. If I had just one word to describe this band it would be beautiful. If I had three it would be beautiful, beautiful, and beautiful. If a hasty and unpolished jj album can sound this good then I can only imagine what an album will sound like when they put a little more effort into it.
How to Destroy Angels
Self Titled
This year saw the release of two non-Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor albums. How werid is that? How to Destroy Angels is not to be confused with ex-NIN band mate Robert Patrick/Filter’s new album which titled The Trouble With 
Angels. This is a sold effort from Trent Reznor and his wife Yoko Reznor. Possible reason: it’s Nine Inch Nails with a vagina. I’m okay with that as long as it stays that way. But if the monotonal Mariqueen Maandig shows up on a NIN album I’ll be pissed. And you don’t want to see a pissed off NIN fan–actually, it’s kinda funny and sad and involves a lot of tantruming and screaming about how much you hate your father.
!!!
Strange Weather, Isn’t It?
The funk is gone. The fun is not.
Vampire Weekend
Contra
Vampire Weekend released their successful debut the same year that MGMT released theirs. This year both released their much anticipated follow-up. As Vampire Weekend soared on a stronger sound while MGMT plummeted with utter nonsense.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Soundtrack
So much more than a gimmicky band within a band movie soundtrack. The likes of Beck, Frank Black and Broken Social Scene  help bring the Scott Pilgrim film to life (no easy task) and do so alongside now-real “fake” bands such as Sex Bob-Omb and Crash and the Boys whose 13 second song “”I’m So Sad, So Very, Very Sad” and 59 second song “We Hate You Please Die” is a thing of beauty that could have just as easily been featured on this year’s National and/or Swans album. The tricky part is that the songs are made to sound like they came from half-assed musicians. By the end though they end up sounding a lot better than real musicians.

Badly Drawn Boy
It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1
Last second edition to the list. I mean it, I’m listening to it as I post this best of 2010 list. Gotta love BDB!

Porcupine Tree
Atlanta
PT releases an album in which they play Fear of a Blank Planet from start to finish live. Progazism!
 
Pantha du Prince
Black Noise
Another Pantha classic. Time has a way of loosing meaning when you play music from this French minimal techno band. It’s not flash and very easy to take for granted but perfect just the way it is.
Grinderman
Grinderman 2
Grinderman has the cure for the No Pussy Blues. Strangely enough, it’s not pussy. It’s more Grinderman.

 
Paul Weller
Wake Up The Nation
Welcome back.

 

 

 

Coheed and Cambria
Year of the Black Rainbow
Ack, I’m sick of writing about music.
 
 Full List:
  1. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
  2. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
  3. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II)
  4. The National – High Violet
  5. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
  6. These New Puritans – Hidden
  7. Belle and Sebastain – Write About Love
  8. LCD Soundsystem – Is This Happening
  9. Beach House – Teen Dream
  10. Blond Redhead – Penny Sparkle
  11. Sleigh Bells – Treats
  12. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  13. Warpaint – The Fool
  14. Social Network – Soundtrack
  15. Spoon – Transference
  16. Darkstar – North
  17. The Knife – Tomorrow, In a Year
  18. Ok Go – Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
  19. Robyn – Body Talk
  20. Best Coast – Crazy for You
  21. jj – jj no. 3
  22. How to Destroy Angels – Self Titled
  23. !!! – Strange Weather Isn’t It?
  24. Vampire Weekend – Contra
  25. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack
  26. Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1
  27. Porcupine Tree – Atlanta (live album)
  28. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise
  29. Grinderman – Grinderman 2
  30. Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation
  31. Coheed and Cambria – Year of the Black Rainbow
  32. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days
  33. The Black Keys – Brothers
  34. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  35. Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid
  36. Health – ::Disco2
  37. The Fall – Your Future Out Clutter (that voice!)
  38. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
  39. Filter – The Trouble With Angels (happy to see Filter make a strong come-back)
  40. Glasser – Ring
  41. Mogwai – Special Moves
  42. The Magnetic Fields – Realism (oh, it’s not that bad)
  43. The Chemical Brothers – Further
  44. Daft Punk – Tron
  45. David Byrne & Fatboy Slim – Here Lies Love (underrated album)
  46. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
  47. Wuthering Heights – Salt (pirate prog, argh!)
  48. Delorean – Subiza
  49. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
  50. Clinic – Bubblegum
  51. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
  52. Interpol – Interpol

 

Best Music Video:
OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass.” Amazing song. Even better video.

 

Best Album Cover: Klaxon’s Surfing the Void cover. Cats rock. This time I mean it literally. If only the album was half as good as it’s cover. Ground control too Cadet Kitty, you’re clear for take off, now get as far, far away from the Klaxons as possible.

 

Best Live Shows:

  1. Gorillaz (unforgeable show)
  2. The National (also unforgeable)
  3. !!!
  4. Muse (note: didn’t actually see them live but I tell people I did)
  5. Belle and Sebastian
  6. The Rapture
  7. Built to Spill
  8. LCD Soundsystem (somewhat disappointing)


Worst of the Year:
 
 
1. M.I.A. ///Y/: I would say the album is unlistenable except I actually listened to it all the way through just so I could call it the worst album of the year.
2. MGMT – Congratulations (hideously pictured above): for going from being an overrated band to being a downright bad one. The self serving title makes me laugh every time I see it. Yeah, way to go, guys! I mean it: go!   
3. Taylor Swift – Speak Now: for being the most boring and vanilla and just plain blah music act in years. Of course people love it!
4. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream: music: among worst of the year / boobs: among the best (sorry Blake Lively).
5. Any Hip-Hop/R&B/Electronic music that features what sounds like female chipmunks singing. And there was a lot! Like, a lot lot. Why did every song sound the same? And why did critics not notice or mind this? Worst offenders: James Blake’s “CMYT,” Gold Panda’s “You,” Flying Lotus’ “And The World Laughs With You” and many, many, many, many, many more. But since the last song mentioned features Thom York I’ll exempt it. Just this once though. What will be the hot music trend in 2011? My guess: Smerf rap voices. You heard it here first!
6. Ke$ha –  Cannibal: for growing as an “artist” and not being as god awful as her first album. Ke$ha upgraded her shitty, no talent from an F– to just an F-.
7. Music from Glee– for making me realize that something is worse than American Idol and it’s fictional shows set in a high school in which teens sing American Idol music. The mind numbing Glee music making machine needs to die. The quicker the death the better. High School kids singing is sooooo played out.
8. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown: for… do I even need a reason, it’s Kings of Leon.
9. Justin Beber – My World 2.0:for being Justin Beber.

10. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today: for making the most overrated album of the year. I listen to riel’s music and have no feeling. I’m either missing something or everyone else is bandwagon crazy.
11. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever –  for sucking without fail since 2003.
12. Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans: for making me give up.
13. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor: for almost being as bad as The Hold Steady. There can be only one New Jersey rock act and his name Bruce, thank you very much.
14. Train – for making me want to inflict pain to whoever this Soul Sister bitch is that inspired that shitty song.
15. Weezer – Hurley: for not being close to good anymore and for dragging Hurley into all this. Poor guy didn’t do anything to deserve that.
100 best songs of the year coming next week…

 

chirp, chirp…

…chirp, chirp

Decade List: Best Albums 2000-2009

Blur: Think Tank (2004)
Blur, sadly, is no more

 

  1. Tool: Lateralus (2001)
    Tool’s Lateralus might not just be my album of the decade but my favorite album of all time or at least an album held in as high regard as Nine Inch Nail’s deeply underrated Fragile album. That admission automatically takes this list out of the realm of the objective (as if even a “good” list could be) and lands it somewhere between the idiosyncratic and the imprudent. Even so, I would classify Tool’s oft-divisive work as something I can’t get by without to this day. To even call it music seems unfair. It’s meta music, something transcendent and I mean that in the most pretentious way possible. Metal rock, prog rock, math rock, art rock, metaphysical rock, rock-um-rock, I could go on all day trying to figure out Lateralus’ complex style, strange sounds, shifting genres (not to mention time signatures) and enigmatic-to-a-point-of-parody lyrics but what would be the point of all that? Tool doesn’t make albums that can or should be understood with conventional logic or rational thinking. All that’s needed is a brain, a play button and a hefty dose of repressed childhood trauma and unexpressed rage. 
    Best Moment: Towards the end of “The Grudge” Maynard unleashes an barrage of “let go(s).” Very cathartic. Also, it’s hard to beat the alien invasion that ends the album.
  2. Beck: Sea Change (2002)
    Tool was able to tap into the primal part of our brains. Beck, however, had the emotional side of things covered. It’s hard to put this album into words. And, no, calling it a “break-up album” are not the words I or anyone should be looking for. Call it that is like calling “Citizen Kane” a break-up movie. It is but… it’s really not. Sea Change is about so much more than relationships. It’s about loss, regret, self doubt and growth. But, of course, in typical Beck fashion it is about those things without actually being about any of those things. In a lot of ways this is Beck’s most honest straightforward album. The lush production, melancholic smoothness and deeply meaningful lyrics (he actually completes full and coherent sentences in this album) hint at a totally different type of artist. For a musician that was known in the 90s as a master of gimmicks and playful funk the arrival of Sea Change signals a literal see change in the artist and rock music in general for the decade. I didn’t expect it but I also (thankfully) didn’t resist it. Above all, Sea Change is a very personal album for both the person making it and the person listening. It’s perfect.
    Best Moment: The final moments of of “Lonesome Tears.” The violins grow and grow and grow then, with a bit of uneasiness, it sounds like a plane is passing by and everything settles.  Very transcendent.
  3. Spiritualized: Let It Come Down (2001)
    I must admit that Spiritualized’s music, especially on Let it Come Down, is the closest I will ever get to having a “religious experience.” Quite appropriate considering the band’s name.
    Best Moment: The first mention of Jesus. And drugs. And Jesus doing drugs.
  4. Pulp: We Love Life (2001)
    Along with NIN, Pulp defined 90s music for me. One of the nicest surprises of the decade was Jarvis Cocker and Pulp’s ability to effortlessly carry the band’s legacy over into the new decade if only for a moment. A triumph in every way imaginable, We Love Life puts most of the music of the decade to shame. But, unlike a lot of veteran bands working in a new era (ahem, U2), it does not succeed by not a rehashing old sounds or tropes. It’s simultaneously a bold new direction and a tragic glimpse of the greatness that was surly still to come from Pulp had they not broken up. But if this this album teaches us anything it is that everything that is beautiful and thriving in this world must also eventually decay and die.
    Best Moment: The lyrics “Took an air-rifle and shot a man to the ground. And it died without a sound.” Stone cold! Also, the optimism of the song “I Love Life” preceded, of course, by the darkness of “The Night That Mini Timperley Died.”
  5. Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)
    If putting Tool at #1 almost invalidated the list then the inclusion of Porcupine Tree is the nail in its coffin. While Tool gives Porcupine Tree a run for its money nothing can dethrone this band’s status as nerdiest, whitest rock music around. Three years in and not a week that goes by where I do not listen to some if not all of this album. What can I say: I love modern prog. Blank Planet introduced me to the prolific but little heard of (in America) British band Porcupine Tree and for that reason alone it deserves special consideration. Exploring the alienation of modern culture through technology, Blank Planet is one of the most serious (and just plain best) progressive rock albums to date. It’s the kind of album that would make people rethink their inexplicable hatred of the prog genre–provide the album was actually heard by anybody, which it wasn’t. The exquisitely exhaustive 17 minute opus “Anesthetize” is the album’s showpiece and the best Porcupine Tree song of all time. That’s no surprise considering the album it’s on is nothing short of the band’s best album to date. Which is saying something. While I’ve only been a fan of Porcupine tree for three short years they have ranked more albums on this list than any other band: Lightbulb Sun, In Absentia, Deadwing, Fear of a Blank Planet and 2009’s The Incident. Either I’m obsessed or the band is really good. Maybe both?
    Best Moment: The best prog song ever recorded is the sit-come length “Anesthetize.” Also the strings in “Sleep Together.”
  6. Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles (2008)
    In terms of new music the biggest moment of the decade for me was when a a dear friend turned me on to this self-titled Crystal Castles album. Less than a minute into “Untrust Us” and I feel in love. For those of us who always wanted to know what was in those suspicious pills that Dr. Mario was always messing around with, the answer is Crystal Castles. Naturally I figured this 8bit, Nintendo on acid electronica noise album would cause a revolution. Though it has its fans, it didn’t. Not even Crystal Castles repeated this album’s winning formula with their second (also self titled) album. That makes this a one of a kind experience that easily ranks Crystal Castles up there as my favorite new band of the decade. Along with two albums listed above, this one’s still in my car’s six disk changer which, lets face it, is the mark of a masterpiece.
    Best Moment: Alice Glass says “hi” to start off the dissonant song “Alice Practice.” It’s the only intelligible lyric in the whole album. Actually, maybe not. I think I also heard her howl the word “chips,” “breasts” and something about a robot with AIDS.
  7. Radiohead: Amnesiac (2001)
    Kid A got all the glory but Amnesiac meant more–to me at least. The tone, themes and musical range in this red headed stepchild of an album is all over the place. It is viewed by most as a curious Kid A offshoot but not much else. But this is one of those rare cases where the b-sides are better, or at least more interesting, than the a-sides. Amnesiac is one of the most unique Radiohead albums ever produced because it’s more impulsive, raw and awkward. It’s also not over-thought which can be a problem with some recent Radiohead works such as Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows.
    Best Moment: Thom Yorke gets all (ironically?) pugilistic on “You and Whose Army” threatening to destroy everyone and their mothers. Aww, how cute.
  8. The Mars Volta: De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003)
    Oddly enough, the best description of how awesome (and/or silly depending on your point of view) Mars Volta is came from the movie “Get Him To The Greek.” Johna Hill’s girlfriend asked him who Mars Volta was and he answered with this. Over the last seven years I think of a lot of us prog nerds tried and totally failed at making our girlfriends dig Mars Volta. It’s just not gonna happen. Mars Volta exploded on the prog scene with this multi-layered album that is equal parts brilliant and baffling. The often mocked band banged out some of the most unique and original sounds of the decade (a single song could range from prog to jazz to full on psychedelia), something Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala could never have done (or continued to do as they have four albums later and counting) had they listened to critics or, um, girlfriends.
    Best Moment: The opening song followed by the lyrics “Noooooowwww I’mmmmmm loooooooooosssssstttttt.” VOLTA!
  9. Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero (2007)
    Just when I thought NIN was done with concept albums Trent Reznor released his most ambitious project to date. Year Zero, NIN’s final studio album, chronicles, through the band’s fitting industrial sound, the end of the world though the tragically necessary collapse of a civilization taken hostage by imperialism, ignorance, greed and religion. When Trent Reznor sings “As time is running out, let me take away your doubt. We can find a better place in this twilight” we not only feel his pain and passion but are exhilarated by his dark sense of storytelling. On The Fragile Reznor sang about a hand reaching down from the sky and crushing us all but it was more symbolic. With Year Zero it’s almost literal hand–“Some say  it was a warning, some say it was a sign. I was standing there when it came down from the sky.” Exorcising a lot of demons (political, personal and otherwise), it feels as if this album rekindled Reznor’s love of music. Perhaps mine as well. As a bonus it’s the band’s most industrial sounding album since the misunderstood “Fixed” ep.
    Best Moment: Every great song ends with a minute or two of grinding industrial sounds. The uplifting (and apocalyptic!) ending is also pretty amazing.
  10. Super Furry Animals: Rings Around the World (2001)
    Lead singer Gruff Rhys described Rings as a “cosmic rock record” and that might even be downplaying it. When you listen to this, or, indeed, just about any Super Furry Animals album you feel as if anything is possible and with songs styles ranging from psychedelic techno to death metal (“Receptacle For the Respectable”) you never know what you might hear next. Could be Auto-Tuned vitriol on songs like “Juxtaposed With You” (“You’ve got to tolerate, all those people that you hate, I’m not in love with you, but I won’t hold that against you…”) and “No Sympathy” (“you deserve to dieeeeeeeeeeeeeekasjdfkajskdfjkjdskfajskdfjkjk” the song goes just before undergoing the most amazing two minute stuttering schizophrenic music breakdown of all time), could be fluffy surf music (“Sidewalk Surfer Girl”) or tributes to Doris Day, could be a scathing commentary on modern religion on the underrated techno country (what?) track “Run! Christian, Run!,” or hell, it could just be Paul McCartney on “carrot and celery rhythm track.” Everything I love about the band is super sized on this deliberately bloated two disk explosion of eclectic oddities. After a triumphant 90s SFA created some of the most enjoyable music of this last decade and this album is what got the ball rolling.
    Best Moment: So many moments. Many are listed above.
  11. Muse: Black Holes and Revelations (2006)
    One of the most exciting NEW rock bands to emerge from the last decade released their opus in 2006. In retrospect its easy to see why this robust album made Muse popular even though it took a little while to catch on (proud to say I voted it the best album of 2005). Its one of those rare cases where (a) I dig a super popular rock band and (b) I’m happy that a band –making a prog album no less!– found mainstream popularity. Some bands are so good they need to be big so they can put everything else to shame. Rock may have died these last ten years but Muse did their best to keep it alive and they did that through strobe light political/sci-fi anthems worthy of and possibly even surpassing the best of their influences (David Bowie and Queen).
    Best Moment: The end of “Take A Bow,” “Buuuuurrrrrrnnnnn in hell, yeah you’ll buuuuurrrrnnnn in hell for your SINNNNNNSSSSSS– dum, dum, dum, dum AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” followed by “Starlight.” Definitely gets us in the mood!
  12. Puscifer: V Is for Vagina (2007)
    A hated album/band. I get that. I was also down on V the first few times I listened. Ripped from Maynard James Keenan id, Puscifer is a hard one to figure out. It’s like a junk bin full of songs that don’t belong. I was expecting Tool or at the very least A Perfect Circle. I did not expect… this. V is a funky, jokey, and totally serious underneath it all alternative (or is it prog) album with a fertility idol as a mascot. The forced imagery draws upon/creates its own pagan myth and juvenile “humor” (Maynard is as creepy as he is cool). The album is full of cult-like vagina worshiping (for real!) and country boners and that can seem off putting or dumb on the surface. But that’s not the end of it. As a vanity side project this could have gone down the same drain as Albarnn’s forgettable The Good, The Bad and the Queen but a strange thing happened, the album would not go away. I kept humming the Gregorian Monk-like chants, “wake up some of mine…,” “ho-hoooh ho-hooo,” “Je-ho-vah! Yah-weh!”etc. Long story short, the album has stuck around as much as anything released in the last few years. It was not long before I finally had to give in and admit that I love the hell out of Puscifer. In the end this underrated album is far more memorable and audacious than his popular Perfect Circle side project and ultimately worthy to be spoken of in the same breath as Tool. Give it a chance!
    Best Moment: Vaginas!
  13. Blonde Redhead: 24 (2007)
    The most ethereal and down right dreamy album of the decade. This is an album that is easy to get lost in during long drives and thinking sessions. That’s very surprising considering the band’s past work not only went for a more rock oriented sound but was not even very original at that. This is one of those cases where sounding like Radiohead is the best thing a band could do and that’s quite ironic considering it surpasses much of what Radiohead did in the 2000s.
    Best Moment: This is not really an album of moments but about broad gestures.
  14. The Knife: Silent Shout (2006)
    My love affair with the brooding synthpop Knife siblings (Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer) began here. Every bit as good as Deep Cuts (ranked 43 on this list), the release of the darker and more electronic Silent Shout is the moment when The Knife quietly became one of the best bands of the decade. I have little doubt that this album will stand the test of time. It’s a hard one to shake. As a bonus check out The Knife’s first ever live album called Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience for a whole new interpretation of this amazing album.
    Best Moment: Andersson robot voice on “Neverland.” Vader would be proud.
  15. Nine Inch Nails: The Slip (2008)
    Radiohead got all full of themselves when they pretended to release a “free” on-line album (In Rainbows). NIN actually did it. That the album is one of Reznor’s best is just the icing on the razor blades and metal shard flavored cake. It returns NIN to the raw yet melodic rock sounds that Reznor achieved on Downward Spiral and Broken.
    Best Moment: While listening to The Slip for the 100th time on I saw that on my iPhone the lyrics and artwork show up! Trent is so cool!
  16. Ladytron: Velocifero (2008)
    Velocifero surprised the hell out of me. After a lukewarm response I didn’t even expect to like 2009’s Ladytron album. Don’t get me wrong I always enjoyed this electropop band (60 4 and Light & Magic have their moments) but never knew they would capable of  something this big. A total grower. After many listens I realized that the entire album plays like a flawless best-of that most bands take years to compile. I can’t wait to see what Ladytron does next.
    Best Moment: Black Cat. I mean, when was the last time anybody jammed this hard to a Bulgarian language song?
  17. Gomez: Split the Difference (2004)
    Gomez’s best album to date! The all-over-the-place traks are unified only by the band’s willingness to experiment more and more with their already quirky brit rock sounds. I love how the members of the band work on their music  independently and come together to form, well, Gomez. The resulting madness resulted in my pick for best album of 2004. Gomez had a great decade and a case could be made for each album (except for their last, A New Tide) being their best.
    Best Moment: The messy but catchy opening three tracks (“Do One,” “These 3 Sins,” and “Silence” sets the mood for the rest of the album.
  18. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
    There was a time when the only thing I knew about The Flaming Lips is that they wrote a creepy song about jelly and made an appearance at the Peach Pit After Dark on “90210.” Then Yoshimi hit and everything changed. This celebrated album elevated The Flaming Lips into artists (at least, for those of us not fortunate enough to have heard The Soft Bulletin a few years earlier). But what’s so cool is that the band got some much earned credibility without sacrificing their sense of acid blasted fun or experimentation. This album was so special (is there any other word for it?) that it took the band a full album to recover. After selling out to every car commercial known to man and the making the confused (in a bad way) At War With the Mystics, the Lips got their groove (and integrity) back with . Oh, and they also put on what is without a doubt the best live show of the decade!
    Best Moment: Oh, has to be the moment that Unit 30021 awakens and makes a humming sound.
  19. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus (2004)
    Cage replaced angry howls with a soulful gospel album. The results are maturity and refinement without the loss of that vintage dulcet doomed Cave-ness that we fans love. It is with this double album that Cave, in my opinion, perfected his craft. Soul, fury, god, sex and blood. Lots of blood. And with lines like “Karl Marx squeezed his carbuncles while writing Das Kapital/And Gaugin, he buggered off, man, and went all tropical…” his songwriting has never been better, funnier, deeper or more strange.
    Best Moment: Every second of “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” especially the song’s rousing chorus. How was that song not a single?
  20. Herbert: Scale (2006)
    Matthew Herbert’s electronic masterpiece takes from the best of electronica, Jazz and, yes, even classic Hollywood compositions. Beeps, buzzes, trickles, drips, bangs, and, if Wikipedia is to be believed “breakfast cereal, gas pumps and coffins.” But the album is not some heady and inert piece of electronic music. The everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink music technique is offset by gorgeously sweeping symphonic movements that paint a surprisingly elegant soundscape. There’s so much going on in terms of all the sounds that every listen yields something new and exciting.  It’s catchy, it’s soulful and its fun. Contributor Róisín Murphy also does some of her best work on this album. And finally, if all that wasn’t enough, the song “Something Isn’t Right” is one of the decade’s best songs.
    Best Moment: The first organic sounding blip. It’s as if we’re trapped inside the bowls of a musically inclined whale!
  21. Tool: 10,000 Days (2006)
    A bigger fan of Tool’s last two albums I find myself in minority. It seems that most Tool fans are not to fond of 10,000 days but Tool fans are not commonly fond of anything beyond the band’s first two albums (they did, after all, sell out and suck up to THE MAN). So is this lesser Tool? Objectively, that’s a hard one to answer because, again, going by critics and fans, one would think it is. It’s not. It’s a great work full of complexity and unrelenting rock passages that solidify Tool’s status as legends of modern music. It offers some of the band’s most ambitious and absurd songs to date. Often in the same song! “Rosetta Stoned” is about a hippie who takes some bad acid and is visited by aliens telling him he’s the messiah. Then he freaks out and “shits the bed.” That people still call Tool pretentious is one of the great mysteries surrounding the band’s impact (or lack thereof) on music. Say what you will about 10,000 Days but it features some of the best work by the best guitarist in the world, Adam Jones (check out his work on the song “Jambai”), drummer Danny Carey (“Intension,” “Right in Two”) and of course singer Maynard James Keenan who surprised a lot of Tool fans like me with his deeply moving “Wings for Marie (Pt 1),” and “10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2).”
    Best Moment: Easy one. “Rosetta Stoned.” Guy takes too much acid. Aliens talk to him and tell him he’s the chosen one. He freaks out and “shits the bed.” Goddamn.
  22. Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
    The best album of the decade according to many. A great Radiohead album according to me. Why is that not enough? Radiohead defined rock in the 90s and almost single handily added electronica to rock in the 00s. The fact that I’m still listening to it means that everything is indeed in the right place.
    Best Moment: “Everything in it’s Right Place.” What a perfect way to open an album like this. Hum, is everything really in the right place? OMG, Radiohead’s being ironic again!
  23. Gorillaz: Demon Days (2005)
    The best novelty band of all time. Perhaps because of that novelty aspect though the Gorillaz are not given enough credit as one of the most innovative and defining bands of the last decade. Led by Blur front man Damon Albarn, Gorillaz helped change music. The band highlights a lot of what music was about in the 2000s. They fused rap, hip-hop, rock, pop and world music better than any band, and a lot of bands tried. On top of that they a function as a gimmicky act, yes, but also a remarkably creative and robust commentary on commercial excess and even the apocalypse. Demon Days, my favorite Gorillaz album, is a full blown concept album featuring a fully animated “fake” band of primates that put most real bands to shame. That they are constantly able to adapt and evolve (hehe) is another benchmark. This new decade has already brought great promise with the new Plastic Peach album that will most certainly be featured on a list very similar to this ten years from now.
    Best Moment: Simple village people called “Happyfolk” are terrorized by corporate greed. World swallowed by the darkness that ensues. God looks up in Heaven and laughs at us. That’s Dennis Hopper’s spoken-word song “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head.” Like Year Zero, it ends the album on an apocalyptic note. As a bonus Demon Days’ epilogue is two blissfully sad tunes aided by the The London Community Gospel Choir.
  24. Super Furry Animals: Phantom Power (2002)
    SFA scores another winner! Phantom Power even ranked as my number one album of 2005. I still regard it very highly but feel that Rings Around the World is the better, more authentic Animals effort. Still, this album, more melancholy and sober than their past work, is ambitious and offers a refreshing change of direction for the oft wild band. SFA have not revisited the sounds of Phantom Power since but that only makes it all the more special. While Gruff Rhys and his fellow insane Welshmen still find time for songs about “Golden Retrievers” and turtles named Venus and Serena, Phantom Power goes on to explore unjust wars, cycles of violence and a post-9-11 culture of fear. It is an album that is hard to define that was released in an era that was even harder to figure out.
    Best Moment: Goooooolden Retriever. Go-ooh-ooh-lden Retriever.
  25. Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (2005)
    I don’t understand how anyone could dismiss this album. Porcupine Tree fans like me say this a lot. And they say it about each album. A towering achievement from a band that just gets better and better.  PTs eighth album shows no sign of the band slowing. Quite the opposite. They upped the intensity and emotional connections to their prog rock sounds on this highly cinematic “ghost story” concept album. Perhaps Deadwing is also their most mainstream album to date as well. There are so many great PT songs are in this album (“Shallow,” “Lazarus,” “Halo,” “Open Car,” “Arriving Somewhere”) that I find it impossible not to rank it high. In fact, shame on me for not getting it in the top ten.
    Best Moment: The twelve minute prog opus “Arriving Somewhere but Not Here” gives “Anesthetize” a run for its money.
  26. Daft Punk: Alive 2007
  27. …and Discovery (2001 and 2007)
    Though I have a weak spot for live albums I tried to keep them separate from the regular albums (see list below for a best live list) but this isn’t a normal live album. Daft Punk does not just present their best songs they rethink them entirely! It’s a new way of making music through artful synthesis. Mash ups are often fun but they have never been this thoughtful or cleverly implemented. Radiohead comes close when they remix their songs live but Daft Punk went one step beyond. The lovable robots looked back at their short list of songs spanning only a few albums (a few GREAT albums, notably Discovery) and, like the dutiful machines they are, reimagined them, remixed them and took them even deeper into the realm of the unreal. And they did it live! If songs like “Hard, Better, Faster, Stronger”  weren’t good enough on their own, when interwoven with a club hit like “Around the World” a whole new experience is created. One of the biggest musical marvels of the decade.
    Best Moment: Rock!……… robot bock… around the world.
  28. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
    What happened to Wilco? Well, actually, after two flawless back-to-back alt-rock winners, Yankee and A Ghost is Born, Wilco simply went back to… being Wilco. You know what, it doesn’t even matter because at least they got to make this totally original, genre bending, studio-be-damned album. All the overrated country folk rock albums in the world won’t change that.
    Best Moment: The amount of time it takes “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” to get going and the effect of how cool it is once it does.
  29. Nine Inch Nails: With Teeth (2005)
    Not one of the band’s best but certainly one of Trent Reznor’s most important albums to date. It is a victorious (and vicious) comeback album. After the soul crushing gap before and after The Fragile release it was uncertain if NIN would ever really be back. With Teeth answered that with an emphatic “yes.” Unlike most of his 90s peers that includes toothless acts like Pearl Jam, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots (etc. etc.), Trent has gotten smarter and sharper with age rather than soft and irrelevant. He is able to redirect his trademark anger into something darkly beautiful and edgy. “The Hand That Feeds” and “Only” remain some of best 2000s singles.
    Best Moment: The spaced out “Beside You in Time” would have been the perfect note to end on but, sadly, the feelings that mostly wordless song evokes ruined by one of NIN’s worst songs to date: “Right Where It Belongs.”
  30. Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf (2002)
    I never would have imagined that Queens of all bands would have put out an album this cohesive after the good but messy Rated R. This album is epic. The kind of effort that proves a classic rock album could be made in the 00s and be made as good as anything in the past. If the term Neo-Classic Rock didn’t exist before Songs for the Deaf, it should damn well exist after it. This is the last great album Queens of the Stone Age will ever make. Even if Josh Homme brought back Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl I doubt they could re-capture the magic of Deaf.
    Best Moment: The radio show segue gimmick shouldn’t work but it’s really cool here. My Chemical Romance does a similar thing on their new 2010 album and it’s… lets just say not as cool.
  31. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Worlds Apart (2005)
    …and you will also know this band by the bombastic sounds of this amazing (and amazingly underrated) alt-rock album. World’s takes all the magic of Source Tags and Codes only to blow it up, stretch it out and experiment the hell out of the boundaries of this music genre. It does not get the credit it deserves.
    Best Moment: The intense, almost theatrical instrumental opening followed by a woman screeching and saying “and you will know us by the trail of dead.”
  32. Weezer: Maladroit (2002)
    The hardest Weezer has ever rocked. And the funniest they’ve ever been. And the most iconoclastic (as the title would indicate). Oh, and of course the creepiest and most neurotic (the song “Love Explosion” opens with this classic Rivers Cuomo gem: “Take a listen around you/to all the people that crowd around in your house/They be wanting to kill you… in your sleep”). In a way it’s also their most confident. Maladroit is sound of Weezer hitting their peek. Sadly, it was all downhill from here. This is easily my favorite Weezer album to date and that’s mostly because I’ll never understand why Pinkerton is so trendy.
    Best Moment: The “Keep Fishing” video. Oh nothing, Weezer is just jamming with The Muppets!
  33. Neon Neon: Stainless Style (2008)
    A retro 80s concept album from the frontman of Super Furry Animals. The album is a biopic of sorts about the crazy, drug fueled life of the inventor of the Delorian. Yes, that’s the Back to the Future car guy. How cool is that? Actually, it would not be that cool at all if the album wasn’t really good. It is. Give it a shot.
    Best Moment: A small moment in the song “I Told Her On Alderon” (Han Solo’s home planet?). Gruff sings about a doctor and then does the doctor’s voice “hello, come right in.” For some reason I find that hilarious!
  34. Beck: The Information (2006)
    While it didn’t make my top twenty the year it came out this is one of those albums that grew and grew and grew on me until I could not deny it’s status as a masterpiece (the opposite happened with Guero for some reason). The Information combines all the eras of Beck-dom with ease and fun and a lot of funk. There’s love songs (“Think I’m In Love”) there’s old school Beck (“1,000 BPM,” “Elevator Music”), stoner beck (“Nausea”) and there’s even a new Beck: space age time travel. The final epic, a three song suite featuring Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze talking about space crafts is an moody ambient masterpiece. If the album ages any better then ten years from now it may give Sea Change a run for its money no pun intended.
    Best Moment: The last song is so trippy it defies words.
  35. Tenacious D: Tenacious D (2001)
    Call it joke album if you want but it happens to be a joke album with really good rock music. And the comedy skits that are just as good (Drive Through, Friendship Test etc.). Listening to Jables (Jack Black) and Rage Kage (Kyle Gass) double team the ladies, vanquish dragons and fight over kielbasa sausages only to make up through a song about friendship and running naked through the park is just as enjoyable to listen to today. I’ve quoted this album way too much over the years. “Yeah, that’s right, that’s a karate chop.”
    Best Moment: Don’t make me pick just one… okay it’s when JB and KG double team a woman, treating to a night of toe sucking pleasure that most of us dare not dream of. “Now we’re talking… DOUBLE TEAM!”
  36. Doves: The Last Broadcast (2002)
    After this album the Doves should never be considered secondhand Radiohead British knockoffs.
    Best Moment: The song “Words” chills me out.
  37. Robbie Williams: Sing When You’re Winning (2000)
    I was once really into Robbie Williams. “greatness.” After revisiting this playful and catchy album earlier in the year I do not regret it either.
    Best Moment: Rock DJ. What a song! The video where Robbie Williams tears off his skin and throws it to the ladies is amazing.
  38. Gomez: In Our Gun (2002)
    Gomez’s has had an astonishingly good run but the kind of run nobody even knew was in play. Still, this hot streak didn’t even start with In Our Gun. It did, however, intensify with it as it’s Gomez’s most complex album to date. An album that pointed the band in the right direction. This album got me into Gomez.
    Best Moment: The first time I heard it I was impressed by the range of singers in this band and album. That still makes Gomez very unique.
  39. Badly Drawn Boy: One Plus One Is One (2004)
    Not bad from a solo artist that many believe to be past his prime. While mostly known as a 90s artist, Damon Gough did some of his best work last decade. From the beautiful About a Boy soundtrack to 1+1 to his underrated meditation on being British Born in the U.K., this singer/songwriter is able to have fun with his never-pretentious music.
    Best Moment: Ba-by, Ba-by… buzzzsssccchhhhh.
  40. Dave Matthews Band: The Lillywhite Sessions (2001)
    The most talked about non-released album of the decade, maybe ever. After their scrapped album leaked (and was loved by fans) DMB said, okay, how about we re-record it and release a souped-up studio version minus producer Steve Lillywhite. And it sucked. Well, it didn’t suck (“You Never Know” is a DMB classic) but it was lacking the previous album’s magic. Just listen to the new/neutered version of Bartender for an example of what’s missing from the original (thankfully a great live version of Bartender is floating around). DMB was looking to have a really good decade until the Lillywhite/Busted Stuff mishap took them out of their game. The result was the abhorred adult contemporary ez-listening soft rock Stand Up. They lost their way but found it again at the eleventh hour with 2009’s triumphant Big Whiskey come-back album.
    Best Moment: Very few moments in rock match the brilliance of the song Bartender. That moment was squandered on Busted Stuff but thankfully resurrected whenever DMB plays that song live.
  41. Marilyn Manson: Holy Wood (2000)
    Manson is not cool any more. That’s stating the obvious.  Maybe he never was. I don’t know. What I do know is that Holy Wood is a very good rock album that became a victim of Manson’s annoyingly arch “goth” theatrics. That does not change the work at hand. This album is better even than his iconic 90s releases Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. But it was too late and by the turn of the century people were really sick of him (including me) and nobody was able to look past the passé artist to recognize the art. So, yes, I will defend this album.
    Best Moment: The moment you realize a Marilyn Manson album doesn’t suck.
  42. Pantha du Prince: This Bliss (2007)
    Techno has a bad name. Like, even the word sounds cheesy and lame. The elegant minimalism offered by bands like this in albums like this are looking to change that. Bliss was made for people who would rather soak in atmosphere and think than mindlessly dance. It is, in the best sense of the word, the closest thing we have to classical music. Pantha du Prince proves that, when it comes to techno, less is better. Less says more. And less makes more of an impression.
    Best Moment: It’s hard not to fall in love with the album the moment you hear the song “Asha.”
  43. The Knife: Deep Cuts (2003)
    Not as dark as Silent Shout but, amazingly, just as good in a lot of ways. For one it’s more accessible. “Heartbeats” is easily the best pop song in years. Speaking of pop, this album taught a lot of people that euro and/or electro pop is not just for, well, Euros. Oddball Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijerget a simultaneous award for most changed band and most versatile (not only did Andersson release a solo album with her band Fever Ray in 2009 but The Knife’s live album Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience is a blast. And perhaps likely to end up in prison. The Knife also made going out in public in Venetian masks cool again.
  44. Best Moment: Lots of moments. Certainly “Heartbeats.” I also love Andersson’s voice on “Got 2 Let u,” and “You Make Me Like Charity.” Never has a singer sounded so cute while singing about “paying enough taxes.” I am particularly obsessed with the lyric “I felt the war. I felt her exposed… position.” And, no, I have no idea what that means either.
  45. Stars of the Lid: and Their Refinement of the Decline (2007)
    It’s a tossup as to which Stars album from the last ten is my favorite seeing as how both Refinement and Tired  Sounds… are equally impressive. Each album, while nuanced and changing ever so slightly, feels like an extension of this Texas ambient band’s last. Besides, we’re not even dealing with album in the typical sense of the word. More of a wandering and ethereal experience that transcends typical feeling we get from modern music. A mandatory requirement to enjoying this music is to give in to the lack of structure. Side Note: over the last few years its the album of choice to nap to and I mean that as a compliment.
    Best Moment: The moment the album ends and you start it all over again.
  46. Annie: Hey Annie (2009)
    Less than a year later and I’m upset with myself for not giving this album of the year for 2009. Oh well. Hey Annie is even better than Anniemal, the album that put the Norwegian electropop singer on the map. Sure, Annie name drops every chance she gets and even dresses crazy (lipstick necklace and all) but she is able succeed where the superficial Lady Gagas of the world failed. Annie backs up her funky and somewhat self aware (err, at least I think) dance-pop sound with something infectiously fun that also seems to have substance. Pop music hasn’t been this good in ages. I love you, Annie!
    Best Moment: Annie asks what we want for breakfast. The answer: Annie!
  47. Belle and Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
    I recently had a chance to listen to all major Belle and Sebastian albums and EPs. What a great idea!  This is so much more than an indie pop band. B&S has never released anything close to a mediocre album. I don’t think they could if they tried. This album may be their best while the same time it is the one that appropriately divides its fans. On one hand it’s certainly their most joyful and catchy work to date but what puts it over the edge is the dark lyrics that undercut the cheery facade. “I’m going deaf, you’re growing melancholy/ Things fall apart, I don’t know why we bother at all/ But life is good and it’s always worth living… at least for a while.” Ah, Stewart Murdoch, all it takes is a few tracks from this album to put me in a great mood. Thank you.
    Best Moment: Love the horns.
  48. The Soundtrack of Our Lives: Behind the Music (2003)
    An album that seems to belong to a different era. As someone who hates “classic rock” I should clarify that I mean that in a good way. Behind the Music is T.S.O.O.L.’s  best album to date. It’s full of sounds both epic and classic. There’s a lot of range and a lot of heart from this Swedish band.
    Best Moment: The brooding “In Your Veins” is a highlight.
  49. Andrew W.K.: I Get Wet (2001)
    PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!!PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!!………… gasp………. PAAAAAAAARRRRRRTTTTtttttyyyyyyy…. clang, thump, thud!
    Best Moment: Party!
  50. Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
    A beautiful, singular album. One of those rare musical endeavors that just about everyone can agree is a defining moment for music in the 2000s. The kind of album that anchors you to the time you heard it. I’ve even tried not to like or downplay this album… until I heard it again with an objective lens. There’s no denying it’s power or place in history.
    Best Moment: Lies!
  51. Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)
    A late addition to this list. Outside of the brilliant song “Labyrinthine Pomp” which made my top ten songs of 2007, the album Hissing Fauna did not interest me when it first came out. I found it to be annoying and over the top. I’ve learned to appreciate the quirky sounds that vacillate between high minded and frivolous. Everything just comes together perfectly here. Not in a tidy way either but in a slapdash release of funky angst way. And, really, nobody is writing lyrics like Kevin Barnes, er, pardon I mean Georgie Fruit (his Fauna alter ego). Weather it’s songs about drugs “come on chemicals,” a kick ass choirs if there ever was one, or random as hell stream of consciousness musings like “I spent the winter on the verge of a total nervous breakdown while living in Norway/I felt the darkness of black metal bands” this is a one of a kind album. The kind of crazy I can really relate to these days.
    Best Moment: Chemical-eul-eul-eul-eulaaaaaas!
  52. Coheed and Cambria: Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV (2005)
    I’m counting this one in my top fifty because Daft Punk took up two spots. I have come to regard Good Apollo as a major prog album in the vein of Rush, Pink Floyd and At the Drive In. Claudio Sanchez’s comical falsetto and heavy rock influences didn’t impress me at first but it literally did at second and it hasn’t stopped since (the follow-up No World For Tomorrow is just as good as Apollo). Coheed does not even stop at delivering amazing guitar heavy prog albums, they create a whole sci-fi world around the music in the form of comics. Really ambitious and yet also really unnecessary because the album is so good on its own.
  53. Postal Service: Give Up (2003)
    It’s rare that an artist’s side project eclipses in every possible way the band said artist is best known for. Not only did that happened with this amazingly polished electronic side project by Deathcab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard but it’s so good that I found myself annoyed with every new “Deathcab” because that meant Gibbard was not working on a new Postal Service. Note: points lost for selling out big time to to credit card commercials and Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously, Grey’s Anatomy? Soooo not cool.
  54. Franz Ferdindand: Self Titled (2004)
    Not a single weak on the whole album from this Scottish rock band. Every song rocks and every song could have been a single. What’s more improbable than that is that nearly every Franz Ferdinand song/album after this spotless self titled epic has pretty much sucked. Franz Ferdinand never needs to put out a “best of” album because they accomplished that tasked on their first try.
  55. Green Day: American Idiot (2004)
    I am not a an of Green Day/I am a huge fan of this Green Day album. It’s possible.
  56. Supersilent: 9 (2009)
    Cllllllllllllllllllllllllllliiiiinnnnnnnnggggg…. vroooooooooooooshhhhhhh… buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssshhhhhhh… weeeeeeeee… waaaahhhhhhhhh… eeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhh… berrrr… vereeeeverrrrrveeeeverrrrrr…
  57. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling (2001)
    Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk about it.
  58. Sigur Rós: ( ) (2002)
    Taps into so much energy, emotion and sadness while at the same time saying so little. An album that literally transcends language by inventing its own. The album’s empty title makes perfect sense even though it does not even begin to express the depth at work here.
  59. St-Germain: Tourist (2000)
    Jazz fusion made fun. Pop this sophisticated electronic gem in to impress your friends. Or just go into chill mode and listen away. If only St Germain made more albums.
  60. Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga (2008)
    Weed. Underdogs. Japanese cigarette cases. What a delightful album. Spoon brings much needed humor and sense of fun to the pretentious, often insufferable indie rock genre. And they managed to do it in just over 30 minutes.
  61. At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command (2000)
    At the Drive-In is a faded memory at this point. This album keeps that memory alive. The band may have splintered into Mars Volta and Sparta (both good bands) but this album will carry the legacy of ATDI for years to come.
  62. Blur: Think Tank (2004)
    Blur, sadly, is no more. If the band, or I should say Damon Albarn, ever chooses to come back –and Dear Lord I hope they do– they can use the awesomeness of this album (which totally should have sucked) as an impetus to get back on the horse or back in the tank or back to modern life or back to the park or, um, 13? Whatever. Come back, guys! Oh, and if you do please remember to pick up some Graham Coxton on your way home. Okay, thanks.
  63. Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (2002)
    Did I mention I like Porcupine Tree?
  64. Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask (2005)
    If all rap was inspired by Adult Swim cartoons then I would probably like rap.
  65. Jaravis Cocker: Further Complications (2009)
    Pulp may be dead but Cocker sure isn’t. Now this is how a rock star should do a solo album! Angrier, funnier, hornier and as melodic as ever. If Cocker keeps this up I may not even miss Pulp anymore.

66 to 100ish

  • The Horrors: Primary Colours
  • Nine Inch Nails: Still
  • …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Source Tags & Codes
  • Gorillaz: Gorillaz
  • Porcupine Tree: The Incident
  • TV On the Radio: Dear Science
  • Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
  • Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun
  • Belle and Sebastian: Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
  • PJ Harvey: Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
  • Justice: Cross
  • Nine Inch Nails: Things Falling Apart (best NIN remix album of all time)
  • Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP
  • The National: Boxer
  • Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport
  • Super Furry Animals: Hey Venus
  • Mastadon: Crack the Skye
  • The Rapture: Echoes
  • Mars Volta: Bedlam in Goliath
  • The Bravery: The Sun and the Moon
  • LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
  • Cake: Comfort Eagle (underrated)
  • The Strokes: Is This It?
  • Radiohead: In Rainbows
  • Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
  • Godspeed You Black Emperor: Lift Your Skinny Fists…
  • Depeche Mode: Exciter
  • Beirut: Gulag Orkerstar
  • Basement Jaxx: Rooty
  • Tom Waits: Alice
  • Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
  • Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam
  • Interpol: Turn on the Bright Lights
  • Bob Dylan: Modern Times
  • Mars Volta: Francis the Mute
  • No Doubt: Return to Saturn
  • New Pornographers: Twin Cinema
  • The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan

Favorite New Bands of the Decade:

  1. Crystal Castles
  2. The Knife
  3. Gorillaz
  4. The Mars Volta
  5. Puscifer
  6. Camera Obscura
  7. Annie
  8. The Rapture
  9. Justice
  10. The National
  11. Postal Service
  12. Sufjan Stevens
  13. jj
  14. Arcade Fire
  15. Interpol

Most “Relevant“/Innovative/Culturally Important/Whatever Bands and Artists of the Decade:
(not that I agree with all of these…)

  1. Radiohead (for the second decade in a row!!!)
  2. Eminem
  3. Kanye West
  4. The White Stripes (ugh)
  5. Arcade Fire
  6. The Strokes
  7. Outkast
  8. Gorillaz
  9. Animal Collective
  10. Jay-Z
  11. Daft Punk
  12. The Killers
  13. LCD Soundsystem

Favorite Live Albums:


  1. Daft Punk – Alive 2007
  2. Nine Inch Nails – And All That Could Have Been
  3. Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere…
  4. Tool – Salival
  5. John Coltrane & Thelonius Monk – Live at Carnegie Hall
  6. Blur – All the People: Blur Live at Hyde Park
  7. Radiohead – I Might Be Wrong
  8. Kraftwerk – Minimum-Maximum
  9. Ladytron – Live at London Astoria
  10. Wilco – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
  11. Dave Matthews Band – The Central Park Concert
  12. Leonard Cohen – Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979
  13. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid Live at Abbey Road
  14. The Knife – Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience
  15. Porcupine Tree – Ilosaarirock
  16. Muse – H.A.A.R.P.: Live From Wembley Stadium
  17. My Morning Jacket — Okonokos
  18. Tom Waits – Glitter and Doom Live
  19. Neko Case – The Tigers Have Spoken
  20. Nirvana – Live at Redding
  21. Porcupine Tree – Coma Divine Live in Rome

Albums ranked #1 At the Time:

2009: Porcupine Tree’s The Incident (okay, so there were some better albums released that year)
2008: Crystal Castles’ Self Titled
2007: Blond Redhead’s 23 
2006: Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations 
2005: Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth (lesser NIN but still solid)
2004: Gomez’s Split the Difference (I stand by it)
2003: Super Furry Animals’ Phantom Power  
2002: Beck’s Sea Change (right on, Greg!)
2001: Tool’s Lateralus (got it right!)
2000: Robbie Williams’ Sing When You’re Winning (woops)

One More List… Best Album of the 90s:

  1. Nine Inch Nails: The Fragile
  2. Radiohead: Ok Computer
  3. Pulp: Separations
  4. Super Furry Animals: Fuzzy Logic
  5. Nine Inch Nails: Broken/Fixed
  6. Pulp: This Is Hardcore
  7. Tool: Aneima
  8. Spiritualized: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  9. Beck: Mutations
  10. Nine Inch Nails: Downward Spiral
  11. U2: Zooropa
  12. Pulp: Different Class
  13. Blur: Blur
  14. Nirvana: MTV Unplugged
  15. Depeche Mode: Violator
  16. Tool: Undertow
  17. U2: Achuting Baby
  18. Pulp: His n’ Hers
  19. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless
  20. Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers
  21. Radiohead: The Bends
  22. Beck: Odelay
  23. The Pixies: Bossanova
  24. Belle & Sebastian: If You’re Feeling Sinister
  25. The Beta Band: Three E.P.s

Best Songs of the Decade in the next week or so… then a break for the best of 2010 then of course Best Movies of the Decade after that (whenever I’m done catching up on/rewatching all those films. Argh, too many best ofs!