Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Bestest of the Best-2010 Edition

Let's light this candle!
FILM
After a decade long re-education in the subject of film, 2010 made me feel like a total slacker. I caught up with some long sought classics like Wolfgang Peterson's DAS BOOT, David Lean's version of Dickens' GREAT EXPECTATIONS and Werner Herzog's brilliant remake of NOSFERATU. Other swell films on my list: Chan-Wook Park's THIRST, the hysterical Nazi zombie extravaganza DEAD SNOW (Ein! Zwie! DIE!) and Martin Scrosese's ode to Val Lewton, SHUTTER ISLAND. I ventured into an actual cinema only twice, a significant drop in attendance from years past. For this I can only attribute to a general malaise. (You remember him, don't you? General Malaise led the forces into Afghanistan...well, he wanted to, but he was too depressed to leave home.)
So I am WAY behind and therefore unqualified to even speak about the year in film, but that hasn't stopped me before, has it? As usual, here goes nothing. AVATAR, the great 3-D savior of 21st century cinema was actually more than worth the hype and praise foisted upon it, even if it disappears like so much cotton candy in retrospect. It took six months for me to go out again and this time I was rewarded with what I will name the #1 film of 2010: Christopher Nolan's sensational epic INCEPTION, a rare action blockbuster with both brains and heart. The finale had to be one of the finest in recent memory, again a rarity for a film over 2 1/2 hours in length. The one movie that stayed with me more than anything was Spike Jonzes' adaptation of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, a superb children's film for adults. I know it's a 2009 release, but why are you so hung up on time, hmmm?
TV
Another outstanding year of television helped make 2010 a little more tolerable, especially on the original programming side…and away from the dregs of the broadcast networks. (Don’t preach the gospel of GLEE to me. I’m not a fan. Without its musical numbers, it bores me to horrors.) The usual suspects: MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, RESCUE ME, SONS OF ANARCHY, TRUE BLOOD, NURSE JACKIE and THE UNITED STATES OF TARA all had excellent seasons. These joined by swell newcomers like THE WALKING DEAD, JUSTIFIED, LOUIE, MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.
Best of the bunch:
HBO’s TREME, the saga of New Orleans, post-Katrina and pre-oil spill. Superb performances by Wendell Pierce, Khandi Alexander, Clarke Peters, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and (surprise surprise surprise) Steve Zahn, of all people. I never cared much for Zahn before as an actor, but his wily characterization won me over. He was featured what I consider to be the best TV moment all year, a rousing rendition of “Shame, Shame, Shame”, an ode to the government’s response to the disaster that hit that area not so very long ago. TREME was moving, rousing and always compelling a worthy successor to David Simon's masterpiece THE WIRE. Like its predecessor, TREME was criminally robbed of any sort of Emmy consideration. Stinking Philistines....
MUSIC
It was the Year of the Gaga and I’m fine with that. She’s brought the fun back to the music world. Meat dress? You go, nutjob! At least the Lady has the talent to back it up. She starts taking herself seriously and I am outta here. But if she keeps giving us lines like: “I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want everything as long as it's free, I want your love…” then she has a fan in me. I’m also a bit gaga for Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days”. Flo’s like the next generation of Annie Lennox, though she actually looks like the illegitimate daughter of Andy Warhol superstar Viva. But really, what’s better than Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You”? Nothing.
BOOKS
On the non-fiction side, I was enthralled by THE BIG BURN: TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND THE FIRE THAT SAVED AMERICA by Timothy Egan and SIN THE SECOND CITY: MADAMS, MINISTERS,PLAYBOYS AND THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA'S SOUL by Karen Abbot. The best: THE LOST CITY OF Z: A TALE OF DEADLY OBSESSION IN THE AMAZON by David Grann. On the fiction front, my new favorite author has to be Nick Hornby for his books SLAM and JULIET, NAKED. I also to an inordinate amount of audio books this year since I am on the road so very much, my very favorites being Tom Wolfe’s BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES and my numero uno, Jeremy Iron’s unbelievably superb reading of Nabokov’s LOLITA, a one man performance of the highest caliber.
RADIO
The very best interviewer in the entire broadcast industry is Terry Gross on NPR’s FRESH AIR, a talk show I used to avoid for fear it would lull me to sleep while driving. How wrong could one be. At first listen, Gross sounds like everyone’s least favorite mousy substitute teacher, but she overcomes this impression with her sharp insights and often brilliant observations with her wide range of guests. I don’t listen to every show, but I give everyone a chance no matter what the subject matter because FRESH AIR has won me over more times than not and I end up actually learning something in the process. Amazing what an open mind can accomplish.
As for the WORST of 2010….I’d rather forget it, thank you very much.
You’re welcome.
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