Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top Films of 2010

It's been a bad year for films: I'll say it. There were far too many rehashes and sequels and wholly uncreative movies out in 2010. Looking back at last year's post of my top films of 2009, I'm astounded at how many more quality movies there were. And that list would have changed, too! I hadn't seen A Single Man or Moon until this year, and they would have garnered spots right up there for sure. (A Serious Man would have been filed under worst, sah-rry).

But back to this year - there were most definitely films that rose above. I believe the top five especially are exemplary of good films that chose in one way or another to feel new or, not redundant. There's a gleam of innovation and creativity there, and for that I love them.

01 Black Swan

Now, there are a lot of themes here that are quite conventional - anorexic ballerina, doubles, mirrors, murderous ambition - but director Darren Aronofsky, lead Natalie Portman, and the sounds of the film formed something beautiful and original as I watched. The rising intensity of the film played like horror, and I relished in seeing a modern, well-made horror film.

02 The Social Network

Because the rhythm of Aaron Sorkin's writing will always rope me in. I don't care at all that this "based on a true story" movie isn't really at all: the writing, David Fincher's dark and moody directing (after Benjamin Button I was getting nervous...), the score, and the surprisingly great young actors were enough for me to watch in glee from the first scene on. Not to mention that as as BU girl, I remember signing up for the first inception of Facebook. Speaking of...

03 Inception

Oh, how daring for a movie to be not only smart and artistic but mainstream. I love movies that continue in your mind long after they're over; seeing this in the theater with friends several times was always fun because of the many conversations that would ensue afterwards. I love movies that create conversations. Not to mention those visuals, that script, and another score for Christopher Nolan - a director my father and I kept our eyes on after seeing Memento in the theater so many years ago. Another film that had us talking for weeks afterwards.

04 The Kids Are All Right

Hilarity at it's best! The only thing that surpassed the perfectly tuned acting of Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson was the script itself by Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko. I appreciate a good comedy because it seems to come along so rarely - well a good comedy that is also non-offensive, I should say.

05 Blue Valentine

On the opposite of comedy is this film, starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. The film is wretchedly uncomfortable and I don't think I could see it again. But there's something to be said for a movie that makes you squeam not because somebody is being bludgeoned to death, but because you see a couple trying to make things right, trying to combine their lives into one and not always succeeding. Those minor details of real life are so often passed over in film, but this one puts them front and center. And juxtaposes them in a "duet" (as the director said at the screening I saw) of a couple's relationship during two different times.

06 Winter's Bone

I saw this movie pretty early on in the year, but it's stuck with me over the months. I think the lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, along with John Hawkes, are astounding. The movie is slow-paced and eerie; the scenery cold and dank. Scenery like this is usually used in awful horror films; there's a different, far more realistic eerieness residing in this film.

07 The Fighter

I think I loved this film because I went into it expecting a heavy-handed drama about boxing (not exactly my cup of tea) but was pleasantly surprised by a really funny movie. Sure, there's some real dark stuff going on here at times, but the best parts are when Christian Bale is on screen as Dickey, a crack-addicted former boxing champion from Lowell, Massachusetts. At times I thought he overplayed it a bit (not that I minded) - but after seeing real video of the person which his character is based on, he's right on. Christian Bale bordered on funny in American Psycho, but you know, I'm more used to him as the brooding Batman or sickening insomniac in The Machinist. Him, plus the other supporting characters really make the film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

08 True Grit

I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this film, either. It was a remake (though, thankfully, not of a film that came out in my lifetime). But I always like Coen Brother-directed movies. However, what most blew me away was lead actress (this is NOT a supporting role no matter what the awards are deeming it) Hailee Steinfeld. It's hard to think of a thirteen-year-old actor who's not playing cute or cloying or precocious. The rest was also great, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

09 Scott Pilgrim vs The World

What a love it or hate it film! I loved it. I enjoyed all the risks it took in the visuals and story because, hey, at least I'd never seen it done before. It felt like a ride and it made me grin in its silliness. I had to give it the thumbs up for being so daring. (Also, anybody think Zach Snyder should take more tips from Edgar Wright? Just me?)

10 Toy Story 3

Well, because Pixar. They know good story. Find something non-good or enjoyable in this film. Seriously. I can't. It's great.

And the rest!

Pretty honorable: The King's Speech, Vincere, Micmacs, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shutter Island, Going the Distance (I'm serious, I love this movie), Easy A, Exit Through the Gift Shop

Pretty fun: Iron Man 2, Kick Ass, The Crazies

Pretty meh: Catfish, Just Wright, Love and Other Drugs, Due Date, Machete, The Runaways

Pretty full of issues for me to like it at all: The Town, I Am Love (I will debate anybody over a cup of coffee and a slice of pie on these two films, oof.)

Movies I've yet to see: 127 Hours, Casino Jack, Another Year, Animal Kingdom, The Ghostwriter, Please Give, Never Let Me Go (ugh, want to see it so badly!)

Whaddya think? What are your faves? Anything I missed?

PS Happy New Year - have an enjoyable evening!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Top Albums of 2010

For the past three years, I've ended the year by recounting my top ten albums. However, this year, for the most part, I've oddly gone ghost on music. Nothing really grabbed a hold of me. I tried listening to Mumford and Sons but it just made me want to listen to The Avett I did. I tried listening to Best Coast but it just made me want to listen to She & I did. I didn't listen to many new albums more than once or twice, and so I feel like I didn't put a lot of effort into music this year.

Of course, you know, I did have a few albums I became obsessed over. And so, I can only give you but five albums I would present as my favourites of 2010.

 Motion City Soundtrack / My Dinosaur Life

I can still play this on repeat without getting bored. That's basically what I did for several shows this year to see the husband - each time, so excited to hear all the songs!

A Great Big Pile of Leaves / Have You Seen My Pre-Frontal Cortex?

I wish exciting new bands like this were more frequent; I honestly can't remember the last time I was so stoked on a new band. Probably not since college. Which was ten years ago, people. Check them out NOW. Also because their album is currently FREE on their site. Exactly.

She & Him / Volume Two

Obsessed. You could probably tell by the fact that this year alone I saw them live four times. Whatever. I could sing along to Zooey and M. Ward forever and ever.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals / III/IV

This, I've been listening to for the past few weeks on repeat. It's so much FUN! Sometimes Adams & The Cardinals can be a bit "downer" in sound, which I enjoy too, but I find myself smiling when I listen to this.

Various / The Scott Pilgrim Soundtrack

Yes, a soundtrack. But a soundtrack that contains diddies by Beck and Metric. And two-second long songs with titles like "We Hate You Please Die." I also totally love Sex Bob-omb's "Garbage Truck."

Three other albums I remembered I enjoyed for a while:

The National / High Violet (This one actually should probably be above, I love it.)
Jimmy Eat World / Invented
Empires / Bang

And while there were few moments that music really dazzled me this year (but when I love something, you know I LOVE IT A LOT) - I definitely paid attention to film. Tomorrow, stay tuned for my favourite films of 2010.

What were some of your best albums? Anything you think I'd like that I might not have heard? I think AGBPOL totally ruined my palette because now I want every album I listen to to be innovative and creative and fun and awesome. Thanks, dudes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And the knives up in the kitchen are all too dull to smile.

Jiscilla snapped this photo of me before our plane took off to Austin.

I am back to post again! November was quite a busy month; I traveled, worked, played, and read! Oh, and I wrote a novel.

Yes! I completed it. That's why you see that pretty little banner in the left column now!

I began writing my novel on November 1st, on a plane from Chicago to New York. I continued writing in my Brooklyn apartment. I wrote it in Providence and on a train racing over Connecticut to take me back to Brooklyn. I wrote it flying to Austin, in Austin between great life moments with my best friends Christy and Jiscilla, and I wrote it flying back from Austin with Jesse sleeping in the seat next to me. I wrote it in Massachusetts with my Mom, Dad, brother, and various pets bustling around me. I wrote from night into mornings. I wrote the final sentence (one of the only sentences I spent a lot of time on) and thus finished 50,211 words at approximately ten o'clock last night.

I am exhausted!

But I feel quite accomplished. I mean, I knew I always had it in me, I just never knew when I'd get around to it. Boom! Done, sitting on my desktop. And that's where it will stay until 2011. I've always been someone superstitious about my "serious" writing, and since this is just a draft, nobody will get a chance to read it until a rigorous editing process takes place. Sorry if you were expecting a link to it here! Not even Jesse is privy to the document!

I can tell you some things that were influential, or, rather, that I had taken in during the process and maybe influenced me a bit.

Run River by Joan Didion - I finished this book right before I started writing; it's structure is the main reason I made my novel's time structure a bit round-about. The book is bleak and beautiful and I love it dearly.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates - another depressing book about two people's lives that I read at the beginning of November; there were some real mean, gutting, despicable things uttered by some of the characters and it made me think of some of the dialogue between my own novel's characters.

Reprise (dir. by Joachim Trier) - This was probably the most motivating factor in writing a novel. Of course, for me, it came from a film. It's a Norwegian film about two novelist best friends and it's fresh but bleak, and I got caught up in it right before November started, and I've watched it twice since the first time. There's a scene in which one of them writes until dawn, and there's a scene where a character shuts herself in the bathroom after a stark realization, and these were especially motivating to me.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers - I'm in the middle of this southern novel right now, and I find myself thinking in a drawl sometimes, and I so happened to make one of my minor characters originally from the South. It's another bleak novel (really hitting up that tone this month, huh?), but the theme of loneliness pulls at my heart strings every time I read it. Not to mention, the author - she wrote this impressive novel when she was only twenty-three. Mark that as more motivation.

And finally, music. I found myself sometimes walking the streets of Manhattan alone (and once in Chicago, too), listening to my iPod and thinking of my story, my characters. I listened mainly to soft, sad music - Ryan Adams (but I always turn to him when the weather gets cold anyway), Aimee Mann, The Avett Brothers and some Cardigans. But when it actually came to writing, I could only listen to solo piano music, a genre station on Pandora. I found some really great music, and it was part inspired by the fact that I also played this piano cover of the Pixies' "Where is My Mind?" on repeat for much of my writing as well.

I'm excited to not feel like I have a second job. I would go to work, come home, eat, and delve right into the writing on most days. I'm excited for all that December has in store. At the same time, it's a little strange to realize I have a real attachment to my story and the characters. They started coming to me in my dreams, and I was thinking about the plot whenever I had a free moment. I know I'll see them again in January, though.

Where do you look for inspiration for projects? Any body else become a NaNoWriMo winner this year?