Top 30 Tunes of 2012

My Top 30 Tunes of 2012

As I mentioned in one of my award posts, music is a close second to movies as my favorite thing. This year I decided to compile my Top 30 or so tunes, based on iTunes’ play count. Since January 1, 2012, I’ve given all of the following songs more than 30 plays, and in some cases, more than 50. There were a few surprises…I like a good hook I guess. So sue me…

These are in no particular order. Click through to listen, or maybe even download legally and for free! Yep, I hate YouTube ads too, but someone’s got to pay for all this.

  • “Tongue Tied” — Grouplove Probably my favorite song of the year.
  • “Video Games” and “Born to Die” — Lana Del Rey Exact same number of plays. Even before i saw this clip for The Smiths/Lana mashup “This Charming Video Game,” her vocal style reminded me of Morrissey.
  • “At Home” – Crystal Fighters It’s just awesome. 
  • “To Win Your Love” – Dominique Pruitt Winner of the 2012 “Every Breath You Take” Stalker Award. Sample lyric: “I know you don’t realize / How much you love me too / So open up your eyes and see that / You’ll be mine before I’m through.” This one was a late entry, I think I first heard it in September or October, but it’s just as much of an earworm as “Call Me Maybe” or “At Home.” And it is not country. It’s Americana. I swear.
  • “Punching in a Dream” and “Girls Like You” – The Naked and Famous They’re from New Zealand, these songs are approximately two years old, and they rock.
  • “Let’s Go” – Matt & Kim Perfect for a Monday or a Friday.
  • “Midnight City” – M83 Pure bliss
  • “Lights” (Bassnectar Remix) – Ellie Goulding I’ve been a fan of Goulding’s for a year or so, on account of she was on some chat show with Tom Hardy.
  • “Hold On” – Alabama Shakes  Actually I highly recommend the whole album this comes from, it’s called Boys & Girls, and if you like ’60s soul, it’s a must. $7.99 on iTunes until Jan. 7. No one is paying me to say that.
  • “Loca People (What the F*ck)” – Sak Noel What can I say…it’s good to work out to. And who among us hasn’t wondered about their fellow human beings?
  • “I’m Always In Love” – Wilco Yes, this little slice of pop heaven came out in 1999 on the album Summerteeth, but I never appreciated it properly until this year. It sounds just as fresh.
  • “Madness” – Muse The only Muse song I like. It’s sort of operatic, like a lost Queen track.
  • “Come Home” – CHAPPO I’m not yelling, that’s how they write it. This song is actually 2 years old and it’s like the first day of spring.
  • “Most Wanted” “Go Outside” “You Know What I Mean” – Cults This band does sweet finger-snapping Sixties bubblegum pop with a darker undertone via the lyrics and minor chords.

http://vimeo.com/9658516

  • “Everybody Talks” – Neon Trees Seriously, this will drill itself into your brain. All you can do is submit. Another Morrissey-influenced act. Great video as well.
  • “Simple Song” – The Shins This song starts slowly but it builds into a sweet little hook. “Remember walking a mile to your house / A glow in the dark…”
  • “I Want Your Love” – Chromatics I can’t describe it. I just love it.
  • “Marooned (Lassi Remix)” – Adventure Galley Peppy little rock tune remixed into something else; I love both. Their 2010 EP The Right Place To Be is good too.
  • “Deadlights”Myths Another song I can’t really describe accurately. Check out this remix of another of their tracks, “Horizon.”

Most listened-to albums
CoexistThe xx If you want some cheap thrills, watch a silent movie and put this on in the background. Just try it.
DaysReal Estate
Boys & Girls – Alabama Shakes
Star of LoveCrystal Fighters
Passive Me, Aggressive YouThe Naked and Famous
CultsCults

I know I missed some other good music this year…what were your favorites?

Trail(er) Mix – LAWLESS, END OF WATCH, ARGO

I’ve been to the movies two weekends in a row now (for The Avengers and Dark Shadows), and am definitely looking forward to three of the films I saw trailers for.

I was probably going to see Lawless anyway, due to my being a sucker for anything to do with Prohibition and the presence of Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, all of whom I believe to be talented actors. Hardy, Shia Labeouf and Jason Clarke play “the infamous Bondurant Brothers: bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia” (per the film’s site). Their livelihood is threatened when the lawmen sent in to stop them demand a piece of the action. The film is based on Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World, which he based on stories of his own family. The Player-style pitch: “It’s like Bonnie and Clyde with The Untouchables and some Godfather thrown in.” The trailer sets up the conflict, but, unlike a lot of trailers, it doesn’t show you how it’s going to end. I love the look of this film, the desaturated colors with lots of shadows and night shots. It took me a minute to recognize Guy Pearce as a menacing FBI agent. Hardy is always a standout for me, he transforms himself for every film, and I’m looking forward to seeing him and his Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy co-star Oldman in their scenes together. Lawless will debut at the Cannes Film Festival; its US release date is August 31.

 

In End of Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as cops in south central L.A. who are as close as brothers. They are modern-day cowboys, looking for dope, money and guns …until they get on the wrong side of a scary cartel. The car chases and drug busts have documentary look, with handheld and dashboard-camera footage, giving the film a rushed, urgent quality that matches the subject matter. The film was written by David Ayer, who was also responsible for Training Day and The Fast and the Furious. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Watch is going to do for JG what Jarhead and Prince of Persia failed to do—make him a blockbuster action star. Jarhead wasn’t actually an action picture, but it was marketed like one, which didn’t work, and Prince of Persia had too many Disney/fantasy elements for people to take it seriously (though it is one of those films that I’ll stop to watch every time I find it when I’m flipping the channels and happen upon it.) If the trailer is any indication, End of Watch is gritty, violent and riveting. US release date is September 28.

 

Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, is based on a covert operation detailed in recently declassified US government documents. In 1980, when Iranian revolutionaries took over the American embassy in Tehran, 66 Americans were held captive for 444 days. Apparently there were also six who managed to escape to the Canadian embassy. Knowing these six were in incredible danger, the White House took a chance on a crazy scheme…send in operatives masquerading as a film crew working on a sci-fi film. I really love Affleck’s film The Town and it looks like this will have the same adrenaline-producing suspense and true-to-life characterization, with a little more humor as it parodies Hollywood. It will be interesting to see how he blends the drama of the extraction with the comedic elements. Argo will be released on October 12.

What do you think? Seen any good trailers lately?

 

Reckless Review: The Hunger Games

Because there’s been so many reviews of The Hunger Games, I know there isn’t much I can say that hasn’t been said already, but I do have a few thoughts. NB: I haven’t read the books. POSSIBLE SPOILERS.

I really enjoyed this movie. While some of the suspense is negated by knowing that there’s 2 more books after this and the heroine will survive no matter how harrowing the circumstances, I was literally on the edge of my seat almost the entire time. I have to agree with my friends Ruth at Flix Chatter and T at Focused Filmographer that it deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
  • The actual Games themselves are horrifying and yet very familiar. The way they are presented in the film is pretty standard for reality TV. Just like American Idol, HG has a smarmy host, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), a live audience, and ubiquitous promotion (does Panem TV show anything but HG?) The swooping shots of the riled-up crowd and the banter between the host and contestants are too much like AI and America’s Got Talent et al to be a coincidence. Once the Games begin, alliances are made and broken, like on Survivor. And like all reality shows, the Games’ storylines are set and the contest is manipulated for ratings — “They just want a good show” is the motto of Katniss’ mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). I believe we are closer than I realized to a society where a TV show like this is possible. I’ve often thought that it will be only a matter of time until somebody gets killed on a reality show, and from there, it seems like it’s not much of a leap for contestants killing each other to become a show’s main goal. I hope I’m wrong.
  • Another similarity is that of Panem and contemporary US society. Like those in the Capitol, some people in the US are doing extremely well, and proportionately more people are much worse off, like those in District 12. (Much like the denizens of the Firefly universe were caught in the 1800s, only with more technology, D12 seems to have rewound to the Great Depression and gotten stuck there.) In the US in 2012, the gap between rich and poor is widening and coal mining accidents, like the one that killed Katniss’ father, are still happening. So it seems to me that Panem’s situation isn’t really all that different from ours.
  • Squirrel tastes like chicken. In case you were wondering.
  • Sometimes supporting players really put a film over the top. There’s no way I’d have given this picture as high of a rating without the fabulous work done by Tucci, Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz.
  • Can anyone do an action or fight scene these days without dizzying close-ups and jittery handheld-style camerawork? That’s kind of a dumb question….the answer is obviously not! But I think it’s an appropriate choice for The Hunger Games, most of the time. It accurately conveys the disorientation of a teenager fighting for his or her life. The one exception where I thought it was completely bewildering was the fight scene atop the Cornucopia near the end. That was so fragmented that it was difficult to tell what was really going on for too long.
  • I see a similarity between Katniss Everdeen, Lisbeth Salander, and Peppy Miller, and I hope that it’s a trend brewing. Not just that I enjoyed all of these characters’ films, although that is true. All of them are independent and resourceful women, and all of them save others’ lives. What people see in films and TV and read in books has an effect on their real-life expectations, and so I believe a variety of female characters—not just the passive/reactive ones— is a good thing.

 

Leave me your thoughts about The Hunger Games below.

EDIT: I want to make it clear…I WATCH REALITY TV. Seriously, I do. If there’s any judgement, it’s on myself as well.

Latest Prometheus trailer is really insane

…and by that I mean, insanely good. I know this is O-L-D news (24 hours ago!) but I’m still putting in on here. Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors ever and I love this cast he’s got here: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce. Tim (my hubby @tkguthat) says this movie is going explain how the Jockey got killed, how and why the wreck the Nostromo found got wrecked, and that this movie is going to present whole new alien race. I am wondering though, is Noomi Rapace going to be as awesome in this as I think she will? Can the world handle Idris Elba with a Southern accent? Is Fassbender’s character as sinister as he looks? We’ll find out in 82 days.

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter talked to Ridley Scott at WonderCon, where the trailer debuted. In true Ridley fashion, not a whole lot was revealed (He is quoted as saying, “If we’re lucky, there’ll be a second part. It does leave you with some nice open questions.”) but it’s still interesting.

January Movies (whew!)

I seem to be perpetually short on time so I thought I’d make a nice list instead of those long, drawn-out posts I like so much 😉

Dude, get out of there! Hurry!

I really liked Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (4 out of 5 stars). I usually like espionage movies, and of course there is the cast (some of whom are wearing some pretty great suits). Even if just any two of these guys was in it, I’d have gone, plus I am no longer ignorant of Benedict Cumberbatch. (Don’t judge the gaps in my knowledge! OK, go ahead…but at least leave a comment.) There isn’t a lot of shoot-’em-up behavior, but it is suspenseful nonetheless, especially if you get nervous when spies are spying on each other. Shoot-’em-up is fine too, though. This Means War? I’m so there.

I really liked Shame, but in a different way (4.5 out of 5 stars). It’s nearly perfect in itself but I don’t think I could see it again. I found it as depressing as I thought it would be from reading the script, although a lot of stuff in the version I read didn’t make it into the finished film. There’s no question that Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan deserved Oscar nominations. Both actors suggested so much in a non-showy way, without much dialogue, and I believe those performances are actually what kept Academy voters away (in addition to the subject matter). I’d have given it 5 stars if there had been just a little bit more backstory about Brandon and Sissy. What is the significance of “New York, New York?” Why is Brandon obsessed with the Standard Hotel? You know that cool girl in your high school that wore vintage years before it was cool and always looked fabulous? That’s Sissy…but what happened to her after that? You won’t find out in this interview Fassbender did on Canadian TV show The Hour but I’m throwing it in here because it’s pretty interesting.

Charlotte Rampling as Mary (center)

I really liked The Mill and The Cross (4 out of 5 stars). I wish there was a movie like this for every painting. It’s difficult to describe it. Again…not a lot of dialogue. It basically shows Brueghel’s (Rutger Hauer) inspiration for each figure and situation in the work. It’s a meditation on the creative process, a record of the human condition in Flanders in the 16th century (hint: lousy), an invective on humanity’s inhumanity, and a powerful statement in favor of the separation of church and state. If you get a chance to see this on the big screen, definitely go. Much will be lost on even the biggest home TV.

I loved The Artist (5 out of 5 stars), it’s just brilliant. It’s also laden with homages and tributes to Old Hollywood and the early 20th-century silents — a feast for classic movie fans. Still working on a larger post on this theme.

This month I also decided there should be ejector seats in cinemas (5 out of 5 stars). People who are talking/yelling, chomping loudly on gum, crinkling candy wrappers, talking on a cell phone, texting, tweeting or IMing can be removed in a speedy and efficient manner. Alternatively, should ejector seats prove too costly, perhaps two auditoriums can show the movie at the same time — talkers in one, silent types in the other. I’m kidding…sort of 😉 The stillness of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Mill and The Cross was almost wrecked. That was my non-classic moviegoing month of January 2012, how was yours?

 

 

 

Preview: The Mill and the Cross

I’ve been waiting to see The Mill and the Cross since last year, so I’m seriously looking forward to seeing it at Detroit Film Theatre this weekend. In this film by director Lech Majewski, the stories, characters and context of Pieter Brueghel’s 1564 painting The Way to Calvary come to life. The idea of being able to see what was going on in an artist’s mind and surroundings as he created a panoramic, detailed work like this is intriguing indeed. Apparently a mix of live action and CGI was used to recreate beautifully-lit visuals that are very similar to the painting’s. Rutger Hauer portrays Brueghel, who, inspired by a spider web, is apparently attempting to capture “everything” in one canvas, while the Inquisition overshadows everyday life in 16th-century Flanders, then governed by Spain.

The trailer reminded me of another film with a visual artist at its center, Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract.

The Mill and The Cross is at DFT January 20-22 and 27-29, get all the details here.

Review: A Dangerous Method

I was a bit reluctant to see A Dangerous Method. Carl Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious, synchronicity, archetypes, and the anima/animus were revolutionary at the time and still make a lot of sense to me. If you’ve ever taken a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, that’s based on Jung’s concept of extroverted vs. introverted personalities. But the trailer sort of made it seem like I was going to have to title this review “Carl Jung Did More Than Feud with Freud and Sleep with His Patients.” Though Jung did have differences (and a messy breakup) with his onetime mentor Sigmund Freud, and at least two extra-marital relationships, there is so much more to the life and work of one of the 20th century’s greatest minds. And thankfully, A Dangerous Method is a better film than its trailer.

It is true, Jung was unique in his time for his emphasis of feminine consciousness, and he had many female patients, students, and colleagues, many of whom worked closely with him when they became analysts and/or researchers in their own right, well before women were the norm in the field. Method is about the relationships between Jung (Michael Fassbender); a woman who was all of the above plus Jung’s mistress, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley); and both of their relationships, a kind of intellectual triangle, with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Also in the mix are a couple of polar opposites —Emma, Jung’s rather uptight wife (Sara Gadon), who knows all, and Otto Gross, a libertine student of Freud’s (Vincent Cassel), who avoids repression of any urge.

Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein.

Sabina Spielrein was the first patient Jung attempted to cure with Freud’s “talking cure,” the basis of modern psychoanalysis. The danger of this method is transference, in which the patient transfers their feelings, often romantic or erotic feelings, to the therapist. The film opens as she’s in the midst of a nervous breakdown, being admitted to the Burghölzli, a psychiatric hospital at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, where Jung is assistant director. She’s volatile and disturbed, but she’s smart and educated, not to mention beautiful, and she responds well. Because her stated ambition is to become a doctor, she is soon helping Jung with his research, while he’s still treating her. She is admitted to a university and they work together. Eventually, Jung and Speilrein become lovers.

Freud and Jung before it all went downhill.

At the beginning of the film, Jung and Freud haven’t yet met. When they do, they have a 17-hour conversation and Jung is deemed heir apparent to Freud. “I’ve simply opened a door,” Freud tells Jung. “It’s for the young men like yourself to walk through it.” But as their collaboration continues, it seems like Freud would rather slam the door shut than let Jung take over. Freud thinks all neurosis has a sexual cause, and Jung believes that there are other factors, including spirituality and individual personality. Freud, almost 20 years older and set in his ways, is more and more reluctant to hear the younger man’s ideas. We see the authoritarian, almost tyrannical, side of him, and the cold and ruthless streak in Jung. Spielrein is caught in the middle — her love is with Jung but her mind takes her nearer to Freud.

The acting is uniformly great. Fassbender and Mortenson are excellent of course. Gadon is appropriately controlled. Cassel has an interesting cameo as Gross, who sets the stage for Jung and Spielrein’s relationship. Gross seems like a representation of Jung’s desires; we never see him talking to anyone else and he says so many things that Jung wants to hear.

But the real surprise to me was Keira Knightley. She shows you Sabina’s struggle, intelligence,  and persistence. Even when she’s in full breakdown mode, she manages to suggest that there’s something more there, whatever it was that allowed a mental patient to become an analyst herself. I even liked her accent. I figure that’s what a Russian immigrant in Switzerland would sound like. I thought she deserved a Best Supporting Actress nomination but with the field so crowded with excellent performances, I knew it was a long shot.

Jung’s ideas are fairly abstract but the movie does a good, if somewhat sensationalized, job of explaining both his and Freud’s ideas. Christopher Hampton wrote the screenplay, an adaptation of his own play The Talking Cure, sometimes using Jung’s and Freud’s exact words. The language is beautiful and delivered well, be it smooth, violent, or repressed. Ultimately the film is beautifully shot but never fully sheds its stage-play origins. That’s a small price to pay though, when you’re witnessing a revolution.

PS: If anybody wants to read up on Jung, I highly recommend Introducing Jung written by Maggie Hyde and illustrated by Michael McGuinness. It’s like a comic book and it really explains things in an effective and painless way.