25 June 2010

The Move

It's already begun, but soon this site will be obsolete. New posts will be found exclusively on the brand new kipmooney.com. It's more professional and has more features (it's a WordPress blog). Plus, I'm paying for hosting through GoDaddy, so I might as well use it. I'll eventually try to move all these archives over here, but it'll probably just be the "Best of the Decade" posts for now.

See you at my new place.

14 May 2010

Summer Movie Doldrums

School's officially out, so the summer movie season is upon us. Alas, it appears this is going to be a rather weak summer with very little to get riled up about. More empty sequels, romantic comedies that rip off other romantic comedies and a so-called family film that actually looks worse than Garfield. So here's your guide to the slim pickins, the ones you could actually spend your money on. Conveniently, it's a guide from Memorial Day to Labor Day, because after you've seen Iron Man 2--there may be a full review later, but for now it's just a solid B--there's not much else until then.

The A-Team (11 June)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Sharlto Copley
Written by Joe Carnahan & Brian Bloom and Skip Woods
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Updated from the over-the-top '80s TV series, the impeccable cast stars as the framed team of Army operatives out for revenge against those who set them up. Director Joe Carnahan's last flick was the obnoxiously loud, pointless Smokin' Aces which should cause some alarm. Still, this looks about as entertaining as they come.

Toy Story 3 (18 June)
Starring the voices of Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton
Written by Michael Arndt
Directed by Lee Unkrich
While it's no doubt Pixar is on the longest creative hot-streak of any filmmaking entity in history, this sequel looks like it may top even its previous peaks (WALL•E, Up, the first two Toy Story installments) thanks to keeping the story within its own timeline--Andy is now headed off to college and may no longer need his beloved toys--and a script from Academy Award winnner Michael Arndt, who found a wealth of humor and honesty in Little Miss Sunshine.

The Last Airbender (2 July)
Starring Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel, Shaun Toab
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Perhaps the riskiest of all the summer blockbusters. Based on the animated Nickelodeon series, it's your typical imported every-entity-for-itself melee. But after issues with its inappropriate casting and a bizarre choice of director, it's unclear how this one will turn out. Yet I think the big Shyamalan-style twist is that this is actually going to be awesome.

Despicable Me (9 July)
Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig
Written by Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Thanks to genius campaigning, this has a genuine shot at winning the third-place animated film box office finish (after Toy Story 3 and what I pray to God is the last installment of Shrek). Carell voices Gru, who comfortably enjoys life as the World's Greatest Super-Villain until three orphans show up on his doorstep and his title is threatened by Vortex (Segel). Expect a high level of intelligence to balance out the saccharine and prepare for the most pleasant surprise since Monsters vs. Aliens.

Inception (16 July)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan
If you have a brain and 10 bucks, this is the only movie to spend your money on. Nolan's latest thought-provoking popcorn flick stars DiCaprio (who deserves an Oscar for Shutter Island, and frankly for being the hardest-working actor around) as sort of psychological master thief who... well, frankly, nothing in the trailer reveals much of anything in the way of plot. Regardless, this looks to be the most impressive but enigmatic blockbuster this summer.

Dinner for Schmucks (23 July)
Starring Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis
Written by Andy Borowitz, David Guion, Michael Handelman, Francis Veber, et al
Directed by Jay Roach
The ever-consistent Rudd plays a banker looking for a promotion at the douchiest of firms, who insists on his attendance at a party where the bourgeoisie mock those in the lower strata. Based on the French comedy The Dinner Game, the film likely has a lot more to say than its trailer lets on, and it'll be nice to Roach stretch himself beyond the Austin Powers and Fockers franchises.

Get Low (30 July, limited)
Starring Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek
Written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell
Directed by Aaron Schneider
It's hard to think of a reason why Sony would release this in the heat of summer and not push it during awards season, but thankfully there will be some older-people fare. Duvall plays a hermit who wants to throw his funeral before he dies and have the townsfolk share their stories, memories and tall tales about him. Murray plays the shady funeral parlor owner who wants to parlay this event into a money-making scheme. Think of it as sort of a dark Big Fish. I'm still waiting for a trailer remix featuring Lil Jon (NSFW).

The Other Guys (6 August)
Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, The Rock
Written by Adam McKay & Chris Henchy
Directed by Adam McKay
McKay's a tough director to crack. His movies as a whole always follow the same pattern: initially hilarious --> not as funny the second time around --> memorably hysterical --> brilliant. His latest, and fourth with Ferrell, finds the increasingly naked (yeesh) comedian playing a detective stunted in his career. When he partners with Wahlberg (who showed comic panache in Date Night), the two uncover a major case. Ideally, this will follow Step Brothers' lead and earn an R rating (NSFW).

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (13 August)
Starring Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick
Written by Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright
Directed by Edgar Wright
It appears Michael Cera is at a crossroads. Despite consistent work in his last three pictures (I'm excluding the alleged comedy Year One and 2009's second-worst movie Paper Heart), it seems as if he's never been more ready to break out of his typecast roles. And what better way to torpedo that nice kid image than with a movie about a nice kid who has to become a ruthless fighter. To win his love's hand forever, he has to defeat her seven evil ex-lovers. While the comic book's rabid fanbase will probably find plenty to nitpick, there's no one better to balance action, heart and witty dialogue than Wright (Hot Fuzz).

The American (1 September, limited)
Starring George Clooney, Bruce Altman, Thekla Reuten
Written by Rowan Joffe
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Further proof that Clooney is among our greatest movie stars. Here he plays a deeply conflicted international assassin, in Italy for one last gig. Corbijn, who cut his teeth with atmospheric music videos for U2, Depeche Mode and the Killers, knows how to create moody, substantive pictures with breathtaking cinematography. Expect no easy answers other than a beautiful, haunting film.

Machete (3 September)
Starring Danny Trejo, Robert de Niro, Jessica Alba
Written by Robert Rodriguez
Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
Even though I picked Grindhouse as one of my 10 favorite movies of 2007, the best part was the fake trailers (NSFW). Thankfully, Rodriguez is turning one of those (NSFW) into a full-length feature. And with a Hobo with a Shotgun film on the way as well, I hope Eli Roth follows suit (NSFW). Trejo, who pretty much plays the Hispanic who gets gunned down in every movie, finally gets a starring role as a day laborer set up for the attempted murder of a Texas senator. It's essentially a gorier, grittier version of Shooter, and with the recent Arizona immigration law, the film has taken a surprisingly timely turn (NSFW).

25 March 2010

Better Late than Never: Best Music of 2009

So in my valiant efforts to chronicle the best of everything of the first decade of this millennium, I got way behind in my best of the year duties. Now, without further ado, here is the last piece: the best music of the past year.


1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
As if it could have been anything else. Since it dropped in January, the group has had this spot staked out. Their landmark ninth record is their most accessible but also their most brilliant. Unlike some past outings, which found them pushing every sonic boundary possible, they seemed to have reined themselves in to create a work that's at once distinctly theirs and yet friendly enough to land a spot on Letterman. And here's the real feat: it's their best-selling album to date, yet none of their fan base has dared cry "sell out!"

2. David Crowder*Band – Church Music (sixsteps)
Quite simply the most ambitious album ever released under the "contemporary Christian" banner. Meticulously engineered, this isn't a sway-with-your-arms-in-the-air Praise & Worship record. It's a God-has-pierced-directly-into-my-heart book of psalms. Determined, but not crafted, to offend orthodox sensibilities, this is the sound of awe at an unbelievably loving God.

3. Phil Wickham – Heaven & Earth (INO)
Religious or not, this is the year's best pop album. Wickham has always been the most exciting voice in Christian music, and he's shown tremendous growth since his 2006 debut. While the album sometimes borrows a little too heavily from Viva la Vida, this is a bold, unabashedly joyous hope for things to come.

4. Death Cab for Cutie – The Open Door (Atlantic)
How can someone married to Zooey Deschanel still be so sad? It doesn't much matter, because the five original songs on this EP are perhaps the best Ben Gibbard has ever written. He's never been more vulnerable on "A Diamond and a Tether" and "I was Once a Loyal Lover," two songs that seem to contradict one another. "Diamond" seems to admit that he's not worth holding onto, while "Lover" laments at how unfair it is that he's alone. I would tell him to cheer up, but not when the music is this good.

5. Bon Iver – Blood Bank (Jagjaguwar)
Usually follow-up EPs are just castaways that weren't good enough for the album. But Bon Iver's second effort is actually better than his first. It's doubtful there are better stories than four contained on this extended play. The haunting title track could be one of the Best American Short Stories, were it not accompanied by uneasy guitar work and husky vocals. A concise, brilliant work. Can't wait to see what he does next.

6. U2 – No Line on the Horizon (Interscope)
After 25 years and thousands of concerts, you'd think maybe they'd just phone it in once in a while. Not so with the legendary Irish band. This is their most spiritual album to date, with Bono wrestling with thoughts of faith–and accepting some too–inside a stadium. Big rock albums aren't supposed to have this much thought and care put into them, but then U2's never done what was expected. Oh, and they also happened to put on the best concert of all time.

7. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (American)
Sure, they're good at whistling and fun little summertime folk ballads, but it's time to get serious on this album. Like a mixtape built for a road trip to hell the family serves up a baker's dozen of tracks that prove they may not know exactly where they're headed–personally or musically–but they're going to create the best music they can along the way.

8. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (V2)
In keeping with the theme of '09 – experimental music with universal lyrics – the French band made their best album to date and finally gained the attention they deserved with two inescapable singles, "Lisztomania" and "1901." As always with the band, don't be fooled by how giddy it sounds. There's a headful of doubt singing those lyrics.

9. The xx – xx (Young Turks)
How bad do I feel that these twentysomethings have already done something incredible? The British duo have crafted a dreamy landscape with call-and-response vocals searching through the vast thicket of love unrequited and returned, because either leads to tremendous uncertainty. A stunning debut.

10. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day (Universal Motown)
Easily the best rap album of the year, simply because he's more interested in honesty than credibility. Choosing to collaborate with MGMT over Lil Wayne won't do much for radio play ("Day 'n' Nite" notwithstanding), but it does make much better music. And until Lupe Fiasco returns with Lasers some time in 2010, Cudi is the most imaginative man in hip-hop.

Amadou & Mariam – Welcome to Mali, Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career, fun. – Aim and Ignite, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, St. Vincent – Actor, The Swell Season – Strict Joy, 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, Away We Go soundtrack, Fantastic Mr. Fox soundtrack, War Child Presents: Heroes


1. Lady Gaga – "Bad Romance"
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Always one for shock value, Lady Gaga's most out-there video yet is the best of the year simply because it was like nothing else out there. It raised more questions than it answered and it's David Lynch-level disturbing, by you're still going to be rattling your head for days after watching it. And that's the hallmark of a memorable video.

2. The Avett Brothers – "Slight Figure of Speech"
Directed by Jody Hill
Jody Hill was on a creative roll in 2009, even if no one was aware. Between this video, HBO's Eastbound and Down and the criminally underrated Observe and Report, it's clear he's one of the most exciting voices in film. Yes, he's dark, but also hysterical and truly gets the lower-middle class, "I'm-ashamed-but-somewhat-excited-my-family-is-on-COPS-right-now" he's always using as a backdrop for his stories.

3. Phoenix – "Listzomania"
Directed by Sarah Newhouse
Video mash-ups are nothing new, but this YouTube user captured the excited-but-terrified spirit of the song by putting it alongside clips from the late master of teen angst John Hughes. Mannequin probably shouldn't be in there, or mentioned period, but the feel of the video is pure uncertainty–in the best way.

4. Coldplay – "Life in Technicolor II"
Directed by Dougal Wilson
Perhaps the group's most imaginative video to date, and that's saying something. The puppeteering is wondrous, not gimmicky. And though it is a bit cute, it's not obnoxiously so. After more than a decade together, this video proves the band is still keeping creativity first in mind.

5. HEALTH – "Die Slow"
Directed by John Famiglietti
The house show from hell, almost literally. The sound teeters between excitement and terror, as if the party could go south–and possibly deadly–at any moment.

1. Miley Cyrus – “Party in the USA”
2. Animal Collective – “My Girls”
3. Phoenix – “1901”
4. Grizzly Bear and Michael McDonald – “While You Wait for the Others”
5. White Lies – “Death”
6. U2 – “I Know I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”
7. Dirty Projectors – “Stillness is the Move”
8. Mat Kearney – “Closer to Love”
9. Julian Casablancas – “11th Dimension”
10. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind”
11. HEALTH – “Die Slow”
12. Camera Obscura – “French Navy”
13. The Avett Brothers – “I and Love and You”
14. David Crowder*Band – “How He Loves”
15. Glee Cast – “Don’t Stop Believin’”

In no particular order, these songs best represent the cross-section of pop music.

12 March 2010

Better Late than Never: Best Film of 2009

So, in my valiant efforts to complete my best of the decade lists, I fell behind in doing my best of the year lists. So here's what I found to be the best in film of the last year, condensed and revised a bit from years past.

Top 10 films of 2009:

1. Up (dir. Pete Docter)
No other film this year left me in as much awe as Pixar's latest masterpiece. Emotionally and cinematically, I was left breathless. So rare is the film that has a script that explores to match the action on-screen. But Up has it all. And, as I've mentioned every time I talk about this movie, if you don't well up in the first 10 minutes, there's something wrong with you.

2. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman)
Though shamefully snubbed at the Oscars, Jason Reitman's best film yet couldn't be more timely. In this era of massive layoffs and delayed intimacy, this film deftly balances comedy and drama and ends on an ambiguous note. Clooney is at the top of his game, and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are rising stars for a reason. The added reality of interviews with real jobless folks only gives this movie that much more of an impact.

3. Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Y'know, after you see a movie six times in as many months, you start notice things. Like how much attention to detail is paid in every scene, how this is a movie that's entertaining for the casual moviegoer yet especially enthralling for the film geek, and how Christoph Waltz gives one of the most perfect performances in the history of cinema. Tarantino's best.

4. The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
Not quite the year's best picture, but the best movie ever made about Iraq. Bigelow's powder-keg of a movie pulls this off by remaining mostly apolitical and focusing on the soldier's themselves and how, even after witnessing the horrors of war firsthand, they can do nothing but run right back to it. Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner is racing to save others' lives, but he's really in a countdown with his own grip on reality.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (dir. Wes Anderson)
Every single thing about this adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel works, unless you're a kid. Anderson's vision of a fox (Clooney, effortless as usual) dying to return to his life of thievery is an excellent parallel to the millions of men looking to re-claim their youth after years stuck in a desk job--and the repercussions of that quest. It's also a surprisingly well-done endorsement for close-knit families. In a day and age where we're more fragmented than ever, this is the rare example of having a movie as an ideal.

6. Where the Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze)
Speaking of movies that aren't for kids, Spike Jonze's years-in-the-making take on Maurice Sendak's seminal children's book is painted in just the right shades. Every shot of the camera, every line, every musical cue, is a reminder of the utter confusion of being 10 years old. These Wild Things are more than outlandish characters; they're parts of young Max's psyche. But if you think for a second there's no fun to be had along the way, watch and re-gain your sense of adventure.

7. 500 Days of Summer (dir. Marc Webb)
Finally, a romantic comedy with some honesty. There's not a single unauthentic moment in Marc Webb's directorial debut. Two of our generation's brightest actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star as the star-crossed lovers, and each brings just the right touches to the roles of the Smiths-obsessed sad-sack and the bright, worldly dream girl. The shuffling scenes don't feel like a gimmick, but like reality.

8. Departures (dir. Yōjirō Takita)
Though it probably shouldn't have won Best Foreign Language Film over Waltz with Bashir, I'm glad it did because otherwise I'd never have seen it. Another timely movie about how closely related jobs and dignity are. This Japanese import runs a little long but every scene rewards the viewer. Especially touching is the marriage between the main characters. While lots of Oscar bait focuses on relationships deteriorating, here's one that has its problems but truly believes love conquers all.

9. Away We Go (dir. Sam Mendes)
And while we're on the subject of inspiring movie relationships, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph couldn't be better as the common-law spouses who criss-cross the country looking for guidance as they're about to have their first child. While many critics dismissed it as smug, I couldn't be more compelled by these two rebels, who aren't impressed with any of the methods of parenting they've seen thus far. But the scene that sticks with me is Krasinski's conversation with Chris Messina, who seems to have a perfect life but is harboring an unbelievable weight of sadness. Mendes shows surprising restraint and the result is a little knock-out of a movie.

10. Tyson (dir. James Toback)
Don't call it a comeback. Between this and his head-scratching cameo in The Hangover, the most interesting man in movies today is the former Heavyweight Champion of the World. It may be a little too broad to call itself a documentary, this is a riveting portrait of a shattered man. That face tattoo is a mask, and here we get glimpses behind it.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order): Adventureland, Crazy Heart, District 9, The Hangover, I Love You Man, The Informant!, The Invention of Lying, Observe and Report, Precious, Zombieland

Best Movies You Didn't See:

Assassination of a High School President (dir. Brett Simon)
Unfortunately relegated to DVD after its distributor went bankrupt, this little gem that premiered at Sundance in 2008 is a quirky masterpiece. Like Brick but with a snarky sense of humor, Reese Thompson is dead-on as the goofy gumshoe who falls hard for femme fatale Mischa Barton. It's somewhere between Encyclopedia Brown and Chinatown, but first-time director Simon pulls it off masterfully.

Black Dynamite (dir. Scott Sanders)
A funkadelic homage/parody of '70s blaxploitation flicks. With deliberately shoddy camerawork and gratuitous nudity, this is a brilliant send-up of an era that never knew when to say when. There's also a cavalcade of black character actors it was great to see again, and the best climax ever: Richard Nixon. With nunchucks. As Dynamite's harem would say: satisfying, very satisfying.

The Brothers Bloom (dir. Rian Johnson)
The only thing hiding up the sleeve of Johnson's follow-up to Brick is its tremendous heart. There's as much about brotherly love as their is for the love of conning. Rachel Weisz shines as the peppy love interest of Bloom (Adrien Brody), and Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi is as vibrant as ever, though I'd wish she'd finally pick a role where she actually talks. It's a deft little picture and one you should definitely seek out.

Fifty Dead Men Walking (dir. Kari Skogland)
Based on Martin McGartland's 1997 autobiography, this is a gripping Irish thriller that hearkens back to they heyday of '70s paranoia thrillers. At times unbearably tense, the movie isn't relentless but it creates such an uneasy atmosphere that it seems as if someone could disappear at any moment, just like Northern Ireland in the early '90s. Ben Kingsley is great–as if anything else would even be a possibility–and Jim Sturgess has never, ever been this good.

Moon (dir. Duncan Jones)
What an amazing year for sci-fi. Between this, District 9 and Star Trek, Wells and Lovecraft would be thrilled. In Jones' first feature: Sam Rockwell plays a lunar miner, with only a few days left before he returns to Earth. But as the hours grow longer, his world starts unraveling. What he reveals is human nature at its darkest. Simply brilliant.

05 March 2010

Better Late than Never: Best Television of 2009

I was considering not even doing a list this year, basically because these are about the only shows I watch anymore. There may be a "Golden Age of Television" upon us, but I don't have the time or patience to sit through most serialized shows. So here's the best of what I actually sat through.

1. Modern Family (ABC)
A brilliant mockumentary series about the interconnecting lives of three related families. Each character is extremely well-written, something we haven't seen since the days of Arrested Development. While it's always howlingly funny, what keeps me coming back is the show's tremendous heart.

2. Friday Night Lights (NBC)
No show should be able to keep up this much steam headed into its fourth season. But the football drama always remains compelling, no matter how many times a game comes down to the last play of the fourth quarter. But it's really what happens off the field that works so well: how characters change into something the viewer didn't expect.

3. The It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas Special (FX)
A vicious parody of A Christmas Carol and unsettling trip back to childhood for Charlie and Mac, nothing made me laugh harder than this extended episode (only available on DVD). With everything from stealing presents, gentlemen callers dressed as Santa and a gory Rankin-Bass tribute, this was the most grisly piece of Christmas entertainment since Bad Santa.

4. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart/The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Scarily, this is still the place to get the most accurate news on cable. Both of these guys are pros at making Democrats and Republicans look foolish, which they are. It's also still a painful reminder that no in Washington is looking to help you.

5. Community (NBC)
The new Friends, and that's not a slight. While much of the humor comes from the characters' tendencies and behavior--not necessarily just jokes--most viewers genuinely care about these characters, each of them with just the right amount of layering. A stroke of genius.

6. The Simpsons (Fox)
You may be asking yourself how a show with more than 450 episodes under its belt can remain funny and relevant, but between episodes about underperforming schools and a No Country for Old Men parody and a Da Vinci Code spoof infinitely better than the movie, it still works.

7. The Office (NBC)
Though I've said many negative things about this show (and about how it wants to be the next Friends--without actually doing a lot of the work. Boom! Roasted!), it's making my list because of two masterful episodes: the rib-crushing "Stress Relief" and the tear-jerking "Niagara". Both episodes find the show at its peak with side-splitting humor and the right amount of heart.

8. American Idol (Fox)
Another show that still manages to be engaging after numerous seasons. The showdown between the flashy Adam Lambert and the down-home Kris Allen led to the most exciting finale in years (or least since the previous year) and further proof that some reality shows are worth your time.

9. Glee (Fox)
Though it doesn't always stay on point and strays into becoming an hourlong commercial for the soundtrack (available on iTunes!!!), this is the best time to catch the series. Because if it goes on for too long, Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) won't know what to do and start making it up as he goes along.

10. The Singing Bee (CMT)
In the era of Mad Men and Big Love, why on earth would I pick a goofy karaoke show on a station dedicated to country music? Because, well, it's simply appointment television. It's fun, easy-to-follow and watching Melissa Peterman make a fool of herself week after week is more entertaining than just about anything else on the air.

04 March 2010

Oscar Predictions 2010

I've now seen 9 of the 10 Best Picture nominees (except Avatar, natch) so I feel I can make some honest predictions. Here goes:


The Blind Side
District 9

An Education

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds


A Serious Man

Up in the Air

With 10 nominees, this category is getting harder than ever to predict. While Avatar may have "changed the way we look at movies" (blah blah blah), many folks are quick to criticize its lack of an original story (it's Pocahantas/Fern Gully/Dances with Wolves from what I've heard) and even Morgan Freeman himself called it "basically cartoons." Then there's The Hurt Locker which everyone loves but no one's seen and the last thing the Academy wants to do, especially with lots of popular films nominated, is give the big award to a movie the audience will respond with a big "huh?" That's why I think the timely, crowd-pleasing Up in the Air will sneak in and win it all.

COULD WIN: The Hurt Locker
WILL WIN: Up in the Air
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: 500 Days of Summer

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Directing in four different languages from a multi-layered script in a variety of different styles should be enough for Tarantino to win his first directing Oscar, but it won't be. Cameron, though he spent a good 10 years on Avatar, already has a statuette. So I think Bigelow will make history when she becomes the first woman (out of only four ever) to win for directing.

SHOULD WIN: Quentin Tarantino
COULD WIN: Jason Reitman
WILL WIN: Kathryn Bigelow
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Spike Jonze, Where the Wild Things Are

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Though it seemed early on that Morgan Freeman would walk away easily for playing Nelson Mandela, the late surge by the incomparable Jeff Bridges will be unstoppable--and deserving.

SHOULD & WILL WIN: Jeff Bridges
COULD WIN: George Clooney
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Matt Damon, The Informant!

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

While I love Bullock's take-no-B.S. Southern belle matron, I'm still most impressed with Sidibe. Though the Oscars will feel that she's got a lot more in her--and will reward her later in life.

SHOULD WIN: Gabourey Sidibe
COULD WIN: Meryl Streep
WILL WIN: Sandra Bullock
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

There's nothing more to be said. Christoph will Waltz away with this Oscar. (Yes, I'm ashamed for making that pun.)

SHOULD & WILL WIN: Christoph Waltz
COULD WIN: No one else
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover

Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious

In any other year, I'd give it to Anna Kendrick. But like Gabby Sidibe, she'll have her chance down the road. This year--although something tells me Farmiga could sneak in here--Mo'Nique's towering performance as a pig-feet eating ball of rage and hurt has no competition.

COULD WIN: Vera Farmiga
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Marion Cotillard, Public Enemies

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog

The Secret of Kells

COULD WIN: Fantastic Mr. Fox
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Monsters vs. Aliens

Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

COULD WIN: Food, Inc.

Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter and Tom McCarthy, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

SHOULD & WILL WIN: Quentin Tarantino
COULD WIN: Mark Boal
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, 500 Days of Summer

Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

SHOULD & WILL WIN: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
COULD WIN: Geoffrey Fletcher
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach, Fantastic Mr. Fox

“Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog
“Down in New Orleans” from The Princess and the Frog
“Loin de Paname” from Paris 36
“Take it All” from Nine
“The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart

SHOULD & WILL WIN: “The Weary Kind”
COULD WIN: “Almost There”
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: “Stu's Song” from The Hangover

Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, The Hurt Locker
Alexandre Desplat, Fantastic Mr. Fox
Michael Giacchino, Up
James Horner, Avatar
Hans Zimmer, Sherlock Holmes

SHOULD & WILL WIN: Michael Giacchino
COULD WIN: James Horner
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Marvin Hamlisch, The Informant!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

The White Ribbon

WILL WIN: The White Ribbon
SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE: Where the Wild Things Are

District 9

Star Trek

SHOULD WIN: District 9
COULD WIN: Star Trek
WILL WIN: Avatar

24 February 2010

Better Late than Never: Revisionary Road 2008

In undertaking the massive project of blogging about the best television, music and film of the first decade of the 21st Century, I'm wildly behind on doing my best of 2009. Something I started last year (even though looking back, I should do this again--it's amazing how much your tastes change in the matter of a couple years) is a great start to what I loved in the past year. So before I get into the best of 2009, let's take a look back at what I thought was the best of 2008 (at the time), and what I think now. Revisions are in bold.

  • The Dark Knight (dir. Christopher Nolan)
  • Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (dir. Kurt Kuenne)
  • Doubt (dir. John Patrick Shanley)
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall (dir. Nicholas Stoller)
  • Man on Wire (dir. James Marsh)
  • Rachel Getting Married (dir. Jonathan Demme)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (dir. Danny Boyle)
  • U2 3D (dirs. Mark Pellington and Catherine Owens)
  • WALL·E (dir. Andrew Stanton)
  • Waltz with Bashir (dir. Ari Folman)
Falling off: Iron Man, Milk, The Wrestler


  • American Teen: Music from the Motion Picture (Almost Gold)
  • Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
  • Coldplay - Viva La Vida, or: Death and All His Friends (Capitol)
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs (Atlantic)
  • Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
  • Girl Talk - Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
  • Kings of Leon - Only by the Night (RCA)
  • M83 - Saturdays = Youth (Mute)
  • Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns (Interscope)
  • Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-a-Fella)
Falling off: The Hold Steady - Stay Positive, Lecrae - Rebel, Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (EMI)


  • Adele - "Chasing Pavements"
  • Coldplay - "Viva La Vida"
  • Death Cab for Cutie - "I Will Possess Your Heart"
  • Does it Offend You, Yeah? - "Dawn of the Dead"
  • Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"
  • M83 - "Kim & Jessie"
  • M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"
  • MGMT - "Time to Pretend"
  • Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"
  • We are Scientists - "After Hours"

Falling off: Elbow - "Grounds for Divorce," Estelle featuring Kanye West - "American Boy," Keane - "Spiraling," Kings of Leon - "Sex on Fire," Kanye West - "Heartless"