January 28, 2010 - Leave a Response




January 11, 2010 - 4 Responses

Top 5 Films of 2009

January 3, 2010 - Leave a Response

(500) Days of Summer dir. Marc Webb

Sharp, witty, and (painfully) honest, Marc Webb’s directorial debut is a story of love found and lost. Beyond the one-liners, slick editing, and charming leads (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel), the film manages to stay true to the trials of breakups without being depressing or cliché. And I know a lot of people thought the ending was so cheesy it ruined the film, but I disagree. Having been through a breakup or two, the next crush is always a sentimental boon.

The Brothers Bloom dir. Rian Johnson

I was lucky enough to discover Rian Johnson with his stunning debut: the fast-talking film-noir Brick. His second feature changes tone completely: in place of a dark murder mystery we’re offered a star-studded comedic con film. The four leads are a delight to watch on screen (Mark Ruffalo, Adrian Brody, Rachel Weiss and Rinko Kikuchi), and Johnson keeps you guessing until the final curtain drops. A smart film that I can recommend to anyone.

Che dir. Steven Soderbergh

This was truly a unique cinematic experience: no credits, no trailers, and a fifteen-minute intermission between the two halves. Steven Soderbergh’s massive biopic was years in the making, and portrays Ernesto Che Guevara in a way I have never seen before. Benicio del Toro is captivating as the Cuban revolutionary, and though the film drags in the latter half of it’s 4.5 hour length, it was fascinating enough to make me want to pick up a biography on the Argentine (which I did).

Fantastic Mr. Fox dir. Wes Anderson

When Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach began writing the screenplay adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic short story, they went and stayed with Mrs. Dahl at her English countryside home. Inspired by the setting (which inspired Dahl in the first place), they documented everything from Dahl’s living room chair to his night lamp and placed it in the film. The result is a surprisingly harmonious blend of Dahl’s English imagination and Anderson’s dry wit and style. Executed by a pitch perfect cast (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and more), the film really is fantastic.

Up in the Air dir. Jason Reitman

I must admit I’m a sucker for Jason Reitman’s films (Juno, Thank You for Smoking), but who isn’t? Both entertaining and honest (seems to be the theme this year), he has an unmatched knack for filling his comedic dramas with heart. Up in the Air is driven by a handful of excellent performances, most notably George Clooney in the lead and the young Anna Kendrick as his foil (previously seen in Rocket Science and some movie called New Moon). And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also timely: Reitman has captured the somber mood of the economic crisis.

Runner Up: District 9 dir. Neill Blomkamp’s

An intelligent action/sci-fi film? What? It’s rare to find a gem like this in the genre that is so frequently slighted by poor execution, but Neill Blomkamp’s original take on the ‘alien-invasion’ motif is at once refreshing and exciting. Set in South Africa and coloured with clear but not blatant political undertones, the only thing holding back this little big film is it’s selfish and annoying protagonist—but perhaps that is the point.

Top 5 Books of 2009

January 2, 2010 - 3 Responses

Watchmen by Alan Moore

When the hype started building around Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the Alan Moore classic, I had to read the original for myself. The book is brilliant: Moore uses the genre to it’s full potential. Dialogue from one story will narrate another, and as a result there are often three storylines coinciding in one panel, weaving in an out of each other. And beyond that, his characters are concrete and believable, flawed and full of hope.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller’s memoir about growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during civil war is striking in its honest portrayal of her parents: they’re blatantly racist, but still we sympathize with them. They’ve come to Rhodesia without an agenda. They just want to live the simple farm life, and we can’t help but accept that in its own right.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Self-deprecating, honest and mordant, Sloane Crosley has an incredible knack for tying musings into detailed, witty stories. This was my first time listening to a “book on tape,” and it was a great introduction: Crosley herself narrated the meandering autobiographical stories with her signature dry wit.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez multi-layered epic is filled with charismatic characters. The book takes place in the fictional town of Macondo, a place filled with magic, sorrow and passion. Wikipedia might have said it best: “ostensibly objective but often manifestly ridiculous.” I loved it fully and completely.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

Heather O’Neill crafts the heartbreaking story of Baby, an adolescent girl who is raised by a single, drug-addicted father in Montreal’s red light district. I’ve recommended this book half a dozen times with a disclaimer, but everyone who reads it says they love it. A sad, beautiful book filled with empathy and heart.

Runner Up: Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice

Like Little Criminals, Ben Rice’s debut mixes beauty and sadness in his novella about a girl in small-town Australia with two imaginary friends. I was fascinated by Rice’s faith in the power of imagination, which eventual captivates the whole of this backcountry town.

Top 5 Albums of 2009

January 2, 2010 - 3 Responses

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

I don’t usually rank my top five, but this album is hands down the best of the year. Mixing digital and organic soundscapes, the band from Maryland has essentially created a new genre, blending dance, rock, and who knows what else into infectious melodies. Was there anything quite as addictive and joyful as “My Girls” this year? I don’t think so.


Kings of Leon – Only By the Night

Yes, yes, yes, Only By the Night was released in ’08, but I don’t think anyone would argue that 2009 was the year of the Kings. They were everywhere this summer, a rare treat to the pop rotation: they actually deserved it. Their latest album does not have a single weak spot. The boys from Tennessee play American rock the right way, with dirty guitars and spacious solos.


M. Ward – Hold Time

I reviewed Ward’s latest effort for Patrol back in February, and I’ll steal a line or two to describe it here:

With his radio continually tuned to the oldies of the 50s and 60s greats like Roy Orbison and Hank Williams, it’s almost a given that Ward would sneak a classic cover like Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” into the record (which makes a case for the most played song of the year). Hold Time continues Ward’s tradition of recording laconically-sung, intricately-produced pop song


Metric – Fantasies

“Everybody, everybody just wanna play the Wii.” My original interpretation may not be the right words to the chorus of “Sick Muse,” but Metric’s latest is just as fun as Nintendo’s favourite console. Jimmy Shaw’s slick licks and Emily Haines’ sugary melodies have never sounded so good together, from the pulsing “Help, I’m Alive” to the rousing closer “Stadium Love.”


Slow Club – Yeah, So

The best of the guy/girl crop (yep, better than Mates of State and Matt & Kim), Slow Club’s low fi twee is catchy as hell. The Sheffield, UK duo have enough confidence in their songwriting to let it show through bare bones arrangements. Not that there’s anything wrong with complicated production, but when you have two leads as gosh darn charming as these two, it’s best to let their vocals and wit shine through.


Runner Up: One Year Late

Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I discovered Spoon’s latest a bit after the fact (case in point, their follow-up Transference arrives in ten days), but I’m glad someone finally clued me in (thanks Lauren). The production work on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga makes the band sound so casual that you feel like the songs emerge spontaneously from your ipod.