Yes, I stole the title of my blog partly from Jane Austen and partly from Patricia Rozema. Sometimes I find this statement to be more true than I would like to admit. We shall see what of life's busy nothings will emerge on this blog.
There are so many films from this year that I haven't seen yet (Up in the Air, Avatar, The Young Victoria, The Hurt Locker, Precious, Nine, A Single Man) that it almost seems pointless to do a Top 10 list. But I'm going to do one anyway. . .
Without further ado, here is the list of my Top 10 films (that I HAVE seen) from 2009:
Jane Campion has made the best film of the year and her best film since 1996's The Portrait of a Lady. Passionate, breathtakingly beautiful, with a surprisingly serene quietness about it, this film is everything I want filmmaking to be. I'm shocked by the lack of attention this film is getting so far during this awards season. Abbie Cornish deserves every Best Actress award out there!
Pixar does it again. Are we surprised? I cried tears of sorrow and tears of laughter during this film. There is no better review than that.
The Brothers Bloom
This is my biggest surprise of the year. Charming, silly, romantic, with that wonderfully modern yet retro feel that Rian Johnson is becoming known for, this is an overlooked gem.
Carey Mulligan is getting the attention that I think really deserves to be foisted upon Abbie Cornish, but that doesn't mean she didn't put in a lovely breakthrough performance in this film. The entire cast is great in this one. Alfred Molina elevates any film he's in and Peter Sarsgaard deftly plays a character that in the hands of a lesser actor would come off as smarmy. Peter makes him charming and even sympathetic.
Henry Selick is an amazing artist. What he has done with stop motion animation in this film is nothing short of astonishing. It took years to make, and you can see it in every lovingly framed image. Every time I watch it, I catch something new.
This is another film that I think was overlooked this year. It's one of those sweet, nostalgic, coming of age films that although get made all the time, do not usually get made well. This is a smart and funny film and although it's set in the late 80s it has a real lived in feeling; the 80s details never feel gimmicky or forced. Every character is fully drawn, not just the leads, which again, lends to the authenticity of this film. Oh and it shows once more that Kristen Stewart can be more than Bella Swan.
Yep, Star Trek is on my list. For tongue-in-cheek, action filled, adrenaline rushing good fun. Oh and Karl Urban can examine me any time he wants.
(500) Days of Summer
I liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt before I saw this film, but now I love him. Some people felt this film was trying too hard to be quirky, but I think therein lies its charm. JGL and Zooey Deschanel together rise above the obvious quirkiness to create a surprisingly realistic romance. And they are just fun to watch!
I can't wait to watch this film again and catch all the bits of dialogue that I missed the first time around. Yes, Tarantino is wordy, but I revel in his wordiness! Who knew a WWII film could be this fun?
Fantastic Mr. Fox
I've always kind of wanted to be a character in a Wes Anderson film. Or at least to live for a time inside the world of a Wes Anderson film, which is always so meticulously crafted. With this animated flick, Wes Anderson has found the medium that will allow him to create his worlds with absolutely no limitations. This is unlike any animated film I've seen before and that includes Coraline. Although stop motion animated, the word "stop" never applies. It's constantly moving, dynamic and vibrant. I love that Wes didn't use sound booths to record the dialogue. Instead he had the actors work together and act out the scenes like they were in a play. If the scene was set outdoors, the actors acted outdoors; if their character was running, the actor ran; for the motorcycle scenes, the actors rode motorcycles! At first it sounds kind of strange, but ultimately it just makes it all the more real. I look forward to more animated films from Wes Anderson.
Beth getting a piano for Christmas in Little Women. I think Claire Danes is a tremendously good onscreen crier. She can make her chin tremble just so! This scene shows her skills splendidly. The scene I want to show starts at 4:18 and ends at 7:18.
I'm a sucker for pop culture. Insane amounts of inane pop culture trivia swirls continuously through my brain. It's only natural then, that I would adore anything filled with a plethora of pop culture references for me to cry, "Yes! Hey, I get that reference!" I miss TV's The Gilmore Girls.
Greg Olear's Totally Killer satisfied my pop culture proclivities in abundance. It takes place in 1991, the year I turned 15, so although I'm a bit younger than the main characters in the novel, I still related to it. Any book that can reference Parliament Lights (which was my brand of choice back when I was still a smoker), Alec Baldwin in The Marrying Man, Sassy magazine (oh how I miss it!), as well as the amazing music of that time possesses the key to my heart.
Aside from all that, this book is a darkly comic look at Baby Boomers vs. Generation X, written as a noirish mystery featuring well drawn characters with imagery that perfectly evokes NYC in 1991 (even for those like me that have never been there). It's easy and fun to read, with a great plot twist that I truly didn't see coming. I love a novel that surprises me.
I'd recommend this to everyone. Especially anyone who came of age in the 90s.
"Three years ago, Plimoth Plantation approached Tricia Wilson Nguyen, an MIT-trained engineer specializing in, of all things, historic needlework, to see if she would help lead an ambitious project. The museum wanted to re-create a lavishly embroidered 17th-century woman’s waistcoat as the centerpiece of an upcoming exhibition on how America’s founders dressed themselves.
"I told them they were totally crazy," said Nguyen, who lives in Arlington.
She knew it could take hundreds of people thousands of hours to do the intricate needlework, using a centuries-old embroidery stitch few people know. As if that wasn’t enough challenge, the materials needed - silver gilt threads, hand-cut sequins - had been out of production for centuries and would have to be reinvented." This is the opening of an article about the 17th century recreation embroidered jacket that you see in the following pictures. The entire story is absolutely amazing.
I tried to narrow my list down to 10 but I just couldn't do it! So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top 11 albums of 2009:
Wilco (The Album) by Wilco
I enjoy the band that Wilco has become. Tweedy seems to have finally settled down and settled in with his current bandmates for what could be a long haul. Two albums in a row without a change in lineup is a good sign!
Now We Can See by The Thermals
This band is great at creating weird and wonderful concept albums like this one which seems to be told entirely from the perspective of the dead. For such a negative theme, it's an incredibly hopeful record.
Revolution by Miranda Lambert
I fell in love with this spitfire of a girl after hearing her last album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This time around she is no less sassy, but she is showing more growth and maturity as a songwriter. Makin' Plans is a simple and beautiful love song.
Middle Cyclone by Neko Case
If I had placed these albums in a numerical order, this one would have taken the number one spot. This is definitely my most listened to album of the year and Neko's best yet. Her lyrics are startling and unique. Who else could write a song from the literal perspective of a tornado and make it work as one of the most purely passionate love songs ever? I adore Neko.
Where The Wild Things Are - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Karen O and The Kids
Anyone who read my review of this film knows that I was a bit disappointed by it. But that disappointment has nothing to do with the sublime music that Karen O and her "kids" created. This music gives me the joyous feeling that ultimately the film failed to deliver.
Music For Men by The Gossip
Beth Ditto rocks my socks. This album is more polished and produced (by Rick Rubin of all people) than their previous works which I was worried might be a bad thing. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Gossip were able to retain their rawness despite the polish. What's more? This is a pure dance record! You can't listen to this album without itching to get your groove on.
Only Way to Be Alone by Good Old War
I think this album actually came out in 2008, but I just discovered it a few months ago, so I'm going to cheat a little and include it in my list. This album is lovely, infectious, harmony filled, indie pop gloriousness. The vocals soar and the mainly acoustic guitar riffs are strummingly divine. I dare you to listen to this band and not feel happy.
The Ruminant Band by Fruit Bats
I've been enjoying Fruit Bats' romantic brand of retro pop for years and this album is a welcome addition to their oevre.
Fever Ray by Fever Ray
Of all the albums on my list this one is the biggest departure from my usual tastes. It's weird, synth and drum filled, out of this world, ethereal rock n' roll. The layers of sound are astonishing, all the more for the clarity of the vocals. It's a kind of dark and scary world that I enjoy visiting through the music, but I wouldn't want to live there.
Coraline - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Bruno Calais
Whimsical, delightful, charming music that perfectly suits the film.
Rearrange Beds by An Horse
There is something about this album that reminds me of the 90s rock of my high school years. I can't put my finger on it exactly or even name a band that they totally remind me of, but they induce an odd nostalgia for me. And I'm a sucker for nostalgia.