Movies are my bread and butter with this blog. I love movies, all kinds of films, but I also confess, I am a real fan of films that never forget that entertainment is part of the equation. I deeply admire films that have things to say, while also making me clap and cheer. I'm a populist.
10 - Captain America: The First Avenger
9 - Crazy, Stupid Love
8 - Win Win
7 - Moneyball
6 - The Guard
5 - Warrior
4 - The Trip
3 - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
2 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
1 - Hugo
Close, but no cigar list:
(No particular order)
War Horse, X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, The Artist
I Know I'm Gonna Kick Myself For Not Seeing It
Every year there's a film I just, somehow, fail to see that, when I do see it, I just kick myself for hours. The Hurt Locker is a great example from the past. If I had seen that film when I put together my 2009 list, It would've likely been number one, but I hadn't.
some idiots also got the idea it was some sort of The Fast and the Furious clone, and think that's a reason to sue. (God help us) I always figured I'd see it at some point, but I didn't. I'm certain it's very, very cool, and I look forward to the Blu-Ray.
As I usually say each year...I try not to see bad movies. Occasionally, I do, and I'll spotlight that/those films here. Otherwise, I take this space to point out movies that actually got made, people invested money in them, a studio said "yes, let's put this out!" and our world is poorer for it.
One last thought; Green Lantern has lots of problems, but anyone who thinks that was the worst movie of the year, needs to be held down to watch a Martin Lawrence film on a loop for 12 hours.
Season of the Witch (Nic Cage, as you've always wanted: in a LOTR wanna-be)
No Strings Attached (Portman and Kutcher in a casual sex comedy..and she doesn't get naked!)
Justin Beiber: Never Say Never (**hurp**)
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (Who wanted this film? WHO?)
I Am Number Four/Beastly (If we put this kid in two movies that come out within 3 weeks of each other, he'll just automatically be a star, right?)
Red Riding Hood ("From the Director of Twilight" **double hurp**)
Sucker Punch (Zach Snyder's "vision" means cribbing from every anime he's ever seen)
Arthur (You, sir are no Dudley Moore, or even Liza Minnelli)
Jesus, I can't even go on...this is too depressing.
The fact is, I don't listen to a lot of new music. I don't. I prefer older artists, and that's pretty much the way it is.
10 - Mastodon - Live at the Aragon
At the heart, it's just a live performance of their last album, but I found it quite exciting to listen to. Yeah, in some cases it exposes a certain weakness, vocal-wise, but I admire that the band is willing to let that just hang out there, and not try to "fix" it.
9 - Jeff Bridges - Jeff Bridges
For me, just a fun album to listen to. Bridges has a nice, understated delivery, and the "What a Little Bit of Love Can Do" single is really catchy and fun. A comfort album, I admit.
8 - Dropkick Murphys - Going Out in Style
Ah, Boston Irish punk rock. Infectious in it's power and energy. Picked it up mainly for the "Peg 'o My Heart" duet with Springsteen. Very, very glad I did. Too much fun.
7 - Black Country Communion - 2
A huge improvement over the first album, which seemed a bit too calculated and manufactured. With the second disk, I feel the band itself taking the reins from producer Kevin "Caveman" Shirley, and it's a good thing. Much more organic and natural.
6 - Chickenfoot - III
Seasoned players having a good time together. That's what the first album was, but now they've upped their game for the sophomore release. More cohesive, better lyrics, and Michael Anthony just comes alive on bass after years being in everyone's shadow. One of the more fun albums to listen to this year.
5 - Rush - Time Machine: Live in Cleveland 2011
Did y'know I love Rush? I'm not sure if I've made that, y'know, clear to folks. Simply it's a terrific live set from one of my absolute favorite bands. The boys are playing spectacularly, and they do "Marathon!!"
I really missed the boat on the Foo Fighters the first time around. It's only in the last few years that I've really grabbed onto them. While this isn't my favorite Foos record, it's a damn fine album. Yeah, yeah, recorded analog...
The Song Remains Not The Same
I am a huge Zakk Wylde fan, but I've alwasy had a hard time with the Black Label Society records. I think, as I've moved beyond my "all metal, all the time" days, I've really longed to hear him experiment more in the Pride & Glory southern rock and Book of Shadows acoustic vein. Well, here we have BLS re-cutting acoustic versions of some of their tracks, as well as a few really nice covers. (Zakk Wylde sings "Bridge Over Troubled Waters?" Who knew? Well, I did, but that's beside the point.) A welcome return to this sound.
I have a great love of Slash. I think he's a solid rock guitarist, not flashy, but committed to groove and bringing some power with blues-based riffing. You can't argue that much of the greatness of Appetite For Destruction came from his guitar work. Here's a live set with his solo touring band, featuring Myles Kennedy, who's fast becoming one of my favorite vocalists. There's nothing new here, but it's a solid live album with a lot of talent involved, recorded well with a lot of great songs. I've spun it a lot since it's release.
Mastodon came out of nowhere for me a couple of years ago. I had written them off as yet another "cookie monster vocal" metal band, but, with Crack the Skye, I started to see more vocal progression, and I liked it a lot. What I can happily say is that The Hunter continues the evolution. It's a stripped-down album, no large concept, just a collection of truly killer tracks. The playing is impeccable, the production clean a crisp, and the songs offer a wide range of feels and styles. Everything from the southern-rock style "Curl of the Burl" to the elegant (I almost want to compare it to Pink Floyd, but that doesn't quite fit) "The Creature Lives."
Anthrax - Worship Music & Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
In both of these cases, the bands were returning after some strife and personnel shake-ups. In both cases, I wanted to really like these records, but now, months later, I can't say that either one of these records has made any real impact with me. The Anthrax release, in particular, just dies on the vine in my opinion, and I'm fairly baffled by the year-end kudos that some folks have heaped upon it. Dream Theater was a case where I couldn't, personally, even tell that any change in line-up had happened, at all. Sadly, DT was as hit-or-miss as they usually are with me. (I still love Falling into Infinity more and more). I wanted to be wowed, and I just wasn't.
Easy. "Curl of the Burl" off Mastodon's The Hunter. It's, literally, the only song this year that, upon first listen, I sat up and said "I want that album."
Generally speaking, 2011, with my fantastic birthday present of a Kindle, represented a re-awakening of my desire to read. I have been inhaling books since I received the Kindle. Now, relatively few of them were from 2011, so this section is going to be kinda sparse. I hope, now that I've, once again, been schooled in the joys of digital media, I can have a more up-to-date reading list in the future.
The Best Books
4 - Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
3- It's So Easy (and Other Lies) by Duff Mckagan
2- Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison
1- Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert
Comics - An Overview
Warning: I am mainstream publisher-centric
2011 will probably, at least for the foreseeable future, be known as "The Year of the New 52." DC comics took the aggressive step of rebooting it's entire line of books, cancelling every title, and restarting with 52 first issue titles. Some series showed little upheaval (Green Lantern, the Batman titles), while others were torn down to the foundation and rebuilt (Superman, Wonder Woman). It was such a massive undertaking that I think people don't give Dan Didio and the company enough credit.
Yes, there were some duds. There were titles replaced with less than stellar results (All-Star Western is a fine book, but Jonah Hex was brilliance on toast), but, overall, the team managed to reinvigorate the line, and spike interest, in terms of sales. People act like a few non-starters in a field of 52 is a unacceptable failure rate. It isn't.
Of course increased attention leads to increased criticism. I get utterly perplexed when Catwoman, a character and title that's almost entirely about sexual repression (Batman's) is suddenly "over the line" by doing exactly what every creator has done with the character since the 1940's. Yeah, they took it further with an actual sexual relationship between Batman and Catwoman, but still.
At the end of the day, the New 52 really has to be seen as a positive move. I don't really see any downsides, other than in fanboy grousing about how they changed Red Robin's costume, or whatever. I endured months of that Batman: Incorporated "James Bond Batman" stuff, deal with it.
Oh, Batman: Incorporated is coming back? Great.
Don't they just make movies now?
I kid, but, truly, the only moves on Marvel's part that really excited me this year were the death of the Ultimate version of Peter Parker, his being replaced by Miles Morales, a *gasp* half-African-American/half-Latino kid, and Mark Waid making Daredevil great to read again.
Really, there is no under-selling what Brian Bendis pulled off with Ultimate Spider-Man. He gave Peter a hero's death that felt so very, very right, and introduced us to a new kid, who we quickly became enamored with. Not in the least because his entire desire to become Spider-Man (I won't go into origin details) stemmed from his respect and admiration of Peter Parker. We feel an intimate connection between Miles and Peter that makes the passing of the mantle feel right. What might've seemed cheap and exploitative at the announcement was justified when we actually read the books.
We also had Mark Waid beginning a run on Daredevil that's the first time I've enjoyed the character in years. With his artist Paolo Rivera, he's made Daredevil FUN again, and tied him into the Marvel universe in ways that feel organic, and also cement DD as a power player. The only complaint I have is that I didn't want to pick up another title.
Oh, and Marvel put Steve rogers back in the Captain America suit again, where he belongs.
Just in time for the movie...amiright? Amiright?