12/31/09

My Top (Okay, Only) 5 of 2009

I'll admit it: We don't get out much. You see, we had this daughter back in February, and that more or less monopolized our 2009 to the exclusion of much in the way of media and entertainment.

(I understand there's a big fuss about vampires, provided they're young and attractive, and also Kanye West had a breach of etiquette of some kind, and apparently Tiger Woods ran into some marital difficulties.)

But we did still manage to eke out a few movie nights and music purchases this year - just enough to scrape together a Top 5 list for each. And, tell you what, just because it's 2009 and everything, at least for a few more hours, I'll list our top 5 items in a category that was new to a lot of us this year, and hopefully not too irritating yet: iPhone "Apps."

Oh, but you'll have to look past the fact that most of our films and albums weren't technically released this year. In fact, a few are downright crusty and aged. But we still *saw* or *listened to* them during the last twelve months, so I say it still counts.

Feel free to comment on any you liked as well, or just to tell me I have terrible taste.

I know, I know.


Movies

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox
I have a hard time seeing how you could not love this movie. Every frame is a painting, and every scene's dialogue is at least a pretty good prose poem. Some folks who are smarter and pickier than I am said it didn't do anything for them, so maybe I'm just a sucker for George Clooney and Meryl Streep. And artful cussing, that too - using the word "cuss" instead of actual, you know, cusses.

2. Pan's Labyrinth
I just saw this a couple weeks ago, during the inaugural meeting of our local small town Indiana film club (motto: "Hey ya'll, watch this") and was pretty blown away. It's dark, and deep, and beautiful, and you can't tear your eyes off the screen - even when you want to.

3. The Proposal
Now, those first two I saw while sneaking out of the house and leaving Lope to cope with Veda. The majority of the time, friends, I'm not nearly that jerky and instead stick around and help out. Which means that any movies I see are ones that she wants to see too. Which means some of them are, ahem, "chick flicks." (She may be a dizzyingly talented artist and the famousest Dullaghan in this household by a longshot, but she's still a girl.) Anyway, this one was pretty good. Betty White... you gotta love Betty White.

4. The Proposition
Remember before, when I was saying that stuff about Lope and chick flicks? Forget it. I just remembered, while searching for The Prop...osal (similar starts, you see) that she and I got this from Netflix several months back, and it was brutal and poetic and as manly as a hank of chest hair soaked in diesel fuel. Can't say I *enjoyed* it, per se, but it is really good, and I did see it in 2009, which puts it in select company. The TV version of Sweeney Todd (Ray Winstone, not Johnny Depp) was also excellent and fits a pretty similar description. That one came on the cable box one morning while I was waiting for Veda to wake up again.

5. Groundhog Day
Oh man, Groundhog Day. You've seen it - everyone has. In fact, a host of religious leaders have acclaimed it as enlightening and spiritual. We saw it again the other night, bearing that in mind, and I'll tell you - it holds up well.


Music

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Original Soundtrack)
See how I never mentioned how great the music was in this movie while I was gushing over how great the, uh, movie was? That was so I could save my gushing for here. I find it amazing that these songs can add so much to the film and yet stand so well on their own. The Bobby Fuller Four song that played over the credits had me feeling so good I was ready to jump up, slap the projectionist and demand that they replay the movie all over again.

2. Elizabeth Mitchell - You Are My Little Bird (2006)
Another non-new release (my little way of guaranteeing my 2009 lists don't match anyone else's), but worthy of inclusion on just about anybody's favorite album list. Especially if you've got kids. Ol' Elizabeth (she could be 25 for all I know) has the voice of your favorite aunt, or Sunday School teacher, or just that person you overhear singing to herself in the grocery store, and you absentmindedly follow her clear through the produce and into the cereal aisle before realizing you forgot to pick up pickles or anything else. She also picks really good songs to cover, in my opinion, including numbers by Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and, ahem, Burl Ives.

3. Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place (2008)
This I love because, well, because it's awesome, but also because I got it on the expert recommendation of the dude behind the counter at the world's best music store. I said I liked "electronica, but played on real instruments," and from that sub-par prompt he pulled out this. "Like Sigur Ros without words," he told me, rightly.

4. Sapient - Letterhead (2008)
Also purchased at Luna, and arguably because it was at Luna. You see, the opening track has this huge, thumping, exciting beat to it, and since I was previewing it on the record store's headphones (instead of my tinny laptop speakers), I really "got" it. The rest of the album has proved similarly thrilling, even if it's not the type of thing I ordinarily listen to anymore.

5. Bobby McFerrin - Medicine Music (1990)
That's right. That would in fact be a two-decade old album on my Best of 2009 list. But, like I said, it's new to *me,* and it was available really cheaply used, and Penny said we would like it. We did. Veda too. Rare is the day that cannot be made better by a playing of these songs.

Honorable Mentions:
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest and
St. Vincent - Actor
Both excellent, and both recommended to me by my hippest friend (everyone should have a Ryan in their lives, but don't go trying to poach mine), but nudged out of the Top 5 because they didn't get as heavy a rotation here at the house as the others, and because they're both already on everybody else's '09 list, because they're that good.

iPhone Apps
1. Google
Ought to come with every iPhone. I hope non iPhone people (Blackberries? Droids?) can have it too, because it's why smartphones were invented, as phar as I'm concerned. Want to know something? Ask your phone. Your words will come up in the window, you'll hit the button, wait a second, and then you'll know.

2. Remote
Apple actually makes it - gives it away free, matter of fact - and if you play music from your computer through speakers (or through your house stereo via Airport, like we do), it's the ultimate party trick/actually useful service. Even shows you the album art of whatever songs you're playing, and lets you turn the volume up or down, in addition to skipping tracks at will.

3. Toy Camera
Takayuki Fukatsu makes the best, easiest way to take amazing photos with your phone. He just does. I don't know if he does anything else, like darn socks or play Reveille or anything, but he's so good at this one thing I'm fine if he doesn't.

4. Bloom
Courtesy of ambient pioneer Brian Eno and musician/software designer Peter Chilvers, This one is... uh... I'll just let the creators describe it."Part instrument, part composition and part artwork, Bloom's innovative controls allow anyone to create elaborate patterns and unique melodies by simply tapping the screen." And they're right. Also good for mesmerizing infants.

5. (tie) Pandora/Slacker
Don't like any of my Top 5 albums? Great! Just get either of these free applications, to access their free service, and hear free songs based on whatever you *do* like. A lot of which you may not have heard before. Funness ahoy.

Honorable Mention:
Kids Jokes
Ever wish your phone was a wrapper from some Laffy Taffy? Now it can be. Click the button and see the latest jokes for kids, *by* kids. They send 'em in, somehow. My favorite so far, and what earned it the mention here:
"What did the fish say when he ran into the concrete wall?"

"Dam."

Dam. Thanks for reading my list, friends, and I hope you found something worth investigating. Pretty much everything on here was something I only knew about because somebody else was nice enough to clue me in, so it's the least I could do to return the favor.

Happy New Year's.

2 comments:

Hello, I'm Ryan Noel. said...

You know I'm a sucker for lists. I was fixin' to give you a copy of Fantastic Mr. Fox (The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), but now I know I don't have to risk being arrested for piracy.

Megan said...

Great! I will look into the Mr. Fox soundtrack...
I have to say, I saw Pan's Labyrinth maybe 2 years ago? I was thinking it would be this sweet fairy tale film. I was so horrified!!!! I must say, the cinematography was amazing, as was the art direction. The story was interesting too. I just wasn't prepared AT ALL for the graphic violence or the creepy monsters. They are STRAIGHT from my childhood nightmares, so the movie disturbed me to no end! More than most. But, I agree that it was quality. I'll never see it again though! :)