Thursday, December 31, 2009

InRO Feature: While We Were Sleeping in '09 - The Albums



To close out the calender year, the InRO music staff takes their annual look back at a handful of albums that we never got around to sharing full-length reviews for and offers up some capsule-length reviews to help fill in the proverbial gaps. This year's feature was spearheaded by staff writer Chris Nowling, who takes on a lion-share of these capsules, but I do chime in on a couple of occasions with my thoughts on the underrated returns of Vitalic and Manic Street Preachers. Anyway, there are a handful of worthwhile albums here. Give it a read over at InRO.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Roger Ebert's Best Films of the Decade



Just when it looked like Ebert stopped numerically ranking things, here he goes with his list of the ten best films of the decade. Pretty strong overall, with a few films here he initially championed (Monster, Juno, Almost Famous), and a couple more left-field surprises (My Winnipeg, Chop Shop). However, he saves the biggest stunner for his #1 selection, Charlie Kaufman's Fellini-esque head-trip Synecdoche, New York. This is the first such list I've seen with this film in the top spot, so if nothing else this proves that Ebert still has that passionately idiosyncratic vein running through his body. Good for him. I've got the top ten below, but head over to his site for some nice honorable mentions, including one for Herzog's wicked Bad Lieutenant.

Ebert's 10 Best Films of the Decade:
1. Synecdoche, New York
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Monster
4. Juno
5. Me and You and Everyone We Know
6. Chop Shop
7. The Son
8. 25th Hour
9. Almost Famous
10. My Winnipeg

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stereo Sanctity's Best Films of 2009



Well, if nothing else, 2009 has turned out to be one of the more curious years at the cinema in recent memory. For every anxious blogger claiming '09 to be the best overall cinematic year in a decade, there were an equally vocal group of naysayers claiming there to be little product of value. Personally, I think it fell somewhere between the two extremes, with American film in general really showing an inferiority to world cinema, which has slowly but surely usurped control of the medium. In fact, I only saw maybe three out-and-out great American films this year, coupled with a handful of solid to really good entries from a reliable group of filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh, Wes Anderson, and James Gray.

However, if you were willing to put in the leg work (or the bandwidth), 2009 should have proven to be a diverse and rewarding 12 months at the movies, which in certain respects could be seen as the last ten years in a sort of microcosm. Much of the year-end prestige product fell short of my expectations (The Lovely Bones, Nine, Invictus), and some well-regarded blockbusters such as Avatar and the god-awful Star Trek reboot left me cold. However, there were plenty of worthwhile films between the margins and enough solid work to expand this list beyond my traditional 20 selections. So then, just as I did with my music list last week, I have refrained from any extraneous commentary with these picks, and instead saved my thoughts for whatever contributions I make to InRO's upcoming Best Films of 2009 list. I've also gone ahead and designated 30 or so other Honorable Mentions for those looking to explore the year even further. Enjoy.

Honorable Mentions [alphabetical]: 24 City (Jia Zhang-ke); (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb); An Education (Lone Scherfig); Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi); The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda); Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar); Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn); Cargo 200 (Aleksey Balabanov); The Cove (Louie Psihoyos); Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson); The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh); The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel); The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow); In the Loop (Armando Iannucci); The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh); Jerichow (Christian Petzold); Julia (Erick Zonca); Knowing (Alex Proyas); The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch); Lymelife (Derek Martini); Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater); The Messenger (Oren Moverman); Munyurangabo (Lee Isaac Chung); Moon (Duncan Jones); Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu); Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki); Public Enemies (Michael Mann); A Single Man (Tom Ford); Sin Nombre (Cary Fukanaga); Sugar (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck); Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim); Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy); Tyson (James Toback); Up (Pete Docter);

-------------------------

Next Ten [20 - 11; alphabetical]:


Adventureland
Directed by Greg Mottola



The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans
Directed by Werner Herzog



Goodbye Solo
Directed by Ramin Bahrani



Lorna’s Silence
Directed by Jean Pierre & Luc Dardenne



Night and Day
Directed by Hong Sang-soo



The Road
Directed by John Hillcoat



The Sun
Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov



Tokyo Sonata
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa



Tony Manero
Directed by Pablo Larrain



Two Lovers
Directed by James Gray


-------------------------


Top Ten [10 -1; alphabetical - #1 selection designated in red]


35 Shots of Rum
Directed by Claire Denis



Antichrist
Directed by Lars Von Trier



Inglourious Basterds
Directed by Quentin Tarantino



Revanche
Directed by Götz Spielmann



A Serious Man
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen



Silent Light
Directed by Carlos Reygadas



Still Walking
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda



Summer Hours
Directed by Olivier Assayas



Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze



The White Ribbon
Directed by Michael Haneke

At the Movies - Top 10 of the Decade Countdown: #1

Well after nine weeks we now arrive at A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips' choices for the best film of the last ten years. And after some speculation around these parts that Scott would be bold and select something like Edward Yang's Yi Yi, he instead reverts to the middle and selects Wall-E, a solid Pixar film with an avid following, but one that doesn't seem to me to be any better or worse than Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles or Up. Phillips, on the other hand, takes the bold route, selecting Paul Thomas Anderson's scathing capitalist allegory There Will Be Blood, one of only a handful of films that I would seriously consider for this honor.

Perusing their complete lists, my personal top 10 surprisingly overlaps most with Phillips', though I'd say Scott has a couple more unique picks further on down the line. All in all these selections aren't bad, particularly when considering this is aired on national TV. But even still, I wish Scott would have stuck with his elitist New York art persona and dropped a Taiwanese new wave film on here or something. But I digress. Check out the segment below and head over to their site for the complete rundown.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas



Obviously I stole this outright from Awardsdaily, but it was too perfect not to pass along. Anyway, Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stereo Sanctity's Best Albums of 2009



I unveiled my Top 10 Albums of 2009 list on last Friday's 'Best of the Year' podcast, but with InRO's official staff-wide list still a couple of weeks away, I thought I'd now offer up my complete personal list in the interest of full disclosure. This being such a deep year-- not unlike 2008, come to think of it-- I also went ahead a gathered up a list of 50 (or so) Honorable Mentions, albums of high quality in their own right that for one reason or another were excluded from my final Top 20. In an effort to illuminate why I admire so many of these records, and in order to lend some context to those unfamiliar with some of these titles, I've also included links to those albums which I reviewed or in some cases to certain related podcasts. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the year 2009 in music, which, despite not housing too many out-and-out instant classics, was nevertheless a nice note to send the decade out on. Bring on the 2010's.

Honorable Mentions [alphabetical]: Alva NotoXerox Vol. 2 [Raster-Noton]; Anduin & Jasper TXThe Bending of Light [SMTG]; Arve HenriksenCartography [ECM]; Atlas SoundLogos [Kranky]; BaronessBlue Record [Relapse]; William Basinski92982 [2062]; Bat for LashesTwo Suns [Astralwerks / Parlophone]; Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue [Warp]; Bill CallahanSometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle [Drag City]; Black MoldSnow Blindness is Crystal Antz [Flemish Eye]; Blackout BeachSkin of Evil [Soft Abuse]; James BlackshawThe Glass Bead Game [Young God]; Brock Van Wey White Clouds Drift On and On [Echospace]; BoredomsSuper Roots 10 [Avex Trax / Thrill Jockey]; Tyondai Braxton Central Market [Warp]; Built to SpillThere Is No Enemy [Warner Bros.]; CalifoneAll My Friends Are Funeral Singers [Dead Oceans]; Current 93 Anok Pe: Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain [Coptic Cat]; Cymbals Eat GuitarsWhy There Are Mountains [Self-Released]; Dinosaur Jr.Farm [Jagjaguwar]; Do Make Say Think Other Truths [Constellation]; Ekkehard Ehlers & Paul WirkusBallads [Staubgold]; Japandroids Post-Nothing [Unfamiliar]; Julianna BarwickFlorine [Self-Released]; ElegiVarde [Miasmah]; EsKesämaan Lapset [Fonal]; Fever RayFever Ray [Mute / Rabid]; Future of the LeftTravels With Myself and Another [4AD]; Hildur Guðnadóttir Without Sinking [Touch]; Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health [Gigantic]; Isis Wavering Radiant [Ipecac]; Jono El GrandeNeo Dada [Rune Grammofon]; KiilaTouta Touta [Fonal]; Lightning BoltEarthly Delights [Load]; Lokai Transition [Thrill Jockey]; LSD MarchUnder Milk Wood [Important]; Magma - Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré [Seventh]; Manic Street PreachersJournal for Plague Lovers [Columbia]; MokiraPersona [Type]; MountainsChoral [Thrill Jockey]; Jon MuellerPhysical Changes [Radium]; NudgeAs Good As Gone [Kranky]; OneidaRated O [Jagjaguwar / Brah]; On FillmoreExtended Vacation [Dead Oceans]; Jim O’RourkeThe Visitor [Drag City]; The Pains of Being Pure at HeartThe Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Higher Than the Stars EP [Slumberland]; Pissed JeansKing of Jeans [Sub Pop]; Sonic YouthThe Eternal [Matador]; Super Furry Animals Dark Days/Light Years [Rough Trade]; SNDAtavism [Raster-Noton]; tUnE-yArDsBiRd-BrAiNs [Marriage]; Volcano ChoirUnmap [Jagjaguwar]; White RainbowNew Clouds [Kranky]; WoodsSongs of Shame / Sunlit 7” [Shrimper / Woodsist]; The xx - The xx [Young Turks]; Yo La TengoPopular Songs [Matador]; ZuCarboniferous [Ipecac]

-------------------------

Next Ten [20 - 11; alphabetical]:


Antony & the JohnsonsThe Crying Light
[Secretly Canadian]



Burial + Four Tet Moth/Wolf Cub
[Text]



Tim HeckerAn Imaginary Country
[Kranky]



HumcrushRest at World’s End
[Rune Grammofon]



jj jj n° 1 / jj n° 2
[Sincerely Yours]



Micachu & the ShapesJewellery
[Rough Trade]



Marissa NadlerLittle Hells
[Kemado]



PolvoIn Prism
[Merge]



Sunset RubdownDragonslayer
[Jagjaguwar]



Wolves in the Throne Room Black Cascade / Malevolent Grain EP
[Southern Lord]


-----------------------


Top Ten [10 - 1; alphabetical - #1 selection designated in red]:


Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion / Fall Be Kind EP
[Domino]



Circulatory SystemSignal Morning
[Cloud]



EmeraldsWhat Happened
[No Fun]



Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca
[Domino]



The Flaming LipsEmbryonic
[Warner Bros.]



Viviane HouleTreize
[Drip Audio]



Mount EerieWind’s Poem
[P.W. Elverum & Sun]



OOIOOArmonico Hewa
[Thrill Jockey]



Sunn O)))Monoliths & Dimensions
[Southern Lord]



A Sunny Day In Glasgow Ashes Grammar
[Mis Ojos Discos]

Monday, December 21, 2009

At the Movies - Top 10 of the Decade Countdown: #2

I'm not sure if the term "misunderstood masterpiece" applies to any modern film better than Steven Spielberg's extraordinary A.I. Artificial Intelligence, A.O. Scott's selection as the second best film of the decade. I can't say I was expecting this film to pop up on this list, however, particularly after Michael Phillips extolled the virtues of Minority Report earlier on in this countdown, with nary a word from Scott. Anyhow, I can't really argue with it's inclusion, especially since it should end up ranking in the upper half of my own decade list when I decide to unleash it the second week of January. Ratatouille on the other hand, is another really good Pixar film, but these films never strike me as best-of anything candidates. That's just my particular biased, of course, but this nevertheless remains one of Pixar's better efforts to date. Everyone, however-- including Phillips, obviously-- needs to watch A.I. again, pronto.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #17 - 'The Ten Best Albums of 2009'



"Whittling down twelve months and hundreds of albums into one 3-hour End of Radio Podcast Spectacular, your co-hosts Jordan Cronk and Jon Staph examine the year in music and count down the ten best albums of 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Nominations



I really have little to say about this morning's SAG nominations. However, there are three things are worth pointing out:

- No Up in the Air for Best Ensemble: I wouldn't read too much into this, since all 3 actors earned nods, but it is something to keep in mind as more awards come down the pike.

- Diane Kruger for Inglourious Basterds: Here's a left-field nomination, and not an undeserved one. But this is where Kruger's awards run begins and ends. Look for Julianne Moore or Samantha (or both) to make the Academy's top 5.

-The Last Station surfaces: Just a couple days ago I wondered aloud where The Last Station was in this year's race. Well, both Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer showed up today, and that is probably all they'll need to get Oscar voter's to see the film and mark their names on the ballot.

(via Incontention)

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

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

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

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”

Best Ensemble
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Nine”
“Precious”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

67th Annual Golden Globe Nominees



If I didn't know better, it would seem like the HFPA actually voted for some films and performances they actually liked as opposed to which studio sent over the best gift basket. Of course, they still made room for not one but two Sandra Bullock nominations, and a sad consolation Best Director bid for Clint Eastwood-- not to mention the inclusion of Spiderman at the expense of the lesser known Jeremy Renner. But lo and behold, the Globes also saw fit to throw a bone to such inventive picks as Michael Stuhlberg (A Serious Man), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria), and the writers of District 9. I'm don't necessarily concur with all these picks mind you, but it does shift the perspective of each category ever so slightly (that is until the SAGs weigh in on Thursday and bring us back closer to the middle). Anyway, it's the Globes, a drunken good time with enough star wattage to ignite the red carpet. I can dig.

(via Awardsdaily)

Motion Picture, Drama
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
Up in the Air

Motion Picture, Comedy/Musical
500 Days of Summer
The Hangover
It’s Complicated
Julie & Julia
Nine

Actress, Drama
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabby Sidibe, Precious

Actor, Drama
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Tobey Maguire, Brothers

Actor Comedy/Musical
Matt Damon, The Informant
Daniel Day Lewis, Nine
Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Joe Gordon Levitt, 500 Days of Summer
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

Actress, Comedy
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
Marion Cotillard, Nine
Julia Roberts, Duplicity
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep, It’s Complicated

Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’nique, Precious
Julianne Moore, A Single Man

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

Screenplay
Neill Blomkampt & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Nancy Meyers, It’s Complicated
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Original Score
Michael Giacchino, Up
Marvin Hamlisch, The Informant
James Horner, Avatar
Abel Krozeniowski, A Single Man
Karen O. and Carter Burwell, Where the Wild Things Are

Foreign Language Film
Baria
Broken Embraces
The Maid
Un Prophete
The White Ribbon

Original Song
“Cinema Italiano,” Nine
“I Want To Come Home,” Everybody’s Fine
“I See You,” Avatar
“The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart
“Winter,” Brothers

Monday, December 14, 2009

At the Movies - Top 10 of the Decade Countdown: #3

Another couple of solid decade picks for the new hosts of At the Movies this week, one of which is rather infamous and one of the more obscure variety. They seem to be trading off in this regard. I have no idea where they go from here, however, though I'd imagine There Will Be Blood would be in the top two of at least one of their lists. We shall see.

2009 New York Film Critics Circle Winners



Just when you think the NY critics will go all highbrow, they go all middle of the road instead. Save for an another awesome notice for In the Loop's brilliant screenplay, nothing here is out of the ordinary. Just a few days ago, the race seemed wide open-- the chasm is now diminishing by the hour. New York, I love you but you're bringing me down.

Winners via Awardsdaily:

Best Film – “The Hurt Locker”

Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”

Best Screenplay – “In the Loop”

Best Actress – Meryl Streep for “Julie & Julia”

Best Actor – George Clooney for “Up In The Air” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Best Supporting Actress – Mo’Nique for “Precious”

Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Cinematography – Christian Berger for “The White Ribbon”

Best Animated Film – “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Best Non-fiction Film – “Of Time and the City”

Best Foreign Language Film – “Summer Hours”

Best First Feature – “Hunger,” director Steve McQueen

Special Award – To Andrew Sarris for his contribution to film criticism

15th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Nominations



The consensus continues to grow with this morning's announcement of the BFCA nominations. I actually have little to say here-- other than this is a yawn-inducing selection of films and performances-- but I'm just wondering what happened to The Last Station? It's shown up on exactly zero lists or nomination tallies thus far. And after last night's thrashing on At the Movies, I'm close to dropping it's acting prospects from by predictions. We'll see how the Globes and SAG react later in the week. Anyway, here are the Critics Choice nominees (via Incontention)

Best Picture
“Avatar”
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Invictus”
“Nine”
“Precious”
“A Serious Man”
“Up”
“Up in the Air”

Best Directing
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
James Cameron, “Avatar”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Clint Eastwood, “Invictus”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Viggo Mortensen, “The Road”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

Best Actress
Emily Blunt, “The Young Victoria”
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Saoirse Ronan, “The Lovely Bones”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christian McKay, “Me and Orson Welles”
Alfred Molina, “An Education”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Supporting Actress
Marion Cotillard, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
Samantha Morton, “The Messenger”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Jae Head, “The Blind Side”
Bailee Madison, “Brothers”
Max Records, “Where the Wild Things Are”
Saoirse Ronan, “The Lovely Bones”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Road”

Best Acting Ensemble
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Nine”
“Precious”
“Star Trek”
“Up in the Air”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“District 9”
“An Education”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“Precious
“A Single Man”
“Up in the Air”

Best Original Screenplay
“(500) Days of Summer”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“A Serious Man”
“Up”

Best Animated Feature
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”
“Coraline”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“Up”

Best Art Direction
“Avatar”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The Lovely Bones”
“Nine”
“A Single Man”

Best Cinematography
“Avatar”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The Lovely Bones”
“Nine”

Best Costume Design
“Bright Star”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Nine”
“Where the Wild Things Are”
“The Young Victoria”

Best Editing
“Avatar”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Nine”
“Up in the Air”

Best Makeup
“Avatar”
“District 9”
“Nine”
“The Road”
“Star Trek”

Best Score
“The Informant!”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“Sherlock Holmes”
“Up”
“Where the Wild Things Are”

Best Song
“The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”
“(I Want To) Come Home” from “Everybody’s Fine”
“Cinema Italiano” from “Nine”
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“All is Love” from “Where the Wild Things Are”

Best Sound
“Avatar”
“District 9”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Nine”
“Star Trek”

Best Visual Effects
“2012″
“Avatar”
“District 9”
“The Lovely Bones”
“Star Trek”

Best Action Movie
“Avatar”
“District 9”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Star Trek”

Best Comedy
“(500) Days of Summer”
“The Hangover”
“It’s Complicated”
“The Proposal”
“Zombieland”

Best Picture Made for Television
“Gifted Hands”
“Grey Gardens”
“Into the Storm”
“Taking Chance”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Broken Embraces”
“Coco Before Chanel”
“Red Cliff”
“Sin Nombre”
“The White Ribbon”

Best Documentary Feature
“Anvil!: The Story of Anvil”
“Capitalism: A Love Story”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc.”
“Michael Jackson’s This Is It”