Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I should be in charge

New airline rules

Stage 1 security:
Every passenger is required to allow a FAA certified surgeon to open the chest cavity and search for any devise that could be used to disrupt or destroy the aircraft.

Stage 2:
All passengers must poop and puke simultaneously into a bag in order to expel any baggies or rubbers filled with contraband.

Stage 3:
All passengers must perform a handstand, to assure heads are properly attached.
Any persons whose head falls off will not be allowed to board the aircraft.

Stage 4:
All passengers must recite one totally illogical sentence, and then attempt to explain a paradox, to prove that they are not a robot.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

Lost in Translation (2003)
This mid-decade hit examined the type of moment or experience that happens in real life — one that, once it's over, hasn't changed anything dramatically, but leaves you feeling different, or perhaps older. Whether this makes for exciting cinema is up to the viewer. Critics said "yes," emphatically, my parents said "no." I say "sort of." Director Sofia Coppola lets atmosphere and (actors, of course) do all the talking. Her camera stays out of the way, mostly moving slowly and occasionally lingering on an interesting image or reflection, which is probably a wise choice as the alien city of Tokyo is the third lead in the film, after Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanson. Murray plays a depressed actor filming a whiskey commercial in Japan. He doesn't know the language or anyone in Tokyo, and he spends his nights drinking and smoking in the four-star hotel's lounge. His stagnation is eventually interrupted by another bored westerner, Scarlet Johanson, a recent Ivy-league grad stranded in the same hotel while her photographer husband is off on a magazine photo-shoot. The two form a platonic relationship initially based on a shared sense of empty isolation, but the two manage to go out and have fun despite their solemn neurosis, and of course, learn a thing or two from each other. At times, Johanson's seeming unwillingness to just explore the goddamn city on her own can be infuriating. You're young. You're beautiful, you are in a crazy fucking landscape. Go do something. Eventually she does, it just takes a man delving headfirst in a midlife crises to get her there. Lost in Translation is not all doom and gloom. Murray's genius for physical comedy and wry interaction with the locals provides relief through the film's first half. The culture clash is interesting in it's own right, and the film has just enough character development and subtle detail to substitute for plot. B

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell hard
The Goods only gets away with its overly-familiar "slobs vs snobs" plot-arc because of its farcical self-awareness and admittance of only one aspiration — crossing the line as often as possible. It even has the arbitrary challenge the slobs must meet in order to save their dying (golf club, workout gym, fraternity, etc) car lot from the mean rich guys next door. It essentially just lets the starved plot lay there, like a foster kid adopted as a scheme for tax breaks, except here the tax breaks are fart and dick jokes, told by some of the better comedic actors available. As Jeremy Piven, the mercenary car salesman brought into save the dealership, says "Don't over think it."
Ed Helms has a ball playing an asshole in a "$40 hair cut" who manages the BMW dealership across town who is also in a has-been boy ban that once opened for O-Town.
There are some laugh-out-loud jokes, plenty of gags that arrive DOA — but also enough don't-give-a-fuck attitude to at least warrant a rental for anyone looking for a funny dumb time. (Cue joke about the movie getting "pushed off the lot," not buying a "lemon," etc). C+

The Stepfather (1987)
This B-movie horror classic was stripped of all its subtext and intrigue for a Hollywood remake this year, but the original still packs a bloody punch. Terry O'Quinn (Lost's John Locke) plays Jerry Blake, a Reagan-era man with punishable-by-death expectations for his family unit. The film begins with Blake shaving off his latest disguise — a full-on '80s beard — grabbing his briefcase, walking down the stairs past his dismembered family, and off to work, whistling as he walks.
The next scene finds him settling in with his new family several months later, a widow smitten by Blake's earnest charm and strong family values, and her trouble-making daughter who knows right away that there's something wrong with Blake. For the rest of the film, we see him creep closer to the edge of revisiting mass murder, and bump off a few townspeople along the way as he prepares to find a new family that might not be so damn disappointing. B+

Darkman (1990)
This off-beat superhero flick flopped on the heals of Batman, but has since received a slowly growing cult of admiration. It was director Sam Raimi's (Spiderman, Drag Me to Hell) first foray into big-budget Hollywood after his Evil Dead success in the '80s. Raimi's slapstick-horror sensibilities often work well in the superhero universe (a universe with origins in brightly-colored comic books), and often cause a sense of unease when paired with the bloody emotions central to the film. His original story follows a scientist (Liam Neeson) who uses a prototype technology to reconstruct his face after a horrific fire. The only catch is the artificial skin disintegrates in light after 90 minutes. Neeson slowly uses several different faces to exact revenge on the crime syndicate that caused his disfigurement. It is a film ahead of it's time: an R-rated superhero dusted in melancholy and (true to it's name) darkness. Darkman is highly entertaining, occasionally cheesy in that special Raimi way, but always original. B- (also watch for a great surprise cameo from Bruce Campbell at the end)

Monday, December 21, 2009

New to me: My favorite (non-2009) albums of the year

I finally made space in my spare music-listening time to explore some of indie rock's seminal figures this year, bands that I had put off for far too long in place of new stuff.

Wire - Pink Flag (1977)
This was Spoon's favorite band during its early years, singer Brit Daniel has said in past interviews. Wire is one of the less known but (as it often is) more influential punk acts to emerge out of Britain in '77. The band forged an intellectual devotion to minimalism — paired-down drums and thickly-distorted yet precise and purposeful electric guitars. Every hi-hat tap is intended to mean more than the showers of cymbals and fills found in the popular rock of the day. Pink Flag is pure, boiled-down snarl and rejection, 21 two-minute songs that grow better and more nuanced with every listen. As mentioned above, it set the precedent for Spoon's approach to tearing songs into the most essential bits, discarding anything superfluous, the key word used by most critics being "economical." Beyond all the deconstructionism and strict internal-rule-following, there are moments in Pink Flag that make even a Yankee like myself want to yell "oi" before instigating a soccer riot.

Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
This was the year I finally ( belatedly, predictably) got into Pavement. I had owned a copy of "Slanted and Enchanted" for a few years, but besides from a few key tracks, I was more in the "I understand its importance and respect it, even if I'm not totally blown away by it" it camp. I had enjoyed Steven Malkmus and the Jicks last record Real Emotional Trash, but again wasn't one of the worshipful legions dotting college towns and American cities.

Then I happened to pick up a used copy of "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain," and, paired with a Malkmus/Pavement mix made by my sister, I was hooked. I listened to "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain," nearly daily for about 8 weeks, unraveling the lyrical knots, trying to make sense of arrangements and Malkmus totally unpredictable sense of melody. All that, and the records is so fun and off-the-cuff that even while trying to over-think it, the tunes are irresistible. I've since bought "Brighten the Corners," and will eventually consume the entire catalog.

The Replacements - Let It Be (1984), Tim (1985)
Is it a cardinal sin to prefer Tim over Let It Be? Maybe I'm turning into a softy, but I found the 'Mats major label debut Tim to be the better introduction to the band, though it's occasionally mared by the much hyped at the time "digital recording" method employed by the record's producer and former Ramone Tommy Erdelyi. The drums sound distinctly '80s, the guitars occasionally veer towards over-processed, but the song writing is, as always, impeccable. As with Pavement, I had a small collection of Replacements songs, some of which downloaded via Napster (ignore that please, RIAA), and transferred computer to computer to this day. But as with many of the initial MP3's traded at the beginning of the century, the most popular ones available existed more for novelty than actual appreciation, meaning that the first Replacements song I ever heard was "Gary's Got a Boner," not exactly a defining moment for a group that wrote THE college rock anthem of the '80s "Bastards of Young" (I made that up. I was born in '85 and therefor have no idea what THE anthem of '80s college rock was). Any who, the Replacements of Let It Be were still barely holding onto their punk roots, but still mostly defined as a bunch of underachieving drunks that would rather fuck up the party than play at it.

That attitude never changed, even as the sound became more slick on Tim. According to All Music Guide (I know, I know not the most punk source on the planet), "The Replacements landed a spot on SNL, but were roaring drunk throughout the performances and Westerberg said "fuck" on the air. Their concerts had became notorious for such drunken, sloppy behavior ... The Replacements also refused to make accessible videos. The video for "Bastards of Young" featured nothing but a stereo system, playing the song — thereby cutting themselves off from the mass exposure MTV could have granted them."

Of course the self-destructive, fame-spurring behavior only enhances their appeal and legend, and I will continue to work my way through the Replacements' cannon.

The Thermals - The Body the Blood the Machine (2006)
I wish I would have had this CD when it came out in 2006, to provide catharsis for those of us who didn't vote twice for a right-wing evangelical man-child president.

Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque (1991)
Not one of indie rock's building blocks, but a great CD nonetheless. Teenage Fanclub came out of Scotland in the early nineties, and after signing with a major label, they were, with Nirvana, expected to be one the "alternative" bands to take over the mainstream (not that they sounded at all like Nirvana). But while Nirvana found stratospheric levels of success and then self-destruction, Teenage Fanclub just sort of fizzled before eventually disappearing from any sort of cultural relevance what-so-ever. Bandwagonesque preempts the perfect power-pop of Weezer, but with added bite in the lyrics. "Says she don't do drugs / but she does the pill," is the defining line in lead-off track and album standout "The Concept." Bandwagonesque's intelligent lyrics, catchy choruses and sharp yet melancholy guitars should have been a bigger hit than "Fred's Got Slacks," but it was not meant to be. The band's solid '93 follow up, Thirteen, curiously opens like a grunge-also ran — the thundering drums and metal-ish guitars sound plucked from Nevermind (now like true bandwagon jumpers!!) before Teenage Fanclub seem to say "Who the fuck are we kidding?" and settle into a groove that would have felt comfortably anywhere on Bandwagonesque.

"Although somewhat hard to believe in retrospect, Bandwagonesque topped Spin magazine's best-of-1991 year-end list in the face of staggering competition including Nirvana's Nevermind, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, and R.E.M.'s Out of Time; a few months later, they were tapped as Rolling Stone's Hot Band for 1992, and at the peak of their success, the Fannies even performed on Saturday Night Live, that same year also opening for Nirvana." - All Music Guide

The National - Alligator (2005)
Gotta gives props to my sister again for this one. I got Boxer almost two years ago, and she got me a copy of Alligator several months, but only until recently have I had the time to really delve in. It's great.

Patti Smith - Horses (1975)
Here's another punk cornerstone that I just never had the time for in the past. Worth buying if not just for her devastating reinterpretation of "Gloria."

Built to Spill - Keep it Like a Secret (1999)
Another shout out to the sis. Thanks for getting me into this one, too, with the inclusion of one o the album's best tracks, "Time Trap" on one of your mixes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009: Best albums, singles and most overated of the year.

Albums of the year
tell me why I'm wrong/what I missed in the comments section

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
In another universe (or maybe just a different decade) "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" would have been the top selling pop record of 2009. Not just because I think it was the best album of the year — and it is — but because what the hell is good pop music if it's not this. It wasn't, though, because the definition of "pop" has skewered so juvenile, so Disney, so Miley, that even something as universally accessible as Phoenix is still not a household name. There are other albums on this list that, understandably, don't have mass appeal. But "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" manages to cater to indie rockers, new wave haircuts, French pop kids and top 40 sensibilities in equal, genre-defying measures, without falling into any identifiable trap.

On first listen, the Spackle-fill keyboards and synths phasing in-and-out behind a rock-solid, danceable rhythm section and undeniable vocal hooks were almost too fun and too nice for ears more accustomed to the blogs' rejection of anything this easy to love. But after making it through lead-off singles "Liztomania" and "1901," the record reveals cinematic moments that instantly bring to mind fellow Gallic mind-blowers-of-eddying-synth M83. The album's vocal-free center piece "Love Like a Sunset Part 1" and it's lyrical counterpart "Part 2" are what make the biggest statement — Phoenix are serious about having fun, especially when that fun is as dense as the darkest art record, and layers of brilliance are shrouded by the most catchy pop melodies.
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Any attempts to reference Animal Collective's sound always, inevitably, fall short. The melodies more resemble looped tribal chants than anything western, though they are typically, misleadingly described as psychedelic folk. It's psychedelic for sure, but hardly resembles anything any layman would ever describe as American "folk," and I think that's the appropriate standard for a genre that has existed as long as locomotives. I think the touchstones are just closer to dance music and electro than anyone wants to admit. Regardless of what genre Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist fall in to, these three Brooklyn hipsternerds with laptops make more noise, more confrontational rhythms and sonic assaults than anything this accessible has any right to.
3. Japandroids - Post Nothing
A ragged and loud garage band that doesn't sound anything like the blues-based sounds of early-2000s "the" bands, Japandroids are one of several acts at decade's end to embrace '80s and '90s college rock as ground zero, just as those seminal indie acts felt the same way about 1977. But they don't completely disregard the baby-boomer's canon, evidenced by "The Boys Are Leaving Town" a clear homage, in name at least, to Thin Lizzy.
4. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
5. Girls - Album
6. Monsters of Folk -Monsters of Folk
7. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
8. The Thermals - Now We Can See
9. Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand
10. M. Ward - Hold Time
11. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
12. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
13. Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day
14. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
15. YACHT - See Mystery Lights
16. Flaming Lips - Embryonic
17. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
18. Yo La Tango - Popular Songs

19. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
20. St. Vincent - Actor
21. The XX - XX

Honorable Mentions
Dan Auerbach - Keep it Hid
Drummer - Have Fun Together
Atlas Sound - Logos
Dan Deacon - Bromst
Blakroc - Blakroc

Built to Spill - There is No Enemy
Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Best "Singles"

Critically Acclaimed Albums left off list on purpose:
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
There's a couple good tracks, I guess. But mostly it's aggravating, annoying and it's supposed best track "Stillness is the Move" is fucking unlistenable.
Sun O)))
Its low, bottom of the ocean low, and slow, and drone-y and they all wear hoods ... ooooo scary ...
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
It's accomplished, sure, but the second half puts me to sleep.
Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
I really don't get why this has the following it does. I guess even kids in Williamsburg need a pretty pop singer to latch on to, being that they're all too cool for everyone on the radio and all.
Raekwon - Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt. 2
I'm just about completely done with new rap, even when it does have a few killer tracks. Shit's nihilistic and pointless, but worst of all repetitive and boring.

Albums I didn't spend enough time with to judge
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Antlers - Hospice
Bowerbirds - Upper Air
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
The Dead Weather - Horehound
The Reigning Sound - Love and Curses
Cass McCombs - Catacombs
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
and thousands of other albums

Everything else

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite albums of the decade

Tell me why I'm wrong/what's missing in the comments section.

It'd always be preferable, obviously, to say things were better off exiting the decade than entering. But my generation's first decade with a (nearly) grown brain was one of disappointment — the country, the world, etc. It's like everyone was handed a Faberge egg in 2000, told to look after it, and instead used it as a drink shaker for Jeppson's Mallort and pyrite.

While our country was raging war across the globe, weathering one recession and entering another, I had some of the best years of my life. (Insert white guilt here.) Senior year of high school, all of college and every summer in between was like my own carefree icing on top of the world's fresh-shit cake.
Am I better off (life's achievements relative to age) now than I was at the dawn of the century? The jury's still out.

Attempting to choose even just one infinitesimal aspect of human life from the decade — music — and decide if it took a leap or a plunge as a whole is a similarly maddening experience. Picking what was the "best" will fail by definition. My first CD as an 8-year-old was Niel Diamond's "Greatest Hits," so we'll just go ahead and assume some of these albums will be slightly embarrassing in 15 years. Trends and (non) trends come and go. What appeared to be a cutting-edge melding of two seemingly disparate genres in the year 2007 could easily sound fool-hearty and painfully dated in the year 2020. But, listing arcane knowledge helps my brain keep it all organized for my own future listening pleasure, and that's the real point, right?

So, here's the familiar cop out — these are my favorite albums of the decade. The best as viewed through my prism of experience.

In 2000, I was 14, and my tastes were mostly defined by classic rock, grunge and blues. The newer stuff I did listen to sided towards alternative (when that word meant something) from the '90s — Beck, Cake, the Eels. I was also starting to find something considered "indie" interesting, which was difficult without an older sibling or a college radio station in my home town. That was also the year I saw a CD burner for the first time, and Napster. And with the added access, came more new music than I ever would have discovered otherwise.

The Walkmen - "You & Me," My Morning Jacket - "It Still Moves," Vampire Weekend - "Vampire Weekend," Modest Mouse - "Good News for People that Love Bad News," The Go Team - "Thunder Lightening Strike, " The Streets - "Original Pirate Material," Bob Dylan - "Modern Times," Okkervil River - "The Stage Names," M83 - "Before the Dawn Heals Us," The New Pornographers - "Twin Cinema," Lupe Fiasco - "Food and Liquor," Black Lips - "Good Bad Not Evil," Rjd2 - "Deadringer," The Postal Service - "Give Up," People Under the Stairs - "OST," Band of Horses - "Everything all the Time"

29. The Avalanches - Since I Left You (2001)
Key track: "Frontier Psychologist"

28. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
Key tracks: "Do You Realize," "Fight Test"

27. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black (2007)
Key track: "Me and Mr. Jones"

26. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Key tracks: "Summertime Clothes," "My Girls," "Brothersport"

25. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
Key tracks: "Lisztomania," "1901," "Love Like a Sunset (parts I and II)"

24. Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)
Key tracks: "Grace Kelly Blues," "It's a Motherfucker," "A Daisy Through Concrete"

23. Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow (2002)
Key track: "Blazing Arrow"

22. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005) - I guess being crass isn't always so bad, especially when it's this fun.
Key track: you know which ones

21. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (2007)
Key track: all of them

20. Decemberists - The Crane Wife (2006)
Here's some escapism, if killer children and sharpened bayonets ingrained in a Japanese folk tale are your idea of a pleasant distraction.
Key tracks: "The Crane Wife 3," "O Valencia!," "Shankhill Butchers"

19. The Thermals - The Body the Blood the Machine (2006)
Key tracks: "Here's Your Future," "A Pillar of Salt," "Returning to the Fold," "St. Rosa & the Swollows"

18. M. Ward - Post War (2006)
A warm blast of reverb and Americana when my cornfield-lined routes needed it the most. I absolutely wore out this record after finding it used at Co-op.
Key tracks: "To Go Home," "Requiem," "Chinese Translation"

17. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
"Oh, Inverted World" got all the attention, but this is where I got into the Shins, and looking back, most agree this is the superior record ... driving to Andiamos during high school for Thursday open mic night, sneaking a cigarette on the ride down, staying too late, and listening to "Chutes Too Narrow" both ways for several months.
Key tracks: All of um

16. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007)
A cold sound for a cold year. Iraq was still dragging into civil war, and "the surge" had not yet quelled partisan fighting. The housing market was starting to plunge, and deep down everyone (hopefully) knew the economy wasn't actually healthy. But cognitive dissonance can be a powerful thing. Famous for its party's over vibe and lyrics of the lead single, I can't think of a better record to play when the concrete walls finally close in, and you know, we have to fight the symbiotic robots wearing red Elephant patches. I'll play "Get Innocuous" when Pfizer pays the FDA to approve Soma and Monsanto runs the USDA.
Key tracks: "All My Friends," "Get Innocuous"

15. Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)
Key track: "10 A.M. Automatic,"

14. Arcade Fire - Funeral and Neon Bible (2004, 2007)
Key track: "Wake Up"

13. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)
Key tracks: "White Winter Hymnal," "Ragged Wood"

12. My Morning Jacket - Z (2005)
Key tracks: "Wordless Chorus," "Off the Record," "Gideon"

11. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
Key tracks: "Everything in its Right Place," "The National Anthem"

10. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)
Key tracks: "Jacksonville," "Decatur," "Chicago," "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."

9. Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America (2006)
Key tracks: "Stuck Between Stations," "Hot Soft Light,""South Town Girls," "You Can Make Him Like You," "Massive Nights"

5-8. Spoon - Gimme Fiction/ ga ga ga ga ga/Girls Can Tell/Kill The Moonlight (2000-2007) I couldn't pick one of these four above the others. The band is unstoppable. Look forward to Transference next month.
Key tracks: all of um

3 and 4. White Stripes - Elephant (2003) and White Blood Cells (2001)
Jack White has participated in a great album every year this decade except one (EVERY YEAR!), be it with the Raconteurs, Loretta Lynn, the Deadweather or his marquee group, The White Stripes. Guitars and feedback and rock and roll vocals hadn't sounded this fresh in decades. The visceral, lo-fi punch of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" is when I first fell in love with the White Stripes' bursting energy and childlike enthusiasm for the blues and rock 'n' roll, and White hasn't let up steam since.
Key tracks: all of um

1 and 2. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001) and A Ghost is Born (2004)
I have nearly nothing to say. This is my favorite two album stretch by Wilco (and almost any other band). These songs made sense to me, mystified me, challenged me as a 16 year old and a 19 year old, and they make even more sense in different ways as a 24-year-old. They soundtracked the brooding moments in the bedroom after arguments with friends and family, they soundtracked sunny road trips to visit friends at other colleges, they soundtracked both get-togethers in college and meditative moments of solitude in the dorm room, and they soundtracked my first two years on the job. Let's hope Tweedy and Co. continue to soundtrack the rest of our journey.
Key tracks: all of um

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The 50 best films of the decade

Here's my list. I've been slowly reorganizing it, tweaking/adding/subtracting, for about a month. Tell me why I'm wrong in the comments section. What am I missing?

Honorable mentions:
The 40-year-old Virgin, Superbad, Little Miss Sunshine, Audition, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Inglorious Basterds, Primer, Time Crimes,
The Proposition, 25th Hour, Punch-Drunk Love, The Man Who Wasn't There, Watchmen, In Bruges ...

50. Training Day
49. Gone Baby Gone
48. Bowling for Columbine
47. High Fidelity
46. Borat
45. American Splendor
44. Old School
43. Zodiac
42. Amelie
41. District 9
40. I am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco
39. The Prestige
38. The Wrestler
37. Eastern Promises
36. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
35. Brick
34. Once
33. Ratatouille
32. The Incredibles
31. Mystic River
30. Waltz with Bashir
29. Bad Santa
28. American Psycho
27. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
26. Burn After Reading
25. Donnie Darko
24. Waking Life
23. The Departed
22. Human Nature
21. Adaptation
20. Mulholland Drive
19. Royal Tenenbaums
18. Ghost World
17. The Pianist
16. A History of Violence
15. Kill Bill (1 and 2)
14. Oh Brother Where Art Though?
13. The Dark Knight
12. LOTR trilogy
11. Wall-E
10. Shaun of the Dead
9. Requiem for a Dream
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
7. Old Boy
6. There Will Be Blood
5. Pan's Labyrinth
4. Children of Men
3. No Country for Old Men
I have some newly discovered issues with this film. The first three times, it completely lived up to the hype and I was enraptured and speechless for the entire run time. But I watched it for a forth time this week, and now I'm enough removed from the plotting and terrific suspense, which is the film's best attribute — not any symbolism or highfalutin art film appeal (side-note: NCFOM is more than a little pretentious) — but, the unbridled, brilliant tension and suspense is what really drives the film. Also, the cinematography by Roger Deakins is nothing short of breathtaking. This was simply one of the best looking films of the decade.

Here are the problems: the dialogue bo
rders on camp. Every word that comes out of Tommy Lee Jone's mouth is infuriating, like some sort of Hollywood bastardization or approximation of ornery folk wisdom. He's relentless with the "I think I'm too clever and wise to answer a question in a straightforward manner" attitude. Same thing with the dialogue between Josh Brolin's Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean Moss, played by Kelly Macdonald. Their back and forth sounds nothing like the way anyone actually talks, and is usually one note, Carla Jean playing a child-like, naive girl to Brolin's taciturn tough guy. The Coens are my favorite contemporary filmmakers, and usually I enjoy their unique brand of sharp-witted black comedy, but the depiction of the locals in the film's early '80s Texas seems more contemptuous caricature than real setting. But, the movie is staying in the top five for nothing more than the terrifying heavy in the film, Anton Chigurh, played by Javeir Bardem. The guy is the scariest motherfucker on film in years, and the Coen's unflinching ability to show his pure manifestation of evil with coldblooded conviction is rare and appreciated. He is what you remember when the film is over, scenes replay in your head and you want to watch it again to experience that same dread and fear that only the inevitable, certain doom that a menace like Chigurh can conjure on screen.

2. Memento

1. City of God