December 29, 2009

Last Call for 2009: Film, Music, and Books

No way I can post any definitive lists this year. Raising a 2 year old does not allow for a ton of free time. There were so many films I didn't get to see and most of my viewing was spent catching up on what I missed in 2008.

But I did catch a few great ones. Heard a few brilliant albums. Read a few outstanding books.

Books (None from 'o9; just ones I read this year)

1) Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Posits humor, sex, and some damn fine philosophy into a great humanist piece. His Theodicy of Shit is brilliant.
2) Cormac McCarthy, Suttree - A god of prose, McCarthy's characters and settings shudder with a deep sadness. Consistent with his other books, the always-present theme of human choice.
3) Erik Larson, The Devil In the White City - Big surprise for me. Non-fiction paced like fiction. Larson comprises a narrative arc by showing the connection between one of America's defining moments in history (Chicago World's Fair) and also its first serial killer.
4) John Steinbeck, The Pearl - Steinbeck re-creates old Mexican folklore and puts together some impressive mythology. Great descriptions with his usual grasp for story.
5) Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Unlike anything I've read before. Murakami plays with chronology and dual-realities without traipsing into silly fantasy. Subtle at times, but always with the tension of beauty and violence.


1) The Road -
Hillcoat's astonishing recreation of McCarthy's novel is only overshadowed by Viggo's acting.
2) State of Play -
Great dialogue, pacing, story-lines. Intelligent political commentary.
3) District 9 - Sharlto Copely put on the acting job of the year, in my books. Plays with themes of identity and refugee and manages to foster real empathy for CGI aliens. Worth every penny.
4) Coraline - What happens when Pixar takes a tab of acid. Dark, luminous story-telling with gorgeous effects. Stop-motion animation at its finest.
5) Two Lovers - A sedate, strangely realistic romantic film that focuses more on human decision than trying to manufacture a pretty ending. Some great ambiguity here.


1) Mastodon, Crack the Skye -
Moody and progressive with great story-telling. Avoids most "metal" cliche--not to mention the best album art in the past decade.
2) Pearl Jam, Backspacer - Great form that hints at their earlier work without sounding immature.
3) Magneta Lane, Gambling With God - An example of Canadian Arts Council funding going somewhere worthwhile. The lead singer's voice somehow bridge's the gap between two vastly different eras of female vocals.
4) Baroness, Blue Album - In the same vein as Mastodon. Well crafted, ambient metal that borders on being literary.
5) Alice in Chains, Black Gives Way to Blue - heavy, morose, and with a new vocalist that seems up to the task, though likely forever singing in someone else's shadow.


Sam said...

Cool list. What about that two thousand-page opus you were reading about coal miners in the Maritimes? Didn't make the list, eh?

Harry Tournemille said...

Blackstrap Hawco? No, that didn't make the cut.

You have any faves this year?

Sam said...

Like you, I just don't care about keeping current. I don't think I bought one current album, and probably couldn't fill a top ten films list. I read two 2009 books, Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy and The Complaints by Ian Rankin. The Ellroy one was better.

But the authors that really changed things for me this year were William James and Melville, and they're both a hundred years in the ground.