...or the amazing chronicles of everything that I like and stuff.
Just sharing this because what the hell:
- Gun machine, Warren Ellis
- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
- Warm bodies, Isaac Marion
- The Sisters brothers, Patrick DeWitt
- American gods, Neil Gaiman
- Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour book store, Robin Sloan
- The sweetness at the bottom of the pie, Alan Bradley
- A visit from the goon squad, Jennifer Egan
- The fault in our stars, John Green
- The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
- March violets, Philip Kerr
- Never let me go, Kazuo Ishiguro
- The age of miracles, Karen Thompson Walker
- The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammet
- The Passage, Justin Cronin
- Everything is perfect when you’re a liar, Kelly Oxford
- Crap kingdom, DC Pierson
- Red harvest, Dashiell Hammet
- The raven boys, Maggie Stiefvater
- The great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald
- The scorpio races, Maggie Stiefvater
- The Dain curse, Dashiell Hammet
- Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater
- A cuckoo’s calling, Robert Galbraith / J.K. Rowlings
- Cinnamon and gunpowder: A novel, Eli Brown
- 52 pickup, Elmore Leonard
- Bossypants, Tina Fey
- Lullabies for little criminals, Heather O’Neill
(By the way, this list is chronological, from first read to last read)
I said a bunch of things at the beginning of 2013 and I did not follow through. I said I would write more fiction and I wrote 3 tiny short stories as opposed to an entire (okay, tiny) book the year prior. This year I’ll be better.
Here’s a list of my little resolutions:
- In 2014 I will not drink soft drinks and I will keep desserts and sweets to a very tiny minimum.
- I will also eat less. I eat too much because eating is awesome. I need to learn portion control.
- I will read more (I read 28 books last year and I will beat that this year because it was fun. I was often sad and the books helped me a lot with that. They didn’t make the sadness go away but they helped me learn to cope with it until it slowly faded away, it’s tough to ask for more than that.)
- I will be less angry (I was angry all the time last year even though no one really knew because my anger is super stealthy, like that sentient plane in the movie Stealth that had Django in it.)
- This is a big but ultimately meaningless one, an experiment: I will not watch movie trailers at all this year, so I can watch movies clean without knowing a thing about them. I love movie trailers so this will be tough. The thing is that movie trailers lie. The lie about story, they lie about intent, but mostly they lie about pacing. I don’t hold it against them, they’re trying to sell a product and get asses in seats. I’m curious about how it will be to watch a movie without any preconcieved notions on it, other that who wrote/directed/shot/stars in it.
I’ll let you know.
I don’t know why I shared this with any one, there really isn’t a point, but I hope you have a few new years resolutions too. It’s good to have them and to challenge yourself.
Happy new year every one.
Be kind. Absolutely nothing else matters.
BEHOLD THE GREATEST iPHONE CASE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!!
You can get it HERE!
It was drawn by me and colored by my friend Mathieu. We are amazing artists (clearly) but, more importantly, when we activate our Friends Forever powers and assemble (in a series of carefully choreographed moves), we become… TWO! DUDES! HUGGIIIIIIINNNNNNG!
Here are the 2013 albums that I listened to the most this year.
My Bloody Valentine, M B V
There was a long wait for this album, considering their previous, Loveless, came out in 1991. While I don’t like it as much as Loveless, it’s still really good. It’s less interested in beauty, maybe, but it feels honest and all the songs are good.
Here is a song: Who sees you
The Joy Formidable, Wolf’s law
These guys know how to built a hook. They’re just three in the band and they really want to sound like a brick wall (which they do) but never at the expense of your ear-sanity, so it’s never just noise, but it’s a big huge album full of great big huge pop songs. The hidden song at the end should not be a hidden song, it should just be the last song on it’s own seperate track, dammit.
Here is a song: This ladder is ours
This is probably my most played album of the year. It sounds like Sade. It’s super smooth R&B with really nice, subtle arrangements. The guy’s voice is amazing and every song is great. This is a good one to go to bed to, either to sleep or to fuck slowly.
Here is a song: Open
Anamanaguchi, Endless Fantasy
Confession: I can’t listen to that whole album in one go. It’s just too intense, like eating way too much candy. But it’s good, and the first track of the album, the title track, is the single of the Summer. It’s fucking awesome, and for the video they sent a pizza to space! It’s like pop dance anthem after pop dance anthem and has 22 songs so it’s basically trying to kill you with love and beats per minute.
Here is a song: Endless fantasy
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
I wonder if this is the best Daft Punk album. Maybe. Everything on it is good. It’s a ballsy one, too, because it’s not electronic dance music. Except it is. But it has live instruments too on all the songs, played by people who are super good at what they do. I can’t get tired of this one. Maybe it’s a classic.
Here is a song: Lose yourself to dance
Kanye West, Yeesus
This suprises me. I’m not a fan of Kanye West, I find him grating and while I enjoy some of his stuff I never loved an entire album of his, always just some cuts from them. The thing is I was really angry this year, like, all year. This is great walking-around-angry music, because it’s basically a punk album. It feels to me like everything in this is designed to shock and provoke. Some of the lyrics are just awful and wrong. But it works so well because I’m angry goddammit. So it’s a fantastic album for me.
Here is a song: Black skinhead
The Love Language, Ruby Red
I’m big into The Love Language and have been since their first album. This is their third and it’s a great indie pop record. It has lovely arrangements and it’s just eager to please. It’s also short and sometimes you need a short pop album. Sometimes that’s what you need.
Here is a song: Calm down
Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
I don’t know how you go about writing songs like the ones on Nepenthe. You have to be a genius, there’s no other way. Also I’m 75% sure Julianna Barwick is a ghost. It does not matter: the songs are achingly beautiful, eerie, vast-sounding, like something that plays in your dreams, but far away in the background. It’s a magical album and I put it on before going to bed a lot.
Here is a song: One half
Palma Violets, 180
This albums sounds EXACTLY like the album cover says it will. It’s dirty, catchy, almost sloppy except not at all, punky retro rock tunes.
Here is a song: Best of friends
Savages, Silance Yourself
This is a badass record. An angry roar. It’s visceral and it feels really pure and genuine to me. Since I was in a bad mood for most of the year, it was really befitting. It feels like what rock music is supposed to be. It feels important, or, maybe it just feels important that someone is making this music today. Maybe both.
Here is a song: Shut up
Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks
You know what this album sounds like? It sounds like the album Nine Inch Nails should have released right after Pretty Hate Machine. Like two years after. It’s a little too long, though. But it’s great and the first five or six songs are particuliarly good. I’m gonna call it a return to form but to be honest I haven’t heard the last few albums from them so I don’t know, they could be super good too…
Here is a song: Copy of a
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Uzu
This is operatic rock. It has scope. I love their first album and this one is maybe better. This is as close as I’ll ever get to listening to metal. It feels grandiose to me, but not at the expense of intelligence and subtelty. I can’t decide if that cover art is good or awful, though. Someone should put them in touch with Chiara Bautista, who loves them and would have probably designed a better cover. What do I know, though? Don’t listen to me.
Here is a song: Whalesong
Arcade Fire, Reflektor
This is my favorite album this year. I can’t stop listening to it. People seem to love to hate Arcade Fire and that blows my mind. I see on twitter people kind of like appologizing when they like one of their songs. Like it’s too good, so it’s too easy to like, so you’re not making any kind of effort, so you have to appologize. I don’t know, I don’t get it. This is a huge album and not a moment is wasted. These are songs to get lost in. They’re long and gorgeous and they tweek their ideas until they become the most beautiful they can be. Everything on here is good. This is the best band in the world.
Here is a song: You already know
Anfan, A half a heart and a half
Alright, I’m cheating by putting this here but whatever. This is the album that I made with my friends this year. Well, it took two years but we finished it this year. I’m really proud of it. I know we have the worst band name in the world, I picked it when I was 17 years old because I wrote it down and I liked the look of the letters on paper, but I should have said it out loud a few times first, which I didn’t. Also I feel really bad that I’m the singer because I’m really mostly not good at that, and I ruin most of the songs. But once you get passed the voice and the band name, I really think some of these songs are actually kind of good. I’ve been making music for a really long time (for fun) but this was the first time I was really collaborating with others in the writing of the songs, and the two friends I was working with are good musicians so it has a nice, warm and tender feel throughout. It’s an album you’re supposed to get lost in. It has 19 songs which is too much but that was the point from the beginning, to have the album be like a forrest, in winter, that you walk through for hours and just look at things and feel pleasantly alone in. It doesn’t exist physically but you can hear the whole thing here.
I won’t do a top ten movies of the year this year because a) my opinions are meaningless and b) I just missed too many movies. Here are movies I have not seen that look amazing :
- Blue is the warmest color
- The wolf of Wallstreet
- Captain Philips
- Upstream colors
- 12 years a slave
- Blue Jasmine
- Before Midnight
- Stories we tell
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- The Grandmaster
- American Hustle
- All is lost
- To the wonder
- The act of killing
- Spring breakers
- Only God forgives
- Charlie Countryman
- The punk singer
- Don Jon
- The spectacular now
- In a world…
- Ain’t them bodies saints
- Short term 12
- I declare war
- Fruitvale Station
- John dies at the end
That is a lot of movies. What kind of an asshole would I be to make a top ten list when my movie-watching year has so many holes in it? I would not be a good kind of an asshole, I’ll tell you that.
Anyways, I did see some movies this year, and I did love some unabashedly. I’ll share five of those titles with you. This is not a top movies of the year, clearly, just movies I really loved for one reason or another.
Gravity is maybe my favorite movie-going experience this year. It is riveting. Me and my friends walked out after the end credits and we were on clouds, talking about everything we loved about it. I don’t care that it doesn’t get all the science right, I care that it gets just enough right to make me believe in the whole thing. On a technical level it is perfect. The acting is flawless. The script is perfectly paced. Movie magic is alive and well and beats into the heart of this movie with every pulse.
Edgar Wright might be the director I am most in tune with in terms of what I love seeing in movies. This is his third collaboration with Simon Pegg (they co-wrote this, as well as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both modern classics in my opinion) and it’s possibly their best movie together. The film is funny, perfectly paced and packs an emotional punch that their other collaboration did not (at least not as much). It’s a movie written by guys who have matured since their previous efforts. Also, it has the best bar brawl ever commited to celluloid. Oh, and Simon Pegg has never been better (and that guy is always good). Like all their movies, this is one that will survive multiple viewings easily.
I like my horror movies fun. You’re Next is just that. It’s clever, violent, funny, surprising, has a killer music score and has a fucking great female protagonist. I saw this at the Fantasia Film Festival and the crowd cheered multiple times during the great screening. It succeeds in every way.
Guillermo Del Toro made a hopeful, cynicism-free, balls-to-the-wall sci-fy actioneer that delivers on it’s promise. The promise? Giant monsters fighting giant robots. The point was never to make a deep, layered movie about the human condition. It’s robots and monsters having it out. It’s fucking perfect. The effects are jaw-dropping, the cinematography is gorgeous, the scale is awe-inspiring. This is a movie for the ten year old in you. Be a kid again, allow yourself to bask at the victorious glory that is Pacific Rim.
After the awful Iron-Man 2 I was ready to hate Tony Stark, but then Joss Whedon did a thing in The Avengers where he made the guy likeable again . Then Marvel did a thing where they hired Shane Black to (co) write and direct Iron-Man 3 and there I was, back on board the Stark train. It’s a good thing, too, because Iron-Man 3 is the best movie in the series. It’s funny, has amazing action sequences, hilarious dialogue, and great closure for the Tony Stark character. If this was the last Iron-Man movie ever (doubtful) that would be more than fine. As far as superhero movies go, this was the best of the year and a great example of how not every fucking superhero movie needs to be dark and brooding and moody and blue (so, to look like a Christopher Nolan film) (in fact, the fewer the better).
I love cinema.
I’m writing about Speed Racer, five years after its initial release, because one of my favorite guy-who-writes-about-movies (filmcritHulk) did it too earlier this week (read his piece over at badass digest) and it seemed like a good idea. I haven’t written about movies in a long time so I decided what the hell. Also: not nearly enough has been written about Speed Racer.
I saw Speed Racer opening weekend back in 2008. I was very excited about the movie even though I don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire episode of the cartoons. This was a Wachowski movie and as such it was an event. I’m a huge fan of theirs. They are filmmakers with guts. You can spit all you want on the Matrix sequels (I like them both a lot) but they are very courageous movies that make bold choices. Anyways, that’s another discussion. As soon as the trailers for Speed Racer were released I just lost it. I thought it looked AMAZING. I was sad that people weren’t talking about it more. Look at that shot above. It’s the anti-Matrix. Colourful, vibrant, playful. That shot was in the second trailer. It’s one of a dozen crammed into that minute and a half that promised an experience unlike any other that Summer.
So, opening weekend, I dragged a few friends and my sister to the movie theater. I could hardly contain my anticipation. The lights dimmed and the trailers came and went and soon enough the logos appeared. The logos. Holy shit. What have they done to the logos????!!!! The Warner Bros, Village Roadshow and Silver Pictures logos were all drenched in gloriously psychedelic, kaleidoscopic animation. It was beautiful and ballsy and it made a promise. Right there in the first seconds, literally, or the movie it made you a promise about what was to come. Buckle up.
The first twenty minutes of the movie set up the universe, the rules of this world and the - sometimes tragic - history of the Racer familly. It is perfect storytelling. We travel to and fro in time (sometimes without the camera even cutting), there is action and romance and drama and comedy, all overlapping and supported by Michael Giacchino’s truly fantastic score. In the openning of their movie, the Wachowski threw the gauntlet at every other movie coming in that Summer; Beat that. (btw: no one did).
Here is what happens every Summer (disclaimer: I LOVE Summer tentpoles. I love superhero movies and bigger than life movies. I love awe. Summer movies try to give me awe and whether they succeed or not, I love them for trying). Every Summer I am told “In our movie, you are going to see something you’ve never seen before!” And everytime they are, technically, right. The explosion is bigger than the last time. The superhero jumps higher, punches harder. The hero fight more adversaries. The car chase is longer and more stuff gets destroyed. An entire city is levelled, instead of just a neighborehood.
That’s fine. Cool. Thanks for the effort.
Then here comes Speed Racer. The movie shows me things that not only have I never seen, but things I have never even imagined. Seriously, I can imagine a lot. What the Wachowskis lovingly refer to as Car-Fu, where the cars are literally fighting eachother on the race tracks, is so visceral and imaginative it’s just beyond me. The way they play with light traces (the lines that lights leave behind when you take a picture with long exposure), the innovative cutting techniques they use, the way the lanscapes morph like waves in the background as the cars speed ever forward (see the desert race scene). In terms of filmmaking that movie was next level in 2008 and it’s still next level today.
And it could be just that: dazzling eye candy (I don’t think the term “eye candy” has ever been more on point than when describing the visuals of Speed Racer). But it isn’t.
Speed Racer is devoid of cynicism. It is an optimistic, loving, pure-hearted movie. In the age of Dark Knight gloom and Man Of Steel angst, it is unbelievably refreshing. It’s characters are not multi-dimentional and that’s okay. They are archetypes. They have very defined roles to play in the story and they don’t deviate from those roles. This is not a short-coming, it’s a prowess. It’s something to be admired. Clear simplicity is much harder to achieve than you might think. Deep and multi-arched characters can be great, but you don’t want Han Solo to have an extensial crisis or else the machine breaks down and your Starwars movie stops working. Han Solo is an archetype and that’s why he works so well (just like Luke, Lea, Yoda…)
The entrie movie is a love letter to the importance of the familly unit. And not just blood relatives. Trixie and and Sparky are not related to the Racer familly but they are very much a part of it. The movie asks to what lengths you would go in order to protect your familly, and some of the characters go very far (or fast - zing!) indeed.
In essence: it’s a very beautiful movie. It’s silly, funny, at times a little broad (monkey poo!), has ninjas and vikings and pinguins and wrestling and there is a law-inforcement character named Inspector Detector (that is the best name ever) and yet at the end of the day it manages to be heart-breakingly earnest.
I’ll do you one more: it has the most moving, gorgeous, tear-inducing action set-piece ever put to film. The last half of the balls-to-the-wall final race sequence of the movie never fails to make me tear up. It does everything right. It is stunning. Visually, emotionally, viscerally. It gives me the best gift that a movie can: awe. Lots and lots of awe.
It’s about time people discovered the insanity/joy/magic of the Wachowski’s SPEED RACER. Get to it.
(And next Summer let’s all get together and go see the Wachowski’s next scifi epic: Jupiter Ascending) (WOOOHOOO!)
You can listen to my band’s new album by clicking HERE.
It talks about robots and ghosts and stars and heartbreaks and longing and friendship and hope and sadness and the end of all things. We recorded it for no money, strictly for fun. It is in no way, shape or form, a professional endeavor. It is too long and has too many songs. The point is to get completely lost in it, like a forest. We are very proud of it and we hope you enjoy it.
This is the album cover art, by the legendary Elise Simard:
Here’s a little short film by Wes Anderson starring Jason Schwartzman. Enjoy. (found via aintitcool)
Here is “Afterlife” by Arcade Fire. This was filmed live at the Youtube music awards. It was directed by Spike Jonze and stars the lovely Greta Gerwig.
Friends, go see Gravity this weekend. You will not witness a more thrilling (and thrillingly executed) piece of cinema this year. Sandra Bullock is phenomenal. Movie magic is not dead.