Sunday, December 30, 2007

Look! I can count to ten too!

I don’t know if I’ve read anything in the last two weeks but top ten lists. From the strange National Board of Review movie picks to the dueling Pitchfork and Cokemachineglow lists, I can’t help but absorb what these deemed professionals crown as the cream of the media crop. I, a simple lowly college student, must admit that I’ve also been keeping mental track of my own favorites for 2007 and now, because of egotistical urge, I’m offering them to you. I say “favorites” instead of “best” — I won’t pretend to have any sort of mastery over film or music — and hope I don’t offend any wiser tastes. I’m working on it; deal with my inadequacy. I have to.

So here they are, my top favorite things of 2007:


1. No Country for Old Men — The Coen brothers return with something a bit more substantial than Ladykillers, a pretty much perfect thriller sporting a nihilistic heart. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better suspense scene than Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem’s showdown, and Mr. Lee Jones bookmark musings have kept me pondering for weeks.

2. Ratatouille — It’s a cartoon, yes, but supports the best artistic design of the year and is somehow an astute mainstream commentary on the essence of art. Really.

3. Zodiac — David Fincher’s revival after Panic Room was almost as pronounced as the Coen’s, producing his best since Seven, if not his best period. Complain as you will about its length or its fleeting climax, but in Zodiac Fincher deflates the serial killer mythos perhaps indefinitely.

4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — Again with the returns (did any respected filmmaker not have a comeback this year?), Tim Burton brings us another gloomy Johnny Depp vehicle. In an already dark filmography, Burton offers his most gruesome — in musical form no less — take on human failings.

5. Eastern Promises — David Cronenberg continues his move into the mainstream with his new cinematic soulmate, Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen’s Russian mobster is so far the best performance I’ve seen all year, and the Turkish bath fight scene ups the nude action scene ante for good.

6. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters — Every so often a documentary emerges with more narrative energy than any of its contrived competitors. King of Kong couldn’t be more perfect, an American epic of
videogame stardom.

7. The Bourne Ultimatum — Paul Greengrass makes up for his Supremacy misstep with the conclusion and pinnacle of the Bourne series, a smart hyper thriller with hard punches to the head and heart.

8. Knocked Up — Judd Apatow deserves credit for reviving the rated-R comedy in 2007 (including the underrated Walk Hard), and his own helmed offering is also his best. Too long, a bit sexist — maybe — but also uproarious and poignant.

9. American Gangster — I’m a sucker for gangster movies, and Ridley Scott’s pop epic offers enough bang to scrape its way into the top ten. Denzel is a force, Crowe is quiet yet deadly, and its racial subtext is well worth the journey.

10. Gone Baby Gone — Director Ben Affleck dares to follow in Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood’s Boston footsteps, and somehow makes a film that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. He might not be a great actor, but his brother Casey is, and with Affleck’s steady direction Boston might never been seen positively again.

Likely to make the list once they get their ass to Iowa: There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Juno, Once, I’m Not There

Music — Albums

1. The National, Boxer — If anything develops a more bleak vision of middle-class existence, I never want to hear it. Boxer stands as the most cohesive album of the year; no track is worth skipping. Give it time… you’ll be rewarded.

2. Radiohead, In Rainbows —It ain’t a revolution like Kid A, but it’s still a beautiful progression into what I hope is fruitful middle age for the best band on Earth.

3. M.I.A., Kala — It isn’t world music, it isn’t straight pop, but it’s an amazing bridge between the two, danceable and thought provoking.

4. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver — James Murphy decides to actually write lyrics instead of improvising nonsense, and we get some damn fine poignant dance rock.

5. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga — Catchy and crisp without an ounce of indie rock staleness. It’s hard to be inventive and comfortable all at once, but Spoon does it again effortlessly.

6. Feist, The Reminder — Finally, someone who deserves to get big does. Find a better pop single than “1234” or “I Feel It All.” I dare you.

7. Patrick Wolf, The Magic Position — Somehow captures childhood wonder against a background of gender-confused darkness. It makes me happy; sometimes that’s enough.

8. Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam — It’s taken me this long to finally give in to Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s bizarro pop creations, but by the end I was whistling “Fireworks” hidden piano melody, salivating for “Dereks” closing collapsing drums.

9. Jay-Z, American Gangster — He doesn’t live the thug life anymore, but neither do we — and yet we’re still transported. I spent much of 2007 listening to older hip-hop, but it’s hard to find a better offering this year than Hova’s comeback.

10. Burial, Untrue — Burial’s album marked a handful of firsts for me: the first time I’ve heard dubstep, the first time I became addicted to an electronic album. It’s dark, it’s infectious, and it’ll be some of my favorite nighttime music for ages.

Honorable mentions: Okkervil River, The Stage Names. PJ Harvey, White Chalk. Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero. The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible. Beirut, The Flying Club Cup. Justice, Cross. Wu Tang Clan, 8 Diagrams

Still considering: Panda Bear, Person Pitch. Battles, Mirrored. Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala. !!!, Myth Takes. Caribou, Andorra.

Music — Tracks

These are hard to order, and might change daily. So here’s what would make up my mix CD of favorites. Ask nicely — perhaps I’ll make you one.

1. Radiohead — Reckoner
2. The National — Fake Empire
3. Patrick Wolf — Overture
4. The Arcade Fire — No Cars Go
5. LCD Soundsystem — Someone Great
6. Spoon — You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
7. LCD Soundsystem — All My Friends
8. M.I.A. — Bamboo Banger
9. Burial — Raver
10. Feist — I Feel It All
11. The National — Slow Show
12. Animal Collective — Fireworks
13. PJ Harvey — The Devil
14. Jay-Z — Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)…
15. Okkervil River — Unless It's Kicks
16. Radiohead — Last Flowers To The Hospital

Top Five Concerts of 2007
1. The Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem, September, St. Paul
2. Rage Against the Machine (w/ Queens of the Stoneage), August, Apple Valley, Wisconsin
3. Reverend Horton Heat (w/ Murder By Death), August, The Picador, Iowa City
4. Wilco (w/ Andrew Bird), October, IMU, Iowa City
5. Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello (solo), October, Carver Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City

I don’t quite want to end this list business yet, so here are some irrelevant top five’s to conclude my self-indulgent entries. Enjoy!

Top Five Meals in 2007
1. Peanut butter toast, with margarine spread underneath
2. Spongebob shaped mac & cheese
3. Panchero’s grilled veggie burrito
4. Masala’s lunch buffet
5. Papa Murphey’s Gormet Veggie Pizza

Top Five Things I Wore in 2007

1. Black hooded sweatshirt
2. Short-sleeved Waldo shirt
3. Africa shirt with creepy tribal mask
4. John Krasinski-inspired Gap jeans
5. Polo shirt I tye-died myself

Okay, so this isn't quite me. Close enough.

Top Five Days of the Week
1. Thursday
2. Friday
3. Saturday
4. Wednesday
5. Sunday

~Paul Sorenson


Anna said...

If you're making me a mix tape, I'd like a bit more effort than putting 3 bands on there twice each. FYI, for Valentine's Day this year.


susan said...

we both placed feist 6th. coincidence? i think not.

plus, it's the only album we agreed on. i say we delete all of the music on the arts computer and listen to nothing but the reminder and let it die next semester.

sounds good? ok.