film, tech, photo, games, design...

Posts Tagged ‘Top 10s’

Jan 14, 2017

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2016

No need for a ton of preamble here. I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote last year.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2016 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2016 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2016. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2016.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as The Brand New Testament, The Witch, and Green Room. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 3:01pm on Jan. 14, 2017    
Aug 21, 2016

Top 10 Takeaways from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Rio2016

The flame has been extinguished (and what a cool flame holder it was) on the XXXI Olympiad and man is my sofa worn out. There were plenty of memorable moments, and some that we’d rather all forget. If watching the Olympics was an Olympic sport, I’d be in the hunt for Gold (see photo at bottom). Let’s just say I watched or fast forwarded through almost every moment of broadcast on NBC, NBCSN, USA, MSNBC, and CNBC over the last two weeks. To put a nice bow on it, I’ve collected my thoughts in these Top 10 Takeaways from these Olympic Games.

rio2016_hope

10. Goodbye Hope Solo

The US Women’s National Team’s quarterfinal defeat at the hands of eventual Silver-winning Sweden was one of the lowest moments of the games (and biggest upsets as well). That the already controversial goalkeeper Hope Solo immediately called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” and complained that the best team didn’t win is the worst part of the whole debacle. As if allegedly beating up your family members and picking fights with former USWNT stars wasn’t enough, Solo was booed every single time she touched the ball after posting a photo of herself kitted out in anti-Zika gear before the games. This had to be a distraction for the team. The “Zi-ka!” chant was so popular the Brazilian fans started doing it to other teams and even other sports like beach volleyball.

This is a rebuilding period for the USWNT after many of their stars retired post-World Cup victory last summer. That said, this is still the best team in the game and the new talent coming up is even more exciting than the women who left. One of those new talents must be good at tending goal because it’s time that Hope Solo steps aside as well.

rio2016_mp

9. Modern Pentathlon is the perfect sport (…for 19th century aristocrats)

So pretend you’re a 19th century sportsman for a moment. Here is your path to victory. This two-day competition starts with 35 fencing matches. The eventual winner, Russia’s Aleksander Lesun went 28 and 7 (an Olympic Record) that netted him 268 points. The worst fencers (there were three) went 9 and 26 and only scored 154 points for it. You then take to the pool for 4 lengths (200m). Britain’s James Cooke won this event with an Olympic Record time of 1:55.60 – good for 354 points. Lesun was in 22nd at 2:05:58. Cuba’s Jose Ricardo Figueroa was slowest at 2:15.39 which still got him 294 points. By contrast, the men’s 200m Free was won in Rio by China’s Sun Yang with a time of 1:44.65. There were only two swimmers that swam their heat times slower than Cooke. The slowest 200m Free swimmer Ahmed Gebrel of Palestine’s 1:59:71 would have put him in 4th in the Modern Pentathlon.

Day two begins with the bonus round of fencing (not sure how this works). Then they move on to horse jumping. Now I’m not usually a big fan of the Olympic equestrian events but here it’s awesome. What good 19th century sportsman can’t jump a horse? Well some of these guys. The best part is when a horse refuses to jump and it derails an entire pentathlon. Four of the 36 riders recorded a zero score because they fell off their horses or the horses just refused to jump. Our pal Figueroa from Cuba made it in under the time limit but scored a measly 233. Six riders scored a perfect 300. Lesun scored 279. Oh and the other great part about the equestrian event is that all the riders wear the traditional uniforms of their home countries. Hungary’s is particularly WWI-esque.

Finally, we end the second day with the main event: combined running and shooting. The points are added up from the previous events and you get a head start based on your time. You start with shooting (it’s a laser pistol, not particularly 19th century, I know). You run a kilometer. Shoot again, run, shoot, and run. 3KM and 3 times at the range. Lesun started first and carried the lead all the way through, proving that he is indeed, the best 19th century sportsman alive in 2016.

rio2016_neymar

8. Neymar is now a God, but it doesn’t erase 7-1

The Men’s Soccer final was undoubtedly the highlight for Brazilian fans. Tied 1-1 through both regular and added time, the match went to a penalty shootout. It came down to the final kick after Germany’s fifth kick was saved by Brazil. It just happens young star and captain Neymar had insisted to go last (not the smartest move but certainly the most dramatic) and he stepped up and buried the shot to win gold. This is great for Brazil but it’s important to remember this was a U23 tournament and while it points to better things in the future for the flailing Brazilian National Team, it doesn’t erase the problems in the senior team best exemplified by two summers ago’s 7-1 World Cup semifinal defeat at the hands of the Germans in Brazil and the two subsequent early exits from the Copa America. Neymar’s great (he scored the goal in the final as well) and the fact they didn’t give up a single goal in the tourney until the final are both good things for Brazil, but it also might be that Brazil was just taking this tournament on home soil way more seriously than everyone else.

rio2016_lochte

7. Boys will be boys

Taken in isolation, everything that dumbass Ryan Lochte did in his drunken vandalism/cover-up was kinda understandable. I mean, idiotic, but understandable. Who hasn’t taken a whiz outside when the bathroom door was locked or done some dumb drunken action they aren’t proud of the next day. Even the initial lie that set this in motion wasn’t that crazy. He did have a gun pulled on him. They did take his money. This whole thing was of course avoidable, but he’s a knucklehead. It just happens he’s a super famous knucklehead and this got so crazy blown out of proportion. Let’s all move on, please.

rio2016_rosey

6. Golf was a hit, even if 4 of the top 5 golfers were bozos for not coming

The Zika excuse was quickly pointed to when Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy all decided to sit out Golf’s reentry into the Olympics after 100+ years. As it was widely reported, no one even saw mosquitos in Rio! So that flimsy excuse didn’t hold up. What’s much more likely is that they just didn’t want to travel all the way to Brazil for a tournament without a real purse. Too bad because it was quickly evident that the guys who showed up came to play. This was one of the most exciting tournaments of the year with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson battling it out even rivaling Henrik and Phil Mickelson a few weeks ago at Troon. Regardless, it was super cool to have this game in the Olympics and I think it will be taken much more seriously in Tokyo in 2020. My only advice would be to come up with some sort of matchplay-esque scoring system. It doesn’t have to be a Ryder Cup, but it would be cool if there were some rule changes that made the scoring slightly different than a regular tournament to make it a bit more based on country strength and not just individual skill. Anyway, we have 4 years to figure that out.

rio2016_seacrest

5. Interviews with athletes are the worst

Mike Tirico is sitting down with the bronze medalist form the steeple chase? Fast forward! It’s always the same with these athletes. They’re taking it one day/game/year at a time. They are still in shock. They are super thankful that Jesus made this happen to them. At least the “Final Five” gymnasts were entertaining because, Gawd is that how teenage girls talk LOL? But man, by the second week of coverage I really couldn’t stand to watch another random athlete blabber.

rio2016_rhythmic

4. Equestrian, Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics needs to go.

The Summer games are way too packed and they just keep adding more sports, so something has got to give. I could probably give the axe to about eight events (see below) but these three are certainly ripest for the pickin. The face that NBC chose to highlight so much Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics on their network broadcasting is mind boggling. Did anyone watch these?

rio2016_taekwondo

3. Badminton, Boxing, Flat Water Rowing/Canoeing, Taekwondo and Table Tennis are pretty boring without someone to root for

These were the events I just couldn’t get into unless there was an American in medal position (and that didn’t happen often). However, this is in pretty stark contrast to Archery, Judo, Shooting, Weight Lifting, and the White Water events, all of which are very entertaining regardless of who is competing.

rio2016_ominum

2. Track Cycling is far better than expected

As most people know, I am a huge road cycling fan (listen to episode 38 of the PeloTonOfFun to hear my reaction to the action-packed road events). But I had little experience with the track events. They are great! Keirin involves cyclists following a motorbike and then sprinting for the win. Team Pursuit pits two teams of cyclists against each other on the same track, which is awesome (especially when they catch each other). But the Omnium is where it’s really at.

Think of Omnium as the Modern Pentathlon of cycling. Six events over two days with 18 riders, all from different countries. It starts with a 15km all out race (called the Scratch Race). Next is a 4km Individual Pursuit (like the Team Pursuit but one on one). Then the amazing Elimination Race where every two laps the last place rider is eliminated until it’s down to a winner.

Day two starts with two Time Trial sprint events of a 1km and 250m (with a flying start). It ends with the Points Race which is a 40km race with all of the racers sprinting for 1st (5 points), 2nd (3 points), 3rd (2 points), and 4th (1 point). If you lap the field you get 20 points(!) meaning someone who was way behind from the previous five events still had a chance if they were aggressive in the Points Race.

Though he only took 1st in one event (the Elimination Race), Italy’s (and Team Sky’s) Elia Viviani won Omnium by 13 points over GB’s Mark Cavendish. In turn Cav was only 2 points ahead of London 2012’s winner Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark who took the Bronze. This was so much fun to watch and I’m sure I’ll be tuning more than just once every four years (especially as more sprinters from the peloton start to jump in).

rio2016_rugby

1. Rugby Sevens is the best

Without a doubt my favorite new sport of the Summer Games is Rugby! I’ve watched a bit here and there but never a full Sevens match. And don’t blink because the games are super short, taking only about 20 minutes for a full match. What other big sport is that quick? It’s action packed and full speed, plus the athletes are big time characters. Not to mention it is ridiculously popular in parts of the world. The entire country of Fiji stopped to watch their men’s team win the country’s first ever medal (had Rugby been in past Olympics, I have a feeling this wouldn’t have been their first). I watched every second of both men’s and women’s Rugby Sevens tourneys and was left just wanting more. The fact that the English Premiership is going to be on NBCSN this year is awesome but these tourneys are the way to go. What’s that you say? The Sevens World Series starts in Dubai this December? Sign. Me. Up.

rio2016_5screens

What’d y’all think? There’s a comments section right down there. Lemme hear ya!

Posted by enderzero at 11:49pm on Aug. 21, 2016    
Jan 17, 2016

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2015

top10of15

Get it done before Sundance. Get it done before Sundance. Phew!

Okay I admit, enderzero.net is a bit of a no man’s land these days. But there is still one annual post that demands a home somewhere. So here it is. My top 50 films of 2015, albeit a few weeks late.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2015 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2015 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2015. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2015.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as It Follows or The Tribe. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

All in all 2015 was an excellent year for cinema. It was tough to narrow down the top 10 but I’m feeling pretty good about the decisions. Let me know if you agree or think I’m out of my mind in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:35am on Jan. 17, 2016    
Jan 10, 2015

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2014

top10of14

2014 has been wrapped up for a few days now, but I’ll be damned if that will stop me from reflecting on my favorite films of the year. As in past years, many of these films have yet to find their ways to general release (I’ve done my best to mention if the film isn’t out yet). But maybe that makes the list all the more relevant. Consider it a preview for 2015 and a chance to go back and scoop up a few titles you might have missed in 2014. Check out the list below and let me know what you think? Which of your faves didn’t make the cut? Or maybe I missed an obvious choice. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:10am on Jan. 10, 2015    
Dec 30, 2013

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2013 (+ 3 Most Overrated)

Another year of great cinema is coming to an end. Many have called it the best year in some time. I’m not so sure I agree. But there were some fantastic films and I saw a whopping 192 that qualified for my list. I’ve narrowed it down to a mere 50 for you to peruse, plus I’ve added three films to the bottom whose critical support made me all angry. For most films, I’ve included my reaction tweet to give you a bit of insight as to what I was thinking the moment I walked out of the theater. Check out the list and let me know where you think I dropped the ball.

See the full list

Posted by enderzero at 4:16pm on Dec. 30, 2013    
Jan 13, 2013

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2012 (+ 5 Most Overrated)

top10of12

Oh boy! It’s end of the year reflection time once again. 2012 was another great year on the festival beat with trips to Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, LA Film Fest, Toronto International Film Fest, Fantastic Fest, AFI Fest, and the Amazonas Film Fest making for plenty of hot butt-on-theater-seat action. When it was all said and done (and assuming I kept my records straight), 178 movies qualified for my 2012 list. Each of these films either played at a festival or in theatrical release in 2012, but did not qualify for last year’s list. That’s why some movies that showed up on many critics’ 2012 list, such as Joachim Trier’s Oslo August, 31st, won’t be found here. That film was on my 2011 list (at #3, no less).

Still, there were plenty of potential chart middlers that I was unable to get to. Some popular titles that have made their way to other lists include Amour, Life of Pi, Wreck-it-Ralph, Tabu, Polisse,This is Not a Film, and Total Recall. Sorry — can’t see em all.

As like past lists, I’ve included my original tweet (sometimes a couple) that usually serves as my initial reaction to the film. I’ve also included a link if I reviewed the film on Twitch. This year I’ve also endeavored to include the distribution status for each film so you can know where to find it. Please take the time to drop me a note and let me know your thoughts.

On to the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:26am on Jan. 13, 2013    
Jan 3, 2013

Unapologetic Top 10 Albums of 2012

top10albumsof2012

Let me start things off with an apology.

I have done a pretty awful job of staying up to date on new music throughout 2012. I believe I gave a somewhat similar disclaimer in 2011, but this year I’ve been even less diligent. So here are the albums that found their way to me throughout the year (or that I scrambled to listen to and love in the last few weeks of 2012).

10. Beach House – Bloom
This is actually the fourth album from the Baltimore-based “dream pop” (according to Wikipedia) duo who pretty much burst onto my radar with 2010’s Sub Pop debut Teen Dream. Their latest brings more, umm, dreamy vocals and synthesizer to the otherwise indie-sounding riffs. It may be more of the same, but if you liked Teen Dream, you’ll like this one too.

9. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Though this Vancouver rock-duo’s 2009 debut Post-Nothing didn’t quite make my list that year, I have enjoyed it quite a bit since and the band’s follow-up is more of the same fun-loving, energetic, indie-thrash. These guys may not be the kind of band you yearn to listen to on repeat, but they’ve got a cool sound and should continue to put out solid albums.

8. Sigur Ros – Valtari
Winning the award for 2012’s best album to go to sleep to (a coveted award in my book), the latest aural sensory experience from the prolific Icelandic band is another journey over craggy glaciers and volcanoes in a high speed helicopter. I want to drift off to dreamland just thinking about it.

7. Passion Pit – Gossamer
While I recognize their stuff isn’t for everyone (I like dudes with high voices, okay?), anyone who was into their first album (#6 on my 2009 Top 10) will have to admit they’ve produced a pretty decent sophomore follow-up. Oddly, their single “Take A Walk” is the least like the first album, but the rest of the album delivers the same dancey-indie rock found on Manner.

6. Soundgarden – King Animal
Soundgarden releasing a new studio album this year is a pretty big fucking deal! So why isn’t it higher on my list? Frankly it just came out too late. I haven’t got to spend enough time with it yet to really determine where it ranks in the discography of my all-time favorite band. I can say it sure doesn’t sound like the Seattle rockers took over 15 years between Down on the Upside and King Animal with songs like “A Thousand Days Before” sounding straight out of the 90s. They haven’t missed a step on stage either (as I was lucky enough to learn twice in 2011). Next up for me is King Animal Tour at the Wiltern in February. I better get to listenin’ before then.

5. Bloc Party – Four
It has been a steep downward slide for these Brit rockers since their 2005 Silent Alarm topped many best-of lists (it’s still in my regular rotation). Their next couple albums were disappointments which lead to a four-year hiatus. But 2012 has found a rejuvenated Bloc Party and a much improved (albeit unimaginatively named) fourth album on a new label and produced by Alex Newport who made his name producing At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. What resulted might not have quite the raw energy of Silent Alarm, but it’s certainly got the mature licks of a band that’s telling the world they aren’t about to just fade away forever.

4. Metric – Synthetica
It’s been a good year for Toronto-rockers Metric with the release of their fifth album and a partnership with David Cronenberg and Howard Shore that saw the band record a number of songs for the film Cosmopolis. Synthetica picks up where Fantasies (#7 on my 2009 Top 10) left off, with the same single-style driving electro-rock hits. The A-side is a bit stronger than the B with tracks “Speed The Collapse” and “Breathing Underwater” showcasing the band at their best.

3. Tame Impala – Lonerism
It was only last year (well, 2011) at Coachella that I discovered this Perth band and I’ve listened to the shit out of their 2010 psychedelic-rock release Innerspeaker since. So it’s no surprise that their much praised follow-up makes it to a prime spot on my list. I’m happy to say they’ve only improved live since 2011 with their November Fonda Theater show at the very top of the best shows I saw in 2012. Don’t miss them if you get the chance.

2. John Mayer – Born and Raised
Okay, now you see why I said unapologetic up top. Fuck it. I like John Mayer. And frankly his albums have pretty much always been great examples of contemporary guitar-based rock and roll (okay, I didn’t love 2009’s Battle Studies, but Continuum was a masterpiece). Yes, his celebrity will probably always overshadow his musical notoriety, but that aside, the man is a brilliant song writer and Born and Raised barely puts a note down wrong.

1. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
I don’t know if you could have two albums more different than my number one and two picks, but in the end I had to go with Brit-electro-rockers Hot Chip’s latest because of how excellently it represents music in 2012. These guys have picked up LCD Soundsystem‘s flag and are running with it full speed (oh and Cut Copy didn’t put out an album this year). Hot Chip’s music is just so much fun — and that’s what gets me to keeping going back and playing the album over and over. It is frankly impossible to listen to the retro-inspired dance/electro/pop/rock anthem “Motion Sickness” and not dance along. Don’t believe me? Go try it right now. I’ll see you next year.

Honorable mentions go to Frank Ocean‘s channel ORANGE (well “Pyramids” at least), Grizzly Bear‘s Shields, and Keane‘s Strangeland, which, like their last album, had two amazingly good songs (“You Are Young” and “Sovereign Light Cafe”) and a whole bunch of mediocre ones.

Aight folks. Your turn. What’d I miss?

Posted by enderzero at 6:39pm on Jan. 3, 2013    
Jan 16, 2012

50 Beautiful Films from 2011 (and 5 Ugly Ones)

It is time again for what has become an annual tradition here at enderzero.net: My end of year Best Of movie post. In years past I’ve created some version of a Top 10 (see: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 ). 2011 brought a considerably more active year of film festival attendance via my role at Twitch. I was lucky enough to put in serious film viewing time at Sundance, LA Film Fest, Toronto, Fantastic Fest, and AFI Fest. Therefore, I’ve decided to expand things a bit this year and bring you my 50 Beautiful Films from 2011 (and 5 Ugly Ones). I’ve included a few words about each film along with my original impression of the film via my first tweet after seeing it. You’ll also find a link to my full review if one was written. As always, I look forward to your comments below.

Read the whole list

Posted by enderzero at 4:28pm on Jan. 16, 2012    
Dec 22, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011

While there were certainly some notable releases this year, 2011 is not going to be remembered as a particularly strong year for music (at least as far as the mainstream indie post-alternative contemporary music that makes for the majority of my playlisting goes). We seem to be on an every-other schedule with 2010 being packed with good stuff after a rather weak 2009. Regardless, there were a few real hits, including a couple albums that could end up on my best of the decade list. It was the 5-20 that was just a bit murky. But I was able to whittle out a Top 10, and here it is without further ado:

Note (aka further ado): I’m not a music critic, I’m a film critic. I say this to make it clear I didn’t make much of an attempt to search out all the music that was out there in order to curate a comprehensive Top 10. Instead, this is my list of favorite albums that found their way to me in one way or another. If you are one of those ways or another, I thank you for sharing. Please let me know if there’s something I may have missed that I’ve just gotta hear.

10. Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
Tao is another solid album from one of mainstream rock’s most underrated acts. Trail of Dead has put out seven LPs, all excellent. While I rank Tao somewhere behind So Divided and Worlds Apart, it is still good enough to squeak in at number 10.

9. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Although it’s a far cry from 2008’s Dear Science (white liiiight!!), any year with a TV on the Radio release is a good one. I’m looking forward to seeing one of rock’s greatest live acts again as soon as possible.

8. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
MMJ continues to evolve and the latest step in that evolution includes a few real gems – especially the title track.

7. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes have managed to deftly avoid the sophomore slump with this fantastic album. My top song is most certainly title track Helplessness Blues – and while it isn’t quite Blue Ridge Mountains good, it’s still one of my favorite songs of the year.

6. Feist – Metals
I’ve been listening to Canadian songstress Feist’s latest pretty much nonstop since its October release and it is still growing on me. This is a must have.

5. The Antlers – Burst Apart
As soon as I found this album it shot to the number one spot on my bed time playlist. I’ve probably heard the first two and a half songs 100 times. The rest of the album is fantastic too!

4. Washed Out – Within and Without
Much thanks to Addy for the strong rec of this Sub Pop debut album from Chillwave artist (seriously, that’s what they call it on Wikipedia) Ernest Greene. I caught him live (with band) a few months ago and it was even better than I’d hoped.

3. Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours
I’m an unapologetic Cold War Kids fan and their latest is their strongest and most mature work yet. I love that surf guitar sound. While the CD is loaded with hits, it doesn’t get much better than Nathan Willet’s powerful vocals on Bulldozer.

2. Portugal, The Man – In the Mountain, In the Cloud
Wow! The ‘where did they come from’ award this year goes to this Alaskan quartet (that’s where) whose 6th LP finally broke through the log jam (thx Rob!). I was lucky enough to catch them a few months back and can easily say they put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. With a bit of an Arcade Fire vibe and a great light show, these guy are a can’t miss band next time they play near you.

1. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
It was actually kind of close with the strength of Portugal, The Man, but the vaunted spot as top album of 2011 goes to Cut Copy’s third full length Zonoscope. I was a huge fan of their last album In Ghost Colours and was instantly smitten when Zonoscope arrived at the beginning of the year. Seeing their ridiculously energetic live show at Coachella (vid) cemented them at the top of the summer party playlist, especially favorite song of the year Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution. 15 minute balearic closer Sun God shows that Cut Copy isn’t just a one trick pony. As good as their Coachella show was, their Palladium show in October proved they still have a bit to learn about building the audience energy to a boiling point – but as long as they keep making albums this good, I’ll most certainly be on board.

Honorable mentions go to the Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi collaboration Rome, Bon Iver‘s self titled follow up to his unbeatable debut, and perennial faves The Decemberists‘ latest The King is Dead.

Posted by enderzero at 11:53am on Dec. 22, 2011    
Jan 14, 2011

Top 10 Films of 2010

While the upcoming Academy Awards will again stir up the debate about quality versus popularity, in my opinion 2010 has been a fantastic year for film – giving us a trove of moving and visceral filmmaking and giving me my favorite movie going experience since Ghostbusters. Without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2010:

10. Boy – Taika Waititi’s semi auto-biographical story of a young Maori kid is a touching and whimsical tale that takes full advantage of its beautiful New Zealand setting. I imagine this laugher/crier flew under most moviegoers’ radars – but it is well worth seeking out. [Covered in my Sundance’10 wrap-up]

9. Winter’s Bone – Like most of the films on this list, Debra Granik’s Ozark thriller played at Sundance’10 – though I didn’t catch it until much later. What I love most about this film is the way such an interesting and complex story unfolds so expertly from the point of view of the young protagonist (and of course enough can’t be said about Jennifer Lawrence). We are along for the ride from moment one as it spirals from mundane to outrageous.

8. Blue Valentine – My fest fave from Sundance’10 falls a few spots back upon reflection, but Gosling’s and Williams’ performances stand firm for me a year removed. The movie is picking up steam in the specialty market as it enters its third frame of release this weekend and is well worth tracking down. [Covered in my Sundance’10 wrap-up]

7. Animal Kingdom – I can’t think back on David Michod’s film without dwelling on the startling performances by Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver. They are both simply chilling. This movie is one of the best crime thrillers in years. [My review on Twitch]

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy’s docu-mystery was certainly one of the most talked about documentaries of the year and also one of the best. I personally believe most of the mystery is drummed up and what you see here is mostly what you get. But the real success of the film is the unparalleled view into the street art movement. This documentation will live on long after
the Space Invader tiles fall off the wall. [My review on Twitch]

5. A Prophet – I thought for some time on whether to include this film here since it made so many lists in 2009. But when it came down to it, the movie played in theaters in 2010 and I didn’t see it until then so here it is (sorry True Grit, you got bumped). Jacques Audiard’s prison drama is both haunting and magical with scenes that make you want to hide your eyes and others that make you sigh with awe. On top of that, Tahar Rahim’s performance might be one of the most overlooked of the year.

4. The Social Network – Plenty has already been said about the film I still predict to take home the best picture Oscar. What strikes me most a few months later is the absolute pitch perfection that David Fincher manages to achieve time and time again with his films. He is quite possibly the most skilled director working today. [My review]

3. Restrepo – Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Afghan war documentary is without a doubt the most visceral war movie ever made. Fans of Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line need to seek this film out right away. This is war. These are soldiers. Those are enemies. This is the real thing – and it is incredible.

2. Fish Tank – A surprise late entry to my top 10 list this year came in the last few weeks after I saw this title cropping up on a number of top 10 lists and sought it out. Andrea Arnold’s coming of age story of a poor 15 year old girl in suburban England is hauntingly honest yet ultimately uplifting. Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, and Michael Fassbender hold nothing back in their stirring performances. Andrea Arnold is a filmmaker on the move and I am a fan.

1. Black Swan – No surprise here as I have been able to do nothing other than rave about this film to everyone I meet since seeing it a month ago. It is one of my favorite films of all time and probably the most thrilling cinematic experience I’ve ever had. 2011, this one is gonna be hard to beat. [My review]

Honorable mentions that just fell off the list were True Grit (Review), Catfish (Twitch Review), Inception, and the remake of my number one film from 2008, Let Me In.

I am very interested in hearing what you think of the list. Please feel free to leave your comments here. Thanks!

Posted by enderzero at 2:52pm on Jan. 14, 2011    
Dec 21, 2010

Top Albums of 2010

After a particularly weak offering in 2009, 2010 has been an exceptional year for new music. I had a very difficult time cutting the list down to 10 with the likes of Titus Andronicus, Delta Spirit, Miike Snow, Minus the Bear, Ra Ra Riot, and Tokyo Police Club just barely missing the cut. Also not on the list are Gorillaz, Yeasayer, BRMC, and LCD Soundsystem. All of those albums would have likely made last year’s Top 10. One final word about 2009’s list: Although it was released in 2009 and therefore disqualified here, I probably listened to K’naan’s Troubador as much as any other album this year and it deserves a mention.

10. Lissie – Catching a Tiger With super catchy cuts like When I’m Alone and In Sleep, I found myself playing Lissie’s awesome debut album over and over again.

9. Menomena – Mines Portland band Menomena’s follow up to 2007’s Friend & Foe was even more impressive and goes down as yet another strong album released by Barsuk.

8. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks Scottish rockers and NPR faves Frightened Rabbit dropped this very solid album that too many people missed.

7. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More It seems Mumford & Sons have found a home in steady rotation on commercial radio and therefore are disqualified from most people’s top 10 lists. I love this album – but hey, I’m the same idiot who gave The Killers my top spot two years ago.

6. Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives Sick beats, illmatic flows, the reggae vibe, and a real message make this a must have album.

5. Hot Chip – One Life Stand While Hot Chip has been on my radar for a while, I’ve never dug one of their albums the way I totally dig One Life Stand. You can’t help but tap your foot to this one. Hell, just get up and dance.

4. Arcade Fire – Suburbs A week after this album came out I was sure it would be in the number one spot come late December. Unfortunately, it just didn’t stand up quite as well as I’d hoped after repeat listening. That being said, it is one hell of an incredible album and well worth its number four spot.

3. The Black Keys – Brothers The best straight up rock and roll album in years, this one was pretty tough for me to bump down to third. We’ll see if Jack White lets them keep that crown for long.

2. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor This indie-tastic album straight outta my hood held top spot in my rotation from about February to July. I can’t wait to hear what they offer up next.

1. Broken Bells It is too easy to joke about how many artists Danger Mouse has worked with, but he continues to crank out hits. This time teamed with The Shins’ James Mercer, Broken Bells is one of those albums that perfectly defines the year 2010 – yet will have a spot in my heavy rotation for years and years to come.

What a terrific year for music! I’m sure there will be some disagreements with these picks. What do YOU think?

Posted by enderzero at 12:40am on Dec. 21, 2010    
Feb 12, 2010

Top 10 Films of 2009

I know what you are thinking… February? For the record, it is up before the Oscars, so I’m feeling okay about it. I had hoped to watch the last few 2009 films before posting, but there were a couple I just couldn’t squeeze in. If I catch Crazy Heart or The Last Station and they are good enough to make the list, then I guess I’ll just have to edit. I have yet to see A Prophet but that one will be legit if it shows up on next year’s list.

I really struggled with putting these into some kind of order, so I just decided to forget it. The posters above are a sampling of some of the alternate and international flavors. You gotta love the UK landscape format. Click the image above (or here) to see them all and a few others really, really big. Now on to my top 10 list in alphabetical order.

An Education – Carey Mulligan’s performance as the young girl coming of age before her due in 1960s London is certainly good enough to overlook a few story conveniences taken by Hornby towards the film’s conclusion. I was completely along for the ride and loved where it took me.

Avatar – Not much can be said about this one that hasn’t been pretty well covered. Expectations were so high that people would have been disappointed if it didn’t cure cancer. Last I checked, there weren’t too many disappointed.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans – Cage’s gung-ho performance and Herzog’s whacked out film making nab this riot of a movie an easy top 10 spot. mini-review

Broken Embraces – Oh darling Penelope. How you shine in front of Almodovar’s glass gaze. This was like the best parts of Bad Education and Volver combined into one. mini-review

Burma VJ – This exciting documentary takes you onto the streets of the 2007 monk uprising. It is emotional, informative, and motivational.

The Cove – Another docu that fits those three qualities, this film about Japanese dolphin slaughter is already having positive effects around the world. To those too afraid of the emotions the film may raise, it is really more about the ability to make a difference. It leaves you feeling far more empowered than depressed.

The Girlfriend Experience – While it would have been the biggest surprise of the year if Sasha Grey had shown up in any awards contention, her more than adequate portrayal of an upscale call girl helped this film really succeed. But without a doubt, the real credit goes to Soderbergh who hit it out of the park with his ultra-real film making and stylized narrative devices. This one is worth checking out. mini-review

Inglourious Basterds – How can you not watch Tarantino’s latest without a huge grin across your face? From the outrageous script to Waltz’s please-be-winning performance, this is one of the best of the decade.

Sherlock Holmes – Yeah it’s popcorn, but the Downey-Law duo couldn’t be better and Guy Ritchie’s clever stylizations made this one too much fun not to rave about.

Sin Nombre – I lament that I never got to see this beautiful Mexican love story on the big screen. Unfortunately, very few did. Still it is well worth tracking down for a great take on some classic themes. mini-review

What didn’t quite make the cut… I liked A Single Man quite a bit. I need to rewatch Where the Wild Things Are, but suspect it might have crept up into into the list with a second viewing. Any year with a Miyazaki film finds it in contention, but Ponyo was just a little too weird. The Hangover was certainly a lot of fun – but just not quite enough to crack the top 10. What do you think?

Posted by enderzero at 12:41am on Feb. 12, 2010    
Jan 19, 2010

Top Albums of 2009

My top 10 albums of 2009 was pretty close to being a top 5 after what was, by all accounts, a very quiet second half of the year. I was already listening to just about each one of these discs by the time the summer came around and only a few of them ever made it into heavy rotation. Maybe that means we’ll have a glut of good music heading our way this year.

10. Wilco Wilco’s self-titled seventh full length is far from their best, but it is consistently good and worth a spot on the list.

9. Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3 Jay-Z earns the only rap spot on the list due to a few extremely catchy tracks. I liked the Raekwon and Q-Tip albums – but just haven’t found the desire to go back to them.

8. The Mars Volta – Octahedron The Volta went in a different direction with this year’s release and I am pretty impressed.

7. Metric – Fantasies Gimme Sympathy was just too good of a summer anthem and the album has some other gems as well.

6. Passion Pit – Manner Passion Pit reminds me a bit of Ghostland Observatory except I like them.

5. Sigur Ros – We Play Endlessly This was the Sigur Ros album that finally got me to go back and listen to all those other Sigur Ros albums I have never gotten into.

4. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love The Decemberists have always excelled at the “full album” album – but The Hazards of Love, complete with some great guest vocals, really must be listened to in one sitting.

3. Silversun Pickups – Swoon While it may tread too dangerously into radio rock territory for some locals, these boys from the neighborhood are building themselves a nice career on this extremely solid album.

2. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion Now I get it. And now I want more. By the way – have you ever looked (I mean really looked) at this albums cover?

1. Phoenix – Amadeus Wolfgang Phoenix I’ve listened to it more than any of the others on the list and it still hasn’t gotten old. This is the only album from 2009 that I would say could end up as a classic.

What do you think? Agree? What’d I miss? For what it’s worth, this is still my favorite track of the year. Bring on the SoS full length!

Posted by enderzero at 6:12pm on Jan. 19, 2010    
Feb 3, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

I wouldn’t say it has been an overwhelming year for music, but there have certainly been some highlights. Pretty mainstream, I know – but I’m not quite as on the ball as I’d like to be with new bands. Here is my top 10 with a few new discoveries on the list and a few albums from old faves. What do you think?

10. Fleet Foxes Just making it in under the wire, I have a feeling this album is going to continue to grow on me. At my live intro to them at Sasquatch last May I thought they were fine but didn’t fall in love. I’m glad to say their recording has some fever I didn’t catch at the vast open stage of the Gorge.

9. Duffy – Rockferry I like Adele and can get down with some Amy Winehouse, but when it comes to the British female vocalists, Duffy is just my speed and this album is a classic.

8. The Verve – Forth I continue to be impressed by this great band and it seems to me that this is their best album yet.

7. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam In Goliath Teh Volta is back and as strong as ever. The crashing cymbals and blaring guitar are still present but Cedric and co. take this album in a bit of a different direction from previous studio recordings. I was surprised by the new sound and very, very happy.

6. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III I’ve lost track of hip hop a bit in the last few years but I was immediately blown away when I heard what Lil Wayne was doing on this album and his abundant mix tapes. This guy is taking rap music in a whole new direction and, love it or hate it, it is simply incredible to witness.

5. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely Performers of the year honors go to The Raconteurs whose show at the Greek last fall was a barn burner (maybe only equaled by MIA). Every track on this album rocks.

4. Santogold Twisting and turning, Santogold rips it in every direction with her dancehall/hip-hop/reggae/jazz/rock/fill-in-the-blank inspired beats and awesome vocal stylings.

3. Kings of Leon – Only By The Night This album would make my top 10 if it just had Sex On Fire on it 11 times – but instead we’re lucky enough to get 10 other great tracks. A bit more radio friendly than past albums, perhaps, but I think it adds up to one solid rock album.

2. TV On The Radio – Dear Science I don’t know what to say about these guys but whatever they are doing I just hope they keep doing it. I love their out there sounds and this album’s infusion of a bit more melody only makes it stronger.

1. The Killers – Day & Age I already know I am gonna get a boatload of shit for this pick. It seems this album really polarizes people. I can’t get enough of it and I keep finding tracks I like more than the last. Waaah, you don’t like the lyrics to Human. I don’t care. The song’s synthesis of current rock and 80s electronica equals one of the coolest sounds I’ve heard in a long time. You don’t think they rock? Listen to the power chords in the chorus of Losing Touch. Because of this album, The Killers have just jumped to the very top of my list of bands I need to see live soon!

Posted by enderzero at 1:39am on Feb. 3, 2009    
Jan 15, 2009

Top 10 Films of 2008

Top 10 of 2008

I did the Top 10 a bit different this year and went ahead and ranked them in order from 10 to 1. Since I have written about most of these in more detail over the last year, I’m just going to say a few words about why the film made the list. I’d love to hear why anyone agrees or disagrees with the choices.

10. Milk – Truly stellar performances by Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch set this film as one of Gus Van Sant’s very best. The pacing was great and production design made the film a joy to watch.

9. The Bank Job – I loved the classic style of filmmaking on display from director Roger Donaldson. The story was intense and the resolution really worked for me.

8. The Fall – Tarsem’s imagery is just incredible and the story is odd but fun. I wanted to spend a week immersed in the fantasy world he created.

7. Frost/Nixon – Peter Morgan’s script is certainly one of the best of the year and an all around great cast lead by Sheen and Langella make this a definite top film.

6. Sugar – Hopefully this fantastic story of a Dominican baseball player’s immigrant struggle will get a theatrical release sometime soon. It is a very worthy follow-up to Half Nelson from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, one of the best filmmaking teams working today.

5. The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke’s stellar performance and brilliant filmmaking by Darren Aronofsky should allow this film to find a place in just about everyone’s top 10.

4. Reprise – Joachim Trier’s touching Norwegian film about two friends has the perfect mixture of comedy and drama and above all else, narrative innovation.

3. Rachel Getting Married – Anne Hathaway’s performance is definitely her best and probably the year’s best. Jenny Lumet’s script is also great. But what really impressed me above all else was the flawless direction by Jonathan Demme.

2. The Wackness – Yes it is aimed squarely at me with its 90s coming-of-age theme and amazing hip hop soundtrack, but it works better than I ever would have thought a film like this could work. Jonathan Levine has set the personal story bar for our generation of filmmakers and Olivia Thirlby will forever be the girl that got away. It is a true shame that more people didn’t see this film in the theaters – but as a consolation prize, it has been near the top of the pirated movie charts for months.

1. Let The Right One In – Very rarely does a film come along that crosses genre lines so well – horror, drama, emotional angst, love. Give it to Swedish director Tomas Alfredson and writer John Ajvide Lindqvist for leaving us all stunned.

There you have it. There are some notable films that didn’t make my list. Flicks that didn’t quite make the cut: Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, The Visitor, Man On Wire, Benjamin Button, In Brouges, Iron Man, American Teen. I have yet to see Waltz With Bashir or The Reader. But all in all, with a bit of Scandinavian help, I feel like it was a rather solid year. More solid than last year? Here my 2007 Top 10. What do you think? 2007 or 2008?

Posted by enderzero at 10:59am on Jan. 15, 2009    
Feb 26, 2008

Top 10 Films of 2007

Top 3 films of 2007

I know there is an unwritten rule about not talking about last year’s films after the Oscars… but my site wasn’t done – so screw it. Here then are my top 3+7 films of 2007. Top 3 and next 7 in alphabetical order:

Top 3:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Julian Schnabel, for all of his bizarre idiosyncracies as a person, has crafted a beautiful and innovative film unlike any other I’ve seen. It is, in my mind, the perfect marriage of art and cinema.

I’m Not There Pretty much everything Todd Haynes does pushes boundaries and it is no stretch to call this the most innovative biopic ever. Six actors play different aspects of Dylan’s personality that interweave but never interact. Cate Blanchett’s segments alone are enough to swoon over, but as a whole it coalesces into an incredibly dense and interesting piece of work. If you weren’t into it the first time (or if you were), see it again and I promise you’ll get a lot more out of it.

There Will Be Blood I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been covered by this Best Pic nom’d, Best Actor and Best Cinematography Oscar winning masterpiece by the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson. Congrats.

Next 7:

A Mighty Heart Starting with a controversial pick, many derided director Michael Winterbottom for casting Angelina Jolie in a role overwhelmed by her star power. It didn’t bother me at all. I thought her performance was great and this film did plenty to keep Winterbottom amongst my very favorite directors.

Knocked Up Very rarely does a comedy come along that nails it as well as Judd Apatow’s fresh and hilarious movie does. With scenes and quotes that have already embedded themselves in our culture, this will be one of those movies I can watch over and over again for years to come.

Lars and the Real Girl This would be on the list even if I didn’t work for the company that made it. Gossling’s performance along with a fantastic (nom’d) screenplay and pitch perfect soundtrack make this one of the most touching films in a long time.

Margot at the Wedding Many people hated this film (even though very few even saw it), but I loved Baumbach’s biting dialog and stunningly realistic writing. Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, and Jennifer Jason Leigh each turn in some of the very best performances of their careers. I can’t be the only person who liked this way more than The Squid and the Whale.

No Country for Old Men Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh will certainly go down as one of the best screen villains ever. Sure the film leaves you feeling bleak and empty – but that is exactly what the Coens set out to do – and they succeeded wildly.

Rocket Science Smarter and funnier than Superbad, this very indie high school comedy is an incredibly well written and directed story about a kid with a stutter who joins the debate team to get a girl. Anna Kendrick does an amazing job as the love interest with more up her sleeve than the protagonist, played by Reece Thompson, knows he is in store for. This is Jeffrey Blitz’s first dramatic turn after directing the Oscar nom’d documentary Spellbound. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Sunshine Danny Boyle’s sci-fi flick does a really impressive job of switching genres as the story unfolds. I was captivated by the filmmaking and amazed by the visuals. This must be seen on a big screen to really be appreciated – and my prediction is that it will be the kind of movie that will pop up in theaters every decade or so for the big cult following it will likely amass.

Now go out and see em all and let me know what you think.

Posted by enderzero at 5:13pm on Feb. 26, 2008