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Posts Tagged ‘Top 10s’

Jan 18, 2023

Long Lost Top 10 Films of 2021

Well it only took a year… Yes I never got around to posting my favorite movies of 2021, so ahead of the 2022 list, here they are (with minimal comment) for posterity sake.

10. CODA
CODA is indeed something pretty special. What an incredible ensemble of actors. Not a single performance doesn’t succeed wildly. Hard to see this not becoming a hit.

10. Karmalink
Seek out this Cambodian sci-fi gem from visionary director Jake Wachtel.

8. The Lost Daughter
THE LOST DAUGHTER is a ridiculously assured first feature from Maggie Gyllenhaal. Really challenging material and character work handled with remarkable grace by her and Olivia Colman.

7. Red Rocket
Sean Baker crafts another wonderfully entertaining tale of an oh so flawed character in RED ROCKET. Gorgeously stylized and exaggerated in all the right ways, I love the worlds he creates, but am so glad I don’t live there.

6. The Sparks Brothers
THE SPARKS BROTHERS is pure joy! Even considering I had never previously heard of the band, I was totally enthralled. Director Ed Wright shows some real directing talent; could have a bright future

5. C’mon C’mon
Mike Mills’s C’MON C’MON is a heartfelt meditation on how hard parenting is and how we’re all just trying to figure it out and if we do our best, the kids are gonna be fine and OMG it’s exactly the movie I needed to see right now. It’s also just a brilliantly made film

4. Luzzu
LUZZU is a wonderfully made humanistic look at Maltese culture in the 21st C. with remarkable performances from non-pros. Amazing debut work by director Alex Camilleri. Influence of his mentor/EP Bahrani is very evident. Totally loved this film.

3. The Rescue
THE RESCUE is another tour de force docu from Vasarhelyi & Chin (FREE SOLO). The story of the stranded Thai soccer team is incredible, but it takes a ton of craft to nail the suspense and so intimatelely paint the divers. Hope they have another shelf clear for statues.

2. Licorice Pizza
Paul Thomas Anderson’s period LA tale was just plain delicious.

1. Dune
Bring on part 2.

Just off the list… Nanfu Wang’s covid doc In the Same Breath, the wonderful animated docu Flee, and Todd Stephens’s Swan Song (the one with Udo Kier, not the one with Mahershala Ali).

Posted by enderzero at 6:39pm on Jan. 18, 2023    
Aug 10, 2021

Torches & Twisties: My Top 10 Takeaways from Tokyo 2020*

*Note: Tokyo 2020 took place in 2021.

With Tokyo 2020’s very Japanese transformer cauldron extinguished once more, it’s time for a quick look back at the games. Like past years, I was pretty thoroughly engrossed in the proceedings for the two week span with plenty of excitement to go around. It’s perhaps slightly melancholic to notice one of my top takeaways from Pyeongchang 2018 was the athletes’ smiles, something we were robbed of this go around due to safety precautions. And while those masks and empty stands will always serve as a time capsule from these games, I’ll do my best to move past them and talk about a few of the other things we’ll remember in years to come. So in no particular order, here are my top ten takeaways from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

10. Surfing is the Best

Ask me now what I’ll remember most about Tokyo 2020 and I’d have to guess it would be staying up late and watching the totally awesome surfing competitions. I doubted this would work but the head to head format of knockout rounds with 30+ minutes of watching these guys and gals try to catch the right wave, throw the biggest trick, and then block their rivals was somehow both peaceful and exhilarating.

9.Mixing It Up Works

There was a trend this games towards mixed gender competitions and generally I was a big fan. This was particularly the case in the Mixed Relay Triathlon which had two men and two women, each competing in a 300m swim, 6.8km bike, and 2k run. Mixed swimming, table tennis, and archery events were also successful. When the Olympics try new things, they tend to lead to more entertainment, so I say, mix it up even more. This doesn’t apply to just gender. Tweaking the rules of sports to make them slightly different in the Olympics can lead to very fun results as we saw in the track cycling events. I called for it after Rio but the Golf tournament should be altered a bit to make it stand out (match play, stableford, something just a bit different). And there are other events ripe for the mix up as well.

8. Sport Climbing is a Great Spectator Sport

New on the menu at this Olympics was rock, aka “sport” climbing. For its inaugural bow, the main three disciplines were put together into a “combined competition.” Speed had the climbers racing up a pre-set course in 7 or 8 second bursts. Bouldering had them trying to solve difficult but low to the ground climbing puzzles. Lead found them trying to get as far up a course as possible, setting their rope as they went. The scoring system for the final was an awesome ranking system where the climber’s place was multiplied across the three disciplines and the lowest score won. So if a climber finished 2nd in speed and 5th in bouldering, they would be on 10 and their final place would be up in the air until all the climbers had finished the lead, meaning there was all kinds of drama throughout that final. Unfortunately Paris is going to split speed off into its own medal event and bouldering and lead will be combined, which is too bad as it’s fun to have specialists competing in events they aren’t the best at. What will (hopefully) be much better about Paris is the fans. It turns out sport climbing competitions are big parties with a DJ spinning music while the climbers do their things, making for a what looks to be a super fun spectator sport.

7. Not a Good Year for Soccer

Both the Mens and Womens soccer tournaments were pretty uninspiring. It could have been scorching hot humid weather or the empty stands, but it just seemed like very few of the matches ever got out of first gear. That was certainly the case for the USWNT who turned their Rio quarterfinal exit into a Tokyo bronze, but looked downright awful in three of their six matches. As for the men, I don’t think anyone, even the Brazilians, think that this gold medal-winning Brazil wouldn’t get blown off the pitch by the 2016 gold medal-winning Brazil. Blah.

6. A Few Sports are Actually Better in Prepackaged Segments

I know that sounds controversial. Almost all of the events are better when you can watch them as intended and let the drama naturally unfold. This is particularly true with surfing and sport climbing and the cycling events. But it isn’t the case with all Olympic sports and I actually found that NBC did a good job of packaging the swimming and track events for general consumption. Unlike almost every other event, I don’t think I would have gotten more had I just watched the full version of those on the app.

5. Gymnastics = Still Great

Gymnastics is starting to feel like the NFL. You know you aren’t supposed to enjoy it because of the damage it does to the athletes, but it’s just so freaking awesome to watch. Obviously this games’ storyline was dominated by Simone Biles and her twisties, but c’mon how amazing is it that Suni Lee still won Gold? And then MyKala Skinner, who wasn’t even supposed to get a chance at a medal, won the Silver on Vault? And then Suni got another medal?! And then Jade Carey got a freakin Gold on floor?!? and then Simone came back and got a Bronze on beam after all that?!?!?! If that isn’t what the Olympics are all about… man.

4. Athletes as Spectators: a Missed Opportunity

One thing that’s always fun about the Olympics is seeing the big stars at other sports’ events (remember Bubba Watson at Beach Volleyball at Rio?). So it seems like a big opportunity missed that the already in-bubble athletes were only allowed to attend their own sports’ events. Seeing Megan Rapinoe at fiance Sue Bird’s gold medal match, or Shaun White inexplicably at the skateboarding events (assumedly as part of NBC’s team) really pointed that out. Had more athletes been able to attend events more widely, those 98% empty stands could have been just 70% empty which could have made a pretty big difference to both the competitors, and the audience watching at home.

3. The X Games are Now Olympics

The X Games were a major highlight of my summers back in my late teens and early 20s. Thinking about it, I guess it was kind of like how I watch the Olympics now. While I know they’re still happening, I really haven’t paid much attention for the last decade and a half. But it doesn’t matter because the competitions have now just become part of the Olympics. This Olympics saw the first medals handed out for Skate Park, BMX Park, and Skate Street, all mainstays of the old X Games. And there were even a few names from those old days. Take a bow Rune Glifberg and Daniel Dhers. I know the response to Skate Street was a bit tepid, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The big question now is if we are going to see the vert pipe or big air arrive sometime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’m okay with leaving the moto events at home.

2. We Should Indeed Talk More About Mental Health

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say here, but it makes sense to me that if you put a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself to be the best in the world at something, there will be some pretty nasty side effects. And when the collective pressure of a nation and commercial television and media infrastructure get into the mix, it gets worse. It’s complicated, but we can do a better job.

1. Big Wins by the Women Sealed It

The USA trailed the Chinese in the gold medal count for most of the games — but huge wins by the USA Women’s Basketball, Water Polo, Beach Volleyball, and most notably Volleyball (their first) — as well as a surprise win by Jennifer Valente in the track cycling Omnium event pushed the USA past the Chinese by one single gold. The Olympics are not singularly about getting more gold medals than the Chinese… but that was a pretty awesome comeback.

Posted by enderzero at 3:49pm on Aug. 10, 2021    
Dec 31, 2020

2020’s Top 50 Pieces of Entertainment Content — or ‘What Got Me Through the Pandemic (and a Few Months of Pre-Pandemic)’

I’m going to do things a bit differently this year. For as long as I’ve been doing my end of year Top 50 Films list, I’ve seen the majority of the movies each year at film festivals and end of year awards screenings. Film festivals were quite different in 2020 (save Sundance) and awards screenings were non-existent so I was left with a drastically shorter list of films to choose from. But instead of going back to the tried and true Top 10 list, I’ve decided to expand the criteria.

This year’s list includes TV series, video games, podcast series, and a few other forms of content that I felt could apply. In order to qualify there had to be some sort of connection to 2020. I was pretty liberal here. Did the last episode come out in January? That works! Was a game released for the first time on a new platform? In! Was it released for the first time on Xbox Game Pass? Cool with me. As long as it sort of came out in 2020 and I experienced it this year, then I called it good.

This list is obviously far from exhaustive. So this year more than ever, please let me know what I missed that you totally loved. Say hey in the comments or on twitter @RylandAldrich – but not on Facebook as that platform is pretty much dead to me. Thanks 2020.

50. On the Rocks (Feature – Narrative)
Sofia Coppola’s A24/Apple TV+ outing just barely snuck onto my list as one of the last movies I caught in 2020. While it falls short of her best efforts, the obvious fun had by Bill Murray makes it well worth the watch.

49. Wind of Change (Podcast)
This Crooked Media, Pineapple Street, and Spotify limited series documentary podcast (LSDP) bounces around a fair bit as it looks to uncover the full story of the Scorpions hit song (and if it was actually CIA propaganda). But along the way it delves into some quite fun territory.

48. Win the Wilderness (Series – Reality)
This silly little series on Netflix finds a handful of English couples in the Alaskan wilderness, competing to be the one couple gifted a remote plot of land complete with a self-sustaining cabin, way off the grid. It’s rather enjoyable and adheres to the tenet of all good British reality series that the contestants have to be quite lovely to each other.

47. Belgravia (Series – Narrative)
Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame created this limited series that features some of that show’s same delicious intrigue. It snacky but it is a perfectly watchable soapy period drama.

46. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Feature – Documentary)
This fascinating look at the last day of a Las Vegas dive bar blurs some lines but does so in very interesting and entertaining ways. It’s available to watch on VOD now.

45. Sanditon (Series – Narrative)
I quite enjoyed a lot about the Masterpiece series adapted from a Jane Austen story. Most of it is silly but very enjoyable. In fact, it would have been considerably higher on the list if not for the fact that like the Austen novel, the story is completely unfinished. Unfortunately the show’s writers didn’t bother to come up with their own conclusion for her.

44. Song Without a Name (Feature – Narrative)
This spiritual sibling to Roma was on the festival circuit in 2019 but I totally missed it. Film Movement put it out this year and it was selected to be Peru’s Best International Feature Oscar entry.

43. Beastie Boys Story (Feature – Documentary)
While this Apple TV+ docu is technically directed by Spike Jonze, it’s not exactly an innovative film. It’s just the two surviving members giving an AV presentation and telling their awesome story. But that awesome story of the origin of these wild musicians is too enjoyable not to acknowledge. Anyone who digs their music will get a kick out of the doc.

42. The Alpinist (Feature – Documentary)
We’ve been spoiled for excellent rock climbing docus lately with Free Solo and The Dawn Wall two of the best. Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer’s story of Marc-Andre Leclerc is right up there. It was supposed to world premiere at SXSW but now is perhaps stuck in covid limbo. Red Bull produced it so they’ll make sure it finds its way to screens soon.

41. Charm City Kings (Feature – Narrative)
If you saw the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys then you know about the dirt bike and 4-wheeler culture on the inner city streets of Baltimore. Angel Manuel Soto’s Sundance premierer is a dramatized version of that subculture and features a particularly strong performance by Meek Mill. It’s available on HBO Max.
CHARM CITY KINGS is a 21st Century Boyz n the Hood. Young star Jahi Di’Allo Winston is fantastic but I was totally blown away by Meek Mill. Director Angel Manuel Soto is the real deal.

40. Possessor (Feature – Narrative)
Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore follow up to Antiviral is not for the feint of heart — but it’s an incredible movie and points to even more amazing things to come from this young member of genre royalty.

39. Dream Home Makeover (Series – Reality)
I’m guessing the audience crossover between my numbers 40 and 39 is pretty slim. Slot this in the guilty pleasures column but the family of home remodelers/interior designers is just so damned likable and there are plenty of useful tips to glean along the way.

38. Hillbilly Elegy (Feature – Narrative)
It’s been some time since a Ron Howard film cracked my top list, but 2020 almost saw two (his doc Rebuilding Paradise narrowly missed out). It’s awards bait for sure but I enjoyed the JD Vance novel adaptation. Clearly Glenn Close deserves a lot of that credit.

37. Half-Life: Alyx (Video Game – PC VR)
The first game on this year’s list is pretty clearly the best specifically designed for VR game in the medium’s short history. It’s worth the PC upgrade, but it’s still hard for me to get up the energy at game time to go full VR.

36. Citizen Penn (Feature – Documentary)
If you only know Sean Penn as an actor, then this doc will teach you a lot about his impressive humanitarian work in both Haiti more recently during the pandemic. The doc won’t necessarily make you like him more, but you’ll at least be impressed.

35. Cuties (Feature – Narrative)
The “controversy” over this movie is completely ridiculous. It’s actually just a very well made movie and smart commentary on cultural oversexualization of minors. Good on Netflix for pushing back on the dumbness.

34. Get the Hell Out (Feature – Narrative)
No word yet on distro for this Taiwanese horror comedy I caught as part of virtual TIFF. But it’s super wild and wacky so keep an eye out.

33. Enemies of the State (Feature – Documentary)
Also part of virtual-TIFF, Sonia Kennebeck’s stranger than fiction hacker justice doc twists and turns in all the right ways. …or does it? No word on distro yet.

32. The Dissident (Feature – Documentary)
Bryan Fogel’s follow-up to Icarus (2017 #6) is a deep dive into the Jamal Khashoggi case. It’s “in theaters” now so should be available online soon.
Bryan Fogel’s Icarus follow-up THE DISSIDENT is a searing indictment of Saudi Arabia/MBS’s assassination of Khashoggi and continued campaign against dissidents. Expertly crafted balance of focus between characters and issues. Very interested to see who picks this up.

31. Touhou Luna Nights (Video Game – Xbox)
This little Metroidvania adventure has some strange anime storyline that I completely ignored. But the gameplay and time freezing mechanics are pretty cool and made for an enjoyable play through.

30. Beast Beast (Feature – Narrative)
Danny Madden’s Sundance-premiering directorial debut makes me reminiscent for those heady days when covid was only ravaging Wuhan. The story follows a group of high schoolers affected by violence and the filmmaking is top notch. No word yet on distribution.
Loved loved BEAST BEAST! Strikingly authentic performances from the young cast. Tough subject matter handled with astonishing grace. Director Danny Madden is a breakout talent.

29. Love is Blind (Series – Reality)
One of Netflix’s pandemic cultural touchstones, it’s worth remembering that before everyone became less likable and overly dramatic, the first few episodes of the experiment felt pretty damned innovative.

28. Mrs. America (Series – Narrative)
FX’s tale of women’s lib is propelled to greatness by the epic cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Ari Graynor, Melanie Lynskey, John Slattery, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Tracey Ulman.

27. The Trial of the Chicago Seven (Feature – Narrative)
Aaron Sorkin’s feature debut in the big chair Molly’s Game was #3 back in 2017. But his latest is still very enjoyable with some of the more memorable courtroom scenes of recent years.

26. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Series – Documentary)

25. Slow Burn S04 – David Duke (Podcast)
The latest edition of Slate’s LSDP, this one by Josh Levin, is a great exploration of Klansman/Politician David Duke and all of his assholery. Well worth the listen.

24. Celeste (Video Game – Switch)
This one is the biggest qualifying stretch of the list but it was released on PC in 2020 (though I played it on Switch). But I had too much fun grinding away on this platformer not to include it. It’s really hard to grab some of the bonus strawberries, some of which took me hours. But man is it satisfying when you get one you’ve spent that long on.

23. The Good Place (Season 6) (Series – Narrative)
Some of the earlier seasons might have been in the top 10 had I done those lists this way. The final season was pretty satisfying but perhaps not as transcendent as some of the earlier efforts. Still I’ll miss the show quite a bit.

22. Cheer (Series – Reality)
Greg Whiteley’s docuseries on junior college cheerleading hits all the highs from his junior college football docuseries Last Chance U. That series eventually got a bit stale so we’ll see if this one can live up to the first season’s heights in the season to come.

21. Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen (Podcast)
Campside Media’s 12-part LSDP series is a pretty fantastic story of a really odd con with twists and turns galore.

20. Ted Lasso (Series – Narrative)
If you’re not charmed by this Jason Sudeikis Apple TV+ series then you have a heart of stone. Bonus points for the subject matter of an English Premier League football manager.

19. My Octopus Teachers (Feature – Documentary)
I had no idea what to expect from this but my dad said he heard it was great. It was indeed great. If you have no idea what it is or have been on the fence, go watch it on Netflix now.

18. The Good Lord Bird (Series – Narrative)
Ethan Hawke wrote and stars in this limited series adaptation of the book by James McBride that comedically tells the story abolitionist John Brown. Along with Hawke and star Joshua Caleb Johnson are such awesome names as Daveed Diggs, Wyatt Russell, Adam Shappy Shaps Shapiro, Maya Hawke, Rafael Casal, Steve Zahn, and Ellar Coltrane.

17. Assassins (Feature – Documentary)
This Sundance-premiering documentary about the murder of Kim Jong-un’s brother truly needs to be seen to be believed. Director Ryan White did a phenomenal job reporting the story. Greenwich has it out “in theaters” so it should be available online soon.
ASSASSINS is an extremely well-made docu and well-reported account of the two young women at the center of the brazen assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother in Malaysia. Hard to imagine anyone doing a more definitive job than Ryan White and his team.

16. Sundered Eldritch Edition (Video Game – Xbox)
This rogue-lite adventure was a big hit for me in the first days of the Pandemic when I was justified playing games all day long. The story is super bizarre, game mechanics awesome, but the graphics are some of the coolest and most stylized ever. Big fan.

15. The Fight (Feature – Documentary)
This Sundance-premiering ACLU docu is super inspiring, even if it feels a bit like ancient history now. It’s available to stream now (perhaps free on Hulu).
ACLU docu THE FIGHT is fantastic! The team behind Weiner takes us into the trenches with the ridiculously charismatic lawyers on the front lines of 4 of the biggest Trump-era cases. Tears, cheers, and some of the biggest laughs I’ve had at this year’s #Sundance. Do not miss!

14. The Social Dilemma
(Feature – Documentary)
The top documentary feature on my list is this tale of the evils of social media… more or less. If nothing else, it is an inspiring introduction to Tristan Harris and the Center for Humane Technology which is an incredible organization.
Jeff Orlowski’s (Chasing Ice, Chasing Coral) latest THE SOCIAL DILEMMA about big tech’s influence economy is itself one of the most influential docus I’ve ever seen. So motivating. Irony of tweeting this is not lost on me. Also kudos for artfully filmed talking heads.

13. The Best Is Yet to Come (Feature – Narrative)
This feature debut from Jing Wang, 1st AD of Jia Zhangke (who produced this film) is not just one of the best recent contemporary chinese dramas, but also one of the best journalism films of recent memory. No word yet on US distribution but catch it when you can.

12. The Messenger (Video Game – Xbox)
Another great Metroidvania game, The Messenger takes Ninja Gaiden action and adds some very cool adventure elements plus a really cool play mechanic. It’s also got a fantastic sense of humor that makes it a joy to play.

11. The Queen’s Gambit (Series – Narrative)
Having just finished this series a day ago, it’s hard for me to know if recency bias is putting this so high or if I’ll rue its exclusion from the top 10 in the weeks to come. Regardless I ridiculously enjoyed this Scott Frank series. Pawn to rook 4!!

10. Rabbit Hole (Podcast)
This New York Times LSDP by Kevin Roose is the top podcast on my list. It explores the darker side of the information superhighway including a deep dive on QAnon. If you loved this, be sure to check out episode #166 of Gimlet’s excellent ReplyAll as well.

9. The Crown S04 (Series – Narrative)
This series has consistently been one of the best on “TV” and this season is no different. This is due in a large part to the portrayal of Princess Di by Emma Corrin.

8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Video Game – Xbox)
Top spot in the video game column goes to this absolutely gorgeous Metroidvania adventure. It’s easily as good, if not better, than the first with a story that gave me a serious case of the feels. I am looking forward to playing through this one again soon.

7. What We Do in the Shadows S02 (Series – Narrative)
Two words: Jackie Daytona. This show is so consistently hilarious and brilliant. The second season completely builds on the success of the first. I really hope these guys can keep this going.

6. Mank (Feature – Narrative)
David Fincher’s love letter to classic Hollywood is a sumptuous experience. I look forward to someday seeing it at a revival screening in some wonderfully restored Hollywood movie palace.

5. Ben Gibbard: Live from Home (Live Stream)
So this is the only thing like this on my list. Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service frontman Ben Gibbard started these hour long sessions at the very start of the pandemic. At first they were every day and eventually became less frequent. But Ben brought us into his home studio where he shared the fears and concerns we were all going through. It was cathartic and communal and really helped. This is what I will remember most about those early days when I look back in years to come. That and drinking many Manhattans.

4. Palm Springs (Feature – Narrative)
Max Barbakow’s directorial debut is such a fun and finely crafted comedy that I wish more than anything it could be a series so we could spend more time with these characters and this world. Someone please make that happen.
Loved PALM SPRINGS! Can we get a series remake so we can go on new adventures in that world every week? So much fun.

3. Hamilton (Recorded Live Performance)
At least the Pandemic brought us one great thing. Originally set to premiere on Disney+ in late 2021, it’s a wonderful thing we can switch on Hamilton and home watch whenever we want. I do it perhaps a bit too often.

2. The Great (Series – Narrative)
This might be a bit of a surprise to some people but this Tony McNamara’s Hulu series starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult is the best show (and one of the most underrated) of the year. With razor sharp writing, gorgeous production design, and sumptuous cinematography, I feel like this period dramedy is made for me. I can’t wait for season two.

1. Tenet (Feature – Narrative)
Everyone I’ve mentioned this to as my favorite film of the year is shocked. But not a single one of them has seen it either. I didn’t really tune into any negativity around the time of its release but I did go in with tempered expectation. I just let it all wash over me and enjoyed the hell out of the ride. More than anything, Tenet is the big movie experience I was hoping for this year.

All right! Lemme have it.

Posted by enderzero at 3:28pm on Dec. 31, 2020    
Jan 10, 2020

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2019

Recency bias is a real thing, but damn it feels like there were a lot of great movies this year. Still I can’t remember a year in recent memory where I had a clearer number 1. It was a bit harder task to rang 2 to 50, but I’ll let the list speak for itself.

Standard Disclaimer: I base my annual list on the films I see during the calendar year that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. This is not the best films that played festivals in 2019. Nor is it the best films that came out in theaters or digitally in 2019. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2019 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

That means you won’t see Biggest Little Farm on this list since it was #5 on last year’s list. It also seems like there are more movies on this year’s list that are yet to be released than is typical. Great, that means you can keep an eye out.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

On to the List!

Posted by enderzero at 1:29pm on Jan. 10, 2020    
Jan 10, 2019

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2018

It’s Top 50 films time! As a quick refresher, I base my annual list on the films I see during the calendar year that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. This is not the best films that played festivals in 2018. Nor is it the best films that came out in theaters or digitally in 2018. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2018 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

I’ve endeavored to mention if the film is available or yet to come out. VOD means it’s available for rent across all the normal platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, etc.) and I’ll try to note if it’s free anywhere yet.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

On to the List!

Posted by enderzero at 5:12pm on Jan. 10, 2019    
Feb 26, 2018

Top 10 Takeaways from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics

Another Olympics has come and gone and is my tradition (see 2016, 2014, 2010) here are some collected thoughts on the games. I’m not going to use one of my ten below to talk about NBC but suffice to say the coverage was generally pretty good and the 2018 iteration of the app is the best yet. But even though Mike Tirico is a generally affable dude, he is no Bob Costas and his light-hearted quips didn’t quite carry the gravity of the man, the myth, the legend. On to the sports!

10. Americans Are Really Good at Snowboarding

Six Freestyle Snowboarding events and Team USA took home 7 medals, winning gold in 4. Red Gerard got things started in the men’s Slopestyle which was followed up by Jamie Anderson in the women’s event. And then things really got crazy with Chloe Kim and Shaun White winning the half pipe events in dramatic fashion. Both were a ton of fun to watch for different reasons. The field has caught up to the now 31 Shaun White but he made it happen when it counted and won one of the most dramatic medals I can remember. Chloe Kim, on the other hand, is just as dominant in the sport as Shaun was when he was her tender age of 17. She really had no competition. It will be awesome to see if that holds true for the next quad.

9. The Russians are Still Russians

Perhaps the lasting effect of the IOC’s toothless punishment of the Russian’s systematic doping program from Sochi by requiring Russians to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” is that now when we see the Olympic flag, we all think “Russians.” Prepare yourself for that joke to live on. But the façade had pretty much been dropped by games end with the OARs being referred to as Russians in the hockey final as if they had a flag on their uniform. It’s a sign of just what a sham it was. And the fact the only doping controversy at the games is surrounding the Bronze-winning Russian curler is all the more poetic. While my idea of having a Russian athlete draft never really picked up steam (wouldn’t it be great to see Alina Zagitova competing for the Costa Ricans?), the IOC needs to figure something out because you gotta be worried about the fact the next Winter games are back in China.

8. Pyeongchang was All Smiles

Was it just me or did it seem like the athletes competing in Pyeongchang had particularly vivacious grins? Perhaps it was the amazing South Korean spectators who seemed to cheer for each and every athlete. Regardless, I’ll remember those pearly whites whenever I think back on the 2018 games.

7. Closing Ceremony Tops the Pair

The Opening Ceremony ran a little long in the tooth, was a bit too filled with pre-taped materials, and featured some head-slapping international insensitivities. So perhaps surprisingly, the Closing Ceremony did not at all disappoint. The projection system on that floor was spectacular in all its psychedelic glory and the music was pretty cool for the most part. A perfect example of what the Closing did better than the Opening is the Intel drone display which was cool but felt so pre-taped (it was) in the Opening. The live movement in the Closing was astounding. This was all the more highlighted by the Beijing Games committee’s awful pre-taped hand off segment which was the Closing’s lowlight.

6. Sliding Sports are Tough

It’s interesting to see the idiosyncrasies of the scoring systems for different sports. Half Pipe is the best single score of three runs, while Big Air is the best two runs out of the three. Well the sliding sports (that’s Luge, Bobsled, Skeleton, etc.) have got to be the most ruthless in their scoring. Four runs over two days, with the total time all counting. Have one bad run out of four and your medal hopes are gone. So it’s all the more impressive that Chris Mazdzer won the USA men’s first ever Luge medal (a silver) and all the crazier that there were ties for gold in 2-man Bobsled and silver in 4-man. A quick word of praise for the Team Relay Luge where men, women, and doubles have to go one after another hitting a trigger at the bottom to launch the luger at the top. The more weird ways we can think of to combine events, the better in my book.

5. Nice That Figure Skating has a Consolation Prize

The Figure Skating Team event is not yet as prestigious as it’s summer counterpart, Gymnastics Team. But it sure is great they have it now as it gave all of the American figure skaters something to brag about after winning the bronze and then going on to stink up the joint in the individual events (save the Shibutani siblings who won an individual bronze as well). I know, I know, figure skating is hard. But it’s so clear that Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are a class above Mirai, Karen, and Bradie. And no matter how media savvy Adam Rippon is, he could never compete with Yuzuru Hanyu on the ice. Perhaps Nathan Chen could, but the pressure definitely got to him on the Pyeongchang ice. The USA needs to step up our game to get back to winning ways in individual Figure Skating.

4. Tough Break for America’s Most Successful* Olympic Alpine Skier

There was a gondola load of pressure on Mikaela Shiffrin to win any or all of the five Alpine events she was planning to compete in at Pyeongchang. She was right alongside Chloe Kim, Shaun White, and Nathan Chen in just about all of NBC’s marketing. But it’s really hard to win multiple ski races and the pressure she was under due to her domination on the World Cup circuit was probably a bit too much. We saw it in her performance at the last few World Cup events leading up to the games where she look tired and wasn’t on her A-game. The fact that the weather caused delays and rescheduled events certainly did not work to her favor. All of this is to say that her gold and silver in GS and Combined respectively should be seen as a big win for Mikaela. Go out and keep dominating and she’ll have more medals in her future no doubt.

*I did the math on this so hear me out. I think it’s important to point out that no American skier has ever won more than two gold medals in Olympic Alpine events. Bode Miller has the most medals total with six, but only one of those is gold. Julia Mancuso has four medals and Lindsay Vonn has three, but only one gold each. There are three US skiers with two gold medals: Mikaela, Andrea Mead-Lawrence (1952) and Ted Ligety. But both Ligety and Mead-Lawrence won no other medals aside from their two golds. Therefore, since Mikaela has a silver to go with her two golds, I think it is only fair to call her America’s most successful Olympic Alpine skier.

3. Excellent Hockey Capped with USA Win

Pyeongchang hosted two very entertaining hockey tournaments. There was a lot of noise made about the lack of NHL players for the men’s side, a fact that surely hurt the USA and Canada more than other countries. But it was still a lot of fun to see the youngsters out there with some veterans and it led to great matches. The USA just barely lost to Slovenia and then had a couple awesome wins over Slovakia. We should have been better against the Czechs but the day less rest took its toll. Clearly the Russians were the class of the men’s tourney but it was so cool to see that crazy charge by the Germans that inspired one of the best Olympics tweets ever. On the women’s side, it might have been destined from the get go that USA would play Canada for the gold. The fact they beat us in group play made that Gold Medal shootout win even sweeter. This is certainly one of the Olympics’ best rivalries.

2. USA Women Win First Ever Cross-Country Medal – and it’s GOLD

On day one or two of the Olympics, Katie Couric did an interview with the USA women’s Cross-Country team. Right away it was clear that Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall, and the other ladies of XC had something special. But Cross-Country Skiing is completely dominated by Europeans so it was a big win when Diggins finished 5th in the 10KM Freestyle event, the best ever result for US women. For Diggins and Randall to fight on to win the Team Sprint event a week later was absolutely mind blowing. And to do it in such dramatic fashion. Wow. It’s hard to overstate the feelings of pride for those women.

1. Shuster Magic!

Speaking of pride, that was a quality that was sorely lacking for USA skip John Shuster after his 2-win 9th place finish (of 10) at Sochi and his 2-win last place performance at Vanouver. After those Vancouver games, I called him a “choke artist” and his performance “despicable.” So I was suitably worried when I saw Shuster and his new merry band of outcast curlers win the USA trials last Fall. And the fact he got off to a 2 and 4 start made it seem like those worries were justified. What happened next is the stuff of Olympic storybooks. John Shuster, Tyler George, John Standsteiner, and Matt Hamilton (plus alternate Joe Polo, I guess) went on to win 3 must-win matches against power houses Canada, Switzerland, and Great Britain to make the semi-finals. Another win against Canada meant we were guaranteed a medal. And the hard-fought final against Sweden topped off with the FIVE POINT 8th end meant the USA were Olympic gold medalists. These men are God-damned American heroes. God bless you, John Shuster.

Posted by enderzero at 4:36pm on Feb. 26, 2018    
Jan 14, 2018

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2017

2017 was a big year for movies and a big year for me. Two movies I produced, Jeff Grace’s Folk Hero & Funny Guy and Michelle Morgan’s It Happened in L.A. were released in theaters and VOD this year. Obviously those two would be tied for number one if I allowed them on the list, but that’s no fun. So while you get busy adding those to the top of your lists, here is a look at the favorite films I saw in 2017 (that I didn’t produce).

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2017 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2017 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters/digitally in 2017. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2017 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

Because of that, some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are perhaps a few films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year. 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 9:49am on Jan. 14, 2018    
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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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).


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.


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


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

Okay I admit, 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


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)


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


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 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