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Posts Tagged ‘00’s’

OK, Linus made his list first, and I follow in turn…

Ratatouille – Ah, the portrait of the artist as a young rat. There are so many angles to take with this film (objectivism? animal rights? artistry?) and focus instead on the food. I mean, this is a film about food in which the food looks good. Really good. Every dish is concocted with the glorious food-porn close-ups of a celebrity cookbook. The attention to detail in the textures, colors and luster of food fulfills the movie’s premise — that the rat can, in fact, cook. Without it, what is the artistry of the rat, or of the filmmaker for that matter?

Cache – Michael Haneke’s grueling picture about surveillance, paranoia and the fear-based culture we inhabit is one of the best responses to 9/11 out there, and I don’t even think it was intended that way. The problem of Iago — the motiveless malignancy — comes back to haunt Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche’s perfectly cold couple. What is it that they did? What did they do to deserve the menacing videotapes left on their doorstep? Without massive bloodletting or violence, as one sees in much of the rest of Haneke’s work, he deals his most devastating blow.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Science fiction films tend toward the slick or the dystopic (or both). This is neither. It is a world that looks and feels a lot like our world, with memory-erasure using the same cheap ads as back hair removal. Also in a departure from usual sci-fi, it has human characters, giving us personalities rather than a litany of personality traits and archetypes. Without explicit mentions of fate and free will, we have arguably the most potent display of the problem of free will and responsibility in modern cinema, simply because it does not deal in the abstract. We are the sum of our acts, and no amount of technology can take that from us. Jim Carrey sells the movie’s human core with his best ever performance.

Before Sunset – As a fan of the lost art of conversation, I could not help but be bowled over by this 90-minute ode to conversation and the power it can have on our lives. How deeply the right word can cut. Each word in the conversation is a part of the whole, tying back to and dancing around the issue at hand — a life unfulfilled. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do a great job creating what appears to be a seamless conversation picking up right where they left off seven years earlier, but the passage of time has changed their outlook on life and each other. Nobody gets a second chance.

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Well, we’ve already done best songs of the decade (Stendhal list here, Linus list here).

Let’s try best albums.

Top ten, no order:

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Sometimes a band’s conflicts lead to trauma and the end of creativity. Every so often, they lead to acts of genius. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the latter. Haunting, with the right amount of Jim O’Rourke production foolery to bring alt-folk back to the future. Along with Kid A, this stands as the entryway into the fragmented, technological and alien world of the 21st century.

Track:  “Jesus, Etc.”

Radiohead – Kid A

Speaking of which, it’s practically cliche to say that this is one of the greatest albums of all time, but why the hell not? I would point out, though, that the 00s have led to a decline in melody and a rise in the focus on rhythm — whether in hip hop, pop or rock. In this case, the layered polyrhythms and hidden downbeats frame a world out of sync, out of balance. Yorke’s vocals never sounded better, and although OK Computer opened the door, this is the album that separated Radiohead from the league of ordinary bands.

Track: “Everything in its Right Place”

Bruce Springsteen – The Rising

When an American icon is destroyed, it takes an American icon to speak back. Harold Bloom suggested that no work has yet stepped into the void to respond to 9/11, but I think Springsteen does the job as he does any job — workman-like, plaintive, heartfelt. These are the songs of a man punched in the heart, who doesn’t know what to do. If I think back to the helplessness of the first days of the post-9/11 world, I cannot help but think of this album’s conflicted moans. Sure there’s too many toe-tappers, but Springsteen could only do what he knew how to do.

Track: “My City of Ruins (live)

The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic

I fell in love with Neko Case when I heard Mass Romantic. “Indie rock” was just another confusing genre with no borders and no standard-bearer. I still said the word “pop” with a disdainful sneer. That changed with the New Pornographers. They were strange, harmonically complex, and unapologetic pop, of a strain that I had never heard. Yet even years later, hearing “Letter from an Occupant” brings the feeling of toe-tapping, sing-along despite its relative age. All the power pop to follow is still playing catch-up to this album.

Track: “My Slow Descent into Alcoholism”

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Just to follow up with Linus, I thought I’d list my top ten songs of the aughts.

Spoon – “The Underdog” (2007)
Sleater-Kinney – “Jumpers” (2005)
Phoenix – “Long Distance Call” (2006)
Jay-Z Feat UGK – “Big Pimpin'” (2000)
The New Pornographers – “My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism” (2000)
Fountains of Wayne – “Hackensack” (2003)
Annie – “Heartbeat” (2004)
White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army” (2003)
E-40 – “Tell Me When To Go” (2007)
Taylor Swift – “Tim McGraw” (2006)

And because Linus hates her so much, here’s the video for Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw.”

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Or the “aughts,” as they apparently are called.

Pitchfork recently surprised the hell out of me by listing their top 500 songs of the decade. I was surprised because I hadn’t until that moment realized that we were mere months away from the ending of a decade.

It’s a classic Pitchfork list. Like all their lists, perhaps half of their songs are ones that you like, or consider insightful or good picks. And the other half – or perhaps more – consists of songs you’ve never heard of, don’t understand, and/or think are terrible (ex: every song by LCD Soundsystem).

But in honor of the ending decade, here is my list of 10 best songs.

We were born the mutants again with leafling – Of Montreal
Life in a Glass House – Radiohead
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk
What you know – T.I.
Elephant gun – Beirut
Jesus, Etc. – Wilco
Public service announcement – Danger mouse (Jay-Z/beatles mashup)
Seventeen years – Ratatat
New Slang – Shins
B.O.B. – Outkast

Outkast’s B.O.B. was Pitchfork’s pick for #1, and probably deserves its video posted here (the others are all in the links, in some form).

This list was pretty hard to make, and if I did it again in a week, a few of them might be different (perhaps including Heartbeat by Annie, and Heartbeats by the Knife), but most of them would stay, I think.

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