Monday, January 31, 2011

Musical Interlude - Elliot Smith

So, we're getting ready to head into February, otherwise known as the month of luuurve, otherwise known as the greeting card and jewelry industries' heyday.  I had a crazy thought, that I would work with a theme and choose love songs for this month's worth of musical interludes. The idea quickly passed once I realized that what I consider a romantic love song is not only something that most people wouldn't classify as such, but my choices would probably spark a general concern for my mental well-being.

Let's just say that I've never really been into Valentine's Day and leave it at that.

So let's talk about Elliot Smith instead.  He was a singer-songwriter who made some wonderful acoustic guitar type music with lots of harmonies and layering. Beautiful stuff. If you know of him at all, or if his music sounds familiar to you, it's probably because you've seen the film Good Will Hunting, in which most of his music is used for the soundtrack. He was even nominated for an Oscar for his song "Miss Misery".  I re-discovered him recently in our vast music collection. (Do you ever do that, when you go so long without listening to an album that when you go back to it, it's like discovering it all over again, brand-new?)

Sadly, Elliot died at the age of 34, from an apparent suicide attempt, although the investigation was inconclusive.  After he died, fans started leaving flowers and writing notes on the wall of Solutions Audio in Hollywood, CA. The wall was painted with decorative swirls, and a picture of Elliot standing in front of the wall was used for the cover of his album Figure 8, so it became a natural unofficial gathering place for fans.  The creator of this video filmed the notes on the wall, and set it to one of my all-time favorite songs by Elliot Smith - "Between the Bars".  Watch for the triple-pun on the word "bars".  Enjoy!

Between the Bars
by Elliot Smith
drink up, baby, stay up all night
the things you could do, you won't but you might
the potential you'll be, that you'll never see
the promises you'll only make
drink up with me now and forget all about the pressure of days
do what I say and I'll make you okay and drive them away
the images stuck in your head
people you've been before that you don't want around anymore
that push and shove and won't bend to your will
I'll keep them still
drink up, baby, look at the stars
I'll kiss you again between the bars where I'm seeing you
there with your hands in the air, waiting to finally be caught
drink up one more time and I'll make you mine
keep you apart deep in my heart separate from the rest
where I like you the best and keep the things you forgot
the people you've been before that you don't want around anymore
that push and shove and won't bend to your will
I'll keep them still

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Year-End List of Lists (2010)

It seems like just yesterday I was writing my "best of 2009" year-end list and now here we are - 2010 is over and we're already half-way through January 2011. So without further ado, and before my list starts growing mold, here are a few of my favorite and not-so-favorite things from 2010.

As I think back to the movies I watched over this past year, my favorites readily jump to mind. Inception haunted my dreams, Book of Eli gave me hope and Shutter Island gave me chills. Inception was the type of movie that challenges the way narratives are presented in film. What a treat to be the first audience to see an innovation like that. I've been a big fan of director, Christopher Nolan, ever since Memento and it's been fun to see the films he's chosen to do since then. I love how he played around with narrative in that film as well (a film about memory, instead of dreams). He's quite a creative genius and his films are always a solid bet.

Book of Eli had an interesting visual style and an awesome story with an ending I didn't see coming. (Pun intended.) Shutter Island was a terrific homage to Alfred Hitchcock's style of visual storytelling and subject matter. I think he would have liked the film. Who knew I'd ever have two Leonardo DiCaprio films in my top three favorite films? I've never been a big fan of him as an actor, but these movies bring out the best of his talent.

I feel like I should also mention Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The more I think about that movie, the more I like it. Not everyone will enjoy it, especially if you didn't grow up playing video games and hanging out at the mall arcade, but like Inception, it introduced a whole new innovative way of telling a story and use of special effects that really was amazing. It was a fun rollercoaster ride. And I'm partial to director, Edgar Wright's, style too. (Funny, I didn't realize I was such a fan or follower of certain directors until I wrote this post.)

Other movies worth mentioning for one reason or another... The Town was one of the best gang/mafia/bank robber movies I've ever seen. Iron Man 2 was a fun sequel. Toy Story 3 was a great end to the trilogy and made me cry. Winter's Bone made me thankful I don't live in the Ozarks. Wolfman's tribute to the classic horror monster made me smile. Robin Hood presented an interesting side to the hero. Date Night was funnier than most of the comedies that are released nowadays. The Secret of Kells brought back the magic of hand-drawn animation and storytelling. Under Great White Northern Lights was a rocking documentary. Get Low was a quiet surprise and True Grit was a fun cowboy/western adventure. Two movies that I missed in 2010 that are still on my want-to-see list are the Social Network and Never Let Me Go.

On a negative note, the award for biggest disappointment goes to Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. I still can't talk about it. And a final note of caution, a film to AVOID AT ALL COSTS: Splice. Just trust me on that one. I'm still trying to scrub the images out of my brain. The same might go for Black Swan, but I haven't quite made up my mind about that movie yet.

Now let's talk about some tune-rific treats. My favorite album of the year was Prepare the Preparations by Ludo. I laughed. I cried. I was scared. I rocked out. It is, quite possibly, the most perfect album. Attending their concert with my good friends and seeing Ludo perform live was simply the icing on the cake. Or should I say the whipped cream on top? Either way, it was one of my favorite moments of the year, and one of the best concert experiences I've ever had. (You can read a fun recap of the event here.)

I also enjoyed Toby Mac's Tonight and wasn't disappointed by Red's new album, Innocence and Instinct. After seeing Cavo open for Daughtry in concert, we were so impressed we downloaded their Bright Nights, Dark Days album onto our iPod as we sat in the parking lot after the show. My progressive rock cravings were sated by the album Tear the World Down by (We Are) The Fallen. The one album that I hit the repeat button on constantly was the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Just ask my husband; I'm pretty sure he's sick to death of hearing it. Great movie, great soundtrack. For pop/coffee shop acoustic type music, I really liked Christina Perri's The Ocean Way Sessions and discovered Damien Rice's O this year.

Even though they greatly disappointed me with their sudden decision to get political and not perform a concert in Arizona, I must admit I still fell in love with Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance. They may have broken my heart but they are still one of my first loves. The award for biggest disappointment was Of the Blue Colour of the Sky by OK Go. The band is awesome. This album is not.

As I may have mentioned here before, I belong to two book clubs. Last year, I didn't do so well at keeping up with the reading for both clubs. Part of the reason was I was distracted by things I wanted to read, and the other factor was that, for part of the year, I was busy helping a friend re-work his yet-to-be-published novel. (Exciting!) That doesn't mean I didn't get any reading done though. I was captivated by Orson Scott Card's Treasure Box. (You can read my full review of it here.) I was challenged and haunted by The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and enjoyed a classic gothic story in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.

I traveled back in time twice: to the South in the 1960s through The Help by Kathryn Stockett and back into the time of the early western settlers in Arizona in These Is My Words by Nancy Turner. I followed a runaway through a modern day fairy tale in Rat by Fernanda Eberstadt and lived through a frightening abduction in Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. I was infuriated by the parents in The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and devoured the short stories in By Blood We Live. I'm happy to report that Edward was no where to be found in that volume.

I only made it halfway through The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen, a historical fiction that consisted of poorly written fiction and dryly-recounted history with no purpose or overarching theme. However, the worst book I read this year, and perhaps ever in my entire reading life, was Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. Oh, the horror, the horror! Put this book on your "avoid at all costs" list right next to the film Splice.

I hope you enjoyed my review of the artistic media that I encountered in 2010. I feel passionately about the arts, thus my discussion of them on this blog. However, they are not the most important things from the past year. They merely reflect truths about the things that really matter: love, friendship, faith, triumph over adversity, the sovereignty of God, etc. These are the things that life is made of and that truly matter.

Many thanks to you, my Loyal Readers, for following my blog and leaving comments. What were your favorite things of 2010? Leave me a comment and let me know. Or, if you have some time to kill, you can check out my other lists of favorite things by clicking on this link.

To close, I'll leave you with a new year's wish, courtesy of one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. I've used it before, but I don't mind repeating myself, because I so very much love this quote.

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." ~ Neil Gaiman