Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Top Ten Movies of the Decade

The movies are a great escape from real life, and in the 2000s, we all were in need of a lot of little breaks. So it's time for the big one folks, my personal favorite, The Top Ten Movies of the 2000s. So without further rambling, let's see what's on the list...

10. Casino Royale

A stunning revival of the Bond franchise with a whole new level of seriousness. Featuring the unexpectedly great performance of new Bond, Daniel Craig, this movie set a new standard for a formerly campy and stagnant franchise. With its only weak points to audiences being extended scenes of poker playing replacing excessive action, it truly shined with its strengths which were in plot and character development. What was a great beginning to the new Bond franchise was cut somewhat short by the extremely disappointing follow up, Quantum of Solace.

9. Walk Hard (2007)

At first glance, Walk Hard is just another comedy, vulgar, goofy, and featuring John C. Reily. However, where Walk Hard differentiates itself from the rest is its features as a parody. With half of the parody being done in the casting itself, which such hilarious choices as having Frankie Muniz play Buddy Holly, or having Jack White play Elvis, the movie seals the deal with songs depicting different musical styles in a hilarious manner. Throw in some general hilariousness and inappropriate jokes, and you've got yourself a great movie.

8. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Though, in many peoples eyes, the following statement is punishable with death, The Darjeeling Limited is my favorite Wes Anderson film. With richly developed characters who share a brotherly relationship so real that it feel as though you're at a family dinner, this movie endears you to its possibly far fetched concept quickly. In the film three brothers share a vacation traveling by train through India in order to reaffirm their relationships with each other, and work through their own personal problems. With a wonderful soundtrack featuring some rarely heard songs by The Kinks, and a beautiful setting, this movie is hard not to love. So who says this can't be my favorite Wes Anderson movie? After all was Royal Tenenbaums really all that amazing?

7. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings trilogy maintained a standard of excellence that earned this particular chapter basically every oscar ever. While a bit overlong (especially on the dvd version), the film still never let up in how interesting and exciting it was, as we finally got to see the most epic film journey of the 2000's, and possibly all time, come to a close.

6. Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are is based on a book that is under 20 pages. So it seems to be a bit crazy to think that the source material was turned into such a rich tapestry of beauty and childlike wonder. With director Spike Jonze at the helm, the movie was definitely going to be different than most that you see, but luckily Jonze put together a beautiful visual world in the land of the Wild Things, and characters that were easy to relate to, while still maintaining a unique style. With a perfect soundtrack done by Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O, the movie stands as a testament to how wonderful childrens movies can be for people of all ages. The only real way to describe this movie and do it any justice would be to say that it's like being 11 again, if only for a precious few hours.

5. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to play to a crowd and stick to a stereotype. It gives you a chance to expand the concept a bit. 500 Days of Summer sounds like just another indie romance movie at first glance. Two witty hipsters lost in their own relationship troubles, while set to a wonderful soundtrack. However, 500 Days of Summer really becomes its own because of the performances of the leading couple, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt, both of whom knock their role out of the ballpark. With very interesting direction by Marc Webb, this movie stands out from the crowd, and then some.

4. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy created a lot of anticipation for future continuations of the series. With the obvious successes that made the rest of the movies in the franchise so successful, where this particular installment really shined was in its setting of the overall tone and scene of middle earth and the shire, with soundtrack and set choices that almost made you nostalgic for a place that's fictional.

3. Big Fish (2003)

Typically, I'm not a fan of Tim Burton. Now I'll admit I haven't seen any of the movies I'm about to make fun of, but correct me if I'm wrong when I say that movies like Coraline and stuff are all just set ups for new tee shirts for emo tweens to buy at Hot Topic, while still harkening back to their bible, The Nightmare Before Christmas. With that being said, Big Fish is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen, so maybe live action is what it takes for Tim Burton not to make me angry, but this tale of a man who was awesome at everything really tugs at the heart in all the right ways, as much a story about the age of American story telling as it is a story about a father and son finally getting to know eachother. The movie is amazing, though I feel like the movie would have better merchandise if all the characters were skeletons of some kind.

2. Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers (2002)

With consistent character development, action, and adventure found in the previous installment, The Two Towers shined as my personal favorite in the series mostly because of its inclusion of the most well made battle scene in film history and an ending fit for any movie viewer, that left me almost more satisfied than I was at the end of the entire trilogy itself.

1. Dark Knight

Really? No one saw this coming? This movie made Batman cool again! With the almost excessively honored, but in no way overrated performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, this movie already had everything it needed to be a success, however the movie stepped it up a notch with a script so well written, that it's still hard to believe after all this time that this movie didn't get a Best Picture nomination. After all, the themes of this movie were themes that purveyed through this past decade. A lack of trust for those around you, a constant questioning of our own decisions, and the pursuit of some sort of peace, even if it's nearly impossible to reach. Who knew that Batman was the one who knew us best? Because, in a way, it feels like everywhere in the world has a little of Gotham City in it somewhere.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Top 10 Albums of the 2000's

Here's my personal favorite list of all to make. Mostly because you have my personal guarantee that Kid A is nowhere to be found on it. Anyone reading lists has seen about enough of that album. In a decade where the mainstream began to embrace Indie, and in certain cases, Indie began to embrace the mainstream, there was a lot of great music to be had. So enough talk, let's get down to what matters. So here it is, my top 10 albums of the decade.

10. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - (2009, V2)

Best Tracks: Lisztomania, 1901, Love Like a Sunset

Reason for picking: This french group, though having been around for a while, really jumped onto the "Indie conquering the mainstream" train with not only an SNL performance, but an awesome album to boot. With a title just audacious enough to be awesome, and songs with hooks that won't leave your head for days, Phoenix spends this entire album proving that indie music isn't incapable of producing some real, fun, and legitimatly good, top 100 style pop.

9. Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head - (2002, Capitol)

Best Tracks: Clocks, The Sceintist, In my Place

Reason for picking: A classic album to say the least. Airy and relaxed, with songs that flow beautifully into eachother, giving the whole album great continuity. With the album not only providing some of the biggest hits of the early 2000's, it showed the enduring influence of British music on the mainstream.

8. Kanye West- The College Dropout - (2004, Roc-A-Fella)

Best Tracks: Jesus Walks, Family Business

Reason for Picking: Bringing hip hop back to an art form, and with throwbacks to classic R&B, Kanye spawned a decade's worth of influence for the entire genre, while simultaneously breaking the boring lyrical trends of Hip Hop in the 2000's for something more personal and meaningful, but without being preachy or annoying.

7. The National - Boxer - (2007, Beggars Banquet)

Best Tracks: Fake Empire, Start a War

Reason for Picking: Maintaining a certain calm aesthetic, this album really just brings it home with a unique sound that's a mix between nostalgic and fresh. Though not the first effort from The National, it seemed to give The National some real mainstream attention as its songs were used in a lot of popular media including a personal favorite of mine, NBC's Chuck. This album showed a promising new style for the band that one can only hope they maintain in future efforts.

6. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning - (2005, Saddle Creek)

Best Tracks: Poison Oak, At the Bottom of Everything, Lua

Reason For Picking: With a sound that throws you back, this album is grade A proof that classic folk is not dead.

5. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois - (2005, Asthmatic Kitty)

Best Tracks: Chicago, Casmir Pulaski Day

Reason for Picking: Full of energy and fun, while still capable of being serious, this album does my home state's name good. If only Sufjan Stevens could get around to making more music. That'd be nice.

4. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America - (2006, Vagrant)

Best Tracks: Stuck Between Stations, First Night, Southtown Girls

Reason for Picking: It seems as though classic rock style songs about partying will never get old, especially not when paired with the lyrical ability of Craig Finn.

3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago - (2008, Jagjaguwar)

Best Tracks: Skinny Love, Flume

Reason for Picking: An unexpectedly awesome debut album, with a wintry overtone that just couldn't be better. This album leaves me extremely optimistic for future works from this group.

2. The White Stripes - Elephant - (2003, V2)

Best Tracks: Seven Nation Army, Black Math, Girl You Have no Faith in Medecine

Reason for Picking: The White Stripes were undoubtedly one of the most influential bands of the 2000's, with a revolutionary minimalist concept, and influences older than most of their fans, and this album represents the White Stripes at their peak. With such

1. Funeral - Arcade Fire - (2004, Merge)

Bringing a new level of honesty and energy to indie rock, and speaking about relationships,
growing older, and just about the general ups and downs of life, Arcade Fire's debut album set a new standard for music in the next decade. With one of the few bands that seems capable of inspiring people, and an album that revives the art of listening to an album from start to finish, Arcade Fire get a beautiful 10/10 for this one. Let's see if they can do better.

Best Tracks: Wake Up, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Top 25 Songs of the 2000's

It's not easily that I Make these lists, and it gives me a sensation similar to that of choosing between my own children, or so I assume. Know that these lists are made based off of personal preference and relevance, and with the idea in mind that I'll get to do some fun debating about what people agree and disagree with, and hopefully some of you will throw your own lists into the ring.

25. 1901 - Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

24. Steady, As She Goes - The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers

23. May You Hearts Stay Strong - Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts

22. The Denial Twist - The White Stripes - Get Behind Me, Satan

21. Casmir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

20. Lisztomania - Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

19. The Way We Get By - Spoon - Kill the Moonlight

18. Daylight - Matt & Kim - Grand

17. The Deaf Girl's Song - Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8

16. Lose Yourself - Emineim - 8 Mile Soundtrack

15. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell

14. Fake Empire - The National - Boxer

13. Do You Realize??? - The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

12. Mr. Brightside - The Killers - Hot Fuss

11. I Will Follow you Into the Dark - Death Cab for Cutie - Plans

10. Rockin' The Suburbs - Ben Folds - Rockin' the Suburbs
This one comes from the pioneering album of Ben Folds' very successful solo career, though it can be argued that Ben Folds has only ever had a solo career considering he wrote the majority of the good songs by the Ben Folds Five, which directly led to his dropping of the band. This song does a great job of sounding great and and being very light hearted, while still poking fun at himself with his, as always, well written lyrics. Fun fact, this is also my personal pump up song.
9. Hotel Yorba - The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
Fun, light, and simple. Three words that can sum up a good portion of The White Stripes in their prime. If anything, this song stands as a testament to the high quality of not just this particular album, but the White Stripes discography in its entirety.

8. When You Were Young - The Killers- Sam's Town
Assuming you listened to the radio at some point during or after 2006, you know this song by heart, and quite frankly anyone who doesn't think the song is deserving of some form or recognition has fallen victim of a terrible case of hipsterism. This song will always remind me, quite Cliche-ly of all those perfect moments of youth, and I don't doubt that this will be one that my kids hear when they look back at the best songs of my generation.

7. Anonanimal - Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Though a tad partial to Andrew Bird, it's obvious that this song, as well as the rest of his music, is sensational. With a calm opening section, showcasing Bird's skill with a violin, the song kicks into a relaxed rock interlude that really just pulls the whole song together. This song keeps me consistently relaxed, and needless to say it's been pretty heavily played over these past few weeks during final projects and exams.
6. Float On - Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Another one that just dominated the radio for years, this song brought Modest Mouse into yet another generation of kids' radars, and that opening guitar riff is definitely one of the most recognizable and catchy of the past decade, with the only possible competition coming from "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

5. Fake Palindromes - Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Sneaking back into the top ten, Andrew Bird continues to impress the world. Instead of being long winded, I'm just going to show you all this video. Play on, Mr. Bird, Play on.

4. First Day of My Life - Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
In the music world today, it's not often that we get the chance to hear a song that is so honest and simple, especially one about love. Paired with the song's music video, it's simply beautiful, and this song is my personal favorite love song of all time.

3. Wake Up - Arcade Fire - Funeral
Arcade Fire doesn't have much of a discography built up yet, possibly because, according to Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, they're dicks. But assholes or not, they know how to make a good album, and better yet, a great song. Strong, and with a clear message, this song is fantastic both instrumentally and lyrically, leaving the world hoping that Arcade Fire can give us something new in the coming year, or at the very least, in the coming decade. Please?

2. Skinny Love - Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
What "First Day of My Life" is for love songs, Skinny Love is for songs about loss. It's evident not only in the music, a painfully weak but beautiful guitar melody, and in the depressingly detailed lyrics, but in the way singer Justin Vernon plays and sings the song that this song is of great personal value to him, and with good reason. In not only the recorded version, but in every live version you can find on youtube, the song is sung with the voice of someone who's been hurt and broken by someone they really cared about, which is a feeling that most people of any age can relate to and respect. New listeners beware, this song will bum you out, but it does so in the best way possible.

1. Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down - The Better Life
It seems almost unfair that the best song of the decade came out just over a month into it. At this point, people reading are going to be torn in one of two directions. Either you are on the side that grew up listening to the radio, and knows that to this day, this song is amazing, and the well deserved holder of the title of "Best song of the New Millenium So Far." Then there's the other side that apparently has lived under a rock, where no one has radios, or mix cds from friends, and they clearly just haven't heard this song, or are embarassed to admit that that song we all loved in 3rd grade is still awesome.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Top 5 Games of the 2000's

Like any red blooded American male, I love a good video game, and let's be honest, these past ten years have been pretty awesome for video games, so needless to say, this was a tough list to make. But let's get right into it! Here's the best and brightest of the past decade!

5. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
This game was RIDICULOUS. If one could actually be Batman in real life, I'm not even sure it would be as cool as this game. With a pretty sweet story and an awesome play style, the game just didn't let you get bored, despite some amount of repetition. Go and buy it, being Batman is fun.

4. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

Call me a trend follower all you want, this game was amazing. If you're the type who didn't buy it for just the amazing hours of multiplayer, you got to see the campaign, the ending of which, (Spoiler alert) consisted of you, pulling a goddamned knife out of your chest, and throwing it through a guy's face. All that aside, they managed to completely overhaul the multiplayer while still making it all feel vaguely familiar. Infinity Ward, on behalf of all college males, Thank You.

3. Portal (2007)

Portal was like nothing any of us had even played before. With a concept that seemed silly, portal created a game that was not only exciting and challenging, but goofy and fun as well. The game really took puzzle games to a whole new level, and was made with the typical attention to detail that I've come to expect from Valve.

2. Bioshock (2007)

What's really left to say about Bioshock? Should I talk about the amazing plot? Or maybe the fact that the game lets you shoot fire out of your goddamned hands? I think I'll just leave it with the fact that Bioshock was not so much a game, but a movie you could play. It created a style and an environment and maintained itself so flawlessly that it felt almost entirely cinematic. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes things.

1. Half Life 2 (2004)

Its been 5 years since Half Life 2 came out, and I still don't think there's been a better game released since then. The plot? Awesome. The playstyle? Fluid and flawless. The Graphics? Still holding up even after having 5 years to age. In short, this game should be the stick by which we measure all games, because it's going to be a good long time before anything this awesome comes out again.