It certainly was the last year of the 2000s, you can say that. I don’t know what else you could say about it, but I’ll give it the old college try:
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2009
1. The Raveonettes In And Out Of Control
The fact that The Raveonettes were my first concert in Chicago this fall may have influenced this being at the top of the list, but this album is hard to compete with. Nearly every song I think could be a single and they all sounded even better live. The Raveonettes have been underrated for a long time and if there is a just and loving God then he will come down and smite all of the purity-ring-wearing pop stars to make room for these two Danish song smiths.
2. Cursive Mama, I’m Swollen
On the last song of the album Tim Kasher repeatedly asks what has he accomplished with his life so far. That seems like an odd question coming from a guy who has made a series of great albums with two different bands that he sings in over the last 10 years. At least he has more to show for himself than a stupid top ten list once a year!
3. Woods Songs Of Shame
This album stuck out from a lot of the low-fi indie fare that’s been fashionable as of late mostly because it didn’t sound much like that, but I think it easily could with some engineering and a shitty microphone. I really like the Vaselines-esque lead guitar sound peppered throughout the songs and the Daniel Johnston-inspired album title. If I actually enjoyed camping out I would bring this album along and I would listen to it while I counted down the hours until I could return to glorious concrete and indoor plumbing.
4. Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2
This requires no time to get used to or be in the mood for - just hit play and it takes off. Now, a lot of albums can start off strong and get you into a particular head space but what’s so great about this one is that it stays at that level throughout. Raekwon knows how to share the spotlight too since Ghostface Killah and Method Man steal the show whenever they show up. Next time you’re having people over to drink some wine on a Sunday night instead of putting on Wilco for the umpteenth time, try this instead. Those people will all be back next week…and they might bring some weed with them.
5. Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion
If you want a lush chorus stuck in your head for 72 straight hours I would suggest you listen to just about any song on this one. You’ll want it to last longer. Luckily, Animal Collective have put out a string of consecutive albums and EPs that are terrific and improve and expand on what came before.
6. Deer Tick Born On Flag Day
7. Girls Album
I didn’t notice until my friend Jon pointed it out to me, but the lead singer’s voice sounds very much like Elvis Costello. The difference here though is that this music isn’t boring. You come out of listening to this a bit jarred because of all the moods that the songs take on. There are chipper pop songs, sad bastard songs, long trippy songs and a great Sonic Youth ripoff. This is also gets better the more you listen to it, like the opposite of Brian Williams.
8. The Smith Westerns The Smith Westerns
Some of these songs are so catchy and melodic that they should be annoying but they aren’t. And yes, it’s supposed to sound like it was recorded inside of your dad’s metal lunch box he used to take to work 25 years ago.
9. DOOM Born Like This
I’ve never understood the unwritten rule of hip hop that every song has to be over 4 minutes long with at least 3 verses with an intro and outro. DOOM throws that rulebook out the window and fills Born Like This with a great collection of short little songs that get the point across without bombast. It’s like Milo Goes To College by The Descendents but without the “Fuck you, mom and dad!” sentiment.
10. Mos Def The Ecstatic
He doesn’t do too much rapping here and I didn’t even realize that until I’d listened to it a few times. It’s a delicate thing how an album can be “all over the place” either to its detriment or its strength. This album falls into the latter category. This is his strongest solo album yet. While I wrestled between this and Invisible Girl for the #10 spot, this won out by a hair because I get something new out of it upon each listen, much like when you find something new that will kill you every time you try a KFC Famous Bowl.
King Khan And The BBQ Show Invisible Girl
Neko Case Middle Cyclone
Morrissey Years Of Refusal
Vivian Girls Everything Goes Wrong
The Strange Boys The Strange Boys’ And Girls Club
TOP TEN SONGS OF 2009
1. Woods “Military Madness”
My favorite timeless song of the year.
2. Jay-Z featuring Mr. Hudson “Young Forever”
My favorite sentimental song of the year.
3. Cursive “From The Hips”
My favorite go-with-your-gut song of the year.
4. Girls “Lust For Life”
My favorite plea-for-a-normal-life song of the year.
5. Conor Oberst and the Mystical Valley Band “Spoiled”
My favorite could-be-about-Goldman-Sachs song of the year.
6. The Smith Westerns “The Glam Goddess”
My favorite guitar solo song of the year.
7. DOOM “That’s That”
My favorite don’t-waste-no-time song of the year.
8. Deer Tick “Friday XIII”
My favorite unhealthy relationship song of the year.
9. No Age “You’re A Target”
My favorite unintelligible song of the year.
10. Pearl Jam “Got Some”
My favorite drug dealer song of the year.
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2009
1. Big Fan (Robert Siegel)
This also might have been influenced by the circumstances of which I saw the movie. It was the first feature I saw in Chicago’s great Music Box Theater, so I was a bit in awe of the big, historic room in which I was sitting. Between this film and Observe And Report, Taxi Driver has had a good year. Watching Patton Oswalt’s character recite his script he writes every day at work for the football call-in radio show he listens to at night is very amusing. It’s the only part of his life that he gets to be articulate and clever. The rest of the time he’s irritable, even while he’s watching the Giants play from the parking lot of their stadium. What fun is immersing yourself in an interest if you can’t talk about and analyze it later? I don’t know anything about that.
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson didn’t really change his approach for animation. Everything is still in place: deadpan jokes, identity issues, father/son dynamics and corduroy suits. It just all happens between fox dolls this time. This is a role George Clooney was born to play. He’s much more fun here than in Up In The Air. This movie is just as good as a comment on the economic crisis too.
3. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Coen brothers (along with Tarantino) are the best at telling really great stories without telling you what to think about them or spelling out who’s wrong and who’s right. I wish this wasn’t as rare of a thing as it is in movies, but I also wish that Penelope Cruz was coming over for some leftover egg nogg tonight too. Both are probably unlikely.
4. Moon (Duncan Jones)
My favorite depressing movie of the year. This also is a good commentary on our current job market. It glamorizes the working-in-space industry in the same way that Office Space glamorized the having-a-“real”-job industry.
5. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Oh my god - someone made a Jewish/WWII movie that’s actually (gasp) fun! This is unacceptable. These types of movies have to be solemn, overly-reverent and portray the good guys as downright saintly. If you break these rules, the Hollywood establishment will send Shosanna Dreyfus to your house to set it on fire.
6. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar)
Almodóvar makes yet another compelling and beautiful melodrama that sticks with you after it’s over. He’s been doing this so consistently for so long that it’s easy to take it all for granted, like the Lakers in the 80s. But also like the Lakers, this movie’s themes are about sex, bitterness, debt and obsession. The film could’ve used more short shorts and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goggles, but those are minor complaints.
7. World’s Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait)
This film breaks even more rules than Tarantino did, but for some reason it followed the newer one that says you must have a bare minimum of 5 minute-long montages in your movie set to the pop music you came of age to. The kid in this movie made me laugh more than any single person on screen this year and it was weird to see Robin Williams not be totally obnoxious, but great. Like if U2 all of the sudden put out a great album or something.
8. Humpday (Lynn Shelton)
There’s nothing like taking a simple idea and executing on it well without all the superfluous distractions that can come along. Who thought a movie about two obnoxious straight guys making a gay porn video could be so awkward and entertaining? Actually that does seem logical now that I think about it.
9. Extract (Mike Judge)
I’m pretty sure that Jason Bateman was created in a lab for an experiment to make the ultimate “everyman” actor. I would pay large amounts of money to take him with me to the DMV for a day and just watch him react to people. This is one of the few workplace comedies that will make you feel sorry for your boss afterward. However, you’ll then realize you didn’t get a raise this year, so fuck that asshole. Oh, and also Ben Affleck is hilarious in this - make of that what you will, but he’s one of the best things about the movie. And that’s saying something because there are a lot of good things about it.
10. I Love You, Man (John Hamburg)
This film shouldn’t have been as good as it was, but I got quite the kick out of it. I liked the awkward portrayal of how much harder making friends as an adult can be than dating. It’s not always easy for men and especially for the ones who don’t have sports and beer drinking to fall back on. And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of our kind are as sensitive and good looking as Paul Rudd.
The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)
The Invention Of Lying (Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson)
Gomorra (Matteo Garrone)
Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell)
Good Hair (Jeff Stilson)
Beauty In Trouble (Jan Hřebejk)
The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh)
WORST TEN FILMS OF 2009
1. Notorious (George Tillman, Jr.)
There’s nothing worse than a by-the-books biopic. And that’s exactly what you’re getting here. Even those crappy VH1 movies scoffed at this. And what was with all the talk of Jamal Woolard’s uncanny depiction of The Notorious B.I.G.? Being an obese young black man does not immediately qualify you to play him in a movie. If that’s the case, they could’ve just glued a wig on Charles Barkley and cast him. Hell, I could be the star of a Harold Lloyd biopic that way!
2. The Box (Richard Kelly)
Cameron Diaz is one of the leads and I knew that going in, so this one is really my fault. It looks like the credit that Richard Kelly earned with Donnie Darko has maxed out. The 70s set design looks like it was done by the understudy to the set designer from my high school plays and the fact that the story didn’t really make much sense would’ve bothered me if I had been paying attention more. Instead I was busy stabbing myself in the thigh with a toothpick.
3. Paper Heart (Nicholas Jasenovec)
If you’re going to make a fake documentary with virtually no plot about the most unspecific question in the world (what is true love?) then you might not want to pick the most annoying, self-conscious person in the world to host it. I don’t know who Charlyne Yi is or why/how she’s famous, all I know is that she was sent here by Satan to set back the appeal of nerdy straight girls with glasses who dress like 8th grade boys in the Shakespeare club for decades to come. And let’s face it: those girls were going to have it rough to begin with. Also, a note for Michael Cera: Those of us who like you are really itching for a redemption of some kind - nothing huge, just a reminder of what made us fall for you. Oh all right, I’ll watch Arrested Development for the 6th time.
4. Brüno (Larry Charles)
The only interesting thing about this movie for me was seeing it with the mayor of Kansas City sitting in front of me. After seeing the ridiculous Ron Paul scene in the movie (which is more ridiculous than the Charlton Heston scene in Bowling For Columbine), I realized that Brüno is Mr. Garrison in the Death Camp Of Tolerance episode of South Park.
5. The Informers (Gregor Jordan)
Things I learned from this film: lots of sex and drugs can be fun yet have consequences; rich, fashionable L.A. kids wore skinny ties and Ray-Bans in the early 80s; even though we now primarily associate it with trashiness, smoking still looks kind of cool. I could’ve got all of this from a 50-second commercial instead of watching a 90-minute one for douchebags.
6. The Hangover (Todd Phillips)
As my friend Colin put it right after the credits were done, “What a lazy movie!” You have hilarious people like Zach G. and Ed Helms there the whole time and you give us this piece of shit movie? Hmm, men like to drink a lot and stay out late while vacationing in Las Vegas - what an interesting premise! I’ve never really seen that tackled before. This will be a delight. Oh, and be sure to make the only women in the movie either a castrating bitch or a whore with a heart of gold. Nailed it!
7. Cold Souls (Sophie Barthes)
I feared this would just be mediocre, but it was pretty bad. And boring. I could watch Paul Giamatti in just about anything and get a kick out of him, but even he couldn’t do much with this poor man’s Charlie Kaufman script. I’m surprised more of those haven’t popped up over the last 5 years than what has, not that I’m complaining.
8. (500) Days Of Summer (Marc Webb)
I actually wanted to hate this more than I did, but it turned out to be only a mild hatred. Once I found out the music of The Smiths was going to play a role, I immediately went into the same mode that a bear does when she senses danger to her cubs. Luckily they just play a couple of their songs in the movie and it’s not that big of a deal and neither is the whole conflict on which everything hangs. The whole movie was negated by the way-too-smart-for-her-own-age (which is a big pet peeve of mine) little girl in the movie when she’s consoling , “She said she didn’t want anything serious from the beginning. Stop being such a pussy and get over it.” She’s right, there was no need for any of this cutesiness. Whatever happened to good old fashioned hooking up and making sure you’re wart free afterward?
9. Lymelife (Derick Martini)
This is one of those factory made films that tries to meet the requirements of what it perceives as the “indie” syllabus. Last year the movie Smart People did this. You could watch the two back-to-back if you ever wanted to kill yourself in a really uninspired, generic way.
10. Me And Orson Welles (Richard Linklater)
It’s probably not the best idea to give starring roles in films with great directors to Disney Channel stars. That might seem obvious, but you have to get it writing before Spike Lee casts Christina Aguilera in Me And Etta James. And the Disney kid is in every scene of the movie too! So he has to carry the goddamned thing, meanwhile he probably thinks that A Touch Of Evil is an old video game or something.
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
Not bad movies per say, just movies that I wasn’t impressed with, but a lot of other people seemed to be:
Where The Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze)
Up In The Air (Jason Reitman)
Away We Go (Sam Mendes)
Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
Funny People (Judd Apatow)
In The Loop (Armando Iannucci) I don’t know if this one belongs here because I liked it more than the others here.