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The Best of 2010 – Movies and Songs

December 31, 2010

I’d love to preface my Best-of-2010 with a elegant series of phrases that offer a witty compendium of the year that was. But as twelve-month periods become arbitrary cutoffs, like the borders of states, it becomes far more difficult to craft something as definitive as Andy Battaglia’s 2002 summary for the Onion’s AV Club. The biggest change in culture is not the quality of what’s produced (which has been steady for the past few years), but the distribution models and formats. The availability and quality of streaming media, especially movies and television shows, has basically eliminated the need for risky torrent searches on addresses ending in “.ru”. While The Cloud went from a novel concept to an overused advertising phrase, Steve Jobs’ entry into the flat computer scene has jump-started providers to offer more user-friendly streaming, with little need for 360 GB of hard-drive space. In 2010, I was able to listen to more music and watch more video than ever, all while adding fewer MB to my collection. Here are the highlights to another great year in culture:

Best Five Films:

5. Exit Through The Gift Shop. I don’t care if it was “staged”, nor if the entire conceit of a “mysterious” street artist is about as legitimate as the knock-off Cabbage Patch Kids my sisters found at the Los Angeles Swap Meet in 1984. Nor do I care that Banksy was listed amongst Christian Lander’s “Stuff White People Like” (hell, I would surmise that only 85% of that list applies to me – so there!). This film has an energy and a mood that would push any sXe law-follower to grab a spray-can and commit random acts of beauty.

4.  The Kids are Alright. Lisa Cholodenko follows Laurel Canyon with another example of her unparalleled ability to integrate music into the narrative. The Joni Mitchell scene, with its heartbreaking twists of emotion, serves as the painful reminder of the fragility that underpins all of our relationships.

3.  Get Him to the Greek. Far too often, when a film hits a scene of grand conflict, everything shuts down to a crawl until the resolution. Not this one, however. Drinks are over-imbibed, cellie calls are ass-dialed, Sean Combs is wonderfully overwrought, and – most importantly – Jeffries are slipped, and furry walls are stroked.

2. The Runaways. Floria Sigismondi, mostly known for helming Marilyn Manson videos, jumps into the world of feature films with a helluva debut. Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett was a brilliant casting call, as was the crazy Michael Shannon, the Crispin Glover of our time, as the devilishly awesome Kim Fowley.

1. Mystery Team. Continuing his involvement within personal chart-toppers, Donald Glover’s Derrick Comedy offered the most hilarious film in years. Whether they were trying to enter a gentleman’s club, purchasing cocaine, or evading the heavies, this trio of savants will not fail to make you laugh. “Looks like we’ve got a long night of cocaine ahead of us.”

Best Songs.

In 2010, the estates representing the Beatles finally relented, allowing digital sales of that catalog. Ironic that the distribution models of today create an environment that glorifies the listening preferences of the pre-Fab years. With the constant wave of singles fired at us within the blogosphere (particularly on sites like Altered Zones), quick shots that hit within the first listen gain priority over the length of albums with their less-immediate filler tracks. I fear that my brain has been re-wired to constantly search for something new and rowdy, rather than to stop and appreciate the artist’s complete work. But with so many rewarding tracks being thrust into the world each week, it is difficult to not fall into that pattern. In no order, here they are:

“Lost in the World” – Kanye West with Bon Iver. It is almost impossible for me to not like a song with the “one…two…three-uh-an” rhythmic backbone (for some reason, Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well” is the only other example that comes to mind, but fear not, I’ll find enough of ’em to feature in a future column). Nitsuh Abebe’s tumblr offers an incredible examination of the weird dichotomy at play between the ideals of Gil-Scott Heron’s poem (“Who will survive in America?”) and the cross-cultural collaboration.

“Doubt” – Delphic. The “Tune-In” ap for Android allowed me the chance to hear this Scritti-esque gem. After the second chorus, watch for one of my fave moments in break-down build-up-again (the 2-beat vocal break before the guitar solo). They toured with the Temper Trap in the states, but I was too late to snag a ticket.

“Dancing on my Own” / “Hang with Me” – Robyn. The Brown Tweed Society has already provided the definitive Robyn exegesis. Let me add that these songs follow the ineffable template of sixteenth-note full-slate bass ostinato, like other classic dancefloor hits (“Don’t You Want Me?”, “Obsession”).

“Girlfriend” – Ty Segall. The loudest, rowdiest rock tune of the year. If this does not appear in 5 movies next year, I will lose my faith in the music supervision trade. Cholodenko?

“Take Me Over” – Cut Copy – Let’s do the math: take the verse from Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”, add the chorus from Men At Work’s “Land Down Under” and take the first derivative of the chorus for Madonna’s “Holiday”, and you have a ridiculously-fun song that will still sound fresh in 2025..

“Medulla Oblongata” – Buke and Gass – Another accidental find that was way too random to be random, if you get my drift. I’m dining with some friends of my wife’s parents, and one of their guests shows us a CD of her daughter’s new band. I was definitely not expecting something like this. Vocals that recall “Skank Bloc Bologna” in the coolest way possible, hell yeah! In what may be the best chorus of the year, the stingy instrumental-remixers in Buke & Gass only give it to us once. Guess I’ll have to listen to it yet again.

“Bright Lights, Bigger City” – Cee-Lo. His first entry in my Best Songs compendium since 2003’s “The Art of Noize” (I am sure he’s keeping track). While Kanye may have made the most overt lyrical reference to Michael Jackson, Jim and Greg from Sound Opinions noticed that no song carried the spirit of the Gloved One more than this.

“When I Get Home” – Wildlife / “Empty Room” – Arcade Fire. I can’t separate these songs, as the First was what I heard after I thought I obtained the Second. No matter –they both rock like a Canadian avalanche.

“Take It In” – Hot Chip / “Odessa” – Caribou. Twin pillars of great dance-pop. Both incorporate clanging percussion that would be deemed “too out-there” by lazy producers. Proof the auteur ideal serves music as it does for film.

“O.N.E.” – Yeasayer. Kind of a companion piece to 2008’s “Rush Apart” from the Rural Alberta Advantage. At least until the chorus, which channels the awesome era of Latin Freestyle like no indie song since, well, I can’t recall.

Other great tunes that deserve placement on that Grand 2010 Muxtape, er Mixtape:

“Shutterbugg” – Big Boi featuring Cutty

“Compliments” – Band of Horses

“Little Brown Haired Girls” – Frankie Rose and the Outs

“Norway” – Beach House

“Cousins” – Vampire Weekend

“Rocket” (Richard X Remix) – Goldfrapp

“Flash Delirium” – MGMT

“WTF” – OKGO

“Tell ’em” – Sleigh Bells

“No Words No More” – Snowden

“Solitude is Bliss” – Tame Impala

“Feel it All Around” – Washed Out

Honorable Mention – “Make Up Your Mind” – Yves Klein Blue, and “Black is Black” – Los Bravos. Two songs from previous years that never left my playlists.

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