Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Best and Worst Movies of 2009

In summary, this is what I will remember of the year in movies (2009): Animation transcended the ranks of mainstream, commercial and critical success to become an event. There was experimentation with 3D, that can only hold the promise of better things to come. Some of the best films, opted to focus on our core humanity, but boldly presented this theme in non-traditional genres - and this has continued to redefine the notion of storytelling. There are breakout performances by actors and actresses who have either had it long in coming or are fantastic new finds.

The following is my list of the top films of 2009:-

1) The Hurt Locker: directed by Kathryn Bigelow; starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie.

Jarring, intense, terse, suspenseful, unnerving and emotionally draining. Beyond anything remotely apolitical, allegorical and time-bound, the relevance of this movie will be forever... undeniable. Offering a unique perspective on war as an addiction, and sacrificial exercise in daily heroism. It is shown through a director's unflinching, uncompromising perspective to throw out the notion of predictability. Properly buoyed by the superb Renner and Mackie! You breathe the way they do, you taste the dirt, question your own moral disposition and sanity. There is no better film or director this year!

2) Up: directed by Pete Doctor; voiced by Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer and Jordan Nagai.

This inspiring ode to love, life and its many promises (fulfilled and otherwise), is zany, funny, sharp and a classic. Child-like in its approach, it is deeply moving. For kids, you learn respect, never to give up, the importance of responsibility, caring and sharing...oh wait, we adults can take heed also! Incidentally, the four-minute montage near to the beginning of this film, which sets the backdrop for this story, wrecks me every time I see it.

3) District 9: directed by Neill Blomkamp; starring Sharlto Copely.

Masterfully intelligent at reminding us of the scourge that was apartheid and further, cautioning us as to how easy it is to forget that in our differences we are unique yet similar. It also is a solid commentary on fatherhood. Powerful and creative use of the sci-fi genre to tell the tale. There is a moment in this movie which threatens to veer it dangerously into an action-flick. However, the brilliant screenplay, its breakout star performance and director, never lets you forget that respect for life is a necessity to live.

4) Up In The Air: directed by Jason Reitman; starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.

A modern parable meditating on the perils of finding the balance between your work life and personal life. As a Human Resources professional who has had to terminate employees, this film strikes a special cord as to the requirement to be emotionally dissonant to the process, whilst being human. The film works marvelously as an old school romantic throwback, expertly executed by George Clooney (exuding Cary Grant/Jimmy Stewart charm), Vera Farmiga (in a role made for Audrey Hepburn/Joan Crawford), and Anna Kendrick (as the idealist we all are at some point in our lifetime). Reitman, after "Juno" and "Thank You For Not Smoking" has affirmed his position as one of the best young directors out there.

5) The White Ribbon: directed by Michael Haeneke.

One of the most unsettling movie-going experiences this year, that needs to be discussed in a group forum. The movie seeks to debate the question, whether children are moulded into the adults we want them to be, in a deliberate manner by us as adults. You are transported to a village in Germany, pre-World War 1, where seemingly unrelated events unfold casting a shadow of fear, distrust, suspense, fear and dread over the township. I really cannot divulge too much, without giving things away, however it is sufficient to say that the cinematography, screenplay and direction the shocking realism of this story.

6) 500 Days of Summer: directed by Marc Webb; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoey Deeschanel.

The best non-romantic comedy in quite some time. Absolutely ingenious for the angle it takes on a conventional, socialized, fairy-tale version of love. It also demonstrates our failing as human beings to take chances and risks, when things really do matter. It is funny and quirky, in terms of its charm. As an added plus, the film boasts the best Soundtrack compilation of the year. This film is worth the price of admission just to look at Zoey's doe-like eyes.

7) The Princess and the Frog: directed by Ron Clements and John Musker; with the voice talents of Anika Noni Rose, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Bruno Campos and John Goodman.

The best musical of the year. Set in New Orleans, this is Disney's finest animated film since "The Lion King". It is totally conventional and knows the moral it is trying to convey. The helmsmen (Clements and Musker) bring back the magic which they captured in "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin and do it with tremendous heart and sincerity. The non CGI animation was refreshing and struck a real euphoric chord with me. In fact, in the weeks after seeing this, I broke out "Lady and The Tramp", "Lion King", " Sleeping Beauty", "Beauty and the Beast", and was in newfound awe. Majestic on all counts, especially original musical score. It features also the Best Original Song of the year, "Almost There".

8) Coraline: directed by Henry Selick; with the voice talents of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher and Ian McShane.

Based on the book by the incomparable Neil Gaiman, this translation is eerie, scary and delightful. It is about a little girl who wishes for a better life (which includes the parents). The 3D world created is breathtaking, whimsical and so imaginative. A lot of people are carrying on about Avatar (which did not make this list), however, this film trumps that, by the relatable story-line and creepiness factor.

9) Drag Me To Hell: directed by Sam Raimi; starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long.

Welcome back Sam Raimi, you suave, horror-meister! There is not a single movie in the past 5 years of recent memory, that makes you jump the way this film does. All those masquerading thrillers and pseudo-horrors, have nothing with the melee of this movie. Very simple in plot, old woman curses girl to hell (no, not like on the streets of Port-of-Spain), but with an ancient gypsy spell. Girl now has to fight for survival or risk being dragged to hell. Darkly funny, downright gross (at times) and for the record, scary! For the ardent Raimi fans out there, this film would have been higher ranked if a certain someone made his usual cameo!

10) The Hangover: directed by Todd Phillips; starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Heather Graham.

With the probable exception of "Drag Me To Hell", no other movie made my gut ache from laughing in 2009. A buddy road trip goes horribly, horribly wrong. If I had to score this movie, I would use Jazmine Sullivan's hit a year aback, "Lions, Tigers and Bears". See the movie, get the joke! The comic-timing and sensibility is consistent throughout this movie providing guffaws, incredibly stupid moments and at the end of the day, attesting to the incredible bond of friendship.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (that narrowly escaped the top 10, in order of preference):

Star Trek - I have long been a fan of JJ Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe). The retooling of this franchise, bears his signature throughout: emphasis on character exploration, action, time-bending plot and masterful direction.

Precious - Without doubt, Monique's performance is the best supporting female actress. Sidibe's Precious is heartbreakingly sad, strong and resilient. Under Lee Daniels' direction this film has a realism similar to that of, "The Hurt Locker". The supporting performances of Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Paula Patton are also uniformly stunning.

An Education - Carey Mulligan is a catch! As she makes her choice and bears witness to the consequences of her actions, as a viewer, you are affected. Alfred Molina's performance as her father, is bound to take you back to the times you locked heads with your parents on any issue which seemingly mattered most to you and which you thought would be the best for you.

A Single Man - The boozy performance of Julianne Moore (why can't they give this woman an Oscar>) and hurt portrayed by Colin Firth in his loss, brought me to tears! An excellent directorial debut by fashion designer, Tom Ford.

Fantastic Mr. Fox - Clooney and Streep worked overtime this year! The stop-motion animation process and the gutzo of Wes Anderson brought me back to those clay-mation Christmas movies I used to watch in my younger days. This is a wonderful family drama and story about forgiveness, trust and love.

The Last Station - Helen Mirren is bewitching and the relationship between her Christopher Plummer's Tolstoy is the stuff of great romances.

Inglourious Basterds - Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurant and the interrogation scene at the start of this movie are classic Tarantino archtypes. The major let down: the laziest QT score I have ever heard of all his movies.

I Love You Man - A buddy comedy that resonates on so many different levels, it is a public disservice if I volunteer anything more! I just have to say, I wish Paul Rudd were my best friend!

Adventureland - 80s nostalgia and teenage awakenings, bring it on! Forgive Kirsten Stewart for Twilight folks, this girl has serious acting chops.

Zombieland - Hooray for Woody Harrelson's return!!! Terrific horror-comedy, which stands out due to the zany casting!

Men Who Stare At Goats - Ridiculous premise; over the top acting...but I'm still quoting the movie months after having seen it.

The Knowing - Alex Proyas spiritual ode to outer space, provided the base for a Nicholas Cage resurgence.

Bright Star - The delight that is Abbie Cornish, is mesmerizing.

A Serious Man - It is a Coen movie; somewhat autobiographical, with yet another well written characterization that is so vivid, you question whether you are watching a film!

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call- New Orleans - Nicholas Cage gives a performance reminiscient of that in "Leaving Las Vegas", but is even more captivating as a lieutenant who becomes increasingly unhinged from society. It actually rivals Harvey Keitel's electric performance in the original.


G.I. Joe - not even Sienna Miller in leather, could save the mess that this was.

Transformers 2 - Dear Michael Bay, apparently 2 = excessiveness on all counts! Next time be more selective in your casting...eliminate humans!

All About Steve - Dear Sandra, I loved you in "The Blind Side", but what were you and Bradley Cooper thinking?

It's Complicated - Pretending to be an adult comedy, but resulting in top-notch actors, making dubious choices and supposedly letting loose. Meryl is sexy (yes), but seriously, you are an intelligent woman.

He's Just Not That Into You - I can deal with man-bashing movies, but one where a cast of A-list actresses just yap with no redeeming value in themselves or the men (save for one of the relationships), is downright ridiculous. A true yawn-fest.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Albums of 2009

1) Kid Cudi - The Man on the Moon: The End of Day

Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, is a member of the Kanye West camp, but get past it. We know rappers sing about their bling, where they've come from, who they've slept with and the like. Here's a rapper who attempts to reinvigorate a genre through an unwitting, concept album. It reads like a veritable diary of confessions, aspirations, dreams and fears! The selection of samples elevate the rhymes, string arrangements, and electronica dabbling is refreshing and is much deserving of not only the title of Best Rap Album for 2009, but also Best Album of 2009.

Download NOW: Soundtrack 2 My Life, Heart of a Lion, Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part 1), Up Up and Away

2) Lady Gaga - The Fame/The Fame Monster: Let it be known that ever since the infectious "Just Dance", it seems that the world could not have gotten enough of the Jewish-bred, David-Bowiesque, disco-chic Stefani Germanotta. Forget Barbara Walters' personality of the year, I give her my own award ( I just haven't found a title for it yet). Tremendously talented (pianist, writer, producer, vocalist, and not to be dismissed as a one-hit wonder), she has already proven herself within the entertainment industry. The master-stroke of releasing "The Fame Monster" EP has only created more of a feeding frenzy. I give her props for releasing the EP as truly that in addition to "Deluxe" editions of "The Fame". Truly a performance artist worthy of being mentioned alongside Freddie Mercury, Madonna, and MJ (RIP).

Download NOW: Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say), Starstruck, Paper Gangsta, Alejandro, Monster

3) Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It's Blitz: I remember stumbling across this band as an opening act to one of the best New York bands ever...The Strokes. The vocals of Karen O were hypnotic, the keyboard work of Nick Zinner and Brian Chase (on drums) were pitch-perfect. They were rough, dance-ready, glam-rock afficionados. This album should really be higher (but I vowed no ties on this list). This album also proves there is something for the proper sequencing of tracks. It was only at the Nine Points West Music Festival in August 2009 (thanks to a certain Hochie) that I was no longer a closet fan. I simply must catch this band live again and wish that they release an Unplugged set ASAP.

Download NOW: Soft Shock (both versions), Heads Will Roll, Hysteric (both versions) and Dragon Queen.

4) La Roux - La Roux: unabashed synthesized Brit-pop has not sounded this good in years, since probably Erasure and The Human League. Is it something in the water over the pond because there are noted similarities in characteristics of the British acts on this listing: brash attitude, unassuming and unapologetic lyrics of politics, courtship, religion etc. and resonant wit! This a duo (named after the flaming red hair its vocalist), comprises of Eleanor Jackson (vocalist, co-writer and keyboardist) and Ben Langmaid (producer and co-writer). Terrific album, which would have copped my pick for "Dance Album of Year" if Lady GaGa was not on the radar.

Download NOW: In For The Kill, Quicksand, Colourless Colour, I'm Not Your Toy, Growing Pains

5) Soundtrack to "500 Days of Summer": the most adept soundtrack compilation this year is also from one of the year's best non-romantic, whimsical, yet sweepingly romantic movies on film. Each song is expertly selected, closely mirroring the narrative and mood of the film. Comprising of several previously released tracks and B-sides, the album provides a terrific sampling of such great acts as The Smiths, Feist, Simon and Garfunkel and Regina Spektor, which are sure to convert people into new fans.

Download NOW: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths; Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want - The Smiths, Us - Regina Spektor, Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap and Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want - She and Him

6) Kanye West - 808's and Heartbreak: a rapper who consistently braves new frontiers and is unafraid of risk. All of his released albums, have made my "Top 10 List", within their respective year of release. Four albums in and he continues to demonstrate his suave and sophisticated knowledge of cross-generational, genre-defining and defying acts. His experimentation with even his contemporaries and emerging alternative acts, earns him even more respect. Forget the tabloid Kanye, this man is brilliant!

Download NOW: Paranoid, RoboCop, Bad News and See You In My Nightmare

7) Imogen Heap - Ellipse: Her sophomore effort once again throws the sink at you. Odd sounds echo throughout, even the bathroom shower is used, with great effect too. Her vocals and the fact that she remains true to her ambient roots is commendable. Her ability to surprise via the layers and textures of the music, also remains amazing.

Download NOW: Between The Sheets, Aha!, First Train Home, Wait It Out, Swoon and Tidal.

8) Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You: once again, Britain's most notable smart-ass delivers a solid second album. Funny, honest, energetic, political and yes religious. This is one of the most sociologically, relevant albums of the year.

Download NOW: Him, Chinese, Back to Start, Everyone's At It, The Fear

9) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: They're a French alternative rock band. If you've gone to the bathroom or fast forwarded your TIVO during a TV commercial break or not been to the theatres to see a few previews (notably "Where The Wild Things Are"), you probably would have missed this band's music. They became the go-to band for songs to use in advertisements. The album is full of such gems and much more. Easy to sing and hum along. One word to describe this, their fourth album: simple.

Download NOW: Armistice, Girlfriend, Lasso, Fences, 1901, Lisztomania

10) The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: Sounding like a mash-up of several early British indie acts, this NY-based indie band's album is very difficult to listen, but thoroughly worth the effort. Great music for the beach run!

Download NOW: Hey Paul, A Teenager In Love, Everything With You, Stay Alive, The Tenure Itch, Young Adult Friction, Come Saturday.

APN - January 2009

Saturday, December 23, 2006

2007 - Best in Music

The World According to Trinidude05: The World According to Trinidude05

2006 was a bit of an oddity in that much of this list didn't exist, until probably the third-quarter of the year. It would appear that British have landed, again. The early lack of good music though did encourage some risk-taking of some older acts (The Kaiser Chiefs, OK Go and Snow Patrol).

Here goes:-

1) Keane - Under the Iron Sea: a very good friend of mine once posited that some of the best music has been made on drugs e.g. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Stone Temple Pilots. To this list, this artist and album needs to be added. How can a trio missing a critical piece of musical instrumentation generate such a quietly huge sound? Plaintive singing, exquisite prose, stunningly simplistic arrangements, and the drugs have resulted in an amazing adult contemporary album. Download this: Nothing in My Way, Leaving So Soon, A Bad Dream, Try Again.

2) Muse - Black Holes and Revelations: a UK band, with an arena-filling sound, crunching guitar work, false siletto voices, boasting politically charged, emotive lyrics. What else is there to say....I need to see them live! Wembley Stadium in June 2007??? Download this: Starlight, Supermassive Black Hole, Map of the Problematique, Exo-Politics, City of Delusion

3) Lily Allen - Alright, Still: a snotty British, rich-girl decides to make an album because she is tired of hearing the same shit on the radio and her life really is not all that it is cracked up to be. Energetic, acerbic wit, biting attitude, ole-school South-London dub-sounds contribute to a sparkling debut disc. Not necessarily out to be a pop-princess, but has all the trappings of becoming one. Download this: Smile, Knock 'Em Out, LDN, Everything's Just Wonderful, Friday Night

4) John Legend - Once Again: making the delivery of a sophmore album and yet again making infidelity sound so good, this album is filled with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, story-telling, early Motown inflluences. I said this when he released his first disc and I must be redundant, infidelity never sounded this good. Once you've hit track 8, let's just say it's music to make babies! Download this: Tracks 8 to the end

5) Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That Is What I'm Not: come on with an album title like that, coupled with the horrible artwork, one only has to play track one to realize that these guys were drunk in producing this brilliant piece of work. A bonafide infusion of punk-rock with a new alternative sensibility. Download this: The View from the Afternoon; Fake Tales of San Francisco; Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured; Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But...

6) Mary J. Blige - The Breakthrough: demonstrating why she retains the title of the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul and obviously exerting more control in every activity related to this album, she delievered the second best disc (behind "What's the 411?") of her career. Heartbreak, inspirational, R&B delivered with such soulful'll be bringing out the wine glasses and candles. Download this: No One Will Do; MJB Da MVP; I Found My Everything; One

7) Fergie - The Dutchess: given to me as a gift, which I begrudingly accepted, it emerged as the disc which most surprised me for 2006. Excellent production by Will.I.Am (her former Black Eyed Peas cohort), incredible vocal range and irreverance easily puts this disc as the front for best dance album for the year (sorry Justin Timberlake). Anyone who can get Ludacris and Rita Marley and John Legend to contrabite on their disc must be doing something right (apart from paying some big money). This is the album which Gwen Stefani wanted to make, but failed miserably in delivering. Download this: Clumsy, Pedestel, Voodoo Doll, Glamourous; Big Girls Don't Cry; Mary Jane Shoes; Finally.

8) Justin Timberlake - Future Sex/Love Sounds: if I hear "Sexy Back" one more time, I swear..
This time around he channels not only Michael Jackson, but delivers some moments to which even Prince would stand up and ask, "Wha' da funk son?" An album which has Timbaland's foot and hand prints all over it....but seemlessy welding both artists styles, resulting in one of the best collaborative efforts for the year. The album unfortunately is inconsistent, boasting exit-ludes and interludes more interesting than the cookie-cut ballads offered up. Download this: Lovestoned; I Think She Knows (Interlude); What Goes Around; ...Comes Around (Interlude); Summer Love; Set The Mood (Interlude).

9) Nelly Furtado - Loose: Yet another album featuring the madcap production skills of Timbaland. However, as much a fan as I am of Timbaland's grooves, he needs to give Stella back some. His 80s synthethized beats overpower Furtado's delivery, sometimes relishing it to just fluff. However, she's a unique talent, with quirky musical interpretation and vocal delivery and this shines through on certain tracks. Download this: Say It Right; Te Busque; Do It; In God's Hands

10) Maximus Dan - Love Generation: This is the first local act ever to make this list. When he first hit the scene several years ago all dressed in army green outfits, I could barely understand a word he was saying. All I could discern was a passionate performer whose mantra is persistent positivity. He has since cultivated a stage prescence and nationalistic repertoire built on a rapso-ragga-soca hybrid. Download: Love Generation; Jah Jah Team

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The World According to Trinidude05

Okay, so I was forced to create an account, so that I could post to Franz's posts.

I may just now decide to use it.

Welcome to my world.