Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Music Roundup: My Top 10 Albums of 2012

Top Ten

The Seer - Swans
The music on The Seer is far more sophisticated than the Swans recordings of the early-'80s, when the band was about brutal noise and confrontation at the expense of all else. Michael Gira has refined his songwriting and expanded his thematic concerns throughout his long career, most notably with his Angels of Light project. But the dark drama and punishing intensity are still integral to the band's vision. The Seer is a sinister, droning masterpiece.

'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Certain artists inspire devotion, and GY!BE have had a devout following since their 1997 debut. 'Allelujah! is their first new record since 2002 (Yanqui U.X.O.);  a record comprised of two relatively long compositions and two shorter works that have been part of the collective's live repertoire. (The Guardian published a statement from the group coincident with the release of 'Allelujah!, providing some genuinely moving sentiments about the group's ambitions.) If you're unfamiliar with GY!BE, the ideal introduction is "The Dead Flag Blues," the legendary first track from the group's debut record. There's simply no better encapsulation of the what Godspeed You! Black Emperor is about. Follow that with the 'Allelujah! track "Their Helicopters' Sing" for further evidence of the visceral beauty of this group's music.

The Sun - Cat Power
Chan Marshall's career has had distinct musical phases that aren't always appreciated by the same audience; her stark, guitar-based recordings from the '90s often go unappreciated by those who favor her Southern soul influenced work. As a fan of her entire catalog, I'd like to think that The Sun represents yet another break/innovation. The soulful horn section has been replaced with warm synthesizers and electronic beats. There isn't much precedent for this type of production in Marshall's work, though it may have some superficial similarities with her guest spot on Handsome Boy Modelling School's 2004 record. The appeal of any Cat Power album is Marshall's voice, and it's invigorating to hear her sing with such directness on The Sun.

Four - Bloc Party
Bloc Party have always excelled at combining the best elements of  late-90s Blur and Radiohead with intense post-punk angularity. Those expected strengths are very much on display on the band's fourth record, but, really, nothing could have prepared me for the monster riffs of "Coliseum."

Cancer4Cure - El-P
The music of El-P is so idiosyncratic and distinctly his own that it's almost instantly identifiable. Forever at the margins of whatever can be considered "mainstream" hip-hop, El-P has consistently crafted innovative and intriguing music that reveals a profound appreciation for classic sampling. C4C is unquestionably one of El-P's finest records; a wild melange of samples and sounds that is, strangely, the most focused he has ever sounded.

Key to the Kuffs - JJ DOOM
You can pair MF DOOM with just about anyone and the results will, at the very least, be interesting. But his recent collaboration with MC/producer Jneiro Jarel is considerably more than a curio. Key to the Kuffs isn't a perfect record; and it suffers by comparison to Madvillainy, DOOM's beloved 2004 collaboration with Madlib. (To be fair, every recording suffers by comparison with Madvillainy.) Taken on a track-by-track basis, this is some of the best work DOOM has done in years. "Guv'nor" is almost certainly the standout, with its woozy production and lyrics that range far wider than DOOM's typical concerns.

awE naturalE - THEESatisfaction
I first heard TheeSatisfaction as guest artists on one my favorite records of 2011, Black Up by Shabazz Palaces. awE naturalE is the Seattle duo's debut full-length, and it easily exceeds all expectations in its seductive beauty and the seemingly effortless interplay between the singer (Cat) and the emcee (Stas).

Don't Be a Stranger - Mark Eitzel
My appreciation for this record may, to some extent, be tinged with nostalgia for the magisterial dolorousness of classic American Music Club. (Along with Red House Painters, A.M.C. were the demigods of slow-core.) But, taken on its own terms, Don't Be a Stranger is a beautifully crafted record that makes the most of Eitzel's unique voice and songcraft.

Between the Times and the Tides - Lee Ranaldo
As guitarist and co-founder of the band Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo's legacy as a rock innovator is secure. But, like his band-mates Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, he has pursued various solo projects throughout has career. While the numerous side projects by Gordon and Moore are still pretty recognizable as Sonic Youth recordings (to the extent that Sonic Youth can be said to have a recognizable template), Ranaldo is pursuing musical ideas far afield of his full-time gig. From the darkly pulsing opening track, "Waiting on a Dream," to the gentle lyricism of "Stranded,"Between the Times and the Tides is a beautiful record that displays Ranaldo's maturation as a songwriter.

Mature Themes - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Mature Themes is as strange as Ariel Pink himself. You just need to accept that Pink is working on another level, and the more time you spend with his songs, the more resonant they become. (Though I'm not sure there's any way to make sense of the almost unbelievably odd "Schnitzel Boogie.") Mature Themes isn't all experimentation and obfuscation; "Only in My Dreams" is as direct and charming a pop song as you could ask for, and the album's closer, "Baby," is a surprisingly soulful cover that just may be my favorite track of the year.

Other Highlights

2012 featured new music from some of my longtime favorites: Deerhoof (Breakup Song), Sun Kil Moon (Among the Leaves), Spiritualized (Sweet Heart, Sweet Light), Nas (Life Is Good), Mount Eerie (Clear Moon), and a late-entry from Big Boi (Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors). There were also a handful of newcomers who made an indelible impression: Frank Ocean (Channel Orange), Death Grips (The Money Store), and the surprisingly divisive pop singer Lana Del Rey (Born to Die). Say what you will about Del Rey's debut album, her single "Video Games" is an evocative song that feels emblematic of its moment in time, an impression that is only enhanced by its accompanying video.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guilty pleasure pick: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

As a child of the 80s, I can do two things: spot a shoulder pad and quote John Hughes' movies. (I could also tell you where I was the first time I got my first Cabbage Patch Doll, but I digress ...) A classic Hughes movie, and I would argue his most funny, Ferris Bueller's Day Off still holds up 26 years later. And if you haven't seen it, or might want to revisit, I would recommend this oldie but goodie.

Do you that have a person in your life that seems to have everything work out for them? Well, Ferris is one of those people. The premise is simple: high-schooler Ferris wants to ditch school because it's too nice outside to sit in class all day. Of course, shenanigans and comedy ensue, though not without the dramatic moment in the best friend's garage after one of the shenanigans goes awry. All the other schemes, of course, work out because this is a Hollywood movie. But the fun is in the vicarious feelings, that, yeah, I wish I could play hooky too just once and have it be as great as Ferris' day off.

The performances are well done by all, but Matthew Broderick as the titular character, is golden. He carries the film with charm. The opening sequence alone is genius and a precursor to the use of the quick-cut-with-a-jumping-topic/situation-soliloquy, which is nowadays ubiquitous in many comedies. Alan Ruck (Cameron) and Mia Sara (Sloane, an appropriately North Shore name) are Ferris' best friend and girlfriend respectively. They are his sidekicks for the day, and each have their own moments. I particularly like Ruck's scene early on when Broderick is trying to convince him to play hooky too. Jennifer Grey, pre-Dirty Dancing days, excels as Ferris' jealous sister, Jeanie and even Charlie Sheen has a cameo that fits: bad boy.

FBDO may not compete with comedy classics such as Blazing Saddles or Caddyshack, but it's still a gem of a movie and good for a night in from the cold weather.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Find it in the catalog!

Friday, October 26, 2012

New on DVD: "Moonrise Kingdom"

“I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
- Sam to Suzy

Moonrise Kingdom is set during 1965 in New Penzance Island, New England, about two misunderstood twelve-year-olds who fall in love and decide to run away together. This Wes Anderson film is full of whimsy and wonderful performances, especially from the two young leads playing Sam and Suzy.

Sam (Jared Gilman), an orphan, is described as "emotionally deranged" by his fellow Khaki scouts at Camp Ivanhoe. He runs away from the scouts with a canoe stocked full of supplies, which sets off a search party of Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), the rest of Troup 55, and Island Police, headed by Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). When Sam's foster parents hear about his running away, they inform Captain Sharp that Sam is no longer welcome back to their home.

Suzy (Kara Hayward) does not have any friends and gets in trouble at school. Her three younger brothers entertain themselves with games and listening to records, while she spends her time reading or looking at the world through her binoculars. She always has binoculars at her side and believes they are her magical powers.

Sam travels across the island from Camp Ivanhoe to Summer's End to meet Suzy, one year after their initial meeting. Between summers they wrote each other letters, talking about the difficulty of fitting in and getting along with classmates and authority figures. (“Dear Suzy, I have been trying very hard to make friends, but I feel people do not like my personality.”) When Suzy's mother (Frances McDormand) discovers one of Sam's letters to Suzy, she and Mr. Bishop (Bill Murray) join the search.  

Sam utilizes his Khaki scout knowledge as he and Suzy navigate their way along the Old Chickchaw Harvest Migration Trail. Suzy brings a suitcase full of library books (which she may return, someday), her cat, Lionel's record player, and her lefty scissors. Whenever they stop to take a break she reads aloud from her books as Sam listens and smokes a pipe. She prefers stories with magical powers and tells Sam that she wants to go on adventures when she’s older.

I could go on about the awesome cast, from Sam's fellow Khaki scouts to Jason Schwartzman's brief appearance as Cousin Ben. And the script by Anderson and Roman Coppola has so many great lines I had to restrain myself from including twenty quotes in this post.* Additionally, the soundtrack, with songs from composer Benjamin Britton, Alexandre Desplat, and Hank Williams, is beautiful and playful, down to the final “cuckoo, cuckoo.” Hilarious, sweet, and definitely a little crazy, Moonrise Kingdom is my favorite movie of the year.

*Okay, I can't help myself. If you want to see more of my favorite quotes from the movie, click to read more!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Being Human, UK v. US

Smackdown: UK Being Human season 1 v. US Being Human season 1

Basic premise of both: a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost co-habitate in order to appear and try to live as humans.

In the original UK version we begin when vampire Mitchell (Adian Turner) and werewolf George (Russell Tovey) rent a place together and find ghost Annie (Lenora Crichlow) haunting it. She died in the house and can't cross-over; Mitchell and George are the first beings to actually be able to see her since she died 6 months prior. They form a tight trio and help each other out with their supernatural issues, which of course keep getting in the way of "begin human."

In the US version we follow vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer) and werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) as they rent a house and find ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath). The beginning and basic plotlines follow those of the UK version, but there are some variations as the season progresses. One plotline in the US version doesn't even happen until the second series of the UK version, so the US makers seem eager to begin the separation fairly quickly from the original material.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dreamy Men of Masterpiece Theater

There are lots of good reasons to check out Masterpiece Theater.  It has quality shows, helps you pretend to have read classic novels like Great Expectations or Tess D'Ubervilles, and there really isn't too much else on Sunday nights (when Breaking Bad and Mad Men are off season). But best of all, it has handsome British men in period dress!  Who could ask for more?

Below we* list our favorite men of Masterpiece Theater.  Since PBS has created a  Men of Austen website, so you can rank which Austen hero is the most eligible bachelor (surprise, surprise: Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is winning), I'm leaving them out of the running (though, Rupert Perry-Jones as  Captain Wentworth would have been my pick). 

Matthew Crawley
Found On: Downton Abbey
Played by Dan Stevens
Why we love Matthew:  Those blue eyes.  And he's the least terrible of Lady Mary's many suitors.
The down side: Matthew can be a little bit stubborn.   

Also worth mentioning from Downtown Abbey:

William Mason (Thomas Howes) looks like a younger, blonder, old-timey sibling of John Krasinski.  William is also a sweetheart and can play the piano. 

Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) is terrible.  But he's gorgeous and he seems to have curtailed his bad behavior a little bit in Season 2. 

Sherlock Holmes:
Found On: Sherlock.
Played by:  Benedict Cumberbatch
Why we love Sherlock:  He's brilliant, has a great head of hair, and looks equally great in a suit or a towel. 
The down side:  His personality is a lot to tolerate on a daily (or even hourly) basis.

Also worth mentioning from Sherlock:

Martin Freeman makes an adorable Dr. Watson.  He's definitely the more marriageable one of the duo.

Magnus Martnisson:
Found On: Wallander (seasons 1 and 2).
Played by:  Tom Hiddleston.
Why we love Magnus:  He's dashingly handsome, but his longish curly hair makes him look nerdy enough to be attainable.
The down side:  Martinsson saves the day on at least one occasion, but some of the time he can be a little bit incompetent. 

Also worth mentioning from Wallander:

Kenneth Branagh is a little bit too mature to be my type, but his character Kurt Wallander seems to have a way with the ladies on show, in spite of his near constant dourness.

*All "we"s are meant in the royal sense. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recent release: Jeff, Who Lives At Home

I recently checked out the Jason Segel vehicle Jeff, Who Lives At Home by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (Mark being the summer's indie darling). It has a noteworthy supporting cast including Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer. From the outset, its a quiet movie about a slacker still living in his mother's basement. A comedy and borderline farce at times, the last third becomes suspenseful and dramatic.

Segel plays the titular character who is metaphorically lost, and uses what he deems as signs, or connections, to guide his life (Jeff loves the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs and the movie opens with him watching the flick). Jeff is given a simple task by his mother (Sarandon) and he is quickly sidetracked from the errand by one of his signs and follows it. Thus the story begins to unfold as Jeff, by seeming chance, runs into his brother Pat (Helms), and they in turn end up spying on Pat's wife Linda (Greer) and so on ... Sarandon has a workplace sub-plot about realizing your life again, later in life. It is nowhere near as satisfying as Jeff's storyline, but it still shows Sarandon in a another light-- a less confident character than she often plays.

The final third of the movie addresses Jeff's unrealized life in a big way, changing your view of the character and the movie itself. Maybe Jeff's philosophy on life and decision-making processes weren't so crazy after all? It might make you to look at your own life differently. And I love that, because that is not at all what I expected from this unassuming film.

Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Greatest Hits

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) has been a favorite of mine for several years now and he just keeps getting better. He varies his parts, but always turns in a noteworthy performance. Besides being easy on the eyes, he exudes easiness and charm in spades.

Joseph was most famous for his teenage role on the CBS sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun in the late nineties to early aughts. He has since made a name for himself in the film industry. These are some of his greatest hits:

1. 10 Things I Hate About You: Yes, it's a high school movie. But, it also has JGL, Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles as relative youngsters. Based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, it's one of the better teenage movies. Find it in the catalog!

2. Manic: The first pairing of JGL with Zooey Deschanel, although this one lacks the cuteness of (500) Days of Summer (see below). Manic is more dark and moody and shows JGL in a much different light than his previous work on 3rd Rock or 10 Things. I'm sure that that was a conscious choice on his part to avoid being type-cast. JGL plays Lyle, who is placed in a mental institution with other teens after some violent incidents. He is a somewhat sympathetic character plopped into the chaos of real teenage angst. Find it in the catalog!

3. Brick: A more cerebral turn for JGL. He plays Brendan, a high-schooler on the hunt for his ex-girlfriend's murderer, and to do so must access the sinister crowd, including the local drug dealer.  The tone is noir, the dialogue Shakespearean, but shot in color with more modern circumstances. It's an odd contrast and I guarantee you won't have seen a similar movie. (This is from director/writer Rian Johnson who subsequently wrote and directed The Brothers Bloom and the upcoming Looper also starring JGL.) Find it in the catalog!

4. The Lookout: A caper with excellent tension and performances all around (especially Matthew Goode with a role against type here). JGL plays Chris, a bank janitor with short-term memory issues as a result of a car accident in high school-- which makes him the perfect patsy. This just might be my favorite JGL film. Maybe. Find it in the catalog!

5. (500) Days of Summer: The second pairing of JGL and Zooey Deschanel. This flick is quirky, but still meaningful and one of the better rom-coms in recent years. This film definitely showcases JGL's lighter side. Great soundtrack. Find it in the catalog!

6. Inception: JGL is one of many, but still manages to make an impression. Check out the Media Corner synopsis. Find it in the catalog!

7. 50/50: As I stated earlier this year, I think this movie was robbed at Oscar nomination time. JGL leads as a twenty-something diagnosed with cancer. Joseph was able to run the gammit of emotions: confusion, anger, frustration, humor and thinking it might help you get the ladies (which I was unaware was one of the stages of dealing with cancer ...). Find it in the catalog!

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention his excellent and grounding performance in The Dark Knight Rises. His character's place and purpose was unclear in pre-production, but he becomes the one to watch in the last installment of Nolan's grand trilogy. Joseph also has three more movies in the can: soon to be released Premium Rush, the aforementioned Looper, and Lincoln where he plays Robert Todd to Daniel Day-Lewis' Abraham (now that will be one to watch!). Oh, and did I mention he's currently writing and directing his first movie, Don Jon's Addiction? What a renaissance man.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

EW's List of the 50 Best Movies You've Never Seen

Entertainment Weekly published a list of the 50 best movies released in the last 20 years. Check it out here.  I've seen about half of the movies on the list.  It helps that the EW writers seem to like Sam Rockwell almost as much as I do.  Below are my favorites from their list:

Fish Tank (2009).  15-year-old Mia lives in the Essex projects with her single-mom and sister.  Mia has a tough life, her mother pretty much ignores her and the only person who seems to take an interest in her is her mom's boyfriend Connor. Media Corner favorite Michael Fassbender is in it!

George Washington (2000).  If you are only familiar with director David Gordon Green's recent work, including Your Highness and Pineapple Express, this movie will definitely surprise you.  This is Green in his arty, serious, Malickian mode. George Washington is also Paul Schneider's film debut. 

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999).  Jim Jarmusch's film about a professional killer (played by Forest Whitaker) who follows a strict samurai code of ethics. RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan did the score fore the movie and even makes a brief cameo!

Moon (2009).  Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of his time of a solo three-year stint on a lunar mine.  However, he starting to have health problems and strange hallucinations.  After a bad accident, Sam discovers something unnerving about his mission on the moon. 

My Summer of Love (2004). This film shows how the friendship between two girls, working class Mona (Nathalie Press) and wealthy Tasmin (Emily Blunt), evolves over the course of one summer. 

Safe Men (1998).  An outrageous comedy that has one of the best casts ever: Paul Giamatti, Steve Zahn, Sam Rockwell and Mark Ruffalo are all in it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Happy birthday, Will Ferrell!

Actor Will Ferrell turns 45 today. Ferrell is known for his hilarious and quotable film characters, from Buddy the Elf to anchorman Ron Burgundy to figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels. His latest movie to hit DVD is Casa de mi Padre, out tomorrow. Later this summer Ferrell can be seen in the comedy The Campaign co-starring Zach Galifianakis. Will Ferrell fans are undoubtedly looking forward to the Anchorman 2 movie due to be released in 2013, reuniting the cast from the original 2004 film, which also starred Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate.

I always enjoy the way Ferrell plays off his co-stars, and he had great chemistry with his news team in Anchorman. I especially loved the back and forth insult slinging between Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Applegate). Ferrell and John C. Reilly were a great partnership as NASCAR drivers in Talladega Nights, and as rivals who become best friends in Step Brothers:

Brennan: Listen, I know that we started out as foe. But after that courageous act that you showed me against the one they call Derek, maybe someday we could become friends. Friends who ride majestic, translucent steeds, shooting flaming arrows across the bridge of Hemdale.
Dale: I would follow you into the mists of Avalon if that's what you mean.

Ferrell also shared hilarious scenes with Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys. Wahlberg, as NYC police detective Terry, couldn't stand to be around Ferrell's character Allen Gamble, who he saw as weak and a "fake cop." Terry used a metaphor comparing himself to a lion and Allen to a tuna, and told Allen that he would even go outside the food chain to attack him. Allen came right back at Terry and explained why a tuna could take a lion in the ocean "9 times out of 10":
OK, first off: a lion, swimming in the ocean. Lions don't like water. If you placed it near a river or some sort of fresh water source, that make sense. But you find yourself in the ocean, 20 foot wave, I'm assuming off the coast of South Africa, coming up against a full grown 800 pound tuna with his 20 or 30 friends, you lose that battle, you lose that battle 9 times out of 10. And guess what, you've wandered into our school of tuna and we now have a taste of lion. We've talked to ourselves. We've communicated and said 'You know what, lion tastes good, let's go get some more lion'. We've developed a system to establish a beach-head and aggressively hunt you and your family and we will corner your pride, your children, your offspring.
And that's not even the end of that scene. Another one of my favorite Will Ferrell roles was Buddy in Elf. A "human raised by elves," Buddy was happy all of the time, saw the good in everyone, and loved candy: "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."

Ferrell is also not afraid to let loose and sing, which he's done in several of his films. Check out a clip of his performance of "Something to Talk About" in Step Brothers:

Happy birthday to the songbird of his generation, Will Ferrell!

I named a few of my favorite Will Ferrell moments. What is your favorite Will Ferrell scene and/or quote?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Johnny Depp: Officially Single

As you are, no doubt, well aware, the fairest leading man in the land is now officially single. The rather optimistic subtext to the resultant press reports seems to be that Johnny Depp is not only single, but also on the market and almost certainly interested in settling down with you specifically. For those readers that are not currently en route to France to make good on that possibility, I invite you to take solace in the many fine performances this actor has given us. The following selected filmography may seem like cold comfort, but enjoying Johnny's company onscreen is probably as close to the real thing as any mere mortal is likely to get. I've taken the liberty of adding brief descriptors for each Johnny Depp role, should you wish to tailor your fantasy.

Cry-Baby (1990): If you like your Johnny young and rebellious, in a juvenile delinquent who is also the star of a musical kind of way.

Edward Scissorhands (1990): If you like your Johnny silent, soulful, and pallid. Warning: This Johnny is sharp and has been known to cause unwanted damage to hair, hedgerows, and water beds.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993): If you prefer a small-town Johnny who is sweet, sensitive, and misunderstood. Bonus: Johnny makes a great effort to be a responsible caretaker for his younger brother in this film, so you just know that he'll make a fantastic father once he stops hanging out with morticians and finally breaks free of his hometown.

Ed Wood (1994): A Johnny that is irrepressibly zany, artistically inept, and really, really fond of cashmere.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998): For those who like their Johnny balding, paranoid, chemically altered, and tersely literate.

Sleepy Hollow (1999): An adorably squeamish Johnny, saddled with profound mommy issues.

Chocolat (2000): Seductive accent? Check. Ponytail that only Johnny can get away with? Check. A deferential nature that guarantees he only shows up when you want him to and won't interfere with the important stuff in your life like raising your daughter and managing your small business? Check.

Blow (2001):  Consider this a two-for-one. If you want your Johnny to be the slim embodiment of '70s glamor and excess, the first half of this movie is your ideal. If you have a penchant for a bloated, midlife-crisis Johnny who is depressed and/or incarcerated a lot of the time, the second half of this film has got you covered.

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (2003, 2006, 2007): Should you favor an unintelligible, swashbuckling, kohl-eyed rogue who is more concerned with rum than he is with Keira Knightley.

Public Enemies (2009): Bad boy Johnny par excellence. Sure, he robs banks and brandishes a tommy gun, but he'd just as soon be holding you in his arms as you sway across the dance floor to a sultry ballad.

The Tourist (2010): For those of you who want to be Johnny's paramour and believe that the only suitable stand-in for yourself is Angelina Jolie.

Rango (2011): If you happen to prefer a scaly, endearingly cowardly Johnny, this is the one.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flock of Seagulls Awards: Best Achievements in Hair and Grooming

After two years of doing the Beardys, I'm officially over beards.  I'm sick of talking about them.  I'm sick of seeing them.  I'm even over Ryan Gosling having one (scorpion jacket? okay, beard? no!).  So instead of awarding the bewhiskered this year, we will celebrate the weird and the wonderful world of hair in pop culture this year. 

I will, however, award a solo Beardy to Jason Segel for most disgusting facial hair in honor of his wispy mutton chops in the Five-Year Engagement...ew.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a picture on the interwebs of Segel's chops, so here's my mock-up.  The real version is much more terrifying:

Now on to the Flock of Seagull's Hair Awards:

Best Hair Performance by a Group: The cast of Parks and Recreation.
Okay, I'm slightly biased.  Donna (played by Retta)  has more or less my exact haircut.  However, the rest of the Parks department has enviable hair too.  Pawnee must have some pretty good stylists!

Best Hair Performance by an actor:  Kit Harrington as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones.
So pretty, I'm jealous of his curls!

Best hair performance by an actress:  Connie Britton as Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights.  Pretty much every woman in Hollywood has a good head of hair, but if I could only pick one to emulate, it would have to Mrs. Taylor's big, wavy blond coiffure. 

Best Bangs:  Hannah Simone as Cece on New Girl

Best Masterpiece Theatre hair performance by an actor:   Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes on Sherlock.
Besides solving crimes, playing violin and generally being a pain in the neck, Sherlock knows his way with a curling iron!

Best Masterpiece Theatre hair performance by an actress:  Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley on Downton Abbey
Sure, she might be the last Crawley sister to marry, but she has the coolest hair.  Spinster power!

Best Red Head: Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway/ Harris on Mad Men.
Sorry Conan!

Most Red Heads in a single filmThe Help
Including Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, and Allison Janney.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What we're listening to: Blood Pressures by The Kills

Released just over a year ago, Blood Pressures by The Kills is a pretty rockin' record. As a group and overall sound, the Kills remind me of the Ravonettes and the Black Keys (2 person outfit managing to produce some full and heavy sounds). The Kills are comprised of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince.

The disc opens with an excellent, almost tribal-like drum beat, on Future Starts Slow. It's basically a sonic foreshadow of the great beats throughout the record. The third track, Heart is a Beating Drum, features accompaniment by, of all things, a ping pong ball. Track two, Satellite, grabs you right away and doesn't let go. It starts out with a machine-sounding intro and a heavy beat (sense a theme here?) with some prominent, syncopated guitar-- almost ska like. The vocals are slightly sultry and the lyrics clever. It has all the elements for an excellent song; it's my favorite from the record. The barest of the tracks is The Last Goodbye, which features a mournful Mosshart singing about lost love, as you can imagine from the title.

I listened to this disc everyday for six weeks (I renewed it)-- and it never got old.

Blood Pressures by The Kills
Find it in the catalog!

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Music Year: 1988

After considerable deliberation, one stopgap exercise, and an awesome assist from Heather, I'm ready to endorse a music year. How did I settle on 1988? Was it my fond recollection of the molded plastic California Raisins that were so bountiful that year? It was not. My actual music-related memories of 1988 are fairly limited: I remember Fine Young Cannibals on the radio in my dad’s car (“She Drives Me Crazy” and  “Good Thing”), and Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" was getting some serious play from my older sister. Oh, and the treacly "Living Years" by Mike + The Mechanics was an inescapable pop song. Apparently the New Kids on the Block were Hangin' Tough that year, but I don't really recall. (This Billboard compilation offers a fairly concise glimpse of what else people were listening to in '88.)

I was ten years old in 1988, and I was functionally illiterate as far as pop-culture goes. I didn't even have a tape deck. I think my only exposure to rap music had been a surreptitious viewing of the Beastie Boys' video "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)". It would be some time before I had the opportunity to understand the Beasties' oeuvre beyond that one song, but I did appreciate their sense of humor. (Yes, even I knew they were lampooning themselves.) I was so remarkably ignorant of popular music that I thought Simon & Garfunkel were a current group. (I'm not sure how to account for that misnomer, but I would guess it had something to do with PBS re-airing the duo's 1980 reunion concert.) What can I say? I lived in my own head-space, as many young people do, and I was content with my paperback copies of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne.

It wasn't until I was thirteen or fourteen that I began developing musical tastes of my own, and once that happened, 1988 proved to be the wellspring of my musical interests. In an odd way, the music of 1988 would influence me considerably from my middle-school years to the present day. And let me tell you, there are few constants in my life that span those years. (I'm not strictly using "constant" in the Desmond Hume sense of the word, but you are encouraged to interpret it that way.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Time Capsule Album Obsessions: College

Somehow when I had dreamed of going way to college, I didn't imagine that I'd be escaping to Appleton, WI-a city almost more culturally devoid than the tiny, far-north Chicago suburb that I grew up in. I had more exotic locales like Chicago or New York City in mind. But a scholarship, parental pressure, and a campus that reminded me of Rushmore Academy won out in the end and I went to Lawrence University in Appleton.  Lawrence University is one of the premier colleges for music in the United States, which is great if you like classical music or the opera. However, for rock music you pretty much have to drive to Milwaukee (a little over an hour away) or Madison (about an hour and a half away) to see anyone decent live.  Unsurprisingly, I didn't go to a lot of shows during this period.  However, I did discover a bunch of new bands thanks to being surrounded by a bunch of music geeks.  Below are my five most listened to albums from college (check out the whole list here):

Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie (2003).
Find it in the catalog!
This is one of the few early Death Cab albums that I can still listen to without cringing too much at my former, college-aged self.  I related to these songs immensely then, so listening to them is sort of like looking at pictures of yourself with a bad haircut that you thought was awesome at the time.  That's no diss to Death Cab.  I actually like their recent stuff quite a bit (especially Codes and Keys).  And Chris Walla's guitar work has always been superb. But Ben Gibbard's lyrics seem a little too angst ridden and confessional in hindsight.  Maybe I've just grown to hate earnestness.  In spite of this, Transatlanticism still holds up pretty well for me, possibly because Gibbard's lyrics aren't as intensely personally as on some of Death Cab's other albums from the early aughts.  I'm not a huge fan of "Tiny Vessels" or "Death of an Interior Decorator."  But the rest of the album is pretty solid. 

Favorite Songs: Sound of Settling, Transatlanticism, Passenger Seat

Alligator by the National. 
Find it in the catalog!
The National were a band I had been hearing good things about for a while, but could never track down one of their records.  When  I saw Alligator on the shelves at Borders (in McHenry, of all places), I picked it up and fell in love with it instantly.  The National were different from a lot of the bands I had been listening to at the time.  The music was dark and well-crafted, and singer Matt Berninger had a deep, world-weary voice.  The National is still one of my favorite bands and I've loved both of their subsequent albums, but Alligator still probably has the most songs on it that I love (Boxer is my favorite overall).  Out of the albums that I loved in college, this is definitely the one that I revisit the most often. 

Favorite Songs: All the Wine, Geese of Beverly Road, Daughters of the Soho Riots, Mr. November

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- Wilco (2002)
Find it in the catalog!
When I was in high school, "country" even of the alt variety, sounded like something that I just couldn't get into.  So it took me a really long time to listen to Wilco.  So long, in fact, that I did not check out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot until a year after it was released, in spite of its universal acclaim.  However, once I finally did get around to checking it out, I pretty much listened to it on repeat for about two years (it is part of my subconscious now). This is still one of my favorite albums of all time.

Favorite Songs:  I'm Trying to Break Your Heart, Ashes of American Flags, Jesus, Etc., Poor Places

Something Else- Kinks
Find it in the catalog!

The Kinks were probably my favorite band in college. Yet I don't remember how I started listening to them, I just remember suddenly being into the Kinks.  But it's pretty safe to blame the movie Blow-up, which made me want to check out anything that British and from the 60s.  The Kinks definitely had a gritter sound than other music from the 60s that I was used to (i.e. The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel), which made their music sound more modern to me.  Also, Ray Davies is probably one of my favorite songwriters ever.  His lyrics are funny, biting and have great social commentary.  Something Else was my introduction to the Kinks.  While I'd eventually love The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society and Lola Versus Powerman and the Money-go-round more, Something Else remained in heavy rotation until grad school, largely thanks to "Waterloo Sunset."

Favorite Songs:  Waterloo Sunset, Afternoon Tea, and Tin Solider Man

69 Love Songs- Magnetic Fields
Find it in the catalog!

I first got into the Magnetic Fields with the album The Charm of the Highway.  I liked how poppy and yet bleak Stephin Merritt's songs were, as well as how clever some of the lyrics were.  Pretty much all of the Magnetic Fields albums were played in heavy rotation in my dorm room, but 69 Love Songs is probably Merritt's masterpiece.  Also, the three disc set was the perfect length to drive home for breaks.

Favorite songs: I Don't Want to Get Over You, I Don't Believe in the Sun, No One Will Ever Love You,  The Sun Goes Down and The World Goes Dancing, Busby Berkeley Dream, I Can't Touch You Anymore

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Ghostface Killah!

Break out your biggest gold chain necklace and start blasting Supreme Clientele, because it's Dennis Coles aka. Ghostface Killah aka. Ghostdini aka. Ironman aka. Tony Starks aka. my spirit Wu-Tang Clan member's 42nd Birthday!  Check out an album by Wu-Tang Clan or by Ghostface to celebrate!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Wu-Tang: An Infodiscography

An enterprising designer named Jess Bachman has assembled an "infodiscography" of the legendary hip-hop group, Wu-Tang Clan. These visually striking graphics offer an insightful overview of the myriad Wu-affiliated releases, and are particularly useful for exploring the members' solo projects. The three-part series sets out to highlight the rise, fragmentation, and decline of the group. I would argue that the enduring artistic influence of the Wu-Tang Clan precludes anything like a decline, but it's a well executed project that can be especially useful to beginner or intermediate Wu aficionados. If you'd like to know which of these solo projects are available through the library, you can take a look at the list I've compiled in bibliocommons.

The "infodiscography" graphics themselves are quite large. Check out part one after the jump.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time Capsule Album Obsessions: High School

My high school years aren’t really a period I’m nostalgic about.  Like a lot of people from a small town, I spent much of  high school looking forward to leaving home and going to college.  I was more of an honor students than a rebel, but I did experiment with punk rock and light subversion.  After spending my freshman and sophomore years listening to emo (Bright Eyes, mostly) and glam rock (thanks to Ewan McGregor) I discovered the Cure and 80s post punk (which would dominate my playlists until grad school).  Below are five albums that I listened to way too much during high school:  
The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead.
Find it in the catalog!  
The Smiths are basically required listening for every angst-ridden high school student.  At the time, I could certainly relate to Morrissey’s sizable amount of self-pity on songs like “I Know It’s Over” and “Never Had No One Ever.”  But it was more than just adolescent woefulness that drew me to the Smiths.  Morrissey has one of best voices in rock, and he can be pretty funny at times.  Also, Johnny Marr’s excellent guitar work makes the music still sound fresh today.  
Favorite tracks: The Boy with the Thorn In His Side, There is a Light (That Never Goes Out), Some Girls are Bigger Than Others

Joy Division- Closer
I think I definitely enjoy this album more now than I did in high school. Back then, I thought liking Joy Division made me dark and edgy, so I pretended to enjoy it more than I did.  And I liked the cryptic but bleak lyrics.  It wasn’t until college, when a lot of bands started to emulate Joy Division’s sound that I began to appreciate how spare and yet awesomely rocking they were.  Still, I listened to this album a lot in high school for only sort of liking it.  Perhaps, I just wanted to scare my parents.
Favorite tracks:  Isolation, Heart and Soul, The Eternal.  

  Joni Mitchell-Blue
My sophomore year of high school, I bought a turntable.  I had a cheap box record player before this, but the turntable was a definite step up.  To build up my record collection, I'd buy pretty much anything from the 60s and 70s that was reasonably cool or had a spiffy cover. This was one of those records.  I bought it for it's pretty blue cover, but played it over and over again for its mellow vibe and romantic angst.  At 15, I hadn't really lived enough to understand the complex emotions on the album.  But I was naive enough to think that I did.

Favorite Tracks: California, River, A Case of You.

Simon and Garfunkel- Bridge Over Troubled Water
I went to high school about 30 years after it was cool to like this album.  Thankfully, none of my classmates knew who S and G were and therefore were clueless as to how much of a geek I was.  I started listening to S and G after hearing that Paul Simon was a big influence on my then rock-God, Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes.  My dad didn’t have Graceland, but I permanently borrowed his copies of Bookends and BOTW.  Paul Simon’s witty, literate, and offbeat lyrics really appealed to me.  I also liked the band’s quirky folk rock sound.  BOTW is an ambitious but fun album.  S and G played around with a bunch of sounds, including gospel (“Bridge Over Troubled Water,”) straight rock ‘n’ roll (“Baby Driver”) and even Bossa Nova (“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright”- not my favorite).  There are lots of classic songs on the this album, including the title track, “The Boxer” and “Cecilia,” but my all-time favorite song is the haunting “Only Living Boy in New York.”
Favorite Tracks:  Cecilia, Keep the Customer Satisfied, Baby Driver, Only Living Boy in New York, and Song for the Asking. 

Belle and Sebastian- If You're Feeling Sinister
I discovered this band from one of my friends who was much hipper than me.  From their cool, retro red cover to their jangly, 60s inspired folk pop, Belle and Sebastian were pretty much perfect in my book.  Stuart Murdoch's lyrics were smart and funny, but a little wistful.  Belle and Sebastian were more or less the sonic equivalent of watching a Wes Anderson movie.   What more could a pretentious, old soul 17 year old want in a band?  Even with their post-Juno popularity and accusations of tweeness, If You're Feeling Sinister and Tigermilk are still favorites of mine. 

Favorite Tracks: The Fox in the Snow; Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying; If You're Feeling Sinister

Check out my whole list of high school album obsessions

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nicholas Sparks: Who Dies? The Lucky One Edition

  Disclaimer: It goes without saying, you shouldn't read this post if you haven't seen the movie and knowing the deceased party will ruin it for you.  Also, you probably shouldn't read it if you think The Notebook is one the most romantic books/ movies ever.   

Author Nicholas Sparks has another movie adaptation out (just in time for Mother's Day!).  I know what you're thinking- all of his plots are the same!  A couple falls in love, they hang out a lot on North Carolina beaches, kiss passionately in the rain, and at least one person dies.  But don't be so cynical.  The Lucky One is completely different!  It takes place in Louisiana not North Carolina!

Premise: The Lucky One follows hunky Marine Logan Thibault (Zach Efron), who finds a picture of a beautiful woman in the dirt while fighting in Iraq.  He plans on returning the picture to its owner, but it doesn't appear to have one.  However, Logan becomes extremely lucky after finding the picture- even surviving a deadly battle that killed two of his friends.  When his third tour of duty is over, he decides to track down the woman in the picture to thank her.  But once he meets the woman- a spunky, single mom named Beth (Taylor Schilling), he decides to romance her instead.  Because that isn't creepy at all! And then they probably hang out a lot on the beach and lock lips in the rain and all that other boring stuff that happens in Nicholas Sparks books. But let's get to the important question- who dies?  (Serious spoiler alerts after the jump!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Actor Spotlight: Viggo Mortensen

A brief primer on why Mr. Mortensen is significantly cooler than you are:

  • He is fluent in at least three languages (English, Danish, Spanish), and is conversant in several others. His performance in the 2006 historical film Alatriste is one example of his mastery of the Spanish language.
  • He was married to Exene Cervenka, co-founder of the influential Los Angeles punk band X. This, in itself, places him in a fairly rarefied realm of coolness. To exceed that level of cool, you'd pretty much have to be Exene Cervenka.
  • He is a photographer, painter, musician, and published poet. (These are not vanity projects; his earliest book was published in 1993, long before his role in The Lord of the Rings made him a household name.)
  • He was in Young Guns II. If you don't think that's pretty cool, then you really need to watch Young Guns II. (You don't need to have seen the first Young Guns, and you don't need to care about Westerns.)
  • His brief performance as Lalin, a paraplegic ex-gangster, opposite Al Pacino in Carlito's Way evinced more genuine pathos than any other moment in the entire 144-minute film.
  • He played the role of Lucifer (yes, that Lucifer) in the 1995 film The Prophecy, and managed to not seem completely ridiculous in doing so. No small feat, if you think about it.
  • His performance in A History of Violence, the actor's first collaboration with director David Cronenberg. Mortensen convincingly plays his character as a small-town everyman, until the plot convinces you otherwise.
  • His performance in Eastern Promises, the actor's second collaboration with director David Cronenberg. Look for a false note in Mortensen's portrayal of compromised Russian gangster Nikolai Luzhin. You will not find one.
  • Along with Johnny Depp, he may be the only human being who can get away with curiously sculpted facial hair. (I am not advocating this.)
  • In A Dangerous Method, his most recent collaboration with Cronenberg, he played the towering historical figure Sigmund Freud. His take on the character was nuanced; calculating without seeming calculated; amusing, but without any trace of parody. (I'm legally required to point out that Mortensen's co-star in A Dangerous Method is the Media Corner favorite Michael Fassbender.)
  • He participated in the documentary film The People Speak, in which actors and musicians perform dramatic renditions of the words of every-day Americans. His reading of a letter written by the family of a man who died in the World Trade Center attacks is deeply moving.
  • His performance in The Road, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's grim  post-apocalyptic novel. Mortensen powerfully portrays the unnamed father's relentless determination to protect and provide for his son.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy 22nd birthday, Kristen Stewart!

Best known as Bella Swan in the Twilight films, Kristen Stewart has an impressive list of acting work that she continues to build upon. I recommend checking out some of her earlier films, such as Panic Room (2002), in which she played Jodie Foster's daughter, and Speak (2004), in which she portrayed a high school freshman shutting out the world after being raped at a party. Speak is based on the book of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the heavy subject matter was deftly handled by Stewart as a young teen. Stewart also had a small role alongside Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild (2007). Two of my favorite performances of hers are in Adventureland (2009) and The Runaways (2010). Adventureland found Stewart amongst a stellar cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Martin Starr, Kristen Wiig, and Bill Hader; The Runaways showcased Stewart in a new light and made me forget Bella Swan.

In 2012, look for Stewart in On the Road, Snow White in the Huntsman (which I'm already very excited about--see below), and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part Two.

For a change of pace I wrote in haiku to celebrate Stewart's birthday:

"A New Snow White"

Twenty-two today--
Kristen Stewart, yes she is.
Human or vampire?

Bella had to chose
in the Twilight movies, right.
Bella plus Edward

Forever, juntos.
Breaking Dawn Part One, wedding.
Part Two, red eyes! Woah!

And soon (well, in June)
Snow White and the Huntsman with
Charlize Theron, Thor.

Cannot wait to see
Stewart as a tough Snow White
Riding horses and fighting.

Forboding and dark;
Creepy, sinister trailer.
Awesome fairy tale.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What We're Listening to: Tramp by Sharon Van Etten

Tramp by Sharon Van Etten
Find it in the catalog!

Tramp is the third album by New York City-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.  I really enjoyed her last album, Epic (especially the closing track, "Love More").  However, Tramp sounded even more promising because it was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National (one of my favorite bands) and had a stellar guest list including Zach Condon of Beirut, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, and Matt Barrick of the Walkmen among others.

Van Etten could rival Adele for writing songs about love gone wrong.  On her last two albums, many songs revolved around a break up with a particularly nasty boyfriend.  While I'm a break-up song connoisseur, I was happy to see that she had mostly moved on from that on Tramp. There is still some romantic angst (including the awesome break-up anthem "Serpents"), but Van Etten seems more focused on personal growth and her own failings this time out.

Van Etten's lyrics really add a lot to the album.  She's good a conveying a lot simply.  For instance, one of my favorite lines on the album is from "Give Out:" "You're the reason why I'll move to the city/ Or why I'll need to leave."  Tramp has a somber and emotional vibe; it's a great album to listen to on a gloomy day.

Stand out tracks:  I love "Serpents", which rocks surprisingly hard for an otherwise mellow album.  "Give Out" is a beautiful but bittersweet track about starting a new relationship after being hurt.  "I'm Wrong" is a builder and is oddly inspirational for a song pleading for self-delusion.  The closer "Joke or a Lie" is a lovely blend of vulnerability and melancholy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New York Public Library's "Mad Men" Reading List

If you are a dedicated fan of AMC's Mad Men (and I'm just going to assume that you are), you know that the characters frequently reference books and films specific to the show's 1960s milieu. One of the more notable examples would be Don Draper's  moving voice-over recitation of a poem by Frank O'Hara in the second season. But even the more casual glimpses of what books the characters are interested in can be revealing. Don's daughter, Sally, reads age-appropriate Nancy Drew mysteries. Bert Cooper, not surprisingly, extols the virtues of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's 1100-page love letter to the free market. The ladies of the secretarial pool whisper about Lady Chatterley's Lover, the genuinely racy D.H. Lawrence novel that was the subject of an influential obscenity trial in 1959. These are just a few of the many literary works that have been spotted on Mad Men. And, for that reason, we can thank the fine librarians at the New York Public Library for compiling a fairly extensive list of the books cited throughout the show's run. Needless to say, you can search our catalog for any of the titles that interest you.

The 'Mad Men' Reading List - New York Public Library

Friday, March 16, 2012

Get your Irish on

Get your Irish on with some films and music from the library. I highly recommend the Magdalene Sisters and Once.

Hunger (see Heather's post about Michael Fassbender)

To also get you in the Irish mood, try one of our CDs:
The Red Crow - Altan 
Believe - Celtic Woman
Leahy - Leahy
Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band - Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band 
Multiple albums - The Pogues

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!: The Films of Michael Fassbender

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, check out a film by Ireland's finest countryman- Michael Fassbender: 

300 (2006):  Does the thought of lots of ancient Greeks and Persians fighting sound like fun?  Then you are the perfect audience for this movie.  Warning though, you'll probably feel really self-conscious about your abs after watching it.

Angel (2007):  This is definitely a strange movie to watch.  It reminded me of a melodrama from the 1940s.  There's lots of lavish scenery and swelling music, but with an unlikeable protagonist, Angel- a snotty and overly self-assured romance author.  Fassbender plays Esmé- a struggling  and self-involved artist with gold-digger tendencies.  

Hunger (2008):  Fassbender gives an impressive performance as IRA prisoner Bobby Sands who goes on a hunger strike.  This is a pretty brutal movie to watch, but a good one.  Director Steve McQueen (not of Bullitt fame) also worked with Fassbender on Shame

Fish Tank (2009): In this gritty, British slice-of-life drama, Fassbender plays Connor, the boyfriend of Mia's (the protagonist) mother and the only person whom seems to look out for Mia.  Connor does some detestable things in the movie, but Fassbender brings out the charismatic and sympathetic elements of the character too.

Inglourious Basterds (2009):  Quentin Tarantino's World War II masterpiece.  Fassbender plays a Scotch-drinking British film critic turned spy against the Germans.  If you only have time to watch one Fassbender movie, this is the best!

Centurion (2010):  If 300 didn't give you enough a chance to ogle Fassbender's abs, here's your second chance. Evidentially ancient warriors were allergic to shirts. 

Jonah Hex (2010):   I haven't seen this, so no word on whether it's so bad it's good...or just sleep inducing.  Definitely not the best movie with Fassbender and Christoph Waltz though.

Jane Eyre (2011): Fans of the book may prefer the BBC version, because it is a more faithful adaptation.  But this adaptation has the handsomest Rochester ever. 

X-Men: First Class (2011):  This is a well-done adaptation of a comic book.  But more importantly- it has Fassbender and James McAvoy in one movie!  Now if only they could make an Austen adaptation together!

Coming Soon: A Dangerous Method (2011).  David Croenberg's drama about Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Jung (Fassbender).