Wednesday, December 29, 2010

20 + 10 Things I Liked in 2010: Part Two

This is Part Two of my "best of ..." year-end list. These are just things I liked (and this doesn't have anything to do with the environment) so I'm not making any claims about quality, although I do think I have pretty good taste.

11. Summer Pop Music
This was the summer I rediscovered the joy of pop. For a long time, pop music has seemed… well, lame. But when the music is right, there's nothing better than flying down the parkway, windows down (or air conditioner blasting) belting out Lady GaGa, Ke$ha, or Katy Perry at the top of your lungs. Not only was pop fabulous this summer, the ladies who created it were ultra-fabulous as well. As NPR pointed out, young pop chanteuses are creating alter-egos the way drag queens or glam rockers used to, bringing not only brilliant beats, but also a flair for the dramatic that is reviving music videos, Saturday Night Live performances, and even glee club.

12. Sherlock
It sounds like a terrible idea - "reboot" Sherlock Holmes as a texting nicotine-patch addict with Asperger's and Watson as an Afghanistan war vet with a blog. Luckily for us, all the right pieces came together in Sherlock, which aired in the US on PBS: Doctor Who producing vet Steven Moffat at the helm, The Office's Martin Freeman bringing humanity and humor to Watson, and Benedict Cumberbatch (who has the coolest name ever) portraying Holmes as a man of insatiable curiosity and cleverness who barely fits into society (modern or otherwise).

And speaking of "The Doctor"…

13. Doctor Who
You know how sometimes, there are things you know you're going to love, but you just haven't had the time to dive in and get obsessed? Well, this was my year to finally take the plunge into Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood. What makes Doctor Who different than other camp sci-fi shows? Well, as Craig Ferguson put it so well, Doctor Who celebrates "the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism" -- and that's a message that we need in this time. Whether starring Christopher Eccleston, the divine David Tennant (also great in this year's BBC1 Single Father) or the current doctor, Matt Smith; Doctor Who can be considered an adventurous romp or a window on the human psyche, depending upon your mood. And don't forget the glorious Doctor Who Christmas carol - a steampunk fantasy with flying (literally) fish, frozen (literally) lovers, and a little peak into the origins of the sonic screwdriver.

14. "… And I'm a Mormon" ad campaign
I'm oddly obsessed with the Latter Day Saints' campaign to improve their image with the general public. No, they haven't convinced me to convert or anything. I just find these small video vignettes, most of with normal people talking about their faith, to be fascinating tidbits of Americana in 2010. Profiles of celebrities, geniuses, politicians are available in every magazine on the shelves, but a profile of a golfing Dad whose son has Down syndrome? We don't get many windows into those worlds. And all of the Mormons in the videos happen to be extremely attractive as well.

15. Pavement reunion tour (I saw the Greek Theater show in Berkeley, CA
My friend Ron used to wear a shirt that read: "Who the F#%@ is Stephen Malkmus?" It's the kind of question that reveals geek insiders and confounds the rest. Who, indeed, is Stephen Malkmus? Well, for one thing, Malkmus is cool. As front man for the old school alternative rockers, Pavement, Malkmus commanded the stage at their reunion shows with his lanky teen boy's disaffected charm, although he's now in his forties. And just to add to the crazy fun, at some of the band's California shows, including the one I saw, the band was joined on stage by their original drummer, Gary Young, who greeted concertgoers by stumbling around outside the venue mumbling, "You know Pavement? I used to play drums with them!"

16. The dream team in Inception
I was intellectually taken with Inception, but found the whole film to be a little emotionally hollow. In particular, its core love story seemed more of a way to get a puzzle onto the screen, rather than the other way around. Luckily, Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard's tragic love didn't have to maintain the whole film. I found myself completely absorbed in the team of dreamweavers who accompanied Leo -- especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, flying through the air and kissing Ellen Page, all in a dapper three-piece suit; and Tom Hardy as the charming, identity-bending forger.

17. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)", by the Arcade Fire
Fighting the inevitability of the suburbs is a theme as old as post-war subdivisions, and in their album The Suburbs, (gracing a year-end Top 10 list near you) the Arcade Fire both fight and accept this inevitability -- no more so than on "Sprawl II" a whirling dervish of a song that evokes those dreamy teenage moments of abandon in nighttime playgrounds and the lost darkness of modern, light-filled cities.

18. "How it Ends", choreographed by Travis Wall, danced by Kent Boyd and Neil Haskell, So You Think You Can Dance
Dance is a mind-opener, and So You Think You Can Dance has probably done more to introduce different genres of dance to the American public than anything in recent memory -- take it from someone who has seen old Texas grandpas reduced to open-mouthed awe at the live touring show. And if one dance has the power to melt cold hearts, it has to be this one: a story about two male friends who have a falling out. Now, no one affiliated with the show ever said that this was a "gay" story, but it is clearly a love story between two men, however you interpret that. In a year when the president had to shoot a video telling gay teenagers to hold on through the dark days that they perceive themselves powerless to avoid, this dance was a little shred of light.

19. Russell freaks out, True Blood
True Blood is glorious, florid, Southern gothic, but nothing was more bloody good fun than when Russell Edgington, vampire king of Mississippi, fueled by insane grief at the death of his lover, went nuts on the nightly news.

20. "Madder Red" video, Yeasayer
Kristen Bell loses her pet. The fact that the pet is a pus-filled blob doesn't make it any less poignant. Well… maybe a little less poignant.

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