Sunday, January 1, 2012

20+11 Things I Liked in 2011: Part 2

The second annual Light Green pop culture round-up! If you liked stuff too, share in the comments!

Bromances: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, Crazy Stupid Love, A Dangerous Method
I actually hate the term bromance, but it does evoke what I mean: complicated, loving friendships between men. In the past year, it’s as if Hollywood finally realized that men’s friendships can be as deep and rich as women’s; and are not only forged through war, sports, or when a black cop and a white cop are paired together. In the second Sherlock Holmes film, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law re-kindled the crazy chemistry they displayed in the first one. Crazy Stupid Love was a little lame when it came to boy-girl stuff, but the friendship between Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell was the heart of the film. And in A Dangerous Method’s advertising campaign, they featured Keira Knightley, but the movie was really a love story about Freud and Jung.

“Civilian”, by Wye Oak
I haven’t fallen this hard for a song since I was a teenager and songs meant everything. “Holy Holy” from the same album is pretty damn great as well.

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Let me just be honest, I think Stieg Larsson wrote awkwardly, and plotted clunkily. I got so bored reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest that I just quit reading it. But he did create one of the greatest modern literary characters in Lisbeth Salander. Rooney Mara, playing Salander in the American film based on the book, is a revelation, completely inhabiting the hunch-shouldered hacker punk. And with Daniel Craig playing Mikael Blomkvist, the character finally seems like he’s a match for Lisbeth. The two duet perfectly, giving performances that are marvels of interiority. As an added bonus, the movie’s soundtrack kicks ass.

Camp, by Childish Gambino
For a while, hip-hop has felt a little stale to me. I mean, I don’t get all of the end-of-the-year praise for Jay-Z and Kanye’s Watch the Throne, when it seemed like folks weren’t too blown away by it when it first came out. And Drake, c’mon… speed it up a little bit, friend. Then along came Camp, by Childish Gambino (the alter ego of comedian and actor Donald Glover). And suddenly, rap felt fresh again. The rhymes are clever and reward close listening; Glover’s flow is smooth as needed and pleasantly chunky at other times; the music is awesome.  The subject matter of Camp feels new too. It’s about insecurity, forming your identity, and coping by turning to performance. Best tracks: The first five songs are great, and I particularly like the fifth, “Heartbeat.”

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want a magic circus to suddenly appear in his or her town. A circus with labyrinths and ice gardens, wishing trees and glass bottles holding scents that tell stories. A circus where magicians duel and fall in love. Where kittens do tricks, and the air smells of caramel. The night circus isn’t coming to your town, so you’ll have to sink into the world of Morgenstern’s lovely book. I’m sure it will be made into a movie, but I’m just as sure that when committed to the screen, the circus will lose some of the magic it has in our imaginations.

Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
I’m not gonna lie, I have a huge crush on Patton Oswalt, so I was pretty excited to see him in Young Adult. I knew he was going to be good. What surprised me, however, was how good Charlize Theron was opposite him. I know she’s a good actress, but her taste in projects doesn’t seem to ever line up with my taste in movie-going. Playing a high school mean girl who never moved past the binge drinking or the entitlement of senior year, Theron goes all in to create a character who isn’t saved and doesn’t learn lessons. She and Oswalt are pure, cringe-inducing pleasure every time they’re on screen together.

If Ryan Gosling’s character, Driver, ever met Lisbeth Salander, we’d probably have an incredibly violent silent film on our hands. Driver takes taciturnity to a new high. He’s a stunt driver for the movies who moonlights as a getaway driver. Drive is super-cool, hearkening back to those L.A. movies where the city’s pavement plays a supporting role.  Other cool things about the movie: Albert Brooks, playing a pure badass; Gosling’s satin scorpion jacket; the movie’s soundtrack. Warning, however: this is not a film for the squeamish.

Moves Like Jagger, by Maroon 5
Granted, if there weren’t actual moves by Jagger in this video, it would just be Adam Levine without a shirt (again… seriously, Adam, there are children in the Philippines who are trying to feed their families. Buy some shirts, man). But there are moves by Jagger.

Bad Lip-Reading, the internet
Because those Republican candidates deserve it. Special bonus points for the bad lip-reading of Michael Buble’s song, “Haven’t Met You Yet”, transforming it into the hilarious “Russian Unicorn.”

Vampire Diaries, the CW
You know how most shows save their big plot twists for sweeps months? Well, the producers and writers of The Vampire Diaries have totally thrown out that playbook. Instead, they have the confidence to give us major plot developments every week – sometimes two or three per episode (they usually have a big reveal around minute 48, and you’re sure the episode will end, then they give you 5 or 6 more minutes). Sure, this strategy is risky. You could jump the shark. But so far, there’s no sign of water skis in sight, as the excellent cast races right along with the breathless plotting.

Seeing Stars: Visionary Drawing from the Collection, The Menil Collection, Houston, TX
I got to see my first, real Henry Darger drawing.  I think my heart might have stopped. Collecting works by folk, na├»ve, and outsider artists, this exhibit is both one of the loveliest and one of the saddest things I have ever seen.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Putting "Night Circus" on my reading list, and I can't wait to borrow "Crazy, Stupid, Love" from my friend to watch it!