Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! And, a Question

So, as you can see, my Decade-End lists are not completed as we reach the end of the decade tonight. Obviously, the movie retrospectives will run through next week. My question is, with the holiday tomorrow, will y'all be around and looking for the conclusion of the TV and Song lists? Or should I wait til Monday when everybody's back to work?

Sound off in the comments! And Let me know how you're liking the lists! I'm super curious to know what you guys think will make my Top 10s.

Happy New Year!

Ten Years on TV: The 50 Best Seasons #20-11

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh decade with an enthusiastically biased take on the last ten years on TV. I've limited myself to one season per series, tried very hard to keep it to seasons that began and ended in the Aughts, and haven't included mini-series and TV movies, but for two extremely worthy exceptions. Enjoy!

[Previously: #50-41, 40-31, 30-21]

#20. The Amazing Race, Season 3 (CBS, 2002)
It's tough to remember when this show was struggling to find an audience, but it almost didn't come back from its fourth go-round (and basically got a last-gasp summer run that turned things around). I was onboard from minute one, and while the early seasons were all hugely entertaining, Season 3 had the added benefit of my severe ambivalence toward Flo and Zach, whose improbable run to the finish came to the tune of a chorus of cheers (for him) and boos (for her).

Top Episode: "Did You See How I Stopped It? With My Face," wherein Heather and Eve took a cab to the pit stop when they were supposed to walk, thereby falling from first to last and getting the boot.

#19. The Paper, Season 1 (MTV, 2008)
I've written about this show at great length, and with incredibly good reason -- it is only the most underappreciated TV season of the last decade, if not beyond. I love laughing at those Jersey Shore idiots as much as anyone, but if one-third of the people yammering about that show had watched The Paper just once, it might have gotten a bit of the notoriety it deserved. Amanda Lorber, Adam Brock, Miss Weiss, you'll remain the Situations of MY heart, at least.

Top Episode: "Superteen Bonding," where we were graced with the well-rounded presence of MICHAEL JAN!

#18. Lost, Season 4 (ABC, 2008)
Okay, guys, here goes. We're in a circle of mutual respect and trust, right? Here's the thing: I watched Lost from the beginning, I stuck with it, I supported it, but I never fully loved the first three seasons. I know Seasons 2 and 3 got the big backlash, but even back in Season 1, the flashbacks would get repetitive and Jack was annoying and the structure got weirdly predictable. Still incredibly watchable, but never quite something I LOVED. Until the end of Season 3 -- pretty much as soon as the showrunners set that end date -- when the mythology really started to take shape, and they let Ben and Locke become the deceitful hearts of the show, and Juliet emerged, at which point I flipped a switch and became a pants-wettingly passionate fan. So Season 4 was, for me, what Season 1 was to most everyone else. So awesome!

Top Episode: "Ji Yeon," because Sun and Jin have always been among my favorites, and it also doubles as an amazing Juliet episode, where she pulls all sorts of underhanded shit to make sure Sun leaves the island (thus saving her baby).

#17. Mad Men, Season 1 (AMC, 2007)
It's funny, in the early days of this show, I was completely riveted and yet equally horrified. It played like a horror movie of white-male regressive oppression. kind of still is. But I hardly ever think of that angle anymore. At least not explicitly. Because I've become so engrossed in the characters and their stories.

Top Episode: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," as addictive a TV pilot as I can remember.

Click below for #s 16-11...

#16. Undeclared, Season 1 (FOX, 2001-02)
Judd Apatow's other swiftly cancelled wonderful comedy. The cast is brilliant -- Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Charlie Hunnam, and Carla Gallo were the standouts -- and the absurdities of college were sharply observed. Fox fucked with this show as severely as it did with any of Joss Whedon's properties, it should be noted.

Top Episode: "Eric Visits Again," featuring Jason Segel in his BRILLIANT performance as Lizzie's psycho ex. MORTAL KOMBAT!!

#15. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5 (WB, 2000-01)
Considering the first three and a half seasons were in the '90s, plus the general downturn in quality that Buffy took during its UPN seasons, this wasn't a super hard choice. But the fact is, I ADORED this season, featuring girlie god Glory, Spike before he became a bodice-ripper, the great running subplot about Giles and Anya running a magic shop, and the heartbreaking retardification of Tara. And then Buffy went and died at the end! Tears! Oh, the tears.

Top Episode: "The Body," duh. Just total crushing brilliance.

#14. Big Love, Season 3 (HBO, 2009)
I certainly loved the first two seasons of Big Love, but the third was an incredible leap in quality, and a real grab for the mantle vacated by The Sopranos as the signature HBO drama. As with the best HBO shows, it features a rich, deep supporting cast (Mary Kay Place, would that the world were equipped to appropriately award you), but it all revolves around the trio of stellar women: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin. Watching the power struggles is great, but it's the undercurrent of real loving bonds and a strong sense of family that gives the show depth.

Top Episode: "Come, Ye Saints," where the Henricksons trek to Palmyra and endure the usual road-trip trappings, plus major revelations, including the indelible moment where Nicki helps Sarah through her miscarriage.

#13. Bands on the Run, Season 1 (VH1, 2001)
You guys, what a perfect season of reality TV. Part competition show (VH1 set four unsigned bands on a cross-country tour to see who could rack up the most ticket sales -- and MERCH sales! Can't forget the MERCH!), but it was so loosely organized that it turned into a great candid snapsot of boozy Flickerstick, gothy Harlow, douchey Soul Cracker, and...that other band with baldie up there and the keyboards. The camaraderie, conflict, and actual great music (I own two Flickerstick albums) was some kind of charmed alchemy. In a way, I'm glad VH1 never attempted a second season. No way that lightning strikes twice.

Top Episode: "Columbus, Part 2," wherein our heroes, Flickerstick, were in last place and needed to win a Battle of the Bands to survive. And they did!

#12. The Office, Season 2 (NBC, 2005-06)
Everybody expected the U.S. version of The Office to be terrible. Terrible! That first season made it through with a reluctant "Not so bad" vibe, but it was the second season that really established it as the best comedy on TV, with a surprisingly deep cast of office weirdos as their secret weapon, plus a quartet of strong leads in Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson.

Top Episode: "Office Olympics," still the single best evocation of the show's central theme: how to create something meaningful out of days filled with the most meaningless of work.

#11. Arrested Development, Season 2 (FOX, 2004-05)
Flip a coin between the first season and the second, really. I'll tip the scales for Season 2 for a few reasons: Maeby's job as a movie studio executive (Marry me!), the rapid proliferation of chicken dances, George living in the attic, Motherboy, and the inexplicably objectionable Ann (her?).

Top Episode: "Spring Breakout," where Lucille takes a break from rehab so she can beat Kitty in a drinking contest, and Buster, left to his own devices, mistakes a box of wine for juice and ends up performing "Rose's Turn" all over the penthouse.

Retrospecticus: 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade, #40-21

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh Decade with an inventory of my 100 favorite songs of the last ten years. As ever, take these rankings with a grain of salt and the smug knowledge that I don't know anything about music.

[Previously: #100-81; 80-61; 60-41]

#40. No Doubt -- "Ex-Girlfriend"
Another bass line I could bounce around inside forever. The decade had barely yawned itself into being before No Doubt kicked off their sophomore album with Gwen Stefani's fire-engine-red hairdo getting all the headlines, and this bullet train of pop pouting sadly getting overlooked. Not even a weak breakdown can do much harm -- not when the band roars back the way they do.

#39. Mary J. Blige -- "Family Affair"
Here's Mary again, and while she's still celebratin' no more drama in her life, with "Family Affair," she took it unapologetically to the dance floor. And she brought her Space Thesaurus! Beyond how addictive this beat is -- and IT IS -- I have to give it up for the turns of phrase that quickly became a part of my life. Crunk, for one thing. Hateration. Holleration. "In this dancery." Leave your situations at the door, people. Get it percolatin'.

#38. Arcade Fire -- "Wake Up"
I've come to Arcade Fire late, but they're one of the more exciting musical discoveries of the decade, for sure. This song was actually my first exposure to the band, and I resisted giving it its due on this countdown because -- oh, the shame -- I first heard it in the Where the Wild Things Are trailer. But fuck that, this is a brilliant, joyful, rousing song no matter where I first heard it.

#37. Jay Z / Linkin Park -- "Numb / Encore"
I'd credit this collaboration with putting a nail in the coffin of rap-rock, but honestly, that body was cold by the time Jay and the boys from Linkin Park tried this collaboration. And what it turned out to be was a homegrown mashup -- probably no different in concept than dozens of club-generated tracks. But the fact that this arose organically, and that it included shared studio space and human give-and-take, gives this uncannily perfect integration of these two songs an added cache.

Click below for #s 36-21...

#36. Something Corporate -- "Konstantine"
I've said it before, and maybe about this very song, that I have a definite weakness for teenage hyper-emotion (don't make me say, "emo," I won't do it) and drama and hyperbole. Which makes me more susceptible than most to the nearly ten-minute long "Konstantine," a song that is about nothing more serious than a breakup. And nothing more devastating. Despite my sarcasm-based deflector shields, I'd say give this song a try. The repetitive simplicity of the piano-based first third lulls you into the half-dozen whispers and crescendos and echoes -- it really does deliver an experience like being caught inside your own head with your most plaintive self.

#35. Sigur Ros -- "Hoppipolla"
You guys don't know the shame spiral I embarked upon after including this song. Starting with the pretention of including a Sigur Ros song when I don't really listen to Sigur Ros, though I fell in love with "Hopipolla" harder than almost any song this decade, but I was introduced to it through a viral video of all awful things, though I guess that's kind of a statement on our times, as is the fact of the song showing up in the Children of Men trailer, and that was awesome enough to win my little trailer tournament, oh but also it was in the Earth trailer and that was mawkish and manipulative and HOLY GOD. Stop it. I love this song. It picks me up and lifts my eyes to the horizon and above and makes me think of parades and ghosts and flying and Iceland. For four and a half minutes, I'm transported. I can find something else to feel bad about.

#34. Ryan Adams -- "Oh My Sweet Carolina"
I like my Ryan Adams songs the same way I like my coffee: wistful and sad. (What's that? Man, you're drinking the wrong coffee.) And, in this case, harmonizing with Emmylou Harris and reminiscing about home, and the roads that lead to and from there.

#33. The Dandy Warhols -- "Bohemian Like You"
I'm still a little surprised the Dandies didn't become much bigger stars than they did. And they became pretty big stars. But after they hit with this hop-around party anthem, I'm surprised they didn't become The Killers.

#32. Christina Aguilera -- "Dirrty"
One of my favorite image-management decisions of the last decade was when Christina came back with her second album, after about two years of Christina v. Britney "who's the whoriest?" debates, and just totally knocked the whole issue off the table, probably by bumping said table with her assless chaps. The Xtina era grossed a lot of people out, but you couldn't get me out of this muck if you tried.

#31. Kanye West -- "Gold Digger"
You know a record has to be good to make me like Jamie Foxx once again cashing in on his Ray Charles impersonation. But you try being the asshole pretending like he doesn't want to sing along. The thing about Kanye is that we're often laughing with him, only he's not laughing. I have no doubt this was supposed to be a scathing recrimination for starfucking women, but he can't help being so goddamn clever that I can't help smiling. "He'll leave yo' ass for a white girl" may have been the best punchline of the decade.

#30. Eve f/ Gwen Stefani -- "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"
Oh my GOD, you guys, I can't take it when this song comes on. Between Eve's swagger and Gwen's creeping backup, I defy you to find four minutes where two chicks were cooler.

#29. Gnarls Barkley -- "Crazy"
Rolling Stone nailed it when they named "Crazy" their #1 song of the decade: nobody wasn't crushing madly on this song when it first dropped. You can feel it, when everybody in the world seems to be on the same wavelength about a song. It's fleeting, but it's powerful.

#28. All-American Rejects -- "The Last Song"
Here's another intensely personal entry for me. Have you ever had a really terrible job -- wow, dumb question. Okay, remember when you had a really terrible job? And you'd do whatever to distract yourself from the day-to-day brutalization of your spirit? Enter the All-American Rejects in the autumn of 2003 with this anthem about making your last petulant goodbyes to everything that never appreciated you. I'll stand behind it as a song, too, swelling strings standing in for the bridge and all.

#27. New Pornographers -- "Use It"
Indie darlings aren't supposed to have songs this catchy. They're certainly not supposed to have you bouncing around in your seat like a three-year-old. "Use It" makes me feel like all six or twelve or however the hell many New Pornographers there are are pushing me out my front door; the harmonic wind in my sails.

#26. Lady Gaga -- "Bad Romance"
Sliding in just as the decade was expiring, Lady Gaga made her place in popular culture permanent with this song (and its attendant video), an absolutely addictive piece of bombastic pop that not one person in the entire universe could even pretend to deny.

#25. The Weepies -- "World Spins Madly On"
So, so, so simple. But that simplicity is no shortcut. It actually puts the lyrics and the vocals on very stark display, and it says a lot about the Weepies -- and of this song in particular -- that it holds up so well.

#24. Junior Senior -- "Move Your Feet"
You heard the Junior Senior. Move those feet. The phrase "sonic explosion" doesn't really mean much when you break it down, but it's the best way I can describe everything that's going on here. They're throwing every bleep and bloop, every Jackson 5-sounding vocal, horns and a backbeat and everything from turning the floor into a bed of hot coals -- motion at any cost. It's total bliss.

#23. Pink -- "U + Ur Hand"
I think I did a double-take the first time I heard this. Like, a double-take with my ears. "You and your hand, did she say?" Not that such a juvenile sentiment is so outrageous or anything, but couched in such addictive power dance-pop, it feels like a sneak attack. The whole song is pure smart-assed kiss-off, but it's also incredibly evocative of a certain type of interaction with a certain type of guy in a certain type of club. Like the lady says, if this song is about you, "You know who you are."

#22. Kate Nash -- "Foundations"
Half mod-era party girl, half brassy barmaid, Kate Nash packs a whole lot of personality into her peppy, poppy, supremely danceable music. "Foundations" takes on the last gasps of a bad relationship with a sparkling, almost conversational lyrical style. Great beats and great wit follows.

#21. Missy Elliott -- "Get Your Freak On"
We already loved Missy. She was supa dupa fly; she was a bitch. Not sure if we knew she was a genius, though. Tag-teaming with Timbaland, Missy bleeped and blooped and holla'd, speeding up, slowing down, circling back to the beginning again, all on the decade's most awesomely elliptical dance track.

Years in Review: 2003

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Ohs Decade with a year-by-year retrospective of the movies I watched and (sometimes) loved. All due apologies to Nick Davis and Nathaniel Rogers for co-opting portions of their own decade-end features. I crib with love!

[Previously: 2000; 2001; 2002]

If you've noticed dark thunderclouds above your head, or the lights flickering, or a deep bellowing from beneath the floorboards, you should know it's because we're talking about 2003, that vaunted Bad Year for movies. Again, like with 2000, this perception is partly due to the Oscarbait movies that were supposed to be good but weren't (hello, House of Sand and Fog, The Last Samurai, and The Human Stain). Big-name filmmakers were lining up to underwhelm, from Ron Howard with The Missing to Tim Burton with Big Fish, to, most glaringly, Anthony Minghella with Cold Mountain, one of many assumed Oscar frontrunners to fizzle out this decade.

The secret saving grace for 2003 were the genre offerings, which boasted my favorite superhero movie (X2: X-Men United), horror movie (28 Days Later), documentary (The Fog of War), and animated movie (Finding Nemo) of the decade. Plus a good handful of diamonds in the rough. Maybe I'm always glass-half-full with these things. I'll admit the year wasn't rock-solid with classics or anything -- I really liked The Station Agent, but that's not a #4 movie in any other year. And while there was some seeeerious crap -- like, Cold Creek Manor type crap -- those diamonds in the rough (see below) have really made me look back on this year with a fondness.

Click below for the best movies of 2003...

The Year in Matt Damon: Matt's only 2003 credit is the regrettable conjoined-twins comedy Stuck on You. So...a misstep.

The Year in Tilda Swinton: Okay, weird: I didn't see either of her '03 offerings, Young Adam or The Statement. Neither set the world on fire, but between this and Matt Damon's crappy year, maybe there's something to this 2003: Año del Diablo thing after all.

Best Theater Experience:
Here's the thing we maybe don't remember: Nobody thought Pirates of the Caribbean was going to be anything but crap and a career-killing choice for Johnny Depp. Even after the (rather excellent) trailer debuted, people weren't ready to believe a movie based on the worst ride at Disney World could be good. I had jumped onboard at the trailer, and watching a packed theater absolutely fall in love with a movie, to the point where they were hopping out the doors afterwards, still buzzing, was a sight to see.

My Top 10
1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2. Kill Bill, Vol. 1
3. Lost in Translation
4. The Station Agent
5. In America
6. Finding Nemo
7. The Fog of War
8. American Splendor
9. 28 Days Later
10. X2: X-Men United

Here's the thing with my number-one movie: I could not have been happier with the way it turned out. It all seemed so right -- Team Jackson didn't make a wrong step, the big battles felt big, the big losses hit home, even the multiple endings sat just fine with me (that was a lot of story that needed concluding). There would not be one thing in that whole movie I would have done differently. I thought then that it was the best of the three Rings movies and the best of 2003. My feelings about the movie have not changed. And yet, it's the only movie of those three that I haven't watched again. I hardly ever find myself thinking about it when I think fondly on the trilogy, and if you asked me to pick one movie from this top 10 to watch right now, it would sit well behind most of the others. (Now that I mention it, I do have a hankering for The Fog of War.) Does this mean that my list is due some re-shuffling? Or should that extreme and enduring sense of satisfaction and perfect completion be allowed to stand?

Best Director
Danny Boyle - 28 Days Later
Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation
Peter Jackson - LotR: Return of the King
Jim Sheridan - In America
Quentin Tarantino - Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Best Actor
Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean
Paul Giamatti - American Splendor
Ben Kingsley - House of Sand and Fog
Bill Murray - Lost in Translation
Sean Penn - Mystic River

Best Actress
Scarlett Johansson - Lost in Translation
Charlize Theron - Monster
Uma Thurman - Kill Bill, Vol. 1
Naomi Watts - 21 Grams
Evan Rachel Wood - Thirteen

Best Supporting Actor
Sean Astin - LotR: Return of the King
Paul Bettany - Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Benicio Del Toro - 21 Grams
Peter Sarsgaard - Shattered Glass
Ken Watanabe - The Last Samurai

Best Supporting Actress
Shoreh Aghdashloo - House of Sand and Fog
Patricia Clarkson - The Station Agent
Hope Davis - American Splendor
Holly Hunter - Thirteen
Emma Thompson - Love, Actually

Ten Films That Have Endured
A Mighty Wind
Shattered Glass
Down with Love
Capturing the Friedmans
Love, Actually
School of Rock
The Matrix: Reloaded

See what I mean about diamonds in the rough, though? For one thing, you've got arguably Gus Van Sant's two best movies of the decade -- depending on how you feel about Milk. Watching Gerry show up on so many Best of Decade lists has the feeling of critics all unveiling a long-dormant enthusiasm for the first time. Back in '03, that movie wasn't even getting love from the snootier critics. The movie that did get that love was Elephant, which I liked a bit better. It left me feeling fantastically unsettled.

Shattered Glass is a movie that never feels like it's breaking
(so to speak) any new ground, but it's perfectly made and super rewatchable (and don't tell anybody, but Hayden Christensen is actually really good). And speaking of rewatchable, I've gone back to School of Rock and Love, Actually at least once a year since they debuted.

I hope you're not expecting me to grovel for approval about loving Camp either. For all its flaws, this movie was everything people love about Glee without any of the crappy pregnancy storylines. Plus, embarrassing as this confession may be, it was the first time I'd heard any real Sondheim. As for The Matrix: Reloaded, I'm including it purely for that freeway chase scene, which was the most awesome thing within the most disappointing thing all year.

Five Films I Should See Again
The Shape of Things
Cold Mountain
City of God
Cabin Fever

I'd love to see what Cold Mountain feels like without the weight of all those Oscar expectations. And along those same lines, I worry that I was watching Monster to evaluate the Charlize Theron performance rather than take in the film itself. I didn't love City of God like everybody else seemed to -- it felt like it really devolved into a conventional crime story and relied on the shock of the age of the characters and the Brazilian setting to make it distinctive. I really hated Cabin Fever, but I'm having a hard time remembering why, besides the fact that it wasn't scary. And while I was fairly enamored with The Shape of Things (and particularly Rachel Weisz) at the time, nobody backed me up on that, and now I'm wondering what I saw in it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ten Years on TV: The 50 Best Seasons #30-21

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh decade with an enthusiastically biased take on the last ten years on TV. I've limited myself to one season per series, tried very hard to keep it to seasons that began and ended in the Aughts, and haven't included mini-series and TV movies, but for two extremely worthy exceptions. Enjoy!

[Previously: #50-41, 40-31]

#30. So You Think You Can Dance, Season 4 (FOX, 2008)
So tough to choose one season of this lil' obsession o' mine, but I'm choosing the strength of Season 4's top 10 over Season 3 (when I first fell for the show) and Season 5 (when my favorite dancer won).

Top Episode: The Top 18 episode, featuring Courtney and Gev's sweet contemporary, Kherington and Twitch's emotional waltz, and eventual finalists Katee and Joshua's Nigel-freaking Broadway routine from Godspell.

#29. Six Feet Under, Season 1 (HBO, 2001)
It's interesting -- as a series, Six Feet Under would easily have been in my Top 20, probably close to the Top 10. But the unevenness of the series -- which is easier to forgive in long form, particularly because of the emotional crescendo of that finale -- makes each season just a little bit dissatisfying. Among the many virtues of the first, groundbreaking season was that we got Brenda before she was broken and degraded by the second season (she never was quite the same).

Top Episode: The pilot, which was a true knockout and featured Claire's immortal freakout because her dad's dead and she's on crack. Crystal! Whatever!

#28. Angel, Season 4 (WB, 2002-03)
I know this season was somewhat divisive, and its anti-episodic structure ended up leading the WB to mandate the format changes that made Season 5 such a disappointment (to me, at least; that season was fairly divisive too). Pregnant Cordelia aside, Season 4 made brilliant use of Angel's lived-in ensemble, plus accommodated the return of Faith (Eliza Dushku) much better than Buffy would.

Top Episode: "Orpheus," where Faith takes an unpleasant trip through Angel's subconscious, and Willow stops by to give him his soul back, again.

#27. True Blood, Season 1 (HBO, 2008)
It was a bit of a slow starter, but once Alan Ball was able to find the balance between gaudy violence, hyperbolic romance, and (my favorite) sneaky comedy, this season was off to the races. Special shouts out to Carrie Preston and Nelsan Ellis (not to mention Alexander Skaarsgard in that bathtub) for appealing to me when the vamp romance perhaps did not.

Top Episode: "The Fourth Man in the Fire," which had so much goodness you could barely stand it, from Sookie and Bill babysitting Arlene's kids, to Jason and Amy kidnapping a vampire, to the aforementioned Eric in the bathtub, to Tara's newly born-again mom and her ridiculous hat.

Click below for #s 26-21...

#26. Laguna Beach, Season 1 (MTV, 2004)
Look, I don't want to hear it. One of my favorite TV moments that didn't occur on TV was discovering, almost all at once, that everybody I know was just as hooked on this MTV "reality" soap as I was. Rooting for Lauren Conrad to land hot boy Stephen and smite Kristin Cavallari was like sports, but better.

Top Episode: "Grin & Bear It," where Lauren eye-rolls her way through a trip to Catalina Island with Stephen and Kristin, and we discover that Christina's dad is a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory Crystal Cathedral.

#25. Clone High, Season 1 (MTV, 2002-03)
Hilarious, brainy, ridiculous -- I can't decide whether the show was sharper on history or on "very special episode" TV culture. I mean, Eleanor Roosevelt as the gym teacher is one thing, but the Snowflake Day episode is just a classic. The fact that "Snowflake Day" was followed up immediately by "Makeover, Makeover, Makeover" is an achievement almost too grand to imagine.

Top Episode: "Makeover, Makeover, Makeover," because I know you're thinking what I'm thinking.

#24. 30 Rock, Season 2 (NBC, 2007-08)
Choosing between the first and second seasons of 30 Rock was some kind of Sophie's Choice. If Sophie had to choose between rural jurors, Jack facing Kenneth in poker, "Muffin Top," and the joys of Cleveland on one side, and Little Chechnya, gay for Jamie, Sandwich Day, and Kenneth Parcell's last party ever on the other. You tell me which way to tilt. Season 2 gets the edge due to MILF Island.

Top Episode: "Rosemary's Baby," where Carrie Fisher played a hippie who took Liz Lemon to a second location, and Jack Donaghy channeled the cast of Good Times in a therapy session with Tracy.

#23. The Riches, Season 1 (FX, 2007)
Much as the second season was a letdown, I was riveted to the first collection of episodes about the Irish-gypsy Malloy clan, and especially the performance of Minnie Driver as Dahlia, one of the more improbable star turns this decade.

Top Episode: "Cinderella," where Dahlia encounters her old prison buddy Chunky K and is forced to reconcile her two lives.

#22. The Sopranos, Season 2 (HBO, 2000)
I'll cop to being ever-so-slightly less attached to The Sopranos as a series than most. But this second season -- featuring the dark-cloud returns of Janice Soprano and Richie Aprile, plus the end of Big Pussy -- was as perfect as that show got.

Top Episode: "The Knight in White Satin Armor," where the Janice and Richie plots get unexpectedly resolved, both at once.

#21. Frisky Dingo, Season 1 (Adult Swim, 2006-07)
Easily the strangest comedy on this list, but also screamingly funny and quotable. It's a tragedy (yes, a TRAGEDY) that this didn't catch on with more viewers.

Top Episode: "Meet Antagone," where the mall is once again Killface's Waterloo, and Xander Crews is kidnapped by the X-tackles.

Retrospecticus: 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade, #60-41

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh Decade with an inventory of my 100 favorite songs of the last ten years. As ever, take these rankings with a grain of salt and the smug knowledge that I don't know anything about music.

[Previously: #100-81; 80-61]

#60. Beyonce -- "Irreplaceable"
I believe Roommate Mark may have quoted me on this issue before, but I'm gonna reiterate: if you did not fall in love with this song after the very first "to the left," I posit that you are a liar and encourage you to take your deceptions and flim-flams elsewhere. I could go farther and say that the same could apply for claims that you weren't singing along by the end of your first listen, but while I could entertain thoughts of truthful dissent there, I'm too busy wondering why a person would want to deny themselves pleasure like that.

#59. Fall Out Boy -- "Dance Dance"
I want to swim around in this bass line. That was the first thought in my head the first time I heard this song, and it remains true today. I'm not sure where the culture has settled on Fall Out Boy (sadly, I think their entire musical career has been dumped into a bin marked "Bronx Mowgli OH SHUT UP"), but as for me, I'd have had a much easier time hating them if they'd have stopped making songs I would obsess over. (Well, that and I kind of like Pete Wentz and all his gay-adjacent posturing don'ttellanyone.) Anyway, "Dance Dance" is the one where their frenetic hitmaking is least encumbered by their navel-gazing, so it gets the Fall Out Boy slot on my list.

#58. Neko Case -- "Hold On, Hold On"
Speaking of songs I could roll around inside. There are vast echo-y caverns inside the 2:47 worth of Neko making the case for her own unknowability, and I want to explore all of them.

#57. Justin Timberlake -- "Cry Me a River"
Okay, this is a hot song, and I'm not really interested in hearing arguments. But in praising JT here, I have to set aside for a moment the fact that this song (and accompanying video) pretty much broke Britney Spears and left the million little pieces that have been flashing their vadge and walking into public restrooms barefoot for the better part of this decade. But seriously, if Justin were singing to me like that, I might voluntarily surrender my better judgment too. An epic-level kiss-off has never sounded so goddamn sexy.

Click below for #s 56-41...

#56. Coldplay -- "Viva La Vida"
The strings! The tympani! The structured French Revolution military jackets! This was the song that made it okay to argue with people who snobbishly dismissed Coldplay again. I don't care if the song was cribbed from Napoleon Bonaparte himself, this is some delicious grandeur right here.

#55. Missy Elliott f/ Ludacris -- "Gossip Folks"
"I heard the bitch got hit by three zebras and a monkey." I'm glad Missy decided to fight back against such hurtful rumors. Seriously, though, normally songs about haters (and/or songs about how people should stop talking about what a giant lez you are) aren't my cuppa tea. But when Missy makes it all sound this playful and sprightly, I'd be one hell of an asshole to try to resist it. It probably stretched the expiration date on the backwards-looping thing from "Work It," but I'll forgive it for yet another stellar Ludacris guest verse.

#54. Rilo Kiley -- "Portions for Foxes"
Jenny Lewis never quiiiite made it for me as the darling she was to many in the middle section of this decade, but I'm not deaf and have retained my capacity for joy, which are the two conditions which must be met to recognize the contagious melodies on this one.

#53. Fiona Apple -- "Get Him Back"
The whole of Extraordinary Machine is an absolute gem, living up to its name on pretty much every track. "Get Him Back" sees Fiona and her piano in unusually high spirits. Rollicking, even. The lyrical turns of phrase ("I think he let me down when he didn't disappoint me,") don't take a back seat for long, though.

#52. N Sync -- "Bye Bye Bye"
I'm not apologizing. You tell me what you were doing in 2000 if not training every muscle in your body to resist making the bunny-hop dance moves from this video while you were at work. Now that Justin Timberlake seems to be undergoing hairstyle regression therapy (Justin, NO!), maybe it's time the culture got its collective shit together and recognized this as the apex of dance-pop era that dominated everything at the turn of the century.

#51. Sufjan Stevens -- "Chicago"
I tried to resist the precious, oft-bewinged Stevens, and sometimes he makes it easy to stay at arm's length. Not so with "Chicago," one of those rare but wonderful moments of pop-cultural serendipity where we all got run over by the big yellow Little Miss Sunshine bus, and while we were dazed on the ground, Sufjan came floating by and laid this one on us.

#50. Augustana -- "Boston"
I've tried to keep this list as universal as possible, without too many of the "you had to be there" songs where I talk about loving such-and-such because it played at the bar the night I met a boy or was used in a really effective montage on TV. This entry is a necessary exception, and if I'm being honest, only half of one. I was already pretty into this pretty little VH1 piano ballad by the time I had decided to move to New York. But from then on, sentiments like "I think I'll start over, where no one knows my name" began to ring uncommonly true, and between its radio dominance and the fact that Augustana played a free show in Buffalo weeks before I left, this song dominated my summer, making it onto every iPod playlist I created for a year, if not longer.

#49. Nelly -- "Hot in Herre"
Dispute it, if you dare. Find me a summer song more apt to get any party started, no matter how resistant the crowd. No, I don't respect Nelly as anything beyond an uncanny hitmaker for a very short window of time, but while that window was open, hot, hot hits started pouring in. Case in point: this self-fulfilling prophecy that, among other things, will get a room of people to exclaim "I think my butt's gettin' big!"

#48. Radiohead -- "Idioteque"
Full disclosure: I am not a Radiohead guy. I tried to do it, and I respect you if you are, but I couldn't make it. So this is the only bit of Thom and Co. you'll find on this list. Why "Idioteque," then, over everything else I may have sampled? Part of it is that ambient swell that rises and falls with Thom Yorke's anxious whine. Part of it is how it becomes inexplicably danceable in the middle part. Part of it is the hypnotic repetition that starts to feel weirdly sultry. You'll note just from my vocabulary here ("inexplicably"! "weirdly"!) that the whole song feels like it shouldn't work; that it should just be noise. And yet...

#47. Joan Osborne -- "Hallelujah in the City"
This is another selection I owe to Roommate Mark's list; this one I hadn't heard at all. I stuck with Joan Osborne longer than most -- her sophomore album, Righteous Love, was an unjustly ignored delight, and since then, I've seen her live a few times, where her bluesy nature and zeal for the audience makes her a hot ticket (and most likely a cheap one at that). But I found myself less plugged into her career later in the decade, after she'd spent that summer touring with the Grateful Dead, so when her Little Wild One met a similar under-the-radar fate, I totally missed it. Which is a shame, because "Hallelujah" might be my favorite song of hers since "St. Theresa." A plucky-acoustic arrangement that lets her sandy vocals tell the story of her love affair with the five boroughs of New York. By the time she hits the bridge to "the churches of Brooklyn, underneath the Chelsea lights," I'm swelled with civic pride...and waiting for the breakdown.

#46. Brandi Carlile -- "The Story"
I've talked about this song on the blog before, but I can't think of too many songs from this decade that nailed the simple allure of screaming your heart out in song form more than Brandi Carlile. This guitar-driven music alternates soft-strumming and power chords, push-pulling you through Brandi's sad tale of love unfulfilled; but it's Brandi's barely-tuned wailing, all cigarettes and tears, that makes it special. We could use another Melissa Etheridge, Brandi. Keep it up.

#45. Aaliyah -- "Try Again"
Ain't no regret like the regret of dying young. It's certainly perverse to talk about going out on top in such a case, so I'll just say that the Aaliyah/Timbaland pairing set a high standard for what we'd lose when her plane crashed in 2001. As cool as black ice, and just as stealthy, Aaliya's arm's-length treatment felt especially distinctive at the dawn of the age of TMI (and no small accomplishment, given how her "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number" pretty much put her probably-illegal relationship with R. Kelly on blast). "Try Again" is still the smoothest, sleekest mixed signal in pop music. This ain't a yes? This ain't a no? Hell, at least Tim gave us a dope beat to step to.

#44. New Pornographers -- "Challengers"
Echoey, sparse, evocative -- "Challengers" is about as luxurious as it gets for these indie darlings. I can hardly put words to it; I'm already working from a deficit when it comes to describing these songs, but when something with such clearly nonverbal charms comes along, sentiments like "we are the challengers of the unknown" leave me in an appreciative mush.

#43. Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- "Origin of Love"
Yes, another Hedwig entry, which should tell you the impact that movie made on me. This was the moment in the movie that made me sit up straight and realize I wasn't watching some drag show put to celluloid but a legitimate and rousing movie musical. John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask put together a story of ancient myth; of two-sided, complete people, done in and forced to live as yearning halves due to the caprice and jealousy of Zeus and Osiris and the other gods. Sorry, what was your little song about again?

#42. Justin Timberlake -- "Sexyback"
"Just who the fuck is this skinny, pasty, curly-haired, girly-singing, Walt Disney World teeny-bopper to talk about bringing sexy back? And BACK? Back from where? We already have an Enrique Iglesias, sir!" As a fan of popular music -- and cute boys -- it gave me no small amount of satisfaction to watch naysayer after naysayer forced to sign off not only on Justin's hot, hot hit, but also think really, really hard about whether they would kiss him on the mouth if given the opportunity.

#41. Franz Ferdinand -- "Take Me Out"
The fact that this song kind of oversold me on how much of an impact Franz Ferdinand would have on my decade ("Ulysses" went a way towards bringing that back) does not diminish my immediate and enduring affection for this utterly struttable hit.

Years in Review: 2002

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Ohs Decade with a year-by-year retrospective of the movies I watched and (sometimes) loved. All due apologies to Nick Davis and Nathaniel Rogers for co-opting portions of their own decade-end features. I crib with love!

[Previously: 2000; 2001]

Upon graduating college and moving on to ... part-time employment at that very same college, I nevertheless found myself utilizing the close proximity of the suburban-Buffalo arthouse theater much more than I had as an undergrad. And my late-afternoon shift times led to a string of delightful matinee screenings -- I vivdly recall the first one being a lunchtime sneak-out to see Rabbit-Proof Fence, which I felt was very arthousy of me -- that would carry me through the next several years.

The story of 2002 -- one of them, anyway -- was one of striving to meet great expectations. By the time Gangs of New York finally screened for the public, it felt like we'd been through years and years of production hype, release-date changes, and most prominently, insane Scorsese Oscar hype. It's amazing how quickly that particular hysteria dissipated afterThe Departed, but it was all the Oscar blogosphere (such as it was) could talk about at the time. It's not at all surprising the movie couldn't sustain the hype (perhaps if DiCaprio had painted himself blue? Would Cameron Diaz's flim-flam scams have popped more in IMAX 3D?), but despite severe unevenness, it does have its moments (it's kind of sad that Daniel Plainview has completely eclipsed Bill the Butcher in the annals of great '00s performances).

In other news of crushing anticipation, critics and audiences had fun hurling the occasional spitball at the pristine gloominess of Road to Perdition (whatever, it's still my favorite Sam Mendes movie); the second Star Wars prequel got a bit of mileage out of "not as bad as Phantom Menace!" ... until people realized they were watching an hour and a half of Hayden Christensen emoting in a wheat field; and while it's more than passed into obscurity by now, the anticipation for Shekhar Kapur's The Four Feathers was pretty significant, though trying now to imagine a costume epic starring Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson, and Wes Bentley seems pretty bizarre.

Click below for the best movies of 2002...

Of course, not everything disappointed. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, while often brushed off as the weak middle chapter of the trilogy, met every expectation that Fellowship had raised, and I still cannot tear my eyes away from the Battle of Helms Deep. Also, arguably, the fact that Chicago met all expectations for being a return to glitzy, A-list fun for musicals paved its way to the Oscar win.

The Year in Matt Damon: This was a pivotal year for Damon's career, and one which set the template for the rest of his decade. He re-teamed with Gus Van Sant for the super-arty Gerry (though it would not be released wide until '03), and also took the lead role in Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity. [Also, though it wasn't a film appearance, this was also the year he guested on Will & Grace, which is a totally underrated moment in terms of getting audiences on his side.]

The Year in Tilda Swinton: Tilda took a small but enjoyable role in Spike Jonze's Adaptation, but more importantly, though I never saw it, she was in a Canadian movie called Teknolust in which she plays a scientist named Rosetta Stone who creates human/robot clones of herself. Awesome!

Best Theater Experience:
While I'm not about to slight the bizarre show-and-tell aspect of seeing The Hours on a Thursday and then dragging my mom, of all people, to see it again on Sunday ("Everybody was just so SAD..."), it's hard not to give it up for the screams and thrills had seeing The Ring for the first time. Nothing better than feeling a room full of snickering teens slowly scared into silence.

My Top 10
1. The Hours
2. LotR: The Two Towers
3. 25th Hour
4. Far From Heaven
5. Minority Report
6. Adaptation
7. Road to Perdition
8. Spirited Away
9. About Schmidt
10. Chicago

So many of this year's best movies have aged remarkably well; none better, perhaps, than Minority Report, which wouldn't have been close to my Top 10 at the time, but is probably the best depiction of Spielbergian spectacle since Jurassic Park combined with one of his more intellectually rich and emotionally resonant stories as well. 25th Hour and Spirited Away have been appearing on numerous decade-end lists, and with good reason, and I feel particularly vindicated that even with only seven years of perspective, Spike Lee's movie is getting its due. I'll get to work on making sure The Hours' reputation ages as well over the next decade.

Best Director
Stephen Daldry - The Hours
Todd Haynes - Far From Heaven
Peter Jackson - LotR: the Two Towers
Spike Lee - 25th Hour
Steven Spielberg - Catch Me If You Can / Minority Report

Best Actor
Adrien Brody - The Pianist
Nicolas Cage – Adaptation
Daniel Day Lewis - Gangs of New York
Jack Nicholson - About Schmidt
Jeremy Renner - Dahmer

Best Actress
Nicole Kidman - The Hours
Diane Lane - Unfaithful
Julianne Moore - Far From Heaven/ The Hours
Meryl Streep - The Hours
Renee Zellweger – Chicago

Best Supporting Actor
Jim Broadbent - Gangs of New York
Chris Cooper - Adaptation
Brian Cox - 25th Hour / Adaptation
Paul Newman - Road to Perdition
Christopher Walken - Catch Me If You Can

Best Supporting Actress
Samantha Morton - Minority Report
Michelle Pfeiffer - White Oleander
Susan Sarandon - Moonlight Mile / Igby Goes Down
Meryl Streep - Adaptation
Catherine Zeta Jones - Chicago

Five Films That Have Endured (outside my Top 10)
The Ring
About a Boy
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Me Without You

The Ring boasts one of the three scariest movie moments of the decade, and while we're speaking about terrifically unsettling movies, give Frailty a look. The final half-hour could feel gimmicky, but I was too busy trying to keep the hairs on the back of my neck from standing up. Me Without You and Y Tu Mama Tambien are interesting to think about in conjunction, given that both feature compelling duos intertwined on deep emotional/sexual levels (Michelle Williams and Anna Friel in the former, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna in the latter). And even if Alfonso Cuaron hadn't gone on to do pretty damn well for himself as the decade went on (he did), Y Tu Mama would still linger on if only for the single hottest scene in cinema all decade. As for About a Boy, it remains the best film product associated with Nick Hornby and Hugh Grant's all-time best performance, and it's best not to think of the current incarnation of Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as connected in any way to the child in this movie.

Five Films I Should See Again
Catch Me If You Can
Roger Dodger
Lovely & Amazing
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

The first four movies on this list are all movies I quite liked at first blush, but with aspects that probably deserve closer scrutiny. Like whether Lovely & Amazing has anything to say beyond the strong ensemble cast. Or where Insomnia fits among Christopher Nolan's themes of compromised heroism (The Dark Knight) and disorientation (Memento, The Prestige). Or if Campbell Scott's Roger Dodger performance brings anything distinctive to the Tutoring Cad persona that would be revisited countless times throughout the decade. Or if Catch Me if You Can feels just as buoyant as before, but hopefully less repetitive. As for Altar Boys, it'll be worth it to revisit Emile Hirsch's performance, in light of the pretty rockin' decade he's had, and I'll be honest -- Nick Davis's enthusiastic take on it makes me wonder if I narrowly missed something special.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ten Years on TV: The 50 Best Seasons #40-31

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh decade with an enthusiastically biased take on the last ten years on TV. I've limited myself to one season per series, tried very hard to keep it to seasons that began and ended in the Aughts, and haven't included mini-series and TV movies, but for two extremely worthy exceptions. Enjoy!

[Previously: #50-41]

#40. Flavor of Love: Charm School, Season 1 (VH1, 2007)
Yes, I'm serious! Look, Mo'Nique didn't just have one indelible impression on American pop culture this decade. She also told Pumkin that she came as the whore of Charm School. We could debate the sincerity with which VH1 (and/or Mo'nique) wanted to better these girls versus give them another venue to fight and curse, but what emerged was an honest-to-God process of redemption for several of Flav's most hard done by women.

Top Episode: "Tore Up from the Floor Up," where Brooke fellated an ice sculpture, got called a whore, and professed her love for her titties.

#39. The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Seasons (MTV, 2002)
I don't mind telling you I wrapped myself in knots trying to figure out which season of the Challenge to include on this list. The latter seasons have had all the high-drama fights and such, but there was something about those first few seasons. Sarah going on that improbable run on The Gaultlet. Emily's rampage through the girls' team on Battle of the Sexes. But Seasons was the first mega-Challenge and had too many awesome moments to miss: Belou showing up with her baby and a mullet; Holly and Chadwick's awful relationship, Coral teeing off on stupid Stephen; that hurricane toga party. Music rights be damned, MTV needs to get these seasons out on DVD now.

Top Episode: Titles are elusive, but the episode where the hurricane hits and Belou tees off on Chadwick and Holly for criticizing her parenting set the bar awfully high.

#38. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 2 (FX, 2006)

Picking one season of this show is especially painful because of the episodes you have to leave out. In this case, while Season 2 marks the strongest collection of episodes, it still leaves out "Underage Drinking: A National Concern" (Season 1), "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person" (Season 3), and "The Night Man Cometh" (Season 4). Forgive me, Night Man. Please accept these kitten mittens (Season 5).

Top Episode: "Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare," where ... yep, they sure do.

Click below for #s 37-31...

#37. Nurse Jackie, Season 1 (Showtime, 2009)
#36. Weeds, Season 1 (Showtime, 2005)
#35. United States of Tara, Season 1 (Showtime, 2009)
It's not entirely fair to group the three Showtime half-hour shows about female protagonists living on the fringe of their middle-class worlds, but this is honestly where they ended up on the list, so I figured why not write about them together. Give or take a Dexter, these were the shows that made Showtime indispensable for me, featuring three of the most indelible performances of the decade in Mary-Louise Parker, Toni Collette, and Edie Falco, but it was smart writing and deep ensemble casts (all reflected in the Top Episodes below) that really made the shows.

Top Episodes: "Chicken Soup" (Nurse Jackie), where Zoey (Merritt Wever) worked up the courage to get her stethoscope back from O'Hara (Eve Best); "Lude Awakening" (Weeds), where Elizabeth Perkins, in the role of her career, lets it all go and enjoys the world's last pharmaceutical quaalude; "Betrayal" (Tara), where Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) is shocked to find a new alter emerging, and Marshall (Kier Gilchrist) burns the shed down.

#34. RuPaul's Drag Race, Season 1 (Logo, 2009)

I wrote about this at great length earlier this year, but just to reiterate: this was a brilliant send-up of the reality competition genre AND a great reality competition in its own right, with some great contestants, and RuPaul at her Tyra-best.

Top Episode: "Girl Groups," where Akasha lip-synched to a Michelle Williams song with so much creativity, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that Michelle herself wept; and Tammie Brown left with her dignity.

#33. Dexter, Season 1 (Showtime, 2006)
Much as it's had some peaks since then, I don't think this show has ever been as beginning-to-end captivating as it was in that breathless first season. Michael C. Hall gave one of TV's great performances this decade.

Top Episode: "Born Free," the honestly epic climax.

#32. Skins, Season 1 (BBC America, 2007)
This British series was my pick for the decade's best depiction of teenage drama, at least the ones not involving a football team or a sleuth outcast. With each episode, the cast of characters grew wider and deeper, with unexpected moments of pathos dotting the sex-comedy elements.

Top Episode: "Cassie," where a previously frivolous character is given a shocking amount of depth it would take lesser shows a whole season to achieve.

#31. State of Play (BBC America, 2003)
The U.S. remake was actually pretty okay, is the thing. The only reason it felt like a miserable failure, to me, was because the Brit original was so amazing. Taut investigative intrigue from a newsroom, with the episodic structure really giving you a sense of the economic pressures affecting the newspaper story, and allowing things like the romance between an MP's wife and the lead journalist.

Top Episode: Episode 4, where awesome gay Syd uncovers an awesome gay secret about the key witness.

Retrospecticus: 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade, #80-61

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh Decade with an inventory of my 100 favorite songs of the last ten years. As ever, take these rankings with a grain of salt and the smug knowledge that I don't know anything about music.

[Previously: #100-81]

#80. M.I.A. -- "Paper Planes"
As trendy as she got, I can't not give it up to M.I.A. for taking third-world survivalism and, while not glamorizing it, certainly making us feel it at a level far more elemental than easy sympathy.

#79. Lady Gaga -- "Poker Face"
I'm so glad we've all given up the ghost that Lady Gaga is here and will not return to outer space for a good long time. I also hope we're gonna stop trying not to like this Sherman's march of hits she's got going. Lack of perspective on this run made it hard to pick which song to include -- or where on the list to place it -- but I figure "Poker Face" is the safe bet, and certainly the song with which she placed her stamp on the waning months of the decade.

#78. Andrew WK -- "Party Hard"
The Truth in Advertising winner of the decade, for sure. There's not much to figure out here, just a runaway train of hard-charging determination to get fucked up and have the most fun you've ever dared yourself to have in 200 seconds.

#77. 112 -- "Dance With Me"
Another reminder that coming up with songs worthy of this list doesn't have to be so complicated. If you can find five songs in my entire lifetime that get the core of me involuntarily grooving like this one does, I'd be impressed. It's songs like "Dance with Me" that make me wonder about things like biorhythms, because if everybody on Earth reacted to this song the way I do, it'd be pumped out over the airspace every morning and we wouldn't need caffeine anymore.

#76. Johnny Cash -- "The Man Comes Around"
I can't in good conscience put the Cash cover of "Hurt" on here, because I so fiercely believe that's a Nine Inch Nails song, and now that both versions have passed into history, it's Trent Reznor's again (I know Trent disagrees with me; I don't care). Good news, though -- Cash's voice on this title track sounds every bit as much like he's on his way to meet his maker. The diversion into Revelations-style Christian literalism is both surprising and operatic. Then again, here's a man who'd been falling into a burning ring of fire his whole career. Preparing to meet "alpha and omega's kingdom come" this way seems about right.

Click below for #s 75-61...

#75. Lil' Kim -- "How Many Licks?"
Sweet Jesus, what incredible filth Kim spews in just under four minutes. But you try wagging your finger at all the asses she got to shakin'. You should also try getting caught humming along to this one from beneath your headphones at work. It's particularly interesting if you've gotten to the black dude she calls King Kong.

#74. Evanescence -- "Bring Me to Life"
You know, if America cared about big-voiced, dark-haired, goth-tinged girls the way they do about squinty-eyed, blonde, country warblers, Amy Lee might have had a very different career throughout the '90s. The first victims of a Kanye West awards-show stage-rushing still managed to deliver one of my favorite guilty pleasures of the decade, all driving guitars and Lee's proto-emo wailing against the darkness. Hey, Elektra had to set her training montage to something -- why not this perfectly bombastic bit of business?

#73. Kanye West -- "Stronger"
The decade's second-hardest working sample (#1 shows up in the 11-20 range on this countdown) sees Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" set up the circuitry inside Kanye's self-aggrandizing verses and weirdly compulsory misogyny (that line about the blonde dyke just doesn't work, 'Ye) and lights the whole thing up like Vegas on a Friday night.

#72. Rihanna -- "Don't Stop the Music"
Yes, Rihanna's third time on this list, but it's her first as the star attraction (and it won't be her last appearance here either, FYI). Here, she presents her most straightforwardly dancey hit, an invitation you can't possibly turn down, especially when the ghost of Michael Jackson (before he was even dead, no less) is urging you on with all that "mama-se mama-sa mama-coo-sah" business.

#71. Poe -- "Hey Pretty"
Looking for a song that'll make you feel like you just clawed your way out of a haunted forest, caked in black mud, shivering from the wind whipping through leaf-less trees, your mind half-gone from the voices you've been hearing, and now all you can see is a pale girl in a tattered dress who will let you pass if you'll only have this dance? That's this one.

#70. Cyndi Lauper -- "Midnight Radio"
Man, I cried enough hearing John Cameron Mitchell sing this one at the end of his brilliant Hedwig and the Angry Inch. You wouldn't think another voice could have wrung one more ounce of pained emotion out of it. But that's why we have a Cyndi Lauper.

#69. Jimmy Eat World -- "The Middle"
Pop-punk at its very least pretentious, which is exactly the way I like it. In this respect, it means far heavier on the "pop" than the "punk," but it beat the shit out of your Sum 41s and Blink 182s back then. I remember these guys and Good Charlotte pretty much hitting the glare of the mainstream spotlight at the same time. We let the wrong one wither on the vine.

#68. Polyphonic Spree -- "Light and Day"
There are so many reasons I should not like the Polyphonic Spree, and about thirty of them involve the words "altar-boy robes" and "creepy sex cult." And yet, I can't deny that Tim DeLaughter's plaintive croak of a voice appeals to me, nowhere more strongly than in this convulsively joyful ode to, as far as I can tell, sunshine.

#67. k.d. lang -- "Helpless"
If there's a better pure voice on this list, I can't think of it. k.d.'s tribute to her Canadian songwriting heroes, Hymns from the 49th Parallel, gave her leave to put this impeccable Neil Young cover onto disc, and we were all the beneficiaries. I remember watching the fine (also Canadian) film Away from Her, and listening to this play over the credits until the screen went dark. She picked the right name for that CD, because this does feel like a hymn. A prayer to something we all lost and can't remember.

#66. Eve f/ Swizz Beatz -- "Tambourine"
And from a prayer to the Canadian sky to a command to shake your ass. There's a handful of songs that I wouldn't have thought to include on this list without Roommate Mark's own Top 100 list a couple months ago. This is one of them. But seriously, how could I have left out E-V-E shaking everything from the hood to Dubai? The beat drops out more times than a college stoner and every time it returns it brings something else in its bag of tricks -- drumsticks banging on steel pipes, drumline-style rat-tat-tat, sirens, and Eve acting as this decade's most under-utilized female presence.

#65. Clint Mansell -- "Death is the Road to Awe"
The only instrumental selection on this list, and maybe it's comparing apples to oranges, but Clint Mansell's movie scores were so much a part of my musical experience this decade, I couldn't leave it out. In particular, Mansell's work on The Fountain is a thing of haunting beauty. I'm a sucker for a good crescendo, and this one's got three.

#64. Pete Yorn -- "Crystal Village"
At the time Pete Yorn let this delicate bit of singer-songwriting peek its head into the mainstream, I would have expected him to have made more of an imprint on the decade before it ended. Not that recording an album with Scarlett Johansson isn't fun in its own right, but there's a streak of pop sensibility running through this beard-worthy sad folk that made me think this was a guy who could have us riveted to his melancholy.

#63. Amy Winehouse -- "You Know I'm No Good"
"Rehab" got more attention, both for the irony and because it had more of a beat you can dance (or choreograph a show-choir routine) to. But I much prefer to pour myself a glass of something strong and ease on into Amy's smooth vocals and the seductive horns that make "You Know I'm No Good" such an effective temptress.

#62. Linkin Park -- "In the End"
You'd be forgiven for being Pavlov'd into dismissing anything approaching rap/rock in 2002, but Linkin Park was one of the few bands to actually get the alchemy right -- probably because they were one of the few who cared to (the "rapping" portions of Limp Bizkit always felt like laziness more than an honest attempt at the genre). Anyway, I can't see myself getting into this song today, but it gets grandfathered onto the list as the best of what my college years had to offer.

#61. Scissor Sisters -- "Filthy Gorgeous"
Because everybody should get to feel like they're starring in their very own gay cabaret show.

Years in Review: 2001

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Ohs Decade with a year-by-year retrospective of the movies I watched and (sometimes) loved. All due apologies to Nick Davis and Nathaniel Rogers for co-opting portions of their own decade-end features. I crib with love!

[Previously: 2000]

Having gone on record as liking the year 2000 crop of movies, despite the bad rap they got in the press, I have to admit 2001 represented a great leap forward on several fronts. It's hard to imagine a universe before The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises (and considering I had never even heard of the Potter books before the movies, I was really in the dark ages). I recall there being some real debate at the time over which franchise would be more embraced -- by the public and also by the Oscars. Like, a) I'm glad we got over the Frodo v. Harry thing; there was clearly enough room in our dweeby hearts for both, and b) the idea of the Potter movies as an Oscar juggernaut is pretty funny, in retrospect.

Oh! Speaking of which! So 2001 was the first year in which I started following the Oscar race from the beginning of the year. I found The Film Experience and Kris Tapley's old site (Oscar Central?) and the former Oscarwatch (now Awards Daily). And thus was I thrust into the twelve-month crazy-making navel-gaze that is the online Oscar scene. I sometimes wish I had started my blog back then just to say I'd been there since the old days, but it also spares me from having to answer to having predicted Catherine Keener would win Best Actress for The Ballad of Jack and Rose. So, but back to Pearl Harbor -- in the wake of Gladiator, there was a very real fear in the online Oscar community that Pearl Harbor was going to be this unstoppable juggernaut and that Michael Bay would be nominated for Best Director, if not win it. People were WORRIED, you guys. It's kind of amazing to think about.

Also amazing? Mulholland Dr., The Royal Tenenbaums, Donnie Darko, Waking Life, Moulin Rouge!, The Deep End, A.I., The Others, Wet, Hot, American Summer, The Devil's Backbone, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The tip of the iceberg and all movies that I'm still comparing other movies to today.

Click below for the best movies of 2001...

The Year in Matt Damon: At the time, it seemed like a sign of his already-diminished star power. The once-celebrated top-liner got a lesson in where he really stood on the Hollywood ladder when he placed a distant third to George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean's Eleven (fourth when you factor in Julia Roberts). But in hindsight, it was a real turning point. Not only did Matt shine in a supporting role (see my Supporting Actor ranks below), he also made valuable connections (to Clooney, to Soderbergh) that would serve him very well throughout the decade.

The Year in Tilda Swinton: The Deep End was a groundbreaker, hauling in a bunch of critics' awards and a Golden Globe nomination. But I'd also like to shout out her teeny cameo in Vanilla Sky, a bright spot as that movie was circling the drain.

Best Theater Experience

For some strange reason -- and I can't for the life of me think of why -- I hardly saw anything in the theater this year. But I do recall a group outing to see the much-anticipated Hannibal ... and me being so pissed at that garbage plate of a film that I was bellowing my dissatisfaction before I'd even exited my aisle.

My Top 10
1. LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring
2. Mulholland Dr.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums
4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
5. Memento
6. Moulin Rouge!
7. Gosford Park
8. Donnie Darko
9. Ocean’s Eleven
10. The Man Who Wasn’t There

Best Director
Robert Altman - Gosford Park
Wes Anderson - The Royal Tenenbaums
Peter Jackson - LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring
David Lynch - Mulholland Dr.
Christopher Nolan - Memento

Best Actor
Brian Cox – L.I.E.
Gene Hackman - The Royal Tennenbaums
John Cameron Mitchell - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Guy Pearce - Memento
Tom Wilkinson - In the Bedroom

Best Actress
Laura Elena Harring - Mulholland Dr.
Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge / The Others
Sissy Spacek - In the Bedroom
Tilda Swinton - The Deep End
Naomi Watts - Mulholland Dr.

Best Supporting Actor
Jim Broadbent - Moulin Rouge!
Matt Damon - Ocean's Eleven
Jude Law - A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Ian McKellan - LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring
Tony Shalhoub - The Man Who Wasn’t There

Best Supporting Actress
Mary McDonnell – Donnie Darko
Frances McDormand - The Man Who Wasn’t There
Carrie-Ann Moss - Memento
Gwynneth Paltrow - The Royal Tennenbaums
Maggie Smith - Gosford Park

Five Films That Have Endured (outside my Top 10)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Wet Hot American Summer

Waking Life
A Knight's Tale

Amores Perros

I've watched A.I. a couple times this past month, and each time I become more certain of its moments of brilliance (the landscapes, the tone, everything involving Fraces O'Connor and Haley Joel Osment), more willing to forgive the shortcomings (Dr. Know, William Hurt giving his usual 30%), and more appreciative that it ends the way it does, Spielberg being Spielberg or not. Wet Hot was the funniest movie of the year and launched countless careers (not to mention singlehandedly turning Paul "Object of My Affection" Rudd's career around). I watched Waking Life twice in one day and went from vehement hatred to swooning adoration in the process. I'm not sure if everyone remembers what a crowd-pleasing hit A Knight's Tale was, and what a charismatic star turn Heath Ledger delivered therein. I wasn't super wild about Amores Perros, but the Iñaritu effect would have a long tail (not to mention the Gael Garcia Bernal effect).

Five Films I Should See Again
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Mexican
The Deep End

Atop the teetering, sky-high pile of movies I need to rewatch is Memento, if only to see if Carrie-Ann Moss's performance is as good as I thought it was. I have a feeling The Man Who Wasn't There might be even better than I remember (so many of those performances still seem so vivid). I found Tape to be incredibly nervy, but I'd like to re-examine whether it looked as ugly as I remember. Any good Tilda Swinton performance is worth revisiting, but I'm just as eager to revisit slimy Josh Lucas in The Deep End. And I remember The Mexican getting big hype on account of the Julia/Brad pairing, followed by big backlash for not being that great. But I remember it being quite watchable, and Julia and James Gandolfini made a great pair.