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Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Monday, December 27, 2004
 
I wanted to write about my holidays, and how much nicer it is being in a relationship during the season. I also wanted to write about how I always seem to hate what they're writing while I'm writing it. But I realized I had nothing much to say about either of these subjects (both are simple facts that don't call for much exploration...at least not on Monday morning).

So instead, here are a couple of end-of-the-year lists (I'm sorry for all of the lists lately. When I'm writing a play, I tend to use all of my creative muscle on that. Maybe I'll abandon the project soon and get back to what I do best, mildly amusing blogs):

TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2004 (of the ones I've seen so far)...

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)

- Rarely is a film this original while being this accessible. It's hard to find someone who DOESN'T like this funny, emotional piece about the compromises we make for love.

2. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)

- The stylish conclusion to Tarantino's epic not only neatly ties up all loose ends, but elevates the quality of Vol. 1 so that the two volumes put together equal the best film of the last five years.

3. Sideways (Alexander Payne)

- It's hard to find a flaw in this subtle, heartbreaking comedy about the time in your life when, like wine, you plateau and all shreds of reckless youth abandon you.

4. The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

- It's surprising just how delightful this latest Pixar offering is. From the animation to the voicework to the script to the musical score, everything is top-notch in this production.

5. The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci)

- There was no movie this year sexier than Bertolucci's snapshot of 1960's Paris, as a naive American tourist falls in love with an incestuous pair of twins. Any proud film fanatic needs to see this one.

6. Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston)

- Catalina Sandino Moreno gave this year's most notable breakthrough performance as a 17 year-old Colombian drug mule in Marston's arresting, brutal allegory, which was so convincing that I stopped thinking of it as a movie.

7. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk)

- An underappreciated gem. Ki-Duk's film is slow and meditative, its scenery lush, its ideas displayed in front of us, rather than shoved in our face. Because of that, it involved me more than most films are capable of doing.

8. Kinsey (Bill Condon)

- Not just a fascinating and revealing look at a controversial 20th century figure, but an interesting examination at the fine line between the excesses of conservatism and liberalism.

9. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore)

- Strip away all of the controversies, all of the publicity and all of Michael Moore's ego, and you get a funny and astounding document revealing a presidential administration built almost entirely on secrets and lies.

10. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright)

- In terms of pure entertainment, "Shaun of the Dead" delivered better than any other film this year. Turning the zombie movie on its head, it was alternately touching, scary, and very, very funny.


TEN BEST ALBUMS OF 2004:

1. Nellie McKay - "Get Away From Me"

- The most astounding debut in a long time. McKay's eclectic, insanely catchy mix of songs - each infused with equal parts rage and wit - only get better with each subsequent listening.

2. Rufus Wainwright - "Want Two"

- Wainwright's opera-influenced melodies and lazy pronunciation reached its artistic peak with his fourth album, a beautiful, funny and haunting collection of heartbreaking tunes.

3. Brian Wilson - "SMiLE"

- Fans waiting over 35 years for this "Pet Sounds" follow-up were not disappointed. While keeping the "Good Vibrations" catchiness that made the Beach Boys famous, Wilson added several layers to this album that would have made it groundbreaking then, and still accessible now.

4. The Streets - "A Grand Don't Come For Free"

- Mike Skinner's brilliant second album centers around 1000 quid that has gone missing. In the process of finding it, he questions his friendships, his lifestyle and himself.

5. Bjork - "Medulla"

- While not as satisfying as "Homogenic" or "Vespertine", Bjork's latest - composed almost entirely with human voices - stands tall above most of the year's offerings.

6. Beastie Boys - "To the 5 Burroughs"

- In this amazing album, the Beastie Boys return to their "Licensed to Ill" roots while infusing their songs with the maturity that comes with age. It's a potent combination.

7. Modest Mouse - "Good News For Those Who Love Bad News"

- Modest Mouse's wild, yelling vocals are more focused and musical in this justly celebrated, instantly catchy album.

8. The Mooney Suzuki - "Alive & Amplified"

- The friend who recommended this to me said simply, "This really rocks", and how right he was. The album contains a sound that is simultaneously familiar and original, and "Alive & Amplified" is one of the year's best songs.

9. Loretta Lynn - "Van Lear Rose"

- Lynn was wise in hiring Jack White as her latest producer. He dusted her off and dressed her up in an album that is both appealing to older fans and newer listeners.

10. Franz Ferdinand - "Franz Ferdinand"

- In terms of sheer catchiness, Franz Ferdinand's first CD has it in spades. This is an album that begs to be listened to repeatedly and sung along with.


TEN BEST LOCAL THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS OF 2004 (of all the productions that I saw, which honestly weren't many):

1). "Topdog/Underdog" (Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles) - Under George C. Wolfe's direction and a stellar two-man cast, Suzan Lori-Parks' numerous themes shone brighter than any other theatrical production I had ever seen.

2). "The Sandwich Conscience" (12th Annual Young Playwrights Festival at The Blank Theatre, Los Angeles) - 19 year-old Yelena Moskovich's script, a one-man show about a Vietnam vet fighting for sanity while making a sandwich, is a brutal, original signal of a new theatrical voice that is destined for greatness.

3). "Mr. Marmalade" (South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa) - Another interesting new voice is Noah Haidle, whose play, involving a four year-old girl who takes her imaginary relationship much too far, boasted moments both funny and chilling and the year's best performance from Eliza Pryor Nagel.

4). "Cold/Tender" (Theatre @ Boston Court, Pasadena) - A play filled with big ideas, Cody Henderson's piece, revolving around three different couples all linked by political intrigue, is a funny and fascinating look at the consequences of being in a certain place at a certain time.

5). "Red Noses" (StagesTheatre, Fullerton) - More than the solid ensemble cast, tight direction or excellent lead performance from Mark Palkoner, this production boasted something I didn't see from any other small theatre show this year: Everyone involved seemed to really believe in the themes of the piece they were a part of.

6). "Roscoe Spitzer Is Afraid of Dying" (StagesTheatre, Fullerton) - Joel Beers' twist on the selling the soul to the devil for fame says a lot of interesting things about the state of modern music, the pharmaceutical industry and theatre in general.

7). "Brooklyn Boy" (South Coast Repertory) - Despite some predictability, and a less-than-great lead performance by Adam Arkin, this was still an engaging show that showed off Donald Marguiles' talent for writing incredible dialogue.

8). "The Importance of Being Earnest" (Hunger Artists, Fullerton) - Director Kelly Flynn took one of the greatest English comedies ever written, boiled it down to a nice, tight 90 minutes, and set it in 1960's London, turning the overproduced Wilde play into something new and fresh.

9). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (Old Globe Theatre, San Diego) - This show exists for no other reason than to be a lot of fun. So it's a fortunate thing that it is. A game cast and a lively score make it a good (though not great) musical comedy.

10). "Heathen Valley" (Elephant Asylum, Los Angeles) - A mostly-solid cast and astounding direction from Darin Anthony elevates this mediocre play about the attempt to reform a town of sinners into an exciting campfire story.

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