East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Decadal movie notes

The Best of Youth: I'm not going to re-watch this before best-of-decade listmaking, because, you know, six hours. But all of you who are into DVD season sets should note that this kills any American TV series I've seen this decade, scene by scene or as a whole. Should be in the twenties of my movie list.

Michael Caine: The world's greatest butler has picked a pretty good set of roles this decade. The green-thumbed smuggler in Children of Men was the most surprising, but the more typical Hi! I'm a Great English Actor! part in Last Orders was just as good a performance. Not a lot of people know: his turn as the creepy doc in the silly Quills is a ton of fun.

Charlotte Gainsbourg: In her husband's trivial movies it was clear to some that she should be the biggest star in the world. Michel Gondry saw this but boxed her in a little. Todd Haynes saw this and created a muse stronger than any of his male Dylans. Von Trier saw this and apparently hated himself. I might break my Lars moratorium for Antichrist, or I might just read the screenplay.

Mike Leigh: All or Nothing was formula Leigh, not without its pleasures (Timothy Spall) but breaking no new ground. Vera Drake ends up all didactic, but the character moments are first-rate. Then there's Happy-Go-Lucky: Poppy stands with her opposite, Naked's Johnny, as the most intriguing creations of Leigh and his ensembles. I got more out of Poppy, but then I find optimism deeper philosophically than nihilism. Dude, at least it's an ethos.

Nick Nolte: Mugshots aside, Nolte's had a terrific decade. Keeping up with Maggie Cheung in Clean is probably his finest achievement.


Decadal music notes

Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Smokey doesn't write much anymore, which should be fine as he's as heartugging a ballad singer as we have. The quality of his performances, however, seem strangely uncorrelated with the quality of his material. Who could've guessed he'd pull out more from the ersatz melodrama of "Darcy Farrow" than from "Mack the Knife"? Anyone who doesn't believe in Verfremdungseffekt, for a start.

Kocani Orkestar: Most people watching Borat wouldn't have realised the soundtrack was mostly Balkan and Gypsy music, with nothing to do with Kazakhstan. "Siki, Siki Baba" stands even from the Mahala Rai Banda and Fanfare Ciocarlia peaks, with the most meaningful "oh-oh-oh" chorus ever. Hope they've finally got their royalties.

Northern State: Hey, Lauryn had skills, and what did they get her? Well, recently. Northern State's early enthusiasm has few precedents, and it was enough to make the great lines in "Dying in Stereo" sound great. They never managed to hold up over anything longer than a mini-album, but they seem certain to inspire someone who will.

Liz Phair: If Liz Phair isn't up to Exile in Guyville and whitechocolatespaceegg, that just means it'll be in the middle of best-of-decade list instead of near the top. The critics instead took it as a fuck-you, and Phair responded by telling them to fuck off, so they did, and there went the Capitol deal. Lost in all this was "Little Digger", a terrific piece of writing; fortunately the kids realised "Why Can't I?" was a terrific piece of popcraft, and that song will soundtrack teen crushes for years yet.

Yo La Tengo: By now you know they're going to make good records until their limbs fall off. My favourite this decade is I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, among art's deepest explorations of the upside of monogamy even though I couldn't quote you a sentence of it. Slightly short of Sonic Youth as music, though not as a life project.