Welcome to the second annual Lint Trap Best Of, where I declare the best movies, music, television shows, and stories of the year. (To see the 2003 edition, click here.) The following 2004 selections are based soley on my own personal taste, and since I cannot possibly see every movie or hear every CD, they are terribly incomplete. If you disagree, post your own in comments. Enjoy…
Such a strange year for cinema. I had no clear favorites, perhaps because I haven’t seen Sideways or Million Dollar Baby yet. But I did see a lot of enjoyable movies. Take, for instance, The Incredibles. I saw the sucker FOUR times in the theater, and I could see it again. The raw creativity of Pixar is simply astounding. Only two minutes in, the audience learns that Mr. Incredible and the other superheros were forced into hiding after a series of lawsuits, including one from a man who was injured when Mr. Incredible rescued him halfway through a suicidal leap from a skyscraper. “You didn’t save my life,” he says, “You ruined my death!” Classic. I don’t know what those animators are eating over there in Emeryville, but I want some! Next, I must give mad props to Jim Carrey for two outstanding performances in two outstanding movies: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Eternal was an unconventional and endearing love story that only Charlie Kaufman could envision. I love that both Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet swap their traditional roles–Carrey for subdued and Winslet for insane. Lemony was thematically dark and visually mesmerizing. The absurdity of the circumstances and characters were a perfect match for Carrey, who could channel his energy in the right direction. Two indie flicks I found particularly interesting this year were I (Heart) Huckabees and Garden State. Huckabees had me laughing from the opening scene. If only I had been more knowledgeable in postmodernism… but perhaps my ignorance made the lost characters even more enjoyable. Give Marky Mark an award already! Aside from Garden‘s contrived ending, I liked the movie on so many levels… it was touching and wierd and poignant. Zach Braff is much more talented than I expected. And Natalie Portman’s nutty Habitrail infested house is well worth the ticket (or rental) price. Lastly, I enjoyed Saved. Call me a heathen, but this satire about a Christian high school was per-fect. Sure, it was over-the-top, but as someone who attended two years of Christian high school and five years of Christian college, the characters were so familiar. I have met each and every one of them. And even though it may be theologically inaccurate, the overall message of acceptance deserves a “Hallelujah!” Honorable mentions also go to Supersize Me (for making me almost lose my lunch… er popcorn), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (for turning to the dark side), The Terminal (for a movie about an airport that didn’t give me an anxiety attack), Napoleon Dynamite (for proudly connecting me with my inner geek), Finding Neverland (for the deliciously hot Johnny Depp), and Ladder 49 (for making me cry like a baby in public).
Well, 2004 was certainly a good year for female singer/songwriters! Not only were there new (and superior) albums from Alanis Morisette, Avril Lavigne, and Vanessa Carlton, the year also introduced a handful of fabulous newcomers. There was Butterfly Boucher, the Austrailian spitfire who plays each and every instrument on her debut, Flutterby. I can’t get enough of tracks “I Can’t Make Me,” “Another White Dash,” and “Never Leave Your Heart Alone.” Then there was Rachel Yamagata’s Happenstance, a piano-heavy album that just might top Tori Amos (hypocrisy!). “Letter Read” demands high-decibal repeat playbacks, and “I Want You” makes me dance everytime. Then there was Toby Lightman’s Little Things a funky folk meets R&B infusion, which makes for such a wonderful first track, “Leave It Inside.” Her single, “Devils and Angels” is also pretty amazing, as well as “Front Row,” which makes me want to sing it live to someone cute… assuming I was a singer. There was Charlotte Martin whose debut LP, “On Your Shore,” is most definitely channeling Tori Amos. Her piano ballads are simply gorgeous, especially “Everytime it Rains” and “Wild Horses.” And THEN there was Jem… the only one who received sufficient airplay. She creates her own sound on Finally Woken, a strange hybrid of electronica, R&B, and pop. Think Nelly Furtado, but better and British. My favorite songs include “They,” “24,” and “Missing You.” And even though Frou Frou didn’t release anything new this year, they scored some delayed popularity, thanks to the chart-topping Garden State soundtrack. The movie’s featured, “Let Go,” is from their 2002 album, Details. I’m hoping this means we’ll hear more from Frou Frou in the near future. Finally, my favorite performance of the year has to be the Prince and Beyonce duet at the Grammy’s. Hot.
Desperate Housewives? Never seen it. No interest, either. It’s all about Lost, the latest must-see series from J.J. Abrams. There isn’t a single bad idea in his being. First Felicity, then Alias, and now 46 plane crash survivors, stranded on a bizarre island with man-eating monsters, mysterious men in suits, and one insane French woman. Okay, when I put it that way, the series sounds simply absurd. I swear it’s awesome. My only other hope for the new 2004 series offerings, LAX, was cancelled in November. I don’t even like Heather Locklear, and I faithfully watched this dramedy about the Los Angeles Airport. Critics called the premise boring, but I was truly interested in the security and immigration issues, the passenger storylines, and the relateable travel frustrations. Perhaps if crime scene investigators were more involved… As far as returning series go, I still faithfully tune in for Gilmore Girls, Alias, and The Amazing Race. (And I admit, my guilty pleasure of the year was Wife Swap.)
As I stated last year, I tend to be behind in the book department. I rarely splurge on a hardcover title, and it took great strength to not purchase Dave Sedaris’ Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim the moment it was released. However, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World was a gift. And I LOVED it. The fact that A.J. Jacobs used to write for Entertainment Weekly is reason enough to check this book out. The man reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, some 44 million words of information and recounts its impact on his personal life in hilarious alphabetical/chronological order and with self-depracating wit. He kills his friends’ conversations with spontaneous trivia and competes on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Funny, funny stuff. When it is released in paperback, I just might have to buy copies for all my friends!
NEWS, TRENDS, AND PERSONALITIES
2004 was a year marked by “wardrobe malfunction”s and Britney Spears’ two weddings, William Hung’s 15 minutes of fame and Ken Jennings’ winning streak on Jeopardy, the poisoned Ukranian presidential candidate and a devastating tsunami. But right now, all I want to write about is…
Quiznos commercials! Were they deformed gerbils? Picasso hampsters? Singing hairballs? “We love the subs! ‘Cuz they are good to us. The Quiznos subs. They are tasty, they are crunchy, they are warm because they toast them. They got a pepper baaaaar!” Everyone else wanted to change the channel when their high-pitched screech-singing came on. I just turned the volume up and laughed until I cried.