2010 Movies List

2010 wasn’t a great year for movies. Normally it’s easy for me to come up with a list of 10 movies that I thought were great, but 2010 had a lot of ups and downs. Therefore, I give you my Top 7 movies of 2010. And of these 7, I only think that the first one will be remembered as a great film in the future.

7. Green Zone
Interesting movie about the war in Iraq. Matt Damon takes some of his Bourne identity into this role about a cover-up surrounding WMDs. Directed by Paul Greengrass who also directed the second and third Bourne movies. There’s something to be said for directors and actors having chemistry. Speaking of…
6. Shutter Island
Thriller from Martin Scorsese that takes twists and turns. It’s made very creatively, taking you in and out of thinking you know the whole story. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic. Scorsese and DiCaprio have worked together on Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I’m not a comic book reader, so I didn’t have a lot of ideas about Scott Pilgrim before seeing it. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) does a great job of manufacturing the feel of a comic jumping between the reality and the super-reality.
4. Greenberg
I love Noah Baumbach. I saw Kicking and Screaming back in 1996 and remember rewinding the VHS tape and watching it again immediately. Also notable from Baumbach are Margot and the Wedding, The Squid and the Whale, and his writing of Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic. Ben Stiller is great as the mostly crazy title character, and the cast that surrounds him is also super.
3. The Social Network
Certainly a timely movie. Certainly a movie about the world we live in. This film about the creation of Facebook is well written (Aaron Sorkin) and well directed (David Fincher). Justin Timberlake will probably surprise me every time he shows up in a movie, because he does a great job. Jesse Eisenberg is incredible. I especially liked seeing the way they documented the process of Zuckerberg producing Facebook. As a process guy, it’s always interesting to see the conception, design, and end product.
2. The Town
I’m unapologetic about liking Ben Affleck. He’s made some strange choices in roles through the year, but to me he’s an ideal movie star, commanding your attention on the screen. When I go back and watch Good Will Hunting, some of his performances are the best in the film. The Town is raw and organic and I credit Affleck’s directing. The acting from Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively takes you right into Charlestown.
1. Inception
The feeling I had when I watched Inception reminded me of when I first saw The Matrix or Fifth Element. The term is speculative fiction. Create a world that feels like ours but introduce something new that changes everything. From the moment I first saw the trailer to the time I actually sat down in the theater, I had no idea what the movie was about, but I knew it was a big, epic idea. The story is the star of the film, but between Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Ken Watanabe, the cast helps drive that story. I like the complexity, the multiple plot points, and especially the ambiguity of the ending. Christopher Nolan created an idea and executed it with superb direction.

Just enough flaw to keep them off the list:
The Book of Eli
I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories. There isn’t much wrong with this movie. Denzel Washington might be the only part of the movie that I didn’t like.
The American
A beautiful movie directed by a photographer in the European style didn’t resonate too much with Americans. I enjoyed it a lot, but the slow pacing and predictable nature of the main plot took away from the effort.
Robin Hood
I wanted to feel good about liking this movie, but I couldn’t. It’s a story that’s been told so many times it’s hard to keep track of what the “real” story of Robin Hood is. I liked Russell Crowe’s performance and I thought it was well made. Some of the other characters were a little light and the big battle scene was pretty weak compared to the rest of the film.

5 Movies I haven’t seen yet, that I’m sure belong on a list like this:
Black Swan
The Fighter
Rabbit Hole
127 Hours
True Grit

Fun movies worth seeing, despite not having much substance, great for an excuse to eat popcorn or chuckle:
The Other Guys
The A-Team
Dinner For Schmucks
Due Date
Knight and Day
Date Night

Everyday Albums of 2010, Kasey Anderson, Nowhere Nights

Everyday Albums is a series of album reviews wherein the album could be listened to everyday. This series will examine the best of those from 2010.

I hadn’t heard of Kasey Anderson until I was in Portland to see Matthew Ryan play in February of 2010. He was opening for Matthew Ryan. Earlier in the evening Matthew Ryan and Kasey Anderson played a brief set at Music Millennium. One of the photos I took was even grabbed and put on Kasey’s Facebook page
Nowhere Nights is a great collection of songs. There’s a tone to the songs that stitches them together into one cohesive work.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, I can identify with one of his themes. There are good things and bad about your hometown and sometimes it seems what you miss isn’t the right stuff. In the opening track “Bellingham Blues” and “Home” both have this sense.

“In a town this small, either play your hand a little closer to the vest or you don’t play at all.”

There’s a sea of singer-songwriters out in the industry these days, and as unique and genuine as Kasey Anderson’s music is, he’s largely ignored by the big business music world. With Anderson’s voice and the darker tone of his songs, Nowhere Nights reminds me of a Pacific Northwest version of a Drive-By Truckers album. Another must listen track is “Like Teenage Gravity.” With the piano and guitar working together it delivers the message.

“And all my friends told me, you don’t need laws to tell. If it feels like falling, boy, you probably already fell. The whole table saw your hand, you might as well just play it. You ain’t foolin’ no one, you might as well just say it…I guess I’m in love.”

The album has a great balance between Kasey just singing and playing guitar in the way that I saw him play in Portland and utilizing his band to fill in the mood. On “Real Gone” the electric guitar and drums help drive home the emotion of the chorus.
The album is brilliant and should be added to your collection. I’m already looking forward to hearing the next collection of songs from Kasey. You can find Nowhere Nights at Amazon or iTunes. Also, follow Kasey on Twitter for pithy observations, cultural criticism, and gigs from the Portland based artist.

Everyday Albums of 2010, Josh Ritter, So Runs The World Away

Everyday Albums is a series of album reviews wherein the album could be listened to everyday. This series will examine the best of those from 2010.

If you’ve been paying attention to MKinMotion for anytime at all, this comes as no surprise: Josh Ritter is incredible…prepare for a string of superlatives. The last three albums he’s released The Animal Years in 2006, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter in 2007, and So Runs the World Away in 2010 make for a trilogy of stories that take you from the Old West, the world at war, and even ancient Egypt…plus his home state of Idaho.
The album kicks off with a quick little intro called “Curtains” and immediately introduces an amazing contribution to the ongoing catalog of amazing with “Change of Time.” Four chords repeated would suggest a simple song, but the imagery and tone take you through a string of emotions as the lyrics drift in and out of coherence.

“I was thirsty so I drank, and though it was salt water, there was something ’bout the way, it tasted so familiar.”

“The Curse” is a waltz ballad. The story of a mummy and a scientist. The only thing I can do to explain the beautiful tragedy is to force you to watch the video. Puppets!

If the waltzy soft nature of “The Curse” brought you down, you require a taste of “Lantern” and “The Remnant.” It’s impossible to not smile while listening to Lantern…impossible. And “The Remnant” shows that despite the dreamier tone to the opening tracks, Josh still has the ability to pound his foot on the wood floor. The images make me think of a John Hillcoat film…”The Road” or “The Proposition”, take your pick.

I love “Orbital.” There’s a lot going on in this one. Lots of music happening and lots of images of things running around each other. Ritter is good at drawing pictures through the words and music in a way that always garners comparisons to Springsteen and Dylan.

“The ghost around the thing it haunts, the want around the thing that wants, the way the mind just wanders off and then returns to the thought around the second thought. Love or gravity or law? Whatever name it’s got, it’s got me…circling around you.”

Buy So Runs the World Away, and if you haven’t yet, pick up the other two albums mentioned The Animal Years and The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. You will not regret it.

Everyday Albums of 2010, Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Everyday Albums is a series of album reviews wherein the album could be listened to everyday. This series will examine the best of those from 2010.
I’ve said before that I learned about Arcade Fire late enough to not be considered in-the-know, but early enough that I rode the wave in 2005 as they caught fire. Their debut album Funeral is still a favorite of mine and made my best of decade list. I liked their second album Neon Bible, but not as much as Funeral. Bands tend to struggle sometimes with making a third album. My first listen of The Suburbs was met with less than enthusiastic ideas. However, I didn’t give up. The more I listened the more I started to discover really great moments on the album. If a band can string together enough great moments onto one album it makes a huge difference.
The opening track “The Suburbs” has a great feel. There are lots of images that ring true to my upbringing in a suburban cul-de-sac.
Ready to Start makes me bob my head and tap my foot. It’s pretty powerful.

“All the kids have always known, that the emperor wears no clothes, but they bow down to him anyway, it’s better than being alone.”

The third track “Modern Man” makes me play air guitar. It’s got a great rhythm and feels the most like a pop single on the album.
“City With No Children” is another song that looks at the transition from childhood to adulthood and the turmoil that happens at those moments.
The whole album is chock full of great moments and energy. Definitely worth picking up and adding to your collection.

Revisiting 2007

In June of 2007, when I was much more of a faithful blogger, I wrote an article called “Six Things I Wish You Had“. In this article, I mention six things I was in to at the time that I was wishing my friends also did. The list in short: Flickr, Last.fm, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, Del.icio.us. Flickr and Twitter have remained staples in my online life. Last.fm is still tracking every song I listen to in iTunes, but I can’t remember the last time the social aspect of it was used. I only use Skype now very occasionally for prearranged conversations. LinkedIn still gets used, but not very actively. Del.icio.us still gets used, but I forget a lot of times to bookmark things, so it’s definitely not top of mind.
As 2010 comes to a close, I thought of how I might say the same thing. Here are 6 things I wish you had:

1. Twitter
Twitter has become so much more than the “micro-blogging site” I described in 2007. It’s a way to get news, info, and communicate with people. It’s come a long way from a thousand people saying what they had for breakfast.
2. Flickr
I was recently flipping through some folders on my hard drive with a ton of photos I took the summer of 2005. That’s prior to when I joined Flickr…also prior to Facebook or other ways of quickly sharing photos with friends and family all around the world.
3. Facebook
I was on Facebook in 2007, but was still skeptical of it. In 2010, I’ve embraced the idea that there is little difference in my offline and online life. I still hold some standards around who I allow access to my Facebook profile, and by doing so, I believe I can be more genuine.
4. 8Tracks
8Tracks is a very cool site that I’ve been into for a little over a year. It allows you to create and share playlists of music. Kinda right up my alley…and I got featured as an 8Tracks DJ a while back.
5. Songkick
Songkick is a great idea for people to plug in musicians and bands they like and keep track of when they are coming to town to play. My favorite feature is the Gigography that lets you build a timeline of all the shows you’ve seen over the years.
6. Last.fm
Last.fm has been tracking just about every song I’ve listened to since early 2006. It’s great for discovery and for my nerdy graphing side, I can trend my music over time.

I encourage you to join any of these social networks and/or add me as a contact. It’s the world we live in now, and I imagine in 2013 if I were to revisit this again it would be whole new ways we’re connecting to each other.

Everyday Albums of 2010, The National, High Violet

Everyday Albums is a series of album reviews wherein the album could be listened to everyday. This series will examine the best of those from 2010.

When The National hit my radar, it was 2007 and they were getting all sorts of buzz for their Boxer release.  It was one of my favorite albums of that year. Rumors of a new The National album had been going around for a while, but when High Violet officially hit stores in May, it couldn’t have been a better payoff of anticipation.  As expected, High Violet continues the exploration of the darker side of emotions, the good kind and the bad kind, as The National have done so well in the past.
The danger would be to label The National as predictably dark.  That would be underestimating the sneaky tones of hope that litter the songs.  Don’t let the baritone fool you. The deceptive lyrics will do that for you.
The opening track is “Terrible Love” which in title alone tells you where it’s going.  I’m not a big lyrical analysis guy, but it seems like “Terrible Love” is taking us to a place where the right thing is to not fall in love.

“But I won’t follow you into the rabbit hole. I said I would, but then I saw your shivered bones. They didn’t want me to.”

Another track that stands out is “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” This was the song that was the pre-release single that hit their site in March, months before it the album would be released. Dark in its tone, it has a driving rhythm that coupled with the title makes me think back to driving through Ohio. The drums and rising brass and breaks in rhythm are superb.

“I still owe money to the money to the money I owe. I never thought about love when I thought about home. I still owe money to the money to the money I owe. The floors are falling out from everybody I know.”

“Conversation 16” is about marriage. I know this because Matt Berninger told the audience at the Austin City Limits Festival. When you have that context, the lyrics get a little darker. Whereas before a song where the chorus is repeated “I was afraid I’d eat your brains” was dark enough, but the rattle of going through very familiar things that a couple would discuss shows a perspective that a marriage can become rather mundane when looked at from the outside.

“We belong in a movie, try to hold it together ’til our friends are gone, we should swim in a fountain, don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

Still when I hear “England” it resonates with something in me. The craftsmanship of the song is brilliant, it builds on itself in an unconventional way. The climax of the song is repeating a chorus as the music builds around Berninger’s voice.

“You must be somewhere in London, you must be loving your life in the rain, you must be somewhere in London, walking Abbey Lane. I don’t even think to make, I don’t even think to make, I don’t even think to make corrections.”

High Violet is available in the standard and expanded edition from Amazonmp3.com and for a limited time, the whole album can be downloaded for $1.99.

ACL Recap Day Three: A Few Jaw Dropping Moments

Sunday was bittersweet. The bitter in that it was the last day of ACL, but the sweet that it promised to be a great day. On the agenda for Sunday were Blind Pilot, Dawes, The Morning Benders, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Band of Horses and The National.
I loved Blind Pilot’s set. It was solid and had a great turnout despite being so early in the day. They played mostly from their 3 Rounds and a Sound album, but mixed in a few new songs. The new songs have a new sound to them, lots of energy and fun, makes me really optimistic and anxious to hear what’s next from Blind Pilot.Dawes was a great follow-up. Wherein Blind Pilot brings a Portland feel to the folk/rock, Dawes brings a Southern California feel. Their 2009 release North Hills is really good, some standout songs are “That Western Skyline” and “When My Time Comes.” I felt a great feeling of hope when listening to Dawes.
We made our way down to the far corner stage for The Morning Benders. I didn’t and still don’t know much about The Morning Benders except that they’ve always reminded me a little of early Weezer and that they covered The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” a few years ago. They brought their energy and A-game mixing in power pop, and lots of guitar. The crowd was into it, and that goes a long way in a festival. Check out “Excuses” from Big Echo, their 2010 release.
There was a bit of a break in the action after The Morning Benders, knowing that the next two bands on the list would be near each other, we grabbed some food and beverages and camped out for a bit while Robert Earl Keen played. Keen is a Texas legend, an old friend of Lyle Lovett and quite good at what he does. It was a nice break and really gave a chance to gather energy. For some examples of Robert Earl Keen’s music, I’d recommend checking out “The Road Goes On Forever.”
What can I say about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros? Fact one: There is no one in the band named Edward Sharpe. Fact two: if you know nothing about the band, you’d probably recognize their song “Janglin’” from the surreal Ford Fiesta commercials. Fact three: they might just be insane…insanely good. The energy, and artististry that they brought to their set was incredible. I walked away jealous, uplifted, and with both “Janglin’” and their song “Home” stuck in my head for days. Check out their self-titled album, you will not regret it.
Band of Horses were up next on the stage directly behind us, but also the stage that the overall headliners of the festival, The Eagles, would be playing on to close the festival a few hours away. It was flooded with people camping out. Rather than deal with the crowd too much, we found a nice place to plop down on the grass and be able to clearly hear Band of Horses crank out great song after great song.
Because we jumped out of the mess that was the main stage a little early from Band of Horses/The Eagles we lucked into being very close for The National. This was at the top of my list of bands I was looking forward to and also planned on it being our last band of the festival. It could not have been better. The band ran onto the stage the moment that The Flaming Lips ended their set on a nearby stage (with “Do You Realize?”, of course) and lit right into a set of mostly songs from their 2010 release High Violet and their wildly popular Boxer from 2007. They mixed in some old songs, but blazed through energetic, loud versions of songs I’ve come to love. There’s an emotion that their music touches that makes them unique; maybe it’s singer Matt Berninger’s brooding baritone voice, or the power of twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner on guitars, but part of it is the energy that comes from a great rhythm section driving their melancholy songs. If you don’t already have Boxer AND High Violet in your collection, run don’t walk to however you get your music and add them. Despite a lack of what is traditionally perceived as “good stage presence” the band wears their emotions on their sleeves and in this performance they slit their wrists and let the blood spray all over the crowd. They played well beyond their time limit citing permission from Glenn Frey of The Eagles to play for an extra few minutes. It was easily on my top 5 list for moments of the trip. Exhausted, dirty, sun burnt, hungry, and sore we allowed The Eagles to serenade our walk to the taxi stand with “Hotel California” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” it couldn’t have been better.

ACL Recap Day Two: A Long Day

Saturday promised to be another long day at the festival. On the agenda were Pete Yorn, The Gaslight Anthem, Broken Bells and The Temper Trap at the festival with the much anticipated Black Keys aftershow.
We got to the stage where Pete Yorn would be playing a little early which not only meant we had a decent view, but also that we got to hear Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on the next stage over. She was a late addition to the lineup and was on my list as a tentative because it would have meant getting to the festival fairly early. Her performance was great. Lots of energy!
Pete Yorn is another artist that I’d seen perform live prior to ACL. The last time I saw Pete play live was at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Yorn released a new album (Self-titled Pete Yorn, recorded in Salem, OR, produced by Frank Black) right before ACL and is in the midst of touring the late night TV circuit. His set was made up of several new songs, but some great renditions of some of his older material. A favorite was the version of “Lose You” he played. It’s one of my favorite songs of his, and not one I would necessarily expect him to play live. By the end of his set he had the crowd fired up with songs from Musicforthemorningafter.
I recommend checking out “Rock Crowd” on his latest album and anything off of his debut.
The Gaslight Anthem had a great album in 2008 that showed up on lots of critics’ year end lists. Often confused with a pop punk band in the vein of a Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy, but don’t let their look confuse you. Most people are drawing comparisons to Springsteen and those are legit comparisons. Their ACL set was solid with several songs from their 2008 release ’59 Sound and from this summer’s American Anthem. Check them out!
Broken Bells pairs Dangermouse of Gnarls Barkley fame with The Shins’ James Mercer. Their live performance was fantastic! Playing nearly their entire album plus a great cover of The Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light”.
I know very little about The Temper Trap, but I know that their album Conditions reminds me of U2 in the Unforgettable Fire days. It’s one of my favorite new albums and you should have it. Their live performance was solid playing most of their album and mixing in a few new songs.
After Temper Trap the decision needed to be made of whether to cross the festival grounds and pack in with all the hipsters to see LCD Soundsystem play as planned or take advantage of some extra time and make a break for the cab stand and get ready for Black Keys at Stubb’s. We elected to make a break for it.
Tickets for the Black Keys aftershow sold out within a few minutes of going on sale. With Foals opening it was certain we wouldn’t have a repeat of the Strokes two and a half hour wait…at least without proper entertainment. Foals are good! I’d listened to them a little in prep for the festival, but probably got lost in the mash of trying to catch up on the dozens of bands I knew very little about. Their performance made me think of a cross between the Smiths and the Cure, not too shabby.
The format of The Black Keys set was similar to their festival set, but longer. The two-piece then four-piece then two-piece combo worked really well. Again, as I said these guys are one of the hottest acts in music right now and based on their amazing performances, it’s well deserved. Spotted in the packed house was Britt Daniel of Spoon sneaking in the back door and through the crowd, and allegedly James Marsden stood a few inches in front of me (and several inches shorter than me) and let a girl light a cigarette off of his cigarette. I watched the transaction take place, but wouldn’t have recognized his X-Men powers. Couldn’t have asked for a better performance out of The Black Keys and a fitting end to a long day.

ACL Recap Day One: Black Keys, Vampires, and Monsters Oh My!

Thursday was an off day from the Festival. I got to have lunch with my former boss who moved back to Austin. I got to take a tour of his offices and facilities in West Campus of University of Texas. His company is doing some exciting things and growing like crazy, it reminded me of the old days when we worked together in what was essentially a start-up.
Friday marked the opening day of the official festival. Having been to ACL before I understood that there needed to be a little bit of planning and strategy to the day. With 130 bands on 6 stages over 3 days, there are plenty of bands that overlap other bands and deciding when and where you want to be to see who. Compromises have to be made when two bands you want to see play at the same time. On the list for Friday was The Mountain Goats, The Black Keys, Spoon and Vampire Weekend at the festival and then catching Monsters of Folk and Blind Pilot at Stubb’s for two aftershows.
I didn’t know much about Mountain Goats going into the festival, other than that they’d been around for quite a while and a few of their songs consistently show up in my iTunes. John Darnielle is a great front man. The primary songwriter is funny and engaging. At one point he said, “To the dude who keeps yelling [song title I can’t remember], I have heard your cry” and also talked about the fact that singers don’t go into music business if they don’t have an ego issue to work out on stage.
For a great Mountain Goats song, download “Woke Up New” from 2006’s Get Lonely
The Black Keys are one of the hottest American bands out there right now. The crowd that was stacked up to see their ACL set was definitely proof of that. We got relatively close, but knew we’d have a chance to see them the next day play a full set at Stubb’s, so fighting the crowd wasn’t necessary. They started off with several songs with the traditional two-piece lineup of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, brought a bass player and keyboard player out for some of the songs off of their new album, and finished the set as a two-piece. It was loud, tight, and got the crowd moving; exactly what you want out of a rock band!
Check out “Everlasting Light” and the rest of their near flawless album Brothers.
Spoon is one of the bands in the ACL lineup that I’ve seen before. I love their upbeat music with a driving beat that almost commands that you bob your head and tap your foot. Being from Austin originally, Spoon drew quite a crowd. Highlights for me were seeing a handful of songs off of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction.
Check out “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
The thing about Vampire Weekend is they are madly popular…and very good. Put those two factors together and you’d be as confused as I was to see that they were scheduled to play on of the smaller side stages. Having thousands of people mash in to see Vampire Weekend caused quite a mess, and with a long sweaty day and an aftershow to get to, we decided to bail out after a few songs and head back to the hotel before walking to Stubb’s.
I’m more of a fan of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album than their latest release, check out “A-Punk“.
The Monsters of Folk aftershow was certainly something I was looking forward to. The “supergroup” made up of Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, and M. Ward promised to be great with the freedom of a full set, rather than a pared down festival set. The combination of all three voices, haunting in their own way, made for 2 and a half hours of spectacular music. A highlight for me was them playing My Morning Jacket’s “Golden“, one of my favorite songs.
Check out their album and don’t miss “Ahead of the Curve“.
By the time Monsters of Folk finished their set, it was 12:30, Portland’s Blind Pilot were scheduled to start playing at 1:20AM. My cousin-in-law drives the tour bus for Blind Pilot, and before Monsters of Folk, we had a chance to chat and I jumped at the chance to take a tour of the tour bus. It’s a antique school bus that’s been converted. Other than the fact that there is a governor that keeps it from exceeding 60 mph, I think it would be a great way to tour the U.S. Check out his tour blog. After a long day of standing, and burning in the sun, the 1:20AM Blind Pilot set ended up being too late and too crowded to deal with, and I knew I’d be seeing their festival set on Sunday, so we bailed on the set. In hindsight, I guess I regret it, but at the time with aching feet, back, and cramped into the basement of a building full of people it was certainly justified. More on Blind Pilot on Sunday’s recap.