Monday, December 16, 2013

Catatonically Speaking

Cliche is anathema to creativity, but I cannot help myself: I concede to the fact that I have a cliched craving to make one of those ubiquitous and annoying Definitive End of Year Top Movies/Books/CD lists. You are allowed to parody my self-indulgent efforts, but you are NOT allowed to disagree with my choices, as they are sacrosanct preferences that will one day be etched in stone as The Best Ever Top List. 

But instead of a Top Ten list, I offer forth a Top Five list of my fave 2013 books, CDs and movies. I am so defiant, no? Bow before my iconoclastic ways. 

TOP CINCO CDs of 2013:

Deerhunter - Monomania: Last issues' review should make it very clear how "vastly" I value this album by one of my favorite bands. It's raw, it's sexy, it's abrasive, it's tender, it's heavenly, it's hellish, it's a little bit country and a lotta punk and roll ...Monomania is Deerhunter's best after Cryptograms, and that one is a masterpiece of masterful magnificence wrapped in magnified marvelousness.
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City: I don't give a fuck about an Oxford Comma and I especially don't give a fuck about the puerile backlash against Vampire Weekend. I love them dearly, especially their first album and this latest one. Contra, not so much, but Modern Vampires of the City is such a daring departure from their "Upper West Side Soweto" sound that you have to admire the prepsters for having the ganas to knowingly betray the bulk of their fanbase with more roots-and-rap-oriented stylings. Not that there is blatant rap, per se, but the standout song, "Step" takes its inspiration from a Souls of Mischief song, and elsewhere there are fragments of hip hop flavor. The rest of the album spans the spectrum of genres, rockabilly and folk being other notable influences. Viva Los Vampires! 

Chelsea Light MovingSonic Youth Part II. Kim Gordon is out (bummer) but Thurston's still in, and he's got some new pals to back him up. Welcome back, no-wave art-punksters brandishing an only very slightly dulled heavy metal blade. 

Beats Antique - A Thousand Faces: This trippy album should be the soundtrack playing in Hell's basement. See review in this issue for a more elaborate, less alarming description. 

Washed Out - Paracosm: Check out this issue's review of Washed Out's album for reasons as to why it's so mellifluously magnificent. 


Before Midnight - As long as Linklater refuses to eschew the big budget he has accumulated over the years, he will never top his master stroke, "Slacker." "Slacker" was made on a slacker's budget and as such, is a perfect ragged reflection of the "loser" lifestyle (I use "loser" in quotations because they are only "losers" in the minds of mass society, who misguidedly merit comformist ambition over rebellious nonchalance). That said, Linklater has proved himself an auteur force to be reckoned with. And "Before Midnight" is his best effort since "Slacker" - rife with verisimilitude and dense with dialogue, it exposes the complications of coupledom in all its guts and glory.

Kill Your Darlings - I think you kinda have to be a Beats/Ginsberg/Burroughs/Kerouac fan in order to fully appreciate this movie, and truth be told, I don't care as much for the latter two as I do for Ginsberg as well as lesser-known Beat poets. And in fact, some of what Ginsberg writes annoys the fuck out of me - it seems like "contrived coolness." But I like "Howl" a whole fucking lot, and I appreciate the Beats' revolutionary spirit. Keroauc annoys me, frankly, but I can appreciate his immense talent, even if his topics were superficial (and that's using retro lenses anyway). Burroughs will always bemuse me, but in a mostly good way, even if I don't count myself a full fan. Anyway..."Kill Your Darlings" is essential viewing if you are interested in counterculture literature and the goings-on surrounding the Beat movement. And actually, the film delves into the incipient aspects of the movement, when Ginsberg was a shy nerdy-nerd and Burroughs was just embarking on his harrowingly drug-fueled lifestyle. And it reveals details of a juicy murder that has long been kept under wraps, and basks in a homoerotic aura that would have scandalized in its time but now seems fairly tame given the more tolerant climate of today.

Blue Jasmine - See this issue's review as to why this movie ranks as one of my faves this year.

Room 237 - "The Shining" is not my favorite Kubrick film, though it is well-executed. But I find the at-times histrionic acting almost a parody of horror films, and for that reason, I cannot watch it without giggling instead of shuddering. Nonetheless, the movie is intriguing enough to warrant an documentary about its sundry fan and critic interpretations. Some of the interpretations are sound, but others are so outlandish as to induce guffaws. For example, one critic/fan believes the movie's hidden symbolim is for the genocide of Native Americans. For another, the film is an allegory for the Holocaust. Hm, and here I thought it was a movie about Jack Nicholson's freaky eyebrows, Shelly Duvall's demented Olive Oil impression, a couple of creepy-ass twin girls, and bucket-loads of blood.

The Great Gatsby - I am kind of loathe to include this among my list, but I will do so anyway for three reasons: a) I like Baz Lurhman typically, b) I love and have taught The Great Gatsby, and c) I did not see too many movies last year and am at a loss as to what else to include (LAME excuse, I know). It's true this was not my favorite Baz Luhrman movie - he's kind of hit or miss anyway. I much preferred his incarnation of "Romeo and Juliet." But given that I appreciate his brazenly bizarre takes on classic literature, I think his "Great Gatsby" deserves at least a nod here. And actually, the movie was not brazenly bizarre ENOUGH, in my estimation. "Romeo and Juliet" did a far better job at showcasing Luhrman's eccentric talents and tweaking Shakespeare's vision into something more hyperbolically insane. So I am not sure if Luhrman just got lazy, or fearful, or what, but I think he could have hewed less loyally to the original "Gatsby" film and put a stronger Luhrman imprint on his own version. Plus, no one will trump Redford in the title role; DiCaprio's turn felt a bit fake and forced. That said, it's still worth watching for the silly and surrealistic flourishes that Luhrman does manage to sneak in.

Check back soon for the Cat's Top Five Books of 2013! 

(Hint, one of them is by this dude, here.)

In the meantime, enjoy sampling the astoundingly tasty culinary-literary creations emanating from this winter's Klox and Katz Kitchen! 

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