Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Best 20 Movies I Saw in 2006

This year I sat through 62 movies. Here is a list of the 20 that were most worth my time (in the order I saw them):

Brokeback Mountain, the one about them gay cowboys

TransAmerica, best trans-sexual road movie ever set in the USA

Hotel Rwanda, difficult to watch, but worth it

Kung Fu Hustle, the single best movie I have seen in many a year, loads of action, beautiful cinematography and choreography, hi-freakin-larious

Frida, story of a Mexican artiste who painted better than her more famous philandering (yet loveable and much-loved) husband

Yes Men, great little documentary of some modern merry pranksters with a leftwing agenda

Godfather Part I, claaaasic

Runaway Jury, one of those Tom Clancy movies, but really well done with a satisfying ending, go John Cusack

Million Dollar Baby, didn’t expect that ending, really well done movie, sad and sweet, Eastwood continues to deliver

Miami Vice, I love Michael Mann movies, so slow, deliberate, suspenseful, and he did a great job with this old show about cops who seem corrupt but are really good guys

Matrix II &
Matrix III, I didn’t think any sequels to the Matrix were necessary, but I thought they did a great job of building on that world, that mood, that ingenious device

Harry Potter I &
Harry Potter II, these movies are so fun, fanciful, and cute, only a moron could disapprove (to borrow from Monty Burns)

Koomei (Tuvan Throat Singing), despite technical flaws, this little tourist doc is visually and aurally beautiful and informative

American Splendour, another movie about an American cartoon artist, a loveable loser makes good, then complains about it, I love the main character’s constant whining about the sad lot the working man gets in life

Salvador, classic American anti-American propaganda starring Canadian

James Woods, Oliver Stone’s only good movie that I know of

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, Second best movie I saw this year, a musical documentary about a Brooklyn politically conscious hip hop concert starring all my favourites (including an all too brief appearance by the great Talib Kweli) and the usual hilarity of Chappelle himself

Yesterday, gorgeous South African flick that manages to warm your heart despite difficult subject matter: the dying of a young woman and her husband from AIDS, and her worry about the fate of their little girl

Munich, some would call it biased and one sided, others would say it painted a negative picture of Jews (or at least Israeli Jews), I say it attempted to present a side of the story as honestly as possible – but as Miia pointed out, it’s too bad we don’t have anyone in Hollywood doing the same for the other side. Anyway, this movie was a cross between Mission Impossible and the Pink Panther, with a group of bumbling assassins carrying out state-sponsored vigilante justice (not just an oxymoron anymore), and unlike a spy movie it really got into the characters’ psyches, and the effects that their illicit activities has on them. It was very well done.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Best Albums 06

Best Albums I Acquired in 2006

This year I acquired 17 albums (a large decrease from last year due to another form of consumerism: travel). These are the top 4:

1. Fox the Confessor, by Neko Case – Canada’s new first lady of country music, a voice as sweet as Margot Timmins but stronger, incredible talent, and this is the best I’ve heard from her yet
2. Electric Soul, various artists – great compilation of little known B-sides from the 50s American soul scene
3. Illinoise, by Sufjan Stevens – recommended by my cousin Jon last year, it is an orchestral folkie tour de force, really innovative and sounds so pretty, with moments of Philip Glass and others of Belle & Sebastian
4. Valhalla, by Danny Michel – the boy wonder from Kitchener-Waterloo strikes again, a fun and light album with a few philosophic songs, blends smart lyrics telling great stories with a very original sound


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Best Books I Read Last Year

Best Books I Read Last Year

Best 21 Books I Read in 2006This year I ploughed my way through 51 books, fiction and non. Here are the 21 that really stood out for me.

1. The Leaving, by Budge Wilson – simple, moving stories of female adolescence in Nova Scotia
2. Bound for Glory, by Woody Guthrie – at least as good on the second reading, lives up to the billing as a book to make novelists and sociologists jealous
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Housseini – beautiful tragedy of boyhood in Afghanistan
4. Shalimar the Clown, by Salman Rushdie – the genius of Rushdie scores again
5. The Fugitive, by Pram Toer – beautiful prose copies the structure of a shadow puppet play
6. Child of All Nations, by Pram Toer – the second of the Buru Quartet of novels, told orally in prison and later written down, details of the political maturation of Indonesia’s first great newspaper editor
7. When Your Voice Tastes Like Home: Immigrant Women Write, by various authors – many heartrending stories in the this collection, most of them non-fiction
8. A Short History of Indians in Canada, by Thomas King – biting satire that haunts your psyche and speaks volumes of truth
9. Flying in Silence, by Gerry Turcotte – moving coming of age story set in a household where the mother speaks only English and the father only French, came out in late 90s and sold about seven copies
10. Disability, by Cris Mazza – experimental novel about life and work in a home for the disabled, very moving and also mind-bending
11. Race Against Time, by Stephen Lewis – sure, he’s a rich white guy, but he’s got lots of experience and many interesting things to say about Africa, and he has used his privilege to do good things
12. Professionalism and Social Change: From the Settlement House Movement to Neighbourhood Centres, 1886-1986, by Judith Ann Trolander – sounds exciting no? Not even a great piece of analysis but just so interesting to learn about the changes in attitudes and approaches to anti-poverty work
13. Conscience for Change, by Martin Luther King Jr. – very inspiring, very truthful words that seem to have been ahead of their time; the kind of words that got him murdered
14. Great Soviet Short Stories, various authors – I love Russian writers, they are so bleak and so abstract, great stories of struggle and disillusionment, and of trying to make ideology a lived reality
15. Lonely Planet Guide to Mongolia – I read the whole guide and learned so much about a place I knew nothing about, while at the same time learning about it by travelling around it
16. Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village, by William Hinton – this book is a tomb that fascinates in its pure detail, a step by step review of what happened to one small village in northeast China from 1945 into the 50s
17. Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, by Mark Abley – had its weaknesses but gave some very solid insights into how English is taking over the world, and what is being lost in that process
18. The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World, by Hugh Brody – probably the book that influenced me most this year, a brilliant look at life among some of the remaining hunter-gatherers on the planet, and what the loss off their way of life could mean for humanity
19. A Study of Child Domestic Work and Fosterage in Northern and Upper East Regions of Ghana, by Nana Araba Apt – this actually wasn’t the best academic study you could find, but it was my first exposure to on-the-ground social issues here in Ghana, by Ghanaians, and I learned so much from it
20. The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, by Ama Ata Aidoo – incredible writing by a great Ghanaian talent, moving and poetic
21. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah – depressing, bleak, honest and beautiful, all about filth and corruption and its resultant disillusion, set in 1960s Ghana


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