Argo

Best of 2012: Books. Movies. Musics.

Another year. Yayyyyy. I’ll think I ‘ll just get to it.

Movies:

For the record, I don’t see a lot of movies. At least when they come out. Either way, here are some I really liked.

MV5BMTc3MjI0MjM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTYxMTQ1OA@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Argo

It’s insane. Ben Affleck is one of the best directors in Hollywood. Who’da thunk it?

This movie wasn’t perfect but it was still pretty close. John Goodman and Alan Arkin were enough to make the movie for me. The last hour left me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

MV5BMjM1MzMzOTA3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTE3NzA1OA@@._V1._SY317_Skyfall

Is there anything worth saying that hasn’t been said? Probably not.

My personal favorite aspects of this film though? There was too much to like: The skyscraper assassination/fight, Javier Bardem’s introduction monologue, Q, and of course the 1965 Aston Martin DB5.

Still, what was up with that scorpion scene?

imagesSafety Not Guaranteed 

This movie really flew under the radar. I absolutely loved it. It may even go as far as being my “favorite of the year” (Though I’m a sucker for 007).

Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza are absolutely incredible in this film. The “campfire-song” scene between the two of them is beautifully shot, not to mention the song itself was quite impressive. If you haven’t, go see this film now!

MV5BMTM3MDUzMDQwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDk1NjM4OA@@._V1._SY317_Sleepwalk With Me

This fun little film was produced by the This American Life crew, and was written, directed, and starred by Mike Birbiglia, who inspired the true events in the movie.

It’s not exactly a “pro-marriage” movie, but I don’t think it’s necessarily “anti” either. Just be aware that it paints marriage in a funny light. (I wrote a blog on this type of thing already here)

Despite my reservations on that topic, it is still a film worth viewing. It’s quite hilarious and very heart-warming.

MV5BMTk4ODQzNDY3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODA0NTM4Nw@@._V1._SY317_The Dark Knight Rises

Any body who doesn’t have this movie in their end of year favorites is just lying to themselves. Get over your expectations! This movie rocked. Was it the best in the trilogy? No. Does that make it a bad movie? Of course not.

Christopher Nolan delivered just enough to cement his trilogy among the greats. With that being said, I do hope that Nolan returns to a smaller scope in whatever his next film is. The grand scale moments of TDKR are definitely enticing, I can’t help but enjoy the more human aspects of all his films a bit more.

Still, that airplane scene at the beginning? The Bane-Batman fight sequence? The cat burglar? That Ending? Too good.

Music

51kdATs+Y7L._SL500_AA280_Matthew Perryman Jones- Land of the Living

This is such a great record. For a full review, check out American Songwriters take on the album here.

It’s dark, swoony (is that a word?), uplifting, deep, and poetic. Stones From The Riverbed is probably my favorite; his eerie chanting of “the stones from the city wall are pulled from the riverbed,” give me chills every time. Waking Up The Dead is worth mentioning as well. It PUMPS ME UP MAN.

51uehPYp-eL._SL500_AA280_Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan

It took me a little while to jump on the Dirty Projectors band wagon. But once I did, I was curious as to what took me so long. This album is absolutely wonderful. It’s surprisingly catchy and could be easily categorized as a pop record; though I would never fully agree.

The hooks are unmistakable and the lyrics are positively thought-engaging. Sometimes the production work is a bit too “purposely messy” for me, and I could use a bit more main vocals from the female side of the group. Still, it’s great. The title track is wonderful, Impregnable Question is probably better, and The Socialites is my favorite. The album closer, Irresponsible Tune, feels like it comes straight out of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. 

51uCk8LoGtL._SL500_AA300_The Gaslight Anthem- Handwritten 

This was a Spotify favorite for me, and then I finally gave in and bought it. In the midst of indie mania (I’m not excluding myself on this i.e. Dr. Dog & Dirty Projectors) it’s hard to find bands that can still simply just… you know… rock?

Gaslight can rock and they do it well. Frontman Brain Fallon’s songwriting is just getting better on each record. You can almost sense the confidence he has in his craft. I’m sure records like this aren’t for everyone these days, but man, if you need something to keep you awake on a long drive, plug in Gaslight and turn it up. My favorites: Here Comes My Man, Too Much Blood, National Anthem. 

51o+P0uSdfL._SL500_AA300_Dr. Dog- Be The Void

I love this record for the same reason I love the Dirty Projectors: every song offers a unique sound and each sound holds it’s own weight.

Sadly, Void was my first real introduction into Dr. Dog. I tend to get turned off by some indie people you find on “best-of” lists year after year. Finally I put my guard down and picked up this record after a close friend recommended it.

Get it now! It’s one of the few records that literally get better as each song plays. As soon as you think it can’t get better, it does. It was hard to pick favorites, but I did. Check out: Big Girl, Vampires, Warrior Man. 

51waS91VgdL._SL500_AA280_Lovedrug- Wild Blood

Wild Blood was a great turn around After Lovedrug’s last weeiiird album. There were a couple other records I wanted to mention here, but I thought I’d end with Lovedrug since they probably wont get a lot of love on other lists.

Yes, the Lovedrug guy is in love. At some points, this record is almost too cute. As a Lovedrug fan, I never thought I’d say that. Still, it’s a great album and a very worthy mention. Check out: Wild Blood, Dinosaur, Anodyne.

Books

Love_Does2Love Does- Bob Goff 

Yes, it’s a Christian book. Turns out, it’s a really good Christian book. I love the emphasis: “be available.” The stories in this book make you laugh, tear up, and shake your head. In terms of conventional faith books, it’ll take you outside your comfort zone.

There is no formula, no big plan. Goff just says that love does things. It’s available. It’s Jesus.

232324Platform- Michael Hyatt

It’s exactly what the cover says. A step-by-step guide on creating on online platform. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to start a blog, launch a product, or simply find out more about social media.

Obviously, it hasn’t turned me into an online success, but that’s ok, there’s always next year. (I’m still working on that whole ‘be consistent’ thing)

Once you read the book, plug in to his podcast This Is Your Life. It’s a good way to keep motivated and inspired on the ever present empty page.

9780307888907_custom-566a7991b87d68a3881514af980c49cca6095091-s6-c10The Start Up of You- Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha

I actually just finished it today. Not just for those with an entrepreneurial mindset, but also for those curious on how to cultivate a career in today’s ever changing market. The main idea? Treat your life and career as a start up venture. It’s actually a cool concept.

Hoffman is the guy who co-founded LinkedIN, so a lot of the advice is to go on to LinkedIN. Nonetheless, there are nuggets of wisdom in here I wouldn’t have found anywhere else that made it worth the read.

If you’re not into these business books, I can’t guarantee you’ll like it. Though I do think the idea of “personal beta” is a concept everyone could use to better their lives. Check it out!

781998The Screwtape Letters- C.S. Lewis (1942)

I didn’t read as many new books as I was hoping to this year (thank you Calculus) so I thought I mention an older one.

This is a classic. It took me a few chapters to buy into the story (demons writing letters to each other) but eventually, like all of Lewis’ work, I fell in. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book. For instance, I’m not sure if demons write letters…. but there are ideas that can and should change your life.

My greatest takeaway? Don’t miss the present. It’s God’s gift to us and we are all prone to miss it. Some focus on the past, others (like myself) worry too much of the future. Today, this moment, is a gift.

Suspension of Disbelief: Hollywood’s Fail on Marriage

Hollywood gets a lot of things right. Especially lately. Films are based in reality more than ever before. Case and point is the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. There were some things, obviously, that required a high suspension of disbelief for sure (surviving the fall off the train, the villain’s plans, etc.). But besides that, I’d say most of Skyfall was grounded in reality. Which besides Casino Royale, had never really happened before in the James Bond franchise.

Argo is another great film set it a realistic world. Sure, it was based on a true story which always helps. But that’s never stopped Hollywood before from changing just about everything to make the story more palpable and interesting. See: Any horror movie “based” on a true accounts. Argo was just real. It felt like you were watching the story as it was truly unfolding. It was grounded in reality.

But with marriage, man, they just don’t get it. I never noticed before I was married, but now every time I see a portrayal of married couple on the “big screen” I just shake my head.

That’s not what it’s like! That’s not what it’s about!

Hollywood writes marriage (and love for that matter) from the individual perspective. “How can I be fulfilled?” “What makes me most happy?” It’s like they’re writing about some unfamiliar foreign concept they’ve read about in books.

So here is my best example. Sure, it’s based on a mid-size indie film you probably haven’t heard of because it wasn’t that successful. It’s the 2011 film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. First off, this movie is just not very good, so take that into account. But I bring it up because of how the story settles. Before I tell you what happens, make sure and read this review quote in the movie poster below. The one about it being a, “feel good charmer.”

(Spoiler) Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

So it’s a romantic movie that tries to bring together Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. The problem is that he is married and she is committed to a soldier (who becomes a POW). At the end of the movie, they finally realize that they are in “love.” So Ewan leaves his wife and Emily leaves the soldier (literally the next day after he returns).

Ummmm, we’re supposed to feel good about this? As an audience member, I’m not sure I want to root for these people.

All they are doing is chasing their lusts and leaving their families. That’s not what marriage is about. It’s not what love is about. True love, marriage, and relationships, it’s about commitment. Long-term. Seeing through the selfishness and getting through to the other side.

This is what Hollywood doesn’t get right and probably never will. I guess that’s ok. As long as the viewer learns to see it for what it is. Fiction.

Unfortunately, the more we see this stuff acted out on the big screen, the more we become desensitized to this childish behavior. We accept it as true and normal.

I’m not saying married people should stop watching movies. I love the movies. I’m a film nerd for sure. What I’m saying is, may be we should be a little cautious of what we have become to accept as normal.

Modern cinema: based in reality, just not in relationships. It’s as if our suspension of disbelief has shifted away from giant explosions and cool gadgets, to what we now call a relationship.