this american life

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.

My Top 5 Podcasts

I have one of those iPod Classics. Ancient and useless. Scratch on the screen. You know how it goes. In an attempt to make my Classic more relevant, I found an unused menu button. Enter podcasts.

You may already be on the podcast train, maybe not. I tend to be late on trends. Either way, here are my top 5 favorite podcasts:

This American Life 

I know I’m not alone on this. This American Life is one of the most (if not the most) beloved radio program in the country. If you’re like me, then you probably never gave it a fair shot. This podcast version is a great way to keep updated with the show, and gives you the ability to listen whenever you want.

Like a modern NPR Mr. Rogers, host Ira Glass welcomes you in and takes you on a journey. Some stories fiction; most are not. The segments will make you laugh, others cry, others squeal. What’s most amazing is This American Life’s ability to churn out high level-original storytelling week-after-week, year-after-year.

Planet Money (NPR)

Plant Money is great for any business minded, economically charged person. But if you’re not, it’s still great. My wife could care less about politics and economics but still loves this program. They do a wonderful job of picking interesting stories and tying them to relevant economic themes.

It’s a great tool for someone, like myself, trying to stay informed on the economy, though gets sick of the bias heavy, sensational media coverage. Even if you hate economics, give it a shot!

Thrilling Adventure Hour

You may or may not know about this program. I had no idea it existed till a few months ago. Most of my friends did. Thrilling Adventure Hour is a comedy sketch podcast, filmed live in front of a studio audience and created by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker. Their tag line is: “New time podcasts in the style of old-time radio.”

It can be hit or miss, but stick with it for a couple weeks. You’ll soon be introduced to all of the hilarious, reoccurring characters. Sparks Nevada: Marshall on Mars, Captain Laserbeam, and my favorite: Frank and Sadie Doyle (starring Paul F. Thompkins).

Relevant Podcast

There’s not much to say about this one. It’s just freakin’ hilarious. It’s from the makers of Relevant Magazine, and regularly has four people you will grow to love. If you’re a twenty to thirty year-old something, slightly spiritual and love to “goof”, then this is probably right up your alley.

Relevant is a religious magazine, but they do a great job at not being lame about it. It’s simply addictive. There’s great music, movie suggestions, and hilarious weekly “slices.” Also a plus are the featured guests, ranging from authors to musicians to Junglebird himself.

Freakonomics Radio

From the people who brought you the book and that awesome documentary, comes Freakonomics Radio. Though it revolves around economics and business markets, I would never define it as a business podcast.

Rather, I would say it’s a thought-engaging conversational starting piece of radio. They “reveal the hidden side of everything.” If you enjoyed the book or the documentary (currently on Netflix), then you will definitely love the podcast.

You may not agree with everything stated or proposed, but that’s not the point. Instead, apply the theories, test them, and come to your own conclusion. After all, that’s what critical thinking is?

Just a note: Usually they rotate their programming. Every other week is a full episode (usually 30 minutes) and in between weeks are five minute segments released originally on NPR’s Marketplace.

Other Notables:

  • The /filmcast-Movies
  • Radiolab-Science, stories
  • Entreleadership-Business, leadership, Dave Ramsey
  • This Is Your Life-Intentional Leadership, Life Advice, Blogging
  • NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour-Exactly what it sounds like
  • Entrepreneurial Though Leaders-Speeches, Business

 

Any suggestions? Let me know your favorites!