Upcoming album releases

It’s been a good year for music so far, with three great albums already released (see list on the right side of the page). As for the rest of the year… the current issue of Rolling Stone lists a bunch of releases due over the next few months. Most of them I have no interest in, but these stood out:

May 6:
Elvis Costello – Momofuku

June 10:
Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things

June 17:
Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

July 15:
John Mellencamp – Life, Death, Love and Freedom

Ben Folds – Title TBA

The last one, obviously, has me the most excited. Folds has yet to let me down. I’m also very curious to see what the surprise Elvis Costello CD is all about. He’s done everything from punk to chamber music, big band to ballet… no telling what Momofuku promises.

R.E.M. in order

Not much going on to blog about… it’s April 10 and I’ve yet to see a 2008 movie. That has to be some kind of record. And it’s by choice, as nothing has opened that I’m really excited to see.

So, in the interest of new content, here is a list of all of R.E.M.’s full-length studio albums, in order of my preference:
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What’s left to see?

UPDATED: March 28 now that DVD is the only option for all of these.

I’ve been making a lot of headway the past few weeks, seeing some of the 2007 films that almost got away. So I thought I’d take a minute to detail what’s left on my to-see list.

In order of must-see-ness:

There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson is probably the most exciting young talent in movies today — he’s stretching the boundaries of cinema in breathtaking ways. Word is this is another masterwork, but even if it falls short of Boogie Nights or Magnolia I’m certain it will be fascinating.

Juno – I hope it lives up to the hype, but even if it doesn’t I’ll be happy to spend a couple hours with this cast.

Charlie Wilson’s War – Seems to have a great combination of laughs and brains, and a mischievous performance by Tom Hanks.

1. Michael Clayton

Sweeney Todd

2. Walk Hard – Incredibly silly, I’m sure, but it’s a genre ripe for parody and I trust these guys to do it right.

Lars & the Real Girl

3. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly – I feel like I have to see this more than I want to see it, but the raves have me intrigued.

4. 3:10 to Yuma

5. Persepolis

6. The Great Debaters – Might be corny as hell, but the subject matter is great and I like the Denzel.

The Savages – This should probably be higher on the list, but the trailer doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The idea of Linney and Hoffman putting on an acting clinic does, though.

I Am Legend – Probably not going to see this in the theater, but I still kind of want to.

The Bucket List – Good reviews could push this up the list. As it is, I’m very wary of Rob Reiner’s output the past 10-15 years and the ads make it look pretty corny.

Into the Wild – Mostly excellent reviews but I can’t shake my Sean Penn-as-director fatigue.

7. The Kite Runner – Seems way too grim, but probably worth seeing. I might feel differently if I’d read the novel.

Eastern Promises

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
My Kid Could Paint That
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Margot at the Wedding
Paris, je t’aime
8. Control
9. Waitress
10. The Ten
In the Vallery of Elah
11. Fred Claus
12 The Hunting Party
13. Rescue Dawn
14. Interview
15. A Mighty Heart

The big chart

Every year, the Web site Movie City News compiles a huge chart of every published top ten list they can find. They released the opening chart this weekend. It’s sort of like early election returns, in that the same films tend to stay up top as more results come in, but there are usually some that rise and fall more than others.

This first glance is made up of 33 lists and is dominated by No Country for Old Men (it appears on 22 of those lists). Away From Her, Juno, Michael Clayton, Zodiac and Once are the other front-runners, with a bunch more tied just below them. Should be interesting to see how the ultimate Top Ten shakes out.

Here’s the list.

Best Performances

I continue to be in awe of Marion Cotillard’s sublime turn in La Vie en Rose (to give an idea of the extent to which she disappears into this role, the picture on the right shows the actress [top] plus stills from the film of her Edith Piaf as a young girl and older woman). I have little doubt that Cotillard will end up the winner of my coveted “Best Performance of the Year (Male or Female, Lead or Supporting)” award.

When you think about it, the idea of separating acting awards by gender is horribly sexist. Can you imagine the medical industry giving out a ‘Best Female Neurosurgeon’ award? And why do they always save the “best” for last by giving out Best Actor after Best Actress, just as they always give out Best Drama after Best Comedy at the Golden Globes? I’m all for honoring as many performers as possible, but why use gender as the divider?

So in that spirit, I started singling out one actor each year in 1999. Here are my choices since then, chronologically.

1999: Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry)

Swank’s gut-wrenching performance as Brandon Teena was so good it prompted me to create this award. She believably pulled off the woman-posing-as-a-man thing, but the real power came in the combination of thrilling freedom and overwhelming helplessness she conveyed. Incidentally, five of the eight performances I’m listing here were nominated for Oscars — this is the only one that won.

2000: Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me)

One of those performances that rarely gets recognized amid actors playing the famous or the infirm (or both, as in the case of Jamie Foxx in Ray). Ruffalo played a guy… just a guy. A guy with problems who means well but can’t quite bring himself to do the right thing. There isn’t a moment in this film where I didn’t completely believe Ruffalo was Terry Prescott, and I didn’t want to stop watching him.

2001: Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.)

I can’t say enough about how good Naomi Watts is in this David Lynch mind-bender. She starts out in the Nancy Drew mold, a bright-eyed ingenue trying to make her mark in Hollywood who gets embroiled in a mystery. By the end of the film, she is playing something else altogether (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers). Often actors are praised for being unrecognizable from one film to another — here, Watts pulls that off from one scene to another. Extra credit for pulling off one of the most passionate love scenes I’ve ever seen. And double extra credit for that scene being with another woman.

2002: Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs of New York)

This is a rare case where a performance is so good it actually makes the movie itself worse. To clarify: Daniel Day Lewis’ Bill Cutting is so chillingly larger than life that Leonardo DiCaprio’s softie is never close to his match. We’re building up to a showdown between a lion and a mouse. But that’s no knock on Day Lewis, who emerges from the woodwork every few years to deliver one of these unforgettable chameleonic performances. Word is he’s done it again in There Will Be Blood.

2003: Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl)

The only performance on this list that is now immortalized in a theme park ride. Four years and a billion dollars later, the story has become show biz legend — Depp shows up with his idea to play Captain Jack Sparrow as a fey take on Keith Richards and the Disney brass reluctantly give him the OK. Smart move. Sparrow is one of the few characters in recent years who will go down as a cinematic icon.

2004: Gael Garcia Bernal (Bad Education)

Bernal must have a great agent — he picks one winner after another. Of the six films I’ve seen him in since 2000, four have made my top ten lists (three in the top five). His performance in Bad Education is his best yet. He plays a young man trying to con his way into a movie, and also a haunted transvestite in scenes from that movie. As the homme fatale in this gay noir, he’s a wonderful mix of charm and danger.

2005: Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow)

In a year that gave us Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar and Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, it’s pretty amazing that my award wound up going to a Memphis pimp. I knew from the opening scene that Terrence Howard had knocked this one out of the park. He nailed the speech patterns and mannerisms of this wannabe rap star, but the true magic of his performance is how he sells the theme of redemption — especially in a powerful moment where tears stream down Djay’s face as he listens to a gospel choir.

2006: Penelope Cruz (Volver)

Here’s the second Almodovar movie on this list — a testament to the peerless auteur’s magical touch with actors. I have never been a big fan of Cruz’s, probably because I had only seen her English-language films. Small parts in two other Almodovar films caught my attention, but nothing prepared me for her work in Volver. This is a performance worthy of Hollywood’s golden era. Her huge, expressive eyes (not to mention her huge, expressive chest) sell every tragicomic moment in this very funny, very sad film.

2007 Fall movie preview

So we’re more than seven months into the year, and I’ve seen 21 films. That’s a little less than three per month — not a bad average, but off the pace of one-per-week that I like as a yearly average. But it is the fall and winter that generally deliver the must-see films, and lots of them, so I should be able to hit my target by Oscar time.

Before looking at the films to come, I’ll mention some films from earlier this year that I have in my NetFlix queue and hope to see soon on DVD (in order of preference): Once, Away From Her, Talk to Me, Grindhouse, Black Book, Waitress, La Vie en Rose, The Ten, The Hoax, Diggers, 2 Days in Paris, Disturbia, Curse of the Golden Flower, Bug, Smokin’ Aces. So many movies, so little time.

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