Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012... So Far

We're a little past the halfway mark of 2012, and that much closer to the end of the world. So, just in case I don't get to do my usual year end listmania, I figured I'd give y'all the lowdown on my favorite pop culture of 2012 so far (as well as look forward to what I'm... looking forward to). Here goes...

My reading pace has slowed considerably since I started teaching, so I haven't read as much as I'd like. Here's what I've knocked out so far (roughly in order).

Saturday - Ian McEwan (started in 2011)
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Preludes & Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman (Vol. 1 of The Sandman)
Shakespeare: The World's a Stage - Bill Bryson
You Don't Love Me Yet - Jonathan Lethem
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Preacher - Garth Ennis (bulk of the series)

Saturday was gripping, but no Atonement ... I know it has its detractors, but I think 1Q84 is just stunning. So many threads and it *almost* came together perfectly. Just be prepared for a prolonged Act III stall ... The Hunger Games is the most overrated pop culture phenomenon since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which is far better, both book and movies). The book reads like an outline for a longer, better book ... Issue 6 of The Sandman -- 24 Hours -- is the single greatest comic book I've ever read ... Bryson is effortlessly readable on just about any subject ... You Don't Love Me Yet is minor Lethem -- there are a few great passages though ... Of Mice and Men: never read before, but wow ... Preacher is flawed, but fun.

Looking Forward To:
Honestly, with four fall classes, I doubt I'm going to get much reading done. I'll mostly be focused on my Banned Books class. Here's the reading list I assigned:

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Preludes & Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman (Vol. 1 of The Sandman)
The Language Police - Diane Ravitch (currently reading)
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

It's actually been a pretty strong year for music. I had to cull this list down from about 20 albums.

10. Bear Creek - Brandi Carlile
9. Women & Work - Lucero
8. Arrow - Heartless Bastards
7. Celebration Rock - Japandroids
6. Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
5. Comet - The Bouncing Souls
4. Handwritten - The Gaslight Anthem
3. Rize of the Fenix - Tenacious D
2. Gossamer - Passion Pit
1. Synthetica - Metric

Carlile's record blends dirges and ditties, all held together by her haunting voice ... A disappointing Lucero record barely hangs onto a top 10 spot ... Heartless Bastards do their best Led Zeppelin III, which is pretty darn good ... Japandroid's album is aptly named -- whoa-oh-ohs over a big slab of rock 'n' roll ... Frank Ocean could easily rise a spot or three before the year is out ... The new Souls record is lean and mean -- and also, typically, a damn good time ... Although a bit samey, Handwritten has all the care and craftsmanship the name implies ... I was as surprised as you are, but the new D record ROCKS ... Passion Pit has obviously never heard of a sophomore slump (which I was more than half expecting) ... Good luck to ALL OF MUSIC in dethroning Metric -- a perfect sequel to Fantasies, one of my favorites of the last decade.

Here's a playlist of my favorite jams from 2012 so far. Maybe I'll find some time to put it on Spotify or something. Maybe. (Roughly in order of release date -- also fits onto a CDR... handy!)

"Cut You" - Cloud Nothings
"Skin and Bone" - Heartless Bastards
"Paddling Out" - Miike Snow
"Closer Than This" - St. Lucia
"Take the Heartland" - Glen Hansard
"Like Lightning" - Lucero
"Lost & Found" - Eve 6
"Roadie" - Tenacious D
"The House that Heaven Built" - Japandroids
"45" - Gaslight Anthem
"Take a Walk" - Passion Pit
"Yesterday (Circa Summer '80 Something)" - Cory Branan
"Friends of Friends" - Hospitality
"Rise Again" - Brandi Carlile
"Dead" - Jukebox the Ghost
"In Sleep" - The Bouncing Souls
"Flowers in Your Hair" - The Lumineers
"Timelines" - Motion City Soundtrack
"Breathing Underwater" - Metric
"Sweet Life" - Frank Ocean

Looking Forward To:
Infinity Overhead - Minus the Bear
Coexist - The xx
The Sound of the Life of the Mind - Ben Folds Five
New Kanye/Jay-Z/GOOD Music/whatever
Lightning - Matt and Kim
New Tegan and Sara

It's been a pretty good year for pretty good movies. There have been a lot of strong genre entries, but no real memorable Films (capitalization intentional), at least that I've seen (which is not a ton). We'll see what Oscar season brings.

10. Haywire
9. Savages
8. Moonrise Kingdom
7. Magic Mike
6. The Dark Knight Rises
5. Prometheus
4. 21 Jump Street
3. The Avengers
2. The Cabin in the Woods
1. The Grey

Haywire has all of Soderbergh's style, and very little of his usual substance (which sounds like a jizz joke) ... Savages is an orgy of style and just enough substance, flawed ending aside ... Wes Anderson is a one-trick pony -- but it's a pretty good trick ... Remember the thing about substance? Magic Mike has it (rimshot), and style to boot ... [avoiding Aurora joke] Rises is the weakest of the trilogy, but still damn good ... Prometheus is probably the most polarizing film of the year so far -- I admire it for its ambition and wonder what could have been without the obvious flaws ... 21 Jump Street is perhaps the funniest mainstream comedy of the last 5 years ... The Avengers -- comic-book spectacle done right ... My husband's bulge for Cabin in the Woods hasn't gone away yet ... Totally not kidding, The Grey is the best movie of the year so far -- who knew Joe Carnahan could pull off an existentialist thriller? Also, NEESON FIGHTS WOLVES.

Looking Forward To:
The Master
Cloud Atlas
Silent Hill: Revelation
The Man with the Iron Fists
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Djando Unchained

Lots of good stuff to look forward to until the end of the year... whether it's December 21 or 31. Let's just put it this way -- if I don't get to see Django Unchained because of some stupid Mayan Calendar, I'm going to be pissed. Maybe I should find a sneak preview just to cover my bases. Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to check in with a movie review or random babbling here and there before the end of the year lists. Until then...

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