The 1st Annual Jeff Malone Academy Awards

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A lot of people complain about the Oscars getting it wrong, but nobody ever does anything about it.  So here I am, doing something about it.  This is the 1st Annual Jeff Malone Academy Awards, honoring the best of the cinema of 2012.
My nominees are listed after the video.  Winners are in bold and all caps.

Supporting Actor
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, Django Unchained
Richard Jenkins, Cabin in the Woods
Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

Animated Feature
WRECK-IT RALPH

Cinematography
ROBERT RICHARDSON, Django Unchained
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Steve Yedlin, Looper
Masanobu Takayanagi, Silver Linings Playbook
Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Visual Effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
LIFE OF PI
Marvel’s The Avengers
Prometheus
Snow White and the Hunstman

Costume Design
Kari Perkins, Bernie
SHAREN DAVIS, Django Unchained
Paco Delgado, Les Misérables
Sharen Davis, Looper
Karen Patch, Seven Psychopaths

Makeup & Hairstyling
Argo
CLOUD ATLAS
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Sound Mixing
David Husby, Cabin in the Woods
Mark Ulano, Django Unchained
SIMON HAYES, Les Misérables
Lee Orloff, Pitch Perfect
Kevin Bolen, Wreck-It Ralph

Sound Editing
Randle Akerson, The Dark Knight Rises
Larry Blake, Haywire
Robert Jackson, Killing Them Softly
JEREMY PEIRSON, Looper
Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg, Skyfall

Supporting Actress
AMY ADAMS, The Master
Emily Blunt, Looper
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect

Film Editing
Lisa Lassek, Cabin in the Woods
Elliot Greenberg, Chronicle
Dody Dorn, End of Watch
BOB DUCSAY, Looper
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook

Production Design
Cabin in the WoodsDjango Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hunger Games
LIFE OF PI

Original Score
Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil, and Johnny Klimek, Cloud Atlas
Heather McIntosh, Compliance
David Holmes, Haywire
JONNY GREENWOOD, The Master
Alexandre Desplat and Benjamin Britten, Moonrise Kingdom

Original Song
“Abraham’s Daughter,” written by Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, and T-Bone Burnett, The Hunger Games
“THE ANTIDOTE,” written by ANNIE CLARK (ST. VINCENT), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2
“Bittersweet,” written by Sonny Moore and Ellie Goulding, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2
Safe & Sound,” written by Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, Joy Williams, and T-Bone Burnett, The Hunger Games
“Skfyall,” written by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, Skyfall

Adapted Screenplay
Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater, Bernie
Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer, The Dark Knight Rises
Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray, The Hunger Games
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
DAVID O. RUSSELL, Silver Linings Playbook

Original Screenplay
JOSS WHEDON and DREW GODDARD, Cabin in the Woods
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Rian Johnson, Looper
Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

Director
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Drew Goddard, Cabin in the Woods
RIAN JOHNSON, Looper
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Robert Zemeckis, Flight

Lead Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games
JENNIFER LAWRENCE, Silver Linings Playbook
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Lead Actor
Jack Black, Bernie
BRADLEY COOPER, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Picture
Bernie
CABIN IN THE WOODS
Django Unchained
Flight
The Hunger Games
Looper
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Ruby Sparks
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best in Film 2012: Best Films of the Year

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2012 may have been the best year for movies since I have been alive. At least it was the best cinematic year of my lifetime that I can remember well. So I had to go with a Top TWENTY this year. My top 3 all would have been number one material in most years. Enjoy!

1. Cabin the Woods
cabin
If you’re a horror movie aficionado, Cabin in the Woods has got plenty to offer you. If you’re familiar with horror movies but not really a fan of the genre, then Cabin in the Woods will still probably win you over. I cannot think of any other movie that was as successful as Cabin at completely deconstructing an entire genre. It somehow managed to include elements of every type of horror movie in a way that actually worked. Cabin also may be the hardest movie ever to talk about without spoiling. Essentially every moment plays around with expectations, right from the opening shot. So should I dare continue talking about, and give everything away? Well, for one thing, since there is so much to potentially spoil, having a few twists spoiled will not ruin the whole movie. And my year-end best-of write-ups are geared towards readers who have already seen the movie anyway. But if you haven’t seen Cabin yet, just stop reading and consider it as highly recommended as possible, and go watch it. Then come back and read this last sentence, in which I list some of my favorite aspects, such as the corporate drudgery – wittily brought to life by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford – that is responsible for carrying out the horror movie-style killings, the constant, challenging voyeuristic text and subtext, and, of course, the release of all the monsters.
Memorable Line: “Hell, I’ve been here since the war.” “Which war?” “You know damn well which war!” “Would that have been with the blue and some in grey, brother, perhaps, fighting against brother in that war?”

2. Looper

looperWEB1
Rian Johnson deserves all the praise we want to give him for the audacity of setting nearly the entire second half of his sci-fi actioner on a single mother’s farmhouse. And for the skill at making that second half as consistently thrilling as the first half. Less surprisingly – but just as impressively – Looper deserves praise for making its version of time travel work, if there even is such a thing as making time travel work. If you focus on the mechanics of the time travel, then all time travel movies are confusing and “illogical.” Looper spells its own unique rules, but is wisely flexible about them (there seems to be the potential for multiple versions of the future, but the future that has already happened can be affected by the new present); as Abe (Jeff Daniels) points out, it’s best not to think about it too much, as it “just fries your brain like an egg.” Ultimately, Looper is an affecting character piece, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and Pierce Gagnon going all out to make their characters as sympathetic, which is particularly meaningful since this movie illustrates the quandary of whether or not it is worth it to kill a child that you know will grow up to be a monster. I would be remiss without mentioning that Looper is also the most well-edited action film in ages, with the diner faceoff scene a perfect example of this commendable editing.
Memorable Line: “And the path was a circle… round and round. So I changed it.”

3. Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Lining_3

Silver Linings Playbook is a fascinating portrayal of mental illness in that the character with bipolar disorder is the one spreading a gospel of positivity. Pat Solitano – brought to life with desperate verve by Bradley Cooper – is the most positive person his friends and family know. But he is also the most prone to completely breaking down. I suppose that capability for mood swings is what defines bipolarity. But that positivity – that’s Pat’s personality, that’s his philosophy about life. The bipolar disorder truly is an illness and not at all a character flaw. The fact is, everyone in this movie (and everyone everywhere) perhaps is at least a little crazy. So it is a good idea to be open about that craziness. Thus, the most cathartic moments of SLP are those in which secrets, and thus craziness, are exposed: the revelation that Dolores had been telling Tiffany where Pat would be running, Pat Sr.’s pep talk to Pat after the dance, Pat’s declaration of love to Tiffany, and just about every time Tiffany says anything to anybody.
Memorable Line: Because Silver Linings Playbook had the best screenplay around, dialogue-wise, you get THREE memorable lines!
“It can still be a date if you order Raisin Bran.”
“You might not have experienced the shit that I did — but you loved hearing about it, didn’t you? You are afraid to be alive! You’re afraid to live! You’re a conformist! You’re a hypocrite! You’re a liar! I opened up to you and you judged me! You’re an asshole! You’re an asshole!”
“Dear Tiffany,
I know you wrote the letter. The only way you could beat my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself. Thank you. I love you. I knew it the minute I met you. I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck.
Pat”

4. Flight
flight

Flight kicks off with a stunning, action-packed setpiece that may be the most physiologically affecting movie scene I have ever experienced. Then … it slows down. It becomes a little demanding of its audience after initially making it so easy to pay attention. Flight is a character study; it is about one man’s arc: his descent, crash, and ultimate flight. Since it is all about Whip, it requires an excellent actor in the lead role, and who better than Denzel? The success of Flight hinges so much on Denzel’s ability to wring every last emotion out of the viewer. As Whip lingers by the minibar the night before his hearing, the tension is unrivaled. The swipe of that first drink of the night as the scene is utterly devastating. All of this self-destruction ultimately allows for a hell of a catharsis in the final scene. When Whip’s son interviews him in the prison yard, I choked up – twice.
Memorable Line: “Who are you?” “That’s a good question.”

5. Ruby Sparks
_DSC2175.NEF

Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club has made a bit of name for himself by coining the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” to describe a currently in vogue trope in fiction of quirky love interests who inspire the male lead character to wake up to how amazing life is. And perhaps without even realizing it, Zoe Kazan wrote a nifty little screenplay that served as a perfect deconstruction of this trope. The MPDG character has been criticized for being unrealistic and merely the wish-fulfillment product of writers’ imaginations. In this film, Ruby Sparks is literally the product of a writer’s imagination. Control freak novelist Calvin (Paul Dano) is (mostly) thrilled to discover that the girl he has been writing about has come to life, but he has no idea how to handle the fact that she is able to interact with the rest of the world outside of his head. Ultimately, Ruby Sparks becomes a metaphor for the creative process and the relationship between artists and their works after they have realized those works to the public. At that point, as the release-that-which-you-love-ending of Ruby Sparks makes clear, an artistic creation is owned by the world as much as it is owned by the creator, if not more so.
Memorable Line: “They’ll think it’s fiction.”

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
perks-of-being-a-wallflower-4-600x399

When I was in high school, I was struck by how different it was so different than high school in the movies. The Perks of Being a Wallflower shows that maybe the movies actually can get it right as far the high school experience goes. A truth that Perks really gets – one which applies to high school and the rest of life – is that people are people. Cliques and labels do exist, but they are a simplification. When I try to think of why Charlie ended up with the group of friends that he did, it doesn’t seem like anything more than an accident of time and place. Also, they were nice to each other. The fact that he is a freshman hanging out with seniors may be notable, but it’s kind of beside the point. As The Perks of Being a Wallflower so accurately portrays it, it is something of a mystery who ends up being the most important people in our lives. But such an accident of life should not make those people any less meaningful to us – the fact that it can be so mysterious can make everyone even more wonderful. This at times can be a struggle – the film’s philosophical crux is that “we accept the love we think we deserve” – but when we embrace what we have, it just feels so right. And there doesn’t need to be any more to it than that.
Memorable Line: “Be aggressive! Passive aggressive!”

7. Zero Dark Thirty
560.pratt.ls.122012

Zero Dark Thirty is a thinker, not a fighter. Well, it is a bit of a fighter, too, and a damn good one when it needs to be. The climactic scene of the raid on bin Laden’s compound has been rightly praised as perhaps the most riveting action sequence of 2012, but the moments that lead up to that catharsis are not as easily describable. In fact, they are not as easily worth giving praise to. In the everlasting war on terror, answers are hardly ever easy, nor are they are any more so in Zero Dark Thirty. The hunt for bin Laden movie wasn’t the crowdpleaser that some people expected it to be, but neither was the real-life hunt for bin Laden. The debates over the film’s portrayal of torture – Does it support torture? Does it oppose it? Is it neutral? Is it saying it helped in locating bin Laden? – are an indicator that it succeeded. It was meant to challenge, just as the post-9/11 world and the endless war on terrorism has been continually challenging.
Memorable Moment: Maya crying at the end

8. Bernie
Bernie-Movie-3

The most striking thing about the true-crime stunner Bernie is the footage during the credits in which Jack Black is talking to the real Bernie Tiede. How could a man so kind-hearted have committed a crime so heinous? Writer/director Richard Linklater wisely stages much of the film in the style of a documentary, with a series of interviews with various citizens of Carthage, Texas. They all attest to how Bernie Tiede is the most loved and well-respected man in town. Ultimately, Bernie serves as the starkest of evidence that the most angelic among us are capable of the most heinous of crimes. That all the facts of the case are known and that it is all presented so matter-of-factly makes it just a little frightening.
Memorable Line: “Then down south, San Antonio – that’s where the Tex meets the Mex.”

9. The Hunger Games
katniss-01-400

Adolescence is a time of big emotions – every moment seems like the biggest. In a society in which teenagers are reaped for a fight to the death, as in The Hunger Games, then it should come as no surprise that that bigness of adolescence would be amplified. The Hunger Games succeeds mostly as a fascinating character study, with the feisty Jennifer Lawrence bringing life to the fierce Katniss Everdeen. Katniss, like many a classic hero, is initially reluctant to step forward and stand for something. But when the time comes for her to make a sacrifice, she discovers the hero that she was meant to be. In the end, she is still a member of the group that she came from, but she is also somewhat at a distance – she is the “Girl on Fire.” But somehow, she continually refuses to realize how awesome and desirable she is, making her maddening and thus all the more enjoyable to watch. She’s not a boring hero.
Memorable Line: “Thank you for your consideration.”

10. Django Unchained
django_stephen

The latest faux-historical from Quentin Tarantino is one in which the main characters all have a moral code, or something like it. Jamie Foxx’s Django is driven by a devoted, steadfast love to his wife Broomhilda. Christoph Waltz’s King Schultz may be dirty in his methods, but he is an agent of the law, and his actions are performed according to his duties as an agent of the law. Leo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie doesn’t exactly have a code of morality – more like a code of entertainment and hospitality. And Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen – well, he’s the crux of the whole movie. His code makes him do more than just accept his place. He isn’t just suspicious of uppity blacks, he isn’t just polite to his master – he loves his master. Actually, he’s hardly ever polite. He has not patience for anyone who doesn’t see things as he does. A warped perspective like his can only be the product of the world that Django Unchained exists in – a warped existence that can only end in a mess.
Memorable Line: “Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”

11. Safety Not Guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed is ultimately about the power of faith. Identifying with Aubrey Plaza’s sincere lead performance, we are asked to go along with the time travel scheme despite all lack of believability. In partnership with the main story is a delightful subplot in which Jake Johnson’s character places faith in the possibility of rekindling an old relationship.

12. The Dark Knight Rises
TDKR is a fittingly circular conclusion to an epic modern masterpiece. It is an absurd fantasia that resembles something like reality in which every major philosophy of life is embodied and magnified, then stuck on an island for a world-defining clash.

13. Chronicle
What if a group of real kids suddenly gained superpowers? What if one of them was mentally unstable? There would be a struggle among allies about the proper way to wield power.

14. Haywire
Haywire is pure, fucking action. With an actual fighter in the role of lead hitwoman, it provides action setpieces laid bare for your enjoyment.

15. Sound of My Voice
Despite seeming set on laying a critical eye on the lure of cults, Sound of My Voice actually ends up leaving open the possibility of time travel. It is ultimately an examination – colored by fascination – of the charisma required to lead a group that does not make sense.

16. Wreck-It Ralph
The best non-Pixar Disney animated film in years tells us that, yes, we can break out of the roles that have been assigned to us. There can be more to our lives than what we have been coded for.

17. Lincoln
Steven Spielberg’s historical yarn is an ultimately uplifting examination of the wheeling and dealing of politics. Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln knows how to play a room, thanks to his profound conviction.

18. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s latest is a charming little play-world tucked within reality where young love can thrive and take artful expression.

19. Argo
Sometimes, there is a happy ending, against all odds, and it makes for a hell of a story.

20. End of Watch
A pair of basically (read: profoundly) good cops get in over their heads. These characters are so likable and so admirable that you are practically begging for them to make it out alive.

And the 21st best movie of the year was 21 Jump St.!

I didn’t see the following movies.  Are they good?  I hope so.
Amour, ArbitrageHoly MotorsHow to Survive a Plague, The ImposterJiro Dreams of SushiThe Loneliest Planet, ParaNormanThe Queen of Versailles

And Now, The Biggest Stars of the Year:

-Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook)

-Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper, Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln)

-Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister, Zero Dark Thirty, co-director of Jeff, Who Lives at Home, TV’s The League)

-Chris Messina (Ruby Sparks, Argo, Celeste & Jesse Forever, TV’s The Mindy Project)

-Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, Killer Joe, Bernie, The Paperboy)

-Joss Whedon (Director of The Avengers, co-writer/producer of Cabin in the Woods, Comic-con Firefly reunion panel)

Best of Music 2012: The 10 Best Albums of the Year That I Listened To

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This year, my best album list is entitled The Best Albums I Listened To for the sake of indicating that there are so many albums released every year, and even though I listen to a lot of music, and a lot of different kinds of music, there’s no way I can listen to everything worth listening unless I’m given all the time in the world.

1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Channel_ORANGE
In 2012, Frank Ocean came out with his confessional manifesto: a free-form, wide-ranging, heartfelt R&B ode to modern time, modern youth, and modern love.
Key Tracks: “Pyramids,” “Thinkin Bout You,” “Super Rich Kids”

2. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
David_Byrne_and_St._Vincent_-_Love_This_Giant
The combination of the sharp, decidedly masculine David Byrne and the delicate (but actually quite strong), decidedly feminine St. Vincent may have seemed discordant, but the finely crafted Love This Giant proves that it was a complementary masterstroke.
Key Tracks: “Who,” “I Should Watch TV,” “Lazarus”

3. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
Bat_for_Lashes_-_The_Haunted_Man_cover
Haunted, indeed. Bat for Lashes bares her spirit (and on the cover, her body) in a set of raw emotions set to music.
Key Tracks: “Oh Yeah,” “All Your Gold,” “Laura”

4. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon
Ellie_halcyon
Halcyon is as twitchy as the most robotic of electronica, but it is fiercely humanistic. Each note is full of feeling and clearly originating from an actual person’s vocal cords. Who is this ethereal weirdo who has stumbled her way into the pop world?
Key Tracks: “Only You,” “Anything Could Happen,” “Hanging On”

5. Ke$ha – Warrior
Kesha_Warrior
What Ke$ha declared would be her “cock-rock” album actually ended up delving even further into electronica than her first album, with much of it coming off as Daft Punk fronted by Ke$ha. The rock sensibility did come through somewhat, thanks especially to Iggy Pop and a drum breakdown that echoed “In the Air Tonight.”
Key Tracks: “Warrior,” “Die Young,” “Love Into the Light”

6. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Jack_White_Blunderbuss_cover
Blunderbuss suggests a physical space for Jack White to have plenty of room to experiment – who’s going to complain about that?
Key Tracks: “Sixteen Saltines,” “Freedom at 21,” “Weep Themselves to Sleep”

7. Muse – The 2nd Law
Muse_2nd_law
If you’re not by now cool to Muse’s m.o. of unabashed ambition inspired by such phenomena as thermodynamics (the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium – the state of maximum entropy), then I guess you’re never going to be. The 2nd Law is, more than ever for Muse, the realization of epicness, yet it also takes time to cool off and go at some speeds that are unusual for the band on such notable tracks as “Madness” and “Panic Station.”
Key Tracks: “Madness,” “Panic Station,” “The 2nd Law: Isolated System”

8. Kimbra – Vows
Kimbra_-_Vows_-_Album_Art
New Zealand chanteuse Kimbra brings to the 21st century musical scene an exuberant jazz/R&B fusion. Vows is a cascade of danceable personal statements.
Key Tracks: “Settle Down,” “Come Into My Head,” “Cameo Lover”

9. Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods
Silversun_Pickups_neckofthewoods

Silversun Pickups’ horror album Neck of the Woods ever so lightly freaks its listeners out, poking at anxieties involving bodily invasiveness and existential hopelessness.
Key Tracks: “The Pit,” “Skin Graph,” “Busy Bees”

10. Passion Pit – Gossamer
GossamerPP

Passion Pit is going (remaining?) crazy. In the time between their debut Manners and follow-up Gossamer, their biggest decision seems to have been to keep their normal disposition at full-to-bursting.
Key Tracks: “Take a Walk,” “I’ll Be Alright,” “Cry Like a Ghost”

I Haven’t Heard These Albums in Their Entirety, But I’ve Heard That They Are Quite Good:
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls, Gary Clark, Jr. – Blak and Blu, Dr. John – Locked Down, Bob Dylan – Tempest, Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city, Nas – Life Is Good, Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball, Tame Impala – Lonerism, Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

Best of Music 2012: The Best Music Videos of the Year

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2012 was not the best year for music videos, which is fair because 2011 was perfectly solid, and 2010 gave us some true standard-bearers. Meanwhile, 2012 was an excellent year for movies, while 2011’s cinematic output was relatively lackluster. You win some, you lose some. 2012’s music videos were not as filled with interesting narratives and unique, groundbreaking concepts as much as other recent years. That lack may explain why striking imagery carried the day for the best of 2012; “beautiful” is probably my most frequently used word to describe my top 10, and I don’t remember ever being as complimentary of the cinematography as I am this year.

1. Lana Del Rey – “Ride” [Dir. Anthony Mandler]

Who makes videos like this one anymore? Who ever made videos like this? Sure, there have been plenty of long-form music videos (and plenty of classic ones at that), but nothing quite like the baroque extravaganzas from Ms. Del Rey. This video’s whole story of Lana as this lost girl may just be completely made up. Or maybe it’s not. Either way, it’s aggressively fascinating. The lingering, lascivious camera, the wild mix of patriotism and Native American props and imagery, the wide-open cinematography, the tire swing connected to the sky – surely, this was what music videos were invented for.

2. M.I.A. – “Bad Girls” [Dir. Romain Gavras]

Leave it to M.I.A. – the best political music video provocateur around – to make a video of car drifting a statement of support for Saudi women drivers. The widescreen cinematography is beautiful, while M.I.A. and the other drifters are badass. Those two elements are enough on their own to make a memorable video. The feminist message would also be enough by itself. Somehow, together, they are synergistic.

3. Lana Del Rey – “National Anthem” [Dir. Anthony Mandler]

Lana Del Rey casting herself as Jackie O. surely must mean something. A$AP Rocky as JFK is intriguing, to say the least. The grainy, home-video style footage also captures the attention. I am not sure what it all means together, and I am not sure Lana knew either when she made it. Meaning often comes after creation. Now that this attention grabber of a video has been made, let’s see if we can find some meaning out of it. Lana is making an American myth of herself – surely something must stick.

4. Katy Perry – “Wide Awake” [Dir. Tony T. Datis]

Katy Perry used to strike me as, not exactly artificial – synthetic, perhaps. Now that she has made it to the point of her career where “Wide Awake” stands, I realize she may be the most authentic pop star out there. Hers is a finely put-together package, sure, but there is honesty in the assembly. She’s lived enough that she’s not going to blindly accept the fairy tale life she has aspired to, and she’s got the imagery to prove it, particularly the Freddy Krueger-esque paparazzo.

5. Psy – “Gangnam Style”

I’m not overly familiar with K-Pop, so I will just take Psy’s word when he says that “Gangnam Style” is a satire of the K-Pop aesthetic. I am familiar, however, with videos in which guys are blown away by ladies’ hindquarters, and “Gangnam” takes that trope to beautiful extremes. And the horsey dance – that happened.

6. David Byrne & St. Vincent – “Who” [Dir. Martin de Thurah]

In this black and white stunner from David Byrne and St. Vincent, the two of them look forward – never towards the camera – with cold eyes, but there is passion in their bodies. They are practically compelled to complete their dancing mission. Even St. Vincent’s lying on the ground is incredible posing. A triumph of physicality.

7. Ke$ha – “Die Young” [Dir. Darren Craig]

Guess what, world? The joke’s on you: there is a lot going on in the “Die Young” video, but none of it means anything! And that’s the way it’s always been with K-girl. Indeed, it is true that there is a mess of Illuminati symbols present in this video, as there have been in many recent pop videos. But it’s always been a bunch of noise. Ke$ha lays to rest the idea that it was ever anything else. (Or tricks us into thinking so…) So let’s all just have an orgiastic time.

8. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” [Dir. Syndrome]

The “Radioactive” video features a puppet fight in the style of a cockfight. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a commentary on animal rights or something like that. Or how it has anything to do with the song, for that matter. But with Lou Diamond Phillips, Alexandra Daddario and her incredibly deep eyes, and those puppets, how can I say no?

9. Woodkid – “Run Boy Run” [Dir. Yoann Lemoine]

I am not sure if the “Run Boy Run” video means much beyond what it is on its surface: a boy on a quest. But does it need to be anything more than that? A young boy’s imagination run wild is perfect fodder for a music video: chased by monsters while on the way to a castle – that’s something to watch. Plus, the whole thing just looks beautiful.

10. Calvin Harris – “Feel So Close” [Dir. Vincent Haycock]

The video for “Feel So Close” captures the feeling of bliss that the song also captures so well. With its montage of spirited dancing, kissing, playful banter, and smiling among young and old, male and female, with an M&M-worthy color palette set against a sunny summer day leading into the sunset, this living in the moment is about as close to heaven life can get.

Best of 2012 Lists Update

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Due to a focus on grad school applications, my remaining Best of 2012 posts (albums, music videos, movies) will be posted later than initially planned. Expect them by some time in February.

Best of Music 2012: Best Songs of the Year

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Three of my top five songs of 2012 (numbers 1-3, in fact) have something in common: they were actually released in 2011. 2012 was The Year of 2011, with several of the biggest hits of the past year having been originally released the year before.

Top 5 Songs of the Year
1. Grouplove – “Tongue Tied”
“Slumber party, pillow fight”
When I first heard “Tongue Tied” many times over on the iPod commercial, I thought, “I like it. That’s another fine addition to the songs from iPod commercials.” And then it started getting some radio airplay, and I went into my second stage with it in which I was getting tired of it. But then at some point, maybe around the thirtieth listen, it reached the third and final stage for me, in which I determined that it was the best song of the year. Why these wild shifts? It remains inexplicable. But it must have something to do with the lyrics, which demand a more-than-cursory examination. There’s a fantastical sense to it all, as demonstrated by lines like “Marmalade we’re making out” and “Peter Pan up in the sky.” It doesn’t appear to be about anything more than just one random crazy party, but the way the lyrics lay it all out demonstrates that if you present anything properly, it can achieve epicness. The spirited, practically angry, singing at the end further solidifies this notion, and the outro chords are quite the capper.

2. Calvin Harris – “Feel So Close”
“Your love pours down on me, surround me like a waterfall”
I usually denote the best dance song of the year in my best songs of the year coverage – this is the first year that the best dance song has cracked the overall top 5, appropriately enough, as we are fully emerged in the EDM-dominated era. And Scottish DJ Calvin Harris’s “Feel So Close” captures a feeling that dance music may be best equipped to deliver: pure bliss.

3. Alex Clare – “Too Close”
“So I’ll be on my way”
“Too Close” is a song that could have only been made in 2012 (or 2011), and only by someone who has paid attention to music of the past 50 or so years. Combining a jazzy rock beat, a dubstep breakdown, and soul vocals, Alex Clare is not holding back on his musical arsenal. The lyrics describe a relationship at a crossroads – when emotions are at a high, and there are plenty of emotions to draw from. Representing that full emotional range naturally requires a full range of musical techniques: the steady verses keep things going, while Alex’s singing makes it clear that all is not necessarily so copacetic, and the bass kicking in for the chorus show just how volatile everything is. There is an ebb and flow, and it ultimately crescendos to a steady ending, allowing everyone to breathe, though it is not exactly the happiest of conclusions.

4. Ellie Goulding – “Anything Could Happen”
“I guess we thought that’s just what humans do”
Working in an AutoTuned, EDM-saturated era, Ellie Goulding isn’t scared of digital manipulation. But the fact that Ellie works within the normal strictures of the current pop scene along with her relatively straightforward cute little blonde physical appearance belie just how weird she is and just how weird her style of digital manipulation is. It’s hard to tell if the ee-ee’s of “Anything Could Happen” are the result of button pushing, or if Ellie can beep like that without any electronic assistance. To assuage any potential doubts about her vocal abilities, though, she leads into her climax with a powerful series of repeating “I know it’s gonna be’s” that lasts just a little bit longer than you expect it to, and then lasts a little bit more. Topping it all off are lyrics that praise perseverance with an outsider’s sensibility.

5. David Byrne & St. Vincent – “Who”
“Who’s this?! Inside of me”
The reviews I read of Love This Giant made a point of noting the discordant, but ultimately complementary, combination of David Byrne’s full-throated tenor and Annie Clark’s light, decidedly feminine voice. “Who” makes that contrast as obvious and as pleasing as possible, with Byrne’s string of interrogatives rhythmically intercut with Annie’s recurring “Who is an honest man?” I imagine that hearing David Byrne and St. Vincent sing any list of questions would be enjoyable. The particular list that makes up the lyrics of this song work well enough, which is to say, it succeeds at making me want to listen to it over and over.

And a Sampling of The Rest of the Best, Roughly in Order:

Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”

Non-single/Twilight Soundtrack Song of the Year: St. Vincent – “The Antidote”
Non-single Runner-up: Ellie Goulding – “Only You”
Twilight Soundtrack Song of the Year Runner-Up: Ellie Goulding – “Bittersweet”

Kimbra – “Settle Down”
Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”
Ke$ha – “Die Young”
Lana Del Rey – “Ride”
Muse – “Madness”
Tom Waits – “Hell Broke Luce”
Frank Ocean – “Pyramids”
Drake ft. Rihanna – “Take Care”
Katy Perry – “Wide Awake”
Silversun Pickups – “The Pit”
Bat for Lashes – “Laura”
Woodkid – “Run Boy Run”
The Gaslight Anthem – “45”
Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven”
Miike Snow – “Paddling Out”
Martin Solveig – “The Night Out”
M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”
Jack White – “Sixteen Saltines”
David Guetta ft. Sia – “Titanium”
Atlas Genius – “Trojans”
Rita Ora ft. Tinie Tempah – “R.I.P.”
Alicia Keys – “Girl on Fire”
Lana Del Rey – “National Anthem”

File Under “Rihanna Just Cannot Stop Making Music”: Rihanna – “Where Have You Been,” “Diamonds”

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
Nicki Minaj – “Starships”
Martin Solveig – “The Night Out”
Neon Trees – “Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)”
Foxy Shazam – “Holy Touch”
Bridgit Mendler – “Ready or Not”
The Heavy – “What Makes a Good Man”
Cher Lloyd – “Want U Back”
Garbage – “Blood for Poppies”
Demi Lovato – “Give Your Heart a Break”
Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Sleigh Bells – “Comeback Kid”
Neon Hitch – “Fuck U Betta”

And in the spirit of 2011, I must mention one song that was released in 2011, but didn’t completely become a hit until 2012, but that I included on my Best Songs of 2011 coverage, thus making it ineligible for the Best of 2012, but I didn’t place it as high as it deserved to be for 2011, so I must amend that: “Somebody That I Used to Know,” by Gotye featuring Kimbra. It didn’t quite crack my top 5 last year, but it should have (it should have been second, to be specific). If I hadn’t heard it until 2012 and/or if it had been released in 2012, then it would have been Number 1 for 2012.

Best Lyrics of 2012:
“I guess we thought that’s just what humans do” (Ellie Goulding – “Anything Could Happen”)
“Stripping down to dirty socks” (Ke$ha – “Die Young”)
“I like your face do you like my song” (Bridgit Mendler – “Ready or Not”)
“Money is the reason/We exist/Everybody knows it/It’s a fact. Kiss kiss.” (Lana Del Rey – “National Anthem”)

The Best TV Couples of 2012

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When determining what makes a great couple to watch on the TV, I consider two main factors: how good the relationship is for the characters themselves and how entertaining it is to watch the couple be together.  In the rest of my Best TV coverage, I’ve made it a point to note the possibly great shows that I didn’t watch.  I’m not as worried about that with this list, because the good shows I don’t watch (i.e., most of the prestige dramas) aren’t usually known for their healthy relationships.  (Although, one possible exception that comes to mind is Amy and Rory from Doctor Who.  And then there’s also Don and Megan on Mad Men, whose relationship doesn’t seem the most stable but certainly appears to have a fair degree of energy to it.)  Before we get to the top ten, first let’s take a look at the all-time Hall of Shame:

And the Badge of Dishonor goes to Gossip Girl.  For most of its time on the air, GG has been ridiculous, but it has had romances that have actually been worth getting invested in.  Then in its final season, all the romances became disgusting (or at best, pointless).  I was originally a Chair supporter, and then I was shocked to see myself switch to Team Dair.  But I understood those who clinged to the belief that Chuck-Blair ought to remain the endgame romance.  But the two of them getting back together was just not acceptable after Blair ended things with Dan in the shittiest way possible, and then Dan and Serena got back together despite not ever actually really clearing things up.  I enjoyed the series finale in a twisted sort of way, but I essentially had no emotional attachment at that point.

1. Suburgatory – Tessa Altman and Ryan Shay (Jane Levy and Parker Young)

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This coupling still seems to be in the ship tease stage, but it is ever so wonderfully closer to becoming an actual coupling, as demonstrated in one of the best scenes of television of the year, in which Tessa admitted that she might actually be able to requite Ryan’s feelings for her.  And then they kissed.  (And she used tongue!)  Tessa’s arc of letting down her snark shield and allowing herself to have feelings for someone so simple (and so sweet) as Ryan was one of the most heartwarming pieces of television in 2012.

2. Bob’s Burgers – Bob and Linda Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin and John Roberts)

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The conventional wisdom seems to be to avoid happily long-married couples because they’re boring. But when it comes to the Belchers, that notion is about as incorrect as it can possibly be.

3. Happy Endings – Brad Williams and Jane Kerkovich-Williams (Damon Wayans, Jr. and Eliza Coupe)
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A couple in which the wife often plays the traditional male role, and the husband often plays the traditional female role – and they’re both generally okay with it. An interracial couple who call attention to that fact – but never in a way that could legitimately be considered offensive. This is a 21st century couple – but this is hardly a matter of social awareness when they are above all just so silly.

4. Community – Jeff Winger and Annie Edison (Joel McHale and Alison Brie)
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When Jeff and Annie won E! Online’s 2011 Top TV Couple Award, Joel McHale was gracious but made sure to say, “I hate to point this out, but Jeff and Annie are not a couple.”  True, Jeff and Annie technically are not, and have never been an actual couple.  But their complements-attract chemistry has always been and remains undeniable.  Their romance, or potential thereof, wasn’t as prominent as it could have been in 2012, but we still had these moments:

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5. Parenthood – Adam and Kristina Braverman (Peter Krause and Monica Potter)
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Parenthood is all about couples who definitely love each other, but with day-to-day life, they have fights, they get busy – you know, all those parts of life that make it difficult for couples to say and show that they love each other. But when things really go to pot, that love often becomes quite clear, as it did when Adam jumped into action to take of his Kristina during the course of her breast cancer treatment, allowing Peter Krause and Monica Potter to flex their acting muscles and show how love shines through in life’s crises.

6. Girls – Hannah Horvath and Adam Sackler (Lena Dunham and Adam Driver)
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When we first met Adam, there didn’t seem to be anything redeemable about him. But then it turned out that we just hadn’t seen things from his perspective, and he actually had significant depth. And then Hannah and Adam’s relationship morphed into the ultimate one in which the guy is driven crazy by the girl who doesn’t realize how awesome she is.

7. Fringe – Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham (Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv)
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The scene in which Olivia convinces Peter to remove the Observer tech from his head and come back to being the human Peter she has known and loved is all you need to watch to know how deserving they are of making the list of great TV couples this year.

8. Suburgatory – Lisa Shay and Malik (Allie Grant and Maestro Harrell)
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Here’s hoping that Lisa and Malik’s breakup that came at the end of the year isn’t permanent, because these two were clearly made for each other. They are comfortable with being their odd selves in a town that favors conformity without feeling the need to make a big deal about it.

9. Portlandia – Peter and Nance (Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein)
portlandia_foursome

In a town populated by oddballs, Peter and Nance do have their own oddball characteristics, but they are not as at ease with that part of their life as the other Portlanders are. Thus, the new adventures they go on together – motorcycling, eating out at the popular brunch place, giving up pasta – usually go bizarrely awry, but at least they are there for each other to go through them together.

10. 30 Rock – Liz Lemon and Criss Chros
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Criss Chros never seemed like the ideal partner for Liz Lemon (he was no dealbreaker, but hardly any more than good enough), that is, until they got married, and Chris proved just how well he knew his bride and just how willing he was to make their relationship work. And the coupling of Liz and Chris ultimately demonstrated just how important effort is when it comes to romance.

Honorable Mentions
Liz and Criss just edged out, also from 30 Rock, the appreciably odd but relatively underused Jenna and Paul, as well as three couples from Parks and Recreation: the unsurprisingly obviously happy Ben and Leslie, the screentime-lacking (at least as a couple) April and Andy, and the promising, but presently uncertain, Ron and Diane.

(Thanks to fishsticktheatre.com for the Community screencaps.)

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