Missing Links

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Moments of clarity are so rare, I better document this.

—Björk, “Stonemilker”

Music_Tame Impala

While I finish up documenting my favorite books and operatic moments of 2015 (I know, I know! But, hey, it’s still January…), I wanted to follow up on my annual music round-up with a few gems I seem to have missed during the year.

I found these while going through iTunes and cleaning out old episodes of the All Songs Considered podcast, especially the year-end “listeners pick their favorite album” episode. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Best in Bridges: Leon Bridges, “Coming Home” (Coming Home). How did I miss this reincarnation of Sam Cooke? Love this entire album.

Best in Brits: Jamie xx feat. Romy, “Loud Places” (In Colour). Is it me or does this sound remarkably like Everything But The Girl?

Best in Boats: Florence + The Machine, “Ship to Wreck” (How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful). We’ve all been there, Florence, we’ve all been there.

Best in B-A-N-A-N-A-S: Tame Impala, “The Less I Know The Better” (Currents). The video is extremely creative to say the least, but the hook is irresistible.

Best in Björk: Björk, “Stonemilker” (Vulnicura). I am generally not a fan of Björk, but you know I can’t resist a good cello.

Best in Bedtime: Joan Shelley, “Easy Now” (Over and Even). This video of Joan Shelley’s Tiny Desk Concert for NPR has a number of songs from her latest album, but “Easy Now” (the first one) is my favorite.

Oscar Nominations: The Hateful 88

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And so the race for the 88th Academy Awards begins.

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The nominees for Best Picture are…

The Big Short (5 nominations)
Bridge of Spies (6 nominations)
Brooklyn (3 nominations)
Mad Max: Fury Road (10 nominations)
The Martian (7 nominations)
The Revenant (12 nominations)
Room (4 nominations)
Spotlight (6 nominations)

You can see a full ballot list for printing here. My own round-up of 2015 films is here.

My first thoughts on this list? Oh, Academy, you are so full of old, white men.

Of course, that is often my reaction to the Oscars. But let’s focus on the positive shall we?

The Good
I’m happy to see Mad Max: Fury Road with so many nominations. The more I thought about it when I was writing up my 2015 favorites, the more I appreciated the craft that went into making it. If we are going to be inundated with action pictures every summer, let it be ones like this, and not just endless superhero reboots.

I’m also delighted to see Brooklyn on the Best Picture list. After seeing them close together, I had put Brooklyn and Carol on about the same level—good-looking prestige pictures with solid performances but nothing really exciting (Bridge of Spies is also on that same level)—however, with time, Brooklyn is the one that has stayed with me and the one I most want to see again at some point.

The cinematography category seems dead on with nominations for Ed Lachman for Carol, Robert Richardson for The Hateful Eight, John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road, Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant, and Roger Deakins for Sicario. As always, I’m rooting for Deakins (let’s just hope thirteen is his lucky number as it is for me). In other major craft branches, I was happy to see Spotlight show up in both the script and editing categories—I saw this film last night and it really stood out for me in both those areas.

I’m thrilled that What Happened, Miss Simone? made the documentary cut. In addition to being an interesting and engaging film, it was directed by Liz Garbus, one of only two female directors whose feature films were recognized this year (out of up to twenty-five potential slots). Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the other female director in question, will be in contention for foreign language film with Mustang. I saw Mustang just this week and if you get a chance you should too, it’s fabulous. You can see a list of cities and theaters where it is showing here.

Finally, while there are a number of things I would have liked to see on this list, I’m thankful not to see Aaron Sorkin in the screenplay category or Inside Out up for Best Picture.

The Bad
I’m sorry to see The Revenant get so much love. While I appreciate craft (see above), the only positive things I seem to hear about The Revenant involve how hard it was to make. Until I hear more about why it is good, I have no intention of seeing it.

Four nominations for The Danish Girl. I’ve heard nothing good about this film so I can only think it took deserving nomination spots from other films. Brooklyn could have easily been in the production and costume categories instead. And I would rather have seen Alicia Vikander get the best supporting nod for Ex Machina.

Seven nominations for The Martian. I liked it, but seven? Screenplay, most definitely. Technical awards, sure. But Best Picture? No. And while the men’s acting categories are fairly weak this year, I would not have put Matt Damon there.

The Ugly
Okay, I have no interest in seeing Creed because I loathe boxing, but, really, nothing except a nomination for Sylvester Stallone? I have heard great things about this film and expected it to get more Oscar love.

I don’t care how good the song is, Fifty Shades of Grey should not be nominated for anything.

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So, what will I be running out to see? Well, as I predicted in my 2015 round-up, I’ve actually already seen many of these films, including five of the Best Picture nominees. Of those I haven’t yet seen, Sicario (3 nominations) tops the list of films I want to see, but Room is still in theaters here so that is likely to be next up. After that, I’ll probably take on The Big Short. I have no desire to see The Revenant but I may change my mind.

And they invited Chris Rock back, who would have thunk it? With #OscarsSoWhite yet again, this should be interesting.

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What are your thoughts on this morning’s announcement?

Girlhood: The Year in Film

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While I didn’t blog as many projects as I have in the past (besides Pixar, that is), I saw an incredible number of films this year—well over 40 in theaters* and about 130 at home. I’m hoping this means that my Oscar Blitz will be less blitzy than previous years, but one never knows. After all, there are still plenty of films I either haven’t had a chance to see (Spotlight, The Big Short) or don’t particularly care to see (The Revenant, Creed).

But overall it has been a pretty good film year.

As I wrote in Wet Hot Feminist Summer, the one thing that stands out about my movie-going this year has been the feminism of it all. While much progress still needs to be made behind the camera, women have been at the front and center of some of the biggest and best movies of the year, from action films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens to prestige pictures like Brooklyn and Carol to indie darlings such as Tangerine and The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Many of my favorite films of the year were part of this trend. Yet, it was hard to come up with a Top Ten this year, mostly because there were a lot of “good” films that just didn’t grab me or that I enjoyed but weren’t really doing anything creative or different—so I ended up with a Fave Five instead. However, I’ll be mentioning a bunch of films in this post and I encourage you to seek them out since there were very few films I didn’t like this year.

Favorite Five Films of 2015
Bande de filles (Girlhood)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Spy

Best of the Rest:
Brooklyn
Dope
The Hateful Eight
Love and Mercy
The Martian
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Mistress America
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Trumbo
What We Do in the Shadows

You can find a complete list of all the 2015 films I watched at the end of this post.

And now… the awards!

Best Achievement in Filmmaking: Mad Max: Fury Road. What can I say that hasn’t been said? This film just delivered on so many levels. From the direction, performances, and story, to the cinematography, editing, and effects, Mad Max: Fury Road was old-school filmmaking for the twenty-first century. I loved watching it in the theater and no film since has managed to capture the energy and excitement I felt seeing this feminist, environmentalist tale unfold on screen.

Best Film to Watch Over and Over: Spy. With my love of James Bond and after The Heat, I had high expectations for this one. TLDR: They were met. Yes, it’s remarkably funny, but it’s not just the parody of James Bond one might think from the trailer, there is a lot going on here about sexism in the workplace and in Hollywood and it rewards multiple viewings. It’s a bit long for a comedy, but has great performances and a great message. Paul Feig delivers yet another fantastic depiction of female friendship and remains at the top of the list in proving the Hollywood patriarchy wrong. In short, I can’t wait for Ghostbusters.

Best Theater Experience: The Diary of a Teenage Girl. I had zero expectations for this film about coming of age in the 1970s and didn’t even realize when I left my house that I was invited to the San Francisco premiere of what was a local production. So, when Alexander Skarsgård showed up in drag, and I found myself dancing to the Time Warp with a host of notable San Francisco transvestites, all before the film even started, I knew I was in for something different. It’s too bad this film seemed to get lost in the summer shuffle, because, despite its difficult subject matter, it is both brilliant and enjoyable.

Best Theater Experience (runner-up): Gun Crazy (1950). Besides finally getting to see a movie at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica (and a Dalton Trumbo film noir no less) there were just a few empty seats between me and Christoph Waltz. It doesn’t get any more Hollywood than that.

Performances

Best Ensemble: Bande de filles (Girlhood). While not really what I would call an ensemble piece, Girlhood is a movie that would utterly fail if Céline Sciamma had not assembled the perfect group of girls for this film about coming of age on the wrong side of the Paris tracks. In a way this is the gritty flip side of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, but manages to be just as compassionate, joyful, and engaging in its exploration of a girl trying to figure out what it means to be a woman and find herself and her place in the world.
Best Ensemble (runner-up): Spy

Standout Performances (Female):
Tatiana Maslany & Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann in Woman in Gold
Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze in The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Saoirse Ronan as Éilis Lacey in Brooklyn

Standout Performances (Male):
Paul Dano & John Cusack as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy
Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes
Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo

Best Supporting Performances (Female):
Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov in Spy
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight
Alicia Vikander as Ava in Ex Machina

Best Supporting Performances (Male):
Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road
Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren in The Hateful Eight
Mark Rylance as Abel Rudolph in Bridge of Spies

Best Scene Stealer: Jason Statham as Rick Ford in Spy
Best Scene Stealer (runner-up): LeBron James as LeBron James in Trainwreck

Best Debut: Karidja Touré as Marieme/Vic in Bande de filles (Girlhood)

Best Hero: Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Villain: Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper in Trumbo

2015 VIP: Oscar Isaac for A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Production

Best Direction: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Directorial Debut: Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Best Directorial Debut (runner-up): Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Best Answer to the Sophomore Slump: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’m not sure anyone would have guessed that less than one year after making the slasher film The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Alfonso Gomez-Rejon would make this witty dramatic comedy about a high school boy’s friendship with his cancer-stricken classmate. If you are worried that this is simply YA Lifetime-movie-of-the-week material, don’t be. It is heartwarming to be sure, but also has teeth. And an incredible cast. Understanding the classic film references sprinkled throughout are just icing on the cinephile cake.

Best Cinematography:
Carol (Ed Lachman)
The Hateful Eight (Robert Richardson)
Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale)

Best Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road (Margaret Sixel)
Best Editing (runner-up): Woman in Gold (Peter Lambert)

Best Original Screenplay: Mistress America (Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig)
Best Original Screenplay (runner-up): What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi)

Best Adapted Screenplay (tie): The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller) and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Jesse Andrews)
Best Adapted Screenplay (runner-up): The Martian (Drew Goddard)

Best Production Design: The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Jonah Markowitz)
Best Production Design (runner-up): Brooklyn (François Séguin)

Best Dressed: Cate Blanchett in Cinderella
Best Dressed (runner-up): Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending

Potluck

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Most Successful But Flawed Film of the Year: The Hateful Eight. I thought long and hard about how to rank The Hateful Eight. It has serious problems but also moments of genius. Not only do I generally love Tarantino, but it combines two of my favorite things: the Old West and Agatha Christie parlour mysteries. And any three-hour film with an intermission that has me on the edge of my seat is certainly an achievement. Ultimately the great use of frame and blocking won me over and led me to put it with the “best of the rest” but I wish there had been a stronger editorial hand here regarding the language and violence as well as the unnecessary flashback and voiceover.

Top Five Pleasant Surprises:
Dope
Jupiter Ascending
The Martian
The Visit
What We Do in the Shadows

Top Ten Feminist Films:
Bande de filles (Girlhood)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Joy
Mad Max: Fury Road
Magic Mike XXL
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Mistress America
Pitch Perfect 2
Spy
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Top Five Heroines:
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano in Joy
Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper in Spy
Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road

Favorite Scene: “Dinner with the Family” in Brooklyn

Favorite “Was This Movie Created for Me?” Scene: “Turandot” in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Line (comedic): “You’re funny, it’s the Bulgarian clown in you” (Rose Byrne in Spy)

Best Line (comedic) (runner-up): “If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.” (Jemaine Clement as Vladislav in What We Do in the Shadows)

Best Line (dramatic): “We are not things. We are not things!” (Capable in Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Opening Credits: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Best Opening: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Best Ending: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Ending (runner-up): Trainwreck

Best Closing Credits: Spy
Best Closing Credits (runner-up): Dope

Read the Book, SKIP the Film: In the Heart of the Sea. I was so disappointed in this adaptation I wanted to punch a whale.

Skip the Book, SEE the Film: The Martian. Mostly because nothing I’ve heard makes me want to read the book. Science and I are simply unmixy things.

Best Use of a Song: “Diamonds” by Rihanna in Bande de filles (Girlhood)

Best Use of a Song in a Trailer: “California Dreamin’” in San Andreas

Favorite Documentary: What Happened, Miss Simone?

Favorite Mockumentary: What We Do in the Shadows

Most Cerebral: Ex Machina

Most Tension: A Most Violent Year

The Top Gun “Longing Glances” Award: Carol. A gorgeous film but I never really understood why these people were in love. Sorry, but longing glances alone don’t make a love story.

The Terry Malloy “I Coulda Been a Contender” Award: The Age of Adaline. There was a great film in here somewhere. Making the love interest less of a stalker would have been a start.

Biggest Disappointment: Macbeth. Oh, Marion, I had such high hopes for you, but you are no Lady Macbeth. As for the rest, some interesting ideas, but ultimately it too well captures the play: “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Most Overrated: Inside Out. If you are a regular reader, I don’t have to explain this choice. This had potential but was basically a pseudo-feminist mess.

Most Underrated: Jupiter Ascending. I avoided this after it was panned by critics, but the Math Greek insisted I would like it and I did. It is far more feminist than given credit for, gorgeous to look at, and not any more ridiculous than what passes for an action blockbuster these days. This film would have been forgiven so much if it starred a male comic book superhero instead of an ordinary girl. However…

Most Miscast (tie): Channing Tatum in Jupiter Ascending and Channing Tatum in The Hateful Eight. I loved Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL, but he was out of his depth in The Hateful Eight and had zero chemistry with Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending, which was a major factor in how that movie played to audiences.

Most Useless Character: Thor in Avengers: Age of Ultron

Five Worst Films I Saw In Theaters:
The Age of Adaline
Cinderella
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2
Self/less

Top Three Films I Hope Are Not Part of My Oscar Blitz:
The Big Short
The Revenant
Steve Jobs

Top Ten Unseen 2015 Films I’m Most Looking Forward To:
Appropriate Behavior
Breathe
45 Years
Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
Mustang (ETA: I actually just saw this and it’s amazing. See it.)
The Second Mother
Sicario
Slow West
Tangerine
The Wonders

Past Perfect and Imperfect

Best of the (Oscar) Blitz: Whiplash
Best of the (Oscar) Blitz (runner-up): Two Days, One Night

Favorite (Non-Blitz) Films of 2014:
Blue Ruin
Edge of Tomorrow
Obvious Child
Snowpiercer
Under the Skin

Favorite Films of the “Directed by Women” Series:
Bande de filles (Girlhood) (2015)
Beyond the Lights (2014)
In a World… (2013)
Stories We Tell (2013)
Wadjda (2012)

Favorite Rewatches:
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
From Russia with Love (1964)
The Net (1995)
Silver Streak (1976)
Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Favorite “New to Me” Films:
Heat (1995)
Henry Fool (1998)
Léon: The Professional (1994)
Miracle Mile (1988)
Mysterious Skin (2005)

Favorite “New to Me” Classic: Apocalypse Now (1979). This is one of those movies I felt I had seen but actually hadn’t. It is still not really my cup of tea, but I watched very few classics this year.

Favorite “New to Me” Foreign Language Film: Le Dos au mur (Back to the Wall) (1958). I caught this at the French film noir festival at the Roxie. I had never heard of it before but absolutely loved it.

Favorite “New to Me” Science Fiction/Fantasy Film: Westworld (1973). This year, the Math Greek introduced me to a number of science fiction films I hadn’t ever seen, including Total Recall (1990), which almost took this slot. But who can resist a sci-fi western with a robotic Yul Brynner? Not me.

Favorite “New to Me” Sequel or Franchise: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). While a fan of the original, which I watched over and over growing up, I had never seen the four sequels. This was the best of the bunch.

Worst “New to Me” Film: Zabriskie Point (1970). Oh, good god, make it stop. This may have tainted Death Valley for me forevermore.

What were your favorite movies of the year? What have I missed that I absolutely must see? Let me know in the comment box below.

*I have seen many more movies than usual this year, in large part thanks to @FyodorFish. Thank you, my film critic friend.

2015 Films: The Age of Adaline; Ant-Man; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Bande de filles (Girlhood); Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance; Bridge of Spies; Brooklyn; Carol; Cinderella; The Diary of a Teenage Girl; Dope; Ex Machina; The Good Dinosaur; The Hateful Eight; An Honest Liar; The Imitation Game; In the Heart of the Sea; Inside Out; Insurgent; Joy; Jupiter Ascending; Love and Mercy; Macbeth; Mad Max: Fury Road; Magic Mike XXL; The Martian; Me and Earl and the Dying Girl; Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation; Mr. Holmes; Mistress America; Mockingjay, Part 2; A Most Violent Year; Ned Rifle; Pitch Perfect 2; Ride; Self/less; Sisters; Spy; Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Trainwreck; Trumbo; Two Days, One Night; The Visit; What Happened, Miss Simone?; What We Do in the Shadows; While We’re Young; Whiplash; Wild; Woman in Gold

Surf’s Up: The Year in Music

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When the surf’s up, your life is too.

—Wilhelm Sverdvik

Since last year’s music post proved to be so popular, I’m back again with my favorite singles of the year. While I’m still a singles girl at heart, there are many artists here who put out incredible albums as a whole, so I encourage you to click on the numerous links and hear some of their other stuff.

We kick things off with two sisters (recommended by reader Raya in the comments of last year’s post) whose debut album dropped in February…

Best in (Not) Brothers: Ibeyi, “River” (Ibeyi). There are so many songs from this album I could have chosen (“Oya”, “Ghosts”, “Stranger/Lover”), but this is the song that captured Raya and its video is captivating.

Best in (Not) Budapest: George Ezra, “Did You Hear the Rain?” (Wanted on Love). While Ezra’s “Budapest” may have seemed to be everywhere, I prefer his blues-inflected “Did You Hear the Rain?” Also, I just love that this video looks like a low-budget re-enactment of a historian’s all-night dissertation crunch.

Best in (Not) Bacchus: Asaf Avidan, “The Labyrinth Song” (Gold Shadow). Yes, my wifi network is named Ariadne, but there are so many other reasons I love this haunting song. There are a number of great selections on this album including the title track and the Etta James–inflected “A Part of This”; or, if you prefer your Asaf with a pinch of Janis Joplin, try “Bang Bang” on for size.

Best in (Not) Beheading: My Midnight Heart, “Salome” (Single). Speaking of haunting songs recalling women of antiquity, here’s another one.

Best in (Not) Blues: Protomartyr, “Blues Festival” (Single). If you are in a funk now that punk is dead, you might like this single from Protomartyr.

Best in Brotherhood: JEFF the Brotherhood, “Black Cherry Pie” (Wasted on the Dream). If you are looking for some rock with just a hint of Jethro Tull.

Best in ‘Bama: Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight” (Sound & Color). Continuing with the rock theme, but with a healthy side of blues, this song was perfect for my road trip through Mississippi this past spring.

Best in Billboard: Jason Isbell, “24 Frames” (Something More Than Free). Speaking of Alabama, this native’s 2015 album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s rock, folk, and country record charts. Well deserved I’d say: Something More Than Free is second only to Lord Huron’s Strange Trails in contributing the most songs to my iTunes collection.

Best in Bohemia: Lord Huron, “The World Ender” (Strange Trails). Strange Trails is indie folk at its best, a bohemian road trip through American music. With some tracks sounding like The Grateful Dead, and others like Memphis rockabilly with just a hint of surf music thrown in, I love this album.

Best in Birds: Brown Bird, “Aloha Senor Mano” (Axis Mundi). Speaking of surf music, I seemed to hear it everywhere this year, including in this track from Brown Bird, whose “Patiently Awaiting” is also excellent.

Best in Beach Bum: Jim Campilongo & Honeyfingers, “Sweet Nothings” (Last Night, This Morning). If, after listening to Brown Bird’s Axis Mundi, you find yourself saying “That’s good, but where can I get even more surf guitar?” then Last Night, This Morning may be for you. This album is what might result from The Beach Boys meeting Norah Jones late at night in a gritty country bar.

Best in Boyfriends: Ratatat, “Cream on Chrome” (Magnifique). I knew I had met my match when, a propos of nothing, the Math Greek gifted me with the latest Ratatat single. Their “Supreme” also had a bit of a surf vibe, and the rest of the album is quite fun, but my heart will always beat a little bit stronger for this one.

Best in Bullets: Kaleida, “Think” (Think – EP). Among other things, John Wick brought this mysterious yet catchy tune into my life. It’s hard to match Annie Lennox, but this EP also has a intriguing cover of “Take Me to the River”.

Best in Bizarre: YACHT, “I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler” (I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler). Not quite as odd as last year’s “Complètement fou” but still.

Best in Bizarre (runner-up): Twinsmith, “Alligator Years” (Alligator Years). If you like Vampire Weekend, look no further than this bouncy single from Twinsmith. I also love their more broody and reflective “Dust”.

Best for Bumming Around: RAC, “Back of the Car” (Single). Planning a road trip? You absolutely need this number on your mixtape.

Best in the Bay Area: Sjowgren, “Seventeen” (Single). I have no idea how to pronounce this band’s name, but I love the slow build on this tune and look forward to seeing a full album from this local trio.

Best in Britain: Django Django, “Shake and Tremble” (Born Under Saturn). The Stone Roses vibe is strong with this one. (And, yes, that’s a good thing.) Though I also really dig their “4000 Years” and if it had a video that’s probably what you would see below.

Best in Bel Canto: Malika Ayane, “Senza Fare Sul Serio” (Naïf). Besides Stromae, I didn’t listen to many French artists this year, however, I did discover a new Italian singer. If you like the song below but are looking for something on the softer side, try “Adesso e qui (Nostalgico presente)”.

Best in Beats: Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From)” (Single). Like this sh*t don’t speak for itself. Bow down.

This year, I actually had a hard time whittling this selection down. Some also-rans were “Pedestrian at Best” by Courtney Barnett, “Talking with Strangers” by Miya Folick, “Ideal World” by Girlpool, “Kill v. Maim” by Grimes (Art Angels), “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar, and “Lonely” by ZZ Ward (really, though, check out Til the Casket Drops, her previous full-length album, for some gems). I’m sure in any other year, these songs might have been featured above.

Also, I’m still waiting to get the original cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical from the library, but props for making Broadway interesting this year.

What songs have stuck in your head this year?

Returning to Manderley 2015

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As promised, here are the answers to the “first lines” challenge I posted last week. Click here if you’d like to try to guess some of the books before reading the answers below.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

—The opening of Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier

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1.  The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.
—Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2015) [Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel, PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Shortlist]

2.  Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.
—Jack London, Call of the Wild (1903)

3.  For a week Mr. R. Childan had been anxiously watching the mail. But the valuable shipment from the Rocky Mountain States had not arrived.
—Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (1962) [Hugo Award for Best Novel and the basis for the recent Amazon Prime original tv series]

4.  Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the latter, a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda.
—Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764) [The Castle of Otranto is widely regarded as the first gothic novel]

5.  When you are alone and too tired even to turn on any of your devices, you let yourself linger in a past stacked among your pillows.
—Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) [National Book Award Finalist for Poetry and a good one to have handy if you find yourself racially profiled at a Trump rally]

6.  There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks.
—Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train (2015) [Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery or Thriller]

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7.  The purser took the last landing-card in his hand and watched the passengers cross the wet quay, over a wilderness of rails and points, round the corners of abandoned trucks.
—Graham Greene, Orient Express (1932)

8.  “Tom!” No answer. “Tom!” No answer.
—Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)

9.  On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert.
—Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) [the archetypal gothic novel that plays a key role in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey]

10.  The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night.
—Angela Flournoy, The Turner House (2015) [National Book Award Finalist for Fiction]

11.  After the funeral they came back to the house, now indisputably Mrs. Halloran’s.
—Shirley Jackson, The Sundial (1958)

12.  One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds.
—Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (1967)

Baker’s Dozen Bonus:  I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins.
—Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague (2001)

Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round:  My mother selected her wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters.
—Fran Wilde, Updraft (2015) [the only author on this list who bothered to pass through my living room on the book tour (I’m looking at you, Mark Twain!)]

Books_Updraft

Congrats to Amy who guessed three of these correctly!

Which one(s) are you kicking yourself over?

Look for reviews and comments on these selections and more in my traditional “Year in Books” post at the end of the month.

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