PreciousThis film is special. It achieves in being uplifting, but more impressively, does so while not shying from the grittiness of reality or disneyifying itself. Precious is a coming of age story rooted in depicting the true-ness of a hard-knocked life through a neo-realistic lens. I have no doubt this fictional portrait of a life will become a valued cultural artifact that exposes our society's failures in education, parenting and government assistance; and exalts the triumph of spirit, love and superb acting.
(500) Days of SummerIf there is a formula for a good 'indy' movie, (500) Days of Summer is the proof. In mathematical terms, if there is a proof for a good 'indy' movie, (500) Days of Summer is the theorem. I don't not mean it pejoratively, but I sort of do, but it sort of doesn't mean this movie isn't very good. More soundly, this movie is very good. You will find yourself charmed (read: manipulated) by the actors, the writing, the facile cinematic choices and cheesy hope for the protagonist. There is very little hope for independent films these days, but at least there is hope for that guy.
A Single ManNot a perfect film, but beautiful effort. I mean beautiful in a purely aesthetic way. Had A Single Man succeed in being the intellectual art film it poses as, had it successfully emulated the sources it drew upon (Fellini, Hitchcock, Almodovar, even Woolf), perhaps we would have a masterpiece. As it is, it is a gorgeous, well-acted, well-shot, tasteful effort with poor writing. Scenes are undeniably edible.
September IssueThe ONLY documentary I liked this year.
Away We GoSam Mendes obviously let Dave Eggers being him over the head with his hipster stick, and we should be thankful. Elegant understated performances by young but seasoned comic talents navigate us through the film's heartful and (self-consciously) artful scenes. A good screenplay is still a good screenplay even when it comes from a annoyingly proficient source. Mendes has a talent for making great actors shimmer and decent actors blossom. Uber scheingarten.
Top Six Books (Fiction and Non-Fiction) That I re-/Read this Year
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan DidionI'm a boy who likes a good cry. I watch Grey's Anatomy and read elegies. I got what I bargained for with Didion's apogee. A virtuoso of personal essay, this book hemorrhages affect while it gropes, along with the reader, for solace.
Call me By Your Name by Andre AcimanI have yet to read another piece of literature that more accurately depicts the agony of desire. The blurb on the the back cover from Nicole Krauss articulates my sentiments more clearly:
This is your Brain on Music by Daniel J. LevitinThis book inaugurated my fascination with the brain. Scientific non-fiction at its best.
If you are prepared to take a hard punch in your gut, and like brave, acute, elated, naked, brutal, tender, humane, and beautiful prose, then you've come to the right place. If you can't handle the violence of regret the novel will awaken in you, or the agony of remembering wanting someone more than you wanted anything in your life, or exquisite suffering that comes with the gain, and loss, of something that neared perfect understanding, then don't read this book. Ditto if you like your literature censored. Otherwise, open the cover and let Aciman pull the pin from the grenade.
Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah LehrerYoung but assured scientific voice. This book gives hope to both science and art by acknowledging the imaginary boundaries that supposedly separate the two. Along with This is Your Brain on Music, this book privileges access, for the reader, to a field of study that under normal circumstances, one would need a PhD.
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick FlynnEverything I like about creative non-fiction. There is poetry among the derelictness.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
There are times when you are confronted with such genius that you doubt your value as a participant in culture. There are times when you are slapped in the face by such insanely architectured fiction that you feel icky. There are plenty of other things to make you feel icky here, also.
Top Six Books of Poetry That I re-/Read this Year
Chronic by DA PowellLyrical, mature and eloquent. The book is current, located and honest. Haunting is also a word that fits; as well as, pretty, raw and romantic.
Wind in a Box by Terrance HayesThe book shifts from form to form, but consistently engages the notion of identity. There is a definite narrative of a life that anchors the book, however un-pinpointable that anchor is.
Fire to Fire by Mark DotyThese poems are dusted jewels. Each one tinged with deliberate caress. With deliberate shine.
Elegy on a Toy Piano by Dean YoungNo one does Dean Young like Dean Young does Dean Young. No book is more Dean Young than Elegy on a Toy Piano. Keen, whip-smart and whipping. There's pathos there too among all the shifts; in fact, the shifts activate it.
Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’HaraNew York School poetry at it's best. If I could let a book of poetry write my personal ad, I would choose this book.
The Father by Sharon Olds
There's an eerie erotic complexity that shapes our world and our relationship to it. Olds might be the best person at seeing this.