I see a lot of mags/sites are breaking out their “Best of the Decade” lists, but I can’t be doing with that. Amélie remains my favourite film of all time, so it follows that it’s my fave of the decade… beyond that, there are too many likely candidates to calculate. Still, I think I can just about manage a “Best of the Year” list…
FILM: Inglourious Basterds
I’ve been a Tarantino fanboy ever since I first saw Reservoir Dogs at the cinema, back when it was still banned from video release in the UK. Hard to imagine in our post-Saw, “torture porn” era, but the censors seemed to think that a scene (sort of) showing a policeman getting his ear cut-off was the height of horror. All I remember is thinking how cool and funny Steve Buscemi was, and to this day I maintain that Mr Pink made it out alive. Until I see a body, I’m counting him as the sole survivor, so nuts to you. It’s hard to say if QT has grown much since those days… he still has a taste for tense stand-offs, and if anything his stories have gotten a little sloppier. But he has broadened his cultural/historical frame of reference, and when it comes to arresting images and colourful dialogue, he always delivers. This flick didn’t turn out to be quite what I’d been expecting from the trailer, which suggested a Jewsploitation take on The Dirty Dozen… there are certainly elements of that in there, but the “Basterds” aren’t the sole focus of the story, and the other characters make for a more expansive experience, although the incidental scenes do tend to drag a little. ‘Shosanna Dreyfus’ (Mélanie Laurent) still impresses as a strong, smart heroine, even if she does forget a golden rule of dealing with movie villains. One thing you can always rely on with QT, even as the clones try to play catch-up, and the accusations of his own pop-cultural pilfering come flying, is that there’s no one else making movies like him right now… and that’s a shame.
Honourable mentions: Star Trek and Drag Me To Hell, both of which were big, pulpy fun. I had high hopes for Marina de Van’s latest, Don’t Look Back (Ne Te Retourne Pas), starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci… but when it was screened out of competition at Cannes, it dropped like a lead balloon, so it’s unlikely to get a big release in this country.
ALBUM: It’s Not Me, It’s You by Lily Allen
Some of the lyrics may have proven to be slightly less sardonic than they first sounded (she’s since gone topless for a magazine photo shoot, making the “I’ll take my clothes off” line from ‘The Fear’ a bit prophetic), and it’s hard to sympathise with a pop-star who buys a beach and then complains that she isn’t making enough money, but I’m still impressed by how biting and satirical her deceptively cheerful ditties can be. I haven’t heard any other artists drop the F-Bomb with the sugar-coated venom Allen does on “F*ck You”, which puts most modern punks to shame. Not every track is a keeper, but then with today’s technology it’s easy enough to swap some of the syrup out for caustic B-sides like ‘Kabul Shit’. And no one romanticises the mundane details of dating like Lily does, bless her.
Honourable mentions: Jigsaw by Lady Sovereign, which was quite catchy but lacked the spiky spontaneity of her debut (and had far too much auto-tune on it for my liking) and Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? by Paloma Faith. 21st Century Man by Luke Haines would probably be a strong contender for the top spot too, but it only came out the other week, and I haven’t heard it enough times to really comment.
BOOK: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
True, it was first published way back in 1927, but I don’t read a lot of new books, and this nifty little novel deserves a nod for achieving the seemingly impossible task of making me feel like an upbeat, adventurous optimist! It didn’t last, but for a few days there I was flying. Along with the Bhagavad Gita and Teach Yourself Happiness, this has been a pretty positive year, reading-wise.
TV: Coming Soon
Sad to say, but the best television I saw this year was actually from 1999, namely the three-part series Coming Soon by Annie Griffin. Her latest offering New Town could have been a contender too, of course, but it was aborted after only one episode, so who knows how it would have turned out?
Honourable mentions: Lost (S5) and Ugly Betty (S3) both had their high points, but they also had plenty of lows. The way the Lost writers have treated ‘Locke’ since the second season is disgraceful, and that resentment taints everything else that happens around the poor sod. Boo, I say! Ugly Betty has become so predictable with its tragedy and melodrama… “Oh look, a new girlfriend for Daniel… wonder how long she’ll last?”, “Oh, a fancy job offer for Betty… wonder if that will fall through somehow?” The whole thing would work much better as a family/workplace sitcom, imho. Make it so! I really wish I’d watched Misfits from the beginning, because that looks like it could be pretty good… I only caught the first half-hour of the third episode, but I already have a slight crush on Lauren Socha (love at first head-butt, you might say!). The premise of a gang of random juvenile delinquents gaining superpowers is a strong one, and they seem to have a great cast for it. I’m strongly considering taking a blind punt on the DVD, which is a very rare impulse for a miser like me. Meanwhile, I’m still addicted to Judge Judy, but let’s not talk about that.
And if you read all of that, give yourself a cookie. You earned it.