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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Best That You Can Do: My Media Thoughts On 2008, Among Other Things

In general, I'm not one for resolutions. All resolutions ever are are promises made, pressures you put on yourself that are overall, pretty much unnecessary. As it is, there are enough things in this world that are out of our control. If you manage to accomplish something positive in any given new year, good for you. But no one arbitrary day should be the catalyst for change.

Another thing I see a lot around this time of year are reflective posts regarding the personal opinion of "best" and "worst" of the year that has just come to a close. Every year around this time I kick myself for not having been a better secretary so that I could contribute to the conversation. If only I kept track of what I liked and didn't like all year long, it wouldn't be so hard to recall when the time came to do so. I suppose what I need to do is resolve to keep tabs on such things, but if I say that aloud, I'd be calling the thoughts I just stated in the previous paragraph null and void, now wouldn't I?

I also notice, as I've stated before, that as time goes on that there is less and less to be passionate about. I watched the movie The Lather Effect the other day and there was a line in there about how when you're in your thirties, you realize that nearly all of your "firsts" are now over and that realization is what depresses so many people. I can't truly say objectively if I would be excited about things like emo if it was MY generation. But the fact of the matter is it isn't and so I stand back and look at the entertainment of today and find myself saying, "Really?, Is that the best you can do??"

One thing is certain. As the years pass, I find things like events and releases get more muddled in my brain. The other day Orange Crush by R.E.M. came on the radio and my husband and I debated about the year of its release. He said early nineties, I said late eighties. I said late eighties, I might add, with complete certainty, even adding the specific year of its release, 1988, to the mix. It's not even like I was ever a huge R.E.M. fan because I wasn't, I just know things like that are ingrained in my brain. Ask me what I was about to tell you before you put me on hold for call waiting though, and I simply can't recall.

The way I see it the mind is like one huge computer. Documents from long ago are easily retrieved because they were stored when the system was free and defragged. But as time goes on, the hard drive gets overloaded with new information. At some point there simply isn't any room anymore. Now with a real computer, this problem is easily solved. Either you add more memory or you replace it with a newer, shinier model. But when it comes to your brain, there is no backup. The closest analogy I can come up with is something like blogging. If you forget something and you record it, it's there indefinitely for posterity's sake, to remind you it actually happened once you inevitably forget. Whether or not that's a good thing, well, I'll leave that to you to decide.

So if I want to recall the best of 2008, I must do so by whatever means necessary. In this case, I'll cheat. I'll do so by looking at my iTunes "listen to" list which I will warn you, is by no means a comprehensive system. Still, if I can share with you something new, it will be worth it.

Best Albums That I Heard In 2008

1. Alphabeat- This Is Alphabeat
Remember the eighties when pop was fun and innocent? I do too. If want to recapture the fun of your youth, look no further than Danish pop band, Alphabeat. Their songs are downright infectious. And if a song like Fascination doesn't conjure up memories of Footloose days gone by, I don't know what will.

2. Lady Antebellum- Lady Antebellum Normally I'm not a country music fan in general, but this album is just amazing. This young, fresh trio of two guys and one girl has the perfect mix for built in duets or flying solo. Their music is fun when it needs to be as on Looking For A Good Time, or poignant when appropriate as with All We'd Ever Need. They manage to make country cool which in my book, is nearly impossible.

3. Katy Perry- One of the Boys Katy Perry is one of those artists I wanted to hate, but the fact of the matter is, I can't. She's the Cyndi Lauper meets Madonna of a new generation, infusing many generations of styles and a dash of outlandish antics in for good measure. With her debut single, I Kissed A Girl, I thought for sure she'd be a one hit wonder. And then I listened to her whole album and believe it or not, it's a great pop record. And her videos (gasp) tell the story of the song! Remember when something like that wasn't novelty? Just watch Thinking of You or Hot N'Cold if you don't believe me. The only thing I worry about here is novelty. I have a fear that she's a go with the tide kind of artist which can hurt or help. Only time will tell for sure.

4. Journey- Revelation For the most part when super groups break up or fall from grace, it isn't like it is in the movies. They don't have comebacks, at least not where they make new fans or new hits on the charts. But this was the year of the unexpected comeback having the last laugh as was seen by bands like New Kids On the Block and even Journey. What blows me away about Journey though was that they came back without their powerhouse, legendary lead singer, Steve Perry. Instead, they replaced him with a virtual unknown, Arnel Pineda that if you close your eyes, you most certainly could believe he was indeed Perry. Not only does he nail old classics like, Separate Ways, he also brings his own flavor to new hits like After All These Years.

5. Leona Lewis- Spirit Remember when Mariah Carey burst on to the scene in 1990? She was a young unknown, only twenty years old who had a magnificent vocal presence on her debut single, Vision of Love. Little did we know that was the beginning of the baton being handed from Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey. But nearly twenty years have past and while Mariah is still technically going strong, she's also gotten a lot tackier, and her skirts just keep getting shorter although she keeps getting older. That's why the debut of Leona Lewis is so great. She reminds me of when Mariah first started and was untainted. Just a good singer without all the flash. My personal favorite is still Bleeding Love.

6. Saving Jane- Supergirl Technically I didn't fall in love with Saving Jane's Supergirl album, but considering that their previous release, One Girl Revolution, was 2007, I couldn't include it here. But the weird thing is that Supergirl is pretty much a reissue of One Girl Revolution, so I get off on a technicality by including it here. Unlike most of my favorites, this album actually reminds of the nineties, not the eighties. (Yes, I've recently begun to feel nostalgic about that decade, too). They've had minor success with songs like Girl Next Door and Supergirl, but unknown gems like What I Didn't Say and Grace are really worth a listen, too.

Best Movies of 2008- Once again I will acknowledge that there are many movies I've yet to watch from 2008 so by no means is this list an end all be all. It's just the best of what I've seen, for what it's worth.

1. Ghost Town- This movie was an unexpected gem that had just the right blend of comedy and drama. It also introduced me to Ricky Gervais, a comedic actor I knew, but never had the experience of watching for myself. I'll be on the lookout for more after watching this.

2. Wall-E THe posters for this movie reminded me of Short Circuit and Johnny Five Alive! Normally I'm not a huge fan of animation, although I do acknowledge how it is so amazing what they can do nowadays. But this movie was so so sweet and actually had a bit of a message, too. It's one of those great family movies that is good for kids of all ages, even just those that are young at heart.

3. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
- My lack of love for the action/comic book genre prevents me from listing this movie as one of my actual faves, but I will acknowledge that for a fan of the genre, I could see how The Dark Knight could have been a real treat. I'm one of the rare few who are bored by the bang, bang shoot 'em up scenes, so the wow factor is lost on someone like me. But in the quieter moments, where the late Heath Ledger is riveting as the menacing Joker makes this movie worthy of honorable mention. The fact that the world viewed his performance posthumously only makes it more eerie. Although I was always a Ledger fan, I never would have guessed he had such range in him. It's bittersweet he got to go out on such a bang.

4. Definitely, Maybe- Most romantic comedies overshoot or just miss the mark. This one was actual a quiet release, but managed to hold its own. I know it was a good romantic comedy because just like Ghost Town, it held my husband's interest, too.

5. 21- Sometimes I think movies that were released early in the year get lost in the shuffle. I was surprised that no one that I saw included the gambling movie, 21 on their list (until now, that is). Not only did it shed light on some rather unknown actors, it also marked the somewhat return of great Kevin Spacey. If that's not worthy of a watch, I don't know what is.

6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall- Another romantic comedy that did it right. Film maker Judd Apatow is proving a forced to be reckoned with as is much of the former Freaks and Geeks crew that he has taken along with him for the ride including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco. (Before you ask, no I have not seen Pineapple Express yet). I knew Freaks and Geeks was the start of something special. It only took a few years for the rest of the world to catch up.

7. Step Brothers- Cinematic greatness it's not, but when you get Will Farrell and John C. Reilly in the same room, it still manages to be something magical. Of course you have to be a fan of pure silliness. If you're looking for plot twists and a script that makes you think, this movie is not for you.

And so I'm off to make good on keeping better track of 2009, before I forget to do so. If you have favorites that you want to share, I'm always looking for something new so let me know!



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