If you are like me, you make lists. Lists of lists even. If I want to know who are my favorite film directors of all time, I know I’ve made a list of them, which I can forever amend and edit. If I want to compile my top 20 books of all time, I am in luck that I have kept track of every book I’ve read since 2001, and have a star rating attached to each of them. I use a 4 star system, which does not function as a translatable percentage, though it would seem easy to apply. 3 stars does not mean 75%. Art is not judged like a pop quiz. I have been looking over my list of books read and CDs heard and DVDs watched, and I am thinking of them in terms of when they came throughout the year. I bought The Raconteurs’ sophomore album “Consolers of the Lonely,” because I liked their first CD okay, and hoped they’d grown (they had). That CD is listed first on my list of purchases for the year, but it wasn’t released until the end of March. And for me, it feels most like summer for all I listened to it. The three Tom Waits albums I bought have no frame of reference, though, because they feel like forever (same goes with The Decemberists. Once I listen to them enough, it’s like they’ve always been there. They are absorbed). I don’t recall if I had them when I saw him in concert, because I have so much of his stuff, the albums blend in to each other. This fall I got on a Jay-Z kick, so they feel like running and falling leaves and sweat and motion. But I’ve just been talking music. And I haven’t gotten to my awards yet.
For the finale of my podcast, my co-host and I have chosen to discuss not simply our favorite this-or-that’s of 2008. That would be too simple. Our podcast has been rigorously, ridiculously overly expansive, and in that name, we have decided to discuss our Top 10 Artistic Experiences… of ALL TIME. That is to say, if there were only 10 artistic moments you could have, if all else were to be locked away and discarded – no, forsaken - what would you choose? What moments did you witness or have that really stick out?
It is an impossible game to play at. How do you compare, say, a live concert with the reading of a book? Or going to a Broadway play that you thought was just okay to watching your favorite movie of all time alone in your room one night with your girlfriend? Can the two be reconciled? Yes, of course, the answers will be carefully selected, but I don’t yet know what big:small moment ratio I’ll have. How much does the subjective experience of a thing compare with its objective importance to you? When I saw “Tropic Thunder” the first time, I laughed more than at any other movie this year. I was with good friends, we were all in hysterics. Second viewing? Different city, early evening, second movie that day, and a lame-ass crowd. Most of the movie fell flat. The jokes took forever to get from the screen to me, they seemed completely un-spontaneous, and instead the movie’s glaring pacing issues and Ben Stiller’s badness came shining through. But I still remember the first viewing fondly. I take the few things from the movie I really did like, and let the rest be fun had with friends.
So…2008. Let’s give out some awards.
Best DVD Discovery – “The Public Enemy” from 1931, with one of my all-time favorite performances by James Cagney that makes you beam with angry pride. He is the origin and Godfather of all portrayals of gangsters, criminals, and low-lives. Below is my favorite scene, which is also the most iconic. Think of film noir. Think of “The Matrix.” Think of Daniel Day Lewis in “Gangs of New York” and think of Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Best Album Bought – The Mountain Goats’ 2002 album “Tallahassee” because it is simple and dreadful and lovely and tells me the story of my life.
Best Literary Find – Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. My senior year of college, I took a class on Jane Austen. This book is what I had hoped to find. It is deeper, wiser, more emotional, more stirring, more painful, and more gloriously written than anything Ms. Austen ever did or could hope to do (God rest her soul). Austen is the Salieri to Ms. Bronte’s Mozart.
Best Back-to-Back Experience – In the span of 10 days, I saw Colin Meloy’s solo concert – he of my beloved Decemberists – and my heart’s most recent favorite, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in concert – they of the breakout 2007 film, “Once” (Runner-up: I saw “Into the Wild” and “There Will Be Blood” in theaters on the same day, with loads of friends. Good day.)
Best Artistic Personal Milestone – This is not the milestone itself, but the means to that milestone. I purchased a Panasonic Digital Film camera (see it here), and have been writing and making movies since the summer. It was the catalyst to make me break out and get to work. So far – 6 minute film that I am going to reshoot, 33 minute film that I moderately like, and 3 more projects to get to in the next few months. We will see.