Monday, December 31, 2007


once again, its the close of a year and the birth of a crisp new calendar.
what lies below is cliche, i know. another typical summary of the year just passed. more best of lists. blah, blah, blah, right? honestly, i was hesitant to throw in my two cents. i'm hardly an expert or any sort of professional critic. that said, here's my personal top lists for 2007, in case you missed anything or just want recommendations for your next trip to Blockbuster or Best Buy.

  1. Ratatouille - it was a toss up for the top two slots. in the end, it came down to the fact that i can't really find any flaws with this movie. the skill of the artist is a spectacle (as is with all Pixar's work to date) that sucks you into an imagined Paris. Brad Bird (writer/director of this and two of my other favorite animated movies of all time, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant), possibly the best writer and director for animated feature in the business, does it again. i reviewed it here shortly after seeing it in theaters.
  2. No Country For Old Men - finally, the Coen brothers made a film that lives up to their potential after a couple of lack luster movies. it cleverly tells the story of an aging sheriff yet makes him a secondary character to a story about the evolution of evil personified. its a movie that sticks with you and makes you think about it's layer upon layer of subtle themes, it's sparse soundtrack, it's beautiful cinematography (Roger Deakins, D.O.P.) and perfect casting choices.
  3. Superbad - the best of the low brow comedies this year from Judd Apatow and company. its not only laugh out loud funny throughout (every scene with McLovin and the cops was gold), but the best and most accurate portrayal of high school kids i've ever seen in a mainstream teen comedy.
  4. The Darjeeling Limited - not Wes Anderson's best film, but still worthy of its place in the top list. its less of a story than it is a character analysis. his work leans more in that direction with each subsequent movie. still, it pulls you in with all its quirkiness and Anderson's beautiful cinematography and almost religious attention to detail.
  5. 300 - as varied as the reviews for this movie were, it was a bold display of the capabilities of computer generated imagery in a live action movie. beautifully stylized and as visually jaw dropping as anything since the first Matrix movie (and The Matrix even had the benefit of getting credit for their bullet time special effect, which they stole from Michel Gondry and passed off as their own innovation) or the other Arthur Miller project, Sin City.
  6. Into The Wild - i was eager to see this movie as it was adapted from one of my favorite books. its sort of an On The Road for generation x. the beauty, majesty and freedom of abandoning the material world and reconnected with nature strikes a cord within me and Sean Penn's treatment did the book justice, both aesthetically and thematically.
  7. American Gangster - primarily here for the acting performance of Denzel and the gritty, based-on-true-events vibe that Ridley Scott brings to the table.
VERY HONORABLE MENTIONS: there's a handful of movies worthy of mentioning, but i'll limit it to two films that have just been released to theaters but I haven't had the chance to see yet. trust that i will, a.s.a.p. Juno is the second movie from director Jason Reitman, who's debut film ('Thank You For Smoking') was both refreshingly original and artfully done. There Will Be Blood is the newest film from director P.T. Anderson, one of my favorite director. its only in limited release and already being heralded as a big contender for the all the major awards. additionally, it stars the always magnificent Daniel Day-Lewis and a soundtrack by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, which segues perfectly to...
  1. Radiohead's "In Rainbows" - my favorite band made big news this year. out of nowhere, they announce that their next album is done and will be release in approximately a week for download. their asking price? whatever you want to pay. and the best part is that its turned out to be the best studio recording since OK Computer, finally marrying their electronic manipulations with their rock music songwriting sensibilities in a perfect balance. then, when you thought it couldn't get any better, 8 bonus tracks came out earlier this month, just to sweeten the pot.
  2. Menomena's "Friend & Foe" - i've listened to these 12 tracks more than any other this past year. if you're a regular visitor to the combustible engineer, this should come as no surprise. if not, check out my album review here and my thoughts on seeing them live (for the second time) here.
  3. Bjork's "Volta" - the amazing thing about my little icelandic princess is her ability to continually be new and unique. she harbors no fear for the experimental. though i wouldn't call this her best, its the fastest and most aggressive since Post. big fat heavy beats a plenty and a voice comparable to none.
  4. Elliott Smith's "New Moon" - the saddest and arguably most talented indie singer songwriter for nearly a decade. his mysterious suicide brought an end, but he left behind a vault of unreleased material and unused b-sides. New Moon compiled most of these from '94-'97, and though they are primarily b-sides, the emotions and songwriting that he put out is evident and sorely missed.
  5. The Shins' "Wincing The Night Away" - James Mercer writes some of the most poetic lyrics in indie music today. "Wincing..." shows the boys developing much fuller arrangements and even straying a bit from their polished folk-rock ways. every time you hear it, you'll like it more, plus, its an album you can recommend to your mother.
  6. Battles' "Mirrored" - Battles' instrumental debut LP is the soundtrack of an art party. groove heavy with lots of computer assistance. it took a few listens to grow on me, especially for me to get over a semi irritating synthesized vocal trick, but it pays off in the end.
  7. Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black" - they say you need the right life experiences to truly sing the blues or to belt out true soul and i have no doubts that Amy has lived through some of the worst of it. her open drug use and 70's biker chick image make that pretty clear.
VERY HONORABLE MENTIONS: Caribou's "Andorra" - a modern and melodic ode to the psychedelic 60's. The National's "Boxer" - not as rockin' as their last album, "Alligator", but it makes me imagine a cross breed of The Shins and Joy Division. The Good, The Bad & The Queen's "The Good, The Bad & The Queen" - while i love this album and have been known to keep it on my iPod for long stretches at a time, there's a handful of so-so songs keeping it out of the top 7. The White Stripes' "Icky Thump" - jack and meg put forth another great effort. Bloc Party's "A Weekend In The City" - if it lacks anything, its the catchiness of their debut. Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible" - a strong sophomore album that needs to be heard as whole to appreciate it. Liars' "Liars" - there most accessible album to date from a band who keep defying all expectation. Explosions In The Sky's "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" - another great post-rock disc from one of the best in the genre. Wu Tang Clan's "8 Diagrams" - Rza's production is less grimey and the album is bit more musical and melodic overall.
  1. Global Warming Research - a team of climate researching scientists and Al Gore shared the Nobel peace prize this year for their work in studying and raising popular awareness to the imprint of mankind on the environment. this finally forced the U.N., many world powers and a lot of skeptics to finally take this issue seriously and consider what changes need to be implemented to reverse, or at least slow down the damage we're doing.
  2. Stem Cells - bogged down and held back for years by religious zealots, a team of Japanese geneticist have successfully been able to bypass all the controversy. they've reverted skin cells into their unlimited state, so they act as foundation building stem cells. this had just recently been announced so the true aftermath of their work isn't yet evident, but hopefully, work into the research of stem cells can continue again at full steam.
  3. New Animals - call it evidence of widespread ADD among biologists, evolutionary mutation or just some creatures highly skilled at hide and seek. this year many new species were discovered. the Mangabay is a tree swinging monkey in Africa. there's a new clouded leopard in Borneo. a toad with black and purple rings. a new giant squid with fins like elephant ears and giant rats in New Guinea that get as big as small dogs.
  4. Giant Bird Dinosaur - a prehistoric bid bird finally explains a little more about the mysterious Snuffalupagus. archaeologists found the largest bird dinosaur in Mongolia. its theorized that many dinosaurs evolved from reptiles into birds and these fossils help bridge some evolutionary gaps. the largest bird dinosaur before this discovery was about the size of a horse. this new/old beast, called the Gigantoraptor, is almost 16 feet tall (equal to the tyranosaurus rex) and looks like a cross between the velosiraptors from Jurassic Park and an ostrich.
  5. Earth II - a planetoid has been discovered approximately 20 light years away near Gliese. Its believed to have water in its liquid state and temperatures similar to our own planet. in other words, it seems to possess the same building blocks that made life possible here.
  6. The Chimpanzee Stone Age - researchers observed wild chimps making tools and weapons and using them for hunting for the first time. remember when we made the wheel?
  7. Pluto Demoted - Pluto was discovered to be much less massive than previously thought, knocking it's stauts from hefty planet to mere planetoid.
...look for my worst of 2007 list, coming very soon!

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