Amazingly, 2011 is already half over. As many book lovers know, the calendar year is often loaded heavily towards the fall season—this year is shaping up to be no different, with lots of heavy hitters releasing titles this fall (including Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Nasar, Susan Orlean, and Adam Gopnik).
That being said, the first half of the year has seen some quality books, and some controversial ones that should not be ignored. Here is a recap of 2011’s noteworthy titles so far from some of our top non-fiction book buyers:
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson. Readers of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City know that he writes rich history, where the sense of period, people and place is vivid and full, as with a great novel. In this new work we have Larson’s same compelling gifts recreating Berlin in 1933, as Hitler strengthens his power.
Larson shows us not the horrible Reich ending but its shaded beginnings, when it was less clear to all just how much hate swelled such pride. He shows us the ever darker incidents, lived by those too naïve to recognise their meaning, who thought largely of how bright was the weather then, how nice to walk in a city with such beautiful parks, with window flowerboxes everywhere.
-Sebastian Hanna, nonfiction book buyer.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. A new book by David McCullough is cause for celebration. He is the recipient of Pulitzer Prizes for both Truman and John Adams. In this newly published masterwork, he tells the eventful story of American migrations to Paris beginning in the 1830s, including such characters as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Morse, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, as well as doctors, writers, artists and architects who made extended and repeated trips to the City of Light at a time when historic advancements were being made in the arts and sciences.
-Michael Nicholson, Nonfiction book buyer.
A Widow's Story , by Joyce Carol Oates. Joyce Carol Oates is a gifted and resourceful writer whose attention is often focused on tragedy and the ripple effects of violence and dislocation upon those directly affected. In her emotionally bare memoir A Widow’s Story she recounts her life after the unexpected death of her husband of 46 years. The subject matter and treatment bring to mind The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, but this is a less carefully controlled consideration of loss. Her sense of vulnerability is almost overwhelming and her loss of identity as both a writer and a wife is related with great bravery. This is a portrait messy with grief and helplessness but is also a tribute to the lifelines of friendship and the promises of art. It is an unexpected departure from one of the most thoughtful and accomplished voices in contemporary letters.
-Michael Nicholson, Nonfiction book buyer.
Those Guys Have all the Fun by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. From the men who brought you Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live comes an exhaustive collection of interviews, this time covering the history of the ESPN network, from the early beginnings to the global media juggernaut it has become. Comprehensive and candid, a must for the sports buff.
Townie by Andre Dubus. The first biographical work from a man who has had success with fiction, about growing up tough and trying to become a writer. If that wasn’t hard enough, Dubus has to do it in the shadow of his famous father, acclaimed short story writer Andre Dubus Senior, a father who abandoned his family. Dubus proves to be just as adept at biography as he is at fiction. Like his father, he is a writer.
Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. In a manner of speaking, a self-help book—one about training and improving your memory. Also a primer on how this subject has been thought of in the past, and how those viewpoints have changed. Extremely informative, Foer’s book reinforces common sense, and by many accounts, his method works.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Not necessarily “Best of,” but certainly noteworthy. Probably the most controversial book of the year, so far. Are Chinese mothers the best mothers? Are they too strict? Where does stern end and abuse begin? Amy Chua’s honest confessional of her parental style generated more discussion than any other book this year.
The Social Animal by David Brooks. In a way, this is the other side of the coin of Foer’s book—if Foer’s is head, Brooks’s is head and heart. Brooks asks in this work: “How do relationships form us?” Both explore brain science and function, but Brooks applies this focus to human relationships by applying a fictional format to present his insights.
It's the subject of a Ted Talk that you can find here:
Dads come in all shapes and sizes- literally. Our father figures wear many hats, from skilled BBQ grill master and lawn mower extraordinaire to tech geek who can hook up an HDTV with his eyes closed to the consummate sports fan who regularly shows off his team’s colours. TV has long been home to a variety of father figures, both good and bad—those you wish you could call dad and those you’re glad aren’t related to you. Whether your dad is a home improvement aficionado like Tim Taylor or a grumpy old man like Frank Barone, here’s a list of top TV dads that have made us laugh and cry over the years thanks to the fatherly wisdom they’ve imparted to their TV families.
Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, Home Improvement
Local TV celebrity handyman, Tim balances his wacky construction projects like The Man’s Bathroom with encouraging his three sons to be the best they can be.
Fatherly Advice: “More power!”
Frank Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
He’s the reason everybody loves Raymond. A Grumpy Gus with conservative values, Frank was a war veteran and makes his opinions known. He may not be an ideal father figure but everybody has a Frank Barone in their life.
Fatherly Advice: “You want to know the meaning of life? You're born, you go to school, you go to work, you die.”
Ward Clever, Leave it to Beaver
The archetypical suburban TV dad of the Baby Boomer generation, Ward Cleaver wore nice suits, had a gentle sense of humour, enjoyed relaxing with his wife, whom he slept next to in a twin bed. At the end of each episode he would impart a moral lesson on one or both of his sons.
Fatherly Advice: “When you're young, there are some things you have to learn. How to catch a baseball. And good table manners don't come too easily. But when you're a boy, losing things is one of the few lessons you don't have to learn.”
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
An oafish buffoon, Homer Simpson may not be the sharpest tool in the shed and he may not always get along with Bart, but when his family needs him he’s always there to fend off Sideshow Bob or surprise the family with a dog for Christmas.
Fatherly Advice: “Son, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, ‘Never try.’”
Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show
Father of five children, Dr. Cliff Huxtable valued family and education above all else. There was a moral or lesson learned in each episode—sometimes Cliff was the teacher and sometimes he found himself taking on the role of student. Plus he had an awesome collection of sweaters.
Fatherly Advice: “Now I'm telling you, you are going to try as hard as you can. And you're going to do it because I said so. I am your father. I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out!”
Charles “Pa” Ingalls, Little House on the Prairie
Farmer and patriarch of the family, Charles Ingalls imbued the key themes of love, family values, faith and friendship to his four daughters and three adopted children.
Fatherly Advice: “Everybody wants to know that they are loved, or needed, or cared about. Anybody who doesn't want to know that has something wrong with them.”
Danny Tanner, Full House
It’s not easy being a widow juggling three young daughters, a brother-in-law and your goofy best friend all while being a co-host of the hit morning TV show "Wake Up San Francisco," but Danny Tanner did it was a smile and many, many, many hugs.
Fatherly advice: “I am stoked! Whatever that means.”
Mitchell Pritchett, Modern Family
An overprotective and cautious new dad of adopted daughter Lily, Mitchell Pritchett is the mild-mannered counterpart to his flamboyant partner Cameron. Despite his intense fear of birds, Mitchell takes pride in raising his young daughter.
Fatherly Advice: “People can surprise you. You get so used to thinking of them one way, stuck in their roles. They are what they are. Then they do something that shows you there's all this depth and dimension that you never knew existed.”
Mike Brady, The Brady Bunch
Here's the story, Of a man named Brady, Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men, Living all together, but they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow, and they knew they was much more than a hunch. That this group, Must somehow form a family. That's the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
Fatherly Advice: “As a wise man once said, "Wherever you go, there you are."
Tony Micelli, Who’s the Boss
Being a dad means making tough decisions: a former baseball player, Tony Micelli made the decision to move out of Brooklyn in search of a better environment to raise his young daughter Samantha.
Fatherly Advice: “There are some things that are no good for you, like Crunchy Crawlers.”
Maybe he's handy around the house, or maybe he's more the artistic type. He's probably not quite as hilarious as he thinks he is (it's a known fact that dad jokes are not funny.) But no matter what his quirks, Dad is a child's first hero and role model, so we thought we would celebrate some of our favourite fathers in fiction and literature.
To Kill a Mockingbird
His moral strength, his compassion, his sense of fairness, and his love for his children continue to earn Atticus Finch the most votes for Best Father Ever.
The unnamed father and son in this book undergo unimaginable hardship in a post-apocalyptic landscape. But despite the horrors around them, the father's honour and decency of character and his fierce love for his son is a remarkable portrayal of fatherhood.
Little House on the Prairie
In Laura Ingalls Wilder's books about life in 1870's Wisconsin, Charles Ingalls (or "Pa") is a dad who knew the importance of a work-life balance. He worked hard to eke out a living, but the books also show us a father who loved to tease his girls, and cherished the simple joys of a family that loved each other.
Silas Marner is an embittered, miserly weaver whose life undergoes a remarkable transformation when he ends up adopting a 2-year-old infant that he names Eppie. True, Silas is not Eppie's biological father, but Eliot's novel features one of the most loving father-daughter bonds found in literature.
I am not a digital movie kind of girl. I can’t rent movies on iTunes, I don’t care for Netflix. This also extends to reading: I’ll curse every single book I have to pack each time I move into a new elevator-free apartment. Despite my lack of shelf space, I like to own copies of my favourite movies. 15 years ago, long before “Special Features” or “Bonus Materials” meant anything, I didn’t find it strange to pay upwards of $35 for a VHS tape. And because I spent a small fortune on VHS tapes, I have a hard time letting go and upgrading all of my classic film collection to DVD—or now upgrading those DVDs to Blu-ray (however, most classics haven’t made that leap yet). It is because of this that I am really excited for the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) sale currently taking place on the Chapters.Indigo.ca website. The Golden Age of classic Hollywood cinema traditionally includes movies made between the end of the Silent Era in the late 1920s to the early 1960s, when the major movie studios and genre-films dominated the silver screen.
Inspired by the TCM list of great classic movies, I present my personal top 10 favourite Hollywood classics...in no particular order:
1. Casablanca (1942)
The 1942 melodrama often earns a top 10 placement in many critics' and filmmakers' top ten favourite films, and my personal list is no exception. Romance, intrigue, espionage, and politics all converge effortlessly in the film. The film won 3 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
2. North by Northwest (1959)
50 years after it was released, North by Northwest can still keep a viewer on the edge of their seat. One of the quintessential films by Alfred Hitichcock, the mistaken identity caper is full of suspense and memorable imagery like the epic confrontation atop Mount Rushmore or the iconic scene in which Cary Grant is chased down by an airplane in an open field.
3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
One of the first truly dark movies in the film noir genre, The Maltese Falcon marks John Huston’s directorial debut and stays true to Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel. Surprisingly, the film failed to take home any Academy Awards.
4. Citizen Kane (1941)
It’s been endlessly referenced in everything from commercials to kids’ cartoons. Arguably one of the greatest movies of all time, it has twice landed at the top of the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 films. A compelling tale with stunning visuals, Citizen Kane should be on every serious film lover’s DVD shelf.
5. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Forget Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner. The only man in tights for me is Errol Flynn. A swashbuckling tale full of exquisite costumes, sweeping romance and endearing charm, the film still elicits laughs and thrills in all the right places. A great classic for the whole family to enjoy.
6. Rebecca (1940)
I love gothic thrillers and one of the best examples of this genre is Rebecca. Brooding, moody, and thrilling, Rebecca is a haunting ghost story. The film earned Alfred Hitchcock his first and only Best Picture Academy Award nomination.
7. His Girl Friday (1940)
Fast-talking dames and racy-for-the-time dialogue are what makes His Girl Friday one of the best examples of the screwball comedy. Based on a 1928 Broadway play, the film swapped gender roles, making Rosalind Russell an equal star to Cary Grant. It is an epic battle of the sexes and a duel of wits.
8. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Is it a Nazi-farce or is it a serious commentary on a war-torn society? Well, it’s both really. There a laughs-a-plenty in this behind-the-scenes film about a theatre troupe who utilize their acting skills and costumes to fool a group of occupying Nazis. Often funny and at times so suspenseful you’ll catch yourself holding your breath, the Ernst Lubitsch-directed film was Carole Lombard’s last role.
9. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s itself. One of the best backstage Hollywood films, Sunset Boulveard explores what happens to its ageing stars when the spotlight stops shining on them. Often bitter and decadent, it’s certainly not an uplifting film. For first-time viewers, you’ll recognize a handful of famous lines from the film.
10. The Searchers (1956)
Named the Greatest American Western of all-time by the AFI, The Searchers will have non-Western lovers at the edge of their seats. Perhaps one of the most influential Westerns, this John Ford-directed epic touches upon themes of racism, the homefront, family, and sexism in this cinematic classic.
Break out the chocolate, Easter is here! Whether you celebrate or not, no one can resist a fluffy Easter bunny. Unless of course, the Easter Bunny looks like this:
Yes, that’s me, circa 1986. Surprisingly enough, I am not terrified of all things that hop. In fact, I have a soft spot for rabbits…and no, it isn’t in my stomach. I like rabbits so much, I can’t even eat them, despite hearing how delicious they are.
In honour of the Easter Bunny’s hard work this weekend, hiding Easter eggs and posing for pictures in the mall with endless lines of screaming children, here is a list of my favourite movie & TV bunnies:
Technically, Harvey isn’t a rabbit: he’s a Pooka…but that’s close enough. He’s my favourite giant, invisible bunny. Companion of Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey proves that Elwood is perhaps the sanest man to ever be committed to a mental institution.
2. Roger Rabbit
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the first movie I remember being excited for. I begged my parents to take me, clad in a Roger Rabbit sweatshirt with stuffed Roger toy in tow, to the theatre to see it. The movie was great when I was 6 years old, and it’s just as good now. Plus, now I’m old enough to get all the jokes.
3. The White Rabbit
He’s what introduces us to the wondrous world of Wonderland in Alice in Wonderland. Perpetually late for a very important date, The White Rabbit is a nervous court official next to the hare-brained mad March Hare. Plus he looks ever-so-smart with a waistcoat and pocket watch.
4. Watership Down Rabbits
My all-time favourite book is Watership Down by Richard Adams, so of course, I have a soft spot for Bigwig, Dandelion, Hazel and Strawberry. The rabbits in this heroic fantasy are timeless characters.
Definitely the creepiest character on this list of bunnies, Frank the Rabbit is both intriguing and menacing in the film Donnie Darko. Frank lets Donnie Darko in on a little secret: the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. One thing’s for sure: you won’t catch Frank hiding Easter treats in your house.
6. The Were-Rabbit
That fluffy bunny stops being cute when she and her dozen offspring start eating all your vegetables in the garden right before the town’s Golden Vegetable Competition. It’s even less cute when that little bunny becomes a giant Wererabbit, eating the vegetables in sight and terrorizing the town during the full moon in the great family claymation film Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Bambi’s best friend Thumper was created in the 1942 film to add some fun to the movie’s serious-tone and make it more appealing to kids.
8. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog
Who or what is The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog you might ask? Why he’s the most deadly creature to ever face King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He has “nasty, big, pointy teeth” and a “vicious streak a mile wide.” Let this beast be a lesson to you: not all rabbits will readily give up their Easter loot.
9. Bugs Bunny
What’s up doc? He’s been on a basketball team with Michael Jordan to face off against a group of aliens in Space Jam. He’s outsmarted Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, and Elmer Fudd to earn his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Winne the Pooh’s long-suffering friend Rabbit may complain about his bear pal’s forgetful nature, but he’s a tried and true friend.
Today’s blog comes to you from former bookseller & current pro sportswriter John Chidley Hill.
Because I work in sports journalism and about 75% of the books I read have something to do with sports, I’m the go-to guy amongst my friends and family for recommendations in the genre.
To make my life easier, I’ve got a list of 10 essential sports books that I recommend to practically everyone. They are timeless, accessible, and of course, feature strong writing.
Also, this list is designed to be taken as a whole. Many of these books are meant to dovetail with each other, provide contrast or complement to other entries. They don’t need to be read in any particular order and none of them stand out as the best of the lot. But all 10 fit together nicely, giving the reader a reasonably broad understanding of sports and athletics, even if some specific sports are left out.
Ball Four by Jim Bouton. The grand daddy of ‘em all, Ball Four is Jim Bouton’s memoir of a year as a major league pitcher with the Seattle Pilots and later the Houston Astros. This book is the first real, hard-hitting look at the world of baseball—or any sport for that matter. Incendiary when it was released in 1969, Bouton’s book remains funny and insightful. Context will help you enjoy it, but 75% of the book can stand on its own.
Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst. Another relief pitcher’s memoirs, Bullpen Gospels comes from a more sincere and self-deprecating perspective. Dirk Hayhurst’s book on his year in the San Diego Padres’ minor league system is less about baseball and more about finding himself and trying to make some sense of the mess that is his life. Bullpen Gospels’ introspective narrative gives the reader a glimpse inside the surprisingly fragile psyche of a professional athlete and stands in contrast with Bouton’s ground-breaking work.
Living on the Black by John Feinstein . My third pick also features professional baseball pitchers, but is completely different from the earlier entries. John Feinstein’s tome (it’s a hefty 508 pages) follows the 2007 seasons of soft-tossers Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina. Living on the Black discusses the history of the players association and explains the ongoing evolution of the pitcher. Reading this book gave me a much stronger understanding of the importance of every pitch and every at bat of baseball. This book comes as close to explaining the art of big league pitching as anyone can without actually suiting up.
Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt. Stephen Brunt’s biography of Bobby Orr—certainly the best defenceman of all time, and arguably the best hockey player ever—is marked by the fact that it was totally unauthorized. The seasoned Globe and Mail columnist had to dig deep for years to find anyone willing to speak to him about the very private Orr. All that hard work paid off as Brunt paints a rich portrait of a complicated man who revolutionized the sport of hockey on and off the ice.
Hitman by Bret Hart. Although professional wrestling isn’t really a sport, there’s no denying the athleticism of the performers. Bret Hart’s upbringing as the most prominent member of the infamous Hart family puts him in a unique position to describe the crazy lifestyle of the World Wrestling Federation. At the same time, Hart’s incredibly violent home life, coupled with his constant marital infidelity, is engrossing and makes this the grittiest of all the entries on this list. This autobiography is, in a word, jarring.
A Fighter's Heart by Sam Sheridan. The only sport that comes close to baseball’s massive catalogue of books is boxing. Unfortunately, the sweet science is only one corner of the world of combat sport. Therefore, I chose Sam Sheridan’s survey of all sports where athletes fight—from boxing to Brazilian Jiu Jitsiu to mixed martial arts and, yes, even cockfighting—to try and encompass one of the more literary sports. Sheridan tries valiantly to understand the role that organized combat has in society and what it is about prizefighting that attracts competitors and spectators alike.
How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer. Like A Fighter’s Heart, Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World tries to figure out the role of sport in a greater socio-political context. Foer’s theories are a little over-simplistic and he’s not without his biases, but nonetheless it’s an excellent book that successfully draws connections between political movements, sectarianism and nationhood with soccer teams around the world. An excellent sports book for the non-fan and enjoyable for anyone who believes that sport is an integral part of society.
Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger. You’ve probably seen the movie or the TV show, but as good as they are, they just don’t do justice to Buzz Bissinger’s original examination of high school football in the oil town of Odessa, Texas. Although he doesn’t draw conclusions like Sheridan or Foer, Bissinger goes into greater depth than the other two books. Dark, sure, but Friday Night Lights does an incredible job of showing on a small scale how important sports can be to a community. By the final chapter you might not feel like a Permian Panther, but you’ll definitely sympathize with these young men.
Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Possibly the most influential book on this list, Michael Lewis’ Moneyball is often misunderstood as being a kind of baseball strategy guide. Really, it’s all about Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane squeezing the potential out of undervalued properties—in this case, his players. It’s a philosophy that goes well beyond the world of baseball, and the book’s become popular in many business circles. There’s a lot to learn from Lewis’ most popular book: the intricacies of baseball trades, the importance of walks and the rigidity of old school baseball. Stay ahead of the curve by picking it up before Brad Pitt's film adaptation comes out.
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. Please ignore the romantic comedy starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore loosely based off of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. It’s barely related to the original. Few books capture the agony of cheering for a team that just never gets it together. You can substitute any number of clubs for Hornby’s Arsenal. The Chicago Cubs, Detroit Lions and Toronto Maples Leafs will all do fine. This is what fandom is all about: not the highs of winning a championship but the agonizing lows. Hornby captures that pain perfectly.
But I stand by my love of Nicolas Cage—he continues to make the most varied films of any actor currently working; he fully embraces his off-the-wall persona, and let’s not forget that he has an Oscar. I often see Nic Cage movies on opening weekend in theatres, I am proud to include a whopping 18 DVDs starring the man himself in my personal movie collection, and when I’ve had a bad day, I often find myself reaching for Raising Arizona. He apparently has a collection of shrunken heads and a dinosaur skull, which makes him pretty cool in my books.
I love Nicolas Cage because he just doesn’t seem to care. Drama, action, comedy—he’s got them all covered and seemingly has no preference for genre, or even quality of film. In an interview, he once claimed to pick his roles based on the type of wig he could wear. His latest film, currently in theatres, is Drive Angry, one of the few films actually shot in 3D as opposed to making it look 3D in post-production like Clash of the Titans. Nicolas Cage as a man who literally drove out of Hell in order to save his infant granddaughter? I’m sold. Drive Angry is a throwback to grindhouse B-movies, and because it embraces its kitschy quality, it fully succeeds in being a non-stop action thriller, full of laughs and amazing one-liners courtesy of Cage and co-star William Fichtner. Don’t get me wrong, Drive Angry isn’t a going down in the history books as one of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, but it’s certainly the best thing currently in theatres.
And don’t get me wrong—they’re not all good movies. A lot are bad, like Ghost Rider. Some are downright awful…I’m looking at you, WIndtalkers. But depending on the mood you’re in, there’s a Nicolas Cage movie for you.
Want a good laugh? Check out Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Perhaps some of the best one-liners ever delivered on screen.
Had a bad day? Chances are it’s not as bad as Edward’s in the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man:
Want to start your own Nicolas Cage collection? Check out the list of Nic Cage movies on DVD & Blu-ray.
It took some time to digest the festive feasts closing out 2010, but it took me longer to digest the many musical delicacies released over the last twelve months. While I didn't get to hear everything released last year, I enjoyed a lot of 2010's albums and could have easily presented you with a Top 50 list. I have managed to narrow it down to the following 10;
1. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (DefJam/Universal)
While everyone fawns over Kanye West, somehow this funky platter managed to go largely un-noticed, which is a shame because this was the most fun and bounce that hip hop had all year. The lesser-known half of Outkast makes a compelling argument to become the more popular half.
2.. Robyn - Body Talk (Konichiwa/Universal)
How Sweden's Robyn failed to conquer North American airwaves is baffling to me. This electro pop princess released three EPs over the course of the year and Body Talk is the summation of the three. This is guaranteed to get the most jaded hips shaking or at least their owners’ toes tapping. And "Dancing On My Own" is one of the singles of the year.
3.. Hot Chip - One Life Stand (DFA/EMI)
This dance-rock troupe from London, England have evolved nicely from the awkward art-pop of their first album to One Life Stand, their fourth and most consistently catchy effort yet. The distinct Hot Chip quirk remains, but is subdued in this dance floor shaker.
4. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy/Warner)
Based out of New York, Monae takes elements of rock, soul, electro and funk, and brings them along on this trip to Metropolis. Monae appears to hail from outer space with this highly imaginative and ambitious platter, which gets more enjoyable with each listen.
5. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Mom + Pop)
It was hard not to notice the debut of New York duo Sleigh Bells with this bombastic slap of distorted rock that has an almost-industrial beat to it. Buried under the distortion is unmistakably pop. Treats doesn't creep into one's consciousness—it kicks your ears down and grabs you by the throat, demanding your attention.
6. Steve Mason - Boys Outside (Double Six/Outside)
The frontman for the now defunct Beta Band teamed up with pop producer Richard X to release his first solo album. Boys Outside's surprisingly straight forward guitar pop is almost hypnotic, with Mason's vocals completing the mesmeric charm.
7. The Roots - How I Got Over (DefJam/Universal)
Those afraid or dismissive of hip hop would do themselves no harm by giving The Roots a try, especially their latest, How I Got Over. Consistently releasing solid albums since the mid 90s, hip hop's best live band have lost none of their bite, and this could be their most accessible and fun effort to date.
8. Scissor Sisters - Night Work (Polydor/Universal)
Night Work seemed to arrive from nowhere and without fanfare. Unfortunately, it seemed to disappear just as quickly, which is a shame, as this is their most delicious offering to date. From the title track's ode to taking a day of work's frustrations out on the dance floor, Night Work can be quite flirty, almost sleazy, but from start to finish, it is a blast.
9. Neil Young - Le Noise (Reprise/Warner)
Don't let the title scare you off. This is not a squealing blast of axe-shredding from Neil and his Crazy Horse cohorts. Le Noise is produced by Daniel Lanois, who creates a haunting atmosphere to accompany Neil's fraught songs. With the right headphones, Le Noise is like a live private audience with Neil and a couple of his guitars.
10. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - I Learned The Hard Way (Daptone)
For their fourth album, Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings offer up another disc of classic soul tunes. You wouldn't be alone to think of this as a reissue from 60s era Stax Records. They are at their best on stage, but this should add to an already impressive canon of heartfelt, yet funky soul.
I really could go on about more, but I'd like to hear what tickled your ears in 2010!
Here’s something that’s just plain neat:
On his official website, folk-god Art Garfunkel lists every single book that he has read over the past 42 years. Each title is listed along with when he read it, when the tome was written, and how many pages long it was. There’s even a “favourites” section in which he notes his top picks.
Scouring through the list, one will notice that his reading habits tend to lean more towards the classical as well as the culturally-relevant, but it’s also nice to see that he mixes it up and relaxes a bit with the likes of Nora Ephron and Carrie Fisher.
What I find slightly fascinating is watching where his tastes lead him from book to book:
- For example, in Dec 2001 he read Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone, and then followed that up with Stephen Hawking’s Universe in a Nutshell?
- When the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell earlier in 2001, he read Peter Peret’s Understanding War, which was followed up by some lighter fare in the form of the inestimably fun P.G. Wodehouse (yet two books later he found his way back to heavier stuff with Benjamin Barber’s Jihad Vs. McWorld).
- And of course, right there in Feb 2004, we find the best-selling book of the new millennium. Apparently he decided to cleanse his palette afterwards with a little Flaubert.
Like the first 5 movies, each of these films have left an indelible mark on me this year. What are some of the films that have made an impact for you in 2010? Please share your favourites in the comments section.
After the success of American Pie (which I will admit, I loved), the teen genre seemed to take a turn for the worse, moving from quirky and socially relevant (Mean Girls) to raunchy and ultimately forgettable (Sex Drive). Easy A, I am pleased to announce, is what audiences nostalgic for films like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off have been waiting for. A modern re-telling of the Scarlet Letter, Easy A is a little bit sassy and incredibly clever (not to mention a breakout performance for the under-appreciated Emma Stone). Don’t believe me? Check out this hilarious clip from Easy A.
Every now and again you see a film that sticks with you for days after you watch it. Fish Tank was one of those films for me. In fact, I actually screened it about two years ago, but the nerve-wracking and emotionally harrowing memory of this film still remains freshly engrained in my mind. Mia is a troubled teenager, living in the projects with her poverty-stricken mother and sister. She dreams of becoming a dancer, but finds her world turned upside down when her mother brings home a new boyfriend, who isn’t quite what he seems. If Les Amours Imaginaires was my favourite film at TIFF in 2010, then Fish Tank was my favourite in 2009.
Watch the trailer:
A film about splicing together multiple organisms' DNA? I will admit it, I’m not a sci-fi guy (note the absence of Avatar on this list), but I can definitely acknowledge a film when it’s done right, and this film definitely has some tricks up its sleeve. Can we talk about the shocking conclusion? If you’ve seen it, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, it’s going to blow your mind. That is all I really have to say about that.
Watch the trailer:
“This is how Marie Antoinette would have lived if she had money.”
In her 75 years, Joan Rivers has blazed trails and paved the way for future female comedians. Once considered THE most successful female comedian, Rivers has seen her career quickly transition from punchy to punch line. In this surprisingly candid look at her career highs and lows, Joan is only too happy to discuss her expansive career, troubled past, and why it’s lonely at the top (and the bottom). Perhaps one of the best documentaries about what it takes to stay fresh in the business, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is a laugh-a-minute comedic tour-de-force that will leave you in stitches (pun intended).
Watch the trailer:
They don’t make films like they used to. By now this is kind of a clichéd statement, but I can’t remember the last time I have watched such an intense, suspense-filled gritty thriller. I will admit I haven’t read the books (gasp!), but my coworkers tell me that if you loved the books you will love the films even more. See the original version before the Hollywood version hits theatres, you won’t regret it.
Watch the trailer: