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memory lane

When I started the year by posting a picture of the Space Needle exploding and bidding 2004 good riddance, I think that I may have been dwelling on certain unfortunate aspects of the year. Things like 'electability,' torture, tsunamis, beheadings, military casualties, and murdered chechen schoolchildren.

Despite all of this, there were a few decent things in 2004 that made the otherwise miserable year worth living. As much as we hate them, what new year would be complete without a list of the favorite things from the previous one?


I watched a lot of movies in 2004.1 I have no idea which were the best, but when I try to think of my favorites, nothing comes close 2 to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It had everything that I could ask for in a piece of cinema: innovative storytelling, arresting visuals, stellar acting, all in service of a fantastic and heartbreaking story. I regret that I saw it only once.

Others that come to mind include Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which I loved pretty much without reservation and even saw twice; In America, a 2003 movie that I didn't see until 2004 that falls into the categories of movies with landmines that I liked anyway; Saved!, which wasn't the movie that I wanted it to be, but I can forgive some warm-fuzzies in exchange for the brilliant first twenty minutes; Off the Map, a surprisingly beautiful story about New Mexico, depression, and art; Before Sunset another example of 2004 as the year of the successful (and better) sequel that says something great about getting older; the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou which I loved simply because it felt like an xmas present from Wes Anderson; I ♥ Huckabees, even though I'm afraid to see it again to find that I don't like it as much as I think I did. I saw most of these months ago, maybe after a few weeks I'll decide whether A Very Long Engagement or the Aviator should be on my list (I'm leaning more toward the former than the latter).3

(1) Among others, I haven't seen Hotel Rwanda, Million Dollar Baby, Vera Drake, or Tarnation, which are likely to be quite good, too.
(2) except, maybe, Bad Education which I saw today and though was excellent, for many of the same reasons (great looking, interesting narrative structure, continually surprising) except in a film noir.
(3) Last Life in the Universe, the Dreamers, and the Incredibles, probably deserve mentions just for looking superfantastic, being haunting and confusing, and transcending videogameyness (respectively, and sometimes overlapping), too.


On the other hand, I probably didn't listen to enough music,4 and I certainly didn't buy enough CDs. As I made a list of the albums that I liked most, I was overwhelmed with guilt for not having actually purchased them. Really -- I didn't expect to like some of these at all. Rather than order them, here are a few that got stuck on permanent repeat on my iPod that still haven't grown tiresome: Good News for People who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse goes to the majors and didn't disappoint. Antics - Interpol eventually convinced me that they avoided the sophomore slump; Hot Fuss - the Killers, I still feel like I should hate this album, but I still can't help myself. In a Safe Place - the Album Leaf demonstrated that Americans can make music that could be mistaken for a product of Iceland (of course, it was recorded there with help from Múm and Sigur Ros. one hell of an exchange program if you ask me.); Our Endless Numbered Days - Iron and Wine, in which something great -- in the shape of gorgeous quiet music -- arrived from the Deep South; Talkie Walkie - Air, for anyone who doesn't know why we shouldn't discount "Old Europe"; the earth is not a cold dead place because even if it wasn't released in 2004, it still introduced me to explosions in the sky early in the year; i before e, because a post-breakup Carissa's Wierd album is more than I ever expected; and Live in Japan: February 19th, 21st, & 23rd 2003 - the Microphones, because Phil Elverum live is something really special, too.5

(4) As an illustration, I still haven't heard the new CD from the Arcade Fire, which everyone seems to love (5) And I like Franz Ferdinand and still haven't quite fallen in love with the Firey Furnaces, but I'm sure it will hit me eventually. These are after all, favorites, not bests.


I probably watched way too much television. As much as it kills me to write this, Fox definitely gets the "network that I'd rescue if there was only room for one on my cable package" award. Airing (and renewing) Arrested Development would have been enough to win this hands down. It is just flat out brilliant all around and almost every episode has a golden retriever in a wastebasket moment. But among the sea of crap, the network has an embarrassment of riches with the o.c., 24, and the Simpsons. Luckily, I'm not in the position of being forced to watch only Fox and there was plenty of other good television to go around. the Daily Show kept me from feeling completely insane about current events; I wasn't able to cancel my HBO thanks to Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, and the Sopranos; and ABC's new drama Lost has me hooked.


the number of books that I read is so small that it's embarrassing. Of those that I read, only a few were published in 2004. With that in mind (i.e., I recognize it's not much of an "award" to make my best of list), I did really enjoy oblivion by David Foster Wallace and Looking Forward to It by Stephen Elliott and would recommend them wholeheartedly. I will try to read more in 2005. Really.


For periodicals, which maybe took time away from reading (books), I can't say enough about the Believer. Yes, it's eight dollars an issue, but I haven't run across one that hasn't had something worth the cover price. Not to mention that this year featured CD and DVD issues. the Stranger gets an honorable mention, for bringing back A. Birch Steen (who seems to be on his way to being killed off in 2005) and for it's "do not despair" cover / urban archipelago feature that helped a lot in the post-election mourning process.


Finally, how could we forget about the internets, where del.icio.us and flickr got me hooked on tags.

All of this gushing doesn't mean that we can forget about the sucktastic things that went down in 2004, but it reminds us why we managed not to drive it off a cliff. Here's hoping that we find similarly good stuff in 2005.


a movie I watched on Sunday that I think you might like to add to your list: Closer. tension, tension, tension, but the kind that feels so good.
I saw Closer last year, and really appreciated it, but I don't know if I could call it a "favorite."

Somehow, it was too actorly or too tense or the message was too disheartening for me to think of it with some version of warm fuzzies. Which, I admit, is not really the best of criteria. Yet, trying to make some sort of objective "best films I saw in 2004" list would've probably killed me; so I took the easy route for this post. I'm sure there's some overlap, but I really don't know how much.
1) I can't believe you would include "The Dreamers" in a good movie list. I have to say it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and one of the very few movies that I regret not walking out of, it was so incredibly stupid.
2) I watched I Heart Huckabees on the plane back from California. I didn't love it. I didn't love Garden State either, for that matter. My feeling about them both is that they were so like real life that my time would be better spent simply living my real life. But I am becoming a wicked iconoclast, so maybe it's just me (on the other hand, I love love love Eternal Sunshine).
3) I agree about i before e -- so much more than I expected, so lovely. I tried to call you about eight times to thank you.
4) You should read more. But not necessarily all new stuff. We should talk more about books.
1) I really still don't know how I feel about The Dreamers (or Last Life in the Universe, either). I definitely didn't hate it and when i looked at some other lists, I felt a weird fondness for both of them; so they were late additions to my list.

2) I think that my love for I ♥ Huckabees was a weird kind of love, too. I know that it has problems, but I found enough of it to be so funny. Is your life really like that? However, I think Garden State (and Sideways, for that matter) is bizarrely overrated, maybe for the reason that certain groups over-identify with them. I thought that Garden State was o.k., but that it tried way too hard, didn't earn it's cleverness, and cheated its ending. The long trailer is better than the movie.

3) I know. Sorry about the telephone. I'm terrible.

4) I will definitely make more of an effort at the reading. Maybe I need to set goals. Honestly, having a stack of books to read turned me off of it. I do so much better when I just go to the store and buy a book to read.
Is my life really like "I Heart Huckabees"? What was that movie really about? I think it was about figuring out your life, talking to people about it, and laughing. Is my life really like that? Yes. Granted I have no existential detectives, but I try to do a good job of being existential myself. "Garden State," too -- what was that about other than trying to figure out your life and dealing with your family and other people. This is also what my life is like. Neither of these movies were very magical or surprising, as "Eternal Sunshine" was. Maybe I just need to stop watching realistic movies about people my age.

Re reading, maybe you should set a goal of one book a month (12 a year isn't bad), or maybe you're trying to read the wrong books.
I think that I &heart; huckabees was substantially funnier and bizarre than my actual life, but I see what you mean about it's general mission. I think it's interesting how people have reacted to the movie, often reviewing it as "deep" or "complicated." I'm not so sure about that.

Reading. I think that it was just that I didn't try that hard, not that I started the wrong books. I probably read at least twelve books last year, but it didn't feel like much. So maybe, selection was the problem.

re: reading

Maybe you should suggest some titles for my 2005 reading list, but maybe not too many. It did take me forever to finally read The Master & Margarita, for instance.