As I shrewdly calculate my Best Films/Albums of the Year lists, I need to step back and consider what really mattered, how I spent my time when I wasn’t at the Brattle or the Kendall Square or listening to “The Naked Dutch Painter... and Other Songs” yet again. 2002 was really a difficult, cathartic, yet illuminating year for me, much more so than the past few.

I guess I’ll always remember it as the year my relationship with Scott deteriorated, and then died. It all seemed so unfathomable a year ago. Now, its inevitability still stings. The hardest thing to admit is that the one you’ve grown to love is just not the right person. After weeks (months?) of waffling, I’ve concluded that yes, I’m ready to go through it all again, to be open to falling maddeningly in love, but I haven’t met the right guy yet. Now, the hardest thing to do is remain hopeful and optimistic until whenever it happens.

But this was a year of many personal triumphs beyond getting over the devastation of a breakup. I added an extracurricular activity to my life (the Brattle) that has only wrought good things (experience, friendships, and free movies). I traveled, by myself, to glorious San Diego to see Marchann and felt the rush of being on two coasts in one day. I reconnected with a dear old friend as we visited each other in spring and autumn. I finally heard David Sedaris speak live in person. I became more outgoing than I ever have been in my life. And, as the year winds down, I’m (somewhat) seriously considering thoughts of eventually moving to a new state, taking up a new instrument, and preparing to write a novel. Not necessarily in that order.

I can’t deny that movies and music really did matter. I’d even go as far to say that they were essential in getting me through the toughest times. I found solace in the minute details of “The Royal Tenenbaums” (and in Mark Mothersbaugh’s score for the film), and joy in Sleater-Kinney’s ebullient song “Step Aside”--Punk Motown, pleading all to “shake a tail for peace and love”. I was in awe at Saint Etienne’s continual reinvention of themselves on “Finisterre”, and could barely wait to take the-road-trip-without-a-map-set-in-stone that was “Y Tu Mama Tambien” a second, third, even fourth time.

And I read. Four more John Irving epics, three Kurt Vonneguts, two Richard Russos and Salman Rushdies and a Colette biography in a pear tree, among many other books.

I took the ferry to Provincetown twice for day trips, and reveled in the town’s beauty and otherness. I rode the commuter rail to Rockport and Manchester By-The-Sea. I sampled sushi from both coasts and bought a DVD player and a translucent blue boombox.

I slept with a Latino, an Asian, and a very young Caucasian, and learned it’s better to take a cab than to accept lodging for the night from friends of a friend whose intentions are not your own.

If there is one moment from the past year I’d like to go back to, it’s October 17, about 6:30 PM Central Time. I was in Milwaukee, my hometown, trying to kill an hour before seeing Nosferatu accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra at the Oriental Theater. I’d opted to take a walk through the neighborhood, past my parents’ first apartment on Farwell and Lafayette. Lake Michigan must’ve kept pulling me in its direction, for that’s were I ended up, on the pier by McKinley Beach. The sun had set, the air was unseasonably chilly, filled with mist and fog. I looked out onto the Lake, the ocean of my youth, and the faded, hanging lights of the city off to my right. Standing there, at the railing on pier’s edge, I longed to go further, to return to that July night six years ago when, a half mile to my left, I sat on the rocks with friends and watched the moon and stars. But still, I currently felt so warm, so complete and at peace.


Snappy Holidays,

My parents arrive in town in about 48 hours and I'm more than ready to start my Christmas vacation. Also more than ready to see some movies. Right now, of what's actually playing in Boston, I'm dying to see "Personal Velocity" and "Adaptation". Wouldn’t mind sitting through "Gangs of New York" and am curious to see whether it'll be this generation's "Titanic" or "Heaven's Gate".

Next week, "Talk To Her", "Rabbit Proof Fence" and "Chicago" open here. Still no word on "The Hours", "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" or "The Quiet American". I may have to put off my Film top ten list until "The Hours" opens. But I'm ready to do the music one. I am obsessed with top ten lists by the way. They're totally arbitrary and of the moment (how in the world did REM's "Up" rate as my #2 record of 1998? I think I've listened to it twice since then.) But I love putting them together.

Top Ten 2002 Records that came out in 2002 (+ memorable lines and moments):

1. Stew, "The Naked Dutch Painter... and other Songs"
("Quite fond of Stiv Bators/She drops acid and goes to the opera")

2. Sleater-Kinney, "One Beat"
("why don't you shake a tail for peace and love")

3. Tori Amos, "Scarlet's Walk"
(the beguiling, wordless Tori sighs in half of the songs)

4. Saint Etienne, "Finisterre"
("The boys are back in town/and nothing can stop us now/ooh, this is our wall of sound")

5. Badly Drawn Boy, "About A Boy" soundtrack
(the do-do-do's on "File Me Away")

6. Mekons, "OOOH! (Out of Our Heads)"
("Everyday is a battle/How we still love the war")

7. Ani DiFranco, "So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter"
("We hold these truths to be self-evident/Number one, George W. Bush is not president")

8. Wilco, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
("Playing KISS covers, beautiful and stoned")

9. Pet Shop Boys, "Release"
("Then he said, 'Hey man, your name isn't STAN, is it? We should be together!'")

10. Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me"
(that VOICE!)

Best Compilation: Puffy AmiYumi, "An Illustrated History"

Best Discoveries (released before 2002):
1. The Avalanches, "Since I Left You"
2. Belle and Sebastian, "I'm Waking Up To Us" (Single)
3. The Go-Betweens, "Bellavista Terrace: The Best of"
4. Mary Lou Lord, "Got No Shadow"
5. Mekons, "Fear and Whiskey", "Rock and Roll" and "Journey To The End of the Night"
6. The Housemartins, "London 0 Hull 4" and The Beautiful South, "Carry On Up The Charts"
7. Spiritualized, "Won't Get To Heaven (The State I'm In)" from "Let It Come Down"
8. The Negro Problem, "Joys and Concerns"
9. The Pernice Brothers, "The World Won't End"
10. Badly Drawn Boy, "The Hour of Bewilderbeast"

Beth Orton, "Daybreaker" (ZZzzzzzZZzzzz)
Aimee Mann, "Lost In Space" (despite "Humpty Dumpty", doubly ZZZzzzzZZZzzzzz)
Sheryl Crow, "C'mon C'mon" (a handful of good-to-great songs surrounded by a handful of pretty mediocre ones)

Concrete Blonde, "Group Therapy"

GREAT SINGLES AND TRACKS (not on top ten albums):
Sheryl Crow, "Abilene"
Aimee Mann, "Humpty Dumpty"
PJ Harvey/Gordon Gano, "Hitting The Ground"
The Negro Problem, "Out Now"
Emm Gryner, "Symphonic"
Badly Drawn Boy, "I Was Wrong/You Were Right"
Tegan and Sara, "Living Room"
Kylie Minogue, "Can't get You Out of My head"
Vanessa Carlton, "A Thousand Miles" (no, really!)
Jimmy Eat World, "The Middle"

Wish List for new albums in 2003:
XTC, Belle and Sebastian, Fiona Apple, Blur, Kate Bush (yeah, right), an Ani DiFranco studio album that doesn't suck, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Sam Phillips (+ a tour), Jill Sobule, Steve Wynn


Hey, Holiday Shoppers

I haven't done any Xmas shopping yet, unless you count the bag of red and green M&M's that I bought for myself. I've been sick all week, the weather's been dreary all week, and I haven't seen any new movies as of late. I am, however, going to the super-cool Wong Kar Wai double bill at the Brattle tonight, though: "Fallen Angels" and "Happy Together" on the big screen! I am particularly jones-ing to see "Fallen Angels" again, because it's so intricate and MTV-paced and confusing and strange.

Last weekend, I saw a performance of Faith Soloway's glorious, uproarious shlock-opera "Jesus Has Two Mommies", and here's a list of why all those who protested it need to succumb to heathenish desires and see it:

1. God (Merle Perkins, done up a la Foxy Brown) is simply awesome.
2. "Queer In Revere" (and Dorchester, Malden, Saugus, Peabody, etc;)
3. The mechanical open-and-close mouth on the pic of Freud that accompanies the song "Don't Fuck With Freud"
4. "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Show" parodies.
5. A sing-along segment about cunnillingus
6. Women who should be lesbians (or are obvious lesbians, or obviously closeted lesbians)
7. "Jesus has two mommies, and yes they both are gay."



Hey, Egregious Ones,

Reading "Deadeye Dick" by Kurt Vonnegut, and there's a neat little passage where the main character ponders on having a parade in New York City where the marchers would carry a giant banner with the word "EGREGIOUS" on it, which means "outside the herd". Ah yes, a parade for freaks, now that it's no longer trendy to be one as back in the good ol' 90s.

"About Schmidt" was wonderful. I don't think Jack Nicholson has ever been more restrained, or subdued, or (dare I say it) real. It's scathingly funny in the vein of Alexander Payne's first two features, "Citizen Ruth" and "Election", but also melancholy, elegiac and a little sad. The only gripe I have is that Jack almost overshadows the rest of the cast, except for Kathy Bates, who is simply un-overshadowable.

The film's cathartic, intense ending is possibly the best I've seen this year. Unabashedly sentimental, but also emotionally naked, and unexpected. Jack's complicated, nearly ambiguous mixture of conflicting facial expressions in the final shot is enough to secure him another Oscar nomination.

As an added bonus, the Midwest looks as eerily beautiful here as it did in "The Straight Story"

Also saw "Ararat" Atom Egoyan's new film, about the 1915 Turkish Genocide of Armenians. I love Egoyan's style, especially his obsession with video images, cyclical plot structures, and wife Arsinee Khanijhan. All are in abundant supply, not to mention incestual sex, one of his obsessions I'm less thrilled by (mostly because unlike its inclusion in "The Sweet Hereafter", it doesn't really have any value here.) Unfortunately, the film bites off more than it can chew, but there are great moments, particularly those with Christopher Plummer (still channeling his crochety Mike Wallace in "The Insider") as a Customs Security Interrogator. "Ararat" is an interesting, challenging, occasionally involving, intermittently tedious film. The epitome of Good, not Great.