Best of the Year So Far

Best Movie Seen In Theaters: None. I hadn’t realized until just now that I haven’t been in a movie theater since I caught Skyfall with my mom and Venice last December. I know good movies have come out, and right up until the first reviews, I’d been looking forward to Man of Steel. Ah, well. Something about this year’s effects driven event films has failed to get my heart started, but I am looking forward to Before Midnight and Stories We Tell when they hit home video.

Best Movie Seen on Blu-Ray or streaming: Stiff competition so far, but I have to go with Godard’s Breathless, which I saw just yesterday on a Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. Godard violated several rules of editing in aid of telling the story of a car thief and cop-killer who idolizes movie gangsters and his lover, who discovers he’s a criminal and has to decide how she wants to handle the information.  This movie, like Citizen Kane before it, changed the way movies were made, making possible Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, and much of Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino’s careers.

Best Book I’ve Read this Year: Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. It is probably impossible to understand the roots of our current political culture without delving into the man who played those divisions as if they were a Stradivarius, Richard M. Nixon. Perlstein situates Nixon in his political context, showing how Nixon was just the most adept of those trying to use racism, bitterness, and paranoia to exacerbate the splits in the New Deal coalition.

Best Television I’ve Seen This Year: Orange Is the New Black. Jenji Kohan has excelled herself. I had liked her previous work with Weeds even though I found some of the characters cartoonish. Here, I’m astounded at her ability to find both the damage underneath her protagonist’s smooth surface and the nobility beneath her other characters’ rough surfaces. Orange Is the New Black offers a rich universe of selfishness, need, power, class, sexuality, and survival, which leads me to compliment it thus: I wish I’d written it.

Best Music of the Year: I have a confession. Since I don’t make a living as a music critic and am past the age when people buy new music, I can’t comment on what’s new. The AV Club people can help you out with new beats, if it’s new beats you need. (And anyone who knows anydamnthing about music is welcome to ask me about guest blogging, since I’m thinking of doing something like this monthly.)


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