Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Half-Year Favorites

Six months in, and six more to go. Here are my favorite movies and music from 2012 thus far. What are yours?


Moonrise KingdomMoonrise Kingdom is fantastic in the proper sense of that word--at its heart, it is a fantasy film. Whimsical and childlike, it has an overt tone of wonder and innocence. Whether he realized it or not, auteur Wes Anderson has tapped into a longing for the kingdom of God. After years of creating quirky idiosyncratic stories about dysfunctional families and a desire for belonging, this is the most Anderson-y of his films yet, and one of his best. Two 12-year-olds fall in love while living on the island of New Penzance, causing them to run away from home together and bring the entire island community chasing after them.

ChronicleA teen-driven "lost footage" super hero film, Chronicle is the Carrie for the YouTube generation. Three teenage guys go down into a hole and come out with telekinetic powers. Filmmakers Josh Trank and Max Landis create some authentic teenage moments in Chronicle. The interactions between the teen guys feel genuine, and I think the entire film benefits from having a young cast and filmmakers; both Trank and Landis are 26-years-old, and the three lead actors give phenomenal performancesThey've also used the found footage genre in a new way, offering a bit of a commentary on the YouTube generation's fascination with being on camera. This is the best "superpower" film I've seen this year (yes, I liked it better than The Avengers).

Blue Like JazzAfter problems with getting project off the ground, and a historic Kickstarter fundraising movement, Blue Like Jazz the book became Blue Like Jazz the movie. While it's a movie based on the book, the parallels are more thematic than direct. A young man, Don, leaves behind Texas and his conservative Christian upbringing for the liberal and liberating world of Portland, OR. Don (Marshall Allman) has a boyish charm to him, grounded in his unquestioning involvement at a local Baptist church. When a sudden betrayal leaves him disillusioned with the church, Don's absentee father enrolls him at Reed College, a quirky environment of brilliant misfits with genius-level IQs and a penchant for weirdness. Blue Like Jazz shines as a filmic example of the spiritual journey of faith. It's not perfect, by any means, but it does offer a unique viewpoint in the Christian film world. And it's set in Portland!

Honorable Mentions: The Grey, The Avengers, Bully, The Hunger Games


Sigur Ros - Valtari. The latest from the Icelandic musical auteurs is a bit more subdued than their previous albums, particular frontman Jonsi's solo album. There are times when it feels more like Explosions in the Sky than a true Sigur Ros album, and while it may not reach the euphoric heights of Takk... or ( )Valtari has some truly transcendent and calming moments. Hey, it makes my daughter calm down and take amazing naps, so I'm loving it. Favorite tracksEkki mukk, Varoeldur

Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is An Animal. This second Icelandic group on my list sounds quite a bit like a combination of Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, and The National. And that's not a bad thing at all. Uplifting, catchy, and yet still somehow unique in their folky pop sound. Favorite tracks: Little Talks, Yellow Light

Ramona Falls - Prophet. The second album from former Menomena frontman Brent Knopf, Prophet has plenty of the quirky percussive drive, eclectic guitar sounds, and melodic piano ambiance of the first Ramona Falls album, Intuit, only with a fuller sound and a bit more diversity, as well as some spiritually-themed lyrics. Favorite tracks: Spore, if i Equals u, Brevony

Honorable Mentions: Chromatics - Kill For Love; Regina Spektor - What We Saw From The Cheap Seat; Beach House - Bloom

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