Friday, July 3, 2015

Half-Year Favorites for 2015

The first six months of 2015 have come and gone, and they've certainly left an imprint on me. Both personal and pop culture experiences have been deeply emotional and memorable, and the past chapter might be one of the most significant seasons of my entire life. I'll write more about this transformative era, perhaps when I have more time to reflect upon the implications and themes.

In the midst of these affecting moments, the following films and albums have been the stories and soundtracks behind the scenes of my personal life, often adding their own flourishes and reverberations.


5. Something, Anything
A quiet, understated story of melancholy and spiritual searching that surprised me by its cathartic final moments. This story of loss and finding oneself was particularly meaningful for me during my season of recovering from burnout. Makes me want to read more Thomas Merton. (Essay coming soon for Christ and Pop Culture)

4. Inside Out
This now has the distinction of being the Pixar film that made me cry the most in the theater. Really, I ugly cried. Inside Out is back to what Pixar does best: telling simple-yet-profound stories in beautifully imaginative worlds. Joy is beautiful, but so is Sadness. #thefeels (Review coming soon)

3. World of Tomorrow
This 16-minute short film from animator Don Herztfeldt is full of more fascinating images and ideas than most full-length features. A sci-fi parable feature time travel, cloning, artificial intelligence, space travel, all revealed through the conversation between a little girl and her future self. Rent the movie here on Vimeo.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road
The best word to describe Mad Max: Fury Road is exceptional: uncommon, atypical, remarkable, freakish, outstanding, unique, special. Fury Road is a sort of "reversed exodus" story, the movement of a small band of liberated people who end up returning to their place of captivity in order to start afresh. It's also one of the top 10 action films I've ever seen, and even a significant, historic addition to the action pantheon. (My review.)

1. About Elly
The devastating film from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is actually from 2009, but was only released in the U.S. this spring. Like his later works, A Separation and The Past, About Elly offers both a universal and contextualized moral tale of incredible emotional weight. The story centers on a group of friends on a vacation excursion to the beach, where a single moment will cause their lives to wholly unravel. This is one of those films that leaves you with an ache in the gut and eyes filled with tears, in the best way possible. (Review coming soon).


5. Jamie xx - In Colour
An electronic dance album with far more going for it than four-on-the-floor bass drum beats and countless loops. Highly textured with synth, guitars, jazz drumming, and various vocalists, there's something on this album for everyone.

4. Josh Garrels - Home
Garrels follows up his excellent Love & War & The Sea In Between with Home, another fusion of reggae, folk, rap, and Garrels' unique vocalizations and spiritually-rich lyrics. Garrels' lyrics are a bit on-the-nose and explicitly Christian, which is a strength for these hymnic musical meditations.

3. Torres - Sprinter
Sprinter, the latest from 23-year-old Mackenzie Scott, feels like a manifesto for the millennial mantra of, "we like Jesus, but not the church." Intense and nuanced, Sprinter is a valuable album for spiritual seekers as she deconstructs her conservative Christian background, the ups and downs of one's spiritual journey perfectly paralleled in the songs' varying volumes and movement from quiet murmurs to angry outbursts.

2. Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
This is classic, grungy grrl rock from Pacific Northwest veterans. Straightforward, loud, angry, and driving. The vocals and guitars are memorable, but it's Janet Weiss's frantic-yet-precise drumming that gets me every time. I listen to this when I'm angry for being stuck in Portland traffic.

1. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
The second half of the year will have to produce some incredible music to supplant this as my favorite album. An intimate, poetic reflection on childhood, familial ties, and the invisible bonds that draw us together, even when it's painful. Filled with Biblical allusions and striking confessions, it's the most personal and cathartic of Stevens' albums.

What movies and music from the past six months have been significant for you? Share in the comments!

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