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TODCRA Presents The Best Of 2005 (Part I)

So, last year, we did a best-of-the-year list, and so, why not do it again this year? The rules are basically the same -- this is stuff that didn't necessarily come out in 2005 (though that helps), but stuff we got into during that year. Again, same categories and everything, and all that jazz. It's the one time a year it's basically OK to do a retread, and we are totally not above that. So, here goes! Happy new year!

MUSIC


Barnes & Barnes - Reissues of Amazing Adult Fantasy, Sicks and the release of Kodovoner - Oglio Records rocks. As if doing a hell of a good job with the Voobaha and Spazchow reissues wasn't good enough, they also worked with Art & Artie to put out the next two albums from Rhino. And if THAT wasn't enough, they put out Kodovoner, which is basically the Holy Grail of Barnes & Barnes fans -- the unreleased, lost album from 1983, from between Soak It Up and Amazing Adult Fantasy, which fills in a nice little gap. AND it's got a bunch of bonus tracks, too! So, you know, basically, what are you waiting for? Artie did a GREAT job making these tapes sound good, and Art's liner notes are excellent too, and, you know, the music itself is pretty good too. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Blanche - If We Can't Trust The Doctors… - I saw Blanche open for the Ditty Bops last time they played in Seattle, and was surprised when it turned out to be a show where every single band was great. (The other act was Purty Mouth.) This is a strong alt.country record, and it turns out that Dan John Miller's in the new Johnny Cash biopic, too! So, how about that. Anyway, check out "Garbage Picker", "Do You Trust Me?" and "Jack On Fire" especially. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Bran Flakes - Bounces - The Bran Flakes are pretty cool, and I'm a bit late to the party on them. Which sucks, because that's a lot of time I've missed out. I had them sorta mentally filed in the "Negativland" bin, but they're really not -- where Negativland is more based in collage, soundscapes and that sort of thing, The Bran Flakes are much more musical and into making songs. This album's from 2002, I think, but it's their most recent. And it's so catchy and good. Stuff from it just really gets lodged in your head. You might also check out the live-dub side-project from Sir Mildred Pitt, Library Science. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Laura Cantrell - Humming By The Flowered Vine - What more is there to say? This is the new Laura Cantrell record! It's a Laura Cantrell record! It's, like, by definition, awesome. You look up Laura Cantrell in the dictionary? It's gonna say "awesome". That Is All There Is To It. This is her Matador Records debut, and is slightly more poppy than her other records, but it works really well. Look, if you didn't get this the day it came out, unless you've got good reason, I'll just come out and say it -- I'm disappointed in you. You can make it up to me by getting it now. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Data Panik - Cubis (I Love You) b/w Sense Not Sense - Data Panik is the new band from bis, after they broke up a couple years ago. And, well, this is the only Data Panik release right now (though they're working on a full album), and it sounds basically like you'd expect -- it's bis. Which is good, because I love bis. The sound is most like the Music For A Stranger World EP, if you're looking for a proper comparison to which bis-era it is. It's just two songs, but they're great songs. It's a double-A side, too, but I'd have to say the A-side-eist of this single is probably "Sense Not Sense". Either way, though. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Ditty Bops - Archive.org mp3 listings - It might not be an album per se, but it's got loads of stuff, and it's got "Angel With An Attitude", so what are you complaining about? The Ditty Bops are not only awesome but taper friendly. Like I've been telling everyone (and I mean EVERYONE), they put out the best record of last year, and their live shows are EVEN BETTER. So, seriously, check this stuff OUT. Just start downloading all these shows. They also have more in FLAC format, but I tend to find that's too much futzing around and all that. If you're that into it, though, you can find those around on Archive.org. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Eels - Blinking Lights & Other Revelations - It's rare to find a double album that's couldn't be reduced to one disc by cutting out all the filler, and it's even rarer to find a double album with a bunch of instrumental link tracks that you can say the same about. But here, the link tracks (with a lot of great names like "Theme For A Pretty Girl That Makes You Believe God Exists" or "Dusk: A Peach In The Orchard") are good too! Eels did a support tour for this record with a string section, and it was one of my favorite shows. A lot of their songs really lend themselves to those arrangements, though strangely, they played very little from the Electroshock Blues album -- perhaps it was too obvious. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Brian Eno - Another Day On Earth - I love Eno. Granted, I tend to "appreciate" his ambient stuff more than really "enjoy" it, per se, but it's still pretty cool. Although, this means that I was overjoyed when I found out his new record was going to be a "rock" record, and I got it the day it came out. As it turns out, it's not really Rock -- it's not, say, Here Come The Warm Jets Part II or anything, but all the songs have vocals and he's got his amazingly good pop-song-structure back in full form, even if his lyrics aren't quite as crystallized and absurd as they were on the first four records. "Bottomliners" is probably my favorite from this album, though "Bone Bomb" is particularly good as well. And Eno's cover art is amazing. (The picture on the back, not so much.) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

IQU - Sun Q - I first saw IQU open with Kanda at an Of Montreal show this summer, and was really impressed. The coolest thing with them is that not only do they have a theremin, but they actually know how to PLAY it. I don't mean "just get cool space-y noise out" -- they actually do MELODIES on it. Witness from this record, their cover of "Loving You". MAN. Also, the rest of the album is just really cool, fun dance-type stuff. I don't have their first record, but I've heard it, and I don't enjoy it nearly as much; if, perhaps, you've heard that one and were less-than-impressed, check Sun Q out anyway -- I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Kanda - All The Good Meetings Are Taken - Full disclosure: I know the guy who runs Kanda's label, Boptart. In fact, that's how I found out about them; he gave me a copy of their CD and said "Here, I think you'll really like this". At the time, I didn't know him well at all (we'd met maybe a week earlier, and I'd just given him a copy of the first mix CD), so I was a little bit leery (I used to be in college radio, so I know how often "Hey, I think you'll like this" tends to actually mean "Here's something my band recorded on a boombox! It's all songs about how girls don't like me! Also, I drank a bunch of Draino before singing to make sure my voice sounded right!"), but I put it in that morning and OH MY GOD IT WAS GOOD. And I don't even mean that in a "Oh, I was expecting something horrible, and I got something OK!" way -- I mean that in the same way that if I had bought this album from a record store, I would have been just as into it. I keep trying to turn other people on to this record. It's EXCELLENT electropop -- very delicate sounding, very fragile, but so very, very good. Such a great sound on this album. And, hey, how can you go wrong with an album title (and a track title from their previous record!) that references Annie Hall? I love this record -- if there's a problem with it, it's that it's too short. And, as problems go, that's a pretty good one. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

James Kochalka Superstar - Our Most Beloved - It's just a best-of, sure, but a) James Kochalka Superstar is pretty awesome and b) It comes with a DVD of a bunch of his music videos and a couple Easter Eggs. I do wish the DVD included the complete Monkey Vs. Robot: The James Kochalka Superstar Story VHS tape (it IS only, like, 20 minutes long, and it's got a bunch of live stuff on there, too), but, hey, it DOES have the "Don't Trust Whitey" video (which features a picture of a Resident) and the Nickelodeon videos (including the hilarious "Hockey Monkey" one where they made James wear a mask, since a lot of his songs are dirty, and they didn't want kids seeking him out. Since, you know, he always puts his face on all the record sleeves and also people look up records by the faces of the guy who made them. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)


Kraftwerk - Minimum-Maximum - After, like, a zillion years recording (and also, between 1986 and 2004, not recording), Kraftwerk finally put out a live record. And it's great! Since they're an electronic band (and also obsessive perfectionists), the sound quality is excellent, and the arrangements are different enough to be compelling for long-time fans, but similar enough to function as a great introduction for the neophyte Kraftwerk fan. And, check that version of "Dentaku"! It's great to hear an audience so overcome by a song, y'know? You can just feel the energy on that recording. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Ladytron - Witching Hour - This is Ladytron's debut record for Rykodisc, and apparently it was held up for 3 years due to all sorts of rights issues. It's also the strongest record of their career, and the one that's FINALLY getting them some critical respect. I loved their first two records, 604 and Light & Magic, but this one is much superior. Like they always do, they've changed their style a bit again (604 was a bit more Electropop, with much more of a Kraftwerk obsession, while Light & Magic was a little bit darker and dancier with a bit more emphasis on repetition); Witching Hour is much darker and a little bit closer to rock (but just slightly). If Light & Magic is the kind of metaphorical darkness which appears when everything is lit brightly with a pristine, sterile white surface, daring you to find what's wrong with something that's too eerily perfect, Witching Hour is what happens when the power grid in that world blows out. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Lightning Seeds - Like You Do… The Best Of - I've heard that The Lightning Seeds was Ian Broudie's attempt at the perfect pop band, and, well, that's basically what this is. The albums are all really good, but I tend to listen to this best-of compilation the most -- partially because of the redone version of "Waiting For Today To Happen", but also because part of the thrust of a perfect pop band is that they've got perfect singles. And, well, they've got those in spades. "Sugar Coated Iceberg" is one of those that deserves to be in a "Pop Music Hall Of Fame" type thing along side "Daydream Believer" and "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite". I've just recently gotten into them (even though they haven’t done anything since 1999 or thereabouts; Ian Broudie has put out a solo record this year, but I've only heard it once, and that once didn't quite click with me -- though I know it's not fair to base a real opinion like that on one listening), although I remember hearing some of their stuff when I was in the UK about 10 years ago for 3 weeks, just sort of in the background, on television and whatnot. Still, I wish I'd known they were so good earlier. (And known that was them on the TV back then!) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Li'l Markie - Sings For The Lord - WFMU reposted this compilation by Otis F. Odder from The Bran Flakes. Li'l Markie is pretty disturbing, really. In fact, a thing I wrote for the High Weirdness Project is apparently the #2 result on Yahoo Search for "Li'l Markie". I'm down a little ways on Google, though. Still, though, listen to this for brain-melting wacky-Christian goodness. Soon, the entire nation will have its toes tapping to the strains of "Why Did You Kill Me Mommy?"-- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Madness - The Dangermen Sessions, Volume 1 - This album took a while to grow on me. I'd had it for a while and kind of liked some of the tracks on it, but what made the album click for me was seeing them live a couple months ago. This is their newest album, and it's pretty much all straight ska, which is cool, though I'm much more into their pop stuff (their pop stuff is EXQUISITE). It's also all covers, which is also a little bit of a letdown, but the arrangements are all pretty much new. I really like "You Keep Me Hanging On", which almost reminds me of a Pet Shop Boys version of that song, just with the synth bits played on a particularly impressive horn section. If you get a chance, see them live, but if that doesn't work, I don't know, put this album on your stereo, intercut each track with applause and stand up in front of your speakers. A smoke-machine is optional. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree - There's actually quite a few records on this list that actually DID come out in 2005! I'm surprised, since I think last year was mostly stuff that had come out a while ago. Either way, though, while this isn't the best Mountain Goats album (still partial to We Shall All Be Healed), it really is damned good. Another one produced by John Vanderslice, and another auto-biographical album, this is about John Darnielle's abusive step-father and his impact on John Darnielle's life. My favorite track is "Dance Music", but pretty much every track is outstanding. And the cover photograph is beautiful. That's perhaps the best thing about the Mountain Goats signing to 4AD -- 4AD know how to do album packaging. For reals. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Yoko Ono - Season Of Glass - This is Yoko Ono's album recorded after her husband was shot, an attempt to deal with the pain and emotions resulting in that tragic murder. It's an incredibly emotional and powerful album -- while listening to it for the first time, I found myself on the verge of tears and I couldn't really place why. It's an amazing and beautiful album, though sadly a bit difficult to find (while trying to find a copy for Field Marshall Stack's birthday, I ended up hitting basically every record store in Seattle -- no dice; I think my copy might have been the last one…). Definitely pick this album up if you see it. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

New Order - Republic - I just got this record not too long ago, and it's really good. The problem is that for the longest time, I'd had New Order mentally classified as a Depeche Commode (my basic reaction to Depeche Commode is that they would be pretty good if they'd maybe think of lightening up just like a skosh for reals). So, upon actually LISTENING to New Order, my reaction is kind of "Dammit, Brain!" for having missed out for so long. They put out a record this year (or maybe last year, but I think it was this year), but I don't have that one. But it's probably really good, too. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Posies - Dear 23 - I just got into the Posies this year; they put out their first record in like forever this year, too, although that one hasn't quite clicked with me yet. So far, my favorite is either Dear 23 or Amazing Disgrace, so I went with this one. They do a really good live show, too. For a while, the only thing I really knew about them is that Ken Stringfellow did some cool work with the Minus 5, including "A Thousand Years Away", which is a really great song. So, you know, it's good to know that the Posies' stuff is actually really, really good, too. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Purty Mouth - Online Demo Tracks - This is a local country band. They're really good - their schtick is that they're all (or mostly all) gay, and as such, all the songs are gay-themed, however, they're a country band first, and that's how it should be. It's clear that they're doing this not because they think it's funny, but because they legitimately love the music (though, presumably, the humor of the situation is a nice bonus reason to do it). They've recorded a few songs, and occasionally swap them out on their website. Last time I checked, one of the songs is their cover of Kirsty MacColl's "Teenager In Love", which I have to thank for getting me into Kirsty MacColl. That song is SO GOOD. I think the original is better, but Purty Mouth's version is pretty great, too, and, hey, without them, I would have been missing out something fierce.

The Sacred Truths - S/T - This is another local band, and they just put out an EP. I saw them live, and was blown away -- I didn't know what to expect, and was fearing a "Look How Wacky We Are!" type band; luckily, I was wrong. They've got a sense of humor (I mean, they've got a song on here called "Unlikely Doughnut Picnic"), but it's not really "Wacky", which is always good because people who think they're "wacky" very rarely are, but it's also really musically good -- and even rarer for a self-produced, self-released EP -- it's actually RECORDED WELL. Hell, even if the EP sucked, it might be worth it for that alone for the rarity of such a beast! -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Sonics - Here Are The Sonics!!!! - If I have one thing to thank the Young Fresh Fellows for, aside you know, from the awesome music, it's for getting me into the Sonics. The Sonics are one of the quintessential 1960s Garage-Rock Bands, and this is their first record. Lots of great stuff on here -- I love "Strychnine", especially. I almost put Boom on here instead -- they're both excellent albums, although, for the most part, the covers (excepting "Louie Louie" -- the Sonics' version should have been the Big-Time Famous One instead of the Kingsmen's) aren't nearly as good as the originals, which are outnumbered by the covers. The Sonics' records are an important piece of rock history, and they're really good, too! -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Sparks - Li'l Beethoven -- I've just gotten into Sparks, too, and while this album took a little bit of time to warm up to me, I've really gotten into it. Initially, the repetitiveness of the songs turned me off, but after a while it really clicked with me. I absolutely adore "My Baby's Walking Me Home", and, aside from the recitation, the only lyrics are the title. It's not a perfect album (I could, honestly, do without "How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?"), but it's really good, and, well, "My Baby's Walking Me Home" is worth the price of admission alone. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Stereolab - Oscillons From The Anti-Sun -- I've recently gotten into Stereolab, and this collection of their various single tracks (along with a bonus DVD!) is really cool. I love the version of "Jenny Ondoline" on here, and the videos are real cool, too. For a long time I resisted Stereolab, but now I dig them. I finally picked up a copy of Sound-Dust recently, too, even after using "Nothing To Do With Me" for basically everything. In fact, right now, I'm listening to a recently purchased copy of ABC Music, the disc of the BBC Radio 1 sessions. I was happy to see that it actually has "Nothing To Do With Me" on it, along with a 6 minute version of "Les Yper-Sound". -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

t.A.T.u. - Dangerous And Moving -- I love t.A.T.u. and everyone knows it. They've finally released a new record, and it turned out to be really great. I still think 200 km/H in the Wrong Lane is the better of the two records, but, hey, this one is still pretty danged good (awful cover art aside; seriously, what is the deal with that? Did they just get some kid who just pirated his first copy of Photoshop?). Trevor Horn only produces one track on here, and oddly enough, it's the one that sounds the least like stuff from the first album. Also, Richard Carpenter arranged strings on one track! (Sting also plays bass on another, but, man, Fuck The Police.) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Talking Heads - Brick - I've been waiting for this for years. A few years back, they announced that Jerry Harrison was working on remixing Remain In Light for 5.1, and so I held off on picking that one up. It was supposed to come out in "March" for a while, but it finally came out a couple months ago… along with all of the other albums, remastered and remixed on Dualdiscs with bonus tracks. Which is great, since the original CD masters were pretty ass. If you don't want to pick up the Brick (what is WRONG with you?), next year, the albums will be released individually, so, still, hold off on getting the studio albums until those come out. (But, in the mean time, pick up Stop Making Sense or The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads.) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

They Might Be Giants - Podcast 1A - I have to admit being interested in podcasts more in theory than in practice. They seem interesting, and I've even thought about making one of my own, but have I ever listened to one? Well, I've started a couple (the Residents' Bogcast, once, but it was real boring, and the Family Guy Foxcast, but, well, that was 20 minutes and basically an audio commentary without the video, so…), but nope. However, I DID listen to this one all the way through. TMBG actually figured out how to do a Podcast and make it interesting -- mainly, very little talk, and a lot of rare/new songs. Is it preferable to just putting up a bunch of mp3s of the songs with written commentary? No, but it's not too bad, either. People Of The World: Witness This Podcast, And Emulate Same. (It helps if you've got a huge wodge of new/unreleased They Might Be Giants stuff, though.) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players - Volume II, Adventures In Middle America - Last night I had a dream where I was at a Trachtenburgs show, front and center, and near the end of the show, Jason recognized me and asked me to come up to introduce the band. I started by telling the crowd how I first got into them about 2 months before they moved to NYC, and spent that two months, following them around and basically stalking them. Jason glared at me when I said that, and so I sort of stuttered out a "well, you know, going to all the shows and all" and quickly went into the actual introductions, starting with Tina Piña Trachtenburg, then going to Rachel. This is the second album; it's self-released right now, but I would assume that it'll come out on Bar/None or some similar label next year. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Ween - Shinola Vol. 1 - This is basically the stuff Ween threw away. Yet, the shocking thing is how GOOD it is. I suppose that just goes to show what a good band Ween is that one of their castoffs can be one of my favorite songs ever (talking about the version of "Monique The Freak" that's on here). It might not be a great starter record, but, hey, it IS pretty awesome. Ween kicks ass. Y'all need to start listening to Ween if you don't already. They are my mother's favorite band. Her favorite record by anyone is either White Pepper or 12 Golden Country Greats, though she's grown awfully fond of Quebec as well. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Young Fresh Fellows - Gleich Jetzt - This is a real hard-to-find Fellows album. It's been out for a long while, but only in Japan and on an indie label, and these various facts conspired to make it real hard-to-find. But it's SO worth it. It's made up of some non-album 7"s, and some of the cuts from the first few albums re-recorded with Kurt (as this album was recorded shortly after Kurt joined the band), and as such, they're much, much more rockin'. Not that the songs necessarily NEEDED to be more rockin', but now that they are? It's pretty rad. This is actually a pretty cool starter if you're a Fastbacks fan interested in the Fellows -- there's actually a version of "On Your Hands" on here, which was a Fastbacks song. So there you go. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)


MOVIES/DVD


The Aristocrats - I am a huge fan of this joke. I even started an LJ Community (theartistocrats) no one visits devoted to it! And, well, this film is basically just this joke over and over and over again. Sure, there's also a lot of really interesting history and backstory here, but, you know, the main thing is the joke. Particularly Sarah Silverman's version of the joke - oh my god. That one ALONE -- basically, even if the rest of the movie sucked (which it doesn't) -- is worth the price of full admission. Though this probably isn't for folks who are easily offended. (Though if you're easily offended what you're doing reading TODCRA stuff is beyond me.) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Broken Flowers - This is the second Jim Jarmusch film I've seen and the first I've liked. (Well, Coffee & Cigarettes was OK in places -- since it was a collection of shorts, anyway. Some of the shorts were completely awesome, and some of them were really, really painful. It's probably much better on DVD than in a theater, because you can always skip over the sucky shorts.) Anyway, though, as everyone knows by now, Bill Murray is an great dramatic actor. And he really does that "funny-yet-sad" thing really well in this too, as he did in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. For some reason, this one didn't seem to do so well critically, but I liked it way more than I was expecting to. I thought it was great. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Brothers Grimm - Yeah, it's a second-tier Gilliam, but we don't get new Terry Gilliam films too often (and Tideland hasn't made it out in my neck of the woods yet, otherwise I'm betting that's the one that'd be on this list instead). This is another one that was critically pretty reviled, and it wasn't really that bad. (Unlike Burton's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, which seemed to get really good reviews, and I thought it was only mediocre.) Yeah, the CG sucked, although I've heard that was the studio butting in and not letting Gilliam do the standard real FX that he likes and prefers. This one does have a bit of problem with the studio butting in, and, well, the whole French Army subplot could have been excised, but it's still really good and definitely worth seeing. For reals. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Fearless Freaks - Going into this film, I was a little lukewarm on The Flaming Lips. I mean, I loved Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots of course, just like everyone else, and I love the 5.1 mix particularly of that record, but The Soft Bulletin kind of left me cold, and I was kind of thinking that maybe Yoshimi would sate me, Lips-wise. But this film sounded interesting, so I saw it. And, man, I came out a complete Flaming Lips fan, which is a pretty good endorsement of your band documentary, I'd say. Even though it's made by a close friend of the band with heavy-band involvement, it's not that gushing or anything. And, well, the scene with Steven Drozd shooting up (I don't think this is really a spoiler, it's been in basically every single review that's even been thought of being written) is completely harrowing and difficult to watch (in a good way). Even if you're not that into this band, you might at least rent it. (Unless you really, really hate them. But then you probably don't need me to say "Maybe this film isn't really for you" in that case.) -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Found Footage Festival - This is a touring film festival featuring loads of cool footage taken from various old VHS tapes and it's just chock full of hilarity. If this comes to your town, you totally have to go. Luckily, however, they've also put out a DVD of one of the shows, complete with the live commentary, so if you missed out on seeing them, you can re-create it in your own home! I've actually sent them a care-package of all sorts of video goodness a few months ago, and if you've got anything, too, send it along! It's AWESOME. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Funeral Parade of Roses - For some bizarre reason which I have no idea how I ended up with, I've got a short essay on this film all ready to copy-paste in with a few minor modifications! How about that:
Funeral Parade of Roses" is Toshio Matsumoto's first feature-length film, after finding much success in the world of short films and documentaries. This film is a huge influence on Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of A Clockwork Orange -- a double feature of the two films would be very interesting, despite the different subject matter.

This film is a retelling of Oedipus Rex set in the Tokyo Gay Bar scene; the trans actor Peter (who also appeared in Akira Kurosawa's Ran, among many other films) takes the lead role. The film isn't just a straight retelling of the classic story, however; Matsumoto's documentarian past comes through as several interviews are weaved into the film -- with the actors about making the film and with trans people (including some of the actors) about the Japanese gay culture and what it is to be trans in general. Other footage from television shows and other sources are also spliced in, and other surprises that I'd prefer not to spoil.

Unfortunately, this film is very difficult to find. In Japan, a box set of four of Matsumoto's features was recently released with remastered prints (from which this appears to be taken), and a couple months ago, a box set of his shorts was also released; outside of Japan, Matsumoto is unknown, and his films are unavailable outside of bootleg sources. If you enjoy this film, I ask you to write to the Criterion Collection asking them to release the work of Toshio Matsumoto (If you're not in North America, perhaps ask country's Film Institute, or a favorite DVD label specializing in these kinds of films.) This is an interesting and important film that I wish would be released legitimately outside of Japan. I don't know who owns the rights outside Japan. New Yorker Films put out the original print for the 1970 US screening, but I don't think they still hold the rights to the film.

For more on Matsumoto, there is a fine interview linked to from his Wikipedia entry.-- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)


Good Night & Good Luck - This film puts me in the weird position of legitimately being a George Clooney fan. I thought his first film, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was OK, but was trying a little bit too hard (and apparently Charlie Kaufman's basically disowned it due to changes made to the script), but this film? It is magnificent. It's a very strong contender for best film of the year. If Howl's Moving Castle hadn't come out this year, it'd have been a shoe-in, but that's just because Miyazaki basically trumps all that's not Miyazaki. I suppose it helps that I'm really interested in McCarthyism, Media, TV, Journalism and Edward R. Murrow, so basically I'm kind of a sucker for this sort of thing anyway, but it's really done insanely well. I was just completely floored by how good this movie was. Luckily, it seems to be doing pretty well at the box office (at least, well for an art-house black & white film, but you know), so perhaps you already know how excellent this film is. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Grizzly Man - Werner Herzog's new documentary was great. At the time, I'd only seen one other Herzog (Even Dwarfs Started Small, if you're wondering), which I'd really deeply enjoyed, but just, like, I don't know, never got around to seeing more. Although, after seeing this one, I knew that I had to rectify this. (Since I have seen God's Angry Man and The Wild Blue Yonder, both excellent. I also have the Herzog/Kinski box, thanks to Field Marshall Stack!) Anyway, this is about Timothy Treadwell, a self-taught conservation-focused not-really-biologist-not-sure-what-you'd-call-him-maybe-nature-enthusiast-yeah-let's-go-with-that, who basically was obsessing on bears and ended up getting eaten by one. (To answer the question I always get when people find out I've seen this film, usually phrased along the lines of "I really want to see this, but…" -- no, you don't see or hear anything from the actual bear-mauling.) It's really interesting as Treadwell's "Nature Is Wonderful And Beautiful" philosophy is directly at odds with Herzog's "Nature Is Brutal And Cold" philosophy. The shot of the bear which is the most likely candidate for Treadwell-eatin' with Herzog's narration over it is really great (and sort of darkly funny). If this isn't in theaters anymore, it'll probably be coming on DVD soon. Definitely worth a watching. I'd say it's worth a blind-buy, actually. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Howl's Moving Castle - It's the new Miyazaki film. Of course it's going to be on this list. Sure, it's not quite as good as Spirited Away, but, well, like Spirited Away, if you don't like this film, you are worse than Hitler. Not much more to say than that. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Jesus Is Magic - I wonder how many positive reviews of this film had something along the lines of "Jesus may or may not be magic, but Sarah Silverman sure is!" I don't care enough to look it up, but it would be interesting to see, since it's a really easy and lame headline, but newspapers typically tend to shy away from joking about Jesus. Speaking of which -- the Seattle Post-Intelligencer review for this was HILARIOUS; 90% of the review (which was a couple columns) was about how Sarah Silverman's comedy is easy and cheap and offensive-for-the-sake-of-being-offensive and that it heralded a big downfall in comedy and doesn't she know any nice jokes and all that jazz. But the last paragraph was this begrudging "But it IS funny…", which just cracked me up, since being basically a stand-up comedy concert film (though one that is shot pretty well; it's not the Stop Making Sense of Stand-Up films or anything, though), you'd think that'd be one of the more important things. But being a daily paper, they've got to write for the dead-and-dying I suppose, who would be typically all horrified at Sarah Silverman's jokes. (Speaking of which, too, in Salon there was a letters column about this film, and someone wrote in talking about how deeply offended they were by her joke on SNL about 10 years ago -- "Well, Kevin, I guess the most important event of this past week was, of course, the wedding of my sister, Susan Silverman, to Yosef Abramowitz. It was a really neat wedding, too, you know, ’cause they took each other’s last names and hyphenated it. So now my sister’s name is Susan Silverman-Abramowitz. But they’re thinking of shortening it to just “Jews." -- and I'm thinking, "Man, if THAT's the most offensive thing you've heard Sarah Silverman say…") Anyway, it's really short and not all of the bits work well (in retrospect, anyway; when they're on screen, they're HILARIOUS), but you should really see this if you get a chance. It'll probably show up on HBO soon, anyway. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou - This came out last year, but I just now got around to seeing it when Criterion put out their 2-disc set of it. (Awesome Mark Mothersbaugh featurette on there, BTW.) And, I don't know, even though it's probably the weakest Wes Anderson film, it's STILL Wes Anderson, and I love Wes Anderson. And this is the second Bill Murray film on here. Henry Selick even contributed to it (he did the various wonderful creatures they come across)! I know the David Bowie Portuguese covers weren't for everyone, but I thought they worked. If for some reason you haven't been watching Wes Anderson's stuff, it's probably better to start with Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, but whatever. It's still clear that he totally bogarted all of the "Anderson" allotted talent from P.T. "Not Barnum, Because That Would Make Him Kinda Cool" Anderson. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Meaning Of Life - This was part of The Animation Show, Volume 2, which, I suppose should also appear here, but this is the main thing I remember from it, because it was 5+ years in the making. I really like Don Hertzfeldt's stuff a lot, and this was really interesting. I'd love to see it again (only seen it once), and I thought it was really cool; just an amazing piece of animation, from an artistic standpoint -- especially since everything was done in-camera. Really beautiful. Not nearly as funny as his other stuff (which I think turned some people off, since all his other stuff is, well, hilarious), but still a really great film. Really cool and impressing. It's hard to say much more about it -- after all, it's only 14 minutes long, so to say much more would give everything away. Watch it! . -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

The Nomi Song - Like Fearless Freaks, I came out of this a fan. It's Andrew Horn's great documentary on the new-wave-opera-what-have-you singer Klaus Nomi. Unlike with the Flaming Lips, though, I went in vaguely remembering the name (after all, he was part of the spiritual guidance of the Moog Cookbook, if "Uli Nomi" is any indication). So, I went in thinking "This would be kind of interesting to see; I know nothing about the music, but maybe that'd be cool, too". Then, I found out I'd actually SEEN a live performance of him on Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (Michael O'Donoghue's parody of the Mondo Cane series of films, featuring Mondo Insanity, Mondo Candido and Mondo Bondage), and just forgotten about it! But still, though, the fact remains that after coming out of that film, I started tracking down the two Klaus Nomi albums (and seeing that there's about a million best-ofs, which is strange since one CD will actually hold both albums in their entirety). Although, even if you don't like the music, it's a really great, sad story. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Palindromes - I am a huge Todd Solondz fan. I think everyone knows this, as I basically announce it at every opportunity. I mean, I even have a copy of Fear, Anxiety & Depression on VHS (don't bother, though -- there's a reason Solondz has disowned it). I even really liked Storytelling! However, he's really outdone himself with Palindromes. I know Field Marshall Stack actually likes this one better than Welcome To The Dollhouse; I don't think I'd go quite that far, but it's close. It's much more successful than Happiness, which I also loved. I'm not sure if talking about the Gimmick of the film is fair game (every review mentioned it, but I don't really want to spoil it), but I just want to say that even though it sounds really gimmicky and sounds like pointless showboating -- it REALLY, REALLY WORKS in the context of the film and everything. This is also one of Solondz' most (or, perhaps, only?) visually beautiful film -- there's a lot of really striking shots. He's finally broken out a little from the standard Solondz "Set up the shots in a no-frills way to just have the actors do their thing" mode. Though there was a little bit of experimentation with shots in Storytelling as well -- it's much better here, though. Of course, since it's Solondz, there were a lot of reviews who were all "OMG!!! HE IS ALL MESSED UP!1111!11 HE HATES HIS CHARACTERS!!!!11!111 WHAAAAOOOO!!111!1!" and basically, those people are idiots. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)


Save The Green Planet - This was on last year's list, actually. It only appears here just because Koch finally put out a US DVD of this (and a UK DVD exists, too), so this is basically another reminder from me to see this amazing goddamn film. You don't have an excuse now. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Wallace & Gromit:The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - This film is great. You should see it right now. But come in 10 minutes late if they're still pairing it with that hideous Madagascar short about the penguin Christmas thing. (I have no idea why they decided pairing those would be a good idea, considering that, well, the short is already awful, but made much worse as it's immediately before a film that shows them how it SHOULD be done. At least they didn't put it AFTER the feature; that'd just be cruel.) For a while, I got sick of Aardman (I blame the Chevron cars which were completely oversaturated AND also based on the Creature Comforts short (and now series), which is the one Aardman thing I've ALWAYS hated. Sorry, just never found it funny, important, poignant or anything other than mind-crushingly boring.) and just couldn't stand to see anything with their style. I am so glad I am finally NOT sick of Aardman, because if I was, I would have missed out on this excellent movie for very stupid reasons. (I still need to see Chicken Run in fact.) Anyway, everyone, I assume knows Wallace & Gromit (if not, where have you BEEN?), and this is basically just a feature-length adventure of theirs; although, unlike a lot of shorts-expanded-to-features, Nick Park & Company know exactly how to handle their (wonderful) characters and the film doesn't drag at all and there's no sense of padding or of stapling two or three shorts together to make it a full-length thing (*coughcoughStewieGriffinStorycoughcoughthoughthat'sexactlywhatitwasandtheywereupfrontaboutitbutstillitwasreallydisjointedandtobetruthfulnotreallyallthatgreatbutitdidhaveitsmomentscoughcough*). Just a really excellent, excellent film. And the cool thing -- the audience when we saw it on opening night was basically equally cut between kids and families and adults -- and everyone in the house enjoyed it as far as I could tell the exact same amount -- immensely. We need more family-friendly films that are INTELLIGENT and don't just string together a bunch of pop-culture references that'll make the film completely out of date in 3 years because they're all basically "Hey, remember that show The Apprentice? Wasn't that awesome when Donald Trump said 'You're fired!'? That was hilarious because now a BEAR is saying 'You're fired!' It's PURE COMEDY!"-- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)


TV SHOWS


The Andy Milonakis Show - This show is possibly the stupidest thing on this list. But, oh MAN is it my kind of stupid. It's surprising that Jimmy Kimmel seems to surround himself with people who are way more talented and awesome (Adam Corolla excepted) -- he discovered Andy Milonakis, and he's dating Sarah Silverman. So, how about that? Anyway, though, this is one of those great shows that you can just sit down and watch a bunch of and actually feel your brain shrinking and your IQ dropping like 20 points. But it's SO glorious when it does. So many quotable lines from this -- hell, so many quoteable lines from the themesong. "Got peas on my head, but don't call me a pea-head/Got bees on my head, but don't call me a bee-head/Bruce Lee's on my head, but don't call me a Lee-head". -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Cartoon Network Christmas Specials - Ok, I can only think of two that I actually liked right now. First up, "Billy and Mandy: The Fright Before Christmas". Gilbert Gottfried plays Santa Claus. That right there is brilliant casting. ...I can't think of anything else other than "it was funny." Sorry. The "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" special also makes this list because it too was funny, but unfortunately I felt the ending seemed kind of tacked on or out of place. I think I would have liked it better if they had gone with the ending being "Ok, so there's no Santa Claus. It's not the end of the world. Appreciate your mom a little more, kid," because that's how it felt like where it was heading. Usually in a special where someone doubts Santa Claus they don't really give that many compelling arguments for why he doesn't exist. But this one did, so when they pulled a "He is real!" it was REALLY disappointing. But Bloo as the ghost of Bob Marley and a robot really made the whole show. - Dr. Chef (circusvargas)

Moral Orel - The Best Christmas Ever - This is the Christmas Special by Dino from Mr. Show and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and it's REALLY GOOD. Really impressive, really -- it's good to see that Adult Swim is getting back into experimental comedy, rather than "Hey! Here's some shit that we came up with when we got high! We'd go back to it later and make it funny now that we're sober, but, eh, you idiots will eat up any crap we do." It might not air again until next year, but hopefully you can download it. It's really, really excellent. I was really just incredibly impressed with the way they did this one. -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)


Teen Titans

I've been watching Teen Titans for a long time, basically since it premiered, but it was about this year in which I REALLY got into it. It's really an outstanding show, and I'm just glad that I got Field Marshall Stack into it. Since it took him a while to get into it, too. But now he's all like "THIS IS THE BEST SHOW ON CARTOON NETWORK" and I am all like "I KNOW". And, of course, CN, in their infinite wisdom has decided to not make any more episodes after this season. So, please, write them over it! -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

Wonder Showzen - This show is probably one of the most offensive things on TV. It's strange -- they censor, say, South Park to hell and back, but if they were to air the most offensive South Park uncensored, it wouldn't hold a candle to the sheer "Dear GOD" nature of even the blandest Wonder Showzen (probably the episode entitled "Patience", which, well, you've GOT to see). I'm pretty difficult to shock, and there's stuff on that show that's left me completely gob-smacked. I'm really not typically one for Shock Comedy, or Shock-For-Its-Own-Sake comedy, but there's something different about Wonder Showzen. Perhaps it's the real kids on it. I don't know. But whatever it is, you have to see this show, and it's surprising to me that Fundie Nutjobs haven't started protesting it and raising a stink. My only guess is that whenever someone who WOULD protest it stumbles across it, their head explodes from the sheer horror at what they're seeing. So, you know, Wonder Showzen provides a valuable public service. I still like what Tycho said about the show:
If they really want to come across as chivalrous defenders of virtue, they need to go after Wonder Showzen.
Have you ever seen this show? It's on your "MTV2." I don't really
get offended, you should see some of the videos I have on my desktop for ready access, but if I was the sort of person who got offended for show and tried to get famous for it Wonder Showzen would be the tool I'd use to finally dismantle that pesky First Amendment. If Charles Schumer or some other professional scold were to bring this program to wider public attention, it wouldn't be like the Videogame Controversy, where they get up and yell, and then someone reminds them we live in The United States Of America, and everybody sits down with their hands neatly folded until the sequel. No. If the populace at large saw Wonder Showzen, there would be no public hearings, no televised debate, and certainly no warning. You would just wake up one morning and your television would be gone.
Yeah, pretty much… -- Rev. Syung Myung Me (revme)

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