A Slice of Fried Gold

Favorite Albums of 2011

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The last part of my favorites lists of 2011 is my favorite albums of 2011. I'm doing things a little bit differently than usual, as I'm typically pretty methodical in breaking down a top 20. Because of my trip, I fell way behind on music, and for those who are obsessed with music it becomes pretty obvious that staying on top of what's new and what's good is a full time job in a lot of ways. With the trip and a job search going back-to-back, my music obsession waned and I became more of a casual fan.

Plus, 2011 really was the year of Spotify for me. I pretty much only listen to music on there at this point, and with my driving time now more focused on podcasts, there's just less time for new music.

That said, it seems like 2011 was a pretty solid year for music. My list is after the jump and in in more of a general order, favorite to least favorite, and proves that I favor old favorites to the new hotness those kids these days are listening to.

Favorite TV Shows of 2011

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Treat yo self to my list
Today's 2011 in Review list is going to be...my favorite TV shows of 2011!

Now, to be honest, being gone half of the year made it pretty easy to fall behind on a lot of TV shows. That said, I did my best to catch up on the ones I used to love and there were some I honestly couldn't miss no matter what I did. Regardless, because of missing so many, this will only be a top five list.

But what a top five! I love all five of them, with one of them having a new season coming on my birthday and the top pick having a theme song that currently is my ringtone. Yeah! Find out my picks after the jump.

Favorite Movies of 2011

Monday, January 2, 2012
To start off my favorite of everything in 2011, I'm going to lead off with my favorite movies of 2011. Now, just to be clear, this isn't the best movies of 2011. Sure, you could make an argument that Lars Von Trier's Melancholia was a significantly "better" film than anything on my list, but man, I just didn't enjoy it (mostly because Kirsten Dunst's spectacular performance was tied to a character who was utterly reprehensible in every way someone can be reprehensible).

So this isn't about best, it's just about the movies that I look back on as the ones that I enjoyed the most for base level enjoyment mixed with overall quality.

But that's enough of that. On to the list, of which the keyword is "nostalgia," which you can find after the jump.

Note: I still haven't seen a few movies that could easily make this list, so my apologies to War Horse (saw the play - amazing! - and seeing the movie today), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Tree of Life, The Artist, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and a range of other assuredly great movies.

Second Note: I FORGOT TROLL HUNTER! Troll Hunter is amazing! Must watch!

The World Trip Wrap Up

Sunday, January 1, 2012
Partying in Edinburgh with a kilt, a tweed vest and a fantastic hat
Well, my life is finally starting to get figured out. After an immense time away from this blog and from real life, it's time to start this blog back up. I've got a new job starting up January 5th at Anchorage's Nerland Agency, so I figured it was about time to get reconnected with sharing every single little detail about my life with you even if you don't want to know them.

And I'll start with doing something I should have done a long time ago - wrapping up my world trip adventure by sharing my favorites of anything and everything I did. And it was a pretty good time. It turns out that dropping everything and adventuring for half a year is actually as fun as it seems like it should be. Shocking, right?

Look for more from me sooner rather than later, and click through the jump to see that wrap up. Also, if you're interested in anything from my trip in specific, please ask me!

The Catch Up Plan

Saturday, July 31, 2010
I think a lot of my problem with getting back into blogging is the fact that I feel like I just have so damn much to cover from the past couple months during my slacker days of writing. At least, that's what Sheri and I came up with while she was up visiting. So in lieu of going back through and posting every little thing I wanted to post about and beyond, I'm going to unveil a three step plan to getting back into blogging.

1) Catch up in pictures - One post, tons of pictures, all showing what I've been up to when I haven't been blogging

2) What music I've been digging - Not a list where I rank my favorite albums like usual...more of an aggregated list of what I've been digging in one place. Expect lots of awesome because I've been enjoying my fair share of new music recently.

3) What movies have caught my eye in 2010 and why - I haven't written much about movies this year except Inception and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (immediately preceding this post). Time to talk about what I've liked about in recent memory and to finally catch up on that.

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I want to preface this review with an important note about myself as a reviewer. As a comic fan, my personal preference for comic movies is an entirely new take on a character/comic rather than a slavish recreation. I like to think of these films as another universe in which these characters exist, quite like All Star Superman is to Supes or Kingdom Come is to most of the DCU. Its a new sandbox for filmmakers to play in, which is why people like Christopher Nolan thrive while the Zack Snyder's of the world struggle.

With that said, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim is a whole different animal than previous comic movies: its a comic in which so much of its charm exists in its specificity. In the careful exactitudes and moments and comedic beats that he nails throughout the series.

Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) clearly understands this, as throughout this film he nails the important bits that make O'Malley's series so transcendant in its existence. Kim Pine's count offs as Sex Bob-omb prepares to launch into "Launchpad McQuack." The pure hilarity of drunk Wallace's recreation of Scott's side of their conversation ("there he is"). The stylistic story bubbles that revealed ratings and the ownership of belongings and things of that sort. Comeau + Crash and the Boys being included. The way Stacey Pilgrim always knows everything immediately (thanks to Wallace). These are the types of things that makes this book so damn amusing to its core, and in kind, make the film so delightful.

In a lot of ways, Wright takes even the comic to a new level with the way he stages fights. Sure, he takes some short cuts in these sequences (no Honest Ed's as Todd and Scott face off, and no robots much to Brandon's chagrin), but at the same time, these are places he has to take them. The film is sub two hours. The series is SIX BOOKS LONG. Cutting these fights down to their core not only allows Wright to focus on making them hugely entertaining and kinetic (good lord are these fights energetic), but also allows more time for story and character moments. In particular, I liked the way he spliced together the Todd Ingram fight (and the stunt casting of Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins as the Vegan Police - yes!), losing some of the core elements but still making it work in its own right.

The movie shines as Wright turns this film into a living, breathing video game, having fights culminate with the Smash Bros. "K.O." ringing through our ears and one-ups being a way of life (literally). It is an uncanny visual accomplishment by Wright, and something that is really an astounding achievement overall (bonus points for incorporating O'Malley's art into the movie also).

Yet, not everything worked for me. In fact, there were a few things that bothered me greatly.

Namely, I felt that the core women in the story (Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine, Envy Adams) were poorly developed. Sure, their development had to be cut to a degree to make the movie a manageable length, but without their backstory and their fleshed out relationships with Scott, the movie seems weightless at times. Kim Pine was just there often, being sardonic but never really acting as the stabilizing factor she always did in the books. Envy Adams was a bitch, but not a redeemable one really at all. She was just kind of there, and then she wasn't.

Ramona was perhaps the most criminal, as not only was she not given a ton to do nor was the relationship between her and Scott really real feeling, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead left me feeling colder than the way she broke up with Scott. To me, in the books it was easy to fall in love with Ramona. She's mysterious, vivacious, and often brilliant, but in the movie she was mostly lifeless. I found myself wanting more from her as a character, and without her pushing the plot along the end game just felt like...well, a game. At a certain point, it seemed like a freaking awesome version of a fighting game fully realized on the screen.

The book series was so phenomenal because the way it infused the stylistic genius of O'Malley with a tried and true plot strained through years of video gaming and indie rock, as well as infusing it with rich characters that layered true weight into an occasionally fluffy story. Wright got most of it right, but was found lacking by yours truly at times.

I have to give credit where credit is due though, a lot of the cast killed it. Michael Cera...well, there just couldn't be another Scott Pilgrim. He is the guy, and he was right from the very beginning. Casting Kieran Culkin did two things: truly brought Wallace to life as well as making me even more shocked that Culkin isn't a star. Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and Jason Schartzman (unsurprisingly) stole the evil exes show in my book, and not just because they are the most famous...they also happened to be the most awesome (Routh in particular killed as Todd Ingram). Allison Pill was Kim Pine on screen, but she really didn't get a whole lot to do - I would have killed to have more with her.

Wasn't a huge fan of the casting jobs on Knives and Stephen Stills, but they were satisfactory, just not superb like most of the cast.

The music throughout was superb - I loved the Beck written, Broken Social Scene performed Sex Bob-omb tracks. I really dug The Clash at Demonhead in execution. They really made the music almost a character on its own, and I greatly appreciated how Wright worked throughout to make that such an important factor.

All in all, this movie was more successful than it wasn't. Was it enjoyable? Yes it was. I found myself to be incredibly pumped by many sequences, and I was enthralled throughout. However, there were things that nagged at me: the aforementioned weightlessness and some scenes (early ones, in particular) that were so aimed at the core audience that they almost felt choked out by the attempts to recreate the comic. It was a very entertaining movie and a damn fine adaptation, not to mention one of the most unique films I've ever seen. But it could have been so much more.

I do have to say Brandon and I went with someone who hadn't read the comics, and unlike the comic heavy group at the theater, he found most of the film to be utterly preposterous. More so than ever, I'm more than a little concerned about SP's chances at the box office - can a movie like this succeed financially? I have my doubts after seeing it for myself. It's a movie for the hardcore, and not many more, I fear.

We'll see if I'm wrong come August 13th.

Final Verdict: 7.8 - Buy (a ticket)