Posts tagged books

...and the rest of my favorites

Yesterday I indulged myself into writing my longest post ever, about my favorite films of the decade. Re-reading it, I see I left out of lot of things I should have talked about. I completely negleted non-portuguese and non-american movies (I should have mentioned Cidade de Deus, Rois et Reine, The Beat My Heart Skipped, In the Mood for Love, to say just a few — perhaps someday, when I write a rigorous appreciation of 00s film). And I also forgot to mention the return, around mid-decade, of 1970s-style political/paranoia thrillers (think Syriana or Michael Clayton), perhaps because unfortunately no timeless classic is to be found among the many good films of the genre. It’s telling that the best film so far about the Iraq War (and by a large margin) is the aggressively apolitical The Hurt Locker.

But still I haven’t shut up about film. That’s not only because of my film studies. It’s harder to properly evaluate the decade’s other arts in the last day of the 2000s. I’ve read a lot, but mostly stuff written much longer ago. By taking a quick glance at my shelves, I’d be tempted to nominate Douglas Coupland’s JPod or The Gum Thief as books that capture the decade’s cynicism and disillusionment pretty well, except they are not that great as works of literature. I’d mention Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves post-modern mindfunkiness as a classic waiting to be discovered, but published in 2000 it is essentially informed by a breakdown of the 1990s slacker way of life. Then there’s also Neal Stephenson’s 2400-page novel Baroque Cycle, which chronicles the period coincident with the lifetime of Isaac Newton with a sci-fi sensibility, resulting in the most interesting literary Heavy Meal of the decade (page-wise). A shame it was followed up by Anathem, which I have no doubt in calling Disappointment of the Decade.

What about music? At the end of every year I’d make pretty weak jokes, mentioning, say, my favourite records of 1995 as my favourite records of 2005. What happened was that during the 2000s I completely ceased to care about music, not going to that many live gigs too. Or perhaps I still care about music, but not with the kind of neuroticism I had in the 1990s. Still, I think this was the decade music was finally overwhelmed by postmodernism, resulting in no new styles to speak of, perhaps because the new toys of the 1980s and 1990s (we’re talking digital) are the same old toys by now — so accessible to the point Auto-Tune became a recurring joke. But thankfully there was more to the decade that now ends besides the pitch-corrected vocals: The White Stripes, M.I.A., LCD Soundsystem and TV on the Radio became regulars on my playlists, and Radiohead, Portishead and Boards of Canada continued there with their new releases. Perhaps I listened to far too much Beirut, and Nouvelle Vague made the journey from pleasant to over-ubiquous musak, but was a nice constant in my playlists for a brief moment.

A Naifa — Canções Subterrâneas

A very special mention to the portuguese act A Naifa (video). Their album Canções Subterrâneas was a perfect revision of traditional fado, incorporating electronic instruments and lyrics about being unhappy despite recycling, using public transportation and not watching television. How more contemporary can you get?

Happy New Year!

Cory Doctorow has a new novel out called Makers, which you can, as usual, download for free from his website.

I have a colossal number of pages to read as part of my Master’s thesis investigations, but I’ll read this as soon as I feel I need a break from those readings.

… and Penguin-style book covers for films. J. Kottke takes a look at media packaging mashups.

I always felt that the works of art we call movies consist of more than just the sound and the visuals in a stretch of film, but also of their entire promotional material — trailers, posters, etecetera — because this material too manipulates the viewer’s perspective and expectations, just the thing the art of editing is all about. It’s as if, even though you don’t judge a book by its cover, the cover does influence how you’ll read the book, just like an opening chapter.