My Three Favorite Things Right Now
In no particular order:
Mad Men Astonishingly, this show just keeps getting better and better, no? Its rhythms and moods are unlike anything else I've ever seen on television, including The Sopranos. It's so mercurial and unpredictable. And its emotional and psychological resonance have officially caught up with (or even surpassed) its formal and sociopolitical niftiness. With more conventional narrative devices--like Don's shadowy past, his failed marriage, and Peggy's pregnancy--out of the way, the show has truly hit its stride as an uncommonly penetrating character study. Like everyday life and the best of modern TV (Sopranos, Gilmore Girls, Buffy, Friday Night Lights), it merges drama and comedy so seamlessly that it thoroughly transcends such tidy awards show classifications. The last episode, "The Suitcase" was, in particular a series high-point, allowing the show's two pivotal figures more quality time than ever before. Where we go from here is anyone's guess.
Greenberg After viewing number four, I'm now certain that Noah Baumbach's modest masterpiece isn't just my favorite film of 2010, but a movie as rewardingly rewatchable as, say, Before Sunset or Ghost World. Almost every scene's a classic and every ingredient in the mix works splendidly. Harris Savides's cinematography, while not as obviously spectacular as his work for Gus Van Sant, perfectly captures a Los Angeles that feels, at once, lived-in and true and largely unlike any representation of L.A. we've seen onscreen before; shots like that of a hose unfurling inside a swimming pool dreamily encapsulate the languorous, ephermeral nature of summer. James Murphy's score and the pre-recorded stuff are likewise spot-on. The performances, from Ben Stiller to Greta Gerwig to a perfectly utilized Jennifer Jason Leigh and the bit parts are uniformly superb. If films like Greenberg and the incredible Winter's Bone are very much the exception in current American independant cinema, let's hope there's more such pleasures on their heels.
Joanna Newsom, Have One On Me I know this came out months ago, but it's so dense and masssive an endeavor that it takes some time to get one's head around. I still don't love it as fervently as I do Ys, but it's getting closer with every listen. And if the miracle of Ys was that something so dubiously twee-sounding on paper came off so impeccably, Have One On Me's triumph is that, over three discs, there isn't anything resembling filler. At its best ("81," "On a Good Day," "Esme") the album is, in fact, resplendently beautiful, gorgeous in a way that's exceedingly rare if not wholly unique in modern music.