AJ Ericksen's Blog World

Thursday, December 29

2005 in Review

I have been asked, and not just by myself, Why no blog posts of late? For lack of a better answer, I've been kind of busy I suppose. Most people seem to do top-five or top-ten lists. But since I'm kind of tired, let me give a list of top-twos for the year from a few categories.

1. The Squid and the Whale: Unfortunately, this masterpiece is only in a handful of top-notch theaters and will likely never make it into the mainstream on DVD. Brilliantly written and directed by Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson's co-writer for the underappreciated The Life Aquatic, the film tells the story of the breakup of a pair of self-obsessed New York intellectuals through the eyes of their teenage son. It has everything you need in a movie -- great dialogue, subtle and wonderful performances (think Bill Murray, i.e. it gets funnier as you find yet another hidden comic gem), and even a Baldwin! Watch this movie.

2. Grizzly Man: This documentary from German filmmaker Werner Herzog tells the story of a failed actor/recovering druggie who, demonstrating clear lunacy, lives among Alaskan grizzly bears as their protector. Spoiler -- the bears eat him. It is funny to contrast his hippie friends and the locals. My favorite is when a Wilford Brimley lookalike brustles, "He got what he deserved." It is funny and sad, my favorite combination.

1. The Office (American version): Holy balls, this show is funny. Most British material doesn't translate very well on this side of the Atlantic. This is the exception that proves the rule. Steve Carell is good, but the supporting cast is the real star. I think the American show may even be better. At any rate, the American receptionist is infinitely cuter.

2. Family Guy: Kudos to Fox for bringing back a show that was simply ahead of its time. Less political than South Park (whose look at Katrina and Rita was arguably the best satire of the year), Family Guy is an unending smorgasbord of pop culture references upon which any nerd can feast.

[Arrested Development might also be No. 2, but I didn't see enough episodes this year. Honorable mention: Alec Baldwin's spoof of Glengarry Glen Ross with Santa's elves on SNL. Nobody is a better host than Alec Baldwin.]

1. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner: An economist and a journalist teamed up to write a book that explores lots of modern myths. It is thought provoking and very readable. Plus, it will give you lots of fodder for cocktail party conversations.

2. Texas Law Review Manual on Usage & Style: A reference book, sure. But I did a lot of the editing on the damn thing and think the results are quite good.

1. Kanye West's "Gold Digger": This song is what the Germans would call an earworm -- you can't get it out of your head (like Kylie Minogue's videos but not her music). I don't like hip hop, but it was such a good song that I actually paid for a legal download.

2. John Prine: Though not new by any stretch of the imagine, he stole the show for me at this year's Austin City Limits Festival. A friend of mine described him thusly -- "Think of Robert Earl Keen, but totally uncool, ugly and actually talented."


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