I’m just gonna say it: Cookie Monster is the best Muppet in the Jim Henson Muppetverse. And not just because of his typewriter scene in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, which I watched last night. Though I cannot endorse his flagrant destruction of a perfectly good fake typewriter, his GIF-worthy reaction at the end of his scene with Gordon is golden.
Also, I just now discovered his parody of “Call Me Maybe”, maybe the best pop song of the last 10 years:
“Mvmt II: Begin and Never Cease” by The Oh Hellos, The Oh Hellos Family Christmas Album. You really ought to listen through the whole (short) album in one go, which is like one long medley, but the second movement’s ecstatic exuberance echoes Mumford & Sons mixed with Anathallo.
“Snow” by Sleeping At Last, Christmas Collection.O’Neal explains on a recent episodes of his podcast that it’s heavily inspired by It’s A Wonderful Life but also about the concept of home during the holidays.
“Silent Night” by Rosie Thomas, A Very Rosie Christmas. Rosie’s bouncy original “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year” is always a fun listen, but don’t sleep on the rest of the album’s dreamy, riverine covers like this one. Great for a cozy nights staring at a twinkling Christmas tree.
“All I Need Is Love” by CeeLo Green & The Muppets. For successfully turning “Mahna Mahna” into a Christmas song.
“First Snowfall” by Over the Rhine, Blood Oranges in the Snow. Leave it to OTR to capture a different kind of Christmas, ramshackle and real, far from the Norman Rockwell scenes traditional Christmas songs paint.
“12 Days of Christmas” by Relient K, Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer. There aren’t a lot of great versions of this song because it’s such a pain to make 12 repetitive verses interesting. But Relient K pulls it off with verve.
I saw a number of fine films in 2011. Here, I talk about the great ones and what I thank them for.
Beginners, for Christopher Plummer’s exuberance as a recently-out elderly gay man; for Ewan McGregor’s hopeful melancholia as his perpetual bachelor son, and for this exchange between them: “HAL: Well, let’s say that since you were little, you always dreamed of getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait but the lion doesn’t come. And along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe. OLIVER: I’d wait for the lion.”
The Tree of Life, for having more questions than answers; for the depicting the creation of the cosmos; for daring us to believe; for the Job references; and for this quote: “The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”
Midnight in Paris, for delighting my English major self; for getting Woody back on track; for Corey Stoll’s Hemingway adapting the writer’s writing style for speech perfectly; for your light and warmhearted touch; and for teaching me about the temporal.
Martha Marcy May Marlene, for making me feel the quietly terrifying atmosphere Elizabeth Olsen’s dazed cult escapee feels; and for a talented Olsen sister.
The Descendants, for Alexander Payne’s surefire writing and style, for tween actors who can actually act, and for George Clooney’s on-camera talents once again trumping his off-camera smugness.
Win Win & 50/50, for putting Paul Giamatti and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead, and for finding comedy in the tragic and lessons in our own shortcomings.
The Muppets & The Artist, for your unabashed optimism and anachronistic humor, which modern cynics won’t like but need anyway.
X-Men: First Class, for being a first-class reboot/prequel/whatever you are; for Michael Fassbender’s and James McAvoy’s anchoring your greater meaning with gravitas and bravado.
Meek’s Cutoff, for letting Michelle Williams disappear; and for your unforgiving stare into the mysterious soul of the American West.
Attack the Block, for knowing exactly what you are and never straying from that; for employing kids who can actually act; and for surprising me for the better.
Warrior, for Nick Nolte’s Paddy Conlon giving an otherwise conventional sports story some achingly real meaning.
[Note: I still need to see Certified Copy, A Separation, Take Shelter, and Barney’s Version, among other films, but this is where the list stands currently.]