Faves, 2007

This is a collection, in no particular order, of some favorite movies, TV shows, videos, recordings, websites, books, etc., of 2007.

The hardest thing about writing this is remembering anything at all that happened in January, February, March, April, and May. I sort of remember June and July, which I guess is good. Could it be that most good things first appear in the fall? Film critics certainly don't mind thinking so. Seems dubious to me.


-Fan vids by girls and women who express their sincere affection for movies and television and their performers and characters. I find these so much more resonant with my experience of pop culture these days than the too-cool mashups and home-brewed trailers that were among the big things in 2006. Here's an example by the YouTuber KristenBellfan16 paying tribute to Milly and Johnny in Because I Said So, a cheesy, can't-change-the-channel-when-it's-on-HBO rom-com from last winter. When the dialog is stripped away in favor of pop music, faces become more expressive and details of acting more prominent, like the way Mandy Moore sometimes shyly hides her eyes when she smiles and how adorably she mixes amusement and concern. And if you avoided seeing this movie because Diane Keaton is supposed to play a parody of herself (it didn't bother me), this little songvid gets rid of her entirely.

-Rihanna's totally unsubtle and seductive video to "Shut Up and Drive."

-Rufus Wainwright’s album Release the Stars, especially the schmaltzy Phantom of the Opera quotation at the end of the apocalyptic love song “Between My Legs.”

-Which reminds me of another thing: concert videos shot from the audience. This one is of "Between My Legs" at a concert I saw at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on August 27.

And another version of the same song, with much better audio and video quality, from a concert in Saratoga.

-Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a page-turning mystery among other things. Of 2006, though.

-Then We Came To The End (click it, really), a novel I'm only half-way through, written audaciously in the first-person plural as a non-individuated "we" (I keep wondering how it could be made into a movie in a way that preserves the strangeness of this device) and another addition in what would seem like a burgeoning genre: satire of the corporate office. (Others would include Clockwatchers, Office Space, Dilbert, The Boss of it All, and two versions of The Office.) A topic for future research.

-The Simpsons movie for that "does whatever a Spider Pig does" goofiness.

-I’m Not There mostly for Cate Blanchett in the Felliniesque sequences and also for the ambition of making a movie that would take on Dylan as he might take himself on, maddeningly and with confident, visionary poetry.

-No Country For Old Men, especially first 3/4 when it’s a masterful guy-chases-guy flick.

-Ratatouille, for the details of the restaurant kitchen. Pixar films succeed in the details. A pox on its head, though, for all that pandering Anton Ego crap to flatter critics.

-Michael Clayton, especially the climactic confrontation between Clooney and Tilda Swinton when he gets her to agree to give him all that money. We had been waiting for Clooney to turn that on.

-Jonathan Lethem’s “Ecstasy of Influence” essay in Harper’s.

-The trailer for Juno. I haven't seen the movie but the trailer's a delight. I especially like the use of the word "shenanigans" and "All the Young Dudes" by Mott the Hoople. (Update 12/22: Just saw the movie; as you might have heard, it makes you smile, laugh, cry, and eagerly await more movies from the folks who made it.)

-I also really connect with the trailer for Hannah Takes the Stairs, another film yet to come to my town. I guess I sort of like her indie hairdo and the bright yellow background for the titles. The bit with the slinky is cutesy.

-Virginia Heffernan’s TV and internet criticism, especially when writing on the uncanny modernism of reality shows.

-Songs About Buildings and Food, a blog I always want to read as soon as I see a new post no matter what else I should be doing.

-Jezebel, a site for the ladies but who cares. It manages snark without the nastiness of its big sis Gawker and has the progressive agenda of being an antidote to the "aspirational" vapidity of women's mags.

-Slate’s slideshows like the ones on houses, snapshots, asses, and parking garages.

-Amy Winehouse before she totally lost it. Yeah, even the intro/verse parts of “You Know I’m No Good” that were used on the soundtrack of every quality drama in prime-time.

-The Hills, every moment but especially the ones where you can see Lauren’s face.

-Friday Night Lights, first season only, for making us care about people we too rarely get to know so well on prime-time television.

-Mad Men. Fave of the year in any medium. Every scene is its own little exquisite artwork, and at the end of every episode I can’t wait to watch a second time. Special honors for ending the season with a beautiful, dramatic surprise. This clip is from the episode "Indian Summer" in which the ad agency is working on a campaign for the "Electrosizer," a bogus weight-loss device for women that is better used for autoerotic pleasure. Meanwhile, Betty the bored housewife gets physical with her washing machine. This is the show I will miss most if the strike spells the end of all scripted television (I'm being dramatic but seriously, things seem pretty bleak right now).

-Tell Me You Love Me for being bold enough to be intimate (and I’m not talking about sex scenes).

-Gilmore Girls, which was never as sharp, deft, or clever after Amy and Dan left but still held onto much of its warmth and charm in its last season.

-The Sopranos for its shocking, terrifying final episodes.

-Hotel Chevalier, for its miniature elegance and “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely),” and the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack with “Les Champs Elysees” by Joe Dassin from the film’s closing scene.

-30 Rock for making us feel like we’re good enough to understand its secret-society, inside baseball jokes.

-Knocked Up, which was very endearing, and Superbad, which was even more hilarious. McLovin' is my favorite movie character of the year.

-Hairspray for John Travolta and Christopher Walken as a loving couple and for doing musical comedy the old-fashioned way.

-Scrabulous, the only Facebook application I would really recommend to someone who hasn’t tried it.

-Yo Gabba Gabba, especially the electronic and hip-hop tunes and old-school videogame graphics.

-The gorgeous, enchanting pilot of Pushing Daisies. (Those of us who predicted it could not sustain its visuals and who thought the whimsy wouldn't work in the repetitious format of weekly television were quickly proven right.)

-My So-Called Life DVDs for the interviews between Winnie Holzman and Claire Danes where they both get all emotional.

-Netvibes, a great RSS reader. When a site offers only a partial feed, Netvibes allows you to see the website within the reader so you don’t need to click through.

-Tumblr, the blogging platform for people who don’t equate blogging with writing.

-Picnik, a brilliant online photo editor that does most of what you want to do in Photoshop, has no learning curve, and is available in a no-frills version for free.

-Lolcats and all their offshoots.

-Threadless t-shirts and more generally the art of the smart, jokey hipster t. The source for tracking these is tcritic.

-Leave Britney Alone!, my choice for web video of the year. But it was a disappointing year for web video, which I thought was supposed to conquer the world.

-And Sanjaya Malekar, a small-screen superstar for a few weeks in the spring. He's an awful singer but an enthusiastic showman. At least this performance of "You Really Got Me" was entertaining. This is the one where the little girl cries. Isn't there a little bit of her in us all?

And in this sultry Latin number, "Besame Mucho," he makes love to the camera in a way that might make you feel dirty if not exactly seduced. In its finest moments, Idol affirms that there's no business like show business.