First “Best”s

OK, I’m doing my annual thing where, like a sheep, I follow the oh-so-wise advice of those sages at the NYTimes and check out what they have deemed the Best of 2007. Why? Because at least then I don’t feel like the culture’s completely passing me by. Ho hum. We all entertain our little delusions….

 So the first book I finished off the Best Books list was Imperial Life in the Emerald City, yet another 300 pages on how badly we fucked everything up in Iraq. I don’t know how many more of these I can read, they’re so depressing. Written by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, this one was considerably better than The Assassin’s Gate by George Packer, mainly because Packer has this annoying Friedman-esque quality (“If only they’d do things my way!! Then we’d win!! Democracy in the middle east!!”). Is Imperial Life worth spending any time on? Well…..I stuck with it, all the way through. It’s reporting, it’s well-done, it…..doesn’t tell you much that’s new if you’ve spent any time with this genre of books. So. That’s done.

Watched a slightly odd movie, Year of the Dog, with Molly Shannon over the weekend, another pick by the odious yet powerful Manohla Dargis. This one was more interesting to me because a) I hadn’t heard of it other than on the list, b) I think Molly Shannon’s underrated, and c) the premise sounded interesting. It was a sweet movie, shot nicely in the austere, minimally moving camera style that a lot of movies are now using. It’s nice to see a camera just sort of plunked down to record very subtle shifts in good actors’ faces, kinda like Bergman meets Hal Ashby. In fact, I would guess that Ashby never had a clue as to how influential he’d be, but he’s all over the place lately. Verdict on this one: worth a look, a lot of nice surprises, and hopefully filmmakers will start tapping Molly Shannon for more interesting things than suburban mothers of cute kids, the movie hell she’s been stuck in up to now. (I do hold out for a movie length version of Dog Show, which is absolutely nothing like this one, but the spouse says it won’t happen. Oh, ye of little faith!! Keep hope alive, people!!)

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