Not Review 2005

Culture Well obviously it is a review, not necessarily the one you've all been enjoying. Every year, even when I've been taking the alternative approach I have managed to list other impressive items. I've had quite a soupy approach to culture this year, particularly catching up on things I've missed from the past. With that in mind, rather than producing separate lists, here are seven cultural moments which I've loved in the past twelve months. It's not a complete list (no television, timelords or books?) and in no particular order ...

(1) Sideways was the film which made me buy a Pinot at Christmas time (Chilean not Californian though). It was great to see everyone related to the film demonstrating that great actors, script and directing still have value. Virginia Madsen in particular shone after years in the direct-to-video wilderness, being looked at again by a cruel film industry.

(2) Natalie Imbruglia's album Counting Down The Days had the rare distinction of not being a nagging disappointment. Each of Nat's albums feels like a labour of love, the work of someone who genuinely believes in what they're doing. I gave the cd a slightly negative review originally, but on subsequent listens it slipped under my skin, the title track being a particularly stirring pian to those of us waiting for something ...

(3) Melinda and Melinda was a surprising film, effortless in many ways and despite what others might be saying one of the most inspirational films of the year. Let's remember that Woody Allen's turned seventy and yet here is a film which feels like its been directed by someone a third of his age. Even after all these years he has the ability to create something fresh and inspiring that also talks about the very nature of drama.

(4) Nina Gordon's cover version of Straight Outa Compton was with the wierd comedy drama trailer for The Shining an excellent example of a cross genre approach to culture. It was a stunt, a way of selling a few records, but with such a beautiful voice tempering one of music's angrier songs it's difficult to see why she's not a major star. Sigh, next album then.

(5) Here is what I wrote about Doug Liman's excellent Mr & Mrs Smith back in June. Listening to the dvd commentary reveals that this was a difficult shoot, with Brad Prit disappearing for a while in the middle to film Ocean's Twelve and a patch work of editing and reshoots. But what's been created is a curio which melds the sensibilities of a 1940s screwball comedy with a Michael Bay film. With Vince Vaughn. And as I said back then, "It's an Angelina Jolie film I can like. I've never found her all that inspiring but there's just something about the way she pouts, raises an eyebrow, holds a gun and wears knee high boots which slays me..."

(6) "Look, it's not that I've had a sense of humour bypass, and lord knows music is not be beyond satire or reproach, but which twonk thought Jonathan Ross was the man to introduce this event? Dido and Youssou N'Dour give a great performance of Seven Seconds in one of the highlights of the show and he comes on at the end with -- 'I thought it went on a bit too long at the end.' Who cares what you think? You're not funny and your hair's too long." Sums up my Live 8 experience. Shame. Included for some of the performances, but not the production.

(7) I think the world can probably be separated into those who like Joss Whedon and those who are wrong. Serenity was like watching a dream become reality telling the story we all wanted to see and speaking to each and everyone one of us. Like Sideways it seemed to be doing and saying an awful lot effortlessly. Like the best of Whedon's work it dragged the viewer through the emotional ringer, spitting us out the other end better people for the journey. The year's Lord of the Rings.

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