Twelve favorites on the twelfth

It’s that time again — I post my annual schizophrenic eclectic list of the media bits I enjoyed most in the last year.

Same ground rules apply for this, my fifth list: things have to be new-to-me in the last year, they have to be things you can still access (I don’t want to compile a list of “you missed this and it was the best experience of the year*” type stuff), and blogs and websites are out (because I write about the web and other blogs all the time). In no particular order, my favorites this year were:

Utata It may look like I’m breaking my “no websites” rule, but I’m not. I’m saying Utata — the flickr-based photography community — has, as a whole, produced some of the media bits I’ve loved the most this year, because it is a way to see fantastic photography. The group photo stream is full of powerful and wonderful images, and the projects always inspire.

The Long Run and The Last Dancer by Daniel Keys Moran. The more I think about it, the more baffled I am that practically no one seems to know who this guy is. He’s written some of the best science fiction I’ve ever read.

Fire and Ice by Michael Adams. When I blogged my review, I recommended it because Adams provided more in-depth and objective consideration of American (and Canadian) values than either Fox News or the New York Times can muster. Yes, I still want to move to Canada. Have I mentioned I score ten points higher than needed on the skilled worker self-assessment tool, and that is without extra points for having a job offer? I’m not in a hurry, I’m just saying…

X-Men: The Last Stand I have a soft spot for the X-Men. Mutants are complicated super heroes because, well, they really aren’t super heroes — they just have supernatural-seeming powers. The final flick in the trilogy was dark, with a relatively high bodycount, and I’m twisted enough to enjoy that. Yes, I watched all the way through the credits for the surprise at the very end, and I loved it.

Battlestar Galactica, seasons 1 & 2. Thanks to Netflix, I watched both seasons (and the miniseries, which counted as the beginning of season 1, I think). Lifeboat ethics and political intrigue in space, people! Kickass chicks and messy, flawed characters! There is so much to love… I won’t go on an on about it, I’ll just tell you to read this guy evangelizing the show.

Most of the Angels & Airwaves album We Don’t Need to Whisper. I say most of because, honestly, I never listen to an entire album of anything anymore. I will admit to playing “It Hurts” too many times. Ditto for “The Adventure” and “A Little’s Enough” and “Distraction” and it is becoming clear I have no shame so I’ll stop now.

Most the songs from Andy Bell’s Electric Blue. Yes, it is poppy and disco-like. The cicada vocal mix of “Crazy” is six minutes and twenty seconds of thumping goodness. I will not apologize.

Metropolis I’m on the verge of cheating with this one, because I saw it at the Barbican, with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg playing the original score. I believe the movie is available on DVD, so I’ve decided it counts. Science fiction from 1927, it will blow you away.

My favorite photos on flickr. Almost everything in this set was something I saw for the first time in the last year — they are the images that make me feel something, that I want to keep looking at. Sometimes I just play them as a slideshow when I’m having a bad day, or need some inspiration.

51 Birch Street is a fascinating family documentary. How much to do you know — or want to know — about your parents, really?

For the completists or the curious, bits from the past: 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002

*But if I did, theTakao Tanabe exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery would be on the list, because I loved it. I could feel something in my chest open up when I stood in front of Crossing the Straight.

The Gay Cowboy Love Story I Didn’t Need to See

In some ways I think it is great that a “gay cowboy movie” is up for major Academy Awards. Ten or fifteen years ago, Brokeback Mountain wouldn’t be playing anywhere except for film festivals and art movie theaters. The two male stars wouldn’t have their pick of next roles in films with big name directors or big budgets. So this is progress, of a sort.

The characters in this movie are not cartoons, are not played for laughs, and are not too noble to be real people. It is a love story with enough depth to reveal how poverty, lack of education, and fear narrow options and cause people to feel trapped. Ennis sums up the whole story in one line when he says, “if you can’ t fix it, you have to stand it.”

Which is probably why I didn’t like Brokeback Mountain. I’m waiting for the “gay movie” that isn’t Philadelphia, that isn’t soaking in misery.

Lisa, on the other hand, quite liked it. Finding beauty in darkness is something that speaks to her. That idea speaks to me, too, but not in this movie. There is so little change, such a tiny and fragile hope that things could ever be different — when Ennis says he’ll quit job so he can go to his daughter’s wedding, and you see how he has Jack’s shirt hanging up at the end of the movie — it just isn’t enough. The scene with Ennis and Jack alone in the hotel, in a rare moment of togetherness and comfort in each other’s arms, is I suppose what is shocking to some people and so beautiful for others. For me it was normal, and the great sadness of the movie is that Ennis and Jack couldn’t see it that way.

The idea that other people could — and perhap need to see it as just life, as normal — means Brokeback Mountain is a potentially a powerful movie. It just isn’t one that I needed to see. I’m ready for stories where the emphasis isn’t on the standing it, but on the fixing it.

I’d have Joss Whedon’s baby, if I were into that kind of thing.

I enjoyed Serenity that much.

It is based on Whedon‘s cancelled-by-idiots Firefly series. You don’t need to see Firefly to get the movie, but it will be more fun if you have.

I can forgive you for not watching the show the first time around. It was on for all of ten minutes or so, and then it was shown out of order. I didn’t watch it either. It was only fourteen episodes, and sci-fi as western space opera is easy to dismiss. Honestly — it is.

Only nothing Joss Whedon does should be dismissed.

I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to see Firefly, knowing that it expected someone watching it to have a brain and want to use it. If that alone weren’t enough, there’s the darkly humorous bits. The tough chicks who kick ass. Actual (not pretend) family values. Plus, a truly beautiful space hooker who is so enchanting it is just wrong and tacky to call her a whore.

All of which is playing on a movie screen near you right now, with bonus clever visual riffs on the original Star Wars movies. And really, when is the last time you saw a smart, funny, kickass space flick you could enjoy while using your brain?