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Archive for December, 2010

11 Best Movies of 2010 (and 5 worst)

2010 proved to be a weak year for movies. I struggled to pick my top 11, partially because I didn’t see that many that were really good. This year I managed to see 96 movies while awake. I may have seen more while I was asleep, but who knows?

Best

11. The Young Victoria – a love story about Queen Victoria. Sweet and better than expected.

10. Megamind (3D) – a whiz, bang, wow 3D movie. Clever and fun.

9. The Town – Ben Affleck does a good job of double-duty (acting and directing) in this requiem to Boston bank robbers.

8. Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges definitely deserved his Best Actor Oscar. The story was sad and the soundtrack gave a new face to country music.

7. The Hurt Locker – I didn’t think this movie was a Best Picture, but it was a gripping look at the war in Iraq and the consequences of same.

6. The Kids Are All Right – a well-acted look at what is still seen as an unconventional family (yet was very conventional) and the pains that come with loving others.

5. The Girl Who Played With Fire – as the second part of the Millenium trilogy (see #1), it is a fast-paced story about how family and the system put in place to protect people can go completely wrong.

4. The Social Network – the ‘real’ story behind the making of Facebook. It is not a feel-good tale of overcoming great odds and succeeding at all costs, but more about how one sort-of-a-jerk leaves his friends and business partners behind because they don’t have what it takes to succeed in his world. Now when I think of Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of FB, I imagine Jesse Eisenberg. That’s good acting.

3. Inception – there is probably nothing I can say about this movie that bends the mind that hasn’t already been said. So I will just say, it is good. Watch it.

2. Toy Story 3 – our last adventure with Woody and Buzz that left many people in tears. Much ado about change, loss, redemption and love or something like that. The computer animation popped from the screen even though I didn’t see it in 3D. Pixar will win the Best Animated Movie once again.

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson’s epic Millenium trilogy began in movie form with this unsolved mystery about a girl that went missing 30 years ago. It doesn’t hold back in its depiction of the violence that still occurs against women. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth the ride. Read the books. See the movies. Wait for Hollywood to remake them.

 

Worst

5. Knight and Day – loud, obnoxious and not good in any way, shape or form.

4. Aliens in the Attic – a poor choice on a long international flight. No one to blame but myself.

3. The Spirit – a limp story with terrible acting and the most un-special of effects. Probably the worst superhero movie since Daredevil.

2. Greenburg – everything about this terrible movie with Ben Stiller makes me wince in pain. Hated it.

1. From Paris With Love – John Travolta…why?

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‘This music has no ASS’ – random quote from a bartender.

I acquired a healthy sampling of music albums in this annum. Downloaded off eMusic or iTunes, sent for from the depths of Amazon, or simply picked up and burned on speculation from the DC library, I added 96 potential masterworks to my library. Let’s spend a few minutes wading through some 2010 music lists. Feel free to peel away at any time to begin crafting your own tune inspired lists.

Top Albums Listened to in 2010*

  1. “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” by Phoenix
  2. “Contra” by Vampire Weekend
  3. “Absence” by Paper Route
  4. “Fantasies” by Metric
  5. “Conditions” by The Temper Trap
  6. “Kaleidoscope Heart” by Sara Bareilles
  7. “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
  8. “High Violet” by The National
  9. “Swoon” by Silversun Pickups
  10. “The Resistance” by Muse

* Album does not have to have been released in 2010 to qualify…guess who’s making the rules?

 

Bonus #1: Top Concerts of 2010

  1. Lollapalooza Day 3 (Grant Park, Chicago) – including The National, Mumford & Sons, The Temper Trap and of course Soundgarden. (FYI – Day 2 was good too)
  2. Vampire Weekend (Merriweather Post Pavilion, Virginia)
  3. Sara Bareilles (9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.)
  4. Phoenix (DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.)
  5. Norah Jones (Lyric Opera House, Baltimore)

 

Bonus #2: Most Listened to Songs in 2010*

  1. ‘Run’, Vampire Weekend (37)
  2. ‘Young Blood’, Norah Jones
  3. ‘The Great Salt Lake’, Band of Horses
  4. ‘Come On, Come Out’, A Fine Frenzy
  5. ‘Wish’, Paper Route
  6. ‘1901’, Phoenix
  7. ‘Hell’, Tegan and Sara
  8. ‘Sick Muse’, Metric
  9. ‘Last Time, Paper Route
  10. ‘Brick By Boring Brick’, Paramore
  11. ‘Horchata’, Vampire Weekend
  12. ‘Starlight’, Muse
  13. ‘Lisztomania’, Phoenix
  14. ‘Intro’, The XX
  15. ‘Phenomena’, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  16. ‘Little Secrets’, Passion Pit
  17. ‘Rocket’, Goldfrapp
  18. ‘Sweet Disposition’, The Temper Trap
  19. ‘The Cave’, Mumford & Sons
  20. ‘Pick Up the Phone’, Dragonette
  21. ‘Anyone’s Ghost’, The National
  22. ‘Let The Rain’, Sara Bareilles
  23. ‘The High Road’, Broken Bells
  24. ‘No Sunlight’, Death Cab For Cutie
  25. ‘Gimme Sympathy’, Metric
  26. ‘Lasso’, Phoenix
  27. ‘Rill Rill’, Sleigh Bells
  28. ‘New Fang’, Them Crooked Vultures
  29. ‘Your Decision’, Alice In Chains
  30. ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, The National (20)

 * According to iTunes.

 

Bonus #3: All Albums Acquired in 2010

  1. “I Told You I Was Freaky” by Flight of the Conchords
  2. “Horehound” by The Dead Weather
  3. “Show Your Bones” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  4. “Bomb In A Birdcage” by A Fine Frenzy
  5. “Actor’ by St. Vincent*
  6. “Black Holes and Revelations” by Muse
  7. “Intimacy” by Bloc Party
  8. “Wait For Me” by Moby
  9. “Brand New Eyes” by Paramore
  10. “Contra” by Vampire Weekend
  11. “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” by Phoenix
  12. “Snow Angels” by Over The Rhine
  13. “Transference” by Spoon
  14. “Finally Woken’ by Jem
  15. “More Adventurous” by Rilo Kiley
  16. “Piece of Cake” by Mudhoney
  17. “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” by Modest Mouse
  18. “Scream” by Tokio Hotel
  19. “XX” by The XX
  20. “Crazy Itch Radio” by Basement Jaxx
  21. “Barenaked Ladies Are Men” by Barenaked Ladies
  22. “Living Thing” by Peter Bjorn and John
  23. “Sleep Through the Static” by Jack Johnson
  24. “Immigrant Road Show’ by Scythian
  25. “Axis: Bold As Love” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  26. “Them Crooked Vultures” by Them Crooked Vultures
  27. “It’s Never Been Like This” by Phoenix
  28. “Everything All The Time” by Band of Horses
  29. “The Open Door EP” by Death Cab For Cutie
  30. “Fever to Tell” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  31. “The Mirror Conspiracy” by Thievery Corporation
  32. “The Buffett Hotel” by Jimmy Buffett
  33. “Raditude” by Weezer
  34. “Valleys of Neptune” by Jimi Hendrix
  35. “Fantasties” by Metric
  36. “Black Gives Way To Blue” by Alice In Chains
  37. “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective
  38. “All In Good Time” by Barenaked Ladies
  39. “Lungs” by Florence & The Machine
  40. “Head First” by Goldfrapp
  41. “Plastic Beach” by Gorillaz
  42. “One Life Stand” by Hot Chip
  43. “The Resistance” by Muse
  44. “Ocean Eyes” by Owl City
  45. “Ocean’s Eleven Soundtrack” by Various
  46. “Ocean’s Thirteen Soundtrack” by Various
  47. “The Eternal” by Sonic Youth
  48. “Manners” by Passion Pit
  49. “Stone Temple Pilots” by Stone Temple Pilots
  50. “High Violet” by The National
  51. “Nimrod” by Green Day
  52. “Infinite Arms” by Band of Horses
  53. “Treats” by Sleigh Bells
  54. “Carnavas” by Silversun Pickups
  55. “Ultramega OK” by Soundgarden
  56. “The Best of Talking Heads” by Talking Heads
  57. “Attack & Release” by The Black Keys
  58. “Glee Volume 1: The Music” by Various
  59. “Under Great White Northern Lights” by White Stripes
  60. “La Roux” by La Roux
  61. “United” by Phoenix
  62. “Broken Bells” by Broken Bells
  63. “Odd Blood” by Yeasayer
  64. “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
  65. “Live It Out” by Metric
  66. “Conditions” by The Temper Trap
  67. “Boxer” by The National
  68. “Sigh No More” by Mumford and Sons
  69. “Mojo” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  70. “Bitte Orca” by Dirty Projectors
  71. “A Positive Rage” by The Hold Steady
  72. “This Is Happening” by LCD Soundsystem
  73. “Swoon” by Silversun Pickups
  74. “Sea of Cowards” by The Dead Weather
  75. “Time’s Up” by Living Colour
  76. “To The Sea” by Jack Johnson
  77. “Combat Rock” by The Clash
  78. “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  79. “Kaleidoscope Heart” by Sara Bareilles
  80. “Funeral” by Arcade Fire
  81. “Aligator” by The National
  82. “Champ” by Tokyo Police Club
  83. “Aladdin Sane” by David Bowie
  84. “Fancy Footwork” by Chromeo
  85. “Veckatimest” by Grizzly Bear
  86. “Alive 2007” by Daft Punk
  87. “Glasvegas” by Glasvegas
  88. “A Balloon Called Moaning” by The Joy Formidable
  89. “Disconnect From Desire” by School of Seven Bells
  90. “Acolyte” by Delphic
  91. “Absolution” by Muse
  92. “White Blood Cells” by White Stripes
  93. “Fixin to Thrill” by Dragonette
  94. “Crazy Heart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” by Various
  95. “Supernature” by Goldfrapp
  96. “Memento Mori” by Flyleaf

* Blue = DC library acquisition.

Rock on.

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There has been a spate of restaurant openings in Washington, D.C. in 2010. One of my unstated goals (at least here) has been to visit all the restaurants on or roughly near Capital Hill, whether new or old. Geographically, this includes anything south of H St NE, east of 15th NE/SE, north of I St SE, and west of 1st St NE/SE. This is a big area, and includes such destinations as Barracks Row (8th St SE between D and I Sts), Eastern Market (7th St SE between Pennsylvania Ave and Independence Ave), the Atlas District (H St NE between 9th and 15th Sts) and much more.

Check out the map here: Capital Hill and Surrounding Areas.

I haven’t finished the task as of yet, but 2010 seemed like a banner year for new restaurants on the Hill, so I thought I’d try to rank the best of the ‘new’ this year. Even of the new ones, there are a few I haven’t made it to yet. A whole crop of more openings are still on the horizon. I will be eating a lot.

16. Bistro Cacao – a French place that was just so-so for lunch.

15. Capital Diner – technically not within my ‘rough’ geographic sphere, but close enough. I came at a time when the owner was suspending one of the servers because the checks and the till didn’t add up. The burger was fine.

14. Fruit Bat – They specialize in Latin themed drinks. I only had a drink, but I hear they started a small menu so will have to go back.

13. Toyland – I didn’t eat here, only had a drink, but its a nice, cozy place.

12. Liberty Tree – the food was decent but the waiter had better things to do than serve.

11. We, the Pizza – some pretty good pizza and sodas from the guy that owns The Good Stuff Eatery, Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame.

10. Ted’s Bulletin – a funky place with a pastry shop out front and a seating area in the back room. The food is good and worth trying.

9. Mi Vecindad – a new Cuban and Mexican restaurant. Oy, me gusta!

8. Dangerously Delicious Pies – a great selection of sweet and savory pies. A bit pricey for a whole pie, but the slices are big, dangerous, and (shall I say it?) delicious. Try the BBQ pork or the S.M.O.G. or any.

7. The Star and Shamrock – a fusion between a kosher deli and an Irish pub. The interior itself is unremarkable, but the food is heart attack worthy. The reuben is fantastic, the latkes and the Kosher Kornies are tasty, and the Clogger is a beast that I suggest you only tackle if you want to be rolled out the front door. 

6. The Chesapeake Room – a small, yet spacious dining area with a huge fish tank behind the bar. Have the Bison Burger outside on the patio for maximum effect.

5. Zest Bistro – a nice little American bistro on Barracks Row. The burger was tasty.

4. Acqua Al 2 – a great new Italian place right in the middle of Eastern Market. It won the 2010 Hilly Awards ‘Restaurant of the Year’.

3. Ethiopic – I am no Ethiopian food connoisseur, but this is among the best I’ve had. The vegetarian sampler is huge and tasty, the injera is plentiful and all the meat dishes are delicious.

2. Ba Bay – a brand spanking new Vietnamese restaurant on Pennsylvania. Eat the spare ribs and the bok choy feverishly. I did. Skip desert and go for more off the main menu. Then have more.

1. Biergarten Haus – who doesn’t need a beer garden in their backyard? With a huge outdoor seating area with oompa bands, wood picnic tables, liters of German beer, huge TV screens (for watching the World Cup) and feisty servers, this place has taken the Atlas district by storm. They have just started a new menu and you must have the goulash.

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Welcome to, what has apparently become, my annual wrap-up on my favorite sports teams. I am a victim of routine, so expect to be liberally doused with many end of year lists over the next few weeks.

2010 can be categorized as ‘another’ year for Seattle sports. No riot-in-the-streets championships (although one oh-ok-here’s-a-high-five championship). No plane crashes in the Cascades where the survivors subsisted on the ‘hide of the game ball’. No Lebron James style shenanigans (although one team in particular had its share of drama). There were a few heart-stopping and heart-breaking moments, but nothing that Seattle hasn’t become quite used to by now. 

In other words, just another year.

Seattle Mariners (ML B – baseball)

To say that the M’s were terrible this year (with a woeful 61-101 record), would do the word ‘terrible’ a disservice. The M’s had lofty and immediate expectations for success in 2010. They were coming off of an 85 win campaign in 2009, and acquired the brilliant Cliff Lee in the offseason (who ended up pitching for the World Series losers, Texas) and added a couple of solid hitters. Then the wheels fell off. And they sunk into a sinkhole so deep, I still don’t think they can see the way out. Brutal. Drama. I don’t even want to talk about it. Only two highlights to mention, and they were both brilliant. First, Ichiro hit 200+ hits in his 10th consecutive season, breaking the Major League record. Dude is going to the Hall of Fame. Second, Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award despite only winning 13 games. He was the best pitcher in baseball this year and won the award despite everything his team did to prevent it, like not scoring any runs during his starts. Take that New York.

Success Indicator: 0/10 for the M’s as a team. 10/10 for Ichiro and Felix Hernandez

Seattle Seahawks (NFL – football)

After two dismal seasons, the Seahawks are again in contention to win the NFC West division and a ticket to the playoffs. Under their new coach, Pete Carroll (from USC), they have become more competitive overall, but still have played some head-scratching games (explain losing two consecutive games by a combined 10-74 score?!?). At 6-6 (with four games to play), they are not a good team, but they just might be good enough for the bad NFC West. They play their bitter rivals, the St. Louis Rams (6-6), the last game of the season on January 2. Expect that game to decide the division champion. Expect elation or heart-break. I choose elation!

Success Indicator: 6/10 (I’d up it to 7 if they make the playoffs)

University of Washington Huskies (College football)

The Dawgs are going bowling!! After 8 seasons without a bowl game, the Huskies finished with a 6-6 record, winning their last three in convincing fashion, to qualify for a bowl game. They will play Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. This is an unfortunate re-match since Nebraska crushed the Huskies early in the season. There were multiple heart-stopping, last second victories for the Huskies and after all the stress they put us through, we are finally vindicated with a bowl appearance. Jake Locker, the QB, passed up an opportunity to play in the NFL last year to give the Huskies one final chance to do something good. And it paid off.

Success Indicator: 8/10

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS – soccer)

The Sounders started the year with high hopes, but didn’t perform well out of the gates. They pulled themselves together and finished strong with a 14-10-6 record (48 points), good enough for a 6th seed in the playoffs. Sadly, they lost in the first round. They also participated in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament (this hemisphere’s equivalent to the European Champions League) with other North and Central American and Caribbean countries, but fared poorly in the group stage, only winning one game (1-5, 3 points). The bright spot for the Sounders was winning their second consecutive US Open Cup championship (a domestic tournament for all levels of professional soccer). Go Sounders!

Success Indicator: 8/10

 

Other teams I follow:

University of Washington Huskies (College basketball – men’s and women’s)

The men’s team (26-10) was the best of the Pac-10. They won the conference championship and went into the NCAA Tournament with high expectations. Two victories later, they were in the Sweet Sixteen. But alas, they lost to West Virginia, 69-56.

The women’s team (13-18) was not good.

Success Indicator: 8/10

Chelsea Blues (English Premier League – soccer).

Chelsea (86 points) managed to break Manchester United’s three-year strangle-hold on the EPL championship in the 2009-2010 season. Finishing just a mere 1 point clear of the damn United, they are rightfully the new champions! They have started strong again for 2010-2011.

Success Indicator: 10/10

Seattle Storm (WNBA – women’s basketball)

The WNBA is a league few people care about. It struggles with attendance and it seems like one team folds every other year. Despite that, the Storm were by far and away the best team this year. They finished with a 28-6 record and basically could not be stopped and easily won their 2nd championship (the 1st was in 2004). High five!

Success Indicator: 10/10

Washington Capitals (NHL – hockey)

I’ve never been a huge NHL fan since Seattle didn’t have a team, but I can adopt the Capitals. The Caps were the best team in the 2009-2010 regular season (121 points) but inexplicably lost in the first round of the playoffs to Montreal. WTF? Another huge build-up of high expectations, only to be dashed in traumatic fashion.

Success Indicator: 7/10

DC United (MLS – soccer)

They sucked. The worst season in franchise history at 6-20-4 (21 points).

Success Indicator: 2/10

University of Washington Huskies (Capital Alumni Network – co-ed flag football)

I have started playing flag football this year with the UW Alumni in DC. (And as fate would have it, I ended up being the ‘coach’…hmmm). This was the Huskies expansion season (1-9)  into the Capital Alumni Network (CAN) league. With 51 other schools playing flag football, we didn’t expect to win right away. And we didn’t. All teams qualify for the playoffs – we put up a strong effort against Delaware but fell in the end. It’s on for next year!

Peace and may the sports be with you.

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