2011 Top Five Lists

Songs

  1. Shake it Out – Florence + The Machine
  2. Midnight City –  M83
  3. Nightcall – Kavinsky feat. Lovefoxx
  4. A Real Hero – College feat. Electric Youth
  5. I Follow RiversLykke Li

Yes, I realize that the Drive sound track is overly represented here, but both Nightcall and A Real Hero are distilled 80’s alt bliss, all without a shred of irony (no mean feat). Shake it Out may benefit from its proximity to the end of the year, but I really do enjoy this song. While comparisons can be double edged, Florence + The Machine remind me of Annie Lennox–in musical stylings, energy and sense of theatrics–at her best. I Follow Rivers is one of the most original pop songs I’ve heard in a long time. Midnight City does exactly what I want electronic music to do: embrace the complexity possible in the genre while straddling the line between noise and ordered chaos.

Limiting myself to five songs means a lot of really good music doesn’t get mentioned here. Feel free to set me straight and add the stuff I missed.

Movies

  1. The Muppets
  2. Drive
  3. Attack the Block
  4. 50/50
  5. 13 Assassins

IANAMC, so take this list for what it is: the movies I most enjoyed watching this year. The Muppets wins because it’s the Muppets (and a fine, fine film). Drive, like its sound track, manages to channel the style and grit of 80s revenge films yet (and this still amazes me) avoids nostalgia, camp and irony. Amazing. Attack the Block is simultaneously a hilarious send-up of the alien invasion genre while also a social commentary on white England’s fear of alien invasion of a more terrestrial sort. I saw 50/50 with Diana for date night. Touching, funny, and only marginally uncomfortably crude. 13 Assassins rightly recalls Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai–I wonder if Yul Brynner is available for the inevitable Hollywood remake…

Television Shows

  1. Louie
  2. Justified
  3. Community
  4. Boardwalk Empire
  5. A Game of Thrones

Here again limiting myself to 5 if tough. Treme should make this list but doesn’t by virtue of a reasonable comedy/drama split. My first impulse was to put The Walking Dead on the list, but my disappointment in the first half of the second season kept that from happening, much to my own surprise. A Game of Thrones gets in on the “oh wow, they managed to do that even half right? That’s amazing!” vote. Community is now my go-to example for explaining meta criticism. The best 30 minutes you can spend watching TV this year is episode 11 of Louie, “Ducklings.” The best hour you can spend watching TV this year is watching Richard Harrow’s Hamlet moment in episode 5 of Boardwalk Empire, “Gimcrack & Bunkum.”

Books (I’m going to cheat here and list the top 5 books I read, not that were published)

  1. Animal’s People, Indra Sinha
  2. Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh
  3. Moxyland, Lauren Beukes
  4. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, Nick Dyer-Witherford and Greig Peuter
  5. Luka and the Fire of Life, Salman Rushdie

I had to limit myself to one Ghosh novel as I also read The Calcutta Chromosome and The Hungry Tide this year, both of which could easily make this list. I’m not exactly sure why I chose Sea of Poppies over the other two novels; perhaps it’s the sense of scope that Sea of Poppies suggests, even if you don’t consider it as the first book in a trilogy. There is an expansiveness about the book that is precisely consistent with its title and the obvious pleasure Ghosh takes in creating myths that must necessarily stray beyond the scope of the novels in which he creates them. The other four books all have really interesting things to say about the intersection of digital technology and postcoloniality.

Games

  1. The Witcher 2
  2. Bastion
  3. Portal 2
  4. Total War: Shogun 2
  5. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Perhaps surprisingly, I’m not the best person to come to for video game recommendations. I only own one of the three main game systems (a Wii), and my game interests are primarily in turn-based strategy games (a genre that’s been on life support for over a decade now) and role-playing games that employ an ethics system. The latter interest is what puts The Witcher 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic on my list. It’s hard to take the treatment of ethics in either game very seriously because  the ethical choices are safely compartmentalized in your character’s ethics and sense of morality–as opposed to the ethics of the player. That said, at least these titles compel the player to recognize that the choice between solving a challenge through persuasion, violence or coercion is an ethical choice, and thus opens a space for critical play in a way that most games don’t.

There you are, my top 5 lists of the year. Feel free to agree, disagree, or offer up your own lists in the comments section.

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