As the end of the year approaches, it is time for the 2010 Tiltie Awards, the most prestigious awards to be found anyplace on these here intertubes. We (‘we’ is a lie, it is only me, sitting on the couch in my underwear, when I can find underwear that is, so yeah, sometimes I am naked) have been giving these Golden Can Opener Statues (no such statues exist) since the 1940s (another lie). While a Tiltie is not as prestigious as an Oscar (no kidding!), it is a shitload more valuable than a Grammy (this is true), which nobody cares about or, God help us, an Emmy, which is totally worthless (very fucking true) Those of you who sent adequate bribes have been handsomely rewarded. You stingy bastards get nothing. Ready, Set, Go!
Best Beer: Sierra Nevada Thirtieth Anniversary Fritz and Ken’s Ale – This is as good a beer as I have ever had. I had a second bottle after the Vermont weekend, and it was just as fine.
Runner Up: Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale – Piney and sticky, cloudy and orange, this is becoming my go-to beer in Texas.
Second Runner Up: Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Stout - An intensely flavored stout. Probably best consumed from a snifter while sitting before a roaring fire.
Honorable Mention: Real Ale Oak Aged Devil’s Backbone – I had this on tap recently. I have never had the standard Devil’s Backbone, so I have no basis for comparison to that, but this Tripel was well done with the oak adding a touch of vanilla to the beer.
Best Movie: The Black Swan – A dark film about a young woman’s descent into madness, and her simultaneous rise to genius, you are never quite sure what is real and what is not. Natalie Portman gives a great performance, but the eye opening performance for me was by Mila Kunis as Portman’s friend/confidant/doppelganger/nemesis. She always seemed to be a bit of a lightweight to me in the past, certainly funny at times, pleasant to look at, but an actress of no gravitas. Her performance here is a revelation.
Runner Up: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – I absolutely loved the book, so I was a bit hesitant to watch this. I should not have been, as it is an excellent adaptation. It stays true to the book while streamlining most of the extraneous plot threads. Noomi Rapace is excellent as Lisbeth Salander. I see that my two top movies feature female protagonists who are severely damaged in some way. Dr. Freud would love me as a patient.
Best TV Show: Parks & Recreation – I just discovered it a few months ago, and have not seen any episodes from the first season at all, but Parks & Recreation is easily the funniest show I have seen all year. Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari are excellent, as is Aubrey Plaza, but Nick Offerman is the driving force of the show. He plays Ron Swanson, the chair weaving, sleep fighting, Reaganite Libertarian Director of the Parks and Rec department, and he is brilliant in the role. I happened to catch this episode one night while channel surfing, and I have been hooked on the show since that night.
Runner Up: The Walking Dead - I tivoed the series and watched it all in a single sitting. There are some plot holes and inconsistencies that might be resolved in the second season, but overall it was a fun show to watch, while raising some Lord of the Flies type philosophical questions.
Best Album: The Monitor, Titus Andronicus – I enjoyed The Airing of Grievances, the first album by Titus Andronicus, but this album floored me. With Ramones like riffs over Springsteenish cinematic lyrics, the songs examine the American Civil War, the naval battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac, and the existential angst of living in the New Jersey suburbs, with snippets of the speeches of Abraham Lincoln re-enacted throughout. The album should be a pretentious sprawling mess, but somehow Titus Andronicus pull it off.
Runner Up: The Act You’ve Known For All These Years, We’re Late For Class - Self described as “Live, all improvisational college collective, with about a dozen rotating members. Anti-contract, pro-herb and sometimes cut & paste” We’re Late For Class give away their music on their website. The Act You’ve Known For All These Years is their Beatles mash-up/tribute and it is one of their more accessible works, although I have listened to Adventures in Krautrock quite often as well. You can find their Greatest Hits here.
Honorable Mention: Life is a Problem, Marah: Anyone who knows me knows my love for Marah, and while Life is a Problem is not their best album, it is still damn good. I will never understand why this band failed to break through to the big time. They have it all: great songs, great singing, great musicians. Bright Morning Stars would have fit comfortably on Harry Smith’s Anthology.
Best Live Music: Red Molly at Hamilton Square Park, Jersey City, New Jersey - Early June, and after months of early morning construction work and endless delays, the renovation of Hamilton Square Park is finally complete. One early evening, after the heat had broken, I am sitting in the bandshell, reading Raymond Chandler and surreptitiously drinking beer from a brown paper bag, when three young women stroll into the park, open their guitar cases, and begin to play and sing. They had not even made it to the chorus of the first song before I had put Farewell, My Lovely down so I could listen closely. One girl had a guitar, the other had a banjo, and the third had a dobro. They said that the banjo player and the dobro player had been together for some time, and the guitar player was new and they were trying to break her in. Their harmonies were pitch perfect, and their songs, a mix of covers and originals, drew from the deep well that is the mongrel culture of America. I saw them a few more times in the park, but nothing matched that first night, when they walked in to the park and began singing like a scene from a Walt Whitman poem. However, as I saw them a few more times over the ensuing weeks, I did develop a small crush on the guitar player. You can read about Red Molly here.
Runner Up: Marah at the Glen Ridge Train Station, Glen Ridge, New Jersey – I saw Marah twice this year, a historic low for me, once with the new band at the Electric Bowery, and an acoustic show in Glen Ridge. The full band show was good, but it was one of their first shows together, so they were a bit tentative. The show in Glen Ridge was just Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith and it was loose and fun. They debuted a bunch of new songs from Life is a Problem, played some old favorites, and Dave was in rare form, making jokes and telling stories and just having a grand time. You can see some videos of the Glen Ridge show here. Videos from the Bowery show are here.
Honorable Mention: Two Cow Garage at Double Wide, Dallas, Texas – Almost Replacements like in their ability to go from scorching rocker to tender ballad and back again, sometimes in the same song, and they have a similar ability to play the perfect cover song at the right time. Well worth the five bucks it cost to get in the door. In addition to the great music, I saw a guy wearing the best t-shirt I have ever seen. It read “I Collect Records Because Pussy Hates Me.” Been there, done that, I just don’t have the shirt.
Best Moment in Sports: Watching the United States beat England in the World Cup. For a brief moment, it seemed like USA! USA! USA! would make a deep run in the tournament. It was not to be, and when USA! USA! USA! was finally eliminated, I went back to ignoring soccer for another four years.
Runner Up: Watching PotHead Timmy vault over the dugout railing when Beardo the Weirdo got the final out in the World Series was a blast, especially as I have become friendly with a diehard Giants fan, and I recognised that most of the Rangers fans here in Texas were frontrunners who would not appreciate and did not deserve a World Series Champ.
Honorable Mention: Seeing Dez Bryant fall to his knees when he learned that the Cowboys had drafted him. I never would have guessed that was the highlight of 2010 for the Cowboys.
Best Twitter Feed: Twitter is a collection of morons shouting one liners at each other, letting the world know what they are eating/drinking/buying/screwing, with the occasional nugget of useful information, usually coming in the form of local weather and traffic reports. As a repository of all that is banal and idiotic, it is tailor made for me. I spend way too much time reading up on useless crap, and processing information from people I do not know, do not care about, and in some instances, wish would be wiped off the planet. I do not know the Hot Librarian; Not knowing her, I cannot say that I care about the Hot Librarian; I really have no idea if the Hot Librarian is hot, or even a librarian; Truth be told, I don’t even know if she is really a ‘she’; But I would miss her/his Twitter Feed if she/he were wiped off the planet. She/He manages to be very fucking funny in 140 characters or less, when most other twitterers (or tweeters or “those who use twitter”; Is there a ruling on this?) usually just annoy me. Yet I keep following them, proving, once again, that I am a dolt.
Sort of Honorable Mention: Buzz Bissinger, sportswriter and Nemesis of Will Leitch, also has an entertaining Twitter Feed but he develops his ideas over several tweets, making him ineligible for the grand prize. If an idea cannot be expressed in 140 characters or less, it is not banal enough to be on Twitter.
Best Idea On The Internet: The Boxes of Beer Tournaments. Not just the best idea on the internet, quite possibly the greatest idea ever in any medium. Set up your standard office pool, but the entry fee is beer rather than money. So gloriously simple, yet so brilliant. The proprietor of the Vice Blog just released his first novel. I have not read it yet, but it is on the list for 2011.
Best Political Moment: The Rent Is Too Damn High.