I have decided to break up the honorable mentions for my Top 100 Everything countdown into two parts: half to come one third into the list, half to come two thirds into the list.
Well, we’re now a third of the way into the countdown, which means it’s time for the first half of honorable mentions. This half of the Honorable Mentions focuses on things that didn’t make the list because they placed just outside the top 100.
I had Stefanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta penciled in for a spot in the Top 100 in my first draft, but as I came up with more and more “must-haves” and even more “nice-to-haves” (sorry… I bought a house a few months ago), she ended up on the drawing room floor.
Really, if her third or fourth albums had been better, she would have had a much better shot. As it is, she has two absolutely fantastic albums (The Fame, The Fame Monster), one self-indulgent misfire (Born This Way), and one glitz-bomb disaster I haven’t even listened to all the way through (ARTPOP).
Honestly, the strength of The Fame, maybe the best pop album of the past ten years, almost landed Gaga on the list. Add that to the gothic, chameolonic Fame Monster, including monster-smash “Bad Romance,” and you have an impressive start to a career. I love the way she balances satire with indulgence in those early albums, always eating just enough cake to still have some. The pop hooks are spectacular, too.
But after she tried to ride her status as a gay icon transform herself into diplomat rather than an inspired, sardonic poet, she lost me. All of Born This Way combined is half as lyrically interesting as “Paparazzi” off of The Fame, a meditation on romantic obsession gone too far.
I used to love you, Gaga, but now I just like you, and that’s enough for you to slip off the list.
My favorite non-Nolan superhero movie, Spider-Man 2 (the Tobey version) is funny and warm in a way that would quickly go out of style with the success of the moody, gritty Batman Begins. I watched it a couple years ago, and it’s almost refreshing how it doesn’t shove the awfulness of humanity down your throat.
Leads Tobey Maguiire and Kirsten Dunst have been panned as poor casting choices, but I don’t really mind them. They’re starry-eyed and “aww-shucks”-y, not particularly expressive or intense. But they fit the mood, and they were the first actors I saw in the part, so they still “feel” right to me.
The action in this movie is great, but it’s the character and story stuff I remember best. Great, entertaining movie.
Three Cheers for Disappointment
I decided not to include any albums or “one-album artists” — that is, artists who I’ve only ever taken the initiative to listen to one of their albums.
My bro Patrick calls Three Cheers the best album of the last decade. I still don’t agree (I don’t think it’s even the best ska album of the last decade), but it’s undoubtedly great — and you can download it for free! Definitely has grown on me. High-energy, full of raucous performances, and seething lyrics, it’s a delight and favorite every time I put it on. If I knew some more ASOB, they’d have a chance at cracking the list.
It’s simple, but one of my favorite board games. This is a great “warm-up game” — something to get you in the mood for playing anything a little bit heavier.
What I love about the game is that combines strategy, bluffing, and a unique auction format. Once you’ve played it a hundred times, the strategies make themselves obvious (in big groups, ALWAYS try to come in second in auctions), but it’s a blast to play regardless. The fact that there are two phases in each round prevents it from becoming too repetetive.
Throw in some surprisingly great art (try to spot the animal in every drawing) and rules you can teach in about five minutes, and you have a winner.
Joe Jackson’s debut album is one of my favorites. For starters, it has a great title and one of my favorite album covers. Jackson is a snarky bastard who has always been thrust in the shadow of Elvis Costello and The Cars, when in fact he’s halfway between them. His lyrics are bitter and funny, but he delivers them with a resonance that makes him still seem inviting.
The songs are pretty great, though at this point I usually skip over the last four tracks. You may know “One More Time” from a Taco Bell commercial, but it’s probably my second-favorite track here. The biggest winner — one of my top 50 or so songs ever — would have to be “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” It’s a funny and catchy track with a great chorus and even better opening line: “Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street.” Jackson knocks it out of the park.
Look Sharp! to me is the most glaring omission from Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list, which I mean from an objective standpoint: This album has great reviews, respectable sales, a great cover, and a signature single. That’s really all that most of the albums on the second half of that list have.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
I was about fifteen entries into this list when it struck me that I had completely excluded music not in the pop-rock idiom. No jazz, no classical, nothing orchestral or without lyrics. Kind of a major oversight in the “Top 100 Everything.”
I came up with a few entries that I’d at least have considered, and ended up adjusting the list to at least make room for one. But one who probably wouldn’t quite have made the list, though he’d have been close, is Tchaikovsky. He’s a great blend of “there’s some serious complexity and interesting musical stuff happening here” with “these are some great, fun melodies.”
I’ve listened to 1812 Overture probably a thousand times (the whole thing is aces), and parts of the Nutcracker probably ten times that, but pretty much all of his legendary pieces are great: Romeo and Juliet, Andante Cantabile, etc.
One of the first shows I ever got seriously into, I watched every episode of Friends online or on DVD during my freshman year of college. I burned through it in about three months, and at the end proclaimed: “That show was okay.” Friends is full of gutless plotting and boring late-season stories, but also had razor-sharp wit, particularly in the first half of the show’s run.
I mean, come on, do you remember how funny those first few seasons were? Remember when Joey and Chandler couldn’t figure which of two babies they were supposed to be watching? One had a diaper with ducks, the other a diaper with clowns, and they proposed flipping a coin to choose which baby to take.
Joey: Ducks is “Heads”, because ducks have heads.
Chandler: What kind of scary-ass clowns came to your birthday?
Friends is great if you pick and choose the funniest stuff from ten seasons (“piv-att!”) while ignoring the worst (too much “we were on a break” and shameless guest star cameos). It’s very good if you just power through and don’t mind the occasional dud of an episode, and can accept a show getting worse as it gets older. It’s frustrating if you view it as a once-sharp, funny show that gave up trying to be good in the name of being a hit.
But no matter how you look at Friends, it was an important show to me (loathe though I am to admit that sometimes), and is worth watching at least once.
Batman: The Animated Series
Omitted from the list because I’ve only seen a handful of episodes since I entered high school. This was a favorite of mine when I was growing up. The look is sensational, evoking film noir and a moody, art-deco city night.
Its treatment of villains as complex characters was new for superhero TV shows, and new for Batman on film or TV. The portraits of some of these villains is even more round and interesting than the Burton/Schumaker films.
This dark, serious take on Batman now seems pretty standard and expected now that the Nolan movies are the most mainstream adaptation of the Dark Knight. But Nolan owes a lot to Bruce Timm’s team, and there’s a purity to this animated look that no other Batman show or movie has ever captured.
(I should also mention the incredible opening to the show, one of the finest television show intros ever created. If it doesn’t convince you to watch the show, I don’t know what will.)
I once read an article (which I can’t find right now) ranking the best Batman stories ever — comic, movie, and TV included — and “Heart of Ice” was very near the top. Thank goodness Nolan never tried to make a Mr. Freeze story, because he couldn’t have done it better. That droning voice, that ending, that ambiguous look of Batman contemplating if he’d actually done good… so perfect.
Mr. Freeze: I failed you. I wish there were another way for me to say it. I cannot. I can only beg your forgiveness and pray you hear me somehow, some place. Some place where a warm hand waits for mine.