Yeah, yeah, yeah- we've seen it all before...
Well, my 2010 kind of sucked. How about yours? It's safe to say 2010 kind of sucked all across the world unless you spent it on Wall Street or the City of London or any of the other bankster havens. I'd rehash some of the stories that we saw this year but it's all too depressing, plus there are a million other sites for that. Year in Review's don't have quite the resonance they once did in the pre-Internet Age, since the ubiquity of the media ensures that we all get sick of whatever the big issue of the day is well before the news cycle is over.
2010 was a weird year for me pop culture-wise, since I spent a lot of time watching old shows on Hulu that I missed the first time around. Thanks to multitasking- both my computer's and my own- I could do so while working. As regular readers know I spent a lot of time digging into The New Outer Limits (as well as doing some indepth rewatching on the originals). Granted, the show is not consistently great- there are a fairly substantial number of filler eps- but when it works it can blow your head off. There's also the added benefit of having been produced in the Holy City (aka Vancouver, BC) and also having used a host of Ten Thirteen company players.
As with the original series, several episodes of TNOL deal with contact as an intimate event, one that more often than not comes as as result of a radical change in perception. In other words, TNOL presents a world in which are surrounded by strange entities who hide just outside the astonishingly limited sphere of normal human perception. The message being that if you truly want to make contact, you need to escape the straitjacket of the reptilian conscious mind. But beware- that straitjacket also protects you. We're not necessarily well-equipped to deal with this deeper states of knowing. In fact most of us aren't at all.
I was on the scent of a certain revelation this past year, which all of this ties into. At the same time we saw eyes being trained on the skies like no other time in history. Make no mistake, all of the time and money we're seeing being spent isn't because they're fascinated by distant nebulae or space dust...
They're looking for aliens and they're lying if they say any different. At the same time, money and power is being shifted away from North America and Europe to all of these same places where the ancient texts tell us that men met the sky gods and astounding cities are popping up there overnight at the same time billions are being spent of private space travel.
Someone is expecting something and it's a secret we're not being let in on. And if anyone says different they're either lying or uninformed.
The big story in the pop culture media this year was the "Death of Geek." A whole host of movies that got everyone hepped up at Comicon (like Kick Ass here, which I loved) died or underperformed at the box office. Sci-fi TV shows are dropping like flies, even on the SyFy channel. Comic book sales are bottoming out, which might accelerate with the trouble the major booksellers are in. I'm not really buying into this because it all revolves around economics and not culture. The Top 20 movies of 2010 are all geek-friendly at the very least, and everything is hurting on television and in publishing.
What the real story is is that Geek Culture is no longer pulling the entertainment industry out of its decline. Sci-fi shows are getting cancelled because they're expensive to produce and their fans aren't the types who watch anything in its first run (which is the audience advertisers are most concerned with). Graphic novels are still holding their own compared to prose novels.
The real problem from where I sit is A., a lack of vision, and B., an overabundance of expectation. The suits have overheated the entire game in a pressure cooker- the culture can't breath anymore because someone is constantly taking its pulse. People now decide whether to see a movie based on its opening weekend grosses, which is pure insanity. And although downloaders see themselves as heroic cultural anarchists, they are ensuring that the dumbest junk will triumph since its audience can't figure out how to pilfer their entertainment fix yet. These days what sells is what gets pushed, never forget that.
OK, since I myself am a kind of rebel I'm going to name The Box as my favorite movie of 2010, even though it was actually released in late 2009. But I think I blinked at the time and it vanished from the theaters. You can read my rave review for it here. I do find it fascinating that it takes place in Virginia but was shot in my old stomping grounds, aka Fringe Country. This is one of the few decent movies I could find at the local Redbox, which is filled with movies I wouldn't waste a dollar on. Definitely one I want for my shelves as well.
Runner-Up: Toy Story 3, an elegaic farewell that was particularly poignant for those of us who raised kids in the 90s. My second son graduated this year and said it really struck a nerve with him.
My favorite TV show will surprise absolutely no one. As nervous as I am about its move to Friday nights, it also will tickle my old X-Files nostalgia jones. I can never say enough how much I wish TXF never left Vancouver but I also often wish it stayed on Friday nights. Chemistry is a funny thing. Time and setting can be just as important as the writers and actors.
Runner-up is the new Doctor Who series. I never cottoned to the Ninth and Tenth Doctors- too Britpop for my tastes- but I'm totally onboard for Eleven. A lot of it might have something to do with the adorable Scottish ginger he has in tow, but I also buy Matt Smith as a brilliant eccentric, even if he seemed a bit too young for the part. But I also like the writing- just the right mix of drama, humor and imagination. Who fans thought they could never replace Tennant but now most seem to have forgotten him already.
An honorable mention goes to Ancient Aliens; sure, I'd do it differently and it tends to be a bit puppy-dog overeager at times, but it's pissing all of the right people off by asking impertinent questions about history and human origins. The original two-hour special from 2009 is still the best of the lot, but it's destination TV for me and the missus, and a lot of people who I wouldn't expect have been tuning in as well.
I didn't hear much new music this year that got me excited. The local FM station is increasingly playing more and more classic rock and less and less new music. I'll check out 3WK from time to time and enjoy it, but more and more I listen to electronic stuff- mainly dub, ambient and trance stuff on SomaFM. It's good to think to, something that peppy rock doesn't always lend itself to.
Since I'm stuck in the 90s in so many ways the new Stone Temple Pilots gets my nod for album of the year. OK, maybe it would have regardless on its quality but happily its quality was surprisingly high. It's very much in the Purple vein, hitting on that Houses of the Holy/Toys in the Attic vibe that can't miss with me either. As with most STP albums some of the tracks take a few spins to sink in, but for my money there's no shortage of A material, including "Dare if You Dare" and "Maver" which I'd put on a STP best of mix in a heartbeat.
The original Killing Joke put out their new album Absolute Dissent in 2010, the first with the original lineup since 1982's Revelations. It's the usual mix of occultic hammering and political extremities, and would probably rate higher for me if it weren't subject to comparison with Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, an album that I played so much I tattooed it onto the depths of my consciousness. I know that's a controversial stance in Joker circles, but Hosannas opened a doorway into several dimensions with its force-of-nature power and this one is simply just another fantastic KJ record.
I would much prefer to have some music by some newer artists to cite this year, but I just didn't hear any. Which makes sense, given the suckitude of 2010. Just in case you were wondering I have seen the "Monster" video, thought it was a repugnant piece of trash and that's all I have to say about it. I hope one day people will want to listen to music again, not this paint-by-numbers garbage that MTV conditioned them to respond to back when they played music videos. It kills me that real musicians are starving while people who are essentially nothing more than brand names thrive.
As to comics, the same pattern as with everything else applies- I was reading a lot of comics but mostly older material. Art is a timeless thing- that's the whole point of it- so I don't feel honor-bound to read only contemporary material at any given point in time. My favorite offering of 2010 was this gem by Swedish cartoonist Jason, The Werewolves of Montpellier. I think he's a master of deadpan humor, but he can also weave in some very astute observations of human nature and some unexpected drama as well.
I also really enjoyed the new Charles Burns volume, X'ed Out, a harrowing descent into nightmare reality that any novelist would be proud to call his own.
But the real treasure of 2010 was the gorgeous new volume of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's classic Tales of Asgard. The color work is all new and makes the entire work seem all new along with it. The rendering brings out the power and dimension of Kirby's pencils in a way that feels brand new to me. It's very much like seeing this stuff for the first time.
You don't need to be a comics fan to appreciate this book- the story is completely self-contained and hews much closer to the old myths than the Thor comic proper did. If I could only have one comics volume, this would be it. I loved this stuff when I was a kid and I love it even more now.
Well, here's hoping 2011 is better than the past two years, culturally and otherwise. It's been a pretty rough ride around these parts and I could use a change of pace. I hope 2011 is better for all of you out there as well.