I think it’s now becoming apparent why we don’t write as many posts as we used to. It’s just hard to get up the will to post something when you’re no longer a college student with a bunch of free time on your hands. And it’s especially hard when you have to write something with a restrictive, but also demanding structure, as was the case with Top Ten Thursdays. Which is why of course we ended up turning it into the much more fun to do podcast. But here we’ll return back to our original format of ten items ranked in order of personal greatness.
This time, however, I’m just going to order these things in chronological order. As I said, it’s been kind of a long week, and it’s really hard to rank items that aren’t from the same medium, as I’ll be including TV, music, movies, and even aural comedy on this list. Also, some of these may have some sort of personal significance to me or more related to the posts themselves, rather than being what I think are the best of their era. But I suppose that’s what these subjective top tens have always been about. So without further ado, here are my favorite things that I ever had the pleasure of reviewing on Mildly Pleased…
In my memory, Up In The Air is the first movie I reviewed on this blog that I remember truly loving to the point where it almost instantly became one of my favorite movies ever. At the time, I don’t think I was really able to pinpoint why exactly though. The best I could figure was it just had that light but existential tone that I look for in my favorite comedies, and it’s about as effortlessly charming as my mancrush George Clooney has ever been.
But as time has gone by, it’s become a little more obvious why I love Up In The Air to the extent I do. I clearly relate to the character of Ryan Bingham. Always drifting through life without tying myself to any particular place or sense of stability, because human beings are too messy to ever really get attached to, right? And yet, weirdly I find this movie very warm and comforting despite its meditations on loneliness, and I was glad to have Mildly Pleased as a co-pilot in sharing my admiration for it.
Yes, writing for a blog like Mildly Pleased does force you to be more conscious of pop culture than the average person, but even then there are still artists who slip through the cracks. Maybe it’s because Fiona Apple hadn’t released an album in 7 years that I hadn’t yet checked out any of her music prior to the release of The Idler Wheel (yeah sorry, I’m not gonna spell out the whole title). But whatever the case was, I was a fan after this album, which ended up topping my albums list that year.
And I’ve continued listening to Fiona Apple’s albums since then, all of which are great. Though none of them sound quite as singular and peculiar as this one, as it’s one of those records that somehow manages to sound like no other. And yet, is just so specifically itself that I doubt anyone will ever come close to replicating the sublime mixture of beauty and ugliness found on this album. Well, except maybe Fiona Apple whenever she decides to finally release that follow-up.
That’s right… I forgot that 2012 was a great year for the late ’90s’ coolest power couple, as Fiona Apple’s former boyfriend released a more than worthy follow-up to There Will Be Blood. Seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest The Phantom Thread recently got me thinking that I should probably see The Master again. Because I’ve only seen it once, but it was undoubtedly one of the most odd and thought-provoking cinema experiences I’ve ever had. It’s just a bizarre and heavy movie to wrap your mind around, while being anchored by two powerhouse performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP). So needless to say, I’ll probably need to see it again before it comes to top 10 of the ’10s times roll around, but there’s probably a great chance it’ll be a contender.
It was quite the momentous occasion being able to finally write a review for Boyhood upon it’s release. After all, I’d known about this project before Mildly Pleased even existed, and as a Richard Linklater fan, it was something I was anticipating immensely. So there is a part of me that thought that I loved Boyhood unabashedly because I wanted to love it after so many years of anticipation, and thus ended up giving it the rare 5-star review.
But after having seen this movie more than once, I just don’t think that’s the case. This is by no means a perfect film, but it’s one with so much depth and humanity and so many little moments that I adore, that despite it’s nearly 3-hour runtime, I’d watch it again in a heartbeat. It certainly says something about a film’s effect on you when you can carry its messages and themes with you into every day life, and the film’s parting sentiment of “The moment seizes you” is one I think about all the time.
This review reminds of one bad habit I forgot to mention on my Worst Wednesday. Sometime around 2014-2015 I started writing paragraphs that were way too long and hard to read. It’s something I’ve tried to temper since then, but I think my own confidence in my prose got a little full of itself around that point. But maybe there’s something appropriate about that for an artist like Courtney Barnett, who’s charmingly ragged lyricism is always primed to go off on its own whimsical tangents.
I suppose this was one of those reviews where I felt like I was getting to write about an artist just as they were breaking, seeing as though I can remember buying her debut album the day it came out. Which was kind of a rare thing for me, and getting this review up somewhat close to it’s release date made me feel almost like a real music create. And like most music critics (I assume), I’m still eager to see what Miss Barnett’s future albums will bring.
I know… talking about your favorite podcasts is almost always the most insufferable thing for another person to listen to if they haven’t heard your favorite podcast. So I realize writing about this boxset from longtime radio/podcast comedy duo Scharpling & Wurster would probably be incredibly uninteresting for the uninitiated. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t absolutely love this box set, while being amused by my gall to give something so irreverent the 5-star treatment.
But I’ve spent so many hours of my life listening to The Best Show, and by extension the comedy bits between Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster that live on The Best Show. So it was just nice to finally have a reason to write about that, since we’ve never reviewed other people’s podcasts on this blog. But I think this box set proves that not all podcasts are as disposable as the infinite amounts of podcast mediocrity would tell you.
One of the recurring posts I’ve done, that always seem to carry a bit more weight than your average review is my post-finale TV reviews. In these pieces, I’ll usually assess a beloved show’s series finale, while also looking back at the series as a whole. I think I did this for 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and probably a few others, but Mad Men is the one that felt most appropriate for this list.
Not just because Mad Men was a show reeking of prestige that all of us here at Mildly Pleased were big fans of. But also because it felt like the last of it’s kind, in terms of a big ’00s era anti-hero drama, that adeptly aged into its later seasons. And besides that, it was just a really great finale, featuring one of the most indelible images in recent TV history that I can think of.
2016 was a thoroughly shitty year, in which we all were treated to the glaring conceit that America really isn’t as great as we constantly are telling ourselves it is. So perhaps it made sense that a few months before the country went truly bonkers, we were giving not one, but two astonishing pieces of television about the “only in America” O.J. Simpson story.
One of them being the more sensationalized Ryan Murphy mini-series, released under the American Crime Story banner, and the other being the 30-for-30 doc directed by Ezra Edelman, which somehow ended up winning an Oscar. Since this is still fairly recent, I feel like I talked enough about how riveting both these accounts of this insane story was. So I won’t bore you again by going on about them. But just beware everybody – the Juice is (now) loose!
This movie didn’t quite top my favorite movies of 2016, so you’re probably wondering why I’d put it on this list. But, well, I’m hesitant to put Manchester By The Sea or La La Land on here for various reasons, so I might as well give a shout-out to the most unconventional Best Picture winner ever.
Also, this review, along with A Tribe Called Quest’s Thank You For Your Service seemed like the two pieces of pop culture that kind of informed me of how pop culture would be absorbed in a post-2016 election era. It wasn’t just enough for a movie to be good, but it also had to have a kind of fight in it, or a kind of empathy, all leaning in to the issues that are at the heart of what’s tearing this country apart right now. Which, I can’t say if it’ll necessarily look like a good thing for pop culture to become as vaguely politicized as it has now 10 years from now. But right now, it’s just nice to have art that reminds us of what binds us.
Sure, it’s always a cop-out to put any sort of two-fer on a list. But this isn’t a proper list anyways, and I’m just trying to mention as much stuff as I loved from the past ten years, since regardless there’s plenty I’m leaving off. But Frances Ha was truly the kind of film that sneaks up on you, since I was familiar with most of Noah Baumbach’s films at that point, but I’d never expected him to make a film so buoyant and light-hearted as Frances Ha.
Looking back now, it seems fairly obvious that the X-factor there was co-writer/star Greta Gerwig, since she more or less carried the same vibe over to the similarly charming Lady Bird. And “similarly charming” is putting it lightly, seeing as though Lady Bird just a month ago topped my favorite films of 2017 list, and will probably be one I’ll be talking about in some other retrospective post I end up writing in the not-too-distant future. And I say.. bring it on.