Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rachael's Top Ten TV Shows of 2009

I know a hell of a lot more about television than music. See for me, music is still very much a mystery to me. I cannot comprehend how a person can create such magic and I'm the first to admit that I still have much to learn. Television, however, is very familiar to me. As a tiny tot I was watching British soap operas, and at 10 years old the Walsh family felt like close relatives. And while I've been very close to this medium for a very long time, 2009 completely wowed me with a real move towards sophistication and utter creativity (and hopefully away from bad reality TV). Watching television can no longer be considered a passive activity -- it may even (gasp!) make you think.

1. Lost
The opening scene of Season 5's finale sealed the deal: there is, and may not ever be, a show like Lost. I cannot wait to see how this grand saga finally plays out -- and you can bet I'll still be dissecting (and watching) these episodes for many years to come. Who knew time travel could be so much fun? Thank you Damon. Thank you Carlton. And thank you every Lost fan out there -- for making this show such a frustrating treat.

2. Mad Men
Many complained that this season was far too slow, but for me this show has always prided itself in an incredible build up. And what a release it was -- from the incredible performances of Jon Hamm and January Jones (that kitchen scene was unreal) to the thrilling season finale, Mad Men paid off in a very big way.

3. Bored To Death
Oh Jason Schwatzman, how I love thee. Team up with Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson on a show set in Brooklyn that's equal parts funny and clever and you really can do no wrong. Thank you, Jonatham Ammes and HBO for bringing this new show into my life (and renewing it for season 2 already!)

4. Fringe
I couldn't imagine how J.J. and his team could follow up a season finale like Fringe's season 1. I mean, that last shot totally blew my mind. But thankfully, this serialized drama is still mixing this massive overarching story line with little one-episode plots that keep you coming back for more. And when John Noble and Leonard Nimoy come head to head in some version of our reality, I'll be there, on the edge of my couch with extreme anticipation.

5. Dexter
If it was not for the final three episodes of this season, Dexter probably wouldn't have been on this list. It was a torturous season,which in retrospect was probably intentional given Dexter's own mindset. John Lithgow gave a hell of a performance as the Trinity and caused serious anxiety when he walked into the Miami Metro Police Station that day. But of course, it all came to fruition at the dramatic end, a shocker that no one saw coming. When a show takes that risk, and even makes its loyal viewers mourn a character they mostly hated -- all I can say is bravo!

6. Skins
I didn't want to embrace a brand new cast, but I had faith in the awesomeness of this show. And look at that -- I wasn't disappointed! While I sincerely miss the old clan, Effie and this messed up bunch provided just enough (if not more) drama to keep me watching. If you aren't watching this show, you are really missing a no holds barred gem that could only be created by our friends overseas.

7. Rescue Me
Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. There really is no other character on TV that you give as many chances to as you do with Tommy Gavin. He'll screw up left and right, and then screw someone else left and right and no matter what you are still rooting him on. Which, of course, made that last shot (literally) so hard to bare, and this wait between the last season of this remarkable show pretty damn rough.

8. Modern Family
I have never laughed so hard at an ABC show in my entire life -- and that's a feat in itself. Dare I say it's a bit reminiscent of another fav Arrested Development? It'll never quite live up to the oddity of that show, but the pace and definitely the laughs and easily comparable.

9. Glee
My friend Conor explained this show perfectly: High School Music meets Election. There's something for everyone -- attractive people singing and dancing, hilarious quips from Sue Sylvestor, and a whole lot of dark humor for all you odd balls out t here (myself included). I'm pretty sure the majority of Americans that watch this show aren't picking up on those twitsted subetlies, but that's fine by me -- anything to keep this show on the air!

10. True Blood
I watched this season's premiere without ever watching the show before and was instantly hooked. It was the perfect perscription for Sunday nights in the summer -- a guilty pleasure that refuses to take itself seriously and is all the better for it. I often compare it to my adult TV version of Goosebumps, as each final moment kept me wanting much more.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rachael's Top Ten Movies of 2009

Hellooooo (oooo) (ooo) (ooooo)

I know it has been a while. I feel like I have started every post in the past year with that statement. I'm not going to make excuses about why I don't really blog anymore, sometimes you just lose interest, or mostly time (in my case). I'm glad I still have the option to get on this space and share some opinions once in a while, so don't worry -- Underrated will never be gone for good. Over the next week or so I'll be providing some top ten lists. I'm sure there are a ton of better ones out there, but if you care -- here's how I spent my last year.

Rachael's Top Ten Movies of 2009

1. An Education

With Carey Mulligan's brilliant performance + Nick Hornby's long-overdue first screenplay + one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a long time, An Education was an easy choice as my personal favorite of 2009.

2. Up
After 10 minutes, there were tears streaming down my face, but at the end I was cheering along. Providing a full scale of emotions in this wonderful Pixar film, Up is yet another sophisticated animated film that totally knocked me off my chair.

3. Inglorious Basterds
There really isn't a Tarantino movie I haven't liked, and this ambitious movie showed why I love this director so much. It was a heavy story to tell, but I don't think anyone could have done it so well -- the ending scene? I couldn't turn away as much as I wanted to!

4. (500) Days of Summer
I'm a total sucker for all things romantic comedy, but I like to see an effort in this easily repurposed genre for something truly unique. Thankfully (500) Days Of Summer was more charming than cheesy, and with many a fun tunes to boot.

5. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
I was a bit surprised when Wes Anderson announced he was making an animated film. Would kids get his type of humor? The answer was a huge YES for creating a classic kids tale in a way that anyone would feel part of the adventure.

6. The Hangover
Two words: Zach Galifinakis

7. Funny People
Many people panned this Judd Apatow flick, but I found it an ambitious attempt at expanding his audience. Sure, it wasn't perfect (the last 3rd of the film could have been cut down drastically) but I appreciate this ode to comedians and their complicated lives was sweet and real, and yet Mr. Apatow was smart not to stray too far from what made him famous.

8. Star Trek
It's a commonly known fact that I obsess about anything J.J. Abrams related, but I never was a total geek when it came to Star Trek...until now. This was everything I wanted this movie to be -- didn't take itself too serious and a ton of fun. Plus, it was fun to see some Felicity alums make cameos. Ah, J.J. You are my hero.

9. Where The Wild Things Are
While watching this film, there were times that I had to remind myself that I was in a movie theater and just watching a movie on the screen. I became so involved in Spike Jonze's world that I almost forgot this was just a story and this wasn't in fact real. It reminded me why I loved this book so much as a kid, and I wasn't at all disappointed by this fantastical film.

10. Away We Go
The plot itself wasn't anything spectacular, but the performances and feelings associated with this film really made it stand out. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph were so subtle in their actions that it almost felt invasive to be part of their story line. And as great as the two of them were, it was really the supporting actors that became the stars -- I'll never look at Maggie Gyllanhaal the same way again.

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