Favorite Movies of All Time: 20-11


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91 50-41
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81 40-31
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71 30-21
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101 60-51

 

20

Title: Grave of the Fireflies
Director: Isao Takahata
Cast: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, and Akemi Yamaguchi
Year: 1988
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A heartbreaking story of the cost of war on the most vulnerable people as well as a sweet story of sibling love.


19

Title: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, and Douglas Rain
Year: 1968
When did I first watch this movie?: early 1980s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Mind-blowing visuals, perfect scoring, limited but pointed dialogue, and a scene where the death of a murderous computer makes you cry are reasons why this is an all time classic.


18

Title: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, and Denholm Elliott
Year: 1981
When did I first watch this movie?: 1981, in the theater
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The memory of watching this movie with my sister every time it returned to $1 second run movie theater alone would make this one of my favorites, but it’s also a great action/adventure/comedy/special effects spectacular.


17

Title: Sunset Boulevard
Director: Billy Wilder
Cast:William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, and Jack Webb
Year: 1950
When did I first watch this movie?: December 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: “Yep, that’s me. You probably wonder how I got myself into this predicament,” is something you can imagine William Holden’s body floating in a pool saying as he narrates this caustic and funny deconstruction of the Hollywood mythos.


16

Title: Ikiru
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Takashi Shimura, Shinichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki, Bokuzen Hidari, and Miki Odagiri
Year:1952
When did I first watch this movie?: March 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Kurosawa’s story of a dying bureaucrat trying to make some meaning of his life is a film that deeply appreciates what it means to be human.


15

Title: Donnie Darko
Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Stu Stone, Daveigh Chase, James Duval, and Seth Rogen
Year: 2001
When did I first watch this movie?: 2004, the director’s cut in the theater
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: I kind of relate to the Catholic school kid in the suburbs in the 1980s aspects of this movie.  Lucky for me I never had to deal with time travel, aircraft disasters, or creepy rabbits.


14

Title: Delicatessen
Director: Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, and Jean-Claude Dreyfus
Year: 1991
When did I first watch this movie?: June 2003
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A darkly funny take on post-apocalyptic survival films in the quirky Caro/Jeunet style.


13

Title: Duck Soup
Director: Leo McCarey
Cast: Marx Brothers (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo), Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres and Edgar Kennedy
Year: 1933
When did I first watch this movie?: 1992
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The Marx Brothers funniest and most satirical film.


12

Title: Genghis Blues
Director: Roko Belic
Cast: Paul Pena, Kongar-ol Ondar
Year: 1999
When did I first watch this movie?: 1999, in the theater
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A blind Blues musician from the US discovers the traditional music of Tuva and travels with a team of eccentric people to participate in a throat-singing competition.


11

Title: It’s a Wonderful Life
Director: Frank Capra
Cast:James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Frank Faylen, and Gloria Grahame
Year: 1946
When did I first watch this movie?: circa 1984
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A movie that can survive the sheer repetition of its multiple holiday season airings back in the 80s and 90s and still be a joy to behold is a great film.


 

Favorite Albums of All Time: 30-21


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91 50-41
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81 40-31
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101 60-51

30

Artist: Amy Winehouse
Title: Back to Black
Year: 2006
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rehab
  • You Know I’m No Good
  • Just Friends
  • Back To Black
  • Tears Dry on Their Own

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2006 or 2007

Thoughts: It’s a shame that tabloid headlines and her early death overshadow Amy Winehouse’s massive talent.  She was the cornerstone of a soul revival in the Oughts along with the likes of Adele, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Joss Stone and this album is a testament to that era.

Bonus Sounds:  The documentary Amy leans toward exploitative but contains footage of Winehouse developing her talent as well as how she was destroyed by the celebrity media complex.  It also includes the sweetest scene of her spending time with her idol Tony Bennet.


29

Artist: Harry Belafonte
Title: Belafonte at Carnegie Hall 
Year: 1959
Favorite Tracks:

  • Cotton Fields
  • John Henry
  • The Marching Saints
  • Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)
  • Jamaica Farewell
  • Mama Look a Boo Boo
  • Hava Nageela
  • Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma
  • Shennandoah
  • Matilda

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 1980s

Thoughts: When I was growing up we had a collection of LPs and 45s from various relatives, and one treasure of my late Aunt Barbara was the Harry Belafonte collection.  This concert performance recorded in April 1959 features Belafonte’s interpretations of African American songs, Carribean calypso, and traditional folk tunes from around the world.

Bonus Sounds: The blockbuster Calypso (1956) was the first LP to sell over a million copies and kicked off a global calypso craze.  Not bad for someone who took up singing as a side gig when he couldn’t get acting parts.


28

Artist: Sigur Rós 
Title: Ágætis byrjun
Year: 1999
Favorite Tracks:

  • Svefn-g-englar
  • Starálfur
  • Ný batterí
  • Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)
  • Olsen Olsen

The First Time I Heard This Album …: circa 2005

Thoughts: The first album I ever heard by Sigur Rós remains the best.  The sweeping orchestral arrangements are cinematic in scope.  While I don’t understand the lyrics, many of which are in a language made up by Sigur Rós frontman Jonsi called Hopelandic, they still speak to me.  The title track is extra special since it was playing in the delivery room when my younger child was born and means “A Good Beginning.”

Bonus Sounds: I have a Music Discovery on Sigur Rós’ albums through 2016 and highly recommend their concert film Heima.


27

Artist: Janelle Monáe
Title: Dirty Computer
Year:  2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Crazy, Classic, Life
  • Django Jane
  • Pynk
  • Make Me Feel
  • I Got the Juice
  • So Afraid
  • Americans

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2018

Thoughts: Monáe’s masterpiece, so far, hit big in 2018 and is surprisingly only her third full-length album.  It’s Monáe’s most personal album and challenges the fears of our troubled times while celebrating women, Blackness, sexuality, gender identity, and even American identity.

Bonus Sounds: I wrote my very first Music Discovery about Janelle Monáe as well as a concert review from the Dirty Computer tour.


26

Artist: The Specials 
Title: The Specials
Year: 1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Gangsters
  • A Message To You, Rudy
  • Nite Klub
  • Concrete Jungle
  • Too Much Too Young
  • Little Bitch

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 90s

Thoughts: The debut album from the Two Tone ska band The Specials contains many of the band’s greatest songs and established the new genre of U.K. Ska.

Bonus Sounds: The band’s follow-up album More Specials (1980) took a strange turn into “Muzak” inspired music but is still interesting, while their more recent reunion album Encore (2019) is also pretty good.


25

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Beggars Banquet
Year: 1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sympathy For the Devil
  • No Expectations
  • Parachute Woman
  • Street Fighting Man
  • Prodigal Son
  • Stray Cat Blues
  • Factory Girl
  • Salt of the Earth

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 80s

Thoughts: The Rolling Stones were always best as a Blues band, and their best album sees them embracing roots music to create a rock & roll classic. While the Stones have never been an overtly political band, a lot of the songs on this album come from the perspective of working class people, which also makes it interesting.

Bonus Sounds: This is the third Stones’ album on my list so I’ll just reiterate that Out of Our Heads (1965), Aftermath (1966), Let It Bleed (1969), Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (1970), Sticky Fingers (1971),  Exile on Main St. (1972), and Blue & Lonesome (2016) are all worth a listen


24

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: Talking Book 
Year: 1972
Favorite Tracks:

  • You Are the Sunshine of My Life
  • Superstition
  • Big Brother
  • Lookin’ For Another Pure Love
  • I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: This album has a timeless quality, it sounds like it could’ve been released this year. It must’ve been revelatory when people first heard it in 1972. Wonder experiments with numerous keyboards, synthesizers, and drums, continuing as a one-man band on many tracks, but also has numerous guest artists including Jim Gilstrap, Lani Groves, David Sandborn, Deniece Williams, Ray Parker, Jr., and Jeff Beck. Also, “Superstition” is one of the all-time great songs. It never fails to amaze me.

Bonus Sounds: This is the fourth of four Stevie Wonder albums on this list, more than any other artist, so you know you can grab any Stevie Wonder album from the 60s or 70s and you can’t go wrong!


23

Artist: Talking Heads
Title: Remain in Light
Year: 1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Crosseyed and Painless
  • The Great Curve
  • Once in a Lifetime
  • Houses in Motion
  • Listening Wind

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: Talking Heads incorporated Afrobeat sounds into their New Wave and art rock creating one of the seminal albums of the 1980s (as well as one of the defining music videos of the early MTV era).

Bonus Sounds: Beninese superstar Angélique Kidjo created an excellent cover of this entire album!


22

Artist: Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer
Title: Tanglewood Tree
Year: 2000
Favorite Tracks:

  • Happytown (All Right With Me)
  • Tanglewood Tree
  • The Mountain
  • Hey Conductor
  • Crocodile Man
  • Cat-Eye Willie Claims His Lover
  • Cowboy Singer

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2000

Thoughts: When I ranked my favorite albums of all time in 2009, this was the number one album! It may seem like a demotion but really any of my top 25 could be number one and I have to rank them somehow.  The late Dave Carter wrote the mystical lyrics on this album while their partner Tracy Grammer provides harmony and fiddle.

Bonus Sounds: Two of the three albums released by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer before Carter’s death made my Top 250, but the duo’s final album Drum Hat Buddha is also excellent.


21

Artist: Johnny Clegg & Savuka
Title: Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
Year:  1989
Favorite Tracks:

  • One (Hu)’ Man One Vote
  • Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
  • Jericho
  • Dela (I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon)
  • It’s An Illusion
  • Woman Be My Country
  • Warsaw 1941

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts:  They say the best music ever is what you were listening to when you were 17.  When I was 17, I was lucky enough to be listening to Johnny Clegg & Savuka.  The racially integrated band formed in South Africa during Apartheid and the music blended Western and African sounds with many lyrics in Zulu.  The album is politically charged yet hopeful.

Bonus Sounds: Before Savuka, there was Juluka, a band formed by Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu that was one of the first multi-racial acts under apartheid and released several albums between 1979 and 1984.  I’m also fond of the 1993 Johnny Clegg and Savuka album Heat, Dust and Dreams which reflects on the exciting times after the release of Nelson Mandela and end of apartheid.


Favorite Movies of All Time: 30-21


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91 50-41
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81 40-31
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101 60-51

 

30

Title: Monsters, Inc.
Director: Pete Docter
Cast: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Mary Gibbs and Jennifer Tilly
Year: 2001
When did I first watch this movie?: 2001, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?:  Pixar’s fourth feature and second masterpiece features the comedy duo of Goodman and Crystal with a completely imaginative world based on the childhood fear of monsters in the closet.


 

29

Title: The Right Stuff
Director: Philip Kaufman
Cast: Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, and Barbara Hershey
Year: 1983
When did I first watch this movie?: 1984
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: I was a ten-year-old obsessed with air and space flight when this movie made its cable tv debut.  Naturally I watched it a gazillion times. The sprawling story follows test pilots breaking the sound barrier to the formation of the Mercury program in the 50s, and the first American manned spaceflights in the 1960s.  And it’s funny too.


 

28

Title: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Director: John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman
Cast: Sterling Holloway, John Fiedler, Junius Matthews, Paul Winchell, Howard Morris, Bruce Reitherman, Jon Walmsley,  and Timothy Turner
Year: 1977
When did I first watch this movie?: Maybe as a kid, maybe in the 90s or early 2000s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: When my kids were small I’d put this DVD on and get a good nap, which probably doesn’t sound like an endorsement.  But when I do stay awake, I love every minute of it.  Even when it diverges from A.A. Milne’s work into Disney cheeze it still holds the special charm of the Hundred Acre Woods.


 

27

Title: Tales of the City
Director: Alastair Reid
Cast: Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, Barbara Garrick, William Campbell, Parker Posey, Marcus D’Amico, Paul Gross, Nina Foch, Cynda Williams, Chloe Webb, Thomas Gibson
Year: 1993
When did I first watch this movie?: 1994
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: My sister introduced me to this mini-series when it first aired on PBS and I later read all of the books by Armistead Maupin several times each.  The movie captures San Francisco in the 1970s, a time when no one seemed to have any secrets but it turns out they had some very deep secrets.


 

26

Title: Lifeboat
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn and Canada Lee
Year: 1944
When did I first watch this movie?: 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This Alfred Hitchcock thriller is set entirely in a lifeboat where a group of people try to survive after their ship is sunk by a German U-boat.  The ensemble cast is lead by an amazing performance by Tallulah Bankhead.


 

25

Title: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, Denholm Elliott, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, and John Rhys-Davies
Year:1989
When did I first watch this movie?: 1989, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The thrills and humor of Raiders of the Lost Ark return in Indiana Jones’ biggest adventure featuring the addition of Sean Connery as Indiana’s estranged father.  It’s so good!


 

24

Title: When We Were Kings
Director: Leon Gast
Cast: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman , James Brown, B.B. King, Don King, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Spike Lee and Thomas Hauser
Year:1996
When did I first watch this movie?: 1998, on an airplane
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This documentary is more than just the story of a boxing match, but captures a moment in 1974 when Black liberation movements made connections with newly independent African nations.  The music, the archival footage, and the enigmatic character of Ali himself make this a fascinating movie.


 

23

Title: The Wizard of Oz
Director: Victor Fleming
Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton
Year: 1939
When did I first watch this movie?: late 70s/early 80s?
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: In my childhood, The Wizard of Oz was broadcast on TV once per year and it was always a treat! Even though the movie made some odd changes to the L. Frank Baum book it has it’s own charms and an irresistible performance by Judy Garland.


 

22

Title: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Director:Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
Year: 1975
When did I first watch this movie?: 1986?
Why is this one of my all time favorites?:

My family discovered Monty Python movies sometime in the mid-90s and watched them basically in reverse order saving the best for last.  I love Arthurian legend, and the Pythons send-up of Arthuriana and adventure movies is full of laughs.  C’mon, you know you want to quote it right now!


 

21

Title: Eighth Grade
Director: Bo Burnham
Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, and Fred Hechinger
Year: 2018
When did I first watch this movie?: 2018, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This utterly guileless movie is perhaps the most honest representation of the early teenage years set to film.  Elsie Fisher’s performance is amazing (why is she not a big star now?)!

Favorite Albums of All Time: 40-31


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91 50-41
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101 60-51

40

Artist: John Coltrane
Title: A Love Supreme
Year:  1964
Favorite Tracks: It’s all one suite.

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 90s

Thoughts: As a musical suite and an expression of spirituality, A Love Supreme comes as close to perfection as humanly possible.

Bonus Sounds: I’ve enjoyed many of Coltrane’s recordings, including Blue Train (1958), Giant Steps (1960), My Favorite Things (1961) and Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1963).


39

Artist: The Dismemberment Plan 
Title: Emergency & I
Year: 1999
Favorite Tracks:

  • What Do You Want Me to Say?
  • Spider in the Snow
  • You Are Invited
  • Girl O’Clock

The First Time I Heard This Album …: circa 2003

Thoughts: I found out about The Dismemberment Plan because I knew guitarist and lead vocalist Travis Morrison in college.  Basically I was wondering whatever happened to him and found out, hey, he’s in this legendary Washington indie rock band I’ve never heard of before.  Turns out, they were really good!

Bonus Sounds: I saw The Dismemberment Plan in concert when they reunited in 2013.


38

Artist: Sinéad O’Connor
Title: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Am Stretched on Your Grave
  • Three Babies
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • Black Boys on Mopeds
  • Nothing Compares 2 U
  • The Last Day of Our Acquaintance

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: Despite her shaved head and radical for Reagan/Bush America opinions, Sinéad O’Connor managed to become a star loved by the cool alternative kids and their Boomer parents (especially if those parents were Irish-American). O’Connor’s dynamic voice powers an eclectic mix of song styles on her most famous album.

Bonus Sounds: I’m also fond of O’Connor’s debut album The Lion and the Cobra (1987).


37

Artist: Prince and the Revolution
Title: 1999
Year: 1982
Favorite Tracks:

  • 1999
  • Little Red Corvette
  • Delirious
  • D.M.S.R.
  • Free
  • All the Critics Love U in New York
  • International Lover

The First Time I Heard This Album …: mid-80s

Thoughts: Prince and the Revolution exploded onto the scene with this album in 1982. I still remember hearing Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the first time on Casey Kasem’s “America’s Top 40.” Prince was probably too raunchy for me, and while three singles got a lot of airplay the rest of this album was and probably is to sexy for radio. It remains an amazing collection by an artist at the top of his game.

Bonus Sounds: There’s one more album from Prince and the Revolution to come, but the late, great Prince Rogers Nelson is responsible for so much great music that you could start with just about anything and hear something amazing.


36

Artist: Robert Johnson
Title: The Complete Recordings
Year: 1936-1937/1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sweet Home Chicago
  • When You Got a Good Friend
  • Come On in My Kitchen
  • 32-20 Blues
  • They’re Red Hot
  • Cross Road Blues
  • Walkin’ Blues
  • Last Fair Deal Gone Down
  • From Four Until Late
  • Traveling Riverside Blues
  • Love in Vain

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: Disabuse yourself of the myths.  Robert Johnson did not sell his soul to the devil at the crossroads.  Blues men accompanying themselves on guitar were not the standard in the 1920s-40s (in fact women singing with bands were the Blues hitmakers).  Rock & roll did not evolve from Robert Johnson, but he was adopted by British R&B enthusiasts after his music was re-released in the 1960s.  The truth is, Robert Johnson was a talented guitarist who recorded a couple of dozen songs in the mid-30s and the sound of those tunes reverberates through the ages.

Bonus Sounds: This album collects all of Johnson’s known recordings, but had he lived longer he would have participated in the series of Carnegie Hall concerts of 1938-1939 known as From Spirituals to Swing.


35

Artist: Charles Mingus
Title: Mingus Ah Um 
Year: 1959
Favorite Tracks:

  • Better Git It in Your Soul
  • Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
  • Boogie Stop Shuffle
  • Fables of Faubus

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 1990s

Thoughts: I can’t remember who introduced me to Charles Mingus’ work, but I started listening to his music in my college years and it really changed my understanding of what jazz could be. This album draws inspiration from Duke Ellington while incorporating the bop styles of the 1950s (or the “modern jazz”) that Chuck Berry has no kick about). Mingus and his band play the tunes fast and slow and it’s all inspired and gets in your soul

Bonus Sounds: You probably can’t go wrong with Mingus, but I’ve enjoyed The Clown (1957) and Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964).


34

Artist: Camera Obscura
Title: Let’s Get Out of this Country
Year:  2006
Favorite Tracks:

  • Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken
  • Tears for Affairs
  • Let’s Get Out of This Country
  • Country Mile
  • I Need All the Friends I Can Get
  • Razzle Dazzle Rose

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2006

Thoughts: Scottish band Camera Obscura emerged from the twee pop scene of the Oughts.  The sweet voice of Tracyanne Campbell floats above a bed of sonically-dense baroque pop.  It’s exquisite.

Bonus Sounds: Campbell continues to record in the duo Tracyanne & Danny.


33

Artist: Tom Waits
Title: Rain Dogs
Year: 1985
Favorite Tracks:

  • Clap Hands
  • Jockey Full of Bourbon
  • Hang Down Your Head
  • Time
  • Downtown Train
  • Anywhere I Lay My Head

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 199-something

Thoughts: Waits’ most famous album has his voice in a fully-developed growl over hallucinogenic carnival music.  One of the great albums of the 1980s.

Bonus Sounds: I have a particular fondness for the amusicality of Tom Waits and Keith Richards singing the standard “Shenandoah.”


32

Artist: The Breeders
Title Last Splash
Year: 1993
Favorite Tracks:

  • Cannonball
  • Roi
  • I Just Wanna Get Along
  • Divine Hammer
  • Saints
  • Drivin’ on 9

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1993

Thoughts: The Breeders originally was a side project for Pixies’ bassist Kim Deal, but this album became omnipresent in 1993.  One could not walk through a dormitory on my college campus without hearing “Cannonball” playing from someone’s stereo.

Bonus Sounds: The Breeders have made some great music from their debut album Pod (1990) to their most recent release All Nerve (2018), which reunited the same lineup that made Last Splash.


31

Artist: Mission of Burma
Title: Vs
Year: 1982
Favorite Tracks:

  • Secrets
  • New Nails
  • Dead Pool
  • Learn How
  • Einstein’s Day
  • That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate
  • Progress

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2004

Thoughts: The Boston post-punk band released just one full-length studio album in the 1980s but it is a practically perfect one.

Bonus Sounds: Mission of Burma’s debut release Signals, Calls, and Marches (1981) was a terrific 20 minutes of post-punk brilliance.  It has grown longer in re-releases with added tracks that pretty much have promoted it from an EP to an LP.


 

Favorite Movies of All Time: 40-31


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91 50-41
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101 60-51

40

Title: Fargo
Director: Joel Coen
Cast:Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, and Peter Stormare
Year: 1996
When did I first watch this movie?: 1998
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A crime caper comedy that goes horribly wrong with Frances McDormand putting in a terrific performances as Marge Gunderson, one of the most decent human beings to ever appear as a character in a film.


39

Title: Stop Making Sense
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison
Year: 1984
When did I first watch this movie?: 2011
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A concert film the puts the emphasis on the film (we don’t even see the audience until the very end) shows Talking Heads and their collaborators pulling out all the stops for a mind-blowing musical performance.


38

Title: The Third Man
Director: Carol Reed
Cast:Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard
Year: 1949
When did I first watch this movie?: December 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A post-World War II thriller that is steeped in cynicism and lifted up by outstanding cinematography.


37

Title: Modern Times
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford and Chester Conklin
Year: 1936
When did I first watch this movie?: March 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Charlie Chaplin’s anti-capitalist comedy masterpiece is also the last appearance of The Little Tramp, who talks – er, sings – for the first time at the climax of the film.


36

Title: Finding Nemo
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, and Geoffrey Rush
Year: 2003
When did I first watch this movie?: 2004
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Part of Pixar’s amazing run of masterpieces, Finding Nemo features great voice work, stunning visuals, and a hilarious and heartwarming story.


35

Title: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Director: Morgan Neville
Cast: Fred Rogers, François Clemmons, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Negri, David Newell,
Tom Junod, and Joanne Rogers
Year: 2018
When did I first watch this movie?: June 2018, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A celebration of one of the kindest humans in popular culture will bring a tear to your eye.


34

Title: The Farewell 
Director: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, and Zhao Shuzhen
Year: 2019
When did I first watch this movie?: January 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A highly relatable family comedy of inter-generational and intercultural differences.


33

Title: The Triplets of Belleville
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Cast: Lina Boudreault, Mari-Lou Gauthier, Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, and Monica Viegas
Year: 2003
When did I first watch this movie?: December 2007
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A film told mostly through pantomime and music tells an imaginative story about bicycling and jazz music.


32

Title: Cinema Paradiso
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano and Salvatore Cascio
Year: 1988
When did I first watch this movie?: 1990
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A nostalgic film about the bygone days of movie palace in small-town Italy is a love letter to cinephiles everywhere.


31

Title: 13th
Director: Ava DuVernay
Cast: Angela Davis, Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, Jelani Cobb, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Cory Booker, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Year: 2016
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A ground-breaking documentary that exposes how mass incarceration has perpetuated the effects of slavery and segregation for Black Americans.

Favorite Movies of All Time: 50-41


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101 60-51

50

Title: The Thin Man 
Director: W. S. Van Dyke
Cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, and Minna Gombell
Year: 1934
When did I first watch this movie?: January 2003
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Classic Hollywood comedy/mystery with the power couple Nick and Nora Charles solving crimes with cocktails and savoir faire!


49

Title: The Best Years of Our Lives 
Director: William Wyler
Cast: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell
Year: 1946
When did I first watch this movie?: early 80s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Readjusting to civilian life proves challenging for three WWII veterans in this classic Hollywood drama.


48

Title: Breaking Away
Director: Peter Yates
Cast: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley, and Robyn Douglass
Year: 1979
When did I first watch this movie?: early 80s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A sincere comedy from the heartland about bicycling, romance, and the town/gown relationship.


47

Title: The 39 Steps 
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, and Godfrey Tearle
Year: 1935
When did I first watch this movie?: 1990
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A comic mystery thriller that also feels like a progenitor to the romcom.  One of Hitchcock’s early classics.


46

Title: Little Women
Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, and Chris Cooper
Year: 2019
When did I first watch this movie?: December 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic coming-of-age tale is a masterpiece of contemporary filmmaking by Gerwig.


45

Title: Summer of Soul
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Cast: Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mavis Staples, Blinky Williams, Sly and the Family Stone, and The Chambers Brothers
Year: 2021
When did I first watch this movie?: September 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Some of the greatest musicians of all time played in Harlem in the summer of 1969 and we had to wait over 50 years to see the concert film!


44

Title: The Fisher King 
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, and Mercedes Ruehl
Year: 1991
When did I first watch this movie?: 1991, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A fantastic comedy set in gentrifying New York City that reflects on mental illness, friendship, and redemption.


43

Title: Bringing Up Baby
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald, May Robson, Walter Catlett, and Fritz Feld
Year: 1938
When did I first watch this movie?: mid-80s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The ultimate screwball comedy with a manic performance by Hepburn and leopards on the loose in the wilds of Connecticut.


42

Title: Star Wars: The Last Jedi  
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast:Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro
Year: 2016
When did I first watch this movie?: 2016, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The movie that deconstructed Star Wars lore and offered a path for richer storytelling in the franchise. “This is how we’ll win. Not fighting what we hate … saving what we love.”


41

Title: Young Frankenstein 
Director: Mel Brooks
Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars,  and Madeline Kahn
Year:1974
When did I first watch this movie?: early 80s (edited for TV)
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Part spoof, part homage to classic Universal Horror films filled with brilliant dialogue and gags.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 60-51


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101

60

Artist: Pete Seeger
Title: Singalong
Year:  1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Lonesome Valley
  • Amazing Grace
  • Old Time Religion (Filksong)
  • Abiyoyo
  • Cristo Ya Nacio
  • Homestead Strike Song
  • The Young Woman Who Swallowed a Lie
  • If I Had A Hammer
  • The Water Is Wide
  • Old Devil Time

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 90s

Thoughts: Pete Seeger wanted to record a demonstration album for song leaders, so naturally he chose to record it in Cambridge, Massachusetts where people join a sing-a-long in full harmony at the drop of a hat.  Recorded at Sanders Theatre (where I’ve also performed) the audience sings like angels, although if I recall correctly, Pete seeded the audience with a prepared choir.  Nevertheless, this is folk music as an experience rather than performance.

Bonus Sounds: Pete Seeger’s “folk music is for everyone” tradition has been kept alive by Bruce Springsteen and his We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions recording.


59

Artist: Various
Title:Trainspotting Motion Picture Soundtrack
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop
  • “Deep Blue Day” – Brian Eno
  • “Temptation” – New Order
  • “Perfect Day” – Lou Reed
  • “Mile End” – Pulp
  • “For What You Dream Of” – Bedrock featuring KYO
  • “A Final Hit” – Leftfield
  • “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” – Underworld

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I saw the movie in 1997, but picked up the album when I was visiting Scotland in 1998

Thoughts: Some soundtracks feel as if they emerge whole cloth from the movie they’re associated with, and none more so than Trainspotting. The music perfectly captures the aimless lives of young, working class Scots who attempt to fill their emptiness with heroin and violence. Surprisingly, most of the songs were previously released and yet somehow form a seamless collection of Britpop, techno, and 70s glam/punk

Bonus Sounds: The initial soundtrack was so popular it prompted a second soundtrack with additional songs from the movie, remixes, and some songs that inspired the movie.


58

Artist: The Flaming Lips
Title: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Year:  2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fight Test
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
  • Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell
  • Are You a Hypnotist??
  • Do You Realize??

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I want to say 2005?  I think it was in a Pitchfork list of the best albums of the first five years of the century.

Thoughts: I knew of The Flaming Lips as the “She Don’t Use Jelly” band so this album surprised me with its spacey electronic sounds and ruminative lyrics.  The sort-of concept album about a Japanese girl fighting evil robots has been adapted into a musical.

Bonus Sounds: The Flaming Lips continue to release imaginative new music of varying quality including standouts like The Terror (2013) and American Head (2020).


57

Artist: The New Pornographers
Title: Challengers 
Year: 2007
Favorite Tracks:

  • My Rights Versus Yours
  • Challengers
  • Myriad Harbor
  • Unguided
  • Go Places
  • Mutiny, I Promise You

The First Time I Heard This Album …:Late 2000s, maybe a year or two after release?

Thoughts: This is peak Pornographers, featuring big bold sounds and provocative lyrics.  The title track is one of my all time favorite tunes.

Bonus Sounds: I did an in depth review of The New Pornographers in a Music Discovery in 2016.


56

Artist: Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin
Title: Hush
Year:  1992
Favorite Tracks:

  • Grace
  • Double Mandolin Concerto in G, RV 532: Andante
  • Stars
  • Musette for keyboard in D Major (AMN II/22; doubtful), BWV Anh. 126
  • Coyote
  • Hoedown!
  • Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: Air

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1992

Thoughts: Yo-Yo Ma is a celebrated cellist.  Bobby McFerrin is creative vocalist who is unfairly tagged as a one-hit wonder for “Don’t Worry Be Happy” (a song I nevertheless still love), but made an impressive variety of music with his voice and body.  Together they introduce children to classical music.  I knew a lot of big kids who loved this album too, back when I was in college.

Bonus Sounds: Bobby McFerrin’s Medicine Music (1990) is an excellent example of his solo work.  Yo-Yo Ma has excellent collaborations on Appalachia Waltz (1996) with Edgar Meyer and Mark O’Connor and The Goat Rodeo Sessions (2011) with Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, among many others.


55

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title:Songs in the Key of Life
Year:  1976
Favorite Tracks:

  • Love’s in Need of Love Today
  • Sir Duke
  • I Wish
  • Knock Me Off My Feet
  • Isn’t She Lovely
  • As
  • Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: A sprawling album of 21 tracks, many of them over 5 minutes long, that originally was released as a two LPs with a bonus EP. It’s reminiscent of the Beatles’ “white album” both in the exploration of musical styles and the thought that maybe this could be trimmed down to a solid single album, but which tracks would you cut? Nevermind, splendor in the surplus of sound.

Bonus Sounds: More Stevie coming up in this list since he is a classic album producing machine!


54

Artist: Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Title:Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Year:  1969
Favorite Tracks:

  • Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
  • Guinnevere
  • You Don’t Have to Cry
  • Pre-Road Downs
  • Long Time Gone
  • 49 Bye-Byes

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: One of the first rock supergroups brought together David Crosby of The Byrds, Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash of The Hollies.  Soon they would be one of the first bands playing arena tours as well. Before the band devolved into in-fighting, substance abuse, and various solo albums and side projects, they created this terrific collection of beautiful harmonies and thoughtful songwriting of the flower power era.

Bonus Sounds: A year later, Neil Young joined the firm and they recorded another excellent album called Déjà Vu.


53

Artist: The Beatles
Title: Rubber Soul
Year: 1965
Favorite Tracks:

  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  • Nowhere Man
  • Think for Yourself
  • The Word
  • Girl
  • I’m Looking Through You
  • In My Life
  • If I Needed Someone

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: It kind of boggles the mind that in the years 1963-1965, the Beatles averaged two new albums per year plus singles and eps, toured the world, and made two movies. And yet their 6th album, released at the end of 1965, shows no sign of exhaustion and decline. Instead the band were beginning their transition to a studio band with inventive new song stylings and production. One demerit for ending this album with “Run For Your Life,” a hateful stalker song.

Bonus Sounds: I was somehow able to winnow down The Beatles to three albums on this list (one more to come) even though they’re all great in their own ways.  The Beatles’ solo careers are more of a mixed bag.  Check out my Music Discovery on the first decade of the Beatles’ solo work for more of my thoughts on that.


52

Artist: Tom Waits
Title: Franks Wild Years
Year:  1987
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hang on St. Christopher
  • Straight to the Top (Rhumba)
  • Temptation
  • Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)
  • Yesterday Is Here
  • Way Down in the Hole
  • Cold Cold Ground
  • Innocent When You Dream (78)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: I heard “Innocent When You Dream” on some random compilation I checked out from the library at a youthful age.  Later I got this entire album which sounds like something primal and yet entirely new at the same time.  The songs written by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan support a play of the same name which I’ve never seen.

Bonus Sounds: More Tom Waits to come, but in the meantime check out my Tom Waits Music Discovery.


51

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Title:  Lincoln 
Year:1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • Ana Ng
  • Purple Toupee
  • Where Your Eyes Don’t Go
  • Pencil Rain
  • The World’s Address
  • They’ll Need a Crane
  • Shoehorn with Teeth
  • Kiss Me, Son of God

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 1990

Thoughts: They Might Be Giants’ second album was my introduction to the band and I was won over by the catchy hooks and clever lyrics.  Named for John Flansburgh and John Linnell’s hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts, the songs at first appear comedic but on reflection contain a profound sadness.

Bonus Sounds: Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns is a documentary about the band and their loyal fanbase that’s worth watching.

Favorite Movies of All Time: 60-51


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111 70-61
210-201 160-151 110-101

60

Title: Hamilton 
Director: Thomas Kail
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Phillipa Soo
Year: 2020
When did I first watch this movie?: July 4, 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This is kind of a cheat, but since I’m unlikely to ever make a All Time Favorite Musical Theater list, it’s a worthy inclusion here.  Besides, the direction of the camerawork does a great job of introducing the filmic to this staged performance.


59

Title: Camelot 
Director: Marty Callner
Cast: Richard Harris, Meg Bussert, Richard Muenz, Barrie Ingham, and Thor Fields
Year:1982
When did I first watch this movie?: mid-80s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Speaking of stage musicals on film,  this HBO production introduced me to Camelot, Richard Harris, and a love of musical theater in general so it will always hold a place in my heart.


58

Title: Apollo 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Cast: Edwin Aldrin. Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Charles Duke, and Bruce McCandless
Year: 2019
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Archival footage, including previously unreleased 70mm film, brings to life the daring adventure of humanity visiting another world for the first time.  I still need to see this on a big screen one day.


57

Title: Up 
Director: Pete Docter
Cast: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, and Bob Peterson
Year: 2009
When did I first watch this movie?: September 2010
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The Pixar formula of clever humor, stunning visuals, and tearjerking emotion at its peak.  And that’s just the first ten minutes.


56

Title: Roman Holiday
Director: William Wyler
Cast: Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn
Year:1953
When did I first watch this movie?: January 2003
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Hepburn’s Hollywood debut is a fun romp in the Eternal City tinged with the melancholy of an impossible love.


55

Title: The Secret of Kells 
Director: Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey
Cast: Evan McGuire, Brendan Gleeson, Christen Mooney, Mick Lally, Michael McGrath, Liam Hourican, Paul Tylak, and Paul Young
Year: 2009
When did I first watch this movie?: February 2011
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Tomm Moore and Cartoon Salon have made some of the most visually-inventive animated films of recent years drawing on the inspiration of Japanese anime and ancient Celtic art to illustrate stories rooted in Irish folklore.


54

Title  Harlan County, U.S.A. 
Director: Barbara Kopple
Cast: Documentary
Year: 1976
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2020
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: My grandfather and his family worked the coal mines of Pennsylvania, so I’ve always been drawn to the stories of miners and their frequently dangerous work. This documentary focuses on the 1973 Brookside Strike in Kentucky organized by miners against their exploitation by the Duke Power Company.


53

Title: The Wrong Trousers 
Director: Nick Park
Cast: Peter Sallis
Year: 1993
When did I first watch this movie?: 1993
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Peak Wallace & Gromit!


52

Title: The Big Short 
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt,  Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, and Marisa Tomei
Year: 2015
When did I first watch this movie?: June 2016
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book about the  figures in the credit default swap market who caused the Great Recession should not make for an entertaining film, nor one that made me weep openly in the theater at its conclusion.


51

Title: Wolfwalkers
Director: Tomm Moore
Cast:Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Jon Kenny, John Morton,  and Maria Doyle Kennedy
Year: 2020
When did I first watch this movie?: April 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The most recent installment in Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy” brings together the conquest of Ireland by the Commonwealth of England with the Irish legends of women who become wolves with a stunning visual flair.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 80-71


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

80

Artist: Various
Title: This Are Two Tone
Year: 1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Specials – “Gangsters”
  • The Selecter – “On My Radio”
  • The (English) Beat – “Tears of a Clown”
  • The Specials – “A Message To You, Rudy”
  • The (English) Beat – “Ranking Full Stop”
  • The Specials – “Stereotype”
  • The Specials – “Do Nothing”
  • Rhoda Dakar with The Specials – “The Boiler”
  • The Specials – “Ghost Town”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: I was listening to the “Modern Rock” radio station and heard “Ghost Town” by The Specials and HAD TO HAVE that song.  The thing is that my suburban Connecticut home town’s record stores had limited selections.  I looked everywhere I could think of in the store where I might find The Specials. Finally, I did a last ditch look in the compilations section where I found This Are Two Tone.  Even though the songs were ~10 years old at this time, it is no exaggeration when I say that this album CHANGED MY LIFE!

Bonus Sounds: 2 Tone Records didn’t release many albums as bands like The Beat and Madness moved on to other labels, but a stunning three albums from the label will be on my list.  One great song that’s not on any of these albums is “Nelson Mandela” by The Special A.K.A.


79

Artist: The Go-Go’s
Title:Beauty and the Beat
Year:  1981
Favorite Tracks:

  • Our Lips Are Sealed
  • How Much More
  • Tonite
  • This Town
  • We Got the Beat
  • You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
  • Skidmarks On My Heart

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 80s, although it was my sister’s album

Thoughts: The most successful all-woman rock band of all time released this perfect collection of pop punk gems in 1981.  It seems to get better with each passing year.

Bonus Sounds: The Go-Go’s album discography is small but strong! Their 80s follow-up albums Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984) also have a lot of great tracks and Belinda Carlisle’s early solo work is also quite good.


78

Artist: Kris Delmhorst 
Title: Songs For a Hurricane
Year:  2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Under the Waves
  • East of the Mountains
  • Bobby Lee
  • Juice & June (NOT to be confused with Juice & Gin)
  • Hummingbird
  • Hurricane
  • Short Work
  • Mingalay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2003

Thoughts: Kris Delmhorst was already one of my favorite artists in the Boston folk scene, but this remarkable album saw her further incorporating old-time/Americana influences into music with a contemporary sensibility.  Since most of the songs work on meteorological themes, you could even say it’s a concept album.

Bonus Sounds: This is Kris Delmhorst’s 4th appearance in my countdown (two of her solo albums, one as member of a group, and one compilation).  I’d also recommend the 2005 album Redbird, the eponymous debut of a trio featuring Delmhorst with with Peter Mulvey and Jeffrey Foucault.


77

Artist: Jolie Holland 
Title: Escondida
Year:  2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sascha
  • Old Fashioned Morphine
  • Amen
  • Mad Tom of Bedlam
  • Darlin Ukelele
  • Damn Shame

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2004

Thoughts: A friend gave us this album and the Americana/alt-country/folk rock/je ne sais quoi sound blew my mind.  Jolie Holland was originally a member of The Be-Good Tanyas before going solo and it has the same old timey-goes-modern vibe with an extra kick.

Bonus Sounds: Despite loving Escondida, I never got any of the Holland’s other albums!  I need to address that.


76

Artist: R.E.M. 
TitleMurmur
Year:1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • Radio Free Europe
  • Pilgrimage
  • Talk About the Passion
  • Moral Kiosk
  • Perfect Circle
  • Sitting Still
  • We Walk

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 1980s

Thoughts: R.E.M. were already top ten artists by the time I learned of them, but I enjoyed going back to their debut album.  I can’t imagine what it was like for listeners trying make sense of Murmur in 1983. It’s too melodic for punk, too folk for New Wave, and too cryptic for pop. Despite not being of its time, the songs on Murmur have a timeless quality.

Bonus Sounds: There is one more R.E.M. album coming up, but I like everything the band released in the 1980s, and even have a soft spot for 1998’s Up.


75

Artist: Pixies
Title: Surfer Rosa
Year:  1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bone Machine
  • Gigantic
  • River Euphrates
  • Cactus
  • Oh My Golly!
  • Vamos
  • I’m Amazed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 80s

Thoughts: I kind of went backwards with the Pixies from Bossanova to Doolittle to Surfer Rosa.  It took me some time to become accustomed to the harder-edged sound of their debut album, but over a gazillion plays it became an all-time favorite.

Bonus Sounds: More Pixies to come!  The band’s post-80s releases are spotty, but I do like Frank Black’s second solo album Teenager of the Year.


74

Artist: The Muppets
Title: The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording
Year: 1978
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rainbow Connection
  • Movin’ Right Along
  • I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along
  • I’m Going To Go Back There Someday

The First Time I Heard This Album …: College, early 90s, but I knew the songs for much longer

Thoughts: Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher went hard in making the original songs from a movie about puppets road tripping across America some of the most memorable in Hollywood history.

Bonus Sounds:  The Muppets have a considerably lengthy discography including soundtracks from their tv shows and movies, Christmas albums, and various compilations.  I remember liking John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) as a kid but it’s been a long time since I’ve given it a listen.


73

Artist: Nirvana
Title: Nevermind 
Year: 1991
Favorite Tracks:

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • In Bloom
  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • Endless, Nameless

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991

Thoughts: My opinion of Nevermind is colored by the fact that I was 17-years-old and a freshman at college when the album was released and seemingly changed the music industry overnight. Despite the nostalgia I might have for this album, I actually never owned a physical copy of the album, I just listened to it in other peoples’ dorm rooms. Thirty years later, this album still sounds fresh and different to me. Which is strange, because Nirvan were drawing on influences going back decades earlier and have inspired infinite soundalike bands since.

Bonus Sounds: Nirvana’s three original studio albums and the groundbreaking MTV Unplugged in New York live album are all worth a listen.


72

Artist: Portishead 
Title: Dummy
Year:  1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sour Times
  • Strangers
  • Wandering Star
  • Numb
  • Glory Box

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s

Thoughts:

Probably a perfect album.  Portishead combines a lot of things that were going on at the time in the 90s – hip-hop rhythms, creative samples, and ambience galore.  The music could be described as “chill-out” if only the tension were not constantly be ratcheting up.  The alluring vocals of Beth Gibbons carry the songs into an effervescent place.

Bonus Sounds: Portishead has three studio albums but I’ve only listened to this one.  I guess it’s about time to check out the other ones.  In the meantime, enjoy “6 Underground” by fellow trip hop artists Sneaker Pimps.


71

Artist: The Beach Boys 
Title: Pet Sounds
Year: 1966
Favorite Tracks:

  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Sloop John B.
  • God Only Knows
  • I Know There’s An Answer
  • I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
  • Caroline, No
  • Hang On To Your Ego

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: The Beach Boys, a band known for fun songs about surfing and fast cars, put out this album with mature and introspective lyrics and more complex musicality in 1966. It proved to be a stepping stone in the evolution of Rock to a more artistic form of music and the dawn of the Album Era. It took a long time for me to warm up to the Beach Boys were actually really good, serious artists (I grew up in the time of “Kokomo” after all) but this album really won me over.

Bonus Sounds: Good Vibrations.

 

Favorite Movies of All Time: 80-71


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

 

80

TitleThe Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, and Andy Serkis
Year: 2001
When did I first watch this movie?: 2001, at the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The Fellowship of the Ring is the best adaptation of Tolkien’s work, but consider this entry a stand-in for the whole trilogy.  It’s an exciting modern mythology brought to life!


79

Title: Rashomon 
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, and Takashi Shimura
Year:1950
When did I first watch this movie?: Summer 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: It’s an art film about medieval Japan based on a Japanese short story from the 1920s, but also somehow a pillar of modern film-making.


78

Title: The Lion King 
Director: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Cast: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella
Year: 1994
When did I first watch this movie?: 1994, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: From the awe-inspiring opening sequence to the catchy African-inspired music, there’s a lot about this film that’s irresistible.


77

Title: The Battle of Algiers 
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Cast: Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Brahim Haggiag, and Tommaso Neri
Year: 1966
When did I first watch this movie?: February 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Film in a documentary realist style, this film depicts the grim realities of guerilla warfare in an escalating series of reprisals.


76

Title: Real Genius
Director: Martha Coolidge
Cast:  Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, and William Atherton
Year: 1985
When did I first watch this movie?: 1985, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: An 80s college comedy with brains, this movie is full of great dialogue and hilarious setpieces with an anti-authoritarian undercurrent.


75

Title: Party Girl 
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Cast: Parker Posey, Anthony DeSando, Guillermo Díaz, Donna Mitchell, Liev Schreiber, Omar Townsend, and Sasha von Scherler
Year:1995
When did I first watch this movie?: circa 1997
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This may be the most 1990s indie comedy ever made and also the movie that convinced me to go to library school.


74

Title: Rear Window
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr
Year: 1954
When did I first watch this movie?: 1980s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: I think this is the best work ever for Hitchcock and Kelly, and among Stewart’s best.  The tense thriller takes advantage of a limited location where an entire city block was created on a soundstage.


73

Title: Make Way for Tomorrow
Director: Leo McCarey
Cast: Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi
Year:1937
When did I first watch this movie?: September 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A sweet love story of an older couple is the heart of this heartbreaking drama about the disposability of the elderly in a capitalist society.


72

Title: Bicycle Thieves
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, and Lianella Carell
Year: 1949
When did I first watch this movie?: Early 2000s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: It’s interesting that this slots in ahead of Make Way for Tomorrow since the two films deal with similar issues. In this case, a father’s love for his son is central to a story of how the theft of a bicycle is the breaking point for an impoverished family.


71

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker
Year: 2017
When did I first watch this movie?: October 2017
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A movie based on a few words in the opening crawl of Star War: A New Hope turns out to be an unexpected masterpiece.  A strong ensemble cast and the quiet leadership of Jyn Erso (Jones) shows a “working class” perspective on the Galactic Rebellion.