• FBB's 2013 Top 5's:
I've done this twice before now and I apologize in advance for doing it again, especially when it comes to the noisy pop music that's on my list of the Top 5 Albums of 2013. We already did our Top 5 Stories of 2013 which are linked throughout this post. We've looked at this disappointing season from every angle and written about what's to come for several months now when there was little or no actual news to report. The Nationals have regrouped and made some moves to try to bounce back from 2013's disappointing campaign. Before we move on to 2014, here are a few Top 5/10 lists of the music we listened to while we wrote, the movies we watched when we weren't watching baseball and a few other things mixed in...
Let's start with the music...
• Top 5 Albums: In no particular order. Just the five things I found myself listening to and enjoying most in the past year.
5. M.I.A. - Matangi - My brother, who does not like M.I.A.'s music, once described the experience of listening to her records, which I force him to repeatedly, hoping he'll finally "get it," as being similar to what Clive Owen goes through when he visits Michael Caine's aging hippy in the woods in the movie Children of Men. Pounding noise. I'd counter by saying it's the sound of the world today. Shifting rhythms, multi-tracked drum beats, chanted rhymes and mantras, boastful raps, mix-tape production, stabs of dissonant, disjointed noise, supplemented by some of the catchiest choruses and car-speaker-destroying bass lines anywhere on record in 2013. Sample Track: Bad Girls
4. The Mantles - Long Enough to Leave - Ten songs. 30 minutes. The second proper record from this San Francisco-based band is brighter and a little less insular than their self-titled debut, which was a small-scale '60s-leaning, garage/pop masterpiece where every note and lyric fell in place like the songs always existed and the detailed production and layered, intertwined guitars revealed themselves only after repeated listens. Four years later, they returned with another record I describe to friends as the Brian Jonestown Massacre produced by the Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider. If that means anything to you, you'll like it. "Always coming back to see, how far off you've gone." I think I probably listened to this more than anything else this year...
3. Deerhunter - Monomania - If you saw this Atlanta, Georgia-based band's set at the Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago in 2011 either live or in videos posted online, you saw a band at the peak of its power. The follow-up to their beloved fifth album, Halycon Digest, arrives two years later and Bradford Cox and the band have taken a left turn and transformed themselves, releasing what the Pitchfork review of the record described as, "...the first Deerhunter album that would be welcomed in a dive bar." Raw, blown-out vocals, clashing guitars, noise and squalls of feedback, but still some genuinely beautiful melodies and fantastic guitar-pop songs.
2. of Montreal - Lousy with Sylvianbriar - of Montreal's mastermind, Kevin Barnes, tore it all down after 2012's manic, dense, psych-pop explosion, Paralytic Stalks, then retired to the country in upstate New Yor..., or San Francisco actually, where he picked up with a country-blues guitar outfit and came back a year later with a record described by anyone who hears it as an "American" rock record or an "outlaw country" album as Barnes himself described it, with hints of Bob Dylan (not subtle) and West Coast 60's rock mixed with some of the hallmarks of of Montreal's previous efforts: beautiful, layered harmonies, shifting, constantly-evolving rhythms and some great vocals backing and on her own by Rebecca Cash and by Barnes himself... and plenty of revealing, often painfully personal lyrics. I went through the usual, "I don't know if I like this... okay, I love it," routine with this one and haven't been able to stop listening to it since I bought it.
1. My Bloody Valentine - mbv - Twenty-two years later... Dublin, Ireland's My Bloody Valentine and leader Kevin Shields finally released the follow-up to 1991's timeless masterpiece, Loveless, and he released it himself, through the band's website, in a "holy sh*t" it's here moment on a Saturday night last February. The layered, dense fuzz, undulating walls of guitar noise, soothing vocals. It's all there and somehow different. Nine songs and 47 minutes of subtle updates to the My Bloody Valentine sound like the soaring vocal that arrives a minute and 20 seconds into the second track "only tomorrow" and rises to meet a distorted, chugging guitar riff that rattles the speakers and pours out distorted for a full, bliss-filled minute. It took 22 years to get it out, and was somehow worth the wait.
• Nationals Top 5 Moments Of 2013 - No.5 - Bryce Harper's 2 HRs in season opener:
FBB's Top 5 Stories Of 2013
• Top 5 Pictures/Vines We Shared In 2013:
• Opening Day 2013:
• Bryce Harper #Natitude truck parked outside Nats Park:
• Nats Park in June:
• Nationals Top 5 Moments Of 2013 - No.4 - Jordan Zimmermann vs the Reds:
• Bryce Harper AB from first base seats:
• Harper's Crazy Shame Face when he forgot how many outs there were:
• Desmond shoots a "Superman" Justin Maxwell's way:
• Nationals Top 5 Moments Of 2013 - No.3 - Werth's 1,000th Career Hit:
FBB's Top 5 Stories Of 2013
• Top 10 Movies Of 2013:
10. To The Wonder - Terrence Malick - Twenty years passed between the release of Days of Heaven (1978) and Terrence Malick's third film, The Thin Red Line (1998). Another seven years separated Malick's World War II movie and his fourth directorial effort, 2005's The New World. Six years after that, the fifth and sixth films in Malick's ouevre arrived in quick succession with The Tree of Life in 2011 and To the Wonder this year. Remember those scenes in The Thin Red Line where Ben Chaplin's Pvt. Jack Bell relives every moment spent with his wife while trying to stay alive long enough to return to her... only to receive a letter asking him to let her move on... Or the early domestic scenes of Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in The Tree of Life? Imagine an entire movie that starts with those first moments of love, then sticks with the couple to see where it goes. Driven by beautiful imagery, whispered, half-heard conversations and poetic narration, it's another moving, almost-silent film by one of my favorite directors. The first, wordless, twenty minute section with Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, is worth the price of admission or rental alone.
9. Blue is the Warmest Color - Abdellatif Kechiche - Yes, there are two rather explicit, graphic, NC-17-worthy and oddly long love scenes that got mentioned often in reviews of the film that took the Palme d'Or (from the Steven Spielberg-chaired jury) at the Cannes Film Festival, but there's also a moving, epic, years-long, first-love story in the French city of Lille.
8. Stories We Tell - Sarah Polley - Actor/director Sarah Polley starts digging into the family narrative she's heard since she was a child in an attempt to recapture details of her deceased mother's life and discover the truth that's just out of reach for her when the movie begins. Part documentary, with reenactments that so perfectly capture the feel of the family's home movies that you wonder what it is you're watching at times. Polley grills members of her own family and slowly unravels a mystery that rewrites her family history. To say any more or provide more detail would take away some of its power.
7. On the Road/Big Sur (tie) - On the Road, the movie, was released in 2012 and didn't receive too much press or acclaim, but I didn't get to see it until 2013 and wasn't going to miss the film version of what's still one of my favorite novels long after I first read it as a teenager... If that doesn't count as a best of for 2013, the second movie based on a Jack Kerouac book came out this year and was arguably more successful in capturing the feel of the source material. Big Sur, directed by Michael Polish, (whose previous efforts include Twin Falls Idaho and Northfork, both great movies), delves into the dark, drunken nightmare days of Kerouac as published author and icon who retreats to Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin in Big Sur but can't help returning to the world and eventually bringing it back to the isolated woods with him. If you've never read the novel, it's a tough one, and Polish doesn't hold back. LINK: TRAILER.
6. Much Ado About Nothing - Joss Whedon - Coming off the biggest movie of his career, the blockbuster comic book adventure, The Avengers, Joss Whedon, of Serenity, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer-fame, decided to film a black-and-white adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing in his Santa Monica, California home. It's about as stripped down as The Avengers was over-the-top ridiculous and features some of the best acting on screen in 2013, some familiar faces from Whedon's projects and the words of the Bard, which are, of course, timeless.
5. Nebraska - Alexander Payne - Woody, played by Bruce Dern, is an elderly man who thinks he's won a million dollars in a mail sweepstakes. David, his son, is tired of the way his father is treated and often ignored, so he decides to drive his dad to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his "prize," knowing full well, his father hasn't won anything. Other members of their family buy into the story, however, and as Woody and David visit the father's childhood home, they find that some of them want what they see as their share of the winnings. The second black-and-white film on our list, Nebraska, by director Alexander Payne, takes its time telling the story and captures the rolling, grass-covered hills, landscapes and empty old towns of Nebraska with beautiful photography by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael.
4. American Hustle - David O. Russell - Christian Bale with an "elaborate" comb over and impressive gut. Bradley Cooper with perm-tight curls that match his tightly-wound character. Amy Adams with a British accent and ruthless determination. Jennifer Lawrence singing and aggresively dancing along with Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die." Con men and women conning one another. Late-'70s and early '80s fashions, stings and betrayals at every turn. The fact that "Some of this actually happened," as the opening title card reads just makes it all the more intriguing.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis - Coen Bros - I just watched the Martin Scorcese-directed No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, which features folk singer Dave Van Ronk retelling the story of the scene in New York that Dylan found when he arrived in 1961. Van Ronk's own history provides a loose basis for the story of Llewyn Davis, a wandering folk singer/guitarist simultaneously looking for and sidestepping success. Davis, portrayed by the brilliant Oscar Isaac, is abrasive and kind of hard to like, but you still find yourself pulling for him in spite of the forces which seem aligned against him.
2. Before Midnight - Richard Linklater - So what happened to Before Sunrise's Jesse and Celine after the end of Before Sunset, after the American author missed his plane home to stay with the one who got away as she sang Nina Simone and danced in her Paris apartment? They grew up, had their own children and turned into a couple that fights and still has heightened conversations about their relationship, his son in the U.S. and a potential move there so he can be closer to the family he left behind when he missed that plane. Twenty years after the first film and nine years after the follow-up, director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who all wrote the script together) return to the story of the couple who first met on a train and spent a night walking around Vienna and falling in love.
1. The Grandmaster - Wong Kar Wai - You no longer have to wonder what a kung fu movie by Wong Kar Wai would look like. The director of Days of Being Wild, Chung-King Express, In the Mood for Love, 2046 and My Blueberry Nights tackles the story of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, the martial artist who would end up teaching Bruce Lee. Wong Kar Wai regular Tony Leung Chiu-Wai stars alongside 2046 co-star Zhang Ziyi (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-fame), but the real draw here is Wong Kar Wai's direction and the fights coordinated by the legendary Yuen Woo-ping (Drunken Master, The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, etc.). The more you watch it, the more you can actually see what's going on in the fight scenes. There are some old themes of Wong Kar Wai's work. It's a love story, a story of family and devotion and it's an action movie, a beautifully filmed action movie. I've watched it four times already...
• Nationals Top 5 Moments Of 2013 - No.2 - Ian Desmond In Kansas City:
• More Movies - Honorable Mention (and really could be on the Top 10 List): Wolf of Wall Street - Martin Scorcese; You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Alain Resnais; Upstream Color - Shane Carruth; Frances Ha - Noah Baumbach; Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron (if the story matched the visuals it would have been Top 5); Stoker - Chan-Wook Park (this is the pleasant surprise of the year, something I went into with no expectations and loved.); Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me - Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori; We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks - Alex Gibney; Hannah Arendt - Margarethe von Trotta.
• Want/Wanted To See: Her - Spike Jonze; 12 Years a Slave - Steve McQueen; Short Term 12 - Destin Cretton; Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen.
• Nationals Top 5 Moments Of 2013 - No.1 - Stephen Strasburg's CG/SO:
• Note: Just a quick note of thanks here to everyone who contributed to Federal Baseball in 2013, whether on the front page, in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook or wherever else we talked baseball this year. Thanks and here's to better results all around in 2014. - Patrick
- Nationals Reportedly Sign Will Rhymes To Minor League Deal
- Nationals Top 5 Stories Of 2013: Is There A Rivalry With The Braves Now?
- The Starting Nine: Nationals Week In Review, Links, Tweets, Etc.
- Nationals Rumors: Nats Were Interested In Backup Catcher And Another Left-Handed Reliever...
- Nationals Top 5 Stories Of 2013: Davey Johnson Talks Ian Desmond And Frank Robinson