Saturday, December 23, 2006

Those crazy year-end best-of lists

All of those crazy end of the year lists are popping up, and as usual, there are some bewilderingly popular choices and omissions. That's the fun of them. Or perhaps even the point.

Still, I can't pretend I'm not baffled by the appearance of The Queen on nearly every film list in the nation. I love director Stephen Frears, and thought the notion of a behind-closed doors look at the political manouvering behind Diana's funeral had potential, but the film itself was really...disappointing. Very tele-film-y, if you know what I mean, with lots of expository dialogue and a bit too much fawning over stock footage of the real Diana. And the worst metaphor ever: The Queen admires a stag from the distance and later is moved to visit its dead corpse after it is shot by visitors on a neighboring estate. UGH. My own choices for most haunting films of the year (likely to be revised daily as my memory comes back to me): the nearly flawless Half Nelson and the flawed but brilliant Babel. I also liked Marie Antoinette, even while seeing in it everything that most other people hated.

On the books side of things: Fun Home is deservedly topping the lists, and Amy Hempel got a well-deserved boost from the NYT. Sara Gran's Dope made the list at the St. Louis Post Dispatch. A friend told me she was sure my book would be on many lists. "No it won't," I assured her. This surprised her, until I reminded her that it didn't really get that many actual book reviews. It got a lot of "coverage" but not necessarily reviews that regarded its quality as a book. Or a piece of writing. (Earlier in the year, after reading a galley of Thomas Healy's "dog memoir" I Heard You Calling in the Night, I joked with friends that it would certainly get the serious review coverage my book missed, because the author is both foreign and an alcoholic. Foreign and alcoholic=literature. And...I was right--its on a few lists at the end of the year too. I should mention that I liked the book, but also felt a bit distanced from it--there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on that didn't click with me. But definately worth checking out.)

And in another category altogether, Sula tops the list of best snore in my house. That's Sula the dog, not the Toni Morrison book. If you listen really hard, you can probably hear her right now.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Aimee Mann on deciphering an artist contract

On the absurdity of contracts: Aimee Mann

Here's Aimee on her insane contract war with Epic Records, who refused to release her work but was holding her to a ten record contract, so she was unable to record for anyone else. Best part: her reading aloud the most convoluted clauses.

For those of you who haven't yet experienced the joy of a publishing contract followed by bewildering royalty statements in which you are paid fractions of the actual rate...just substitute publishing for music here. It is really the same thing.

This clip ends with the happy ending of her landing a deal with Imago. A year later they went under financially, and she had to spend several years getting out of that deal too.