2019: the year in movies

I think I said in my music post I wasn’t going to do one of these this year, but I had to look up some movies for something else, so why not!

jokerI only saw four first-run movies in a theater in 2019, and here they are in order of favorites:

  1. Joker
  2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  4. Men in Black: International

Joker was a dark, funny, thrilling, horrifying, dramatic movie and I really dug it. Men in Black: International sucked and I found it to be a waste of time and money. The Star Wars and Godzilla franchise entries had good and bad aspects to them but were overall enjoyable.

I saw some other new movies that came out in 2019, but went to streaming services quickly. Here they are in order of favorites:

  1. The Highwaymen (tie for 1st)
  2. Dolemite Is My Name (tie for 1st)
  3. The Report
  4. Captain Marvel
  5. The Irishman
  6. 6 Underground

The Highwaymen and Dolemite Is My Name are both comeback movies of a sort. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson star in Highwaymen as two of the police officers who take down Bonnie and Clyde. It was a well-made movie, a good story (even though you know how it ends) and just excellent all around. Costner is best when he’s not trying too hard, and Harrelson was a great foil for Costner’s character.

Dolemite is Eddie Murphy’s return to form, and he’s a far better dramatic actor than I think anybody gives him credit for. I had never really heard of Rudy Ray Moore before this film, and I really dug it.

I did not enjoy The Irishman, though it was a well-made movie. The de-aging effects they used on Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino were fantastic and hardly looked like effects at all.  The story was boring, the acting was great.  It was gratifying to experience the end of what one of my smart friends called Scorcese’s “mob-adjacent trilogy” – this film plus Goodfellas and Casino.

6 Underground was a typical Michael Bay movie. If you like his movies, you’ll like this one. The story is thin, but the action and explosions are amazing. The opening car chase is a lot of fun, and I watched the movie only because Ryan Reynolds is in it (playing, naturally, Ryan Reynolds), as is Melanie Laurent, who I first encountered in Now You See Me, which is a capable and fun caper movie in which she plays an Interpol officer.

There were a lot of new movies I wanted to see in theaters, but ultimately didn’t pony up the time or cash. They include Shazam!, Booksmart, Yesterday, Hobbs & Shaw, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Ad Astra, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Terminator: Dark Fate, Ford v Ferrari, Uncut Gems, 1917, Tall Girl, John Wick 3, Late Night, Midsommar, Shaft, Rambo: Last Blood, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. I figure I saved myself close to $350 by not going to the movies too often this year. I’m sure I’ll be able to catch most of them on a streaming service before too long.

As for 2020, we know about a lot of movies that will be coming out next year. Here’s the ones I think I’d like to see, just based on previews and descriptions: Bad Boys for Life, Birds of Prey, No Time To Die, Black Widow, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Greyhound, Wonder Woman 1984, Top Gun: Maverick, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Bob’s Burgers, Jungle Cruise, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Death on the Nile, Ron’s Gone Wrong, Red Notice, Godzilla vs. Kong, Coming 2 America, and Dune.

If I only go see four like I did in 2019, it will likely be No Time To Die (I’m a sucker for James Bond), Greyhound (WW2 naval combat with Tom Hanks? no-brainer), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (it looks awesome from the preview), and Bill & Ted Face the Music because, DUH! Bill & Ted!! Plus also Dune and probably Godzilla vs. Kong, so put me down for six theater movies in 2020. I keep up with my local $5 theater’s listings too, so there’s a good chance I’ll see more theater movies in 2020 than just those, but maybe some slightly older ones.

Enjoy your 2020 in the dark!

2016: the year in music and movies

Since I’m not into Hamilton, this has been a poor year for music. Not much I was excited about came out this year, but the stuff I got that I was excited about, I was really excited about!  Let’s start with MUSIC.


10. April Wine, Animal Grace. This is an anomaly album in April Wine’s catalog – the one that AW’s die-hard fans love to hate. It’s radio friendly, almost pop music, and I have loved this album since I first got it back in 1984. I freely admit I bought it because of the awesome cover and having heard “This Could Be the Right One” on the radio a couple of times. Fun album, and obviously I listen to it quite a bit. It does sound dated now, as the drum and keyboard sounds are stereotypical for the early 1980s.

9. Ghost, Meliora. Ghost (formerly Ghost B.C.) is a Swedish band that, visually, is taking the piss out of religion. The singer – Papa Emeritus – dresses as an anti-pope character, and nobody knows who anybody in the band is – except maybe for Dave Grohl, who has been known to don the outfit of a Nameless Ghoul and sit in with the band. The lyrics are vaguely Satanic, and I know some people are offended by that kind of thing, but I’ve been listening to Stryper since their first EP came out (The Yellow and Black Attack, 1984) and doing so hasn’t turned me into a Christian, so listening to a dark metal band isn’t going to turn me into a Satanist. Besides, I don’t really listen to the lyrics anyway. Meliora came out in 2015, but I don’t really pay close attention to stuff, so I didn’t get it until this year. It’s fantastic – Ghost’s metal is driven by a solid rhythm section, two guitars and a keyboard. It’s fun, peppy music that isn’t really all that “heavy” when it comes to heavy metal. I can’t even pick out standout tracks, because this is just a fantastic album. My favorite song is “He Is,” followed closely by “Mummy Dust,” which takes on the worship not of Satan, but of MONEY. Great song.

8. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun. This 2014 album was my #1 album of 2015 and has clearly fallen a few slots in the rotation. This is mostly because other stellar albums have come out since then that have distracted me. Still a great album, and IMO Mastodon’s best to date.

7. Cutting Crew, Broadcast. Last year’s #2 falls in the rankings as well, but this album remains one of my all-time favorites.

6. Black Label Society, Stronger Than Death. Zakk Wylde put out a new album this year, but it wasn’t what knocked last year’s #3 down a few notches on this year’s list.

5. AC/DC, For Those About To Rock. Last year’s #10 surges forward on this year’s list. This remains my favorite AC/DC album, and I still believe it’s a stronger disc than the more commercially successful Back in Black.

4. Fear Factory, Genexus. One of my Facebook friends posted the video for “Expiration Date” (which I am listening to as I write this) and I was hooked. It is a long, moody song that not just evokes Blade Runner (one of my favorite movies), but quotes two characters – played by Rutger Hauer and Edward James Olmos – in the song. An amazing song that caps off a really good (and extremely heavy) album. Fear Factory plays a brand of precise, grinding metal driven by the drummer’s double bass pedals. I also dig that the guitarist plays a 7-string, something I’ve been doing a lot since summer. He’s also a fat dude like me.

3. Baroness, Purple. Baroness continues naming their albums after colors, and Purple is their first album since getting a new drummer and bass player. The former drummer and bassist suffered broken backs in a bus crash and left the band to focus on their recovery. Their new drummer plays in a much more straightforward hard rock/heavy metal style than their previous drummer, which caused the band to lose a chunk of its progressive edge. Having said that, obviously I am enjoying this album, though it took me a while to get into it. I think I kept listening to it to decide if I liked it, then kept that streak going because I did.

2. Deftones, White Pony. After I gave myself a 7-string guitar for my birthday back in July, I started researching what bands use 7-string guitars. Deftones turned up, but I couldn’t decide which of their albums to get. My brother Jeremy said White Pony was the best one to start with, and he was absolutely right. One of the songs (“Passenger”) I thought sounded a lot like Tool – and then I discovered that Tool’s singer guested on the song.

anthraxforallkings1. Anthrax, For All Kings. Not just my #1 most-listened to album of the year, but absolutely hands-down my #1 album of 2016. Anthrax doesn’t always appeal to me, but holy shit is this album good. Like FREAKY GOOD. There isn’t a bad song on the album, and better than that, it is definitely “all killer, no filler” – there isn’t even a halfway-decent throwaway track here. Excellent disc from open to close.

Honorable mentions (i.e. #s 11 through 15) on this year’s most-played list are Gojira, From Mars to Sirius; Cake, Fashion Nugget (last year’s #7); Iron Maiden, Piece of Mind; Pink Floyd, Animals (last year’s #14 as well); and Racer X, Technical Difficulties.

My most disappointing purchase of 2016 was Lamb of God’s Ashes of the Wake. I really dig the music on this album – the band – but the singer’s growly vocals are a complete turn-off for me. Fear Factory has the growly vox as well, but they intersperse it with melodic singing, and frankly, I find FF’s music more compelling than LoG’s.

I bought 14 CDs in 2016, as follows (no year indicates it came out in 2016):

  • Anthrax – For All Kings
  • David Bowie – Blackstar. Weird album, and weird listening to it after he died.
  • Deftones – White Pony (2000)
  • Rik Emmett & RESolution 9 – RES9. This is a fun, bluesy album that I enjoy but probably won’t get heavy rotation.
  • Fear Factory – Genexus
  • Ghost – Popestar. More a maxi single than an EP, this disc features one original song and five cover tunes, including the Eurhythmics’ “Missionary Man.”
  • Giraffe Tongue Orchestra – Broken Lines. The second Mastodon spinoff released this year, featuring guitar/vox from Brent Hinds. The main singer is Alice in Chains’ William DuVall and he does a great job here.
  • Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (2005). I resisted listening to this band for a long time, probably because of my irrational resistance to anything from France. Gojira is officially the only thing I like from France, and this album is excellent. Progressive metal at its best.
  • Gone Is Gone – Gone Is Gone. This was the first Mastodon spinoff album to come out, and GIG features bass/vox from Troy Sanders – arguably the raspiest of Mastodon’s three vocalists. GIG is a fun, quick listen that isn’t terribly challenging.
  • Hellyeah – Band of Brothers (2012) and Unden!able. This was a 2-for-1 deal; Hellyeah features Vinnie Paul, formerly the drummer for Pantera. This band is decent, but is not as good as Pantera.
  • Eric Johnson – Europe Live (2014). EJ went a long time without playing “Cliffs of Dover” in concert, but on this European tour he brought it back. It’s as fantastic as ever, as is Johnson’s playing and tone. Well worth the time to listen to this one.
  • Lamb of God – Ashes of the Wake (2004)
  • Slayer – Repentless (2015). My favorite Slayer album to date. Fantastic album! I think it didn’t make the list of my most played albums because I listen to it in the car, so since it’s not on my computer, there’s no count of how many times I listened to it. It should be in the Top 15, though.
  • Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows II. Not a bad album, but doesn’t measure up to Pride and Glory or the first Book of Shadows. Lots of acoustic guitar and piano showing Zakk’s softer side.

Twenty-sixteen was a tough year for the music industry, with more notable deaths than I can remember occurring in any one year in the past. I even had to add somebody new to the list just this morning, as pioneering prog-rock bassist Greg Lake passed away last night. Here’s the list of 2016’s victims:

David Bowie, Glenn Frey (Eagles), George Martin (Beatles producer), Keith Emerson, Merle Haggard, Prince, Natalie Cole, Otis Clay, Clarence Reid aka Blowfly, Jimmy Bain (DIO, Rainbow), Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire), Vanity, Sonny James, Lennie Baker (Sha-Na-Na), Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest), Lonnie Mack, Nick Menza (Megadeth), Prince Be (PM Dawn), Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell (P-Funk), Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist), Ruby Wilson, James Woolley (NIN), Shawty Lo, Stanley Dural (Buckwheat Zydeco), Jean Shepard, Joan Marie Johnson (Dixie Cups), Pete Burns (Dead or Alive – he spun you right round), Bobby Vee, Eddie Harsch (Black Crowes), Jean-Jacques Perrey, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and Greg Lake.


Of the 10 highest-grossing movies of 2016, I saw #9 – Doctor Strange. My wife and kid saw #10, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

We watched #3, Zootopia, on Netflix. It was funny – very typical Disney, though. Slick, pretty and a clear morality tale.

I haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War or Deadpool; I’m kind of burned out on superhero movies. I want to see Deadpool and I had to go see Doctor Strange because my wife thinks Benedict Cumberbatch is hot. Suicide Squad doesn’t interest me at all, nor did Batman vs. Superman.

Movies that came out and I saw in the theater

  • Central Intelligence – my daughter and I loved this comedy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart.
  • Ghostbusters – more a reboot than a remake, and it was excellent.
  • Star Trek Beyond – good, but not great. Felt like a long episode of The Original Series, which isn’t a bad thing.
  • Doctor Strange – enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away.
  • Arrival – loved this movie AND was blown away. Easily my favorite movie of the year so far – but I haven’t seen Rogue One yet!

Movies that came out I wanted to see but didn’t

  • Jane Got a Gun
  • Hail Caesar! – I like George Clooney and this looked funny.
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – I have an unhealthy obsession with Tina Fey.
  • Hardcore Henry – the idea of doing a movie that looked like a first-person shooter video game intrigues me
  • Pete’s Dragon – I don’t understand why Disney felt it had to do a live-action remake of what is one of my favorite animation/live action mix films, but they did and I wanted to see it. I love this story, we’ll see what the film does to it.
  • The Magnificent Seven – I have not only a weakness for Westerns, but for Denzel Washington as well. I’d watch him read the phone book.
  • Hacksaw Ridge – the only thing I like more than Westerns is WW2 films, and this story of a conscientious objector who refused to carry a weapon but went to war anyway seems like it would make a good movie.

Movies that came out and I saw on Netflix or Hulu

  • Now You See Me 2 – I didn’t see the first one, but liked this one well enough. It was a little predictable, but not a bad movie at all.

Of course, I will go see Rogue One when it comes out next week, I’m very much looking forward to it.

We lost some big film/tv entertainers in 2016 – man, it was a brutal year for pop culture. Twenty-sixteen claimed Alan Rickman, Dan Haggerty, Abe Vigoda, George Kennedy, Garry Handling, Ken Howard, Patty Duke, Doris Roberts, Guy Hamilton, Burt Kwouk, Anton Yeltsin (who got killed by his own car), Michael Cimino, Garry Marshall, Kenny Baker, Fyvush Finkel, Arthur Hiller, Tommy Ford, Kevin Meaney, Steven Hill, Gene Wilder, Robert Vaughn, Tony Burton, Florence Henderson and Ron Glass.

best movies of 2014

It’s the end of another year … after going to see Big Hero 6 yesterday, I doubt I’ll get out to the movies again, so I’m here with my year-end “best movies of 2014” pronouncements.  Plus also the worst, because I’m that kind of guy.


Anchorman 2 – I even saw the “raunchier” unrated version – is probably the worst movie I’ve paid to see since Ishtar.  This movie sucked in so many ways I can’t even count them. It’s a shame, too, because I enjoyed the first one. This movie goes to prove my theory about Will Ferrell’s hit-and-miss career.  I’m looking forward to the day he stops doing comedies regularly and becomes a dramatic actor, like Tom Hanks did. Tom Hanks’ comedies are hit-and-miss, but generally OK. His dramatic movies, though, are nearly all excellent.

Under the Skin – this is the kind of artsy film I’m glad I skipped at the theater and rented from iTunes.  While it certainly has some positives to it, it should have been about 30 minutes long.  At 30 minutes, the self-discovery/coming-of-age film warped into the alien-lands-on-Earth ouvre would have really worked.

The Machine – another one I’m glad I saw on Netflix instead of paying $12 to watch. Great concept, just poorly executed.


5. The Grand Budapest Hotel – funny, manic and touching.  Worth every penny.

4.  TIE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes/Godzilla – I’m a total sucker for reboots, and I think the Planet of the Apes reboot series is doing well.  I missed the presence of James Franco, who was absolutely stellar in the first movie in this rebooted series (he’s another comedic actor that is ofter better in dramatic roles), but the story was good, the effects were excellent, and the apes were STELLAR.  Caesar is a subtle, nuanced character that rivals any live human in any movie this year.  Godzilla suffered from a bit of bloat – I’m going to say about 15 minutes too much – but man, what a good movie!

3.  Interstellar – if they’d trimmed 30 minutes off this movie, it’d probably have been my #2, if not #1.

2.  Big Hero 6 – maybe it’s just because I saw this yesterday & it’s still fresh in my mind, but this was a fun movie.  The animation was top notch and the story was compelling (it was, however, a little predictable).  Only the identity of the villain surprised me, but I enjoyed the story of the plucky underachiever and his puffy robot sidekick teaming up to save the world.

1.  Earth to Echo – I know, I know, you know I dislike “found footage” films, but you also know I’m a total sucker for sci-fi (see 2 of the 3 worst films, above).  This is a fantastic story about innocence and the loss thereof.  Imagine Super 8 without the scary space monster and you’ve got this movie I think was the best of the year.

Here’s all the 2014-release movies I saw:

  • The Lego Movie
  • The Monuments Men
  • RoboCop (remake)
  • Anchorman 2
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Muppets: Most Wanted
  • Under the Skin (rental)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Godzilla
  • The Machine (Netflix)
  • Earth to Echo
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (video)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Ghostbusters (30th anniv. release)
  • Big Hero 6
  • Interstellar

Here’s the movies I seriously thought about going to see, but didn’t:

  • Shoot Me (Elaine Stritch documentary)
  • Particle Fever
  • Chef
  • A Night in Old Mexico
  • A Million Ways To Die in the West
  • Age of Uprising
  • Night Moves
  • The Signal
  • A Fantastic Fear of Everything
  • A Letter to Momo
  • Hercules (starring Dwayne Johnson)
  • Lucy
  • A Most Wanted Man
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Get On Up
  • The Congress
  • Frontera
  • The Zero Theorem
  • This Is Where I Leave You
  • The Box Trolls
  • The Equalizer
  • The Judge
  • Automata
  • Fury
  • The Book of Life
  • Birdman
  • John Wick


2013: the year in movies

I’m hoping to go see either Anchorman 2 or 47 Ronin before the year is out, but we’ll see if it actually happens. I have that whole job thing going on!!

  • Best film of 2013:  American Hustle
  • Worst film of 2013:  The Lone Ranger
  • Biggest disappointment of 2013:  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • Biggest surprise of 2013:  Pacific Rim




Top-grossing films I saw in 2013:

  • Despicable Me 2:  This was a fun film and a good sequel. I love the Gru character and kind of dug the love story they threw in. Liked this enough to get it on DVD for my kid.
  • Monsters University:  Not bad, but not as good as Monsters Inc. & not as good as Despicable Me 2.
  • Man of Steel:  Great piece of cinematography.  Not a good movie despite the presence of Amy Adams.  My big boss took us to see it in 3D on IMax, which I have to say was pretty impressive.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:  Good movie, but Peter Jackson has deviated so far from the book “The Hobbit” that I want him to call the next installment of this trilogy “The Hobbit: Peter Jackson’s Prequel to The Lord of the Rings Part 3.”

(Iron Man 3 was the top-earning film of 2013 – I didn’t bother. I also didn’t see the new Thor film.)

Other films I saw in 2013 (in the theater) (PS stop spelling it ‘theatre’ – it’s just a movie. Stop being pretentious!):

  • Olympus Has Fallen:  While not a bad action flick, this movie pretty much stunk and was a waste of $10.  The only reason to see it is if you absolutely must see everything that Morgan Freeman is in.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness:  While Benedict Cumberbatch is an excellent actor and carries a lot of gravitas, I don’t think he was the best choice for Khan.  Having said that, I think JJ Abrams is doing a great job with the franchise.  IMO he needs to cut back on the chase scenes & focus a bit more on the story, but I bought this on DVD & will definitely go see the next one.
  • World War Z:  I got tired of people complaining that WWZ wasn’t just like the book.  That book is impossible to translate into a movie because it’s a collection of varied accounts of the zombie apocalypse written by Mel Brooks’ son.  Yes, THAT Mel Brooks.  Anyway, I liked this movie, but probably not enough to buy it on DVD.
  • The Lone Ranger:  I only went to see this because my daughter wanted to see it, and knowing the Lone Ranger story, I wanted to see how violent this movie would be before I let her go.  I was able to spare her the disappointment by telling her, simply, “Don’t go see it, that movie sucked.”
  • Pacific Rim:  Best monster movie of 2013 that didn’t feature Godzilla.  Charlie Hunnam was even believable as the hero!
  • The Wolverine:  Not bad, but I could have lived without it.  The plot was too easy to figure out.
  • Elysium:  Didn’t get good reviews, but I enjoyed it.  I get Jodie Foster as the ice queen, I think she did fine.  Matt Damon is a good action hero.  This movie did have its gross-out sequence (when the bad guy gets his face literally blown off) and the moral message is a little heavy-handed, but I liked it.  Probably won’t get the DVD.
  • Ender’s Game:  A nice little sci-fi romp.  I never read the book & avoided anything deeper than a cursory review because I heard it had a big plot twist… which I figured out about 10 minutes before it happened.  I do think the filmmakers should have given a shout-out to Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers,” though, because – and I haven’t read the book, as I said – it’s totally a riff on the bugs from ST.
  • American Hustle:  I just went to see this movie last weekend.  Really really REALLY liked it.  Will definitely get the DVD, if only to see Amy Adams do an amazing job as a con woman that has her shit together.

2013 films I saw on Netflix or other video service:

  • Movie 43:  Don’t bother.  Gross-out sketch comedy with famous actors.  The only sketch worth the time is the “Because You’re Black” one about the basketball game.
  • Parker:  I’m an unabashed Jason Statham fan & will pretty much see anything he’s in.  Gigli – er, Jennifer Lopez – was pretty good in this, but of course it’s all about Statham.
  • Sound City:  A fun music documentary starring Dave Grohl, who is probably one of the most fun guys in the music business.
  • A Good Day to Die Hard:  Better than the last one, the one that had the Apple commercial guy in it.
  • Dead Man Down:  Caught this on Netflix & watched it largely because Noomi Rapace is in it.  She is definitely the scene-stealer in this one.  Except for her, it’s mostly just like every other revenge movie you’ve seen.
  • The Heat:  Sandra Bullock is very underrated as a comedic actor, and she’s actually best when she’s the straight man.  This movie (the unrated version) was a lot of fun.
  • The World’s End:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & Edgar Wright?  My only regret is that I never got around to seeing it in the theater.  Excellent movie!!
  • Europa Report:  I wanted to like this movie a whole lot more than I did.  As a matter of fact, I disliked it so much that I only watched about half of it & never bothered finishing it.  The found footage thing is about as lost on me as lo-fi garage rock.  I’m not a fan, but I can tolerate it if the material is excellent.  Unfortunately, here it isn’t.  You’ve seen every aspect of this space saga before and wherever you saw it before, it was done better in that movie.

Movies I meant to go see, but either forgot or couldn’t work up the actual desire when it mattered:

  • John Dies at the End
  • Stand Up Guys
  • Identity Thief
  • Oz the Great & Powerful
  • The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  • The Place Beyond the Pines
  • Evil Dead
  • 42
  • Pain & Gain
  • After Earth
  • Now You See Me
  • This Is the End
  • The Way Way Back
  • RED 2
  • Blue Jasmine
  • 2 Guns
  • Kick-Ass 2
  • The Butler
  • Riddick
  • Rush
  • Don Jon
  • Gravity
  • Runner Runner
  • Captain Philips
  • Machete Kills
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Carrie
  • Bad Grandpa
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Last Vegas
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  • 47 Ronin
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Lone Survivor


notable deaths in 2013

3e8154f3d0164fb9c74d9212c54db126I hope I’m not jinxing this post by throwing it up more than 24 hours before the end of the year, but the death (yesterday) of Wojciech Kilar reminded me that I meant to do this.  I won’t comment on any of these folks except to note what they were most known as – musician includes singers, by the way!

I have friends who lost people special to them, including some close friends, and I went to a few funerals myself this year. It’s never a pleasant experience, but that kind of closure is important to us and how we deal with death and our families. My sympathies to anybody who lost somebody this year, and I hope your memories buoy you.

Notable deaths in 2013

  • Wojciech Kilar, composer
  • Kazuyoshi Kino, Buddhist scholar
  • Paul Blair, baseball player
  • Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor/engineer
  • Yusef Lateef, musician
  • Ricky Lawson, musician
  • Lord Infamous, musician
  • David Richards, music producer
  • Al Goldstein, pornographer
  • Hideo Kanaya, motorcycle racer
  • Ray Price, musician
  • Joan Fontaine, actress
  • Peter O’Toole, actor
  • Jang Sung-taek, politician – executed
  • Tom Laughlin, actor
  • Mac McGarry, quiz show host (It’s Academic!)
  • Nelson Mandela, politician & activist
  • Charles Grigg, cartoonist
  • Bill Lawrence, musician & guitar/bass pickup designer
  • Jim Hall, musician
  • Eleanor Parker, actress
  • Paul Walker, actor
  • Sylvia Brown, psychic
  • Frederick Sanger, scientist
  • Doris Lessing, author
  • John Tavener, musician & composer
  • Charlie Trotter, chef
  • Lou Reed, musician
  • Marcia Wallace, actress
  • Jovanka Broz, widow of Josip Broz
  • Ed Lauter, actor
  • Phil Chevron, musician
  • Vo Nguyen Giap, general
  • Tom Clancy, author
  • Hiroshi Yamauchi, video game legend
  • Ray Dolby, engineer
  • Frederick Pohl, author
  • Julie Harris, actress
  • Marian McPartland, musician
  • Elmore Leonard, author
  • Lee Thompson Young, actor
  • Lisa Robin Kelly, actress
  • Jack Germond, author/journalist
  • Jon Brookes, musician
  • Eydie Gorme, musician
  • Karen Black, actress
  • George Duke, musician
  • Michael Ansara, actor
  • Harry Byrd, Jr, politician
  • Eileen Brennan, actress
  • JJ Cale, musician
  • Virginia Johnson, scientist
  • Dennis Farina, actor
  • Helen Thomas, journalist
  • Cory Monteith, actor
  • Bernadette Nolan, musician
  • Jim Kelly, martial artist & actor
  • Alan Myers, musician
  • Douglas Engelbart, nerd (invented the computer mouse)
  • Bobby “Blue” Bland, musician
  • James Gandolfini, actor
  • Slim Whitman, musician
  • Chico Hamilton, musician
  • Wanda Coleman, poet
  • Doris Lessing, feminist
  • Todd Christensen, football player
  • Hal Needham, stunt man & film director
  • Scott Carpenter, astronaut
  • Ken Norton, Sr, boxer
  • Eiji Toyoda, auto executive
  • David Frost, journalist
  • Seamus Heaney, poet
  • Ruth Asawa, artist
  • Michael Hastings, journalist
  • Richard Ramirez, serial killer
  • David “Deacon” Jones, football player
  • Jean Stapleton, actress
  • Ed Shaughnessy, musician
  • Ray Manzarek, musician
  • Joyce Brothers, psychologist
  • Ray Harryhausen, film special effects wizard
  • Deanna Durbin, musician/actress
  • George Jones, musician
  • Richie Havens, musician
  • Pat Summerall, broadcaster
  • Frank Bank, actor
  • Maria Tallchief, dancer
  • Jonathan Winters, comedian & actor
  • Margaret Thatcher, politician
  • Annette Funicello, actress
  • Roger Ebert, film critic
  • Jack Pardee, football player
  • Phil Ramone, record producer
  • Richard Griffiths, actor
  • Rise Stevens, musician
  • Harry Reems, actor
  • Alvin Lee, musician
  • Hugo Chavez, politician
  • Bonnie Franklin, actress
  • Van Cliburn, musician
  • Roy Brown, automotive engineer/designer
  • C Everett Koop, physician
  • George Aratani, electronics executive
  • Mindy McCready, musician
  • Stuart Freeborn, film makeup/costuming legend
  • Andre Cassagnes, electrician & inventor
  • Ed Koch, politician
  • Patty Andrews, musician
  • Stan “The Man” Musial, baseball player
  • Earl Weaver, baseball player/manager
  • Gussy Moran, tennis player
  • Pauline “Dear Abby” Phillips, author
  • Aaron Swartz, nerd
  • Evan Connell, author & historian
  • Patti Page, musician
  • Kurt Caselli, motorcycle racer

iconic (movie) spaceships

millenniumfalconstardestroyerThere’s a lot of iconic spaceships in film, here’s some of my favorites.

I’ll start with Star Wars, or at least the first two films, which were really the only good ones.  A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back introduce us to some pretty bad-ass spaceships and topping that list is the Millennium Falcon, a speedy smuggler’s vessel piloted by the irascible Han Solo and his trusty sidekick, Chewbacca.  The Falcon wasn’t the only cool spaceship in the movie, though – that first film introduced us to Star Destroyers, TIE fighters and X-Wing fighters, too.  The second movie brings in the Executor, Darth Vader’s personal flagship, and Boba Fett’s Slave 1.  Just beautiful, awe-inspiring spaceships. The thing that I always thought was the coolest about the Falcon and Slave 1 was that they looked lived in – they weren’t pristine, spotless ships. You could tell they’d been through the wringer more than once.

The various Star Trek films introduced us to many variations of the iconic Enterprise, perhaps the most recognizable spaceship in cinematic history. There are multiple versions because the equally iconic crew of the Enterprise keeps getting the damn thing blown up. Ignoring the long history of the various television programs, in the very first Star Trek film, we get not only VGER, but also the very sinister Klingon battle cruisers.  These ships are only out-cooled by the Birds of Prey that show up in later films.  The Borg Cube from First Contact is creepy and weird, of course.  The Scimitar is just about the only cool thing about Star Trek: Nemesis, but the Romulans come through again in the 2009 Star Trek reboot with a hugely destructive, but entirely common, mining vessel.  Spock’s little space cruiser in that film is pretty awesome as well.

For sheer size, it’s hard to ignore the Mother Ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the luxury liner Fhloston Paradise, and of course the massive civilization-sustaining ships from WALL-E. The Space Battleship Yamato should probably be lumped in with these giants, as should Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

(“Why,” I hear you cry, “did you leave out the Battlestar Galactica?” Because BSG was a TV show, not a movie, and I’m focusing on movies here, that’s why. If I was going to throw in TV shows, the Eagles from Space: 1999 would definitely be in this post.)

Topping all those big ships, though, is the Cygnus from an obscure old Disney film, The Black Hole. If memory serves me correctly, that was Disney’s first-ever PG-rated film. Our heroes in that film fly in on the Palomino, which is a funky little ship, and out on the black hole probe ship, but for sheer impressiveness, neither of them holds a candle to the Cygnus.

The masters of all beat-up, broken-down, iconic spaceships, though, come from films that are a generation apart. The USCSS Nostromo is the primary locale for Alien, and Serenity from Serenity (as well as Firefly, the TV series that inspired the film) are the ultimate in functional spaceships, and for that reason they have to be taken seriously in any list that addresses spaceships.  They’re not as cool as a TIE fighter, as fast as the Enterprise, or as powerful as the Yamato, but perhaps that’s why they hold a dear place in my heart – like most of us, these two ships are just out there, every day, doing their jobs.