By Steve Guntli
2014 was a pretty solid year for movies, books and music, but these three titles were amongst the best of the best.
“Wolf in White Van,”
by John Darnielle
Darnielle made the leap from music to literature this year, and if his remarkably assured debut novel is any indication, his writing career should earn him the same fervent following as his band, The Mountain Goats.
“Wolf in White Van” centers on Sean, a hideously disfigured recluse who communicates with the world through a mail-based role-playing game he invented. Slowly and surely, we begin to piece together the tragic elements of Sean’s past, and immerse ourselves in Sean’s twisted, lonely worldview, sharing his thoughts on love, music, identity and loneliness.
“Wolf in White Van” is fast-paced, witty, fiercely intelligent and deeply moving. At less than 200 pages, it’s the kind of book that could be finished in a sitting but will haunt you for weeks.
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
The entire planet has been cast into an eternal, deadly winter. The last remnants of humanity have been forced to live on the Snowpiercer, a massive train making a constant loop around the globe to keep from freezing. But the train has become stratified: the rich live in luxury near the front of the train, while the oppressed dregs toil in filth at the tail.
Deciding they can’t take it anymore, a ragtag group of tail-dwellers, lead by the stoic Curtis (Chris Evans), stages a revolution and embarks on a bloody odyssey to reach the engine and confront the mysterious conductor.
“Snowpiercer,” one of the best science fiction films of the decade, is a fierce, engrossing masterpiece, filmed with ceaseless energy and imagination. Bong Joon-Ho, a South Korean master making his English-language debut, fills the film with a remarkable stable of international talent, and anchors it with an astounding lead performance from Evans.
“Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Volume 1”
I know this is cheating; this is a best of 2014 list, and there’s not a single track on this album made later than the mid-1970s – hardly what you’d call cutting edge or contemporary. But while there were several great albums jockeying for attention last year, “Awesome Mix” has been the one with the most staying power.
A companion piece to the fun Marvel movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” this collection of funky songs gave the movie its weird and wonderful soul, but it was much more than just an aesthetic choice: the songs on “Awesome Mix” provide the emotional core of the film, connecting space pirate Peter Quill to his deceased mother back on earth.
But even if you’ve never seen the film, it’s impossible to resist grooving along to rediscovered classics like “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, “Go All The Way” by The Raspberries or the irrepressible “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. Brimming with personality and just the right amount of cheese, “Awesome Mix, Volume 1” lives up to its namesake.
Each of these titles is available through the Blaine Public Library. To reserve a copy, visit the local branch or go to wcls.org.