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The Top Ten Beers I Drank in 2013

December 20th, 2013 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Lists

I drank somewhere around 800 different beers in 2013, but here are the best of the best.  Or, at least the best ones I remembered.

*As always, I’ve only included beers I tried for the first time ever in 2013, regardless of the year the beer was released. (Previous best beer lists: 20082009, 2010, and 2012.)

1.  Alpine Bad Boy (nitro)
An IPA on nitro certainly sounds…not recommended. Yet during a February visit to Alpine Brewing Co., this IPA was easily my favorite amongst perhaps the best IPA portfolio in the world (spanning Exponential Hoppiness, Pure Hoppiness, Nelson, and Duet).  Even ten months later, I can’t stop thinking about this frothy, milky, tropical burst of a creation.

2.  The Bruery Melange No. 3
Black Tuesday–my #1 beer in 2010–remains an incredible behemoth in the craft beer world and one of the best beers ever made.  After I’d had this Black Tuesday/White Oak/anniversary melange…I realized there were even further heights to explore.

3.  Kuhnhenn Braggot (2011)
I’m not even sure I’d ever had a braggot before this year.  This beer not only opened my eyes to another style of beer–if not libation (mead)–but to all new taste sensations.  (Now I sound like a commercial pitchman.)

4.  Goose Island Rare Bourbon County
Bourbon County might be my favorite beer in the world, so it feels like a bit of a cheat that I include a new variant of it on my top 10 list nearly every year.  But, hey, what I can I say…they continue to awe me.

5.  Lawson’s Finest Double Sunshine
I wish I didn’t think this was as good as every one else says. But, yeah, it is.  And now I’m one of those guys.

6.  The Bruery Chocolate Rain
Another Black Tuesday variant, though, to a certain extant, I feel the massive chocolate flavors cover up some nuance in the base beer.  Then again, who gives a shit about nuance with a 19% dessert-y booze bomb?

7.  Allagash Merveilleux
I had countless Allagash sours this year, but this stood head and shoulders above a really great bunch.  Hell, it stood head and shoulders above most legendary Belgian sours I had this year.

8.  Jack’s Abby 2nd Anniversary Lager/Mass Rising
This was the year I learned to love the lager–all thanks to Jack’s Abby.  And, especially, this unbelievable Imperial Pale Lager.

9.  Boulevard Love Child No. 2 & 3
I think I *may* have tried Love Child #2 when it came out in 2012–though I certainly don’t remember.  This year, though, with a little age on it, Love Child #2 was one of the most epic beers of my year, especially when the equally great Love Child #3 was thrown in for a mini-vertical of bourbon-barreled wild ales.

10.  Otter Creek & Lawson’s Finest Double Dose/Lagunitas Sucks
I simply do not drink the same beer more than once or twice. Yet, this year I found myself buying case after case of these two IPAs.  They might not have been my favorite beers of 2013, but they were easily my most purchased…and drank.

Honorable Mention:

Carton Monkey Chased the Weasel
Carton was my favorite “new” brewery of the year, and amongst a killer selection of off-beat offerings, this mulberry Berliner weisse was one I continually returned to.

Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
Pale ales rarely hit the mark for me, but this was a total eye-opener and one of the best PAs I’ve ever had.

Prairie Ale
I’m stunned I had no room in the top ten for these Oklahoma iconoclasts, but alas…maybe next year as they are making some of the best saisons this side of Belgium.

Notables (alphabetical)
Allagash Coolship Cerise
Bear Republic Cafe Racer 15
The Bruery Sour in the Rye
Carton Regular Coffee
De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2005
Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale
Goose Island Cherry Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout
Jack’s Abby Baby Maker
Kuhnhenn Saison Braggot
Omnipollo Fatamorgana
Pizza Port Bacon & Eggs Porter
Schlafly Single Malt
Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums
Victory DirtWolf
Westbrook Gose

This was the year I also fell in love with meads, much to my girlfriend’s chagrin.  A few favorites from a burgeoning obsession:
1.  Schramm’s The Heart of Darkness
2.  Wild Blossom Sweet Desire
3.  Drake Brothers Apple Pie

Here’s to some delicious, safe, and memorable drinking in 2014!

-Aaron

The Top Ten Beers I Drank in 2012

December 21st, 2012 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Lists

No need for much ceremony, I’d guess I drank somewhere around 700 different beers in 2012, and here are the best of the best.

As always, I’ve only included beers I tried for the first time ever in 2012, regardless of the year the beer was released. (Previous best beer lists: 2008, 2009, and 2010)

1. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #3
I love Heady Topper–my #1 in 2011–but this is the best Vermont IPA I’ve ever had.  Maybe even THE best IPA I’ve ever had.

2. Goose Island King Henry
A boozy barleywine aged in a Pappy Van Winkle 23 barrel? What could possibly go wrong? Only the fact I’ll never taste it again.

3. Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break
In the running for best coffee beer I’ve ever had.  Straight dessert.


4. Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek
The utter heights of Belgium fruit lambic, its cherry tartness making others tastes like a syrupy Lindemans.

5. Cascade Sang Noir
An epic American sour ale, so fucking tart and wine-y, even more complex.

6. Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Sixteen years since they started, Stone had one of their best years ever, and this was one of their best beers ever.

7. Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout
Makes my beloved Bourbon County Stout seem a little thin.  Boozy and thick as a milkshake.

8. Allagash Coolship Resurgam
Brilliant American representation of a pure, unfettered, sourass gueze.

9. Thornbridge Kipling IPA (cask)
This UK-version of an American IPA is so dank and delicious, I nearly emptied this cask by myself.

10. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
The best Black IPA EVER made.  Must be the rye.

Notables:

Avery Meph Addict
The Bruery Fruet
Captain Lawrence Hops N’ Roses
Cigar City Dos Costas Oeste - Grapefruit Wood Aged
COOP Territorial Reserve Oak Aged Barleywine Ale
Deschutes Collage Conflux #1
Uerige Doppelsticke (2008 vintage)
Evil Twin Without You I’m Nothing
Goose Island Bramble Rye Bourbon Brand County Stout
Mystic Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Fermented Saison
Stone Fifteenth Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA aged in Lowland Scotch Barrels
XBeeriment Black Force One

The Vice Blog’s Year in Movies 2010

January 3rd, 2011 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Lists

2010 was a shitty year for movies.  I typically see several hundred movies per year, just about anything and everything of note, but this year I was so busy putting the finishing touches on my novel and then completely consumed for most of November and December with touring the east coast to sign copies of said novel that I had little time for cinema.  Returning to normalcy the last couple of weeks with plans to do a cram session on what I’d missed, I realized…I hadn’t missed much at all.  There really weren’t many good films this year, only about a dozen quite frankly, and, thus, my list–just like most other critics’ lists–is simply a rearrangement of those dozen or so quality flicks.  So it goes…

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR

1.  THE KING’S SPEECH

Perhaps the only masterpiece of the year and, oh!, is it inspiring.  Colin Firth has never been so interesting, or captivating, as King George VI (”Bertie”), the first truly modern king, who had to overcome a lifetime stutter in order to rule the radiowaves during wartime.  Surprisingly funny, Geoffrey Rush gives typically great supporting work as Bertie’s unaccredited speech therapist and first ever friend.  I was elated leaving the theater and still can’t shake it from my mind.  It’s absolutely shameful the pathetic MPAA gave it an R rating (simply due to a few stray “fucks”) because this is the kind of movie that any child with a stammer–heck, any shy, lacking-in-confidence person–could totally find strength in.  I know I did.

2.  TOY STORY 3

The annual Pixar film is pretty much a lock for my top 10 each year and this one is no exception.  Darker and sadder than most other “cartoons,” this is a nice treatise on growing up and losing a little of your childhood.  Hopefully Woody won’t serve as Andy’s “ROSEBUD” in some “Toy Story 4″ in a few years, though that’s a pretty good idea I suppose.

3.  127 HOURS

I really didn’t see any way that this story I already knew like the back of my hand could be made into a captivating two hour flick, but damn if director Danny Boyle and James Franco don’t pull it off.  Boyle uses great innovation to get “away” from the scene of the boulder-on-his-arm and delivers an exhilarating movie about perseverance and liiiiiving, man.

4.  THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Another “story we all know,” but with a typically snappy script by Aaron Sorkin, delivered perfectly by Jesse Eisenberg, and filmed in pure “Zodiac” style by David Fincher–making a strong push for America’s best director (I now rank him third behind PT Anderson and Tarantino).  I suppose this will ultimately be the movie that “defines” the year, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

5.  WINTER’S BONE

I avoided this movie for so long cause it sounded like the classic indie borefest.  A young daughter tries to locate her possibly-dead meth cooking father in Hicksville, USA?  Sure, but when that young daughter is played startling well by Jennifer Lawrence and the movie features a spot-on script and sumptuous direction…well, damn if this wasn’t a great one that joins the pantheon of other recent “backwoods” classics like “Shotgun Stories” and “All the Real Girls.”

6.  BLACK SWAN

Along with the aforementioned Boyle and Fincher, Darren Aronofsky is another genius director in the upper patheon and this is the film where he finally puts his incredible talents all together.  Natalie Portman is remarkable, there’s great supporting work from Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis (!) and, though I’m still not quite sure what occurs in this movie, it’s something a legend like Stanley Kubrick would be damn proud of it in all its dark eeriness.

7.  THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Surely the best movie ever made about two highly educated, wealthy and urbane lesbians raising children in California.  Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are a perfect match as said lesbians and this is a film that is smart, funny, and all heart.

8.  A PROPHET

The “French ‘Scarface’” is a mesmerizing picture about a seemingly harmless young Muslim’s indoctrination into a Corsican prison mafia leading to his eventual creation of his own crime syndicate.  It also features perhaps the most gruesome murder in movie history.  Stream it on Netflix after you’ve put the kids to bed.

9.  THE GHOST WRITER

I’m not sure if this film is really about anything, but it’s a perfectly taut and tense MacGuffin thriller directed by Roman Polanski.  I was never bored for a second, an all-too-large accomplishment in 2010.

10.  THE FIGHTER

A friend described this film thusly: “The first half is the best Massachusetts movie ever.  The second half was one of the best boxing movies I have ever seen.”  He’s not that far off.  Christian Bale stakes a claim on “Best Actor in the World” too.

Notables: TRUE GRIT, INCEPTION

TOP PERFORMANCES

1.  Colin Firth  (”The King’s Speech”)

2.  Christian Bale  (”The Fighter”)

3.  Natalie Portman  (”Black Swan”)

4.  Jennifer Lawrence (”Winter’s Bone”)

5.  Jesse Eisenberg  (”The Social Network”)

6.  James Franco  (”127 Hours”)

7.  Geoffrey Rush  (”The King’s Speech”)

8.  Melissa Leo  (”The Fighter”)

9.  Hailee Steinfeld (”True Grit”)

10.  Jeff Bridges  (”True Grit”)

And there you have it.  2010 was such a weak and boring year, there weren’t even a wealth of shitty films to give me a schadenfreudal kick as I made a “worst of the year” list.  Nope, it was just a year with a lot of mediocre stuff in the middle.

*The few notable as yet unseen by me:  “I Am Love,” “Somewhere,” “Blue Valentine,” “Tangled,” “Cyrus.”

**Also see:

The Top Movies of the 2000s
The Year in Movies 2009
The Year in Movies 2008

Discover a great degree at therapist programs

The Vice Blog 2010 Wrap-Up

December 29th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Lists

I drank a lot of great beers over the past 365 days–no surprise considering I spent 30 consecutive days going from beer bar to beer bar–but these are the ones I remember most fondly.

(Note:  If I included it on my “best-of” list for 2008 or 2009 then no matter how good that same beer is/was, I made it ineligible for this year’s list.  Also of note, Thank Heaven For Beer’s super-high ABV imperial stout homebrew was easily one of the three best beers I had this year, though I chose not to include it for the simple reason that none of you out there have any chance to ever purchase it.  For the moment at least.)

TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2010

1.  The Bruery Black Tuesday (2009 vintage)

I quaffed this during an epic high-ABV, highly-rare imperial stout tasting (some pictured above) to celebrate a friend’s marriage and this one easily took the wedding cake.  Due to the immense hype surrounding it, you might think Black Tuesday couldn’t possibly deliver, but it does big time.  Just a boozy, complex, and delicious big boy stout.  Everything I could possibly want in a beer.  Though you truly do need about five guys on hand to finish a 750 mL bottle.

2.  Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

I had this several times during the year, including during the aforementioned epic stout tasting, and this was the only one that was able to go a few slug-’em-out rounds with Black Tuesday.  Regular Bourbon County seems to have been specifically created for me.  Deliciously hot and boozy, packed with chocolate and vanilla and about as un-subtle as a beer can get, the Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso added to Bourbon County Coffee makes it a little smoother, a little more palatable, a little more “user-friendly.”  It may be the best coffee beer ever made.

3.  Cantillon Blåbær Lambik

This had long been my “most desired” bottled beer in the world, one which I never thought I’d get to try, so I guess it’s good to have generous friends, ain’t it?  The Drunken Polack, that saint, a splendid acquirer of rare stuff, was kind enough to split his rare bottle with me one Saturday afternoon and we both just absolutely luxuriated with this blueberry lambic, surely one of the best sour ales in the world.

4.  Brooklyn Wild One

I’d long heard of this somewhat urban legend of a beer, but never thought I’d get to try it.  Never released commercially as far as I know, a small, small batch of Brooklyn’s Local One was bourbon-barreled with Brett added.  Local One is a terrific beer, one fit for countless occasions, but adding Brett makes it truly majestic!  I would stand in line in the freezing cold for this beer if it was released at a yearly one-off event, that’s how much I adored it.  And, I am going to assume it is only lack of knowledge of its mere existence that prevents this beer from being one of the most coveted rarities on beer trading forums throughout America because, simply put, it might be the best American wild ale I’ve ever had.

5.  Alpine Exponential Hoppiness

The brilliantly named (it uses multiple kettle hop additions with the technique of doubling the hop amount each addition, thus exponentially) is sticky sweet with a bitter finish and the slightest hint of the oak chips it’s aged on while dangerously drinkable too at 10.5%.  ALL of Alpine’s IPAs are massive, massive winners, but Exponential Hoppiness, perhaps until I finally get to try Pliny the Younger, is the best DIPA I’ve ever had.

6.  Cigar City Brandy Barrel Winter Warmer

Cigar City entered the fray for “best brewery in America” honors this year and, luckily, I got to try dozens and dozens of their rarities at a few events around the city.  This was a beer I honestly ordered just to fill out a flight foursome, but it absolutely floored me, more so than anything else from the Tampa beermakers.  This is their normal Warmer Winter Winter Warmer–an old ale–aged on Laird’s apple brandy.  Silky, syrupy, and sweet but not cloying, this reminded me of J.W. Lee’s delicious Harvest Ale Calvados, but even boozier and more delicious.

7.  Nebraska Hop God Reserve Series Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels

Nebraska Brewing Company burst onto the scene this year with some great efforts, but this was easily their best.  The taste is more God-like than hop-like, but that hardly matters.  This was one bottle of sour tart deliciousness.  Strong wood flavors come through with the oak and the Belgian yeastiness is accented nicely by some subtle wine flavors.  Just a hint of citric sour fruit flavors as well.  Tastes not Belgian IPAish at all, more like a wild ale, though I’m not sure there’s any Brett in the barrel to make this officially “wild,” but whatever the case, this was an incredibly memorable brew.

8.  Surly Abrasive Ale

Surly does not fuck around and it’s quite likely they’ll have a beer appear in my year end top tens for the rest of time.  Within a few hours I was fortunate enough to get to try batch 1 on tap, batch 1 canned, and an ever so slightly tweaked batch 2 on tap.  Now while batch 1 and the first canned version I tried were both magnificent, both A level beers, batch 2, the batch that I suppose will be the recipe from now til iniquity, blew my mind and is clearly one of the best IPAs I have ever had.

9.  Three Floyds Barrel Aged Pop Skull

The “normal” Pop Skull, a collaboration brew between Three Floyds and Dogfish Head, was a kinda lame brown ale, but the bourbon barrel-aging turned this ordinary beer into something extraordinary, the rich vanilla tastes of bourbon latching on beautifully to the brown ale base.  A huge surprise of 2010, proving that it’s not only imperial stouts that can benefit from bourbon barrel aging.

10.  Maine Beer Co. Zoe

I got a tip there was a nano-brewery in Portland, Maine cranking out some amazing shit and sure enough that was the case, as I stumbled upon one of my most memorable beers of the year.  Packaged in thin and sultry needle-nosed bottles I’d heretofore only seen Pliny the Elder employ, Zoe is a bitter explosion in the mouth, perfectly carbonated and tingly, tastes of tropical fruits yet still balanced perfectly with a strong malt backbone.  Simply put, it’s the best amber ale out there now, even better than the quintessential one Nugget Nectar.  If I lived in Maine, I’d be drinking Zoe weekly.  (Which actually might be harder to do than you think, even if you do live in Maine, considering a mere 144 bottles are produced weekly!)

Honorable mention:

COOP Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

I had the pleasure of getting a private tour of this two-year-old Oklahoma City brewery and I was quickly wowed by all their beers, but especially this beauty.  Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout via a Meyers rum-soaked cherries Randall

I’ve enjoyed numerous beers through Dogfish Head’s Randall before, but always IPAs, and always a hops-filled Randall.  This was my first non-IPA, non-hops Randall and MY GOD was it amazing.  It even made a somewhat lackluster “How to Fail” book signing event at P.O.P.E. in Philadelphia memorable.

Stone IPA Double Dry Hopped

Had this at the epic Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover event at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  Like a liquidized sack of fresh weed.  Yum.  Maybe the dankiest beer I’ve ever quaffed.

Stone Vertical Epic 07.07.07 red wine barrel aged

Also had this at the epic Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover event at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  I wouldn’t have thought that red wine barrel aging would bring a Belgian IPA to such greatness, but indeed it did.  One of those most unique beers I’ve ever had.

Wachusett Larry IPA

I’m sure I had a few better IPAs this year, but I couldn’t quite shake from my mind the first time I had this on tap, over the summer in Boston at the Publick House.  I’ve had it bottled a few times since and while it’s always good, it’s never quite been as great as that first fresh time I had it on tap.  A brilliant East Coast IPA.

Others (alphabetical):

Alpine Duet
Ballast Point Victory at Sea
Birrificio Le Baladin Xyauyu

Brewdog Sink the Bismarck!
Brewdog Tokyo*
The Brewer’s Art Cerebus Tripel

Brooklyn Detonation Ale
Cigar City Guava Grove Saison

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout - Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrel
COOP Red Zeppelin
De Dolle Stille Nacht (2004 vintage)

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

The Lost Abbey Isabelle Proximus

Nebraska Melange A Trois Reserve Series Aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels
Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Imperial Stout

Somewhat sadly, in a schadenfreude kinda way, I had such a great drinking year that I have nothing to submit for my always-amusing worst beers of the year list.  Bummer.  Hopefully next year.

Actually, hopefully not.  May we both continue our great beer drinking into 2011.

Happy New Year!

The Vice Blog’s Year in Movies 2009

January 6th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Lists

As the lights were going down, the high school doofus leaned over to his girlfriend and whispered:  “I hope this doesn’t suck.”  I would have mocked his childish ennui but I had to admit he was right.  This year, instead of entering movies hoping for a little greatness, a masterpiece even, the best we could do was think:  “I hope this doesn’t suck.”  I’ve been waking up early on weekend mornings and heading hungover to various midtown Manhattan cinemas to steal double- and triple-features for the last decade and this is the first year I can remember where it felt like a chore.  I used to relish my 9:30 AM hoofs to the AMC 25 or the Lowes Lincoln Square 13 to sit alone in the dark all morning, but not this year.  There were no masterpieces this year–probably–and even the good films from 2009 had at least one flaw, but here are a few movies that didn’t suck.*

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR

1.  CRAZY HEART

Admittedly, this movie doesn’t reinvent cinema.  It has no directorial bells and whistles, a simplistic plot, nothing on screen we’ve never seen before, and you could even call it this year’s “Wrestler.”  But damn if it didn’t resonate with me more than anything else this year.  “Crazy Heart” may be your standard down-on-his-luck-old-dude-perseveres story but first time writer/director Scott Cooper’s tale is pitch perfect without even one false note.  The script is taut, never superfluous, no bathos whatsoever (something tougher to achieve than you’d think in this kind of picture), and, most importantly, the vastly underrated Jeff Bridges gives his best performance ever (yes, even considering The Dude).  The crucial T. Bone Burnett soundtrack is also a standout and “The Weary Kind” is my favorite movie song since “Once”’s “Falling Slowly.”  I’m usually a “brain” movie guy over a “heart” movie guy–a Kubrick fan over, say, a Capra fan–which would lead you to believe I’d pick #2 over #1 on my list, but in this year, heart won over brain for me.  For once.

2.  UP IN THE AIR

We’ve taken Jason Reitman lightly for too long.  At first we assumed he only had a career due to nepotism.  Then, we discredited “Thank You For Smoking.”  Of course it was good, but it was adapted from a new classic of fiction.  And yeah “Juno” was cute but we based that on Diablo Cody’s iconoclastic script.  But now, with “Up in the Air,” we have to admit that Reitman is one of the better directors working today.  Able to work within the studio system while making uncompromising “indie”-feeling movies, no small feat at all.  One of my movie critique pet peeves is when an actor is criticized for “just playing himself.”  Yeah, and you know how George Clooney is when he’s “just” being himself?  It’s always the effortlessly cool guys–Bogie, Cary Grant, McQueen, and now Clooney–that get criticized for just “playing themselves,” but if it was so easy to be so effortlessly cool onscreen, then more actors would surely excel at it.  This role is right in Clooney’s wheelhouse and he completely delivers.  A paradigmic movie for the times and–this probably sounds ludicrous to you–I think it could define the end of the the first decade of the 2000s in the same way “Fight Club” defined the end of the final decade of the 1900s.

3.   UP

I’m a shameless sucker for Pixar films but they never fail to delight (assuming they don’t involve cars.)  The first act of “Up” is an absolute clinic in storytelling, something that should be studied in film schools for years to come, and it features a montage (in telling the heart-wrenching backstory of Carl Fredericksen’s life) which would stand as my favorite singular “moment” on screen in 2009.  I was lucky I had 3-D glasses on to hide any possible tears.  True, the movie drags a bit during the tad lengthy second act, but it gets back on track to finish strong with Carl and his clan’s arrival at what would be one of the best sets–an eccentric thought-dead hermit billionaire explorer’s zeppelin–in movie history if it were live action.  Ed Asner as the star of a major, major hit in the year 2009?  Wow.

4.  INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Like all Tarantino releases I was amped for this one. And, after seeing it, a friend asked if it was what I expected. Well of course not, are Tarantino movies EVER what you expect?! That’s why he’s THE master. He’s one of the few filmmakers alive–I’ll include Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, and Paul Thomas Anderson–that can still surprise and shock you. “Basterds” is a display in scene craftsmanship. The opening farmhouse scene and the second act basement bar scene are instant classics and could act as short film standalones. The writing, pacing, the characterizations, and the tension in both these scenes is remarkable. But the movie is also funny. Hysterically funny. All Tarantino movies are funny in that “Am I supposed to be laughing?” kinda way, but this one takes the cake. Pitt slays as the hillbilly/Apache lieutenant, but Christoph Waltz as the seductively evil Jew Hunter steals the show. One of the best on-screen villains in quite awhile, he should without question get a Best Supporting Actor win. Minor quibbles would be that the plot moves at a bit of a slapdash pace, there’s not quite enough of the Basterds–go figure, we’ll have to await a hopeful prequel–and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the 2.5 hour movie is too short. I actually wanted more. I’m not sure if this movie completely lives up to the final meta-prophetic line uttered by Pitt before the credits, but goddamn is it good. I think it will only gain esteem with future viewings.

5.  THE HURT LOCKER

I’ll admit, I didn’t want to like this flick.  It’s why I intentionally skipped it during its theatrical run despite the early acclaim.  (Another war movie?!) But after a certain point, whether you “want” to watch a movie or not, when it completely enters the zeitgeist you have to see it lest you be excluded from the cultural conversation.  And, luckily, I found a theater still showing it just last night.  Good thing I did.  From its shocking opening salvo of a scene, “The Hurt Locker” is the most unflinching look at war ever, save maybe “Generation Kill” and that David Simon miniseries was just a little too erudite and arcane for my pea brain to enjoy.  Even the best war movies–my two favorites are “Apocalypse Now” and the “Band of Brothers” miniseries–are romanticized.  Full of charismatic characters that always have a funny aside to say during the heat of battle, photography meant to beautify the grisly subject matter, and a soundtrack enjoyable enough to download to your iPod.  But not “Hurt Locker.”  This is a side of war we’ve never see.  I have no idea if it’s an accurate portrayal of these men of brass balls–an explosives disposal team–but I don’t care, I loved every minute of it.  This is a very tough to digest movie and completely inaccessible to the movie-going public at large.  It may be the Best Picture favorite right now, but I see absolutely no way it will win for those reasons alone.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

6.  JULIA

I honestly hadn’t even heard of this 2009 release until just a few days ago when a friend implored me to watch it.  Thank god for Netflix Instant.  No stranger to great performances, Tilda Swinton manages to give her best one ever here in this tale of an alcoholic slut who gets involved in a kidnapping ransom plot which ultimately finds her on the loose in Tijuana.  Yeah, the movie’s about as over-the-top as a movie can be yet the scenarios somehow never seem implausible and Swinton’s performance never seems hammy for even a second.  Swinton is sexy, scary, manic, crazy, annoying, lovable, and heartbreaking at various times throughout, and you can’t take your eyes off her.  I’ll be honest, I kinda think I loved this movie because Swinton’s character reminded me of a girl I dated earlier this year.  And that shouldn’t be a good thing, though I’ll never forget that sexy lunatic and I’ll never forget Swinton’s Julia.

7.  DISTRICT 9

I thought the days of a new and interesting alien movie being released were long past.  Shit, I’m not sure if I’d even enjoyed an alien movie since all the way back to The Fresh Prince one-two punch of “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” and even those two weren’t that good.  But damn if Canado-African director Neill Blomkamp doesn’t make one helluva film in “District 9.”  The first act of the movie is one part Ricky Gervais’s “The Office” and one part “Blair Witch” in its mockumentary/cinema verite format.  It has the amazing ability to go from hysterical to revolting back to hysterically funny in a matter of seconds.  And, Blomkamp even has the ability to make you care for some of these disgusting prawn-like aliens in a way we haven’t cared for an alien since that crossdressing alien buddy of little Drew Barrymore’s.  Amazing effects throughout and a real nice message about, uh, not hating black people?  (If only the Springboks from “Invictus” had gotten to play the “District 9″ aliens in rugby while Mandela cheered them on.)  Unfortunately, the great themes and intrigue of the movie fall apart in the third act which just becomes a standard shoot-’em-up, but nevertheless, the other 75% of the movie is so damn good I have to give “District 9″ high praise.

8. ANVIL:  THE STORY OF ANVIL

People keep comparing this movie to “This is Spinal Tap,” but for me it more evoked memories of “American Movie.”  I understand the comparisons to “Tap.”  For the first thirty minutes of the movie I really could not figure out if this was a documentary or mockumentary.  What with icons like Slash and Lars Ulrich hailing the greatness and genius of Anvil, I found myself thinking, “I was alive in the 80s and I sure as fuck do not remember this band!”  Sure enough, though, Anvil was, apparently, one of the big metal bands of the early 1980s.  This hilarious and pathotic story tells of their huge fall from the top and their countless derailed attempts to get back to the hair mountain through incredible perseverance, tenacity, and, perhaps a delusional belief in themselves.  Anvil lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow is one of the great screen philosophers of all-time, a balding mulleted Canadian Marcus Aurelius–I will never forget him.  I would have never guessed that a documentary about guys that play songs with such titles as “666,” “Hair Pie,” and “Thumb Hang” would provide for me some of the greatest life lessons I would see on screen in 2009.

9.  FANTASTIC MR. FOX

Wes Anderson was neck-and-neck with Paul Thomas Anderson and Tarantino in the best filmmaker alive standings at the start of this decade but unlike those other two, Wes seemed to lack an ability to mature in his work (I know what you’re saying:  “Tarantino has matured in his work?!?!”).  After the apex of his young career with “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Wes unfortunately lost a bit of his touch and continued to make visually ornate pictures completely devoid of human relatability that “Rushmore” and “Tenenbaums” had. Sure, “Life Aquatic” and “The Darjeeling Limited” looked swell, but they just fell flat in emotional resonance.  Was this due to his swapping of writing partner Owen Wilson with Noah Baumbach?  I’m not sure, but that was the one constant that changed.  I’d written him off for good but he got back on track strongly with “Mr. Fox.”  It’s no surprise that it looks marvelous–it will give “Up” a run for its money in the Best Animated Picture category at the Oscars–but this is also his first film since “Tenenbaums” with characters you actually like and relate too.  And they’re fucking stop-motion anthropomorphized furry creatures!  Clooney is terrific voicing the titular Mr. Fox, perhaps even better than his “Up in the Air” performance, and this quick taut movie flies by from the great opening scene (set to the music of my favorite Beach Boys’ obscurity “Heroes & Villains”) all the way to the end.  Hopefully Wes Anderson has triumphantly returned, or maybe his whimsy and childlike wonderment just lends itself better to stop-motion anthropomorphized shit.  Whatever the case, glad to have him back.

10.  FUNNY PEOPLE (first half)

I’ve been a Judd Apatow fan since his “Larry Sanders Show” and “Freaks and Geeks”/”Undeclared Days” but I’d grown tired of him lately.  The teasers for “Funny People” were so lame that it would be the first of his films I didn’t see in theaters.  You can imagine my surprise when after begrudgingly deciding to watch it on DVD, I actually paused the disc an hour into the feature to send a lengthy text to another movie buff friend about how fucking awesome this picture was.  Seth Rogen is terrifically nervous and dopey in this tale of a young comedian trying to make it on the stand-up circuit and Sandler gives a performance even better than his one in “Punch Drunk Love” as a hedonistic, depressed, and dying version of…well, himself.  Unfortunately, what could have been the best film of the year absolutely gets derailed with some terribly hubristic directorial decisions.  Enjoy the first half of this movie deeply, but once you see Leslie Mann appear on screen, eject the DVD from your player, put it back in the Netflix envelope and pretend the movie ended.  If you do, and imagine that lame-o second half is actually part two of a sequel you never watched, you will easily be able to call this one of the best films of the year.

Special mentionTHE CLASS

A French film released there in May of 2008, never fully released in America, but released briefly and limited in NYC on December 18th, 2008, under my own rules this film would have and should have been considered for last year’s list.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen it by then.  Hadn’t even heard of it by then.  That’s not strange, it usually takes me til the middle of the next year to see every single release from the previous year, especially foreign films, but since I rarely miss anything big before one calender year is up, I rarely have to revise my previous year’s list.  Not in this case.  “The Class” was a huge, huge surprise in spinning the plotless tale of a French high school classroom.  Heartwarming and life-affirming, as realistic in feel as a documentary, it’s hard for me to fully elucidate why this is such a masterpiece.  This isn’t one of those Hillary-Swank-teaches-troubled-minority-youths-how-to-turn-their-enthusiasm-for-hip-hop-into-a-love-of-literature high school movies.  No, this is just a “year in the life” featuring the typical ups and downs of probably 99% of classrooms in the western world.  Plus,  the kid actors in this movie are just fantastic.  I can’t implore you to see this enough.  It would have been my #1 movie of 2008 or 2009, whichever year I considered it for.

Special justificationAVATAR

It’s not typical for critics to justify why they didn’t put a particular movie on their “best of” list, but “Avatar” is clearly not a typical movie.  Universally beloved almost instantaneously, one of five movies ever to make a billion dollars (it will probably finish #2 all-time to that other James Cameron movie), and the most publicly-discussed movie I can recall in years; I thought I might as well justify why it didn’t make my top ten list just to stave off the nerds from yelling at me (they still will).  The world created in “Avatar” is remarkable, yes.  The 3-D effects are mind-blowing, yes (they are also retina blowing–Christ my eyes were sore for a few hours afterward.)  But the movie is not without some major, major flaws.  Everyone knows the story is pretty weak, but it didn’t have to be.  The idea of using a surrogate avatar body is a pretty cool one and I wish that had been explored more than on just a cursory level.  But what made me most uneasy about the movie was how the Na’vi were depicted as the classic noble savages.  Look, I have no problem with “white people suck” movies, nor do I have much issue with over-the-top “white capitalistic bad guy” archetypes, but I did have a problem with the Na’vi society being depicted as flawless.  I can attest that no matter the town, city, group, community, tribe, flock, or pack there are always gonna be some assholes amongst it.  Except amongst the Na’vi I guess.  Yeah, Tsu’Tey was a tad truculent before he got to know Sully a little better, but he wasn’t an asshole.  If Cameron had just given me a few Na’vi assholes–you know, some blue guy that preferred smoking weed in his tree hammock to doing chores around Pandora–then I would have liked “Avatar” a whole lot more and it would have been a much better movie.  If you don’t believe me, just compare “Avatar” to the vastly superior sci-fi epic “2001:  A Space Odyssey.”  Now that was a movie full of assholes.  Asshole apes, asshole astronauts, even an asshole robot.  Kubrick understood.

Notables (alphabetical order):

An Education
Assassination of a High School President

Avatar
Away We Go
The Blind Side
Bruno
Coraline

Extract
The Informant!

Precious
The Road

Sita Sings the Blues
Tyson

TOP PERFORMANCES

1.  Tilda Swinton  (”Julia”)

2.  Jeff Bridges (”Crazy Heart”)

3. Christoph Waltz (”Inglourious Basterds”)

4.  Mo’Nique (”Precious”)

5.  George Clooney  (”Up in the Air” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”)

6.  Carey Mulligan (”An Education”)

7.  Sharlto Copley (”District 9″)

8.  Gabourey Sidibe (”Precious”)

9.  Viggo Mortensen (”The Road”)

10.  Adam Sandler (”Funny People”)

WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR

I’m not one of those MST3K-esque people that actually gets a charge out of watching terrible movies.  No, to me terrible movies are just terrible movies that are wasting my time I could be watching good movies.  So, suffice to say, I see as few terrible movies as possible and if I’m watching a terrible movie at home I have no compunction with having a little cinema interruptus and stopping it halfway (I curiously never walk out of theaters though–ah, the cheap Jew in me.)  These are the worst things I accidentally saw in 2009:

Dishonorable mentionTHE HANGOVER

Look, this was in no way one of the worst films of the year and I’d even give it a marginal thumbs up, but the rapidity with which it has entered the classic comedy canon is just stupefying to me.  This simply isn’t that great of comedy and, after three total viewings, I’m still really flummoxed why people love it so. People in my theater were laughing their asses off, rolling in the aisles, and they even applauded when it was over. I’m not saying it’s terrible or anything, it’s just not funny. I didn’t LOL even once. (Which, I guess if it’s a comedy and it’s not funny then that means it IS “terrible,” but I digress). If you saw the trailer, you literally know everything about the movie. Good comedy should be shocking and surprising and there’s not a single surprise in this entire movie. Compare that to the great “Up” which surprised me every few minutes with its wonderful ideas and hilarious scenes. I think the concept of three dudes trying to piece together a crazy hungover night is a pretty good one. But their lost night–and the movie doesn’t even have the balls to allow them to attain that lost night through actual legitimate means, ya know, hardcore drinking (they’re unwittingly roofied instead)–is nothing but a lame, paint-by-numbers pastiche of non sequitor shit that uber-hack Todd Phillips must have thought would play well in trailers. Ohmigod, badass Mike Tyson singing a lame Phil Collins song! A tiger in the bathroom! How’d a chicken get in the room?! (Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure we ever learned that. We never learned why the room was trashed either for that matter.) Seriously, what is funny about any of those things? And I’m not exactly Mr. PC Morality but mining a lost and neglected baby for comedy? Perhaps I wouldn’t be offended if that was actually a funny gag. But of course it isn’t. Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms and even Bradley Cooper are winning and likable and I hope those three continue to headline movies, but there’s not much they can accomplish when they’re reading words written by the authors of “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “Four Christmases” and stuck in Phillips’s lame plot. As I was watching the movie it wasn’t like it was cringeworthy or anything, nor was I begging for it to be over, and it’s not a deplorable “dumb” pratfalls comedy or anything either, it’s just boring and predictable.  Flat.  I would have much rather watched Galifianakis, et al actually get wasted and then actually go do things in Vegas. Actually, I’d rather hear any of my besotted friends tell me about what kinds of decadence and depravity they got into just last night.  Yet another squandered good idea turned into triteness by Phillips.  It still haunts me to this very day that countless millions consider this to now be a classic.

5.  FUNNY PEOPLE (second half)

I’m sure Judd Apatow is one of the great family men in Hollywood, but could the motherfucker please stop shoe-horning his fucking wife and kids into his pictures?  Not since David Mamet and Rebecca Pidgeon has a filmmaker so insisted on unnecessarily inflicting the women he fucks on us.  Now don’t get me wrong, Leslie Mann is both prettier and far more talented than Pidgeon, but she ruins Apatow’s movies just the same.  Whereas in Mamet’s case the fault lies with Pidgeon, in Apatow’s case the fault lies with him.  There’s absolutely no reason for Leslie Mann’s character–and her and Apatow’s kids no less!–to play such a major part in this movie, but there they are, absolutely torpedoing what could have easily been a dark comedy classic.  Look Judd, you inspire all us fat, hirsute, neurotic Jews to dream that if one day we just make comedy classic after comedy classic after comedy classic then we too will get to marry a blond bombshell, but now that we all know who you have intercourse with, could you please leave it at that?  I’ve never so wished for a filmmaker to get a divorce.

4.  JULIE & JULIA (Julie parts)

Based on Nora Ephron’s rendering and Amy Adam’s portrayal, Julie Powell must truly be one of the most annoying cunts on planet earth.  And that would be fine if only her friends, family, and the fat lonely chicks that read her poorly-written book had to deal with her, but when she ruins what could have been a pretty bang-up biopic about Julia Child, that’s when I have to take umbrage.  Personally, I hate biopics unless they involve George C. Scott playing George S. Patton, but if anyone deserved one, the force of nature Child is a gal that did.  Even in this stinker of a movie, the Julia parts are still quite good and Meryl Streep knocks another role out of the park (is there anything she can’t do?!).  You spend 50% of the movie wishing you were watching the other 50% of the movie.  Heck, even Julia supposedly hated Julie before she died.  It’s no wonder Julie’s second book is about how her husband left her.  Save your time and instead spend it on hilarious clips of Child available on YouTube.

3.  THE INFORMERS

While working on my own novel this year I decided to reread all of Bret Easton Ellis’s works for inspiration.  For all the acclaim he gets, Ellis is amazingly still a much underrated novelist and “American Psycho” is much better than it even gets credit for.  “The Informers” is probably Ellis’s worst work though still worth reading I suppose.  Of course, while dicking around on Netflix, I was pleased to notice an adaptation of “The Informers” and as a huge fan, a mild fan, and a so-so fan of Ellis’s other three books-to-film (”Rules of Attraction,” “American Psycho,” and “Less Than Zero” respectively) I summarily rented it.  I mean, with a script by Ellis and performances by a motley crew of acting notables spanning from Billy Bob Thorton to Mickey Rourke to even Brad Renfro’s final performance, how could it not be great?!  Well, after only ten minutes of viewing this, I realized it was a truly awful film and after twenty minutes I realized, “Holy shit!  I’ve seen this film before!”  Yes, “The Informers” was so goddamn awful that I rented it twice in 2009, obviously repressing the painful memory of the first time I saw it.  Though I will say that this movie has probably the best onscreen nudity of the year.  But please take my word for it and please don’t rent this dreck just to see some titties.

2.  OBSERVE & REPORT

Just a despicable picture, and not in a good either.  You will meet people that tell you this movie is hilarious, that you don’t “get it,” and maybe they’re right–there were plenty of now legendary comedies it took me a while to “get” (most notably “Office Space” and “The Big Lebowski”)–but I just don’t believe this is one of those, and I was so disgusted by the movie that I really don’t want to give it another go.  How did Jody Hill, the co-genius behind “Eastbound & Down,” a true comedy masterpiece–think this was a funny idea for a movie?  Seth Rogen as a fat slob mall cop goes Travis Bickle on everyone?  Paul Blart was the funnier mall cop this year and that’s just fucking sad.

1.  THE SOLOIST

Easily the most excruciatingly boring movie ever made about a mentally ill musical genius starring two of the best actors alive.  Joe Wright made one of my most beloved films of the decade in the absolutely beautiful “Atonement” but here he’s totally out of his comfort zone.  Just a panderingly awful movie–movies featuring mentally ill people or bums usually are, and this features both!–even the great Robert Downey, Jr.’s roguish charm can’t rescue this major misfire.  Stick to corsetted costume dramas based on classic novels and starring that skinny British chick, Joey.

So what were your picks for the best and the worst in cinema 2009?

*Notable 2009 films as yet unseen:  The 35 Rums, The Beaches of Agnes, Big Fan, Brothers, The Damned United, Food, Inc., Good Hair, Moon, The Messenger, Paranormal Activity, Ponyo, The September Issue, Sugar, We Live in Public, Where the Wild Things Are, The White Ribbon, You, the Living.

The Vice Blog 2009 Wrap-Up

December 24th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Lists

I drank a lot of great beers over the past 365 days but these are the ones I remember most foundly.  The ones I can close my eyes and almost taste if I think hard enough.  If I included it on my “best-of” list for 2008, then no matter how good that same beer is/was, I made it ineligible for this year’s list, but with two notes:

1.  Darkness (2009), while a completely different formula than the 2008 batch, was every bit as good in my opinion and would have easily been my 1st or 2nd highest-rated stout of the year.

2.  I had a few bottles of Pliny the Elder for the first time in 2008 and thought it was good enough, but I apparently hadn’t had it fresh, because this year, after finally having some fresh fresh fresh bottles and drafts of Russian River’s classic, I realized why it is so acclaimed.  I now consider it neck-in-neck for the #1 spot on my all-time IPA list with #3 on the following list.

And, with that, said following list…

TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2009*

1.  The Lost Abbey Veritas 004

I never expected to have this beer and, quite frankly, I didn’t know a whole heckuva lot about this beer, but then one day I found myself at an epic sour tasting where this blending of Yellow Bus, Duck Duck Gooze, and Cuvee de Tomme absolutely blew away fellow masterpieces in their own right Beatification, Temptation, and Captain Lawrence’s Flaming Fury.  I now call this the greatest single beer I’ve ever had.

2.  Westleteren 12

The first time I had the “Citizen Kane” of beers, I thought, “Eh, it’s great.  I suppose,” and gave it probably the most unenthusiastic A+ ever issued.  Luckily, I got to try it again in a blind quadruple tasting along with The Captain and, this time, Westy 12 humiliated Rochefort 10–a beer I had long hailed as the world’s best quad–so badly, that it made it smell like vomit and taste like bathwater.  Aha!  Now I got it.  Maybe not the best beer in the world, but goddamn close.

3.  Alpine Nelson

I’m not sure if I’d even heard of California’s Alpine Beer Company one year ago today, but when my new e-friend and San Diego legend Jesse the Hutt tells me what I should be drinking, I gladly listen.  In mid-summer he was kind enough to send me a fresh growler of Nelson and I was absolutely floored as it now stands as the best IPA I’ve ever had.  Another package from Jesse is supposedly going in the mail today, one which will include Alpine’s “other” IPAs–Exponential Hoppiness, Pure Hoppiness, Duet, and Nelson bottled this time–and I’m so thankful and anxious to try those sure-fire masterpieces.

4.  The Lost Abbey Serpent’s Stout

Ironically, in a year in which The Lost Abbey was the most shit on of all the major craft breweries due to percieved carbonation, release date, and pricing issues, I fell in love with them and had winner after winner after winner from them.  (And none had carbonation issues nor did the high pricing bother me one bit.)  Likewise, in a year in which I tried pretty much all of the “major” imperial stouts–most of them limited bottle, pricey, one day releases–it was The Lost Abbey’s fairly easily found stout that defeated them all, even beating the far more “famous” Deschutes Abyss in a blind tasting I conducted which then led to me to drunkenly embarrassing myself in front of Tomme Arthur.

5.  Goose Island Night Stalker

Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout is one of my favorite beers in the world and with Night Stalker being that beer before it is bourbon-barreled, I expected to like it but not love it quite as much.  I was totally wrong.  This tap-only offering is just as complex as Bourbon County Stout as the lack of barrel-aging assures that the beer’s amazing complexity isn’t masked by boozy bourbonness (admittedly delicious boozy bourbonness, but still.)  I had this on numerous occasions this year, often facing it off against other highly-regarded stouts, and it almost always won.

6.  Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout

I had, wrongly, dumbly, idiotically, considered Avery somewhat of a second-class craft brewer until this year when I finally start to explore all they had to offer.  The pricey but easily available Mephistopheles’ was their first offering that truly opened my eyes and it still remains one of my favorite stouts on the planet.  Worth every penny.

7.  Struise Pannepot - Old Fisherman’s Ale (2006)

I had this on my first ever visit to Philadelphia’s legendary Monk’s Cafe on a very memorable drinking day with my man Batch.  I’d actually gone to Monk’s most excited to try Struise’s Black Albert stout–which was fine enough–but this incredibly unique spiced quad from these avant garde brewers is truly a beer to seek out.

8.  Three Floyds Blackheart

I had the fortune to also have Three Floyds’ more “famous” IPA this year, Dreadnaught, which was tasty enough, but it was their little-discussed English IPA Blackheart that absolutely blew my mind and was a clear winner over that supposed top 25 beer in the world.  Like any beer geek I drink a ton of IPAs and this is one I’ll never forget.

9.  Founders Harvest

I’ve never had a bad beer from Founders but I’ve never been absolutely floored by any of their offerings either.  Even the legendary Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, while both very deserving of their acclaim, have never blown my mind–perhaps something we can attribute to too lofty of expectations heaped on them.  I went in with no expectations about Harvest and it became a highlight of my year.  I may have only given it an A in my initial review, but damn if I’m not still thinking about this sucker a couple of months later, already counting down the days til next year’s “wet hop” season (late fall) so that I can wisely stock up on this gem and polish off as much of it as possible while it’s still fresh.

10.  Southampton Grand Cru

Probably the most underrated New York state brewery, my trip out to the Publick House was a memorable one and this beer is probably the finest American “Belgian” offering I’ve ever had.  Wish I’d stocked up on it as I think about the one time I tried this beer more fondly than I think about most of my past sexual experiences.

Special mention:

Dogfish Head Via Randall the Enamel Animal

Dogfish Head was one of the first breweries to get me into craft beer and I still love their inventiveness to this very day.  I’ve long considered their 90 and 120 Minute IPAs to be classics and I still enjoy them often.  Well the amazing Randall machine adds a whole ‘nother level of complexity and pure deliciousness to those beers and I’d dare say the world would be a better place if all beers were run through this funky machine.  A true revelation in my beer-drinking year.

Honorable mention:

Russian River Consecration–I feel silly not having a single Russian River beer in my top ten as I gave four of them A pluses this year.  Masters of the American wild ale style, Consecration was my favorite I tried this year, just edging out Beatification and Temptation.

Kate the Great–the patron saint of the Vice Blog, my friend DW, stood outside in the cold (BY HIMSELF!) to secure one of these super-limited, highly-rated stouts and I think we’d both agree it was well worth it (me more so than him because I didn’t stand in line by myself in the cold!)

Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock–the best wheat beer in the world “iced” and suped-up?!  Why thank you very much!

Odell Woodcut #2–the (surprise) big winner at this year’s SAVOR event, it must have out-performed 50 other beers I tried.

Kuhnhenn Fourth Dementia–these Warren, Michigan brewers became a new favorite of mine as they finally got a small push into the NYC market this year.  I’ve only had four of their beers so far–all unequivocal winners–but this old ale was my favorite.

Others (alphabetical):

Boulevard Saison-Brett
Cantillon St. Lamvinus
Dieu du Ciel! Peche Mortel
Fantome Saison
Girardin Gueze 1882 Black Label
Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher

Ithaca Brute

Marin White Knuckle DIPA
Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel
Nogne O Dark Horizon 2.0
Rochefort 10
Russian River Beatification (Batch #2)
Russian River Tempation

Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs

Smuttynose Gravitation
The Lost Abbey Angel’s Shares
Three Floyds Dark Lord
Westvletern 8

BONUS:

Favorite wine of the yearKluge Estates Cru

Favorite liquor of the yearGeorge T. Stagg bouron

WORST BEERS I DRANK IN 2009

You know it was a great year when there was only five beers so bad that I couldn’t finish them.  These are them:

5.  Cannabis the Beer (Red Power)

The beer itself was plenty awful–sure–but it led to my least proud moment of 2009, which is more than enough to merit it a spot on this list.

4.  Southampton North Fork Fresh Hop

I hate to bash Southampton as they made several of my favorite beers of the year, but this effort was just a watery mess.  After my first sip of it at Blind Tiger one evening, I set it down and ordered a new beer.

3.  Southern Tier Cherry Saison

Southern Tier had never done me wrong until this disgusting brew which tastes like an original Coors with some cheap cherry syrup poorly mixed into it.  I tried it freezing cold, I tried it room temperature, tried it from several different glasses…I ultimately tried it down the drain.  Awful.

2.  Michelob Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale

This falsely named beer (cask?!?!?!  bourbon?!?!?! are you fucking kidding me??!?!) was so horrendous, just a few sips of it had me sick to my stomach for the bulk of the next day.

1.  Crazy Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer

Just an iconoclast of awfulness.  So fucking terrible I implore you to try it just to know what the lowest depths of beer can be.  Unfortunately, the brewery that makes this supposedly went belly-up, rendering this beer fairly rare I suppose and meaning you may never get the grave misfortune to taste it (I actually have a few bottles still “cellaring” just in case).  Eh, I do things so you don’t have to…just watch my tasting video linked above and count your blessings.

Happy Holiday and New Year and here’s to grand tipplin’ in 2010!

*Notable 2009 offerings I’ve yet to try which I own or am soon to own:  The Bruery Black Tuesday, Pelican Pub’s The Perfect Storm, The Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze, Firestone 13, and a few others.  2010 is gonna be a good year I think…

The Vice Blog’s Top Movies of the 2000s

December 4th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 22 Comments | Filed in Lists

Indulge me if you will…

1.  There Will Be Blood (2007)

The instant classic.  Even watching it for the first time you realize you are seeing greatness, something that for the rest of time will be mentioned in the same breath as “Apocalypse Now,” “Citizen Kane,” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”  That just doesn’t happen a lot any more.  Backed by Daniel Day Lewis’s bravura performance–the decade’s best performance*–and Jonny Greenwood’s phenomenal score, this study of a ruthless maniac livin’ the American dream is something I will surely revisit once a year for the rest of my life.  This was the decade that Paul Thomas Anderson confirmed he is the world’s greatest filmmaker, bar none, and this was the film that nothing else came even close to matching.  Hey look at that–I didn’t even mention milkshakes once!

2.  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)**

Before this one I’d never particularly liked Julian Schnabel pictures.  Sure, there was stuff to admire in both “Basquiat” and “Before Night Falls,” but I still found them a little too scattered, pretentious, and boring.  Not so with “Diving Bell” which still stands as one of my fondest theater-going experiences of all time.  Alone on a cold December 2007 night in Manhattan’s second worst movie theater–I won’t name names–amidst a sea of crinkly plastic-candy-wrappered unwrapping “What he just say?” old Upper West Side Jews, I was nearly brought to tears, of both joy and sadness, as I saw one of the most touching and life-affirming movies ever made.  (I cried even more in frustration upon trying to exit the theater in a timely fashion behind these decaying corpses.)  A subtitled French film shot mainly from a POV angle, this highly experimental work I would doubt is for most people’s tastes–you would think–but if you take a chance on it you be floored by the true story of the indomitable spirit of Jean-Dominique Bauby.

3.  Lost in Translation (2003)

I fell in love with Scarlett Johansson–at probably an earlier age than I was “legally” allowed to–with her crackling sarcastic supporting work in “Ghost World” (an honorable mention choice on this very list) but “Lost in Translation” still stands as her best work to date.  Nevertheless, Bill Murray steals the show in what could even be argued to be his very best performance (I’d personally opt for “Rushmore,” “Groundhog Day,” or the criminally-underrated “What About Bob?”)  I had more arguments about my love of this film than probably any other over the last decade with these being the top three FAQs trying to deride my love:

“But what is it about?”

“Don’t you think it’s a perverse love story?”

“Don’t you truly just like it because Scarlett prances around in her underwear?”

I don’t know what to say, I’ve seen it over a dozen times and I never tire of it.

4.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

If PT Anderson was THE director of the 2000s, then Charlie Kaufman was unquestionably THE screenwriter and two of his films make my top ten.  “Eternal Sunshine” is probably his best work ever and, in fact, stands as one of the best modern love stories of the last twenty-five years.  Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet bring their A-games, there’s hysterical supporting work from Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, and Kirsten Dunst, and Michel Gondrey’s directorial vision meshes beautifully with Kaufman’s “out there” ideas.  A stunningly original and brilliant work.

5.  Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Aside from #10, this is probably the only picture on my list that isn’t “weird,” or “avant garde” if you want to sound fancier.  Then again, SERIOUS and earnest gay love stories that aren’t swished up and packed with hijinks (or Kevin James lisping it up) are amazingly still considered “weird” and “avant garde” in this day and age.  I couldn’t believe the looks I’d get, even in 2005 New York City, when friends and acquaintances would ask me what my favorite movie of the year was and I’d respond with “Brokeback.”  Eh, maybe I’m just friends with homophobes.  Or latent homosexuals.  Whatever the case, “Brokebreak” isn’t a great film because of some purely era-based avant gardeness–ala, say, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” which was never very good but I suppose considered “cutting-edge” because of the era it was released in–no, the movie is great because it is the most touching Romeo & Juliet-esque love story of recent times.  Add an unbelievable score by Gustavo Santaolalla, Heath Ledger’s heartbreaking performance as Ennis del Mar, and maybe my favorite final shot in film history as Ennis hugs Jack Twist’s bloody old work shirt keepsake after learning of his death (uh…spoiler alert?) and you have a masterpiece.

6.  The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Rushmore” was a movie that greatly shaped my college-era movie fandom so I eagerly anticipated Wes Anderson’s follow-up and he absolutely stunned me with this one.  I still remember sitting in a Chelsea cinema watching the opening monologue about the Tenenbaum troika’s childhood.  The mix of on-screen graphics, insert shots, and such gorgeous costuming and set design, topped of with a cover of “Hey Jude” which led into the opening, modern-day Tenenbaums credits and I knew within minutes I was watching something special.  I’m eight years older now and perhaps not as into whimsy but this movie still stands as an iconoclast in the cinema landscape and for sure a masterpiece.  There was a time where Wes seemed to be neck-in-neck with PT in the Best Filmmaker in the World debate, but after the still-visually-stunning-but-somewhat-lacking “The Life Aquatic” and “Darjeeling Limited” he is no longer in that debate, though he seems to have gotten back on track with “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” his whimsy and childlike wonderment perhaps lending itself better to stop-motion anthropomorphizied animal flicks.

7.  Kill Bill:  Volume I/2 (2003/2004)

Speaking of greatest filmmakers ever, Quentin Tarantino is still most certainly in the debate.  In a world where we are constantly disappointed and forced to curb our expectations, Quentin’s movies never fail to surprise and delight.  It’s easy to call him an “homagist,”*** or a rip-off artist if you’re being nasty, but QT is a true American original and if you’re not grinning ear to ear from the start of his movies til the end, then you don’t have a pulse.  “Kill Bill” is probably his most uneven film, but Uma Thurman and David Carradine (now in autoerotic asphyxiation heaven along with Michael Hutchence) give boffo performances and there’s still a remarkable amount of gleeful onscreen “Well shit, I’ve never seen THAT before” moments–most notably The Bride’s battles with the Crazy 88s and the California Mountain Snake; “Pussy Wagon,” O-Ren Ishii’s anime backstory, and the showdown at the House of Blue Leaves–to make this a surefire classic.  (And fuck to you if you think I’m cheating by including two movies in one slot, although, for the record, Part 2 was the slightly better effort.)

8.  Adaptation (2002)

No one would ever say it, preferring to cite eminently forgettable schlock like “The Hangover,” but “Adapation” was easily the funniest movie of the decade (not involving Sacha Baron Cohen or Christopher Guest).  That’s the thing about Charlie Kaufman, he’s not making comedies but his films are so so fucking funny.  It’s easy to bag on the guy’s acting abilities, but Nic Cage carries the movie, giving a tour de force performance as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman.  But this is no Haley Mills “Parent Trap” effort, Cage crafts two completely distinct characters that you never for a second can’t differentiate on screen.  “Adaptation” is a meta-goof on all the shitty by-the-book Hollywoodized movies Kaufman was no doubt encouraged to take a stab at–as opposed to continuing to write his “weird” movies–while he struggled to get his sui generis vision on the silver screen.  Let’s be glad he never succumbed.

9.  Ratatouille (2007)

If you made a top ten list for the decade and you didn’t include a Pixar film then you either have no heart, are trying to be cool, or are one of those weird anti-animation people (”I don’t WATCH cartoons,” they always say.  Uh…yeah, but you DO watch Michael Bay movies?!)  Honestly, every single Pixar film released since 2000–save “Cars”–would have made, say, my top 100 films of the decade, but “Ratatouille” was the best, edging out, in order, “The Incredibles,” “Up,” and “Wall-E.”  It’s honestly hard for me to think of a better movie about creating art while all the critics–everyone’s a critic!–tries to tear you down.

10.  Catch Me if You Can (2002)

The 2000s were an incredibly strong decade for Steven Spielberg**** as well with “A.I.,” “Minority Report,” and “Munich” but none were better than “Catch Me If You Can.”  I’ve never been the biggest Spielberg fan.  I can’t deny the man’s talent, but I’ve felt that he always opts for commercial sentimentality over artistry, cop-out third acts over less satisfying finishes–which is funny because in this decade he got a lot more dark and twisted.  Which makes my love of maybe his most sentimental, “throw-back” effort of recent years even more amusing.  But damn if “Catch Me” wasn’t one of the most purely enjoyable films of the decade, a film that has quickly entered the “Groundhog Day”/”The Fugitive”/”Castaway” class of movies that if you are to pass them by on TNT or something, you can’t help but watch them yet again for the hundrendth time.  It’s easy to dismiss “Catch Me” as nothing more than a nice popcorn flick, and it is unquestionably the most “popcorn” on my top ten, but it has a swell message of isolation and searching for happiness in life and the great DiCaprio has never been more likable.  It also begins with the best title sequence in ages:

Notables:

11.  Once (2007)
12.  Before Sunset (2004)
13.  No Country For Old Men (2007)
14.  Ghost World (2001)
15.  Mulholland Dr. (2001)
16.  City of God (2002)
17.  Atonement (2007)
18.  Almost Famous (2000)
19.  Amelie (2001)
20.  Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
21.  Children of Men (2006)
22.  The New World (2005)
23.  The 25th Hour (2002)
24.  The Incredibles (2004)
25.  The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

BONUS:  Top 3 Documentaries of the 2000s

1.  The Fog of War (2003)
2.  Grizzly Man (2005)
3.  Dear Zachary (2008)

I’d love to see everyone else’s top 5, 10, 1000 movies of the decade (assuming you’re nerdy enough to make one!)

*Giving myself a mere thirty minutes and not a second more, the decade’s top performances.  I’m sure I missed a few big ones, so please note in the comments if I did.

MALE

1.  Daniel Day Lewis (”There Will Be Blood”)
2.  Heath Ledger (”The Dark Knight”)
3.  Nicolas Cage (”Adaptation”)
4.  Heath Ledger (”Brokeback Mountain”)
5.  Javier Bardem (”No Country For Old Men”)
6.  Daniel Day Lewis (”Gangs of New York”)
7.  Billy Bob Thornton (”The Man Who Wasn’t There”)
8.  John Cameron Mitchell (”Hedwig & the Angry Inch”)
9.  Benicio Del Toro (”Che”)
10.  Christoph Walz (”Inglourious Basterds”)

(Pains me to not include a single performance by Eastwood, Freeman, Bale, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, DiCaprio, Damon, or Russell Crowe, as well as Amalric in “Diving Bell,” Ben Kingsley in “Sexy Beast,” and Sir Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler.”  It’s tough to limit yourself to ten.)

FEMALE

1.  Saoirse Ronan (”Atonement”)
2.  Helen Mirren (”The Queen”)
3.  Kate Winslet (”Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”)
4.  Audrey Tautou (”Amelie”)
5.  Frances McDormand (”Almost Famous”)
6.  Abigail Breslin (”Little Miss Sunshine”)
7.  Halle Berry (”Monster’s Ball”)
8.  Charlize Theron (”Monster”)
9.  Hillary Swank (”Million Dollar Baby”)
10.Ellen Burstyn (”Requiem for a Dream”)

(Pains me to not include a single Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton performance and I could have easily include at least three more Winslet’s.)

**What a year for movies!  My top 10 of 2007 back in 2007:

1.  There Will Be Blood
2.  Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
3.  No Country For Old Men
4.  Atonement
5.  Michael Clayton
6.  Ratatouille
7.  Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
8.  Once
9.  3:10 to Yuma
10. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Three of the above make my decade’s top 10 and three more make the top 25.  Wow!

***Google the word “homagist”–which I was Googling to even see if it was a real word!–and look at who the first entry is about.

****Speaking of greatest filmmakers alive, I’m stunned, and quite remiss I couldn’t find room for a single Eastwood film in the top 25.  Eastwood just KILLED it this decade with a string of superb features (”Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Letters from Iwa Jima,” and “Gran Torino”) all of which could easily make a reasonable person’s top ten.

New York’s Best Beers

September 10th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Brewer: Ommegang, Brewer: Southern Tier, Lists

Sure, it’s easy to heed the refrain “Buy local!” when you’re an elitist living in an awesome major city enclave that has awesome food and drink.  But what if you live in a real shithole?  I’ve lived in places where buying “local” would mean picking up a pack of franks and a Sno-cone at the corner gas station.  Luckily, I live in a place now where I could probably solely exist by eating and drinking local (if only it wasn’t for my pesky love of camel burgers, d’oh!).  New York state is one of top five craft beer states in the nation, and even though Southern Tier in Lakewood is further from me than Richmond, Virginia and Ommegang in Cooperstown further than Philadelphia, they are still part of my state and them’s the rules.  So, with that, and with NYC Craft Beer Week beginning today, I give you…

New York’s Best Beers

Note:  I’ve only included yearly releases.  I don’t care whether they are seasonal or even ultra-rare, so long as they are released each year, I have considered them in the rankings.  This, unfortunately, eliminates one-off experimental stuff like Brooklyn’s great Brewmasters Reserve series.  Additionally, in the fine print at the bottom I list some notable NY beers I’ve unfortunately never tried.

1.  Brooklyn Black Ops (bottled and available here)

For better or worse, the best beer in New York state is also probably the most expensive.  If you can still find it.  Black Ops sold for around $25 a bottle–in a gorgeous bowling pin of an engraved corked-and-caged 750 mL–when it was released last winter, and it completely lived up to the hype.  Now, no longer able to be found in stores, your finer local groggeries still have some jacked-up-priced bottles hanging around in the back room and indeed I’ve since had it several more times.  Aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat (no clue what that means), and re-fermented with champagne yeast.  A filthy black pour that instantly stains the sides of your glass.  A deliciously boozy aroma of chocolate, vanilla, and much roasted coffee.  The oaked bourbon sensations absolutely pummels my tongue.  I half-expect to piss stout ever time I finish a bottle.

2.  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (bottled and tap)

Surely one of the most economical great beers in all of America as a six-pack–seriously, what 10% beer comes in a six-pack?!–usually only runs around $12.  That thriftiness could surely factor into one’s rankings, but it in no way factors into mine here.  Here we’re only talking about taste and, luckily, Black Chocolate Stout packs a ton.  Six varieties of chocolate, black, and roasted malts, complex and perfectly balanced, smooth and drinkable with no alcoholic bite whatsoever.  I slightly prefer Black Ops, but I drink Black Chocolate Stout by a degree of ten more.  Recently, I’ve started seeing vintage kegs of this–ones as old as 2006–at the city’s more respectable watering holes such as Blind Tiger and Downtown Bar & Grill.

3.  Southampton Grand Cru (bottled)

When I made the trek out to the Southampton Publick House just over a month ago, never did I think I would fall in love, but I did, with this masterpiece of a beer.  Absolutely packed with flavor and complexity, tastes of dried orange peel, coriander, star anise, pineapple, mangoes, a touch of sweet malts, and a slight delicious mustiness, the Grand Cru is about as tasty as beer gets.  Not to mention, for the ABV (9.8%) this is as drinkable as lemonade and I had to slow myself down so I could actually properly savor it.  I’d really like to have a bottle of this in my apartment at all times as it is perhaps the best American “Belgian” beer around.

4.  Ithaca Brute (bottled)

My #5 beer gets all the buzz in the New York state wild ale game, which is weird considering this is a Beer Advocate Top 100 beer…and it’s actually better than the Cuvee de Castleton.  Brute, from Ithaca’s Excelsior! line, is fermented in oak with three champagne yeasts rendering it sparkly, carbonated, and effervescent.  The nice sweet citron tastes of it makes Brute almost like a beer mimosa.  Of course it has a subtle sourness and maybe lacks a little complexity but this still remains one of the most balanced yet flavorful wild ales I’ve ever had.

5.  Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton

Perhaps New York state’s most annually anticipated beer–one has to stand in a long line in a parking lot with enormous nerds in order to score a rare and highly coveted bottle–this limited release lives up to its hype.  On its label it is enticingly described as a “…combination of Belgian style ale which has been re-fermented with hand picked Muscat grapes & aged in wine barrels. As the beer ages in the oak it undergoes a secondary fermentation using the wild yeast known as Brettanomyces.”  Very carbonated and with some great bite, it smells and tastes of white grapes and spices too, lemons and green sour apples. You’d have a hard time convincing a lot of people that this is actually beer, but that’s a great thing in this case.

6.  Southern Tier Unearthly/Oaked Unearthly (bottled and tap)

Southern Tier’s “regular” DIPA, Unearthly, is arguably the best of its style on the East Coast.  It tastes so fresh and so clean, with a malty booziness that almost makes it into a barley wine.  Oaked Unearthly is even better.  Sweeter and even maltier with strong vanilla flavors from the oak, though some zesty citrus and pine comes through.  Both of these are “state-of-the-art” pushing the envelope outside the box IPAs from the always-inventive Southern Tier.  But the best compliment I can give them is that–despite the fact I am a man that is always looking to try something new–if I enter a bar with either of these on tap, there’s no fucking way I can neglect to order a glass.

7.  Ommegang Hennepin (bottled and tap)

Probably New York’s most purely drinkable beer, I usually order this 7.7% saison for my macro-beer drinking friends after “forcing” them to go to my nerdy beer bars.  Sweet and fruity with just the slightest and most subtle spicy funk, this one drinks like a bottle of Gatorade.  Another great Belgianized beer from New York, I honestly think this might be the best saison on planet earth nowadays.  I’m always happy to have a glass.

8.  Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Double IPA (bottled and tap)

The other beer in the debate for New York’s best DIPA, the Captain’s Reserve is much hoppier in taste than the Unearthlies and smells like a sack of fresh weed.  The fact that it was, until very very recently, only available on tap, meant that it was as fresh-tastingly hoppy as can be, having been “born”–as those charlatans at Anheuser Busch might say–at the source just days earlier.

9.  Captain Lawrence Nor’easter (bottled)

With a third beer on my top ten list, Captain Lawrence could most certainly reign supreme as the king of New York breweries.  Nor’Easter is their special winter release, a sui generis Belgian dark ale brewed with elderberries (whatever the fuck those are) and aged in bourbon barrels.  This is a beer that as you’re drinking it you aren’t unequivocally wowed, but once you’re done, you can’t stop thinking about how goddamn impressive it was.  You’re also silly drunk.

10.  Brooklyn Local 1 (bottled)

Both the third Brooklyn Brewery beer on my list and the third American “Belgian” as well.  I never particularly loved this beer upon its initial release several years ago but as time has gone on, and with this past year’s release of Local 2, I revisited the Local 1 for comparative purposes…and was floored.  Spicy, yeasty, and candied, brewmaster Garrett Oliver considers this beer his “strong saison.”  I consider it imminently drinkable and delicious and I’m thinking that perhaps its awesome tastes were just too subtle for my immature palette back when I first slugged it.

Notables:

Brooklyn Intensified Coffee Stout (tap)
Ithaca White Gold
(bottled)
Middle Ages Wailing Wench (bottled)
Ommegang Rouge (tap)
Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Sout (bottled)
Southern Tier Pumking (bottled and tap)

The Top Highly-Accessible Beers

Solid brews that can be located at pretty much every bar, restaurant, bodega, deli, gas station, and massage parlor in this fair town.  These are also lower ABV beers you can drink dozens of in a night.

1.  Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold (tap)

If and when Captain Lawrence ever starts bottling and distributing its full line, I am almost certain this beer will become an iconic session beer in America, akin to, say, a Dogfish Head 60 Minute.  Belgian pale ale Liquid Gold is so damn tasty and so unbelievably drinkable, I am always excited when a bar I’m drinking at “just” has this on tap.  Why thank you very much and keep ‘em coming!

2.  Brooklyn Lager (bottled, canned, and tap)

This was the beer I always ordered “way back when,” nearly a decade ago, when I didn’t know shit about beer and kinda just cared about getting drunk.  It seemed to taste good enough back then.  Nowadays, every time I’m “forced” to get this at a bar with the most meager of tap lists, I’m certain my sophisticated–nay, pretentious–tongue will no longer enjoy this.  But, boy, am I always wrong and my eyes are always opened again and again by what must be the tastiest pure lager on the east coast.  This could easily be called the official beer of New York City.

3.  Sixpoint Bengali IPA (tap)

Why order a single IPA when you can order an asskicking double instead?  Because Bengali exists!  Incredibly balanced in both hops and malts, this tap-only selection from straight outta Brooklyn is as fine as they come.

4.  Blue Point Blueberry (bottled and tap)

I remember the first time a girl told me to try this on tap.  I wanted to fornicate with her so I placated her and ordered one.  And my eyes popped out of my head.  I couldn’t believe how refreshing, flavorful, and subtly fruity this was.  Like a liquid Eggo waffle!  I must have drank 500 pints of this back in the summer of 2006 and though I eventually got burned out on it a bit, I still greatly enjoy it from time to time.

5.  Brooklyn Weiss (bottled and tap)

I don’t particularly love wheat beers, but damn if this one isn’t tasty.  A great smell with a refreshing yeasty taste, slight banana flavor, citrus esters, and even hints of bubble gum. And, of course, some full-bodied wheat potency. This ain’t no watered-down hefeweizen.  Simply delicious.

Others of note:  Blue Point Hoptical Illusion, Blue Point Toasted Lager, Brooklyn Brown, Ommegang Witte, Saranac Pomegranate Wheat, Sixpoint Sweet Action, Southampton Double White Ale, Southampton IPA.

This was a fun little exercise.  I’d greatly encourage my readers and other beer bloggers to do the same.  I’d love to hear other’s thoughts on their fine states’ Top Ten brews (California?  Pennsylvania?  Colorado?  Michigan?  Minnesota?).  So have at it!

Cheers and happy drinking!

Aaron Goldfarb

*Notable beers I have yet to try (ie. please find them for me and send them to me too!):

Blue Point Old Howling Bastard, Brooklyn Blue Apron Ale, Captain Lawrence Little Linda’s Liquid, Captain Lawrence Rosso E Marrone, Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak (any and all), Ithaca Alphapha, Ithaca ELEVEN, Southampton Imperial Russian Stout, Southampton Saison Deluxe.

The Vice Blog’s Year in Movies 2008

December 30th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 9 Comments | Filed in Lists

One of my vices even bigger than beer-drinking is movie-watching. I see pretty much every halfway decent release in a calender year, trying to miss nothing that is either critically acclaimed or affects the zeitgeist in some way. These are my thoughts on cinema 2008. Note: I consider a movie’s year of release by when it first came out in New York City. Thus, some films–mainly foreign stuff–may be considered 2007 films by the Academy and by other critics, but if I couldn’t see it in theaters til 2008, then that’s what I consider it.*

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR

1. ROMAN dE GARE — I understand the gripes people have with this French film. It “cheats” a bit in the storytelling, it uses cinematic trickery, it’s intentionally manipulative (then again, aren’t all good films?), and one could even say it has plot holes. And I won’t argue with you if you feel those ways. Having said all that, no other film released in 2008 kept me as captivated for its running time. No other film had me as amped up when I left the theater. No other film permeated my brain as much. Had me thinking so much about it, reading as many online words as I could about it. This film was the most often my answer when people asked me, “Seen any good movies lately?” A lot of films are called “Hitchcockian,” but since the masters’ death, this is the rarity that truly is. I won’t tell you anything about its plot except to say this is not to be missed.

2. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK — I am admittedly a hyoooooooooge Charlie Kaufman fanatic and his past three major films have all made my year end top ten (”Being John Malkovich” at #2 in 1999, “Adaptation” at #1 in 2002, and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” at #2 in 2004). “Synecdoche” makes Kaufman’s other works seem like child’s play. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily better than the three aforementioned but it’s just as ambitious, if not moreso, than any of them. I think only time will tell whether this is a true masterpiece or just an awe-inspiring, mind-bending, mess of a curio. Still wrapping my brain around this one even after three viewings and it will certainly demand even more. Just because Kaufman is smarter than us all–and has no problem displaying that–doesn’t necessarily mean he is making incomprehensible films. This is one of the best ever movies about a man’s life.

3. GRAN TORINO — Simply based on the trailer, you might think this to be some trite, over-the-top joke of a work. Yes, perhaps in some one else’s hands (I’m looking at you DeNiro). But not with the great Clint Eastwood both directing and starring in it, in legitimately some of his best work in both venues. His gravelly rasp makes all his lines sound like immediate classics. A taut script with nothing extraneous and more comedy than I expected. Another masterpiece from the legend and if this is indeed his swan song as an actor a fitting career conclusion. I challenge you to exit the movie and not spend the rest of the day trying to gutturally growl like Clint. The end credit song, both written and sung by the cinematic polymath, is splendid too and will be stuck in your head for days, even if Clint sings a bit like Cookie Monster.

4. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIREYou know how blurb whores–lackluster film critics that LOVE every movie just so they can get their name on the advertising, posters, billboards, and DVD boxes–will sometimes say, “People were cheering in the aisles!!!” in order to note how great a movie was? Well, I certainly had never seen that literally happen until I saw this picture. “Slumdog” is so life-affirming, so touching, that, yes, I saw several people actually pump their fists, actually stand up and celebrate in the aisles after this movie about the harrowing life journey of a Mumbai orphan. (Not to mention a funny story surrounds my theatrical experience with this one.)

5. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON — A technical marvel, sure, all David Fincher films are, but a damn fine story too. I don’t get all the shit people having been giving this movie, calling it overly long and boring, throwing out har har epithets like “Benjamin SNOOZE Button.” I just don’t see that. It’s long sure, but as Roger Ebert always notes, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” I totally agree and, even hungover like a motherfucker as I sat with the other Jews on Christmas Day, I was spellbound by all 166 minutes of the run-time. Some of the best and most award-worthy make-up and special effects work ever go into making Brad Pitt look numerous ages while Cate Blanchett has never been so beautiful. Your humble narrator may have even cried as the end credits rolled. Then again, he was alone on Christmas day.

6. THE WRESTLER — Mickey Rourke gives the best performance of the year as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. I hate when people say an actor “inhabited” a character, but that’s exactly what Sir Eddie Cook does in this one. If he wasn’t so famous you might think this was a real documentary about a down in the dumps wrestler trying to get back on…middle. A heart-wrenching story about failed dreams with little chance of any success for the rest of one’s life. The third act scene in the deli is mind-blowing, maybe the best single movie scene of the year. Darren Aronofsky is definitely back in top form after the mild failure of “The Fountain.”

7. THE COUNTERFEITERSEven Jews are fucking sick of Holocaust movies, but this is a great, unique one and it doesn’t even involve the reprehensible Roberto Benigni lying to his poor little kid. The semi-true story of a legendary Jewish counterfeiter taken in by the Nazis and then forced to helm a team to make counterfeit money and documents for them. Austrian/German with subtitles, natch.

8. THE VISITOR — Thomas McCarthy has big balls to make such a subtle, “quiet,” thoughtful film that does not necessarily give you a happy ending in its tale of a widowed professor who stumbles into the lives of two illegal immigrants. It’s less overtly political than you’d think too. Longtime character actor Richard Jenkins deserves an Oscar nomination simply for the final subway scene. He’s phenomenal.

9. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYSIf a filmmaker was challenged to make a movie with the absolute LEAST chance of playing in a mall multiplex in middle America, it would certainly be this Romanian flick about two university students trying to arrange an illegal abortion. A stunning film that is both riveting, yet forces you to turn you head from the screen several times (especially toward the end) due to both shock, disbelief, and even disgust. Cristian Mungiu has several impressive long shots that seem to go on for 10 minutes straight. I can’t imagine how they were scripted or acted as they were so documentary-like. This is hardly “light” entertainment, nor is it a completely politicized picture, but overall, a very worthwhile film. You need to be in the right mood to watch it–not a great “date” movie fo’ sho’–but it’s surprisingly entertaining. I think this film will be on my mind for a long time.

10. SHOTGUN STORIESWhat David Gordon Green did for North Carolina, rookie filmmaker Jeff Nichols does for Arkansas. It was little surprise when the credits rolled and I saw Green had actually produced this one. A great and unique movie presented with incredible subtlety in telling the story of a feud between two sets of half-brothers following the death of their father. Hopefully this will finally make Michael Shannon a star. Though I doubt it.

MAN ON A WIREThe best documentary of the year, a nice blend of intrigue, mystery, romance, Quixotism, and inspiration. Masterfully made with a true character as its star, Philippe Petit. A remarkably good soundtrack for a doc. “You should live on the edge of life…on a tightrope.”

WALL*EThe best animated film of the year, but still a bit overrated as both a film and as part of the Pixar canon. Seemingly one part “Short Circuit,” one part “Idiocracy,” one part “2001,” and one part a ham-handed screed ala “An Inconvenient Truth.” I liked the “Short Circuit”-ness, LOVED the “Idiocracy”-ness, was flummoxed by the “2001″-ness, and hated the Al Gore shit. Let’s be honest, Pixar can’t make a flop. This movie is solid and beautiful to look at, but has a bit of a lagging story line. But still, any movie, especially a children’s one, that makes wicked fun of fat people is A-OK in my book.

Other notables (alphabetical): Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, City of Men, The Dark Knight, Encounters at the End of the World, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, In Bruges, Iron Man, Revolutionary Road, Snow Angels, Son of Rambow, Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, prologue to Tropic Thunder, and Vicky Christina Barcelona

GREAT PERFORMANCES

I don’t care if you were a movie star in every single scene or on camera for just ten seconds, if you gave a great performance you gave a great performance. Here are my year’s favorites in some semblance of an order. It was admittedly a somewhat weak year for the ladies.

Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”
Phillip Seymor Hoffman in “Synecdoche, New York”
Dominque Pinon in “Roman de Gare”
Michael Shannon in “Shotgun Stories” and “Revolutionary Road”
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Benicio del Toro in “Che”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Robert Downey, Jr. in “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder”
Colin Farrell in “In Bruges”
Dev Patel in “Slumdog Millionaire”
Karl Markovics in “The Counterfeiters”
Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
Michael Angarano in “Snow Angels”
Werner Herzog narrating “Encounters at the End of the World”

Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Anamaria Marinca in “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days”
Emily Watson in “Synecdoche, New York”
Rebecca Hall in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Cate Blanchett in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Kate Winslet in “Revolutionary Road”
Rosario Dawson in “Seven Pounds”
Fanny Ardant in “Roman de Gare”
Frances McDormand in “Burn After Reading”

WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR BASED ONLY ON THEIR ABOMINABLE TRAILERS

I go to tons of theatrical releases which means I am forced to see tons of shitty trailers for tons of presumably shitty movies. Here are the worst movies of the year that I never saw, based purely on their mind-numbingly vapid trailers that diseased my cerebellum.

5. WELCOME HOME, ROSCOE JENKINS — At least it’s not “Big Momma’s House 5.”

4. WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS — “I haven’t had sex in forever…And I need to have sex, cause I’m good at it!” Go have sex with yourself, Ashton.

3. YES MAN — “Was I chewing gum before?”

2. BRIDE WARS — “My hair’s blue! It’s bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue!!!” I’m not even sure why Anne Hathaway needs to play pranks on Kate Hudson. If I was Anne I’d be like, “Kate, you’re already so much more uglier than me, there’s no reason for me to try and make you look worse.”

1. MEET THE SPARTANS, SUPERHERO MOVIE, & DISASTER MOVIE — I measure the intelligence of human beings by how many times they laugh during a spoof movie trailer. Zero times = over 80 IQ. One or more times = you are not allowed to be my friend.

WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR

I try my damnedest not to see bad movies, but sometimes–due to placating girls, accidental mismanagement of my Netflix queue, sexy trailers, in-flight “entertainment”–I just can’t help it. These are the worst films I actually saw this year.

5. P.S. I LOVE YOU – This film actually was released in late 2007, but I didn’t see it until last week when a girl and I were so fucking bored on a Sunday that she forced me to let her call it up on HBO OnDemand. Whoa boy. Comically offensive. Why is it that Hilary Swank can only play challenging parts well and when she is cast as a relatively normal person she is unable to handle the task? I luckily didn’t watch enough dreck in 2008 to have a fifth worst selection and I would be absolutely remiss if I wasn’t able to bash this crapfest. I challenge a human being to watch this one from start to finish. Alex DeLarge never had it so bad.

4. WANTED — Like “Fight Club” for dumb people, “Office Space” for people that don’t like to laugh. An absolutely ludicrous plot with dumb physics-defying action. Apparently, the DVD has deleted scenes showing Angelina and James McAvoy visiting the ATM to make sure the studio’s checks to them cleared.

3. YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING — You know, I honestly hate to bash small-budget independent movies. We should admire all people that somehow have the gumption to get anything filmed and released to strangers. Nevertheless, if one has the audacity to name their film “Young People Fucking” then they should be able to handle some bashing. This is what passes for edgy sex comedy nowadays?! This is essentially an “Everybody Loves Raymond” level of sexual and romantic discourse. Sans laugh track of course. If you want an edgy movie on sexual mores go back in time and watch this in 1958. Or, I guess watch it in Canada where it was made. Provocative title but the emperor has no clothes. Unfortunately most all the movie’s characters do though. This bomb couldn’t even have the decency to give me tons of gratuitous nudity. The flick is overly talky too. I really just wanted these annoying young people to shut the fuck up and actually…fuck.

2. VANTAGE POINT – Loved the trailer, looked cool, unique, tense, something John Frankenheimer might have made back in the ’60s, and thus I was duped into seeing this disaster. Incomprehensibly terrible and a major waste of some serious talent.

1. JUMPER — The script to this one was awesome and the trailer was equally cool. Competent director Doug Liman has a history of pretty cool pictures, so this seemed destined to be one great, or at least adequate, popcorn movie. Nope. Hayden Christensen makes for one of the worst leading men ever and the plot is even more ludicrous than the special effects and dialogue. Unquestionably the worst movie of 2008. Maybe the entire decade. In fact, watching this may have even been the two worst hours of my entire year. And that includes the two I spent listening to my ex-girlfriend break up with me in Central Park. Oh wait, that actually took four and a half hours.

*2008 was somewhat of a so-so year for film, especially compared to the amazing year of 2007.

Notable 2008 movies as-yet-unseen: Bolt, A Christmas Tale, Doubt, Edge of Heaven, Flight of the Red Balloon, Frost/Nixon, Frozen River, Happy Go Lucky, I’ve Loved You So Love, Let the Right One In, Milk, My Winnepeg, Paranoid Park, Rachel Getting Married, The Reader, Waltz With Bashir, Wendy & Lucy

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITES (AND NOT-SO-FAVORITES) OF THE FILM YEAR?

The Vice Blog 2008 Wrap-Up

December 26th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Lists

A friend’s father, a beer connoisseur in his own right, was recounting to me the best brew of his life. It was the summer of 1967, he was sixteen, and when the starting pitcher got injured before his town’s adult summer league game against a big rival, he was forced to come out of the stands where he sat as a mere spectator and take the mound.  A star high school hurler at the time, facing seasoned adult former-stars would be a whole ‘nother story.   And, after he amazingly struck out seventeen batters in a complete game win, he walked off the field where a family friend presented him with an ice-cold Pearl. Yes, sometimes the “best” beers we enjoy aren’t even that good of beers.

Like Rob in “High Fidelity,” I’ve always been one of those nerds obsessed with lists (”Top Ten Quarterbacks of All-Time,” “Best New York City Movies,” “Syracuse University’s 100 Sluttiest Co-eds”) and have always made them for personal use.  But, now that I have an award-winning blog*, I can make my own lists and disseminate them to the planet.

TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2008

1. Stone Old Guardian

This has been my favorite beer for a few years now and this year’s batch was no exception–yet another masterpiece of a tasty sweet barley wine.

2. Surly Darkness

Before I started this blog, here is a beer I would have NEVER had access to.  A small brewery in Minnesota makes just a few thousand wax-dipped bottles of which they only release on one frigid Saturday morning in November to geeks that have queued up since before sunrise.  Luckily, through the power of the internet and my hiiiiiilarious writing, I’ve made quite a few beer friends across the world this year. One such new pal is Minnesotan The Captain, who lives mere miles from the Surly brewery and who was so kind as to send me one of the limit six bottles of Darkness he was able to score.  Ranked as a top ten beer in the world, surely it couldn’t live up to the hype. You’re right, it exceeded it! The best stout I have ever had in my life.

3. J.W. Lees Harvest (1998 Vintage)

Is it cheating to include a beer I drank in 2008 that was actually bottled a decade previous? Perhaps, but this was one of the best beers I have ever had in my life.   So sweet, so smooth, so unique.

4. Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

A classic standard, the best trappist beer around.

5. Samuel Adams Utopias (2007)

The most alcoholic brew ever made, this is more akin to a port, sherry, or cognac, and is banned from being sold in fourteen U.S. states.  Unreal.  I fly a thirty-six star flag over my mansion because I can’t respect any territory where Utopias is illegal.

6. Westmalle Trappist Tripel

The monks make a tripel nearly as good as their dubbel.  Another masterpiece that almost makes me want to believe in God.

7. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

It has been jokingly called “beer-barreled bourbon” it is so damn boozy.  Just how I like it.  So potent this can barely be called a sipper.  One should probably get an eyedropper to sprinkle the smallest amount of the beer onto the tongue when imbibing this Chicago classic.

8. Brooklyn Black OPS

Perhaps my most anticipated beer release of the year, this one totally lived up to the hype, another bourbon-barreled classic.

9. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Black OPS cost me $20 for a bomber while Brooklyn’s “regular” stout is almost exactly as good, runs around $2.50 a bottle, and can be found in just about every deli, grocery, and bodega in the city.  The steal of the year and by far the “cheapest” beer on this list.

10.Allagash Interlude (2007)

The only red wine-barreled beer on the list, this is a glorious Portland, Maine brew unlike anything you have ever had before.

Honorable Mention (alphabetical):

Avery Maharaja
Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA
Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton (2nd batch, 2008)

Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel

La Fin Du Monde

Port Hop 15
Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Supplication
Schafly’s Reserve Imperial Stout

BONUS:

Favorite liquors of the year:  Scott’s Selection Royal Brackla 1976 and The Glenlivet Nadurra

Favorite cigar of the year:  Padron Anniversary 1964 Maduro

WORST BEERS I DRANK IN 2008

5. Michelob Golden Draft

The same man that procured for me the second best beer on this list, also implored me to try this swill, noting that “It’s basically horse piss, but all the mullets around [Minnesota] drink it like it’s their job. I wouldn’t touch it with someone else’s lips.”  Unfortunately, I did.  I needed a lip transplant afterward.

4. Landshark Lager

Jimmy Buffett’s attempt to make people throw up.  Rather, his liquid attempt to make people throw up, not his musical attempts which just cause wrinkly oldies to dance while hopped up on margaritas.

3. Trader Jose Preium Lager

Trader Joe’s is-it-racistly-named-or-not Corona clone which smells so skunky the second I took the cap off my face was hit with such a explosion of repellent stench that my neck snapped back like I was in a head-on collision.

2. Bud Light Chelada

Beer and Clam Broth? La combinacion perfecta!

1. Corona Extra

This beer offends me more than racism.

Inglorious mention:

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer — honestly not as bad as I expected but still, come on, it’s a beer steeped with fucking pizza!

PERSONAL FAVORITE VICE BLOG STORIES FOR 2008  (AKA: HOW BIG OF EGO DO I HAVE?)**

1. My Porno Hook-Up — Even as we get older, sometimes we still just “get lucky.”

2.  The Vice Blogger and the Alkie — The universe decides to play a practical joke on the Vice Blogger, forcing him to live with a full-blown alcoholic for nearly a month.

3.  Bangladeshi Mystery Whiskey and the Lost and Found Cell Phone — What happens when I drunkenly lose my cell phone in a cab one Saturday night?  Why I’m forced to head out to Queens on Monday afternoon to retrieve it from the Bangladeshi cab driver.

4.  Pitch ‘n’ Putt ‘n’ Get Yourself Drunk — The Flushing Meadows public course is like a bar that you just so happen to be able to golf at.

5.  Aaron Visits a “North Country” New York Wal-Mart, He Will Never Be the Same — The title says it all.  Rereading this one just now made me realize that I’m a bad person.  But at least I’m not fat and dumb.

Honorable mention:

The X-Rated Tale of an Ex
The Hooker Lottery
The Most Annoying Person in the World:  the Fat Girl at the Bar
The Freaks Living Amongst Me in My Hell’s Kitchen Walk-Up
Sunrise on a Murphy Bed
Tips for a “Successful” First Date–#1. Arrive in Another Man’s Underwear
My Ex-Beloved Gets Hit By a Car
Aaron Tries Too Hard at Friendly Drinking Games.

And there you have it.  My year in vice.  Feel free to criticize it, debate it, celebrate it.

Now I’m interested in what were some of the best (and worst) things you drank, smoked, inhaled, and fucked this year.  Let me know–and feel free to link to your own blogs–as I light up a cigar to celebrate the end of the year, showing off my sexy chest hair.

*It has never actually won an award.

**List based on a quick survey of my friends.