2009 in arts and entertainment



A Serious Man

1. A Serious Man, by the Coen Bros.

2. Moon, directed by Duncan Jones

3. Coraline, directed by Henry Selick

4. The House of the Devil Ti West’s slow-burn horror movie is the opposite of cheap Hollywood horror remakes and knockoffs. This inexorable, almost maddeningly taut film is a masterpiece of mundane tension.

5. The Road, directed by John Hillcoat

6. Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams

7. The Square, directed by Nash Edgerton. This scrappy Australian thriller is a pitch-perfect noir, one of those movies in which an ostensibly simple crime spirals dizzily out of control. As the characters make increasingly poor decisions, the movie draws you further into its world of greed and corruption.

8. Drag Me to Hell, directed by Sam Raimi

9. Tyson James Toback doesnt spare his friend Mike Tyson in this documentary, nor does he offer any apologies. He simply allows the damaged boxer to speak for himself, creating a fascinating portrait of a troubled life.

10. Adventureland, directed by Greg Mottola


Antonio Campos' debut feature, Afterschool

1. Afterschool Released only in New York (and via video-on-demand), Antonio Campos’ debut feature tackles head-on the key subject of the 21st century: unceasing mediation. Examining the aftermath of a high-school tragedy accidentally caught on video, it’s the first and so far only film I’ve seen that recognizes how drastically the (developed) world has changed in just the last several years, and the extent to which we’re now both starved for authenticity and dedicated to pretense.

2. Julia, directed by Erick Zonca

3. Home, directed by Ursula Meier. Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher) and Olivier Gourmet (The Son) play the heads of an eccentric household living in happy isolation alongside an unfinished stretch of highway; their world is turned upside down when traffic finally shows up. Gleefully absurd, Home transplants the typical French-language domestic drama into what amounts to a live-action version of Frogger.

4. Lorna’s Silence, directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

5. Humpday, directed by Lynn Shelton

6. Revanche, directed by Götz Spielmann

7. Duplicity, directed by Tony Gilroy

8. Sita Sings the Blues After fighting a copyright battle for nearly two years, animator Nina Paley finally succeeded in getting a limited release for her hilariously inventive mash-up of the Indian legend of the Ramayana, some recordings by forgotten ’30s vocalist Annette Hanshaw and the ashes of her own failed marriage. Like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

9. The Headless Woman Well, her head is technically still in place, but the current whereabouts of her mind are very much in question. Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel employs oddly unsettling compositions and ominous offscreen noises to depict the fractured consciousness of a well-off middle-aged woman (Maria Onetto) after she hits ... something with her car.

10. Up, directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson



1. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion

2. Fever Ray, Fever Ray

3. Polvo, In Prism We’ve heard the story a hundred times: Iconic indie rockers go dormant for a decade-plus, reunite and craft an album on par with their classically regarded material. Wait, no we haven’t.

4. The Twilight Sad, Forget the Night Ahead

5. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest

6. Emeralds, What Happened Gorgeously noisy electronic ambience straight outta … Cleveland? Believe it. And get a decent set of headphones.

7. Akron/Family, Set ’em Wild, Set ’em Free

8. Sunset Rubdown, Dragonslayer

9. Bruce Peninsula, A Mountain Is a Mouth Kooky Canadians top a heavenly choir with Neil Haverty’s husky lead vocals, pack their lively tunes with weighty reflection … and make it work.

10. Bat for Lashes, Two Suns


R.A. the Rugged Man, Legendary Classics Vol. 1

1. R.A. the Rugged Man, Legendary Classics Vol. 1 The Long Island-bred emcee might be best known for losing major-label deals due to debauchery and stubbornness, but he assembles and delivers a rhyme like nobody else. This one features the likes of the Notorious B.I.G, Sadat X and Mobb Deep’s Havoc; Rugged Man schools ’em all.

2. Gucci Mane, The State vs. Radric Davis

3. Dead Man’s Bones, Dead Man’s Bones

4. Matt Kanelos & The Smooth Maria, Silent Show Originally trained as a jazz pianist, New Yorker Matt Kanelos hasn’t been singing or playing guitar very long. But the devastating Silent Show showcases his versatility and suggests that he’s always harbored an inner indie-rock star.

5. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx … Pt. II

6. Bill Callahan, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

7. Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day Most everyone heard Cudi’s club smash “Day ’n’ Nite,” but much of the rest of his debut album is introspective and slow-paced. A tour de force.

8. Keri Hilson, In a Perfect World...

9. Hurricane Chris & Lil Boosie, Category 7: A Bad Azz Hurricane (mixtape)

10. MC Paul Barman, Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud


Bat for Lashes - Two Suns

1. Bat for Lashes, Two Suns Moody, hushed keyboards intertwine with gauzy drum programming, gothic orchestral grandeur and Natasha Khan’s lovely, old-soul vocals. Like a spooky series of fairy tales spun from a mythical land of nightmares.

2. Paper Route, Absence

3. Jets Overhead, No Nations

4. 7 Worlds Collide, The Sun Came Out Neil Finn’s all-star charity album boasts contributions from two-thirds of Wilco, members of Radiohead, Johnny Marr and KT Tunstall. Earnest, affecting power-pop, barnstorming twang, haunting Aussie-pop and folk-rock abound.

5. St. Vincent, Actor The subversive and beautiful collide as front femme Annie Clark juxtaposes macabre lyrics with Disney-worthy orchestration and places dissonant sax skronk and rock guitars against her breathy, angelic coos.

6. The Big Pink, A Brief History of Love

7. So Many Dynamos, The Loud Wars

8. Fischerspooner, Entertainment

9. Tegan and Sara, Sainthood

10. Various Artists, Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy



Best concert of 2009. Thank you, Mr. Cohen.

Best concert of 2009. Thank you, Mr. Cohen.

1. Leonard Cohen, Caesars Colosseum, November 12

2. Animal Collective, House of Blues, May 30

3. Jay-Z, The Pearl, July 3. Backed by a full band and a thought-provoking visual array, hip-hop’s iconic impresario proved he can still handle a mic and a crowd better than most would-be successors.

4. Monotonix, Bunkhouse, March 26. We knew to expect mayhem during the Tel Aviv trio’s second Vegas visit; frontman Ami Shalev still managed to shock us, dragging his band—and entire audience—into the street mid-set. Oh yeah, he also licked a Weekly writer across the face (no, not me, thankfully).

5. Underworld, The Joint, August 6

6. Sleepy Sun, Bunkhouse, August 28

7. Wilco, The Joint, June 19

8. Akron/Family, Aruba Showroom, March 13. Technical troubles couldn’t derail Neon Reverb’s spring headliners, who made the early morning special for the few who stuck around.

9. Handsome Furs, Beauty Bar, November 3

10. Depeche Mode, The Pearl, October 24



1. Danny Gans’ death: Leaves a huge void—and not just on billboards and taxi-tops.

2. Holly Madison: Began the year as Criss Angel’s arm candy and ends it as the ubiquitous face and body of Las Vegas.

3. Red carpets: Spread over the Strip like a crimson tide, often eclipsing the main events.

4. Donny & Marie

5. Garth Brooks: Wynn’s gift of a commuter jet got all the attention, but Brooks’ high-end busking may herald a new Vegas showbiz paradigm: the anti-spectacle.

6. One-person shows: Chazz Palminteri and Lily Tomlin brought high-quality, low-overhead artistry.

7. The Lion King

8. Rock revues: Monster Circus, Cheap Trick’s Sgt. Pepper replay and Rockstar the Tribute

9. Parking at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign

10. Thomas Kinkade paints Las Vegas



The best show of 2009: AMC's Mad Men

1. Mad Men, AMC

2. Lost, ABC. In its penultimate season, TV’s ultimate mind-bender reached new heights of dazzling intricacy and complex characterization. Even if everything falls apart next year, this will still stand as one of the greatest all-time seasons of genre TV.

3. 30 Rock, NBC

4. Better Off Ted, ABC. In a great year for new sitcoms, this one was the best, a wonderfully absurd look at life working for the world’s most benignly evil corporation, with a top-notch performance from Portia de Rossi as the quintessential heartless boss.

5. Party Down, Starz. This comedy about Los Angeles cater-waiters started out as just a bunch of good-natured goofing off, but over the course of its first season developed surprising depth and a funny, bittersweet take on the pain of giving up your dreams.

6. Kings, NBC. NBC never knew what to do with this high-minded sci-fi/political drama/soap opera/religious allegory hybrid, and its hard to blame them. But somewhere out there is an audience for such an utterly unique show, and Kings deserves to find those viewers on DVD.

7. Dollhouse, Fox

8. Friday Night Lights, NBC/The 101

9. Pushing Daisies, ABC

10. Community, NBC



Dave Eggers, Zeitoun

1. Dave Eggers, Zeitoun Eggers focuses his fabulous prose gifts on Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-born contractor who stays in New Orleans while his family escapes Katrina. What begins as a small act of preservation turns into a cause and then a nightmare as Zeitoun is swept into a bureaucratic and racist law-enforcement net that Eggers chronicles with admirable restraint.

2. Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin Beneath the shadow of Philippe Petit’s daredevil walk between the twin towers, a mosaic of New Yorkers try to balance their own lives between hope and despair.

3. James Guida, Marbles

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

5. Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders These eight perfect stories trace, in miniature, Chekhovian fashion, the entire decline of Pakistan’s feudal order. They are so deft and pivot so expertly around their full-blooded characters it’s hard to believe Mueenuddin is a beginner.

6. Paul Harding, Tinkers

7. Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

8. Blake Bailey, Cheever: A Life

9. Lydia Davis, Collected Stories

10. William T. Vollmann, Imperial



Yo, mama! We like.

1. Yo Mama, Sheila Pepe, Naomi Arin Contemporary Art. Feminist, feminine, generous, wise: a beautiful—and beautifully timed—exhibition. A testament to the significant contribution of Naomi Arin Contemporary Art and the gaping hole left by her departure.

2. Altered States, curated by Joseph Shuldiner, Reed Whipple Cultural Center

3. Off the Strip, performance and video event, Contemporary Art Center. The most exciting two weeks of art-going Vegas has seen in a long time (full disclosure: I was involved in this festival).

4. Inscribed/Messages, Clark County Government Center Rotunda

5. Classic Contemporary: Warhol, Lichtenstein & Friends, Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

6. You See, Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery

7. Mentalist and Medium, Elizabeth Blau, Fallout Gallery. Blau continues to delight and disturb with her subtly kaleidoscopic paintings and drawings of that ineffable place we call home.

8. Your Move, Chad Brown, Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

9. New Work, Abby Coe, Grant Hall Gallery

10. MFA thesis season, Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery. On a weekly basis each spring, graduating MFA students pour their hearts into one final academic solo exhibition. This year’s was a doozy, with Aaron Sheppard, David Sanchez Burr and Bekah Just, to name a few.



The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

1. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Las Vegas Little Theatre. LVLT seemed to stick to an “all humor, all the time” format—which, by and large, worked in this bummer of a year. This production, with its razor-sharp script, great voices and fun improv, was the best.

2. The Laramie Project, Green Valley High School. Jennifer Hemme’s staging of this piece was the best directing I’ve seen this year (the show had a good rhythm despite the fractured nature of the piece); the action was staged perfectly on the simple set; and the actors dug in deep to create their roles.

3. Medea, Insurgo Theater Movement in cooperation with CSN

4. A Taste of Shakespeare, Las Vegas Shakespeare Company/Dan Decker Theatricals

5. Is He Dead?, Las Vegas Little Theatre



1. Marko Westwood. Choreographer/dancer Westwood’s work this year, especially in the CSN Fall Dance Concert, showed a reinvigorated and accessible dancemaker poised to take his art to a new level.

2. Swan Lake, Act II; Nutcracker Highlights, Las Vegas Ballet Company Keeping the classical ballet tradition alive, this young Kirov technique-trained company led by Kyudong Kwak and Yoomi Lee shows great promise.

3. Mood Indigo, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, choreographed by Bernard Gaddis.

4. All-Balanchine program, Nevada Ballet Theatre

5. Archetype: Images of St. Joan, CSN Fall Dance Concert, choreographed by Kelly Roth.


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