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Desert Island CDs Blogathon

There's this desert island, see? And I'm stuck on it.

Great ideas come in pairs. So as a companion piece to Andy the Fandango Groover’s hugely popular Desert Island DVDs blogathon in April 2010, here is the Desert Island CDs blog event. The predicament is only slightly different this time: If you were stuck on a desert island and could listen to only 12 songs — all from movie soundtracks — which 12 tracks would you pick?

Below are the 12 soundtrack tunes I’d gladly listen to until I rallied the tiger blood within and swam after a passing boat, or angry seagulls pooped on my head until I went stark raving mad … for the definitive list of soundtrack selections, click the graphic above.

1. “Jai Ho” by A.R. Rahman (“Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack) — Rahman’s “Jai Ho” may be the most infectious and joyous original composition ever to grace a film soundtrack. A little improvised Bollywood dancing — or an exuberantly bad impression — would be an excellent cure for the desert island blues.

2. “Dracula’s Lament” by Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” soundtrack) — Puppet Dracula knows loneliness. He is an island. I’m stuck on a desert island. You do the math.

3. “Flowers on the Wall” by The Statler Brothers (“Pulp Fiction” soundtrack) — Nothing invites dwelling on past heartbreak like solitude, and The Statler Brothers gave the world perhaps the smartest, funniest song about coping with the minutiae of daily life after a breakup.

4. “Lift Me Up” by Bruce Springsteen (“Limbo” soundtrack) — Go through Bruce Springsteen’s entire catalogue — go on, I’ll wait; I have nothing to do but soak up UV rays in this hellhole — and you won’t find a more heart-wrenching, life-affirming and haunting love song than “Lift Me Up.”

5. “The What” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Method Man (“The Wackness” soundtrack) — Life dealing crack in the alleys of Bed-Stuy is hard. So is a life sentence of sand in places that don’t need exfoliating and daily sunburn. That kind of hard, mean reality demands a daily dose of F.T.W. attitude.

6. “I’ll Fly Away” by Gillian Welch (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack) — Remember how Emily Dickinson said hope is the thing with feathers? Sometimes a desert island dweller doesn’t need attitude but hope. Nobody doles out gospel-tinged, Old-Time-Religion hope like Gillian Welch.

7. “Lover” by Devendra Banhart (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” soundtrack) — Sometimes a sweeping love song won’t get the job done. That’s when a little playfulness (and a lot of sexual innuendo) come in mighty handy, and Barnhart’s “Lover” has both in spades.

8. “Wise Up” by Aimee Man (“Magnolia” soundtrack) — Chances are, if you’re stuck on a desert island, it’s because you made one fool choice or another. Aimee Mann’s nasal warbling and her poignant lyrics from “Magnolia” will remind you not to make the same mistake twice.

9. “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd (“The Departed” soundtrack) — Comfortable numbness, as a state of being and as a way of handling (or avoiding) the world, is highly underrated. Roger Waters and David Gilmour get that, and they communicate it beautifully here.

10. “The Book I Write” by Spoon (“Stranger Than Fiction” soundtrack) — Fatalism is the enemy of survival in a desert island stranding situation. “The Book I Write” should provide just enough make-your-own-luck energy to see me through the darkest moments.

11. “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)” by The Hollies (“Remember the Titans” soundtrack) — Although I wasn’t alive in 1972, The Hollie’s criminally cool “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” makes me feel like I was. It’s as if these guys condensed the ’70s into 3 minutes and 2 seconds of awesomeness.

12. “Here I Come” by The Roots feat. Malik B. and Dice Raw (“Superbad” soundtrack) — I’m convinced that if I listen to this song long and hard enough, I’ll sprout a superhero cape, spontaneously develop the ability to fly and catapult myself off this damn island without getting one hair out of place.

Review Roundup: May 2009

There’s a very good reason that May has been such a slow Netflix month for me, and that reason is: “Star Trek: The Original Series.”

Oh, come on — like you’re surprised? Ivy Walker could have seen this coming! I think we all know ’twas only a matter of time until my inner geek staged a coup, killed everyone else with her “Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson” and took over.

Yes, for the past month I’ve done what I do best: fallen wildly in love with something millions of people dubbed wicked pissah years ago. (That’s just how a late bloomer rolls.) My newfound love for Mr. Spock — that raised eyebrow and those pointy ears are a potent aphrodisiac, believe you me — and the Enterprise’s crack crew has taken up gobs of free time and Netflix rentals; thus, movies, I’m sad to report, have fallen to the wayside.

But then I did what any relatively sane rabid obsessive new fan would do: I blew part of my paycheck on the three-season DVD set so I could return to the land of Netflix. And so I have. Here are three of the precious few rentals that rendered me as speechless as Mudd’s women:

All the Real Girls” (Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Danny McBride) — If there’s such a thing as visual poetry, David Gordon Green has cornered the market. He turned “Pineapple Express” into a blow-em-up juggernaut filled with unexpectedly tender observations about the nature of male friendship. But before that there was “All the Real Girls,” and what a stunner of a gentle indie-that-could that was. Set in rural North Carolina, Green’s paen to first love tells the uneventful but gut-wrenching story of Paul (the always-flawless Schneider), a notorious rakehell who falls hard for Noel (Deschanel), his best friend’s younger sister. Sounds like the plot for, I don’t know, every Lifetime movie ever made, right? Not in Green’s hands. He has a way of zeroing in on the smallest, quietest moments and making them seem sweeping and expansive (after all, isn’t every romance epic to the people involved in it?). Green’s got an eye for casting, too, and Deschanel and Schneider seem perfectly cast. Deschanel makes Noel naive and wise in equal measure, while Schneider finds heart in a guy who’s made a habit of avoiding intimacy with anonymous sex. Danny “Mother Nature just pissed her pantsuit” McBride shows some surprising range as the unfortunately named ne’er-do-well Bust-Ass. He can do subtle and make it hurt. Green can, too, and that’s why “All the Real Girls” is so beautiful: It captures both the inanity and the depth of love.

Trees Lounge” (Steve Buscemi, Elizabeth Bracco, Anthony LaPaglia) — With few exceptions, alcoholism doesn’t tend to look the way Hollywood wants it to: sloppy, overbearing, dramatic, occasionally explosive. It’s a more quiet slide into nothingness, a kind of suicide by inches that happens gradually and then all at once. Nobody knows that better than actor/director Buscemi, himself a recovering alcoholic, and he communicates this truth beautifully in the simple but haunting “Trees Lounge.” The movie offers a tiny, perceptive glance into the life of unemployed mechanic Tommy (Buscemi), a man about halfway down the slope into alcoholic oblivion. His pregnant girlfriend (Bracco) has dumped him for his ex-boss (Anthony LaPaglia), and he responds by claiming a permanent seat at Trees Lounge, a local dive bar. It’s both accurate and inaccurate to say that’s all that happens in “Trees Lounge.” There’s not much action, to be sure, but Buscemi makes every moment count: It’s the mute desperation of a sad-eyed barfly, the contrast of neon lights against bright noon-day sunshine, Tommy’s realization that he’s drinking alone even when he’s not that hit and hit hard. “Trees Lounge” has a slow burn that can’t be ignored.

The Wackness” (Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby) — Given the unusual pairing of lead actors (the beknighted Kingsley and Peck, a relative newcomer), it’s somewhat surprising no reviewers dubbed “The Wackness” a May/December bromance. Thank goodness for small favors, because that’s a title that would have been wholly undeserved. This unusual and unusually poignant indie Sundance smash, set in 1994, contains not one but three smart performances that deserve — and reward — multiple viewings. Kingsley, of course, gets the plumb part: that of restless, confused and unhappily married psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Squires, who buys weed from his equally uneasy teen-aged patient/pot dealer Luke Shapiro (Peck). It’s an intriguing relationship, since Luke wants hope for the future, and Squires, who pops anti-anxiety meds like M&M’s, is hardly a paragon of optimism. But Luke’s summer romance with Stephanie (Thirlby, a young actress to watch) jolts him out of his inertia and forces Squires, who checked out of life years ago, to dump the self-pity. Kingsley gets the rare opportunity to cut loose, while Peck and Thirlby find the bitter and the sweet in teen relationships. “The Wackness” reminds us that dreams don’t have an expiration date.