Denver Bar Association
January 2008
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Best of 2007

by Greg Rawlings

For the last decade-plus, I have written a "Best of the Year" column. It’s usually fun and easy to write and The Docket staff finds cool pictures to augment my drivel. Then came 2007. Or maybe not. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure 2007 actually existed, at least not in any real sense. I’m sure that CDs were released, movies hit the theaters, books got published — and all that other cultural stuff. But nothing seemed to matter. Except for Pynchon’s Against the Day, but I’m no longer sure if Old Tom is human or if he even exists in our time — at least not in any real sense. Genius is timeless anyway. Still, I am going to try to piece together some "overview" of this last, possibly non-existent, year.

1 "Once."  This small indie musical was the only movie I went to see twice this year (Okay, 2.5 times, in that the Mayan caught on fire the first time I went, which definitely interrupted things). Killer tunes and a truly realistic vibe. If someone kind and romantic can get me the phone number of the girl who played the Czech exile in Ireland, my days as a single guy soon will be over. Yeah, right. I’m doomed to be alone forever, unless you count Midnight the Wonder Pug, the coolest dog in north Wash Park. 

2"Sky Blue Sky" by Wilco. America’s best band comes through with a beautiful, wistful, freakishly well-played disk. Their show at the otherwise unforgivably godawful Fillmore was a live music highlight in Denver — even better than their spectacular previous show there. Nels Cline has to be heard to be believed. He is quite simply reinventing rock guitar.

3 "The Savages" — the opening salvo of the latest Denver Film Festival was a well-written, brilliantly acted tour de force. Who knew that Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney could get even better? Film-making is at a period of stasis in the good ol’ USA, but the acting is at a 1970s-level high.

4 Color as Field: American Painting, 1950–1975, at the Denver Art Museum. Luckily, most of this show is in the "old" building, the one that isn’t a grotesque travesty of a museum. Although there are some clunkers, any show that gives you Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler with Mark Rothko and Frank Stella has to be seen. The surprise for me, though, was Jules Olitski. He’s one of those post-WWII artists who I’ve seen too much in catalogues and too little in person. His canvases are amazing — so alive, so entrancing — they dominate an already excellent show. They beat the tar out of anything Denver’s newest expensive albatross Clifford Styl ever painted. Maybe 2007 did exist, after all.

5 Born in the Flood — Denver’s best live band played a number of killer shows in dives (Larimer Lounge, Hi Dive, etc.) this year, but also played the big-time Mammoth Festival at Red Rocks, opened for their buds The Fray at the same locale, and were one of the bands that opened for Dinosaur Jr. at the Westword Music Showcase this summer. These guys are going to be huge, so see them in a small club before they conquer America, which is going to happen soon.

6 The CU Buffs! From 2-10 to 6-6. I’m thinking BCS next year. Hawkins was the best thing CU’s done short of firing Ward Churchill. 65-51 against the vile Cornhuskers — need I say more? And sorry Sooners. Boo-hoo-hoo. Send your little horsies out to pasture OU; Ralphie is in the house.

7 "No Country for Old Men." The Coen brothers hit it big with Cormac’s easiest novel. Another acting clinic, this time by the eternally relevant Tommy Lee Jones, Javier "bad hair" Bardem and a surprisingly gritty Josh Brolin. Splendid cinematography, score and effects. Oscar bait in many a category.

8 Feist’s dazzling "1234" video. My seventh-grade dance-major daughter and I, like, totally agree that this is, like, the coolest video of the year. Why can’t more videos be this colorful and fun? Okay, I thought it was Lily Allen when I first saw it, before being brutally corrected by a kid. Children, boy are they cruel; like April in human form.

9 The continuing saga of Astrophagus. Jason Cain continues to redefine what his band stands for and sounds like. It can be a seriously confusing journey, but I think the end-result will change what Denver rock means. From being a Postal Service/Death Cab for Cutie clone to being pretty much undefinable, Astrophagus keeps pushing the limits of its sound. Plus, they have the best rock bass player in town.

10 Nick Arvin being chosen for One Book, One Denver. Besides being a great plus for Nick’s brilliant short novel Articles of War, this also puts Denver’s incomparable Lighthouse Writers’s Workshop in the cultural spotlight. From being a wonderful whim of Andrea Dupree, Michael Henry and William Haywood Henderson to being a major player in the Denver scene, this is the real deal. You want to be a famous writer or radically enrich your writing skills? Lighthouse is the Tao of Denver writing: follow the path and greatly improve your skills. I know I did. I think.

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