Celebrity Deaths

The summer of 2009 wasn’t supposed to be The Summer of Celebrity Deaths, but by June 25 — which marked the dual passings of Hollywood bombshell Farrah Fawcett and the indisputable King Of Pop Michael Jackson — it became clear the morbid moniker would stick. Losing two legends on one day set the precedent for a summer that would see the loss of some of the entertainment world’s most visible figures. From the early demise of “Breakfast Club” director John Hughes to the high-profile death of spastic TV salesman Billy Mays to DJ AM’s tragic overdose following last year’s near fatal plane crash, 2009 will certainly be remembered for the number of notable people we lost.

“Drag Me To Hell”

The greatest horror film of the summer featured director Sam Raimi returning to his roots with a vengeance. His film “Drag Me To Hell” was a mixture of gross-out comedy and extremely horrific visuals. One minute the audience is laughing, the next its screaming, and the whole thing is way more fun than a horror film has any right to be. Perhaps there’s life in American horror films after all?

“(500) Days of Summer”

In a summer with far too many predictable romantic comedies, it turns out the film to save the rom-com genre is one that doesn’t even end with the two main characters together. Despite the somewhat unhappy ending, “(500 Days)” injects something long missing in romantic comedies everywhere: charm and originality. It doesn’t hurt that it also features an amazing dance number to Hall & Oates’s “You Make My Dreams.”

“Inglourious Basterds”

Quentin Tarantino’s latest film is the most important film of the summer, simply because it’s by far the most adventurous, creative and entertaining. “Inglourious Basterds” combines gruesome violence, Brad Pitt with a funny accent and the best re-writing of history ever seen in a movie. As always, Tarantino chooses to let his words do the real heavy lifting, and his dialogue here is endlessly quotable. It’s bravura filmmaking at its finest, and certainly one of Tarantino’s masterpieces.

Bitte Orca

What’s so special about Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca? Is it Dave Longstreth’s pretty-boy-goes-to-Jupiter hyper-bleating? Is it the way the stutter-step electronics seamlessly blend with the clean-plucked acoustics for a sound that’s somehow both utilitarian and larger-than-life? Is it the way lead single “Stillness is the Move” sounds like Janet Jackson going hipster? Is it the way it’s virtually impossible to explain this album at all within a single blurb? Probably. And it’s probably the best album of the summer. So listen to it.

Conan takes over “The Tonight Show”

This summer, a new era for late-night television was enthusiastically ushered in by Conan O’Brien when he took over as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” Many were skeptical of O’Brien’s ability to pull it off. His antics on “Late Night” were always geared toward a young demographic and his intelligence (the man has a Harvard degree) is such a stark contrast to Jay Leno’s “average Joe” personality. But “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” was a success and promises to continue as a force on late-night TV.

Disney buys Marvel

Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, acquiring the rights to more than 5,000 characters, from Iron Man to Baron Von Blitzschlag. But don’t worry about Goofy joining the Fantastic Four or Wolverine’s violent rampages being toned down. Instead expect more support for films featuring mid-level heroes like Hawkeye and Namor. That said, you can worry about the consolidation of the entertainment industry.

Summer Festivals

Starting with May’s Coachella, which landed Paul McCartney, to June’s Bonnaroo, which landed The Boss and Phish (twice), headliners at music fests this summer seemed surprisingly, well, old. Though Chicago dominated the outdoor hipster music scene with Pitchfork and Lollapalooza boasting headliners like Grizzly Bear, Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Flaming Lips, other headlining spots (Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Tool) saw tenured acts favored over today’s tastemakers. The Nineties, it seems, are catching up to us — and quickly.

“The Hangover”

This is a movie about the kind of night everybody wants to have. That is, if your idea of a night to remember is waking up with Mike Tyson’s tiger in the bathroom and a baby named Carlos in the closet. The actors all work well together to form a lineup that could rival those in movies like “Wedding Crashers” and “Old School.” If nothing else, “The Hangover” will be giving college students lines to recite for the rest of their lives.


Pixar’s “Up” continues to deliver all the whimsy and beautiful animation the company is known for. However, the plotline is much heavier than most of its other films and its makers are taking quite a few risks, especially in the silent opening sequence. As a result, “Up” provides both old and young audience members with humor, imagination and depth.

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