“Come Early Morning”
This is the kind of movie that gets past you, a small budget movie that didn’t get wide release or big studio backing, one you might have noticed briefly in the papers or trailers upon its initial release and then forgotten about 10 minutes later. Thank God for Netflix. This movie, despite a fairly standard storyline, is filled with small wonders, not least of which is Ashley Judd’s best performance since the somewhat similar — and likewise small budgeted — “Ruby In Paradise,” as a woman using alcohol and promiscuity as a way of asserting her independence, but also evading painful issues from her past. On paper, this seems like a standard movie cliché, but up-and-comer Joey Lauren Adams, who wrote and directed, manages to make the story fresh and avoid the most predictable pitfalls — there is redemption, yes, but it isn’t sugar-glazed. Definitely worth the trouble of seeking out. And it has the best, most resonant sense of small town life since “Slingblade.”
The National, Boxer
A couple of years ago they “broke through,” at least by alternative rock standards, with Alligator, which was enthusiastically recommended to me by several friends. I finally bought it, played it half a dozen times with moderate interest, then filed it away under OK, but nothing to write home about.
Now comes the real breakthrough, and they’ve got an appearance on Letterman to prove it. In a year when there have been at least a dozen excellent albums waiting for their turn in my playing rotation, I cannot seem to put this one aside long enough to listen to anything else. Matt Berninger’s low key delivery is so subtle — not exactly the Tindersticks, not exactly Leonard Cohen, but that’s a place to start — it might take two or three tries for the songs to sink in, but when they do, they stay with you all day. Pay attention to the lyrics, and it becomes clear that this band has not only mastered tunes and textures, but has something real to say, and an intriguing way of saying it.
This is not only my favorite album of the year, but one of those albums that has already become essential: I know I’ll still be playing it in 10 years, in 20, along with Rubber Soul, Blood On The Tracks, and Astral Weeks. If you love music, you have your own list of desert island recordings. Boxer is one of mine.
Appalachian State Football
On the cover of Sports Illustrated. Responsible for changing the voting rules for the AP football poll so that “sub division” teams can now be included in the Top 25. Favored to win a third consecutive I-AA National Championship, and might well be a serious contender to win the ACC this year if they were in it. I had to get one more plug in for ASU. Just had to.
— By Chris Cox