My Best of 2013

Ageing is a wondrous, eclectic, beautiful thing, to wit, a balding, greying man starting the day with Daft Punk, then singing along to Lorde in between morning meetings, before turning to the 30-something wisdomesques of The National as the sun sets over Nairobi, before going home to the swinging voice of Michael Bublé. Youth limits your choices, age expands your frequency of appreciation. What frequency? Ask Kenneth.

In 2013, there was new music that could have come from any of the last 5 decades, enough to suit anyone’s fancy. Everything new was old, and everything old looked amazingly and nostalgically grand, like the false memories of an instagram made picture. “Experience” on the other hand, was me explaining to these little kids as we’re to listening to Lose Yourself to Dance, what the disco of the early 80s was like(which, talking of false memories, is an absolute fabrication, as I was a real, real nipper then, but these children wouldn’t know, having been born in the late 1980s or the 1990s makes them not know anything, which you can tell from their bad grammar and spelling…… and of course things that can’t be googled do not exist).

The Oscars next year will have a real hard time nominating, and awarding, the four acting categories. Best Supporting Actress is almost a lock-in for our own Lupita Nyong’o for her role in 12 Years a Slave, but that’s only if Oprah Winfrey, aka the most powerful woman in America, who is also in the running for the same category for her performance in Lee Daniel’s The Butler, will let her have it. Both Best Actor and Best Actress are so difficult to predict at this stage, there having been so many great performances this year. Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine is my personal favourite, and in my opinion the best of her already fabulous career. She certainly deserves winning it. She talks to herself a lot in the film, something I can definitely relate to. I have a sneaky feeling though Sandra Bullock will pull another fast one in this category. I have not yet seen Meryl Streep in August: Osage County, which as you all know will be my best performance after I’ve seen it. I just wish I already had so I could place at number 1, but I haven’t.  If/when nominated, Her Majesty will have bagged her 18th nomination. One, Eight.

I would bet on both The Past (Iran) and Wadjda (Saudi Arabia) being nominated
for Best Foreign Language Film. Asghar Farhadi has made another excellent film in The Past, which though credited to Iran because of Farhadi, is entirely set in France and is in French. (Last year’s Amour was credited to Austria though again set in France with a French cast). Wadjda is a triumph of many firsts, though some might say is a simple film and easily forgettable. I’d say, read between the dialogue, stupid! The Square, a documentary about the revolution in Egypt has my fav tag line of the year,”The People Demand the Fall of the Regime”. God Loves Uganda is a documentary everyone on this continent must see. I’ll say no more. And that last scene in Captain Phillips (are you ok Captain Phillips?You don’t look ok) is the reason why Tom Hanks will bag another Oscar nomination, and why he has two golden men already. I would hope that Michael B. Jordan is recognised for Fruitvale Station, and although it’s a long shot, a nomination for him is so deserving.

Possibly my favourite scene of the year is the triumph of ageing, that very last cut in the Chilean film Gloria, when the 58 year old divorcée, the protagonist of the story, gets up and heads to the dancefloor of a singles’ party to let her hair down to the tune of the 1980s hit song of her name. Gloria Gloria. 58 is the new 20.

2013 has been a roller-coaster year for us in Kenya. Thank g-d, or nature, or the Great Rift Valley, for films and music – one needs all the escape one can get to hang on to sanity. If we could only make life imitate the art; Or as one artist once said, ‘make my make-believe believe in me’.

Yes, I know it’s a bloody busy, peripatetic, stressful life, but there must always be time for the movies, and for music, and a good book. If there isn’t, then give up lunch, or take a book to the toilet, or give up your kid for adoption…and how long do you sleep anyway? It’s another thing about ageing, there’s sometimes less desirability for some things, including yourself, like Celine says in Before Midnight, “One of the perks of being over 35 is that you don’t get raped as much.”

Mijn Favoriete Films van het Jaar (you can download the subtitles)

    1. Lee Daniel’s The Butler uptown-the-butler-poster
    2. Blue Jasmine
    3. Frances Ha
    4. The Past (Iran)
    5. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
    6. Before Midnight
    7. Our Children (Belgium)
    8. The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
    9. 12 Years a Slave
    10. Bethlehem (Israel)
    11. My Brother The Devil
    12. Captain Phillips
    13. The Square (documentary feature)
    14. The Great Gatsby
    15. Child’s Pose (Romania)
    16. Gravity
    17. Fruitvale Station
    18. Stories We Tell (documentary feature)
    19. The Angel’s Share
    20. The Hunt (Denmark)
    21. Neighboring Sounds (Brazil)
    22. God Loves Uganda (documentary feature)
    23. The Kings of Summer
    24. The East
    25. Gloria (Chile)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My Favourite Music Albums
    1. Trouble Will Find Me THE NATIONAL Print
    2. Pure Heroine LORDE
    3. Modern Vampires of the City VAMPIRE WEEKEND
    4. The Bones of What You Believe CHVRCHES 
    5. To Be Loved MICHAEL BUBLE
    6. Muchacho PHOSPHORESCENT
    7. Random Access Memories DAFT PUNK 
    8. Graffiti on the Train STEREOPHONICS 
    9. Paradise Valley JOHN MAYER
    10. Howlin JAGWAR MA


Favourite Books I Read This Year 

    1. Americanah CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE Americanah_book_cover
    2. And the Mountains Echoed KHALED HUSSEINI
    3. Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth REZA ASLAN
    4. Narcopolis JEET THAYIL (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012, published in 2012)
    5. How the World Works NOAM CHOMSKY (published in 2012)
    6. The Testament of Mary COLM TOĺBĺN (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013)
    7. African Violet and Other Stories: the Caine Prize for African Writing 2012 VARIOUS (published in 2012)   


My Songs of the YEAR

    1. Utawala JULIANI feat WAKENYA  R-4675536-1371891113-3295.jpeg
    2. Royals LORDE
    3. High Hopes KODALINE
    4. Bonfire Heart JAMES BLUNT
    5. Heart of a Girl THE KILLERS
    6. Team LORDE (I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there)
    7. Let Her Go PASSENGER
    9. Ya Hey VAMPIRE WEEKEND (through the fire and the flames you won’t even say your name, only ‘I Am That I Am’, who could ever be that way?)
    10. My Number FOALS
    11. Hold On, We’re Going Home DRAKE feat MAJID JORDAN
    12. Lose Yourself to Dance DAFT PUNK feat PHARRELL WILLIAMS
    13. Honey TORRES (while you were ashing in your coffee I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me)
    14. Retrograde JAMES BLAKE
    15. Dust to Dust THE CIVIL WARS https_images.genius.comb033b97351a8d6885f849c8df6fe4655.300x300x1
    16. Ride On/Right On PHOSPHORESCENT
    17. Strong LONDON GRAMMAR
    18. Stay RIHANNA feat MIKKY EKKO
    19. Open RHYE
    21. Changing of the Seasons TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB
    22. Kids MIKKY EKKO
    23. Doing it Right DAFT PUNK feat PANDA BEAR
    24. Play by Play AUTRE NE VEUT
    25. Hannah Hunt VAMPIRE WEEKEND (though we live on the US Dollar, you and me, we got our own sense of time)


LYRIC OF THE YEAR:  “If I stay here trouble will find me, if I stay here I’ll never leave…” Sea of Love THE NATIONAL

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