Before the best movies, music and moments of 2005 slip away from us, the writers and editors at OMC would like to acknowledge a few of the year's peaks (some Milwaukee, some not). Add your own picks by using the talkback feature at the end.
Best addition to Milwaukee -- The Milwaukee Public Market is really great and exciting, but there have also been smaller changes that add up to a better city. The addition of defined bike lanes on several major streets has been a nice nod to those who don't drive everywhere. Also, encouraging more walking and less driving are the two new footbridges that easily connect the Brady Street neighborhood with the community north of the river.
Music -- On a local level, Temper Temper's debut has stayed in my iPod's "top 25" pretty much since it was released, as has Decibully's sophomore gem, "Sing Out America."
As for the rest of the music world, a few albums have really defined this year for me. Seeing The Decemberists live in San Francisco on the day they released "Picaresque" definitely secured them a spot here. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah came out of nowhere and self-released one of the most interesting and addictive albums of the year, as did an Anticon Records band called Why? And if Modest Mouse couldn't release something this year, at least Mr. Brock put his efforts into something just as amazing, as he helped produce Wolf Parade's "Apologies to the Queen Mary."
Live shows -- This is a two-parter. Normally, crowded shows at big venues are a huge let down for me and I usually try to avoid them, but I have to say that the White Stripes at the Eagles Ballroom blew me away. They didn't tinker, talk or even pause between songs; they just played nonstop for two hours and I left the show in awe and exhausted.
On the softer side, Antony & the Johnsons, with guests CocoRosie, at The Pabst was an incredibly beautiful and mellow show. If you think listening to "I am a Bird Now" is moving, seeing him at his piano singing the songs live is downright hypnotic.
Movies -- The following films may have technically been released in late 2004, but the fact that I did not watch them until this year make them a part of my 2005 experience. "I Heart Huckabees" catered perfectly to my inner philosophy geek and, being the Wes Anderson fanatic that I am, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" was a great way to kick off the year.
Television -- Really the only thing that caught my attention this year was the American version of "The Office," which has since led to my addiction of the BBC's original version via Netflix DVDs.
Best addition to Milwaukee -- The Milwaukee Public Market is amazing. It's brought people downtown who haven't ventured anywhere close to our Eastern neighborhoods in decades, while injecting even more life to the Historic Third Ward and emerging Fifth Ward. It's everything that a catalytic development project should be. Now, let's continue to build on its strengths, extend its hours (at least stay open late for Gallery Night!) and make it even stronger. Runner-up: The Ambassador Hotel. Simple, elegant and a big risk. To owner Rick Wiegand, kudos on taking a risk in Milwaukee. We need more people like you!
Books -- "Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything," by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner tops my list for the year. Ask no questions, just go buy the book.
Milwaukeean(s) of the Year -- Call me a suck up if you must, but you, good readers of OMC, are my Milwaukeeans of the Year. The year saw even more media options in Milwaukee, and we know that you must make the deliberate choice to come to OMC daily to connect with our content and community. We appreciate your passion, and even your critiques. We have changed the way that news is reported in Milwaukee, mainly because we, like you, love this city so much it sometimes hurts. Thanks, and watch for more big things and even more growth from us in 2006.
Music -- Coldplay's "Fix You" hasn't left my head since I first heard it. Not sure if that's good or bad, but I do really like it as a quasi-pop single. Loved Fall Out Boy's album, the weird, yet collaborative Herbie Hancock effort, and Missy Higgins did very well with her "The Sound of White" release. I also loved Maria Taylor's "11:11" and The Wallflowers proved their staying power with their "Rebel, Sweetheart" release. Finally, if you are into jazz, the "Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall" download or disc is a classic 1950's compliation that was just released this September.
Concert -- Garrison Starr's Summerfest show, Tony Bennett's masterful Pabst performance and if nothing else for shear creativity, the Bodeans gig on the Pabst Theater roof.
Movies -- "Millions" had a simple and faithful message that I really enjoyed. It was heartfelt, honest, touching yet not too condescending or self-important. But if movies are about entertainment and escaping, "Batman Begins" was about as good as a visceral experience as you can get with a $7 bag of popcorn and $5 Coke.
Event -- President Bush's May 19 visit to OnMilwaukee.com is something I still get asked about almost every week. For a President, any President, to choose our growing media company as a stop on a visit was a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase our company through national media. It provided incredible exposure and near record readership. OnMilwaukee.com was featured locally, nationally and internationally with coverage in the Washington Post, New York Times and London Guardian, as well as on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. And, driving with W. in the Presidental limo was pretty darn cool.
Television -- In 2005, there were only seven shows worthy of "record entire series" on my DVR. HBO had three of them: "Costas Now," "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" (In 2005, by the way, "Real Sports" became the first sports program to be recognized with a Dupont broadcast journalism award), and the best show of 2005, "Entourage." On the non-cable side, "Scrubs," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Alias" were clear-cut winners in my mind. If forced, I'll also admit to having a liking for the recently concluded season of The Donald's "The Apprentice." It's mindless entertainment with a little bit of business.
Hope for 2006 Milwaukee -- Milwaukee sadly showed its risk averse, scared of the big thing mentality by killing a three-year-in-the-making proposal to redevelop the former Pabst Brewery. Aldermen, you know who you are. It's now time to put behind petty differences and build Pabst City. Oh and while we are at it, it's time to lay the groundwork for a new Bradley Center. Why not a Sports Lottery to fund it? Let those who care pay for it and funnel some of the other lottery dollars to the project too. On the transportation end, The Milwaukee Connector needs to progress and Wells Street in downtown needs to be changed to a two-way street. I also can't wait for the new WYMS to hit the airwaves. We need another great radio station in town, that's an understatement. Let's get these projects on track and moving forward. Onward, Milwaukee, On Milwaukee and here's to a great 2006.
Molly Snyder Edler
Best addition to Milwaukee -- Annona Bistro in Bay View. Relaxing environment yet fastidious quality, I wish the owners would open a few more of these around town. The Red Dot, in the old Calderone Club space on the East Side, is also doing a fine job with the beer and 'za.
Music - Wow, where to begin? Im sure Im missing a slew of great ones, but here are some of the records that really got me this year: Girlyman, "Little Star;" Antony & the Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now; Sleater-Kinney, The Woods; Ani Difranco Knuckle Down; and since I spend so much of my time listening to children's music these days, I gotta thank They Might Be Giants' for their silly-but-smart new one, "Here Come The ABCs." Sure beats Barney.
Concert - Quintron & Miss Pussycat at the Mad Planet, Nov. 9. Spank yourself if you missed this show which was, quite possibly, the most fascinating and fed up performance to stagger onto a Milwaukee stage in 05. Quintron is a nightclub organist with a penchant for swamp-tech beats, backed by the sweet-and-sleazy, morocca-playing Miss Pussycat and his own patented invention, the Drum Buddy, a rotating, light-activated analog synthesizer. Prior to their set, Miss Pussycat performed one of her infamous puppet shows, similar in style to her puppet band and side project, Flossie and the Unicorns. The gig this year was especially intense (they played at The Planet in '04 as well), considering the duo are from New Orleans French Quarter where Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed their home and underground club, The Spellcaster Lodge.
Movies -- "Crash." According to this flick, everyone is racist and it does an incredible job depicting all types of prejudices, from subtle to obvious. It's depressing to realize the issues are so deep-rooted and far gone that there is little hope things will ever really change, but "Crash," truly, is a movie that will make you think.
Television -- The final epsiode -- actually, the final 10 minutes of the final episode -- of "Six Feet Under." The decision by director Alan Ball to fast-forward through the characters' lives (and deaths) was risky. It could have easily turned out cheesy, but instead, it was completely satisfying to see how the Fisher family members' lives panned out because, for the first time, I actually cared (yes, cared!) about a fictitious group of people.
Hope for 2006 Milwaukee - The Riverwest neighborhood will continue to strengthen itself through neighbor unity and peace action. This part of town has come a long way since the 80s, but still has a lot to achieve and overcome. Keep going, RW! I love ya!
Best addition to Milwaukee -- I'm not sure it's reached its potential yet, but the opening of the Milwaukee Public Market was great news. It looks nice inside and everyone has been very friendly on my visits, but I'm hoping it's hospital-like gleam will soon start to morph into that vibrant, gritty, passionate feel that European markets - and those in some other cities in the U.S. - have. Maybe there just needs to be a real, on-site, working butcher shop to get that (eek!). Let's hope Milwaukeeans support the fresh produce, artisan breads and the like. Otherwise, we might find that our market will become little more than a food court unattached to a mall.
Books -- The U.S. publication of Melania Mazzucco's award-winning novel "Vita," has caused me to feel less guilt and fear when my eyes fall upon the Italian copy inscribed with a note from the friend who gave it to me. I still hope to get to it someday, but now I can see what all the fuss was about. Mazzucco was inspired by a 1997 trip to America to learn about her grandfather, who had come to New York in the early 20th century and ultimately returned home. What she learned about her own family is interspersed with more general details gleaned during her research and fact and fiction sit not only side by side but crammed together as if they were living in the cramped Prince Street tenement of which Mazzucco writes. Elena Ferrante's "The Days of Abandonment" was similarly heralded when published in Italy some years ago and is now getting its first US publication. The book -- written by an author hiding behind a pseudonym -- is a harrowing journey through one woman's life in the days and weeks after her husband leaves her and their children for a younger woman. Not always easy to read, Ferrante (whoever she/he is) succeeds in plunging us to the depths of despair, betrayal, hatred and revenge.
Milwaukeean of the Year -- I know it's lame if you're not me or my wife, but the Milwaukeean who, by far, had the biggest positive impact on my life this year was my son, who with just his eyes can lift me up and keep me buoyed. And he's the rare person who can spit up on me, head butt me and scream in my ear without me ever getting mad.
Music -- It's always hard for me to name a couple faves since it's such an integral part of my daily existence (like asking me to name my favorite lunch of the year). But here are some highlights, in no particular order: Subsonica's "Terrestre," Perturbazione's "Canzoni allo specchio," Mambassa's self-titled disc and the awfully-named Yuppie Flu's "Toast Masters." Kent's new disc, released in Sweden only, "Du & Jag Doden" is their best since "Hagnesta Hill." I loved Lhasa De Sela's multilingual "The Living Road" and "Set Yourself on Fire" by her fellow Canadians Stars. Both -- while completely different -- succeed in spite of and because of their tendencies to wander. The Death Cab for Cutie record is their most accessible yet and thoroughly addictive, as was the latest from The Decembrists, "Picaresque." I also continued to snarf up reissues of Blue Note CDs by Andrew Hill, Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, Larry Young and others. I don't see Maximo Park as the brilliant band many do, but their tune "The Coast is Always Changing" sounds SO much like Del Amitri circa 1985 that I had to do a double-take on the first listen. Ted Leo and his "Me & Mia" is my pop tune of the year. But I still listened more to Carmen Consoli this year than any other artist, by far...
Concert -- ...which brings me to my table at the side of the stage in April at Chicago's Hot House to watch Carmen and her band make their Midwestern debut (they played two gigs in the U.S. last year and three this year. It's a slow introduction). The club, which isn't huge, but isn't tiny, either, was sold out and the assembled throng was forced to bow before the formidable songwriting, singing and guitar skills of Catania's rock and roll chanteuse.
Movies -- I thought "The Edukators" was a funny trip from the German director who brought us "Good Bye Lenin!" a couple years ago, despite some predictability. The arrival here of Sergio Castellitto's tour de force, "Don't Move," based on the book by his wife Margaret Mazzantini and starring Penelope Cruz, was worth celebrating. And "The Aristocrats" was riotous if astonishingly filthy. Perhaps because it's so fresh in my memory, I'd likely pick Noah Baumbach's touching, sad and funny story of growing up as the kid of not-so-happily-divorced parents in Brooklyn in the 1980s as my picture of the year. There's nary a bad performance and there's not a simply drawn character in the film. Each one is a complex bundle of good and bad. Each one is thoroughly human.
Hope for 2006 Milwaukee -- That some strides are made in race relations in our community. It's long, long overdue.
Best addition to Milwaukee -- The Runway dog park near the airport. My dog, Playa, can't talk, but if she could, I know she'd thank us for the ample opportunities to run around, sniff butts and wear herself out -- all off leash. Before the park opened, we'd have to schlep all the way to the distant suburbs to give our pup the freedom she deserves. Now it's quick jaunt, and we're there as much as possible.
Music -- Two CDs stood out from the rest, at least in my book, in 2005. The first was the Kings Of Leon's second disc, "Aha Shake Heartbreak." The second was the new Franz Ferdinand disc, "You Could Have It So Much Better." In an era in which my favorite rockin' bands aren't doing much rocking, at least Kings Of Leon haven't forgotten how to jam. I imagine if Skynrd was living today (and perhaps if they had jumped into a fountain of youth), this is the kind of music they'd play. As for Franz, it's more of a guilty pleasure, since all of their songs sound like other bands I love. Sometimes, I hear Madness or Squeeze or any myriad of other '80s bands mashed together. But at least they're new and fresh, and their second effort doesn't disappoint.
Concert -- My favorite concert of '05 was seeing Beck in Chicago, which probably doesn't count. But the last time Beck appeared in Milwaukee was at a New Rock Fest a decade ago, so this was the best I could do. Unfortunately, Beck was a little underwhelming because of some technical glitches. That said, even a so-so Beck concert is heads and shoulders over most of the shows I've seen. I found it much more fun than the Pixies and Weezer at Summerfest. My favorite Milwaukee show was the loud and rocking Kings Of Leon at The Rave (see above). This tight show was actually one of the best live performanes I've ever seen, and with only two albums, they had the time to play everything.
Movies -- "Walk The Line." I know it was Hollywood-ized version of the Man in Black, and frankly, I think they spent way too much time on a small portion of Cash's life. But Joaquin Phoenix was compelling, and the always great Reese Witherspoon played June Carter realistically. In a year in which I didn't spend a lot of time at the movies, this was a fun diversion. On the more serious side, I really enjoyed "Syriana." Most will include this sophisticated political thriller in their 2006 list, but since I saw it on Christmas, it falls under 2005. As usual, George Clooney showed his range, and though I had to think about the plot even after the credits rolled to make sure I completely understood the film, "Syriana" was a gritty look inside the untold elements of international relations.
Television -- What a great year for TV. Between "Arrested Development," "The Office," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage," "Family Guy," the now-cancelled "Carnivale" and "The Comeback," I kept my DVR busy 24-7. It's hard to pick my favorite, but I'd say it's a tie between "The Office" and "Arrested Development." I sincerely hope that the networks have enough chutzpah to keep these critically-acclaimed but little watched shows on the air.
Milwaukeean of the year -- I gotta give it to Mark Attanasio. As a life-long and die-hard Brewers fan, this owner is giving us everything we want. Not only is he spending enough for the team to finally compete, he brought back my beloved ball and glove logo. His team is even helping me directly, as the Brewers are finally paying OMC advertisers. The old regime never understood the PR behind building a winning team, on and off the field. Attanasio gets it, and for that I thank him.
Event of the year -- Call me selfish, but riding in the limo with President Bush was still my personal highlight of the year. By now, most attentive OMC readers know how I feel about Dubya, but political leanings aside, 10 minutes, practically one-on-one with the leader of the free world is an experience I'll never forget. Sitting in a car with the president, talking family, business and shared experiences -- that was something really special.
Hope for 2006 Milwaukee -- Milwaukee must continue to shed its conservative label. It dropped the ball on PabstCity, but as an entreprenuer who was told in 1998 that Milwaukee wasn't high-tech enough to support a venture like OMC, I'm convinced we can prove the critics wrong. We must embrace progress (but not just change for change's sake), and be prepared to question the way things "have always been done." For my business, that means standing up to a media monopoly and continuing to innovate and grow. In the public sector, let's hold our public officials accountable and be prepared to bring in new blood if they stand in the way of smart development that will further Milwaukee's agenda of moving beyond the beer and brats mentality.