10 Best Media Objects of 2006 (Part 1)

Consumed by me, that is

King Kong versus Betty Boop
King Kong versus Betty Boop

Here’s a little flip-of-the-bird to the squinty-eyed tyranny of the year-end best-of list. A thousand small-time critics pick the ten best films/CDs/books of 2006? Fuck that. Add ‘em all up and there’s gonna be a very small subset of stuff which just happened to be released in the same calendar year. How dull. How predictable. I’m pretty sure we could train monkeys to do that.

Now how about the ten best films/CDs/books a thousand small-time critics saw/heard/read in 2006? Suddenly we have a more diverse and interesting array of media objects to paw through. Here’s my list:

Caravan’s self-titled debut
Caravan’s self-titled debut

10. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” (1933 cartoon short): Many of these Fleischer Brothers cartoons are genius and this one is especially accessible: a toy Betty Boop is dropped down the chimney into a sleepy toy shop and incites a small-scale war. Features a snappy score, way-ahead-of-its-time “camera” work, a villainous King Kong (the RKO film was also released that year), a great wind-up-bunny gag and an absolutely spot-on final shot. Marred for modern viewers, perhaps, by a few brief (if cheerful) racial caricatures. But in these days of South Park and The Boondocks, I am pretty sure you’ll survive.

9. Caravan, self-titled (1968 rock album): One of the reasons rock sucks now is that It Has Been Done To Death Already. Once in a while I stumble across a piece of rock history that spells this out in ALL-CAPS just like that and this is one of them. Caravan’s charming, jazzy, Hammond organ-drenched debut holds shimmering pop-rock beauty later plundered by modern alt-rock technicians like Stereolab (cf. ”Love Song With Flute”) and Spiritualized (cf. “Ride”). Later Caravan releases vary in quality, but this first LP is jaw-dropping.

Tune in next time for 8 and 7.