We've been asking the top culturati of 2010 to pick the best of the year's entertainment. Naturally, that meant we'd have to talk to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, co-creators of the everybody-died-and-now-it's-dead-too show Lost. We published one of Cuse's answers in our culture year-end issue a few weeks ago, which is included here, along with the rest of his picks, and those of his partner Damon Lindelof (whose answers got lost — heh — in our junk e-mail and so never made it into print). Cuse we spoke to on the phone, which is why his answers are more detailed.
Cuse: Aaron Sorkin as screenwriter for The Social Network. Few writers — not only currently, but throughout the history of film — have such distinctive voices. Paddy Chayefsky was one, Preston Sturges another, and Sorkin's is just as clear and unique. It felt like a rain on the Sahara to see a studio movie that was so well scripted and, you know, not the fifteenth iteration of a comic-book movie.
In terms of performances, Christian Bale's in The Fighter is transformative. It was brave and he made himself invisible playing Dicky Eklund. Very impressive.
Lindelof: Tom Hardy in Inception. The minute he walked onscreen, I turned to my wife and said, "Who is that guy?" to which she responded, "You're gay, aren't you?"
Cuse: The performance that stuck out is Danny McBride in Eastbound & Down. He’s just riveting to watch. Even though the character is scurrilous and vile in many ways, McBride makes him funny and engaging. The character violates all the tenets of what network executives say you can and can’t do with a character.
The other show that’s been a must-watch is The Walking Dead. They’ve got the cocktail between character development and genre elements perfectly balanced, which I think a lot of the shows that came out in the wake of Lost fail to do. Plus, I love zombies. My partner Damon and I joked that if we did another season of Lost, it was going to be the zombie season, and now we don’t have to make it because The Walking Dead did it for us, and did a great job.
Lindelof: Walking Dead. Considering it's about zombies trying to eat people, why does if feel so real?
Cuse: For nonfiction, Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky. Because we pioneered a bunch of stuff in the trans-media area on network television, it was really interesting to read an examination of the social culture of the Internet and how it can be harnessed to do good work. The analysis of a seismic cultural change — the two-way dialogue that now exists between media and the recipients of media — is very perceptive.
For fiction, The Spot, a collection of short stories by David Means, which evoke the best of Flannery O'Connor and Raymond Carver. They’re twisted, twisty, never-predictable stories by a guy who I think is a master of the form. He's found a unique voice in a medium where it is so hard to have one and he manages to be gripping with impressive economy.
Lindelof: The Hunger Games trilogy. Only after becoming obsessed with this mega-Twilight series was I made aware it was written for teenagers. Maybe I should have gone easier on Twilight.
Cuse: I write to film music, so I've been listening to Henry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley's score for The Town. I often pick one score and play it over and over again as I write. This one is moody and evocative, with a rich, emotional undercurrent. And the new Kanye West album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is amazing. It's emotional and honest and feels unvarnished. He's writing at the top of his game right now.
Lindelof: Anyone who doesn't answer this question with Cee Lo's "Fuck You" is a dirty liar. Never has such a dirty word been so much fun to sing.
Lindelof: Chris Pine in the The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He played an Irish terrorist grieving for his dead cat and somehow he manages never to make that silly.