Playlist 13 -- Call it Friend-o

For almost 20 years now, my wife and I have dutifully watched the Oscars together, as we will do tomorrow night. Used to be that we had seen most, or at least many, of the films nominated. But over the last few years -- with two kids in the house -- that hasn't been the case. But this year we have two horses in the race -- Juno and No Country for Old Men.

No Country for Old Men.
The Coen Brothers latest effort lived up to my high expectations. I was thrilled with how faithful they stayed to Cormac McCarthy's novel. The movie, like the wonderful book, is a slow-paced violent study on good and evil, and how life and growing older can be so damn tiring. The desolate backgrounds, shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, are almost another character. It's similar to Deakins' work in Fargo. And great performances by the whole cast, particularly Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem.

Weeds, the Second Season.
There are two ways to describe this show.
And fun as hell.
For those unfamiliar with the Showtime series, Nancy (Mary Louise-Parker) is a widowed suburban mom, taking care of her two sons and her brother-in-law. She turns to selling pot to make a living. The show is often dark. Sometimes shocking -- very shocking. And there aren't many likable characters in the town of Agrestic. However, you find yourself rooting for Nancy as she navigates her way through the complex life she's built for herself, all the while trying to grow her business.

Under the Banner of Heaven. By Jon Krakauer.

In his 2003 book, Krakeur weaves together the history of the Mormon Church with the story of the Lafferty murders -- when two brothers stabbed and killed their sister-in-law and baby niece because they were told to in a divine revelation. It's a fascinating story and Krakauer tells it extremely well, particularly as he details the growth of the Latter Day Saints from Joseph Smith's visions to the established and growing mainstream religion it is today. But the book focuses more on the fundamentalist sects that grew out of the Mormon Church after it, somewhat reluctantly, according to Krakauer, denounced polygamy. Some may see Krakauer's account as a challenge to the Mormon faith. I, however, see it more as a rebuke of fundamentalism in general.

Escape from Dragon House and Venus on Earth. Dengue Fever.
As far as band stories go, this one is pretty good. Musician goes to Cambodia with a friend. Friend is bitten by a mosquito and contacts Dengue fever. Musician discovers Cambodian psychadelic rock. Musician comes back to America starts band that plays similar music and finds a lead singer from Cambodia. And she sings in Khmer. The result is a mix of myriad sounds - swirling organ, garage rock guitar, spy movie grooves -- that is captivating. And it doesn't matter that you (unless you speak Khmer) can't understand 90 percent of the lyrics. Venus on Earth, released just last month, does have the English-language Tiger Phone Card. It's the best place to start if you're interested in exploring this unique band.

Other tunes I've been digging this past week ...
-- We're Gonna Groove, Led Zeppelin, Coda. Often blasted as Zep's weakest album, this collection of leftover material has some real gems, including this song.
-- The Hardest Part, Ryan Adams, Jacksonville City Nights. One of many standouts from Adams' supposedly country album.
-- Bodysnatchers, Radiohead, In Rainbows.
-- Right Hand on My Heart, Whigs, Mission Control.
-- Little Boxes, Malvina Reynolds. The Weeds theme song is played by a different artist on each show. Check out the show's official site, or simply click here, to find all the great music on the show.