Artists of the Year

His language, like the language of William Carlos Williams and William Stafford, is spare and plain. It's nothing fancy. And its simplicity allows for greater truths and broader emotions to exist, but go untold. In his poem "North of Liberal," William Stafford writes, "at a bluff on the north bank/forty years ago someone/did not come to meet you." Compare this with lyrics from the song "You Look So Young," on the Jayhawks' 2003 release, Rainy Day Music: "You look so young/Have you ever been afraid?" Both passages break my heart, but neither tells me why. This is magic that all great art should perform.

So I've decided to issue Gary Louris the first ever Sam Osterhout Lifetime Achievement Award. I'll be at Bryant-Lake Bowl every Wednesday night if you'd like to collect your prize, Gary. And if you'd like to bowl a few lanes, no big whoop. I'll be the guy in the cowboy shirt high-fiving everyone.

Sam Osterhout is a Minneapolis writer and co-founder of the Lit 6 Project and The Electric Arc Radio Show.

Nicole Holofcener

BY SARAH ASKARI

How often do you have sex? How much money do you make? What do you mean, None of your business? Don't tell me the only thing that matters is whether you and your husband are happy. Maybe it's true, you Smug Marrieds. But I need more information in order to judge you.

Nicole Holofcener is the writer and director of this year's film Friends with Money, a meandering look at four women in varying stages of domestic and personal discontent. Holofcener, the writer/director behind 2001's Lovely and Amazing, lets women obsess over the question Am I Normal? for as long as necessary, which is to say that the film closes after an hour and a half without a conclusive answer.

Yet I could have watched these characters for 48 more hours. Catherine Keener's Christine bickers constantly with her mate/screenwriting partner. One minute I was convinced that Christine was an unreasonably needy whiner with a victim complex. The next minute I found myself scoffing at her husband, "Whatever, iceman. You're a dick—that's the problem."

Frances McDormand's Jane enjoys professional success and a solid marriage, but starts rebelling against middle age with an alienating, frumpy hostility. Meanwhile her friends whisper that her kind, adoring husband is gay. "You gossipy bitches! You're just jealous," I would think, while conceding, "Or right. And please, god, Jane—wash your hair."

Onscreen (as in real life?) Jennifer Aniston is everyone's pathetic low-water mark, a pot-smoking maid who is depressed and alone. While I originally wanted to reach up and wring Olivia's neck for her criminal lack of ambition, I rose to her defense when the air of superiority around her became suffocating. "Don't confuse being luckier than Olivia with being better than Olivia," I raged at Joan Cusack's air-headed heiress Franny.

Holofcener understands that whether a woman is alone in front of a mirror or at a dinner party surrounded by friends, it's always judgment day.

Sarah Askari is music editor at City Pages.

Haley Bonar

BY ALI SELIM

There is a myth about Haley Bonar: A couple of years ago, she felt too much of the wrong career coming at her too quickly, so she walked offstage and went away to find herself, to be true to her music and be known by a smaller, more manageable audience.

I am a member of the unmanageable audience. I had this idea that she should sing the theme song for my film Sweet Land (which she ultimately did!), but I didn't know how to find her. One day I was walking out of the post office on University and she was walking in. Excitedly, I blocked her way and asked, "Are you Haley Bonar?" She looked at me for a long time—worried, I imagine, that this crazed fan wouldn't let her pass—and then she finally said, "Maybe."

Haley Bonar is about to be known by everyone. This year she released her third album, Lure the Fox. Though, at 21, Haley is barely out of her teens, this album's maturity is proof that she can hold her own among the crowded and accomplished world of singer-songwriters. Her voice is an invitation to amazing places. Whether she whispers or rocks, you follow her. And yet, with her quiet insouciance, she is a somewhat reluctant, withdrawn host; she'll travel with or without you because it's her journey and she's going now. Her lyrics are often so beautifully poetic that it takes me a while to catch up. "The sun is wearing out your eyes/They look across the land/But they can't tell sea from sand/Now who will hold your hand?/And who will rub your back?/Your chains run deep/Your chains run deep."

Haley's music is a gateway to understanding the world around us and the world within us. Her songs reveal stories and philosophies that are very personal to her (or else she couldn't have written them), but somehow they speak to us. Only a true and complete artist has that ability.

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