Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Of 2011

Its that time of the year when people do "Best-of" lists and I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon.

Top 5 movies of the year

I saw 22 movies released in 2011 (in theaters and on DVD)

This year, I haven't had too many opportunities to see some of the smaller releases. I hear The Artist is amazing. Maybe I'll catch that on DVD. Attack the Block is like number 1 on my Netflix queue but there's a long wait. I'll probably see War Horse eventually. Harry Potter for me was the best film I saw this year because it was the culmination of everything that I've been waiting to see in a Harry Potter movie. Action, emotional impact (OMG when Snape died I lost it). Obviously, sentimentality played a big role in the inclusion of this movie, and of The Muppets as well. With both movies I had extremely high expectations going in and was very pleased that they were met (which hasn't always been the case with movies I've waited for ex: Where the Wild Things Are). The Muppets was just a delight. It was an essential Muppet film in that it combined earnestness with humor without being too crass or too saccharine. It was definitely a movie more for the audience who grew up with Muppets than from the new generation, but I don't have a problem with that. Hugo was the movie that surprised me. I really enjoyed the book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick (great year for him. See my review of Wonderstruck below) and in reading it I was struck by how easily it could be adapted to film. When Sasha Baron Cohen was cast, I was really uncertain (hated him in Sweeney Todd) but he didn't ruin it. Scorsese did a fabulous job directing and I appreciated the 3-D when I normally think it superfluous. The young actors of this film did an excellent job capturing the spirit of the story and I have high hopes for Asa Butterfield. I have to say I was similarly impressed with the young actors in Super 8, though it didn't make the cut. It is very difficult to find young actors who are able to portray such realistic vulnerability so well. 13 Assassins was just all out crazy awesome. I loved the action, I loved the crazy convoluted set pieces, I loved it. So hard to make great period action films, and this is how you do it right. Drive was an interesting one. It was heavily stylized and very "80s" in its score and vibe. I really enjoyed it, though. I thought it was very much like a samurai movie or a classic western. Ryan Gosling, who I had never really thought of in any way before, really impressed me with his subtle acting.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

2. Hugo

3. The Muppets

4. 13 Assassins

5. Drive

Top 5 books of the year

This year I read 38 books.

Despite my love for Patrick Rothfuss, Ernest Cline just blew it out of the park for me so I had to put him at number 1. Ready Player One was just so original and funny and brilliant. It also really played into the geek sensibility and reminded me of many memories from my adolescence. Wise Man's Fear wasn't as good as Name of the Wind, certainly. It didn't give me that same tingle of excitement, that same desire to tell everyone I know about it. Still it was magnificent storytelling. I'd say it was on par with one of the middle Harry Potter books in terms of quality, which is still far and away better than most. The Night Circus was lovely and charming. Very Gaiman by way of Suzanna Clarke with some Audrey Niffenegger thrown in for good measure. Original and beautifully realized, I found it lacking only in the incomprehensible nature of the characters. Certainly it is their nature to be unknowable, but I didn't feel emotionally invested. Reading the book was like watching a gorgeous silent movie where the visuals were everything. A Map of Time I reviewed on here previously. It was delightful and unique. A definite winner. Both Breadcrumbs and Wonderstruck are children's books, and definite Newbery contenders. Breadcrumbs is a wonderful modern fantasy that combines both emotional realistic storytelling and fantastically realized otherworldliness in its retelling of the classic tale of the Snow Queen. Wonderstruck, despite its name, is not a fantasy at all but rather a beautifully moving story of memory and loss told in Brian Selznick's unique style combining illustration and the written word similar to what he did with "Hugo." Emotional and powerful, and particularly well researched, it is a must read for any children's literature fans. Not featured on the list was "A Dance With Dragons" which was a slog. I enjoyed the first three books in the Song of Ice and Fire, but ADWD and A Feast For Crows were both disappointments.

1. Ready Player One

2. Wise Man's Fear

3. The Night Circus

4. The Map of Time

5. Breadcrumbs/ Wonderstruck

Top 5 Television Shows of the year

I watch a ton of TV. Most of it not very good.

After knocking A Dance With Dragons, its time to gush praise on Game of Thrones. SUCH a good show. Finally fantasy has come to television in a real way. Not fairy tales, not urban paranormal fantasy with sexy vampires, but good old fashioned swords and sorcery. Bring it! Great actors on the show, particularly Peter Dinkledge who I've loved since I saw The Station Agent. I'm so excited for the next few years of the show, seeing on screen what I've read, but I worry that A) George R.R. Martin won't finish the series fast enough for the creation of the show and B) that the trying parts of the books will be just as trying onscreen. We will have to see. Community I adore. I only place it second because this Fall's season hasn't been as strong as the past. However, I can't geek out about it enough. I nearly bought an Inspector Spacetime shirt. Please keep this show going. Its the best comedy on TV. Justified... wow. What a show. If you are sad there was never a 4th season of Deadwood, just watch Justified. Brilliant acting, great directing, funny funny scripts. Margo Martindale was superb this past season in a guest spot. Love Walter Goggins. Good stuff. Doctor Who just hasn't impressed me that much this season, though it is still a fav. I feel like they are trying to cram too much in to too little time. I wish they took their time with some of the major plot developments rather than having these rushed feeling season or mid season finales where too much happens. Still I enjoy Matt Smith as the Doctor and look forward to the new season. Downton Abbey is the oddball of the bunch but I really enjoyed it so much. Delightful acting and very well written. I thought for the longest time it was actually an adaptation of some novel and I went to find it only to discover that it is an original story. That impressed me even more, because it felt so richly developed. Almost on the list was the NBC comedy "Up All Night." It is the most realistic portrayal of new parenthood I've ever seen on TV. The writing is really spot on. As it hasn't even completed a whole season I'll give it a little more time to put it on the list. Modern Family I still find hilarious as well. Also a fan of Psych and White Collar and Burn Notice... it was tough only picking 5 shows since I watch so many.

1. Game of Thrones

2. Community

3. Justified

4. Doctor Who

5. Downton Abbey