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My Year End Wrap-Up 2010

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look back and reflect on the best and worst of 2010.  I’m not going to be the least bit objective here.  This is my blog, so I get to ignore popular trends and public opinion.  You won’t find Lady Gaga or Dancing With The Stars or Harry Potter The First Part of the Last Book (Finally).  This is what entertained ME this year.

Best Books: This year, the recently published books that I most enjoyed were The Gates by John Connolly, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre, and The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart.  The biggest disappoint was One Day by David Nicholls.

Best Television: All year long, the television show that has been the most consistently funny and worth watching is The Big Bang Theory.  Jim Parsons gets a lot of the credit, but I’m also a big fan of Kunal Nayyar as Raj.   Another excellent series is Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  My favorite new show from the fall is Hawaii Five-O.  The worst show this year  was the incredibly dull American Idol season.  I can’t even remember the finalists anymore, probably because I was watching NCIS instead.   (People who know me will wonder about General Hospital.  Just keep reading.)

Best Twitter:  Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds tweets with charm and whimsy, and his photos, while not always in focus, are always worth clicking open.

Best Movie:  This category is very tricky.  I only saw five films this year in a movie theater, and two of them were silent.   Of the talkies, Easy A was the funniest and most endearing.  Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are so appealing, you easily forget the shortcomings of the story.  Fortunately, none of the films I paid good money to see actually sucked.  Considering the clunkers released this year, that’s pretty good luck.   All the good films released this month will have to go into next year’s list, because I haven’t seen them yet!

Best DVDs:  Here is where I make up for all the movies I missed in the theater.   The best films I watched on DVD weren’t even released this year, but they’re worth mentioning.  I loved Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont, Patrik Age 1.5, In the Loop, The Band’s Visit, and Heartlands.  Note that three of these films are British, one is Swedish, and one is Israeli.  Not one American film made my list this year.  Unfortunately, the worst thing I watched on DVD this year was also British.  It was a short-lived TV series called Bonekickers.  Avoid it.

Best Streaming:  A special thank you to my downstairs neighbors Nathan and Eric, because I share their wireless DSL.  They upgraded the speed a couple of months ago.  Now I can watch programs on my computer without all the stops for buffering.  The best thing I watched streaming was the British comedy series The IT Crowd.  A special mention goes to the hours of entertaining clips I watched on YouTube.

Best Music:  The music that gets the most space on my mp3 player, and the most plays, is by Enation.  I’ve also enjoyed the new albums by Hanson (Shout it Out) and Jason Castro.

Best Music Video:   I love dogs, so my favorite is White Knuckles by OK Go.

Best Entertainment News:  This is a weird category, but I have been fascinated by all the news about the making of The Hobbit.  The director changes, the New Zealand union controversy, the casting news—it could all prove to be more entertaining than the movie itself.  If it ever gets made.  The worst news was when Entertainment Weekly magazine refused to honor my great subscription rate from past years, so I didn’t renew.

Entertainer of the Year:  This one is a no-brainer.  Back in July, I started watching General Hospital to check out James Franco’s guest appearance.  I became interested in Jonathan Jackson, who plays Lucky Spencer.  I thought my interest would last about a week.   Six months later, I’m still watching him on GH, listening to his band Enation, and checking his facebook page every day.  I’ve watched his movies, his YouTube videos, and his live streaming events on Ustream.   He even answered a question from me on his Twitter Q & A last month.  Jonathan Jackson gets this “award” not just because he has entertained me, but because he has done it in so many different ways.  Thumbs up!

Enation in the recording studio

Jonathan Jackson and Enation (click to see larger)


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Bookends (3)

I just finished reading A Conspiracy of Kings, the fourth book in a terrific series by Megan Whalen Turner.  The books are set in several small, fictional Mediterranean countries populated by kings, queens, temples, gods, spies, soldiers and conspirators.  And thieves.  Eugenides is the central character, a talented thief who is usually busy hiding his true intentions from everybody, including the reader.  (He reminds me of another favorite character of mine, Francis Crawford of Lymond from the series by Dorothy Dunnett.)  The first book, The Thief, was a Newbery Honor book, but it’s the second book, The Queen of Attolia, that’s my favorite.  It’s the perfect mix of romance and adventure.  Unfortunately,  A Conspiracy of Kings, the fourth and latest, is a real disappointment.  The first part of the book is very good, but then it becomes a slog through political strategy and diplomacy, referring a whole bunch of  funny-sounding countries without a map included to sort them out.  Frankly, I got bored and lost.  Eugenides was there, briefly, in the middle, but he was cool and distant, so near and yet so far away.  The focus was on a character not seen since The Thief, and he was interesting, but the book gave us too much strategy and not enough character interaction.  It was also one of those books with wide margins and double spacing—a very short book with a full-length price tag, without even a map to help you find your way.

A friend insisted I read the new teen novel The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.  My friend said it reminded her of the way Twilight made her feel, without the vampires.  It was really enjoyable, for a book about grief and loss, because it’s also about first love and cute, perfect boys.  The story is about a teenage girl whose older sister has died suddenly.  Lennie leaves poems everywhere to express her grief, written on scraps of paper, bathroom walls, tree trunks, and library books.  Her quirky family also finds odd but endearing ways to mourn.  Then Lennie finds herself torn between two boys: the adorable new boy in town with the dazzling smile who brings the light back into her world, and her dead sister’s boyfriend who understands and shares her grief and darkness.  It’s an interesting story, moving and sexy, even though the boys are too perfect to be entirely believable.  Here’s my favorite sentence from the book:  “The next morning, a showered and betoweled Gram is fixing breakfast ashes. Big is sweeping the rafters for dead moths to put under the pyramids, and I am trying not to make out with my spoon, when there’s a knock at the door.” (page 62) 

I’ve been reading lots of books by John Connolly recently.  The first one I read was his last one published, and I chanced upon it while looking through the new arrivals section of my library.  It’s called The Gates, and it is really delightful.  It’s about a boy and his dog in an English village who battle demons escaping from the gates of hell in a neighbor’s basement.  I know that sounds horrific, but think  Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Shaun of the Dead, and you’ll get a better idea of how much fun this book is.  Hoping for more of the same, I went back to read Connolly’s earlier works.  His first book, Every Dead Thing, couldn’t be more different from The Gates.  I’m not saying it was a bad book, but I’m pretty sure it had the highest body count of any book I’ve ever read.  Now, that’s not counting books where there’s a plague or a natural disaster or the Apocalypse.  I’m talking page by page, person by person, methodical slaughter.  After the first hundred pages, I decided to disengage from all the characters but the main fellow, since it wasn’t likely anybody else would survive the book.  Will I read more Connolly?  Sure, but with all the lights on and the door locked.

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