Saturday, January 07, 2012

One Year Ends, Another Begins

I’ve been remiss at keeping this blog updated over the holidays. The end of the Buffy Rewatch took up a lot of time, and then there was turkey… and more turkey… and more turkey… and more turkey (yes, four turkey dinners)… and Pizza Hut (that was the Christmas dinner that I hosted, ha!) And then, as I’ve mentioned on my FB page and on here, I’m preparing for a talk at Wesleyan University in Nebraska at the end of January on Twilight, so I spent a lot of the holidays reading those books. My comments to come on all of that post-discussion, which I’m actually really looking forward to.

But as usual, I’m hoping to contribute more to this blog this year, mostly because I don’t have new Lost episodes or a Buffy Rewatch to keep you guys tuning in. The reviews and entries might be a little shorter (with kids getting older, I find they’re up later… no longer does my evening solitary time begin at 8) but I won’t forget you guys if you don’t forget me.

However, as usual I often say one thing and do another, so this blog post will be my usual lengthy rambling. This is my review of my favourite things this year.

Favourite Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It all started back in the summer when Tim, who comments here occasionally as Tim Alan and is on Facebook under another name, sent me a FB message and asked if I’d heard of this book. He told me I should check it out, because he’d just read it and thought I’d really like it. I began seeing it in stores and I picked it up a few times, but I didn’t have time to read it until the fall. And then I read it like a fiend.

Ready Player One is set in the not-so-distant future of 2040. Just thirty years ahead of us, it’s enough to make you think, “That’s not so far out… I could see the world moving in the direction Cline suggests” but far enough that you also think, “Oh my god, I’m going to be HOW OLD in 2040?!” Sigh. In this future, we’ve all moved from social networking and RPGs to the OASIS, which is what the playground of the internet is now called. But it’s more than just the internet – it’s an entirely immersive experience, where people suit up with virtual reality goggles and suits and can feel physical blows and see other people. The world has become so vastly overpopulated that people now stay at home (in tiny apartments or trailer parks, where the trailers are literally stacked a couple of dozen cars high) and go to work, attend school, and the amenities that we currently enjoy all exist only virtually, with human beings jacking in to an OASIS that consists of hundreds of planets and limitless possibility.

The OASIS was created by James Halliday, a Bill Gates type who is worth billions when he dies. Turns out he’s only a year older than I am, and a huge fan of 80s pop culture. And the moment he dies, a message goes out everywhere on the OASIS: that he’s left behind no heirs, and instead has hidden three easter eggs somewhere on the OASIS, and whoever finds all the easter eggs first will inherit his fortune, worth about $360 billion.

The key to finding them? You have to know everything a kid in the 1980s would know. EVERYTHING about it. You have to know how to play Pac-man to the last level; you have to be able to quote Monty Python’s Holy Grail (FINALLY… all my hours of learning it were worth something, I thought to myself, forgetting I wasn’t actually IN THE BOOK).

What follows is a race against time, seen mostly through the eyes of the guy who finds the first easter egg (he reveals himself as such on the first couple of pages, so I’m not spoiling anything here), and the novel is as fast-paced as the top level of Space Invaders. There were videogames in there that I wasn’t familiar with, but my husband, only two years older than I, knew all of them. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, and was begging my eyes and brain to GO FASTER because I needed to keep up. It…. is… AMAZING. I have recommended this book to countless people, and now I recommend it to you. Go here to get a copy from Amazon. If you spent way too many hours playing Centipede in the basement, and thought Alex P. Keaton was dorky and Duran Duran videos were the shit, this book is for you.

Favourite movies: The Descendants and Hugo
I saw both of these films over the Christmas break, and was astounded by both of them, for different reasons.

I’ve always been a fan of Alexander Payne films: About Schmidt and Election are two of my all-time favourite movies. I tend to think of him as tackling serious issues in our lives, but in a humorous way. The Descendants was no exception… well, for the serious part anyway. Don’t go to this movie if you’re looking for Payne’s trademark funny, because while it is there in dribs and drabs, it’s a really heartbreaking film. This is a movie about a man (George Clooney) whose wife has been in a boating accident and is now in a coma. Because he’s always been a hard worker who hasn’t been around much, he now has to collect up his broken family (a younger daughter who is sassy and hilarious, and an older daughter who’s in a special boarding school after various drug and alcohol problems) and bring them to see their mother, who probably won’t last much longer. And then… he discovers that his wife had been having an affair and was planning to leave him, and thus begins the mystery caper where he must find out WHO she was sleeping with, and more importantly to him, WHY. But the second part can only come from his wife, and she’s not exactly available right now. In addition to that madness, Clooney’s character is part of one of the founding families of the area (hence the title of the film) and they’re being forced to decide what to do with a large piece of land that’s been in the family trust for years, and Clooney is the decision-maker who must choose whether to sell the land or keep it, with his great-grandparents’ legacy hanging in the balance. What follows is an emotional rollercoaster, which isn’t as depressing as it sounds (it never is in Payne’s hands) but will still elicit tears from you by the end. And it’s all set against a backdrop of Hawaii, but not the Hawaii we’re used to seeing in Lost or Hawaii Five-0… this is the residential area of Hawaii, which you almost never see in film, and it’s gorgeous. I’ve never wanted to live in Hawaii as much as I did when I saw this movie. This is the movie with the best performances of the year.

The most magical film I saw this year is Hugo. I was talking to my friend Richard Crouse yesterday, who is a film critic here in Canada (for NewsTalk 1010 and Canada AM) and he and I both agreed that this film is extraordinary and had a trailer that really let it down. I went into this thinking it was a movie about a little boy who was hiding in a train station and had a mechanical toy named Hugo. In fact, it’s about a little boy named Hugo who runs the clocks in the Montparnasse train station in Paris, who has inherited an automaton that doesn’t work. When he steals from a man who runs the toy shop in the station, the man takes Hugo’s diary, which has sketchings of the automaton, and the look on the man’s face indicates he’s seeing a ghost from the past. Why is the man so shaken by the sketches? What did he just see and why did it upset him so much? THAT is what the rest of this movie is about.

Without giving away the rest of the film, this is a tribute to the earliest silent films, when moving pictures were magic in a way that today’s society can’t appreciate. There was a time when a moving picture of a train hurtling toward the viewer was enough to make people dive under their seats in fear that they were going to be run over. Now even the most spectacular special effects can make people yawn and ask for more. We need 3-D to make us happy, apparently, and we go to films not for the magical element of it, but for the storytelling and acting. Hugo takes you back to the films of one particular director, who was a pioneer when it came to ushering us to our seats and unveiling a world of wonder before our eyes. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous film (some of the cityscapes of Paris will take your breath away, and I have no words for how thrilled I was when the boy was running through the clocks – I wanted to go live there), and I want to go back and see it again. I sat in the theatre with my 7-year-old daughter, and both of us were as transfixed and caught up in the magic as if it were 1896 and we could see a train hurtling towards us on the screen for the very first time.

Biggest Movie Disappointment: The Muppets
Don’t yell at me. I was actually hesitant to write this, and didn’t say anything at the time, but I was really disappointed in The Muppets. I love them. I love everything about them. I was DYING to see this movie and went the day it opened with my kids. My four-year-old asked me when we could go about 30 minutes in. My seven-year-old liked it. But the premise is this: Everyone has forgotten about the Muppets, and they’ve split up and gone to live separate lives and have even forgotten each other. What?! That’s not what the Muppets are all about. Now, I know my view is not a popular one. A friend disagreed with me and said someone she knew was born in the mid-80s, and had no clue who the Muppets were, and that that’s probably pretty typical. I don’t know if that’s the case (what about Sesame Street – which features Kermit – wasn’t Tickle-Me-Elmo the omnipresent toy through the 90s? Or the Christmas specials, or Muppets Tonight, or the ongoing YouTube Muppet parodies… I mean, are these people living in caves if they don’t know who the Muppets are?) To me, that’s like saying, “Gee, I wonder what Mickey Mouse is up to these days? Haven’t heard from him in years…”

But more importantly than us remembering the Muppets are them remembering each other. Would Kermit really live in a decaying mansion and have Fozzie Bear living in an alleyway? Miss Piggy and Kermit were married, last time I checked, but that’s never stated outright in the film (instead they show a wedding photo ripped in half as the subtle reminder they were once Mr and Mrs Piggy) and she now lives in Paris in a Devil Wears Prada parody (complete with Emily Blunt as the receptionist) and hasn’t spoken to any of the others. Gonzo is too stuck up to speak to anyone anymore, Sweetums is back at the car dealership where he started in The Muppet Movie, etc. etc. It just, I don’t know… hurt to think my beloved Muppets would treat each other like that. (To which my movie critic friend said, “You, um… know they’re not real, right?”) ;)

I went out with a friend of mine who also disliked the movie immensely (and he loves the Muppets as much as I do) and I asked him if he thought Miss Piggy’s voice sounded weird, and he said it did, because Frank Oz didn’t do it. I said, “What? He DIED?!” He said no, he didn’t, but he read the script and said this wasn’t true to what the Muppets were all about, and refused to participate. So, I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way.

That said, there are definitely great things in the movie. Unfortunately, it’s when the Muppets decide to mount their own fundraising show, and we see rehashes of Muppet sketches, and they sing the songs from The Muppet Movie. Apparently the best things about this movie are retreads from what the Muppets already did best. BUT, while I would argue that no original song from this movie is as good as “The Rainbow Connection” (which they do here again, and which will still bring you to tears) my daughter was in her room the next day and as I walked by I heard her singing, “Am I a Muppet, or am I a man?” so clearly they had an impact on her. Who knows… maybe my parents thought The Muppet Movie was crap (actually, I know they didn’t, but let’s just be theoretical) and I just don’t see this the same way. But if you’ve seen their YouTube parodies of The Green Lantern and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailers, or seen them do “Bohemian Rhapsody” or any number of songs, you realize they are capable of sheer brilliance. And this movie has very little of that. (Though, watch for a moment where a barbershop quartet sings “Smells Like Teen Spirit”… in that moment, I had a lot of hope for the future of The Muppets.)

Favourite Ongoing TV Show: Breaking Bad
You already know why I think this. In my review of Breaking Bad’s stunning season 4, I talked about how this show is one of those things where you feel like it’s YOUR show, that it’s talking directly to you. It has the best ensemble cast on television right now, and I think in every episode (or at least every other episode), there’s a scene that is so sublime you realize you were holding your breath throughout. The suspense is painful at times, the actions the characters take are never predictable, and the series is basically the journey of one man’s descent into the Dark Side, and the people around him who are forced to either follow him down, or get left behind. Season 5 is going to be 16 episodes (jury’s still out on whether it’ll be in one long go or split into two) and I cannot wait.

Favourite New Show: Homeland
Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought it might be Once Upon a Time. I love OUAT but Homeland is that special kind of show that, like Breaking Bad, has you glued to your seat, wondering what the writers could possibly throw at you this week. This is a show about a CIA agent, Carrie (Claire Danes), who has some mental health issues – you see her popping pills throughout the season – and who has never forgiven herself for missing something before 9/11 and allowing those events to transpire. An American POW in Iraq, Brody (Damien Lewis from Life), has just been discovered alive after 8 years, and he’s coming home. Carrie is convinced he has been turned and will be a traitor to the country, despite the protestations of her mentor and protector, Saul (Mandy Patinkin). Danes is phenomenal. NO ONE has given a performance like her this year, not Bryan Cranston, not anyone. They need to invent a new award just for her and give it to her. She is mesmerizing in every frame, and in the last two episodes she will actually make you forget about every scene she’d done beforehand. Damien Lewis is the perfect mouse to her cat (or is it the other way around?) and the way they play off each other in every scene will have you on the edge of your seat.

Is Brody a traitor? Is Carrie crazy? Is Saul so used to Carrie’s erratic behavior that he’s missing obvious things? I don’t want to say too much because I want you to check out this show and be as amazed and surprised as I was in every scene, but I will say that what eventually unfolds made me shocked that a show like this would ever be okayed for American television. Homeland is astounding, and if you’re not watching it, find a way to do so. It won’t disappoint.

Least-Favourite Television Event of the Year: The finale of The Killing
Oh COME ON. Seriously? Bah. They promised that we’d find out who the killer was at the end of the season, then backpedalled when they imagined they could pull in more viewers to S2 if they didn’t reveal it. You know what? I loved this show until you did that. Sure, it had its issues (I hate a show that is so covered in red herrings and wrong pathways in a single season that you feel like you were constantly so misled the main plot no longer interests you) but I was going to follow through. Now you can have S2 without me. I’m outta here.

Biggest TV Disappointment: Dexter
I haven’t even finished the most recent season, but I’m just SO bored with this season of Dexter, and that’s coming from someone who loved this show SO MUCH I was actually involved in a bid a couple of years ago to do the show’s official book. Thank god they ran out of steam before going ahead with it, because I’d hate to have to do it now. There’s an episode where Dexter drives around with his brother and dad in the car that was abysmal. Just terrible. And knowing the behind-the-scenes drama (that Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall have split because he was allegedly unfaithful, leading to such hostility that most of their scenes are filmed apart or over a phone) has become really distracting. The storyline is lame, Colin Hanks is terrible (seriously, the guy was really good on Roswell but if I were his dad, I’d be asking him to use another surname), and James Edward Olmos is the most annoying villain yet. It’s just gory for gory’s sake, and I’m tired of it.

Biggest TV Pleasant Surprise: Boardwalk Empire
I really enjoyed S1 of Boardwalk Empire but season 2 is jaw-droppingly good. If not disturbing (who can watch a scene where a mother tells her son that when he was a baby and she’d change his diaper she would “kiss his winkie” and not be haunted by that line for the rest of the season?!) But the various storylines were great and characters that were interesting in the first season are astonishing now. Unfortunately, stupid EW spoiled me for the huge surprise in the S2 finale only a week after it had actually happened, and since I watched all of S2 over the holiday, I knew what was coming right from the beginning. But it actually created more suspense for me, and I noticed things I might not have noticed just by waiting for this monumental event to happen.

Biggest TV Shock EVER: Game of Thrones
You know the scene I mean. You remember how I reacted. Holy. Crap. I still haven’t recovered from that. Here’s hoping George RR Martin has more wicked surprises up his sleeve.

Favourite TV Comic Episode: “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” on Community
I might be wrong; it’s possible this was from last year, but I saw it this year. This is HYSTERICALLY funny, especially in the open when a voiceover sets up every character as if they’re about to go into an epic battle. The game play had me in stitches from beginning to end.

Things I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2012:
The Hunger Games movie
• The return of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad
Alcatraz (starts January 16… set those PVRs!)
• The Joss Whedon Triple Threat: Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, and Much Ado About Nothing
• The Slayage conference in Vancouver (I hope some of the Rewatchers join us!)
The Dark Knight Rises

OK, your turn. What are your favourite things from 2011?


Annie said...

I'm glad you've been enjoying Homeland! It was my favorite show on TV this fall, I'm already anxious for it to return again next fall.

I thought the first half of Dexter was pretty weak this season, but it picked up for me towards the end. Still not the strongest season ever, but I enjoyed it. Some of the seasons (Trinity Killer & Ice Truck Killer) have been a little too intense for me, so I appreciated this season being less scary- but I know a lot of people would disagree with me. The cliffhanger at the end of the most recent episode has me very anxious for the next season!

Dusk said...

I don't have as many things to say, off the top of my head:

Best comedy episode: The Big Bang Thery, Love Car Displacement" I know a good fraction of the fans have had issues with it ever since Bernadette and Amy have joined the main cast, and I agree S4 had balancing issues (still somewhat in S5 so far too, imo), but this episode featured a good mix of all 7 people, and the confrence at the end had me struggling to breathe. You know things are awesome when Sheldon looks like the normal one!

Comedy complaint: Honestly, will the writers of TBBT please, please, please, let Raj talk to women sober now? Being constantly drunk has become unfunny, even sad, the whispering gag is tired, and Raj is very limited on what he can do now that 2 new girls are in it.

Also, I wish they would stop with Amy's hitting on Penny, it werids Penny out, it's not funny like Raj and Howard who were ignorant of the implications of their behaviour, unless Leonard's Mom pointed it out.

Movie: End of an era, Harry Potter. I know many say it's not as good as the books, but this movie was stil epic. I know some stuff they probably couldn't have gotten away with (ie Neville on fire) but I actually liked the movie end of Bellatrix better then the book. And when you look at the movies as a whole, you know why this franchise will likley stand the test of time, in both film and word.

Also I must say Jim Beaver did outstanding work in "Death's Door" on Supernatural. I know many fans feel it's not the same after S5, but this episode was a wonderful tribute to Bobby.

Page48 said...

2011 stuff:

I'm so looking forward to seeing "Hugo". And, hey, it co-stars Hit Girl, so that's like bonus points.

Also looking forward to seeing MI4, and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". If it has spies, I'm in.

"Homeland" definitely best new show this fall. A hero biscuit for Carrie Mathison.

Best Christmas Special: "The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe".

Fun Movies: "Super 8", "Hanna", "Cowboys & Aliens"

Disappointments: "Terra Nova", "Contagion", "Grimm", "Torchwood: Miracle Day" (let me down , why don't ya?)

2012 stuff:

Source of Sadness: "Chuck" heading for the finish line in 3 weeks

Eagerly Anticipated: "Alcatraz", "Touch", "Missing" (although the one review I've seen is unflattering);

WTF?: A Bourne movie ("The Bourne Legacy") without Bourne.

Dreading: "bye-bye Pond"

Gillian Whitfield said...

Best book of 2011: Stolen by Lucy Christopher. It's imaginative and haunting. And it's so different from everything else in the Y/A section of Chapters. I love it, and it's one of my favourites.

Best film of 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows P2/Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The first one is a giveaway (although, I've never cried so much in a movie theatre in my life, but then again, Beauty and the Beast is coming next week). Sherlock Holmes surprised me, though. Don't get me wrong, I ADORED the first one, but usually sequels like this are terrible. Game of Shadows was amazing.

Film disappointment of 2011: Super 8. Don't yell at me. Usually I like J.J. Abrams films. But this one was more of a guy's movie, and the plot was terrible. I just wasn't feeling it.

Best TV show of 2011: Once Upon a Time/House/Bones. The first one is a brand new show. The other two, I started watching from the beginning in 2011. Bones I just started a few days before Christmas, and I just finished season 2 last night. House, I started AROUND New Years. My New Year's Eve in 2010-2011, consisted of watching House, and going to bed at 8:45, and being miserable about being as sick as I was.

TV Disappointment: Terra Nova. I watched the Pilot back in September, and at the end of it, my granddad (my parents were in Italy at the time) and I looked at each other with the same expression: Huh?

Most Shocking/Exciting Moment: (Unexpectedly) Getting a Wii console for Christmas.

2012 Stuff:

-The Hobbit
-The Dark Knight Rises
-Jack the Giant Killer
-The Hobbit
-The Avengers
-Jason Mraz's new album, whenever the heck it's coming out
-The Hunger Games
-Snow White and the Huntsman
-Did I mention The Hobbit? ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nikki - thanks for the shout out! I didn't watch S2 of Boardwalk Empire because I thought S1 was just average. I'll have to check it out even though of course I know the big ending as well.

Also, I'm currently reading the Rachel Morgan series from Kim Harrison. I'm into Book 4 now and it's really good. Not sure if you're aware of them but if not check it out if you have time.

Also, if you haven't seen it watch Happy Endings on ABC - it's great!

Still hoping for a The Wire rewatch!

-Tim Alan

The Question Mark said...

I saw "Ready Player One" in a bookstore and it looked pretty neat. I've been working on a piece of fiction about video games, so this caught my eye.
But video games AND 80s pop culture references?!!?
I'm officially in love. I am buying that book.

Hmm, let's see, then, what was on my best-of list for 2011?

-Once Upon A Time
-Terra Nova
-Harry Potter 7.5
-X-Men First Class
-Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which might be my contender for best movie of the year)
-Mission Impossible 4
-Assassin's Creed Revelations (quite possible THE coolest video game series of all time. Seriously, if you love LOST, sci-fi, and/or historical fiction, PLAY THESE)
-Captain America
-Boardwalk Empire Season 2
-Ringer (I thought it was pretty decent)
-Inheritance (if anyone hasn't read Christopher Paolini's Inheritance novels, I'd recommend them. They're basic, run-of-the-mill fantasy stuff, but they're pretty darn entertaining, and he wrote the first one when he was only 16 years old!)
-Batman: Arkham City

2012 looks pretty promising! Nikki, I had no idea Joss was making "Much Ado About Nothing", although I am already psyched for it, as well as his other two films!
So, as far as 2012, is concerned, I can't wait for:

-The Avengers/Cabin/Ado
-The Dark Knight Rises
-Assassin's Creed III (if it's set in Revolution-era Paris I think I might explode with happiness)
-Game of Thrones Season 2
-A Song of Ice & Fire: Book 6 (if it comes out this year, I have no idea)
-The Expendables 2
-Taken 2 (watch "Taken" with Liam Neeson if you like satisfying action movies that leave you cheering and fist-pumping for the hero)
-the rest of Fringe Season 4
-Mass Effect 3
-Harry Pot...oh, wait...never mind :(

Page48 said...

Most memorable line of 2011, IMO, comes from Carrie Mathison. I love this girl.

Other stuff I'm looking forward to in 2012:

"Haywire" (like Sydney Bristow coming after Sloane)

"Safehouse" with Denzel.

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" with Bruce (my cholesterol's a little high) Willis and Adrianne (I was THAT close to being Wonder Woman) Palicki, who is just straight up gorgeous

"Prometheus" with Damon Lindelof and the REAL girl with the dragon tattoo

And, of course, the aforementioned "The Dark Knight Rises", CITW, "The Avengers", "The Hunger Games", "Jack the Giant Killer", "Taken" sequel.

I could never get interested in "Harry Potter" or LOTR (so "The Hobbit" is quite likely wasted on me)

Batcabbage said...

Howdy y'all! Here's mine:

Best Show (Overall) 2011: Boardwalk Empire. Sheer brilliance. And screw EW for spoiling you, Nik!

Best Comedy 2011: Episodes. Matt LeBlanc is utterly hilarious. More people should watch this show, if only to see Fran from Black Books in something else.

Biggest shock: Supernatural. I'm not gonna say anything about this, just that I was shocked. SHOCKED, I TELL YOU! And not just by the fact that I still like it after six seasons. I wanna be Dean when I grow up.

Most addicted to: Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes rules. Can't wait for season 3.

Biggest disappointment: That Once Upon A Time got made instead of Fables. Ah well. I can dream. Also that The Office hasn't realised it hasn't been funny for over a year. Please, just give up.

Best new show: Game of Thrones. I'm addicted. I ordered all four books after the first two episodes and finished them all by the end of the series. Then got the fifth, finished it in a week. BRILLIANT. Write faster, Mr RR Martin!! After GoT, my other new fave was Hell on Wheels, which I know has gotten some flack, but I don't care. I love me some western. It ain't no Deadwood, but there's guns and horses. Yeeha!

What I'm looking forward to in 2012:

Game of Thrones
Downton Abbey
Boardwalk Empire
The Avengers

and most of all, because you really can do this if you're a billionaire and trained by ninjas and Liam Neeson,

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES!!!! He will, too, you know. He's THE GOD DAMNED BATMAN!!!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I've got to disagree with The Muppets, which is a huge love letter to them. The voices bothered me, and I was prepared to hate it as much as I do Abrams' 'Star Trek', but I didn't. I've actually seen it twice, once with friends and once with my grandkids.

I'm also disagreeing about Dexter, because I thought the idea of him tangling with faith and spirituality was fascinating.

I will heartily agree about Hugo, because it's a wonderful film.

I just watched the Bomb Girls pilot, and I think that will be a keeper for me.

I was disappointed in the DW special. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. I found it very derivative.

I enjoyed Shahrukh Khan's two new movies immensely - Ra. One and Don 2. Who is he? The biggest movie star in the world. I love him to pieces.

Efthymia said...

I never really make any lists, and I apparently need to do another Master's so that I can procrastinate again by watching TV shows, because I haven't been watching many new shows since I finished my postgraduate studies -it has mostly been BtVS rewatches: with my sister, the Great Buffy Rewatch, recently with a couple of friends... (Still, I don't regret a single one of them.)

Since music has barely been mentioned, I'll say that what made me happy in 2011 was Kasabian's "Velociraptor", and I hope that 2012 brings less teasing and more real material by Blur and Garbage.

Ooh, I just remembered: Best Book I read in 2011 - "Finding LOST, Season 6" by Nikki Stafford! (It took a looong time for me to be emotionally ready to read it, but it was of course awesome.)

Batcabbage said...

@redeem/colleen: Ah, thank you for reminding me! I was also disappointed with the Dr Who xmas special. I liked Bill Bailey and Arabella from The Fast Show (does my bum look big in this?), but apart from that it was forgettable. Actually, I really didn't like the entire sixth series. The one episode that was great, and not just 'OK', was 'The Doctors' Wife', and probably because it was written by that god among writers, Neil Gaiman. Also, the Doctors' wife was Karen from Coronation Street! (I love British soaps. I'm not ashamed. They like Neighbours and Home and Away, I can like Coro and Emmerdale! :) Apart from that episode, I didn't really like season 6 at all.

Also, I have to agree with you (redeem, again) about Dexter season 6. I loved it. I liked the way it was handled, and I really liked Mos Def. I hope he gets cast in more shows, he was great. And the ending just had me wishing season 7 started immediately.

yourblindspot said...

What? No music? Must've just slipped your mind, right? ;)

I thought 2011 was an amazing year for media. 'Ready Player One' had me up until 2am that night finishing it (amazing book), but I also loved Jennifer Egan's 'A Visit From the Goon Squad' and Karen Russell's 'Swamplandia!' and Jonathan Lethem's 'The Ecstasy of Influence' and Felix Palma's 'The Map of Time' and Patrick deWitt's 'The Sisters Brothers' all enough to read them twice (also read the new Murakami, the last David Foster Wallace, and a great book about horror movies by Jason Zinoman called 'Shock Value.')

Like most years, my movie viewing was largely of older titles with which I hadn't yet caught up, but I did manage to see some great first-run stuff this year as well. The best of them were 'Attack The Block' (the most fun), 'Melancholia' (the most thought-provoking) and '13 Assassins' (the most ass-kicky) with an honorable mention to 'Blackthorn' for giving me my western fix in style.

TV? 'Breaking Bad' was unbeatable this year, but I also adored the spectacular second seasons of both 'Louie' and 'Justified.' [We shall not speak of 'The Killing' (aka 'Woe, Those Wasted Hours'). It is already raining here today, and that is reminder enough.] My personal tv-related highlight, however, would have to be the time spent sharing a stage with the lovely and talented Miss Stafford reviewing 'The Walking Dead' on this very site.

My favorite albums from the past year are probably Emperor X's 'Western Teleport,' Apparat's 'The Devil's Walk' and Tom Vek's 'Leisure Seizure,' but there are far too many individual songs to mention; I tried putting together a playlist of my favorite songs of the year, and the first pull was eight and a half hours long, so evidently I'm not great at narrowing it down. Either that, or the year was just an embarrassment of riches.

Zach said...

So my favorite TV of 2011 would be Breaking Bad, Community, Game of Thrones, Parks and Rec, Louis, Wilfred, Homeland, Californication, Walking Dead...oh and I can't believe I enjoyed this much Television without having Lost around.

Movies 50/50 really blew me away with how much heart and how inspiring a story it was other than that I would say my fanboyness for comics took the rest as Thor, Captain America, and X-men did not disappoint. Plus Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of the best book to movie translations I have ever seen.

For music I go into alot more detail on my little old music blog at

Books Dance of Dragons, Ghost Story(part of a book series called the Dresden Files that are crazy addicting good) and the first Hunger Games still need to read the next 2.

What I am looking forward to most in TV easily the second season of Throne Game.

Movies Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers.

Books the last Micheal Crichton RIP book Micro which I know came out in 2011 but I just picked it up and the next book in the Dresden Files.

And music is the new albums by Cursive and Murder by Death plus lots of local LA music. Oh and the possibility of a new At The Drive-In for the first time in 11 years...

Nikki Stafford said...

yourblindspot: You know, I thought about adding music but my listening tastes this year were lame -- well, not lame, but not new. It was a lot of retro and older albums on my stereo. But upon further thought, I'd say my favourite new disc was The Pains of Being Pure at Heart album. Brilliant throwback to everything I loved about the 90s. So, retro, but new. ;)

Ensley F. Guffey said...

Okay, I'll throw in my two cents:

2011 in Review

Favorite Ongoing TV Show: Breaking Bad, natch! BB is the reason more and more critics are saying that today TV is better than the movies. Incredible writing, acting, cinematography, music, etc, etc. The best thing on TV. Someone should write a guide... oh wait! someone already is! *cough* shamelessselfpromotion *cough*

Best New Show: I'm going with Grimm. With Whedon vets David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf at the helm, the show is really delivering an excellent hybrid of police drama /fantasy/horror, with a through-line of fantastic humor and a real breakout actor in Silas Weir Mitchell. Nice to have new Tv to look forward to on a Friday night.

Show With Most Potential: Alphas. A SyFy series starring David Strathairn following the adventures of a group of super-powered folks loosely associated with the US government, and each of whom pays for his/her power with a disability. There really is a lot of promise here, and there are two more breakouts who's screen chemistry is hilarious: Ryan Cartwright (a Bones alum), and Malik Yoba. However, the current romantic sub-plot tends to bring things to a screeching halt every time the beautiful people are on screen together, and one of the most interesting villians I've ever seen, the severely apraxic linguistic genius Anna, has apparently been kille doff in favor of a much more traditional Big Bad. Still, I was impressed enough that I'll be tuning in in 2012 for season 2.

Best New-To-Me Show: Justified. Oh sure I'm an Oliphant fan from way back but somehow missed this wonderful show when it debuted in 2009, but now I'm completely hooked. It doesn;t hurt that season 1 featured a guest appearance by Oliphant's fellow Deadwood alum W. Earl Brown. Season two should be in my hands tomorrow or Thursday, and I can't wait! Got to get caught up for season 3's premiere January 17th!

Best New Movie You know, I really dug Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Just a surprisingly well-done, moving flick, with CGI good enough that I forgot it was CGI, and Caesar's "No!"... fan-frakking-tastic! (on a side note, if you're going to inject a chimp with a serum to increase his intellect, name him something like Caspar Milquetoast. Not Caesar. Seriously, you didn't see trouble coming from a super-intelligent primate named Caesar? This is why ancient history should be required in school.)

Biggest TV Disappointment Hell on Wheels. Wow, AMC. Just -- Wow. You might have wanted Deadwood for basic cable, but what you got was... bad. Really, really bad.

Best Book: always a hard one for me, but I'm going to go with a bargain bin find called <a href="><i>The Last Samurai</i></a> by Helen DeWitt. A fascinating read that centers around the mysteries of linguistics, a brilliant single mom, her polymathic prodigy of a son, and Akira Kurosawa's <i>The Seven Samurai</i>. Buy this book!

Okay, that's it for me. Time for bed and then class tomorrow. Thanks for sharing everyone, and, as always, thanks for the forum, Nikki!

Batcabbage said...

I know that I'm commenting a bit late on this column now, but I have to thank you, Nikki, for mentioning Homeland. There has been ads here in Australia,(it starts in about 2 weeks. Unless you're a cooking show starring an average moron, or a dancing show starring an average star, or any kind of unscripted reality effing dross, you get pushed back - like a year or so - in Australia's TV schedule. Yes, I'm bitter about it. F**k Australian TV!!!), and I saw on this column it was Nikki's favourite new show, so I decided to check it out. By time traveling into the future, to watch it legally on Australian TV, of course. Because I can do that. I just finished the season finale. Holy shit. Everyone must watch this show. It's brilliant. I can't even describe it. Claire Daines better win a golden globe for this thing. I change my answer from before. THIS is my favourite new show for 2011. Nikki's right, Claire Danes has done given (I just spelled her last name differently, didn't I? Beer, eh. Oh well) the performance of the year. And she's not the only person in the show that performs above and beyond what you'd expect from a TV show. Mandy Patinkin is just incredible (although, I can never see him without hearing 'You killed my father. Prepard to die!'), Damien Lewis is amazing - just everyone in the show is unreal. Even the kids - which is amazing for me, because a lot of the time, kids in shows just don't act that well, and it totally takes me out of the narrative, the suspension of disbelief. Not this show.

I encourage everyone who reads this site to check this show out - you'll be amazed. Thanks so much for recommending it, Nik!!!

Batcabbage said...

I would just like to clarify something: I never meant to write 'done given' in my previous comment, no matter how much it makes me laugh reading it back. It's a combination of two sentences, one which replaced another, without taking out the word 'done'. I am amused by it, though. That is all. :)

Andy said...

Favorite things from 2011:
1. Fringe--brilliant and incredible, especially tonight's episode, return of second half of fourth season!
2. Burn Notice, best spy-action show on TV!
3. Mumford and Sons, "Sigh No More"
4. The Black Keys "El Camino"
5. Discovering The Big Bang Theory and watching the first four seasons in syndication and looking forward to catching up on fifth season.
6. Moneyball
7. The Help
8. Wrapping up Chuck...waned in popularity in the last season or two and over-the-top and cheesy at times but still a fun show, nice throwback to 80s TV classics like MacG, A-Team, Knight Rider and 70s-80s nostalgia, Pac-Man and Centipede video games, Star Wars, guest spots from action-adventure-sci-fi icons: Scott Bakula, Brandon Routh, Linda Hamilton, Timothy Dalton, Stan Lee, Chevy Chase and Catherine Moss. Hysterical and dramatic situations with a lot of action and surprise.
9. End of Harry Potter, nuff said
10. Stephen King's 11/22/63, incredible book
11. Super 8, can JJ Abrahms ever be wrong? (Okay Undercovers was a dud)
12. The New Girl, best new comedy on TV! Hysterical!

Andy said...

Things to Look Forward to in 2012:

The Dark Knight Rises
The Avengers
Catching up on Once Upon A Time
New Summer Season of Burn Notice
A new Season of Fringe?
Becoming hooked on the shows "Alcatraz" and "Awake" the latter coming to NBC...looks incredible!

kamagra said...

A Game of Thrones is the first installment of the best fantasy series I've read so far.