Posts Tagged ‘Best of’

Best of 2008! The Readers Weigh In

January 2, 2009

ribbonWell, the quantity of responses was a little disappointing, I admit. BUT the quality of the responses was anything but.  Each response I got for the “Best of” categories listed warranted either an immediate “Oh, yeah” or an “Ooh, I have to check that out” from me. So kudos to the respondents who were nice enough to participate.

And now, the list:

Best Fiction:

Bestseller by Keith Latch: A horror novel in e-book form, this was an area of unplumbed depths for me. Thanks for eBookguru for the recommendation.

The A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin: This recommendation for this epic fantasy series also comes from eBookguru.

Best Non-Fiction:

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin: Although technically published in 2006, reader Jill read it in 2008 and loved it. I also read it in 2008 and was utterly blown away by the story, uncomplicatedly told, of Greg Mortenson’s journey from mountain climber to advocate for promoting girls’ education and literacy through his Central Asia Institute organization.

Best Music:

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – David Byrne and Brian Eno. Reader Pam sums it up when she calls it “some yummy, brainy, infectious popaliciousness!”

Best Movies:

WALL-E (story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon): eBookguru thought this was one of the best films of 2008, and I have to agree. How does a film with so few words qualify as great writing? From the story, which transcended time and genre to transport kids and grown-ups alike.

Rachel Getting Married (screenplay by Jenny Lumet): Reader Jill voted for this film as one of the year’s best, because “I loved the characters who play against type.”

Now, for all you readers who perhaps partook of a little too much eggnog or were busy having family time, and didn’t get the chance to put your two cents worth in, I will still accept your recommendations! It is never too late (unless of course you’re writing about something from 2009, in which case it will have to wait).

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WordHappy Reader “Best of 2008” List: Thinking Caps On

December 24, 2008

j0396070Now, you know and I know that these next few days are going to be a haze of wrapping paper and too much food. And no matter what holiday you celebrate, the fact remains that almost everything will be closed – and if you’re getting hammered with snow like much of the country – you don’t want to go out anyway.

So reflect – ponder, if you will – on your top-of-the-line choices for the best of 2008. What movies did you see that knocked your socks off? What music did you listen to and actually notice the words? What books did you read that made you stay up way past your bedtime? These are the things I want to hear about.

I will be taking your choices in the areas of:

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Television
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Other

The “Other” category is for anything else that gave you goosebumps that somehow isn’t included in the above. Please post a comment with your recommendations below. I’d love it if you’d forward this post to your friends as well, so we can get even more participation.

I’ll take comments up until December 31st. Then I’ll compile a list of everyone’s choices and make it the first WordHappy post of 2009!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and  Best wishes to you all!

All I Want for Christmas: Nifty Gift Ideas 2008

December 11, 2008

elkaAll I want for Christmas is world peace, an end to homelessness, some cute ankle boots that will fit over my high instep, and a really good 2009 television season.

But if you’re not shopping for me, and you need some tried-and-true gifts for people who know the power of words, I can help you out. Even better: most of these gifts fall in the $25 and under range. Disclaimer: I carry no affiliation with any shopping powerhouse like Amazon or Target or anyone, so I’m not going to include links to these places. You will have to do a little of that work yourself. Sorry.

BODACIOUSLY BRILLIANT BOOKS

The Likeness by Tana French: For mystery lovers, this is the jackpot. This is the book that makes you call in sick to work so you can read more of it. Cassie Maddox, a former undercover cop, gets thrown into the investigation of a woman’s death – a woman who bears the name of her old undercover identity and who could be her own twin. French is an outrageously good writer, and I could not find a false step in the intricate plotting of this novel.

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey: This book is for the armchair traveler with a taste for fabulous writing. The editors assigned writers of reputation with varied styles, such as Ann Patchett, Tony Bourdain, and Sarah Vowell to contribute essays on every state in the union. The result is a smorgasbord of delicious writing that gives a real sense to the place (not all of it complimentary, incidentally). I’m only a third through my copy; it must be read in small doses, like eating flourless chocolate cake. Are you hungry yet?

Run, by Ann Patchett: In a season that revolved around politics, this quiet novel managed to combine politics, family, and race in an enormously moving and engaging way. It may not be as showy as Patchett’s Bel Canto, but it may be her best work yet.

DIVINE DVDs

For the discerning couch potato in your life, you can’t go wrong with these picks:

Mad Men, Season One: Time travel back to the early 60s when advertising was king, and people smoked and patted women on the behind and never had a second thought about it.  It’s a mad trip, almost Shakespearean in its psychology, with Don Draper as its tortured Hamlet. Great writing with an obsession with detail makes this a must-see.

State of Play: This BBC miniseries aired in 2003, but the DVD was just released in 2008, so technically, it counts. And a darn fine thing, too, since this was great drama. The series follows journalists of The Herald as they try to uncover the story behind the death of a young political researcher who may have been involved with a high profile Labour MP. The plot crackles, and the acting by terrific performers like James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, John Simm, and Kelly Macdonald, makes this a drama that doesn’t leave your consciousness easily.

The Wire, The Complete Fifth Season: Since no one apparently watched this other than me and about 10 other people (yes, still bitter about that), what better way to catch up on the best series in the history of television – SERIOUSLY – than by picking up this DVD. Season Four was probably its best, but its fifth and last season still packs a powerful punch. Actually, DVD may be the ideal way to watch this series and really appreciate its attention to story and detail.

SINFULLY STUPENDOUS CDs

Finally, a few picks for the music lover:

Break Up the Concrete, The Pretenders: This CD is filled with songs you would swear that Chrissie Hynde wrote and recorded years ago, they have such a timeless classic feel. Add a driving beat and it’s a keeper.

Rattlin’ Bones, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson: Australian Kasey Chambers has been one of the most distinctive voices to emerge on the folk scene in many years. This latest CD, collaborated on with her husband Shane Nicholson, is an addicting listen.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

EW’s New Classics List: Back to the Vault I

June 25, 2008

For those of you who have gazed upon Entertainment Weekly‘s New Classics list – i.e. their version of the best things to hit us in the last twenty-five years – have you, like me, felt nostalgia to the point of embarrassment at gazing upon some of the movie and television picks now available only by DVD or box set?

Particularly the TV list. I don’t know about you, but I can get invested in a television series to the point of clinical pathology. I know far more details, for example, about the life of Lorelei Gilmore from Gilmore Girls (no. 32 on the EW list) than I do about my closest female friends. Sad, but true. So when a series that I have given of my time – and my heart (sob) – ends its run, I grieve. To see so many of my departed friends on the EW “New Classics: TV” list makes me happy to see my friends again, while at the same time miss them all over again.

One of the series I miss most acutely is number 36 on the list, thirtysomething. This series, created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, ran from 1987 to 1991, and listed a small band of terrific writers including Paul Haggis and Jerry Stahl. What made the series so unique for the time, and therefore utterly addictive to me, was that this was a show not about doctors or police or private detectives – things I was never likely to see in my own personal adulthood – but about couples and families and kids and friendship. Their issues of work stress, faithfulness, illness, and disappointment in the daily minutiae were challenges I could either already relate to or envision myself addressing at some point in the near future.

Throughout its four seasons, though their hair stayed totally 80s, the characters all developed in engaging and surprising ways, except for Gary (Peter Horton), who basically stayed a likable pig, and Michael’s boss Miles Drentell (David Clennon), who also remained unrepentently amoral. [Random cross-reference: When Peter Horton showed up as Sophie’s wayward dad in In Treatment (not on EW‘s list, much to my horror), I praised the casting and resurrection of a character who was, essentially, Gary; the episode was, not to my surprise, directed by. . . Gary’s old girlfriend, Melissa (i.e. Melanie Mayron)] And they all got to say the best lines. A few that I was able to find on the Internet:

“Sorry we can’t answer the phone, ’cause Nancy has cancer.” Elliot (Timothy Busfield) on the answering machine

“I always try to get complimentary cookies. In fact, these cookies are downright obsequious.” Ellyn (Polly Draper) to a caterer

“Michael and I had just come out of this awful movie and were walking, we couldn’t find the car. It as just starting to get dark and we were laughing about it, but we were getting tired. All of a sudden I – leaned on this car and looked at at him and I didn’t see him, I just – heard him, like a pressure and a sound inside of me, in a a place so deep I didn’t think anyone could ever reach..And I knew I could listen to that sound for the rest of my life… Hope (Mel Harris)

Michael, Hope, and the gang, I (for one) still miss you. Congrats on making EW‘s list.

List Heaven: EW’s Best of the Last 25 Years

June 23, 2008

Blue RibbonOh, Entertainment Weekly. Have you no shame? Must you toy with me so, publishing your “Best of” lists for movies, television, books, and music over the last twenty-five years? Do you not realize that I must now spend this week doing donuts down Memory Lane, writing about all the books, shows, and movies you’ve made me realize I must – MUST – write about on WordHappy or feel I have forever failed you all?

For today’s post, I will comment on their No. 1 picks. This does not, in my opinion, constitute a “spoiler,” since the lists are readily available for anyone to see on the EW website. But I did think about whether it was, so if anyone feels strongly about not seeing the number one picks, stop reading now.

No. 1 Movie: Pulp Fiction: Seen it. I’m sure there are other movies that I feel equally worthy of the number one title, but I can’t quibble too much. Particularly since the film, written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, has such a bonanza of quoteworthy dialogue (although strictly in an R-rated sense; trying to find a non-F-bomb quote for you all was rather a challenge):

Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros): I was looking at myself in the mirror.
Butch (Bruce Willis): Uh-huh?
Fabienne: I wish I had a pot.
Butch: You were lookin’ in the mirror and you wish you had some pot?
Fabienne: A pot. A pot belly. Pot bellies are sexy.
Butch: Well you should be happy, ’cause you do.
Fabienne: Shut up, Fatso! I don’t have a pot! I have a bit of a tummy, like Madonna when she did “Lucky Star,” it’s not the same thing.
Butch: I didn’t realize there was a difference between a tummy and a pot belly.
Fabienne: The difference is huge.
Butch: You want me to have a pot?
Fabienne: No. Pot bellies make a man look either oafish, or like a gorilla. But on a woman, a pot belly is very sexy. The rest of you is normal. Normal face, normal legs, normal hips, normal ass, but with a big, perfectly round pot belly. If I had one, I’d wear a tee-shirt two sizes too small to accentuate it.
Butch: You think guys would find that attractive?
Fabienne: I don’t give a damn what men find attractive. It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.

No. 1 Television Show: The Simpsons. Seen it. Now again, I could quibble. My choice would have been The Wire, which EW has down ALL the way at number 11. But, having been a fan of Marge and Homer and the gang for most of the three million years the series has been on, I can’t be too upset at the pick. There is a list of writing credits for the show as long as my arm, but since IMdb reports that James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon each have 420 episodes to their name, I’ll give them the lion’s share of the credit. From phrases that have entered the American iconography – “Mmmm, donuts” and “D’oh!” to name just two, to longer pieces of dialogue that have left me weeping with laughter, the writing on this show has never been mediocre, and has often been great. It’s not often you can say that about a show.

Bart: [after they watch a foreign film] I was so bored I cut the pony tail off the guy in front of us. [holds pony tail to his head] Look at me, I’m a grad student. I’m 30 years old and I made $600 last year.
Marge: Bart, don’t make fun of grad students. They’ve just made a terrible life choice.

Or. . .

Marge: Careful of that apple pie on the back seat…
Grampa: Uh-oh.
Marge: Grampa, are you sitting on the pie?
Grampa: I sure hope so.

No. 1 Book: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. As I just reviewed this book a couple months ago, I’m at peace with this choice as well. It’s brilliant and heartbreaking and accessible, and the upcoming movie will star Viggo Mortensen. Mmm, Viggo Mortensen.

Keep watching for further enlightening comments on the EW New Classics List. As I fall even further behind in real work that may pay me real money. Comme si, comme sa.