best books of 2008

2666.jpgI got a little lax this year and wasn’t bothered by some publications that couldn’t narrow their list down to a top ten, it’s always surprising how little agreement there is on top reads to start with. As usual I can’t chime in as I’m always too behind and too opposed to hardcover that I haven’t read any of these… (oh and these are fiction).

  • The Outlander by Gil Adamson – WA
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – BG, ST
  • Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan – EW, MC
  • The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert – EW
  • The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam – AC, BG
  • When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson – BG, T
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – MC, WA
  • The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry – BG
  • Peace by Richard Bausch – ST
  • 2666 by Roberto Bolaño – Am, NYT, T
  • The China Lover by Ian Buruma – ST
  • The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe – BG
  • Lost in Uttar Pradesh by Evan S. Connell – AC
  • Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas – KGB
  • So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger – Am
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – T
  • Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh – BG
  • I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass – KGB
  • Fall of Frost by Brain Hall – BG
  • The Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif – BG
  • The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon – Am
  • The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher – Am
  • The Expeditions by Karl Iagnemma – ST
  • The Night Following by Morag Joss – BG
  • When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale – BG
  • Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kishner – ST
  • World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler – AC
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri – KGB, MC, NYT
  • Lavinia by Ursula K LeGuin – AC
  • Disquiet by Julia Leigh – EW
  • The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon – BG
  • The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey – EW
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri – T
  • Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen – AC
  • The End of the World by Alistair McCartney – ST
  • Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser – NYT, ST
  • A Mercy by Toni Morrison – NYT, WA
  • What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn – BG
  • Netherland by Joseph O’Neill – Am, MC, NYT
  • Personal Days by Ed Park – T
  • Cleaver by Tim Parks – ST
  • To Siberia by Per Petterson – BG
  • Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock – Am
  • Lush Life by Richard Price – Am, EW, T
  • Serena by Ron Rash – Am
  • What Happened to Anna K by Irina Reyn – EW
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson – Am
  • Cost by Roxana Robinson – WA
  • Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong – AC
  • Indignation by Philip Roth – MC
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – T
  • Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw – EW 
  • The Size of the World by Joan Silber – ST
  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – EW, KGB, T
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson – T
  • Olive Kittenridge by Elizabeth Strout – EW
  • The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike – T
  • Lucky Billy by John Vernon – ST
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski – Am, EW

AC – Alan Cheuse/NPR, AM – Amazon, BG – Boston Globe, EW – Entertainment Weekly, KGB – Karen Grigsby Bates/NPR, MC – Maureen Corrigan/NPR, NYT – New York Times, ST – Seattle Times, T – Time, WA – Washington Post

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must-see movies of 2008

dark_knight.jpgLooking for something to see at the movies? We’re wrapping up the year and the critics and awards are happening so here’s what folks are saying is worth seeing. Winners or number ones are noted with an*. I’ll make some updates as new lists/awards are received. I shoot to do my own top ten list some time next year once I’ve actually seen some of these (movies seen to date are bolded).

  • Alexandra – MD
  • Appaloosa – PE
  • Ballast – ISA
  • The Bank Job – SK
  • Burn After Reading – EO, GG, NBR, OG
  • Cadillac Records – AOS, DE
  • Changeling – AL, CCA, NBR
  • Choke – SA
  • A Christmas Tale – SH
  • The Class – DE, OG
  • Cloverfield – EO
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – AFI, CCA, GG, NBR, PE, RC
  • The Dark Knight – AFI, CCA, EO*, LS, MD, NBR, OG, PE, RS, SK*
  • Death Race – SK
  • Defiance – NBR 
  • Doubt – CCA, DE, RS
  • The Edge of Heaven – AL, AOS, OG, SH
  • Encounters of the End of the World – MD, RC
  • Flight of the Red Balloon – MD
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall – EO
  • 4 months, 3 weeks, & 2 days – AL, RC, SH
  • Frost/Nixon – AFI, CCA, GG, NBR, RS, SA
  • Frozen River – AFI, ISA, SA, SH
  • Funny Games – SK
  • Gomorra – LS
  • Gran Torino – AFI, NBR, PE
  • Happy Go Lucky – AOS, DE, GG, LS, MD, PE, SA*, SH
  • In Bruges – GG, SA
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – EO
  • Iron Man – AFI, AL, EO, RC
  • I’ve Loved You So Long – AL
  • Kit Kittredge: American Girl – DE
  • Lakeview Terrace – SK
  • The Last Mistress – SH
  • Mamma Mia – GG, OG
  • Man on Wire – AOS, LS, RS
  • Milk – AFI, AOS, CCA, LS, NBR, NYFC*, OG, PE, RC, RS*, SA, SH
  • My Winnipeg – RC
  • Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist – SA
  • The Orphanage – AL
  • Paranoid Park – MD
  • Quantum of Solace – AL
  • Rachel Getting Married – AOS, DE*, ISA, OG, RS
  • The Reader – CCA, GG, SA
  • Redbelt – SK
  • Revolutionary Road – GG, RS, SA
  • The Ruins – SK
  • The Secret of the Grain – AOS
  • Sex and the City – EO
  • Shotgun Stories – DE
  • Silent Light – AOS, MD
  • Slumdog Millionaire – BFC*, CCA, DC*, GG, NBR*, PE, RC, RS, SA*, SK
  • Speed Racer – RC
  • Still Life – MD
  • Synecdoche, New York – MD, RC
  • Taxi to the Dark Side – DE
  • Tell No One – OG, SH
  • Tropic Thunder – EO, LS, SA, SK
  • Trouble the Water – DE, LS
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona – EO, GG, PE, SA
  • The Visitor – PE, RS, SH
  • Wall-e – AFI, AL, AOS, BFC*, CCA, DE, EO, LS*, NBR, OG, PE, RC*, RS, SH, SK
  • Waltz With Bashir – DE, LS, NSFC*
  • Wendy and Lucy – AFI, AOS, ISA, LS, MD
  • We Own the Night – AL
  • The Wrestler – AFI, AL, CCA, ISA, NBR, OG*

AFI – American Film Institute, AL – Anthony Lane/New Yorker, AOS – AO Scott/NYT, BFC – Boston Society of Film Critics, CCA – Critic’s Choice Awards, DC – DC Area Film Critics, DE – David Edelstein/NPR, EO – eonline, GG – Golden Globes, ISA – Independent Spirit Awards, LS – Lisa Schwarzbaum/EW, MD – Manohla Dargis/NYT, NBR – National Board of Review, NSFC – National Society of Film Critics, NYFC – New York Film Critics Circle, OG – Owen Gleiberman/EW, PE – People Magazine, RC – Richard Corliss/Time, RS – Rolling Stone, SA – Satellite Awards, SH – Stephen Holden/NYT, SK – Stephen King/EW

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top 5, or so, tv

My posting a top 5 movies list caused a little bit of wonderment about my top 5 all time tv shows… The thought of picking 5 was a little daunting, but Entertainment Weekly recently did a special episode on “The New Classics” which listed some modern faves in all the mediums so it got me thinking about this again. And then I stopped because I just couldn’t do it.  

Once I realized I just couldn’t do it, I did it, but instead of top 5 what I’ve done is cheated just a little:

  • buffy.jpgBuffy the Vampire Slayer – This show brought together both the fun cheesiness of a teen show with real intelligence and drama all wrapped up with monsters, delightful verbal quips, a strong lead, and an excellent supporting cast, but creator Joss Whedon kept things up in making spinoff show Angel a great show unto itself, and in short lived Firefly he gave us great characters in a space western creating yet another intriguing version of reality, these three might each be in a real top 5.
  • Gilmore Girls/Veronica Mars – If Joss and Buffy get number one then I’ll share this second spot with my other favorite sassy gals, these two shows differ in tone but bring me more of the gals with humor and heart, the Gilmores add a crazy quirky supporting cast to its family drama whilst Veronica gets herself into crazy criminal messes while helping out PI dad or working on her own.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 – Now I was a little torn on including any shows that I didn’t dig the whole of them but 90210 tops the category of the soapy shows that are delightful until they’ve done it all, and then they just can’t help but keep going, anything after Brenda left for me is a disappointment but when this show was paired with Melrose Place it was the best night on tv, and along those lines I also dug The OC when it mixed super fast unfolding of crazy drama with its self aware humor.
  • Sopranos – This show gets the nod for the cable invasion of quality dramas followed closely by Six Feet Under, having support to push things from content to characters to the way the stories unfolded it drew people in, though I’m really just still catching up on those that others tout including things like The Wire and Battlestar Gallactica.
  • MacGyver – If you’re still with me this is where I might lose you but this is the tops in what I’m considering the nostalgic category, I just love macgyver and his ability to get out any situation, other shows that I remember with a grin are Wild Wild West, Kung Fu, and the original Star Trek

And because great television is not in the hour format alone I’ve done another group of half hour shows for that extra comedic value:

  • seinfeld.jpgfriends.jpgFriends/Seinfeld – Not sure these need much explanation and they’re never not on in syndication, Seinfeld made you laugh whether original or stupid or unlikable in the show about nothing, whilst the friends grew into characters that made you wonder from week to week who you liked the most, you don’t need a really good premise to have good funny just good writing and good characters and they made the perfect comedy block.
  • MASH – I catch this in reruns now and again and am still impressed by their ability to create such different moods and tell such different stories that still ring true today, whether dramatic or silly it was great even with all the versions of the cast.
  • Mary Tyler Moore – I have to admit I saw an Oprah reunion of this recently and just remember how much we all loved Mary, if not because of, despite what a great gal she was, also in the nostalgic category I’d throw Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, and Soap.
  • Sex and the City – I really don’t know that it was the no holds barred sex talk on this show that made it what it was, this was a side of chicks and dating and of course new york that was as unrealistic as it was realistic but these potentially cookie cutter stereotypes became real people and still made us laugh as they dealt with issue after romantic issue with a heavy dose of fashion.
  • And in my later nostalgic category I’ll add the family gems, different sensibilities but funny nonetheless: Cosby, Roseanne, and Family Ties.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something that was dear to me throughout the years, besides Sesame Street which just didn’t seem appropriate on this list, and I might make this list a little differently each time I did it. Since I’m not including any current television I may have to update this in a few years anyhow. Other good lists include Time’s 100 Best TV Shows and Pop Matters The Best of TV on DVD.

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top 5 movies

biggidget.jpgSome friends and I were talking about favorite movies and Citizen Kane came up as someone’s favorite. And although I can certainly appreciate what the film did for its time I had to admit that I found it unwatchable (insert gasp here) and would never put it in my favorite pile.

Turns out although some folks consider favorite movies to be great films, most put their favorites as movies they just would watch again and again. Maybe because they’re great for what they are, maybe because of where you were at when you watched them first, and honestly often because they’re light enough to pop in on any occasion. This brought about the arduous plan of coming up with a top 5.

So here goes (as always I should caveat that this list could vary any time I made it): 

  1. Gidget – I am often without the ability to name a favorite anything, it’s just too great a commitment to one thing and I feel like I am far to complex to have anything sum up my tastes, but… for movies I can honestly say that this is the one, it’s got whimsy, nostalgia, surfing, female empowerment, cute outfits and good old fashioned romance.
  2. Buckaroo Banzai – I’m a fan of the sort of comic book film and this one, bringing a bit of sci fi and camp, was a delight and I am sad there was just the one, but I’ll always be a Blue Blaze Irregular at heart. Other comic flicks I enjoy include Batman Begins, Blade and Josie and the Pussycats.
  3. Breakfast Club – Ah the 80’s and the brat pack and all that crap, I have to say of the teen flicks this one still holds water, though I have to admit that my Nicholas Cage crush began with Valley Girl, and of course who could resist Heathers.
  4. Clueless – This is sort of what I consider the post-80’s 80’s movie, and there’s obviously something about the youngsters that can pull off the drama with a bit of timeliness and fun. Also in the fun category Cruel Intentions and Bring it On.
  5. 13 Going on 30 – Who can resist a romantic comedy done right? It’s a pity they so rarely are but this film is delightful and brings it all together from start to finish.

And yes they’re all a bit fluffy, so with a quick stab at some of the movies that I recall enjoying immensely but wouldn’t necessarily make my top five (not comprehensive by any means and in alphabetical order):

American History X, Amores Perros, Being John Malkovich, City of God, Election, Freeway, Memento, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Riding Giants, The Wizard of Oz, Young Frankenstein

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my must-see movies of 2007

3-10-to-yuma1.jpgSo I like to do an annual top ten movie list, since I typically see a lot of movies. Unfortunately with all the movies that come out at the end of the year that are supposed to be great, I am always quite behind. I have been planning to do a little catch up on dvds but as my dvd player just broke, with ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ in it (I only caught the first ten minutes). I took that as a sign of the official end of my 2007 movie watching. 

  • 3:10 to Yuma – I love Christian Bale and this movie worked for me as he played a simple rancher just trying to keep his family afloat and he, and his son, get drawn into the transport and life of robber Russell Crowe.
  • The Lookout – Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job as a guy who survived a car accident with memory issues and gets caught up in a bank robbery.
  • Michael Clayton – George Clooney plays a lawyer who ‘fixes things’ and gets caught up in a case that he might not be able to, or want to fix, Clooney and the supporting cast are excellent as the tension builds.
  • Atonement – I actually read this book and though I liked it I was a little thrown by the three separate pieces which this movie was able to meld together in a lovely sweeping war/romance/period piece.
  • Gone Baby Gone – The Affleck’s are doing well as Ben directs Casey in this Lehane novel adaptation of Boston detectives working a kidnapping.
  • Eastern Promises – I was expecting to hate this latest Cronenberg from the previews, why is this idiotic woman Naomi Watts getting involved with the Russian mob and attractive but dangerous Viggo Mortenson? But the mafia life and Watt’s involvement are compelling, and Viggo is crazy good, or good at crazy.
  • Into the Wild – Another movie I expected to not love as we watch this young guy go… into the wild… knowing he won’t come out. And though I thought the ending could have been handled a little better, they did a great job wrapping a story around this character and his journey.
  • No Country for Old Men – I will admit that I didn’t love this Coen brother’s movie, but I did think it was really well done as small town folks follow the money or the bodies.
  • Lars and the Real Girl/Waitress/Juno – Of these Lars was my favorite with real originality and heart but they got some similar indie buzz so I thought I’d address them together. They did some great things as films free from big studio restraint can and I love that people loved their simple characters and stories and writing, they’re such an important part of the annual film options.

I have noted to date what movies I’ve seen so you’ll know I didn’t official hate ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ for example, though I may have (I mean really, the guy just blinks), but I just haven’t seen it yet. And I should caveat although this list is in a loose order, I would potentially put them in a different order each time I tried to make a list. I also sadly didn’t have a great cheesy movie this year, teen film, action or otherwise, good thing the next Bat Man is coming out soon.

For a full list of 2007 movies I was referring to the 2007 Academy Eligible list.

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my best books

Cavalier and ClaySo I do a good amount of reading but I don’t think I can ever come up with ten really good books that I’ve read in a year, and I never read anything that’s actually put out in that year. And since this year for various reasons I read less than I usually do I thought I might just look back and recommend ten good books that I’d read throughout the years (though I do recommend On Beauty by Zadie Smith that I actually read this year).

Whilst reviewing my bookshelves what stood out aren’t just a few books, but a few authors that have consistently entertained me. Maybe next year I can come up with at least a top 5 books list, until then, here goes… Oh and of course I do have to caveat the fact that these may not be the best or even my favorite, depending on the day I make my list, but they’re all worth a read.

  • Michael Chabon – One of my favorite authors I’d really read almost anything by him, starting with the fun Mysteries in Pittsburg, enjoying Wonderboys, and adoring the epic The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay. I also recommend his short story collections, though I wasn’t in love with The Final Solution, I even broke down and read his young adult book Summerland (I think I may leave the young adult books to young adults). I have yet to read Yiddish Policeman’s Union or Gentlemen of the Road, but those did both come out in 2007.
  • Douglas Coupland – Started reading with super timely mid 90s Microserfs, and kept going, though sometimes uneven I’ve enjoyed the topical and witty books throughout the years, including among others Generation X, Eleanor Rigby, and JPod, though I have of course yet to read 2007’s The Gum Thief.
  • Jeffrey Eugenides – Well Oprah brought Middlesex back into the forefront and rightfully so, though not a typical Oprah book, it’s a beautifully written epic that spanned continents and generations as we met our transgendered Cal/Callie, this novel followed the earlier smaller scope Virigin Suicides that I somewhat recently reread and was again impressed with the craft of the peculiar story.
  • Nick Hornby – My favorite might still be the first, High Fidelity, where the list making record store clerk revisits his failed relationships but I am entertained by most including About a Boy and more recent Long Way Down. The only area I’m personally not engaged with is his football writing, but clearly it’s a passion, I have yet to get to the latest Slam.
  • John Irving – Well if you haven’t read the archives there’s a lot of backlog to go to, in fact I’ve missed a few of the earlier and later works but my list wouldn’t feel complete without noting the guy who wrote gems like A Prayer for Owen Meany, World According to Garp, and Hotel New Hampshire.
  • Jonathan Lethem – I was first turned onto him when I was recommended Motherless Brooklyn, a slightly irregular detective story where the detective has tourette’s, and was won over when I followed that up with The Fortress of Solitude, there are a good amount of earlier books, some pretty genre specific that I have yet to go back and sample.
  • Jay McInerny – McInerny reminds me a bit of Coupland in that I read a few books that seemed fun and noteworthy for the time like Bright lights big city and The Story of My Life, and am delighted to find that I enjoyed the later works like The Good Life.
  • Richard Russo – I started with Empire Falls which is an all time favorite and as I go back and read the earlier works, though maybe none meet my love of the first, I am consistently entertained by the amusing and touching way that the author treats his small-town cast in books like Mohawk and Straight Man.
  • David Sedaris – His amusing essays that you may have read or heard on NPR almost always make me laugh, whether it’s holiday stories from Holidays on Ice or family hijincks in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim among others, he brings self-deprecating tales to new heights.
  • Donna TarttSecret History sat on my shelf for ages before I finally started it and couldn’t put it down, after about ten years she put out another good one, the different but still incredibly engaging The Little Friend, I’m just waiting to see what comes next.

Two honorary mentions for authors who are consistently pretty good but have one book that I just loved: Barbara Kingsolver wrote the amazing Poisonwood Bible about a man who brings his wife and four daughters on his trip to be a missionary in Africa and Gregory Maguire impressed me with Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West which managed to not only create an amazing backstory to the Wizard of Oz but discusses very real complex issues through the fantastical setting.

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best books of 2007

tree of smokeSo I tend to read mostly fiction so that’s what I’ve culled as far as folk’s favorites. This keeps a nice tally on more books to stack in my ever growing ‘to read’ pile. Perhaps if I turned off the tv a little more frequently I’d make more progress. In alphabetical order by author, *denotes favorite/#1 pick.

  • Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman – PW
  • Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón – LA
  • The House of Meetings by Martin Amis – LG
  • Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski – LA, PW, SK
  • Away by Amy Bloom – LA
  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano – Am, LA, NYT, PW, WP
  • The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke – PW
  • Five Skies by Ron Carlson – LA
  • The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon – LA, SK
  • Finn by John Clinch – WP
  • Twenty Grand: And Other Tales of Love and Money by Rebecca Curtis – LA
  • The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies – BG
  • Falling Man by Don DeLillo – Am, BG, LA, PW
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – Am, JR, LA, LG*, PW
  • The Empress of Weehawken by Irene Dische – LA
  • The Last Cavalier by Alexandre Dumas- WP
  • The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander – LA
  • The Gathering by Anne Enright – Am, BG, LA
  • Zeroville by Steve Erickson – LA
  • Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris – JR, LG, NYT
  • Twilight by William Gay – SK
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – SK
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid – PW 
  • The Ghost by Robert Harris – SK
  • Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison – PW
  • The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey – PW
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – PW
  • The Archivist’s Story by Travis Holland – PW
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – Am*, LG
  • Body of Lies by David Ignatius – PW
  • A Free Life by Ha Jin – JR
  • Tree of Smoke: A Novel by Denis Johnson – Am, BG, LG, NYT, PW, SK, WP
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July – LG
  • Bowl of Cherries by Millard Kaufman – PW
  • The God of Animals: A Novel by Aryn Kyle – Am
  • What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman – PW
  • The Complete Stories by David Malouf – PW
  • Them by Nathan McCall – PW
  • Remainder by Tom McCarthy – LA, PW
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – BG, JR, WP
  • Red Rover by Deirdre McNamer – LA
  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu – Am
  • The Collected Stories by Leonard Michaels – LA
  • The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates – JR
  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell – Am
  • Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan – PW
  • Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan – JR
  • Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson – JR, LG, NYT
  • Surveillance by Jonathan Raban – PW 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling – LG, SK
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo – Am, LA, SK 
  • Shakespeare’s Kitchen by Lore Segal – JR
  • Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe – LA, PW
  • Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard – LA, LG
  • The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver – JR, LG
  • The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva – PW
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons – JR, SK
  • Beyond Reach  by Karin Slaughter – PW
  • Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas – NYT
  • White Walls: Collected Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya – PW
  • Cheating at Canasta: Stories by William Trevor – BG, LA
  • Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh – SK
  • The Shadow Catcher: A Novel by Marianne Wiggins – LA, PW

Am – Amazon, BG – Boston Globe, LA- LA Times, NYT-New York Times, JR – Jennifer Reese for EW, LG – Lev Grossman at Time, PW – Publisher’s Weekly, SK – Stephen King for EW (read in 2007), WP – Washington Post

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my top tv of 2007

daisiesSo we’ve seen other’s picks for the top tv, but what about me? Well I think if you’ve read any of these posts you have an idea… But what you may not know is that although I seem to be comfortable spouting my opinion, if I actually have to quantify something as ‘The Best’ or ‘Top Ten’ I am immediately concerned that I have forgotten something or will change my mind the moment I write something down, which I often do, I mean tv does change with each episode… So I’m throwing down ten items in alphabetical order and I reserve the right to change my mind.

And of course one should recall that I don’t get real cable so my lack of endorsement for certain cable shows, well isn’t really a lack of endorsement.

  • Chuck (NBC) – This show isn’t more than it is, a funny action romp, but what it is, it does really well and I find myself looking forward to it each week, it’s not so much about a regular guy being pulled into the spy world as it is the spy world being pulled into the regular guy’s life and the situations with spies and with the regular folks each tend to amuse and entertain.
  • Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) – Again, I think folks tend to not give enough credit to a campy drama done well. These characters (and actors) are not only their stereotypes done to excess but also typically a subtle twist, I am entertained by the weekly trouble they get themselves into as well as finding out what who killed Dutch.
  • Flight of the Conchords (HBO) – So an HBO show? Yes I was up to date since I was at an HBO watcher’s house when it premiered, and I really can’t do this show justice with a description but the New Zealand comedy satire folk singing duo trying to make it in New York, randomly breaking into music video song stylings is super funny.
  • Heroes (NBC) – Well I warmed up to this show over the season last year and though disappointed with the start of this season, found myself yet again drawn into the cast that blurs the line between using their abilities for good or evil and how you can’t tell most of the time which is which as they try to save the world, or not.
  • Lost (ABC) – It’s been so long since I’ve seen this that I almost didn’t put it on the list, but it continues to entertain with a formula that seemed impossible telling character stories through past and present, from an island that is as full of mysteries as it is new characters.
  • Pushing Daisies (ABC) – The best new show of the year according to many, and I can’t not delight in it myself, I do give special credit for people who try to push things, and their 360 approach to the tone is wonderful, they’ve had some fantastic guest stars and episodic mysteries but managed to keep the right focus on the core cast with the ultimate can’t-be-together couple of Chuck and Ned.
  • The Riches (FX) – Another unbelievable premise that just keeps me on the edge of my seat as this Traveler family pretends to be the Riches (folks who were killed in a car accident), and how they continue to keep afloat and keep out of the way of the other Travelers who wish them ill (to say the least) and their internal struggles along the way… it kept me tuned in.
  • Samantha Who? (ABC) – This is my favorite new comedy and with the dearth of funny out there I think that’s not only entertaining but important. It’s a combination of Christina Applegate really getting a vehicle that suits her great combination of funny, dorky, attractive, bitchy and sweet in her own special way and of course the writing and the great supporting cast don’t hurt with special shoutouts to Jean Smart and Sookie and surprisingly Barry Watson.
  • Saving Grace (TNT) – You know I’m not sure this is actually one of the best shows but Holly Hunter and her screwed up character are like a car wreck you can’t look away from and her struggle with the angel trying to save her and her friends and family… well I just can’t look away.
  • 30 Rock (NBC) – This show has edged out my previous vote of funniest show How I Met Your Mother (which I still find quite funny) and it found it’s place as the dysfunctional staff of a late night sketch comedy show spouts hilarity on more levels than I can catch if I’m not paying attention, and has been funny each and every time I sit down to watch.

I also didn’t officially list, but wanted to give a special shout out to two shows that I have adored that ended their run in 2007 Gillmore Girls and Veronica Mars, oh how I do miss these sassy gals.

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top tv of 2007

30 rockSo if I’m sharing end of the year best lists I would be remiss not to throw down a little tv. The problem is it seems like a strange time to do a best tv list. So though midseason shows may be getting the short shrift we’ve probably seen enough of things to give it a go.

  • Andy Barker, PI (NBC) – GF
  • Battlestar Galactica (SciFi)- MSN, SK
  • The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – TV
  • Big Love (HBO)- GF, JP, GG, MA*, MSN
  • The Bronx is Burning (ESPN) – TV
  • Brotherhood (Show) – GF, MR
  • Brothers and Sisters (ABC) – SAT
  • Burn Notice (USA)- KT
  • Californication (Show)- GG, MR
  • Chuck (NBC) – SAT, TV
  • The Colbert Report (Comedy) – JP
  • CSI (CBS)- KT
  • Damages (FX) – DB, GG, MA, SK, TV
  • Desperate Housewives (ABC) – KT
  • Dexter (Show)- AFI, DB, SK, MR, SAT*
  • Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) – GF, TV
  • Entourage (HBO) – GG
  • Everybody Hates Chris (CW) – AFI
  • Extras (HBO) – GG, SAT
  • Flight of the Conchords (HBO) – GF, JP, SAT
  • Friday Night Lights (NBC)- AFI, DB, JP, KT, MA, MR, MSN, SAT, SK
  • Frisky Dingo (Cartoon) – KT
  • Gossip Girl (CW) – TV
  • Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) – GG, SAT
  • Heroes (NBC) – DB
  • House (Fox)- GG
  • Kid Nation (CBS) – JP
  • Life (NBC) – KT
  • Life of Ryan (MTV) – KT
  • Longford (HBO)- AFI
  • Lost (ABC) – DB, JP, MA, MR, SK
  • Mad Med (AMC) – AFI, DB, GF, JP*, MA, MR*, GG, MSN*, SAT, TV
  • Nip/Tuck (FX) – DB
  • The Office (NBC) – JP, MSN
  • Planet Earth (Discovery) – GF, JP, MR, MSN
  • Pushing Daisies (ABC) – AFI, DB, GF, JP, MA, MR, GG, SAT*, TV
  • The Riches (FX)- JP, SAT
  • Samantha Who? (ABC) – TV
  • The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy)- JP
  • The Shield (Fx) – JP, MA, MR, MSN
  • Sopranos (HBO) – AFI, DB, GF, JP*, KT, MA, MR, MSN
  • Tell Me You Love Me (HBO) – AFI, JP, KT
  • Top Chef (Bravo) – JP
  • 30 Rock (NBC)- AFI, DB*, GF*, JP, KT*, MA, MR, GG, MSN
  • The Tudors (Show) – GG, MR
  • Ugly Betty (ABC) – AFI, MA, SAT
  • The War (PBS) – JP, MR, MSN
  • Weeds (Show) – JP, MR, SAT
  • Yo Gabba Gabba! (Nick) – JP

AFI – American Film Institute, DB – David Bianculli on Fresh Air, GF – Gillian Flynn for EW, GG – Golden Globe Nominations, JP-James Poniewozik at Time (new and returning), KT – Ken Tucker for EW, MA – Michael Ausiello for TV Guide, MR-Matt Roush at TV Guide, MSN,  SAT-Satellite Awards, SK-Stephen King for EW, TV – TV Guide

* denotes top pick. I’ll update this list as new critic’s picks become available.

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must-see movies of 2007

no countryTis the season for tv repeats, end of the year Top Ten lists, and leaving your house to go to the movies. For those folks who screen movies early, here is a compilation of what some are calling the Best of 2007, including nominations from awards and such. Those marked with an * are winners, or number ones, the cream of the crop some might say.

Who is getting the most votes? Who do you agree with? Take a look and see. I’ll update the list as new picks are out and some time in 2008 I will have seen enough movies to feel like I can do my own little top ten list.

  • Across the Universe – GG
  • After the Wedding – RS
  • American Gangster – CCA, GG, PT, RR
  • The Assassination of Jesse James – BM, LS, MLS, MSN, NBR, SFFCC
  • Atonement – CCA, GG, MLS, MSN, NBR, NYFCO, PH, PT,  RC, US
  • Away From Her – DE, Sat
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – AFI, MLS, NYFCO, OG, PT, RS, SAT, TV
  • Beowolf – RC
  • Black Book – RS, TV
  • The Bourne Ultimatum – NBR
  • Breach – RS, SK
  • The Bucket List – NBR
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – BM, GG
  • Children of Men – SK
  • Dan in Real Life – MLS, RS
  • The Darjeeling Limited – NYFCO
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – AFI, BM, CCA, DE, DGA, MSN, NYFCO*, TV
  • Eastern Promises – GG, PT, SAT, TV, US
  • Flanders – MLS
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days – AOS*, LS
  • Golden Door – MLS
  • Gone Baby Gone – RR, SK
  • Grace is Gone – DE
  • The Great Debaters – GG
  • Great World of Sound – GA, TV
  • Grindhouse – OG, PH
  • Hairspray – GG, SAT, US
  • The Host – PH
  • I’m Not There – AOS, GA, LS, MSN, NYFCO, OG*, PT, US
  • In the Valley of Elah – RC, RS, SK
  • Into the Wild – AFI, AOS, CCA, DGA, GA*, PT, MSN, NBR
  • Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis – OG
  • Juno – AFI, CCA, GG, NBR, NYFCO, PH, PT, RR, SAT, US
  • Killer of Sheep – RC
  • The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – PH
  • The Kite Runner – CCA, NBR
  • Knocked Up – AFI, AOS, LS, PH, PT, SAT, US
  • Lady Chatterley – LS
  • Lars and the Real Girl – NBR, SAT
  • Little Children – RC, SK
  • The Lives of Others – BM, OG, SK
  • The Lookout – RR, SAT, SK
  • Margot at the Wedding – GA, MSN, SAT
  • Michael Clayton – AFI, CCA, DE, DGA, GG, NBR, NYFCO, OG, PH, RR*, RS*, TV
  • A Mighty Heart – US
  • The Namesake – GA
  • No Country for Old Men – AFI, BM, BSFC, CCA*, DE, DGA, GG, LS, MLS, MSN, NBR*, NYFCC, NYFCO, PH, PT*, RC*, RR, RS,  SAT*, SK*, US
  • No End In Sight – DE, LS, OG, RC
  • Once – BM, OG, RR
  • Paprika – TV
  • Paris Je T’Aime – RR
  • Persepolis – BM, DE, LS, NYFCO, RC
  • Ratatouille – AFI, AOS, BM, DE, MSN, PH
  • Redacted – MLS
  • Revolution Summer – MLS
  • The Savages – AFI, AOS, BM, DE, PH, RS
  • Shoot ’em Up – Sat
  • Superbad – OG, RR
  • Sweeny Todd – AOS, BM, CCA, DE, GG, NBR, NYFCO, PT, RC, US
  • Terror’s Advocate – AOS
  • There Will Be Blood – AFI, AOS, CCA, DE, DGA, GG, LAF*, LS*, MSN, NYFCO*, PT, RS
  • 3:10 to Yuma – SAT, SK
  • 12:08 East of Bucharest – AOS
  • 28 Weeks Later – SK
  • Waitress – RC, MLS
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley – TV
  • Zodiac – LS, MSN, OG, RR, TV, US

AFI – Boston Society of Film Critics, BM – Bob Mondello on All Things Considered/NPR, CCA-Critics Choice Awards Nomineess, DCFC-DC Area Film Critics Association, DE – David Edelstein for Fresh Air/NPR, DGA – Director’s Guild of America, GG-Golden Globe Nominations, GA-Gotham Awards, SK-Stephen King (seen in 2007), LAF- LA Film Critics, MLS – Mick LaSalle for SF Chronicle, NBR – National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, LS – Lisa Schwarzbaum for EW, MSN, NYFCC-New York Film Critics Circle, NYFCO – New York Film Critics Online, OG – Owen Gleiberman for EW, PH – Peter Hartlaub for SF Chronicle, PT – Peter Travers for Rolling Stone, SAT – Satellite Awards, SFFCC – San Francisco Film Critics Circle, RC-Richard Corliss-Time, RR – Richard Roeper for Ebert and Roeper, RS-Richard Shickel-Time, TV – TV Guide, US-US Weekly

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