Saturday, January 07, 2012

Entertainment in 2011

Here's a sample of the entertainment I enjoyed in 2011:

Films & Television

  • Best Films I saw in 2011:   My favorite film, largely because of the subject matter, was The King's Speech (2010), which I saw early in the year and absolutely loved on so many levels.  Close contenders included True Grit (2010), The Social Network (2010), The Town (2010), The Fighter (2010), Winter's Bone (2010), 127 Hours (2010), Super 8 (2011), and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).  This was good year for tough, difficult subject matter in the hands of excellent actors (or James Franco).
  • Good Films I saw in 2011:  X-Men: First Class (2011), Tangled (2010), the perfectly-executed, no-CG The Muppets (2011), Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) which I liked as much as the first one, and Captain America (2011). 
  • Classic movies:  After finishing the AFI's Top-100 and avidly watching Turner Classic movies, I can't say that in 2011 I saw a classic film, for the first time, that's worth mentioning.  But you never know what long-lost gem you might uncover.
  • The Worst Film I Saw in 2011:  Cars 2 (2010) - Really Pixar?  You let this get out the door?  Really?!  Granted, Cars 2 suffers by comparison to other Pixar greats but this film deserves to be panned for being the first shameless money-grabbing merchandizing effort from the studio.  Dis-honorable mention: the overrated Black Swan (2010), the boring Elizabeth the Golden Age (2007), and the brain dead, banal, and unnecessarily crass Transformers 3 (2010).
  • Films I didn't expect to see or like in 2011 but really did:  There was some surprisingly good sci-fi in Source Code (2011) and Knight and Day (2010) was much more fun than I had been told.  Just behind these two was The Adjustment Bureau (2011) and Limitless (2011) which were both interesting little stories.  Honorable mention goes to the well-crafted Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), the well-acted Adventureland (2009), and animated underdogs Despicable Me (2010) and Megamind (2010).
  • Great Documentaries I saw in 2011: Gallipoli (2005), 30 for 30: Run Ricky Run (2010), Ken Burns' Prohibition (2011), and Al Pacino's Looking for Richard (1996), which was the best treatment of Shakespeare I've seen on film.  One other that I reluctantly add to the list is The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009).  There's nothing wonderful at all about following around a drug-addled welfare family but it is a tragically interesting tale when you can bear to watch it.
  • Films I wanted to see but didn't: War Horse, Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tree of Life, and The Troll Hunter.
  • Best television shows in 2011:  It was an odd year in which not a single episode of the BBC's "Sherlock," or AMC's "Mad Men" aired but there was still a lot of great shows to watch.  We went to the library and, starting with the first episode, caught up on both "How I Met Your Mother" and "House."  Both became favorites of ours.  Others include:  "Big Bang Theory," "Castle," "Community," "Dirty Jobs," "Top Shot," "American Pickers," "American Restoration," "Pawn Stars," "Parks and Recreation," "Grimm," and "The Walking Dead."

Books, Games, & Miscellaneous
  • Best fiction I read in 2011:  I continued my pursuit of all things Sherlock Holmes with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891), The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893), and The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1904).  I read these on my iPhone where I can instantly access a dictionary and wikipedia to help with some of the unknown turn-of-the-century British vocabulary.  I also enjoyed Anthem by Ayn Rand (1937) and Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville (1853).
  • Best non-fiction I read in 2011:  Reading non-fiction is kind of what I do for a living, but here's a few extra-curricular non-fiction pieces:  On Loving God by Bernard of Clairvoux (1130), Radical by David Platt (2010), Radical Together (2011) by David Platt, Do the Work by Steven Pressfield (2011), Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist by Fritz Kreisler (1915), Write Good or Die edited by Scott Nicholson (2010), and The Great Dirigibles by John Toland (1957).
  • Games I played in 2011:  This year was a slow year for board games and console video games.  Part of the reason is that during the months we were moving, things like board games were boxed up and out of reach.  Also the i-devices dominated our spare minutes from morning to night.  iPhone games I enjoyed this year include: "Reckless Getaway," "Zombieville 2," "Jetpack Joyride," "Where's my Water?," "Spymouse," "Tiny Tower," and "Burn the Rope."  Excellent games, every one of them.
  • Best Apps of 2011:  Not counting games (see above), I want to single out a few great apps.  The app that got the most "wows" from people looking over my shoulder was the "NCAA March Madness On Demand," streaming basketball games LIVE to my pocket.  It was superlative in every sense.  "Genius Scan+" with "Evernote" has also been incredibly useful.  I can capture notes, documents, post-its, warning labels and more to send or save as my needs demand; I keep finding new ways to use these two apps. 
  • Favorite Restaurants in 2011:  Without a doubt my best meals were the few I had at bd's Mongolian Barbeque (sic) and Longhorn steakhouse.  I know those are old staples for me but I don't go to either one very often and they do so many things right.

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