Dearth of 2004
The yearly "best of" lists are blossoming across the web and entertainment media. Usually, I have my own to offer, but this year was kind of abysmal for entertainment, imnsho, so I don't really have lists so much as an honorable mention or two.
I've noticed that for some reason every year a new Star Wars movie is released, there tends to be a raft of good flicks, as though somehow the anticipated competition with a guaranteed blockbuster somehow raises the bar in the kinds of movies studios produce. I still haven't detected an indicator for the other extreme, though - years like this where movies just weren't all that mindblowing. I'd love to hear any theories, if you've got one.
The only truly memorable, utterly fantastic movies I saw that were made this year were:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
50 First Dates
Eternal manages to capture the desperate need and heartbreak of relationships, and is probably the best observation of people in love I've seen. 50 First Dates manages the hat trick of actually being a drama hiding in the costume of a light romantic comedy which is multi-leveled and consistent, never betraying its premise at the service of cheap laughs. The Incredibles is just that, especially the Edith Head-esque superhero costume designer, darling.
I also sorta-kinda liked, some for dubious reasons and others for not-so-dubious reasons:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The Polar Express
But none on the list are something I'd search out and buy, with the possible exception of Ella Enchanted, because great kids movies that don't become odious with the obligatory repeated viewings are valuable beyond their sticker price.
I greatly anticipated Touching the Void because the raves were unanimous. But, gosh, to me this was just another of the many movies/books about people who have too much time (and money) on their hands who decide to climb a dangerous mountain just because it's there, only to have things go very wrong, leaving the survivors to gravely opine that time with family and friends is more valuable than the supposed glory of gazing upon the rare view of surrounding peaks for the five minutes you have before your genitals freeze solid. I'd love to know what the average Sherpa thinks of these yahoos.
I read a mere two memorable books published this year:
Good Grief by Lolly Winston
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (View a small excerpt here.)
Good Grief is brilliant writing, sustaining the reader through the intense grief of a recent widow with humor and honesty. Odd Thomas was funny and charming, with a surprise ending for a Koontz story.
Since commercial radio and the music industry continue their respective death spirals to a massive terrain conflict (that means "a crash" for those of you in the cheap seats), nothing of much interest was offered outside of hits compilations (John Mellencamp for one) and the new one by U2.
My favorite quote from the year is:
"I understand why Bush has such high approval ratings. Hell, he's done everything I expected him to do: The economy's in the toilet, we're at war, and everything's on fire." - Wanda Sykes
The best lesson(s) I learned this year came from Second Innocence by John B. Izzo:
1. Have Courage.
2. Ask, "What does life want from me now?"
3. Just Start...