Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Favorite books, movies, and music in 2009

I think it's time for a round-up of the last year in the media. I am no great media critic nor am I overly artsy or ... you know... whatever. I'm not a media elitist. BUT I do like reading and watching movies and I do love music.

So.... these have been my personal favorites of 2009. They are not necessarily all new, but they are new to me!

Movies and TV

I haven't watched as many movies in the theater this year and consequently haven't seen as many that I was impressed by. Here's a few, though.

Star Trek
Star Trek Movie Poster

Yes, I loved Star Trek. My favorites are usually true-to-live dramas, but every now and then a movie comes out that combines action, drama, romance, and adventure. Star Trek was the one that did it for me this year. I'm not a Trekkie, but I loved it!

Up movie
Last year I loved Wall-E. This year I loved Up. It's an adult movie, I'm totally convinced. I wanted to cry after the end of the first five minutes - thats how well this movie grabs you. Also - how often do movies really deal with aging and loss through old age? To do it in an animated kids movie was really astounding.

He's Just Not That Into You and The Proposal

I think maybe He's Not That Into You was 2008, but I saw it in '09. These were the two chick-flicks I appreciated this year. I love Sandra Bullock and she was great in The Proposal, but I must admit I need to watch it again because I fell asleep in the middle. I've been doing that ALL THE TIME recently.

A Christmas Carol
a christmas carol
I wrote about this last month, but I did just love this movie. It's scary, true to the book, and just so well done. I loved it.

The Informant
The Informant!
A lot of predicted blockbusters were sort of uninteresting to me this year, though there's some I haven't seen yet (recommendations?) I did like the Informant - it looked like Matt Damon would be funny but slightly boring. Well, that's how it started, but as you get deeper into the story it is just SO unbelievable, and at the end all Isaac could do was just gasp and shake our heads in awe that this was actually a true story. Crazy.

John Adams
Movie ad seen on a DC bus stop
This is a new discovery for us - this is a miniseries based on the David McCullough's excellent book on John Adams. Paul Giamatti plays John Adams, Laura Linney plays Abigail. It's a GREAT historical miniseries. History teachers should be using this - families can watch most of it, and it's super interesting. There are scenes with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and George Washington just sitting and chatting about politics, and you just watch and think... these are giants of men to all American people. Seeing their political opinions acted out as everyday conversation.... and knowing it paved the foundations of how America has been for the past 200 years... wow. Highly recommended.

Lost - Season 5

I love lost. LOVE it. If you haven't seen it, start from the beginning. I have yet to find another show with great drama AND such philosophy/science/mystery all entwined together. When this past season focused heavily on some new characters and on a lot of scientific stuff, some people were turned off. Not me. I find it fascinating - everything adds a layer to the mystery that has had me addicted for five seasons. I can't wait till January for the last season... given the season finale last year, I have NO idea how this next season will go.


Wild Swans
This was a 2009 discovery, read at the very beginning of the year. What a GREAT book. It's the true story that follows three generations of women through cataclysmic changes in China. One woman is a concubine for a warlord, the next is a communist revolutionary, and the next is the first Chinese foreign exchange student Communist China let into the West.

A Fine Balance
a fine balance
This was a great follow-up to Wild Swans. I read it this summer, and it's also sort of an epic story that follows individuals through a cultural history, this time India. I rarely get so involved in a book that I am absolutely torn up and angry when something dramatic happens, but I sure was in this book.

Still Alice
Book Cover Concept & Design
I attempted following the book-blogging world for a while this year and I have mostly given up because I'm uninterested in most of the fluffy fiction that everyone likes. This was one of my favorites that I found through blog recommendations, though. This is about a woman with early-onset Alzheimers, and it's quite a read. It is a first person story, and you see the woman losing herself as she continues to talk through the story.
This book surprised me. It's a Pulitzer-prize winning novel that is written from the perspective of an old and dying pastor in a small town in Kansas. He has a young wife (maybe from another race?) and a young son, and is looking back on his life. It is slow and some might consider it monotonous, but it is also written with a quiet beauty and with faith and theology that is rare in ANY book.


I sort of feel like a failure musically because I'm so far behind and uncreative. I finally have a car and thus have been catching up via the radio, but the radio only plays current hits and leaves out a lot of the best talent. My favorite music is mellow pop with interesting lyrics, and although I've been loving certain songs by Coldplay, Owl City, Jason Mraz, etc.... I haven't bought really any new albums this year. I have discovered a lot of great new country like the Zac Brown Band and Darius Rucker.... (shut up, I know most of you are thinking, country... really?! It is happy music, people)

Most of my real discoveries this year are in the Christian world, where I have been increasingly disgusted by the Gospel Music Association continuing to push the same music and artists that was popular 10-15 years ago. Here are some non-GMA folks that I've loved this year:

Ben Rector

Ben's name is just getting out there. I heard him early this year at a youth event I was a leader at, and his soft bluesy songs were exactly my style. You can only get his albums on mp3 on Amazon.com, no cds yet. This morning on my way to work I heard him on the Christmas station, so a little research shows that he did indeed just put out a Christmas album.

And here is a pretty cool video he did:

Phil Wickham
Phil Wickham [two]
Phil put out a cd that you could download for free this year, and I have loved his songs. He's really the latest worship artist that I enjoy.

Josh Garrells
This is the big one this year. I LOVE love Josh. I discovered him via Eugene Cho's blog. He's one of those people that is an amazing artist AND songwriter and should be top of the Christian music charts, but because he's actually cutting-edge, he's not. Because, you know... we don't seem to do cutting edge. *rolls eyes*. Here's a video of one of his songs:

"Freedom" - Josh Garrels from Josh Garrels on Vimeo.

Andrew Peterson
Andrew Peterson has been on the scene but I just discovered him. His Resurrection Letters cd is brilliant. On our way up to Wichita Isaac and I listened to it nearly the full way through, mostly in silence just taking in the lyrics, and sometimes with tears. Sometimes his voice gets annoying, but then in some songs it's just beautiful. Oh, and he recently published a fiction book that seems to be pretty popular... interesting.

And by the way, he has one of the coolest Christmas cds, Behold the Lamb of God. It really sings through the scripture so that you get the true setting for the advent of Christ. It's beautiful.. here's one of the songs:

Okay - suggestions? Your favorites? If your style is WAY different than mine, that's fine!


Jaimie said...

My favorite movie this year is Inglourious Basterds. Kind of by a mile.

But I need to see Up In the Air and A Serious Man, because I think those would contend.

Fantastic Mr. Fox gets an honorable mention.

CM said...

I love Lost! I can't wait to see what they do with this season. I haven't seen or heard much about The Informant, but I'll have to see it sometime. Have you seen The Blind Side? It seemed like it might just be a football movie, but it really isn't. It has football in it, but it's not the main story. I highly recommend it.

Kacie said...

Inglourious Basterds..... well, that is up there with Fargo and Burn After Reading for me. Brilliantly made, and with violence so sickening that I can't enjoy it. :)

I want to see Up in the Air and A Serious Man too - but Fantastic Mr. Fox? The trailer looked so bizarre to me, I can't even sum up the desire to see it. You liked it?

And CM, as for the Blind Side, I haven't seen it yet but really want to! It's like pulling teeth with the hubs, who hates Sandra Bullock for no good reason. :) Plus, initially we heard people that were very nervous that it would unhelpfully reinforce the stereotypical "charitable white people help out the down & out black people" story. I've heard it isn't too bad in that respect, though.

Jaimie said...

Yeah, I liked Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation is bizarre, but that's about it. It's delightful.

Togenberg said...

-Star Trek was great! Loved it.
-I haven't seen UP but everyone recommends it, even my therapist. hahaha
-He's Just Not That Into You and The Proposal seems like they'd be awful, but I am guy and this is to be expected.
-Hey, how was this A Christmas Carol different than other versions? What does it have that others don't vis-a-vis the book?
-I will see The Informant based on what you say; I thought Damon would be kinda boring as you'd though. I'll check out John Adams, too.
-I love Lost! Such a creative, innovative, thought-provoking fun show. Glad you liked it. You must be my lost sister!

I haven't seen or read anything that came out in 2009 besides Star Trek, isn't that funny. it's odd since I read a lot of books and saw a lot of shows and films, just nothing from this year.

Kacie said...

Well, the informant is a little boring at the beginning, but that's part of the point, so it's worth it in the end.

The Christmas Carol... it was different because it was scarier, more intense, and darker, which is what it is meant to be. It is a ghost story, and Dickens always really digs into the underbelly of society - he shows poverty and cruelty and the ugliness of England at that stage. There's a scene that is sort of gross in this movie where the ghost of Christmas Present (the jolly, happy one), is aging and dying, and he pulls up his cloak and underneath you see two angry, hissing, dirty children that look and act like animals. Scrooge is taken aback and asks what they are, and Christmas Present says they are Ignorance and Want.

In most of the Christmas Carol movies these types of moments are either avoided or shown with some humor. I mean, you can't show the story at all without showing some darkness, because scrooge is a dark character. But the true story is filled with darkness and then HOPE as Scrooge sees that his own actions can change the darkness.

I feel like this movie most powerfully showed that. It is... very dark though, at some moments. I mean, so much so that you may not want to see it, honestly, because of some of the spiritual references that may be triggers.

justaweeblether said...

Josh and I had been avoiding Lost until recently. We don't have a TV but we watch videos on the computer. My dad has all of the seasons on DVD so we started watching them a couple of months ago. We are done with the last season now. Every once in a while we would comment "One of the writers must be a Christian" because there seemed to be some undertones in a few of the shows. That seemed to be a lot more prevalent in the more recent onces.

Annette said...

Hey, I really enjoyed that Ben Rector 'Free falling' video....pretty cool! And 'Wild Swans' sounds like a book I would enjoy....will have to put it on my wish list :)

I have to agree...'Up' was really well written, and I was also very touched in the first moments of the movie. It's amazing how hardly any words are spoken, but the message and emotions are SO well conveyed. It had me mesmerised from the start.

I'm looking forward to seeing Blind Side (I love Sandra Bullock), and also 'Invictus'. I can recall that day in South Africa clearly, and I'm looking forward to seeing Morgan Freeman, and Matt Damon's take on the characters.

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