Ah, 2011…how I’ll miss thee! To commemorate the passing of this year, here is a list of my favorites things. While some of these websites, books and artists have been around a while, I really enjoyed them this year.
favorite novel of the year
The Jazz Bird by Craig Holden
Her Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir of the Mother I Never Knew and of My Daughter, Courtney Love by Linda Carroll
Bossypants by Tina Fey
favorite new (to me) music
Favorite new sad bastard music
Scala & Kolacny Brothers
Bill Cunningham New York (available on netflix streaming)
favorite music documentary
Foo Fighters: Back and Forth
favorite new tv show
favorite obsession (same as last year)
best ‘what’s old is new again’
My So-Called Life
best useful website
I finally broke down and rented Pride & Prejudice (1995), the miniseries. I was willed to do so by one of my comfort movies—Bridget Jones’ Diary. (Be forewarned I have a lot of comfort movies that include British accents). Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy makes such an impression in the miniseries, he shows up the Bridget Jones novel/movie.
The length is intimidating, but its five hours goes by faster than expected. Firth doesn’t disappoint as the rich and handsome Mr. Darcy, though he had perfected the snobbish stare better in Bridget Jones (and even better in Girl with a Pearl Earring).
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet plays up the smugness as in the first half of the movie with her eyes darting back and forth and a tight smile. But she moves on, as does Elizabeth, and she won me over with her sparing matches with Firth.
The good thing for me is, apparently, I have an inability to remember the plotline of the story. I have read the novel and seen Keira Knightley’s version and still was surprised by the miniseries. The ridiculousness of her mother and sisters and a gratuitous use of the word “indeed” made more of an impact on me this time around.
But the essential goodness of Jane Austen survives well in the series—the importance of romantic love and the impact of class in one’s destiny. I recommend it. Indeed, I would.
Across the Universe (2007) is a musical that uses Beatles songs to tell a love story in 1960s America as Vietnam and counterculture heat up.
I was introduced to the music of the film first on Oprah, so my impression was Jim Sturgess is a cutie-pie and the Beatles are best left to oldies radio stations.
See, like anything one hears all the freakin’ time, I had been blocking out the Beatles and hadn’t considered their songwriting ingenuity in a long time (not since watching Backbeat). I did enjoy the Beatles Night on American Idol cuz I could sing my heart out with Brooke White. But I never listen to my copy of Beatles: One and never felt it necessary to purchase a real album.
The film itself is very similar in style to Moulin Rouge (2001), even their British love struck leading men and provocative choreography (see the dance scenes of “I Want You/She’s so Heavy” in AU and “Roxanne” in MR).
The movie won me over for its inventive use of 1960s iconography and pop culture. Lennon and McCartney created songs that were both timely and timeless, which makes them the perfect match for this project.
The bottom line is Across the Universe is a solid musical set in the 1960s for a crowd watching forty years later.
Whenever there is a conversation where Bob Dylan has come up, everyone has a strong opinion of him–not matter if fan or foe. And from watching I Am Not There, the 2007 film based on Dylan-esque characters, I’m sure Dylan himself knows this all too well.
A major theme of the movie is fame and how it is like to be a person in society whose life doesn’t just belong to himself (the theme of another favorite film of mine, The Queen). The Dylan personas are fighting the expectations of others, and there is no internal character introspective–no reflection from the Dylan-esque characters. Instead we have his songs, and the challenge of the audience to figure what the hell Dylan’s songs mean while watching the movie.
I enjoyed the challenge, but the movie is a tad “arthouse” to be really accessible for me. And since I am not a Dylan-phile, I know hundreds of references went pass me unnoticed. But I did know of his folk music betrayal in 1965, and it was superfun to watch Cate Blanchett take ‘em on.
The bottom line is I Am Not There is as complicated as Dylan’s discography—something you can follow if you pay attention.