As the year winds down to another finale, many writers, bloggers, thinkers, and miscellaneous commentators will be (and have been) offering up thoughts and reflections on the the past year. Many will review and rehash (and revile!) the recession that the US has experienced over the last 12 months and the effect it has had on the rest of the world. Much will be made of the United States' first black president. Some will point to the good that has come of Obama's policies over the past year. Many will lament them. There'll be talk of natural disasters, of aircraft crashes, celebrity deaths, and there will be talk of war. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, China, and Pakistan will surely all get their mention.
Here, though, you will not be burdened by any such talk, negative or otherwise.
Late this year I made a conscious decision to turn away from negative things, thoughts, and news. That is not to say that I have completely buried my head in the sand, but the amount of politically and socially oriented news and talk radio that I was ingesting had begun to poison my mind and eventually began to affect my sense of well being.
What this has meant for the The Sound and Fury is a fair amount more posts of a whimsical nature concerning topics that some might find... frivolous. But that's okay. I doubt anyone is traveling to my neck of the blogosphere to read news posts filled with gravity and gloom. I'll continue in 2010 to write posts about things that interest and excite me, including (but not limited to) books, movies, and music.
But I digress. My Year in Review will cover my favorite books, films, and albums from the past year, and I may spend a bit of time flogging a few that did not make the list.
Let's start with books. My book consumption in 2009 was pitiful to say the least, but I did manage to read a few good ones.
Arriving at the top of the list is Cormac McCarthy's The Road. This was my first foray into the mind of McCarthy, and I must say that I wish I hadn't waited. The Road left a mark on me that hasn't since faded, and has reiterated why I try not to discount any book from any genre before at least giving it a try (with the exception of Romance, blech!). It also reaffirmed that there is more to reading than just being entertained for a couple of hours, and the occasional foray into the world of "literature" is a nice break from the fanciful genres that I'm wont to read. Thanks to my friend Jeff Nichols for loaning and recommending (nay, insisting) that I read it, and thanks for inviting me to the screening of the film adaptation of The Road as well. Thoughts on that soon to come.
Fanciful books are not always frivolous, though, and Patrick Rothfuss illustrated that fact with the release of his debut novel The Name of the Wind. This book has it all; magic and the magical, mystery, rumor, excitement, sadness, rich settings, and well drawn characters. Rothfuss' elegant handling of the English language didn't hurt anything either. Some have scoffed at reviews that The Name of the Wind has received, claiming that an almost militant marketing campaign and early buzz deserve a lot of the credit for the novel's success. James at Speculative Horizons approached The Name of the Wind with a bit of trepidation for this reason and had almost opposite opinions concerning the characterization and setting than I. But, say what you may, The Name of the Wind put fantasy back on my book shelf, and I'm eagerly looking to the release of the sequel, The Wise Man's Fear.
I did manage to see a few more films than usual courtesy of Netflix, but I cannot say that they were all good by any means. The standouts for me were Avatar (please see my review here for my thoughts on this film, easily at the top of the list for 2009), Star Trek, Where the Wild Things Are, District 9, and Watchmen.
Star Trek was just good, clean, American fun. The film was visually beautiful to look at, and the actors who replaced the old cast did their jobs inordinately well. The movie wasn't always as smart as it could have been, plot holes and silly plot devices abound in this series reboot, but it is Star Trek, right? I can honestly say that I look forward to the inevitable sequel.
Where the Wild Things Are surprised me in a good way. I can't say that I liked the movie for all of the same reasons that I appreciate the book, but I liked it nonetheless. As I said in my review, I couldn't talk about it for at least ten minutes afterward.
District 9 makes the list just for bringing something different to the table. I applaud the fact that a movie like this received a big budget with an untested, unknown director and distinctly non-American cast. The movie was a bit depressing and full of disgustingly in-your-face violence, but it was still a good film. I cannot recommend it to everyone, so be warned if you're easily grossed out.
Watchmen was the only one out of this list that I actually saw on DVD, and I wish that I'd had enough sense to get my butt to the theater to see it. Watchmen was panned by some moviegoers and comics aficionados, but the film apparently was a pretty faithful adaptation of the landmark 80's graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen drops you into a very real, very gritty comic book world. The heroes have flaws, vices, and egos as big as their powers and talents. It's visceral, harsh, but cynically honest. And it's a delicious visual treat. Perhaps I'll go back and read the graphic novel (a heretical admission in the world of comic geekdom, I know) some day.
And just for good measure, and so as not to leave out the little guys, I'd like to mention a fanfilm called The Hunt For Gollum. If you're a Lord of the Rings fan, it deserves your attention, and probably your respect. That's all I'll say.
As for music, I thought outside the box a little more this year than previously, giving several new indie artists a chance and finding a new friend in Pandora.
Making the top of the list, though, is a usual suspect, and no surprise to my close friends and family. Mark Knopfler's Get Lucky is a welcome addition to my growing collection of things Knopfler. This guy can't make albums fast enough for me. If you've never heard a Mark Knopfler album, I strongly recommend that you go out and find some of his music. And if you like it, please support the artist by buying some of his work.
Another favorite that has spent much time in my CD rotation is Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's Raising Sand. This album is so rich and varied that it is almost impossible to classify it. Krauss and Plant compliment each other well here, and every song is a new experience akin to running amok in the ice cream parlor with a
large spoon. Whether you like chocolate or vanilla, Raising Sand has something for you.
Logan over Rememorandum has a nice Year in Review of genre books that you might find interesting. Check it out.
What were your favorites from 2009? Did you agree or disagree with some of my picks? Tell me about it! Use the comment section to voice your opinion. I look forward to hearing from you. And Happy New Year. Be safe.