Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Half of 2009 over?! or How Let's Assess...

I'd be lying if I said I was planning on writing this regardless and didn't credit James for inspiring me to emulate him (highest form of flattery, remember!), but reading over his post just made want to jump on the bandwagon and choo-choo away!

Wait, 2009 is halfway done?

Why do I always feel like the first half flies by while the latter half just stretches on and on? Maybe it's the fact that for me "the year" doesn't end til AMPAS hands out little golden men, yet the midpoint of the year is still mid-summer... which just makes for some crazy calendar calibrating. But I digress. We're halfway there and we must use this opportunity to crank out lists:

Top 5 TV Shows
... that premiered during the Spring Season
(or in one case, was previewed and will return this fall)

Honourable Mentions:

Flight of the Conchords
(Oh those crazy Kiwis! The Michel Gondry episode alone made the lackluster second season worth it)

Big Love (reruns - Season 1 & 2)
(Okay so the whole 'Mormon' political power-grabbing storylines are starting to tire me, but the 'family' drama is utterly gripping. Also: Ginnifer + Chloe + Jeanne = A holy trinity indeed.)

Skins (Series 1 & 2)
(Slowly catching up with this sexy, daring BBC "teen" show - those are quotation marks because it showcases more nudity, drugs, sex & cursing than ALL of US Network TV shows pooled together! Heck throw Showtime and HBO in there and you're still not there...)

After being shown only the first episode I can safely say I have found a new show to look forward to once Fall TV hits. Singing! Dancing! Witticising! It's all I ever dreamed would be in a good show (see 2.)

Joss returns to TV with his beloved (and beautiful) Eliza Dushku playing 'Echo' [and here I'm referring to Wikipedia for a non-confusing account of who she is:] "a member of a group of people known as "Actives" or "Dolls". The Dolls are people whose personalities and existence in the outside world have been wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas—including memory, muscle memory, skills, and language—for different assignments (referred to as engagements)." Despite a shaky start, it picked up steam and I'm aching for more already.

3. United States of Tara
Toni Colette plays a suburban mom with multiple personalities (a teen girl that goes by "t", a truck-driver called "Buck" and a Stepford Wife called "Alice"). Hokey? Maybe, but thankfully at the hands of Colette and written by Diablo Cody, Tara morphs into a compelling study of suburban family life. Add in a great ensemble playing a host of well-defined characters (including her teen gay son, her rebellious daughter, her weird-boobed sister, etc.), add in great pop culture references and you've got a pretty fine-tuned show. Also I did mention Ms Colette is amazing, right?

2. Pushing Daisies (RIP)
The show that couldn't be brought back from the dead (not even by our dear Piemaker himself) came back for its last three episodes, which - despite a rushed "last scene" that tried to wrap everything in nicely tied bows (damn you ABC!), bristled with the usual charm, wit, colour, outrageous murder scenes and surreal musical Chenoweth moments we had come to expect from this gem of a show. Sigh. Not a great sendoff but a lovely bookend that brought our heroes full circle and gave us at long last a Darling Mermaid Darlings show. Ned, you'll be sorely missed.

1. Grey GardensI considered including Grey Gardens under the Films rubric but since it aired on HBO and is a made-for-TV movie (therefore eligible for Emmys and not Oscars) I'd figure I'd let it top my TV list. Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange uncannily (re)create the Beales for us in this lushly executed docu-film, tracing the riches to rags story of Jackie O's relatives, inhabitants of the eponymous summer house in Upstate NY.

Top 5 Films
... released in the first six months of 2009
(in which I sort of cheat because I have seen two too many a film that haven't yet been released, but I don't care, really because it already reads like an mB list - what with animation, musical theatre, Julia Roberts and witty post-modern comedies all accounted for!)

Honourable Mentions:

Sunshine Cleaning (review B)
(give me Amy & Emily and I'm in)

Star Trek (A-)
(who knew I'd actually enjoy this - the only one I've seen - movie from this dead in the water franchise?)

& Away We Go (A-)
(because Sam + ensemble cast + a star turn by a Ms Maya Rudolph pays for itself).

5. Ponyo (review A)
Who knew Miyazaki could retell the 'Little Mermaid' story and make it his own? Okay so we all did. Mainly because we all know he's able to craft wonderfully entertaining films, full stop. Here, the simple premise from Hans Christian Anderson's story gets re-mapped with little kids and all the innocence and wonder they bring.

4. Every Little Step (review A)
If you love musical theater (and why wouldn't you?) and you love A Chorus Line (and why wouldn't you?... okay that's less rhetorical, of course) you'll probably enjoy this dazzling documentary following a couple of Broadway hopefuls as they audition for the 2005 revival of the classic musical about a couple of Broadway hopefuls as they audition for a show. So meta- it's amazing! Plus: singing! dancing! always a plus.

3. Duplicity (review A-)
My letter-grade would suggest it should be lower than on #3 but having been the only one I've seen twice in theaters and considering I'd probably revisit it more often than # 4 and # 5 I decided to bump up Tony Gilroy's sophomore effort, which featured a star-studded, crisply written caper-comedy featuring one of my favorite leading lady (Ms Roberts), a dashing Clive Owen and great supporting turns by Mr Giamatti and Mr Wilkinson.

2. (500) Days of Summer (review A+)
Oh to fall in love! And then to fall out of love because the person you love doesn't love you back, or maybe they do but they don't show it, and then you want them back but don't want to seem like you want them back... I could keep going, but I'd be giving out too much of the "plot" of this film. Yet, even though we all know the plot of this film (it is after all a romantic comedy of sorts) the charm of this flick is the way the story is told, one day of Summer at a time. Also: best closing line exchange ever!

1. Up (review A+)
To say "PIXAR has done it again!" is to sell the Emeryville-based animation studio short: why wouldn't they do it again, pray tell? Sure, WALL-E set the bar (way way) high, but this film about a grouchy old man, a bubbly wilderness explorer, a colourful bird, a talking dog and a balloon-lifted house is endearing, mature, wonderfully riveting and utterly charming (not to mention all-out sad and depressing - in the good way!)

Top 5 Reads
This is for books read in 2009, not "released" in 2009.
(It's like cheating, only not, since I do want to plug these books)

Honourable Mentions:

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
(The plurality of narrators in Diaz's novel make for a great ensemble narrative device that takes through generations of Dominicans struggling both in Santo Domingo - with Trujillo-as-Sauron in power, and in New Jersey - could have done with a more nuanced ending, though)

& Buffy Season 8 (continued) exec produced by Joss Whedon (assorted writers)
Dark Horse's successful run continued with more action-packed (and one-off) adventures featuring our favorite Sunnydale blonde and her cohort of slayers.

5. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
(Unabashedly morally ambiguous, this tale of a professor accused of sexual harassment follows him to rural South Africa where his daughter lives in a farm where one brutal night will change their lives forever. Sound too cliche? It's Coetzee, he doesn't know what that is.)

4. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A family history told from the point of view of an unborn child? Add in the fact that said "child" grows up to be an intersex child of Greek heritage and you have a compelling narrator, an intricately woven family saga and an entertaining read all in one!

3. Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe (Vol. 5) by Bryan O'Malley
The first four volumes were hysterical, so it was no surprise that this fifth installment continues telling the story of Toronto-dweller, indie-band member and resident loser Scott Pilgrim who's been fighting his love Ramona's ex-boyfriends (and girlfriend) in order to earn her love. Plus: I'm already excited for the film!

2. Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton
Would you believe me if I told you you could tell a coherent story solely through objects? Well, that's exactly what Ms Shapton has done here. Through an auction catalogue, we follow the "love story" between Harold and Lenore. Intriguing premise? The execution is even better! Read my initial fanboy-ish thoughts here.

1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Couldn't put it down: all 326 pages flew by in three days! After his brain-teaser and scavenger-hunt aficionado dad perishes at the towers on 9/11, Oskar Schell, age 8, finds a key in an envelope marked "Black" while snooping around in his dad's room. Where does the key lead? What does it open? More than a simple enjoyable story, Safran Foer's book immerses you effortlessly in a funnily written and poignantly staged family history about dealing with grief and loss. Brilliant.

Top 5 Blog Posts
...because I'm not beyond self-publicity. No shame 'bout that, really.
(Can we believe that my itty-bitty reposting of a couple of Dustin Lance-Black's pics - no, not those ones! - was my most visited page throwing my page-count through the roof, actually... when will I ever get 1000+ hits in a single day again... sigh)

5.New inductees to "Everything I know I Learnt From Animation":
Oscar nominated Bolt & Kung Fu Panda, Oscar-winner (and modern masterpiece) Wall-E, and Disney classics The Lion king & The Emperor's New Groove
And after compiling them I realised I'm some sort of schizo who can love Dolly-loving robots as much as suburban train-wrecks and brassy drunks... what does that say about me? Find out for yourself!

3. I love the
ending to 9 to 5, don't you?
I have yet to see the Broadway version of this 1980s "work comedy" featuring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, but til then we can always revisit this comedic gem whose end-titles gave me something to write about for JD's blog-a-thon.

2. Did you know
Heavenly Creatures is Ms Kate Winslet's career to a tee?
To celebrate Ms Winslet's victory at the Oscars (and the Globes!), I revisited Kate's career through the lens of her screen debut (courtesy of Mr Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson!

Academic OscarsThese are the types of posts I enjoy writing: marrying my academic pursuits with my pop culture obsessions. Just in time for the February ceremony, we explored 'manliness' in the Best Actor roles, we found the Best Actress lineup was full of mothers, encountered a couple of crazies in Best Supporting Actor lineup and delved into 'desire' with the Best Supporting Actress ladies.

1 comment:

Dame James said...

Wow, I feel totally honored that you would rip me, imitate something I do. I, sir, am humbled. And this is a great write up, especially the love for Grey Gardens, Up and all of your great posts from the past six months. I must say that I'm curious about "Important Artifacts" now; sounds interesting and completely refreshing.