To be honest, I really hate reading articles with titles like “The 10 Best Movies of 2011” or “The 10 Ways 2011 Changed Our Lives”. There are a couple of reasons for that. The biggie is that the people compiling best-of-2011 lists are usually going rapturous over movies and books and artists I’ve never heard of, and when they do so, it sounds like they took the “replace every third word with a new word I found in the thesaurus” approach. For good examples of this, read pretty much any article published by Slate between December 20th and today.
The second reason is that I think a lot of things that people are obsessed with today won’t stand the test of time (hopefully, this includes that Pumped-Up Kicks song). I think it would be far more interesting to dig up one of those lists from twenty years ago and see how much of that really had any sort of lasting impact on anyone.
Since internet blogging wasn’t exactly prolific in 1991, though, I can’t find any such lists. So instead I’m going to be completely hypocritical and post my favorite things that I discovered in 2011. Feel free to mock me in 2031 when I’ve completely forgotten about everything on this list.
Music – The Civil Wars – A friend of mine from college seems to specialize in finding music that is me-music, by which I mean I’ll randomly get an e-mail or an instant message saying “You should check out this band, if you haven’t already” and ten minutes later I’ve purchased everything available by that artist. This year, that band / duo was The Civil Wars. They’ve been nominated for the 2011 Grammy awards for both best country duo/group performance and for best folk album, which would make them a very unusual pick for me – I abandoned my country roots somewhere in the early 90s – but as Richie points out, they were played in “one of those horrible Grey’s Anatomy montages where emotions swell and it’s always very romantic and tragic”, so it’s really not all that surprising 🙂 And everyone knows I love a good duet. My absolute favorite off their album Barton Hollow is the title track, but for those who want something a little more melancholy (um, who doesn’t?), my next favorite is Falling. And then Birds of a Feather (no cute video for that one, sorry). Interestingly enough, despite looking oh-so-adorable together on video, they’re both happily married to other people.
Television Show – Once Upon A Time – I’ve always been really into fantasy and the paranormal, at least when it comes to movies and television and books. Not so much in my own life – if I met someone who claimed to actually do spells, I’d run far, far away. But as the girl who owns all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, clearly a touch of the fantastical is key in my entertainment life. This means that when I saw the previews for Once Upon a Time several months before the season started, I tried to program it into my DVR before it was even officially listed as a program. You’d think these high hopes would only lead to disappointment, but nope – this show is every bit as thrilling as I hoped and more. It’s really hard to explain without sounding like a crazy, so I’m just going to go for it. The premise of the story is that Snow White’s evil stepmother cast a curse on the citizens of Fairy Tale world to strip them of their happy endings; this sends them to a tiny town (Storybrooke, Maine) where all of the people have been stripped of their identities and any sense of time, and they live uneventful lives, in close proximity to their happy endings but never being able to achieve them. The show goes through events in both present-day and in fairy tale world, showing the backstories behind the fairy tale characters we all know and love. It sounds ridiculous, but even if it is, it’s gorgeous, well-acted, and fun.
Runners up in this category (apparently I watch far too much television): Revenge and American Horror Story. I watch both of these shows with my iPhone tucked away and my laptop mostly on the floor – this is pretty key, since every other show I watch involves lots of Facebook and Angry Birds multitasking.
Movie – The Debt – I didn’t really watch many movies this year, and the ones I did were honestly kind of disappointing. I loved the last Harry Potter because it was THE LAST HARRY POTTER, but as it always is with book-movies, the way it transpired in my mind as I read the book was just so much better than how it played out on-screen, even despite the fantastic special effects and the great acting by the amazing cast. Let’s not even talk about how I felt about the Twilight movie, other than to say that I laughed at a lot of parts that were not intended to be funny. But Richie and I watched The Debt a few days ago, and it’s stuck in my mind ever since, and I want to watch it again – which is very rare for a movie that’s not a comedy. I have a hard time re-watching dark and twisty movies, mostly because they make me feel dark and twisty as I watch them. But this movie kept my attention the entire time and made me want to watch every movie that Jessica Chastain has worked on (which would not be difficult, as I think she’s pretty new to the biz). It’s about three Mossad agents in the 60s who were tasked with tracking down the Surgeon of Birkenau and bringing him to justice. It’s probably not the most accurate movie you’ll see about that time period (I have serious doubts about a tiny camera hidden in a necklace – wasn’t the technology to make cameras that small developed only recently?) but it was fascinating.
Book – The Hunger Games Trilogy – I don’t think I even need to say anything about this, since everyone seemed to join the Hunger Games fan club well before I discovered the books – but I am so, so excited about the movie, even though I’ll be in Budapest by then and likely forced to watch it with subtitles. These books re-awakened my love of dystopian fiction (as I’m sure it did for every teenage girl in America… I really must remind myself that I’m nearing thirty) and since reading them, I’ve discovered a lot of great books in that genre, also intended for teenagers but loved by people like me 🙂 Examples include Divergent by Veronica Roth and Delirium by Lauren Oliver. And I just bought a few more… Richie will probably be embarrassed to be seen with me when we travel, because I’ll likely be toting around several copies of books intended for children. Ah well.
Website – Young House Love – Young House Love is a blog written by a DIY couple as they renovate their (second, now) home start to finish. If you’ve had a conversation with me anytime in the past several months about decorating, DIY, or homes, I’ve probably mentioned them since they are now my Bible of Home Repair. I once brought home a brush from Home Depot for painting edges/trim because it was recommended by them and walked around for 30 minutes touching up paint – and it seriously is the best paintbrush ever. Summary: If you’re going to do something around the home, they’ve probably done it and probably have a great tutorial or product recommendation. You should check ’em out.
As far as personally – 2011 was a fantastic year, with great trips and memories with friends and family. But I can’t imagine how it can compare to what 2012 has in store for us! It’s really, really hard to stay focused on the present while I’m anticipating our March move overseas and the plans we have. I always say I won’t make New Year’s resolutions – and this isn’t really one, since it’s only applicable for two months – but I’m challenging myself to do just that, to be focused and grounded in the present and our last two-ish months in the US and to enjoy every last drop of it. And I’m challenging you as well – if you see me stressing or being overly anxious, please smack me on the side of the head. 🙂