Right upfront, I don't see many movies in the theater. We used to, pre-children, but now it's hard to get out on our own and when we do we'd rather talk uninterrupted than seeing a movie. And, to take the girls to a movie, I'm so picky about what they see--I don't find much out there for them. I will say that yesterday we went to see the new Disney princess movie, "The Princess & the Frog," and I loved it. The animation is beautiful, the music is soooo great, the story is cute, and the message is excellent. I'm not a big fan of the princess movies, other than Beauty & the Beast (hey, even I get a tear in my eye when Belle kisses the Beast as he's dying and tells him she loves him; then he morphs into Michael Bolton. Good stuff.)
But for once, the new princess (Disney's first black princess by the way) isn't looking for a man. She's hard working and wants to open a restaurant. In fact, the main theme of movie is: don't sit around waiting for things to drop in your lap; get out there and work. It's also funny. So...thumbs up, for The Princess & the Frog.
Now, on to the small screen, which is where I catch most stuff. Here is what I really like:
This is actually not new, of course. Inspector Morse is a classic, but I just have to tell you about this boxed set, which we are working our way through. The DVD player in our bedroom finally crashed and burned, so, at my request, Darren bought a region-free DVD player (no more expensive than a regular one). He then started researching series on amazon.co.uk vs. amazon.com. We got this Region 2 (UK) boxed set for forty pounds, which I think is roughly about $60.00. The same set sells on amazon.com for, wait for it....$430.00!!
"Collision" is a new mini-series that aired in November on PBS. It's written by Anthony Horowitz, one of my favorite TV writers. He wrote the awesome Foyle's War series. "Collision" is about a massive car accident on a London highway and all the repercussions that follow during the investigation of the crash. It's about 3 1/2 hours long, and I don't think I looked away once the entire time.
"Place of Execution" is another PBS mini-series. It's an adaptation of the Val McDermid novel by the same name. Juliet Stevenson plays the lead role--an investigative reporter. She is producing a documentary on a missing person case from thirty years before that has still never been solved. The story is told in flashback form and is chilling, full of twists and turns.
This summer was the second season of Inspector Lewis. They shot a pilot of Inspector Lewis in 2003, just to see if audiences would be interested in a spin-off from Inspector Morse. They certainly were. The show is still shot in Oxford, but the chemisty between Lewis and Sergeant Hathaway is totally different from that of Lewis and Morse. It's a great show, and I look forward to new episodes in summer 2010.
"Castle" is our latest find, and I can't believe it escaped our notice for a year and a half. It's on ABC on Monday nights at 9 CST. Rick Castle is a pulp fiction novelist who shadows detective Kate Beckett and helps her solve cases. It's light and ever-so-funny, with a great supporting cast. I hope it picks up more notice so that it continues.
I take no end of ribbing on facebook for my fandom of this next show, The Mentalist, but so be it. Every time I mention it, I am accused of watching for, ahem, only shallow reasons. Believe me, there are plenty of shallow reasons to watch, but it's a great show. I guess who did the murder every week (Americans aren't as adept as British at plotting crime shows), but the dialogue and inter-play between the characters is great. Also, I haven't figured out the running plot-line of Red John yet, so there's still something (that apparently won't be revealed until the final episode ever).
Lastly, there's "The Good Wife." Law shows don't normally appeal to me, but I really like this. Juliana Margulies plays a lawyer, and the wife of a disgraced, imprisoned state's attorney. Her struggles as a lawyer and mom, while trying to come to terms with what her husband has done make an interesting show. And...it's set in Chicago (supposedly). It's on Tuesday nights on CBS (after the NCIS franchise).
Now, on to books. One of my new year's resolutions is going to be to keep a list of the books I read throughout the year. I've done that with books I've read with the girls but not what I've read myself, so I've had to cast back and remember books that really jumped out at me as being excellent.
The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee--a novel set in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. This covered an area/time in history that I didn't know much about. I inhale anything written during WWII, but I hadn't read much of anything about the Chinese at that time. This book is populated with characters whom you can't quite love or hate but rather watch in fascination at what desperation makes people do.
So Long, Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore. I normally devote my time to fiction, but, working on the magazine, I've read a lot more non-fiction this year. I started to write a whole post about this book but ran out of steam because I've got too much stuff going on. Suffice it to say, it's not coming out until February 2010, but it is excellent. I didn't have a lot of high hopes on the topic of insecurity, even though it is Beth Moore. This book blew me away; I couldn't put it down. Beth will be doing an online study via her blog of the book in February. I am so there (Cindy, are you with me?!).
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I picked this next book up on a whim and was delightfully surprised. It's Jamie Ford's first book, and I hope it's not his last. It's about Henry, a Chinese-American man, living in Seattle in the 1980s and his look back at the internment of the Japanese--one of whom was his childhood sweetheart. It's a compelling look at the father-son relationship as well as cultural assimilation between generations. I just loved it and gave it to my parents to read--who felt the same way about it.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This next book I kept hearing about but never picked up until Thanksgiving. It is sooo popular, so I just knew I wouldn't care for it. Color me wrong, I loved it. It's written in letter format and is so gentle and witty and alternately heartbreaking and brimming with happiness. How's that for publisher copy. Loved it.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I saved my favorite for last. I think I wrote about this book more extensively right after I read it, but I'll write a little bit now too. This book is about a young writer who secretly interviews household help in the South in the 60s so she can publish their story. I can't really do this book justice, but not only was it the best book I read in 2009, it might be the best book I've read in the last five years. If you haven't picked it up yet, do yourself a favor and read it.
That's my wrap-up for 2009. Glancing back over this post, it looks like I watch a lot of TV. Hmmm. Well, it's been a bad weather year--that's my excuse. I still try to read 2-3 books a week, so that's OK. And it's quality TV! Did you see any reality programming on there? No, you did not.
Kacie included music in her post, but I always listen to the same old stuff and never discover anything new. I guess my top 2 favorite albums of this year are the new Selah CD "You Deliver Me," and Travis Cottrell's CD "Forever Amen." It wasn't released this year (2006 maybe?), but I play it non-stop and it has gotten me through some dark days.
So...what are some of your picks?