Tops in ’11…

January 21, 2012 § 25 Comments

Because it’s still January, and also because I told Arti that I would do  it(!),  herein a quick reflective write up on (only certain) categories of “tops in  2011.” Of course this is entirely subjective and duly note that some of  “things” mentioned herein may not have occurred/premiered/published within 2011 after all. I tend to arrive late at “what’s hot” selections yearly.

Top Books (a very subjective view)…

   A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson ….I, too, am surprised to see this book at the top of my list.  But there are two (subjective) reasons: 1) He writes about the Adirondack Trail, a great part of which includes my old stomping ground on the East Coast; and 2) he made me laugh out loud. And furthermore, it’s a book I wouldn’t normally pick up but it was a gift and it turned out to be a perfect gift.
   The Help – Kathryn Stockett… and I don’t usually fall for “mass” bestsellers but there you go, I loved this book (as mentioned several times).
   A Roomful of Hovings and The Pines – John McPhee…just happened to discover McPhee’s writing. The way he can write about the length of grass on a tennis court or what Pine natives think of outsiders will stop you in your tracks and have you reading every detail. He’s an essayist, a storyteller, a writer who puts a variety of things under a writer’s microscope and just goes and you can’t help but follow.
Truth is, when I look at the list of books I read last year, I am pressed to tell you that most were read for sheer entertainment, like page turners, easy stuff OR books on art and journaling!
PS  And I did love Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I really liked the Major.  He seemed to have the right moves at the right time. And all was well.

Top Magazines…

   The New Yorker – still holding its (personal) top position on my magazine list but that’s because of its local, its pace, its ads, its embrace of cartoons and fiction along with Talk of the Town.  The magazine, its covers, its staff are all stories in themselves.
   Fast Company – this one rose quickly to the top of my list because it scratches a “professional reading” itch but moves and jumps and flashes around so that I don’t get bored with any pedantic pages.
  GRANTA – love it. Introduces me to new authors. Makes me read stuff I normally wouldn’t. And the photo section is full of stories in itself.
  VOGUE – ah, my beloved VOGUE. Still hangs in there but is slipping. It’s look/layout is  heavy-footed; some photo stories are annoying rather than breathtaking and overall, other than some (Euro) fashion pages, it’s not taking any chances with its articles or photos. ELLE magazine may surpass the big V in terms of presentation. Still, thank goodness Grace Coddington is still chez VOGUE  or the wind would definitely be out of the sails on this great old schooner.
    Poets&Writers – This one is for writers who don’t need to be told every issue how to do something. This one goes deep, is thought provoking with its essays on “Why we write,” its updates on the lit mag world, its spotlight on authors you might have heard of but then again, ah, maybe not and its complete section on contests and awards.  This magazine feels good; the paper is excellent, the layout is fresh and readable with decent visuals/graphics.  I carry this one around for a couple weeks before I even start to read it. And then I save them all, dogeared and annotated.

Top Movies…

     The Descendants
– Absolutely not a comedy though certain previews might lead you to think so and yet it was not without its comic moments, just as life would have it. I was surprised in after dicussion of the film how much I did really like it after all. We love to look at families and see what they’re doing, how they’re doing and how they interact. Clooney was good and quite good at knowing when to be silent in this film; the elder daughter had uncanny strength while her younger sister showed the certain delightful guilelessness. All due to the script. Well written, I say. And the setting, Hawaii, was a wonderful treat though not intrusive. (It could have been). Yes, you’ll get into money and greed and the big machine and the play of family politics and although you’ll guess the end, you will be satisfied for having been there for it and will be glad you met this little family.
     Midnight in Paris – Nope, did NOT like this film at first. Thought at first glance it was kitschy. Then, it grew on me. After all, it throws every literary and artistic character from the Lost Gen (expats) at you and then unravels further back and you guess who’s who before they do some clicheed identifier (Hemingway wanting to fight, Dali being weird, weird, weird, etc) but I liked it after all. And will seek to watch it again. Thank goodness Woody Allen believes in a little magic; we need it. His version, a bit lighter than time travel (as in the Time Traveler’s Wife) is fun and we have some laughs while witnessing the truth of the movie: we all are prone to believe that the century/time period prior to  our own was “better.”  Watch it and enjoy. This one is worth owning, to play in the background during a party or even while you’re dusting and vacuuming.
     The Help – I read the book first. Thankfully. I’m sure I’d think otherwise of the film if I hadn’t. But I was terribly judgmental as I watched it unfold on the screen before me, comparing it unwittingly to the book all along the way. Still I enjoyed it. I might have cast it differently, especially Skeeter’s part (Emma Stone), but they did it “right” after all, they did it correctly and they did a good job. I cried where I cried in the book (no, I’m not telling you where or why) and I laughed where the book also made me laugh. The audience in the theater that night was participatory, too, which is always fun – when there’s laughter or clapping and then a collective sigh at the end.  The biggest difference between the screen and the page for this one?  The movie ended and we left whereas when the book ended,  I didn’t to leave/stop reading. The movie was thin; the book was not.
     Cowboys and Aliens – omg, this movie was awful I loved it. So silly, such a mixture of excellent talent (Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig) and sci fi and westerns!!!!!!  It derives from a graphic novel, if that helps understand its mongrel self.  I loved it. Ridiculous, it was. And corny. But Ford and Craig saved it and yes, cowboys have a certain appeal. No one sits a horse better.  Anyway, this was  pure entertainment (with a touch of “impatience” because everyone works together against the aliens of course which is the way it should be but it’s so darn in-your-face.)  Tra lala. This one still wins anyway: horses, dogs and children survive blissfully and our heroes come through for us.
     Harry Potter 7/8
     Pirates of the Carribean Part #4

Top Events – not  “global” events (there would be so many)

   Game #6, World Series 
   Game #7, World Series, and was there!
   Roger Daltry presenting “Tommy” at the Peabody Opera House, STL
   The wedding of Will and Kate
   New Year’s Eve in NYC
  New Year’s Eve in Nashville (both via TV; glad for the latter since it’s in our time zone – at last, a ball (or guitar) that drops according to our central time zone.)

Top  food trends
Salted caramels
Seaside cheddar cheese at Whole Food
Balsamic glaze
Grilled cheese

Hmmm….so many more categories could be contrived here but that’s for another time.

Care to share your favorite (recent) book-of-the-moment with me? I’m all ears!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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§ 25 Responses to Tops in ’11…

  • Arti says:

    This is just great, oh, to get this done before the end of Jan. and… for me? Hey thanks a million! And, looks like the stars in some of your faves are likely to be Oscar nominees, or even winners, like George Clooney in The Descendants, and Octavia Spencer for The Help. Not sure Viola Davis could beat Meryl Streep though. If you haven’t seen it, do go and see her in The Iron Lady. And for Midnight In Paris, I just tweeted about the ‘making of’: how a seed idea became an acclaimed movie. Click here to read this interesting article. Lots to discuss from your lists. Thanks for sharing!

    • oh says:

      Arti – Yes, you inspired this (tho’ I’ve not included nearly enough detail here, nevertheles….) and meant to plop the link to your blog in there which I’ll do right now!

  • VictoriaGiggles says:

    Reblogged this on VictoriaGiggles and commented:
    Really enjoyable, worth a look out there. 🙂

  • Richard says:

    Wow, you are one together and on-top-of-it chick! If only I could be half as on things as you…thanks for sharing…you make my boat rise….

  • litlove says:

    Very interested to see your picks for books and movies. James McPhee is a new name to me, but one I will go and check out right away! I’ve owned a copy of The Help for ages but haven’t read it yet – really must in 2012!

    • oh says:

      Dear LL – And I have to correct my refernce to the second of McPhee’s book, above – It’s The Pine Barrens (not the Pines). It’s about an area in the southern part of New Jersey that is acres and acres of woodlands and actually cranberry (bogs) and it has a certain “cachet” for being in the mobster HBO series “The Sopranos.” And one of his newer books, “Silk Parachute” is full of very fine essays. So yes, if you get a chance, check it out.

      Honestly, you’d think I’d have more to show for my reading “tops” last year but oooeee, I did read me some NYT bestsellers which are typically more about page turners than light-turn-er-on-ers!

  • Thanks for the comment on my surgery post. 🙂 My mom did a fabulous job taking care of me. It was way more painful than I thought it would be. I am so glad it’s behind me! Still in pain, but getting better each day!

    My boss lent me a Walk in the Woods and I have yet to read that. Must bump that up my TBR pile! I loved Midnight in Paris, too!

    Some of my favorite reads were The Paris Wife, Secret Daughter, and One Day! I didn’t see many movies this year. I got rid of netflix, so now I barely watch movies anymore! My favorite new magazine is the Rachel Ray one that Nora introduced me too. i actually not care for Rachel Ray on TV, but I do love her magazine!

    I am hoping to get to the Lou – maybe this summer? I am cutting back on traveling for fun until this next CFA exam is behind me as my business travel has really ramped up lately! Miss you & Michael! xoxo

    • oh says:

      Dear L! So glad to hear from you; phew, it’s so good you did it. No more apprehension, and now you’re gonna feel so much better. Glad your Mom is there; let everyone spoil you, no studying for that exam, either! Just relax and allow yourself to do nothing.

      And I’ll bet you’re enjoying some good cooking (I know you’re a “cooking” family!) Cheers and hugs to you and yours.

      more later!

  • Corri says:

    Great list and good for you getting it in before the end of January! I’ve given up, will not get round to deciding favourites, whether books, films or magazines. I love your list, it’s well written (as usual) and therefore a delight to read. You know what? I haven’t read any of your top books (yet), but I agree about your pick of magazines: Granta is great (but you have to make lots of time for it – which I don’t always have). Thanks for the list and the great blogs you’ve written in 2011. Keep them coming.

    • oh says:

      Dear Corri – So great to hear from you and thank you for your kind comments. I find this winter season is a huge reading time for me – love our couch and laugh at the short days and long nights that go so well with wonderful books. But otherwise, I read mags and often just popular “stuff” …I have even t hought lately about gong back to school for Masters, or even just to take a course…to get back on a good reading course.
      What would I do without all of you reader/book blogger friends?
      And you are SO right about Granta – it’s a wealth of stuff in such a fine little package – I keep ’em all like beloved books on the shelf (and in chrono order – egads!)

  • shoreacres says:

    I’m with you on The New Yorker, although my personal top mag this year has been – Harper’s Weekly!?! Yes, ma’am – trolling the archives for Atchafalaya and Civil War stuff, and it’s been an absolute revelation. There were some writers back then!

    And of your authors, McPhee is it. I finished his entire “Control of Nature”, having been snagged during spring floods by his chapter on the Atchafalaya. Now, on your recommend, I think I’ll move on to “The Pine Barrens”. Getting steeped in his writing wouldn’t be a bad thing!

    • oh says:

      What? no kidding? McPhee wrote about your Atchafalya? Now I’m intrigued and have to see what he wrote. And you’re correct ( I messed up) on his book title THE PINE BARRENS. sheesh, broke a major “J” school rule on that!

      I love it when things connect like this, and rather than saying “small world” would have to say “rich world” where we’re both falling over/finding the same author. Which led me further to discover whether he had a blog in which I might introduce him to YOUR blog. Didn’t find one but DID find this youtube film which you might have already seen.
      Check it out, just to see:

      • shoreacres says:

        Believe it or not, I’ve seen the youtube already, but I’m a huge McPhee fan and spent some time searching out resources and information. I appreciate you reminding me of it, because I hadn’t saved it in my favorites or downloaded it, and now I have.

        I wasn’t going to mention this, but both McPhee and my blog are on the reading list for a history course segment on the Atchafalaya at Cleveland State University. You can see the course page here. The thought of being recommended in the same breath as McPhee took my breath away. It’s pretty doggoned special.

  • Typehype says:

    I had a similar feeling about Midnight in Paris, mostly because I’m not that wild about Owen Wilson (he always seems the same to me in every movie). But I loved the crazy-funny, over the top Hemingway character. He was my favorite. If only Woody Allen were younger — he could have played the O.W. part and then I know I would have loved it.

    I’m reading “Blue Nights” by Joan Didion now. It’s just great. I’ve got to read “The Help.” Me, too, same issue, re avoiding the best seller thing, so I’ve kind of shied away. But I’ve heard so many good things about the novel from the many who’ve read it. I’ve got to pick it up. Thanks for the reminder!

    • oh says:

      Dear T, Glad to hear about Didion’s book and have a gift card (at the ready!) that I can use to get it!

      I’m thinking that, given books/movies that are popular, like “Midnight in Paris,” “The Night Circus,” and even the YA stuff (“Twilight,” etc) everyone’s looking for a little magic, a little escape by walking though some sort of portal.
      Wonder what the Oscars will have to say about the “best” movie…

      • Typehype says:

        Me, too, re the Oscars. But, really, I only watch to see the dresses (and, this year, Billy Crystal – right? isn’t he the host? He’s so funny.

  • Care says:

    I always think I’ve read McPhee but I’ve only purchased a book as a gift for my brother. And yet, I feel like I *know* him. Odd. Guess that means I should actually try something he’s written and not just read how great he is!

    Wow – I wouldn’t call Midnight in Paris ‘popular’ – I only know a few people (bloggers) who even know what it is. I haven’t seen it but am worried I won’t get all the references so it will fall flat.

    Great 2011 recap!

    • oh says:

      Thanks, Care – and you would totally get the movie “Midnight’s” characters…you are so well read, you couldn’t miss! And I wonder what you’d think of it – please “dish” if you do see it.

  • Arti says:

    Now that the Oscar Nominations are out, you may be interested to read my take on them… but, be prepared, you’d find a divergent view on The Help. 😉

    • oh says:

      Ah, I will likely agree with you on the movie. Lots of hype, plenty of good acting, some good lines but something missing – the “heart” of it, maybe. Better to see it without having read the book, I think.

  • jeanie says:

    Hmmm. Well, first, I just adored this post and your list, and I’m very impressed at all the categories! (And I agree on many!) I’ll get NYorker again — Rick started his subscription. We read the same ones for years! (Takes that long to get through them!)

    I think “Midnight in Paris” and “The Help” were the only two movies I saw this year — well, wait — I saw “The King’s Speech” in 2012 and I’d add that one. I agree on both the Help movie and book and Emma Stone who I liked well enough but just seemed wrong. I kept thinking Meryl Streep 35 years ago. Someone who “looked” like her. Emma was too pretty.

    Books — you saw my list, I think. I would add Saving Cee Cee Hunnicut, The Paris Wife, Cold Pizza for Breakfast, Sarah’s Key and True North. I’d love to add the one I just wrote about — Diane Keaton’s Then Again. Mmmmm!

    • oh says:

      Jeanie – I read your book list and jotted down the titles you mention above – I MUST be more eclectic in my reading…and I did download THE PARIS WIFE for travel reading. I will borrow Nor’s copy of SARAH’S KEY though i know it’s gotta be sad. And then there’s Keaton – that’s one to look forward to.

      I have to say I could NOT put down THE NIGHT CIRCUS but will do a quick review here on it and then y’all can decide.

      Oh, I know what you mean about the NYer – the magazine can make you crazy, trying to keep up. And then the short stories they find to put in there – sometimes I just sit there where I finish one, staring off, thinking …wow.
      That publication is a treasure house and requires me to read s.l.o.w.l.y. Which is a good thing. I save all the covers. I’m thinking you and Rick are right – I should just keep them all. (which would require their own closet or room, at this point!)

      more later– and watch for a wee package in the mail, dear friend!

  • Bella Rum says:

    What to do? What to do? I haven’t read The Help because I can’t decide if I want to read it before I see the movie.

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts on all this.

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