Monday, January 01, 2007

Annual Book and Movie Report

For the last 15 years or so, I have inflicted an annual Christmas letter upon family and friends. If you're a friend and haven't gotten one, feel grateful, not insulted. One feature of the annual letter that recipients seem to enjoy the most (right after the fact that it only comes out once a year) is our annual book and movie picks. The winner of Best Movie Viewed in 2006 (I list only movies seen in theaters; movies were not meant to be watched on television) is Babel.

Best Book was Houseboating in the Ozarks, about which I have reported in more detail a month or so ago.

Here is a listing of all of the books I read in 2006, 52, and all of the movies which I saw in theaters, 46. It was a good year for books and movies. Only a few books and movies in my lifetime have ever rated the 5 plus rating, which is the highest rating known to humankind.

Here goes (Books first):

5 Plus Stars

Houseboating in the Ozarks by Gary Forrester

5 Stars

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life by J.M. Coetzee
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
How Men Pray by Phillip Deaver
Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

4 Stars

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Family Man by Calvin Trillin
Silas Marner by Georges Elliott
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard
Devil With A Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Falconer by John Cheever
American Humor and Satire various authors
The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories by Mark Twain
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Everyman by Phillip Roth
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
Mark Twain, a Biography by Ron Powers
City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
I Thought My Father Was God by Paul Auster
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
My Detachment: A Memoir by Tracy Kidder
Half of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adiche
Second Nature by Michael Pollan
American Rhapsody by Joe Esterhazy
A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines

Three Stars

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
Stories of T.C. Boyle by T.C. Boyle
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Joe Jones by Anne Lamott
Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rachel West
Journal of a Novel by John Steinbeck
"C" is for Corpse" by Sue Grafton
"A" is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
"B" is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
Selected Stories by Bret Harte
Mile High Club by Kinky Friedman
Straight Man by Richard Russo
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker

Two Stars

Espelkamp on the German Frontier by Bill Dyck
Discipline and Punishment by Michel Foucault
Race by Studs Terkel

One Star

The History Boys by Alan Bennett

2006 Movie Ratings

Five Plus Stars


Five Stars

Match Point by Woody Allen
Why We Fight
Claire Dolan
For Your Consideration

Four Stars

The Family Stone
Fun With Dick and Jane
The Whale and the Squid
Looking for Comedy in a Muslim World
Brokeback Mountain
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
My Fair Lady
Man Push Cart
U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha
To Kill A Mockingbird
Prairie Home Companion
Look Both Ways
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
The Illusionist
Little Jerusalem
Last King of Scotland
Pulp Fiction
The Queen

Three Stars

Mrs. Henderson Presents
Thank You for Smoking
Duane Hopwood
The Sting
An Inconvenient Truth
The Unforgiven
The Departed

Two Stars

The Eagle
Ripley's Game
The Black Dahlia
Please Teach Me English

One Star

The Libertine
Bad Santa


The Decider said...

Please note that I am not now and will never comment about the contents and ranking of these lists. P. G. Springer

gerry rosser said...

That's quite a list. I also read White Teeth, Half of a Yellow Sun, and A Confederacy of Dunces.
As for movies, I went to not one movie in a theatre last year. I just won't pay to watch commercials, listen to other patrons talk, and feel stickiness under my shoes.
I read lots of other books too, but have no list.

Jarrett said...

two comments.

#1 - there's no way you read all of the TC BOYLE stories book. and if you did, waded through a lot of annoying stuff. you should pick up his books "Tortilla Curtain" and "Drop City" and his short stories book "After the Plague" which are both excellent.

#2 - Please explain why The History Boys was the worst book you've read all year.

Amishlaw said...

Jarrett, did you used to be called p.g.?
Actually I listed to all of the Boyle stories on tape. I agree that a lot of them were not very good, but some were quite good. I haven't read the two books you mention, but I have read several of his books. I particularly liked The Road to Wellville. Riven Rock is another of his books that was okay, but not great. He often has some good pieces in The New Yorker.
I didn't like the pomposity of The History Boys, the dropping of facts, the pediophilia. I thought it was a lot of air and no substance.

Alexandra G said...

I agree about Babel. It was fantasticly done.

Marewheeee said...

gerry, come to think of it, that's why I gave up the movie theater too. It's barbaric in there!

Marewheeee said...

I've always been hopelessly behind in movies and in fact am still stuck in the age of the VCR which you'll notice is pretty much outmoded at Blockbuster.
My husband's daughter just gave us a portable DVD player and a stack of movies for our road trip to Florida on Saturday.
Your list gives me a great reference point so when I go to BB to pick a movie I won't get so overwhelmed that I pick a dud!

Amishlaw said...

Gerry and marewheee, most of the movies I see are in an art house or a restored vintage theater during the Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, so there aren't many kids and teenagers spilling pop and sticking gum wherever there is a flat surface. I do patronize the multiplexes for probably half the movies, but again, most of the movies I see are not big commercial smashes with droves of kids.

Jarrett said...

Are you asking if I'm Greg? Or are you implying that I sound like Greg? If the former is the case, no, I'm Jarrett. If the latter is the case, do I really sound that combative? hahaha.

You should read Tortilla, Drop City, and After the Plague. Also, his short story collection, "Tooth & Claw" is pretty good, though there are some silly ones in there. I agree about the STORIES collection: there are some wonderful ones in there. Greasy Lake and the one about the adopted son who becomes a beekeeper or waspkeeper come to mind. He's an all around compelling, wonderful writer. I think those STORIES though are from a really early period of his writing.

I was asking about History Boys because, having not read it myself, I've heard only great things and was surprised to see it made your WORST-Of list.


Amishlaw said...

Jarrett, you obviously know who I'm talking about, so you must be friends of pg, if you're not him. I thought you were one of his aliases because he gets so upset with me when I don't like a book or movie (or play) that he thinks is great. But you're not as combative as he is, so I'll accept that you're someone else. As to History Boys, I know it has won lots of awards in New York and is soon coming out as a movie so many people do think highly of it. I only read the play, haven't seen it, so maybe my mind would change if I saw a production.

gnightgirl said...

After a couple of chaotic years, I'm working on developing my attention span back into a regularly-reader mentality; it takes me ages to muck through a book these days, instead of 4 days that it used to. I'm currently reading I, Mona Lisa, and Catch-22.

I couldn't get through White Teeth, but I loved Confederacy of Dunces. It was the first I ever realized my constant grammatical error: "prolly." I still can't break myself of it.

Amishlaw said...

I haven't read "I, Mona Lisa," but I've heard of it. Amazon describes it as a "fevered bodice ripper." Seems like a far cry from "Catch 22." I'm a slow reader too. I just try to get in a few pages here and there. It's amazing how they add up.

Jarrett said...

Yes, History Boys is highly acclaimed, which is why your one star rating snared my attention...I thought to myself, 'well, here's a real person on planet earth, not in the cheer squads of the press who actually read the thing and didn't like it.' As I don't know anyone who's read it or seen it, to read your review made me think the play is probably not all that.

As to my identity, I am indeed Jarrett. Last name Dapier. Former resident of Urbana. Graduate of U of I in creative writing in 2001. Celebration Company member. I directed a few plays there while I lived in town including Skylight and The Laramie Project.


Amishlaw said...

Jarrett, pg clued me in on who you are, and i am honored that you are taking the time to read my little blog. You were in Lonesome West at The Station, which was a terrific production. I googled your name and see that you have a play opening in Chicago in February. I'm going to try to get up there to see it, and if I don't like it, I will be honest, but not combative. If I do like it, I will be honest but extravagant.

gnightgirl said...

A fevered bodice ripper?! I'm reading trash? I didn't get to any bodice ripping before I set the book down for a few days; I'm listening to The DaVinci Code on tape, and couldn't keep the details from each story straight while trying to absorb them simultaneously. I'm simple that way. Well. Now I'll look forward to getting back to my floozy novel.

Amishlaw said...

Now don't get offended, gnight, fevered bodice rippers have a place in this world. I didn't like The DaVinci Code, although apparently a lot of people did. I thought it read like a movie script. I'm still looking for my copy of Houseboating to take to you. But I have to warn you no bodices are ripped.

Jarrett said...

Thanks for the kind words! I still have great memories of The Lonesome West and McDonagh remains one of my five favorite playwrights.

That would be excellent if you could make it up here to see the show. In case you're interested, Mike Harvey, who was just in Stone Cold Dead Serious and was in SubUrbia at the Station, is in my production up here.

carunit said...

ESPELKAMP at the german frontier; you mentioned this book I never heard about before. I live in Espelkamp since Xmas 1945 (born 1943 in Pomerania), thankfull to the menonite-helpers from USA. I just ordered the book at ABEbooks. Best wishes Reinhard Puchstein