Thursday, December 20, 2007

Annual Book and Movie Ratings

In the unlikely event that I have any readers left after a two-month hiatus, I will do my annual book and movie ratings. The books are ones I have read or listened to this year, some of them for the second or third time. The movies are ones I have seen in theaters (watching flickering images on a 19-inch television with tinny speakers is not watching movies.) I have read 52 books, which is my annual goal. I have only seen 34 movies so far this year, partly because I missed the bulk of Ebertfest because duty called me East to see my son play his fiddle at Carnegie Hall.

My ratings are based on five stars, with five being the best possible rating, except an exceptional book or movie will get five plus stars, the highest rating known to humankind. I notice I didn't give any zeros this year, and only one single star, that to a lone really bad movie. I try to read books and see movies that I think I will like, so my sample should be skewed towards the higher ratings, but it was probably just the luck of the draw that I didn't get stuck with any really bad selections. Feel free to argue with me. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how wrong.


Five Plus Stars

Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky

Five Stars

A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines
The Optimist's Daughter, Eudora Weldy
Empire Falls, Richard Russo
The Plot Against America, Philip Roth
Mr. Paradise, Elmore Leonard
The View From Castle Rock, Alice Munro
Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Defining Moment, Jonathan Alter
Little Follies, Eric Kraft
On Chesel Beach, Ian McEwen

Four Stars

Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer
Secret Smile, Nicci French
The March, E.L. Doctorow
Liar's Diary, Patry Francis
The Dead Father's Club, Matt Haig
American Theocracy, Philip Roth
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Changing Light, Nora Gallagher
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards
The Known World, Edward P. Jones
A Spot of Bother, Bruce Haddon
Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley and Ron Powers
American Pastoral, Philip Roth
Moral Disorder, Margaret Atwood
The Echo Maker, Richard Powers
Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Absanea
The Tin Drum, Gunther Grass
Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
On Saturday The Rabbi Went Hungry, Harry Kimmerman
Scoring From Second, Phillip Deaver
Three Farmers On Their Way To A Dance, Richard Powers
Galatea; 2.2, Richard Powers
Possession, A.S. Byatt
Where Do You Stop?, Eric Kraft
The Maytrees, Annie Dillard
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

Three Stars

My Name Is Red, Orhan Parmuk
Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, Fannie Flagg
Buddha, Karen Armstrong
Everlasting Flower, Keith Pratt
Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott
At Canaan's Edge, Taylor Branch
Jane and the Wandering Eye, Stephanie Burron
Understanding Richard Powers, Joseph Dewey
Prisoner's Dilemna, Richard Powers
Smart Money, Dave Barry

Two Stars
Finn, Jon Clinch
M is For Malice, Sue Grafton
The Nonviolent Atonement, J. Denny Weaver
Building Peace, Holsopple, Krall & Pittman


Five Stars

Venus, Peter O'Toole
Lives of Others
Sicko, Michael Moore
No End In Sight

Four Stars

Volver, Almodovar
Notes On A Scandal, Judi Dentch
Letters From Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood
Because I Said So, Diane Keaton
The Namesake
Georgia Rules
Knocked Up
Lady Chatterly
Death and the Funeral
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Three Stars

The Painted Veil, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts
Breach, Chris Cooper
Fracture, Anthony Hopkins
The Simpsons
Darjeeling Limited
All The President's Men
Lions or Lambs
This Christmas

Two Stars

Dreamgirls, Beyounce, Eddie Murphy
Music and Lyrics, Hugh Grant
Amazing Grace
Astronaut Farmer, Billy Bob Thornton
La Vie En Rose
Mr. Woodcock, Billy Bob Thornton
Across The Universe

One Star

Hot Fuzz


Prairie Gourmet said...

Husband and I like movies in theaters best, but since we have to drive so far we have succumbed to Netflix for movies suitable for small screens.

We just watched Venus last night and thought it was well done until Venus stuck her fingers between her legs and offered it to Peter O'Toole. Husband refused to watch the rest of the movie and I relented too. I was afraid it was downhill the rest of the way.

I see you were really into Richard Powell this year. I have a stack of books by him to read this year. My daughter had to read Galatea in one of her U of I classes several years ago. She didn't care that much for it. I'm reserving judgment.

Remains of the Day is one of my all time favorites.

Amishlaw said...

Too bad you didn't watch the rest of Venus. I don't think it was downhill after that one scene, but that scene didn't offend me. It wasn't actually as explicit as things one sees on television, but as usual, what is not shown can be more erotic than what is shown. I thought the movie was very powerful and very moving in its portrayal of what it must be like growing old. If your husband doesn't like movie sex, don't take him to "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." That starts out with the most explicit sex scene I have ever seen. I don't see how it could have been faked.
I was into Richard Powers this year because he was kind enough to meet with our reading group at our house to discuss his newest book, "The Echo Makers," so I went back and re-read some of the books of his that I had read before, and bought the book called "Understanding Richard Powers." I still haven't read all of his books but I'm working on it.

becca said...

Well, first off, I quite disagree with your 5+ for Suite was sorely in need of editing but under the circumstances no one would have touched it. There were too many disconnected characters introduced making it agonizingly difficult to get through the first 2/3 of the book; others have agreed.

I did not like Memory Keeper's Daughter for various reasons: unbelievable occurances, missed opportunities, agonizing adult behaviors, failure to communicate and generally miserable characters with the single most likeable person being sweet but retarded, so much so that it felt like everyone should want one of their own.

Joan Didion did a great job with her book but it seemed so heavily laden with name dropping and self centered lives-not material I could relate to.

I AM so impressed with your lengthy list and I cannot comment on most of the books because I haven't read those particular books. I am way, way behind. Aren't you glad that I don't have a comment like the above? I definitely need to read Richard Powers-been on my list.

I haven't been "wow"ed by a book in a while (since Ian McEwan's Atonement and Enduring Love) so I'll send word when something gets me.

Amishlaw said...

Thanks for the comment, Becca. Certainly, part of the appeal of Suite Francaise is the circumstances under which it is written. I plan to read some of the other books by Nemirovsky as they get translated. I thought the chapter written from the point of view of the family cat is one of the best written chapters of any book I have ever read. I agree about the weaknesses of Memory Keeper's Daughter. But I liked it because it described in what seemed like what it would be like, particularly in the time period in which it was written to have a child with Downs Syndrome. I agree with you about Joan Didion. Much of it was very well written, but it seemed so self absorbed, on the other hand after going through what she did, she would have the right to be self absorbed. Are you planning on seeing the movie version of Atonement? I've heard it's a lot different from the book, but then they always are. Let me know when you find the Wow! book.

Prairie Gourmet said...

Husband is OK with movie sex, but I think it was the elderly womanizing, non-committal man/young girl intimate moment that bothered him. Too close to child molestation in his eyes. I may rewatch it alone some time.

Linda said...

John, It's good to see you are writing again. I enjoy seeing what books you read each year and how you rate them.

Lydia said...

Wow, I haven't seen Any of your 5 star movies, though several of them were on my list - how could that Be?

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead would've been in my five star barrel, but that may be because I'm on a Philip Seymour Hoffman kick and found him so phenomenal in that. My friends and I were wondering last night which he enjoyed more: his Fun role in Charlie Wilson's War, or his opening scene in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead :).