Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Year in the Arts

My Year in the Arts. Not necessarily just 2011 works. Not necessarily the best, because I didn't see and read everything, but the plays, books and movies that I chose to see or read in 2011. All in all, I'm happy with my choices. It was a very good year.

After the jump, theater, books, television and movies.

  • 2011 01 30 I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, at Theatre 3: Musical comedy in a small venue. Non-stop fun by a great cast. Perennial favorite. B-
  • 2011 01 22 The Music Man, at LHHS: Large cast brings show to life. Singing, dancing, orchestra, chorus all great. Props to Marion, Winthrop and Eulalie.
  • 2011 02 19 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, at JJ Pearce: clever, modern musical. Doesn't take itself too seriously. Lots of roles to showcase lots of talent.
  • 2011 02 12 Once Upon a Mattress, at Berkner HS: Carol Burnett has nothing on Berkner's Winnifred. Young cast makes show fresh & fun. And what costumes!
  • 2011 02 05 Singin' in the Rain, at Richardson HS: Come sleet or snow, the show must go on. And what a challenging show. Students did a great job.
  • 2011 06 23 Guys and Dolls, at RCT: Unsure how long this oldie but goodie can last. Still fun. Good acting, singing, staging by Richardson theater. C+
  • 2011 08 20 All in the Timing, at Richardson HS: One act plays put on by grads in memory of Tracy Fisher. Ask for fun, you won't get a "Philadelphia."
  • 2011 09 18 The Wiz, at Richardson's RCT: Faithful to book/movie/musical. Packed a lot of song and dance on a small stage. Great local talent. B-
  • 2011 10 29 Children's Hour, at LHHS: 1934 Lillian Hellman play. Timeless story of how lies ruin lives. Powerful story. Great cast. A-
  • 2011 12 17 Hairspray, at RCT: Fighting racism in '62 Baltimore through inter-racial dancing. Rollickin' good fun. A-
Books - Fiction
  • 2011 01 13 The Ask, by Sam Lipsyte: Main character is bitter, self-pitying, going nowhere. Then it gets worse. Yet somehow suited for our times. B-
  • 2011 02 28 The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman: Masterful ensemble. Even if you don't read the newspaper, at least read this novel about the paper. A-
  • 2011 04 19 The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell: Japan 1799. Trade, politics, love, mystery, suspense, war. Good storytelling. B+
  • 2011 05 28 Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey: Fictional memoirs of French noble and English servant. Convincing look at America of 1837. A-
  • 2011 08 03 Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro: Memoir of growing up in a weird orphanage. Might be a better Twilight Zone episode than novel. C-
  • 2011 09 30 Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray: Fun&games at Irish boys' school until Skippy dies, then everything changes. Good story, characters, writing. A-
  • 2011 11 14 Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. A-
  • 2011 12 19 The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach B-
  • 2011 12 22 Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. Unrated.
Books - Non-Fiction
  • 2011 01 04 The Grand Design, by Hawking and Mlodinow: M-Theory explains how universes spontaneously arise. Edges God farther out of the picture. B-
  • 2011 01 27 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot: Smart blend of science, social history, character study and story-telling. A-
  • 2011 03 06 The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee: History of cancer research. Reads like scientific detective story that isn't over. B-
  • 2011 03 31 The Triumph of the City, by Edward Glaeser: Lots of facts & simple thesis: cities are good for economy & environment. Build up, not out. C+
  • 2011 05 27 All The Devils Are Here, by McLean & Nocera: Dry telling of financial crisis. Demolishes myths being invented by politicians. Important. C+
  • 2011 07 14 The Greater Journey, by David McCullough: Go East, not West. American writers & artists in Paris in the 1800s. Clever concept that works. B-
  • 2011 09 14 Origins of Political Order, by Francis Fukuyama: How strong states, rule of law and accountable govts arose. Academic, sweeping history. C+
  • 2011 10 04 The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey: Map thief's tale padded to book length with historical anecdotes, most lifted from other books. C-
  • 2011 11 30 Maphead, by Ken Jennings. C-
  • 2011 12 20 Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentiety-Century Physics, by George Johnson. B-
  • 2011 07 28 Season 9 of #ProjectRunway premieres tonight. And Netflix started streaming first four seasons of #MadMen. #GuiltyPleasure
  • 2011 08 02 ABC is bringing back "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." Updated, of course. For one thing, it'll be called "Who Wants To Be A Job Creator."
  • 2011 11 15 Maybe I'm one of the very few, but I'm going to miss NBC's "Community" and its pen-stealing monkey
  • 2011 11 19 Netflix brings back "Arrested Development" as NBC shelves "Community." The Lord giveth and taketh.
  • 2011 01 02 Between the Folds (2008): Documentary of origami. Raises questions about what is art and shows surprising applications in science. See it. A-
  • 2011 01 08 Inception (2010): Is it real or is it Memorex? I never really cared. Absurdly complex for such a simple premise. More Édith Piaf, please. C+
  • 2011 01 11 Restrepo (2010): documentary of everyday lives of soldiers in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. No politics, no preaching, no sugar-coating. B-
  • 2011 01 15 The King's Speech (2010): Royalty. Costumes. Accents. Oscar bait. A simple story told well. Colin Firth is excellent. Geoffrey Rush, too. A-
  • 2011 02 25 The Social Network (2010): The best explanation of why I refuse to give Facebook my personal information. Evil empire. Good movie. A-
  • 2011 02 26 Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997): Lions and tigers and mole rats. Robots and shrubbery. Quirky premise. Falls flat. Wrong subjects. D+
  • 2011 03 01 GasLand (2010): Gas industry pumps toxic chemicals into groundwater all over US. Scary and depressing as hell. Drill, baby, drill. C+
  • 2011 03 03 The Thin Blue Line (1988): Long overdue viewing of this shocking story of how Dallas DA office railroaded an innocent man to death row. B+
  • 2011 03 05 Get Low (2009): Old hermit with a story to tell and what a story. Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray. What more needs to be said? A-
  • 2011 03 26 Waiting for Superman (2010): Simplistic indictment of public schools -> failed cities are due to bad teachers who are led by evil unions. C-
  • 2011 03 27 Inside Job (2010): How Wall St execs caused global recession, made billions and ended up more powerful than ever. That's not capitalism. B-
  • 2011 04 01 The Adjustment Bureau (2011): Bourne meets The Matrix meets The Candidate with a touch of Mad Men style. Most of all, a love story. B+
  • 2011 04 03 Metropolis (1927): Long overdue viewing of this classic. Overwrought story but some amazing imagery. Will Avatar look as good in 2100? C+
  • 2011 04 16 Catfish (2010): Documentary about young NY man, the Mich. family he friends online, & his (and our) quest to figure out what's real. Watchable. B-
  • 2011 04 30 Marwencol (2010): Assault victim builds miniature WWII town and loses himself in it. Therapeutic? Sad? Creepy? Artistic? Yes. C+
  • 2011 05 03 A Film Unfinished (2010): Long lost raw film from Nazi propaganda archive. Haunting images from Warsaw Ghetto. I'm shocked & speechless. A-
  • 2011 05 10 Four Lions (2010): Black comedy. Al Qaeda misfits plot to blow up the Internet...or themselves...or sheep. Funny now Bin Laden's dead. B-
  • 2011 05 21 The Ghost Writer (2010): Political memoir turns mystery turns thriller. Plot is contrived and full of holes. Watchable not memorable. C+
  • 2011 05 29 Winter's Bone (2010): Backwoods teen goes to unbelievable lengths to keep her house and family together. Like visiting another world. B-
  • 2011 05 31 Waste Land (2010): Documentary by Brazilian who works with garbage pickers to combine social project with making art. Portrait of human dignity. B-
  • 2011 06 03 Toy Story 3 (2010): Looking back, I probably should have watched this with a 5-year-old. Spoiler alert: Lotso is Darth Vadar. C+
  • 2011 06 09 The Runaways (2010): Biopic of girl rock band. Snapshot of wretched excess of 1970s. Characters are shallow. Not even music saves movie. D+
  • 2011 06 17 Black Swan (2010): Obsession. Breakdown. Insanity. OK. My problem with the movie is that I never believed Portman as even the white swan. B-
  • 2011 06 25 Biutiful (2010): Man gets cancer. That's the high point. Depressing yet dignified. Intense acting by Javier Bardem. Great look & sounds. A-
  • 2011 07 16 127 Hours (2010): How long he was trapped, not movie running time. Maybe if I didn't know story beforehand. Only a little torture porn. C-
  • 2011 07 19 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009): Not a fan of thrillers, but had to see what this sensation is all about. It's the real deal. B-
  • 2011 07 22 How To Train Your Dragon (2010): Avatar meets King Kong. Girls are tough. Boys are sensitive. Dragons have a heart. Take a pre-teen. C+
  • 2011 07 24 Jack Goes Boating (2010): Super awkward man learns to swim and cook to impress a woman. Little desperate people. D+
  • 2011 07 27 Iron Man 2 (2010): Arthur in rocket armor. First movie was fun. This one was stale, at times a self parody, but even that fell flat. D-
  • 2011 07 30 Rango (2011): New take on the Old West. Unfortunately, that genre was tapped out long ago. Witty, good-looking, but leaves you thirsty. C+
  • 2011 08 13 Source Code (2011): Groundhog Day on a train, where hero has to save Chicago. A good variant on time travel and alternate realities. B+
  • 2011 08 19 Date Night (2010): Surprisingly intelligent and funny grownup rom-com farce with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Watch it shirtless. B-
  • 2011 08 28 The Help (2011): Story? Very good. Dramatizing evils of Jim Crow? Good. Downplaying violence & making white woman the hero? Not so good. B+
  • 2011 09 04 Sherlock Holmes (2009): WTH? Turns cerebral detective story into martial arts CGI farce. With WMD, pseudo-Jaws, Voldemort and Hitler. C-
  • 2011 09 11 The Last Emperor (1987): This Best Picture winner is even better after my own visit to the Forbidden City, the real star of the movie. A-
  • 2011 09 20 Harold and Maude (1971): Long overdue viewing. Classic theater of the absurd. Then, I related to Harold. Now, Maude. Always, Cat Stevens. A-
  • 2011 11 21 Of Gods and Men (2010): Dread builds among monks in Algeria threatened by terrorists. Mission or fatalism? Profoundly sad. B-
  • 2011 11 23 The Messenger (2009): War is hell and this movie shows it doesn't end over there. Depressing. Important. C+
  • 2011 11 25 The Tree of Life (2011): Father and sons. Issues. Bullying. Tragedy. And dinosaurs. Visually stunning. Mind-bending. Hollow. B+
  • 2011 11 28 Note by Note (2007): Documentary on the making of a piano, a dying craft. Like a well-made infomercial for Steinway. C+
  • 2011 12 09 Bridesmaids (2011): SNL comics. Not just jokes, serious story, too. Heard good things. Maybe heard wrong. 30 minutes too long. C-
  • 2011 12 20 Bill Cunningham New York (2010): Upbeat fashion photographer, on the runway, on the street. Wish I were him. B+
  • 2011 12 27 Midnight in Paris (2011): Woody Allen's homage to Paris in the '20s. Nostalgic. Sumptuous. Romantic. A-


glbeach said...

If you haven't read 'The Information' put it on your 'to do' list. Also, Gladwell's 'Outliers'. Ok, I know it is not a new release, but if you haven't read it you will enjoy it.

Nathan Morgan said...

Personally, I find more enjoyment in art history when speaking of "art". The art of contemporary music, story telling, acting, or dancing and prancing doesn't seem to have the same depth. However, classic literature and enactments of such does touch my senses. Productions these days seem so shallow, predictable and meaningless. Will we ever see the next Mozart, Shakespeare, De Vince, and Rembrandt?