Happy Christmas. Merry New Year. Celebratorious almost Epiphany. Let us congratulate each other on being one holiday season closer to our inevitable deaths.
And, since I don’t want to talk about the fact that our new house has meth fumes in it (from before our day) and we all had to move out…let us move on quickly.
- Best Fiction: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene. I confess this was my first Graham Greene book/knowledge of his existence experience. Unnamed “whiskey priest” + communism + firing squads + sparse, insightful style with mildly abstract philosophical undertones. Awe yiss.Other gems included, but are not limited to:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Essentially everything…and creepily like reading my soul with a greater writing style and a completely different personality. You know those stories you come back and see how much they shaped your life. I felt like that…only I hadn’t read it before.
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. Not for it’s style or construction so much… Just that one scene.
- Best Nonfiction: Last Letters of Resistance: Farewells from the Bonhoeffer Family, edited by Eberhard Bethge. The feelz, the faith, the obedience, the loyalty, the letter form, the general focus on people I already learned to adore a decade ago. THIS.
Handbook to Prayer, by Kenneth Boa.
Journalism, by Joe Sacco. Not for the worldview, but for the dedication, brevity, and bravery of his work. Favorite angsty, liberal journalist thus far.
WORLD Magazine Policy Book, by Marvin Olasky and others. This was helpful on all levels of writing, but unfortunately is not available to the public at large.
The Loving Life: In A World of Broken Relationships, by Paul Miller. Because it was purgatorial in its convicting-ness and much more direct, inspiring than his The Praying Life.
- Book most Likely to be thrown across Room: 1984, by George Orwell. I came to the last page at 3am screaming “NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” And it did not respond like Hollywood… It just ended. And I loved it so.
How my thoughts progressed from page 1-328:
a) This is weird b) His descriptions are genius. c) I want to write just like him when I grow up. d) I miss communist apartment buildings. e) Don’t do that. f) This is why all revolutions fail. We need God/Jesus/the Bible/just not ourselves. g) If this is going where I think it’s going, I will go on a killing spree. h) Why did I just get pet rats. i) no. j) I hate everyone and everything. k) There must be hope. l) There must be hope. n) There must be hope. m) I seriously can’t go to bed with the world standing as it is at this moment. o) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! p) I knew it. I hate him. And I want to die. q) Silence. r) It couldn’t have ended any other way. s) George Orwell is a genius…basically I love big brother, but actually George Orwell.
- Best Picture Book: The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sis. Technically, I read this on Christmas of 2014, but I feel like I have read it enough times in 2015 to give it a sturdy showing here. This captures all the allure of Saint-Exupéry with the life, mystery, and respect needed.
Peter Sis is a genius. On display also in the magnificent The Wall: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain (the first anything I discovered that gave the right vibes to help me understand the penetrating and lasting presence of 50-90s British and American music in post-Soviet countries).Also: I find an author I like. I find out they have ties to eastern Europe. #classic.
- Most Despised Book: The Planet of the Wind (the Little Prince #1) by Delphine Dubos. This book offended me on every frequency. Unlike Peter Sis, I felt that, despite her obvious fascination with Saint-Exupéry, she entirely failed to understand or respect him and his creations. Of course, that could be me, but I remain scared and affronted.
The Movie World
- Most Soul Vibe/Earth Shatter type Movie: The Wind that Shakes the Barley, directed by Ken Louch and written by Paul Laverty. I don’t know about historical accuracy and all that per se, but this is a movie among men. Although I’ve seen it multiple times now (some of my friends are too scared to watch it without my fast-forwarding of the fingernails scene…cough, cough), our first encounter went down like this:
Bethany has not cried for a long time. Bethany has been reading news about people dying in Ukraine all day. Bethany has no idea if she is going to be able to do any of the things she wants to in this life. Bethany begins to wonder about the meaning of life, freedom, and the commonality of man. Bethany cannot sleep because of these eternal questions (also, she had the flu, which was probably the true cause of sleeplessness). Bethany gets out iPod. Bethany watches The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Bethany is able to cry profusely. Bethany is released by someone expressing many vibes and feels and complexities that she could not. Bethany sleeps like a babe, hoping she will be a good writer someday. Bethany wakes up and makes everyone else watch this movie, apologizing to the relevant party after each traumatic experience. A new world is open…cinematographicly, Irishly and questionwise, storywise.
- Movie most likely to be seen in Russian: Red Lights, written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés. We had to move on to the Russian language because seeing it 5 times in 4 months calls for a change of pace. Say yes to this experience. Even if you don’t like it, you have to appreciate some of its qualities.
P.S. Cillian Murphy did enter my life with force this year, in case you were wondering.
- Best Movie Surprise: Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby (screenplay) and Colm Tóibín (novel). Mum and I went to this only knowing that it was about immigrants and New York (more than enough). And that I needed to get out of the house and was too sick for much else. A very good and rewarding decision. Excellent.Irish movies also appear to be a thing this year for me… Not sure how I feel about that.
- Best Theater Movie: Far from the Madding Crowd, directed by Thomas Vinterberg and written by Thomas Hardy (novel) and David Nicholls (screenplay). I have a thing for all of Thomas Hardy’s crusty, belligerent characters and stories and this new adaption delivered it with all the beautiful music, landscape, heart-rending glances, romantic baby lamb gifts, random-shot-gun-blasting, etc. that anyone could possibly think to ask. I don’t like what this movie does to me. It is excellent.
Of course I enjoyed the latest Avengers and other theater going experiences as well.
- Ever-abiding Movie of Choice: The Brothers Bloom, directed and written by Rian Johnson. It’s been several years since I fell in love with this magic, but it deserves to be mentioned as it was thoroughly enjoyed this year. Also, I would just like to say that even though I haven’t seen any Star Wars, I’m kind of excited for #8 seeing as how Rian Johnson is directing…
Other Visual Things.
1. Best Mini-Series: Generation War, written by Stefan Kolditz. Despite the many soul-thrilling discoveries I made this year, this is the very best. The story, the way it is filmed, the characters, the perspectives, the comradeship, the inner war aspects…You rarely find something that speaks to you in all the ways you want to speak to the world/be/are scared to admit like this 3-part beast so fully is.
(Not for the faint of heart/people who can’t deal with other German storytelling such as Erich Maria Remarque. Even when they are mildly blasphemous or more than usually confusing, I can’t help admiring all the German films or books I’ve pretty much ever read. Something about them gets to me.)
- Best TV Show: Well, I thoroughly enjoyed aspects of both Agent Carter and Forever, but re-watching Prison Break (not on 2nd generation iPhone with constant reloading many years ago), has been intense. Obviously, it does some good tricks on you and I wouldn’t take a bullet for it, I would take a bullet for a lot of its characters and it perfectly illustrates the technique of constantly raising the stakes/everyone being driven by their desire/excellently built layers of conflict and suspense. There are few of its ilk that combine compelling characters and so many heart-attack inducing, car smashing scenes simultaneously.
- Best Revisited: Bleak House, directed by Justin Chadwick and Susanna White and written by Andrew Davies (screenplay) and Charles Dickens (novel, duh).This always makes me want to be a better person. (Trite sentence to avoid the depths of emotions I actually feel about this beauty.)
- Worst Visual Experience: My Bedroom from October 29-December 24th, written and directed by my own stupidity, the busyness of life, and the side-effects of living in a meth contaminated house.
- Best Youtube: “On Mental Illness,” by John Green. Although I don’t really like what he decides to write and a host of his political views, I respect John Green’s skill, mobilizing power, heart, humor, and humility in every fiber of my being. Also, this. Honorable mentions goes to “Secret Protestant Churches in Donetsk: Ukraine’s Religious War,” by Vice News/Simon Ostrovsky, “Hunger Games Musical: Mockingjay Parody – Peeta’s Song,” by Studio C, “Thanksgiving Day,” really by Saturday Night Live, “Waiting for Love (lyric video),” by Avicii (not as much as for the words as for the dog), and so forth…
Note: Some of these movies and books do contain difficult or inappropriate content. If you take anything in this ramble as a recommendation, please proceed with your own standards of respect. I tend to skip and forget things and then recommend, (also I often watch things with censorship). lol.